Friday, August 5, 2016


• From Bob Mason, Music Director/Mid day Air Personality at Real Oldies 1480 and 850 regarding the July 25th story Spring 2016 Ratings: Grand Rapids [link].

Mason writes:

I don't know you and you don't know me. I've read your resume and it's very impressive. However, I have a bone to pick with you about your article last week when you mentioned our radio station [WGVU-AM] Real Oldies 1480 and 850.

You wrote that you were listening to us playing the song “We're Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister.” That sir is impossible as the song isn't even in our computer system or rotation what so ever.


Bob Mason is correct, I heard it on another station and mistakenly thought it was on WGVU.  I apologize for the error. Now I know that Twisted Sister is NOT played on Real Oldies 1480 and 850. See more about Real Oldies at [link].

Mason continues:

You also made mention of my playing un-hip songs like “The Happiest Girl In The Whole USA,” “The Candy Man,” and “Alone Again Naturally” back to back. What you didn't mention was that you were listening to our highest rated show every week The West Michigan Top 40 Countdown show featuring Grand Rapids Top 40 songs from July 24, 1972.

Please let me tell you a little bit about our radio station. We are 2 AM only stations that were given up for dead many years ago. The format was changed to Real Oldies in the summer of 2009, the brainchild of Len O'Kelly and the late Bill Bailey (both former major market talents in Chicago and elsewhere) and myself.

When we took over the station they had a cume rating of around 200 and a share rating of 0.0. The last ratings you mentioned gave us a rating of 1.3 and a cume of around 27,000. Not great ratings but good enough to place in the Top 20 in Grand Rapids and the only true AM station to place in the Top 20. 

As for un-hip, looking at your blog, most of the stuff you write about, NPR news/talk, AAA format, and Jazz Format are un-hip and boring to me, but that's only my opinion and it seems to work for other people.

In conclusion, I don't really mind you dissing our radio station, but if you do so in the future, make sure you have and present all the facts. It was impossible for you to hear Twisted Sister on our station and as long as I'm in charge that song will never play on our station.  A retraction of your saying we played Twisted Sister on one of your future articles would be appreciated.


Again, Twisted Sister is NOT played on Real Oldies 1480 and 850. Twisted Sister fans must look elsewhere.

I salute WGVU’s moxie for bringing two old AM signals back to life. WGVU has been in the radio and public TV business for a long time. WGVU-AM 1480 began simulcasting WGVU-FM on May 22, 1992.  In 1999 WGVU added WGVS AM 850 in Muskegon. On August 24, 2009, WGVU and WGVS became Real Oldies, offering music from the 50s, 60s and early 70s to west Michigan.

There aren’t many successful noncommercial, CPB-funded AM stations.  So the fact that you folks have been able to make it work is remarkable and deserves praise.  However, “The Happiest Girl in Whole USA” by Donna Fargo is truly the most un-hip song I’ve ever heard. Best wishes for your continued success.

• From Aaron Read, engineer, radio scholar and historian regarding the August 3rd story Radio In the Shadow of Los Angeles [LINK]

Read writes:

There's been a lot of juggling of what outlet is on which frequency in recent years in those markets. For a long time KCLU-FM in Ventura had a slightly (and oddly) different news/talk lineup from KCLU-AM in Santa Barbara. BUT, KCLU had an FM translator in Santa Barbara on 102.3 that relayed KCLU-FM for years (and did so through an extremely rare FCC waiver that let them feed 102.3 via a T-1 line instead of over-the-air reception).

But when the FCC started allowing FM Translators to relay AM stations, they switched the translator to repeat KCLU-AM instead, and boosted the Translator's power as well. I believe they consolidated the programming schedules around that same time. Either way, the point is that there's probably some confusion in the diaries about which "KCLU"...AM, FM or Translator...that people are actually listening to.

Ditto for KCLU adding the new signals up in the SLO market, too. It's been a volatile time; it might explain why KCBX lost a bit of audience, too.

Beats me why KUSC (KESC) in Morro Bay/SLO took such a nosedive, though. (shrugs) It'd be easy to point to the KDB acquisition but neither KDB nor the now-KDRW signal reach anywhere near SLO; the mountains just north of Santa Barbara block it entirely.


Hope you got all that because it will be on the test. Thanks, Aaron.

Thursday, August 4, 2016


Take the 101 – aka The Pacific Coast Highway – out of the Valley and pretty soon you will be in one of prettiest places on earth – the Southern California coast.  You may need to change your radio dial because the most of the LA stations are hit-and-miss due to the terrain. Though you are close to LA the 101 will take you through a number of exurban towns and cities, each with their own characteristics.

Most of them are great places to live but often it is challenging to make a living. I’ve heard it called “poverty with a view.” It takes a crafty vision to succeed in the noncommercial radio biz in the shadow of LA.  But, there are some stations that do very, very well and today’s post is about them.

Just west of LA, up the 101, there are three almost contiguous Nielsen Audio Diary markets with close affinity: Oxnard/Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo. In some ways these three places make a common radio market because most local stations also serve other parts of the three-county metro.  On the right is a map (courtesy of KCLU, Thousand Oaks) that shows the connected communities.

The local stations have two factors in common: They must compete with competition from LA station’s repeaters and translators; and they all hug the 101 – one of the busiest freeways in the world – from Thousand Oaks to Oxnard to Ventura to Santa Barbara to Santa Maria to San Luis Obispo.

Let’s look at the three markets individually using Nielsen Audio data from Spring 2016 compared with Spring 2016.

Note: There is more volatility in these the markets than normal.  I have no information about why the differences have happened between 2015 and 2016. Please let me know your thoughts.


KCLU AM/FM is very strong in this market. KCLU-FM is only rated station to increase its weekly listeners from Spring 2015 to Spring 2016. You will note that all of the LA stations lost a considerable number of weekly listeners.


KCLU-FM lost some weekly listeners.  KCLU-AM, based near Santa Barbara, seems to be keeping its listeners perhaps because of the increased attention on KCLU-AM to Santa Barbara news and events. KCRW and KPCC both were up fairly dramatically. KDB now is a fulltime repeater of LA.


KCBX is down a bit in its home market.  But, look at KUSC/KDB. I can’t explain this major drop in weekly listeners.  Things will be changing soon in San Luis Obispo because KCRW has acquired a primo fulltime repeater.  We reported on this development recently [link].


Finally we have a just-for-fun compilation of weekly listeners in all three markets.  Caution: There may be some duplication of listeners.

Monday-Sunday 6AM-Midnight Persons 12+
These data are provided for use by Nielsen subscribers ONLY,
in accordance with RRC's limited license with Nielsen Inc. Data Copyright Nielsen Inc. Format distinctions are the sole responsibility of Ken Mills Agency, LLC.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


The end finally arrived at KUSP in Santa Cruz, California.  On July 31, 2016 KUSP signed off the air, ending months of angst-filled speculation and years of mismanagement.

According to a press release posted on KUSP’s website, KUSP Board President Matt Farrell, summed it up this way:

“This decision reflects the reality of the station's financial situation; we simply cannot afford to broadcast any longer…"

[You can see the entire press release at link.]  

The shutdown came despite a last-minute effort to convert KUSP to a Triple A “music discovery” format.  There simply was not enough time for the new format to establish itself.

According to a recent report by the Public Media Company (PMC), KUSP’s debts are over $860,000 and continue to grow every day.  KUSP has run out of money [quoting from the PMC report]:

KUSP is financially broke. As of September 28, 2015, the unrestricted cash was zero. This is despite two substantial donations in the last fiscal year that totaled over $250,000.

To pay off the station’s debts, KUSP needs to raise $1.1 million over the next three years, including $350,000 as soon as possible.

That didn’t happen and now KUSP sits silent, waiting for a new owner.

In the 23 months I have been publishing this blog I have written about KUSP over 40 times.  I saw the end coming a long time ago but I will not gloat about KUSP’s demise.  When I heard the news, my first reaction was sadness because I really, really hoped KUSP would find a way to exist as an independent voice.

Now it is timely to look at lessons learned with hope other stations don’t follow the same path to oblivion. 



KUSP was started by the Pataphysical Broadcasting Foundation, a 501c3 charity set up to create the station.  KUSP signed on in 1972. Pataphysical Broadcasting Foundation and KUSP were products of Lorenzo Milam and engineer Jeremy Landsman. The founders of KUSP made certain that “the people ran the station.”

Pataphysical’s bylaws stipulated that in addition to Board members and management key volunteers and employees could nix any changes at the station. Operating the station became a nightmare because even “honorary members” had the right approve or deny changes. Instead of moving forward, KUSP was divided into factions playing out personal agendas. It was death by committee.

It was never clear when a vote required. Under California law, corporate bylaws determine the rules of the road, so KUSP was stuck in the mud. To the best of my knowledge, these bylaws are still in effect today.


For most of its life, KUSP aired the major NPR News magazines, Pacifica shows such as Democracy Now!, plus a variety of local music and opinion programs. In 2000, a competing station – KAZU, Pacific Grove – emerged and soon began airing NPR News 24/7. From that point on, KUSP played second fiddle to KAZU.

After the rise of KAZU, KUSP became increasingly unsustainable. The red ink slowly increased and the station existed because of cash flow. Debts began to go unpaid. Management at KUSP got worried and decided to act.

In early 2015, Classical Public Radio Network (CPRN), the owners of KUSC, Los Angeles, and KDFC, San Francisco offered to buy KUSP for $1,000,000. Because of the governance system, CPRN turned down CPRN’s offer.

Board members came up with a new scheme to save KUSP.  To get the concurrence of the many people who could vote, ideas were solicited for future programming based on tree names. The Board set up scenarios named Pine, Maple, Plum, Fig, Walnut and Elm.  The choice would make an Arbor Day speaker proud. But no solution was found. The “tree game” was a waste of precious time and money.

In summer 2015 KUSP seemed to get a lifeline. The Board announced it had received a gift of $100,000 from an anonymous donor. Soon the $100k was gone and KUSP still faced bankruptcy.

On September 3rd, 2015 the Board hired Public Media Company (PMC) to assess the dire situation at the station and make recommendations for the future. PMC’s conclusion was “Get real or go out of business.”

In October 2015 KUSP switched to a fulltime Triple A “music discovery” format.  It didn’t work.  KUSP ended on July 31, 2016.


Credit or blame KUSP’s co-founder Lorenzo Milam for the death of KUSP. Milam has been called the Johnny Appleseed of Community Radio because he inspired dozens, maybe hundreds, of independent community stations. In 1972, Milam published Sex and Broadcasting, a primer about how to file with the FCC for a new noncommercial FM license.  At the time there were many unclaimed frequencies.  Milam was at the right place at the right time.

[I wrote in March 2015 about the day I purchased my copy of Sex and Broadcasting. I got it at a headshop on a shelf next to High Times. near the bongs.]

Milam walked the walk.  He worked at Pacifica’s KPFA and founded KRAB-FM in Seattle in 1962. He also played a role in the founding of KBOO in Portland, KDNA in St. Louis, WYEP in Pittsburgh and many more.

My copy of Sex and Broadcasting
Sex and Broadcasting became a bible of sorts for community stations.  Many still have a copy on the manager’s desk next to the FCC Rules. Milam was one the creators of what I call The Pacifica Method of governance and programming.

Milam was a visionary who exceled in concepts and theories.  But, he was NOT good at running things.  Folks say he has poor people skills.

Milam is now in his mid 80s.  He is still a prolific writer and blogger where he talks about the many things on his mind.  His stuff reads like a combination of Hunter S. Thompson and Grumpy Old Men.

Here is a sample of Milam’s programming advice for KUSP:

KUSP is the sound of this life around us, in and around Santa Cruz, whatever is joyous, creative, dramatic -- that we want to find with our microphone, and by means of RadioMagick, send back to you, amplified and intense.  The sound of dulcimers, flutes, bagpipes, guitars -- electric and acoustic, horns, violins, tom-toms... the sound of our musicians.

Milam’s advice was sort of profound but in the end it was totally useless. The ultimate problem at KUSP is that most of the people who ran it never grew up.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


La Campesina’s KUFW 90.5 FM is a Spanish-language music giant in the Fresno and Visalia-Tulare-Hanford markets in central California. Like KNAI, Phoenix, which we wrote about on July 15th [link] KUFW is part of the La Campesina network. La Campesina is owned by the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

KUFW is similar to KNAI in many ways.  Both feature Latin Pop with an emphasis on Mexican artists.  Both are known as relentless promoters.  Both reach large noncommercial audiences. Now KUFW has agreed to pay the FCC a $12,500 fine for (in the FCC’s words) willfully and repeatedly broadcast prohibited advertisements. 

The original FCC complaint happened because of events that occurred several years ago. The Chavez Foundation fought the FCC for several years and the FCC refused to grant KUFW a license renewal. Now Chavez Foundation is gladly paying the fine so it can trade the license and move to commercial frequency where it says it will operate as a for-profit business.

In an unusual twist, KUFW has decided to become a commercial station via a signal swap with the Educational Media Foundation (EMF) the nation’s largest noncom religious broadcaster. Once the deal is finalized, 90.5 FM will be owned by EMF and La Campesina will move to 106.3.

KUFW is a factor in two Nielsen Audio Diary markets: Fresno (market # 67) and Visalia-Tulare-Hanford (market # 104). In Spring 2015 KUFW had almost 100,000 estimated weekly listeners.  Fresno’s Spring 2016 ratings are on the right. KUFW did not subscribe to 2016 data.

[Also in Fresno, note the nice increase of weekly listeners by KVPR-FM.]


There was never much doubt that KUFW’s announcements violated the FCC standards. On the right is one of four spots cited by the FCC. In the FCC’s words:

According to the FCC, on August 30, 2006, the Enforcement Bureau's San        Francisco Field Office conducted an inspection of KUFW and recorded a segment of its programming that appeared to include commercial announcements. KUFW acknowledges that it executed contracts with these for-profit entities to air the announcements for monetary remuneration.

The Licensee is apparently liable for a forfeiture in the amount of $12,500 for its apparent willful and repeated violation of the Commission's underwriting rules.     

Now, ironically, it appears La Campesina can take a victory lap.  When KUFW goes commercial and moves to 106.3 it will have superior coverage of metro Fresno )maps below). Folks may wonder if KNAI in Phornix this will make the same changes. 




Monday, August 1, 2016


Colorado Public Radio’s (CPR) News network displayed increasing regional strength in estimated weekly listeners in the most recent Nielsen Audio PPM and Diary ratings. Not only did KCFR increase its number of weekly listeners in the Denver/Boulder market compared to a year earlier, its repeaters gained weekly listeners in all of Colorado’s Front Range markets.

On the right is a map showing CPR’s signals from Fort Collins to Pueblo.  In addition to Denver/Boulder, a PPM market, CPR has strong penetration into the Fort Collins/Greeley, Colorado Springs and Pueblo Nielsen Audio Diary markets. We have written before about the “Front Range Mega City” that stretches up and down I-25. CPR serves the entire region.

Let’s take the Diary markets one at a time from south to north:


CPR’s News repeater in Pueblo saw estimated weekly cumulative listeners rise 45% between Spring 2015 and Spring 2016.  KRCC from Colorado Springs still leads in weekly listeners but their trend was down by 13%.  Denver-based Classical KVOD was also up.


The same pattern is found in “the Springs.” KCFR’s repeaters are up a whopping 52% and KRCC is down 21%.  KRCC made changes to its schedule earlier this year dropping most daytime Triple A music and adding news programming.  Did the programming switch cause the change?  Or is CPR News increasing its appeal to Colorado Springs and Pueblo listeners. From the topline data it is impossible to say but a similar trend was observed in the Fort Collins/Greeley market.


The biggest change in the past year in the “Fort Fun” market was the February debut of KJAC aka 105.5 The Colorado Sound and the related shift by KUNC to 24/7 news. KUNC’s listeners seem to have responded positively to the change – their number of weekly listeners increased 13% between June 2015 and June 2016. But KCFR also increased its weekly listeners during the same period by 15%.

Perhaps to biggest surprise in the Spring 2016 Nielsen Audio ratings was the lower-than-expected debut by 105.5 The Colorado Sound.  Based on KJAC’s strong showing in Denver/Boulder, I expected them to have 35,000 to 40,000 weekly listeners in their home market. So 17,800 weekly listeners is less than the number of weekly listeners I think 105.5 The Colorado Sound is actually reaching. 

When the Fort Collins/Greeley listeners are combined with the Denver/Boulder listeners 105.5 The Colorado Sound’s weekly listener reach is over 100,000. 

{However, caution must be used in making this calculation because PPM and Diary use different methodologies and some respondents may be duplicated.]

Don’t read too much into 105.5 The Colorado Sound’s Spring 2016 debut because one “book” is not a trend.  I’ve signed on new stations twice in my career and never knew what to expect.  I consider a success just to be listed the first time.


Kelley Griffin

1. Kelley Griffin, CPR’s VP of News

I have been a fan of Kelley Griffin’s work for many years. She has been at CPR since 1993, starting as a reporter, rising to managing editor and now running the shop. Folks I know who have worked for her say she is an inspirational mentor and role model.  Plus, she is a nice person, which counts for a lot in my book.

Ryan Warner

2. Ryan Warner and the Colorado Matters team

When Ryan Warner arrived in Denver from WGCU, Fort Meyers, about a decade ago Colorado Matters was little more than an idea.  During his tenure as host and Executive Producer Colorado Matters has risen from an occasional half-hour to a daily one-hour program that often sets the news agenda for Colorado.

3. CPR's Health Care Coverage

CPR’s newsroom excels in the coverage of several topics like energy/environment, education and the arts.  But, CPR’s Health Coverage combines personal stories with big-picture trends and current events such as election coverage.  It is all proof that Colorado Public Radio Matters to listeners all over the Front Range.