Friday, August 31, 2007

Clear Channel goes Green/KFOG goes cool/Ratings

Here's my Oakland Trib column this week.

Bay Area liberal radio outpost goes 'Green 960'
Article Last Updated: 08/31/2007 07:54:53 AM PDT

FOR YEARS, the imperious growth of corporate radio giant Clear Channel Communications gave the company a reputation as radio's Death Star, invoking about as much tenderness as Darth Vader.
But it's pretty hard to have only hard feelings for the San Antonio-based company if you have been watching what it has been doing with its Bay Area liberal outpost, KQKE-AM (960), which, as of Monday, became KKGN, "Green 960."
Originally the home of the struggling nationally syndicated "Air America" network, it has spun away with other local and syndicated liberal hosts, who are slowly but successfully fighting an uphill battle to reclaim the almost exclusively conservative medium of talk radio.
The lineup of Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann, Rachel Maddow, Bill Press, Mike Malloy, Jon Elliot and Randi Rhodes is a liberal dream team, intelligent and entertaining. It is virtually tied in the ratings with conservative talker and sister station KNEW-FM (910), both down in the lower 20s for Bay Area audiences over 12.
And it just added a locally produced afternoon show at 3 p.m. daily called "Green Seed Radio," a primer for people who want to live with more concern for the environment.
The show is hosted by Bay Area radio personality Ginnie Waters (formerly with KKSF, KGO, KTIM) and sponsored by Redwood City's Green Building Exchange, a cooperative that focuses on green building materials and methods.
She will have four interviews and profiles each

day, covering such issues as green coffins, battery-powered motorcycles, toxic wastes and green dentists (presumably, that isn't the color they leave teeth).
You hear the word "green" so often these days you have to wonder, is this all just a fad?
"I ask myself that too," says Waters. "But the environment is here to stay. Are people using this for self-serving marketing? The bottom line is it doesn't matter as long as they are doing it and making changes. We have to make changes together, or we won't all be here much longer."
The whole thing sounds a lot more like public stations KQED or KPFA than anything on the commercial dial.
"I know," says program director Bob Agnew, whose background includes running sports station KNBR and bringing Rush Limbaugh to the Bay Area. "Can you believe this is what I'm doing? But after two years of working with this station, I've moved dead center — from hardcore conservative. And I really think we are ahead of the curve on this movement."
Agnew wins on that one. Almost two decades ago, when I heard Limbaugh on his station, I thought that he was a cartoon-character blowhard who would go away quickly, and he told me he was ahead of the curve then, too. He was right.
Check it out yourself; I'm giving them a chance.
PLAY BALL: The managers of KNBR-AM (680/1050) will look like geniuses if the San Francisco 49ers ever start winning again. The station, owned by Atlanta's Cumulus Media, has taken over team broadcasts long held by KGO-AM (810). KGO owner Citadel has kept the Raiders at KSFO-AM (560).
Cumulus sister station KSAN-FM (107.7), "the Bone," will have three-hour long tailgate parties at Monster Park hosted by morning maniacs Lamont and Tonelli, which they promise will be like nothing any other radio station has ever done. One can only imagine.
KNBR, the area's "sports leader," got a big bump from Barry Bonds home run title quest. In the recent spring ratings book, it got bumped up into seventh place in the San Francisco Bay Area ratings, with a 3.2 share of the 5.9-million audience. It was in 14th place with a 2.3 share over the winter.
Anyone else notice that San Jose, which used to be 30th in the country with a 1.4-million radio audience, has slipped to 35th place, well behind Kansas City in 30th place with 1.6 million and just ahead of Milwaukee?
For those of you keeping records, New York is first with 15 million listeners. Los Angeles is second with 11 million; Chicago third with 7.7 million; and San Francisco fourth with 5.9 million.
If you love reading ratings as much as I do, the best place to see them on the web is
LOCALLY: Kudos to KFOG-FM (97.7/104.5), which has been featuring local music all month on its morning show, broadcasting live from venues with artists such as Elliot Randall, Matt Nathanson and Rick Hardin.
This week's show goes from 6 to 10 a.m. at the Fillmore in San Francisco with guest Dave Gleason.
Radio should be about live local music, something that's too often been lost in these days of big corporations running stations with nationally homogenized playlists. For more, visit

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