Friday, August 24, 2007

Listeners rally to save KLSD

The big rumor this past week has been about KLSD in San Diego. Several sources, including this here very blog, reported earlier this week that Clear Channel was about to flip KLSD to another format, most likely sports. The outcry and avalanche of emails evidently led the station to make a statement, which they did via a big red banner on the front page of their website:

RUMORS ON AIR AMERICA YES, there are rumours flying about KLSD changing format. And while various options are under consideration, we also want the progressive voice to remain heard in San Diego. Stay tuned and we will keep you informed. Thanks for listening and supporting KLSD.

Continuing on a second page, they add:

The Rumor Mill is Churning...

Send us an email at to voice your thoughts and opinions.

KLSD thanks all of our listeners for your recent concern and support regarding rumors circulating about a possible format change with AM 1360. While various options are under consideration, we want the Progressive voice to remain heard loud and clear in San Diego. Please feel free to send us an email at and express your thoughts and opinions. Thank you for listening and supporting your local Progressive Talk Station. says it's a done deal, but that Clear Channel is looking for a way to keep the progressive talk programming on in the San Diego market. The format flip would likely occur at the beginning of the SDSU Aztecs football season, which kicks off September 8. But again, this is one person's word, so it is what it is.

In addition, the station recently applied with the FCC to move the transmitter to Santee, CA and increase the power to a highly directional 50,000 watts day and night signal. This likely won't expand the listening area, but it should clear up the signal within the market.

With the rumored format change of KLSD, the station's faithful listeners have quickly jumped to persuade station management to keep the station as it is. One person has already purchased the domain name and a rally is planned for Monday August 27, outside Clear Channel's San Diego complex. A Yahoo! Group has also been set up.

So, if Clear Channel is indeed giving KLSD's progressive talk format the boot, where will it go? Station management is still gauging interest in the format, and have half-heartedly claimed that they want the format to remain in San Diego. But where will it show up? KOGO, home to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura and local talker Roger Hedgecock is the only other AM station that they own. FM is likely not an option.

Only a few years ago, Clear Channel controlled nearly half the signals in the market, since they owned the 'programming rights' to several stations (i.e. the ones that start with an 'X') across the border in Tijuana and Rosarito (the Mexican government does not allow straight physical ownership of their broadcast properties by foreign entities, but license holders in border towns often lease their stations to American interests). The FCC forced them to pare down when they started considering the Mexican stations to be included in the legal limit for market ownership, so Clear Channel sold their leases to other parties, some of whom, such as Finest City Broadcasting, are still closely aligned with Clear Channel. They could be trying to swing a deal with a company leasing one of these signals to keep the format going.

Could progressive talk wind up on a Mexican station? It's not without precedent. XEPE (1700AM) in Tijuana recently flipped to a talk format that carries a mix of local hosts, business talk and conservatives such as Dennis Miller, Michael Reagan, Neal Boortz and Lars Larson. So there's nothing subversive about American political talk on one of those 'X' stations. Who knows? XEPE could even flip to progressive talk, if they're desperate enough to get ratings. As they say, anything can happen in radio.

Another possibility for Clear Channel to 'keep' the progressive talk format going would be via an HD Radio subchannel on one of their FM stations, in essence offering a straight feed of Air America Radio. It's not without precedent, as KYTI in Sheridan, WY does this. But seeing as HD Radio is not very widespread in the marketplace as of yet (there's hardly any equipment available to listen!) and listenership currently is equivalent to the number of people listening to FM radio in 1953, a move such as this could be seen as a slap in the face to the station's listeners. Besides, I doubt Air America or any other syndicator would go for it.

Seeing as KLSD has gotten, for the most part, pretty good ratings in its three year life, no doubt there could be an interested party that could pick up the programming. After all, when's the last time XEPE, XESURF, KCEO or KFSD showed up in the ratings books?

Speaking of ratings, while this is often not a factor in selling a sports format, does Clear Channel really expect any kind of success with yet another sports station in the market? The company fizzled with the format on the powerful signal of XETRA (690 AM) until a few years ago. Since then, a smaller company has succeeded with the AM/FM simulcast of XEPRS (1090 AM) and XHBCE (105.7FM), a.k.a. "XX Sports Radio." XESPN (800AM) carries the straight ESPN feed. So, what's left for a sports-formatted 1360AM? In order to take on XX Sports, they've got to be locally-oriented. But that costs a ton of money, and takes a long time to establish. Likely, they'll pipe in their Los Angeles station, KLAC (570AM), as they have already reserved the domain name (though KLAC no longer uses the "Xtra Sports" moniker). But this approach didn't work when they tried it several years ago on 690AM. And KLAC already gets crummy ratings in its home market. And if they opt to merely simulcast the KLAC feed, they would have to work around Jim Rome and FOX Sports Radio, since XX Sports already has the San Diego rights to those.

Another possibility is that this could all be a ruse. Clear Channel is vaguely acknowledging rumors about a change in format for KLSD. The "Xtra Sports" domain makes little sense, as the name is no longer being used by the company. What we do know is that KLSD, coming off some pretty impressive ratings books (as high as over a 2.0 share, impressive at least for a small AM station), though they dropped all the way down to 0.9 share overall in the Spring Arbitron book in what could be considered a fluke. They even put up a 'pledge to listen' page on their site, in order to gauge interest in the station. A pretty sizable list of dedicated listeners would be pretty nice to show advertisers, don'tcha think?

So, is KLSD a goner? Who knows? Nothing is confirmed, and Clear Channel has been very vague about a future shift in direction. In the meantime, San Diego listeners can show their support in the following ways:

KLSD email support:
Non-Stop Radio
Save KLSD Yahoo Group


Michael said...

So far, Clear Channel and everybody else have been doing little or nothing with HD2 and HD3. Occasionally, when they flip a station they put the old format - or an automated version of it - on the HD sub-channels. Maybe putting liberal talk on HD would finally give some people a reason to get HD radio. HD2 might be a better choice than those flea bite Class D AMs where liberal talk usually gets dumped.

Jon Elliott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jakem said...

I couldn't agree more with Michael...great idea to get more liberal talk stations on HD. What about even more FM stations?

Most of the AM stations are too weak to gather an increase in ratings in such a short time.

Does CBS and other large companies own too many FMs stations that can't be easily dumped?

Michael said...

The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In the 60s, few people were buying FM radios because there was little unique content on FM. People started buying FM - and FM stations started making money - when the FCC forced broadcasters to stop simulcasting on FM.
Now terrestrial radio is hemorrhaging listeners to satellite radio, the Internet and iPods. HD radio gets no buzz at all. The reason is the same as with FM 40 years ago; no unique content. Content sells; not technology.
Lib talk listeners have gone and signed up for XM and/or Sirius to listen to liberal talk. From what I've read, one out five lib talk listeners listen via satellite or online audio streams (it may be more than that by now). Those people are gone from the terrestrial radio audience.
Lib talk listeners are committed to the format and have demonstrated they will go out of their way to listen. If broadcasters put lib talk on an FM sub-channel, lib talk fans would buy HD radios.
What companies like Clear Channel should do is move all talk to FM. Put the full-service talker on analog and HD1, put lib-talk on HD2 and put recycled, time-shifted or 2nd string wing-nut talk on HD3. And shut down AM.

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