Friday, August 20, 2010

AM station planning to shut down

This isn't exactly a Bay Area story, but it shows how difficult times are in AM radio in many places. David Jackson of the Bay Area Radio Museum (see item below for the museum's Hall of Fame) informs us that KMPH-AM 840 in Modesto will shut down on Tuesday, Aug. 31 at 9 a.m.

It's the sister station of San Francisco's KTRB-AM 860. Both are owned by the Pappas family, whose television stations were sold off in bankruptcy proceedings.

"As part of a broadcast tradition dating back to 1953 in Modesto, California, our company has always viewed its stewardship of the airwaves as a sacred trust to serve the public in our communities, while also recognizing that, as with any private business, we must generate enough revenue to pay for this service," Vice President and General Manager Jim Pappas said in an open letter to listeners, employees, advertisers and vendors. "With this in mind, taking our radio station off the air is a decision we were compelled to make only after investigating every possible alternative until, in the face of difficult economic circumstances, no other decision was possible. ...

"When future circumstances permit, KMPH-AM will return to the airwaves," Pappas concluded.

The AM station had played music ("modern standards") until 2008 when it switched to a conservative talk format called The Patriot, centered around Michael Savage.

Jackson notes that KMPH was Pappas' "replacement station" when it moved KTRB to San Francisco a few years back. In an e-mail Jackson says:
    The thought that engaged local owners could compete, especially in markets the size of Modesto or Stockton, by hiring less expensive and younger talent, marketing themselves aggressively in the community (both to advertisers and listeners) and become a vital part of the local landscape as such stations were from radio time immemorial up through the 1980s apparently didn't work in this case, as it didn't work for venerable KSTN (1420 AM) in Stockton, which also abruptly yanked the plug back in February. 
    If AM radio is going to survive, something has got to change soon. Yes, the economy is bad. But the economy isn't 100% to blame. Unimaginative programming and a failure to truly go out and be part of the community is also to blame. You can't just throw canned conservative talk shows on the air and expect that everyone will instantly tune in, even in a conservative hotbed like Modesto. 
    The next shot across the bow of AM radio will be if an AM station in the San Francisco Metro folds. It won't be one of the majors (KGO, KCBS, KNBR, etc.) but one of the smaller pea-shooters that 99% of the populace doesn't realize even exists any longer. Tune your radio past 1300 on your AM dial and see what I mean; they're still there ... but why?

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