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KFI
Kfiam640.jpg
City of license Los Angeles, California
Broadcast area Southern California
Branding KFI AM 640
Slogan More Stimulating Talk Radio
Frequency 640 (kHz)
First air date March 31, 1922
Format Talk
Power 50,000 watts
Class A
Transmitter coordinates 33°52′46.9″N 118°0′50″W / 33.879694°N 118.01389°W / 33.879694; -118.01389
Callsign meaning K Farmer's Information
Owner Clear Channel Communications
Sister stations KBIG, KHHT, KIIS, KLAC, KOST, KTLK, KYSR
Webcast Listen Live
Website www.kfiam640.com
For other stations which used the KFI callsign, please see KFI (disambiguation).

KFI is an AM radio station in Los Angeles, California. It received its license to operate on March 31, 1922 and began operating on April 16, 1922 as one of the United States' first high-powered, "clear-channel" stations. Currently, it operates as a talk radio station, airing a mixture of syndicated and locally originated news and talk programming.

In the Spring 2006 quarter Arbitron rating, KFI was the most listened to radio station in Los Angeles, averaging approximately 1.5 million listeners during any given weekday. The station was the most listened to AM radio station as well as the most listened to news/talk radio station in the country, beating out WABC in New York City. The title now belongs to WSB in Atlanta as the most listened news/talk radio station in the US.

The station achieved this milestone while broadcasting at about half-power due to the antenna being destroyed.

Contents

History

KFI logo from 1981 to 1988

The original station used a 50-watt transmitter built by Earle C. Anthony, who operated it from his garage. In its early days, it was typically on the air only four and a half hours a day. The "FI" segment of its call sign was an abbreviation of "farmer's information."[1] Every winter evening between 1924 and 1956, KFI would deliver a frost report at 8 p.m. that would tell citrus farmers whether to turn on windmachines or light "smudge pots" to keep their orange and lemon groves from freezing.[2] The frost warnings moved to 7pm until the late 1970s when they were removed from the schedule.

KFI also was one of the early FM stations in Southern California. The first FM station west of the Mississippi went on the air in Los Angeles in August of 1941 from Mt. Lee. That was K45LA on the old 42-50 megacycle FM band. This was what soon became KHJ-FM and is today's KRTH at 101.1 MHz. It was on 44.5 MHz initially but, when the old 42-50 megahertz band was needed for television, the FCC allocated 88-108 MHz as the FM band. So, KHJ-FM was moved to 99.7 in 1945 and by 1948 to 101.1 FM[1].

On November 29, 1944, KFI officials broke ground on Mount Wilson for construction of a new FM and TV transmitting facility. The ceremony was broadcast live over KFI(AM) from Mount Wilson from noon to 12:15 pm that afternoon. KFI-FM went on the air from that site at 105.9 megacycles (MHz today) in July of 1946 with its first test program, though some later sources say the station went on the air in 1947. The station only lasted until 1951 when the owner, Earle C. Anthony, decided to turn off the FM station and returned the license to the FCC. This was common at the time, when some station owners saw no money from FM and no future in FM. In the early '50s, while the audio quality was much better than AM, FM radios were not cheap, there were no AM-FM combination radios yet and stereo broadcasting on FM didn't happen until 1961.

KFI-FM was the first Los Angeles FM station to have its transmitter on Mt. Wilson. According to an article written by Marvin Collins several years ago, KFI-FM used a General Electric 3 kW Phasotron transmitter, operating with a 2-bay antenna, giving the station an ERP of 10 kw. Later, the 1951 Broadcasting Yearbook listed KFI-FM's power as 16,500 watts.

Through 1948 and '49, KFI-FM was broadcasting its own music programs, separate from KFI 640-AM. A sample from the Los Angeles Times radio page for December of 1949 from 3 to 9 pm shows KFI-FM offering those with FM receivers programs with titles such as Afternoon Melodies, Classics, Music For You, Symphony Moods and World of Music. By 1950, KFI-FM was simply broadcasting simultaneously the same programs from KFI-640. Five other FM stations were also simulcasting the programs from their AM stations, while at least three other area FM stations had their own programs, according to a Los Angeles Times radio log. Most of the FMs were only on the air from mid-afternoon to about 9 pm, while some like KFI-FM were on the air from 6 am to midnight with the simulcast of their AM stations.

Along with KHJ-FM, other early day FM stations in the Los Angeles region that went on the air in 1946 were the non-commercial KUSC-91.5 and KCRW-89.9. KFI-FM and KMPC-FM were broadcasting by 1947. By 1948 and 1949, other early FM stations on the band around L.A. included KNX-FM at 93.1; KWIK-FM in Burbank at 94.3; KFMV-Hollywood at 94.7; KECA-FM 95.5; KRKD-FM 96.3; KVOE-FM in Santa Ana at 96.7; KKLA (owned by KFSG-AM 1150) at 97.1; KAGH-FM in Pasadena at 98.3; KMGM (owned by the movie studio) at 98.7; KMPC-FM at 100.3; KNOB in Long Beach at 103.1 (moved to 97.9 by 1958); KFAC-FM at 104.3 (moved to 92.3 by 1955); KCLI-105.1 and KFI-FM on 105.9. (KCLI was owned by the founders of KIEV-870 in Glendale.)

By 1950, KCLI was gone along with KMPC-FM. KFI-FM was listed in the 1951 Broadcasting Yearbook, but was gone from newspaper radio logs by mid-1951 and gone from the 1952 Broadcasting Yearbook. KKLA-97.1 also went off the air for good in 1951.

So, while KFI-FM made history as the first Los Angeles FM to transmit from Mt. Wilson, its short history lasted only about five years on 105.9. The station was not sold. The owner, Earle C. Anthony, simply shut the station down and returned the license to the FCC. A new license for 105.9 in Los Angeles was issued in 1956 with the call letters KBMS (Better Music Station). This FM station's original city of license was Glendale. The new station license had no ties to the defunct KFI-FM. After a few call letter changes, the current 105.9 FM license is still on the air today and has been known over the years as KWST, KMGG and since 1986 as KPWR or Power 106.

For many years, KFI was the Los Angeles area affiliate of the NBC radio network, most particularly the NBC Red Network, as distinguished from the NBC Blue Network of less powerful stations, which became the American Broadcasting Company. KFI's sister station, KECA, was the affiliate of the Blue network. The anti-trust decision that divested NBC Blue also forced Earle C. Anthony to sell KECA (which became KABC).

During this period the station carried such sporting events as the World Series and the Rose Bowl. From 1960 to 1972, the station was the flagship station of the Los Angeles Dodgers radio network. Its programming transitioned during this period from block programming, often featuring 15-minute programs, to full service radio with disk-jockeys playing records interspersed with aggressive local news coverage. In April 1972, KFI celebrated its 50th birthday with a 12 hour special, featuring new interviews and commentaries from many former NBC Radio personalities of the past.

In 1973, Cox Broadcasting headquartered in Atlanta, purchased KFI for $15 million, at that time the highest amount ever paid for a radio station. James Wesley, Cox's manager at WIOD in Miami and that station's Operations Manager, Elliott "Biggie" Nevins, were dispatched to Los Angeles to manage the station. Cox instructed Wesley to find an FM facility in the Los Angeles market and purchase it also. A deal was reached with Dallas broadcaster Gordon McLendon, to purchase his KOST-fm for $2.2 million. Wesley also decided against renewing the long term agreement for carrying Dodger baseball, positioning KABC to become the new Dodger station in Los Angeles.

Starting in the mid-1970s, KFI successfully programmed Top 40 music. Owner Cox Broadcasting hired John Rook as program director. Rook was considered the force behind WLS Chicago's success. His first staff included Al Lohman and Roger Barkley (top-rated in the morning), Mark Taylor and Eric Chase (mid-day), Bob Shannon (afternoons), Charlie Fox (early evening) and Dave Diamond (late night). By the late-'70s the staff was revised to Lohman & Barkley mornings, Tim & Ev Kelly in mid-days, Jack Armstrong afternoons, Big Ron O'Brien evenings and Charley Fox at night. Rook and several of the on air personalities left in the early-1980s with KFI softening to a more Adult top 40 format (sort of in between Top 40 and adult Contemporary). By the mid-1980s the station was more news and personality intensive than music intensive with a Full Service format.

For nearly 20 years during the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, KFI boasted one of the most listened-to shows in Los Angeles radio history, "The Lohman and Barkley Show," featuring the comedy duo of Al Lohman and Roger Barkley. During this time, throughout the day the station featured a hybrid format combining adult contemporary music with comedian hosts. Other hosts included Hudson & Landry (of "Ajax Liquor Store" fame), Charlie and Mitzi (Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In), and Gary Owens. In the early-'80s, KFI began broadcasting in stereo, with the C-QUAM system (continued until January 2000) [2].

By the mid-1980s ratings began to slip. KFI moved the music to more of a Soft Gold-based AC and began to play less and less of it. The talk shows moved from a blend of entertainment, comedy, and lifestyle to more political issues. The music was dropped in 1988 and KFI evolved to an issue-oriented talk format. The first hosts were Dr. Toni Grant, former disk jockey Geoff Edwards, doing talk in the midday, and Tom Leykis, with a politically oriented "combat radio" program.[3] Competitor KABC, which had been doing talk radio for some time, sued KFI in U.S. District Court to have KFI cease and desist using the term "Talk Radio" with the call letters. Therefore, the slogan More Stimulating Talk Radio was created.[4] Rush Limbaugh replaced Edwards in 1989 after Edwards refused to play promo spots for the controversial Leykis show.

The station was owned by Cox Radio until 1999 when Chancellor traded 13 stations to Cox for it along with KOST 103.5. Cox opted to exit the Los Angeles market and focus on medium market radio stations and its TV stations.

Chancellor merged with Capstar in 1999 and became known as AMFM Inc. In 2000, they merged with Clear Channel Communications making KFI Clear Channel's flagship AM radio station in Los Angeles. The legal title of the station continues to be held by a subsidiary of Capstar. [3]

Programming

KFI is a talk radio station owned by Clear Channel Communications, the largest U.S. radio owner. Syndicated personalities who began on KFI include Bill Handel with Handel on the Law, and Leo Laporte. Local programs include The Bill Handel Show, Kennedy & Suits and The John and Ken Show. Scotch-Canadian talk show host Bill Carroll will be added to middays in February 2010.

The weekend lineup includes tech expert Leo Laporte's The Tech Guy show (originally local-only, now nationally syndicated via Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks since February 2007), topical-talkers Wayne Resnick and Charles Payne, a local version of the John Batchelor news magazine, and Tim Conway Jr..

In addition to originating syndicated programs such as Bill Handel's afternoon and weekend shows, Laporte's The Tech Guy and Sunday's The Jesus Christ Show, KFI carries other well-known syndicated programs such as The Rush Limbaugh Show and Coast to Coast AM. Afternoon hosts John and Ken were syndicated from KFI during their first run on the station, but are heard only on KFI now. In 2009, John and Ken began airing on KNEW in Northern California.

Like that of most talk radio stations, programming on KFI has a reputation for political conservatism. However, while KFI's highest-rated syndicated hosts Rush Limbaugh and now former KFI host Laura Schlessinger are traditionalists, in general the local hosts on the station in recent years would more accurately be described as tending towards libertarianism.

KFI also has an extensive news department, and produces news updates for other Clear Channel stations in the Los Angeles market. KFI employs 20 broadcast journalists. [4] KFI's newscasts air at :59 and :29 past the hour, with brief headlines approximately halfway between the fuller newscasts during local programming. The newscasts primarily focus on local news with relevant national and international stories included.

KFI also has traffic reports four times an hour. Only two news reports and traffic reports an hour are provided during the overnight hours on Coast-to-Coast. KFI is a member of the Fox News Radio network and Fox News reporters appear on the station (but not its commentators, who have shows on competing stations in the market). However, the entire Fox News Radio newscast is not aired.

For its efforts, KFI was named the Radio & Records News & Talk Radio Station of the Year in 2004.

In September 2009, Schlessinger's program shifted to KFWB. To replace her, morning host Handel agreed to take on another airshift, noon to 2 p.m., which was the first two hours of the Dr. Laura program. Handel quit the extra show a few months later, citing the fact that it overwhelmed him. John and Ken expanded to take up what was the third hour once occupied by Dr. Laura.

Broadcasting

Today, KFI broadcasts from its Burbank, California studios on 640 kHz on a 50,000-watt non-directional AM transmitter which is located in nearby La Mirada at 33° 52' 47" N, 118° 00' 47" W. As a class A signal, KFI can be heard throughout Southern California and some distance into Nevada, Arizona, northwestern Mexico, and, at night, in some parts of Hawaii and most of the western United States. According to a May 1, 2004 broadcast by Art Bell, this station can even be heard by sensitive receivers in parts of the Eastern United States.[citation needed]

Some Canadians in British Columbia while others in Alaska were able to pick up KFI signals in the winter months, and even as far away as Japan, Philippines, Guam, American Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, and parts of Central America down to Panama.

In Summer 2004, KFI became the most listened to talk radio station in the United States, beating New York City WABC in cumulative audience during the rating period.

FEC complaint

In recent years, especially since the 2003 California recall, afternoon drive hosts John and Ken have become actively involved in several political causes, most notably that of illegal immigration. In the months leading up to the 2004 election, the hosts instigated several political rallies advocating the defeat of Congressmen David Dreier (a Republican) and Joe Baca (a Democrat), both of whom they felt were wrongly supportive of illegal immigration. As a result, the John and Ken show was the subject of a Federal Election Commission complaint filed by the National Republican Congressional Committee alleging that John and Ken engaged in an illegal campaign against Congressman Dreier. Although the large amount of publicity received was quite amazing, the "Political Human Sacrifice" campaign as they dubbed it was not successful, since both Dreier and Baca were re-elected, albeit Dreier by a substantially smaller percentage than in past terms. On March 16, 2006, the complaint was dismissed. [5]

Tower destroyed

On Sunday, December 19, 2004 at 9:45 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, Jim and Mary Ghosoph were killed when their rented Cessna 182P single engine airplane, travelling from the El Monte Airport to Fullerton Municipal Airport, struck KFI's transmission tower, located in the City of La Mirada[5][6][7]. The solid steel truss, originally built in 1948, collapsed upon itself, mostly landing in a parking lot to the north of the site. KFI's signal was knocked off the air for approximately one hour. Pilots had complained for years to KFI management that it needed to put strobe lights on the tower and highly reflective balls on the guy wire. KFI and Clear Channel Communications management responded by saying the tower was in compliance with FCC and FAA regulations and that it did not need to make any changes. Until a replacement was erected, the station transmitted from a 200-foot auxiliary tower at a power of 25,000 watts. Work was conducted at the site on November 19, 2006, temporarily interrupting a broadcast of Leo Laporte's talk show KFI Tech Guy at 11:55 AM[6].

Tower destroyed again

On Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 2:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time the replacement tower collapsed while under construction.[7] The tower was about 300 feet tall (the final height was to be 684 feet) when a guy wire support failed, causing the tower to tip over the opposite direction. There were no major injuries, and only limited collateral damage. [8]

Third tower completed

A new tower began construction at the end of July 2008 and was completed on August 14, 2008. The station returned to full power (50,000 watts) on September 25, 2008 at 17:00PT. The new tower has a 50 foot wide capacitance hat, which effectively extends its length another seventy-five feet without actually needing more tower sections. The new tower is also equipped with high intensity strobe lights due to its proximity to the Fullerton Municipal Airport, and safety upgrades because of the previous plane crash.[8]

Former hosts and on-air alumni

  • Tammy Bruce - Hosted weekend talk show from 1993 to 1998. Bruce was fired for making unflattering comments about Bill Cosby and his wife Camille who had recently lost their son Ennis in a murder. Tammy is now syndicated on 153 stations including KABC in Los Angeles.
  • Joe Crummey - Hosted evening talk show from 1988 to 1994.
  • Mark Denis - Worked the KFI Traffic Center from 1986 until his death in April 2000; was the imaging voice of "KFI, More Stimulating Talk Radio"
  • Matt Drudge - Syndicated Internet news personality who ran on KFI Sunday nights 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. the end of September, 2007.
  • Ken Gallacher—Former News Anchor for the Bill Handel Show
  • Daryl Gates -- The former LAPD chief replaced Tom Leykis as part of the station's shift toward conservative politics.
  • Phil Hendrie - Hosted an evening issue-oriented talk show from 1989 to 1990 (sometimes alternating with Joe Crummey), and his syndicated comedy show The Phil Hendrie Show from 1996 to 2006.
  • Dave Hull - 1960s, 1970s. The "Hullaballooer" was heard primarily 9pm-12am weekday evenings. Last heard on KWXY(FM) Cathedral City-Palm Springs.
  • Tom Leykis - Hosted a talk show from 1988 until 1992, which was more political issue-oriented than his later syndicated show would be.
  • Rabbi Mentz - Hosted a show from 1997 - 2002. From 10 to midnight, and filled in often for Bill Handle on morning drive. From Politics to family life, sports to matchmaking, the show provided an entertaining perspective. Guests such as Gov Davis, Laura Bush, Paula Abdul, Bill O'Reilly, were just some of the names that dropped by the show.
  • Tracey Miller - Co-hosted TNT in the Morning with KFI News' Terri-Rae Elmer from 1990 to 1993. The show was the first morning-drive show in a major market to feature two women in the lead roles. Miller died in 2005
  • Kevin Mitnick - infamous computer hacker who co-hosted a two hour show early Sunday mornings titled 'The Dark Side of the Internet' with Alex Kasper from 2000 to 2001.
  • Mr. KFI - Marc Germain hosted a question and answer talk show from 1993-1996. He was fired from KFI in 1996 and then hired by competitor KABC. Marc hosted a similar show as Mr. KABC for ten years before leaving KABC for KTLK (AM 1150) and now broadcasts using both his name and a new shortened "Mr. K." moniker.
  • Scott and Casey - A live call-in talk show, hosted by Scott Hasick and Casey Bartholomew, aired from 1994-1997, and again from 1998-1999. Scott Hasick was involved in The Stephanie Miller Show during her time on KFI, performing many of the character voices heard on the broadcasts, as well as serving as production guy, and board operator. Casey Bartholomew was involved in the John And Ken Show as their board operator, as well as writing and performing many popular "updates", and imaging for KFI. The pair exited KFI in 1999, for weekday afternoons on New Jersey 101.5. After leaving New Jersey, Scott and Casey served stints in Detroit, St. Louis and San Francisco. Casey spent some time on the airwaves in Charleston before the duo re-united in St. Louis. Scott recently resurfaced at Bonneville's WMVN / WARH in St. Louis. Casey recently resurfaced at New Jersey 101.5 as the afternoon replacement for Craig Carton. Carton and Boomer Esiason replaced Don Imus on WFAN in New York.
  • The Tim & Neil Show - Tim Kelly and Neil Saavedra hosted a weekend show, then replaced Tammy Bruce on weeknights. From 1997-2001, Tim and Neil hosted various shifts and often filled in for Bill Handel. Tim Kelly was a longtime contributor to the Bill Handel Program, penning and recording the bits and parodies that the show featured under the moniker "Dick Cabeza." Neil Saavedra is currently still with KFI as Marketing Director and on air with the Jesus Christ Show on Sundays.
  • Ted Rall - Saturday evenings on KFI briefly; can still be heard on the Bill Handel Show occasionally.
  • Deborah Rich - Hosted a weekend, topic-driven show on Saturday evenings.
  • Chuck Cecil Chuck_Cecil (The Swingin' Years) - hosted "The Swingin' Years", focusing on big-band music, from 1956 until the early 70's. Program was nationally syndicated more than 25 years.
  • Turi Ryder - Hosted a weekend show for KFI in the late 90s.
  • Paul T Wall - Former board operator for the Bill Handel show and on-air contributor to Handel on the News. Wall left KFI in February 2008.
  • Bruce Wayne (Bruce F. Talford) - "KFI in the Sky" traffic reporter. Killed on June 4, 1986 plane crash just after take-off from Fullerton Airport in KFI plane.
  • John Ziegler Hosted a Political Talk Show from (10:00 PM PST to 1:00 AM PST) From 2004 until 2005. And from (7:00 PM PST to 10:00 PM PST) from 2005 until November 13, 2007.The show ended each time with a remembrance of the September 11 attacks.
  • Mike Nolan - known as KFI In The Sky and also employed by sister station KOST 103.5 to do airborne traffic reports in the morning and evening drive times was let go after 20 years with the station due to a restructuring on November 30, 2007. As of January 14, 2008 he was back on air with KFI and KOST as a ground based traffic reporter with an occasional KFI In The Sky from his own plane. He also serves as a subject matter expert for aviation related topics and news stories.

References

  1. ^ Wallace, David Foster. "Host" The Atlantic Monthly, April 2005.
  2. ^ Blackstock, Joe. "Pomona radio legend was citrus ranchers' savior - On frosty nights, Jack Benny lost ratings to Floyd Young". Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Dec. 8, 2002.
  3. ^ "Rosen, Craig. RADIO NEWS & NOTES -COMPETITION HEATS UP ON AM DIAL". Los Angeles Daily News, July 18, 1988. Page L20
  4. ^ "KFI GRANTED CONDITIONAL OK TO LABEL ITSELF 'TALK RADIO'." Los Angeles Daily News, May 6, 1989.
  5. ^ National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report on the plane crash 19 December 2004
  6. ^ National Transportation Safety Board factual report on the plane crash 19 December 2004
  7. ^ 11pm newscast on KFI about the plane crash and destruction of KFI's transmitter tower. (In RealAudio format)
  8. ^ Construction of the new tower in Aug. 2008

External links

Coordinates: 33°52′47″N 118°00′47″W / 33.879722°N 118.013056°W / 33.879722; -118.013056

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