|City of license||San Francisco, California|
|Broadcast area||San Francisco Bay Area|
|Branding||"KGO News Talk 810"|
|Frequency||810 kHz (also on HD Radio)|
|First air date||1924|
|Class||A (Clear Channel)|
|Callsign meaning||K General Electric Oakland (KGO radio's former owner)|
(Radio License Holding VIII, LLC)
KGO (810 AM band) is a news/talk-format radio station with offices and studios in San Francisco, California. Unlike most other American news/talk stations, KGO originates nearly all of its own programming locally. Since 1978, KGO radio has received Arbitron's number-one ranking in the Bay Area. Operating with 50,000 watts of power as a clear channel station, it is accessible throughout the western United States and beyond. It operated as the West Coast flagship radio station of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) until the radio group was purchased by Citadel Broadcasting in 2007.
KGO signed on the air in 1924 from General Electric's Oakland electrical facility (the original two-story brick building, constructed specifically for the station, still exists on the site to this day), as part of a planned three-station network comprising WGY in Schenectady, New York, and KOA in Denver, Colorado. Due to GE's involvement in RCA and RCA's launch of the NBC radio network, KGO was soon operated by NBC management as part of the NBC network. See the KNBR entry for a fuller discussion of NBC's San Francisco radio operations.
In 1943, the Federal Communications Commission forced NBC to sell one of its two networks (and that network's owned-and-operated stations). The NBC "Blue Network" became ABC and KGO became a founding station of the ABC radio network.
In the postwar period, KGO produced many live music programs, including that of Western Swing bandleader Bob Wills, a staple of the period. KGO was also instrumental in bringing the first exercise show to broadcasting, hosted by Jack LaLanne, a fitness instructor and gym operator in nearby Oakland. LaLanne conducted his radio fitness show for many years on KGO, and moved in the late 1950s to KGO-TV and a successful TV syndication career.
By the late 1950s, KGO had suffered poor ratings. In 1962, ABC management brought in new management including a program director, Jim Dunbar, who revamped the station into one of the country's first news/talk stations. While the new format was initially unsuccessful, Dunbar stressed the "live and local" aspect of the programming by running the talk shows every day from locations such as Johnny Kan's Chinese restaurant, Señor Pico's Restaurant, and the legendary hungry i nightclub. This higher profile caused KGO's ratings to begin a steady climb. Among KGO's personalities then was future Radio Hall of Fame member J.P. McCarthy, the station's morning host in the early 1960s.
After trying various formats, KGO eventually shifted to news and talk shows. It relied heavily on the ABC radio network for its news programs, carrying Paul Harvey's twice-daily programs, but also began to develop a strong local news staff that produced extended morning and afternoon newscasts. The local talk show hosts included Owen Spann and Jim Eason, who often interviewed visiting celebrities in the studios. Owen Spann even originated special broadcasts from Europe and Africa, interviewing various government officials. Local director-actor Jack Brooks hosted a Saturday-morning entertainment program until his sudden death in June 1984, after directing a production of Kismet for the Capuchino Community Theatre that featured Jim Eason as the poet Omar Khayyám. Dr. Dean Edell began his regular medical programs at KGO, leading to nationally-syndicated broadcasts.
Today, KGO for over 27 years (as rated quarterly by Arbitron) has been the number-one station in the Bay Area, a feat remarkable in broadcasting. The KGO signal also registers as a station listened to in surrounding metropolitan areas. Due to the nature of the signal, KGO broadcasts essentially on a north-south axis, protecting itself from interference with WGY at night. This makes KGO essentially free of static at night in places like Seattle and San Diego, but difficult to receive in Reno and points east of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Reception at Edmonton is barely discernible.
Unlike many other talk radio stations in the United States, KGO, as noted above, creates nearly all of its own programming, with very limited syndicated content; that is, majority of its programs are hosted by San Francisco Bay Area broadcasters.
Daytime weekday hosts include Ronn Owens, Gil Gross, and Gene Burns. In addition to a daily schedule of issues-oriented local talk shows, the station carries a variety of specialty programs, particularly on weekends. John Hamilton discusses travel and leisure, Gene Burns covers fine food and dining on a separate show from his weekday program, and Joanie Greggains hosts a health-and-fitness program.
KGO airs original weekend broadcasts, including: Brian Copeland, who covers issues of the day with both serious and comedic elements, John Rothmann on politics and with insight into social topics, and a new addition, Brent Walters, a local professor who took over God Talk in early 2008 and has transformed the show's format with promising results.
KGO runs news during the morning and afternoon drive. The morning news is anchored by veteran San Francisco radio journalist Ed Baxter and co-anchor Jennifer Jones. The afternoon news features Rosie Allen and award-winning reporter/anchor Bret Burkhart.
The station also aired an hour-long newscast at noon, but discontinued that practice following the move of the KGO radio lawyer Len Tillem to weekday broadcasts on November 27, 2006.
KGO news coverage tends to have more live interviews, longer and more in-depth stories, and more anchor banter than the ten minute all-news cycle format of KCBS.
As of December 22, 2009, talks are rumored between Citadel Broadcasting and Larry Flynt publisher of Hustler Magazine for the spin-off of AM radio station KGO.
KGO was the radio broadcast home for the San Francisco 49ers football team from 1987 to 2005. It has broadcast the college football games of the University of California, Berkeley Golden Bears since 1974.
Every year, KGO hosts an annual fundraiser named the KGO Cure-a-Thon to help raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. All of the station's regular programming is preempted for an entire day for the event. Listeners are encouraged to call in donate money to help fight cancer. An auction is also held to help raise money. Notable items have included a trip with Gene Burns on a private jet to various destinations such as Las Vegas or Italy.
At the end of the Cure-a-Thon, Ray Taliaferro generally encourages more donations by shouting his signature phrase that "It is not enough." The Cure-a-Thon then continues past the designated 24-hour mark (with encouragement from Ray), causing the station management to have a fit because advertisers have paid for advertising that isn't being broadcast. However, this long-running joke was spoofed in 2006 when the Cure-a-Thon was planned to run a bit over 24 hours.
In March 2008, solar panels were installed at KGO's transmitter site in Newark, California to offset some of the power consumption during daytime hours. The effort is a testbed for Pacific Gas and Electric Company and is located near the Dumbarton Bridge.
Sometimes, regular hosts fill in for each other's shows, particularly Brian Copeland, John Rothmann and Bill Wattenburg.