The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

31 December 2005

KDKA Fires Hosts, Staffers


More Fluff, Less Substance At Pittsburgh's KDKA

At Pittsburgh's KDKA, America's oldest commercial radio station, 2005 ended without a bang or a whimper. Instead, the powerhouse CBS Radio talker finished things off with a rare, unexpected programming massacre.

And beyond CBS Radio's worst corporate nightmares, the end result may be disastrously counterproductive. According to a station manager, KDKA is phasing out political talk on what was once the area's highest-rated radio station.

Sacked were political talkers Mike Pintek (9am-noon), Mike Romigh (9pm-midnight), sports host Paul Alexander (6-9pm) and even a news reporter, Kyle Anthony.

Violating every programming standard known to the talk radio industry, the station has only a vague idea of what it might do next. Why is this dangerous? Because it's never wise to remove shows from the lineup until there are better alternatives ready to go.

Instead, KDKA has a schedule full of holes, with only Pintek's slot so far filled, through the hiring of local TV reporter Marty Griffin.

In a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story, local CBS Radio honcho Keith Clark indicated current events talk would be essentially flushed down KDKA's toilet:

Radio, like television, is constantly looking for hit shows," Mr. Clark said. "We're looking for different kinds of talk shows that appeal to a wide variety of people. There's a ton of political talk out there, and we do our share of it. But we think KDKA's broader appeal audience is demanding more than political talk. There's more to talk than politics.

It's obvious Clark, a market manager for Pittsburgh, knows little about talk radio. If he did, he'd realize that the industry had this very debate over political content roughly ten years ago. Stations that moved toward the kind of fluff talk Clark is proposing for KDKA quickly switched back, after horrific results.

Was KDKA in good shape, however? Not by a longshot. Like many of CBS Radio's talkers (with WBZ in Boston as another prime example), KDKA appeals to an especially elderly audience and doesn't take strong stands on issues. It makes for boring programming.

In fact, it's hard to tell which is greater, the station's age (85) or that of its average listener.

When Clear Channel roared into town and set up a competing conservative FM talk station catering to younger fans two years ago, stealing away Rush Limbaugh in the process, KDKA's free ride was finally over. Limbaugh helped propel the new station, WPGB-FM, to solid and immediate ratings results.

Always number one with a bullet in the past, it slipped to second in the Arbitron ratings overall and sixth in the key advertising demo, adults 25-54. Limbaugh, it turned out, had been holding up the fort.

Other foolish moves were made as well, note the tacky infomercials in this recent KDKA programming schedule:

5:00am - 9:00am Larry Richert, John Shumway, Shelley Duffy & the KDKA Morning News
9:00am - 12noon The Mike Pintek Show
12noon - 2:00pm The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly
2:00pm - 6:00pm The Fred Honsberger Show
6:00pm - 9:00pm KDKA's I.C. Light Sports Talk with Paul Alexander
9:00pm - 12mid The "Live Mike" with Mike Romigh
12mid - 5:00am The Undercover Club with Bob Logue
8:00pm - 9:00pm Medical Frontiers (Mondays only)
9:00pm - 10:00pm KDKA Automotive Hour (Thursdays only)

Instead of aiming younger to recapture some of its lost audience, KDKA has decided to turn to fluff talk, sure to chase away even the oldest remaining listenership.

As one radio message board poster pegged it:

Here's what I don't expect to hear on KDKA:

I don't expect to hear anything remotely new, innovative or exciting.

I don't expect to hear some new and unexpected voice that will shake things up and create any sort of buzz.

I don't expect to tune in to KDKA during the times when Pintek or Romigh used to be on the air and hear anything different, other than a different host's voice.

Through unprecedented incompetence, CBS Radio has brought down nearly every talk station it owns, refusing to hire qualified talk programmers to turn around its troubled outlets scattered across America.

With its once-proud regional format dominance, KDKA's slow and painful death will be particularly difficult to watch.

UPDATE: were programming changes fueled by anti-conservative management bias at CBS Radio? Discussion here.

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  • Rumor has it that 1010 KXXT AM, AAR's affiliate in Phoenix, has been sold to a Christian outfit. Uh Bye Bye

    By Blogger Lidsville, at 01 January, 2006 07:49  

  • just checked on that KXXT claim there pal, and haven't been able to substantiate anything remotely close to it. any hard evidence to back it up, or are you just being a typical conservative and saying things with absolutely no proof?

    By Blogger liberal outlaw, at 01 January, 2006 14:21  

  • thanks for this posting.
    my daughter goes to Pitt and I pick up KDKA about 40 miles out (east) of the 'burgh. I hope they fill it with good programing but I do love the local chatter.


    By Blogger patriotblog, at 01 January, 2006 16:41  

  • Got the call from Jay Philpott, KXXT is being sold to Salem Media Group.

    By Blogger Sailor Republica, at 01 January, 2006 21:46  

  • i am amazed CBS radio does not own WOR (710)in n.y.!!!!!

    By Blogger joe, at 02 January, 2006 15:56  

  • They don't--Buckley Broadcasting owns WOR--in addition to WDRC and three stations relaying the signal in Meriden, Waterbury, and Torrington.

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 02 January, 2006 17:52  

  • just checked on that KXXT claim there pal, and haven't been able to substantiate anything remotely close to it-liberal outlaw

    Google. 2nd hit took me to Top entry today, is.... The new owners of KXXT, religious broadcasters Communicom, are dumping liberal talk from KXXT by the end of January
    Same blog provides links back on 10/15/05 to BillBoard Radio Monitor, confirming the sale.
    There's even a DailyKos diary on the subject.
    Same goes for Radio Info

    any hard evidence to back it up, or are you just being a typical conservative and saying things with absolutely no proof?-liberal outlaw
    One could make a retort about typical liberals, but I'll leave that to lidsville

    By Blogger SCSIwuzzy, at 02 January, 2006 19:07  

  • and my links are fubar....
    damned PDA blogging :)

    By Blogger SCSIwuzzy, at 02 January, 2006 19:07  

  • all of those are blog links. i find it incredibly difficult to put too much stock into "news" from bloggers. not to mention the fact that some call the new owners a religious outfit, and others say that they just purchased a religious station. which is it? too many conflicting reports in there, but i do give you an A for effort, and thank you for providing some evidence.

    By Blogger liberal outlaw, at 03 January, 2006 10:06  

  • "The new owners of KXXT, religious broadcasters Communicom, are dumping liberal talk from KXXT by the end of January"

    Lots of money to be made in those religious stations that pull marginal ratings and bilk little old ladies out of their life savings.

    By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 05 January, 2006 12:55  

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