July 07, 2009

"Michael Jackson Radio": CBS Should Lose Their L.A. "News Radio" Licenses

Greetings. Thanks to media consolidation, CBS now owns the two "news radio" stations here in L.A., both venerable old AM callsigns -- KNX and KFWB. But as I type this, there apparently is no news, anywhere on the planet, except the Michael Jackson memorial circus now taking place here in downtown L.A.

I actually do have substantial sympathy for Michael Jackson, despite the obvious fact that for many years all of his difficulties appear to be solely his own responsibility. I also feel that the cash-starved city of Los Angeles shouldn't be paying one thin dime for the extraordinary security surrounding his Staples Center event -- complete with over 3000 LAPD officers deployed, helicopters, and all the other incredibly expensive accessories (we're talking millions of dollars). The city had damn well better go after show producer AEG for the costs. One assumes that AEG will reap significant financial benefits from all of this in the future, one way or another.

I expected all of the commercial television networks and local L.A. stations to go wall-to-wall covering this event, and with only a couple of minor exceptions that proved to be the rule.

But it's KNX and KFWB that have me really pissed off. Stuck on the freeway, unable to legally turn to Google Maps while driving, I tried to get information about road closures and other traffic-related problems from the stations' much promoted 10 minute traffic reports. You can guess what I found. Nothing but continuous live coverage of the Last Michael Jackson Show -- on both of these CBS news stations -- the only radio sources for routine traffic reports.

Apparently right now there is no other news other than Jackson. No wars, no other deaths, no weather, no traffic, no nuttin'.

So, even though I knew it would be a blood pressure raising experience, I called the KNX newsroom. I was told in no uncertain terms that they saw nothing wrong with preempting all programming on both stations since "that's what the people want." I asked about their promise of updated traffic reports every few minutes 24/7. "Shouldn't a semblance of normal programming be continuing on at least one of your two local news stations?"

They had no answer of course. I terminated the call before I said something that I'd regret.

But Michael Jackson aside, this is a prime example of how media consolidation has gotten out of control, and why the next time that either KNX or KFWB's license renewals come up before the FCC, I'm going to have more than few words to enter into the public record.

It probably won't do any good. But it might make me feel at least a little bit better in the wake of this nonsensical and irresponsible behavior by licensees of the public airwaves.


Posted by Lauren at July 7, 2009 11:21 AM | Permalink
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