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Salem Dumps Hogue, KTKZ Sale to Follow?

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There is a story circulating that KTKZ talker Eric Hogue is on the chopping block. His program is slated to be cancelled in September by some bean counters at Salem Communications. Salem would rather substitute some nationally syndicated talker to save some money.

I would like to address this idea from two aspects of the radio business.

First is the FCC license. If Salem cancels Hogue, in my estimation they have violated the Prime Directive of broadcasting which is to serve the public good. Hogue has done much to promote KTKZ and inform their audience. Hogue is the only program in the broadcast area that covers local politics from an informed perspective.

Only Tom Sullivan at KFBK comes close but Tom doesn’t understand Conservatives or the inner workings of the Republican Party. In addition, Tom doesn’t care to learn. Tom has no interest in “getting under the hood” and seeing how the Legislature really operates.

As someone who has worked at the Capitol and in radio, I have come to appreciate Eric’s insight in this area. It took him a few years to get through the learning curve after arriving here from Ohio but he has mastered his subject matter well.

Salem has severely handicapped Hogue by not giving him the bandwidth necessary to compete in this market. KTKZ AM & FM are the weakest signals in the broadcast area. When tuning on the AM side I have to search between Radio Disney and Air America to find the station. It is difficult to get either KTKZ station indoors anywhere in the broadcast area. I cannot get their signal at all at my Elk Grove home. If Salem got Hogue on a station with some broadcast power, KTKZ would be second or third in the market.

Not only have I seen the Arbitron ratings but I was a participant in the Spring sampling period. In the Sacramento market, KSFO from San Francisco has better numbers than KTKZ and their signal is often better.

Secondly, Salem may not be making much money on Hogue’s time slot but they need to look at the Larry King model used by Mutual Broadcasting. King was what retailers call a “loss leader.” King was not profitable by himself but Mutual required that stations carrying King also carry other programming by Mutual. As a package Mutual was able to make money by this arrangement.

Hogue has done something similar for KTKZ with sponsors. Hogue has done well enough for sponsors on his show that they are willing advertisers on other programming at the station. Spots cut by the team at KTKZ are often heard on other stations in the Sacramento market.

The revenue hit that KTKZ will take if they follow through on plans to cut Hogue will be tremendous. Not only will they loose the Hogue show revenue but the Friday night high school sports will disappear also. Sponsors of the Hogue show are also the backbone of advertisers for other programming like Hugh Hewitt.

One can’t help but wonder if killing local programming is a prelude to selling the radio station to someone with a different format in mind. This decision is not a formula for long term viability at KTKZ.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/22 at 01:04 AM
  1. 1) Salem is not selling its stations here.  Eric has a compensation package (salary plus talent fees)of around $120,000.00 (I found that with a brief search of on-line public records) on a radio station that commands all of $15.00 for a prime time minute (KFBK gets as much as $300.00).  Salem’s syndicated shows are not just self-supporting but turn a profit at both the corporate and local level (they are free to the local station and spots are sold based on aggregate audience, in addition to individual stations selling their own local spots).  After 6-years Eric has failed to produce audience or revenue numbers sufficent to justify continuing his program as a local show (the syndicated product on KTKZ pulls larger audiences than does he), and he lacks the talent or demonstrated ability to host a syndicated effort,  nor has Salem expressed an interest in moving him to a larger station or a syndicated role.

    2) There is no longer a license requirement for minimum public service attached to commercial, over the air broadcasters and even when there was the FCC was expressly prohibited from dictating content (beyond dealing with that which is illegal; such as fraud or profanity offensive to the community standard) or personality hires or fires.

    3) The signal is what the signal is.  Salem buys lousy signals because A) they are all that is left after 85 years of commercial broadcasting and B) they are cheap and a hundred of them clustered in a group can produce an audience more than sufficent to generate considerable revenue. 

    4) Tom does not “get under the hood” at the State Capitol because that kind of programming (along with sports from Who Cares High and backwater minor league baseball games) that results in: one shares; $15. spots vs. $300. spots; and unemployement for the host and lots of people in the building who depend on the host to put bread on their table.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/24  at  12:54 PM
  2. and finally, 5:  Mutual Radio no longer exists. When they did they did not have a “must carry” requirement.  Stations went with Larry beacuse he was free.  Priemer on the other hand DID have a “must carry” when they launched Dr. Laura and Dr. Dean Edell, any station that wanted Rush had to take Laura and Dean.  Over-night radio shows now survive via the sales of books.  When you hear an author “interviewed” on late-night radio you are actually hearing an infomercial.  The show, host, publisher and author each get a cut of every book sold.  That is why you do not hear all-night talk show hosts challenge authors or their works,  you only hear praise for both and then the 800 number or web site.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/24  at  01:08 PM
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