by Alex Cosper
The sound of Los Angeles radio changed substantially throughout the 1990s due to big mergers as a result of the Telecom Act of 1996. Prior to that time, the market's sound did not radically change music in terms of positioning and personalities. The decade opened with New York programmer Scott Shannon trying to jumpstart a new format known as "rock 40," which came on strong in 1989 with his "Pirate Radio" concept.
Although rock 40 was hot in 1989, it burned out within a year. Part of the problem was that the music industry simply didn't put out enough rock product that fit the high rotation top 40 approach to rock singles. It was a refreshing sound at first, considering top 40 was going through an identity crisis with an over-emphasis on rap, r&b and dance pop, pushing almost oll other styles off the charts.
KROQ propelled to greater success under the programming of Kevin Weatherly in the nineties and 2000s, usually appearing in the overall Arbitron (12+) top five. The station is considered by nearly the entire alternative radio community, to be the most influential leader in alternative rock. KROQ's exceptionally acclaimed airstaff over the years has included the Kevin and Bean morning show, Jed the Fish, Rodney Bingenheimer, Freddie Snakeskin and Swedish Egil. KROQ was the birthplace of the show Love Lines with Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla.
As the nineties progressed, Spanish radio flourished, especially in Los Angeles. KLVE, known as "K-Love," was once at the bottom of the ratings but was regularly the market's number one station in the late nineties. Station owner Heftel also bought KSCA and replaced the adult album alternative format with Regional Mexican programming, vaulting the station from the bottom to the top of the ratings, even with what had been considered a weak 5,000 watt signal. Here's what the Los Angeles radio dial looked like in 1997:
Los Angeles Radio Dial 1997
640 AM - KFI, talk, owned by Cox 790 AM - KABC, talk, owned by ABC 980 AM - KFWB, news, owned by Group W 1020 AM - KTNQ, Spanish, owned by Heftel 1070 AM - KNX, news, owned by CBS 1330 AM - KWKW, Spanish, owned by Lotus 1430 AM - KALI, Spanish, owned by SBS 1580 AM - KDAY, urban contemporary, owned by Heritage MediaFollowing the Telecom Act of 1996, there was widespread corporate consolidation across the country as radio owners were allowed to grow larger with the loosening of ownership limits. Clear Channel and Infinity emerged as the two industry leaders in number of stations by the start of the new millennium.
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