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Sacramento Radio History
Corporate Mergers in the 1990s
by Alex Cosper
Take a virtual tour of Sacramento at SacTV.com
see also American Radio History
see also KZAP,
Radio Mergers in the 1990s
For several decades the FCC mandated strict ownership rules for radio and other media, in order to keep programming diverse.
These rules began to loosen during the Reagan Administration in the 1980s as part of an overall deregulation policy.
Then in 1992 a new law gave radio owners, for the first time, the opportunity to own two AMs and two FMs in a market.
Four years later, the Telecom Act further loosened ownership limits to eight stations per market.
The race among radio owners to start buying up as many stations as possible began immediately after the signing of the Telecom Act in February 1996. By the end of the year Jacor suddenly rose to be a top 3 radio empire with 95 stations
across America after the billion dollar purchase of stations owned by Citicasters and Regent Communications. Jacor grew even
bigger the next year with the purchase of several syndicated shows including Rush Limbaugh, who had the most listened to show in the country. By 1998 Jacor owned over 200 stations. The following year Clear Channel purchased Jacor for $6.5 billion and became the second biggest radio chain at that point. What put Clear Channel over the top was the 2000 purchase of AMFM, previously known as Chancellor Media.
Chancellor started in Sacramento, although owner Thomas Hicks operated out of Texas. The company expanded nationally and went on to become AMFM, which became the largest radio chain in the nation by the end of the nineties. In 2000 Hicks sold his empire so that he could acquire George W. Bush's percentage of the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball team. AMFM's buyer was a company that had been around for years called Clear Channel. Upon purchasing the biggest radio chain, Clear Channel thus became America's biggest radio chain. By the early 2000s, Clear Channel owned Sacramento stations KFBK, KGBY, KHYL and KSTE and a few others that were sold off.
Infinity had also become a huge company through mergers and opened the decade owning KSFM, KMYX, KNCI, KHTK, KZZO, KRAK and KXOA. The other giant in Sacramento at the turn of the century was Entercom, which owned KSSJ, KSEG, KDND, KRXQ and KCTC. The year 1998 saw radical changes on the dial that affected Infinity and Entercom. In March KRAK-FM and KRXQ swapped dial positions, resulting in 93 Rock becoming 98 Rock. Then later that year Entercom debuted a new top 40 station called "The End" while KXOA ("The Arrow") moved from 107.9 to 93.7 and the KRAK call letters were picked up by Infinity at 1470 AM as "Gold Country." But it only lasted a few years as it was sold to Disney who debuted its "Radio Disney" format for children and teens as KIID in 2000. In 2003 Entercom added KWOD to their list after a long legal dispute with Ed Stolz, who unsuccessfully tried to back out of a sale initiated in 1996.
Frequent ownership changes in the nineties
Group W owned KFBK and KGBY since the eighties through 1994 when the combo was acquired by Chancellor. Chancellor later became AMFM then merged with Clear Channel in 2000. Genesis Broadcasting owned FM 102 and the 1380 AM frequency (KSMJ Magic 1380, a Motown-based oldies station) from the eighties through 1994 when Secret Communications acquired FM 102. Once the Telecom Act was in effect, the first big company to buy a lot of stations in Sacramento was American Radio Systems (ARS).
By the end of 1996 ARS owned FM 102, KRAK-FM (105.1), KMYX (96.1), KSSJ (101.9), KCTC (1320 AM) and Hot Talk (KHTK 1140 AM). In 1997 the Justice Department allowed ARS to merge with EZ Communications as long as ARS sold KSSJ and a station in another market because the company had too much market share of advertising revenue. All Sacramento ARS stations were bought by CBS Radio in September 1997. Note: In 1995 CBS had been purchased by Westinghouse, which bought Infinity in 1996. In 1997 Westinghouse sold all their non-broadcast properties and became CBS, which was acquired by Viacom for $37 billion in 2000. When the merger was complete CBS Radio became Infinity Broadcasting. Then in January 2006 Viacom and CBS became separate companies and Infinity changed its name back to CBS Radio.
KRXQ had been owned by Fuller-Jeffrey since the eighties through 1994 when the station sold to Citicasters, who also acquired The Eagle (KSEG 96.9) that year from Great American. The rock combo then was briefly owned by a rising radio group in 1996 called Jacor. Then it was purchased by Entercom in 1996. When Fuller-Jeffrey sold KRXQ in 1994, they acquired the new 650 AM frequency and launched it as KSTE. In 1996 this AM news/talk station was sold to its competitor, Chancellor, who already owned news/talk KFBK. KSTE ultimately became a Clear Channel station.
The Point (KQPT 100.5 until 1996) was owned by the same company who owned legendary Washington D.C.
alternative station WHFS, which was Duchossois Communications (pronounced Duchess swa) through 1993 when it was acquired by Brown Broadcasting, who already had owned the 107.9 frequency as KXOA since the early seventies.
The Point became the Zone in 1995 and was aquired the next year by ARS and was part of the cluster that wound up with Infinity. KZAP was owned by Nationwide since the eighties and was acquired by EZ Communications in 1993, a year after it had
become KRAK-FM (98.5). EZ also owned KRAK-AM (1140), which it turned into Hot Talk (KHTK) in 1994. Both EZ stations were gobbled up by ARS in 1996 and then sold to CBS Radio the next year and became Infinity stations by 2000.
KCTC-FM, the "beautiful music" station playing instrumental pop standards, in the winter of 1990 became Mix 96 under Tribune, who owned the frequency from the eighties through 1996 when it was acquired by ARS, then by 2000 it was an Infinity station. Cool 101 (KHYL 101.1) was owned by Parker Communications from the eighties through 1992 when it was acquired by American Media, who sold it to Chancellor in 1995, therefore, it became a Clear Channel station in 2000. KWOD held the record for longest independent ownership at the start of the new millennium, under Ed Stolz's Royce International Broadcasting. He had owned the license for 106.5 since 1977, but had to give it up to Entercom in 2003 after a long court battle about a signed deal made in 1996. Stolz then concentrated on his other radio property, KRCK in Palm Springs, CA. However, he continued to appear in radio trade headlines, by challenging the licenses of Entercom stations around the country in petitions to the FCC.
New stations in the 90s/00s
The FCC gave Sacramento some new frequencies in the nineties. One was KSSJ, which debuted at 101.9 FM in 1995 as jazz station "The City" but moved to another new frequency, 94.7 FM, on Feb. 18, 1998. Entercom was granted the new 94.7 frequency licensed to Fair Oaks. The station came on strongly in the ratings as a Smooth Jazz station. In 1996 a new station debuted at 103.5 as KRYR, the first Spanish station to cover the entire market, carrying the network feed of the quickly rising Z-Spanish Network. The next year Paula Nelson, head of Diamond Broadcasting, dropped the feed and flipped from Spanish to hip hop as KBMB "The Bomb." One of the first moves the station made was hiring five year FM 102 jock Ibrahim Jamile (aka E-Bro) as the Bomb's afternoon host. The station skyrocketed in the ratings in its second book and became a leading player throughout the 2000s. KBMB was placed in receivership in October 2003 as Entravision was allowed to acquire the station.
With KSSJ moving to Entercom's new frequency, the 101.9 position went Spanish for awhile as KRRE ("Radio Romantica") under the ownership of Entravision, but the company took advantage of the name "Cool" after Clear Channel changed the successful KHYL from "Cool 101" to "Magic 101." KHYL dropped the "Cool" name in 1999 and Entravision picked it up a year later with call letters KCCL as the format changed to oldies. While KHYL shifted to R&B oldies, the new Cool 101.9, brought back the wider variety of sixties oldies that had made the original Cool a winner. KCCL quickly moved ahead of KHYL in the ratings and stayed ahead for years. Several jocks on KCCL had been familiar voices on Sacramento radio including Joey Mitchell and Rick Shannon. Tony Cox took the morning slot in September 2005 as the station moved
away from 50s and 60s oldies and began to play mostly 70s rock under the new station identity "Boss Radio." But the nostalgic experiment only lasted through the next
summer, as the format shifted to country and the station began calling itself "The Wolf" with the call letters KNTY.
© Alex Cosper. All Rights Reserved.