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State Tuned Out To Radio's Top 10

September 11, 1987|DENNIS McDOUGAL | Times Staff Writer

The nation's 10 finest radio stations broadcast to Eskimos, farmhands and Arkansas schoolchildren, but not to listeners in California.

In its inaugural Crystal Radio Awards ceremony in Anaheim on Thursday, the National Assn. of Broadcasters honored stations from Nome to St. Louis for producing the best in public-service programming last year, but singled out none of the hundreds of stations that broadcast in the nation's five biggest urban radio markets.

With 85 stations offering every conceivable format from rock to talk to country, Los Angeles is the second-largest market in the country. But like New York, Chicago and most other major urban areas, Southern California was without a representative among the Top 10 as represented by the Crystal Awards. Three received honorable mention: KABC-AM, KLOS-FM and KDAY-AM.

The only three urban stations receiving the Crystal Awards, which drew several hundred entries from all 50 states, were WQBA-AM/FM in Miami, KMOX-AM in St. Louis and WMAL-AM in Washington.

The majority of the winners were small-town stations, singled out by the association's judges for retaining a high standard of public service in an era of broadcasting high finance and attention to the bottom line. Danny Flamberg, vice president of the Radio Advertising Bureau, said the nation's 9,000 commercial radio stations did $7 billion in advertising business last year. It appears that they will do even better in 1987, he said.

Presentation of the Crystal Awards by Los Angeles radio personality Gary Owens was part of the opening ceremonies of the association's three-day Radio '87 convention, which has drawn more than 6,000 delegates from radio stations across the nation.

John Mitchell, president of KGFW-AM in Kerney, Neb., in accepting the association's award Thursday, told the audience of about 1,000 that his station is more interested in "helping out" by participating in charity drives and promoting organizations such as the Kerney Soft Pitch Softball Assn. than it is in reaping profits.

"It has never been our goal to quantify success in dollars and cents," Mitchell said.

Frank Newell, owner and general manager of KJMO-FM in Jefferson City, Mo., said his station is also more interested in public service than profits. He read from a section of KJMO's employee handbook dealing with customer and community relations: "You get back (from (the community) only what you put in."

Boasting of its annual Hoof-a-thon for the benefit of Cystic Fibrosis victims, Newell described the station's motto as "We do it because we love to do it, not because we have to do it."

A long list of down-home charity events and concern for the listening public seemed to have tipped the scales in favor of the remaining winners as well:

--KHAS-AM of Hastings, Neb., aided bankrupt farmers with a radio tailgate party.

--WVMT-AM of Colchester, Vt., held a cake auction for the Easter Seals campaign and put school children on the air to promote back-to-school safety.

--KNOM-AM of Nome, Alaska, presented a series of reports about epidemics affecting Eskimos, such as the spread of hepatitis-B and alcoholism. The nonprofit, noncommercial station also co-sponsored dog sled races and the Midnight Sun Festival.

--WFMD-AM of Frederick, Md., staged several events, such as an ugly dog contest to benefit Multiple Sclerosis victims.

--KPAL-AM of North Little Rock, Ark., programs exclusively for children, featuring such on-air personalities as Sunshine Susie, Cousin Wilburn, Dancing Dave and Toto the Clown.

Four California stations did get honorable mentions, finishing among the 50 finalists for the Crystal Awards (so named because the trophies resemble crystal sets that were used as the earliest type of radio receiver in the 1920s). Cited along with the three Los Angeles stations was KSDO-AM in San Diego.

In opening remarks to the convention Thursday, association Radio Board Chairman Jerry Lyman reacted to criticism that broadcasters have disregarded their public responsibilities in recent years by emphasizing to his industry audience the need for community-oriented programming and public-service campaigns, as illustrated by the Crystal Awards.

"To look at radio just as another enterprise or tax write-off is contrary to the very principles that have built our industry and bolstered the ranks of our own community of professionals," he said.

During the three-day session, broadcasters will address such current issues facing their industry as abolition of the Fairness Doctrine, standards of broadcast indecency and "Mega Rate$: Those Who Have Them From Main Street to Madison Ave."

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