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Jazz Fans Sing the Blues Over KKGO Switch

October 07, 1989|CLAUDIA PUIG | Times Staff Writer

About a dozen die-hard jazz fans and musicians have launched a campaign to fight KKGO-FM's plans to move its jazz programming to an AM station and replace it with classical music.

"We feel that for 30 years KKGO has been the sole provider of the full spectrum of jazz on FM radio, and L.A. has become the second-largest jazz community, so it's crucial to keep KKGO playing jazz on FM," said Ellen S. Cohn, the organizer of the protest and vice president of Chase Music Group, a jazz and blues record label. "We're not against classical music. We just don't want to see jazz relegated to an AM ghetto."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday October 10, 1989 Home Edition Calendar Part 6 Page 3 Column 1 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
KKGO Frequency-- In Saturday's article on a protest against KKGO-FM's impending format change from jazz to classical, the station's frequency was incorrect. KKGO's dial position is 105.1.

Cohn and other KKGO-FM (92.3) fans met Thursday night at Le Cafe, a Sherman Oaks restaurant and jazz club, to discuss ways to stop the station from switching formats. KKGO had played only jazz until last month, when it added classical music to its playlist from 5-9 a.m. and 5-9 p.m. daily. KKGO general manager and president Saul Levine said that he hoped to fill the void left when all-classical KFAC-FM changed its format to urban rock on Sept. 21.

"This isn't a war between the jazzies and the classical people," Cohn said. "I think what (Levine) is trying to do is admirable: He's trying to preserve two art forms in L.A. . . . It's just that we got here first."

In January, KKGO-FM will become all classical, and the jazz that had been played on the station will then be heard on an AM station now under construction, which Levine also owns. The call letters for the AM station are tentatively set as KKJZ (K-JAZZ, 540).

The jazz fans maintain that the sound quality will be inferior on AM.

"We feel the actual broadcast signal is not as good as on FM," Cohn said. "That's the basic objection. The quality of the broadcast is not going to be good as what FM offers."

The protesters said they plan to circulate petitions at jazz clubs around Southern California in an attempt to pressure advertisers. They also will conduct a mail campaign urging the station to retain the jazz format on FM.

"Jazz has always been scrappy anyway, we just thought we'd be scrappy," Cohn said.

But when contacted by telehone Friday, Levine remained firm in his decision.

"I fully sympathize with their feelings and that's why we're putting it on the AM," Levine said. "We will still be an outlet for these artists and this is our plan."

Levine added that if enough listeners fought his switching jazz to the AM station, the "economic realities" might force him to turn it into it a rock station.

Levine said that KKGO's low ratings forced the move. The latest Arbitron survey, released earlier this week, showed that only 1% of the audience listened to KKGO during any given quarter-hour period.

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