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Land of Aahs Expected to Go the Way of Atlantis

Radio: KPLS-AM might go off the air this week. Its likely buyer has not named a format to replace the kid-friendly programming.

January 28, 1998|PAUL BROWNFIELD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ANAHEIM — Like a lot of parents across Orange and Los Angeles counties, Cindy Sharp of Anaheim appears about to lose a valuable source of entertainment for her children. Aahs World Radio, the 24-hour format produced by Minneapolis-based Children's Broadcasting Corp. and carried locally on its KPLS-AM (830), is scheduled to sign off the air at midnight Friday, a victim of advertising shortfalls and competition from rival Radio Disney.

A programming successor has not been announced.

Aahs World Radio--with Top 40 pop, sporting events, contests and call-in shows--developed in its five-year run a loyal following among the 12-and-under set.

"As a parent, you don't have to worry about monitoring [the content] or switching the station quickly," said Sharp, who typically listens to Aahs in the car with her kids.

Daughter Courtney, 14, discovered the format, but Sharp's 10-year-old, Michael, is the most recent convert in the family.

"They have contests and all this cool kids stuff," he said.

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If the purchase of CBC by New York-based Global Broadcasting goes through this week as expected, it will mark the end of a format that has been a tough sell in commercial radio partly because Arbitron, the ratings guide by which stations entice advertisers, does not measure the preteen audience.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday January 30, 1998 Orange County Edition Calendar Part F Page 30 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Radio format change--A Wednesday story about Aahs World Radio carried an incorrect headline. The Aahs World Radio programming format will go off the air at 10 p.m. today on KPLS-AM (830) in Anaheim.

Representatives from Global Broadcasting, which will reportedly pay $72.5 million for CBC's 13 stations, including KPLA, did not return phone calls. Global is likely to opt for a format more lucrative than children's radio.

KPLS General Manager Greg Schoenbaum said he doesn't know what will replace the nationally syndicated Aahs format. The Anaheim station will continue to carry the games of local sports teams, including the Mighty Ducks, the Long Beach Ice Dogs and Cal State Long Beach basketball and baseball, he said.

At its peak, Aahs was heard on 32 stations around the country, in such major markets as Philadelphia, Dallas and Detroit. However, its creator and syndicator, Children's Broadcasting, lost a reported $9.8 million last year.

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With Aahs about to die, Radio Disney, a network launched in 1996, appears to have a lock on kids' radio. Heard locally on KTZN-AM (710), it differs from Aahs in its emphasis on Disney product tie-ins. CBC has filed a lawsuit against Radio Disney, charging the newer network with stealing its format.

Whatever the legal fallout, Aahs will leave a loyal audience in Orange County.

In its final weeks on the air, local listeners have been hearing testimonials from longtime fans who will miss the morning show "The All American Alarm Clock" and teenage talk-show host Evan Roberts, who broadcasts live from his Long Island, N.Y., bedroom.

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"Maybe [Aahs] was ahead of its time," Bruce Barker, KPLS program director, said. "[It] did not have a way to track its listeners to see where it stood in the marketplace," he said, "but I honestly believe the programming and everything we stood for was competitive. . . . Unfortunately, the [potential] advertiser wants your numbers."

Keeping its sense of humor to the end, Aahs has been running mock segments suggesting alternative formats for Aahs, including all-kazoo radio.

Though it will be way past their bedtimes, ex-Aahs' listeners can tune in at 12:01 a.m. Saturday to find out what's up.

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