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All-Technology Format Seeks L.A. Foothold

Radio * CNET programming, to start in San Francisco next week, has its eye on Southern California as part of a national roll-out.

January 07, 2000|JUDITH MICHAELSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Next Friday at 5:30 a.m., a brand-new radio format will be launched on San Francisco's KNEW-AM: all-technology news and feature programming.

And it's very likely that the format, called CNET Radio, will arrive on an AM outlet in the Los Angeles-Orange County market before the end of the year.

Not quite all-tech-all-the-time, the format--produced by CNET Inc., a media company specializing in computers and technology, and radio conglomerate AMFM Inc.--will air from the start of the morning commute until the close of the afternoon rush hour at 7 p.m. There will be additional technology-based programming on weekends.

Currently KNEW simulcasts adult contemporary music with a sister FM station.

Brent Osborne, general manager of KNEW and the person in charge of the national format roll-out, said Thursday that the Los Angeles region certainly fits the profile of a market where AMFM believes the format would thrive.

"It's the fastest-moving, -growing, vibrant market in America," he said, "and the computer impacts everybody's life in Southern California, from the way traffic moves to the way banking is done to surf reports."

Joseph N. Jaffoni, a spokesman for AMFM, declined to say which stations or markets would be involved, but said the plan was to put the programming on AM stations.

Among AM outlets here, AMFM owns music standards station KLAC-AM (570) and, under a deal last year with Cox Radio, now manages and will soon own talk station KFI-AM (640), the highest-rated talk station in the market. Moreover, when a merger between AMFM and Clear Channel is completed sometime this year, the combined companies, under the Clear Channel name, will also own sports station KXTA-AM (1150) and KEZY-AM (1190), which is heard in Orange County.

Osborne declined to say which station would be involved.

To comply with Federal Communication Commission rules that say no company can own more than eight stations in a major market and no more than five on either AM or FM bands, one of the AMs will have to be sold. Jaffoni explained that the new Clear Channel entity intends to hold onto five FM stations.

Broadly outlining the technology format, Osborne said there will be a pair of hosts for each of the three programming blocks: morning drive, midday (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) and afternoon drive. "There will be an opportunity for audience participation. They can call in, but it will not be two-way talk," he said.

Mornings, he noted, would be like any typical radio program carrying traffic and weather reports. "We would carry the news of the day, but the screen the news would pass through is that it needs to be associated with the new technologies and new economies," Osborne said. "We would not cover the Chechnyan invasion, but we would cover Alan Greenspan and interest rates."

Midday would be devoted to lifestyle, he said, from shopping to the impact computers have in the classroom to going on vacation. "Listeners are really looking for ways to better understand technology companies, and radio is a great way to do that," he said.

As for subject matter that might better translate visually, Osborne noted: "The beauty of this is that, [with] CNET as our partner, we can send people back to the Internet for amplification, and the whole programming will be streamed on http://www.cnetradio.com. From that streaming you can go to one of five other CNET Web sites for additional information [and] pictures."

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