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'Drama Hour' bows out

The long-running KNX radio program ended Friday as the station eliminates non-news programming.

November 03, 2003|Steve Carney | Special to The Times

"The Drama Hour," a staple for two decades on KNX-AM (1070) and the modern-day home to Jack Benny, the Shadow and other voices from radio's Golden Age, bowed out Friday with its broadcast of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds."

Pat Duffy, who oversees both KNX and KFWB-AM (980) as the local AM vice president of their parent company, Infinity Radio, cited the Iraq war, the recall election, labor strikes, wildland fires and other breaking news as the reason to end the 9-10 p.m. broadcast.

"It just became increasingly clear we had to be a 24/7 news operation," Duffy said. "It just didn't make sense anymore. It has a nice fan base, but it takes away from what we should be doing."

The station had been preempting "The Drama Hour" lately, devoting the time to covering the region's wildfires. Duffy added that the station had ceased airing National Football League games before this season and also is phasing out non-news features such as the astronomy program "StarDate."

Many observers expected changes at the two 35-year-old all-news stations when Infinity moved Duffy into his position in August and two months later installed David G. Hall to program the stations, luring him from Premiere Radio Networks, the distributor for Rush Limbaugh, Laura Schlessinger and other talk-radio stars. The company fired the stations' general managers last month and appears now to be refining the roles of KFWB and KNX to make them more distinctive.

"KFWB is going to be your man-on-the-street radio station," Duffy said, reciting the outlet's catchphrase, "Give us 22 minutes and we'll give you the world." In contrast, KNX will look at the ramifications of news events and "will give you the more in-depth side of it."

Non-news programming on KFWB is staying put, at least for now. Duffy said the Los Angeles Dodgers just ended the first year of a five-year contract to have KFWB as its flagship station, and he'll review the station's NFL broadcast at the end of this football season.

KNX had aired "The Drama Hour" since 1982, when it succeeded "The CBS Mystery Theater," which began running in 1972. Duffy said "The Drama Hour" still will be available via the www.knx1070.com Web site, by subscribing with the show's distributor, New Jersey-based VP Media Bay.

By closing out with "The War of the Worlds," Duffy said, "we thought it would be fitting to end the program's long run with the most infamous radio drama of all time."

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