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Radio ratings: KFI knocks KIIS out of top spot

The talk radio station finishes No. 1 for the first time in two years, according to Arbitron.

November 01, 2011|By Steve Carney, Special to the Los Angeles Times

More than 70 years after Orson Welles panicked thousands with radio reports of a Martian invasion in Grover's Mill, N.J., another spoken-word broadcaster shook up the status quo Monday, at least regarding radio ratings in Los Angeles and Orange County.

Talk station KFI-AM (640) finished first in October, according to Arbitron figures released Monday, knocking pop station KIIS-FM (102.7) out of the top spot for the first time all year. KFI last won the local ratings race in September 2009.

On Halloween eve 1938, Welles and his Mercury Theatre on the Air performed H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" as a series of breaking-news radio reports, keeping listeners rapt with accounts of heat rays from tripods, weapons wielded by the "vanguard of an invading army" from "intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic." Welles closed the show reminding listeners that it was merely a Halloween prank, and that the "the grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch."

For KFI's lineup of hosts, including Bill Handel, Rush Limbaugh and the duo of John Kobylt & Ken Chiampou, their real-life boogeymen more likely are found in the White House, governor's office or among the ranks of illegal immigrants. That's not to say that KFI doesn't traffic in tales of visitors from other worlds: Overnights, it features "Coast to Coast AM" with George Noory, a program that delves into UFOs, alien abductions and other strange phenomena.

The October ratings polled listeners 6 and older from Sept. 15 to Oct. 12. Because the Arbitron ratings service breaks the year into 13 four-week periods — one for each month plus a year-end "holiday" period — the so-called October survey actually includes more days in September.

October was a winner for other spoken-word stations as well. All-news station KNX-AM (1070) cracked the Top 10 for the first time since May, snagging a 3.3% audience share and finishing tied for ninth with Spanish-language pop station KLVE-FM (107.5). And KPCC-FM (89.3), the news and information outlet that is the area's top-rated public station, improved from 23rd to a tie for 21st, alongside Spanish-language oldies station KRCD-FM (103.9).

KFI also took first in morning drive, the 6 to 10 a.m. time slot during which broadcasters hope to grab listeners and retain them for the day. The station, which carries Handel's local show and then the first hour of Limbaugh's syndicated program during that time frame, maintained its 7.6% share of the audience that it held in September. But the station widened its lead over No. 2 Ryan Seacrest on KIIS, whose show fell from 5.5% to 4.9% in October. Alternative rock station KROQ-FM (106.7) moved into third, with its team of Kevin Ryder and Gene "Bean" Baxter jumping past KLVE, which dropped to fifth.

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