Thursday, November 19, 2009

What's the Frequency, Kenneth?

Change at KGSR FM

“Rolling Stone Magazine” once wrote that Austin’s KGSR FM was one of the “Ten Radio Station in America that Don’t Suck”. Readers of the Austin Chronicle picked the station as Austin’s best this year. So, why change something if it isn’t broken? Ratings is one reason. During the past year, KGSR FM continued its skid toward the bottom of the radio hill here in the Austin market.

The station has broadcast from 107.1 megahertz for the past 19 years. Starting November 20th it will simulcast on 107.7 as it transitions to 93.3 megahertz. That transmitter is licensed to Cedar Park and will provide KGSR with a much better coverage area. The 107.1 transmitter is licensed to Bastrop, and there are places in the Austin metropolitan area where you cannot receive the signal. The simulcast will end after ten days, and 107.1 will become a new, yet-to-be-named regional Spanish language radio station. Why not? KHHL-FM, programmed in Spanish, is tied with KBPA-FM (Bob Radio) for #3.

KGSR FM is way down the list with a 2.2 rating, down during the year from 3.1 this summer. Owner Emmis is obviously hoping the move to a new transmitter will equal a move up in ratings.

According to Arbitron, the #1 Radio station is KLBJ AM, broadcasting news and information, recently in the news for its decision to reinstate the Todd and Don Show. The show had been cancelled earlier this year after Don Pryor used the slur “wetback” repeated for about an hour on the air with no management stepping in to stop it. The station is still #1 with a 7.1 rating. The #2 station is breezy KKMJ FM.

KGSR-FM has used the phrase, “Sounds Like Austin”. Austin sounds a lot different from when the station pioneer the “AAA” (Album Adult Alternative) format 19-years ago. The primary architect was former program director Jody Denberg. Denberg recently announced he is from the station vowing to take a year off from radio. “The time is right for me to take some time off and recharge my creative batteries,” Denberg said.

When Denberg and his colleagues at KGSR FM crafted what became one of the AAA format, you might hear Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, and even Frank Sinatra played back-to-back. Even KGSR FM in the so-called “Live Music Capital of the World” has done some content tweaking to stay competitive. “When we first started, we were WAY OUT THERE, and we didn’t succeed enough in revenue and ratings to make our station profitable,” Denberg told The Austin Daze magazine. “It’s a commercial radio station, so it’s a balancing act, and it’s a tightrope act.”

Denberg picked the music with his former music director, Susan Castle. Castle was a victim of budget cuts at the station in mid-March, 2009. Now, Denberg is gone.

My hope is that KGSR continues to sound like Austin. We have too many cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all, sounds like anywhere stations in town—in America.

© Jim McNabb, 2009


Anonymous said...


I must beg to differ with you regarding KGSR. What used to be a pretty good station began to go downhill when they were folded in with the other LBJ radio stations in the mid-to-late 90's. I knew it was the beginning of the end when they started playing, for example, cuts from Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours". If I wanted to hear that kind of music I could listen to any number of other stations in town. Then things went from bad to worse when Emmis bought the place. The problem for me never had to do with signal strength...but rather how their playlist shifted and tightened over time. Subsequently I haven't listened to them in years.

Too bad about Jody, though. He's a good guy. I wish him best of luck

The Hypervigilant Observer said...

Thanks for opening-up the discussion of Austin radio. Yet another November Arbitron upheaval.

No doubt KGSR's signal and coverage will improve by swapping towers and wattage with 93.3.
But will the musical independence listeners once treasured ever return?

For my own eclectic tastes, I sorely miss the Spanish-language music once broadcast by 92.5 FM.
Though sickingly repetitive and tightly formatted, it represented the only regular Spanish rock on the airwaves and a taste of Cancun.

Its recent demise has forced me to sample KGSR, KAZI and KMFA. KUT offers me little except for Morning Edition, Fresh Air and ATC. Too much intoning, promos and not enough music.

Lex Wadelski

Anonymous said...

With both Susan Castle and Jody Denberg gone from the scene, I wonder if the quality of the station will suffer. Likely it will...Andy Langer is a bore and I can't stand all the chatty crap in the morning. Shut up and play music!

As for KLBJ,still wondering how news director Todd Jeffries gets away with being both a news reporter AND a talk show host. Don't news/talk stations try to keep that separated? Let's see if he and the son of Cactus can go without saying something stupid this time.