Monday, April 4, 2016

SF Radio: KGO Timeline

KGO Building, Oakland, CA 1924
Considering the latest developments at Cumulus Media's KGO 810 AM, M-C presents a  timeline of station highlights:
  • KGO first took to the air January 8, 1924.
  • KGO went on the air initially on a schedule of 8 to 10 PM every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Immediately, it developed a reputation among its listeners for having consistentlyhigh program quality. Some of the top musical artists in the Bay Area were enlisted to perform over KGO by Studio Manager Howard Milholland. Indeed, most of the program staff itself was musically inclined. Milholland and three other staff members formed a quartet that was heard frequently over the air waves. Announcer Jennings Pierce, who later announced for NBC, was a very fine tenor. Carl Rhodehamel, Publicity Manager, directed the KGO Little Symphony. In fact, it is quite possible that KGO required all its staff members to have musical abilities.One of KGO's most popular programs was Ann Holden's Home Forum, which began shortly after the station's first broadcast, and continued to be a regular KGO feature until 1962. The original Ann Holden, whose real name was Flora Davis, was replaced by Francis Minton after the former's death.
KGO Control Room 1924
  • KGO was part of an interesting experiment conducted by General Electric March 7, 1924. G. E. microphones picked up the proceedings of the alumni banquet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, held in the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. This program was broadcast over WJZ in New York, and sent simultaneously by wire to Schenectady, where it was broadcast by WGY and the G. E. shortwave station there. The shortwave broadcasts, heard in Europe, were simultaneously picked up by shortwave station KFKX in Hastings, Nebraska, which rebroadcast it for pickup by KGO. Thus, in 1924, a New York broadcast could be heard live anywhere between the Pacific Coast and Europe.
KGO Transmitter Building 1924
  • In November, 1928, KGO settled on 7,500 watts at 790 kc. and they remained at this power level until 1947, when they were authorized to raise their power to the present 50,000 watts.
  • In April of 1927, KGO became an affiliate of the new NBC Orange Network, along with KPO in San Francisco. (Keep in mind that NBC was operated by RCA, and General Electric was one of the companies that owned RCA.) On October 1, 1929, KGO was selected as the key station for the west coast network, and NBC took over complete management and operation of the station. After that date, KGO's programs originated from NBC's San Francisco headquarters at 111 Sutter Street. The Oakland transmitter continued to be used until 1947.
KGO newspaper ad, circa early 1930s

In June 1942 during WW2, June, 1942:  KGO special events director Bill Baldwin questions fellow worker and KGO program director Bob Dwan during the first broadcast from an American Red Cross wartime blood donor mobile unit. The broadcast was heard over KGO and the Blue Network.
  • In 1946, the FCC decided that NBC controlled too much of the broadcast industry, and it forced a divestiture of NBC's second network. The Blue Network operation was sold to new owners, and it became ABC, the American Broadcasting Company. The Red Network remained under NBC ownership, and was now called simply the NBC radio network.
  • After the FCC lifted its war-time freeze on the expansion of broadcast facilities , KGO immediately applied for improved facilities. The station was still operating with 7,500 watts from the same General Electric factory where it had originally begun. After the freeze, however, the F. C. C. granted KGO's application to broadcast with 50,000 watts, the maximum allowable power. What is today's KGO transmitter facility was constructed on land fill at the Eastern approach to the Dumbarton Bridge near Fremont. Three 300-foot towers were constructed, each anchored in salt water. KGO became the first San Francisco station to broadcast with one of the new multi-tower directional antenna systems. The new signal favored north-south reception, allowing KGO to be heard clearly along the entire Pacific coast at night, while protecting a New York station on the same frequency from interference. The new KGO transmitter was among the most modern then in use. It was the first to be air cooled, and featured a complete set of spare tubes that were kept heated at all times, ready to be switched into the circuit at the push of a button.
KGO 810 AM (50Kw-Directinal) Red=Local Coverage Area
  • KGO's new signal took to the air December 1, 1947. The increase in power effectively doubled the station's daytime coverage area. KGO became the second station in Northern California to broadcast with 50,000 watts -- former sister station KPO had preceded it by 14 years.
  • With KGO's increase in power, KGO became one of the most powerful stations on the Pacific Coast -- powerful because KGO's super-efficient transmitter, located in a pool of concentrated salt water, enables KGO to operate at better than 99 percent efficiency. KGO's nighttime signal spreads out -- sweeping up and down the Pacific Coast from Mexico to Alaska -- and along the way reaches listeners in all major centers of population from San Diego to Seattle.
  • In the 1950's, KGO radio featured a recorded music format hosted by personality disk jockeys. KGO's most popular disk jockey was Rolfe Peterson, a former English instructor at Brigham Young University who had turned to radio because the pay was better. One KGO program that was notably innovative was a man-on-the-street program, hosted by comics Mal Sharpe and Jim Coyle. The program was essentially a radio version of TV's "Candid Camera". Coyle and Sharpe would pose as researchers for the Milpitas Physical Fitness Institute, and ask passers-by to do calesthenics; or, they would pose as experimenters from the University of California, testing animal-human brain communication through the use of impressive, if not genuine, electrical equipment.
  • After trying various formats, KGO eventually shifted to news and talk programming, relying heavily on the ABC radio network for its news programs. KGO started carrying Paul Harvey's twice-daily programs but also began to develop a strong local news staff that produced extended morning and afternoon newscasts. The local talk show hosts included Les Crane, Owen Spann and Jim Eason, who often interviewed visiting celebrities in the KGO studios. Owen Spann also originated special broadcasts from Europe and Africa, interviewing government officials from those countries. Local director-actor Jack Brooks hosted a Saturday-morning entertainment program until his sudden death in June 1984, after directing a production of Kismet for the Capuchino Community Theatre that featured Jim Eason as the poet Omar Khayyám. Dr. Dean Edell began his regular medical programs at KGO,leading to nationally syndicated broadcasts.
KGO Tower damaged during 1989 Earthquake
The 1960's saw KGO inaugurate all-talk programming, with a full array of hosts who discussed the issues of the day with their call-in listeners. KGO quickly became one of the foremost talk stations in the country, and continued this format into the 1990's.

(H/T: The Radio Historian) 

More Recent:
  • Until December 5, 2011, KGO created nearly all of its own local programming, with very limited syndicated content. The majority of its programs were hosted by San Francisco Bay Area broadcasters. 
  • The daily schedule included many issues-oriented talk shows, with weekday hosts that included Gene Burns, Gil Gross, Ronn Owens, John Rothmann, and lawyer Len Tillem. The station also carried a variety of specialty programs, particularly on weekends, with John Hamilton discussing travel and leisure, Gene Burns covering fine food and dining (on a show separate from his weekday program), Joanie Greggains hosting a health-and-fitness program, and Brent Walters, who teaches "Comparative Religions" at San Jose State University, hosting the early Sunday morning show, God Talk. In 2014, KGO brought in John Batchelor at midnight. News/talk weekend hosts now include Brian Copeland, "Karel" Charles Karel Bouley, and Pat Thurston.
  • On December 2, 2011, new owner Cumulus Media announced that KGO was rebranding itself as "news and information," moving to an all-news format from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. (in addition to the existing morning-drive, noon-hour, and afternoon-drive news blocks) on December 5. This had resulted in the abrupt termination, on December 1, of most of the talk hosts (including Gene Burns, Gil Gross, John Rothmann, Ray Taliaferro, Len Tillem, and Dr. Bill Wattenburg).
  • March 31, 2016, at Noon, KGO dropped its News/Talk format and began stunting with recordings of speeches from influential figures and people talking about San Francisco, as well as songs about the city, while promoting "The Next Generation of KGO" to launch on April 5 (though with a break during the weekend for paid programming). Long-time KGO host Ronn Owens announced that he's moving to sister station KSFO in the afternoon slot beginning April 4. It is currently unknown what the supposed new format will be. At least 20 people, including the entire news staff, as well as some staffers from sister station KFOG, were laid off with the change.

No comments:

Post a Comment