Changes at Austin's Own KGSR FM
What’s the Frequency Kenneth?
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 107.1 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” for some time. Austin sounds a lot different from when the station pioneered the “AAA” (Album Adult Alternative) format 19-years ago. The primary architect was former program director Jody Denberg. Denberg recently announced he is taking 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