video title: Sacramento Airwaves Part 3: Radio Transformation
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video source: SacTVnews
published on YouTube on March 15, 2013

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duration 9:58 minutes

Sacramento Airwaves 1970s-1990s "Video of the Day" review by Alex Cosper on March 14, 2013

This video segment concludes a three part series about the history of Sacramento radio, extending from the 1970s through the 1990s. I pick the story with KZAP's freeform radio programming of the late sixties. KZAP stayed freeform even after Lee Gahagan's death in 1972. New owners came in and structured the station, giving it more commercial formatting, although Program Director Robert Williams stayed true to letting jocks pick their own music. KZAP grew in popularity during the 70s but it also faced competition from freeform rocker Earth Radio. Both stations ultimately transformed into more commercial stations in 1979 as multipath technology made FM more listenable in moving vehicles. KZAP became consulted by national radio executive Lee Abrams, who focused the format on leading rock artists instead of lots of obscure eclectic music. Meanwhile, Earth Radio flipped to top 40 and became FM 102.

With improved FM technology, the top 40 format migrated from AM to FM, as did most music formats, while AM headed toward mostly talk formats. KROY AM's sister FM station was KROI, which was known as I-97 and then became Y-97, shifting to a rock presentation. KXOA had been called KNDE (Rock KANDIE) for awhile and then kept morphing into into various formats while its sister FM station, K108, became a very popular adult rock station that featured a mascot called "The Mellow Beaver." FM 102 and KWOD became top 40 rivals in the 80s, and toward the end of the decade faced a third competitor with the return of KROY FM, calling itself Hot 97, after failing at adult contemporary. KFBK pushed AM radio back to the top of the market with a news/talk format that featured Rush Limbaugh prior to his rise to national syndication.

Prior to KWOD experimenting with alternative rock in 1991, KPOP had played new wave music in 1983 but quickly moved to top 40 for a year and then became 93 Rock, which later moved to 98.5, which had been KZAP's frequency. KZAP was a dominant rock station throughout the 80s but with competition it began to slip at the end of the decade. It flipped to country in 1992 after KROY switched to classic rock as 96.9 The Eagle in late 1990. During KPOP's brief run as a new wave station it was billed as "rock of the 80s," which was a slogan coined by consultant Rick Carroll, who had attended Sac State and was part of their station KERS in the late sixties. Carroll also worked at KROY and KXOA in the early 1970s. He ended up programming KROQ in Los Angeles and consulted MTV. KWOD became a leading alternative station in America through the mid 90s.

Two big events marked the decline of radio's popularity in America: The Telecom Act of 1996, which allowed a handful of corporations to buy up nearly half of all U.S. radio stations, ending radio's local appeal, and the advent of new digital technology such as the internet, electronic gadgets like the iPod and smartphones such as the iPhone. The radio industry has started the telephone as AT&T had been a big manufacturer of radio equipment in its early days, sending radio signals over phone lines from stations to transmitters. Phone technology appears to now be competing with radio as two way interactive communication has become more important in people's lives than one way radio communication.

Sacramento Airwaves 1920s-1940s
Sacramento Airwaves 1950s-1960s
Sacramento Airwaves 1970s-1990s

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