10/25/87–K-Lite transfer: The sale means many will move on

VICTOR STREDICKE – October 25, 1987 – Another radio staff will be out of work at month’s end, as the operation of KLTX transfers over to the folks who run KJR. Although lockjawed about changes, an Ackerley Communications representative advised the present owner to terminate everyone on staff for a Friday takeover. The station apparently will continue with an oldies-peppered adult contemporary format, but without disc jockeys. Music will be dispensed through automation. KLTX is familiarly known as “K-Lite,” or to old-time listeners even better known as “Kixie-Light.”
“This is probably the most intriguing sale in the history of Seattle,” says Jack Davies, station manager. “Existing AM and FM stations are being sold to separate, existing stations.” (KIXI-AM has been sold to Sunbelt Communications, operator of KMGI. Both sales were to close at the same time, but this does not seem likely.) But real people have been holding KLTX-KIXI together since the sale was announced in August. The owners, Thunder Bay Communications, of Cleveland, purchased the two stations from Ann and Wally Nelskog in April 1986. Even with sales pending, year-to-year ratings show an increase of 119 per cent in listeners, Davies says.
“Most listeners, I assume, know nothing of the ownership of their favorite radio stations. They just know what they like to hear on the air.
“But these results are a testament to our existing staff,” says Davies, who although he has been involved with radio 30 years, reminds you he is a former Marine.
“We assembled a great team, and we had a hand grenade thrown in our midst. But we didn’t give up.” The transfer process is complex, since the Federal Communications Commission does not allow a new owner to direct a station until the sale is complete. Any transfer requires at least 30 days public notice.

KJR manager Jackson Del Weaver said the company’s policy is to make no statements until the transaction is complete. But when the company acquired KJR in 1984, off-premises conversations were held with air and sales staff. KJR continued basically as it was, anchored with an existing long-term contract with Gary Lockwood, morning personality.
What kind of person clings to a dying station, through an autumn of discontent? Tom McCollum, salesman for seven years, and Bob French, for five, stayed, but younger salesmen left.
“I can only do one thing at a time,” McCollum explains in mock frustration. “Besides, I’m a 100 years old and I have a frugal wife.” McCollum, actually 59, with dusted red hair, says he might be more concerned if he had BMW and condo payments to make.
“In this business, you are dealing with youngsters.” But he and French are comfortable stretching out long-term relationships with existing clients. The packages of commercials KIXI and KLTX salespeople are able to offer through the end of the year make “easy sales,” McCollum adds. In some time periods, discounts of up to 50 percent have been offered. Davies details an insider’s look at radio sales: “Four stations in town get 50 percent of the advertising revenue. Of the 54 stations in the area, probably there are 30 serious competitors for the rest of those advertising dollars.” A station’s sales can vanish during a long transfer.

Rob Conrad is KLTX program director and morning personality, with 20 years as a disc jockey or program director. His first job was in Spokane.
“I worked at a sold station in San Francisco, when it was clear the new owner would change format,” Conrad says. “We all knew he had no use for the old staff.
“Here, I’m convinced we are doing a great job _ if the new ratings hold up, we will beat KJR, itself, by a share point.” Conrad would have loved to continue as morning personality. But if he were to be a program director again, he’d avoid being a “puppet” to a bunch of consultants. His own independent touches at KLTX are masked underneath such simple things as the slogan “Light and Alive,” improved from last year’s original “Light and Easy.” Conrad and his morning co-host, Alan Ray, have been giving away cinnamon buns, the station’s only significant promotional venture since the sale was announced. Other staffers include Mark Christopher, who has worked every day-part, including morning drivetime, but now works only weekends, Joe Michaels from KCMS and Frank Shiers from KGMI who joined the station just about the time the KLTX sale was to be announced.
New summer ratings are due on programmers’ desks this week. But the departing owner didn’t buy the right to use the ratings. So Conrad and crew are going to have to learn from someone else how good the station really was. Final workweek. No report card.

Twisting the dial

For Halloween night, an old-radio adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tale of horror, “The Pit and the Pendulum,” is scheduled, at 11:30 p.m. Saturday on KUOW, 94.9 mHz.

Burl Barer, now of Walla Walla, is a substitute host for “Rock ‘n’ Roll Time Machine,” from 9 a.m. to noon today on KZOK, 102.5 mHz.

“Radio Reader” begins the new book, “Witness to a Century,” by George Seldes, at 10 p.m. Tuesday on KUOW.

“High Performance,” a new weekly concert series begins at 8 p.m. Friday on KUOW, with a three-part program devoted to the history of lieder in Western music.

Author: Victor Stredicke

Former radio columnist for the Seattle Times (1964-1989). --- View other articles by Victor Stredicke

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