CBS Radio is preparing to put local talker KFWB-AM (980) on the sales block under orders by the Federal Communications Commission.
The move comes eight years after the FCC first told the network to get rid of one of its L.A. properties to comply with limits on the number of stations one owner can hold in each market.
CBS Radio will put KFWB into a trust run by Bill Clark, a longtime radio industry veteran who lives in the Bay Area. Once the trust has ownership of the station, it will seek a buyer. Due to the down market, however, it’s unclear if a buyer will come forward.
A sale would likely mean the end of KFWB’s history as a local news station. Industry watchers said likely buyers for KFWB are foreign-language broadcasters – such as Spanish, Korean or even Persian – that would convert the station to music or talk radio.
The sale also comes at a time when both all-news stations in Los Angeles, KFWB and CBS Radio-owned KNX-AM (1070), have seen double-digit declines in revenue.
While all-news stations in other markets, such as New York and Washington, D.C., have seen revenue hold relatively steady or increase, both KFWB and KNX have struggled. Radio habits differ from market to market, and industry observers cite L.A.’s diversity as a possible factor.
“All-news in Los Angeles is not working as well as it is in New York, Chicago, D.C.,” said Michael Harrison, the publisher of Talkers Magazine, an industry trade publication based in Springfield, Mass. “One station is being sold, and the other one, while doing relatively well, has done nothing but decline.”
Industry watchers said CBS Radio likely chose to sell KFWB because the station has the lowest ratings and the weakest signal strength of all its local properties.
A spokeswoman for CBS Radio declined to comment except to say the sale of KFWB “is purely a business decision based on a thorough evaluation of all our properties in the market.”
KFWB has been broadcasting in an all-news format since 1968, when it promoted itself with the radio slogan, “You give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world,” referring to its programming blocks.
The station’s ad sales have fallen further than its sister station, KNX. KFWB had $36 million in revenue in 2005, but brought in just under $14 million in 2009, according to BIA/Kelsey, a Chantilly, Va., media analysis firm. KNX, which had revenue of $40.4 million in 2005, tallied $25.4 million last year.
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