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Monday, May 29, 2023

Tech Talk — Merger Forces Eclectic Radio Station Into Cyberspace

When Clear Channel and AMFM Inc. announced they would merge last fall, creating the largest radio network in the country, executives at KACD-FM 103.1 knew the station would be among the first to be sold off.

Now, thanks to an outpouring of support from avid KACD listeners, the Santa Monica-based station plans to move its broadcast onto the Internet.

After the merger between Clear Channel and AMFM is completed, expected to occur within 30 to 60 days, Clear Channel will own five more radio stations in the greater L.A. radio market than is allowed by law. With a weak signal and an estimated audience of just 400,000 listeners, KACD is certainly a logical candidate to be among the stations unloaded by Clear Channel.

And indeed, both KACD and its simulcast station in Orange County, KBCD, are being sold to Entravision, which will convert them to a Spanish-language format.

“Bottom line, (Clear Channel) is a New York Stock Exchange company,” said Nicole Sandler, program director for KACD (better known by its brand name of Channel 103.1). “They can’t say to their stockholders, ‘We have a little radio station with great demographics, but not great Arbitron (rating) numbers.’ That doesn’t hold up, really. And all those other stations (owned by the group) are highly successful, so how can you justify pulling one of those stations down to put something unproven up there?”

Channel 103.1 is the only station in L.A. playing the adult album alternative format, an eclectic mix of classic and new rock, reggae and blues. Despite low ratings, the station draws in an affluent Westside audience that’s highly desirable to advertisers. It has been consistently profitable, with growing revenues since its inception in late 1998, officials say.

As executives strategized to find a way to keep the station alive in some form, thoughts of converting Channel 103.1 to an Internet-only station were bandied about, but the ball really got rolling after Sandler and others contacted a division of Clear Channel geared toward helping stations enhance their online presence.

“They said, ‘You prove to us that the listeners will follow and we’ll make the commitment to do what it takes to be the first radio station from over-the-air to state-of-the-art, over-the-Internet broadband,'” Sandler said.

A petition was placed on the station’s Web site at www.channel1031.com and announced over the airwaves on Friday, June 23.

“The response was so strong, it crashed the server,” Sandler said. By Saturday, 2,000 people registered their support for keeping the station alive by transferring it to the Internet. By June 27, petition signers numbered more than 7,000, and the station is still promoting the effort. The fact that the online petition garnered such intense response helped convince higher-ups of the station’s worth.

“In this age of over-communication, the fact that 5,000 people responded is a pretty good representation of the passion people have for it,” said Charles Rahilly, who oversees sales.

It seems the effort worked.

“We got the go-ahead that it’s going to happen,” Sandler said. “We are designing the new Web page, in anticipation that we will lose the over-the-air signal by end of August. We want to be able to promote the site over the air as long as we can.”

The station will be the first to leave the airwaves directly for the Internet, Sandler said, though some defunct local stations have recently reappeared online. They include the former hard-rock station KNAC-FM 105.5 and Groove Radio, which occupied the 103.1 FM frequency before KACD took over. After clicking onto an Internet radio station’s site, a Web surfer can listen to the station’s Webcast over his or her PC, even while surfing other sites.

Big Government Contract

A Tarzana-based company has landed a major deal with the federal government.

Volumebuy Inc. provides a technology that groups together individual orders on e-commerce sites so the buyers can receive a volume discount.

In a deal announced last week, Volumebuy’s technology will power group buying for the U.S. General Services Administration, which is launching a new Web site to facilitate government procurement. The GSA alone makes more than $4 billion in purchases annually. Most federal government agencies are expected to participate in the program to reduce buying costs.

“The GSA came to learn about aggregate buying, and they wanted to provide it on their new Web site,” said Ben Karp, spokesman for Volumebuy. “We just happened to hit them at the right time.”

Volumebuy teamed with ACS Government Solutions Group, which will provide back-end hosting and networking for the GSA’s site. The size of the contract was not disclosed.

“Everyone jokes about how much money the government spends. With this, you don’t have to overpay,” Karp said. “The days of $600 toilet seats are over.”

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