27 October 2008

am 740 kcbs expands to fm 106.9

Today, I learned that local AM flamethrower KCBS added a simulcast on FM 106.9. In the San Francisco bay area, FM 106.9 has changed hands and formats a few times in the past decade.

The all-news KCBS recently carried unusual promos for FM 106.9, which previously used the callsign KFRC. My best recollection of those ads suggested that KFRC was playing oldies music, with some KCBS news. Hearing KCBS identify itself today as AM 740 and FM 106.9 therefore wasn't a big surprise, just a little one.

What's the case for simulcasting an all-news broadcast on AM and FM? I suppose the motivation is to expand listener reach, and therefore, advertising dollars. Younger people are probably more likely to listen to FM radio, and to scan through stations when listening to the radio in a car. They're probably scanning for music stations, though.

I rely on KCBS for traffic reports. The traffic reports on KCBS happen every ten minutes ("on the eights", as some other stations might announce). (Actually, I could do a whole post about the traffic reports on KCBS.) So, car radios without AM couldn't previously tune in to KCBS to hear about the traffic, but now it's available on FM.

Technology is progressing, and soon, most devices with a screen will be capable of receiving and displaying maps, driving directions, and traffic information.

Without knowing more about the plans, I doubt that KCBS will move off AM. As previously mentioned, KCBS is one of the stations in my area broadcasting in AM HD. Wikipedia calls KCBS "a leading contender for the title of oldest station in the United States and possibly the world." So it's just hard to imagine that KCBS would give up on AM.


Tzard said...

It's more an end of an era that KFRC is off the air. Of people older than a certain age, it was not "oldies" back when, it was rock and roll - and catered to teenagers and young adults.

It was a landmark on the AM dial at 610, finally ending a couple of years ago it sold to a religious broadcaster. Perhaps the writing was on the wall with Satellite and Ipods and even CD's giving superior, tailored music. Fading of AM (made worse when cost cutting makes them drop their power) makes it less attractive to new listeners. Besides, it didn't change with the times and stayed "Oldies". (I think it tried new stuff at one point, but failed)

It was inevitable, it seems.

As for KCBS, AM does give you a reach that FM cannot. To give that up would be to lose 50% of it's listeners (I can't hear 106.9 well on the other side of the hills). Plain voice needs less bandwidth and is less affected by temporary fading. 740 also is very high power (not sure what it is now, but as a child in Marin County, I could hear it in my fillings). So it would seem that AM news radio is here to stay (for now).

weatherall said...

Tzard, thanks for writing. It's nice to hear someone's perspective of KFRC.

The FCC AM Query lists KCBS AM 740 as licensed for 50 kW. Wikipedia tells an interesting story, suggesting that the KCBS AM transmitter site in Novato, CA was originally built for KSFO. That transmitter site went live in 1951 (according to Wikipedia).

Somewhere, I heard that the configuration of the four antennas at the AM transmission site actually produces 175 kW of power in the southeast direction. (I'm not sure how that could work.)