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Goodbye Fernando and Greg; Hello Edward R. Stolz

On Monday over 6,000 San Francisco Bay Area radio listeners discovered to whom the public airwaves really belong, and it’s not them. They are not the first dedicated audience to receive this rude awakening, but that doesn’t matter at the moment. What matters is that they tuned into their favorite Gay oriented radio station, KNGY, “Energy 92.7 FM,” and it was gone. Golden State Broadasting bought the license from Flying Bear Licensing on August 6. But nobody noticed this until Monday, a day after the escrow deadline passed, and the station dropped its dance format and popular drive time morning show duo, Fernando and Greg.

The new format, 92.7, “The Revolution,” sounds like something slightly to the left of High School Musical, and man, are Energy’s fans ever pissed. Here’s one of almost 500 comments from their Facebook protest page: ”

This is CRAP!!! Getting rid of the BEST station around, then replacing it with top 40 BS. No Fernando & Greg, how am I supposed to make it through my morning commute? No afternoon dance music 🙁 I refuse to listen to the boring replacement for 92.7!”

There’s a lot of talk about how to bring the station back, but the Facebook groups’ founder, John McAleer, knows the score. “Here is a reality check,” he wrote to his followers. “It is not going to happen.”

That’s right. As radio station fans have learned over and over again, in the wonderfully deregulated world of broadcasting, it’s none of your business what comes and goes over the AM/FM airwaves. And any attempt to make it otherwise is damned by the conservative right as a sneaky attempt to bring the equivalent of Death Panels to the radio bands.

I noticed the format change yesterday, since I often listened to Energy 92.7 while driving up and down the 280 here in San Francisco. But I didn’t give it that much thought until my colleague Jennifer Waits posted her story about the switch for Radio Survivor. I thought Energy had its moments. Fernando and Greg were funny. My favorite line was a comment Fernando once made about people in the mid-west. “They love their churches, their shopping malls, and their strip clubs,” he crooned. The show also had some compelling late night talk radio, including an outraged commentary that I’ll never forget, aired late last year the night after Proposition Eight was argued before the California Supreme Court.

But like most radio today, Energy didn’t provide very much coverage of local issues. The morning show was mostly about yucking around—not really connecting to the Bay Area scene. But people are so starved for anything even remotely resembling reality based personality driven radio that they flocked to what Energy 92.7 did offer. And now, to their understandable dismay, it is gone.

A sincere concern

Some scattered intel about the new owner, Edward R. Stolz, who appears to own both Golden State Broadcasting and another company, Royce International. For many years the latter firm owned alternative rock station KWOD in Sacramento, where Man Show guy and self-appointed expert on gays and adoption Adam Carolla did a stint for a while. Then Stolz went into negotiations with Entercom Communications to sell KWOD, then tried to back out of the deal, then sued Entercom, alleging that the much larger company was essentially forcing Royce to sell.

“Royce stands for independence, localism and a sincere concern for the needs of the communities it serves,” Stolz declared at the time. But the sale went through, the Federal Communications Commission eventually approving the transfer last year.

In any event, it’s nice to know that Mr. Stolz stands for localism. Perhaps he’ll listen to the thousands of people who want Fernando and Greg back. Even better, perhaps the thousands of people who miss Energy 92.7 the way it was on Friday will support efforts by the FCC to pass some very mild rules that would require commercial radio licenses to establish local advisory boards. There the public could occasionally offer feedback and learn something about what is actually going on at these signals.

Here’s the good news: I keep thinking that over-the-air radio is dead. But it’s not. People really want the magic which is real music and real voices connecting to a real location. They want more than a server driven juke box service like Slacker. But making that kind of radio possible again will require creating the economic incentives for its revival, and setting up modest rules that require station owners to be up front with the audiences they serve. Maybe some of Fernando and Greg’s fans will pick up the torch for that cause.

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