A big programming shake-up took place at San Francisco radio station KGO this week. The commercial AM radio station launched an all news format yesterday, much to the chagrin of fans of its talk shows.
Word initially came out last Thursday that new station owner Cumulus would be eliminating KGO’s talk shows. According to a statement on the KGO website:
“You may have heard about the changes we’re making to our on-air lineup on KGO. After careful consideration we’ve determined our audience is looking for more news, which is why we are increasing our news presence throughout the day. The Ronn Owens program will continue to be the place where the Bay Area goes to talk about current events and breaking news, and we;ll still have great talk shows on the weekends as well as on our sister station KSFO. Be assured that KGO remains your source for Bay Area news and information. Thanks for listening to the new KGO 810.”
Although I’m not a KGO listener, I first realized that something was up when my Facebook feed filled up with comments from KGO fans who were disheartened about the loss of their favorite shows. A protest page on Facebook, Former Listeners of KGO Newstalk 810, was formed and is now up to more than 1,500 fans. According to the page’s description, “On December 1, 2011, KGO’s parent company, Cumulus Media, fired most of it’s [sic] on air-talent and other valuable staff without warning. This sends a message that large corporations do not care about progressive and free media in the Bay Area. Let’s band together to send a message to Cumulus and other media monopolies that this is not OK with us.”
Fans are upset about Thursday’s firing of long-time hosts Gene Burns, Gil Gross, Ray Taliaferro and John Rothmann (in addition to other KGO hosts and staffers). Upon hearing the news one friend of mine wrote, “OH MY GOD! After a lifetime of listening to people I care about, the station is finally going down…What the hell is going on at KGO Newstalk 810 AM, San Francisco?!!? This is horrible news! I want to hurt someone!” Another said, “This is a sad day in local radio.”
Rich Lieberman, who writes about San Francisco radio and television on his blog 415 Media, first broke the news of the firings on Thursday. In chronicling the changes at KGO he’s reported that not only are fans disappointed, but that some advertisers have pulled out of the new KGO. Today Lieberman writes,
“KGO Radio is quite a different place than it used to be. There is a siege mentality in the newsroom. Many staffers are fraught with confusion and obvious frustration. And many are hearing the anger brought forth by the sudden, unexpected ambush begun by management that has shaken the station in almost all departments, including news, programming, and most recently, the sales department. Several staffers I have contacted are worried about their own jobs. No one, obviously, will go on the record for fear of reprisal.”
We’ll have to wait and see what the end result of these programming changes will be at KGO. Many have expressed dismay that local talk programming is disappearing from the San Francisco airwaves, especially since this is on the heels of changes at another San Francisco station Green 960 (KKGN). Its progressive talk format is being moved to an HD channel and the AM station will become a Fox Radio News affiliate.