There is a story circulating that KTKZ talker Eric Hogue is on the chopping block. His program is slated to be cancelled in September by some bean counters at Salem Communications. Salem would rather substitute some nationally syndicated talker to save some money.
I would like to address this idea from two aspects of the radio business.
First is the FCC license. If Salem cancels Hogue, in my estimation they have violated the Prime Directive of broadcasting which is to serve the public good. Hogue has done much to promote KTKZ and inform their audience. Hogue is the only program in the broadcast area that covers local politics from an informed perspective.
Only Tom Sullivan at KFBK comes close but Tom doesn’t understand Conservatives or the inner workings of the Republican Party. In addition, Tom doesn’t care to learn. Tom has no interest in “getting under the hood” and seeing how the Legislature really operates.
As someone who has worked at the Capitol and in radio, I have come to appreciate Eric’s insight in this area. It took him a few years to get through the learning curve after arriving here from Ohio but he has mastered his subject matter well.
Salem has severely handicapped Hogue by not giving him the bandwidth necessary to compete in this market. KTKZ AM & FM are the weakest signals in the broadcast area. When tuning on the AM side I have to search between Radio Disney and Air America to find the station. It is difficult to get either KTKZ station indoors anywhere in the broadcast area. I cannot get their signal at all at my Elk Grove home. If Salem got Hogue on a station with some broadcast power, KTKZ would be second or third in the market.
Not only have I seen the Arbitron ratings but I was a participant in the Spring sampling period. In the Sacramento market, KSFO from San Francisco has better numbers than KTKZ and their signal is often better.
Secondly, Salem may not be making much money on Hogue’s time slot but they need to look at the Larry King model used by Mutual Broadcasting. King was what retailers call a “loss leader.” King was not profitable by himself but Mutual required that stations carrying King also carry other programming by Mutual. As a package Mutual was able to make money by this arrangement.
Hogue has done something similar for KTKZ with sponsors. Hogue has done well enough for sponsors on his show that they are willing advertisers on other programming at the station. Spots cut by the team at KTKZ are often heard on other stations in the Sacramento market.
The revenue hit that KTKZ will take if they follow through on plans to cut Hogue will be tremendous. Not only will they loose the Hogue show revenue but the Friday night high school sports will disappear also. Sponsors of the Hogue show are also the backbone of advertisers for other programming like Hugh Hewitt.
One can’t help but wonder if killing local programming is a prelude to selling the radio station to someone with a different format in mind. This decision is not a formula for long term viability at KTKZ.