KRMG returns to the FM dial

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The breathless tweets began about noon:

NewsTalk740KRMG: MAJOR NEWS about the Tulsa radio landscape to be announced in three hours - at 3pm. Please RT.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 12:02:11

NewsTalk740KRMG: MAJOR changes to be announced AND implemented at 3pm on Tulsa's KRMG.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 12:47:58

I duly "retweeted" the message (that's what RT means in Twitterese) and so did a bunch of other folks.

The intensity gathered momentum with a little over an hour to go:

NewsTalk740KRMG: Make no mistake about it, behind the scenes here we're working feverishly to get our 3pm announcement and implementation ready.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 13:48:34

NewsTalk740KRMG: Mindful of radio stunts, I want to insist that this IS NOT a radio stunt. We're moving mountains over here.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 13:50:04

NewsTalk740KRMG: Channel 6 has TV cameras in our Talk Studio for our CW12/19 morning broadcast. I've had to feed them color bars to NOT see what we're doing.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 14:18:47

With 40 minutes remaining, we seemed to be nearing the boiling point:

NewsTalk740KRMG: I've just learned that we had a leak of information. It's OUT. Mon, 16 Mar 2009 14:20:46

NewsTalk740KRMG: 30 minutes until the announcement. We're going to be cutting it close. Listen at AM740 or at www.krmg.com
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 14:31:11

NewsTalk740KRMG: I wish you could see what's going on here. People are FREAKING OUT. We have 15 mins until the BIG DEAL. I just saw our PD in the fetal pos.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 14:45:20

NewsTalk740KRMG: KRMG just sent out a text alert to those who subscribe to Breaking News Alerts with scant details.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 14:52:50

NewsTalk740KRMG: I'll give you a hint - Sean Hannity actually spilled the beans an hour ago in OKC. Hannity will also talk about it just after 3pm on KRMG.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 14:54:10

As zero hour approached, I had my headphones, which are normally plugged into the computer, plugged in to the old AM/FM/cassette player I keep on my desk. This pretty much encapsulates how I felt when the announcement came:

"Underwhelmed," I tweeted. I noticed similar sentiments from a few other Twitterers.

After reading a statement explaining the reason for the change, I could better understand the excitement within the walls of KRMG:

AM740 has a massive signal that reaches great distances across the length of Oklahoma. But, the weakness of AM740 is the limitations of north-south signal strength. The signal strength of AM radio across the US also faces limitations when it comes to penetrating large buildings, such as offices and some homes.

Adding FM102.3 to our stable of delivery platforms will nearly eliminate any of the weaknesses that AM740 presented our listeners.

102.3 is certainly easier to pick up at the office, doesn't seem to suffer as much from nearby computers, and it's a much more vivid sound. And I've experienced the massive dead spot in the KRMG signal pattern, driving home at night down US 75 or US 169 from the north. 740's signal is limited because two other stations on 740, one in Houston and one in Canada. (You can sometimes hear a few seconds of it around sunrise if the transmitter switchover takes a bit longer than normal.)

Here are three maps to illustrate the problem:

KRMG 740 daytime (50,000 watts)
KRMG 740 nighttime (50,000 watts)
KKCM 102.3 (50,000 watts)

(The reason for the bizarre KRMG signal pattern: U. S. Sen. Robert S. Kerr, the station's founding owner, wanted his station to cover both Tulsa and Oklahoma City.)

So KKCM 102.3 (the FCC database still shows the old call letters) will fill in the gaps for KRMG in the northern half of the metro area. They'll also be able to reach MP3 players and portable radios that have FM reception but no AM reception. In a sense, they're taking over for KOTV, providing a way for FM listeners to pick up breaking news and weather bulletins. (KOTV's assigned frequency band, 82-88 MHz, made it possible to hear the TV station's audio on the radio, but that's gone with the end of analog broadcasting and frequency reassignment.)

So I can understand the KRMG guys' excitement, but I'm not sure if they realized the expectations they were creating with the build-up to the announcement. They gave us each an opportunity to assume that our own hopes for Tulsa radio were about to come true, and I suspect most of those hopes pertained to content, not broadcast reach.

For example, FixedOn66 thought KRMG might move Rush Limbaugh one hour earlier, so that Tulsa would hear his show live. I imagine a few people were hoping for a replacement for Michael Savage -- maybe Fred Thompson's new talk show.

Several people expressed hope that the announcement would represent an expansion of local talk radio programming to compensate for its recent, sudden contraction. In other words, they hoped they'd be hearing something like this at 3:00 p.m.

This announcement made for an interesting experiment in marketing through social networking -- and there were dozens of local PR and advertising pros watching it unfold on Twitter. KRMG created buzz, but there was a disconnect between the significance of the news for them and the significance for most of their listeners. When the big announcement came, they could have done a better job of explaining the benefits to the listeners. They had people paying attention to the frequency announcement, but they may have blunted the effectiveness of the strategy for future announcements.

Although the announcement of the FM frequency was not about content, upon further reflection, I can see how it might expand opportunities for content. BBC Radio 4, which is mainly spoken-word programming, broadcasts on three bands: VHF (what we call FM), mediumwave (equivalent to our AM band), and longwave (148.5 to 283.5 kHz, not used for broadcasting outside of Europe). Most of the broadcast day is simulcast, but certain programs, like the Shipping Forecast and play-by-play coverage of cricket test matches are heard only on longwave. (I seem to recall that KOMA in Oklahoma City used to do something similar some years ago -- simulcasting oldies on 1520 and 92.5, but carrying paid religious programming on 1520 only at certain times.)

Speaking of the BBC, they set the standard for frequency-change announcements back in 1978.

Oh, about returning to the FM dial: Circa 1970, KRMG-FM broadcast "beautiful music" on 95.5 MHz. Our parents would sometimes set the RCA clock radio (just like the one Bob and Emily Hartley had, except that ours was gold) in the hall, tuned to KRMG-FM, to help us get to sleep. KRMG-FM later changed its call letters to KWEN. (Chuck Fullhart worked at KRMG-FM back in the day and shared his recollections of this early example of an automated radio station on TulsaTVMemories.com.)

MORE: Tyson Wynn is "giddy" at the thought of an FM talk station. He explains why, and uses KRMG's announcement to put KFAQ's cancellation of the Chris Medlock Show into perspective:

KRMG will be the Tulsa radio king as long as it carries Rush Limbaugh. Frankly, KRMG has a heftier overall lineup of syndicated shows (with the exception of the legend-in-his-own-mind Michael Savage). That said, I am a fan of Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin on KFAQ. But, KFAQ's real mode of attraction (when it started up) was the passion of the live and local Michael DelGiorno and its running shows live so that listeners could participate (they even ran promos about it)....

As far as KFAQ goes, it's not enough merely to be the other talk station in town. Newspapers are learning they can band-aid their dismal situations by cutting local reporters and filling space with nationally syndicated columns, but that doesn't fix the big issue. Radio, in the same way, can fill time with any number of nationally syndicated hosts, many of them very good, but none of them provide the localism radio must have if it is to be successful in a market. If your national hosts are largely second-tier, if your local news team is second-best, you better out-passion and out-local-issue the other guys.

Further, KFAQ's handling of the Medlock dismissal betrayed years of positioning. No one buys that the station that claims it is "standing up for what's right," did the right thing by dismissing Medlock, the only daily injection of passion and loyal opposition in Tulsa, especially so suddenly. They added insult to injury by not allowing him to say goodbye and then removing every trace of his existence from the station's website (though it is a fairly typical practice in radio).

Read the whole thing.

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3 Comments

I actually thought (for a bit) that they were going to announce that Chris Medlock had joined KRMG. Not quite.

Like you said, it was underwhelming.

Liz said:

I live out on Keystone Lake and I could never listen to KRMG during bad weather. The FM station for those of us outside of Tulsa is more than "underwhelming."

But...

I would still rather have 102.3 Spirit back. It was my favorite station.

That's a great point, Liz. It does illustrate the peculiarities of their AM signal pattern -- the transmitters are very near Keystone Lake in Mannford.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 16, 2009 10:28 PM.

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