November 16, 2004
As long as we're on the subject of bad Houston radio ideas

Found this blast from the past while searching for old KLOL stories.

There will soon be something new on the radio: Houston's first all-talk station on the FM dial -- and the first talk station to bill itself as ideologically middle-of-the-road -- debuts next week.

KRTK 97.1 Talk, which was Tejano station KOND in its previous incarnation, is backed by local investors drawn heavily from the ranks of plaintiffs' lawyers. Self-described "raging heterosexual moderate" Roger Gray leads off a roll of familiar names who'll be manning the mikes, including former KLOL jock Dayna Steele and Don Imus, the onetime Friend of Bill syndicated out of New York.

But who's going to be listening? Gray, who was ousted from KPRC's lineup of conservative talkers last fall, claims there's a wider audience in Houston waiting for a station that doesn't pitch exclusively to the right.

"One of the mistakes is letting your callers drive what your programming is," observes Gray, who is busy setting up the station is the CRSS building on the West Loop. "Callers will take you in directions you don't want to go. You want to be responsive, but by the same token, less than 10 percent of your listeners will ever call."

Gray discounts traditional radio wisdom that talk shows won't work on the FM band, long the home for music formats. He points out that KUHF, which features NPR in its morning and afternoon slots, actually has better Arbitron ratings than KPRC in the same time periods. KUHF also has a better mix of men and women listeners, a statistic that should appeal to advertisers.

David Jones, a Democratic activist and lawyer who has had several talk shows on cable and radio, came up with the idea for a new talk station and began pulling together the components, including Gray and the station's key financial backer, lawyer Gerald Birnberg.

Mike Stude, the previous owner, was also brought in as an investor, along with county Republican chairman and criminal defense lawyer Gary Polland, Vinson & Elkins attorney Gary Robin and plaintiffs' attorney Jim Moriarty. Jones says the investors put up $10 million to buy the station, not counting construction costs at the new site.

Just how well the city accepts a diet of Imus's edgy East Coast humor or how well a former rock DJ Steele adapts to the talk format remains to be seen. After all, observes a former co-worker of Steele's, "handling a talk show is a little different from introducing the latest Metallica hit."

That was from 1997. I believe 97.1 Talk lasted about five minutes on the air. Not that it couldn't have succeeded - Gray, Steele, and Imus are all talented talkers - but what was the point? The KSEV crowd isn't going anywhere, and there was nothing there to compel anyone else to tune in. I just hope Gerry Birnbirg didn't totally lose his shirt on the deal.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 16, 2004 to Music | TrackBack

I find it interesting that the article from 1997 was concerned about a DJ converting to a talk show, when Imus had already successfully made the change several years earlier. It's also interesting to note that Imus' flagship station, WFAN in New York, is otherwise a sports talk station.

Meanwhile, Air America is struggling as a talk format. Is it because liberals do not speak as well on the radio as conservatives, or is it because of who the hosts are?

Posted by: William Hughes on November 16, 2004 7:37 AM

I'm almost afraid to ask, but _why_ were you looking for old KLOL stories?

Posted by: Ellen on November 16, 2004 9:12 AM

I liked 97.1 as talk, i enjoyed a good bit of it. I doubt I fit thier demographic however, a teenage white male.

No big loss, 97.1 Country legends plays good stuff, other than its incessive repeativeness....

Posted by: Redneck on November 17, 2004 1:26 AM