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San Diego’s Ex-Mayor Scores a hit as Host of Radio Talk Show

Times Staff Writer

A local radio station’s decision to hire former Mayor Roger Hedgecock as a mid-afternoon talk show host after Hedgecock’s felony conviction began to pay dividends this week, when quarterly Arbitron ratings showed a dramatic leap for KSDO-AM.

The station’s jump from fourth to second in the afternoon time slot that includes Hedgecock’s program and from sixth to second overall brought gleeful reactions from the station’s management and from the neophyte radio personality himself.

“I’m very delighted,” Hedgecock said. “I’ve been picking up the pieces of my life and trying to put it back together. And bouncing back this quickly is very gratifying.”

He added: “This is the best (time) talking to reporters I’ve had in years.”

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Station executives who hope to profit from the audience Hedgecock is drawing were beaming about the experiment that three months ago brought static from listeners angered about a convicted perjurer on the airwaves.

Hedgecock was sentenced last December to a year in local custody on a 13-count felony conviction stemming from illegal 1983 campaign contributions. His sentence was stayed while he appeals.

“He was involved in so many aspects (of government) ... it just makes you a more interesting person to call in and talk to,” said Lou Fernandez, general sales manager for the station. “That’s the value of Roger Hedgecock.”

“I honestly believe that if this guy ran for mayor tomorrow--and could run for mayor--he’d win,” said Hedgecock’s producer, Doug Young. “He’s got a tremendous following in this town.”

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The show features open phone lines from 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m., followed by interviews and phone-in calls to a guest from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and more open phone lines from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Pledging to “get behind the headlines,” Hedgecock has booked heart transplant patients, Immigration and Naturalization Service officials, lawyers, doctors, psychics and educators. He called the Libyan embassy in Madrid and interviewed an unnamed “raving maniac” after the U.S. air strike in Libya.

The ratings released Tuesday do not distinguish between Hedgecock and conservative talk show host Dave Dawson, who has the time slot ahead of Hedgecock. But KSDO executives are confident that it is Hedgecock who pushed the ratings to a 6.5 share for the last three months, compared to a 5.8 share for the same period last year. The figures represent a percentage share of the radio audience.

All of which raises the question: Does crime pay? Hedgecock says no.

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“I don’t think by this time they’re tuning in because it’s a novelty,” he said. “I think that was the first week or the first day. By the third day, if the show wasn’t interesting, I was losing them.

“I think they’re there because they’re interested in being there.”


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