The last few years have seen the emergence of several pioneering radio formats across the country, including an all-Beatles station and an all-New Age station. Now two radio veterans, Dwight Case and George Fritzinger, plan to launch an Asian-language radio station here in mid-November.
Case, president of NetworksAmerica, said KAZN-AM will be a 24-hour station devoting 4- to 6-hour blocks each to Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino and Vietnamese-language programming.
Although there have been sporadic one- or two-hour Asian programs on otherwise English-language stations, and there have been all-Japanese stations in Hawaii for years, Case claims that KAZN will be the first station in North America to devote 100% of its programming to Asians. The new 5,000-watt Los Angeles station will transmit from Arcadia.
But the emergence of the new format comes with the demise of another: In a three-pronged transaction, KAZN will be replacing KFAC-AM, the only classical music station on the AM dial in the Los Angeles area.
KAZN will actually take over the 1300 spot now occupied by Spanish-language station KWKW, with KWKW moving up to KFAC's spot at 1330. (KFAC-FM will continue to program classical music.)
According to Case, Howard Kalmenson, owner of KWKW, recently bought KFAC-AM for $8.75 million to acquire its 1330 frequency because it had a more northern signal capable of reaching a broader Latino audience in the northwestern San Fernando Valley. He then sold his 1300 frequency to NetworksAmerica for KAZN.
The station owners hope to have approval of the deals by the Federal Communications Commission to make the changes in mid-November.
Although KAZN's time slots have yet to be divided up, Case said that each Asian ethnic group will be assigned a specific time slot every day, including weekends, to fit each group's life style.
By creating consistent blocks of time for each Asian group, he feels advertisers will be better able to target a particular audience, and the radio listening audience will be encouraged to tune in between those times every day.
Case, president of the RKO radio chain from 1972-81, founded the Transtar 24-hour satellite programming service in 1981 and was publisher of Radio & Records magazine between 1983 and early 1987. His partner, Fritzinger, is a previous owner and general manager of KFAC and currently owns Group III, a communications investment company.
Case, 59, said he and Fritzinger had been watching the economic development surrounding the Pacific Rim for the last five years and realized that the growing Asian population was not being catered to by mainstream advertisers. The partners went to various Asian countries two years ago to learn about their different cultural markets, then maintained contacts.
Four months ago, they linked up with Holmes Stoner, whose company, Artesa Media Services, has for the last six years served as a consultant to large American companies and advertising agencies interested in reaching the Asian-American audience through their ethnic newspapers and magazines.
Case said he found the various Asian media in the United States to be "terribly fragmented. If you look in the Yellow Pages," he pointed out, "you see many newspapers making their living with a circulation of 5,000-10,000 people. There's no centralness to it all. That's what we're trying to provide."
According to Stoner, Case is meeting with various political and business leaders in the Asian community to ensure that the new radio venture has "their blessing."
Stoner, who acts as Case's sales consultant and represents him to various potential advertisers, says that about 25% of the programming on KAZN may be produced in and brought over from the respective Asian countries, including live news from Tokyo, children's shows and soap operas. The remaining time will be sold to whomever wants to buy air time.
Stoner said it's possible some of the programming will be bilingual or English-speaking, depending on whomever buys the time, but all of it will be targeted at Asian audiences.
Case said some time will be reserved for music that features both old songs from the respective Asian countries, as well as newer, contemporary songs from artists currently popular in those countries. He plans to use Asian disc jockeys now broadcasting in the United States, with the possibility of one coming over from Asia.
Although Stoner sees the Asian market as an untapped business opportunity, he said he's encouraged by the recent influx of Asian immigrants who come to this country seeking opportunities that they couldn't attain in their home countries.
"These are the kinds of people that we want, that the country should encourage to come in," he said. "They bring the quality of life up, the educational quotient up. It's having a very positive effect everywhere on the places these people are going to."
Case and Stoner believe that an all-Asian station such as KAZN is significant in finally catering to a long-overlooked segment of the U.S. population. "It gives the community a sense of unity," Stoner said. "They can say that they truly have their own radio station. They can listen to the news or items of entertainment in their own language, and they could never do that before."