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MARS-FM Fires On-Air Staff, Drops Techno-Rock Format

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

MARS is leaving its orbit.

Radio stations KSRF-FM in Santa Monica and KOCM-FM in Newport Beach(both on 103.1) will be abandoning their joint techno-rock format dubbed MARS-FM--within the next two weeks. The new format, which will also be broadcast by both stations, has not been announced, though insiders report that it will be either jazz or an adult contemporary style.

The stations’ entire on-air staff was let go Wednesday. In the interim before the new format is introduced, the stations are continuing with a watered-down version of the techno format, though without deejays.

Among those fired was Raechel Donahue, a veteran of eight Los Angeles-area stations. She said that this was the first time she’s ever been part of a mass firing that came with no warning.

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MARS-FM introduced its techno format on May 24, 1991, after former KROQ-FM owner Ken Roberts (who paid $17.5 million for the two stations, then playing easy-listening music) hired former KROQ deejays Freddie Snakeskin and Egil Aalvik to serve as program director and music director, respectively. Having failed to make a ratings impact, MARS temporarily dropped techno--the pulsating electronic dance music associated with underground “rave” events--in June, but reinstated the style in July after receiving more than 10,000 letters and faxes from fans of the music.

Ironically, the abandonment of techno comes just as the style is gaining in public and media attention. The international growth of the music is the subject of a Time magazine feature this week, and ABC’s “World News Tonight” has done a story on the growing phenomenon. Major record labels have also been hopping on the techno wagon, and KROQ-FM, KIIS-AM/FM and KPWR-FM have all added techno selections to their playlists recently.


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