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David Hall will try to work his KFI magic at KABC

When David G. Hall first went to work at KFI-AM (640) in 1989, the station had just adopted a talk format and people were scoffing at the notion of an upstart thinking it could challenge the dominance of KABC-AM (790), the nation’s first talk-radio station. When he gave up the program director’s job in 2002, KFI was one of the most popular outlets in Southern California, and KABC wasn’t even a close runner-up.

Can he now turn the tables and do for KABC what he did for KFI?

Radio listeners will find out in the months ahead. After five years as program director at all-news stations KFWB-AM (980) and KNX-AM (1070), Hall on Friday was named director of operations at Citadel Broadcasting’s KABC, effective Jan. 5. He replaces Erik Braverman, a 12-year veteran at the station.

His first project, Hall said in an interview, will be to build a news staff. The aim is neither to replace the talk programming nor to compete with what his former all-news colleagues do, but to enhance what KABC already offers.

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If the hosts are talking about L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Hall said, “it really helps to have a reporter at City Hall in the middle of it.”

He said he doesn’t know yet how many people he will be hiring but expressed admiration for the commitment Citadel had made to him to expand the staff at a time when other media companies are contracting.

In the most recent quarterly Arbitron ratings for the L.A. and Orange counties market, KABC tied for 19th, averaging 2.1% of the audience -- less than half of the 4.4% share that KFI had in its No. 2 perch. KFI’s weekday schedule still features the formidable lineup that Hall helped put in place: Bill Handel, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Schlessinger and the team of John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou.

But Hall, 44, said overtaking KFI is not his goal.

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“It’s a big market; there’s plenty of room for all of us,” he said. “My goal is to find the right place in the market for KABC and to help the station serve the market as well as possible.”

Robin Bertolucci, who succeeded Hall as program director at KFI, said she wasn’t fazed by having him as a competitor at KABC. That station is only one of many talk rivals, she noted, including KLSX-FM (97.1), KGIL-AM (1260), KRLA-AM (870) and KTLK-AM (1150).

“We’ll continue to do what we do,” she said. “We wish him a lot of success -- just not too much.”

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lee.margulies@latimes.com


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