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KIIS-FM leads radio stations in 2010

Pop purveyor KIIS-FM spent 2010 at the top of the charts, leading all Los Angeles-Orange County radio stations in the ratings since January.

But at year’s end, adult-contemporary station KOST-FM treated it like grandma with the reindeer, according to figures released Tuesday by the Arbitron ratings service.

In the period from Nov. 11 to Dec. 8, KIIS-FM (102.7) barely lost ground from its No. 1 showing the previous month, either in its share of the radio audience ages 6 and older, or in its total of weekly listeners. But KOST-FM (103.5) changed its playlist to all-holiday music and ran over its Top-40 rival.

Every year since 2001, KOST has switched to nonstop holiday music, starting around Thanksgiving and lasting through Christmas. This year’s launch was Nov. 17. And the move has always boosted the station’s ratings — propelling it to No. 1 in 2005 and again last year. This year, KOST rocketed to a 6.6% share of the audience, up from 4.6% in November.

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In spite of the holiday numbers, though, 2010 belongs to KIIS, which has been No. 1 in 11 of the 12 four-week surveys so far this year. Though the pop station also led for most of 2009, it didn’t dominate the way it has this year.

Last year, for example, KIIS never cracked the 4-million mark in average audience, the number of listeners who tuned in for at least five minutes in a given week. But this year the station topped that mark from April through October, also reaching 3.99 million in November, and peaking at 4.16 million in August.

Also, KIIS snagged a dominating 6% share of the local listening audience only once in 2009, in January. The station topped that mark four times in 2010 — in May, August and September, and peaked at 6.7% in July.

While KIIS was king of the local airwaves in 2010, other broadcasters still made news of their own.

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In January, the year began with the demise of left-leaning talk network Air America, and the debut of Carson Daly as a morning man.

Air America launched nationwide in March 2004, with its backers promising an alternative to what they called the talk-radio monopoly of conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. But by coming late to the game, the venture could only find airtime on less desirable, less powerful stations.

The network limped along for nearly six years, beset — even before its launch — by money troubles and management turmoil. Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, the trade journal of the talk-radio industry, commented that nothing before had scored so much publicity for doing so little. In spite of low ratings, the network became a brand name for all progressive talk, and helped propel former hosts Al Franken to the U.S. Senate and Rachel Maddow to a successful MSNBC television show. Air America signed off for good Jan. 25, after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation.

Daly had been a DJ at alternative station KROQ-FM (106.7) in 1997, before he gained nationwide fame as host of MTV’s phenomenally successful “Total Request Live” and then got his own talk show on NBC. On Jan. 4, he took over as the first morning host at Top-40 outlet KAMP-FM (97.1). KAMP, which had changed from talk to pop in 2009, was a big hit, gaining ground on rival KIIS, but Daly’s morning numbers remained sluggish until the fall. In October, his show hit No. 6 among morning programs, and his average weekly audience hit 1.24 million, besting perennial leader Ryan Seacrest on KIIS.

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2010 will also go down as the year advice guru Dr. Laura retired from radio — at least for a weekend.

In August, Laura Schlessinger created a furor when she said on the air that an African American caller was being “hypersensitive” and, in scolding the woman, kept repeating the N-word. Critics howled that it was Schlessinger being racially insensitive; she, in turn, apologized and announced her retirement from radio after three decades, effective at the end of December. At the time she said the controversy was a sign to her to get off the air, and instead focus on her books, TV appearances and online observations.

Three months later, though, she had signed a contract to move to Sirius XM satellite radio. Her last show on her flagship station, KFWB-AM (980), is scheduled for Friday. On Monday she’ll debut her new satellite show, airing weekdays from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. PST.

Schlessinger called the move “an amazingly freeing transition,” adding in a news release that, “I can’t wait to preach, teach and nag about morals, values, ethics and principles.”

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Also in 2010, one-time smooth-jazz stalwart KTWV-FM (94.7) changed its image and playlist, and immediately rose in the ratings.

The station, a pioneer of new-age music back in 1987, shrugged off that heritage and began calling itself “smooth adult contemporary,” playing fewer instrumentals and more R&B. The moves paid off in ratings, as the station shot from 16th to sixth place from January to February. The station’s makeover culminated May 17, when former KOST personality Kim Amidon joined Pat Prescott to host mornings, taking over for host and jazz musician Brian McKnight.

The last year also saw milestones in local public radio. Ruth Seymour retired as general manager of KCRW-FM (89.9) in February, after 32 years. During that time she transformed the Santa Monica station from a feeble Westside outlet transmitting from a middle school, to National Public Radio’s flagship in Southern California. She championed shows such as “Which Way, L.A.?” and “This American Life,” and went against the trend of public broadcasters homogenizing their programming to maintain KCRW’s eclectic mix of music and information. As a result, KCRW DJs break bands and discover music that next ends up on TV and in movies, giving the station an influence beyond its ratings figures.

In March, KPCC-FM (89.3) opened a new broadcast facility in Pasadena, part of a major expansion that has the station staking its claim as the region’s preeminent public-radio news and information outlet.

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In addition, on Sept. 20, KPCC premiered “The Madeleine Brand Show,” its own one-hour newsmagazine featuring the downsized NPR personality. Brand had co-hosted the network’s once ballyhooed “Day to Day,” the newsmagazine NPR canceled due to budget constraints in 2009. In a coincidence that nevertheless underscores KPCC’s ambitions, Brand’s show occupies the former “Day to Day” time slot, 9-10 a.m. weekdays.

calendar@latimes.com


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