Media Watch: Sammy Allred Back on the Air
Shake, rattle, and roll in local radio
A tumultuous week in local radio finds former KVET stalwart Sammy Allred back on the air anchoring a new talk radio format, a dramatic expansion of sports talk programming, and three Spanish-language stations jettisoned from the dial, along with most of their employees.
Allred, a member of the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, can now be heard on 98.9FM, the station formerly known as La Ley. Station owner Border Media Partners, which is under the direction of a trustee after lenders took over the company earlier this year, has rechristened the station the Big Talker, with Allred handling the midday slot. Allred has been off the air since 2007, when he was booted from the Sam and Bob in the Morning show after using profanity and questionable taste on the air.
"We've certainly discussed his history," said Border Media vice president and market manager Jerry Del Core. "I think Sammy knows what he can and can't do."
Perhaps coincidentally, Emmis Communications has started simulcasting Rush Limbaugh and the rest of news-talk station KLBJ-AM on 99.7FM, which previously carried a simulcast of Hot 93.3FM, the hip-hop format. To compete with KLBJ-AM, the Big Talker will offer a syndicated show, The Bob & Tom Show, in the morning; followed by Fox News weeper Glenn Beck; Allred; and Sean Rima, formerly of KOA in Denver. "Our goal is not to be another KLBJ-AM," Del Core said. "They are more right-wing conservative talk, and our position will be much more centrist."
Border Media has also dropped the Spanish-language music format Digital from 104.9FM and replaced it with an ESPN-based sports format dubbed the Horn. (In a deal with Simmons Media Group, ESPN network programming will continue on 1530AM.) And it also dumped Spanish-language music programming from 92.5FM, which will simulcast the Horn for the immediate future. Eight staff members for La Ley and Digital were laid off last week, along with Director of Programming Josh Villa (and two other employees left voluntarily).
Del Core says the company dropped the Spanish-language formats in anticipation of a new ratings system, Arbitron's Portable People Meters, due to roll out in Austin next summer. The Portable People Meter automatically tracks people's listening habits, in contrast to the current system which forces listeners to fill out diaries. Already in use in many big cities, the meter has resulted in some dramatic swings in the ratings, especially for Spanish-language stations. "We're looking ahead," Del Core said. "People Meters have not been kind to Spanish-language broadcasting."
Border Media Partners was originally set up to create a network of Spanish-language stations in the Southwest. Headed by top Democratic fundraiser Tom Castro, the company gobbled up more than 30 stations and launched new formats like La Ley. But BMP bought stations near the height of the market, right before the industrywide collapse, and Castro was replaced as the company CEO in 2007. Earlier this year lenders took over the operation, renamed it Border Media, and installed industry veteran Larry Patrick to run the business.