Why one LA radio station is making a mess by not having local hosts

Have you ever watched one of those home shows, such as “Love It or List It,” and noticed that every episode has some major problem show up at the same time in every episode?

That’s because on reality shows, the “reality” is often assembled in an editing booth to create what the producers feel will be good television. And while it may make for some interesting home improvement ideas, once you know that the shows are not reality, you are left feeling a little bit cheated, a little hollow.

That’s the feeling I get when listening to The Morning Mess on Amp Radio (97.1 FM). Cheated. Hollow.

The Mess has been heard on Amp since August of last year, though it has been heard on Phoenix, Arizona’s Live 105 FM since 2013. The show features Joey Boy (aka Nachoo), Aneesh Ratan, Jeana Shepard and Karla Hernandez talking, calling, and playing a lot of music.

It’s a show I really want to like. The team exudes friendliness and fun, something that I think the world could use more of. But it also has an artificial feeling that is just too hard to shake. Everything just seems to be too contrived, too convenient.

For example, one of the staples of the Mess is a variation of the old Candid Phones done by Rick Dees years ago on KIIS-FM (102.7). The Mess does “Nachoo’s Revenge.” The idea is that someone sets up a story, the station calls an unsuspecting person to be pranked, and hilarity ensues.

The problem is that true cold calls recorded for broadcast are illegal. According to Section 73.1206 of the FCC’s rules, it is prohibited to broadcast, or record for purposes of broadcast, telephone calls without first getting the consent of the person on the other end of the phone. So that seems to mean that anyone “pranked” is in on the prank, otherwise the station would risk a huge fine for airing the call.

Now, interestingly, there are apparently actors and writers who can provide these kinds of calls for morning shows. The website Gawker did a story on this phenomenon in 2011, and you can read the story at tinyurl.com/radiowaves011521.

The Gawker story quotes one unnamed producer who said, “The great prank phone calls — they’re all fake. If it’s top 40, and if it has a morning show, then it uses actors.”

So that ran through my mind during a different segment last week when there was a supposed live caller and a vulgar word was uttered. To my ears, the caller seemed just a little too polished; the audio quality was pristine and the inflections and reactions seemed rehearsed for an average person.

And here’s the thing: When the vulgar word was used, instead of the call being “dumped,” in which there’d be a noticeable jump in the audio from the station’s delay system because of an on-the-fly edit, the word was bleeped out. That would seem to me to be extraordinary to happen during a live call; my guess is that segment was recorded and edited because it seems hard to believe you can bleep on the go.

Maybe I’m wrong. Or maybe the point is that these “calls” are seen as entertainment, not real life, and that means it’s OK to script them like a comedy bit. Maybe, but I don’t like it.

Similarly, on the same day, the show referenced going “downtown” — and since the show is based in Phoenix it’s not clear if they meant there or downtown Los Angeles. A truly local show would be talking about the drive into work, things happening around your town, and more.

Now, it’s certainly not a bad show. The four Mess Makers are — as I already said — genuinely nice, and absolutely do their best to relate to the audience under the constraints of broadcasting from another city. I think they have the potential to be great, and I believe the show would be so much better if it were really local.

If I were station management, I’d be working to let these kids fly. But then again, I wouldn’t be relying on a show from out of town.

Problems at Entercom

It seems that KROQ (106.7 FM) is not the only alternative station having ratings issues in the Entercom-owned chain of stations. Jerry Del Colliano reported this week on his InsideMusicMedia.com  that outside of San Francisco, Seattle and Boston, Entercom’s alternative stations are underperforming both in ratings and revenue.

What’s causing the problem? Lack of events and concerts due to the COVID shutdown is certainly an issue, says Del Colliano, but a major problem is self-inflicted: The alternative format was among the first to go with regional and national DJs in an effort to cut costs, and listeners have responded by moving on to other stations.

KROQ fares better than most when it comes to local talent, but there are problems. Stryker and Klein (5 a.m. to 10 a.m.) are local, but syndicated to four other stations so they lose the local flavor. Same with Nicole Alvarez (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.)  and Megan Holiday (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.); Kevan Kenney (7 p.m. to 12 a.m.) is syndicated from New York, as is overnighter Bryce Segall. So in total, none of KROQ’s broadcast day is dedicated to truly local programming.

Imagine the stations in which the talent isn’t even in the same city … ever.

Radio thrives when it’s live, local and a true part of the community. You can’t do that when you rely on syndication and cost-cutting. But you already know that.

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