Thursday, December 8, 2011


A friend recently told me her radio in the kitchen used to be on all hours of the day tuned to KGO. Now she is grieving because there is nowhere to go for anyone interested in hearing about and discussing the news. It is a void she can't fill and the silent radio reminds her constantly of her loss.

I have never run a business, but I'm told the key to success is the relationship between supply and demand. If you sell something a lot of people want, you make money. If you are the only one selling what they want, you make a lot of money. The recent decision by Cumulus to go to an all-news format on KGO violates the basic supply/demand principle. The public has been told they were bleeding money. Yet, the switch violates good business practice and will result in losing more money. What are they up to?

San Francisco is a tough city to open a new restaurant. It is foodie central and a high percentage of new restaurants go belly up within a year. As the 4th largest media market, the San Francisco Bay Area had 2 radio stations which were interactive, and listeners could talk about the news, but only one station was all local...KGO. (Yes, I Know Dean Edel was syndicated but he was still local and I know Bob Brinker was and wasn't) Green 960 is gone. There is no talk station out of San Jose. There is a small one in Santa Cruz and a sort of one in Santa Rosa. KGO had the genre to itself. Yet, instead of replacing or improving hosts, Cumulus dumps a format that has no competition and adopts a format with huge competition. Once again, what are they up to?

KGO's all-news format competes directly with KCBS. KCBS and KGO have been rivals for over 30 years. During morning and afternoon drive the competition raged and KCBS won some and lost some. The rest of the day KGO creamed KCBS. Why? Once you have listened for about 20 minutes, you have all KCBS has to offer. On KGO, you got the news, but then you got entertained and informed about it. You were encouraged to call, email, tweet and get interactive about it. You turned on Ronn, Pete, Gene, me or Ray to hear our take. The talk advantage is how we always beat KCBS. So along comes Cumulus and what do they do? They get rid of the one advantage they have over one of their chief rivals and go head to head against their biggest strength. They opened an Italian restaurant right next to the North Beach Restaurant but wont serve Ravioli, Gnocchi or anti-pasta. It's like they are trying to go out of business before they start. By killing talk and going all-news, they guarantee fewer listeners and less revenue. It will then allow them to justify what they have been wanting to do which is bring in all syndicated talk. They make less money, and have fewer listeners, but with almost no overhead they still make a profit. It's the model media corporations have been following for over 15 years.

The fly in the ointment is the airwaves are supposed to be owned by the public. An FCC license is supposed to guarantee a radio station will serve the local community. One of the ways the community is served is by local coverage of local events and local news. When Cumulus is done with KGO, there will be a 2-3 minute newscast at the top and bottom of the hour and that will be it. Ironically, there will be more local, live talk on KNBR then on KGO or KSFO. Cumulus will preserve local sports talk around the three franchises, whose games they broadcast, while abandoning the community with its castration of KGO. Sports we talk about...presidential elections, the economy, war, peace, corporate responsibility, income inequality, these we see no need to expand upon or update. God, I love corporate America.

Another way the community is served is through charitable campaigns. KGO raised over $20 million for the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society over the years. The Cure-A-Thon was an annual tradition. An entire 24 hours of programming devoted to raising money for research. It isn't a coincidence the first thing Cumulus did was dump the Cure-A-Thon. Can you imagine them trying it without Ray and Ronn and without all the other hosts who worked it over the years? KGO raised over $5 million through the Thanksgiving Charity Drive. The money went to 4 Bay Area organizations serving the area's most vulnerable residents. Between just these two campaigns, KGO returned as much as $1.5 million a year back to the community. KNBR has an auction each year in which they offer sports memorabilia. If they raise $75,000 it is considered a stellar year. The Cure-A-Thon is gone as is the Thanksgiving Charity Drive. Yet, Cumulus' license is in no jeopardy.

KGO went beyond these two campaigns. Over the years, on the spur of the moment, KGO listeners contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to help someone out. When a little boy in the East Bay was attacked by a pit-bull, KGO raised over $400,000 for his care. A dog was killed at the San Jose airport and listeners sent in thousands to the owner because of the circumstances. When Dwayne Garrett committed suicide, listeners contributed over $85,000 to help his family cope with the devastating economic and personal losses they suffered. In Richmond, a health clinic for the poor was going to have to close due to a lack of doctor and nurse volunteers. A wonderful woman and advocate, Susan Prather, called and appealed on the air and within a day had enough volunteers to keep the clinic open. One Christmas season, a water pipe burst at Sacred Heart Community Services in San Jose. The water destroyed all the Christmas presents intended for distribution to children of economically distressed families. The director called KGO one week before the day the toys were to be given out and asked for help. The response was overwhelming and they ended up with more toys than had been lost. With the change in format, and the abandonment of the community by Cumulus, all of these types of opportunities are lost. Yet, their license is not in jeopardy.

The "Occupy" movement heightened awareness in this nation to corporate and government collusion, which has resulted in more money in the pockets of corporate managers and investors and less in the pockets of average Americans. The 1% have brought about a radio environment where they have their message propagandized across the nation not because of its superior content, but because any competitive view has been wiped out. The average American has no place to challenge and few outlets to obtain information about what the real state of play is in the country today. The movement is criticized for a lack of specific solutions to solve the problem of the 1% vs. the 99%. Here is one specific solution. It is time to pressure your elected representatives, the White House and the FCC to issue a new regulation. No one can have a radio license unless a majority of the programming is locally created and broadcast. A "local content" rule would have stopped Cumulus in its tracks. It would also be nice to re-regulate radio and TV and force the divestiture of hundreds of radio stations by big corporations and see them owned by local community entities. It can all be done.

I don't know how many kitchen radios or radios in bedrooms, garages, back porches and cars are silent. I suspect the number to be quite large. If you stay silent, and defeated, they may never be used again. Pass it on.


  1. Miss you, Bernie. Really do. Been listening to KGO since I was a college freshman in 1974 at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. The 50kW clear channel signal was a powerhouse at night, especially in the higher elevation of Flagstaff. Ironically, I was a broadcasting major. Cumulus "Nimbus" Media is no better than Clear Channel and the rest. Having worked in radio prior to and after the Reagan-inspired deregulation of the FCC, I agree 100% with you: That is our only recourse. Thanks for all the sleepless nights and being a part of my extended family all these years. Love ya bro!

    Regards, Tom

  2. Hi Bernie,
    I think the problem is we don't know exactly what to do about this - a specific goal. Between work and taking care of all the stupid minutia of life, there's not a lot of spare time. We can send messages here or there, but without a specific goal or plan, it just feels rather futile. From what I've been reading online, there's enough of us who feel strongly enough about this, that we could if we were guided towards a focused effort, make a difference. But really, what to do?? Write a congress person - we need a specific name, someone in govt in a position to make something happen. 'We', the general person doesn't know who in govt that is. Does anyone out there know? And when that person writes in, somewhere, will the rest of us realize it and get unified behind the effort? The problem is, we really need a leader, someone we can turn to that we trust has a good grasp of inner workings of the government... and radio.

    That's why I'm here, I'm hoping you give some guidance as to who would be the specific person in govt, that's on the right committee, and has some chance of being effective at changing these broadcasting rules - and for you to tell us what and how to say it to this person in govt.

    Sorry if I don't sound very educated or eloquent.

    Btw, if anyone reads this, there's a protest in front of KGO next Thursday, the 15th, at 11:30. I'll be there, but I also protested the war that Bush started and we know how much good that did...

    See you next week.

  3. Info about the protest

  4. Now days Bernie, I both love and dislike you. I love you because your mind on these matters are dead-on, and dislike you because you fucked-up. But I've spent too many years listening to Uncle Bernie to let the dislike consume the love or destroy the good memories.

  5. I work all over the Western United States and carry my big ole CC Radio that receives KGO effortlessly from the high deserts, to the Rockies, clear up into Alaska just to listen to KGO. Radio that communicated vital information and was a two-way dialogue. I emphasize the word was, as in past tense.

    Now being out of range of KGO signal, I tuned into using the computer and find the entire format changed, into the corporate model. RIP KGO, I won’t be tuning in again. KGO lost the most valuable type listener, I actually purchased stuff from businesses that advertised on the shows that I liked. Call me old fashioned, I believe in supporting advertisers that support beneficial activities.

    The .001 percent has silenced another voice.

    No individual, or corporation should be able to own more that one radio station, TV station, or newspaper.

    Its time to reactivate those big ole X radio transmitters just across the Mexican border up and running with 100,000 watts of power.

    I heard it on the X!!!

  6. people are asking what they can do about this and Bernie is absolutely 100% correct about the supply and demand however, there is something that he didn't mention which is also true and that is that clients will follow the employee to a new location.

    this is going to take a bit of cooperation between all (or most) the hosts, but if they all gathered at one station then that station gets their audience.

    Think about it.

  7. Bernie...thanks for reminding us of how powerful and how considerate and caring KGO was for the community. I can remember crying when I would hear that one of the regular callers were in the hospital or had died..that's how connected I felt to KGO...I am at a loss..

  8. Every two, four or six years we are given the opportunity to stop all this. And time & time again we keep re-electing the same people.
    Re-election has only one message to offer our political leaders;
    "Great job, keep up the good work"!
    Even Bill Clinton, the very person responsible for the changes that lead to the massacre at KGO was RE-ELECTED!
    Obama will be re-elected and we will continue to get what we have had for years. Puppets who dance on the end of the strings of Wall Street.
    Next November we have yet another opportunity to cut those strings but we won't.
    We won't because Ron Paul is the only one running who dances on strings held by his constituency.
    But he is an "Evil Republican, a nut case"! Nay, nay!! We can't have THAT!
    Better we keep the community organizer & just rely on “hope & change”. Yeah, RIGHT!

  9. Here's a pie in the sky if there ever was one, Immagine if somehow all the e-KGO listeners were to invest in or buy some sort of small Bay Area station and man it with all of our favorite hosts (the Lion included). I know it sounds crazy but nuttier things have been suggested. Just a thought

  10. I didn't know you got out already and have a blog, Bernie, until I saw a link of FB. It looks like you got out back in 2009. I used to listen to your show religiously and was very disappointed about things that you committed when I found out.

    Anyhow, as a long time loyal listener, I already made a prediction that KGO will lose a ton of listeners and couldn't fathom why they made this dumb move, but I couldn't have predicted they were doing this intentionally so they can make excuse to go with syndicated shows, plugging Bay Area listeners' ears with crap. Now that's just cruel and evil.

    Cumulus is run by the devil. I hope there's an occupy movement at KGO station.

  11. O... it looks like you're not out yet some people are saying on FB. Well I hope they let you out soon on the base that you have a good behavior record, prison is running out of space and should only be filled out deemed, violent offenders.

  12. Good to hear your thoughtful evaluations and reminders of just how much we're missing with KGO gone.

  13. I think people would be surprised at the huge number of out-of-state listeners, especially through apps and online. I live in Chicago which does have an excellent progressive news/talk station, but nothing is of the unique quality of KGO. I feel as if somone I knew has died and I have been in mourning.

    I am a former longtime San Francisco resident, and I am actually thinking of flying out for the protest on the 15th!

  14. I suppose I would be out of line to mention KSFO560 as a great talk show station alternative for those interested in saving the American way of life.

  15. Who is on KSFO doing talk that isn't syndicated?

  16. Yeah, Honeybee. You have the right to your opinion, but definitely out of place posting a comment like that on a progressive blog.

  17. I agree KSFO has great talk show hosts. I listened to KGO even to Rothmann who I liked because I thought he was one of the few intelligent Democrats around. I think this will be the demise of KGO, because KGO had mostly progressive hosts, but I still listened to it to hear the other side. Have to agree though most were loons. But I listened to both sides. I thought KGO was number one, that is what they always said so this was a shock to me. Talk both conservative and liberal are better to listen to than news. I get my news from other sources not the radio.

  18. A MUST see video! Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thurs. proposed a constitutional amendment to overturn a Supreme Court ruling that allowed unrestricted and secret campaign spending by corporations on U.S. elections. The amendment would reverse the narrow 5-to-4 ruling in Citizens United vs. the Federal Elections Commission.


    Show your support - sign the petition:

  19. It's so sad to see corporate hacks eff over one of the best stations in the country.

    I have zero interest in an all news format, boring!

  20. Bernie: Your first paragraph in this post exactly describes my reaction to the gutting of KGO. Heck, I still miss you, let alone all the talk shows and hosts we just lost to Cumulus's actions.

  21. Local radio is dead. It's been dead since 1996 and with the advent of new technology its going to remain dead. The good news is that podcasting is here and since there is no corporate onership or corporate sponsors to suck up to, this medium can be dominated by progessives. One of the best progressives out there is Bernie Ward. His original analysis, political experience and understanding of politics makes him one of the best talkers out there. I knoow what a fighter Bernie is and hope he can accept this new reality and forget about local radio.

  22. All news!!! All the time!!! Radio McDonald's!!!

  23. Thanks for another outstanding, insightfull, intelligent blog post Mr Ward. Thanks for knowing what is happening and helping people understand what has happened. Take Care Bernie

  24. well, this is a bit disappointing. I write a post asking for what we can do and no one responds. This is a very poor substitution for the old KGO. I'm so heartbroken...

  25. The fired KGO hosts should get together and buy a radio station and put themselves back on the air!!!

  26. Folks,

    I'm getting word that KSCO 1080am out of Santa Cruz is talking to the hosts. Dr. Watenburg has already been on. If you're out of signal reach, they do stream. That said, I heard that the on-line response to Dr. Bill broadcast was so large that KSCO's servers crashed.

    I do hope all those hosts end up together again and that Bernie will be able to join them eventually. I really miss the "old" KGO. The new station sucks!


  27. Uncle Bernie, glad to "read" your voice again. As usual your observations appear spot on. You were our go to at 10pm-1am as well as God Talk-got my son hooked on that while helping him Sundays on his paper route-. I look forward to you joining in public discussion in a more robust fashion once "redemption" is complete.

    We still memo our checks to the Thanksgiving Drive with "in memory of Bernie Ward".

  28. Hi Bernie

    Your thoughtful comments on the demise of quality radio in the bay area is spot on. What I believe it is yet another brick in the wall to dumb down the population.

    Now, we have only the internet to seek out those who speak progressively. All of them need support to keep their operation alive. There is no free lunch.

    My list includes locally, Peter B. Collins (great depth in his comments) and nationally, Randi Rhodes
    Tom Hartman, Normal Goldman (great legal commentary). And someone who fills in for Randy, yet has her own podcast is Nicole Sandler.

    And if you catch them when they are live, the podcast is often free.

    When you return back to society, I hope you lend your voice to the battle for sanity.


  29. How do you get to blog from prison?

    I can't believe KGO committed suicide. I won't miss Dr. Know-It-All and Smarmy Jewish Guy Who Comes On A Seven, but Marty Nemko, Len Tillem, and even Michael Finney will be sorely missed.

    But they're keeping kreepy Karel? I'm sure you'll be back behind the mic again too, but I sure won't be listening.

  30. See the facebook page- former listeners of kgo

  31. What a great summary of the History of Talk Radio on KGO. I have been listening to KGO for over 30 years even after I left the bay area to live in Alaska. KGO was my only place for open minded discussion and local bay area updated discussion. For the last 3 years I have worked in IRAQ and continued to listen to KGO online to stay in touch with the happenings of the bay area and region where my friends and family are from.
    While Gene Burns has had some health issues recently, he was always a great mind stimulating articulate host. Previously followed by a great debater Bernie Ward and on the weekends we heard great political insight including great history from John Rothman. When John moved into Bernie's spot it was a great fit for the times we were in during the war and I for one emailed John several times from IRAQ to give him the true facts of what was happening in the war zone compared to what was being reported on the 'NATIONAL' radio networks. John would read my comments right then on the air and send me positive comments back and it was refreshing to see technology be able to immediately provide feedback from half way around the world in an instant.
    The only good about the change for me is that I was able to find this blog and know that the Lion on the Left will be back someday. There will be redemption by listeners.
    I am still in IRAQ and contrary to what you hear in the media about all the troops being home before the end of the 2011 year, this is purely an Obama campaign promise only. We are still here and still getting incomming rocket fire although we are not allowed to shoot back and defend ourselves. And the bay area will no longer hear anything about 'the forgotten war' since there is nobody at KGO to get the real information out there anymore.
    Look forward to hearing you on the air again someday.
    Have bookmarked this site for future updates.

  32. 9:58 is confused in many respects...refers to a smarmy jewish guy who comes on at seven? Who? huh? I do , however hope he's right about Bernie back at a microphone ...again...the sooner the better.

  33. Thanks Bernie,you called it again!

  34. Mark: why is Bernie's opinion not valid? It has been alleged that Rush Limbaugh brought a large amount of Viagra with him to the Dominican Republic when he was on vacation there, and that he also abused prescription drugs. Even if it were confirmed true, would that render all of Rush's opinions invalid? Should George W. Bush be permanently demonized for his alcoholism, alleged drug abuse and convicted drunk driving in the 1970's?

    Isn't it possible that Bernie may have actually been doing research for a book, and let morbid curiosity get the better of him? Of course, that wouldn't excuse it; only justice officials and law enforcement officers are allowed to look at such material, and then under specific, limited regulations.

    The stuff you say about Godtalk is hearsay...even if it did happen, there has been much raunchier stuff that has allegedly happened at the Howard Stern show, has there not. If Bernie does his time and shows credible remorse for his offenses, then why shouldn't he be given a second chance. People can and do change, you know.

  35. Because I choose to be merciful on this sick person I will not post the details regarding his case.

    I have yet to hear anything from Bernie other than a shallow apology. Now he returns to the same liberal view point that fosters his own perversion. Before he starts condemning KGO I want to know what he is doing to heal his truly sick nature?

    After listening to many hours of Bernie's rants on KGO I believe he thinks his brand of sickness is OK.

  36. Looks like Dr. Bill may have jumped to KSCO a little too fast, according to the news flash on the Liberman 415 blog, Mickey Luckoff may be trying to put something together with some of the former KGO hosts!If this happens it would be the best news since this whole debacle began these last two weeks. My only regret is that Bernie isn't a part of it for now.

    And Mark, get a life and take a nap as Jim Eason used to say to callers!

  37. Mark thinks he's merciful person...yet freely judges people and thinks he is sure of what he knows..when he knows naught.

  38. Alex

    what was the point of the jew hate comment?

  39. Nice to see Uncle Bernie stirring the pot once again in these comments. Spread the word that Bernie is back (and has been for some time via this blog thanks to his devoted blog editors), and continues to make people like Mark come back for Continuing Education.

  40. Can Bernie's assistant (son? daughter? wife?) PLEASE learn to break his monologues into paragraphs!!?? Thank you!! It would make this much, much easier to read.

    So Bubba (Bill Clinton) sold both KGO and the SF Examiner down the tubes. What irony. Where did the money that he got, go... to the Clinton Library? or for his re-election?

  41. Dear Bernie,

    You know what's so impressive about your recent posts? It's how much you still care about KGO, just as we listeners do.

    I remember so many times, during earthquakes and assassinations and traumas, when I was comforted knowing I could tune into Bernie Ward on KGO, and talk about it.

    And I did.

    I wish you solace and peace this Christmas. The new year will be better.


  42. Grace Unto You And Peace,
    Mr Bernie,

    To feel sad over the death of a friend is understandable. We, the listners of KGO as well as the former listeners of KGO, lament the passage into silence or our friend-broadcasters.

    When we are through the experience we might just be that angry and motivated to organize.

    But for what purpose? Occupy KGO on Front Street in San Francisco? The breaking of knee caps and the banging of heads would simply lead to the occupation of San Francisco jail.

    On the other hand what is in the air? KPOO was created out of thin air. Could another station similar to Poor Peoples Radio be created again? Today?

    And could such a radio station be structured in such a way that it duplicates the varied interests which followed it before the "Revelation?"

    A station, here in Sonoma has done "odd" things. KSVY is a local outlet, a radio station which "streams" radio programs online?

    Are you following me? Innovate! Take the givens and start, not from scratch, but from the community of interests which already exists and might "Rage, Rage against the dying of the light?"

    See: >> << and put your favorite KGO host in Ken Brown's place?

    Can such a thing be done?



    Agape, kiitos, shalom, xie xie, salaam ja namaste,

    Don as "Tauno"

  43. any more news on the Micky Luckoff getting something together...IS HE BUYING 910? ;)

  44. Still missing you after all these years.
    I have silenced KGO on my radio
    After 19+ years of constant and loyal listening.
    I'm thankful for NPR.

  45. I've listened to KGO since Ira Blue. My radio is silent now. A sad situation.

  46. KGO is silent in my home. I started listening to KGO as a child on my crystal radio at night. I remember Ira Blue and many others over the years. Now I listen to talk radio via the internet. I purchased an internet radio, added a FM transmitter and now I have excellent talk radio from KPOJ, Portland, Oregon 24/7. Using the FM transmitter,I have access to on air radio of my choice inside and outside my home. Too bad about KGO going down.

    Jay Peterson