In Los Angeles, Classical and Country Radio Stations Switch Places on the Dial

Classic Arts News   In Los Angeles, Classical and Country Radio Stations Switch Places on the Dial
At 6 a.m. yesterday morning, the Los Angeles commercial classical music station KMZT-FM (105.1) — "K-Mozart" — switched its format to country music, bringing the latter genre back to FM radio in the Los Angeles-Orange County market.

The Los Angeles Times reports that KMZT (formerly 105.1 FM) has swapped names and formats with sister station KKGO (formerly 1260 AM)&bnsp;— billed as "Go Country."

The paper quotes owner Saul Levine, president of their parent company, Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters, as saying, "After 18 years of programming classical music, which I love, it's been an agonizing thing, something we haven't done on the spur of the moment. I really hope the classical music audience will be understanding. I sympathize with those who will be upset."

Country fans will certainly be happy, especially as KZLA-FM (93.9), which once billed itself as "America's most listened-to country station," dropped the format last August after 26 years in favor of dance and R&B music, renaming itself KMVN-FM, according to the Times.

"Both the country and the classical music audiences are very passionate. I'm sure there will be great relief and excitement on the country side," as well as disappointment among classical listeners, Jeff Pollack, a prominent radio consultant and chief executive of the Pollack Media Group, told the Times.

Part of the reason KMZT was dropped was due to the desire of advertisers to woo younger listeners; much of the KMZT audience is reportedly in its 60s. The station's revenue had dropped 80% in the last year after losing accounts with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and AT&T.

Pollack told the Times, "Saul has very unselfishly kept this radio station when he could have sold it years ago. I think that, having done his sort of civic duty to keep it alive, it's very difficult, competitively, to have a commercial classical station."

Unusually, Los Angeles has more than one classical music station. Classical fans can still tune to KUSC-FM (91.5) and KCSN-FM (88.5), as well as KMZT on the AM dial. "There were three FM classical stations in this market, and there wasn't one FM country station," Levine told the paper. "We're doing a juggling act, because our history has been to serve orphaned formats."

In any event, some music constituency always seems to lose out. Levine — who has owned the 105.1 frequency since 1958 — changed it from jazz to classical music in January 1990 after longtime classical station KFAC-FM (92.3) dropped the format. At the time the change enraged jazz fans, according to the paper.

Monday's switch returned 105.1 to its original call letters, KKGO; Levine renamed the station KMZT in 2003 in order to brand it as "K-Mozart" as a way of highliting its classical offerings.

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