Media blogger Rich Lieberman was the first to report the shakeup at KGO 810. We earlier incorrectly said that Matier & Ross had the scoop. Rich has been following the story closely, getting a lot of reports from insiders. If you haven’t been to his blog, here’s a link.

He reports that Rector Porshe Audi, Airport Home Appliance, Just Remnants, Burgermeister and C Crane Radio have pulled their spots.

As for the mood at 900 Front St., Lieberman quotes on anonymous employee as saying:

    “It’s been really bad. And unfortunate. They should have scheduled practice runs. There’s lots of angry e-mails. And the number of listeners calling the station to protest the format switch has overwhelmed the newsroom phone system. There have been threats too.”

In addition to firing Gil Gross, Gene Burns, John Rothmann and Ray Taliferro, two other popular hosts were shown the door — Sonoma attorney Len Tillem (“How come you’re cawlin’ a loy-yuh?”) and nuclear physicist and conservative Bill Wattenburg. Also fired was weatherman Lloyd Lindsay Young, replaced by ABC7 weather staffers.

Len Tillem.

Hosts who survived, in addition to the well-paid Ronn Owens (rumored to be making $1 million a year), were Pat Thurston, Karel and Brian Copeland.

Owens is on vacation in Hawaii this week and next week, and Copeland is filling in. Owens said his vacation was approved by management long before the shakeup, but for listeners tuning in between 9 and noon, it gives the impression that he was swept out the door, too.

Wattenburg, who has been on KGO since 1972, told blogger Ed Walsh that he was fired during a three-minute phone call. He said he viewed the switch to all-news in the afternoons as a mistake but he wished them luck.

Bill Wattenburg.
    “There are other stations that want to enter the talk radio business in the Bay Area and West Coast … Killing KGO talk radio will make it much easier for new stations to build up instant audience very quickly. The hosts fired from KGO take with them a combined audience 10 times greater that any new talk radio station could hope to create in several years if they start with unknowns in the business. Surely, the new stations will have places for those released from KGO. And they will profit very nicely with no start up delays. Many of the talk radio sponsors want some place to go.”

Lieberman reports that shortly after Atlanta-based Cumulus Media acquired KGO in September, CEO Lew Dickey told Wattenberg that he had listened to him since Dickey was at Stanford, and that he wasn’t going anywhere.

Another casualty of the KGO shakeup is the ABC hourly news during daytime hours. Apparently the network on-the-hour newscasts will still air on weekends and overnight.

Meanwhile, KGO has moved the ABC Radio top- and bottom-of-the-hour news to :15 and :45 during daytime hours, and is promoting the fact that they now carry 10 minutes of Bay Area news at the top of the hour.

(Photo credits: Wattenburg shot by Michael Maloney of the Chronicle; Tillem from the JWeekly; Dickey from the Cumulus Media website.)

Bay Area Media News


  1. KGO has essentially committed ratings suicide. Their previous talk show format was unique, not just here in the SF bay area but across the country.

    Whatever strange reasoning went into such a drastic format change is beyond me, but virtually everyone I know has either switched to 910 AM (which is where most of the former KGO hosts are now), or simply don't listen to radio at all.

    Somewhere in the future the new owners of the station are going to catch on . . . maybe.

    Meanwhile, KGO is simply fading away in irrelevancy.

    R.I.P. KGO

  2. It's been two months since the change at kgo
    Happy to say I have not listened since . I have found that if I want a news only station, KCBS is really good. Bye bye KGO

  3. To the anonymous poster who claims "most stations lose advertisers this time of year." Really? The station's I've been at sell out at this time of year, and have no inventory. Yeah, sales drops off in January, but not December. (Cumulus execs should identify themselves as such.)

  4. Mad as hell.

    Why does everything of intelligent value get ruined in this crappy world anymore?


    My bio-intellect is outraged!!! Bring back the talk and its talkers.

  5. Using him as a source sure is sketchy. Ask around. Most stations lose advertisers this time of year. It's the end of the year. Ad buys are done and pick up again after the 1st. Happens to everybody every year.

  6. I have listened on and off since I was a high school kid (early '70's) and consistently for the past 30+ years. It's been the #1 button on all my radios, but no more. What a shame that we're all being treated as shabbily as all the folks who lost their jobs. The once mighty KGO has fallen. I'm afraid from here on out its centrally controlled pablum, no thanks to Cumulus. I do feel sorry for Mr.Raw no-ones. I'll bet he won't last a year. Lets all just boycott all Cumulus stations. It all pretty much the same crap in a slightly different wrapper. Maybe that will get the attention of monopoly radio.

  7. It's not KGO AM anymore.

    They should change the Call Letters, too. Perhaps to KAIO, pronounced "Kay Ay Ten", a play on their frequency.

  8. Thanks for the coverage. The ABC Newscasts are airing at the side of the hour, rather than the top — around :15 past.

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