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(PROGRAMMING) KCBS -- Flawless Execution


KCBS has been the consistent news leader in the Bay Area with a virtual monopoly on the format for the better part of three decades. While other stations have dabbled in going to more news, KCBS has remained number one and has established itself as the go-to radio outlet when news breaks in the nation's number four market. There's a reason for that, according to Doug Harvill, Senior VP/Market Mgr for CBS Radio/SF.
"We've kept and enhanced our commitment to be a 'live and local' news operation, 24/7/365.", said Harvill, who maintains a strong 50,000-watt outlet with a reputation of very little turnover, both on and off the air. Its morning drive duo, (veteran newsman, Stan Bunger, and co-anchor, Susan Leigh Taylor), have a stauch listener following; same thing in the afternoon with Jeff Bell and Patti Reising. Consistency helps -- it's the reason that KCBS has been able to not only succeed, but remain vibrant, market-driven, and immensely profitable.
Harvill attributes a lot of that status to help from corporate in New York. "Les Moonves, (CBS Pres.) and Dan Mason, (Pres/CEO CBS Radio), believe in distributing our news product on as many platforms as possible. And, as a result, it's a profitable business model that allows us to remain live, local, and relevant."
And the low staff turnover speaks volumes for the way the station operates internally. In fact, it's common knowledge in the local industry that because of its tendency to keep its people over the long-term, KCBS has had to turn down several top-notch air talents simply because there's so few openings. Resumes flood the personnel office to this day. "Consistency of staff is key -- our audience has been listening to our stable of reporters and anchors for years," offered Harvill, who himself is a veteran exec at the prestigious Bay Area news radio outlet.
With KGO Radio, (the Cumulus-owned former news/talk station) now going to virtually all-news, (except on the weekend), and KQED-FM, (the SF PBS Radio affiliate), stirring up the competition, KCBS, for the most part, has been able to weather the storm. Its news content presentation is nothing out of this world which happens to be its best attribute. News blocks are dominated by the meat-and-potato, garden-variety allotment to listeners: news and interviews, heavy-duty emphasis on traffic in the car-glutton SF Bay Area, and the obligatory sports report every ":15 and :45" on "All-News 740." KCBS is helped out immeasurably by having an FM, (106.9) station which simulcasts its AM station. It's an asset that no other station in the market possesses and is a major contributor to KCBS' overall dominance in the news radio business.
"They have good people over there", offered an industry wag. "Most of what they do, seems to stick. Furthermore, they don't aim to be glitzy -- that's not their brand and they want no part of it. They've always tried to convey the message to listeners that no matter what time of the day, 'tune it to KCBS and you'll get comprehensive, quality and, yes, consistent coverage'."

Rich Lieberman is a veteran SF Bay Area news blogger covering radio and TV since 2001.His media blog, "415 Media" ( is the #1-read industry sheet in SF.

(10/5/2012 1:29:32 AM)
KCBS doesn't irritate. And there is something to be said for that. They are never obnoxious, yet not sonorous nor stuffy. It is serious without melodrama. Content, and as you wrote, consistency rule.

As you so clearly point out the distinction between KCBS, the one stakes horse in San Francisco radio and the rest of the pack, a collection of fair-circuit claimers, clamoring for recognition like the Budweiser Frogs.

Thanks for the perspective.

- Ernie Nackord

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