Saturday, November 10, 2007

KTBC and Lady Bird

I read this fluffy article in Newsweek about Lady Bird the wife of President Lyndon Johnson. It briefly mentioned her ownership of KTBC-AM. I immediately knew there was more to it. The first family can't own a media outlet without at least a little sheisty behavior. The Johnson's purchased Austin radio station KTBC with Lady Bird's inheritance, added a TV station, and were soon quite wealthy. More here.In 1943, the FCC was on the verge of banning broadcast license transfers. Senator Lyndon Johnson flexed his political power to prevent that. It wasnt' the only thing that Washington did to ensure that Lady Bird Johnson could purchased KTBC. That friend is a long list. As a senator Lyndon shook down the FCC to make things happen for the missus.

The station was a daytimer that was boxed in on the dial with poor reception outside Austin. Lady Bird beat out the other bidders and suddenly was granted permission to broadcast 24 hours a day and move to the spacious new frequency of 590 AM. It's coverage wildly improved. Two years later in 1945, the FCC granted permission to quintuple its power. More here.

Johnson pressured advertisers to buy spots and the Johnson's earned thousands of dollars in revenue. Today Emmis own that stick and commemorates the auspicious graft and political clout of the past with the call letters KLBJ-AM as it has since July 15th of 1973. They run a talk format with a number of decent local hosts. The local fox affiliate carries the old KBTC calls and the local classic rocker has an attachment to the good old days as KLBJ-FM to commemorate when Texans knew they were actually liberals.