Thursday, May 28, 2009

KKHJ to KHJ

The FCC no longer grants 3 character call letters, or that's the general rule. It's supposed to be a firm rule, but like all things in radio there always seems to be an exception. Stations make all sorts of cockamamie arguments to acquire them, but KKHJ is the present champion. On March 15th, of 2005 KKHJ became KHJ, again. It was a magical moment but let's rewind to the last time they were KHJ and then follow the ouroboros back to 2005.

In 1922 KHJ took to the airwaves for the first time; it's calls issued from the Department of Commerce as there was yet no FCC or FRC. They operated on 760 kHz, and were owned by the Los Angeles times Newspaper. It was an early CBS affiliate, but CBS dropped them infavor of the bigger stick at KNX-AM in 1931. the station was sold to Don Lee who brought it into the Mutual Broadcasting Network. In 1941 under his ownership they increased their wattage with a move to 930 AM. Don sold out his whole chain to RKO General in 1949

In 1965 KHJ got a complete make-over from ham-fisted top-40 consultant Bill Drake. KHJ became known as Boss Radio. (I'll slander Drake another day) This was the stations golden era. There must be a dozen websites commemorating the DJs and branding of this time in the stations life. PD Ron Jacobs brought in good talent and the ratings killed.

But no good thing can go untarnished in radio. KHJ owner RKO General was in deep doo-doo with the FCC for "unethical conduct" at some of it's stations notably KHJ-TV. At the same time FM was on the rise and KHJ was losing it's grip on the ratings book. In 1980 they tried at country music which floundered. they tried being the "Boss" again in 1984 with an oldies format but the magic was gone. In 1986 they gathered up some classic DJs and bid the station bon voyage as the call letters were changed to KRTH, but still playing oldies. RKO was still in the hot seat though. After the FCC took away a TV outlet in Boston in 1989, RKO bailed out and sold KHJ (then KRTH) to Beasley Broadcasting. Beasley flipped it like cheap realestate and sold it to Liberman Broadcasting.

Liberman changed it to a spanish formatted station and changed the calls to KKHJ reusing some of the classic brand. But KKHJ isn't the same as KHJ. A 3-letter call is a rare thing, Somthign the FCC hadn't issued since the 1930s. PD Alfredo Rodriguez and chief engineer Jerry Lewine really wanted to get back to those classic calls from 1922. So they hatched a plan.

For the record, I want to point out that they didnt' lie. They just got creative. They told the FCC that they spanish pronunciation of K-K-H-J was an expletive. English and Spanish share an alphabet, but our names for the letters are slightly different. In Spanish it's pronounced as follows "chey chey hache jota." Alfredo told them that it's "cah cah hache jota" He told them that caca is an expletive in spanish.. which is also a bit dubious. "Caca" is akin to the word "poop". "Mierda" is more akin to the expletive "shit." [FYI: the more formal "excrementos" means "feces" or "excrament".] None-the-less the FCC bought it. On March 15, 2000 they dropped that first "K" and became KHJ for the first time in 14 years. Today that station is known not as the Boss but as "La Ranchera."