Monday, August 03, 2015

Koresh is on the Radio

David Koresh, leader of an apocalyptic Christian sect, was dying to be on the radio. We all heard his CNN interview, but his broadcast on KRLD-AM was first. [I first read of this event in a VOX JOX column written by Phillis Stark in an issue of Billboard from March of 1993.] Most of the news media attention happened in the first 72 hours, and the siege lasted for 51 days. But if you look at Waco as the center of a media event and not just it's topic, other stories emerge...

Sunday, February 28th
  • 9:30 AM - Failed ATF assault on Branch Davidian Compound
  • 11:00 AM - FBI is belatedly notified
  • 11:30 AM - Texas Rangers Arrive
  • 4:00 PM - Koresh broadcast over KRLD.  (Repeated 12x).
  • 5:00 PM - Gunfight
  • 8:00 PM - CNN carries live telephone interview with Koresh.
  • 10:00 PM - Koresh talks for about 20 minutes on KRLD
Monday, March 1st
  • 3:00 PM - Koresh promises to exit if his taped message is played nationwide.
  • 6:00 PM - Armored vehicles arrive
  • 6:30 PM - 10 children are released
Tuesday, March 2nd
  • 1:30 AM - Two children are released
  • 8:00 AM - Two adults and two children are released
  • 1:30 PM - Koresh's taped message played on KRLD and the CBN Network
  • 6:00 PM - Koresh states that he is waiting for a sign from God
Let's go back to KRLD. Today KRLD-AM is only a 2.1 share in Dallas today. Back in the 90s they still pulled in double-digit numbers. The station sat on 1080 Mhz for most of it's existence but it didn't get there until 1941. Prior to 1934 it was on 1040, 890, 840 and 650. The 50,000 watt station was chosen by Koresh and the FBI not just for it's ratings book, but also for it's reach. CBN is a christian radio network, but KRLD is a powerhouse commercial talk radio station. At night the signal is clear from Oklahoma City to Austin. Between February 28th and March 1st KRLD aired Koresh's statement 12 times. In exchange for those broadcasts he released children in pairs for several days. You can hear the taped Koresh statement here.

Wednesday, March 3nd
  • 4:30 AM - One child released with puppies
  • 8:00 AM - Two adults and two children are released
Thursday, March 4th
  • 7:30 AM - One child released 
Friday, March 5th
  • 8:30 AM - One child released
You can credit all those saved lives to KRLD. The FBI reached out to the station, and possibly others but KRLD gave away their airtime to a civic cause and historically they get little credit. It's worth nothing that Koresh also agreed to KRLD because of Phillip Arnold. Arnold was from the Reunion Institute of Houston. he was a religious scholar who has been on KRLD and discussed the seven seals. (He also did an interview on the topic over KGBS-AM during the siege.) Some credit also goes to CBN. Some sources claim local affiliate KBBW aired the tape at locally. Billboard claims that CBN aired it on 41 affiliates on the Craig Smith program. Smith had invited Koresh to speak on his program if he would end the ordeal. It was perhaps a poor choice of words.
Before the negotiations degenerated into incoherent preaching and idle threats, there was one last radio event. On March 2nd Koresh had said he was waiting for a message from God. The FBI tried their hardest to give him one. On March 11th, radio personality Paul Harvey happened to describe a comet called the “Guitar Nebula" due to the odd shape of it's wake. The FBI called Paul Harvey and asked him to repeat and expound on the stellar event on his next show. He obliged. In Waco, TX his program was carried on WACO-AM. It was for naught. Almost everyone left in the building was killed by federal agents on April 19th. Harvey didn't admit his involvement until he wrote about it for the Los Angles times on April 26th. You can read a complete timeline here.