Conservative talk station KTLK-FM startled some listeners last weekend by playing hard rock. Could this herald a format change, especially given that brand-new Personal People Meters show music up and talk down?
“Absolutely not,” says Gregg Swedberg, KTLK’s overlord as local operations manager for Clear Channel Radio. “I would call it screwing around. The truth is, some [hosts] needed the weekend off. We were sitting around thinking what else we would do, and someone said, ‘let’s just play some music.'”
As proof no format change is pending, Swedberg notes KTLK — home of Rush Limbaugh, Jason Lewis, Glenn Beck and Chris Baker — is the number one talk station among 25-to-54-year-olds on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, though, are different stories.
“If we had good ratings on the weekend, we wouldn’t have tried music,” Swedberg acknowledges. “When you don’t have much to lose, you do insane things. The rating system’s different now — you don’t have to spend as much time building your image (for ratings diary recall). You’re just trying to get people to listen.”
As the rare FM talk station, KTLK was well-positioned to experiment with tunes. (Fidelity would suck if WCCO or KSTP tried something similar on the AM band.) While Swedberg says he might re-try the experiment, especially during the summer, weekend hosts such as Sue Jeffers and Ron Rosenbaum have not lost their gigs. (On Saturday, Rosenbaum’s “Holding Court” was moved to sibling station KFAN.)
Swedberg says the move did not save money — music rights might end up costing more than meager host fees — but reaction among the conservative true believers was generally good. “I got a couple of nice emails, though a few were worried the Obama administration had ordered this. But I don’t think President Obama is interested in more Metallica.”