| LA's Newest Radio Station
By DARRELL SATZMAN,
L.A. Business Journal, 11.26.03
The call letters of the newest radio station in Los Angeles,
KHTS-AM (1220), dont stand for hits. Theyre short
for "Home Town Station." Last month, for the second
time in little more than decade, Carl Goldman launched the
low-watt community station, rushing on the air ahead of schedule
to provide Santa Clarita residents with updates on the wildfires.
The launch marks a return for the longtime L.A. radio executive
who sold the station, then known as KBET-AM, to Clear Channel
Communications Inc. in 1998. He and his wife bought it back
earlier this year when the broadcasting giant sought to get
out. Goldman, whose father was a radio executive, got his
start at FM station K100 while he was a graduate student at
USC, working with legends like The Real Don Steele and Robert
W. Morgan. Hes taking a different tack at KHTS, favoring
a mix of local news, weather, high school football and shows
like "Coffee With the Mayor."
Question: Isnt it a bit of an anachronism running
a community radio station in Los Angeles?
Answer: One of the jokes in the business is everyone says,
"my market is unique." The reality is most are not
unique, theyre pretty much the same. You have a set
of rules for major market stations, and you have a set of
rules for suburban stations, a set of rules for your smaller
markets and a set of rules for what we call your East Jesus
Arkansas stations. And those apply everywhere. We are applying
the rules of an East Jesus Arkansas station in the heart of
metro Los Angeles, the No. 1 radio market in the country.
Q: What kind of programming do you offer?
A: Its what we call a full-service radio station. In
the morning and afternoon its a mixture of news, traffic
and weather and special features like high school sports or
a quick financial tip. Weve added the Los Angeles Kings
and were going to do the Dodgers again (available for
free through Westwood One in return for commercial time).
Our goal is to fill the time between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday
Through Friday, to fill all 25 hours with specialty shows
targeted by demographic. Right now, we have Westwood One piped
in with an adult contemporary format (during hours without
Q: Do people want to listen to a 10-year-old talk about
her soccer game?
A: Not for 24 hours, but yeah, people will listen to it. Its
just like the book report segment we do. It goes on for two
or three minutes once a week. Its so cute and so different
that people remember it. If we stopped our programming and
did an hour of book reports, no question we are going to lose
all of our listeners.
Q: Book reports?
A: If we do it three days a week, were taking nine minutes
of our week and weve touched 152 classrooms in a year
times 30 students times all their brothers and sisters and
their parents and all the other teachers in the school. Suddenly
the numbers look pretty interesting. Now if youre sitting
in Los Angeles you cant do that. Its just a little
puddle in the whole sea of listeners. But up here in a given
year we should be able to touch everyone in that fourth, fifth-grade
Q: What are the cash-flow requirements?
A: Well probably be able to operate this thing efficiently
for under $500,000 a year. And when were up and running,
we expect it to be able to earn well over $1 million a year,
although our expenses will increase as well. You can do it
inexpensively, particularly because we are so hands-on. My
wife is playing receptionist and also doing the logs and the
traffic and Im helping empty the trash cans. Tomorrow
Im going to come in with my son and were going
to put up the soundproofing. So a lot of it is a labor of
Q: Youve worked for companies with much wider reach.
Why is this more satisfying for you?
A: Were working for ourselves, which has always been
a desire of mine. And I think I can impact a lot more people
here in this small circle and provide a service and leave
our mark in a much more powerful way. (KHTS reaches an area
extending north to Palmdale and Gorman and south to the San
Fernando Valley. The signal is blocked from the San Fernando
Valley because it would overlap with Pomona talk station KWPA-AM,
which also occupies 1220 on the AM frequency.)
Q: How did you get your start in radio?
A: I needed a way to pay my way through graduate school and
my dads best friend owned K100 at the time. Gene Chenault
and his partner Bill Drake had parted ways with RKO, which
owned KHJ at the time, and they created Boss Radio, which
now is a legend. They reinvented what was yesterdays
Q: What was it like to work around guys who were pioneering
a new radio format?
A: Ive had some incredible mentors to follow. K100 was
right smack there in Hollywood right where radio row was.
There was a one-or-two-mile stretch along Sunset and everybody
was there. And to work with Robert W. Morgan, Don Steele and
BR Bradbury, who was the news director and the one who really
took me under his wing, they were great mentors.
Q: A lot of radio people in Los Angeles regard the 1960s
and 1970s as a sort of golden era.
A: Radio had reinvented itself in the 1960s with Top 40 and
Boss Radio, and of course the music was there to support it
with the Beatles, the Beach Boys and Motown. When I came on
board, FM was a stepchild to AM radio and had not proven itself.
With K100, and in New York WOR-FM, there were two stations
trying to step out and become what we see FM is today.
Q: You bought this station out of bankruptcy in 1990 but
then sold it again. What happened?
A: When the ownership rules changed in 1996, everyone was
looking to expand quickly, and some of the more aggressive
companies like Jacor Communications (now part of Clear Channel)
started gobbling up stations. This station became a real prime
candidate in their strategy because of its proximity to L.A.
and because its the only station in this market.
Q: So they made you an offer you couldnt refuse?
A: At that time, in 1998, a lot of the big boxes were suddenly
coming in. Our advertisers were drying up because for each
Home Depot or Circuit City that came in they were killing
off two or three mom-and-pops.
Q: How much did you sell the station for?
A: Three million dollars.
Q: And Clear Channel couldnt make it work?
A: It worked very well in the Antelope Valley, where they
have five radio stations. Its worked well in Santa Barbara.
It didnt work here, I think, because they were growing
so fast and no attention was being paid to it. A station like
this, as a standalone, needs to be run in a way where there
is more at stake than just reporting down a corporate line.
If you look at the landscape right now, were not the
only ones Clear Channel has peeled off.
Q: And how much did you pay to get it back?
A: Nine hundred thousand dollars.
Q: Sounds like you made out pretty well.
A: Everyone says that, but we sold it when it was a real viable
entity that was making a lot of money and was an incredible
brand in the community. What we purchased was nothing. This
table didnt exist, the computers didnt exist.
Everything that you see in this building didnt exist.
Q: So what makes you think you could return it to profitability?
A: The good mom-and-pops were able to weather the storm and
the weak mom-and-pops disappeared. Even with all those (chain)
businesses, weve seen the other categories explode.
Whether its realtors, mortgage brokers, plumbers, electricians,
CPAs, chiropractors, dentists and on and on, those categories
have gone crazy.
Organization: Jeri Lyn Broadcasting Inc.
Born: Fresno, 1953
Education: Bachelors degree from Hampshire College;
masters degree from USC
Career Turning Points: Being part of the explosion of satellite
radio in 1983 and buying small Santa Clarita station in 1990
Most Admired Person: His wife, Jeri Seratti Goldman
Hobbies: Gardening and skiing
Personal: Married, two sons