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UPS, DOWNS OF RADIO DIAL IN SHAKY '96.

Byline: Fred Shuster Daily News Staff Writer

In local radio during 1996, Don Imus debuted on the AM band and caused not a ripple, new rules of ownership shrunk the playing field, and music fans glumly awaited the format flip at album alternative KSCA-FM (101.9).

At the same time, KTWV-FM (94.7) - the Wave - thawed ratings with a fine-tuned smooth-jazz format that offices and stores took to heart.

The Spanish love ballads broadcast by KLVE-FM (107.5) dominated the Los Angeles radio landscape for the entire year, while urban music stations KKBT-FM (92.3) and KPWR-FM (105.9) stayed the course near the top.

With the passage of the Telecommunications Act in February, radio companies could now own eight stations in markets with more than 45 signals. In June, Westinghouse Electric Corp. bought Infinity Broadcasting Corp. for $4.9 billion, creating the largest radio company in the universe, placing Howard Stern under the same corporate umbrella as Mike Wallace and Dan Rather.

KSCA, which supported artists like Joni Mitchell and gave early exposure to Counting Crows and Joan Osborne, went on the block to a chorus of listener groans. A format change is all but certain if the station's sale to the Dallas-based owners of a string of Spanish-language outlets goes through as expected within the next few weeks.

Imus, a fixture on the East Coast who made national headlines when he joked about President Clinton's alleged extramarital affairs and the first lady's financial dealings in the first couple's presence, failed to cause much of a stir after KLAC-AM (570) picked up his syndicated morning talk program.

Dance music suddenly appeared in two places on the dial as KIBB-FM (100.3) and KACD-FM (103.1) battled it out with one eye on the success of New York's WKTU, which shot to No. 1 within three months, a diet of '70s and '80s pelvis shakers on tap.

The ``alternative talk'' format of KLSX-FM (97.1) failed to stimulate ratings points. ``Radio Titanic,'' morning host Stern dubbed the experiment. ``An entire station of Howard Stern imitators.''

To its credit, KLSX did give Kato Kaelin the boot after months of topics like, ``What kind of sandwich would you like to be?''

Influential Burbank new-rocker KROQ-FM (106.7) got some competition from KLYY-FM (107.1) - known as Y-107. The newcomer poked fun at its crosstown rival in billboards and on air.

And the new Museum of Television & Radio in Beverly Hills became a unique resource for fans and professionals alike.

Radio's best and worst of 1996

Best music station: KSCA-FM (101.9) - The album alternative outlet earned extra points for its superb Music Hall series of in-house concerts.

Most imaginative: KROQ-FM (106.7) - Creative director John Frost gives everything from station identifiers to promos and in-house ads a witty, colorful touch.

Most welcome newcomer: KACD-FM (103.1) - Even if Groove Radio seems to spin Chic's ``Good Times'' 75 times a day, it's still great to rediscover Chaka Khan's ``I Feel for You'' and Evelyn ``Champagne'' King's ``Love Come Down.''

Most unique program: ``Gee Dad! It's a Wurlitzer,'' KPCC-FM (89.3) - The world of the theater pipe organ.

Oldies station: KOLA-FM (99.9) - The Redlands-based station's signal only acts up if the weather turns bad.

The ego that devoured L.A.: Dennis Prager, KABC-AM (790) - He's a self-made Mr. Perfect and never lets anyone forget it.

Worst of the worst: Riki Rachtman, KLSX-FM (97.1) - On a station packed with zero talents (aside from morning man Stern), a dribbling Beavis with a Third World command of the English language takes the cake.

Best current affairs: ``Which Way, L.A.?'' KCRW-FM (89.9) - Warren Olney's daily in-depth look at topical issues is always eye-opening and often makes news.

Goofiest format: KYPA-AM (1230) - Personal Achievement Radio broadcasts self-help and motivational messages round the clock.

Most out-there host: Roy Masters, KIEV-AM (870) - His loony recipe for spiritual health must be heard to be believed.

CAPTION(S):

Photo

Photo: Although KLSX-FM (97.1) carries his popular, New York-based show, Howard Stern called the station's all-talk format ``Radio Titanic.''
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Review; L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 1, 1997
Words:680
Previous Article:A DULL, UNINSPIRING POP MUSIC YEAR : THE TONE WAS SET BY THE MACARENA.
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