Hammer Time

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"There's this transition from southbound 225 to southbound I-25 where people want to get off at Belleview, which is the first exit," he says. "So they have to cut across five lanes of traffic to do that. And because they've never outlawed that, never put a solid white line forbidding you from doing that, there's a lot of accidents there -- and no one's saying anything about it. No one but me."

October 4 brought an event that will likely reverberate through Denver radio for years: Clear Channel, the San Antonio, Texas-based owner of eight local stations, announced its purchase of AMFM, a Dallas conglomerate that owns six area signals. Company spokesmen estimate that the $23.5 billion deal may not be finalized until the last half of next year, and for good reason: According to FCC regulations, companies can own only eight broadcast outlets per market. As a result, the operation will have to unload approximately 125 stations, including six properties in Denver.

What that means to you, the radio listener, is utter confusion. Clear Channel vice president Lee Larsen told several local media outlets that the six AMFM stations would probably be sold as a block. But in an interview with Westword, fellow Clear Channel veep Don Howe said that although a half-dozen of the properties will likely be packaged for sale, it's far too early to speculate about which ones -- and since several AMFM outlets get better ratings and make more money than the weakest Clear Channel stations, mixing and matching makes sense. Knowledgeable observers see KTCL, KIMN, K-High, the Peak, KTLK and the much-set-upon KVOD as the likeliest signals to be peddled. Other outlets could wind up hopping around the dial willy-nilly. For instance, the successful Jammin' Oldies 92.5 might be shifted to a more powerful frequency (KIMN's, perhaps). And there's also the possibility that Clear Channel (as the combined entity will be called) might sell or trade multiple properties to a big player that's not in the market yet, such as CBS/ Infinity, owner of Howard Stern's show. In other words, here comes the new corporation, same as the old corporation.

Suddenly out of the picture locally is Bob Visotcky, who's overseen Denver's AMFM properties since late last year ("The Man You Love to Hate," August 26); on October 4, he took over as senior vice president and cluster manager in Los Angeles. Like Denver, L.A. was heavily impacted by the big sale -- AMFM and Clear Channel have a combined thirteen stations there -- and Visotcky admits to finding out about it only the evening before the news went public. Nonetheless, he predicts swift action on divestiture: "It's going to take nine months for the merger to happen, but the company will have to act fast to get the numbers straightened out. I'm only speculating, but I'll bet most of it will be done in the next two or three months." He's already assembling an assessment of the Denver market for Clear Channel bigwigs. The Peak, he insists, is on the right track, even though a recent revenue summary shows it bringing in around half the cash it was at this time last year; he also says that the Alice morning program, which he had previously praised in these pages, needed the shaking-up it got several weeks back when two longtimers were replaced by Partridge Family survivor Danny Bonaduce; and he scoffs at critics who imply that he was run out of town. "This is a big promotion, from a market that bills $42 million a year to one that bills $200 million," he declares. "So saying that is hilarious. But I don't care about any of that crap. I just care about what the people I work with think. And they obviously think I did a great job."

Finally, the move of Dave Otto from the Fan to Jammin' Oldies 92.5 predicted here two weeks back has come to pass. The number of callers to his October 4 debut who welcomed him back to the area (he was a big Denver ratings-getter back in the Eighties) was an indication of just how few people heard him doing drive time since last year on the Fan, which replaced Otto with intelligent but long-winded veteran yakker Sandy Clough. (Considering that Clough flopped in this slot prior to Otto's arrival, the move is probably a temporary, stopgap one.) As for Craig Carton, Otto's panties-sniffing partner at the Fan, he's been hired to work mornings at hard-rocking KBPI starting October 11 alongside dimunitive sports updater Mark Stout -- meaning that conversation about Godsmack and Creed is apt to play second fiddle to more pissing and moaning about the Broncos. What metalhead wouldn't love to pump his fist to that?

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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