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Radio: Gene “Bean” Baxter’s decision to leave KROQ: Why it makes sense

Just three weeks ago, I happened to converse via email with Gene “Bean” Baxter, half of KROQ’s (106.7 FM) longtime popular morning team, Kevin and Bean. It was more a friendly exchange than anything, catching up since we had not spoken in a while; one of the things he mentioned was that he tries not to let certain things bother him because that would just fill his head, adding, “I would rather use that space tothink of ways to do better radio.”
So I was shocked to learn he was leaving the show by the end of the year as part of his decision to move with his wife to England.Not that he doesn’t deserve to move on. The on-air pair have been together at KROQ since December 31, 1989 … not a bad run for a team that had never done a morning show before they arrived at KROQ. In fact, they barely worked together at all outside of a brief Saturday Night Party Patrol on KZZP/Phoenix. Other than Party Patrol, they were different shifts.
Well, maybe “together” is not quite the right word. Bean left the KROQ studio and Los Angeles two decades ago and has been broadcasting from a studio in his home, first in Puget Sound, Washington and more recently in New Orleans.
Along the way, they won minor awards, such as being inducted National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2015, as well as major awards such as a Radio Achievement Award — aka a Waggy — given right here. “You mean we won because it’s the only show you listen to?” the team asked about their win at the time. Well, yes, I explained. I honor what I like.
What will happen to KROQ? The show will go on, says partner Kevin Ryder. And what of Bean? Certainly, he could have continued the show from England. My hunch is that after 30 years he wants to try something new. And to start the rumor mill running, does anyone think Kevin and Mark or Kevin and Brian might make a debut? Doubtful, but if it does happen, remember, you read it here first.
AM is Dead
Robert Lee of Radio Ink didn’t mince words: “Walk over to your mirror, look yourself square in the face, and say it out loud, with force and conviction: ‘AM radio is dead.’
“…Believe it, and move on. Don’t look back. Look meaningfully forward.”
In a sense, he is right. But he is wrong when it comes to the reasons. His “solution” is to move all existing AM stations to digital FM and shut down the AM band. But that doesn’t fix what’s actually wrong with AM: programming. AM can succeed when it is programmed correctly. You know, playing a format that potential listeners actually want to hear. Currently finding anything worth tuning into on the entire AM band is virtually impossible, outside of K-SURF (1260 AM, 105.1 HD2).
Put the same ratings-loser formats on digital FM and you’ve just wasted more spectrum.
Long Live AM
Refuting Lee is our own local radio hero, Saul Levine, owner of Go-Country 105.1 FM and K-SURF. Levine explains:
“AM radio is still viable if owners would invest in state-of-the-art AM equipment, modern studios, and outstanding programming. Lazy, stingy AM operators, as well as deregulation, are impacting AM radio in a negative manner. New digital transmitters with HD stereo, new processing, and vibrant programming would turn AM radio around.
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“With all due respects to Mr. Lee, I say his article is ‘Meshshuga.’ I installed a  new state of the art transmitter at K-SURF, new processing, and HD digital technology. It is a joy to operate with a loyal following.
The problem with AM radio today is a negative attitude on the part of owners, a failure to modernize facilities to state of the art, dull and uninteresting programming, and a lazy, cry-baby attitude. HD AM stereo works and it sounds fantastic on KSUR. Over 50 percent of autos now have HD (it works and does not cause interference to other stations).
“Mr. Lee, you are wrong,” concludes Levine. “And all that drama is misguided.”
Read the Lee story and followup comments at Radio Ink, available at  https://radioink.com/2019/03/07/i-repeat-am-radio-is-dead/

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