SD Rostra

Hedgecock out at KOGO, in at KFMB, replacing Roberts?

This from Jimmy Valentine, radio host Roger Hedgecock’s former producer, with permission to post in full on Rostra…

(rumor has it)

It appears that Roger Hedgecock’s run at KOGO is over. Info we get is that Hedgecock’s ad endorsement clients have been notified that he will depart KOGO in January (unless taken off the air sooner?) and re-surface at KFMB. Word further that Rick Roberts will be gone at KFMB opening the 3p-6p slot for Hedgecock.

Hedgecock has been a fixture at KOGO (formerly KSDO) since 1985 when he was forced to resign as Mayor of San Diego. Radio legend Jim Price ran KSDO at the time and wisely decided that Hedgecock needed a job, that public interest in Hedgecock and his scandal at city hall was a commodity and hired Hedgecock to do a radio talk show. It was a very creative decision by Jim Price, one that gave Hedgecock a new lease on life both professionally and financially. He has done well.

As memories dim Hedgecock is viewed less as a defrocked former Mayor and more as a stalwart conservative talk show host who at times has had great influence on the radio industry and his audience.

Details of Hedgecock’s departure from KOGO are still sketchy. He has always been a difficult and demanding employee and has scuffled with management since the departure of Jim Price many years ago. His salvation has been his generally good audience ratings and his ability to lure advertisers who buy radio time and pay him for his product endorsements.

Complicating a clear picture of events is Hedgecock’s nationally syndicated radio show which he launched in January 2009 under the banner of the Radio America Network. My understanding of that deal is that he left the payroll at KOGO and was compensated by Radio America (to the tune of about $300-Thousand a year). KOGO provided radio studios for his national broadcast and cleared his national show to air in the San Diego market. While Hedgecock was required to focus on national topics by his syndicator KOGO continued to sell spots with Roger’s endorsement for air in the San Diego market. Hedgecock thus supplemented his wage with lucrative endorsement fees paid by local advertisers. The radio station benefited as well.

What prompted a departure from KOGO? Not sure, but details will surely surface shortly. If KOGO was not on the hook for Hedgecock’s wage and he is paid by Radio America then there would seem to be no financial incentive for KOGO to boot Hedgecock?

Ratings however do matter and it may well be that ratings for his national show in the San Diego market were not good given that his topics and opinions almost exclusively mirror those of Rush Limbaugh and Shaun Hannity (and others) who air before 3pm. By the time a listener gets to Hedgecock at 3p most of the news cycle conservative topics have been hashed and re-hashed. Add to that the fact that Hedgecock’s basic appeal in this market has been his focus and impact on local issues. Over the years (I was his producer for 15 years) we defended the Boy Scouts of America at Balboa Park, fought successfully to keep The Cross on Mt. Soledad, supported charter school education, led the fight to defend traditional marriage in California, labored to secure our local border with Mexico and support our Border Patrol, spearheaded the ouster of former Governor Gray Davis and more.

Hedgecock’s rejection of localism likely diminished his attractiveness to San Diego listeners.

A plausible scenario for the station switch….his national show is in trouble? His syndication has been third tier at best. I often joke that he is carried in places like Lonesome Nut, Oklahoma and Parched Butt, Arkansas but the truth is his show failed to crack top markets and he remains little quoted or noted by national media. He is not Glenn Beck or Mark Levin and shows no signs of carving a unique place on the national stage. If his syndicated show is in trouble then it makes great sense for Hedgecock to seek to return to the local airwaves with an exclusively local show.

I speculate but it’s fun….if Hedgecock were to approach KOGO (read Clear Channel) about the prospects of a local show and CC paying him and his staff once more, the response likely to be lukewarm, tepid or downright chilly. Clear Channel is in process of throwing out employees by the score all across the nation. KOGO has been downsized to the point that local newscasts are being anchored out of KFI in Los Angeles and the news department is reliant on listeners rather than professional reporters for coverage of news. ( see SDG&E blackout ) Add to that Hedgecock’s temperament as a permanently disgruntled employee and you have nearly legal grounds for divorce.

As for KFMB? Rick Roberts has been in the bulls eye there for a while now. Word I get is that he was not happy with his forced move from AM drive to the 3pm slot. ( He was replaced by Mike Slater ) His longtime producer was ousted and there is speculation his own wage was reduced? For a while he took to doing his radio show out of his home in Oklahoma. Still he remains a strong lure for personal advertising endorsements. I don’t know what Rick Roberts audience ratings look like today but according to Wikipedia his numbers for 2009 were very good (they quote an LA Times article). But all has not been well between KFMB and Rick Roberts for some time.

KFMB has long been an “out card,” for Hedgecock. We used KFMB several years ago to upscale a new contract with KOGO. During negotiations we met with KFMB and worked out a deal to do a radio show and also appear on their sister TV station. We then used that potential deal to seal a deal with KOGO. A similar scenario possible today? Given Clear Channel’s current challenges KOGO may not have been able to meet a better deal.  Or perhaps had no such interest?

So what next? KOGO puts Jon & Ken into the 3pm slot? This duo already deals with state and regional topics and could easily modify format to include items of interest to San Diego. This plan would also fit the Clear Channel model of clustering programming. Just a guess.

Hate to end by saying “only time will tell,” but that would be the case. We’ll learn more in the days to come….(keep an eye on…if anyone can ferret this out it will be Chris Carmichael) ….but it is significant in the history of local broadcasting that the Hedgecock era at KOGO is over, if rumor is correct.

Were I to make a wish it would be that Hedgecock returns to his local roots with KFMB. On balance he has been a force for good in the local community and long provided a place for the community to gather daily and often to organize and act in the manner of responsible citizens with common interests. Given the near total destruction of local radio programming across America….Having Hedgecock back local would be refreshing…but given my luck…his syndicated show will continue and so will  his parroting of top tier talkers. Say it ain’t so.


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