Shake-up at Tahoe radio station |

Shake-up at Tahoe radio station

Larry Kay

KTHO-AM 590, a South Lake Tahoe station with a colorful past, will scale down operations including local news by May 15 due to a reported lack of revenue.

Station owner Live Wire Media fired the staff Friday, saying it had decided to go automated and remove local programming for the AM station. The Santa Barbara-based company, which also owns K-MTN television, will maintain some local TV shows including “Monster Mash” and “Simply Food and Wine.” But “Lake Tahoe Today” remains questionable, General Manager Stan Koplowitz said Tuesday.

Local news programming that aired twice an hour on KTHO will be gone, leaving South Shore news editor Larry Kay out of a job. Also, recent news hire Jeff Grice has been laid off along with four others.

With longtime radio consultant Bill Kingman helping with the transition, the station will employ an engineer and office manager for now. Its news will come from an ABC news feed. The musical lineup will stay the same. The station plays songs on a format called “Memories” of the 1960s and 1970s.

On the TV side, one of K-MTN’s two employees is leaving the area, Koplowitz said.

“It’s really from a lack of advertising support. And we have an enormous amount of competition here,” Koplowitz said. He cited a tough business climate in South Lake Tahoe.

“If we get some of our financial situations worked out, we’ll try to bring the programming back,” he said. Losing the staff and local news offering proved difficult, he said.

“We believe it’s a tremendous loss. At the same time, we’re not PBS,” he added. KQED and KTEH announced Monday a merger of the two Public Broadcasting System stations in the Bay Area to cut down on costs.

Curtis Fong, “The Guy From Tahoe” with a long, diversified history on South Shore radio and television, agreed the pulling of local news represents a loss to the community.

“In my opinion, radio is most effective with local news. By eliminating the product, how do you expect to sell the product?” said Fong, who runs a report on KTHO’s competitor, KRLT-FM and KOWL-AM. In 1991, he ran a K-MTN show titled “The Mountain Report.”

Fong used the New Year’s Eve storms as an example of those times when residents and visitors clamor to get quick information on the status of road and weather conditions.

“I just turned in my report and had to go back and do it again because I knew I was wrong. Resorts were not opening. We had mudslides, and the power was out,” he said.

KTHO has a somewhat topsy-turvey history. Its former owner, Tom Gillinwater of Paradise Broadcasting, fought with his program manager, Chris Kidd, in a legal dispute over the Federal Communications Commission license of the station five years ago when it was located in the Bijou center. The station went off the air for about a year. At one point, the Huntington Beach station operator put it up for sale on eBay before Live Wire Media bought it over a year ago.

Koplowitz said ownership of the FCC license is currently under review, but the license has not been suspended. He said the changes at the stations are purely for economic reasons.

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