Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
When we took a few days off in southern California at the end of March, the timing was no accident: there were big changes afoot on the region’s broadcast landscape, and amidst some very enjoyable non-radio tourism, we took full advantage of the chance to see some of those transitions in progress.
We knew, for instance, that it would be our last chance ever to get pictures of what was once one of the showplaces of Los Angeles broadcasting, the studio/transmitter complex that was formerly home to KABC (790) and sister station KLOS (95.5). We’d made a final visit inside the complex in 2016 (you can see it here), and by the time early 2017 rolled around the KABC towers were gone, the AM signal was diplexed down the road with KWKW (1330) and the studios had recently moved over to a new location near downtown Culver City.
Nature takes over fast in southern California, and by the time we pulled up at the locked gates on La Cienega Blvd. one morning, the parking lot was already sprouting weeds, the landscaping was overgrown and most of the signage was gone from the building, if not yet from the big roadside sign. You’d never know there had been two towers here, either. And now you’d never know KABC and KLOS had been here at all; since we took these pictures, the building has been razed and the property is now getting ready to be redeveloped into a dense new commercial-residential mixture just steps from the LA Metro.
We didn’t get a chance to see inside the new home of KABC/KLOS, in the former Westwood One facility on Lindblade Avenue, a little dead-end street just south of downtown Culver City, so we’ll have to go see that on our next visit.
The more immediate change was happening 90 miles to the south along the Mexican border, where March 31 marked the last day for U.S.-based operations of XETV (Channel 6), the longtime TV “border blaster” that had served the English-language audience in San Diego from Tijuana since 1953.
XETV lost its Fox affiliation to Tribune’s KSWB (Channel 69/cable 5) a few years back, and the impending loss of its CW affiliation (as “CW6”) was the final straw for the station’s U.S.-based operator, Bay City Television.
We got just a quick peek inside XETV’s Kearney Mesa studio on the last day, when things were moving very quickly; a crane was already perched outside the studio building to remove the “CW6” signage as soon as the last newscast aired. (You can see our detailed look inside this facility, and the Mexican transmitter site, too, in this archived Site of the Week installment from 2009.)
Just a block away from XETV’s shutdown, things were hopping at San Diego’s CBS affiliate, KFMB-TV (Channel 8), which was getting ready to pick up the CW affiliation on its 8.2 subchannel. (The actual move of CW happened in June, at which point Bay City shut down even the minimal operation in Kearney Mesa that was keeping the CW programming going on autopilot; XETV now carries Spanish-language programming from Mexico City and is gone from U.S. cable systems.)
We’d visited the radio side of KFMB a few years back, but hadn’t had a chance to see the TV operation, located toward the back of the building that the KFMB stations built here on Engineer Road in the 1970s when they moved from their old Ash Street location downtown.
The sleek studio news set wraps around in nearly a full circle; down the hall, the newsroom was getting ready to add a 10 PM newscast once CW arrived on 8.2. The control rooms here, just off the front lobby, are impressive as well, especially the production control room that’s almost as spacious as some of the network control rooms we’ve been in lately.
And just down the street from the world-famous San Diego Zoo, our final broadcast stop of the trip was a visit to the city’s jazz station, KSDS (88.3), operating out of a compact row of studios in a campus office building right on the edge of downtown at San Diego City College.
Our good friend Scottie Rice is engineering here these days, and he’s been busy installing new Wheatstone consoles and processing. As for his transmitter site? We’ll save that for a future San Diego trip – and there’s always a good reason to visit America’s Finest City.
Thanks to KFMB’s Jeff Latimer and KSDS’ Scottie Rice for the tours!
The Fybush Media podcast is back – for real! Listen to our latest episode right here!
Season two of “Top of the Tower” offered you several preview editions during the NAB Show last month in Las Vegas – and now we’re (finally!) back to regular weekly editions. Join host Scott Fybush and a wide variety of industry insiders every Wednesday for interesting conversation about what’s happening in the business of radio and TV, not to mention programming, engineering and the newsroom.
Find “Top of the Tower” on all your favorite podcast platforms or right here at fybush.com – and check out our Season 1 Archives, too!
And don’t miss a big batch of southern California IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Central New Jersey