KNEW to KJRB What price an AM Call Sign?

KNEW KJRBThe Pacific Northwest saw a fairly major rock radio change in 1966. It nearly went unnoticed by many Puget Sounders. But it upset a lot of folks east of the mountains — particularly in the Spokane area. That was the year long-time Inland Empire rocker KNEW 790 took on a new name. It became KJRB because of some things that happened in California…….and Seattle. Metromedia Broadcasting had bought out long-time Bay Area rocker KEWB. The new owners wanted a call-letter change that would match their big property on the east coast — WNEW in New York. So Danny Kaye-Lester Smith Enterprises, had to make a decision. The deal was soon cut and Smith left it to Pat O’Day (and KJR morning drive guy Lan Roberts) to make it fly in Spokane.
Here’s audio of the on-air announcement, followed by O’Day and Roberts resorting to some on-air theatrics to persuade Spokane listeners to accept the change.

There was some second-guessing that Les Smith had made a mistake. After all, wasn’t KNEW a key piece of the Seattle-Portland-Spokane Radio corporate identity? Wouldn’t there be some confused, or even lost, listeners from the name change? Actually the KNEW-KJRB change was turned into a positive. Just as Metromedia put a near duplicate call-sign on both national coasts, Kaye-Smith, certainly with Pat O’Day’s help, stamped the company’s flagship station brand (KJR) on both sides of Washington state. And look at the long-list of budding on-air talent that came up through the KJRB-KJR “system.” And as for KJRB’s standing with the Spokane market? It did just fine — in fact — better than fine, thank you.
So, what price for an AM call sign? In the case of the KNEW-KJRB switch — just $75,000 cash, in exchange for enduring long-term business benefits… attested by history.

Author: Ronald DeHart

Ron DeHart is a former newspaper and broadcast journalist and a retired Public Affairs Officer from both the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Navy/Naval Reserve. His historical accounts of Pacific Northwest broadcasting are published by Puget Sound Media. View more articles by Ron DeHart  

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