I still occasionally view the San Francisco radio scene, albeit (happily) from afar in Arizona.
This is only a guess, but guesswork seasoned with a generous dollop of experience both on-air and as a programmer in major markets.
I strongly suspect that Cumulus is trying to revive one aspect of old network radio; i.e., one source for virtually all content, with stations used simply as relays. The groundwork is already in position with the abundant syndicated product available. The next step is simply more hours created in-house -- and on-the-cheap. Cumulus has already made the first step with Huckabee, who will be eaten alive by Rush, but still fills many air-hours cheaply. Expect more Cumulus-generated programming, leaving only a handful of locally-originated morning shows (where the local money is made) on big-signal stations in major markets.
The iconic KSFO call letters will likely become extinct soon with that limited signal either filled with the cheapest syndicated product available or a total change of format. They'd likely sell the station if there were buyers for a limited-signal AM that's largely lost its once-large and loyal audience. Some marginal FM will probably eventually apply for the KSFO letters, given their heritage status.
The listener laments that begin with the assumption that "KGO did this" or "KSFO did that" ignore the irrelevance of local management; the shots are called at Cumulus HQ in Atlanta. Since Mickey Luckoff got fed up with Citadel, which preceded Cumulus, and called it quits after an illustrious reign, those stations have had no local management worthy of the name. Hack salespeople peddling ever-cheaper advertising spots held the titles, but with neither the power nor the smarts to do anything worthwhile.
If one regards the situation created by Cumulus in San Francisco as a tragedy, take a look at Washington, D.C., where sister-station WMAL was a market leader for decades. Now its audience is in that radio atings hell, "Too small to measure." The other big-market ABC-owned stations are also largely failures, as well. You probably have more people locked in your bathroom than now listen to KABC in Los Angeles!
I recently had occasion to drive from my home near Tucson to LA. One aspect of road-trips I used to enjoy was hearing local radio, even in small markets, with its variations or eccentricities. If you heard a KGO, KSAN or KSFO, you'd soon realize it was a San Francisco station even if location or call letters weren't mentioned. Ditto for KABC or KMPC in Los Angeles, WGN, WLS or WIND in Chicago, WNEW or WABC in New York, etc. Now it's all the same homogenized ... (pick a tasteless noun).
Scan the dial now and you get the same syndicated shows and music playlists everywhere. I simply turned it off.
I lived and loved it long and well, but .. RIP, radio.
Lee Rodgers, twenty-five year KGO/KSFO talk host
Visit my web page at http://www.radiorodgers.com
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