|Broadcast area||Greater Los Angeles|
|Branding||La Mera Mera 980|
|Format||Classic Regional Mexican|
|Affiliations||Las Vegas Raiders Spanish Radio Network|
Los Angeles FC
First air date
|March 3, 1925|
Call sign meaning
|None, sequentially issued|
|Power||5,000 watts (unlimited)|
Public license information
KFWB (980 AM) is a commercial radio station in Los Angeles, California. It airs a classic Regional Mexican music format. KFWB is owned by Lotus Communications. The station has a colorful history, being the radio voice of Warner Bros. Studios in the early days of broadcasting, and a long-time Group W/CBS radio station from 1966 to 2016. It has kept the same call sign throughout its nearly 100-year history.
KFWB broadcasts with 5,000 watts of power from a non-directional antenna shared with KLAC on North Indiana Avenue near Lincoln Park in Eastside Los Angeles. The studios and offices are on Barham Boulevard, near the Universal City complex.
KFWB first signed on the air March 3, 1925, initially on the frequency of 950 kHz. The station was started by Sam Warner, a co-founder of Warner Bros. The station launched the careers of such stars as Ronald Reagan, Alan Ladd and Bing Crosby during the "Golden Age of Radio." The station was the first to broadcast the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena.
Although theorists believed the call letters stood for its original owner (examples such as "Keep Filming Warner Brothers" and "Four Warner Brothers"), the call sign was sequentially issued by the Department of Commerce, predecessor to the FCC. The station received its call sign just after KFWA in Ogden, Utah, and before KFWC in San Bernardino, both granted in February 1925. Nevertheless, Warner Bros. Cartoons regularly used KFWB as a running gag in its productions.
On February 8, 1937, KFWB opened a new facility on the south end of the Warner Bros. lot. It included six large studios, one of which was a 500-seat theater, and a "multi-manual pipe organ, built especially for broadcasting."
Bedtime for Sniffles, a 1940 Merrie Melodies cartoon produced by Warner Bros. and directed by Chuck Jones, has Sniffles the mouse trying to stay awake for Santa Claus, and a radio announcer signs off for the night identifying the station as KFWB. Another cartoon of the same year, The Timid Toreador, co-directed by Bob Clampett, shows an announcer broadcasting on this station, although the action takes place in Mexico. The 1934 Looney Tunes short Buddy's Bearcats directed by Jack King also contains an announcer broadcasting the station where KFWB was written on a wooden sign and was narrated by a parody of Joe E. Brown. The 1933 Merrie Melodies cartoon for I've Got To Sing A Torch Song released in conjunction with Gold Diggers of 1933 has KFWB written on the microphones in the scenes of the torch singers. KFWB was also written on one of the microphones at the end of 1953's Catty Cornered.
In 1932, a KFWB personality, Al Jarvis, began playing recorded music, a rarity on radio at the time, where music was usually performed live. He called his show "The World's Largest Make Believe Ballroom." In 1946, KFWB brought in two disc jockeys from New York City: Maurice Hart of WNEW, whose morning drive time show Start the Day Right was described as "Words and Music Straight from the Hart," and Martin Block, who shortened Jarvis' title to "The Make-Believe Ballroom." In those days, the DJs selected their own music, from either KFWB's extensive record library or new songs brought to them by "song pluggers." Old and new, vocal and instrumental, were mixed together to the disc jockey's choice.
In 1950, KFWB was sold to its longtime general manager Harry Maizlish. It soon moved its studios off the Warner Bros. lot to join Maizlish's FM station, KFMV (now KTWV), on Hollywood Boulevard.
In 1958, the original "Seven Swingin’ Gentlemen" (a nickname for the DJ staff) turned KFWB into a rock & roll powerhouse in Los Angeles. Under new owners Crowell-Collier Broadcasting, program director Chuck Blore pioneered the Top 40 format on AM 980, calling it Channel 98 Color Radio. KFWB became one of the most listened-to stations in the Southland and a leader in the Top 40 format around the country. The air staff during the glory days included Roger Christian, Bill Ballance, B. Mitchel Reed, Bruce Hayes, Al Jarvis, Joe Yocam, Elliot Field, Ted Quillin and Gene Weed. Hourly updates were delivered by a staff of respected newscasters, including Cleve Herrmann, Charles Arlington, John Babcock, Beach Rogers, Mike Henry, Hal Goodwin, Al Wiman, Bill Angel, J. Paul Huddleston and Jackson King.
In the mid 1960s, KFWB was overtaken by rival KRLA. Then KRLA was put in second place by the launch of "Boss Radio" at KHJ, and this relegated KFWB to the position of the third-place Top 40 music station in the L.A. market.
In 1966, KFWB was purchased by Westinghouse Broadcasting. The previous year, Westinghouse had successfully launched an all-news radio format on WINS in New York City, after that station had been playing Top 40 music. On March 11, 1968, KFWB ended its Top 40 era, and was relaunched as an all-news radio station. The station promoted itself with the slogans "All news, all the time" and "You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world", as first used by WINS, although KFWB's format used a 30-minute news cycle. The 22 minutes referenced the then-average length of a Los Angeles commute. Like WINS and co-owned KYW Philadelphia, KFWB had a running Teletype sound effect in the background during regular newscasts.
Also in Spring 1968, another Los Angeles radio station jumped into the all-news format, KNX, owned by CBS Radio. For the next 27 years, the two stations would be competitors, airing television commercials and sponsoring billboards, in an effort to be L.A.'s top radio news outlet.
In 1995, Westinghouse bought the CBS Corporation, merging the broadcast operations of the two companies, with KFWB coming under the ownership of CBS Radio. For the first several years after their parent companies merged, KFWB and KNX continued to operate separately, as friendly rivals.
In addition to being an all-news station, KFWB also had sports play-by-play contracts. It previously aired Los Angeles Dodgers baseball games and many National Football League games from Westwood One. The NFL broadcasts stopped after the 2007 Pro Bowl, later switching to AM 790 KABC. With that, the slogan "all news, all the time" returned. However, in 2008, the NFL broadcasts returned for a brief period.
Beginning in 2008, KNX and KFWB were jointly branded as "CBSNewsRadioLA." The CBSNewsRadioLA brand was used for simulcasting special programs and for marketing to advertisers. In addition, there were no longer separate field reporters for KNX and KFWB. CBSNewsRadioLA reporters filed stories for both stations.
Also in the 2009 season, KFWB began broadcasting some weekday baseball games of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, although the flagship station remained the Angels-owned KLAA. On August 13, 2009, CBS announced the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers had signed a multi-year broadcast rights pact, with KFWB carrying every Clippers contest.
Over time, KFWB's ratings gradually dropped. A number of factors may have been involved. KFWB is licensed to transmit with 5,000 watts, while KNX is licensed for 50,000 watts. In its final months as an all-news station, KFWB added more news about the movie and television industries, since many people in the Los Angeles market are employed in those fields. But the ratings continued to fall. The station's last all-news broadcast concluded at 1:00am on September 8, 2009. Anchors Jan Stevens and Andi Marshall bid listeners farewell and thanked them for 41 years of support.
On September 8, 2009, the station adopted a news-talk format, limiting the all-news blocks to AM and PM drive times. The station added nationally syndicated shows, including Dave Ramsey, Laura Ingraham, Michael Smerconish and Dr. Laura Schlessinger (who moved from longtime flagship KFI). In 2011, Dr. Laura's show was dropped when she moved from broadcast radio to Sirius XM Satellite Radio. Dave Ramsey shifted to 11am-2pm and the station added motivational speaker Les Brown to its afternoon lineup. Brown left the station in 2012. Ramsey's show was discontinued in 2014. By the summer of 2014, KFWB's weekday line-up included: LA's Morning News with Penny Griego and Phil Hulett; Money 101 with Bob McCormick; "As We See It" with Phil Hulett and friends; LA's Afternoon News with Maggie McKay and Michael Shappee; and The Amani & Eytan Show from NBC Sports Radio.
In the early 2010s, the station was authorized by the FCC to boost its power to 50,000 watts, using a directional antenna involving multiple towers. But the power increase was short-lived. A few years later, new owners returned to KFWB's original 5,000-watt output, so the station could broadcast from a single non-directional antenna and take up less acreage of valuable Los Angeles real estate.
On November 2, 2011, CBS Radio placed KFWB into a trust headed by Diane Sutter, under the name "The KFWB Asset Trust." This was due to CBS Corp.'s ownership limitations after the network bought KCAL-TV in 2002.
On September 22, 2014, KFWB became a CBS Sports Radio Network affiliate, cancelling all news blocks and general interest talk programs. The station began calling itself "The Beast 980."
The Beast 980 featured a live and local morning show, The Home Team, hosted by Bill Plaschke and Jeanne Zelasko. The Beast 980's weekday lineup also featured Jim Rome and Fred Roggin. Sports updates were provided during the day mostly by Sam Farber, Amy Bender and Ted Sobel, with Hall-of-Fame USC Trojans broadcaster Pete Arbogast providing sports updates and as a fill-in host from time to time. The Beast 980 was the flagship radio station of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers and the LA Galaxy soccer team of the MLS. The Beast 980 also carried NFL games, NCAA college football games and NCAA basketball games.
On January 5, 2016, it was reported that KFWB was in the process of being sold to an operator of foreign-language radio stations. A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission stated that the station would be acquired by Principle Broadcasting, a company backed by Mercury Capital Partners, for $15 million. The final price in the contract filed with the FCC was $8 million.
As a result of the sale, the station's sports format was discontinued on March 1, 2016. After one day of continuous airings of a five-minute retrospective of KFWB, the station began carrying the full service South Asian Bollywood music format which also was airing on KKDZ in Seattle and KLOK in San Jose. KFWB called itself "Desi 980". On March 16, 2016, the Los Angeles Clippers entered into a multi-year deal making KLAC the team's new flagship station, removing the games from KFWB.
On October 4, 2016, Lotus Communications agreed to purchase KFWB from Universal Media Access for $11.2 million. The sale was finalized on March 7, 2017. Lotus owns 34 stations in California, Nevada and Arizona, including three in Southern California: Farsi-language KIRN in Simi Valley, ESPN Deportes affiliate KWKW in Los Angeles, and its simulcast partner, KTMZ in Pomona. On October 31, 2016, KFWB switched to a regional Mexican music format as "La Mera Mera 980" (a colloquial expression in Mexican Spanish, meaning, "The Best of the Best"). In 2018, the station was named the official radio station for calling MLS's Los Angeles FC matches.
The original KFWB studios and transmitter location were at the Warner Bros. Studios, which is now KTLA, at 5800 Sunset Boulevard. One of the two original towers still stands prominently out front. Due to RF interference getting into the movie studio's "talkies" sound equipment, the transmitter was moved in 1928 to the roof of the Warner Theater, now the Hollywood Pacific Theatre, at 6423 Hollywood Blvd. Eventually the studios were also moved to the Warner Theater. Those two towers are still standing.
Years later, when KFWB was sold to KFWB Broadcasting Co. (Harry Maizlish), the studios moved to 6419 Hollywood Blvd. (now demolished), and the transmitter moved to a site near La Cienega and Rodeo Blvd., about three blocks south of the KECA/KABC studio/transmitter site. To make way for the construction of a FEDCO membership department store, in July 1958 the transmitter moved to its present location, diplexed with 570 KLAC in East LA. The studios moved in 1977 to 6230 Yucca St., also in Hollywood.
In June 2005, KFWB moved into new studios on Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle Mile district, sharing facilities with Entercom's other L.A. stations, KNX, KTWV and KRTH. Today, the studios and offices are on Barham Boulevard, near the Universal City complex.
We rejoice with your host of friends in congratulating you on the acquisition of KFWB by your new company.... To almost everybody in the radio fraternity... KFWB for almost two decades has been synonymous with Harry Maizlish