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KSL FOCUSING ON WHAT IT DOES BEST

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Richard O. Mecham took over as the new vice president and general manager of KSL radio (AM-1160) last October, replacing William Murdoch, who retired. We caught up with Mecham recently and asked him a few timely questions about Utah's oldest radio station.

- When KSL-TV becomes an NBC affiliate, what effect will that have on KSL radio?Mecham said it will not affect the radio station at all.

"It's an unrelated issue to radio," he said.

- As the new leader of KSL, what direction are you taking the station?

Mecham said KSL has many good things in place now and is in a strong position in the market.

"We need to focus on what we do best - news, weather, traffic and sports. . . . I also want to find more ways to aggressively promote the station."

He said KSL may want to expand its traffic reports and will definitely try to maintain its sports position.

"I don't ever want to give up the talk element," he said.

Mecham said local talk is an important element for radio, and he considers it crucial that KSL maintains its local voice.

- Is Bob Lee (9 a.m. to noon weekday host) really trying to be a local Rush Limbaugh?

Mecham considers such references unfair.

"Rush is an entertainer," Mecham said. "Bob is trying to work on national and local issues with a local angle."

Mecham acknowledged that Lee has been told by management to challenge listeners by stimulating their opinions. However, he's only attempted to be a barometer and doesn't try to be a know-it-all.

While Limbaugh may only accept four or so telephone calls per hour, Lee is far more caller-driven and may take dozens per hour.

- Now that Amanda Dickson, the morning co-host, has her law degree and has passed the Utah State Bar, will she stay at KSL radio?

Mecham understands Dickson only wants to dabble in the law field at this time and will likely keep her KSL job because she loves radio.

"She's very good at radio," Mecham said.

(In fact, in the latest Arbitron ratings estimate she and co-host Grant Nielsen have the largest morning radio audience in the state, 5-9 a.m. weekdays.)

- KXRK (alias "X-96.1," FM) "Saturday Night Phones X," with hosts "Mr. West" and Jimmy Chunga (Saturdays from 10 p.m.-12:30 a.m.), is one of the more unusual weekend radio shows around.

If the presence of so much conversation on an FM station on a Saturday night doesn't get your attention, the risque segments of the show probably will.

In some ways, this is a radio version of a "Saturday Night Live." (For a hint of some of the show's content, just slur the last two words of the show's title together.)

This is not a radio show for kids. That's why it airs so late in the evening. In fact, when "Phones X" begins, an explanation states this program is not intended for listeners under age 18.

The show is request-driven and listeners can call in for their favorite songs. The DJs accept numerous music requests but seem to attract more female than male callers.

"Phones X" is also one of the most listened-to Saturday night radio shows in Utah, according to estimates by Arbitron.

- KTKK (alias "K-Talk, AM-630) - Joe Redburn, considered the founder of talk radio in Utah, has returned to the station for a 9 a.m. weekday show. Redburn started the talk radio format in Utah back in 1965.

Kay Henry, KTTK morning co-host with Hank Hathaway, was recently named program director for the station.

- KVRI (alias "Variety 98.7," FM) has its annual Community Christmas Tree in front of Dillard's at the Fashion Place Mall. Listeners are invited to take one of the names of needy kids hanging on the tree, purchase them a gift and return it to the tree by Dec. 18.

Last year the station produced 2,200 gifts for needy children from the tree.

- LDS RADIO NETWORK is now playing Christmas music. It will also feature several Christmas devotionals during the holiday season as well as its Christmas Eve scripture read-along.