|City of license||San Francisco, California|
|Broadcast area||San Francisco Bay Area|
|Branding||KGO 810 News/Information|
|Slogan||The Bay Area's News and Information Station|
|Frequency||810 kHz (also on HD Radio)|
|First air date||1924|
|Class||A (Clear channel)|
|Callsign meaning||K General Electric Oakland (KGO radio's former owner)|
|Affiliations||ABC News Radio
San Francisco 49ers
(Radio License Holding VIII, LLC)
|Sister stations||KFOG, KNBR, KSAN, KSFO, KTCT|
KGO (810 AM) is an all news radio station based in San Francisco, California. Until December 2011, KGO operated for several decades as a news and call-in talk station, originating nearly all of its own programming locally. After broad ownership and format changes in 2011, including the laying-off of most of its talk show hosts, the station converted to an all news format, under Cumulus Media.
KGO is accessible throughout the western United States east to the Rocky Mountains, and in northern Mexico, southwestern Canada, and Alaska at night. KGO operated as the West Coast flagship radio station of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) until the radio group was purchased by Citadel Broadcasting in 2007. The station is now owned by Cumulus Media, following its 2011 merger with Citadel.
KGO has its current studios located in the SoMa portion of San Francisco's Financial District; before Cumulus took over the station, it was previously based in the same building as its former television partner KGO-TV at the ABC Broadcast Center. Its transmitter site is based in Newark near the Dumbarton Bridge. Two of KGO's three towers partially collapsed during the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 17, 1989. All three were replaced.
After several late-night test broadcasts, using the experimental call letter 6XG, radio station KGO signed on the air on January 8, 1924, from General Electric's Oakland, electrical facility (the original two-story brick building, constructed specifically for the station on East 14th Street, still exists on the site), as part of a planned three-station network comprising WGY in Schenectady, New York, and KOA in Denver, Colorado. KGO was first known as the "Sunset Station"; at that time it operated with a then-impressive 1000 watts. As was the custom with early radio stations, the programming consisted of performances by local talent, including the KGO Orchestra which provided some of the music; and a dramatic group known as the KGO Players, which performed weekly plays and short skits, often under the direction of Bay-area drama instructor Wilda Wilson Church. The station's music, which was also performed by other local orchestras and vocalists, would include classical selections as well as popular dance music the next night. Due to GE's involvement in RCA and RCA's launch of the NBC radio network, KGO was soon operated by NBC management as part of the NBC network. See the KNBR entry for a fuller discussion of NBC's San Francisco radio operations.
By the 1928 Band Plan, 790 kHz was allocated to Oakland, California, and to KGO, which was then owned by General Electric, on an internationally cleared basis. In order to obtain a cleared channel in Schenectady, New York, for what would become the present-day WGY, GE effected a breakdown of 790 kHz, whereby WGY (q.v.) would assume the maximum permissible power, and KGO would be lowered in power to 7.5 kW, which was then lower than the minimum permissible power for a clear channel station, and also was then higher than the then maximum permissible power for a regional channel station. Both stations retained omnidirectional antennas. Therefore, GE effectively removed from the West one of its eight cleared channels and added an additional cleared channel to the East thereby giving the East nine cleared channels and the West only seven. The four other "regions" in the Band Plan all retained their allotted eight cleared channels. In 1941, stations on 790 kHz were moved to 810 kHz and roughly simultaneously, KGO was directionalized, and power was increased to 50 kW, the new minimum (and maximum) power for a U.S. cleared channel.
KGO is one of the few remaining three-letter call signs in the United States. The switchover to four-letter calls had begun by 1922, thus KGO's 1924 licensure is historically notable.
In 1943, the Federal Communications Commission forced NBC to sell one of its two networks (and that network's owned-and-operated stations). The NBC Blue Network simply dropped "NBC" from its name to become the "Blue Network," then in June 1945 re-branded itself the American Broadcasting Company. KGO would become a founding station of the nascent ABC Radio Network as a result.
In the postwar period, KGO produced many live music programs, including that of Western Swing bandleader Bob Wills, whose music was a staple of the time period. KGO was instrumental in bringing the first exercise show to broadcasting, hosted by Jack LaLanne, a fitness instructor and gym operator in nearby Oakland. LaLanne conducted his radio fitness show for many years on KGO, moving in the late 1950s to KGO-TV and a successful TV syndication career.
By the late 1950s, KGO had suffered poor ratings. In 1962, ABC management brought in new management including program director Jim Dunbar, who revamped the station into one of the country's first news/talk stations. While the new format was initially unsuccessful, Dunbar stressed the "live and local" aspect of the programming by running the talk shows every day from locations such as Johnny Kan's Chinese restaurant, Señor Pico's Restaurant, and the legendary hungry i nightclub. This higher profile caused KGO's ratings to begin a steady climb. Among KGO's personalities during this period was future Radio Hall of Fame member J.P. McCarthy, the station's morning host in the early 1960s.
After trying various formats, KGO eventually shifted to news and talk programming, relying heavily on the ABC radio network for its news programs. KGO started carrying Paul Harvey's twice-daily programs but also began to develop a strong local news staff that produced extended morning and afternoon newscasts. The local talk show hosts included Les Crane, Owen Spann and Jim Eason, who often interviewed visiting celebrities in the KGO studios. Owen Spann also originated special broadcasts from Europe and Africa, interviewing government officials from those countries. Local director-actor Jack Brooks hosted a Saturday-morning entertainment program until his sudden death in June 1984, after directing a production of Kismet for the Capuchino Community Theatre that featured Jim Eason as the poet Omar Khayyám. Dr. Dean Edell began his regular medical programs at KGO, leading to nationally syndicated broadcasts.
Ratings and signal strength
For more than 27 years (as rated quarterly by Arbitron), KGO was the number-one station in the Bay Area. According to the 2010 Arbitron ratings, however, KGO had lost its lead to KCBS, with KOIT-FM as a close second, and KGO listing at third. When KGO switched to all-news in December 2011, it fell further behind in the local ratings. The KGO signal also registers with Arbitron as a station listened to in surrounding metropolitan areas. Due to the nature of its signal and antenna placement, KGO broadcasts on a north-to-south axis, keeping itself free from interference originating from WGY during the night-time and overnight hours when the station broadcasts at 50,000 watts. KGO's signal is received essentially free of static at night in locations such as Vancouver, Washington, Seattle, Washington, and San Diego, but is difficult to receive in Reno, Nevada, and other points east of the Sierra Nevada mountains due to its signal directionality. That said, its overall reach is greater than any FM signal in the Bay Area (according to radio-locator map referenced below).
Until December 5, 2011, KGO created nearly all of its own local programming, with very limited syndicated content. The majority of its programs were hosted by San Francisco Bay Area broadcasters. The daily schedule included many issues-oriented talk shows, with weekday hosts that included Gene Burns, Gil Gross, Ronn Owens, John Rothmann, and lawyer Len Tillem. The station also carried a variety of specialty programs, particularly on weekends, with John Hamilton discussing travel and leisure, Gene Burns covering fine food and dining (on a show separate from his weekday program), Joanie Greggains hosting a health-and-fitness program, and Brent Walters, who teaches "Comparative Religions" at San Jose State University, hosting the early Sunday morning show, God Talk. News/talk weekend hosts now include Brian Copeland, "Karel" Charles Karel Bouley, and Pat Thurston.
The weekday morning news (from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.) is currently co-anchored by Jon Bristow and Jennifer Jones-Lee. The afternoon news (from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.) currently features veteran reporter Chris Brecher and award-winning reporter/anchor Bret Burkhart.
On December 2, 2011, new owner Cumulus Media announced that KGO was rebranding itself as "news and information," moving to an all-news format from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. (in addition to the existing morning-drive, noon-hour, and afternoon-drive news blocks) on December 5. This had resulted in the abrupt termination, on December 1, of most of the talk hosts (including Gene Burns, Gil Gross, John Rothmann, Ray Taliaferro, Len Tillem, and Dr. Bill Wattenburg). Ronn Owens's morning show as well as weekend talk programming remains, although some of the weekend hosts (including Joanie Greggains, and Len Tillem) were also terminated on December 1, 2011. Bob Brinker's syndicated "Moneytalk" has been moved to KSFO, a politically conservative talk radio sister station which arguably better reflects Brinker's conservative politico-economic views ("Moneytalk" is a brand which is owned by ABC and its successor, not by Brinker; Brinker's own brand is "Marketimer", although Brinker has not and does not espouse market timing, as commonly understood, per se in any of his broadcasts or newsletters). Leo Laporte's weekend syndicated tech talk program was also a casualty of the format change and is no longer being broadcast on KGO. Gil Gross, Len Tillem, and Leo Laporte are being broadcast by KKSF 910 AM, which is also supplying a blog by Gene Burns while he recuperates from stroke, which has left him with aphasia.
The format change and termination of many popular talk show hosts has sparked outrage among long-time listeners, many of whom are now campaigning for sponsors to drop their advertising on the station.
KGO was the radio broadcast home for the San Francisco 49ers football team from 1987 to 2005. It has broadcast the college football games of the University of California, Berkeley, Golden Bears since 1974.
Until the sudden format change in December 2011, KGO hosted an annual fundraiser called the KGO Cure-a-Thon to help raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with all of the station's regular programming pre-empted for an entire day during the event. Listeners were encouraged to call in and donate money to help in the fight against these kinds of cancer. An auction was also held to help raise money. Notable items up for auction have included a trip with Gene Burns on a private jet to various destinations, such as Las Vegas and Italy, for a gourmet dinner. Cumulus Media has announced that it will not be continuing the KGO Cure-a-Thon charity event despite the fact it has raised millions of dollars for charity in the past.
KGO is an all-news station on weekdays with the exception of the Ronn Owens show. Owens has a "personal services contract" with the station until the end of 2014 and hosts a news discussion program. Weekends feature a Saturday morning news block and talk programming, albeit with the station's signature traffic and weather on the 5's. In addition, KGO carries forecasts and news stories from KGO-TV, despite KGO-TV's ownership by the American Broadcasting Company.
In March 2008, solar panels were installed at KGO's transmitter site in Newark, California, to offset some of the power consumption during daytime hours. The effort is a testbed for Pacific Gas and Electric Company and is located near the Dumbarton Bridge. The solar system uses both CPV (SolFocus) and PV (Premier Power) arrays and provides about 17 Kilowatts, or 33% (one third), of the radio frequency (RF) power output from the 50KW transmitter (or about 1/10th of the total power consumption of their transmitter site over a 24 hour period). United States Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi turned the system on during an on-air ceremony.
Cumulus Media acquisition
KGO found itself under the ownership of Cumulus Media as a part of a merger involving their former owner, Citadel Broadcasting. On the morning of December 2, 2011, after speculation that Cumulus Media would fire several of the KGO personalities, listeners logged into the Facebook Page and saw this message:
You may have heard about the changes we're making to our on-air lineup on KGO. After careful consideration we’ve determined our audience is looking for more news, which is why we are increasing our news presence throughout the day. The Ronn Owens program will continue to talk about current events and breaking news, and there will be talk shows on the weekends as well as on the sister station KSFO. Be assured that KGO remains your source for Bay Area news and information. Thanks for listening to the new KGO 810.
In a matter of days, the announcement was met with a negative reception from the listeners—both for the format change and for the disrespectful treatment of many on-air personalities who were escorted out of the building on December 1 and not given an opportunity to say goodbye to their listeners. Included in the list of those let go is Ray Taliaferro, who had been with the station for 34 years. On Facebook, Twitter, and the KGO website (as well as on-air for the few calls that have been allowed), thousands of loyal KGO listeners have expressed their shock and anger over the situation, and especially their feelings of betrayal by Cumulus/KGO. Several online campaigns are currently being waged for the return of old hosts and to boycott the advertisers who remain as KGO sponsors.
Note: For decades, KGO was a News/Talk station which featured notable personalities. The station's current format is primarily news oriented, however the personalities section is retained here due to KGO's prior dominance in San Francisco radio. To meet Wikipedia standards, this list should only include Wikipedia-notable entries.
- Charles Karel Bouley — Entertainment/News Talk 
- Brian Copeland
- Michael Finney — Consumer Talk '
- John Hamilton — John Hamilton On-The-Go
- Pat Thurston — Progressive News Talk
- Brent Walters — God Talk'
- Maureen Langdon — Entertainment/News Talk 
- Gene Burns (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 12/1/2011)
- Gil Gross (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 12/1/2011; now at KKSF (AM))
- John Rothmann (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 12/1/2011)
- Ray Taliaferro (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 12/1/2011)
- Len Tillem (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 12/1/2011; now podcasting)
- Bernie Ward (program terminated due to federal investigation 12/31/2007)
Former Weekend Personalities
- David Lazarus — News Talk (left in 2007).
- Gene Burns — Dining Around, with Gene Burns (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 12/1/2011)
- Joanie Greggains — Health Talk (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 12/1/2011)
- Bill Wattenburg — Open Line to the West Coast (program terminated 12/1/2011)
Former notable and guest hosts
- Ken Bastida
- Ira Blue
- Barbra Boxer
- Joy Browne
- Chris Clarke
- Peter B. Collins
- Russ Coughlan 
- Les Crane — evening host (moved to New York)
- Jim Dunbar (served as program director, newscaster, talk show host)
- Jim Eason
- Art Finley
- Christine Craft
- James Gabbert
- Jim Wieder
- Duane Garrett - died July 26, 1995; suicide; jumped from Golden Gate Bridge
- Greg Jarrett
- Michael Krasny
- J. P. McCarthy
- Marty Nemko
- Lee Rodgers-went to KSFO-AM (deceased 25 January 2012/complications from heart surgery)
- Michael Savage
- Barbara Simpson
- Joe Starkey (sports)
- Bernie Ward
- Pete Wilson - died at age 62 after suffering heart attack while having hip-replacement surgery
Former Syndicated hosts
- Bob Brinker (Moneytalk; moved to KSFO after 12/5/11)
- Leo Laporte ("Tech Guy")
- Dr. Dean Edell, MD, hosted syndicated radio medical talk show; aired live 1979-December 10, 2010
- Paul Harvey, national news and commentary (deceased 2009)
- Mark Curtis (broadcaster)- political and presidential campaign analyst
- Michael Finney
- Kevin "The Rat" Radich (sports)
- Joe Vincent
- Jon Wailin: Super Commuter
- Dennis Willis
- Kim McCallister 
- "Cumulus now owns Citadel Broadcasting". Atlanta Business Journal. September 16, 2011. Retrieved September 16, 2011.
- "Open Station KGO at Oakland." Decatur IL Review, February 9, 1924, p. 23; also, "New KGO Will Open Tomorrow." Oakland Tribune, January 8, 1924, p. 15.
- "KGO radio going to news format — veterans leaving". San Francisco Chronicle. December 2, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
- "KGO Radio Format Change Sparks Outrage Among Loyal Listeners". Huffington Post. December 5, 2011. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
- "Radio station goes solar". March 7, 2008. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
- Vernon, Tom (December 17, 2008). "KGO Flips Solar Switch". Radio World. p. 1. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
- "KGO flips the Solar Switch". December 18, 2008. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
- Taylor, Michael (December 26, 1995). "A Master of All Worlds But His Own / Duane Garrett -- popular radio talk show host, political power broker, sports memorabilia aficionado -- seemed to have everything going for him. That's why so many friends were shocked when he took his own life instead of asking for help they gladly would have given". The San Francisco Chronicle.
- John Schneider's History of KGO Radio
- A Technical Description of the KGO Facility in 1924
- The History of KGO
- KGO 810 AM
- The Complete KGO Collection (Archival Recordings) in The Bay Area Radio Museum
- Query the FCC's AM station database for KGO
- Radio-Locator Information on KGO
- Query Arbitron's AM station database for KGO
- Aerial photo of KGO transmitter from Google Maps
- Photo of the KGO towers after the Loma Prieta earthquake
- FCC History Cards for KGO