KKGN ‘Green 960’ Seeks Greener Pastures
     

As energy shortages, deforestation and global climate change make the headlines on a daily basis, some broadcasters are responding by “going green.”

For certain stations it is a programming initiative; for others it entails using energy-saving technologies in building construction and power consumption. Some do a bit of both.

This is the first of several articles in which RW will showcase how radio is responding to the need to create a sustainable environment.

Radio seed

In San Francisco, Clear Channel’s KKGN “Green 960” has taken the plunge with a complete format makeover, effective last August.

Formerly KQKE “The Quake,” the progressive talker now incorporates messaging about sustainability issues into the existing format. Earlier the station had been an Air America affiliate.

Former Program Director Bob Agnew told RW in the fall, “Progressives started looking elsewhere, and we were seeking a niche that works. The green movement seems to be a perfect fit, especially since we’re in the most environmentally-conscious market in the country.”

Agnew recently exited the station; John Scott is now director of AM operations for KKGN and sister station KNEW.

Green 960’s lineup includes syndicated talkers Stephanie Miller and Bill Press plus local talent. The lineup will also feature a daily one hour show devoted to sustainability issues, produced in-house with programming controlling editorial content. That was set for launch in January.

Station officials say there is still not enough green content to program 24/7, so material is sprinkled throughout the day.

New PD John Scott says the goal is to phase out many of the traditional “stopsets” in favor of news and advertorial content that seamlessly go from break to break in syndicated hours, and give the station a public radio vibe during live local programming.

One of the programming innovations at Green 960 are what Scott calls “Micro Shows,” three-minute vignettes that air several time a day; these pieces profile businesses, experts and community leaders contributing to the environmental movement in the Bay Area.

“This can also be a tactic to sway potential brokered shows away from the block program,” Scott said.

“We are asking selected clients to rethink how they message; to integrate them with a real show with real bodies listening, as opposed to a pure brokered block with limited audience reach.”

The station did a remote at the San Francisco Auto Show with talker Big Ed Schultz in November, to showcase hybrid vehicles; a green focus meant rethinking some of the details for that event. (The staff planned to hand out bottled water until they realized the impact all that plastic would have on landfills.)

Starting in January, KKGN planned to reduce the top-of the-hour network newscasts and begin delivering its own green newscasts. The focus is now to be on environment, a green economy, health and sustainability.

Officials termed early response from advertisers and listeners as “very enthusiastic” but said in the fall it would take about six months to assess the full impact.

Beyond programming

In tandem with the format change, the station’s Web site is being reinvented with features such as “the green police,” where listeners can inform the station of environmentally-unsound practices that the news department can investigate.

The site will also include podcasts of popular programs, allowing listeners to hear them at their convenience.

Green programming, advocates say, is part of a larger movement in talk radio to bring a more progressive voice to what has been seen as a predominately conservative format.

KKGN and its Clear Channel San Francisco cluster have made the green movement part of their business plan.

“This goes way beyond the programming of KKGN,” said Val Fishman, green marketing specialist for the group. The company has undergone an “eco-audit” by Natural Logic and has developed a green business plan which includes quarterly and annual goals for a three- to five-year period. She said San Francisco is the pilot program for Clear Channel nationally.

“The key components for this program include energy conservation, waste management (recycling/composting), green procurement standards, employee engagement, internal and external messaging, sales application and a tracking and measurement system.”

Recycled

She said the program affects everyone in the Clear Channel San Francisco “community,” including employees, consumers, advertisers, public and other media companies.

“I regularly attend sales meetings, and do training sessions for our account executives on how to integrate sustainability into their messaging.”

Clear Channel San Francisco is also designing an umbrella green advertising campaign. They will utilize a green audio logo for their own green messaging, while also incorporating sponsors.

The business plan includes procurement standards.

“We now purchase 35 percent recycled paper instead of 10 percent,” said Fishman. Outside print jobs are being printed on recycled paper with soy inks. Office supplies are being purchased from a local green business.

Promotional teams are encouraged to seek out sustainable alternatives. Finally, the cluster has established a minimum 35 mpg standard for all new vehicles purchased.

As the stations learn about improving the environment, Fishman adds, they will inform listeners, both to educate people about the importance of becoming an environmentally responsible company, and also to solicit best practices and ideas in hopes of changing the habits and behaviors of individuals and other businesses.

While KKGN is an early adopter of green programming, they are not alone. Last February, WARW, the CBS-owned classic rocker in Washington, re-imaged itself as “Globe” radio, promoting environmentalism, “world-class rock,” broadcasting from a “greenhouse” studio and using hybrid promotional vehicles.

On the Web, Radio EcoShock and Green Radio Online advocate for a sustainable environment.

But station officials said KKGN is a pioneer with green programming both in the San Francisco market and the Clear Channel organization, and they believe they are ahead of the curve on this movement.

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