KFWB (980 kHz "Desi 980 AM") is a Los Angeles AM radio station airing a Bollywood music format, presented primarily in Hindi. KFWB is owned by Principal Broadcasting and operates with 5,000 watts of power from a non-directional transmitter near Lincoln Park in Eastside Los Angeles. The station had a mostly all-news format from 1968 until September 8, 2009, after which it converted to a news-talk format. On September 22, 2014, KFWB became a CBS Sports Radio network affiliate known as The Beast 980. On March 1, 2016, the sports radio format was discontinued, and Desi 980 was launched.
The station's history goes back to March 3, 1925, when it was launched by Sam Warner, a co-founder of Warner Bros.. The station launched the careers of such stars as Ronald Reagan and Bing Crosby. The station was the first to broadcast the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.
Although some think its call letters stand for Keep Fighting Warner Brothers or (K)-Four Warner Brothers, actually the callsign was sequentially issued by the Department of Commerce, predecessor to the FCC (March 1925) at the same time as KFWA in Ogden, Utah (February 1925) and KFWC for San Bernardino (also February 1925). Nevertheless, Warner Bros. Animation 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."
A 1940 Merrie Melodies cartoon, produced by Warner Bros. (and directed by Chuck Jones), entitled Bedtime for Sniffles, 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 (though the action takes place in Mexico) The Merrie Melodies cartoon for I've Got A Torch Song released in conjunction with Gold Diggers of 1933 has KFWB written on the microphones in the scenes of the torch singers.
In 1946, KFWB imported two disc jockeys from New York City: Maurice Hart of WNEW, whose drive-time show Start the Day Right was described as "Words and Music Straight from the Hart," and Martin Block, who coined the phrase "Make-Believe Ballroom," which was later used by Al Jarvis when Block returned to New York. In those days, disc jockeys selected their own music, either from 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.
KFWB was sold to its long-time general manager, Harry Maizlish, in 1950, and soon after moved off the Warner Bros. lot to join Maizlish's FM station, KFMV, on Hollywood Boulevard.
In 1958, the original "Seven Swingin’ Gentlemen" took Rock and Roll into its first major market, at KFWB.
Also in 1958, under new owners Crowell-Collier Broadcasting, program director Chuck Blore transformed the station into a Top 40 format called Channel 98 Color Radio. The station became one of the most highly listened to stations in the Southland and in the nation. The air staff during the glory days included Bill Ballance, B. Mitchell Reed, Bruce Hayes, Al Jarvis, Joe Yocam, Elliot Field, Ted Quillin. and Gene Weed. Their staff of highly respected newscasters included 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 93/KHJ, and this relegated KFWB to the position of the third-place pop music station in the L.A. market.
KFWB was later purchased by Westinghouse in 1966. On March 11, 1968, the station was relaunched as an all news radio station. The station promoted itself with its slogan, "You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world," as first used by New York Westinghouse station WINS, although the station's format used a 30-minute news cycle.
Until spun off into a trust, KFWB was owned by CBS Radio, a subsidiary of CBS Corporation after its merger with Westinghouse. CBS also owns 1070 KNX, now the only all-news station in Los Angeles. KFWB and KNX feuded as all-news rivals for years, both on radio and in television advertising. Like its former sister stations (and fellow all-news stations) WINS in New York and KYW in Philadelphia, KFWB had a running Teletype sound effect in the background during regular newscasts.
KFWB previously aired Dodgers games and many National Football League games from Westwood One. The NFL broadcasts stopped after the 2007 Pro Bowl, and the Dodgers left KFWB after the 2007 season, some months later, to return to 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 simulcast special programming and for marketing to advertisers. In addition, there were no longer separate field reporters for KNX and KFWB, and CBSNewsRadioLA reporters filed stories for both stations.
Also in the 2009 season, KFWB began broadcasting weekday baseball games of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, although the flagship remained the Angels-owned KLAA. Also, as it was announced on August 13, 2009, the station and the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers signed a multi-year broadcast rights pact, with KFWB carrying every Clippers contest.
On September 8, 2009, the station adopted a news-talk format, adding syndicated shows such as Dave Ramsey, Laura Ingraham, Laura Schlessinger (who moved from longtime flagship KFI) and Michael Smerconish. In 2011, Dr. Laura left the station, Dave Ramsey moved to 11am-2pm and the station added motivational speaker Les Brown to its afternoon lineup. Brown left the station in 2012. Ramsey left 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.
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 9 years prior.
Switch to sports
On September 22, 2014, KFWB became a CBS Sports Radio affiliate, "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 of the MLS. The Beast 980 also carried NFL games, NCAA football games and NCAA basketball games.
Switch to Desi 980
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 the station, KFWB launched a full service South Asian bollywood music format under the name "Desi 980", which is already airing on KKDZ in Seattle, Washington and KLOK in San Jose. The station's website is Desi980am.com. On March 16, 2016, the Los Angeles Clippers entered into a multi-year deal making KLAC the team's new flagship station.
Former on-air staff
- Irving Aaronson and his Commanders (circa 1929)
- Jack Popejoy
- Judy Ford
- John Brooks
- Paul Lowe
- Penny Griego
- Phil Hulett
- Cindy Dole
- Michael Shappee
- Maggie McKay
- Bob McCormick
- Tammy Trujillo
- Bob Howard
- Susanne Whatley
- Tracie Savage
- Steve Kindred
- Rhonda Kramer
- Jeff Baugh
- Tom Storey
- Allen Lee
- Robin Johnson
- Jennifer Burns
- Richard Turnage
- Scott Greene
- Colleen Ryan
- Arianna Ortiz
- Lisa Walker
- Ted Sobel
- Bill Seward
- Bob Harvey
Studios and transmitter
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 there, as well. 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 the area near La Cienega and Rodeo Blvd., about three blocks south of the KECA/KABC studio/transmitter site. In July, 1958 the transmitter again moved, to make way for the construction of a FEDCO membership department store, to its present location, diplexed with 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 CBS Radio stations KNX, KTWV and KRTH.