KSFO is a talk radio station in San Francisco, California, USA, broadcasting on 560 kHz AM with content focusing on conservative talk. It operated under the ownership 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. The station's studios are in the city's SoMa district, and a transmitter is located at the end of Islais Creek where it meets the San Francisco Bay.
KSFO went on the air in 1925 as KTAB in Oakland, owned by the Tenth Avenue Baptist Church there. It was acquired by Wesley Dumm under the legal name The Associated Broadcasters (in order to keep the TAB backronym. KTAB offered a variety format of music, news, and sports.
Just before the start of World War II, Mr. Dumm was tapped by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to use his KSFO facility to spawn international shortwave broadcast stations KWID (for Wesley I. Dumm) and KWIX. These stations became the genesis of the Voice of America. Facilities for KSFO, KWID, and KWIX were located at San Francisco's Islais Creek where the KSFO transmitter continues to operate today.
Beginning in 1955, KSFO changed to a middle of the road format with some jazz, sports, and, particularly memorably, rebroadcast antique radio shows at particular times of the year. At the time, the station was owned by Gene Autry's Golden West Broadcasting and called itself "The World's Greatest Radio Station." KSFO's signature jingle, "The Sound of the City" (words and music composed by Johnny Mann was sung a cappella by eight studio singers at the United Western Recorders studio in Hollywood), became legendary in San Francisco—reportedly requested by listeners as much as any popular song on the station's playlist — and was subsequently adopted by other like-formatted stations around the country. For the next two decades, KSFO was the most listened-to station in the San Francisco - Oakland market. It was the home of singers like Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis, Dean Martin and Tony "Mr. San Francisco" Bennett.
Memorable broadcasters of KSFO's history include sportscasters Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons, newscasters Aaron Edwards and Mike Powell, and disc jockeys Don Sherwood, Carter B. Smith, Al "Jazzbeau" Collins, Jim Lange, Gene Nelson, John Gilliland, Dan Sorkin and Jim Eason. The station's history included stints as the flagship station for both San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics baseball (at different times) and San Francisco 49ers, University of California  and Stanford University football. A history of KSFO in the heyday of Don Sherwood (1950s and 1960s) can be found in Laurie Harper's biography, "Don Sherwood — The World's Greatest Disk Jockey."
The station's news department earned national and international journalism awards for coverage of the Peoples Temple mass suicides in Jonestown, Guyana and the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk by former Supervisor Dan White. Newscasters, sportscasters, and DJs from KSFO played an annual softball game to benefit the Police Athletic League; the No-Stars' arch-rivals were Reno Barsocchini's VIPs.
In the beginning, KSFO's early morning schedule included a trio of hosts described by their fans as "humorous, hardline, uncompromising conservatives", Lee Rodgers, Melanie Morgan, and Tom Benner, known on the air as "Officer Vic". The former two were originally the major contributors to the show; the latter covers traffic and weather, and often contributes political satire. Melanie Morgan was terminated in February 2008 due to budget constraints; the show continued until February 18, 2010 with Lee Rodgers and Officer Vic, with frequent assistance from other KSFO staffers. Upon Lee Rodgers' dismissal, Brian Sussman left his weekday evening slot and took over The Morning Show, effective February 19, 2010. In June 2009, KSFO picked up Morgan's new syndicated program, America's Morning News, when it went to air. It airs in the very early morning slot, immediately before The Morning Show.
Some of the conservative hosts at sister station KGO, such as David Gold and Michael Savage, who were not well received by that audience have subsequently hosted shows on KSFO. Gold no longer hosts shows at KSFO, although he frequently fills in when other hosts are absent. After Savage won a lawsuit against his former employer Talk Radio Network, Savage and Cumulus Media, Inc. struck a deal on October 17, 2012 and began broadcasting his show on October 23, 2012 from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. Eastern Time (6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Pacific Time).
In 2007, the station was purchased by Citadel Broadcasting, along with the rest of The Walt Disney Company/ABC Radio's radio stations, excluding Radio Disney affiliates. Citadel merged with Cumulus Media on September 16, 2011.
In late 2008, KSFO made a major scheduling change, by moving The Sean Hannity Show to the early afternoon slot (12 p.m. to 3 p.m.), so that it could be broadcast live. The Dr. Laura Show, which had been broadcast live in that slot a long time, was truncated and moved to the evening 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. slot where it aired until it ended production, and was replaced by Laura Ingraham. Hannity's show is followed by the nationally syndicated live Mark Levin Show.
After Lee Rodgers was dismissed in February 2010, and replaced by the Brian Sussman Show (who was formerly in the 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. slot). Brian Sussman's former slot was replaced by the nationally syndicated John Batchelor Show, also live, immediately following Mark Levin.
On March 7, 2014, KSFO named Spencer Hughes as its local 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. weekday host. Hughes started his talk radio career as KSFO's very first conservative political host, on December 31, 1994.
Weekend hosts for KSFO include conservative commentators such as Barbara Simpson and Rabbi Daniel Lapin, as well as some non-political content, such as shows on home renovation, gardening and real estate.
On March 31, 2016, it was announced that Ronn Owens, a long-time host at sister station KGO is taking the afternoon slot on this station starting April 4 after KGO eliminated its News/Talk programming and began stunting in preparation for a likely format change.
Controversy and criticism
KSFO, in its current talk format incarnation, has drawn much controversy.
In San Francisco, radio listeners on KSFO recently heard talk show hosts speak of 'lynching a few liberals' and encouraging listeners to 'shoot illegal immigrants who come across the border.'
In this letter Fowler urged citizens to:
- "send letters to your local newspapers calling for an end to these efforts to incite violence;
- "call your local radio stations and tell them that you want the purveyors of hate to be held accountable for their remarks;
- "call or write to your elected officials and tell them you want them to work toward ending these efforts to destroy our communities; and,
- "organize local efforts in your communities to protest against the irresponsible media outlets that put this garbage on the air."
On June 29, 2006, Melanie Morgan responded to the San Francisco Chronicle regarding her "Hang 'em" comment:
If he [New York Times editor Bill Keller] were to be tried and convicted of treason, yes, I would have no problem with him being sent to the gas chamber... It is about revealing classified secrets in the time of war. And the media has got to take responsibility for revealing classified information that is putting American lives at risk.
Blogger takes on KSFO
Beginning in 2005, liberal bloggers, including one calling himself "Spocko", began recording KSFO talk shows and posting excerpts of these shows on blogs as examples of what they viewed as hate speech and eliminationist rhetoric. Spocko began a letter-writing campaign to advertisers on KSFO, alerting them to these examples and urging them to withdraw their support of the station.
On December 22, 2006, Spocko received a "cease-and-desist" letter from ABC lawyers, insisting that he remove audio clips of KSFO radio hosts claiming that he had violated copyright law. On January 2, 2007 his Internet service provider, 1&1 Internet, complied with the cease-and-desist letter and took down his Web site.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation agreed to defend Spocko against threats of a DMCA Strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) suit. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a successful history in defending against legal assaults on fair use and the first amendment, as exemplified by the case.
Spocko's statement on the controversy:
Advertisers should be able to decide if they want to keep supporting this show based on complete information. We already know that management at ABC and Disney support these hosts, which means that the ABC/Disney Radio brand now apparently includes support for violent hate speech toward Muslims, democrats and liberals.
KSFO primarily defended itself by criticizing Spocko for acting anonymously and claiming many of his quotes were taken wildly out of context, and that they had previously apologized for several of the cited instances.
On January 12, 2007, KSFO responded to the criticism by dedicating three hours to airing its side of the controversy, and posted the audio on its Web site.