"Beautiful music" is coming back to the Wasatch Front.
Starting Monday, Nov. 19, KQOL (FM-106.5) will begin broadcasting the 20-year-old invention of Utah-based Bonneville Broadcasting Systems (and most recently the format of Salt Lake's KSFI, FM-100.3, until it made the switch to easy listening).KQOL's official premiere is Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22), when it will begin hosting a "free music weekend" until Nov. 26, when all of the staff's personalities will debut.
The station will operate 24 hours a day, with live personalities providing news, weather and community information.
"We are responding to the public outcry for a radio station to program easy listening music," Steve Evans, KQOL general manager, said.
"Our message to beautiful music listeners throughout the Wasatch Front will be simple - `The music you once enjoyed on KSFI can now be heard on KOOL 106.5 FM, KOOL and easy favorites.' "
KQOL is currently simulcasting the signal of KKAT (FM-101.9) while it gears up to make the format change.
KKAT operations manager John Marks hailed the cooperative agreement as a landmark decision that two fiercely competitive businesses can cooperate to what amounts to a win-win situation.
"KQOL is generating publicity about their new format, while at the same time we're able to steer country music lovers over to KKAT. As far as I know, this is a history-making first in the radio industry," Marks said.
Both stations agreed that it was in the public's best interest for KQOL to continue broadcasting during its interim period so that its loyal country listeners would be aware of what type of country music KKAT has to offer as an alternative station.
The simulcast started on Nov. 8 and will continue indefinitely, even past Nov. 19, if for some reason the debut of KQOL's new format is delayed.
"Our `country crossover' format didn't work," Steve Evans, KQOL general manager, said.
"We're too close to another country station, KBCK (FM-105.7)," Evans explained. "It's a logistic problem and when we advertised heavily, KBCK's ratings went up. When we stopped, they went down . . . Listeners seem to be confused."
Evans also said KQOL's Utah County-generated signal meant that the country station just doesn't get into Weber and Davis counties - two hotbeds for country music.
Thus, it's probably not a case of the Wasatch Front being too saturated with country music stations, it's a case of mistaken identity and a poorly located radio transmitter for the target audience.
FM-106.5 was also previously KBER's radio dial location and "The Bear" went looking for, and found, a better frequency at FM-101.1 for the same reason of 106.5 having too little signal coverage along the Wasatch Front. Ever since KBER's upgrade to a better frequency, the station's audience has steadily increased.
The new KQOL will retain its original call letters and cater to its primary audience of Salt Lake and Utah counties.
Evans believes that advertisers will find KQOL's new format attractive since studies indicate that 25 percent of all easy music listeners have incomes over $50,000.
Evans stressed that the "beautiful music" is not just a satellite feed of canned music. It does have live personalities and lots of freedom. (Bonneville provides all music from its digital CD library.)
He also said there's a national trend to return to this kind of format, geared for affluent listeners, ages 35-54.
Bonneville recently started programming other BBS stations in Los Angeles, San Diego, Buffalo and Harrisburg.
The implementation of the Bonneville format will be under the direction of Michael J. Parsons, also the morning host at KQOL, weekday mornings, 6-10. He has more than eight years of broadcast experience and most recently worked at KZHT.
Sue Cope will be KQOL's news director. She most recently worked in that capacity for KMGR.
Shannon Carlson, from Boise's KBEZ, will be KQOL's afternoon host, weekdays, 3-7 p.m.
Rumors of a format change at KQOL started in early October and by late in the month, Evans had put all the station's on-air staff on notice to find new employment.
KQOL has certainly established itself as one of the most courteous radio stations around since it gave its employees as much advance notice as possible about the format change and has also provided listeners with alternative country music instead of going silent during the transition period.
Danny Kramer, KQOL's most well-known personality, has already secured new employment and is now working the afternoon drive time shift at the revised KZOL (FM-96.1) in Provo.
KQOL's changes are the latest in a string of numerous local radio changes that have included KCPX, KLVV, KZOL, KFMY, KRSP-AM and the return of Mills Crenshaw to KTKK - all in less than two months.
It's ironic that no previous station picked up the BBS format, especially since it's Utah-based and was a big hole in the market.