Talkers Magazine
January, 1998

David Gleason is program director of KTNQ.. 

in Los Angeles and has the title AM programming specialist for Heftel Broadcasting Company, a giant of the consolidation era with roots that go back to the glory days of top 40 rock. Today Heftel operates 37 stations in the United States that program exclusively in the Spanish language, the result of a merger some U months ago with Tichenor Media Systems, which is, in lure 31% owned by Clear Channel Communications. are the nation's largest Spanish language radio broadcasters. The TALKERS Magazine interview with David Gleason was conducted by Michael Harrison.

TALKERS: Of Heftel's 37 stations, how many of them are talk-formatted or at least have a lot of talk shows on them?
GLEASON: Currently, of our AM stations there are seven. We have two stations in Miami that are news-talk. One in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles.

TALKFRS: Could you tall me the call letters?

GLEASON: WADO, New York; WQBA and WAQI in Miami. WIND, Chicago, KESS in Dallas, KLAT, Houston; KTNQ, Los Angeles.

TALKERS: Are they similarly programmed or are they dr~fic311y or partial­ly different in terms of their positioning?

GLEASON: Actually, each is quite unique, for two reasons. We are strong believers right from the beginning in local origina­tion. KTNQ in Los Angeles does 168 hours a week of live, local programming with no reruns and no network programming. And the nature of the Hispanic market is such that there are enough differences from market to market, both cultural and life style that we feel we can serve the markets best by doing most, if not all, of our program­ming on a local basis.

TALKERS: How would one of your sta­tions, if there were anything typical about them, compare to a typical English lan­guage news-talk station?

TALKERS: How would one of your sta­tions, if there were anything typical about them, compare to a typical English lan­guage news-talk station?

GLEASON: Well, let's take KTNQ in Los Angeles which is the one I actually do hands on. And, by comparison, it perhaps covers more ground. What we do is we change or metamorphose by daypart. In Los Angeles, the morning show is humor­~based, the midday show is lifestyle, the afternoon show is more traditional news and topic-based. We have a four-hour sports block and then we go into personal relationships in the evening and on week­ends we do a lot of sports including soccer, play-by-play. So, you could say it gets to the extreme of being very lifestyle on one side and then it goes in other day parts to the political news-based topical based tall 50 we've got a little bit of everything.

TALKERS: What are the big political and social issues, legs say of the past year in Spanish language talk radio.

GLEASON: Most of them, and it's interest­ing because there is perhaps a different focus like puffing a different lens on a camera.....a different way of looking at the issues in each of our markets.....but legisla­tive action on the immigration front, leg­islative changes that effect people who are legal residents but are not citizens, as some of the changes in shall we say community attitudes towards Hispanics, towards immigrants in general, have been the most, talked about subjects. I don't want to say controversial, because there's not much of a negative aspect to that in what our own community talks about. One area where there's been considerable controversy is the nationwide discussion of bilingual educa­tional programs in schools where there is a large portion of the Hispanic community that would prefer that their children have immersion English rather than be coddled in Spanish for a period of sometimes many, many years in which they are not intro­duced to the mainstream of the society in this country.

TALKERS: Do you get any kind of out-reach from English-speaking politicians in terms of being guests on programs or in terms of promoting your producers and hosts on their agenda?

GLEASON: I'd say that perhaps because they're not aware of our existence or the size of the audience, I would say that if anything, we're treated with what you might call benign neglect. If we contact them, them being politicians or their offices, we often get somebody on their staff, somebody who is able to speak Spanish in varying degrees. But, we don't get the volume of press releases, of inter­view opportunities, and things that a talker news-based station would get in English.

TALKEPS: And obviously if you did, you probably would respond.

GLEASON: We would respond because one thing we have found in our Los Angeles station, which has now conducted over a dozen citizenship seminars in which people are assisted by lawyers and other experts as to how to complete their citizen­ship application and file it. We found an enormous interest among people who have been here many years, quite legal, who have never had the incentive to become cit­izens now wish to be part of, shall we say, quote, the process, unquote. They're eager to vote, they're eager to make their opin­ions heard, and I think that the political and power structure are missing a great deal in not starting to be actively involved in Hispanic affairs. I think there's a very mis­taken attitude that the Hispanics who will vote and participate in the process are English-speaking. Whereas, what we've found is that many of them are of course, bi-lingual, but would still prefer to be addressed in the language in which they're more comfortable.

TALKERS: You talked about audience size in general, or if you want to be spe­cific, in terms of ratings, how do these sta­tions stack up in terms of audience size?

GLEASON: Well, to give you an idea, KTNQ, Los Angeles, and WADO, New York, are the first and second most-listened to Hispanic AM's in the country. And, to give exact figures, both of those stations cume just slightly under 500,000 people. But, the amazing thing about them is they have Tune Spent Listening on the order of 14 to 15 hours weekly.

TALKERS: So, they're up there in the top 10 in their markets.

GLEASON: In many cases, KTNQ in Los Angeles has 25-54 been as high as number seven or eight in Los Angeles. WADO in New York is currently in a sustained growth period in 25-54, because we are trying to focus our stations on the larger seg­ments of Hispanics. There are far younger Hispanics than there are young people in the general community.

TALKERS: What is the general state of Spanish language talk radio in America beyond Heftel?

GLEASON: Well, I can name a couple of shall we say anecdotal situations. Miami has traditionally had over the last 25 years or so, a number of stations that don't play music. And they have been very politically based and very concerned and very deep into the issues concerning Cuba because of the mix or the nature of the community in Miami. Of recent, we've found that one of our stations, WAQI, has been doing very, very well serving that particular area, but at the same time we found as we broadened without ignoring Cuban issues, as we broadened the coverage, of talk and news topics on WQBA that we're starting to pick up very considerable numbers of 25-54. WADO in New York was not an all-talk sta­tion until about a year and a half ago, and the West Coast and Southwest had no Spanish language talk station of perma­nence at all until April of 1996, which was KTNQ. There were a couple of attempts that lasted each less than a year, and this is the only one that has achieved rating suc­cess and lasted. So, essentially, the talk radio segment of Spanish radio broadcast­ing is, with the exception of Miami, very, very new and what you're seeing are sta­tions playing a two-decade catch up to the state in which English language talkers are in, over a period of essentially very few months

ALKERS: How is business, sales, in this arena? Where do you concentrate your marketing?

GLEASON: Because news-talk is new, the first, particularly as far as Los Angeles, the first impact of course, is local because we have found many, many clients, and I don't want to bore anyone with the old phones ringing off the hooks stories, that salespeo­ple are prone to giving. But we found amazing successes particularly when advertisers realize that they can link into particular shows and even particular talent. This obviously comes as news to nobody in the English language community but our advertisers have discovered it and found amazing results, and I think what will hap­pen is that as it becomes widespread knowledge we will see more and more national advertisers look at Spanish lan­guage talk as a needed addition to advertis­ing campaigns.

TALKERS: We became familiar through our domestic violence broadcast last month with three of your personalities. Luisa Torres, Malín Falu, and Amalia González. Could you give us a brief com­ment on each.

GLEASON: Well, the first person who I had the opportunity to work with was Amalia, who [ first met at another radio sta­tion, KKHJ, in Los Angeles, which was at the time, a personality based music station. When I came to KTNQ, I wanted to bring her with me thinking that we would do a personality based AM station and it was singularly unsuccessful. When we started the conversion to talk, we discovered some­thing very interesting, which was that in many cases the type of host with great appeal was the host who was familiar in the market, and had come from a faster-paced music radio back­ground versus, let's say the journalistic or topic specific type of talk background. And, she was one of, shall we say, the pioneers of talk in Los Angeles and adapted very quickly going through the "I don't know if I can do it,' 'I'm scared of saying things that may offend people" to "I'm going to be myself and say what I think on the air and I'm not afraid of what anyone can say to me." The truth of it is that at this point, she has in mid-days more listeners that the sum total of all the Spanish AM's in Los Angeles com­bined.

Talkers: How about Luisa?

Gleason: Luisa has been a fixture at WIND during a period in which that AM, which still plays some music, but is in a very definite transitlon phase to talk, basically had very few hooks to hang anybody's hat or coat on. She has conducted a show called  Chicago Today or Chicago Al Dia, which has been a local celebrity and interview segment for a num­ber of years. And when we looked at the station as to how we could build a strong talk facility from the existing base we found that the only local talent that had a high recognition factor and that was con­sidered to be something people should lis­ten to was her program. And so what we did was expand that including some open forum type talk plus the community inter­view segment that she's traditionally done.

TALKEPS: And Malín Falu?

GLEASON: Malín has been in New York and Puerto Rican radio for many decades. She had been doing on WADO a midday show that was very much in the vein of tra­ditional Sunday morning public service ghetto shows. And when she was told that it was okay to be herself, that it was okay if not everybody would agree with her, when she was told that it was fine to argue a point with a listener or a guest, she came very much into her own she's an amaz­ingly bright, well-informed and communi­ty interested person. Again, the numbers have shown that the station has gone up about 50% in its 25-54 which is the only window that we look at very carefully. She has just done marvelously in a period of about six to nine months. Keep in mind that all of these stations are very much works-in-progress, because not only are we building good community aware talk sta­tions with a very strong 24-hour news back­bone, but we're also introducing a lot of contemporary talk concepts to listeners that have never heard them in their own language.

TALKERS: If you were to take Spanish Language talk radio audience in terms of key issues and break them down into two poles, what would you say am the two camps if there's any kind of polarity or controversy that runs through conversation?

GLEASON: Interestingly the first thing that came to my mind which I guess would indicate it's probably the thing I hear the most on our own airwaves is actually a lifestyle issue. It is the contrast of newer lifestyles versus traditional lifestyles. The greater participation of women in Hispanic culture and society. The changing role of men from that of provider to equal partner in relationships, and a lesser position of absolute dictatorial dominance. We hear a lot of that on the air in our different lifestyle segments and additionally we hear that from the political perspective where women as much as men wish to be involved in community processes such as elections and other activities in the commu­nity. That, as a general umbrella, would have to be the biggest subject.