Recession Hits Southern Calif. Radio, Local Biz

First-quarter results show that southern California radio revenues kept pace with the first three months “of 1990, but the recession and war jitters brought an end to a decade-long rise in local business.

For the six-county Southern California area tracked by the accounting firm of Miller, Kaplan, Arase & Co. in conjunction with the Southern California Broadcasters Assn., radio stations generated slightly more than $100 million in the period.

The total constitutes a marginal increase over the same period last year, even though several stations, primarily all-news outlets such as KFWB-AM, chose to go with commercial-free coverage during the initial stages of the Persian Gulf war.

Still, sluggish retail sales during the first three months were responsible for a 4% drop in local business. About 80% of the stations’ revenue comes from local sales, according to industry figures.

The downturn in local business was offset partially by a 14% jump in national sales, including a 22% surge in March over the same month a year ago.

Until this quarter, southern California radio had proved itself recession proof, particularly during the last go-round with a weak economy in the early 1980s.

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