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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, August 17, 2004

KPOI rocks back onto the radio dial

Old station Format Frequency New station Format Frequency
KPOI Modern rock 97.5 FM KHNR Talk, news 97.5 FM
KHUI "Bob FM," '70s-'80s rock 99.5 FM KHUI Traditional Hawaiian 99.5 FM
KAHA "Big Kahuna" classic rock 105.9 FM KPOI "Big Kahuna" classic rock 105.9 FM

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

KPOI fans can take a deep breath and relax. The modern rock FM station with the rich island legacy returned to the airwaves at midnight last night. It's dial location, however, changed from 97.5 FM to 105.9 FM — replacing the classic rock station KAHA.

The switch is one of several made on the local radio dial, brought on by a series of ownership transactions over the past few months. The 97.5 FM frequency — KPOI's old home — formally became KHNR yesterday. KHNR's new format, conservative talk and news, is being simulcast on KHNR at 650 on the AM dial. It's the first all-talk FM station for O'ahu.

The reborn KPOI has tweaked its name to KPOI The Big Kahuna.

Traditional Hawaiian music also returned to the airwaves, as KHUI dropped its "Bob FM" 1970s-'80s sound, bringing back classic Hawaiian music to 99.5 FM, and heralding the return of the Honolulu Skylark — Jacqueline Rossetti — who will broadcast from her Hilo home in the pivotal morning drive.

Confused? You're not alone.

"It's like the menu at Starbucks — the changes represent choices," said Jeff Coelho, vice president and general manager of Visionary Related Entertainment in Honolulu, and a 40-year veteran of Island broadcasting. "I'm not sure if FM talk radio is a trend, but they're happening in some Mainland markets; what it represents is diversity. The format was void (meaning not an option until now) and it's being tried; it's a move by Salem that made sense."

The changes are part of the fallout from the recent sale of four New Wave Broadcasting stations — KPOI FM, KHUI FM, KQMQ FM an KDDB FM — to Visionary Related Entertainment of Maui for $11 million. Because Federal Communications Commission regulations restrict the number of stations one owner can operate in a specific market, Visionary sold two stations, KPOI and KHUI, to Salem Media of Hawai'i for a reported $3.7 million, retaining ownership of the fabled KPOI call letters.

Salem now owns eight Honolulu stations, tapping such niches as conservative talk, country and Christian music. It expanded its stable of "safe for family" programming with the addition of the talk and Hawaiian music formats, prompting Dave Reed of Dave Reed Marketing to note, "I think it's important in this marketplace to maintain a Hawaiian music station. And people who listen to talk radio are listening to radio, while people who listen to music stations most often use it for background music."

"It's a serendipitous moment for me," said T.J. Malievsky, general manager and vice president of Salem. "I was the architect of KPOI, from 1981 to '87, so it's great to have KPOI back."

Malievsky and Salem will maintain the frequency, with a slate of KHNR talk show programming, anchored by Chaz Ontai from 6 to 9 a.m. daily.

In launching the Hawaiian format at KHUI, Malievsky tapped Mahlon Moore, program director, and broadcast veteran Skylark to relaunch the treasured sounds of Hawai'i that earlier were featured on KHUI under New Wave management, but then shelved in favor of the short-lived "Bob FM" format.

Coelho, of the Visionary stations in Honolulu, said the two other New Wave acquisitions — KQMQ 93.1 FM and KDDB 102.7 FM — will continue to operate from their Kalakaua Avenue site, but eventually relocate to Visionary headquarters at 765 Amana St. in the Kapi'olani business district. The Amana site is the original home of the predecessor of KQMQ, KKUA radio.

KPOI The Big Kahuna features Ed Kanoi in morning drive, Maile Silva during mid-day, Dave Lawrence in p.m. drive, and Fil Slash from 6 p.m. to midnight.

"This puts us on the same plateau as the other stations, giving us the same number of bullets in the gun," said Coelho. "This gives us better aim."

Reach Wayne Harada at 525-8067, fax 525-8055 or wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.

Correction: The frequency 105.9-FM will remain a classic rock station. The station's format was incorrectly reported in a previous version of this story.