Radio Disney network acquires a San Antonio affiliate W. Scott Bailey (San Antonio Business Journal) On April 1, the station's news talk format is expected to be replaced by kid-friendly Radio Disney programming. On March 7, the Business Journal reported that Belo Corp. was selling KENS-AM to ABC Inc. for $3.2 million. As a result of that transaction, Clay says he and other KENS-AM employees were informed on March 4 that they will be let go at the end of the month. "It's going to be programming for kids 12 and under," says Clay about the new Radio Disney station. "Disney believes they can sell to soccer moms by cleaning up the music for a younger audience." To make way for safe bubble-gum music, Clay says San Antonio will lose one of its more conservative talk-radio stations. "What that means," says Clay, "is that there is a whole bunch of talk radio that needs a new home." KENS-AM has included in its programming lineup such staunch conservative voices as Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and Dr. Laura Schlessinger. "I'm talking to people right now," Clay says. "I'd like to find another home for this station. Especially now, with everything that's going on in the world, there are some voices that need to be heard. This just drives me nuts." It's uncertain if any of the KENS-AM programming could eventually be picked up by another conservative San Antonio talk-radio station - WOAI-AM 1200. New direction Scott Baradell, vice president of corporate communications for Belo, says, "We've agreed to sell the station. Radio Disney will begin programming it and providing content April 1." The sale, subject to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval, is not expected to close until sometime in the fourth quarter of this year. During the "transitional period," as Baradell calls it, Belo and ABC will work together under a local marketing agreement. "We're out of radio with this sale," Baradell adds. Belo, based in Dallas, purchased KENS-AM when it acquired San Antonio CBS affiliate KENS-TV in 1997. "They are not a radio company," says Clay about Belo. "We were the only radio station they owned. Belo couldn't figure out what to do with us, how to turn (loyal listenership) into revenues." Radio Disney already has a presence in Texas' top two markets. KMKI-AM 620 in Dallas and KMIC-AM 1590 in Houston are both Radio Disney affiliates. "I don't expect to see it real high in the ratings," says Clay about Radio Disney's San Antonio outlet. "But Disney doesn't care. They don't need to sell it here; they make their money selling nationally." ABC Radio President John Hare says, "KENS-AM 1160 will be a strong addition to the growing Radio Disney line-up. With the addition of San Antonio, Radio Disney will be in 57 markets, including 18 of the top 20 DMAs (designated market areas)." Radio Disney spokeswoman Melissa Gorup says the success of the network's other Texas affiliates caused the company to look at San Antonio. "It's one of the top markets," she says about the Alamo City. "Plus we have done really well in Dallas and Houston. This was a natural." Different tune Radio Disney was created and produced by Disney/ABC Radio Network. It's a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week radio network similar in style to Top 40 music stations. The network promotes itself as an outlet for clean music for its young audiences. But it has had some critics who have accused Radio Disney of using dirty tricks to build up artists that otherwise might warrant little or no play on non-Disney stations. One example is Hilary Duff, who was all but invisible on the American airwaves - except on Radio Disney, where her pop tune "I Can't Wait" was recently ranked number one. Critics have singled out Duff's chart-topper status in Radio Disney as an example of the company using unfair synergistic tactics that stretch the spirit of FCC regulations. Duff stars on "Lizzie McGuire," which airs on the Disney Channel. She records on the Buena Vista label, which, like the Disney Channel and Radio Disney, is owned by Walt Disney Co. Disney officials have denied any wrongdoing, disputing the notion of preferential treatment of select artists. Tom Taylor, a spokesman for industry observer Inside Radio, says there will be some downsides to Radio Disney displacing KENS-AM and its staff. "You do lose a talk outlet, and some of those folks likely need to be looking for jobs. It does have that consequence," says Taylor, a former radio station programmer. Taylor adds, "There probably won't be strong local programming. This is a very different kind of radio. Everything about it is different." Taylor is high on Radio Disney's programming and production elements, however. "It's a great program for kids and very well done," he contends. The loss of KENS-AM could affect local and regional sports coverage. But there is also the chance that Disney's move into the San Antonio market could boost sports radio in the area. One of Radio Disney's non-music staples is the ESPN for Kids segment. "Radio Disney and ESPN Radio are the two brands ABC has been willing to spend money on," explains Taylor. Asked if the presence of Radio Disney could lead to ESPN Radio seeking its own San Antonio affiliate, Gorup says, "That's a possibility."