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San Diego’s 100.7 FM has a new name, a retooled format and a comfort-music menu

Program director Garett Michaels is shown in the Sorrento Valley studios of 100.7 BIG-FM. The station formerly known as 100.7 KFMB-FM was purchased last year by Local Media San Diego. It kicked off with a new name and new format on April 13, 2020.
(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The San Diego radio station formerly known as KFMB-FM is now 100.7 BIG-FM/KFBG-FM, playing hits from many decades

When the radio station formerly known as KFMB-FM/100.7 San Diego launched with its new name and new format on April 13, the first song on the playlist was Queen’s “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions,” a timeless hit guaranteed to resonate with the kind of multi-generational audience the station now known as 100.7 BIG-FM/KFBG-FM is hoping to reach.

It’s a great Queen song, but it’s not the only one that fits. Given the surreal nature of launching a new media venture during a pandemic, BIG-FM could have easily kicked off with “Radio Ga Ga.” But the best zeitgeist choice would have to be “You’re My Best Friend,” a song from 1976 the perfectly sums up what this new station is hoping to do for San Diegans in 2020.

“We want to put people in a good mood. We want to lift them up and make them feel moved by the music in a good way,” program director Garett Michaels said of the new station, which Local Media San Diego — the owner and operator of alternative-rock station 91X, contemporary-hits station Z90.3 and the R&B/pop-spinning Magic 92.5 — bought from the Virginia-based Tegna Inc. late last year.

“It’s like when you go to parties and somebody has put together a playlist of tunes as their soundtrack, and it can be all over the place. I like to think that we can be your new soundtrack, the thing you can have on and everybody thinks it’s great.”

And by “everybody,” Michaels means anybody who had their ears glued to the sounds of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, along with anyone who might get a kick out of the occasional wild-card pick from the ‘60s or a glittery sprinkle of Lady Gaga now and again.

The new format is a pop-forward spin on the eclectic batch of rock tunes Michaels brought to KFMB-FM in 2016, when the station changed its name from 100.7 Jack FM to KFM-BFM, and Michaels changed the contemporary-pop playlist to reflect the tastes of the “Dave, Shelly and Chainsaw” audience.

His run ended a year later when the joint-operating agreement between Local Media San Diego and KFMB-FM’s pre-Tegna owner, Midwest Television, ran out. Michaels stayed with LMSD, and now he’s back with a music library to match the BIG-FM name.

In place of the previous station’s ‘80s-heavy mix of alternative-rock and new-wave tunes, listeners will be hearing a decades-spanning, genre-fluid collection of songs and artists that is inspired by the free-for-all way many people consume music these days. If your iTunes collection can include, say, AC/DC, Duran Duran and Prince, Michaels doesn’t see why the BIG-FM library can’t, too.

In fact, it does. Along with Led Zeppelin, Earth, Wind & Fire, Justin Timberlake and ... John Denver?

“It’s just fun to play a broad mix of music that is going to make it hard for people to predict what is coming next,” said Michaels, who is also the program director for 91X. “We can play (John Denver’s) ‘Rocky Mountain High,’ and there are people out there who will say, ‘Oh my God, I love that song.’”

At the moment, BIG-FM’s comfort-radio mix does not include disc-jockeys. At the end of January, Tegna gave two-weeks’ notice to all of KFMB AM and FM’s on-air talent, including 100.7 FM’s Chris Cantore, Cha Cha Harlow, Robin Roth and Rick Lawrence.

Michaels says BIG-FM will have on-air talent eventually, but he’s not sure when that will be. In the meantime, he is manning the radio fort at the Local Media San Diego headquarters in Sorrento Valley, where he and his fellow employees are doing their best to keep their listeners calm, happy and informed while staying as far away from each other as possible.

For Magic 92.5’s married morning team of Mark and Kristi Jagger, that means broadcasting from the guest room of their Poway home, where they chat with their shut-in listeners about which local restaurants are still open for take-out or delivery and what happens when you try to cut your own hair.

“I think people want normalcy and consistency,” Kristi said. “We have multiple ways of communicating with listeners. They can reach us by phone and on social media. We ask them to text us, and they do. Our goal is to give people the information they need to know, but also add a little bit of levity and fun so everything seems a little more normal.”

For longtime 91X disc jockey Hilary Doneux, broadcasting during a pandemic still means working out of the DJ booth in the LMSD offices. It also means disinfecting everything in that booth before and after she uses it, waving at her colleagues from a very safe distance, and revamping her long-running concert-calendar to spotlight shows people can stream from home.

But like everyone in every local-media outlet everywhere, Doneux knows that the best thing she can do for her audience in these crazy times is to keep doing the job she loves.

“A couple of days ago, we had a social media post where we asked people which decade of 91X music they related to most, and everyone got really into it and really into sharing memories,” said Doneux, who has been with the station off and on since 1997.

“I think there is some kind of comfort factor there. It’s kind of like, ‘We’re 91X, and we’re not going anywhere.’ We are here for people, just like we’ve always been.”


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