Lebanon radio station owner beefs up signals to Sweet Home

Audrey Gomez

Charlie Eads has seen, and made, a lot of changes at KGAL since he bought the radio station in 1981.

Recent improvements have increased listener access to AM radio stations, KGAL 1580 and KSHO 920, both owned by Eads Broadcasting Corporation.

Within the last couple of years, they’ve increased their daytime power and invested in a generator, which, Eads said, improves service to the Sweet Home area.

The Federal Communication Commission approved an increase in KGAL’s daytime power to 5,000 watts, which means Sweet Home listeners of the Lebanon-based station will get better reception.

They didn’t increase KSHO’s power because at 1,000 watts, its coverage is pretty good, Eads said.

The generator will keep both stations on the air in the event of an emergency or power outage.

The generator is housed in a Tiny House on the KGAL property that Eads’ wife Mary Eads built.

“No one actually lives in the Tiny House, but it’s a nice place to relax, with a big deck and Adirondack rocking chairs,” Eads said.

While Eads has made physical and technological improvements over the years, content is a priority, he said.

“KGAL, when we built it, was the first news talk in our market,” Eads said. “Our market being Lebanon, Albany, Corvallis, Sweet Home. There’s one in Salem.”

By Eads’ estimation, that transition was about 12 to 14 years ago.

KFIR, which broadcasts out of Sweet Home, also broadcasts news and talk radio. It is owned by Radio Fiesta Network, LLC in Los Angeles.

“It’s an expensive format to do,” Eads said. “Particularly, if you’re going to have local content, as we do. We have syndicated programs as well.”

When Eads bought KGAL, the business office was in Albany.

“We had the DJs running wild here in Lebanon,” he said. “At that time, if you were on the air 24 hours a day, you had 24 hours a day worth of employees. There was somebody here hanging out all the time. Not the case anymore at any radio station, but it was then.”

The Lebanon location now houses the business offices as well as the DJs.

“If you want to listen to music, I can listen to music on this thing,” Eads said gesturing to his phone. “I could listen to exactly what I want to listen to. So if the content is not local, if the commercials aren’t local, if the public service announcements aren’t local, then you’re not providing a service that we’re charged with providing.”

KGAL’s morning update is a live broadcast with local and regional news. It’s followed by another local program, Valley Talk.

On Tuesdays, former Albany Democrat-Herald editor Hasso Hering contributes.

“He’s great,” Eads said. “He likes to promote his blog (hh-today.com), but also he’s really on top of stuff. I can tell my staff to stay on top of things, but if they’re not really interested, they’re not going to stay on top of it. But he definitely is. And not just Albany stuff.”

Eads pays close attention to the stations’ syndicated programming as well.

“Our identifier on KGAL is SmartTalk,” Eads said.

Their syndicated programming leans conservative, he said.

“But they’re not screamers,” Eads said. “They’re not crazy.”

Eads cited host Michael Medved as an example.

“He’s level-headed and he loves to get people on the air who disagree with him so they can have a discussion,” Eads said. “Not everybody has an intelligent discussion with him.”

“SmartTalk is not something we just pulled out of the air,” Eads said. “We make a real effort.”

Eads makes an effort to promote and contribute to local cultural activities, as well.

“I’m very much involved in cultural activities,” Eads said. “Music primarily. We make a real effort to promote concerts from Salem to Eugene.”

Eads is personally active in the local music scene. He is a member of the Willamette Valley Concert Band and the company promotes music and drama in schools.

His radio stations cover local sports too, Eads said. Part of that local coverage includes covering high school football and basketball games for Lebanon and Albany. KGAL broadcasts Lebanon games, KSHO covers West Albany, and their streaming service, The Action Stream, broadcasts South Albany games.

While broadcasted live, the games can be listened to again on podcasts.

“It’s funny, parents and people that are at the game love to go back and hear it again,” Eads said.

They don’t cover Sweet Home games because KFIR has done that and Eads doesn’t want to duplicate coverage, he said.

But they do support other Sweet Home events, such as the Jamboree.

“We probably need to get a little more involved in Sweet Home,” Eads said. “We advertise with the Jamboree and do a contest around the Jamboree.”

He said they used to participate in the Sportsmans’ Holiday but scheduling conflicts may have prevented recent participation.

“I think it comes at an awkward time for us every year,” Eads said. “But we’ll be looking into some more of that.”