LARRY KING MAY TURN OFF HIS RADIO TALK SHOW

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Talk show maven Larry King may be about to turn his back on radio, the medium that made him, or he may just be angling for a better contract.

And there is some disagreement whether his departure would create an unfillable void.

Until the year 2000, he will address viewers of TV's "Larry King Live"and, for at least the next eight months, talk to listeners of radio's "The Larry King Show."

But there is speculation that the father of the modern radio talk-show format may not renew his contract with Westwood One in October.

And, if an agreement is not reached, Mr. King could step down.

"I love radio," Mr. King said when asked whether he plans to retire from the audio-only medium and a format he and others say he pioneered on the Mutual Broadcasting System, owned by Westwood One, 16 years ago. "I would not go to another network. I have done radio for 37 years now ... and I expect to do radio until I expire."

"We are in discussions now," Mr. King said. "I'm open to lots of things."

Mr. King and Westwood One refused to discuss contract negotiations.

Last year, Mr. King switched to days from his 15-year broadcast during the 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. (ET) slot.

Westwood One doubled the number of advertisers and more than tripled the show's rates, to a range of $1,200 to $1,500 for a 30-second spot, when it moved to 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. last February.

"I would imagine it wasn't as successful as they would have hoped from an advertising point of view," said Michael Harrison, editor and publisher of Talkers Magazine, the monthly talk radio industry trade publica tion.

Mr. Harrison said the show's ratings have remained relatively flat since the switch to daytime from late night, when stations used the show as filler. "There wasn't that much pressure on the show to be a financial success during late night, when ratings are lower."

Among advertisers that signed on when the show went to afternoons were Kmart Corp., Microsoft Corp. and General Motors Corp.'s Buick and Oldsmobile divisions. A GM spokesman confirmed the automotive giant still advertises. But, he said, "We don't speculate on future advertising plans," when asked whether GM would continue if Mr. King signs another contract, or where it may spend those dollars if he doesn't.

There were 11,275 radio stations in operation nationwide at the end of 1992, up 1.7% from the previous year, according to the 1993 Broadcasting & Cable Yearbook. The number of talk radio outlets, 388, was up 11.2%, while the number of news talk stations, 661, which includes the talk category, jumped 24.9%. Total ad spending on radio in 1993 was $9.6 billion, up 9.3%, the Radio Advertising Bureau said. About three of every four dollars spent came from locally placed commercials.

"There would be no void [if Mr. King left radio]," Mr. Harrison said. "With all due respect to Mr. King and his pioneering abilities, he does not occupy the leading edge position of talk radio."

Mr. Harrison said people on the cutting edge include radio talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh, G. Gordon Liddy and former President Reagan's son Michael.

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