Media Life:Radio advice guru Dr. Laura weighs in on KAHI’s new advice show

Digital spells problems for outlying viewers in advance of February switchover from analog
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
About to embark on a new advice show using Auburn’s KAHI 950 AM radio as a springboard, Bob and Joni Hilton have already fielded a call from none other than the reigning queen of advice, “Dr. Laura.” Now a national presence with her pithy, no-nonsense take on life, Laura Schlessinger phoned to wish the couple luck with “The Joni Hilton Show.” It debuts Oct. 13 on the local station, with streaming audio taking it to the four corners of the globe. It wasn’t too long ago that Bob Hilton was giving Schlessinger one of her first breaks in the broadcasting business with a guest slot on his own L.A. talk show. That turned into semi-regular appearances, Schlessinger began to make a name for herself, and the rest is broadcasting history. So when Schlessinger heard about the new program – one that the Hilton’s are describing as ‘Dr. Laura light’ – she was on the phone, not with advice, but friendly encouragement. And while Joni will be the voice and the name behind the show, Bob Hilton will be in the background providing a wealth of experience that has included some memorable turns as host and announcer on well-known TV game shows like “Truth or Consequences” and the 1990 revival of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Hilton, in fact, was the host who took over from Bob Barker in 1975. “I grew up watching Bob Barker and ‘Truth or Consequences’ and here I was, stepping into one of my hero’s spots,” Hilton said. Joni and Bob Hilton met in Los Angeles. He was hosting “Truth or Consequences.” She had a talk show and he was a guest. After marrying, the two went on to have a nationally syndicated TV show, “Hour Family.” The parents of four children, they now live in Rocklin. The new show, which will air weeknights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., is all call-in, with topics depending on the audience. “Advice” is the keyword, with Joni – who is in demand as a motivational speaker, has written home help advice books, and even started a line of organic cleaning products with her husband – at the microphone concentrating on life and relationship problems. Bob, who is recognizable to many local TV viewers as a former CBS13 anchor, has also taken a post as sales manager with KAHI so expect an increasing presence in the community from a familiar voice. HD DILEMMA Reader Tom Vonhurrall says he’s far from looking forward to the February switch to digital. From the high altitude of the low Sierra, the Dutch Flat resident has been able to regularly receive not only Sacramento analog TV telecasts but also signals from the Bay Area. But when Vonhurrall went out and bought one of the digital-to-analog converter boxes to use with his analog TV, he found the reception had worsened dramatically. With analog, signals can be weak and come through with some “snow.” But with digital, high-definition TV, it’s all or nothing. Either you get a signal or you don’t. For Dutch Flat, you don’t. Forget the Bay Area stations, like PBS’s Channel 9, Vonhurrall said. And people in rural areas away from major centers should also forget about even closer signals, he said. Vonhurrall can’t get digital channels, KVIE-6, News10 or CBS13 from Sacramento. With no regular news reports, he says that sets up a dangerous situation for him and his neighbors, who depend on weather information in particular. Vonhurrall, 78, said he’s tested the converter boxes at nearby residents’ homes with the same result. Many people don’t have the funds to convert to monthly charges for dish or cable service, he said. Antennae – event the biggest – still won’t give him a good signal. Right now, people are spending $60 ($20 with the $40 coupons available from the federal government) to buy a converter box that will prove worthless in many outlying areas, he said. But the costs could be higher. The digital conversion and subsequent dropoff could cost lives in the mountains, Vonhurrall believes. “When we have heavy snows and there’s no TV, it puts us in a precarious situation,” he said. MEDIA LIFE MUSINGS Last week’s Media Life column snippet on 1989 Placer High School grad Nicole Pierce’s integral role in new animated movie “Igor” alluded to her efforts to find a non-profit group to distribute 50 free tickets to needy children. This week’s update is the Auburn Boys & Girls Club has come through and will give kids a chance to snag tickets by writing an essay … Also, “Deadliest Catch” Emmy nominees Doug and Todd Stanley will be finding out Saturday if this year is The One. Doug, of Roseville and formerly of Ophir, and Todd, of Lotus in El Dorado County, are part of a team nominated in the cinematography category for non-fiction programs category … Auburn’s Mars, whose score for the “H.P. Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown” documentary gained critical traction at the recent Comic-Con International in San Diego, is branching out with a short film that has been chosen for the 13th annual H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Ore. in early October … KTXL Fox40 is welcoming the return of Jaime Garza to the TV newsroom fold. Garza, who started anchoring the 10 p.m. news at the Sacramento station on Tuesday, was a reporter-anchor for morning newscasts in Sacramento in the mid-1990s. He was also on the air with two local radio stations. For the past 13 years, Garza served as anchor-reporter at KCBS-KCAL, the CBS-owned stations in the nation’s second largest television market. Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at --------------------------------------- For more Media Life, go to for Gus Thomson’s Media Life: Etc. staff blog. Blog posts this week include a look at the Greg Kihn Band show at the Gold Country, a future Borders look at some libraries and a 200-mile run by renowned Auburn ultramarathoner Tim Twietmeyer.