September 2004 Archives

The Oakland Press - On The Radio, September 24 2004


By: Art Vuolo

The second monthly radio ratings for summer are in, and adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3) continues in first place, followed by a tie between urban contemporary WJLB-FM (97.9) and news WWJ-AM (950).

After that come personality/ talk WJR-AM (760), rock WRIF-FM (101.1) and oldies WOMC-FM (104.3).

Rounding out the Top 10 are smooth jazz WVMV-FM (98.7), country WYCD-FM (99.5) and soft rockers WMGC-FM (105.1) and WNIC-FM (100.3).

Wasn't too long ago that WJR and then WNIC owned the top slot.

My friends who work in local radio are forever chastising me for my enthusiasm for satellite radio, but one look at what happened at the recent Emmy awards and what happened at public radio WDET-FM (101.9) is revealing.

At the Emmys, "The Sopranos" won four awards. This mature-content program is available only in homes whose owners subscribe to HBO. The network's seen in about 30 percent of U.S. homes and costs about $14 per month over the basic cost of cable TV.

Yet, programs on this "premium" network captured a staggering 32 Emmy awards; "The Sopranos" alone nabbed 20 nominations. This is significant, and it has the people who run ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC extremely concerned.

Now, a similar thing is happening to radio. The medium which has no picture and forces you to use your imagination is facing ever-tougher new competition from satellite broadcasters.

Personally, I'm not sure they're taking it seriously - or should we spell that Sirius-ly? Just look at public radio.

Sirius Satellite Radio has snagged a number of listener-subscribers by offering programming from land-based National Public Radio. And rival sat-caster XM just started a public radio channel (133) that, on Oct. 4, will premier its own version of "Morning Edition" with Bob Edwards. He's the man who made that NPR news show a huge success for 25 years, until this spring, when NPR decided to demote him.

Now let's look at WDET. Last week, Detroit's Public Radio station made major changes to its weekday and weekend lineups (see for details), and not everyone is happy.

That's because it got rid of such national shows as Tavis Smiley (who 'DET ballyhooed signing only two years ago), Terry Gross' "Fresh Air" afternoon interview program, and the witty weekend car advice show "Car Talk," which just happens to be public radio's most popular entertainment program.

The changes drew a lot of response, and one in particular captures the frustration of many disenchanted listeners.

Mike Seltzer, the owner of the Bloomfield Hills-based marketing company SKM, is among them. He notes WDET is "spinning it on their Web site as 16 great new hours of musical programming each week, but the truth is that WDET has just cut all NPR programming except 'Morning Edition' and 'All Things Considered,' the bookends of news on NPR."

He also notes that if WDET's pledges have fallen during recent fund drives, "just wait to see what happens in the future."

Also dumped in the move to save $140,000 were local Saturday music shows by folkie Matt Watroba and bluegrasser Larry McDaniel, as well as the national show "Mountain Stage."

For Seltzer and all of those who care, NPR programming still can be found on several other stations, depending upon where listeners live and how good their radios and antennas are.

NPR affiliates WUOM-FM (91.7) in Ann Arbor airs Gross at noon weekdays and 4 p.m. Sun.; "This American Life" at 1 p.m. Sat. and 3 p.m. Sun.; and "Car Talk" at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sat. There's also WEMU-FM (89.1) in Ypsilanti; WKAR-FM (90.5) in East Lansing; WFUM-FM (91.1) in Flint; or WGTE-FM (91.3) in Toledo.

You also can tune in on the Web at - and, of course, on Sirius and XM satellite radio.

Speaking of signals from the sky, tomorrow's Michigan-Iowa football game will be the first one that'll be beamed nationwide on Sirius (channel 131) and XM (channel 187).

You can't sync it up with TV because of the satellites' 13-second delay, but Wolverine fans from Bellingham, Wash., to Key West, Fla., can hear the Frank Beckmann and Jim Brandstatter broadcast fed by WJR and Host Communications.

XM and Sirius plan on airing select Big Ten games this fall, too.

Is it just me, or does pop hits WNIC-FM (100.3) have one of the best lineups of name-brand talent on the air?

Moving Chris Edmonds to mornings was a sensational idea, Gene Maxwell is a 25-year midday mainstay and Kevin O'Neill sounds like he was made for afternoon drive.

All that's missing is a local show in the evening, and (hint, hint) Johnny Williams is back in town.

Across the hall in the Clear Channel Fortress in Farmington Hills, folks are preparing for the first Rock & Roll Auction at classic hits WDTW-FM (106.7).

The Nov. 3 event at the Emerald Theatre in Mount Clemens will be a fund-raiser for The Rainbow Connection, a charity that benefits kids with illnesses.

Afternoon jock Joe Thomas says, "How can you not have a good time at The Drive's First Annual Rock & Roll Auction when all the money is going to help these kids?"

More details to come.

Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs


The Oakland Press - On The Radio, September 17 2004


By: Mike Austerman

Interesting times at pop WDVD-FM (96.3), as the station has let program director Greg Ausham go after only about 16 months on the job. The station has tried to position itself somewhere between the sound of soft rockers WNIC-FM (100.3) and WMGC-FM (105.1) and Top 40 outlets WDRQ-FM (93.1) and WKQI-FM (95.5), chasing the heavily emphasized female age 25-54 ratings.

The station's been running a steady stream of promotions that stress the musical comparison between itself and 95.5, but any effort to woo listeners from WKQI also could take listeners away from co-owned station WDRQ.

Hmmm ... maybe one of them should move to a completely different sound to stop the battle.

After all, WDVD has sounded pretty much the same since 1998 when, as "Planet 96.3," it boasted of playing "Modern Hits of the '80s and '90s." Several tweaks and name changes since then have evolved into the current slogan of "Detroit's Best Variety of the '80s, '90s and Today."

What hasn't changed is the station's place in the ratings - in the second tier of the market's FM signals. It'll be interesting to see what the next WDVD programmer comes up with to generate excitement and attract listeners.

There have been tons of headlines this year about the Federal Communications Commission's crackdown on broadcast indecency, but flying under the radar has been the license renewal process that all radio station in Michigan are going through as they prepare for their licenses to expire Oct. 1.

As expected, each station in the state has applied for an eight-year renewal with the FCC. As part of this, they're required to be current with their records and must provide info on how they serve the public.

But the process also allows for input from listeners like you on how well a station serves its market. While it's rare that a petition from the public to deny a license renewal gets very far with the FCC, this year might be different.

Two weeks ago, Macomb County-based Right to Decency Inc. filed a petition to deny the license renewal for hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1), aided by several broadcasts in the past couple of years that the FCC itself found to be indecent.

The group, which got its start at St. Malachy Catholic Church in Sterling Heights, has sent several complaints to the FCC about broadcasts its members find objectionable. In each of the FCC's rulings on WKRK, there have been calls by FCC commissioners to begin license revocation procedures against the station.

Could this be the example the FCC is looking for - a radio station that's gone too far over the line? Is this a big story in the making - or just a speed bump?

Stay tuned.

A tradition each fall is the release of the famed WJR-AM (760) Michigan RadioGuide, once again supported by GMAC Mortgage Corp.

The handy guides contain the U-M football and basketball schedules and a listing of every station in our state and which ones carry the games. They're free at participating Big Boy restaurants or for $1 (for postage and handling) at: WJR Guide, P.O. Box 880, Novi 48376.

It's the 31st year for the guides, produced by Art Vuolo. Over Labor Day, he was handing them out himself at the WJR tailgate broadcast.

Michigan football fans may have noticed that the traditional "Band, take the field" announcement sounded just a bit different when the season kicked off at the Big House on Sept. 4.

That's because Carl Grapentine, who had never missed a home game in 35 years, was sidelined by a recent heart attack, and his brother Chris, stepped in at the microphone. Fortunately, their voices are very similar.

Grapentine spent many years at the old classical mainstay WQRS-FM (105.1) before it changed to The Edge, then The Groove and now Magic; currently, he does mornings at Chicago's classical giant WFMT-FM (98.7).

He hopes to be back behind the Big House mike as the band announcer by either the Sept. 25 Iowa or the Oct. 9 Minnesota game.

All his fans and the Maize and Blue faithful wish him a speedy recovery.

Dropped: By Detroit schools' WRCJ-FM (90.9), all weekend programming, including the "Somewhere in Time" show regularly featured in this space. In advance of WRCJ coming under the control of a new operator, the Detroit Public Schools has limited the station's schedule to 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays.

Mike Austerman is the founder of the Internet Web site michiguide. com and has covered radio for The Daily Oakland Press for three years.


The Oakland Press - On The Radio, September 10 2004


By Art Vuolo

As meteorologists try to figure out exactly where and if Hurricane Ivan (the Terrible) is going to strike, several radio stations in Florida are trying to get back on the air. And those lucky enough to have stayed on through the wrath of Hurricane Frances should be proud of the job they did.

Some of you will remember "Big" Jim Edwards from his days as a "Big 8" jock at CKLW-AM (800) in the late 1960s Well, Big Jim is actually James K. Davis, and he manages a group of stations in Vero Beach, Fla.

Close friend Michelle McKormick from hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1) says she was glad to hear that Jim was safe. "He gave me my first break in morning radio, which led to my venture into talk radio in New Jersey back in 1996," she recalls.

Closer to home, several stations are to be congratulated for efforts to help victims of hurricanes Charley and Frances.

In nearby Flint, Scott Free, the program director of hits WWCK-FM (105.5), was proud of morning jocks Mike MacDonald and Stephanie Confer, who organized a multi-station relief effort this past week.

For readers in northern Oakland County, their sister station, WWCK-AM (1570), is now Genesee County's all-talk station since kids WFDF-AM (910) and standards WFNT-AM (1470) both jettisoned their news-talk formats in recent years.

Across America, the race to talk radio is almost out of control. Of the 13,000 radio stations in this country, more than 1,300 of them are some form of news-talk-sports and information.

Recently, I told you about how media giant Clear Channel has suddenly jumped on the liberal bandwagon, flipping stations coast-to-coast to what they're calling "progressive talk."

News-talk is the number one AM format and on FM, it's number two only to country music. Many of these FM talkers, however, are non-commercial NPR stations.

But nearly every time a station switches to a talk format, it replaces a music venue and the ones that are falling victim most often are adult standards, like memories CKWW-AM (580) and pre-Beatles oldies stations like WPON-AM (1460).

Tomorrow, the MSU Spartans attempt to regain their pride when taking on up-the-road rival Central Michigan. The game can be heard on sports WXYT-AM (1270).

Some Wolverine fans will be traveling to the stadium that sits on the South Bend of the St. Joseph River as Michigan takes on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

U-M games are on news-talk WJR-AM (760) and out in Ann Arbor sports WTKA-AM (1050), but if you're heading to northern Indiana, take your radio because the game should be on South Bend's WDND-AM (1580) - if their satellite receiver problem is fixed in time.

An alternate choice would be the powerful news-talk WKZO-AM (590) from Kalamazoo. Both stations get the WJR game feed with Frank Beckmann and Jim Brandstatter.

Speaking of college football, both satellite radio broadcasters Sirius and XM have cut deals that allow them to carry Big Ten football and basketball games which makes it possible to hear your favorite teams nationwide.

Michigan fans also will want to tune in WFUM-TV next week for the new "Michigan Football Memories" documentary.

It airs Thursday (check local listings) and features footage of Fielding Yost and Fritz Crisler, legendary broadcaster Bob Ufer and dozens of U-M legends.

This must-see for Wolverine fans also comes out on DVD later this month.

Quick Hits: Congrats to all of the local radio people who joined their TV colleagues on the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, which raised $59,398,915 nationally. The local figure on WB20 was a staggering $1,712,320 ... WXYZ-TV Channel 7 general manager Grace Gilchrist was recently inducted into the Michigan Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Grace loves local radio and is most deserving of this honor ... Microsoft is making static for radio with its new MSN Music service which allows users to buy songs online and is also creating Internet stations using the playlists and slogans from commercial stations ... Wolfman Jack has been dead since 1995, but tapes of his old shows have been digitally remastered and he'll be howling on the air again soon.

Set Your Dial: Hear the popular Australian swing band, The Cotton Club Orchestra, at 3 p.m. Sunday on WRCJ-FM (90.9) ... from 4 to 8 p.m. today, XM's Channel 6 recreates another 1960s AM radio giant, Philadelphia's original rocker, WIBG Wibbage 99 ...

Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs


The Oakland Press - On The Radio, September 3 2004


By: Mike Austerman

One of the pleasures of this column is reporting on the positive side of the radio business. Two of the area's " 'NICest" guys have reasons to spend this weekend grinning from ear to ear as they prepare to take the next steps in their respective radio careers.

At soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3), afternoon guy Chris Edmonds will take over as the morning show co-host on Tuesday, replacing Channel 4 weatherman Chuck Gaidica.

And taking Edmonds' place in afternoon drive will be 24-year market vet Kevin O'Neill, as O'Neill moves from the morning show at Ann Arbor adult alternative WQKL-FM (107.1).

The shuffling is a result of Channel 4 weathercaster Kim Adams' decision to move out of state to follow her husband's assignment in the Navy. Her departure from the 11 p.m. newscast opened the door for Gaidica's return to full-time TV duty, requiring him to cut back on his radio responsibilities.

Mr. Cuddle Alert will still appear each morning and throughout the day on WNIC, providing weather information and chat with WNIC personalities.

Edmonds, who will join "Breakfast Club" holdovers Dave Lockhart and Lisa Berry, has been with WNIC, primarily in the afternoon slot, since 1987. "How could I pass up the opportunity to wake up at 4 a.m.?" he asks jokingly. "Seriously, I'm excited to join the team and keep WNIC sounding 'NICe' every morning."

He'll have the challenge of taking on morning drive in Detroit, a timeslot loaded with talent up and down the dial, including former 'NIC morning man Jim Harper, who moved to soft rock WMGC-FM (105.9) and has been outpolling Gaidica in the ratings recently.

Meanwhile, O'Neill will join afternoon co-host Tamie Lockhart. Before landing at WQKL earlier this year, his most recent Detroit gigs were as morning show host at modern hits WDVD-FM (96.3), country WYCD-FM (99.5) and Top 40 WKQI-FM (95.5).

"Working at WNIC is a treat not many people get to experience," O'Neill says. "The station has such a stable, long-running on-air staff, I'm honored to come aboard."

For both he and Edmonds, this is proof that good things do happen to good people.

As anyone attempting to hit downtown Pontiac this weekend will attest, the Arts, Beats & Eats festival is second only to the Dream Cruise in terms of excitement and attention.

And just as with the Cruise, radio has jumped aboard with sponsorships and live broadcasts throughout the four-day event.

The roster of stations heavily involved this year includes news-talk WJR-AM (760); modern rock CIMX-FM (88.7); soft rock CIDR-FM (93.9); classic rock WCSX-FM (94.7); WKQI; hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1); smooth jazz WVMV-FM (98.7); WYCD; WNIC; rock WRIF-FM (101.1); public radio WDET-FM (101.9); adult urban WDMK-FM (102.7); and urban WDTJ-FM (105.9).

Whew! If you see any bumper stickers or keychains, pick one up for me ...

Fine Tuning: Paul Edwards, host of the afternoon talk program "On the Word" on Christian WRDT-AM (560), resigned his position last Friday. He'd been the sole local talk host there since February 2002 ...

E-mail inquiries continue about a possible return of Don Imus' show to the Detroit-area airwaves. Unfortunately for fans of the I-man, my response hasn't changed since his show was dropped by sports WXYT-AM (1270) at the end of February: I'm not aware of any station expressing an interest in adding Imus. His show is now only available on one Michigan station, WKMI-AM (1360) in Kalamazoo.

Set your dials: "Somewhere in Time" presents the wacky music of 1940s star Spike Jones and his City Slickers at 3 p.m. Sunday on WRCJ-FM (90.9).

Mike Austerman is the founder of the Internet web site and has covered radio for The Daily Oakland Press for three years.







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This page is an archive of entries from September 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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