Cable, 'DET changes herald subscription radio

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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 www.wdetfm.org 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 www.npr.org - 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 Vuolovideo.com.

 

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mike Austerman published on September 24, 2004 8:00 AM.

WDVD caught in a rut; could FCC target WKRK? was the previous entry in this blog.

Longtime Christian station not so local anymore is the next entry in this blog.

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