2004: October 2004 Archives

The Oakland Press - On The Radio, October 29 2004


By Mike Austerman

Tomorrow's "Backyard Brawl" between Michigan and Michigan State gives local radio stations a good excuse to throw parties.

From 6-9 this morning, news-talk WJR-AM (760) morning man Paul W. Smith broadcasts his annual "rivalry breakfast" from Andiamo Italia Restaurant in Warren.

Though he's a Michigan grad, Paul W. will no doubt be completely neutral and would never consider playing "The Victors" more than the Spartan fight song.

Also, beginning at 3 p.m. today, Stoney and Wojo of sports WDFN-AM (1130) will broadcast their University of Michigan-Michigan State bash from Snookers Pool & Pub in Utica.

Then, starting at 1:30 p.m., Parker and the Man from hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1) will host their show live from the area's biggest UM-MSU party at the Royal Oak Music Theatre. Admission's free, but you must be 21 or older to watch the game on the big screen and enjoy the barbecue by Chef Paul. Doors open at 1 p.m., and at 3 p.m., two lucky people will win tickets to the game and be whisked off to Ann Arbor, to arrive before the end of the first quarter.

Those watching at home can turn down the TV and pick their favorite radio callers: Michigan's Frank Beckmann and Jim Brandstatter on WJR or MSU's George Blaha and Bill Burke on WXYT-AM (1270).

May the best team win ...

Ch-ch-ch-changes: Country WYCD-FM (99.5) has named Chip Miller as its new program director, starting Nov. 21. The search for a new PD had been underway since August, when former boss Mac Daniels exited for Austin, Texas.

Miller arrives from Memphis, where he led a country outlet there to its best ratings success in 10 years. Prior to Memphis, Miller worked at WFBE-FM (95.1) Flint.

He says he's "very excited to return to Michigan" and be a part of the WYCD team, adding, "Detroit, get ready for a re-energized WYCD!"

If you're a fan of legendary local radio and a subscriber to XM Satellite Radio, you'll want to check out XM's Sixties on Six from 4-8 p.m. today when the station honors our own 1960s AM powerhouse Keener 13 - WKNR.

Afternoon jock Terry "Motormouth" Young will provide a total re-creation of Keener 13, complete with jingles, tapes of former jocks, old Detroit commercials, and music of the 1960s.

What's even cooler is that XM is doing the tribute on the weekend of the station's 41st anniversary: Keener 13 was born on Halloween night 1963 and transformed the Detroit radio dial forever. You know what I'll be listening to this afternoon.

For more and for those without XM, check out Scott Westerman's outstanding Keener 13 Web site at www.keener13.com. There, you'll find station history, jingles, bios of Keener's legendary jocks (including Dick Purtan) and more.

Regular broadcasters can't be happy about all the press satellite radio has been getting lately.

This week's biggest news came out of the XM camp with the announcement that Major League Baseball has agreed to a $650 million, 11-year deal that will bring roughly 2,600 baseball games a year to XM.

You'll be able to hear every game on XM next year, although you'll only be able to hear one of the two teams' announcers per game (my guess is you'll hear the home team's feed). The broadcasts will be an exact duplication of what you'd hear over the "regular" radio - including the commercials and station promotions.

XM's other announcement was the availability of a new Walkmanlike receiver that also can be used to download program material for later playback.

The Delphi MyFi has the satellite industry's first built-in antenna and includes accessories for home and car use. It's pricey at $350, but it opens a whole new potential market for XM - just in time for Christmas. And for techies, it's, like, way cool.

Finally, Sirius debuted a new hip-hop channel yesterday programmed by Detroiter Eminem.

The main marketing point other than Eminem? The channel is uncensored, giving parents something else to be frightened of this Halloween.

Set your dials: Standards CKWW-AM (580) carries on a Halloween tradition and will once again broadcast the original 1938 classic "The War of the Worlds" at 8 p.m. Sunday. This realistic radio drama starred Orson Welles and convinced thousands of listeners that Martians were invading Earth ... Public WDET-FM's (101.9) Jon Moshier also will present his yearly Halloween special of spooky songs, rare novelty records, 1950s movie trailers, and special Rhino Record giveaways starting at 10 p.m. Saturday till the witching hour. Bwah-hah-hah-hah!

Mike Austerman is the founder of Michiguide.com and has covered radio for The Daily Oakland Press for three years.


The Oakland Press - On The Radio, October 22 2004


By Art Vuolo

Fezzey and Homberg is not the name of a new law firm in town.

Mike Fezzey and Rich Homberg are the names of the top brass at personality talk/news WJR-AM (760) and all news WWJ-AM (950), respectively.

They and the promotion people at these two competing stations seemingly have the toughest job in local radio - making sure you know which station is at 760 and which is at 950 on the AM dial.

They and their staffs must be doing a decent job because the two 50,000-watt outlets are in a dead-heat tie in the just-released summer ratings, even though it wasn't a very hot summer.

The surprising news is that neither of these two powerhouse stations is No. 1.

The new top station in the mix is The Mix, pop-urban WMXD-FM (92.3). Some of us are old enough to remember when 92.3 was WLIN-FM in Lincoln Park and nobody knew it was even on the air. My, how times have changed.

Following WMXD, WJR and WWJ is The Mix's sister station, urban hits WJLB-FM (97.9). Then, it's oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) whose numbers are up slightly; followed by rock WRIF-FM (101.1); country WYCD-FM (99.5), which is up significantly; smooth jazz WVMV-FM (98.7); all-hits WKQI-FM (95.5) and classic rock WCSX-FM (94.7).

The F-word that broadcasters fear most these days is the FCC and things don't seem to be letting up, either.

Metro Detroit's edgy FM talk station, WKRK-FM (97.1), is facing the hard, cold fact that the Federal Communications Commission still wants "Live 97.1" to pay a pricey fine of $27,500 for a Deminski & Doyle show that aired nearly three years ago and was over the line in discussing sexual activity. Interestingly, D&D are no longer aiming at the lowest common denominator. Now, management is facing the fact that its syndicated morning star, Howard Stern, will be defecting to Sirius Satellite Radio in about 14 months.

Personally, I hate columnists who refer to him as a "shock jock." Howard does a talk show. He's not a D.J. He's also not my favorite, but his popularity cannot be denied.

The industry trade paper Radio Business Reports notes that the WKRK fine could influence Infinity Broadcasting, which owns the station, to pull Stern well ahead of the January 2005 deadline for his segue to satellite.

Blame it on Stern?

Ford Motor Co. announced this week that it is upping the availability of Sirius Satellite Radio as a dealer-installed option - and it's targeting up to 20 vehicle lines for factory installations in the next two years.

The factory installs lets Ford compete with GM, which is in its third year of offering XM Satellite Radio in its cars.

XM has passed the 2.5 million mark with its subscribers, and Sirius has plugged into 700,000 folks who don't mind paying for radio.

Speaking of this "Sirius" topic, Pontiac native and rock critic Dave Marsh is now doing a program on Sirius music stream 148 called "Kick Out the Jams!"

Marsh says his show is "based at the intersection of music and politics." He also notes that "there is a creative freedom at Sirius that simply doesn't exist in broadcast radio, and I plan to take full advantage of it."

Our local Mr. Radio, the always "fabulous" Bill Burton, was honored last weekend by the MSU Business School, which presented him with a lifetime alumni achievement award.

Burton is president of the Detroit Radio Advertising Group, which, despite its initials, is not a DRAG.

Detroit has more stations switching to HD (high-definition) radio than any city in the country due, in part, to the concentration of the Big Three automakers here.

HD-Digital signals make AM sound like FM, and FM sound like CDs.

The HD pioneer iBiquity has signed up seven local stations for the enhanced sound: Infinity's WOMC, WVMV and sports/talk WXYT-AM (1270); Clear Channel's WMXD, WJLB, and WKQI and Radio One's urban jams WDTJ-FM (105.9). And iBiquity promises to sign even more by the end of the year. And public radio station WEMU-FM (89.1) is also broadcast in HD.

Is it that big a deal? I've heard HD radio and it is very impressive.

Finally, Denver-based Hudson Research claims "it's not excessive commercial loads or too much talk" that's causing listeners to tune out, it's "the song lyrics and DJ topics."

You can learn more from analyst Matt Hudson at www.HudsonMediaResearch.com.


'Brandy & Bo' sign on again for U-M



The Oakland Press - On The Radio, October 15 2004


By Mike Austerman

They're baaaack: Legendary Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler and U-M football analyst Jim Brandstatter have returned to the airwaves of news-talk WJR-AM (760) for another season of the "Brandy & Bo Show."

The hourlong college football discussion show airs 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 25, Nov. 1, 15 and 22.

Imagine taping your favorite radio talk show while you're working, then listening to it when you get back home. If you love technology as much as I do, Griffin Technology's new radioSHARK is probably going to be on your holiday wish list, too.

The device adds an AM/FM radio to your PC and can record any AM or FM radio broadcast in real time. It also can be programmed to record a scheduled show, or to "pause" live radio so you can return right where you left off moments or even hours before (think of it as TiVO for radio).

Recordings can be played back with the radioSHARK software or sent straight to a play list on Apple's iTunes music software. From there, recordings can be easily transferred to an iPod.

Reviewers do note two drawbacks: AM reception is subject to interference because of the close proximity of the radioSHARK to your computer (having a window nearby is a good idea). Also, setting up a recording is a manual process; unlike TiVO, there is no online programming guide to help.

The device will begin shipping soon and will retail for about $70; while that's a lot of money for a stocking stuffer, maybe Santa will be good to his favorite radio writers (and listeners) this year. Visit www. griffintechnology.com for more info.

Speaking of Christmas, soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3) is already getting set for the holiday season.

A quick visit to www.wnic. com reveals that the station will once again be flipping to an all-holiday music sound, likely sometime around Thanksgiving.

The station's Web site has already been redone for Christmas. I wonder if programmer Darren Davis has his tree up already, too?

All together now: "Dashing through the snow ..."

Public radio WUOM-FM (91.7) begins its fall fund-raising campaign this afternoon to drum up financial support for its talk and news programs.

Michigan Radio's three stations in Ann Arbor, Flint, and Grand Rapids are boasting an overall 2.5 percent increase in listeners from the same time last year, numbers the station hopes will translate into more financial support.

And the station is especially happy with its audience growth in southeast Michigan, where the numbers were up nearly 7.5 percent. Visit www.michigan radio.org.

Not to be outdone, Wayne State's public radio WDET-FM (101.9), also started its pledge drive today with special giveaways in exchange for pledges.

More than 90 percent of WDET's operating budget comes from the private sector; visit www.wdetfm.org to learn more.

Moving on up: WJR sales director John Gallagher has been promoted to general manager for a pair of Chicago stations, talk powerhouse WLS-AM (890) and Radio Disney WRDZ-AM (1300). Gallagher has been with WJR since 1987 and was promoted to general sales manager in 1995.

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


The Oakland Press - On The Radio, October 8 2004


By Art Vuolo

Shocker. Stunner. Bombshell. You pick the adjective, but Howard Stern made a "Sirius" announcement this week that he'd be moving to Sirius Satellite Radio when his contract expires with land-based radio giant Infinity in January 2006.

Stern, who'd hinted at such a move, said he's had it with FCC hassles and potential FCC fines for his shock-jock shenanigans, heard locally on hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1).

There will be more on this next week - and in the future.

Memo to broadcasters: Never assume anything.

Last weekend, I was in Bloomington, Ind., to watch the Wolverines eat Indiana's lunch, which they did 35-14. Trying to be helpful, I told several fans with radios which station locally carried the game. When I told one gentleman he could tune in at 105.1, he asked "AM or FM?"


Salem Broadcasting has turned Martha Jean the Queen's former station, WQBH, into conservative talk WDTK-AM (1400). Another right-leaning talk station - what an original idea.

With a signal at just 1,000 watts, AM 1400 is hardly a flamethrower, with a weak signal in most parts of Oakland County. The station also brought in a new manager, Chris MacCourtney, from CNBC's Midwest region.

On the other side of the coin, Ann Arbor's talk WAAM-AM (1600) carries Ed Schultz's very popular "progressive" talk show 3-6 p.m. weekdays.

"Big Eddie" is coming to town for the Michigan-Minnesota football game in Ann Arbor on Saturday and he'll appear between 9-10 a.m. on WAAM's Tailgate Show, broadcasting on Main Street near Stadium Blvd.

He'll also sign his new book, "Straight Talk from the Heartland," on Monday at Nicola's Books - 2513 Jackson Ave., Ann Arbor, (734) 662-4110 - and he'll broadcast his national show from the store.

Marc Spindler and John Lund have made their morning show on sports WXYT-AM (1270) commercial-free from 6-10 a.m. Thursdays. And if you "spot" one during that time, you can win $1,000. It's S&L's way of creating more buzz about their show.

From 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday, nostalgia CKWW-AM (580) is set to host "Shoo the Flu at the Zoo," which will offer flu shots at the Detroit Zoo main entrance. Because of the current vaccine shortages, they're limited to the first 100 people at high risk for the flu. Call (800) 365-5899 for info.

Public WDET-FM (101.9) may have stirred mixed feeling about its recent programming changes, but a Metro Times poll shows the station ranked tops in "best local radio news" and "best local radio music show" with Martin Bandyke.

That's got to bother the staff in the WWJ-AM (950) newsroom.

Sad news: Local comic and former radio talk show host Bill Thomas died of cancer at 52 last Saturday. I had the pleasure of capturing him on videotape when he did a weekend talk show on WXYT.

I truly feel the local radio community never recognized his unique wit, sense of humor and personality. He will be missed.

Mike Rivers was a DJ back in the golden age of CKLW-AM (800), when it was known as "The Big 8." Rivers, who died recently in Tennessee at the age of 60, also worked at the old WCAR - now WDFN-AM (1130) - as Mike Donahue in the late 1970's.

Sad news and an update: Also passing on was Southern California talk radio icon Bill Balance, who invented a controversial female-oriented gabfest known as "Fem Forum" in the 1970s.

Locally, Tom Dean hosted the Detroit version of that show on the old WDEE, now WLQV-AM (1500). These days, Dean is up near Traverse City doing real estate and part-time radio on country WTCM-FM (103.5). Check him out at www.airsho.com.

Final farewell: New York City DJ and gravel-voiced pitchman Scott Muni was a true innovator and creative force in rock radio. His funeral earlier this week filled St. Patrick's Cathedral with the elite of the radio world.

Muni worked with Southfield native Pat St. John in New York, while Westland native and 30-year NYC personality Jim Kerr (who worked as Robin Stone on the old Keener 13) was one of the pallbearers - along with former Infinity CEO Mel Karmazin.

Now, that's a major sign-off.

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


The Oakland Press - On The Radio, October 1 2004


By: Mike Austerman

If all went according to plan this morning, WQBH-AM (1400) debuted its new sound - replacing local Christian-based programming as "Detroit's Community Radio Station" with broader-focused conservative talk, Christian teaching and/or contemporary Christian music. The smart money appeared to be on new owner Salem Broadcasting introducing a lineup that would feature syndicated talk from hosts such as Bill Bennett, Laura Ingraham, Michael Medved and Mike Gallagher - shows that are currently not heard in our market. Salem announced the $4.75 million purchase of WQBH earlier this year from the estate of station founder the late Martha Jean "The Queen" Steinberg. The deal received regulatory approval in the summer but the sale was not officially closed until today. Along with new programming, the station will change the call letters from WQBH ("The Queen Broadcasts Here") to WDTK. Although Martha Steinberg died in 2000, her voice has lived on through taped broadcasts on WQBH up until Thursday. For many regular listeners, it as though they are living through Steinberg's death all over again with today's changes.

* * * *

Detroit will retain its status as the country's 10th largest radio market for the next year in the eyes of ratings company Arbitron. In fact, Detroit came within 7,100 listeners to catch ninth-place Boston; the difference was 29,100 last year. Eleventh-place Atlanta was 84,500 people behind Motown - a bit closer than last year's 109,000 difference. Maintaining a spot in the Top 10 is important to all the stations in the area for many reasons, including prestige in landing talent, ad rates and station monetary values.

* * * *

Fans of Howard Stern, heard locally on talk WKRK-FM (97.1), have been flocking to his Web site (www.howardstern.com) to purchase uncensored viewings of his E! TV network shows. Prices start at $4.95 to download and view a single episode, which is recorded for TV during his daily radio show. Stern said he will personally profit about $1 per sale, with the money being funneled directly back into his Web site. Partners Movielink will take home about $2 per sale, with Viacom, Stern's employer, also taking a portion of each sale. "My plan is to create a Web site where we can communicate with the audience the day we get thrown off the air," Stern says in explaining the new online feature. "We won't have to rely on terrestrial radio when the FCC finagles a way to get us thrown off the air because they put too much pressure on Viacom and all the other companies we work for." This is a great idea; if proven successful, it'll open an avenue to those who want to take in uncensored programming without compromising the free airwaves.

* * * *

Don't be surprised if sometime soon you turn on your favorite radio station and hear programming all in Spanish. Clear Channel, which owns WMXD-FM (92.3), WKQI-FM (95.5), WJLB-FM (97.9), WNIC-FM (110.3), WDTW-FM (106.7), WDFN-AM (1130) and WXDX-AM (1310) locally, recently announced plans to covert at least 25 of its stations across the country to target Hispanic listeners. "A large Spanish-speaking population is just one consideration in determining where to launch stations," says Alfredo Alonso, Clear Channel's new senior vice president for Spanish-language stations, commenting specifically about Detroit. "It will not always be (based on) a population figure. For instance, Detroit doesn't have a huge Hispanic population, but the Hispanic buying power in Detroit is a billion dollars. We've identified around 50 markets that have enough buying power to be turned into profitable radio markets." There is no timetable or specific station identified as a likely candidate for a switch to a Spanish format here. It does, however, kind of make me wonder what the buying power of other unserved audiences - classical, for instance - in this area might be.

* * * *

Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.







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