Freedom of speech? For Franken, just sort of




Reprinted from the Daily Oakland Press, June 17, 2005

By: Art Vuolo

Just back from another radio road trip, where one of the most memorable moments at the recent New Media Seminar in New York City occurred at the opening night cocktail party. Air America talk host Al Franken was given the prestigious Freedom of Speech award — only to be given the hook by seminar sponsor Michael Harrison of industry trade publication Talkers Magazine.

Franken had been asked to keep his acceptance speech to under 10 minutes, but when his remarks went past 15 minutes, Harrison said, “Wrap it up, Al.” This began a series of jabs between the two. “It’s freedom of speech,” quipped Franken, referring to the award he had just received. “It’s not the freedom to kill everybody’s evening,” Harrison shot back. “I have about two more pages left,” Franken responded. That got a reaction from the crowd, then someone shouted out, “Is it a freedom of speech award or a shut the f--- up award?” Things then became even more tense as Harrison took the microphone, insisting that Franken end his speech and implored to the crowd not to leave.

Franken’s program is carried locally noon-3 p.m. daily on progressive talk WDTW-AM (1310).

The flap over the changing of stations to the “Jack” format (that play almost anything) continues to make news. Here in Detroit, we saw nothing in the papers about hits WKQI-FM (95.5) welcoming all listeners of former hits WDRQ-FM (93.1) to their station. But in New York, when Jack replaced the longtime oldies station, several papers, including The New York Times, ran full-page ads from Sirius and XM directing oldies fans left stationless to sign up for satellite radio. The same thing happened in Chicago, and in both cases, the story has simply not gone away.

New York’s legendary oldies spinner “Cousin Brucie” Morrow — a radio star there the caliber of our own Dick Purtan — took little time to jump to Sirius satellite radio. Others may follow. In a Chicago Tribune story, Viacom honcho Les Moonves, whose company owns Infinity and supports the Jack format, noted the reaction and said, “God, it seemed like we had shot somebody.” He did. He killed the music of an entire generation.

Legendary NYC talk host and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Joey Reynolds may have expressed the furor best. “The issue is not about the age of the listener,” he said, “The history of rock and roll is under attack! It would be like leaving Vietnam out of a history class in school because the students don’t remember the war. Oldies stations contain a vital piece of the past in a seamless string of songs, writers and artists that shaped a generation.” He’s right.

This past week also has seen a bit of a shake-up in management at local Infinity stations. Word is that starting July 5, sports talk WXYT-AM (1270) will have a new program manager. Dan Zampillo, most recently at Ohio State flagship WBNS-AM in Columbus and previously at Infinity sports WSCR (“The Score”) in Chicago, will assume the PD’s chair vacated about a month ago by Kevin Graham, who is now out in Salt Lake City.

In other conference room news, Infinity is bringing in a new general manager to run oldies WOMC-FM (104.3), as current boss Steve Schram gets relegated to handling country WYCD-FM (99.5). The new blood in Ferndale at ’OMC is Kevin Murphy, who we understand comes to Motown from Rochester, N.Y. Schram, who is well respected and knows the oldies format well, will need to schedule more trips to the country music capital of Nashville. Personally, I don’t understand the logic of this move.

Coming attractions: Reports still say that urban contemporary WDTJ-FM (105.9), known as Jams, and urban oldies WDMK-FM (102.7), known as Kiss, will flip dial positions as Tom Joyner segues from urban pop WMXD-FM (92.3) to WDMK. And long-promised Radio Disney WFDF-AM (910) is slated to premiere in the Detroit area by early July with programming for kids. The Flint station’s transmitter’s been moved down to out near Metro Airport to make it easier for us to get Goofy.

Set Your Dials: “Somewhere In Time” pulls out all the stops with a big pipe organ music show, at 6 p.m. Sunday on Christian WMUZ-FM (103.5). Local jazz great Donald Walden and a sextet play live music 7 p.m. Tuesday on the Ed Love Show on public WDET-FM (101.9).

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







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This page contains a single entry by Mike Austerman published on June 17, 2005 8:00 AM.

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