On The Radio Columns: January 2005 Archives

The Oakland Press - On The Radio, January 7 2005


By: Mike Austerman

Another year, another radio controversy.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) and the National Research Center for Women and Families are upset over the "Breast Christmas Ever" promotion at Top 40 WKQI-FM (95.5). As part of a contest, 'KQI and three other stations across the country asked women to submit essays explaining why all they wanted for Christmas was a pair of larger breasts.

The women's groups claim that the contest is "promoting potentially dangerous plastic surgery and marketing unrealistic and unhealthy images of women."

As part of the contest, the winners had to allow the stations to show before-and-after photos on their Web sites plus sign a liability release absolving them and owner Clear Channel, along with the plastic surgeon, from any responsibility.

Clear Channel doesn't seem concerned about the flap, saying they didn't sponsor the contests that originated locally. Over at 'KQI, program director Dom Theodore dismissed the controversy, noting that TV reality shows are "giving away these procedures every week." Saying listeners support the contest, he added,"I don't think the NOW organization represents the views of mainstream America."

So far, NOW claims that more than 3,400 complaints have been filed with the FCC about the promotion. However, the FCC doesn't regulate contests except for indecency and ensuring that contest rules are followed and disclosed on-air.

As far as I can tell, this contest breaks no FCC rules, so it doesn't seem like an FCC problem. And if entering the contest is totally voluntary and the contestants understand the risks beforehand, what's the problem?

It's not like WKQI invented cosmetic surgery. And where were the complaints when the same contest was run last year?

Strange days indeed in the radio biz.

Saturday would have been Elvis Presley's 70th birthday. But instead of celebrating, oldies stations across the country have been changing their formats and giving up on playing the King of Rock 'n' Roll and other artists from the pre-Beatles era.

It seems that the Oldies radio format may be showing the same signs of a slow decline as classical stations did in the early 1990s. Since Christmas, at least six oldies stations in the United States have either moved to "classic hits" (a combo of oldies and classic rock) or something completely different.

Industry experts predict more will change in the next few years as "oldies" becomes a dirty word to programmers and advertisers due to the aging listener base.

Scott Westerman, the curator of Keener13.com, offers a different take on why ratings are down at many oldies outlets: "Oldies stations in the time of corporate programming are unimaginative and overexposed. I'm so sick of the phrase 'good times and great oldies.' Nobody on Keener or CK ever said that.

"And the playlists are so tight that hearing a deep cut from Bob Seger's 'Cameo Parkway' is about as unlikely as hearing the Rationals during an all-request lunch hour. Even getting these tunes into the testing rotations is nearly impossible. And even the most die-hard fans tire of hearing 'My Girl,' 'Pretty Woman' and 'Louie Louie' after years of power rotation."

Here in metro Detroit, our own WOMC-FM (104.3) has consistently been one of the nation's highest-performing oldies stations; starting its day with morning man Dick Purtan has no doubt helped keep it on a steady course.

But even WOMC has changed its overall sound in nearly 20 years as an oldies station. Gone are the days when you could regularly hear Buddy Holly and Elvis instead Jefferson Airplane and Fleetwood Mac. Thank heavens the amount of Motown music on 'OMC doesn't seem to have changed much.

It'll be interesting to see if the only place for "good times and great oldies" will be on satellite radio in the not-too-distant future.

Ch-ch-changes: In a return to Detroit, Skip Dillard has been named as operations manager for urban WDTJ-FM (105.9), adult urban WDMK-FM (102.7), and talk/gospel WCHB-AM (1200). In 1995-96, he was at adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3), coming from San Francisco and Buffalo, where he worked as a program director for urban outlets.

In a related move, WCHB program director Lance Panton has exited and WDTJ program director Spudd takes over there on an interim basis.

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, January 14 2005


By Art Vuolo

So much news, so little space. Just got back from the huge Consumer Electronics Show out in Las Vegas in time for the opening of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where many of your favorite personalities will be doing their shows live.

Stations with the largest presence at Cobo will be the talkers. Personality WJR-AM (760) will be inside the GM exhibit, while news WWJ-AM (950) will again be in the lobby area along with sports sister WXYT-AM (1270). Also in the outer lobby, always nicely air-conditioned at this time of the year, will be edgy talker WKRK-FM (97.1).

Meanwhile, station Web sites and broadcasts will tell you where your favorite music stations will be at the show.

From 6:30-8 p.m. tonight, WJR's Paul W. Smith will let you listen in on the special Charity Preview, which'll repeat between 10 and 11:30 p.m. From 9-11:30 a.m. Saturday, listeners can "see the car show" with Steve Stewart, while on Sunday, the 'JR lineup of the Real Estate & Business Insiders (9 a.m.-noon) and the Home Improvement Show with Murray Gula and John McCulloch (noon-3 p.m.) will air from there. During the week, Frank Beckmann will originate live from Cobo from 9-11:30 a.m. and Dick Haefner will host the "Auto Show Special" from 6-7 p.m.

At oldies WOMC-FM (104.3), Dick Purtan and his people air a show preview from 6-8 tonight from the Ford exhibit, while Tom Ryan and Matinee Mindy do the weekday afternoon duties and Bob Vandergrift, Dana Masucci and Rick Hunter handle weekends.

Though the weather was lousy, it didn't keep an intimate gathering of more than 140,000 people from 115 countries from flocking to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. In fact, it was a chance to Meet the Flockers. (Sorry.)

In four days, you can barely scratch the surface of this enormous trade show. It covers millions of square feet and the relentless rain and some snow outside made getting around interesting.

Most prevalent at the CES last week were flat-screen TVs, which were everywhere, and satellite radio, which had a substantial presence. On press day, XM proclaimed it was the "big dog" having just topped 3.2 million subscribers, while Sirius had new CEO Mel Karmazin on hand with huge displays in two halls. Troy-based Delphi was there with a slew of new safety innovations and dazzling new electronic toys for your car - besides making satellite radios for both XM and Sirius.

Meanwhile, more terrestrial radio personalities are making their programs available on "the jukebox from outer space," among them, Dr. Laura and G. Gordon Liddy.

This past week, several of the trade publications headlined that "regular radio" needs to fight back with aggressive marketing, and the radio industry is doing just that with a new $28 million national ad campaign that says, "Radio: You hear it here first."

The fact is, over-the-air radio reaches 200 million-plus people in the United States, while satellite radio has about 4.3 million subscribers between two providers, yet terrestrial broadcasters already are starting to panic.

That's insane. XM and Sirius are simply another choice for listener, offering much programming that simply is not available on commercial radio.

At the booth for iBiquity, the company that started HD (high definition) radio, they hosted an impressive roster of major broadcasting executives from Clear Channel, Radio One, Entercom and NPR. Greater Media was represented by our own Tom Bender, the veep and general manager of rock WRIF-FM (101.1), soft rock WMGC-FM (105.1) and classic rock WCSX-FM (94.7), which are embracing HD radio. That technology makes AM radio sound like FM and FM sound like CDs - and provides song info digitally.

Now we need the radios to pick up these new and better signals.

Locally at WCSX, Jim Johnson and Lynne Woodison's third annual Stone Soup Project is being launched with the goal of renovating a classic GM muscle car.

Funds from raffling off the car when finished go to Woodison's favorite charity, the Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan. Learn more at www.wcsx.com.

Over at classic hits WDTW-FM (106.7), known as The Drive, the pre-recorded Randi West (middays) has been replaced by live and local Heather McGregor, who came from a Battle Creek station. Good move, program director John Trapane. Now, how about Bob and Tom in the morning?

Follow-Up: Soft rock WMGC, best known as Magic, wrapped up its extensive holiday campaign by giving away $50,000. The winner was from Dearborn Heights, but all of the runners-up got packages filled with Magic goodies.

Stay warm this weekend. Cuddle up to a nice toasty radio, perhaps an old one that still has tubes.

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


The Oakland Press - On The Radio, January 21 2005


By: Mike Austerman

Jerry Springer on the radio? Yup.

The former politician turned trashy TV show host has started a new career as a straight-ahead radio talk host. His show, starting next month, is one of several new offerings on talk WDTW-AM (1310), which revamped its entire weekday lineup Thursday and also changed its call sign from WXDX.

Gone are offerings from the Michigan Talk Radio network and other syndicated shows in favor of Springer's new show (it'll air 9 a.m.-noon), along with Al Franken (noon-3 p.m.), Ed Schultz (3-6 p.m.), Randi Rhodes (6-10 p.m.) and Mike Malloy (10 p.m.-1 a.m.). The 6-9 a.m. morning show is hosted locally by Detroit-native Nancy Skinner, who was last at talk powerhouse WLS-AM Chicago.

The move to a progressive/liberal lineup of shows is a great move for WXDX and will give listeners a solid alternative to more conservative programming on other area talk stations.

The last piece of the puzzle to success? Adding Joey Reynolds' live show overnights instead of airing shows that were taped earlier in the day.

I'll take my crow with ketchup, please.

In November, I complained in this space about the early switch to full-time Christmas music by WNIC-FM (100.3) and WMGC-FM (105.1) and solicited comments from you to see if you shared my feelings about the early barrage of holiday cheer.

Your response was overwhelming - almost everyone agreed that switching to 100 percent Christmas music the first week of November was too much. Many claimed they wouldn't be listening at all in protest.

Know what? Some of you must have been listening. And in droves, too.

Y'know what else? WNIC, the station that switched first, had the biggest success. In the fall ratings for listeners age 12 and above, WNIC rose from 5.3 last fall to 5.8 this fall and moved into the top spot among all area stations. WNIC's bump looks even better when comparing its summer number of 3.5.

WMGC actually didn't get any year-to-year bump, slipping to 3.9 from last fall's 4.0 when they were only playing a mix of Christmas music until just before the holiday. But they, too, increased over their summer ratings number, which was 3.6.

Next year, I think I'll write about what a great idea it is to hear Christmas music the day after Halloween. After all, if they play it, people will listen - no matter what snarky radio columnists say.

Looking at the rest of the ratings, we find the usual suspects on top. Following WNIC is adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3), all-news WWJ-AM (950), and news-talk WJR-AM (760).

And Drew & Mike at rock WRIF-FM (101.1) once again were the top morning show, followed by Roberta Jasina and Joe Donovan on WWJ; Dick Purtan on oldies WOMC-FM (104.3); Tom Joyner on WMXD; and Paul W. Smith on WJR.

If the voice you heard yesterday and this morning on country WYCD-FM (99.5) sounded familiar, that's because it belongs to Dr. Don Carpenter, who was originally with the station during its days as FM Talk WOW-FM in January 1993 and stayed onboard to host afternoons and then mornings when WYCD was born in May 1993.

Dr. Don left town in May 2000 following "creative differences" between Carpenter and station bosses over the amount of blue humor being used on his program. After a stop in Cincinnati, Carpenter's appearances this week are apparently a try-out of sorts to see if there might a more permanent return.

I'm betting we'll be hearing more from Dr. Don soon.

What do you call it when radio personalities are paid to promote things and they don't disclose that they're being paid?

Some would call it payola - and that's what writer and pundit Armstrong Williams is being accused of after he got caught accepting money from the Bush administration to promote the No Child Left Behind Act on radio and TV without acknowledging that he was being paid to do so.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell has called for an investigation into the allegations.

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, January 28 2005


By: Art Vuolo

This week, there have been countless tributes to the late Johnny Carson, a man who began, like so many great TV stars, on radio in Nebraska as a youth. Even the audio from the "Potato Chip Lady" was funny on the radio. Wayne Stevens, afternoon host at nostalgia /oldies CKWW-AM (580), actually interviewed Carson back in 1980.

That reminds us how we are losing many of the people who through the airwaves have touched our lives in ways often difficult to explain.

Who of us will ever forget the headlines when J.P. McCarthy of news-talk WJR-AM (760) died? That was Aug. 16, 1995 - a year that also saw the loss of news icon Byron MacGregor of CKLW-AM (800) and WWJ-AM (950); Nick Arema of oldies WOMC-FM (104.3); WJR's Fat Bob Taylor; and the legendary Tom Clay of CKLW fame. In the last five years, we also said goodbye to Dick Osgood and Paul Winter of WXYZ-AM (1270) and Gene Taylor and Mark "Doc" Andrews of WOMC.

Their passing is among the reasons why a big Detroit radio reunion is being planned for September. Details to follow.

Many of our favorites will be difficult to replace. Broadcasters still living, such as Paul Harvey, Rush Limbaugh and even Sean Hannity, are good examples. Interestingly, WJR morning host Paul W. Smith has substituted for all three of them; the week before last, he filled in for Harvey, the most listened-to man on radio.

Speaking of Smith, he also has been nominated for local news-talk personality of the year at the upcoming Radio & Records Talk Radio Seminar in March. Good luck Paul - I'm hoping the "W" stands for winner. He is one.

Fans of Tony Trupiano, formerly on talk WXDX-AM (1310), which recently changed its call letters to WDTW, will want to know that he has resurfaced 2-6 p.m. on talk WAAM-AM (1600) in Ann Arbor.

Oddly enough, he was replaced on 1310 by progressive talker Ed Schultz; on WAAM, Schultz is replaced by Trupiano.

Schultz has been described as the "liberal Rush" and is certainly worth a listen, 3-6 p.m., regardless of your political lean.

Other WXDX favorites such as Glenn Beck and Phil Hendrie can now only be heard on satellite radio. When 1310 flipped to a more Democratic and liberal format, it also swapped its call letters - and they're the same as its sister FM station at 106.7, which is known as "The Drive."

For those of you who like your rock 'n' roll 1980s style, Steve Black will serve it up 7 p.m.-midnight Saturday evenings at rock WRIF-FM (101.1). The program will be known as "Amped on the '80s" - and it should be good to the last rock.

The man who's been rockin' The Riff for more than three decades, Arthur Penhallow, has kicked off his 19th annual Maui Time Giveaway, with winners able to escape the winter cold with a free trip to Hawaii.

Your aging radio reporter can remember vividly when the Grand Poobah worked as a Top 40 jock, under the name of Cicero Grimes, at WNRZ-FM (102.9) in Ann Arbor.

He also hopes I never find my tape of him in those days.

Ever since Tom Force exited WOMC, Bob Vandergriff has been filling in, but now weekender Dana Masucci takes the job permanently. She is talented and will do a fine job.

Tomorrow night, Specs Howard will celebrate his 35th anniversary of operating the prestigious Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts in America.

More than 10,000 students have passed through its halls, and of the 35 graduates going into its Hall of Fame, 33 of them are coming in from all over the country to toast Specs, his son, Jon Liebman, Dick Kernen and others on this momentous occasion.

Kudos to all!

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







Home Page | Contact | Station Listings | History | Links

Search | About | Shop | Sitemap | Weather



Twitter Facebook E-mail Feed


About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the On The Radio Columns category from January 2005.

On The Radio Columns: February 2005 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.