Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, August 13, 2006
By: Art Vuolo
Less than 10 days ago, a multitude of radio broadcasters shivered at the front-page story. It proclaimed automakers were about to integrate easy-to-use iPod docking stations into new 2007 model cars. Yikes! Using the old theory that people simply aren’t happy unless they have something to worry about, the death of radio has been predicted numerous times over the past 50 years or more.
Radio is turning 86 years old Nov. 2. While all-news WWJ-AM (950) took to the air Aug. 20, 1920, as experimental station 8MK, purists give the nod to Pittsburgh’s KDKA-AM (1020), which has been on the air continuously since Nov. 2, 1920. Interestingly the number 86 is often referred to as doing away with something no longer needed. Yikes again.
Radio’s biggest threat was television, and it’s still far from a friendly sibling. TV takes better than 80 percent of every ad dollar spent, even though its audience has been fragmented even more than radio’s. Many people still feel the only place they can listen to the radio is in their vehicles. However, that once sacred domain has been breached by cell phones, satellite radio, CD and DVD players, even GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) units, which keep us from getting lost.
Now, the iPod is out to kill off radio, which must fight for every listener. Former Detroit DJ Country Dan Dixon, now at XM’s classic country channel 10, offers some insight, calling the iPod “nothing more than a New Age cassette recorder.”
“I have tons of CDs and compilations I made myself but don’t listen to them much anymore,” he says. “I happen to like entertainment! And so do the people who subscribe to XM. “Music is important,” he adds, “but I believe that the reason people listen to me is because they want to feel like they’re part of my show. They feel like they’re a friend of mine, and they are! Most of the people who listen have been cooped up in their vehicles and want to be entertained. They love being able to call in or send an e-mail to the person who is visiting with them on their radio. Our wide music variety is important, but it’s the one-on-one communication that terrestrial radio has seemingly forgotten about. Many of my listeners have told me that they hardly ever listen to FM or AM anymore.”
Some claim that people will purchase a new car just because it’s “iPod ready.” If this is true, watch how fast our Big Three automakers react. In fact, they already have. On the flip side of the car radio coin, how are the folks in the HD radio camp going to deal with this as they also fight for dashboard space?
Despite all the gloom-anddoom reports, it’s doubtful radio is going to die anytime soon.
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On Tuesday, Buddy’s Pizza celebrated its 60th anniversary with the unveiling of its new “Wall of Fame” at its Farmington Hills location on Northwestern and Middlebelt. Owner Robert Jacob thought it was a way of honoring a host of loyal supporters from local radio, TV and other media. Some of the celebrities on hand included Rachael Hunter from country WYCD-FM (99.5), Cindy Canty from pop WMGC-FM (105.1) and Rachel Nevada of news-talk WJR-AM (760). From the TV side, both Diana Lewis and Don Shane from WXYZ Channel 7 were there, and Danny Raskin from The Jewish News made sure the pizza was kosher. Former Detroit Tiger Frank Tanana was on deck with an eye on one of the many TV screens watching his old team take on the Minnesota Twins.
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Set your dial: the big band music of Fletcher Henderson is being featured on Tom Wilson’s “Somewhere in Time” at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5) at 6 p.m. And get ready this week for the Woodward Dream Cruise, because the best music will be on the radio.
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Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com.