Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, March 5, 2006
By: Mike Austerman
That huge whining sound you heard out of New York City this week was from the top brass at CBS Radio. They filed a 43-page lawsuit against former employee Howard Stern, his agent and Sirius Satellite Radio seeking compensation for the deal that left CBS without its main radio man. CBS claims Stern violated his contract by constantly chatting up Sirius during his final months on terrestrial radio; failing to properly inform CBS about his contract talks with the satcaster; and failing to turn over recordings of his programs aired by CBS. Talk about crying over spilled milk!
I know it’s easy to rip Howard, but in this case, I don’t see how CBS/Infinity stands a chance of winning. They allowed Stern to continue broadcasting his seemingly non-stop promotion of Sirius during his last months on CBS, when they could have — and maybe should have — pulled the plug. That he was moving to satellite was one of the worst-kept secrets in the business. “We had tons of discussion about my plans,” Stern said on his new show. “You know what they want? They want alimony from me.”
Either that or both parties have agreed to drum up some controversy to help draw attention to their new offerings. CBS Radio’s stations in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago all showed huge audience dropoffs in their first month without Stern and could use the attention. And Stern needs all the buzz he can get to keep people signing up for Sirius’ pay-to-listen service. Betcha after a bit more posturing, they’ll reach a quiet settlement.
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Stern’s former home here, hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1), didn’t suffer the same ratings fate as its out-of-state brethren in its first month of ratings without Stern — only a slight drop in daylong ratings. But that’s probably because the morning tandem of Drew & Mike on rock WRIF-FM (101.1) continue their stranglehold on pretty much the same audience targeted by WKRK in morning drive.
Speaking of ratings, the top-rated station in the latest ratings trend was soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3) thanks to its all-Christmas music blitz, followed by news-talk WJR-AM (760), smooth jazz WVMV-FM (98.7), adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3), and oldies WOMC-FM (104.3). Country WYCD-FM (99.5) also saw a nice bump up in its ratings along with WNIC; notably slipping was contemporary WKQI-FM (95.5).
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ABC Radio apparently has found a replacement for commentator Paul Harvey, heard locally on WJR, who’s halfway through a 10-year contract. Former U.S senator and current “Law & Order” star Fred Thompson has been tapped as Harvey’s principal fill-in host and senior correspondent. Guess when your featured host is 87 years old, it’s best to be prepared, but let’s hope Harvey keeps his gig till he’s 100. The deal also means that ’JR morning man Paul W. Smith, who’s often filled in for Harvey, will remain in the Fisher Building — at least for now.
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With the classic rock and oldies formats moving closer together in playing hits of the ’60s and ’70s, you’ve no doubt heard many of the same songs on WCSX-FM (94.7) and WOMC. But have you noticed a difference between the same songs on each station? The oldies format typically features the shorter, singles versions of songs, while classic rock plays the longer album cuts. For a great example, pay attention the next time you hear the Eagles’ “Lyin’ Eyes” on each station and see if you notice the missing stanza on the version ’OMC plays.
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Quick Hits: Former talk WDTW-AM (1310) morning host Nancy Skinner has announced she’s seeking the Democratic nomination to run against U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, who serves western Oakland County ... Paul Edwards, formerly of religious WRDT-AM (560), returns to the airwaves March 13 as he takes over the 5-6 p.m. hour on religious WLQV-AM (1500). The station was recently purchased by Salem Broadcasting, also the owner of talk WDTK-AM (1400).
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Set Your Dials: Hosts Tom Wilson and Alison Harris bring you the swingin’ dance music of the Bobby Sherwood Orchestra at 6 p.m. on Christian music/talk WMUZFM (103.5) ... afternoon host Ann Delisi talks movies with Detroit Film Theatre curator Elliott Wilhelm at 5 p.m. Thursdays on classical/jazz WRCJ-FM (90.9).
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Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.