On The Radio Columns: March 2006 Archives

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, March 5, 2006

By: Mike Austerman


On The Radio

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.


 * * * * 


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).


 * * * * 


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.


 * * * * 


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.

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, March 12, 2006

By: Art Vuolo


On The Radio

This past week, the trade publication Radio & Records presented the 11th annual Talk Radio Seminar in Washington, D.C. The confab drew nearly 400 attendees from around the country, but sadly, Detroit was very underrepresented. Aside from myself, the only other local radio guy was Pat Sheehan from Glenn Haege’s “Handyman Show” on WDFN-AM (1130). Embarrassing. Where were the folks from the various local news and talk stations?

It also was the last year for ABC Radio to be there, as the company has been sold to Citadel Communications. While the ABC name is being retained for TV, in name ABC Radio will no longer exist. It’s the end of an era.

The seminar underlined how huge talk radio is, while various sessions addressed such topics as FM talk, non-political shows and, in one feisty session called “What Do Women Want?,” how to target women listeners. That’s because talk stations aimed at women are popping up across America, usually on FM. We don’t have a dedicated female talk station in Detroit, although Jim Harper and his show on pop WMGC-FM (105.1) attracts a lot of women, as does Chris Edmonds on pop WNIC-FM (100.3).

Last week, Mike Austerman mentioned Fred Thompson, who’s been slated as Paul Harvey’s eventual replacement. At the conference, Thompson pointed out that while he’s been chosen to succeed Harvey, talk’s elder statesman is “irreplaceable.” Highlighting the seminar was a keynote address by Rush Limbaugh, who was very candid about his addictions and even fielded questions from the broadcasters. (He’s heard locally on WJR from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays.) The seminar also featured lots of publicity on Dave Ramsey, who makes talking about money fun and truly entertaining. He’s now on talk CKLW-AM (800) from 8 to 9 p.m. weeknights and is well worth a listen.


 * * * * 


Ever wonder who does the radio ratings? A tour last week of the headquarters of Arbitron, the giant audience ratings company that measures who’s listening to what and when all across the country, provided a fascinating inside look at how scientific the process is. Seeing firsthand how selected listeners fill out ratings diaries and all the various ways listeners remember the names of stations is eye-opening. I could have spent an entire day reviewing and learning about how the ratings are taken, tabulated and tallied for stations and advertisers. Time well spent and highly educational for this reporter.


 * * * * 


Longtime area radio pro Dave Barber has exited Flint talker WWCK-AM (1570) and moved to Providence, R.I., powerhouse talker WPRO-AM. In addition to his many years on the Flint airwaves, Barber once held court on WXYT-AM (1270) and, more recently, on liberal talk WDTW-AM (1310). He’s one of a kind.


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This past week, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer named radio station owner Entercom in a suit over the payola scandal profiled recently on ABC-TV’s “Prime Time Live.” Entercom does not own any stations in Detroit, but expect to see other companies that are locally represented to also be named.


 * * * * 


Meanwhile, the investigation continues at Michigan Public Radio WUOM-FM (91.7) following the departure of station boss Donovan Reynolds. We’ll be watching how this affects station fund-raising.


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Speaking of which, Wayne State’s WDET-FM (101.9) is inviting listeners back in to answer phones during its spring fund-raiser starting March 31. The station, which recently put its music programming online at www.wdetfm.org, had been using a professional phone service recently. Call (313) 577-4550 for details on how to pitch in.


 * * * * 


The Rock Girl Search for WRIF-FM (101.1) continues with a casting call Monday at Second City inside Andiamo Novi. Listen in or check out www.wrif.com for more details. By the way, whatever happened to Kelly Harmon, ’RIF’s original bay-buh?


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And don’t forget the very special premiere of Steve Harvey’s new movie on Tuesday at the AMC Southfield 20 complex. You can win tickets only via urban pop WMXD-FM (92.3). Harvey, the ’MXD morning host known as the “King of Comedy,” will personally be on hand, bringing a touch of Hollywood to Oakland County.


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Set Your Dials: For the music of Les Brown and his Band of Renown at 6 p.m. tonight on WMUZ-FM (103.5) ... Detroit native Alex Harding and his jazz quartet perform live in-studio on the W. Kim Heron show at 8 p.m. tonight on WDET.


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

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, March 19, 2006

By: Mike Austerman


On The Radio

Earlier in the week, the Federal Communications Commission released a bunch of fines against television stations for broadcasting what the FCC determined to be indecent programming. The government’s next target will be radio, and there are predictions of big fines coming soon that will put the indecency controversy back on the front burner. Traditional broadcasters will likely take this fight to court for at least some of these fines to get clarification on just what constitutes an indecent broadcast and, more important to them, seeking the same kind of regulatory control over media such as cable TV, satellite radio and the Internet. I’m sure this is one issue you’re going to be reading more about in the coming weeks.


 * * * * 


The king of indecency fines himself, Howard Stern, has continued his expected self-publicity tour, both on TV and radio. After pretty much taking over an entire David Letterman broadcast last Monday, he made a two-hour appearance Tuesday on Sean Hannity’s talk program.He spent the time defending himself against the lawsuit CBS has filed against him for moving to Sirius satellite radio, blasting his former employers at CBS — and trying to lure Hannity into a discussion about his sex life.

Listeners to news-talk WJR-AM (760) missed the 5-6 p.m. hour of the Hannity/Stern chat, as ’JR switches to local talk with Mitch Albom at that time. How’d you like to be running WJR when something like this happens? On the one hand, your audience expects and wants local programming. But on the other, there were probably a bunch of people upset that they couldn’t hear the ending of Hannity’s show that day. Mind you, those with satellite radio could hear the entire show — both XM and Sirius carry the ABC News & Talk channel, which carries the show in its entirety each day.


 * * * * 


The University of Michigan has tapped Steve Schram as the interim director of Michigan Public Media, the organization that oversees radio stations WUOM-FM (91.7) in Ann Arbor, WFUM-FM (91.1) in Flint, WVGR-FM (104.1) in Grand Rapids, and PBS TV station WFUM-TV (28). Schram has 17 years of senior leadership experience in the Detroit radio and TV market, including executive positions with Infinity Broadcasting, Clear Channel Broadcasting, and at Channel 2. Currently, he is president of Schram Communication Group, a newly formed media and management consultancy.

“I am very pleased to join the team at Michigan Public Media,” Schram said. “These dynamic broadcast voices educate and inform their listeners at the very highest levels of excellence. I look forward to growing their impact and success.” Schram replaces Donovan Reynolds, who resigned earlier this month in the midst of a criminal investigation at Michigan Public Media. A very proud graduate of Michigan State, I wonder if they’ll make Schram trade in all his “S” apparel for those bearing the Michigan “M” before they let him in the building?


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It’s never easy to report on illness, but this story is especially distressing. Former sports WDFN-AM (1130) reporter Sabrina Black is now in hospice care as reported in an e-mail sent by her husband, rock WRIF-FM (101.1) weekender Steve Black. He said the year 2006 has not been kind to Sabrina, with multiple trips to the hospital for heart failure and pneumonia, all as a result of her battle with Hodgkin’s disease. Steve states that her strength is gone and she’s now “ready for heaven.” I found Sabrina to be inspiring throughout her illness. She never felt sorry for herself and has always been most gracious in sharing details about her battle with cancer. Former WDFN co-worker Gregg Henson shared two personal stories about Sabrina that I found especially touching on his blog at www.gregghenson.com. His Web site is usually a source for much negativity by visitors, but in the case of Sabrina, you can see by their responses how highly people think of her.

Current WDFN afternoon hosts Stoney and Wojo showed a lot of class with their pledge to donate a $10,000 first prize to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society should they win ESPN’s NCAA tournament bracket contest. If there ever was a time for a miracle, this is it.


 * * * * 


Congratulations to the local winners of the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Station of the Year awards — WUOM/WFUM/WVGR won in the public category, and WJR was the recipient among commercial radio stations. Station of the Year awards are based on the cumulative number of points scored from the MAB’s Broadcast Excellence competition across 13 categories.


 * * * * 


Set Your Dials: Tom Wilson and Heather Novak host “Somewhere in Time” at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5). Tune in to hear Charlie Balogh play Big Band music on the world’s largest Wurlitzer theater pipe organ, located in Mesa, Ariz., and featuring more than 5,500 pipes.


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

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, March 26, 2006

By: Art Vuolo


On The Radio

On Wednesday, more than 700 conservatives jammed the ballroom at the Marriott Hotel in the RenCen to see superstar Sean Hannity, making it the “right” placed to be. The introduction was by newstalk WJR-AM (760) morning personality Paul W. Smith, who was warmly received. Hannity is now heard afternoons 3-5 p.m. on the mega-power talk station, but interestingly, when Smith announced the on-air WJR schedule, everyone received applause — except Mitch Albom, who follows Hannity from 5-7 p.m. Demand had been strong from both listeners and ABC Radio for WJR to air the program live. It had been running on a tape-delayed basis at night, as Hannity runs 3-6 p.m. nationally. Two hours of Sean and two hours of Mitch seemed like a good compromise, but the crowd chanted, “All three hours!”

Hannity’s keynote was repeatedly interrupted by applause, but his willingness to meet fans, sign autographs and pose for photos for more 45 minutes was impressive. He was then whisked off to a studio to do his Fox TV “Hannity & Colmes Show.” Unlike some of Hannity’s counterparts he’s genuinely a nice guy.


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On Tuesday, the Detroit Automotive Press Club had a demonstration of high definition radio. The price of the new radios is dropping and many stations are offering, what they feel is, unique and provocative programming. Sadly, I believe the formats on these HD-2 stations are far too similar to what’s being offered on their respective primary FM channels, which are available to everyone. HD on an AM station, such as news WWJ-AM (950), makes it sound like FM, and with HD radio, AM can broadcast in stereo.


 * * * * 


The blood is still flowing outside the building at talk WAAM-AM (1600) in Ann Arbor where avant-garde host Thayrone was dropped by the station, in addition to Steve Ames, its vice president and general manager. Locals fear this marks even more the demise of “local radio.”


 * * * * 


Detroit’s favorite “Double D’s,” Deminski and Doyle at hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1), hosted a memorable St. Patrick’s Day Party. They invited me to provide video coverage on a slew of big screen TVs at Malarkey’s Irish Pub in Westland. The wacky crew, with a very strange menu of bizarre audience participation, complained they are never mentioned in this column. So I did them one better, putting a tape in the camera and captured video “suitable for framing.”


 * * * * 


Quick hits: The Michigan Associated Press recognized public WDET-FM (101.9) with seven awards, including the General Excellence Award for the fifth consecutive year ... Bloomfield Hills School District radio broadcasting students won 16 awards from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters (MAB). Andover’s WBFH, known as “The Biff,” was named the 2006 High School Station of the Year by the Broadcasters. This was the fourth year in a row that WBFH won or tied for the honor. Station Manager Pete Bowers and Assistant Manager/Chief Engineer Randy Carr are understandably proud ... Nostalgia CKWW-AM (580) now broadcasts “The Blue Plate Special” at noon, featuring five songs with a common theme. Check it out with Wayne Stevens on the little Windsor station that needs more power ... “Somewhere in Time” with Tom Wilson plays memories from the early 1950s on WMUZ-FM (103.5) at 6 p.m. today.


 * * * * 


Have you noticed that dyedin-the-wool Michigan alumnus Paul W. Smith now works at the new MSU flagship station WJR, while proud Michigan State Spartan Steve Schram becomes manager of Michigan Public Radio in Ann Arbor? Schram had a ready explanation: “They may be blue, but they pay in green.”


 * * * * 


Sad news is always difficult, but as Mike stated last week, it’s particularly hard to handle as we have to report the passing of Sabrina Black. She was a proud Specs Howard grad who worked in research at rock WRIF-FM (101.1), later at “The Bear” WWBR-FM, now WHTD-FM (102.7), and at sports WDFN-AM (1130). Her husband, Steve Black, who hosts the “Chop Shop Guitar Show” on The Riff, said, “It’s comforting to know that we did not waste one single day in our nine years together.” Sabrina was remembered by an extraordinary number of friends and radio colleagues this week at an emotional memorial service in Clawson. Cards may be sent to: Steve Black c/o WRIF, 1 Radio Plaza, Detroit 48220.


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

 

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the On The Radio Columns category from March 2006.

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