On The Radio Columns: April 2006 Archives

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, April 2, 2006

By: Art Vuolo


On The Radio

The local radio scene is buzzing about the stunning results of the just-posted ratings numbers. The No. 1 station continues to be pop-hits WNIC-FM (100.3), so new program director Don Gosselin must feel good about what he inherited from his predecessor Darren Davis. Davis is now in Chicago and just secured Detroit’s nicest DJ, Kevin O’Neill, to do afternoons on Windy City soft-rock giant WLIT-FM. But local fans need not be concerned — Kevin will do the Chicago show through the “magic (whoops bad choice of words) of radio” and physically remain in Motown as the afternoon host at WNIC. A side perk is that Kevin’s son, Brendon, who lives in Chicago, can now listen to dad on the radio.

In second place is country WYCD-FM (99.5), which recently revamped the Dr. Don morning show and held a hugely successful St. Jude Hospital fundraiser. Country music is hot right now and this should further prove the point. Top-rated Mix, the pop-urban WMXD-FM (92.3) is third, followed by urban sister station WJLB-FM (97.9) in a fourth place tie with news WWJ-AM (950). Channel 955 has two fives in its name, and as such, WKQI-FM (95.5) finished fifth.

So, where’s the “big dog?” Well news-talk WJR-AM (760) is in a three-way tie for sixth place with smooth jazz WVMV-FM (98.7) and oldies WOMC-FM (104.3). What a set of numbers. By the way, have you noticed ’OMC is not using the word “oldies” very much anymore?


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Birmingham-based Jacobs Media has rolled out the results of another one of their reports that shows Howard Stern’s former listeners are sticking with regular AM and FM radio. In fact, 70 percent of Stern’s audience have remained with the terrestrial band over satellite radio. So what about the three Howard “replacements?” Well, David Lee Roth on the East Coast is a train wreck bigger than the one in “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” On the West Coast, comic Adam Corolla isn’t doing much better. Radio personality Shane French, the man who’s known as Rover on Rover’s Morning Glory, heard locally on hot-talk WKRK-FM (97.1), is doing the best. Getting listeners to wrap their arms around you ain’t easy.


 * * * * 


On the flipside of the Jacobs report, CIBC World Markets predict that collectively Sirius, which hosts Stern, and XM Satellite Radio will likely see a combined 37 million subscribers by 2010. The study concludes “radio must concentrate on local programming to remain relevant.”


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A new book release, “The Radio Funny Book” (Infinity Publication, $13.95) by Bob Doll, captures some of the craziest moments in the radio business providing radio-types with some good laughs in this soft-cover collection of humorous stories.


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Remember Gene Elzy from his many years on WJR and public WDET-FM (101.9)? Well, the master of jazz is retiring, and we wish him well. Speaking of ’DET, former host Martin Bandyke is currently hosting mornings on alternative WQKL-FM (107.1) from Ann Arbor. If you have trouble pulling the signal over the air, the station is now streaming online at www.annarbors107one.com. Gotta love the Internet.


 * * * * 


Soft rock WMGC-FM (105.1) will hold its first-ever Wine Tasting Event at 7 p.m. Friday at the Marble & Granite Gallery on Telegraph in Southfield. It should be a memorable event, but tickets are available only through the station.


 * * * * 


Just askin’, but in radio, a jock who signs off at midnight would never suggest that his audience tunes in for the early morning show. So why do all of the TV news anchors sign off at 11:35 p.m. urging viewers to wake up with their morning news block at 5 a.m.? Strange.


 * * * * 


Congrats to Handyman Productions President Rob David, who was honored with the Michigan Association of Broadcasters first-ever MAB Associate of the Year Award at the recent Great Lakes Broadcasting Conference and Expo in Lansing.


 * * * * 


Set your dials: The big band music of Tommy Dorsey’s brother Jimmy will be featured 6 p.m. tonight on “Somewhere in Time” on WMUZ-FM (103.5).


 * * * * 


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

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, April 9, 2006

By: Mike Austerman


On The Radio

Payola, radio’s biggest bugaboo, is once again rearing its ugly head. Clear Channel, the country’s biggest radio operator, has offered the federal government a tidy $1 million to get itself off the hook from a huge investigation that alleges radio companies have been taking money — and other forms of compensation — from record companies in exchange for increased airplay of songs that might not otherwise get as many spins.

Payola has been illegal since the 1960s and is again under scrutiny by the FCC after an investigation in New York state turned up evidence that the practice of payfor-play had become widespread throughout the industry.Some of the other big companies being studied include CBS Radio, Citadel and Entercom. Locally, Clear Channel owns seven radio stations in the Detroit area plus four in Ann Arbor; CBS Radio owns six area stations; and Citadel is in the process of acquiring three stations from ABC.

In the face of increased competition from the Internet, MP3 players and satellite radio, the last thing radio needs is a huge black eye like another payola scandal to further drive listeners away from the medium.


 * * * * 


Pop oldies CKWW-AM (580) launches a new program 10 a.m.-noon today called the “Sunday Morning Oldies Show.” The locally produced program will feature great oldies from the ’50s and ’60s, with some early ’70s mixed in, too. Hosted by CKWW morning man Charlie O’Brien, each week’s show will feature a Top 3 countdown from the current week in history, highlighting past music charts from former Top 40 juggernauts CKLW, Keener 13 and WXYZ. O’Brien brings a wealth of musical knowledge from the Motor City music scene as a former “CKLW-Big 8” jock, and he’ll mix in plenty of listener requests along with the stories behind the songs. Break out the Brylcreem!


 * * * * 


“Appliance Doctor” Joe Gagnon has exited the weekend lineup at sports WXYT-AM (1270) and landed on Ann Arbor talker WAAM-AM (1600) from 8-10 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. It’s a reunion of sorts for Gagnon — he got his radio start providing solutions to appliance problems as a guest there 21 years ago.


 * * * * 


XM Satellite Radio just announced it has hit 6.5 million subscribers on its way to what it hopes will be 9 million by the end of the year. Helping it get to that target will be some way-cool new portable receivers that will hit the streets soon. The Pioneer Inno and Samsung Helix are small and light (4 1 /2 ounces, 3.7-by-2.2-by-0.6 inches) and will feature the ability to both record and playback XM programming along with your own MP3 files. They’ll also integrate with Napster, so you can purchase songs you don’t already own.

XM also has announced big changes to its programming lineup. The service will soon feature six new regional news/ talk channels provided by Clear Channel, bringing listeners coverage for every area of the continental United States, complementing the recent addition of Cincinnati talker WLW-AM. New music channels also will be added this spring and early summer.


 * * * * 


Remember the outcry when Detroit Tigers broadcasts left news-talk WJR-AM (760) for WXYT a few years back? It’s no secret that WXYT can’t compete with WJR’s coverage area, leaving many baseball fans unhappy with the relatively weak signal of WXYT, especially at night. Well, a similar thing is happening this season in St. Louis, where the Cardinals have left powerhouse KMOX-AM (1120) in favor of a weaker station that’s now owned by the Cardinals. The move has left many Cards fans outside the metro St. Louis area without a radio station to get the games on, generating verbal protests similar to the ones we’ve had here in Detroit. So the Cardinals came up with a solution — they’re going to give away 50,000 XM radios to fans who can no longer hear the games on KMOX and don’t have a local affiliate they can tune in to. Marketing genius, I’d say, for both XM and the Cardinals.

I wonder — would the Tigers consider doing something similar for listeners across Michigan who experience the same trouble getting the games? Already this year, the Tigers network has suffered downgrades in Lansing — moving from FM to AM 730, which has a very limited nighttime signal — and Traverse City — moving from AM 580 to AM 1310. Between the very limited free TV coverage and a weak radio network, is it any wonder the Tigers continue to struggle to generate interest?


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Set Your Dials: “Somewhere in Time” turns the clock back to 1948 for a show featuring the tunes of Irving Berlin and the movie “Easter Parade” at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5).


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

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, April 16, 2006

By: Mike Austerman


On The Radio

Becoming a parent sure has changed the way I listen to the radio. Gone are the carefree days of listening to whatever I wanted to without being concerned about song lyrics and, more importantly, what the DJs and hosts are saying. Why is it that three of our local talk stations — namely WKRK-FM (97.1), WDFN-AM (1130), WXYT-AM (1270) — no longer police themselves from the use of what I term as “mild” cuss words? You can hardly listen to even one segment of any local talk show without hearing them.

I know the days of “Ozzie and Harriet” are long gone, but what I fail to understand is why the people running these stations are knowingly excluding listeners, like me, by allowing so much of this kind of talk. It’d be one thing if it only happened occasionally to emphasize especially strong opinions, but these words are just part of casual conversation for most of the local personalities on these three stations. The only time I’m comfortable listening is when I’m alone, which, as a parent, is pretty rare.

I’d love to see research stating that people 18 and older gravitate to a radio station because of the constant use of the language in question. The thinking has to be that the more popular programs will succeed at making the listener think he or she is having a conversation between friends at a local watering hole. Only thing is, when most of us listen to the radio, it’s not when we’re at a bar. It’s when we’re taking kids to baseball games or driving around with our significant others. Is this really the way these guys talk when their own young kids are around?

It seems that the focus of radio companies to target only a specific audience has gone too far, to the point of not caring about people who get turned off by this kind of behavior. The days of broadcasting are definitely over. The attitude now, from both the hosts and the managers, is, “If you don’t like it, turn it off — we don’t need you.” And that’s what more and more of us are doing with CDs, MP3 players and satellite radio. Would it really be that difficult to host a talk show and use speech like you would at the dinner table? Come on, show some respect to all of your (potential) listeners.


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Fans of Michigan sports in Ann Arbor will continue to find the games on WTKA-AM (1050), as that station has reached an agreement with the university and production company Host Communications to continue its maize-and-blue tradition. Word from A-squared is a deal for a Detroit flagship station for U-M football and basketball has been agreed to in principle and is going through all the necessary legal reviews before it’s announced. Former Michigan flagship news-talk WJR-AM (760) is now the home of Michigan State University broadcasts; the Spartans’ last home locally was WXYT.


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Yes, even radio stations sometimes admit they make mistakes. Once-popular syndicated morning man Russ Parr has returned to the airwaves on hip-hop WHTD-FM (102.7) after being taken off the station when it moved to 102.7 from FM 105.9 — where it was known as WDTJ — last summer. It’ll be interesting to see if Parr can recapture his old audience, as many have probably switched loyalties elsewhere on the dial. Former morning host Suga Rae has moved to the 10 a.m.-2 p.m. weekday slot, which, in turn, bumps Spudd to afternoons 2-6 p.m., and Tune Up shifts to weekend afternoons.


 * * * * 


U-M’s public radio offering on WUOM-FM (91.7) received a resounding show of support from listeners despite recent allegations of embezzlement made against three former staffers. The station boasted nearly a 14 percent increase in pledge dollars over last year, totaling more than $766,000 for its spring pledge drive.

Public WDET-FM (101.9) GM Michael Coleman, indicted in the WUOM case, didn’t see that kind of support from ’DET listeners. That station’s pledges were well off last year’s numbers, possibly either because of the station’s move away from daytime music or because of the charges against Coleman in the U-M case. Wonder if we’re going to soon witness another radio station admitting it made a mistake or two...


 * * * * 


Itching to get your hands on the latest radio technology? ABC Warehouse has agreed to start carrying high-definition (HD) home receivers required to hear both the digital main programs and secondary offerings from most Detroit FM stations. The Boston Acoustics sets are pricey, starting around $250, but you’ve gotta experience hearing all-news WWJ-AM (950) in digital form — Sonny Eliot never sounded so good!


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Set Your Dials: Tom Wilson and Heather Novak feature a look at the famous Detroit jazz orchestra McKinney’s Cotton Pickers on tonight’s “Somewhere in Time” program at 6 p.m. on WMUZ-FM (103.5).


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

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, April 23, 2006

By: Art Vuolo


On The Radio

This Tuesday, the National Association of Broadcasters will induct Dick Purtan into the NAB Radio Hall of Fame at their huge convention out in Las Vegas. The celebrated morning host on oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) is already in the Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago and the Michigan Radio Hall of Fame, and has both won and emceed the NAB’s Marconi Radio Awards. The “Dickster” has seemingly done it all, and the recognition is most certainly deserved.


 * * * * 


My thanks to fellow radio writer Mike Austerman, who pulled double-duty while I enjoyed a rare 10-day vacation in Florida, where I discovered how different radio is down South. The challenge in Miami is finding a station that broadcasts in English; Spanish and rhythmic formats are the most popular. Because of the language barrier and a rental car with a standard radio, I opted — and forgive me, local broadcasters — for XM, which I take with me on every trip.

Speaking of XM, satellite radio continues to make major news, as this past week it was announced that New York radio “bad boys” Opie & Anthony will replace rocker David Lee Roth on CBS FM stations in several large East Coast cities. O&A, if you recall, are the pair who were fired by CBS Radio for the famous simulated sex in St. Patrick’s Cathedral fiasco back in 2002. Now the company is bringing them back to counter the poor ratings Roth generated.

Howard Stern, Sirius’ big draw, hated O&A, but the duo always wanted to go up against him. Now they will, and they’ll still be carried on XM Channel 202 and promote the satellite service at the same time.

Locally, CBS-owned hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1) won’t be replacing Rover’s Morning Glory with O&A.


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XM has just added a number of new channels with more coming soon, such as the one featuring musical poet Bob Dylan on May 3. Sunny 24, XM’s exceptionally popular beautiful-music channel, has moved to 78 and is renamed “The Escape.” A new Southern gospel channel (34) called “enLighten” is the brainchild of Country Dan Dixon, an ex-Detroit DJ from WCXI and WDEE in the 1970s and ’80s.

Back in the 1930s and ’40s, Cincinnati’s WLW radio operated at a staggering 500,000 watts and was called “The Nation’s Station.” Now, about 70 years later, 700 WLW is available, once again, nationwide on XM Channel 173. The afternoon host is the creative Gary Burbank, a former Big 8 CKLW jock in the ’70s, who’s now available once again in Detroit — and across America.


 * * * * 


After seeing a billboard on the Jefferies Freeway for WKRK-FM morning man “Rover” then remembering TV feature stories done by that station’s midday co-host Jay Towers on Fox 2 and other reports by hits WKQI-FM (95.5) morning guy Mojo, I wondered why no television station has tapped Blaine Fowler or Lisa Jesswein from pop/hits WDVD-FM (96.3). With no disrespect to the others, Blaine and Lisa are considerably more attractive.


 * * * * 


High-definition radio is something we’ve talked about extensively in this column, and if you want to read more about this new technology, check out Oakland Press Business Editor Gary Gosselin’s in-depth story in today’s business section.


 * * * * 


Sad news from Washtenaw County with the passing of William V. “Bill” Swisher, at 77. The longtime head of the speech and broadcasting department at Eastern Michigan University, “Swish” was the man most responsible for the development of NPR/jazz WEMU-FM (89.1). He took it from a 10-watt “peashooter” to one of Michigan’s finest public radio stations with a full-market, 15,550-watt signal. There’s a long list of broadcasters and radioholics who owe an expression of gratitude to this man, and I’m one of them.


 * * * * 


Wishing a speedy recovery to Gail Henson, the mother of Gregg Henson, formerly with sports WDFN-AM (1130), sports WXYT-AM (1270) and, most recently, WKRK-FM. Henson is with a sports station in Austin, Texas, and his mother recently underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor at Henry Ford Hospital. Many Live 97.1 listeners are familiar with Gail through her regular segments on “Motor City Middays” with Henson and Michelle McKormick. If Gail Henson could survive Gregg’s childhood, surly she will give cancer a good fight.

Reorts are that Gregg may be coming home to Detroit. Could there be a reunion for Gregg and Michelle on a different station? Stay tuned.


 * * * * 


Quick Hits: Michael Coleman, general manager at NPR/WDET-FM (101.9), has pled not guilty to embezzlement charges. The trial is set for May 18 ... Circle May 19-21 on your calendar for the country WYCD-FM (99.5) Downtown Hoedown, with Clay Walker, Terri Clark, Josh Gracin and others.


 * * * * 


Set your dials: The big organ sounds of Jelani Eddington returns to WMUZ-FM (103.5) at 6 pm today.


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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, April 30, 2006

By: Mike Austerman


On The Radio

Most listeners probably didn’t notice, but WOMC-FM (104.3) has followed a nationwide trend and dropped the term “oldies” when describing itself. Instead, it’s opting to use the somewhat clumsy phrase “Motor City’s 104.3 WOMC.” Although the station’s music hasn’t dramatically changed, the overall sound of the station has shifted from 1950s - ’60s tunes, from when the station went all-oldies in 1989, to the current focus on late- ’60s and ’70s tunes. “We are proud of our heritage in the Motor City, and oldies seems too limiting for what WOMC is overall,” says Steve Allan, ’OMC’s program director. So instead of hearing Buddy Holly and Elvis, you’re much more likely to hear Chicago, Donna Summer and the Steve Miller Band along with traditional tunes from the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Motown artists.

Along with the new name, WOMC also has launched a simulcast of the station on its Web site, www.womc.com. One of the neat features of the online programming is hearing comedy segments from morning man Dick Purtan and crew instead of commercials. Interesting, too, is how close the new name for WOMC is to the one being used by CKWW-AM (580), which goes by “Motor City Favorites” and does play the music of the 1950s and early ’60s along with softer rock tunes through the ’80s and ’90s.


 * * * * 


While we’re on the subject of WOMC, I’d be remiss without offering my kudos to Purtan on his induction to the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame last week. About 800 people attended the luncheon in Las Vegas, including Dick’s six daughters and their spouses, his wife Gail, his 94-year-old father, Paul Purtan, and Paul’s wife, Christine. Purtan joked with the crowd, “We had six beautiful daughters and we paid for seven weddings. My wife, Gail, should get all the credit for the family. It took her 54 months and me only six minutes.” He is the only Detroit-based radio personality to be inducted in the NAB’s Hall of Fame. Fellow radio writer Art Vuolo was on hand, and he says, “It would make any Detroit radio listener proud to have seen this very classy event and hear the accolades heaped upon one of Detroit’s most beloved radio personalities.”

Hard to believe, but Purtan’s been waking us up on ’OMC for 10 years already — and just recently signed on for 5 more.


 * * * * 


Checking the mailbag, Betty writes that classical/jazz WRCJ-FM (90.9) “has been my favorite station for some time, but lately I have been upset at all the talk that has taken the place of the beautiful music. I am really am not interested in all the yak, yak between hosts and recipes — I can go to a cooking channel for that. Please, can we have a return to the beautiful music with only brief interruptions to let us know what piece we are about to hear? I would have sent a donation, but changed my mind when the music was replaced by yakety-yak and recipes.”

So I posed Betty’s question to Dave Wagner, WRCJ’s program director and morning host. He comments that “the recipe feature that we have on middays is one of our most popular features, and I think it is something that (host) Chris Felcyn handles with charm and grace. I don’t think our commentaries are particularly long and I’m proud of the amount of music that we play each hour, more than 50 minutes of music per hour in both our classical and jazz portions.

“We also feature recordings by Detroit musicians and ensembles,” he adds. “However, one person’s ‘yakety-yak’ is another person’s information and entertainment. We do listen and try to respond to all of our listener comments both positive and negative, and will continue to strive to be the best classical/jazz station that we can be for our listeners.”

I’d hazard a guess that over the long term, a radio station that spends even just a small amount of time interacting with its listeners with some local talk and features will develop a much bigger fan base than one that is essentially a jukebox. That’s an important factor for a station such as WRCJ, which is relying on financial support from those loyal listeners. It’s wonderful that Detroit once again has its own fine arts station — and one that’s not afraid to make an effort to connect with more than just its music.


 * * * * 


This week’s University of Michigan broadcast sports update includes affiliate announcements for Flint’s WTRX-AM (1330) and Toledo’s WTOD-AM (1560), but still no word on a new metro Detroit station. The Toledo announcement is especially curious — WTOD doesn’t broadcast after sundown, which rules out coverage of all but a few basketball games and would be the ultimate in frustration for listeners to 3:30 p.m. football games late in fall that go past the station’s required sign-off time.

Meanwhile, murmurs persist that there might be two stations signing on locally — one with a big-name FM morning host, the other with a big AM signal, eh? Stay tuned!


 * * * * 


Set Your Dials: Tune in to “Somewhere in Time” on WMUZ-FM (103.5) at 6 p.m. today, when hosts Alison Harris and Tom Wilson feature the swing band of Ziggy Elman.


 * * * * 


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

 

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About this Archive

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

On The Radio Columns: March 2006 is the previous archive.

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