XM-Sirius might not be great in the long run

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By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioThis sure is an interesting time to be an observer of the radio business. Make no mistake about it, radio now is much more a business than the art form it once was considered. Most radio news today is less about the performers and more about the bottom line.

Take, for example, the National Association of Broadcasters’ negative stance on the pending merger of satellite providers XM and Sirius. NAB spokesperson Dennis Wharton commented: “In coming weeks, policymakers will have to weigh whether an industry that makes Howard Stern its poster child should be rewarded with a monopoly platform for offensive programming. We’re hopeful that this anti-consumer proposal will be rejected.”

Where were the complaints from the NAB when Mr. Stern was broadcasting his “offensive programming” on regular radio?

Oh, that’s right — what was then Stern’s parent company, Infinity Broadcasting, is now CBS Radio, a member of the NAB. Neither XM nor Sirius are NAB members. Hmm ...

 

 

There’s no doubt in my mind that an XM-Sirius merger would benefit subscribers in the short term with access to the programming of both services. But I also know that any benefit will disappear long term when the combined company does the inevitable — cuts costs and charges more for less to keep the shareholders happy as the listeners become a lower priority.

By the way, any merger had better keep XM’s “60’s on 6” as part of the lineup, or I know of at least one subscriber in particular who will be very unhappy.

 • • • • • • • • 

Also interesting is how threatened the NAB feels about satellite radio and its nationally targeted programming. Maybe that’s because good ol’ regular radio seems to be going more and more in that direction.

Take adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3), which on Monday added another syndicated program to its lineup, leaving Frankie Darcell’s 10 a.m.-3 p.m. show as the station’s only locally based program during the prime weekday hours of 6 a.m.-midnight. The new show is the “Keith Sweat Hotel,” hosted by namesake R&B singer and music producer, airing 7 p.m.-midnight. It originates from Atlanta and is heard on 12 stations across the country. WMXD’s other syndicated programs are drive-time programs from Steve Harvey mornings and Michael Baisden afternoons.

Funny thing, though, is that two of the three most popular radio stations in last fall’s ratings book were WMXD and news-talk WJR-AM (760), another station that devotes huge blocks of its day to shows piped in from studios in other cities and shared with hundreds of other stations — even satellite ones.

Maybe listeners just don’t care as much about “live and local” any more. But, then, why does all-news WWJ-AM (950) continually hammer that point across to its listeners?

 • • • • • • • • 

Once all the pledges were added up at 10 p.m. Feb. 23, Dick Purtan’s 20th annual Radiothon to benefit The Salvation Army’s Bed & Bread Club netted just below $2.4 million, pushing the total amount of funds raised over the years to just about $17 million.

I was on hand to observe the final few hours of the event at Oakland Mall, and I have to say again how impressed I am with the work that is done by Purtan’s People, the staffers at WOMC-FM (104.3), and all the volunteers who work so hard to pull off what’s truly become a landmark radio event each year in Detroit.

When the pledge total broke last year’s $1.8 million mark, the standing-room-only crowd at the mall gave a big cheer. But when the pledges topped $2 million at 9 p.m., the heartfelt standing ovation was something I’ll not forget. Fittingly, between 9 and 10 p.m., tributes were offered to the late Gene Taylor and Mark Andrews, two of Purtan’s cast members who shared and helped generate the passion for the Radiothon.

Also in that stretch run, Purtan was given a plaque by The Salvation Army commemorating his 20 years of service and dedication to the Bed & Bread program. That, too, was received with a fitting standing O.

And you know it’s a big event when the competition gets on board and shows support. Murray Gula, a radio guy who happens to be doing work for WXYZ-TV Channel 7 now, stopped by and made a nice donation over the air. But my favorite donor was WJR morning man Paul W. Smith, who chatted with Purtan for a number of minutes and even helped plug the call-in number, despite it containing WOMC’s dial position. It was a laugh-out-loud moment when Paul W. read the phone number as 10-43 instead of 104-3.

Purtan’s goal for the Radiothon is always to make one dollar more than the previous year. Thanks to an amazing show of support from donors ranging from schoolkids to business bigshots, the task for 2008 is going to be tougher than ever. But I know that if anyone can pull it off, it’s Dick Purtan, the staff of WOMC and all the great people of metro Detroit who once again proved that we are the most generous community anywhere.

 • • • • • • • • 

Checking the “Where are They Now” file: Former WDRQ-FM (93.1) evening jock Man at Large recently made a huge relocation, moving north from Fort Wayne, Ind., to Alaska, where he’s the program director for KFAT-FM in Anchorage ... Former WPON-AM (1460) morning man Crazy Al has added his “Radio Party” to KNTH-AM in Houston in addition to WBCB-AM outside of Philadelphia and WLNG-FM in Long Island, N.Y. His show can still be heard here via the magic of the Internet at www.industrialinfo.com. And condolences to Crazy Al on the passing of his father Feb. 22.

 • • • • • • • • 

Set your dial: The music of Helen Forest and Harry James will be featured on this evening’s edition of “Somewhere in Time.” It’s at 6 p.m. on WMUZ-FM (103.5) and WRDT-AM (560).

 • • • • • • • • 

Mike Austerman is the founder of Michiguide.com and has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.


Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, March 4, 2007

 

2 Comments

I read with interest both your Oakland Press article and the responses on the MI Buzzboard, and would like your views on a thought I've had for a while. Here goes:

The two biggest mistakes the FCC has made in the past 15 years are:

1) the allowing of FM translators beyond the signal strength of the pattern of the radio station's licence frequency.

In Wenatchee, WA we have stations translating in from other markets that are acting like Wenatchee stations, not stations from their city of license or area of service. Two of them are (in theory) 100+ miles away.

2) FCC frequency auctions have allowed for the opening of stations in markets that can't support them, almost requiring that they translate out of their service area or go satellite in order to make a buck.

If the FCC acted a bit more like the CRTC, we wouldn't have this "glut" of stations (or owners stupid enough to buy them) flooding the airways with their satcasts. You can't round a corner without finding the imprint of Jones Broadcasting around here.

In regards to the XN/Sirius merger, there's one point that hasn't been mentioned anywhere I've seen. Both systems are bleeding money, and if the merger doesn't go through, I see the very real possibility of there not being two systems, but none.

I really enjoy reading both your's and Art's columns. Although I've been out of the Detroit area since the mid 70's, it IS my home, and I like to know what's going on.

Thank you.

Doug Shirk
Wenatchee, WA

Regarding the meger of XM & Sirius. Why the hell not - they are much more open to new music and artist then Clear Channel and opens many more doors for new artist, music & creativity.

Clear Channel created a monopoly through political pull (i.e. owner is from Texas and a good political friend of President Bush) so that's how that happened.

Now I truly believe that if anyone can and wants to block that merger, it would be Clear Channel as it hurts their monopoly that has destroyed the music industry creativity, new artists, new music, and most importantly the music lovers and listeners respect for radio.

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Austerman published on March 4, 2007 12:39 PM.

West Michigan: Newsmakers Mar 4, 2007 was the previous entry in this blog.

Metro Detroit: Newsmakers Mar 5, 2007 is the next entry in this blog.

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