By: Art Vuolo
It’s amazing how much damage the media can do. I am glad the culprit is television more often than radio, but “the wireless” is not 100 percent guilt-free.
My wish for this week’s column was to make my comments without even mentioning his name. Let’s face it, Imus is a four-letter word, and before the incredible over-the-top media coverage of this past week, you were perhaps one of the thousands, if not millions of Americans who either never heard of Don Imus or certainly were unfamiliar with his radio program.
He was once carried locally by sports WXYT-AM (1270) when it was a full-service talk station. He even came to Detroit twice to do his edgy show from a local theater — and on both occasions, he failed to significantly fill the venue. He never achieved the type of ratings success here in Motown that he enjoyed at his flagship station, sports WFAN-AM (660) in New York City.
Imus was actually once a funny man. Now, he’s an old grumpy curmudgeon who rarely smiles or has anything good to say about anybody. He’s also now unemployed.
His comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team were most certainly inappropriate, but much worse things are said on morning radio shows both local and nationally every day. Talk hosts like Imus are not “shock jocks.” They do not play music, and they are not DJs.
The answer to almost any question about the radio business is money. When many advertisers started pulling their dollars off Imus’ show, the threat of the program going off both radio and TV got very serious. The result was the cancellation of his program by both NBC’s cable channel MSNBC and CBS Radio, which owns six radio stations in Detroit, but none carried Imus. An African-American couple I met at a Southfield Quizno’s felt “the punishment fit the crime.” NBC News President Steve Capus said the decision to drop the simulcast came after a review of the show and “countless conversations” with NBC employees. CBS Radio felt extreme pressure from advertisers and staffers and dropped the program from radio. Ah, the power of the almighty dollar rearing its ugly head, and sadly, no local TV station spoke to a single local radio broadcaster or columnist regarding this perpetual story. Lastly, CBS lawyers and contracts will prevent a jump by Imus to satellite radio anytime soon.
• • • • • • • •For the past three years, Steve Allan has been the program director at oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) and the station was seemingly doing well.
CBS brass, however, decided not to renew his contract and replaced him with locally based programming consultant Gary Berkowitz.
Brought along for the ride is Jon Ray, who worked for many years at Greater Media, where Berkowitz crafted what you know as “Magic” soft pop WMGC-FM (105.1). Ray is well-versed in the oldies format dating back to the days of the old Honey Radio WHND-AM (560), now Christian WRDT.
WOMC is looking for a fulltime program director, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it revert back to Oldies 104.3, as the music is refocused to the sound that made the station a Detroit institution.
Allan did very little “Beach Time” (radio lingo for unemployed), as he’s already landed a job as PD of smooth jazz WJZWFM (105.9) in Washington, D.C. He came here from his native D.C., and he knows that market well. Good luck, Mr. Allan, and all that jazz.
• • • • • • • •Last week, a man I met at a gas station had the Tigers game on his car radio. I asked whether it was AM or FM, and he said AM. Was it on 1270? No — his dial was on sports WTKA-AM (1050) from Ann Arbor, and this was at 14 Mile and Haggerty! He was unaware that the games are now on talk WKRK-FM (97.1). The moral? Radio needs to do a lot more marketing and advertising of itself.
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A recent report finds an amazing percentage of radio listening being done online via the Internet. I found an oldies site of spectacular quality, very stereo and laced with old radio jingles from stations all across America. Radio geeks will love www.richbroradio.com, the brainchild of San Diego programmer Rich “Brother” Robin, who actually worked at W4 in Detroit when it was oldies in 1972.
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Quick Hits: Alternative CIMX-FM (88.7) launched “World Premier Fridays” a couple of days ago at 9 p.m. on the Windsor powerhouse known as 89X. You can learn more on their Web site at www.89xradio.com ... Congratulations are in order for mid-day host Mike Scott at country WYCD-FM (99.5), who became a proud father to his new (aren’t all babies new?) daughter ... More of that big band Wurlitzer organ music will grace the airwaves 6 p.m. tonight on “Somewhere in Time” over at WMUZ-FM (103.5).
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Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, April 15, 2007