Religious programming heard prominently here

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By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioThankfully, the Easter holiday hasn’t become what Christmas has in recent years. If Easter were treated like Christmas on the radio, we’d have been listening to “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” on soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3) since about Valentine’s Day.

For this holiday, about the only special programming you’ll hear is on a number of stations that have dedicated themselves to broadcasting the word of God 365 days a year.

The most-listened to religious station in town is WMUZ-FM (103.5), which carries a combination of talk and contemporary Christian music during different parts of the day. The rest of the area’s religious stations, all of which boast a very loyal listener base, are on the AM dial.

Gospel WEXL-AM (1340), talk WLQV-AM (1500), and talk WRDT-AM (560) all carry 24/7 Christian programming and are joined by WCAR-AM (1090) and WDEO-AM (990), both of which focus on Roman Catholic listeners. Daytime-only WUFL-AM (1030) features a combination of Christian music and talk, and WCHB-AM (1200) programs gospel-based shows evenings, overnights and weekends.

Although these stations aren’t often discussed in this column, it’s obvious by looking at the sheer number of radio outlets that remain loyal to religious-based programming year after year that the market for this type of programming is quite large — even if it’s fragmented among so many stations locally.

Interestingly, the Detroit market has no stations that focus full-time on contemporary Christian music. In the Grand Rapids area, there are several stations that feature around-the-clock Christian top 40 and soft-rock sounds that do quite well in the ratings there and enjoy much higher visibility compared to our religious radio outlets. I wonder if that some day in the future one of the big commercial operators in town might take a chance on one of these formats instead of playing “copy the cross-town competitor” when they decide to move in a new direction.

 

 

 • • • • • • • • 

Two weeks ago, you learned here that soft rock consultant Gary Berkowitz was spotted inside the offices of classic Top 40 WOMC-FM (104.3). Now comes word that program director Steve Allan is no longer with the station.

He’d been running things since February 2004 and last year oversaw the station’s evolution away from the “Oldies” tagline and refreshing of the music to include more ’70s and early-’80s tunes while playing less ’60s music. As I listened in this week, it appears that WOMC’s playlist has slightly shifted backward, including more songs each hour from popular ’60s Motown acts such as the Four Tops, the Temptations and the Supremes.

It doesn’t look like the input from Berkowitz, who is indeed working with the station, will create a direct competitor for WNIC and WMGC-FM (105.1). Instead, it’s a refocused WOMC that might be trying to recapture some of its previous sound without going back to calling itself “Oldies” again.

In terms of ratings numbers, as recently as last spring, WOMC was the fifth most popular station overall, but it fell to ninth place in fall 2006 — a spot it still occupies in the latest monthly ratings trend for February.

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A quick glance at those most recent ratings among listeners age 12 and up shows WNIC on top, followed by adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3), urban WJLB-FM (97.9), news-talk WJR-AM (760) and hits WKQI-FM (95.5).

Sports talkers WDFN-AM (1130) and WXYT-AM (1270) are in the doldrums. Both stations appear to be suffering from the winter blahs before things get stirred up with playoff action in basketball and hockey, along with the start of a new baseball season.

 • • • • • • • • 

Speaking of the winter blahs, talk WKRK-FM (97.1) also seemed to have caught them. Its ratings continue to fall with no real sign that there will be a big turnaround anytime soon. New late-morning host Johny D kicked off his 9-11 a.m. program this week and appears to be another filler show — something to hold down the fort until a better alternative comes along.

I’m seriously wondering if the whole shock-jock talk format shouldn’t just be laid to rest in favor of whatever the next “big thing” is.

 • • • • • • • • 

If you think I’m being rough on 97.1, visit the Web site of former WKRK personality Gregg Henson (www.gregghenson.com) for some real stinging criticism of WKRK and its new host.

As Art Vuolo mentioned last week, Henson is now podcasting — an on-demand type of broadcasting via the Internet that can be downloaded to your computer or MP3 player — and has regularly provided commentary about 97.1 management along with having conversations with fellow former WKRK co-workers Michelle McKormick and Jessica Hall. (A word of warning: Some of his podcast material would definitely be rated R for language and sexual content and should be avoided if you’re bothered by that kind of thing.)

Unregulated broadcasting, such as podcasting, is rapidly catching on, and I can see it becoming very popular in serving specific audience groups that regular radio can’t and won’t serve.

In Henson’s case, he’s providing an amazing amount of insider-type info about radio that you’re not going to find in any other kind of medium because of his connections and the fact that he’s not working in this market any longer.

It’s a dangerous proposition, though, as he’s probably not making many new friends in the radio business with his podcasts due to the fear that he might do the same thing to them someday. Free speech can be a wonderful thing until it backfires on you.

 • • • • • • • • 

Set your dial: The sounds of the 1948 movie classic “Easter Parade” are featured on this week’s edition of “Somewhere in Time” with hosts Tom Wilson and Alison Harris at 6 p.m. today 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, April 8, 2007

 

1 Comments

Yeah, two hours less of Motor City Middays and Johnny D added to WKRK. He must be paying them to be on that station. If this is the best they can do, would it be so bad for us fans to have Michelle McKormick back?

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Austerman published on April 8, 2007 9:45 AM.

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