By: Mike Austerman
They’re baaaack. The familiar voices of Jay Towers and Bill McAllister will be returning to WXYT-FM (97.1), this time for mornings, beginning Jan. 2 at 6 a.m. The duo were co-hosts of “Motor City Middays,” along with Shila Nathan, until October when the station switched from talk to sports and both have remained under contract with CBS Radio. They will be joined by producer Jon Klaft for the 6-10 a.m. time slot. Nathan, who moved back to Pennsylvania, is not part of the current plans as the details of what will be called “Motor City Mornings” are still being worked out.
Towers commented that the opportunity came as a big shock, especially considering his recent appointment as midday host and music director for sister station Oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) — positions he will give up to move back into talk radio full-time. He commented, “I’ve really loved my time at WOMC and working for program director Scott Walker, who was working in the Philadelphia area, where I grew up. It’s been a dream come true working for Scott — but the opportunity to do mornings again was something I just couldn’t pass up.”
A new multi-year deal was cut through Los Angeles-based agent Glenn Goldstein who represents all three of the “new” guys and signals that WXYT management has decided to stick with a mainstream-style show in the morning that will focus on a variety of topics instead of only sports gab. Towers knows he’s not a sportstalk guy, but is comfortable calling on the knowledge of McAllister and all the other WXYT hosts when big sports-related stories are making news.
Plugging in a show that was already familiar to listeners gives the station an advantage of not having to start building a new audience from scratch and gives a clear example of why you rarely see radio personalities go out of their way to burn their bridges.
• • • • • • • •The announcement of the Towers/McAllister combo marked the official end to the tumultuous relationship between CBS Radio management and former morning hosts Jeff Deminski and Bill Doyle who will be officially terminated on Dec. 31. Deminski and Doyle rejected a final contract offer from CBS about a week ago with the primary sticking point between the two sides being the length of the deal. CBS proposed two years with a six-month non-compete clause while D&D were seeking a one-year agreement so that everyone could better assess how the show matched up with the sports format of 97.1. Talking about their program’s listeners, Deminski commented, “People here are underestimated just like our show was. They are smarter, tougher, funnier, kinder and just plain better than the rest of the country gives them credit for. I’ve never had more fun or felt closer with any other group of fans. They deserved a farewell show, and so did we.”
When listeners invest in getting to know radio hosts, it’s tough to accept that the bond can be broken over what turns out to be a business decision. In a long-form talk program like D&D offered, listeners become more like friends because of how personal their show was at times. It’s a sad commentary that the link between listeners and radio hosts seems to be forgotten in the negotiation room.
Just like any other talk program, there were topics on the Deminski and Doyle program that weren’t appealing to everyone, but what shouldn’t be overlooked is that these guys worked extremely hard to learn the market and indeed became fully embraced by fans as fellow Detroiters.
As Deminski prepares to either sit out a one-year non-compete clause or take a job in another city he commented, “I want to wish the station and CBS much success. Plenty of good, hard-working people are still there behind the scenes, and I hope they keep them.”
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It has been more than 30 years since a broadcaster was allowed to own a newspaper in addition to radio and/or television stations in America’s largest markets — with the notable exception of Chicago, where the Tribune Company has continued to own WGN-AM 720 and WGN-TV 9 along with The Chicago Tribune.
The most notable local newspaper, television and radio combination was The Detroit News’ ownership of WWJAM (950), WWJ-FM (97.1) and WWJ-TV 4 up until 1978 when the TV station was transferred to Post-Newsweek in advance of the rule changes. The News then later separated from the radio stations.
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to remove those restrictions in the nation’s 20 largest markets — opening up the possibility that some of our highest-profile local media outlets could share a common owner. The FCC plan faces scrutiny from both Congressional houses, but appears to have support from the White House.
FCC chairman Kevin Martin described the process of reversing the decades-old rule as the most contentious and divisive issue to come before the commission in his tenure. He claims this solution represents only a relatively minor loosening of cross-ownership rules and that a changing marketplace for media consumption can help preserve diversity and competition in broadcasting.
• • • • • • • •Quick Hits: Betcha Doug Podell, midday host and program director at rock WRIF-FM (101.1), is a proud dad these days with daughter Lauren being hired by Channel 4 to handle traffic reporting duties … WOMC will bring back legendary WXYZ-AM (1270) jock Lee Alan for another evening on the horn during a live New Year’s Eve show starting at 6 p.m. Art Vuolo will have more details next week on the plans for this not-to-be-missed evening of radio.
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Mike Austerman is the founder of Michiguide.com and has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.
Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, December 23, 2007