Entries in On The Radio Columns Category

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioEither there is something big brewing at talk WKRK-FM (97.1) or they intend on burning out hosts Jay Towers and Bill McAllister with their current time slot of 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Six hours is a long time to host a free-flowing talk program like “Motor City Middays,” not to mention all the time that must go in to preparing for such a long show. Even the top stars of talk radio are usually only asked to host three or four hours each day — how much can be expected over the long haul for Towers and McAllister? I honestly don’t know how Towers does it with his additional responsibilities as a weekend features reporter for Fox 2.

Now with the removal of Michelle McKormick from the Live 97.1 Free FM midday show has to have made it that much harder on both remaining hosts. With her departure, WKRK no longer has any female hosts during weekdays — and without any female perspective, aside from occasional callers, it seems that WKRK is fighting even harder for the same male-dominated audience as sister station sports WXYT-AM (1270). And both stations have passed out more than their share of pink slips in the past few weeks.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioAmong the North American International Auto Show buzz this week, the backers of HD (high definition) radio have been marketing their product in full force to raise awareness of this still relatively young technology. A mobile HD radio promotion kicked off Wednesday at Cobo Center and will be up and running through the full run of the show. Now’s your chance to learn more about what many in the radio industry are hoping will be a savior for traditional broadcasters in their battle to keep the attention of listeners that increasingly get their music and information from other sources.

Rock WRIF-FM (101.1) also is going all out in the promotion of HD radio. Starting at 6 a.m. Saturday through 9 p.m. Jan. 21, the Riff 2 digital-only side-band channel will move onto the main ’RIF analog frequency. This way, everyone with a regular FM radio can experience an eclectic mix of local artists, alternative, hiphop, punk and indie-rock hosted by Riff 2’s on-air staff, which includes Suzy Cole, Mark Pennington, Trey and Hightower.
The event, which I believe is a first for any station anywhere, will likely cause the ’Rif phone lines to light up with confused and/or shocked listeners.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioOne of my favorite columnists was the late Bob Talbert who, although not a media writer, often penned his thoughts about radio and did a considerable amount of “thinking out loud.” That’s just what I’m going to do on this cold winter’s Sunday.

Eight days ago I stepped off a beautiful Royal Caribbean cruise ship after a week of nice warm weather, overeating and trying to relax. It seemed surreal that I could flip on my portable XM radio and, in the middle of acres of blue Caribbean waters, dial up the Detroit channel and hear local weather reports and just how heavy the traffic was on I-696 through Oak Park.

 • • • • • • • • 

The major buzz seems to still surround all the changes at hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1), the new home of the Tigers and Red Wings that’s also been carrying the Lions. The only major team missing is the Pistons, which will remain on sports WDFN-AM (1130).

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioEver since it was revealed that a radio station contest in Sacramento, Calif., resulted in the death of one participant from water intoxication, the radio industry has been buzzing about the incident and its aftermath.

Jennifer Strange, a 28-year old mother of three young children, died after consuming what’s estimated as nearly 2 gallons of water in an attempt to win a video game console for her kids. The idea was for contestants to hold out on visiting the restroom for as long as possible and the last one to “go wee” would claim a Nintendo Wii.

Many portions of the contest that day have been rebroadcast on the Internet, and it’s clear that the employees of the station involved, KDND-FM, received warnings about the possibility of such a tragedy from listeners but did little to either halt the competition or provide Strange with medical attention.

Ten KDND employees involved in the stunt were fired and, not surprisingly, lawsuits are being filed, along with a criminal investigation.

Fortunately, these kinds of radio-assisted tragedies are few and far between, and it’s apparent that managers of our local radio stations have a good understanding that protecting listeners from this kind of harm is in everyone’s best interest.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioAre you ready for some football? A year ago, the media spotlight was on Detroit and this year it’s on Miami as football widows head for the mall and the men (and some women) plop themselves in front of the biggest TV screen they can find.

If you find yourself on the road at today’s Super Bowl kickoff, locally the game will be broadcast on sports WXYT-AM (1270). If you have a Sirius satellite radio, the big game will be presented in seven languages! Colts fans can hear the Indy announcers on Channel 125, supporters of Da Bears can tune in on 123, and the national feed is on 124.

 • • • • • • • • 

Speaking of car radios, if you’re like most people, you have a button set for WJR-AM (760) and WWJ-AM (950). Punch between them and let me know if ’JR sounds much louder than WWJ. I find it very noticeable. Just wondering.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioI admittedly have a soft spot for plugging radio stations when they are trying to help the community with fund-raisers and radiothons. So this week, I’m dedicated to spreading the word about three area stations, all owned by CBS Radio, that are devoting a lot of their time this month to help raise money for some excellent causes.

First off, country WYCD-FM (99.5) helped listeners pledge $572,209 during the station’s eighth annual Country Cares for St. Jude Kids radiothon. The event kicked off Wednesday at Oakland Mall in Troy with a personal appearance on the Dr. Don morning show by country singing legend Clint Black and ended Thursday.

The program began in 1989, after Randy Owen, lead singer of the music group Alabama, met St. Jude founder Danny Thomas and helped team the organization with country radio stations across the United States. Since its inception, Country Cares has grown to be one of the most successful radio fund-raising events in the nation, with more than 200 radio station partners helping raise $280 million-plus in pledges.

For more information on the amazing work that St. Jude’s does for kids, click on www.stjude.org.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioAfter nearly 47 years in radio, I thought I’d heard it all. When XM satellite radio devoted a channel to Hanukkah music in December, I started retelling a joke that I created regarding a new radio station known as WJEW. It got laughs even from Orthodox rabbis, but now it’s no longer a joke.

Temple Israel is pleased to announce its own new Jewish radio station — and yes, it’s called WJEW. It’s managed by the temple’s high school students and Cantor Michael Smolash. Just go to www.temple-israel.org on your computer to check out the Internet radio station that can be listened to by Jewish people around the world.

“The whole idea began when I was talking to a student at Monday night school, Corey Berkowitz,” Cantor Smolash said. I mentioned that I had been wondering why there were so many Christian radio stations, but no Jewish ones. He then suggested we create one.”

Corey is the son of renowned radio consultant and one-time WJR programmer Gary Berkowitz, so he no doubt has radio in his blood.

“I’m looking forward to helping WJEW become one of the top Jewish radio stations in the country,” Berkowitz said. “I’ve grown up with radio all around me and have dedicated a great amount of time to my high school radio station.”

“We have already interviewed some big names, including Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and comedian Joel Chasnoff, which we will be airing,” Smolash said. “The students are also able to come in and run their own shows — jocking, talking about Jewish teen topics, and more.”

He added that “we were the first religious school he knew of to create a radio station like this. I hope that WJEW will be a template for similar stations at other synagogues.”

The Jewish community’s response to the station has been extremely positive. This is truly a first of its kind, and despite my weird sense of humor, this really is no joke.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioThere’s an old expression that goes “Please somebody shoot me,” and that’s how I felt this past week with all the Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears stories.

When Channel 4 actually brought a psychiatrist onto the news set asking whether Spears was crying out for help, I nearly put a brick through my TV set. (I changed the station, a move that proved less costly.)

Sadly, radio is also guilty of overexposing tabloid-style stories.

 • • • • • • • • 

Last Monday, Sirius and XM announced a merger between the two satellite radio companies valued at a cool $13 billion.

Since I and Mike Austerman have been writing about this relatively new technology in these pages longer than anyone else, I felt compelled to contact our three local TV newsrooms, offering to help them shed some light on this major story. It’s one that has far reaching effects on the Big Three automakers and, particularly, Oakland County-based Delphi, which makes and distributes most of the XM radios. Certainly it was a story of great local interest.

Results? Not one single TV station felt the need to even return the call.

In the business world, the bigger the deal, the longer it takes to complete. And this is a big deal. The top brass at both companies — Mel Karmazin at Sirius and Gary Parsons at XM — feel it will be a done deal by the end of this year. Parsons was actually quoted as saying: “This transaction is about choice. No longer will subscribers have to choose between Howard Stern (on Sirius) or Opie & Anthony (XM).”

 

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 ...

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioHard to believe that it’s been nearly one year since Sabrina Black — best known for her work at sports WDFN-AM (1130) until illness forced to her to leave her job back in 2003 — died from complications of a six-year battle with Hodgkin’s disease.

The man she loved, Steve Black, who’s the weekend jock at rock WRIF-FM (101.1), launched the Sabrina Black Foundation in May 2006 to honor his late wife, establishing the foundation’s mission to raise money to help individual cancer patients by paying off their entire hospital bills.

Right now, the foundation may only be able to assist one or two people every year, but by doing so, they let the recipients know that an angel has heard their prayers and hopefully has helped change their lives forever.

The foundation will hold its first-ever public event on April 10th at the Emerald Theatre in Mount Clemens with a fund-raising concert and auction. Headlining the concert will be blues-rock guitarist
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, while the auction will feature autographed guitars, artwork and many other items.

Tickets are $30.50 at Ticketmaster. Find more details about the event and the group at http://www.sabrinablackfoundation.org.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioRemember that old country song with the lyric line “I wanna go home to Dee-troit City?” Well, that’s me after a couple of weeks of living out of a suitcase.

The last time we met, I indicated that I’d be covering two big radio conventions back-to-back. Well, I did. First to Nashville for the Country Radio Seminar, followed the next week by the Talk Radio Seminar in Los Angeles, presented by trade publication Radio & Records. And I return with more than a few observations about these two very popular radio formats.

In Nashville, Tim Roberts and John Trapane, the program directors of country stations WYCD-FM (99.5) and WDTW-FM (106.7), respectively, were in attendance. Also there was Ron Chatman, music director and air personality at WYCD, who was one of only about six African-Americans at the conference. Roberts was honored with a special scholarship established at his alma mater, Central Michigan University, a nice highlight at the CRS.

While in Music City, I met a ton of major stars, and I don’t mean to be a name-dropper, but I’ve got to mention Jon Bon Jovi, Mac Davis, Toby Keith and comic Bill Dana, a.k.a. Jose Jimenez. One of my personal favorites was meeting Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel. I’m a major weather-freak.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioTo paraphrase from “Monday Night Football,” are you ready for some baseball?

Major League Baseball opens play one week from tonight, with the Tigers set to get started at home April 2 against the Toronto Blue Jays. If it doesn’t snow, of course.

And not only will you be able to hear the Tigers locally on both talk WKRK-FM (97.1) and sports WXYT-AM (1270), XM subscribers also will be able to hear the games all across the United States and Canada this season. XM will carry 2,400-plus games, from the opening pitch through the World Series in October, and also will offer a special channel at the start of the season featuring a blend of music and vintage baseball audio to get fans ready to play ball.

Let’s hope they’ve got a recording of Ernie Harwell reading from the Song of Solomon at the start of a spring training broadcast:

“For the winter is past, The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the Earth;
The time of the song of the birds has come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”

Then I’d be ready for baseball season to begin.

 • • • • • • • • 

With a major move that’s a disappointment to fans of alternative styles of music, public WDET-FM (101.9) has decided to pull the plug on nearly all of what was left of its local music programming as of April 2.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioIt’s Palm Sunday and April Fool’s Day, so beware of your favorite station pulling a prank on you, the listener.

But tomorrow is Opening Day at Comerica Park, and there’s more buzz about the Tigers this year than any other in memory. Remember, this year will be the first time ever that Detroit baseball will be broadcast FM. All the games will be carried on hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1), which, especially after sundown, when many games are played, will make reception far better than the limited nighttime coverage of sports WXYT-AM (1270).

XM subscribers, meanwhile, can hear any game anywhere in the country. When the Tigers are at home, they’ll also feature Dan Dickerson and Jim Price at the helm with the Detroit broadcast on XM. Very cool indeed. Go Tigers!

 • • • • • • • • 

Just in time for the baseball season is a brand new four-CD set called “Ernie Harwell’s Audio Scrapbook.” If you love the game, or know someone who does, this is a must have, containing just about every memorable Ernie moment. You can get your own copy via his Web site, www.eharwell.com. We’re so very lucky to have this special sports icon, and his beautiful wife, Lulu, in Oakland County.

 

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.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioIt’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.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioAs I prepared to write this column, it was hard to focus on anything other than the tragic murder of 32 students and staff by a fellow student at Virginia Tech University.

When the story broke late Monday morning, local radio once again jumped into action to provide coverage to those that couldn’t — or didn’t want to — watch footage on TV. I was limited in my ability to listen on Monday, but I was grateful for the coverage I did catch to get late-breaking information.

To me, though, the real challenge came the next morning, when loyal listeners tuned in to their favorite hosts to hear how they would handle the story. The Mojo in the Morning crew at contemporary hits WKQI-FM (95.5) has become a powerhouse when it comes to connecting with young adults — both in good times and bad. And Tuesday, they displayed their knack for knowing their audience by balancing commentary and information, all the while keeping a positive vibe going.

On Drew & Mike at rock WRIF-FM (101.1), morning co-host Drew Lane reminded his listeners that he’s a Virginia Tech grad, which offered a perspective that no other morning show in town could match.

Later in the morning, Lane and Mike Clark announced they had landed the cell phone number for O.J. Simpson, the subject of one of the most sensationalized news stories of the ’90s, and gave him a call. Simpson was quite cordial during the nearly 10-minute call, even managing to poke fun at himself when commenting that “I’m not the most employable person,” in the process offering a bit of comic relief in the midst of all the painful coverage of the slayings in Virginia.

The WRIF boys managed to chat with Simpson about everything from golf and visiting strip clubs to getting him to comment on the flap over Don Imus’ comments, the civil lawsuit ruling against him from the 1994 slayings of his former wife Nicole and Ron Goldman, and his feelings about the Virginia Tech shootings. It was a great “get” for WRIF — and is a clear example of why Drew and Mike continue to be near the top of the ratings heap year in and year out.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioOn May 4, WJR-AM (760) will be celebrating its 85th birthday in grand style. Since 1922, the news-talk station has been entertaining and informing people throughout the Midwest, the 50,000-watt Great Voice of the Great Lakes will celebrate over the course of two nights.

As a part of the big event, the station will be hosting “An Evening with Rush Limbaugh” on Thursday at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi. Tickets went very fast, and the venue is completely sold out.

The next night features a private, invitation-only birthday party in Dearborn. A special screening also will take place of a video history of WJR, which was produced by creative director John Marshall and yours truly. I’ll be attending both events and will report to you the next time we meet.

 • • • • • • • • 

Strange But True Department: An XM subscriber in St. Louis says his channels carry “promotional and advertisement segments” and he’d like his complaint certified as a class-action suit. And a judge in the Gateway City is allowing a false-advertising claim to proceed.

XM asked the court to throw out the suit, stating “it’s without merit” and the accusations are “baseless” — because it doesn’t run commercials on its own music channels. To explain, Clear Channel Radio owns a small percentage of XM, and on a few channels, which they program, there are some commercials.

These insane, frivolous suits cause me to wonder what kind of people have nothing better to do with their time. As is the case with anything on the air that listeners don’t like, I say just change the station. The satellite radio companies have nearly 200 channels to choose from. Stop with the legal action — just hit the button for something better.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioHow do the local numbers add up? Well, news-talk WJR-AM (760) got to celebrate its 85th birthday in style on Friday by being on top of the latest quarterly ratings report among all listeners. All-news WWJ-AM (950) finished right behind, followed by urban WJLB-FM (97.9), hits WKQI-FM (95.5), and adult urban WMXDFM (92.3). The Christmas cheer at soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3) wore off with a ninth place overall finish, down from second in the fall quarterly ratings report.

Country WDTW-FM (106.7) made quite a “Fox”-y move up the ratings ladder, closing in rather closely to WYCD-FM (99.5). Year-to-year, 106.7 the Fox has doubled its numbers from 1.5-3.0, while WYCD has tumbled 5.1-3.4. Gotta admit, I didn’t see that coming.

Sports stations WDFN-AM (1130) and WXYT-AM (1270) finished tied for the winter quarter in their never-ending tussle for supremacy among sports fans. Betcha both stations are hoping for long playoff runs for the Red Wings and Pistons to get their spring numbers back up.

In the race for morning listeners, Drew & Mike of rock WRIF-FM (101.1) continue to lead Joe Donovan and Roberta Jasina of WWJ, Mojo and crew at WKQI, Paul W. Smith of WJR, and Steve Harvey of WMXD.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioHappy Mother’s Day! My mom and dad, whom I am blessed to still have, even at my advanced age, both listen to a lot of radio — but, of course, radio cares little about people in their age group.

Most of last week was spent in the Windy City of Chicago observing and listening, mostly to the radio. I took in a little television, mostly to see if I could spot the lovely sister of Detroit traffic maven Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor. Her sibling, Sharon Wright, is a news reporter for WMAQ-TV NBC 5 in Chicago and looks much like the former Big 8 CKLW chopper reporter from the ’70s. Today, Jo-Jo is still doing traffic for the Michigan AAA Network.

About 10 days ago, as part of WJR-AM’s (760) big 85th birthday celebration, the station presented “An Evening with Rush Limbaugh.” Even at $50 per ticket, the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi was packed with more than 2,000 people — and that’s a “conservative” estimate.

After an introduction by popular WJR personalities Paul W. Smith and Frank Beckmann, El Rushbo did a solid two hours with the crowd, interrupting his talk close to 100 times with applause.

Prior to his addressing the passionate crowd, a video tracing the history of WJR Radio was shown. WJR Creative Director John Marshall and I produced the video and were surprised at some of the reaction from the very vocal audience. For example, when former Tiger announcer Ernie Harwell and the late J.P. McCarthy appeared, the crowd cheered wildly. When Mitch Albom, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick popped up on the screen, the response was decidedly less enthusiastic. I witnessed something similar at last year’s Sean Hannity appearance at the Ren-Cen, also sponsored by WJR (you can see the video at www.wjr.com).

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioScrutiny of the radio business has probably never been higher than in recent weeks, and most of the attention has not been positive.

Shock talkers have been the biggest targets, as one scandal seems to be followed quickly by another, and high-profile personalities are either getting fired or placed on long suspensions as a result of broadcasting offensive material under the guise of being edgy or funny.

Only thing is, there is no humor in racial and ethnic stereotyping, as Don Imus and New York City personalities JV & Elvis have shown, or in references to rape, as satellite radio bad boys Opie & Anthony recently did. You’ve lost your edge when you resort to making fun or taking advantage of others and label it as entertainment.

Twenty- and 30-something men are falling all over themselves across the Internet in protest of the actions being taken against these so-called talents, mostly claiming free-speech violations. The Rev. Al Sharpton, in an appearance in Troy last week, had the perfect answer, correctly explaining that free speech is a two-way street.

I commend those who exert their right of free speech against what essentially has become sanctioned bullying over the airwaves.

Most schools now have strict policies against bullying as a way to address the kinds of issues that may have played a role in the tragedies at Columbine High School in 1999 and at Virginia Tech earlier this spring. Over and over again, we hear questions of what could have been done to prevent these kinds of horrible events.

Maybe society is starting to figure out that one of the most important things we can do is be consistent in our messages. If we’re not going to accept bullying in our schools, it’s time to stop accepting that kind of programming on the radio, too.

For those who get their kicks out of hearing the bits that are now rightly under scrutiny, I invite you to talk to some victims of ethnic hate crimes or rape and see if there is anything funny about their stories. Or maybe just talk to a kid that has been bullied and honestly try to learn how that feels.

Let’s get radio back to a place where true creativity and humor take center stage without all the unnecessary degradation of people who might look or act differently. Let’s let Paul W. Smith, Dick Purtan, John Mason and countless others both locally and nationally give some lessons on how a real radio pro should act on the air.

Radio isn’t dead — it just needs to let the best rise to the top again and minimize the desire to always be in the spotlight for being on the edge. As we’re learning, hanging out on that edge might just mean you’re due to fall off.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioWe’re smack dab in the middle of our long Memorial Day week-end, and today’s 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to be carried on sports WDFN-AM (1130) beginning with pre-race festivities at 10 a.m. The race can be seen on WXYZ-Channel 7, too, but despite the insane gas prices, this weekend will find many of us, including yours truly, traveling by car. Drive to arrive alive.

 • • • • • • • • 

Get your hammers and paint brushes prepared, and get ready for the triumphant return of one of this areas best loved home improvement radio hosts, Murray Gula, who debuts next weekend on sports/talk WDFNAM (1130). He will be on 8-10 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday ready to take your call at (800) 998-FIX IT (3494.)

It was a difficult six weeks recovering from major bypass surgery, but the “new” Murray is considerably slimmer and much wiser about his personal improvement, as well. He also will continue in his role on Channel 7’s Web site at www.wxyz.com with his live Web chat show, “Lunch with Murray,” at noon Thursdays, and his guest shot 10:30 a.m. Fridays with Bob Allison on ethnic/talk WNZK-AM (690). Murray’s longtime friend and co-host will continue to be Joe Giordano. Welcome back Mr. Gula, we missed you.

 • • • • • • • • 

One of XM’s two satellites went on the fritz last Monday. XM apparently was updating software one of its satellites, but things didn’t go as planned and the signal went down. The east satellite pivoted so that the signal was not pointed toward Earth.

Listeners said they first lost reception late that morning. Phone reps were telling callers the troubles could last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. It was corrected about 24 hours later.

XM’s other satellite in space continued to operate normally. The biggest problem was that just one satellite doesn’t adequately cover the entire country.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioOldies music lovers were in heaven last weekend with all the special events taking place on the radio. On Memorial Day, listeners in New York got to hear the classic sounds of “Musicradio 77” on WABC-AM (770), while fans of the “Big 89” got to hear a rewind on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. The response was huge, not only from the in-town audiences, but from fans across the world listening over the Internet.

Although it wasn’t promoted nearly as heavily, oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) also did some reminiscing of sorts over the holiday weekend by dropping its ’70s tunes and playing all ’60s music, complete with older-style jingles.

Earlier this month, WOMC made the wise decision to embrace its heritage by going back to calling itself “Oldies 104.3” instead of using the nondescriptive “Motor City’s 104.3 WOMC” tag that had been in place for just over a year.

What’s in a name? The station’s ratings had been down in each quarter since dropping the oldies name — perhaps being able to better identify the station will help turn those ratings back upward this summer, which has traditionally been a strong time of the year for oldies stations.

 • • • • • • • • 

WOMC is not the only station owned by CBS Radio to pull a never-mind of sorts. In recent weeks, New York’s FM 92.3 dropped its talk format and reverted back to a rock format as K-Rock, even reclaiming its old WXRK call sign. San Francisco also lost an FM talk station, getting back heritage classic hits station KFRC-FM, albeit on a different frequency. Also among the recent changes, Chicago’s FM talker dropped the “Free FM” tag that also was being used by the now defunct stations in NYC and San Francisco. Free FM can still be heard in use locally on WKRK-FM (97.1). These happenings make me wonder if there are more changes on the horizon at CBS Radio.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioHonestly, I can’t remember the last time this space looked more like an obituary page than a radio column. But this has been a very sad week, and the local radio community is still reeling from the passing of two well-known personalities.

For longtime Detroit radio listeners, the name Paul Christy is certainly familiar. Born Paul Christides, he died of complications from Parkinson’s disease Monday. His son, Scott, hoped to bring his dad to the last Detroit Radio Reunion in September 2005, but even then he was too weak to make the trip from his home outside of Lansing.

Christy was last heard locally on the ill-fated, full-service WYUR-AM, which is now progressive talk WDTW-AM (1310). His career included WCAR, which is now WDFN-AM (1130); WABX when it was Top 40; and in the late ’70s, he was program director of WNIC-FM (100.3) and its AM station of the same name. Also on his résumé is the launch of oldies on WKSG-FM in 1984, where he was that station’s first morning host.

He discovered a young man by the name of John Huzar working out in Ann Arbor at WAAM-AM (1600) using the name Tom Michaels on the air. You know him today as Jim Harper, the popular morning man at WMGC-FM (105.1).

“I hope everyone remembers that Paul Christy actually invented the ‘soft rock’ format,” Harper says. “We used to call it ‘Rock ‘n’ Easy’ 30 years ago, and as a result of that creation, thousands of us in broadcasting have had a chance to hone our craft. He probably did more for the careers of Michigan broadcasters than anyone I can think of in terms of launching careers. He gave me my first morning show job and I am eternally grateful.”

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioCountry WDTW-FM (106.7) will have a new morning host tomorrow as Chad Mitchell takes over behind the mike. He replaces Rick Miller, who was in the chair for less than a year before being let go last week.

Mitchell moves over to The Fox from Top 40 WKQI-FM (95.5), where he spent the last seven years helping produce the highly successful “Mojo in the Morning” show.

“I’m leaving to host my own show” Mitchell says. “It’s been a dream of mine since I started in radio at 16 years old.”

He moved to Detroit in 1998 to do mornings and then nights at WDRQ-FM (93.1) then moved to the night shift on WKQI for a short time prior to joining Mojo.

“We are extremely excited to have Chad join our crew,” says WDTW program director John Trapane. “What many people didn’t know about Chad from his years with Mojo is that he is a huge country fan and has been a fan of country music all of his life.”

Rachel Giordano has been tapped to replace Mitchell as executive producer for WKQI’s morning show.

 • • • • • • • • 

One of the biggest radio deals in recent memory was completed last week with news-talk WJR-AM (760), variety hits WDRQ and pop WDVD-FM (96.3) moving from the ownership of the Walt Disney Company to Citadel Broadcasting.

For WJR and WDVD, it’s their first complete ownership change since 1964, when Capital Cities Broadcasting acquired the station from Goodwill Stations.

Although there were two ownership mergers after 1964 — first when Capital Cities merged with ABC in 1985, then when Disney acquired ABC in 1996 — this week’s change comes with much more uncertainty about the future direction of the stations.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioMichigan never looked so good. Those were my words upon returning home last weekend from a trip to New York that I won’t soon forget. I went to the Big Apple to archive on videotape Talkers Magazine’s convention known as the New Media Seminar, but I stayed longer than scheduled.

Things were fine, at first. I saw the musical “Jersey Boys” and truly it lives up to the hype. The story of pop legends the Four Seasons is sensational. On Friday night, in the midst of the Talkers event, I got on a cruise around Manhattan that was sponsored by WABC radio and featured several legendary radio names. On that cruise was Soupy Sales, who, sadly, isn’t doing so well — he’s in his early 80s and, needless to say, no longer able to throw pies.

The most emphasized point made at the talk radio confab was that what is now referred to as “the spoken-word format” is the only type of radio — especially on AM — that has any redeeming value. There was, though, a great deal of discussion about talk on FM, which is no longer reserved just for “hot talk” similar to our local WKRK-FM (97.1). The term “spoken word” sounds a bit too biblical to me, but it’s what the industry seems to have embraced.

A major award went to Joe Madison from Washington, DC’s WOL. Longtime local listeners will remember Madison from his days at then-talk WXYT-AM (1270).

All was good, until my dizzying pace did me in, and I wound up in a hospital up in Westchester County, N.Y., in the charming little suburb of Bronxvville.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioWith summer vacation season fully kicking in this week, local radio stations are hoping you’ll include them in your local barbecue and beach plans.

Oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) will present its “Firecracker 500” starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, featuring tunes voted on by listeners who visited the station’s Web site at www.womc.com. In case you’re wondering, I’m the one who voted for the Supremes, Buddy Holly and Johnny Nash.

Not to be outdone, classic rock WCSX-FM (94.7) will present “USA to Z” on Wednesday, featuring all-American bands in alphabetical order, from Aerosmith to ZZ Top. Then, starting July 9, the station brings back its popular “Classic Rock A to Z,” featuring nearly 2,000 songs spanning “A Day in the Life” to “Ziggy Stardust.”

News WWJ-AM (950) is broadcasting live from Greenfield Village from 6-11 p.m. through Tuesday to help celebrate The Henry Ford’s 2007 Salute to America, featuring concerts by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra performing favorite patriotic songs. Each concert concludes with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture during a spectacular fireworks display and live cannon fire. Visit www.thehenryford.org for more information.

Public WDET-FM (101.9) will air “Radio Lab,” a science show for people who think they don’t like science, beginning on Wednesday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and then 8 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 5. “Radio Lab” claims to break the mold of lifeless, technical summaries of academic scientific findings to re-create the thrill of “A-ha!” moments in scientific breakthroughs. If only they could figure out what makes the mustard splatter all over my shirt every time I eat a hot dog.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioIf I were to choose a theme song for these mid-summer weeks, it would have to be Rick Nelson’s “Travelin’ Man.”

Last Sunday, I returned from a Midwest regional radio conference known as The Conclave. Unlike many such events, this one is an excellent combination of teaching and socializing. It also goes by the handle of “The Learning Conference” and has strong ties to Southfield-based Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts.

The mantra that I was echoing at that meeting is simple. Rather than micro-dissecting formats and music rotation, more time should have been spent figuring out how to get people to just listen to the radio more often. In other words, beware of the white wires. When we see thin white wires hanging out of people’s ears, they’re not listening to radio, they are plugged into their iPod.

Take note as to the number of white wires you see these days in places where radios were once prevalent. If you’re in the radio industry, it should really scare you.

On Independence Day, I was invited to the beautiful home of friends who live on Commerce Lake. In their expansive kitchen that seemingly had everything, what was missing? A radio. There was a TV, but no radio.

At the talk radio convention I attended last month a panel moderator asked if anyone brought a radio to the gathering. I was the only one who did. When asked how many had a cell phone, nearly 100 percent of the hands went up.

The number of people who stood in line for the debut of the iPhone speaks volumes. When have you seen people lined up for a new radio? Not for satellite, and not for HD.

Broadcasters need to figure out a way to make radio cool again.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioThe big news in radio this week came from New York City, where WCBS-FM (101.1) reverted back to an oldies format on Thursday after an unsuccessful two-year run as variety hits “Jack FM.”

Fans of the oldies format in the Big Apple basically refused to embrace the station’s new direction and continued to clamor for a return of the old WCBS, which had carried the oldies banner since July 1972 before 2005’s switch to Jack.

When Jack was launched, short-sighted radio executives had decided that the term oldies was a bad word in terms of ad revenue and listeners and began making changes to many oldies outlets around the country — including locally at WOMCFM (104.3), which stopped using the oldies name but kept much of the same sound.

CBS radio management acknowledged that both ratings and revenue fell short of what they originally anticipated and decided the best course of action was to return a legendary station to the airwaves.

Now thanks in part to new research coming from Philadelphia, which is using a new ratings system called the Personal People Meter, it’s being determined that the oldies format indeed still has life left in it — much to the joy of oldies lovers in New York.

Now if we could just get CBS Radio bosses to free WOMC’s Tom Ryan and give him back his show again ...

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioThere are weeks when either Mike Austerman or myself ask each other, “How are we gonna fit it all in?” Then there are times such as these mid-summer weekends in July when radio news seems to be happening everywhere except here. In our business, it’s called a slow news week. Of course, there’s always the temptation to print rumors, but the current news comes first.

As regular readers of this column know, I’ve been doing a great deal of traveling of late. My doctor suggested that I slow down. Thus far this month, I have been in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle, Phoenix, New York, and the New Jersey Shore.

This column was written while I was in the far Pacific Northwest visiting family and friends in Bellingham, Wash., a city reminiscent of the Peoples Republic of Ann Arbor in the 1960s. This college town, home to Western Washington University, is about 100 miles north of Seattle and not far from the Canadian boarder.

All of the commercial radio stations in Bellingham are owned by Detroit radio owner Ed Christian, whose well-respected Saga Communications is based in Grosse Pointe. On this Sunday, I’m in Neptune, N.J., celebrating a big Radio Greats NYC Reunion.

 • • • • • • • • 

A couple of weeks ago, I experienced the insanity of Atlanta and the first of five Sean Hannity Freedom Concerts. It went well, but security measures made the TSA at the airport look tame by comparison. Hannity, who is featured 3-5 p.m. weekdays on news-talk WJR-AM (760), is a god to his legions of fans, some of whom traveled many miles to see this show and support the troops in the Iraq War.

The remainder of his tour includes San Diego this week, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth, Cincinnati and wrapping up Sept. 11th in central New Jersey. More information can be found at www.hannity.com.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioThe spring ratings book is out, and news-talk WJRAM (760) continues to lead the parade of stations among all radio listeners. Adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3) jumped up to second place, followed by urban WJLB-FM (97.9), rock WRIF-FM (101.1), and Top 40 WKQI-FM (95.5).

Country WYCD-FM (99.5) was a big winner, with its number jumping from 3.4 in the winter to 4.4 and putting considerable distance between itself and competitor WDTW-FM (106.7), which fell to 2.3 from 3.0.

Pop WDVD-FM (96.3) also enjoyed a big jump in its overall rating, carding its best book in recent memory and climbing into the top 10 overall. Sports talker WXYT-AM (1270) put some distance between itself and competitor WDFN-AM (1130) once again, likely due to the Detroit Tigers returning to action during the spring.

Joining WDTW-FM in the what-did-we-do-wrong category were soft rockers WNIC-FM (100.3), which, interestingly, teased listeners with Christmas music last weekend, and WMGC-FM (105.1), along with classic rock WCSXFM (94.7).

WRIF’s Drew & Mike reign as the morning champs among all listeners, followed by Joe Donovan and Roberta Jasina on all-news WWJ-AM (950) and WMXD’s Steve Harvey. WRIF also was the top station in the highly sought-after age 25-54 listener group.

 • • • • • • • • 

WDET-FM (101.9) has lured Pat Batcheller into the world of public radio and hired him as the host for the station’s local segments during “All Things Considered,” heard afternoons 4-7 p.m. Regular listeners to WWJ will recognize the voice and name, as Batcheller spent the last nine years there.

A native of the area, Batcheller grew up in Trenton and is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts.

“Being the youngest in my family, I was always the last to know what was going on — I think that is why I got into news,” Batcheller says. “I hope after hearing a newscast, listeners feel that they learned some things and got to know their community a little better.”

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioFrom the sports desk, before the football season is officially under way, speaking on behalf of all of us who bring a radio to the game, please take your station “out of delay” during the game.

Hearing the action being described 10 to 15 seconds after it happens is not acceptable. It’s also causing fewer people to listen to radio while at the game, or watching it on TV with the sound turned down.

Ever since the days of the late Bob Ufer, radio audio is always better than the guys on TV, especially for college games.

 • • • • • • • • 

Speaking of sports, as Howard Cosell used to say, if you listened to “Parker and the Man” on WKRK-FM (97.1), you can still hear them nightly 9 p.m. till midnight over on the AM dial on WCHB-AM (1200). It’s a reasonably strong signal, even after dark.

 • • • • • • • • 

It’s time for another round of musical chairs on the Detroit urban radio scene.

Back in March, Skip Dillard left his post at Radio One, which owns and operates a trio of black stations in Motown including WDMK-FM (105.9), WHTD-FM (102.7) and WCHB-AM 1200. Finally slipping into Skip’s vacated chair is Al Payne, transferring in from Radio One in Richmond, Va.

This rotation of management was done by Jay Stevens, Radio One VP of programming content, whose old PD job at Washington, D.C.’s legendary WPGC-FM was taken by Dillard from Detroit.

If you can follow all of this, you’re better than I am. Al (I’m feeling no) Payne starts his new job in the Motor City on Aug. 13.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioPaperwork and electronic filing problems are likely going to cost high school radio station WBFH-FM (88.1).

The Federal Communications Commission served the Bloomfield Hills station with notice that late license renewal filings, unauthorized operations and incomplete records in its public file were severe enough violations to result in $17,000 worth of fines. The owner of WBFH, the Bloomfield Hills School District, identifies Peter Bowers as the station's general manager.

The good news in the FCC’s ruling was the official renewal of the station’s license.

WBFH, along with all the other radio stations in Michigan, was required to renew its license in 2004 to continue operations. But problems using a new electronic filing system at the FCC caused the station to miss a June deadline and then have its license lapse in October 2004 before the situation was corrected. The combination of the late filing and operations without a license drew $7,000 worth of fines.

Those problems drew the attention of Ed Czelada, co-founder of the contemporary Christian “Smile FM” group of stations in Michigan, who inspected and then reported problems with WBFH’s public file, a required set of paperwork that each station must maintain. While a petition to deny the license renewal for WBFH filed by Czelada was denied, the FCC did add on a $10,000 fine for the problems with the public file.

A petition from an out-of-state religious broadcaster to force WBFH to share the 88.1 frequency also was denied in this real-life radio soap opera.

It’s pretty clear just how cutthroat radio can be when seemingly simple mistakes result in a station putting its very existence in jeopardy. While the folks at WBFH are undoubtedly relieved to have kept their license, those fines are no doubt going to be a big downer for a station that has scored numerous awards for its on-air work.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioCan I finally unpack my suitcase? Don’t misunderstand me, I love to travel. I even like to fly, and now I can say unquestionably the best airline is Southwest. Period.

I just flew that friendly carrier to Chicago for the Morning Show Boot Camp, another one of a multitude of radio conventions that I attend each year. This custom confab caters primarily to high-profile (that means they make the most money) morning personalities from stations nationwide and even a few international attendees.

This year, only two Detroit morning shows felt a need to learn how to make their programs even better. They were Mojo and his whole crew from hits WKQI-FM (95.5) and Blaine Fowler, minus Lisa and Allyson, from pop WDVD-FM (96.3). Good for them — and, oddly enough, they’re neighbors on the FM dial.

If I can say this without sounding like a prude, and considering the new guidelines set by the FCC, I was amazed at the proliferation of profanity by the men and women. That damn convention had a hell of a lot of swearing.

 • • • • • • • • 

Meanwhile back on the home front, Oakland County is home to better than half of the radio stations in the greater Detroit area, and I think nearly all of them were involved to one degree or another in Saturday’s Woodward Dream Cruise.

Last year, it was very hot, but this year the weather gods were far more reasonable. If you never moved your dial off FM, you missed the great job that oldies/talk WPON-AM (1460) did all week long. You also missed the big Beatles special on oldies CKWW-AM (580).

 • • • • • • • • 

Speaking of automobiles, have you heard about the “cars for stars” program that General Motors has begun? It supplies major radio personalities — both nationally and locally — with new GM vehicles for a couple of weeks each month so that they’ll talk about them on the air.

Not a bad idea, but the people who are getting these cars are the same people who can easily afford them. However, they are the most listened to and most influential hosts on the air.

It’s a smart move by America’s No. 1 automaker, which will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2008.

It’s got to make Warren Pierce wonder about what he did wrong. You may recall that about a dozen years ago, Pierce, who hosts Saturday and Sunday mornings on news-talk WJR-AM (760), found himself in hot water for doing essentially the same thing while working at WJBK-Channel 2.

Somebody cue Bob Dylan because “the times they are a changin’.”

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioThis past Thursday, Dana Masucci was unceremoniously dumped from the lineup at Oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) before her midday air shift as the station decided “to go in another direction.” Masucci had been with WOMC since January 2005, replacing Tom Force who was similarly given his walking papers in late 2004.

Now word on the street is that Force, who has kept his free-agent status since his firing, might be under consideration by station management to retake his spot behind the ’OMC midday mic. If that happens, maybe the first song Force should play is Huey Lewis and the News’ “Back in Time” from the “Back to the Future” movies — even if they are ’80s flicks.

 • • • • • • • • 

One of the more interesting battles for listeners on the FM dial has been occurring slightly under the radar. The ratings for public news-talk stations WUOM-FM (91.7)/WFUM-FM (91.1) and WDET-FM (101.9) are close, but WUOM/WFUM’s 1.3 rating outpaced WDET’s 1.1 rating among all listeners this past spring. That’s startling with WDET’s focus on Detroit and WUOM being located in Ann Arbor (WFUM repeats WUOM from Flint).

That 1.1 number for WDET is down from 1.4 in the spring of 2006, but holding steady from last fall. WDET is likely most concerned that there were an average of 7,900 people tuned in during any 15-minute period last spring, while during the fall and this spring there were only 6,300 listeners. While WDET does offer some unique programming from WUOM/WFUM, it appears that the station’s longtime status as the area’s most popular public radio station has been lost.

In fact, the classical and jazz format on WRCJ-FM (90.9) sits ahead of WDET with a 1.2 rating in the spring. WRCJ also boasts an impressive average time spent listening number of 6.8 hours — meaning WRCJ listeners don’t do a lot of dial flipping when they have their radios on.

In my observation, the buzz that WDET used to have around town when it was formatted with an eclectic mix of music and talk programs has now evaporated and the station has simply become just another public radio station.

It used to be that wearing a WDET T-shirt or using a logo coffee mug made a statement to others. Now, finding unique content on WDET usually means sitting through a ton of programming that’s easily available someplace else.

And other radio listeners look like they agree with that assessment as they stay away from WDET.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioThis is a radio column, and I love sports. But I don’t aspire to be another Pat Caputo. He does a fine job reporting sports for The Oakland Press.

However, I cannot ignore what’s going on with The Big Ten Network.

Did you watch the University of Michigan game yesterday? Did you see the Michigan State University game? Any contest considered a “lesser game” won’t be seen locally as this new college football network fights with area cable TV operators over, you guessed it, money.

Currently the Big Ten Network is available only to DirectTV subscribers. Comcast and other cable outlets would be charged about $1.10 per subscriber to add the college football network and feel customers (not interested in the games) would balk at the rate increase.

The network feels it should be offered at no additional charge similar to dozens of other sports channels like ESPN and FSN. The Big Ten Network is 51 percent owned by the Big Ten Conference and 49 percent by the Fox Television Network.

The one benefactor in all of this should be radio.

Mike Chires, new vice president/general manager of Host Communications and the Michigan Sports Network in Novi, feels that this situation will hopefully drive more fans over to the radio coverage.

Remember that after 30 years on WJR, the Wolverines are now on CKLW-AM (800) which reaches from Ontario and southeast Michigan down into Indiana and Ohio. The games are also on Oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) along with a network of stations statewide.

 • • • • • • • • 

Recently, I begged stations to turn off the delay during football games so our radios would be in sync with the action.

Well, if you were at the Michigan Stadium yesterday, you may have seen these little radios, which allow fans in the stadium to hear the live play-by-play without the time delay of the “regular” radio broadcast of every home and away Michigan football game this year.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioThe Dr. Don Morning Show, heard weekday mornings from 5-10am on country WYCD-FM (99.5), has been nominated for a CMA (Country Music Association) award in the category of On-Air Personalities of the Year (Major Market). The nominations were announced last month live on ABC TV’s “Good Morning America” program.

The awards will be presented at this year’s 41st Annual CMA Awards program on Nov. 7, 2007 in Nashville and broadcast by ABC. The CMA Awards are considered to be country music’s biggest night.

“This is a huge honor,” said Debbie Kenyon, vice president and general manager of WYCD-FM. “It’s great to see Dr. Don along with Rachael, Grunwald and Jason get recognized nationally.”

“The whole team on the Dr. Don Morning show has contributed to our success at WYCD,” noted Program Director Tim Roberts. “More importantly, these guys know how to have fun and take the Detroit audience along for the ride.”

 • • • • • • • • 

Syndicated adult urban morning host Tom Joyner, heard locally on WDMK-FM (105.9), is promoting his 5th annual “Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day.” Those that take the pledge to help get someone in for a health screening or attending a community health event will be eligible to win $10,000. Details at www.kissdetroit.com. Also at WDMK, the syndicated Wendy Williams Experience was dropped from the station’s lineup in August after just a year. The station’s weekday lineup now consists of the Joyner show mornings, Tune Up middays, and Lady BG evenings.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioOn Sept. 14, 2001, this radio column began here in The Oakland Press by Mike Austerman and myself. And now six years later, we’re still going strong as the only “regularly scheduled” radio update in metro Detroit.

With my overactive travel schedule, you never know where my column is going to be penned, while Mike, due to family obligations, tends to stay local more than I do.

These words — in fact — were written from the famous New Jersey shore in the Garden State. I was there this past week to archive on videotape the final of five Sean Hannity Freedom Concerts on Tuesday. It was an event to remember.

Hannity’s show is carried on over 500 stations across the country, including news-talk WJR-AM (760) from 3-5 p.m. And if you heard the program last Tuesday, it was a memorable broadcast and I was proud to have been a part of it.

At the evening concert at Six Flags Great Adventure theme park in New Jersey, country singer Lee Greenwood — known for his song “God Bless the USA” — asked the crowd of more than 14,000 to wave their cell phones, much like Bic lighters a generation ago. It was a truly an awesome sight to see.

 • • • • • • • • 

Following up on the news of Matt Drudge walking away from his 400 station network show on Sunday nights, WJR programmer Steve Stewart has indicated that the program with new host Bill Cunningham will be carried at 10 p.m. on AM 760. You can preview Willie’s “act” on 700 WLW from Cincinnati on XM Channel 173 from noon-3 p.m.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioLess than a month after the infamous O.J. Simpson low-speed Bronco chase unfolded in the summer of 1994, sports WDFN-AM (1130) took to the airwaves for the first time. As that melodrama unfolded throughout the next year, there was plenty of Simpson trial fodder on WDFN that almost certainly helped draw attention, advertisers and ratings success for the area’s first full-time sports station. The tabloid-like sports concept grew so popular that at one time the area had three full-time sports stations in WDFN, WXYT-AM (1270) and what was WXDX-AM (1310).

Now that Simpson has returned to the headlines for all the wrong reasons, he’s again become a hot topic for discussion, at least temporarily pushing former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick off the hot-topic list. In the past 13 years, sports talk radio has proved to be as much about “pure” sports talk as it is about the controversies created by the stars and former stars of the game.

Hearing the Simpson chatter this past week reminds me of just how much the success of radio relies on its ability to quickly connect with the audience about intriguing issues — even if they resemble train wrecks. I also wonder if the all-sports format would exist today if there hadn’t been a Simpson trial back in 1994-1995.

 • • • • • • • • 

Oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) enjoyed the biggest ratings increase in the latest summer ratings trend among all listeners. Although it was only a relatively small bump, it moved the station into the top 5 overall, behind adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3), urban WJLB-FM (97.9), news-talk WJR-AM (760) and top-40 WKQI-FM (95.5).

No word yet from WOMC on who might be taking over the midday program permanently; in the meantime, Rick Hunter has been doing a fine job holding down the fort.

 • • • • • • • • 

It’s not often that a radio personality gets to say goodbye on his own terms, but Tom Baker, heard most recently doing weekend work for soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3), posted a farewell note on the Michigan Buzzboard, www.mibuzzboard.com, saying he was leaving radio in favor of a more stable job with the U.S. Postal Service. Baker spent 22 years in radio and was probably most known for his work at country WYCD-FM (99.5) through 2005. His voice will certainly be missed on the radio, as commented on by other Buzzboard posters.

 

Ford sees HD radio as the way of the future

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By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioIf you’re planning on buying a new or late-model used Ford, Lincoln or Mercury vehicle, it just got a whole lot easier to be able to check out over-the-air digital HD radio. Earlier this week, Ford announced that it’s now offering HD receivers as a dealer installed option on most of its 2008 models as well as on many earlier models from 2005, 2006 and 2007.

“We believe HD Digital Radio will be an important part of Ford’s commitment to delivering innovations with mass appeal,” said Kim Irwin, vehicle personalization and accessories manager for Ford’s Customer Service Division.

“We’re helping our customers stay connected by supporting the features and functions they want in their vehicles. The dramatically improved audio, text and data features of HD Digital Radio — along with its hundreds of new radio stations — create a compelling combination at the right price.”

The HD Radio Alliance also announced this week that there are now 1,500 stations across the country broadcasting with the technology.

 • • • • • • • • 

Rock WRIF-FM (101.1) scored some nice awards from Radio & Records this week with Doug Podell being named as Active Rock Program Director of the Year and Mark Pennington being named as the format’s Music Director of the Year. Podell also collected the same award in 2006 while Pennington was also a winner in 2005.

Other potential winners from the area weren’t available at press time. Nominees for Station of the Year in their respective formats included country WYCD-FM (99.5), hot adult contemporary WDVD-FM (96.3), urban WJLB-FM (97.9), urban adult contemporary and WMXD-FM (92.3) along with WRIF. (Update: WRIF was named as Active Rock Station of the Year)

 • • • • • • • • 

Last year, ratings service Arbitron bumped the Detroit market down to the 10th largest in the country, slipping it behind Atlanta. This year brings more bad news as Detroit officially loses the prestige of being a top 10 market, dropping to 11th place behind Boston. Arbitron estimates locally there are 3,866,500 potential radio listeners age 12 and above, just 8,100 people behind the Boston. Maybe we could annex Flint, Toledo, Windsor and Ann Arbor to help out with those numbers.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioA little over a week ago, the lines at the Secretary of State offices were long as people feared a state government shutdown. But those lines were not as long as the unemployment line outside of what used to be hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1).

Vice President/ General Manager Kevin Murphy was brought to Detroit by CBS Radio because he’s very good at “adjusting the bottom line” which often requires displacing of personnel. Business can be very cold, but this past week, despite our unseasonably warm weather, generated a considerable chill in the air. With the somewhat unexpected shift of sports WXYT-AM (1270) over to the 97.1 frequency several free FM staffers were let go.

Names you may know with uncertain futures include, Johnny D, Jay Towers, Bill McAllister, Shila Nathan and producer Jon Klaft. The AM side of the new combo billed as “Detroit’s Sports Powerhouse,” lost the Mike and Mike Show, and the FM side waved goodbye to New York City-based Opie and Anthony. You can still hear and see Mike and Mike on ESPN 2 via cable TV, and Opie and Anthony continue to be carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 202.

McAllister had been with the station as a key part of several midday shows for the past seven years, stretching back to just after Ed Tyll left town.

Johnny D, in contrast, was only with the station for about six months. He left a morning show at Toledo/Monroe top 40 WTWR-FM (98.3) to come here. He continues to pull the afternoon shift down in Lima, Ohio, at Wild 93.9 FM. As a huge University of Michigan fan, perhaps an opportunity may present itself with the new sports FM.

A well-known name, Jay Towers, who weekends on Fox 2 WJBK-TV, is exploring new opportunities since sports is not his arena of expertise. This is his second time to be displaced by an abrupt format change. The last time was when top 40 WDRQ-FM (93.1) suddenly became “Doug-FM.” Stay tuned for his next move.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioThere appears to be a major revolution underway in radio this autumn. In city after city across the country, talk-based programming is shifting from AM stations with marginal signals to the FM band, where listeners are more likely to be able to tune in 24 hours a day without annoying interference and static.

In a way, FM radio is coming full circle: When the band was a relative new kid on the block in the 1950s and ’60s, many FM stations simulcast with their AM counterparts until the FCC made rules restricting the practice as a way to encourage more diverse programming options, particularly in larger urban areas. Those rules were done away with years ago as they became increasingly irrelevant.

Thanks to progressive programming on local stations like WABX-FM (99.5), along with more traditional formats like classical WQRS-FM (105.1), taking advantage of the band’s superior fidelity, FM grew dramatically in popularity throughout the last part of the 20th century. Just as recently as the late ’70s, getting an FM radio in your new car was most likely an option. It’s still a shock to me to see how many radios now being sold don’t have an AM band on them.

In most markets, there are only a couple of AM stations found in the highest positions in terms of audience measurement. And like WJR (760) and WWJ (950), most of them enjoy stronger-than-average signals than the rest of their AM counterparts and have been on the air for more than 50 years.

In Indianapolis earlier this week, operator Emmis abruptly changed the format of its pop music station to All-Christmas for the next 93 days in advance of moving its news-talk format from an AM station (WIBC) that doesn’t enjoy the coverage area of the FM at night.

Amazingly, the format and name of the pop station, which enjoyed great ratings, were sold to another owner in Indianapolis, which promptly reintroduced the format on a different frequency just two days later. Other recent examples of news/talk stations either moving to FM or simulcasting on both FM and AM include WTOP Washington, D.C.; KTAR Phoenix; and WBT Charlotte.

The technical changes made to WXYT-AM (1270) that allowed it to capture the broadcast rights for the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings several years back fell far short of an ideal solution for many fans, who had to endure a lot of static on 1270 at night. Adding the games to FM 97.1 offered a lot of relief — and it’s no surprise, then, that CBS Radio decided to add its sports format to the FM band in order to see how far it could go in this sports-crazed area. WXYT-FM appears to be giving the format a fair shake, providing live and local programming pretty much around the clock weekdays and most of the time weekends. Former Live 97.1 late morning host Johnny D has been added, hosting weekday overnights, starting at midnight, for all the third shift workers and those with insomnia.

Even with three defunct local FM talkers in WDRQ-FM (93.1) from the 1970s, WOWF-FM (99.5) from the 1990s and now what was WKRK-FM 97.1, the evidence is there that radio companies are embracing the idea of connecting with listeners with talk formats that are today’s equivalent of what used to be called full-service. Those kinds of stations were pretty much heard only on AM — until recently. So who will be next to attempt a mainstream-type talk station on one of our local FM stations? And when?

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioDetroit is perhaps the only major city in America which has three locally produced Home Improvement radio shows.

In most markets, such shows are syndicated and provided by a network. Although Glenn Haege on news-talk WJR-AM (760) is a weekend national show, it still originates here. The other two are Murray Gula 8-10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday on sports WDFN-AM (1130) and Adam Helfman weekend mornings on sports WXYTFM (97.1), AM (1270) and oldies WOMC-FM
(104.3), and this is expected to be the last weekend for that program to air.

At press time, reliable reports say that Helfman’s program “Hire It Done” is now best titled “Hire it Gone.”

In continuing last-minute talks between Helfman and station management to keep the program on the air, only by tuning into WXYT either yesterday or this morning will confirm the result of those talks.

 • • • • • • • • 

Personally, I can’t wait for Detroit to become a PPM market with Arbitron.

PPM is the Personal People Meter that electronically and accurately listens to what you listen to and does not rely on the memory of selected radio listeners to write down in a paper diary what they tuned into over the course of a week or more.

PPM results in those cities which have already experienced it are staggering and quite different from the “old style” of gathering such information.

 • • • • • • • • 

In the latest ratings, rock WRIF-FM (101.1) slipped and some insiders are placing the blame primarily on the missing Drew Lane on the popular Drew & Mike Morning Show.

Drew is taking some time off to address family matters surrounding his close friend Tess, who is fighting breast cancer. So his absence is certainly understandable.

It makes me think about a quote from the late Bob Talbert of the Detroit Free Press who, when Drew was off the air for six months with a back injury several years ago, stated, “now we know why Drew has a bad back … it’s from all those years of carrying Mike Clark.” Ouch.

Today, Mike has a good enough sense of humor to let that comment slide, but wants to emphasize that current ratings don’t even truly reflect the current MIA status of Drew.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioHere are some final thoughts about the format change from talk to sports at WXYT-FM (97.1) now that it has been nearly a month since its big change. Many e-mails I have been receiving are exclusively on two topics: the shift of Jeff Deminski and Bill Doyle to mornings and the dispatching of Motor City Middays.

Even this week, readers continue to comment on how they miss hearing MCM hosts Jay Towers, Bill McAllister and Shila as the show had become part of their daily routines. Many of these same former listeners state they feel as if there just isn’t anything on the radio left to listen to now that their favorite hosts are gone. Others continue to express disappointment on the move of D&D from afternoons to mornings because they are unable to listen during the guys’ new timeslot.

Not one person has taken the time to complain, to me at least, about the removal of Opie & Anthony from morning drive, nor have I received any feedback about no longer being able to hear Johnny D’s mid-morning show. In fact, the latter’s move to hosting the overnight shift on WXYT turned out to be very short-lived as he completely exited the station as of last week. To be fair, neither show was on the air long enough to develop much of a loyal following.

It may be anything but smooth sailing for the station in the near future as key contributors near the end of their contracts. The station’s deal with Deminski and Doyle will expire at the end of the year, and it remains to be seen if the guys will be able to reach a new agreement, or indeed if they’ll even want to remain on an otherwise all-sports station should other opportunities present themselves in town.

It’s a similar situation for afternoon guys Terry Foster and Mike Valenti. Their deal expires in April, and Foster has already taken to lobbying for renewal on the duo’s Web site, www.sportsinferno.com. With Foster’s other job as a columnist for The Detroit News, his ties to the area are much stronger than Valenti, a New York native who attended Michigan State. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Valenti explore advancing his career in bigger markets such as Chicago. To my ears at least, he possesses the raw talent that generates just the kind of excitement and emotion that makes sports talk radio successful.

To be a true sports powerhouse though, WXYT will have to find some long-term stability in its lineup to help generate loyal listeners.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioIs it me or is radio just not the same anymore? As those of you who are regular readers of this column know, I’ve been on the road quite a bit this year, and as I travel I listen to the radio — a lot of radio — and much of it sounds the same.

At a recent radio convention (I seem to go to nearly all of them), consultant Mike McVay hosted a panel called “Keeping Adults on the Radio.” He spoke about growing up near Pittsburgh and listening to a talk show by the name of Party Line on KDKA-AM (1020). It was hosted by a husband and wife team, Ed King and wife Wendy, and no delay was necessary because you never heard the callers on the air.

Oddly enough, as a kid, I used to listen to that same program while growing up in Indianapolis, a city in which I spent my “wonder years.”

McVay said it was truly a compelling radio show, and it was that type of programming that made him want to get into the business. How much of what’s on the air today is truly compelling, and does anything you hear today make you feel like getting into the radio industry?

Last week while I was in Pittsburgh, and after more than 40 years, I had the chance to meet Wendy King. She saw the video of McVay and heard his comments about Party Line, and she was impressed with his insightfulness.

For me, it was a thrill to meet the true first lady of talk radio.

 • • • • • • • • 

Speaking of KDKA, this past Friday marked the 87th birthday of the first commercial radio broadcast. Interestingly, radio will celebrate its 100th anniversary on Nov. 2, 2020, but what it’s going to sound like in another 13 years?

Personally, I think it’s strange that our own news WWJ-AM (950), which also claims to be the oldest station in the United States, and KDKA are currently both owned by CBS. As a further tie-in, ace morning news reporter Rob Milford at KDKA will be one of the more distinguished alumni returning to Plymouth High next Saturday for a 35-year reunion celebration of the school’s WSDP-FM (88.1), known as “The Escape.” Milford was one of the students who helped put the station on the air. He’s also been heard numerous times on WWJ and over on 97.1 FM with Deminski and Doyle.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioThe sudden dismissal of Tom Ryan and ‘Matinee’ Mindy Markowitz from WOMC-FM (104.3) a week ago Friday after nearly 18 years together as a duo on the oldies station, the last 11 of them in afternoon drive, was the start of two bad days for local radio.

Markowitz and Ryan were hired both by WOMC in 1984; Mindy as a sales assistant and Tom as a veteran jock who moved from CKLW-AM (800).

As for why the duo was fired, general manager Kevin Murphy explained to them that the station was simply moving in a new direction — a reason that is particularly hard for fans to grasp. Many listeners view the pair as friends and aren’t fond of the idea having something changed that, in their eyes, wasn’t broken.

Meanwhile, rumors became reality when WOMC announced that former FM 97.1 host Jay Towers had joined the station, not as a replacement for Ryan and Markowitz, but as midday host and assistant program director.

Evening jock Bo Derek moved to afternoons temporarily to provide a live voice in afternoon drive. Other than the morning show hosted by Dick Purtan and crew, the lineup at WOMC has been in flux seemingly more than it’s been stable. Until Towers started on Friday, last week’s lineup consisted of one regular program, Purtan’s, followed by three fill-in hosts.

Going in a new direction seems to have become a habit at WOMC. Dana Masucci was fired for the same reason from middays earlier this year; she was the replacement for Tom Force — who also was given the new direction speech about three years ago.

Both Ryan and Markowitz remain upbeat. In an e-mail, Ryan said, “Mindy and I had a great run at WOMC, and we owe it all to the great listeners who tuned us in every day. It started in the mornings and then when Dick arrived, we continued our silliness on the ‘Ridin’ Home with Ryan’ show.”

“The Internet has made it possible for Mindy and I to know the listeners better, either through contests or just daily hellos. I will miss WOMC greatly, mostly because of the people we worked with daily, what a great group. We all became like a family. But this business is crazy and things like this happen.”

Markowitz commented, “We both used to love doing personal appearances and remotes because we got out of the studio and were able to meet the people that listened to us and enjoyed the program. I have so many wonderful memories of our time on the show, and I’m only going to look forward. Hopefully, someone will pick us up, and we’ll be back on the airwaves in no time.”

I talked with Art Vuolo who was in Florida as this news broke. “My cell phone rang and it was Mindy fighting tears as she related to me what had happened to her and Tom. I was stunned. The next morning, I spoke to Dick Purtan who was equally surprised by the news that his longtime friends had been eliminated from the staff.”

“I also spoke with Elaine Baker, who had been the general manager of WOMC for nearly 21 years. She expressed disappointment in the decision to oust these staples of afternoon drive-time indicating, ‘Tom is about Detroit and all the things that are good about the city.’ ”

It’s not easy to replace great people like Ryan and Matinee Mindy. Especially when their dismissal has been handled in what appears to be such a heartless fashion.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioHow about that Michigan/Ohio State game Saturday? One thing’s for sure, it’s providing lots of fodder for sports radio talk shows, but what is happening to the morning shift at WDFN-AM (1130), known as The Fan?

Mike Austerman and I both felt surely that Greg Brady and Jamie Samuelsen would be returning, making less money, but at least with a job. So it was a surprise to me when Rob Otto popped up last week. Perhaps management felt he would represent an “otto-matic” fix, while talks continue with Brady and Samuelsen.

 • • • • • • • • 

Dennis Dale McLain back on the radio? Well, if Denny was making that call, the famous Tigers pitcher from the late ’60s would jump at the opportunity. Dan Zampillo, program director of WXYT FM/AM (now known as The Ticket), said “it’s been over a year since I’ve spoken to McLain, and we’re very happy with our current lineup.” That could squash other rumors that, current morning hosts, Deminski and Doyle might segue over to a music station replacing a top-rated program elsewhere on the FM dial.

As a side note, I recall McLain to be the last truly successful morning show on WXYT, and he’s savvy enough to talk about topics other than just sports, which is an important element on a morning show, even on an all-sports station. McLain is capable, but would the audience forgive and forget his well-documented sins of the past? I’d say McLain could score a home run at The Ticket, but I’ve been wrong before.

 • • • • • • • • 

Reports on the street have CBS Radio doing any number of things with 1270 AM, which is nearly a 50,000-watt afterthought right now. I felt they might return to a talk format with a roster of mostly syndicated programs, not currently available in Detroit. Other scenarios suggest selling the frequency to new owner which could take it religious or Hispanic. Stay tuned.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioThe holidays are a time for tradition, and soft rock WMGC-FM’s (105.1) Jim Harper and his Magic Morning Show compatriots will continue one of the longest-running traditions in local radio, starting Monday morning at Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, as they begin their 29th season of participation with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves’ Toys for Tots campaign.

The annual tour of area shopping malls to help collect new unwrapped toys will move to Laurel Park Place in Livonia on Tuesday, Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights on Wednesday and Macomb Mall in Roseville on Thursday and wrap up Friday at Oakland Mall in Troy.

Harper and the gang will broadcast live each morning 6-10 a.m., and each remote will feature a complimentary light breakfast, a visit from Santa and other special guests.

 • • • • • • • • 

Speaking of holiday traditions, how cool was it that classic rock WCSX-FM (94.7) aired Arlo Guthrie’s nearly 20-minute-long song “Alice’s Restaurant” not once, but four times on Thanksgiving Day? This was one “massacree” that I’m thankful hasn’t been forgotten.

 • • • • • • • • 

Public WDET-FM (101.9) is offering listeners the opportunity to attend a private reception Dec. 5 to celebrate the reopening of the Detroit Institute of Arts. A gift to WDET of $600 will give two people the opportunity to have an up-close look at the DIA’s magnificent reinstalled permanent collection and redesigned galleries.

The evening includes a strolling dinner in Kresge Court, followed by docent-led tours of the museum. Call (800) 959-9338 or visit www.wdetfm.org for more information.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioDid you see the piece on CBS-TV’s “60 Minutes” a couple of weeks ago titled “The Millennials?”

It was a scary report about the generation born between 1980 and 1995, and how they expect and demand everything. It’s something that everyone in the radio industry should watch. I archived it to DVD. It is a keeper.

The story shows emphatically that today’s “Millennials” also treat radio in ways very different than previous generations. The last place they go for music is their radio.

If they access it at all, it’s for news, sports, weather or traffic and (for some) the high-profile morning shows that feature strong personalities and entertainment. They download most of their music from the Internet. It’s never thought of as stealing, just borrowing and it has nearly destroyed the record business.

Today’s young audience, which was once the most sought after demographic by contemporary music stations, is no longer knocking on radio’s door. The only on-air talent these days who should feel a little safer are the morning shows, which lets face it, play far less (if any) music.

 • • • • • • • • 

Speaking of how you start your day, changes are in the offing. I hope you didn’t get too used to Jeff Deminski and Bill Doyle on WXYT (The Ticket) 97.1 FM since the countdown clock is ticking. and they have just 10 days left on the air in Detroit.

It’s a shame because they do a great job, but unless CBS Radio has a change of heart, they’ll keep them off the air locally thanks to a non-compete clause in their contract. Who loses? You do, the listening audience, but corporate radio is far more concerned with the bottom line than with your happiness.

Local media agent, Mike Novak, who represents Deminski and Doyle, indicated that they’ve made it known that they don’t want to work for CBS, which they call “Cheap Beyond Suspicion.” Could money be the issue? Money is always the issue. Some insiders feel the duo should swing over to rocker WRIF-FM (101.1) if Drew & Mike don’t reunite, and, oh, yeah if that contract clause thing can be worked out. I’m not predicting, just listening.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioIf you’ve ever wished you could check out the inner workings of the hugely popular Mojo in the Morning program on hits WKQI-FM (95.5), this might be your best opportunity.

A Michigan Association of Broadcasters Foundation online auction item features the opportunity for the highest bidder and seven guests to watch the Mojo in the Morning gang broadcast live in the studio for one hour.

Along with this rare opportunity to get inside a radio station, the auction also features a Detroit Pistons mini-vacation package that includes four tickets to the April 4 home game against the New Jersey Nets, dinner for four and hotel accommodations in Birmingham.

The auction supports MABF programs including scholarships, internships and education programs for students and young professionals interested in the broadcasting industry.

To bid and for more detailed information on these items, visit www.michmab.com and click on the Online Auction button — hurry as the auction is scheduled to end Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. You might just make some radio or Pistons fan very happy on Christmas morning!

 • • • • • • • • 

If CBS Radio could have picked a better time to change FM 97.1 to an all-sports format, I don’t know when that would have been.

Although the call sign remains WXYT-FM, they very well could have gone back to one they were using in the 1980s, WJOI-FM, to describe the exuberance that was expressed by all of their on-air hosts and most of the callers upon the announcement that the Detroit Tigers had pulled off a huge trade that many agree greatly enhances the team’s chances of returning to the World Series.

With the Detroit Lions suffering a late-season swoon and the search for a new head football coach at the University of Michigan thrown into turmoil, it was refreshing to hear the giddiness that was nearly universally expressed on WXYT and on rival WDFN-AM (1130) last week instead of the usual expected Lions-related hand wringing.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioAccording to certain holiday songs this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, unless you work for one of the big radio conglomerates.

Two weeks ago, I said that the popular “The Deminski and Doyle Show” on sports WXYT-FM (97.1) was counting down its last 10 shows. They have apparently not been able to agree on a new contract with the station. In a move that some insiders call “questionable,” WXYT station management pulled the plug a week early, as Mike Austerman reported last Sunday. Some listeners have contacted us, calling the move “gutless” and “unfair” since the duo of the station’s top-rated show did not have a chance to say goodbye to their many fans. Both Austerman and I agree.

Only God knows who will be coaching University of Michigan football and if Jeff Deminski and Bill Doyle settle with CBS for an extension on their contract. If I could have it my way, Les Miles will take the U-M job, and Deminski and Doyle will remain on the air in Detroit. Stay tuned.

 • • • • • • • • 

Half of the “Jamie and Brady” team has resurfaced at The Fan, sports WDFN-AM (1130), just as we expected. But where is Gregg Brady? It appears that Clear Channel management, which, like so many radio owners, is trimming overhead and could not yet come to agreeable terms with Brady. Meantime Rob Otto remains on board with Jamie Samuelsen. This is not unique to just Detroit. In Los Angeles, Kim Amidon of the popular KOST morning show, “Mark and Kim,” was let go and her replacement is working for far less money. In Chicago, a popular local morning show was dropped by WGCI for syndicated funnyman Steve Harvey. Harvey is locally on Mix 92.3 FM, WMXD.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioThey’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.”

 

Area radio losses cast a pall over 2007

|

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioThe year 2007 was one of the most tumultuous ever in the history of Detroit area radio. Sadly, we said goodbye to former J.P. McCarthy producer Hal Youngblood, along with Jim Davis, Marv Welch and out in Ann Arbor, Mr. Talk Radio, Ted Heusel.

Almost back to back were the double losses of Paul Christy of WNIC (100.3 FM) and WYUR (AM 1310), plus the untimely death of traffic reporter and WMUZ-FM (103.5) morning co-host Rhonda Hart.

Our very first helicopter traffic reporter Barney Stutesman of WXYZ flew over the rainbow, and we said farewell to Dr. Wendell Cox, who co-founded WCHB-AM and created Bell Broadcasting Co. with Dr. Haley Bell. Jim Harper’s longtime producer Mike Bradley lost his mom, and Paul W. Smith lost his dad, William D. Smith, but it was great to hear his recording of “A Letter to a Friend” which is also available on the web site www.wjr.com. The memorable Gregg Henson’s father died shortly after his mother. Gregg is currently in Austin, Texas.

 • • • • • • • • 

Many of our friends had their voices removed from the local airwaves, either by moving on, or in most cases not being renewed, or being let go by their respective stations. Names now missing include Michelle McKormick at 97.1 FM, along with Johnny Dee and Shila Nathan, followed two weeks ago by Jeff Deminski and Bill Doyle. Johnny Williams left Magic 105.1, Dana Masucci departed the midday slot at WOMC (104.3 FM), only to be followed a few months later by Tom Ryan and Mindy Markowitz, which really upset a lot of listeners, including me. Before that Ryan was told to talk less and play the oldies. We waved goodbye to Opie (Gregg Hughes) and Anthony (Cumia), who never really took root in Detroit, along with syndicated sports guys “Mike and Mike” at WXYT. Grad Brady and Matt Shepard are among the more recently departed, and the familiar voice of David Hall at Rock Financial is now just a memory.

 • • • • • • • • 

This past year started off with marathon shifts by Jay Towers and Bill McAllister at (what was then) Live 97.1 Free FM. Now they’re back but with more respectable hours. There was a huge push for HD Radio at the North American International Auto Show, and the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings joined the Lions on FM. Could the Pistons be jealous as the only local professional sport left on AM? Sports fans were also disappointed to hear Rob Parker of “Parker and the Man” ousted from FM and have to search for a new home, which they finally did at WCHB-AM (1200) complete with No. 1 sub Bernie Fratto.

A woman died in Sacramento, Calif., at a radio contest gone horribly wrong, and stations around here did a lot of rethinking about such promotional escapades. John Mason came back to the airwaves for at least a little while at WGPR-FM (107.5), and Steve Schram, enjoying greater stability at public radio in Ann Arbor, put up a higher tower for WVGR-FM (104.1) over in Grand Rapids. At country WYCD-FM (99.5), Ron Chatman was bumped up to director of digital technology but was gone by the middle of August. WJEW debuted at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield Township, as the brainchild of Corey Berkowitz, and is still alive and kicking at www.wjew.net.

 

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