On The Radio Columns: October 2007 Archives

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.







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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the On The Radio Columns category from October 2007.

On The Radio Columns: September 2007 is the previous archive.

On The Radio Columns: November 2007 is the next archive.

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