On the Radio: As we race into summer, what will happen with Paul Harvey?

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By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioIt's the gateway to the summertime, Memorial Day weekend. Please remember while downing the brats and the beer what Memorial Day really means. Fly your flag and pause to reflect. Radio-activity, as Mike stated last week, has been amazingly slow for this time of the year.

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One of the traditions in my personal life, since I grew up in Indianapolis, it to head down to the Indy 500, which is held only a couple of miles from our former house in The Circle City. This year, as in past, XM Satellite Radio is sponsoring female driving whiz Danica Patrick's car, and this year the race will air on XM Channel 144. Locally the race will be heard on WRIF-FM (101.1) Sunday afternoon.

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For several months now, I have wanted to say something about radio legend and the news and commentary Voice of America Paul Harvey. There was never enough room in the printed newspaper column we had, but now, former INSIDE RADIO editor, Jerry del Colliano, has said it all. He has given me permission to share part of his essay on the subject. He said:

Look, I know Paul Harvey is old. He is a remarkable throwback to another generation - a style still appreciated today on many stations but out of sync with new age talk programming. In Cincinnati, 700 WLW reluctantly opted to drop Harvey for similar reasons. The man is an icon - still gets consistent ratings and still earns Citadel - the company that bought but has since shamed ABC Radio - lots of money. Paul Harvey's contract is up soon and he had previously let it be known that he is not ready to hang up his microphone. Citadel apparently does nothing to re-sign him.

Harvey's wife of many, many years (and one-time contributor to his shows), Angel, died of leukemia in the past month. Citadel does nothing to re-sign him - a comforting and appropriate gesture he has earned. Is that going to break the bank? But Citadel CEO Farid Suleman doesn't have stars in his eyes. He sees only dollar signs. What could he save if Harvey wasn't replaced? Don't think that hasn't occurred to this boy wonder.

ABC took care of Paul Harvey and in fact spent the last 20 or more years trying to find a suitable replacement for him when the inevitable day finally arrived. They couldn't find the next Paul Harvey. Even Harvey's son, Paul, Jr., knows he's not his dad - although an able newsman and outstanding writer. The Paul Harvey tragedy is symptomatic of how FaGreed Suleman is gutting Citadel like a dead fish.

Learn from Paul Harvey when he closes each show in his inimitable way - "Paul Harvey (big pause) - Good Day! (with his voice rising at the end). Make your sign off: Farid Suleman (short pause), Good Bye!

Read the entire piece at www.insidemusicmedia.com from 5-20-08.

What has me concerned is that Citadel now owns our own WJR-AM (760) along with FM stations; WDRQ (Doug FM 93.1) and WDVD-FM (96.3). One can only imagine what additional budget cuts might do to any of these stations. Doug is OK, because it's basically a music machine that cranks out their "we play everything" menu from a computer hard drive, but WDVD is finally making noise and getting noticed. The morning show with Blaine, Lisa and Allyson is pulling in some impressive numbers, but all this "content" costs money. You need to spend it to make it, but some management types are very tight with the purse strings.

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Last March over in Grand Rapids at the MAB Great Lakes Broadcast Expo, I met Citadel boss Matt Hanlon . Seemed like a nice man. He's very focused and intense, but well-liked by his west Michigan employees. Rumors flew when Citadel bought ABC that Hanlon was going to displace Mike Fezzey, president and general manager of WJR. Not true, but the reports were circulating. Radio people seemingly love to spread rumors and speculate on what the future holds.

We radio reporters would never stoop to that level.

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Nearly ten years ago when I was interviewed by leading trade publication Radio & Records I stated that what's wrong with the radio business is that there's TOO much business and NOT enough radio. Sadly those words have as much credence, if not more, today than they ever did.

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About two weeks ago CBS Radio president Dan Mason was in town and hosted an eye-opening presentation in Southfield at Arturo's Restaurant. It was followed by the brilliant stand-up comedy of South Lyon, MI native and EMU grad, John Hefron. You may recall when John was doing schtick on WKQI's morning show in the days of both Danny Bonaduce and Steve Cochran. The musical entertainment was provided by country super star Gretchen Wilson who stayed over from the WYCD Downtown Hoedown.

The presentation, geared mostly to the local advertising community, explained how radio is still very viable, surviving movies, television, records, tapes, 8-tracks, cassettes, CD's, the iPod and satellite radio. Mason sang the praises of local radio and how CBS does not necessarily own all the great ones. He cited Citadel's WJR and Clear Channel's WJLB. A very classy move indeed. CBS Director of Digital Technology, David Goodman, spoke about the things that make up radio's DNA: the wireless, communities, personalities and content. Of all the new things, Internet Radio is growing the fastest.

Interestingly there was NO mention the entire evening of HD (high-definition) Radio.

Also, noteworthy was the fact that not once was WXYT-AM (1270) mentioned or referred to. Only WXYT-FM (97.1) known as The Ticket was acknowledged. We can only guess what might happen to the AM side in the not too distant future.

It was emphasized that stations need to pay close attention to their web site, which can offer ways to buy music, link to other sites and operate in ways similar to Facebook. Internet radio with CBS even brought back New York City's famous WNEW-FM, a rock radio institution. CBS spokesman Michael Weiss indicated that the company's business was up 29% due to their bringing back popular formats at several stations in New York and Pittsburgh among others. America On Line, (AOL) recently ended their association with XM Radio and aligned themselves with CBS.

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Radio-Geek Alert. For those who love the way it was, you'll want to tune to WABC in New York or WLS in Chicago on Monday the 26th. Both stations will be doing special retrospectives. In the Big Apple WABC will feature loads of airchecks from their "glory days" as Music Radio 77, and a special Don Imus segment while at WNBC, since the I-Man now works for WABC. You can tune in via www.wabcradio.com. In Chicago, you can hear the real thing as WLS brings back many of the greatest jocks to ever grace the airwaves of the Big 89 across the Midwest. The line-up on Monday will be: Chuck Knapp, Larry Lujack & Tommy Edwards, Fred Winston, Bill Bailey, John Records Landecker, and Jeff Davis! Bill Bailey is going to Chicago from WLHT in Grand Rapids and he is the same Bill Bailey who once worked at WDRQ in its early top 40 days. Landecker is actually an Ann Arbor native, who is legendary in The Windy City. The Big 89 Rewind can be heard right on your radio at 890 AM if you're over on the west side of the state, or clear as bell on-line via www.wlsam.com. It should be tons of fun and very entertaining.

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Somewhere in time has the music of Harry James with Tom Wilson at 6 p.m. Sunday the 25th on WMUZ-FM (103.5) and over WRDT-AM (560). Drive safely this long holiday weekend and keep the radio on.

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Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com. Contact him at artvuolo@aol.com.

 

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mike Austerman published on May 25, 2008 12:56 AM.

West Michigan: Newsmakers May 25, 2008 was the previous entry in this blog.

Metro Detroit: Newsmakers May 26, 2008 is the next entry in this blog.

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