On the Radio: Recent local radio news overshadowed by travel

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By: Art Vuolo, Jr.

On The RadioFirst of all, I would like to thank Susan Whitall at The Detroit News for the nice words she put in her column last Thursday July 17th regarding this column on this web site. Nice move Sue and greatly appreciated.

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Forgive me for not covering as much local radio news as some of you might want, but my summer travel schedule has had me seemingly out of town more than in town, but I've been listening and learning about what people are saying about the radio business and their changing habits regarding how they use "the wireless."

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A couple of weeks ago I returned from a week in Minnesota. I attended the annual Conclave, where (rather than electing a Pope) radio folks gather for a regional Midwest confab that now attracts people from all over the nation. After the conference, which is tied in with the Specs Howard School locally, I drove up to a friend's spectacular lake home about three hours north of the Twin Cities. The land of 10,000 lakes is similar to Michigan and Wisconsin, but each state west of ours is a bit further north. Look on a map. If you draw a straight line east from Minneapolis you are on a par with Traverse City! When I was up in Crosslake, MN due west of Duluth it placed me (if it was in our state) north of Marquette in the U.P. No wonder the lake was too cold to swim in, but the R&R was a real treat.

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Back at The Conclave, we were treated to keynotes from luminaries like: NAB president David Rehr, programming guru Lee Abrams (who was WRIF's second PD in the early 70's), LA's famous DJ Rick Dees, Progressive talk host Ed Schultz, former MSNBC news anchor Rita Cosby and industry "prophet" Jerry Del Colliano, who I've quoted numerous times in this space. I archived much of "the learning conference" on videotape and it is all good stuff. Del Colliano spoke to a packed room, even at 8 a.m. and reflected on the two years he taught at USC in Los Angeles. College age (and younger) students do NOT listen to regular radio. They hate radio, Jerry preached, and they are completely addicted to their cell phones and computers. It is impossible to get them to give up these new technologies, even for a day. It was a riveting 95 minutes session and we were all awakened to many truths we didn't really want to hear. NAB president David Rehr painted a picture that was much more optimistic, but some would say less realistic. He, of course, condemned the XM/Sirius merger and was positive about HD Radio. Rehr, however, was the only one who was. Interestingly, yours truly won mini-iPod shuffle. I'm not sure how it works yet.

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The next convention on my calendar is the Morning Show Boot Camp, which this year celebrates its 20th Anniversary in the Mile High City of Denver, CO where the (mostly highly paid) morning radio show jocks gather to steal ideas from another and see what outrageous stunts they can have their "danger-boy" cast member do in order to garner TV publicity and higher ratings. Wish me luck. I'll let you know if I spot any Detroit radio people in attendance.

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My last column spoke about the condition of legendary engineering genius Ed Buterbaugh who is fighting bladder cancer across the river in Canada. Among those who I heard from was one of Ed's old friends Ed Gursky, now working for the Voice of America in Washington, DC.

He worked with Ed at WEAM Arlington, VA (Washington) in the late-60s and played a role in his getting hired at CKLW. It was 1973. Paul Drew was living in and running his consultancy from Potomac, Maryland, after the WGMS-AM debacle in 1972 (a long story for another time). Paul had hired Gursky to be his Music Director at WGMS-AM. Paul, who was again consulting CKLW at the time, was impressed with the audio processing at WEAM-AM (1390), and asked Ed if he knew the Chief Engineer. So Ed Gursky arranged a meeting between Paul Drew and Ed Buterbaugh, at WEAM one late Sunday night when the station was off the air for regular weekly maintenance. Shortly thereafter, Ed was hired by CKLW and what he did for the big sound of the Big 8 is well documented. It was featured in the radio special "The Rise and Fall of The Big 8...CKLW," which has aired a couple of times on Detroit Public TV Channel 56.

Gursky remarked "Ed's a good guy, and was always among the top chief engineers in Radio Ink's annual rankings." We will keep Ed Gursky and all of Mr. Buterbaugh's many friends and admirers posted on his condition. Ed did go home from the Windsor hospital this past week, but it's a waiting game now. Rush a card or note of support to Ed at PO Box 1107, Harrow, Ontario, Canada N0R 1G0. Better yet, E-mail your good wishes of support and prayers directly to Ed at his home near the CKLW transmitter via buter@xplornet.com.

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It is being heavily rumored that the merger between the two satellite companies will finally happen this coming week, or certainly before the end of July.

Honestly, at first I was very much against this action, because I knew that many people would lose their jobs. A merger will surely cause a major "thinning of the herd" and consolidating of channels. I don't want any of my close friends at either company to be a recipient of the dreaded "pink slip."

Since the two sat-casters are as incompatible as Beta and VHS were, insiders feel that both systems will have the same channels simultaneously. Example: the popular 60's channel on XM features three full-time LIVE DJ's and Sirius has two and both are voice-tracked (pre-recorded). If you combine XM's Phlash Phelps, Pat Clarke and Terry Young with Sirius jocks Pat St. John and Jim Kerr (both of whom are Detroit area natives) it would make for a damn good line-up of top talent. I'm just not sure if they would retain that much staff. Phelps at XM has over 1,200 members in his Phan-Clan (fan club) and seemingly knows every square mile of this country from years of radio jobs and extensive traveling.

My hope also is that specialty channels like XM's Escape Channel 78 with it's lush easy listening will remain and one of my favorite regional channels 173 with 700 WLW radio from Cincinnati, a great news-talk station that keeps me connected to the Midwest while traveling across the USA. Edgy radio fans would have both Howard Stern and Opie & Anthony swearing on the air and sports fans would have a "field day." Since Sirius has the NFL and NBA, and XM has MLB and NHL, together the combined service would have all pro football, baseball, basketball and hockey!

Lastly I wonder where the company will be and what it will be called. XM owns their building in Washington, DC, while Sirius rents a considerable amount of space in mid-town Manhattan. Perhaps the programming will come from both cities with additional efforts from Nashville and L.A. Finally what will they call it? Each company has its own fans and supporters. True they represent only about 12% of all radio listeners compared to terrestrial radios vast audience, but if oil company giants Exxon and Mobile can merge and be called Exxon/Mobil, why not keep both well-established names as Sirius XM? This way, fans of both stay happy, and it will help the public learn how to pronounce Sirius (which is like the word serious.)

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I promise more LOCAL news in two weeks. Stay tuned. This is going to be interesting.

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 July 20, 2008 5:30 AM.

Metro Detroit: Newsmakers July 20, 2008 was the previous entry in this blog.

West Michigan rock stations make lineup changes; O & A exit 'KLQ is the next entry in this blog.

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