Entries in On The Radio Columns Category

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioA familiar voice will be returning to the airwaves of Detroit at Oldies WOMC-FM (104.3), starting Feb. 1 when former Big 8 CKLW-AM (800) jock Ted “The Bear” Richards takes over as ’OMC’s new afternoon drive jock.

After spending 13 years at ’CK, where in 1979 he was voted as People Magazine’s Jock of the Year, Richards has been hosting mornings for Jones Satellite Networks, based in Denver, for the past 11 years.

WOMC program director Scott Walker commented, “It is a pleasure for WOMC to bring a great talent like Ted back to Detroit, where he has a storied history in radio. Ted always dreamed of returning to Detroit, home to his family and loyal listeners, and now he will have the chance to rule the airwaves once again. So Detroit, get ready.”

Richards added, “This is an awesome opportunity for me to come back to one of my favorite cities. I am thrilled to have the chance to reconnect with many of my old listeners and fans from Michigan and the surrounding area.”

The opening in WOMC’s afternoon drive slot was created in November, when the station dismissed longtime hosts Tom Ryan and Mindy Markowitz, both of whom remain on the outside looking in at the radio biz for now.

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WOMC has switched up its weekend evening programming, adding an oldies dance party to Saturday nights from 8 p.m.-midnight hosted by Lisa Lisa, who became well known from her time at what was WHYT-FM (96.3) and most recently WDRQ-FM (93.1). Don Phillips, who had been hosting an all-request show Saturday evenings, shifts to Sundays from 8 p.m.-midnight with a new Hall of Fame offering that features the early rock legends from the 1950s and ’60s.

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News WWJ-AM (950) will host its fifth annual Winter Survival Radiothon to benefit THAW, the Heat and Warmth Fund, on Feb. 8 and 9 from the Boll Family YMCA in downtown Detroit. Proceeds from last year’s effort helped thousands of metro Detroit families keep their utilities powered on during the winter months when gas and electric services become essential for survival. Every donation made during the radiothon is matched dollar for dollar by corporate partners, including DTE Energy. WWJ is scheduled to broadcast live 5 a.m. Friday through noon Saturday from the Y with hosts Roberta Jasina, Joe Donovan, Jayne Bower, Greg Bowman, Bill Stevens, Paul Snider, Larry Henry, Tony Ortiz, Rob Sanford, Pat Vitale and the legendary Sonny Eliot, too.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioToday, I am back home from a whirlwind tour through the largest trade show in the country. If you ever wondered where Simon & Garfunkel got the inspiration for their hit song “At The Zoo,” I can assure you it was probably at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. I have been attending this event for nearly 30 years, but this one was different on a number of levels.

After consulting with several attendees, I came away with a few observations. There were far too many people. It attracted over 140,000 people. The worst part was that (seemingly) nobody cares. People are so into their own world with all of their technological gadgets that they are oblivious to those around them. If you’ve ever been in a store wondering when someone would ask if they could help you, or felt you knew more about the product than they did, you will know what I mean.

For someone like myself, with a profound love and passion for radio, the 2008 CES proved once again that our beloved medium is in very serious trouble. Interestingly, the satellite radio folks, who at one time maintained some of the largest, costliest and most elaborate displays in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, were nearly non-existent last week.

Sirius was buried in a car stereo display with just a handful of representatives, and XM was relinquished to small corners of the Delphi and Audiovox booths manned by personnel unable to answer any questions beyond the most basic. It was very disappointing.

We are living in a visual era, and radio is finding itself needing to market more heavily and make far better use of their most visible asset, their Web site. Webcasts, podcasts and other means for radio stations to make themselves available to the listener on their schedule is quickly becoming the norm.

It was a 40-minute search to find the iBiquity booth with the latest innovations for HD Radio. After speaking with company president Robert J. Struble, he shared my feeling that unless local stations start putting some thought and financial backing into programming content that people actually care about, HD Radio could be facing an up-hill road ahead. Technically, it’s great but what comes out of the speaker needs work.

The announcement from Ford Motor Co. that they will start supporting HD was welcomed news for the iBiquity camp, but since most major radio companies are slashing budgets and cutting highpriced talent on their primary frequency, how can we expect they’ll support those “hidden” secondary channels?

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioWhen the fall ratings book was released earlier this month, there was some interesting numbers to note.

Among all radio listeners, news-talk WJR-AM (760) finished on top followed by adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3), soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3), urban WJLB-FM (97.9) and news WWJ-AM (950).

WNIC again benefited from their all-Christmas marathon, but its numbers declined year-to-year, likely because of the competition from rival WMGC-FM (105.1), which also did the all-Yule thing. It’s pretty clear though that WNIC benefits from being the heritage Christmas station; in the key age 25-54 demographic, they finished second, well ahead of WMGC’s 14th place.

In the urban formats, the Clear Channel-owned combo of WMXD and WJLB easily outscored Radio One’s urban WHTD-FM (105.9) and urban oldies WDMK-FM (102.7) by claiming more than twice as many age 25-54 listeners. WMXD was the most popular station overall among 25-54 year olds.

Pop WDVD-FM (96.3) moved into the Top 5 among those 25-54s, a jump from 10th place in the summer, finishing tied with its sister station, variety hits WDRQ-FM (93.1). That’s good news for two solid stations that don’t get nearly enough ink in this column.

Sports WXYT-FM/AM (97.1/1270) scored a 2.6 rating combined among all listeners, putting the station well ahead of competitor WDFN-AM (1130), which finished with a 1.0. Among men, ages 25-54, WXYT finished a strong second overall. The move to FM seems to have paid off with many new listeners at least sampling the offering — the question now is will those listeners stick around?

New operations manager Tom Bigby will be tasked with keeping those ears — and he has at least one fan in town. Former rock W4 program director Donald Schuster writes, “Tom, in my opinion, was one of the best disc jockeys ever in Detroit. He was here in the WXYZ 1270 Radio 1970’s era which (also) included Dick Purtan, Johnny Randall and Joe Sasso. I remember him well as one of my favorites. He was upbeat, smooth, energyforward, relatable, comfortable ... really very, very good. I can never hear the name of Tom Bigby without remembering him well as one of the best.”

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Jim Johnson and Lynne Woodison of classic rock WCSX-FM (94.7) will be taking to the airways for 15 consecutive hours starting at 6 a.m. on Thursday, with the help of local survivors to raise money for Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan. To date, JJ & Lynne’s WCSX radiothon has helped support the agency to the tune of nearly $2.9 million.

One leukemia survivor from Royal Oak, 22-year-old Jessica Carty, was originally interviewed while still undergoing treatment and is one of the survivors who agreed to tell their story.

“It’s really important to me to give back. What we went through as a family was horrible, but CLF was there for all of us. I feel like part of the family there. I don’t think we would have made it through as well as we did without CLF’s support.”

The radiothon will include opportunities to bid on unique experiences, items and auction packages such as sitting in the studio with JJ & Lynne or hearing your MyTunes playlist on WCSX. A list of radiothon-related events and auction items as well as instructions on how to bid can be found at www.wcsx.com.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioGood grief, what is happening to my favorite medium? Personally, I’m getting mad at the insanity of the radio industry, and I’m bothered by the double standard between radio and television. Did you see how fast the recent utterance of the F-word live on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” was dropped from the front page and how there was no mention of a fine for ABC or any of the hundreds of affiliates that carried the show? Yet, when a radio station lets less-offensive words slip on the air, it gets blasted with fines of more than $300,000.

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The big news since we last met was more of an “inside” story than a public one, but some broadcasters are calling this one “Imus 2.” Bob Grant is a legendary New York talk show host who specializes in kicking boring callers off the air. Some have called him the pit bull of talk radio with a style similar to comic Don Rickles. Industry trade paper Radio & Records was to give Grant a lifetime achievement award at its Talk Radio Seminar in March. The award was rescinded before even being presented because of the efforts of an anti-Grant listener who launched an e-mail campaign to the top brass at VNU/Nielsen, which owns R&R.

What makes this such a big deal is that radio and its on-air talent — in a supposedly free speech country — can be so easily manipulated by one or two people who complain instead of just changing the station. R&R — no doubt acting on commands from the corporate office — folded like a house of cards, according to Grant. Now its been rumored that several talk radio superstars are suggesting a boycott of the TRS. That would be unfortunate, because then “the terrorists win.”

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The main topic under “old business” is the merger between satellite radio rivals Sirius and XM. It was supposed to be finally approved last Thursday, but we’re still waiting. How all of this is going to work is still a mystery, since the two systems are incompatible and many of the channels are similar, which will no doubt result in massive layoffs in personnel from both on and off the air. Both terrestrial and satellite radio keeps cutting the most talented people. Every week, I read about top-shelf people leaving the business because either they make too much money or they said “something” on the air that somebody didn’t like. At the risk of sounding like an old Roy Orbison song, are we all “Running Scared”?

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioIt used to be that reporting on radio was all about covering the things heard over the air. Now Art Vuolo and I spend as much time being business and legal reporters as we do covering the actual entertainment. This week is no exception. Clear Channel, owner of WMXD-FM (92.3), WKQI-FM (95.5), WJLB-FM (97.9), WNIC-FM (100.3), WDTW-FM (106.7), WDFN-AM (1130) and WDTW-AM (1310) locally, has clamped down on first-quarter spending for marketing and music research and halted nearly all hiring. A memo from CEO John Hogan was leaked on the Internet in which Hogan reportedly claims, “We are generating less revenue for Q1 than we budgeted and less than what actually ran last year. At the same time, our budgeted expenses for Q1 are up 4 percent.”

Some of the reason for the financial clamp-down is that the publicly traded company has agreed to be reconfigured as a private entity by essentially being acquired by a number of capital investment firms for $19.5 billion, $39.20 a share. The bad budgetary news sparked a sell-off of Clear Channel stock, which last week was trading at more than $10 less per share than the deal price.

The mega-deal received approval from the Federal Communications Commission late last month, with the requirement that the company sell off some of its stations in 42 markets around the country. While none of the Detroit-area stations were on the list of stations identified to be sold off, it’s pretty clear that with the kind of financial pressure Clear Channel is under there are very few properties that should be considered safe if they are losing money. Already we’ve seen just how brutal a time this is with the numerous personnel cutbacks that were made by the company late last year, here in Detroit and nationally.

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Given all of that, it’s no wonder Rich Homberg decided to get out of commercial radio by leaving his job as vice president and general manager of news WWJ-AM (950) in favor of joining Detroit Public TV, which owns and operates Channel 56 as well as programming classical/jazz WRCJ-FM (90.9). Homberg had been with WWJ and CBS radio since 1996 and was a major part of bringing the sports format to WXYT-AM (1270) along with the broadcast rights for the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings.

“Rich Homberg has certainly demonstrated a deep commitment to southeast Michigan and he has a clear understanding of the important role a broadcaster can play in helping our community achieve its goals,” said Steven Strome, chairman of the Detroit Public TV Board of Trustees. “We consider him the ideal leader as we expand our services in a rapidly changing media environment.”

“This is an exciting time to join Detroit Public TV,” Homberg said. “The station shares my commitment to creating local content that can strengthen our region by uniting viewers, listeners, and businesses along with cultural and educational institutions to address vital issues.”

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioThe former publisher of Inside Radio, Jerry Del Colliano, feels that what’s killing radio is constant denial. The “big guys” who run the mega radio companies are saying things that scare me. Radio-Info’s Tom Taylor reported that Clear Channel Vice President John Hogan said: “Performance and capability is not our problem. Our problem is one of perception.”

No, it’s not. Look what they’re doing. They try to grow a business by cutting back. They embrace the wrong technology (HD instead of mobile/Internet). They have driven off the next generation — have no clue what they want — and think the problem is about perception. No one cares about perception — they care about content and how it is delivered.

Dan Mason, president of CBS Radio, said, “The Arbitron People Meter will revolutionize the industry,” probably because actual radio listening has been underreported using the old system. Mason said, “For this industry to have to defend itself against the iPod is not only ridiculous, it’s wrong.”

Repeatedly, I’ve preached about the iPod, but it’s not the only thing radio has to defend itself against. The enemy has been redefined as Internet radio, mobile phone competition for listening time (texting, phoning, etc.) and social networks. To beat the “bad guys,” you need to know who they are.

Radio may be just the ticket for baby boomers, but it’s not even on the radar screen among most 18-to- 24-year-olds. Del Colliano said, “Radio people seem to deny that they need to attract this audience, and they get nasty when you tell them that radio may have to deliver content in ways other than terrestrial signals.”

As a baby boomer, I see my generation is approaching the checkout lane and Gen Y (young people) are just starting to live, spend and buy goods. As much as radio groups say they understand the Internet, they don’t. It is a delivery system and it needs content. One would think they would want to be in that business. Thanks, Jerry, for letting me borrow some of your thoughts.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioIs radio dead? Last week, when Wall Street personality Jim Cramer declared the death of the medium — at least as the stock market is concerned — during an interview not only was he biting a hand that had at one time fed him, but he was just adding his voice to a chorus of others that think the future of radio is now in the past.

How did we get to this precarious point? For me, all of this madness started locally back in the mid’90s when up and down the dial stations were changing their owners faster than most of us change our furnace filters. Then there were two events locally that signaled the beginning of what has now become the most trying time in radio history.

On Nov. 21, 1997, WQRS-FM (105.1) ended over 37 years as Detroit’s Classical Music Station and segued from a “Madame Butterfly” aria into “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails. It was documented that the plug was pulled because new owner Greater Media just wasn’t making money fast enough to justify what it spent to get WQRS, which is currently soft rock WMGC-FM (Magic 105.1).

Looking back, it’s clear where the pressure came from. In 1996, Marlin Broadcasting sold WQRS for $18.5 million. A short time later, the station was sold again by American Radio Systems to Secret Communications for $27 million — a whopping increase in value of almost 50 percent! Still in 1996, Secret sold WQRS and sister stations WMXD-FM (Mix 92.3) and WJLB-FM (97.9), along with stations in other markets, to Evergreen Communications for $227 million. Evergreen at the time owned WKQI-FM (now Channel 95.5) and WQRS was spun off, due to federal ownership limits, to Greater Media in exchange for a radio station in Washington, D.C., and $9.5 million.

In the span of less than a year, WQRS changed hands five times, and with each exchange, the station likely increased in its cost to the new purchaser.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioLately, regular readers of this column may have noticed that Mike and I have been somewhat critical of the radio industry and what has happened to “the good ol’ days.” We have quoted a number of other columnists and former programmers who have spoken the truth about the business, but most of the people running stations these days simply don’t want to hear it.

People like Jerry del Colliano and John Gorman are thought to be eccentric prophets of doom who are burning bridges and alienating today’s broadcasters. Not so. Gorman, who tried, with limited means, to make WKRK-FM (97.1) a successful rock station after years at Cleveland’s legendary WMMS, said the radio business needs to remember the three little words, originally delivered in a keynote by National Association of Broadcasters president David Rehr: “Reignite the passion.” But he adds a fourth: how?

“You will not reignite anything by gutting established morning shows,” Gorman said. “You will not do it with voicetracking (automated) shifts when most people listen. And you will not reignite the passion by having managers and programmers accountable for multiple stations and, in some cases, in multiple cities.”

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The local radio community was stunned this past week when it was announced that Kevin Murphy, who was just promoted to market manager of all of the CBS radio stations in the Detroit area, was “reassigned” to California. Murphy will be overseeing stations in what is known as “The Inland Empire” — Riverside/San Bernardino extending out to Palm Springs. Murphy was not overly popular in The Motor City. Personally, I tried to be his friend and found it difficult to do. He was excellent at adjusting the “bottom line,” but did so at the expense of dozens of jobs lost and many very talented people losing their positions at various CBS stations in Detroit. It was thought that Kevin Murphy did — in less than two years — to CBS Radio in this town what it took former Mayor Coleman A. Young 20 years to do to the city of Detroit. I wish Kevin well in his next venture, but locally no tears (that I know of) are being shed.

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Smooth Jazz WVMV-FM (V 98.7) grabs syndicated host Dave Koz for afternoons while former p.m. driver Sandy Kovach shifts to middays, pushing Janet G out the door. Another case of cutting as the body count increases.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioTwo weeks in a row for yours truly, what did you do to deserve this? Actually, March is a heavy month for radio conventions and gatherings. I am expected to be at the Country Radio Seminar, the MAB Great Lakes Broadcasting Expo and the R&R Talk Radio Seminar, and they all happen to fall in the windy month of March giving some of us a new meaning to the term ”March Madness.”

Personally, I can’t wait to see whether broadcasters are going to stand up before us, preaching about what great shape the business is in. If that happens, I suspect some sessions could resemble an episode of Jerry Springer.

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First a bit of good news. Even in this terrible economy, Dick Purtan and his hearty crew of very hard-working volunteers were able to receive cash, checks and pledges totaling an impressive $2,310,070! The live 16-hour broadcast from the Oakland Mall on Friday was a huge success, with impressive crowds throughout the entire day despite dreadful weather conditions. Kudos to all. Both Mike and I were pleased to see former promotion whiz Kassie Kretzschmar at the event and wonder if she might be reinstated at Oldies 104.3 WOMC-FM. Unlike the person who let her go, she was and is very popular at Purtan’s station.

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In other personnel news, the big buzz is the assignment of rock WRIF-FM (101.1) mainstay Doug Podell as new program director of sister station classic rock WCSX-FM (94.7). Those of us with vivid memories of Detroit radio may recall when that station was WHFI in a rustic A-frame on Rankin Road in Troy. Today, it’s a real powerhouse. This move was not unexpected, since many radio jobs are being doubled-up to save money in this scary economy.

Kevin Carter of trade publication “Radio & Records” said it best: “Now please enjoy this corporately acceptable Doug Podell quote that contains the names of several key Greater Media (station owner) playaz: ‘It’s an honor to now be associated with and represent not one, but two of the greatest rock stations in the country, WRIF and WCSX. I’d like to thank everyone at Greater Media, especially (CEO) Peter Smyth, (regional GM) Tom Bender and (VP Programming) Buzz Knight, for the opportunity and their confidence in me.’ ”

I just hope he doesn’t collapse from exhaustion.

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Do you think that former WWJ general manager Rich Homberg felt as though he was on a mainline railroad track and the light was getting brighter? Had he stayed at the all-news station would he have been another statistic? Perhaps. It was probably a factor in his jumping over to Public TV Channel 56. Good move. His replacement at the main building is Pete Kowalski, so expect some Kowalski Kawality from “The J.” New managerial duties for CBS Detroit go to the well-respected and liked Deb Kenyon.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioThe past couple of weeks, I’ve been seeking out examples to show that radio’s days aren’t quite over yet.

Frankie Darcell, midday host on adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3), had the first exhaustive radio interview with Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick last month. The hourlong discussion made headlines in print and on television and was the talk of the town for days after. Give Darcell a lot of credit in her continuing coverage of the situation as she makes every attempt to cover all sides of the issue. Her program is now a daily must-listen for many concerned about the text-messaging scandal in Detroit.

When Kilpatrick made morning phone calls to news WWJ-AM (950) and news-talk WJR-AM (760) following the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision to allow the release of documents related to the whistle-blower case, it again was must-listen radio that created a community buzz. I was impressed with WJR’s Paul W. Smith as he skipped breaks to continue a nearly hour-long conversation with the mayor without interruption.

What got my attention is how much more in-depth radio interviews go when compared with the packaged 90-second bits that are presented during TV newscasts. These two interviews show the true power of radio and its ability to not only entertain, but to connect with the community on important issues.

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There is perhaps no better example of rallying community support than the annual Dick Purtan Radiothon for The Salvation Army’s Bed and Bread Club.

Since 1988, more than $19 million has been raised with every penny helping those in need in this area. While ultimately falling just short of the annual goal to make just $1 more than last year, the $2.31 million in pledges last weekend was less than $70,000 under the record set in 2007. Although a huge push was attempted in the final 60-plus minutes, not even “Big Al” Muskavito could coax enough dough from oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) listeners to get over the top. But it certainly was not from lack of effort.

Observing the number of community leaders who get behind this effort make it something special each and every year. The final hour is always the most touching when tributes are paid to late cast members Gene Taylor and Mark “Doc” Andrews by Purtan and crew — which includes Big Al, Jackie Purtan, Dana Mills, Rebekah Rhodes, John ‘Angles’ Stewart, Dave Zoran, Larry Lawson — and countless others behind the scenes.

“Once again the incredibly generous people of metro Detroit have come through,” said Purtan. “The money raised assures that nearly 5,000 people will be fed and more than 500 will be sheltered every day and night for the next 365 days. In extremely difficult economic times, our listeners found it in their hearts to dig deep and once again prove that the people of this area are among the most caring in the nation. On behalf of those who need it the most, I thank our listeners for their incredible support and for offering the gift of hope to those men, women, and children who count on the good works of the Salvation Army Bed & Bread Program for not just a meal and a mattress, but for a new start in life.”

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioThe Michigan Association of Broadcasters (MAB) held its annual conference last week in Grand Rapids and, as part of the event, announced the winners of its annual Broadcast Excellence Awards.

News-Talk WJR-AM (760) was named Station of the Year in the Detroit area and also won eight first-place awards in personality categories. News WWJ-AM (950) won five first-place personality category awards.

What was somewhat disappointing is that the list of winners and second-place finishers had only WWJ and WJR listed, making it appear that those two stations were the ones to submit entries from Detroit-area commercial radio stations. There was no winner declared in sports play-by-play.

Michigan Radio, which includes WUOM-FM (91.7) Ann Arbor, WFUM-FM (91.1) Flint and WVGR-FM (104.1) Grand Rapids, was named Public Radio Station of the Year among those with more than a $2 million annual budget.

Bloomfield Hills Schools’ WBFH-FM (88.1) was named Station of the Year by the MAB Foundation, the fifth time in the last six years the station has been given the honor. WBFH’s Corey Berkowitz won two individual awards, and students working at WBFH also earned six other second-place awards and honorable mentions.

MAB also presented a Carl Lee Broadcasting Engineering Excellence Award to Jerrod Martin, who retired in 1985 as the director of engineering for soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3) after a career that started in 1946 by assisting in the construction of WKMH-AM (1310) and later supervising the installation and construction of the present day facilities of WNIC. Since his retirement, Martin has worked as a consultant and co-authored operating information for what is now called the Emergency Action System.

Congratulations to all the winners.

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In 1971 at just 18 years of age, Lee Abrams was hired to be the program director at WRIF-FM (101.1) and was a key influence in the ’Riff ’s becoming one of country’s most successful and well-known album-oriented rock stations. Abrams’ career eventually landed him at XM Satellite Radio in 1998, where he helped guide the music programming and on-air lineup through its infancy and into a market force that land-based radio still hasn’t quite figured out what to do with.

This week, word came out that Abrams, who is not known for playing things safe, was leaving XM to join Randy Michaels, probably the ultimate executive radio rebel, at Tribune Co. If there were ever two guys who could collaborate and turn the media model on its head, it’s Abrams and Michaels. Their boss is University of Michigan graduate Sam Zell, someone who’s definitely not afraid of a little controversy in the name of business.

“Lee is the most formidable creative thinker in the media business today,” said Michaels, Tribune’s president of broadcasting and interactive. “He invented the modern FM radio format, got satellite radio off the ground when no one gave it a chance and managed to advise on the redesign of Rolling Stone magazine and the launch of TNT Cable Network in his spare time. Lee’s going to pump new life into our content, re-energize our brands and get people thinking and working together like they never have before.”

While Tribune doesn’t own any media properties locally, the business marriage among Zell, Michaels and Abrams promises to bring back a phrase Michaels coined while he was running Jacor, a radio company swallowed up by Clear Channel in the 1990s, “The Noise You Can’t Ignore.”

 

Trekking columnist happy to be home

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By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioHappy Easter to all who celebrate this special religious holiday and, personally, I could use the sugar rush that a few jelly beans and chocolate bunnies could provide. Your ever-traveling radio columnist has just completed a trio of radio conventions back-to-back. It was enough to kill a mortal man.

The healthiest music format on the radio today is definitely country, and the audience it attracts is loyal and responsive. Advertisers get above-average exposure with an attractive demographic. The Country Radio Seminar (CRS) in Nashville is incredible. It allows radio folks to get very up close and personal with the biggest of the musical celebrities. One stunned morning host from a small Georgia station got to sing a duet with superstar Garth Brooks. It was priceless. Country radio is attracting more young listeners than ever before. Both Tim Roberts, PD of WYCD-FM (99.5), and John Trapane, PD of WDTW-FM, were there, so our local country stations were well-represented.

After slipping out of Music City, I had less than 48 hours to recover before heading up Interstate 96 to Grand Rapids and the Great Lakes Broadcast Expo, presented by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. Karole White and her staff always put together a sensational show with never fewer than half a dozen sessions to choose from throughout the day. It ended with a big awards ceremony. Mike Austerman covered the results last week, and WJR needed a couple of cars to carry all the trophies back to the Fisher Building.

About 12 hours after returning from the west side of the state, I found myself landing at BWI airport near Baltimore for the R&R Talk Radio Seminar in Washington, D.C.

A weak economy, tight station budgets and the rescinding of an award to a legendary New York City talk host resulted in a noticeably reduced number of attendees. That was unfortunate because the panels and keynotes were sensational.

News-talk radio is the other format that is in very good shape. The political climate and an abundance of “breaking news” make listeners loyal to the spoken word format.

Personally, I nearly fell off my video platform when Kraig Kitchin, a native of Troy and former CEO of Premiere Radio Networks, bestowed a huge accolade on my service to the radio industry. Wow.

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Back here on the local scene, have you seen the billboard campaign by sports WDFN-AM (1130)? It carries a plain and simple message, “If The Text Don’t Fit, You Must Acquit,” a zinger playing upon the continuing legal ups and downs of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The slogan was created by WDFN listeners who participated in a Web site promotion where people could send the radio station their personal text messages for Kwame.

 

Radio becoming more a labor of love

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By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioTroubles at media giant Clear Channel reached a fever pitch this week with strong speculation that the $26 billion deal to take the company private might be on the verge of falling apart. Behind all the recent financial wrangling and lawsuits that are trying to salvage funding for the biggest radio deal ever, there are thousands of Clear Channel employees wondering what their futures hold no matter what the final outcome is. The market value of the company took a severe hit this week in light of the turmoil, and many industry insiders predict more cost cutting soon, possibly along with the sale of more of the company’s radio stations in small and medium markets.

Locally there has been no indication of a sale of the company’s adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3), contemporary hits WKQI-FM (95.5), urban WJLB-FM (97.9), soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3), country WDTW-FM (106.7), sports WDFN-AM (1130) or talk WDTW-AM (1310). One could surmise, however, that the poor Michigan economy and the fact that the Detroit market is no longer one of the 10 largest in the country might be reasons to evaluate what stations would be considered core to Clear Channel’s operations should it decide to shrink the business.

With all the bad news seemingly throughout the radio industry, one thing has become clear — a career in radio is no longer more glamorous or secure than any other job. At least for now, choosing a career in radio requires a strong constitution and an even greater love of the work itself than ever before.

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Sara Fouracre, better known by her first name on the air, has signed on with sports WXYT-FM/AM (97.1/1270) to handle morning news and traffic reports but also to offer some female balance to the guy chatter of co-hosts Jay Towers and Bill McAllister.

“I’ve always respected Jay Towers as a radio personality, and I was a huge fan of the previous show that he and Bill McAllister hosted,” said Sara. “To work with them both now is a joy and an amazing opportunity.”

A native metro Detroiter, Sara is a graduate of Michigan State University and has spent 10 years in local morning radio, first at what was modern rocker WXDG-FM (105.1), then most recently with the Mojo in the Morning crew on WKQI-FM, where she co-hosted for eight years until being let go because of budget cuts in December.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioIf you are one of the thousands who enjoy waking up to the antics of Dr. Don Carpenter with Rachael Hunter, Steve Grunwald and the 300 lb. Cowboy Intern, there is cause for celebration since the Doctor is in... at least for another three years as he re-signed with country WYCD-FM (99.5). So, the laughs, along with the country music hits will keep on comin'. Mark your calendar for the 2008 Downtown Hoedown scheduled for May 9 through 11.

Speaking of WYCD, they have launched a new 24 hour Psychic Radio channel on their HD3 frequency for those of you who have bought one of those new HD Radios. It's devoted to the mind, spirit and soul. The shows are streamed worldwide through www.psychiconair.com via all CBS Radio streaming players, including www.wycd.com. Of course if you were truly psychic you would have already known about this. Do you think WRIF contributor Mr. Positive a.k.a. Greg Balteff, was aware of this?

 • • • • • • • • 

Rock WRIF-FM (101.1) has announced that Doug Podell, the station's program director / director of rock programming, along with Mark Pennington, Riff's music director / assistant program director, have been elected into the FMQB Hall of Fame for achievements in the radio industry. The magazine will be honoring the individuals who have been elected in the upcoming 40th Anniversary Issue and at a gala event to be held in Philadelphia this Thursday, April 10. FMQB (Friday Morning Quarter Back) is a respected radio industry trade publication. Sadly, we learned this past week that Doug just lost his father. Condolences can be sent to Doug Podell, c/o WRIF One Radio Plaza, Detroit, MI 48220.

 • • • • • • • • 

Radio One/Detroit has realigned programming duties at urban WHTD-FM (Hot 102.7) and urban-pop WDMK (105.9 Kiss FM). Operations Manager Al Payne , who retains his role as Program Director at gospel/talk WCHB, fills the PD opening created by the December departure of Spudd. After being promoted to music director of Hot 102.7 in December, late night personality Ms. Smiley has been elevated to APD of the station and PD of 105.9 Kiss FM. She has been assisting Payne with the programming of 105.9 Kiss FM since January, and Smiley will continue to handle all of her previously assigned duties at Hot 102.7. Confused?

 

WYCD's Downtown Hoedown returns

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By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioMark your calendar and get your cowboy boots ready for the 26th Annual Downtown Hoedown May 9-11. Presented by country WYCD-FM (99.5) once again this year, Detroit's Hart Plaza will host an estimated one million music fans over those three days for what's billed as the largest free country music festival in the world. Headliners among the 49 acts scheduled to appear include Trisha Yearwood, Gretchen Wilson, Jewel, Lonestar, Billy Currington and Detroit's own American Idol superstars Phil Stacey and Josh Gracin. More info is available at www.wycd.com.

 • • • • • • • • 

Friday nights are about to become much more exciting on Oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) as the station has added the high-energy Tom Kent Show to its lineup from 7 p.m. 'til midnight starting April 25th.

Kent, who along with XM Satellite Radio's Terry "Motor Mouth" Young, are among the last up-tempo DJ's who have the knack of making radio fun and entertaining for the listener nearly every time they open their mikes. Sadly, Jack Armstrong, a pioneer of the fast-talking style employed by Kent and whom Young considered his mentor, died a couple of weeks ago at just 62 years old. Armstrong, who once held a Guinness World Record for "fastest talking human alive," was well known in Cleveland for his work at WKYC-AM (1100) and WIXY-AM (1260) and his career included stays in Buffalo, Toronto and Los Angeles, among other cities.

 • • • • • • • • 

The city of Fenton will be hosting Casey Kasem Day on Saturday April 26th as part of a fundraiser for a proposed $3.5 million cultural center addition to the Fenton Community Center. Kasem, the longtime voice of numerous pop music countdown shows since the 1970s, in addition to his many contributions to television and movies, grew up in Detroit and has strong family ties to the Fenton area. His vintage American Top 40 countdown programs are among the most popular shows on XM's '70s and '80s channels where they are heard several times each week. More information on Casey Kasem Day can be found at www.fentoncommunitycenter.org.

 • • • • • • • • 

The student staff members of the Bloomfield Hills School District's radio station WBFHFM (88.1), known as "The Biff", were set to broadcast their 32nd Annual 24-Hour Marathon Broadcast this past Friday and Saturday to help collect money and pledges from listeners in the community to help underwrite radio station operating costs.

"Our pledge drive is a fun event for the radio students and it gives listeners a chance to support community radio with their donations" said WBFH Marathon Chair and Andover High senior Corey Berkowitz.

All 21 WBFH staff students from Andover and Lahser High were scheduled to be on the air live throughout the 24 hours, some staying up for the whole event.

Although the event is over, you can still support the station and its students by contacting them either at (248) 341-WBFH or www.wbfh.fm.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioUrban WHTD-FM (102.7) made a big splash in the news this week when the station's Hummer H2 was carjacked at gunpoint from a gas station in Detroit. Thankfully no one was hurt and alert Hot 102.7 listeners helped station personnel and Detroit Police nab the teenage joy riders in less than an hour. The vehicle itself was only slightly damaged and the free coverage on Channel 4's news gave the station some big exposure. Only trouble with Local 4's initial news report was the confusion between Hot 102.7 and its sister station, adult urban WDMK-FM (105.9). Betcha no one really minded though - getting two of your stations plugged on TV is always better than one. There's no word if the alleged carjackers worked for any rival radio stations.

 • • • • • • • • 

Doug Podell, Director of Rock Programming for WRIF-FM (101.1) and WCSX-FM (94.7), was named major market Program Director of The Year at the Friday Morning Quarterback (FMQB) 40th Anniversary Awards Dinner earlier this month in Philadelphia. In addition to being chosen by a group of radio industry leaders to receive the radio trade publication's top honor, Podell was also officially inducted into the FMQB Hall of Fame in the Program Director/Major Market category.

"We are very proud Doug was chosen to receive this outstanding honor," said Greater Media President & CEO Peter Smyth. "It is a privilege to have him on our team in Detroit."

Awards are nothing new for Podell and his staff as they consistently receive recognition for their work at one of the country's most successful rock outlets. Congratulations to Podell for keeping the rock in Detroit Rock City.

 • • • • • • • • 

The revolving door for DJ's continues to spin at oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) with the official departure of popular overnight and weekend host Don Phillips who had been off the air recently due to some health issues. Program Director Scott Walker confirmed Phillips' exit but revealed little else about the situation other than there are no plans to replace him at this time, meaning WOMC will run without a live voice during the overnight hours.

 • • • • • • • • 

The spring fundraisers at public radio outlets WDET-FM (101.9) and WUOM-FM/WFUM-FM (91.7/91.1) wrapped up with some encouraging numbers. Supporters of WDET pledged more than $650,000 towards the station's annual membership goal of $1.1 million, which no doubt pleases General Manager Allen Mazurek. The station's fiscal year ends September 30th.

Michigan Radio's WUOM, along with WFUM Flint and WVGR-FM Grand Rapids, generated 4,664 pledges totaling more than $594,000 during their on-air efforts. The stations boast that over $200,000 of that total was raised from first time donors. Combined with $230,000 Michigan Radio brought in during a pre-pledge direct mail campaign, the group raised over $824,000 to help pay for programming costs and general operating expenses at the station.

"Our listeners who support Michigan Radio as members never cease to amaze us with their dedication to maintaining the quality of our service," says Director of Broadcasting Steve Schram. "We return their outstanding measure of support by providing the strongest public radio news and information service in the state."

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioWhen Mike Austerman and I began writing this column in September of 2001, our country had just suffered the worst catastrophe in our lifetime and more than 75 percent of the nation's population heard about it first on radio. It was a sad way to start this run which has lasted over six and a half years

Unfortunately we're going to end in much the same way.

The biggest news of this past week was probably the worst-kept secret in Detroit radio. It was the hardly unexpected departure of Drew Lane from the top-rated Drew & Mike morning show on rock WRIFFM (101.1). It has been extensively covered in both newspapers and TV, but the saddest news came from behind the scenes at The Riff.

It was the most untimely death of Bob Kozaitis who was the director of Sales and Events and Online Marketing for WRIF. General Sales Manager John Long said "it was a very difficult week for everyone in the building and it truly puts the Drew Lane story in proper perspective."

Kozaitis was on calls for the radio station and reports say he had pulled off the M-59 freeway near Squirrel Road to check on his vehicle and stepped too close to the highway when a truck struck him. He was reportedly killed instantly. It's a tragedy and the fact that he was only 36 years old made it even worse. Bob had been with WRIF for the past 10 years, in charge of many station events including Harley Fest, and the Stars and Stripes Festival in Mount Clemens. He will surely be missed.

On a related note, I want to commend Mike Clark, Trudi Daniels, Mark Fellhauer and Mike Wolters for a masterful job of "facing the music" and presenting a most difficult program to broadcast last Wednesday while dealing with the loss of a close friend and colleague and the front page story of a longtime team member seemingly leaving the family.

 • • • • • • • • 

Ten days ago I attended the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Convention in Las Vegas and was proud to watch local radio icon Ed Christian given the Ward L. Quaal Pioneer Award. Quaal, a Michigan native from Ishpeming, attended the University of Michigan and the event was a proud moment for Christian, who is the president and CEO of Saga Communications, which owns stations throughout the country, but none locally. Quaal is the genius who built WGN in Chicago into one of America's most legendary radio stations.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioWelcome and thanks for reading the first "independent" version of the On the Radio column. While Art Vuolo has not yet decided if he will continue his contributions, I will be publishing on Michiguide.com a similar type of news and views commentary as what has been published each week in the suburban Detroit Oakland Press for years- Art and I took over the piece from Rob Musial back in September 2001. One of the biggest differences you'll notice about this online-only version of On the Radio is that since the column isn't submitted to a professional editor, there will be more grammar and spelling errors. Also, look for things to become more focused on opinions instead of reporting radio news. And because there no longer is a midweek deadline, the item that is published on the web each Sunday will be timelier, especially when things happen on Thursday and Friday.

Art and I are appreciative of the support readers have given us the past week when Art's final column ran. We are both very disappointed that the paper decided to cancel us due to space and financial considerations. Just like how we've commented on what's happened in the radio biz, neither of us can understand how cutting back on local content can help a product that should be increasing its local content instead of getting rid of it. Why subscribe to a newspaper when the majority of what you receive is wire copy that can be read in a number of other places? Why advertise in the paper when the product has next to no personal connection to its customers?

What I'll miss most about having the columns printed in the Oakland Press is the legitimacy that comes with being published and paid by a well-known newspaper. The extra money was nice, but that wasn't the real reason I did it for just over 6 ½ years. It was just genuinely fun to do.

 • • • • • • • • 

One of the most difficult things to cover over the years has been ratings information. Because neither Art nor I are anywhere near what you'd call wealthy, we can't afford to subscribe to Arbitron to get a regular look at the important demographic breakdowns. Any analysis we might do has been totally at the mercy of what people that do subscribe are willing to share or by what's published in other places. And, it seems fewer and fewer people outside of the radio business really care all that much about the relatively minor swings that occur with each ratings book. Susan Whitall of the Detroit News and John Smyntek of the Free Press both do a fine job dissecting the numbers in their respective publications, especially when it comes to evaluating morning drive. Rehashing age 12+ numbers has become repetitive and probably pretty boring to read too.

As an admitted sports junkie though, I'm always interested in what the numbers look like for WDFN and WXYT. Overall, WXYT looks like they are successfully holding on to the new listeners they found by adding the FM 97.1 simulcast last year. That's especially true for afternoon drive hosts Mike Valenti and Terry Foster who reportedly scored nearly a 9 share in last week's winter ratings book and were number one among men age 25-54, the money demo for both 'DFN and the Ticket. They've built a very loyal following for themselves, no doubt because of their on-air product but also because of an Internet presence at www.sportsinferno.com. While WXYT management has banished nearly any kind of reference to the site on the air, tons of listeners still congregate there to talk sports, show their love for Mike and Terry, and generally just to be part of a community that joins together new media and traditional radio. The combination of a dynamic Internet meeting place and interesting radio equals success and is something radio managers should take note of.

 • • • • • • • • 

Interaction and fun is why I've become a religious listener to XM's 60's on 6 during Phlash Phelps' morning drive show. Nearly every day, Phelps serves up a fast-paced program that, when live, combines listener interaction with current events to make it feel every bit like a small-town local radio program instead of a nationwide satellite program. The features that get listeners involved are simple, from guessing the location of a daily featured city from clues given at about 8:20am, to trying to figure out the location of a photo that Phelps has taken of himself from various landmarks across the country on his MySpace page (www.myspace.com/phlashphelps). He also takes listener requests and generally just makes it sound like he's having fun every time he opens the mic.

 • • • • • • • • 

I was glad to read that WRIF morning host Mike Clark and former host Drew Lane didn't allow the official break-up of their hugely successful morning show to spin into a big scandal. While some initial miscommunication was all over the news, the guys quickly resolved things allowing each of them to explore the next steps in their careers without having to constantly deal with that issue. Probably one of the most interesting things to watch in Detroit radio the next year will be the development of 'Riffs "new" morning show. With Clark now fully stepping out of Lane's shadow, the pressure to keep the show at or near the top of the ratings and revenue chart is going to be high. Especially considering he and program director Doug Podell now have a new boss in John Gallagher, the former WJR sales manager who is taking over Tom Bender's old job as general manager of Greater Media's WRIF, WCSX, and WMGC. I'm guessing that if there is any kind of sustained weakness in the program, Podell and Gallagher won't hesitate to give Clark any help he might want or need- even if that means adding or subtracting co-hosts . Losing morning listeners is never a good thing for a station's overall health and nobody in town knows that better than Podell.

I'm also going to be real interested to see if Lane shows up locally doing an afternoon talk program. With Deminski and Doyle also being on the sidelines for now, that's a ton of compelling talk talent that would like to be on the air during similar timeslots on stations that right now probably offer a completely different format. If someone could find a morning show that could successfully get after WRIF's morning audience and figure out a way to get Lane along with Deminski and Doyle in the lineup, you'd have a very compelling competitor for male listeners. And a very interesting war for listeners between WRIF, WXYT, WDFN, and any newcomer to the party.

 • • • • • • • • 

Mike Austerman is the founder of Michiguide.com and covered radio for The Oakland Press from September 2001 through April 2008.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioSo, here is my first on-line only On the Radio column, as Mike indicated last week please be forgiving when it comes to spelling and grammar. I am not smarter than a 5th grader. For as long as we can do this without compensation, we'll try to remain a part of your Sunday ritual.

 • • • • • • • • 

Death is one of things that I don't do well with, and the last 50 days have been unkind to the radio business. Things started to "go south" literally when legendary DJ Jack Armstrong died unexpectedly of a heart attack in North Carolina. Jack, 62, was the fast-talking DJ that XM's Terry "Motor Mouth" Young patterned himself after. Terry, you may recall, worked at the old WDFX-FM 99.5 The Fox (now WYCD) preceding Karen Delesandro. These days she's doing the morning show in Milwaukee on top-rated WMIL-FM (106.1). Next, as was covered in my last column in the newspaper, we lost WRIF Sales & Special Events Manager Bob Kozaitis in a terrible roadside accident. He was just 36. Then 2 weeks ago today, Big Ron O'Brien, only 56, died of pneumonia in a Philadelphia hospital. He had been the afternoon jock at Oldies 98.1 WOGL in the City of Brotherly Love. For those you with a vivid Detroit radio memory, Ron was known as "Biggie" O'Brien at the old WCAR-AM 1130 (now WDFN) when it tried to be a hit-music top 40 station in the early 1970's. A video tribute I produced is on YouTube: click here to view it. Then a week ago the Voice of America, Paul Harvey, lost his beloved wife Lynne "Angel" Harvey from leukemia at 92. Insiders are still wondering what Paul Harvey will do. Will he return to his daily news and commentary broadcasts or officially retire. His ABC Radio contract goes to 2010. I had the privilege of videotaping his last address to the radio industry at the R&R Talk Radio Seminar in the LA area back in 2003. My hope is that death can take a holiday and we don't lose any more radio friends for a while.

 • • • • • • • • 

Remember Chuck Swirsky? He was the unique voice in the WJR sports department back about a dozen years ago. He was also characterized by Dick Purtan's crew as "Chuck on a car phone." He came to Detroit from WLUP (The Loop) in Chicago. Chuck also did a stint on Chicago powerhouse WGN-AM (720). Well, now he's back in the Windy City after ten years of doing play-by-play for the Toronto Raptors, mostly on television. The Chicago Bulls basketball team lured him with an offer as their radio play-by-play voice. Radio announcer Neil Funk moves over to the team's television crew.

 • • • • • • • • 

Another name from the past is Tom Corbett, an Ann Arbor native who jumped many years ago from WAAM-AM (1600) to the news room at WJR-AM (760) and then over to WWJ-AM (950) until he left radio for the financial world in New York and now Chicago where he is a media analyst for Morningstar Financial, Inc.

Tom recently checked in to let me know that Mike and I shouldn't feel too badly about losing the newspaper column, since that industry, like so many, is facing hard times. The Oakland Press is owned by the Journal-Register Company, a publicly traded publisher that has hired an investment banking firm to help restructure the debt it incurred when buying a string of small dailies here in Michigan. With more and more people reading columns, like this, via the Internet, newspapers are trying to deal with the financial ramifications of this decline head-on, before it becomes a full-blown crisis, said analysts. "They see the iceberg ahead and they hired consultants to try to manipulate the rudder and change course before they hit it," said Corbett, an equity analyst who covers the media industry for Morningstar.

 • • • • • • • • 

XM Satellite Radio has hired a talk show host who once graced the airwaves of WXYT-AM (1270) back when it was a full-fledged talk station. He's Joe Madison, one of the brightest and best such hosts covering issues of the African-American community. The talk radio star and renowned social activist has joined XM Satellite Radio. Beginning Monday, June 2, Madison, also known as "The Black Eagle," will broadcast live each weekday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. ET from XM's Washington, D.C. studios on The Power (XM Channel 169), the only national radio channel exclusively dedicated to African-American talk programming.

Madison joins the XM in-house programming team after a 10-year run with D.C.'s WOL-AM, where his popular morning show has been simulcast on The Power since XM's launch in the fall of 2001. Named one of Talkers Magazine's Heavy 100 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts nine times and widely regarded as the nation's leading African-American activist talk radio host, Madison uses his microphone to bring attention to social injustices here and abroad while challenging listeners to take action. Madison has done well since leaving the Motor City.

 • • • • • • • • 

Michigan Radio, the public radio service of the University of Michigan, and the Ann Arbor District Library are honored to host an evening with journalist Cokie Roberts as she discusses her new book Ladies of Liberty: Women Who Shaped Our Nation on Monday, May 19 from 7:00 to 8:30 pm. The event, which will include a book signing, will be held at The Michigan Theater, 603 East Liberty in Ann Arbor. Admission to the event is free. On a personal note, I had the opportunity of videotaping Cokie Roberts about 9 years ago has she conducted a one-on-one interview with Don Imus at a talk radio conference. She is among the best in the business. Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor operates NPR affiliate WUOM-FM (91.7) along with WVGR-FM (104.1) in Grand Rapids and WFUM-FM (91.1) in Flint.

 • • • • • • • • 

Those friends who have checked out the Internet station of one-time Detroit DJ Rich "Brother" Robbin at W4 in the early 70's, have flipped out over the variety of oldies he features 24/7 at www.richbroradio.com. Two songs that I heard flung me back to my high school days in the mid-1960's, were; "Funny Man" by Ray Stevens and "That Stranger Used to Be My Girl" by Trade Martin. Internet radio, as I've indicated before, could be yet another threat to regular radio.

 • • • • • • • • 

With the economy in rough shape these days and jobs, especially in the radio business, at a premium, great gigs are hard to come by, but if you're a Canadian or just want to work across the boarder in Canada's largest city, read on. Pat Holiday, the one-time Big 8 jock at CKLW in the station's glory days, who also worked at WNIC-FM (100.3) in the mid-1980's, is now the General Manager of CFRB-AM (1010) in Toronto. He has a rare opening for a program director at their AC formatted FM station. Details can be found at www.999mixfm.com/dreamjob/.

 • • • • • • • • 

Your most humble radio reporter has been invited to a couple of significant radio events over the course of the next couple of days. CBS Radio in Detroit is hosting a special reception that will feature radio division president Dan Mason and hopes to illustrate for the advertising community the power and effectiveness of radio. It should be interesting. I'll be listening and taking notes.

On Tuesday evening, the 13th, the Detroit Historical Museum will be hosting Detroit's Classic Radio Voices. Those being honored include: Bob Allison, Sonny Eliot, Ernie Harwell, Dick Purtan, J.P. McCarthy, and Martha Jean "The Queen" Steinberg. Sadly we lost J. P. back on August 16, 1995 and Martha Jean died on January 31, 2000. I'm sincerely looking forward to this event which should be one to remember.

 • • • • • • • • 

We used to close most of our newspaper column's with a plug for Tom Wilson and his popular "Somewhere in Time" program. So, our on-line version should be no different. Hear the music of Tommy Dorsey from Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford and others at 6 pm Sunday night on WMUZ-FM (103.5) and on WRDT-AM (560).

 • • • • • • • • 

Be sure to let your family and friends know that although the On the Radio column is gone from the printed newspaper, it remains available (at no charge) each Sunday here on Michiguide.com.

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

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioWhere's the buzz? There certainly hasn't been any about local radio in recent weeks. The biggest recent attention-drawing event unquestionably was the WYCD-sponsored Downtown Hoedown. I got a kick out of seeing the WYCD logo being used during Channel 4's weather forecasts - it was a great tie-in.

I don't know if it's because of reduced budgets or if it's because of all the backlash in recent years over controversial content, but something is most definitely "missing". Station logos used to be easy to find - either on bumper stickers, t-shirts, or just on TV commercials. And just look at last week's Detroit newspapers, there was hardly a word written about radio, short of a live appearance by Steve Harvey at Cobo.

It was only mildly surprising to read about the WDVD 'Cares for Kids' 13-hour radiothon in the trades. They raised $122,000 for a great cause, but didn't get even one inch of ink beforehand in the papers or here on Michiguide.com. I bet there would have been a lot of parents that don't usually tune in to 96.3 that would have done so if they had known this event was taking place. How much does it cost to send an e-mail out a week in advance to help generate at least a little extra coverage that might reach potential listeners?

 • • • • • • • • 

One of the newest ways stations have tried to reach out to a new generation of listeners is to publish podcasts, either on station web sites or by publishing them on services like iTunes. Only trouble is, the effort is sometimes half-hearted, at best. For instance, check out the listings for WCSX's JJ & Lynne. They seem to have given up on the effort in 2007, yet old podcasts remain- maybe as kind of as a reminder that it's not being done any longer. Content from huge morning names like Dick Purtan, Jim Harper, and John Mason is nowhere to be found on iTunes.

WXYT and WDFN personalities are much better at providing iTunes podcasts. You can check out recent segments from DFN's Jamie Samuelson (but they might want to take Greg Brady's photo off there), Sean Baligian, and Stony and Wojo. The Ticket's Karsch and Anderson and Valenti and Foster also post some of their more interesting segments for on-demand download. A note for WDFN though- please start using the 'Release Date' field... it makes it much easier to find the newest content. Also, why isn't WXYT's Jay Towers, Bill McAllister, and Sara on there? The newest morning show in town should be doing all it can to grab as many ears as it can.

WJR has perhaps embraced using iTunes to distribute some of its programming better than anyone else locally. You can grab a ton of content from Paul W. Smith, Frank Beckmann, Mitch Albom, and Lloyd Jackson very easily. It's all labeled, dated correctly and easy to find. AM rival WWJ is no slouch either, offering specialty features like John McElroy's Automotive Insight, Jeff Gilbert's Worldwide Automotive Report, and Matt Roush's Great Lakes IT Report in addition to capturing some of the station's more interesting daily interviews and local discussions. Interesting how the 'old folks' stations are doing as good a job as anyone else in town embracing new technology.

Other iTunes podcasters I have found include Channel 95-5's Mojo in the Morning, 106.7. The Fox's Chad Show (again guys, add that release date field), and from WRIF, Peter Werbe's Nightcall program and Trudi Daniel's take on the news. The easiest way to find these things is by using the station's call letters in the iTunes Store search function. Then subscribe and you'll always have quick access via your computer even if you don't own an iPod. Another option is to visit stations' individual web sites where there is often even more content available for download without using iTunes.

 • • • • • • • • 

Hearing that CBS is purchasing CNET for $1.8 billion is interesting. Coupled with the company's new marriage with AOL for online radio, it appears that CBS is very serious about embracing the Internet as a way to help build its business. While CNET and its sister web sites certainly are no longer considered revolutionary, coupled together with its other web properties, TV and cable networks, and radio one can see that CBS is serious about finding a way to keep itself relevant as the media world continues to morph away from rigid programming routines into becoming more and more on-demand. The next logical steps for CBS are to embrace a social networking platform and to maybe purchase a big time online advertising company. At least they are making moves in an attempt to stay relevant.

 • • • • • • • • 

If you're up early enough, head out to the Detroit Zoo this morning to join Ernie Harwell and WJR's Paul W. Smith who are scheduled to appear at the 12th annual Detroit Zoo Kidney Walk. Registration begins at 8 am with the 1.5 mile walk scheduled for 9 am. More info at www.kidneywalk.org.

 • • • • • • • • 

Ann Arbor's 107one is continuing its partnership with the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, which this year runs from June 13 through July 6. For the third year in a row, the station will collaborate with the festival to present three nights of national talent as part of Top of the Park, the festival's free outdoor concert series. This year's lineup will feature The Terraplanes and The Ragbirds on Monday, June 16, The Mason Jennings Band and Money Mark on Friday, June 20th and Serena Ryder and Bump on Friday, June 27. Activities take place at Ingalls Mall, located directly in front of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, on Washington Street near the Burton Memorial Tower. Top of the Park opens nightly at 6:30 p.m.; music begins at 7:00 p.m.

 • • • • • • • • 

Set your dial: WDET's Ed Love presents "Billie Holiday...The Final Years" this evening at 8 pm during his Evolution of Jazz program.

 • • • • • • • • 

Columnist Mike Austerman covered radio for the Oakland Press from September 2001 through April 2008 and can be reached by completing this form.

 

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.

 • • • • • • • • 

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.

 • • • • • • • • 

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.

 • • • • • • • • 

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.

 • • • • • • • • 

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.

 • • • • • • • • 

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.

 • • • • • • • • 

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.

 • • • • • • • • 

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.

 • • • • • • • • 

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

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioSports WXYT-FM has a great opportunity for a special night this week with the broadcast of the remaining game(s) of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Wings will have their first chance to capture their 11th Stanley Cup at Joe Louis Arena tomorrow evening, a great treat for broadcasters Ken Kal and Paul Woods. Although the days of having the TV and radio broadcast in sync are pretty much over, do yourself a favor and tune in to the local guys doing the call of the game even if you're watching on TV. While hall-of-famer Mike 'Doc' Emrick does an outstanding job for NBC and Versus, getting some home cooking is the way to go, especially for extra special games. If you're not able to catch the WXYT broadcast over the air, XM satellite radio will continue to carry the 'XYT feed for the rest of the Finals.

If you're looking for unapologetic home enthusiasm after the Red Wings play, be sure to tune in to Art Regner on SportsRadio 1130 WDFN. As host of the station's long-running Ice Time, it's hard to find anyone that can express the feelings of the fans - from frustration over losses to exuberance over wins. If the Wings do clinch the Cup this week, Art's postgame will be radio gold.

 • • • • • • • • 

The first ratings trend of the spring found four stations within .1 of each other at the top of the 12+ numbers. Hits WKQI Channel 95.5 and Newsradio WWJ 950 shared the top spot with a 5.5, followed closely by urban WJLB FM 98 and News-Talk WJR 760 with 5.4. The top station in the winter book, adult urban Mix 92.3 WMXD fell off to fifth place overall with a 5.2.

Country WYCD 99.5 surged back into the top 10 stations, likely helped by the attention leading up to last month's Downtown Hoedown. WXYT also enjoyed a big boost as listeners seem to respond to the station's emphasis on call-driven shows as well as the start of baseball season and the Red Wings' playoff run.

The second spring trend will be released toward the end of June with the full spring book due out in July.

 • • • • • • • • 

Home improvement guru Murray Gula hosted his last program yesterday after a year at WDFN. Gula and the Clear Channel-owned station couldn't come to terms on a new contract, putting Gula in search of another home for his weekend radio efforts. Fans of Gula can still catch him as a guest on Bob Allison's "Ask Your Neighbor" on WNZK AM 690 each Friday from 10:30 - 11 am. The "Lunchtime with Murray" web cast will also continue on Channel 7's web site, www.wxyz.com, each Thursday at noon. Gula reports that the Channel 7 web show is very popular and will stay in place while Gula searches for that new home on the radio dial.

Interest in weekend home improvement programming on the radio appears to have cooled off dramatically from several years ago when the local stations seemed to be fighting over hosts like Gula, Joe Gagnon, Glenn Haege, and Adam Helfman. Now Gagnon is back in Ann Arbor on tiny WAAM focusing primarily on appliances again and Gula is essentially off the radio. Haege maintains a high-profile gig on WJR.

Adam Helfman was kind enough to contact me and correct some information I had wrong at the initial posting of this column. His "Hire It Done" program is heard locally on both WRIF-FM 101.1 and WMGC-FM 105.1 weekend mornings with big plans for a national roll out planned for the 4th quarter of 2008 and early 2009. Additionally, Helfman is doing some home improvement news features FOX2 Saturday Morning news. Find more information at www.hireitdone.com.

 • • • • • • • • 

John Moran came from MTV and took over as the Director of Sales for CBS Radio here in Detroit, but now has resigned after just about two weeks on the job. Insiders seem to indicate that a possible reason for the quick about-face was added responsibilities that were not disclosed when he first took the job. The hasty exit also, supposedly, was influenced by his having to dismiss other people to reduce overhead at the company.

Longtime WJR local sales manager, Bob Schick has resurfaced at CBS Radio/Detroit, but not as a replacement for Moran. That job is still open. Perhaps CBS market manager Deb Kenyon should look at a pair who left Radio One recently over budget cuts. Carol Lawrence and Nancy Dymond are available and would do a fine job.

Also exiting WXYT this week was program director Dan Zampillo as he heads to his hometown of Chicago for a great opportunity to take on the role of assistant PD for the legendary WGN AM 720. Operations manager Tom Bigby will likely take over the rest Zampillo's duties. Bob Shomper is WGN's program director.

 • • • • • • • • 

Columnist Mike Austerman covered radio for the Oakland Press from September 2001 through April 2008 and can be reached at ontheradio@austerman.com or at PO Box 99392, Troy MI 48099.

 

Written by: Art Vuolo

On The RadioWell, your traveling radio reporter is on the road again. This time is was New York City for the Talkers Magazine New Media Seminar.

First of all if you think it's hot in Michigan, try New York when it's 96 degrees. The host hotel at East 57th street and Lexington Avenue was nice. Small, but nice. Although I must say that I was a bit surprised to note that the clock radio's in the rooms had NO AM band on them. They were equipped with a docking port for an iPod but no ability to hear any AM stations. New York has no FM talk stations, so here we are at a talk radio convention and can't hear WABC, WOR or any of the Big Apple news-talk stations. That is why I always travel with my own high-quality AM-FM radio, with sleep switch and alarm. The in-room radio's didn't fearure a sleep mode either so one could fall asleep to the radio.

The only redeeming value was the flat-screen TV which DID feature AV inputs, so those of us who travel with our own DVD players can play the video though the set in the room!

Again, at this conference, like so many of late that I've attendeed, there was zero mention of high-definition (HD) radio. Not a peep. Local representation was also weak. Only two Detroiters (other than myself) were in attendance. They were Tom Bigby, operations manager of WXYT-FM (97.1) and AM (1270) and WDTK's Zaron Fruman, who came, at his own expense, to learn and to network. Some smart local talk station should offer him a job, because I don"t think WDTK-AM (1400) truly appreciates his talents.

 • • • • • • • • 

While in New York I received a call from Bernie Fratto, who fills in for Rob Parker on the popular Parker & The Man Show on WCHB-AM (1200). Fratto called to let me know that the Radio One 50,000 watt AM station just dropped talk and returned to playing gospel music. So, the sports show is off the air. Will either WXYT or WDFN-AM pick up the duo?? Not sure.? The rumors are flying again about WDFN-AM (1130) moving to FM. Time will tell. I let Mr. Bigby know about the WCHB format change, but wasn't going to tell the "big guy" what to do with The Ticket 97.1FM. On a personal note, I hope at least Bernie Fratto lands on a good station.

 • • • • • • • • 

The flavor of the New Media Seminar was decidedly that "content is king." How many times have we heard that? Talkers Magazine is published by Michael Harrison who puts on an intense confab that features about a weeks worth of meetings and sessions into a day and a half. Neither of the two Detroit representatives were on any panels, but most of them were very interesting none the less. Among the many highlights were the sports radio panel which featured WFAN's Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton. These guys are magical together and very entertaining. This is the program which replaced Don Imus when the I-man got fired for is racially insensitive remarks last year.

One of the best sessions was called "Words from the Wise: Legends and Pioneers of Talk Radio." Moderated by Joey Reynolds of WOR Radio, it featured: Barry Farber, Bruce Williams, Joe Franklin, and Bob Grant, all of whom are talk radio giants. It was my job to video the proceedings and I truly got many moments of radio history on tape.

Joe Madison was given the Freedom of Speech Award. For those of you with long memories of Detroit Radio, you might recall when Madison did a talk show locally on the old WXYZ-AM 1270 when it was a serious talk station. Madison's acceptance speech was riveting. Other awards were given to Bob Grant, one of radio's pioneering tough-talkers and I had the honor of producing the video tribute that played prior to his acceptance. Also given awards were Dr. Laura and Laura Ingraham, both most deserving.

The New Media Seminar was well-attended, considering these poor economic times and the reduced budgets at most stations. I am still in recovery mode from taping it all.

 • • • • • • • • 

The next big radio gathering comes later this month up in Minneapolis. It's called The Conclave, and it's known as The Learning Conference. I hope to be there listening and learning and reporting back to you, as I continue my quest to constantly take the temperature of the radio industry in these changing times.

 • • • • • • • • 

Here a tip for all radio fans. If you still have a roof-top television antenna, don't be too quick to take it down in this era of segueing to digital TV because it can be used very effectively to deliver you far better FM reception. If you replace the TV antenna with a good quality FM antenna by Winegard or Radio Shack, you can achieve spectacular FM reception, especially if it's on a rotor and you can turn it to various directions.

Most people own FM receivers which could draw in FAR more stations, if only it was connected to a roof-top antenna. Even an attic antenna is better than a piece wire dangling off the back of your stereo.

 • • • • • • • • 

From steamy mid-town Manhattan, that's your brief road report. Stay cool and most of all...keep the radio on!

 • • • • • • • • 

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

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioNow that the field of Presidential candidates has been narrowed down to two, things will be heating up on talk radio as we get closer and closer to November. For the first time since the election of 1984, there isn't going to be a Clinton or Bush running for the highest office in the land. Could this be the biggest opportunity since political-based talk radio became popular during Bill Clinton's presidency?

While it's understandable that WCHB AM 1200 has shifted gears throughout much of its programming day towards Gospel music to help fill an underserved audience, that move might have created an enormous opening for someone else to step into. Urban-targeted music-based FM stations are already among the area's most popular - would someone dare create an FM talker to try and take away some of that audience during a time when politics is unquestionably on center stage? Discussions about the platforms of John McCain and Barak Obama along with the controversy over Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick should offer plenty of programming ideas that could play well to a local audience.

Commerical news talkers WJR AM 760, WDTW AM 1310, and WDTK AM 1400 - along with public outlets WDET FM 101.9 and WUOM-FM 91.7 - hold the upper hand right now and stand poised to score some big ratings results into the fall unless someone else tries to steal some of the political thunder.

 • • • • • • • • 

The political world is still in shock over the sudden death of one of the media's leading voices in Tim Russert who died on Friday afternoon of a sudden heart attack at 58. The host of NBC TV's Meet the Press since 1991, Russert was always in high demand as a radio guest too. His analysis of political issues often turned out to be incredibly accurate and his ability to see both sides of issues earned him an unmatched level of respect from both sides of the aisle.

Russert's death creates a huge hole in political broadcasting; not only for NBC TV, but for radio personalities across the country that model themselves after his work.

 • • • • • • • • 

WDET's news department continues its look at cities across southeastern Michigan this week with a 10-part series on Livonia. The series is scheduled to include a live broadcast of Detroit Today from the Livonia Recreation Center on Wednesday, June 18 from 10am to noon.

"Livonia is one of the state's largest cities that is dealing with an interesting combination of issues," says Jerome Vaughn, WDET's News Director. "The city has an aging infrastructure in one part and is also experiencing rapid development in another part. The city continues to be a vital part of our region."

WDET's Livonia series will be broadcast during Morning Edition (5am-10am), Detroit Today (10am-noon) and All Things Considered (4pm-7pm).

 • • • • • • • • 

Michigan Radio, the public radio service of the University of Michigan that includes WUOM-FM 91.7 Ann Arbor, WFUM-FM 91.1 Flint and WVGR-FM 104.1 Grand Rapids, announced a gift in memory of Clarkston, Michigan resident Dean Gebo that has established a new endowment fund to support news reporting activities. Through a gift of $15,000, William and Bertha Gebo, residents of Sanford, MI (near Midland) are honoring Mr. Gebo's late brother, a long-time listener and supporter of the public radio station.

Distributions from the endowment will be used expressly for the purpose of supplementing the station's newsroom budget to financially address extraordinary news coverage opportunities when funds are not available. In addition to helping cover unplanned expenses such as reporter travel costs for breaking news, the fund also ensures that resources are in place to help fund professional development and training for reporters.

Station News Director Vincent Duffy says "the endowment will help the newsroom to do its best work without always worrying about the cost. Public radio journalists often find themselves frustrated by limited funding available for important training, or costly news coverage. The endowment will help us to cover the costs for travel expenses related to national political conventions and other opportunities not always accounted for in a budget."

 • • • • • • • • 

Oldies WOMC FM 104.3 wraps up its "Father's Day Top 300 Countdown" later today. It's still jarring to me though to turn in to WOMC and hear the term oldies going along with 80's songs like Irene Cara's "Flashdance". While songs that are more than 20 years old are certainly old (like me), I still can't get my head around that the songs from my high school years are officially oldies now. It's interesting that today's WOMC playlist is almost exactly like it was before the format change to oldies in 1989.

 • • • • • • • • 

While writing this on Saturday night, I was watching Tiger Woods take the lead in golf's U.S. Open in stunning fashion. While golf is unquestionably much easier to follow on television, it can also be interesting on the radio. If you're an XM subscriber and can't be near the TV for today's final round, tune in to XM 146 to hear if Woods can hold off the competition and continue to play through obvious pain in his surgically repaired left knee. If you're not a golf fan and wonder what all the excitement is about, today might just be your best chance to understand the attraction of Woods competing in a major championship.

 • • • • • • • • 

Thanks for your loyalty and the continued support for Art Vuolo and I as we produce this brief look at Metro Detroit radio each week.

Columnist Mike Austerman covered radio for the Oakland Press from September 2001 through April 2008 and can be reached at ontheradio@austerman.com or at PO Box 99392, Troy MI 48099.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioThis is a belated On the Radio column, since I am coming off of an intense week of video editing. Each year for a couple of the many radio confabs that I attend, I produce a 2-hour + video loop for a special in-room TV channel at the convention hotel(s). This week it's The Conclave held each summer up in Minneapolis. It's billed as The Learning Conference because it's designed to promote the careers of young radio broadcasters just coming into the industry, which (as you know) has seen better days in the past.

The Conclave is actually put on by a non-profit agency and has partnered with Brown College in the Twin Cities and our own Specs Howard School here in Southfield. It's one of the most worthwhile gatherings. I'll be there listening, learning and loving it all.

 • • • • • • • • 

Probably the biggest news of the past week was an e-mail I received which touted the new venture of Drew Lane from the disassembled Drew & Mike Show on rock WRIF-FM (101.1). It looks as though he will be leaving Motown and returning to the city from which he originally came....Phoenix. I guess he not only got tired of getting up at 3 a.m. but seemingly wasn't fond of Michigan winters either.

His new co-host will not be Mike Clark, but rather "Mr. Skin" who is somewhat known to morning radio show audiences for his popular feature of unique movie reviews. Mr. Skin specializes in reporting female nudity in major motion pictures. Male nakedness is something (if you'll pardon the expression) he never touches. Sorry girls.

The release eludes a premier of this new show as coming in July 2008 as an afternoon program 1 to 4 p.m., however it didn't indicate which time zone that represents. Arizona, if you recall, is the only state in the continental US, which does not observe daylight savings time.

The part of this "major announcement" that peaked my interest was the listing of radio stations which have supposedly already committed to carrying the new Drew & Mr. Skin Show. The list was perplexing since the first station listed was WCMO in Kansas City, which should have been KCMO (fairly obvious call-letters), Further down the list was WLM in Cincinnati. Again, should that perhaps have been WLW? Interestingly 700 WLW in the Queen City carries virtually no syndicated programming.

Of greatest interest was the Detroit affiliate, listed as (drum roll please) WJR-AM (760)....what? It just doesn't sound like the type of program we would hear on The Great Voice of The Great Lakes. I shall be watching this one closely.

 • • • • • • • • 

The story which garnered FAR too many headlines in various radio trades last week was the one that broke last Monday, June 16th. It involved former Detroiter Rob Milford, who was one of the students who helped put WSDP-FM (88.1) on the air at Plymouth-Salem High School out in Canton over 35 years ago and who just found himself in ridiculous amounts of hot water over a simple, but serious, mistake.

Rob, who is among the best news people in the business, was working as a street reporter for all-news WWJ's sister station and America's first commercial station, KDKA in Pittsburgh. Milford was also heard occasionally on AM-950 locally.

A week ago he was helping his girl friend re-locate back to Pittsburgh, after her assignment in Washington, DC ended, when she handed him her licensed and registered hand gun, which was loaded. She had it for personal protection while in DC. For safe-keeping, Milford placed the gun in his briefcase but, forgot it was there. Monday morning, while on assignment for his station, upon entering the Allegany County Court House the weapon was instantly detected by the X-ray inspection. Milford's previously unblemished legal record found him cuffed and incarcerated.

The trades and all three Pittsburgh TV stations, including KDKA-TV had a field day with the story reporting it as though the firearm was intentionally taken into the federal building. The media can be quick to crucify its own and care little about personal damage to one's career. KDKA Radio let him go by calling his cell phone and then reported that he resigned by mutual agreement. My hope is that this talented man finds another opportunity in radio news soon.

 • • • • • • • • 

My next column will relate to you the feeling of the business, as I take the temperature at the Midwest Conclave up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes!

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

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioSummer celebrations are in full swing at Channel 95-5 (WKQI-FM) and 97.1 The Ticket (WXYT-FM/AM) as both stations bask in the glow of ratings success. WKQI was the Detroit area's top-rated station among all listeners during the second spring ratings trend, offering some optimism that the gang at Channel have a legitimate shot at claiming an overall quarterly ratings crown for the first time ever. Mojo and crew in the mornings anchor the station's lineup and were third most popular in the 25-54 age group, behind WRIF's Mike in the Morning and WMXD's Steve Harvey.

Gone are the days that both WDFN and WXYT could claim to be the area's highest rated sports station. To borrow a sports term, right now the combined WXYT stations are winning in what amounts to a blowout, especially in the age 12+ ratings. WXYT-FM/AM carded a 3.6 share, well ahead of WDFN's 0.9. The move to FM certainly seems to be paying dividends, at least as far as listener numbers go.

In no way do I think that WDFN is ready to just give up - but clearly they need to something to grab back some of the spotlight for themselves.

WXYT's morning duo of Jay Towers and Bill McAllister continue to increase their profile and listenership too, improving to an 11th place showing in the coveted age 25-54 race and giving the stations their best combined early morning ratings performance in memory. There were plenty of questions posed on various Internet forums about the sustainability of a non-sports focused program on the station once the popular duo of Jeff Deminski and Bill Doyle exited - including several predictions of quick failure. Most of those critics have now fallen silent, but I'm not afraid of eating a little crow (again) and giving Towers and McAllister full credit for a job well done.

 • • • • • • • • 

Speaking of the Internet-fueled speculation machine ... one of the most persistent topics the past few months is that the winds of change might be blowing at WDTW-FM, 106.7 The Fox, sometime soon. Most of the speculation has centered on the frequency cycling back to a rock-based format of some sort in an attempt to take on WRIF, which might be viewed as more venerable to competition with the official breakup of the morning monopoly that was the Drew and Mike Show. Other armchair programmers have suggested that WDFN might move to FM to re-level the playing field against WXYT or maybe take on a talk format that could include a lineup featuring Deminski & Doyle and Drew Lane's new venture with Mr. Skin.

I have not been able to verify any of the rumors circulating about the future of The Fox, but that is to be expected. Ever since the station first dropped country back in 1999, format change rumors seemingly pop up every couple of years followed by either an actual format change or a big to-do over a renaming of a similar sound. Each change has always gone down pretty much the same way - rumors followed by denials, followed by some stunting, then the change is revealed to everyone at the same time over the air.

Will the July 4th weekend bring more shenanigans on 106.7? The country format is doing very well in other nearby cities, including Cleveland, Toledo, and Grand Rapids thanks in no small part to a bunch of young new artists that keep the format fresh for listeners. Only program director John Trapane and general manager Dom Theodore know for sure if change is on the horizon, but at this point nothing would surprise me. Except maybe for a format change to all-polka.

 • • • • • • • • 

There is an interesting battle in Washington D.C. going on between record and radio industries. Record companies are lobbying heavily to make broadcast radio companies pay royalties on the music they play - something they've been exempt from up until now. The dollar amounts being thrown around in this tussle are in the billions - no small potatoes.

The arguments on both sides are very compelling to me- The recording industry, which is often depicted as being nothing more than greedy, claims that if non-traditional broadcasters (Internet, satellite radio, etc.) have to pay, so should traditional radio. For their part, radio claims that without them, the record companies would have no way of getting exposure for their artists.

This issue screams for compromise, and hopefully one can be found. It doesn't seem fair that radio remains exempt from royalties while newer competitors have to pay. And it is equally unfair to think that very medium that made music what it is today shouldn't receive some kind of financial acknowledgement that the service they provide to record companies and their artists is indeed invaluable.

A vote on the issue will likely come before Congress sometime before the year is over and in the meantime, the National Association of Broadcasters is ramping up both the rhetoric and its lobbying in an effort to stop any legislation that would no doubt change the financials of being a broadcaster dramatically. While some of the bigger broadcasters like Clear Channel, Citadel, and CBS could probably figure out a business model to remain profitable, I worry about what would happen to smaller stand-alone radio stations and non-commercial operations that seem to barely survive with today's business models.

If the record companies appear close to getting their way, I predict a huge backlash with the radio listeners being the ones that suffer the most if broadcasters protest by stopping the music. Just image what radio would be like with no stations playing songs. That just might get some attention.

 • • • • • • • • 

Mike Austerman covered radio for the Oakland Press from September 2001 through April 2008 and can be reached at ontheradio@austerman.com or at PO Box 99392, Troy MI 48099.

 

By: Art Vuolo, Jr.

On The RadioIt's not my favorite way to start an "On The Radio" column with sad news, but I wanted this story to get the coverage that it deserves. Two of the best signals in the metro Detroit area have belonged to WJR and CKLW. Although neither is as good as they once were, both have one man to thank for their technical superiority and that man is long-time Chief Engineer Ed Buterbaugh.

Sadly, Ed is in a hospital over in Windsor suffering from bladder cancer and it's not good. He had a long run at CKLW back when it was known as The Big 8 and was top-rated in Detroit/Windsor and also in Toledo, Cleveland and as far away as Erie, PA. That booming signal was the work of Ed Buterbaugh.

During a two decade career at WJR, he truly made it the Great Voice of The Great Lakes. Ed deserves your prayers and a nice card to cheer him up would certainly be appreciated. His address is: Ed Buterbaugh, PO Box 1107, Harrow, Ontario N0R 1G0. If you have ever enjoyed the powerful and clean audio of either The Big 8 or WJR in recent years send Ed a card or even just a note of support and thanks. Spread the word.

Ed Buterbaugh worked hard his whole life and now, just a couple of years after his retirement, he is dealt a bad hand and it seems so unfair. I, along with some other colleagues are trying to do something special in honor of Big Ed, and if we are successful, you will read about it first here on michiguide.com. Hang in there E.B. we're all pulling for you!

 • • • • • • • • 

After reviewing the latest ratings for the Detroit area, Clear Channel VP of Programming, Dom Theodore has to be rightfully proud of his Home of the Hits WKQI known best as Channel 9-5-5. With the help of Mo-JO-town's top station is at 95.5 FM and Dom, who jokes about how (after he's through with radio) he'll go to work at Home Depot, might have to hold off on putting on that orange apron. His job, at the present time would seem to be rather secure.

Right on WKQI's heels is all-news WWJ-AM (950) a tenth of a point behind with a 5.5 rating which is just another tenth of point ahead of news-talk WJR-AM (760). Detroit is one of just a handful of cities with TWO AM stations in the top ten! The gap between country WYCD-FM (99.5) and WDTW-FM (106.7 The Fox) is wider than Fox owner Clear Channel would like, but it's unknown how committed they are to country music for the long haul. WXYT-AM (1270) has sunk to under a 1.0 share which is not good. All of the listening is seemingly on the FM at 97.1 known as The Ticket. WXYT owner, CBS Radio, should sell the (now with 50,000 watts) signal to Salem so they can move their anemic 1,000 watt talker WDTK-AM (1400) to a far superior signal than they currently have.

WRIF, even without Drew Lane jumped up from a 4.1 to a 4.6 which should boast the confidence of Mike Clark and his crew at The Riff. WMGC-FM (Magic 105.1) bested WNIC-FM (100.3) and the beat goes on.

 • • • • • • • • 

Two names you know will be inducted into the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame on July 15 up at the Crystal Mountain Resort. One is from radio and the other from TV. WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) news anchor Diana Lewis and longtime WJR-AM (760) voice Mike Whorf are the inductees. Mike Whorf was best known as the longtime producer and host of WJR radio's award-winning program "Kaleidoscope." It was a daily mini-program featuring famous stories of people and events in Michigan and the surrounding areas. He took over the Sunday morning show after the untimely death of long-time favorite Mike Deja and his program "Patterns in Music." Michigan Football fans will recall the powerful tribute Whorf narrated to the memory of the late Bob Ufer, the long-time colorful voice of the Wolverine's on WPAG-AM (1050) Ann Arbor and later on WJR-AM (760) Detroit.

 • • • • • • • • 

Diana Lewis began on WXYZ-TV 31 years ago after a stint at KABC-TV in Los Angeles. While in LA she landed the role of (can you believe it) a TV news reporter of a Philadelphia TV station. A true and fairly unknown story is that Diana hails from Coatsville, PA which is a far western suburb of Philadelphia, so this was ironic that while on the west coast she played a WCAU-TV 10 reporter who was to interview Rocky Balboa in a meat packing facility in the first Rocky movie!

Amazingly, WCAU management had no idea how big a hit "Rocky" would be, so when the movie company told them how much it would co$t to have the WCAU call-letters on the TV news van, they said "no way." So they rearranged the black magnetic letters on the truck to say WUAC. No green...no being seen. True story.

Diana Lewis is truly one of the nicest people in the broadcasting business that I have ever met. She and her husband Glenn, are rightfully proud of their daughter Glenda who is doing a superb job following in mom's footsteps. The only thing I can't understand is WHY, after teaming her with Stephen Clark, Channel 7 doesn't promote them as "Lewis & Clark...discover the difference, explore the possibilities."

 • • • • • • • • 

Both Mike and I hope you're enjoying the tail-end of a great 4th of July holiday weekend. The weather has certainly co-operated. Enjoy the barbeque and be sure to keep a radio nearby tuned to your favorite local station.

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

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioOur family returned home yesterday following a nearly two week vacation in Pennsylvania. We drove over 1,700 miles and spent a total of zero minutes listening to local radio during that journey. The kids, ages 8 and nearly 6, were either watching DVD's, finding different license plates (we found 43 states, 2 provinces, and Washington DC), or just listening to XM Satellite Radio's XM Kids channel. My wife and I listened to various XM channels exclusively and didn't miss FM or AM radio.

It used to be that a radio fan like myself would drive the other passengers crazy turning the radio knob to try and listen to as much local flavor via the radio as possible. But in recent times, much of that is gone, replaced by a sound that is about the same no matter if you're in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, or many of the smaller towns in between. Although some of those similarities are no doubt because of programming strategies that are much more national in structure than ever before, I think a lot of it also has to do with the way national chain stores have taken over our shopping malls.

Get off the interstate nearly anywhere and those plazas are filled with the same stores and restaurants as at home. So instead of hearing ads from local stores on the radio when you're out of town, it's the same jingles and voices pitching the same things. While it might be comforting to know that your favorite big box retailer is always just down the street, knowing I'd pretty much be hearing the same stuff in between the same songs didn't inspire me enough to check out broadcast radio. While it's still fun to surf the radio dial, it's just a lot easier now to do it via the Internet from home instead of bugging the family with constantly changing stations and dealing with reception problems. Family harmony is a good thing when you're spending countless hours together in a vehicle.

 • • • • • • • • 

One of the biggest highlights of our trip was a visit to Washington DC where we toured XM's headquarters/studios. It was the first time either of my boys had been invited to see a radio station, so it was pretty cool to be able to see several of them at one time. All of the gadgets and rows of studios left an impression on the kids, but it was the people that they met that really made the biggest impact. Our boys really got a kick out of meeting personalities Absolutely Mindy and Kenny Curtis from XM Kids and now understand that there are real people behind those voices that come out of the radio and just how much work it is to create an entertaining broadcast.

While we were in the studio of the 60's on 6 channel, morning host Phlash Phelps played his alphabet game on the air with my oldest son Everett, much to his pleasure. Youngest son Daniel now loves to sing the station's top of the hour jingle featuring "The Beatles". But what struck me the most was that the attitude around the place was friendly and fun, despite the looming uncertainty of the pending merger with Sirius. It was amazing to witness everything that has been invested in the creation of XM - and although the delivery mechanism is different than traditional FM/AM, it clearly still is radio if only because of the people that work there.

 • • • • • • • • 

It used to be that going away on vacation during the beginning of July would mean some kind of surprising change in Detroit radio. Sometimes it'd be a format switch or maybe just a big change in a station's on-air lineup. This year, it was almost disappointing to return home and discover that the only big media news was happening on TV with the controversy involving Channel 2's Fanchon Stinger.

While it's never fun to see anyone lose their job for whatever reason, the uncertainty of radio is kind of what makes it interesting to those on the outside looking in.

It's really hard these days for radio stations to pull off a really big surprise. With the popularity of Internet message boards, the news of a change is often leaked by either insiders at the station or by someone with connections to a big advertiser and it doesn't take long for the news to travel and get repeated either in a newspaper or in the trade publications.

So now, the most fun seems to be trying to determine which rumors are legitimate and which ones are nothing more than pure speculation. Kinda makes me wish for the old days when you never had a clue what was going to come out of your speakers when you returned back from up north and frantically scanned the radio dial to see if you missed another big switch.

Maybe next year.

 • • • • • • • • 

Mike Austerman covered radio for the Oakland Press from September 2001 through April 2008 and can be reached at ontheradio@austerman.com or at PO Box 99392, Troy MI 48099.

 

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.

 • • • • • • • • 

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."

 • • • • • • • • 

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.

 • • • • • • • • 

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.

 • • • • • • • • 

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.

 • • • • • • • • 

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.

 • • • • • • • • 

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.)

 • • • • • • • • 

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.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioI look forward to the day when Internet access becomes easily available everywhere, but until then getting away from it all is still possible. So now it's time to play some catch-up.

When the spring ratings book was released last week by Arbitron, there were lots of smiles in the halls of WRIF, WKQI, and WXYT. Anyone that was looking for rocker WRIF to fall off its pedestal as one of the area's most popular stations is going to have to wait a bit longer as it again was tops in the age 25-54 age group, followed by contemporary hits WKQI. Channel 95-5 was also the highest ranked station among listeners age 12 and above - the first time that's ever been the case for the 95.5 frequency in Detroit. I think it's also the first time a hits/Top 40 station has been on top of those broad numbers since the days of the Big 8, CKLW in the 1970s.

While there has been some listener erosion at WRIF in the morning since Drew Lane jumped ship, Mike Clark has done a great job anchoring the program and keeping it on top which no doubt helps keep the 101.1 frequency locked in on enough radios throughout the day ... and makes program director Doug Podell a happy guy.

Putting sports on FM 97.1 has had the biggest sudden impact on radio ratings that I can recall. If you combined the age 25-54 listeners of WXYT-FM and AM throughout the day, they'd boast 15,700 listeners in an average quarter hour, good enough for second place. As it is, the FM is 5th overall in those 25-54 listeners, the best performance a Detroit sports talker has ever had.

I wonder if the Monday morning quarterbacks at Clear Channel, which owns Detroit's original all-sports talker WDFN, regret not being the first one to try the FM sports thing locally. The idea of taking WDFN to FM was presented years ago by former program director Gregg Henson but not agreed to.

 • • • • • • • • 

Speaking of WDFN... a big nice job to the station's afternoon hosts Mike Stone and Bob Wojnowski for helping to get over $116,000 worth of pledges for Leukemia & Lymphoma research during their 28-hour radiothon last week. Stoney and Wojo have been going all-out in their efforts for 11 years straight.

 • • • • • • • • 

No doubt the biggest radio news is again nationally focused. First there was the final vote of approval from Clear Channel's shareholders to take that company private as part of a merger agreement with financial companies Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners. The vote was nearly unanimous with nearly 97% of the shares that were voted in favor of the merger. Clear Channel should cease to exist as a publicly traded company by the end of the week - and then who knows what will be in store for the company's still-huge portfolio of radio stations.

When this whopper of a deal involving Clear Channel was first announced, it was reported that most of the radio stations outside of the biggest markets were going to be sold off and speculation swirled about the fate of a number of Michigan stations, including those in Grand Rapids and Muskegon along with stations in Ann Arbor and Battle Creek. While we know that Clear Channel is out of Ann Arbor and Battle Creek, it's still anyone's best guess as to what the future ownership situation will be for stations like powerhouse country WBCT-FM (93.7) and soft rocker WOOD-FM (105.7). As a smaller private company, the new Clear Channel will be free to make deals without nearly as much public scrutiny.

There is one thing that does seem clear with the pseudo break up of Clear Channel ... bigger isn't always better.

 • • • • • • • • 

The other big national news involved satellite radio with the FCC's long-awaited vote in favor of allowing Sirius and XM to merge. While it often seemed like a foregone conclusion, the entire process certainly took a lot longer than anyone predicted and it's certainly going to cost a lot more than I'm sure was planned for with the announced $20 million in fines that will have to be paid to settle issues with things like improperly licensed terrestrial repeaters and radio units that broadcast with too much FM power. If we've learned that bigger isn't always better with the Clear Channel example, this merger certainly should cause some concern.

No doubt buzzwords from the 90's like synergy and right-sizing will be flying around the Sirius and XM headquarters in New York and Washington D.C. respectively for the next few months as costs are squeezed out of the combined operations. The bosses will look like geniuses during the honeymoon phase and nearly everyone else will spend as much time on their resumes and air demos as they will working at their job.

But what should happen with a combined XM and Sirius is a real push to market their product once again and get some new hardware out in the stores that causes excitement. Unless you're a subscriber, close to the radio business, or buying a new car, XM and Sirius have become nearly invisible. Aside from news stories about this merger, there is almost no ink about the programming on either service. No big controversies from Howard Stern or Opie & Anthony. No buzz about channel lineup changes or even changes to current channels.

I still believe satellite radio is superior to things like MP3 players and most amateur-type Internet radio stations. I like that I don't have to do anything but turn on the receiver - no playlists to create, no songs to download, no Internet accessibility problems to be concerned with. There is still plenty of room for satrad in between local radio and personal music players ... it just needs to be remarketed to connect to consumers that have never really understood the product.

As a self-described satellite radio fan, I'm looking forward to the ability to have a receiver that can pick up the programming from both XM and Sirius, especially sports. From purely a consumer's standpoint, I like that there will be price caps for the next three years. But I just hope that my favorite personalities and stations won't be lost as the inevitable cost-cutting starts taking shape.

 • • • • • • • • 

Mike Austerman covered radio for the Oakland Press from September 2001 through April 2008 and can be reached at ontheradio@austerman.com or at PO Box 99392, Troy MI 48099.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioLeading off this week, Art Vuolo and I want to extend a huge thanks to WRIF program director Doug Podell and Riff2 afternoon drive host Slayer for the opportunity and help with our guest shot on Nightcall yesterday. Thanks also to all the callers and positive feedback - it was an enjoyable couple of hours talking about radio on the radio.

The two hours went by very quickly and we weren't able to tackle most of the e-mail that was sent in to us. Doug wanted to know, "in this mishmash of programming that is laughingly called radio nowadays, if there is a 'new, improved' format in the future that will be the hot thing, at least for a while? What formats are lurking out there that may catch hold? Alt Country? Classic Country? AAA? Smooth Jazz.....no, wait a minute, that's dead already."

I think there will be less and less emphasis on music formats going forward and instead of having head-to-head battles with stations playing basically the same thing, there will be more single station music formats in most markets and we'll see more talk-oriented outlets on FM. The biggest limiting factor, of course, is finding someone with the money to sink into finding (and keeping) the talent and grabbing the attention of the audience. WXYT is proving that there is an audience in Detroit for talk radio on FM ... and with proven talent like Deminski and Doyle and Drew Lane waiting on the sidelines ...

The 'Reel' Tom Ryan (not the former WOMC jock) wrote in to remind people how easy listening to the radio over the Internet can be with an appliance that connects to your computer network and allows for convenient access thousands and thousands of online radio stations. Check out C. Crane and Sangean for radios that can keep you connected via WiFi without requiring the use of your computer or cell phone.

One thing I can say for sure, it's much more efficient to cover a lot of topics talking about them live versus having to type these things in an Internet or newspaper column ... but I can sure appreciate how hard it is to have fresh content on a daily basis. I have newfound respect for all the radio pros that can keep things fresh and interesting every day.

 • • • • • • • • 

Oldies WOMC is doing something cool with the promotion of Dick Purtan's morning show by sending out a weekly video mail hosted by Mr. Purtan himself. It's an effective way to grab the attention of the show's most loyal listeners and help get the word out about things coming up on the program. You can check out last week's v-mail here, complete with a cameo from Big Al to keep things ... err... light.

As the official station of the Dream Cruise, WOMC is hosting a ton of live broadcasts from Woodward through Saturday - check out WOMC.com for a rundown of times and locations. And of course classic rock WCSX is also in on the act and they too will be offering a ton of coverage from what they call the 'Big' cruise on Friday and Saturday.

 • • • • • • • • 

Looking at WOMC's recently revamped web site, you'd never know that it's the flagship station for Michigan football as another season gets ready to kick off in just a few weeks. Can't help but wonder if the folks at CBS radio locally have cooled to the idea of having football broadcasts on WOMC and would prefer to have them heard on the FM 97.1 / AM 1270 near-simulcast. Interestingly, CKLW's web site prominently features the fact they also carry the games locally.

And while I'm thinking about sports, I understand how contracts work, but still don't like how exhibition football games get priority over regular season baseball games on WXYT-FM. It shouldn't matter which team is playing ... just that a playoff game should always get the best signal, followed by regular season contests, and then exhibitions.

 • • • • • • • • 

Obviously sending Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to jail for a night last week was a big deal and local radio was all over the story as the news broke. If you didn't want to watch the wall-to-wall coverage on Channels 2, 4, or 7, all you had to do was check out WJR, WWJ, or WDET (among others I'm sure) to get the latest info on what has become the biggest local news event in many years.

WDET was on the story starting at 10am Thursday when "Detroit Today" began airing and expanded coverage through 1pm. Station manager Tim Hygh commented, "Because of the magnitude of this story, WDET's News Director, Jerome Vaughn, pre-empted the normally scheduled program Here and Now and continued the live coverage with Quin Klinefelter hosting for vacationing host Craig Fahle, taking advantage of Detroit's largest Public Radio news team."

While the story was breaking guests included, Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel, Craig Rothe of Public Sector Consultants, Bill Ballenger- Editor, Inside Michigan Politics, David Moran-Associate Dean of Law at University of Michigan and WDET Reporters Rob St. Mary and Noah Ovshinsky.

Who knows what'll be next in this seemingly never ending saga in Detroit politics ... but rest assured you'll be able to hear all about it on the radio.

 • • • • • • • • 

Mike Austerman covered radio for the Oakland Press from September 2001 through April 2008 and can be reached at ontheradio@austerman.com or at PO Box 99392, Troy MI 48099.

 

By: Art Vuolo, Jr.

On The RadioWelcome to an early shot at our ordinarily Sunday offering on the local radio scene, but with the Woodward Dream Cruise looming and all that surrounds it, we felt it would be better to "jump the gun" than to speak about everything in past tense.

In recent years, this event has become a media extravaganza with just about every station in town taking part in some form or another. Even public radio WDET-FM (101.9) is scheduled to there! WDET will be revving up to be part of this year's annual Ferndale Woodward Dream Cruise on Friday, August 15. Tune in for a live broadcast from Woodward and 9 Mile on Detroit Today (10am - noon) and WDET will be on-hand throughout the day with contests and giveaways! My, this is sounding rather commercial for a public station.

Originally starting out as a small fundraiser to raise money for a soccer team, The Woodward Dream Cruise weekend is best known for being the world's largest one-day automotive event. The Ferndale Woodward Dream Cruise will kick off on Friday, August 15 with The Emergency Vehicle Show, Lights and Sirens Cruise and a Ribbon Cutting ceremony. This is followed by the actual Classic Car Cruise and show on Saturday the 16th, which has been known for drawing 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars each year from around the globe, from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the former Soviet Union.

The Cruise has become a week-long event and even though WOMC-FM (104.3) is the "official station" you can expect to see and hear just about every major player on the local radio scene to be on hand. Probably the most up-beat show on WOMC, the Friday night Tom Kent Radio Party, will be missing so a special program broadcasting live from the Dream Cruise can air instead. TK will be back 7 pm till midnight next Friday night on Oldies 104.3.

If you really want to get nostalgic record a bunch of old shows from WKNR off the www.keener13.com web site or some old CKLW from www.detroitradioflashbacks.net.

 • • • • • • • • 

Last Sunday night your recently absent radio reporter along with michiguide.com webmaster Mike Austerman, were honored to be called upon by WRIF PD Doug Podell to co-host the top-rated Peter Werbe talk show known as "Nightcall." I must say it was the fastest two hours of my life. The phone lines were popping from 11 pm till 1 am. And it was a blast. Podell told us that The Riff has received excellent feedback and he felt that perhaps we might have to do it again. Just say when...Doug!

However, if you were one of a plethora of people who simply could not stay up till the ungodly hour of 11 o'clock and missed this award-winning show you can hear it all or however much you feel that you can stand by clicking on the link from WRIF's web site. It's www.wrif.com/podcast/nightcall/. Mike and I will await the reviews on how we did on Detroit's original Home of Rock & Roll...WRIF.

 • • • • • • • • 

It seems as though I attend a different radio convention in each month of each summer. In June it was the Talkers Magazine New Media Seminar in New York City, then in late June and early July it was The Conclave in Minneapolis. In late July and early August it was the Morning Show Boot Camp in Denver. Next in September, if I get to attend will be the combo NAB/R&R confab to be held in Austin, TX.

The Morning Show Boot Camp is always a fun gathering and often it scares me how many people know who I am at that event which moves around to various cities each year. I recall how it was in New Orleans just two week prior to Hurricane Katrina devastated that popular tourist destination.

This year in the Mile High City of Denver it was exceptional, but as usual not well represented by the Motor City. The only two morning hosts from our town were WDVD's Blaine Fowler and WDTW (The Fox) morning man Chad Mitchell. Channel 9-5-5's MoJo and crew are often in attendance, but they were a no-show. Perhaps they could handle the altitude, or it could have just been a scheduling conflict.

One thing that hasn't changed at this conference is the noticeably high degree of swearing by the various morning jocks. I attend a lot of conventions, and this one has a strong R-rating due to language. I guess they feel it's a place where they can speak more freely, but it's enough to make some people blush. Denver was also in the midst of a heat wave that saw over 21 days over 90 degrees smashing a 107 year old record!

 • • • • • • • • 

Last Friday, rock legends The Who announced that all of their earnings from the October 21st concert at The Palace of Auburn Hills will benefit Detroit area charities. Singer Roger Daltrey says "Pete and I are very aware of the problems people are having in Michigan and feel we should give something back for all the support we have had over the last 40 years."

The Who have teamed up with 94.7 WCSX in selecting Gleaners Food Bank and Focus: HOPE as beneficiaries. 94.7 WCSX Operations Manager Doug Podell "For over 20 years, WCSX has been committed to the Motor City. We were proud to be called upon by The Who to help in their effort to raise awareness and funds for these two worthwhile organizations."

94.7 WCSX invites Classic Rock fans to "Join Together With The Band" to help these great local organizations while experiencing a night of amazing Rock 'n Roll. Tickets for The Who, October 21 at The Palace of Auburn Hills, start at $39.50 and are on sale now. Tickets available at livenation.com, palacenet.com, the Palace box office and TicketMaster.

 • • • • • • • • 

Believe it or not college football is only a couple of weeks away. The Spartans at MSU open on the road out in California for a Saturday night game at 8 pm local time on Labor Day weekend. The Michigan Wolverines kick off at home in a "pardon our dust" Big House which is undergoing MAJOR renovations. If you haven't seen the stadium since 2007, you will be amazed. This year there will be a new coach, new playbook, new uniforms and new upgrades around the facility in Ann Arbor. No new radio stations though. Michigan State will again be on WJR-AM (760) and the Maize & Blue remain on FM at 104.3 WOMC...Where Only Michigan Counts! For AM listeners and those who are outside of the 'OMC coverage area in Ohio and Indiana, U-M games will again be available on CKLW-AM (800)...dangerously close to WJR with the Green and White!

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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.

 

By: Art Vuolo, Jr.

On The RadioIt is with great sadness that I report the passing of Ed, Buterbaugh (pronounced Boo-ter-baw), one of the greatest and most respected chief engineers in the radio industry. Ed, who we reported on in this column several weeks ago, was suffering from bladder cancer that was diagnosed right around the time that he retired from a twenty year stint as the chief of engineering at WJR. While at CKLW, Ed was the mastermind behind the big booming sound of the station in its hey-day as "The Big 8." The signal that he fine-tuned from a cluster of five towers in rural Harrow, Ontario, was legendary. He lived only a few miles from that transmitter site. In 1984 he remodeled all of the studios at CKLW at a time when AM 800 had a morning show hosted by Erin Davis and Paul W. Smith, prior to Paul joining WJR on a full-time basis, which happened a decade later.

In 1987, Ed oversaw the renovation of WJR, located on the upper floors of the Fisher Building, to new state-of-the-art studios. It was the first such up-grade at "The Great Voice of the Great Lakes" since the 1940's. Then around the turn of the century Buterbaugh helped with a major make-over at WJR as the station, along with their two FM stations (WDRQ 93.1) and (WDVD 96.3), moved from their lofty perch down to the seventh and eighth floors where they are to this day. Ed was also a genius behind the antenna running through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel so you could heard CKLW underwater! Later, when at WJR, he changed it to that station, which still exists today. Ed won the coveted Carl E. Lewis Award for radio engineers from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters (MAB), and Billboard Magazine Engineer of the Year Award. He was, in the words of Tina Turner, "Simply the Best!"

University of Michigan football fans will recall hearing Ed's name as he was credited by Frank Beckmann for engineering hundreds of games in the, soon to be replaced press box, at the stadium in Ann Arbor. Those duties are now the responsibility of WJR engineer Tony Butler, even though the games shifted three years ago from WJR over to WOMC-FM (104.3) and oddly enough CKLW-AM (800).

Family and friends can attend a visitation at the Gerald A. Smith Funeral Home at 197 King Street West, in Harrow, Ontario, Thursday afternoon 3-5 pm and evening 7-9 pm September 4th, with the funeral service scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday the 5th at the Harrow United Church, 45 Munger Street in Harrow, Ontario, Canada. Cards can be sent to his wife Pam at PO Box 1107, Harrow, Ontario Canada N0R 1G0...or you can e-mail: buter@xplornet.com.

Interestingly, Ed did get to see the Michigan vs. Utah game in its entirety last Saturday. I mentioned to his wife that both Ed and the late longtime voice of the Wolverines, Bob Ufer, had to witness a loss as their last game. Ironically BOTH games were losses by just two points. Ufer's last game was a loss against Iowa 9 to 7 and Saturday's loss was to Utah 25 to 23. Fortunately, I along with his engineering friend from L.A.,Greg Oganowski, visited Ed at his home a little over a month ago. Close friend Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor, wife of the late CKLW news icon Byron MacGregor also saw Ed at a Windsor hospital just a few weeks ago. Ed, will be missed dearly but, his memory and the signal will go on forever.

 • • • • • • • • 

Speaking of Michigan Football did anyone hear the outrageously funny line uttered by Frank Beckmann when a questionable call failed to be overturned even after a video review. A stunned Beckmann said...."that was a terrible call...you would have to be blind or Brigham Young not to see that the ball popped out after he was down." Watching the games on TV, while listening to the radio broadcast, is still a far better experience than listening to the "supposedly" non-partisan national announcers. Beckmann and (Jim) Brandstatter, along with Doug Karsch on the field, do a superb job. Sadly synchronization between the picture and sound can be annoying. HD telecasts are delayed even more causing most people to hear the radio call 5 to 10 seconds prior to seeing the action on the screen.

While at the "pardon our dust" Big House in Ann Arbor, I was surprised to see a sign at the concession stands indicating that they accepted "BLUE BUCKS." I learned this is a type of credit card students are issued that can be used to purchase snacks at the stadium. Did anybody think about a sign at the U of M Football Stadium that included the word "BUCKS?" Isn't the biggest rival to Michigan the Ohio State Buckeyes? Isn't their battle cry "GO BUCKS?" Why not call it "Maize Money?" Some might feel the maize reference to be corny, but I think it's creative. Is there still room for creativity? I hope so.

 • • • • • • • • 

WOMC's Dick Purtan, along with his daughter, Channel 7's Joanne Purtan, did a great job on the local segments of the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon at My 20 TV on Labor Day. Viewers in southeast Michigan helped raise an incredible 1.7 million dollars. Interestingly, Dick topped 2 million for his favorite cause, the Salvation Army Bed & Breakfast Plan. Nationally, Jerry's kids will benefit from a staggering 65 million dollars raised across the country, and that was while Hurricane Gustav was beating up on the gulf coast.

 • • • • • • • • 

Late Sunday night when the situation in New Orleans was becoming very serious, I tuned to WWL-AM 870 on the Internet so I could feel connected to what was going on. It is amazing how you can dial up almost any big news-talk station anywhere when a major new story is happening in their area. When I was a kid, it was cool to spin the AM dial late at night and see what distant stations I could pull in. Now, with a computer, you can hear anything from nearly anywhere with no static, no fading in and out and probably clearer than you could even in the city from where it actually broadcasts! Very neat stuff...and just wait till the wireless Internet is available in cars. Yikes.

 • • • • • • • • 

Apologies for the low volume of local news, but things have been slow on the Detroit radio dial, and your humble radio reporter has been on the road and buzzing around the country on far too many airplanes of late. I have been to five major radio conventions thus far this year and there are still two more to go, but they are done in tandem. The National Association of Broadcasters Radio Show and the Radio & Records Convention have teamed up together for the NAB/R&R Combo which, this month, will be in Austin, TX, home of the always controversial Gregg Henson, who still secretly would probably want to return to the local Detroit radio dial.

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I'll be listening and learning and reporting to you in this space in the very near future.

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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.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioWith school back in session for a couple weeks now, it must be time to restart some media commentary here on Michiguide.com. Overall, summer radio news in Detroit was very slow- some of that no doubt is because of the change in the way the Arbitron plans on collecting ratings information, starting this fall. Instead of having listeners fill out diaries with pencil and paper, the company plans to move to what's been touted as better technology and have the information collected by portable people meters (essentially an electronic monitor that automatically collects and then reports radio listening with little effort from the person wearing the device). Once the first numbers with the new system start coming in, it might jumpstart some big changes ... depending of course on how much difference there is compared to the numbers gathered the old way.

The new system has come under criticism in the few markets it's been used in so far because of low response rates and differing opinions on how well the numbers accurately reflect listening to certain radio formats. So, I guess it shouldn't have been surprising to see most everyone play the waiting game this summer and into the fall.

 • • • • • • • • 

The Drew Lane rumor mill got fired up again this week with speculation that the former WRIF morning host might be returning to the Home of Rock 'N Roll ... but this time to an afternoon shift. Tongues have been wagging about what would happen to Rif afternoon drive legend Arthur Penhallow should Lane get the green light for a new program on WRIF.

I'd be very surprised if the plan was to move Penhallow away from where he's held court for decades without his blessing. If the rumors are true, and all indications are that there is something brewing between Lane and WRIF, my 2 cents is that a more likely scenario would be to reduce the air time for Penhallow and program director Doug Podell, who's got his hands full leading both Rif and sister station WCSX, in order to create a two or three hour window for Lane's show.

If these rumors become reality, it'll be very, very interesting to see what kind of program Lane will offer. It's hard to think that WRIF would drift away from music in the afternoon ... but then again, I said the same thing way back when the morning show first changed from J.J. and The Morning Crew and obviously having a talk program sure hasn't hurt the station at that time of the day. The risk of adding more talk is having someone else take on an active rock format to counter any additional hours of talk-focused programming in the afternoon on WRIF and lure away listeners that prefer music programming.

 • • • • • • • • 

Over the course of the summer, I had the opportunity to do quite a bit of traveling around Michigan and check out how the transition to digital broadcasting was progressing for TV stations. Our family owns a camper that has an amplified antenna and I brought along a small TV that receives DTV. I was very disappointed at how limited the DTV options were through much of the lower peninsula once away from metro Detroit and Grand Rapids. It was unusual to pull in digital companion stations for most of the analog broadcasts that could be received, even if only with fringe signals.

I'm aware that most of the state's TV stations are broadcasting with temporary DTV facilities that don't have the coverage area equal to their analog counterparts. That said, I find it very pretentious that people are being asked by the FCC and local TV stations to be ready for this conversion even though there isn't an opportunity to know if preparations are going to be successful or not after investing in new equipment. I've heard from various sources that even when the transition happens in February, there are going to be a lot of disappointed viewers in fringe areas that will find out they have lost reception of their favorite TV stations.

While homeowners might be able to invest in getting a bigger antenna or subscribe to a cable/satellite provider, those of us in RV's and folks with cabins up north may very well be left without usable television starting this winter. And because it seems that folks that are considered 'temporary' in nature aren't really sought after by either advertisers or the TV stations themselves, it's probably going to be hard to convince anyone to fix those probable reception problems once they are discovered. I hope I'm wrong and everything goes without a hitch... but after my experiences this summer, I'm not confident at all.

 • • • • • • • • 

This just in from the promotions department, Art Vuolo has finally finished his video of the second WLS Rewind from Chicago. WLS was the CKLW of the heartland, and last Memorial Day turned back the hands of time as the talk station returned to Music Radio 89 for one day and Art caught it all on videotape. You can actually see a 10 minute preview by going to www.wlsam.com or to YouTube. Search for "art vuolo", scroll down and you can watch a highly condensed version of the 2 1/2 hour video. You can order via www.vuolovideo.com on the "Reunions" page. It's some major radio history.

Speaking of "Radio's Best Friend," Art has just published his popular WJR Michigan State RADIOGUIDE after missing 2007 due to lack of sponsorship support. A number of clients were "looking at it" in '07, but time ran out before it could get printed. This fall, Flagstar Bank was the hero which makes the new RADIOGUIDE free for the listening public. It lists all of the AM and FM stations in Michigan and surrounding areas, and which ones carry MSU football. The schedule is also on the guide. They're available (while very limited supplies last) at most CVS Pharmacy's and some Flagstar Banks, which has the slogan "The New Wave in Banking." Perhaps it's radio waves, as this growing bank lends support to we radio fans. Since the 2006 edition there have been over 150 changes to stations statewide!

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Mike Austerman covered radio for the Oakland Press from September 2001 through April 2008 and can be reached at ontheradio@austerman.com or at PO Box 99392, Troy MI 48099.

 

By: Art Vuolo, Jr.

On The RadioYour seemingly always traveling radio reporter is finally done traveling. I've been to a plethora radio conventions, and this last one (or should I say last two) was a real eye-opener. In Austin, TX the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and Radio & Records (the leading radio trade publication) co-located their conventions in the Capital of Texas. The city's moniker is "Keep Austin Weird!" Some called it "Ann Arbor on steroids."

In past years each of these confabs was so big that they could only be held in major markets like: Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco. The first of these "combo-conventions" was also in a big city; Dallas and at a huge hotel...The Hilton Anatole, but in 2007 it moved to Charlotte, NC and this year to Austin, TX. The reason for locating in smaller cities, is that fewer and fewer people are going to these gatherings and it's a sad commentary. I spent nearly all of my time on the R&R side of the street in the Hilton Hotel with the shorts and T-shirts, while the "suites" from the NAB populated the Austin Convention Center across the street.

The attendance at BOTH conferences was noticeably off from previous years. That was a shame, because the sessions were very good and the rooms had a lot of empty chairs. One of the most popular events was a sort of convention within the convention called the Jacobs Media Summit hosted by Detroit-based Jacobs Media. Most of their sessions were standing room only. Congrats to Fred, Bill and Paul Jacobs for a job well done. As is the case at most of these gatherings, the number of broadcasters from the Detroit area was light.

WRIF was the big local winner again this year with Doug Podell getting program director of the year in the rock category. Mark Pennington got rock music director of the year and WRIF won top active rock station in markets 1 through 15. I asked WRIF PD Doug Podell if he came with an extra empty suitcase just to carry back all of the awards Detroit's Home of Rock & Roll always seems to win...and if he flew Southwest Airlines his bags would fly free. That alone is helping propel Southwest, especially among we in the broadcasting industry always looking for a bargain. In fact, after the Austin conventions I went to Albuquerque, NM for a whirlwind 46 hour visit. While at the ABQ airport checking my bags for my return trip last Monday, who do I see behind the Southwest ticket counter, but Mr. Gary Kelly, the President and CEO of the airline! He was there in just a sport shirt and slacks helping personnel getting baggage onto the belt. I was amazed. He is a very real person and a nice man who was extremely approachable. He is one of the primary reason's Southwest is a friendly and profitable company. If broadcasters would run radio stations for the people, in stead of the stockholders, perhaps the industry would be in better shape.

Back to the last two conventions of the year. The key "buzz word" this year was CONTENT. All people were talking about is the product that goes out over the air. Wow, what a concept. Hold the front page. That news is about as stunning as the news that Clay Aiken is gay. Ever since Ellen DeGeneres nobody cares. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the NAB's Marconi Awards (radio's Oscar's) which was hosted by TV (and now radio) star Billy Bush, who was surprisingly good. At my table were WLAV-FM Grand Rapids PD Rob Brandt and longtime afternoon drive personality, Tony Gates, the only two nominees from Michigan, and BOTH walked away with Marconi Awards! What a special night and huge kudos to Rob and Tony most deserving recipients.

One of the more interesting sessions centered on the fact that radio is getting FAR more visual. One panelist said "it used to be that radio stations had a web site...now web sites have a radio station." This is to say that if a radio station lacks lots of photos and streaming video on their site, it will not generate the type of traffic Internet advertisers crave. It was suggested that all radio station employees and especially the air talent should have some sort of digital video camera. More and more programs will be web-cast so listeners can see "behind the curtain." Most people feel that Don Imus and Howard Stern were the innovators of this technology, but actually legendary talk radio personality Joey Reynolds at New York's WOR Network was doing an overnight radio show on 50,000 watt KOA (AM 850) in Denver back in 1982 while it was also being simulcast LIVE on KOA-TV Channel 4! That was over 25 years ago.

The Bob & Tom Show, heard everywhere in Michigan, except in the Detroit area, is next to make the jump to TV via Tribune Broadcasting in Chicago. It's primarily, the concept of Sean Compton, former "boy wonder" at Clear Channel corporate in San Antonio, who has segued to WGN America, the super-station from The Windy City. Compton, like myself, is a fan of the syndicated morning show that showcases more comedians than any other in the nation, and it will be videotaped with multiple cameras each morning. It will then be edited into a one hour "Best Of" which will air at midnight EDT on WGN-TV which is available on most cable systems and satellite TV. It will premier on November 3rd, the day before the presidential election.

Often I wonder why some of these really entertaining shows are not available on our local AM and FM dial, but I must admit that I am listening to more Detroit area stations than ever. I have both Sirius and XM at home and XM in the car, but of late, I feel that a number of local stations are sounding better than ever. I do wish WOMC, Oldies 104.3 would team up Jo-Jo Shutty MacGregor with Ted "The Bear" Richards for traffic reports like she did during the Woodward Dream Cruise. I also wish WJR would provide a platform for Paul W. Smith so that he could exercise his personality more. Paul is actually a very funny guy, but needs guests who can bring out his excellent sense of humor.

Oddly enough the over-all picture painted by the NAB Convention is that although radio needs change and up-dating, things are not really all that bad. At the R&R topics were far more realistic. The miserable economy is greatly affecting what you hear on the air these days. HD Radio is suffering because broadcasters do not have enough money too adequately program their primary channel, so how are they expected to properly program these "secondary" signals which are available to a still very limited audience? Life, and everything in it, including your favorite stations, is like comedy....timing is everything!

 • • • • • • • • 

The journalistic community is still reeling from the news out of Chicago at Sun-Times Radio & TV columnist Robert Feder (Feeder) is leaving the paper in the coming weeks (after 28 years) to explore other opportunities. Feder was to Chicago what John Smyntek is to the Free Press. Interestingly, Smynty is also taking advantage of what is basically a "buyout" from the paper. If the Freep is looking for someone to take over the radio news, I can think of two people who will work for less than one.

 • • • • • • • • 

Lastly, it's nice to hear that former WOMC midday host Dana Lundon-Masucci is back on the air; she's now doing weekends with pop WDVD 96.3.

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As the leaves change in the coming weeks so will the radio dial, and Mike and I will try to keep you up to date with it all.

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

 

Commentary By: Art Vuolo, Jr.

On The RadioIt is not a secret that my longtime moniker "Radio's Best Friend" was in serious, or should I say Sirius jeopardy in recent years due to my love of and support of satellite radio. But, now I have to tell the truth.

This one is kinda personal for me because I helped several people get jobs at XM Satellite Radio about eight years ago. I was against the merger between XM and Sirius at first, but the more I thought about it, and I have both, the more I felt that a combination of the best talent and content of both combined into one might make for a spectacular package for listeners nationwide. I forgot to factor into the equation that a sick economy and lack of funds might prevent that dream from becoming a reality, and that is almost as sad as the extreme cut-backs which cost nearly 80 staffers at (mostly) XM to be without a job. That is also not setting well with many XM subscribers.

Mel KarmazinFirst, allow me to clarify the financial situation by borrowing these words from noted radio consultant and former 97.1 FM PD (in the K-Rock days) John Gorman in Cleveland. He points out that Sirius XM satellite radio CEO Mel Karmazin got his merger through the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission, but he may have to cut a Faustian bargain to keep Wall Street on his side. Either that or Mel knows something we mere mortals don't.

Mel was being Mel in his keynote interview at the Dow Jones and Nielsen-sponsored Media & Money conference in New York earlier this week. "We're probably one of the top 25 media companies today," said Mel of the Sirius-XM merger. "I think it's very clear that we will be the most successful company in the audio entertainment industry. I know certainly, as ranked by revenue, we'll be there soon. Now we just need to grow our free cash flow and demonstrate that."

Last month Mel told Wall Street that Sirius-XM will be down $350 million this year on revenue of $2.4 billion. Sirius-XM is saddled with $2.1 billion in debt. $1.1 billion of it has to be refinanced in 2009 and $300 million comes due in February. Just ask the stock market how the $700 billion bailout is helping it out. So how does Mel get his money? Reverse psychology. Faust? Luck? Hubris? All of the above? Try Mel Math and the automotive industry. Gorman hit the nail on the head with the dollars and (does it make) sense portion of the program.

The reason I like satellite radio is that it provides programming that is no longer available on regular terrestrial or free over-the-air radio. Since the almighty dollar controls all forms of media more so than ever before, it is no longer economically feasible to program for or appeal to an audience over the age of 55. That leaves me out and a lot of other people too.

Regardless what you may have read about this being a "merger" between Sirius and XM, believe me when I tell you that it is much more reminiscent of a (hostile) take over. XM has been over-taken by Sirius. Interestingly Sirius entered the market six months after XM and had consistently lagged behind XM in its number of subscribers, although the gap had narrowed in recent months. It reminded me of when relatively tiny Capital Cities (which once owned WJR) swallowed up ABC. News of that "merger" made the monologue on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson back in 1985.

Well during this past week, and in the days ahead, it has finally reached the boiling point as a ton of blood began to flow out of the front door of XM's headquarters in Washington, DC. Sadly some of that blood came from many people who I know personally. Several of them are people whom I was directly or indirectly responsible for getting hired nearly a decade ago. What troubles me is the "business" portion of the radio business often overlooks to real reason why those of us who pay for radio do so.

The new "buzz word" in radio is the Portable People Meter (PPM) method of measuring audience and calculating the ratings of stations. Well, in satellite radio PPM could stand for the three most important factors; Personalities, Programming and Music. It's that first one that the "bean-counters" don't seem to care about, nor do they realize the power of the people, who are able to directly express their displeasure with their credit cards and checkbook.

A couple of weeks ago a couple of high-profile programmers were let go; Steve Kingston at XM and Scott Lindy (Senior VP of Country) at Sirius. That was a red flag to me and signaled the start of some additional painful cuts to come. Last Tuesday word began to leak out that numerous employees were going to be "laid off" in order to cut costs. The only problem was seemingly no one realized that some personalities should be retained in order to also retain listeners, a.k.a. subscribers. That's how they make the bulk of their revenue. Spots on satellite radio are limited to certain channels, mostly talk, news and sports rather than music venues which are primarily commercial-free.

Most of the casualties have come from the XM side of the room. Some of the familiar names of XM listeners who have either left the building or are on their way out include; Decades Channel Senior PD Kurt Gilcrest,(known on the 70's channel as HR), '50s Channel PD Ken Smith, '50s Channel Music Director Matt The Cat, '60s Channel PD Pat Clarke, '80s Channel MD/PM driver Kandy Klutch, Cross-Country PD Jessie Scott, Cafe PD Bill Evans and Soul Street PD Bobby Bennett. Other casualties include George Taylor Morris of Deep Tracks, John Clay of the '70s-On-7, Billy Zero and Tobi from XMU, Ethel's Erik Range and Fred's Rick Lambert, the alternative Lucy Channel's Bill Hutton. Also Soul Street MD Leigh Hamilton, Raw's Mz Kitti, Viva's Karla Rodriguez, The City's DJ Xclusive and Lisa Ivery.

Tom Taylor, from Internet trade Radio-Info.com said "notice that these people are all from the music-based services, the ones that Sirius XM can't sell spots on. Will Mel combine the similar XM and Sirius music lineups after November 5?" Taylor says "that would be directly in opposition to [his] repeated and vehement promises to keep the two voices separate and distinct for some time to come. But, Mel must find big cost savings. The terminated employees "found out in the worst possible way: one worker routinely signed onto the company's payroll system and saw that his final day of employment was listed as October 15. Word spread like a virus through the building." Damage control went into high gear, but the damage was already done.

Many of the names listed above will be missed, but three in particular could result in significant protests from the satcasters audience. Ken Smith and Matt (the Cat) Baldassarri were veterans from day one at XM's 50's on 5 channel. They were both enormously popular. Ken Smith played the music when they were current hits and always signed off with "I know...I was there." Matt is a young man in his early 30's with an amazing encyclopedic knowledge of 1950's early rock & roll music. He had just gotten married and upon returning from his honeymoon, received the word of his termination and proceeded to flawlessly do his final show last Wednesday. No over-the-air oldies stations play any 50's music. These guys will be missed.

The third fatality could cause the biggest "ripple effect" of all. It's Michigan-native and former Detroit and Toledo broadcaster Country Dan Dixon. Locally he worked at WDEE-AM (1500), CKLW-FM (93.9) and WCXI-AM (1130). After a dozen years down in Toledo at WTOD-AM (1560) and WKKO-FM (K-100 99.9) he was just what the doctor ordered for XM's classic country station known as XM 10 "America."

Dan has built up a huge following among the truckers across the nation as he does his show live each night from 8 p.m. till midnight, taking phoned requests and calling the truck drivers by their cleaver names known as "handles." Routinely you will hear him proclaim "this one's goin' out to moon-doggie from big mama as she's rollin' with us from Tucson to Tallahassee." He just got an e-mail from a listener who wasn't aware of his eminent departure who said, "I just want to say thanks so much for makin' my evenings a delight to work. I love kicking back and hitting the big road and listening to your tunes in the evening, so relaxing, a great way to end the day. Home is in central PA when I'm there. Been driving 28 years and you and XM are the best thing since I started. Thanks to you and all involved. God bless, Larry."

A listener here in Michigan who just learned of all these changes said "as of November 6th, this family will be doing a "CANCEL" of all our XM Radios...4 to be exact." One female trucker sent in an e-mail stating, "Why in the world are you canceling Country Dan ?? He is the truckers friend and thousands listen to him every week night....we all love him and respect him. Please don't cancel his show I got other friends that listen to him too and they are gonna complain about this. I knew when this merger happened we would lose some shows but geez why not some channels no one listens to? Why Country Dan?? Sandra."

You can offer your support to Dan, and Ken and Matt and others via e-mail. Dan's special e-mail address is: countrydandixon@aol.com, Ken Smith is at ken.smith@xmradio.com and Matt can now be reached via mattthecat@mattthecat.com.

At least someone had enough intelligence to retain two of the most popular personalities on the 60's channel, the creative and human road atlas, Phlash Phelps and high-energy fast talking Terry "Motor Mouth" Young. If they had been cut, the possible drop in subscriptions could have been catastrophic.

The one thing the combined Sirius XM needs is more subscribers. If the dismissal of "key" personalities, who are very popular. results in a noticeable loss of audience, CEO Mel Karmazin won't just be saying prayers, he'll be making novena's (that would be a LOT of prayers.) He must also be thinking about the 500 million dollars that his friend Howard Stern has cost Sirius. Stern is certainly a radio star, but is anyone worth that kind of money?

Insiders have indicated that the last day for jocks, who care to stay till the bitter end, will wrap-up in a couple of weeks, as the "new" combined music channels are expected to premier on Wednesday November 5th.

As a final example, let's look at the popular 60's channel. XM called it Sixties on 6 and Sirius calls theirs Sixties Vibrations. The question becomes will the two "survivor" jocks from XM, Phlash and Terry, be joined with the two marquee names from Sirius? They are Pat St. John and Jim Kerr, both of whom are Detroit area natives! Pat worked at CKLW right out of Southfield High School 's WSHJ-FM (88.3) and Jim Kerr worked in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Howell's WHMI as well as a short stint under the name of Robin Stone at WKNR in it's final days. Both have been on New York City radio for more than 30 years! If all four make up the "new" 60's channel, it should be really great. This is the type of consolidation I was hoping the merged company would generate.

Someone needs to tell the people in the front offices that they need to start thinking about the listeners, the audience, the fans the people who pay the money. Interesting that the final day of this purging is also Election Day since all satellite radio subscribers can also vote, with their wallet.

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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.

 

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

The thing we seem to talk about the most here on Michiguide.com is something we dislike the most and that's CHANGE. However, while the local terrestrial radio scene has been holding somewhat stable of late, the major alterations are coming in the next few days on the radio dial that you have to pay for, and that's the newly combined Sirius XM....and it ain't pretty.

Last month I spoke about how many people, once employed by the two companies, are now in one of the world's longest bread-lines. I find it amazing that a radio service, which unlike free over-the-air broadcasting, is willing to take the risk of losing customers due to what is always termed "business decisions." I recall when Tom Bender of Great Media here in Detroit switched classical WQRS-FM (105.1) to alternative rock WXDG-FM (The Edge). It angered many up-scale listeners who loved the classical fare, but Bender called it "a business decision," and it was. They needed to make more money than the classical format was generating...but the rock didn't work. For those with a good memory the morning show on The Edge was Spike and Sara who enjoyed much more success with MoJo in the Morning on Channel 955, WKQI. Spike is still there, Sara is now with Jay Towers and Bill McAllister at The Ticket, sports WXYT-FM (97.1). Sara's exit from WKQI too was a "business decision." The 105.1 frequency also tried "groovin' oldies" a black gold format as WGRV and that didn't work either. Today, it's WMGC and they finally found "The Magic." It takes a lot of time and patience for radio formats to take hold and actually work. These are two elements that are in short supply by both the listeners and broadcasting executives.

On or around November 15th, if you subscribe to either XM or Sirius, you can expect a lot of changes on your satellite radio dial. Many of your favorites will no longer be there, and even more likely, as we discussed last time, many of the on-air personalities will be gone. Most of you who read things on this site know the term "voice tracking" which is a means of knocking out a six hour radio show in about 30 or 40 minutes and having a computer put it all together as it is broadcasted. Many of the shows you hear, other than on talk radio, are tracked...especially on the weekend. Higher-priced air talent do not want to work weekends, so it's mostly all pre-recorded.

The thing that I have a big problem with, in radio, is why the most popular people are often sacrificed in the interest of the bottom line. The satcaster managers seem to be obsessed with "big names" even if they are not radio broadcasters. Oprah Winfrey, Derek Jeter, Bob Dylan, and Martha Stewart all THINK they can do radio. Bill O'Reilly is another one, along with Dennis Miller, who thought he could do the wireless act. O'Reilly called his show the Radio Factor. Well, now Bill is calling it quits on radio. He will, however, continue his Fox News Channel TV show. Dennis Miller is on deck. Steve Martin said it years ago, "comedy ain't pretty" and I'll say it now, "radio ain't easy," especially GOOD radio.

We are blessed with a couple of excellent stations for news and talk listeners via WJR-AM (760) and WWJ-AM (950). Add to that mix 700 WLW in Cincinnati, arguably the best programmed news-talk station in the country...known now, as it once was 60 years ago, as "The Nation's Station" when it operated at a staggering 500,000 watts! It's been available on XM Channel 173, but not for much longer. The powers-to-be at Clear Channel, who owns "The Big One," will take it off satellite radio because they can make more money with other programming that they can sell advertising on.

One of the big draws to XM and Sirius was commercial-free music and entertainment. With Mel Karmazin at the helm, a natural-born salesman, I can guarantee you will hear more and more advertising on the pay radio channels.

What perplexes me the most is why they continue to pay Howard Stern $500 million and now they have just lured "Mad Dog" Russo away from sports WFAN in New York for well over a million bucks! Who, outside of New York, even knows who Russo is? But, since most of the ad dollars are placed out of agencies in Manhattan, Karmazin feels it was a good move. Think how many salaries could be paid with the money they've allotted to just one person. It's insane.

Since my last rant, the backlash has really boomed. Over 1,000 truckers have signed a petition to keep Country Dan Dixon, an Ann Arbor native, on the air. His last show is scheduled for November 14th on XM 10 America. That channel is (most likely) going away and will be re-assigned to another format. There's even a slick "Save Country Dan" web site and e-mails and letters are pouring in, but sadly management doesn't seem to care.

Matt the Cat, from the XM 50's channel is overwhelmed with the level of support he's been receiving. The jocks on the "new" 50's channel will probably be 100% voice-tracked by big names who have other jobs and do this for "extra money," since it's not a full-time job. Now, we just learned that Sirius has dumped the Doo Wop show on Wednesday nights hosted by T. J. Lubinsky. He produces all of the Doo Wop TV specials on PBS that originate at WQED-TV in Pittsburgh. His final show was peppered with callers from all over the country devastated by the news of his cancellation.

The only beautiful music/easy listening station available anywhere is XM's Channel 78 known as "Escape." It started as Channel 24 under the name "Sunny" and fortunately it has been saved, but will be moving from 78 down to Channel 28, currently known as "On Broadway," a channel that will probably be gone. So will dozens, if not thousands of satellite radio subscribers who are feeling as though no one in the front office seems to care about what we want to hear.

Quick Hits: Murray Gula, the home improvement guru from WXYZ-TV Channel 7 may be back on local radio again soon. When we know, you'll know ... Conservative talk radio hosts are delighted that Barack Obama won the White House, since it will afford them four years of material they wouldn't have had with a Republican as the president ... If my math is right, Dick Purtan's contract with WOMC is up for renewal on December 1st. If not, I'll be embarrassed, but I will get over it.

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

 

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

He truly charged the face of Top 40 radio in the 1960's, when he decided that teens would rather hear "much more music" rather than lots of DJ chatter. Personally I thought he was killing "personality radio" which today is available primarily in morning drive or on talk stations....period.

His real name was Philip T. Yarbrough, but when he worked in Atlanta on WAKE, he chose the name Bill Drake to rhyme with the station's call letters. He really did represent myth and reality--a mix of rumors, contradictions and power. He lived 71 years and passed away last Saturday, November 29th of lung cancer in Los Angeles. Ironically, legendary radio local radio personality Tom Clay, who worked at CKLW prior to the "Drake format" when it was The Big 8, also died on the exact same day, the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, but that was back in 1995. It was a bad year for local losses. In 1995 we lost; Byron MacGregor (CKLW-WWJ-WLLZ) in January, Nick Arama (WOMC) in April, Fat Bob Taylor "The Singing Plumber" (WJR) in July, J. P. McCarthy (WJR) in August and Tom Clay (CKLW-W4) in November.

Another strange twist to this story is that two of the jocks out in Los Angeles who were popularized by Drake and his "shut up and play the hits" format were Robert W. Morgan and The Real Don Steele, both of whom also died of lung cancer within a year of each other. Steele died August 5, 1997 and Morgan on May 22, 1998. Morgan's old shift today is handled by Gary Bryan and Steele has been succeeded by Shotgun Tom Kelly. Kelly always says that he succeeded Don because nobody can "replace" the Real Don Steele.

In early September 2004, L.A. oldies station K-Earth 101 (KRTH-FM) broadcast the legendary documentary "The History of Rock and Roll" with a rare interview with Bill Drake, in which he spoke of the importance of that famous radio format named "Boss Radio" which he developed at KHJ-AM back in 1965, "There were some people who thought they were quote 'personalities.' If somebody was a 'personality,' we said fine. Robert W. Morgan certainly was, as was The Real Don Steele. The thing is: Even they [Morgan and Steele] didn't have something to say every time. And they learned that. Do it when you got it and keep your mouth shut otherwise, and keep the forward momentum going. People tune in to hear the music."

In 2006, Drake said "The REAL key to radio programming, is what you DON'T play...Anybody can come up with a list of songs to play...those lists are everywhere...What to leave IN and what to leave OUT is the REAL secret...and few people have that gift." Those words are true to this day. He was called an "all-business bachelor" by Time magazine in 1968, and his power and influence was the subject of many trade magazines and the mainstream media.

It was often written that Bill Drake was the most powerful man in American radio. He was also the most powerful figure in American popular music. Record companies all depend on 'air play' to make their wares into hits. Drake said that he didn't play favorites...he programmed only records that the public wanted and that fit into his format.

The "real" Bill Drake--was a very tall, well-groomed, polite, Southern gentleman, unlike his well-crafted corporate persona. He played up his image as a "rock and roll radio recluse" with a telephone at his side which he used to place calls to the radio stations he consulted. At the radio stations, whenever the "hot line" lit up, it could strike fear into the hearts and souls of the employees who wondered, "What if that's Bill Drake calling me?" At many stations, that type of fear still prevails when the hot-line strobe light flashes!

Some people compared Bill Drake as the Howard Hughes of radio, powerful, strange, talented, hard-to-read, a bit eclectic and certainly mysterious. It was his tight format that made CKLW a North America radio dynasty back in 1967. We have lost many of the great programmers who made radio a hard to top entertainment medium.

Often I have wondered what some of these people, who were so good at what they did many years ago, would do today. Would their techniques work, would the ratings be as high, would the buzz on the street be as loud? Probably not. The world has changed radically. As the lyrics once stated "not even the song has remained the same."

Whether you agreed with what Bill Drake did for the Top 40 music radio scene or not, one cannot deny his impact on this business, which today, could certainly stand an injection of fresh new blood and creative ideas. Regardless what the future holds, one thing is certain, as Bill Drake would say....."Ladies and Gentlemen....the beat goes on!"

 

On the Radio: Seasonal Changes

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Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

On The RadioBefore the year is out, I wanted to have at least one last opportunity to share a few thoughts with you and what has happened to the medium we all have loved so much...for so long. I feel the use of the word medium is also appropriate because radio these days seems to be "medium"....and it's seemingly RARE when it's actually WELL-DONE or done well. Okay enough with the steak metaphors, but seriously, it seems as though the people who are least important to the broadcasters of the new millennium are its listeners.

The year is ending on a sad note as across the country, and especially here in SE Michigan, names we know and love have either died or have been (figuratively) killed off by bean-counting management teams who feel, in order to save their own jobs, they must do whatever it takes to adjust "the bottom line." I know this seems like old news, but the problem has become worse as we approach 2009.

Who of us wasn't stunned at the dismissal of J.J. and Lynne at WCSX. The ratings had slipped a bit but, look at all of the good things they have done raising money for charitable causes, not to mention their super on-air chemistry and the longevity that the duo had on the Detroit airwaves. Yet, they were pulled off the air without a chance to say goodbye. Jeff Deminski, of the popular Deminski and Doyle show knows, first hand, how that feels. He, and partner Bill Doyle were yanked off the former WKRK-FM (97.1) with one week remaining on their contract. Did the CBS Radio management feel that they were going to trash-talk the company? These guys are professional broadcasters not vindictive school kids.

Reports say that D&D suggested to management that Jim Johnson and Lynne Woodison not be "left in the dark" and be allowed to do a farewell show. Time will tell if that happens. Meantime tune to WCSX-FM New Years Eve, because at the stroke of midnight the one-year "gag-order" for D&D will expire and they'll be on the air for an early welcome back before they kick off their regular show on Monday, January 5th!

On The RadioOn the heels of the morning show changes at Classic Rock 94.7, CBS Radio is not to be outdone in the pink-slip department. As Mike Austerman recently reported, it appears that at least two longtime and well-known personalities have been let go at Detroit's country leader WYCD-FM (99.5) and oldies WOMC-FM (104.3). Creative & Production Director Ron Tavernit is no longer with WOMC. Ron T, as he was widely known, had been with the station 15 years, and wore many different hats at the 200,000 watt powerhouse like: public affairs director, public service director, the go-to-guy for swing shifts and first choice to fill-in for market legend Dick Purtan. He also covered morning news when Dana Mills was absent. Big Al from the morning show once called him "the Tom Brookens of radio." Brookens played every position for the Detroit Tigers. Ron did not see this one coming and was surprised by the move, especially at this time of the year. Upon exiting the building, he e-mailed all staffers telling them "the door has closed for me, but it opens for someone else." Ron T. is a class act, and personally I hope his "on the beach" time is minimal.

On The RadioEven country music listeners, traditionally the most loyal of radio listeners, were not spared as additional budget cuts forced the dismissal of talented WYCD evening host Jyl Forsyth. She had been with 'YCD since July, 1992 when 99.5 launched what it called, at that time, Young Country. Many people still refer to WYCD by that name, since it was so heavily branded with that moniker. Jyl was a bright light in the night and will surely be missed by her legions of fans. Perhaps she can out-FOX her former employer. Meanwhile you can reach out to her with good wishes and comments at jylforsyth@yahoo.com.

In a related story, Country Dan Dixon, who we have written about in recent weeks might be closer to regaining his job at (what is now) Sirius XM. The Ann Arbor native, who worked at five separate Detroit area country stations, was cut from Classic Country XM Channel 10 about a month ago. Interestingly a woman in Muncie, IN who spear-headed a campaign to get Dixon back on the air, received a call from Sirius XM CEO Mel Karmazin! She has also received two additional calls from the "big guy" regarding their petition which now has well over 4,300 names on it from long-haul truckers who have threatened to cancel their satellite radio subscriptions if Country Dan is not re-instated. Not surprising, Karmazin knew nothing about this situation, but the thought of losing all the revenue that 4,000 plus subscribers brings in certainly DID get his attention. Now, let's see if these efforts are successful in bringing the popular radio personality back to one of the country channels at Sirius XM.

In a conscience attempt to balance all the bad news with something a bit more positive, and In support of General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford, CBS owned WXYT AM (1270) known as The Ticket, dropped the simulcast of sports WXYT-FM (97.1) this past weekend and aired "Stand Up and Be Proud", with messages of support for automakers from civic, community, and business leaders. Other CBS stations, which include; oldies WOMC, smooth Jazz WVMV-FM 98.7, WYCD, and news WWJ AM 950 as well as WXYT-FM, are also joining in by airing these messages. According to CBS Radio Market Manager Deb Kenyon, "Detroit and the surrounding areas have so much to be proud of and thankful for. The CBS Detroit radio stations launched the 'Stand Up and Be Proud' campaign to salute and recognize all of the positive achievements in our region." It reminds me of that Channel 7 campaign from years ago "Stand Up and Tell 'em You're From Detroit!"

Speaking of WXYZ-TV, former radio host and Mr. Fix It, Murray Gula continues his Thursday noon-time web-cast at www.wxyz.com but, has now launched an exciting new site himself to help people with their home repair challenges. The new web site is www.whocanbuildit.com where anyone can list their job project(s) and have a carefully screened contractor or supplier bid for the work, so it gets done right, the first time! Gula is planning to get back on the radio after the first of the year.

At the top of this column I mentioned that we are losing a lot of great talents. During 2008, we said goodbye to longtime engineering genius Ed Buterbaugh from both CKLW and WJR. Bill Drake, the master-mind programmer behind the success of CKLW when it was The Big 8, also lost his battle with cancer in recent weeks. A personal loss for me was my friend Andrew Ashwood, who worked in Detroit back in 1982 as B. J. Hunter at WABX, rising through the ranks from his college days in Albion, Michigan to the head of Fox Sports Radio in Los Angeles. Cancer took him at just 51. Each of these people were profiled in previous On The Radio columns in recent months.

There seems to be a trend around the nation in radio that talent, especially high profile talent, who often command higher paychecks are suddenly expendable, and we wonder why the audience is becoming disenchanted with radio. I find that since that marvelous invention the Digital Video Recorder (DVR) came into my home I record all my TV viewing for playback at a more convenient time and, like so many others, zip past the commercials. The only TV I watch live is the news. Radio is usually not recorded for playback at a more agreeable time, but much of programming is. A large percentage of the DJ's on music stations are not really there. Their voices are encased in a computer that makes it all sound live and local, but until some (God-forbid) catastrophe occurs during a voice-tracked day-part, nothing is going to change. Especially in these economically challenged times, money talks and jocks walk. Chicago icon Steve Dahl, once at WABX and WKRK here in Detroit, became a super star in Chicago but has been pulled off the air because his ratings dropped. He was the only talk host on a Doug-FM style music station. Eddie & Jo-Bo got broomed after nearly two decades at Chicago's B-96 and John Lander was not renewed at Boston's WBMX after 16 years of waking up Bean Town. But, hey it's Christmastime and a new year is ahead, so let's hope to God that things will improve and the medium we all love so much will be well-done right! Stay tuned.

 

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