On The Radio Columns: January 2008 Archives

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”?







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This page is a archive of entries in the On The Radio Columns category from January 2008.

On The Radio Columns: February 2008 is the next archive.

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