On The Radio Columns: June 2008 Archives

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.

 

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About this Archive

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

On The Radio Columns: May 2008 is the previous archive.

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

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