Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.
It would be difficult to recall a time when so many people were talking about radio, but lately the listeners have been very vocal about what's been going across the dial. Years ago I stated that there was once a question people would ask, "Honey, can I change the station?" Now the station changes for you. The worst part is that it's being done by "corporate decision makers" and without any concern for you, the listener. They don't care. The giant companies which control nearly all of the major market stations across America care only about the profit and loss columns. Period.
Much has been written about the Drew & Mike departure from Detroit's Home of Rock and Roll...WRIF. A lot of it has been speculation and perhaps my thoughts will be as well, but I hope that my words will at least resemble the truth..
Those of you who read my rants, know that I've always said that the answer to ALL questions regarding the goings on of the radio business is MONEY. It's always about the money. Drew & Mike were very popular on The Riff, but they were also expensive. Steve Kosbeau was the general manager of WDVD and WDRQ (Doug-FM) and probably saw the writing on the wall when Cumulus Media took over Citadel Communications, the previous owner of the stations in the Fisher Building. So he assumed a similar position at Greater Media of Detroit, which owns WRIF, as well as WCSX (94.7) and WMGC (105.1) the later of which has seemingly lost its identity after the departure of Jim Harper. The Magic name was dropped and so has its audience. While WCSX maintains a solid presence as Detroit's classic rocker with longtime market fixture Ken Calvert as its morning anchor, WMGC has not. The morning show at 105.1 is hosted by the very talented Chris Edmonds, but you'd have to listen closely to even realize that since its highly restrictive format only permits his speaking about four times an hour. Sad.
Kosbeau was recently replaced by a new boss, Steve Chessare who was brought in from New York. His job is to increase the R&R (ratings and revenue) and the best way to do both is by trimming expenses. Upon reviewing the books and history of the Greater Media trio of stations locally he probably saw that the largest salaries were going to WRIF's Drew & Mike, and before his arrival, Magic's Jim Harper. Well, Harper "retired" in December of 2011 saving a lot of money, but at what cost? That station is pretty much a non-entity at this point. It's running cheap, but who is listening?
It does not take a legal mind to ascertain which large paycheck would be the next one to trim....the boys at Riff. Add to the fact that after 22 years, they (and their audience) was getting older and things starting looking grim. The same could be said of The Bob & Tom Show syndicated nationally from Clear Channel flagship WFBQ in Indianapolis. The youngest member of that show is over 50. They still attract a large audience, are still funny have won more Marconi Awards (Radio's Oscar) than any morning show in America. But, aside from the awards, the same can be said of Drew & Mike.
Steve Chessare's job is to improve the bottom line. Although management was being very reluctant until this afternoon to confirm the reports that former 89X morning jocks Dave and Chuck the Freak would soon occupy the morning shift at WRIF, they have finally made official what had to be the worst kept secret in local radio. The new show starts the day after Memorial Day, Tuesday May 28th.
It's also been said that you never want to be the person(s) who follows a legend. Just ask Paul W. Smith. Even though he had nearly a full year of Jimmy Barrett filling in after the passing of JP McCarthy, he still fights for acceptance as the heir to the WJR AM drive throne. Today, Smith is doing very well, as is Jimmy Barrett at Richmond's 50,000 watt powerhouse WRVA (1140).
Remember Deminski & Doyle at 97.1 FM? They didn't mesh well with the change to sports and the relocation to mornings from an excellent and lengthy run in afternoons. After a failed attempt at WCSX and sitting out about two years of not working, they jumped at an opportunity to return to New Jersey 101.5. That's the same station they came here from about 13 years ago. So, I guess you can go home again after all. Interestingly for a whole year they fielded calls that began with "Welcome back guys!"
So the speculation is running wild as to where Drew Lane, Mike Clark, and Trudi Daniels, will wind up. Will they have to remain off the air for the traditional six months before another station can hire them? Not sure. Theories that WCSX or WMGC will pick them up are slim to none. Companies don't let people go and then re-hire them for another job within the same building. Yet, it's rare to let radio talent do a final week on the air and host a final show as well. I was able to be in-studio with my HD camcorder for their final show, but management had me leave prior to the actual sign-off. Bummer.
Let me finish with my feeling as to what could happen to the ousted Riff crew. Out in San Diego there was a similar high-priced popular morning show known as DSC (Dave, Shelly & Chainsaw) at KGB-FM (101.5) close frequency too. In a similar fashion, their contract was not renewed (mostly over money) imagine that. The show was in limbo from January 2012 through August. KFMB AM-FM-TV (another rare combination) picked up the trio for KFMB-FM, known these days as Jack-FM. It's a station very similar to Detroit's WDRQ-FM (93.1) known as "Doug-FM." Ironically KFMB-AM is at 760. Do you see a pattern here? WDRQ's AM sister station is WJR. A shift to 93.1 would not displace any existing morning show since the entire station runs out of a hard-drive in a computer. The station already has a spacious hardly used studio, right next to sister FM station WDVD-FM (96.3) which hasn't been used since Jay Towers hosted the WDRQ morning show over six years ago. It seems so logical that it will probably never happen, but we can hope..
Finally, in switching gears, I want to drop in a shameless plug for a new toy that I acquired about three months ago called a Sling-Box. If you don't know what it is, let me give it to you in a few simple sentences. With this device you can, on your tablet or smart phone watch anything on your Digital Video Recorder (DVR) in your home, anywhere in the world. All you need is an Internet Wi-Fi connection! While recently out in the Las Vegas area visiting my folks, there I was at their kitchen table with my iPad watching, in HD the news on Local 4 Detroit crystal-clear in real time with incredible video quality. It even works in an airplane, but not in the HD mode. Even if you don't travel extensively, it gives you great control because you can record or playback anything in your home DVR from anywhere. The unit costs $299, but there is a $149 version too and no monthly subscription. On the west coast I could watch my favorite DJ's on Fox 2's Dish Nation at 9 pm without having to wait till midnight. Ain't technology grand? Happy Summertime!
Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org