Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.
The GOOD: It took a little adjusting of the format back to its adult contemporary roots to prompt Clear Channel to see the light, but today (11-07-13) local Detroit area VP of programming, Tony Travatto flipped the identity of 100.3 FM from "Fresh" back to 100.3 WNIC at the same time the station launched its annual All-Christmas marathon. Changing back to the name that most listeners still used anyhow was a brilliant move! Tony is among the best in this business and it's nice (no pun intended) to see the company let him actually do his job.
It was not that long ago that we got together for lunch and I remarked that nobody knows the name "Fresh." Most people think it's a description of Subway sandwiches or the Markets at Meijer. Everyone knows 100.3/WNIC which easily flows off the lips as well. So, my hat is off to Tony and his staff.
The BAD: Speaking of cut-throat, I know it's no big secret that the AM talk station that I feel is the best in America is the one also known as "The Nation's Station" and that is 700 WLW from down in Cincinnati. Well the man who set up that format of original and local news and talk programming has been let go. His name is Darryl Parks. Those of you who have driven down I-75 to Florida have perhaps noticed the huge diamond-shaped 900 foot tower off to the east in Mason, OH just north of Cincinnati and tuned in the station known as "The Big One."
For 11 years WLW was programmed by Parks who finally got frustrated by the direction that Clear Channel wanted to take the station that he resigned. Afraid that he might sign up with a competitive company, CC-VP Tom Ownes (originally from Cincy) resurrected a position that had been eliminated to keep Parks on board; VP of News-Talk Stations for all of Clear Channel. That is a job that had previously been held by industry vet Gabe Hobbs at WFLA in Tampa.
Everything was good until, as is the case each year, the holidays are coming and so are the cut-backs at Clear Channel. Someone with a Scrooge-like attitude at the company seems to feel it's best to cut jobs before the year ends and just ahead of the Holiday Season...and that leads us to...
The UGLY: Find me a city where an AM station still maintains double-digit ratings. They are very rare and yet 700 WLW is there! Gabe Hobbs, who has a very keen insight on the news-talk format, said "WLW has the best talent in the world (even better than KFI) but they DO need to be managed."
KFI in Los Angeles, WIOD in Miami and WTAM in Cleveland are all good CC news-talk stations, but much of their schedule is syndicated fare provided by The Premiere Radio Networks. Premiere is owned by Clear Channel and is an excellent provider of top-notch talent like: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. However, because CC in Cincinnati owns FOUR AM stations, they place the network shows on 55 WKRC, the FOX and ESPN sports on 1530 and 1360, leaving WLW free to boast a schedule of ALL live and local programming.
Industry insiders feel the real reason Parks was cut was (like it always is) money. His job will be rolled into the responsibilities of Executive VP of Talk Programming at Premiere, Carl Anderson and the company reduces its pay-roll. Unfortunately, it also cuts an excellent programmer and terrific talk host from 50,000 watt 700 WLW.
My prediction as we near the end of 2013, is that when WJR loses Sean Hannity in exchange for Michael Savage after January 1st, that Clear Channel may very well pick up the popular host and convert AM 1130, now known as The Fan, from sports to news-talk. It would be a smart move. Detroit now has TWO FM sports stations with 97.1 The Ticket and newcomer Sports 105.1. Add to this, WXYT-AM 1270, WCAR AM 1090 in Livonia and WTKA-AM 1050 from Ann Arbor and that's a lot of Jock-Talk!
The GREAT: Saturday night in Chicago, WJR morning man Paul W. Smith will be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago! I will be there and will report on how it went. Paul, who was J.P. McCarthy's personal choice to succeed him, has done an outstanding job over the past 16 years and is most worthy of this coveted honor on November 9th. Regards, Paul W. Smith, you deserve it all.
Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org