26 August 2002
Shock jocks are a crock

We don't get Howard Stern here in the Sanitary State of Oklahoma, and I don't feel particularly put out about it: it's always seemed to me that the more the envelope is pushed, the weaker it becomes, and eventually everyone is going to be disgusted.

So I didn't shed quite so many tears over the demise of Opie and Anthony as did the OmbudsGod, and while the God's conclusion ("It's high time for the FCC to get out of the business of abridging freedom of speech on the airwaves") seems fairly inarguable, I still tend to believe that if anything goes, the audience goes — elsewhere.

As usual, James Lileks is on the case:

"Maybe the next time some promotions director floats the idea of sponsoring a fellatio contest in a day-care center, he'll be met with hard looks instead of high-fives. This stuff is 'controversial,' sure — but only by the most banal definition. Sawing off a puppy's legs on the air is controversial. Stuffing a midget up Anne Sprinkle and having him broadcast from her oft-examined cervix is controversial. It's also sick. It's tiresome. It's the work of people so jaded they think that intellectual bravery is defined not by the traditions you honor, but the ones you debase."

And I don't think you have to be suffering from creeping oldfarthood to believe this, either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:06 AM)
9 October 2002
But it's even better dreck!

There's a progress report at BlogCritics on over-the-air digital radio, for which the FCC is expected to declare an official standard tomorrow.

I, for one, don't care. Radio in this country has become far more of a vast wasteland than Newton Minow ever imagined for television; the Same Old Crap in crisp digital sound is still, well, the Same Old Crap. And it probably won't be all that crisp, either; the vast majority of FM stations, at least near me, compress their signal beyond all understanding in a desperate attempt to push a couple miles farther into the sticks, and I have no reason to think they're going to mend their ways. And even if you think that digital will bring music back to the AM band, which it very well may, how much Clear Channel-approved music is even worth listening to these days?

So I pass until it's mandatory. I got to my middle twenties without ever owning a color TV; assuming I don't drop dead from overwork and/or boredom in the interim, I can get to my middle fifties without ever owning a digital radio.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:15 PM)
Speaking of airwaves

Chip Kelley has finally retired from 100000watts.com, perhaps the most extensive guide to AM, FM and TV broadcast stations in the US. I am happy to report that the site is now in the capable hands of Scott Fybush, keeper of NorthEast Radio Watch and publisher of the annual Tower Site Calendar for true radio obsessives. (The change apparently took place during the summer, but Kelley's email box was still taking updates from the field, and the Official Announcement is only just now appearing.) For those of us for whom the minutiae of broadcasting are actually more interesting than the programming, this is good news indeed.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:51 PM)
12 October 2002
Addressing the hip-hop shortage

Well, of course, there isn't any hip-hop shortage — basically, I think we're up to our aching ears in the stuff — but Russell Perry, who owns the only "urban"-formatted radio station in this market, a 1000-watt AM daytimer, has been wanting to add an FM facility for ages. There is, however, no room on the dial.

Now OKCityRadio.com reports that Perry has acquired a small string of stations in the southwest part of the state, and that the northernmost of those stations, KRPT-FM in Anadarko, has applied for a power boost from 75kw to 100kw and a tower move to south of Weatherford. This, I don't think, is enough to make much of an improvement in the station's Oklahoma City metro coverage; the existing FM facility in Weatherford, with 69kw, barely makes it in. Extreme audio compression might help, but not much. It should be interesting to see how this develops.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:13 AM)
20 October 2002
It's another radio rim-shooter

Last weekend I mentioned that local AM-station operator Russell Perry was acquiring a group of stations in the southwest portion of the state, and opined that moving the nearest one closer to the Oklahoma City market, as Perry has requested, would probably not work.

The guys at RadioEmporium.net have developed a coverage map for the proposed new facility, and it looks to me like reception on the east side of Oklahoma City, presumably the target audience for an urban-formatted station (Perry's specialty), will be marginal at best. Then again, it is probably not wise to bet against Russell Perry; he is, after all, making money from a 1,000-watt AM daytimer.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:02 PM)
25 October 2002
They said it wouldn't last

And they were right.

Renaissance Radio moved a faltering AM station out of Wichita Falls and into Farmersville, pointed it towards the Dallas/Fort Worth MetroWhatever, renamed it KCAF — "Café 990" — and instituted something previously unheard, maybe even unheard of: a talk format aimed specifically at women.

That was Monday. Thursday KCAF was dead, loans to finance the station's immediate post-startup period having fallen through, and now if you tune into 990, you get the satellite feed from Radio America.

Perhaps it's a good thing this station was in Texas. Had it been located in, say, California, there might have been lawsuits filed by anguished listeners demanding that the station remain on the air, money or no money.

(12:20 pm: Fixed some sloppy syntax.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:38 AM)
5 November 2002
Drop in any time

The Tylers never give up.

Having successfully relocated FM stations from Ada to Newcastle (KKNG, 93.3) and from Clinton to Okarche (KTUZ, 106.7) to reach the Oklahoma City market, the Tyler group had up to now been stymied in its efforts to move its Tishomingo station (KTSH, 99.7) to Tuttle.

The FCC, noting that there is now adequate service to Tishomingo from another station, has given its tentative blessing [link to Adobe Acrobat file] to the KTSH move, with a couple of kickers: Tyler must bear the expense of moving two other stations to other frequencies. KXLS in Alva will jump slightly, from 99.7 to 99.9, and KWFX in Woodward will move from 100.1 to 106.3. And Tyler will be allowed to operate in Tuttle with only 10,500 watts, less than half the power authorized in Tishomingo. This action dooms K259AM, a 75-watt translator on 99.7 rebroadcasting KLVV in Ponca City, though this is probably no big deal since the same programming is carried by Oklahoma City's KYLV at 88.9 with 4400 watts.

No, I don't know what format Tyler is planning, though it's likely not the sort-of-classical format they've been running down by the Red River the last couple of years. And while I've been railing against this sort of thing for years now, the FCC apparently feels that if these stations aren't allowed to play Musical Frequencies now and then, some of them will wither and die. Meanwhile, local radio continues its inexorable march to Metro Radio, shedding every last vestige of community in a desperate search for an audience that is mostly bored with existing offerings. No way can this be a Good Thing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:19 AM)
14 November 2002
Broadcast snooze

Christmas music is bad enough on the 24th of December. On the 14th of November it is an abomination. Now add three dollops of synthetic Nashville twang, and you have "The Bull's Country Christmas", the Bull in question being radio station KQBL. There's just one catch: this isn't airing on KQBL, but on KMMZ, the erstwhile "Memories 96.9".

This much I know: Citadel, one of three major group owners in town (the others being Renda and — gag — Clear Channel), has negotiated a Local Marketing Agreement with Chisholm Trail Broadcasting, the smallish state chain which owns KMMZ. Under the LMA, Citadel will assume responsibility for programming the station, in exchange for an undisclosed percentage of revenues.

This much is speculation: Citadel will move KQBL's programming to 96.9 on or about 26 December. The alt-rock "Spy" stuff, currently heard at night on WWLS-FM (105.3), will take over at 104.9. Evenings on WWLS-FM will return to simulcasting its AM facility, known familiarly as "The Sports Animal".

Why is this happening? I suppose it's another splash in the ongoing pissing contest between Citadel and Clear Channel. And it gets better: The Oklahoma Publishing Company has agreed to sell WKY, the oldest AM in town (it goes back 80 years or so, and OPUBCO has owned it for 74 of those years), to (wait for it) Citadel. WKY is currently programmed under an LMA by, you guessed it, Clear Channel.

In the meantime, Renda's three stations are all comfortably perched in the top six, and they couldn't care less about any of this stuff. Nor do I, really, except for its amusement value, since most of my radio listening is to that weird NPR and PRI stuff.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:16 PM)
20 November 2002
Looking out for number one

The Citadel/Clear Channel pissing contest goes on.

I mistyped the URL for KQBL, Citadel's country station in Oklahoma City, which is www.1049kbull.com, as www.kbull1049.com, and got sent to KTST, one of Clear Channel's two country stations in the market.

Incidentally, neither kqbl.com nor ktst.com will take you to either station site.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:48 AM)
9 December 2002
How about "It sucks"?

Dave Mandl asks How Awful Is the Radio in Your City?, and provides a handy checklist.

No, I haven't done the math. One of the prerequisites is actually listening to the radio for four consecutive hours. This is simply not done in Oklahoma City, except by those who have nothing to lose by brain damage.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:27 PM)
16 December 2002
U can't watch this

My cable company, and probably also yours, is doing the hard-sell on the Digital Cable package, which doesn't actually carry digital television but which does contain about 400 channels, some of which you wouldn't watch if they put a gun to your head.

Hmmm....

Top Ten Least Popular Cable Channels

  10. VH3
    9. Assyrian Movie Classics
    8. ESPN for Dwarves
    7. Tragedy Central
    6. CNMSNBFDNBC
    5. Traffic Court TV
    4. Vegetable Planet
    3. Narc at Nite
    2. The Yahtzee Channel
    1. SCM (Sandler Classic Movies)

Nothing essential here, I should think.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:53 PM)
17 December 2002
Worst-kept secret

The evolution (or maybe "mutation") of Citadel Radio's KQBL continues apace. In a move that surprises absolutely no one, "104.9 The Bull" will move after Christmas to 96.9, which is currently running something called "The Bull's Oklahoma Christmas" 24/7. What is yet unknown is the fate of the 104.9 facility. Will Citadel revive its K-Spy alt-rock format, last heard (barely) at 105.3? Will the Sports Animal return with a simulcast of WWLS-AM 640? Is something entirely different in the works? Nobody is saying for sure — yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:02 AM)
26 December 2002
The big radio switch

As expected, Citadel Broadcasting bounced around some of its FM facilities over the holiday. The K-Bull country format at KQBL 104.9 has relocated to 96.9, previously the home of soft-rock KMMZ. The slot at 104.9 has been filled with a simulcast of WWLS AM 640, the Sports Animal, which vacates 105.3. And 105.3 is now the full-time home of The Spy, playing alt-rock, which had been sharing space with the Sports Animal.

What was not expected was that Citadel would fill all its FM slots, including all of the above plus hot-AC KYIS 98.9 and active-rock KATT 100.5, with the first full day of The Spy, before the new lineup kicked in this morning.

I'm not sure what to make of all this, though anything that annoys Clear Channel has to be a Good Thing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:11 AM)
5 January 2003
And now, the news

Radio station KOMA has been vending oldies for some time now, both on FM and on AM. It's not purely a simulcast: the AM breaks away for five minutes of CBS news at the top of the hour, something the FM listeners presumably don't want. (The AM also carries Bill O'Reilly's Radio Factor weekdays.) None of this presents a problem, except that the AM breakaway is abrupt; if there happens to be a song playing, too bad. And five minutes later, when the FM simulcast is restored, it's just as abrupt.

Now when I was growing up, some actual thought was put into how to segue into the news. Most of my listening in the early-to-middle-Sixties was straight Top 40 stuff, informed (this being South Carolina) by heavy R&B influences, and what was usually chosen as a suitable Last Song of the Segment was something with a fairly ornate outro that could be talked over during its last couple of seconds. The archetype, I'd say, might be "Summer in the City" by the Lovin' Spoonful, which gathers its forces for one final blast of electrified ferocity before settling into a quick fade. Cold endings usually did not work well in this context.

None of this matters particularly in 2003, I suppose. And the FM facility probably draws four or five times the listeners of the AM outlet — at least within the market area. But KOMA pumps out 50,000 watts due west and north. With much of the AM band given over to talkers and sports, it's one of the few actual music stations you can pick up in the middle of nowhere at four in the morning, and I suspect someone else, hundreds of miles away, is just as annoyed by this station's sloppy practices as I am.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:25 AM)
11 January 2003
Personally, I blame Taco Bell

The radio-listing site 100000watts.com reports a minor Texas contretemps: the Spanish-language simulcast of KESS (AM) Fort Worth/KDXX (FM) Lewisville, inaugurated this past Wednesday as "La Raza 107.9", was abruptly rebranded on Thursday as "La Que Buena".

Somehow, I find it hard to believe that Hispanic Broadcasting, which operates these stations (the company is not actually owned by persons of Hispanic extraction, but someone should have known this), wasn't aware that using the name "La Raza" might have repercussions. Or maybe they all drive Chevrolet Novas.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:09 PM)
16 January 2003
And now, the news/talk

It's official: Renda Broadcasting's KOMA will drop the oldies on the AM side and switch to news/talk some time next month. How well they will fare is anyone's guess. KTOK, a Clear Channel station which has had this format to itself up to now, has a strong syndicated lineup (including Rush Limbaugh) but a decidedly weak news operation. And both stations' ointments have a fly to deal with: WKY, once its acquisition by Citadel is approved by the Feds, is also going news/talk. The Oklahoma City market (population about one million) can probably support two stations with this format, but three? The markets closest to Oklahoma City in size — Rochester (New York) and Louisville — have only one each. Then again, those stations score top ratings, which KTOK doesn't.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:42 AM)
23 January 2003
End of an era

The radio/TV-listing site 100000watts.com reports that W52CT, a low-power TV station on channel 52 (natch) in Nashville, has become an affiliate of the America One network. Previously, the only thing the station had been showing was the usual color-bar test pattern.

For nine years.

I wonder if they beat out Donahue in the ratings.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:46 PM)
27 January 2003
1520 and all that

Apparently somebody wants oldies on 1520. In the wake of KOMA's announcement that they will drop their musical programming on the AM band in favor of news-talk, WWKB in Buffalo will attempt to recreate their Top 40 glory days (when they were WKBW) as KB1520.

Directional antenna arrays, of course, still exist, so bereaved KOMA listeners will likely have no luck trying to tune in WWKB. Still, it's nice to know someone thinks the format is still viable in 2003, nearly forty years after Beatlemania.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:57 AM)
8 February 2003
New kid on the news block

It was last Saturday, and word had just come down the wire that Columbia was in trouble. Management at KOMA radio, which was getting ready to drop its oldies format (still carried on KOMA-FM) for news/talk the following Monday, apparently decided that if they were going to build any credibility as a news operation, they had to cover Columbia, and damn the official schedule.

And so they did, staying with the story most of the day, and when the regular schedule began on Monday morning, I suspect they had a lot more listeners on board than they'd originally anticipated.

So how did they do? The lineup hews pretty close to what you'd expect from a station of this type, and pretty close to that of rival KTOK. For some reason, KOMA thinks it takes a two-person anchor team in morning drive, but only one in the afternoon, which I attribute to lingering morning-zoo philosophy. Local personality Carole Arnold, bounced by KTOK a few years back, has the late-morning talk slot. After an hour of news at noon, Bill O'Reilly's Radio Factor slides in, two hours of which run directly opposite Rush Limbaugh on KTOK. (Bottom line: Evenly matched, bile-wise, but Rush is usually funnier.) The afternoon news block is nothing special. Early evenings are given over to Laura Ingraham, who is the answer to the question "What if there were someone like Ann Coulter, only normal?" After midnight is a bit of weirdness called The Edge, a sort of macrobiotic Art Bell.

A couple of tweaks I would suggest to KOMA as they try to build a news powerhouse on a budget:

  • Is it really necessary for the guy in the traffic helicopter to read off promos for AT&T Wireless? For that matter, is it really necessary to have a guy in the traffic helicopter? This ain't New York or Los Angeles. The same intersections are clogged every day at the same time; only the accident locations are different. And hardly anyone in these parts will make a route change to avoid a wreck — most of the time, I think they actually want to see it.

  • The KOMA News Web site is indistinguishable from your average fifth-grader's Tripod or Geocities page. I'm not saying you should tart it up with Clear Channel-styled bombast, but this is just hideous.

That's the news, as Dennis Miller would say, and I am outta here.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:10 PM)
22 February 2003
The return of KOCY

Tyler Broadcasting, this radio market's most avid rim-shooter, is exhuming another set of call letters from years gone by. The new KOCY (1560) supersedes the old KWCO in Chickasha, which, once the FCC signs the papers, will be moving to Del City. KWCO-FM (105.5) remains behind, probably because there's no practical way to sandwich it between existing 105.3 and 105.7 facilities. What will be programmed on the new KOCY? Nobody's saying yet.

This is the third call to be reborn in the Oklahoma City market in recent years. KKNG, now designating Tyler's classic-country station at 93.3, used to be a beautiful-music-turned-adult-contemporary station at 92.5 (now KOMA-FM). And KEBC (1340, former home of, yes, KOCY) used to (per the slogan, anyway) stand for "Keep Every Body Country" when it was used for a country station owned by (yes!) Tyler. Plus ça change and all that.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:02 AM)
26 February 2003
Bland in the bleachers

I gripe a lot about local radio, but the fact is, all 15 of my automotive presets (five AM, ten FM) are filled, and usually there's a reason for each and every one of them: I normally don't have much use for talker WKY, but they've been carrying the games of the Oklahoma RedHawks baseball club, so they get a button. (Of course, I'll be at The Brick when the Albuquerque Isotopes come to town.)

It's hard to think about baseball, though, when the third batch of freezing drizzle in four days is descending upon you; it's a whole different type of slider.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:59 AM)
5 March 2003
The last of Lady Bird's radio empire

LBJS Broadcasting, the six-station group in Austin controlled by the family of Lady Bird Johnson, is selling out. Emmis Communications, owner of 21 radio stations and Texas Monthly magazine, is buying the Johnson family's 50.1% interest for $105 million. (The S in LBJS, David and Bob Sinclair, retain their 49.9% equity, but Emmis has an option to buy them out after five years.)

Originally, there was just the one station: KTBC, a low-powered AM daytimer acquired by Lady Bird for $17,500 in 1943. Being married to a Congressman paid off, though; the FCC soon approved an upgrade to full-time operation and 5000 watts. KTBC-TV soon followed, and by some strange coincidence it was the only commercial VHF TV allocation for Austin; competitors were forced to the struggling UHF band. (KTBC-TV is now owned by Fox Television Stations; the allocations haven't changed, though a UPN affiliate parked itself on channel 2 out in Fredericksburg, hoping to get audience from both Austin and San Antonio.)

The sale is subject to FCC approval, though no objections are expected. Flagship stations KLBJ-AM (formerly KTBC) and KLBJ-FM will retain their call letters.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:02 AM)
10 March 2003
An outpost of non-corporate radio

If the phrase "Clear Channel" makes you break out in hives, this is for you.

In its last couple of years before it packs up and moves to Dallas to play with the big boys, AM daytimer KJON, just about the last station in Anadarko (KRPT-FM is moving northward toward the Oklahoma City market), has decided to stick to what it likes, and screw the consultants and their Armani-suited ilk.

So KJON's country format eschews the Shanias and the Faiths and the Dixie Chicks and plays stuff from the age of 78s, when you could still have a first name like "Red", when people heard the Wabash Cannonball and knew it was a train. The station manager says he's playing for guys on tractors, and you gotta believe it's true.

The Daily Oklahoman has a piece about KJON today, and it's worth your time even if Webb Pierce and Ernest Tubb don't mean a thing to you, simply because it illustrates the point that "non-corporate" radio does not necessarily mean stuff like NPR, which is waiting on a check from Archer Daniels Midland even as we speak, nor does it inevitably imply a staff with a whiter-shade-of-pale complexion from sitting in their bedrooms for ten years playing Nick Drake records.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:58 AM)
18 March 2003
All zings considered

Just in case the events of the week have left you wondering:

Everyone should be assured that NPR is committed to fair, balanced coverage of the news and seeks to serve all its listeners, from the thoughtful progressive activist to the knuckle-dragging hydrophobic red-state cross-burner.

You've just read the smooth, well-modulated words of National Public Radio ombudsman Godfrey Dvorak.

Well, okay, maybe you haven't.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:08 PM)
16 April 2003
It must be love

For Saint Paul, there's no one quite like Minnesota Public Radio's Cathy Wurzer:

Despite Ms. Wurzer's obvious elite media biases and her occasional failings as a broadcaster, I'm still crazy about her. Of course I'm an admirer of her looks, a tantalizingly inaccessible ice queen beauty. But I also like her attitude which is professional and polite, yet with a subtext of bitchy intolerance. And she conveys it with a voice that's warm and throaty yet slightly nasal, which always makes her sound as if she's just getting over a head cold. She is, in a word, perfect. (Inaccessible ice queen beauty, sublimated bitchy intolerance, and a head cold — a uniquely Minnesota concept of eroticism).

Diane Rehm's kid sister?

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:01 AM)
1 May 2003
Bumper crop at the antenna farm

Well, the Big News/Talk War lasted barely longer than the war in Iraq: not only did KOMA, the new kid on the news block, fail to dislodge the dominant KTOK, but KTOK actually picked up almost two share points, finishing at the top of the ratings for the first time in ages. (KOMA doesn't even have two share points yet.)

It wasn't all sweetness and light for KTOK owner Clear Channel, though: their country stations are floundering and their CHR outlet isn't doing well enough to be floundering. Still, you take your points where you can, and CC's sort-of-alternative station is doing surprisingly well.

Over at rival Citadel, there's little to cheer about, what with the KATT still in the doldrums and the hotly-hyped Bull coming across like underdone veal. I give it a month before the plug is pulled and another format is slapped on the frequency. And speaking of slap, someone ought to slap Citadel's audio people, if they have any; their stations don't even sound good on crappy radios, let alone on the high-fidelity stuff. I can forgive this on The Spy, which broadcasts with 3 watts from somewhere out in Utah or something, but there's no excuse for the big boys.

Meanwhile, Renda, whose FMs are all doing decently — classic-rock KRXO dropped a notch but is still #2 — must be wondering about what it's done to KOMA, and what it's going to take to make some headway in the AM talk circus against a seemingly-revitalized KTOK and whatever the hell Citadel is doing with WKY. At the very least, it's going to take a fair amount of time: news/talk listeners, as a group, tend to be fairly loyal to their chosen stations, and KTOK has a huge head start. Add to this the fact that Clear Channel controls many of the top syndicated talk shows and is loath to give them up to a crosstown rival — I suspect the reason CC bumped the daytime Spanish-language programming on tiny KEBC and replaced it with talk was to reduce the number of programs available to KOMA — and I see a long, hard road ahead.

Meanwhile, Tyler, the only sort-of-local cluster, still hasn't announced plans for that move-in from Tishomingo, but waiting for the other shoe to drop is second nature in Oklahoma City radio.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:51 AM)
9 May 2003
Bachward steps

The city of Dallas owns a prime piece of FM broadcast spectrum in north Texas: WRR-FM 101.1, currently broadcasting classical music at 100,000 watts.

How prime is it? Other broadcasters would like to get their hands on it. The city isn't considering selling WRR outright, but the possibility of a move down the dial has presented itself.

A number of proposals have been entertained, but apparently the one most likely to get past the city council is one by Susquehanna Radio, which wants to move its KDBN-FM, currently at 93.3, to 101.1, and fill 93.3 with KRNB-FM from 105.7. The city would receive the 105.7 facility, which runs 93,000 watts from a stick in Wise County, and $60 million.

Downside? Wise County is a long way away — the tower is almost 50 miles northwest of Fort Worth — and even 93 kw will barely reach into the south side of Dallas, to say nothing of the southern suburbs. Since the station is owned by the city, opponents contend, at the very least it should be able to reach the entire city without noise or interference.

The historical record shows many instances where a classical station relocated to an inferior facility in exchange for lots of money; the best-known, perhaps, was the move of Cleveland's WCLV to a 6-kw channel in exurban Lorain. It was argued at the time that the move would help secure the station's then-uncertain future, and maybe it did, but I'd hate to have to try to tune them in from the parking lot at Severance Hall.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:56 PM)
16 May 2003
The Free Cam-paign

The next voice you hear belongs to Lisa S. of Boycott Hollywood:

Boycott Hollywood is running a small little grassroots campaign for Cam Edwards.

He's this conservative radio talk show guy from Oklahoma City. If you're local to OKC — you can tune in and turn your ear to 1000 KTOK — Oklahoma's 1st News.

I, personally, am not local to OKC — so I've only heard Cam on the radio once.

Was I driving through Oklahoma and just happened to tune in? No. Does Cam secretly tape his daily radio show — then convert them to MP3 format and email them to me everyday so I can listen in? No. Am I a super hero with super sonic hearing? No.

Cam was one of the first radio personalities to pick up on our William Morris debacle. Since this website opened [its] doors in February 2003, I have been contacted by Inside Edition, the Wall Street Journal and various other press organizations to do an interview. As a rule, in protection of my personal privacy — I had been turning down the interviews. Until this William Morris thing blew up — I was contacted by more news agencies than ever before! I gave two phone interviews at that time — and turned the rest down.

Cam was persistent (almost stalkish) in getting my attention for a radio interview. So I went over to his website, reviewed his writings — corresponded a bit via email and decided to give in, just this once — and acquiesced to an interview.

Cam was my first. Since a girl always fondly remembers her first — I'm taking a plea to the public here. Cam's show is a locally broadcast show on a Clear Channel radio station in OKC. Since I, personally, really want to be able to hear Cam's show and am, mostly, used to getting my way — I'd like to send some emails of support to his boss. If we nicely ask for national syndication of his show — and are as persistent with them as Cam was with me — perhaps we can make a difference?

I mean — why should OKC be the only ones who benefit from a nice, conservative talk show radio host whose thoughts, ideas and opinions fall in line (mostly) with the rest of us GOPers out here? What is so special about OKC? At the very least can we please get a web cast?

So here's some contact information for Cam's boss at KTOK and for Clear Channel. Tell them we are respectfully requesting that they FREE CAM from the confines of Oklahoma City and allow the rest of the nation to enjoy his show too! It's only fair!

KTOK
P.O. Box 1000
Oklahoma City, OK 73101-1000
webmaster@ktok.com

Their office and studios are located at
50 Penn Place
Northwest Expressway & Pennsylvania Avenue
10th Floor
TALK LINES: (405) 840-1000 or *1000
NEWS HOTLINE: (405) 858-1438
FAX LINE: (405) 842-1315
BUSINESS LINE: (405) 840-5271
Randy Bush - Radio VP/Market Manager
Mike McCarville - Program Director
Brian Lloyd - Promotion Director

Clear Channel
200 Basse Road
San Antonio, TX 78209
Phone: 1-210-822-2828
lisadollinger@clearchannel.com
pr@clearchannel.com

And, inasmuch as I happen to have a small soapbox to scream from:
Free Cam!

(Limit one Free Cam with regular purchase at participating locations. Tax not included.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:29 PM)
28 May 2003
Beyond Sturgeon

Dawn Olsen says you may as well turn off the radio:

It's a sham, and they are in bed with the record labels and that is why much of the music you hear on these pre-programmed stations are so crappy. It's not about quality, it's about what the labels have paid for and now want you to pay for. If they play enough, you will think it's good and oddly enough you will find yourself buying it.

Sounds like an argument for news/talk or classical (which, if I kept an Arbitron diary, would be almost the only things on the page).

I do take issue with one thing she says, though: Clear Channel has been in this market for almost its entire existence, and I doubt seriously they've beaten more than a handful of baby seals.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:56 PM)
2 June 2003
Those new FCC rules

The Federal Communications Commission, on the expected 3-2 party-line vote, approved some changes to the ownership caps on Big Media, though some restrictions were retained.

Under previous rules, a single entity could own TV stations reaching 35 percent of the national audience. The cap is now 45 percent.

A single entity may own two TV stations in a market with five to seventeen stations; however, only one of them may be among the four top-rated stations in that market. If a market has 18 stations or more, the limit is raised to three. The station total includes both commercial and noncommercial stations, but does not include LPTV facilities. Under the old rule, the FCC permitted an entity to own two television stations in a market if one of the stations was not one of the top four in the ratings and there were at least eight independently owned and operated commercial or noncommercial stations remaining in the market. (Oklahoma City has 12 TV stations; Sinclair Broadcast Group owns KOKH-TV, a Fox affiliate, which is usually among the top four, and KOCB-TV, an affiliate of The WB, which isn't. No one else owns more than a single station in the area.)

Newspaper crossownership continues to be banned in markets with three or fewer TV stations, but is permitted in markets with nine or more. (OPUBCO may now bid to acquire KWTV from the Griffin family.) In markets with four to eight stations, it depends on how many broadcast stations are already owned by the entity.

Radio limits were not changed, though the FCC will now use Arbitron's market research to determine the number of stations in a market. In markets with 45 or more stations, the limit for a single owner is eight, of which no more than five can be on the same band (3 AM and 5 FM would pass muster; 2 AM and 6 FM would not). In markets with from 30 to 44 stations, the limit is seven, four per band; in markets with 15 to 29 stations, it's six, four per band. In smaller markets, the limit is five, three per band. Again, the station total includes commercial and noncommercial stations, but not low-power stations or translators. Oklahoma City fits the 30-to-44 category; Clear Channel and Citadel each own four FMs (and two AMs), and Citadel programs another FM station via a local marketing agreement, but the LMA doesn't count toward Citadel's total. No other broadcast owner is close to being maxed out.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:41 PM)
6 June 2003
Where the listeners are

In the early-June numbers, news/talk KTOK still occupies the top slot. Not a whole lot is happening below that; Renda's three FMs are still in the top five, and the KATT continues to slump. At least we can assume Cam Edwards still has a job.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:23 AM)
20 June 2003
Rolling back the FCC rules

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has approved a measure to tighten up the Federal Communications Commission's recent loosening of media-ownership rules, though it's doubtful that the measure will make it through the full Senate, let alone the House.

The bill, sponsored by Fritz Hollings (D-SC) and Ted Stevens (R-AK), would bar newspaper/broadcast crossownership in the same market, drop the 45-percent audience-reach cap back to 35 percent, and require the largest radio station owners to divest some properties. How Hollings, generally regarded as a tool of the entertainment industry, was roped into co-sponsoring this thing is utterly beyond me.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:10 AM)
2 July 2003
Stairway to heinous

One of the more admirable characteristics of Rocksnobs' DragonAttack is her ability to nail down a definition:

In my mind, the word oldies indicates rock and roll that spans the era that begins with Bill Haley (and his Comets!) and ends with Mungo Jerry.

I mention this because last night someone called up KOMA-FM, a formerly-inspiring oldies station, and had the temerity to request a Barry White tune. Now I like Barry White, but Barry White ain't oldies. Yet. So I spun the dial a little further and was treated to Tanya Tucker's "Blood Red and Goin' Down", which ain't oldies either but which can pass for Classic Country.

Of course, DragonAttack is more vexed with her local Classic Rock outlet, which plays too much Zeppelin — and too much already-overplayed Zeppelin at that — but there's an explanation for that. And not the obvious explanation, either:

Some people would claim that local radio sucks because of a certain evil empire, but that is just because it is currently very much in vogue to hate this particular empire. I would argue that local radio has sucked for years and years already, thanks to a certain evil empire that hides behind a mouse.

Which invites a question: Is there still time to change the road they're on? Or should we just change the station?

(Update, 4 July, 4:50 pm: As noted by commenters, Barry White died this morning at the age of 58. What am I bid for a posting about Fred Durst?)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:45 AM)
8 July 2003
We make it up in volume

The OkiePundit is displeased with what he finds on the radio dial:

Just as an experiment I scanned the radio spectrum a few minutes ago and before I gave up I found a choice of several hip-hop or "urban" music stations (gag), a couple of country and western music options (ugh), three channels with preachers hollering at me (who listens to this?), two Christian music stations, four very conservative talk show stations, and several stations playing OLD rock and popular music. Only National Public Radio (NPR) had something to interest me. No cutting-edge music available at all. No politically moderate and in-depth talk shows to listen to. Certainly nothing from the political left on talk radio - not that I'd like that much more than the far right stuff.

I guess he must be in Tulsa.

Of course, the prevailing definition of "cutting-edge" music requires that it not be played on the radio; if it were, it wouldn't be "cutting-edge", would it?

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:52 AM)
10 July 2003
Oversight committee

A ten-acre parcel of land in Dakota County, NE, leased to a Sioux City, Iowa radio station, has apparently been off the county's property tax rolls since 1947.

KWSL radio, an AM sports-talk station currently owned by Clear Channel, leases the plot from the county for $7400 a year, and pays an assessment of $1153 a year which they thought was the property tax but apparently wasn't.

No, they can't go back and demand the station pay up for the past 56 years; the county can collect at most three years' worth. It's a minor snafu at worst, but people who hate Clear Channel will probably automatically assume that the giant radio chain engineered this whole scheme in an effort to pinch pennies, which of course they didn't; Clear Channel didn't even own the station at the time the property fell off the tax rolls.

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:20 AM)
3 August 2003
Mouse droppings

After six months or so of speculation, the new KOCY AM facility at 1560 kHz is on the air, and it's gone Radio Disney.

If you've spent more than twenty minutes watching the current Disney Channel on cable or satellite, you know what this means: bouncy pop aimed just below the middle-school audience. Nothing more ambitious than, say, Avril's "Sk8terboi", but nothing as noxious, or as dripping with innuendo, as you're likely to hear at your regular Top 40 and/or dance outlets either. Having never quite outgrown the Cuff Links and "Tracy", I'll probably wind up saving a button for this station.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:57 AM)
9 August 2003
Yet another drop-in

KWEY-FM in Weatherford would seem to have it pretty good; they're the only FM in town, they pump out 100,000 watts all over western Oklahoma, and they've got an AM facility to boot.

So why would they want to make themselves over as a lowly 6,000-watt rimshooter in Blanchard? [Adobe Acrobat Reader required; here's a Microsoft Word version.]

The easy answer is "They want a shot at those big-city bucks," but how many of those bucks will they be able to pull? Six kilowatts isn't squat from that far away; indeed, the FCC's proposed change to the FM allocation table states that "the proposed 70 dBu ["city-grade"] signal for a Channel 247A [97.3 MHz] facility at Blanchard [does not cover] any part of any urbanized area." So I'm thinking that maybe they want to sell this station, and they don't think they'll get a buyer out there in Weatherford.

The FCC will take comments on this proposal until 22 September; I'm tempted to weigh in with a simple "What are they, nuts?"

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:08 AM)
15 August 2003
Another shoe drops

For a medium-sized market, Oklahoma City seems to have an awful lot of weird radio stories.

The latest (found at a thread at Radio-Info.com) involves Ralph Tyler, owner of KTSH in Tishomingo, mentioned before in this space because Tyler had applied to move the station to Tuttle, on the edge of the Oklahoma City metro. (A separate Tyler company, not owned by Ralph Tyler, had successfully moved other stations into the area.)

The FCC apparently discovered that Tyler's acquisition of KTSH from a small Christian broadcaster didn't go quite the way the transfer application claimed, and the resulting consent decree [requires Adobe Acrobat Reader] calls for Tyler to give up the license for the station and to divest himself of his interests in two other stations, one of which is the newly-hatched KOCY. The application to move KTSH to Tuttle will, of course, be dismissed.

Given the fact that blatant violations of so-called "decency" rules will get a station owner a stiff fine at worst, I've got to wonder just how horrendous those misrepresentations in that transfer application really are.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:35 PM)
4 October 2003
And high time, too

KTOK, the dominant news/talk outlet in this part of the world, has finally figured out how to stream audio. (Okay, they hired a third party to do the scutwork. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

You probably don't need this 24/7 — finding local outlets for Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or even Glenn Beck is a fairly simple task, unless you live thirty thousand feet under Berkeley — but you'll definitely need it for First News with Cam Edwards. (In fact, given KTOK's incredibly-weird antenna pattern, some of us locals need the audio stream sometimes.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:46 PM)
6 October 2003
O little ton of bogus smarm

100000watts.com is reporting that WKXP radio in Kingston, New York has switched to an all-Christmas format.

The station recently had a call-letter change (it was previously WBPM), so this could be just a programming stunt in anticipation of a new format, but it's the first week of October, dammit.

(Update, 8 October, 8:40 pm: It was indeed a stunt.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:06 AM)
8 October 2003
Stunted

Well, apparently it was a stunt; WKXP radio in Kingston, New York has now booted the Christmas cheer in favor of a conventional country format. Call them "Kicks 94.3" — unless, of course, you were thinking of calling them something else entirely.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:29 PM)
9 October 2003
Marching to Shibboleth

New slogan at news/talk KOMA:

More talk. No rock.

(Dear Cam: It was on a billboard. It's not like I was actually listening to them.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:57 AM)
25 October 2003
Revising public radio

Oklahoma City is served by two public-radio stations: KGOU handles NPR news programming, talk shows, and jazz in the evenings; KCSC runs classical music more or less 24/7. Culture-wise, this could be considered a boon, but there's an obvious downside to having two public-radio stations: four fundraisers every year. We're between two of them right now, and Doc Searls is contemplating what could, and should, happen in the future:

Though nonprofit in nature, Public TV and radio stations are still in the business of selling their programming to viewers and listeners. They buy that programming from PBS, NPR, PRI and other sources. In other words, PBS and NPR are producers and first tier wholesalers. They own no stations, though they sell programming to thousands of them.

In fact public radio stations are hugely advantaged in the new media market (the one fortified by the Internet). They no longer have to depend on boring and pathetic fundraising marathons to raise money. They can make it easy on the Net, with PayPal or any one of a number of direct-payment options.

Most of the stations have improved in this respect, but most sites remain woefully complicated affairs.

Anyway, I'm in favor of public broadcasting — especially public radio — doing exactly what [Bill] O'Reilly suggests. Get off the public dole completely. If you're down to just 2%, finish off the job. Turn to listeners and viewers. Operate in the real marketplace. You already have a huge advantage over commercial broadcasters, thanks to the fact that your listeners and viewers are customers and not just "consumers."

And let your listeners and viewers get involved in production. Embrace audio blogging. Embrace local video production. Wake up and smell the content, dudes. There's a huge pile of it out there. You don't have to get all of it from NPR and PRI. And I'll bet you can get a lot of it cheaper than from those bigtime sources, too.

Both our local stations originate some programming, but much of what they do is the same canned stuff you can get in Tampa or Tacoma. And the fundraisers aren't the long, arduous affairs they used to be: KGOU has trimmed its beg-a-thon from seven days to four with apparently no effect on the volume of donations, which I believe is due at least partly to the fact that no matter how long the scheduled event, there is always a last minute.

Ultimately, I think Congress will kill the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the right wing will present the death of CPB as an ideological triumph, of course, but CPB needs to go, not because it might offend a segment of the population, but because it's an anachronism, and one which adds (albeit only slightly) to the ongoing budget deficits at that. While public radio isn't exactly awash in money, they've learned how to turn a buck just like their rivals on the commercial side of things, and with most public-broadcasting frequencies reserved by long-established FCC rules (KGOU is one of very few public stations on a normally-commercial channel), it's highly unlikely that they're going to be swallowed up by the Clear Channel juggernaut.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:27 AM)
26 October 2003
In gratitude

When someone turns up an item on my want list that's been on said want list for forty years or so — well, mere email isn't enough.

A shout-out, then, to John Quincy, program director for WTMA/WTMZ in Charleston, South Carolina (and miles around), who in his disguise as mild-mannered archivist and Webmaster Ted Tatman has a lot of stuff from the days when WTMA was the dominant Top 40 station on the Carolina coast, things which I heard zillions of times a day in the Sixties and missed a heck of a lot in the subsequent decades — including the single most elusive 45 I've ever sought, which wasn't even a commercial release in the strict sense but to this day makes for a reliable earworm.

Thanks, Ted. If I find anything in this ol' footlocker that fits your archives, it's yours.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:22 PM)
4 November 2003
Lock your knob on Bob

Surely Citadel could have come up with a better slogan for their newest attempt to do something with the 96.9 frequency. (Their previous effort, The Bull, is chipped beef on toast.)

"Bob" plays Classic Hits, whatever that may be. I shall, um, grant them a button for a while and see if I can work up a definition; so far, it sounds nothing like the Canadian stations advertised as Bob. (What I really want in the way of Classic Hits is something like Chicago's The Drive.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:24 PM)
22 November 2003
Radio playing that forgotten song

Paul over at Sanity's Edge is a long way (I presume) from Bob FM, but he can identify the target audience just the same:

Show me a guy driving down the road blasting "Radar Love" and I'll show you a guy in a short sleeve terry cloth shirt. With his high school graduation thingy hanging from his rear-view mirror. Class of 79, with a haircut to match. It's the same guy who proudly displays his Kansas and Styx concert ticket stubs.

I used to call this "music for forklift operators," until my daughter started driving a forklift. (Which she doesn't do anymore.)

And, now that I think about it, there probably isn't a radio station in the nation which would actually follow "Radar Love" with the "forgotten song" mentioned in the lyrics.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:58 AM)
14 December 2003
A Number One idea

Longtime readers (both of you) will have noted the name of Todd Storz over in the "Inspirations" section, and whether or not you chose to click on the proffered link, it's probably time I came up with an explanation.

While all sorts of music get played in my house — I spent part of yesterday afternoon sorting through classical LPs, in fact — what dominated my formative years (up until 1969 or so) was the radio format known as Top 40, a concept which was essentially invented by Todd Storz.

Storz based his idea on two observations: first, that radio listeners really did like music on the air, at least as much as they did the dramas and comedy shows of the day, and that in eateries, a handful of songs got the majority of jukebox spins.

With this in mind, Storz, then in his early twenties, bought a daytimer in Omaha and built it into the top-rated non-network station in the entire country, by focusing on music programs and a local Top Ten list. (This is not to be confused with the Top Ten lists from the Home Office in Wahoo, Nebraska.) The Top Ten became the Top 40 in 1953 when Storz acquired a New Orleans station and counterprogrammed against a rival who had a weekly Top 20 show with a program twice as big and twice as long.

Storz went on to acquire other stations, in Kansas City, Minneapolis, Miami, St Louis and (yes!) Oklahoma City, and fine-tuned his format, which by then had spread to other group owners, most notably Gordon McLendon, who operated the fabled KLIF in Dallas. Storz died of a stroke in 1964, only thirty-nine years old; his father, who had been running the business side of the station group, took over the operation and continued to run it for the next twenty years, when the stations were finally sold.

Forty years after his death, Top 40 has mutated into something called Contemporary (often "Contemptible") Hit Radio, and it's time, I think, to give Todd Storz his due. Radio historian Richard Fatherley, who worked at the two Storz stations in Missouri, has proposed that the United States Postal Service honor Storz with a postage stamp. What denomination? Why, 40 cents, of course.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:23 AM)
28 January 2004
A little less spongeworthy

His real name, we are told, is Todd Clem, but the world — or at least the world which listens to shock-jock radio — knows him as Bubba the Love Sponge, and his zany antics/vulgar emissions (choose one) are going to cost his employer three-quarters of a million dollars.

I've never heard Bubba — obviously this isn't the sort of thing that is going to penetrate Oklahoma airwaves (we don't get Howard Stern either) — but I don't think my life is any poorer because of this lack.

Clear Channel Radio CEO John Hogan issued the following statement:

We work hard every day to entertain, not offend our listeners. None of us defend or encourage indecent content — it's simply not part of our corporate culture.

On one level, I'm inclined to believe Hogan; Top 40 radio and its fragmented successors have always been somewhat conservative, if only because the desire to reach the maximum number of listeners demands programming to encourage a minimum number of tune-outs. Clearly Bubba's audience sticks by him. Still, it's not like Bubba's never been in trouble before, and should the management decide he's more trouble than he's worth, they'll leave him on the shore soaking up unemployment benefits.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:35 AM)
6 February 2004
Stamping out Stipe

One aspect of Gene Stipe's guilty plea hadn't occurred to me: Stipe controlled five radio stations in southeast Oklahoma, and the Federal Communications Commission could theoretically deny license renewals to those stations because of Stipe's sentence.

Perhaps fittingly, Richard Lerblance, who was elected to fill Stipe's old Senate seat, has applied to the FCC to purchase the two Stipe companies which own the stations. (Little Dixie Radio owns KNED-AM and KMCO-FM McAlester and KESC-FM Wilburton; Bottom Line Broadcasting owns KTMC-AM-FM McAlester.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:41 PM)
29 February 2004
Stern realities

I had just moved to Charleston, South Carolina in 1961, and being in an occupation which took up most of my time — third grade — I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the radio beyond the Top 40 tunes (and the occasional oldie) being vended by WTMA. I knew there was radio outside the Low Country — at night, it was possible to grab stuff like Nashville's WLAC, playing the latest R&B, or St. Louis' KMOX, where I could get the Cardinals' games — but most other South Carolina stations were 5 kw or less and never made it into Charleston at all.

Which is how I managed to miss the flap over the first shock jock worthy of the description, a fellow named Charlie Walker, from WDKD in Kingstree.

Charlie Walker, by all accounts, was way over the top, considering the sanitary standards of the early Sixties. He ragged on local luminaries; he transmogrified town names (Andrews became "Ann's Drawers"); he invented straw men to trash. A sample:

He says: "I believe that old dog of mine is a Baptist." I asked him why he thought his old dog was a Baptist and he says, "you know, Uncle Charlie, it is that he's done baptized every hubcap around Ann's Drawers."

And one day, when the phone calls to the station manager were running higher than usual, Charlie Walker said something like this:

Now I done got sick and tired of all you fools giving me the devil about what I said about ol' so and so. Listen to me. Any of y'all out there that don't like what I said, y'all can all come up here to this radio station, and just kiss my ass...it's tied up right here at the back of the station!

The FCC hadn't defined "indecency" yet, perhaps because they couldn't imagine it. WDKD management had been blowing off the complaints, but when the Feds started making noise, the station began to sweat.

And after an investigation and a hearing, the FCC found that Walker's radio show contained "coarse, vulgar, and suggestive material susceptible of indecent double meaning[s]," and imposed the death penalty: not on Walker, but on WDKD, whose license was summarily revoked. (Does this sound familiar?)

The usual appeals followed, and a compromise of sorts was reached: WDKD was allowed to resume broadcasting, but Walker's third-class FCC license (then required for on-air personnel) was modified to specify that at no time could he broadcast live. For the rest of his career, Charlie Walker was on tape-delay.

And that career continues into the 21st century, seven seconds behind the rest of the world. The South Carolina legislature even honored him during the 2001-02 session. Today Charlie Walker writes a column for Kingstree's weekly News, and is revered as a solid citizen of the South; you'd probably never know that he'd anticipated Howard Stern by thirty or forty years.

(I am indebted to Jay Braswell, longtime SC and Georgia DJ, now a broadcast consultant in Hawkinsville, Georgia, for recounting this story at a radio message board I frequent.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:51 PM)
7 March 2004
On the left side of your dial

The Air America liberal radio network now has affiliates in the top three markets: WLIB New York, KBLA Los Angeles, and WNTD Chicago.

Generally, the stations will be competing with, shall we say, separate but unequal facilities: WLIB, while no 50-kw powerhouse, puts out a decent 10-kw signal in the Apple, but WNTD, which maxes out at 5 kw, is nestled between two 50-kw blowtorches, which may make finding it tricky. KBLA pumps out 50 kw, but it's down in that no-man's-land at the far end of the dial (1580) where supposedly hardly anyone goes.

Were I the local Clear Channel manager, I'd be tempted to work up a sub-Machiavellian scheme to land the Air America programs here in Oklahoma City — and then run them, not on KTOK, their local flagship, but on KEBC, their 1-kw daytimer at 1340. (The station does have a nighttime schedule, but it's leased to another operator.) This would make Clear Channel's claim that "We are so not in Bush's pocket" less implausible, and there's always the chance that Air America's talk shows will draw better ratings than the how-to-save-for-your-retirement stuff that airs there now.

Of course, if the FCC finally gets around to approving KGYN's move-in from Guymon to Oklahoma City, all bets are off.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:36 PM)
10 March 2004
Blows against the Empire

We may be a deeply divided nation — Red versus Blue, Republican versus Democrat, This versus That — but there's one thing on which everyone agrees: Clear Channel sucks.

Allow me to demur ever so slightly. I have no particular fondness for America's largest radio group owner, but I don't consider them to be some sort of indestructible monolith: they can be beaten.

In Oklahoma City, they are being beaten. Routinely. Three stations finished in a virtual dead heat for the number-one spot this last book, and not one of them was an outpost of the Evil Empire; the best showing made by a Clear Channel station was #6, by news/talker KTOK, and we all know this is because of morning man Cam Edwards, who's worth two or three ratings points all by himself.

I might also point out that stations not owned by Clear Channel also tend to be less than scintillatingly brillant and/or incredibly innovative, which tells me that Clear Channel isn't the disease: it's merely a symptom.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:29 AM)
22 March 2004
Jolly Roger radio

The Federal Communications Commission frowns upon unlicensed radio stations unless they run power levels down in the milliwatt range. The rationale, of course, is to protect existing broadcasters from interference, which is a good thing, but as a side effect, existing broadcasters are also protected from competition, which is not such a good thing.

Somebody in town has been running a hip-hop/R&B station without Federal sanction, parked at 92.1 MHz, halfway between two powerhouse signals (KOSU-FM in Stillwater and KOMA-FM in Oklahoma City) and blocking access, at least in my area, to neither. (The nearest commercial 92.1 signal, if I remember correctly, is in metro Tulsa, licensed to Broken Arrow.)

Who is this guy? No one knows. And until the FCC shows up with tracking equipment and subpoenas, probably no one will. But for now, he's putting on arguably the best show in town; not having to toe the corporate line, and not saddled with the expurgated versions of recordings that are sent to "real" radio stations, he's made a format I don't particularly care for otherwise into something almost interesting. Let's hope it takes the Feds a while to home in on his signal.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:37 AM)
26 March 2004
We had joy, we had fun, we had 92.1

For a while, anyway.

Our newest pirate station has bitten (or, more precisely, was force-fed) the dust. According to one report, the perp was wanted in Florida for some possibly unrelated offense, and was promptly FedExed to the Sunshine State.

On balance, the funniest aspect of all this was that our short-lived broadcast buccaneer often came in with better quality than Citadel's KSYY, a station licensed to Kingfisher and (uncharacteristically for rimshooters) actually transmitting therefrom with the power of approximately 10 butterfly sneezes.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:51 PM)
31 March 2004
What about Bob?

National Public Radio still hasn't explained to Susanna's satisfaction why Bob Edwards is being replaced:

The NPR management whines about the lack of flexibility in the Morning Edition format, and the fact that it repeats after its initial broadcast. How is that Edwards' fault? Sounds like a programming management issue to me. They especially natter about being caught flat-footed on 9/11 with their initial coverage, because Morning Edition was repeating. Again, how is that Edwards' fault? Is there some god-like edict he brought down from a mountain that prevented them from immediately switching to live coverage?

The fact is, Morning Edition is a two-hour show, though many stations (including the one here) do carry a four-hour feed, and I'm pretty sure there have been instances where something that was reported at, say, 6:19 had an update punched in at 8:19 — and, of course, there are five-minute news summaries on the hour and half-hour. (This being pledge week, read "five-minute" as "three-point-five-minute.")

Whatever the imagined problems with the format, they hardly seem like reason enough to blame Bob Edwards.

And a word to the wise, if any, at NPR: you don't want to cheese off Susanna:

It'll be interesting to see what happens. Perhaps their new show will be quite well done, and I'll like it. I'm not set against it on general principle. But NPR has lost a lot of my already truncated goodwill toward them with this stupidity, for no good reason that I can discern. And a little bit of me wants to see Bob Edwards vindicated (liberal as he is) by having this New Coke go as flat as the last one did.

Remind me to buy her a drink. And not a carbonated drink, either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:20 PM)
2 April 2004
Boblash?

It's standard operating procedure for public-radio stations, during their semiannual pledge drives, to sound just as mournful and Oliver Twisted — "Please, sir, I want some more money" — as they possibly can.

Even allowing for this tendency, there seems to be a lot more desperation than usual in the voices at our local NPR station, and I'm wondering: could the listeners be responding to the reassignment of Bob Edwards by cutting back their donations?

I may be imagining things — wouldn't be the first time — but I have a feeling that NPR management is going to wind up with low-cholesterol free-range egg on their faces when all this is over.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:45 AM)
11 April 2004
So bright, it's gotta wear shades

There are good and sensible reasons why radio stations quit using cart machines, but like the 8-track decks they superficially resemble, I find them fascinating. (The world today may be digital; some of us remain unrepentantly analog in our thinking.)

Radio guy John Quincy had a spare machine and a bright idea, and he took both to a custom lamp manufacturer, with highly illuminating results:


Custom lamp made from ITC cart machine


Now is that cool or what?

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:27 AM)
12 April 2004
The grass is browner on the other side

Terry Keith Hammond owns a little 6,000-watt FM in Shamrock, Texas, just over the state line on I-40. MonsterFM is moving over one channel, from 92.7 to 92.9, and jumping to 50,000 watts, but if Hammond can help it, he's not staying in Shamrock. Here's why (his story starts in 2002, when he bought the station):

I was immediately branded an "outsider" and (after a nice memo from the local chamber of commerce director was circulated) virtually every local business stopped advertising on my station, virtually killing it for all practical purposes.

Now, we're ready to go back to full power (after an upgrade) and full service facility as a 50,000 watt class C-2 FM on 92.9. However, as the "Texas reception" hasn't gotten any better (we were even subjected to an armed robbery — literally — and recorded the entire incident on both video and audio to only be told by local law enforcement that it wasn't a "crime" but was a "mistake"), I'm seriously wondering if I shouldn't consider moving the entire operation into nearby Oklahoma as it's only 14 miles east of our current site and is definitely a minor move in the eyes of the FCC.

Bottom line: Previous station management (under an LMA) had borrowed money from the local Economic Development Board and defaulted. The Economic Development Board is sore because they THOUGHT the station license would be collateral and they'd end up owning a radio station (such as WRR in Dallas). Then, they found out that, not only is a city not allowed to become a broadcast licensee but, the "defaulters" weren't even the licensees (their "attorney" didn't properly research the situation beforehand) and they've loaned money to people who didn't "own" what they'd wanted most to use as collateral. (BIG MESS THAT HAS *NOTHING* TO DO WITH ME!!!)

Their solution: Back out of our negotiations to purchase the building and tower site (by paying off the loan the other folks had defaulted on) and steal our equipment at gunpoint (the other guys emptied the station on their way out). We finally managed (after almost two years and with the help of the local courts) to get our equipment back but, only after we'd built a new studio and transmitter site north of town.

My question: Do I want to build a new 50,000 watt FM facility near this town that is so fast to knowingly STEAL an entire radio station and repeatedly ignore numerous court orders to return what they've stolen? Or, do I want to move my entire operation into neighboring Oklahoma and hope the people there are more friendly?

The FCC will not likely approve a move that removes the signal from Shamrock entirely — KBKH is the only station licensed to Shamrock — but the station might be able to relocate to, say, Sayre, Oklahoma, just inside the state line; they would still easily reach Shamrock, they'd be far enough from other stations on this frequency to avoid interference, and they might be able to pick up an audience in Elk City, fifteen miles away.

Were I this guy, I'd be sending off an application to modify the station's license this week. Texans tend to be friendly folk, but some Texans (and, for that matter, some Oklahomans) insist that you do bidness their way or else, and sometimes "else" is the better choice.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:37 AM)
14 April 2004
Air America grounded

Or worse; MultiCultural Radio Broadcasting, which owns the nascent network's Chicago and Los Angeles outlets, has dropped their programming.

Wonkette (yeah, I know) reports that MultiCultural claims Air America owes them around $1 million, and bounced a check in the process, a story probably leaked to her about ten minutes after Drudge got it.

You'd think Democrats would understand deficits, wouldn't you?

(Update, 4:15 pm: Commenter Mark at Outside the Beltway explains: "They used Dean's campaign people to manage their money...")

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:46 PM)
18 April 2004
F for effort

Talk-show host Jay Severin at Boston's FM talker WTKK has been informed that he will no longer be allowed to use the euphemism "effing".

What, if anything, can we do about those corksoaking iceholes at the FCC?

(Via Jeff Jarvis)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:41 AM)
Can this format be saved?

Rich Appel's Hz So Good newsletter for the coming month opens with a seven-point plan to salvage "oldies" radio, and he has correctly identified the major issue: the core audience is way past the age that advertisers are most desperate to reach. (I turn 51 this year, and am therefore presumably of no interest to anyone except AARP and the manufacturers of Fix-O-Dent.) The fix is radical: the emphasis must be shifted away from us Persons of Mature Flatulence and toward building a new audience in the 18-34 demographic. And this means killing the ersatz Bill Drake noises in the background and abandoning the "we're the station you grew up with" imaging. If this music has lasting value, and I think it does, then it can be sold to new generations without having to pay tribute to those of us who fancy ourselves as having been there at the creation; surprisingly many of today's twenty-year-olds may be Beatles fans, as a recent Entertainment Weekly feature suggested, but it's not necessary for them to be exposed to Murray the K for them to grasp the Zeitgeist.

And given the sheer diversity of Top 40 radio in its prime — if a record charted high enough in the trade papers, it was a candidate for airplay regardless of its perceived genre — there's inevitably going to be conflict in putting together a playlist for the very model of a modern oldies station: some will prefer a heavier marbling of R&B, while others will lean towards whiter, brighter waxings, and what do you do with the country crossovers? One thing, however, is for certain: you can't encapsulate a decade and a half of incredibly diverse music by a mere 200 or 300 songs, as today's stations persist in thinking.

Maybe I shouldn't care about these things. If I have the urge to hear songs from this era, I need only walk into the next room and select stuff from the shelf. But I have just enough semi-enlightened self-interest to believe that if there's an increasing interest in material from the period, the gatekeepers will be more likely to open up the vaults and turn loose some of the things I've forgotten or I've never heard at all. And as John Lennon once said, you know that can't be bad.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:22 PM)
22 April 2004
Now you hear it, now you don't

The on-again-off-again nature of Air America Radio has suggested a plan of action to the Interested-Participant:

[It] might be just the vehicle to portray John Kerry with a consistent message on the campaign issues. If they can just synchronize their on-air times when Kerry speaks on only one side of an issue and then go off-the-air when he waffles and espouses a contrary position, the network would be reporting consistent policies from their candidate. This may help alleviate confusion in some voters' minds.

It may be time to check those control boards for an adequate supply of flip-flop devices.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:56 PM)
5 May 2004
The benefactor factor

Over the past few years, National Public Radio received a fair chunk of change from Archer Daniels Midland, an agribusiness conglomerate which regularly comes in for criticism from the sort of people who listen to National Public Radio. I don't think that ADM was necessarily trying to buy NPR's silence, but their presence in the listing of supporters sounded somehow peculiar, and lately it seems to have disappeared.

In the absence of ADM, Wal-Mart has been kicking in some heavy dollars to NPR, which has run rather a lot of news pieces which could be construed as critical of the retail giant; even Jeffrey Dvorkin, the NPR ombudsman, has felt compelled to justify taking Wal-Mart's money to aggrieved listeners.

Now if we could just get the real story behind Jennifer and Ted Stanley.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:46 PM)
9 May 2004
Actual end of an era

For those of you who were wondering when Top 40 AM radio officially ended, the answer is "this past Thursday," when WQMA, licensed to Marks, Quitman County, Mississippi, ceased operations on AM and moved its programming to an FM station about 20 miles away in Clarksdale.

According to Scott Fybush, who keeps track of such things, this was the last standalone AM Top 40 outlet in the nation.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:59 AM)
Not available in all areas

"Another evil corporation," quips Baldilocks, "mismanages its money, puts out an inferior product and goes under."

Which is how the system works. Air America Radio isn't quite dead — it won't keep still, anyway — but what's the problem here? Admittedly, these folks evidently couldn't run a roadside fruit stand, but is it all ineptitude, or is there no market for their product in the first place?

Over at coffeegrounds, the Proprietor leans toward the former:

[T]here probably is a market in radio for left-of-center political talk, but if (when) Air America goes down in flames no one will want to risk it again for a long time. Lord knows I wouldn't leave it in the hands of NPR who seem to be combining the worst of the Left's fractious squabbling with a bone-headed version of the Right's focus-group capitalism.

Having been part of a few focus groups in my time, I rather expect that when the Final Judgment is read, I can count on an extended stay at One Brimstone Place.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:48 AM)
26 May 2004
Al fine

If you live near a commercial classical music station — well, never mind, you probably don't. There are very few of them left, even in the largest cities.

And now there's going to be one fewer. KRTS in Houston is selling out: Radio One, which owns two other stations in the area, is paying $72.5 million to make it three.

If I've counted correctly, this leaves one commercial classical station in Texas: WRR in Dallas. (The last one of note in Oklahoma was KCMA, licensed to Okmulgee but based in Tulsa, which after four years of so-so business switched to "soft oldies" in 2001, a format which by all accounts is doing so-so business.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:28 PM)
3 June 2004
That's how this business goes

Once again, you know the words:

I am the morning DJ at WOLD
Playing all the hits for you, wherever you may be
The bright good-morning voice who's heard but never seen
Feeling all of 45, going on 15

Actually, Harry Chapin placed this station in Boise, Idaho, where stations whose call letters start with W are conspicuous by their absence, but no matter: the real WOLD, a daytimer in Marion, Virginia on 1330 kHz, has, according to 100000watts.com, gone silent pending a sale.

WOLD-FM (102.5 MHz) continues.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:21 AM)
26 June 2004
Bowing to the inevitable

Citadel's KSYY, formerly known as "The Spy," has given up their alt-alt-rock format in favor of something vaguely Tejano. Whether this will get them so much as a 1 share remains to be seen; they're still stuck in Kingfisher with the power of a couple of fluorescent bulbs.

Then again, with the Latino population growing and only two other stations broadcasting in Spanish (KZUE, an AM daytimer in El Reno, and KTUZ-FM, licensed to Okarche — what is it with Canadian County, anyway?), maybe there's hope for them after all.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:48 AM)
29 June 2004
The hits just keep on coming

One of the "Inspirations" listed on the front page of this site is one Todd Storz. I've explained why before, and now Rich Appel, through the invaluable Hz So Good newsletter, has tossed a timely reminder my way:

A week or so before Elvis made history in Memphis, another sort of history was being made not that far away, in Kansas City. On June 15th, the Cook Paint and Varnish Company sold WHB radio in Kansas City to the Storz group. As you're probably well aware, Storz, as in Todd, was already operating successful radio stations in Omaha (KOWH) and New Orleans (WTIX), which were as legend has it the first two stations to feature the most popular songs played all day, as opposed to the block programming heard on many other stations at that time. Having heard another New Orleans station feature music between two network shows and calling it "the top 20," Storz thought featuring forty current songs vs. twenty would be twice as nice, and it was on WHB in late June of 1954 that listeners first heard a program which not only played the "top 40" but actually reviewed them in reverse order, beginning with the number 40 song in the area and ending at number one. Storz would take this same "Top 40" radio format to Minneapolis in 1955 on WDGY and to Miami in '56 on WQAM (on which Burger King would have been foolish not to advertise). Looking back, it's a good thing Storz made everything up to date in Kansas City and took over WHB fifty years ago today, or millions of us might now be listening to "Paint and Varnish" radio, and who knows what that might sound like.

The very first Top 40 countdown, before Casey Kasem, before anybody, fifty years ago this week.

(Long Distance Dedication: This goes out to Dawn in New Jersey.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:32 AM)
16 August 2004
Does AM radio make you sick?

Well, maybe not you or me. But a study in Korea suggests a 70-percent increase in the incidence of leukemia in persons living near AM broadcast towers.

Before you swear off your favorite talk show, though, please note that the Korean study was limited to individuals living in the vicinity of 100,000-watt transmitting facilities; US AM stations max out at 50,000 watts, which would imply a lower risk, and where space is available, their towers tend to be located in areas with relatively low population. Further, the Koreans caution that their study does not establish a direct link between high-power AM waves and cancer.

FM stations here in the flyover zone are allowed 100,000 watts under certain circumstances, but FM waves, which differ substantially in shape and frequency from AM waves, were not implicated in the study.

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:53 AM)
24 August 2004
The left edge of the monolith

San Diego's KPOP has abandoned its adult-standards (songs like Frank Fontaine used to sing) format and has picked up, along with some new call letters, the liberal Air America Radio programming.

The Timekeeper sees some cognitive dissonance in the making:

What I found amusing is who owns [the station]. It's Clear Channel Communications; you know, the Nazis (or less commonly, just plain fascists) who rank somewhere below Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove (although they apparently are not as bad as Bush or Cheney). I wonder how the lefties are going to spin this.

They probably haven't even noticed yet.

And a quick scan of Air America Radio's affiliate list turns up two more Clear Channel stations already carrying the network's programs in major markets.

Which suggests to me that they're less interested in ideology than in trying to make a few bucks off Young Frankenlisteners.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:09 PM)
28 August 2004
Heritage, schmeritage

After seventy-two years, KOMA has disappeared from the AM dial; the blowtorch station at 1520 has decided to carry on as KOKC. (The KOMA call is retained on their affiliated FM station.)

As someone noted on a radio discussion board, "Todd Storz is spinning in his grave." At 45 rpm, no doubt.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:42 PM)
21 September 2004
Rehms of great material

It's the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Diane Rehm Show, which began as a local show on D.C.'s WAMU in 1979 (titled Kaleidoscope in those days) and eventually became a staple of the NPR schedule.

The voice has changed over the years — in fact, in 1998, it nearly disappeared altogether, the result of spasmodic dysphonia — but it's still one of the most distinctive voices in all of radio. Even nonfans appreciate Diane; Fraters Libertas' Saint Paul describes her as "elitely biased, icily beautiful, politely intolerant, and nasally clogged," which, given his view of public radio generally, counts as louder-than-faint praise.

Not being a policy wonk, I'm probably not part of Diane's target audience, but I do try to catch at least her first hour every day. It's an easy habit to get into, since in this area the show is carried right after the last hour of NPR's Morning Edition, and it's a habit I don't plan to break.

Thank you, Diane. I don't think either of us has twenty-five more years to run, but I'm grateful for the hours we've had.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:54 AM)
11 October 2004
Wish I'd thought of this

It's a step beyond serendipity: the ability to claim credit for an innovation that requires you to do nothing at all.

Tulsa's KOTV, channel 6, is now promoting its Online Audio at its Web site, and you don't even need to be online to listen to it: just tune your FM radio to 87.7 MHz.

Under FCC rules, an analog TV channel covers a bandwidth of 6 MHz; channel 6 runs from 82 to 88 MHz. The color subcarrier is generally located 1.25 MHz from the bottom of the channel, or at 83.25 MHz.

TV video is AM. TV audio, however, is FM, and the FM subcarrier is located 4.5 MHz above the video subcarrier in all TV channels. On channel 6 in Tulsa, or indeed channel 6 anywhere in the US or Canada, this means 87.75 MHz. (Actually, some stations, including KOTV, are required by the FCC to offset their subcarriers by 0.01 MHz, so the actual FM audio from KOTV is at 87.76 MHz.) This signal is well within the reach of any FM receiver within transmitter range which can be tuned to approximately 87.7, and KOTV didn't have to do anything extra to provide it; it's a by-product of the way the spectrum is assigned. Any station on channel 6 should be similarly accessible.

On a hunch, I spot-checked three stations I knew to be on channel 6 — in Corpus Christi, Miami and Philadelphia — and none of them was promoting an FM-audio feed on the front page of its Web site.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:26 AM)
Voices made for newsprint

Public radio has an impressively-diverse collection of voices, from avuncular and garrulous Garrison Keillor to studiously-pinched Diane Rehm, from cheerful yenta Susan Stamberg to gruff Carl Kasell. What they all have in common, of course, is that they're all professionals, and they all sound like it. (Don't even mention Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers.)

However, not every voice on public radio is that of a professional, as Wendy reports:

[A]t some point they both started TALKING LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE. No verbal italics, no strutting around in vocal drag — just two people talking in ordinary tones and cadences with voices that were perfectly pleasant to begin with.

And I liked them so much better, and actually enjoyed listening to them, and began to think of them as my friends, even, until Mr. Super-Syllables suddenly remembered that he hadn't yet over-enunciated "Viva Voce" that morning and had at least three semi-obscure producer names to drop before 9:00, and Woman Newsreader realized it was time for her to breathily make love to a lengthy sequence of words as if they had nothing whatsoever to do with the dismal economy, war, terrorism, poverty, or death and destruction of any kind. And I went back to wanting to gouge out the radio tuner with my windshield ice scraper.

There aren't any real fingernails-on-the-blackboard voices on our local public-radio stations, though KGOU manager Karen Holp comes closest: there's always the sensation that she's just gotten to the bottom of her box of Cracker Jack and inexplicably didn't find a Coupe de Ville hiding therein.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:05 AM)
30 October 2004
This program reminder

Bruce at This Is Class Warfare sends along a note to the effect that public radio's This American Life with Ira Glass has a special this week on vote fraud, and the producers have made it available on the Web before its scheduled air date, in case you might be faced with examples of fraud yourself. You'll need RealAudio to hear the advance version, and you'll need a relatively-quiet listening area: historically, This American Life has always been a program which demands — and generally earns — your full attention.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:01 AM)
21 November 2004
The new channel 30

After four years, Equity Broadcasting has pulled the plug on its KQOK-TV, an independent station licensed to Shawnee which never quite caught on with its mix of jewelry sales and religious programming. Back in May, Equity signed a deal to transfer the station license to Oklahoma City-based Tyler Media, which operates four radio stations here; Tyler didn't announce at the time what they planned to do with a television license.

Now they have. The call letters are changing to KTUZ-TV, which matches their Spanish-language KTUZ-FM, and the station will be affiliated with NBC's Telemundo network, the second-largest Spanish-language TV service and one which hasn't been seen on the air or on basic cable in this market before. (Rival Univision has no local affiliate but has had a continuous presence on cable.)

Equity, during the time it owned the channel 30 facility, worked diligently to get the station picked up on area cable feeds, and if I understand FCC rules, Tyler doesn't have to renegotiate with cable carriers until existing contracts run out; they'll automatically take over the existing channel (on Cox systems, it's channel 5).

With channel 30 comes the license for a digital-TV facility, which will operate on channel 29.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:11 PM)
23 November 2004
Two out of three ain't bad

Apologies to Mr. Loaf, but this just shocks me:

Peter Jennings still has a job?

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:16 PM)
10 December 2004
Good for what Ailes you

How about a nice cup of Shut the Fox Up?

The FOXBlocker is a line filter that attaches to your analog-cable line (no version for digital cable yet) and filters out the Fox News Channel. It's not channel-specific — it works on channels 2 through 62 — which suggests to me that it looks for Fox identifying information on line 21 of the NTSC signal, where closed captions and XDS reside.

Me, I'm waiting for a TiVo add-on that refuses to record anything mentioning Paris Hilton.

(Via Screenhead)

(Update, 4:20 pm: Submitted to Beltway Traffic Jam.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:20 PM)
12 December 2004
License to, um, something

The United Church of Christ has filed a petition with the FCC against two Miami-area television stations, WFOR-TV and WTVJ-TV, respectively CBS and NBC owned-and-operated stations, asserting that there is reason to question whether the stations' parent companies, Viacom (for WFOR) and General Electric (for WTVJ), were operating, in the FCC's catchphrase, "in the public interest." The petition stems from the networks' refusal to run the UCC's recent ad.

Andrea Harris is not impressed:

Oh way to go, you idiots: just what Americans respond to best — a show of theocratic muscle!

Because you know that's how people will respond to it, despite the newsertainment media's weaselly parroting of the UCC's "tolerance" jive.

Then again, this is standard operating procedure for the UCC, which was formed through the merger of two smaller denominations in 1957; by 1964, they'd already set up an Office of Communication, and challenged the license of WLBT (Jackson, Mississippi) on the basis that it was racist. The FCC held that the church had no legal standing to challenge a broadcast license; the church took them to court, and the Supreme Court eventually overruled the FCC: "The broadcast industry," wrote Chief Justice Warren Burger, "does not seem to have grasped the simple fact that a broadcast license is a public trust subject to termination for breach of duty."

Of course, the Supremes' ruling in the WLBT affair made it possible for everyone up to and including Brent Bozell's boob-counters to get into the act. And in the 1960s, Jackson had a total of two television stations. Today, with half a dozen, plus cable and the Internet, it's difficult to argue with a straight face that any media operation is actually affecting the course of public discourse, let alone dominating it. The FCC answers to Congress, not to the Executive, so the President won't be taking a broom to the place any time soon; too bad, because I'd love to see a Commission with the temerity to laugh at both the UCC's "They should be forced to take our ads" stance and Fox's upcoming reality series "America's Scariest Brazilian Waxes."

(Update, 13 December, 3:45 pm: Fixed one set of call letters — see comments.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:06 AM)
16 December 2004
Frankenradio comes to the Low Country

Air America Radio is up to 40 affiliates now. The liberal network has signed Clear Channel's WSCC, a 5-kw daytimer (there is nighttime authorization, but at a meager 103 watts) in Charleston, South Carolina at 730 kHz. The calls will be switched to WSSP, and the station's tag line is "Talk Radio for the Rest of Charleston."

WSCC's previous format, featuring Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, continues on WSCC-FM (94.3 MHz), which had been simulcasting the AM programs following the demise of its R&B/hip-hop format this summer. I, of course, find it interesting that Clear Channel owns both a "liberal" and a "conservative" station in the same market. The news/talk competition is Citadel's WTMA.

If the next question is "Will there ever be an Air America station here?" the answer is a definite maybe. Clear Channel, which has a dozen or so Air America affiliates, has two AM facilities here. If the move-in of Guymon's KGYN ever comes off, I'm thinking CC will move KTOK to 1210 and set up something entirely different (like, perhaps, AA) at 1000. (KEBC, at 1340, will be unavailable; part of the move-in deal is that CC will give the 1340 slot to First Choice, owner of the daytimer KTLV at 1220, which would die once 1210 becomes an Oklahoma City channel.) The other two talk stations in town, Renda's KOKC (previously KOMA) and Citadel's WKY, are struggling in the ratings; I have to assume that they've at least considered the AA package, and turned it down.

(Courtesy of Backcountry Conservative.)

Update: Apparently it lasted less than a year.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:15 PM)
18 December 2004
That mean ol' Fox

The Oklahoma Gazette's Preston Jones is sorely vexed this week by the announcement (on the 6th) that Clear Channel has signed Fox News to produce national radio newscasts. The prospects are harrowing:

The ramifications of what Clear Channel and Fox News Channel are engaging in speaks volumes about the state of information flow in America and doesn't bode well for that most often-trampled privilege: freedom of the press. Now not only will the music you hear be neutered; the news you're hearing may not necessarily be the whole story, either.

Well, okay, if you say so, but try as I may, I can't much get worked up over this Beelzebub/Moloch joint venture. For one thing, it's going to displace, in this market at least, exactly one provider of news. KTOK, Clear Channel's primary news/talk outlet here, will presumably give up its ABC affiliation; rival KOKC, owned by Renda, has recently switched from CBS to ABC. (I have seen nothing to indicate that either Clear Channel's KEBC or Citadel's WKY, the two weaker talk stations, have any changes in store.) At most, we lose a CBS station, and one which trailed badly in the ratings at that.

More to the point, KTOK, already carrying Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, can hardly lurch farther rightward by the addition of five whole minutes (minus commercials) of Fox News on the hour.

Jones does the math:

[I]f all options are exercised, Fox News could have more than 500 affiliates by the middle of 2005.

The presumed big loser in this deal is ABC Radio, which has eleven networks, five of which are targeted to news/talk stations. ABC predominates among existing Clear Channel news/talk outlets; even if they were to lose 500 affiliates, which they won't, it would hurt, but they'd still have around 2000. Westwood One, which distributes CBS, NBC and CNN Radio, services about 1500 news/talk stations. National Public Radio has 750 affiliates. That evil Fox monolith is headed straight for fourth place.

Preston Jones finishes up his article with a mention of AlterNet's ongoing Fox coverage. I figure the least I can do is post a link to it. But the amount of sleep I plan to lose over the Clear Channel/Fox deal can be measured in microseconds.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:00 PM)
21 December 2004
Buy for me the air

After a whole lot of nothing happened, well, something has happened.

The proposal to move Guymon's KGYN to Oklahoma City has been in the mill for a couple of years now, and it's not surprising that there would be counterapplications on the table. The rival applicants are Sharon Berlin Ingles, who wants to relocate the 1210 kHz facility to Bixby, Oklahoma, and Powell Meredith Communications, who would like to pair it with their KKHR-FM in Abilene, Texas.

Translating the announcement from FCCese, it appears that neither Ingles, nor Powell Meredith, nor TELNS, the current KGYN licensee, wins the prize for Best Overall Application. The commission, therefore, is going to throw the facility open to the highest bidder.

If nothing else, we'll see how badly Clear Channel, which has been programming KGYN under a local marketing agreement with TELNS, wants to spend money on it. I don't remember the FCC ever running an auction for an AM facility.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:39 AM)
12 January 2005
Live from 38th and Classen

File this under Things I Didn't Know Existed.

Vietnamese Public Radio, based in northern Virginia, beams shortwave programs across America, and Oklahoma City, with its substantial (somewhere between 1.5 and 2 percent) Vietnamese population, provides a lot of listeners for VPR through a rebroadcast facility in Edmond.

What's more, there's a one-hour locally-originated news/talk program hosted by Mai Ly Do, which runs daily from 11 to noon and is rebroadcast at 5:30 pm. While no one is sure how many people are listening, the local station offers low-end shortwave receivers for $35, and they've sold 2200 of them so far.

Color me impressed.

(Updated broadcast time on 2 May; also, VPR's local office is moving about one mile south, to 21st and Classen.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:59 AM)
18 February 2005
Surrounding Goliath

The Fat Guy points to the Center for Public Integrity's MediaTracker gizmo, which lists all the broadcast stations within a designated radius (default is 40 miles) and who owns them.

It's not absolutely perfect, since it doesn't seem to pick up Local Marketing Agreements — for instance, KQOB (otherwise known as BOB FM) retains its Enid-based ownership, yet the Citadel chain actually programs it — but it's a useful tool, and TFG wants to emphasize this point:

Clear Channel, the unstoppable monolith, hold 6 of 57 radio licenses. Big. Dang. Whoop. I'm supposed to be frightened about that? Why?

In markets the size of Dallas-Fort Worth, nobody holds all the cards. Clear Channel is a major player in Oklahoma City, but they hardly dominate. When I start to worry is when I contemplate places like Minot, North Dakota, where Clear Channel owns six of nine radio stations. (Note: This link has been corrected.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:34 AM)
23 February 2005
Minimal rotation

Bobby Darin had forty Billboard chart hits, which doesn't mean a thing to your average radio station, says Jeff Brokaw:

Even oldies stations seem to only play "Mack the Knife," and in that radio-hack, obligatory back-handed compliment sort of way: "here's a great record, but he's so great we don?t want to wear him out, so we only play this one song". Thanks, asswipes. Which reminds me; why is it that supposedly eclectic and super-fantastic rock radio stations like WXRT-FM can't get a B.B. King record on once in a while? Besides "The Thrill is Gone", I mean. Yes, B.B. King recorded like hundreds and hundreds of songs before that one, and believe it or not, hundreds and hundreds of them were great. Imagine the odds.

Or how about Al Green? Sly Stone? Isley Brothers? Taken a listen to "Who's That Lady" lately? The album cut, with the Ernie Isley guitar all over it? Don't even start to TELL me that a rock radio station that pretends to worship all things rock, and all things guitar, has no place on its playlist for a classic like "Who's That Lady."

Memo to rock radio: put a little soul into your lineup. It won?t hurt, I promise.

Ernie was still working through his Hendrix fixation when the Isleys recut "That Lady" in 1973 — the original version, full of soul boilerplate, dates back to 1964 and didn't chart — but there's at least as much in the way of guitar heroics here as there is in your average Skynyrd track, and it's a hell of a lot less annoying than "Free Bird."

The whole "classic-rock" format, though, is based upon the presumed forklift-operator notion (doesn't sound like any forklift operators I know, but then I'm not in the radio biz) that anything worth doing musically in the last four decades was done by white guys, the Wilson sisters, or Stevie Nicks. (The newer "classic hits" format is similar, but with even more playlist restrictions.) And God forbid you should point out that, say, a revered power ballad like Boston's "More Than a Feeling" is basically just a rewrite of "Louie, Louie."

Bobby Darin is less neglected these days, thanks largely to Kevin Spacey's biopic, but still: forty chart records. And around here, you're more likely to catch "Laugh, Laugh," a Beau Brummels single Sly Stone produced, than anything Sly put out himself.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:31 AM)
26 April 2005
Maybe it can't happen here

During the winter I speculated as to the possibility of some of the excess talk-radio hours in this market being given over to Air America Radio. At the time, I said I thought it was a "definite maybe"; now I'm not so sure.

Radio Equalizer Brian Maloney has the numbers for the Winter '05 books in two markets where you'd expect a leftish station to do well — New York and Los Angeles — and those numbers are not encouraging. WLIB is pulling a mediocre 1.2 share in the Apple; KTLK is struggling with an almost-invisible 0.3 in the Orange. (I suspect that the National Weather Service's VHF radio service at around 162 MHz might pull that much.) No station in the Oklahoma City market is suffering so badly that numbers like these would look like a major improvement.

(A doffing of the sombrero to Michelle Malkin.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:02 AM)
8 May 2005
A Busch-league proposition

As far back as I can remember, which is farther than I'd care to remember sometimes, the St Louis Cardinals were on KMOX radio (1120); I used to pick up the games in Charleston back in the 1960s.

Apparently a blowtorch station that reaches about half the states in the Union isn't good enough for the Birds anymore, though:

The Cardinals' contract with KMOX (1120 AM) expires after this season, and team officials have talked with KTRS (550 AM) owners about buying that station and moving the broadcasts there.

KTRS, once KSD (I think), is a 5,000 watt regional station that has fairly decent reach but nowhere near the coverage of KMOX, especially at night when the directional pattern kicks in.

I understand the team's wanting to control the product, and the radio market has changed radically in recent years, but this still seems wrong, and Brian J. Noggle knows why:

Building the brand through a consolidated marketing plan by putting the broadcasts on a small radio station that most Cardinals fans cannot hear? The MBAs love it!

And when the fans in Iowa, Kansas, Tennessee, and Indiana can't get the broadcast on KMOX, don't spend money for satellite radio [XM carries MLB games], and eventually stop making the pilgrimage to Busch stadium, the MBAs won't understand how the loss of tradition in a longstanding sport franchise ultimately hurts more than it makes hip.

I expect to have no trouble getting Cards games here in Oklahoma City, but it won't be the same without KMOX.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:30 PM)
19 May 2005
Radio for people who used to like radio

Way back in the waning days of World Tour '02, I gave a shout-out to what sounded like some superior radio:

[A] salute to WDRV ("The Drive") in Chicago, the only station I've ever heard with the gumption to play both Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry" and the McCoys' "Hang On Sloopy" — and the latter in its 3:45 stereo mix, at that.

The major ailment of Oklahoma City radio — the Incredible Shrinking Playlist — apparently hasn't infected Chicago radio to the same extent. Witness, as Jeff Brokaw has, the new Nine FM:

[T]heir tagline is "we play anything". And so they do.

Recently I've heard, in a span of 15 minutes, sets of music containing both R.E.M. and Donna Summer. Bad Company and Wild Cherry. Beck, Bee Gees, and James Brown.

If any of the professional risk-avoiders who run Oklahoma City radio had the temerity to try something like this, the world would surely judder on its axis.

WRZA, not to be confused with the guy from Wu-Tang, is at 99.9 in Park Forest, Illinois; it has two translators farther north. Pray that they get a Webcast.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:03 AM)
28 May 2005
Another drop-in

Ada's KAKO (91.3 MHz) isn't even on the air yet, and already they're asking to move their transmitter site to just south of Tecumseh, thereby enabling them to reach eastern areas of Oklahoma City.

This station is owned by the American Family Association, Donald Wildmon's bunch; it's perhaps a little disheartening — if not in the least surprising — to see an ostensibly Christian organization pulling the same stunts as commercial radio operators to pick up a few extra listeners at the expense of the people who live in the town to which the station is licensed.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:01 PM)
5 June 2005
Those oldies but goodies

I learned a long time ago that I was no longer valued as an audience member by the commercial-radio industry; I'm too old and I can't be persuaded to listen to the stuff they're most anxious for me to hear. Still, it never occurred to me to mourn.

Until Michele said this:

As I got older and had my own radio tuned to the rock and roll of WNEW, I never tired of hearing CBS emanating from the kitchen or the backyard. I prided myself on knowing all those doo wop lyrics, all those early rock artists. Even now, walking into a store that had CBS on the stereo, to hear the call letters was the equivalent of comfort food; the warm, cozy feeling of your past reaching out to give you a squeeze. It made my heart and soul feel good and now it's gone. I never thought I'd be saddened over the loss of a radio station, especially one I rarely listened to anymore — I've been angry and pissed off and cynical every time a station I like changed formats, but I've never been so sad to see something go.

WCBS-FM continues to issue forth some semblance of an oldies format at its Web site, but much of the value of radio is in its portability: if you can't listen to it in the park or on the freeway, why bother?

Here in the Okay City, KOMA is giving more airtime to 70s tunes, but their playlist hasn't expanded; they've simply divested themselves of that ancient 50s stuff that people like me (and Michele, who is just about a whole decade younger than I am) still cherish. Fortunately, I still have my records.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:39 PM)
13 June 2005
The Apocalypse is not yet here

It's apparently still possible to hear Randy and the Rainbows on Philadelphia radio.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:57 AM)
14 June 2005
Yet another drop-in (follow-up)

From this very site in August 2003:

KWEY-FM in Weatherford would seem to have it pretty good; they're the only FM in town, they pump out 100,000 watts all over western Oklahoma, and they've got an AM facility to boot.

So why would they want to make themselves over as a lowly 6,000-watt rimshooter in Blanchard?

The application is in, and it's even lowlier than I thought: the request is for 1,000 watts at 244 meters, about the same stick height as they have now. They're still short-spaced to KQOB (at 96.9; KWEY's application is for its existing 97.3 frequency) by about nine miles, though. (Translation: They don't meet the usual FCC spacing requirements for stations this close together on the dial, and must demonstrate to the Commission's satisfaction that there will be no excessive interference.)

The question remains: "Why?" Back then, I speculated: "I'm thinking that maybe they want to sell this station, and they don't think they'll get a buyer out there in Weatherford." I'm going with that until I have some reason to think otherwise.

(Prompted by this item at Radio-Info.com.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:22 AM)
21 June 2005
Instant tribute

It had to happen, and I'm thinking it's probably a good thing that it happened quickly: CBS-FM Remembered.

Promised: lots of airchecks from the glory days.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:20 AM)
Alternative delivery

A couple of years ago, Doc Searls prescribed the following regimen for public broadcasting:

Get off the public dole completely. If you're down to just 2%, finish off the job. Turn to listeners and viewers. Operate in the real marketplace. You already have a huge advantage over commercial broadcasters, thanks to the fact that your listeners and viewers are customers and not just "consumers."

And let your listeners and viewers get involved in production. Embrace audio blogging. Embrace local video production. Wake up and smell the content, dudes. There's a huge pile of it out there. You don't have to get all of it from NPR and PRI. And I'll bet you can get a lot of it cheaper than from those bigtime sources, too.

At the time, I predicted that Congress would kill off the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It hasn't happened yet. Then again, public broadcasting hasn't exactly changed its ways either, and once again, Doc Searls is on their case:

[P]ublic broadcasting has a huge advantage over commercial broadcasting: it sells its goods directly to its viewers and listeners. Put another way, its consumers and its customers are the same people. Commercial radio and television have a huge (and problematic) split between customers (advertisers) and consumers (viewers and listeners). Yet, for some dumb reason (too many staffers coming over from the growing labor pool of laid-off commercial broadcast marketers?), public broadcasting has looked to commercial broadcasting as an ideal model. Rather than make it easier than ever for its consumers to become customers, and for its customers to become more involved with the stations, public broadcasting whored itself to underwriters and other "sponsors."

Maybe that's an unkind characterization, but there's a follow-the-money effect at work here. As dependence on federal money shrinks, commercial sponsors take up the slack. There is a natural drift of energy toward pleasing those advertisers (which is what they are), and away from customers that really matter: paying listeners and viewers. In other words, public broadcasting has been doing its best to behave like commercial broadcasting. Not helpful.

A different business model might address this issue:

[T]hink of your listeners and viewers as customers. Make it easy for them to buy retail the programs you buy wholesale from NPR, PBS and other sources. Sell them good local programming as well. Don't think of them as sources of "support." Think of them as customers for your service.

Let's say I have $60 to spend on the local NPR station. Suppose, instead of a simple block grant, as it were, I went to an online storefront of sorts and specified, say, $39.50 for Morning Edition and All Things Considered, $12 for The Diane Rehm Show, $8 for the evening jazz programs, and four bits for Car Talk (two guys, each with two-bit commentary). Fine and dandy, and it's the same sixty bucks. (Disclosure: Last year I sent this station, um, sixty bucks.)

In a more advanced public-broadcasting market, it might be worthwhile for program providers to stream their material through local station links in exchange for a small fee, which might reduce the number of people kvetching to the station manager about "How come you don't carry So-and-so?"

There are other possibilities. But none of them must rely on the tedium that is the semiannual pledge drive, and none of them need be dependent on taxpayer dollars. As Jeff Jarvis says, "Taking money from politicians gets you politics."

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:07 AM)
27 June 2005
Honing the Point

Sinclair Broadcasting executive Mark Hyman delivers those stentorian corporate editorials on the company's stations (including KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City, a Fox affiliate) which fall under the collective title "The Point".

Troy Steele at Oklahoma Media Watch identifies the components of "The Point":

  • 1 part [Kelly] Ogle-esque homespun sensibility
  • 1 part R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket
  • 1 part confusing right-wing stance on topics that don't normally lend themselves to picking political sides
  • 1 part hair gel

I think Steele is probably slightly underestimating the contribution of the hair gel, but otherwise, this sounds about right.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:10 AM)
29 June 2005
Kihntinuous entertainment

Tom McMahon reveals that Greg Kihn has been on the radio in San Jose for the last few years. While following up on this news, I discovered that Kihn's planning to syndicate a daily four-hour radio show, which, judging by the proffered demos, seems promising, though I tend to doubt any of our hidebound FM mausoleums will take a flyer on it. I mean, it's not like they're going to have to bump Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas to make room for Greg Kihn.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:47 AM)
29 July 2005
Can we pay them not to play something?

Lindsay Beyerstein has some fresh objections to payola:

Today's consumers have a variety of sources of music and a variety of media to store and play it.

Nevertheless, payola undermines consumer choice. Consumer choice isn't just about selecting a station whose programming you tend to like. The consumer should also be free to make an informed choice about the different services offered in the radio market.

The station that runs on payola is offering a fundamentally different service than a station whose DJs have creative control. An independent DJ is offering her expertise and aesthetic judgment. It's her job to listen to choose good stuff and to play it in aesthetically pleasing sequences.

As a consumer, I want independence from my DJ. In a payola system, I have no idea who's independent and who isn't. As a listener in a payola system, you don't know whether your DJ is taking bribes, or whose bribes she's taking.

I'm inclined to applaud this line of thinking, mostly because I like the idea of differentiating between stations which are completely ruled by the dollar and stations which are only partially so; but as a practical matter, so few DJs actually do have creative control — even stations which refuse payola often have consultants and marketroids who set the playlists based on their "research" — that they will stand out for their sheer rarity as much as for their presumably-good programming judgment.

Dave Marsh once said that the payola of the 1950s had scant effect, that any record that became a hit in those days probably would have become a hit even if no one had slipped anyone a few bills under the table, and while I think this might have been true back then, I'd find it hard to believe that the present-day pay-for-play system is similarly ineffective: for one thing, playlists have been shrinking steadily, Jack FM and its brothers notwithstanding, and the fewer the songs, the greater the impact of slightly-heavier-than-normal rotation.

Then again, I listen mostly to public radio, for which I write checks in the fall.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:20 PM)
10 August 2005
Mrs Malaprop's high-heeled sister

Diane Rehm seems to be having a rough time today. In the same burst of words, she managed to misidentify the transportation bill the President is signing today as an "energy" bill and referred to that woman who is hanging around outside the President's fence as "Cindy Crawford."

Given the location of said fence, I can sort of understand the confusion; I'd rather believe that Diane has the occasional brainfart than that she was overwhelmed by the blistering rhetoric and smoldering sexuality of guest Rick Santorum.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:32 AM)
12 August 2005
Maybe it's just inertia

Or someone's sleeping in the Department of Titles and Screen Displays at ABC. Whatever the explanation, Matt Deatherage noticed this:

As of tonight, at least, their nightly newscast is still called ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.

"Tonight" being last night, when he posted it.

Since ABC hasn't named a permanent replacement yet, maybe they're holding off in anticipation of the actual appointment. But it's going to sound awkward, maybe worse, until then.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:53 AM)
23 August 2005
Doppled and drowsy and ready for sleet

The Weather Wars heat up in the Big Apple:

Doppler 4 was replaced by Doppler 4000, a preventive unilateral escalation presumably designed to keep any meteorological rivals from achieving Doppler supremacy.

Now it has happened. Say hello to — we kid you not — Channel 2's new Doppler 2 Million.

Five hundred times as good? I don't think so. (Here in the middle of Tornado Alley, the big Doppler news is KFOR's 350-kw facility, compared to those feeble 250-kw operations run by Those Other Guys.)

But things could get worse:

What scares us most about this crazy Doppler arms race is the possibility of loose Dopplers. Because one day advanced Doppler technology will fall into the hands of Fox 5.

And then it's all over.

Gary England, you better watch your back.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:48 PM)
30 August 2005
The state of radio

Little Steven Van Zandt gave the keynote address at the 2005 Radio & Records Convention in Cleveland in July. This is long and profound and occasionally profane; the latter explains the use of the jump.

I Love Radio!

(applause erupts)

And I feel nothing but love in this room because as I look around, I see only two kinds of people: our beloved affiliates . . . and future affiliates.

(laughter)

So now matter what happens in this next half hour, remember what I just said. It's just family talking.

And without any further disclaimers let me ask the only important question that is on my mind, and I'm sure you've been thinking about it also, especially lately.

(pause)

WHEN DID THE FUCKING PUSSIES TAKE OVER?

(applause and laughter)

When?

Don't you look forward to the day when your grandson is on your knee and he looks up and says, "Grampa weren't you in radio once?"

"Yes, Grandson," you'll reply.

"Could I ask you something," he'll say.

"Of course, my love, anything," you'll say.

"Grampa where were you WHEN THE FUCKING PUSSIES TOOK OVER?"

(more laughter)

Where were we? What happened?

Things are out of line and we're not leaving here today until we straighten it out.

(applause and laughter)

Now I was going to wait for this but we might as well get right to it since it is all everybody's talking about.

I have come to praise JACK not to bury him.

(laughter — uncertain applause)

The guys at Infinity are friends of ours, as is everybody else, we got nothing but friends, you all know that.

And I've gotta say I'm proud of these guys for having the balls to shake things up. Things needed shaking up. And history will remember them in a very positive way when looking back at this world-changing moment.

Having said that . . .

Replacing 33 year old New York oldies institution CBS-FM with JACK is like replacing the Statue of Liberty with a blow-up doll.

(eruptions of laughter and applause)

But again, change is good. And necessary.

With a little bit of luck JACK will last 10 or 12 months because it is obvious people want something different, they are hungry for something, anything.

So it could be 6 months before anybody actually listens to JACK. Once they do it is doomed for 3 obvious reasons.

At the moment it is replacing oldies formats but it is not an oldies format in the true sense of the word. It's mostly 80's, some 70's, some 90's.

Now it must be said that the oldies format is vulnerable because over the last 5-10 years it has, in a word, sucked.

It has sucked for a very simple reason, somebody had the brilliant idea to eliminate the 50's and replace it with the 70's.

This was done by somebody uniquely stupid and deaf and ignorant and a bad businessman on top of it all.

So naturally, everybody copied it and the 50's disappeared virtually overnight.

Now let's digress and examine this oldies thing for a minute.

Assuming you accept the fact that those overseeing the oldies format these last 5 years — 10 years — are, in fact, stupid, deaf, ignorant, and bad businessmen, let's deal with it.

As far as stupid, deaf, and ignorant, when it comes to decades that matter, that matter historically, in terms of influence, importance, and never-to-be-heard-again-quality — that is the 50's and 60's. Everything we do, everything we are comes from those two decades.

You're gonna throw one away?

You're gonna replace Elvis, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Johnny Burnette, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, Lloyd Price, and Fats Domino with, all due respect, Donna Summer and the Bee Gees?

You're gonna replace primal, vital, timeless, forever cool rock and roll pioneers with disco?

Disco? You wanna know what disco is good for?

Disco is for when you're drunk at a wedding with your old lady and you want to act like an idiot and be John Travolta for an hour or two.

That's where it belongs. Not on radio.

And to the issue of oldies being bad business — all you hear — I'm assuming from sales people — is we must lower our demo's.

The oldies demographic are getting too old — that's the rationale for replacing the 50's with the 70's.

Now if all there was to sell in the world were Froot Loops, PlayStations, and sneakers — they might have a point.

But I got a little secret to share.

You know that age group — 35 to 65 — that nobody in sales seems to care about?

THAT'S WHERE ALL THE FUCKING MONEY IS!

(laughter, applause)

I mean ALL the fucking money. 35 to 65.

Memo to sales team — SELL THEM SOMETHING!

And, by the way, if you want younger people listening, you can get that done. And I mean kids, if you want them.

Who is cooler? Early Elvis or Elton John?

What appeals more to kids, Gene Vincent's black leather attitude, Eddie Cochran's teenage frustration, Little Richard's cry of liberation, and Dion's total Sopranos coolness — or the Eagles?

You want wild? Put together the Sex Pistols, Audioslave, and the Wu-Tang Clan — they aren't as wild as Jerry Lee Lewis in his prime.

But you have to explain that. Show it, illustrate, educate, sell it.

All right — digression over — so JACK isn't oldies so it must be some kind of classic rock/pop hybrid. But JACK doesn't address the two biggest problems of classic rock.

15 years ago I said we're chasing all the personality out of rock radio and into talk and sports. And the ratings went with it.

We need more personality, not less, and JACK has none. No DJ's means no personal relationship with the audience. Eventual apathy is inevitable.

The other big issue classic rock must consider is it must start playing new music again.

I've suggested it to my own affiliates and I'll keep saying it every chance I get.

We've got a big problem.

Look around.

Pearl Jam does some business. Dave Mathews — if he's rock at all — does well. Maybe Oasis breaks this year in the U.S. Maybe Coldplay — if they're considered rock.

But in a real sense, the last big band through the door was U2. That's 25 years ago. Has anybody stopped to consider that. Basically when our generation stops touring, it's over.

That's one reason why we started the Underground Garage format: new Hard Rock, Hip Hop, and Pop can be heard in various places, new Rock and Roll had nowhere to go.

We have played more new bands in 3 years than anybody since the 60's. We average 30 new bands a year. That's how many are out there.

And we are very picky out of respect to our classic rock affiliates, we know we need to keep the quality level high and we do.

But we can't sell records with 2 hours a week.

Someday somebody will have the balls to put the Underground Garage format on 24-7 on broadcast radio but until then, we only have 2 hours a week.

We need your help.

Rock and Roll is not just that museum down the street. It's a living, breathing animal that needs to be fed. With new blood.

And I'm not saying you need to do as much as we do, we're about 40% new and the rest from the entire 50 years of history.

And by the way everybody told us you can't combine old with new but of course you can.

As long as you're making your decisions based on musical experience, good taste, and an effective, coherent emotional communication.

As opposed to your iPod on shuffle.

(laughter, applause)

When you properly combine old and new the old records give the new ones a sense of depth, of belonging to an eternal continuum, carrying the flag forward.

The new records give the old ones relevance, keeps them vital, connected to the next generation.

And all testing and computer analysis and surveys don't tell you that. It's all bullshit. When are we going to learn that?

(applause)

All that shit tells you is what people think they want right now.

Well, that's not the way great radio happens, or great anything.

You don't do a survey before you write a song, or make a record.

We are drowning in an ocean of mediocrity because sometimes you gotta have enough historical perspective, and vision, and balls to say we have to combine short-term want with long-term need.

And yeah, you gotta sell it.

If you're playing cool stuff make sure the audience hears it right — in the right context. That is everything.

If to a punky consciousness the Ramones are sugar and the Ronettes are broccoli you play the Ramones into the Ronettes and, because Joey learned to sing from Ronnie and you can hear it, the Ramones become hollandaise and it works.

(laughter, applause)

There is an art to this shit.

You know that.

It's the corporate bosses that forget that fact.

But it's not just music — we have this problem plaguing every aspect of our culture.

Yes, content needs work, yes, marketing needs work, but it is the sales teams that need to be re-educated and motivated and inspired and creative. And it's not happening because they are being led by business oversight guys.

Content guys should be running companies, marketing guys should be running companies, who put business oversight guys in charge?

(applause)

Wall Street, that's who.

Wall Street continues to love and reward and worship short term success for some reason. As the culture and the economy and all our fathers' and grandfathers' and hundreds of years of hard work get trashed in a generation or two.

The tail is wagging the dog.

Wall Street should not be calling the shots.

When did Wall Street ever write a song? Paint a picture? Make a movie? Play a song on the radio that changed somebody's life?

(applause)

Where are the music people?

I see lawyers, accountants, test marketers running the world.

Where is the emotional connection? Where is the passion?

This ain't about JACK or BOB or Moe or Larry or Curly.

It's about you.

Everybody in this room.

You are here because you are connected emotionally.

This ain't Harvard Business School.

It's fucking Rock and Roll!

(applause)

These Wall Street cats couldn't have gotten us here. They react — they don't create.

They didn't build this industry.

We did it.

And you're not here because it was a smart business decision. I know what you make.

(laughter)

(pauses; slows down)

You're here because you loved it once.

And we've got to find a way to love it again.

And communicate that love to our audience.

I am determined &151; together we will find a way.

The Revolution is on.

Thank you.

(standing ovation; thunderous applause)

And thank you, sir.

(Little Steven's Underground Garage is available online, or, if you're luckier than I am, on a radio station near you.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:16 AM)
15 September 2005
Four and forty-three

I was going to put something here about the acquisition of Oklahoma City UPN affiliate KAUT by The New York Times Company, which also owns NBC affiliate KFOR, but by the time I threw in everything I thought needed to be thrown, the piece had grown well over 5k, which suggested to me that maybe it might be better as a Vent.

And now it is.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:08 PM)
17 September 2005
You're listening to Ipana FM

Michael Bates was talking about Bob Wills, but he dropped in this paragraph that resonated with me:

KVOO, 1170 on your AM dial, changed call letters and formats three years ago, and is now KFAQ, on which you can hear me Monday mornings at 6:10. One of KFAQ's FM sister stations kept the KVOO call letters. I wish the AM blowtorch had kept KVOO, too. Given what the letters stand for, KVOO seems appropriate for a news/talk station.

The Voice of Oklahoma aside, the endless rounds of call-swapping annoy the heck out of me. KOMA dropped its nearly-seventy-old identity last year in favor of the not-so-inspired "KOKC," dropping the old calls on the FM dial. Other sets of Oklahoma City calls are now far away from their original dial positions: KEBC, once 94.7, is now 1340; KOCY, which had been 1340, is now 1560; KKNG, previously 92.5, has drifted to 93.3. KOFM, once 104.1, has made it all the way to Enid at 103.1. But none of these latter sets is actually being used by the original owners; it's the radio equivalent of buying the rights to a forgotten brand of toothpaste and hoping someone might remember it.

And a cheer and a fraction to KJYO, which continues to use the "KJ103" branding even though everyone has moved to digital readouts and has presumably discovered that the station is actually at 102.7.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:30 AM)
13 October 2005
The old sixty-forty

Former KWTV meteorologist Paul Bouchereau, in this week's Oklahoma Gazette:

The beautiful thing about television news formats is, if you leave Oklahoma City and go to Detroit, the basic format of a newscast is the same. The first 12 minutes are news, the middle five minutes are reserved for weather and the final four minutes are for sports.

He doesn't, however, go into detail about the unbeautiful thing about television news formats: those 21 minutes are somehow squeezed into a 35-minute time slot.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:19 PM)
20 October 2005
The old begging bowl

Twice a year, public radio goes through its fundraising ritual; once a year, I send my check and then shut the thing off for a week so as to avoid it. KGOU is passing the hat this week, and KCSC will follow shortly.

Pledge Weeks are the bane of the listener's existence, to be sure, but there's no real alternative yet: relying on the government dole is unacceptable, and "underwriting" announcements are verging awfully close to real live commercials these days. (The operative word, of course, is yet.)

So I kick in my small contribution and grumble. It's basically the same dynamic that prevails when I pay my taxes.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:25 AM)
28 October 2005
Hornets on the radio

Tonight's Hornets-Hawks preseason game is the first I've checked out on the radio, and the broadcast team comes off pretty well: they're not exactly low-key, but they don't scream at you either. (Yes, it's Sean Kelley doing play-by-play.)

Eight stations in Oklahoma are carrying Hornets games; the western flagship, if you will, is KTOK in Oklahoma City. The previously-existing Louisiana/Mississippi network continues pretty much intact.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:07 PM)
3 November 2005
Great moments in TBS history

Milestones at R. E. "Ted" Turner's original flagship property:

January 1970: Turner buys struggling WJRJ-TV, channel 17, in Atlanta, and renames it WTCG-TV.

December 1976: Claiming the name "Superstation," WTCG begins delivering its signal via satellite to cable systems.

May 1977: Having purchased the Atlanta Braves baseball club, Turner declares himself manager. He is replaced after one game, the team's 17th consecutive loss. In another Braves-related matter, Andy Messerschmidt is assigned #17, and instead of his name or nickname across his shoulder blades, he wears the word CHANNEL, a plug for WTCG. The Commissioner of Major League Baseball is not amused.

June 1979: Turner sacks popular news dude Bill Tush because his flippancy might reflect poorly on Turner Broadcasting's newest venture, a 24-hour news channel.

November 1979: Turner acquires the WTBS call by donating $25,000 worth of equipment to its owner, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (The MIT station became WMBR.)

September 1996: Debut of Dinner and a Movie, a Friday-night series which combines feature films and food.

June 1999: TBS (no longer using the W except on its Atlanta broadcast signal) debuts The Chimp Channel. No effect on CNN is noticed.

November 2005: TBS (now advertising itself as "very funny") introduces a "very funny" Texas Holdem poker game for its Web site, created by the reasonably jocular Sean Gleeson.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:25 AM)
4 November 2005
Tomlinson departs CPB

Former Corporation for Public Broadcasting chairman Kenneth Tomlinson has resigned from the CPB board, possibly in expectation of an unfavorable finding by the CPB Inspector General, which has been investigating some of Tomlinson's spending on outside consultants.

Tomlinson came under fire earlier this year for what he described as attempts to correct political bias in PBS progamming; I speculated here that his real goal was to oversee the dismantling of CPB.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:14 AM)
30 November 2005
A voice fades, but not really

Kent Anderson sounded really overwrought on KCSC today. I assumed it was Whatever Is Going Around, but apparently it might have been pure emotion at work: he's left the station behind to follow a different muse entirely.

The last piece he played: J. S. Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, in a harp transcription by Yolanda Kondonassis. Somehow that makes sense.

And if you haven't read Department Thirty yet, I'm just totally hurt that you're not taking my advice.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:08 PM)
2 December 2005
Empty the ashtray while you're at it

Having a radio/CD player in your car has adverse effects on fuel economy, says Diane, and upon reading the first line, I reasoned it out: well, there is that small increment of additional weight, and if you open the windows to inflict your miserable taste in music on the rest of the world, you do serious damage to your aerodynamics. (People with good musical taste don't blast it across two lanes for some reason.)

But no, it's nothing so complex:

I found myself this morning driving around the block so I could listen to the end of the song that was playing on the radio.

You know, if this gets around, it could kill off NPR's Driveway Moments altogether.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:23 AM)
11 December 2005
The last word in OETA: Authority

This past summer I endorsed this prescription by Doc Searls:

Commercial radio and television have a huge (and problematic) split between customers (advertisers) and consumers (viewers and listeners). Yet, for some dumb reason (too many staffers coming over from the growing labor pool of laid-off commercial broadcast marketers?), public broadcasting has looked to commercial broadcasting as an ideal model. Rather than make it easier than ever for its consumers to become customers, and for its customers to become more involved with the stations, public broadcasting whored itself to underwriters and other "sponsors."

Maybe that's an unkind characterization, but there's a follow-the-money effect at work here. As dependence on federal money shrinks, commercial sponsors take up the slack. There is a natural drift of energy toward pleasing those advertisers (which is what they are), and away from customers that really matter: paying listeners and viewers. In other words, public broadcasting has been doing its best to behave like commercial broadcasting. Not helpful.

Regarding our own (so to speak) PBS facilities, Matt Deatherage notes:

OETA is rich because it turns the purpose of public broadcasting as upside-down as it can and still call itself "public broadcasting." OETA is rich because it made sure it wouldn't run programs giving progressive Oklahomans a voice if what they said might annoy people with deep pockets.

Of course, the most grievous problem with OETA is that it's an entity of the state, subject to legislative oversight, and legislators in this state are rather easily spooked (cf. "Scratching off Christmas"). I frankly don't see how we can expect any changes in OETA's practices unless it can be slid out from under the twitchy eye of government and into the control of a private foundation, the way most PBS affiliates nationwide are operated; the new service will still have to go hat in hand to donors, but at least it won't have to answer to 23rd and Lincoln.

Possible compromise: Let OETA continue to run the statewide network of LPTV translators and the two full-power outlets in Cheyenne and Eufaula, and spin off the Oklahoma City and Tulsa stations to local operators. The hard part, needless to say, is convincing the legislature that this would be a Good Thing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:12 PM)
25 December 2005
Yet another drop-in (2nd followup)

From this very site in August 2003:

KWEY-FM in Weatherford would seem to have it pretty good; they're the only FM in town, they pump out 100,000 watts all over western Oklahoma, and they've got an AM facility to boot.

So why would they want to make themselves over as a lowly 6,000-watt rimshooter in Blanchard?

From a few months later:

The application is in, and it's even lowlier than I thought: the request is for 1,000 watts at 244 meters, about the same stick height as they have now. They're still short-spaced to KQOB (at 96.9; KWEY's application is for its existing 97.3 frequency) by about nine miles, though. (Translation: They don't meet the usual FCC spacing requirements for stations this close together on the dial, and must demonstrate to the Commission's satisfaction that there will be no excessive interference.)

The Feds have indeed granted a construction permit for the 1,000-watt facility, and Tyler Media, which owns four other radio stations in this market, all but one of them moved in from somewhere else, has purchased the station for a reported $1 million. New calls — KOJK — have been applied for. (This, at least, supports my speculation in the original post: "I'm thinking that maybe they want to sell this station, and they don't think they'll get a buyer out there in Weatherford.")

Still, there remains the question of what Tyler will do with the facility, and so far, they haven't said anything.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:33 PM)
6 January 2006
The new McCarthyism

As in Charlie McCarthy. Think about it for a moment: Edgar Bergen made history as a ventriloquist. On the radio. At least you never saw his lips moving.

2006: Sirius, one of the two satellite radio services, has struck a deal with Playboy Enterprises to produce a Playboy-branded radio show.

History in the making? Not likely. Something about this doesn't make sense, even to me, and I'm the guy with the database of women you can't see.

Then again, they keep telling us that aural sex really isn't sex.

(Brian J. Noggle can't see this either.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:20 AM)
9 January 2006
Less news, less talk

Two years ago:

The Oklahoma City market (population about one million) can probably support two stations with this format [news/talk], but three?

No, not three.

WKY radio has given up the format. In fact, they've largely given up English; the station is now broadcasting a Spanish-language music format which seems to be basically the same thing owner Citadel is running on KINB (105.3), but a few seconds out of sync. I suppose this means it's not technically a simulcast.

Coverage of Blazers hockey will presumably continue in English; I have to assume there isn't as yet any demand for hockey coverage en español. (Operative word: "yet.")

WKY, of course, was the flagship radio station of the Oklahoma Publishing Company for many years; as one observer noted on a radio message board, "I bet old man Gaylord is spinning in his grave about now."

KOKC, the #3 news-talk station, now rises to #2 — although with the numbers they get, I'm still inclined to think of them as #3.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:09 PM)
13 January 2006
Knowing Jack

With the arrival of Jack FM in the Oklahoma City market — okay, it's in Blanchard, fercrissake — I figured this commentary by Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams might be pertinent:

Why give a radio station a guy's name? Because you can't get the hots for something called Smooooth or Lite. But Jack? That's someone you banged, or wish you had.

In the ensuing weeks, Jack has become my new constant companion. He's like the investment banker I used to date. The guy had a ponytail. He was a soulless yuppie douche bag. But he radiated horniness, and there are times in a woman's life when that's just her type.

While the deluge of business-related articles written about Jack lately have focused on his ADD-level playlist and efficient elimination of costly on-air personalities, the real secret to Jack's allure is his blatant 24-7 fixation on sex. Sure, hooking up is an inevitable motif in any pop-based playlist. But Jack is never more than one song away from another ode to shagging. "Justify My Love" follows "Let's Get It On" follows "Give It to Me, Baby." Which is followed by an ad for car insurance, just to mess with my head.

It occurs to me that no one ever says this about Bob.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:17 AM)
24 January 2006
Conventional weirdness

News item: CBS Corp. and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Brothers television network said Tuesday that they will close their respective UPN and WB networks and jointly launch the CW network.

Top ten network names rejected before coming up with "the CW":

  1. WU
  2. VH2
  3. Way the hell out on channel 37
  4. SortaEthnicNet
  5. NotFox
  6. Mineral Planet
  7. WCWD (Who Cares, We're Digital)
  8. ReallyNotFox
  9. USB Network
  10. BFD

Check your local listings.

Addendum: Any similarity to this is almost certainly deliberate.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:47 PM)
25 January 2006
(Somewhat) conventional wisdom

Random thoughts on the new CBS/Time Warner "The CW" network, previously mocked here:

  • Both thecw.com and the-cw.com are spoken for, with the usual "We're trying to look like a search engine" garbage.

  • It's hard to be sure at this point which local station — KOCB (affiliated with the WB) or KAUT (with UPN) — will emerge with the CW affiliation, though I think there's a slight tilt toward KAUT. Until recently, it would have been a slam-dunk; KAUT had been owned by Viacom, onetime parent (and previously child) of CBS. The sale of KAUT to the New York Times Company (owner of KFOR) in 2005 has thrown this into doubt, though Wikipedia is already asserting that KAUT will get the nod.

  • Whichever station does not get the CW affiliation can probably survive, maybe even thrive, as an independent.

  • The other networks will presumably benefit: there being fewer broadcast-network ad slots available, the price of said slots should rise.

  • Stock in Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns KOCB and a lot of UPN and WB affiliates, dropped almost 16 percent the day of the announcement of the network merger, and Sinclair predicts it will cost them money. (This is, I think, one factor in favor of KAUT getting the CW affiliation: Sinclair may be pissed off enough to refuse to sign affiliation agreements with the CW.)

  • CBS' Les Moonves has already noted that they're not calling it "The WC", and there's a good reason.

  • CBS Corp's press release (duplicated here) lists Oklahoma City incorrectly as a market with an existing CBS Station Group member.

As to the merger itself, it was unexpected, but rather easily explainable: UPN continued to lose money; the WB was profitable, but just barely.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:18 AM)
26 January 2006
Save us, for we are morons

The RIAA continues to plead for a "broadcast flag" to thwart copying of its precious content. There was a Senate hearing Tuesday, and FMQB reports:

[RIAA head Mitch] Bainwol told the Senate that the issue is "not casual recording by listeners. It is not taping off the radio like we used to do. We are talking about allowing broadcast programs to be automatically captured and then disaggregated, song by song, into a massive library of music."

WFMU's Liz Berg is not impressed:

... yeah, a massive library of low-quality sounding music. Anyone who is capable of bothering with song-capture technology would probably rather just buy a CD: the bit-rate for the new HD radio is a pathetic 64 k in the main channel and 32 k in the side channel (though this isn't entirely comparable to MP3 bit-rates, mark Station Manager Ken's words ... the sound quality will be far worse than analog FM).

Which, inasmuch as analog FM (1) cuts off abruptly above 15 kHz and (2) is almost invariably compressed to within a centimeter of its life, suggests that the New! Digital! Radio! is going to be no match for a really good AM setup — and AM hasn't been worth copying since Todd Storz / WABC Musicradio 77 / Guglielmo Marconi [choose one] died.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:07 PM)
Dying to be on TV

Britain's Channel Four will be airing a series called Dust to Dust in which a terminally-ill volunteer will be put on camera after he's died; the series will then trace the decomposition of the corpse during regular updates.

And to think I refused to watch a train-wreck of a series like Skating with Celebrities.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:34 PM)
27 January 2006
Debuting this fall on The CW

The CW network is being formed from the remains of UPN and the WB; it's reasonable to suspect that this Frankennetwork (not to be confused with Air America Radio) might air some programs from one, some programs from the other — and, per Hatless in Hattiesburg, some combinations thereof:

  • Veronica Mars Hates Chris
  • Gilmore Girlfriends
  • Eversmall Woodville
  • Reba And The Geek

It may be too late to hope for 7th Heaven Smackdown, though.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:46 AM)
14 March 2006
The Boston rag

In 1969, the FCC revoked the license of WHDH-TV Boston, channel 5, owned by the Herald-Traveler Corporation, which also owned the Boston Herald Traveler newspaper, and accepted a competing application for the channel from Boston Broadcasters, Inc. The Herald fought back, but lost, and in 1972 channel 5 was taken over by BBI, using the call letters WCVB-TV.

(Note: The current WHDH-TV, owned by Miami's Sunbeam Television, is on channel 7 and was not involved with any of this.)

WHDH had been a CBS affiliate; BBI, as part of its application, vowed to run more locally-produced programming than any other station in the country, which scared CBS into dropping its affiliation. ABC, then languishing on channel 7, switched to 5. And BBI was as good as its word — at least, in the early years. I was actually in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from the summer of '72 to the spring of '74, at the behest of Uncle Sam, so I got to see some of this stuff for myself; as I recall, some of it was a trifle too earnest at times, but channel 5 was my TV news source of choice.

But the station has been sold twice since then, and the standards that prevailed back in the Seventies are now — well, you can well imagine:

TO: Heather Unrue, Ed Harding
WCVB News Team
The Boston Channel 5

FROM: Verbify

SUBJECT: You make my mornings miserable

MESSAGE:
Dearest Heather and Ed,

When I stagger out of bed on weekday morning sometime between 5:40 and 6:15, I turn on the news. I suppose one could ask why I turn on the news, although I'd hope the answer would be obvious. I turn on the news to find out (1) how cold it will be, (2) whether I need to bring an umbrella, (3) whether traffic problems will mean the T will be overcrowded, (4) whether, by some miracle, all businesses in the greater Boston area are closed and I may therefore slide back into bed, and (5) oh, you know, the news. These are the things for which I do not turn on the television: (1) vapid and hollow newscaster banter, (2) vapid and hollow newscaster opinions, (3) unfunny jokes about Seinfeld, Brokeback Mountain, fashion, or the weather, (4) a clip (played three times) of Jennifer Garner stumbling slightly at an event totally unrelated to anything that will happen today, (5) vapid and hollow chatter about how Jennifer Garner is just sooooo quick on her feet, and (6) anything else that is not news. I suppose, then, you could ask why I turn on Channel 5's news. This is why: your broadcast leads in to Good Morning America, and I'd much rather watch fifteen minutes of Diane Sawyer's faux empathy than Katie Couric's ever more orange attempt at recapturing her early thirties. Keep this up, though, and I'm gonna switch to reruns of Angel or My Two Dads and just chance it with the weather.

In fairness to WCVB-TV, I should point out that they employ no Ogles.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:15 AM)
25 March 2006
Jackarity ensues

KOJK, JackFM™, is now on the air from its precarious perch in Blanchard, where it beams out with the power of ten billion butterfly sneezes 1,000 watts, making it the second-weakest of the weak-sister rimshooters in the metro area. (KINB, "La Indomable", belies its imaging with a meager 930 watts; it's no wonder they're now simulcasting on AM, coincidentally at 930 kHz.)

According to the FCC, KOJK should be able to put a city-grade signal as far north as SW 36th Street in Oklahoma City, with diminishing returns beyond that; the station should have good coverage in Cleveland County, but the closer you get to Edmond, the weaker it gets. From my own listening post west of 50 Penn Place, the Model 88s bring it in pretty well; the Big Receiver in the living room, which has one of those antiquated (and much-missed on newer gear) signal-strength meters, deflects to 2 out of 5. (Most of the bigger FMs in town run 4.5 or so.) My clock-radio, a weird Sony doorstop-like thing, barely acknowledges Jack; the portable in the kitchen can't find Jack at all.

No power increases are in the offing: at 97.3, Jack is short-spaced to Bob (KQOB, at 96.9), and there's a translator of The Love Station at 97.3 in Guthrie (K247AH) which runs about 86 watts and almost reaches Waterloo Road. These signals, decree the Feds, must be kept apart.

Still, this situation is not much different from what's happening to KVSP, the R&B/hip-hop station at 103.5 which transmits with 100,000 watts — all the way from Anadarko, and which actually covers Lawton better than it does Oklahoma City.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:27 PM)
10 April 2006
Filling the gaps

In January 2000, the FCC approved a new class of low-power FM radio station. But what the Feds giveth, the Feds taketh away: three months later, the charmingly-named "Preservation of Radio Act" amended the rules just enough to eliminate most of the potential slots on the dial.

Oversimplified: FM stations in the US are allocated to channels 0.2 MHz apart. The new LPFM rules would have allowed new stations at the second-adjacent position, a distance of 0.4 MHz — from, say, the KATT, which operates on 100.5 MHz, this would mean 100.1 or 100.9. The "Preservation" Act changed this to third-adjacent, 0.6 MHz away: 99.9 or 101.1. By no coincidence, the largest radio markets have most or all of their major stations 0.8 MHz apart; there are second-adjacent positions between them, but no third-adjacent positions.

In the Oklahoma City market in particular, move-ins by rim-shooters have positioned commercial stations at second-adjacent positions: KQOB (Bob) at 96.9 and KOJK (Jack) at 97.3; WWLS-FM (The Sports Animal) at 104.9, KINB (La Indomable) at 105.3 and KROU (sister to KGOU) at 105.7. It's true that the transmitters are scattered across the area to meet spacing requirements; nonetheless, these transmitters (except maybe Jack's) run a lot more power than microradio stations.

Which, incidentally, is the term they prefer to "pirate":

We are a "Micro-Station" We are here to provide the OKC area with Commercial Free programming and give our listeners what they want! We are not here to cause havoc or anything of that sort! We support our local police and if you listen you would hear us at 2am telling our listeners NOT to drink and drive. We are Radio Edited, We DO NOT broadcast 24/7. We are not hiding from anyone so there for [we] ARE NOT A PIRATE! We offer a various format of Dance, Trance, Hip-Hop, Comedy etc that you don't get from the Corporate Stations. We made SURE our equipment DOES NOT drift.

And, perhaps more to the point:

We are not the ONLY underground station in this City however we are the ONLY one I know of who does respect the law, we just disagree with some policies set by the FCC. Maybe if the FCC deregulated some of the channels this "Pirate Radio Movement" would slow down. We are not the first one here, And I KNOW we will not be the last.

Incidentally, they're on a third-adjacent to the nearest commercial station.

I'm a firm believer in following the rules. However, I'm also a firm believer in the idea that the rules ought to make sense. As media writer Jesse Walker notes, "There is clearly room for more stations on the local airwaves than current FCC regulations allow — otherwise there wouldn't be so many operations able to broadcast without causing real interference. Public policy should aim to accommodate as many of these voices as possible, not snuff them out."

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:18 AM)
14 April 2006
Hear the buzz better

One of the weirdest shapes this side of Jabba the Hutt is KTOK's nighttime directional pattern. Here in the middle of town, it's no big deal, but directly east or west, you're out of luck.

So I can't say I'm surprised to hear that Clear Channel is contemplating simulcasting next year's Hornets games on FM, perhaps on The Twister. This has been the practice in New Orleans, where WODT is backed up by WRNO-FM.

And even if you're not a Bees fan, listening to Sean and Gerry V riffing off one another is a genuine treat.

Update, 28 April: The Hornets broadcasts next year will move to Clear Channel's KHBZ 94.7, an alt-rock station known as — wait for it — "The Buzz."

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:15 AM)
10 May 2006
On the ropes but not down yet

KFOR-TV news guy Brad Edwards, famous for his "In Your Corner" segments, now finds himself backed into a corner of his own. Monday he did a broadcast from his hospital bed; Tuesday he suffered an aneurysm and lapsed into a coma.

The culprits: endocarditis and vasculitis, inflammation of the heart and blood vessels by a bacterial infection.

KFOR has set up a forum for Edwards fans and well-wishers.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:22 AM)
13 May 2006
A little higher on the scale

Oklahoma City, said Arbitron last year, was the 53rd largest radio market, with a 12+ population of 951,000.

This year, four counties (Grady, Kingfisher, Lincoln and Seminole) are being added to the Metro Survey Area, bringing the 12+ population up to 1,059,600, good for 48th place, jumping over Jacksonville, Memphis and Hartford/New Britain.

Nielsen does not refigure television DMAs until later in the year; we remain 45th, with 655,400 TV households.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:31 AM)
15 May 2006
In the Lord's corner

KFOR-TV newsman and "In Your Corner" host Brad Edwards, in a coma since last Tuesday, died this morning.

Edwards filed his last report from his hospital room the preceding Monday night. He had worked for Channel 4 for thirty-three years after serving in the Air Force as a military broadcaster in Southeast Asia; he was one of the last staff members who had worked for the station when it was WKY-TV and owned by the Oklahoma Publishing Company. (OPUBCO sold the station in 1975; the new owners took over in January 1976 and took on the call letters KTVY.)

(Previous coverage here.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:32 PM)
16 May 2006
Perry continues to grow

Russell M. Perry, publisher of the Black Chronicle in Oklahoma City, started out with one radio station: a thousand-watt AM daytimer.

He's now picking up his eleventh: KACO (98.5 FM) in Apache, which he's buying from a Dallas group and converting to a country format. Perry owns his own tower facilities northwest of Anadarko, where he will likely move the KACO signal once the sale is completed; this is the same transmitter site used for Perry's flagship KVSP, licensed to Anadarko/Oklahoma City.

The Perry broadcast group includes two stations in Oklahoma City, two in Tulsa, three in Duncan and three in Lawton.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:21 AM)
23 May 2006
The greats of Roth

David Lee Roth didn't last too long in Howard Stern's spot, but, says Rich Appel in Hz So Good, he oughta be in something with pictures:

David Lee Roth belongs somewhere in this crazy multi-channel-choice media world. And if you don't mind, I'd like to tell you where: either Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC or C-SPAN. Why? Because all four of those issues-bending outlets need someone with both a fresh perspective and an unusual schtick. During his short stay on radio, DLR not only proved that he can take a stand but that he can also take the ball and run with it about 17 blocks. You may love or hate his yap, but I found that Dave was like a bad traffic accident: messy, but you always find yourself stopping to look (or listen, in this case). On TV, where you could see Dave in action, what he's selling would therefore be a much stronger product. I'd sooner watch John McCain or Ann Coulter being interviewed by Dave than I would by O'Reilly or Colmes or anyone but maybe Bill Maher and Jon Stewart.

Maybe you're saying, or thinking out loud, that I've picked the wrong guy from that sphere, and that the rock star doing political talking heads on one of those cable channels should be Bono. Well, there's one problem with giving Bono the job: that show would suck. Sure, he's got something to say about every issue facing the world today, but, have you actually listened to Bono speak? Bono rhymes with mono, as in monotone. Which rhymes with drone. With a capital 'D' and that stands for dull. Hello, hello? It's even worse than vertigo. Plus, with Bono you know what he's gonna say before it even comes out. You'll never have to worry about that with ol' Dave.

Hey, it worked for Don Imus. Sort of.

(Get your own Hz So Good once a month; write to Rich at audiot-dot-savant at verizon-dot-net.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:17 AM)
4 June 2006
Weekend in New Mexico

For now, it's imaging as "Barry 99": KXPZ-FM in Las Cruces, New Mexico is playing all Barry Manilow, all the time.

I assume that this is a stunt to attract attention, and that the real format, whatever it may be, will show up later this week.

On the other hand, it's hard not to buy this simulated scenario from Nick Gillespie:

Las Cruces is less than 50 miles from the border with Mexico. This is part of a psy-ops designed to circumvent concerns over building a physical fence between down there and up here: Instead build a series of Manilow-only stations across the Southwest, creating a sonic barrier every bit as punishing as the feds bombarding the Branch Davidians with repeated playings of "Achy-Breaky Heart" (where's the ACLU when you really need them?). Here's hoping that the all-Manilow station doesn't end in a fiery conflagration and the murder of children. But if it does, will it really surprise anyone?

Then again, somehow I doubt the Feds are ready to take a chance again.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:30 AM)
11 June 2006
It's just like tattoo removal

It's been a while since I looked at any television at all, so I'm sure I'm coming late to this: KAUT, channel 43, which is losing its network affiliation this fall when UPN is merged into the CW, has scraped the UPN logo off its local-program bug, though the station is still promoting UPN43.com as its Web site.

Most observers, myself included, had thought that KAUT would pick up the CW; however, Sinclair, which had been snubbing the new network, had a change of heart last month, and agreed to switch its WB affliates to CW.

I don't know if Fox's My Network TV (a name there's still time to change) has come calling yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:58 PM)
18 August 2006
An army of Davids indeed

Diane Rehm's guests for the Friday news roundup, as always, came from various points on the political spectrum. But somebody went to a lot of trouble with this week's panel, all of whom were named David:

  • David Cook, Washington bureau chief, The Christian Science Monitor
  • David Gregory, chief White House correspondent, NBC
  • David Ignatius, associate editor/columnist, The Washington Post

Perhaps to compensate, the second hour of the show was scheduled to include Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Arianna Huffington and Paul Mirengoff.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:59 AM)
20 August 2006
And now there's Rehm Watch

Actually, it's called "What You Did Not Hear on the Diane Rehm Show," and this is its mission statement:

Diane Rehm hosts a show that is civil, "classy", intelligent, varied, relevant, and completely different from the "shout you down" "run-of-the-mill" shows that pass for ?talk-shows?. But there is a slight flaw: it leans liberal. Let?s be frank.

Besides the fact that most guests are of a liberal bent, and the fact that most topics are introduced by way of adjectives which betray that bias — there?s not one week that goes by that one doesn?t hear a topic introduced as "the Bush administration..." — the best example of the bias is in the weekly News Roundup (hereinafter called the Weekly Gang-up). The composition of that panel is typical of what can be seen in the rest of the mainstream media (hereinafter called the Old Media, or Liberal Media). It is usually a 3 against 1 ratio, that is, three liberals including the host and one token conservative.

Usually (although not done so much anymore) the three liberals are introduced without the nomination of liberal before their names, while the conservative is customarily introduced as "conservative commentator or writer so and so." The implication is that the firsts are, of course, neutral and objective journalists. Because we enjoy The Diane Rehm Show and because we believe that a healthy unbiased media is healthy for Democracy, and because we contribute with our taxes to the airing of The Diane Rehm Show we therefore declare ourselves "Self-Appointed Ombudsman" of the best variety show on radio.

I have to agree that it leans a tad to the left, but I'm not convinced that this is a "flaw": otherwise, all those "run-of-the-mill" shows, unless demonstrated to be smack dab in the middle, wherever the middle might be these days, are comparably flawed. (On the larger question of media bias in general, I tend to believe that most people are smart enough to apply their own filters as needed, and those who aren't, well, how likely are they to read this?)

The Ombudsman himself is José Alejandro Amoròs, and here's his vantage point:

I have spent half of my life in the US and one half outside. I did not grow nor was I intellectually formed in the bipolar ideological struggle of the present generation of Americans. I have a different experience. Liberals think [I] am Conservative and Conservatives think [I] am Liberal. I am a proud American citizen and consider myself an American Revolutionary in the tradition of the Founding Fathers.

Not a bad place to be, all things considered. (Is there an All Things Considered Watch?)

Disclosure: In addition to the aforementioned taxes, I write a check each fall to the NPR affiliate that carries Diane's show.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:33 PM)
25 August 2006
What's a girl to do?

Jack FM got to Los Angeles in the spring of 2005. How to counterprogram? Amaturo Group, which owned a trio of little class-A stations on the fringes of the city, decided to go for the obvious: Jill FM.

L.A. writer Meghan Daum is not impressed:

It plays artists such as Dave Matthews, John Mayer and Faith Hill, as well as some "deep cuts" from the past. Even though you can hear this stuff on regular, coed radio stations, we know Jill FM is a girl thing because the logo, on the website, is a lipstick smudge. Also, the promos feature a saucy female voice saying things like "Jill says: 'The only thing more unreliable than an Italian car is the man who drives one.'"

I stumbled on Jill FM when I veered slightly to the left of 93.1 Jack FM, that no-request, no-DJ station that purports to be absurdly eclectic but, I've noticed, seems to play the B-52's "Rock Lobster" at least 500 times a week.

Jill's own, um, mission statement:

  • Has deeper playlists — up to 2000 hits and less repetition!
  • Hit music from AC, Hot AC, CHR, Oldies, Rock, even Country!
  • Fewer interruptions, more music!
  • Fun with a sassy attitude!
  • Contests for people who live the Jill FM lifestyle!

By nature I am wary of anything that comes with a "lifestyle" attached, especially if it's this specific:

"She would not go to a sweaty bar at the beach," [general manager Robert] Christy said. "She likes to drink cosmopolitans, but after climbing out of the water from surfing, she'd enjoy a cold beer. She'd never drive drunk, possibly because she might have learned her lesson in the past. She might have a bad-girl streak. Also, she has three dogs: a cocker named Joe, a springer named Jerry and a poodle named Tony — that's for Tony Blair. Plus she has a Persian cat."

Obviously this isn't aimed at me, and it's just as well: nobody is going to program a station with me in mind. (If you'd like to try, here's a hint: play some Susan Barth.) But I've been listening to Jill's webcast, and I think I could save a button for her if she were broadcasting around here: she plays a few things not even Jack will dare to air, and she's definitely not intimidated by the boys, says her consultant:

My plan is to take it into every market where JACK or SAM or BOB is and say, "yeah, just like that except for women."

I don't expect Jack to go sliding down the hill, but you never know.

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