Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday talkin'

Been a rather quiet week, which is nice once in a while when I feel I need to get away from this thing (which is more often than you think). So here's what's going on in the media and whatnot.

You say it's your birthday

Only a few scant weeks since Air America turned the Big Five, another radio programming service celebrated an even bigger milestone earlier this week.

At 3P on April 15, 1949, Lew Hill and a staff of four launched the first listener-supported radio station in the world, uttering the words: "This is KPFA Berkeley." And thus began Pacifica Radio, which is now 60 years old.

Since then, local residents created four more Pacifica stations - KPFK in Los Angeles, WBAI in New York City, KPFT in Houston, and WPFW in Washington DC. And there are approximately 150 other listener-supported stations airing Pacifica-created programming.

Pacifica sez:

For sixty years, since the McCarthy era, America’s oldest independent media network has defied political pressures and the conventions and internal censors inherent to mainstream media. A haven and training ground for artists and journalists, Pacifica has been the vanguard of free media. Breaking important news, providing historical and political analysis, and discovering some of our greatest artistic talents, Pacifica Radio has brought us the great voices of each era.

So, happy 60th, Pacifica. You never looked so young.

Now pass the cake.


A couple former progressive talkers are in the news this week.

First, KOMY (1340AM) Santa Cruz, which had a rather stormy relationship with the format before switching to oldies a couple years ago, has flipped again.

Since a rival station, KIDD (630AM) had ditched adult standards and gone oldies, KOMY swaps places, dropping their own oldies format and going with KIDD's former format.

The Zwerling family, which owns KOMY and sister conservotalker KSCO, put both stations on the selling block back in September 2007. No word on whether they're still available, but i'm sure they'd sell for the right price. Then again, with so many AM station simply shutting off the transmitters and going dark these days, in the wake of the rotten economy, is there is any kind of demand for two stations such as these?

On the other coast, remember WKOX (1200AM) Boston? And remember that supposed signal upgrade Clear Channel was trying to work out? Well, it has finally happened. Currently, they are pumping out the long-promised 50,000 watts.

The station simulcasts with another Boston AM, WXKS (1430), and both dropped liberal talk for Latin tropical music two and a half years ago.

There is no word on whether WXKS will be split off, since WXKS now has full-market coverage. There is also no word on whether either station will keep the "Rumba" format. After all, if ratings were part of the whole equation, well, let's just say that "Rumba" ain't doing so hot. Overall ratings (I know, I know) are not only lower than they were with progressive talk - they're currently nonexistent. But that's just another one of those crazy things with Clear Channel. But hey, if they feel they're making money with it, well...

The slow, painful death of terrestrial radio

Just as Arbitron and Edison Research released a study saying that online radio listening has risen so much, it's actually shown up in local ratings surveys, the terrestrial pack continue to shoot themselves in the foot.

Clear Channel, most notably, has been sweatin' up a storm. Listening and revenue has plummeted. And the idea of programming ideas being essentially generated by salespeople and bean counters likely hasn't made the situation any better.

So, in order to give listeners what they can potentially offer and what online radio can't - namely localism and immediacy, they have vowed to take a more locally-oriented approach at each of their stations. All fine and dandy. The homogenization and removal of all local flavor has probably been one of the nails in the proverbial coffin. Only thing is, they still don't get it.

Clear Channel's amazing, fantastic solution? Run more PSAs. Seriously.

And they plan on running more local public-affairs programming in better dayparts. And make local station managers available to local officials at all times. It is also part of their plan to mollify President Obama's FCC, which is calling for more localism.

The radio monolith acknowledges that programming needs to improve as well. So, does that mean more locally-oriented programming ideas, made at station level? Wider playlists for music stations? More local talk show hosts? Well, if you thought that, you just don't know Clear Channel.

No, instead, the two-pronged assault announced to the trade publications include adding more distinct HD Radio channels, even though nobody listens to HD Radio. And, in more earth-shattering news, they're adding another hour of Ryan Seacrest. Oh brother!

And that's why radio is dying, folks. They still don't get it.

And the cruiser rides off into the sunset

Couldn't conclude this entry without noting a major broadcast milestone. And for fans of the NFL, this is very notable.

Asked to name a football color commentator, and likely the first name that comes to mind is John Madden. After almost thirty years in the broadcast booth, Madden has announced his retirement. Well, with Brett Favre now retired (?), perhaps Madden has finally run out of things to ramble on about.

All kidding aside, love him or detest him, the guy is a legend.

The good news for fans is that the highly capable Cris Collinsworth will replace him on "Sunday Night Football", which is a pretty darn good idea.


raccoonradio said...

According to a post on the Boston board, WAZN 1470 AM in Watertown MA (Boston area) is hoping to run same-day rebroadcasts of Jones/Dial Global progtalk shows. They need sales people...

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