Monday, March 10, 2014

3.10.14 Bee-otch of the Day: Good News Media

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Name: Good News Media
Age: 32
Occupation: Christian broadcaster
Last Seen: Traverse City, MI
Bee-otched For: bringing yet another unneeded radio station to northern Michigan
Well, folks, I have some good news and bad news.

The good news is that last week, northern Michigan gained a brand new radio station. Its name even sounds cool: Fuel FM.

The bad news: it's another greedy Jebus freak broadcaster.

Fuel FM 95.9 is northern Michigan's newest Christian contemporary radio station. It's competing with other area stations such as Smile FM, Strong Tower Radio, The Promise and others. Fuel FM is owned by Good News Media, which also owns general Christian-formatted WLJN-FM 89.9 and Christian talk WLJN-AM 1400 and 1370 "The Source".

A few weeks ago while I was cleaning out some stuff from my apartment to make way for my new carpet, I came across an old Traverse City Record-Eagle article from 1997 that talked about some of the changes going around on the northern Michigan radio dial. It talked about the new, but soon-to-be-ill-fated country station The Bee 94.3/92.5 and WLDR back when it was Sunny 102, playing adult contemporary music. The article was kinda long, with interviews with WTCM owner Ross Biederman and then-WLDR owner Don Wiitala, who had mentioned that radio ownership was "not fun anymore".

In the article was a little article-within-an article that talked about a proposed new station out of Fife Lake. The proposal was made by "a Texas company" and people had wondered when it would ever sign on. Well, that "Texas company" ended up purchasing WLDR in 2000 and a few other properties. They even made headlines in Traverse City for years because of the infamous hole in the ground downtown that was supposed to be their headquarters, but was never finished, blaming competition and a poor economy. They were supposed to build 95.9, but it never happened and was forced to have its construction permit revoked by the FCC.

Well, the FCC had an auction for the 19,000-watt frequency, whose signal goes as far north to Charlevoix to Marion in the south and from Thompsonville in the west to Houghton Lake in the east. The winner was Good News Media. There was speculation that GNM would simulcast WLJN-FM on 95.9, but instead went with a format aimed for an underserved part of northern Michigan: the 18-34 crowd.

True, the millennials and gen-Xers have KHQ, Z93, WCDY for CHR and if you're around the Straits area, Rock 105 for modern rock. But most radio stations up north play a ton of oldies, country and classic rock that's a major turn-off for them. Northern Michigan is already saturated with Jebus freak stations as-is, most of whom are non-profit and supported by listeners. Why do they need ANOTHER station?

OK, OK, so some of you fellow Christians are kinda mad at me for spewing that northern Michigan needs another secular station. And ya know what? It does. I, for one, am still PISSED that Real Rock 105/95-5 abandoned their Traverse City signal at 95.5 for boring slow AC. I think the area needs another new rock station that serves the area better, not a Jebus freak station that begs their listeners for money.

You see, the 18-34 crowd has better things to spend on rather than on a Christian pop station whose owners probably don't pay taxes and putz around in late-model Mercedes. Sad but true, Christian pop stations aren't even faring well as-is. Here in Grand Rapids - a town that's more conservative than northern Michigan - Way FM recently signed off due to a lack of financial support from their listeners. Their frequencies flipped to a simulcast of sister station WCSG, a station whose audience is more female and older than that of Way FM's. Same story with WPRJ 101.7 in mid-Michigan and 91.3 in the Alpena area: no money from young people = no station.

I've been having some nice e-mail chats with a former radio DJ in Traverse City, and he agrees with a lot of what I have to say about the industry. One of the sad things he told me was that he has a 17-year-old son and he and his friends don't listen to the radio. Ya know what? He has a good point. In the mid-90's, up north stations like WTCM and WKLT had 20 shares. However, internet radio grew, satellite radio grew and so did Pandora and Slacker. He told me that WTCM was now in the 6-range the last time he looked at an Arbitron chart. The point is, radio is DYING, and the fault's on technology that puts the individual in charge instead of corporate PDs and labels that tell people what to listen to.

If I owned a radio station up north, I would definitely go out on the streets and ask individuals on what's missing up north on the radio. Personally, I think Real Rock 95-5 had a good thing going when Del Reynolds pulled the plug on it. If EZ 95-5 has a 2 share right now, I'd be shocked.

My DJ friend also told me that if any radio station came into their business and wanted him to buy spots on their station, he'd kick them out if they couldn't provide numbers. Hell, I'd go Steve Wilkos on their ass.

Terrestrial radio: dying a sad, painful death since the day Al Gore invented the internet.


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