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Name: terrestrial radio
Occupation: supposed entertainers and informers of the public
Last Seen: everywhere
Bee-otched For: barely surviving
It was 10 years ago Saturday that radio changed for the better.
Howard Stern made his debut on Sirius Satellite Radio finally bringing the uncensored version of his popular radio show to the masses. For $13 per month, you could enjoy his comedy bits, interviews and such without Tom Chiusano ruining all the fun.
It was also a homecoming for Stern fans angry over what Matt Hanlon and Citadel did to the show from 2002-2005 when corporate canned the show on all their stations simply because Howard was talking too much about his impending move. Yet, his old station in Grand Rapids, WKLQ eventually picked up rivals Opie and Anthony but canned them after two years due to poor ratings.
It was also good news for those in northern Michigan tired of chuckle hit morning shows like Bob and Tom or some local station like KLT who would constantly change their morning shows every three years, at least until Stern clone Omelette came to town.
So, how has radio fared in the past decade? Has it gotten worse? Better? Hmmm, well, judging by this article's headline, well, the answer is HELL NO.
Stern's ten-year anniversary came one day after the 75th birthday of WTCM in Traverse City, my old hometown's oldest radio station. True, people should be happy that it's still locally owned by the same family that started it 3/4 of a century ago, but it was also just a few days after the station canned their live and local afternoon show over costs. Now, Sean Hannity airs in its spot. Station management claimed that with this being an election year, it was important to have live analysis on the air, but the thing is, is that Hannity is a one-sided neocon who is simply a carbon copy of Rush and his other minions. When The Afternoon Drive aired on WTCM, it had double the ratings numbers Hannity had his first time around from 3-6 pm on the station.
Thankfully, Norm Jones - one of the AD's hosts - is still at the station, albeit on swing duties. But I did hear a rumor that Northern Star Broadcasting, the owners of Classic Rock The Bear, Rock 105, Big Country 102.9 and EZ 95-5/106-3 interviewed him recently about the soon-to-be vacated morning show/PD post at Rock 105. Yep, Cartman is leaving the station soon and headed over to Green Bay. I also noticed recently, too that Rock 105 no longer uses Westwood One's "Rock 2.0" format and everything is all locally programmed as far as I know. So, could this be the end of Rock 105? God only knows, but if that were to be, I would be happy that much of northern Michigan now has 4G LTE so I can listen to better-programmed rock radio in my travels.
I think it's funny that NSB canned Free Beer and Hot Wings on what was then Real Rock 105/95-5 and slapped Cartman back on mornings. Real Rock had DOUBLE the ratings The Bear had with dopey Bob and Tom in the morning. Now, Bob is retired and longtime Robin Quivers clone Kristi Lee announced that she's leaving the show, too. The only thing keeping Tom on the air is that his wife is pregnant, so she will now have two sets of diapers to change: the baby's and Tom's.
If that piece of shit show steals that last bit and adds on fake laughter to it, I will sue.
Let's face it: Bob and Tom is a sinking ship while FB&HW will last at least maybe another 20 years. Then again, all of radio is a sinking ship. Northern Michigan has five companies running about 90% of all the radio up there while Grand Rapids has three. Yet, Cumulus stock closed yesterday at 29 cents per share, iHeartMedia (Clear Channel) was at 84 cents (it was over a buck a few weeks ago) and Townsquare (FB&HW's owners) is doing much better at $10.59.
However, nether Midwestern, MacDonald-Garber, Northern Broadcast, NSB nor that weird-ass Texan are publicly traded. But, I have heard that one group owner is having trouble with payroll (and it ain't the Texan). It's also worth noting that northern Michigan does have a few radio stations - three in all - that are currently off the air because of money problems.
Maybe northern Michigan's radio Titanic is retribution for the fact that back when Howard Stern was at his peak in terrestrial radio, they sure as hell wouldn't want to air his show. They felt that Bob and Tom were edgy enough as-is. But now, there's the aforementioned Omelette on KLT with his knock off of The Wack Pack known as The Misfits (named after The Island of Misfit Toys from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", of course).
ALL of terrestrial radio needs to wake up. Why in the hell are radio companies knocking off younger-skewing formats such as Active Rock (and just think, there's no new rock station at all in New York City) and at the same time killing Oldies, crying "we don't want the 65 and over crowd"? Look, as a 34-year-old male, I am the future of radio. They need to work even harder to keep me listening, not the other way around. But nothing's working. Even with a kick-ass station like WGRD here in Grand Rapids, I'll admit that the only time I listen to the station AT ALL on any given day is when my alarm goes off in the morning. For the rest of the day, it's the internet or Southpaws on WPRR 1680 Tuesdays and Wednesdays 10a-noon.
Now, will radio survive another five years, or will there be silent stations everywhere? Just look at northern Michigan.