Thursday, January 7, 2016

1.7.16 Bee-otch of the Day: WTCM

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Name: WTCM
Age: as of tomorrow, 75
Occupation: angry old white man talk station
Last Seen: Traverse City, MI
Bee-otched For: not really giving themselves a happy birthday

Seventy-five years ago tomorrow, Lester Biederman, a 30-year-old former engineer and his buddies from Pennsylvania, flipped the switch to turn on the 250-watt transmitter to Traverse City's first radio station.

WTCM - then at 1370 AM - brought full-service radio to Michigan's Cherry Capital. Biederman started the station simply because TC was the biggest town in America without its own radio station. As a matter of fact, WTCM never had any real competition until 1960 when WCCW - founded by former WTCM employee John Anderson - signed on at 1310 AM.

Biederman would create the Paul Bunyan Network of stations that gave the communities of Cadillac, Petoskey, Alpena and Gaylord their own stations, and in 1954, WPBN-TV gave northern Michigan a second TV station alongside WWTV Cadillac.

Today, Biederman's son, Ross owns WTCM - now at 580 AM and 50,000 watts daytime - and they're the only Paul Bunyan station still in the Midwestern Broadcasting stable. But, the company now owns clusters of stations in TC and Alpena. WTCM has had many formats over the years, including Full-Service, Top 40, AC and a simulcast of Country sister WTCM-FM 103.5, but it was also 25 years ago today that WTCM 580 became its current format of News/Talk.

And what a way to celebrate 75 years on the air and 25 as a talker by dropping your live and local afternoon talk show.

On Monday, WTCM canceled The Afternoon Drive, which was hosted by Bill Froelich and Norm Jones. The show had been on the station for two years. It was controversial in the sense that WTCM moved Sean Hannity from the 3-6 p.m. time slot to 9 p.m. to Midnight. With TAD's cancellation, Hannity is now back on live on his old slot while the station adds John Batchelor to the 9 p.m. - 1 a.m. slot (knocking out the last night's final hour of Coast to Coast AM in the process).

The station still has two live and local shows in the morning: Ron Jolly (7-10 a.m.) and Christal Frost (10 a.m. - Noon). Even though in a way, both shows are a slight breath of fresh air from the angry old white man format WTCM has for the rest of the day, both shows have the tragic tendency of leaning towards the Chamber of Commerce side. Both shows will always have crap like "Ask the Financial Expert", "Ask the Lawyer", "Ask the Plumber", "Ask the Banker", "Ask the Proctologist" and so on.

Meh. At least it's not "Ask the Angry Old Pill-Popping White Dude Whose Contract Might Not Be Renewed by iHeartMedia Because He Called a Smart Woman a Slut Several Years Ago and Has Lost A Ton of Advertisers".

The only thing WTCM has going for them is the fact that they're the only AM station in the north that has ratings. I know that people had different feelings toward The Afternoon Drive, but better them than Hannity! Sometimes, I wonder how radio stations are faring in the ratings up north. But personally, I think that all the radio station owners up north - Midwestern, MacDonald-Garber, Northern Broadcast, Reynolds and the Crazy Texan - all have their Cumulus/iHeartMedia side and in the end, profits over people.

But since the average talk radio listener is probably in their 60s and older and at an age range advertisers don't care about, let's see where WTCM is in a decade.

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