Sunday, December 30, 2007

Small-Town AM Radio lives on

Here's a cool New York Times article about an old-school AM 1000-watt radio station out on the East End of Long Island, WRIV - a station so hip, it doesn't even have it's own home page nor much of any kind of authorized presence on the Web! Whee! I found out about the story via a posting on the ever-lively New York Radio Message Board (the mecca of all Internet radio message boards) about "small-town stations" like this.

The posting refers to the ongoing debate at the NYRMB about such stations: are they viable anymore in this automated'n'consolidated era of radio? Are such stations just throwbacks, unprofitable labors of love, Don Quixote-like in their stubborn local focus, tiny ratings and aging audience?

The NYRMB debate mentioned is specifically about a local Nanuet station, WRCR 1300, of which I'm a fan; I especially like their Morning Drive Show, 6AM - 11AM weekdays with Steve Possell and Sophia Salis, who are both incredibly knowledgable and opinionated about Rockland County (what a concept! A broadcast station that cares a lot about its community!) I listen to them alot - OK, maybe not alot, sometimes - as I drive Route 59, doing errands and schlepping to work. Unfortunately, their signal bombs out shortly after I get onto the Palisades Parkway southbound.

Thinking about small-town stations very much brings me back to happy memories of my beloved hometown 500 watt AM station, Elizabeth New Jersey 's WJDM 1530. (Their swank headquarters, a floor up from the Woolworth's and Fabco Shoes on Broad Street and a half-a-block from the Union County Courthouse, can be seen above in a 70s/80s-era photo.) Sadly, this low-wattage-yet-lovable station is now gone, swallowed whole in a bewildering series of radio-biz moves: it first switched to the ill-fated Radio Aahs format in 1996, which got railroaded by Radio Disney, then it sorta morphed into WWRU, which is a Spanish station owned by Multicultural Radio Broadcasting that a) moved the JDM/RRU offices to Jersey City - or is it really 449 Broadway in Manhattan? - and b) moved its signal to the high-end-of-the-radio-dial frequency of 1660 with an increased signal of 10000 watts. Although the station is still called WJDM in Elizabeth? Is it the same Spanish-language programming heard on both 1530 and 1660? I can't quite figure it out... What I do know is that the local station, which played top 40 with a lot of local news, local talk and weather, is no longer with us.

Thanks to my mom, who worked at the courthouse at the time (for the Union County Board of Freeholders), I got to know WJDM's Dave Frankel, who also did news for the Elizabeth cable TV station that I volunteered at (Channel 12), and I got to hang out there a little bit - they had a Gates master control board that looked like this. They covered the Union County beat pretty well (again, what a concept - a station that cares about its local community). Also on the station for awhile was morning dj Art Rooney, who was better known as Looney Skip Rooney on the Uncle Floyd show, and for whom's Channel 12 black-and-white slapstick TV show I used to run a boom mike for...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

10 Years of the New York Radio Message Board!

A hearty congratulations go out to Allan Sniffen, who has been running the indispensible New York Radio Message Board for 10 years now! It all started when Allan, a Westchester-based obsessive radio fan (and dentist; Opie and Anthony dubbed him "The Radio Dentist", a name I'm not sure he likes) started a message board as an add-on to his phenomenal WABC Musicradio 77 site. The board, originally an innocent place for ruminations on playlists and other 77-nostalgia-stuff, became the essential hang-out and discussion place for the New York radio "scene". Read the board religiously, like I do - it's addictive! - and you'll gain a pretty good sense of the state of radio now, in all it's goodness, badness and ugliness.

I think Allan can go overboard in his defenses of the status quo of the radio industry; his regular cry of "follow the money!", explaining away the constant, crappy brain-dead/bottom-line business decisions that insure crappy commercial radio, is certainly realistic - but it's also depressing as hell and further-discussion-squelching. And his disdain for satellite radio seems like it will never go away. But the guy works tirelessly at providing a steady and safe place for the intelligent discussion of radio, and his opinions are often spot-on, like his current critiques of the Imus show. (He posted today that there was nothing he disagreed with with this John Mainelli column, and I'd have to say I agree with the both of them.)

Allan also has a regular podcast with groovy top-40 jingles, an insistent delivery and a pithy summation of his take on the radio scene. (Wish I could still get it via the iTunes store.) He's a good guy - pun semi-intended - and has been encouraging to me about this very blog, which I'd like to start posting in again. Allan, rock on!

Friday, June 22, 2007

WNYC's new Morning Show, in embryonic form

Here's a link to the Bryant Park Project, which is the "code name" for the new WNYC show that's being developed.

Actually, I'm not entirely certain if the show is designed for WNYC or if it's an actually NPR show (i.e. national, or at least heard in other towns besides New York). Whatever it is, the blog states the show is being thought out and sort-of tested out at the moment, and I am hoping for the best. Maybe they'll link to my blog. Maybe I can help with the show as an interactive blogger or something. We'll see.

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to this weekend's Radio Lab, which airs today at 3 PM on 93.9 FM and 2 PM on AM 820 (the best radio station in the world), and then again this Sunday at 6PM on 93.9 FM. Just the name alone turns me on: Radio Lab. Mmmmm.

Friday, May 25, 2007

WABC Rewinds on Memorial Day!

Thankfully taking a break from all the rightie rhetoric, this Monday May 28th - Memorial Day - WABC (770 AM) presents "WABC Rewound" for the 8th straight year. From 6 am to 6pm, the station presents old airchecks from its storied past... here's the schedule:

6AM – Ross & Wilson, Ron Lundy, Johnny Donovan from 1981
7AM - Top 100 of '67 Part 1 – Bruce Morrow/Chuck Leonard
8AM - Harry Harrison from 1976
9AM – Dan Ingram composite from 1966 & 1978
10AM – Roby Young from 1968
11AM - George Michael from 1974 Part 1
NOON - Top 100 of '67 Part 2 - Chuck Leonard/Charlie Greer
1PM - George Michael from 1974 Part 2
2PM - Dan Ingram from 1973
3PM - Dan Ingram from 1975 Part 1
4PM - Dan Ingram from 1975 Part 2
5PM – Bruce Morrow/Chuck Leonard from 1974

After 6pm on Monday, Mark Simone presents a talk show to wrap up the day's events. (Although there's something kinda depressing about Mark Simone... he does dj the great Saturday night oldies show... but I can't stand his right-wing hoo-ha.)

(Which is not to say I'm anti-right wing radio - I like it when it's done well, or at least entertainingly.)

Anyways, you can hear a Johnny Donovan preview of the special here (on Real Audio) or here (in mp3). I will most definitely be recording this on my Radio YourWay!

Speaking of WABC's storied past, it was almost exactly 25 years ago that the station switched over from Top 40 radio to all-talk. If you miss the station like I do, you MUST check out Allan Sniffen's amazingly great tribute site!

80% chance that the merger won't happen

Things aren't looking swell for the XM Sirius merger, I'm afraid to say.

I want the merger to happen. There's plenty of stuff on XM that I'd love to have access to (like this). A single service where the best of both services is offered would be ideal, and would help satellite radio compete against it's real competitors - i.e. not each other, but terrestrial radio and iPods. Keeping the companies battling each other for that early-adaptor audience just hurts the medium, at a time when the medium is struggling to stay afloat.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

OK, I can't stand it

There's just so much going on right now. Artie Lange announced he is going to take a 6-month break off of the Howard Stern show in January. Free-FM is switching back to "K-Rock" at 5 o'clock today, with Opie and Anthony still on in the mornings (but for how long?) Several "shock jock" personalities have been chased off the airwaves because of inopportune statements. XM and Sirius are trying to merge - not too successfully at the moment, it seems.

Meanwhile, I am the proud owner of both a Sirius Stilletto and a Radio YourWay - two groovy gadgets that serve as "Radio TiVos". So I can listen to all kindsa radio on my schedule. And fast forward past the stuff I don't like.

For various reasons, I'm a radio nut. So I'm gonna start up this blog again.