This year's decision was a difficult one. Radio One's Praise 102.5 (WPZE-FM), guided by Derek Harper, continues to amaze. Its little 3,000-watt signal from Ben Hill notwithstanding, Praise lands near the ratings tip-top every month. It defies the PPM's law of gravity by taking a time-spent-listening route to big ratings despite a low cume.
Praise is a state-of-the-art Gospel station in its formatics, imaging and promotion. In fact, its on-air vocabulary no longer includes the word Gospel; Praise defines itself as Inspirational. Led by evening personality CoCo Brother, it connects the dots between Gospel and Hip-Hop.
Praise 102.5 was a feisty contender for Station of the Year and certainly merits honorable mention. When all was said and done, however, we selected 94-9 The Bull (WUBL-FM). Going against one mighty tough competitor, Kicks 101-5, The Bull has strut impressively to the top of the Country hill among the key demographics of 18-49 and 25-54.
What really tipped the scale was how The Bull got the job done. When ratings adversity struck at the end of last year and continued into 2010, management had the fortitude to stay the course, a characteristic not often associated with owner Clear Channel. Management's aplomb paid off handsomely.
Early this year, I named The Bull as one of 2010's questions, saying it had dinged Kicks to the best of its ability but needed a strategy to get to the next level. In another column, I declared The Bull had hit a wall, and Kicks had won the battle. But I was wrong, as the station picked itself up and resumed its onward march. By Fall, The Bull was beating Kicks in the money demos though Kicks still won in Total Persons and older listeners.
Although The Bull signed on around Christmas 2006, the station as we know it was re-launched under Clear Channel/Atlanta President Melissa Forrest and Regional VP Clay Hunnicutt in November 2008, and then molded to perfection by PD Scott Lindy. Lindy is credited with bringing in Jason Pullman to host mornings with Kristen Gates, who was already in place.
In a move that surprised even the jaded radio community, Lindy was released in August. Rumor was he said something that angered a higher-up. Many thought the termination was a knee-jerk reaction, but I don't have the facts and therefore cannot comment. Happily for Atlanta listeners, Lindy quickly landed at Star 94, where his presence is being felt on the air.
As the 2011 chapter opens, Clear Channel has turned to a programming chief with a stellar background and reputation, Dan Persigehl. His missions at The Bull are to keep the station on course and make it even better. The heavy lifting has already been done.
So to the management and staff of 94-9 The Bull, congratulations on being named Atlanta's Station of the Year.
Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and happy New Year to all. This is our last column for 2010. I'm sure we'll have a lot to talk about in 2011.
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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Blog: http://blogs.ajc.com/radio-tv-talk/