Friday, May 20, 2011

Radio One Keeping the Seats Warm

What would you do for a Klondike Bar?  In the brand's classic commercials, people are willing to do some pretty wild things, like yodeling in church and acting like a chimpanzee.

What would you do for an Atlanta FM signal?  The answers to that question would make the Klondike antics look like a playroom.  This is market #7, and many a broadcaster would do just about anything, to get his or her hands on the money that an Atlanta FM could produce.

That being the case, why is Radio One sitting on two valuable signals?  It's a question for which I've been unable to come up with a rational answer.

A couple of years ago, Radio One sued the pants off its former head programmer, Steve Hegwood, when his company purchased a translator at 102.9 and aired mixes that were Radio One's property.  In the settlement, Radio One ended up with 102.9.  This baby is only 160 watts, but it's a whopping 997 feet above average terrain on the New Street tower.  Its signal is pretty doggone nice, competitive just about everywhere it needs to be.

Why Radio One is using 102.9 to duplicate Hot 107-9 (WHTA-FM) is beyond me.  The translator pretty much fits within the 107.9 coverage area.  I guess having two places on the dial makes people more apt to stop at a station, but any audience gain is likely minimal.  A Radio One executive told me that the company likes to mess with V-103 (WVEE-FM), which is only two dial positions away.  Frankly, does V-103 care?  I highly doubt it.

I realize Radio One has Hip-Hop, Urban AC and Gospel stations, and does not want to compete against itself.  But is there no viable format out there?  And yes, Radio One would have to put the format on an HD channel, but that's not exactly climbing Mount Everest.

Then there's the even bigger waste of FM spectrum, the simulcast of Majic on 107.5 and 97.5.  While not one of the market's high-powered giants, 107.5 throws a very listenable signal where almost all its potential audience resides.  The same cannot be said for 97.5, but its signal booms from south of Atlanta to almost the northern arc.

Okay, I understand the 107.5 signal has some holes in the market's southern sector, and Radio One wants to insure having a strong signal for this potentially high-billing Urban AC.  However, within 6 months, 107.5 will be relocating to its new site at Jimmy Carter Boulevard off I-85.  Upon completion, the station will jump from 21,500 watts at 361 feet to 33,000 watts at 607 feet.  The new signal will remove all doubt that 107.5 can do the job on its own.

The 97.5 signal racked up good numbers by itself from its 1995 sign-on until WHTA shifted to 107.9 in 2001.  Granted, the Hot 97-5 audience was concentrated in some of the signal's strongest areas.  And a new 97.5 format would have to be something not done by anyone else, as new 102.9 programming would have to be.

Some market-exclusive formats are available.  Though perhaps not formats with big billings potential, they could be run inexpensively.  In fact, it would actually be reasonable to put a format on the southern-skewing 97.5 and use the 102.9 translator to push the station farther north.

Will Radio One prove its smarts by unveiling a new format on 97.5 when 107.5 gets its new, more powerful signal?  That's anyone's guess.

Is The Quiet Storm in Play?
A rumor has surfaced that V-103 wants a host for its late-evening Quiet Storm after about 2 years without one.  CBS Radio/Atlanta Market Manager Rick Caffey recently told the AJC's Rodney Ho that the show would continue jockless.  However, sources report V-103 has been talking with Terry Bello about the spot.

V-103 recently added local celebrity Kenny Burns for weekends.  Like Burns, Bello lives in Atlanta and is known in the music business.  He is the proprietor of the International Soul Music Summit and a 15-year veteran of radio.  He has already been heard over V-103 on weekends.

This is not the first rumor about a possible host for The Quiet Storm.  A year ago, singer Al B. Sure was ruputed to have landed the job.

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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Blog:

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's Moby & Sandy

Sandy Weaver this past week became the co-host of Moby In the Morning, heard around Atlanta's northern environs on 106.1 WNGC and South 107 (WTSH-FM).

I first heard Sandy in 1979 when she was the late night disc jockey on Washington, DC's brand new Q107 (WRQX-FM).   She was an awesome CHR personality, exuding talent and excitement.  I moved from Baltimore to New York that fall but made it a point to listen to Sandy on trips home.  In 1984, I taped her and contributed the aircheck to, where someday it will be posted in my collection.  Sandy's time at Q107 culminated with her becoming the midday personality.

When I moved back to Baltimore in 1988, Sandy Weaver was still on Washington radio but now on rival CHR WAVA-FM, and still sounding great.  In 1992, overextended owner Emmis was forced to sell some stations, and WAVA was purchased by Salem.  It changed formats to Religious Talk.  Sandy was quickly picked up by DC's #1 station at the time, Country WMZQ-FM, where after a brief stint as morning news person, she became co-host of the morning show.  Her gobs of natural talent shone through with Country as they had with CHR.

Shortly after moving to Atlanta in 1994, I read in Billboard, when the venerable magazine covered radio, that Sandy's husband had been transferred to Atlanta, and Sandy was headed this way in June.  I knew that meant I would soon be hearing Sandy.  She was simply too talented not to land a job quickly.

Sure enough, Sandy first showed up doing fill on B98.5 (WSB-FM) and then handled weekends on Kicks 101-5 (WKHX-FM).  From there, it was on to full-time at Peach 94-9 (WPCH-FM), where she settled in afternoon drive.  She left the station, which had evolved to Lite FM (WLTM-FM), when Clear Channel decided to save money by voicetracking the shift.  Sandy returned to Kicks for weekends and then took middays at Eagle 106.7 (WYAY-FM), where she was also Music Director.

After Citadel blew up Eagle 106.7, Sandy concentrated on her "Voicework on Demand" business and then joined Moby's network for middays.  Over the past few years, I've gotten to know Sandy.  When I remarked to a friend who is an acquaintance of Sandy's that I had coffee with her, his comment was, "Isn't she a doll?"  That pretty much sums it up.

Arum Re-Ups With WSB
Back in 1998, a year after Mark Arum joined WSB as a traffic reporter, Metro Networks was still having Christmas parties.  Westwood One had not yet purchased Metro, and the Atlanta office was run by the legendary Dick Meeder.

The party that year was held at Villa Christina.  The traffic reporters were seated together at a couple of tables, and Metro management introduced each one.  On my way out, I said hi to Jason Durden, then B98.5's reporter.  Jason and I had corresponded when I was writing another radio column at the time.

As I approached the ballroom door, I heard my name and footsteps running after me.   Mark Arum introduced himself and said, "Your column is a hit at White Columns.  Everybody has it bookmarked."  It was a gesture that I appreciated more than he knew.  Whenever I have run into Mark at other events over the years, he has always been extremely cordial.  When you talk with Mark, you quickly realize he is a genuinely nice person.

Mark's likeability along with his talent and smarts have made him his own hit in Atlanta.  He now reports traffic on WSB Radio, B98.5 and WSB-TV, where he appears on camera every morning.  He does a talk show on WSB every Saturday afternoon.  He writes a weekly column, "Gridlock Guy," for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Mark also has done sports talk shows on WSB and substituted as the anchor on WSB's "Atlanta's Morning News."

It's a pleasure to congratulate Mark Arum on the contract that he just signed to keep him at WSB for another 5 years.

Dupree Enhances WSB Experience
My favorite feature on WSB's Atlanta's Morning News and on its Neal Boortz Show is the conversations with Washington Correspondent Jamie Dupree, who also is heard on Cox's WDBO/Orlando and WOKV/Jacksonville.

Dupree really knows his stuff and reports it with an even, calm demeanor.  His interest in and enjoyment of what he does really come through.  He comes across as completely objective, which certainly fits well with the unbiased nature of Atlanta's Morning News.

What strikes me, however, is he remains objective and confident during his conversations with the Talk Master, and that Boortz is respectful, rarely challenging Jamie as he would callers.  Neal apparently realizes the value of Dupree's presence and information.  Jamie Dupree has a knack for keeping us political junkies glued to the radio for his inside information and analysis.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Blog:

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's All-Star Ballot Time

It's that time of the year at Turner Field.  As you root for the Braves in this still-young season, you are handed an All-Star ballot.  The Braves certainly have some talent worthy of consideration.

Like our favorite baseball team, Atlanta radio has some players who could compete with the country's best.  They too would be worthy of consideration if radio had an All-Star team.  That of course will not happen since listeners tend to be familiar only with their local personalities.  However, that's not going to stop me from coming up with my picks for Atlanta's representatives on radio's fantasy All-Star ballot.

I consider the nominees people who would shine in any market in the U.S.  And Atlanta radio has some additional players I consider qualified for the team.  But I'm going to leave those to the manager, whom I also will select.

First Base - Scott Slade (WSB): Scott is very confident and steady, and he would anchor the infield as well as he anchors Atlanta's Morning News.  His height would be an asset because throws from the person at 3rd base would sometimes be too short.

Second Base - Neal Boortz (WSB): Neal might be the most intense player on the ballot.  He becomes vocal when the subject of revenue sharing comes up, taking the stance that the team earning the revenue should not distribute any of it among the have-nots.  Second base is a good position for Neal because he sometimes becomes argumentative, and the shortstop is close enough to calm him down.

Shortstop - Mara Davis (92-9 Dave FM): Mara thinks up so many ideas for themed nights, such as playing only songs with movie names in them over the PA system; and serving dishes containing the name of a fruit at the concessions.  Attendance on Mara's themed nights outperforms attendance as a whole.  Mara is so creative that sometimes the manager asks her to limit her talking at team meetings.

3rd Base - Bert Weiss (Q100): Bert understands his fans and is able to create drama to please them.  He is also valuable to Major League Baseball because of his understanding of relationships.  He guides players through the thickets of the temptations so prevalent in this very public business.  And he's willing to ask his fans for input.  Bert's one flaw is he has a hard time getting the ball all the way to first baseman Slade.

Right Field - Chase Daniels (Star 94): While he is best known for ribbing players in the clubhouse, Chase oozes with natural talent.  He is a real student of the game but sometimes gets distracted from the field by looking at Twitter.

Center Field - Kelly McCoy (B98.5): Fans love Kelly because he starts every conversation with his name and the name of his team.  He says pretty much the same thing to fans every time, but he sounds great saying it.

Left Field - Ryan Cameron (V-103): Throughout its history, baseball lore has been full of great stories.  And Ryan captivates the clubhouse as well as his own kids with tales of his and others' exploits.

Pitcher - Cadillac Jack (Kicks 101-5): He's the guy we want to hand the ball to as he leads one of the best morning shows in the country.  He throws opposing teams some nasty curves, and he's had a winning record in Arbitron for 17 years.

Catcher - Dallas McCade (Kicks 101-5): She is tossed the ball by Cadillac Jack as she is every morning on the air.  She's as good behind the plate as she is behind the dish, the Dallas Daily Dish.

Manager - Scott Lindy (Star 94): In 2010, Scott was the Program Director of our Station of the Year, 94-9 The Bull, which was a ratings winner back then.  Now that he's moved to Star 94, that station's ratings have soared.  So it's not impossible that Scott will repeat as manager in 2012.

And that's my fantasy Atlanta Radio All-Star ballot.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Blog:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Time To Give Dave Its Props

Dave FM (WZGC/92.9) has now had 3 stellar PPM months in a row.  And the station accomplished this with no help from the Falcons.  It appears Program Director Scott Jameson has carved a solid niche for the Triple A outlet, and for that he deserves credit.  That does not mean Dave FM is my idea of a top AAA station, but maybe that's why Scott is in the PD chair, and I'm not.

A little history might be in order.  I first heard 92.9 in Atlanta on a trip here in the mid-1970's.  At the time, it was Z93, a great Top-40 station led by now CBS Radio President Dan Mason.  And a few years later, John Young would program the station to even greater heights.  In the mid-eighties after Young departed, however, Z93 started faltering.  When I moved to Atlanta in 1994, Z93 was a struggling Classic Rocker, which depressed me when I thought of the greatness the station had known.

Z93 staggered through the 1990's and early 2000's until 2004, when it became 92-9 Dave FM.  The positioner was "Rock Without Rules," which apparently meant anything PD Michelle Engel felt like playing.  Its novelty attracted attention, and it got some ratings early on.  As the newness wore off, ratings declined.  Rock Without Rules became Radio Without Rules.  I guess playing the Police every hour was Radio Without Rules.

Engel was replaced by Mike Wheeler, who gave the station some definition by moving it into the AAA space.  Wheeler changed mornings from music intensive to personality by hiring Zack Tyler.  I've always wondered how the Tyler mistake could have been made by anyone who had listened to his aircheck, much less an experienced PD.  In any case, Tyler was not long for the market, and neither was Wheeler.  But at least Mike pointed the station in the right direction.

CBS/Atlanta Market Manager Rick Caffey found Scott Jameson in Indianapolis after an exhaustive search.  Scott is a smart and creative programmer.  One interesting element that he added is short stories about artists and songs that put things in perspective.  Scott credited this to research done by VH-1.  Jameson's product overall does reflect some thinking.

Triple A stations are relatively rare and generally succeed in markets with a liberal political bent and heavy university presence.  Atlanta's demographic makeup does not really conform, and perhaps that's why Dave FM succeeds with an uncharacteristic AAA performance.

Dave FM has never sounded like the format's standard bearers, KBCO/Denver, KINK/Portland, KMTT/Seattle and others.  It does not have the overall tenor and coherence of the Triple A leaders.

Rick Caffey is a big believer in personality as well as live and local.  And how can we not love that in this day and age?  In fact, he has one of the country's premier talents in middays on Dave FM, Mara Davis, who constantly proves her worth by outperforming the rest of the station in the ratings.  Just one thing, though.  The legendary Triple A stations do not have that kind of personality.

The format's personalities are solid but not humorously conversational, and they lean toward brevity.  They all have a consistent AAA tone that ties the station together.  They're closer to NPR than CHR.  One Dave FM personality does sound like Triple A, and she's evening host Margot Smith.

Triple A is the closest commercial format to the music aficionado end of the spectrum.  Portland's KINK has used "True to the Music" as its slogan for years.  It was written by ad agency Wieden & Kennedy.  It means the station respects the music; not talking over intros and keeping the music, not the personality, the star.

The AAA standard bearers have morning shows, sometimes with more than one host.  But the same Triple A tenor of the station remains as does respect for the music.  Bits like visiting a decrepit part of town to ask residents about the royal wedding are not a fit.

Nick Michaels is the primary voice talent for Dave FM.  He has a deep and distinctive voice, and would be great for TV documentaries.  But--and here it comes--he does not sound like Triple A, whose leaders use big voices for their imaging.

Dave FM's playlist has evolved to be essentially the same as the top AAA stations.  I don't know what it is--maybe it's perception caused by the other formatic elements--but I come away thinking of Dave's music as slanted toward pop--Tears for Fears and Dave Matthews.

To my ears, the overall sound of 92-9 Dave FM is not AAA in tenor or cohesiveness.  The format's leading members have a distinctive AAA sound in all facets of their presentation--air talent, imaging and music.  Their sound is structured, maybe semi-serious, and the elements pull together in one direction.

But does any of that matter?  Dave FM has found a way to make AAA successful in Atlanta.  Not only are ratings high, but the station's qualitative is excellent.  Despite my own preferences and beliefs regarding how AAA should sound, I offer congratulations to Scott Jameson and the Dave FM staff.  Unless KBCO gets picked up and then plunked down in Atlanta, 92-9 Dave FM should continue to do just fine.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Blog: