The DJ's on your local radio station may not be live 24/7, but are they even local?
January 17, 2002 6:33 AM   Subscribe

The DJ's on your local radio station may not be live 24/7, but are they even local? Turn on WRZX-FM (103.3) from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. weeknights and you might hear a new disc jockey, who calls himself Fletch. From listening to him, you'd guess Fletch was sitting behind the control board at 6161 Fall Creek Road, where WRZX is located. You'd be mistaken. The truth is, Fletch is in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he does a 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. show as well as the night shift here for X103 and in Dallas at KEGL-FM -- all owned by Clear Channel Communications.
posted by internal (30 comments total)
I've always wondered, given the homogeneity of mainstream FM radio, and given the fact that all the stations seemed to be owned by just two or three big networks, why they spend so much running stations locally.

Of course, "National radio" is a terrible idea, as local character has been so important in the history of radio. (If you think radio is lowest-common-denominator crap today, imagine sharing stations among a national audience.) But it would make economic sense, and that's all these radio corporations care about.
posted by jpoulos at 6:57 AM on January 17, 2002

It's been this way for a few years. This was even the subject of a WKRP episode 20+ years ago. Most of the music stations you listen to are playing a tape and there is no live DJ there. If you pay attention, you can tell in some cases that the song lineup played in the morning is exactly the same later in the day.
posted by Ben Grimm at 7:10 AM on January 17, 2002

Meet the only guy who changes his identity more often than his underwear.

The taglines seem strangely appropriate, don't you think?
posted by dlewis at 7:11 AM on January 17, 2002

In the '80s, one of the Dallas stations adopted a hard rock format that was staffed entirely by out-of-towners and called itself Z-Rock. I interviewed one of the DJs, Boobie Bondage. Nice woman. And nothing beats a receptionist telling everyone in a crowded lobby that you got a call from "Boobie Bondage."
posted by rcade at 7:14 AM on January 17, 2002

barring certain exceptions (colleges, religious groups, npr, and the rare indie), the FM dial is completely owned. I would probably say get over it, since without legislation taking away stations from huge corporations, this isn't going to change any time soon.
posted by panopticon at 7:22 AM on January 17, 2002

If you think radio is lowest-common-denominator crap today, imagine sharing stations among a national audience.

We manage it. (Listen over the net, too.)

posted by Mwongozi at 8:13 AM on January 17, 2002

The dismissal of Laskowski and Kilmer at X103 saved the station roughly $35,000 a year, minus an undisclosed sum it pays Fletch.

Two employees for $35k? Those are some pretty tight pursestrings to begin with. I worked at a radio station for a couple of years, and it was the single most horrible work environment I have EVER experienced. Its like being a contestant on Survivor every single day of your life. Getting fired is probably the best thing that could've happened to those guys.

But really, commercial radio already sucks so bad that I couldn't care less if it got any worse. College radio used to provide a decent alternative, but these days, at least in my town, even that is kinda lame. What, if anything, will save radio? Low-power FM? X-FM? Webcasting?
posted by spilon at 8:26 AM on January 17, 2002

My first job, in 1995, at 16 years of age, was as a "dj" for a local oldies radio station.... I could perform this job because all of the dj's, save for the morning drive time dj, were being beamed via satelite from florida...

We had a few tapes with sound bites of the dj's saying station and city specific things that we would play at designated times during their respective shows, and there are designated time slots for local commercials... It was all very precise and worked very well... I lost my job when they got a PC to handle it.

One amusing bit of trivia: The local paper did a "Favorite DJ's of the Year" list and, sure enough, the number one dj was one residing in Florida, which I dont think many knew...
posted by Espoo2 at 8:31 AM on January 17, 2002

Why is this controversial, or even news?

Syndicated and tape-delayed programs have been around forever, and (for reasons that wholly escape me) others seem keen on the idea of paying a monthly subscription to get a nationally homogenous signal.

Why get your skivvies in a knot over this barely discernable variation?
posted by NortonDC at 8:55 AM on January 17, 2002

99.1WHFS(owned by ClearChannel I think) in the DC area that has a decent concert every year called the HFS-tival is now doing a "Jockless January" where all month there are only commercials and music. No DJ's. The funny thing is that's it's pretty good. When I tune in I usually get all music and I don't have to wait 5 minutes for some idiot to talk about stuff I don't want to hear...just the music. I have a feeling it should be called "Everyone was fired and we're changing formats January" but I guess we'll have to wait until February 1st to see what happens w/the format and direction of the station.
posted by suprfli at 9:06 AM on January 17, 2002

Espoo2, my uncle did exactly the same thing here in about '81-82. His job as "dj" was to change the tapes that were shipped in every morning (once every four hours, I seem to recall), and, once an hour (or whatever the FCC regulations call for) announce the radio station call letters.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:06 AM on January 17, 2002

I worked at a small-town radio station in 1988-89. The AM side was live, but the FM side was an automated country station. They were still runing reel-to-reel tapes of the DJ's and music which arrived fresh every week.

The giant automation system was literally in the lobby of the station. Local advertisers, politicians, contest winners, and anyone else could watch the tapes spin. It was no secret. We still received calls for the DJ's, and fan mail saying how much the loved that funny J.D. Conley guy in the morning.

The only difference now is that technology makes it much easier to automate. But listen to see if your local "Win a trip to the SuperBowl!" contest is in fact a nation-wide contest. There was legal wrangling over that a few years ago. Now stations run public disclaimers once or twice a day notifying people of this. And it's read rapid-fire style, like a list of pharmaceutical side-effects.
posted by CosmicSlop at 9:08 AM on January 17, 2002

Salon writer Eric Boehlert has done a lot of work digging dirt on filthy old Clear Channel. This was one of my favorites. This piece, on the related topic of pay-for-play radio, was also excellent.
posted by Sinner at 9:17 AM on January 17, 2002

I would probably say get over it ... this isn't going to change any time soon.

The spirit that made America great...
posted by sudama at 9:40 AM on January 17, 2002

Nothing new. Half the stations on my dial have a local morning DJ and non-local the rest of the day.
posted by fleener at 9:43 AM on January 17, 2002

Ah, the blandification of America. I miss REV 105. Sniffle.
posted by kittyb at 9:58 AM on January 17, 2002

Since the FPP here is talking about an Indianapolis station, I'll mention two alternatives that are worth listening to--two high school stations. 89.3 (WJEL, out of North Central High School) and 91.3 (WHJE, from Carmel High School). They play a much wider variety of music than I've ever heard on any for-profit radio station, since there's no predefined "format" they have to stick to. You can hear the Beatles followed by Linkin Park followed by some band you've never heard of before. Also good--no paid commercials. (There are promos for the station itself, and quite a few PSA's, but even so it takes up a lot less time than the commercials on a for-profit station.) Con: lower broadcasting power--you may not be able to get them on the south side, depending on the weather.

I believe there's other high school stations in town also, but those are the two I listen to frequently. For those of you in other cities, it might be worth the effort to see if there are high school stations around you. (It does take some effort to find them, as you won't see them advertised on TV or billboards.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:07 AM on January 17, 2002

the local "modern rock/alternative/whatever you want to call it" station in l.a. [106.7 kroq] has a local morning show where one of their crewmembers moved to a remote island in washington. he's actually broadcast live from washington most every weekday morning while the rest of the crew resides in the studio in compton - save for the guest appearances and whatnot when he actually flys down.

i kinda thing that's cool that a morning team that's been around since the late 80's/early 90's can still stay together even if one of the members lives a thousand some odd miles away.

but taped dj's... screw that. at least kroq has the courtesy to keep dj's on air most of the time. being able to call the station at 3am to ask them what song it was they just played and having the dj pick up is semi-comforting.
posted by boogah at 10:25 AM on January 17, 2002

My dad lost his job at one of the biggest radio stations in a certain Northeast state a couple of months ago when Clear Channel ousted him and his high-rated show for syndicated crap. He was abruptly told after his show on a Friday not to come back, and apparently the station was swamped with calls from angry listeners on Monday wondering what happened (similar to the situation with Seattle's Bob Rivers show). He's more upset that the people of that area no longer have a locally based voice in radio than the actual losing of the job.

On the plus side, Clear Channel's owner Tom Hicks keeps wasting money on his good-for-nothing Texas Rangers, and with CD sales down this year, Clear Channel is actually posting quarterly loses. I told my dad that every time I download an MP3, I'm indirectly helping to undermine the monolithic corporate bastards that cost him his job. :)
posted by hincandenza at 10:30 AM on January 17, 2002

Well, since I posted this thing, I guess I will put in my 2 cents.

Of course, "National radio" is a terrible idea, as local character has been so important in the history of radio.

I wholeheartedly agree. One of the reasons I posted this.

Two employees for $35k?
That blew me away to. I knew DJ's were payed chickenfeed, but that is crazy. BTW, isn't that why they do all those "see me at Billybob's Bar Tuesday night" appearances? For the extra cash?

Since the FPP here is talking about an Indianapolis station...
I live in Indy, but I don't listen to the radio station in the article. They play music I don't care for. But they are (last time I checked) the 3rd largest radio station in Indy (1st is WFMS - consistent winner of the CMA award for best medium market station, and 2nd is WFBQ - the classic rock beast that spawned Bob & Tom). You are right, WHJE (Carmel HS) is a great station (maybe the best), along with WTTS (Bloomington).

Why is this controversial, or even news?
Why get your skivvies in a knot over this barely discernable variation?

I am not sure if this was directed at me of at the people in the article, but if this was directed at me, I will say that I did not find it controversial either, but I did find it interesting, and that why I posted it. If you don't like the FPP, then move along.

Sooner or later their must be a reversal of this trend. Shock jocks and Homogenized playlists (and now homogenized DJ's) are the reasons I stopped listening to most radio to begin with. One of the many reasons people listen to radio is for local "flavor."
posted by internal at 10:56 AM on January 17, 2002

I DJ for a college radio station (WPRB in Princeton, NJ) and it's one of the best things I've ever done -- it's a shame that good radio isn't available to DJs and listeners in more places.

What will save radio? The market, I say! If you don't like your local commercial radio listen to your local college or high school radio. Independent stations are commercially sustainable where there's an audience . . . and MDs at independent radio stations are open and free to change programming if people don't like it (something MDs at Clear Channel are unwilling to do).
posted by josh at 11:27 AM on January 17, 2002

Mwongozi - you guys manage a single station in a country wich is smaller than the State of Oregon. I'm sure that even in a country that size there are distinct regions with different musical and editorial preferences.

Just look at rap; there's East Coast, West Coast, Dirty South, Mowtown, all very different. Sure, there's benefits of playing all types of a genre of music throughout the country, but this limits the number of artists who are allowed to develop in each category since they are all fighting for air time (which leads to sales, which leads to signing similar bands, etc.)

I can't stand the homoginization of mainstream radio. My favorite music show is Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW, a local NPR station. Even that has it's obvious leanings towards specific types of music (heavy on the electronic and world sounds) but the variety is nice.
posted by jonah at 12:27 PM on January 17, 2002

For those of you in the LA / San Bernardino area, check out KSPC (88.7 FM) for a good college station. [/plug]
posted by thewittyname at 1:28 PM on January 17, 2002

Jonah, maybe I can help explain where Mwongozi's coming from. Local radio in the UK is, with a few exceptions, truly awful. It's a largely syndicated affair so that no matter where you go in the country you'll be hearing the same music, the same news and probably a lot of the same DJ's - maybe even Fletch.

The reason that national radio works so well here is that it is so well funded, and free of any commercial concerns. They have a remit that requires they maintain a certain standard of programming, which is why even Radio 1 - the most commercial sounding of the national stations - still offers us cutting edge stuff in the later hours.

I really wish we did have some of the sort of local radio stations you're talking about in the UK. In particular the American college stations play an amazingly diverse and mind expanding range of music, and do so while enduring almost heroic struggles to maintain funding. I'm not sure why that doesn't happen here. At a guess I think it is for the very reasons you suggest that our national radio works - the small size of the country. It's fairly difficult and expensive to obtain radio bandwidth in this country - my college's radio station used to broadcast for all of about 2 weeks a year. And most of that was commercials.
posted by dlewis at 3:04 PM on January 17, 2002

Webcasting, XM radio, and CD-burners are all options for those who want to "fine-tune" what they are listening to. BTW, what about network TV? Isn't anyone upset that there is no "local programming" to compete with the 'nets prime-time lineup? It's very similar to radio -- vast quantities of material produced/recorded/written/broadcast from LA/NYC/CHI, with crappy filler like local news, "Bowling For Dollars," and "Wake Up, Springfield!" with it's incessant weather forecasts.
posted by davidmsc at 4:01 PM on January 17, 2002

National radio can work. XM Radio is a perfect example, (now that davidmsc has mentioned it).

And the whole idea of syndicating shows is not surprising.
Anyone for a little Delilah?
posted by jacobw at 4:42 PM on January 17, 2002

For the record, I love Radio 1. When I was driving from London to Yeoville I heard a ton of great stuff and even listen to the mixes (Live on Radio 1..... on the net at times.
posted by jonah at 4:49 PM on January 17, 2002

Did anyone really think Carson Daly was in New York for TRL during the day and made it to "insert your town here" by 9 each night?
posted by brian at 6:42 PM on January 17, 2002

Two employees for $35k?
That blew me away to. I knew DJ's were payed chickenfeed, but that is crazy.

As a teenager in 1991 I woke up early one morning to sit in during the morning show of my local rock radio station (105.5 WDHA-FM, Dover, N.J. Still has a decent playlist, btw). I spent most of my time with the right-hand gal, as the show host, Vic Porcelli, was also the program director and a busy man, even at 7 a.m.

I spent some time talking to the assistant about the intricacies of getting into the business, and she explained to me that Vic, the station's lead personality and PD, was pretty much the only person at the station who earned "good money for radio." And what constitued "good money," I had the nerve to ask? "Like, more than $30,000," she replied.

The talented Vic Porcelli is now a daytime DJ in St. Louis, making considerably more money, I hope.
posted by werty at 6:50 AM on January 18, 2002

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