Jim Walsh's Big Hairy Weblog Thingy

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Sucking It All In

The posting of Ken Levine's comments on "Why Radio Sucks" brought some interesting responses.

Read Ken's original article here.

Here is one response, from broadcaster Steve Norris:

The recent changeover at KZLA in Los Angeles is just another indicator of the mentality of corporate radio. The guy who wrote the article said that the license of KZLA should be challenged. While I'm wirh him in spirit, I don't know how you'd bring that off. It isn't in the jurisdiction of the FCC to dictate programming. But that's okay. Whatever KZLA becomes will be of their own doing. The FCC couldn't hurt them any worse than they're going to hurt themselves.

It's the perfect recipe for failure. You've got the corporate empty suits who listen to the consultants who ask stupid questions and, well, it's garbage in, garbage out. So who cares if Los Angeles is the biggest country music sales market in America! Who cares if their audience was loyal! So who cares if they were making money! Let's kill the goose that lays the golden eggs and be rich beyond our wildest dreams!

It ain't gonna happen. Their recipe calls for a high profile jock in the morning. Well, Rick Dees is certainly that. I've known Rick for 35 years and I wish him well but one jock does not a station make. Robert W. Morgan found that out the hard way when he was lured away from KHJ in 1970 to go to Chicago and WIND. It was Morgan from 6-10 and then a bunch of trained chimps the rest of the day. WIND was in it right up until the beginning.

Okay, so what else is wrong with "MOVIN'93.9"?They're playing songs by the same artists you can get on 10-15 other stations in Los Angeles. And that doesn't include the Spanish language stations. If there's a crossover hit (and in L. A. that's VERY possible), then add five or six more stations playing that artist. I don't think too many Mexican stations or the CHRs (Top 40) or the ACs (Adult Contemporary) or the whatevers play a lot of Toby Keith. KZLA had a corner on that market. Okay, so they didn't burn up the world in the ratings. Could that be because maybe the Arbitron books were printed in ENGLISH? But a 2.0-2.5 in Los Angeles translates into some big bucks.

Emmis has come down with a major case of the Clear Channel flu. It happens anywhere you have public ownership of a broadcast-only company. (Clear Channel founder) Lowery Mays was an investment banker who took over (foreclosed) on a couple of stations in San Antonio and, for reasons unknown to many, they became successful. Thus, a robber baron was born.

You see, back in the '60's, if you owned a broadcast station, it was a license to print money. WSGN in Birmingham, for example, had incredible numbers. A 25 was considered a down book. Yet they turned a profit margin of 50-60%. And that was done with a full staff of jocks, a four-man news department, five full time engineers, and they did it with FOUR salespeople. Now, at the same time, if you ran a grocery store or a clothing store, your profit margin, if you were successful, would be about 5%. The average radio station profit margin was 15-20%.

Well, the robber barons, the barbarians, stormed the gates. Knowing as much about radio as they did particle physics or Einstein's Theory of Relativity, they paid outrageous prices to buy up these stations. Then, a thought struck them."Well, what do we do now?" So they brought in consultants and consultants are guys who know 99 different ways to have sex but don't know any girls. And, to pay for their mauraudings, the robber barons went public so they wouldn't have to spend any of their own money. Let the public pay and we'll have our nice little golden parachutes and everyone else be damned!

So stations started worshipping at the altar of the bottom line. And their cockeyed wisdom told them that if you cut expenses, profit would be that much greater.It didn't work out that way. Now, add to the mix Clear Channel's penchant for undercutting the competition on the rate card and the bottom line gets even smaller.

I remember when I was at KFYR, the logs were overloaded and we still weren't making budget. So you cut people in order to make budget. Has anybody ever told these mental dwarves that you make money by sticking to or increasing the rates?

Do you remember the days when big market radio was exciting to listen to? Since I've been here, I've been to Denver and San Francisco. From the quality of The radio, I thought I was still in Gillette, Wyoming. The talk stations were miserable. The music stations were even worse.

Did you ever ask yourself if you were a teenager today, would you fall in love with radio the way we all did when we were kids? I don't think I would. I don't know what I'd be but I don't think I'd be in radio. As for KZLA saying their first loyalty is to their advertisers, well MOVIN 93.9 won't be attracting business the way they think they will. Advertisers still work on response. Country music audiences are loyal. The handful of listeners MOVIN 93.9 will attract are fickle. You play a song they don't like and it's turn to another station or get out the i-Pods.

Goodbye, radio, it was nice knowing you.

Do I agree with Steve? Not necessarily. More on that later...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Rollin' On The River

My fiance and I attended a winetasting party the other night aboard the good ship Lewis & Clark. A grand time was had by all.

Appended herewith for your pleasure is a shot of the L&C rollin' up the ole' Missouri just outside of Bismarck. (Thanks to Clint at BisMan Blog for the pic).

Smile For The Birdie

Here's an extraordinary story from earlier this summer that an acquaintence recently brought to my attention.

A Nashua, NH, man is charged with violating state wiretap laws by recording a detective on his home security camera, while the detective was investigating the man’s sons.

Let me make sure I got this right: in New Hampshire you can't videotape a cop without his consent.

OK...all you law-and-order types, explain something to me: why should the police be concerned about being videotaped?

I mean, if the cop is not guilty of any wrongdoing, he shouldn't have a problem with it, right?


Friday, August 25, 2006

In Yo' FACE, Lou Dobbs!

(Pardon the rather large cut 'n' paste, but this story comes from Yahoo! news, which tends to pull its stuff rather quickly)

From Reuters via Yahoo! News...

Despite much handwringing and political posturing, the surge of job outsourcing, by increasing productivity, has actually helped raise real wages for low-skilled U.S. workers, according to two Princeton University economists.
They countered critics of outsourcing, including high-profile CNN host [Lou] Dobbs, who charge that transferring U.S. jobs abroad hurt American workers' well being.
Taking a swing at conventional wisdom, Princeton professors Gene Grossman and Esteban Rossi-Hansberg argued that wages for the least-skilled blue collar jobs had been rising since 1997 as outsourcing boosted productivity.
The professors presented their paper on Friday at the Kansas City Federal Reserve conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The meeting's theme, "The New Economic Geography," comes at a time when some fear that the United States is becoming trapped in a wages-prices spiral to the bottom by cheap labor in India and China.
The Princeton economists contend that many observers tended to gloss over the productivity benefits involved in the offshoring of labor.
They presented evidence that the productivity effect had helped raise real wages for the least skilled among U.S. blue collar workers -- those who do jobs most likely to be shipped overseas -- by about a quarter of a percent per year between 1997 and 2004.
Grossman and Rossi-Hansberg said critics of outsourcing had latched onto "incomplete" evidence that the low-wage labor abroad reduces low-skill wages or increases unemployment in the United States.
Rising productivity associated with U.S. firms' moving some tasks offshore "have served to bolster U.S. wages ... contrary to the fears of Lou Dobbs and others," they said in reference to the high-profile CNN anchorman who has waged a campaign against outsourcing of U.S. jobs. Outsourcing has also been a political hot-button issue in the United States during recent election cycles.
Those wage gains are "far from exceptional" but not as bad as might be expected based on the improvement in U.S. terms of trade with non-industrialized countries, they said.

Not that any of this will change anyone's mind; Mr. Dobbs, et. al. are not known for letting the facts get in the way while pandering to boobous americanus...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Flappin' In The Breeze

A teacher in Colorado was placed on leave for displaying flags of China and Mexico in his classroom. He teaches World Geography. The flags are reference tools. (UPDATE: He's been reinstated. Conditionally... )

The teacher “wonders if he would have caused such a stir if he had put up flags of Switzerland or Australia instead of Mexico.”

Good point. But then what do you expect from a state that puts a horse’s ass like Tom Tancredo in Congress? I notice, by the way, that KOA (the Denver-area wingnut station) has absolutely nothing on the story on their website. (At least not yet…but why not? Guess they're too busy lobbing softballs at Ann Coulter to make room for a compelling local story...)

He should've hung up a Confederate flag; then the knuckle-draggers would be lining up to defend the poor bastard as a victim of "political correctness"...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Wedding Bell Blues

Shoulda known.

Lissa and I were planning on getting married early next month. Neither of us are really familiar with the procedure. She's never been married; I was married once, but it was a spur-of-the-moment elopement deal (more on that disaster some other time). In our naïveté, we assumed it would be no big deal to do the paperwork, then off to the J.O.P...

I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, for one thing, in the state where we live if you're divorced (as I am) you need proof that you're actually divorced.

So I sat myself down and wrote a little letter to the Family Court archivist in my home state, yada yada yada...

And waited.

And waited.

Six weeks later I was still waiting for my divorce decree.

Finally, after a few phone calls (and a personal visit from my father to the Family Court people), we got it in the mail. A couple of days ago.

There was also our recent move, and some money issues that I won't go into here.

Bottom line: we decided that at this stage, early September is cutting it a bit close, and we've decided to move the nups back by a month or so. Mid-October or thereabouts.

That's assuming nothing else goes wrong. Wish us luck...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Avoiding An On-Air Cluster- you-know-what, 101

To all my buds in the radio biz who have been, or are planning to, talk about the JonBenet mess, please, for your own sake, read this...

How Hollywood REALLY Works

Somebody should do this on a website…

You have two dropboxes. They look something like this::

“click 1" " click 2”

You click the first box and you get one of the following…



Speaking In Public

Close spaces


The sight of blood


The number twelve

Being tickled

Joan and Melissa Rivers

Guys named “Larry”

And so on.

When you click on the second space, a word or phrase appears from this list:

On a train

In a movie theatre

On horseback

In a Buick

South of the border

Under the boardwalk

On Broadway

On a carousel

Somewhere in New Jersey

In a room with Ted Danson

Et cetera.

Then keep clicking until you get a combination that works for you.

Write a screenplay around it (this is the easy part)…

…and send that puppy to Samuel L. Jackson.

Then, just sit back and watch the money roll in.

You’re welcome.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Giant Sucking Sound

Why does so much radio suck these days?

Why do so many music stations sound so vanilla?

Why is "talk" radio so stale and unoriginal?

And most excrutiatingly, why are so many no-talent schmucks gainfully employed on the air (and in some cases high on the hog) while so many truly talented broadcasters can't get arrested in the biz?

TV writer Ken Levine has some thoughts on the subject. While I don't agree with his ultimate conclusion (challenge the license over a format change?!?), I certainly understand his frustration.

And I agree with him TOTALLY on Gwen Stefani...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Spirit Of Joe Pyne Looms Large...

...or at least Wally George...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Riding With The King

Today of course is the anniversary of the day the King fell from (ahem) his throne...

Here we see Elvis with one of the other great sex symbols of the era...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Sunday Will Never Be The Same

Along with World War I, Prohibition and mushroom-flavored ice cream, blue laws have to be among the stupidest ideas ever conceived by our species. To wit...

The Parks and Recreation Commission's decision July 6 to revert to a field permit policy that frees up time for church has drawn the ire of the American Atheists' state chapter director.

Six clergy and two dozen residents appealed to the commission last month to reinstate a policy whereby permits for athletic fields would not be issued between 9 a.m. and noon Sundays. The group said Sunday mornings should be reserved for religious services and quality time while giving families a break from hectic schedules.

"A question I have for them (atheists) is are they anti-family?" said the Rev. John Cooney, pastor at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church. Cooney was among the six clergy who appeared before the recreation panel.

Oh, those horrible atheists. There they go again, suggesting that good and decent folks who wanna play baseball on Sunday morning, rather than go to church, should have the option of doing so.

How dare they...

Mike Douglas, R.I.P.

Some comments from my brother on the passing of Mike Douglas:

"I especially remember the Lennon shows and a particularly articulate critique of Vietnam from a young Richard Dreyfuss. To his everlasting credit, as a broadcaster, Mike usually knew when to get out of the way and let it roll, which must have been hard for a guy with his background and beliefs. There was also a dual interview with Lucy and Orson Welles, that was a lot of fun to watch but oddly enough, it's the harder edged stuff that stands out in my memory because he handled it so well."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

All Mobbed Up

Here's a site where you can generate your own Mafia nickname (thanks Surf). I just hope you fare better than I did...

-JW, a.k.a. "Petey the Pigeon"

Youse Guys Ain't Got No Culture

A very talented talk host from St. Louis named Paul Harris makes some on-the-mark comments on his site about the bogus "Culture War" in the U.S. of good ol' A. My favorite line is the following:

I've yet to see a politician try, making an effort to relate to real people and what they honestly worry about. It all seems too mundane in the world of power and ego.

The same can be said for 99% of all radio Squawk Hosts (Mr. Harris, among others, obviously belongs in the other one percent).

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I Learned The Truth From Lenny Bruce

Today (8/3) was the fortieth anniversary of the death of Lenny Bruce. If any of the major papers wrote anything about it, I'm damned if I can find it (Update: kudos to the BBC).

Lenny has certainly made his mark on pop culture over the decades, being the subject of some good books, some bad ones, a really fuzzy movie directed by Bob Fosse (featuring an intense but unfunny performance by Dustin Hoffman), not to mention songs by Paul Simon, R.E.M. and Bob Dylan (not one of Bob's finer moments either).

Lenny was/is one of my pop culture heroes and it would be a shame to let the occasion pass unremarked upon, so here's a site I found with some information about his life and career along with a reprint of his obit from the New York Times.

And to the right there's a link where you can get The Lenny Bruce Performance Film, which I haven't seen, but hey...it's gotta be more interesting than what Dustin Hoffman did...

Nuclear Nostalgia

A lost Cold War classic is now available in the States.

Peter Watkins's The War Game, a pseudo-documentary describing life in Britain before, during and after World War III is now out on DVD in the USA.

This BBC-commissioned film was so intense that the Beeb didn't run it for twenty years.

I've got it linked below via Amazon. Check it out for yourself...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Steve and Ben and Me

More hilarity from what passes for my hometown newspaper:

In the Sunday Letters column a local Bushbot maintained he supports the war on terror, "no matter what the cost."

What th-?

Obviously our friend Mr. Moen is not familiar with the following quote from a certain long-haired rabble-rouser of historic note:

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

But hey...what did he know. It's not like he was Hugh Hewitt or something...