Bad radio bosses come and go, but oldies are forever

April 8, 2010

Robservations on the media beat:

  • I still remember sitting across from Joel Hollander, the arrogant and inept chairman and CEO of Infinity Broadcasting, as he tried to explain why oldies radio was dead in Chicago. The format had been drawing a solid audience of more than 722,000 listeners a week, but Hollander insisted that it wasn't profitable enough. "Only time will tell if we're right about it," he told me in June 2005 --  just after pulling the plug on oldies at WJMK-FM (104.3) in favor of the bland, soulless automation of "Jack FM." Among the casualties was radio legend Dick Biondi, who wasn't even allowed to say goodbye to his fans after 21 years on the station he'd helped launch.‚ Now, nearly five years later, one of Chicago media's biggest success stories is --  you guessed it --  the oldies format on WLS-FM (94.7). Singling out the Citadel Broadcasting station for achieving the largest major-market turnaround in the country, Inside Radio this week reported: "The 'True Oldies' outlet increased its revenue by a staggering 86 percent last year, from $6.5 million in 2008 to $12.1 million." In the latest Arbitron Portable People Meter ratings, the station ranks No. 5 in the market overall with a 4.4 percent audience share. It's especially gratifying to note that the evening star of WLS-FM is none other than Dick Biondi. As for the unapologetic Hollander, he was finally was forced out of Infinity Broadcasting (which was renamed CBS Radio) in 2007.
  • Speaking of Biondi, he and fellow Radio Hall of Famer Herb Kent will share highlights of their amazing careers when Bob Sirott hosts "Inside the Radio Studio: 100 Years on the Air with Dick Biondi and Herb Kent" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Film Row Cinema of Columbia College, 1104 S. Wabash. The historic event is free and open to the public. In bringing together two of radio's greatest living legends for the first time, Sirott observed:
"To say these guys are part of our country's‚ pop culture history would be an understatement. Biondi shared the concert stage as an emcee for‚ Elvis as well as the Beatles, and Kent used to book Michael Jackson and his family at South Side dances that he promoted. . . . [In so many ways], these guys transcend radio and records."
  • With‚ Jeanne Sparrow back from medical leave as host of "You & Me This Morning, " the WCIU-Channel 26 morning show is about to undergo a significant adjustment in its format. Starting Monday, Sparrow will host 30-minute segments at 6, 7 and 8 a.m. as well as brief cut-ins during the other half-hours, according to Neal Sabin, executive vice president of Weigel Broadcasting. Since its debut last fall, the show has consisted of informational bits ranging in length from 30 seconds to 15 minutes sprinkled throughout the 6-to-9 a.m. block of syndicated programming on "The U."
  • Diann Burns, who debuts this weekend as host of the Chicago Urban League's "Next TV" on Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 and WPWR-Channel 50, is getting a head start in fronting for her new employer. At the Urban League's spring summit at the Hyatt Regency Chicago today, Burns will moderate a roundtable discussion featuring Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments; Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women; Ron Huberman, CEO of the Chicago Public Schools; and Valarie King-Bailey, CEO of OnShore Technology Group. Until now, Burns had been out of the public eye since her departure as principal news anchor at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 in 2008.
  • AccuRadio, the Chicago-based multichannel webcaster, has released a new app to coincide with the launch of Apple's iPad. Featuring more than 480 music channels covering dozens of genres and an array of user-friendly features, it's made a believer out of revered broadcast statesman John Gehron, who called mobile apps "a game changer for this industry." AccuRadio's website already has more than 400,000 unique visitors a month. In a statement announcing the expansion, AccuRadio founder Kurt Hanson explained:
"AccuRadio is designed for mainstream adults who don't have the time or patience to spend a lot of time building their own radio channels. Consumers using AccuRadio can launch a great-sounding channel of music with just a couple of clicks of a mouse --  or, in the case of the iPad, taps of their finger --and then have the option of personalization."
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