Thursday, June 09, 2005

"It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult" Seneca

To many now working in the radio dodge, the format changes at WCBS-FM and WJMK last week were endings darker than Mahler's 6th. The negative reaction to the format changes reached beyond the usual inside baseball chatter. As well it should, the emotions, sensibilities, preferences and media habits of real people are involved here. Large numbers of listeners had to face the facts - someone had taken away their radio station. Pop quiz. Please name the media franchises that have enjoyed a 30 year run (WCBS-FM) or a 20 year run (WJMK). They're out there but not in significant numbers. The simple facts are these two stations have staged the oldies format longer than the time most radio folks have worked in the trade. While attending Pace in Brooklyn and The New School in Manhattan, I was witness to the WCBS-FM oldies debut. At the time it was viewed as a radical, almost irrational move. I came to know Dick Bozzi, the gentleman who cooked up the WCBS-FM oldies idea. He launched the oldies format without any corporate approval and as a result found himself out of CBS and into RKO where Paul Drew named him head of FM programming (based at KRTH as PD). I later worked with him to launch an oldies station in the 1970s, learning about his philosophy of oldies programming and life in the process. A musician by training, Dick is engaging, bright, a thinker and a doer. He found most of radio programming's conventional wisdom to be less than valuable, some downright goofy, he created his own rules. My take on the format changes at WCBS-FM and WJMK is bravo! Let's celebrate the amazing good runs. Let's keep this stuff in perspective. Broadway show with a 30 year run? Network TV show with a 20 year run? Local TV show with a 30 year run? What WCBS-FM and WJMK have acheived is greatness, nothing less. Dave Logan and cast leave the stage with a weekly box office (audience) of about 1.5 million - cheers! Charley Lake and performers drop the final curtain with over 750,000 happy customers served weekly - kudos! Rather than now comment about the decision, the rationale, the new format or opine with any second-guessing on what happened here I choose to applaud two stations for what they did right, doing it right for decades...something few others can claim to have accomplished.

Great things happen to great people. The gifted Kipper McGee is named program director of WLS. This guy's career is just getting started and you can make book on this - McGee is the goods, a great talent.

(Full disclosure - I have worked for Viacom/CBS/Infinity. Kipper McGee is a client of my present employer.)