WMC-AM abandoned its morning news show. Now, rival WREC-AM gives
it a shot.
by Jim Hanas
s it true that one mans trash is another mans treasure, as the
old cliché goes? Well, WREC-AM 600 is about to find out.
Last September, its rival talk-station WMC-AM (News/Talk 79) decided
to junk its morning news show, along with seven staffers, and
move right-wing ranter Mike Fleming into its 6 to 9 a.m. weekday
We found that we could not attract a sufficient audience to have
such a huge operation in the morning, says Don Meyers, general
manager of WMCs AM and FM stations. No matter how good you are,
if the interest isnt there, you arent going to satisfy yourself.
But as WMC stepped away from morning news, WREC began to move
into the void. Leading the way has been program director Paul
Davis, who resigned as WMCs news director several months before
the morning news purge. Prior to Davis arrival, WRECs news operation
consisted primarily of reporter Bill Dries, who left the station
to go to The Commercial Appeal before Davis was hired. In fact,
before Davis, the station didnt even have its own program director,
relying instead on the services of Drake Hall, who was also charged
with programming sister station WEGR-FM (Rock 103).
Under Davis tenure, a radio studio has been added at WPTY-TV
(Channel 24) which, like WREC, is owned by Clear Channel to
provide news to the station. In other words, WREC is taking advantage
of its so-called synergy with Clear Channels television properties
to get serious about radio news. Previously before Clear Channel
acquired WREC over a year ago WMC was the only station in the
market to enjoy that luxury through its sister station WMC-TV
(Channel 5). WMC-AM still simulcasts Channel 5 news broadcasts
throughout the day.
But WREC looks to be vigorously pursuing its ties to Channel 24.
At the beginning of the year, the station replaced Don Imus syndicated
show with WREC in the Morning, a local news and interview show
very much like the one WMC discontinued. Hosted by Davis and Sharon
Hunter, who did a brief news stint with WGKX-FM (KIX 106) last
year, it has more similarities with WMCs erstwhile program than
just Davis guidance and its time slot. Craig Robbins, who hosted
the WMC show, serves as the on-air link to Channel 24s news operation,
for example, and Flyer senior editor Jackson Baker provides occasional
commentary as he did at WMC.
Whether WREC can make the format work remains to be seen. In the
latest ratings when Imus and WMCs old morning show were going
head to head the stations ran a virtual dead-heat in morning
drive-time among listeners 35 to 64, the primary audience for
news/talk, as they did overall. And Davis says producing the local
show is more expensive than Imus, which means WREC is counting
on finding the somehow untapped potential of morning news.
I think its very viable, and theres a void, says Davis. In
one respect it was sort of a no-brainer to jump into it.
To recall, this is the second time in less than a year that WREC
has picked up discarded WMC programming. Last spring, Rush Limbaugh
likewise made the move down the dial to WREC. But what about the
reverse trip? Might an abandoned WREC show make its way to WMC?
Imus, we understand, is available.
FRM meets the FCC
Last Thursday, members of the Constructive Interference Collective
the group behind Free Radio Memphis, an unlicensed University
of Memphis-area radio station operating at 94.7 FM met with
a representative from the Federal Communications Commission. Douglas
G. Miller, an electronics engineer with the agencys Atlanta field
office, came by the stations home-studio Tuesday afternoon requesting
a meeting with the group.
During the course of a two-hour meeting Thursday night, Miller
outlined legal alternatives to the stations unlicensed operation
such as obtaining a license or petitioning the FCC for a change
in its rules and listened to the collective members concerns
about the agencys current policies. Miller, furthermore, outlined
the legal consequences of continued unlicensed operation, which
include administrative fines of up to $11,000 per day or action
by the U.S. Attorney. The U.S. Attorney could pursue the case
either in a civil action or criminally. Civil actions in such
cases generally result in seizure of equipment, while criminal
convictions carry fines of up to $100,000 and/or prison terms
of up to a year.
As of Monday, the CIC had decided to stay on the air while the
group seeks legal counsel a decision that will be reevaluated
on a weekly basis.
We really dont want to shut down, says a CIC spokesperson,
but we dont want to go to court without legal representation.
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