Thursday, November 7, 2013

Storm clouds over Miami radio

If it ain’t broke...don’t fix it!

Laurie and I returned from a fun honeymoon in Mexico to some startling rumors about WINZ.
Neil’s ratings were through the roof...mine were great from 10AM until 6PM each day that station was by and far number one in all demographics from teens ( read it right) to the old folks.
But trouble was brewing on two fronts...and this is not necessarily in order of importance.
There was an activist lawyer in Coral Gables filing any and all legal documents with the Federal Communication Commission in Washington to try to force the station (and it’s corporate entity) to dump Neil.  The FCC is a slow moving entity. 
But corporate was another matter. 
        I was Neil’s friend and co-worker so I was somewhat tainted although not being gay like Neil...a “guilt by association” cloud lingered through all this which pissed me off to no end.
To cut a long and discouraging story down...the lawyers for Neil got a deal which would cool the situation down. 
        Then management announced that because of the poor ratings on their FM station...called Zeta 4...Neil had agreed to take a shot at their morning drive slot.
I knew nothing about what was going on.  Please keep in mind from 10AM to 6PM each weekday our two programs were an automatic buy for every national commercial  produced and placed in radio broadcasting. We were on the top of the agency lists for placement.  I don’t remember the cost ratio of a 60 second Ford or Bud commercial but it couldn’t have been cheap.
I knew from listening and chatting with Neil that Howard Stern was kind of a hero to him and Howard had done it all starting to work about 6AM every morning for three or four hours each weekday.
I’m sure that influenced Neil into making the time and station change.  The tech side of FM broadcasting all his music and comedy in stereo was also new and pleasing...but the early morning shift was difficult.  
In the end it would defeat him although he did take his great numbers to the FM.
My show stayed the same...and even after several rating periods it was apparent that Neil’s “pinheads” as he called them flipped over to me on the AM at 2 o’clock everyday.  This despite a losing the great lead in Neil gave me.
I got up early on several occasions and sat in with Neil and his sidekick nicknamed “the bird”.   But the old friendship was fading now...we were on different stations.  It wasn’t as bad as before when I left Neil and WNWS and went to the old WINZ (1980).  Then he wouldn’t talk to me and we had no communication.
It didn’t take long for corporate to decide to get rid of my salary (not as good as Neil’s but not bad.) They called me in and informed me they were going “all news”.  Both I and Tom Jicha and other newspaper writers would chide them that they were dropping my double digit numbers for low single they had tried the all news format some years back and it really stunk.
They had to pay my contract off (just a few months) and out of the guilty conscience from making the move they handed me two plane tickets to Europe.  Laurie was expecting a baby several months down the line and I had already arranged with Swissair for two complimentary first class tickets to Zurich through the local Swiss Counsel who happened to be a big fan of the show. I asked if they could cash their tickets in for me and I’d use the money to enjoy Europe.  They must have really felt they did it right away!
They didn’t let me say goodbye...most stations don’t.  That was ok as I figured Neil would have plenty to say about the format change on AM and he did.  
He was also shook up because that change might have closed the door on his returning to his AM slot which would be destroyed by boring news now.
We never guessed how much this change cost the company.  But you can bet they never recovered from it.
Like they say...if it ain’t broke...don’t fix it!

               this is in reference to earlier post....
Hi Stan

Thanks so much for letting me know about your blog!  I read the whole thing through and enjoyed it greatly, especially the stories about Mac at WPGC and WMEX.  The bit about him turning off KBMI and not telling the FCC is classic! 

Seriously, I think you have the makings of a book here.  Your writing style is easy and personable and the anecdotes often hilarious!  Have you given any thought to publishing your memoirs formally?  It's a great read!

Lee Chambers

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