Praise for George: Gone, or HiDing?


All right, this blog hasn’t been around all that long, but it’s already outlasted a radio format here in the RoeDeo listening area: George 104, which came – and went – in just over two months. (76 days, to be exact – from January 22 to April 7, 2007) George, (as noted earlier in this space) was the hastily-assembled pop/rock/dance oldies format that was thrown up after owner Bonneville engineered a novel play with public broadcaster WETA: Bonneville dumped DC classical icon WGMS, WETA switched (back) to all-classical, and for good measure picked up WGMS’s Program Director (Jim Allison), its extensive record library, and even its call letters – (now used by WETA’s repeater station in Hagerstown, MD). Of course, George was a pretty low-overhead operation, (“a CD player in the back room” according to some grumblings), and pledged to go ad-free for its first 104 days in a bid to build audience. It didn’t even get that far.

So wha’happen? Turns out George isn’t completely gone – it’s now available as an HD – only channel, (103.5 – 2), next door to Bonneville’s perennial ratings champ WTOP with perhaps with lamest web site in the business. George was cleared out to make way for Praise 104.1– a new gospel format from Radio One, who are now “renting” the frequency from Bonneville. Believe it or not, it’s the first Gospel FM station in the DC area, which must be some kind of first. So perhaps that will bring a little stability to a frequency that has gone through FOUR format changes and call letters in a year’s time. Ahhh, radio…a nice stable industry.

The Globe, By George!


Cruising around the DC radio dial after a few days away to discover another shakeup on the radio dial…WARW, the longtime “classic rock” station has become The Globe, a station blending “world class rock” with an environmental message. The format flip happened on Friday (2/2) at noon, same day, of course, as the U.N. Report on Climate Change was released. Since then, the station has played a slightly tweaked version (read: more stuff from the 90’s) of its classic-rock format, and ditched the deejays in favor of left-leaning eco-and-call-to-action messages (soundbites of Al Gore, bromides to save energy, and even an anti-focus group rant!). The deeejays are supposed to be back within a few days, as well as presumably a better-developed website – right now, all you get on their site is the option to listen to their stream, IM or E-mail “the studio,” and a read of The Globe’s 12-Point Mission Statement [Number 10: WE WON’T INSULT YOUR INTELLIGENCE – The Globe will have commercials (got bills of our own to pay) but we will try to keep them to a minimum and present them in a way that respects our listeners and our advertisers.”]. There’s even talk that the station will bring back the call letters WHFS, recalling the glory years of the once-legendary “alternative” station in the DC – Baltimore area. (Corporate parent CBS radio still owns those call letters.)

The RoeDeo Reaction? Fascinating, but preposterous. Very nice of them to tell us that flourescents save 70% more energy that incandescents, that we all can make a difference, and that they are now “partially operating on alternative fuels.” (Where? Are they lighting candles in the control room?). And the playlist is at least veering more towards the sound of excellent non-commercial stations like WXPN in Philly or WTMD in Towson (Baltimore), MD. But this is a station, as noted above, that’s owned by CBS. It’s all thoroughly unconvincing, and to my mind, creepily artificial. Maybe it’ll be better once the live air staffers return, and the sound becomes less canned and calculated. We’ll see.

The DC market has suddenly gotten a whole lot more interesting for us radio junkies, however…I’ve mentioned Dave Hughes’ DCRTV blog (stands for DC Radio and Television) before, and if you like this sort of stuff it makes for pretty entertaining reading. Sample:

OK, maybe The Globe is not real “adult alternative” like what’s heard in other markets and on some non-comm stations. Maybe it’s a bit “harder” and a bit more “commercial.” And, OK, yeah, maybe the “green” sloganeering will grow tiring. Still, it’s a great mix of powerful music that can (and should) only get better. CBS and Michael Hughes have planted the seed for a powerful force in Washington area radio. It’s energizing and thought provoking. Not moldy oldie and turgid, like some some area rockers have become.

Meanwhile, Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher had a lengthy take-out in the Sunday Arts section on George 104, the new oldies-plus format adopted by the formerly-classical WGMS:

George is a 44-year-old white guy who lives in the suburbs and likes Foreigner, Journey, Billy Idol, and David Bowie. When George was in high school, he loathed disco and the soft soul sounds of the ’70s”…..

Fisher’s blog on washingtonpost.com also has more background on the the Globe, including some more reactions about eco-awareness become a trend in the radio biz, including this observation from my friend Steve Yasko at WTMD:

“Public radio is the authentic green radio network and not the corporate hacks at CBS.”

As I said, radio in DC has suddenly gotten a whole lot more interesting….