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ANOTHER RATINGS BOOK, ANOTHER KRQ WIN

Clear Channel Top 40 station KRQQ FM 93.7 won the winter ratings battle, its second consecutive finish in the market's No. 1 position, according to numbers released by Arbitron in the listeners 12-and-older category.

The winter 2011 book saw no significant change among the entrenched top three. Citadel-owned KIIM FM 99.5 placed second overall with a 9.5 share, a 10th of a point behind KRQ. Journal-owned KMXZ FM 94.9 was a distant third with an 8.1.

While KIIM's numbers jumped 1.3 points from its fall ratings, and KMXZ's slipped by the same margin, the top three stations still accounted for roughly 28 share points. That's been a pretty consistent trend for most of the last decade.

Lotus did well among stations in the second tier. Its regional Mexican format, KCMT FM 102.1, delivered a 5.5 share, good for a distant fourth. Classic rocker KLPX FM 96.1 FM improved to 4.8 (sixth in the market), its third straight book with an upward trend—quite the revitalization for a signal that some feared might be facing a format change after a string of underperforming numbers in 2010. KFMA FM 92.1 stayed about the same, garnering a 4.0 share (eighth).

Clear Channel got a strong showing from KOHT 98.3 FM. The rhythmic contemporary-hit format improved by 1.4 points from fall 2010, up to 5.1, good for fifth in the market. News/talker KNST AM 790 was up as well, from 3.7 to 4.5 (seventh), and bested Journal radio news/talk competitor KQTH FM 104.1 FM, which tallied a 3.7 (10th overall). That number, however, was a point better than what KQTH received in the previous book.

Among the big losers: Clear Channel's KWMT FM 92.9 (from 3.5 to 2.8, its worst book in a year), Citadel-owned KSZR 97.5 FM, aka BOB FM (2.6 to 1.5), regional Mexican format KZLZ 105.3 FM (2.5 to 1.5) and Citadel sports station KCUB AM 1290, which slipped from 1.6 to 0.8. KCUB employs me for UA football and men's basketball pregame and postgame coverage. KWFM AM 1450 dipped from 1.1 to .5, but it also made a format change from oldies to comedy during the ratings window.


MICHAELS OUT OF RADIO YET AGAIN

The lone casualty of the KWFM AM 1450 format switch was radio veteran Alan Michaels.

On his last broadcast, during the morning of the changeover, Michael promised listeners that they could locate the oldies format on the HD2 band at 97.1 FM.

That never happened.

"HD2 for 97.1 just never materialized," said Michaels, who says he was also pitched to do a couple of hours of oldies Saturday mornings on KXEW AM 1600, the Clear Channel cluster's Tejano AM radio station.

"I was looking forward to doing the Tejano 1600 morning show Saturday morning, but I didn't know how people who listened to Tejano music would all of a sudden go to my voice and the oldies format. How do you do that? I don't want to upset anybody. It's like oil and water. You just can't put it together. It just doesn't work."

The announcement of the proposed HD2 move seemed odd on a number of fronts. For starters, it would require an aging demographic to make a technological leap. When the cluster pulled the oldies format from the FM band and placed it on 1450 about a decade ago, that was an easier move for people to make; every radio has an AM and an FM option. Meanwhile, HD radio is the industry's version of the Laserdisc—obsolete before it could gain any traction. Initially, HD was viewed as a countermeasure to satellite radio, an effort to put multiple formats on one signal, to better compete with the influx of formats offered through Sirius and XM. But it required a special kind of radio—a kind of radio next to no one purchased.

During that time, budget-strapped radio outlets had no idea what to do with the additional formats. To its credit, Clear Channel was the most aggressive company locally when it came to HD, and still promotes the fact that its stations have HD signals—but Clear Channel does nothing to cultivate the concept beyond basically flipping a switch and letting a computer run programmed music.

Citadel shut down its HD signals a while back as a money-saving measure, and hardly anyone noticed.

In the midst of local radio's uneventful HD phase, technology was already tilting toward smart-phone apps. HD, while clearer and crisper in sound, still has terrestrial-signal distance limitations. With smart-phone apps, listeners can access their favorite radio station anywhere.

Clear Channel's publicly announced HD carrot to Michaels, while odd, seemed to be at least a small step toward promoting the HD additions with local talent, even if it was too little, too late. Ultimately, in this case, it was not to be at all: At the moment, there is no HD2 signal on 97.1 FM, which means there's no true oldies format in the market—at least no up-tempo oldies format for which Michaels was known.

"Oldies in my genre is '50s, '60s and early-to-mid-'70s," said Michaels, who notes that the format, as broadcast by KOOL FM 94.5, is a top-rated station in Phoenix. "Who's making the money nowadays? Those who are working, the 45-plus demo; they're still making the money. There's definitely room, and it's sad that a city this size does not have an oldies station."

Michaels was among those who lost their jobs when Clear Channel announced massive layoffs in January 2009. He was given a part-time morning slot in June 2010 with 1450 and maintained that position until the format change to comedy earlier this year.

Even though he's currently employed with Internet-service provider Simply Bits, Michaels would love the right part-time radio opportunity.

"In a heartbeat," said Michaels. "I'd love to get back in."

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