Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Clear Channel Completes Stealth Flip in New Haven

Updated: Saturday, February 3, at 12:15 pm pst: Its's official. The Clear Channel station, WAVZ-AM in New Haven will be dropping lib talk on Monday and flipping to ESPN Sports. This makes WAVZ the 19th station to drop lib talk in the past year – the 13th in the past two months.

It also represents a new "stealth strategy" by station owners to flip lib talk stations without notifying anyone -- e.g. listeners, the press, or the FCC. The "owners" seem to be taking the position that it is their station and they can do whatever they want in whatever manner they choose. Some of us were under the impression that station's are licensed by the Federal government to use the public airwaves in the public's interest. In any case, that's a blog for another time.

Another station WQDS-AM in Duluth (see Breaking News) flipped from lib talk to oldies on Thursday. This was also a "stealth flip," by an owner, who does not appear to very popular in the local market.

It appears that Clear Channel does not want to make the same mistake it made in Madison with its flip of WAVZ in New Haven from liberal talk to sports.

Despite their best efforts to not inform anyone of their decision, news leaked out earlier this week when it was reported in a one-sentence item on the Northeast Radio Watch that CC was planning to drop lib talk in there.

The post stated that "the end of progressive talk coming at Clear Channel's WAVZ (1300 New Haven) sometime this week? We're hearing that sports talk will be the new format there, any day now."
They were right!

On Thursday TR published a new website (which was underconstruction) which seemed to confirm the rumors that ESPN was to be the no programming provider for WAVZ.

If you select the stations web address http://www.wavz.com/ today you will see the following message:

Thanks to each and every one of you for being such loyal on-air/on-line listeners to the VOICE Progressive Talk Radio 1300 (theVOICE1300.com).
Effective Monday, February 5th, 2007, WAVZ-AM's program format will switch to sports as ESPN Radio 1300 (
You're also invited to tune in to News/Talk960WELI (
960WELI.com) [CC's Conservative Talk Station in New Haven] for Local New Haven News, Traffic, Weather, & Sports... plus local information & coverage of events in your community on the News/Talk960WELI Morning Show with Jerry Kristafer, weekdays from 5:30-9 a.m.
Again thank you for your support of the VOICE Progressive Talk Radio 1300."

Now I am not comparing WAVZ in New Haven to WXXM in Madison. WAVZ has operated pretty much on auto-pilot since switching to lib talk in November, 2004. (Ironically, the station’s previous format was sports) while WXXM has maintained a staff and does local programming. WAVZ never received an Arbitron share higher than 1, while WXXM has been getting shares in the low 3’s for months. Most importantly, I doubt there is activist group in New Haven that can match the one that was assembled Madison. Potential activists at nearby Yale University seem to more interested in showers than liberal talk radio.

However, CC does not want to take any chances. That is possibly why they have used "stealth strategy" as they pull the plug on lib talk in Hartford.

In Madison they announced their intention to flip WXXM several weeks before they planned to launch a local sports format. That gave activists there sufficient time to conduct a successful "save lib talk" campaign including a petition, public meetings, demonstrations, and support from community and business leaders. In Boston and Columbus, OH they shortened the format flip window to days, now in New Haven that the programming change will be made without anyone being notified.

While the station loss represents over 20% of all full time lib talk stations, it represent less than 5% of the radio listeners to the format.


Anonymous said...

WAVZ doesn't serve Hartford at all. It's a New Haven station. The FMs overlap a bit from one market to the other, but for the most part, the AMs do not.

raccoonradio said...

At least they mentioned it on the station's website, which is more than you can say about CC and Boston
(WKOX and WXKS). Word did get out to the papers about an upcoming flip to
Spanish "Rumba" but nothing was on the stations' site (save for comments on the messageboard) to give listeners any idea...

Also, read a book called "Something in the Air"
and it mentioned how "listener rebellions" that occured when a certain format was dropped (the ONLY station playing that format)
"were common but in 1981, the
Supreme Court ruled that owners
were free" to program their stations however they wanted
(with regards to format, etc.)...
as long as they followed the rules
of course. This is why any complaints to the FCC may--FOR
NOW--go nowhere