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April 23, 2006 - April 29, 2006 Archives

April 23, 2006


I made it from home to Vegas in record time. I hope I'll be getting back in similarly swift fashion.

I like Vegas, but the convention isn't fun and I really want to be home now, to be with Fran and Ella the World's Most Famous Cat and all the familiar trappings. I'm not a gambler, I don't drink much, and I hate hotels where you have to wade through a mob of the world's worst dressed, worst behaved tourists to get anywhere. (I want to get a quick run in tomorrow morning, but the prospect of walking through the casino in the t-shirt/shorts/sweat ensemble, even at 6 am, isn't appealing, although I'd still be better dressed than many of the people I saw swarming the buffet this evening)

Right now, there's a wedding going on at poolside, which can be heard- at least, the pulsing bass can be felt- all the way up here, halfway up one of the taller towers in town. I can tell it's "Celebration." Kool and the Gang are shaking the windows 22 floors up, and there's the requisite lizardo DJ barking out orders to boogie, but I don't see anyone actually dancing. I'm assuming it'll go on for a while- this IS Vegas- so sleep will not be an option. The NAB on a couple of hours of sleep? Not a good thing. Tomorrow will be a bear.

In the meantime, I'm grouchy because the change in router a few weeks ago screwed up my ability to access my Slingbox through the Net, so no Sopranos (this hotel has no HBO- how COULD they DO that to me?). Fran saw it, wasn't impressed, but I'm going to have to avoid any discussions of it for a few days, so I guess morning radio's out.

This morning's Review-Journal had a column by the sports editor about the Duke lacrosse rape scandal, and the gist of it is: see? UNLV wasn't so bad after all!:

    ...when you compare this story -- as well as the myriad problems quarterback Marcus Vick brought to Virginia Tech last year, the allegations of sexual assault and wild recruiting parties that brought down coach Gary Barnett at Colorado before that, the embarrassment that running back Maurice Clarett caused Ohio State football before that, etc. -- the "crimes" of which UNLV basketball has been accused over the years are picayune -- despite the media attention they drew at the time.

    Raiding a hotel mini-bar? Joy-riding on a couple of purloined boogie boards while in Hawaii? Please!

    Even some of the more serious things that occurred -- recruit Lloyd Daniels being caught in a televised drug string, an angry Isaiah "J.R." Rider throwing a strawberry milkshake back through a drive-thru window, the recruiting fiasco of Lamar Odom -- pale in comparison.

    Not even the infamous "hot tub" photo that showed basketball players David Butler, Anderson Hunt and Moses Scurry partying with convicted sports fixer Richie Perry can be equated with alleged rape, a player waving a loaded gun in public or high school prospects being recruited with raucous sex parties.

See, it's all relative. Since other schools have had rape and gun scandals, UNLV was practically saintly. Theft? Drugs? Players consorting with fixers? Hey, look over there, Duke's got a rape scandal! Now, what were we talking about?

It must be tough to run a newspaper sports department in a town where you have to kowtow to the local sports dynasty, especially a college sports dynasty. Every once in a while, you get a Paul Finebaum taunting the Alabama faithful from newspaper, radio, and TV pulpits, unafraid to criticize. But mostly you get this guy straining to show the bright side of a historically troublesome program (hey, Joe, check that graduation rate lately?), or most of the L.A. Times staff (Simers excepted) selling Laker and USC happy talk. Hey, if you know you have to see the UNLV Athletic Director around town all the time, I guess it doesn't hurt to be boosterish.

All right, now the noise from the wedding's too loud for me to even hear the TV in this room. Maybe it's time to do something about it. I think there's a pub right at the elevator on the first floor. Excuse me.


April 24, 2006


So there's a guy and he's strapped to the railroad tracks, and there's a light getting closer and chugging noises getting louder and smoke gettigng stronger, and he looks up and says "yeah, I know it's a train heading for me, but I think that I'll be OK because I'm really good."

Meet terrestrial broadcast radio, circa 2006.

All right, that's an overstatement, but there's a weird limited-awareness thing going on here. The assembled multitudes at the NAB convention seem to be more aware than ever that technology is causing them problems. There are seminars on telecom entrance into the cable TV competition, on cell phone entertainment, on the integration of broadcast media into mobile devices. But I was sitting through one such forum (the unfortunately-titled "How 2 B COOL In The N3W T3CH Age"- someone at the NAB thought that was COOL), and the guy from Clear Channel was talking about how radio needs to integrate with the new tech devices, how streaming is critical and how you can stream to cell phones, and they were talking about creating radio's own MySpace-equivalents and they went on about using texting to sell ads and blah blah blah and so forth and the audience was nodding and eating it up and there was one question I tried to ask but time ran out:

Who needs YOU to provide the content?

The problem radio is going to encounter is this: they think their version of a music service is what people want, but someone who's in that 12-17 demographic thinks they suck. And older people are getting there, too. Who are you going to look to for your music choices, Clear Channel or someone you trust on the Net? Are you going to wait for Kiss-FM, or Kiss-HD, or Kiss-HD-2 to play new music or are you going to check out samples on iTunes or see what's hot at Pitchfork Media? Why would you trust terrestrial radio people to give them what they want?

You wouldn't, not when there are easily available alternatives. And that's why radio has some long-term trouble in store. There's an arrogance in radio programming- and I was a major market PD, so I get to say this- that assumes that people will want what we give them, because we've done the research and we know what they want. But now there are other ways to get that content, and individuals can get what they want without the middleman, or at least from a different middleman. And as that gets easier for people to do, there's every reason to believe they will.

The new NAB head, David Rehr, told the opening session that the problem isn't that radio's facing an uncertain future- no, the problem is a PR difficulty, that it's just a matter of confidence, of being on the offensive rather than the defensive. All they need to do is aggressively tell everyone that satellite radio is losing money and has dirty, feelthy content and everything'll be OK. He also said that "broadcast signals must be everywhere in the culture. Our signals must go everywhere, to everyone, through every device." And there it is again, the trigger for that question:

Who needs YOU to provide the content?

Might there be a reason kids aren't listening to the radio that goes beyond a PR problem?

Meanwhile, the HD Radio session had me cringing as the industry's "new, exciting programming" for those HD subchannels got trotted out as revolutionary, fun, different. What are the bright ideas? Dance music, which has been around (and mostly failed) as a format in several markets. Active rock, which is hardly new. Chill, which Sirius has been programming for a few years. Gospel, which is new if this is 1949. Hip-hop oldies, which flopped in L.A. on a regular station and which is available on satellite. In other words, there's absolutely nothing new on these channels.

This morning, a press release hit All Access' Net news about Clear Channel's unveiling of several of these "new" formats for HD subchannels:

    CLEAR CHANNEL RADIO CEO JOHN HOGAN said, "We have become agnostic about delivery and are completely passionate about content. And we’ll continue to lead the radio industry on to new platforms. Radio programming is the most engaging and compelling media today. Our power to connect with, and hold, consumers will continue to reveal itself as we supplement our outstanding AM/FM properties with programming for new devices."

But the content is not exclusive. With the Net, ANYONE CAN PROGRAM ANYTHING, and with an iPod, you can do it yourself. In fact, there is one type of programming you CAN'T easily duplicate, that you CAN'T do better than the big radio companies, that SHOULD be all over these new channels and should be the content they put on cell phones and streams and podcasts.

It's called talk radio.

Among 75 new formats developed by Clear Channel's "format lab," exactly one is spoken word, a comedy channel identical to those already available on Sirius and XM and consisting of recorded comedy bits available elsewhere. Every single format of the 75 is available elsewhere. Why they think people will want them from Clear Channel (or CBs, or Citadel, or Cumulus) is never enunciated, because they have no answer. On the other hand, Clear Channel owns talk with powerful brands like Rush and Noory and Hendrie and WLW and KFI. They have personality morning shows all over the country. They have a huge amount of talk content and the unique ability to develop more. And you can't just upload your own home-grown Rush Limbaugh- there's exactly one. There's one Sean Hannity. There's one Stephanie Miller, one Bill Handel, one John and Ken Show, one Michael Smerconish and one Regular Guys and one Lex and Terry and one Michael Savage and one Roe Conn. Get the idea? It's the one thing radio has that can't be duplicated by anyone else, and instead you get this Clear Channel "Format Lab" format description:

    Urban - The Suite (CH 904) Keeping it's finger on the beat of Urban mid-tempo to slow jam songs. In the back of the club with Alicia Keys, Poppin bottles of Cris with Gorillaz, Put the bar on the tab for R. Kelly, Throwin hundreds up for grabs for Black Eyed Peas - yeah, all right here on the Suite, where we know how throw a Fiesta, Fiesta. Alicia Keys, Heather Headley, Kem, Maxwell Ascension, Charlie Wilson, Ne-Yo, Patti LaBelle, Shai, Michael Jackson.

Oh, yeah. That'll stop the bleeding.

Of course, radio isn't dead. And listening among older audiences isn't yet a problem. There's still that massive established base of equipment in every single car, in every home, all over the place. But if there isn't dissatisfaction with the product, why is the industry racing to provide its own alternatives to itself? And why would they think that music is the way to go when it's the thing they provide that anyone else can provide?

I'm not going to get the answers here.


April 25, 2006


He would have been 75 today, and I don't know what I would have done for him. It would have been special. That much I know.

I know, I do this every year, on his birthday and on the day he died. Please find it in your heart to excuse me. I loved my father. I still do. And as long as I'm around, I want to make sure he's not forgotten.

He isn't, not by anyone who got to know him. So here you go- Harold Simon, 1931-2004, former Paterson teacher and principal, former Fair Lawn and Paterson gym manager, former tennis and baseball fanatic, 8th Infantry Regiment third baseman during the Korean War, Seton Hall grad. That's for the Googlebots and the MSN searches and any other search engines out there who might pick it up, so if someone out there remembers Dad and wonders, they'll find out that he was a great father and a great man and his son misses him beyond comprehension.

Happy birthday, Dad.



Bad mood again. The day started with me staggering to my car at the hotel garage to see a woman, obviously a prostitute, teetering on spike heels to a car and opening the rear door, from which another prostitute tumbled out head first. The upright prostitute stuffed the passed-out prostitute back into the car, climbed in, laid down, and closed the door. I didn't stick around to see what would happen next.

I probably should have. The convention day started with an interview with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who said absolutely nothing but the standard platitudes. He was being interviewed by Bonneville's Bruce Reese, who wasn't going to ask anything tough or call Martin out on his comments about the massive increase in complaints over indecency as an excuse for further crackdowns (yeah, hundreds of thousands of complaints from one pressure group taking advantage of mass e-mailing). I could have slept in.

I stopped in at Holland Cooke's podcasting seminar, which was amusing enough except for his assertion- unchallenged by the audience- that AM is for talk and Fm is for music and that's what everyone thinks and that's what the agencies believe and that's all there is to it and the only way to break through that is to use podcasts and streaming. I was going to ask where my old FM Talk stations, all of which are making massive piles of cash, fit into that equation, but I didn't want to show him up. And he had some good stuff in the presentation- the WDEL video newscast was pretty damn cool- so it would be nitpicking.

The "Radio Luncheon" is where things fell apart and got put back together. Every year, I encounter the same thing: I show up with my official news media badge, the extremely elderly security guards try to keep me out ("you can't come in here without a ticket!"), I make them find a manager, and they grudgingly let me in- "but you can't eat!," as if I'd want to eat that crap- and walk me to a special "press area," a conspicuous roped-off area with uncomfortable chairs way in the back of the room that looks like where they put the "special" students. It would be humiliating if I cared.

Then, the smarm: the new NAB President and CEO, David Rehr (rhymes with "bear," or "care," or, most appropriately, "Care Bear"- there's his new nickname as far as I'm concerned), strode to the mic, looked out at the crowd, grinned, and, in the most insincere, rehearsed manner possible, blurted "God, I love radio!" He used to be the head of the beer lobby, and I can picture him saying "God, I love beer!" And it would have been equally unbelievable. I swear, he winked. He looked like he was about to throw in the undercoating for free.

After the Crystal Awards- another Bonneville bonanza, but they DO make good, community-minded radio and they DO take risks, so they deserve some awards- Walt Mossberg gave a talk. The crowd wasn't that into him- some people just got up and wandered out of the room- but I thought he was very perceptive, especially when he closed by being the first person at this convention to say what I've been saying (including in yesterday's post and today's All Access "The Letter"): there is no future for radio in just playing music. He said point blank that the industry cannot survive playing music with disc jockeys. He said that the future for radio is in "audio programming," not music distribution, leaving the definition of "audio programming" open. And that's what I've been saying about talk radio and personality radio as the only thing radio has that can't be duplicated by a kid with a Shoutcast account, or an iPod, only they can do it better. He's right, of course. I wonder if the people in the room know that. (Maybe not: Cox Radio's big HD-2 announcement included a bunch more music formats and one lonely exception, a simulcast of WSB Atlanta on an FM subchannel. Nothing new. Add that to the music channels unveiled by Clear Channel and Greater Media yesterday, and it's an industry betting on the wrong horse)

There's one more thing here before I escape, the annual "FCC Commissioners Acting Smug" Panel. Then I get to leave. Things are looking up.


April 26, 2006


No, I'm not in Vegas anymore. I got out of there as soon as I could, which was as soon as the FCC "Regulatory Face-Off" took place. Breaking news from that panel: none. Nothing new at all, and it didn't help that they were presented with no substantive questions by the NAB moderator, whose only notable contribution was to do what all the NAB people, from Care Bear Rehr on down, did throughout the convention- stay on message by trashing satellite radio. The NAB is convinced that satellite radio is their perfect straw man, a boogeyman they can set up as DESTROYING OUR NATION with FILTHY, EVIL PROGRAMMING that ought to be regulated because, as we know, people are forced to listen to Howard Stern, often being held down with restraints, the dirty words being injected directly into their bloodstreams. Why, they're COMING FOR YOUR CHILDREN RIGHT NOW!

And when that doesn't work, they'll attack the Internet. Anything to take your attention from the fact that they're clueless about what to do when their transmitters are not only no longer the only way to deliver entertainment to cars and home stereos, but become far from the best way to do it. We're moving towards an on-demand entertainment and information system, and a live radio stream isn't very good for what the radio people think they do best, "the best songs from the 80's, 90's and Today" and "Fond du Lac's Hot Hits."

Meanwhile, the FCC is sitting there, smug in the comfort of knowing that they still matter, except that they matter less and less each day. The more they turn the screws on broadcasters, the more they try to assert the right to regulate cable and satellite, the more that Net-delivered programming- streaming, podcasts, IPTV- are going to rise to give the people what they want. And when that happens, and when communications moves to the unregulatable Internet, and when the Wild West rises again, the FCC becomes Jurassic Park. I thought about asking them how it feels to face obsolescence, but it was useless- the present commissioners will be long gone by the time things are out of the Commission's control. But if they continue to try to regulate content, that's where we're going.

So after an hour or so of Michael Copps' pinch-faced smug superiority-complex posturing (he looks and behaves like someone who's constantly smelling farts and blaming someone else for them), Jonathan Adelstein's earnest-young-politician act, and Debi Tate's clueless-schoolmarm routine, I decided that I'd had enough. Off to my car, up to Sahara, and into massive traffic. By the time I filled the tank at Costco and inhaled a slice of Costco pizza for dinner, it was 6:00 and I was on the 15 freeway heading south. I amused myself with the radio- some Opie and Anthony replay, some of the Phillies game, some minor league baseball- I caught the High Desert Mavericks at Stockton and the Inland Empire 66ers hosting the Bakersfield Blaze- and then to the oldies channels on XM, looking for some sing-along music. There's no better sing-along time than in your car on a desert freeway at night. But XM's oldies channels kinda suck- for a long stretch, they played songs I'd never heard of, obscurities by Wadsworth Station or Mansion or something like that, non-hits and B-sides by Grand Funk, a weird stretch where two out of three songs were Earth, Wind and Fire, and one point where there was a different Kelly Clarkson song on three stations at the same time. I could have switched the audio cable to the Sirius receiver, but I got lazy, so it was bad oldies alternating with the end of the marathon Dodgers-Astros game until I came around the bend on the edge of the peninsula and my neighborhood glowed in the distance through a light fog. Fran and Ella the World's Most Famous Cat were waiting for me. Life instantly got a lot better.

Until next year, at least.


April 27, 2006


A little swamped again today. A few days in Vegas wandering around a convention will do that to you. It reminded me how much I hate being away from home, and especially away from Fran. I'm back now, and reconnected to the world, but any time I'm away, I get buried by stuff that backs up. That's a convoluted way of saying I gotta be brief here so I can actually go to sleep at a reasonable hour.

Oh, yeah, I'm quoted in today's editions of USA Today! (Peter knows I use three names- it's USA Today, so I'm Perry Simon and the guy in the Texas School Book Depository was Lee Oswald. Gotta save space) I'm such an expert.


April 28, 2006


Yeah, I'm pretty much toast right now. Now, weren't we discussing the (Miami) Floridians the other day?

Why, yes, we were.

This is what it was really like at the beginning:

Not that exciting, eh? Nor was the second season:

But this, from that '68-'69 program, is more interesting:

"Tomboy"? "Direct from San Francisco"? "Unescorted girls welcome"? I think they were advertising something for an alternative audience there.

The peogram is from November 23, 1968, for what that's worth, Indiana Pacers at Miami Floridians. Indiana had Roger Brown, Bob Netolicky, Mel Daniels. Miami had, er, not much: Les Hunter, Donnie Freeman. They could have had Daniels- in fact, the previous season, they DID have him, when they were the Minnesota Muskies, but they sold him to Indiana to get badly needed cash to pay off debts. Bizarrely, that 1968-69 team ended up finishing second and winning the first round of the playoffs.

The ballgirls and magenta-and-orange unis didn't arrive until '70-'71.


April 29, 2006


Is there a statute of limitations on celebrity sightings? I don't mean from the last thing in the IMDB listings, or even from their last meaningful stage or screen performance, but from when they were familiar enough to be known without explanation necessary?

We live far enough away from "The Industry" to make celebrity sightings rare, since we rarely get off our asses and go anyplace celebrities go. So I'd say last night's dinner sighting of Greg Mullavey at our local Marie Callender's counts.

Greg Mullavey.

"Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman"?


(Ignore the IMDB listing- he's always primarily been billed with the spelling "Mullavey")

Fine actor, actually, mostly on stage of late, but he'll always be Tom Hartman to TV viewers. I think he lives around here now; he was having a nice, quiet early dinner when we showed up last night. We get that level of celebrity- good actors you'd know from reasonably big supporting roles on TV shows, guys who move here to escape the Hollywood atmosphere. Tony Heald- the assistant principal on "Boston Public," a judge in a recurring role on "Boston Legal"- has a place here with his family. Former Laker and Piston Elden Campbell lives nearby, too. We don't get Brangelina or Kobe, we get the supporting cast.

I kinda like it that way. Big celebrities are a pain in the ass.


About April 2006

This page contains all entries posted to PMSimon.com in April 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 16, 2006 - April 22, 2006 is the previous archive.

April 30, 2006 - May 6, 2006 is the next archive.

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