Monday, August 22, 2011

WDBO— Full Circle

Just last week 580 WDBO-AM started it's simulcast on 96.5 as WDBO-FM. Up until then it had been known as WHTQ-FM. Prior to that, WHTQ had been simulcasting the DBO programming on it's HD2 subchannel, but nobody listens to HD radio so nobody cared. WHTQ's former Classic Rock playlist is now relegated to obscurity on that same HD2 subchannel. Orlando is market #35 with a whopping 1.5 million residents. If 1% of them have HD tuners that's a total broadcast audience of about 15,000. That sound like a lot but even if they captured 100% of their total possible audience that's still diddly. Arbitron doesn't rate markets below Casper pop. 63,000. Even if WDBO-HD2 carried 100% of it's total possible audience (which isn't possible)  that's sort of like having a 25 share in Casper WY.

Regardless, what that whole game of musical chairs reminded me of was that WDBO (like many other AM/FM operations) used to simulcast AM and FM back in the 1970s.  WDBO AM/FM were MOR/full-service during this era. They were even transmitting in mono. WDBO-AM has been on air since 1924, the FM side signed on in 1949, (some sources say 1952) starting as a simulcast on 92.3 FM. That continued until late 1971, when they parted ways and flipped to MOR. They actually describe the format in the Broadcasting Yearbook of 1973 as "Good Music."  It was actually Beautiful Music and it was boring. They stuck to that into the early 1980s.

That old WDBO frequency, 92.3 presently belongs to WWKA. Both are still owned by Cox, hypothetically they could have restored the original 1950s-flavor MOR simulcast. But with a 5.8 share they won't be messing with WWKA's 20-year country music winning streak any time soon.  But interestingly that first segue to country didn't go over so well. Katz bought the station in 1982, and wanted to drop Beautiful Music. It might have been a stunt, but three announcers took the station "hostage."  On December 21st, Dutch Schaffer, Ron Kocher and Lon Wagner locked themselves in the station for three hours in protest of the format change from Beautiful Music to country.

Whether it was real or stunt, at least it made the newspaper.  I tend to favor the latter just because Morton Downey Jr. was the mediator. I'll quote the Orlando Sentinel via
"...About 6:15 p.m., announcers Gary "Dutch" Schaffer, 41, and Ron Kocher, 23, locked themselves in the WDBO-FM control booth and told the radio audience they had taken it over in protest of the change, scheduled for January... Three hours and 20 minutes later, the station management and the announcers, who had been joined by broadcaster Lon Wagner, 33, worked out an agreement..."
Ironically, of all the stations involved in this tale, that's the one that hasn't been sold, moved, flipped, shuffled, simulcasted or sent to the HD graveyard. To quote Thomas "Bert" Lance, If it ain't broke, don't fix it.