Vic Thomas, midday host and program director at the relaunched KTYS-FM (96.7), which went from new country to old pop yesterday, called Unfair Park with further details concerning the change -- which, turns out, stems from Citadel Broadcasting Corp. bossman Farid Suleman's love affair with a similar station in Minnesota. Suleman personally recruited Ron Chapman to run the station, now known as Platinum, and the DJ Formerly Known as Irving Harrigan agreed to the return to lite-rock radio, Thomas says, "because once radio's in your blood, it's there forever."
Doesn't take a genius to explain the format switch: "Basic mathematics," Thomas says, noting that The Twister wasn't pulling the numbers. But, really ... the Carpenters? (Seriously, every time I go to the Web site, which still brands the station as its country predecessor, to see what's currently playing, it's always the Carpenters. No kidding: eight out of nine times in the past 24 hours. Them, or the Bee Gees. Or Petula Clark.) To which former KLUV-FM (98.7) weekend-show host Thomas says, Damn right the Carpenters. Only, without the "damn" part.
"To be successful in any format, there should be a niche in the market in need of filling," Thomas says. "And in Dallas-Fort Worth, there really hasn't been a radio station that has played the play list we're playing. Some play some of the songs, but there's a large group of music here that goes prior to the mid-'70s that was ignored by terrestrial or HD radio. So, yes, there was a niche to fill, and The Twister wasn't doing as well as the company expected, so this was an opportunity to do something in a market that wanted this music."
Thomas is a True Believer in old-fashioned radio -- a longtime traveler of the airwaves himself, the guy's more or less the Andy Travis of local radio. He doesn't believe satellite radio's the future, which is why he and Chapman and Citadel are betting on the past. (Oooh, more Frankie Valli just came on: "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You.") Unlike Clear Channel, which tried to turn a terrestrial station into a satellite-lite channel before failing miserably, he sure as hell ain't scared of it.
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"If people are not listening to their radios, that's the fault of the people doing radio," he says. "When it comes to satellite, my opinion -- and this is just my opinion -- is that it's still in a discovery phase. There's an element of novelty associated with satellite radio, and the jury's still out. But I will pose this as a rhetorical question: What does it say when Sirius and XM have to merge? What does that tell you about 'the future of radio'?"
As for how long Citadel's willing to stick with this format, well, Thomas can't say for sure. No one's given him a deadline to get those ratings out of the cellar. (And now playing, B.W. Stevenson's "My Maria"! Waitaminute -- is this a local music station?)
"There's no drop-dead date," he says. "This radio station and its success will be measured by all of those standard measurements -- revenue and ratings -- but no one's said, from Mr. Suleman down, 'We'll give this a couple of books, or it's done.' People want this format."
Me, I just want some Herb Alpert. Awright, "Spanish Flea"! --Robert Wilonsky