When there was only AM and FM during those archaic days before the World Wide Web, email, and Internet radio stations listeners were helpless when a radio station changed format or fired djs.
After all, where else could they turn? There were only so many radio stations in any given area and the licensees (owners) new it. The Good Ole Boy club of station owners knew and had a quiet understanding that each one got to have their piece of the pie because:
1. There were enough formats for everyone
2. Enough listeners who had few other choices
3. No webcasting to compete with
4. No Satellite Radio to worry about
5. No iPods and mp3 players to horn in.
Those days are over.
This past Thursday (2/24/05) When parent company Radio One pulled the plug on Philadelphias Y100 WPLY-FM (100.3), all hell broke loose. Y100 had been providing that citys listeners with Modern Rock for the past 12 years until the format switch.
Actually, its more like a format move. The Rhythmic CHR formatted The Beat (WPHI-FM ) is actually moving from its previous home of 103.9 to where Y100 was because the 100.3 frequency is stronger.
Meanwhile, a website sprung into action immediately providing a home for angered listeners to vent in a forum, sign a petition to bring back their beloved station (over 17,000 at this writing), addresses to email the old staff, photos and more.
But, whats most impressive is the newly created online version of the old Y100 for former listeners to enjoy. A spokesperson said:
We have set up an online radio station and given it to the Y100 staff. To listen, all you need is a computer linked to the internet - Y100 Rocks, an online radio station dedicated to keeping the music alive -from sonic session tracks to local artists to the best alt rock and Y100 DJs. Soon some of the DJs will be broadcasting live from their homes
10 Years ago, listeners who were cast out by the station they had supported and been loyal to did not yet have this technology - or power.
The folks behind Y100Rocks.com are hoping to somehow pressure Radio One into changing its mind and re instituting the former Y100. Although noble, its a long shot. Corporate Radio programmers and managers generally dont like to think theyre wrong about changing formats, firing good workers, and blowing off listeners.
And sometimes a stations format isnt changed because it wasnt making money. Sometimes the format is changed because the company is confident it can make even MORE money with another one. (Sorry, but theres just not enough room here to discuss the philosophical differences between healthy profit and greed.)
But, there is precedent for a similar victory Y100Rocks.com hope to achieve. The website notes, "In January , WHFS in Washington DC was taken off the air. After thousands protested and signed petitions, WHFS was then put back on the air (in Baltimore at least), at 105.7fm, and online..."
Theres also an odd twist to this whole story. FMQB.com says:
This marks the second time that Radio One has killed the Modern Rock format in Philadelphia. Oddly enough, the first was when the company bought "WDRE/Philly" (WIBF, now WPHI 103.9 The Beat) and let the staff go. The WDRE staff later landed at Y100, which Radio One eventually acquired from owner Dan Lerner, and is pretty much the same group of people that Radio One is now letting go again.
Is Modern Rock dead in Philadelphia for good? 10 years ago the answer would have been "yes". Today the answer is a "maybe". Even if Y100 never comes back to a terrestrial FM signal, Internet listening was up 40% last year and these days computers are as widespread and accessible as car radios and home stereos and according to Motorola, soon to cell phones, too.
Plus, theres always the possibility XM or SIRIUS Satellite Radio might want to resurrect Y100 as part of the programming on one of their respective alternative streams. IF the Y100 listener lobby was loud enough, it might just work.
The point is: AM and FM stations dont monopolize the distribution systems anymore and when a listener says Im as mad as hell and Im not going to take it anymore... they dont have to.