Thursday, June 30, 2011

30 JUN 11: Number That Tune

Once upon a time several states away, I had a dream job during college - working as a part-time D.J. at the only commercial radio stations in town. The Boss wrote on one check stub, "You're doing an excellent job." Then I said the wrong thing on the air one Sunday afternoon - and he told me on a two-way radio, "Now shut up and play records."

They don't normally play vinyl records at radio stations these days - but a dispute over radio music in Columbus reportedly has made its way to an unusual court of decision: the Better Business Bureau. The judges of the Columbus "X Factor" auditions apparently were busy with other jobs....

Here's the way Richard Hyatt described it in Wednesday's Ledger-Enquirer: PMB Broadcasting filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, because Clear Channel Columbus claimed its country music station played more songs than PMB's country station. PMB called that false advertising -- and wanted the cheating to stop at Hank Williams tunes.

Clear Channel's WSTH "South 106.1" claimed it played more songs every 24 hours than PMB's WKCN "Kissin' 99.3." PMB's staff did its own count and disagreed. But PMB could have gone even further - noting WKCN is located farther south in Columbus than WSTH is.

So Leonard Crain of the Better Business Bureau suddenly found himself in the role of radio referee. Crain could have passed this matter on to a more knowledgeable neutral party - but it's a good thing he didn't, because Chris Chaos officially moves from one side of the argument to the other next week.

Instead, Leonard Crain gave the American Country Countdown song count to a team of advertising experts and agency board members. So for awhile, BBB stood for Better Bragging in Broadcasting....

The big decision came earlier this month. The Better Business Bureau ruled PMB's complaint was valid, while Clear Channel was guilty of false advertising. As a result, Clear Channel lost its BBB accreditation - but so far, I haven't noticed Mike Gaymon of the Chamber of Commerce moving his weekly talk show to "Foxie 105."

The Better Business Bureau report noted while South 106.1 claimed to play more songs per day, its managers also claimed there's no way to count the number of country songs played on Columbus radio. Huh?! Was this their way of admitting most country singers sound exactly alike?

We checked Wednesday night and found PMB Broadcasting has Better Business Bureau accreditation, and a grade of A-minus. Clear Channel currently has an "F," which means it's failing. But what about that other big local radio chain? Davis Broadcasting's grade is A-plus with accreditation - which could mean it pays not to play country music on radio at all.

So what have we learned from all this? Kissin 99.3 apparently plays more songs than South 106.1 -- which I consider remarkable. After all, Bear O'Brian talks a lot every morning. And Kissin 99.3 enjoys better ratings, so it probably has more commercials. Has anyone complained about the songs missing a verse or two?

But I also consider this whole radio wrestling match a little ridiculous. Why take a count of country songs to the Better Business Bureau? Is PMB heading next to the Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs, to accuse Clear Channel of fraud?

Besides, PMB could have made a lot more hay out of this country music feud. It could have invited listeners to count the songs for 24 hours, with the most accurate number winning a prize. Or it could have recruited Columbus State University music students to count the songs - potentially pushing them farther toward careers in classical or jazz music.

Maybe PMB's goal is to clean up the radio business in Columbus -- and I know from experience the business can be filled with lying. For one thing, WSHE keeps calling itself "The New AM 1270" even though it's played nothing but Southern gospel music for years.

(At least the noncommercial side of the FM band is ethical. WBOJ "88.5 the Truth" has yet to play any messages by Harold Camping.)

Now let's move around the news dial, for interesting items from Wednesday....

+ City Manager Isaiah Hugley talked with WLTZ about the city audit of the Civic Center. He said former director Dale Hester "made the Civic Center what it is today." In other words: a building that's more likely to be filled for a Jehovah's Witnesses convention than a hockey game.

(The River City Report's coverage of the Civic Center audit included a link to our posts about landfill fees in 2007. One of them mentioned an accountant's audit of the Civic Center, which found someone rented the building at a big discount without top-level approval. Yet the Junior League keeps holding its Attic Sale there, anyway....)

+ WTVM toured the newly-constructed, nearly-finished Smiths Station High School. The evening news listed its features - eight tennis courts, two football fields and two gyms. For some reason, the "labs and classrooms" at the high school only ranked fifth on the priority list.

+ Former Phenixian developer Ronnie Gilley could not return to the witness stand at the Alabama gambling corruption trial. Prosecutors explained he was sick. After what was revealed in court about Gilley offering a woman $50,000 to (ahem) make love to a State Senator, it's a wonder the jury didn't call out sick.

(A wiretap played by defense attorneys reveal Gilley offered a $50,000 bonus to a female lobbyist, if she performed a lewd act to get a lawmaker's vote. Gilley called it a "distasteful joke" - but it makes you wonder how many times he brought up the "good old days" in Phenix City years ago.)

+ The district Little League baseball tournament found Peach pounding Harris County 12-8 in eight innings. Harris County had two home runs and two strikeouts from Anna Phillips - a girl, playing in the major boys division. That long ponytail simply is too distracting.

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