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Airwaves: December 9, 2005

Simply Fabulous

Even programmer Brad "Martini" Chambers is a bit surprised that the Fabulous 690 is still around. Seems that the Mexican equivalent of the Federal Communications Commission is about as efficient as our own. Which is a good thing in this case ... it keeps a good format on the air, and it gives one of the few reasons to switch on the AM band.

No one really knows when the station will be transferred to the new owners in Madrid, Spain. Which means no one really knows when the current standards format will disappear. First it was expected by November, then the end of the year. Now the good money says early in 2006 ... but it could be next week. Or today.

The Fabulous 690 is one of those rare stations that does something extremely special. As listeners will attest, the station and its personalities are more than just a jukebox, they are your friends. Your companions. In many ways the music, though timeless and classic, is secondary to the overall presentation. This station lifts you up when you're down and it is a great way to share your day.

Chambers obviously "gets it," which explains why I get so many emails lamenting the station's pending demise. And not just from "seasoned citizens," mind you. Many letters come from people far younger than the expected demographic, due in part to the timeless nature of much of the music, as well as the popularity of many standards from current artists.

But does it have to be that way? Are we destined to lose a great thing? I certainly hope not. If owner Clear Channel were smart -- and in many ways they are -- they'd find a way to keep this station around. My suggestion would be to put the format on one of CC's many FM signals. I'm not a betting man, but I would make this bet: The Fabulous FM would be a hit among a wide age demographic, attract a listener higher-than-average affluence, hold an amazingly loyal audience that would appreciate the station and its advertisers, and would be one of the more successful stations in the city both financially and in the ratings.

And if Clear Channel doesn't do it, they'll be passing up a good thing that just may end up in the hands of a competitor. Remember that the ABC Radio stations are for sale, and Infinity has a few underperforming FMs in town. Clear Channel should do it before someone else does. And if no one does, it's another reason to give the gift of XM or Sirius satellite radio to yourself or someone you love this Christmas.


So far the mail is generally against the idea of believing what your favorite radio personalities are trying to sell. Some letters brought images of the traveling "snake oil" salesman.

"It would be interesting to see if Bill Handel actually paid for his driveway," said reader Bob Murphy, adding "the FCC should require the host to disclose any monetary gain received by the personality in exchange for their testimonial."

Bill Hayes mentioned that the "insane quantity of commercials, including those that are 'personally endorsed,' has diluted any potential quality or truth."

Giving an opposing view was Don Prieto, who said he'd "buy stuff that is sold by Paul harvey, Gary Owens and Rush Limbaugh -- all for different reasons, but mostly on the trust of the individual and the significance of the product."

This is all fascinating to me because the fact is, personal endorsements work. If they didn't, stations wouldn't offer them and advertisers wouldn't use them. But I still can't help wondering, as Bob Murphy alluded, how much free stuff or special treatment some of the personalities get in exchange for their endorsement.


Copyright © 2005 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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