Home URBAN Listener’s Perspective on WBZJ Going from Urban to Spanish Format.

Listener’s Perspective on WBZJ Going from Urban to Spanish Format.

wbzj_logoRFFocus got an email from a listnerer of WBZJ who was very upset about the recent unannounced format flip from Urban to Spanish. Apparently the corporation used a failed tower as an opportunity to make the change and has since decided to maintainthe new format even though the station was running the Steve Harvey Morning show. Some sources state there was an agreement in place for Harvey’s show but for that may or may not be true. No word from Premiere Radio about the situation. Letter below…

CURTIS MEDIA (N.C.) TELLS IT’S BLACK LISTENERS TO GO AWAY In January 2013 Curtis Media, a Raleigh, North Carolina based media conglomerate which owns several radio and television properties in the Raleigh/Durham market decided to dip it’s toe into urban radio waters. But fourteen months later Curtis Media, pulled the plug on “The New 96.9 WBZJ”, it’s Urban/AC station and replaced it with “La Ley”, its Mexican programmed sister station. The change in format came swiftly, without warning and seemingly without any without regret. AllAccess.com reported that a recent snowstorm damaged “La Ley’s” radio tower and therefore WBZJ’s is being used to transmit the Hispanic station; but they also report that neither Curtis Media nor its EVP/Market Manager Tripp Avery have made any statements on the fate the Urban/AC. Without any marketing WBZJ still managed to garner 6,300 Facebook followers in a little over a year compared to it’s main competitor, Radio One’s Foxy 104/107, which only has 3,600 followers. When the station was pulled on Monday many of its listeners took to Facebook to ask, were they being “Pranked”? One listener, Mia Hammond, started a group called, “BRING BACK WBZJ 96.9 Home of THE STEVE HARVEY MORNING SHOW”, which quickly gave over 200 members a place to vent. After several phone calls and emails to Curtis Media Mia repeated to the group that she was told, La Ley has been “around for 11 ½ years” and that she still had “Radio One stations to listen to”. Another listener posted a response she received via email from Curtis Media stating, “There’s no need for you to keep emailing …”; another received a response telling her that she can listen to “FOXY 107”. Listener Khadiya Thomas writes, “Let’s say the “tower” is an issue, why shut down FB, Twitter and the website so abruptly?” Many question if Curtis Media was ever serious about making a dent in the urban arena, which is currently dominated by Radio One. They brought in Chris Malone from Memphis, Tennessee to pull double duty as both Program Director (PD) and afternoon on air personality. But Malone was basically left to man the station alone. WBZJ aired the syndicated, Steve Harvey Morning Show from 6AM-10AM and the syndicated Keith Sweat show from 7PM-12AM. Both middays and overnights were automated. For the first five months, they had no weekend personalities. Gayle Hurd, a local news talent was brought in to localize The Steve Harvey Show by providing news breaks in the mornings and Kesha Monk was eventually hired to be the station’s weekend personality. All other dayparts were automated. The promotion director and social media assistant from CM’s other stations were charged with the responsibility to lend a helping hand to WBZJ when needed. A post on radio website Another Industry Site stated WBZJ didn’t do well ratings wise, citing a mere 2.5 share in the market. It also claimed that damage was done to La Ley’s transmitter during the most recent storm and since La Ley is a heritage station having been around for 12 years hey took the ‘BZJ transmitter. Listeners and many radio insiders are left questioning, why did Curtis Media even bother? There’s chatter that Curtis Media owns more than a dozen radio transmitters and any of those could have been used to transmit “La Ley”; but the supposed “ice storm” was just the cover they needed to do away with WBZJ. It’s also being buzzed about that there were several radio studios positioned next to its other five (5) radio stations that could have housed WBZJ, the urban station was stuffed around the corner in the back of a media, prep area in a 6’ x 6’ room with no windows, no telephone hotline and chairs that were barely fit to sit in. Almost a week after the station was pulled, Program Director Chris Malone popped up in the Facebook group to say, “Curtis Media has agreed to keep the WBZJ full time staff employed and work with us to find new roles…”; that statement is a bit self-serving if he is the ONLY fulltime employee from WBZJ. Furthermore, Malone went on to list other stations across the country where listeners can “tune-in” online if they wanted to hear the Steve Harvey Morning Show or a station with similar programmed music. That doesn’t give much hope to the listeners wanting the station and local appeal back. In a little over one year Curtis Media hired five (5) Black employees which doubled if not tripled the number African American people working at the Raleigh cluster. Now some are left unemployed and others a left looking for job placement. Responding to a listener on her Facebook page in a post that has now been deleted Kesha Monk wrote, “I was in New York speaking to some students at Hofstra University last night. I woke up to find out the station was gone just like you all did”. But a look at the most recent ratings, demonstrate that ‘BZJ, even in its infancy stage and with the lack of promotions, marketing and sales support – did rather well. With Curtis Media being eerily silent about the disappearance of the station feels rather disrespectful to the urban listening audience. Did they pull the station because of low profitability or because the tower collapsed? No matter the reason, CM’s lack of respect for its urban listeners and advertisers is loud and clear. Edited To Add – La Ley is now being simulcast on its old frequency 101.1. So a response from Curtis Media regarding the reason behind WBZJ’s disappearance would be interesting at this point to say the least.

CEO of RF Focus, Radio and Music Industry Veteran. Radio DJ, Programmer, Musician and Voice Talent. Graduated from Performing Arts in Buffalo, N.Y. and worked at the legendary KKBT (92.3 The Beat) during its nationwide heyday in the early 90s. Also worked for Stevie Wonder at KJLH.

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