Monday, February 28, 2005

DONE DEAL. The Lowell Sun reports that UMass Lowell radio station WUML (91.5 FM) is moving ahead with plans to broadcast former WBUR host Christopher Lydon and Lowell Spinners baseball games. (Thanks to Media Log reader A.R.)

The students who run the station reportedly turned out at an emotionally charged meeting last week, at which university official Lou DiNatale (when did he move up there?) said, "We don't want this winner-take-all thing where the students run the whole thing or the administration runs the whole thing. We really want some kind of a merger."

That makes sense, provided it's carried out in the right way.

Two observations:

1. The Lydon announcement is obviously the most interesting. Supposedly Lydon, the founding host of The Connection, will helm a one-hour nightly talk show. Presumably it will be syndicated. Media Log Central is actually a whole lot closer to Lowell than Boston is, yet I can't pick up WUML when driving around the North Shore. A podcast would be nice, too. "Podcasts are thoroughly interesting to me," Lydon tells the Globe's Scott Kirsner today.

2. The Spinners deal strikes me as more dubious. According to the Sun, up until now the Spinners have been carried on WCAP (AM 980), a commercial station. That seems right. The Spinners, after all, are a private, profit-making business, and I'm not sure a public station such as WUML ought to be getting involved with them. For what it's worth, North Shore Spirit baseball games are carried on WESX Radio (AM 1230) and seem to do very well.

TRIBUTE TO BRUDNOY. Yesterday's memorial service for the late talk-radio legend David Brudnoy was a deeply moving event. The Globe's Michael Levenson's account is online here.

The highlights: the graceful manner in which Brudnoy's former radio colleague Peter Meade presided over the nearly three-hour testimonial; a few brief words from Brudnoy's on-air successor, Paul Sullivan, who is himself battling cancer; and a quiet, heartfelt tribute from Brudnoy's best friend, Ward Cromer.

What was especially moving, though, were the numerous photos and video clips of Brudnoy over the years, accompanied by music recorded by Brudnoy's cousin Sharon Isbin, an internationally renowed classical guitarist. The service closed with excerpts from that astonishing interview Brudnoy gave as he lay dying at Massachusetts General Hospital last December.

"Don't wait until people die to tell them you love them," the raspy-voiced Brudnoy was heard saying throughout Emerson College's Cutler Majestic Theatre. "We tend to be very stingy about that."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's worth noting that WCAP is highly "directional" at night (when most baseball games are heard) with an antenna just northwest of Lowell, but throwing ALL their signal to the southeast. Thus listeners even as close as Nashua, NH have a tough time getting WCAP.

WUML (91.5FM) also has a "directional" signal; theirs reduces power to the southeast (towards Boston). Even so, it gets out a lot better than WCAP does in many areas more relevant to Lowell. Plus there's always the AM vs. FM sound quality argument.

Worth noting - the reason WUML is directional is because of WPAA (91.7FM - Philips Academy, Andover). However, WPAA went off the air and its license was deleted last fall. WUMB quickly applied to increase power on their northern repeater WNEF (also 91.7) but I don't see why WUML can't also increase power towards Boston.

Of course, it will take money (directional antennas are not cheap) and WUML will never be heard in Boston proper thanks to WMFO also being on 91.5FM. But it could fill out the area around Wilmington & Woburn.

As for the private enterprise vs. non-commercial radio station argument...I don't see anything inherently wrong. What's so different about, say, WZBC covering BC football games? BC football is technically non-profit but you better believe there's some serious cash surrounding it for the school. Of course, WUML cannot run advertising like WCAP can; it's limited to "underwriting" announcements that have distinct restrictions on what you can and cannot say. That will no doubt give many Spinner advertisers pause, although the advantage of being on an FM signal might overcome that.

The only real issue I see with the Spinners and WUML is that UMass Lowell's own student sports coverage might end up getting bumped as a result. That would be a real shame, and I hope UMass Lowell puts up coverage on WCAP or WLLH or some other station in town to make sure the student game coverage stays on the air.

- Aaron Read