Thursday, January 13, 2005

 

The End Of WHFS.

First, I'm sorry I didn't post last night. I got home, I was tired, I turned on the TV, and whaddya know: all five hours of the Battlestar Galactica miniseries were being replayed on the Sci-Fi Channel. Five hours later, I sat down at this computer.

As the song says, I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me.

Which, BTW, is one song you won't hear played any longer on FM 99.1, WHFS after today:

WHFS-FM, the Washington area radio station that was a pioneering purveyor of alternative rock to generations of young music fans, did a programming U-turn yesterday by ditching the genre for a Spanish-language, pop-music format that transforms it into the largest Spanish-language station on the local dial.
More of the shocking-- yet not unsurprising-- news at the WaPo ("free" registration required; piss ants).

I've only lived in Washington for nearly thirteen years, just a fraction of the 36 years that WHFS was on the air. My brother, however, lived here for many years in the 1980s, and between the two of us, we can piece together a long history of listening to "The Legendary WHFS."

WHFS had really atrophied over the years. In fact, by the time I arrived at college, the station was nearly a carbon copy of its primary competitor, DC 101. For a long time, they tried to program differently: WHFS was one of the first all-alternative stations in the nation, while DC 101 was the guitar rock station.

After grunge arrived on the scene, however, both stations started playing the same music sets, over and over again. All Nirvana, all the time; Pearl Jam on the ones-- that sort of thing. Their formats converged until today, where few people could tell the stations apart.

Effin' corporate radio.

Anyways, the news of the programming change was shocking in its abruptness. At no point did anyone on WHFS let on that the format change was imminent. I often listen to the morning crew on WHFS (the Sports Junkies, IMHO the most entertaining radio crew anywhere-- very little cheesy morning zoo crap). Just today the Sports Junkies were giving away tickets for a contest next week. I really wonder if everyone at the station was surprised today.

In fact, I wonder if this was a hostile takeover. Literally. Like, a busload full of Zapatista rebels took over the station and began broadcasting their demands for an independent Chiapas. And right now the deejays are all being held at gunpoint until their demands are met.

And oh yeah, they play Marc Anthony to pass the time.

Sigh.

Given that the music programming WHFS had long ago turned to crap, I can't really lament its passing. But, the Washington, D.C. radio scene is now officially the worst major market in America. My best friend in Chicago likes to argue with me about how bad Windy City radio is, but he has no idea how *good* it really is in comparison. Every time I go home I instantly have more than five presets in my rental car. Here, I try my best to tune in *Baltimore's* stations.

And forget about having anything as good as L.A., where you can even get porn radio. It's just talk radio, but it's talk radio about porn. You can't get that kind of station past the FCC in this town.

Oh well. The end of an era.

I guess I could always learn Spanish. . .

---
UPDATE: The Corner's Tim Graham says exactly the same things about WHFS, at least in spirit.


Comments:
Stop complaining. Local radio in Dallas is why I put a CD player in my car 8 years ago--when I was an undergrad and could barely afford it. Radio sucks in Dallas, but at least I've got Jessica's Crime, Johnny Cash, Nick Cave and Leatherface cd's to make up for it. Not to mention the Sisters of Mercy (laziest rock and roll band in the world).
 
Hey El Miguel-- notice I said MAJOR radio market.

:-)

I know I'm not alone in this, I'm certain radio is suckified nationwide. However, I do know that there are still a number of cities I've visited recently that have decent radio-- which means D.C. definitely has to have it bad.
 
I'm too lazy to check, but I'd bet WHFS is a Clear Channel station, right?

Well, they pulled that same trick, in the dark of the night one Friday here in Houston a month or so ago. KLOL, a 35-year old or so rock station which had gotten long in the tooth, music-wise, but had some excellent radio people, was replaced by Mega 101, "Latino & Proud". Just like that, and a 10,000 song commercial-free string (honest, that's what they said - I didn't count them) of Latino music. Which, when I tuned in, the once or twice I have since then, either sounds generally OK and listenable (5%), Flamenco (25%), or Latinos-trying-to-sound-like-Negro-gang-bangers (70%).

What a load of crap. And now, the radio staff that was turfed to make way for Mega 101 is agitating for change, back to the way it was. Fat chance, but if it occurred, that would prove to me it was just a cheesy stunt all along. The jocks who lost their jobs have no ownership stake in this, and getting everyone to quit listening to Clear Channel stations would be hard: of the 75 radio stations in Houston, CC owns 355 of them.

Like I said, what a load of crap. Now, all I listen to is NPR or the CD changer in the car. And that works out just fine, no thanks to CC Radio.
 
Patton--

Nah, WHFS is Infinity. But it's a pretty common tactic with radio channels-- why bother losing listeners *before* you change formats? Keep 'em hooked until the very last minute.

The WHFS deejay crew was cookie-cutter, with the exception of the aforementioned Sports Junkies. Their previous/first radio gig was the post-evening drive time slot on another Infinity station, WJFK 106.7, an all-talk format that carries Stern, Don & Mike, etc. They developed a healthy following there, and when WHFS went looking for a morning crew, they drafted them.

The rumor in the Post article says they may be moved to WJFK, but that's going to mean a lot of shifting around/someone gets fired. Everybody is assuming that once Stern (finally) leaves for Sirius, Don & Mike are going to move from afternoon drive-time to the mornings, so the Junkies could take the afternoon block. But that won't happen for months, so who knows what's going to happen to them.
 
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