News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

March 7, 2014

RONN MOTT: Radio now a long lost love

TERRE HAUTE — I fell in love with radio when I was 16, just a few short weeks before my 17th birthday. The man who did the deed and hired me was Adlai Ferguson. At the time, he was the owner of WPRS in Paris, Ill. I was on the air for a total of 30 hours per week from late afternoon to station sign-off.

There were many things to learn. I would not say I was a quick learner, but rather an eager learner.

I noticed right away adults treated me differently and how I wasn’t having this attention paid to me because of the amount of money I earned. I was not Ronnie Mott from Clinton High School, but Ronn Mott on the radio. I caught the drift right away. Radio has not always been kind to me, but I loved radio anyway.

The love grew sour when the FCC allowed the large corporations to buy as many radio stations as they wanted. (Frequencies have to be available, but there are many of those.)

Some of the broadcast companies owned thousands of radio stations. They’re supposed to broadcast in the public interest, but in all truth and honesty, that is normally just lip service. They only do what they feel they have to do.

This was brought to light over a recent weekend when Midwest Radio took the news-talk format from their 50,000 watt 98.5 and put it on AM 1300, 500 watt, mostly daytime broadcasting station. I’m sure with the money they make on their other stations in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and so on, they will do all they can to beef up their AM facilities.

The scuttlebutt on the street is they are going to do some master-mixing of some kind of a music format. For those who are looking for the right-wing’s favorite gas-bag, Rush Limbaugh, you’ll have to go to the AM side of the dial at 1300 to find him. The difference between a 50,000 watt, 24-hour-per-day operation and an AM station that broadcasts 500 watt days and only 60 watt nights would be comparable to me trying to guard Larry Bird in a pick-up game of basketball.

I’m not a fan of Rush Limbaugh and I would not doubt for a minute that money was the reason for a change, but this is like swimming in water of 75 degrees or jumping into the Arctic Ocean. Midwest Broadcasting has vice presidents for everything and I’m sure there were many meetings and discussions, maybe even arm wrestling, over this decision. It is a decision that can be reversed and the right-wing talk show hosts could be back on the 50,000 watt WIBQ.   

It’s one of those reasons why I fell out of love with the industry where I worked since those teenage years. The people in Paris, Ill., where this station is licensed, have absolutely no say in this. It’s a corporate decision made in an out-of-state office. The people who listen to it in the Wabash Valley will have very little, if anything, to say about it.   

So typical of why the microphone, my iron mistress of many years, will not be getting any box of candy or flowers next Valentine’s Day, or any Valentine’s Day. This is where I should wish the folks at Midwest good luck, but I won’t.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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