Music-centered format changes anger fans of WFLZ-FM's MJ Morning Show; Bubba Clem dropped in Jacksonville and Orlando
No one at Clear Channel Radio will talk much about the changes.
But the Facebook page for WFLZ-FM's MJ Morning Show filled up with tough comments from fans Tuesday after the program revealed changes that included playing more music, shortening segments where the hosts talk and ending the show an hour earlier, at 9 a.m. The station's website touts the new format as "MJ + music in the morning."
Across the dial on WHPT-FM (102.5 The Bone), rival personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem spent time Wednesday morning railing against employer Cox Radio for removing his show from stations in Jacksonville and Orlando. The move in Jacksonville drew most of Clem's focus -- the Orlando affiliate, WHTQ-FM (96.5), will simulcast a talk radio station from the AM dial -- as WFYV-FM (104.5) promoted "music in the morning," telling listeners "you wanted it. You got it."
Both changes seem to reflect the radio industry's move toward emphasizing music, as a new ratings system presents data indicating listeners may want to hear more tunes and less talking.
On WFLZ, star Todd "MJ" Schnitt had been on vacation for two weeks before the changes were implemented, angering fans more. "Well there goes my mornings; no more MJ and crew," wrote one fan named Johanne Gilmour on the show's Facebook page. "Playing the same 5 songs is like having pins being stuck under my nails."
The changes rolled out as the station hyped a new promotion: two hours of music aired commercial free at 11:30 a.m., 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., offering $10,000 to the first listener who catches them missing that mark.
WFLZ's new format comes about six weeks after rival Cox Radio flipped the format of its '80s radio station WPOI-FM (101.5) to a Contemporary Hits Radio format, directly challenging WFLZ with pointed promotional ads taking shots at Schnitt's age and lack of music. Adopting an old school radio strategy, WPOI played its format without any talk or commercials through July, emphasizing a non-stop rotation of current hits.
Sam Nein, market president for Clear Channel Radio in Tampa, downplayed the changes at WFLZ, saying they were inspired by audience research. "(We're) not shaking up the format, just making intelligent adjustments backed by data as we do on all of our stations on an on-going basis," he wrote in an email to the St. Petersburg Times. "Because of MJ's stature in this market, adjustments that we make on his show tend to garner more attention, as they should."
Nein declined to speak on the telephone about the changes, sending a link to a page on WFLZ's website about the $10,000 commercial-free promotion. Calls to Schnitt and WFLZ program director Tommy Chuck were not returned.
On WHPT, Clem spent parts of his Wednesday show urging fans in Orlando and Jacksonville to access his show online via RadioIO.com; presenting the paradox of a show on a Cox Radio station urging listeners to turn away from the company's stations in other cities to patronize the online service.
Clem also apologized for berating an employee in Jacksonville who edited parts of his show, removing some explicit content, offering his show to WFYV at a 50 or 60 percent discount. His show still airs in Ft. Myers and Charleston, S.C.