In recent years, fans of MeTV FM (87.7 FM) in Chicago are preparing for their favorite station to be shut down by the FCC. Program Director Rick O’Dell has good news for them if they haven’t heard it yet.
“We hit a tipping point last July when the FCC imposed a deadline, requiring all 87.7 stations to be digital or stop broadcasting,” he explains. “The owners of 87.7 (Venture Technologies Group) stations were granted a special waiver because they installed unique proprietary transmission technology that enabled 87.7 Chicago to become a digital station. So that meant that we were able to comply with FCC regulations, and from what we hear, that will now satisfy the FCC. There is no longer an end date.
Rick O’Dell has been a fixture in the Chicago radio world for four decades (WAUR, WCLR, WTMX, WNUA). One of the things that drew him to this station was the apparently important position taken by the management of Weigel Broadcasting.
“I am so happy to work for a company that values viewers and older listeners. The truth is, the heaviest radio users are in their fifties and over. The folks at Weigel are smart to see this for the great opportunity that it is. Everyone is chasing the young viewer and listener, and if you want them, you can only get a much smaller slice of the pie. Stations geared towards 25-54 listeners are in panic mode as the average age of radio listeners continues to climb. Yet Weigel Broadcasting, in its radio and television products, succeeds in targeting older viewers and listeners. That means we’re not in crisis mode, and we’re releasing a product that straddles my own tastes and preferences, and we’re filling a niche for people in that age group by giving them music that they don’t have. really no other place to get. “
The format they designed to address this underserved audience may also be one of the most unique and daring formats in the country. While the radio zigzags, MeTV FM zigzags.
“The formats of radio have become so narrowly defined,” says O’Dell. “When we were young and listening to Top 40, he embraced half a dozen different genres. As long as they were popular and sold well, the genre of the songs didn’t matter; you would hear them all. The Carpenters into the Rolling Stones in a novelty song with a country crossover tune in classic R&B. But now all of these categories have their own individual station if they have a station at all. The concept of MeTV FM, which was conceived by Neal Sabin (Executive Vice President of Weigel Broadcasting), was to take our age group back to the days when we listened to the radio for fun, as teenagers, high school or college students, when we could turn on Top 40 radio and listen to whatever was popular at the time.
It’s an old concept that somehow feels refreshing and new. One of the main reasons is that the resort is not afraid to dig Deep in the bestselling catalog.
“Hits are successes, and there’s something to be said about that, but we always felt that as long as we played those side edits the right way, people would end up adopting them. From Neal’s perspective, we’ve heard the Oldies hits hundreds of times, but the side songs are kind of like new songs or new releases in the Oldies category. It gives the format a chance to broaden people’s horizons because we’re playing songs that they might not have heard the first time around. So it’s a bit like an Oldies format with new songs. (Former WXRT, WLUP, WDRV Disc Jockey) Bobby Skafish sent us a note saying, “I don’t like all the songs you play but God bless you for playing them.
And there seems to be a unifying tone to these choices.
“We play more cheerful, bouncy songs,” O’Dell admits, “and while we lean a bit into the design because these songs don’t get played anywhere else, we tend to focus on them. songs that immediately lift your spirits. “
Another difference on ME-TV FM is that they don’t have DJs. It’s a topic O’Dell hears a lot about.
“Every year we do a survey of listeners, and our target audience tells us that most of them don’t want to hear a DJ. But it is still our plan to someday have a local person who manages part of the day, probably in the morning or at noon. We hear disc jockeys all the time, and we were almost at the point where our income would allow it, just before the pandemic hit. We would still love to do it, but even when we do, it will only be one or two parts of the day.
It’s understandable if they don’t want to spoil the success they have enjoyed so far. Despite the incredibly awkward dial position (some cars no longer have 87.7 FM), the numbers don’t lie. MeTV FM is regularly featured in or near the top ten stations on the market.
“The odds are solid,” confirms O’Dell, “and we’re happy with that. It has helped us stay on the air for the past five years.