Monday, February 09, 2004

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

My heart is broken. WOXY 97X (Bam! The future of Rock and Roll!) in Cincinnati is going off the air.

I got into this station via the internet a while ago, and fell in love. It was everything I always thought a commercial alternative station could be! If only the damn Telecommunications Act in 1996 (thanks, Bill!) hadn’t spoiled everything, loosening ownership restrictions and allowing the monster congloms like Clear Channel and Infinity to gobble everything in sight and create a generic form of radio heard the country over. Sure, there were alternative stations. But they were the SAME alternative stations heard all over, with market tested tracks and nearly identical playlists and little support of local music and not so much in terms of an identity.

So WOXY in Cincinnati (no, not WKRP… although I LOVED that show… go figure) has, for nearly 21 years, been an independently owned and programmed station. They have been playing truly alternative and independent music and using DJs that may not be so hip, but are sincere music enthusiasts (read : geeks, yay!). And they are proud of their station. And very proud of their local artists. As am I, and I don’t even live in Ohio. Too cold.

An example of what you can hear in an hour? Well, checking their site just now, I see that in the last hour they’ve played Franz Ferdinand, R.L.Burnside, Sun Kil Moon, Aerial Love Feed, Throwing Muses, LCD Soundsystem, Sonic Youth, the Poster Children, The Von Trapps, Telepopmusik, Crystal Method, the New Pornographers, the Stills, Morphine, Air, Jurassic 5, N.E.R.D., and the Afghan Whigs. For those of you reading who are familiar with these bands, you know that this kind of playlist on commercial radio is nuts. And if you don’t know any of these bands, then I’m telling you: This kind of playlist on commercial radio is nuts!

Ah, but isn’t this what commercial alternative radio should be? I think so… DJs who care and music that’s new and exciting. Well, to me, anyway.

But alas, that isn’t what it is, because most stations want to bring in a pile of cash too. I don’t know how WOXY has done ratings wise in Cincinnati, but it seems to have a strong and loyal following. Don’t know if that was enough to pay the bills, but the owners, a couple, kept it going for quite some time…


This is Linda Balogh … my husband Doug and I have been the owners of WOXY Radio for nearly 23 years. When we bought the station, I was 35 and Doug was 39. We built it together with a special group of scrappy and talented people. Now we're 57 and 61 … and ever since the Telecom Act of 1996 unleashed the massive consolidation in radio, it's been harder and harder for single-station independents like us to compete against the behemoths. So when this offer came along, we decided it was time to take it. We don't feel we've "sold out," we really don't. We have elderly parents to take care of, and our own retirement to think about. So, it was time. (More here.)


The new owners are the First Broadcasting Network of Dallas, and the changeover is to happen on May 1st. I have no idea what the new format will be, but WOXY (their tag line was used in the movie Rain Man, even!) promises to continue to stream over the internet, which is how I’ve been listening anyway. But it’s not the same. I just loved knowing that some 12 year old could just be rolling past the dial, past the Justins and the Gwens and the Eves and the Shanias, and then find the Thrills or the Shins or the Mountain Goats and be inspired. And get info from the DJs, who didn’t sound bored or stoned but were totally into what they were playing FOR YOU and not rambling for 20 minutes about the government or something. And there it was, just on the radio dial, not on the left end where it can get weird, but right smack in the middle – at 97X.

Bye WOXY; I’ll light a candle for you.