96 Rock's jockless redux raises hackles


Curtis Media Group’s heritage Rocker WBBB (96 Rock) in Raleigh, NC began stunting without DJs on 11/21. The music has evolved a bit too, from Mainstream Rock/Classic Rock to a broader range of Rock—a bit of Alternative, AAA, a bit of 80s Hair Bands. The rebranding from the old 96 Rock to Radio 96.1 FM eliminated all of the station’s on-air talent.

As a Raleigh News & Observer story noted, fans aren’t necessarily too happy. GM Mike Hartel told the station might have DJs down the road. But not for now. Among the on-air personalities this leaves out in the cold are Bob “The Blade” Robinson, a fixture on local rock radio for three decades.

“It blindsided me,” Robinson told the paper. “Completely out of the blue. There was no word ahead of time, and that’s hard to do in radio – to keep something like that under wraps. Right now, like everyone else who’s ever been fired from a radio job, I’m wondering whether or not I’ll stay in the business. So who knows? In the meantime, I’m wandering the earth.”

The 96 Rock Facebook page quickly lit up with mostly negative feedback (and a Bring Back 96 Rock Facebook page was quickly created). The change came about as a result of listener surveys in which respondents reportedly expressed a desire for “A LOT more music, without a whole bunch of useless talk,” Hartel said in a statement posted on the station’s website. Budgetary concerns played no part in the decision.

From the Radio 96.1 website:
“When you turn us on today, you’ll notice a few changes – 96rock is now Radio 96.1!

How did we come up with the music mix on Radio 96.1?

Well, we have to thank YOU for that. We asked listeners like you, throughout the Triangle, what they wanted to hear on their favorite radio station. The result was a much wider variety of rock music than we ever imagined playing on one radio station.

You told us you wanted to hear a greater diversity of songs with music spanning from the 80s with artists such as Guns N Roses, REM and John Mellencamp; to 90s music from Nirvana, Gin Blossoms and Green Day, to Classic Rock from Led Zeppelin, Steve Miller Band and Aerosmith and even some newer music by artists like Nickelback and Linkin Park.

You also said you wanted to hear A LOT more music, without a whole bunch of useless talk. And that’s why Radio 96.1 will always deliver “More Music” and “Less Blah Blah Blah.” Our goal is to make Radio 96.1 the best reflection of your musical tastes and preferences.

So … give us a listen and tell us how we’re doing. You can call 919-860-9600 or post your thoughts on Facebook.

Thanks again for helping us build a better Radio 96.1.

Mike Hartel
General Manager
Radio 96.1”

RBR-TVBR observation: If you ask enough people, sure they’re going to say radio plays too much “Blah Blah Blah.” But removing any sense of localism will still mean commercials (the main “Blah” in the Blah Blah Blah) played during the stopsets—just no one will be present to talk about what’s coming up entertain listeners, or give them a reason to stay tuned in during the music break. Many tune in to hear morning shows because they’re funny and entertaining. Let’s not force folks to conclude that the only thing different from radio and Pandora is more commercials, right? Talent should send listeners on an adventure, a musical tour guide, if you will. Opening up the playlist a bit on the station is a good platform to do so, but needless to say, there’s a lot of Indie Rock out there they could add in the mix as well (think WRNR-FM Annapolis, MD and KBZT-FM San Diego for starters). ‘Nuff said, we wish 96.1 the best in their new branding and maybe DJs will be added down the pike.