After months of speculation about possible format and call-letter changes at WDJY-FM (100.3), the station's management said yesterday that what you hear is what you get -- at least for the time being or "until such time as we can see that the road don't go nowhere," quipped Bill Parris, executive vice president of United Broadcasting Co., which owns the station.
For several years WDJY has suffered from falling ratings, perhaps from its having attempted a variety of urban formats. Late in the summer, program director and morning voice Beej' Johnson began moving the station's sound to "jazzy rhythm-and-blues," targeted to adults 25 to 54 years old. The evolution is continuing, and last week announcers began referring to the station on the air as "Jazzy 100," with an emphasis on instrumentals with minimal talk from jocks. So little talk, in fact, that many recordings are not even identified. Although there is a reluctance by management to label it a "jazz" station, it's the closest to jazz a Washington commercial station has gotten in some time. Two other noncommercial stations, WPFW-FM (89.3) and WDCU-FM (90.1), describe their formats as "jazz/community radio" and "jazz/information," respectively.
Parris said United will continue extensive market research on its format and he believes WDJY may be able to fill the jazz and new age music gap left by Infinity Broadcasting when it dropped the new age format and switched its Fairfax station's call letters from WBMW to WJFK-FM (106.7) two years ago.
Parris thinks WDJY has an edge because "We are coming at it with an urban background."
Afternoon drive host Kevin Gee credited Johnson with the format's development, adding that it's "still in the fine-tuning process."
In an industry that is frequently segregated by target marketing, station General Manager Gary Gross said WDJY's format is aimed at both black and white listeners at several levels.
"It doesn't fit only one little niche. It's very broad in its appeal: to someone who is already a jazz fan and also to someone new to jazz."
Meanwhile, Parris said that United has dropped its request to the FCC to change WDJY's call letters to WTKZ but that it may opt for a call-letter switch at its Rockville station, WINX-AM (1600). Parris said he intends to make format adjustments at WINX in the coming weeks. Currently, he said, the unrated WINX is very close to breaking even financially.
Parris also denied reports in the trade paper Radio & Records that former Boston programmer Phil Conrad had been hired to take over the programming reins at WDJY. "He's doing production in Baltimore" and is "certainly not the programmer of 'DJY." Said Gross, "My programmer is Beej'."
Johnson was unavailable for comment. His wife last week gave birth to their first child, a daughter, and he's on parental leave this week.
The fourth annual Achievement in Radio awards luncheon (beginning at noon; cash bar, 11:30 a.m.) to benefit the March of Dimes will be held Nov. 1 in the National Press Club ballroom. More than 50 judges in seven cities are examining the work of area broadcasters entered in 21 categories from Best Commercial Jingle to Best On-Air Talent. WETA-FM's (90.9) Bill Cerri will be given the Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously. (Tickets are $50; call 703-824-0111.)
WAMU-FM's (88.5) prized night talker Mike Cuthbert has announced that he'll join Boston's talk-powerhouse WRKO-AM as morning co-anchor Monday. Cuthbert says he'll be making six figures annually in Boston, "at least double" what he's earned since joining WAMU in August 1987. Cuthbert is perhaps the most cerebral and witty yet down-to-earth and soothing talker this town has heard. Ever. Cuthbert can discuss anything from medieval music to bus transportation to opening a new business and rarely has a dull moment. He'll sign off Friday at WAMU. While acknowledging that Cuthbert, 50, will be hard to replace, station management is launching a nationwide search and will use a series of fill-in hosts until a permanent voice is found ... WLTT-FM (94.7) has added WRC-TV movie and theater critic Arch Campbell and his Hollywood cackle to the Friday morning show. Campbell is heard from 7:50 to 8:50. Meanwhile, the CBS-owned W-Lite is trimming back Walt Starling's afternoon airborne traffic reports. Since late summer, Starling's 4:10, 5:10 and 6:10 p.m. reports have been cut from 60 seconds to about 15 seconds (inside newly created 30-minute music sweeps) and traffic report sponsorship, which costs about $350 per report, has been moved to morning drive. The mini-reports will soon disappear, leaving seven traffic updates for the drive home. "His reports match up to the way people use the radio," says General Manager Don Davis, "more information in the morning; music intensive in the afternoon." Davis said the station is not trying to eliminate Starling's reports altogether: "We think Walter is a very important part of the radio station." Davis said the Cessna pilot is working under a recently extended multiyear contract.