'Jockless' radio format rattles 96 Rock fans

FM station says it will play more music

dmenconi@newsobserver.comNovember 22, 2011 

Radio listeners tuning in 96.1 FM on Monday heard something different, a slightly different chunk of classic rock from the station's usual fare. That's part of a rebranding from the old 96 Rock to the more generic new name, Radio 96.1 FM. But perhaps the most notable thing about the shift is what isn't on the air at 96.1 FM anymore: deejays.

WBBB is going "jockless," with no deejays on the air, although general manager Mike Hartell said the station might have deejays 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 said Monday afternoon. "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 spin from station management is that this 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," Hartell said in a statement posted on the station's website.

Hartell said that budgetary concerns played no part in the decision.

"Less talk and more music is the national trend, and the response was overwhelming," Hartell said. "We hope to have live deejays back at some point. But for now, we're following the lead of our listeners. We'll probably reevaluate after five or six months."

The station is owned by Curtis Media Group, whose radio stations across the state include WQDR-FM and WPTF-AM in Raleigh.

Menconi: 919-829-4759 or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat

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