In case you haven’t heard, Mix 96 ends today. In what is no doubt a bid to save some money, CJFM 95.9 is rebranding itself a Virgin Radio station (on orders from owner Astral Media). The change will take place at a time that for some stupid reason has been kept secret until later this morning, but will definitely be “during the day” today. (UPDATE: 4pm, you can watch the countdown in case you’ve forgotten how to count to 4pm)
Because the entire identity of the station is changing, anything with the word “mix” in it has to be replaced. They’ll have a new logo, new station IDs, new vans, a new website and even a new call-in number.
The format is saying the same (“Today’s best music”, or top 40 lowest-common-denominator pop songs), but there are programming changes that see some good local talent go out the window.
In case you haven’t heard the endless plugging on the air, the station is being hyped everywhere (and that will only increase now that it’s actually been launched). Program Director Bob Harris has started a blog to get everyone hyped up.
One of the first obvious questions is: Why change a brand everyone knows and replace it with the equivalent of a giant McDonald’s sign?
Astral Media (our parent company) has the rights to use the Virgin Radio name in Canada.
The Virgin Brand brings some amazing power. It represents an edge of cool, it’s irreverent, it’s sexy, its fun, it’s world class and constantly surprising.
Are you sold yet? They bought a brand and it has a good marketing team behind it. How could they not abandon their brand for this?
MIX 96 is one of Astral’s Montreal English radio stations (CHOM and CJAD the other two) and as we roll the Virgin radio name out across the country to other stations, we need to be part of it here too. Just because head office made the decision don’t think for a second that we had to do it.
Translation: If I pretend to like this horrendous gutting of a local station’s identity, I might get a promotion some day from a corporate executive who wants yes men working for him. Or at least I won’t be fired.
Bob shot the Sherriff
The main face that has left the station is Murray Sherriffs, of Cat, Lisa and the Sherriff. He left last month in what is being described as “a programming decision.” Now it’s Cat, Lisa and classified third morning person to be announced in February.
Harris describes Sherriffs as a stand-up fellow despite the station’s apparent falling out with him, which also involved scrubbing any reference to him from their site and deleting all his past blog entries (you can get a taste in Google’s cache).
Sherriffs also took the high road when asked by Fagstein about his departure:
As you’ve heard, the radio station is being rebranded and sometimes hard business decisions have to be made.
But with the closing of this door comes other opportunities and I’ll be meeting this challenge as I have met others.
As I said on my MIX blog, the sentiments of one of my favorite songs by ”Chumbawamba”, ring especially true these days;
”I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never going to keep me down
We’ll be singing
When we’re winning”.
No word on Sherriffs’s next move, but we’ll let you know when it happens.
The new faces coming? The biggest one appears to be Ryan Seacrest. Yes, that Ryan Seacrest. He does this radio show which will air during weekday evenings at 7 p.m. It replaces the RJ Daniels show, though Daniels will stay on to cut in with local information (like the Habs score and weather) and follow with his own show until midnight.
Harris for some reason needs to confess that Seacrest won’t do his show from Montreal (no, really?), and instead does it from L.A. where it’s beamed to hundreds of stations. Now 95.9FM in Montreal will be one of those faceless stations rebroadcasting Ryan Seacrest. Doesn’t that sound awesome?
Feel for the Rhythm
The other programming change is the disappearance of Rhythms International. The Sunday night program, which had been on the station for more than 20 years, aired its final show Dec. 21, and is being replaced by UK Hit 40, another syndicated show replacing a local production. Like the ousting of Sherriffs, this is described as a “tough programming decision,” but essentially comes down to ratings.
Other programming, such as Nat Lauzon and the 80s/90s Nooner, will stay (though the latter will undergo a name change).
A sad day for local DJs
What particularly sucks about all this is that, unlike local television production, local radio production doesn’t require all that much work. A host and a producer. That’s pretty much it. When all you’re doing is playing music singles and doing small-talk between them, it should make sense to just have someone do it in-house.
But instead Astral is spending money to act as a rebroadcaster of foreign content. And not even good stuff. We’re talking about Ryan Seacrest here. The fact that Astral thinks Montrealers would prefer that (with the occasional local guy giving a 30-second weather report and local sports score) to spending an evening with a local DJ is sad.
Sadder still is that Astral might be right. Despite a few comments on my blog and a few emails to CJFM management, there isn’t much outrage over this. A Facebook group started up to fight it has less than 50 members. There’s been nothing in the other media about it.
It seems either Montrealers don’t know about what’s going on, or they don’t care.
Well, I do. Long live Mix 96.
UPDATE (Jan. 13): In case you missed the moment of launch, the station has posted a video of it on Facebook, which is apparently serving as their primary communications tool as their website is beyond simplistic.
UPDATE (Jan. 17): Clear Channel is planning massive job cuts in the U.S. in a move to nationalize radio production and gut local programming, according to the New York Post.