50,000 Watts Of Goodwill

50,000 Watts of Goodwill

The theory of regulation by the F.C.C. of the airwaves is the scarcity of the spectrum space. We all agree that so we don’t all get on similar frequencies and interfere with each other that we need a regulatory body to thoughtfully plot where those frequencies can be used. They assign power and antenna heights or patterns so that there is broadcast coverage for the people. The essence is that we will at least at some level use these frequencies to serve the public, to do some kind of good.

When I was a kid and young man I learned the super value of the work done by stations like WCCO, KMOX, WHAS, WBAL, KDKA and others.  They were places to turn to for folks to get news and information that was vitally important.  In snowstorms, tornadoes wind and hail, floods and the like.  They also covered local ethnic festivals, charitable events and were there to provide entertainment in between.

It was because of the cornerstone of news and life saving information that these kinds of stations had high ratings and could demand the highest adverting rates.  By the way the spot advertising campaigns broadcast on these stations worked robustly. They delivered huge results back to these advertisers.

When I think back on my own career there is one event that changed me.

I was program director of WMID in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  It had been a legendary top 40 station in it’s hey day.  It had one more hey day left in it.  I was hired to take it MOR/Big Band. Southern New Jersey was aging, lots of folks moving there to retire and AM was more the band of older demography.

Management had already put in place an All Star Line up of personalities for the most part. Ed Davis was thee morning man of the market.  His newsman was Howard Berger.  One of the biggest talk personalities of the market was Don Williams.  I rounded out that staff with some other hires that were just solid air folks like Fred Sharkey and Elise Sommers.

I started the softball team mostly because I wanted to play softball.  I got a sponsor for the team.  We got uniforms.  I remember turning over the naming of the team to the listeners and we became the WMID Station Breakers.

We ran promo-psa’s that said we would play your team for fun and to raise money for your event. We would show up with folding tables, a pa, and sell baked goods and do play by play of the game there.  We did 50-50 raffles and played other silly games where we gave away prizes, but the key was to raise some money for schools, churches, and community centers.

One local fire department we played didn’t get it.  They beat us 60 to 1.

One day sitting in my office I got a call from the director of the Children’s Seashore House. It was a place where kids came to get help from injuries or debilitating diseases.  We talked about how the WMID staff would come out, play softball for fun and do play by play over a pa.  They could sell baked goods or hot dogs and we’d raise money for them. The date was set.

We showed up and played the staff and faculty of the Children’s Seashore House.  There were other groups there from Churches and Civic centers selling cookies and cake.

After the game the director asked me if we could play the kids.  These kids were on crutches, in wheel chairs, some had very limited motor skills.  I said yes not knowing what would happen.

I huddled up my gang and told them the plan.  We would ham it up.  Throw away the ball, fall down, drop the ball etc.   It was to let the kids play and win.  (Something I had wished those firefighter we had played earlier understood!)

I was pitching. And up was a young man in a wheel chair.  I got very close to the plate and lobbed a ball softly so the teacher helping him could at least bunt the ball.

The young man got his first single in a softball game ever!  From there stolen base.  Advanced on another hit and finally to home.

We made sure every kid who wanted got a chance to bat and be on base.

No one will ever remember the score.

I just remember the tears of happiness from the parents and teachers of these kids.  They were happy.  It was their day in the sunshine playing and winning softball.

That’s over 30 years ago and I still remember it today.  It was one of the most heartwarming events I had ever been involved in.

WMID had not been in the top 10 for years in ratings.  The station was good.  The morning show was excellent.  The promotions and imaging were A+.

Atlantic City was a fun town because of the Casinos.  I remember a old fashioned Dance-A-Thon I set up with listeners at a Casino all to raise money for Leukemia.  Elise, who did afternoon news and I danced in the event and raised a bunch of money.  We had listeners who didn’t want to dance in a marathon so I talked Elise into doing it with me and they could sponsor us to raise money for every hour we danced.

We had fun.

WMID was #1 or #2 in 12 plus and 25-54 my entire tenure there.  I’d tell you it was the programming.  But the truth is we did 9000 things right.  Not the least of which was give back to the community.

I wasn’t even doing for ratings.  I was doing it because it felt good to us.

I have an old friend who after winning a major broadcast award for Community Service and someone said to him afterward, “it so good that you do these things to help your community.”  He is a very funny morning man and very smart. His response was, “oh I didn’t do it to help anybody, I did it for the ratings.”

Knowing him that’s pure BS.  The truth is he knows how to create ratings and loves people in the first place.  He has a sister with an awful disease.  He regularly does charities to raise money for the foundations that help folks with her disease.  But, he rarely brings up his foundation reason.

WDIA in Memphis is where the titles of this week’s blog came from.

WDIA was the first station with full time programming aimed at the African American community. WDIA was dying as one of the 6 radio stations in Memphis playing country, pop and classical block programming.  It’s when they added a block of African American programming and music that the fate of WDIA changed. You see 40% of Memphis was black and they didn’t have their own station until WDIA made a format adjustment.

It was classically one of those stations that was “the People’s station.”

They started a “Goodwill Fund.”  They were raising money to help provide transportation for poor black kids to get to schools.

For years WDIA has used as it’s top of the hour verbiage with the legal id..  “You’re Listening to 50,000 Watts of Goodwill W-D-I-A Memphis.”

In most places using an industry term like “Goodwill” would be like saying “where are carts are cued up.”  It might not mean anything meaningful to a typical radio station listener, except WDIA provided “Goodwill” and called it just that, “Goodwill.”

Dictionary dot com defines Goodwill as; an intangible, salable asset arising from the reputation of a business and its relations with its customers, distinct from the value of its stock and other tangible assets.

My question to you;

What has your station done to earn some “Goodwill” in your marketplace?

For Help Building the Measureable and Tangible along with the “intangible” at your stations call Keith Hill 252-453-8888

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