Milwaukee doesn't need a Madison radio station

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Posted by CP on January 08, 2013 at 19:39:49:

By Dave Begel
Contributing Writer to

Falling victim to the "if that first hot dog tastes great then I'm sure a dozen of them will taste wonderful," Milwaukee welcomed The Big 920 to the world Monday morning.

In the bitter fight for dozens of radio listeners, there is now a new contender among the sports radio stations serving (and I use that term loosely) Milwaukee sports fans. It's 920 WOKY in the latest incarnation of a once-proud spot on the AM dial.

During the rock 'n' roll era, WOKY battled for supremacy with WRIT in one of the fiercest fights Milwaukee ever saw. They played the same music and fought for every teenage pair of ears tuned in for this new, hot music.

Most recently, WOKY has been classic country, playing country music that used to be popular and some of which passes the test of time. That wasn't a ratings winner, so we now have The Big 920 Milwaukee sports radio.

It is not, however, Milwaukee sports radio. It is Madison sports radio. University of Wisconsin sports radio. But most definitely not "Milwaukee's sports station" as it presumptively calls itself.

Here's the way this works with a request for relief from a couple of errors of fact. The big picture is clear even if a couple of wrinkles around the edges may be foggy.

WTSO in Madison has been a successful sports radio station for 10 years. So somebody had the idea that if the Madison station had listeners, why couldn't it get listeners if it was in Milwaukee?

So they took the show. The whole show, website and all, put a new label on it (The Big 920) and moved it to Milwaukee. In Madison they call it The Big 1070. Both stations are owned by the monster Clear Channel Communications, which owns 23 radio stations in Wisconsin alone.

The two morning hosts who opened this experiment are Mike Lucas and Matt Lepay, who do Badgers football and basketball and get financial support from UW.

Monday morning Lucas opened the Milwaukee version of the show by saying "How come I don't feel any different?"

Lepay replied, "It's all the same."

Prophets in their own time.

The Big 920 joins the battle for listeners already being fought by SportsRadio 1250 and ESPN-Milwaukee, 540 AM. Those stations have ratings that rarely climb into single digits. The number of people who are interested in and listen to sports radio in Milwaukee may well be in the hundreds and not the thousands.

ESPN Milwaukee comes closest to being an interesting and entertaining radio station. With Steve "The Homer" True, Dan Needles and Drew Olson, the station has credibility you can't buy. These guys have earned it.

Sportsradio 1250 is built on the crazed belief that listeners want to hear screaming from some people who have grave problems with the English language and a non-athletic white guy who tries to sound like a black guy when he shouts his empty opinions.

The Big 920 has its Badgers talking heads and an hour from the voice of the Wisconsin hockey program later in the day. Milwaukee hockey doesn't go over that big here, can you imagine the audience UW hockey will draw?

Then there are three guys nobody ever heard of in drive time in the afternoon. They do have the excellent Dan Patrick in the morning but then ruin that by carrying Jay Mohr, an unfunny comedian who is trying to be funny about sports.

Oh, wait. I almost forgot. they have live broadcasts of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's basketball. And the men.

I'm guessing that the financial arrangements of this deal are pretty simple. WOKY doesn't have to pay much for anything anymore. Everything, on both sides of the coin, goes right to the Clear Channel bottom line. There are no real losers here.

Unless you consider people who actually listen to the radio. Our options continue to dwindle. You can't go anywhere on the dial in Milwaukee. We stand a better chance of hearing a preacher or a shiny-tooth, happy sounding Christian kid band than we do of hearing George Jones sing "He Stopped Lovin' Her Today."

Something is screwed up here, and one more bad sports talk radio station isn't going to make things any better.

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