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Top 10 national radio stories of 2001

Over the past year, the national radio scene saw the big guys getting bigger, Limbaugh and Harvey facing medical problems, and legal tangles with regard to the Internet and its role in broadcast radio. Here are CNYRadio.com’s picks for the top ten national radio news stories that are also of local interest in the Syracuse market.

1. Large radio groups gobble up more stations

The big guys keep getting bigger. A handful of large media conglomerates keep getting bigger and are becoming a not so subtle player in the homogenization of radio programming across the country. The key players include Infinity, Radio One, Citadel, and Clear Channel Communications who owns the largest piece of the radio pie with its more than 1,200 stations.

2. Rush Limbaugh goes deaf

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh shocked his audience in August by announcing that he was slowly losing his hearing. By November he was completely deaf. Limbaugh, who is scheduled to have a cochlear implant activated sometime in January, continues to host his popular three-hour weekday afternoon show.

3. Web streaming put on hold

2001 saw an end to streaming of radio stations across the Internet – at least for the time being. At issue is a legal dispute over talent used in commercials and whether or not they should be paid more for ads that are streamed over the web in addition to being broadcast over the airwaves. Streaming outlets like Yahoo are currently testing some technologies to get around the problem, but the actual dispute over talent royalties has not yet been settled.

4. Voice tracking takes hold

Is it live, or is it Memorex? Radio’s big secret over the past couple of years became even more widespread in 2001, and the public is slowly becoming aware of “voice tracking”. Disc jockeys pre-recording of the voice parts of their shows and then sequencing those elements with the music on a computer allows stations to use their on-air talent for more than one station, and/or for longer shifts without necessitating the on-air talent work any additional hours.

5. Rush signs multi-year contract

If there was ever any doubt about Rush Limbaugh’s power as a radio broadcaster, money talks. In July, Limbaugh signed an eight-year radio syndication deal worth $285 million. That figure is reportedly more that Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, and Barbara Walters’ salaries combined.

6. “All Christmas, all the time”

Last year a handful of stations experimented with switching formats to continuous holiday music between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, in part due to the events of September 11, most of the major radio markets saw at least one station change to a holiday music format. Only time, and ratings of course, will tell if the trend will continue next year.

7. Paul Harvey out sick for three months

Paul Harvey is back doing what he does best, but for three months this summer Harvey was kept away from his news microphone by a bad case of laryngitis. Harvey returned to his daily radio news duties in August.

8. Comedy World goes dark

The Comedy World radio network will probably be remembered more for a series of television commercials in which the network’s general manager begged the public to listen then for the actual radio shows it produced. In April, the networked pulled the plug on its ’round-the-clock comedy programming due to poor ratings.

9. Jackie Martling quits Stern show

As head writer for the Howard Stern Show, Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling had been an integral part of the syndicated morning show. Martling, known for his sometimes bitter contract negotiation every couple of years, walked off the show for good this year. His departure was a decision he later regretted, but Stern would not take him back. Artie Lang was recently named as Martling’s permanent replacement.

10. “Hank the Dwarf” dies

The Howard Stern Show lost a member of its “Whack Pack”, a group of odd characters featured regularly on the syndicated morning show. Henry Nasiff Jr, known affectionately as “Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf”, died unexpectedly in his sleep in September. He was 37.

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