Volume 91, Issue 57

Friday, January 9, 1998

on the rocks


Ratings push classic rock onto London

By Jamie Lynn
Gazette Staff

When many of Western's "modern rock" music listeners returned from their holidays, it became apparent something was amiss on their faithful radio dials. One of London's new rock staples, 103.1 The Hawk, had abandoned its "alternative" format in favour of music from Triumph and The Guess Who.

"We did research late last summer and early this fall and we found that 'Today's Best Rock' as we were playing it, featuring probably too much new music and alternative, was losing its share of the market rapidly," said Vern Furber, owner and operator of The Hawk. "The market wasn't large enough to have a pop/rock station like FM 96 and a leading-edge, alternative station like The Hawk."

While many rumours and accusations have been floating around town since the Dec. 21 format switch, few were based on any real knowledge of what actually prompted this rather drastic change. A major misconception floating around London's rumour mill was that the owners of FM 96 had bought out The Hawk and forced them to change format – thus giving FM 96 a "new rock" monopoly. FM 96's, Rick Moss, said this was simply a mistake of fact.

Moss said the stations entered into a local management agreement, a relatively common occurance in Canada and the United States, where stations in one market will come together and work out of the same building to consolidate costs. "There's been this misconception out there that somehow [FM 96 management] has bought the Hawk. That's not the case and legally there is no way you can do that."

Although The Hawk was able to obtain some early indications in the fall that its listenership was rapidly slipping, the official Bureau of Broadcast Measurement ratings are not released until today. Vern Furber feels that these numbers should prove just "how right the research was. After all, it's got to show a profit. We're not subsidized. That is why we changed."

As a result of the shuffle, program director Tom Everett of CHRW, Western's 94.7 FM station, feels the adjustments at his station will be rather minimal.

"We have always been an alternative station," he said. "We're just going to work on doing more education about this fact.

"Basically, the switch is going to be a good thing for us because people who were on the fringe between the old Hawk and us will start coming back to us," he explained. "We certainly aren't going to become a modern rock trumpet or anything like that. With a lot of bands, The Hawk may have played their big singles, but we'll play a lot of other stuff from those bands. Our announcers are just going to have to be a lot more responsive to requests."

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998