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The F-Bomb

It's not a Smart Bomb Anymore

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With Janet Jackson's Super Bowl "performance" and Howard Stern's recent X-rated talk making headlines and bringing complaints to media companies and the FCC, broadcasters are hopefully taking notice of the growing public attitude of "we're mad as heck, and we're not going to take it anymore."

That goes from racy radio talk and bad language to songs that can't be played on the radio without well-placed bleeps. It also means that TV programmers and producers may think twice about what's going in their content, although MTV shows no real signs of change after its Super Bowl halftime debacle. Soft-core videos still make it on the air in primetime.

With all that in mind, WFNZ-AM, the one that sarcastically calls itself "smut-free," has fielded listener complaints after guest Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell dropped the F-word live on Primetime with the Packman March 4. Since most radio stations use a delay system, I asked operations manager D.J. Stout how the "Cornbread Cuss" made it on the air.

Stout told me that although WFNZ does operate on an 8-second delay, and uses a "dump" button to mute inappropriate material before it hits the air, this time "it didn't work." He blamed it on possible equipment problems, and engineers were looking into what had happened. The next day, Mark Packer apologized for the incident on-air, and Stout says that Maxwell "will not be invited back to the show anytime soon."

Speaking of Stout, he's taking on extra duties for Infinity Broadcasting in Charlotte. In addition to his job at WFNZ, he's now also the operations manager at WSOC-FM, which gives him more than a full plate. But here's the "gee-whiz" part. Turns out Stout is the nephew of WKKT-FM morning man Paul Schadt, the very guy WSOC-FM is gunning for each morning with top-rated Jeff Roper.

"Yes, we still get along fine," Stout says, "but I still want to kick their ass." All is fair in love and radio.

March winds are here and WSOC-TV blew through another February ratings book, on top now in news for the 14th year. Channel 9 was a winner in early mornings, evenings, 10pm (on WAXN-TV) and 11pm.

The only place anyone else wins is at noon, and now WBTV has to be anxious about that. WSOC, which recently expanded its noon newscast to an hour, came close to tying Channel 3 between 12 and 12:30. That is in part due to very close numbers between ABC's The View and CBS' The Price is Right. Is Bob Barker fading in Charlotte?

With 9 so dominant in most newscast numbers, the only shot anyone has to beat them is at 11pm, where WBTV has better network lead-in shows, and finished just a couple share points and 1.2 ratings points behind WSOC.

WCNC is making little progress, and saw no traceable bounce from its main co-anchor change from Russ Riesinger to Chris Justice.

Syndicated shows that run locally are also interesting to note. Regis and Kelly wipes out the competition at 9am, thanks to yet another bad program choice by WBTV at that hour, Living it Up with Ali and Jack. Dr. Phil, Oprah, Inside Edition and Entertainment Tonight are also winners in the Charlotte market.

But the tightest race for number 1 is in 10pm newscasts. WAXN, WCCB, and WJZY are barely a point apart from each other respectively, proving that there's still a viewing appetite for news at that hour.

The news is not as good for WCCB at 6am, where its Fox News Rising show is making an almost no-show rating (0.9) against other local news competitors, then national morning shows in its second hour. It also remains to be seen what the impact of co-host Richard Spires' suspension from the show will be, though as new as the program is and with so few watching it, the impact will be likely be nil. Spires was arrested and charged March 2 after a domestic dispute with his estranged wife and his daughter's boyfriend. There was slappin' and hollerin', and even a shotgun in one scene, police report. And of course, a mug shot. It makes you wonder how well WCCB checked Spires out before they hired him. Though they won't talk publicly, some of Spires' former co-workers at WBT-AM tell me he had become to tough to work with in his final months at the station, due to erratic behavior, which they chalked up to a pending divorce and financial troubles.

And only last week did he admit in the Charlotte Observer what everyone in media has whispered about: he wasn't fired at WBT for his political views -- he'd been "trying out" three cars from a local car dealer, and never paid for them.

Spires hasn't been fired yet, but it might be something WCCB will consider, in light of the situation. Guys who slap their wives around (if convicted, of course) aren't the guys you want delivering what WCCB calls "the news" on its morning show.

Stay tuned.

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