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Turn Me Right Round

With satellite in the picture, local radio mixes it up.

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Turn the radio dial to one of Memphis' rock or pop stations on a Saturday afternoon, and you may hear something new. Or rather, something old.

Several stations have recently adopted weekend format changes that are more inclusive of older rock and pop.

WMBZ-94.1 "The Buzz" now plays all-'80s music on the weekends. FM100 has transformed their weekend playlists with "Whatever Weekend," in which deejays play a mix of everything from disco to holiday songs to current Top 40 hits. WHBQ, or Q107.5, plays pop songs from the '80s and '90s during "Wild On Q" weekends.

"We've been doing '80s weekends for about a month now," said Brad Carson, program director for The Buzz. "It was based on experimenting throughout the summer and last year, and the reaction from listeners has been fabulous."

Karson Tager, program director of Q107.5, said the station informally surveyed listeners at public events.

"You get into your daily grind. You go to work at the same time every day," said Tager. "On the weekends, we wanted to help people get out of that grind and bring people back to the station they may only be using during the week."

The format changes might not stop there. After losing longtime morning shock jock Howard Stern to Sirius satellite radio this month, Infinity Broadcasting's 93X has been soliciting listener comments on what they should play. However, a source from 93X (who asked not to be named because of company policy) says the station isn't afraid of losing listeners to satellite.

"We just want to be the best rock station in Memphis," he says. "That's what all these efforts are striving to do."

A New York Times story reported that the number of Sirius radio subscribers has jumped from 600,000 to 2.2 million since Stern announced last year that he was moving to satellite, yet local stations the Flyer spoke with contend their weekend format changes have nothing to do with competition from satellite radio.

"Satellite radio does not give you local news, weather, sports, or anything local," said the source from 93X. "It doesn't touch people's lives in Memphis or Peoria or Santa Barbara or Hoboken. It's very homogenized and generic. Besides, local radio is free."

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