More than 60 people were gathered in Kelly Ingram Park to take part in a peaceful protest concerning the sudden change in format at 105.5, the station that currently uses the historic call letters WENN (described best in this Neon in B’ham post) in Birmingham, Alabama. The event was organized by Willis Pride, a former employee for Hallelujah FM when the signal served as one of the few 24-hour all gospel FM formats in the country. That was until last weekend when the station switched to a rock format adopting the name 105.5 The Vulcan. There are several posts here on the Ramblings blog pertaining to the change. There are links to three of them from this post on Curtis Palmer’s blog.
Here is an additional link to the Birmingham News article that ran in Saturday’s edition:
Gospel-music fans plan to protest radio station’s switch to alternative rock, The Birmingham News, 12.9.2006
The organizers plan on holding another rally next week Saturday at 12 noon, providing an opportunity for the word to get out among the community and to show radio executives that they will not stop until their voices are heard. This would most likely mean that another FM station would fill the void left with the loss of the FM gospel station. At some point the radio carousel will probably slow down, but as my friend John points out in his comment to one of my posts about the situation, terrestrial radio as we know it will never be the same. Loyalty to a station owned by a conglomerate will not necessarily secure its format for the long term. The monetary gains that a station makes by reinventing itself again and again may turn out to be more important.
The crowd included area religious leaders and AM gospel radio stations WAGG and WAYE. Those that spoke did not talk about retaliation towards Clear Channel, the owner of the station. Representatives from Clear Channel were invited to attend the event, but did not do so. They spoke of the loss of a ministry on the airwaves, a phrase that I’ve heard many times but one that takes on a new meaning given this situation.
There should be stories on this evening’s broadcasts of ABC 33/40 and a wrap-up on Fox 6 (since they showed up after the event was over). I plan on posting additional images to a Flickr photoset within the hour. I saw two messages from the event and learned different things from both. The first is best summed up by this close up of an image taken at the rally.
There are times when you really need to listen before acting. I’ve had this lesson beat into my head throughout my professional career but it’s always good to hear it again. The long term effects of the station change for residents of the City of Birmingham remain to be seen. I do hope that someone is listening to this group. Unlike the first station switch, their outcry has not been answered as of yet; no one has stepped in to fill their void. We’ll see if a conglomerate or a group of concerned people decide to step up to the plate.
The second will be best expressed… in my next post (later on today).