Adding to its roster of local radio personalities like Pat Lynch and Ray Lincoln, Little Rock-based internet radio talker WAIRADIO.com welcomed another legendary Arkansas noisemaker to its fold this week, though this addition has been more comfortable on the other side of the microphone up until now.
Butch Stone, band manager and local concert promoter, started July 5 as co-host of the afternoon “No Holds Barred” show with owner Steve Freeman. The show broad- casts live from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.
Reached before his debut, Stone — the former manager of the rock band Black Oak Arkansas and producer of more than 400 concerts in his career — said he felt like a “virgin on prom night,” adding that he was excited about starting the first job in his life in which someone else would be writing the checks.
Stone said that while he has always been interested in religion, politics, entertainment and social issues, he has only been “really, aggressively thinking” about a career in talk radio for about two years. He said the opportunity to get his foot in the door finally came last week, after he appeared as a guest on the “No Holds Barred” show with Freeman. The chemistry between himself and Freeman was enough that he offered to sign on full time.
“At the end of that show, I just told him I’d love to do this,” Stone said. “He just jumped all over it.”
Stone said he isn’t nervous about the prospect of trying to fill three hours of airtime a day, though his years on the fringes of the spotlight have made him cautious about shooting from the hip.
“I research and I think about what I’m going to say,” he said. “Because I’m a public figure — and there’s a down side to that — you really can’t be a loose cannon. You’ve got to think things out.” In addition to talking extensively about local issues and politics, Stone said his contacts in the music industry would help him get some big-name callers on the line, including his friend Roger Waters from the band Pink Floyd.
“We want it to be that we’re not so much on the air preaching to people, but that we’re holding discussions,” Stone said. “Hopefully, we’ll get some sort of intelligent dialogue going between listeners and us.”
Co-host Freeman said, “I think he brings the experience of someone who has been everywhere. The guy used to party with Jimi Hendrix. He’s got Roger Waters on his speed dial at home. He’ll lend a nice balance to the show.”
n In addition to being stoked about the addition of Stone, Freeman reports that WAIRADIO.com has taken off like a bullet since going on the air June 6. In a little under a month, Freeman said WAI has received around 281,000 “hits,” with over 140,000 of those by unique individuals. These days, the station gets around 300 hits per hour, with between 32,000 and 37,000 people logging on every day. Those figures have moved the station into 11th place worldwide among talk stations that use the “live365” format — a group that includes both Internet-based stations and traditional talk broadcasters who “stream” their content to the web.
In addition to relatively large followings in Washington, D.C., New York, Atlanta, Dallas and other American cities, Freeman said the station has logged repeat listeners from as far away as Russia, Japan, China and Poland.
“We’re big in Hong Kong,” Freeman said. “I really don’t understand why, but we are.”
Meanwhile, KLRT-TV, Channel 16, station manager Chuck Spohn and news director Michael Fabac are crowing over recent Nielsen numbers that show Fox 16’s 9 p.m. newscast capturing a 3 rating among the all-important 25-54 age demographic, which puts the station on par with the 6 p.m. newscasts of channels 11 and 4, and draws the station within a point of KARK’s third place in the market. The numbers for Fox 16’s newscast have slowly gained ground with each ratings book, rising from a sub-1 rating during the first period the station was on the air.
The new rating means that 3 percent of 25- to 54-year-old viewers in the market tuned in at some time during the week, something Spohn sees as even more significant given that Fox’s one-hour newscast directly competes with primetime programming instead of other newscasts.
“It bodes to our success that we’re up against the finales of the CSI’s and the ER’s of the world,” Spohn said. “ That’s tough competition for us.”
Spohn also said a look at numbers for the market as a whole since Fox 16’s newscast went on the air seems to show evidence of an “erosion” of audience away from the traditional 10 p.m. newscasts.
“To me, it’s a big win for our team,” Fabac said. “The numbers really reflect and read for us the convenience obviously, but also the quality of our product.”
Spohn said, “They’ve been on 50-odd years, and we’ve been on 50-odd weeks. We’re kind of proud of the fact that people seem to be leaving 10 o’clock for us.”
n Also: The big shakeup continues at KARK-TV, Channel 4. With the station a perennial third-place finisher in the market, parent company Nexstar Broadcasting is apparently making heads roll. General manager Perry Chester was fired earlier this month, and now news director Rick Iler will follow on July 22. More as this develops.
An interesting element of the ongoing story of budget problems in the University of Arkansas Advancement Division has been a divide in outlook in the pages of the state's dominant news medium, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.