Radio Waves: January 15, 2021

A fake Mess

Have you ever binge-watched one of those home shows such as “Love It or List It,” and noticed that every episode has some major problem show up at the same time in every episode? That’s because, like all “reality” shows, they are all scripted. There are no surprises, just scripts that the producers feel will be good television.

And while it may make for some interesting home improvement ideas, once you know that the shows are far from reality, you are left feeling a little bit cheated; a little hollow.

That’s the feeling I get when listening to The Morning Mess on Amp Radio (97.1 FM). Scripted. Cheated. Hollow.

The Mess has been heard on Amp since August of last year, though it has been heard on Phoenix, Arizona’s Live 105 FM since 2013. The show features Joey Boy (aka Nachoo), Aneesh Ratan, Jeana Shepard and Karla Hernandez talking, calling, and playing a lot of music. 

It’s a show I really want to like. The team exudes friendliness and fun, something that I think the world could use more of. But it also exudes an artificial feeling that is just too hard to shake. Everything just seems to be too contrived, too convenient.

Keep in mind that I cannot prove any of the following, for obvious reasons. No show will admit that they use a production company for their bits. Similarly, neither the production companies involved nor the actors employed will admit they provide their services to any morning show. It’s a deep secret few still connected with radio will admit. But it appears that much of the show’s major bits are at least somewhat artificial.

One of the staples of the Mess is a variation of the old Candid Phones done by Rick Dees years ago on KIIS-FM (102.7) and that guy who replaced Dees — Ryan Seacrest — who does a segment called Ryan’s Roses. The Mess does “Nachoo’s Revenge”… The idea is that someone sets up a story, the station calls an unsuspecting person to be pranked, and hilarity ensues.

The problem is – true cold calls recorded for broadcast are illegal. According to Section 73.1206 of the FCC’s rules, it is prohibited to broadcast, or record for purposes of broadcast, telephone calls without first getting the consent of the person on the other end of the phone. That means that anyone “pranked” is in on the prank. If they are not, the station risks a huge fine for airing the call. In other words, if the person being pranked is recorded without knowledge, the call can’t be aired. But if they know, they aren’t really being pranked.

There are actually actors and writers who can provide the content needed for a morning show to air such calls, and that is exactly how they are done. Consider it reality television on the radio. Don’t believe me? Head on over to where they explain,

“‘Any time you hear something surreal on a morning radio show, it’s (B.S.),’ one veteran independent radio producer told me. ‘The great prank phone calls—they’re all fake. If it’s top 40, and if it has a morning show, then it uses actors.’” Read the entire story at

But that’s not the only problem with the Mess. Regular listening indicates other calls and segments seem to be rehearsed as well. Last week there was a supposed live caller talking about something when a vulgar word was uttered. To my ears the caller seemed just a little too “polished” to be a typical listener, and I don’t mean that as an insult. Audio quality was just too pristine and the inflections and reactions seemed rehearsed. Too “perfect” for an average person.

But when the word was used, instead of the call being “dumped,” in which the station’s delay system causes a noticeable jump in the audio, the word was simply “beeped.” Unless you suspected such a word to be spoken and when, it would be extraordinary for it to really happen in a live call system. I suspect the segment was therefore either rehearsed or was previously recorded and edited … you generally can’t “bleep”on the go.

Similarly, on the same day, references to “downtown” were not clear to listeners since the show is based in Phoenix, that the downtown was not Los Angeles; a truly local show would be talking about the drive into work, things happening around your town, and more. And perhaps it is just me, but it also seems that the hosts are just too conveniently stereotyped in their reactions to issues and events. 

Now, it’s certainly not a bad show. The four Mess Makers (OK, I made that up) are — as I already said — genuinely nice, and absolutely do their best to relate to the audience under the constraints of broadcasting from another city. I think they have the potential to be great, and I believe the show would be so much better if it were more “real.” If I were station management, I’d be working to let these kids fly. 

But then again, I wouldn’t be relying on a show from out of town.

Problems at Entercom

It seems that KROQ (106.7 FM) is not the only alternative station having ratings issues in the Entercom-owned chain of stations. Jerry Del Colliano reported this week on his  that outside of San Francisco, Seattle and Boston, Entercom’s alternative stations are underperforming both in ratings and revenue.

What’s causing the problem? Lack of events and concerts due to the COVID shutdown is certainly an issue, says Del Colliano, but a major problem is self-inflicted: The alternative format was among the first to go with regional and national DJs in an effort to cut costs, and listeners have responded by moving on to other stations.

KROQ fares better than most when it comes to local talent, but there are problems. Stryker and Klein (5 a.m. to 10 a.m.) are local, but syndicated to four other stations so they lose the local flavor. Same with Nicole Alvarez (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.)  and Megan Holiday (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.); Kevan Kenney (7 p.m. to 12 a.m.) is syndicated from New York, as is overnighter Bryce Segall. So in total, none of KROQ’s broadcast day is dedicated to truly local programming.

Imagine the stations in which the talent isn’t even in the same city … ever. 

Radio thrives when it’s live, local and a true part of the community. You can’t do that when you rely on syndication and cost-cutting. But you already know that.