How Serious Is 91X?

"It's time for us to embrace the suck," 91X DJ Marco Collins told San Diegans last week upon his return to local airwaves. Collins worked at 91X in the '80s, when it became the first alternative-rock station in the country to get big ratings. He says his return after 15 years is to help lift the station out of its Clear Channel funk.

After nine years of ownership by Clear Channel and its predecessor (Jacor), a new company named Finest City Broadcasting has taken over 91X. Monday, September 19, was the "relaunch." The crew took on-air digs at Clear Channel. A few weeks ago, 91X morning DJ Chris Cantore told the San Diego Music Awards audience that he was happy 91X would be freed from Clear Channel.

The denigration of Clear Channel is odd, considering that 91X is based in the company's Kearny Mesa headquarters, and all the 91X DJs remain employees of Clear Channel.

"This is really a bizarre situation," admits new 91X program director Kevin Stapleford. He says dramatic changes needed to be made. "[The air staff of] 91X sounded defeated. 91X lost the perceptual battle [to FM-94/9]."

When Finest City Broadcasting is created, it will operate 91X, Z90, and Magic 92.5 out of the same Clear Channel complex in Kearny Mesa. Mike Glickenhaus, general manager of Jacor/Clear Channel from 1986 until 2004, will run the company. How can the stature of 91X be reclaimed by the same management that DJs are criticizing?

"[Glickenhaus] was overseeing 13 stations," says Stapleford. "You can't run a company and have face-time with 13 stations on a consistent basis." Regarding Cantore's habit of cutting down Clear Channel: "I think Chris felt the pain more than anybody else," says Stapleford.

The new 91X isn't shy about trashing FM-94/9, either. A recorded promo spot asks, "How independent can you be when a consultant from Detroit tells you what to play every day?" Another seems to wish "agony" on FM-94/9. "We weren't serious with that," says Stapleford.

Stapleford says 91X will play about the same ratio of new/old music, but the addition of under-the-radar artists such as the Subways, Morning Wood, and Rob Dickinson is proof that the station will take chances again. Stapleford says for the first time in years 91X will have live DJs on weekends.

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