Last month I told you about nocturnal radio king Art Bell’s scheduled return to broadcasting. At first it looked like his show, Midnight in the Desert, would be internet-only, save a single shortwave broadcast.
But now 17 AM and FM stations have signed on as affiliates. Another shortwave station, the infamous WBCQ, will also broadcast him to the world.
In an interview with USA Today, Bell said that the terrestrial broadcasters have to agree to carry only six minutes of commercials an hour, way below the typical talk radio load of 15 to 20 minutes every hour. Why? “Because I want more content and more content,” he said.
There are other restrictions for affiliates that have more to do with logistics and controlling costs. For instance, terrestrial stations may not run the show on their own internet streams, principally because of the additional licensing cost for Art’s famous bumper music selections. And the stations’ ads can only be inserted during two fixed breaks–the rest of the show’s schedule will not adhere to a strict clock.
Now, 17 is a fraction of the stations that carry his old show, Coast to Coast. But it sure isn’t bad for a bootstrapped operation that wasn’t designed to be on terrestrial broadcast in the first place. I won’t be surprised to see that affiliate list grow if Midnight in the Desert manages to keep rolling beyond a few months.
Although Art Bell doesn’t come from grassroots radio, he is still a fringe personality by mainstream radio standards. It’s nice to see him launch an independent internet project and still have the ability to make it onto broadcast, pretty much without marketing it for that purpose.
Midnight in the Desert hits the tubes and the airwaves July 20.
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