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This View by Nancy LeMay
Nancy LeMay is a five-time Emmy winning broadcast designer who has worked both in New York and LA, in network and local. She is a teacher and a painter as well. You can reach her through her website, and by email at

Disappearing Acts

Media consolidation has had some strange side-effects. One little change I've observed may suggest there are some potholes-(call them censorship or just an abundance of caution)-in the new media landscape.

Listeners to 'smooth jazz' radio stations probably know the name and music of Michael Franks. He's recorded with Warner or Reprise since 1976, and his "Best Of" disk, "A Backward Glance," appeared late last year. Franks' calm, sometimes breathy and seductive voice comes through softly, via the back door. His music is influenced by bossa nova and other jazzy styles, and his lyrics are often complex and filled with subtle innuendo.

One of the songs that was heard frequently here in LA on KTWV has innuendo that's not so subtle. Sample "Popsicle Toes," from 1976's "The Art of Tea":

How come you always load
your Pentax
When I'm in the nude?
We ought to have a
birthday party
And you can wear your
birthday clothes,
Then we can hit the floor and
go explore those
Popsicle Toes

"Popsicle Toes," which was always a slightly naughty treat, could be heard a couple of times a week on KTWV for years-before it vanished completely from the playlist about two years ago. I didn't immediately notice 'Popsicle Toes' was gone, but because it's so unique, it's absence made me aware that all of Frank's music (which was in moderate rotation), had vanished with it. In the spring, I asked my sister, who lives in New York and listens to smooth jazz on WKTU, if she'd heard any of Michael Franks' songs lately. "No...come to think of it..." she said, as I'd expected her to.

My observation seems a tiny support to the findings of the Future of Music Coalition, as reported in the LA Times on January 3rd. This group of musicians, indie record company executives and consumer advocates, finds that ownership consolidation has had an effect on playlists. With only two companies controlling 42% of US radio, "...consolidation has resulted in less variety of music being played on the radio, shorter playlists, homogenization of playlists, and less local music being broadcast." The group, whose report was issued in late 2001, also polled 500 people, and found that 6 out of 7 respondents said they preferred "a long...playlist that provides them with a greater variety of songs and less repetition..."

One last observation. Natalie Cole's new release, the Grammy nominated "Ask A Woman Who Knows," includes her cover of the Michael Franks song "When I Give My Love to You," which is receiving the airplay a Grammy contender might be expected to receive. When I heard it on KTWV a couple of weeks back, I heard Franks' name mentioned three times in the DJ's outro of the song. Like something whispered over the transom, perhaps this was a reminder to listeners that Michael Franks-and who knows how many others-may not be getting much airplay, but they are neither forgotten, nor gone.