BANGOR, Maine — The local radio talk show conversation isn’t quite as limited as it once was.
After having the market all to themselves for the last six years, local morning talk tandem George Hale and Ric Tyler now are only half of the morning drive discussion duos emanating from Bangor.
For the last six weeks, new kids on the broadcast block Dan Frazell and Renee Ordway have been offering a choice to local listeners wanting to hear nonsyndicated, outside voices on their home and car radios.
“I don’t think we’ll be taking listeners away from them so much as bringing in new ones,” said Ordway, whose “Mornings with Dan and Renee” show airs on Bangor radio station WZON-FM (103.1 FM) — also known as The Pulse — from 7 to 9 a.m. each weekday. “The biggest thing to me is it’s local media and right now, that’s real important because everybody’s downsizing and the more voices you get out there, the better it is for everybody.”
Hale, a longtime Maine broadcaster and sportscaster who teams with Tyler as the more liberal voice each weekday on their show, “The George Hale Ric Tyler Show,” from 5 to 9 a.m. on the Voice of Maine — Bangor’s WVOM (103.9 FM), agrees with Ordway, a former full-time Bangor Daily News reporter and current weekly columnist.
“Oh, it’s fine. The more the merrier,” said Hale, who also serves as Maine Harness Racing Commission chairman. “What you do in this business is you do your own thing and don’t worry about what anybody else is doing.”
Hale and Tyler have come a long way in making their show a magnet for key politicians, newsmakers and policymakers since their November 2004 debut.
“It’s been an evolution. We’re a cross between a newsmagazine and a talk show,” Tyler said. “It’s taken awhile, but we can now address the issues not just with ourselves but with the actual newsmakers. Now we don’t talk about them, we talk with them.”
Tyler, a former weatherman, reporter and anchor at Bangor TV stations WVII ABC 7 and WLBZ 2 who’s now at Sutherland Weston Marketing Communications, credits the support of parent company Blueberry Broadcasting for the show’s growth.
“Previous management [Cumulus Media] went away and local management came in and got out of the way,” Tyler said.
While Ordway and Frazell, who was a frequent guest on the Hale-Tyler show, were brought in by station owner and Bangor novelist Stephen King to be a “progressive” option to the George and Rick show, it doesn’t mean either co-host will always offer opinions to toe the liberal line.
“Steve King wanted to start this radio station that was more progressive with a local morning show that is all talk. Dan and I are not necessarily progressive — liberal people and talked to [Zone Corporation general manager] Bobby Russell about that right upfront,” Ordway explained.
Russell said the show fills a broadcasting gap.
“We’re filling a niche with a friendly, upbeat, informative show,” said Russell. “We felt there was a significant hole in the market that wasn’t being served. I mean, this is a blue state, but that has more to do with our syndicated programming and not as much with Dan and Renee’s show.”
Frazell, who started Bangor’s DARE Drug Awareness Resistance and Education program, doesn’t see his show as direct competition.
“When you say progressive, people think liberal, but we try to stay away from the labeling, and they seem to be happy with the product so far,” he said. “And we try not to do as much political stuff because it can become mind-numbing after a while and be more community-driven.”
As a former Bangor policeman who retired after 25½ years — 23 in Bangor — due to a heart condition, that community approach suits Frazell.
“Neither of us is coming in here with a lot of experience in radio, and maybe that’s a good thing,” he said.
Frazell, who knew Ordway from attending crime scenes with her and brought her in to the show, said his co-host job was almost all due to luck.
“I knew I wanted to do something in radio, but it was on a whim I called Bobby even before knowing the Pulse or the show was in the works,” said Frazell, who hosted a show on Husson University radio station WHSN (89.3 FM).
Besides the difference in time slots, WVOM also enjoys a tremendous edge in power and signal coverage with its 100,000-watt transmitter compared with WZON-FM’s 6,000-watt power. It’s that difference that has emphasized the differing show formats.
“Our signal spans from Bath to Bethel and Baxter State park,” said Bruce Biette, vicepresident and COO of Blueberry Broadcasting. “I think it’s one of the best local talk shows in the state, and I live in Portland, so I hear others.”
“We even have a Friday yard sale feature where we have people call in and highlight their sales,” Frazell said. “One lady says it’s a break from the norm for talk radio, and that is what we’re looking for.”
So it’s WZON-FM’s lighthearted, community-driven flavor versus WVOM’s political powerhouse and personalities approach.