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On the Outer Banks, aboard ships of fools, vessels of fibs

By Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.
Nick Gowitzka, first mate of Fishin’ Frenzy (Tuna South), is known for yelling the boat’s name at the dock.

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  • Radio rankings

    The latest rankings of leading Charlotte-area radio stations by share of audience from Nielsen. Some stations, like WXRC-FM (“The Ride” 95.7) and WGIV-FM (103.3), do not subscribe to Nielsen and are not ranked.

    1. WKKT-FM Country, “Kat” 96.98.1%
    2. WRFX-FMRock, “Fox” 99.77.8%
    3. WSOC-FMCountry, 103.77.7%
    4. WLKO-FMHits, “Lake” 102.97.3%
    5. WPEG-FMUrban, “Power 98” 97.97.2%
    6. WOSF-FMUrban oldies, “Old school” 105.15.9%
    7. WBAV-FMUrban contemporary, “V” 101.95.7%
    8. WKQC-FMContemporary, “K” 104.75.4%
    9. WPZS-FMGospel, “Praise” 100.95.1%
    10. WNKS-FMPop, “Kiss” 95.14.0%
    11. WLNK-FMContemporary, “Link” 107.93.9%
    12. WHQC-FMPop, “Channel” 96.13.8%
    13. WRCM-FMChristian, “New Life” 91.92.8%
    14. WBT-AMNews/Talk, 1110 2.4%
    15. WEND-FMRock, “End” 106.5 2.2%
    15. WFAE-FMNPR, 90.7 2.2%
    17. WFNZ-AMSports talk, “Fan” 6101.0%
    18. WDAV-FMClassical, 89.90.8%
    19. WMIT-FMChristian, “Light” 106.90.7%
    20. WBCN-AMSports talk, 16600.3%

    Source: Nielsen

    WASHBURN’S ANALYSIS: While country stations often top the charts in Charlotte, it is rare to see a lineup like the overall August rankings in which WKKT-FM and WSOC-FM come out so far ahead of the city’s two urban powerhouses, WPEG-FM and WBAV-FM. Though the country stations have been near the top of the rankings and both have showed growth since the beginning of summer (WKKT-FM surged 37% and WSOC-FM was up 13%), urban music still dominated overall. By market share, the country stations had about 16% of the audience while urbans claimed about 19%. Christian and gospel formats attracted about 9%.

    Charlotte’s news stations lost listeners during the summer, as is common in the slower news cycle. WBT-AM is off 22% and WFAE-FM is down 19% since summer began. They tend to rebound in the fall each year, though WBT’s summer sag is bigger than normal. Radio One’s WOSF-FM and WPZS-FM land in the top 10 once again, continuing their strong showings since their parent company began providing them more resources.

    It is Clear Channel’s WLKO-FM that is the big story since its format change last summer from adult contemporary (it used to be called “Lite”) to a “we play anything” rotation. It is No. 4 in town now and up 52% in share since the beginning of the summer. WLKO is the most successful launch of a Charlotte station in a quarter century, since the 1988 debut of WCKZ-FM, nicknamed “Kiss 102” (Yes, it was the city’s original “Kiss”). It had an edgy blend of urban contemporary and top 40 that shot it near the top of the rankings. Old-timers will remember the morning team of Chuck “Boo” Baron and Mike Beach. Before that, you have to go back to the 1960s when “Big Ways” burst on the scene, which remains the most successful start-up station in Charlotte since WBT-AM took to the airwaves in the 1920s.

In a fierce but heretofore little-known battle of wits and wrists, Yankee boat captains launched a surprise naval attack, sweeping into Carolina waters and challenging ever-colorful Outer Banks mariners in the ages-old competition for the plucky, elusive bluefin tuna.

No, please wait. There’s more, so many more cliches to dispense in telling you about “Wicked Tuna: North vs. South” debuting 10 p.m. Sunday on the National Geographic Channel.

Our fishermen are shotgun-totin,’ Jesus-quotin’ salts of the sea. Their captains are stubborn, rough-hewn descendants of whalers and witches, genetically programmed to home in on “monstah” fish.

These sons of Gloucester shock and surprise our Wanchese hotheads by cresting the winter horizon on the first day of tuna season. “Who are those guys?” go our guys. Invaders from the North?

Yes! Greedy fish pirates who talk funny. Completely unexpected!

But, by one of the greatest, most fortunate flukes in the rich history of maritime coincidences, there just happens to be a National Geographic film crew on each vessel in the warring fleets, from the first surprise encounter to until the last bloody hook is baited.

For those of you immune to sarcasm, that means the entire conflict is absolute “unscripted” hokum, except from the point of view of the fish, who sacrifice their lives in the name of reality TV.

After three entertaining seasons of “Wicked Tuna,” focusing on the day-to-day exploits of New England captains Dave Marciano and Tyler McLaughlin and others, it has become time to expand the franchise southward because you just can’t have enough docudrama when you’ve got an insatiable cable channel to fill.

National Geographic, which inexplicably lends its respected nameplate to a television venture that preys upon the public’s dimmest intellect with thinly produced Atlantis hunts and lifeless UFO “investigations,” should actually be proud of this high-minded contrivance that achieves a level of authenticity matched only by the master artists of professional wrestling.

There is a wee teachable moment in the fray. If you listen closely, you will learn that bluefin tuna, the supporting actors in this combat movie, are all but done for. Since the 1950s, they’ve been fished to levels where their sustainability is questionable, and so the season lasts only until 23 tons of their wriggling flesh has been plucked from the biosphere, a restriction the captains readily support with every fevered ounce of their ecological consciences.

No, of course not! Just kidding.

Really, that means the cutthroat fishermen must prowl the depths day and night to gaff these gigantic fish that can bring more than $10,000 per carcass in the short weeks before the limit is reached. And, in fairness to the captains, they’ve never caught a tuna that didn’t open its own mouth first.

Anyway, back to the cliches. This adventure yarn is awash in them:

• Yankee boatmen agog at the treacherous seas, ominously known as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.”

• A psychological battle of man’s mastery of the sea, symbolized by the eternal burden of a new first mate who forgets to unhook from shore power before shoving off.

• And the uncivil war between North and South in which a little gunplay is tolerated to maintain boundaries.

So they don’t have storms, egos and horseplay enough up North? They have to come down here to find it? Go figure. Go fish.

Media Movers

Peter Daut, morning co-anchor on “Channel 9 Eyewitness News Daybreak,” will leave WSOC in September to return to his native Southern California as an anchor on the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles. He started at WSOC in 2012 on the morning show beside co-anchor Allison Latos. … Joining the sports team at Channel 9 in September is Lawrence Gilligan, coming from the CBS affiliate in Albuquerque, N.M. …

Charity Bailey joins WJZY (Channel 46) as part of the team for the station’s upcoming morning show. Bailey has worked for the CBS affiliate in Sacramento. … WBTV (Channel 3) interrupts the 11 p.m. news to announce that co-anchor Molly Grantham’s baby, due in October, will be a boy. …

Oliver North will receive the American Legion’s National Commander’s Public Relations Award Aug. 26 during the Legion’s convention in Charlotte for his Fox News Channel’s documentary series “War Stories with Oliver North.”

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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