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KZEL radio director locks door, pitches his tent in studio.

Byline: Mark Baker The Register-Guard

It's a ruse, right?

A stunt, just a way to get KZEL, Oregon's Classic Rock, back on top of the ratings.

Right?

"Everybody asks me that," KZEL program director Mark Raney said Wednesday afternoon, taking a break after more than 48 hours on the air. "And the truth is, everything in radio is a little bit of jumping up and down."

Uh-huh. Thought so.

Or was this really Raney's idea, and his idea alone, to lock himself in the studio Monday morning, to not turn on the syndicated "Mark and Brian" show from Los Angeles, to stick it to "Mr. Big" and the other corporate heads at Cumulus Media, which owns the Eugene radio station along with five others?

"I don't know when he's coming out, I don't know what he's going to do next," said Steve Ries, marketing manager for Cumulus Media in Eugene.

After seeing "Mark and Brian" - who replaced "Cyd and Mark," the local show Raney and fellow disc jockey Cyd Salpino did every morning until about 2 1/2 years ago - continually slip in the morning-drive-time ratings, KZEL began talking about what do do, how to fix it, Ries said. Do you go to 24-hour syndicated programming? Do you go to 24-hour local programming? Do you kill KZEL altogether?

The latter possibility "scared Mark (Raney) a little bit, I think," Ries said. So Raney came up with the idea of locking himself in the studio as a ploy to find out what local listeners wanted, Ries said. But the corporate Cumulus office in Atlanta didn't go for it.

Raney, according to Ries, decided to do it anyway. He's pitched a tent in the studio and stored enough food to last a while, he said.

"For once in my life I'm taking a stand," Raney said. "I hope it doesn't take a month, but I'm not coming out until KZEL is a live, local, 24-hour-a-day station again."

Along with Raney's vigil, someone out there in cyberspace has launched a blog at www.savekzel.com. "Welcome to the KZEL Liberation Army," it says when you bring it up.

There's a reference to a phone number for "Mr. Big." When you call it, this is what you get, in a measured, robotic voice: "Hello, this is the corporate office of Mr. Big. I can't come to the phone, I'm looking for new syndicated programming. Please leave a name and a message at the tone."

Ries said that no matter what happens, "Mark and Brian" are gone for good at KZEL. Bringing "Cyd and Mark" back is a definite possibility. "What I'm hearing is (listeners want) live and local, live and local," he said.

Raney said he was "on board" in 2003 when Cumulus announced that KZEL, which has been playing classic rock - think Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Pink Floyd - since what seems like the beginning of time, would dump his and Salpino's local show and go with syndication, but the plan has not worked, he said. Raney, who's been with KZEL for 13 years, said his ploy is worth risking his job.

If the big shots in Atlanta don't like it, tough, he said.
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Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 30, 2006
Words:530
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