A piece of U-M broadcast history ends tonight.

Submitted by Gordon on April 23rd, 2018 at 5:47 PM

Some of you may remember WFUM, channel 28, the Flint-area PBS station owned and operated by the University of Michigan-Flint.  This channel began in 1980, and effectively served Flint, metro Detroit, and Ann Arbor, overlapping WTVS 56 (Detroit's PBS station) for much of its service area.

Originally promoted as WFUM (Flint, University of Michigan), the station was the only PBS station in Flint, and the only television station owned by the University of Michigan.  (WKAR is East Lansing is Michigan State, WGVU in Grand Rapids is Grand Valley State, WCMU in Mount Pleasant is Central Michigan.)

In 2002, Michigan consolidated its media into Michigan Public Media out of Ann Arbor, which operates three radio stations (including 91.7 WUOM in Ann Arbor) to this day.

In 2009, for budget reasons, the station shut down, for the most part.  The station was sold to Central Michigan, who used the channel as a satellite retransmitter for WCMU, which they've done with other relay stations throughout northern Michigan.  The station name was changed to WCMZ, to fit in with the other stations in the group.

One of the weird quirks of Detroit TV is that we've had two different PBS stations for decades.  For decades, Detroiters between Flint and Ann Arbor could get WFUM on their televisions, with the western and northern suburbs of metro Detroit having a choice of PBS stations.

Due to that overlap, Central Michigan sold WCMZ to the FCC for $14 million, to free up broadcast spectrum space for wireless and mobile devices.  It's a huge amount of money, and the viewership could all get PBS programming on another channel they are already getting.

So, with that, a piece of Michigan's broadcasting heritage gets shut down at midnight tonight.  It's not entirely ours today, but it's still a part of the University of Michigan's media legacy.

Comments

NittanyFan

April 23rd, 2018 at 6:04 PM ^

late 1990s and early 2000s.  I saw a lot of MSU and U-M hoops there.  They would also carry the occassional non-MSU/U-M basketball game. 

Kind of strange to think about sports on a PBS station, but that was the case for several years there.

Does make sense for CMU to close it down.  They really don't fill a broadcast niche any longer. 

 

NittanyFan

April 23rd, 2018 at 6:08 PM ^

was on WFUM.  That was a classic NCAA game, of course.

Those mid-week hoops games --- Channel 20 would also show them, but they'd invariably tape-delay them until Midnight.  So if you wanted to watch basketball live in Detroit, it was WFUM or nothing.  Luckily, I lived in the northern suburbs.

Mike Damone

April 23rd, 2018 at 6:10 PM ^

but do you think perhaps a little melodramatic with "a piece of Michigan's broadcasting heritage" and "a part of the University of Michigan's media legacy".  It is a PBS station shutdown due to some strange overlapping reason and a $14 million payday for something.

Based on title - I thought Brandstatter had announced his retirement....

98xj

April 23rd, 2018 at 6:26 PM ^

mainly because of the WBB and Hockey coverage in the NCAA's. When Bill Martin started the FB Seat Licenses, I had to cut back....

Also, it counted as a tax deductable contribution to the University....

Section 1.8

April 24th, 2018 at 9:34 AM ^

You are correct; Tom Hemingway was no Bob Ufer.  Hemingway was a true, consummate pro as a sports broadcaster.  He was not a cheerleader.

THE BEST radio broadcasts of Michigan football (and basketball too) were the Hemingway broadcasts.  With football, we had not only Hemingway but the late great Tom Slade.  

It isn't even a fair comparison; those broadcasts were so much better.  There were no commercials.  It was public radio.  And Hemignway was a full-time director of WUOM sports, and as a former M QB, and a former player who was as close to Bo as any former player who ever lived, Slade had some totally extraordinary access to the program and practices.

There was never a better radio broadcast team for Michigan football, and there can never be a better broadcast than what they could do, commercial-free on WUOM in those days.

 

Beaublue

April 24th, 2018 at 10:33 AM ^

I wish today's play by play guys would listen to the classic radio play by play guys - Ufer, Harwell, Hemingway.

Typical play call today goes something like this:  "Speight drops back;  Look at that!!  A touchdown, no incomplete, and a flag....I guess not a flag"

Makes it tough to listen to on the radio.  

Section 1.8

April 24th, 2018 at 1:45 PM ^

...we are pretty blessed.

Having Deardorf as our regular radio "color" guy helps.

I didn't mean to downplay Ufer up above, either; Ufer was nothing but fun.  He was no Tom Hemingway, because he never wanted to be a Tom Hemingway, and Hemingway didn't want to be Ufer.

You have to be of a certain age, to remember that there was a time, when Ufer's broadcasts were ONLY heard on a tiny Ann Arobr AM station.  Ufer had been doing largely-unkown broadcasts for years, before they put him on WJR and the network broadcasts.

There is a Ufer documentary in the works; I have no connection to it, and no financial or personal interest.  Some links have circulated previously, but for anyone interested, here is that info:

http://www.blackpointwest.com/the-bob-ufer-story.html

 

bhinrichs

April 25th, 2018 at 12:53 PM ^

Grew up listening to his Saturday afternoon (and Rose Bowl!) football (with a rotating stable of side kicks, including Tom Slade), and trying to get to sleep to his late night basketball (that was a killer :^).

Was very bummed when WUOM stopped that and dumped all their music for all talk.  Used to help with Hazen Schumacher's Jazz Revisited Request Night when I was a student in the middle 80's.

crg

April 23rd, 2018 at 7:50 PM ^

Grew up with WFUM programming; even was on air a few times on the High School Challenge game show (like Quizbusters). Shame that the original station closed down (only heard about it recently). There are still many homes in that part of the state without much access to free, educational television like that was.

J.

April 24th, 2018 at 3:46 PM ^

I was wondering when someone else would admit to having been on that. ;)  I feel like we reached the finals all four years and never won.  Might have been the semis one year... it's been a while.

Sam1863

April 23rd, 2018 at 8:32 PM ^

I went to UM-Flint, and used to know a girl who worked at the station. Once I commented that the initials weren't right: We were the University of Michigan-Flint, so shouldn't the call letters be WUMF?

She replied, well, sure - except when you consider what else the letters UMF could stand for.

I'd been drinking, so I didn't see it - until she told me to imagine that the M stood for Mother.

Oh.

UMgradMSUdad

April 24th, 2018 at 2:34 PM ^

I was a student at UM-Flint when the station started and had a professor who didn't comment on WUMF as an option, but he did say they were sure to use different colors for the WF than the UM to avoid it being referred to as W-FUM (as he said, "fee fi fo fum").  I also recall that he spent a summer in England looking at how they did their Open University using television.  I don't know if any of that ever translated to what they did at the station or not.

Wolfington

April 24th, 2018 at 9:53 AM ^

this is especially sad.  There are no other over-the-air PBS television available in much of the Flint area.  This will obviously affect those unable to afford cable or other means of obtaining educational children's programming.  I thought it was a shame when UM sold WFUM and am extremely disappointed with CMU.  I understand that a $13 million profit is impossible to pass up, but I'm still disappointed.