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The Telecommunications Act of 1996 lifted the limit on the number of stations a single company could own, paving the way for conglomerates like i Heart Media (formerly Clear Channel) to expand across the country.
Many DJs lost their shows, and others were ordered to talk less and play from scripted, market-tested playlists.“During this time of deregulation, where there was less spontaneity on the air, you had the rise of shock jocks,” explains Steve Knopper, author of music business history Appetite for Self-Destruction.
But here in the basement of her farmhouse, one of the biggest names in radio answers the phone by herself, communicating with a staff in Seattle while she hears the stories of people from around the country — as many as 70 per five-hour session — and dedicates songs to them.
Most major radio shows employ a team of call screeners to guard their lines.
This call is the first of the night, and two teenage girls start giggling as soon as they hear Delilah's greeting. And how old was your friend who forgot that she wasn't supposed to be driving your grandparents' car and accidentally bumped it into something else!?
A lot of heartache, some fussing, one couple fussin' at each other while they're on the phone with me! "If you had a rough day I'm here to smooth off the rough edges, not that there's anything I can say or do or even a song I can play that will fix it.“You have Howard Stern and Opie and Anthony, so there were personalities.But they weren’t quirky, regional Wolfman Jacks.”When Premiere Networks (now a subsidiary of i Heart) signed Delilah, it encouraged her to pursue a middle path: The show would be farmed out to previously independent stations, synchronizing the airwaves in over a hundred cities."People think it's all about romance," she says, "but how many calls have you heard tonight that are about being in love? Most people just wanted to talk, and Delilah is the kind of person you can't resist talking to.