Saturday, September 25, 2010

Report: Disney To Flip Pittsburgh AM

According to multiple industry sources, 1250 ESPN will cease to operate in its current manner at the end of next week and most if not all full-time employees will be fired. The station will continue with a sports format until the end of the year and then switch to Radio Disney.

Present plans, according to the citing sources, have the station carrying ESPN national programming almost exclusively until Dec. 31. On Jan. 1, the station will switch to Radio Disney, a format for pre-teens and younger that has been hugely successful and features talent such a Hannah Montana, Justin Bieber and Selana Gomez.

The Walt Disney Company, which owns ESPN, has been running Radio Disney at 540 on the AM dial (WWCS in Canonsburg). Disney's lease with WWCS expires at the end of the year. At that time, Radio Disney will move to 1250, sources say.

The station has been losing money for years, as much as $2 million a few years back. It has made significant cuts in personnel, beginning with the firing of Mark Madden in 2008, but nothing has stemmed the losses.
The Madden firing was not for financial reasons, but it took the station's largest salary off the books. There were multiple firing for economic reasons in May of 2009, most notably news anchor Jim Colony, and more in June of 2010. Those fired this year include on-air personality Eddy Crow and news anchors Joe Destio and Eartha Jackson.

Sources said the station has been for sale for some time but with the down economy and the weak 1250 signal, 5,000 watts, no buyer could be found.

The entry into the market of The Fan (KDKA-FM, 93.7) caused the station to lose more money as some listeners and advertisers left 1250.

Read more here.

Also read here:  Disney Shutters AMs in RI, CT

Saturday Aircheck

Something a little different this week. Video tribute to first commercial radio station in the US, KDKA Pittsburgh.

Old Media’s View of “New News” Is Old News

From Matthew L. Schafer

Len Downie, Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and former executive editor of the Washington Post, spoke Wednesday about what he and others have called the “new news” of the 21st century.  Downie’s speech was part of the James Cameron Memorial Lecture, a lecture honoring the former British journalist.

Downie, who is no stranger to journalism, spoke to the rise of news collaborations, as well as consolidation in a rather favorable light.  Citing the crisis of the journalism business model, Downie highlighted university and traditional news media partnerships, public media collaborations, and for-profit local television partnerships.

“A growing number of American television stations also are sharing local news reporting.  At more than 200 stations around the country – from Los Angeles and Kansas City to Philadelphia and Miami – their local newscasts are produced by other stations in the same cities,” Downie said.

After Downie spent much of the speech surveying the current media landscape, he then cited online news aggregators like The Huffington Post and for hurting traditional journalism.  Downie called these popular 21st century inventions that pool news, as well as gather news, “parasites.”

“Though they purport to be a new form of journalism, these aggregators are primarily parasites living off journalism produced by others,” Downie said.  “They attract audiences by aggregating journalism about special interests and opinions reflecting a predictable point of view on the left or the right of the political spectrum, along with titillating gossip and sex.”

However, Matthew L. Shafer writing at writes Downie misses the point by oversimplifying the cause of journalism’s decline and focusing the remainder of his speech on funding sources to sustain journalism, as opposed to critically examining other factors to fall, in hopes of finding the key to its resurrection. 

Indeed, there is no need to continue to fund journalism if the return is fewer journalists reaching smaller audiences.  Instead, journalism need to completely reevaluate note how it gathers news (which it does exceedingly well), but how it presents the news it gathers (which the blogosphere does exceedingly well).
What journalism needs now, is not to curse “new news,” but rather reevaluate its old news traditions.  (It is important to note that this is not to say that some have not been attending to this already.)  Instead, the Post’s Downie is playing the roll of the–now cliché–ignorant traditional media mindset.

Downie’s traditional journalism, while better funded than the “new news,” refuses to innovate at any grand level–only to wonder why their audience is melting away.  Logically, where there is a gap, someone will fill it.  In this case, that somebody is Digg, Politico, Huffington Post, The Drudge Report, and Reddit among others.
Read more here.

What Do Zucker, Klein Firings Have In Common?

It was certainly no surprise to read that Jeff Zucker's new Comcast bosses gave him the ax, since the NBC Universal chief executive had presided over a series of high-profile debacles, notably the hiring of Ben Silverman to run NBC, the network's precipitous drop into last place, the whole Conan O'Brien-Jay Leno late-night disaster and the long run of executive turmoil and box-office flops at Universal Pictures.

Nor is it any surprise to learn that CNN U.S. President Jon Klein is out today as well, after failing to figure out how to stop the cable news channel's continuing ratings slide. But what do the two events have in common?

It's yet another example of how quickly the public has lost its loyalty to what were once dominant mainstream showbiz brands.

The most startling statistic Patrick Goldstein of the saw in the stories about Zucker wasn't that NBC Universal generated roughly $2.3 billion in profits last year; it was how little NBC figured into the revenue picture: 80% of those profits came from the company's cable division.

Read more here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Former Co-Host Alleges Sexual Harassment

Radio talk show host Inga Barks, who left her regular gig on the airwaves at KERN 1180 (Wasco-Greenacres, California) last April 1, has filed a lawsuit charging former co-host Scott Cox of sexually harassing her and assaulting her for years.

The suit also accuses radio station owner American General Media of ignoring her pleas for help.

According to The Californian, her complaint, filed in Kern County Superior Court on Aug. 19 but not publicized until Wednesday, claims Cox started out as a supportive friend but, starting in 2002, became an abusive co-worker forcing her to kiss him, groping her and demanding various forms of sexual gratification from her.

When she complained to station managers, Barks claims, she was ignored.

When she confronted Cox about the behavior, her complaint alleges, he slammed her up against the wall in a hallway of the radio station then began to make disparaging remarks about her appearance and sexuality both on and off the air.

Jay Rosenlieb, attorney for AGM, said the business denies Barks’ claims.  Rogers Brandon, president of American General Media, said that “Inga continues to be an active employee of the radio station” who provides commentary and also does sponsorship endorsements for the company’s clients. Barks now works as a popular conservative talk show host for Fresno's KMJ radio.

According to the lawsuit filing, Barks has worked for KERN 1180 since 1993, before it was acquired by AGM. Cox joined the station in 2000 and, when Barks’ husband was hospitalized in Los Angeles later that year, was a big supporter in her “dark time,” the complaint states.

But Cox began making inappropriate comments after her husband was released from the hospital, she alleged. And things got worse, Barks alleges, when the two were paired on a four-hour radio show in 2002.

Cox made demands for sexual favors, began touching, groping and kissing Barks during that time, she says. When she asked him to stop, Barks claims, Cox began insulting her on and off the radio airwaves — musing about whether she had “fake” breasts, about the size of her genitals and whether she had sexually transmitted diseases.

The troubles continued for years during which, she claimed, Cox repeatedly asked her for sexual intercourse and oral sex and blocked her path in halls and doorways until he obtained a kiss from her.

Read more here.

Talk Radio’s A Hit In Nasty Political Climate

Ad sales are rising for Premiere Radio Networks

The nastiest political climate the United States has seen in 40-plus years isn’t negative for everyone. For hosts of conservative talk shows in particular, as well as for the companies that syndicate their programs, things couldn’t be better.

“People ask me, ‘What happens when Rush [Limbaugh] says something very controversial about [President Barack] Obama?’ They say, ‘Well, people are going to tune out,’” said Len Klatt, senior vice president and director of research at Premiere Radio Networks. “No, they’re not. Because he’s talking to his people; they’re not going to tune out at all.”

Premiere Radio Networks, the syndicator of the top three talk-radio shows — hosted by Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck — are on pace to see advertising sales increase for those programs by 10% to 40% from last year, the company told David B. Wilkerson at

The ad increases are led by “a broad range of direct marketers,” pitched by the show’s hosts themselves, said Dan Metter, senior vice president and director of talk-radio sales at Premiere. These advertisers include Administaff, Carbonite, LegalZoom, LifeLock, Provide Commerce, Select Comfort and Vermont Teddy Bear.

Ratings for the Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck shows are expected to climb. “We always enjoy a 15% to 20% perk for those shows in the fall [Arbitron ratings] book,” said Klatt. “When there’s a presidential election, it’s even higher. 2008 was monstrous for these three shows. We think we’re probably going to get … pretty darn close to presidential levels.

“With the tea-party movement and the way those hosts are talking about it,” he elaborated, “I think you’re going to see 85% of the presidential levels.”

Even veteran radio consultants caution that in the current political climate there’s some risk the rhetoric can be taken too far, especially now that Arbitron has rolled out a more precise way to measure listenership: the Portable People Meter, or PPM. The system uses a device about the size of a small cell phone to track exactly when and where participants listen to radio — replacing the traditional diary method, in which people wrote down what they listen to. As a result, the meters can offer a much more accurate assessment of when people tune in and out of a given station.

“There is a baked-in negativity with the messages of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, which has a fatigue factor.” said Holland Cooke, a consultant to talk stations based in Block Island, R.I. “These people are angry about the status quo, and there’s a relentlessness to it.”

Premiere’s Klatt countered: “It’s only negative if you disagree with it.”

Read more here.

Larry Elder Returning To KABC

Larry Elder is returning to KABC/790 AM in Los Angeles after almost a two-year absence, the station announced Wednesday. He will be on 9 a.m.-noon weekdays starting Monday, replacing the canceled Frosty, Heidi & Frank program.

"I was called and asked if I was interested and I was, and we got together," Elder said told Gary Lycan of the Orange County Register in a phone interview. "It was not very long ago, and it was really no more complicated than that."

Elder, a libertarian known to KABC listeners as "The Sage of South Central," will talk about local and national issues. "I think the government is too big, people are better off when they are left alone, and President Obama will go down in history as the worst president in history. I have no personal animosity toward him, I just believe that his ideology is dangerous."

Elder  said he recognizes the need to talk about issues impacting local listeners in Orange County as well as Los Angeles. "I believe this is a teachable moment for the country. It is time for a re-assessment and to get back to basic principles," he said.

Program director Jack Silver said in a phone interview Elder will benefit from the lead-in of Peter Tilden and Teresa Strasser, and when combined with the line-up of Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and John Phillips, "It will be a more consistent thread, which makes for a more successful radio station.

"I have been here only two months, but you know there are only a couple of ways to approach these assignments. Either you can try to fit something that wasn't really there, you could try another experimental show, or you could find someone (like Larry Elder) who had the market equity, the ratings, the awareness, and you can right the wrong that occurred," a reference to when Elder and KABC parted ways in December 2008.

Silver said KABC is also bringing back Al Rantel, Marc Germain (formerly Mr. KABC), and Bob Brinker, whose financial show is returning to 790 AM on Oct. 10.

Read more here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ted Turner: "We Sweated Payroll For Seven Years"

CNN founder also opines on the future of print media

The threat of nuclear weapons, the history of CNN and the future of print media and their possible transition to digital -- those were all topics that CNN founder Ted Turner tackled Monday, according to George Szalai in The Hollywood Reporter.

He gave a keynote interview at the Social Good Summit, organized by the 92nd Street Y and Mashable with the United Nations Foundation, in a session that was webcast.

Asked which media he feels produce good journalism in the digital age, Turner mentioned the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times as doing "a pretty good job," while the work of some others is "lousy."

But quality alone doesn't necessarily save print, he argued. "Print itself is just going to fade away fairly quickly," given the long and complicated process it takes to put print media together, Turner argued. "You're either efficient or not around," he said before highlighting that many people spend more time on Twitter these days.

Asked if digital business models can save the Journal and the industry, Turner offered: "[News Corp. CEO and Journal owner] Rupert [Murdoch] will maybe make the transition." Paid models could work for print media "if people want the information bad enough," he said. "It's the only hope for print."

Turner also had a couple of stories to share about the early years of CNN. "We sweated every payroll for seven years," he said.

"During my entrepreneurial career, I wore out four financial vice presidents -- one had a heart attack right in my office," Turner said and earned some laughs. "I had him lay down on the couch, and we got an ambulance to take him to the hospital, and I said, 'Get me a new financial vice president.'"

Read more here.

Radio Hosts Apologizes For Heart Attack Remark

Matt Patrick told his WTRC FM-95.3 listeners in South Bend, Ind., this morning that you don’t cheat in football when playing Notre Dame, or “God is going to get you.”

The Detroit Free Press reports the morning talk-show host quickly discovered that you don’t mess around with Michigan State, either. After suggesting on the air that God gave Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio a heart attack as punishment for the Spartans beating Notre Dame on Saturday, Patrick found his inbox full of death threats and worse.

The 30-year radio veteran began his self-described “feeble attempt” at humor by recounting the closing seconds of the game, in which MSU beat Notre Dame on a trick play as the play clock ticked to zero. Then he said: “The moral of the story is you mess around with the Fighting Irish, you cheat on the last play of the game, overtime, and beat the Irish, God is going to get you.”

Almost immediately, irate fans began flooding the station’s phone lines, firing off angry emails and apparently signing him up for porn sites.

The station quickly posted a video on its website in which Patrick apologized to Dantonio.

So why did he make the suggestion in the first place?

“I was trying to be funny,” he told the Detroit Free Press in a phone interview. “Maybe I could’ve chosen my words a little bit differently. I don’t believe God did anything (to Dantonio). And I don’t believe Coach deserved it (the heart attack). I’m not out to shock anybody. This situation, to me, is one where I can step back and say, ‘I should have said it a little bit differently.’ I can take my lumps.”

Patrick said he understands why his attempt at humor fell flat and that it came across as insensitive. He said he used a mutual friend to express that sentiment to Dantonio.

Read more here.

Crummey Joins Talk Line-Up at 77 WABC

New York native and talk veteran Joe Crummey (yes, the name is real) starts Monday, October 11th  on 77 WABC from 10 AM-noon weekdays. Crummey, most recently a top-rated host on KTAR-FM and KFYI-AM in Phoenix, has also hosted on such talk giants as KFI and KABC in Los Angeles.  Born in Albany, he worked as EJ Crummey at WAPP and WNBC, where he was the lead-in to Imus in the Morning.

In a statement on the WABC website, Program Director Laurie Cantillo says Crummey has a record of ratings success and is a “unique and creative talent who jumps through the speakers".  General Manager Steve Borneman notes the addition of Crummey and New York Weekends "demonstrate 77 WABC's commitment to offer the best in national and local programming".

Hosted from the studios of 77 WABC, The Joe Crummey Show will be a New York centric show that's conversational, fun, fast-paced, and unpredictable. While politics will be a central theme, Crummey is also fascinated by pop culture, social trends, and the challenges of parenting a high-energy 10-year-old.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

FLASHBACK: Commercial Use Of TV "In Doubt"

So says The New York Times in an account of the first public demonstration of television. Story appeared in print 4/7/1927.

The article also describes others appearing on the first public telecast. Sounds like TV's first variety show.

Prediction: Newsweek In Print To End

After spending 30 years at Newsweek, Howard Fineman is leaving for Huffington Post. His move from the traditional weekly magazine to the leader of online news and opinion is itself a mark of the change afflicting media coverage today.

Fineman, 61, points out he is more than twice as old as most of the Huffington Post staffers. But he says his move and the expected addition of other "traditional" reporters to the website are part of Huffington Post's effort to add original news to its growing world of content.

In an interview with Media Matters Monday, just hours after his new job choice became public, Fineman said he believes Newsweek will continue to thrive, but predicted its print edition would likely end within five years. He also said Huffington Post will be able to offer fair and accurate reporting even with its liberal traditions, noting that is not the case at Fox News, which mixes its ideology too much with reporting.

"It is not a new development; in the old days, newspapers had candidates. But what is startling about Fox is that TV never used to do that," Fineman told me Monday. "Fox and [Chairman Roger] Ailes came out of the closet and said, 'Hey, we are basically the Republican channel.' Ailes has a project he is pursuing."

Fineman said that, even with her liberal leanings, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington does not cross that line.

Read more here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

WGY Starts FM Simulcast

News/Talk WGY-AM, New York State’s first radio station, today is making an historic change in its operations by adding a 24-hour simulcast on FM radio at 103.1 FM.

“810 WGY has one of the strongest signals in the country, powering our highly-rated News-Talk giant,” said Kristen Delaney, Vice President and Market Manager of Clear Channel Radio Albany. “We are expecting significant  ratings growth by simulcasting on 103.1, which has changed its call letters from WHRL to WGY-FM.”

“The decision to simulcast our 24-hour news/talk format on the FM will open up our content to an even wider audience. Despite the huge audience we currently enjoy, the fact is a significant portion of the Capital Region audience never thinks to visit the AM dial,” said Delaney. “We know there are thousands of potential listeners who will be hungry for our stimulating talk shows, Don Weeks, Joe Gallagher and our award-winning coverage of news and weather.”

WGY features Hall of Fame broadcaster Don Weeks and Chuck Custer on “The WGY Morning News” weekday mornings, and a talk line-up that includes heavyweights Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.

Gregory Brothers Auto-Tune the News

They first got recognition on the Internet for their Auto-Tune The News videos. But now the Gregory Brothers are on Billboard's Hot 100 without major label support. They were at the Google Zeitgeist conference last weekend and explained their success.

The full song follows. The YouTube video has had more than 23-million views.

Omaha Talker Raises Fund For Boy Scouts

To raise funds for the Boy Scouts, KFAB Omaha afternoon talker Steve Becka (dressed as Spiderman) rappelled down the second tallest building in the city..some 25 stories.  Here's the ground perspective:

For Tom's helmet perspective, click here.

MSNBC Finally Pays Off At 30 Rock

From Howard Kurtz at Media Notes:

Steve Capus glances at the eight video feeds on the flat-screen monitors in his Rockefeller Plaza office, smiling as he spots Andrea Mitchell in a head scarf, doing a morning live shot for MSNBC.
The 46-year-old NBC News president ticks off Mitchell's contributions while covering the Iranian regime's release of an American hiker: She was on "Today," she will be on "Nightly News" that evening, and she will host her MSNBC afternoon show from Tehran. And those multiple platforms--plus the ability to share costs with a cable channel--is what he believes separates his network from CBS and ABC.
MSNBC was once an afterthought; Capus himself repeatedly turned down a request to move there until his NBC boss ordered him to do so soon after its 1996 launch. But the channel's improving fortunes have buoyed the mothership. "Nobody had any idea how important it would be to this news division," he says. "It gives us a running start. There are no nap times around here."
With its lineup of liberal firebrands, MSNBC can also be a headache that blurs the straight-news reputation of the broadcast network, especially as such stalwarts as Mitchell, Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie spend more time on the cable airwaves. But the channel brings in revenue, in the form of cable subscription fees, and it puts NBC in the 24/7 game. Despite recurring rumors that ABC is flirting with Bloomberg or CBS might join forces with CNN, those deals, with their inevitable complications about editorial control, never seem to get done.

Read more here.