Michael Smerconish Delivers Annual “State of the First Amendment Address” at Talkers New York 2013. It is considered an honor to be invited to deliver the annual “State of the First Amendment Address” at the annual TALKERS conference – a traditional component of the Freedom of Speech Ceremony that dates back to the early 1990s when the late and legendary talk show host Gene Burns delivered an impromptu speech extolling the importance of free speech in American society and the vital role it plays in the pertinence of talk radio. Bringing the concept full circle, Burns further articulated how talk radio plays a crucial role in exercising and preserving the First Amendment. According to TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison, “That was a magic moment when Gene Burns explained how free speech and talk radio are intrinsically unified in preserving the very foundation of liberty upon which everything we consider to be ‘American’ is supported.” Harrison recalls, “Gene reprised this role for the next couple of years leading up to it becoming an industry tradition carried on by free speech-aware orators. We began inviting individuals from the broadcasting industry who understood and displayed from their own actions the importance of the First Amendment and comment on the state of its health – based upon the premise ‘use it or lose it.’” Since then, a diverse roster of industry players, who have in their own way challenged the establishment, have delivered their versions of this important address including Al Franken, Michael Medved, Alan Colmes, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Jerry Springer, Neal Boortz, Jim Bohannon and many more. This year, the editorial board invited Michael Smerconish, who recently walked away from his daily on-air job with CBS O&O WPHT, Philadelphia and his own syndicated network of approximately 80 affiliates to take a position as host of a show on the SiriusXM political channel, to deliver the address. According to Harrison, “Smerconish, a moderate conservative, was quite outspoken in his protest against the extreme left-versus-right polarity presently manifested in the stationality of most AM/FM news/talk stations and opted for the ideological freedom provided by his new satellite platform. Standing up to the conventional wisdom and practices of one’s own industry can be even more challenging and bold a stance for a talk show host to take than protesting the government. He was an apt choice to deliver the address this year and he did a great job.” Smerconish began the speech by recounting a media experience he had while still a teenager. Pink Floyd’s legendary “The Wall” LP was released when he was a senior in high school. The band was reluctant to tour in support of the double-album, but as part of its record deal, Pink Floyd was obligated to do a certain number of dates. “I was able to see them and was the envy of my friends,” commented Smerconish, who at the time, was the editor of The Chatterbox, his high school newspaper. “When I came home from the concert, I decided to write a review of ‘The Wall.’” Speculating what the “wall” was and what it symbolized, Smerconish recounted it could have been a prison wall or a wall around a person seeking isolation. When his review came out, he was summoned to the principal’s office. “The principal said he was disappointed that I had written the review and requested a retraction, not because of anything in particular that I had written, but because I had addressed the subject at all,” Smerconish explained. “He wanted me to do a follow up and be critical of the group’s music.” The then 17-year-old Smerconish (who went on to become an attorney) was “only superficially familiar” with the First Amendment. “I doubt that I could have defined ‘censorship’ or ‘prior restraint,’ but I knew enough that something he was asking of me just was not right,” he recollected. “I weighed his request and I did not do it. More than 30 years later, I spend all of my time talking about such dilemmas, speaking my mind, and rendering judgments about matters of public controversy – only now – I do so with profound appreciation for the source of our freedom. Establishing a government framework for the weighty subjects of religion, speech, assembly, and petition is exactly what was accomplished in 1791 when the First Amendment and the entire Bill of Rights were adopted.” Of added significance is the fact that, as Smerconish mentioned, it was done in just 45 words and in a manner that would be relevant for 222 years and counting. “It is so simple and yet so prescient,” he commented. “This guidepost was written two centuries before the advent of the internet.” The succinct way in which Smerconish assessed the state of the First Amendment was “resilient.” To view a video of Michael Smerconish’s entire speech, please click here.
Erica Farber: “There’s Nothing We Can’t Do Anymore!” Brimming with optimism, Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) CEO/president Erica Farber tells TalkersTV, “For the first time in the history of radio, we are integrated marketers.” In an interview conducted at the recent Talkers New York 2013 convention (6/6) by TALKERS managing editor/West Coast bureau chief Mike Kinosian, Farber explains how radio can not only offer commercials on our broadcast signals but also video, special events and a variety of methods of exposure on our digital platforms as well. Farber praises what she describes as “great energy” in the radio business and says that those of us who are in radio are here because “we love it” and although we are facing obvious challenges, there are also great opportunities. When asked to define her role at the RAB as well as the organization’s role she states, “We are advocates of the industry to anyone who will listen – advertisers, agencies, broadcasters, and consumer media.” She strongly believes that far more people are listening to radio than detractors of the medium would have you believe. To see a video of the entire interview with Erica Farber, please click here.
TALKERS Magazine Building Bridge Between American and Chinese Radio. At the same time President Barack Obama was meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week, another diplomatic meeting between the two nations was taking place at United Nations headquarters on Manhattan’s East Side (6/7). Broadcasters from China Radio International (CRI), the state-owned-and-operated radio station/network of the People’s Republic of China participated in the seventh annual “Talk Radio Day at the United Nations” a cultural initiative presented by TALKERS magazine and Talk Radio News Service in association with the United Nations Foundation. This was the first time a delegation of Chinese broadcasters participated in this event. Pictured (above, left) TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison being interviewed by the delegation for broadcast on CRI answering questions about how talk radio in America operates and what differences exist between the culture of broadcasting in both countries. When asked what he hopes can be achieved by the meeting that was taking place that day between the presidents of the two nations Harrison stated, “I hope good things come from it, but I have learned through years of experience not to put too much stock in the words and actions of ANY politicians, regardless of what country they represent. I believe, however, in the PEOPLE of different countries as evidenced by the ‘love fest’ taking place right here, right now, between your broadcasters and ours. Radio is first and foremost a medium to unite people. May today be just the beginning in our quest to unite the people of our great countries on the basis of mutual respect and common human interests. If we do that, perhaps the politicians will have no choice other than to be reasonable.” According to Harrison, “This was one of the most exciting conversations I have ever had in my 45 year career in broadcasting. The radio folks from China seemed absolutely fascinated by how different the business is here – especially the American concept of free speech. However they were clearly quite worldly and educated to many aspects of American business and culture. I will always remember this wonderful meeting.” Li Ping, director general of CRI North America, told Harrison that she hopes “this will be the beginning of a long and productive relationship between Chinese and American radio broadcasters.” Pictured above, right (l-r) Xu Leiying, reporter, CRI; Josephine Cheng, president, Chinese Radio Network (CRI’s partner in New York); Harrison; Li Ping, director general, CRI North America; Dong Xiaole, reporter, CRI; and You Yu, reporter/assistant to director general, CRI, North America.
Longtime Albuquerque Personality Jim Villanucci Lands in Portland. After a not-so-amicable split from his 14-year home at Cumulus Media’s KKOB, Albuquerque, talk show host Jim Villanucci will take over the late morning slot at Alpha Broadcasting’s KXL, Portland “FM News 101” beginning June 24. Villanucci will fill the slot currently held by Premiere Networks’ Glenn Beck show. Villanucci was a huge ratings-getter for KKOB over the course of his stay there in afternoon drive and now brings his broad talk host skills to the Pacific Northwest leading into market icon Lars Larson who hosts the early afternoon show. The move reunites Villanucci with market manager Milt McConnell with whom he worked in Albuquerque.
Yahoo! Sports Radio Podcasts to Be Featured on PodcastOne. The Norm Pattiz-founded PodcastOne and Gow Broadcasting, operator of Yahoo! Sports Radio in partnership with Yahoo! Sports, announce a multi-year deal to make Yahoo! Sports Radio podcasts available to listeners for free on PodcastOne.com and via the PodcastOne mobile app. Additionally, Yahoo! Sports Radio Network podcasts will be represented for advertising sales by Pattiz’s Launchpad Digital Media. PodcastOne/Launchpad Digital Media chief financial officer, Dan Yukelson states, “As ‘radio’ continues to be redefined as ‘audio,’ the sports-talk format has never been more popular. Yahoo! Sports Radio is a leader in on-demand sports content and we are looking forward to ushering sports talk into the digital age together. Along with our current PodcastOne lineup of sports/talk programming such as category leaders Steve Austin and Ross Tucker, the addition of Yahoo! Sports Radio will further strengthen our platform and reach.” Yahoo! Sports Radio podcasts now available on PodcastOne and represented exclusively by Launchpad Digital Media include Bryan Benway, Terry Ford, Dylan Gwinn, Rick Horrow, Travis Rogers, Pat Forde, Dan Wetzel, Geoff Ketchum, Doug Farrar, Steve Czaban, “Calling All Sports with Marty Tirrell and Bob Ryan,” “The War Room with John Harris” and the “Mouthpiece Boxing Podcast.”
Clear Channel’s KGME, Phoenix Re-Brands as Fox Sports 910 Phoenix; Adds Local Midday Show. Clear Channel’s Phoenix sports talk outlet KGME announces it has re-branded as “Fox Sports 910 Phoenix,” leaving behind the old “Xtra Sports” brand. The station also adds a new live and local midday show called “The Freaks with Kenny & Crash,” featuring hosts Kenny Sargent and Crash Gladys that airs from 12:00 noon to 2:00 pm beginning today (6/12). Program director Neil Larrimore states, “This programming change will create a better experience for sports talk radio listeners in Phoenix. ‘Fox Sports Radio 910 Phoenix’ and the addition of ‘Kenny & Crash’ will provide listeners with phenomenal sports talk programming with a rock ‘n’ roll attitude and the best conversations in the Valley.”
Kelly Kibler Is Promoted to SVP of Operations for CC’s Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio Markets. Moving up from her most recent post as the company’s market president in Dallas, Kelly Kibler is named senior vice president of operations, effective immediately. In her new role with the company, she’ll oversee the Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio markets and will report to Tom Schurr, Clear Channel Media and Entertainment‘s president of operations — major markets. Kibler has been with CC for more than 16 years, holding a variety of leadership and sales positions in the Dallas, San Diego and Las Vegas markets. Schurr states, “Kelly’s strong performance and high level of achievement make her the perfect choice to oversee and lead our Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio markets. Her track record is one of continuous success with the company.”
AdLarge Promotes Don Wachsmith to Chief Revenue Officer, Radio Sales. AdLarge Media reports that EVP, radio sales Don Wachsmith is promoted to chief revenue officer, radio sales for the company. AdLarge Media CEO and co-founder Gary Schonfeld states, “Don has done an incredible job of exceeding revenue goals, two years in a row. His client relationships and ability to develop targeted national radio advertising packages have dramatically increased sales results for AdLarge.” AdLarge president and co-founder Cathy Csukas adds, “With Don’s leadership, Adlarge has already surpassed 2012 results and achieved exceptional growth in 2013. This is a well-deserved promotion for Don and recognition for his contribution to our success.” Wachsmith states, “The past two years at AdLarge have been a wonderfully rewarding experience. As AdLarge continues to expand partnerships with content providers, I look forward to delivering targeted branding experiences for our national advertising clients.” Wachsmith joined AdLarge in 2011. Prior to that, Wachsmith was executive vice president, sales, at Dial Global Media.
Arbitron Announces ‘Model-Ready’ PPM Data Available in GfK MRI’s Granularity Portal. Arbitron Inc. reports that Model-Ready Radio data is now available in media and consumer research firm GfK MRI‘s Granularity Portal. The company states that “the model-ready radio ratings data is linked with Media Monitors commercial airplay data to enable advertisers to get a better read on radio’s contribution to marketing and sales results. Its presence in the Granularity portal is designed to boost radio’s presence in marketing mix models and make it easier, faster and less error prone to use for advertisers, agencies and modelers.” The model-ready data is now available in Granularity to all subscribers of the new data set. It had previously been available in a beta version for a limited number of trial users, which was announced in October 2011. Arbitron also states, “A series of case studies demonstrated that the model-ready Arbitron PPM Radio Ratings Data can help improve the statistical reliability of marketing mix models and provide advertisers with a better understanding of radio’s ability to drive marketing ROI. The data is based on PPM radio ratings which is linked to commercial occurrence data from Media Monitors for the specific date, quarter-hour, and station on which each commercial ran.”
KKLA, Los Angeles Names Frank Sontag PM Drive Host. The untimely death of talk show host Frank Pastore after a motorcycle accident in November of 2012 left Salem Communications’ Christian talk station KKLA, Los Angeles seeking a new afternoon drive host. Now, the company announces Frank Sontag takes over the program that airs from 4:00 pm to 6:30 pm. Program director Chuck Tyler says, “We are excited about having Frank Sontag join our lineup in the critical afternoon drive position. Frank is a true veteran of Los Angeles radio having worked at KLOS-FM for 27 years.” Sontag served as news director, disc jockey and was part of the popular Mark and Brian program. During that time he also hosted his own talk radio show – “The Impact Program” – for 21 years.
ABC News Radio Recognized with Three Edward R. Murrow Awards. The national Edward R. Murrow Awards have been announced by the Radio Television Digital News Association and ABC News Radio is recognized with awards in three categories. ABC won Best Breaking News Coverage for its handling of the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre; Best Continuing Coverage for its work reporting on Hurricane Sandy; and Best News Series for its The 2012 Campaign and Election: Your Choice Your Vote.” You can hear the winning entries here.
Glenn Beck Promotes New Novel on SiriusXM’s‘Author Confidential.’ Talk media superstar Glenn Beck (l) is the featured guest on this weekend’s edition of SiriusXM’s “Author Confidential” as he talks with SiriusXM Patriot Channel host Mike Slater (r) about his new novel The Eye of Moloch (Threshold Editions 2013). The book is the follow-up to his previous New York Times bestseller The Overton Window and incorporates themes of tyranny, freedom, high-tech surveillance and more. The program premieres on Saturday, June 15 at 10:00 am on the Patriot Channel.
Gerard Media Purchases Talk WHFB, Benton Harbor-St. Joseph, Michigan. Gerard Media owns news/talk WIMS, Michigan City, Indiana and will add 5,000-watt class D AM WHFB, Benton Harbor-St. Joseph, Michigan to its portfolio for $175,000. The seller is WHFB Broadcast Associates.
WRKO, Boston Holds Live Town Hall Broadcast with Former U.S. Senator Scott Brown. WRKO, Boston morning drive host Jeff Kuhner will take part in a live broadcast town hall meeting at Bentley University on Thursday, June 20 at 7:00 pm with former U.S. Senator Scott Brown. The station says Kuhner and Brown will discuss topical political issues, including National Security privacy issue, the IRS scandal, the Benghazi attack and the Senate special election. The program will end with an open session for audience questions and will be moderated by June Knight.
Alleged State Department Cover-Up, Immigration Legislation, NSA Data Collection Program, Severe Weather ‘Derecho’ Threat, and Plan B Pill Policy Among top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (6/11). Allegations of a State Department cover-up of illegal activities including prostitution and drug abuse among staffers abroad; immigration legislation making its way through Congress; the NSA data collection program and the revealing of secrets by Edward Snowden; the threat of a dangerous weather system possibly forming a “derecho” that could affect the eastern half of the country; and the controversy over the Obama Administration’s policy on the Plan B pill were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.