Art Bell and Michael Savage/Westwood One Agree to Settle Defamation Suit. Back in December, Art Bell and his wife Aryn Ruiz Bell, filed suit against talk host Michael Savage and Westwood One for defamation after Savage said the following on his nationally syndicated program: “I generally avoid gun questions. I know this from the first day in radio. I learned you never do certain topics where you can destroy your show. Third rail… You say UFOs, you wind up in the Philippines with a 10-year-old hooker and you are off the radio after a number of years. You can’t do UFOs. That’s an in joke, by the way, for people who even understand the business. There are other topics you can’t do…” Now comes word from Bell’s attorneys that the two sides have agreed to a settlement, saying they are “currently in the process of memorializing the terms of the agreement and should be in a position to dismiss this matter with prejudice within thirty (30) days. This settlement will resolve this matter in its entirety.” We’ll never know the terms of the settlement, but if all goes as planned in the next 30 days, the matter should be resolved.
Variety Piece Spurs Industry Chatter about iHeartMedia’s Future. The recent Variety story by Gene Maddaus has renewed media industry speculation about the health of debt-laden iHeartMedia – or more accurately – speculation about not if but when the company enters bankruptcy reorganization. As Maddaus points in his story, iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman has been working to transform the company into a digital-era media force as the same time he’s been trying to refinance some of its $20.5 billion in debt. iHeartMedia has $8.3 billion in debt coming due in 2019 and, as Maddaus writes, “no realistic way to pay it off.” Industry icon Irving Azoff sits on the iHeartMedia board and – though he’s not officially speaking for the company – says something has to give in the near future, telling Maddaus, “There will be a deal of some kind, at some point, that is the best that can be achieved under the circumstances. You’re correct that a day of reckoning appears to be coming. That’s no secret.” Read the Variety story here.
Legendary Detroit Sports Figure Eli Zaret to Host Feature for WJR, Detroit. Sports broadcaster and author Eli Zaret begins hosting a daily sports feature airing on Cumulus Media’s news/talk WJR, Detroit during the Guy Gordon show weekdays at 4:36 pm. The new program is called “After Further Review.” Zaret comments, “I’m excited about the opportunity to play a role at one of America’s legendary radio stations that features a cast of hall-of-fame broadcasters. Before starting in television at WDIV in 1980, I loved writing radio sports commentaries. Now, over 40 years later, to be able to do them at WJR alongside my longtime friend and colleague Guy Gordon is a very cool thing. I feel like I’m going back to my roots in radio.” Zaret is known for his coverage of the Detroit Pistons as a sideline reporter. He started in 1974 at WABX-FM. Detroit. He became the lead sports anchor for NBC affiliate WDIV-TV in the 1980s and served a similar role at WABC-TV in New York. He’s also served as sports director for rock outlets WCSX-FM and WRIF-FM, as well as WJBK-TV.
Trump’s Obama Wiretapping Allegations, Trump Rally Clashes, Trump-Russia Allegations, Immigration/Deportation Policies, Concerns Over North Korea’s Missile Program, ‘Logan’ Film Opens, SNAP IPO, and NBA/NHL Action Among Top News/Talk Stories Over the Weekend. The Trump Administration’s allegation that the Obama Administration ordered a wiretapping of its campaign and the call for an investigation; clashes between pro-Trump forces and protesters in Berkeley, St. Paul, and Nashville; the allegations of Donald Trump’s connections to Russia and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak; questions about the Trump Administration’s immigration and deportation policies; North Korea launches more test rockets as concerns over its nuclear missile program deepen; the opening of the latest X-Men film “Logan”; the initial public offering for SNAP, the company that developed Snapchat; and NBA and NHL action were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio over the weekend, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
Cooke: Are We Really THAT Angry? Media consultant Holland Cooke writes today about the media tempest that is the Trump Administration. He says that he sends memos to the talent he coaches saying, “Donald Trump is the best thing that ever happened to talk radio. There are spontaneous statements at Executive Order photo ops, Alternative Facts, SNL, botched calls with friendly foreign leaders, Ivanka Inc., the Russia flap. Twitter! Wiretapping? Expect a-story-a-day, and assume NO topic burnout at this time. As ‘the Trump channel,’ we can enjoy tune-in from giddy supporters AND appalled or scoffing resisters.” Read more about Cooke’s take on the impact of the new administration here.
PPM Analysis: Classic Rock. Today, managing editor Mike Kinosian takes look at the performances of classic rock-formatted stations based on data (6+) from Nielsen Audio’s January 2017 PPM survey. Two classic rock outlets – iHeartMedia’s WRFX, Charlotte and Cumulus Media’s KCFX, Kansas City – ranked #1 in their respective markets in the January PPM survey, but classic rock ranks well with 14 other signals landing in the top five in their markets. For a complete analysis comparing performances from Holiday to January, from January 2016 to January 2017, and much more, click here.
iHeartRadio Music Awards Televised from the Forum in Los Angeles Last Night. The 2017 iHeartRadio Music Awards were televised via TBS, TNT and truTV last night (3/5). Ryan Seacrest hosted the “fan-fueled” music awards show that saw Drake win seven awards, including Hip Hop Artist of the Year, R&B Song of the Year, Hip Hop Album of the Year, Hip Hop Song of the Year, Best Collaboration, Most Thumbed Up Artist of the Year and Most Thumbed Up Song of the Year. The Chainsmokers followed Drake’s lead in wins with five awards including Best New Artist, Best New Pop Artist, Dance Album of the Year, Dance Artist of the Year and Dance Song of the Year. Pictured above backstage at the awards are (from l-r): actor Ansel Elgort, model Karrueche Tran, Drew Taggart of The Chainsmokers, singer Halsey, and Alex Pall of The Chainsmokers.
Music Radio News and Career Moves. Oxnard, California-based Lazer Broadcasting announces that Joshua Mednick is named the company’s chief operating officer. Lazer president and CEO Alfredo Plascencia states, “With Joshua’s immeasurable expertise with 30 years in radio broadcasting and an extensive knowledge of the Hispanic market for 16 years, we are confident that he is the right fit to lead our operations. We are very excited to have Joshua at Lazer Broadcasting and looking forward to his innovative ideas.” Prior to joining Lazer Broadcasting, Mednick served as EVP for Casa Media Partners and has held senior leadership positions for radio broadcasting companies across the United States…..In the Appleton/Oshkosh, Wisconsin market, Cumulus Media names Chuck Lakefield the host of the morning show on classic hits WVBO. Lakefield moves from middays to mornings after current WVBO morning ghost Dan “Skip” Willis announced his impending retirement from the business after a 45-year career. Lakefield takes over on March 20…..Press Communications’ WWZY, Long Branch, New Jersey re-brands as “107.1 the Boss” with a gold-based mélange of “classic rock of the ‘70s, ’80s and more,” named with a tip of the hat to native son Bruce Springsteen.
The Band Perry Launches Pop Career in Atlanta. Grammy-winning country trio The Band Perry is pictured here with Cumulus Media’s SVP of content & programming Mike McVay at Terminal West in Atlanta where it kicked off its series of nine pop-up shows to officially launch the band’s pop career. The group recently released “Stay in the Dark,” the first single off of its forthcoming pop album, My Bad Imagination, to be released later this year. Pictured above are (from l-r): Sharon Kilgo, Cumulus Media VP/Music & Label Relations John Kilgo, Reid Perry, McVay, Kimberly Perry and Neil Perry.
WSCR, Chicago Unveils New Lineup; Windy City Native Parkins Comes Back from KCSP, Kansas City. The recent retirement of original “Score” personality Terry Boers led industry watchers to expect at least an addition to the staff and that’s what program director Mitch Rosen is announcing. Chicago native and recent six-year KCSP, Kansas City sports talk host Danny Parkins is heading home to partner with Matt Spiegel to co-host the 9:00 am to 1:00 pm “Spiegel and Parkins” show. Current midday personality Jason Goff moves to the afternoon drive slot (1:00 pm to 6:00 pm) to partner with Dan Bernstein for the “Bernstein and Goff” show. The changes take effect next Tuesday (1/17). Rosen states, “The retirement of beloved ‘Score original’ Terry Boers after 25 years, coupled with the exciting achievements of the station over the last year, led us straight to Jason as the perfect match with Dan in afternoons. As a hometown native, Danny brings passion to middays, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to hear what he and Matt create together for our loyal listeners.” Goff first started with “The Score” in 2000 as a producer. He’s worked on air at CBS RADIO’s WZGC, Atlanta, as well as SiriusXM.
Suit Against Glenn Beck and Others By ‘Clock Boy’ Family Dismissed. The family of Ahmed Mohamed sued Glenn Beck, his company The Blaze, Center for Security Policy’s Jim Hanson, talk host Ben Shapiro and others for defamation in the aftermath of the then-13-year-old’s 2015 arrest. The boy had made a homemade electronic device in a small briefcase using parts from a clock and batteries that he brought to school to show his teacher. The teacher mistook it for a bomb and called authorities. He was initially charged with making a hoax bomb but charges were soon dropped. But the media attention to the case made it a viral story. Beck and other defendants opined and speculated about the case, including whether the incident was planned by Mohamed’s father in order to draw sympathy. Some defendants questioned that he’d built a clock at all and suggested what he made was something that looked like a small suitcase bomb. Regardless, under a Texas anti-SLAPP suit measure, a Texas judge dismissed the complaints against all except Shapiro, whose motion-to-dismiss hearing will take place on January 30. NBC News is reporting that the family intends to appeal the dismissals.
2017 New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards Open for Entries; TALKERS Publisher Michael Harrison Named to Advisory Committee. The 2017 New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards is now open for entries. The awards program – now in its 35th year – honors “the World’s Best Radio Programs,” receiving entries from radio stations, networks, and independent producers from more than 30 countries around the world. NYF Radio Program Awards executive director Rose Anderson says, “From hard-hitting investigative journalism to breath-taking theater of the mind, radio today engages listeners as never before across a growing spectrum of genres and platforms. Storytelling, the power of the individual voice, and the immediacy of the medium – all testify to the universal language of radio. And so, every year we augment our categories not only to be in sync with the industry but in order to stay ahead of the curve as visionaries around the world raise the bar of what is possible.” Additional categories added this year to address the breadth of radio programming emerging in today’s marketplace include: Best Live News Special and Heroes Documentary. NYF also added two new podcast categories for Music and Personal Lives. This year New York Festivals Radio Awards adds two new members to the Advisory Board: TALKERS magazine editor and publisher Michael Harrison and SiriusXM VP/talk production & operations Todd Stack. NYF calls Harrison “one of America’s leading authorities on radio, communications, and public opinion as it is expressed in the media.” The Advisory Board is comprised of prominent international executives recognized as thought-leaders in the radio broadcasting industry. These individuals function as a sounding board for the competition’s executive director, offering suggestions for category updates and sharing ideas, trends, and other concerns that impact radio broadcasting. Their guidance insures that the competition is relevant and in step with the ever-changing radio industry. For information about submitting entries, click here.
Trump Press Conference, Russian Hacking Allegations/McCain Releases ‘Trump Dossier,’ Trump Business Separation Plan, Trump Cabinet Nominations Hearings, Obama Farewell Address, ObamaCare Repeal Efforts, and NFL Playoffs Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (1/11). President-Elect Donald Trump’s first press conference since winning the White House; the allegations Russia was behind the hacking of the DNC emails and John McCain’s delivering the “Trump dossier” purportedly documenting bizarre sexual behavior by Trump while staying in Moscow to BuzzFeed; Donald Trump’s plan to put his business into a trust run by his sons in order to avoid conflicts of interest; the hearings of Trump cabinet nominees Rex Tillerson and Jeff Sessions; President Barack Obama’s Tuesday evening “Farewell Address”; the efforts by the GOP to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act; and the NFL playoffs were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
Michael Medved’s New Book Cracks NYT Bestseller Top 10 in Religion Category. Nationally syndicated talk show host Michael Medved’s latest book, The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic (Crown Forum 2016), has cracked the top 10 in The New York Times Bestseller list in the religion, spirituality and faith category. The Salem Radio Network talk host’s book looks at important moments in the history of the United States and suggests that “at moments of crisis, when the odds against success seem overwhelming and disaster looks imminent, fate intervenes to provide deliverance and progress.” He writes that many notable leaders over the years have believed that the country’s good fortune came straight from the hand of God. Read more about the book here.
Talk Media Network Names Willis Damalt to Senior Affiliate Relations Post. Affiliate relations pro Willis Damalt joins talk radio programming syndicator Talk Media Network as senior affiliate relations representative. During his career, Damalt has served with the WOR Network as senior director of affiliate relations, at USRN, and SFX. Talk Media Network CEO Josh Leng says, “We’ve been on the lookout for the right person to join our fun, but focused team, and having Willis Damalt aboard at Talk Media Network is a great way to start the New Year. In the past 30 days, we’ve added 30 new show clearances, with Willis already contributing to our growth and providing great affiliate service.” Damalt will serve stations primarily in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Upper-Midwest and Southwest and affiliate relations director Ken Silverstein covers the rest of the country.
Odds & Sods. 77 WABC, New York is expanding the weekend “Always in Fashion” show featuring host and fashion business leader Mark Weber. The show, dedicated to business and fashion, has been airing Saturday evenings from 10:00 pm to 11:00 pm for the past year. Beginning this Saturday (1/14), the program will now be broadcast Saturday evenings from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm and on Sunday afternoons from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm…..Southern California journalist and award-winning public radio news host Alex Cohen will become KPCC-FM, Pasadena’s voice of “Morning Edition.” The native Angeleno is well known to KPCC listeners as co-host of “Take Two,” the station’s morning news magazine for the past four years…..Scripps announces that on this week’s “Cal Cast” podcast with Kentucky basketball head coach John Calipari, UConn women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma will be the guest. Auriemma is on the verge of breaking his own record of consecutive wins with his UConn Lady Huskies. On January 10, Auriemma coached his team to its 90th consecutive win – tying the record his teams set in 2010. UConn faces Southern Methodist University on the road this Saturday (1/14), with a chance to notch a record-breaking 91st consecutive win…..Call for entry for the 26th annual Radio Mercury Awards is now open. Entries are being accepted for outstanding creative spots, campaigns and innovative radio work from advertising agencies, radio stations, production companies, colleges, universities, and advertisers. Chief judge Mark Gross, along with a soon-to-be-announced team of final round judges, will disburse over $87,000 in cash prizes including the $50,000 Best of Show prize. Winners will be announced at the 2017 Radio Mercury Awards event on June 1 in New York…..SiriusXM announces “The Big Bang Theory” star Jim Parsons is hosting a new, limited-run show on Andy Cohen’s SiriusXM channel, Radio Andy. It’s titled “Jim Parsons Is Too Stupid for Politics” and will feature Parsons “breaking down today’s often confusing political climate, while exploring how U.S. citizens can become better participants in our government system.”
Debbie Mazella Named Program Director at AC WMGQ, New Brunswick, New Jersey. Ten-year WMGQ staffer Debbie Mazella is promoted to program director for Beasley Media Group’s Central New Jersey adult contemporary outlet. Mazella has been assistant program director for the past nine years while serving as midday host at “Magic 98.3” – a duty she will continue in addition to her new PD responsibilities. Mazella states, “Ever since my childhood, I wanted to be involved in radio and I’m extremely grateful to the mentors who have influenced, encouraged and helped me on my career path. It’s even more exciting to know that I am the first female PD in Magic’s 40 year history!”
Dave & Mahoney Return to CBS RADIO’s KXTE, Las Vegas. Sin City alternative rock KXTE “X107.5” welcomes back morning personalities Dave & Mahoney, effective Monday, February 6. The duo was most recently hosting the morning daypart at the company’s KHMX, Houston “Mix 96-5.” They hosted the morning show on “X107.5” beginning in 2009, before leaving the market. KXTE program director Ross Mahoney says, “Dave & Mahoney live and breathe Las Vegas and are ingrained in the history and lifestyle of ‘X107.5.’ They know the music, the community and understand what the ‘X107.5’ brand means to the listeners. I couldn’t be more excited to have the boys come home and do what they do best – entertain Las Vegas!”
More Music Radio News and Career Moves. In San Diego, program director and afternoon personality Mike Halloran exits Local Media San Diego’s alternative XETRA “91X.” His bio has been scrubbed from the station website…..At Entercom’s hip hop KQKS, Denver, 17-year station personality Kendall B. exits the “KS1075” morning show…..John St. John is named operations manager for Midwest Communications’ Duluth, Minnesota station group that includes: country KTCO, classic country KDKE “102.5 Duke FM,” classic rock KQDS, adult contemporary KDAL-FM, news/talk KDAL-AM, news/talk WDSM-AM/W251CD and sports talk WDUL…..Beasley Media Group’s Detroit classic rocker WCSX is hosting the “Cold as Ice,” ice fishing tournament at Lake St. Clair Metropark on Saturday, January 28. Fishermen (and fisherwomen!) participating have the chance to win prizes for the top 10 catches. First place prize of $1,000 goes to the fisher who catches the heaviest perch! The fisher who catches the largest pike will win $500 cash and the one who catches the heaviest pan fish will win $250.
Memorial Set for Legendary KLOS, Los Angeles Personality Bob Coburn. A memorial service for Bob Coburn is set for Saturday, January 21 at Malibu Presbyterian Church in Malibu, California at 2:00 pm. The service will be followed by a reception at Ollo Restaurant in Malibu. If attending, you are asked to RSVP either via Rockline@gmail.com or by texting or calling 818-636-6160. Coburn died in December at age 68 after a battle with lung cancer. His weekly, syndicated “Rockline” show aired from 1981 through 2014.
Will Art Bell’s Suit Against Michael Savage Be Successful? On Friday (12/2), TALKERS magazine reported that talk show host Art Bell and his wife are suing fellow talker Michael Savage in U.S. District Court in Northern California for defamation after Savage said the following on his Westwood One nationally syndicated program: “I generally avoid gun questions. I know this from the first day in radio. I learned you never do certain topics where you can destroy your show. Third rail… You say UFOs, you wind up in the Philippines with a 10-year-old hooker and you are off the radio after a number of years. You can’t do UFOs. That’s an in joke, by the way, for people who understand the business. There are other topics you can’t do…” For his take on Bell’s chance of success, we turned to TALKERS legal editor Steven J.J. Weisman. He says, “It is hard for public figures to win defamation lawsuits because they have to prove actual malice or a reckless disregard for the truth. More telling in this case, however, may be for Bell to prove that he was harmed. Rodney Dangerfield once won a defamation case against a tabloid that said he snorted cocaine with hookers in a hot tub. He won the case, but only was awarded a dollar because the judge said his reputation wasn’t harmed.”
Former Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver Joins WGAC Talk Host Lineup. Nine-year Augusta, Georgia Mayor Deke Copenhaver exited the mayor’s office in 2014. Now, he’ll join the on-air staff at Beasley Media Group’s news/talk WGAC, Augusta to host “There It Is” from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon daily. The station says that Copenhaver “will bring an exciting brand of talk radio through his relationships with local, regional and national government officials, as well as high-level executive decision makers throughout the Southeast and beyond. Beasley Augusta VP/market manager Mark Haddon comments, “We are delighted to have Deke join us on the air at WGAC. He brings a fresh approach to the current issues of the day that are important to our local community. We think Deke will have a little something for everyone, so it should be enlightening and entertaining…a great way to keep up with what’s going on in the Central Savannah River Area.”
Trans-Atlantic Conversation on the American Election and Brexit. TALKERS magazine publisher Michael Harrison engages in an in-depth discussion about the election of Donald Trump and the UK’s recent public vote approving Brexit with award-winning British talk show host Graham Mack. The two compare notes on both the American and English points-of-view regarding the surprising state of world affairs as we wrap up the politically and culturally mind-bending year of 2016 on both sides of the Atlantic. It takes place on the latest installment of the hit PodcastOne series “Up Close and Far Out with Michael Harrison.” Harrison states, “My dear friend Graham Mack really has his finger on the pulse of British public opinion and brings a refreshing objectivity and honesty to the discussion about the complex events taking place there following the Brexit referendum. He also offers a fascinating look at the election of Donald Trump from the English perspective.” Harrison adds, “This installment of the podcast also gives me the opportunity to express my own personal assessment of this past election and the impact it is having upon politics, journalism and the media in the US.” To listen to the podcast in its entirety, please click here or click on the “Up Close and Far Out” player box located in the right-hand column on every page of Talkers.com and RadioInfo.com.
Chiasson to Lead Cumulus Lafayette. At the Lafayette, Louisiana cluster of Cumulus Media, Scott Chiasson is named vice president/market manager. The company says Chiasson is a Lafayette native with 18 years’ experience in broadcast sales and operations management. He’s previously served with E.W. Scripps in Wichita, iHeartMedia in Colorado and Florida, Metro Networks in Orlando, Cox Media in Lafayette, and CBS RARIO in Tampa/St. Pete. Cumulus Media SVP Jeff Brown states, “Scott is a great radio guy and a Lafayette native. That combination is a terrific match for our powerful brands and our talented team.”
Beasley Media Group Names Jami Beasley Associate General Counsel. Attorney Jami Beasley joins the family business as associate general counsel for Beasley Media Group. Beasley has most recently been serving as partner in Kopelowitz Ostrow P.A.’s Ft. Lauderdale office, where she focused on commercial and complex litigation, as well as her previous experience in real estate litigation. She comments, “It’s an honor to serve Beasley Media Group as associate general counsel. This is an exceptional opportunity and I am eager to contribute to the corporate team.” General counsel Joyce Fitch adds, “We are absolutely delighted to welcome Jami to Beasley’s corporate headquarters. Jami’s experience will greatly enhance the legal department and I will rely on her talent and skills as we move forward in our dynamic, growing company.”
WMAL, Washington Raises $491,000 for Fisher House. The 13th Annual WMAL Fisher House Radiothon, benefiting Fisher House Foundation, raised a record-setting $491,064 from the station’s generous listeners in the Washington, DC area over the past weekend. The two-day event concluded with a live broadcast from The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. WMAL program director and Cumulus VP of news/talk Bill Hess states, “I remain in awe of WMAL listeners. They have generously donated some $5.4 million over the last 13 years in support of this wonderful organization and its mission.” Fisher House Foundation provides homes away from home for the families of injured servicemen and women while their partners are undergoing treatment and rehabilitation. Pictured above are (from l-r): WMAL morning co-host Larry O’Connor, mid-morning personality Chris Plante, and morning co-host Brian Wilson.
Steve Deace Book Gets Movie Deal. Talk show host and conservative media figure Steve Deace is getting a movie deal for his novel, A Nefarious Plot (2016 Post Hill Press). Believe Entertainment principals Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman – producers of the film “God’s Not Dead” – have purchased the film rights to Deace’s book and will begin developing the story for a film to be released in 2018. Konzelman states, “We’ve been looking for the right story to expand into the imaginative and compelling horror-thriller genre and we knew it was Deace’s book as soon as we read it. We’re into developing movies with spiritual themes, and A Nefarious Plot represents a way to explore those themes in a whole new way for the faith-and-values audience.” Deace, who writes about issues exclusively for Conservative Review, says of this project, “My goal with A Nefarious Plot was to literally scare the hell out of people. I’m very excited to see how Believe Entertainment will do exactly that.” A Nefarious Plot centers around a demonic force which has long sought to manipulate American history to the ruination of the world’s lone superpower.
Trump Names Carson HUD Secretary, Al Gore Visits Trump Tower, Trump Calls Taiwan President, Fake News/DC Pizzeria Incident, Iran Nuke Deal Status, Mistrial in Cop Shooting Death of SC Man, Deadly Oakland Warehouse Fire, Dakota Access Pipeline Case, College Football Playoffs, and NFL Action Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (12/5). The Trump Administration transition and the naming of Ben Carson as nominee for HUD Secretary; Vice President Al Gore’s controversial visit to Trump Tower in New York; President-Elect Donald Trump breaks protocol and speaks with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen; the ongoing controversy over “fake news” and the incident in which a North Carolina man fired a gun in a DC restaurant that he believed may have been operating a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton; Iran’s concern over the status of its nuclear deal with Trump soon to be president; a mistrial is declared in the case against former officer Michael Slager, who shot unarmed black motorist Walter Scott to death in South Carolina; the aftermath of the deadly warehouse fire that took the lives of 36 people; the Dakota Access pipeline controversy and the recent Army Corps of Engineers’ ruling requiring the pipeline be re-routed; the four-team college playoffs tournament; and the weekend’s NFL action were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
Northwest Missouri State to Host Radio Talent Institute. The Missouri Broadcasters Association is working with six radio companies to bring the Radio Talent Institute to Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville July 31 through August 9, 2017. The Institute is a 10-day radio immersion program bringing broadcasting students together with more than 30 broadcast professionals for on-air training in music radio, news and sports, as well as digital/social media, production, promotion, sales and more. Students will also become certified Radio Marketing Professionals by the Radio Advertising Bureau. Missouri will be one of six states in the country hosting an institute with the National Radio Talent System. Other locations are the Kellar Radio Talent Institute Appalachian State University in North Carolina, Confer Radio Talent Institute Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, KBA WKU Radio Talent Institute Western Kentucky University, GAB Radio Talent Institute University of Georgia, and Hubbard Radio Talent Institute Central Washington University. Missouri Broadcasters Association president Mark Gordon states, “We are pleased to bring in a program taught by industry professionals that will help fill job openings at broadcast stations with quality employees who have a true understanding of how fun and rewarding a career in our industry can be.” Broadcasting companies taking part include: Hubbard Radio, Eagle Communications, Emmis Communications, Zimmer Radio and Marketing Group, iHeartRadio, and Mid-West Family Broadcasting.”
Sunday Night at CBS RADIO Philadelphia. On Sunday evening, WPHT, Philadelphia talk host Walter Sterling spoke with guests about Satan and the history of rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are (from l-r): Sterling, former WYSP program director Tim Sabean, classic hits WOGL program director Anne Gress, and Get the Led Out author Denny Somach.
Art Bell and Wife Suing Michael Savage and WW1 for Defamation. In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, radio talk host Art Bell and his wife Airyn Ruiz Bell are suing Michael Savage, Westwood One and parent company Cumulus Media for defamation, defamation per se, false light invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The Bells are seeking damages “in the amount to be proven at trial.” The complaint stems from a September “Savage Nation” broadcast in which Savage said, “I generally avoid gun questions. I know this from the first day in radio. I learned you never do certain topics where you can destroy your show. Third rail… You say UFOs, you wind up in the Philippines with a 10-year-old hooker and you are off the radio after a number of years. You can’t do UFOs. That’s an in joke, by the way, for people who understand the business. There are other topics you can’t do…” The Bells argue that to anyone who knows the business, it was obvious Savage was referring to Art Bell and further, that the “10-year-old hooker” remark refers to his wife, Philippines national Airyn Ruiz Bell. The Bells say they petitioned Westwood One for a retraction but their request was not honored.
WEEI, Boston Names New Leadership Team. The Entercom sports talker announces its new programming management team. It is promoting assistant program director Joe Zarbano to PD, taking over for Kevin Graham, who announced his exit from the station back in June. This comes after a six-month search that resulted in the station promoting from its “in-house talent bench.” In addition to Zarbano’s promotion, senior producer Ben Kichen rises to executive producer. He’s been lead producer for both the Glenn Ordway and “Dale & Holley” programs. He also produces Kirk Minihane’s “Enough About Me” podcast and hosts “Soccercast” for WEEI.com. Carlson Mozdiez, currently director of integrated marketing strategies for Entercom Boston, assumes the director of operations role for the cluster with special emphasis on the company’s WEEI.com digital platform. Entercom New England VP/market manager Phil Zachary says the search was necessarily long and intensive. “With its massive broadcast reach and associated digital assets, the WEEI brand is arguably among the most influential and complex in all of broadcasting. Many of our outside candidates simply couldn’t get their arms around all of it. As each month passed, it became clear to me that we had the talent right here in Ben, Carlson and Joe. Plus they each have that inimitable DNA of the true Boston sports fan.”
Brandys Promoted to Baltimore SVP/Market Manager for CBS RADIO. From her most recent position as VP, director of sales, Tracy Brandys is elevated to senior vice president, market manager and director of sales for CBS RADIO’s Baltimore stations, including sports talk duo WJZ-FM “105.7 The Fan,” WJZ-AM “CBS Sports Radio 1300,” adult contemporary WLIF “Today’s 101.9,” CHR WWMX “Mix 106.5,” as well as the CBS RADIO Up Close Performance Studio that hosts local and national sports figures and musicians. She replaces former Baltimore market manager Bob Philips who was recently named chief revenue officer for CBS RADIO. Company COO Scott Herman says, “Tracy’s years of sales and management experience, coupled with her intimate knowledge of our Baltimore stations and the overall market, made her the natural choice to take on this important role. Throughout her tenure with CBS RADIO Tracy has proven to be a powerhouse salesperson who has led and grown our revenue and market share in Baltimore and has been a trusted leader to our valued employees. We are delighted to reward her accomplishments with this well-deserved promotion.”
The News Media Alliance and National Association of Broadcasters Seeking Review of FCC’s Cross Ownership Rules. The News Media Alliance is going straight to President-Elect Donald Trump with a white paper that lays out its case for abandoning the 1975 rule that makes cross-ownership of electronic and print media illegal and the National Association of Broadcasters is petitioning the FCC for reconsideration of the 2014 Quadrennial Regulatory Review’s conclusion to maintain the ban (as well as other policies). Regular TALKERS readers are aware of the argument that the current state of media looks nothing like it did in 1975 and current regulations should reflect the current business conditions. News Media Alliance president and CEO David Chavern states, “While news organizations are innovating and adapting to a vastly different media landscape, antiquated government regulations and imbalanced policies are unnecessarily hindering investment and growth at news media companies. We encourage the new administration to revisit these regulations and policies as it charts a new course for our nation’s economic growth.”
Al Peterson to Cease Publication of NTS MediaOnline in New Year. After 10 years serving the spoken-word radio business, radio pro Al Peterson is announcing he’ll stop publishing his NTS MediaOnline Today and NTS MediaOnline Monthly come January. In a press release, Peterson says, “After serving as the News/Talk/Sports editor for 10 years at the top industry newspaper Radio & Records, to then creating NTS MediaOnline and building it into a reliable hub for news, information and conversation about talk radio for the last decade, it just feels right to start a new chapter in my life – one where I’m not waking before sunrise to a blank page and a daily deadline.” Working with Peterson during the last 10 years (and before that with R&R) has been his sales and marketing partner Brooke Williams. The statement says Peterson plans to enjoy more time with his family and pursue other interests outside the industry.
Report: Pandora and SiriusXM Talking Acquisition. According to CNBC, digital music pure play Pandora is talking with SiriusXM about being acquired by the satellite radio company. The report indicates that the talks are very preliminary but that this shows a change of heart after Pandora dismissed an informal offer of $15 per share from SiriusXM parent Liberty Media back in July. Liberty CEO Greg Maffei is quoted saying, “We think that the free space, whether it be commercial, terrestrial radio or Pandora, is still a very attractive space. And we talked about how we’d like to find a way to participate. I think the streaming business, which Pandora seems to have doubled down on, is a very unattractive business. So there are parts of Pandora that could be attractive. And there’s parts that we’d have questions about.” Read the CNBC piece here.
Trump Cabinet Nominees Top News/Talk Story for Week of November 28 – December 2. The growing list of cabinet nominees for the Trump Administration was the most-talked-about story on news/talk radio this week, landing atop the Talkers TenTM. At #2 this week was the election recount tied with Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud. Coming in at #3 was the Trump-Carrier deal, followed by Trump’s flag burning comments at #4. The Talkers TenTM is a weekly chart of the top stories and people discussed on news/talk radio during the week and is the result of ongoing research from TALKERS magazine. It is published every Friday at Talkers.com. View this week’s entire chart here.
Odds & Sods. News/talk WHBY, Appleton, Wisconsin is broadcasting in FM as well now with the addition of translator W287AU at 103.5. Woodward Radio Group brand manager Justin Hull states, “We are thrilled to be taking WHBY to the FM side of the dial. The new frequency, along with our revamped website and app, gives listeners another way to experience WHBY in all aspects.”…..Midway Broadcasting Corporation, the parent company of WVON, Chicago is hosting its 26th Annual Seniors Breakfast tomorrow (12/3) at the House of Hope. Seniors will enjoy a hot breakfast and live entertainment from three-time Grammy nominee Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues and Christmas carols from musical artist Uneqka…..Both satellite radio broadcaster SiriusXM and digital platform TuneIn will be broadcasting live from the Baseball Winter Meetings starting this Sunday, December 4, through Thursday, December 8.
Six Days Left for Gracies Early Bird Deadline. The deadline for early bird entries for the 2017 Gracie Awards is Thursday, December 8. The annual awards, presented by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation, recognize “exemplary programming created by, for and about women in all facets of media and entertainment, as well as individual achievement.” All submissions must have been released, posted or aired between December 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016. Please note, this is a change from previous years’ timeline for eligibility. The final deadline for submissions is January 12, 2017 at 11:59 pm ET. See how to register submissions here.
The Yappy Tour Rolls Through WABC, New York. The recently published book, Yappy Days: Behind the Scenes with Newsers, Schmoozers, Boozers and Losers (AuthorHouse/Talkers Books), by veteran talk radio producer Bernadette Duncan (left), continues to burn up the airwaves. The coast-to-coast book tour rolled through New York City yesterday (12/1) as the author was interviewed by the legendary talk radio grand dame Joan Hamburg for her Saturday show (12/3) on the legendary WABC. Duncan tells TALKERS, “It was one of the highlights of my career being interviewed by the great Joan Hamburg. Not only is she one of my personal idols, but I can safely describe her as one of the best radio talkers of any era and a national treasure. Being on her show and the airwaves of WABC is deeply gratifying to me and hopefully to the thousands of radio enthusiasts who have been giving this book such wonderful support.” Yappy Days recounts Duncan’s 26-year career as a producer of radio talk shows working with such big-name talents as Larry King, Sally Jessy Raphael, Lou Dobbs, Tom Snyder, Gil Gross, Charles Osgood and many more during modern talk radio’s pre- and post-9/11 “golden era.” Plus, she tells stories about behind-the-scenes encounters with hundreds of guests from the worlds of show business, politics, media, business and literature. The interview is already posted as a podcast on the WABC website and can be heard by clicking here. Due to the strong response by hosts across the nation to the subject and Duncan’s lively air presence, the national “Yappy Tour” will continue to roll on through the first quarter of 2017. Duncan has already appeared on more than 40 local and syndicated programs. Hosts and shows interested in booking Bernadette Duncan can do so by calling Barbara Kurland at 413-565-5413.
By Steven J.J. Weisman
BOSTON — The wheels of justice don’t turn particularly fast. It has been two years since the Boston Marathon bombing and a year since Saudi Arabian student Abdulrahman Alharbi sued talk show host Glenn Beck for defamation. At the time of the bombing and for some time thereafter, Beck was convinced that there was a conspiracy that extended beyond the Tsarnaev brothers that included another person who Beck publicly identified as an al Qaeda “control agent” and the “money man” behind the bombings, although the lack of sophistication involved in the crime did not appear to require any significant funding to bring about this attack. Abdulrahman Alharbi , the man identified by Beck as the conspirator not only was present at the bombings, but actually was among those injured by the blasts.
WAEB, Allentown Talk Host Named in Defamation Suit. Allentown talk show host Bobby Gunther Walsh – heard in AM drive on iHeartMedia’s WAEB-AM — is named in a defamation and slander suit by the city’s District Attorney Jim Martin. The primary defendant in the case is blogger Bill Villa who has called Martin “crooked” and “corrupt” and alleges he “fixes” cases, according to a report in The Morning Call. Villa lost his 25-year-old daughter in a drunk driving accident and Villa claims Martin bargained a plea deal with the man accused of being responsible for his daughter’s death “in secret,” without ever notifying the family. Villa went on Walsh’s WAEB show to talk about his issues with Martin’s work as DA. Read the story here.
Corporate Promotions at Cherry Creek Radio. At the corporate level, Cherry Creek Radio announces eight promotions that affect its 55 O&O stations in 15 Western U.S. markets. Moving up from regional director of sales to EVP and regional manager are: Kelley Cheatwood, John Craft, and Ron Korb. Group PD Bob Guerra rises to EVP/director of programming. Rita Calvin adds EVP stripes to her controller position. Travis Cronen is now VP/director of operations & IT; Ken Eklund is upped to VP of engineering, and Mary Sims becomes VP/director of accounting. Cherry Creek Radio president and CEO Joe Schwartz comments, “With our new financial structure in place and with the many plans we have to grow the company, I feel it was important to recognize these eight individuals for the outstanding work they have done for the company over their tenure at Cherry Creek Radio. Each of these promotions are for employees who have been with the company for at least eight years or more.”
Celebrating Success. Nationally syndicated talk show host Dr. Joy Browne (standing) speaks at the recent Success Stories Breakfast Series at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey produced by Salem Communications New York and its stations news/talk WNYM “AM 970 The Answer” and Christian talk WMCA “The Mission.” The event featured numerous speakers telling their stories of success, that also included former NFL star, G-III president and entrepreneur Carl Banks; My Pillow inventor Mike Lindell; Bluerock Energy president and CEO Phil Van Horne; and Bergen Community College director of multicultural affairs Ron McKnight. The program was moderated by WNYM host Kevin McCullough and broadcast live on WNYM by morning show host Joe Piscopo.
Futuri Media Awarded Patents for Instant Alert and Listener Driven Radio. Calling it a “milestone for the company,” Futuri Media CEO Daniel Anstandig announces the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a patent to him and the company’s chief technical officer Brian Seeders for its “Instant Alert” and Listener Driven Radio (LDR) technology. In a press release, Futuri Media says the patent describes a broad range of methods related to Listener Driven™ programming, including Instant Alerts, where listeners can receive e-mail, SMS text, and tweets moments before their favorite songs play on the air. This is also one of several U.S. and foreign patents and pending patent applications held by the company that describes and protects its unique interactive mobile and social apps. Anstandig comments, “Futuri has invested a significant amount in R&D related to interactive broadcasting as well as social and mobile technology for local broadcasters. The issuance of this patent is a milestone for our company and our many innovative broadcast partners, who have used this and our other technologies to drive ratings and revenue since the company’s launch in 2009.” Futuri CIO Brian Parsons adds, “Protection of our team’s innovations is critical. Our goal is to shape the future of media with social and mobile technology that makes it possible for consumers to embrace and personalize their favorite media brands. Whether it’s an interactive playlist, alerts for your favorite songs, a feature-rich mobile app, or social monitoring, we’re striving to create easy-to-use platforms that deliver innovative and proprietary high value for our partners.”
Odds & Sods. Brooklyn talk host Frankie Russo is crowdfunding to continue to buy time (and hopefully, he says, even more time) on New York’s legendary 77WABC. Russo has been brokering the 1:00 am to 2:00 am Saturday slot for the past year and is now firing up an indiegogo campaign to raise $100,000 to expand his presence on the station…..Hall of Fame basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian passed on February 11 and his funeral was on February 16 at Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church. GCN-syndicated talk show host Dr. Daliah Wachs (pictured here with Tarkanian on the left) tells TALKERS, “It was a beautiful ceremony with laughter and tears honoring a legend. I went to UNLV 89-93 and witnessed one of the most exciting teams year-after-year win and eventually conquer the National Championship under Jerry’s legacy. Our city is going to great lengths to commemorate such an icon. I knew Jerry to be warm and cuddly and I credit his and the Runnin’ Rebel legacy with the start of the Las Vegas boom in the mid-90s. He helped put UNLV on the map from a once considered ‘casino town’ and made us locals proud to be Las Vegans. Thank you Jerry! You will be missed but never forgotten!”…..NBC Sports Group announces it will present live radio coverage of all three Triple Crown races for the first time on NBC Sports Radio. It will produce radio coverage of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes on numerous broadcast and digital platforms.
Scott Walker Presidential Prospects, Court Blocks Obama Immigration Order, Department of Homeland Security Funding Battle, Brian Williams Suspension, Battle Against ISIS, Fifty Shades of Grey Film, and Cindy Crawford Photo Flap Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (2/16). Analysis of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s chances of receiving the Republican nomination for president in 2016; a Texas court blocks the Obama amnesty order; the battle in Congress over the funding of the Department of Homeland Security; the aftermath of the Brian Williams suspension; the battle against ISIS and the militant movement’s bloody tactics; controversy over the film Fifty Shades of Grey; and the flap over an unretouched photo of 48-year-old Cindy Crawford were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.
Rush Limbaugh Seeks Retraction and Apology from DCCC for ‘False and Defamatory’ Statement. Attorneys for Premiere Networks-syndicated talk star Rush Limbaugh are seeking a retraction and apology from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for what is being termed a “false and defamatory” statement regarding Limbaugh’s on-air discussion about consent for sexual relations. Limbaugh attorney Patricia Glaser writes in a letter to the DCCC that the organization purposely took Limbaugh’s words in which he “condemns the notion that ‘no’ means ‘yes’” regarding sexual relations, and edited them to give the impression that the opposite was said. The DCCC then sent the message out via the internet. The question is, does Limbaugh’s attorney have a case? She cites legal precedent in her letter. TALKERS magazine legal editor Steven J.J. Weisman says it would appear that the comments of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are way off base. “The email went so far as to ask people to contact Limbaugh’s advertisers to voice their disapproval. However, the same First Amendment that protected Rush Limbaugh when he called Sandra Fluke a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’ may well protect the DCCC in their gross mischaracterization of Limbaugh’s remarks. Specifically, as a public figure, in order to be successful in a defamation action, Limbaugh would have to prove that the DCCC acted with malice – that is that they knew what they were saying was a lie or that they acted with a reckless disregard for its truth. Even more problematic for Limbaugh would be that he would have to prove that he was harmed by the comments. In order to be successful in his lawsuit he would have to show that he lost sponsors and/or listeners.” Limbaugh’s lawyer cites two cases that deal with the narrow issue of whether it is libelous if you use the exact words of someone out of context or edited. Weisman says that while the cases support Limbaugh’s position on the matter, he doesn’t think they are wholly determinative of the case. But he adds, “Ironically, merely by exercising his own First Amendment rights and making his threat of a lawsuit, Limbaugh may have already won the battle by presenting his case to the people without even entering a courtroom.” TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison comments, “Regardless of whether the DCCC apologizes or whatever the results of Rush’s subsequent lawsuit, Limbaugh is doing a service to our culture by bringing this general, nasty trend to the forefront of conversation by saying enough is enough – and that is the tendency by political types of all persuasions, left and right, these days to seek victory at the expense of truth.” Read the entire letter from Limbaugh’s attorney to the DCCC here.
Cumulus Media Reports Flat Q3. The third quarter of 2014 turned out to be flat on a pro forma basis for Cumulus Media. On an actual basis, net revenue was up $51.4 million – or 19.4% — but that was due primarily to the addition of the operations of Westwood One. Digging a little deeper, the company reports that “broadcast advertising revenue decreased by $12.5 million. Net broadcast advertising revenue was down due to ongoing weakness in several large local markets that began in the second quarter of 2014; however, we believe that weakness has now largely dissipated into the early portion of the current quarter. National spot advertising was generally flat as we continued to take share from small competitors. Network advertising continued to see disruption following the acquisition of Westwood One in December 2013. We believe that process of reorganizing our network sales verticals is also now completed. Digital advertising revenue increased by $6.7 million, primarily due to increased Rdio user generation activity and digital commerce generated by our Sweetjack platform. Political advertising revenue increased by $2.9 million due to additional activity associated with mid-term and gubernatorial elections and license fees and other revenue increased by $2.8 million.” For the first three quarters of 2014, Cumulus’ net revenue was up 1.8% on a pro forma basis.
KXNT-AM/FM, Las Vegas Brings Jim Villanucci Aboard for Afternoon Drive. After suddenly exiting Alpha Media’s KXL-FM, Portland where he was hosting middays, Jim Villanucci resurfaces at CBS RADIO’s KXNT-AM/FM, Las Vegas in the afternoon drive slot vacated by the departure of talk host Kevin Wall. Villanucci’s first day on the air was yesterday (11/10). Prior to his stint in Portland, he spent almost 14 years at Cumulus Media’s KKOB, Albuquerque enjoying high ratings in the afternoon drive slot, but exited that post in March of 2013. Villanucci says that although he misses the KXL staffers in Portland, he’s thrilled to be in Las Vegas working with CBS RADIO SVP/market manager Jerry McKenna and programmer Cat Thomas.
WRKO, Boston Helps Raise $115,000-plus for Fisher House. The personalities on Entercom’s WRKO, Boston spent Monday (11/10) broadcasting live from the Seaport Hotel as part of an effort to raise funds for the Fisher House in Boston. Pictured here are Barry Armstrong and Kim Carrigan hosting “The Financial Exchange.” Morning drive personality Jeff Kuhner also was on hand as the station brought in more than $115,000 for Fisher House. Kuhner says, “The WRKO listeners are the best in the country. Hands down. When we ask them to come through, they do. And they do it in a very big way.” The tally was at $98,000.00 just before 6:00pm, when Entercom CEO David Field donated the $2,000 it took to get over the six-figure mark. The Fisher House Boston is a home away from home where military families can stay while a loved one is receiving in-house treatment at one of the medical centers. The homes enable family members to be close to loved ones at the most stressful times.
Odds & Sods. The broadcast rights for Arkansas State play-by-play are re-upped for another five years by East Arkansas Broadcasters. The agreement allows EAB to continue to originate the broadcast of every Arkansas State game in football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball from the company’s flagship sports talker KFIN, Jonesboro…..SiriusXM signs PGA pro John Daly to host a six-part series on its PGA Tour channel. The show is called “Hit It Hard with John Daly” and will debut in December.
Eric Dickerson Joins Westwood One’s Jim Gray Aboard USS America. Pictured here is Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson speaking with troops aboard the USS America on Monday (11/10). As part of last night’s Westwood One Monday Night Football broadcast, pre-game and half-time host Jim Gray broadcast live from aboard the brand new naval ship USS America and he was joined by Dickerson during the programs. In honor of Veterans Day, both mingled with the sailors and fielded football questions for Monday Night Football weekly contributors Tom Brady and Larry Fitzgerald.
Lame Duck Congress, 2016 Presidential Prospects, President Obama in China/Russia-China Relationship, Fall of Berlin Wall Anniversary, U.S.-Iran Nukes Talks, Battle Against ISIS, Net Neutrality Issue, Early Cold and Snow, Veteran’s Day, and NFL Action Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (11/10). What the lame duck congress may try to accomplish before the GOP majority takes over in January; a look ahead at the prospects for president in 2016; President Obama’s visit to China and the cozier relationship between Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Xi Jinping’s China; the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall; the talks between the U.S. and Iran about the latter’s nuclear program; the fight against ISIS and reports the organization is considering a merger with al Qaeda; the net neutrality issue and President Obama’s weighing in on the matter; an early blast of cold and snow hit the Upper Midwest; the Veteran’s Day holiday and observances across the country; and the weekend’s NFL action were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.
Glenn Beck’s Lawyers File Motion to Dismiss in Boston Marathon Defamation Case. As reported by Reuters, lawyers for Glenn Beck and TheBlaze are asking a judge to dismiss the defamation charges being lodged against them by a Saudi Arabian national who alleged Beck continued to accuse him of being a party to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing even after authorities cleared him of suspicion. Twenty-one year old Abdulrahman Alharbi was present at the attack site but was questioned by authorities and cleared within days of the attack. Alharbi alleges Beck continued to accuse him of being the “money man” behind the attack. Beck’s attorneys argue that Alharbi continued to grant interviews after speaking with authorities, thereby making him a limited purpose public figure and, thus not afforded the same protection as a private citizen. Although Judge Patti Saris said she would consider the motion, she said, “I’d be surprised if I resolved this in a motion to dismiss.”
KGA, Spokane Brings Local PM Drive Show Back. Spokane sports talker KGA – a CBS Sports Radio affiliate – is bringing back “The Locker Room Show with Toby Howell” beginning September 2 in the 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm slot. The Mapleton-owned station notes Jim Miller a.k.a. MooseJaw will be part of the show on a part-time basis and the show’s original co-host, Whitworth assistant athletic director Bob Castle, will make weekly appearances. Other additions to the program include Jim Walden appearing for “College Football Fridays, Spokesman Review staffer Jim Meehan serving as co-host, and additional contributions from SWX and KHQ-TV “Q6” sports personalities Sam Adams, Michelle Dapper and John Collette.
Envision Names Brooks Director of Affiliate Relations. Thirty-one year media pro Valerie Brooks joins Envision Networks as director of affiliate relations. Brooks was most recently serving with WKYC-TV, Cleveland in the sales department. She comments, “I have been privileged to work for both locally owned and operated as well as publicly traded broadcast companies. I love the subliminal power of our medium, and I know that radio plus our digital brand extensions remain vibrant, alive and impactful.” Envision COO Laura Orkin adds, “We are thrilled to welcome Valerie to the Envision family as director of affiliate relations. Valerie brings a wealth of experience to our team and will superserve our 1,500-plus affiliated stations.”
E.B. Moss Joins AdLarge Media. Coming to AdLarge Media from her most recent position with Westwood One, advertising and marketing exec E.B. Moss will serve as vice president, marketing solutions. AdLarge says that Moss spearheaded a similar division for Citadel, then Cumulus Media Networks and ultimately Westwood One, where she launched a suite of new opportunities for clients, including devising native advertising, social media, and digital campaigns. AdLarge co-founder and CEO Gary Schonfeld comments, “E.B. is a consummate marketer. She has an innate perspective on clients’ goals, and is exceptional at inventing on-air, online, onsite, and social media promotions that boost a campaign to deliver a return on investment (ROI) for advertisers and their agencies.”
Commissioner Pai and Gordon Smith Headline Radio Luncheon. Featured at the Radio Luncheon at the 2014 Radio Show on Friday, September 12 will be FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who will take part in a conversation with NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith. The theme of the conversation will be communications policy and how it affects free, local radio broadcasting. The Radio Luncheon will also feature the presentation of the National Radio Award to Bud Walters, founder and president of the Cromwell Group. A statement from the NAB notes that Pai joined the FCC as commissioner in May 2012 and is focusing on creating a regulatory environment in which competition and innovation can flourish, for the benefit of American consumers. During his time at the FCC, Pai has made AM radio revitalization a priority at the Commission. Between 2007 and 2011, Pai held several positions in the FCC’s Office of General Counsel, including deputy general counsel. Prior to joining the FCC, he was a partner in the Communications Practice at Jenner & Block LLP and associate general counsel at Verizon Communications Inc.
Odds & Sods. Returning to Nashville to host his sports talk show on WNRS “Nashville’s Sportsradio” is Johnny “Ballpark” Franks. After working in both Huntsville and the Gulfport-Biloxi markets, Franks returns to host the 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm show on the Ted Johnson-owned station, reports The Tennessean…..ESPN Radio announces the schedule for its 15th season of college football play-by-play beginning with opening weekend, August 28-30. Over the season it will present 30 regular season games on Saturdays and Thursday nights, culminating with the Pac-12 and ACC Championships in December…..Westwood One is bringing Barclays Premier League soccer to American radio listeners this season. In partnership with London-based talkSPORT, WW1 will present 60 featured matches made available to radio stations and will present all 380 matches streamed live on westwoodonesports.com. The season begins Saturday, August 16 and concludes on Sunday, May 24, 2015.
Together Again. If only for a day, KDWN, Las Vegas morning drive host Alan Stock (left) poses for a shot with former partner Kerri Kasem (right). Stock and Kasem co-hosted the morning show at crosstown news/talk KXNT seven years ago. Kasem was in town attending the Nevada Broadcasters Association convention at which her late father Casey Kasem was honored. She sat in with Stock on the KDWN morning show on August 8.
U.S. Iraq Strikes/IS Campaign, Missouri Teen Death/Riot and Looting, Robin Williams Death, Ebola Threat, Russian Aggression in Ukraine, and Immigration Policy/Border Crisis Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (8/11). The Obama Administration’s policy to renew airstrikes in Northern Iraq and the IS campaign in the country; the shooting death of a black Missouri teen by police and the ongoing riots and looting taking place in its aftermath; the apparent suicide of actor and comic Robin Williams; the concern over the African Ebola outbreak and concerns about a pandemic; Russia’s move to arm rebels in the Ukraine; and the continuing battle over the U.S. immigration policy and the border crisis in the Southwest were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.
Ron Paul Joins Norm Pattiz’s Courtside Entertainment for Daily Feature. Longtime Texas congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul will begin a deal to produce two daily one-minute features with the help of libertarian talk radio pro Charles Goyette as sidekick. (Pictured here are – from left to right – Paul, Pattiz and Goyette.) The program will be available as a podcast and will be distributed to radio stations nationally via Norm Pattiz’s Courtside Entertainment Group and Launchpad Digital Media beginning March 18. Pattiz states, “There’s no questioning the fact that Ron Paul is one of today’s most impactful leaders. His thoughts and opinions have created a significant and loyal following that has made its presence known throughout the country. That following includes college campuses, corporate offices and everything in between. His new radio show for Courtside and his digital presence via podcasting create a platform that will be hugely successful.” Paul says, “I am very excited to have this opportunity to take the message of freedom to more people than ever, especially now when our country needs it so much. Radio and podcasting are a much more powerful means of communication than speaking on the floor of Congress. I welcome this chance to work with Norm and Courtside and interact with America in a new way, delivering a message that is timelier than ever and a philosophy that people are clearly hungry to hear more about.”
Schnitt Versus Bubba: Take Two? According to the Tampa Bay Times, Todd Schnitt has filed a motion for a new trial in his complaint against Bubba the Love Sponge (Todd Clem) based on the fact that Bubba’s lawyers had his attorney’s briefcase for 18 hours and that Bubba’s lawyers should have been disqualified from representing Bubba. This all stems from the bizarre situation that happened toward the end of the three-week trial when a paralegal named Melissa Personius — who worked for Bubba’s attorneys (from the firm Adams & Diaco) but did not identify herself as such — had drinks with Schnitt lawyer C. Phillip Campbell, Jr. at a local steak house. Campbell left the restaurant with Personius in her car and was pulled over for DUI five blocks later. At the time, circumstances indicated the possibility Campbell was set up by Personius – something Schnitt’s team believes was the case. Personius and Adams & Diaco attorneys all pleaded the Fifth when questioned by the judge at the time. New statements from the restaurant’s valet could help Schnitt’s case in that regard. But the Times reports Bubba’s legal team is also collecting evidence and preparing for additional legal action. On January 30, the jury found Bubba not guilty of defaming Schnitt and his wife.
Houston Talk Host Michael Berry Helps WWII Veteran and Vandalism Victim. After 93-year old decorated World War II veteran Elbert Wood’s home was vandalized in mid-January by two local teenagers, KTRH, Houston talk host Michael Berry got the word out about the case via his radio show. Very soon, more than $45,000 in cash donations had been pledged and local contractors promised to help Mr. Wood restore his home. The work was completed and Wood is living in the home. The case has been a big local story in Houston for the past month.
Radio Should Follow TV’s Lead. Noted radio consultant and TALKERS columnist, Holland Cooke cites Netflix‘s new original movie “House of Cards” starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as an example of how radio should approach the presentation of its varied menu of products in the new digital age. Cooke points out that just like this variety of media and appliances that we now lump together under the umbrella of “TV,” radio must also become extremely mindful of its emerging multiple configurations and program/distribute content accordingly, saying we’re not just AM and FM anymore. Never before has it been more imperative for radio to differentiate between its live and on demand products – as well as its imported and original content. Read Holland Cooke’s article here.
CBS Radio’s WWJ, Detroit Names Tom Jordan AM Drive Co-Anchor. The CBS Radio all-news outlet will add Tom Jordan to the morning drive program alongside current news anchor Roberta Jasina. Jordan, currently a San Diego morning TV anchor with KUSI-TV, San Diego is a three-time Emmy Award-winning anchor and reporter. Mlive.com reports he co-anchored two Emmy award-winning newscasts for coverage of the September 11th terrorist attacks and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan. He was also awarded an Emmy for coverage of the 2007 Southern California wildfires. Jordan is expected to join the WWJ team on March 4.
Dr. Gina Loudon Launching National Show. Although she has yet to become a talk media “household name,” multi-media talker Dr. Gina Loudon is becoming increasingly well-known within the industry for her numerous star qualities and unique profile among the upcoming crop of conservative politically-oriented hosts. Loudon’s new radio talk show, the “Dr. Gina Show,” scheduled for launch February 25 will originate in San Diego and air two-hours live daily between 10:00 am and 12:00 noon PT. Produced and distributed in conjunction with Chesapeake Portsmouth Broadcasting and Liberty Alliance, the Dr. Gina Show will be initially carried by Virginia outlets WHTK, Portsmouth; WLVA, Lynchburg; and WLES, Bon Air. Dr. Gina was a regionally syndicated PM drive host in Birmingham, AL with Crawford Broadcasting until May of last year, when she gave up her show to move with her family to the West Coast. Since then, she has been a sought-after guest host on KRLA and KABC, Los Angeles; KOGO, San Diego and others, while appearing on Fox News Channel, Fox Business, and other TV talk shows for signature blend political and psychological commentary. She is also the anchor for the popular online program PolitiChicks.TV. Loudon has a background in Psychology (two MA degrees and a PhD) that she integrates as a major part of her on-air presentation. She has accrued practical insider know-how in politics, as the wife of a senior Missouri State Senator for two terms and dips into her insight to real life issues as the home schooling mother of five, including one adopted son who has Down Syndrome. Stations interested in the new Dr. Gina Show can contact it executive producer, Jason Browning at email@example.com or 217-653-2238.
WBEZ, Chicago and PRI Prepare to Air Chicago School Violence Programs. The WBEZ, Chicago-produced and Public Radio International-distributed “This American Life” program tackles the school gun violence problem in Chicago – specifically at Harper High School – on shows to air this weekend and next. But the program did more than just do research about the problem, it went into the school and experienced it. WBEZ states that Harper’s administration gave three reporters unusual access for a full semester, five months. When violence struck, the reporters recorded the staff as they jumped into action. They recorded private, difficult meetings with families and students. The result is a portrait of school administrators who know their students well, and take energetic measures to keep these teenagers alive. Program host Ira Glass says, “For everything we’ve all heard about children and gun violence, there are basic things we don’t hear so much about. Like what it’s like to live in neighborhoods that have to cope with so much bloodshed. This is a school that knows this problem in a way that most of us around the country don’t.” Last school year, 29 current and recent Harper students were shot. Twenty-one were wounded; eight died. The special episodes begin airing the same day President Obama travels to Chicago to talk about urban gun violence. The number of murders in Chicago climbed last year, while in many big cities like New York and Los Angeles, the number has been steady or declining. Last weekend, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was buried. Her death made national news after being shot in a Chicago city park a week after performing at an inaugural event in Washington.
Clear Channel Rochester to Begin Two-Day Radiothon to Benefit Children’s Hospital. Two of Clear Channel’s Rochester radio stations – news/talk WHAM and triple A WDVI “The Drive” – will broadcast a two-day radiothon to benefit Golisano Children’s Hospital. The annual “Drive for Miracles Radiothon” hits the air tomorrow and Friday and will feature appearances by local personalities including: Chet Walker, Bob Lonsberry, Joe Lomonaco, and Bob Matthews from WHAM and JP Hastings, “The Mayor” Pete Kennedy, and Julie from “100.5 The Drive.” Over the past decade, the annual “Drive For Miracles,” conducted with the support of the Children’s Miracle Network, has raised over $1 million for the hospital.
Dixon OmniMedia Launches Radio reMIND. Dixon OmniMedia founder Derrick Jonzun calls it “a new listener loyalty tool for ‘front loading listeners.’” The concept is pretty simple: it’s a service that calls each of your opt-in listeners and plays a personalized message, reminding them your program is about to air. Dixon OmniMedia states that stations can now connect with listeners on a personal level with show reminders in their talent’s own voices. It calls it appointment listening on an organic level, plus a great way to increase listener engagement. Jonzun says, “As host of a weekly syndicated show, I’ve always looked for ways to connect to my audience beyond the normal social sites. In an industry that centers around the human voice, there is no tweet, email nor text that can match a personal call from an air-talent. Radio reMIND is a must have for internet stations and specialty shows.”
Diane Rehm Named Arab American of the Year. The WAMU, Washington-based public radio host and journalist is named ‘Arab American of the Year for 2013’ by ACCESS, the Detroit-based Arab American human services nonprofit organization. Diane Rehm will be honored at the prestigious 42nd Annual ACCESS Anniversary Dinner on Saturday, April 27, at the Marriott Detroit Renaissance Center. Rehm has hosted her eponymous program from the WAMU studios for the past 30 years. It is distributed nationally by NPR.
Obama State of the Union Address, Christopher Dorner Case, North Korea Nuke Threats, and ObamaCare Costs Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (2/12). The president’s state of the union address; the case of alleged killer and former cop Christopher Dorner; the threats of nuclear attacks by North Korea; and the costs of the Affordable Care Act were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.
Blogging to Grow Your Tribe. Radio personalities and station programmers have great opportunities to use social media and blogging to build more interactivity and loyalty with fans and P1s, writes radio consultant Holland Cooke. In today’s piece, Cooke passes on some very salient points from the recent New Media Expo. He notes that the old paradigm of radio sales is passé and radio personalities are positioned to take advantage of the new paradigm. “The E-word en vogue is engagement, and money is flowing to digital opportunities that talk-with customers, rather than simply talk-at-‘em.” Cooke states that blogging has concrete benefits for anyone in the personality business. “If you’re an on-air host, blogging can deepen your connection with listeners, especially if you’re working music radio, and keep hearing ‘keep it moving.’ Blogging can also become the digital ‘inventory’ that agencies now expect to see included with on-air spots…or for you to monetize yourself.” Read Holland Cooke’s entire piece here.
Chris Duncan Returns to WXOS, St. Louis After Near Four-Month Absence. Former St. Louis Cardinals star and current member of “The Fast Lane” PM drive program on Hubbard Radio’s WXOS, St. Louis “101 ESPN,” Chris Duncan returned to his full-time position after almost four months. Duncan has been dealing with intensive surgeries, treatments and physical/occupational therapy for a brain tumor, which was diagnosed in 2012. He has been absent from his full-time co-host seat since October 8, 2012 but recently has been appearing on “The Fast Lane” for brief interviews during his treatment. He expresses his gratitude for all of the listener and fan support during his ordeal. “I’m really excited and grateful to be back on ‘The Fast Lane’ with Randy [Karraker] and D’Marco [Farr]. I’m blessed to work at a great place like ‘101 ESPN’ with such outstanding people, and the timing couldn’t have been better with spring training a couple of weeks away.” Program director Kent Sterling states, “Having Chris back makes the station whole again. He’s such a positive person on ‘101 ESPN’ and in the halls that he was missed on many levels. To have him back every day makes everyone smile around here, and hopefully the same is true for listeners of ‘The Fast Lane’.”
Dave Ramsey Takes Over Evenings in Memphis. Nationally syndicated financial talk superstar Dave Ramsey will be the evening talk talent at Clear Channel’s WREC, Memphis on April 19 when “The Daily Wrap” from The Wall Street Journal Radio Network ends. WREC program director Forrest Goodman states, “Dave has a powerful track record on radio. I am excited to add him to the station, where we feature the strongest names in talk, like Rush, Hannity and Beck.”
Welcome Back to Mike Gallagher After Recent Hospitalization. Nationally syndicated talk show host Mike Gallagher returns to the air today after being hospitalized in Greenville, South Carolina for double pneumonia early last week. The Salem Radio Network host tells TALKERS, “It was like Christmas in January for Piers Morgan, Bill Maher and Alan Colmes — Mike Gallagher with no voice. But I’m tanned, rested and ready to fight the good fight again starting Wednesday.”
Mapleton Shifts KYNS, San Luis Obispo from Progressive Talk to All-News. Mapleton’s KYNS, San Luis Obispo has been a progressive talk outlet since the days of Air America but now the signal is airing an all-news format under the brand “SLO Radio News 1340.” The station is using the long-form news blocks from America’s Radio News Network.
Odds & Sods. Talk personality Joe Madison will be the host for SiriusXM’s “Roots Town Hall” featuring original cast members from “Roots,” the groundbreaking television mini-series. Madison will interview LeVar Burton, Leslie Uggams, and Louis Gossett, Jr. before a select group of listeners at the SiriusXM studios in New York City. The program will commemorate the start of Black History Month and air live Tuesday, February 5 at 2:00 pm ET…..Buckley Radio names Mary Lou Gunn general manager of its Bakersfield cluster that includes hot AC KLLY, news/talk KSMJ, news/talk KNZR, and rhythmic oldies KKBB…..Clear Channel’s WTAM, Cleveland renews its agreement with Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians to be the flagship station through the 2017 season. As part of the deal, CC will air 144 of the games on FM rock station WMMS…..ESPN Audio prepares to debut a new podcast on February 4 featuring Michael Smith and Jemele Hill called, “His & Hers with Michael Smith and Jemele Hill.” Smith is host of “Numbers Never* Lie,” and Hill is an ESPN.com columnist and frequent contributor on various ESPN shows.
Immigration Reform, Kerry Confirmed/Hillary in 2016?, New Pro Athlete Doping Probe, North Korea Nuke Threat, and Gun Control Debate Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (1/29). The debate over immigration reform legislation; John Kerry’s succeeding Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Clinton’s possible run for president in 2016; the latest pro athlete doping probe; North Korea’s nuclear threat; and the controversy over gun control proposals were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio according to ongoing research from TALKERS.
Schnitt vs Bubba Trial Delayed for One Day After Schnitt’s Attorney Arrested for DUI. It’s a rather bizarre twist in what is a high-profile case in Tampa. The judge in the case granted a one-day delay in the trial after Charles Philip Campbell, Jr. was taken into custody Wednesday evening on suspicion of DUI. He refused to take a blood alcohol test and was released on $500 bond. The trial will resume today as nationally syndicated talk host Todd Schnitt is suing Bubba the Love Sponge (Todd Clem) for defamation. Schnitt spent most of two days on the witness stand Tuesday and Wednesday. Clem’s attorney tried to score a few public sympathy points telling Fox 13 Tampa, “I’m shocked that the case was continued. I feel horrible for this jury that has been sequestered and pulled from their jobs, their lives and their families.” He told the TV station he didn’t understand why Schnitt’s other attorneys couldn’t handle the case.
KFI, Los Angeles Adds J.R. Martinez for Sunday Evening Program. The “Dancing with the Stars” champ, best-selling author and retired U.S. Army soldier begins his permanent role as host of the 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm Sunday program on Clear Channel’s KFI, Los Angeles this Sunday. J.R. Martinez was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and, shortly after arriving, his Humvee hit a roadside bomb that trapped him inside the burning vehicle. He suffered severe burns over 34% of his body and spent 34 months at Brooke Army Medical Center recovering. In October of 2012 he published Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength and Spirit (Hyperion 2012) that became a New York Times best-seller. KFI program director Robin Bertolucci says, “He’s so inspirational and dynamic. He filled in for Bill Carroll during the holidays and I just had to have him join our line up! I’m thrilled he jumped at the opportunity and I’m excited to see what he will do with his own show.” Martinez replaces the David Cruz program. Cruz is concentrating on his four-hour daily program on sister progressive talk station KTLK.
WCNN, Atlanta Goes Local in Late Mornings. Dickey Broadcasting’s sports talker WCNN, Atlanta “Sports Radio 680 The Fan” is adding the new local show “The Front Row” for the 9:00 am to 12:00 noon daypart. The show stars Ray Mariner, Sandra Golden and Brian Finneran (pictured here from left to right). Golden and Finneran are also part of the “Rude Awakening” AM drive show (which will be trimmed by an hour to a 9:00 am stop beginning Monday). Mariner was co-host of the morning show on Lincoln Financial Media’s crosstown CHR WSTR “Star 94” until he exited that post back in May of 2012. The show replaces Fox Sports Radio/DirecTV’s Dan Patrick program.
Are You Ready for Some Baseball? Okay, so much of the country is in Super Bowl mode right now, but radio consultant Holland Cooke reports to TALKERS that with so many news/talk stations (as well as sports talk signals) carrying MLB play-by-play in their markets, now’s a good time to begin preparing to take advantage of those expensive rights. Cooke writes about ways to take ownership of the play-by-play beginning during spring training. Once the season starts, use brief promotional slots – like top-of-the-hour IDs – to promote the next game. Check out more on this in Holland Cooke’s Friday piece here.
Boomer Esiason Tackles TV and Radio on Super Bowl Sunday; Dial Global Handles Exclusive Radio Coverage. The NFL’s Super Bowl is usually the biggest TV event of the year but for the millions of Americans who can’t be near a TV, Dial Global’s exclusive radio play-by-play delivers the game. This year, Boomer Esiason and Kevin Harlan will be in the booth calling the game for Dial Global. But Boomer is also a CBS Sports employee (in addition to his AM drive work on WFAN, New York) and he’ll be on CBS TV as part of the pre-game show and the halftime broadcast. After he finishes the pre-game show from the field, he’ll move upstairs to the radio booth to call the game with Harlan. Talk about a busy day for Boomer! Dial Global’s coverage of the event also includes such experienced talent as James Lofton, Mark Malone, Jim Gray and Scott Graham. Joining Jim Gray for pre-game and halftime programming are NFL stars Tom Brady and Larry Fitzgerald. Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson will also be part of the extended pre-game program.
WFVA, Fredericksburg, Virginia Returns to News/Talk on Monday. After two years as an adult standards-formatted station, Centennial Broadcasting’s WFVA, Fredericksburg returns to airing a news/talk format using largely syndicated talent. The program schedule will include: Cumulus Media Networks’ Don Imus, Mike Huckabee, Mark Levin and Michael Savage as well as Premiere Networks’ Glenn Beck. Ten year WFVA veteran Ted Schubel will continue as the station’s news director and will also host a one-hour local program titled, “Town Talk With Ted,” airing weekdays at 8:00 am. The show will introduce listeners to local businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence the Fredericksburg region. Centennial Fredericksburg market manager Tom Hamilton says, “It has been nearly two full years since WFVA changed from a news/talk station to adult standards format. During that time, we have paid attention to what our listeners have said. Overwhelmingly, they told us they wanted news/talk back on WFVA. By providing many of the most-listened-to talk show hosts in the nation, along with community involvement, local news and public affairs programming, we will better serve our listeners, our local businesses and our community.”
KFNX, Phoenix Adds New Syndicated Programming. Genesis Communications Network’s Alex Jones is part of the new lineup at Francis Battaglia-owned KFNX, Phoenix where he airs in the overnight time slot. Also added to the station’s program schedule is Dial Global and Cox Media’s Herman Cain from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm; Dial Global’s Dennis Miller from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon; and Cumulus Media Networks’ Michael Savage who returns to the station to air in the 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm slot.
Obama Second Term Agenda Top News/Talk Story During Week of January 21-25. The second term agenda of President Obama as outlined in his Inauguration Day speech was the top story on news/talk radio this week, landing atop the Talkers TenTM. Following at #2 this week was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi testimony. At #3 was the battle in Washington over reducing the deficit and at #4 was the North Korea nuclear threat. The Talkers TenTM is a weekly chart of the top stories and people discussed on news/talk radio across America and is based on ongoing research from TALKERS. View this week’s entire chart here.
By Steven J. J. Weisman
BOSTON — The success of any talk show is based on lively, entertaining and sometimes offensive speech. This is guaranteed by the First Amendment. In the landmark 1964 United States Supreme Court case of New York Times v. Sullivan, Justice William Brennan wrote for the majority that we have a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks…”
The protection provided by the First Amendment is not unlimited however. When the speaker states mistruths with malice, that is he or she knows that what he is saying is a lie or makes statements with a reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the statements, the speaker can be held responsible for libel or slander.
There is another source of protection, however, for those of us who make our living making sometimes controversial statements and that is “opinion.” Not all opinion is protected, but when it is made about a matter of public concern, the speaker is protected by the First Amendment and that was the recent ruling of the Appellate Division, Fourth Department of New York when it ruled in the case of Gisel v. Clear Channel Communications, Inc..
The plaintiff, John Gisel had been found not guilty of criminally negligent homicide in regard to his fatally shooting a man in a hunting accident. The day after his acquittal, Gisel’s sister, Jacqueline Inzinga, went on Bob Lonsberry’s talk show on WHAM, Rochester to discuss the case. During their on-air discussion, Lonsberry asked Inzinga how it felt to have a brother who was a “cold-blooded murderer” and whether he “put a notch in the stock of his gun as he kills people?” Lonsberry also stated “that the hunting incident could not have been an accident…”
As a result of those statements, Gisel sued for defamation.
However, the court dismissed the case as a matter of law without even an evidentiary trial by concluding that Lonsberry’s comments qualified as pure opinion. The court stated that reasonable listeners would not conclude that Lonsberry was making statements of fact, but rather of his opinion in regard to underlying facts that were well known to the general public through extensive media coverage of the incident and the judicial hearing. The court also emphasized Lonsberry’s talk show as a “forum for public debate on newsworthy topics, and his statements were made during an on-air debate with his listeners regarding plaintiff’s culpability and whether the jury had properly acquitted plaintiff.” The court noted that the “tone of Lonsberry’s statements were obviously intended to be caustic and confrontational rather than factual” and they found nothing wrong with that. The court concluded that his statements were constitutionally protected expressions of pure opinion and therefore protected by law.