Pioneering Talk Radio Host Gene Burns Dead at 72. Longtime talk radio host and broadcasting pioneer Gene Burns has died, succumbing to a long illness marked by a series of strokes. In the words of TALKERS magazine publisher Michael Harrison, “Gene was one of the greatest of the great and classiest of the classy – a true ‘wordsmith’ and gentleman who symbolized everything good about talk radio and served as one of the major engines that drove the ascent of its modern era.” Until recently forced by illness into retirement from on-air performing, Burns had spent a decade and a half as a key host on KGO, San Francisco where he did a general news/talk program as well as a very popular restaurant and entertainment show. The veteran of a number of great stations, he made his mark in the late-1980s and early-1990s as a member of the legendary lineup at WRKO, Boston that also included the late Jerry Williams. That was followed by a brief but high-profile stint at WOR, New York and national syndication on the WOR Radio Network. Harrison adds, “Gene Burns practiced a brand of libertarian-based, intellectual populism in his approach to political news/talk that set the standard for the format’s emergence as a voice for the average person to stand up to big government, big business, big media and big anything. Although ‘conservative’ in his orientation, he eschewed blatant partisanship, avoided banal cookie-cutter left-versus-right talking points and dealt with each issue in an academically probing and credible manner.” Burns’ ground breaking work in the early-1990s stood as the inspiration for TALKERS magazine’s annual Freedom of Speech Award and the tradition of the annual State of the First Amendment Address delivered at the publication’s conventions. He is ranked the 23rd most important radio talk show host of all time by TALKERS in its “Heaviest Hundred” feature which is updated twice a decade. Harrison concludes, “His rich, baritone voice coupled with the artistry of his word selection and ability to construct a logical argument was about as close to music as one could hear within a spoken word context.” A special honoring the life and work of Gene Burns aired on Sunday, May 26 on KGO hosted by David Weintraub and a special tribute will be presented honoring his legacy at Talkers New York 2013 on Thursday, June 6.
Adult Contemporary is a Relatively Low-Involvement Format on Facebook. According to digital radio consultant and TALKERS columnist Chris Miller, “There are several major-market adult contemporary stations on Facebook who have a ton of followers, but very little interaction going on. As a former AC programmer, I absolutely feel their pain; AC is a low-involvement format. At the same time, most of these stations have fallen into a rut about what they post. The quality of the post is in the level of engagement you get from it. When thousands or tens of thousands follow you, and you get two or three ‘Likes’ on your posts, you gotta shake up your thinking.” In a new column posted today (5/28) Miller suggests that although consistency is basically a good and necessary thing, there is a dark side to it and to avoid falling into a rut, radio broadcasters of all formats should make changes to approximately 10% of their posts on a regular basis. To read the details and Miller’s entire piece, click here.
Kent Sterling Returns to Indy on Sports Talk WFNI. News/talk and sports radio pro Kent Sterling re-surfaces on the air at Emmis’ sports talk WFNI, Indianapolis for a weekend program with Chris Hagan called, “Ahead of the Curve with Hagan and Sterling.” He most recently served with Bonneville at its St. Louis sports talker WXOS but exited that post to return to Indianapolis. Prior to his work at WXOS, Sterling served as program director at Emmis’ news/talk flagship WIBC-FM, Indianapolis. Sterling’s and Hagan’s weekend program airs from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm on Saturdays.
NBA on Radio Is a Different Breed of Sports Play-by-Play. Major League Baseball is the sport that could be called radio’s best friend and the NFL’s astounding popularity makes its games and surrounding programming popular with listeners. While the NBA’s regular season games are not generally thought of as “programming gold” across the country, it appears that having even a moderately successful team combined with a flagship station with a strong nighttime signal, can be a recipe for success with basketball play-by-play. According to information from Arbitron based on PPM data from 27 NBA teams in 25 PPM markets, certain places are simply basketball towns – the Los Angeles Lakers rule Los Angeles on KSPN with average game estimates larger than the Dodgers, Angels, Kings and Ducks grabbing a 4.0 share with Men 25-54 (average of all 82 games). And perennial contenders the San Antonio Spurs dominated on WOAI with a 9.8 share with Men 25-54. However, less successful teams on strong flagships performed well during the regular season: the Milwaukee Bucks just squeaked into the playoffs but on heritage WTMJ garnered a 10 share with Men 25-54; the Cleveland Cavaliers missed the playoffs yet grabbed a 9.7 share (M 25-54) on WTAM; and the Detroit Pistons also missed the playoffs but notched an 8.0 (M 25-54) share on the highly rated WXYT-FM. Considering games in the East and Midwest air in the evenings, numbers for the stations cited above – and others not cited here – are impressive nighttime ratings.
Flagship Stations Should Capitalize on Cross-Promotional Opportunities within Baseball PBP. According to Bonneville Seattle creative director Chris Pendl, “If you’ve made the investment on play-by-play sports on your station, it’s important to maximize the return on your investment by trying to recycle that audience to another daypart on your station.” Arbitron reports that MLB drives cume increases as much as 50% to 65% during baseball season. Pendl tells TALKERS, “This influx of audience is one of the reasons we pay rights fees, share revenue, or give up inventory to carry this programming. In a climate with little or no external marketing dollars, I’ve often joked that our promotional time within baseball play-by-play is the closest thing we’ll get to an interstate billboard or TV campaign.” In an exclusive article posted today (5/28) Pendl describes and shares a production/promo technique conducted by Bonneville to cross-promote the station via the baseball audience that he calls “situation baseball return liners.” To read the entire piece and hear examples of its execution, click here.
Buckley to Sell KYZZ, Salinas, California to Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters. Buckley Communications announces it is selling sports talk KYZZ, Salinas, California to Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters. The price is yet to be announced. KYZZ is the FM side of the sports talk simulcast that also airs on Buckley’s KIDD, Monterey and Buckley says it will continue with its ESPN Radio affiliation on KIDD. Mt. Wilson has not announced its format plans for KYZZ. Saul Levine’s Mt. Wilson also owns country KKGO, Los Angeles and classical simulcast KMZT-AM, Beverly Hills and KMZT-FM, Big Sur, California.
WTOP Hacking: Why You Should Worry. TALKERS legal editor Steven J.J. Weisman writes about the recent hacking of the websites of Hubbard Broadcasting’s WTOP, Washington and its sister WFED “Federal News Radio.” Weisman is one of the nation’s foremost experts on scams, he operates the website Scamicide that presents up-to-date information about scams, fraud and identity theft, and is the author of The Truth About Avoiding Scams (FT Press 2008). In this column, Weisman explains the methods used by the WTOP hackers and explains the steps users can take to avoid becoming the victim of similar attacks. Read Weisman’s entire piece here.
Odds & Sods. Martz Communications’ WPDM, Potsdam, New York flips from a simulcast of FM sister WSNN to sports talk using CBS Sports Radio Network…..Wilks License Company’s sports talk WZOH, Columbus becomes part of the Cleveland Browns radio network based at CBS Radio’s WKRK, Cleveland…..WTOP, Washington crowns Nathan Stanford from Harrington, Delaware the 2013 winner of “Commuter Idle” – an “extreme commuter” competition for listeners experiencing the daily horrors of commuting in and around Washington. Stanford’s commute begins with a 3:00 am alarm and a one-hour drive. He then boards a commuter bus for a 90-minute ride from Kent Island to Foggy Bottom, rides the Metro, and hustles on foot to his office in Rosslyn. Stanford’s travels from Delaware to Virginia average more than five hours a day, though the commute can be much longer in the summer months with Friday beach traffic. He receives $1,000 in gas money and will enjoy a limo ride to and from work from Reston Limousine. WTOP program director Laurie Cantillo says, “The question that we hear most often is, ‘Why do these people do it?’ It’s fascinating to hear their personal stories and accompany them on their crazy commutes. We feel their pain, and as DC’s traffic authority we’re here to help.”
KOIL, Omaha’s Mulberry Lane Meets the Beach Boys and John Stamos. Musical act Mulberry Lane opened for the Beach Boys (which includes actor and musician John Stamos) in Council Bluffs, Iowa on Saturday, May 25. Pictured here are (from l-r): Bo Mulberry, Bruce Johnston, Rachel Mulberry, Mike Love, Allie Mulberry, and John Stamos. The Mulberry sisters – based in Nebraska – also host a weekend talk show on NRG Media’s KOIL, Omaha called the “Mulberry Lane Radio Show.” The station describes the ladies’ program saying the sisters “decided to bring their busy lives to live radio with a show based on sisterhood, womanhood, motherhood, and the humor and mishaps of trying to juggle it all – woven together with music, harmony and a dash of wit.” It airs Saturdays from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon.
Longtime KNX, Los Angeles Anchor Harry Birrell Dies. Longtime Los Angeles news personality Harry Birrell died on May 26 after a battle with lung disease at age 85 in Thousand Oaks, California. Birrell was an anchor at all-news KNX, Los Angeles for more than three decades – beginning in 1968 when the station flipped to the all-news format and ending with his retirement in 1999. Birrell switched from his anchor role at the station to Ventura County correspondent in 1993.
Kevin Miller Stops By TheBlaze. KIDO, Boise morning drive talk show host Kevin Miller was visiting Dallas – home of Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze – and took some time to stop by the studios to check out the production of the Glenn Beck program. Here’s a shot of Beck (l) and Miller (r) inside the spacious former movie/TV studios that are home to Beck’s Mercury Radio Arts production facility.
Talk Hosts and News Operations Deal with Logistical Issues and Weather as Republican National Convention Begins in Tampa Today. The Republican National Convention, a huge “radio row” and live broadcast draw for many radio stations and networks around the country, begins today and talk hosts, programmers and news staffers are dealing with what is already a complex couple of days of remote broadcasting being amplified by the threat from Tropical Storm Issac. Today’s first day of the RNC is being canceled due to the storm and broadcasters are having to make contingency plans as a result. From a logistical standpoint, hosts and news staffers may be forced to cram planned interviews and guest appearances originally scheduled across three days into two days on Tuesday and Wednesday. As for live broadcasts scheduled from the convention center for today, that will depend on how quickly the storm moves through the area. Salem Radio Network VP of news & talk programming Tom Tradup tells TALKERS SRN’s equipment on radio row is set up but its two early Monday shows – Mike Gallagher and Dennis Prager – will originate from Salem Communications O&O WGUL, Tampa and the Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt programs will broadcast from the convention center radio row later today.
Lincoln Financial Media Buys Miami FM for Sports Talk Simulcast with WAXY. West Palm Beach FM WMSF at 104.3 will change hands from Palm Beach Broadcasting to Lincoln Financial Media for a reported $13 million and the latter will use the signal to give sports talk “790 The Ticket” WAXY an FM presence in the South Florida market. Palm Beach acquired the station from CBS Radio earlier this year. Palm Beach has applied to move the 104.3 signal from West Palm Beach to Miami and that application is still pending the FCC. LFM will begin operating the station under an LMA prior to FCC approval of the sale.
Program Director Jay Bohannon Exits Clear Channel’s WPGB, Pittsburgh. When Clear Channel fired up the Pittsburgh FM talk outlet in January 2004, Jay Bohannon was named the program director. During his tenure at the station, he was responsible for working with morning show team Jim Quinn and Rose Tennent and bringing the program into syndication. He also led news/talk branding and imaging for the company. Bohannon is available for his next opportunity. Reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Salem Communications to Buy WMUU, Greenville from Bob Jones University. The station – owned by the Christian college’s Gospel Fellowship Association – currently programs a combo of Christian teaching and beautiful music but that will end when Salem Communications takes over and turns the Greenville, South Carolina FM at 94.5 into a news/talk outlet using programming from the Salem Radio Network. No price has been announced nor has a start date for an LMA.
WOR Low Price Tag Cause of Angst for AM Radio Owners. As the dust settles in the aftermath of the recently announced sale of Buckley Broadcastings’ heritage outlet WOR, New York to Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, the cold hard reality of the low price tag is beginning to settle in and it is being perceived as a seriously bad indicator about the value and future of AM sticks. Industry observers and players alike remember stories about the late Buckley Broadcasting CEO Rick Buckley turning down offers as high as $150 million for the station as recently as a decade ago. In 2001, Disney paid then-owner The Forward newspaper $78 million for WEVD (1050 AM) to find a New York City outlet for ESPN Radio – a station with a significantly inferior signal than WOR’s. An article in the New York Daily News reports on the topic: “One of the many nervous discussions in radio these days revolves around the future of AM stations — that is, if they have a future.” Perhaps the revelations of the WOR deal will usher in an industry station deal cycle marked by what TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison describes as the “lesser fool” theory.
Former Eagles Star Brian Dawkins Joins 97.5 The Fanatic for NFL Coverage. Former Philadelphia Eagles star Brian Dawkins will be part of the Friday coverage of NFL football on Mike Missanelli’s program each week at 4:10 pm on Greater Media’s WPEN-AM/FM, Philadelphia. Program director Matt Nahigian says, “There is no one that Eagle fans love and relate to more than Brian Dawkins. We had him on our air about a month ago and the response we received via Twitter and Facebook about wanting to hear him each week was staggering. I am thrilled to bring his passion and insight to the Delaware Valley on a week to week basis.”
KLIN, Lincoln Nebraska Names David Dwinell AM Drive Co-Host; Kevin Thomas Promoted to PD. Dwinell has been working at KLKN-TV, Lincoln as promotions director. He leaves that position to return to radio where he’ll take the radio moniker Dave Miller as he sits beside Jack Mitchell on NRG Media’s Lincoln news/talker. The slot on the station’s morning show opened up when John Bishop left the show to go across the hall and join NRG’s 1620 The Zone for its “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” program. At the same time, KLIN PM drive host Kevin Thomas takes on the program director duties at the station that were previously held by John Bishop. He’ll continue to host the 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm “Drive Time Lincoln” show. Also, the sports director post – also previously held by Bishop – goes to Chris Whitney.
Buckley Broadcasting Flips KYZZ, Salinas, California to Sports. The classic hits format disappears from KYZZ as the former “Z97.9” becomes part of the simulcast of “630 ESPN” KIDD, Monterey and becomes known as “97.9 ESPN Central Coast.”
Programmers Owe it to Themselves to See Obama Movie. Radio consultant Holland Cooke says of the new movie “Obama’s America 2016,” “If you work in talk radio, you owe it to your audience to understand what all those network commercials in your show are selling. And as an insider, you’ll recognize the event you’re attending as a theatrical ‘infomercial,’ a rented theater.” Cooke says that regardless of your personal political viewpoint, as a content creator the film is instructive in numerous ways. Read Holland Cooke’s analysis here.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Cuts Ribbon at NJ 101.5 Studio. Townsquare Media’s New Jersey 101.5 celebrated the opening of its refurbished main studio on August 23 and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was on hand to cut the ribbon. NJ 101.5 program director Eric Johnson reports the main studio got some brand new carpeting and – more important – new broadcasting equipment to bring the station into the digital era. PM drive hosts Deminski &Doyle were on the air when the switch was made and the monthly “Ask the Governor” program followed. Christie was there for the program and made the new studio “official” with his gubernatorial ribbon cutting and he even worked the new digital board (pictured here) during the station’s 8:00 pm newscast.
Dale “The Truckin’ Bozo” Sommers Dies at 68. The cause of death is not yet public but Dale Sommers had been dealing with unspecified health issues since he left the WLW, Cincinnati overnight program in 2004. Although he retired from the show at that time, he resumed the program on satellite radio and hosted it until earlier this year when he again gave it up. As the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Kiesewetter reports, Sommers’ program made national news twice when it helped solve crimes. The first time was in 1984 when he was talking off the air with a regular caller who went by the name of “Mississippi Lady,” a convenience store clerk in Camilla, Georgia “when he heard her tell someone, ‘You can’t come back here’ before quickly hanging up the phone. Sommers called Camilla police, who were familiar with his ‘Bozo Show’ and a store clerk known as the ‘Mississippi Lady.’ Within minutes, an officer apprehended the robber.” His program was also credited with assisting police is catching the DC sniper in 2002 after a listener heard Sommers give the car’s license plate number over the radio.