Armstrong & Getty Top Goal for Fisher House Fundraiser. The weeklong Fisher House Foundation fundraiser held by KSTE, Sacramento-based morning drive talk hosts Jack Armstrong and Joe Getty raised more than $544,000, pushing the show’s five-year total past the $2.3 million mark. The 5th annual Armstrong & Getty fundraiser was held last week with the stated goal of $500,000. Fisher House Foundation CEO Ken Fisher says that the money raised is important. “But just as important is the awareness they have brought to listeners about the needs of our veterans, military and their families – a reminder that as Americans we owe a huge debt to these men and women. The listeners of A&G have certainly taken that to heart. Joe and Jack were the catalyst for this important donation, but it was their listeners who made it happen. To all of you, on behalf of the thousands of lives you will touch, I say thank you.” Armstrong & Getty are also heard in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Honolulu, and San Diego.
Tom Gresham Joins Washington Times as Opinion Columnist. The column will be written on a bi-monthly basis by firearms experts, author and talk show host Tom Gresham for the conservative Washington Times newspaper. Gresham has a lot of experience writing about guns. At age 18 he began working as a columnist and became editor of Southern Outdoors Magazine. He’s served as editor for several other outdoor magazines, authored multiple books, including Weatherby: The Man, The Gun, The Legend, created and, of course, hosts the weekly radio program Guntalk, heard on more than 200 affiliate stations. Gresham states, “I’m delighted that the Washington Times is carrying an opinion column that refutes the constant support for more gun control being pushed by much of the media. Recent polls show that a large majority of Americans disapprove of additional gun laws. These readers are underserved in most papers.”
‘ESPN 980’ in Washington Reports 3 Million-plus Podcast Downloads; Adds New Content. Washington, DC sports talk station WTEM “ESPN 980” reports it notched more than 3 million downloads of its podcasts during the month of October. The Red Zebra Broadcasting station’s Tony Kornheiser show led the pack with more than 2 million downloads for the month. In addition to podcasts of all of its shows being available, the station is adding four new original podcasts and two aggregated podcasts. Director of programming Dan Zampillo states, “Creating original digital content and developing relationships with those doing it successfully is an important part of our mission to bring the best DC sports content to listeners on all platforms.”
Odds & Sods. Nationally syndicated ESPN Radio morning show Mike & Mike broadcasts live from Ohio State in Columbus this Friday (11/20) prior to the Michigan State vs Ohio State game. It’s the fifth of six stops on the “Fall Football Tour.” It’s tied in to the “Mike & Mike at the College Football Playoff” contest that will allow one grand prize winner to accompany Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg to the College Football Playoff National Championship on January 11…..Sun Broadcast Group announces it is celebrating its 7th anniversary and promises big news at its agency and programming upfront event titled, “2016 – The Preview,” scheduled for this Friday in New York City…..Beasley Media Group announces Bob Turner joins the company’s Southwest Florida radio group to serve as general sales manager. He was most recently president of Azteca America, an international television network and spot sales company. Turner says, “Working with Beasley Media Group is a terrific opportunity. In Southwest Florida, businesses are absolutely thriving. The business surge in this market offers an abundance of untapped potential to my entire sales team. Our timing is ideal for a new level of sales success!”
WPGG, Atlantic City Morning Host Harry Hurley Makes PolitickerNJ.com’s 2015 Power List. Atlantic City talk radio personality Harry Hurley tells TALKERS magazine it’s an honor and a privilege to make PolitickerNJ.com’s 2015 Power List of the top 100 most politically powerful people in the state of New Jersey. It’s the 9th time the WPGG, Atlantic City morning host has made the list (he landed at #83 this year, up six places from #89 a year ago) and Hurley says, “Considering we’re the most densely populated state in America, with 9 million people, it’s a high honor, privilege and a very difficult list to make. In New Jersey, this Power List is the ‘gold standard.’ It’s the list you want to make in The Garden State.”
WGOW, Chattanooga’s Brian Joyce Assists Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots. WGOW, Chattanooga midday talk show host Brian Joyce (left) poses for a photo at a recent remote broadcast from local mortgage lender Peoples Home Equity at which he was helping collect toys for the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program. Joyce tells TALKERS the event resulted in a phenomenal turnout, at which they collected plenty of toys and cash donations for the program. Pictured here with Joyce are Marine Sgt. Donovan Walters (right) and, at center, Philip, whom Joyce describes as his “littlest/biggest fan” who comes to all of his remote broadcasts.
Paris Terrorist Attacks, Battle Against ISIS, 2016 Presidential Race/Democratic Debate, Syrian Refugees/U.S. Immigration Policy, Russian Airliner Bombing, and Charlie Sheen AIDS Report Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (11/16). The aftermath of Friday’s deadly terrorist attacks in Paris; military strikes on ISIS strongholds in Syria; the activities of the candidates for president in 2016 tied with discussion about the Democratic candidates’ debate on Saturday; the state of Syrian refugees in the U.S. and debate over immigration policy in America; Moscow’s conclusion that the Russian airliner downed in the Sinai Desert was the result of a bomb; and reports that actor Charlie Sheen is HIV positive were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.
Talk Radio Spruces Up the Programming Tree without Benefit of Christmas Music. While music radio has an obvious tool in the music itself to “decorate” its programming with the flavor of Christmas and the holiday season – whether it is via the all-Christmas music format or simply sprinkling in abundantly available holiday tunes of just about every genre – talk radio must utilize more subtle methods. Programmers turn to production, topics, promotions, specials and even the commercials themselves to convey the live-ness and vibrancy of the holidays. At Dial Global‘s “Jim Bohannon Show” and “America in the Morning,” host Jim Bohannon tells TALKERS, “We have several ways of reflecting the season. For one thing, since we’re not all-politics-all-the-time, we’ll intersperse various holiday guests and topics. I also do a daily humorous “Offbeat” feature which takes on decidedly holiday material. We think being seasonal now and then is an important break from the usual political blah blah blah.” Peak Broadcasting’s KMJ-AM/FM, Fresno OM/PD Skip Essick shares, “I like to ‘decorate’ the station through the on-air production – lots of holiday imaging, military salutes, staff holiday greetings, and holiday bumpers. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I will look for special holiday programming which might include relevant holiday sports play-by-play, holiday specials like ‘The Gift’ and I always run the original radio performances of ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ ‘Wonderful Life,’ and ‘A Christmas Carol.’” In New England, Greater Media’s WTTK, Boston “News Talk 96.9 FM” PD Grace Blazer adds, “‘Tis the Season’ for News Talk 96.9 FM-WTTK to embrace holiday topics, talk with seasonal guests, play popular Christmas bumpers, and most importantly attend special community events that transcend news and politics, but touch the hearts and inspire the souls of the less fortunate in our New England communities.” Tribune Company’s WGN, Chicago PD Bill White emphasizes the importance of charities in establishing the feel of the holidays at his heritage news/talker as well as leaving it to the creativity and personal expression of each of the station’s personalities. “Our talent reflect the holidays in many different ways. Some work with charities such as Neediest Kids Fund. Garry Meier hosts a very special annual event ‘A Very Garry Christmas. Each talent brings their special brand of the holiday season to WGN.” Even sports talk radio – which as CBS Radio VP of sports programming Mark Chernoff tells TALKERS has plenty to talk about in December (NFL crunch time, big college bowl games, NBA and college hoops, even hot stove baseball) – gets into the holiday spirit. Chernoff says, “We do have some ‘happy holidays’ jingles. We do some holiday stuff – like speculate on what presents to give certain coaches or players. Mike Francesa usually does a holiday movies segment. Our studios are spruced up for the holidays by our TV partners. Mike Francesa’s studios already have the holiday trains and winter decorations set up. We also use holiday bumper music closer to the holidays.” Chernoff adds, “The bigger issue is filling all the time slots with many of the full-time hosts taking vacations.” That inconvenient truth being established, nationally syndicated morning host Doug Stephan is celebrating the holidays by offering what he calls a “gift” to program directors and their audiences. In response to talk radio’s traditional schedule of holiday fill-ins, Stephan states that he and his team will be hard at work. He tells TALKERS that his daily program, “Doug Stephan’s Good Day,” will be live throughout the holiday season including Christmas Eve and Day and News Years Eve and Day. Stephan states, “We welcome any station that is looking for live programming during the holidays to try our show for free. Rather than feeding holiday music programs or dated reruns, we offer stations topical, fun and informative talk during these important family holidays.” Stations interested in trying Doug’s Show without contractual commitments should check out www.DougStephan.com or call Bob K. at 650-654-3969.
Michael Harrison: Radio Must Focus On Being Indispensable When the Lights are On. TALKERS magazine publisher Michael Harrison states that radio must focus its programming efforts on being a lifeline to the public when things are normal as well as during disasters. In a piece scheduled for publication in next month’s year-end retrospective, Harrison writes, “Radio has performed admirably during the storm crises we experienced this past year and that hard work has been reflected in the well-deserved ratings bump those stations – music and spoken word – have received for their good service. But the real lesson here is not being discussed. We as an industry mustn’t get carried away in overly promoting our technological reliability when the lights go out as our major asset. That is akin to the candle industry saying it is better than electric light bulbs because they don’t work during storms. We must approach our programming as being an urgent 24/7 remedy to the less-obvious storms, disasters, emergencies and plain old passions of life. That is the true lesson we can learn from our successful handling of Sandy and its nasty predecessors.”
Dr. Drew Goes to Washington. Hubbard Radio’s Washington, DC all-newser WTOP hosted Dr. Drew Pinsky (c) this morning (11/29) from 10:00 am to 11:00 am for its weekly “Ask The…” program. Pinsky – who is nationally syndicated to radio stations across the country via the Courtside Entertainment-produced “Loveline” and a daily vignette “One Minute Clinic” – sat down with WTOP’s Mark Lewis (l) and Debbie Feinstein (r) to talk about his visit to the White House in conjunction with World AIDS Day and his one-hour MTV special, “I’m Positive,” set to air Saturday at 7:00 pm ET.
KGMZ, San Francisco Names Guy Haberman Evening Host. Entercom’s KGMZ, San Francisco “95.7 The Game” fills the evening slot with KFIG, Fresno PM drive host Guy Haberman. He takes over the slot that opened up when the station promoted Chris Townsend to the PM drive show. Program director Jason Barrett says, “Guy has strong passion for our Bay Area teams, understands what local fans want, and delivers an entertaining, interactive sports show. Having been in the broadcast booth calling games, he’s a great fit to lead into our Athletics play-by-play programming and be an outlet for fans following the game.” As part of Haberman’s duties with the station, he’ll host the weekday Oakland Athletics pre-game “Dugout Show” and post-game “A’s Talk” programs during baseball season. In addition to his experience hosting a sports talk show at Osterlund-owned KFIG, Fresno, Haberman has extensive experience in play-by-play that includes calling games for the Fresno Grizzlies (San Francisco Giants AAA), College Basketball for the WAC Sports Network, and Fresno State Women’s Basketball and Softball. Haberman also served as a sideline reporter for Fresno State Football on the Bulldog Sports Network.
Larry King Visits Business Rockstars. Larry King (l) is pictured here with “Business Rockstars” host Ken Rutkowski (r) in the KFWB, Los Angeles studios. King appeared on the program recently to talk with Rutkowski about his new entrepreneurial venture, internet television station ORA TV – a collaboration with Mexican media billionaire Carlos Slim. “Business Rockstars” airs daily from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm and brings together some of the world’s biggest and most successful CEOs as well as successful small business owners. Recent guests on the show have included: Nolan Bushnell (founder Attari & Chucky Cheese), Michael Robertson (mp3.com), Mark Verge (CEO Santa Anita Park) Cheryl Tiegs (Celebrity Apprentice, business woman) Scott Painter (True Car, Cars Direct) Brock Pierce (Founder Internet Gaming Entertainment), William Quigley (partner ClearStone Ventures), and Heinrich Fisker (Fisker Automotive). “Business Rockstars” partner, Steve Lehman was the founder and former chairman/CEO of Premiere Radio Networks. Lehman says the program is designed for multi-platform content distribution and its new location will be outfitted with three video cameras for streaming video content.
Armstrong & Getty and Clear Channel Lauded for Fundraising Efforts for Fisher House. KSTE, Sacramento morning show duo Jack Armstrong and Joe Getty – whose program is also heard on KKSF, San Francisco and KWSX, Stockton, California – raised $225,000 during the week of November 12 to help build a new Fisher House at Travis Air Force Base outside Sacramento. The duo has raised a total of $650,000 in the past two years for that project. On the national level, Clear Channel aired Fisher House public service announcements on all 850 of its radio stations in the days leading up to Veterans Day. That national effort, valued at an estimated $3 million, was supplemented by the efforts of numerous local Clear Channel radio stations, which ran a special 30-minute public affairs program and/or spotlighted Fisher House with interviews and fundraising appeals. Fisher House Foundation is best known for the network of comfort homes built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers. The Fisher Houses are 5,000 to 16,800 square-foot homes, donated to the military and Department of Veterans Affairs, where families can stay while a loved one is receiving treatment. Additionally, the Foundation ensures that families of service men and women wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan are not burdened with unnecessary expense during a time of crisis.
Steve Gill Show Uses Powerball Fever to Raise Funds for Charity. The WLAC, Nashville-based Steve Gill show capitalized on the Powerball Lottery fever to raise almost $5,000 for local charities. Gill announced that anyone making a $100 contribution to one of two charities would also receive a chance at the huge Powerball jackpot. Some 44 qualifying donations were made and the Helping Hands Ministry and the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes were the beneficiaries to the tune of $4,850. Steve Gill says, “Win or lose when it comes to the lottery tickets, the kids and families benefitting from these charities have already won thanks to the generosity of those who chipped in.”
WJR, Detroit’s Mitch Albom Helps Raise $400,000-plus for Detroit Charities. Detroit-based multi-media star Mitch Albom spent 15 hours on the radio on Cumulus Media’s WJR, Detroit on Tuesday, November 27 during a radiothon to raise funds for his S.A.Y. (Super All Year) Detroit charity and its partner programs, including Working Homes/Working Families, 100 Houses, A Time To Help, S.A.Y. Detroit Family Health Clinic and Detroit Dream Scholars. The Detroit Free Press reports the total raised was $401,321.34 but that the total will go higher as phone donations continued after the broadcast ended.
WXOS, St. Louis Talk Host Bernie Miklasz Named to Local ‘Power List.’ The St. Louis sports talk host is one of three sports people – and the only sports media person – to make St. Louis Magazine’s “100 People Who Are Shaping St. Louis” cover story known as “The Power List.” Bernie Miklasz was included in this listing as an “influencer” due to his many years of experience as a trusted and respected sports columnist and radio show host. 101 ESPN program director Kent Sterling states, “Bernie definitely deserves to be recognized as a thought leader among St. Louis sports media. He not only challenges himself every day with his tremendous work ethic, he also encourages the 101 ESPN team to do their best, day in and day out. Because of Bernie’s diligence in his work and his popular presence in the St. Louis media, our listeners are more informed and better fans of St. Louis’ sports teams.” Miklasz (left) is pictured here with another of the list’s influencers – St. Louis Cardinals chairman/CEO Bill DeWitt III (right).
Cool News Director Job Opportunity. Ithaca’s heritage news/talk radio station, WHCU has a career opportunity for a news director. There are not many opportunities out there of this nature — a chance for the right person to guide and grow the city’s primary news source in this gorgeous college town at the foot of the Finger Lakes in New York State. They (Cayuga Radio Group – a division of Saga Communications) are looking for someone who understands contemporary news writing and presentation, has strong on-air delivery skills and is able to train and nurture an up-and-coming staff. Creative use of web and social media to deliver and support the on-air product is a must. In TALKERS magazine’s editorial opinion, Saga is clearly one of the best companies in radio to work for and this is truly a rare opportunity. Send materials immediately to: Brand Manager/WHCU, Cayuga Radio Group, 1751 Hanshaw Road, Ithaca, NY 14850 or email: NewsTalk@sagacom.com.
Bringing the Coverage to Radio. ABC News Radio’s Andrea Dresdale (c) helps “Dancing with the Stars: All Stars” champions Melissa Rycroft (l) and Tony Dovolani (r) hoist the mirrorball trophy after their victory. Dresdale and ABC News brought coverage of the pop culture event to radio stations across the country.
‘Fiscal Cliff’ Debate, Susan Rice-GOP Meetings, Powerball Jackpot, and Post-Sandy Cleanup Cost Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (11/28). The debate between the Obama Administration and House Republicans over the coming tax hikes and spending cuts; ongoing meetings between U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice and GOP leaders over the Benghazi attack; the large Powerball Jackpot; and the cost of cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.
Radio in the Northeast Should Be Prepared for a Potential Perfect Storm. Last year, it was the Halloween Snowprise – an early cold snap fed by a lot of moisture that produced a foot of snow in some places, and felled leaf-laden trees and power lines, blacking out parts of the northeast US for days. This year – Halloween Week could bring a trick some meteorologists are already calling “potentially historic” – a strong tropical storm or hurricane named Sandy, with the Northeast again in the crosshairs. This rare climatic event could be what one network weather anchor called an “atmospheric bomb” – produced by a hurricane colliding head-on with a strong cold front. The jet stream bows northward as it approaches the coast, sucking the storm closer to land, instead of pushing it out to sea. The scenario is eerily reminiscent of the 1991 “Perfect Storm,” which left 12 people dead and more than $200 million in damage after it slammed into the East Coast. Power outages and flooding were widespread. Now is the time to prepare. Howard B. Price of ABC News urges broadcasters in the Northeast to learn the lessons of two radio group operators, who faced serious operational challenges following the EF-5 tornado that leveled a third of Joplin, MO in May 2011, and Hurricane Irene in August 2011, whose impact was felt across the Northeast for days. To read his timely and informative article click here.
CBS Radio’s Atlanta Sports Talker Debuts. WZGC-FM, Atlanta “SportsRadio 92.9 The Game” sprang to life yesterday afternoon at 2:00 pm ET with the PM drive show “Game Time” with Carl Dukes, Kordell Stewart and Rachael Baribeau the first show to hit the air. The trio talked Georgia sports, national sports and introduced the rest of the air staff to the listening audience. The station lineup consists of: “Opening Drive” hosted by Rick Kamla, Randy Cross and C.J. Simpson in morning drive; Jerome Jurenovich and Jamie Dukes from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm; “Mac & Jason at Night” with Mac McDonald and Jason Goff from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm; “Overtime” with Jim Murray from 10:00 pm to 2:00 pm; and “The Mitch Evans Experience” from 2:00 am to 6:00 am. Programming the latest CBS Radio sports talk FM to go on the air is Terry Foxx.
KJRB, Spokane Drops Talk Shows for All-News Programming. Mapleton’s news/talk KJRB, Spokane, Washington is eliminating most of its talk shows for an all-news approach. The station drops TRN’s Laura Ingraham and Jerry Doyle and Cox Media’s Neal Boortz for TRN-operated America’s Radio News Network news blocks airing from 3:00 am to 7:00 pm. The station maintains its local financial program from 12:00 noon to 12:30 pm and the KHQ-TV local news simulcast from 5:00 pm to 5:30 pm. It also continues to air The Wall Street Journal Radio Network’s “Daily Wrap” with Michael Castner in the evenings and CBS Radio’s “Overnight America” program.
Columbus Sports Talker Fired After Inappropriate Tweet. Dispatch Broadcast Group has fired sports talk host Scott Torgerson about a week after he Tweeted, jokingly, that he wished for the firing or death of ESPN’s Desmond Howard. Torgerson – former co-host of “The Common Man & The Torg” PM drive show on WBNS, Columbus “Sports Radio 97.1 The Fan” – was initially suspended after the Tweet began to create a firestorm of criticism. Ironically, the station used Twitter on Wednesday (10/24) to notify its fans that Torgerson was no longer with the company. As AwfulAnnouncing.com’s Matt Yoder notes in his blog, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit – a former Ohio State quarterback and still beloved personality in Columbus – got involved in denouncing Torgerson’s Tweet and that probably added to the momentum necessary to make Dispatch let Torgerson go. The fact that WBNS is an ESPN affiliate may or may not have been a contributing factor. As of now, Mike Ricordati continues to host the PM drive show solo. This is not the first case of a talent being fired for an insensitive or inappropriate Tweet and it won’t be the last. Hosts who are hired to push the envelope and also use social media to do so for the purposes of promoting their act and their program have to be careful. There are certain subjects that must be avoided. Wishing death, injury or some other personal assault on someone – even as a joke – is likely to get the host in trouble and probably fired.
Larry King’s Third Party Candidate’s Debate Produced by Ora TV. One way to look at it is that broadcasting legend Larry King’s days of hosting A-List politicians and celebrities for his interviews and debates is over as he has moved to the digital television network Ora TV. But others might see fledgling internet TV stations as the future and all it will take is a smash internet TV show to capture the public’s interest and the medium will begin to compete seriously with broadcast and cable TV. Now, Ora TV seems to be shooting for niche programming and Tuesday’s broadcast of King moderating a third party candidate’s debate provided that. King hosted Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Jill Stein of the Green Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party for a program in which the four largely explained how they differ from the Democratic and Republican party candidates. The debate was broadcast from the Chicago Hilton Hotel with a live audience. King explained at the start, “We think all voices should be heard. I think this is a noble cause.” CSPAN did air the program on cable TV in the U.S. Pictured here are Kristina Tobin, chair of the Free & Equal Elections Foundation (l) and Larry King (r).
Karel Joins Huffington Post Live Web Program. Long Beach, California-based talk host Karel – heard on KGO, San Francisco and in syndication across the country – appeared on the Huffington Post’s half-hour roundtable talk show “HuffPost Live.” The webcast program is hosted by Huffington Post’s Jacob and Alyona and usually features talent from afar piped in via web video batting around the issues of the day. Karel is pictured here in his home studio via webcam on the “HuffPost Live” program.
Odds & Sods. CBS Radio extends its deal with the NFL’s Chicago Bears to continue airing Bears play-by-play and other Bears-related programming on its Chicago signals. The games will continue to be heard on all-news WBBM-AM/FM with programming such as “Bears All Access” airing on sports talk WSCR “The Score.” The terms of the new deal was not announced…..Legendary college basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski returns to SiriusXM for his weekly “Basketball and Beyond with Coach K” program. This is the eighth season Krzyzewski has hosted the program on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog channel. For last night’s season opener, Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter and Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino were guests…..Emmis’ KFTK, St. Louis “FM NewsTalk 97.1” is working with Americans for Prosperity on a promotion to sell gas to 200 lucky listeners for the “pre-Obama Administration” price of $1.84 per gallon. FM NewsTalk 97.1’s Randy Tobler will broadcast live from the Country Club Car Wash in O’Fallon, Missouri from 8:00 am to 10:00 am on Saturday, October 27.
WPRO, Providence Hosts Rhode Island Candidates Debate. Cumulus Media’s WPRO & 99.7 FM in Providence hosted the candidates for the 1st Congressional District in Rhode Island for an hour-long, uninterrupted debate. Pictured here at left is Democratic Congressman David Cicilline and, at right, Republican challenger Brendan Doherty in the studios at WPRO. Not pictured is moderator and WPRO news director Bill Haberman who facilitated the contest. In addition to airing the debate live on the radio with analysis during the Matt Allen program that followed the debate, WPRO provided a video stream and a live, interactive Tweet chat at 630wpro.com.
Benghazi Terrorism Question, Presidential Race Polls, Debate Aftermath, World Series and Hurricane Sandy Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (10/24). The conflicting reports of who knew the Benghazi attack was an act of terrorism and when they knew it; the presidential race polls; analysis of the presidential debates; the Giants-Tigers World Series; and the looming threat to the U.S. from Hurricane Sandy were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.
Merlin Media Ends FM News Operations in New York and Chicago. Industry watchers are beginning the post-mortem on Merlin Media’s all-news formats at WIQI, Chicago and WEMP, New York after yesterday’s announcement by the company that it is flipping the two signals to classic hits and alternative rock, respectively. In making the announcement, Merlin president Randy Michaels stated, “It was a difficult decision to make, but after a year of minimal audience engagement, coupled with the format’s inherent expense, I felt it was time to make a change.” Perhaps the most obvious challenge to the endeavor was the fact that in both Chicago and New York, Michaels’ stations were going up against entrenched news stations in markets that didn’t seem to be crying out for more radio news, primarily because they are already being served by well-respected and well-listened-to all-news outlets. WBBM-AM/FM, Chicago and WCBS and WINS in New York were tough opponents to challenge in the radio news game – not to mention the public radio stations in both markets that have loyal audiences and dedicate resources to covering local news. The ratings for the two stations seemed to bear that out. The initial concept of trying to reach women with a news product fell flat. TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison told the Chicago Tribune, “When you say, ‘This is for women and here’s what we’re talking about,’ it can come across as insulting. It’s presumptuous.” Harrison also told the paper, “To reinvent the wheel, when in fact the wheel is not broken, is difficult.” He said the station’s focus on stereotypically female topics like cooking, fashion and child rearing also turned off listeners. There are reports 27 staffers are out in Chicago with a similar number in New York, leaving a host of veteran radio news people looking for their next opportunity this morning. Meanwhile, another wrinkle to this story pertains to industry rumors and speculation that Merlin had plans to eventually morph its New York and possibly Chicago all-newsers into traditional news/talkers. The recent addition of Rush Limbaugh to Philadelphia property WWIQ after his departure from CBS Radio‘s WPHT had tongues wagging about the possibility of such a move happening in New York when Cumulus Media‘s contract with Premiere Networks for Limbaugh on WABC ends – especially with Cumulus developing Mike Huckabee (currently airing on crosstown competitor WOR) as a more “civil” alternative to Limbaugh. This brings up another question: Are the Merlin moves to music just a temporary measure?
Heavy Hundred of Sports Talk Draws Intense Traffic to Talkers.com; Testament to Sports Talk Format’s Popularity. The recently published Heavy Hundred of Sports Talk – The 100 Most Important Sports Talk Radio Hosts in America, has generated so much traffic to Talkers.com that – at times – navigation on the site slowed to a crawl, forcing the IT staff at Talkers.com to increase the site’s bandwidth to accommodate the visitors. This massive interest in America’s sports talk radio personalities is indicative of the format’s popularity with both consumers and from within the media industry. TALKERS VP/managing editor Kevin Casey states, “Sports talk radio is off-the-charts popular in so many markets across the country – reflecting the importance of sports in American popular culture. The interest in the Heavy Hundred of Sports Talk from people working within the business is one thing, but the attention from consumers of sports talk and the rabid sports blogosphere is astounding. The passion that exists for the format, the personalities, as well as the games and athletes themselves, shows why this talk radio genre is such an effective marketing tool for businesses at the local and national level.” The 2012 Heavy Hundred of Sports Talk can be found here.
Cumulus Media’s WPRO, Providence Names Craig Schwalb Program Director. Craig Schwalb comes to Cumulus Media’s news/talk WPRO and 99.7 (and sister WPRV) in Providence from SiriusXM where he served as senior director of talk programming. He’s also worked at WKRK, Detroit; WNEW, New York; WRBZ, Raleigh; and EZ Communications, St. Louis. He replaces Paul Giammarco who recently resigned from the station. Cumulus SVP Mike McVay states, “We are excited to have Craig join Cumulus. We want the freshest and best minds in the industry…and he is clearly among the best.” Speaking about his new opportunity, Schwalb says, “The chance to program one of the country’s legendary radio stations, complete with great talent, a great news presence and great influence in a terrific city was a no brainer for me and my family. I am looking forward to working with Providence market manager Barbara Haynes and of course John Dickey, Mike McVay, Jim Mahaney, and everyone at Cumulus.”
Recent Affiliate Adds Push America’s Radio News Network Past 300 Mark. In fact, when combined with the TRN/Washington Times’ “America’s Morning News” program, the affiliate total jumps past 320 for the news programming offered by Talk Radio Network’s ARNN. The content syndicator notes that recent affiliate additions in Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; Memphis; Ft. Myers/Naples; Charleston, South Carolina; and others for the five three-hour news block programs are indicative of the strong demand for quality news-oriented radio content.
Talk Host Andrew Wilkow to Host Prime Time Show on TheBlaze. The online TV network TheBlaze – a digital product of Glenn Beck’s Mercury Radio Arts company – announces SiriusXM talk personality Andrew Wilkow will host a new, one-hour news and talk show to debut later this summer. TheBlaze says the exact start date and the name of the program will be announced later. TheBlaze president and chief content officer Joel Cheatwood states, “TheBlaze is building a primetime lineup filled with both established talent and the voices of the future. Andrew Wilkow’s strong independence and ‘no sacred cows’ approach to the news, issues and events of the day are perfect fits for TheBlaze as we continue to expand our programming.” TheBlaze notes it already produces three hours of prime time shows including “the comedy news show ‘The B.S. of A,’ the reality show ‘Independence USA’ and other programming throughout the day led by Glenn’s show, the news show ‘Real News’ and the kid’s show ‘Liberty TreeHouse.’ The network airs over 35 hours of original programming per week and will soon provide video content on a 24/7 basis.”
Talk Icon Larry King’s Internet TV Show Debuts. Larry King’s new internet TV show – a 30–minute news and interview show – debuted last night with Seth McFarlane as his first guest. The program is a joint venture between Hulu and Ora TV. Ora TV is a digital venture being funded by Mexican media magnate Carlos Slim Helu. In a statement about the new program, Larry King says, “I have always been driven to innovate, from my time on radio, to the first call-in show on national television to being an early adopter of online columns and Twitter…I love being able to interact directly with audiences and digital TV allows me to do this in new and powerful ways.” This evening, King’s guest will be Meghan McCain with actor Matthew McConaughey on tap for Thursday’s show.
2012 Presidential Campaign, Summer Heatwave/Crops Threatened, Negative Economic Forecasts, Global Debt Crisis and Financial Markets Activity Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (7/17). The 2012 presidential campaign; the nationwide summer heat wave and the threat to the corn and grains crops; negative economic forecasts; the global debt crisis and the financial markets activities were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.
Cumulus Reports Net Revenue Down 5.6% in Fourth Quarter of 2011; Company High on Geraldo and Huckabee. Cumulus Media Group CEO Lew Dickey and chief financial officer J.P. Hannan appeared together on yesterday’s conference call to tell analysts the company’s plans for consolidating the former Cumulus Media Partners (former Susquehanna stations) it brought into the fold in August and the former Citadel stations it closed on in September are coming together allowing them to realize the “synergies” — $10.5 million worth — within the time frame originally predicted. As far as revenue is concerned, the company saw revenue down only 1% if you exclude political advertising from Q4 one year prior. Dickey told analysts there was growth in the automotive, financial services and retail sectors in Q4 and he – like many – expects this to be a big year for political dollars. Dickey addressed the coming launch of the Mike Huckabee program and stopped short of saying Cumulus could capitalize on Rush Limbaugh’s current PR challenge but told analysts his company sees a real upside for the April launch of Huckabee’s program for which it says it has about 110 affiliates lined up already. Dickey also said that Geraldo Rivera – currently heard on WABC, New York and KABC, Los Angeles only – is ripe for national syndication and calls the New York and Los Angeles placement a “precursor” to a national rollout.
Rush Limbaugh Takes Monday Off; Premiere Networks Suspends Airing of Barter Spots for Two Weeks. Things are quieting down with regard to the Rush Limbaugh–Sandra Fluke controversy but El Rushbo took yesterday (3/12) off to play golf with regular fill-in Mark Steyn sitting in the host’s chair. Public relations and crisis management expert Brian Glicklich is working with Limbaugh’s team and it sounds as though the day off was probably his idea. At the same time, Premiere Networks issued a memo to traffic departments at news/talk affiliates and is suspending the requirement that stations run barter spots – the ones that air in addition to the network spots actually contained within Limbaugh’s and other Premiere shows – for this week and next. Premiere gives no reason for this but one could surmise it doesn’t want to have any clients’ spots air within “controversial programming” and a cool down period like this will allow it to get a handle on where these spots are to air and where they should not.
Curtis Media Blows Up “FM Talk 101.1” WZTK-FM; Programming Changes Affect WPTF, Raleigh and WSJS, Winston-Salem. Curtis Media shocks the news/talk world with the sudden announcement that eight-year-old FM talker WZTK-FM, Burlington – serving both the Triad and Triangle markets of North Carolina is signing off its talk format and will re-emerge within a few weeks. But some of the talent heard on WZTK-FM is being spread out among Curtis Media’s other news talkers in the Raleigh-Durham and Winston-Salem/High Point/Greensboro markets. Here’s what’s happening: First, in the Triangle market of Raleigh-Durham, Curtis drops country on WKIX at 850 AM and will operate two outlets – NewsRadio 680 WPTF and TalkRadio 850 WPTF. WPTF VP/GM David Stuckey states, “NewsRadio 680 WPTF is where people will hear about the big events of the day, while TalkRadio 850 WPTF is where they’ll talk about those stories.” Stuckey says that while WPTF has proudly conservative roots dating back to 1924, the two stations will strive for balanced news coverage and an open exchange of all opinions across the ideological spectrum. “Unlike some media outlets, we’re not going to force-feed the same political agenda ad nauseum. We’ve seen ratings slippage on stations and channels with a hard-leaning approach, and more advertisers are telling us they want media platforms that are less toxic and more civil.” As far as talent is concerned, Brad Krantz and Britt Whitmire survive the cut at WZTK-FM and will host PM drive on WPTF and WSJS. Dial Global’s Neal Boortz and Clark Howard are also landing on WPTF and WSJS. Shows that “didn’t make the cut” include local host Allan Handelman, TRN’s Michael Savage and Phil Hendrie and Fox News Radio’s Alan Colmes.
Larry King to Host Show on Internet TV Network. American television and radio icon Larry King is returning to the interview desk with a start-up online TV network called Ora.TV being financed by Mexican media mogul Carlos Slim. A debut date for the site has not been announced yet but the Ora.TV website says it’s coming this year. The site states, “From its inception, Ora is an internet-based on-demand network producing a wide range of programs that transcend traditional formats. Our programs will resemble broadcast TV in terms of quality, but viewers will watch when and where they like with interactive capability.” Former News Corp. president of digital journalism Jon Housman will lead the network.
Journal Broadcasting’s WTMJ, Milwaukee Holds “Insight 2012” with Major Political Guests. The annual “Insight 2012” program hosted by WTMJ, Milwaukee talk host Charlie Sykes has become a must-listen for Wisconsin political aficionados the morning after it takes place. The actual event is a ticket-holder-only live event the night prior – in this year’s case, last night. Sykes hosted fellow WTMJ host Jeff Wagner and other journalists plus Wisconsin State Senate candidates Jeff Fitzgerald, Tommy Thompson, Mark Neumann and Eric Hovde. Also appearing were U.S. Representatives Paul Ryan, Reid Ribble and Sean Duffy along with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Last evening’s event is being re-broadcast this morning from 8:30 am to 12:00 noon on WTMJ.
Tribune’s WGN, Chicago Signs on with TuneIn. The “Voice of Chicago” can now be heard around the world via the free, internet service TuneIn, which boasts 30 million monthly active listeners. TuneIn vice president of programming Kevin Straley says, “WGN is known all over the country and has a rich history in Chicago. Our goal is to share all of the best programming from around the world with over 30 million monthly listeners, and partnering with WGN brings us one step closer to that goal.”
KDKA-FM, Pittsburgh Announces Pirates Broadcast Talent. CBS Radio’s KDKA-FM, Pittsburgh announces former Chicago Cubs third baseman Kevin Orie will be paired with radio host Dan Zangrilli to handle the game-day shows before and after each Pirates baseball game throughout the season. The two will host a one-hour preview program and a one-hour post-game show. Pirates broadcasters (Greg Brown, Tim Neverett, Steve Blass, Bob Walk, and John Wehner) will continue to be featured during the pre- and post-game shows, as well as calling all the action during the games.
Report: 3MTR Abandons Talk Format in Melbourne. TALKERS Australia bureau chief Trevor Smith reports on the demise of talkback radio 3MTR in Melbourne. Smith notes the station had been having financial difficulties for months and was unable to compete with Melbourne’s talk 3AW. Read more here.
Afghan Civilian Massacre, 2012 Presidential Race, HBO Palin Movie, Rush Limbaugh Controversy and Iran Nukes Issue Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (3/12). The case of a U.S. Army sergeant who killed 16 civilians in Afghanistan; the GOP candidates’ battle to win the nomination to face President Obama in November; HBO’s “Game Change” film about Sarah Palin and the 2008 presidential race; the ongoing controversy surrounding Rush Limbaugh; and the Iran nuclear weapons issue were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.
Phil Hendrie Walks the Red Carpet. Sure, he’s not wearing a glitzy, designer gown but he is walking on a red carpet! That’s Talk Radio Network personality Phil Hendrie at the Los Angeles Animation Festival on Saturday, March, 10. Hendrie – whose voice appears in numerous animated films and TV programs – was a cast member in Trey Parker’s and Matt Stone’s “Team America” film. Hendrie states, “I was happy to be involved in any way that I could, because that was a great work experience for me…Every time that it’s mentioned that I was in ‘Team America,’ people instantaneously recognize it. They know the voice of I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E., they know the voice of the terrorist, they know the film, so it’s like my instant credibility button.”