iHeartMedia to Sell Towers to Vertical Bridge for $400 Million. The press release from iHeartMedia says the deal is for select tower assets and it doesn’t go on to list which towers that includes, but suffice it to say, the company is using the deal to bring in a cash infusion of $400 million and prepare for the day when it may no longer need the towers to transmit AM/FM signals. Admittedly, that day may be down the road a ways but it might be a good start to reducing the expense of the real estate and tower maintenance. iHeartMedia will still have to pay lease fees for the transmitters and it reminds investors that will incur an expense. iHeartMedia president and CFO Richard Bressler states, “This is a great example of how we continue to optimize our balance sheet and maximize liquidity — and how we continually review our entire portfolio of assets to ensure we operate them in the most efficient way possible and invest our resources in the highest return opportunities.” The companies expect the deal to close in the first quarter of 2015.
Station Snapshot: WMAL, Washington. The conventional wisdom from (mostly non-radio-industry) pundits is that the news/talk format is dead – or on life support, depending on to whom you speak – and that talk radio practitioners should just call it a career and go home. But there are news/talk stations across the country doing well (quite a few, in fact) and Cumulus Media’s WMAL, Washington is one that has consistently improved its performance in Nielsen’s PPM ratings over the past year. TALKERS managing editor Mike Kinosian profiles the heritage talk outlet that operates in the most political city in the country. Read his story here.
Boston Radio Icon Carr Adds New Bedford Affiliate. Boston-based regional talk show host Howie Carr has added another station to his quickly-growing independent afternoon drive network. WBSM, New Bedford, Massachusetts joined the program as the newest affiliate earlier this week bringing the affiliate total of his new independent network to 16 covering most key population centers in New England. Carr tells TALKERS, “I’m thrilled about adding WBSM to the program,” adding, “I’m looking forward to connecting with my fans in New Bedford-Fall River and to making many new ones.” Michael Rock, OM of Townsquare Media-owned WBSM (which throws a strong signal into the Providence market) remarks, “We are so excited to welcome a New England Radio legend like Howie Carr to “The New 1420 WBSM’s lineup. Howie’s a blue collar guy who is unapologetic about watching out for people who work and pay taxes. He’s certainly going to rattle some cages here in New Bedford…and we’ll love every minute of it!” One of the things that makes the new Howie Carr Radio Network notable is it is proving that a regional talk network built around a major personality can be extremely effective. The program airs weekdays 3:00 -7:00 pm ET. There is also a “Best Of” program for weekend use, and is delivered on XDS via Westwood One. Interested affiliates can contact Kathy Carr at 781-249-0102 for more information.
Odds & Sods. Pittsburgh news/talk outlet WJAS adds Fox News Radio to its programming lineup airing news reports on the hour and half hour. The station is also airing the company’s Fox Business reports…..iHeartMedia will program to Spanish-speaking hoops fans this season as the company will broadcast eight Atlanta Hawks games in Spanish on the company’s regional Mexican WBZY “105.3 El Patron.” Station talent Jose Manuel Flores will provide the play-by-play…..iHeartMedia San Antonio announces it raised $291,430 for the Elf Louise Christmas Project from the December 5-6 radiothon. The Elf Louise Christmas Project was founded in 1969 by Louise Locker, and is a non-profit organization staffed completely by volunteers to ensure children in San Antonio can have a merry Christmas. WOAI program director Brian Gann comments, “The response during this year’s radiothon was remarkable. Listeners, local businesses and city leaders all stepped up to give families all over San Antonio a Christmas to remember.”…..Bonneville‘s KIRO-FM, Seattle “Radio 97.3 FM,” is hosting the 26th Annual Foster Child Holiday Magic Radiothon today (12/11) in partnership with Treehouse — a non-profit agency that ensures that kids in foster care have access to the essential services required to help them make it to high school graduation and beyond. The past two years, the “KIRO Radio Foster Child Holiday Magic Program” has raised more than $500,000 each year through listener donation and sponsor matching funds.
TalkersTV Presents Tribute to Voices that Radio Will Miss in 2015. What started out as a simple social media video project created by consultant Holland Cooke has been picked up by TalkersTV as a special year-end presentation honoring some of the unforgettable voices that passed on to that great broadcast studio in the sky in 2014. Cooke tells TALKERS, “Radio is about storytelling… and these people were such stories unto themselves. What we do next stands on their broad shoulders.” TALKERS VP/executive editor Kevin Casey states, “There is an elegant simplicity in the way these powerful video vignettes were produced. Parts are silent with text and images; some employ potent sound bites that touch the soul. We are so pleased that this sweet production found an appropriate home on our platform this holiday season.” To view, please click on the TalkersTV box at the top of the right hand column on every page of this website.
CIA Torture Report, Police Killings Protests, Government Shutdown Issue, 2016 Presidential Prospects, Looming Lima Climate Talks, Sinking Oil Prices, and Marvin Lewis ‘Midget’ Flap Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (12/11). The political battle over the veracity of the CIA torture report released this week; the aftermath of the police killings protests that have taken place across the country; the issue of a possible government shutdown; the potential candidates for president in 2016; the climate change talks scheduled for Lima, Peru; sinking oil prices and the effect at the pumps; and the flap over Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis’ calling Johnny Manziel a “ midget,” were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.
Cumulus Dallas Goes into Storm Coverage Mode as Twisters Hit Metro Area. The Dallas cluster of Cumulus Media reacted swiftly to the severe storms and tornadoes that hit the Dallas-Fort Worth area yesterday, led by news/talk sister stations WBAP and KLIF. Operations manager Tyler Cox tells TALKERS that the stations had a great opportunity to super-serve the community. “WBAP (820 AM/96.7 FM) and KLIF (570AM) began simulcasting continuous coverage. Shortly after that, the remaining stations in the Cumulus cluster (sports KTCK 1310 AM, KSCS-FM, KPLX-FM and KLIF-FM) joined with us to create a six-station simulcast reaching countless numbers of listeners with life-saving information.” Cox says all six went into non-stop, commercial-free weather coverage with the news/talk stations’ reporters and listeners providing on-the-scene information all across North Texas. Preliminary reports indicate no fewer than 12 tornadoes formed in the region and, although there is widespread destruction, there are no fatalities confirmed at this time.
KFI, Los Angeles Adds New Weekend Shows; Adds Diversity to Lineup. Clear Channel Media and Entertainment’s KFI, Los Angeles is adding a two-hour early evening program on Saturdays hosted by Morris O’Kelly, the producer and co-host of sister progressive talk station KTLK’s “Diverse L.A.” Also, KTLK PM drive host David Cruz will host a Sunday early evening program on KFI. In a statement, Clear Channel says the purpose of the new shows is to “discuss, dissect and investigate the important, often controversial issues of the day through the eyes of an eclectic collection of Southern California residents, urbanites and suburbanites, young and old, across race, gender and the political spectrum.” Morris O’Kelly states, “I’ve wanted to do a show like this for a long time – to dig into what Southern Californians think and why. Opinions are as diverse as the population and I think we’re going to shed light on issues that really matter.”
Erica Farber Replaces Jeff Haley as President and CEO of the RAB. The board of directors of the Radio Advertising Bureau announces Erica Farber, who joined the RAB in late 2011, will replace Jeff Haley as president and CEO of the organization as Haley exits to pursue a new opportunity. RAB board chairman and EVP Scott Herman says of the move, “Erica is an excellent selection with the relevant skills and expertise to lead the RAB. She brings an impressive track record in radio sales and management. In addition, Erica has a clear understanding of the organization and what the broadcast industry requires from the RAB. She has demonstrated a strong capacity of working with multiple constituencies which is critical to the RAB role. We thank Jeff for his guidance and leadership the past five years in helping to shape an organization that fits the radio and media landscape today. He’s left an indelible imprint on the industry and we thank him for his service and commitment.”
Budget Mandate Forces WBSM, New Bedford to Release Talk Host Ken Pittman. Local officials are decrying Cumulus Media’s decision to eliminate Ken Pittman’s local afternoon drive talk show on WBSM, New Bedford, Massachusetts. The New Bedford Standard-Times reports New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell even wrote to Cumulus COO John Dickey to express how area residents are upset with the loss of local programming. “The local programming available on WBSM, including local news, talk and sports coverage, is truly valued by the thousands of listeners the station draws from the New Bedford region,” he wrote. Meanwhile, station programming manager Pete Braley tells the paper local management made the cut reluctantly after being mandated by corporate to trim expenses and realizing that someone had to go. With Pittman out, mid-morning host Phil Paleologos will move to PM drive and do more news event coverage. The station brings Salem Radio Networks’ Mike Gallagher in for late mornings to cover Paleologos’ slot. That leaves the station with four hours of local programming: morning drive and a 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm program.
Management Change at Cumulus Washington, DC; Jeff Boden Exits. President and general manager Jeff Boden has left the building at Cumulus Media’s Washington, DC station group that includes news/talk WMAL-AM/FM. DCRTV.com’s Dave Hughes reports Sam Rogers – former CBS Radio Washington cluster chief and Cumulus VP of political and platform sales – has taken over Boden’s role at the stations. Hughes reports that rumors have more cuts coming to the DC cluster in the near future, although it’s hard to predict which stations and what positions will be affected.
Damon “The Bulldog” Yaffe Joins WNST, Baltimore. Nestor Aparicio-owned sports talk outlet WNST, Baltimore announces Damon “The Bulldog” Yaffe becomes part of the late-morning show on the station alongside Paul Mittermeier and Greg Marsh. A release from the station states, “Yaffe’s crew will focus on all Baltimore sports with fun conversation, guests and lots of banter about the state of the local sporting universe including the Orioles, Ravens, Terps, and local lacrosse.” Yaffe had previously worked at CBS Radio’s crosstown sports talker WJZ-FM.
Bankruptcy Filing Leaves Broadcasters in Financial Lurch. The bankruptcy filing of tax resolution company TaxMasters is forcing a number of broadcasting companies – including CNN, Dial Global, Fox News Channel and others – to face the fact they will likely receive little if anything of what the company owes them. Forbes reports that Time Warner’s CNN is owed the largest amount for ads aired on the cable news channel: $2.6 million. Other broadcasters are also listed as unsecured creditors. News Corp’s Fox News Channel is out $938,414; Dial Global is owed $676,000; MSNBC stands to lose $259,441; and ESPN is out $94,265. TaxMasters and CEO Patrick Cox were hit with a $195 million verdict in Texas for violating the state’s Deceptive Trade Violations Act. It lists assets of just $1.7 million.
Bob Visotcky Takes VP Sales Position at Cumulus Los Angeles. Bob Visotcky moves over from his market manager post at Cumulus Media’s Oxnard-Ventura stations to the Los Angeles cluster where he’ll become vice president of sales representing news/talk KABC and classic rock KLOS-FM.
GOP Primaries/2012 Presidential Race, Supreme Court-ObamaCare Issue, Ryan Budget, Twisters Hit Dallas, and Trayvon Martin Case Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (4/3). The ongoing GOP primary race and the greater 2012 presidential campaign, the charges President Obama is pressuring the Supreme Court in its judgment of the legality of the Patient Care and Affordability Act of 2010, Congressman Paul Ryan’s Republican House budget proposal, tornadoes sweep through the Dallas-Fort Worth area and the Trayvon Martin case were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.