Surprise Cuts Across the Board at Clear Channel Media and Entertainment. In the past when Clear Channel or other big broadcasters have made sweeping reductions in their workforces there have been hints they were coming. This one seems to have surprised industry watchers. Clear Channel vice president Angel Aristone released the following statement about the cuts. “We are constantly evaluating our organization and structure to make sure we are as well positioned as possible to continue to lead in the evolving marketplace. We’ve been looking closely at our business to ensure that we are properly staffed and operating as efficiently as possible with the right balance of services and personnel to meet the needs of our listeners/consumers. Like every successful business, our strategy continues to evolve as we move forward as a company and that creates some new jobs, and unfortunately eliminates others. In the process, some employees were affected. These are never easy decisions to make; we thank them for their service and wish them all the best for the future.” This round of cuts affected mostly mid-sized markets including Columbus, Jacksonville, Nashville, Cincinnati, Portland, Louisville, West Palm Beach and Minneapolis. There was also a restructuring of the company’s Total Traffic operation. Some of the folks from the news and talk formats ousted include: WTAM, Cleveland weekend host Bob Becker; WTOK, Oklahoma City news director Jerry Bohnen; WISN, Milwaukee producer Jason Booth; WPOP, Hartford producer Richard Cooke; WTVN, Columbus news staffer Matt Demczyk; KEX, Portland news staffer Jeff Kirsch; KEX, Portland news anchor Mary Loos; WTOK, Oklahoma City talk host Greg Moore; WLAC, Nashville program director Tom Peace; and WTVN, Columbus sports anchor Dan Watson.
Cumulus Media Ousts Michael Damsky from WLS, Chicago President/GM Post. Cumulus Media COO John Dickey flew into Chicago to deliver the news to Michael Damsky in person that the company is “going in a different direction.” Damsky was brought on board by Citadel in the fall of 2008 as director of sales and promoted to GM in 2010 and charged with turning around news/talk WLS and sister classic hits WLS-FM. Time Out Chicago’s Robert Feder reports he was apparently largely successful but also notes that both sales and ratings have declined over the past six months since Cumulus took over the former Citadel stations. Damsky is quoted saying, “I’m extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish in three-and-a-half years. When I took over as general manager, WLS-AM was without direction. We brought in great talent and worked hard to showcase them. And WLS-FM withstood the attack of a serious competitor a year ago and is stronger now than ever before.” Cumulus has not named a successor for Damsky.
Former Clear Channel Exec Dave Crowl Hired by Cumulus. Dave Crowl will be based out of Cumulus’ Chicago offices as he comes aboard to take the regional vice president post in which he’ll oversee operations and sales in the Midwest region. Crowl served as senior VP of operations with Clear Channel until being let go in a surprise restructuring of executives in May of last year.
Tom Leykis Preps Fans for Monday Return. Monday, April 2 will mark the return of Tom Leykis to a regularly scheduled talk program for the first time since CBS Radio blew up his home base of hot talk KLSX-FM, Los Angeles in February of 2009. Since that time, Leykis has been busy creating music programming and other content for the web via his company The New Normal. He’ll be broadcasting the new Tom Leykis program at 3:00 pm PT on the web on Monday. Leykis is streaming his show via a number of urls including his blowmeuptom.com. He’s signed with TuneIn for delivery to smartphones and tablets and will also offer archived and special content to premium subscribers, although he says the live show and repeats of the previous day’s show will remain available for free.
Journal’s WTMJ, Milwaukee Extends Deal with MLB’s Brewers. The story from the Journal-owned Milwaukee Journal Sentinel doesn’t give a lot of contract details but reports both the baseball club and WTMJ were very interested in continuing their relationship and the team wasn’t even interested in going out to bid when the contract expired. Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger tells the paper they had meetings with WTMJ management about the direction of the relationship, “The conversations were, I would say, spirited. We had a lot of thoughts, as they did, about what they wanted to see out of the relationship. It’s not just economics these days. There is a whole range of marketing, branding, programming, production and financial arrangements. From those discussions we found enough common ground that we were able to forge a new extension. It was somewhat of a different environment than the last time.”
KGMZ-FM, San Francisco Adds Giants Posey and Cain for Weekly Appearances. Entercom’s FM sports talker KGMZ-FM, San Francisco announces the regular weekly appearances of San Francisco Giants players Buster Posey and Matt Cain on the afternoon show “The Drive” with Brandon Tierney and Eric Davis. The Giant Connection will take place every Tuesday at 4:30 pm. Program director Jason Barrett states, “Buster Posey and Matt Cain will give San Francisco Giants fans the superstar perspective they crave, from the pitcher’s mound to behind home plate and definitely inside the clubhouse. They’ve made the switch to FM and we’re so proud to be the only radio station in the Bay Area where Giants fans can hear Buster and Matt talking Giants baseball.”
KILT, Houston Adds Texan Arian Foster for Weekly Show This Fall. Houston Texan Arian Foster will be heard on CBS Radio’s sports talk KILT this fall for his weekly radio show. He’s jumping from crosstown Yahoo! Sports-affiliated KGOW where he co-hosted the show last year with Bob Berger. Beginning in September, he’ll appear with Texans director of radio broadcasting Marc Vandermeer. KILT is the team’s flagship station. Foster’s Tuesday evening show is one of the media offerings the NFL team is programming and selling since its new deal with KILT in which the team takes its media programming and sales in house.
ObamaCare Supreme Court Arguments Top News/Talk Story for Week of March 26-30. This week’s Supreme Court hearings of arguments about the constitutionality of President Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act were the most-talked-about story on news/talk radio, according to ongoing research from TALKERS. The issue landed atop the Talkers TenTM chart of the week’s most-discussed stories and people on news/talk radio. At #2 this week was the Trayvon Martin case. At #3 was the GOP primary and the 2012 presidential campaign and at #4 was rising gas prices tied with President Obama’s attack on big oil. The Talkers TenTM chart is published every Friday at Talkers.com. View the entire chart here.
Support for Captured Soldier. KIDO, Boise morning drive talk show host Kevin Miller recently broadcast live from a local Krispy Kreme store where more than 300 listeners stopped by to sign the giant birthday card (pictured here) for Hailey, Idaho native Bowe Bergdahl. Military authorities believe Bergdahl is still being held by the Taliban in Pakistan and he is believed to be the only POW from the Afghanistan conflict. Bergdahl made news late last year after reports of his attempted escape from captivity in late August or September of 2011. He was free for three days but was recaptured. Bergdahl was taken by the Taliban in June of 2009.
Downsizing at Dial Global/Westwood One; Rumors of Cuts at Clear Channel. The merger of Dial Global and Westwood One was bound to come with the elimination of some positions as both companies do pretty much the same thing: produce, affiliate and rep radio programs. There are no confirmed firings but the word on the street is that about 40 of the now-combined companies’ 600 employees were let go from its New York, Los Angeles and Dallas offices. Meanwhile at Clear Channel, the grapevine is producing chatter that layoffs in medium and small markets are coming based on the company’s hour-by-hour breakout of cost-versus-revenue in the programming departments of its stations. This could mean some local talent getting pink-slipped in favor of the company’s “Premium Content” – a euphemism for in-house syndication.
NPR’s Michele Norris Takes Leave from “All Things Considered” So Husband Can Work for Obama Campaign. After a couple of high-profile PR gaffes, NPR is out front on this one. Michele Norris’ husband Broderick Johnson accepted a senior advisory role with President Obama’s re-election campaign and in a quick response, Norris and NPR are agreeing that Norris will take leave from her co-host role on “All Things Considered” after Friday’s broadcast. Norris will continue to work for NPR producing segments and features but will not be involved in any type of election coverage. In a statement, Norris says, “This has all happened very quickly, but working closely with NPR management, we’ve been able to make a plan that serves the show, honors the integrity of our news organization and is best for me professionally and personally. I will certainly miss hosting, but I will remain part of the ATC team and I look forward to contributing to our show and NPR in new and exciting ways.”
Clear Channel Names John Ivey Senior VP of Programming; Robin Bertolucci Extends PD Responsibilities. Vice president of programming for the Los Angeles cluster John Ivey is promoted to SVP of programming for Clear Channel radio. Ivey has been PD at CHR KIIS-FM, Los Angeles since 2001 and in his new position he’ll assist with CHR programming and talent development across the entire CC Radio operation. At the same time, KFI program director Robin Bertolucci re-signs with the company to continue leading the mega-successful news/talk station and its sister progressive talk outlet KTLK into the future. Prior to joining Clear Channel Los Angeles, Bertolucci programmed the AM stations at Clear Channel’s Denver cluster. CC Radio CEO John Hogan says, “For the past two decades, John has made innumerable contributions to our company’s success, especially over the last 10 years in Los Angeles at KIIS-FM, and Robin has led the iconic KFI brand to unprecedented audience growth and engagement. As a company, we put a priority on recognizing our high performers with advancement opportunities to grow and develop their careers and we are pleased to have great programming management talent like John and Robin renew their commitment to the Clear Channel team.”
Syndicated Lex & Terry Morning Hosts Sue Seven Bridges WJXL, Jacksonville. This one’s a contract dispute. United Stations Radio Networks-syndicated morning hosts Lex Staley and Terry Jaymes were brought aboard Seven Bridges’ sports talk WJXL, Jacksonville in April of this year with what Lex & Terry say was a three-year deal. Their show was pulled from the air on October 10. The details of the contract aren’t clear but the duo have hired Jacksonville attorney John M. Phillips to handle the dispute. Ironically, Phillips hosted a legal call-in show on WJXL called “Sports & Courts.” Phillips states, “For months I have preached accountability on my radio show. Whether someone is injured at the hands of another…or someone wants to simply get out of a contract because of personal preference, the law enforces accountability. WJXL is accountable to Lex & Terry and hopefully this matter will be resolved soon.” Syndication contracts are usually pretty clear in stating the terms for ending the deal so it’ll be interesting to see what transpires in this case.
Clear Channel Promotes American Express’ Second Annual “Small Business Saturday” Initiative. The “Small Business Saturday” initiative is a campaign spearheaded by American Express to promote shopping at local, independent stores and businesses on Saturday, November 26. A six-point promotional campaign begins tomorrow and runs through November 26 that includes: a public interest campaign across Clear Channel’s 850 radio stations, on-air advocacy by popular station personalities, the telling of local small business success stories, promotion via social media and digital integration, local advisory board activities and community events in local markets along with initiative partner Women Impacting Public Policy. Clear Channel Radio CEO John Hogan states, “Our goal is to stimulate small business sales on the biggest shopping weekend of the year by reminding listeners of the impact on their communities. The campaign is also intended to give a bigger voice to small business owners.”
Townsquare Media’s New Jersey 101.5 and WJLK-FM, Asbury Park Host “Home Cooking” NTR Event. The two Townsquare Media stations are presenting the “Taste of Home Cooking Show” in conjunction with the popular food and entertaining magazine Taste of Home at Branches Catering in West Long Branch, New Jersey on November 1. Listeners can buy tickets – including a VIP ticket for $50 per person – to sample dishes and get cooking tips from the magazine’s culinary specialist Eric Villegas who will demonstrate 10 new recipes. VIP ticket holders will get a meet and greet with Villegas and an autographed copy of his new book, Taste of Home Christmas Cookies & Candy.
WWJ, Detroit Hosts “Resurrecting Detroit” Business Breakfast. This one’s not an NTR event but a community goodwill promotion. CBS Radio’s WWJ, Detroit produces the Great Lakes Innovation and Technology Report written by the station’s technology editor Matt Roush. The station has developed a program called the WWJ/GLITR UnWIRED coffee series and this particular breakfast is part of that. The event will be held at Lawrence Technological University’s ULTC Gallery on Thursday, October 27. Roush will moderate a panel discussion by local business leaders on ways to improve the city of Detroit and strengthen its business core. WWJ station manager Pete Kowalski says, “WWJ remains committed to Detroit and we’re proud to present another great business breakfast. This panel, with such stellar business leaders, will be discussing some truly innovative and transforming ideas for the city. It promises to be a very exciting and inspiring event.”
WTVN, Columbus “Morning Monarch” Bob Conners to Retire. Bob Conners has hosted the morning drive show on Clear Channel’s news/talk WTVN, Columbus since 1978 – he began working at the station in 1964. Now, Conners announces he’ll retire on November 30. He tells his listeners he’s honored and humbled to have been able to do what he loves for so long. WTVN program director Mike Elliott tells WBNS-TV, “Bob Conners has been a staple in Columbus radio for a very long time; consider the mold broken. Bob always said, ‘Radio has been good to me,’ but Bob Conners was good for radio.” Connors has been at it in AM drive so long his colleagues nicknamed him the “morning monarch.” WTVN Saturday morning host Joel Riley will take over the AM drive show on an interim basis in December.