WEEI, Boston to Suspend Programming on Friday; Holds Mandatory Sensitivity Training for Air Staff. In the aftermath of two recent incidents in which WEEI, Boston air personalities made statements that offended some, Entercom is suspending the sports talk station’s Friday programming and all staff will complete mandatory sensitivity training. As regular TALKERS readers are aware, WEEI has been dealing with blowback – including lost advertisers – after a bit in which midday personality Christian Fauria used a phony Asian accent while imitating sports agent Don Yee (who, incidentally, speaks English without an accent). It’s being reported that Comcast, City of Boston Credit Union, the Massachusetts Lottery, and possibly others, have cancelled ad campaigns with the station. Fauria has been suspended by Entercom for a week and both the station and Fauria have apologized for the incident. The cancellations appear to have come on the heels of an op-ed piece by Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung. This latest incident came almost two weeks after WEEI’s Alex Reimer referred to Tom Brady’s daughter as “an annoying little pissant.” Brady cut short a scheduled appearance on the “Kirk & Callahan” morning show because of Reimer’s comments. The station posted the following on its website: “Nothing is more important to WEEI than the close-knit and diverse Boston community we call home, and we are committed to actively contributing to its betterment. WEEI is in the process of closely reevaluating our policies and procedures in an effort to ensure that our programming is never intolerant or harmful to our listeners or our city.” This suspension of live programming for mandatory sensitivity training is, as far back as TALKERS editors can remember, unprecedented in the radio industry.
U.S. Trustee Has Issues with Cumulus Bonus Structure. More accurately, U.S. Trustee William Harrington has issues with the information Cumulus has supplied regarding its bonus structure at both the station level and for corporate executives. Harrington has filed an objection stating that, among other things, Cumulus has not identified the job titles of those at the station level slated for bonuses, has not identified all of the corporate executives scheduled to receive payouts, nor has Cumulus shown that its bonus plan is an actual incentive plan and not retentive in nature (i.e. solely designed to keep key employees on board during a time of uncertainty). What Harrington is saying is that actual incentive plans are allowed but Cumulus hasn’t satisfied him in showing its bonus plans are exactly that and not mechanisms to “enrich insiders” at the “expense of the creditors.” Cumulus issued the following statement regarding Harrington’s objection: “The objection filed last night has absolutely no impact on the authorizations the Court gave the company on February 8th to pay incentive compensation for employees who earned it in 2017, or will earn it in 2018. We will be making our incentive compensation payments to those employees, beginning with this week’s normal payroll cycle. The objection filed is common in these situations and applies only to a small number of senior executives whose compensation will be addressed at an upcoming hearing on March 12th.”
WGN, Chicago to Air White Sox Games. After 75 years, the Chicago White Sox are returning to WGN’s airwaves. As you’re probably aware, Cumulus asked the bankruptcy court to let it out of contracts that were onerous and the WLS-AM/White Sox deal was one of them. Now, for the first time since 1943, White Sox games will return to Tribune’s WGN starting with a spring training game on Friday, February 23. In the booth will be former Sox pitcher Ed Farmer handling play-by-play and former outfielder Darrin Jackson as analyst. WGN VP of content Todd Manley says, “What an honor it is to join the White Sox family. Summer starts TODAY on WGN Radio.”
WOR Names Ray Martel to Executive Producer Role for Mets Broadcasts. New York radio pro Ray Martel – currently the associate producer for WOR, New York’s “Len Berman in the Morning” show – is named executive producer for New York Mets radio broadcasts and “Sports Zone with Pete McCarthy,” effective March 1. Martel says, “I am extremely honored to be the next producer of the Mets broadcasts on 710 WOR. When I began in broadcasting 20 years ago, one of my first positions was as a board-op working on the Mets broadcasts. It’s amazing to think it’s come full-circle two decades later…I can’t wait for the season to start!” Prior to his arrival at WOR, Martel was a producer at crosstown sports talker WFAN for 13 years. He produced for Mike Francesa, Tiki Barber, Brandon Tierney and Dana Jacobson. He also produced for ESPN Radio. Martel takes over for Joe Curci, who is leaving on February 28 for a position outside of radio.
Lauer Named Director of Sales for Entercom Milwaukee. Radio sales pro Eric Lauer is appointed to the director of sales position at Entercom’s Milwaukee station group that includes sports talk WSSP/W289CB “105.7 FM/AM 1250 The Fan,” CHR WXSS “103.7 Kiss FM,” and hot AC WMYX “99.1 The Mix.” Lauer was most recently general sales manager at Scripps’ crosstown news/talk WTMJ and country WKTI. Entercom Milwaukee/Madison SVP and market manager Chuck Sullivan says, “I have known Eric since he first arrived in the market and his passion, intellect and leadership skills were apparent immediately. We feel very fortunate to have him partner with us to lead the Milwaukee team.” Lauer has also held sales management roles with Cox Media Group in Florida and Georgia.
TALKERS News Notes. KIRO-FM, Seattle adds Gee Scott to the evening “KIRO Nights” program with co-host Zak Burns. Scott moves to the new position from Bonneville’s sister sports talker KIRO-AM “710 ESPN Seattle” where he hosted the evening program. He fills the seat vacated by Jason Rantz, who exited last fall to assume the morning drive show on the company’s local news/talk KTTH-AM…..The popular podcast from The New York Times, “The Daily,” is being produced as a 30-minute evening radio program distributed by American Public Media. Michael Barbaro will also host the radio version…..Also in Seattle, iHeartMedia is signing with the Major League Soccer club Seattle Sounders FC to serve as its flagship radio station for match play-by-play. Games and related programming – that used to air on Bonneville’s KIRO-FM – will now air on KJR-AM. Matt Johnson will call the matches along with rotating analysts Wade Webber, Danny Jackson, and Pete Fewing.
Cumulus Celebrates 40 Years of Steve Dahl with Billboard Campaign. Radio personality Steve Dahl has been a part of Chicago radio for 40 years and Cumulus Media is honoring Dahl’s colorful career with a billboard campaign in Chicagoland. Dahl is currently hosting afternoon drive on Cumulus’ news/talk WLS-AM. The image above is part of the creative for the campaign and shows Dahl with the late John Belushi.
audioBoom and Triton Digital Merge. This pairing is being termed a “reverse takeover” with Triton Digital merging with the UK-based audioBoom podcast network and technology provider. audioBoom will acquire all of the stock of Triton Digital Canada for $185 million. The new company will be called Triton Digital Group and will be publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange. The executive structure will effectively remain in place with president/CEO Neal Schore, president/market development John Rosso, EVP/CFO Mark Rosenbaum, and SVP/ product and technology Alex Fournier. Current audioBoom CEO Rob Proctor becomes managing director of the audioBoom business unit. He also remains an executive director. Schore comments, “We’re proud of our position in the marketplace. We feel an enormous sense of responsibility to continuously innovate and to drive monetization opportunities. Our clients can expect us to not only maintain our leadership position, but to have the resources and the team to expand our technology and services meaningfully.” audioboom currently hosts more than 12,000 content channels, with U.S. content partners including: Cumulus Media, Westwood One, and the Associated Press. The transaction is expected to close in late March or early April.
Rob Porter White House Exit/John Kelly Status, Russia Election Interference, DACA Status/Immigration Policy, Trump/Stormy Daniels Matter, U.S. Strikes in Syria, Netanyahu Criminal Allegations, PyeongChang Winter Games, and NBA Action Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (2/13). The aftermath of Rob Porter’s exit from the White House after allegations of spousal abuse and questions about chief of staff John Kelly’s job security; U.S. intel concerns about Russian influence in 2018 mid-term elections; a judge refuses to allow DACA to be shut down and the related Trump Administration policy on immigration; Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen reveals he paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket; U.S. military strikes in Syria allegedly kill Russian mercenaries; Israeli investigators say Benjamin Netanyahu should be indicted on corruption charges; the Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea; and NBA action were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
Deborah Norville to Host BFoA’s Golden Mike Award Ceremony. Television’s Deborah Norville is hosting the Broadcasters Foundation of America’s 2018 Golden Mike Award honoring Graham Media president and CEO Emily Barr on March 5 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Also, at this event Pat McLaughlin will accept the Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of her late husband, Ed McLaughlin, who is credited with discovering Rush Limbaugh and was the founder of EFM Media Management. Ed McLaughlin was chairman emeritus of the Broadcasters Foundation when he passed away last month. This annual event is one of the biggest fundraisers in support of the mission of the Broadcasters Foundation to provide aid to broadcasters in acute need.
WIOV, Lancaster’s ‘Murph’ Dies Unexpectedly at 61. Sad news out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania as Cumulus Media reports that WIOV-FM “I-105” morning personality Jerry Murphy – half of the “Murph & Casey” program with Casey Allyn – died unexpectedly at the age of 61. The duo had worked together on “I-105” for the past 19 years. Station PD Rich Creeger says, “Murph was not only one of the most charismatic personalities I had the pleasure of working with, but he was also a great friend. I will miss him tremendously.” The station has set up a tribute to Murph on the station website at wiov.com.
More Music Radio News and Career Moves. Appointed to take over management of Spanish Broadcasting System’s New York operations is Maire Mason. She’s the new VP/GM for Spanish music outlets WSKQ-FM “Mega 97.9FM” and WPAT-FM “Amor 93.1FM.” Mason, who most recently worked for Cumulus as VP/GM in New York, takes over for Eric Garcia who recently exited to join Univision…..Nate Reed is named operations manager for Cox Media Group’s Tulsa cluster. CMG market VP Cathy Gunther comments, “Nate’s commitment to strong programming will continue to set our stations apart from our competitors. He has been a natural leader at our radio properties and now, with all our platforms working together, he will be integral part of our new leadership team.”…..Yes, it happened on Valentine’s Day! Cumulus Media appoints Chad Valentine program director for CHR WBHT, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Valentine was most recently with iHeartMedia as air personality, APD, and music director for CHR WHYI, Miami “Y100.” Valentine says, “I’m excited to be here and ready to make some great radio for Northeast PA. I’m proud to be part of the next chapter of WBHT’s evolution.”…..Mid-West Family Broadcasting South Bend general manager Jim Roberts leaves the company after almost 22 years to become the national account manager at Cleveland-based Futuri Media. Roberts had served as GM of the South Bend station group since 2011…..Pictured at right are Premiere Networks president Julie Talbott (right) and Premiere’s SVP, talent and brand integration Rick Murray (left) chatting with country star Sara Evans (center) as she kicked off the “CMT Next Women of Country” tour at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City on February 12.