By Mike Kinosian
As we continue to grapple our way through what has become the “new normal” of surviving a pandemic, we relentlessly pursue silver-lining inspiration to soothe the country’s collective, pervasive heartbreak.
Countless examples have surfaced of people stepping up to do their part in ways that, many times, are profoundly creative and often times, magnificently benevolent.
iHeartMedia and Charlamagne Tha God Launch ‘The Black Effect Podcast Network.’ A new podcast network from iHeartMedia and nationally syndicated radio personality Charlamagne Tha God is in the works. iHeartMedia says, “The Black Effect Podcast Network is positioned to become the world’s largest podcast publisher dedicated to Black listeners, bringing together the most influential and trusted voices in black culture for stimulating conversations around social justice, pop culture, sports, mental health, news, comedy and more.” Charlamagne says, “Blackness has an immediate, culture shifting effect on everything. Blackness controls the cool. Blackness is the culture, but Black Voices are not monolithic. The only way to appreciate the diversity of thought and experiences in Black culture is to build a platform for those voices to be heard. Unapologetically Black experiences, unapologetically Black thought, unapologetically Black ideas. Black, Black, Blackity Black, Black, Black, Black. Everything Black. Black Everything. The vision for The Black Effect is to amplify, elevate, and empower emerging and established talent. Our goal is to shift the narrative from Black creators signing transactional deals, to instead forming legacy partnerships that build generational wealth while allowing each creative to have an equitable stake in their future. As a longtime partner of iHeart, it’s an honor to make history with them.” The Black Effect Podcast Network creatives will include comedian/actress Jess Hilarious, social justice activist Tamika Mallory, American attorney and TV host Eboni K. Williams, and many more.
Fred Toucher Back on WBZ-FM, Boston. After seven weeks away from his role as co-host of the morning drive “Toucher and Rich” program on Beasley Media Group’s WBZ-FM, Boston “98.5 The Sports Hub,” Fred Toucher re-joins Rich Shertenlieb and the cast today (9/9). As reported by the Boston Globe, Toucher took leave of the show on July 22 to enter rehab for alcohol addiction. He tweeted on Tuesday, “I’m back baby! It’s been a crazy few weeks but I survived. I want to thank all of you for the tremendous support. I have read all your messages and they helped me more than you could imagine. I will tell my story starting tomorrow at 6am on Toucher and Rich 98.5 the sports hub.”
New Afternoon Show Debuts at Cumulus’ KTIK-FM, Boise. The new afternoon show at Cumulus Media’s sports talk KTIK-FM, Boise includes the station’s current afternoon personality Mike Prater and new station voice Johnny “The Ballgame” Mallory. The show is called “Idaho Sports Talk With Prater & The Ballgame” and airs from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Mallory is a former Boise radio personality who’s been hosting his own show in LaGrande, Oregon for the past four years. KTIK program director John Patrick says, “Johnny will bring tremendous energy that will be infectious to our listeners. We’ve put together a strong team that will carry the Idaho Sports Talk tradition of smart and entertaining conversation with a focus on Boise State athletics.” The station says that Boise State University athletics voice Bob Behler will continue his appearances on “Idaho Sports Talk With Prater & The Ballgame,” doing daily segments on teams, student-athletes, news and trending issues at Boise State. Behler also continues as the play-by-play voice of the football and men’s basketball teams.
Ramon Foster Joins Morning Show at WGFX-FM, Nashville. Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman and Tennessee Volunteers player Ramon Foster is joining Cumulus Media’s sports talk WGFX-FM, Nashville “104.5 The Zone” as co-host of the morning drive program alongside Jason Martin, effective today (9/9). Station program director Paul Mason says, “From the moment I met Ramon Foster, I knew he was the right person for this role. Not only is he a ‘Vol For Life’ with many years in the NFL, but he is also very likable, a great storyteller, and is just flat out interesting to listen to. I’m extremely excited and happy for our listeners!”
Rob Schmitt to Host Prime-Time Show on Newsmax TV. News pro Rob Schmitt is joining Newsmax TV to host a prime-time program. Newsmax says that beginning weeknights this fall, “Schmitt’s new prime-time hour will include fast-paced news, analysis, and commentary covering the topics most important to Americans.” Schmitt most recently anchored the “FOX & Friends First” morning show and was a co-anchor for “FOX Nation.” Newsmax Media CEO Christopher Ruddy says, “Rob has the kind of journalistic credentials and positive reputation we look for here at Newsmax and our viewers will be well served by his honest reporting.”
Presidential Election/Mail-In Voting, DOJ-E. Jean Carroll Case, COVID-19 Stats & Projections/Vaccine Trials, School Openings/College Outbreaks, California Wildfires, and Oscars Inclusion Standards Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (9/8). The November presidential election, the controversy over mail-in voting, and President Trump’s request that supporters act as “poll watchers”; the Department of Justice seeks to defend Trump in the E. Jean Carroll sexual assault allegation; the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and projections for future cases and the related quest for a vaccine; the challenges of opening U.S. schools to students and the COVID-19 outbreaks at numerous college campuses; the raging California wildfires; and the new inclusion standards for the Oscars were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
TALKERS News Notes. Little Rock talk show host Dave Elswick celebrated 20 years on the air in the market on Tuesday (9/8). Elswick, has been a personality at Salem Media Group’s KXDE, Little Rock “101.1 The Answer” for the past six years, previously handled afternoon drive at Cumulus Media’s crosstown news/talk KARN-AM/FM. He’s been in the radio business for 50 years…..FOX Sports Radio launches a new iHeartRadio original podcast titled, “I Want Your Flex,” distributed by the iHeartPodcast Network. The program is a fantasy football-themed podcast hosted by FSR personalities Mike Harmon and Dan Beyer. New episodes will drop on Tuesday and Friday mornings. Harmon has served as co-host of FSR’s “The Jason Smith Show with Mike Harmon.” He also hosts a two-hour Sunday morning show on FSR from 9:00 am to 11:00 am with LaVar Arrington. Beyer is FSR’s managing news editor, and can be heard weekdays on “The Doug Gottlieb Show.”…..Cumulus Media’s Westwood One and Imperative Entertainment premiere “TRUE,” a weekly podcast that “features often weird, but always true stories of strange events and unforgettable moments.” New episodes include topics such as: ‘Balloon Boy’ in which the Heene family claimed their six-year-old son was trapped in a homemade helium-filled gas balloon shaped to resemble a flying saucer, and ‘Pigeon King’ – the story of how Arlan Galbraith used pigeons to scam millions of dollars from small town farmers, mostly Mennonites, Amish and Hutterites, across Canada and the US…..Entercom is partnering with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation to host the first annual Giving Week campaign in support of the foundation’s signature program, My Home Library. All this week, Entercom’s Houston stations are working to raise $100,000 to provide more than 3,500 home libraries to economically disadvantaged Houston children…..Vuolo Video’s Art Vuolo is making audio from the morning of September 11, 2001 available to stations for use in recognizing the anniversary of the terror attacks this Friday. The “mini-documentary” runs about 13 minutes and includes radio sound and clips from WABC, WCBS-AM, WCBS-FM, WOR, WINS, and WHTZ featuring air personalities Scott Shannon, Elvis Duran, Curtis Sliwa, Sean Hannity, Lee Harris, Ed Walsh, John Gambling, Joe Bartlett, and Joey Reynolds. The link to the YouTube video is here.
Music Radio News and Career Moves. In New Orleans, Cumulus Media flips classic hits KKND-FM to hot AC as “106.7 The Krewe.” The station will feature core artists including: Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles, and Maroon 5, among others. The weekday programming lineup includes “The Bert Show” 5:00 am to 9:00 am and “The Adam Bomb Show” from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm…..Cumulus Media alternative rock WKQX-FM, Chicago is presenting the history of the alternative rock genre via its “The History of Alternative,” an exclusive five-week radio series that began on Tuesday (9/8). The program will air nine hours a day, every day, on WKQX through October 9. WKQX program director and Cumulus VP, corporate programming/rock formats Troy Hanson comments, “For 25-plus years, WKQX has had the good fortune of being Chicago’s amplifier to all things alternative. This labor of love will showcase the music since the dawn of the genre, as well as the pop culture happenings surrounding the movement. A credit to our incredible listeners who have helped shape the face of alternative. We’ve got you covered. All 23 minutes of Kraftwerk ‘Autobahn’? Check. Guyliner tips from The Cure? Check. Flannel meets punk meets Lilith Fair? Check. Zoot suit chain wallets? Check. Backwards red baseball cap? Yeah….even that phase, plus a couple more surprises along the way.” “The History of Alternative” was produced by WKQX’s Troy Hanson, Jon Manley, and James Van Osdol. The series was narrated by Brian Philips and hosted by Lauren O’Neal and Tim Virgin.
NOW POSTED: New Installment of “The Michael Harrison Wrap: An Overview of the National Conversation.” The vibrant, one-hour weekend special, “The Michael Harrison Wrap,” that looks back each week at the hottest topics discussed in American talk media per the research of TALKERS magazine, is now posted on the website of its flagship station, WONK-FM, Washington, DC. The new episode titled, “Lives versus Livelihood?” looks back at this past week of March 23-27, 2020 and features guests (in order of appearance): Kevin Casey, executive editor, TALKERS; Mike Gallagher, talk show host, Salem Radio Network; Curtis Sliwa, talk show host, 77WABC, New York; Dr. Daliah Wachs, physician/talk show host, Genesis Communications Network; Steve Weisman, professor of law, Bentley University, Boston/webmaster, scamicide.com; Trevor Smith, radio content producer, Aloha Productions, Australia; Bobbie Winston (La Femme Bobbie), American ex-pat/artist, Brazil; Victoria Jones, executive director, DC Radio Company; David Clayton-Thomas, musician, songwriter/former lead vocalist, Blood, Sweat & Tears. This acclaimed news/talk radio show airs each week on WONK-FM, Washington, DC Friday evenings at 6:00 pm ET. It also airs throughout the weekend on WRKO, Boston; KSCO, Santa Cruz, CA; KDFD (“Freedom 93.7”), Denver; KFNX, Phoenix; WVLY, Wheeling, WV; WVOX, Westchester, NY; KBDT, Dallas; KQSP, Minneapolis; KBKW, Aberdeen, WA; WGDJ, Albany, NY; the Virginia Talk Radio Network and Pioneer Valley Radio in Springfield, MA. To listen to this week’s episode (and the program’s complete archives), please click here. To view the latest TALKERS magazine topic research, please click here. “The Michael Harrison Wrap” is now available in syndication via Talk Media Network to stations across America on a market exclusive basis. For affiliation information, please click here or call 616-884-8616.
Adams Radio Reducing Salaries to Avoid Layoffs. In his announcement that Adams Radio Group staffers have agreed to take a temporary 10% pay cut in order to avoid layoffs, CEO Ron Stone says, “I could not be prouder of our employees. Every employee of Adams Radio stepped up to do their part to ensure that no Adams employee would lose their position. We are a family. Our goal is singular. To ensure everyone in our company gets through this crisis with the least amount of harm. This test of our country’s ability to weather a storm is unlike anything any of us have seen, but we will get through this together, and be stronger for it. What seems like a huge sacrifice today, is miniscule compared to what our fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers sacrificed. At least we are not weathering winter without coats or boots like Washington’s army at Bunker Hill. We are not killing our brothers in a civil war. And we are not living for weeks in foxholes in horrible winter conditions during the Battle of the Bulge. Things could be much worse. I sincerely hope that any company, media or otherwise, will consider overall reductions in compensation on a temporary basis rather than terminate employees. Our most important asset is our people, and we should do all we can to keep them whole. I am so thankful for a staff that not only wants to participate in helping our company weather this storm, they are working tirelessly in our communities to keep our local businesses front and center in the minds of listeners.”
Backbone Offers Broadcast from Home Capability Free for 45 Days. In order to help the radio industry serve the public, digital remote broadcast provider Backbone is offering its Backbone CoHost with LUCI Global apps to radio stations for free for 45 days. The company says, “We need to stay safe, and we need to stay on the air. Working from home is no longer just a futuristic perk, it’s our current duty. This should be easy and affordable, and it can be. There is no need to outlay capital to survive, thanks to our unique, integrated Virtualization in the Cloud. Backbone CoHost PL is a fast and easy way for stations to create an always-available ‘Party Line’ conference room for one or more hosts, guests, and correspondents to contribute live audio for your broadcasts. These two-way conversations are enabled by using the groundbreaking LUCI Global service from Technica del Arte and their free, downloadable apps for iOS, Mac, Android, and Windows platforms. LUCI enables these phones, pads, and computers to communicate with and using the same standard formats used by commercial hardware, including COMREX and TIELINE. CoHost PL is a simplified, unswitched version of Backbone CoHost, allowing users to instantly join the broadcast with the touch of a finger. There are no IT settings to configure, no port selections to worry about, and no equipment to purchase or forget in the car. It all works with whatever device you’re carrying, and over any decent Internet access you can find.” Backbone is offering a fully functional, unlimited demo of CoHost PL and LUCI Global to our existing phone and radio customers, as well as U.S.-based call-letter radio and TV stations, for 45 days, starting March 30. Find out more here. To start a free 45-day trial, email your contact information and a brief note about your organization to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dom Giordano Launches “Home Learning Tips” One-Minute Feature on WPHT, Philadelphia. Recognized throughout the state of Pennsylvania as a master teacher prior to beginning his stellar, decades-long radio career on some of Philadelphia’s leading news/talk outlets, WPHT mid-morning host Dom Giordano has launched a series of one-minute tips on home schooling for parents to utilize in productively keeping their kids busy while they are home during the coronavirus crisis. The feature runs once per hour between 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm every weekday. Giordano tells TALKERS, “After hearing from listeners about the challenges of working with their kids at home due to schools being closed, I offered my station a one-minute daily combination pep talk and ideas to help their kids at home for parents. The theme is you are your child’s first and best teacher. I’m tapping into my credibility with listeners and my years as an education/parenting analyst and columnist.”
Cumulus’ Dallas Talk Stations Hosting Special Mark Cuban Broadcast Today. Dallas news/talk stations WBAP and KLIF-AM are presenting an on-air town hall with businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, titled, “Assisting DFW Businesses During the Coronavirus.” The Cumulus Media stations will simulcast the program from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm CST. The WBAP/KLIF Town Hall will be hosted by Brian Estridge and Rick Roberts and topics addressed will include: How can businesses survive during these times?; How would the government’s Coronavirus Spending Package assist?; and How can consumers help their local community businesses?
Weighing the Economy Versus Lives Is Top News/Talk Story for Week of March 23-27. The ethical dilemma of whether to save the country’s economy by reopening businesses or keep them shut to limit the deaths and the toll on the health care system was the most-talked-about story on news/talk this week and sitting atop the Talkers TenTM. At #2 this week was the stimulus deal being crafted in Congress and the activity on the world’s financial markets. Coming in at #3 is the status of the U.S. health care system, followed by the presidential race and politics at #4. The Talkers TenTM is a weekly chart of the top stories and people discussed on news/talk radio during the week and is the result of ongoing research from TALKERS magazine. It is published every Friday at Talkers.com. See this week’s entire chart here.
iHeartMedia and Salem Media Group Withdraw Guidance on First Quarter of This Year. Not surprisingly, two of the radio industry’s corporations – iHeartMedia, Inc. and Salem Media Group Inc. – are announcing they are withdrawing their financial guidance originally provided on their 2019 fourth quarter earnings calls. iHeartMedia chairman and CEO Bob Pittman states, “Given the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the duration and magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the U.S. economy, we believe it is appropriate to withdraw our full-year 2020 guidance. While we cannot determine the full extent of COVID-19’s impact on our business at this time, we are monitoring this rapidly evolving situation closely and look forward to discussing our business in greater detail as part of our first quarter 2020 earnings results investor call.” iHeartMedia COO and CFO Rich Bressler adds, “iHeartMedia had a strong January and February before the effects of COVID-19 began to unfold into a global pandemic in early March. The challenges that COVID-19 has created for advertisers and consumers has impacted iHeart’s revenue in recent weeks, creating a less clear business outlook in the near term. To maintain maximum financial flexibility during this period, we have drawn $350 million on our $450 million senior secured asset-based revolving credit facility (“ABL Facility”). We believe that the additional funds from drawing on our ABL Facility, in combination with our cash balance, provides us with a prudent level of liquidity at this time. We fully appreciate the unprecedented challenges posed by this crisis, however, we remain confident in our business, our employees and our strategy. With our experienced management team and our leadership position in the audio sector, we are committed to navigating this period while serving our audiences and other constituents.” Salem Media Group, Inc. says in a statement, “Based on current indications, Salem expects total first quarter 2020 revenue will be less than previously projected as a result of decreased revenues from advertising, programming, events and book sales. Due to continuing uncertainties regarding the ultimate scope and trajectory of COVID-19’s spread and evolution, the effects of the pandemic on Salem’s audiences, programmers and advertisers, and current and potential future governmental restrictions that may be adopted in the markets in which Salem operates, it is impossible to predict the total impact that the pandemic may have on Salem’s business.”
TALKERS News Notes. Nationally syndicated talk radio star Michael Savage is appointed by President Trump to the board of directors of the Presidio Trust for a term expiring May 4, 2023. Along with the National Park Service, the Presidio Trust manages the Presidio of San Francisco, the former military fort that is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The host of the Westwood One-syndicated “The Savage Nation” holds a doctorate in ethnobotanical research from the University of California and both a Master of Science in botany and a Master of Arts in anthropology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa…..Chicago media writer Robert Feder reports that former WGN-AM station manager Todd Manley is producing a new podcast via his EarSight Studios that pairs Windy City communications consultants Lissa Druss and Thom Serafin for “The Crisis Cast.” The episodes will be hosted by former WBBM-AM/WFCS-FM anchor Mariam Sobh. EarSight expects to produce three to five podcasts per week…..Today (3/27), Cox Media Group’s Atlanta stations – led by news/talk WSB-AM/WSBB-FM – is hosting a virtual food drive to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank as part of the Stronger Together ATL campaign. Atlanta Community Food Bank continues to provide meals for children, families and seniors as access to nutritious food throughout the COVID-19 crisis, by working with more than 600 nonprofit partners and the new Text for Help program…..The Cumulus Media news/talk teams at WBAP and KLIF-AM in Dallas were well represented at this year’s Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Contest. Reporter Clayton Neville won First Place for Spot News by a Reporter for his coverage of the August 2019 El Paso Shooting. The WBAP news team was awarded Second Place for Spot Coverage by a Station for coverage of the North Dallas Tornadoes in October. For the 6th year KLIF morning drive anchors Dave Williams and Amy Chodroff won First Place for News Anchor Team and WBAP’s Brian Estridge won First Place for Sports Play-by-Play.
PPM Analysis: Classic Rock. TALKERS magazine managing editor Mike Kinosian presents his look at the performances of radio stations based on data from Nielsen Audio’s February 2020 PPM survey, today focusing on classic rock. It was a mixed bag in February for classic rock stations in the PPM markets, with 44% of stations losing weekly, 6+ AQH share and 46% gaining. Year-over-year, 50% of classic rockers lost share while 43% saw an increase. Three classic rock outlets – all owned by iHeartMedia – ranked #1 in February: KRFX, Denver “The Fox” (5.7), WRFX, Charlotte “The Fox” (7.9), and WAQX, New York (in the Middlesex-Somerset-Union market) (7.4). See Mike Kinosian’s entire report here.
More Music Radio News and Career Moves. On-air pro AJ Dukette joins Saga Communications’ classic hits WYNZ, Portland “Rewind 100.9” to host mornings, taking over for the recently retired Chuck Igo. Saga vice president of programming Bob Lawrence says, “When learning that Chuck was retiring, we began an extensive search for the right person to fill his shoes and then – Voila! – AJ appeared late last week. We could not be more thrilled to welcome such a talented, Portland icon.”…..Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the annual Mountain Jam Festival scheduled for May 29-31 at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Bethel, New York has been cancelled. Acts scheduled to perform included Gov’t Mule, Trey Anastasio Band, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, The Head and the Heart, Grace Potter, and many more…..Empire State Realty Trust and iHeartMedia announce their partnership to “reach those sheltering at home” with WHTZ, New York Z100’s radio waves and Empire State Building’s world-famous tower lights. Tonight at 9:00 pm, the tower of the Empire State Building will illuminate the New York City skyline and beam iHeartMedia’s Z100 with a light show synced to the modern era anthem of New York City, Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind.” The light show will replay on Saturday, March 28, and then again from Monday, March 30 through Thursday, April 2. On Sunday, March 29, the Empire State Building will “shine in a dynamic heartbeat” from 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm in support of the “FOX Presents the iHeart Living Room Concert for America.”
By Mike Kinosian
Uniquely intriguing is an albeit slight paradox present in what some could consider a reasonably simplistic industry concept (“not exactly rocket science”) currently gaining traction that happens to be spearheaded by someone whose voluminous, ultra-impressive roots are in … rocketry.
Situated 11 miles east of Worcester/34 miles west of Boston in Worcester County, Westboro (Massachusetts)-based Backbone Networks proclaims that a Mac and a mic are all one requires for “the only completely integrated radio station service comprising live production, automation, storage, streaming, syndication, live assist, and call-in phone system.”