NOW POSTED: This Weekend’s Installment of “The Michael Harrison Wrap: An Overview of the National Conversation.” The latest installment of 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. This new episode titled, “Responsibility, Integrity, and Credibility,” looks back at this past week of January 4-8, 2021. The program features guests (in order of appearance): Kevin Casey, executive editor, TALKERS magazine; Dr. Daliah Wachs, talk show host, Genesis Communications Network/medical doctor; Erick Erickson, talk show host, WSB, Atlanta / talk show host, regional syndication; Joe Madison, talk show host, SiriusXM Satellite Radio; Anne Eller, talk show host / station owner, WCRS, Greenwood, SC; and Victoria Jones, executive director, DC Radio Company. This acclaimed news/talk radio show airs each week on its flagship, WONK-FM, Washington, DC, Friday evenings at 6:00 pm ET. It also airs throughout the weekend on WTIC, Hartford; KSCO, Santa Cruz, CA; KDFD (“Freedom 93.7”), Denver; KFNX, Phoenix; WVLY, Wheeling, WV; WTRW-FM, Scranton/Wilkes Barre, PA; WVOX, Westchester, NY; KBDT, Dallas; KQSP, Minneapolis; KBKW, Aberdeen, WA; WGDJ, Albany, NY; WJFN-FM, Richmond, VA; WZFG, Fargo; KTGO, Tioga, ND; KWAM, Memphis; K-NEWS, San Luis Obispo; WCHM, Clarkesville, GA; WPHM, Port Huron, MI; KSYL, Alexandria, LA; KTOE, Mankato, MN; WCED (“Connect FM”), DuBois, PA; K-NEWS 101.3, Owensboro, KY; WWTK, Sebring, FL; WIZM-AM/FM, La Crosse, WI; the Virginia Talk Radio Network; CRN Digital Talk Radio Network; Pioneer Valley Radio, Springfield, MA; Podcast Radio, UK and many more. To listen to this week’s episode, 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.
KMJ, Fresno’s Ray Appleton Under Scrutiny for “Hanging” Comment. Fresno talk radio host Ray Appleton – heard daily from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm on Cumulus Media’s news/talk KMJ-AM/FM – is being taken to task, at least by the Fresno Bee, for saying on his program that “certain news editors should be hanged… maybe.” Appleton’s comment came during a monologue in which he complained about the media’s coverage of the attack on the U.S. Capitol compared to coverage of protests and riots in Portland and other cities, implying that reporting on those events was more sympathetic. He posted a clarification to his Facebook page that was later removed. In it, he says the comment was “clearly tongue in cheek.” On his program Thursday, he said, “So if you were upset by that, I didn’t mean it. I humbly apologize. I’m not talking about taking every news editor and hanging them. I mean, come on. Get with it.” The Bee reports that a call to KMJ for comment on Appleton’s comment was not returned.
Del Colliano: Cumulus Corporate Flips on Election Talk Mandate. According to InsideMusicMedia publisher Jerry Del Colliano, who cites an internal memo from Cumulus Media EVP of content Brian Philips, the company did an about-face on Wednesday as the assault on the Capitol building was taking place in Washington, DC. Del Colliano says that contrary to what many of the company’s talk hosts were saying up to that point about the legitimacy of the election results, Philips’ memo ordered all Cumulus and Westwood One personalities not to continue presenting any illegitimacy claim. He wrote, “We need to help induce national calm NOW. Cumulus and Westwood One will not tolerate any suggestion that the election has not ended. The election has been resolved and there are no alternate acceptable ‘paths.’” He adds, “If you transgress this policy, you can expect to separate from the company immediately.” Del Colliano writes, “Some employees felt the sudden change in direction was so onerous that it in effect dictated what air talent could not broach on the air even after many years of tolerating if not encouraging controversial political talk for the purpose of increasing ratings.”
WFAN, New York Debuts Craig Carton-Hosted Gambling Addiction Program. The program is titled, “Hello, My Name is Craig,” and will air on WFAN-AM/FM, New York on Saturday mornings at 9:30. The 30-minute program is being hosted by Craig Carton and is being presented by 1-800-GAMBLER. In the program, Carton will “drive candid conversations with listeners about different aspects of gambling and provide resources and outlets to those seeking help or looking for ways to help their loved ones.” Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie will be a regular contributor and the program will feature various guests to share stories of indulgence, falls from grace, and the fight to overcome gambling addiction. Guests will include medical and therapy experts, members of the 1-800-GAMBLER team, founders of rehabilitation treatment centers, and more. Entercom New York SVP and market manager Chris Oliviero says, “Legalized gambling is a growing part of the modern sports experience and the everyday fans’ conversations. Our obligation and commitment are to serve not only the audience that can responsibly enjoy these gaming elements, but also in a meaningful way help those, like Craig, who have an addiction. With Craig’s voice and unique perspective, along with outstanding partners and the influence of the WFAN platform, we will do just that.” Carton adds, “Each week, we will tackle different aspects of what for some is a fun recreation but for others is an addiction that forever alters and sometimes ends lives. The show will be a raw and revealing look into the fastest-growing vice in the country and I look forward to providing my first-hand perspective for both those dealing with the grip of their gambling compulsions as well as the loved ones in their lives.” Carton, who hosted mornings on WFAN with Boomer Esiason from 2007 to 2017, was convicted of fraud he perpetrated in order to pay off gambling debts. He served a year of a three-year sentence in prison. He returned to WFAN this fall to host the WFAN afternoon show with Evan Roberts.
WCCO-AM, Minneapolis Talk Host Dave Lee Announces Retirement. WCCO-AM, Minneapolis morning drive personality Dave Lee announces he’ll retire from the Entercom news/talk station at the end of April. Lee joined the station in September of 1989 from KFGO, Fargo where he was program director and afternoon drive personality. He first joined the station as a weekend and fill-in host and gradually became part of the Charlie Boone and Roger Erickson morning show. Lee took over sole hosting duties of the morning show in 1997. During his career he’s also done play-by-play for the Minnesota Gophers and he filled in as a Minnesota Twins announcer from 1991 to 1996. He continues to do play-by-play for the television broadcasts of the Minnesota State High School Boys and Girls basketball tournaments, while serving as the radio voice of the University of St. Thomas football on WCCO. He’s been named Minnesota’s Sportscaster of the Year six times and has won three Emmys for his television work.
“Free Talk Live” to Migrate from GCN to Talk Media Network. “Free Talk Live” co-founder Ian Freeman announces that his New Hampshire-based, nationally syndicated program will move from current syndicator Genesis Communications Network to Talk Media Network, effective January 18. Freeman says that while GCN has been “a great radio syndication partner” since 2004, for a few reasons (some of them technical) he’s made the hard decision to sign up with TMN. He says, “Talk Media Network is, like GCN, an affiliate-focused network. They don’t have makegoods or cramdowns or other undesirable, unfriendly corporate syndication crap. TMN’s CEO Josh Leng came up through the industry and has himself been a successful talk radio programmer. He knows what it’s like in the trenches and has built his company with the desires of radio stations and programmers in mind. Over the years, we’ve gotten to know Josh and I appreciate his passion for radio.” Freeman continues, “TMN’s also an interesting new take on a syndicate – they don’t have a network studio. Their shows feed directly to Westwood One’s uplink facility. That means that TMN’s overhead is reduced and the potential for failures is lower. It also means we had to start producing our show 100% from the FTL studio, which was no problem, since I’ve had that capability here for years but never used it until now. Since we’re now fully in charge of our program content, phones sound better and our feed on XDS should be a little higher quality as the audio won’t be re-encoded and re-processed at the network studio, since there isn’t one… We will stay on GCN for some time in order to give our stations plenty of time to make the jump. I’m grateful to the crew at GCN for their professionalism and support over the years and especially now. I don’t ever want to burn a bridge and I have nothing but respect and appreciation for Ted, George, Adam, and the rest of the crew there and wish them only the best.”
SportsGrid Content to Air on SiriusXM. There’s a new sports betting-oriented channel on SiriusXM as the satellite broadcaster inks a deal with SportsGrid. The new SportsGrid Radio channel will feature personalities including Scott Ferrall, Gabe Morency, Ariel Epstein, and Jared Smith plus expert contributors and guest analysts. The channel streams live from its production facilities adjacent to New York’s Madison Square Garden and at the Meadowlands inside the FanDuel Sportsbook. SportsGrid says its real-time reporting includes the daily odds, lines, matchups, injury reports, news and more across pro football, basketball, baseball, hockey, college sports, golf, tennis, and soccer.
iHeartMedia Completes Warrant Exchange for Stocks. The company announces that it has completed an exchange of iHeartMedia Warrants (financial instruments that give the holder the right to buy underlying shares at a specific price on or before a specified date) into shares of iHeartMedia Class A Common Stock, the Company’s publicly traded equity, or Class B Common Stock. The company reports that as of December 31, 2020, there were approximately 65 million shares of Class A Common Stock, 7 million shares of Class B Common Stock, and 75 million Warrants outstanding. Following the exchange, there will be approximately 110 million shares of Class A Common Stock, 29 million shares of Class B Common Stock, and 7 million Warrants outstanding. The exchange was authorized by a previously issued Declaratory Ruling from the Federal Communications Commission approving an increase in iHeartMedia’s authorized aggregate foreign ownership from 25% to 100%. Certain shares of Class B Common Stock and Warrants were not converted into Class A Common Stock due to current regulatory restrictions applicable to certain shareholders. iHeartMedia expects additional conversions of Class B Common Stock and Warrants into Class A Common Stock.
Attack on Capitol Building Top News/Talk Story for Week of January 4-8, 2021. Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol Building in Washington by hundreds of Donald Trump supporters was the most-talked-about story on news/talk radio this week, landing atop the Talkers TenTM. At #2 this week was Donald Trump’s continuing denial of the election results combined with his phone call to the Georgia Secretary of State seeking to overturn his loss there. Coming in at #3 was Tuesday’s Georgia runoff election that saw both Democrats beat their Republican opponents. 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 complete chart here.
Howard Stern Signs Renewal with SiriusXM for Five More Years. During previous investor conference calls, outgoing SiriusXM CEO Jim Meyer said he believed Howard Stern and SiriusXM would come to terms on a new deal and today’s announcement bears that out. Under the new agreement, Stern will continue to produce and host “The Howard Stern Show” exclusively for SiriusXM for the next five years, and the Howard Stern archive of audio and video will continue to be licensed to SiriusXM for an additional seven years. Stern says, “Fifteen years ago, I joined SiriusXM, a fledgling group of broadcasters. I had been in a toxic relationship with terrestrial radio. And no matter how well I treated the medium, no matter how successful I made them, they abused me. Going to SiriusXM liberated me. I felt like Tina Turner freeing myself from Ike. And despite the naysayers and the ridicule, we have persevered, and are thriving. I’ve been proven right about satellite radio over and over again. With this contract renewal, I can’t wait to see what else I’ll be right about. Certainly, I have a lot more to say about Metamucil crackers and stepmom porn. Plus, now that I can work from home, I simply don’t have an excuse to quit.” Meyer says, “As the leading audio entertainment company, we couldn’t be happier to have Howard, the leading host in all of radio and audio, continue to make SiriusXM the home for his show, channels, and archives while at the peak of his broadcasting career. Howard’s home has been SiriusXM and it will remain that way, but we’ve expanded SiriusXM in recent years too, and we are excited about finding the right ways that select content from Howard can find audiences on additional platforms. May I add, I consider Howard a close friend and look forward to listening to him for years to come.”
Ron St. Pierre Out at iHeartMedia’s WHJJ, Providence; Jim Polito Takes Over Morning Show. Longtime Providence air personality and programmer Ron St. Pierre has exited iHeartMedia’s news/talk WHJJ-AM, Providence where he hosted the morning drive show. Filling the programming gap is WTAG-AM, Worcester, Massachusetts-based morning personality Jim Polito. In 2016, iHeartMedia dropped the local morning show hosted by Adam Wright and Bo Sullivan on WHYN-AM, Springfield, Massachusetts and began simulcasting Polito’s show there. The WHJJ move puts the Jim Polito show in three of iHeartMedia’s New England markets.
Salem’s KRLA and KTIE Cut Ties with Brian Whitman. Southern California radio pro Brian Whitman exits Salem Media Group’s morning drive show “The Morning Answer” that he co-hosted with Jennifer Horn that was simulcast on KRLA, Los Angeles and KTIE, San Bernardino. Whitman shared the news on his Facebook page on Friday (12/4). He wrote, “I was provided the following from folks at Salem/KRLA this morning. The announcement was sent by the general manager to their kind and hardworking staff, making this news public. I’ll have very personal thoughts to share with members of the ‘Morning Answer Listening Family’ (as I came to know and regard you over many years) very soon. It will be in this space at a time that is more appropriate and comfortable. With all of my love and with the warmest gratitude for every moment that we’ve shared together, I offer words that I know fall far short of my heart’s sentiment. Thank you, thank you, thank you guys.” The message from management was as follows: “After eight years hosting ‘The Morning Answer,’ Brian Whitman will no longer be with us. We wish Brian all the best in the future. Chuck [Tyler] and I echo Phil Boyce who said, “Brian has been a hard-working and extremely talented employee for us for many years. We will always cherish his friendship, and our opportunity to work together at KRLA and KTIE.” Whitman was the liberal counterpart to conservative Horn.
Hubbard Radio Drops Sports Talker Chris Rongey; Re-Aligns Host Lineup. According to a report by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dan Caesar, afternoon drive sports talk personality Chris Rongey has been let go from Hubbard Radio’s WXOS-FM, St. Louis. Rongey had been part of “The Fast Lane” afternoon show since replacing D’Marco Farr in 2017. The station moves midday host Jamie Rivers into afternoons alongside Anthony Stalter and Brad Thompson and promotes Alex Farrario to the midday show co-hosting with Brandon Kiley.
Talk Radio Host Michael Berry’s Good Month Includes Raising $1.3 Million for PTSD Foundation. KRTH, Houston-based, nationally syndicated talk host Michael Berry had a very good month in which his program helped raise $1.3 million for Camp Hope, the residential treatment center run by the PTSD Foundation of America, of which Berry is the national spokesman. The organization was laying off staff, including the vital folks who counsel suicidal veterans who struggle with re-integration after war. Berry teamed up with sponsor Jim “Mattress Mac” McIngvale, owner of the Gallery Furniture chain, to raise funds. During the whole of 2020, Berry’s efforts have raised $3 million for the organization, almost its entire budget. Additionally, Berry made national news on Monday (12/7) for his interview with Houston-based Goya Foods CEO Bob Unanue, during which Unanue said he gave U.S. Rep. Alexandra Ocasio Cortez the company’s “employee of the month” award. This came after Ocasio Cortez called for a boycott on Goya products because Unanue publicly praised President Trump. However, Unanue says the boycott call produced a counter-protest in which supporters flocked to buy Goya goods. On top of that, Berry has added new affiliates, WPNN, Pensacola, Florida, and KNUW, Silver City, New Mexico and hopes to roll out seven new affiliates before the New Year. In case you missed it, TALKERS magazine managing editor Mike Kinosian profiled Berry back in October. Read it here.
PPM Analysis: Sports Talk. The Nielsen Audio PPM ratings survey in the month prior to the November election (October 8 – November 4) was not as generous to sports talk radio stations as it was to news/talk, still TALKERS magazine managing editor Mike Kinosian reports that 46% of sports talkers were up (weekly 6+ AQH share) from the October 2020 survey. Gainers from October to November were led by RadiOhio’s WBNS-FM, Columbus “97.1 The Fan” (+0.7, 6.2 share) and Cumulus Media’s WGFX-FM, Nashville (+0.7, 6.0 share). Due to the pandemic’s effect on live sports, year-over-year comparisons have not been kind to the sports talk format and November 2019 to November 2020 is not different. 68% of sports talk outlets in PPM markets were down. However, 23% of stations gained with Cumulus Media’s KTCK-AM/FM, Dallas leading the pack (+1.6, 2.8 share). While no sports talkers claimed the #1 rank in their market during the November survey, iHeartMedia’s KXFN, Minneapolis came close, posting a 7.6 share good for the #2 rank. See Mike Kinosian’s complete report here.
WJR, Detroit News Director Dick Haefner to Retire. After a 51-year career in radio news, WJR, Detroit news director Dick Haefner is retiring. Haefner, an award-winning newscaster, reporter, and news director, has been WJR news director since 1989. Cumulus Media says that “his tenure is unmatched by any other Detroit broadcast news director. He is one of the most recognizable news voices in his hometown of Detroit, signing on to radio news in 1969 and signing off on December 11, 2020, Haefner’s last day on-air.” The company goes on to note that “under Haefner’s leadership, WJR News has been honored with nearly every national and local news award in the broadcast business, including: the Peabody Award, Associated Press national award for Best Broadcast Reporting, Edward R. Murrow Awards, and numerous state news awards… Some of Haefner’s projects have changed laws. A series on suburban toxic waste dumps resulted in tighter rules for handling waste. An investigation of fraud at gas stations brought about new regulations on service station inspections and fuel hauling, and even changed the way the IRS taxes the fuel hauling industry. Among the biggest stories Haefner has broken are Coleman Young’s baby, the Nancy Kerrigan–Tonya Harding incident heard around the world, and Detroit’s two side-by-side sports stadiums.” Haefner comments, “Anything I may have accomplished is because of other people, my wife Judy, and my family who allowed me to pursue adventures in broadcast news, and especially my co-workers. My most important job was to put them in position to do their best work. What they accomplished every day is my greatest reward. I have had the best job in Detroit radio news for almost 32 years. I’m the luckiest person I know.”
Susan O’Connell Retires from Compass Media Networks; Robert Blum Rises to Senior Manager of Affiliate Sales. Affiliate sales pro Susan O’Connell is retiring from her position as vice president of news/talk affiliate sales with Compass Media Networks, effective December 31. At the same time, the company announces that Robert Blum – a Compass Media staffer since 2011 – is being promoted to senior manager of affiliate sales for news/talk/sports. O’Connell has been in the news/talk affiliate sales business for the past 40 years, the last six with Compass Media. She previously served with the Wall Street Journal Radio Network, ABC Radio Networks, CBS News, and the Progressive Radio Network. She comments, “The best part of my job has always been working with great broadcasters. Thank you all for sharing your time, talent, and friendship over the years. Compass Media Networks was the perfect place to wind up. Representing our stellar news/talk lineup and being part of this team has been an honor and a privilege.” Compass Media Networks CEO Peter Kosann says, “Susan is a total superstar, friend, and treasured colleague. Through hard work, perseverance, and cunning, Susan established Compass Media Networks as a dominant player in news/talk programming with over 750 leading news/talk stations airing over a dozen hours of our daily, live, and original news-talk programming.”
COVID-19 Stats/Vaccines, Trump Challenges, Biden Transition, Stimulus Package, Georgia Runoff Elections, Pornhub Allegations, and Presidential Pardons Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (12/7). The fast-rising number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., the pleas from authorities to follow mask and gathering mandates, and the status of vaccines; Donald Trump continues legal challenges to the results of the presidential election; President-Elect Joe Biden continues his administration’s transition; the debate in Congress over a new stimulus package; the January runoff elections for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats; the allegations that porn giant Pornhub has promoted underage actors; and reports of Donald Trump’s pardon plans were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
Music Radio News and Career Moves. On-air pro and urban media personality Charlamagne Tha God, a.k.a. Lenard McKelvey, and iHeartMedia renew and extend their relationship. The deal means the co-host of the WWPR, New York “Power 105.1”-based, nationally syndicated “The Breakfast Club” will continue to work with iHeartMedia for the next five years. He says, “I give my sincerest thanks to iHeart for empowering me over the past decade to be the best talent that I can be, and for honoring me as an owner and executive. I love the audio business and iHeart is the biggest and best audio company in the world. As co-founder and chief creative officer of the Black Effect Podcast Network and now senior creative officer of cultural content and programming at iHeart, all I want to do for the next five years is continue to move the culture of radio and podcasting forward by curating a new era of voices, programming, and events. GOD IS GREAT! Now, it’s time to get back to work.”