NOW POSTED: This Weekend’s Installment of “The Michael Harrison Wrap: An Overview of the National Conversation.” The latest installment of the 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, “Bridges, Roads and Condos,” looks back at this past week of June 21-25, 2021. The program features guests (in order of appearance): Kevin Casey, executive editor, TALKERS magazine; Mandy Connell, talk show host, KOA, Denver; Harry Hurley, morning show host, WPG, Atlantic City, NJ; Vince Benedetto, CEO, Bold Gold Media Group; Dr. Daliah Wachs, talk show host, Genesis Communications Network; Sid Rosenberg, talk show host, WABC, New York and Victoria Jones, executive director, DC Radio Company. The 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, 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; WGMD, Rehoboth Beach, DE; WCHM, Clarkesville, GA; WPHM, Port Huron, MI; KSYL, Alexandria, LA; KTOE, Mankato, MN; WCED, DuBois, PA; K-NEWS 101.3, Owensboro, KY; WWTK, Sebring, FL; WSAR-AM/FM, Fall River, MA; WIZM-AM/FM, La Crosse, WI; WMVA, Martinsville, VA; the Virginia Talk Radio Network; CRN Digital Talk Radio Network; the iHeart Podcast 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.
WABC, New York Host and Former Trump Lawyer Rudy Giuliani Suspended from Practicing Law in New York. The New York State Appellate Division, First Department suspended the law license of former NYC mayor, former Donald Trump attorney, and current WABC, New York talk host Rudy Giuliani. The court ruled that Giuliani “communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020.” It added that Giuliani’s conduct “immediately threatens the public interest and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law.” The fate of Giuliani’s New York law license hangs in the balance as the court added, “We find that there is evidence of continuing misconduct, the underlying offense is incredibly serious, and the uncontroverted misconduct in itself will likely result in substantial permanent sanctions at the conclusion of these disciplinary proceedings.”
Audacy Unveils Sports Podcast Studio Building 2400Sports. The new podcast studio for production of Audacy sports podcasts is being launched. 2400Sports houses Audacy Sports’ digital audio content, including both new and existing original podcasts. It is the latest addition to Audacy’s podcast portfolio, which contains premium podcast companies Cadence13 and Pineapple Street Studios, as well as the recently acquired Podcorn. Audacy chairman, president and CEO David Field says, “We’re excited to launch a third major studio with a goal of building 2400Sports into the home of the country’s best sports podcasts. We look forward to developing elite partnerships, including our just-announced deal with MLB, to create truly special, riveting sports content.” In the new partnership with MLB, Audacy and the league will collaborate on the production and distribution of official podcast programming for the league and its clubs. The studio will launch with a new flagship podcast series in development that revisits baseball’s most dramatic and thrilling postseason campaigns. The first installment, coming this fall, will take a deep dive into the Chicago Cubs’ historic march to the 2016 World Series championship. Audacy will work with all 30 clubs to develop new podcast content. Also concurrent with the studio launch, Audacy announces a development deal with award-winning podcast producer Jody Avirgan’s Roulette Productions. Over the coming months, Avirgan will contribute to 2400Sports’ slate of programming by developing and creating new original shows across a range of sports and genres. From 2016-2020, Jody Avirgan was the executive producer and host of ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcasts.
KBLA, Los Angeles Adds Black Information Network News. The new talk station launched by Tavis Smiley – KBLA, Los Angeles “Talk 1580” – is adding BIN: Black Information Network’s national news service to its programming, according to Premiere Networks. KBLA will feature Black Information Network News’ :60 newscasts at the top and bottom of the hour, as well as breaking news, from experienced and award-winning Black journalists. Premiere says the news service is available on more than 40 stations nationwide and is “the first and only 24/7 comprehensive national audio Black News service dedicated to providing an objective, accurate and trusted source of continual news coverage with a Black voice and perspective.” KBLA president and COO Elston Butler says, “We’re excited to partner with Black Information Network News. We knew it would deliver the trusted news and information that is valuable to our listeners. Other news sources offered KBLA a nice piece of the news pie, but with BIN, we felt we would receive the whole recipe that our listeners deserve.”
Cumulus Media Completes $175 Million Debt Paydown. The company completes a multi-step procedure it began in May of this year to pay down $175 million of debt using cash on hand. Here’s how it happened: On May 17, Cumulus Media completed a $60 million repayment of its ABL Revolver due 2025, which represented the entirety of the amount outstanding under the facility. Following the paydown, the ABL Revolver due 2025 is undrawn and available as liquidity for general corporate purposes. On May 25, it paid down approximately $89 million of its Term Loan Credit Facility due 2026 related to a mandatory prepayment obligation arising from the company’s previously announced sale of land in Bethesda, MD, in June 2020 and sale of towers and related assets in September 2020. Pursuant to the terms of its 6.75% Senior Secured First Lien Notes due 2026, on May 26, 2021, the company launched a tender offer to repurchase approximately $26 million of the Notes at par, which represents the pro rata amount required to be offered from the proceeds of the Tower Sale. As of the expiration of the Tender Offer, approximately $3 million of Notes were validly tendered, accepted for payment and subsequently cancelled. Giving effect to the impact of the Tender Offer, approximately $450 million principal amount of Notes remains outstanding. Finally, on June 24, Cumulus submitted an irrevocable paydown notice to the administrative agent of the Term Loan to effectuate a required paydown of $23 million, which represents the remainder of the initial amount of the Tender Offer that was not validly tendered prior to the expiration date. Cumulus EVP and CFO Francisco J. Lopez-Balboa says, “As the improvement in economic and public health conditions continues to drive momentum in business trends, we felt it appropriate to accelerate several debt repayments in order to expedite our balance sheet de-levering, reduce interest expense, and increase our free cash flow generation. We believe this better leverage and free cash flow profile, more than $200 million of available liquidity and solid rebound trajectory are significantly enhancing our financial flexibility. Given our strong competitive position, proven execution track record, and numerous revenue growth drivers, we are confident in our multiple pathways to grow shareholder value.”
The Score’s Danny Parkins Leads Fundraising of More Than $650,000 for Food Bank. The Athletes for Justice’s Austin Harvest food mart project was the beneficiary of WSCR, Chicago’s “What About Chicago Radiothon.” The Audacy sports talker helped raise more than $650,000 for the charity launched by former Chicago Bear Sam Acho and its mission to erase a food desert and build a permanent facility that can fully service the community and those in need. 670 The Score brand manager Mitch Rosen says, “What a tremendous 24 hours. ‘The Score’ asked and the audience delivered for Austin Harvest to build a permanent food mart. I can’t thank our dedicated listeners, our score team, Danny Parkins who led all of us, and Sam Acho enough. We’re so proud to help support a great cause. Thank you, Chicago.” Parkins adds, “That’s the Chicago that I know and love. We saw a problem and helped to solve. So, when people ask, ‘What about Chicago?’ I want people to tell them the story of Austin Harvest, Sam Acho and ‘670 The Score.’ Thank you to everyone who donated and helped us erase a food desert and fund the construction of a permanent facility for Austin Harvest.” Austin Harvest is in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago and was originally a pop–up food mart that was a converted liquor store. The mart addressed a food desert in the city and was staffed as an after-school program three days a week by local kids.
‘98.5 The Sports Hub’ Raises $27,000-plus for Boston Children’s Hospital. The Beasley Media Group sports talk station raised more than $27,000 to benefit the Pediatric Advanced Care Team (P.A.C.T.) Unit at Boston Children’s Hospital via the 10th Annual Who’s Your Caddy? Classic charity golf tournament. WBZ-FM “98.5 The Sports Hub” afternoon drive personality Tony Massarotti created the original event in memory of his nephew who was cared for by the P.A.C.T. Unit. Pictured above (from l-r) are: Massarotti, Chris L. and Erika O. from Coca-Cola Beverages Northeast and “The Sports Hub Golf Club” host Hardy.
Pompeo Speaks at National Religious Broadcasters Conference. Pictured above is former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) with Salem Radio Network VP/News & Talk Programming Tom Tradup (right) at the annual National Religious Broadcasters conference in Dallas. Pompeo warned the 3,500 attendees of the dangers posed by teaching Critical Race Theory in schools and applauded Christian broadcasters for “helping protect religious freedom and traditional American values in our nation.”
TALKERS News Notes. Former Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass is hinting at a return to the talk radio business after taking a buyout from the paper that’s been acquired by hedge fund Alden Global Capital and launching his own media platform johnkassnews.com. He currently is hosting a podcast called “The Chicago Way with John Kass” on WGN-AM’s digital platform. In the past, he hosted a talk show on WLS-AM, first with co-host Jake Hartford, then with Lauren Cohn. Kass tells Chicago media writer Robert Feder, “I’m in meetings now with various broadcast entities to continue talking to people in Chicago. I think they might want to hear what I have to say.”…..Audacy announces that Mike Hoss is the new play-by-play announcer for New Orleans Saints game day broadcasts on news/talk WWL-AM/FM, New Orleans. Hoss will work with color analyst and Saints all-time leading rusher Deuce McAllister in the booth. Audacy New Orleans SVP and market manager Kevin Cassidy says, “When we started our search for the new ‘Voice of the Saints,’ the goal was not only professional play-by-play, but also someone with a deep connection to the team, the Saints amazing fan base and our community. Mike checks all the boxes. His extensive experience covering the team both on and off the field has allowed him to paint a front-row picture for fans over the course of his career, and we trust his knowledge will enhance our coverage on game days.”…..The GCN nationally syndicated “America Tonight with Kate Delaney” adds new station KTLR, Oklahoma City to its roster of affiliates…..Colorado Springs-based Way Media announces the addition of Steven Thompson as vice president of technology. Thompson was most recently VP of technology for Hope Media Group and KSBJ, Houston. WayFM VP of broadcast operations Jim Marshall comments, “The addition of Steven to the WayFM roster puts us in a position to further solidify our operations. He played a key role in KSBJ’s expansion in South Texas and I’m thrilled that Steven has joined our leadership team. He has a heart for God and a desire to excel in the technical arena. I love that combination.”
Former ‘Talk 106.7’ Atlanta Host Mike Brooks Dies at 66. According to a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution by Rodney Ho, former WYAY-FM, Atlanta “Talk 106.7” talk host Mike Brooks died unexpectedly Wednesday (6/23). Brooks was a former police officer who also had served as a correspondent for CNN, among numerous other career ventures that included hosting a talk radio show on Cumulus Media’s former news/talk station “Talk 106.7.”
COVID-19 Vaccines, Goals and Delta Variant Top News/Talk Story This Week. The controversy over the vaccinations against COVID-19, the Biden administration’s goals, and the Delta variant combined as the most-talked-about story on news/talk radio this week, landing atop the Talkers TenTM. At #2 this week was a tie between the blocking of the For the People voting bill and race relations, followed by the economy and the compromise infrastructure bill at #3. 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.
NEED A GREAT EXPERT GUEST? Newsom Recall Attracts National Talk Media Interest. The official word that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) will definitely face a recall election has sparked interest in the subject of California politics at talk media outlets across the nation. Attorney/author Wayne Avrashow is a reliable non-partisan expert on the subject of California politics and is available for interviews on the Newson development as well as all things Golden State. He is a frequent contributor to RealClearPolitics and a California political insider. He has an extensive background in California politics, served on two government commissions, was chair of a Los Angeles County ballot proposition, and co-authored ballot arguments. He began as a campaign manager for two victorious Los Angeles City Councilmembers and later served as chief of staff. As a lawyer and lobbyist, he represented clients before numerous California municipalities and in Nevada and Idaho. He has lectured at Southwestern University School of Law and was an adjunct professor at Woodbury University in Los Angeles. He authored numerous op-ed articles that appeared in daily newspapers and in legal, business, and real estate publications. He authored Success at Mediation: 10 Strategic Tools for Attorneys, a book used by law students at the University of Southern California School of Law. And he is the author of a current Amazon best-selling novel Center Stage: A Political Thriller (2021, RealClearPublishing) about a rock star who runs for the U.S. Senate. His experiences in politics, government and business, and as a practicing attorney provide unique insight into the machinations and characters that populate political campaigns. His website is www.wayneavrashow.com. He can be contacted directly at 818-995-1100 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday Memo: Own the Vaccine. Consultant Holland Cooke says in today’s column, “This pandemic tests the selflessness of our society, and tests the relevance of radio. Science – and the snail’s-pace inoculation launch – foretell a crisis as long as the three-plus years my dad was overseas during The War. So, get used to the mask.” He says stations that own the vaccine availability news going forward will benefit. Read his piece here.
Pending Business: Updating Your To-Do List. Sales and marketing pro, and Lapcom Communications Corp president, Steve Lapa says that as working remotely “is still the norm for many sellers and managers. The layers of interruption and disruption can and will hamper performance. Previous in-person interactions that have now shifted to online contact has led to more delays that start with ‘this time of year…’ The need to stay and keep organized has never been greater. If you are selling or managing, you are part of the income stream. Let’s look at updating how you develop your daily sales to-do list.” Read his column here.
Boyce: Talk Radio – America’s Last Best Hope Out of this Mess. You’re probably not going to find a lot of progressives who agree with this, but Salem Radio Network SVP of spoken word Phil Boyce believes it is. In a memo to his staff, he says, “There is one institution left standing that can potentially be the best hope to save America from utter collapse. Talk radio is that institution. Since the fairness doctrine was abandoned as a failure in 1987 under President Reagan, talk radio has become the barometer of what is right and wrong with America. In many ways, talk radio is the pressure valve on this giant pressure cooker that is set to blow at any moment. This pressure valve allows both sides to debate the issues without exploding. We don’t need the fairness doctrine, talk radio is the fairness doctrine.” Read the full memo here.
Washington Post Reports on Cumulus Mandate. Picking up on the piece written by Inside Music Radio by Jerry Del Colliano and reported on by TALKERS magazine last Friday (1/8), the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi covers the story in his Media beat column today (1/11). Del Colliano’s story highlights a companywide memo from Cumulus EVP of content Brian Philips warning hosts among other things, not to suggest “that the election has not ended.” Farhi writes, “The memo appears to reflect the reality that voters, presidential electors, courts and now Congress have accepted or certified that Biden won the election and is the president-elect. It may also be an attempt to cool down emotions that led to Wednesday’s invasion of the Capitol, and to mollify advertisers that are concerned about being associated with programs that could be inciting listeners to violence. But it also reveals some of the hidden corporate hand behind what is said and discussed on talk-radio programs. Rather than a medium of freethinking individuals expressing passionately held beliefs, the memo reminds that hosts are subject to corporate mandates and control.” Read his piece here.
KMJ-AM/FM, Fresno’s Ray Appleton Suspended for ‘Hanging’ Remarks. Longtime Fresno talk radio host Ray Appleton has been suspended by Cumulus Media for his comments aired on news/talk KMJ-AM/FM, Fresno. On Thursday (1/7), Appleton was complaining about the different ways he perceives news outlets cover protests and riots, implying that “progressive” causes get softer treatment than “conservative” causes, and said “certain news editors should be hanged, maybe.” Appleton said later during that show that he was joking but Cumulus Media said in a statement, “Cumulus Media operates from a clearly defined set of programming principles and there is no question that Ray Appleton’s comment is a direct violation of those principles. As a result, we have suspended him.” In a written apology, Appleton said, “I realize that my reckless choice of words was irresponsible, and I would never condone violence toward anyone. I want to specifically apologize to my colleagues at KMJ and all who serve in the media. After 50 years in broadcasting, I understand that my choice of words matters and I made a mistake that won’t happen again. I humbly ask for your forgiveness.” It’s not clear how long Appleton will be off the air.
Bill Michaels Exits WSSP-AM, Milwaukee; Butler, Ellerson, Fifer to Host Midday Show. OnMilwaukee’s Matt Mueller reports that longtime Milwaukee sports talk personality Bill Michaels is out at Entercom’s WSSP “1250 AM The Fan” where he hosted the 10:00 am to 2:00 pm show. Executive producer Joe Zenzola read the following, penned by Michaels, at the end of last Friday’s show: “There comes a time in your time when some stresses begin to drag you down. In doing so, your effort and attention is pulled in numerous directions, leaving you with the inability to focus on your sole task. At this time, I’m going to take a brief break from the airwaves. I have nothing but respect and admiration for Entercom as a company, and I thank them for helping me build a dream. I can’t thank my co-workers and friends enough for their support, energy, effort, and professionalism. You are all the best. I love radio and its ability to touch so many people informatively as well as passionately. That drives me every day and will continue to run deep in my soul. I believe that if you trim back the dead branches, ultimately, the tree grows stronger. I hope to do just that.” Michaels built a regional syndication network for his program that launched on WSSP in 2011. He’d served with crosstown news/talk WTMJ for 12 years prior to that. Entercom announces that the new midday program will be “The Wendy’s Big Show” co-hosted by former Green Bay Packers star LeRoy Butler, Gary Ellerson, and Steve Fifer.
Rush Limbaugh Deactivates His Twitter Account. BusinessInsider is reporting that Rush Limbaugh deactivated his Twitter account, in apparent solidarity with Donald Trump, whose account was permanently suspended by the company in the aftermath of last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters. BusinessInsider reports that Twitter also suspended the accounts of former national security advisor Michael Flynn, pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, and Ron Watkins. Regarding the suspensions, Twitter states, “The accounts have been suspended in line with our policy on Coordinated Harmful Activity. We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm, and given the renewed potential for violence surrounding this type of behavior in the coming days, we will permanently suspend accounts that are solely dedicated to sharing QAnon content.”
WJFK-FM, Washington ‘106.7 The Fan’ Promotes ‘Grant and Danny’ to Afternoon Drive. Midday sports talk hosts Grant Paulsen (left) and Danny Rouhier (right) have been moved to the afternoon drive daypart (2:00 pm to 6:30 pm) on Entercom’s Washington, DC sports talker WJFK-FM “106.7 The Fan.” This move comes several months after PM drive talk host Chad Dukes was fired for content on his podcast that the company deemed racist. With the “Grant and Danny” move, Entercom says air personality Pete Medhurst will host middays on an interim basis. Entercom Washington DC SVP and market manager Ivy Savoy-Smith says, “Grant and Danny mix the smartest and most credible sports opinion and information in Washington with their own unique personalities and humor. They’ve built an incredible community of listeners and we’re thrilled that they’ll be entertaining DC sports fans on their drives home for years to come.” Both personalities joined WJFK in 2009 and launched their show together in middays in January of 2014.
Kirby Wilbur Retiring from KVI, Seattle. Seattle talk radio legend Kirby Wilbur is retiring from Sinclair Broadcast Group’s news/talk KVI, Seattle after his January 27 program. Last week, Wilbur told listeners that he and family are moving to McKinney, Texas. The 67-year-old Wilbur did two stints at KVI, the first from 1993 to 2009 and the second from 2015 through the end of this month. Wilbur explained to listeners that his decision to re-locate to Texas was spurred by the chaos that took place in Seattle during the Black Lives Matter protest that turned a portion of the downtown into the so-called CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone).
TALKERS News Notes. Chicago media writer Robert Feder reports that WBBM-AM/WCFS-FM, Chicago financial editor Len Walter is retiring from his position after 52 years with the Entercom all-news station. Walter tells Feder, “To be able to work as a journalist for the bulk of my career has been a blessing. It’s what I wanted to do since I was a youngster and was fortunate to be able to gear my education toward that end. In this era of world turmoil, it’s critical that listeners hear the unvarnished truth presented without bias. That is what they get at WBBM from an amazing staff of principled professionals.”…..Sports media personality Jason Whitlock is leaving his role with Clay Travis’ Outkick the Coverage after seven months. Whitlock – who once-upon-a-time filled in for Jim Rome on his old Premiere Networks syndicated show – wants to “carve his own career path,” according to Travis in a story posted at Outkick…..The GCN-syndicated Dr. Daliah Wachs show adds two new affiliate stations to her roster as Bethune-Cookman University’s WELE, Ormond Beach, Florida and WDOC, Prestonsburg, Kentucky add her program to their lineups.
Trump Impeachment/Invoke 25th Amendment, Trump Cut Off from Social Media/Parler Threaten App Vendors, Biden Transition, COVID-19 Stats & Vaccines, WHO Investigators in China, and Deadly Indonesia Plane Crash Among Top News/Talk Stories Over the Weekend. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is saying the House will proceed with impeachment proceedings if Vice President Mike Pence doesn’t invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Donald Trump from office; Donald Trump is permanently banned from Twitter and temporarily off Facebook plus conservative platform Parler is booted from major app stores; the transition of the Joe Biden administration; the fast-rising number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and the rollout of vaccines; World Health Organization investigators to enter China to seek the origin of COVID-19; and the investigation into the deadly crash of a Boeing 737-500 after takeoff in Indonesia were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio over the weekend, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.