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Monday, August 23, 2021

| August 23, 2021

Remembering Phil Valentine. “We are saddened to report that our host and friend, Phil Valentine, has passed away. Please keep the Valentine family in your thoughts and prayers.” That’s how Cumulus Media Nashville news/talk WWTN “Super Talk 99.7 WTN” shared the news of Valentine’s death. Having spent the past several weeks in a Nashville-area hospital battling COVID-19, the 61-year-old conservative talk show host – and coronavirus vaccine skeptic – died Saturday afternoon (8/21). Last month, his brother, Mark Valentine, told The Tennessean, “I know if [Phil] were able to tell you this, he would [say], ‘Go get vaccinated. Quit worrying about the politics. Quit worrying about all the conspiracy theories. He regrets not being more adamant about getting the vaccine. Look at the dadgum data.” In a July 26 (2021) interview with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota, Mark said Phil was “still very deep in the woods” and breathing with assistance. “He recognizes now that him not getting the vaccination has probably caused a bunch of other people not to get vaccinated. This is a real threat – it is a real public health crisis. His cavalier attitude wouldn’t have been what it was and he would have gotten vaccinated and encouraged everybody to get vaccinated.” Tennessee has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country with only 50.1% of adults fully-vaccinated. Modifying the lyrics to the Beatles’ song “Taxman,” Valentine wrote/performed “Vaxman,” which included such lyrics as, “Let me tell you how it will be, and I don’t care if you agree, ‘cause I’m the Vaxman. If you don’t like me coming round, be thankful I don’t hold you down.” In a December 2020 blog, the “Super Talk 99.7 WTN” afternoon drive personality wrote that his chance of dying from COVID-19 was “probably way less than 1%.” He had said of the vaccine, “I have a very low risk of getting COVID and dying of it if I do. Why would I risk getting a heart attack or paralysis by getting the vaccine?” He said  he’d been taking ivermectin, an anti-parasite medication that comes in different forms for animals and humans. Acknowledging on July 11 (2021) that he had COVID-19, Valentine claimed it would not be a problem, saying that as a “precaution,” he might take a day off from his radio show. In fact, his Facebook post that day read: “Unfortunately for the haters out there, it looks like I’m going to make it. Interesting experience. I’ll have to fill you in when I come back on the air. I’m hoping that will be tomorrow.” Valentine’s health, however, quickly deteriorated and his family issued a statement saying that “the experience” had changed the radio host’s mind on vaccination. “Phil would like for his listeners to know that while he has never been an ‘anti-vaxer’ he regrets not being more vehemently ‘Pro-Vaccine.’ [He] looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he is back on the air, which we all hope will be soon. PLEASE GO GET VACCINATED!” TALKERS founder Michael Harrison states, “This is a tragic loss for Phil’s family as well as the people of Nashville; WWTN; the talk radio industry; and the national conversation. His track record as a nationally known, super-successful, longtime radio personality is among the best. It is painfully ironic that his position on COVID-19 became the headline component of his sad passing. May his courage to reverse his stance during his final days serve as an effective influence to save lives.” On “The TALKERS magazine 2021 Heavy Hundred,” Valentine appears at #47. Tennessee Republican senator Marsha Blackburn tweeted that, “Phil Valentine was a visionary for the conservative movement, and he made an enormous impact on the lives of many Tennesseans. My deepest condolences and prayers are with Phil’s wife, Susan, and his family. May they be comforted and surrounded by love during this difficult time.” The junior senator from Tennessee, Republican Bill Hagerty, noted that, “Tennessee has lost a strong conservative voice that will be sorely missed.” That state’s governor, Republican Bill Lee, tweeted, “Maria and I are deeply saddened by the loss of Phil Valentine and pray for his family as they navigate the difficult days ahead.” Meanwhile, lieutenant governor Randy McNally also took to social media, writing, “Deeply saddened that we have lost Phil Valentine to COVID-19. He was an inspirational and persuasive conservative voice. He will be greatly missed. If you haven’t yet done so, please consider vaccination. It is the only way to defeat this scourge.” Even though Valentine was a conservative talk show host, he was the son of former six-term North Carolina Democratic representative Tim Valentine. A radio personality since he was 20, Valentine – who attended East Carolina University and the Charlotte branch of the Connecticut School of Broadcasting – protested against a state income tax proposed by Tennessee’s governor at the time, Republican Don Sundquist. Valentine signed a three-year deal in 2019 that would have kept him on “99.7 WTN” through next year. He  authored three books: “The Conservative’s Handbook: Defining the Right Position on Issues from A to Z”; “Right from the Heart: The ABC’s of Reality in America”; and “Tax Revolt: The Rebellion Against an Overbearing, Bloated, Arrogant, and Abusive Government.” Valentine and his son, Campbell, joked about their relationship via the podcast “PodGOATs.”  Reiterating a vaccination plea, Cumulus Nashville vice president/market manager Allison Warren comments, “Phil Valentine was a charismatic broadcaster who entertained millions and enriched countless lives throughout his career. A beloved friend and mentor to many, his contributions to our city and his passion for his listeners cannot be overstated. We know he will be missed. We send our heartfelt condolences and prayers to Phil’s family and wish them peace during this difficult time. If you aren’t yet vaccinated, we fervently hope that you will honor Phil’s memory by taking to heart the urgent plea he made in the last weeks of his life – please go get vaccinated.” Funeral arrangements for Valentine are pending.

Monday Memo: Empathy? Sympathy? While the parents of school-age children – “the mega-shoppers that our advertisers want to meet” – are confronting “the school year we hoped we would never repeat,” consultant Holland Cooke cautions against what he regards as “a media/consumer disconnect.” And in this week’s column, he recommends an urgent message that can literally be a matter of life and death. Read it here.

 

Pending Business: Is Radio Still the Frequency Medium? Do you remember your sales training that suggested a formula for getting results included your message hitting the target audience X number of times? What was that number? Maybe the number isn’t so important. Sales pro Steve Lapa says in today’s column, “Do you remember the thousands of daily ads you hear and see? Somehow your brain filters out what you don’t want to process. But when you’re hungry, thirsty, not feeling well, need a new computer, car, couch, or more cash, the appropriate ad jumps out of the jungle, demanding your attention. And that’s what great talk radio hosts are all about: owning the listener’s attention.” Read more here.

Cumulus Chicago Promotes Mallory Vor Broker to Reporter Covering City Hall and Politics. At news/talk WLS-AM, Chicago, Cumulus Media announces it has promoted Mallory Vor Broker to reporter for 890 WLS-AM. In this role, she’ll cover Chicago City Hall and the political beat for the station, filling the role vacated by Bill Cameron, who retired on August 20 after a 51-year career. Vor Broker was been serving with the station as executive producer for the “The John Howell Show.” In the past, she’s served as a producer for Steve Dahl, Roe Conn and Lauren Cohn during her nearly 10 years as a producer for Cumulus Chicago. WLS-AM program director Stephanie Tichenor comments, “As our new City Hall reporter, Mallory will tell the latest local news stories that matter to Chicago. She brings a fresh perspective and deep experience as a storyteller to this integral role. We look forward to continuing WLS’ superb coverage of City Hall and welcome Mallory to the 890 News Team.” Vor Broker says, “I am thrilled to begin my new role as City Hall reporter for WLS-AM 890. It’s a great opportunity to cover the dynamic political landscape in Chicago and Illinois after years of producing high-profile shows. I look forward to continuing to bring high-quality, thoughtful reporting to WLS-AM 890.”

Nate Weaver Named Promotions Director for iHeartMedia Wilmington-Salisbury. Joining iHeartMedia to serve as promotions director for the Wilmington, Delaware and Salisbury, Maryland markets is Nate Weaver. He comes to the company from his most recent position with Audacy’s WBEB, Philadelphia. iHeartMedia VP of programming Josh Wolff says, “We are so excited to have Nate join our team. From the first time we spoke, we knew he was the perfect fit. Nate’s impressive background will only serve to improve our portfolio of already strong brands.” Weaver says, “I am super excited to join iHeartMedia Salisbury and Wilmington’s amazing and hard-working teams. Not only am I looking forward to growing brand engagement amongst our portfolio of market-leading stations, but now that I’m in Delaware, I get to really indulge in tax-free shopping – this is great!” The markets include news/talk WILM-AM, Wilmington; news/talk WDOV, Dover; sports talk WWTX-AM, Wilmington; news/talk WJDY-AM, Salisbury; and sports talk WTGM-AM, Salisbury.

iHeartMedia’s BIN: Black Information Network to Expand News Efforts; Three Promotions Announced. The BIN: Black Information Network, iHeartMedia’s “24/7 comprehensive national audio news network dedicated to providing an objective, accurate and trusted source of continual news with a Black voice and perspective,” announces plans to expand local news coverage in all 32 affiliate markets beginning January 2022. The network is also promoting three staffers: Tanita Myers, previously director of news operations, is now vice president of news operations; Chris Thompson, previously director of network operations, is now vice president of network operations; and Lauren Crawford, previously associate editor, is now senior director of digital and social strategy, effective immediately. The company says the expanding local news coverage will create new employment opportunities including multiple news anchor and reporter positions, a managing editor, and a podcast managing editor. BIN president Tony Coles states, “We are incredibly proud of the growth and success of BIN during our first year. We are thrilled to continue our leadership in providing the most trusted news source for the Black community, offering even more local news coverage to the communities we serve. BIN’s success has been, in no small part, due to our dedicated and talented team. I look forward to seeing how Tanita, Chris and Lauren continue to grow within BIN, and I am excited to add even more experienced talent to our team.”

Nexstar Media to Acquire The Hill. The politics and Washington, DC publication The Hill is being acquired by Nexstar Media for $130 million. Nexstar is primarily a television company but also owns news/talk WGN-AM, Chicago. A press release from Nexstar says, “The acquisition marks a continuation of Nexstar’s content-first strategy, focused primarily on news, designed to further leverage and monetize its expansive digital reach… With more than 100 journalists who cover political news and events and provide a wide variety of engaging content to its users, The Hill’s business model is primarily advertising supported by direct, programmatic, and licensing revenue. Nexstar’s omni-channel approach to content distribution will allow it to expand The Hill’s reach and revenue channels while creating synergistic opportunities with Nexstar’s growing national cable news network, NewsNation, and its leading local news gathering platform, which counts 5,500 journalists producing over 275,000 hours of local and national news annually.”

Red Table Talk and iHeartMedia Strike Content Deal. The EMMY Award-winning talk show “Red Table Talk” enters into a deal with iHeartMedia to launch the Red Table Talk Audio Network. The venture will include a slate of co-produced podcasts, including its two current audio series: “Red Table Talk,” hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith, and Adrienne Banfield-Norris; and “Positively Gam,” a podcast hosted by Banfield-Norris. The newly formed network will launch five new series over the next two years with iHeartMedia that will allow listeners to go deeper into topics covered at the table, with all-new original podcasts from Red Table Talk hosts and regular show contributors. The first show to launch on the slate will be the podcast version of the EMMY and GLAAD Media Awards-nominated RTT spinoff, “Red Table Talk: The Estefans,” hosted by Gloria Estefan, Emily Estefan, and Lili Estefan.

Afghanistan, COVID-19, Extreme Weather/Wildfires, Arizona Vote Audit, Staffing & Shipping Woes, Trump in Alabama, and Portland Protest Skirmish Among Top News/Talk Stories Over the Weekend. The U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan and criticism of President Joe Biden’s handling of the move; the rate of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and the battle over mask and vaccine mandates; the flooding in Tennessee, Hurricane Henri hits the Northeast, and the California wildfires; the anticipated release of the controversial audit of Maricopa County, Arizona’s 2020 election votes; the ongoing troubles employers are having finding workers and filling orders and the chaos affecting the world’s shipping industry; former President Donald Trump is booed in Alabama for suggesting people get COVID vaccines; and the violence in Portland between Proud Boys and Antifa protesters were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio over the weekend, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

| August 10, 2017

Bennett Helps WCBS-AM Note Its All-News Golden Anniversary. A special interview and performance this past Tuesday (8/8) by iconic singer Tony Bennett at the PlayStation Theater in Times Square highlighted a celebration of 50 years of news as CBS Radio New York’s WCBS-AM observed its 50th birthday as an all-news outlet. Wayne Cabot (29 years at WCBS-AM, the station’s longest-tenured anchor) and fellow news anchor Alex Silverman (who joined WCBS-AM in April 2011) hosted the event, which included a plethora of stories from WCBS-AM personalities and guests. Senior vice president and market manager for CBS Radio New York Marc Rayfield states that WCBS-AM “is a trusted New York City news outlet with a rich history and legacy of delivering up-to-the-minute news. We will continue to tell the stories of the people, places, and happenings from all around this great city. This special night gathered listeners, station personalities, and prominent figures to celebrate what the station has meant for the past 50 years and will continue to mean into the future.” In addition to Cabot and Silverman, other WCBS-AM personalities there Tuesday night included Craig Allen, Joe Connolly, Pat Farnack, Brad Heller, Tom Kaminski, Paul Murnane, Steve Scott, and Michael Wallace. Among those sharing their New York stories were Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes,” “Late Show with David Letterman” bandleader (“The World’s Most Dangerous Band” and “CBS Orchestra”) Paul Shaffer, and former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine. CBS News’ Anthony Mason conducted the Tony Bennett interview. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales (which ranged from $55 to $150 per person) was donated to Exploring the Arts Foundation, Bennett’s charity organization dedicated to transforming lives of young people through arts education. Following back-to-back 2.4 showings (6+) in Nielsen Audio’s April and May PPM reports, WCBS-AM has registered a 2.7 (6+) in June and July, moving up from #13 in June to #12. Entercom will continue to use the CBS Radio News brand for at least one year after it closes on all of CBS Radio’s AM and FM properties.

KIRO-FM Teams with Seattle Police to Provide “Beds for Kids.” The goal of a joint effort between Bonneville Seattle news/talk KIRO-FM and the Seattle Police Department is to provide 600 needy local children with mattresses, bedframes, sheet sets, comforters, pillows and a Teddy bear. KIRO-FM afternoon drive (3:00 – 7:00 pm) hosts “Ron (Upshaw) & Don (O’Neill)” have been dedicated advocates for the “Beds for Kids” project since its inception, with O’Neill emphasizing, “Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that every child that needs a bed – gets a bed. When a child gets a good night sleep and something to eat, it is proven they stay in school and they do better in school. Help us help police help kids – it’s another way to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.” The “Beds for Kids” cofounder Jeremy Wade notes, “Over the last three years, we have been amazed to see how many kids in our community sleep on the floor. Through the ‘Beds for Kids’ program, we have provided over 500 local kids with a brand-new bed. This year’s goal of 600 beds is our most ambitious yet, but with the support of our partners and the public, we know it can be done.” The project was created in 2014 by Wade and fellow officer Ryan Gallagher, who responded to a 9-1-1 call and discovered two young girls had been sleeping on the floor. Wade and Gallagher returned to that home with new beds purchased with their own money. Since then, hundreds of people have stepped up to assist the two officers in providing beds for children in need. Elsewhere inside that Bonneville cluster, Seattle Seahawks coverage on sports talk KIRO-AM “710 ESPN” will include John Clayton (formerly with ESPN-TV), who will serve as a sideline reporter. In addition, Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, who called Seahawks pre-season games and was part of Westwood One’s NFL coverage the last two seasons, returns as radio analyst, a role he held for 13 seasons prior to 2015. Back as well for his 36th year on play-by-play is Steve Raible; Jen Mueller is in her ninth season doing sideline reporting.

Stigall Featured on “The Fox News Specialists.” Pictured above at the far right as he made his point yesterday afternoon (Wednesday, 8/9) on “The Fox News Specialists” is CBS Radio-owned WPHT “Talk Radio 1210,” Philadelphia 5:30 am – 9:00 am talent Chris Stigall. Intently looking on (left to right) are another guest specialist Mike Baker, co-host Eboni Williams, guest-host Mark Steyn, and co-host Katherine Timpf.

PPM Data – Part Three. July 2017 ratings information has been released for Portland, Charlotte, San Antonio, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Cincinnati, Orlando, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Columbus. Nielsen Audio’s July 2017 survey period covered June 22 – July 19. View all the 6+ numbers from subscribing stations here.

Gottlieb Kicks Off Training Camp Tour. Gearing up for the start of football season, Fox Sports Radio’s Doug Gottlieb hits the road for on-location coverage from several NFL training sites. The journey began this past Monday (8/7) with a broadcast from the Los Angeles Rams facility at UC Irvine. Still in Southern California (Oxnard-Ventura), Gottlieb is with the Dallas Cowboys today (Thursday, 8/10), and he will visit the Los Angeles Chargers’ camp at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa next Wednesday (8/16). Pictured left to right are Fox Sports Radio’s Doug Gottlieb with Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay.

LG To Activate FM Chips in its Smartphones. The announcement that LG phones in North America and Latin America will have FM chips activated moving forward comes from NextRadio parent TagStation, whose president Paul Brenner states, “We are proud and excited to partner with one of the world’s leading Smartphone providers to continue our mission of connecting and exposing users to a fully immersive radio experience. This alliance will give millions of consumers the opportunity to receive real over-the-air FM radio through their phone.” NextRadio will be pre-loaded on some models.

WQBA Named Dolphins’ Spanish-Language Radio Flagship. As part of the multi-year agreement, Univision Radio Miami Spanish news/talk WQBA will air all Miami Dolphins pre-season, regular season, and playoff games. Raul Striker Jr. will handle play-by-play duties, while Eduardo Martell will provide color analysis. WQBA will produce pregame and postgame shows, as well as a weekly show covering Dolphins-related news/events. Sports programming falls under the recently-launched Univision Deportes Radio sports network. WQBA senior vice president and general manager Claudia Puig comments, “We are excited to once again partner with the Miami Dolphins, offering them a terrific opportunity to reach their Spanish-speaking fans through Univision Deportes Radio. Our listeners will now be able to cheer their favorite football team ‘en español.’ The Dolphins broadcasts will be a perfect complement to Univision Deportes Radio’s outstanding sports programming lineup.” Miami Dolphins senior vice president and chief commercial officer Todd Kline adds, “We are proud to partner with Univision Deportes Radio WQBA 1140 AM and are confident they will deliver the most complete and up-to-date coverage of the Miami Dolphins to fans. The Dolphins have a 36-year commitment to broadcast games in Spanish in the South Florida market – this partnership delivers on our strong tradition.” Spanish-language broadcasts of Dolphins games were previously heard on crosstown Deportes Media Spanish Sports WNMA “ESPN Deportes Miami.” The team’s English-language flagships are CBS Radio Miami’s WQAM “Sports Radio 560” and co-owned WKIS “Kiss 99.9 New Country.”

TALKERS News Notes. Citing other media sources, The Tennessean reports that former Tennessee Titans tight end Frank Wycheck will leave his “Wake-Up Zone” morning show co-hosting duties on Cumulus Media Nashville sports talk WGFX “104.5 The Zone” in the next few weeks. Earlier, Wycheck announced he is stepping away from his role as analyst for Titans’ radio broadcasts for a year, owing to cognitive issues related to concussions from his playing days. It is reported, however, that Wycheck will remain with “The Zone” for swing duty ….. In other football-related news, iHeartMedia Tucson’s KTZR “Fox Sports 1450” joins the Arizona Cardinals radio network. Senior vice president of programming for iHeartMedia Tucson David Adams comments, “As the new home for Fox Sports in Tucson; the future home of Dan Patrick; and the official broadcast partner of the Tucson Roadrunners, we couldn’t be more excited to solidify our position as ‘Tucson’s Sports Station’ by adding the Cardinals.” The team’s previous Tucson affiliate was Cumulus Media’s KCUB “Sports Radio 1290.”

Checkpoint Radio Adds Houston, Philadelphia, and St. Louis Affiliates. The latest to join Checkpoint Radio – the first nationally syndicated radio show dedicated to the world of e-sports and gaming – are GOW Media’s KFNC “ESPN 97.5 FM,” Houston; Beasley Media Group’s WPEN “97.5 FM The Fanatic, Philadelphia”; and Hubbard’s WXOS “101 ESPN, St Louis.” Westwood One president/Cumulus Media executive vice president of corporate marketing Suzanne Grimes comments, “Checkpoint Radio is the only national show that connects radio stations and listeners to the explosive energy around e-sports. According to Newzoo, e-sports will grow to $696 million in revenue this year, a year-over-year increase of 41%. Brand investment is predicted to grow to $1.5 billion by 2020. This is a space you want to be in. Westwood One is the undeniable leader in sports programming – we know e-sports is an important sector for affiliates and advertisers.” Checkpoint Radio managing partner Rick Scott notes, “We are excited at the rapid growth of Checkpoint Radio in so many quality and big markets. It is a testament to the quality and appeal of the show and the passionate crew working to put it together.” Hosted by Nate Bender, Robbie Landis, Norris Howard, and Joe Sloan, two-hour weekly Checkpoint Radio features insights, news, interviews, and updates designed specifically for the video game and e-sports fan. In addition to the weekly show, Checkpoint also produces a podcast featuring content not heard on the radio program.

WKLB Elevates Santolucito to Director/Music and Marketing. Over and above continuing her oversight of the marketing/promotions department of WKLB “Country 102.5,” Dawn Santolucito is promoted to music and marketing director at the Beasley Media Group Boston property. Program director David Corey states, “Dawn’s passion, dedication, and organizational skills – plus a great ear for music – made her the ideal candidate for the position. We are proud to have Dawn in our ‘Country 102.5’ family.” Santolucito comments, “It truly has been a privilege being a part of the ‘Country 102.5’ family for the past seven years in my role within the marketing/promotions department. I am thrilled to begin this new chapter.” Among persons 6+ in Nielsen Audio’s just-released July 2017 PPM report, WKLB is flat at 4.5, but climbs from seventh in June 2017 to sixth, while cross-town format competitor – iHeartMedia-owned WBWL “101.7 The Bull – Boston’s New Hit Country” is up (modestly) for the third straight time (2.1 – 2.2 – 2.4 – 2.5, 6+) and inches up from #17 to #16. With a 7.7 (6+), WKLB classic hits-oldies sibling WROR “Boston’s Classic Hits” remains at #1 for the seventh successive sweep.

iHR, Understood.org Align to Help Kids Facing Learning/Attention Issues. One of every five children have a learning and attention challenge such as ADHD or dyslexia. A partnership between iHeartMedia and Understood.org explores and raises awareness of learning and attention issues, and breaks stereotypes about these often-misunderstood children. The partnership includes public service announcements voiced by iHeartMedia personalities Ryan Seacrest, Elvis Duran, Mario Lopez, and Bobby Bones, as well as a long-form public affairs show. Commenting about Understood.org, its executive leader/corporate partnerships & alliances Nancy Smith states, “This whole team is deeply committed to helping the millions of children with learning and attention issues get the support they need – support that can help them reverse any downward spiral in school.” From prior experience, Smith felt that iHeartRadio “has a strong belief in win-win partnerships and in helping the world be a better place. I knew collaboration with the iHeart team could take us to new levels of support for kids with learning and attention issues.” Aided by 15 nonprofit organizations, Understood.org launched nearly three years ago. “Today, it supports and empowers millions of parents through personalized resources, daily access to experts, a community of other parents and experts, and interactive tools,” Smith explains. “Many accomplished musicians including Justin Timberlake [ADHD], Lindsey Stirling [dyslexia], and Jewel [dyslexia] have learning and attention issues. Understood is happy to call iHeartRadio a partner in our mission to raise awareness of learning and attention issues. Having the support of a community of musical artists and fans who embrace differences can help build widespread acceptance for kids who are so often misunderstood. Together with iHeartRadio, we want to help even more children with learning and attention issues.”

Sun Broadcast Group Enters the “Country Fried Mix.” A sales and affiliation partnership with Sun Broadcast Group will bring “Country Fried Mix” with national touring artist and producer DJ Sinister to the network in three weeks (9/1). Sun chief executive officer Jason Bailey remarks, “One of the things we have always tried to do at Sun is find exciting and unique programs for our listeners and clients. When I heard ‘Country Fried Mix’ for the first time, I knew we had to have it in our lineup. There is simply nothing [else] like it on the radio – that’s why it is perfect for us. We are honored to represent this incredible product to the industry and the clients who support it.” According to DJ Sinister, “This new opportunity really takes us to the next level with partners that are willing to take risks,” while the program’s producer Charlie Pennachio adds, “Focus created this expansion; this opportunity gives us the ability to become a laser beam with a team.” The weekend show of mashed up/remixed country hits has aired since 2014 and has affiliates in (among other markets) Philadelphia, Miami, Detroit, Phoenix, and Nashville.

Opening “The Vault” Again in Montgomery. Jettisoning its top 40 format in order to return to rock as “107.1 The Vault” is Bluewater Broadcasting Montgomery, Alabama’s WQKS-HD3 W296AI. It abandoned “The Vault” four years ago in favor of classic jams “Yo! 107.1,” but as program director Rick Peters writes on his Facebook page, “The market has spoken and –  contrary to popular belief – we do listen. ‘The Vault’ will try to recreate album and progressive rock stations from the 1970s, such as [Los Angeles’] KMET and KLOS; [Chicago’s] WLUP [‘The Loop’]; [Philadelphia’s] WMMR; [Miami’s] WSHE; and [St. Louis’] KSHE. The format is freeform – the [on-air talent] can program what they like. Every day will be different – it’s a throwback. At the same time, it’s evolutionary for the day [but] it’s not designed to be mass-appeal. For those that ‘lived’ the music the first time, we will try to be worthy. For the rest of you, listen up [because] you might find something you love.” Among persons 12+ in Montgomery’s most recent Nielsen Audio book (spring 2017), WQKS-HD3 checks in at #16 with a .8, while iHeartMedia urban contemporary WZHT “Hot 105.7” is on top with an 11.2 (12+).

More Music Radio News and Career Moves. Earlier this week, midday host Danny Dwyer of Alpha Media Portland country outlet KUPL “98.7 The Bull” raised $10,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in his inaugural golf invitational at Salem Oregon’s Creekside Country Club ….. A variety of tomato-themed activities will be included next Saturday (8/19) when Beasley Media Group Philadelphia classic rock WMGK morning personality John DeBella holds his three-hour (11:00 am – 2:00 pm) “Tomato Fest” in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Among the highlights are a biggest-tomato contest; a dunk tank manned by the show’s “Super Steve”; and bobbing for tomatoes. In addition, WMGK’s house band Kategory Five will perform, and there will be a classic car display. Donations of canned goods and fresh produce will be collected to benefit the South Jersey Food Bank. DeBella is said to have thought up the “Tomato Fest” concept while seeing a vast number of farm stands and pondering why the tomato wasn’t being celebrated ….. Three (four-hour) Westwood One Labor Day weekend music specials are in the pipeline. Imagine Dragons front man Dan Reynolds will host rock’s “Summer Wrap Up”; Louis Tomlinson does the same for the pop format’s “Last Big Summer Weekend”; and ACM-award winner Kelsea Ballerini has the honors for “Workin’ Hard Country.”

Ell Talks Up Her Latest “Project.” During her visit to Westwood One’s syndicated “Ty, Kelly, & Chuck” morning show, Lindsay Ell discussed touring with Brad Paisley and creating her new album “The Project” with producer Kristian Bush. Shown left to right are Ty Bentli, Kelly Ford, Lindsay Ell, and Chuck Wicks.