Monday Memo: Weekend Warriors, Battling the Virus. As the cooped-up are coping, radio talkers are listening. In last week’s column, consultant Holland Cooke polled a panel of weekday hosts, who describe the mood they’re monitoring. This week, HC rounds up weekend ask-the-expert hosts, who describe how callers’ questions flesh-out listeners’ lives during the shutdown now easing in phases. Read it here.
Re-Opening Controversy, Statistics & Projections, Trump IG Firings, Michael Flynn Case, Pressure on China, Ahmaud Arbery Case, Presidential Race, and Fred Willard Dies Among Top News/Talk Stories Over the Weekend. The concerns about safely re-opening the economies in states across the country; the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S., the death toll, and projections about future infections; the political battle heating up over President Trump’s firing of inspector general Steve Linick; the DOJ’s dropping of the charges against Michael Flynn for lying in court and Republicans’ efforts to involve Barack Obama in the case; some 100 countries pressuring China for an investigation into its coronavirus efforts; the case of murdered Georgia jogger Ahmaud Arbery; the latest poll numbers in the presidential race; and comedian Fred Willard dies at 85 were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio over the weekend, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
Pending Business: Get Ready. Sales and marketing consultant Steve Lapa, president of Lapcom Communications, writes in today’s column that as most parts of the country begin transitioning out of mandated self-isolation, your clients are working through a maze of regulations and protocols completely new to them. Go with the “Three-E Theory” – be empathetic, energetic, and easy. Read his column here.
Mancow Asks Court to Toss Defamation Suit. A story in the Daily Herald by Harry Hitzeman reveals that WLS-AM, Chicago morning host Erich “Mancow” Muller is asking a Cook County Circuit Court judge to dismiss the defamation suit filed against him by former Harvest Bible Chapel pastor James MacDonald. If you recall, Mancow aired on his radio show secretly recorded tapes of MacDonald in which he wonders if child porn could be placed on the computer of a Christianity Today editor with whom he had a beef. MacDonald was subsequently ousted by his church’s board in 2019 and in response MacDonald filed suit against Muller late last year. Now, Muller files the Motion to Dismiss arguing that MacDonald is a public figure and it was Muller’s “duty as a Christian and media member to shine a light on MacDonald’s true character.” MacDonald’s lawyer is saying Muller’s motion comes too late, too long, and also argues Muller’s lawyer has a conflict of interest in the case as he once represented MacDonald. The two sides have a court date of June 12.
Josh Wolff Named VP of Programming for iHeartMedia Harrisburg-Lancaster. Programming pro Josh Wolff is promoted to vice president of programming for iHeartMedia’s Harrisburg and Lancaster, Pennsylvania markets. In this role Wolff will oversee all on-air content as well as music and digital programming operations for all of the Harrisburg and Lancaster brands. He will continue to program CHR WAEB “B-104” and rock WZZO in Allentown. iHeartMedia area SVP of programming Dave Hovel says, “With Josh’s strong leadership skills in Allentown, it was a no-brainer to elevate him to oversee iHeartMedia Harrisburg and Lancaster. The entire Harrisburg/Lancaster team is excited to have Josh in the role to lead and grow our iHeart footprint in the markets.” Before joining iHeartMedia’s Pennsylvania region, Wolff served as the music director and assistant program director for adult contemporary KESZ and adult hits KYOT “95.5 The Mountain” in Phoenix.
Beasley Delaying 2020 Q1 Financial Report. In a May 15 filing with the SEC, Beasley Broadcast Group, parent of Beasley Media Group, says it is unable to meet its Form 10-Q filing deadline due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its business operations. The company notes that an order issued by the Securities Exchange Commission grants a 45-day extension to file certain disclosure reports. Beasley says it intends to file its Quarterly Report no later than June 29. In addition to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on its ability to complete its quarterly review, “the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have caused disruptions to the Company’s business and operations, and the related uncertainty as to when or the manner in which the conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic will subside have made it necessary for it to seek an amendment to its credit facility that would, among other things, amend certain financial covenants. For the quarter ended March 31, the Company was in compliance with its financial covenants related to its credit facility. However, at that time the Company was projecting that it was unlikely to be able to comply with its First Lien Leverage Ratio as of June 30. As a result, the Company is seeking and expects to enter into an amendment to its credit facility in the coming weeks, and projects that it will be in compliance with the financial covenants, as amended, over the next 12 months. If the Company is unable to obtain an amendment to its credit facility, it would result in an event of default, which would materially affect its results of operations, liquidity and financial condition.”
Townsquare Media Promotes Dobbins to VP. Sales pro Sarah Dobbins is promoted from director of sales for Townsquare Media’s Portland station group to vice president of sales for Northern New England, including the Portland and Augusta markets as well as the Portsmouth, New Hampshire market. She’ll report to regional market president & chief revenue officer Christine Sieks. Dobbins says, “Townsquare Media has an unbelievable combination of local marketing resources designed to help local businesses grow. Now more than ever, our local brands, digital marketing solutions, and attribution tools make Townsquare a powerhouse in Northern New England. I am excited to partner with Christine Sieks in maximizing our resources to drive sales growth throughout Maine and New Hampshire.”
TALKERS News Notes. Chicago morning personality Erich “Mancow” Muller – host at Cumulus Media’s WLS-AM – was one of the high-profile leaders of Saturday’s “Open Illinois Rally” organized and co-hosted by Josh Ellis of American Revolution 2.0. Mancow and a number of politicians and candidates gathered to “address the governor’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic response.” The intent was to demand the state legislature “work on guidance and provisions to safely open Illinois businesses and resume our work lives.”…..WHO, Des Moines afternoon drive personality Simon Conway tells TALKERS magazine it was a “great honor” to have President Trump call into his radio show on Friday (5/15). Conway says that when Trump was running for office, the two spoke many times but this was the first time they talked with Trump as president. “It doesn’t matter what people think about him, this is the President of the United States who picked up the phone and spoke directly to my audience.” Conway’s show is also heard on WMT-AM, Cedar Rapids and WOC-AM, Quad Cities…..Nexstar Broadcasting is presenting “COVID-19 The Virtual Town Hall” to be aired on its television stations across Connecticut tonight (5/18) at 7:00 pm. The audio from the event will be carried by iHeartMedia’s 11 Connecticut radio stations. The Town Hall will include: Governor Ned Lamont, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, and numerous state representatives and health care experts…..BIA Advisory Services is presenting a webinar tomorrow (5/19) at 11:00 am called “2020 State of Media Sales Study” that will consist of answering such questions as: What’s on the minds of local media sellers as they operate in a post COVID marketplace? Where do they expect to find ad revenue? What verticals will have the most potential in Q3 and Q4 in 2020? And, which types of accounts will pose the biggest challenges? The webinar will share findings from the April 2020 study of media sales professionals about the past year and current, unusual conditions…..The Talk Shows USA-syndicated “Tom Gresham’s Gun Talk” program adds two new affiliate stations as KBRN-AM/ K280GR, Boerne, Texas and KIVA-AM/ K229CL, Albuquerque, New Mexico add the show to their weekend program schedules…..Westwood One News is presenting “The Summer of COVID-19” as its Memorial Day Weekend special. WWO says, “Barbeques and beaches. Death rates and vaccine hopes. It is going to be a summer like no other. American traditions are under threat, from backstage ball fields to seasonal staples like family vacations and summer camps, while others still plan to hit the road or take to the skies during an unprecedented health and financial crisis… correspondent Christopher Cruise explores how we got here and where we are going, or not going, this summer.” It replaces “The Week in Review” on May 23-24.
Music Radio News and Career Moves. On Long Island, Connoisseur Media’s four-station cluster that includes hot AC WALK-FM, rock WWSK-FM “94.3 The Shark,” classic hits WBZO “103.2 MAX,” and adult contemporary WKJY-FM “KJOY 98.3” shined a light on the mental effects of social distancing with a special live stream concert last night (5/17) to benefit The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention Long Island Chapter. The “Be Well Long Island” benefit concert featured performances and appearances by: Johnny Rzenick of the Goo Goo Dolls, Joan Jett, Scott Stapp, DMC from Run DMC, Kevin Martin and Brian Quinn of Candlebox, Fitz and The Tantrums, Vintage Trouble, and more. WWSK music director Brian Orlando says, “There are thousands of people suffering in silence right now. We at Connoisseur Media want them to know that they’re not alone.”
WAEB, Allentown Talk Host Named in Defamation Suit. Allentown talk show host Bobby Gunther Walsh – heard in AM drive on iHeartMedia’s WAEB-AM — is named in a defamation and slander suit by the city’s District Attorney Jim Martin. The primary defendant in the case is blogger Bill Villa who has called Martin “crooked” and “corrupt” and alleges he “fixes” cases, according to a report in The Morning Call. Villa lost his 25-year-old daughter in a drunk driving accident and Villa claims Martin bargained a plea deal with the man accused of being responsible for his daughter’s death “in secret,” without ever notifying the family. Villa went on Walsh’s WAEB show to talk about his issues with Martin’s work as DA. Read the story here.
Corporate Promotions at Cherry Creek Radio. At the corporate level, Cherry Creek Radio announces eight promotions that affect its 55 O&O stations in 15 Western U.S. markets. Moving up from regional director of sales to EVP and regional manager are: Kelley Cheatwood, John Craft, and Ron Korb. Group PD Bob Guerra rises to EVP/director of programming. Rita Calvin adds EVP stripes to her controller position. Travis Cronen is now VP/director of operations & IT; Ken Eklund is upped to VP of engineering, and Mary Sims becomes VP/director of accounting. Cherry Creek Radio president and CEO Joe Schwartz comments, “With our new financial structure in place and with the many plans we have to grow the company, I feel it was important to recognize these eight individuals for the outstanding work they have done for the company over their tenure at Cherry Creek Radio. Each of these promotions are for employees who have been with the company for at least eight years or more.”
Celebrating Success. Nationally syndicated talk show host Dr. Joy Browne (standing) speaks at the recent Success Stories Breakfast Series at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey produced by Salem Communications New York and its stations news/talk WNYM “AM 970 The Answer” and Christian talk WMCA “The Mission.” The event featured numerous speakers telling their stories of success, that also included former NFL star, G-III president and entrepreneur Carl Banks; My Pillow inventor Mike Lindell; Bluerock Energy president and CEO Phil Van Horne; and Bergen Community College director of multicultural affairs Ron McKnight. The program was moderated by WNYM host Kevin McCullough and broadcast live on WNYM by morning show host Joe Piscopo.
Futuri Media Awarded Patents for Instant Alert and Listener Driven Radio. Calling it a “milestone for the company,” Futuri Media CEO Daniel Anstandig announces the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a patent to him and the company’s chief technical officer Brian Seeders for its “Instant Alert” and Listener Driven Radio (LDR) technology. In a press release, Futuri Media says the patent describes a broad range of methods related to Listener Driven™ programming, including Instant Alerts, where listeners can receive e-mail, SMS text, and tweets moments before their favorite songs play on the air. This is also one of several U.S. and foreign patents and pending patent applications held by the company that describes and protects its unique interactive mobile and social apps. Anstandig comments, “Futuri has invested a significant amount in R&D related to interactive broadcasting as well as social and mobile technology for local broadcasters. The issuance of this patent is a milestone for our company and our many innovative broadcast partners, who have used this and our other technologies to drive ratings and revenue since the company’s launch in 2009.” Futuri CIO Brian Parsons adds, “Protection of our team’s innovations is critical. Our goal is to shape the future of media with social and mobile technology that makes it possible for consumers to embrace and personalize their favorite media brands. Whether it’s an interactive playlist, alerts for your favorite songs, a feature-rich mobile app, or social monitoring, we’re striving to create easy-to-use platforms that deliver innovative and proprietary high value for our partners.”
Odds & Sods. Brooklyn talk host Frankie Russo is crowdfunding to continue to buy time (and hopefully, he says, even more time) on New York’s legendary 77WABC. Russo has been brokering the 1:00 am to 2:00 am Saturday slot for the past year and is now firing up an indiegogo campaign to raise $100,000 to expand his presence on the station…..Hall of Fame basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian passed on February 11 and his funeral was on February 16 at Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church. GCN-syndicated talk show host Dr. Daliah Wachs (pictured here with Tarkanian on the left) tells TALKERS, “It was a beautiful ceremony with laughter and tears honoring a legend. I went to UNLV 89-93 and witnessed one of the most exciting teams year-after-year win and eventually conquer the National Championship under Jerry’s legacy. Our city is going to great lengths to commemorate such an icon. I knew Jerry to be warm and cuddly and I credit his and the Runnin’ Rebel legacy with the start of the Las Vegas boom in the mid-90s. He helped put UNLV on the map from a once considered ‘casino town’ and made us locals proud to be Las Vegans. Thank you Jerry! You will be missed but never forgotten!”…..NBC Sports Group announces it will present live radio coverage of all three Triple Crown races for the first time on NBC Sports Radio. It will produce radio coverage of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes on numerous broadcast and digital platforms.
Scott Walker Presidential Prospects, Court Blocks Obama Immigration Order, Department of Homeland Security Funding Battle, Brian Williams Suspension, Battle Against ISIS, Fifty Shades of Grey Film, and Cindy Crawford Photo Flap Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (2/16). Analysis of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s chances of receiving the Republican nomination for president in 2016; a Texas court blocks the Obama amnesty order; the battle in Congress over the funding of the Department of Homeland Security; the aftermath of the Brian Williams suspension; the battle against ISIS and the militant movement’s bloody tactics; controversy over the film Fifty Shades of Grey; and the flap over an unretouched photo of 48-year-old Cindy Crawford were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.
Sirius XM Stock Soaring While John Malone’s Liberty Media Inches Toward Control. Yesterday’s $2.55 closing figure was satcaster Sirius XM’s (“SIRI”) best showing in more than four years. That’s the good news for CEO Mel Karmazin and his crew. The worrisome news, however, is the undeniable fact that John Malone’s Liberty Media – the company that rescued Sirius XM in 2009 by investing in 40% of the company at a bargain price – is closing in on acquiring the needed 50.1% ownership that would give it a controlling interest. Subsequent to the 2009 bail out, Liberty has been buying Sirius XM stock on the open market recently purchasing about 90 million shares at around $2.50 each. According to TALKERS sister trade publication Radio-Info, those transactions plus a “forward sale” agreement would bring Liberty’s interest to about 48% creating a behind the scenes radio reality show nail-biter.
Rick Roberts Lands at America’s Radio News Network. Veteran radio talk show host Rick Roberts has been named news co-anchor at America’s Radio News Network. Roberts, also a lawyer, has been heard in his 20 year career on such heritage outlets as KOA, Denver; KCMO, Kansas City; KRLD, Dallas; KOGO and most recently KFMB in San Diego. His is known for a distinctive style of getting the story “behind the story.” Commenting on how pleased he is to be working with ARNN CEO Mark Masters, Roberts tells TALKERS, “He is a man of true vision. Masters’ groundbreaking concept of journalism without agenda is needed in America now more than ever.” America’s Radio News Network, which offers 15 hours of syndicated long-form programming per week is now heard nationally on over 340 affiliates taking one or more of its five three-hour news segments.
Sandusky Scandal Impacts Pennsylvania Radio Station. Political scandal and questionable talk host remarks are not the only form of controversy that impacts spoken word radio’s ability to sell advertising and maintain a balanced competitive image. According to an Associated Press report, after 20 years of faithfully broadcasting Penn State football games to its loyal fandom, talker WAEB, Allentown, Pennsylvania finds itself at a crossroads between airing the school’s upcoming season (which kicks off September 1 against Ohio University) and pleasing the overwhelmingly large percentage of listeners who have let the station know they want to hear the games — while dealing with timid sponsors who are less enthusiastic about being associated with the scandal. Station management states they need about 10 sponsors to fund a full season of Penn State football. Prior to the Jerry Sandusky scandal it was always an instant sellout. So far they only have four.
Odds & Sods. The Minnestota Twins will be moving their live broadcasts from Hubbard-owned 1500ESPN, Minneapolis at the end of the season and begin airing games on KTWN 96.3FM beginning with the 2013 season. Their new radio home is owned by the Pohlad family – same folks who own the team. This is the first time the Twins games will be aired exclusively on FM….None other than President Obama was interviewed on sports talker KXNO, Des Moines to talk sports but Politico reports he snuck in a bit of politics when asked how playing sports was similar to being president stating, “It also turns out that political reporters are a lot like sports reporters. They’ve all got opinions, even if they didn’t play.”….Premiere Networks has launched a new satellite radio talk show featuring lifestyle expert and interior designer Moll Anderson heard Saturdays 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm ET on Sirius XM’s “Talk Radio” XM channel 168…Sports talker WFAN, New York’s annual talent search “Fantasy Phenom 111 Challenge” has narrowed its field to five finalists who will vie for the Grand Prize of a chance to host a once a week air shift on the legendary station for one year. The finals will take place on Friday, August 24 at Bar A in Lake Como, New Jersey. All finalists are New York Metropolitan area locals and were chosen from thousands of fans and listeners who showed up at auditions held at area Simon malls in July as well as online entries.
Obama Leaks, Family Research Council Shooting, Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (8/15). The ex-Navy SEALS video critical of President Obama for allegedly allowing dangerous leaks involving the shooting of Osama bin Laden and the shooting of a guard at the Washington, DC headquarters of the conservative Family Research Council, followed by the devastating effects of the drought brought on by the heat wave and violence in Syria were the most talked about topics on news/talk radio yesterday according to ongoing TALKERS research.