|FCC chief targets regulatory inertia
Weed-whacker-in-chief Ajit Pai invites ideas about unnecessary regs.
It’s clearer now from the FCC Chairman’s statement that the just-announced “Modernization of Media Regulation” is kind of an open season on rules – though not ownership rules. Those may be the things that some group owners and dealmakers most want to blast out of a previous decade, but relaxing/changing the ownership rules can’t be done in this proceeding. They’ll take longer. But for now, Ajit Pai’s in line with President Trump’s call to whack away at needless regulations. Pai says the 1996 Telecom Act required the Commission to conduct a biennial review for all telecommunications services. But there’s never been any similar bright flashlight shone on rules for radio, TV and many other industries regulated by the Commission. Last week brought a separate item about eliminating the Main Studio rule, and that’s going to be extremely popular with broadcasters. (Something else to support in public, if you favor it.) Attorney David Oxenford blogs about the wide scope of the FCC proceedings here. And as Chairman Pai says, he “encourages all interested parties to file comments in this Modernization proceeding, and bring to our attention rules that deserve the Commission’s consideration.”
FCC to vote on a national “Blue Alert” June 22.
KFWB-AM, LOS ANGELES
UNIVERSAL MEDIA ACCESS
|Kalil & Co., Inc.
|2960 N. Swan Rd, Ste 134
Tucson, AZ 85712
But will these police-friendly alerts become part of the EAS system? That’s one of the questions the Commission will seek input about. Followup to Friday’s story here, about the idea that’s bubbled up from the states – a coordinated effort between the authorities and the media to alert the relevant public to “threats to law enforcement, and to help apprehend dangerous suspects.” (It’s also a result of the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act of 2015.) FCC Chairman Ajit Pai spoke at Friday’s event at the Justice Department, hailing the “nationwide rollout of the National Blue Alert Network.” Chairman Pai says the Blue Alert is inspired by the success of the missing child “Amber Alert.” (It began with some Dallas radio folks, to make something positive happen after the abduction and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman.) The FCC says “Blue Alerts can be used to warn the public when there is actionable information related to a law enforcement officer who is missing, seriously injured or killed in the line of duty.” Also when there’s “a credible threat to an officer.” There would be appropriate information about “what to do if you spot the suspect and how to stay safe.” The item will be on the agenda for the June 22 meeting – and let’s hope there’s less controversy than at last week’s Open Meeting -
Reporter covering last Thursday’s FCC meeting says he was mistreated and escorted from the building.
Ironically, CQ Roll Call senior writer John M. Donnelly chairs the Press Freedom Team of the National Press Club. A release from the club says Donnelly was “pinned against a wall by security forces when he attempted to ask a post-press conference question of departing Commissioners.” FCC security staffer Frederick Bucher seemed to think questioning should only be permitted during the formal proceedings. The Washington Post says “Blucher has been implicated in at least one other incident involving harassment of a journalist.” That was last year, when Bloomberg News reporter Todd Shields had his press badge confiscated while talking with a protester at an FCC meeting. The Commissioner apologized then – as Variety says it has now, to Donnelly. The FCC says there was heightened security at Thursday meeting “based on several threats.” You wonder if that was related to the demonstration outside the FCC protesting its attempted rollback of Net Neutrality policy.
Cumulus stock jumped 27% on Friday.
Shall we call this “the Lew Dickey Effect?” Speculation about what the Cumulus co-founder and former CEO is up to with his new $209 million “blank check” fund may’ve brought new prominence to this battered stock. Trading volume was vigorous at more than triple the usual number of shares, and you wonder if some investors were betting on Lew to try one of those famous boardroom takeovers that mostly happen on TV. Friday’s real boost came in the afternoon, when the stock that closed the previous day at 39 cents a share was lifted to 52 cents before finishing at 49 cents. That’s a 27% one-day gain in a stock that’s facing not one but two de-listing warnings from NASDAQ. (Those are for failure to keep the trading price above $1 a share and for failing the test for “minimum shareholders equity.”) Cumulus submitted a plan for extension of time to fix those problems (May 16 NOW) – and if it could keep the closing price above a buck a share, that would relieve some pressure.
Pandora is sued by PayPal over its logo.
The trademark suit filed Friday says the logo Pandora introduced last Fall “not only resembles, but openly mimics the PayPal logo.” PayPal says the streaming service had to be aware of its claims – it tried contacting Pandora. The New York Post. says PayPal contends that its letters to Pandora went “unheeded.” Even more problematic is the small smartphone screens on which both “P” logos may reside. PayPal says it’s “invested heavily in the logo since its introduction.” Pandora changed its own logo last October. There’s also the complication that Pandora is generally known to be seeking a buyer. No update on that from management, other than the $150 million investment it accepted from private equity firm KKR. The PayPal suit features quotes from more than 20 online posts, including this one – “I was a little confused when I opened PayPal, and Barenaked ladies started playing.”
“Former pirate Radio Caroline awarded broadcast license,” says BBC News.
Management intends to resume broadcasting from Radio Caroline’s original ship, the “Ross Revenge.” This time they won’t have to stay in international waters to dodge British authorities. But the new Radio Caroline will still be on AM, using one of five new AM “community radio licenses” awarded by the UK government’s Ofcom regulator. Ofcom’s license to “Radio Caroline AM Broadcasting Ltd.” Allows it to “broadcast a wide range of album music from the 1960s to the present day...It is for people aged 45+ in Suffolk and northern parts of Essex.” You’ve probably heard about the 1960s pirate radio scene in the UK, which was fictionalized in the 2009 “Pirate Radio” movie featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Nighy. (It was subtitled “The Boat That Rocked.”) The pirate movement (which involved multiple ships and operators) eventually spurred BBC Radio to launch its own full-time rock/pop music channel. More about the new Radio Caroline from the BBC here.
Various forms of digital listening now attract over 47% of radio listening in the UK.
That’s up 29.2% five years ago, in the first quarter 2012 report from the multi-industry RAJAR consortium. Bear mind that the UK lumps in listening over digital TV and mobile phones as “digital,” along with listening to that nation’s out-of-band DAB system. The breakout shows that DAB listening is about 71% of the digital total. Counting digital and analog, radio’s 89% weekly reach in the UK is close to the 93% or so that Nielsen reports in the United States. RAJAR says “on average, a listener tunes into 21.2 hours of live radio per week.” See the RAJAR first-quarter 2017 infographic here.
Talk radio’s big in London, fueled by Brexit (and Trump).
LBC 97.3 “leads commercial outlets in London, England for a record fourth consecutive quarter,” says international ratings-tracker Chris Huff. It’s once again the third-ranking station there for Q1 ratings, level with last year’s Q4. There was a little less oxygen for the capital’s #1 station overall, news/talk BBC4 (17.1-15.6). While Londoners may’ve been seeking some relief from full-service music-and-personality BBC2 (10.7-12.0). That’s its largest share since the fourth quarter of 2015. Then comes LBC 97.3, followed by Global-owned top 40 Capital FM (3.7-5.2). Huff says that’s “a strong rebound from Capital’s worst quarter ever, to its best showing since the third quarter of 2014.” See how the RAJAR consortium of public and private stations, advertisers and agencies handles reporting the radio numbers, here.
Another “red light” license cancellation by the FCC, for failure to pay delinquent fees. When the red light was turned on for WCAZ Carthage, Illinois/990, the FCC wouldn’t process its license renewal application. So it’s now officially “DWCAZ,” for “deleted.” Licensee was Ralla Broadcasting which ran a news/talk/ag lineup. The FCC’s red light letter was June 10, 2015, followed by an attempted phone call last December.
The Wall Street Journal’s “The Future of Everything” podcast series debuts at #2 on the Apple Podcasts iTunes chart. They released five episodes at once, including “Law and order in the final frontier” and “Meet one of the first human cyborgs. As of Sunday morning the Journal’s podcasts trailed only the “Daily” podcast of its national rival, the New York Times. The Future of Everything is driven by public radio veteran Jennifer Strong and former Wall Street Journal and MarketWatch Radio network executive John Wordock (now “Executive producer, WSJ Podcasts”).
Edison Research, which is busy in the public affairs world as well as radio/other media, hires Dr. Nino Japaridze as its D.C.-based “Vice President for Public Affairs Research.” She held a similar title at Ipsos North America, and was Regional Research Director of the InterMedia Survey Institute. She’s a native of Tblisi, Georgia and earned her Doctorate in Politics at Oxford and her MA in Political Science at George Washington University. Edison principal Larry Rosin is “confident that Nino will add great value to Edison and that our clients will benefit from her experience and insights.” Edison provides exit poll data to the consortium of TV networks and news organizations including ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC and the AP. It conducts over 100,000 exit interviews and says the poll is “the largest single-day research project in the world.”
Dallas’ “Legends 77” KAAM will drop its mix of standards/easy oldies and brokered talk on June 5 to turn to full-time Christian teaching. Crawford Broadcasting’s changing direction on Garland-licensed KAAM/770 to implement a format that goes back to the company’s roots, says Robert Philpot at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. After all, Crawford was founded by evangelist Dr. Percy Crawford who started in broadcasting in TV, then bought his own UHF station in Philadelphia and eventually a string of radio stations. His Dallas station was originally named KPBC, Percy’s initials, and he adopted the market’s earlier “KAAM” calls in 1990 when KPBC was moved from a daytimer at 1410 to a full-time facility at 770. Today’s “Legends 77” uses a mix of music and jocks, plus local talk shows about money and health under the branding “Ask the pros.” As of June 5, the pros will be religious authorities. We’ll see if Crawford makes similar moves at other Legends-branded stations. Management explains the move on Facebook here. And promises to keep music going online at KAAMRadio.com here.
Smooth jazz back in Sacramento starting today on – of course – an HD Radio-fed translator. Radio Insight recalls the market history – Entercom knocked off “Smooth Jazz 94.7” KSSJ Fair Oaks in 2010 to go alternative as “Radio 94.7” KKDO. KSSJ’s former midday host Lynda Clayton is part of the new iHeart-mounted “Smooth Jazz 107.1.” They’re feeding it from the HD2 signal of classic rock “93.7 the River” KYRV, and leasing a translator owned by Educational Media Foundation. K292GB is licensed to North Highlands, northeast of Sacramento. iHeart previously did classic rock there as “The Brew,” with a recent one-month simulcast of talk KSTE/650. If you could use a taste of “Sacramento’s Smooth Jazz 107.1” on this harried back-to-work Monday, listen here.
“Spanish wars erupt in eastern Pennsylvania,” says Radio Insight. A rivalry between two programmer/operators (Victor “VJ Mar” Martinez and Quilvio Perdomo) has spread from Philadelphia into the Lehigh Valley (Allentown, etc.) and now west of there, to Reading. There’s also an allegation filed at the FCC by Perdomo’s Radio Sharon Foundation that as Reading translator programmed by Martinez must be doing something improper to be heard in Allentown. Follow the story at Radio Insight here.
The $2.1 million package for DC’s just-sold WSPZ/570 includes 58 acres of land in Montgomery County, including the four towers that carry not only WSPZ, but the diplexed signal of Cumulus WMAL Washington/630. That means the owner of WSPZ cashes the rental checks from Cumulus. And the owner is indeed a new private entity, as Friday’s Rumor Mill suggested. It’s AM 570 LLC, owned by the intertwined families of the founders of Salem, the Atsingers and the Eppersons. (Ed Atsinger and Stu Epperson are brothers-in-law, connected by Stu’s wife Nancy Atsinger Epperson.) So this deal between seller Red Zebra and buyer AM 570 LLC doesn’t involve Salem, per se. (That has the effect of not raising Salem’s debt.) The facility is 5,000 watts daytime/1,000 watts, and the buyer will keep using the call letters. Studio equipment isn’t involved, so presumably WSPZ will be operated as part of the Salem cluster. Salem’s current three stations in the Nation’s Capital are Christian teaching stations WAVA Arlington/780 and WAVA-FM Arlington/105.1, plus conservative talk “1260 the Answer” WWRC. We’ll see if Salem reallocates some formats among these four signals – and perhaps introduces a contemporary “Fish” format somewhere. No LMA prior to closing. Broker – Greg Guy of Patrick Communications.
A reported sale around West Palm Beach by John Caracciolo’s JVC Media is part of the story around the expansion of Anco Media Group’s South Florida “Revolution” dance format. Anco’s been doing business as Zoo Communications, based around full-power station “Revolution 93.5” WZFL Islamorada, supplemented by HD-fed translators in Ft. Lauderdale (W228BV) and Miami (W228BY). Marco Mazzoli’s Anco/Zoo last year bought the Ft. Lauderdale translator from iHeart (June 30, 2016 NOW). The latest Revolutionary news comes from West Palm’s WPTV television, about Anco buying west of Palm Beach WBGF Belle Glade/93.5 from JVC. That sale’s not at the Commission yet, but we do know JVC’s holding a construction permit to nudge WBGF slightly toward the Atlantic Coast and the West Palm Beach market. It would remain a C3. Since New Year, WBGF has been running Scott Shannon’s “True Oldies Channel.” Anco says it’s hiring former West Palm-market personality Joe Raineri to join the “Revolution” morning team of Charisse and Kelly Razzberry. “True Oldies” remains on West Palm translator W233CJ/92.5, owned by Circuitwerkes Inc.
Gauging the April PPMs, Nielsen says “News/talk’s recent high-water marks are cooling just slightly.” Check its just-posted Infogram here to view the seventh-book trend for average quarter hour share back to the election-month of November. The format dropped noticeably during the Holiday book (December 1-January 4). Then surged in the January book, with age 6+, 25-54 and 18-34 demos. All three demos show regular declines through the April books issued last week. As Nielsen says, “News/talk tune-in over the past seven months has represented a return to levels not recorded since 2011 or 2012.” It says “historically, News/talk trends lowest in the Summer” – and says “it will be interesting to see how the Summer of 2017 trends for the format, considering the intensity of coverage and no shortage of material coming out of Washington DC.”
April PPMs “trail” past years when the format was setting peaks in 2014 and 2015 – but Nielsen says “the past few months have seen a significant uptick listening for the country format, particularly among Millennial listeners.” Before concentrating on what Nielsen sees with Millennials as a group, consult its new Infogram about country here. As to 18-34s generally – compared to April 2012, they’re a bit less interested in CHR and a bit more interested in country. But clearly more interested in formats like AC, urban AC (their new fourth-most popular format), hot AC, news/talk and classic hits. Study Nielsen’s April 2012-to-April 2017 Infogram for Millennials here. Side note from NOW – contemporary music formats have in general been over-performing in cume, and under-performing in AQH share. In these Infograms, Nielsen is using just AQH share for comparison.
Dick Taylor on “Radio’s best feature” – the broadcast educator and former commercial radio market manager says that while the “singularity” may be near (artificial intelligence getting smarter, etc.), “our need for love, touch, companionship and community will always be part of our humanity, no matter what technology brings.” And that brings him to “radio’s best feature.” (Hint – it’s about ease of use, in a complex world. Read more here.
Gerry House lasted seven years and five months in so-called retirement from radio in Nashville. The all-everything country host says he’s coming back this Friday, but not on iHeart’s “Big 98” WSIX/97.9, where he reigned in morning radio for decades. No, Gerry’s due back on not-so-big “98.3 the Big Legend,” the translator that iHeart owns as W252CM. It’s fed by the HD2 signal of WSIX. House first came to Nashville as a jock on then-WSIX/980, then went to WSIX-FM and created “Gerry House and the House Foundation.” He also worked at WSM/650, and from 1985 to 1988 he tried Los Angeles at KLAC/570. Nashville reclaimed Gerry in 1988, and he worked with a cast that included Mike Bohan until his retirement. Mike will be alongside Gerry at 7am Friday. Among Gerry’s honors are membership in the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame (2009) and the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame (2011). Away from the radio, he’s written songs recorded by numerous country stars, recorded comedy albums, and pursued his interest in the theater.
Brian Wilson jokes that “I’m going to pursue my lifelong desire to be a Walmart greeter” – but that’s likely not this radio pro’s next chapter. Brian tweeted Friday that “Today is the last day of a wonderful six-year ride” at Cumulus talker WMAL-AM/FM (630/105.9) in Washington DC. As listeners piled on with dismay and good wishes, Brian says he’s not retiring, but says he “won’t miss the 2:30am alarm.” (That’s illustrated by a pistol pointed at an alarm clock.) DCRTV.com says that over the weekend, there was “no official word yet from station management.” Brian’s also familiar to DC audiences from his work on WTTG-TV/Channel 5 as well as Fox News. Brian’s Twitter feed is here.
“Moostash Joe” Spellerberg “hosted a polka show on KHUB/1340 in Fremont, Nebraska for almost 60 years,” says Omaha.com. It reports his death at 83. And boy, did Joe have loyal listeners on the Walnut Radio-owned news/talk variety station. Like many folks in the ranks of polka enthusiasts (Midwest Communication principal Duke among them), Spellerberg was also a musician. (In his case, a band leader as well as a businessman.) They say polka music and dancing helps keep you young, and “Moostash Joe” kept active despite a kidney disease that was exacerbated by a car accident.
That smell in the lunchroom – If you’re snacking right now, you may want to save this story for later. A “don’t want to be associated with this true story” NOW reader says “Our studios were in a rural location surrounded by livestock and grain. No matter how hard we tried, we could not keep the mice out of our building. Every employee had an occasional encounter. We tried poison, but then the mice would die in the walls or in some other unseen space. It was just such an unpleasant odor that one day we started scrambling to find its source. We found it - In the toaster. Apparently, this critter had gotten tangled up in the little wires inside the appliance - no doubt eating crumbs there - and couldn’t get out. From that moment, we stopped making toast in the break room, and redoubled our efforts to keep the varmints out.” Ready to share your own favorite true radio story, in or out of the break-room? Email “You Can't Make This Up” - Tom@RTK-Media.com.
“You don’t cheerlead and you’re not doom-and-gloom,” said a NOW Reader over the weekend, about this NOW Newsletter. Thanks to him for the encouraging words, and thanks to you for telling a friend about us. Feel free to forward today’s issue to co-worker, and they can sign up for their own subscription if they like.
Kristy Scott is your contact to talk about reaching NOW Readers with your company’s marketing message. Kristy’s also the person to talk to about placing a Classified Ad. She’s at Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back first thing tomorrow - Tom