|Fresh Capital for Radio
Higher limits for foreign ownership of U.S. stations?
So FCC Chairman-designate Tom Wheeler is hung-up by Senator Ted Cruz? No problem - Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn is perfectly comfortable proposing significant changes to long-set policy. Non-U.S. citizens currently can’t hold more than a 25% equity interest in U.S. broadcast licenses. We’ve been seeing deals structured so that the foreign money doesn’t have an excessive amount of attributable ownership interest. Raising the limit would end that – and groups like the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council say the change would benefit minority, women and other new entrants into the business. (If you want to raise huge amounts in the U.S. for large deals at cash-flowing properties – no problem. But not if you’re a newbie.) Acting Chair Clyburn has just placed the foreign ownership item on the agenda for the next open meeting, on November 14. And she’s ready to roll, whether or not the Senate confirms Tom Wheeler. Clyburn says “I look forward to working with my colleagues toward a final Commission vote next month.” NAB CEO Gordon Smith “applauds” the move and says “this is fundamentally fair and will serve the public interest.” He says it will permit “new sources of capital for American radio and TV stations.”
Retired NYC rock personality Dave Herman is busted on child sex charges.
Herman thought he was communicating online and on the phone with the mother of a young girl – a very young girl, who would now be seven. But the “mother” was an undercover law enforcement officer, says the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey. And when Herman thought he’d arranged for them to travel from New Jersey to his vacation home in St. Croix, he was actually setting up his own arrest. (He'd tried to arrange meet-ups in New York City and Bergen County, NJ.) Herman, now 77, was one of the signature personalities of New York City’s now-gone WNEW-FM (102.7). Authorities say that he asked the “mom” if she had been sexually active with her own daughter, or if she was interested in people who sought to have sex with young children. According to WNBC-TV, Herman allegedly said “age 6 is the perfect time to start her being loved that way.” He’d bought airline tickets for them, and was collared at the airport in St. Croix. U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman says “attempting to transport a minor in interstate commerce with the intent that the minor engage in illegal sexual activity is punishable by a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison and a maximum of life in prison.” Plus a $250,000 fine. Read the U.S. Attorney’s release here.
SiriusXM is raising rates, by 50 cents a month.
CEO Jim Meyer says “while changing prices is a difficult decision…we are confident that our subscribers see significant value in our service and that this modest change” won’t affect customer retention. That bumps the rate up to $14.99 a month, beginning in January – though there are plenty of ways to do better, using multi-radio subscription plans, etc. Meyer says overall revenue grew 11% to $962 million. Paid subscribers grew 513,000 to nearly 25.6 million. So far in 2013, SiriusXM has added 1.7 million subs, and they’re raising their estimate of what they call net subscriber growth. Meyer says that’s partly because “it appears our subscribers are transitioning faster to new cars” than they expected. Meyer likes the potential for growth in the area of telematics and IP delivery to the car – or what Meyer’s calling “an embedded modem.” As he’s done since he took over from Mel Karmazin late last year, Meyer talks about the need to get stronger with Hispanics, and he touts the new Piolin channel as one of the promising new features. SiriusXM’s offering a special lower-priced Spanish radio tier – and Meyer suggests there are other niches where that approach might work. Wall Street showed some disappointment with the numbers. “SIRI” stock lost nearly 4% yesterday on heavy volume. It was down 14 cents to $3.91, slipping below the $4 level it had recently cracked.
Clear Channel and Pandora cooperate on the new “Internet Radio Fairness Coalition.”
Yes, they’re competitors for media share, but they’re both interested in reducing the rates for webcasting to something they say would be more sustainable. Billboard’s Glenn Peoples says they took the name of the advocacy group from the Internet Radio Fairness Act – a piece of legislation introduced in 2012, but never passed. The Coalition says the crux of the financial problem is the “willing buyer/willing seller” requirement that’s in the current law. It’s been talked about in many forums, including several of Kurt Hanson’s RAIN summits – with Hanson saying it’s not a meaningful standard, because there’s no real marketplace. But the “willing” standard is the one used by the Copyright Royalty Board. The idea would be to substitute the so-called 801(b) standard that governs music payments by SiriusXM and cable. As Billboard says, that would “allow the rates to be set using criteria that take into account the public interest, the return earned by copyright owners, the minimization of risk in the industry, and the interplay between creative contribution and capital investment.” The partners of the new “Internet Radio Fairness Coalition” include the Consumer Electronics Association, Salem Communications (both a broadcaster and webcaster), the Small Webcaster Alliance, the Computer & Communications Industry Association and Hanson’s own AccuRadio, plus Pandora and Clear Channel.
Steve Dahl’s being inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame, but he’s not attending.
Chicago personality Steve Dahl may be bitter about previous unsuccessful appearances on the ballot for the Chicago-based Hall. He made it this time, as one of the inductees selected not by committee or balloting, but by the Hall’s Bruce DuMont. Dahl tells Robert Feder that his attitude now is one of “general disinterest in the proceedings.” He’s already told DuMont he won’t be there, when he and former partner Garry Meier are inducted by Hubbard Radio’s Greg Solk. Greg worked for the duo starting when he was just 16. Dahl says “maybe I’ll buy an ad in the program to promote my podcast.” He's been off Chicago radio since 2008 and has been pursuing his own podcast venture. Meier’s now doing afternoons at Tribune’s talk WGN (720). They had their famous blowup in 1993 – an event that Chicagoans are still talking about. Dahl wouldn’t be the first living inductee to stay home. Howard Stern did the same thing, a few years ago. The Hall’s also navigated a tricky situation with another 2013 inductee, Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo. After his selection had been announced, he was dumped by Univision (see the next story, for more about that). But Sotelo’s back on radio, with his own channel on SiriusXM. See what’s happening at the National Radio Hall of Fame, and a full list of this year’s honorees, here. Larry King will emcee the November 9 black-tie event at the Museum of Broadcast Communications' home in downtown Chicago.
Without Piolin, Univision radio revenues dipped slightly in Q3.
You might’ve expected the impact to be worse than it was, but CEO Randy Falco tells yesterday’s conference call that the division’s overall drop was a bit less than 1%, to $90 million. Responding to a question, Falco says “radio [revenue] did come in a little bit light…primarily due to the sponsorship revenue that was canceled” as a result of losing Piolin. That was Univision reacting to harassment claims by a former Piolin morning show member. But Univision, with its large portfolio of mostly Spanish-language stations, was “managing our costs aggressively” during the quarter. It trimmed programming costs enough to push EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) up about 17% from last year. Of course, Univision also didn’t have a repeat of last year’s election spending in the political category. Looking forward, Falco sees radio pacing ahead low single digits, and he continues to be enthusiastic about the Hispanic population-growth story. How about the impact of the recent government shutdown? “No material effect.”
Glenn Beck plans a one-week station takeover in Philly – a preview of localized streams to come.
The Philly bit is designed to transition Beck’s listeners over to a new Philly-custom online stream at TheBlaze Radio Network, once his local affiliate goes to EMF’s “K-Love” format. Educational Media Foundation’s about to close on its $20.25 million purchase of Beck affiliate WWIQ (106.9) from Merlin Media. So Beck cuts a deal with Merlin to air his own TheBlaze lineup on 106.9 starting next Monday. That will introduce the market to shows from Buck Sexton, Jay Severin and Doc Thompson. And for next week, Beck’s putting Doc Thompson at O’Neal’s Irish Pub for a live remote broadcast. After that – when WWIQ becomes non-commercial contemporary Christian “K-Love” – a customized Philadelphia stream of TheBlaze will feature local news, weather and traffic, online here. Beck has long had a special relationship with Philadelphia, after originating his syndicated show from there for a while, then being ticked when he lost his then-affiliate and ranted about the city. More about next week’s takeover and the Philly-centric online station – and there will be more of those – from Molly Eichel at the Philadelphia Daily News.
Dish Nation clicks into a November TV-sweeps promotion with Cumulus.
One of the current four morning radio shows contributing to the 30-minute Dish Nation daily pop-culture show is from a Cumulus station – Heidi & Frank from L.A.’s classic rock KLOS (95.5). (New York’s Scott & Todd at Cumulus-owned hot AC WPLJ, featured since the first season of Dish Nation, haven’t been on in a couple of months.) Now TVNewscheck says “Twentieth Television is launching a four-week marketing campaign with Cumulus Media’s 296 radio stations to boost ratings” for Dish Nation. Twentieth Television EVP Stephen Brown says “this is about building awareness,” and they’re using the national reach of Cumulus to do it. He says “in the top 12 DMAs, we’ll have a contest where their listeners can win a trip to Hollywood.” TVNewscheck says in the 18-49 demo, Dish Nation is tied at #4 with Access Hollywood.
Eastlan ratings, “100% radio-focused,” adds 11 markets.
Back in February, Eastlan CEO Mike Gould tweaked Arbitron by saying that company was “focused on coaxing its billion-dollar deal past federal regulators.” Now that Arbitron’s been absorbed into Nielsen, Gould says “our purpose is to be certain the power of local radio is not diminished by research companies geared toward television, or personal jukebox services like Pandora or Spotify.” In February, Eastlan announced three new markets (Helena, Homosassa Spring and Sebring). Now it’s adding 11 – Abilene, Casper, Cheyenne, Lake Charles, Lawton, Lufkin-Nacogdoches, Mankato-New Ulm, Odessa-Midland, State College (PA), Texarkana and Wichita Falls (TX). Almost all of those are already in the orbit of Nielsen Audio, like Abilene (#237), Casper (#273), Cheyenne (#271), Lake Charles (#221), Lawton (#259), Lufkin-Nacogdoches (#239), Odessa-Midland (#170), Texarkana (#252) and Wichita Falls (#250). The only ones not currently surveyed by Nielsen are Mankato-New Ulm and State College. Nothing official from Nielsen yet, but its CEO David Calhoun seems more inclined than Arbitron was to expand coverage to a national footprint, rather than pull back to only where there’s local subscriber support. So Nielsen and Eastlan could be bumping into each other in more places.
FEMA and NPR member stations in five southern states start a pilot project to reach the deaf and hard-of-hearing with alerts.
Specifically, to reach them with emergency messages, using flashing lights or other signals on RDS-equipped radio receivers. FEMA says “the Gulf State region was selected for the demonstration because it is often subjected to extreme weather conditions.” The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning System) will send alerts to the Public Radio Satellite System, and then on to participating stations. The receivers could be equipped with strobes or perhaps even a “bed-shaker alerting device.” NPR Labs Executive Director Mike Starling calls it “a crucial first step in improving the technology for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, during emergencies.” 25 public radio stations are participating, in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Texas. Read the story from FEMA here.
$42,000 in FCC fines, after a fateful visit to Wichita.
An FCC agent from the Kansas City office followed up an anonymous complaint by dropping in on two Steckline Communications-owned AMs last October 22. The agent found significant problems at both transmitters, and an expensive problem in the public files. At talk KQAM (1480), the transmitter was running 55% over its licensed nighttime power. There were other technical problems like, “at no point during the inspection was management able to bring KQAM’s directional parameters into tolerance for the nighttime setting.” It was a similar story at sister “Sports Radio 1410” KGSO, where daytime power was 41% over the licensed 5400 watts. It was also operating in daytime mode at night. The Commission’s been a stickler about keeping the public file up to date with issues/programs lists, and in this case, Steckline is penalized for not having the third quarter report filed when the FCC visited on October 22 – not long after the end of the quarter. A more serious error was that “none of the documents that the station called issues/programs lists contained any information regarding the programs aired to address the listed community issues.” Here’s how the fines were computed - $4,000 for being over-power, $7,000 for problems with the signal, and $10,000 for public file violations. The KQAM fine is here and the one for KGSO is here.
In Baltimore, CBS launches HD/Translator “New Country 106.1” to take a bite out of Clear Channel’s top-ranked WPOC (93.1). It happens today at noon, from CBS Radio’s HD Radio-fed translator at 106.1. Market manager Robert Philips says “The young listenership for country has grown tremendously, and that’s the audience we’re going to cater to.” And why not take WPOC down a notch or two? That could benefit other CBS stations, rank-wise. Clear Channel’s WPOC has been on a rampage this year, rising every single month in the Nielsen Audio PPMs and reaching a 9.4 share (6+) in September. CBS is using an upgraded translator it’s leasing from Hope Christian Church of Marlton. Until now, W291BA has been a west-of-Baltimore signal running a measly 4.5 watts at 877 feet above average terrain. Now the antenna’s relocated to just north of downtown, running 250 watts at 896 feet. But the new signal has a directional antenna that nulls to the Southwest, in the direction of DC. CBS will supply it using the HD2 signal of its own AC “101.9 Lite FM” WLIF. CBS tells David Zurawik at the Baltimore Sun that they’ll be using local air talent - Fast Jimi in mornings, Jenn Marino middays, Steve Mann in PM drive and Scott Davies, 7pm-midnight. This is the latest expression of an intertwined relationship between CBS and New Jersey-based Hope Christian Church. CBS programs Hope’s 97.5 (W248AO) as alternative ‘HFS, keeping alive the brand of a legendary alt-rocker. While Hope LMAs some HD Radio real estate from CBS to feed a couple of other translators.
This Canadian station did the now-common conversion from AM to FM – but also changed formats, in a surprise move from country to rock. Newcap-owned CKKY in Wainwright, Alberta needed three tries, since late 2008, to win CTRC approval to migrate from AM to FM. It finally got the allocation for a new 50,000-watt FM signal at 101.9, and most folks thought country “Key 83” would simply transfer over to FM. Instead, it’s a rocker with classic rock overtones named “K-Rock.” Check out the website here.
The Clear Channel-connected Aloha Station Trust donates another station to the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council’s MMTC Broadcasting LLC. The goal is to use the facility to train future owner/operators, and in this case, the station is currently on the air (others have been silent). Southern Gospel “AM 1270” WSHE in Columbus, Georgia runs 5,000 watts daytime and 188 watts at night. On its corporate website, Clear Channel lists WSHE along with the stations that it owns (and can keep, under FCC limits). The CC cluster includes five FMs, such as urban “98.3 the Beat” WBFA and AC “Sunny 100” WGSY. The Clear Channel site’s Station Search feature, selectable by city or station, is here.
$300,000 is the price Gary Burns is paying for another signal in Roanoke-Lynchburg – but if he switches his intended talk format to something music-based, he’ll have to cough up another $200,000. That’s in the sales contract for Burns’ purchase of WIQO, a Class A FM at 100.9 licensed to Forest, Virginia that had previously been programming classic rock for seller Todd Robinson. The October 10 NOW told you about Burns’ LMA-to-buy, and about his hiring some of the former talent at talk WLNI for his own new talk station at 100.9. Remember that Gary Burns of 3 Daughters Media is protesting the Wheeler company buying WLNI, but so far the FCC has okayed the deal. One of the ways Burns reacted is to acquire WIQO. He’s paying the $300,000 price in all-cash. He’ll owe Todd Robinson the additional 200 grand if he changes to a music format anytime in the next five years.
“YouTube close to launching a subscription music service,” says Billboard. It’s “akin to Spotify, but with video,” and could arrive by year-end. Billboard’s Alex Pham says it’s “designed with mobile listening in mind” and will be tiered – a free service and “a premium tier that offers unlimited access to a full catalog of tracks.” YouTube’s paid service, using different music licenses, would offer users more flexibility – and Pham speculates about future access linked to products from YouTube’s parent, Google, such as Google Glass. Read the Billboard story here.
Trip Reeb is headed back to the mainland from the enchanted islands of Hawaii – to manage the Phoenix cluster that Hubbard Radio’s acquiring from Sandusky. As Hubbard Executive VP/COO Drew Horowitz explains in his memo, “Trip is currently the operating head of the Ohana Broadcast Company in Hawaii. We are thrilled to have someone with Trip’s depth of experience lead our team in the Valley of the Sun.” The new Hubbard cluster includes “Arizona’s Real Rock” KUPD (97.9), rock KDKB (93.3) and classic rock KSLX (100.7) – and Trip Reeb is a longtime rock & roll radio guy, with roots back to San Diego’s alt-rock “91X” and before. He starts in Phoenix November 6.
Trip Savery leaves Charlotte for Raleigh, returning to Don Curtis’ radio group as its new executive VP and market manager for Raleigh. That comes as former Curtis Media Group COO Phil Zachary gets settled into his new situation as market manager for Entercom in Boston (just in time for the World Series). Savery had worked for Curtis until 2010, when he took a management job with Greater Media at Charlotte’s hot AC “Link” WLNK (107.9) and news/talk WBT-AM/FM (1110/99.3). GMI’s Rick Feinblatt tells the Charlotte Observer’s Mark Washburn that “Trip did a great job for us, but it was a hard thing for him to turn down.” There will be a replacement in Charlotte after the holidays.
Rob Cressman leaves as director of programming and operations for Saga in Springfield, MA (classic rock WAQY/102 and rock “Lazer 99.3” WLZX), bound for a new gig at Clear Channel-Indianapolis. He’d been with Saga for five years and previously programmed for Entercom. That leaves Saga’s Steve Goldstein with an opening in Springfield.
Peter Doyle will leverage his contacts – and willingness to pick up the phone and ask for money – as the new Vice President of the Broadcasters Foundation of America. He spent 30 years in various leadership roles at the former Interep family of rep firms, including the original McGavren Guild. Foundation President Jim Thompson says “as we continue to provide more aid to more and more broadcasters, Peter will be invaluable in helping us secure the funds that are essential to advancing our mission.” More about the work of the 501(c)(3) charity here.
Sheila Stewart, who had been contributing to Radio One’s Washington, DC cluster while staying with her sister in Atlanta, was killed in a car accident on her way to work yesterday morning. The Atlanta Journal Constitution says she’d been news and community affairs director at the D.C. cluster, including urban WKYS (93.9) and gospel “Praise 104.1” WPRS. Washington-based regional VP and GM Chris Wegmann says “there was no one more wired in this city than Sheila Stewart.” Before Washington, Sheila worked in Charlotte at urban “Power 98” WPEG. Over her career, she'd written a book, led an effort that won an NAB Crystal Award for community service, mentored over 40 at-risk girls, and actively contributed her talents to numerous charities. Radio One says goodbye to Sheila here.
Tradeout city - Randy Kabrich says "This was my first major-market job, at WGCL in Cleveland (in 1978, bigger in market rank than Atlanta or Miami). That station and WERE had a program where you could get anything at 50% off - Corvettes, high-end stereos, whatever you wanted. You just gave management cash for 50% of the price, and they would arrange to get the item for you. I was very naive and figured 'so this is what working in the major markets is like. This is unbelievable.' Turns out it was unbelievable. The company that owned the combo was raising cash any way they could, including making stupid trade agreements at up to 10x1. The company took the cash and traded the item with the retailer for air time. It finally came crashing down. Everything from the copier to the postage machine, all on trade, was repossessed. The stations had four vehicles - two crappy white panel vans (one for AM and one for FM), a Chrysler vehicle for the AM news department and a Jaguar for the GM. All told, these $40K worth of vehicles were traded for over $400K in air time. Needless to say, it was an eye opener as to what bad management could do to a station." Does that jog your memory, about your own true radio story of enlightenment? Email “You Can’t Make This Up” – Tom@RTK-Media.com.
There’s a lot of “radio” in today’s issue. Like what you’re reading every morning? Tell a friend or colleague. You can also help us keep this coming to you using our Classified Section when you’ve got an opening. And by thinking of this NOW Newsletter as you do your budgeting for 2014 advertising and marketing. Our Kristy Scott is the expert on that - Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. Enjoy all the Fall sports (World Series, football) this weekend, and see you back first thing Monday. Tom