Archive for Overmodulation

Perhaps the last radio format ever

Florida Man RadioAnd it may not be coming to a station near you:

JVC Media has announced it will debut Hot Talk “Florida Man Radio” on its soon to be acquired 660 WDYZ Altamonte Springs/105.5 W288CJ Oviedo FL.

The new Orlando market station will feature Bubba The Love Sponge in mornings, longtime Tampa personality Scott Ledger moving his podcast Dangerous Conversations to middays, Shannon Burke in afternoons, and attorney Justin Clark in evenings.

So this is where Bubba lands. Surely there must be a place for a radio show with Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People” as bumper music.

The station will debut in early September once JVC closes on its $900,000 acquisition. It is currently running a redirect loop promoting that its former Conservative Talk “The Answer” identity has moved to 950/94.9.

If that was The Answer, what was the question?

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All those anchorpeople look alike

And I guess that’s all right, as long as they’re not wearing green:

I just wish they’d done a little more vertical: Ms Fullbright is renowned for her shoe choices.

(This is why not green.)

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U! H! F!

“Five,” he says. As if.

Those sound effects, in fact, were courtesy of the Federal Communications Commission, who decided that a continuous knob for tuning UHF was unsatisfactory; henceforth, said the Commission, UHF knobs will be just as clicky as VHF knobs. And when you have 70 clicks available (14 through 83 inclusive), by gum, you use them.

Today, of course, with hundreds of new local stations — Oklahoma City had three in those days, not counting KOKH-TV, channel 25, which was then owned by the Oklahoma City Public Schools, and watched by no one but school kids, teachers, and occasionally me, and anyway now we have 16 over-the-air signals, almost all of which are multiplexed — the UHF dial runs out at, um, 51, and if the FCC gets its way, it will eventually top out at 32.

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Darkened cloud

Ken Levine calls it like it is:

Two more longtime major market radio stations bit the dust on Friday. WPLJ in New York and WRQX (Mix107) in Washington, DC. In both cases, the bankrupt company that mismanaged all their assets and had to unload these valuable properties just to stay afloat another twenty minutes sold to companies who decided to chuck the formats and replace them with a satellite feed.

There was a time when you couldn’t do that.

Radio licenses are held in the public’s trust. The FCC is supposed to ensure that license holders live up to their responsibility to serve their local community. Station owners have lost their licenses in the past because they did not adequately serve their public.

But that was when we had a government that was looking out for the people, not trying to swindle them. That is when we had anti-trust laws. That is when there were laws limiting the number of commercials. And number of stations any one group could own.

Both WPLJ and Mix107 had local talent and decent ratings. They organized local charities, provided emergency information during blizzards and other calamities. Now a satellite signal from Sacramento or wherever will fill those airwaves. Tell me exactly how this is a better use of a frequency for serving the community?

That same group owner owns six stations in Oklahoma City and operates a seventh under a local marketing agreement. I’m trying to think of some reason why I’d miss them. And you’ll never persuade me that the current ownership “limits” are any improvement over the old 7 AM/7 FM dictum.

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It was nice while it lasted

Apparently we’ve lost our local radio affiliate (that would be KTOK) for Los Angeles Dodgers baseball. What’s more, we’ve lost our local radio affiliate (that would be KGHM) for Oklahoma City Dodgers baseball. If we actually want this stuff, we’re going to have to use an Officially Approved App. My tablet will handle it, I think, but hitting the radio dial is a lot less problematic than trying to keep some damnable app going.

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A nice big L

PAMS Productions of Dallas, Texas, sang these jingles for Radio London — and for one Top 40 station in seemingly every radio market in the US:

I grew up on these things on WTMA, Charleston, South Carolina.

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Looking for Nikita the K

Our search begins in Portland, Oregon:

Get in the car to go to lunch, turn on the radio and what’s this? It sounds like Russian. I wasn’t aware of any Russian language radio stations in our neck of the woods. Could this be coming from Russia? I mean we got that Polar Vortex thing going on, bringing real arctic weather to the Midwest, Maybe somethin’s goin’ on with ionosphere and I’m picking up a broadcast from Moscow.

Well, no, turns out it was a local station, 1010AM, supposedly some kind of Christian station. I mean that’s what the web site says, but I don’t understand Russian so I have no idea what they are actually saying.

The station is apparently branded as “Наше Радио USA” (“Our Radio USA”); it’s one of two Russian-language stations in the Portland area, both owned by Bustos Media, John and Amador Bustos. Most of the Bustos stations broadcast in (no!) Spanish.

As for Nikita the K, he was last heard here:

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The hip bone Schenectady

A nice little fragment of early-Fifties broadcast history here:

Broadcasting magazine ad for WGY and WRGB

These stations were built by General Electric. WGY went on the air for the first time in February 1922, with 1500 watts on 790 kHz; the Federal Radio Commission, predecessor to the FCC, was mostly playing it by ear in those days, and by 1925 WGY was pushing 50,000 watts and occasionally testing with more. In 1941, the station moved to 810 kHz.

WRGB got the fourth commercial TV license in the nation and the second outside New York City. Their first air date came in February 1942. And yes, it was on channel 4 before it moved to channel 6 in 1948; it was an NBC affiliate until 1981, when CBS offered station management a large wad of cash to move.

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Seven decades ago

I found this in an old copy of Broadcasting magazine, from 1947. There were a lot of ads like this at the time:

Advertise on KTUL and KOMA

At the time, both these stations were owned by John Toole Griffin and family, who also owned Griffin Grocery Company in Muskogee. Both those sets of call letters have migrated a bit, KOMA across the dial to the FM band, and KTUL to a Tulsa television station.

And in the 1960s, both stations were local Top 40 powerhouses, something that couldn’t even have been imagined in 1947. (KTUL had already transformed into KELI.) The Griffins own a cluster of stations in Tulsa, but not this one, which was acquired by Clear Channel Communications, later rebranded as iHeartRadio. KTBZ, the current call (1430 The Buzz) has run some sort of sports format for two decades, and has gotten a daytime power boost to 25 kw. KOKC, still a corporate sister to KOMA, runs news/talk on its 50 kw blowtorch, owned by Tyler Media, based right here in the 405. (Come to think of it, when the current telephone area-code system went into effect in the late 1940s, the whole state was “the 405.”

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Another suitor for Tribune

Exit Sinclair, enter Nexstar:

Nexstar Media Group Inc. agreed to buy Tribune Media Co. for $4.1 billion, creating the largest owner of local-TV stations in the U.S., according to a person with knowledge with the matter.

Nexstar outbid private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC with an all-cash offer that values Tribune at about $46.50 a share, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the purchase isn’t yet public. An announcement could come as soon as Monday.

The deal would create a new king of local TV, unseating Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. Four months ago, Sinclair was forced to abandon its own takeover attempt for Tribune after the $3.9 billion transaction drew the ire of regulators. Nexstar had been interested in Tribune last year before Sinclair had agreed to buy it.

Tribune is now set to fetch a higher price from Nexstar — and a 15 percent premium over its closing price of $40.26 at the end of last week.

Locally, this deal creates no complications: Tribune Media owns KFOR-TV and KAUT-TV in Oklahoma City, and the licenses could be passed on to Nexstar more or less intact. Nexstar owns stations in Texas and in Arkansas; their Fort Smith-Fayetteville cluster, with NBC and Fox affiliates, reaches a few homes in far-eastern Oklahoma.

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You’re watching Collusion Television

And even if you’re not, apparently the Department of Justice is:

The Department of Justice announced [Tuesday] that it has reached a settlement with six broadcast television companies — Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.; Raycom Media Inc.; Tribune Media Company; Meredith Corporation; Griffin Communications; and Dreamcatcher Broadcasting LLC — to resolve a Department lawsuit alleging that the companies engaged in unlawful agreements to share non-public competitively sensitive information with their broadcast television competitors.

“The unlawful exchange of competitively sensitive information allowed these television broadcast companies to disrupt the normal competitive process of spot advertising in markets across the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Advertisers rely on competition among owners of broadcast television stations to obtain reasonable advertising rates, but this unlawful sharing of information lessened that competition and thereby harmed the local businesses and the consumers they serve.”

According to the complaint, the six broadcast television companies agreed in many metropolitan areas across the United States to exchange revenue pacing information, and certain defendants also engaged in the exchange of other forms of non-public sales information in certain metropolitan areas. Pacing compares a broadcast station’s revenues booked for a certain time period to the revenues booked in the same point in the previous year. Pacing indicates how each station is performing versus the rest of the market and provides insight into each station’s remaining spot advertising for the period.

Was this happening here in the 405? Almost certainly; Sinclair owns two local stations (the Fox and CW affiliates), and Griffin owns two local stations (the CBS and MyNetworkTV affiliates). What’s more, before the deal was called off, Sinclair was about to acquire two more stations (the NBC affiliate and an independent) from fellow culprit Tribune Media, and then spin off Fox 25 to pay lip service to the FCC’s ownership limitations. That’s six Oklahoma City stations that could have been involved in this particular brand of skullduggery.

(Via Catherine Sweeney.)

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A Nice win

Her birth certificate says “Alberta Nicole Swanegan Owens,” but no matter. She’s been Nikki Nice for years, a name she built for herself working for Russell Perry’s urban-formatted radio stations, and a name she’ll undoubtedly continue to use as Ward 7’s representative on City Council.

And apparently she’s going to have to look for another radio job, since Perry let her go the day after the election: “We’ve taken a different direction,” he said, saying it had nothing to do with her winning the Council seat.

Nice will be sworn in on the 19th, and she’ll draw her Council salary starting from then. It’s not enough to live on, though: Council members are paid $12,000 a year. (The Mayor gets twice that.)

Addendum: I was pointed to this video from her watch party Tuesday night:

It wasn’t even close: she got over 70 percent of the vote.

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And now here’s Jim Donovan

The Cleveland Browns Radio Network includes a couple dozen signals in Ohio, one in Pennsylvania, one in West Virginia — and one in Norman, Oklahoma:

Norman’s KREF (SportsTalk 99.3 FM and 1400 AM) announced Friday it will broadcast all Cleveland Browns games for the remainder of the season, giving Oklahoma fans the opportunity to follow former Sooner quarterback Baker Mayfield.

The radio station will also broadcast pregame and postgame coverage, as well as Browns coach Hue Jackson’s weekly show on Monday nights.

Which is not unheard of for KREF, which picked up Rams games (from, um, St. Louis) while Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford was A Thing. But Bradford was lost for a season with an ACL tear after a particularly vicious sack, and the Rams dealt him to Philadelphia.

If you’re keeping score, Bradford was done in during an exhibition game against, um, the Cleveland Browns.

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Not so much sparkle

This sounds like something thought up by the Safety Über Alles bunch:

Fireworks to be aired on radio

Miss Cellania explains it all:

Yeah, this sounds weird, but they do it where I live, too. What it means is that the soundtrack music for the choreographed display will be broadcast, so you can listen to it while you watch the fireworks.

Oh.

Never mind.

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We want more

No matter what it is, someone wants more of it. As the FCC begins its quadrennial review of terrestrial radio, this is what the National Association of Broadcasters wants:

  • In the top 75 Nielsen Audio markets, allow a single entity to own or control up to eight commercial FM stations, with no limit on AM ownership;
  • To promote new entry into broadcasting, an owner in these top 75 markets should be permitted to own up to two additional FM stations (for a total of 10 FMs) by participating in the FCC’s incubator program; and
  • In Nielsen markets outside of the top 75 and in unrated markets, there should be no restrictions on the number of FM or AM stations a single entity may own or control.

Because, you know, radio has improved so much since massive group owners took over.

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Where the Good Guys were

Found on a music board this past weekend:

To those of you in the NY area … If you take the NJ Transit train to Newark, and keep your eyes peeled when the train goes outside, you will see the transmitter shack of the old WMCA radio. It still has the “WMCA” sign on top. Its in the middle of NOWHERE, with nothing but reeds around it. Brave was the transmitter tech who had to go in there … no telling what animals he’d find in there trying to get warm.

And here’s that shack:

Old transmitter shack of WMCA New York

Once a Top 40 powerhouse, WMCA now runs a Christian format. And no, not from there.

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A hot wind on your shoulder

Something new on the Mexican radio:

A large Spanish-language radio station in Mexico will soon begin broadcasting in Chinese in a deal critics say will bring Beijing propaganda to Chinese Americans throughout Southern California.

A Federal Communications Commission filing on the sale of radio station XEWW AM 690 radio near Tijuana reveals the buyer has ties to Phoenix Satellite Television US, a subsidiary of Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Phoenix TV.

According to government sources, signs that Phoenix is involved in the purchase of the radio station prompted the Trump administration last week to begin an investigation into the national security implications of the sale.

This is not Phoenix’s first try at establishing a SoCal beachhead:

The Chinese broadcaster tried to purchase radio station KDAY, an FM station in Redondo Beach, Calif., and turn it into a Chinese language broadcaster.

That deal was led by RBC Communications, a group of investors led by Phoenix and its editor, Anthony Yuen. The deal fell through in October 2013 after funding irregularities in the proposed $19.5 million purchase were discovered.

Which is a hell of a lot of money for a 4200-watt FM, even in America’s second-largest radio market. XEWW, with its 77,000-watt blowtorch (50k at night), can reach nearly to Bakersfield.

(Via American Digest.)

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Scripps scraps Tulsa cluster

The E. W. Scripps Company, owner of 33 TV stations and the National Spelling Bee, is getting out of the radio business, starting with its five Tulsa stations, one AM (KFAQ 1170) and four FMs (KBEZ 92.9, KVOO 98.5, KXBL 99.5, KHTT 106.9), which are being dealt to Grffin Communications, owner of two TV stations in Oklahoma City and two in Tulsa, for a reported $12.5 million.

“This transaction is a promising start to the sale of our entire radio station group, which was one of the pillars of our strategy for returning value to shareholders. We expect more announcements soon,” said Adam Symson, CEO of Scripps.

Griffin’s television division owns KWTV (9) and KSBI (52) in Oklahoma City, and KOTV (6) and KQCW (19) in Tulsa. Scripps will retain its Tulsa TV station, KJRH (2), named for longtime Scripps Broadcasting chairman Jack R. Howard.

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So far away

Yet another area where the Digital Age is no improvement over its analog ancestor:

[S]ometimes on summer evenings, you could play a little with “atmospheric skip” and get stations from farther away than you normally would. It was like dxing on a radio, but with a television)

(And for that matter: do kids today even know what dxing is? It was a thing my dad taught me about and it was kind of fun in that geeky way — “Oh, hey, I’m picking up St. Louis!”)

And St. Louis was one of the first places you’d get, assuming you lived somewhere east of the Rockies; in the middle of the dial, in the middle of the country, KMOX had 1120 kHz all to itself after dark, one notch above the station pairs on opposite coasts. (Example: KGO San Francisco and WGY Schenectady, New York, both running full time on 810 kHz, though KGO’s signal is slightly directional at night to protect WGY.) This clear-channel stuff was important to us in South Carolina, which had only two 50,000-watt signals, both way the heck up around Greenville and — wait for it — operating with that much juice only in the daytime. Down on the coast, our hardy Top 40 perennials ran 5,000 watts daytime, 1,000 watts night (WTMA) or 1,000 watts daytime, 250 watts night (then WQSN). We eagerly hunted down stuff like the Big Ape (WAPE Jacksonville, a mere 25,000 watts at night but so close by we could sometimes pick it up in the daytime. I remember once or twice managing to snag their competition, WPDQ, only 5,000 watts but still only a state and a fraction away.

I discovered Nashville early: they had two blowtorch AMs, WSM, then and now home of the Grand Ole Opry, and WLAC, now news-talk but back then a serious R&B outlet, anchored in the evenings by the legendary John R. (I regret to say I never made it to Ernie’s Record Mart in Nashville, a major John R. sponsor.) After you’d heard all the big boys, it became something of a game to try to locate low-powered rivals to said big boys. I think my single greatest night of DX was the night I got an amazingly clean signal from the amazingly weak WKWK (Wheeling’s Krazy, Wacky Kilocycles), 1,000 watts day, 250 watts night, not even a patch on the mighty WWVA just up the dial, but competitive just the same.

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The scourge of the Maryland ‘burbs

There are no municipalities of any size in Baltimore County, Maryland; it’s not obvious where one census-designated place ends and the next one begins. (Baltimore city is not located in Baltimore County.) One day I was wandering around Cockeysville, mostly to acquire familiarity with the place in a foolish attempt to impress New Jersey residents who weren’t aware of its existence, and then suddenly I wasn’t: I’d stepped over some hazy line and into Hunt Valley, which doesn’t even enjoy the luxury of being a census-designated place. Which may explain the vast number of corporate campuses in the Valley, one of the vastest being that of Sinclair Broadcast Group, the nation’s largest single television group operator, and a target of this week’s left-wing talking points for having had the temerity to have all its news operations reading off the same editorial. Anyone who had been paying attention knew that Sinclair tended to lean toward the right; there was, for instance, an episode of ABC’s Nightline in 2004 in which Ted Koppel read off the names of Americans killed in the Iraq war, and none of Sinclair’s seven ABC affiliates at the time carried the episode, by order of Hunt Valley.

Will Truman has some insights on how the Sinclair broadcast model could actually work in these days of consolidation:

There is a reason that there is a vacuum here for Sinclair to enter. Consolidation is occurring in good part due to an iffy financial picture. Local news organizations are expensive, and if people aren’t watching, there are a lot of cheaper things they can run in their stead. There is also a strong possibility that they will do it wrong. If they go full Fox Jr, people who aren’t in the choir will just change the channel. And the temptation to go that route will be strong. And lastly, there is a lot of competition, so for conservatives in general to succeed there, they would want Cox and others to join Sinclair the way that a lot of AM stations joined the bandwagon once that model was discovered. If they don’t, then despite the concerns Sinclair’s influence will be limited.

From what I gather, though, Sinclair stations are considered dangerous by some precisely because going full Fox Jr is not what they are doing. If they pepper their point-of-view in between reports on the cat show at the convention center and the carjackings on the southeast side of town, people will come for those stories, and also get a good dose of sermon about the Deep State. That’s how you do it, both commercially and politically. Further, although the market may be tough going forward, if they are committed to this, Sinclair will keep going while others fold. It’s not clear that several competing news organizations can thrive, but there is a strong likelihood at least one or two might with limited competition.

If nothing else, Sinclair management is known for its innovative methods of adhering to the letter of FCC rules. The company bought into the Oklahoma City market in 1996 by acquiring KOCB, then a UPN affiliate, and then signed a local marketing agreement with the then-owner of Fox affiliate KOKH-TV. (Not long after, Sinclair signed a deal with The WB to switch its UPN stations to the Frog.) Local marketing agreements had existed in radio before that, and still do — Champlin Broadcasting is the licensee of KQOB-FM, aka “Fun 96.9,” though the station is run by the local Cumulus group — but they were largely unheard of in television, which the FCC allegedly ran more strictly. (Champlin also owns KNAH-FM, which they operate themselves.) By 1999, the FCC had decided to allow TV duopolies, and Sinclair bought KOKH-TV outright.

The proposed acquisition of Tribune Media stations by Sinclair has caused some alarm, about which Truman says:

In response to this story, a lot of Sinclair’s critics keep pointing ominously to the fact that Sinclair stations reach 40% of homes, and if the FCC goes forward with some deregulation, that number could jump to 70%. Whether the deregulation is a good idea or not, that’s less scary than one might think. How many homes does CBS News have access to? Far more than 70%. Sinclair could have access to 100% and it still wouldn’t bother me. That’s the wrong thing to be thinking about. The right thing to be concerned about is how much of the various markets they control where they exist. It’s better that they be one of eight options in six cities than six of eight options in one city.

Speculation in OKC is that Sinclair will give up KOKH-TV and KOCB in favor of keeping Tribune’s KFOR-TV, a major NBC affiliate, and its independent sister KAUT-TV. We shall see.

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It helps to have an audience

Tam lives in Indianapolis, which is a pretty respectable TV-news town, as TV-news towns go:

[T]he quality of newscasts is driven by competition in the city. There are affiliates of all four networks plus one independent that each run a newsroom and compete for the local news eyeballs. As a result, the better stations here have news production values as good as I’ve seen from some stations in much bigger markets, like Atlanta or DFW.

And they have time to use, too: a couple of Indy stations run over 60 hours of locally-produced news stuff every single week.

Channel 2 in Terre Haute? Not so much:

WTWO this morning looked like it was being broadcast by a particularly on-the-ball high school A/V club.

Even in small markets, though, there are Standard Figures:

Among the most pathos-ridden figures at the tiny market stations are the Silver-Haired Newsreaders With Gravitas who realize that they’ve reached the Silver-Haired Newsreader With Gravitas phase of their careers without ever being called up to the show. They’re like the “Crash” Davises of broadcast journalism.

Almost coming to mind is Mitch English, who did lots of time at WTVY Dothan, Alabama; after co-hosting the syndicated The Daily Buzz and occasionally filling in at WCBS New York (New York!), he ended up at KOKH in Oklahoma City. Harry Chapin should have written a song about him.

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Where do they go from here?

Last we looked, Sinclair Broadcast Group was getting ready to buy Tribune Broadcasting’s stations, which would cement Sinclair’s position as the largest TV group owner in the country. Undecided at that time: how Sinclair and/or the FCC would deal with the Oklahoma City TV market, which is served by two Tribune stations and two Sinclair stations.

On the very last page of Monday’s Oklahoman there was a brace of legal notices. The first:

On February 21, 2018, an application was filed seeking FCC consent to the assignment of KOKH-TV’s license from KOKH Licensee, LLC to Sinclair Divestiture Trust. KOKH Licensee, LLC is a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. The officers, directors, and 10% or more shareholders of Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. are David D. Smith, Frederick G. Smith, J. Duncan Smith, Robert E. Smith, Howard E. Friedman, Daniel C. Keith, Martin R. Leader, Lawrence E. McCanna, David B. Amy, Christopher S. Ripley, Lucy A. Rutishauser, Barry M. Faber, Steven M. Marks, Steven J. Pruett, David R. Bochenek, Rebecca J. Hanson, Delbert R. Parks, III, Donald H. Thompson, and Robert D. Weisbord.

The Trustee of Sinclair Divestiture Trust is RAFAMEDIA LLC. The Sole Member of RAFAMEDIA LLC is Richard A. Foreman, a respected long-time media broker who has no personal, familial or extra-trust business relationship with Sinclair or its affiliates.

A copy of this application can be found in the station’s online public inspection file at www.fcc.gov.

Second verse, same as the first, except it pertained to KOCB-TV, Sinclair’s other current OKC station.

If that word “divestiture” jumps out at you, well, here are some of the deets:

In an FCC divestiture plan released on February 21, 2018, Sinclair stated it intended to divest either KOKH-TV or KFOR-TV to an unaffiliated third-party buyer to comply with FCC prohibitions on common ownership of two of the four highest-rated local stations in terms of total day viewership, and put them and their respective duopoly partners (KOCB and KAUT) into a divestiture trust independently overseen by Rafamedia LLC (owned by media broker Richard A. Foreman) until a buyer for one of the two Big Four network affiliates is found. Sinclair would also divest either KOCB or KAUT to comply with rules barring singular legal ownership of more than two full-power television stations in a single market (should the buyer not be the acquirer of the divested Big Four outlet, Sinclair would have the option of operating either outlet under a shared services agreement following the completion of the sale).

So it’s sort of official: Sinclair appears to be keeping KFOR-TV (an NBC affiliate) and KAUT (an independent), and ditching KOKH-TV (Fox) and KOCB (The CW). Maybe. I will continue to watch for developments.

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Pursuing the wily ratings point

Brian J. has been subjected to an unusually large number of radio format changes lately:

So 106 “The River” in Springfield, the local “Jack” station, or whatever they call the variety format that plays a couple dozen hits from the 80s, a couple dozen hits from the 90s, and six or ten songs from after the turn of the century, has shifted its playlist to include Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.

The industry term for Jackalikes is “Variety Hits”; I note that Radio-Locator now lists KRVI as “Adult Hits.” (Weirdly, our local VH station, once branded as “Bob,” is now branded as “Alice.” Make of that what you will.)

So 104 “The Cave,” a classic hits (what we used to call Album Oriented Rock back in the day) determined it needed to compete with that format by playing MØAR POWER BALLADS.

The rock station that played new hard rock and metal, Q102, decided what it needed was alternative music from the 1990s. Friends, most of the rock music from the 1990s sucked. Sorry, but you know it’s true. Grunge corrupted everything it touched, and emogoth really loud is not rock.

I note for no good reason that of all the decades since my birth, the 1990s rank as the least represented on my workbox iTunes install.

US 97, which touts its long-standing rock heritage and pedigree dating all the way back to the Clinton administration, has added some newer songs but has also added more 90s rock and power ballads.

I note, again for no good reason, that of those four stations, only one — KXUS, “US 97,” is actually licensed to Springfield. KKLH, “104.7 The Cave,” is out of Marshfield; KRVI, “106.7 The River,” comes from Mount Vernon. Perhaps the oddest, though, is KQRA, “Q102.1,” which is licensed to Brookline, Missouri, a village that exists now only as a post office; it’s been merged into Republic.

And The Cave and Q102 are owned by the same group operator out of Madison, Wisconsin, which owns two other stations in town, neither of which are licensed to Springfield. I’ve been griping about this sort of thing for nigh unto twenty years.

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Moribund the K

A few days back, Roger had a nifty little feature on American radio stations, the K— and W— call letters, and various outliers on the “wrong” side of the dividing line. None of us knew at the time that one of those outliers was about to be euthanized:

It’s not that we had any illusions that KQV (1410) in Pittsburgh was especially healthy, as standalone AMs go. Its directional signal struggles to cover even a fraction of the market, and its programming, which mixes expensive hours of all-news radio during the day with talk and classic radio dramas at night, has been all but invisible in the ratings for years now. That didn’t matter as much when the wealthy Richard Scaife was subsidizing the station as part of a media group that also included the Tribune-Review newspaper — but Scaife sold his partial interest in KQV a year before his death in 2014, leaving the station in the hands of the children of longtime GM Robert W. Dickey, Sr., who had himself died in 2011.

In November came news of the death of Dickey’s daughter Cheryl Scott, who’d been KQV’s business manager for decades, leaving her brother Robert W. Dickey, Jr. running the station solo. That appeared to have been the last straw for KQV in its current form. With Scott gone and family members apparently at odds about whether to keep the station going, Dickey, Jr. made the announcement on Friday that KQV will cease operating at midnight on Dec. 31.

KQV perhaps is best remembered for its days as a dominant Top 40 station, its relatively weak signal (5,000 watts, and weirdly directional, especially at night) notwithstanding. From the late 1950s through the early 1970s, the Groovy QV, later 14K, brought you, if you were nearby, the latest hits. One of the voices between the singles in those latter days was one Jeff Christie, who’s still in radio today, though not in Top 40 and not on KQV. What’s more, Christie’s given up his pseudonym in favor of his real name: Rush Limbaugh.

Pittsburgh retains one K call from the old days: KDKA, owned these days by CBS.

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All static, all the time (2)

From 2015: “Two years from now,” they predict, there will be no FM radio in Norway:

Norway’s Minister of Culture announced this week that a national FM-radio switch off will commence in 2017, allowing the country to complete its transition over to digital radio. It’s the end of an era.

As Radio.no notes, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) will provide Norwegian listeners more diverse radio channel content than ever before. Indeed, DAB already hosts 22 national channels in Norway, as opposed to FM radio’s five, and a TNS Gallup survey shows that 56% of Norwegian listeners use digital radio every day. While Norway is the first country in the world to set a date for an FM switch-off, other countries in Europe and Southeast Asia are also in the process of transitioning to DAB.

As of yesterday, the deed is essentially done:

Norway on Wednesday completed its transition to digital radio, becoming the first country in the world to shut down national broadcasts of its FM radio network despite some grumblings.

As scheduled, the country’s most northern regions and the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic switched to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) in the late morning, said Digitalradio Norge (DRN) which groups Norway’s public and commercial radio.

The transition, which began on January 11th, allows for better sound quality, a greater number of channels and more functions, all at a cost eight times lower than FM radio, according to authorities.

Downside: DAB receivers start at around €100; only about half of Norway’s motor vehicles are equipped with DAB; and at least some of the radio audience is missing in action:

According to a study cited by local media, the share of Norwegians who listen to the radio on a daily basis has dropped by 10 percent in one year, and public broadcaster NRK has lost 21 percent of its audience.

Some local stations, not affiliated with the DRN group, are still running their FM transmitters.

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A decidedly cloudy forecast

Cumulus Media, which owns 446 radio stations in the US, has been in dire straits:

Atlanta-based radio giant Cumulus Media has filed to reorganize in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with $2.4 billion in debt. It has reached an agreement with 69% of its term loan holders.

Cumulus’ pre-packaged restructuring agreement with lenders will reduce the company’s debt by more than $1 billion. The filing took place at United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

Earlier this month, Cumulus defaulted on a nearly $24 million debt payment to its lenders. The stock will continue to trade on the OTC (over-the-counter) market, where it moved after being delisted at NASDAQ last week.

Shares in CMLS are selling for a very non-NASDAQy nine cents a share. And speaking of shares, the top-rated Cumulus station in Oklahoma City, the nation’s #50 market, is WWLS, the Sports Animal, which scored a 4 share, fifth among local stations.

Required management jargon:

Cumulus president/CEO Mary Berner insisted the company will turn its fortunes around in her press statement. “Over the last two years, we have focused on implementing a business plan to reverse the company’s multi-year ratings, revenue and EBITDA declines, create a culture that fosters motivated and engaged employees, and build an operational foundation to support the kind of performance we believe Cumulus is capable of delivering. This has resulted in increased ratings, revenue market share gains, improved employee satisfaction, reduced employee turnover and, over the last several quarters, our return to year-over-year EBITDA and revenue growth — demonstrating that turnaround has not only been successful, but is continuing. However, as we have noted consistently, the debt overhang left by previous years of underperformance remains a significant financial challenge that we must overcome for our operational turnaround to proceed.”

Short version: “Most of this crap happened before I got here.”

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A cord you need not cut

Mark Hill (no relation) happened upon this 1960s artifact:

AM radio by Internet Radio (Product) Limited

An apt name, he says, despite the lack of historical connection:

The cream case, flat upright format, rounded corners, and “screen”-like black tuning display all recall Jonathan Ive’s now legendary design for the iPod. The Internet radio even has white earphones! I’m not accusing Ive of copying it of course, but the resemblance is striking and I wonder if these mid-century portable transistor radios (which often look alike) were an influence on his design.

This particular model was made in Hong Kong. The one I had came from Japan:

“Nine-volt batteries back then were like three for a dollar instead of $3 apiece,” I muttered to myself this week as I replaced the unit in my ancient Radio Shack Weatheradio.

(Via American Digest.)

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The Sports Vegetables

Doc Searls could have predicted it, I suppose, but being Doc Searls, he chose to do the research, and it turns out that he was right. The top radio market for sports is Boston, and nowhere else comes close:

Boston 11.0
Philadelphia 8.7
Minneapolis-St. Paul 6.9
Detroit 6.4
Middlesex-Somerset-Union, NJ 6.4
Oklahoma City 6.2
Baltimore 6.1
Nashville 5.9
New York 5.8
Pittsburgh 5.8
Kansas City 5.8

Now how does Oklahoma City rate sixth, ahead of New York fercrissake? Here’s his methodology:

My source is Radio-Online’s Nielsen Radio Ratings, current as of today. The big markets all last reported on September 29, and they are posted monthly. Some of the mid-markets reported on dates in October. All of the bigs and the mids report monthly. The small markets, such as Green Bay, report quarterly. While Green Bay was last updated on August 2, the last quarter listed is Spring of this year. I also include side-markets, such as those flanking New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

I list all the U.S. radio markets with a major league baseball, football, basketball or hockey team there or nearby.

And let’s face it, we have a hell of a lot of sports radio around here: three full-time AMs (KWPN, KGHM, KREF) and three FMs (WWLS-FM, KINB, KRXO-FM), plus the occasional translator, and KTOK carries much of the Los Angeles Dodgers season. Lots of signals for a market with one major-league team.

Now compare that to San Antonio, a somewhat larger market with one major-league team. There’s only one full-time sports station (KTKR), and they’re not the station carrying the Spurs, who are on WOAI.

Of course, we have OU and OSU to fill up space, especially during college-football season.

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Have your affiliate

One of those ultra-informative Roberta X footnotes says:

Networks don’t have licenses; individual stations do. Only a tiny fraction of U.S. TV stations are actually owned by the network they carry. Most people don’t know that and assume that the station they watch ABNBCBS on must, in fact, be that network. So when a President Tweets, “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!” he is channeling H. L. Mencken’s Everyman, and threatening his waiter for the misdeeds of the cook.

The phrase that caught my eye was “tiny fraction.” When I started paying attention to this stuff back around 1970, there existed something called the 7-7-7 rule, tucked handily into the FCC regulations: a single owner, individual or corporate, could own a maximum of seven TV stations, seven AM radio stations and seven FM radio stations. Since each of the three networks in this pre-Fox era had about 200 affiliates nationwide, “tiny fraction” described the situation rather precisely.

But that was nearly half a century ago; regulations have been loosened, and in some instances thrown out entirely. Does “tiny fraction” still apply? The answer, I learned, is yes: CBS owns about 30 TV stations, NBC 13, and ABC only eight.

Does CBS, then, have twice the reach of its rivals? Not even. Of the 30 stations owned by CBS, only 16 actually carry CBS programs. Eight carry the program schedule of The CW, a network owned half by CBS and half by Time Warner. Two more are affiliated with MyNetworkTV, a sister company to, um, Fox. The other four are wholly independent.

Before you ask: Fox owns 28 stations. The largest station operator is Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 173 stations, not including the Tribune Media properties which Sinclair has contracted to buy.

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In color where available

This dates to about 1965, or nine years before our thrifty-or-else family actually got a color TV. And yes, it was an RCA Victor.

1965 advertisement for RCA Victor color TV

Most of those sets were 21-inchers; the console with the stereo system says specifically it’s 25 inches. As always, the screen measurement is taken along a diagonal, since Pythagoras promised them it would be a bigger number.

And if you were alive in ’65, you might have seen these on the Big Three networks:

Of course, I got to see them in black and white.

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