Friday, December 11, 2009

Citadel Broadcasting Prepares for Bankruptcy

Citadel Broadcasting, the third-largest radio broadcasting company in the United States, is preparing a prearranged bankruptcy filing. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported that Citadel's proposal was presented to lenders this week and that major lenders JPMorgan Chase and General Electric's GE Capital are already supporting the plan.

Under the terms of the deal, Citadel would reduce its debt from $2 billion to $760 million, in exchange for handing over 99.5% of the equity in the reorganized company to its creditors. Lenders have until Tuesday to agree to the proposal, and Citadel plans to file for bankruptcy by the end of the year.

Citadel's financial problems resulted in part from its acquisition of Disney's ABC Radio stations in 2006. Another contributing factor was the death of radio legend Paul Harvey in Feb. 2009. Harvey's programs, syndicated by ABC Radio Networks, provided Citadel with steady income as it struggled with its increased debt load and declining advertising revenues.

NPR Launches New Mobile Platform

National Public Radio (NPR) has launched a new mobile platform powered by Conmio. The Finnish-based mobile technology company provided the software platform, design, and audio services for NPR Mobile Web. The redesigned and expanded site delivers an improved user experience, including better audio, navigation, and interactive tools. 

Conmio's software, ManaGate®, is customized and adaptable for each online service provider, offering mobile service management and device-detection frameworks. For NPR Mobile Web, this feature ensures smooth audio for all compatible web-enabled mobile devices.

The NPR Mobile Web enhancements include: 
  • "Station Finder" feature: Users can search for stations by ZIP Code, call letters, or city and state, and can flag multiple favorite stations, an improvement over the NPR iPhone app's equivalent feature, which provides a ZIP Code search option only.
  • Better audio experience: Audio links can now be streamed directly within the device browser, a revolutionary change from the former “click to call” feature, providing superior audio quality as well as availability in a wider range of formats: AAC, MP3, WMA, and RM.
  • More station audio: Audio links to live streams, podcasts, RSS feeds, and newscasts are all available on the new service, a feature previously possible only with the NPR iPhone app.
  • Station newscasts: All station newscasts listed in StationConnect will be available via the relaunched service. Station newscasts added to StationConnect will propagate immediately and automatically, providing listeners with continuous access to the latest content.
As consumers rely more and more on their mobile devices for accessing news, information and entertainment, it is critical that the technology delivers the best user experience also with rich media, said Tero Hamalainen, CEO of Conmio. “Known for its innovative, thought-provoking programming, NPR continues to set the standard for radio. We are pleased they turned to Conmio to extend that same level of technology innovation and quality to their mobile offerings.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jury Finds Entercom Negligent in Jennifer Strange Trial

A jury has awarded $16.57 million in damages to the family of a woman who died of water intoxication after competing in a water-drinking contest in Jan. 2007. The "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" contest was sponsored by KDND 107.9 "The End" in Sacramento.

Jennifer Strange, 28, a mother of three, finished in second place but was complaining of a headache and an upset stomach toward the end of the contest. She called in sick to her employer and went home, where her mother found her body that afternoon.

As a result of Strange's death, KDND fired 10 employees, including the three hosts of the "Morning Rave" program, which held the contest, and the show was taken off the air. No criminal charges were filed, but Strange's family filed a civil wrongful-death suit against KDND's owner, Entercom, which finally came to trial in Sept. 2009. The jury deliberated for nine days before reaching its decision on Oct. 29.

Entercom Sacramento was declared negligent because the jury found that disc jockeys and station managers ignored warnings about the hazards of the contest. Tapes of the "Morning Rave" program revealed that the hosts were joking about the contestants throwing up and about the possibility that someone could die. They continued joking even after several calls from listeners, warning them that drinking too much water was dangerous.

Entercom spokesman Charles Sipkins issued a statement saying, “Jennifer Strange’s death was a tragedy. Our hearts go out to all of her loved ones, including, in particular, her husband and children. While legal restrictions preclude us from commenting further on the verdict, we respect the jury’s decision and hope that it will assist the Strange family in coping with its loss.”

The FCC also began an investigation after the incident, to determine whether KDND violated the terms of its operating license, but no results have been announced from that investigation. Strange's family had urged them to revoke KDND's license, but the FCC typically leaves cases of negligence resulting in harm to individuals to the courts to resolve.

KDND, which broadcasts a CHR format, recently launched commercial-free programming every Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to midnight.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dobson Leaving Radio Program

Focus on the Family announced on Oct. 30 that Dr. James Dobson is leaving the long-running Focus on the Family radio program in Feb. 2010, as well as ending his official affiliation with the organization that he founded in 1977.

Jim Daly, president of FOTF, said that it was "a mutual decision between Dr. Dobson and the ministry's board of directors." Dobson stepped down from the board in Feb. 2009 and previously resigned as president of FOTF in 2003.

"The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season—and Dr. Dobson's season at Focus on the Family has been remarkable," Daly said. "He has done a superlative job in modeling the graceful transition of leadership from one generation to the next. We're excited about continuing the work he began, and following the biblical principles he's always followed, to reach today's families."

Dobson will record new radio broadcasts until the end of February and "will continue to make his voice heard in the public square," according to Daly. "Dr. Dobson is a wordsmith, but one word I don't suspect we'll hear him using is 'retirement.'"

During the next few months, FOTF will hold a series of events to honor Dobson's contributions to the ministry.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Movin' right along . . .

. . . in search of good times and good news. . . ."

That song from The Muppet Movie popped into my mind as I was thinking about updating my blog. I've finished formatting this new blog and restoring the posts from my previous site. All of my posts dated Oct. 29 were originally published earlier, and I've reposted them here for the archives. Now I'm moving on to more current material. I'm always in search of good news, and I'll be posting more soon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Radio Shack Rebrands to “The Shack”

Originally posted August 2009

The company launched the name change on Aug. 6 with a three-day live event called “Netogether,” featuring 14-foot laptops in New York City and San Francisco.

Chief marketing officer Lee Applbaum said the company is “contemporizing the way we want people to think about our brand.” Consumers often think of Radio Shack as a place to buy obscure parts for obsolete electronic devices, but Applbaum plans to emphasize the company’s role in “keeping people connected in this highly mobile world” and to focus on wireless products in its new advertisements.

WFMU Launches Free Music Archive

Originally posted August 2009

WFMU *91.1 in East Orange, NJ, has launched its Free Music Archive beta, an interactive library of free legal audio downloads, under the direction of station manager Ken Freedman. The site states as its purpose the online continuation of free access to new music, which radio has always provided to the public.

The library offers pre-cleared content, hand-picked by curators. WFMU is collaborating with curators such as KEXP, dublab, KBOO, ISSUE Project Room, and CASH Music. The project combines the curatorial approach with the community-based approach of many other music sites as it seeks to appeal to artists, producers, broadcasters, podcasters, and listeners.

WAMU to Receive NAB HD Radio Multicast Award

Originally posted August 2009

The National Association of Broadcasters has announced the winner of the third annual HD Radio Multicast Award. Washington DC’s WAMU-FM will receive the award for their bluegrass country station, 88.5-2.

“We are proud to present WAMU with the HD Radio Multicast Award,” said NAB Executive Vice President of Radio John David. “Their multicast channel embodies the spirit of the award through the use of their unique programming and listener interaction.”

The channel features 70 hours of content per week, including programs such as “The Katy Daley Show,” “The Ray Davis Show,” and “Stained Glass Bluegrass,” hosted by local personalities. The station communicates with listeners through their redesigned website and several social-networking sites. They also sponsor concerts, organize live broadcasts, and host a variety of events for the bluegrass community.

Winners of the NAB HD Radio Multicast Award are recognized for their ability to create innovative or groundbreaking programming on their multicast channel. To be eligible for the award, stations submitted information about the channel’s programming, on-air personalities, promotions, branding elements, and Web sites to describe the qualities that separate their multicast channel from their main station.

The award will be presented during the NAB Radio Luncheon (sponsored by ASCAP and hosted by Fox Business Network anchor Alexis Glick) on Friday, Sept. 25, at the NAB Radio Show in Philadelphia. The luncheon will also include the presentation of the National Radio Award, which will be given this year to Ed Christian, CEO of Saga Communications.

FCC Welcomes New Commissioners

Originally posted August 3, 2009

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski issued a statement on Aug. 3, welcoming Mignon Clyburn to the FCC. “Mignon is a dedicated public servant with years of state-level and private-sector experience and it’s an honor to serve alongside such a talented colleague,” he wrote.

Clyburn is the first African-American woman to hold the position of FCC Commissioner. Her nomination to the FCC was confirmed by the Senate on July 24, along with Meredith Attwell Baker’s.

Baker was sworn in on July 31, and Genachowski welcomed her in a statement as well: “I am delighted to welcome Meredith Attwell Baker to the Federal Communications Commission. Meredith’s broad and deep experience will be a tremendous benefit to the FCC and it’s an honor to serve with such an extraordinarily talented colleague. At this critical moment in history, I look forward to collaborating with my fellow Commissioners on ways that the agency can improve the lives of all Americans through communications.”

Obituary: Tom Severino

Originally posted July 2009

Tom Severino, 57, general manager of Emmis radio stations in Indianapolis, died Sun., July 5, after a five-month battle with lung cancer. Severino spent three decades in radio, including 15 years with Emmis in Cincinnati and Indianapolis. In 2003 and 2004, he was named No. 1 in Radio Ink magazine's list of top 50 general managers in America in the medium-market category.

Obituary: Norman Pellegrini

Originally posted July 2009

Norman Pellegrini, 79, program director of Chicago classical station WFMT 98.7, died Thurs., July 2, at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chicago. Pellegrini first joined WFMT in 1951, the year it signed on, when it was on 105.9 with call letters WOAK. He had worked at the station for 43 years, much of that time with general manager Ray Nordstrand, who predeceased him in 2005. Together they did the well-known Saturday-night program The Midnight Special.

JVC Wins “Best Buy” Award

Originally posted July 2009

JVC Mobile Entertainment has received the Consumers Digest “Best Buy” award for its KD-HDR50 HD Radio/CD receiver. This is good news for HD Radio. “Consumer demand for HD Radio is growing, and we are thrilled to be on the cutting edge of this emerging technology,” said Bill Turner, JVC Vice President.

Key features of the KD-HDR50 Receiver:
  • iTunes Tagging function for songs playing on the radio, so they can be purchased later from the iTunes store
  • Front USB port for playing songs from iPod/iPhone and other USB devices
  • Bluetooth-ready
  • Two-way control for iPod/iPhone, allowing operation from either those devices or the headunit
  • Front auxiliary input
  • Simple search capability, using the menu key and volume dial
  • Variable-color illumination display, allowing selection from 30 colors or to customize your own color from over 30,000 variation
To learn more about this product, visit

Sirius XM Makes List of 10 Biggest Tech Failures

Originally posted July 2009

Time’s list of the 10 biggest tech failures of the last decade places Sirius XM Radio alongside Microsoft Vista, HD DVD, YouTube, and Microsoft’s Zune player.

Sirius and XM ran low on money and accumulated millions in debt before finally gaining FCC approval (after the FCC spent more than a year reviewing their request) to merge in 2008. Subscriber growth slowed as the Apple iPod and multimedia cell phones gained popularity. Bruce Elving, FM Atlas publisher and FMedia! founder, commented that the sluggish auto market has not helped Sirius XM either, with car sales down and demand for satellite radio also down. Sirius XM’s subscriber base fell in the first quarter of 2009 to 18.6 million, down by 400,000 from the previous quarter.

However, the company’s financial woes haven’t hurt CEO Mel Karmazin’s salary. His five-year contract has been extended through Dec. 2012, and his base salary will increase (beginning Jan. 1, 2010) from $1.25 million to $1.5 million. He also gets options to buy up to 120 million shares of company stock at 43 cents per share. The details are listed in Sirus XM’s July 1, 2009, filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Media Consolidation Stifles Local Voices

Originally posted July 2009
Dan Roberts, also known as “the voice of the Chiefs” for his long-time role as the Kansas City football team’s stadium announcer, has more than 20 years of experience in radio broadcasting. His morning show on KFKF-FM 94.1 in Kansas City ranked in first place among the adult (ages 25-54) demographic for six years, from 1990 to 1996. He had worked at KFKF since 1979.

Then, in 1996, EZ Communications, Inc., bought KFKF from Sconnix Broadcasting for $28 million. (The station was later sold to CBS and then to Wilks Broadcasting, the current owner.) EZ already owned another country station in Kansas City, KBEQ-FM 104.3, “Young Country Q104.” EZ CEO Alan Box said at the time, “We credit Sconnix Broadcasting and the Kansas City staff for the successful assimilation of these former rival country properties. We now enter the Kansas City market with a strong country duopoly.”

Unfortunately for radio personalities like Roberts, that sort of “duopoly” lessens competition and removes the incentive to keep top talent. Within six months after the sale, Roberts was fired from his job at KFKF. (Wilks Broadcasting has cut several other long-time radio hosts since acquiring ownership in 2006.)

Roberts moved on to other radio stations in the Kansas City area, including WDAF-AM 610, “61 Country,” from 1996 to 1999. (WDAF moved to 106.5 FM in 2003.) He also worked at KCMO-AM 710 from 1999 to 2003, where he hosted a popular afternoon-drive news program. The station now airs mostly syndicated talk shows and is affiliated with Fox News Radio and owned by Cumulus Media.

After leaving KCMO, Roberts worked in Omaha NE for three years, hosting programs on KEFM (now KQBW) 96.1 and on sister station KHUS (now KTWI, Bennington NE) 93.3, both currently owned by Clear Channel Communications.

When he was fired there, for the third time in 10 years, he decided that he was done with radio. He said, “I had to get out of that business and change careers. I had no choice. I had limited abilities since I’d been in radio for” so many years. He now works for an insurance company in the Kansas City area and continues to do voice-talent work, also.

Roberts pointed to several factors that have negatively affected the radio industry. One is media consolidation, beginning with the Reagan Administration’s deregulatory measures during the 1980s. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 furthered the consolidation trend; among other provisions, it allowed companies to own multiple radio stations in the same city, as long as they did not control more than 40 percent of the ad revenue in that market. The current economy hasn’t improved the radio climate, either, since ad revenues are down, and many radio stations are struggling financially.

The FCC’s 2007 rules changes mandated even more relaxed regulations, including fewer restrictions on newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership. The FCC had previously announced similar changes in 2003, many of which were later reversed by a federal appeals court.

Critics of such changes argue that they result in too much control by large media corporations and a shortchanging of audiences when those companies reduce or eliminate local talent and provide less diversity in news coverage and opinions. Commissioner Michael J. Copps commented in his dissenting statement regarding the FCC’s Dec. 2007 vote of 3-2, “Today’s decision would make George Orwell proud. We claim to be giving the news industry a shot in the arm—but the real effect is to reduce total newsgathering.” Copps continued, “Local news, local music and local groups so often get shunted aside when big media comes to town. Commissioner Adelstein [who also issued a dissenting statement] and I have heard the plaintive voices of thousands of citizens all across this land in dozens of town meetings and public forums. From newscasters fired by chain owners with corporate headquarters thousands of miles away to local musicians and artists denied airtime because of big media’s homogenization of our music and our culture. . . . From public interest advocates fighting valiantly for a return of localism and diversity to small, independent broadcasters who fight an uphill battle to preserve their independence.”

Dan Roberts’ voice is one that has been muffled in his local radio market due to media consolidation. Copps’ statement expressed the hope that Congress, the courts, and pressure from the public could repair the damage that he saw in the FCC’s rush to push through the rules changes. However, as Roberts’ experience shows, these most recent changes are just the latest acceleration in a shift that’s been going on for decades.

Dan Roberts is available for voice imaging and promos. He also has
an in-home studio. He can be contacted at

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Welcome to the FMedia blog. Due to technical issues, I am reconstructing the information that was previously posted and reformatting before adding new material. This site will be updated soon.