The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) have filed joint comments to the FCC, defending a TV station in Roanoke, Virginia that has been hit with a record $325,000 fine for airing a fleeting image the Commission deemed to be indecent. Radio broadcasters are no strangers to fighting with the Commission over what most see as it’s vague and subjective policies as to just what is and isn’t indecent on America’s airwaves. Yet in recent years the Commission has been more hands off than in the past on the indecency issue — a policy that seems to have ended with last year’s appointment of former Obama administration attorney Travis LeBlanc as the FCC’s chief enforcer. LeBlanc has made it clear he’ll pursue indecency complaints aggressively and heavily fine broadcasters who violate FCC policy. “The Commission’s indecency policies have never been approved by any reviewing court and the commission has, for over two years, taken no action in a proceeding launched to examine its broadcast indecency policy and enforcement to ensure that they are fully consistent with vital First Amendment principles,” wrote the NAB and RTDNA in a combined official filing of comments to the FCC. “Levying the maximum possible fine under the law in a case where the broadcast station indisputably did not purposefully air the image at issue is tantamount to imposing a sentence of life imprisonment for petty theft.” Read the full NAB/RTNDA filing to the FCC HERE.
Salem Radio Network VP/News and Talk Tom Tradup, recently spent time in Haiti spearheading the network’s coverage of a major humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in that poor and troubled island nation. Tradup (pictured here with some young refugees in Jimani, Haiti) worked with the charity Food For The Poor to focus attention on the crisis. “The mainstream media spends its time hyping the Confederate flag and Donald Trump, while 90-minutes from Florida, men, women and children face starvation and death,” he said. Salem Radio Network hosts Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Hugh Hewitt and others also helped in raising awareness of the refugee situation happening in Haiti, incorporating live reports from the scene into their programs, as did Salem local talkers Joe Piscopo (WNYM/New York), and Mark Davis and Jon-David Wells (KSKY/Dallas).
The latest data from Radio Television Digital News Association’s annual newsroom survey reports that while television news staffs are growing — with some 300 new positions added in TV newsrooms this past year — radio news staffs have remained mostly unchanged year-to-year. The survey found that the typical radio news operation has a full-time news staff of just one, with the typical radio News Director overseeing the news on an average of 2.4 stations. Nearly 80% of multi-station local groups use a centralized newsroom, and almost 30% of stations say their News Director is not a full-time employee. When it comes to web staffers, once again television newsroom positions have increased, while overall web staffing in radio newsrooms is down. To see more, check out the RTDNA’s latest analysis from its annual newsroom survey HERE.
We have a couple of new books from Talk radio pros for you to consider adding to your summer reading list. First up, as previously reported here in NTS MediaOnline Today, Westwood One syndicated host Mark Levin’s new book Plunder & Deceit hits bookstores and online retailers next week. In it, Levin “challenges the rising generation of younger Americans to awaken to the cause of their own salvation asking, ‘Will you acquiesce to a government that overwhelmingly acts without constitutional foundation—or will you stand in your own defense so that yours’ and future generations can live in freedom?'” Author and former Reagan White House political director Jeffrey Lord offers an in-depth review of Levin’s latest book HERE.
Our second summer reading list suggestion poses the premise that rapidly evolving technologies will naturally produce winners and losers in the near future — the real question is, who will they be? In his new book BrandWIDTH: How Big Broadcasting Is Missing The MEDIAmorphosis, veteran broadcaster and new media pioneer Kipper McGee explores why he believes the top broadcast players are facing “financial Armegeddon” and suggests just what unencumbered brands — whether broadcast groups, stations, talents or any business — can learn from that to avoid making the same mistakes. The paperback edition is available HERE, or you can download the e-book version at Amazon.
Cox Media Group/Tampa adds Roger & JP to the lineup at FM talker 102.5 The Bone (WHPT-FM). Roger Luce and John “JP” Parise join the station from their most recent gig at Long Island rocker WBAB, where they hosted mornings. The duo get to sleep in a little later with their move to The Sunshine State, where they now air on The Bone weekdays from 11am-2pm — sandwiched between Tampa Bay radio favorites Mike Calta in mornings and Drew Garabo in PM drive. “Roger & JP are a great fit for The Bone and the Tampa Market,” said Director of Branding and Programming John Brennan. “The team is excited to have them, and we’re looking forward to a fresh sound in Tampa Bay.” Commenting on their move to The Bone, Roger and JP released a joint quote saying, “Our goal is to become Tampa radio fixtures for many years to come. And by the way, we both canceled trips to Hawaii for this gig, so it better be awesome!”
We wrap up this week’s news from the world of Talk radio pretty much the same way it began, as feedback and comments from broadcasters on the PPM/Voltair controversy continue to pour into our email box. Late yesterday (7/23) Orban — the folks behind the Optimod audio processor (and a competitor of Telos Alliance affiliate 25-Seven, the company behind the Voltair processor) — issued a press release saying in part: “Some have argued that Voltair is ‘just another form of audio processing.’ However, we believe that there is an essential and fundamental difference between audio processing (like that done by our Optimods) that increases the opportunity of the Nielsen encoder to insert audibly undetectable watermark tones, and processing that directly manipulates the level of the watermark, potentially breaking Nielsen’s psychoacoustic masking model and allowing the tones to become audible. Based on their testing, Nielsen concluded that Voltair can degrade perceptual quality. In an environment where traditional radio is suffering ever-increasing competition from new media, we believe that it is unwise for radio to degrade its audio in an internecine battle whose ultimate winner could be non-broadcast providers.” Showing support for Nielsen’s position on the issue, Orban’s release continues, “Because Nielsen is a large, global business that depends on producing credible audience measurements, we expect that it will soon solve any problem (if it actually exists) by making improvements to its encoder. Accordingly, we have decided not to add processing to Optimods that directly manipulates the Nielsen watermark signal because we expect that any such effort would degrade audio quality and would soon be rendered obsolete by Nielsen’s encoder improvements.” Orban notes that while it’s Optimod processor is compatible with Voltair, the company is urging “caution” on the use of its competitor’s product by stations.
Meanwhile FiveThirtyEight.com’s Carl Bialik writes that this week’s Nielsen webinar didn’t come close to resolving the Voltair controversy for broadcasters. “The ratings giant’s message — based on a recording I heard and slides I saw — was (I’m paraphrasing): ‘We’ve tested Voltair. It doesn’t seem to affect ratings much. Our ratings are fair and accurate. We’ll improve our technology later this year.'” According to Bialik, Nielsen’s tests did reveal at least one format that might be drawing the short straw from PPM. “Voltair made it more likely for one particular type of radio Nielsen tested to be counted: TALK Radio, played at a hushed volume (roughly one-fourth the volume of an ordinary conversation) with background noise of about the same volume. Nielsen said that doesn’t necessarily mean PPMs aren’t doing their job, noting those conditions might make Talk radio inaudible for many listeners, in which case it shouldn’t always be counted.” Read more HERE.
On today’s edition of Salem Radio Network’s syndicated Mike Gallagher Show, host Mike Gallagher lamented that despite the numerous GOP presidential hopefuls who have appeared on his radio show one voice was still MIA — Donald Trump. So when his producer alerted him to a caller on hold who might be, or might not be ‘The Donald’ Gallagher immediately picked up the phone for an exclusive live interview. During a wide ranging discussion of issues, the real or faux Trump continually misidentified Gallagher, calling him ‘Greta,’ ‘Martha‘, ‘Shep‘ and numerous other familiar names. Asked if he’ll run as an independent should he not get the GOP nomination, Gallagher’s special caller replied, “All I would say is, be nice to Donald Trump if you’re a Republican. Don’t make funny faces at me, don’t call me names, and don’t make fun of my hair. And by the way, I’m a very sexy man, let’s call it what it is, I have raw, unbridled sex appeal and people see that.” Hear Gallagher’s full, unedited call with “Trump” HERE.
Longtime First Light host and Westwood One News anchor Dirk Van (right) has announced he’ll retire on July 30th. A release from the network notes that Van leaves “with a legacy of accomplishments and awards,” including 26 years as the original and only host of the long-running early weekday morning First Light program. He also hosts The Week in Review and serves as WW One News’ morning anchor. “When you draw up the blueprint for broadcasting excellence, talent, and accomplishment, you get Dirk Van,” said Bart Tessler, Westwood One’s EVP/News & Talk. “In his long tenure at Westwood One, Dirk launched First Light, won prestigious awards, and anchored NBC Radio News, Mutual News, Fox News, and Westwood One News morning drive newscasts. How do you top that? By being a great friend and colleague. We thank Dirk for all his contributions and wish him the best as he sails into his next adventure.” Westwood One News afternoon drive anchor (and regular First Light fill-in host) Evan Haning will takeover as host of First Light and as WW One News’ morning drive anchor beginning August 11th.
Talk radio host Michael Savage, syndicated nationally via Cumulus Media-owned Westwood One, has prevailed for a third time in a long-running legal dispute with his former syndicator Talk Radio Network. Last Friday (7/17) the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier ruling by a federal judge that released Savage (pictured) from his TRN contract. That ruling affirmed an earlier decision by an arbitration panel that awarded Savage over $800,000 in back pay and other earnings from TRN. The legal wrangling between Savage and TRN has been going on since 2010, when Savage first sued to void his contract with the independently owned network, accusing TRN management of using “illegal and unenforceable contract provisions” and “other strong-armed tactics” to force him into accepting a “sub-standard agreement.” In a comment to WND.com about Friday’s Federal Appeals Court ruling Savage said, “After five long years and a fortune in my costs, justice has prevailed.”
NTS MediaOnline Today sends out ‘get well soon’ wishes to WABC/New York host Curtis Sliwa, who was rushed to NYU Medical Center over the weekend after suffering a hernia and groin pull. That’s Sliwa and his Curtis and Kuby co-host Ron Kuby pictured, as Ron prepares to take his valium-impaired on-air sparring partner for “a nice, little walk” in the hospital’s stairwell … iHeartMedia/New Hampshire is partnering with the New Hampshire Union Leader to present a Voters First Republican Presidential Candidates Forum on August 3rd at St. Anselms College in Manchester. The 90-minute event, moderated by iHeartMedia’s New Hampshire Today host Jack Heath, will air live on all affiliates of the regional show and nationwide on iHeartRadio, and will be televised on C-Span … Happy Trails to Don Barrett, founder and publisher of LARadio.com, as he opts to pull the plug on the SoCal radio news website after a nearly two decade run … Condolences: To the family, friends and many fans of legendary Buffalo Bills play-by-play voice Van Miller, who has died at age 87. The Buffalo News offers a lengthy feature on Miller’s colorful 55+ year broadcast career HERE.