iHeart’s WMAX-FM to Broadcast CMU Football

Central Michigan University Athletics has announced that iHeartMedia’s WMAX-FM (ESPN 96.1) will be airing CMU Football in the Grand Rapids market.  The station will air the games through the IMG/Chippewa Sports Network.

The all-sports station will begin carrying CMU football broadcasts starting with the Sept. 1 opener at Kentucky. If a scheduled CMU football game conflicts with ESPN 96.1-FM’s programming, iHeart West Michigan members WTKG 1230-AM or WKBZ 1090-AM will carry the game.

“Grand Rapids is home to a significant number of CMU graduates, and I know they want to keep up with the Chippewas,” CMU Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Michael Alford said. “ESPN 96.1-FM and iHeart West Michigan are known by sports fans in that area, and this is a natural fit.”

CMU graduate Jim Costa is part of the regular lineup on ESPN 96.1-FM as part of the “Big Drew and Jim” show, which airs from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. weekdays.

Longtime play-by-play Don Chiodo and analyst Brock Gutierrez will call CMU football games for the network again this season.

WDZH to Launch New Morning Show

Chris Cruise and Julia Lepidi

On Monday, June 18, Entercom’s WDZH-FM (Detroit) will launch a new morning program to be hosted by Chris Cruise and Julia Lepidi. The Morning Show with Cruise and Julia will air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m.

Chris Cruise is a Detroit native and comes to WDZH having previously worked at WOW 104.3 in Boise, ID. Lepidi has been a night show host at WDZH since 2015.

“As the leaders in live, local, original audio content, we are excited to bring our community a new show to tune in to while getting their day started,” said Debbie Kenyon, Senior Vice President and Market Manager, Entercom Detroit. “I’m looking forward to hearing Chris and Julia on air together. They have a chemistry that will have listeners laughing out loud and are sure to make for a great morning tandem. I look forward to their success in Detroit.”

“Ever since I started in radio, my endgame has always been to land in my hometown of Detroit,” said Cruise. “It means the world to me that I get to come back to the “Comeback City” and do what I love. Can’t wait for coney dogs.”

“Hearing mornings in Detroit as a kid is what sparked my fire for radio,” Lepidi said. “WDZH has been my home since the beginning of my career, and I’m thrilled to be working with Chris to create something unique and special in Detroit.”

WLNS-TV/WLAJ-TV Begin Channel Sharing

At 12:01 a.m. on June 11, Lansing television stations WLNS-TV and WLAJ-TV began channel sharing on channel 25.  Nexstar Broadcasting, owners of WLNS, sold its spectrum during the auction.  WLAJ, which has a shared services agreement with WLNS, agreed to share its channel.

Both stations retain their virtual channel designation.

On its website, WLNS is advising viewers to repoint their antennas and rescan.

As part of the repack, WLAJ will move from channel 25 to channel 14.  This will occur in phase 7 of the repack with a deadline of January 17, 2020.

Skip Essick Shares Stories in new Blog

Skip Essick

Longtime Michigan broadcaster Skip Essick, who’s programming and management career in our state includes stops in Detroit and Grand Rapids, has started writing about his career highlights in a blog titled “This is Skip Essick, signing off.”

Essick, who is a past Chairman of the Michigan Association of Broadcasters is currently semi retired and living in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.

With his blog, Essick shares stories from his days with J.P. McCarthy, the story of how Dick Purtan didn’t wind up at WJR and his work in Grand Rapids with WOOD, WGRD and WZZM Radio.

Read “This is Skip Essick, signing off” here.

WOOD-TV to Host Democratic Gubernatorial Debate


WOOD-TV (Grand Rapids)
will host a debate among the candidates seeking the Democratic seat in the Michigan Governor’s race on June 20.

This will be the first televised debate for the gubernatorial contenders. It will air live at 7 p.m. on WOOD-TV and woodtv.com.

All three democratic candidates will take part: Gretchen Whitmer, Shri Thanedar and Dr. Abdul El-Sayed.

WOOD-TV hosted a debate for the Republican gubernatorial candidates on May 9.

 

Jack Lessenberry Joins WFDF-AM

All Access reports former Michigan Radio Senior Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry  has joined Adell News-Talk WFDF-AM (Detroit) for a 9-11 a.m.  weekday show starting July 9.

CEO Kevin Adell said, “I’m excited to have Jack, the father of journalism, who taught many of my staff here at my media companies, join the 910AM SUPERSTATION family. Jack will bring a wealth of in-depth knowledge and expertise to the station.”

“For my part, I am excited to be part of the exciting future that Kevin and his team are building at 910,” added Lessenberry.  “We’re going to be doing some things you might never expect, shake people up and make them think, and the goal is never to be boring.”

WJRT-TV Wins NABEF Service to America Award

WJRT-TV (Flint) was the recipient of a National Association of Broadcasters Educational Foundation Service to America Award, honoring the station’s dedication to serving its community through an annual Diaper Drive.

The award ceremonies were held in Washington, D.C. on June 12.

The award recognizes outstanding community service by local broadcasters.

WJRT’s Angie Hendershot accepted the award alongside news director Jayne Hodak and Flint’s U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (MI-5). WJRT general manager Pete Veto was also in attendance.

See video of Hendershot accepting the award here.

In Genesee County, 4,500 children under age 3 live below the poverty line. Because state and federal assistance cannot be used to buy diapers, many of these children are forced to stay in the same diaper for days at a time.

The day-long Diaper Drive collects donations of diapers, wipes and cash to help the Flint Diaper Bank supply more than 1 million diapers to local babies every year.

MAB Holds ABIP Inspector Workshop

ABIP workshop attendees at inspection of WKAR-TV (East Lansing)

On June 14, the MAB held  a workshop  for prospective Alternate Broadcast Inspection Program inspectors, as well as for station engineers who were interested in the process.

The workshop was conducted by Dennis Baldridge, an SBE certified broadcast engineer who has been a contract engineer, consultant, and ABIP inspector since the 1980s.

Over the course of the day, the first half of the workshop was held at a local hotel meeting room.  Following lunch, Baldridge and the attendees moved to the studios of WKAR-TV in East Lansing to begin an actual inspection.  Following the studio visit, attendees then went to the WKAR transmitter site.

Our thanks to Gary Blievernicht of WKAR for allowing the MAB to conduct an ABIP inspection of his facility for this workshop.

Hey, Alexa, How Much Did You Raise My SoundExchange Royalties?

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP,

In the last year, the popularity of Alexa, Google Home and similar “smart speaker” devices has led to discussions at almost every broadcast conference of how radio broadcasters should embrace the technology as the new way for listeners to access radio programming in their homes. Broadcasters are urged to adopt strategies to take advantage of the technology to keep listeners listening to their radio stations through these new devices. Obviously, broadcasters want their content where the listeners are, and they have to take advantage of new platforms like the smart speaker. But in doing so, they also need to be cognizant that the technology imposes new costs on their operations – in particular increased fees payable to SoundExchange.

Never mentioned at these broadcast conferences that urge broadcasters to take advantage of these smart speakers is the fact that these speakers, when asked to play a radio station, end up playing that station’s stream, not its over-the-air signal. For the most part, these devices are not equipped with FM chips or any other technology to receive over-the-air signals. So, when you ask Alexa or Google to play your station, you are calling up a digital stream, and each digital stream gives rise to the same royalties to SoundExchange that a station pays for its webcast stream on its app or through a platform like TuneIn or the iHeartRadio. For 2018, those royalties are $.0018 per song per listener (see our article here). In other words, for each song you play, you pay SoundExchange about one-fifth of a cent for each listener who hears it. These royalties are in addition to the royalties paid to ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and, for most commercial stations, GMR.

In addition, if the station provides other content through these smart speakers, other royalty issues can arise. When a listener can ask for a certain DJ’s program at any time, the tendency for stations is to want to make it available on demand. Before doing that, stations need to get legal advice as to whether their royalties to SoundExchange cover such uses. As we have written before, podcasts and other on-demand media for the most part are not covered by these royalties. Instead, to use music in podcasts, you need to directly negotiate with the publishing company that own the rights to the underlying musical composition and the record company that owns the song as recorded by a particular artist – or find some musician who owns both the words and the recording who will give you rights to their music. The same would be true for on-demand streams delivered through a smart speaker unless the program segments are at least 3 hours long and accessible only at random points within a 3 hour loop, or if the program is at least 5 hours long and made accessible for less than 2 weeks. There are nuances in these rules that need to be observed to avoid going beyond the limits of the SoundExchange license and potentially incurring significant liability for copyright infringement.

In essence, as these smart speakers grow in popularity, the business of the broadcaster providing its programming through these speakers will change. Unlike programming received over-the-air which bears no SoundExchange royalty (see our articles here and here), broadcasters growing a smart-speaker based audience need to budget to meet the costs of the sound recording performance royalty paid to SoundExchange. As the aggregate fee grow right along with the audience size, the broadcaster faces the conundrum that many pure webcasters face – that the royalties grow faster than the additional income generated from the streams as audiences increase.

Is there a solution? For talk and sports radio, there are far fewer issues as, just as long as a station has the digital rights to stream the programming that it airs, the SoundExchange royalties are generally low. But for music-intensive stations, the royalties grow and need to be dealt with. The vast majority of all digital audio services have thus far been unprofitable primarily because of royalties they have to pay. Perhaps, as broadcasters end up more and more reliant on digitally-delivered streams like those heard on Alexa and Google Home, it is time for broadcasters to consider discussions with the record labels about royalties that would perhaps include a “piece of the action” from over-the-air broadcasting in exchange for dramatically lower digital royalties at a level that would allow for a profitable operation. Something to think about next time you ask Alexa to play your favorite radio station.

David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access).

There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your MAB membership.