Category Archives: Broadcasting Industry News

Michigan Spectrum Auction Summary

Last week, the FCC announced the results of its broadcast incentive auction and it appears that three Michigan television stations were successful bidders in the reverse auction.

As previously announced, both WCMZ-TV (Flint) and WHTV-TV (Jackson-Lansing) accepted bids to relinquish their spectrum.

WCMZ-TV, owned by Central Michigan University, has not yet announced a date in which they will discontinue operations.  The university received $14 million from the auction for the WCMZ spectrum.

WHTV-TV, owned by Spartan-TV, LLC announced via their website that they will be signing-off at midnight on April 30, 2017.  Spartan-TV sold their spectrum for just under $14 million.

The third Michigan station accepting an auction bid was WLNS-TV (Lansing), owned by Nexstar Media Group.  While the existing WLNS spectrum was sold for $13.6 million, the company has told the MAB that it will be entering a channel-sharing arrangement with WLAJ-TV (Lansing).  WLNS will retain its license, call letters, virtual channel assignment (6.1) and present programming.

On the mind of many Michigan television broadcasters is channel reassignments under the television band repack.  Out of 60 affected full-power and class A television stations in the state, 32 will be changing channels.  A complete list of stations and their new channel assignments, sorted by state and city is available here.

According to the CommLawBlog, LPTV stations also will be impacted by the channel reassignment and will need to prepare for displacements starting this fall.   Eric Wolita, who operates LPTV station WMNN-LD (Cadillac) told the MAB that he is “cautiously optimistic” that his station will be able to avoid displacement or otherwise suffer any significant impact as a result of the repack.

Wolita recently wrote an article on the spectrum auction and its impact on LPTV stations in TV Technology.  Read here.

FCC Watch: KMB Broadcasting Sale Approved

On April 4, Sovereign Communications received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to purchase Escanaba radio stations WDBC-AM and WYKX-FM from KMB Broadcasting.

With this acquisition, Sovereign will own a total of 17 stations in the U.P. region, which includes stations in Sault Ste. Marie, Newberry, Marquette and Iron Mountain.   According to the asset purchase agreement filed with the application, the price paid for the two stations was $866,000.

In other applications filed with the FCC:

Impact Radio, LLC applies to increase the power of FM translator  W246BW (Three Rivers).  The translator rebroadcasts the company’s WRCI-AM, also licensed to Three Rivers.  Filed April 10.

Larry Langford, Jr. seeks to increase the power of FM translator W242CN (Cassopolis).  The translator rebroadcasts his WGTO-AM, also licensed to Cassopolis.  Filed April 10.

Caron Broadcasting, Inc. has filed an application to increase the power of FM translator W224CC (Detroit).  The translator rebroadcasts co-owned WLQV-AM (Detroit).  Filed April 10.

Remembering Tim Davis

This piece originally appeared in the The Jacobs Media Strategies Blog on April 10, 2017 and is reprinted by permission.

Tim Davis

By Fred Jacobs, President
Jacobs Media Strategies,
Bingham Farms, MI

If you’ve done business with Jacobs Media or jācapps throughout the ’90s and ’00s, chances are you interfaced with Tim Davis. He worked for our companies for a lot of years and impacted them in more ways than I can even convey to you in this blog post. In fact, this blog wouldn’t have existed had it not been for Tim convincing me – OK, cajoling me – to start it more than 12 years ago.

So the truly sad next chapter in the Tim Davis story is that he passed away over the weekend after a brief illness at the shockingly young age of 49. He touched a lot of lives throughout radio, in our companies and across an eventful and successful career.

Tim’s journey with Jacobs Media was a bit….non-linear. We originally hired him to back up Tom Calderone during the early go-go Edge years. We were signing on stations pretty quickly in the early ’90s in the middle of the Grunge explosion and Alternative music was Tim’s passion.

He moved to Detroit from some place called Texas with his young wife, Kathy. And, as he acclimated to the Motor City and our company, it became very clear to us that while he loved radio programming, it was technology, computers and the Internet where his true talents lied.

He was ahead of the curve, he even read Wired, he listened to The Church, he couldn’t understand why more people didn’t subscribe to Rhapsody and his instincts for how consumers would get and share entertainment and information as technology burgeoned were very sharp and incisive.

It wasn’t long before Paul and I convinced him to shift out of programming consultation to become our first (and only) Director of Digital. Tim fought us – which became common. He wasn’t sure a position that wasn’t clearly connected to specific client revenue was a good long-term plan. Thankfully we convinced him otherwise, and his longevity with our companies proved that for once, he was wrong. We actually had a lot of mostly healthy, philosophical arguments during a time in radio and media when those exchanges were really beneficial.

Tim knew a lot about a lot of things and enjoyed talking about where it was all headed. And he was a true fan of radio – commercial and public – and wanted very much for it to survive the Digital Revolution. He also was a fan of Christian radio and ended up introducing our company to a different world of broadcasting where we continue to have a footprint to this day.

As Steve Goldstein commented on Facebook yesterday, “Tim dragged many of us into the digital world. Many great conversations. He will be missed.”

True that. Tim designed Jacobs Media’s first website. And the second. And the third.

As mentioned, JacoBLOG was his idea. And he held my hand through its early years, encouraging me to keep it going and entered every post to make sure they looked good and contained clever and relevant links.

Tim also was a key player in our foray into ethnographic research. In both “The Bedroom Project” and “Goin’ Mobile,” he played a huge role in how those projects were analyzed and presented. There were many conversations, debates and arguments along the way as we all worked together to figure out how to do something very challenging that we’d never done before.

And when I had this ridiculous idea that we could aggregate hundreds of radio station databases to conduct web studies that would be cost-effective and predictive, he figured out how to engineer it and make it happen. If you participated in the first 10 Techsurveys or any of the other research studies we conducted during that period, Tim was the guy behind the wheel, coordinating it all. And then building hundreds of tables, charts, pyramids and infographics that helped make the data come alive and helped make Jacobs Media look good.

Oddly enough, Tim had a knack for tech but also studied graphic design at Texas A&M. All those logos for all those projects came from him.

But perhaps his biggest contribution came with the launch of jācapps. We were talking a lot back in 2007 about the rise of mobile. We were seeing it very clearly in our Techsurveys and other studies, but like others, we were doing a lot of talking. So, in the fall of 2008 when the Dow was dropping hundreds of points a day and radio (and maybe our company) was on the brink, Tim walked into my office holding his iPhone and pointing to an app for a radio station he discovered. Its key feature was that it streamed a Rhode Island radio station – something none of us had seen before. He connected the dots that the smartphone could become the new millennium’s Walkman.

A few weeks later – and just 100 days after Apple opened its now-famous App Store – jācapps was born. Tim was at the helm during the first few years when we were still feeling our way along as software developers. Most of you now know that adventure worked out pretty well.

A quick story: Every year, we take the staff to a Detroit Tigers game and while Tim was not a baseball fan, he got excited at that first game when the Tigers scored a couple of “points.” Tim was an early adopter of a lot of gadgets and was one of the first people I knew who had a GPS. On the way home from that game, Tim was driving. When we got a couple blocks away from the office, he flipped on his GPS. I sarcastically assured him I could get us successfully back to the office without the help of satellite technology, but he told me how comfortable it made him feel to simply know where he was. That very much summed up how the guy lived his life.

Along the way, Tim became a Detroit guy (although he still pined for Texas), settled into the community and had two kids – Xander and Alyssa – both of whom are teenagers now. As hard as he worked, for him and Kathy, it was always about family – his kids, his parents and his brother.

We parted ways 2+ years ago, but Tim’s impact on our company is always a part of our conversations. Back home in Dallas, he went to work for Rockfish, an Internet ad agency, where he became their Director of Digital Strategy. I spoke to him before the holidays and he was truly enjoying the gig and its new challenges.

It’s cliché to say, but in this case, it’s true. Tim left it on the field every day. He worked very hard and was the most loyal employee who ever graced our doors. He challenged me and everyone who worked for the place. And he made us better, smarter and more thoughtful. Tim was often blunt, always honest and very much in your face if you pissed him off. But you never questioned his work ethnic or his passion for doing the job well and making it look good.

A number of you have asked about where to send flowers and as Kathy reminded me yesterday, “Tim was not a flower guy.” She’ll be forming an education trust for Xander and Alyssa and we’ll get you that info as soon as it becomes available.

If you’ve been on the planet for a while, you have no doubt become accustomed to the births and passings of friends, family and co-workers. It’s all part of life. But this one hits very close to home for us at Jacobs, as well as for many of you who came to know Tim over a bright career of innovation, accomplishment and just being a good guy.

Tim Davis will be missed.

A postscript: Tim was a big fan of South By Southwest and made the trek during his years here with Jacobs Media. I always asked for a little “ROI” in exchange for attending – a client memo, a blog post, or some other tangible benefit. Tim never let me down and this post is one of his takeaways from the 2011 SXSW event that became a much-talked-about topic here at the company. It’s here.

WMXG Flips to Classic Country

AMC Partners Escanaba, LLC (Armada Media/Radio Results Network) has switched the format of WMXG-FM (Stephenson) to classic country.  The change was effective on April 3.

The station is now operating under the “The Maverick” moniker and is playing “the biggest country songs and artists from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.”

WMXG  was recently acquired by AMC Partners from Escanaba License Corporation.  An application for the transfer was filed on March 21 and is pending FCC approval.  AMC Partners has been running the station under a LMA and up until the format flip, had been simulcasting news/talk WCHT-AM.

WOOD-TV Signs Agreement For Downtown Studio

WOOD-TV (Grand Rapids) has announced that it has entered into a one-of-a-kind partnership with the Grand Rapids Art Museum to form the GRAM WOOD TV Media Arts Center.

The station has reached a long-term agreement with GRAM for a permanent studio location overlooking Rosa Parks Circle in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids.

Every year during ArtPrize, WOOD TV8 broadcasts almost 150 hours from the “Today Show”-type studio. Because of the new agreement, it will be possible to broadcast year-round.

WOOD TV8’s main studio will remain in Heritage Hill, just east of the downtown area.

GRAM WOOD TV Media Arts Center is tied to a comprehensive plan that will be announced in late April to expand local engagement across West Michigan. Details will be announced at a later date.

Bill Stegath, Michigan Radio Alumnus, Passes

Bill Stegath in 2013
Bill Stegath in 2013

Michigan Radio (WUOM/WFUM/WVGR) reports that Dr. William B. Stegath, its longest living alumnus, passed away March 29, just two weeks before his 97th birthday.

Stegath was sports director for WUOM from 1953 to 1962 and is best known as the Voice of the Wolverines, announcing Michigan football games on the station, a role only held by two other people.

He also announced Michigan basketball, baseball and hockey games.   He was the recipient of eight national broadcasting awards and was inducted into the Michigan Stadium Media Hall of Fame this past September.

Stegath enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1938, earning his under undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate degrees at the University.  He also served in the U.S. Air Force from 1943 to 1946 and earned the rank of captain.

Returning to Michigan after the war, he served as professor of communications, the assistant executive director of the Alumni Association, and the first camp director at Camp Michigania.

More on Bill Stegath in the 2013 video:

WZZM 13 Wins Second TEGNA Community Empowerment Award

WZZM_700WZZM-TV, the TEGNA owned ABC affiliate in Grand Rapids, won the parent company’s Community Empowerment Award for the second year in a row. The award showcases the initiatives and work that stations do to help their respective communities.

“It has been the highlight of my career to be able to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives and work hand-in-hand with my colleagues to improve our community,” said Program and Community Director Catherine Behrendt. “This award is recognition of that work and I’m proud of our team for having received it.”

WZZM 13’s sustained commitment and willingness to go one step further was evident in the examples they submitted.

New Heights: Restoring a City was an hour-long documentary that examined the history, the challenges, and the work being done to restore a more hopeful future for the city of Muskegon Heights. It also inspired others to do more, and with the help of TEGNA grants, launched an effort to bring back the much-loved Muskegon Heights High Step Marching Band.  See the full special here.

Water for Flint was an effort that collected tens of thousands of gallons of donated bottled drinking water for the people of Flint, whose own water was tainted with lead.

LOVE>hate (Love Is Greater Than Hate) was launched after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. At a time of great tragedy, how might people be reminded that the world is filled with many, many good people? A series of stories and on-air messages reminded people that love has a much greater impact on the world. WZZM 13 also hosted a Dance for Unity in downtown Grand Rapids to give people a chance to come together.

13 Friends for Life turned twenty this year. The breast cancer awareness campaign is credited by a number of women for having saved their lives. They saw the message, got a mammogram, discovered cancer, and were successfully treated – all because of 13 Friends for Life.

And, finally, Toys for Tots served thousands of children and their families during the holiday season—making sure all those kids had presents under the tree at Christmas.

TEGNA honored the winners and finalists during its annual Employee Awards ceremony at corporate headquarters in McLean, VA.

“Our employees are living our purpose by empowering those they serve. It is always an honor to come together and celebrate their many achievements,” said Gracia Martore, president and CEO, TEGNA. “Today’s award winners helped TEGNA reach new heights over the past year and their continued dedication and hard work is vital to our success. I congratulate all of our winners and finalists on their outstanding performance.”

WZZM 13 was also a finalist in the Diversity & Inclusion Category.

Former Bad Axe Broadcaster John Thomas Vobbe Dies

Contributed by Frederick R. Vobbe

John Thomas Vobbe
John Thomas Vobbe

John “Jack” Thomas Vobbe, age 76, of Bad Axe, Michigan, passed away peacefully on March 30, 2017, at the Huron County Medical Care Center in Bad Axe. He was born on February 21, 1941, to Gayle and Jeanne Vobbe in Toledo, Ohio, who preceded him in death.

John attended DeVeaux elementary and DeVilbiss High School, class of 1959. John also attended the University of Toledo.

Growing up in Toledo, John had a fascination for radio broadcasting, tape recording, and pop music. John was a broadcaster most of his life beginning at McKinley School’s (Toledo) educational radio station, WTDS-FM. In his spare time he would record radio shows with his friends in his parent’s basement, and collected the latest rock and roll 45s. In high school he DJed “sock hops” for private and company parties, and delivered The Toledo Blade newspaper. He also worked for the family business, Vobbe’s Grocery, near the corner of Page and Cherry Streets in Toledo.

After finishing school John obtained a Federal Communications Commission 1st Class radio broadcast license. His first job was with WATH-AM/FM in Athens, Ohio, serving as a Staff Announcer and Chief Engineer. He took the name “Jack Thomas” when on the air.

After a decade in Athens he moved to WLEW-AM/FM in Bad Axe, Michigan, in 1973 in a similar role.

At both stations he set up remotes, assisted in news broadcasts, assembled music libraries, and repaired the station’s broadcast equipment. John was proud that he entertained his audience with clean humor, including “On This Day in History”, and “Jack’s Birthday Book” where he kept a list of area listener’s birthdays and mentioned
them on the air. John always found entertaining stories and trivia to tell listeners. John was also involved in providing background music to many businesses in the community, especially during Christmas. He always thought Christmas music in the downtown business district made people feel better and gave them time to reflect on the year and their gifts in life.

After retiring from WLEW in 2006, John worked part time briefly for WCPT-FM (Chicago) and was on the air as “Brother Jack.” John also volunteered his engineering knowledge to other stations and engineers when they needed a hand, a part to repair something, or advice on a solution to a problem or where to go to get something
done. He knew people from New York to San Francisco.

John was involved in the region by being a member of several service clubs, and Lutheran churches. He contributed to a large number of non-profit agencies either with time or money, including Lutheran service groups, Huron (MI) and Lucas (OH) County animal shelters, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Paws and Whiskers Shelter, Huron County Special Olympics, Make a Wish, Oesterlein Service for Children, and Huron Council for Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect. John was always one to help another in need, even if it meant setting aside his needs for someone else. His heart was as big as the Thumb of Michigan.

Surviving are his children Sarah Vobbe of Almont MI, Kathryn (Larry) Shisler of Sheboygan, WI, Gayle E. Vobbe of Columbus OH, and Carl Vobbe of Bad Axe, MI and his siblings Katherine (Don) Eschenburg of Almont MI, and Frederick (Debbie) Vobbe of Lima OH.

John and his siblings wish to thank the staff and especially the caregivers on Floor 2 of Huron County Medical Care Center, (who he called his angels), for their love, attention, and companionship in his final days.

At his request he was cremated and buried with no funeral or service next to his parents in the SE section of Ferguson Cemetery in Almont, Michigan. John asked that in lieu of flowers or remembrances that we each say a quiet prayer, and pick up the job of doing a little something every year to help kids and cats. He said, “You don’t have to give a lot, if enough people care to give a little.”

WHTV (Jackson/Lansing) to Cease Broadcasting April 30

WHTV_300As an apparent result of the recently concluded spectrum auction, Spartan TV, LLC (Venture Technology Group) has announced, via the station’s website that it will shut down WHTV-TV at midnight on April 30, 2017.

No further information has been announced, although its expected the FCC will soon be releasing a complete list of stations that are giving up their spectrum and either shutting down, changing channels or moving to a shared-channel arrangement, along with the auction amount each broadcaster is receiving.

WHTV has been on-the-air since August 20, 1999.  The station is a MyNetworkTV affiliate and is operated with a joint sales agreement with E.W. Scripps’ WSYM-TV in Lansing.

WYCD’s Linda Lee Dies After Cancer Battle, Remembered For Positivity

via WYCD-FM (Detroit).  Video tribute from Art Vuolo, Jr.


Linda Lee, legendary broadcaster, Specs Howard School grad and WYCD 99.5 FM’s award-winning afternoon drive co-host, died Friday (3/31) after a seven-month cancer battle.
She’s survived by her husband Jeff Young, daughter Gina (Dan) Holmes Mills, and step-daughter Alexa Young.

Lee, a Detroit native, revealed her Stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis in September 2016, just a few months after celebrating her 20th year on-the-air at Detroit’s WYCD last July. She was diagnosed two weeks before her daughter’s wedding.

Linda Lee
Linda Lee

Lee began her tenure at WYCD as a member of the morning show in 1996. She later teamed up with co-host Chuck Edwards for the long running “Edwards & Lee” afternoon drive show. Edwards & Lee were together for 16 years – collecting a number of national accolades – before Lee paired with Rob Stone after Edwards moved to mornings in late 2015.

“From the get go, Linda and I forged a friendship that’s lasted for nearly 20 years,” Edwards said. “I could get very mushy about Linda’s attributes, but the glue that kept us together was that we made each other laugh.”

A hearty laugh was her hallmark. Always a fan favorite, Lee was known as personable and warm, the kind of person who never met a stranger.

“Linda had the biggest heart in radio and was one of the most positive people I’ve ever met,” said Tim Roberts, longtime friend and CBS’ VP of country music programming. “Her efforts to help the everyday blue collar worker or friend in need in Detroit were unmatched in radio. It’s easy to understand why people loved her so much, she poured it out every day.”

Her friends are everywhere, from those who listen to her while they work the line to the biggest names in country music. The day Lee celebrated her 20th year at WYCD, Stone arranged for country stars to call and congratulate her; names like Keith Urban, Justin Moore and Frankie Ballard. Big & Rich sent a video message.

While the congratulatory calls were a testament to the imprint Lee left on the industry, she was mostly thankful to spend two decades doing what she loved, in a city that she loved.

“They’ve flown by, right here in my hometown,” Lee told Billboard in July, speaking of her 20 years at WYCD. “I’ve been blessed beyond measure. I am having as much fun today as I had 20 years ago when I first got into the business. Every day is exciting. I can’t believe I get paid for it.”

Even at the end, when the prognosis was dire, Lee stayed positive and strong. Her final messages on Facebook were a testament to her spirit. “Good morning all my AWESOME family & Friends!!” she wrote. “You may have already heard the bad news that my small cell cancer spread during chemo, and was impeding my breathing big time. BUT….KEEP THE FAITH and PRAYERS coming, because God is GREAT” Debbie Kenyon, CBS Detroit’s market manager and senior vice president, described her as a person whose glass was always “90 percent full.”

That’s just who she was.

“My favorite thing about Linda Lee is her tremendous positivity,” Stone said. “No matter what the situation, Linda always finds a way to put her smiling, optimistic spin on things. If we all were as positive as Linda, the world would be a happier place.”

She was also a passionate fan of country music, explaining it this way on WYCD: “Country music is like a ‘best friend,’ always there for you in all your times of need,” she wrote. “There is a country song to describe all the monumental and ordinary moments in my life. And, all it takes is a few bars of a song that has touched my heart, and instantly I am taken back to a time & place in my life, and all the memories that go with it.”

Lee was trying hard to get healthy enough to make the trip to Las Vegas to accept her first Academy of Country Music award as a major market personality on Sunday. Co-host Rob Stone will accept the award on her behalf.

Rest easy, Linda.