Category Archives: February 2018

NATAS Announces 2018 Silver/Gold Circle Nominees

The Michigan Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) has announced the nominees for its 2018 Silver and Gold Circle awards.  One of the highest honors given by NATAS, the Michigan Silver Circle® recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25 years or more. Gold Circle® inductees have served the industry for 50 years or more. Silver and Gold Circle® members are honored for more than their longevity — they are honored for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting standards of achievement we can all hope to emulate. These honorees also give back to the community as mentors, educators, and volunteers.

This year’s Silver Circle® class:

Dianna Craig-Astrop, WWJ -TV (Detroit)
Jayne Hodak, WJRT-TV (Flint)
Kristine Kelly, WWJ/WKBD-TV (Detroit)
Mike Murri, WXYZ/WMYD-TV (Detroit)
Nate Penn, WXYZ-TV (Detroit)
Susan Shaw, WOOD-TV (Grand Rapids)

The Gold Circle® Nominee:

Diana Lewis, formerly of WXYZ-TV (Detroit)

The Silver Circle® Luncheon will be held on Sunday, February 25, 2018 at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham at 12:30 p.m.  For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.



Doug Podell Joins WDRQ-FM

Doug Podell

Longtime Detroit radio personality Doug “The Doc” Podell has joined the staff of Cumulus Media’s WDRQ-FM (Detroit).

Podell will be on air Saturdays and Sundays from 2 to 7 p.m.

Podell’s radio career in the Detroit area dates back to 1976, with his most recent stint being at WCSX 94.7 FM. He worked as the program director and a host for the classic rock station before exiting in November.  Podell replaces DJ Lisa Lisa Orlando’s time slot, who moves over to sister station WDVD-FM.

Olympic Gold Medalist Meryl Davis joins WDIV’s Winter Games Coverage

WDIV-TV (Detroit) has announced that Olympic gold medalist Meryl Davis has joined the station
for coverage of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. Davis and her skating partner, Charlie White, became the first U.S. Olympic ice dance gold medalists of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

“We started following Meryl before the Vancouver Olympics in 2009. We knew then she was going to be a superstar, and boy is she ever,” said News Director Kim Voet. “We celebrated her gold medal win with her in 2014. We’re excited to have her join our team in 2018. Having Meryl as part of Local 4 helps set our coverage apart from the rest. She’s going to be able to give us insight into the sport no one else has provided in the past. We’re very much looking forward to her contributions on Local 4 and”

Davis will do feature reports and be a contributor to the station’s “Olympic Zone” program which airs at 7:30 p.m. most nights during the Olympic Games. It’s a daily summary and showcase of up-to-the-minute Olympic news that sets the stage for the most important action every day of the Games. The show originates from the Local 4 downtown Detroit studio and is hosted by Devin Scillian, Kimberly Gill and Bernie Smilovitz.

“I’m thrilled to be working with Local 4 leading up to and throughout the 2018 Winter Olympics. I’m happy to share my passion for and knowledge of figure skating with Metro Detroit as we cover the Games,” Davis said. “I’ll be sharing some specifics about what’s happening on the ice as well as what life looks like from an athlete’s perspective throughout this unique experience. I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity and grateful to Local 4 for their mentorship as I tackle this new role and challenge.”

Davis and White started skating together at ages 9 and 10 in 1997 in Michigan. The ice dancing duo captured six straight national titles, two world titles and three Olympic medals. They started their training at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills and finished their Olympic career at Arctic Edge of Canton.

In early 2017, they announced that they would not be competing for a spot in the 2018 Olympic Games but they continue to perform together around the world.

Three of the top ice dance teams vying for a spot in this year’s Winter Games have metro Detroit ties.

NBC’s live primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics begins Thursday, February 8.

WNEM-TV Says Goodbye to Al Blinke

On a January 19 newscast, the staff of WNEM-TV (Saginaw) said goodbye to 13-year station veteran, Vice President and General Manager Al Blinke:

Blinke announced his retirement in October of 2017, following a 40-year career in broadcasting.

He started his career in radio as a reporter, writer and producer at WWJ-AM (Detroit). He moved into television as an assignment editor at WJBK-TV (Detroit), then as an assistant news director and assignment manager at WTNH-TV (New Haven, Conn).

He went on to became news director at WPXI-TV (Pittsburgh), and later took on the same role at WSB-TV (Atlanta). He was then a domestic television consultant for Frank N. Magid Associates before returning to news directing at the KDKA-WNPA duopoly in Pittsburgh for three years.

Blinke is a member of the MAB Board of Directors and has served on the board for many years.

Blinke’s replacement at WNEM is Julie Zoumbaris, who began her new position on January 22.  Zoumbaris joins the station from WRTV in Indianapolis.  Read more here.


On January 18, Ave Maria Communications filed an application to transfer the license of WHHQ-AM (Bridgeport) to Northern States Broadcasting Corporation for $175,000.  The station serves the Saginaw/Bay City Market.

Ave Maria also operates WDEO-AM (Ypsilanti) and WMAX-AM (Bay City).  Northern States Broadcasting Corporation is headed by Susan and Philip Bernstein of Chicago.  WHHQ operates on 1250 kHz with 5kw-DA-D and 1.1kw-DA-N.

Broadcasters Earn Praise in Congress

Sam Matheny, National Association of Broadcasters

At the first of what could be several congressional hearings into the Emergency Alert System, lawmakers in Washington on January 25 received much attention to how good a job broadcasters do during a crisis.  Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) said this month’s scare in Hawaii had one positive impact in showing that the EAS worked as it was designed.  National Association of Broadcasters chief technology officer Sam Matheny, speaking at the hearing agreed. “The broadcast infrastructure worked and the message did get out—unfortunately in this case it was a mistaken message,” he said.

Praise for radio and TV stations also went beyond the technology to the industry’s public service commitment. “When we had our 1,000-year flood two years ago I am convinced we would have lost more lives than we did than had we not had the rapid response of radio—and also thank you for broadcasters staying on the story,” Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) said. “It wasn’t a one-day story for us and it wasn’t treated as such by the broadcasters.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said broadcast radio and TV have “long been a reliable way” to get EAS messages to the public, noting her state too has seen stations step-up during flood emergencies. “Broadcasters are often able to continue operating during and after severe weather,” Klobuchar acknowledged.

As special as that may seem, Matheny reminded Senators that’s just what radio and TV stations do every day. “One of the key elements of broadcasters is that they are local and part of the community and they are committed to helping prepare for weather and recovery,” he said.

“Broadcasters are the backbone of the Emergency Alert System,” Matheny said, noting radio and TV stations mostly remain on the air when other forms of communications go down. That makes broadcasters part of whatever the needed fixes to EAS may be “from beginning to end,” Matheny added.

Music Modernization Act Introduced

According to a report in Inside Radio, U.S. Senate introduced legislation titled ‘Music Modernization Act’ as a compromise over music rights. The National Association of Broadcasters has concerns about the bill.

According to NAB President Gordon Smith “the current bill text includes unrelated provisions that will almost certainly result in unjustifiable cost increases for local radio and TV broadcasters and many other music licensees.”

The bill amends the copyright law to create a single licensing entity that administers the mechanical reproduction rights for all digital uses of musical compositions. While that would impact streaming services like Pandora or Spotify more than broadcast radio, the other piece of the bill would upend how rate-setting negotiations involving ASCAP and BMI play out when they land in federal court. Specifically, it would allow ASCAP and BMI, as well as songwriters, to present evidence about the music ecosystem to the judges as they consider whether to increase the rates music users are paying. Today the courts aren’t allowed to consider sound recording royalty rates as a relevant benchmark when setting performance royalty rates for songwriters and composers.

Snyder Will Ask for Increased Road Funding in the FY 19

Gov. Snyder

According to a report in MIRS, Governor Rick Snyder would like to set aside $325 million in General Fund for road funding in the upcoming Fiscal Year (FY) 19 budget proposal that will be unveiled on February 7.

Under the 2015 $1.2 billion road funding package, $150 million in General Fund money is required to be put into the FY ’19 budget, but Snyder wants to use $175 million of the $280 million in unallocated FY ’17 lapsed money for roads.  The move would move the projected 2020 General Fund allocation for roads — $325 million — a year ahead of schedule. The money would also be on top of the roughly $600 million additional the state is receiving through the increased state gas tax and driver registration fees that were also part of the 2015 package.

Stay tuned for complete FY 19 budget proposal details.

What Issues Should Broadcasters be Considering When Taking Advantage of New Rules Abolishing Main Studio and Staffing Requirements?

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP,

The FCC last week published a Small Business Compliance Guide for companies looking to take advantage of the FCC’s elimination of the main studio rules and the studio staffing requirements associated with those rules (see our articles here and here summarizing the rule changes). The Compliance Guide points out that stations looking to eliminate their main studios still must maintain a local toll-free telephone number where residents of the community served by the station can call to ask questions or provide information to the licensee. The Guide also references the requirement that access to the public file must be maintained. While, by March 1, all broadcast stations (unless they have obtained a waiver) will have their public files online (see our article here), it is possible that some stations may have a remnant of their file still in paper even after the conversion date. “Old political documents” (documents dealing with advertising sales to candidates, other candidate “uses,” and issue advertising) that were created before the date that a station activates its online file for public viewing need not be uploaded but can be kept in a paper file for the relevant holding period (generally two years). If the station decides not to upload those old political documents, or closes its main studio before they have gone live with their online public file, they will need to maintain a paper file in their community of license. The Guide also mentions how Class A TV stations, which are required to show that they originate programming from their local service area, will be treated since they will no longer have a legally mandated main studio. But are there questions that the Guide does not address?

We think that there are, and that broadcasters who are considering doing away with their main studio need to consider numerous other matters. First, and most importantly, the obligation for a station to serve its local community with public interest programming remains on the books. So stations need to be sure that they are staying in touch with the local issues facing their communities, and they need to address those issues in their local programming. Addressing these issues needs to be documented in Quarterly Issues Programs lists which are the only legally-mandated documents that demonstrate how a station has served its community. There are other issues to consider as well.

Stations need to notify the FCC if they are being controlled from a location other than their transmitter or main studio locations. So, if there is no main studio, and no one is physically at the transmitter site, the FCC needs to be notified of the remote control location for the station.

EAS still needs to be monitored for the local area served by the station so the station can originate and rebroadcast required EAS tests, and respond in the event of a real emergency. The station still is required to have a chief operator designated in writing, and that operator must routinely review station logs and certify certain operational requirements for the station, including the monitoring of tower lights. A station log needs to be maintained and produced when requested by the FCC – containing information about EAS tests, tower light monitoring, and any deviations in operation of the station from the authorized parameters specified by the station license.

Obviously, stations also need to monitor and respond, if appropriate, to complaints about their operations, particularly technical complaints about the station not operating in compliance with its licensed facilities. And they need to be ready to respond to requests for political advertising time from local candidates, especially Federal candidates, because all commercial stations have an obligation to give Federal candidates reasonable access to all classes and dayparts of time on a station – even if that station has no local studio or local employees.

There certainly may be other issues that are not on this list. But this list makes it clear that a licensee can’t just close its main studio and get rid of all of its local employees and ignore its community. There are still has many FCC obligations that require licensees to keep in touch with what is going on at their stations and in their local service areas. So discuss these issues with counsel and engineering consultants to make sure that you won’t miss anything when taking advantage of these rule changes.

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.