Category Archives: March 2019

Nominations for 2019 MAPB Public Media Impact Awards Due June 5

There will be up to two awards given — one Professional (all professionals including volunteers working in public broadcasting) and one Donor (individuals or foundations). The recipients will be recognized at the 2019 MAB Advocacy Conference and Annual Meeting, August 6 at the J.W. Marriott in Grand Rapids.

MAPB Public Media Impact Online Nomination Form

The purpose of the awards are to:

  • To recognize outstanding individuals involved in public broadcasting for their innovation and creativity.
  • To inspire others involved in public broadcasting to greater achievement in the field of public radio and television.
  • To increase awareness of public broadcasting and the contributions talented individuals make to the industry statewide.

For more information on the awards (criteria, etc), click here.

Deadline for nominations and supporting material (i.e. letters of support, photos and videos) is Wednesday, June 5, 2019.

All supporting materials must be submitted at the same time the nomination form is submitted. If you have any questions concerning the Public Media Impact Award program please contact Ann Walters via email at [email protected] or by phone at the MAB at (517) 484-7444.

Step into the World of Virtual Reality … Career Fair Edition

The MAB Foundation is excited to host an upcoming media career fair event that is completely online!  You can sort through candidates and set up meetings without having to leave your comfortable office.

It’s simple:

  • Assign a hiring agent to participate
  • Promote your participation through a series of PSAs
  • Send the MABF at least one open job description and info about your company
  • Collect applications and answer candidate questions via email

You’ll get:

  • Credit for your EEO file without having to leave the office
  • Information on all registered career fair candidates
  • To make connections with potential new hires for your station!

MAB Foundation Virtual Career Fair
Week of May 06-10, 2019
$100/company listing
Vendor Registration:

Contact Rachel Krause with any questions, [email protected] or 517-484-7444

Meet your MAB Foundation Board Member of the Week: Steve Schram

Steve Schram is Executive Director and General Manager of Michigan Public Media, overseeing Michigan Radio-WUOM, the NPR news and information public radio station at the University of Michigan. Michigan Radio is the state’s most listened to public radio station, and serves over 510,000 listeners weekly from its statewide broadcast signals and online audio streaming. Under Schram’s leadership, the station’s local journalism news team has won multiple Edward R. Murrow journalism honors, a National Scripps Award and the prestigious DuPont-Columbia national journalism award during his 12 year tenure.

Prior to joining Michigan Radio, Schram served as Senior Vice President/General Manager for CBS Radio’s Detroit stations, WOMC 104.3 and WYCD 99.5. His previous career experience includes senior vice president roles at AOL in Columbus, Ohio and Market Executive Vice President for Clear Channel Radio Detroit, where he provided senior management for its top rated seven-radio station cluster, including WNIC and Channel 955.

Steve Schram currently serves as a Director on several boards for national and regional organizations in the public media industry, including the Michigan Association of Public Broadcasters, Public Radio in Mid America and Greater Public. He is a graduate of Leadership Detroit and a current member and past Director of the Ann Arbor Rotary Club.

Schram earned his B.A. degree in Television and Radio from Michigan State University. He was honored with the Outstanding Alumni Award in 2014 from the Michigan State University College of Communication Arts and Sciences. In 2016, Steve Schram was inducted into the Michigan Broadcasting Hall of Fame by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. Steve and his wife, Laurie, live in Green Oak Township, Michigan and have two adult sons.

MAB Teams Up With MSU to Promote Media Sales Careers to Generation Z

MAB members Marcia Mackey, WDIV-TV (Detroit), Mac Edwards, Beasley Media Group (Detroit), Jonathan Ghazal, Beasley Media Group (Detroit),  Paul Crockett, WILX-TV (Detroit), and Patti Taylor, Beasley Media Group (Detroit)

The 2018-2019 MSU school year has been a learning experience for MSU sales students and MAB members alike. It’s also been a very rewarding experience! Since September, MAB member stations have participated in the Sales Leadership Program at Michigan State University.  This program allows members to meet and network with students from MSU that are studying sales, and who WANT to pursue selling as their professional career.

As a part of this program sponsorship, MAB member stations Beasley Media Group (Detroit), WDIV-TV (Detroit) and WILX-TV (Lansing) got to lead a student meeting all about media sales and how to tackle common customer objections.

MAB members used their time with students to also discuss the future of media sales.  The students seemed to collectively be interested in the digital side of sales because that is how the majority of them consume their media.

Thanks to the new partnership between MSU Sales Leadership and MAB, we’re happy to report that Beasley Media Group has hired Johnathan Baldwin from the MSU Sales Program to join their sales team after graduation.  We can’t wait to see his career in sales take off.

If you’re interested in learning more and getting involved with this sponsored program through the MAB Foundation, please contact Rachel Krause, [email protected] or 517-484-7444.

WCEN’s Moose New Country Ale Hits Retailers This Year

Moose New Country Ale CansLast summer, your MAB newsletter reported that Alpha Media’s WCEN-FM (Saginaw) teamed up with Mountain Town Brewing in Mt. Pleasant to offer its own brand of beer, Moose New Country Ale, which was available at restaurants and bars in the station’s service area.  After much success last year, the station and brewer have expanded distribution, making it available for purchase in 16-ounce cans for listeners to enjoy at home.

“We have the best fans in radio,” said WCEN Program Director Joby Phillips. “In addition to making our own beer popular at establishments throughout the region and at our local concerts and festivals, our listeners wanted more. So, beginning this month, convenience, grocery and party stores throughout the vast Mid-Michigan region are now offering our listeners the opportunity to take Moose New Country Ale home to enjoy whenever they want it. It’s been a great way to expand our brand beyond the radio. I never thought when I began my career in this exciting industry that it would lead me to have a foot in the adult beverage industry too!”

Newago/Whitehall: WLAW, WWSN to Swap Frequencies

Radio Insight reported on Thursday that Cumulus Media will be swapping the dial positions of its country-formatted WLAW-FM (Newago), currently 92.5, and adult contemporary-formatted WWSN-FM (Whitehall), currently 97.5.

The flip is expected to fill the loss of a Cumulus Country signal along the Lake Michigan coast created by WTNR-FM’s recent move to the more inland 107.3 signal from 94.5.

The flip is scheduled for this Monday, April 1.

‘Free Beer & Hot Wings’ adds Cheese

Kelly Cheesborough

The syndicated “Free Beer & Hot Wings” show, based at WGRD-FM (Grand Rapids)  has announced the addition of Kelly Cheesborough (aka Kelly-Cheese) to the program, beginning April 1.

Cheesborough joins the program from WSTR-FM (Atlanta, GA), where she held the role of Executive Producer of the “Jeff and Jenn Show.”

“After an exhaustive national search, we are thrilled have Kelly join Free Beer & Hot Wings,” said co-host Gregg “Free Beer” Daniels. “Maybe it’s good karma that Kelly’s on-air name is ‘Kelly-Cheese’ — but the real reason we picked Kelly is that she is a total professional and our audience will appreciate the opportunity to have a women’s perspective on the topics Free Beer & Hot Wings covers every day.”

Cheesborough said, “I can’t believe I get to join the guys on the Free Beer and Hot Wings Show next week. I’ve done morning radio before but nothing like this. It’s exciting and also really nerve-racking, too. The show has a huge following and I’ve never experienced fans like the ones this show has. I’m looking forward to working with this group of talented guys and getting to know the fans that love them so much.”

Free Beer & Hot Wings is syndicated nationally by Compass Radio Networks.

WKAR’s Elkins Talks Federal Funding, ATSC 3.0, Serving the Audience

By: Russ White, MSU Today, WKAR

Congratulations are in order for WKAR Public Media. Recently, the Michigan Association of Broadcasters named WKAR Michigan Public Television Station of the Year and Public Radio Group One Station of the Year for 2018.

Listen to the interview here:

Susi Elkins

“I’m very proud of our team,” says Susi Elkins, director of broadcasting at Michigan State University and general manager of WKAR Public Media. “It’s always exciting to be recognized by your peers and so for the Michigan Association of Broadcasters to support us in this way is really fantastic. Our team works especially hard all year and so we always look forward to seeing if what we’ve done is resonating with our peers and if our hard work is paying off. So to be recognized in this way of course feels really good.”

Elkins provides updates on WKAR initiatives like WKAR Family, the Playtime Pad Research Project, and the development of ATSC 3.0 technology.

“ATSC 3.0 is essentially a new television standard. The unique part about it is that it’s a hybrid, So it’s part IP, part broadcast, and is still disseminated one to many like a standard broadcast. What’s unique about it is it’s much more efficient with the spectrum. It has a much stronger mobile capacity. It’s just a stronger signal so it can get through walls and potentially people can view TV over their phones and in their cars or automated vehicles. It’s also just a much more beautiful picture with over 20 channels of audio.

“We’re the first public broadcaster in the country to have this experimental license, so that’s really exciting, and I think that’s really because of our university license.”

Elkins was recently named to the board of directors of America’s Public Television Stations.

“One of the big challenges is really communicating the value of public broadcasting for the federal funding. It’s not a challenge to communicate value, because the general public has said over and over and voted to say that we’re a trusted organization. The president’s budget is proposing zeroing out funding for the corporation for public broadcasting, and that federal funding piece is extremely important to the entire infrastructure for public broadcasting around the country.

“We’re some of the last independently owned media organizations and communities across the country, and particularly in rural areas where there isn’t any viable commercial service, that federal funding piece is what really holds the whole infrastructure together. If you’re in a rural community with simply not enough of a population to support the expense of providing this content, then you can’t function without that federal funding piece. So it’s really important that all stations thrive and have that funding piece.”

As technology continues to expand at a fast pace, people are consuming WKAR content through a variety of platforms beyond the traditional broadcast signal.

“I just want to serve audiences when and where they are with what they need. The broadcast piece is extremely important to me and I think to our community members because it is free, over the year, and we’re reaching 98 percent of the population. So regardless of your resources you can have access to important, informative, educational, and entertaining content.

“We need to be relevant to people’s lives, and so if they want to listen via the app, we need to be there and be everywhere where people are in order to remain relevant. We know they love our content. We know we have very high quality and important content, so it’s our responsibility to make sure that we are adapting along with audiences to make sure it can be there for them at their convenience, not ours.”

Elkins offers her advice to young people who want to get into this ever-changing and fast-paced world and says WKAR will remain busy and innovative in 2019.

“We’re investing in education, public safety, and civic leadership. We’re really trying to be audience focused and community minded, and that’s what’s driving our decisions on where we go in the future.”


Upton to Co-Chair Public Broadcasting Caucus

Congressman Fred Upton and MAB President/CEO Karole L. White (File photo)

Four seasoned federal legislators – two Democrats and two Republicans – will co-chair the Public Broadcasting Caucus in the 116th Congress.

Taking seats as co-chairs are Republicans Fred Upton (6th-MI) and John Yarmuth (3rd-KY) and Democrats Earl Blumenauer (3rd-OR) and Mark Amodei (2nd-NV).

Rep. Upton chaired the House Energy & Commerce Committee for six years, while Rep. Yarmuth chairs the House Budget Committee. Rep. Amodei is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Blumenauer is a member of the House Ways & Means Committee and chairs its subcommittee on trade.

Blumenauer founded the Congressional Public Broadcasting Caucus more than 20 years ago to bring his colleagues together in support of public media and the important services they provide.

On March 18, President Trump on March 18 released his fiscal 2020 budget proposal, rescinding a large portion of funding for public broadcasting.

Upton noted that he majored in journalism and understands the importance of supporting public broadcasting for communities around the country. “It is simply good public policy,” said Upton. “I’m proud to offer my steadfast support so public broadcasting can continue to provide valuable services in education and public safety to families in Michigan and across the nation.”

“I am eager to work together with the new co-chairs of the Congressional Public Broadcasting Caucus to expand understanding in Congress of the vital role of public broadcasting in communities large and small,” Blumenauer said.

Rep. Yarmuth added,. “Public Broadcasting plays a vital role in communities across America and provides an irreplaceable service to all citizens. From children’s educational content, to promotion of the arts and humanities, to providing job training and public safety information — Congress should be working to increase federal investment and expand the important services public broadcasting provides. I look forward to working with my colleagues to help lead that charge in the 116th Congress.”

Rep. Amodei said, “Without federal support for public broadcasting, many localities would struggle to survive – particularly those in rural communities like mine,” he said. “I’m pleased to be a co-chair of the Public Broadcasting Caucus for the 116th Congress, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure Americans continue to have access to important public broadcasting programs and services.”

In response to the caucus’ leadership choices, APTS President/CEO Patrick Butler said, “The bipartisan nature of this leadership team reflects the bipartisan nature of public support for federal funding of public broadcasting. We look forward to working with these distinguished Members to increase this funding for the first time in 10 years and enable us to teach more children, protect more lives and property, and create more well-informed citizens to guide the world’s most important democracy.”

Advertising for CBD – Safe for Broadcasters?

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

In the last few months, we probably have had more questions about advertising for CBD products than any other topic. At this point, CBD products seem to be sold in nearly every state in the country, and discussions about CBD’s effectiveness seem to be staples on national and local television talk programs. Broadcasters naturally ask whether they can advertise these seemingly ubiquitous products. Unfortunately, the state of the law on CBD at the current time is particularly confusing, as discussed in this article.

First, a primer on terminology. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a derivative of the Cannabis sativa plant. Industrial hemp is produced from portions of a strain of the same plant containing low concentrations of the psychoactive chemical known as THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, and hemp can also be used to produce CBD. In contrast, recreational and medical cannabis, derived from the dried flowers, leaves, and stems of the female Cannabis plant (which we’ll call marijuana to distinguish it from hemp), contains higher concentrations of THC and lower concentrations of CBD. Preliminary clinical research has shown the potential benefits of using CBD to treat anxiety, cognition, movement disorders, and pain, and certainly these properties are attributed to the substance in popular culture. But is it legal?

Although recreational marijuana use is now legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia, and medical marijuana is legal in 33 states, it remains an illegal Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Possession and distribution is a felony under federal law, as is the use of radio, TV or the Internet to facilitate that distribution. Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, we have written repeatedly that it remains a product that broadcasters are taking significant risks in advertising – even if it is legal in a particular state for medical or recreational purposes (see, for instance, our articles here and here). But now CBD is in a different category, at least if it is hemp-derived CBD with low levels of THC.

The Farm Act, passed in late 2018, removed hemp (and thus hemp-derived CBD) from Schedule I, so its possession is no longer illegal under federal law as long as the THC level is less than 0.3%. But CBD derived from marijuana remains an illegal Schedule I drug, so it is important to know how the CBD is being produced, as it helps determine whether the CBD is legal or illegal. Making the law surrounding CBD even more confusing is that, while there is no longer a federal ban on the possession of hemp-derived CBD, there is not yet a legal mechanism for widespread commercial production of CBD, except in limited circumstances, and whether the production fits under these limited circumstances is difficult to discern when a broadcaster is approached to advertise a CBD product. Moreover, other issues must be weighed in any advertising decision.

The 2018 Farm Act sets out a process for the legalization of the production of hemp products, including CBD. But, under the Act, any industrial manufacture of CBD products can only be done through state plans to regulate the sale and distribution of these products, or pursuant to a federal plan to be adopted by the US Department of Agriculture. The state plans also must be approved by the USDA before production begins. At least two states have filed requests with the USDA for approval of their state plans. Unfortunately, the USDA has not yet adopted rules for approving these programs. It held a “listening session” earlier this month on proposed rules for processing requests for approval of state plans (see the transcript of the listening session here), but it does not seem likely that rules will be adopted until much later this year, as there was much discussion during the session of trying to have the rules ready for the 2020 growing season. But there were also calls for quicker action, and more clarity on the current state of the law, including one from a representative of a trade association for supermarkets and drug stores, which face the same issues as do broadcasters – is it really legal to sell the CBD products that are already on the market?

Until the USDA has adopted rules for processing state plans, and has approved some of those plans (as well as a federal plan for states that do not act), the only manufacturing of CBD that is permitted is production authorized under a prior Farm Act from 2014. The 2014 Act only permitted hemp production projects authorized by a state or a university as part of a research program, and no widespread commercial exploitation of CBD under the 2014 Act was supposed to happen except under pilot programs as part of a research project. From some of the testimony given at the recent USDA listening session, it appears that some of the state plans for production on an experimental basis allowed for some serious operations – one company representative talking about how it had over 200 employees producing legal hemp products pursuant to one of these supposedly experimental state projects. While federal authorities may not have envisioned such large commercial production under the 2014 Act, it does not appear that there have been any federal efforts to reign in these producers.

The reason for regulatory oversight of hemp production by the USDA and the states appears to be to make sure that consumers are actually getting what they think they are buying, and also to make sure that producers take steps to reduce the risk that marijuana products (or hemp products with greater than .3% THC) become available for public consumption. See the USDA statement of principles here. In recent years, there have been numerous articles and statements from regulators suggesting that CBD products are often not what they claim to be – some allegedly having more THC than advertised, others having little or no actual CBD. The FDA is supposed to hold hearings in April about its authority over CBD, and part of that process seems to be geared toward gathering evidence as to what products are safe and what limits to put on the purity and potency of such products, and the disclosure of their contents.

Some broadcasters, after (1) discussion with their counsel, (2) investigation with the advertiser, and (3) some degree of reasonableness (avoiding sales that are done in some dark garage or from the back of a truck on one hand, to possibly being more comfortable with products sold at a big national retailer where there is some expectation that the advertiser has done some of its own due diligence), may be able to satisfy themselves about the question of whether the CBD product that they are being asked to advertise was legally produced and is otherwise lawful. After all, there are plenty of products being advertised on the radio where the broadcaster has never thought to inquire as to whether the product was legally manufactured. But that does not end the broadcaster’s consideration as to whether to run a CBD ad. In fact, there may be far more serious questions to consider, given that a particular type of CBD may be illegal under federal law.

Even though the USDA is moving to implement the provisions of the Farm Act that legalize the production and commercial distribution of hemp products with low THC levels, the FDA retains jurisdiction to prohibit uses of any cannabis product as a pharmaceutical product or food additive. Under this authority, the FDA has made clear that it still prohibits the sale of CBD (hemp-derived or otherwise) as a food additive or oral supplement (see its statement here, issued after the adoption of the 2018 Farm Act). In fact, this year, after the adoption of the Farm Act, the FDA has raided stores selling CBD as a food additive, and health authorities in several states have followed suit. As noted above, the head of the FDA announced in recent Congressional testimony that it would hold hearings on CBD, but he soon thereafter announced his resignation, leaving that timetable up in the air. Edibles and dietary supplements containing CBD will likely be a principal topic that will be considered at the FDA hearing whenever it is finally held.

Until the FDA acts, and regardless of what the USDA does with respect to hemp production, it seems to still be a federal offense to sell any CBD product that is to be ingested – whether it is as a dietary supplement or as an additive to foods and beverages – unless the FDA has approved those products. Late last year, the FDA approved the use of a CDB-based product (sold under the brand name Epidiolex) as a drug to control epilepsy seizures, but that is a very limited exception at this point. Note, again adding to the confusion, the FDA has also approved the use of certain hemp products in food, but only where they have negligible levels of CBD and THC (see, e.g. the FDA notice here). The approval of hemp as an addition to foods confuses many in the public, as hemp is often seen as the equivalent of CBD (or marijuana) so, when they see it advertised in foods or beverages, they believe it to the be the same as CBD. The FDA, however, sees these products as legally different.

Similarly, both federal and state authorities warn about making unproven health claims about any of these substances. The FDA and FTC have informally suggested that they may be concerned about any health claims made for any CBD products not backed by academic studies. With these warnings from government agencies about CBD products that make health claims or which can be ingested, and the broadcaster’s status as a federal licensee, it would seem as if steering clear of the promotion of products that are still prohibited under federal law would make sense.

But even if a broadcaster can satisfy itself that the CBD comes from legal sources, is not to be ingested, and does not make unverifiable health claims, this does not end the inquiry. The various states have differing laws on hemp products generally and CBD specifically. Some states still have not liberalized their laws along the lines of the 2018 Farm Act, and thus are still taking a hard line on any sales of hemp or CBD. Others, even including some states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana, have rules that appear more restrictive of hemp and CBD products than of “legal” marijuana. Others have already amended their laws to effectively legalize these products. Even then, most states restrict sales to minors (and some specifically address advertising restrictions), so it would make sense for stations to observe the same kinds of rules that they do for alcohol advertisements, by keeping ads out of programming where a high percentage of the audience may be under the legal age (see our articles here and here). Stations need to do a thorough check of their state’s laws and the regulations of their state agencies to see what other rules might apply to these sales.

After all that, we are back to where we began. There are no clear answers on CBD advertising yet. Consider these factors, consult with your own attorney and give some careful thought as to whether or not to accept CBD advertising on your station, and watch for developments as they occur in the coming months.

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.