Tag Archives: Issue 53

Plan Your April Fools’ Day On-Air Pranks with the FCC in Mind

David Oxenford - ColorBy: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP

With April Fools’ Day only a few days away, we need to play our role as attorneys and ruin the fun by repeating our annual reminder that broadcasters need to be careful with any on-air pranks, jokes or other bits prepared especially for the day. While a little fun is OK, remember that the FCC does have a rule against on-air hoaxes. While issues under this rule can arise at any time, broadcaster’s temptation to go over the line is probably highest on April 1. The FCC’s rule against broadcast hoaxes, Section 73.1217, prevents stations from running any information about a “crime or catastrophe” on the air, if the broadcaster (1) knows the information to be false, (2) it is reasonably foreseeable that the broadcast of the material will cause substantial public harm and (3) public harm is in fact caused. Public harm is defined as “direct and actual damage to property or to the health or safety of the general public, or diversion of law enforcement or other public health and safety authorities from their duties.” Air a program that fits within this definition and causes a public harm, and expect to be fined by the FCC.

This rule was adopted in the early 1990s after several incidents that were well-publicized in the broadcast industry, including one case where the on-air personalities at a station falsely claimed that they had been taken hostage, and another case where a station broadcast bulletins reporting that a local trash dump had exploded like a volcano and was spewing burning trash. In both cases, first responders were notified about the non-existent emergencies, actually responded to the notices that listeners called in, and were prevented from responding to real emergencies. In light of this sort of incident, the FCC adopted its prohibition against broadcast hoaxes. But, as we’ve reminded broadcasters before, the FCC hoax rule is not the only reason to be wary on April 1.

Beyond potential FCC liability, any station activity that could present the risk of bodily harm to a participant also raises the potential for civil liability. In cases where people are injured because first responders had been responding to the hoaxes instead of to real emergencies, stations could have faced potential liability. If some April Fools’ stunt by a station goes wrong, and someone is injured either because police, fire or paramedics are tied up responding to a false alarm, or if someone is hurt rushing to or from the scene of the non-existent calamity that was reported on a radio station, the victim will be looking for a deep pocket to sue – and broadcasters may become the target. Even a case that doesn’t result in liability can be expensive to defend and subject the station to unwanted negative publicity. So, have fun, but be careful how you do it.

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 membership.

Mark Your Calendar Now for Advocacy Conference

Crystal_700The MAB just wrapped up the Great Lakes Broadcasting Conference (GLBC) a few weeks back and now we’re gearing up for our next big event: the annual MAB Advocacy Conference and Annual Meeting, to be held at Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, August 22-23.

CrystalMountain2_300While speakers are still being lined up for this event, the awards ceremony is not to be missed as we induct broadcasters into the Michigan Broadcasting Hall of Fame and present the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The 2-day conference will be a great chance to catch up with fellow broadcasters from around the state and discuss the legislative and regulatory issues facing today’s broadcasters, all at the beautiful Crystal Mountain Resort. If you were with us at Crystal Mountain in 2008, you’ll remember!

Mark your calendar now and plan to attend. More details, plus highlights from last year’s conference here.

Presidential Budget Eliminates Funding for Public Media

Protect_700aPresident Trump’s proposed budget eliminates funding for public media and the arts.  The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), is the nonprofit agency that primarily channels funding for programming and operations to local public radio and TV stations nationwide. Additional funds go to National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), who supply programming to thousands of local affiliates including Michigan Public Broadcasters.

The federal investment in CPB is $1.35 per citizen per year, which public media turns into $6.00 through their individual local fundraising efforts and grants. Unlike several other states, Michigan does not fund Public Media.  It would be very difficult and impossible for some to operate without this funding.  On average this federal funding, represents between 15-17% of Michigan’s Public Media stations income.

On average, federal funding only represents approximately 16% of Michigan’s Public Media stations income.  While it is a small percentage, it would be nearly impossible to make it up from other sources.

Public Media serves the nation with local news and information, children’s programming, in particular pre-school, distance learning, town hall events, classical entertainment and educational programming. For many, their local Public Media is the only access to classical music, symphony, opera, art and classical theater. Many public TV stations provide distance learning that rural schools could not provide. If CPB funding is removed, who will fill that void?

Why is this so important to commercial broadcasters?  In the past it has been suggested that commercial broadcasters could be required to offer more community interest programming, locally produced programs, classical entertainment and children’s programs.  Some in Congress suggested that commercial broadcasters could be taxed to support public media.  Faced with a deficit, Public Media stations would increasingly turn to local underwriting to make up lost revenue. None of these ideas are suitable.

MAPB is asking for your help to preserve federal funding for public media. You can go to protectmypublicmedia.org  and sign the petition to fund public media, place a PBS Button on your personal Facebook profile, or editorialize about the value of public media in the over all media landscape of Michigan.

HOMTV Internship Application Summer 2017 Deadline April 1st

HOMTVFor 35 years, HOMTV has been equipping interns with tools for success. Dozens go through their internship program every year and hundreds have found successful jobs in the television and communications industry as a result. If you know of anyone who you think would benefit from practical, hands-on experience in television reporting, production (studio & creative), or social media & promotion, please direct them to www.homtv.net for more information and to submit the online application here: bit.ly/ApplicationHOMTVIntern.

The application deadline for HOMTV’s Internship Program for the Summer 2017 semester is April 1, 2017.

HOMTV will begin reviewing applications and sending out interview invitations the week of April 3rd.

More information from HOMTV:

Sometimes landing a great job in the television industry can seem impossible. You need experience to get the job, but you need a job to get experience. How can you win? The answer is an internship at HOMTV. We provide the opportunity to gain practical, hands-on
experience in a comfortable, nurturing environment. We teach all aspects of basic television production, as well as online promotion through various social media platforms, so you don’t have to have any experience to start. There are three tracks to choose from:

The Reporting track is for those wishing to explore an “on-camera” career in television.  Reporting interns will produce weekly news stories, deliver live reports and conduct live interviews.

PRODUCTION (Creative & Studio)
The Production track is for those who are looking for more of a “behind-the-camera” experience. Interns in this track will shoot and edit elements for various programs (including news), produce short promotional spots and public service announcements and direct live
television productions.

The Social Media & Promotion track focuses on branding and promoting events and information using traditional marketing techniques and social media. Interns will create promotional
campaigns, produce short promotional spots and public service announcements, create and manage content for social media platforms and assist with public relations as well as event

In addition, interns in all tracks will learn professional techniques for operating cameras, using editing software, lighting, audio mixing and utilizing social media platforms. For decades, HOMTV has been equipping interns with tools for success. Dozens go through our internship program every year and hundreds have found successful jobs in the television industry as a result. You could be next!

10 Ways to Get Listeners to Sign Up for Your Radio Station’s Text Message List

Seth Resler
Seth Resler

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

Every radio station should be building a text message list. Text message lists are inexpensive ways to stay engaged with your P1 listeners. It is far easier for listeners to opt in to a text message list than give you their email address when they are out and about with nothing but their mobile phones. This means that text message lists are perfect for concerts, sporting events, and other on-premise promotions.

Use a specialized service to set up your text message database. You will want to reserve a keyword, such as your call letters. (There is a small monthly fee for this.) When people text that word to your services dedicated number, they will automatically be signed up for the list. For example, if they text “WKRP” to the number 55555, they will have joined the list.

Once you have set up an account with a text message service and reserved your keyword, you need to get word out about your text message list. For example, you need to tell your listeners to “Text WKRP to 55555 to win cool prizes.”

Beware of the Text Message Trolls

A word of warning: Several radio broadcasting companies have been slapped with fines because they sent out mass text messages in a manner that did not conform with applicable laws. With text messaging in particular, there are “trolls” that subscribe to lists in the hope that a company will run afoul of the law so that they can seek payment. Always consult your legal team before initiating any text message strategy to ensure that your station does not run into any issues.

One way to sidestep problems may be to use your text message service to immediately encourage people to subscribe to your email newsletter. For example, when people text “WKRP’ to the number 55555, they will immediately receive a message that says “Reply with your email address to subscribe to our mailing list.” By doing this, you can take advantage of text messaging, but still use email as the primary communication method, thereby avoiding the trolls.

But seriously, check with your lawyers first.

Here are ten ways to get that message out to your listeners:

1. On-Air Contests

The era of “Caller #9” is over. Instead, require listeners to text in to enter a contest. Your promotions department can log into your text message service to pick a winner, or even set it up to automatically text one random entrant a winning text message.

The downside? You don’t get to air a caller telling you “which station hooks you up with all the cool swag!”

The upside? You capture the phone number of every single listener who enters the contest.

2. On-Site Contests

At on-site promotional appearances, don’t ask listeners to write their email address on a slip of paper with a golf pencil. Your promotions staff has better things to do than enter those email addresses into your database by hand. Instead, require entrants to text in to win, just as you would with an on-air contest.

If the local car dealership still likes to see that old prize wheel in their parking lot, no problem; just ask people to opt in to the text message list and show you the welcome message that is automatically sent back for a chance to spin.

3. Sweepers

Cue the station voice: “Want to join our email list? Text WKRP to 55555.” Rotate once per hour.

4. On-Stage Intros

When your DJ gets on stage to introduce the headliner at the next concert, make sure they tell people to pull out their phones and text in.

5. T-Shirts, Bumper Stickers, and Keychains

The great thing about the phrase “Text WKRP to 55555” is that it’s short enough to fit on every piece of promotional merchandise you give away.

6. The Station Vehicle

When you get that vehicle wrapped, include the text message instructions on all four sides of the van.

7. Banners and Signage

Yup. Here, too.

8. Wristbands

Wristbands are cheap. Print up several thousand with text message instructions on them and give them to your local concert venue to use when your artists come to town.

9. Artist Interviews

Got an interview with a big artist? Allow people to text in with a question that they want asked (“Text ‘WKRP and your question to 55555’ and maybe we’ll ask them on the air.”). Everybody who submits a question will be signed up for the list, and you’ll get a list of great ideas. You can even give prizes out to listeners if you use their questions.

10. Advertising

Planning a big outdoor, print or TV campaign? Include your radio station’s text message instructions.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Screens, Screens! Everywhere, Screens!

Duane Alverson

By:  Duane Alverson, President
MacDonald Broadcasting Company (Saginaw & Lansing)

We have never had so many choices! Just look at how many different screens you can watch March Madness on this year. And most of them are not sitting in your living room in front of your favorite chair.

The proliferation of media choices in the last 10 years is amazing. Growing up, I remember three choices when it came to broadcast television: NBC, CBS and ABC. Yes, I’m dating myself; but, it wasn’t that long ago. Today there are so many choices that one has a hard time staying connected with them all. This is especially true when you include all the new choices now found on digital platforms.

So, it’s no wonder why advertisers are confused and frustrated as to where to invest their hard earned marketing dollars.

But wait. Instead of wrestling over all the choices, we suggest another approach—an approach that works no matter where your audience is seeing or hearing it.

Get the Message?

No matter if it’s on the big screen, the handheld screen, or on no screen at all, a great message makes any advertising platform successful. By the same token, no advertising platform succeeds without a great message. In fact, the research proves it.

Roy H. Williams, author of the Wizard of Ads, points out just how important a great message is in generating results with your advertising investments, no matter what medium you select. It serves as a great reminder about what’s really important when it comes to advertising your business.

Great advertising messages need to be about your customers — not about your business! Far too often, advertising messages are all about you and your product/service…all about what you think is great. But truly great advertising messages are all about your customers:

  • What problems they have, how you understand them, and how you can solve them.
  • Their hopes and aspirations, and how your product allows them to achieve them.
  • Why people feel great about doing business with your company.
  • Why they drive by all the players in your category to do business with you.

Walk in their Shoes to Sell them Shoes

I remember first learning this some 30 years ago when I first came into this business. The saying went like this: “If you’re going to sell what Jim Jones buys, you better learn to sell through Jim Jones’s eyes.”

The right message resonates, regardless of medium. And the best messages play on the small screen and big screen alike. To take just one example I saw watching college basketball last weekend, the Capital One commercial with Sir Charles eating his snack out of his backwards hoodie played well on every screen. Large and small. I know…I saw it on both!

Message received? Only if it’s a good one!

Duane Alverson currently serves as President of MacDonald Broadcasting Company. Duane has been with MacDonald Broadcasting Company for 32 years serving in various sales leadership positions. He served as Chairman of the Michigan Association of Broadcasters in 2012 and as President of the Michigan Jaycees in 1981-82. Duane resides in Saginaw, Michigan. 

FCC Watch: CBS Radio Files Transfer Applications

EntercomCBS_350CBS Radio, as part of their previously announced merger with Entercom Communications Corporation, has filed applications to transfer its radio stations from various licensing divisions to Shareholders of Entercom Communications.

The applications were filed on March 20, 2017.

CBS Detroit radio stations being transferred are:

WXYT-AM from CBS Radio Inc. of Detroit
WOMC-FM/WYCD-FM from CBS Radio Inc. of Michigan

David J. Field, president and CEO of Entercom, will lead the combined company that will have a nationwide footprint of 244 stations, including 23 of the top 25 U.S. markets, as well as digital and events platforms.



NAB to Present “Awareness in Reporting” Event


Join the Conversation About Reporting on Race

NAB-NABEFWhen: 12:30pm ET 4/12/17
Where: Livestream or in-person in Washington, D.C.

Local radio and TV broadcasters are part of the communities they serve. During times of unrest, they capture and reflect the voices and feelings of those around them. As first informers, trusted reporters, investigators and public servants, local reporters put themselves on the front lines to report up-to-the-minute information. Join an important conversation as broadcasters unveil a new toolkit to assist newsrooms in reporting on race.

View the livestream to hear from those who have been on the front lines.

  • Learn how news directors decide to cover crisis situations.
  • Listen to reporters talk about their experiences reporting breaking news.
  • Understand how social media has changed crisis reporting.
  • Hear about guidelines and recommendations developed by the broadcast industry to assist the corporate offices, news directors, reporters and videographers covering racially sensitive stories.

Click here to view the agenda and list of panelists.

Join the conversation at #AwarenessInReporting.

Register to watch here



Lansing Lugnuts to Townsquare Media

(L-R) Mascot "Big Lug" and Jesse Goldberg-Strassler.
(L-R) Lansing Lugnuts mascot “Big Lug” and Jesse Goldberg-Strassler.

By:  Jesse Goldberg-Strassler

The Lansing Lugnuts, Class A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, and Townsquare Media have announced an exclusive partnership, with WVFN-AM (The Game 730 AM) serving as the new flagship home for Lugnuts baseball.

“We are excited to bring Lugnuts baseball to our listeners,” said Zoe Burdine-Fly, Townsquare Media Regional Vice President – Michigan. “This is a collaboration between two companies that are committed to serving the Lansing community, both now and for many years to come.”

“Baseball provides the soundtrack of summer,” said Lansing Lugnuts General Manager Nick Grueser. “It made only too much sense for fans to hear the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd at Cooley Law School Stadium on Lansing’s top sports station. We are excited to partner with Zoe and such a tremendous radio family of stations in Mid Michigan.”

In addition to The Game 730 AM, the Lugnuts will also welcome in personalities throughout the season from Townsquare Media’s Classic Rock 94.9 WMMQ, 1240 WJIM-AM, 97.5 NOW FM, 99.1 WFMK, and 100.7 WITL.

Jesse Goldberg-Strassler returns for his ninth season as the Lugnuts’ lead play-by-play broadcaster, the longest tenured voice in team history. The Greenbelt, Md. native joined the Lugnuts in 2009 after previous stints with the Brockton Rox, Montgomery Biscuits and Windy City ThunderBolts. In 2013, he was voted Midwest League Broadcaster of the Year by his peers.

Outside of Lansing, fans will be able to tune in for coverage of Lugnuts baseball via the TuneIn Radio app and The Game730am.com.

For more information, call (517) 485-4500 or go to lansinglugnuts.com.

Blarney Stone Broadcasting Wins Best Small Business Award

Jerry and Sheryl Coyne
Jerry and Sheryl Coyne, Blarney Stone Broadcasting

Blarney Stone Broadcasting is one of 12 companies from around the state selected to receive the Michigan Small Business Development Center’s Best Small Business Award.

These companies were chosen from more than 5,500 small businesses that the Michigan SBDC provided with confidential counseling in 2016. The Best Small Business award recipients were identified based on their success in creating jobs, increasing sales, improving their business strategy and their involvement with the Michigan SBDC.

“This year’s awardees have a significant impact on Michigan’s economy and truly represent the success achieved through a strong SBDC consultant and client partnership,” said Keith Brophy, State Director of the Michigan SBDC. “We are excited to take the opportunity to celebrate their success and cheer them on as they continue growing their businesses.”

The recipients will be honored on May 4, in Lansing, at the 13th annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business Awards Gala.

“We are overjoyed and proud beyond words to be recognized like this by the Michigan SBDC,” Blarney Stone Broadcasting President Sheryl Coyne said. “But more than that, we are immensely appreciative of the support and guidance we’ve received. The Michigan SBDC spent an extraordinary amount of time working with us to build a strong, viable and growing business, and we couldn’t be more grateful. Their expertise and resources perfectly complemented the commitment and hard work of our entire Blarney Stone Broadcasting staff to help us achieve the success we’re sharing with our Central and North Michigan community.”

Blarney Stone Broadcasting was founded in 2012 by Sheryl and her husband, Jerry, residents of Gaylord. The company owns and operates WQON (FM), licensed to Grayling; WGRY (FM), licensed to Roscommon and WMQU (AM), licensed to Grayling. Blarney Stone Broadcasting, Inc. and Northern Broadcast, Inc., have entered into a purchase agreement that will enable Blarney Stone to significantly increase reach and coverage throughout Northern Michigan.

Northern Broadcast has agreed to sell assets including WKLT (FM), licensed to Kalkaska; WKLZ (FM), licensed to Petoskey; WFCX (FM), licensed to Leland; WFDX (FM), licensed to Atlanta; WSRT (FM), licensed to Gaylord; WSRJ (FM), licensed to Honor. The agreement also includes FM translator station W263CD, licensed to Boyne City; FM translator station W252DA, licensed to Petoskey.