Robservations: Tribune Media deal with Sinclair in FCC’s hands

Ajit Pai‏ and Newton Minow

Robservations on the media beat:

The Chicago-based parent company of WGN-Channel 9 and WGN AM 720 moved closer to its takeover by Sinclair Broadcast Group Thursday when stockholders of Tribune Media voted overwhelmingly to approve the controversial $3.9 billion deal. Now it’s up to the Federal Communications Commission, which recently paused its 180-day timeline for review of the merger to allow for more public comment. A growing chorus of advocacy groups has argued that the resulting behemoth — 233 television stations reaching 72 percent of U.S. households — would hurt media competition and consumers. Coincidentally, FCC chairman Ajit Pai‏ met Thursday in Chicago with Newton Minow, the powerhouse lawyer who chaired the FCC during the Kennedy administration. Afterward Pai tweeted: “Such an honor to meet Newton Minow, President Kennedy’s 1st @FCC Chairman (1961-63)! An amazing life & rich perspectives on law & policy.” I ran into Minow Thursday night at the Shriver National Center on Poverty Law dinner, but he kept his comments about the meeting off the record. Continue reading

Darrel Peters 1933-2017

Darrel Peters, whose name was once synonymous with “beautiful music” on Chicago radio, died Tuesday in Barrington. He was 84.

A Chicago native and prominent broadcast executive in the city and suburbs for more than 40 years, Peters was general manager of WLOO in its heyday in the 1970s as “FM 100,” a top-rated easy listening station known for lush instrumentals and unobtrusive hosts. Using automated tape reels, he created the FM 100 Plan, marketing and syndicating variations of beautiful music formats to more than 100 stations nationwide. Continue reading

Robservations: Layoffs cut ‘half a dozen’ jobs at ABC 7

ABC 7

Robservations on the media beat:

Even Chicago’s No. 1 television station isn’t immune from industrywide pressures to cut costs. Sources said WLS-Channel 7 has eliminated “about half a dozen” jobs as part of a restructuring and reallocation of resources throughout Disney/ABC Television Group. No full-time anchors or reporters were affected by the layoffs, which were said to involve several departments. Overall the company was reported to have cut between 100 and 200 positions, mostly in non-content and operational areas. John Idler, president and general manager of ABC 7, could not be reached for comment. Continue reading

Robservations: Time may be up for Darlene Hill at Fox 32

Darlene Hill

Robservations on the media beat:

Darlene Hill, a well-liked news anchor and Peabody Award-winning reporter at WFLD-Channel 32, appears to be on a collision course with her bosses after 23 years at the Fox-owned station. Hill has been missing from “Good Day Chicago” without explanation since her contract expired at the end of September. Neither she nor Fox 32 officials would respond to requests for comment. Hill spent part of last week in New York, according to her Facebook page. If Hill doesn’t return to Fox 32, as many insiders expect, she’d be the latest well-paid veteran to exit under current management. Advising her is civil rights attorney and media agent Andrew Stroth, who also represented Robin Robinson, another prominent news anchor who was forced out in 2014 after 27 years at Fox 32. Continue reading

Robservations: WBBM Newsradio to beam from Bloomingdale?

WBBM transmitter (Photo: Scott Fybush/Fybush.com)

Robservations on the media beat:

Could Chicago’s top-rated AM radio station be giving up its 50,000-watt broadcasting power? That may be the result if CBS Radio moves the antenna of all-news WBBM AM 780 from its longtime site in Itasca a few miles west to Bloomingdale. Tech savvy Scott Fybush’s Fybush.com reported that CBS Radio has filed an application with the FCC to relocate WBBM’s antenna at the transmitter site of sports/talk WSCR AM 670 just off Army Trail Road. (The Bloomingdale location also is the transmitter site of Spanish Broadcasting System’s regional Mexican WLEY FM 107.9.) By “diplexing” onto The Score’s antenna, WBBM Newsradio would drop to 35,000 watts during the daytime and 42,000 watts at night. “The day and night power reductions are required to satisfy FCC interference protection requirements toward other co-channel and adjacent channel stations,” according to the FCC application. Fybush reported it would result in “no significant reduction in [WBBM’s] coverage.” The brick fortress in Itasca has been home of WBBM’s signal since 1942. “We are exploring a potential antenna move for WBBM AM but the move is not confirmed,” said Ron Gleason, the station’s director of news and programming. Continue reading

Layoffs hit Chicago Tribune newsroom

Chicago Tribune

Citing “significant financial pressure,” the Chicago Tribune announced a round of layoffs Thursday designed to restructure its city and suburban newsroom operations.

Bruce Dold, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Tribune, called the move “an extraordinarily difficult decision,” and thanked the employees affected “for the contributions they have made to the Chicago Tribune, our suburban newspapers and our other publications.”

The precise number of job cuts was not specified, but sources said a total of 14 positions were eliminated, mainly on the editorial side of the Tribune and its Pioneer Press suburban group. Some also were in the areas of media operations and in manufacturing and distribution. Continue reading

Robservations: ‘TVNewsStar’ Tia Ewing joins Fox 32

Tia Ewing

Robservations on the media beat:

The newest face on “Good Day Chicago” is Tia Ewing, who joined Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 this week as a freelance reporter. The Chicago native and Ohio State University graduate most recently worked as morning news anchor at WOIO, the CBS affiliate in Cleveland, after previous stints in Flint, Michigan, and Sacramento, California. “Today I realized what it means to be home,” Ewing wrote on her Facebook page. “From my grandparents who are in their 90s, parents, cousins, aunts, and childhood friends they all were able to witness me inform the public; some for the first time.” Ewing’s Facebook name is “TVNewsStar.”

Thursday morning followup: After this item appeared, Ewing changed her Facebook name to “TiaOnTV,” and tweeted: “I appreciate your story, @RobertFeder. I found another username that wasn’t taken and doesn’t rub people the wrong way.” Continue reading

Robservations: Producer Tom Weinberg chronicles perilous journey

Tom Weinberg

Robservations on the media beat:

Tom Weinberg, the veteran Chicago producer who created “Image Union” and founded the Media Burn Independent Video Archive, has a new book out about his life’s greatest adventure. Chasing the Lost City: Chronicles of Discovery in Honduras is a first-person account of the expedition in search of the Lost City of the Monkey God hidden deep in the dense Central American jungle. It’s a miracle that he and his companions endured and overcame the incredible challenges they faced. And it’s a pleasure that he shares their story with such honesty and insight. Weinberg will celebrate the publication with friends October 17 at Billy Goat Tavern, 430 North Michigan Avenue. Published by Chicago-based Eckhartz Press and featuring more than 180 stunning photos, the book is available at chasingthelostcity.com. Continue reading

The Drive takes a turn for the better

Brian Sherman and Steve Tingle (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

While all eyes were on hot adult-contemporary WTMX FM 101.9 and the strange saga of Kathy Hart that played out over the summer, another Hubbard Radio Chicago station was quietly on a roll.

WDRV FM 97.1, the classic rock purveyor that’s been on the air since 2001, is enjoying an outstanding resurgence in the ratings. In the Nielsen Audio quarterly survey released last week, The Drive ranked No. 1 among men in three age groups — 18 to 49, 25 to 54, and 35 to 64. With a cumulative weekly audience of 1,450,500, it tied for fifth place among all listeners with a 3.9 percent share. Continue reading