Robservations: Dish Network blackout of Nexstar stations exploits viewers

Dish Network

Robservations on the media beat:

While Dish Network and Nexstar Media Group continue to play hardball on a retransmission agreement, viewers of “Chicago’s Very Own” WGN-Channel 9 and WGN America cable network were plunged into darkness Wednesday night by the satellite TV provider. WGN and 163 other Nexstar stations in 115 markets nationwide were affected by the dispute over carriage fees. “This record-breaking blackout is not only exploitative, but also an endangerment to the health and safety of countless Americans who rely on their local news for up-to-date coronavirus information,” said a spokesperson for American Television Alliance, a coalition of interested groups. Noting a similar move Tuesday involving AT&T and Tegna stations outside of Chicago, the ATVA added: “We thought the ongoing global pandemic may have curbed big broadcast from leveraging consumer access during retrans negotiations. Unfortunately, two separate major blackouts this week alone have proven us wrong.”

Larry Yellen

It was delightful to see our old friend Larry Yellen featured prominently in a video Wednesday night on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on CBS. The former Chicago TV news anchor and investigative reporter, who retired from Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 last year, made an extended cameo in a “Hamilton”-style hip-hop song about economist Janet Yellen, the nominee for U.S. Treasury Secretary. (Here is the link.) For the record, no, he’s not Janet Yellen’s brother.

Dave Plier

Look for weekend host Dave Plier to move up in the new year on Nexstar Media Group news/talk WGN 720-AM. Starting January 8, Plier’s weekly late-night show will air from 7 to 10 p.m. Fridays (with a rebroadcast most Saturday afternoons). Radio Hall of Famer John Records Landecker will continue to host from 7 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday (except when he’s preempted by the Bears show “Hamp, O’B and Koz” on Tuesday nights). “I like three-day weekends!” Landecker said. Plier also hosts “The Sinatra Hours” from 6:30 to 9 a.m. Sundays. WGN’s weekly showcase for the music of Frank Sinatra marks its first anniversary this weekend.

Orion Samuelson (1965 photo)

As he prepares to retire at the end of the month after 60 years at WGN, Radio Hall of Famer Orion Samuelson continues his well-deserved victory lap in Chicago media. Earlier this week Window to the World Communications WTTW-Channel 11 reposted a great half-hour interview Bob Sirott taped with Samuelson for “The Friday Night Show” in 2003. (Here is the link.) (Proving that all roads lead to WGN, Sirott now hosts mornings there.) And on Sunday Samuelson and longtime agribusiness partner Max Armstrong talk about their years together and what’s ahead for both of them with Fred Weintraub and Hannah Stanley. “The Hannah and Fred Show” airs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays on Evanston Broadcasting news/talk WCGO 1590-AM/95.9-FM.

Lance Houston

Lance Houston, last seen and heard as program director and evening personality at Chicago’s former Big 95.5, just landed in Atlanta as afternoon host on WUBL. He previously spent six years there as assistant program director, music director and afternoon host. Houston also has been assigned duties with the iHeartMedia National Programming Team. He’s been idle since iHeartMedia pulled the plug on country Big 95.5 in September and flipped to mainstream rock WCHI 95.5-FM.

Wyonella Smith

Recommended reading: Dave Hoekstra, the treasured Chicago journalist, posted a deeply moving tribute Wednesday to Wyonella Smith, widow of trailblazing Chicago newspaper columnist and WGN sports anchor Wendell Smith. “Wendell and Wyonella – poetry in motion — had a relationship defined by love,” Hoekstra wrote. (Here is the link.) Until her death Thanksgiving Day at age 99 she lived in the same Hyde Park retirement center as her dear friend Mary Frances Veeck, widow of Baseball Hall of Famer Bill Veeck. She also was the aunt of Biff Henderson, longtime stage manager for David Letterman.

Sam Panayotovich

You won’t see Sam Panayotovich anymore as sports betting analyst for Rotoworld, the NBC Sports Digital fantasy sport website. The former WGN sports anchor and reporter is moving to Boston where he’s signed a multi-year contract to be a sports betting analyst at the New England Sports Network. Panayotovich has been back home in Chicago since his stint as host for VSiN, the Las Vegas-based sports gambling network. At NESN he’ll be reunited with his former VSiN boss Rick Jaffe, who ran the sports department at the Sun-Times in the ’90s.

Wednesday’s comment of the day: Hal Ross: Let’s do this Eddie style: “OK, Bub, just give to the anti-hunger organization of your choice!”