Think Tank Express: Keep your hands off my Saturday morning cartoons

Now we’re politicizing classic Saturday morning cartoon characters. Enough already.

Last week, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment announced a new live-action Scooby-Doo made-for-TV movie.

The only problem is – there’s no Scooby-Doo. Instead, the movie features two teenage female characters from the TV show – Daphne Blake and Velma Dinkley and how they met – featuring another complete rewrite of the series’ backstory. The movies is being produced by Ashley Tisdale (a former Disney Channel star) and her sister through the Blue Ribbon project, a digital initiative the studio created.

The reaction was met with some indifference, except for one thing – many on social media suggested Daphne and Velma should be recast as lesbians.

Say what?

Scooby-Doo premiered in 1969 – an idea suggested by then-CBS daytime president Fred Silverman as the original Hanna-Barbera series helped put Saturday morning TV on the map. The series shifted to ABC in 1976 and added the much-relived Scrappy-Doo in 1979 to save itself from cancellation in a well-documented piece by Mark Evanier, who wrote for the show. There have been numerous spinoffs, two live-action theatricals, and more than twenty direct-to-home video movies. After a successful broadcast syndication run in the 1980s, reruns of the series began running on Cartoon Network in 1994 and became a hit with a new generation of fans.

But somewhere along the way, more and more adult themes started defining the show – Shaggy was a pot head, and Velma was a lesbian, and so forth. Actually kind of funny.

But now, some fans of the show want – or demand Daphne and Velma to be recast as lesbians in the movie – which is very unlikely.

A fan-crated photo depicting…oh, draw your own fucking conclusion.

First of all, recasting two cartoon characters as someone who they are not – isn’t a good idea. It’s nice for fan fiction – and as a fan, yours truly has written a great deal of it in the past (but you won’t see it – Fred having “relations” with Daphne isn’t something you’d want to put on a writer’s resume) – but to actually produce a script with adult themes for a well-known family-friendly children’s show for wide distribution – would be disastrous. Recently, YouTube cracked down on channels targeting children with violent and adult-like material disguised as “family-friendly content”, using popular characters kids recognize.

Second, there are many television shows who already provide strong portrayals of gay and lesbian characters – written and created by members of the LGBT community. They are more real than recasting two straight Saturday morning cartoon characters (sorry, Velma is NOT a LGBT icon.)

Third, the idea of fans calling the shots is kind of prosperous – social media and the Internet in general have made fans into some kind of script supervisors. Leave the script doctoring to the experts. As a writer myself, I find this “fan entitlement” total nonsense – you aren’t entitled to anything. Fans actually got to see Fred and Daphne hook up in Mystery Incorporated, which was better executed in fan fiction.

Finally, enough with this “re-imaging” and these asinine “remakes”. As yours truly pointed out before, the TV movie is dead thanks to crap like last spring’s Dirty Dancing fiasco. Without the beloved Great Dane, this project is not interesting. In response to a snarky article posted by a pop-culture website, if it weren’t for this “stupid dog”, there would be no Daphne or Velma – for one thing, the “stupid dog’s” name is in the TV show’s title! Dropping the main element of the show – and changing the backstory so Daphne and Velma would meet online – is rewriting horror at its worst (ask me how well that went for The Simpsons.) As an old Cartoon Network bumper put it, no one tunes in for Daphne, Where Are You?

These young “fans” turning beloved cartoon characters into political symbols or making them part of “some kind of movement” is insane. What’s next? Turning Fred Flintstone into a white supremacist? Papa Smurf into a pimp? Barney Rubble into a GOP Alabama senatorial candidate and having him chase teenage girls around in shopping malls? When does it end? If they want classic Saturday morning cartoon characters to be more adult-like, keep it within the pages of fan fiction sites and off my TV.

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Disney, Fox deal near

Fox’s regional sports networks now could be part of sale

A deal to sell the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox to The Walt Disney Company is coming close to fruition, according to CNBC.com. But now there is a new twist: Fox’s regional sports networks may become part of the Disney family.

Initially, Fox reportedly proposed to keep Fox News, Fox Broadcasting, Fox O&Os, and sports networks FS1 and FS2 and the regional sports networks (RSNs). Now the RSNs could be sold to Disney as well.

This comes as Disney and Fox have resumed talks in the last few weeks, and it appears a deal could be announced as soon as next week. According to the CNBC report, Fox shareholders would get one share of the company after the studio assets plus Disney shares in a fixed exchange ratio.

But the big surprise is the possible sale of Fox’s regional sports networks, who hold the broadcast rights to several MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS, and WNBA teams, plus numerous collegiate sports. A sale to Disney could result in the re-branding of the Fox Sports nets to ESPN.

For example, Fox Sports Wisconsin – rightsholders to the Milwaukee Brewers and Milwaukee Bucks, could be renamed ESPN Wisconsin. A re-brand connecting the RSNs with “The Worldwide Leader In Sports” could bring in more value.

ESPN is looking for product to launch its new over-the-top network, and regional sports rights could come in handy, perhaps to sell locally in those areas where those channels are available. In addition to Green Bay and Milwaukee, markets where Fox operates RSNs include New York (though a partnership with Yes), Los Angeles (Fox Sports West, Prime Ticket), Detroit (Fox Sports Detroit), St. Louis/Indianapolis (Fox Sports Midwest), and Dallas-Ft. Worth (Fox Sports Southwest.)

Sources say Rupert Murdoch isn’t too keen on RSNs these days as rights fees are rising faster than the revenue rates are. Also, the increasing number of viewers cord-cutting are having an impact. While RSNs have drawn strong viewership thanks in part to the popularity of hometown teams, they’ve also had their struggles. Recently, NBC Sports Chicago (formerly Comcast SportsNet Chicago and CSN Chicago) went through another round of layoffs. NBC Sports Chicago canceled its nightly sports wrap-up show in favor of In The Loop, a more laid-back effort launching exactly one year ago today. Meanwhile, ESPN has its own problems, recently laying off 150 people in a second round of layoffs.

Fox also lost rights to several high-profile teams in recent years, notably the Los Angeles Lakers and Dodgers to TimeWarner Cable (now Spectrum) to start their own individual sports networks.

Before Fox Sports 1 launched, Fox tried to complete with ESPN by buying a stake in Liberty Media’s RSNs in 1996, and rebranding them (as Fox Sports Detroit, etc.)  Several efforts (hiring Keith Olbermann, the National Sports Report, etc.) to create a national footprint were not successful.  In the late 1990s and early 2000s, several RSNs owned by Cablevision were licensing the Fox Sports Net name, converting them from SportsChannel (including Fox Sports Net Chicago.) This too proved unsuccessful, with all four Chicago teams pulling out of the network to join Comcast to form Comcast SportsNet in 2004.

As for the non-sports part of this scenario, Disney’s acquisition would give them control of the 20th Century Fox film studio; current television series such as The Simpsons, This Is Us, and Bob’s Burgers; rights to all of the Star Wars films; and more. Disney would also gain a controlling stake of Hulu, even as it is planning to launch its own over-the-top service to compete with Netflix.

All together, the deal could be worth about $60 billion. Other suitors such as Comcast, Sony, and Verizon don’t seem to be nearly as interested as they were before due to the escalating price and anti-trust concerns. But as we know in this business, anything can happen. Stay tuned.

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The Media notepad: “The Lite” glows again

Also: WYCC and Chiller sign-off; Cumulus files for Chapter 11

The Lite is back: on Friday, iHeartMedia-owned WLIT-FM returned to its “Lite” branding, effective immediately, effectively ending the “My” branding it has used for the last few years.

iHeartMedia rebranded several of its Adult Contemporary stations “My FM”, including KBIG-FM in Los Angeles (My 104.3), which unlike WLIT, is a Hot Adult Contemporary station. This marks the first effort from iHeartMedia to back away from its “My” branding though so far, no other branding changes at other stations are being made. The decision to bring back “The Lite” was due to many listeners still referred to it as “the Lite” despite rebranding the radio station as “My 93.9 FM” in 2013.

Currently, WLIT is in the middle of its annual Holly Jolly format (Christmas music), which usually brings the station high ratings and revenue during the months of November and December. Once WLIT returns to its regular format, Delilah returns to evenings for the first time since 2012, replacing Mario Lopez’s syndicated show. Delilah – whose full name is Delilah Rene – recently returned to her program after a few weeks off due to the death of her son. She lost another son in 2012 to sickle-cell anemia.

Once known as WLAK-FM, WLIT assumed its “Lite FM” identity in 1989. During WLIT’s heyday in the 1990s, the station ran commercials featuring artists heard on the station – notably Billy Joel, Gloria Estafan, Celine Dion, Matchbox Twenty/Rob Thomas, and others. iHeartMedia (nee Clear Channel) has owned the station since 2000.


Chicago station WYCC-TV signed off without fanfare on November 27 after failing to strike a channel-sharing deal with PBS member station WTTW. WYCC sold its license in the FCC spectrum auction for $16 million – far below the number other Chicago stations were sold for (e.g. WSNS and WPWR fetched millions in the triple digits.) According to a message on its website, WYCC ceased all programming on the 27th, on 20.1 and digital subchannels 20.2 and 20.3. The station encourages viewers to tune to WTTW to view their favorite PBS shows. WYCC dropped PBS programming in October.

WYCC’s subchannels carried FNX and Worldview Megaherz programming. With WYCC’s departure, it leaves those digital subchannels without an affiliate in the Chicago market. WYCC’s channel has also been deleted from all local area cable and satellite systems. This marks the first time a Chicago TV station completely signed off the air since…the last time Channel 20 signed off – former educational WXXW went belly up in 1975 due to financial constraints. WYCC signed on in its place eight years later.

Meanwhile, Reelchicago.com is reporting the City Colleges of Chicago – WYCC’s parent, botched the auction, costing them $130 million in lost revenue from the sale.

A unit of Chicago government – in this case, the City Colleges of Chicago – screwing something up potentially worth millions? What a shocker.


WYCC wasn’t alone in throwing in the towel:  As expected, NBCUniversal pulled the plug on its little-watched horror cable channel Chiller after ten years, which is closing on December 31. Chiller’s coverage had been steadily shrinking the last few years as cable and satellite providers had been dropping the channel due to low viewership. Among those pulling the plug in the last few months include Charter, Cox, Dish, Mediacom, and Verizon FIOS. Also, Comcast never carried the channel, despite being owned by the company (NBCUniversal is a unit of Comcast Corp.) AT&T’s DirecTV and U-Verse still carry the channel, but in an upper subscription-tier.

Earlier, NBCUniversal pulled the plug on Cloo, and regualted Esquire Channel to online.

The moves comes as consumers are “cutting the cord” – dropping pricey cable TV subcriptions for cheaper alternatives. The result is less revenue to work with – meaning, operators are being forced to cut costs. Yours truly explained this in an article earlier this year as several niche channels are on the verge of being eliminated.

In addition to horror films, Chiller also carried several horror-themed TV series, including the 1980’s syndicated dramas Freddy’s Nightmares and Friday the 13th: The Series, both canceled in 1990 because of a lack of advertiser support due to violent material, a hot-button topic at the time.


As expected, Atlanta based Cumulus filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy from creditors. The restructuring plan being proposed is meant to reduce the company’s debt load.

Daily operations of Cumulus’ stations are not effected, as the company has enough cash on hand and incoming revenue. In Chicago, Cumulus recently exercised its option to acquire classic rock WLUP-FM (The Loop) and alternative WKQX-FM adding to existing properties WLS-AM and WLS-FM. All four stations moved into new digs at the NBC Tower last year. Cumulus’ WLS-FM recently received a boost as competitor K-Hits (WJMK-FM) folded in the classic hits arena last month, flipping to classic hip-hop/R&B.

Preisdent and CEO Mary Berner said: “Over the last two years, we have focused on implementing a business turnaround to reverse the Company’s multi-year ratings, revenue and EBITDA declines, create a culture that fosters motivated and engaged employees, and build an operational foundation to support the kind of performance we believe Cumulus is capable of delivering. As we have demonstrated in many measurable ways – including increased ratings, revenue market share gains, improved employee satisfaction, reduced employee turnover and, over the last several quarters, our return to year-over-year EBITDA and revenue growth – that turnaround has not only been successful but is continuing. However, as we have noted consistently, the debt overhang left by previous years of underperformance remains a significant financial challenge that we must overcome for our operational turnaround to proceed.”

iHeartMedia may soon join Cumulus in Chapter 11 bankruptcy as the company continues to fight with creditors.

Even though there is no current effect from the bankruptcy, there will likely be changes down the road, resulting in cutbacks, or the sale of numerous stations in nonstrategic markets.

 

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“Chicago Tonight’s” Joel Weisman calls it a career

Joel Weisman on “The Chicago Week In Review”.

Longtime Chicago Tonight host Joel Weisman announced Friday night his retirement from the Week In Review portion of the show after 40 years. As first reported by Robert Feder, Weisman is making way for several rotating moderators on the Friday version of the show. His final program is January 19 with an one-hour special.

The move is the second change announced this week for the longtime WTTW franchise. As Feder also reported earlier this week, Monday-Thursday host Phil Ponce is reducing his duties.

Originally known as The Chicago Week In Review, Weisman provided over a roundtable of panelists to discuss the city’s news and issues every week featuring anchors, newspaper columnists, and commentators. Weisman joined WTTW in 1974 as a political editor and commentator and launched Chicago Week In Review on the PBS station four years later.   Once a weekend offering,  Review was folded into the weeknight Chicago Tonight program on Friday nights sometime around the mid-2000s.

In addition to his journalism credentials, Weisman is also a lawyer and media agent.

As yours truly noted on this blog when doing early-season ratings roundups in the past, Chicago Tonight: The Week In Review is the best show on Friday night television. A discussion of the week’s events in a half-hour in an informative and non-partisan manner. Weisman and WTTW should be commended for a job well done. As television news discussion programs have become nothing but ridiculous shouting matches, it is always nice to know there’s still a place to get an intelligent comprehension of the week’s events and The Week In Review fitted the bill very nicely.

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Just show yourself the door

Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, “Supergirl” showrunner ousted in one day due to sexual harassment charges.

The day after the NFL season concludes, it is referred to as “Black Monday” due to the number of head coaches fired.

November 29 can be referred to now as “Black Wednesday”.

In one fell swoop, two personalities and a showrunner were fired Wednesday due to sexual harassment charges. In addition, a CNN producer for Jake Tapper’s show (Teddy Davis) was also fired Wednesday over the same issue.

The latest allegations claimed the careers of Today show host Matt Lauer; NPR’s Garrison Keillor, and Supergirl and Flash showrunner Andrew Kreisburg in a span of twelve hours Wednesday. Thursday saw hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons step down from his companies after allegations of sexual assault from a female screenwriter 25 years ago.

Sexual harassment allegations have rocked the media industry and beyond the last few months, resulting in numerous firings. Others who saw the pink slip in the media business recently include Charlie Rose, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Mark Halperin, and Louis C.K.

Lauer is the second network morning anchor (following Rose) to get canned as their departures already promises to shake up the morning news race, who continue to lose viewers to local morning news shows on other stations, including WGN Morning News and WFLD’s Good Day Chicago.

Variety was about to release a story on the allegations against him, including a buzzer under Lauer’s desk in his office to lock the doors whenever a female co-worker visited. Lauer has also been accused of sexual misconduct while covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

As for Keillor, Minnesota Public Radio fired him because (due to “inappropriate behavior”), he put a hand on his co-worker’s back while consoling her. Keillor sent an e-mail to the Star-Tribune explaining his side of the story. Keillor hosted the popular National Public Radio program Prairie Home Companion.

So far, there have been no known allegations surfacing in Chicago or any other local media municipality.

The list has been astonishing – and it continues to grow. As this shameful display continues, who’s next? At this point, if Time is considering a “Person Of The Year”, it might as well be an exit sign.

An earlier draft of this post had the words Keillor and Prairie misspelled. Yours truly apologizes for the errors.

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The Media Notepad: Meredith Corp. buys Time

Also:  Tom Joyner loses home in Atlanta; Chicago sports hit a rough spot; the Crowd disbands; another edition of Fun, Food, and Fights at the Ballpark

In yet another media merger, Meredith Corp. announced its acquisition of Time Inc. for $2.8 billion. The union brings together Time’s magazines (Time, Sports Illustrated, People, Entertainment Weekly, Fortune) with Meredith’s (Better Homes And Gardens, Family Circle, Midwest Living, etc.) Headquartered in Des Moines, Meredith owns fifteen television stations, including CBS affiliates KMOV in St. Louis, KCTV in Kansas City, WGCL/WPCH in Atlanta, and KPHO in Phoenix, among others.

Time Inc. was spun off by TimeWarner in 2014, who ironically kept the “TimeWarner” name despite no longer having any magazines in its portfolio. The original Time Inc. and Warner Communications merged in 1989 and became AOL Time Warner after buying the Internet giant in 2000 before AOL was spun-off in 2009. In a way, independent WPCH (known as Peachtree TV) is being reunited with its Time counterparts – both were part of TimeWarner when it was known as Superstation WTBS.

The transaction is being financed by billionaires Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, brothers who have used their wealth to advance conservative causes. The duo will not have any seats on the new company’s board or have any influence editorial content – or so they say.


After announcing – more or less – his retirement last month, Tom Joyner’s lost another major affiliate – this time it’s Urban AC WALR-FM in Atlanta, known as Kiss 104.1 FM and is owned by Cox, based in the city and owns powerhouse ABC affiliate WSB-TV, WSB-AM, and WSB-FM, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Replacing Joyner is a new morning local show helmed by Art Terell  and Roy Wood Jr. as The Morning Groove. Also out is a syndicated show from Michael Baisden, replaced by Sasha The Diva, who takes over his time slot. While WALR’s slogan is Today’s R&B and Throwbacks, the station is also reducing its reliance on “Throwbacks” and increasing more recent product to attract more younger listeners.

Wood is a correspondent for The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, and remains in the role.

As for Joyner, the move is yet another blow to his syndicated show – Chicago’s WSRB-FM (Soul 106.3) made a similar move earlier this year, replacing him with Chicago radio veteran Mike Love as his show has been shredding affiliates for the last few years. But the loss of Atlanta – the second largest African-American radio market in the country – is perhaps the biggest blow. No word if another Atlanta station would pick up the show, but with Joyner limping towards retirement, it is unlikely at this point.


Guessing the crowd knew nothing after all: CBS has pulled the plug of Sunday night crime drama Wisdom Of The Crowd, once it exhausts its thirteen-episode order. Premiering on October 1, the series never resonated with viewers or critics, notching a low 35 score on Metacritic and 28 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Crowd becomes the second casualty of the new season, joining fellow CBS freshman entry  Me, Myself, and I . Me was canceled on November 1 after six low-rated episodes, with the sixth installment earned only a 0.7 rating in the 18-49 demographic.


Speaking of programming that needs to be canceled, you might want to make sure those Netflix and Hulu subscriptions are up-to-date Chicago sports fans: the past week has to be perhaps the most forgettable in a long time as both the Bulls and Bears were blown out badly in their respective games. The Bears lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 31-3 Sunday and the Bulls lost to the champion Golden State Warriors by nearly 50 points two nights earlier.

Ratings weren’t available for these “masterpieces”, but you bet the audience levels aren’t exactly high. Ratings for Bears were up from last year, but the tune-in was mainly due to the curiosity of how rookie Mitch Trubisky would fare. Interesting to note the last time the Bears played in Philadelphia (2013), they were also blown out (54-11) and drew a 28.2 rating – a figure a Bears game has yet to reach this season. Some people on Twitter even reported Fox stopped carrying the game (likely switched out to another competitive game outside of Chicago and Philadelphia, which is usually the case in blowouts.)

On Saturday morning, the Bears, Bulls, and even the Blackhawks were all simultaneously in last place in their respective divisions. Talk about a hat trick of mediocrity (the Hawks did win Saturday, beating the Florida Panthers.)

Chalk up the misery to bad management of the Bears’ Ryan Pace and the Bulls’ John Paxson and Gar Forman -but this is no surprise, given how badly everything else in run in this town – government (Rahm, Preckwinkle), the police department, and of course, two radio clusters (Cumulus and iHeart Media, excluding V103). If you’re not a college basketball or hockey fan, you’d better have a lot of liquor and binge-able TV shows handy until baseball season – because you’re going to need it.

 


Miguel Cabrera would be proud: a major brawl broke out during the first quarter between hated archrivals the Denver Broncos and Oakland Radiers in an eventful game Sunday afternoon at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum:

The combatants were Michael Crabtree of the Raiders and Aqib Talib of the Broncos. In all, four players were ejected. Both players were suspended two games by the NFL on Monday; both have appealed.

Fights are rare in the NFL, though there were a few of them in the last weeks. Even incredibly rarer are the absence of bench-clearing brawls, which happen in baseball (though not as much these days) and used to happen in hockey, until thirty years ago.

In July, the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees were in involved in three bench-clearing incidents at Comerica Field in Detroit, resulting in suspension and fines.

And you thought our current political climate was rough. As a major soft-drink company notes, “The Fun Never Ends Zone” and Haray Caray was known for saying “You can’t beat fun at the ol’ ballpark.

For Crabtree and Talib, the “fun” is going to result in a major deduction from their paychecks.

 

 

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The 2017 T Dog Media Turkey Awards

Welcome to the 12th annual T Dog Media Turkey Awards – celebrating the worst in media, sports, and life in general.

This year, 23 recipients (including three turkeys sharing an award) have the privilege of getting the Golden Gobblers – we have numerous politicians, sexual harassment predators, and woeful Chicago sports teams, making every night a Netflix or Hulu night. And the losers are:

Donald Trump. If you have to ask why the President of the United States is on this list, maybe you should just stop reading  now.

The FCC. Let’s see…pulling a scam by reinstating the UHF discount even though it was a holdover from the analog era…approving a new ATSC 3.0 standard forcing us to buy new TVs…relaxing media ownership rules…reducing the lifeline program…and oh, scrapping net neutrality. Not since the Kevin Martin era Americans hated this “agency” so much.

Sinclair Broadcasting. And thanks to the useless, bought-off FCC, the company is in the process of buying Tribune Media (owners of WGN-TV and WGN-AM), using them for more leverage over cable operators on retransmission consent fees – oh, and promoting a right-wing agenda. I can see WGN news viewers heading toward the exits.

Soda Tax ads. These inane political-like commercials for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s now-defunct penny-per-ounce soda-tax to raise revenue in the guise of “saving children” and having “dialysis centers” on every corner reached levels of absurdity I couldn’t even possibly describe.

Chicago Bears. On to sports…losing, losing, and more losing. This is what it would look like if Charlie Brown had a football team.

Cleveland Browns. Wait a minute… no THIS is what it would look like if Charlie Brown owned a football team (and the team has the word “Brown” in it.)

Chicago Bulls. So two players get into a fight and they’re still on the team? Only in the infertile minds of John Paxson and Gar Forman, who even made Sam Zell and Randy Michaels look competent by comparison – and who thought that was even possible!

Nashville Predators fans. So this is what it’s like when you fill an arena with 18,000 Scrappy-Doo-like people with their moronic chanting. At least they’re not saying “Puppy Power!”

Jay Cutler. The former Don’t Care Bear bails out of his Fox Sports broadcasting gig before the season and becomes QB of the Miami Dolphins. Jay Cutler: He passes, the opposing team’s defense catches. The winning stops here.

Megyn Kelly vs. Kelly and Ryan. Turning to TV, a rivalry between two unwatchable pieces of crap most people couldn’t give two shits about. Even the rivalry between the NHL’s Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning seems more intriguing.

 Inhumans. Thor: Ragnakok aside, maybe Marvel mania is finally running out of steam given this dud of a TV show.

Law & Order True Crime: The Melendez Brothers. The ten-hour miniseries was about as interesting as the case itself – it wasn’t.

Candy Crush. What happens when you turn a bad mobile game into a bad TV show? Exactly.

APB. Computer technology is used to track down criminals on Chicago’s streets on this Fox show. Hell, even Lost In Space was more realistic.

Time After Time. In one of the most ridiculous premises ever for a TV show, H.G. Wells goes from an author of “The Time Machine” to a fictional character on an ABC show based on his own work. And you wonder why viewers are bailing out on network television.

Dirty Dancing. The 1987 theatrical returns as a horrible TV movie. Checking… yep, the TV movie is still dead.

The Radio Broadcasters Of Chicagoland. Twice this year, this group aired a “roadblock” of sixty-second commercials across all Chicago radio stations during rush-hour to remind us how great radio is for advertising. Great for them – not so much for the listener.

Chicago bashers. This is the type of group who have the 1957 film Beginning Of The End on a loop, grasshoppers devouring Chicago (or really a photo of the Wrigley Building) and all.  Hey MAGA peeps: you hate our city – we get it already.

Comic Book Resources (CBR.com).What was once a great site for comic book reviews and information has turned into another entertainment site with clickbait articles and what celebrities had for lunch. Why is a comic book publication covering what happened on Cheers 30 years ago? Coming up next, a review of the latest Spider-Man issue followed by one for the latest Demi Lovato record.

Comic-Con HQ. The now-defunct video on-demand service was supposed to give us the “best of Comic-Con.” Instead, it became a channel of unwatchable junk, with nothing from the San Diego gathering. Bad sci-fi movies are only great if the MST3K crew are commenting on them.

Disney. The Los Angeles Times investigated the company for its dealings with the city of Anaheim. The reward? Their film critics were banned from their special screening junkets. The freedom of the press shouldn’t have a price.

Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey, etc. and anyone else who admitted to sexual harassment – your plane is boarding because your careers are over. Your bunk beds at Alcatraz are waiting for you. Oh, and don’t drop the soap.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Here’s Pat: “The Man Of The People”

WGN morning show sports anchor gets his own show

He may not own – or maybe even drive – his own car, but he now has his own TV show.

Tribune Broadcasting’s WGN-TV announced last week the creation of a weekly late-night comedy show centered around WGN Morning Show sports anchor Pat Tomasulo.

Titled Man Of The People, the series – set to begin in late January – is similar in style to Comedy Central’s The Daily Show: a look back at the week’s events in news and pop culture. It marks WGN’s first foray into entertainment programming – that isn’t a food, lifestyle, or home fix-it show – since Bozo signed off in 2001.

When the announcement came last Wednesday on the morning show, Tomasulo came in to the newsroom riding a horse – yes riding a horse – and gave a speech:

Oh man, you are so right regarding Flo “The Progressive Lady” (one person yours truly would like to see less of on television.)

You can tell everyone is excited, even Tom Skilling:

The series is slated to premiere in late January (either the 20th or 27th) and air Saturday nights at 10 p.m., depending on the length of sporting events, which generally occupies the station’s primetime schedule. According to WGN, the show is being taped in front of a studio audience.

Doug Karo has been tapped to be executive producer of the project. A Chicago native, Karo has produced shows for Comedy Central, Turner, and SyFy.

According to Robert Feder, WGN is even hinting at national potential for Man Of The People. WGN – like all of Tribune – is being acquired by Sinclair, who already has  weekly half-hour Full Measure With Sheryl Atkinson airing in its markets though Measure is a straight news commentary show. If People succeeds in Chicago, the program could air on other Sinclair/Tribune stations such as WPIX in New York, KTLA in Los Angeles, and WPHL in Philadelphia – and maybe Tomasulo can get a nice Cadillac (or at least a used Volkswagen.)

This isn’t the first time the name Man Of The People was used for a TV show: James Garner starred in a short-lived sitcom of the same name during the 1991-92 season, playing a grifter who fills in for his late ex-wife as alderman, resulting in chaos. Airing Sunday nights on NBC, it perished opposite CBS’ Murder She Wrote,  Fox’s In Living Color and ABC’s America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Man Of The People was also used as an episode title for a sixth season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode and a 1937 film starring Joseph Calleia.

 

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K-Hits gets KO’d by Entercom; flips to Classic-Hip-Hop

Move comes as Entercom takes over CBS Radio

In a surprise major shift rocking the Chicago radio landscape, WJMK-FM flipped to Classic Hip-Hop on Friday as 104.3 Jams, replacing the Classic Hits format known as “K-Hits”.

The format change happened as Entercom closed on its purchase of CBS Radio, who officially took over the company Friday. As a result, the entire team of K-Hits personalities were released, including morning personality Dave Fogel, Jefferey T. Mason and recently-hired Brian Peck. First song played on the new 104.3 Jams at 11 a.m. was Notorious B.I.G’s “Hypnotize”.

Greg Solk is remaining as program director. As custom with most format changes, the station is playing 10,000 songs in a row, commercial-free. The station’s new website is 1043jams.com.

Classic Hip-Hop has taken off in recent years with stations in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, and Detroit. But the format’s momentum has slowed down in recent months as Urban One (formerly Radio One) dropped the format in Houston and Dallas, and Cumulus pulled the plug in Indianapolis Friday, substituting Christmas music instead.

Chicago is the largest market to get a Classic Hip-Hop station.

Earlier this year, iHeartMedia’s WISX-FM in Philadelphia abruptly flipped to Classic Hip-Hop. Urban One WPHI-FM previously had Classic Hip-Hop in the market, but added more urban currents to its playlist.

WJMK also plans to change their call letters to WBMX – bringing home a name which resonated with a generation of black Chicagoans as a Urban Contemporary station on 102.7 FM from 1973 to 1988, when it became iHeartMedia-owned V103 (WVAZ-FM). The WBMX call letters currently reside with a Boston Hot Adult Contemporary station, also owned by Entercom. The WBMX.com domain is used as a Classic R&B Internet station.

A sweeper welcomed listeners from iHeartMedia’s WGCI-FM and v103 (WVAZ-FM) to 104.3 Jams, indicating Entercom would be targeting those two stations as competition. WJMK referred to itself as “The New 104.3 Jams – Chicago’s #1 for Throwbacks.”

Ratings for WJMK as K-Hits weren’t exactly strong – recent PPM numbers showed the station in eighteenth place, far behind Cumulus’ WLS-FM and WLUP-FM; Hubbard’s WDRV-FM, and Weigel’s/Venture Technologies MeTV-FM, who each play some kind of variant of the music K-Hits played. 104.3 Jams may give Entercom however, a better chance to increase revenue for the cluster by going for younger demos.

K-Hits is K-Gone.

WJMK became K-Hits in 2011, with former WBBM-FM personalities Eddie Volkman and Joe Bohannon in morning drive. But the duo was unable to recapture their B96 glory days, and the show was dropped in late 2012. Before K-Hits, WJMK was a JACK-FM Variety Hits station, flipping from Oldies after 21 years.

There were also changes in other markets where Entercom took over CBS stations. As hinted by Radio Insight earlier in the week,  Entercom indeed flipped Top 40 AMP-FM stations in New York and Dallas to Alternative – with the former gaining an Alternative station for the first time since 2012 (the AMP station in Detroit remains Top 40 for now.)

As for the new 104.3 FM Jams, this is what the station played between 5:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. on Friday, November 17, all in the order they were played:

Fiesta – R. Kelly
P.I.M.P. – 50 Cent
Changes -2Pac
I Just Wanna Love U (Give It To Me) – Jay-Z
Always On Time – JaRule feat. Ashanti
Ghetto Superstar (This Is What You Are) Pras feat. Ol’ Dirty Bastard & Mya
Down On Me – Jeremih feat. 50 Cent
Nothing But A ‘G’ Thing – Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg
Freak Me – Silk
Lollipop – Lil’ Wayne
Big Poppa – Notorious B.I.G.
Life Your Life – T.I.l feat. Rihanna
Can I Get A…Jay-Z feat. Amil & Ja Rule
Tispy – J-Kwon
Home Alone – Keith Murray & R. Kelly

(Full disclosure: yours truly had to use Shazam to help identify at least four of the songs. Yes, I’m old.)

In a sense, this is basically hip-hop from the 1990s and 2000s – but no 1980s songs, a decade where the genre really took off. So if you’re hoping to hear Kurtis Blow, Whodini, Run D.M.C., or Tone Loc, you’re out of luck. Also present is a few R&B songs thrown in from the era – so hearing Mya, Ashanti, Jagged Edge, or early Beyonce certainly isn’t out of the question. As yours truly was driving Saturday afternoon, 104.3 Jams played “Real Love” by Mary J. Blige, a 1992 hit.

But the real question is – can a fifth urban format succeed in Chicago? For one, 104.3 Jams would draw listeners away from V103 and WGCI, the latter a one-time radio powerhouse. But Crawford’s Power 92 (WPWX) and Soul 106.3 (WSRB) could really feel the brunt. Ratings for both stations are hard to find, but Power 92 – which at one time came within striking distance of WGCI – is still competitive.

Also of concern is Chicago’s dwindling African-American population, as yours truly has noted on this blog recently. Adding 104.3 Jams could thin the pie even further. If 104.3 Jams is to be successful, it needs to attract listeners across many ethnic groups, including Latinos and crossover white audiences, who may remember listening to these songs originally from B96 and WKSC (Kiss FM, post-2001) during the era.

But as yours truly noted in September, the problem with the format on terrestrial radio is the limited playlists and censorship issues – one group you definitely won’t hear on these stations is The 2 Live Crew – even their most radio-friendly songs. Sirius XM (with Fly and Backspin) and several Internet channels from iHeartRadio and TuneIn seem to do the format better. As a fan, I would like to see Classic Hip-Hop succeed in Chicago radio. But Jams 104.3 is going to have an uphill climb.

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FCC relaxes media ownership rules, modifies lifeline program

Also approves ATSC 3.0 television transmissions

If there is any federal agency that gives the Illinois legislature a run for their money for being the most dysfunctional in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission would win hands down.

An example of this came Thursday when the FCC relaxed the media ownership rules and modified the lifeline program in votes coming down among party lines.

The Republican-led agency voted 3-2 to ease restrictions on the rules, a huge victory for broadcast companies. For one, the newspaper/radio/TV crossover rule was eliminated, meaning newspapers once again can buy radio and TV stations. Also gone is the “eight-voice test”, which meant eight television stations had to be in a market after two television stations combine. Modified was the ban against common ownership of two of the top-four stations in a given market, now decided on a case-by-case basis.

Also eliminated was the joint sales agreement attrition rules, meaning a TV station was count against the ownership cap if it sells more than fifteen percent of ad time.

Democratic commissioners Jessica Rosenwarcel and Mignon Clayburn slammed the moves, calling them anti-consumer and would hurt diversity and localism. Many in the broadcast industry (notably the NAB and other TV and advertising trade groups) wanted the rules changed or eliminated, citing the need for economies of scale competition from other platforms who are not regulated, such as cable. streaming services, and tech companies such as Facebook, Apple, and Google. However, many of the nation’s TV groups make a boatload of money, thanks to retransmission consent fees and political advertising.

Not affected was the radio caps which stays at eight per market, nor the television ownership cap, which remains at 39 percent. The FCC would have to consult with Congress in order to raise the percentage number.

As for the crossownership rules, their demise comes too late for some, as many of them who were grandfathered in 1975 when they were adopted. Among the companies split in the last few years include Tribune (who split into tronc and Tribune Media), Belo (who spun-off their TV properties) and Gannett, who did likewise with the TV group remaining themselves Tegna.

Expect a legal challenge to today’s actions – in 2003, the FCC relaxed the rules only to have the courts reinstate them. This time however, the chances of the rules surviving a court challenge this time around appear to be slim to none.

The biggest winners from today’s deal are apparently big media companies. Already, there is talk about several companies vying to acquire 21st Century Fox’s portfolio of properties (excluding Fox Broadcasting, its O&Os, and Fox News) and Sinclair, who now may not have to divest many stations as they thought. This is the latest in deregulatory actions taking place this year, as Republicans became the FCC majority. Earlier, the FCC reinstated the UHF discount in a scam meant to benefit Sinclair Broadcasting, so they can buy Tribune Media.

Also voted on was the ATSC 3.0 standard broadcasters want to use to deliver Ultra high-definition 4K signals and “targeted” advertising to consumers. Once again this vote fell along a 3-2 party-line vote, with Democrats once again claiming the move would harm consumers. Currently, television stations broadcast in the ATSC 1.0 standard.

Meanwhile, the FCC also voted to modify the lifeline program in yet another party-line vote. Under the new rules, the FCC refined the rules clarifying premium Wi-Fi and other similar services does not qualify as mobile broadband under the lifeline program. Also, Chairman Ajit Pai wanted a verification process to make sure those who qualify for the program really did; the FCC Democrats suggested the process would disqualify more lower-income residents. The key to the modification  was to “prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.”

As yours truly wrote last March, eliminating the lifeline program would hurt communities hit hard by poverty and gun violence in the Chicago area – notably the West and South Sides of Chicago and numerous poor, low-income suburbs ranging from Maywood and Melrose Park to the west to many south suburbs and Northwest Indiana cities such as Hammond, Gary, and East Chicago.  The Republicans’ vote in this matter – and Pai’s in particular – tells you how little they think of these communities – many of them dominated by African-Americans and Latinos. If Pai is talking about “bridging the digital divide”, his actions Thursday widened it as much as the racial segregation persisting in Chicago.

Next up on the agenda for December is the net neutrality rules, on if there’s any indication, are likely good as gone.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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The bidding war is on for 21st Century Fox

Comcast, Verizon throw their hats into the ring

The possible sale of 21st Century Fox’s assets has now become an all-out battle royale.

CNBC reported Thursday its parent company Comcast is now exploring joining in the race to buy the studio and the Wall Street Journal reported that Verizon has also joined in.

They join Disney in seeking the rights to product such as The Simpsons and This Is Us, as a report surfaced two weeks ago.

The reports state both Comcast and Verizon approached 21st Century Fox about purchasing the part of the company up for sale, including the film studio, a large television library, and cable channels such as FX, FXX, and National Geographic (Fox’s broadcast network, owned TV stations, Fox News and Fox Sports are among the assets not for sale.)

NBC merged with Universal in 2004, and in December 2009, the Philadelphia-based cable conglomerate announced a purchase the merged entity for more than one billion. and approved by the FCC in January 2011. Comcast’s assets include NBC, Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo, several cable channels (including the aforementioned CNBC), and is a giant cable and broadband provider who serves the Chicago area.

Verizon is a giant telecommunications company who is now exploring ways to get into the content game as rival AT&T is in the process of acquiring TimeWarner, now being held up by the Justice Department.

The news further illustrates the desire of the Murdochs to move away from the entertainment business and to focus more on news and sports. Fox News alone generates a lot of revenue for 21st Century Fox.

Disney and Comcast both own broadcast networks, so buying all of 21st is not in the cards as it would run afoul of anti-trust issues. The revelations come as the FCC officially relaxed the media ownership rules, giving broadcasters more freedom to buy up each other (more on that in the next post.) Comcast owns several NBC and Telemundo stations, including WMAQ-TV and WSNS-TV here.

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Mancow sues Cumulus’ new boss – who was his old one

What’s revealed tells us about the sometime nuttiness of Chicago radio

In a testament to how weird things can get in Chicago radio, a lawsuit was filed this week by a radio personality claiming “emotional distress” after his employer hired his old boss – who allegedly had staffers send raw meat to advertisers. Really.

On Monday, Mancow Muller (who else?) filed suit in Cook County Court against his Marv Nyren for a second time, his former boss at WKQX-FM and now his new boss at classic rock WLUP-FM. He claims Nyren “diminished his reputation” and try to discourage other competitors from hiring him and fears Nyren would continue to do so under his new position at Cumulus. Muller previously sued Nyren for libel in 2007, but was settled in 2011.

Cumulus hired Mancow in March 2015 as WLUP’s new morning personality in a phony and staged “contest” (which led yours truly to regrettably declare Chicago radio the worst in the country at the time in a now infamous piece I wrote – though admittedly, I failed to take New York City urban radio into consideration – given this incident, this incident , this incident and this incident.)

Mancow reported to Nyren at WKQX until he was fired from the station in 2006. Last week, Nyren was hired as vice president and manager of Cumulus’ four stations in Chicago as the company exercised an option to purchase Merlin Media’s two remaining properties, WLUP and WKQX – both were owned by Emmis, Nyren’s and Mancow’s employers at the time.

On the second day of the job, Nyren seemed to put the bad blood between him and Mancow behind him as he told the Chicago Tribune“I’m thrilled to be working with Cumulus and Mancow. He’s really seeing some great ratings, and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

But it’s Muller who hasn’t forgotten. According to the Tribune, the lawsuit states Nyren fired Muller in a conference room and taunted him in the process. Muller was subject to a crude on-air skit celebrating his departure and WKQX sales staff even sent advertisers “raw, spoiled rotten and bloody meat”, referring to him as a “dead cow”. Muller is seeking damages, though the unspecified amount or other considerations weren’t disclosed.

Despite all of this, Muller wants to keep his employment at WLUP, according to his attorney. The suit does not seek the removal of Nyren from his newly-installed position.

Nyren’s actions did not stop Muller from being employed elsewhere – he was paired with Pat Cassidy for a short-lived WLS-AM show. His syndicated radio morning show aired on WCKG-FM beginning in 2011 and also had a daily television simulcast over Fox’s WPWR-TV starting a year later. Both came to an end in 2014.

It is hard to pick a side to root for. Nyren was certainly not well-liked at Emmis – for one, he fired Cara Carriveau (who’s now at WSHE-FM) after she made some critical comments about the radio industry in a letter to then-Sun Times media critic Robert Feder. Meanwhile, many Q101 employees found Mancow difficult to work with (when the original Q101 closed in 2011, Mancow criticized the station and didn’t take part in any of the station’s going away festivities.) And before Donald Trump starting ripping Chicago on a frequent basis, Mueller was often a critic of the city where he earns his paycheck.

As for Nyren, him approving his sales staff to send “spoiled meat” to make a point about Mancow to advertisers is about as unprofessional as it gets. Who does that? And worse, just how did he manage to return in an executive role to Chicago radio? It proves in the minds of a lot of people, Cumulus is the worst radio company in America.

Despite the fact radio is flourishing at a time alternatives such as podcasting, satellite, and Internet radio are widely available, nonsense like this – rekindling a fight from nearly twelve years ago – is stupid. At a time when the useless, paid-off FCC is busy letting media companies consolidate (this whole idiotic saga is a complete byproduct of this), radio shouldn’t give any reason for listeners and advertisers to head toward the exits – even with trade groups such as the Radio Broadcasters of Chicagoland telling clients how great radio is for advertising as those 60-second “roadblock” ads tell us. I’m certain they didn’t get the spoiled meat.

While I guess you can say this is another episode of Everybody Loves Mancow, (I’m not posting that photo again), there is a time when the joke stops being funny and becomes outright pathetic. Having clueless execs like Nyren and “talent” like Mancow still being employed in Chicago radio tells us where the medium is locally these days. Just like with Hollywood and the recent spate of sexual harassment claims being made, the culture of Chicago radio also needs to change, and the sooner the better.

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Entercom, CBS Radio close to uniting

What to expect when Entercom takes over CBS Radio Friday

A new era in radio begins Friday when Entercom closes on its deal with CBS Radio and officially takes over the company’s 244 radio stations.

In Chicago, Entercom takes over seven CBS radio stations: all-news WBBM-AM and its simulcast on WCFS-FM; sports talk WSCR-AM (The Score); Adult Album Alternative WXRT-FM; Top 40/CHR WBBM-FM (B96); country outlet WUSN-FM (US 99); and classic hits WJMK-FM (K-Hits.) As reported by Robert Feder last week, Jimmy deCastro was hired by Entercom to lead the cluster. The deal was announced on February 2.

Don’t look for any immediate changes on-air or off as all seven stations are doing well in the ratings and billing is good – for one, US99 and B96 are holding up well despite tough competition from their iHeartMedia counterparts. Recently, CBS renewed the radio deal for the Bears for several more seasons and has the rights to the Cubs for the next four seasons. Ironically, it was deCastro who passed on renewing the Cubs while he was at WGN-AM, ending a relationship with the team dating back to 1924.

It is not known what will happen to the “CBS Chicago” website, which features WBBM-AM, The Score, and CBS-owned WBBM-TV, known as CBS 2. With the radio stations officially separating from their TV counterpart, either a new joint agreement could be made to keep the sites together or have new, separate websites for all three. CBS’ TV and news/sports radio stations have joint sites here and in other markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Boston. In markets where CBS has radio stations but not a TV counterpart (such as “CBS Washington” and “CBS St. Louis”), look for Entercom to drop the CBS branding.

While no on-air changes are expected in Chicago, changes could be in the offering in other markets where Entercom is taking over CBS stations. On Monday, Radio Insight reported a format change to Alternative (or Modern Rock) could be in the offering to replace two struggling CHR stations, KVIL-FM in Dallas-Ft. Worth and WBMP-FM in New York (the former WXRK, once home to Howard Stern), with the latter getting hammered by competitors iHeartMedia’s WHTZ-FM and Emmis’ WHQT-FM (Hot 97). New York has been without an Alternative station since 2012 when WRXP-FM – its second stint in the format – was sold to CBS and flipped to sports talk as WFAN-FM – one of the stations Entercom is acquiring.

The Alternative angle for Entercom is interesting as the company wants to reach young male listeners – which is very difficult to do. Yours truly wrote about the state of Alternative radio in 2011 after Merlin Media pulled the plug on the original WKQX-FM (then known as Q101) and WRXP after acquiring them from Emmis to launch an all-news format. But Alternative made a comeback here in 2012 after Merlin leased time on the 87.7 FM frequency, even using the old WKQX call letters (the format and the call letters) moved back to 101.1 FM in 2014. The format has managed to survive the turmoil earlier this decade and could be preemed for growth if New York and Dallas return. Entercom would have twelve Alternative stations when the CBS deal closes – among them, the legendary KROQ-FM in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the New York Daily News reported longtime WFAN stalwart Mike Francesa is being replaced in his afternoon time slot by a trio of people – Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray, and former New York Jets player Bart Scott, beginning in mid-December, a month after the Entercom-CBS deal closes. WFAN and Francesa recently agreed to part ways.

 

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The Media Notepad: CBC program turns an international spotlight on Chicago segregation

Also: DeCastro, Nyren return to management roles; Comic-Con HQ closes and shifts to Amazon; Mavs bottom in ratings before Bulls do

Chicago’s violence epidemic is once again on the international stage – this time in Canada. Public broadcaster CBC recently aired an Chicago installment of Interrupt This Program, a series about “underground art scenes in cities under pressure and cities recovering from major traumas: war, political unrest, natural disasters or economic meltdowns.”

In its third season, Chicago is the first U.S. city Interrupt visited.

The episode airing on November 3 featured Chicago’s art scene and its response to the city’s ills – gun violence, segregation, and income inequalities plaguing our area. So why Chicago? Director Karen Cho noted: “Since 2003, there have been more American lives lost to gun bullets [in Chicago] than there have been in the Afghan and Iraq wars combined.” And artist Malcolm London said: “Chicago to me is the perfect representation of America because of the blatant hypocrisy that it holds. Downtown, we have an extreme amount of wealth, and 10 miles in any direction you have young people being buried before they turn 13 years old.” The program cited Donald Trump’s election as a tipping point, and said Chicago fits the narrative perfectly – and protests about him were a and the murder of LaQuan McDonald by police were a focal point of the show.

As a lot of you know, Trump and right-wing conservatives typically single out and bash Chicago for its gun violence problem and other urban ills, and use the city as a code word for black people, despite the city ranking fourth in the country in total African-American TV homes (and falling.)

This episode also features artists from various parts of Chicago: the dance group (known as the ERA Footwork Dance Crew) walking around their declining Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood (around 75th/King Drive) and speak about how their craft helps them channel their energy; an artist from Pilsen who talks about segregation (and notes the “viaduct”) separating her mostly Latino neighborhood from the predominately black area of the former ABLA homes area (you can view her segment here); and tagging along with London to a Young Chicago Author’s meeting, a place where writers and poets express their ideas.

The Chicago edition of Interrupt achieved in a single half-hour what CNN’s Chicagoland couldn’t do in eight hours – tell the stories of artists on how they feel living in Chicago and in America through their eyes and through their craft. And unlike the so-called Rahm Emanuel infomercial, it featured people from all over the city from the South Side to the Lower West Side to Devon Avenue. It’s too bad American media relies on over-dramatic editing and racial stereotyping to tell similar “documentary stories” regarding urban issues.

To watch the Chicago episode of Interrupt – and I urge you to do so, you will need to switch to a Canadian IP address (like I did) to view since the CBC does not allow viewers outside of Canada to stream its content. If you have one, click here to watch. Click here to learn how to switch to a Canadian IP address to watch. It’s well worth your time.

Interrupt This Program airs Friday nights on the CBC, available over-the-air (and select cable systems) in U.S. border cities such as Buffalo, Detroit, Seattle, and Rochester, N.Y.


It’s Back to the future for two Chicago radio clusters: Two longtime management figures in Chicago radio have gotten new jobs in…Chicago radio. As Robert Feder reported recently, Jimmy DeCastro became the new senior vice president and market manager of Entercom’s new cluster in Chicago when it takes over on November 17 from CBS. Decastro was previously president/GM of WGN-AM (itself undergoing an owner change from Tribune to Sinclair) and of course, was the brilliant mastermind behind WLUP-AM/FM’s success in the 1980s and 1990s. Meanwhile, Marv Nyren was recently named GM of Cumulus’ four-station cluster, including recently-acquired WLUP and WKQX-FM. Nyren was boss at the original “Q101” when it and WLUP were owned by Emmis. Nyren was previously at Chicago Public Media.

While you can’t fault these conglomerates for getting the best people – and yes DeCastro has a terrific track record, the hires are a total disappointment given both companies had an opportunity to tap into some fresh faces, bringing new ideas to Chicago radio. Instead, it’s the same people dipping into the same well once again, particularly in a media business (radio, TV, tech, Hollywood, etc.) still lacking lots of diversity. Some things in Chicago radio never change, and it shows on-air.


So long and thanks for the um, crabs: As first reported by Variety, Lionsgate pulled the plug on its barely viewed Comic-Con HQ subscription video on-demand service, leaving the remaining principals to close the channel and relaunch it on Amazon and Roku’s Internet channels – for $4.99 a month (and yes, you have to pay the fee even if you are a Prime customer.) Judging by the reviews on Amazon, the channel isn’t being received well.

The Comic-Con HQ app has been pulled from Apple and Google’s app stores, and those who had the app (such as yours truly) found it no longer worked.

Launched just eighteen months ago, Comic-Con HQ promised to bring the “best of San Diego Comic-Con” through a 24/7 SVOD service with panels, live programming and theatricals in the science fiction genre. But the service never really took off with consumers, forcing the channel made cutbacks. For example, while Comic-Con HQ provided live streaming from the convention floor at 2016’s gathering in San Diego, there was no such effort this year. The channel also canceled all of its original programming.

Meanwhile its selection of product was disappointing (ALF? Really?) Also notable was the lack of Comic-Con panels on the service, which are plentiful on YouTube.

One of the few hits on the service – Con Man – was snapped up by SyFy earlier this year.


Given the awful start (and expected awful season) the Chicago Bulls got off to so far this NBA season, at least their television ratings won’t reach the horrendous depths the Dallas Mavericks reached recently. According to the Dallas Morning News, a November 4th game against the Minnesota Timberwolves drew a lowly 0.1 Nielsen household rating for FSN Southwest, perhaps the lowest rating ever for a Mavericks game in the market’s history – presumably even worst than the 1992-93 team, who won only eleven games. A game against the Washington Wizards the following Tuesday bounced back to a 1.0 rating.

Believe it or not, the Mavs have the worst record in the NBA this season as of this writing (2-12), with the Bulls right behind them as their rebuilding effort continues (nothing says ratings repellent than the word “rebuild” – ask the White Sox.) Ratings for this season’s Bulls games weren’t available, but if anyone were to make a guess, the season average isn’t probably no better than the Mavericks game on November 7th.

At least there’s some good news for Bulls fans this week: the NBA All-Star Game was awarded to Chicago in 2020 for the first time in 32 years.

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Disney blacklisted L.A. Times after report on how the company influences Anaheim politics

For the Los Angeles Times, this hasn’t been exactly the happiest place on earth. A statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse outside Disneyland Park in Anaheim, Calif.

Mega company blocks newspaper from reviewing movie; report on Disney’s relationship with Anaheim to blame; ban reversed under pressure

In a worrisome trend, Disney barred film critics at the Los Angeles Times from an advanced press screening of the Marvel movie Thor: Rangarok last week, setting off a huge firestorm. After film critics from other publications (New York Times, Washington Post, etc.) announced they wouldn’t attend or review Disney features – and film critics associations would disqualify Disney films from their year-end awards – and a reprimand from the Television Critics Association, Disney on Tuesday relented on the ban.

“We’ve had productive discussions with the newly installed leadership at The Los Angeles Times regarding our specific concerns, and as a result, we’ve agreed to restore access to advance screenings for their film critics,” Disney said in a statement. But Disney did not apologize to the Los Angeles Times for their treatment of the newspaper.

The Los Angeles Times is owned by Chicago-based tronc, owners of the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune however, nor other tronc-owned properties (Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel) participated in the protest against Disney.

The decision to bar the L.A. Times came when the paper in September published an investigation on how Disney influenced politics in Anaheim, Calif., a city 26 miles southeast of Downtown Los Angeles and is home to Disneyland Park, opened in 1955 and built by Walt Disney himself and opened another park in Anaheim in 2001, California Adventure. The story featured on how Disney was able to infiltrate politics in the city, funneling money through Political Action Committees (PACs) to support candidates who naturally supported them and receiving huge tax breaks to continue investing in the city.

Disney did not appreciate the coverage, calling the report “a complete disregard for journalistic standards” and said it was a “biased and inaccurate series, wholly driven by a political agenda–so much so that the Orange County Register referred to the report as ‘a hit piece’ with a ‘seemingly predetermined narrative.’

In the second-ranked Los Angeles market, Disney is the parent of ABC-owned KABC-TV and sports radio talk KSPN-AM, ESPN’s radio affiliate. The company at one time also owned independent KCAL-TV, but was forced to sell after Disney bought ABC in 1996 as at the time, stations were not allowed to own two TV stations in the same market. Disney also owned the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and baseball’s California/Anaheim Angels, now known as The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Both were sold around twelve years ago.

The decision to reverse the ban comes as Disney is rumored to buy most of the properties of 21st Century Fox, giving them a bigger slice of the entertainment market.

This is not the first time Disney has been accused of an “abuse of power”. As yours truly wrote earlier, Disney bosses reportedly forced ABC to renew struggling action hour Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. despite low ratings as previous Friday occupant Last Man Standing drew more than double the adult 18-49 rating than S.H.I.E.L.D did last season. In the past, the financial interest and syndication rules prohibited studios from owning broadcast networks, preventing these types of abuses. When the rules became invalid in the mid-1990s, scenarios like this are now becoming more common.

Perhaps one of the reasons why Disney backed off the ban is because of the bad publicity it created – not to mention the growing chorus of critics joining the Los Angeles Times in solidarity, saying they wouldn’t attend press screenings for any Disney movies – with a new Star Wars movie coming up. Can Disney really afford that?

As the useless, paid-off-by-lobbyists FCC ramps up the process of further deregulating the industry – thanks in part to the Trump administration, look for more of this. Disney’s actions – trying to retaliate against the Los Angeles Times for something they are supposed to do – to be the eyes and ears of the people in Southern California – is alarming and concerning. With the fifth estate under attack every day thanks to the dictator-in-chief, our democracy is at stake. And with media consolidation all but a certainty, it is never been more important these days to have a free, independent press.

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