So long and no thanks for the tronc

From the L.A. Times newsroom party – good riddance “tronc”. (Twitter/Jen Yamato/LA Times)

Named expected to change back to Tribune Publishing after sale of LA Times, Ferro departure

One of the most ridiculous names in media history is heading into the history books after two years.

In a move approved last month, the parent company of the Chicago Tribune is reverting back to Tribune Publishing, after a disastrous  stint under the name “tronc”.

The move comes as the sale of Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune closed Monday with former tronc board member Patrick-Soon Shiong for $500 million, leaving the company with ten main newspapers. The original Tribune Co. purchased the Times in 2002 from Times Mirror and twelve years later, Tribune split into two publicly traded companies: Tribune Media and Tribune Publishing, the latter becoming “tronc” in June 2016.

Tronc stood for “Tribune Online Content”, created by Ferro himself meant to highlight the shift away from news print and toward digital content. But over time, it became a symbol of everything wrong with the newspaper industry, from disappointing revenues to layoffs to sexual harassment allegations, the latter committed by now ex-chairman Michael Ferro. He departed tronc in March – hours before an expose was published detailing sexual harassment changes against him.

The renaming drew scorn across social media when it was announced and famously skewed by Last Week Tonight host John Oliver as he took apart a corporate video no one understood. When the name change was announced, “tronc” meant “a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels.”

As I noted on this blog in 2016: Judging by the stuff I’m seeing in the Tribune lately, sitting around waiting for a shooting to happen in Englewood isn’t exactly what I call “creating content”. Reporting on a murder, a game, or the state budget impasse isn’t the same as being an artist, writing a book or a script, or creating a video game. By Ferro’s definition, criminals, idiot politicians, and Donald Trump running his mouth are the ones who are “creating content” for “tronc”. Ferro has no f—ing idea what “creating content” means.

The low point came during the 2016 NLCS between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers when a vapid intern at the Los Angeles Times took a shot at Chicago’s homicide rate in response to an L.A. -bashing article written by the equally vapid Rex Huppke –  – the type of “content” tronc was peddling.

Even worse, the tweet came after three people were shot and killed in Los Angeles the day before the tweet was made – insulting minority inner-city communities plagued by violence in both cities. I guess this was “the future of content” tronc was talking about.

Unfortunately, the name (and the antics) overshadowed the great investigative work the papers – the Chicago Tribune included – did on numerous pressing issues,  notably the Tribune’s multi-part series on sexual abuse in the Chicago Public School system. With the nitwits running tronc gone – and the name changing back to Tribune Publishing, the people who work on these types of stories now have a chance to shine without any side distraction. The tronc name is more associated with the dysfunction of the company than great investigative reporting.

I guess you can say tronc got tronc’d.

Various , , , , , , , , ,

Journalist Elizabeth Brackett dies at 76

Her passing draws tributes from colleagues, others

The Chicago journalism community is mourning the loss of Elizabeth Brackett, a journalist best known for her work on Chicago Tonight and other local stations. She passed away Sunday at Stroger hospital days after a bike accident, occuring last Wednesday on the path just east of South Lake Shore Drive near Oakwood Blvd. She was riding when she fell off the bike and fractured the vertebra in her neck.

Her death solicited reaction from numerous colleagues and politicians, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Brackett got her start in the business as a researcher and reporter for WBBM-TV after a failed aldermanic run. After a stint at WGN-TV, she joined WLS-TV during a tumultuous time in Chicago politics as Harold Washington was vying to become the city’s first African-American mayor. Brackett became the Chicago-based Midwest correspondent for PBS’ McNeil/Lerher Newshour in 1984 and began work on Chicago Tonight after the show shifted its bureau to WTTW in 1991.

During her time on the show, Brackett reported on numerous issues, including politics. She also profiled several Chicago figures, including then-State senator Barack Obama. Brackett retired from the daily grind in 2014, but continued to file reports for Chicago Tonight on a limited basis, notably on an issue she was very passionate about: the environment.

In addition to her journalism, Brackett was also an accomplished triathlete, competing in triathlons well into her 70s, winning an impressive five titles in her age group – the last one in Rotterdam last year. She regularly rode her bike down the Lakefront path, as she was doing last Wednesday.

Among the numerous awards Brackett received include a Peabody, an Emmy (for her profile on Obama), two Peter Lisagor Awards, and was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Chicago Television Academy.

She also authored the book Pay to Play: How Rod Blagoveich Turned Political Corruption into a National Sideshow, released in 2009 after the governor was removed from office the year before after he tried to sell Obama’s U.S. senate seat after he was elected President.

Brackett is survived by husband Peter Martinez, two children, two sisters, numerous stepchildren and grandchildren, and six nieces and nephews. Services will be held Wednesday at Kenilworth Union Church in Kenilworth at 1 p.m.


T Dog’s Think Tank: The legacy Jerry Springer leaves


For better or worse – mostly worse, Jerry Springer shaped television and society

To say Jerry Springer didn’t have an impact on our culture is like saying cigarette smoking doesn’t cause cancer.

But here we are in 2018 as what we saw as outrageous back then is the norm now. Before  Jersey Shore, Flavor Of Love, Love And Hip-Hop, The Real Housewives of Whatever City, and other reality tripe – and before the incivility we see everywhere these days, there was Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! As his show enters “production hiatus” – perhaps permanently as The CW recently bought rerun rights to his show, we look back at the legacy Jerry Springer left.

When Springer started in 1991, it was produced at Cincinnati’s WLWT (where he anchored their newscasts) and was your typical discussion show a la Donahue – early guests include Rev. Jesse Jackson and Oliver North. In 1992, the show moved to Chicago’s  NBC Tower and two years later, the series nearly faced cancellation. So in order to boost ratings, the show needed to up the sleaze factor. And boy, did it ever with topics like “My Boyfriend Turned Out To Be A Girl” among others. In 1994 and 1995, Springer was one of many “trash TV” shows in the marketplace, including Ricki Lake, Charles Perez, and Jenny Jones, whose “secret crush” episode led to a murder.

Then came the on-air fighting – something you’d rarely see on a talk show until Geraldo Rivera’s nose was busted by a chair in a melee involving Neo-Nazi skinheads on an 1988 episode of his talk show. Springer’s first altercation came in a 1994 episode with a group of Black Panthers and Nazis squaring off.

By 1997, Springer soared to the top with numbers not seen in daytime syndication in decades with numerous on-air altercations. Management at WMAQ thought it was a good idea for Springer to do a nightly commentary segment on the station’s 10 p.m. newscast, leading to the resignation of anchors Ron Magers and Carol Marin. The show had a lengthy list of critics from both sides of the political coin, from the liberal Rev. Michael Pflager of St. Sabina Church (who led boycotts outside the NBC Tower over the show) to the conservative Parents Television Council. Even The Chicago City Council – the same group who gave us “Council Wars” – hauled Springer into a hearing asking whether or not the fights on the show were authentic.

One of many “Jerry Springer” knockoffs: the now-defunct Spanish-language talk show “Jose Luis Sin Censura”.

In the late 1990s, Springer defined pop culture with more than fifteen million viewers a day. He wrote a book named Ringmaster which became a movie. He had an opera about himself. There was a VH1 spinoff called The Springer Hustle, airing until the network realized it can stage fights on its own reality shows. There was even a MTV “spring break” edition of its talk show.

And through all of this, Springer himself didn’t understand the hype, often stating his show had no redeeming value.

We can see the influence of Springer  in society on an everyday basis. We see it in politics with the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land (Springer even said Trump belonged on his show, not the White House.) We see the influence in dozens of cable reality shows like Shore. We see it on social media and on YouTube, with confrontations, fights, and other viral videos. We even see it in sports, with every baseball brawl and hockey fight. Springer even spawned numerous Spanish-language knockoffs such as Laura and Jose Luis Sin Censura, which was even more racy than Springer as protests over anti-LGBT content forced Estrella TV to pull the plug as this blog documented in 2013.

Springer has been culturally irrelevant for some time now – like The Simpsons and Family Guy, it has long crossed over to “is this show still on the air?” territory. In Chicago, its once sky-high ratings for NBC 5 were reduced to rubble by the time it aired on WPWR as topics became more bizarre and at one time had puppets, a character named “Reverend Schnorr”, and even an in-house midget. The show left its longtime Chicago home in 2009 for Connecticut as most locals here didn’t notice or care. More violent fights have happened on Love and Hip-Hop and Jersey Shore than there have been on Springer in recent years. It’s no surprise its departure is being greeted with yawns.

As Springer says at the end of every episode… “take care of yourself…and each other.”

Leave it to a show like his to point out exactly what we’re not doing.

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Judge approves AT&T-TimeWarner deal

Warner Bros. becomes an AT&T company thanks to a judge’s ruling.

Merger survives court challenge

Tuesday’s federal court decision clearing the way for AT&T to acquire TimeWarner has implications not only for consumers and businesses, but the entire media landscape.

Judge Richard Leon of the D.C. District Court ruled in favor of the two companies on Tuesday imposing no conditions after a long six-week trial. The merger was announced on a Saturday night in 2016, bringing together the likes of the nation’s largest telecom company and one of the largest studios in the country, who owns the rights to Bugs Bunny, The Big Bang Theory, and cable networks TNT, TBS, CNN, Adult Swim, and premium service HBO.

Judge Leon found no evidence the merger would harm competition and hurt free markets, and the Justice Department failed to prove rival distribution chains would suffer. The companies argue the merger is needed to compete with the likes of streaming services Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon and tech companies such as Google and Microsoft.

The Justice Department, who sued to block the deal, may appeal. However, Judge Leon said he would not grant a stay. The deal is expected to close on June 20.

President Trump called the deal “not good for the country”, but critics charge the only reason he was opposed because of CNN, a news network he feuds with declaring it “fake news”. The Justice Department ordered AT&T and TimeWarner to spin-off or sell either DirecTV or CNN.

The ruling is expected to have a serious impact on the media business as companies are looking to scale up. In fact, NBCUniversal parent Comcast Corp. is looking to outbid Disney for control of the properties 21st Century Fox is selling. Comcast said it would make a bid as soon as Wednesday if the judge ruled in favor of AT&T and TimeWarner, which he did.

The ruling is also expected to impact the other pending merger, Sinclair’s $3.9 billion purchase of Tribune Media, whose chances of approval have apparently gone through the roof. The FCC and the Justice Department however, has yet to sign off on the deal.

Other smaller companies may have to get bigger or get left out at the barging table. Lionsgate, Discovery (who recently acquired Scripps’ networks), AMC Networks, Entertainment Studios, and Hallmark are among possible acquisition targets.

And the ruling is expected to have implications outside the media business as well. Pharmacy chain CVS is looking to acquire insurance company Aetna – a merger derided by some as too much power in the healthcare industry.

Reaction was swift, and much of it negative – from consolidation critics, unions, and Democratic politicians. But the biggest critic of the deal – Trump – has been silent as of this writing. It is not known if cable/satellite bills would rise or fall and if distribution channels would be limited for outside product, among other things. But given the huge change in the media business thanks to the advent of streaming services and the availability of watching your shows on something other than a traditional TV set, it has become more difficult for companies to compete and maintain profitibility.

TO read the 172-page decision on the AT&T-TimeWarner case, click here.

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

WGN Radio revamps lineup

Justin Kaufmann joins Steve Cochran in mornings; Patti Vasquez moves to evenings and adds Andrea Dalatris as co-host

As the sale of Tribune Media to Sinclair Broadcasting is soon to close pending FCC and Justice Department approval, WGN-AM announced some lineup changes Wednesday, affecting its evening lineup and morning show.

As first reported by Robert Feder, Justin Kaufmann is giving up his evening Download show and is becoming a full-time contributor to Steve Cochran’s morning show.

Replacing Download in evenings is a new show hosted by Patti Vasquez, who is being bumped up from late-nights. Joining Vasquez is Andrea Darlas, who becomes co-host and news anchor of the evening show with Kaufmann is essentially taking Darlas’ place as Cochran’s contributor. The program is subject to pre-emptions due to sporting events, in which Vasquez’s and Darias’ show would be delayed until 10 p.m.

Download is continuing as a podcast, while clips from WGN programming will run from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. as WGN Nightside. Nick Diglio continues in overnights, adding the 1 a.m. hour.

The changes take place on June 18 as WGN completes its move to the new 303 East Wacker Drive building from its old Tribune Tower home with WGN signing on from its new eighteenth floor studios at 2 a.m. Monday morning with a newscast. The station is going back and forth between its new and old homes for the time being.

The move pairing Vasquez and Darias is a smart one given a dearth of female talk voices in Chicago radio. The current “MeToo” and “Time’s Up” movements has raised awareness of the need for more diverse voices in the media business.

The changes certainly can’t hurt. Once a powerhouse, WGN recently finished outside the top twenty in the latest PPM ratings reports and fared even worse in key demos. Known for its conservative leanings, Sinclair is unlikely to tamper with the new schedule once its $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media is complete – at least in the short term.

Various , , , , , , ,

The Media Notepad: WGN Radio exits Tribune Tower

Also: Kathy Brock calls it a career; a Sinclair station’s May ratings survives controversy; CW 50 viewers to re-scan their sets

It’s an end of an era for WGN Radio.

The Tribune Media-owned radio station’s on-air operations moved out of its longtime Tribune Tower digs and into a building at 303 North Wacker Drive as its former home is being renovated into retail space and apartments. The first newscast signed on from the new WGN-AM Studios around 2 a.m. Monday morning. The move is expected to be completed on June 15.

Former tenant the Chicago Tribune moved out of the Tower weeks ago.

WGN occupied a window-side studio for years along Michigan Avenue, and also had The Walk Of Fame alongside. But as of today, WGN is now broadcasting from new skyline studios from the eighteenth floor. New amenities include two skyline studios, six new podcasting stations, and a live performance and music area and seating up to 25 people. In addition, there is a 24/7 “WGN Newsroom Hub”, with updated news gathering resources and video production facilities (for the web, obviously.)

The move comes as Tribune Media is being sold to Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcasting, ending over 90 years of local ownership. Sinclair has no plans to sell the news/talk outlet as it owns four radio stations in Seattle bought from Fisher Broadcasting, owners of KOMO-TV-AM-FM.

WGN’s move to 303 East Wacker creates a bit of a “radio row” in the area: Both Entercom and Hubbard’s stations are based in the nearby Prudential Building while iHeartMEdia’s stations are located at the 225 North Michigan Avenue Building – all within walking distance.

Speaking of Sinclair, you’re probably wondering how its stations did in the May sweeps after the controversy created by the company’s mandated message across its TV station group last March. At least in one market, it didn’t really have an impact on ratings.

Former Cincinnati Enquirer TV/radio critic and now WVXU/WMUB-FM blogger John Kiesewetter reported Sinclair’s WKRC-TV in Cincinnati remained on top of the local news race. The CBS affiliate swept all news races, and even reported ratings increases at 5 p.m. However, the 11 p.m. newscast fell fifteen percent from the year-ago time period and its 6 a.m. newscast also lost ground, but remained on top.

Numbers used are households, not demos as Cincinnati is not a Top 25 local people meter market where overnight demos are available. Cincinnati is the country’s 35th-ranked TV market, according to Nielsen.

The declines could be attributed to the controversy in which anchors Rob Braun and Cammy Dierking read the statement about “fake news” from Sinclair, which led to Braun receiving death threats. Even longtime Cincinnati news anchor Nick Clooney weighed in, telling the Enquirer back in March: “I have no idea what these folks are doing for a living, but it isn’t news.” Other factors could be in play as well: ratings for live TV are down across the board as viewers head for streaming services and other alternatives and May was a light news month, aside from the Santa Fe High School shooting on May 18.

Plus, Cincinnati tends to be a more politically conservative market than Chicago, New York, or San Francisco is, as part of the DMA includes heavily red-state counties of Indiana and Kentucky.

WKRC has been the local market leader for years, dating back to the turn of the century. If you recall, NBC affiliate WLWT was the market leader in the 1980s and 1990s in part due to former anchor Jerry Springer, who left in 1993 to focus more on his then-Chicago based talk show. A 1996 affiliation switch from ABC to CBS also helped WKRC, where CBS programming is very popular in this part of the country. WKRC was founded in 1949 a CBS affiliate, but switched networks with ABC affiliate WCPO in 1961. Sinclair has owned WKRC since 2012.

Keep in mind this is just one market and does not represent a nationwide trend. But from this vantage point, the controversy did little to dent local news numbers.

Another anchor change is coming to ABC 7’s newscast: this time is 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. co-anchor Kathy Brock, who announced her retirement last week. Brock came to WLS-TV from Salt Lake City’s KUTV in 1990 and was the first anchor of the newly-launched Eyewitness News This Morning with current 6 and 10 Alan Krashesky way back in early 1991 at a time when most local morning news were only a half-hour in length.

“WLS represents the best of local television news.” Brock said in a statement. “I firmly believe there is no equal and recognize what a gift it has been to be part of this team. There is poetry for me in closing out this career sharing the 6 and 10 p.m. desk with my original partner, Alan Krashesky, who has also become a dear friend. The time just seems right for change; I want to explore other passions and see what life’s like off the night shift.”

“Kathy Brock has been an essential part of our news team for close to three decades”, said WLS-TV general manager John Idler. “Her intelligence, integrity and commitment to journalism are unrivaled. We will miss her leadership in the newsroom and wish her all the best.”

Among Brock’s achievements at ABC 7 include nearly a dozen Chicago and Regional Emmy awards, the Edward R. Murrow Award, and the IRIS award from the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE).

This marks the latest ABC 7 news personality to retire recently – Brock’s former news partner Ron Magers retired in 2016. Despite the changes, WLS continues to dominate Chicago’s evening local news ratings in households and key demos.

For those who watch TV via your over-the-air antenna, a reminder: Fox-owned CW affiliate WPWR is moving to a new frequency at noon on June 11 and viewers must re-scan their sets in order to continue receiving the station. This is a result of the FCC auction held last year where WPWR agreed to give up its airspace and move to the frequency of sister station WFLD-TV.

“We’ve been a part of this community for sixteen years, and we know that our viewers rely on us for the very best in entertainment and local sports. That’s not going to change,” said WFLD/WPWR General Manager Dennis Welsh. “Our goal is to make this transition as easy as possible on our viewers to ensure they can keep watching the programs they love.”

Also on the move are digital networks Movies! (50.2), Buzzr (50.3), and Light TV (50.4).

Once owned by Fred Eischenyer’s Newsweb Corp., WPWR shifted from Channel 60 to Channel 50 in early 1987 during the analog era, separating from the old WBBS-TV (now WXFT.) Once one of Chicago’s leading independent stations, WPWR was sold by Newsweb to Fox in 2002 for $425 million. WPWR became a CW affiliate in 2016 after WGN-TV gave up the affiliation. WPWR has also been affiliated with UPN and My Network TV.

Due to “PSIP”, WPWR and its subchannels will continue to show up as 50 on your set.

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

T Dog’s Think Tank: ABC did right thing by dumping “Roseanne”

Decision was made to protect their business interests after she became unhinged – but she never should have been rehired in the first place

As one who refused to join the chorus of praise regarding the Roseanne reboot – and this person has had his fill of “reboots” already, ABC indeed “did the right thing” by cancelling the show after the star of the show made several racist and anti-Semitic tweets.

But the praise for ABC stops here.

From my vantage point, rebooting Roseanne was a bad idea, given the headaches she caused the first time around for the network, and everyone else. For one, she was a pain to work with – just ask Matt Williams and Chuck Lorre.

After the original version of her sitcom ended, Barr got together with King World so she can become the next Oprah and launched her own daytime talk show in 1998 in two-year deals with stations. There was turmoil of course with ratings so bad, the NBC-owned stations who carried her show dropped it after one season. Undaunted, King World (who by this time was acquired by CBS) continued the show until the contracts ran out, even without clearances in top markets such as Chicago and New York.

And now after 20 years, Barr is suddenly back in the public eye thanks to this “reboot wave” as the broadcast networks look for anything – anything! – to stem declining ratings as viewers continue to leave linear television for alternatives such as Netflix and Amazon. They must’ve been desperate because someone at ABC obviously didn’t look at her Twitter account – filled with baseless conspiracy theories and racist jokes. On the day her show was canceled, she “quit” Twitter – but returned later in the day ripping into her now- former castmates and once again retweeting false conspiracies, including one who suggested former First Lady Michelle Obama had a hand in the program’s cancellation.

And then there’s the infamous photo in a Hitler costume.

So the question is, why did ABC decided to return to business with this heifer?

Simple. Media executives seem to think this “shock jock” mentality still sells, as if it were 1994. There was Disney-ABC President Ben Sherwood at the upfronts, celebrating Barr as she came out to media buyers as most didn’t seem to give a fuck if she was there or not. She was branded about as a hero and acted like she “saved” the network, something Regis Philbin did some twenty years ago with more class. It was irksome.

“Roseanne” wound up the season as the top-rated show on TV in 2018.

Ask those of us who follow Chicago media as radio hosts Mancow Muller and former Rep. Joe Walsh and executives like Marv Nyren and Randy Michaels get second chances, and screw up again and again because their jobs were never in jeopardy (although Mancow lost his as WLUP went belly up.) Meanwhile, diversity is an afterthought in Chicago where people of color make up nearly 40 percent of the DMA (designated market area) – but far less in management and in other media roles.

And don’t forget the national media scene. Where else a simpleton like Jeff Zucker – who screwed up NBC – is now running CNN? Meanwhile, Bill Maher says the n-word on his HBO show and gets a pass because he’s “liberal” – on a network where they let now-retired boxing commentator Larry Merchant disparage minority fighters for years without repercussion.

With all of this said, I’ve never been a fan of Roseanne Barr, or any iteration of her shows as I never watched a single minute of her old sitcom. And when I watched the premiere of her reboot, I wasn’t impressed as the dialogue seemed forced and awkward, and was simply not funny. And taking a swipe at other shows’ diversity on the same network was misplaced humor at its worst – particularly at a time when racial disparity in network television and media in general is under tight scrutiny – an issue I’ve written about on this blog for years. And the strange thing about this is ABC has championed diversity more so than the other broadcast networks.

And yet, they bring back a 65-year old classless hag as the face of the network.

Of course, the humanoids got a kick out of it – more than 25 million viewers tuned in to Roseanne’s return on March 27, but ratings slipped a bit each week. And even a few critics compared this season’s finale to the show’s infamous ninth season, easily considered the worst of the franchise.

Certainly, the racist comments Barr made put ABC – and their owned stations and affiliates in a tough position and they did what they had to do, unprecedented as it was. I’ll bet you a steak dinner at the local Porterhouse that WLS-TV management went into static shock after Barr made those comments and envisioned the organizers behind The Black Women’s Expo and The Bud Billiken Parade ending their sponsorships and walking across the street to a competitor. Local stations spent years building up relationships with their communities – only to be shattered by some ignorant “TV star” in a tweet. ABC had no choice but to cancel the show, not only to protect their reputation, but those of its business partners, i.e. affiliates and owned stations.

Yes, we know Barr is a Trump supporter, but that’s besides the point. Giving someone a platform to make false, lawsuit-worthy comments and being an overall asshole on social media isn’t exactly a great business plan in the long-term. The mantra in the media business is these mistakes are made over and over again and nobody learns anything from the experience.

And that’s the sad part.

T Dog's Think Tank , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Roseanne” canceled by ABC after star sends racist, anti-Semitic tweets

Decision stuns industry – but it had to be done

In a stunning and unprecedented move , ABC pulled the plug on the revival of the 1988-97 sitcom Roseanne – because of tweets sent by the namesake’s star, making racist and anti-Semitic statements. The series was to return this fall for its eleventh season.

The tweet Roseanne Barr wrote Tuesday morning was about Valerie Jarrett, a former President Obama senior adviser who spent time in Chicago, working in the city’s transportation, planning, and housing departments under Mayor Richard M. Daley. On Twitter, Barr falsely claimed she was Musilm and then compared her to an ape (“vj” refers to Ms. Jarrett):








Earlier, she responded to a Chelsea Clinton tweet and called billionaire George Soros a Nazi:









Barr deleted the tweets and apologized.

By late morning, the wheels were in motion. Wanda Sykes, who was a consulting producer on the show, announced shortly thereafter she was leaving:

On social media, there were calls for ABC to cancel the show – and apparently, they listened to screenwriter Craig Mazin:

ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey – the first African-American woman to be appointed as president of any broadcast network, released a statement via Walt Disney Chairman Bob Iger:







Looking at this from a historic perspective, this marks the first time a TV series has been abruptly canceled on top in the ratings: first in adults 18-49 (6.4) and first among total viewers, with 22.2 million – all live-plus-seven day numbers. Second, it marks the first time any TV series was canceled because of an offensive tweet. The nine-episode run was also a big revenue generator, drawing $36.7 million in ad sales.

More reaction came from co-star and executive producer Sara Gilbert, who played Roseanne’s daughter on the show:

And Barr was called out by legendary actress Rita Moreno:

ABC really had no choice in the matter: if they didn’t fire Barr, the network would have risked alienating advertisers and viewers – especially those of color. And the effect would trickle down from the network level to the local one. In Chicago for example, ABC-owned WLS-TV sponsors the annual Black Women’s Expo and carries the Bud Billiken Parade. Any continuing link to Barr would have put those strong relationships with the African-American community at risk – a lesson learned after the Harry Porterfield debacle at CBS-owned WBBM-TV in 1985, resulting in a boycott costing the station ratings and revenue as black viewers tuned out.

And news flash: Barr’s boss was an African-American woman.

Predictably, ABC is dropping all repeats of Roseanne immediately, including Tuesday night’s episode. Reruns of the original series have been pulled from Viacom’s cable networks, including CMT, TV Land, and Paramount Network, and from digital broadcast network Laff, seen locally over WGBO-DT (Ch. 66.3). Streaming service Hulu also dropped the show.

In Canada, CTV owner Bell Media has removed the series from all of its platforms.

Barr was also dropped by her rep agency, ICM.

While all of this is indeed shocking, we all knew it would be a matter of time before something like this would happen. Back in 2013, Barr sent a racially insensitive tweet about another Obama advisor, Susan Rice. Barr was also a staunch supporter of President Trump, as her real-life persona was woven into the show.

A few weeks ago, an episode mocked other ABC sitcoms featuring diverse casts such as blackish and Fresh Off The Boat, angering fans of those respective shows and others. And unfortunately, there seems to be a growing trend of allowing such behavior in the industry, as Bill Maher and former politician Joe Walsh have said the “n-word” on the air and kept their gigs.

But while HBO and Salem Communications would condone their behavior, ABC was having none of it. After all, they have licenses to protect – not to mention parent company Disney is currently in the process of buying certain 21st Century Fox assets while fending off a fierce bid from Comcast and there was too much at stake to have a distraction like Roseanne. While ABC got a instant financial pop in the short-term, at the end of the day being associated Roseanne Barr and her racist, anti-Semitic tweets and the accompanying headaches weren’t worth it in the long run.

As for the company behind her show, Carsey-Werner Entertainment – one of the last independent shops in Hollywood – is also now home to two of the most tarnished names in Hollywood: Bill Cosby and Roseanne Barr, making the bulk of their once-hot product worthless. My guess is, the rest of their library product will be looking for a new studio home as like Cosby’s and Barr’s careers, the Carsey-Werner name will soon be a memory.

Editor’s Note: An earlier draft incorrectly stated Wanda Sykes’ job title on Roseanne. – T.H.

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Media Notepad: “GMA” expansion forces “The Chew” off the road

Also: New host of Check Please is a familiar name; Chicago radio still playing R. Kelly’s music; Peoria public radio in trouble; CBC cancels arts show who visited Chicago

In a mind-numbing move, ABC announced Wednesday it was expanding Good Morning America to three hours. Only problem is… the extension is airing at Noon Chicago time, 1 p.m. Eastern time – in the afternoon. “Over the past six years Good Morning America has solidified its place as America’s No. 1 morning show,” said Ben Sherwood,the co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television. “We believe there is great opportunity for viewers and advertisers in expanding to a third hour.”

This is basically more about “branding” than anything else. But why put it on in the afternoon? A better idea would have been to move The View to 1 p.m. ET/Noon CT and put the third hour of GMA at 11 a.m. ET/10 a.m. CT. But as we all know, logic generally typically escapes TV and radio executives.

To make room for GMA’s expansion, ABC canceled food/talk hybrid The Chew after seven seasons and ends its run in September. As you recall, ABC upset legions of soap fans by cancelling All My Children and One Life To Live and replaced them with Chew and talker The Revolution as the latter show was canceled just three months into its run. Even though ratings weren’t available, it was understood The Chew was performing quite decently.

No word on who would host or anchor the third hour of GMA. A similar effort was attempted in 2011 with Good Afternoon America as a temporary replacement for The Revolution.

While The Chew is headed to The Great Big Chopper In The Sky, WTTW’s Check, Please is getting a new host…who looks a lot like the old one. The PBS station announced Wednesday Alpana Singh is returning as host, beginning this fall. According to Crain’s, Singh signed a two-year contract with WTTW and is taking over from Catherine De Orio, who replaced Singh five years ago.

Robert Feder noted De Orio is in the planning stages of a new travel/food show at WTTW.

Singh left the show after she opened a restaurant in River North, and after owning two other restaurants, has a new perspective in the industry. “I have a breadth of knowledge from a restaurant owner point of view that I didn’t have before,” Singh told Crain’s. “There’s so much criticism out there—Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google reviews, etc., but what’s missing is the voice for restaurant owners. Yes, the host should maintain a neutral perspective, but I can bring in a different perspective. I want to dig deeper and give a voice from the restaurant perspective. That’s missing from the conversation today.”

In addition, Singh also wanted to add to the increasing number of minority voices on television and in the media business in general – an issue that’s been in the spotlight recently. During the recent upfronts, the broadcast networks are showcasing more people of color in their new prime-time series.

Debuting in 2003, Check, Please is a show where several food experts discuss and review area restaurants in a round table discussion. Singh was the host for the show’s first ten seasons.

It looks like Chicago radio stations haven’t banned R. Kelly’s music…yet. According to an article about the R&B superstar’s numerous problems two weeks ago in the Chicago Sun-Times, writer Natalie Moore noted a local radio station was still playing his music. As you know by now, the Chicago native has been accused of numerous sexual abuse and harassment against numerous women and was also accused of running a sex cult featuring numerous young women – some underage. Kelly has denied the charges, saying it is a smear campaign.

Moore, who grew up in Chatham (next door to where I grew up, Avalon Park) and is the author of the book The South Side, did not identify the local station. Thanks to numerous grass roots movements from #MeToo and #TimesUp, several streaming services have removed Kelly’s music from their playlists, including Spotify (even though his music is still available on those services) and Tom Joyner’s syndicated morning show has also removed his songs.

In the past, Kelly’s music has been in heavy rotation among the city’s African-American targeted stations including iHeartMedia’s WGCI-FM and WVAZ-FM (V103) and Crawford’s WPWX-FM (Power 92) and WSRB-FM (Soul 106.3). Neither station had announced any decision to pull R. Kelly’s songs or those of fellow Chicago native Kanye West, who made controversial comments about slavery and announced his support for President Trump. Only WMGC-FM (Bounce 105.1) in Detroit has pulled Kanye West’s music thus far, which was dismissed as a publicity stunt given the station recently returned his music to rotation.

And in case you’re wondering…Moore turned the dial when Kelly’s music came on.

Another radio station in downstate Peoria is facing an uncertain future – the Peoria Journal Star is reporting public radio station WCBU-FM could be left homeless as its home at Bradley University is being torn down.

The public radio station has only five full-time employees – the minimum required to receive funding, has no announced any plans for a new home – raising speculation about its future. WCBU’s staff is smaller than surrounding public radio stations in the region.

WCBU is on Bradley University’s campus and broadcasts from the soon-to-be demolished Jobst Hall, although it is not specially known what would replace the venue.

As the article noted, having such a small staff makes it harder to produce programming. As the Corporation of Public Broadcasting’s budget is being reduced, more and more stations are consolidating – an ongoing trend in the media business.

The news comes as money troubles are plaguing small public radio stations nationwide – WCBU had only a $1.1 million budget last year, with a defect a little over $600,000.

Making matters worse, Peoria is seeing its population decrease with the current total at 112,383 as of July 1, 2017, down 1.3 percent from the April 2010 census – the largest population drop of any large city in the state, even larger than Chicago. Not helping matters is Illinois’ poor financial picture, which affects smaller media markets in Illinois more than their Chicago and St. Louis-area counterparts. Illinois has lost more residents than any state in the country due to high taxes and dysfunctional political leadership.

Should WCBU go dark, it would be another blow for Peoria residents, already struggling with a reduced local media landscape due to a declining populace. In 2008, a local businessman shut down two commercial radio stations because of the poor economy. In 2016, Quincy Media purchased the rights to Sinclair’s WHOI-TV’s programming and network affiliations – including those of ABC and CW, and moved them to digital subchannels of its NBC affiliate WEEK-TV, leaving WHOI being programmed as a Comet digital subchannel on channel 19.1.

Nielsen counts the Peoria TV and radio markets differently: The Bloomington and Normal portion of the DMA are lumped together with Peoria to form the nation’s 122nd-largest TV market, but ranked separately in radio, with Peoria ranking 158th and Bloomington-Normal ranking 233rd.

Here’s an update on a Canadian program who recently looked at the struggles of Chicago’s minority neighborhoods. And unfortunately, it is curtains for Interrupt This Program as the CBC canceled the series after three seasons. According to TV eh, the documentary-style program from the public broadcaster was dropped from the lineup as their 2018-19 schedule was released Thursday morning.

Interrupt was about the use of art as a tool for political and social change, in places of crisis. The program visited Chicago last year as the city’s homicide and shooting rates spiked considerably and drew worldwide attention.

Predictably, arts-based programming such as Interrupt on the CBC doesn’t attract huge audiences – even in Canada as more viewers prefer programming on private broadcasters such as CTV, Global, and City – all dominated with American scripted and reality programming. But like their American counterparts, Canadian broadcasters are also losing audiences to alternatives such as cable and Netflix (Hulu and Amazon’s streaming services are not available in Canada.)

Among CBC’s new programs this fall is a reboot of Street Legal, based on the 1987-94 series of the same name, which was the launching pad for future JAG star David James Elliott’s career, who is not expected to appear in the revival. Also renewed is the sitcom Schitt’s Creek, picked up this week by Debmar-Mercury for broadcast syndication in 2020.

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dick Biondi out at WLS-FM

Radio legend calls it a career – or more likely, someone called it a career for him

In what looks like the end of the line for one of Chicago’ most iconic radio personalities, Cumulus-owned WLS-FM has released Dick Biondi from his contract.

As first reported by Robert Feder, the 85-year old broadcasting legend was off the air for a little over a year due to a leg aliment, and Biondi was hoping to return to his weekend morning shift at WLS. But late last fall as the station’s management was transitioning, Biondi’s employee status at WLS went from “inactive” to “former”. Cumulus was also in the middle of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings during this time.

The Sunday time slot Biondi was in is now occupied by reruns of American Top 40: The ’80s, with original host Casey Kasem. The station recently dropped the ’70s version of the show.

Biondi was one of Chicago’s most popular and recognizable personalities in the medium, starting his local radio career here at WLS-AM in 1960, shortly after the station changed to a Top 40 format. His nighttime show on the station drew over half the nighttime radio audience at one point and was heard in much of the country and in Canada.

His Chicago radio stops included the former WJMK-FM and WJJD-AM and a short-lived stint as morning personality at WBBM-FM in 1983-84. Biondi helped launch the new WJMK when it debuted its Oldies format in 1984.

Among numerous honors Biondi has received included being inducted into The Radio Hall Of Fame, and an honorary street designation sign in an alley south of WLS’ old Michigan Avenue studios.

As expected, reaction to Biondi’s departure was meet with a mixture of sadness and of course, some anger – this is Cumulus we’re talking about. At one point during his WLS-FM tenure, Biondi was on in late-night hours – 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., to the dismay of many of his longtime fans.

If this is the last stand for Biondi, we should wish him the best and thank him for all the great radio he has blessed us with.

Various , , , , , , ,

“WWE Smackdown” close to massive deal with Fox

Smackdown returns to broadcast TV AND Friday nights

Further signaling a shift away from scripted fare, Fox is expected to land rights to WWE Smackdown, taking over the rights in October 2019. In addition, the series would return to Friday nights.

Fox reportedly is paying one billion dollars in a five-year deal lasting through 2021. Fox pounced after NBCUniversal passed on renewing Smackdown, which currently airs on USA Network Tuesday nights. USA is expected to keep the rights to Raw, which has aired live on Monday Nights for the last 25 years.

The WWE nor Fox had any comment.

The deal further solidifies Fox’s plans to go all-in on sports and live events as the network is separating from the studio, with Disney buying the bulk of 21st Century Fox in a $52 billion deal announced last year. Barring any last-minute surprises (from Comcast, who is looking to outbid Disney), the deal closes sometime next year. With Smackdown heading to Friday nights, recently acquired Last Man Standing is likely headed to another night if it get picked up by Fox for another season.

This is not the first time Smackdown has aired on a Fox property: between 2008 and 2010, the WWE show aired on Fox-owned My Network TV, consisting of mostly former UPN affiliates who aired Smackdown when the series premiered on the now-defunct network in 1999. After six years on Thursday night, UPN shifted Smackdown to Fridays, a year before the network merged with The WB to form The CW. In 2008, The CW dropped the show  because it didn’t fit in the direction the network was going in (young, female-skewing dramas) and was pulling in lower ad revenue.

In 2010, the WWE made a deal and united all of its properties under one roof with NBCUniversal, with Smackdown airing on SyFy. In 2014, the show switched back to Thursday nights and to USA in January 2016, and moved to Tuesdays six months later so it can do live broadcasts (with the exception of a few instances, Smackdown generally taped on Tuesdays.)

The moves come as the WWE’s star continues to rise with marketers and the willingness to evolve. During NBCUniversal’s upfront presentation recently, WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon talked about women’s empowerment and announced a rebranding of the Divas Division to the Women’s Division. Three women superstars appeared on stage, including former UFC superstar Ronda Rousey.

During the first few years of its UPN run, Smackdown was singled out by activists for its reliance on sex and violence, notably the Parents Television Council. Over the last few years however, the WWE has toned down the raunchiness of its product to make it more family-friendly, so it won’t be an issue for Fox.

There is no word on if Smackdown would be live on Friday nights instead of taped.

As for the impact on Fox’s schedule, the Smackdown deal takes away another night of programming, meaning those shows on Fox next season will have to work harder to earn renewal stripes.

Hey, want more? Then follow The T Dog Media Blog on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

Various , , , , , , , , ,

The Lite 93.9 reboots Melissa Forman’s morning show

WLIT brings back former morning personality

As you may be aware, television is all awash in “reboots” of classic TV shows these days. Now radio is doing the same with former personalities.

But this reboot a lot of Chicago radio listeners will like.

As first reported by Robert Feder, iHeartMedia-owned WLIT-FM – known as The Lite 93.9, announced it was rehiring Melissa Forman for morning drive beginning May 29.

This is actually the third time Forman has been employed at WLIT from 2001 to 2006 and again from 2007 to 2009. Forman later joined Jeanne Sparrow to host WCIU’s You and Me This Morning for eight years until the show was canceled. It was replaced by The Jam, who made news of its own last week with the exit of co-host Danielle Robay as she is returning to Los Angeles.

To make room for Forman’s return, WLIT released morning personality Kristina Kage after three years, as her contract wasn’t renewed. She joined the adult contemporary station from sister station KXJM in Portland, Ore.

The move is among one of the latest WLIT has made in order to bring back familiarity to a station and reconnect with former listeners as the station was known as My 93.9 FM over the last few years, featuring syndicated content from Sean Valentine and Mario Lopez. WLIT recently brought back long-time staple Delilah for evenings.

Various , , , , , , , , , , ,

The CW expands to Sundays with “Supergirl”, “Charmed” reboot

“Charmed” is back with a new look – and a new cast. (The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved)

Network expands to a sixth night with its all-drama lineup

The CW recently unveiled its 2018-19 lineup before its upfront presentation on Thursday and features five new shows – two of them debuting this fall.

The big news is The CW’s return to Sunday nights for the first time since 2009, as reported here in February. The night kicks off with a relocated Supergirl from Mondays, followed by a completely new version of former The WB series Charmed. Unlike the other broadcast networks who start the evening at 6 p.m. (CT), The CW plans to only program from 7-to-9 p.m. (CT) with the 6 p.m. slot remaining with affiliates to program themselves. ABC, CBS, and NBC have programmed the 6 p.m. hour in full since 1975 and Fox since its inception (the Big 3 actually programmed the slot until 1971, when the now-defunct prime-time access rule forced the networks to give back part of the Sunday hour back to the affiliates.)

“It is such an exciting time at The CW. We are thriving, innovating, and now we’re expanding, adding Sunday nights to our primetime lineup this fall, said The CW President Mark Pedowitz. Starting in October, we will have 12 hours of original scripted series on our schedule – more than any other broadcast network besides CBS.”

Pedowitz also added: The CW is bigger, and better than ever before, with more quality content and more ways for advertisers to connect with our valuable young audience, on every platform.”

Relocating to Monday nights to take Supergirl’s place is D.C.’s Legends of Tomorrow, followed by Arrow in a new time slot. Tuesdays remain unchanged from midseason with The Flash and Black Lightning. Wednesdays nights features returning Riverdale and new drama All American, based on a true story about a Beverly Hills high school football coach who recruits a standout from Compton.

Thursdays has veteran Supernatural leading into new series Legacies. The description of the new show was quite skimp, but it seems to be similar in vein to The Vampire Diaries and The Originals.  Finally, Friday has Dynasty and Crazy Ex- Girlfriend (more on this series below.)

Midseason enteries include new drama In The Dark and Roswell, New Mexico, a sequel to the former The WB and UPN series (both networks merged to form The CW in 2006.)

To see the new fall schedule, click here.

While some can scoff at The CW’s sub-one ratings, keep in mind these shows have a larger fan base than you think as many viewers watch via other means, including The CW App and most shows have strong social media followings. The network has the lowest median age of any broadcast network, and that makes it very valuable to advertisers at a time when the rest of the broadcast business – including CW affiliates themselves outside of prime-time – is skewing older. And while Dynasty in theory should be canceled due to nearly non-existent ratings, strong international sales keeps the show on the air.

The CW’s Sunday lineup could achieve the same lackluster results the network achieved in 2008 when it leased the night to Media Rights Capital with awful product. At least Supergirl is proven and so is Charmed…in a way. Plus, the ratings achieved by those forgettable shows back then are more acceptable now.

The CW also announced three of their veteran series are retiring next season: iZombie, Jane The Virgin, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The mutual decision to end the latter show is puzzling; only 44 episodes in three seasons have been made and there should be more stories to tell – but then again, I’m not the showrunner. Stability seems to be the key word here as only Valor and Life Sentence were dropped. But The CW will soon have to develop new programming to replace several departing shows in 2019, and it won’t be an easy feat.

On another note, The CW will open the season in October with the iHeartRadio Music Festival, despite the radio conglomerate in bankruptcy proceedings. Though The CW did not comment further on the two-night extravaganza, its future seems secure for now. As they say, the show must go on.

In lieu of official trailers, clips of new CW programming can be viewed here.

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reboots of ’80s shows headline CBS’ 2018-19 lineup

Murphy Brown, Magnum P.I. lead eight new programs for next season

CBS unveiled its 2018-19 lineup with the ongoing battle between CBS and Viacom as a backdrop. As you know by now, the two companies are at a tug-of-war over a proposed merger with CBS suing majority shareholder National Amusements over control. CBS CEO Les Moonves was absent at CBS’ annual preview breakfast Wednesday, opting to sit out amid all the drama.

Viacom was spun-off from CBS in 1971 due to the then-fin-syn rules, and acquired CBS in 1999 before splitting into two in 2005. It’s like seeing a child battling his parents for control over the estate.

But the show must go on. At the upfront presentation, CBS unveiled eight new shows: three dramas and two comedies and a revamped Monday night slate for the 2018-19 season. Unlike a few years ago when CBS eliminated comedies on Mondays for the first time since 1949, at least one hour of comedies will open the night – The Neighborhood and Happy Together, followed by the reboot of Magnum PI with new leading man Jay Hernandez and no stache. Bull relocates from Tuesday to finish up the night.

Tuesday has NCIS and followed by new drama FBI, produced by Dick Wolf in his first non-NBC show in ages, followed by NCIS: New Orleans. Wednesdays remain unchanged (of note is once again, The Amazing Race temporarily replaces Survivor in the winter.)

Thursdays start off with the long-running Big Bang Theory, followed by a returning Young Sheldon. Leading out of Mom is the Murphy Brown reboot, which has a thirteen-episode order. Finishing up the night is sophomore crime drama S.W.A.T. Fridays remain unchanged.

Sundays has new drama God Friended Me, bumping Madam Secretary to the final prime-time slot of the evening. In the middle is returning NCIS: Los Angeles.

For more information on the CBS fall schedule, click here.

Midseason entries include comedy Fam and dramas The Code and The Red Line, which is set in and filmed in Chicago, with Ava Duvernay and Greg Beranti as executive producers. The series is named after the most-used transit line in Chicago, stretching from Howard Street to the north to 95th Street to the south.

The most interesting program by far on CBS’ schedule is the return of Murphy Brown – no doubt the mother-son rivalry working on opposite morning political shows with opposite views is very fascinating…but Brown on Thursday doesn’t sound right…it should be on Monday, where it originally aired.

Speaking of Monday, no comedies are scheduled in the 9 p.m. ET hour Mondays this fall, but if you live in Chicago, sitcom reruns (at 8 p.m.) on WGN and WCIU may fill your comedy need. You know we’ve reached the heights of absurdity with reboots when the new man who is the new star of Magnum P.I. comes at a time when the person who once played him is still a star at the network on another show!

The Neighborhood would’ve been funnier (and more realistic) if the show were set in Chicago and not L.A. If there is anyplace for NIMBYism, it’s our hometown. FBI thankfully, is not a reboot of 1960s drama The FBI but don’t look for Mudler and Scully hanging around the office or for the crew to investigate paranormal activity as the truth won’t be out there. And God Friend Me is what happens when you combine Highway To Heaven with social media elements, to awful results.

Point be taken, and with the exception of The Red Line, the drama involving Les Moonves and Shari Redstone is more interesting than any of the new CBS dramas next season. Or the veteran ones for that matter.

Here are trailers for the new shows:

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,