The Grab Bag: WGN Radio’s Steve and Johnnie to sign off

In the latest Grab Bag, we have items on the departure of a legendary duo from Chicago radio; a welcome departure from the ABC exec ranks; and Bill Cunningham’s talk show is getting outrated by… a 45-year old Western?

Steve & Johnnie Exit WGN Radio. It’s official: Steve King and Johnnie Putnam are exiting WGN-AM this Friday after nearly 27 years on the air. The duo are leaving among changes at the Tribune-owned station, which includes the arrival of new morning personality Jonathan Brandmeier the same day and Bill Leff, who is succeeding Steve and Johnnie in the overnight time slot. For this final week, the duo are looking back in a retrospective look at WGN Radio. Good luck to them in their future endeavors.

I guess they’re no longer “winning”…¬† Even though they really weren’t “winning” to begin with: Merlin Media WWWN-FM changed their call letters last week to WIQI-FM, effectively removing any connection (real or perceived) to former Two And A Half Men star Charlie Sheen. Despite the call letter change, WIQI still faces an uphill battle ratings wise: In the recent November PPM survey, WIQI finished in 44th place. As for the WWWN calls, it was basically an acronym on the word “women”, the demo the news format was planning to target in the first place.

NBC O&Os join forces with non-profits. NBC-owned WMAQ is hooking up with non-profit investigative news organization The Chicago Reporter as a part of the station group’s plan to produce more diverse local news. Three other NBC O&Os are also partnering up with non-profits: New York’s WNBC is hooking up with ProPublica to work on stories – and to provide news applications to all ten of MBC’s stations, while Philadelphia’s WCAU and Los Angeles’ KNBC will join forced with PBS station WHYY-TV and KPCC-FM, respectively. Already, KNSD in San Diego has a partnership with non-profit Voices of San Diego.

The Chicago Reporter recently had a partnership with WGN-TV.

Brian Frons exits ABC. The man who gave pink slips to longtime soaps All My Children and One Life to Live has pink slipped himself. Brian Frons -who angered legions upon legions of soap opera fans by canceling the two longtime shows for low-budget lifestyle talkers – announced his departure as ABC daytime president on Friday after nine years. Instead of filling his position outright, Disney opted to creation a new division called Times Square Studios, which oversees non-scripted programming airing on ABC Daytime and in first-run syndication (except Live with Kelly, which remains under the ABC-owned stations umbrella.) Current Series Specials Senior Vice President Vicki Drummer was promoted to Executive Vice President of the new venture and oversee day-to-day operations, while maintaining her current duties.

Cunningham’s not Big enough for The Valley? It is not known what will happen to Bill Cunningham’s TV talk show after this season, but the WLW/Cincinnati radio host could actually have a fighting chance to stay on the air (after all, wasn’t Jeremy Kyle renewed for a second season recently?) ¬†According to John Kiesewetter of, Cunningham did well in five Tribune markets where the show airs, including Chicago. On Tribune-owned WGN-TV at 2 pm, Cunningham averaged an 0.8 rating among adults 18-49 in November, besting talk competitors Anderson Cooper and Nate Berkus. Cunningham finished second in the same demo at 1 p.m. on Tribune’s WPIX in New York, and beats all soap operas in the Big Apple. In the 18-49 demo, Cunningham also did well for fellow Trib stations WSFL Miami (beating The Price Is Right and Millionaire), KDAF in Dallas and KIAH in Houston.

But what about his home market of Cincinnati? In households (demo information wasn’t available as Cincinnati is not an local people metered market yet), Cunningham finished sixth in the ratings for Raycom-owned Fox affiliate WXIX at 3 pm. Not only he finished behind Kyle, Let’s Make A Deal, Judge Judy, and General Hospital – but also behind MeTV’s reruns of The Big Valley on MeTV (on WLWT digital subchannel 5.2.) Valley was a Western that ran on ABC from 1965-69.

There’s still no word if Tribune plans to roll out Cunningham nationally, but getting beat in the ratings by Barbara Stanwyck isn’t exactly a strong selling point.