In the 27 years yours truly has followed the media business, I’ve never encountered anyone who is arrogant, incompetent, and stupid – aside from Randy “Court Jester” Michaels and his minions – in running a radio or TV station as Fox-owned WFLD and WPWR General Manager Mike Renda.
On Friday, Fox management – which is proven to be every bit of incompetent as he was – transferred him to Fox-owned WJBK in Detroit, a historically also-ran station, either with CBS or Fox (WJBK and eleven other then-New World stations switched to Fox in a massive affiliation swap in 1994, ending WJBK’s relationship after 46 years.) Replacing Renda in his role is Dennis Welsh, who was GM of Fox-owned WOFL and WRBW in Orlando, and WOGX in nearby Gainesville, Fla. Renda replaces Jeff Murri, who passed away in a shocking tragedy last February.
WJBK is based in Southfield, Mich., an “8 Mile” suburb of Detroit, the famous (or infamous) Stony Island-like four-lane road which separates the city from its more affluent suburbs.
WJBK has made ratings huge inroads against its two rivals, NBC affiliate WDIV and ABC affiliate WXYZ (CBS-owned WWJ-TV does not air news outside of a morning newscast produced in association with its all-news sister radio station.) During the October 2012 ratings period (not counting nights when baseball was telecast), its 10 p.m. newscast drew a 7.5 household rating/12 household share, down slightly from the 7.8/12 from October 2011. Its’ morning newscast is also tops in the market, with the 7-9a.m. portion earning a 5.7/19, topping Good Morning America’s 5.2/17 and Today’s 3.8/13. WJBK’s daytime and early fringe lineup has also grown stronger, thanks to WDIV’s decision of airing low-rated freshmen talkers from Jeff Probst and Ricki Lake in key time periods.
By comparison, WFLD’s 9 p.m. newscast drew only a 2.1/4, up slightly from the 2.0/3 in October 2011, but still behind WGN-TV’s 3.7/6. WFLD’s morning newscast placed fourth in the market, with the 7-9 a.m. portion earning a 1.1/4, barely ahead of CBS This Morning. But even so, Good Day Chicago was up from the 0.9/3 it earned in October 2011.
Renda’s tenure in Chicago has been marred by many goofs, miscues, foul-ups, bleeps, and blunders: News anchor Robin Robinson’s contract was extended for one more season, despite no on-air chemistry with Bob Sirott; leading a newscast in March 2011 with the NFL lockout instead of the tsunami in Japan; and an infamous technical meltdown during one of its newscasts. Renda has also been critized for making bizarre programming moves, such as signing Mancow to do a morning show on WPWR and replacing a block of off-network sitcoms at 10 p.m. this fall with a pair of low-rent tabloid shows.
In fact, you have to question the entire Fox network given several bizarre scheduling decisions made in prime-time so far this season, such as sticking with low-rated mess The Mob Doctor and an X Factor scheduling snafu during the World Series.
There is no word on the status of VP and news director Phyllis Schwartz, who held a GM role before in her career (at KNSD in San Diego), and was passed up when the vacancy became open. Schwartz has not been able to implement her own plan for the station, which has retained the status quo since former news director Carol Fowler left. Given this – and her notorious reputation as being very hard to work with – her days at WFLD is numbered.
Recently, WFLD reverted back to its previous branding as “Fox 32” – abandoning the “Fox Chicago” moniker, which never caught on with viewers.
Is Welsh a step up from Renda? We really don’t know, but they could have gone with someone who is just incompetent as Renda is.
Thank God they didn’t hire Bruce DuMont for the job.
(Nielsen ratings provided by Katz Media.)