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 2001, 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.


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