The Media Notepad: WBBM Newsradio celebrates 50 years

Screenshot from 1987 commercial. (YouTube)

The original is still the best: WBBM-AM (Newsradio 78) celebrated fifty years in the all-news format this week, with the anniversary of the switch taking place May 6. Believe it or not at one time, WBBM was known for something other than news: the station launched in 1924 , with the calls standing for World’s Best Battery Maker as the station was  founded by the owners of Mallory Battery (later variations included “We Broadcast Better Music” and “World’s Best Ballroom Music”.) CBS became associated with the station in 1928 and bought it outright in 1933. CBS later bought the original WBKB-TV (then at Channel 4) and renamed it WBBM-TV to pair with the radio station. WBBM actually played music in the 1950s and 1960s of the middle-of-the-road variety, segued into news/talk in 1964 and then all-news on May 6, 1968.

During this time, other CBS radio stations also converted to all-news formats, including Los Angeles’ KNX-AM who made the transition a few weeks later; KCBS-AM in San Francisco (not related to KCBS-TV in Los Angeles); and WCBS-AM in New York, who did so in 1972.

Among the first journalists at WBBM-AM in the all-news format included John Callaway and John Hultman. The station’s first sports director was Brent Musburger, who later went on to become a sports anchor for WBBM-TV, and of course, CBS Sports, ABC Sports, and ESPN.

Challengers have certainly come and gone (WNUS, NBC’s effort over 101.1, WMAQ-AM, and more recently, FM News on 101.1.) As a testament to how strong the station is, WBBM is the highest-billing station in Chicago, and is among the top ten highest billers in the country. WBBM took over the FM frequency of sister station WCFS in 2011, shortly before FM News launched. And the station is home to the Bears and also took the Cubs away from WGN-AM after 90 long years (games now air on sister station WSCR-AM.) Today, WBBM is still associated with CBS News, despite the parent company selling its radio properties to Entercom last year.

For more about WBBM’s 50th Anniversary, click here.

If you think the deal Disney made with 21st Century fox is a done deal… think again. Comcast is now throwing its hat into the ring to purchase most of Fox’s assets. Comcast is talking with banks to help finance an all-cash transaction. Fox initially rejected Comcast’s overtures, despite topping the $52 billion bid Disney offered for Fox last December.

Comcast is awaiting to see what the courts would say regarding the AT&T-Time Warner deal, being opposed by the Justice Department. A decision is expected next month and if the merger goes through, Comcast could pursue 21st Century Fox.

Comcast is also pursing Fox’s Sky, which has to be approved by British regulators.

The cable conglomerate bought NBCUniversal in 2011, which includes Universal’s massive TV and film library.

Is Last Man Standing coming back? According to reports, Fox is looking to revive the multi-cam sitcom for a seventh season after spending six years at ABC. Even though Tim Allen said his conservative politics were partly to blame, the reason mainly rests in ABC not owning the show and paying a license fee to producer Twentieth Television. The series earned a 1.6 average demo rating – on a Friday night – and outdrew most sitcoms on network television in higher visibility slots. Standing also went into off-network syndication last year and continues to pull strong numbers.

If Fox picks it up, where would it go? According to former NBC and Fox exec Preston Beckman (known as “The Masked Scheduler”), the program could be a fish out of water at Fox, as it would be the first multi-cam on the network in years. He also pointed out most assets of 21st Century Fox may be sold to Disney, the parent company of ABC if Comcast doesn’t interfere (see above.)

Network show switches were common in the past, but not so much today due to vertical integration- and most weren’t successful. Perhaps the biggest gamble made was CBS’ $40 million dollar bid to take TGIF stalwarts Family Matters and Step By Step away from ABC in 1997 to form a Friday night comedy block of their own. Going even further back, CBS bought the rights to air and produce former NBC comedy Get Smart in 1969 only to last one season.

If Fox does revive Standing, it could wind up on Sundays with animated comedies The Simpsons and Family Guy, the latter who also has a political bent (to the left.) Filled with young-skewing single-cam comedies, Tuesday nights are likely out unless it finds a compatible multi-cam to pair it with.

One of the members of The T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame, the awful CNN docuseries “Chicagoland” in 2014.

One of this blog’s features is being retired. After several years, The T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame is closing – mainly because it has run its course. “The Shame” was created in response to a weak Chicago Tribune article featuring “The 25 Worst TV Shows”. The list on T Dog Media grew to over one hundred entries.

In the last few years, really big bombs have been harder to come by with the major networks giving more time for programs to find their footing and even the “worst” TV shows (note The Orville) have an avid following. The criteria for entering The Shame meant the show has to be critically panned with public indifference and these days, fewer and fewer programs are meeting these goals. The only primetime show to make the Shame this season was Inhumans.

Plus, critics really no longer write about bad TV shows, instead focusing on more acclaimed fare. Also to blame is the explosion of programming in the marketplace, with more than 500 scripted shows and about one thousand overall. Also, I haven’t been updating the list recently because I usually forget to do so and hasn’t exactly been a priority.

The T Dog Media Blog’s look is being updated soon and some features are being discontinued. This is a chance for T Dog Media to evolve and become a more reputable site for media news and commentary and as you have noticed in the last few years, I’ve phased out the jackass stuff and cutesy names (Church Of Tisch, The Court Jester, occasional swearing, etc.) Even though it is no longer taking entries, the T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame will be archived as a regular post from May 2018.