The Media notepad: Chicago’s African-American radio stations hold their own despite population drop

As yet another report showing the Chicago area’s African-American population on the decline, the market’s black-targeted radio stations seem to be holding their own.

Even the entrance of classic Hip-Hop/R&B station 104.3 Jams (WBMX) didn’t have much of an impact on the overall share of African-Americans listening to radio in the Chicago market, though WBMX reportedly had taken audience away from Top 40 sister station WBBM-FM (B96).

In numbers reported by Robert Feder Tuesday, IHeartMedia-owned WVAZ-FM remained in first place among all Chicago stations and was also first in middays (with Bionce Foxx) and in afternoons (with Joe Soto). Ratings for sister station WGCI went up from last month and actually closed the gap with WBMX.

Crawford’s urban duo also held their own: Power 92 (WPWX) finished 22nd with a 2.1, while Soul 106.3 (WSRB-FM) finished in a time for 30th with a 0.9 rating, which is respectable given its limited signal.

Still, the population decline of the Chicago area’s African-American community should be a concern to all involved, including radio stations and media buyers as residents are leaving the area due to poor employment opportunities, high taxes, and rampant gun violence. Last Saturday, activists led by the Rev. Michael Pflager and the Rev. Jesse Jackson marched down the heavily-traveled Dan Ryan Expressway between 79th and 67th streets, shutting down the inbound lanes of the roadway and generated national media coverage. The march began on the northern border of Chatham at 79th, once a crown-jewel of middle-class black life in Chicago now struggling with high crime rates, similar to other black neighborhoods in the city.

Meanwhile, WGN-AM’s morning show with Steve Cochran surged to sixth place, but WGN lags below 20th place in other dayparts. B96 rebounded from a 37-year low with a jump to a 2.9 rating, but remained in 17th place and is still behind rival Kiss 103.5 (WKSC-FM). And WLS-AM had a book to forget with a 25th-place finish.

Keep in mind these numbers are month-to-month and urban and Top 40 numbers tend to rise when the weather is warm and kids are out of school. We’ll see what the numbers are in September and October.

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The CW announced Wednesday it was terminating its affiliation agreement with WBNX in Cleveland – with only five days notice.

Beginning Monday, The CW is shifting its programming to Raycom-owned WUAB-TV. “The CW has some of the most popular series on television among young adults,” WUAB vice president and general manager Erik Schrader said in a statement. “Now along with our sister CBS affiliate Cleveland 19 [WOIO], we will be able to offer both viewers and advertisers a wide range of entertainment options.”

The move comes as The CW is continuing to upgrade its affiliate roster and is launching a new Sunday night lineup in October. Last year, The CW shifted to a digital subchannel of San Diego’s KFMB-DT (8.2) from Televisa’s XETV, resulting in the station abandoning English-language programming. In 2016, The CW struck a deal with Fox to affiliate with WPWR-TV here in Chicago (CW 50), after leaving WGN-TV as the Tribune-owned station wanted to focus more on sports in prime-time.

Technically, WUAB is a My Network TV affiliate, but doesn’t brand it as such as the programming service’s lineup airs in late-night, which is expected to remain. CW programming on WUAB is airing in-pattern in primetime and also includes a Saturday morning E/I block and a daytime hour, which is being taken over in September by Jerry Springer reruns. My Network TV programming airs from 9-11 p.m. in Chicago over CW 50.

As for WBNX, the station will revert to an independent Monday for the first time since 1997, when it became a WB affiliate. Future programming plans for the WInston Broadcasting-owned station have not been announced, though reports surfaced the station is in deep financial trouble – perhaps a reason for the switch. WBNX parent company is a subsidiary of an Evagencial Christian organization, but had no reported problems with the often-racy fare The WB and The CW airs.

WUAB is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Notably a home of the Indians and Cavailers, WUAB became a UPN affiliate in 1995 and also aired WB programming for its first two years. It chose My Network TV over The CW in 2006 when UPN and The WB merged to become The CW, which WBNX became an affiliate of.

Divorce Court, a show many people forget is still on the air, is moving its production facilities this fall to Atlanta from Los Angeles for its twentieth season. As first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Rodney Ho, the series becomes the third syndicated court show to tape in Atlanta following Couples Court With The Cutlers and Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court. It is not known why Divorce Court is shifting to Atlanta, though generally this type of move could be related to reducing production costs.

Over the last few years, syndicated shows have shifted from Hollywood to Atlanta but have also done this in reverse: now-defunct court show Swift Justice and Family Feud moved their shows from Atlanta to Los Angeles, in the latter case due to host Steve Harvey’s other projects, including Steve and his syndicated radio show.

Divorce Court is presided by former Cleveland municipal judge Lynn Tolver, who replaced Judge Mablean Ephriam beginning with the show’s eighth season. On the air since 1999, Divorce Court is the long running for the four incarnations (1957-69; 1985-91 and 1993.) Unlike the previous versions, the current Divorce Court features real couples and the decisions involve binding arbitration. In the first three versions, the decisions handed down by the judges were not scripted, but improvised.

Divorce Court airs weekdays at 3 and 3:30 on CW 50. The show is distributed by Twentieth Television, but its future after next season is up in the air as both Disney and Comcast are bidding to acquire most of the assets of 21st Century Fox, including Twentieth.