Think Tank: The Sinclair blunder: Where do they go from here?

Sinclair Broadcasting’s purchase of Tribune Media is falling apart.

Sinclair thought a change in administration would enable to get what they wanted. They thought wrong, but botched deal might not stop more consolidation

While Sinclair Broadcasting is in trouble with the FCC on how it misrepresented itself in its proposed merger with Tribune Media, it won’t slow down the merger and acquisition activity expected.

That’s because an appeals court Wednesday dismissed a challenge from two activist groups regarding the UHF discount. The FCC voted earlier this year to bring the discount back after it was eliminated by his predecessor, which many thought he had no legal right to do so. Observers noted the FCC discount – meant to help UHF stations in the analog era halving their coverage area – was an advantage Sinclair wanted to use to get bigger. This blog noted the UHF discount and the way it was used in the digital era was a scam.

The news comes as a victory for broadcasters, who are looking to scale up to better compete with the likes of Big Tech: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Netflix. Already, Atlanta-based Cox Communications – one of the last multi-medium media companies in the business (TV, radio, newspaper, and cable) and home to top-rated dominant ABC affiliate WSB-TV – is putting its TV group up for sale.

And this is just the beginning. In addition to advocating loosening caps, The National Association of Broadcasters also wants looser regulation for radio as two of the largest operators of stations (Cumulus and iHeartMedia) have either exited or looking to exit bankruptcy and may be ready to buy again.

Returning to Sinclair, the FCC’s decision to refer the merger to an administrative law judge was slammed Tuesday night by President Trump – who may – or may not (likely not) understand how television stations are sold:

Pai defended his actions Wednesday, stating Sinclair misrepresented themselves in how Sinclair was acquiring three stations – and their plan to buy them and reselling them below market value. It centered on their decision to sell WGN-TV to a third-party operator named Steve Fader, a Maryland automobile dealer with close ties to Sinclair chairman David Smith for only $60 million to try to circulate around the national ownership cap, now standing at 39 percent. Sinclair would operate the station as if it were its owner in a shared services agreement.

But the transaction seemed to be a sweetheart deal – given News Corp. (now 21st Century Fox) paid Newsweb $425 million to acquire WPWR-TV in 2002 – the most expensive deal for a Chicago station in history at the time. Pai also had problems with Sinclair making the same kind of deal with Tribune’s CW affiliates in Dallas (KDAF) and Houston (KIAH), this time with Cunningham Broadcasting, another group with ties to David Smith – this time, the estate of his mother, Carolyn.

Currently, Tribune and Sinclair are mulling what to do. The hearing could drag on for months and months, delaying the deal further and perhaps nullifying it. Tribune has the right to walk away from the deal after August 8 if it chooses to do so – and likely would. 21st Century Fox – who is unloading its entertainment assets to Disney, may try to revisit the idea of purchasing Tribune. Problem is, they would own three stations each in the top markets including Chicago, and federal regulators do not allow outright ownership of more than two in the same market.

If the Sinclair-Tribune deal falls apart, they could go after Cox’s fourteen stations and enter markets where they don’t have a presence, including Atlanta and Charlotte. But there would be some overlap in a few markets such as Pittsburgh and Dayton, where Sinclair already owns and/or operates two stations.

The end result is, there will be more consolidation in the marketplace. But whether if it would be good for consumers remains to be seen. Given what we’ve seen so far – mindless reboots of TV shows (Roseanne, Magnum, P.I., etc), reboots of executives (Marv Nyren and Jimmy Decastro), less local content, fewer people of color in key positions, more and more job losses, and possible labor turmoil, I wouldn’t count on it.

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Chance The Rapper buys Chicagoist

The South Side native gets into the media business – and takes shots at them

In an unusual manner, Chance The Rapper announced some big news – by letting one of his tracks serve as a press release.

In a stunning announcement, the Chicago native announced he was purchasing the website Chicagoist from public radio station WNYC in New York. In a first, he made the announcement in a track he dropped called I Might Need Security –  one of four he released Thursday morning.

WNYC purchased Chicagoist and the archive rights to DNAInfo after former owner Joe Ricketts – whose family members owns the Chicago Cubs – shuttered it after New York employees decided to form a union.

“I’m extremely excited to be continuing the work of the Chicagoist, an integral local platform for Chicago news, events and entertainment… said Chance The Rapper in a statement. I look forward to relaunching it and bringing the people of Chicago an independent media outlet focused on amplifying diverse voices and content.” Chance recently formed Social Media LLC, a company looking to promote diversity in the media business through investigative journalism and representation.

Chance The Rapper – who real name is Chancellor Bennett – has risen to stardom despite a lack of radio airplay. Unlike many rappers, Chance often raps about social issues in his music and has numerous targets – specifically Governor Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whom he both dissed in the track. Rauner and Emanuel are unpopular in Chicago’s black community.

Chance also took aim at the media in his new single, specifically Crain’s and the Chicago Sun-Times, who he had issues with regarding how he supports his children saying in the song “I bought the Chicagoist just to run you racist bitches outta business.” The rhetoric is not unlike President Donald Trump’s regarding the press, who regularly ridicules them and often refers to reporters as “enemy of the people”.

But the Chicagoist purchase is indeed a plus, given very few minorities are represented in the media business in Chicago – and bucking the trend seems to be picking up stream. In June, alt-weekly Chicago Reader was purchased by an African-American woman (Dorothy Levell) after the Sun-Times’ disastrous run, with Mark Konkol’s ten-day employment as the main highlight in dysfunction.

Chance has been a viable Chicago citizen and philanthropist, donating one million dollars to Chicago Public Schools and raised two million more for their arts and education programs and collaborated with the Special Olympics on its 50th Anniversary. As part of the ceremonies, Chance headlined a show Saturday night at Northerly Island. A product of CPS, Chance grew up in the West Chatham neighborhood, the same area ESPN’s Michael Wilbon is from.

With Chance on board, the Chicagoist is unlikely to run stories where it is completely clueless about the South Side and south suburbs, where the majority of the Chicago area’s African-Americans live. It is proof the Chicago media often neglects the southern portion of the market – a point Chance rightly points out. For example, Chicagoist wrote this about the Chicago Skyway in 2015:

As we South Siders know, the Skyway does not connect directly to downtown Chicago (it feeds into the Dan Ryan Expressway, which runs just west of the Loop) and there is no such thing as the “southeastern suburbs” though the Skyway connects to Indiana directly from Chicago.

This is how I summed up Chicago media coverage anywhere south of Cermak Road – we might as well be in another city.

Chance The Rapper’s decision to buy Chicagoist is certainly welcome news for those of us who feel snubbed by the media too long and only think of gun violence and crime when it comes to covering the African-American community. But there are some questions: how often is Chance going to be involved in the editorial content of the publication? Is he buying it for the sake of buying it? And if he’s involved in a controversy himself, will Chicagoist cover it? These are the inevitable questions someone is bound to ask.

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DC Universe streaming portal unveiled

New streaming portal for DC Comics fans includes original scripted programming

The biggest news coming out of the 48th annual Comic-Con gathering in San Diego Thursday was  a surprise announcement from Warner Bros. The studio announced it was launching a new streaming portal called DC Universe, involving iconic superhero characters such as Batman, Superman, Aquaman, The Green Hornet, Wonder Woman, and many more.

As part of the streaming portal includes original scripted programming. Shows announced include Titans, Stargirl, Doom Patrol, Young Justice: Outsiders, Harley Quinn, (both animated), and a revival of Swamp Thing. A trailer was unveiled Thursday for Titans at Comic-Con:

The news shook up the annual television, comics, and pop culture gathering, where hardly any big news was expected.

DC Universe marks AT&T’s first major investment in content since the purchase of Time Warner became official last month (approved by a judge, the Justice Department recently appealed the decision, putting the merger once again in doubt.) Cost of the service is $7.99 a month or $75 a year.

In addition to original programming, DC Universe plans to feature off-network material, including former Fox Kids series Batman: The Animated Series, the live-action Wonder Woman TV series, and others – although it is unlikely the 1966-68 version of Batman would be part of the streaming package given the rights to the series are controlled by 21st Century Fox.

Theatricals featuring DC Comics characters are also being featured on the service.

Also, fans can purchase episodes (but not stream) current CW superhero series under the DC name such as The Flash, Arrow, and Black Lightning. Fans can also access their favorite comics digitally, buy exclusive merchandise, and exclusive message boards where they can interact with DC Comics’ writers and creators and other fans (and bash Marvel product, obviously.) The DC Universe will be available on all devices, including iOs (Apple), Amazon Fire, Android, Chromecast, Roku, and many more.

The move comes as more and more studios are facing increasing competition from the Netflix behemoth, who is investing $13 billion in original content, not to mention Hulu and Amazon. DC Universe is also competing with a planned streaming service from Disney, who is buying the television production and film operations of 21st Century Fox and has rival Marvel in its arsenal.

Currently, Marvel has a “Marvel Unlimited” portal for $9.99 a month. But the service only provides access to the company’s digitized comics collection while its movies and television series are tied up in Netflix – consider this an advantage as DCUniverse would have all of its product under one roof sooner.

The “trailer” for the new service is below.

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The Media Notepad: Comcast drops bid for Fox assets

Also: Start TV debuts; WGN Block Party in Homewood; and Comic-Con begins today.

Consider it deal done…for Disney: Comcast announced Thursday it was dropping its $65 million bid for 21st Century Fox, essentially giving rival Disney a victory in the battle for the assets.

Disney agreed to buy most of 21st Century Fox in December originally for $52 billion but Comcast decided to bid of the properties after AT&T and TimeWarner received approval from a judge to merge their companies. Disney has since raised its bid to $71 billion, topping Comcast’s $65 billion.

But the Justice Department has appealed the judge’s decision in the AT&T-TimeWarner case, which could undo the merger. Along with the likelihood of the Sinclair-Tribune deal being squashed, Comcast decided to drop its bid for Disney amid regulatory concerns and instead focus on buying UK broadcaster Sky, which is also up for sale by Fox.

“Comcast does not intend to pursue further the acquisition of the Twenty-First Century Fox assets and, instead, will focus on our recommended offer for Sky”, Comcast said in a statement.

The Justice Department has already approved the Disney-Fox transaction, and 21st Century Fox board members can approve the sale in their July 27 meeting. The transaction includes everything in Fox’s portfolio with the exception of Fox News, Fox Broadcasting, Fox Business Channel, the Fox O&Os, FS1, FS2, Fox Sports, Big Ten Network, and My Network TV. Disney has at least ninety days to find a buyer for Fox Sports’ 22 regional sports networks, though Comcast could be an interested suitor for at least some of the properties.

Yet another new diginet is on the way: this time it’s Start TV, a new digital subchannel from Weigel Broadcastingtargeted to women 25-54 featuring female-skewing hour-long procedural dramas. Shows featured include The Closer, Medium, Crossing Jordan, Cold Case, Profiler, and The Division. Also coming is The Good Wife in January 2019. CBS Television Stations is the launch partner.

““We are excited to launch the Start TV Network with the CBS Television Stations,” said Neal Sabin, Vice Chairman of Weigel.Each of these acclaimed TV series is built around compelling female lead characters and portrayed by amazing award-winning actresses. This is an exciting network concept and great opportunity to present these proven procedural dramas.””

The launch takes place on September 3 (Labor Day) with each show stripped in the same time period every day of the week. Headliner programs are being showcased with multiple episodes airing in multi-hour blocks in a “mini-binge” format.

CBS will add Start TV to its digital subchannels on its owned-and-operated stations including WBBM-TV in Chicago, where it will replace Decades on its 2.2 and 48.4 frequencies. Weigel is adding Start TV to its stations in St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Milwaukee, and South Bend, and is also being added by Bahakel Communications’ station group, giving Start TV 42 percent of the country at launch.

In Los Angeles and Chicago, Decades is expected to relocate to one of Weigel’s frequencies though didn’t specify which (in Chicago, either WCIU or WMEU) as the fate of Decades in other CBS markets has yet to be determined. Weigel said it remains committed to Decades, but the channel has had rough footing on a program format since its launch in 2015. Decades continues to produce some original programming, such as the one-hour strip Through The Decades, hosted by Bill Kurtis. Originally scheduled as a six-hour programming block airing four times every weekday, Decades now consists of off-network sitcoms during the day and documentaries and classic variety and talk shows in the evening hours, and weekend “binges” of classic TV shows.

While WGN employees are sweating it out on who the future owners of their station would be, the morning news crew headed out to south suburban Homewood (a place this person has been many times to shop and dine) for their 3rd annual WGN Block Party featuring a parade, marching bands, and a lot of people having a good time.

This is the first time the Tribune Media station held the block party in the Southland. Previous block parties were held in north suburban Geneva and Park Ridge.

As documented by TVNewsCheck, the festivities took place on Ridge Road between Harwood Avenue and Dixie Highway, just a short distance from Homewood’s Metra/Amtrak station and in front of the La Banque Hotel. Coming in from Bradley Place were WGN morning team personalities Robin Baumgarten, Marcus LeShock, Larry Potash, Dean Richards, Paul Konrad, and Man Of The People host Pat Tomasulo.

It was also a homecoming for several media personalities who made it big from Homewood. Appearing at the block party (and later participating in the parade) included Konrad, WSCR’s Laurence Holmes and White Sox broadcaster Jason Benetti.

All in all, a good time and goes to show you how much local TV is important to our communities.

On a side note, a beloved institution this person visited frequently in Homewood was damaged Tuesday when a vehicle crashed into a Dairy Queen on the corner of Ridge and Gladville Road, not far where Friday’s parade took place. Two people in the car were injured and taken to a local hospital. Thankfully, the Dairy Queen was unoccupied at the time the accident happened.

The ice cream stand – a staple of Homewood for over fifty years, plans to rebuild.

In case you haven’t noticed, the 48th annual San Diego Comic-Con began today and lasts until Sunday. Like this year’s NATPE conference, there isn’t much news expected to come out of Comic-Con, given big draws such as Game of Thrones and the the Marvel Cinematic Universe skipped the gathering this year and SyFy discontinued its nightly wrap-up show. There is also a lack of buzz – quite unusual for a pop-culture event of this magnitude.

For example, the cavernous Hall H is playing host to a presentation on some film called Assassination Nation. Assassination Nation? What the hell is that?

But if you’re a fan of numerous niche TV shows (such as The Good Place – who has HUGE presence, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Charmed), or a few favorites (The Big Bang Theory), then Comic-Con is the place for you. But if you’re not a fan of those shows, then you won’t care. There’s really no point in write something up few people will read. In other words, Comic-Con stopped being about science-fiction TV and film long ago and it shows this year (Magnum, P.I….really? Is Murphy Brown holding a panel too?)

Covering this year’s Comic-Con on this blog is getting harder to do with each passing year, and this time around T Dog Media is sitting this one out, at least on this platform. If you’re looking for streaming coverage, there isn’t much to speak of – unless you a Marvel fan and their coverage is limited only to their product. There is some live coverage available on YouTube, from IGN and Entertainment Tonight (yes, really.)

If you follow T Dog Media on Twitter @tdogmedia, then I’ll retweet or post any breaking news if warranted and I’ll post cool pics on the T Dog Media Instagram account, if any. Covering Comic-Con on social media is easier than doing it here, and besides – this is the way it’s done now.

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Sinclair refiles Tribune merger application again

In order to have government regulators approve the merger with Tribune,  Sinclair agree to withdrew controversial plans to sell stations in three markets including Chicago

FCC votes to send matter to Administrative Law Judge

(Editor’s Note: This story is  frequently changing. Follow @tdogmedia on Twitter for updates.)

Aren’t you sick of this already?

After being smacked down by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai over a scheme to buy a few stations “potentially involving deception”, Sinclair Broadcasting announced it was once again refiling its proposal to purchase Tribune Media.

The latest proposal involves Sinclair purchasing WGN-TV outright instead of buying it and then selling it to a Maryland car dealer for $60 million – far below the station’s value – while continuing to operate it.

Sinclair also withdrew plans for a third-party contractor (Cunningham Broadcasting) with connections to the company to purchase Tribune’s stations in Dallas and Houston, both CW affiliates.

Instead, Houston’s KIAH and Dallas’ KDAF, a former Fox owned-and-operated station, would be put into a trust Sinclair is creating and be sold later.

This marks the sixth time Sinclair has filed a proposal derivative from the original deal, announced on May 8, 2017. Tribune Media owns WGN-TV, WGN-AM, and CLTV in Chicago -all and 39 other stations plus cable network WGN America would be acquired in with several divestitures to Fox and Standard Media in order to get under the 39 percent ownership coverage cap.

In its filing, Sinclair still claimed no wrong doing on its part. In a statement Wednesday, Sinclair said: “There can be no question regarding misrepresentation or character given that Sinclair has fully disclosed all terms of all aspects of the transactions it has proposed. The FCC’s reported concerns with sales to certain parties have been eliminated in light of the withdrawals of the applications relating to Dallas, Houston and Chicago. Accordingly, we call upon the FCC to approve the modified Tribune acquisition in order to bring closure to this extraordinarily drawn-out process and to provide certainty to the thousands of Tribune employees who are looking for closure.”

Sinclair responded on Monday to Pai’s suggestion the deal would be sent to an administrative law judge, indicating it would fight the decision and have the deal approved, no matter how long it took. Many accuse Sinclair of circumventing around the 39 percent ownership coverage cap with its “sidecar” deals.

On Wednesday evening, the FCC unanimously voted to adapt a Hearing Designation Order on the merger. Details on the order is expected to be released on Thursday. Reuters is reporting the deal has indeed been sent to an administrative law judge, despite Sinclair’s actions on Wednesday.

While the threat of sending the proposal to an administrative law judge could have been enough to derail the merger – history showed it has to other deals in the past, Sinclair is hell bent on getting this merger approved – no matter what their analysts or shareholders think. And if the FCC or the law judge still rejects the deal, Sinclair could still pursue legal action, delaying the process even more.

In other words, the Sinclair scam artists are pushing forward and are betting a certain imbecile in the White House – who once praised Sinclair while slamming the big three broadcast network news operations – orders officials to approve the deal.

(Updated at 9:04 p.m.)


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Sinclair-Tribune deal on the ropes

FCC Chairman has concerns about the deal; could be knockout blow – Sinclair and Tribune both pledge to fight on

(Editor’s Note: Updated at 4:10 p.m. on July 17 with new information.)

Even Ajit Pai is seeing through the scam.

On Monday, the FCC Chairman released a statement saying he had “serious concerns” about the $3.9 billion deal between Sinclair Broadcasting and Tribune Media, and recommended it would be sent to an administrative law judge – meaning approval of the deal – announced on May 8, 2017, could take longer – or not take place at all.

In addition, a draft of the order Reuters obtained from the FCC noted the transaction “may involve deception”.

The issue at hand is the plan to sell several stations to third parties in several markets to “sidecar companies” while Sinclair would be the defacto operator of the stations. The plan was restructured several times with plans to sell Tribune’s WGN-TV in Chicago to a Maryland car dealer for $60 million with ties to Sinclair.  Two stations in Texas were also planned to be sold to different third-party operators, also with ties to Sinclair.

By comparison, Chicago’s last commercial TV station deal saw WPWR-TV sold to Fox for $425 million in 2002 – worth more today when adjusted for inflation.

Another problem is the size of the deal. As it stands, Sinclair would be over the 39 percent cap with the Tribune purchase, even with the UHF discount factored in. The FCC brought back the discount last year in a process this blog declared a “scam” to help Sinclair after it was eliminated. Now, Pai is being investigated by the FCC’s inspector general on whether he made the changes to benefit the Maryland-based company.

In separate statements Tuesday morning, both Tribune and Sinclair were vowing to fight on – even if it meant delaying the deal further.

Sinclair noted it complied with  FCC rules in the way it handled their proposals to divest several stations.“[A]t no time have we misled the FCC in any manner whatsoever with respect to the relationships or the structure of those relationships proposed as part of the Tribune acquisition,”the group said. “Any suggestion to the contrary is unfounded and without factual basis. We are prepared to resolve any perceived issues and look forward to finalizing our acquisition of Tribune Media.”

Tribune Media’s statement was less fiery, but also expressed disappointment: “Tribune Media was disappointed to learn that the chairman had circulated an order designating certain issues for consideration by an Administrative Law Judge. It will review the FCC’s hearing designation order when released and expects to work with the FCC to explore ways to address the concerns identified. Until we have reviewed the order it is difficult to explain the potential issues it might create for the transaction.

The deal has run into opposition from the day it was announced. Opponents varied in the political spectrum from liberal groups such as MoveOn and Free Press to the conservative Parents Television Council and cable news channel Newsmax. The deal has also been opposed from several trade groups, such as the American Cable Association, who praised today’s move. Many cable operators fear Sinclair would have too much leverage in retransmission consent negotiations, resulting in price increases for consumers.

Sinclair has been involved in numerous controversies since the deal was announced. In March the company forced its anchors to read a word-for-word script denouncing “fake news”. The broadcaster is known for its conservative viewpoint, airing “must-run” commentaries from Mark Hyman and Boris Epshteyn.

From a sports perspective, the deal’s collapse could also impact Sinclair from obtaining local sports rights in Tribune’s three biggest markets, namely WGN’s with the Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, and White Sox as noted by Awful Announcing. Sinclair also has an over-the-top and digital subchannel Stadium, who holds rights to several collegiate conferences.

So what does this mean? A hearing in front of an administrative law judge could drag the approval process along for several more months or even years. Proposed mergers from Dish Network and DirecTV and Comcast-TimeWarner fell through because the FCC suggested they go through the ALJ process.

While Democrat FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel agrees with Pai, two other FCC commissioners are not yet on board: Brendan Carr and Michael O’Rielly, who criticized the long process and would support the action if the ALJ review was conducted  “include[s] sufficient and defined timelines for the ALJ to conduct and process a hearing.”

This comes as these types of mergers are coming under more scrutiny. The Justice Department last week decided to appeal a judge’s decision on the AT&T-TimeWarner merger, which could be unwound if the government’s action is successful. The ripple effect could also doom Comcast’s chances to buy most of 21st Century Fox’s assets. Ironically, the Justice Department greenlighted Disney’s attempt to purchase the same assets.

The real question now is how long can Sinclair and Tribune play this out? Shares for both dropped considerably Monday on Wall Street and now, the future of this deal – and Tribune Media specifically – is now in serious doubt.

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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.

1994 logo.

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.

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Harlan Ellison dies

Harlan Ellison. (Getty Images)

Acclaimed sci-fi tv and movie writer dies at 84.

Known as one of pop culture’s acclaimed outspoken writers, Harlan Ellison died Thursday at the age of 84. Born in Cleveland, Ellison died in his home in Los Angeles.

Ellison has written more than 1700 pieces of work, spanning novels, science fiction, comic books, short stories, screenplays, and television. His career brought him stops in New York and here in Chicago, where he was editor of Rogue magazine.

In 1962, Ellison headed out to California to launch a screenwriting career. Among the first shows he sold to was The Loretta Young Show and later sold scripts to The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Route 66, The Man Of U.N.C.L.E, Circle Of Fear, Babylon 5, and the original versions of Burke’s Law and The Outer Limits. Ellison even penned a script for critically-panned sitcom The Flying Nun under the name “Cordwainer Bird”.

But his biggest breakthrough came in 1967 when he wrote the acclaimed Star Trek episode City On The Edge Of Forever. The script won the Writers Guild Award for best episodic drama in the television category. The shooting script of the same name won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Ellison’s last television credit was in an episode of 2007’s Masters Of Science Fiction.

Ellison’s acclaimed short story and non-fiction work included Reprent Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman; I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream; and A Boy And His Dog, later made into a 1975 film starring future Miami Vice star Don Johnson.

Ellison also was a voice-over artist, lending his voice to animated series such as Mother Goose and Grimm, The Pirates of Dark Water, and two episodes of Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated where he played himself.

Although Ellison won respect for a lot of fans and colleagues for his work, he often clashed with those who didn’t see his vision. For numerous years, Ellison criticized the changes made in the script of Forever made by Star Trek creator and executive producer Gene Roddenberry. Ellison once again used the pseudonym Cordwainer Bird, taking his name off the credits of the syndicated 1973 science fiction drama The Starlost after the producers changed his script for the pilot episode so much it wasn’t recognizable as Starlost was one of TV’s biggest bombs of the season. In 1985, CBS scrapped an episode he wrote for The New Twilight Zone after they found his story about a drunk who scared children about a malicious anti-Santa Claus too dark (he did however, go on to write three more episodes for the show.)

Despite his television work, Ellison was critical of the medium in two published essays on the subject. He noted “that to work in television is akin to putting in time in the Egyptian House of the Dead.”

Ellison also was involved in several lawsuits with studios over his work, including suing ABC and paramount in 1977 for plagiarizing he and Ben Bova’s short story Brillo as the basis for the short-lived series Future Cop. He also sued James Cameron for plagiarizing a 1964 Outer Limits episode he wrote as much of the story was used in Cameron’s film The Terminator. In 2006, he sued publisher Fantagraphics Books for defamation.

Ellison has won numerous awards for his writing. In addition to Forever, Ellison won ten more Hugo Awards, including The Deathbird and Dangerous Visions; won six Bram Stroker awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995; eighteen Locus Poll awards; four Writers Guild Awards; and five Nebula Awards, including being the only individual to be a three-time winner of the Nebula Award for Best Short Story.

Ellison is survived by his wife Susan, and has an official website but it has not been updated since 2012.

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Justice Department approves Disney, Fox deal

Required sale of RSNs paves way for merger

In a marked turn from its dealings with AT&T and TimeWarner, the Justice Department announced Wednesday it has approved a $71.3 billion deal between The Walt Disney Corporation and 21st Century Fox for most of the latter’s business. The deal was originally announced in December 2017, with Disney offering $52 billion for much of Fox’s assets.

The deal is sealed on one condition – selling off Fox’s 22 regional sports networks. Disney already owns ESPN and its numerous spin-offs.

Disney gets 90 days to sell off the RSNs; it can ask for a 90-day extension. The approval by the government is seen as a huge advantage for Disney over Comcast, who has expressed interest in the Fox properties.

A map of where Fox operates regional sports networks, including  seven in the Midwest.

The move drew praise from several industry organizations, including the American Cable Association. They felt if Disney kept the RSNs, it would lead to higher prices overall and would have tremendous leverage given their ownership of ESPN.

But it’s not over yet.

Comcast is looking to recruit private equity firms to top the $71.3 billion offer from Disney. Fox can still consider other offers, including from Comcast. And a major investor in 21st Century Fox – TCI Investments said Fox should wait to hear a competing bid from Comcast.

As reported here earlier this week, the current bidding war between Disney and Fox over the properties could have an impact on the Cubs’ plans to launch their own regional sports network. With Disney and Fox out of the running, the Cubs do not have a lot of options other than AT&T, who could make a play for the orphan RSNs and add them to their existing properties.

Other suitors could be Charter Communications, Mediacom, and even tech companies such as Google, Facebook, and Apple, but the latter is a long shot.

Charter has Spectrum SportsNet in Los Angeles with separate channels for the Lakers and Dodgers.


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Cubs’ proposed network in jeopardy?

Changing marketing conditions could be factor; AT&T may be only hope

If the Cubs are looking to launch their own TV network in 2020, their options are becoming quite limited.

According to a report Monday in Sports Business Journal and Awful Announcing, AT&T is considering looking to add the baseball team to their portfolio of sports rights. AT&T operates a few regional sports channels (RSNs) in several areas including Pittsburgh, Denver, Salt Lake City, Houston, Seattle, and Las Vegas. Three AT&T SportsNets (Pittsburgh, Northwest, and Rocky Mountain) were former Fox Sports RSNs, being sold to Liberty Media in 2006, becoming part of DirecTV and rebranded with the Root Sports name in 2010. Liberty sold DirecTV to AT&T in 2014, including the sports networks and were rebranded AT&t SportsNet. AT&T’s merger with the former TimeWarmer was recently approved after a lengthy battle with federal regulators.

Among the teams AT&T has rights to include the Pittsburgh Penguins, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, Utah Jazz, Seattle Mariners, and the Vegas Golden Knights. Sports Business Journal noted the newly merged company could go after the Cubs, which would be a huge addition to their portfolio.

Currently, the teams’ television rights are spread out among three outlets: ABC-owned WLS-TV with 25 games; Tribune Media’s WGN-TV, with 45 games, and Comcast’s NBC Sports Chicago with around 70. Deals with all three expire around October 1, 2019.

The sports trade journal noted the Cubs were in talks about an extension with NBC Sports Chicago for the last several months.

The news comes as a surprise as the Cubs have been talking about launching their own RSN for years, using the New York Yankees’ YES Network as a model. But the talk has stalled with changing market conditions as the allure of a RSN… isn’t so alluring anymore.

Cubs win the World Series in 2016 after 108 years.

For one, the Los Angeles Dodgers paired up with Time Warner Cable (now Spectrum) to launch a RSN channel for the team, only to find resistance from cable and satellite operators in a standoff now years long. Only Spectrum in the Los Angeles area carries the Dodgers’ channel as DirecTV and Dish refuse to carry it, due to the high price-per-subscriber amount Spectrum was seeking.

Another reason is the future of Fox’s regional sports networks are in question as much of 21st Century Fox is up for sale, including the RSNs. Currently, Disney and Comcast are in a bidding war for the properties, and both have told federal regulators they plan to sell the RSNs to avoid anti-trust issues if they are required to. The scenario could play out after the Cubs’ contract with their current rightsholders expires and could be tougher to make a deal with Fox Sports’ RSNs, whomever ends up owning them.

Also, many viewers are cutting the cord and opting instead to subscribe to slimmer packages offers by alternative providers, including YouTube, Playstation Vue, and Fubo. The Chicago Fire soccer team already took advantage of this trend, as they struck an exclusive deal with ESPN Plus to carry all of their games.

And keep in mind WGN-TV is in the process of being sold to a Maryland car dealer with connections to Sinclair Broadcasting for $60 million. This could play a role in whether the Cubs would stick around “Chicago’s Very Own”, who has aired the team since 1948.

Given all of this, the only realistic shot the Cubs have in launching their own channel is with AT&T, with the possibility of the Cubs getting an equity share. The team could use AT&T’s interest as leverage in any negotiations with NBC Sports Chicago or Disney/Fox.

But you’re asking…. can the Ricketts family possibly launch the channel themselves, without any help from a cable channel like YES initially did? Though the Ricketts have deep pockets, a start-up channel would cost a tremendous amount of money, and widespread distribution isn’t guaranteed – even with the Cubs as a primary attraction. Thus, a partner such as AT&T to help absorb the costs makes sense. And even YES had to sell a majority stake in its channel to Fox.

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The Media Notepad: “Roseanne” to return as “The Conners” – without Roseanne

(ABC/Greg Gayne)

Springer officially canceled

Also: Eddie Olczyk joins Kap and Co.; Disney boosts bid for Fox to $71 billion

Welcome back to the family: to replace the canceled ABC sitcom Roseanne, ABC has ordered a ten episode straight-to-series spinoff with the working title The Conner Family, though more likely, The Conners. The series is to star everyone involved in Roseanne with the exception of Roseanne Barr, who was fired from the show last month after she sent several racist and anti-Semitic tweets. It was the first time a network canceled a show under those kind of circumstances – despite the revival of the 1988-97 series ranking as the top-rated scripted program of the 2017-18 season.

“The Conners’ stories demonstrate that families can always find common ground through conversation, laughter and love,” ABC said in a statement. “The spinoff will continue to portray contemporary issues that are as relevant today as they were 30 years ago. [The Conners are] forced to face the daily struggles of life in Lanford in a way they never have before” following “a sudden turn of events.” It was not revealed how the show would deal with Roseanne Conner’s exit.

In the same press release, ABC made sure Barr would not be involved in any way or profit financially from the new show. For ABC, the pickup fills a hole on Tuesday nights where Roseanne would have aired.

This isn’t the first time a series has continue sans its star – Valerie Harper left NBC sitcom Valerie in 1987 after a pay dispute with Lorimar-Telepictures and the series continued as The Hogan Family for three more seasons on NBC and another on CBS (like Roseanne, The Hogan Family was also set in a Chicago suburb, the real-life Oak Park.) In 2003, the death of lead character John Ritter forced changes in the format of 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter, later becoming 8 Simple Rues. It ran on ABC until 2005.

A “Springer” billboard near 94th/Stony Island.

The news of Jerry Springer’s “production hiatus” has indeed become permanent.

After confusion about the show’s future, NBCUniversal Television Distribution announced Thursday it has officially canceled The Jerry Springer Show after a 27-season run, according to Programming Insider.

Broadcasting & Cable reported on June 13 about Springer’s show stopping production with reruns heading to The CW to replace the canceled Robert Irvine Show and would also stay in syndication in reruns. The CW would also have the option to put the series back into production if they wanted to.

But on June 16, Cincinnati media blogger John Kiesewetter noted the talk show would exit My Network TV affiliate WSTR, who carried the series locally in the Cincinnati market – meaning the show would no longer air on any non-CW affiliates, including WCIU or sister station The U Too, Springer’s current Chicago rightsholder.

A full week later, the AP picked up the story, noting Springer was ending production but was sold in reruns to the CW and “other networks”. NBC Universal added to the confusion with them and Springer refusing comment.

Now NBC Universal makes it official, and it is unlikely The CW would pick up an option to produce new episodes.

As you would guessed, the decision to end production didn’t really generate much attention, aside from a Richard Roeper piece in the Sun-Times Tuesday. Last Friday, this blog detailed the legacy (if you can call it that) Jerry Springer left on TV and society.

So I guess the madness does ends here. Can we move on to something else?

Bob Iger and the Mouse. (Getty Images)

The war is on: Disney announced this week it has raised its offer to buy much of the 21st Century Fox studio to $71.3 billion, nearly $20 billion more than it originally proposed for the company. This comes as Comcast tried to outbid Disney by sending Rupert Murdoch a $65 billion, all-cash offer.

Comcast has stated it would sell Fox’s regional sports networks should they win. Thru NBC Sports Group, Comcast runs several RSNs including NBC Sports Chicago, home of the Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks, and Bulls. The sale could also potentially affect plans for the Cubs to start their own sports network if they are looking for an RSN partner. The New York Yankees’ YES Network is 49 percent owned by Fox, and the team has expressed in re-acquiring the 51 percent it does not own.

Comcast would also wind up with a majority stake in streaming service Hulu, although it is not known Comcast would sell it off.

Bidding wars for media properties aren’t new: when Viacom planned to buy Paramount Communications in 1993, it had to fight off a bid from shopping giant QVC, then headed by former Fox executive Barry Diller. The bid wasn’t successful, and Viacom won in the end – but it took months.

The war over Fox is taking place as a judge recently OK’d a deal between AT&T and TimeWarner rejecting the Justice Department’s concerns as the transaction closed on June 16. With the deal, TimeWarner has changed its name to WarnerMedia – which makes sense given the Time Inc. portion of TimeWarner was spun off years ago (the magazine conglomerate was recently purchased by Meredith Corp.)

As we say in this business, “stay tuned”.

Eddie Olczyk. (USA Today)

In news first reported by Robert Feder last Tuesday, current Blackhawks and NBC on NHL commentator Eddie Olczyk is expanding his presence into sports talk radio: last week, he joined David Kaplan’s Kap and Co., where he’ll be a regular co-host on Mondays and Fridays from 9 to noon on ESPN-owned WMVP-AM (ESPN 1000.) Olczyk joins regular rotating contributors Jordan Cornette and Pat Boyle.

The 51 year-old former Blackhawk played with the team from 1984-87 and again from 1998-2000, and was part of the 1984 U.S. Olympic Hockey team. As you may be aware, Olczyk spent time away from the booth this season due to treatments for colon cancer. He announced in March the cancer was in remission and returned to job full-time with NBC Sports covering the Stanley Cup Final and Triple Crown, including the Kentucky Derby (Olczyk is also a horse racing expert.)

“I would like to just say that this has been the best medicine I’ve had in a long time, getting back to hockey and horse racing after my battle with Stage 3 colon cancer.”, Olczyk told Phil Rosenthal of the Chicago Tribune.

And we fans are more than fortunate to have a talented broadcaster like Eddie Olczyk around.

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So long and no thanks for the tronc

From the L.A. Times newsroom party – good riddance “tronc”. (Twitter/Jen Yamato/LA Times)

Named expected to change back to Tribune Publishing after sale of LA Times, Ferro departure

One of the most ridiculous names in media history is heading into the history books after two years.

In a move approved last month, the parent company of the Chicago Tribune is reverting back to Tribune Publishing, after a disastrous  stint under the name “tronc”.

The move comes as the sale of Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune closed Monday with former tronc board member Patrick-Soon Shiong for $500 million, leaving the company with ten main newspapers. The original Tribune Co. purchased the Times in 2002 from Times Mirror and twelve years later, Tribune split into two publicly traded companies: Tribune Media and Tribune Publishing, the latter becoming “tronc” in June 2016.

Tronc stood for “Tribune Online Content”, created by Ferro himself meant to highlight the shift away from news print and toward digital content. But over time, it became a symbol of everything wrong with the newspaper industry, from disappointing revenues to layoffs to sexual harassment allegations, the latter committed by now ex-chairman Michael Ferro. He departed tronc in March – hours before an expose was published detailing sexual harassment changes against him.

The renaming drew scorn across social media when it was announced and famously skewed by Last Week Tonight host John Oliver as he took apart a corporate video no one understood. When the name change was announced, “tronc” meant “a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels.”

As I noted on this blog in 2016: Judging by the stuff I’m seeing in the Tribune lately, sitting around waiting for a shooting to happen in Englewood isn’t exactly what I call “creating content”. Reporting on a murder, a game, or the state budget impasse isn’t the same as being an artist, writing a book or a script, or creating a video game. By Ferro’s definition, criminals, idiot politicians, and Donald Trump running his mouth are the ones who are “creating content” for “tronc”. Ferro has no f—ing idea what “creating content” means.

The low point came during the 2016 NLCS between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers when a vapid intern at the Los Angeles Times took a shot at Chicago’s homicide rate in response to an L.A. -bashing article written by the equally vapid Rex Huppke –  – the type of “content” tronc was peddling.

Even worse, the tweet came after three people were shot and killed in Los Angeles the day before the tweet was made – insulting minority inner-city communities plagued by violence in both cities. I guess this was “the future of content” tronc was talking about.

Unfortunately, the name (and the antics) overshadowed the great investigative work the papers – the Chicago Tribune included – did on numerous pressing issues,  notably the Tribune’s multi-part series on sexual abuse in the Chicago Public School system. With the nitwits running tronc gone – and the name changing back to Tribune Publishing, the people who work on these types of stories now have a chance to shine without any side distraction. The tronc name is more associated with the dysfunction of the company than great investigative reporting.

I guess you can say tronc got tronc’d.

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Journalist Elizabeth Brackett dies at 76

Her passing draws tributes from colleagues, others

The Chicago journalism community is mourning the loss of Elizabeth Brackett, a journalist best known for her work on Chicago Tonight and other local stations. She passed away Sunday at Stroger hospital days after a bike accident, occuring last Wednesday on the path just east of South Lake Shore Drive near Oakwood Blvd. She was riding when she fell off the bike and fractured the vertebra in her neck.

Her death solicited reaction from numerous colleagues and politicians, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Brackett got her start in the business as a researcher and reporter for WBBM-TV after a failed aldermanic run. After a stint at WGN-TV, she joined WLS-TV during a tumultuous time in Chicago politics as Harold Washington was vying to become the city’s first African-American mayor. Brackett became the Chicago-based Midwest correspondent for PBS’ McNeil/Lerher Newshour in 1984 and began work on Chicago Tonight after the show shifted its bureau to WTTW in 1991.

During her time on the show, Brackett reported on numerous issues, including politics. She also profiled several Chicago figures, including then-State senator Barack Obama. Brackett retired from the daily grind in 2014, but continued to file reports for Chicago Tonight on a limited basis, notably on an issue she was very passionate about: the environment.

In addition to her journalism, Brackett was also an accomplished triathlete, competing in triathlons well into her 70s, winning an impressive five titles in her age group – the last one in Rotterdam last year. She regularly rode her bike down the Lakefront path, as she was doing last Wednesday.

Among the numerous awards Brackett received include a Peabody, an Emmy (for her profile on Obama), two Peter Lisagor Awards, and was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Chicago Television Academy.

She also authored the book Pay to Play: How Rod Blagoveich Turned Political Corruption into a National Sideshow, released in 2009 after the governor was removed from office the year before after he tried to sell Obama’s U.S. senate seat after he was elected President.

Brackett is survived by husband Peter Martinez, two children, two sisters, numerous stepchildren and grandchildren, and six nieces and nephews. Services will be held Wednesday at Kenilworth Union Church in Kenilworth at 1 p.m.


T Dog’s Think Tank: The legacy Jerry Springer leaves


For better or worse – mostly worse, Jerry Springer shaped television and society

To say Jerry Springer didn’t have an impact on our culture is like saying cigarette smoking doesn’t cause cancer.

But here we are in 2018 as what we saw as outrageous back then is the norm now. Before  Jersey Shore, Flavor Of Love, Love And Hip-Hop, The Real Housewives of Whatever City, and other reality tripe – and before the incivility we see everywhere these days, there was Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! As his show enters “production hiatus” – perhaps permanently as The CW recently bought rerun rights to his show, we look back at the legacy Jerry Springer left.

When Springer started in 1991, it was produced at Cincinnati’s WLWT (where he anchored their newscasts) and was your typical discussion show a la Donahue – early guests include Rev. Jesse Jackson and Oliver North. In 1992, the show moved to Chicago’s  NBC Tower and two years later, the series nearly faced cancellation. So in order to boost ratings, the show needed to up the sleaze factor. And boy, did it ever with topics like “My Boyfriend Turned Out To Be A Girl” among others. In 1994 and 1995, Springer was one of many “trash TV” shows in the marketplace, including Ricki Lake, Charles Perez, and Jenny Jones, whose “secret crush” episode led to a murder.

Then came the on-air fighting – something you’d rarely see on a talk show until Geraldo Rivera’s nose was busted by a chair in a melee involving Neo-Nazi skinheads on an 1988 episode of his talk show. Springer’s first altercation came in a 1994 episode with a group of Black Panthers and Nazis squaring off.

By 1997, Springer soared to the top with numbers not seen in daytime syndication in decades with numerous on-air altercations. Management at WMAQ thought it was a good idea for Springer to do a nightly commentary segment on the station’s 10 p.m. newscast, leading to the resignation of anchors Ron Magers and Carol Marin. The show had a lengthy list of critics from both sides of the political coin, from the liberal Rev. Michael Pflager of St. Sabina Church (who led boycotts outside the NBC Tower over the show) to the conservative Parents Television Council. Even The Chicago City Council – the same group who gave us “Council Wars” – hauled Springer into a hearing asking whether or not the fights on the show were authentic.

One of many “Jerry Springer” knockoffs: the now-defunct Spanish-language talk show “Jose Luis Sin Censura”.

In the late 1990s, Springer defined pop culture with more than fifteen million viewers a day. He wrote a book named Ringmaster which became a movie. He had an opera about himself. There was a VH1 spinoff called The Springer Hustle, airing until the network realized it can stage fights on its own reality shows. There was even a MTV “spring break” edition of his talk show.

And through all of this, Springer himself didn’t understand the hype, often stating his show had no redeeming value.

We can see the influence of Springer  in society on an everyday basis. We see it in politics with the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land (Springer even said Trump belonged on his show, not the White House.) We see the influence in dozens of cable reality shows like Shore. We see it on social media and on YouTube, with confrontations, fights, and other viral videos. We even see it in sports, with every baseball brawl and hockey fight. Springer even spawned numerous Spanish-language knockoffs such as Laura and Jose Luis Sin Censura, which was even more racy than Springer as protests over anti-LGBT content forced Estrella TV to pull the plug as this blog documented in 2013.

Springer has been culturally irrelevant for some time now – like The Simpsons and Family Guy, it has long crossed over to “is this show still on the air?” territory. In Chicago, its once sky-high ratings for NBC 5 were reduced to rubble by the time it reached WPWR’s little-watched daytime schedule as topics became more bizarre and at one time had puppets, a character named “Reverend Schnorr”, and even an in-house midget. The show left its longtime Chicago home in 2009 for Connecticut as most locals here didn’t notice or care. More violent fights have happened on Love and Hip-Hop and Jersey Shore than there have been on Springer in recent years. It’s no surprise its departure is being greeted with yawns.

As Springer says at the end of every episode… “take care of yourself…and each other.”

Leave it to a show like his to point out exactly what we’re not doing.

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