Media Notepad: 103.9 The Fox ends run as bible thumpers take over

Also: Sun-Times sees ownership shift; AAF ends its run quickly; Pickler & Ben to exit

The bible thumpers strike again: Beginning Monday, Fox Valley-based WFXF-FM – better known as The Fox 103.9 – will turn the keys over to the Educational Media Foundation (EMF) as the station flips from Classic Rock to Christian Music. As a result, the station’s on-air personalities including Eddie Volkman, Alex Quigley, and Patrick Capone are out.

Former owner Matrix Broadcasting sold the station to Alpha Media, who in turn sold WFXF to EMF back in February for a mere $900,000, ending the station’s 51-year run as a commercial broadcaster – the last six as Fox 103.9. Among the notable names who worked at the station was Cara Carriveau, when WFXF was known as “The Wabbit”.

With EMF taking over April 8, Fox 103.9 is moving up its “Adult Easter Egg Hunt”. Originally scheduled for April 19, the event has now been moved up to this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.

The move continues a trend of non-profit religious organizations – notably EMF, buying up stations across the country. Recently, EMF made a deal with Cumulus to purchase heritage WPLJ-FM in New York and WRQX-FM in Washington, D.C. (both former ABC radio stations, expanding their reach for their “K-Love” Christian Music format. Last year, EMF purchased the former WLUP-FM (The Loop) here in Chicago, ending its run as a rocker after 41 years. The same month, EMF announced the purchase of WSHA-FM, a jazz station run by the historically black Shaw University of in Raleigh, N.C.

Also in March 2018, Bible Broadcasting purchased 99.9 FM in Park Forest, the one-time home of Nine-FM, WBUS-FM, and progressive talk WCPQ-FM.

EMF is expected to rename the station’s call letters as WAWY-FM and flip to EMF’s Air 1 format, a younger-skewing version of K-love.

It appears the labor era at the Chicago Sun-Times is over. Two prominent investors of the paper have taken over financial control: current Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz and CGM Grosvenor CEO Michael Sacks, who is head of the financial services company. A new entity was also formed (Sun-Times Investment holdings) and is being chaired by former Chicago Federation of Labor head Jorge Ramirez, who know works for CGM Grosvenor.

The Chicago Federation of Labor was among a consortium headed by former Alderman Edwin Eisendrath who bought the paper just two years ago after former owner Wrapports put it up for sale, outbidding Tronc (now known as Tribune Publishing). Shortly thereafter, the Sun-Times moved their headquarters to the West Loop. Eisendrath departed the consortium last Halloween after some controversial moves, including¬† launching a questionable “save-the-paper” campaign featuring a front page with a blank canvas, akin to public television pledge drives.

Of note is Wirtz and Ramimez were investors in Wrapports when the paper was sold in 2017. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

While the fates of several syndicated shows on the bubble won’t be decided until at least June, two existing shows were shown the door: Scripps’ Pickler & Ben and Twentieth’s Top 30.

In a conference call with investors, Scripps officials said it wouldn’t bring back Pickler & Ben for a third season. After its first season exclusively airing on Scripps-owned stations, the broadcast group hooked up with Disney/ABC to syndicate the show in the rest of the country for its second season. But with Disney/ABC concentrating on launching Tamron Hall’s talk show this fall, the two partners decided to part ways.

Scripps could have found another syndicator, but opted to end the show as key slots were gobbled up by Hall and Kelly Clarkson’s new show. The decision also does not bode well for Steve Harvey as he is losing his cushy NBC-owned slots to Clarkson. In the most recent ratings report, Steve was up in the ratings week-to-week.

In Chicago, The U Too aired Pickler & Ben at 10 a.m. and on the digital subchannels of the ABC O&OS, including WLS-TV whom for the most part, air reruns of former Live Well shows.

As for Top 30, the series quietly ended its run at the end of January. Starting out as a test run on several Fox-owned stations in 2016, Top 30 launched nationally in 2017 but in the last year, aired in less desirable time slots. In Chicago, Top 30 aired in an overnight slot on WPWR-TV.

With Disney taking over Twentieth Television as part of the $71.3 billion deal announced in December 2017, contracts are up this September for Divorce Court and Dish Nation, not to mention Disney’s own Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and Right This Minute. A decision on the future of all four are expected either later this spring or this summer.

CBS, TNT, and the NFL Network are scrambling to fill some holes in their schedules after the Alliance of American Football, or AAF, unexpectedly folded on Tuesday. CBS was expected to air a game this Saturday leading into their Final Four coverage, a playoff game on April 21, and the Championship Game on April 27. The closure comes after just eight games, failing to complete their first season.

The league’s collapse came after a major investor pulled his funding. Carolina Hurricanes’ owner Tom Dundon made the move after he was unable to come to an agreement with the NFL and the NFLPA over using some of their practice squads for the league. Dundon invested in the league only after the first few days when the AAF needed some money to stay afloat.

The AAF debuted on February 9 with a San Diego-San Antonio game, and drew nearly three million viewers for CBS and even beat a competing NBA game on ABC despite the telecast being plagued with technical glitches and numerous sound drop-outs. Subsequent games aired on TNT, NFL Network, and CBS Sports Network, where the first two networks (CBS SN isn’t related) averaged around 500,000 viewers per game, decent by sports cable TV ratings standards. Gameplay was also decent, but scoring was low and attendance at home games were sparse at best. But AAF games did give those cable networks fresh, live programming to air.

CBS nor Turner Broadcasting didn’t have any financial stake in the league, so any losses were minimal.

The AAF did not have a presence in top media markets such as Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, but had teams in cities such as the aforementioned San Diego and San Antonio, and Atlanta, Orlando, Memphis, Birmingham, Salt Lake City, and Phoenix. The AAF is the latest football league to fail, following the World Football League, USFL, and the XFL, who plans to make a comeback next year.