The Media Notepad: 101.9 The Mix, The Drive dominate Chicago radio ratings

Also: Decades finds new station group; FCC votes to modify kidvid rules and strike down San Francisco apartment broadband law

Hubbard Broadcasting continued its dominance of local Chicago radio in the recently released May PPM Nielsen rankings. As reported by Robert Feder, WTMX finished first again, with sister station The Drive (WDRV-FM) finishing a strong second.  The Minnepaolis-based company also swept all key dayparts finishing first in mornings (WTMX’s Eric In The Morning), middays (The Drive’s Bob Stroud and WTMX’s Lisa Allen), and afternoons (The Drive’s Steve Seaver and Janda Lane.) Only Entercom’s WSCR-AM broke the streak, winning in the evening with Cubs baseball on most nights.

The survey was a weak one for WVAZ-FM (V103) who saw nearly a full point drop as the urban AC station tumbled to fifth. Meanwhile Entercom’s Classic Hip-Hop WBMX-FM is closing in at eighth place, gaining two-tenths. There is no doubt WBMX is taking audience away from V103.

Outside of the Chicago area, the biggest surprise in the PPMs was the success of Christian AC WFSH-FM (104.7 The Fish) in Atlanta, finishing a dominant first with a 2.5 share lead over news/talk WSB-AM/FM and easily beating newcomer K-Love 106.7 (WAKL), who finished near the bottom of the ratings.  The station was among six acquired by the Educational Media Foundation from Cumulus, who previously hosted a conservative talk format.

New FCC names…same dysfunction: In a pair of bitterly partisan 3-2 votes, the FCC voted to modify the children’s television rules and for good measure, threw out part of a San Francisco law intended to foster broadband competition inside apartment buildings.

As expected, the FCC passed new modifications to the children’s television E/I requirements, giving broadcasters more flexibility in scheduling the programs as stations complained they weren’t able to air breaking news or other programming because of the rules.

For example in July 2018, only WLS-TV and WGN-TV were fully able to cover a Saturday morning march down the Dan Ryan Expressway as protesters were calling attention to Chicago’s gun violence epidemic as other stations couldn’t due to educational programming commitments.

But that wasn’t enough for Democratic commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and new appointee Gefforey Starks, who said even anything flexible would be detrimental to children – especially in low-income neighborhoods (such as those paralleling the Dan Ryan where the march took place.)

Stations can now begin airing such fare at 6 a.m. and can shift some of their E/I programming to their digital subchannels. But they still have to air three hours of programming a week. The move also ensures stations can continue to air local specials such as The Bud Billiken Parade, without having to re-schedule the pre-empted kids programming.

Liberal groups and other Democrat politicians also joined in to criticize the FCC’s decision (including the conservative Parents Television Council), accusing FCC Chairman Ajit Pai of putting the priorities of big media companies ahead of children (although these groups were absent when former Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed 50 Chicago public Schools in mostly low-income neighborhoods. Where were they then?)

In another partisan vote, the FCC voted 3-2 to strike down part of a San Francisco law that allowed competition among broadband providers in apartment buildings. San Francisco officials fired back at the agency, saying the Republican commissioners “misrepresented what the law does”, which allowed another ISP to use existing wiring from another company to provide service.  Rosenworcel slammed the Republican majority here as well, claiming the FCC gave up its Title II authority over broadband when the FCC’s Republican majority repealed the net neutrality rules, but now decided to stop local broadband regulation, as Ars Technica reports. 

San Francisco can ask the Republican-led Senate and President Trump to block the FCC from striking down the law, but this is unlikely given Trump has sour relations with the city.

While this seems to involve a San Francisco law, this does has ramifications across the country as multi-unit apartment buildings – which there are plenty of in Chicago – can continue to strike exclusive deals with broadband carriers such as AT&T and Comcast, not allowing any kind of competition. In other words, it’s another victory for already politically-connected apartment building owners and real estate magnates. And the politicians connected to these people already receive tons of campaign cash from AT&T and Comcast, the largest ISPs in Chicago and San Francisco. So much for reform, huh?

Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting has found a new partner for its Decades digital subchannel: Fox Television Stations, who has agreed to carry the channel in twelve of its markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas-Ft. Worth, San Francisco, Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Austin, Tex. among others.

The deal begins in “Q3 2019” – meaning the third quarter of this year, launching no later than October 1st.

“Frank Cicha and the Fox Television Stations have been terrific partners in the Movies! TV Network, and their enthusiasm for joining the Decades affiliate family has been significant,” said Neal Sabin, Vice Chairman of Weigel Broadcasting Co. “We look forward to working with the station group on this beloved network.”

While Fox owns WFLD and My Network TV affiliate WPWR in Chicago, the stations are not part of the deal given Weigel has Decades on its WCIU and WMEU digital subchannels. However, Decades is on the move again in Los Angeles, moving from Weigel’s KAZA-TV.

The deal brings Decades back to TV in a few markets where it was dropped by former partner CBS Television Stations, who replaced it with female-targeted Start TV – also in partnership with Weigel. Decades was on the digital subchannels of WCBS New York and KCBS in Los Angeles until last September when they were replaced by Start, leaving them homeless. Decades moved from WBBM to WCIU/WMEU last September.

Despite the deal, Decades is still looking for homes in Boston, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore, where CBS dropped the channel and Fox doesn’t own stations.

Meanwhile, CBS announced last month it will launch a new digital subchannel on its O&Os called Dabl beginning on September 9, featuring programming from the libraries of Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse. The channel is being run by CBS Television Distribution; it is expected to launch on WBBM’s digital subchannel 2.3.


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