The Media Notepad: Supreme Court rules in favor of FCC in ownership case

Also: Bless The Harts canceled; Boost 97.5 arrives while Clubsteppin’ closes; Bally Sports Net debuts to mixed reviews

[Editor’s Note: This post was updated on April 15 to remove some incorrect information regarding Clubsteppin’ 95.1 FM. T Dog Media apologizes for the errors. -T.H.] 

As expected, the U.S. Supreme Court voted Thursday to uphold the FCC’s 2017 ownership rules, eliminating basically all cross-ownership restrictions. But what was not expected was the unanimous nature of the vote and an earlier than expected ruling. This now gives traditional media – who has been losing ground to emerging media (podcasts, streaming, etc.) the power to buy one another as the media landscape has changed drastically since the 1970s when the rules were first put in place and even more so in the last ten years.

This was much-needed great news for broadcasters – particularly television station groups. Wall Street was equally as enthusiastic as stocks for Sinclair and Nexstar surged on Thursday.

But there’s a catch. Given the FCC is currently deadlocked in a 2-2 tie since Chairman Ajit Pai departed three months ago, don’t look for the agency to act on the issue anytime soon. If President Biden nominates someone to the FCC, it’ll likely be a Democrat who’ll give the agency an advantage as the party opposed media consolidation. But there’s no doubt Senate Republicans would try to hold up any kind of nomination. With the agency deadlocked, don’t look for any wheeling-and-dealing right away.

And any changes the FCC makes in the ownership rules will likely wind up back in court, despite the SCOTUS ruling. In other words, this decision doesn’t really mean much since President Trump is no longer in office but would have a significant impact if a Republican reclaims the White House in 2024.

Also keep in mind most newspaper-TV-radio combos grandfathered in the 1975 ruling have since broken up – notably The Tribune Co., who split their TV group and WGN-AM from the Chicago Tribune in 2014 as they are now owned by different companies.

Interesting to note, the biggest story in the last few weeks did not come from a TV station, radio, or newspaper – but from non-profit website Block Club Chicago, who broke the story of a Covid vaccine scandal at a West Side Hospital. Basically, what this columnist said in Mediapost on Friday about the ruling does ring true, to a degree.


Getting a boost: Chicago’s new Boost 97.5 FM debuted earlier this week, and it’s a format that you wouldn’t think was possible – marrying Hip-Hop with…Christan music.

The new station on 97.5 is owned by Educational Media Foundation – the same non-profit who bought the former WLUP-FM in 2018 and flipped the classic rocker to Christian Music. Technically known as W248BB, the station previously ran EMF’s Air 1 format. Prior to launch, 97.5 stunted with 1990s Dance and House Music.

Known as CHR Rhythmic Christian, the Boost Radio format was created in St. Louis by Gateway City Broadcasting, who bought the station from Urban One (formerly Radio One) in a multi-market swap deal with Entercom (now Audacy.) Boost Radio’s tagline is ” Pop, Hip-Hop, and Hope” (not Pop, Hip-Hop and The Pope.)

“EMF is excited to partner with Sandi [Brown, Boost Radio President] and her team on this BOOST expansion. Christian radio is a powerful tool we are passionate about. We’re excited to partner here and to expand to serve more audiences with programming tailored just for them.”, said CEO Bill Reaves in a statement.

If you can’t get 97.5, you can stream the station on their website. The station is also available on WCKL-FM HD-3 channel.

At the same time Boost Radio launched, a fellow rimshot radio station closed down. The owners of 95.1 Chicago left the frequency on Wednesday and moved their entire station online. Originally known as Clubsteppin’, the station was originally launched in August 2018 by Lamont Watts’ Windy City Broadcasting in an already crowded black music landscape and later sold the station to Integrated Brand Marketing, a company headed by Tracey V. Bell, who once ran Johnson Publishing Company’s radio division (owners of the former WJPC-AM/FM) from 1991 to 1994. Clubsteppin’/95.1 Chicago was broadcast on translators of WLEY’s HD-2 station.

Clubsteppin’ made headlines for banning R. Kelly’s music after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced.


It’s over and out for Bless The Harts after two seasons as Fox canceled the animated series Thursday. The program premiered in September 2019 out of The Simpsons with a thirteen-episode order and recently returned to the Sunday schedule after a long layoff. Harts drew around 3.4 million viewers, streaming and DVR numbers included. While these numbers were respectable, it wasn’t enough to save the show as it posted very dismal live Nielsen ratings (0.46 among adults 18-49, season-to-date.)

Created by Emily Spivey and set in her home state of North Carolina, the series voice cast included Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Jillian Bell, Ike Barinholtz, and Kumail Nanjiani. Harts concludes in May with a total of 26 episodes. The show was a joint production of Fox Entertainment and Disney-owned 20th Television.

Despite the cancellation, Fox’s other animated comedies are in good shape with two-year deals inked for veterans Simpsons, Family Guy, and Bob’s Burgers while The Great North and Duncanville were recently renewed. Keep in mind most viewers seek animated programs on other platforms as opposed to live viewing, as is the case for most young-skewing shows – especially The CW, who generally renews almost 100 percent of its schedule.

Meanwhile, NBC’s new Law & Order: Organized Crime scored tremendous numbers Thursday night with a 1.5 demo rating, while CBS’ new The United States Of Al also performed decently out of Young Sheldon. And before you ask… no, The United States Of Al is not a Married…With Children reboot as the character name is Awalmar, or “Al”, not Al Bundy.


 

The reviews for the new Bally Sports are in, and they are mixed.

As you recall, the former Fox Sports RSNs were sold to Disney as part of the $71.3 billion deal. But the Justice Department forced Disney to divest the cable networks and were sold to Sinclair for less than what they were worth. Sinclair then stuck a deal with casino and sportsbook magnate Bally to rebrand the RSNs in their name.

The rebrand took place Wednesday, just in time for baseball season. Changes included moving the scorebug to the bottom half on the screen and on the same line and had an out-of-town scoreboard on the same line, annoying some viewers.

The graphics were bland and used the same font seen on Marquee Sports Network’s Cubs telecasts. Sinclair operates Marquee but is owned in conjunction with the Cubs (and their new scorebug – in the traditional upper-left hand corner of the screen isn’t great either.)

Notably, the “B” in the Bally logo was noticeable in game telecasts, but it reminded some viewers of the now-defunct predatory health club chain the company ran under different ownership (and one that ripped-off the person writing this article for three years.)

Finally, on Bally Great Lakes (in the Cleveland area, formerly known as SportsTime Ohio), they had a local host – who’s a convicted felon – yell at a caller on-air.

We still have call-in television shows in the year of our Lord 2021?

The new Bally Sports has the feel of a low-rent public access TV channel instead of a major network-quality sports network and it’s not a great first impression.

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