The Media Notepad: WGA strikers hit the streets in Chicago

The WGA pickets outside of the NBC Tower Wednesday. (WTTW)

Also: “You Bet Your Life” latest victim of Writer’s Strike; Detroit independent likely to become CW after it’s bought by a Nexstar affiliate; CW cuts off LIV Golf before end 

It was Chicago’s turn to stage some writer’s strike action this week as picketers descended on the NBC Tower Wednesday afternoon.

The tower is home to NBC-owned WMAQ-TV and Telemundo’s WSNS, and well as Cumulus’ three radio stations. But NBC is the struck company here, as it and Telemundo share Comcast as a parent company and is owner of Universal Studios. More than one hundred picketers showed up in front of the Columbus Drive building.

Showing up to support the WGA were the Chicago Teachers’ Union, SEIU, AFSCME, and the local chapter of SAG-AFTRA. Also showing support was new Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson in a tweet.

“Chicago is a union town, it’s a town of class solidarity,” Last Week Tonight writer Ali Barthwell told WBEZ.” “When I see all the other unions out here, it feels right and it should be this big party where everyone is fighting for what they believe in because I think that’s what Chicago really stands for.” Barthwell is currently on break from the show due to her battling leukemia.

Late last week, picketers showed up at a shoot in the Washington Park neighborhood for Showtime’s filmed-in-Chicago The Chi, shutting it down as similar actions have taken place at other shoots in New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Picketers also hit Cinespace studios Monday.

Several local stations are part of media conglomerates who are struck companies, including CBS 2 (Paramount), ABC 7 (Disney) and Fox 32/My50. Also on the struck list according to the WGA’s website is public station WTTW.

Obviously, there will be more shut downs to come as already, permits for on-scene filming in Los Angeles has dropped nearly 70 percent. The last strike in 2007 cost the L.A. economy an estimated $1.5 billion. And just this week, SAG-AFTRA set out strike authorization cards as their contracts is up June 30 as well as the Director’s Guild. If they walk the picket lines and the writers are still on strike, then all bets are off.

While the strike has shut down production of most scripted and late-night shows, now a syndicated show is feeling the brunt of the strike. On Monday, the host of You Bet Your Life announced he was shutting production of the show himself.

“As a member of the Writers Guild for almost 40 years, I truly understand and stand in solidarity with my fellow union members,host Jay Leno said in a statement. “For that reason, we are suspending production of our game show, You Bet Your Life until such time when an agreement can be reached. I’m sorry I ran out of glazed [donuts], I now realize powdered sugar is not the same thing. Yours truly, Jay Leno.”

The donuts, of course are in reference to Leno providing striking writers’ with the tasty treats on the picket line. 

Leno’s former Tonight Show was among those affected when the WGA went on strike in 2007, shutting down production for a few months. Leno returned in 2021 with a new daily version of the Groucho Marx classic and to the surprise of some (well, a lot of people) outlasted the previous versions hosted by Buddy Hackett and Bill Cosby. The series was renewed for a third season, but because of the strike, it is not known how many new episodes would be available for this fall.

Several non-primetime shows are affected, including Jeopardy and CBS’ The Talk, which shut production two weeks ago when the strike started. Jeopardy remains in production however, using non-union writers.

It is not immediately known if other syndicated or network daytime shows are affected.

Not living your best LIV life: Fans of LIV Golf were thrown for a loop last Sunday when the show they were watching on The CW was unexpectedly cut off at 6:30 p.m. ET with three holes to go in a playoff round.

The match was supposed to run until 6 p.m. ET, but there was a delay for two hours due to inclement weather in the Tulsa area, where the match was held. The dramatic final round was in progress with Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, and Brandon Grace tied when affiliates bailed. That’s because CW affiliates were not contractually obligated to carry golf past 6:30 ET and when the time approached, they went back to local programming though viewers could watch the finish on CW’s app.

The cutoff happened on a lot of affiliates – even those owned by Nexstar, who acquired majority control of the network last year from Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery. In Chicago, Nexstar’s WGN-TV – who was a former full-time CW affiliate but is carrying LIV Golf in lieu of primary affiliate WCIU, began its regularly scheduled 5 p.m. CT newscast a half-hour late.

In other areas, golf was replaced by either network or syndicated programming. In New York, Mission/Nexstar’s WPIX began airing Penn and Teller: Fool Us! In Miami, Scripps’ WSFL ran a Goldbergs rerun. Buffalo’s WNLO went to an infomercial. And in Tulsa, where the LIV Golf tourney was taking place, the local affiliate went to a Neighborhood rerun.

There were some comparisons to the 1968 “Heidi Game” where an New York Jets-Oakland Raiders American Football League game was cut off in the Central and Eastern time zones at 7 p.m. ET to show the movie, which made football fans angry. After that blunder, NBC and the AFL made provisions to make sure games would be carried from start to finish. Maybe LIV Golf and The CW should adapt a similar policy to prevent something like this from happening again. Just a thought.

Speaking of The CW, it looks like they have picked up a replacement affiliate in the Motor City as Mission Broadcasting has agreed to buy My Network TV affiliate WADL Detroit from Adell Broadcasting for an undisclosed amount. Mission is an affiliate of Nexstar, who services all of their stations thru shared agreements, including the aforementioned WPIX New York and ABC affiliate WTVO in Rockford. 

“The purchase of WADL represents a rare opportunity to acquire a full-power station in a top-15 market,” said Dennis Thatcher, president of Mission Broadcasting, Inc. in a statement. “We are very excited about playing a role in the continued renaissance of this great American city.”

Just two weeks ago, CBS announced it was dropping CW programming in eight markets including Detroit, where WKBD is in a duopoly with WWJ-TV. WKBD is a former Fox affiliate who signed with with new upstart UPN in 1994 after losing Fox to former CBS affiliate WJBK in the New World deal. WKBD became a CW station in 2006 after the WB/UPN merger. While no official announcement was made, it is expected The CW would relocate to WADL affiliate given Nexstar owns 75 percent of the CW (as mentioned above) and Mission’s ties to Nexstar.

Launched in 1989, WADL has ranked at or near the bottom of the ratings throughout its entire existence. Given its primitive on-air look over the years, many compared the station to another low-rated TV outlet in Detroit, the former WGPR-TV before it was bought by CBS in 1994 to replace WJBK. WGPR was the first Black-owned TV station in the country when it launched in 1975.

“I started this journey 34 years ago at my parents’ kitchen table, where I mortgaged their home in order to build what would later become WADL-TV,” said Kevin Adell, CEO of Adell Broadcasting. “I could not have selected a better successor of my legacy than Mission Broadcasting.”

The Word, a religious cable channel Adell also owns, is not part of the deal. 

Further reading: 

-Former Chicago Tribune owner and real estate tycoon Sam Zell dies at 81. In lieu of an obituary, here’s a piece I wrote about him last year when Elon Musk bought Twitter and the similarities between his purchase and Zell’s of the Tribune.

-In a short piece, I explain why I decided not to write about a local radio station controversy involving hosts from rival stations. (Facebook)


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