The Media Notepad: Former MBC HQ won’t be used for migrant shelter after all

A 2012 photo of the yet-to-open Museum of Broadcast Communications. (T Dog Media)

Also: The NAB is concerned about crime near their headquarters; ESPN 1000 owner drops Good Karma Brands; WNBA’s New York Liberty strikes broadcast deal with Fox in New York

The River North building where the Museum of Broadcast Communications was located won’t become a migrant shelter after all.

Last November, city leaders led by Mayor Brandon Johnson were looking to house migrants arriving from Texas in the building located on Kinzie and State vacated by MBC last year. However, the plan ran into zoning issues and was opposed by 42nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins, who said the building wasn’t meant for such use.

Now building owner Fern Hill has hired real estate brokerage firm CBRE to redevelop the property, according to Crain’s. The vacant building carries $7.8 million in debt.

The building’s construction for MBC cost $6 million in public money but was left unfinished for years due to the slow execution of funding. It finally opened in 2012, but in 2019 Fern Hill bought the top two floors of the building and exercised an option to buy the rest last year forcing MBC out, who has yet to find a new home.

The building’s sale doesn’t come as a surprise, as this part of the River North area had yet to rebound from the pandemic (which forced  MBC’s first closure in March 2020) amid growing concerns about crime in the area as low attendance forced the MBC museum to close twice more in the Covid era, with the third and final closure taking place last April 30.

If you noticed the disappearance of ESPN 1000 (WMVP-AM) from January’s ratings list, you’re not alone. Now we know the reason – the owner of the station decided not to renew its contract with Nielsen.

The decision was made by Wisconsin-based Good Karma Brands, noting the way Nielsen measured its audience through portable people meters – or PPMs was “outdated” as other ways to measure audiences have emerged, such as podcast downloads. The move took place on January 1 and affects all six cities Good Karma owns stations in, including New York, Los Angeles, and Milwaukee.

“It’s outdated to use one form of media to measure a show, especially one that doesn’t reflect the entire listening audience and viewing audience across all the different ways we distribute our media now.”, said Good Karma CEO Craig Karmazin in a newspaper interview, referring to streaming and digital.

It’s the same feeling shared by other media companies in both radio and television as on the latter side, Sunbeam owner WSVN Miami and WHDH/WLVI Boston sued Nielsen for monopoly power over television stations in 2009 (they lost) while other station groups have added Comscore and other metrics as audience measuring tools.

Nielsen has a policy of not listing radio stations in their rankings who aren’t subscribers to their services. Salem Broadcasting dropped its subscription years ago as its stations – including Chicago’s WIND-AM – haven’t appeared in quite some time. Nielsen also stopped measuring cross-border stations coming into the U.S. from Canada, impacting Detroit and Buffalo books (but not Mexico.)

Here in Chicago, ESPN 1000 trailed arch-rival The Score (WSCR-AM) in the overall ratings despite adding Bears football. But as we all know, “overall” numbers don’t tell the complete story as sports radio’s key demo is men 25-54, whose numbers are often unavailable.

In New York, it’s a similar story with WFAN maintaining a lead with Good Karma’s ESPN-branded station, who is moving off the FM dial as its lease with the frequency expires in August. The station remains on the AM 1050 frequency.

The lobbying group that represents local TV stations whose newscasts cover lots of crime is now fed up with crime itself.

The National Association of Broadcasters is one of 70 business organizations who recently sent a letter to Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Browser and the City Council urging them to crack down on crime in the downtown area where most of these organizations are located. In addition to the NAB, other trade groups signing the letter include CTIA – The Wireless Association, the U.S. Chamber Of Commerce, and the National Grocers Association. Some of the incidents have taken place just steps from the NAB’s headquarters.

The letter was sent on February 29 and outlined numerous incidents including a father of three who was gunned down in a carjacking and another murder occurring just blocks from the White House. The letter would go on to detail other numerous violent incidents in the city, blaming a small group of organized and repeat criminals. It also noted Washington had a 35 percent year-to-year increase in 2023 while noting other cities saw declines including Chicago (however, crime in other categories was up – something the letter didn’t note.)

In December, the Washington Capitals and Wizards announced they were departing the downtown area for a new stadium campus in Alexandria, Va., citing increased crime as one of the reasons.

While crime has declined in some places, coverage of the subject has been dominant – on local and national levels, feeding viewers’ fear. It’s been this way since the late 1980s when local news shows – Chicago included – introduced flashier graphics and increased coverage of crime. In 1988, Fox-owned WTTG introduced one of the first daily news shows devoted to crime called City Under Siege as the crack epidemic fueled mayhem in Washington during this time, noted as “America’s Murder Capital”.

While the flashy presentations have toned down since the 1990s, crime is still a center of local stations’ newscasts and still draws plenty of viewers. And the issue is now on the doorstep of the trade organization that represents them.

Starting this upcoming season, the WNBA’s New York Liberty will be available to more New York City metropolitan homes.

Fox-owned WNYW and sister station WWOR inked a deal with the franchise, giving them all non-nationally televised games – mainly those not airing on the league’s network partners ESPN, CBS Sports Network, and Scripps/Ion.

“As an organization, we are committed to bringing Liberty basketball to as many households as possible, and we are incredibly proud to enter this groundbreaking partnership with Fox 5 New York,“ Liberty CEO Keia Clarke said. “Expanding our local reach and ensuring we are widely accessible wherever fans watch Liberty games is imperative in today’s ever-expanding media landscape.”

Clarke, owner Clara Wu Tsai, and player Breanna Link appeared on WNYW’s Good Day New York Tuesday to announce the news. The 2024 season’s first tip-off is May 14, on WWOR.

“We’re fired up to welcome the N.Y. Liberty and their voracious fans to our roster of incredible sports programming,” said Lew Leone, senior VP and general manager of Fox’s New York duopoly. “This partnership of two winning teams is a slam dunk. Fox 5 cannot wait for the 2024 season tip-off to bring the exciting play of WNBA to our audience.”

The move comes as more viewers aren’t renewing cable and satellite subscriptions due to increasing costs.

Liberty games were on YES for the last five years, and beforehand on MSG, when they played at Madison Square Garden. In 2018, the team relocated to suburban White Plains, NY for home games after it was put up for sale, and played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn since 2019, also home to the NBA’s Nets. Liberty games were often bumped from the channel due to Yankees games, who appeared on both WNYW and WWOR in the past. WWOR was once known for airing Mets games, airing nationwide when they were a superstation.

In Chicago, the WNBA’s Sky has non-network deals with the Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network and Weigel’s combo of CW 26 (WCIU) and The U.


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