Friday, September 21, 2018

“AMERICA ON THE LINE” IS A WELCOME NEW TALK & INTERVIEW SHOW BUT IT NEEDS HELP WITH THE BASICS


It is nice to hear Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post columnist and MSNBC contributor, on public radio. Capehart’s new program America On the Line debuted September 10th on WNYC and across the country on 120 NPR News/Talk stations and repeaters. The show is live Monday through Thursday from 8pm – 9pm (ET) and is scheduled run through the November 6 mid-term election.

America On the Line is similar to WNYC’s Indivisible, a limited-series weeknight program that focused on President Trump’s first 100 days in office in 2017. Though America On the Line is also a limited-series, it has the makings of an ongoing program. Capehart certainly has a public radio voice and style. He has been a fill-in host and guest on WNYC programs for over ten years.

Logo for Capehart's Post podcast Cape Up
The Washington Post is very supportive of Capehart’s public radio work. According to an article in the Poynter Newsletter [link], Post Editorial Editor Fred Hiatt arranged for Capehart to leave Washington after The Post's Monday morning editorial board meetings and work from New York the remainder of the week.

Capehart told Poynter he hopes America On the Line will “break [me] out of the bubble of the Northeast Corridor.” The call-in component is important to Capehart because he wants it the reflect a full range of viewpoints:

“I want to bring people on from the Republican side of the aisle to talk about their perspective in a way that people from the blue states could understand it, if not necessarily agree with it.”


America On the Line • Wednesday, September 19th

The topic for this show was Will Brett Kavanaugh Get Confirmed?, the top story of the day,



America On the Line opens with little fanfare. Capehart quickly gets down to business by outlining the dynamics of the upcoming discussion. He starts with a live interview with Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) about the current status of the nomination and efforts to have a woman, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school, testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The interview with Jones lasted over eight minutes, a bit too long for us.

Then Capehart went to the phones. The first caller, Mary in Delaware, was a “hair-on-fire” supporter of Kavanaugh and the second caller, Aveda in Manhattan, was a “hair-on-fire” critic of Kavanaugh. Little light was shed on issues. Capehart thankfully ended both calls quickly.

We became concerned that callers were not being properly screened before being put live on the air. There were five calls during this edition of America On the Line. Two were from people on cellphones that had terrible audio quality. An experienced call screener would have never allowed them on the air.

Maria Hinojosa


Next came the panel featuring conservative pundit Charlie Sykes and Maria Hinojosa, the host of NPR's Latino USA

Capehart started the conversation by asking Sykes and Hinojosa if the callers they just heard “exemplify dividing line in America.” Yes, they did” replied the panel.

Sykes and Hinojosa then spent the next several minutes discussing the matter. 

Time flew by quickly. Sykes and Hinojosa are both articulate commentators with a comfortable presence.

Sykes on MSNBC
(Sykes and Hinojosa will frequently appear on the show’s panel. Other promised commentators include Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist; Jamil Smith, a LA based reporter specializing race, gender, politics and culture; Joan Walsh, a contributor to The Nation; Christina Greer, Professor of Political Science at Fordham University; and Amy Walter, a political analyst and Friday host of The Takeaway.)

Trouble began as this edition of America On the Line approached the mid-show break. Before the stop set, Capehart thanked Sykes and Hinojosa as if they were leaving. Then, after the stop set, Sykes and Hinojosa were still there causing a red-face moment for Capehart.

Also Capehart announced for the first time that another guest would be appearing during the second half of the show: Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.  Tyson is a bankable guest who often appears on talk shows. We were surprised he wasn’t promoted as an upcoming guest on America On the Line.

The lack of forward promotion, problems with timing and questionable callers led us to wonder who is the producer of America On the Line. We searched and couldn’t the name anywhere. WNYC can do better.

Overall, we give America On the Line a B+. 

The live element is terrific. Capehart is a concise and likable host. The commentators are solid. But more thought needs to be given to how callers are screened and how they contribute to the program. Most of all, America On the Line needs a radio producer who can increase the radio appeal of the show.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

CPB ANNOUNCES PUBLIC RADIO “URBAN ALTERNATIVE INITIATIVE”


Since 2015 the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has been quietly developing a new music format for public radio called Urban Alternative. 

Now CPB is going public with the venture by announcing $1.3 million in grants for three public radio stations to implement the new format: KPVU, Houston; KUVO, Denver; and, WNSB, Norfolk.

According to CPB, the Urban Alternative format is Hip Hop, R&B and Urban Contemporary music combined with “public radio’s values” such as thoughtful lyricism and storytelling. The emphasis is on building locally customized formats that can be used by other stations. So, think of the three stations as  beta testers. 

None of the 3 stations is changing their format at this time. Programming decisions are made at the local level.

Mike Henry
Leading the effort is consultant Mike Henry from Paragon Media Strategies. Henry will work with each of the three stations during their transition to an Urban Alternative playlist. Paragon will conduct research to identify a music mix that has the greatest local market appeal. The project is expected to last two years.

Henry has already invested considerable time and effort to the development of the Urban Alternative format.  In 2016 CPB funded research by Paragon to examine a version of the Urban Alternative format at Vocalo (WEBW 91.1 FM) in Chicago.

Another likely reason Paragon was chosen for the project is Henry’s extensive experience consulting Triple A “music discovery” stations. Stations such as The Current, The Colorado Sound, WXPN and several others are or have used Henry’s strategy to be a convening point for local music, events and community engagement.

For additional information on this story we recommend Mike Janssen's excellent report in Current [link].

MEET THREE VERY DIFFERENT PUBLIC RADIO STATIONS

Each of the three stations will present unique challenges because they have different histories, resources and staff available.

• WNSB “HOT 91” NORFOLK, VIRGINIA

WNSB, serves the Norfolk area from Norfolk State University

According to the station’s website [link], Hot 91 airs mainstream Urban pop music and is staffed by students.



Douglas “Teddybear” Perry
Hot 91.1’s only full-time station employee is Program Director Douglas “Teddybear” Perry.  Perry has been on the job for over 24 years. According to his Linken In page, Perry is best known for giveing local artist a chance to have radio airplay and gain the attention in the music industry. Teddybear claims to have discovered Jay Pharaoh of NBC’s Saturday Night Live while a student at Norfolk State and rap recording artist Lyadonna.

WNSB is small shop. Audited financial statements found on the station’s website report in FY 2017 WNSB had total revenue around $450,000. Of this amount, $415,000 in cash and in-kind support comes from the Norfolk State, the licensee.

In FY 2017 support from members was just over $10,000 and underwriting brought in around $7,000.  In FY 2016, WNSB had $81,235 in funding from CPB.  The audit shows the station received no money from CPB in FY 2017.

• KPVU “WE PLAY JAZZ” HOUSTON, TEXAS

KPVU [link] has been serving metro Houston since 1980 from Prairie View A&M University. KPVU’s website says the station serves as an educational training facility for students interested in broadcasting careers.

The format has evolved over time and is now primarily Smooth Jazz and around 20 hours a week of Gospel music.  KPVU competes with KTSU, a full time Jazz station with a large listening and member base.

According to KPVU’s audited financial statement, in FY 2017 the reported total revenue of $456,000. Of that amount $163,000 came from the university; $129,000 came from CPB; $33,000 came from underwriting; and $18,000 came for members. KPVU also received $115,000 in concert ticket sales in FY 2017.

• KUVO “COMMUNITY CULTURE MUSIC” DENVER, COLORADO

We have reported extensively about KUVO including a detailed study of the station in January 2018 [link].

KUVO [link] has a vastly different profile than the other two stations involved in the Urban Alternative Initiative. KUVO is a well-established full-time Jazz station that is an integral part of life on the Front Range.

KUVO has a full-power signal atop one of the Rocky Mountains.  It puts a decent signal into the I-25 corridor from Fort Collins to the Monument pass near Colorado Springs. 

Carlos Lando
It is impossible to tell the story of KUVO without mentioning Carlos Lando, now GM of KUVO. Lando is a charter member of public radio’s Greatest Generation – the men and women who built today’s public media system.

During his 40+ years in the biz Lando has always followed the beat of the music. He is a former Armed Forces radio host who jumped on the radio bus in 1968. After his service to the country he landed at WOUR, an “underground” pioneer in central New York.

Lando came to Colorado in the mid-1980’s for an on-air gig at KBCO, perhaps the best rock station in the nation at the time. In 1987 he joined KUVO as Program Director. Carlos fell in love with jazz in the high country.

KUVO signed on in 1985 as the first Hispanic-led public radio station in the country. At the beginning, KUVO was a funky independent station serving the Latino community. CPB supported the birth of KUVO (God bless you, Rick Madden).

When Carlos became PD of KUVO, he brought in more and more Jazz programming. He focused the air sound bit by bit, keeping KUVO relevant with the community. KUVO has a sophisticated focused format. This may prove problematic for a pending Urban Alternative format.

In 2013, KUVO merged with Rocky Mountain Public Media, the licensee of PBS station KRMA in Denver. 

We generally don’t recommend that public radio stations jump in bed with Public TV stations, but In this case it has worked. KUVO continues to operate semi-autonomously and benefits from KRMA-TV’s large fundraising effort, statewide reach and ample cash flow.

KUVO does not rely on the licensee for operating funds and the revenue from CPB makes up a small piece of the pie. 

KUVO is also currently involved with a Capital Campaign – those numbers are not included in the chart on the left.




Wednesday, September 19, 2018

PJ FINN APPOINTED EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF MVY RADIO • iHEART ACQUIRES STUFF MEDIA


 
P.J. Finn (right) in the WVYRadio main studio with DJs
Barbara Dacey and Laurel Reddington
(image courtesy Vineyard Gazette)
Paul J. “PJ” Finn has been appointed Executive Director of WMVY – a/k/a MvyRadio – the innovative Triple A music station serving Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and eastern shore communities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Finn has been part of WMVY for 18 years. He also remains Program Director.

In part, because of Finn’s programming expertise, MvyRadio has become a success in a very challenging situation. Small stations in vacation locales often suffer because visitors tend to support stations at home.


MvyRadio reported income of $1,328 million in fiscal year 2016, the most recent data available. In FY 2016, revenue from underwriters was $515,000 and $316,000 from members.

In the Fall 2016 Nielsen Audio ratings, WMVY had a Metro AQH share of 2.7% and 14,300 Total Survey Area estimated weekly listeners.

During his years with WMVY [link], Finn has seen the station go through many changes and challenges. From 1980 until 2013, WMVY was a commercial station owned by Aritaur Communications. In late 2012 Boston’s WBUR bought 92.7 FM and it became WBUA, a fulltime repeater of WBUR.

In the decade prior to the sale, WMVY developed a pioneering online stream site that built a global audience.  Around the same time as the sale of 92.7, Friends of MvyRadio, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, was founded. Friends acquired WMVY’s intellectual property and online streaming rights.

Friends conducted a Save WMVY campaign to operate the online station and raise money to acquire a noncommercial station license. $600,000 was raised in 60 days.

PJ Finn
In November, 2013, Friends announced the purchase of 88.7 FM, then operating as WMEX, a 250-watt station based on Martha’s Vineyard.  

MvyRadio began broadcasting on 88.7 in May 2014. The call letters were soon changed to WMVY. 

Since then the station has increased its power to 13,000-watts. WMVY later added a translator at 96.5 FM to better serve Newpost, Rhode Island and other coastal communities.

Finn said in a press release about his new gig:

“I have always believed in WMVY, and now I am thrilled to be in a position to collaborate with and inspire an incredible group of people -- our staff and our Board -- to bring the station to new heights and successes.”


iHEART MEDIA ACQUIRES PODCAST COMPANY “STUFF”




Podcast industry observers are saying that iHeartMedia is showing how serious it is about podcasting with the acquisition of Stuff Media, LLC, the publisher of the popular podcast HowStuffWorks

According to the August 2018 Podtrac rankings (on the left) iHeart is the top commercial publisher, second only to NPR. HowStuffWorks is number five on the August chart.

The purchase price is $44 million. Because iHeart is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the sale will need to be approved by the bankruptcy court.

Though iHeart says it currently publishes 643 podcasts, they have yet to have a breakout hit. On the other hand, Stuff Media’s podcasts have been solid hits. Stuff Media current publishes 40 podcast titles.

Next on the left is Podtrac’s August 2018 Top 20 Podcasts. Companies associated with public radio dominate both charts. Thirteen of the Top 20 are produced by public media shops.

Commercial podcasts and publishers are a growing presence in the podcast industry.  The number of monthly listeners to Barstool Sports podcasts grew by 37% when comparing August 2018 data with August 2017.

The Daily, published by The New York Times and now a hit on public radio News/Talk stations thanks to American Public Media, is now the nation’s top podcast, according to Podtrac.