Friday, November 4, 2016


For three decades I have worked with syndicated radio programming. I’ve heard a lot of program pitches.  Often it is no more than an idea.

One of the first questions I ask is: Who owns this show?  Who owns this idea?

I still find it surprising that over half don’t know these absolute basics of business.  Most often the problem is creating a new “product” while still working for someone else. Then there are more severe situations like employees theft. Today we have a story that touches on these themes.


Christopher Kimball
Today’s story is the current legal case of America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) versus Christopher Kimball, Kimball’s wife Melissa Baldino, assistant Chistine Gordon and independent PR maven Deborah Broide.

Christopher Kimball was, and is, a well-known chef, author and media personality based in Boston. In the early 1990s, Kimball and some friends decided to form a for-profit company to publish books and magazine s with foolproof recipes.

Things happened at a fast pace.  Business was good. A few years ago the partners made an alliance with WGBH-TV. ATK is now one of the most successful producers on PBS. In 2012 ATK created a radio version of the TV show. Today it is distributed by PRX and is on many respected stations.

America’s Test Kitchen was a showcase for Christopher Kimball. He ruled the roost. He was the decision maker with no title. Kimball’s visual presence reminds me of Les Nessman combined with David Hyde Pierce.

The stars of ATK then and now are people who look like someone you know, showing off cooking stills, cooking this wonderful food sthat is so nicely photographed and edited into fast-paced delicious (pun intended) video and audio programs. You can see some of them at [link].

Things were changing for Gordon Kimball In early 2015. His other partners decided ATK needed a more formal business structure.  This was a departure from Kimball’s free wheeling style. Plus he would have to report to a CEO. Heavens!

On Monday (10/31/16) the Boston Globe first reported that ATK has filed suit against in Massachusetts’s Suffolk County Superior Court against Kimball and others. They accuse Kimball of building of building a new company called Milk Street on ATK time. Then there is the allegation of employee theft.

The following pages include portions of the Complaint filed by ATK. Of course what is only one side of the dispute the details.

Quotes from court documents are indicated by American Typewriter fount.

61. On June 10, 2015, Mr. Kimball emailed Tom Hagopian, an IT consultant for ATK: “I want a private gmail account that is not part of the company servers/systems.”

62. On August 5, 2015, Mr. Kimball emailed Tom Hagopian again: “Just want to make sure that if I use a gmail address, that my company has no access to this account. They can only get access to may ATK account, right?”

63. On August 10, 2015, Mr. Kimball emailed Mr. Hagopian: “I want to capture email addresses from folks who respond to my letter from VT to see photos that I post.” These email addresses refer to customers of Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country print and/or online magazines. They belong to ATK, not Mr. Kimball. As a marketing asset, the emails hold significant value to ATK, and would hold significant value to a rival startup. In fact, ATK assigns a certain value to each customer email address.

64. In August and September, 2015, Ms. Gordon contacted real estate brokers for commercial space in the Boston and Cambridge area. Specifically, Ms. Gordon requested sufficient capacity “for test kitchen.” To give brokers a clear picture of the proposed use for the new space, Ms. Gordon invited them to view ATK’s website. Ms. Gordon continued to correspond with brokers through at least October 5, 2015. She did so while on ATK company time and while fraudulently claiming that she represented ATK.

65. On October 1, 2015, Ms. Gordon received a lease proposal over email. The subject line of the email read: “America’s Test Kitchen – 40 West Third.” The proposal listed the tenant as “TBD (d/b/a America’s Test Kitchen).” It listed the use as “office, film studio, and test kitchen.” Ms. Gordon solicited this proposal on behalf of Mr. Kimball’s new company – not A TK.

66. On August 28, 2015, Mr. Kimball received an email from Deborah Broide of Deborah Broide Publicity, a public relations consultant engaged by, and paid by, ATK. Ms. Broide wrote:

I’m sure you’ve thought of this already (and since your ATK email and your personal email are both google based, I’m sure this has already been done via the Cloud or something). Still, just in case – you want to be sure that you have all your ATK business contact info accessible via your personal gmail account, too.

Also, I’m not sure if Christine has your work related contact info (things that you wouldn’t have) but if so, you want to get all of that stuff too. I don’t know if Christine knows anything or not (you asked me to keep everything confidential. I’ve been very careful about that), but she may have info or lists etc. that you might want (and faster) because of this latest development (I truly can’t believe they would go through with it, but who knows).

67. Ms. Broide advised Mr. Kimball to take ATK business contact information and lists in connection with Mr. Kimball’s “confidential” plans.

68. Mr. Kimball forwarded Ms. Broide’s email to Ms. Gordon on the same day. Ms. Gordon responded on the same day: “I’ll have lee [her husband] back up my computer this weekend.”

69. Over that weekend, on August 29, 2015, Mr. Kimball emailed Ms. Gordon: “It seems likely that Melissa and I are going to be fired next week so let’s get a moving company in Monday (two guys) with boxes to pack up my stuff and remove it to storage. Want to get ahead of the partners!” ATK had no intention of firing Mr. Kimball or his wife, nor had it expressed such an intention to him. To the contrary, the Board had repeatedly expressed ATK’s “deep desire” to keep Mr. Kimball.

70. Mr. Kimball’s August 29th email also stated that “I have first round funding in place so we need to move fast on the office space.” Upon information and belief, Mr. Kimball
was referring to funding he had put in place for what would become CPK Media and Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street.

71. On August 31, 2015, Mr. Kimball emailed Mr. Hagopian: “I have deleted Melissa’s business email address in the contact file but it still exists in the email software – how get rid of it?” When Mr. Hagopian explained how to “search” Ms. Baldino’s email, Mr. Kimball responded: “I want to DELETE her business email, not find it.”

72. On November 3, 2015, Ms. Broide emailed Mr. Kimball:
Please keep a copy of this for the new company. This is my list (culled from 24 years at ATK). This list is on the main server at ATK, although I haven’t updated it in about 3 months (I have the updates though).
I just want to make sure that you have this list, too. I’m going to send you two more list [sic] (also stuff I created) for the new company. Again, these are lists are [sic] created for ATK. I don’t think the national list is on the ATK server though.
(emphasis in original).

73. The subject line of Ms. Broide’s email read “Core media list please review.” These lists resided on ATK’s password-protected server. They belonged to ATK. So did the “updates” that Ms. Broide had kept for herself and Mr. Kimball. To the extent Ms. Broide helped create these lists, she did so as a paid consultant for ATK. These media lists hold significant value to ATK, a multi-media company.

74. Mr. Kimball responded to Ms. Broide’s email: “Thanks for all the lists – will archive. Hopefully nothing is going to happen to you – seems like an episode of Mission Impossible!

Mr. Kimball took ATK’s media contact lists for use in his new venture. His allusion to “Mission Impossible” betrays his knowledge of surreptitious wrongdoing.

75. Also on November 3, 2015, Mr. Kimball emailed Mr. Hagopian: “I am scanning hundreds of recipes and want to annotate them by hand. In the same email, he wrote:

“Also, need to chat with you soon about setting up the new office.” Mr. Kimball sent a similar email to Ms. Gordon the same day that read:

“Need to figure out the best way to scan, annotate, save and organize recipes.”

On August 24, 2015, Eliot Wadsworth, President and board member of ATK Inc. and fellow partner to Kimball, emailed Mr. Kimball to confirm “points we agreed on this afternoon.” Mr. Wadsworth expressed ATK’s “deep desire to retain [Mr. Kimball’s] continued involvement with the business in areas where [his] skills and experience can make a contribution” and offered to maintain Mr. Kimball’s current level of compensation in salary and bonuses.
78. That same day, Mr. Kimball announced in a senior management meeting that he had been “fired” and would be starting a new company.

79. The next day, Mr. Kimball announced to ATK staff that he had been fired and that the Board and the new CEO would ruin the company. He also began secretly soliciting ATK employees to join him in his new venture. Specifically, that afternoon, Mr. Kimball called individual employees into his office to tell them that he was starting a new company and that he wanted to offer them positions in the new company. Mr. Kimball had not been fired, nor had he been told he would be fired, at the time he made this announcement and began soliciting ATK employees.

On November 16, 2015, ATK sent Mr. Kimball a notice of termination. Mr. Kimball’s termination became effective November 20, 2015.

96. The masthead of the charter issue of Milk Street Magazine reveals that at least 15 former and current ATK employees and freelancers now work for Milk Street. They include Melissa Baldino, former ATK executive television and radio producer; Matthew Card, former recipe developer and staff writer for Cook’s Illustrated, freelance article recipe and article developer for Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country, and on-air personality for season three of America’s Test Kitchen; Jennifer Baldino Cox, former arts director for ATK marketing group; Erika Bruce, former recipe developer and staff writer for Cook’s Illustrated, freelance recipe developer for Cook’s Country, instructor for ATK’s online cooking school, and cast member on seasons six and seven of America’s Test Kitchen; Dawn Yanagihara, freelance recipe developer who currently cross-tests all Cook’s Illustrated recipes before publication; Catrine Kelty, freelance food stylist for Cook’s Country currently responsible for Cook’s Country signature photography; Stephanie Stender, former ATK co-executive television and radio producer; Christine Gordon; and Deborah Broide.

122. Mr. Kimball also interfered with ATK’s longtime exclusive distributor of ATK Radio, PRX. PRX has exclusively distributed ATK Radio to public radio stations since the show’s inception in 2012. PRX operates one of public radio’s largest distribution marketplaces and its programming reaches millions of listeners worldwide. In 2016, concluding that Milk Street Radio competed directly with ATK Radio, PRX told ATK that it would not market both shows and therefore would not be renewing its agreement with ATK and would allow it to terminate on December 31, 2016.

123. Mr. Kimball orchestrated the bait and switch of Milk Street Radio for ATK Radio. In November 2016, Mr. Kimball offered to produce ATK Radio through his new company, CPK Media. On assurances that Mr. Kimball had no plans to compete against ATK, ATK accepted these services. The terms of this affiliation were memorialized in a “Radio Deal Memo,” dated November 19, 2015.

124. After convincing ATK to place the production of ATK Radio in his hands, Mr. Kimball used this arrangement as a bridge to Milk Street, exploiting the guaranteed revenue stream and personal airtime and ensure the immediate viability and relevance of Milk Street. In April 2016, Mr. Kimball provided 6-months’ notice that he would cease the production of ATK Radio effective October 15, 2016. Mr. Kimball’s new radio show will debut on public radio on October 22, 2016.
125. Upon information and belief, Mr. Kimball convinced PRX to accelerate the debut of Milk Street Radio to October 22, 2016 despite PRX’s earlier promises to ATK to not air the competing show until after the expiration of its contract with ATK on December 31, 2016.
126. Mr. Kimball’s actions have caused ATK to cease the full-scale production of ATK Radio after the 2016 season and to reconfigure and relaunch its radio product through a different partnership.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


For years WDET has trailed WUOM Michigan Radio in the Detroit metro by all measures. That changed in the October 2016 Nielsen Audio PPM ratings when WDET tallied more weekly cumulative listeners than Michigan Radio.

I need to point out, however, that Michigan Radio has many, many more weekly listeners outside of Detroit in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Flint and Saginaw.  Also, according to the October estimates, WUOM has a much larger Average-Quarter-Hour (AQH) share 2.9 compared to WDET’s 1.0 share. This means that even though WDET has the most weekly listeners in Detroit, people tend to listen longer to Michigan Radio.

Still, weekly cume is an important metric and WDET’s performances shows that things are working for them.

A comparison of the schedules for the days/hours when most people hear radio (shown on the right) shows there is a strategy at work at WDET: Super-serving Detroit area listeners with locally originated programming that is distinctly different from Michigan Radio. 

In some ways WDET’s strategy reminds me of how WGBH in Boston is competing successfully with WBUR.

WDET’s big play is Culture Shift, a cultural, news and music hybrid that airs weekdays from Noon to 3pm [link]. There are similarities to WGBH’s Boston Public Radio, which has performed very well.

On Culture Shift co-hosts Travis Wright and Amanda LeClaire cover Detroit life in a way Michigan Radio can’t. The blend is typically 60% spoken word and 40% music but this ratio varies by day and hour. 
WDET’s one-hour talk and interview program Detroit Today [link] has a different focus than WUOM’s Stateside [link]. Stateside describes itself as broad coverage across southern and central Michigan with topics and events that matter to people all acrossthe state. Detroit Today is all about and for folks in Detroit.


The best of the smaller Detroit noncoms is probably 89.3 FM WHFR [link] originating from Dearborn. WHFR is licensed to Henry Ford Community College but it has a larger mission: Alternative Variety with programming not heard elsewhere in the market. On WHFR you’ll hear Alternative and Modern Rock, Big Band, Country, Americana, Blues, Hip Hop, Jazz, Space Rock, Urban, and World music programming. WHFR carries Classical 24 and a few other programs from Public Radio International (PRI)

Other noncoms include 88.1 WHPR (Urban Contemporary) and 90.1 FM WDPT (CCM Smile FM). 99.1 FM CJAM (Modern Rock) booms into Detroit from Windsor, Ontario.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Welcome to Sacramento, California, an emerging noncommercial radio market with a proven leader and a fascinating upstart LPFM.

Capital Public Radio (CPR) [link] leads the market in noncom revenue and listening via NPR News station KXJZ and Classical KXPR. CPR is a very successful noncom shop with annual revenue exceeding $11 million in FY 2016 according to audit data on the organization’s website. During the same year, CPR claimed over $4.5 million in listener support and $2.6 million in underwriting. This is big league noncommercial performance!

On the right are the October 2016 Nielsen Audio PPM ratings for the market.

CPR’s KXJZ is the noncom leader and KXPR out-performs Classical stations in similar size markets.

Sacramento is the home of the Educational Media Foundation (EMF), the nation’s largest Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) broadcaster. EMF’s satellite-delivered formats, K-LOVE and Air1, are local stations here.

The biggest “X factor” is KQEI, a full time repeater of KQED, San Francisco. While KQED reaches hundreds of thousands of listeners, KQEI languishes with almost no one listening. How can this be? KQEI has an excellent signal but it gets no traction. KQED should either sell it or get serious with something other than a news format. Right now KXJZ is eating KQED’s lunch.


Capital Public Radio’s documentary series, The View From Here, will air the culmination of its year-long examination of undocumented immigration in California. The last episode in the series California Dream, Undocumented aired last weekend on KXJZ. You can hear it and early shows in the series online at [link].

The documentary features the struggles and challenges of undocumented immigrants in California. It originally aired as a three-part series in late 2015 and the spring of 2016. It is a homegrown effort. In 2015 CPR brought together a diverse group of educators, students, community leaders, policy analysts, legal advocates, workers and labor leaders to discuss undocumented immigration.

 Joe Barr, CPR’s Chief Content Officer, said the series put a human face on an issue that’s dividing the country:

“We're proud of our effort to create journalism that delves deep into an issue that has garnered so much attention during this election. It is rare that radio stations are able to devote the resources necessary to deliver this kind of long-form reporting.”


Sacramento also has other notable noncom stations but none is better than 93.3 KZHP-LP, known as K-ZAP]. I got a contact high just looking at the site [link].

Back in the progressive rock era, KZAP was one of the most recognized and loved stations in the country. I was a “cousin” of KSAN, KMET, KDKB, XTRA and KINK – all highly (punned intended) regarded west coast stations.

The original KZAP, which went off the air on January 20th, 1992, when it was eaten up by corporate consolidation.

Then, a group of rock radio veterans, led by Tom Cale, Dennis Newhall, and Diane Michaels, later joined by John Saltnes got an LPFM license. On July 4th, 2015 at 9:33am the new K-ZAP signed on. Bingo!

The old KZAP air studio
KZHP has an excellent transmission point near central Sacramento and covers most of the market. The music mix leans toward current Triple A and there are plenty of nuggets from old days.

Other noncoms of interest include 90.3 FM KDVS, from nearby Davis [link] that mixes alternative rock with political talk shows. KDVS says it is more than a noncommercial station, it is Anti-Commercial Radio.

Also, notable are 96.5 FM KUBU-LP, a public access station; 97.5 FM KDEE-LP airing urban contemporary music and the markets most under-developed noncom, full-power 91.5 FM KYDS, a high school station where the motto is
"Tomorrows DJ's, Today's Hits."

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Jarl Mohn, NPR President and CEO, is currently on a road trip across America visiting NPR stations large and small. At every stop, Mohn brings his passion and sense of purpose to folks working on the front lines of public radio. Mohn knows that healthy, motivated stations are the key to the future of public radio.

Previous NPR CEO’s sometimes didn’t share Mohn’s enthusiasm about member stations. Because of NPR’s governance system (the CEO reports to a Board made up of mainly station managers), sometimes conflicts arise between station priorities and national priorities. NPR competes with the biggest news providers. NPR also serves it’s member stations from coast-to-coast, a patchwork quilt of “family farmers.”

Mohn has been successful with station folks because his roots are at stations. In 1967 he began working the overnight shift at a station in Philadelphia while attending Temple University on a scholarship. Mohn took the air-name Lee Masters. By the 1980s he was an on-air personality at WNBC, New York, working with Howard Stern and Dan Imus. He also owned and operated hometown commercial stations.

Mohn moved into cable TV in 1986 when he was recruited by Robert Pittman to run MTV and VH1. He loved to LA manage the fledgling Movietime cable channel, which he turned into E! Entertainment Television. In the early 2000s he cashed in his business holdings with enough dough to retire. But he didn’t.

His philanthropic work eventually led him to become President and CEO of NPR in 2004. When he got the gig, he told a member of the NPR Board:

“I feel like I was born to do this.”

Mohn has never lost his intuitive feel for healthy stations and the role they play in American life. He is NPR’s number one champion of partnership between local stations and NPR. Now Mohn is on the road spreading the love.


We have been following the press coverage of Jarl Mohn’s visits to stations. Here are highlights in his own words.


Asked about the purpose of his current cross-country trip:

I'm taking three weeks to travel across the country. I've never driven across the country coast-to-coast and I'm using it as an opportunity to visit NPR member stations. I started in Washington, DC, I'm going to end up in Los Angeles. I'll visit 25 towns and cities and call on something like 34 of our NPR member stations.

“Like many people listening to KUAR right now, I was a supporter and a big fan and I got then I got involved. I think it's very important to communities all across the country, so my role, one of the things I wanted to do was do whatever I can to support journalism.

Asked about why millennials listen to NPR:

“I ask each of them [I meet] how they came to listen to NPR and each one of them has a very different story. [Some are] what we call backseat babies, they grew up...listening to NPR when they’re in the back of the car. Some discovered NPR through our Podcasts. Others started listening because friends recommended it.”

“So, whether it’s online,” our a broadcast, or on a smartphone, we want to reach the people that like our kind of news and storytelling every possible way.”


Asked about replacing heritage hosts like Diane Rehm and recruiting new talent:

“I think if you attempt to make everybody happy, you probably fail. We have to think about what sounds good, what sounds right, what fits with our brand and what sounds like the future. It will require giving shows longer than the six-month test runs most traditional media outlets allow.”

Asked about the importance of journalism to the future of NPR:

"I think and what I aspire to – is great journalism, great news gathering and very good story-telling. I think the more great storytelling we can do, stories that are from around the world that are really, really important but sometimes hard to make engaging and stories for people to connect with, the better job we do of storytelling."

Asked about his ultimate NPR fantasy:

"We want to have that magic and, you know, there’s the reputed driveway moments. I see thousands and thousands of cars sitting in their driveways with the engines running, people listening to NPR in their cars. They can’t stop listening. because that they can’t stop listening.  It’s a wonderful fantasy, because it is real.

Asked about NPR embracing podcasts and digital media

"Podcasting is a fast growing part of our business. So is NPR One. We need to make really compelling content, tell great stories across all platforms. I just looked at month of September. It was our highest month in audience levels for podcasts, biggest month for NPR One and it was our biggest month for"

One of my favorite podcasts is Kelly McEvers’ Embedded. It's a remarkable podcast and it's great journalism and 75 percent of the audience, people that listen to that show, are under 35. So we think this is a really great gateway into listening to and understanding and appreciating public radio.

Monday, October 31, 2016


Last week the bankruptcy trustee for Pataphysical Broadcasting Foundation, licensee of the former KUSP-FM in Santa Cruz, California, sold the station’s license to Educational Media Foundation (EMF) for $605,000. EMF had the highest bid in an auction for the FM license, the licenses for four translators and the tangible assets of the organization.

As we reported in early August [link], KUSP ceased broadcasting at end of July and then filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to settle its debts, estimated at over $800,000. Some of the former station’s creditors will not receive full payment. The bankruptcy trustee also received a $600,000 bid from KCRW, Santa Monica.

EMF is the nation’s largest noncommercial religious broadcaster. It owns and distributes two satellite-delivered Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) formats known as K-LOVE and Air1.  Both formats already are heard in Santa Cruz on FM translators.


There are a number of lessons from KUSP’s failure that all noncommercial broadcasters can learn from, particularly stations licensed to community organizations.

KUSP suffered from “Pacifica Syndrome,” a dysfunctional condition often associated with Pacifica Radio, perhaps the next noncom to face a similar fate.

As a public service, here are five essential questions that station management should answer to determine if their station has Pacifica Syndrome:

• Are your Board members divided into “factions” that stridently disagree about the governance, programming and purpose of the station?

• Is there a prevalent belief within your station that it is more important to get your station’s politics right than get the “radio basics” right?

• Does your station have internal committees with the power to overrule management decisions?

• Can the station’s members vote to overturn the management of the station?

• Do members of your governing Board feel that decisions made in Board meetings are more important than what goes over the air and on digital media?

If you said “yes” to three or more of these questions you should take action to prevent your station from being the “next KUSP.”


Podtrac [link] has released its latest list of the Top 20 podcasts and noncom public media publishers continue to dominate the chart. Of the 19 publishers identified in the September rankings, 13 (68%) are affiliated with public radio outlets.

NPR publishes 6 of the Top 20 podcasts, PRX/Radiotopia publishes three and WNYC Studios and This American Life both publish 2 of the podcasts.

FYI – Note that no specific access or listening metrics are provided for the chart entries. There is no way to tell how close or far apart #1 is from #2 or #20. In the fine print Podtrac says: Ranking of these shows is determined by a proprietary Podtrac algorithm which uses publicly available data.

So, show us the data data please. Without some sort of metrics, the Top 20 list feels like an Ouija Board.