Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, March 19, 2006
By: Mike Austerman
Earlier in the week, the Federal Communications Commission released a bunch of fines against television stations for broadcasting what the FCC determined to be indecent programming. The government’s next target will be radio, and there are predictions of big fines coming soon that will put the indecency controversy back on the front burner. Traditional broadcasters will likely take this fight to court for at least some of these fines to get clarification on just what constitutes an indecent broadcast and, more important to them, seeking the same kind of regulatory control over media such as cable TV, satellite radio and the Internet. I’m sure this is one issue you’re going to be reading more about in the coming weeks.
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The king of indecency fines himself, Howard Stern, has continued his expected self-publicity tour, both on TV and radio. After pretty much taking over an entire David Letterman broadcast last Monday, he made a two-hour appearance Tuesday on Sean Hannity’s talk program.He spent the time defending himself against the lawsuit CBS has filed against him for moving to Sirius satellite radio, blasting his former employers at CBS — and trying to lure Hannity into a discussion about his sex life.
Listeners to news-talk WJR-AM (760) missed the 5-6 p.m. hour of the Hannity/Stern chat, as ’JR switches to local talk with Mitch Albom at that time. How’d you like to be running WJR when something like this happens? On the one hand, your audience expects and wants local programming. But on the other, there were probably a bunch of people upset that they couldn’t hear the ending of Hannity’s show that day. Mind you, those with satellite radio could hear the entire show — both XM and Sirius carry the ABC News & Talk channel, which carries the show in its entirety each day.
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The University of Michigan has tapped Steve Schram as the interim director of Michigan Public Media, the organization that oversees radio stations WUOM-FM (91.7) in Ann Arbor, WFUM-FM (91.1) in Flint, WVGR-FM (104.1) in Grand Rapids, and PBS TV station WFUM-TV (28). Schram has 17 years of senior leadership experience in the Detroit radio and TV market, including executive positions with Infinity Broadcasting, Clear Channel Broadcasting, and at Channel 2. Currently, he is president of Schram Communication Group, a newly formed media and management consultancy.
“I am very pleased to join the team at Michigan Public Media,” Schram said. “These dynamic broadcast voices educate and inform their listeners at the very highest levels of excellence. I look forward to growing their impact and success.” Schram replaces Donovan Reynolds, who resigned earlier this month in the midst of a criminal investigation at Michigan Public Media. A very proud graduate of Michigan State, I wonder if they’ll make Schram trade in all his “S” apparel for those bearing the Michigan “M” before they let him in the building?
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It’s never easy to report on illness, but this story is especially distressing. Former sports WDFN-AM (1130) reporter Sabrina Black is now in hospice care as reported in an e-mail sent by her husband, rock WRIF-FM (101.1) weekender Steve Black. He said the year 2006 has not been kind to Sabrina, with multiple trips to the hospital for heart failure and pneumonia, all as a result of her battle with Hodgkin’s disease. Steve states that her strength is gone and she’s now “ready for heaven.” I found Sabrina to be inspiring throughout her illness. She never felt sorry for herself and has always been most gracious in sharing details about her battle with cancer. Former WDFN co-worker Gregg Henson shared two personal stories about Sabrina that I found especially touching on his blog at www.gregghenson.com. His Web site is usually a source for much negativity by visitors, but in the case of Sabrina, you can see by their responses how highly people think of her.
Current WDFN afternoon hosts Stoney and Wojo showed a lot of class with their pledge to donate a $10,000 first prize to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society should they win ESPN’s NCAA tournament bracket contest. If there ever was a time for a miracle, this is it.
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Congratulations to the local winners of the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Station of the Year awards — WUOM/WFUM/WVGR won in the public category, and WJR was the recipient among commercial radio stations. Station of the Year awards are based on the cumulative number of points scored from the MAB’s Broadcast Excellence competition across 13 categories.
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Set Your Dials: Tom Wilson and Heather Novak host “Somewhere in Time” at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5). Tune in to hear Charlie Balogh play Big Band music on the world’s largest Wurlitzer theater pipe organ, located in Mesa, Ariz., and featuring more than 5,500 pipes.
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Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.