Russ Martin dead at age 60

Most visitors to the website probably do not know who Russ Martin was. Russ Martin was a local talent at the freeFM station in Dallas Texas.

For a brief period, Mel Karmazin tried to save CBS radio from itself, until Mel was scared away by the ghost of CBS legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow. He brought controversial people to FM talk radio during an experiment targeted at young men called FreeFM. Howard Stern was to be the morning anchor nationwide, but he signed an agreement to go work at Sirius with his friend Mel and CBS would not release him from his contract.

Most of the last year at CBS, Howard Stern was promoting Sirius, which ultimately resulted in a lawsuit. Sirius eventually agreed to pay CBS $2 million to get the lawsuit dismissed.

Howard Stern had been very successful at Infinity broadcasting, before it was acquired by CBS / Viacom. As an epilog, CBS Radio no longer exists, having been merged into Entercom in 2017.

Without Howard Stern, CBS radio instead chose David Lee Roth, who was an absolute disaster, dooming the entire concept of male oriented hot talk. David Lee Roth had been the lead singer of the rock group Van Halen. My memory is that the shows were as dull as you would expect from a rock singer at 6:00 in the morning. Many days it appeared that he didn’t even show up to work, and they would just play music. The show ended after 4 months.

The freeFM affiliates had some shows they produced themselves, and some they got from the syndication. Penn Jillette, Tom Leykis, Opie and Anthony, Rover’s Morning Glory and Dr Drew’s Lifeline were some of the shows carried by FreeFM.

Russ Martin was the local FreeFM guy in Dallas Texas on KLLI-FM His “hook” was that he had acquired the Batmobile from the TV show and would use it at station promotions. His show eventually moved to iHeartradio’s KEGL-FM, where he had worked prior to joining Infinity Radio.

Russ was not as controversial as Howard Stern, but he was doing broadcast radio in Texas. He was moderately interesting, but not likely to wind up in the radio hall of fame in Chicago. Talking about your batmobile can only take you so far.

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No need to lie

I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I am with James Golden, AKA Bo Snerdly, Rush Limbaugh’s executive producer

This is an interview in 2019 at Liberty University. At two minutes into the video, James brags that once Rush Limbaugh got established, the talk radio format went from 120 stations to 12,000

There is no way that that’s true or even close to true.

There are only a few more than 15,000 licensed radio stations in the United States as of 2021, if you don’t count Low Power FM, that did not exist in 2000.

If you add up political talk, sports, NPR, local full service, Spanish language talk and religious talk, maybe you can add up to 5,000 – but if that is the “talk radio” population, the baseline was not 120 stations. Public radio by itself it had more than 120 stations in 1988.

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Tunein has legal issues

From the very beginning almost 20 years ago, I’ve been reluctant to facilitate direct access to radio stations’ streams because of concerns that copyright holders might believe that I owe them royalties.

If you have used tunein, you can see it very directly starts streaming the radio content. Taking it one step further, Alexa bounces off iHeartRadio, or tunein to immediately connect to the radio station – generally bypassing pre-stream advertisements – and obviously intelligent assistants generally don’t have a screen to show a video ad. This means little or no income to the radio station, but the radio station incurs the licensing costs of the music on the stream.

Tunein is being sued in the United Kingdom by the record labels on the basis that they are not licensed to play music. Tunein’s position is that they are nothing but a sophisticated search engine like Google.

In the first round, the court decided that what tunein was doing was OK as long as the music was licensed for radio stations in the UK. However, if UK listener listens to a non-UK radio station (like in the US), tunein owed royalties, so they ceased allowing UK listeners to hear radio outside the Kingdom. Early on, Clear Channel had the same issue with Canada, and blocked access to U.S. stations for listeners in Canada.

Several users here repeatedly tried to throw me under the bus on this issue, wanting to spread knowledge in the blog of how to use streaming programs and techniques to listen to radio stations without proper authorization from the radio stations or the music rights organizations.

That ruling doesn’t even cover the case of where a stream it is not a radio station. What responsibility would I have if I promoted the stream of a teenager in his basement streaming music without paying royalties? That is why the list is restricted to FCC licensed radio stations that have a presumption they have proper licensing in place. I had no desire to be the intermediary demanding that people show me their stinking licenses. So for most of the time, the most I do is take you to the website of the radio station, exactly as if you had gone there from Google.

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Triton Digital is being assimilated

Triton is the biggest player in the streaming business. They are being acquired by iheart Media

Triton’s most current owner was Scripps broadcasting. Five years ago, Scripps spun off their newspaper business to focus on radio and TV.

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The Smoking gun in Texas

Being discussed by Alex Jones

The US department of energy prohibited Texas from turning on generation of power that was too unfriendly to the environment

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Rush Limbaugh dead at age 70

Rush Limbaugh was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer a year ago. About a week ago, his staff was sending out signals the end was near. He died at home, not in a hospital.

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Alpha Media files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

If you don’t know who Alpha Media is, don’t feel bad. You have probably not listened to any one of their ~250 stations. They don’t do any syndicated programming like Westwood one or Clear Channel.

Alpha media was pulled together by a gentleman named Larry Wilson. If you have a long memory of the radio business, he was the principal behind creating Citadel Media. The basic premise of Citadel was venture capital type people would provide money for Larry to go buy small little marginally viable radio stations, and pack them together in a package. The premise seemed to be that if you packaged up a large quantity of unprofitable radio stations, they would become profitable. That was also the premise behind Clear Channel, although they bought more expensive stations they could not afford.

In the end, that did not work out. Larry sold out his interest, and then the new owners merged Citadel with ABC radio (owned by Disney at the time). That did not last very long due to the huge debt obligation, and Citadel declared bankruptcy in 2009. It was merged into Cumulus Media in 2011, which itself subsequently declared bankruptcy in 2017.

So Alpha Media was Larry Wilson’s attempt to repeat his initial success in radio. He resigned as chairman of Alpha Media in 2018, and now the company is restructuring its debt, giving equity to the debt holders. The company is not going out of business, it is just going to transition to a new business ownership model. This is a tough time to be in the radio business.

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Clark Howard gives 30 day notice

Syndication contracts typically require the syndicator to give 30 days notice to the radio stations that a program is going to cease distribution. Clark Howard was being syndicated by Westwood One (owned by Cumulus media). Cumulus Media went through bankruptcy in 2017-18 – typically bankruptcy gives the bankrupt company an opportunity to break their contracts with their “talent” and demand to renegotiate the terms. Previously, Clark Howard and Neil Boortz had been syndicated by the Jones Radio Network.

Consumer advisor Clark Howard is going to cease syndicated opearations at the end of the month. He had already cut back from 3 to two hours per day. According to this story, he is making more money from his website then from his syndicated radio show. Clark also had a health incident where he mixed two incompatible prescription drugs and almost died.

Clark Howard To End Syndicated Show
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Caving to the digital overlords

Enough radio stations are starting to promote using digital assistants that it is time to face reality. I think that behind the scenes, Tunein is the vehicle being used for implementing Skills to play radio streams. As I find them, I’ll add them to the database.

I am somewhat mystified. Obviously, with Alexa, there is no screen to run a prestream video ad. By introducing your listeners to Alexa/Google Home, it just speeds up the demise of terrestrial radio. When Cumulus allowed iHeartRadio to handle their streaming, you had to be brain dead to not see what would happen.

The issue of who (if anyone) is paying streaming royalties is totally unclear. Has Amazon acquired a blanket license covering all music any radio station might play?

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iHeart terminates Steve Sommers for talking politics

Back in the day, WLW-am in Cincinnati was one of the legendary radio stations listened to by truckers driving overnight. WLW is located in Cincinnati, and was actually built with a transmitter capable of 500,000 Watts in the event of a national emergency. It can be heard over most of the Eastern United States after the sun sets.

WLW was created by Powel Crosley, Jr. Fans of antique radios will recognize his company as an early manufacturer of radio receivers. After being sold to Avco and several other ownership changes, it wound up owned by Jacor, which was an early casualty of radio consolidation, being acquired by Clear Channel.

WLW-AM had more autonomy than other AM stations Clear Channel operated, because it still had a huge market share long after AM radio was losing out to FM.

Despite Jacor buying Rush Limbaugh’s syndicator, the program director refused to carry the show. He believed strongly that radio should be local, and that syndication was destroying AM radio.

I don’t think that Steve was given the real reason why he was terminated. Technology has outrun terrestrial radio, especially AM. When SiriusXM took to the air, truckers could listen to their trucking Channel 24 hours a day, and it didn’t matter where they were or whether the sun was up.

In May, just before Steve got the first warnings, Liberty Media, the owner of Sirius XM, announced it intended to take over iheartmedia. That put Steve in direct competition with the trucking channel on Sirius XM.

Satellite radio has an entirely different business model than terrestrial radio. For the most part, they don’t care about “ratings” because satellite radio is not based on selling advertising. They care about subscriptions and churn rates.

Steve’s main competition is Red-eye Radio, hosted by the two Hosts of the former midnight trucking Radio Network, operated by Westwood One and combined in 2012.

The two hosts of that show, Gary McNamara & Eric Harley, are extremely political and conservative. Maybe 5% of the show has something to do with trucking news.

The truck stop fueling business has highly consolidated into about three or four players, who advertise on their show. TA/Petro, Pilot/Flying J, and Love’s dominate the truck stop business. Less competition means less need for advertising.

Popular trucking radio show host “dismissed” following warnings regarding “political talk” on his show

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