Archive for July, 2019

Does Jesus love Salem?

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

So Bill Bennett and Michael Medved have retired, moving the magnanimous Hugh Hewitt to early mornings. I don’t have the sense that their new talent has exactly caught fire. Salem’s hosts basically are heard only on Salem radio stations. Bill Bennett was probably an exception

Salem stock on the NASDAQ stock exchange is languishing approaching penny stock territory. Their earnings are coming out soon and people suspect there might be bad news. One of the radio rumor mills says that they are in the process is selling off some of their stations. They were the buyer of last resort when Disney had trouble unloading many of their Major market AM radio stations.

Salem lost $3.8 million on their deal to sell WWRC in Washington DC. the problem is if you sell radio stations to raise cash, you wind up with huge paper losses recognizing the difference between what you say the station is worth, and the amount of cash you actually accepted. Sometimes that can obfuscated by doing things as a trade rather than a sale. On a trade, both parties can make up any number they want to say how much they gave each other.

For some time now Salem’s profitability is based more on selling subscriptions and books and not brokering advertising and religious time on their stations. Selling blocks of infomercial advertising time on weekends is foolish, as all it does is decreases people’s interest in listening to this station during the week. They would be better off just playing contemporary Christian music.

As of their last 10-Q, it shows they had a whopping $4,000 in cash on hand and $30 million in accounts receivable, with about one-fourth of that estimated to be uncollectible. They have $227 million in long-term debt which is being backed by the value of their broadcast licenses and very little else. Maybe they have land underneath their broadcast towers they could sell as Cumulus was doing.

For the quarter they had about $984,000 in operating loss with about $60 million in revenue. Their interest expense was about $4.4 million giving rise to about a $5 million dollar total loss including interest, but before taxes. With some accounting magic, by losng $5 million they saved $5.3 million dollars in income tax, creating a net profit after taxes of $322,000. Isn’t America wonderful?

Improved Stations by Frequency

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

From the main streaming guide menu page, there is a choice that says radio stations by frequency. This was one of the first pages I created and had very little updating and was just plain ugly. It has the potential to be a very useful page, including some features I have not seen anywhere else.

Radio stations by frequency

I added a capability similar to the FCC’s search page where you can say only show me stations that match one specific frequency, instead of forcing you to create a range. I also removed TV stations.

So let’s say you know that there’s an oldies format radio station on 97.3 MHz, but you don’t know where the station is located or what the call sign is – now you have a better chance of finding what you’re looking for.

I also modified the FCC link to go to the public inspection file part of the FCC website. If you are interested in radio behind the scenes and have not yet been to the public inspection files online, it is definitely worth a look. The current administration is really pushing radio stations to put their information onto the internet. It only took 25 years to bring along this notion to these companies that are supposedly in the communication business. The data is still incomplete, but one of the requirements from Congress is that radio stations disclose all of their political advertising and who paid for the ads. The only real problem with the public information files is a lot of the time you don’t get the page to load.

Making the public inspection file online releases the radio station from the responsibility of having a physical business location in order for you to inspect this file that nobody ever wants to see. The station also is not required to be staffed by a manager and administrative staff during business hours. As long as there is a phone number that somebody might answer, the FCC is happy. Our ability to contact a radio station is now significantly less certain if the station desires to be secretive and not have a presence in their local community. Just wait until the stations are owned by Saudi sovereign wealth funds…

Playing country women fairly

Friday, July 26th, 2019

Well, radio Disney country is off to a great start. They now have a studio in Nashville on music row.

It sounds like they’re going to use voice tracking, where these two women featured in this article are going to record bits that will be replayed at various times during the week. They have made it their purpose in life to make sure that women get “Fair” airplay.

I would not say that I am a huge country music fan. When we moved here to North Carolina in 1970, it was a brand new experience for me to listen to country music on the radio. At the time, that meant what is today called classic country, and the local station also threw in a significant amount of bluegrass.

So I’m going to lob about some possibilities as to why radio stations that play contemporary country music play very little music sung by women

  • a large portion of the audience for country radio music is women, and they don’t want to listen to women
  • the real money in country music is concert tours, and female artists are less likely to want go on tour
  • fans of country music don’t buy their records/downloads
  • typical topics of country music songs sound strange in the context of a woman. How many female truck drivers are there? A woman singing about going to the honky tonk and getting drunk and having sex with a stranger sounds like the woman is a whore. Hello double standard!
  • recent popular new female country artists (Taylor Swift comes to mind) end up crossing over to mainstream, and abandon their fan base because they don’t actually like country music

I fully expect that Disney will embrace country rap and variations like Islamic country music. You would think that Disney would recognize country music fans tend to have children, and would be inclined to go to the Disney parks. They would be more beneficial customers than POC who like to have fist fight brawls on main Street. On the other hand, I think they have enough sense to not give Disney $100 a person to go inside for a chance to buy Mickey mouse ears.

Savannah Keyes is from California. Her persona sends off strong lesbian vibes. She doesn’t seem to have any use for men.

Kalie Short is 25 years old and grew up in Maine. Her debut in country music was a single named “fight like a girl” as part of the suffragette movement within country music. While there is a mention that somebody on Sirius XM played the song, details about how much money it made don’t seem to exist.

I seriously doubt that either of these women know how to ride a horse or have ever spent more than 5 minutes on a farm.
But that’s probably true of everyone who pretends to have a connection to “country” music.

Disney divested itself of all the AM stations it used to own except for KDIS (now KDRC) in California. and they don’t have a presence on FM. The one AM station they still have located near Disneyland in California, has switched over to country music. For a while the old teeny pop Disney radio was being broadcast on some HD sub-channels around the country, but that deal lapsed. For now, the only way you’re going to hear Disney “radio” country is online. By next year, this whole concept will just be a memory unless somebody at Disney comes to their senses.

EMF has a new leader

Friday, July 19th, 2019

Educational Media Foundation (EMF) now is the second largest radio station operator if you count AM and FM licenses. EMF is the operator of two Christian music services called K-LOVE and Air1. They only own AM-stations briefly when they have to purchase them as part of a package. They are essentially an FM-only radio company.

Mike Novak was the person who formed this large broadcasting entity that most people in radio either do not know exists or they’re in total denial of what is going on. Since EMF is non-commercial, that means they don’t sell advertisements to the businesses that fund commercial radio. Commercial radio then views them as not a threat because they do not realize that the listeners are the ultimate consumer. EMF is not going to put a 50 ft tall gorilla balloon in front of the parking lot and give away free hot dogs. however, when we went into a barbecue restaurant in Lexington North Carolina, we realized EMF was playing in the restaurant, not Alice Cooper.

Mr. Novak’s retirement was announced several months ago, and they have now identified his successor by hiring an outside search company. That is always good for morale of the existing employees who who spent their entire life working for your company, only to have an outsider come in to reshape the company that they know very little about. It is not uncommon for generation one’s leader to believe they’re going to be in charge forever, and not having groomed a successor, leaving generation two to have a fight for control

The New Boss

Bill Reeves is the new choice to run EMF. He currently operates a company based in Nashville called the WTA group. His background is in marketing, not theology. EMF is based in California, setting up an immediate culture clash.

If you visit his website, he mainly seems to liberate money from Christians by acquiring marketing rights to melodrama videos about current day Christians, then handles the merchandising of the Jesus bobblehead dolls and T-Shirts. Part of hiring him includes that his for-profit company will be incorporated into the non-profit 501(c)3 EMF.

One of the partners in WTA is Bill Landis, who has had a prior relationship with radio entrepreneur Dave Ramsey. I am “shocked” at that connection, I tell you. Since they are both based in Nashville, it is inconceivable that there was not a relationship. The press release that forms the basis of the story doesn’t seem to be aware of that detail.

Dave Ramsey is another force that caught commercial radio by surprise. I believe the jargon for this term is a “disrupter”. Dave Ramsey figured out that he could get Christians to live on rice and beans so they could redirect their discretionary income into buying life insurance from his business partners. Do you think that Mary and Joseph took out a life insurance policy on their son?

Searching for McGouda

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

My car said that it’s 103 degrees outside – i’m a little skeptical – 98 perhaps. I am a global heat denier.

So after my relatively uneventful doctor appointment, I decided to go visit McDonald’s, joining the huddled masses yearning to be gluten free. Yesterday, I read something on a restaurant industry publication that bothered me. this particular publication is as toxic to the restaurant business as the radio publications are to the radio business, in my opinion.

The essence of the story was they were encouraging McDonald’s franchisees to start a revolution to overthrow the people in Chicago. To understand McDonald’s, you need to understand they are primarily in the real estate business, not the business of selling the hamburgers. To the corporate people in Chicago, their customers are the franchisee owners, not the people who eat their hamburgers. This is why for at least a decade, every survey of consumers said people wanted McDonald’s to serve breakfast all day. But the franchise owners didn’t want to have to buy new equipment or retrain staff, so they blocked the effort until the new CEO made it clear that franchisees were going to have all day breakfast, whether they wanted to or not. Some are still fighting the battle, believing it’s still the 1970s.

Similarly, the radio publications want to convince station managers or owners that their key to success would be the latest greatest orban digital signal processor, when what the ultimate consumer wants is a news guy who knows the name of the mayor without having to go to Google to look it up.

So the quote from the restaurant rag was that some of the franchisees were irate that McDonald’s was pushing this global menu on them, and gosh darn the customers don’t even want this global crap. So of course, I had to go try it. There are currently four special menu items – I went with the hamburger from Spain and the dairy dessert from the Netherlands. The burger had a special sauce, bacon, slivered onions and gouda cheese. The dessert had Carmel syrup and crunchy wafel bits. By coincidence, the stroopwafel also originated in the city of Gouda in the nether regions.

So I will not be going back for the special Burger. It really wasn’t that important that is proving that I’m a global citizen. The problem is they’ve gone to using the George Foreman type grill, cooking burgers quickly on both sides – essentially cooking the inside of the burger by steaming it. They are awful burgers and by the time I got mine it was cold. Whether their beef is fresh really is beyond the point. Fresh crap is still crap. These stroopwafel sundae was okay, although by the time I was ready to eat it, it was melting in the heat.

Another news item was that McDonald’s is ending its exclusive delivery arrangement with Uber eats. Where I used to live in Charlotte, there were three McDonald’s within a 2-mile radius of the house, yet not one of them was willing to cooperate with the delivery. So now later this year, doordash is going to enter the delivery business for McDonald’s. Their goal is to integrate doordash into the point-of-sale terminals at the store, so that when the delivery person shows up, the order has just been finished and can be handed off to them without any delay. That’s the hope. McDonalds food does not travel well.

Iconic heritage AM station fades away

Monday, July 15th, 2019

The chicago-based Moody Bible institute was truly a pioneer in radio. They had to fend off NBC / RCA and the other early players in radio in the 1920s. Moody, along with the CFL labor union (WCFL) believed that radio should belong to the community, not just the money-grubbing evil capitalists. This was a fight they continued through the 1940s when the argument spilled over to the FM band, resulting in the non-commercial set aside from 88 to 92 megahertz.

Because moody did not have access to the AT&T coax cable that NBC controlled for its two networks, Moody’s Nationwide religious programming was distributed on records, so nothing was live. Moody had a number of owned and operated radio stations, but a lot of the Moody affiliates were independent of Moody.

Somewhere around four years ago, the Moody flagship station on the near north side of Chicago was changed from English to Spanish language programming. All of the AM Moody stations became Spanish at the same time. Last year, Moody filed a “transfer of control” for its stations indicated that there was enough of a change in the composition of their non-profit board to make it necessary to inform the FCC.

Today’s news is that they have given up on using AM radio, even though wmbi-am now has an FM translator. it was announced today that three of the four AM stations are being sold to raise cash. So far, there is no indication of who the buyer is. In the end, we had to kill AM radio to save it. Realistically, Moody Bible cannot compete with K-Love. They actually want people to understand what the Bible says, not just passively listen to happy “I love Jesus” songs

For those curious about their finance

Amazon Prime Day

Monday, July 15th, 2019

Need I say more?

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Live from Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Saturday, July 13th, 2019

Where all the secrets are right out in plain sight

Revision to metro areas

Saturday, July 13th, 2019

For the most part, this won’t really affect anybody, but in case somebody notices…

Radio and TV and the FCC focus on this term called DMA, which stands for designated market area. It is similar to, but different than, the MSA which is the government’s metropolitan statistical area used by the census department. Both are generally trying to describe a large group of people who live generally in the same area, not constrained by state boundaries or political subdivisions.

A good example would be Saint Louis – the bulk of St Louis is in Missouri, but East St. Louis is in Illinois across the Mississippi River. Radio’s methodology for DMA used by the (RAB Radio Advertising Bureau) is to put counties into one Metro area. However, on the Missouri side the City of st. Louis is actually only a small part of the metro area.

The way things evolved, perhaps a hundred different distinct small communities grew up around the city, each with their own Police departments, fire departments, City governments and speed traps. (Ferguson is an example of this) The lack of precision about where the listeners actually are and where radio signals reach is very effective at manipulating perceptions of audience in order to maximize your advertising revenue. It also facilitates what they call “moving in” radio stations into a metro area. You license your radio station to a small little town way far away from the Central City, after you have the license and pretend to serve that community, then you decide to move the station closer to the big city, but still hearable in your original small town. Then after another five years when people forget why you got the license in the small town, you try to move the radio station even closer to the big city, which is where the big money is, even if your signal doesn’t actually cover more than a small part of the big city.

So in the spirit of creating further confusion and obfuscation, I’ve decided to use an entirely different methodology – based on the post office mail distribution system. As you know, the original ZIP code consists of five digits, the first three of which identify a metro area and the last 2 indicate a specific post office or special use, like a mail drop for utility companies, or IRS service centers. About 1/3 of radio licenses are in small places, some of which are not even places with governments.

So my new methodology (only for stations not already assign) is
– use the license community and state to see if they have a post office
– use the first three of the ZIP code of that post office, and determine which town or city has the largest aggregate population
– if that town or city already is included in a metropolitan area, assign the small town to the same metro area

So for example, Pineville NC is in 28134. The largest place in 281xx is Monroe, NC, which is considered part of Charlotte, hence I consider any place in 281xx as Charlotte metro area, which includes in descending population

and more…

Noticably absent is Gastonia, which is in 280xx, whose largest community is Concord, also considered Charlotte area.

The approach is not perfect, and it creates the situation where I have assigned a station to a metro area where the station cannot be heard in the big city, just the area in between. A case where this does not work is Hawaii. The only metro area in Hawaii is Honolulu, but if you are not on the big island then it doesn’t really make sense to assign your station to Honolulu. But it does help me organize the research to focus on important regions, and pay less attention to really really small places like Eureka Kansas.

Buh-buy Mapleton

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

Radio insight story

Back in 2009, I did profiles on each of the major radio station owners, including mapleton.

About mapleton

The good news is they had some awesome parties while it lasted.