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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Media Notes

ABC says "Good Morning America" had its best February in quite a while and it's severely narrowed the gap with NBC's "Today."  There are two reasons, at least as I see it. ABC has finally achieved some consistency with its morning broadcast, and "Today" is off the track.  NBC's first half hour used to be the hard news broadcast of record in the morning. It was THE place to turn to learn what happened overnight.  Now, it's fluff and filler.

ABC's "Nightline" also had a good month.  It was a solid broadcast during the Ted Koppel days, but it needed a shot of life, which Nightline now has.  Yes, the tone has lightened a bit, but "Nightline" does tackle hard news when the situation warrants.  As someone who broadcasts news in a non-traditional time slot, it is nice to know people will seek out a news broadcast long after the sun goes down (or the sun comes up.)

The wound from the Steelers' Super Bowl loss is beginning to heal, so I've gone back to listening to a little sports talk radio.  The NCAA basketball tournament provides more than its share of interesting moments, but listening to people fill out their brackets is mind numbingly dull.  The FOX Sports Radio overnight guy had the right idea:  just give me your final four.  I've never filled out a bracket, and I don't intend to start now.  I'll start paying attention to the tournament when a Cinderella team emerges, and it happens every year.  Go Bucknell!

The likely means nothing to you, but I'll note it, anyway.  Cumulus is buying Citadel.  Both are big radio companies.  Citadel owns several Wilkes-Barre/Scranton stations, including the place where I got my start 30 years ago, WARM.  I hope Cumulus gives WARM the TLC Citadel didn't, but I'm not kidding  myself.  WARM is an AM station in an FM/satellite/internet world.  I can't see a new company pumping money in to it, to bring it back, even a little.  Yes, I know it never could be what it once was.  Still, WARM deserves better than what it gets now.  Citadel also owns the ABC Radio Network.  It, too, could use a little attention.  The industry book on Cumulus is that it's a tightly controlled organization.  You know what I'm tap dancing around here.  To all Citadel/Cumulus employees and listeners, good luck!

A follow up to last week's anti PBS pledge drive rant:  The New York Times reported yesterday that PBS stations are devoting nine per cent more time to pledge drives than they did last year.  I'm not sure if that includes digital sub channels.  I noted last week that I spend more time watching the sub channels rather than the big stick.  Hey, I know you need the money, but there has to be a less annoying way to do it.  I'm reminded of something that happened during my radio days.  It was during the recession of the early 80's.  We had a bunch of bad commercials on the air.  You know the ones-- no production values, just an announcer screaming at you for 60 seconds.  They were produced at another AM station, by a man who has since met his reward.  I hear he was just a wonderful individual.  Unfortunately, the commercials he produced were hideous.  When the on-air people complained to the general manager that these commercials were killing the station, his reply was simple, and I can still see him deliver the line:  "Hard times, hard sell."  The awful commercial producer had a long list of clients, and those awful commercials brought money to his station and ours.  They likely drove listeners away in the process.  It's clear PBS is in the "hard times, hard sell" mode.  I wonder if the viewers will still be there when it's over.