WDET Announces ‘Artist Next Door’ Initiative

Six Southeast Michigan artists have been selected by a jury of artists and journalists to demonstrate their art, heritage and culture through an innovative program, The Artist Next Door, hosted by WDET-FM (Detroit) and made possible by a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA).

The artists representing mixed media, painting, pottery/sculpture, printmaking and music disciplines are:

  • Halima Cassells, Detroit
  • Daniel Ross Michelsen, Dearborn
  • Timothy Orikri, Detroit
  • Allison Scout Waite, Highland Park
  • Xiao Dong Wei, Livonia
  • Danya Zituni, Dearborn

“The Artist Next Door is a project created to give our community a greater understanding of cultural heritage and bring us closer as a region of neighbors,” said WDET Program Director Joan Isabella. “Our goal is to illuminate and celebrate Detroit area artists from a variety of cultural backgrounds and disciplines to enhance awareness and understanding of our communities and cultures.”

WDET listeners and the general public nominated the artists and the jury ultimately selected six artist fellows to create an original piece of artwork. The artist’s process and work will be
photographed by Detroit Photographer Erik Paul Howard and the artists will be profiled by WDET’s Ryan Patrick Hooper on the CultureShift program which airs from noon to 2 p.m.
weekdays. Each artist will receive a $1,000 stipend when their piece is completed. Art communities will be encouraged to highlight the work of the artists, and WDET will host virtual
artist events for interactive conversations.

To follow the project, visit https://wdet.org/series/artist-next-door/

 


Nationwide EAS Test Scheduled for August 11, 2021: Verification of EAS Information Due by July 6 in ETRS

Special via David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

Last week, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing an August 11, 2021 nationwide EAS test, with a backup date of August 25 if there are conditions that prevent the test from occurring on the initial date.  The test is scheduled for 2:20 PM EDT.  For broadcasters, this test will be conducted using the over-the-air “daisy-chain” system, where primary stations in various geographic areas initiate the test, and the message is passed from station to station based on monitoring assignments set out in each station’s statewide EAS plan.  Stations should be checking their EAS encoders and decoders now to be sure that all is working properly to transmit and receive this test.

The Public Notice reminds broadcasters to check all their EAS operations at their facilities before the upcoming test.  Specifically, the FCC suggests that each station should be doing the following:

  • Reviewing the EAS Operating Handbook for the actions to be taken by operators upon receipt of the test alert, and tailoring any actions as necessary that are specific to the EAS Participants’ facilities;
  • Reviewing their State EAS Plan for monitoring assignments and ensuring that EAS equipment is accurately configured to monitor those sources;
  • Ensuring that EAS equipment can receive and process the NPT code, the “six zeroes” national location code, and otherwise operate in compliance with the Commission rules;
  • Upgrading EAS equipment software and firmware to the most recent version;
  • Manually synchronizing EAS equipment clocks to the official time provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology if an EAS Participant’s equipment does not automatically synchronize to an Internet time source; and
  • Reviewing their 2021 ETRS Form One filings to identify and make necessary updates to the information previously provided (see below for more information on ETRS).

The Notice also sets July 6, 2021 as the deadline for all stations to complete their “2021 ETRS Form One” setting out information about each station’s EAS decoders, encoders or combined units. ETRS is the system that reports on the results of the EAS tests. Test results will need to be filed on Form Two in ETRS on August 11 or 12, with more detailed information about the results of the test to be submitted in a Form Three by September 27, 2021. The FCC provides information as to accessing the ETRS system and suggests that stations start looking at Form One now to make sure that they can access the system and verify that the information is complete and accurate by the July 6 deadline. This public notice makes clear that now is the time for all stations to review their EAS equipment, and the ETRS Forms, to get ready for the nationwide test.


Townsquare Names Mary Fork at Market President/CRO for Southwestern Michigan

Mary Fork

Townsquare Media Inc. announced June 15 that Mary Fork has been appointed as Market President/Chief Revenue Officer for Southwest Michigan, leading its “Digital First” strategy and driving strategic multi-platform sales and content initiatives across the region, which includes Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. Mary spent nearly the last decade leading teams for Comcast/Effective throughout Southeast Michigan. She will report to Townsquare Senior Vice President Todd Lawley.

“From the first time I spoke to Mary it was clear that the ability to coach, lead and execute a multi-platform strategy is in her DNA. She possesses a unique skill set that will allow her to bring our world class set of digital and local broadcast solutions to the market with the mission of making Townsquare Kalamazoo/Battle Creek the #1 local media company in Southwest Michigan,” commented Mr. Lawley.

“I am beyond excited to be returning home to Southwest Michigan and joining the Townsquare Media family. What compelled me to join Townsquare is not only the full-service digital marketing capabilities and incredible local media brands, but the way Townsquare goes to market and its Digital First strategy. I was completely impressed when I saw how Townsquare’s campaigns have full transparency, true optimization and industry leading attribution. With the unmatched product power and campaign management integrity of Townsquare, I knew I needed to join this winning team,” said Ms. Fork.

Townsquare COO – Local Media, Erik Hellum added, “I have been very impressed with Mary’s experience, multi-platform knowledge, passion and positivity. She is excited to make Kalamazoo and Southwestern Michigan her home, and work with our talented Townsquare team to do great things.”


Summit Technology Group Named Exclusive Engineering Partner of IBA

On June 15, the Independent Broadcasters Association (IBA) announced a new partnership with Keego Harbor-based Summit Technology Group, making them the exclusive provider of broadcast engineering solutions to the over 1500 member stations that make up the IBA.

Effective June 16th, all association members will have direct access to the national team of broadcast, electrical and RF engineers at Summit Technology Group. Members can view service offerings, sign up for routine service and even request emergency support all from within their account dashboard. Furthermore, with the use of an AR-based video conferencing platform, members can connect directly with Summit technicians to get help without the need to schedule on-site service.

“Our company has spent countless hours developing the systems needed to serve clients nationwide in a timely and efficient manner,” says Paul Stewart, president of Summit Technology Group. Stewart continued, “We are excited to offer this level of service to IBA member stations.”

IBA members will be able to take full advantage of the services provided by Summit Technology Group through either a subscription model, as-needed model or emergency maintenance.

“Finding the right engineering and technical service for IBA members to tap into has been one of our top priorities. So many independents are located in areas where the days of having an on-site engineer are long gone, and even a contract engineer may be hours away. Having a service that can offer legitimate virtual engineering services, and relatively fast on site services when critical, will take a load of worry off the minds of many broadcasters that have run out of local solutions,” says Ron Stone, President and Executive Director of the IBA. Stone continued, “The solutions offered by Summit Technology Group could not be coming at a better time.”

IBA members can find additional information and get access to exclusive offers by visiting www.iba.media and logging into their member account. Interested stations can join the IBA by clicking ‘Join Now’ from the Association’s homepage.

For more information about the services offered or to enroll, contact Summit Technology Group at +1 (248) 706-6963 or email [email protected] or contact the Independent Broadcasters Association directly.


Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek Wins McCree Advancement of Justice Award

Sarah Cwiek

Michigan Radio reporter Sarah Cwiek has been selected as a winner of the 2021 Wade H. McCree Advancement of Justice Awards, sponsored by the Michigan Press Association Foundation.

Cwiek was recognized for her investigation “Tax foreclosure lawsuit asks: How much can government take from property owners?” The story shows how citizens, especially those at risk of foreclosure, don’t understand how the process works and how easy it can be to lose their home if they owe some back taxes. It looks at how counties and the state could foreclose and auction off homes with property tax debts, and keep the surplus if they sell the property for more than the homeowner owed.

The McCree Awards recognize Michigan journalists who foster greater public understanding of our legal system, with reporting that can change and improve the legal and law enforcement systems. The awards were determined by a panel of four judges, representing law and media, who independently reviewed ten entries from across Michigan.

The McCree Awards are named for Judge Wade H. McCree, one of the most distinguished lawyers and jurists in Michigan history and a staunch advocate for equal rights and open, accountable government.

Other winners of 2021 McCree Journalism Awards were reporter Nancy Kaffer of the Detroit Free Press for an in-depth investigation “She’s tormented by final days’ unexplained death of little sisters in Harper Woods Jail,” and reporter Chandra Bozelko of the Holland Sentinel for her columns “Insider takes on Prisons and Courts.”


Dan Boers Hired as WXMI News Director

Dan Boers

Dan Boers has been hired as News Director at WXMI-TV/FOX 17 (Grand Rapids), effective June 23, 2021. He comes to the station after nearly a 20-year career at WOOD/WOTV/WXSP in Grand Rapids, where he was most recently news director for the past 6+ years.

“Dan has a record of leading a high-performing news team and a deep knowledge of our market and audience,” said Kimberly Krause, VP, and General Manager at WXMI. “After spending my entire career in this market, I’m confident the addition of Dan to our news team will help drive our continued success.” Boers held several leadership positions at WOOD/WOTV/WXSP before becoming news director, including assistant news director and director of news operations. He joined the station in 1996 as a weekend assignment editor.

“As a West Michigan native, I’m proud to join a team that has a long tradition of serving this community with important news coverage,” said Boers. “I’m excited and honored to lead and build on the success and accomplishments of the FOX 17 team.”

Boers is a board member of the Michigan Association of Broadcasters and a Carole Kneeland leadership fellow – a position focused on providing ethics training and ongoing leadership and mentorship to news directors across the country.

He graduated from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism.


It’s Time to Re-evaluate Your Radio Station’s User Experience

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

About 15 years ago, when I was a Program Director for a radio station, I decided that I would take my programming staff on a field trip in lieu of our typical music meeting. My radio station, WBRU in Providence, made a habit of stepping out on new music. But what happened when our listeners went to music stores looking for albums by the artists we were championing?

My Music Director, my Assistant Program Director and a few other interested staffers piled into the car and we drove around town visiting various music stores, from mom-and-pop indie shops to corporate chains. When we got to each, we would look up the artists on our playlist. Albums from the heavy hitters were in stock, but to our dismay, many of the albums from the smaller artists that we were taking a chance on were absent.

That experience was eye-opening for me. As a radio broadcaster, it’s easy to become sequestered within the walls of your station and assume you know how real people are interacting with your station. But when you step out to take a closer look at the points where the rubber meets the road, you might be surprised at what you find.

With that in mind, as we emerge (fingers crossed) from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a good time to take a look at all the different ways listeners can interact with your radio station and re-evaluate them. Take some time to review these touchpoints:

1. The Dashboard
How does your radio station present itself to listeners in the car dashboard? When answering this question, be sure to look at dashboards from different ages — from older cars with six-button presets to radios that display RDS data to cars equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. If necessary, head to a dealership and take a test drive in different cars to see what the radio listening experience is like in them.

2. The Website
We look at our radio station’s website so often that it’s hard review it with fresh eyes. For that reason, it’s best — and relatively easy — to perform a usability test on the website. But even at a glance, you can take stock of your station’s website by pretending you’re unfamiliar with it and asking these questions:

  • What do the owners of this website want me to do when I come to this site?
  • Does the verbiage on this website — especially in the main navigation — make sense if I am unfamiliar with this station?
  • Can I tell what type of music this station plays?

Additionally, try various ways of experiencing your radio station’s website: How does it look on a smartphone or tablet? What happens if you try to print a page or share it on social media?

3. The Stream
Test the streaming experience on your mobile app. Does your stream play smoothly or are there buffering issues? How are commercials handled by the stream and how does it impact the listening experience?

4. The Mobile App
Before you open your mobile app to review it, open both the Android and iOS app stores and try to download your station’s app. Is it easy to find using different search terms? Is the description accurate? Are the screenshots up to date? What types of reviews has it gotten?

It’s a little more difficult to run a usability test on a mobile app than it is on a website because phones don’t have cursors, so you have to stand over the testers’ shoulders to watch what they do. Nonetheless, it’s worth the effort. Be sure to test both the iOS and Android versions of your app.

5. Smart Speakers
Take some time to pull up your radio station — as well as any podcasts it produces — on various different voice-activated devices, including those equipped with Alexa, Siri, Cortana, Bixby and Google Home. Does it require different verbiage to pull your station up on different devices? Is it easy to do, or is it a frustrating experience? What other commands can you give the device once you’ve pulled the station up?

6. Social Media
Review your station’s presence on every social media platform you can think of: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, SnapChat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitch, Clubhouse, etc. Even if your station doesn’t maintain an active presence on all of these, you’ll want to register an account on each one in case you decide to do so in the future.

Examine your station’s main profile on each social network. If you were unfamiliar with the station, could you tell where it is, what it plays and what it’s all about based on the profile? Are the images, bio, links and other descriptions up to date?

Now look at your social media posts. Too often, stations post content to social media that presumes knowledge of the station and doesn’t make sense out of context. Ask yourself, “If I was unfamiliar with the radio station and saw this post in my social media feed without any further context, would it make sense? Is it compelling?” If not, it’s time to rethink your approach.

7. Search Engines
Google is the undisputed champion here but you may also want to look up your station in other search engines like Bing, Yahoo! or DuckDuckGo. You’ll also want to check Google’s subsidiaries, such as Google Maps or Google Images. Of course, your past behavior on the web influences the results that these search engines show, so it’s difficult to get a “clean” experience, but a test will still be informative.

In addition to searching for your radio station by name, look up the call letters, the names of your on-air personalities, the names of your biggest specialty shows, your music format combined with your city and your competitors.

8. Email Inboxes
For listeners who have subscribed to your email database, how is the experience? Is your station cramming everything into one long email, or does it give listeners control? For example, can they choose which topics they want to receive emails about — such as the morning show or concerts? Can they control how often they want to receive emails?

Some email service providers allow you to preview your station’s emails in different apps. How do your emails look in Gmail or Outlook or Yahoo!?

9.OTT Devices
If your radio station has built apps for set-top devices such as Apple TV or Roku, review these as well.

10. Podcast Directories
If your radio station is producing podcasts, look them up in podcast directories — especially Apple Podcasts and Spotify. What happens when you search for the podcasts by name, by station call letters and by the names of on-air personalities? What do they ratings and reviews say?

11. Wikipedia
Look your radio station up in Wikipedia. Check the accuracy of the article, and look for any glaring omissions. Make corrections if necessary, but be sure to read Wikipedia’s editing policy first.

These days, there are so many different ways for audiences to encounter your radio station that it’s easy to lose track of them, but the user experience is incredibly important. If you haven’t done so in a while, take some time to review all these different experiences with a fresh pair of eyes, and make adjustments as necessary.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.


Webcasting Royalties Going Up – Copyright Royalty Board Releases Rates and Terms for 2021-2025

David Oxenford - Color

David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford,
Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) on Friday (6/11) released the rates and terms for webcasting royalties for 2021-2025, and the rates are going up.  While the full decision explaining the reasoning for the rate increases will not be released to the public until the parties to the case have the opportunity to seek redaction of private business information, the rates and terms themselves were released and can be found here.  These new rules apply to all noninteractive webcasters including broadcasters who are simulcasting their over-the-air signals on the Internet.  As detailed below, both the per-performance and annual minimum fees will be increasing for both commercial and nonprofit webcasters.

The per-performance royalty increases to $.0021 for non-subscription streams, up from the current $.0018.  For subscription streams, the fee increases to $.0026 per performance from $.0023.  A performance is one song played to one listener.  So, if a streaming service plays one song that is heard by 100 listeners, that is 100 performances.

The minimum yearly per channel fee that each webcaster must pay at the beginning of each year is going up to $1000 for each channel that is streamed.  For each entity that is relying on this compulsory license, the aggregate minimum fee is $100,000.  That means that, each January, a company relying on this license will have to pay $1000 per channel (commercial or noncommercial) up to $100,000.  These yearly up-front payments will be credited against actual usage fees.  These minimums are an increase from the previous $500 per channel minimum and $50,000 up-front maximum payment that were in effect prior to January 1 of this year.

Noncommercial webcasters will be subject to the same minimum fees.  However, a webcaster who is a nonprofit entity is permitted to stream on any channel up to 159,140 aggregate tuning hours per month for the yearly $1000 minimum fee paid for that channel.  That permits a nonprofit webcaster to average approximately 200 simultaneous listeners 24 hours every day without having to pay more than the minimum fee.  Many small nonprofit webcasters and simulcasters will not exceed that threshold.  If they do exceed that monthly listening limit on any stream, royalties will be paid on all overages at the commercial per performance rates.  Note that entities affiliated with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are not subject to these rates as CPB has negotiated with SoundExchange, the organization that collects royalties, a blanket agreement that covers CPB member stations.

From these rates and terms, it appears that the CRB rejected broadcasters’ request that a substantially lower royalty be assessed against broadcast simulcasts, given factors including the total inability of listeners to influence the songs that they are hearing.  We wrote about those arguments and the positions of other webcasters who argued for lower royalties, here.

Payments under these new rates may be retroactive to January 1 of this year. As we wrote here and here, this decision was supposed to be released in December, but was delayed by the pandemic.  After the release of the full decision, the parties have a short time to ask for review and correction of a limited set of issues.  The Copyright Office can also review the decision for legal errors.  Otherwise, the decision is appealable to the US Court of Appeals.

We’ll write more about the details of the decision when it is released.  Be sure to follow developments including the process by which the new royalties will

David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access).

There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your MAB membership. 


Whitmer: State will Open to Full Capacity June 22

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced (6/17) an accelerated end of all COVID-19 epidemic orders on gatherings and masking as COVID-19 cases continue to plummet following increased vaccinations. Beginning June 22, capacity in both indoor and outdoor settings will increase to 100% and the state will no longer require residents to wear a face mask.

“Today is a day that we have all been looking forward to, as we can safely get back to normal day-to-day activities and put this pandemic behind us,” said Governor Whitmer. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the medical experts and health professionals who stood on the front lines to keep us all safe. And we are incredibly thankful to all of the essential workers who kept our state moving. Thanks to the millions of Michiganders who rolled up their sleeves to get the safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine, we have been able to make these changes ahead of schedule. Our top priority going forward is utilizing the federal relief funding in a smart, sustainable way as we put Michigan back to work and jumpstart our economy. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure that Michigan’s families, small businesses, and communities emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever before.”

Nearly five million Michiganders ages 16 and older have received their first vaccine dose, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. According to data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry, half of Michigan residents have completed their vaccination and over 60% have gotten their first shots.

“This is great news and a day all of us have been looking forward to for more than a year,” said Elizabeth Hertel, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director. “We have said all along that the vaccine would help us return to a sense of normalcy and today we announce that day is here.”

Case rates, percent positivity and hospitalizations have all plummeted over the past several weeks. Currently, Michigan is experiencing 24.3 cases per million and has recorded a 1.9% positivity rate over the last seven days.

“This is a great day, however, there is more work to be done,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “We can’t let our guard down as there continue to be several variants of the COVID-19 virus circulating in our state, including the concerning Delta variant. The COVID-19 vaccine is the most important tool we have to reduce the spread of the virus and I urge everyone ages 12 and up who has not yet received their vaccine to get it as soon as possible. Talk to your health care provider, your local health department or your neighborhood pharmacist about joining the millions of Michiganders who have received their vaccine.”

In addition to the Gatherings and Mask Order, additional orders are being rescinded as of June 22. These include:

Additionally, some orders will remain in effect to protect vulnerable populations in corrections, long-term care and agriculture. Public health measures will continue for reporting requirements and COVID testing to make sure areas where community spread is high are identified, kids are safe in school and free COVID-19 tests are available. Guidance for keeping children and staff safe in schools will be released next week.


FCC Approves Repeating EAS Alerts

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday (6/17) unanimously approved several updates to its rules governing the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The FCC concluded alert repetition can be integrated into alert origination software as an automated function. That will allow the alert originator to program how, when, and for which EAS event codes it will need the message to be broadcast more than once.

“With these rules in place, millions of Americans would benefit from more timely and accurate information during emergencies,” said Commissioner Geoffrey Starks. He said the impact of climate change, as evidenced by record-breaking heat and an early start to the wildfire season in the West, will only likely put more emphasis on EAS.

The order (PS Docket No. 15-94) also combined the current “Presidential Alerts” category, which is non-optional on mobile devices that receive Wireless Emergency Alerts, into a new non-optional alert class called “National Alerts.” The order makes no mention of political polarization. Instead it points out FEMA has endorsed the rebranding by saying it “better reflects the new broader use of national alerts.”

The FCC devlines to create a new national security-related originator code or event code. A big reason is the financial costs it would take to update thousands of EAS receivers in use. The FCC also agreed with the National Association of Broadcasters, which said a new national security event code “could create confusion when used for events that currently fall under other event codes.”

The order adopted Thursday will also expand reporting requirements to FEMA, state, and local entities to email the FCC alerting it of any false alerts transmitted. But while reporting false alerts for radio, TV and wireless companies has become mandatory, the Commission has tentatively concluded no such requirement will be placed on the government entities that in some cases could be the source of the mistake. It will only suggest they email the FCC letting them know what occurred.