WNFA Port Huron Shifts from Music to Teaching

Ross Bible Church has flipped Christian CHR “Power 88.3” WNFA-FM (Port Huron) to Christian Preaching/Worship “Thrive Radio“.  In a press release, the church announced that the station has shifted formats to provide the Blue Water Area with a station of worship, teaching and talk; focusing on multiple different ways for individuals in our community to grow in their faith. Thrive Radio launched on the airwaves on June 22.

Station Director, Brian Smith shared: “It’s not every day you get to launch a new station so this is special for our entire team. After a year of prayer, hard work and creativity…we’re excited to see how God uses Thrive! Our prayer is that listeners would have the opportunity to grow in their faith through listening. I’m so very proud of our staff!”

The move will be the first of two changes made in the region as sister “90.7 Hope-FM” WNFR Sandusky MI will broaden its playlist to add some of the artists WNFA played such as For King & Country, Crowder, Social Club, Apollo LTD, Toby Mac and Elevation Worship. WNFA midday host Brett Hager will also move to WNFR as afternoon host.

WZMQ Marquette Renovating Downtown Building for New Studio

Newscast Studio reports that Lilly Broadcasting’s WZMQ-TV (Marquette) has announced that it will open a new studio and office in a building that was formerly an Irish pub-style restaurant. The station is taking over a building at 142 West Washington Street in downtown Marquette.

Plans call for a studio on the second floor along with office space throughout. A new entrance and windows will be added.

“We wanted a spot that’s in an iconic and convenient setting,” said John Christianson, chief operating officer for Lilly Broadcasting, in a statement. “We can look out and see the magnificent exterior of the Delft (Theater).”

Christianson also noted that the U.P. 200, a sled dog race, journeys near the building as well.

By locating the studio on the second floor, the station won’t be able to leverage the existing storefront-style windows as a background or way for pedestrians to glimpse inside of the operation.

The move gives the station a physical location with a Marquette mailing address as well as the potential for reporters and videographers to use the space as a home base when reporting from the city. The station could also opt to use the space for administration and advertising sales operations that would benefit from being in the local community.

WZMQ’s 19.2 subchannel became the U.P.’s CBS affiliate on January 20.  Following the CBS affiliation, the company announced that it would launch local news at 6 and 11 p.m. on the channel under the name “19 News: This is Home.”  Production for the newscasts currently happens primarily at the company’s Erie, Pennsylvania stations, but the station has reporters who are based in Marquette.

Weaver Promoted to Station Manager at WMJZ

Radio veteran programmer Rob Weaver has been promoted to Station Manager at WMJZ-FM (Eagle 101.5) (Gaylord).  He will assume his new position July 1.

“Rob is the glue that keeps things going around here and it just makes sense to give him the proper credit,” said Bryan Hollenbaugh, President of 45 North Media and owner of the station. “He has been a mainstay in Northern Michigan radio for over four decades, including the past 16 with this station.”

Weaver, who hosts afternoons on the adult hits station, began his career at WGRY-AM, shortly after graduating from Michigan State University.  He had also previously hosted mornings and programmed for nearly two decades at the now-defunct CHR WKPK-FM (106.7 The Peak) before joining Eagle 101.5 in 2006.

This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters

David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford,
Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week (6/11-17), with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • Comment dates have been announced in the Federal Register for the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing to authorize LPTV stations operating on TV channel 6 to continue to provide an analog audio stream that can be received on FM radios at 87.7. Comments are due July 18, 2022; reply comments are due August 1, 2022.  The proposal would limit that authorization in many ways, including suggesting that the authority would be restricted to those LPTV Channel 6 stations already providing such an audio service.  The Notice also asks for comments as to whether Channel 6, in geographic areas where it is not currently used for TV services, should be repurposed for FM use (a proposal that has previously been advanced by the FCC, see our Broadcast Law Blog article here on previous FCC requests for comment on this issue).
  • The Radio Music License Committee has asked a single court to decide what a reasonable license fee would be for royalties owed by commercial broadcasters to both ASCAP and BMI. Both the ASCAP and BMI licenses with the radio industry expired at the end of 2021.  As both ASCAP and BMI routinely argue in license proceedings that they have the largest share of the music played by radio stations, RMLC suggests that a combined case, arguably permitted for the first time by the Music Modernization Act, would allow for this issue to be decided in a uniform way by a single judge.  See the RMLC press release for more information.
  • The FCC’s Video Division proposed to fine a television translator permittee $6500 for filing an application for a license to cover its displacement construction permit over three years after completing construction and nearly six months after its permit expired. As no license had been filed before the permit expired, this fine also covered the unauthorized operation of the station during the six months after the permit expired. The mere fact that the FCC’s database did not reflect the cancellation of the permit after its expiration did not excuse the late filing.  When completing construction of new facilities authorized by a construction permit, a broadcaster must file a license application demonstrating that construction was completed as authorized by the permit.
  • Issues with a license application resulted in the FCC’s Audio Division rescinding the license of an FM translator. The FCC found that the licensee had falsely stated in its license application that it had completed construction at its authorized location.  The licensee had instead constructed its facilities in a recreational vehicle (“RV”) park approximately 30 yards away from its authorized site, receiving power through a permanent electric outlet shared with an RV.  The FCC emphasized that “[c]onstruction permits expire automatically and are forfeited if the facilities authorized therein are not completed by the established deadline; use of an alternate site or construction of temporary facilities does not prevent such forfeiture.” As an alternate basis for rescission, the FCC also found that the licensee had failed to comply with a condition in its license requiring continuous operation for the first year and establishing that station silence within that period evidenced unlicensable, temporary construction (the Media Bureau has placed this condition on all new radio broadcast licenses since 2015 to address perceived abusive practices in the industry).  As evidence of the temporary construction, the FCC cited, among other things, the fact that RVs are inherently mobile and also noted the absence of any written lease with the RV owner or any agreement with the landowner of the RV park.
  • The FCC’s Video Division also proposed to fine a full power television licensee $6,000 for failing to timely file its quarterly issues/programs lists and failing to report these violations in its license renewal application. Specifically, the licensee uploaded one list to its online public inspection file more than one year late, and seven lists between one month and one year late. The FCC also found, however, that the licensee’s violations did not constitute a “serious violation” warranting designation of the license renewal application for hearing, it would grant the license renewal application at the conclusion of the forfeiture proceeding if there were no other issues with the application.
  • The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau issued Notices of Illegal Pirate Radio Broadcasting to two property owners for allegedly hosting unlicensed FM broadcast stations in Queens, New York and Newark, New Jersey, respectively. The Notices each included the following language: “[Y]ou are hereby notified and warned that the FCC may issue a fine of up to $2,000,000 if, following the response period set forth below, we determine that you have continued to permit any individual or entity to engage in pirate radio broadcasting from the property that you own or manage.”

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. 

Michigan Learning Channel Launches their 2022 Summer Learning Program

The Michigan Learning Channel (MLC) has announced its Summer 2022 program.  The free eight-week program, which runs through August 14 encourages kids to “Learn, Do, and Explore” with literacy and math lessons, hands-on science and fitness activities, career exploration and virtual field trips.

MLC can be seen on digital subchannels of all Michigan Public Broadcasting television stations.

From virtual field trips exploring shipwrecks in the Great Lakes to videos showcasing amazing animals at the Detroit Zoo, parents can find all sorts of resources on the MLC’s website. Educational videos, fun activity books, virtual events and more are available to keep students, from preschool to 6th grade engaged in learning all summer long.

“Learning should never take a vacation,” said Robin Pizzo, WKAR director of education. “This is why the Michigan Learning Channel Summer Program is packed with fun and engaging STEM activities, literacy skill development practice and exciting virtual field trips. Families can encourage learning every day.”

Parents can download the Summer 2022 Activity Book for their children with three options for different age groups (Early Learners, Elementary, Tweens). There are also individual weekly packets available for download, centered around activity themes like “When I Grow Up” and “Shoot for the Stars.”

These guides include the educational materials that accompany video lessons available to watch online or on broadcast television channel 23.5. Many pages include QR code links to student-centered lessons for parents and their children to review together.

“The Michigan Learning Channel is also excited to bring students, educators and families together with our #VirtualSummerCamp!” Said Summer Godette, MLC engagement coordinator. “In addition to the television broadcasts and activity books, families can participate in fun weekly challenges and engagement opportunities by following @MichLearning on social media!”

See more here.

Rethinking the Radio Station Promotions Kit for the Digital Age

Seth Resler

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

Many radio stations’ street teams have a standard kit that they take to promotional appearances which includes everything they might need on site. When I was a Program Director, we packed gray rubber tubs with everything from clipboards and entry forms to banners and prize wheels.

The purpose of these Promo Kits was simple: To provide the street team with ways to entertain listeners at events. But now that we’re in the digital age, the goals of our promotional appearances have changed, and our Promo Kits should evolve to reflect these new goals.

Here are the new goals of our street team appearances:

1. Create Compelling Content
In addition to entertaining people on-site, we now have the ability to use promotional appearances to create content that entertains people online. We can do this in a number of ways, but two of the most effective are by sharing photos or live-streaming video of the event. For this content to get a reaction online, it’s going to need to be visually compelling. We need toys and games that look good on camera.

When we reevaluate the promo kit through this lens, it becomes apparent that some of our old standbys are no longer up to the task (“Goodbye, prize wheel!”), while others still make the cut (“Great job, banner roll!”).

Moreover, we may need to add some new weapons to our arsenal. While the tiny thumb-wrestling ring may no longer meet our needs, large sumo wrestling suits, Chinese dragon costumes and oversized gongs may fit the bill. Additionally, you may need support equipment to create visual content, such as camera tripods or selfie sticks. At your next Promotions Department meeting, brainstorm a list of things you’ll need to produce compelling visual content at every on-site appearance.

2. Collecting Contact Info
On-site appearances are also a great place to collect contact info — either phone numbers or email addresses — from your listeners. Don’t use pen and paper to collect email address; somebody on your team will be stuck with the thankless job of entering all of that data into the computer, which is time-consuming and prone to errors. Collecting business cards has the same problem.

Instead, get a tablet with an iPad and install an app on it which allows people to type in their email addresses. The app should upload these email addresses directly to your database. Many email service providers offer an app for collecting data this way. You’ll also want a stand that allows you to lock the iPad to your table so nobody walks off with it. Some models cover the buttons on the tablet, preventing people from exiting the email collection app.

Text messages can be a great way to collect contact info because listeners usually have their phones on them. You can set up a service that allows them to sign up for your email newsletter by text message. When they send a keyword to a specific number (such as “WKRP” to 55555), they will receive a reply asking for their email address. When people respond to the opt-in message, they will be added to the database.

To enact a text messaging opt-in program like this, you’ll want to include a short explanatory phrase (e.g., “Get our email newsletter! Text WKRP to 55555.”) on your table skirt, your banners, your hand stamps, the back of your bumper stickers, etc. The more you promote it, the more you’ll grow your database.

Text messaging has presented issues for some broadcasting companies because trolls wait for broadcasters to run afoul of the law and then pounce. Always check with your legal team before adopting any course of action involving text messaging.

The Promo Kit has been a staple at radio stations for years, but it may be time to overhaul yours. For more digital strategies that you can incorporate into your radio station’s events, check out our webinar on the topic.  Watch the webinar here.

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.

FCC Notes: Marks Stations Transferred; WMPA Sale Closes

Some items of note from the FCC files this past week include the transfer of stations owned by the late Stephen Marks were transferred to Mary Marks, as personal representative under his will. In Michigan, this includes WBKB-TV (Alpena), WBKP-TV (Calumet), WBUP-TV (Ishpeming), WHKB-FMWCCY-AM/WOLV-FM (Houghton) and WIKB-FM/WFER-AM (Iron River).

Marks also owned television and radio stations in Forsyth, MT, Glendive, MT, Miles City, MT, Sidney, MT, Belfield, ND, New England, ND, Williston, ND, Park Falls, WI and Accomac, VA.  The immediate past Chair of the MAB passed away unexpectedly on May 11 at the age of 72.  The application for transfer was filed on June 22.

Non-commercial operator West Central Michigan Media Ministries has closed on their purchase of WMPA-FM (Ferrysburg/Grand Haven) from Will Tieman and Wendy Hart’s WGHN Inc. West Central began programming the station at 4 p.m. on June 10 with their Christian “Strong Tower Radio” network, that originates at the company’s headquarters in Cadillac.  The transfer, filed March 16, was approved by the FCC on April 29.

Lansing Lugnuts Broadcaster Called Up to the Big League

(L-R) Lugnut Mascot “Big Lug” and Jesse Goldberg-Strassler.

Lansing Lugnuts Radio Broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler has received the call to step up, at least temporarily, to major league baseball play-by-play.  Strassler, who has been calling the Lugnut games since 2009, was called up by affiliate-team the Oakland Athletics for help with three games this past week with the Boston Red Sox.

Goldberg-Strassler told WSYM-TV, “The Oakland Athletics lead broadcaster Ken Korach is taking off some time over the course of the season. And the other A’s broadcaster, Vince Cotroneo, had the idea of filling in those spots that Ken was taking off with members of the Oakland Athletics minor league system, the broadcast crew.  It is such a joy to say, I am part of the team who’s bringing A’s baseball out there on the airwaves.”

He says he wanted to be a radio broadcaster because he listened to baseball on the radio. “And that’s all I do is just describe baseball on the radio. It makes me feel so good to see it’s still valued and loved,” Goldberg-Strassler said.

Michigan Radio to Host Local Live(s), a Unique Storytelling Event

Michigan Radio has announced that they are thrilled to partner with Back Pocket Media to bring a captivating live storytelling event featuring journalists, music and community on Thursday, July 14, 2022.

Local Live(s) is a show that brings together journalists and locals for a night of entertainment and conversation. It’s a national storytelling event that features journalists sharing the behind-the-scenes stories of their news stories. Think of it as a podcast, but live and on stage. The theme of this Local Live(s) event is “Desire: stories about hidden motives, impossible odds and the pursuit of change.”

Journalists will share stories behind their reporting, inviting the audience into a world they’ve only observed from the outside. The result is an entertaining, captivating event that helps demystify the reporting process while bringing communities and newsrooms into a shared space.

Location and Tickets:

This Local Live(s) event will take place on Thursday, July 14 at The Garage Bar in Ann Arbor. Doors open at 6:30 and the show starts at 7:30 PM. The Garage Bar at the Pizza House offers an open-air atmosphere and is located at 618 Church St, Ann Arbor. Tickets for this live event are available on Eventbrite. In-person tickets are $10 per person, with tickets to watch online priced at $5.

This event is part of a national series Back Pocket Media is co-producing with local and state news organizations across the country to help bring important journalism to life. In addition to Michigan Radio, other partner news organizations during the 2022 season include ProPublica, Miami Herald, Wisconsin Watch, the Baltimore Sun, Buckeye Flame and NPR Gulf States Newsroom Collaborative.

Local Live(s) is sponsored by the Meta Journalism Project and is funded in part by the Brown Institute of Media Innovation.

This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters

David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford,
Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week (6/4-10), with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC this week announced that in-person meetings at its new headquarters building will now be allowed – though only when scheduled in advance and subject to COVID protocols. (Public Notice of Reopening and Public Notice on COVID Protocols).  The FCC had been closed to outside visitors since March 12, 2020.  In the interim, it moved to a new building.  The FCC plans its first in-person meeting open to the public in July.
  • The FCC announced that requests for changes in the call letters of broadcast stations, previously requested in a stand-alone database, will be requested through the LMS database as of June 22, 2022. The old call letter reservation system will be decommissioned.  Procedures for using LMS to request call letter changes are set out in the FCC’s Public Notice released this week (Public Notice).
  • The FCC adopted the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asking for public comment on a proposal to authorize LPTV stations operating on TV channel 6 to continue to provide an analog audio stream that can be received on FM radios at 87.7. Its proposal would limit that authorization in many ways, including suggesting that the authority would be restricted to those LPTV Channel 6 stations already providing such an audio service.  The Notice also asks for comments as to whether Channel 6, in geographic areas where it is not currently used for TV services, should be repurposed for FM use (a proposal that has previously been advanced by the FCC, see our Broadcast Law Blog article hereon previous FCC requests for comment on this issue).  Comment dates will be announced by a Federal Register publication (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking).
  • The FCC issued a reminder that all invoices for amounts that can be reimbursed from the TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund for costs incurred because of the incentive auction must be filed by September 6. These remaining requests are due from LPTV stations, MVPDs and FM stations affected by the repacking of the television band following the incentive auction (FCC Reminder).
  • The FCC’s new rules authorizing computer modeling for FM directional antennas was published in the Federal Register. Those rules go into effect on July 11, 2020.
  • EAS rules adopted last year, providing for the regular filing of updated state EAS plans and their approval by the FCC, became effective earlier this week after approval of their paperwork collection requirements. State EAS committees should review and update their plans as required by these new rules (Public Notice).
  • In a decision released this week in a dispute between two radio companies over the appropriate compensation due to a broadcaster who was forced to change channels on its FM station to accommodate the upgrade in the facilities of another broadcaster’s FM station, the FCC clarified what expenses were appropriately the subject of a reimbursement request. The FCC allows one FM broadcaster who wants to upgrade its facilities to obtain an FCC order changing the channel of another broadcaster (at its same site and power) as long as the upgrading broadcaster pays the reasonable costs of the broadcaster being forced to change channels.  This decision helps to clarify what expenses are considered reasonable.  (Decision)
  • The FCC proposed to fine a public broadcasting company for incomplete public inspection files at four of its television stations. These deficiencies were discovered by the FCC during the license renewal process.  They had not been reported by the broadcaster even though the renewal application asks for a certification as to whether the broadcaster was timely in uploading materials to its public file.  Two of the broadcaster’s stations are proposed to receive fines of $6000 for the violations, and two would receive $9000 fines.  The deficiencies that were identified by the FCC included instances where a station had three Quarterly Issues Programs lists that were uploaded over a year late and four lists uploaded between one month and one year late ($9000 fine$6000 fine).  These decisions demonstrate that the Video Division is fining stations for violations of its public file rules, where the Audio Division, for the most part dealt with such violations discovered during the license renewal process through consent decrees.
  • The Federal Trade Commission initiated a proceeding to update its guidelines on preventing digital deception. The proceeding looks at issues including online sponsorship identification and other disclosures in advertising, with the FTC fearing that disclosures often were not evident to consumers when available only though multiple hyperlinks or otherwise did not provide clear information to consumers.  Comments are due by August 2, 2022. (Press ReleaseRequest for Comments)

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.