NAB Announces Executive Changes

Chris Ornelas

NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith announced (1/16)  that NAB Chief Operating Officer Chris Ornelas will be departing the organization February 1 to become general counsel for Beasley Media Group, where he will oversee all legal matters for the multiplatform media company, including its 64 radio stations. Ornelas will be replaced by Curtis LeGeyt, NAB’s current executive vice president, Government Relations, Smith said.

Ornelas joined NAB in May 2010 as executive vice president and chief strategy officer. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2011. Prior to joining NAB, Ornelas served as Gordon Smith’s chief counsel on communications and technology policy during Smith’s tenure as a U.S. Senator from Oregon. His career also includes nearly a decade of communications law practice in the Washington offices of law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer.

LeGeyt joined NAB in October 2011 as senior vice president and legislative counsel, and later took on the role of senior vice president, public policy. He was promoted to executive vice president, government relations in July 2015. Prior to joining NAB, LeGeyt served as senior counsel to then Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy. LeGeyt also worked on antitrust litigation and merger reviews with the Howrey LLP law firm in Washington, and as a management consulting associate with Putnam Associates.

Curtis LeGeyt

“I’m grateful for the remarkable accomplishments that NAB has made on behalf of our radio and TV members over the last decade, and Chris Ornelas and Curtis LeGeyt have been instrumental in that success,” said Smith. “I will miss Chris Ornelas’s wise counsel, good humor and strategic guidance of ‘Team NAB’ as our COO. He’s been a selfless servant, a trusted colleague and a loyal friend during my years on Capitol Hill and at NAB. I’m so proud that Chris has a new opportunity to shine even brighter as Beasley Media’s new general counsel.”

Smith called the promotion of LeGeyt as successor to Ornelas “a recognition of Curtis’s superb management skills, the victories that NAB Government Relations has delivered on Capitol Hill, and his dedication to the mission of NAB and local broadcasting. Given the respect and admiration that Curtis commands among his NAB colleagues and peers in Washington, I’m pleased to reward him with this promotion and am confident in this choice.” Smith said NAB “is fortunate to have a deep reserve of talent in all of our departments, as reflected by today’s announcement.”

NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith also has announced that NAB senior vice presidents April Carty-Sipp, Shawn Donilon and Trish Johnson have each been promoted to the position of executive vice president in charge of respective departments at the organization.

Carty-Sipp was promoted to EVP of Industry Affairs, a division that includes Education, Membership and Radio/Television. She replaces Steve Newberry, who will be leaving NAB to become Chief Executive Officer at QUU, an auto dashboard technology company. Carty-Sipp joined NAB in March 2018 after a 20-year career in senior broadcast management positions that included stints as vice president/director of programming at Disney-ABC owned WPVI-TV Philadelphia and senior vice president of creative services for Comcast/NBC Universal’s NBC Regional Sports Networks.

Carty-Sipp received numerous awards during her broadcast career, including six Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards. She is a graduate of Rowan University with a B.A. in Communications, specializing in Radio/TV/Film.

Donilon was promoted to EVP of Government Relations, overseeing NAB advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and at the White House. He replaces Curtis LeGeyt, who has been named NAB Chief Operating Officer. Donilon joined NAB’s advocacy team in March 2013 and has been integrally involved in developing and executing NAB’s strategy in a host of legislative fights during his tenure. These include passage of the recent STELAR bill, congressional opposition to a performance tax and Congress’s appropriation of $1 billion to fully reimburse broadcasters impacted by the spectrum repack.

Prior to joining NAB, Donilon was legislative director and counsel to Rep. Charles Bass of New Hampshire, a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. In that capacity, Donilon advised Bass on all issues, including TV incentive auction legislation and other media and technology issues. Donilon holds an undergraduate degree in Economics from Duke University and a J.D. from the University of Southern California.

Johnson was promoted to EVP of Finance/Chief Financial Officer. She joined NAB in March 2017 as senior vice president and controller, Finance. She was promoted to chief financial officer in May 2019, and leads the association’s financial operations, internal and external reporting, audit, tax and budgeting.

Before joining NAB, Johnson worked for PBS and the public TV station WETA-TV Washington. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Old Dominion University, a Master’s in Education from the University of Mary Washington and a Master’s in Accounting from George Mason University.

Carty-Sipp, Donilon and Johnson will report to LeGeyt, NAB’s newly-named chief operating officer.

“These promotions recognize three staff members who have contributed greatly to the success of NAB in recent years,” said NAB’s Smith. “As an organization, our goal is to promote from within those staffers who are team players and demonstrate a consistent commitment to excellence. April, Shawn and Trish are fully deserving of these promotions.”

WNMU-TV Unveils New Sports Broadcasting Equipment

Left: New WNMU-TV cameras at the Barry Events Center; Right: New WNMU-TV switch board at the Barry Events Center.

WNMU-TV (Marquette), in partnership with Northern Michigan University Athletics,
is setting up new production equipment for producing NMU sports telecasts.  Equipment highlights include Sony broadcast cameras with 72-power Canon zoom optics and Ross video switching with multi-view monitoring along with a host of other production enhancements.

Not only will this new equipment enhance viewers’ experience with NMU games, but it will also give NMU broadcasting students valuable hands-on experiential learning with an ESPN-3 level facility that better prepares them for a career in multi-media production.

iHeartMedia Promotes Detroit’s Tony Travatto

Tony Travatto

Tony Travatto, Senior Vice President of Programming for iHeartMedia Detroit and PD of  WKQI-FM and WNIC-FM has been promoted to a Division Executive Vice President of Programming for the iHeartMedia National Programming Group.  The announcement was made January 16.

Travatto is one of three promoted to the position in the National Programming Group.  Joining him are Jeff Hurley, Regional SVP of Programming from the company’s Allentown/Harrisburg Region and Angela Watson Charles, who has been SVP of Programming for iHeartMedia New Orleans.

“We’re excited to add Angela, Jeff and Tony to our already extremely talented Executive Vice President of Programming team,” said Tom Poleman, Chief Programming Officer for iHeartMedia. “They each have deep experience building great local brands with a blend of math and magic, and they’ll provide excellent leadership to our programmers in our Community Division markets.”

Gnau Returns to Michigan

Nick Gnau

iHeartMedia announced on January 15, that nine of its senior executives will be Division Presidents of the new iHeartMedia Markets Group organization, effective immediately. These executives – Shosh Abromovich, Linda Byrd, Tony Coles, Julie Donohue, Nick Gnau, Scott Hopeck, Dan Lankford, Kevin LeGrett and Tom McConnell – will report into Greg Ashlock, President of the iHeartMedia Markets Group.

Former MAB board member Nick Gnau will be based in Detroit and oversee 35 markets. In 2012, he became Market President for iHeartMedia Detroit and, in 2016, was appointed Region President.  In 2018, he was named President of iHeartMedia’s Philadelphia Region.

This is part of iHeartMedia’s recently announced Markets Group structure, which utilizes the company’s major investments in technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to maximize the performance of each of its markets – and the company overall – with its unique scale and multiple platforms; leadership in audio; and its expertise in consumers, monetization and data. The new structure will enhance iHeartMedia’s position as the number one audio company in America, continue its successful transformation as a technology- and data-powered 21stcentury media company, and accelerate the development of new platforms and services.

Under the new organizational structure, the company will now group its markets by common needs and characteristics into three distinctly different divisions to make sharing of resources and experiences easier and more targeted. LeGrett and Hopeck will lead the Region Division; McConnell, Coles and Byrd will lead the Metro Division; Abromovich, Gnau and Lankford will lead the Community Division; and Donohue will lead the Multi-Market Partnerships Division.

“It’s an exciting time at iHeart as we launch our new Markets Group structure to capitalize on our unparalleled reach and groundbreaking technology to create one-of-a-kind platforms and services for our employees, partners and listeners,” said Ashlock. “Our nine Division Presidents bring a complementary portfolio of knowledge, leadership and diverse functional expertise that will position us well as we continue to transform and modernize as the leader in the audio space.”

WOOD-TV Announces Return of Michele DeSelms

Michele DeSelms

WOOD-TV (Grand Rapids has announced the return of Michele DeSelms to West Michigan.  DeSelms will become the Community Strategy Manager at the station. The role includes the Connecting with Community brand and partnerships, as well as non-profit alliances and community outreach projects. DeSelms will help shape the future of the community engagement opportunities with coverage both on-air and on-line.

DeSelms made West Michigan her home in 1998 to help launch the first 10:00 p.m. newscast at crosstown WXMI-TV. There she became the primary anchor for 18 years. Prior to that she anchored in Columbus, OH, Rockford, IL, and Lexington, KY. Most recently DeSelms worked with Mattawan Public Schools, Michigan Department of Corrections, Amway Corporate, River Bank Run, Kids’ Food Basket Ready to Run and more in helping to present their stories on social media. “What an amazing opportunity to work with a great team, at a legacy station that is so committed to the community,” said DeSelms. “West Michigan has been my home for the past two decades, and I love connecting with people, and sharing their stories. I’m looking forward to this exciting new adventure!”

“WOOD TV has an outstanding legacy of community service and engagement in West Michigan,” Julie Brinks, General Manager, stated, “Michele is the perfect individual to bring her broadcasting experience and passion for community to the role at a time when the industry is rapidly evolving. Her leadership will enable us to create conversations and partnerships that can bring positive impact and understanding within our diverse communities through the power of local media.”

Her first day was January 13.

WKAR to Host PBS Kids Day

WKAR Public Media (East Lansing) will host another “PBS Kids Day” at their MSU Campus studios on Saturday, January 25.  The day gives viewers a chance to look behind the scenes at the station and will feature fun activities and games for kids.

The free event will feature lots of fun, hands-on activities from community partners like Abrams planetarium, The FRIB, Potter Park Zoo, and more! Everyone’s favorite pet Clifford The Big Red Dog will be visiting and taking pictures with all his fans.

Visitors can take a try at being a meteorologist with the green screen experience, visit with favorite Curious Crew cast members and learn about STEM careers.  Curious Crew, a show seen nationwide on public television stations is produced at WKAR.

The event will also have a sensory friendly quiet room with low lighting and comfy furniture, so all kids are invited!

WDMK/Detroit Debuts The Rickey Smiley Show

Rickey Smiley

Beasley Media Group has announced that the syndicated The Rickey Smiley Morning Show can now be heard on the air weekday mornings on the company’s WDMK-FM (Detroit-105.9 KISS FM). The show officially launched on January 6.

The show is quick-paced and anchored by one of the nation’s most popular comedians. Entertaining a wide variety of listeners, the “can’t miss a minute” morning show perfectly blends music, exclusive comedy and spiritual entertainment with today’s hottest topics in news, entertainment and sports.

“We are thrilled to have Rickey Smiley join 105.9 KISS FM,” said station Program Director, John Candelaria. “I have watched Rickey ascend to National superstar over the past 20 years and we are excited to have him leading the line-up for the All New 105.9 KISS FM. Detroit is ready for a fresh new morning show!”

Smiley uses personality, humor, conviction and relevant information to deliver a high-energy morning show engaging his listening community in unexpected ways. His show has distinguished itself with its innovative mix of entertainment and an unfiltered view on contemporary black life and parenthood, focusing on family, community and mentorship.

Rickey Smiley was recognized by the National Association of Broadcasters in 2017 as the recipient of the Marconi Award for “Top National/Syndicated Talent.”

Having attended Alabama State University and participated in numerous HBCU tours, Smiley is an ardent supporter of education – especially Historically Black Colleges and Universities.




WOOD-TV’s Julie Brinks and Maranda Named Among “Influential Women”

(L-R) WOOD-TV General Manager Julie Brinks and on-air host Maranda.

WOOD-TV (Grand Rapids) General Manager Julie Brinks, along with on-air host Maranda, have been recognized as two of West Michigan’s “Most Influential Women.” The Grand Rapids Business Journal released its list of 50 women leaders in the West Michigan community on January 8.  Brinks and Maranda were chosen out of a list of nearly 250 applicants.

Julie Brinks has led WOOD-TV since 2017.  A Michigan native with years of experience in local news, she previously led stations in Traverse City; Tuscon, Arizona; and Bend, Oregon.  Brinks also serves as Chair of the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Foundation.

Maranda has long hosted “Where You Live,” a program that focuses on what’s going on in Grand Rapids. For 25 years, each of her summer Park Parties have entertained — and fed — thousands of kids.

Brinks, Maranda and the 48 other women will be honored at a luncheon in downtown Grand Rapids in March.

WKAR Announces Launch of Apollo Public TV Platform in Partnership with Gaian Solutions

NextGen TV Accelerator Platform, Apollo PublicTV Platform Enables Public Broadcasters to Conceive, Design and Launch NextGen TV Services for Local Communities

WKAR Public Media at Michigan State University and Gaian Solutions, Inc., announce the launch of Apollo PublicTV Platform, a NextGen TV accelerator platform for public broadcasters.

Apollo PublicTV Platform offers broadcasters a suite of services including NextGen TV master classes, ATSC 3.0 receiver and transmitter starter kits, access to NextGen TV broadcast chains and the capability to conduct lab and field trials. Apollo PublicTV Platform also offers a certification program for technology providers, plus business consulting services for organizations interested in identifying and launching specific market-by-market NextGen TV opportunities.

This new platform offers NextGen TV services through tools that apply artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in a fully cloud-based, virtualized environment to enable the convergence of broadcast and digital workflows.

Through Apollo PublicTV Platform, public broadcasters can now offer rich content experiences in education, alerting, health information, community fundraising and other domains.

“Putting the tools of the Apollo PublicTV Platform in the hands of public broadcasters means that local communities can begin to benefit right now from the promise of NextGen TV,” said Susi Elkins, general manager at WKAR Public Media. “Barriers to moving forward immediately include a lack of significant investment and the absence of a clear migration path to NextGen TV. The Apollo PublicTV Platform partnership we’re announcing today is a marketplace collaboration designed to address those barriers. Apollo PublicTV Platform will help stations manage the convergence of operations now, to be well positioned for the future.”

Apollo PublicTV Platform tools include data analytics, app designer tools, AI agents, Software Development Kits (SDKs) and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for rapid service curation, an ATSC 3.0 receiver application stack and the necessary business applications to manage carrier-grade content services.

“The coming NextGen TV economy will ensure overall growth of the broadcast industry and its long overdue integration with the digital transformation ecosystem,” said Chandra Kotaru, CEO and founder of Gaian Solutions. “Public broadcasters are in a unique position to leverage NextGen TV opportunities. Apollo PublicTV Platform was designed to accelerate this phenomenon.”

“The Apollo PublicTV Platform instantly opens up new opportunities and better experiences through cutting edge technology, open APIs and toolkits,” said Prabu David, dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at MSU. “Gaian Solutions has been instrumental in conceptualizing, designing, developing and operating the Apollo PublicTV Platform with WKAR at MSU. We are very hopeful this will put public broadcasters at the forefront of leading innovation in the NextGen TV space.”

“America’s Public Television Stations see great potential in the Apollo PublicTV Platform developed by Gaian in cooperation with Susi Elkins and her team at WKAR-TV,” said Patrick Butler, president and CEO. “We look forward to working with them and with the public station community to make Apollo PublicTV Platform an accelerator of ATSC 3.0 adoption and of all the new service and revenue opportunities the NextGen broadcast standard holds in store for public television.”

Butler continued, “APTS intends to play an active role in familiarizing stations with the Apollo PublicTV Platform and ensuring that every station understands the transformative promise of ATSC 3.0 and the ability of Apollo PublicTV Platform to help make that promise come true for stations of every size.”

WKAR at Michigan State University, Gaian Solutions, and APTS invite all content and spectrum based entrepreneurs, digital transformation agencies, broadcasters, and technology vendors to collaborate on Apollo PublicTV Platform, the new open platform for NextGen TV.

Apollo PublicTV Platform currently provides broadcasters with:

  • Migration toolkits to easily transition from 1.0 to 3.0 with minimal investment.
  • Open APIs and SDKs to build on top of existing services.
  • Master Control and Broadcast Operations reimagined with NextGen TV Services.
  • A Digital Transformation Marketplace to bring together the broadcast assets and digital services to effectively utilize & monetize the spectrum.
  • An AppStore equivalent for the TV world with broadcaster apps and receiver apps supported across various device form factors.

To learn more, visit or write to [email protected].

Northern Radio of Michigan Spins Three FMs to Separate Owners

Traverse City-based Northern Radio of Michigan has sold three of its six northern Michigan radio stations to separate owners.  Midwestern Broadcasting is purchasing heritage rock station WKLT-FM (Kalkaska) from Northern. Midwestern is owner of WTCM-AM/FM, WCCW-AM/FM and WJZQ-FM. In an article posted in the Traverse Ticker, Midwestern Broadcasting General Manager Chris Warren said, “We’ve enjoyed a friendly, but competitive, relationship with WKLT for over 30 years. The call letters WKLT are renowned in Michigan’s radio community, as well as the country’s rock-n-roll circles. They’ve maintained a dominant position in the market with compelling personalities, aggressive event marketing and unparalleled interaction with the community. We couldn’t be more excited about the addition of WKLT to our group of northern Michigan radio properties.  The transaction was filed with the FCC on December 23.

The deal is expected to close and be approved in February.

WKLT-FM’s current simulcast partner, WKLZ-FM (Petoskey) has also been sold by Northern Radio.  Educational Media Foundation (EMF) is acquiring the station in a deal filed with the FCC December 30.  As with other EMF acquisitions, the station is expected to modify its license to non-commercial status and adopt one of its national programming formats.

Central Michigan University will expand its coverage area with the purchase of Northern Radio’s WCFX-FM (Leland).  The application for that purchase was filed December 23.

Remaining with Northern Radio are stations WFDX-FM (Atlanta), WSRT-FM (Gaylord) and WSRJ-FM (Honor).  Those stations are also expected to be sold.  WSRT and WSRJ are currently silent.