Kristian queried Clear Channel corporate about the deals and whether they’re part of any national trend: he got a response from someone at Brainerd Communications, a PR firm which specializes in corporate crisis management. “[C]orporate offices are not commenting. These were local decisions made by local stations.” Kristian thus surmises “the company does not disapprove of this new business direction, and considers newsroom sponsorships to be appropriate.”
Jack Mitchell is pretty cool. He was National Public Radio’s first hire, co-creator of All Things Considered, and rose from there to chair NPR’s Board of Directors. He’s now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and just wrote a book on the history of public radio.
I have yet to read Listener Supported but Jack just did an hour-long interview on our local public radio station (MP3 link / RA link) and he gave a colorful description of the political origins of NPR, at one point comparing the initial work environment to a commune (check stereotypes at the door, please). He also honestly and deftly handled some critical calls about the state of public broadcasting today.
At Madison I had a chance to take Jack’s class on “public, community and alternative media,” and it was pretty good – he’s got a nice, dry wit. He even let me take half a period to spell everyone about the days I had missed class for the Seattle Mosquito Fleet operation. Knowing public radio has roots in folks like Jack gives me a semblance of hope for its future.
When Congress initially eviscerated the FCC’s LPFM service four years ago, I was living in Madison, Wisconsin. There, with the stroke of President Clinton’s pen, the number of open frequencies available for new LPFM stations went from something like 16 to three.
Of the applicants to tender requests for an LPFM license in Madison: one individual applied for one open frequency; a church applied for another; and seven groups applied for the third channel.
The FCC has finally granted construction permits to those entities eligible to go on the air. However, as the seven groups essentially came to a draw in the FCC’s “points system” for determining the winner in competitive situations like theirs, the license will be divided up between each group.
Madison’s alt-biweekly free newspaper, the Wisconsinite, folded up shop last month after a scant dozen issues. The group that founded and produced the paper included members of the Madison IMC collective (but was most definitely not a print project of the IMC itself). It was positioned to the left of the city’s tired alt-weekly, which now targets “affluent hipsters” compelled to spawn. Very respectably progressive, the Wisconsinite had some meaty stories on interesting stuff, was fairly well-laid out, and was even printed on higher-quality newsprint stock than the Isthmus.
Then Madison’s dominant daily announced it would be starting a free “alt-weekly” of its own, and the state’s largest paper shortly followed suit. It is apparently a growing trend in the mainstream newspaper marketplace to use the “alt-weekly” trick in hopes of luring a younger demographic – both for their disposable income and to entice them into the habit of reading a paper, something going lost on the under-25 crowd.
This article was initially written for/published in the Wisconsinite, a now-defunct alt-biweekly newspaper in Madison, WI.
The newest addition to Madison’s commercial radio dial is WHIT-FM, otherwise known as 93.1 “The Lake.” Similar in format to 101.5 WIBA-FM, the addition of “The Lake” brings the number of stations owned by Mid-West Family Broadcasting in Madison to seven, topping Clear Channel’s local stable by one and making it the largest station owner in the market. Mid-West Family Broadcasting is based in Madison, but it also owns clusters of stations in LaCrosse, Benton Harbor, MI, Springfield, IL, and Springfield, MO. Its other Madison properties include 94.1 WJJO, “Magic” 98, Q-106, WTDY-AM (1670), WTUX-AM (1550), and “La Movida” WTDA-AM (1480), which Mid-West Family owns but leases to Hispanic programmers.
The route by which “The Lake” was built is a long and somewhat convoluted story, but it shows how local and regional radio station companies have had to band together to remain competitive in an industry which has seen explosive consolidation over the last eight years.