Thursday, April 17, 2008

News for short attentions spans

Lots of little stuff going on in the wacky world of media, and since I haven't had much time to really dig into it, I'll do yet another one of those catch-all entries.

The Randi wrap-up

First, a follow-up in regard to the whole Randi Rhodes saga. With Rhodes finally finding a happy home courtesy of Nova M Radio, she opened up about what led to the falling-out with Air America Radio. And, contrary to popular belief, it wasn't the 'whoregate' thing that led to her departure. A very candid Rhodes opened up on the air about what transpired over the past few weeks.

"It wasn’t about what I said, it was about locking me into something that I had deserved the right not to be locked into," claimed Rhodes. The whole dilemma was the result of contract issues. The most recent one ended on April 6. Air America was willing to sign her to a new one, and even offered her more money to do so. But there was a catch. The new contract would strip her of much of her freedom, mainly the right to leave at will, and install a new clause that would allow her bosses to fire her on a whim. After years of fighting for the generous contract she had been working under, this was unacceptable. During the contract impasse, she was indeed yanked off the air, as occasionally happens in the radio business.

During this time, Air America decided to test Rhodes' strength, and importance to the network. They floated the San Francisco appearance in the media, and even announced that she was 'suspended.' "My own company fed this story to the press… They released the statement saying I was indefinitely suspended." Rhodes, who had no 'morals clause' in her contract, was "shunned and banished."

"There had been no coverage of the (San Francisco) event, pro or con. I called them and said, tell me what news story are you reacting to? They said they wanted to see the real value of the company and the ripple effect. What they found out was that without me they were nothing."

Yet Air America played hardball, and told her that if she did not agree to the new conditions, she would not be back on the air. Rhodes, who had made a decision immediately following the suspension to jump ship, called their bluff and told them she was done with them.

"They aren’t radio professionals and have no radio background," she said on her show.

As soon as word started leaking out, Rhodes' supporters rallied around her. First to her defense was Clear Channel, which owns many of her affiliates, including longtime flagship WJNO in West Palm Beach. KKGN in San Francisco was first to announce they were bringing her back, with or without Air America. By the next afternoon, Nova M Radio, which is currently run by several of the people who initially brought her to Air America, reached an agreement to syndicate her show, which would originate from WJNO's studios.

As for other matters, Rhodes has no idea what happened to her website, which was pulled down as soon as Air America announced her departure and replaced with a redirect to their site (the site later redirected to Nova M). Rhodes owns her website, claiming "It’s not a civil matter it’s a criminal matter. That’s my property." She hopes that the content on her site was saved.

Nova M Radio will offer podcasts of her show, as they do with Mike Malloy, Jeff Farias and others. They do charge a subscription fee, and will also ensure that her affiliates that carried podcasts of her show in the past, including KKGN and KTLK in Los Angeles, will no longer do so.

Musical chairs on Air America

While Rhodes has moved on to a seemingly more satisfying experience at Nova M, Air America is still in transition mode in regard to her old shift there. They're still using celebrities as fill-ins, under the banner "American Afternoon." Actor/comedian Richard Belzer has been guest hosting this whole week, and while rumored future hosts, including Rosie O'Donnell and Fran Drescher will not be hosting anytime soon, others, including talk show host Ron Reagan, actress/comedian/TV personality Rosanne Barr (with Johnny Argent), and "The View" co-host Joy Behar will be. Interestingly enough, all three, plus Belzer, have talk radio hosting experience. So far, there is no word on any permanent replacement for Rhodes.

"American Afternoon" currently airs on the network's webstream and satellite feed, and on affiliates WWRL in New York, WCPT in Chicago and WROC in Rochester, NY, among others. WWKB in Buffalo, NY is reportedly returning to carrying Rhodes, and there is no word from WXXM in Madison, WI, which is running "American Afternoon" this week and is looking into their options. A web poll on their site showed a strong preference by listeners for Rhodes, who garnered nearly 83% of the online vote.

As for a permanent replacement, Air America has made no announcement as of yet, though the ever-loyal Sam Seder has indicated to management that he wants to return to hosting a weekday show. A petition to support just that is currently online, via Brave New Films. You can also find a petition here.

New contracts that actually were signed

While Rhodes balked at the contract presented her by Air America, a couple progressive voices re-upped with their current stations this week. Popular longtime Miami talker Neil Rogers signed a new five year contract with WQAM, The deal calls for a substantial pay cut, reportedly from a maximum range around $1.5 million per year, to about half of that. The drastic drop is more a reflection of the financial situation at the station and in the industry than Rogers' performance. However, Rogers remains the highest paid personality in South Florida radio by a longshot. In addition, Rogers has dropped hints that he will move back to Miami from Toronto, from where he had been doing most of his shows.

In addition, Jay Marvin of KKZN in Denver has signed a two year contract to remain with that station, according to AllAccess.

Robbins lays it out for the broadcast industry

And finally, The National Association of Broadcasters must have realized what they were getting themselves into when they enlisted actor/filmmaker/activist Tim Robbins as the keynote speaker at the NAB conference in Las Vegas this week. The oft-outspoken Robbins held nothing back as he lashed out at the nation's television and radio broadcasters for fostering an environment that promoted irresponsible news reporting, homogenized programming and right-wing bloviators like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and others. In light of what many viewed as a rather tawdry and gutter-dwelling presidential debate a few days later on ABC, his words carried on even greater meaning.

“Shouldn’t broadcasters see themselves as part of a larger picture, isn’t there an obligation to honestly report on what’s going on, to pursue stories past their headlines,’’ Robbins said. “Haven’t criminal acts occurred in government? Shouldn’t there be accountability for inept policy decisions? Shouldn’t someone be fired? And you know something? I didn’t hear any of that, because I am still thinking about that starlet getting out of the car without the panties."

You can hear the entire speech via FAIR's website. Definitely worth a listen.


Cat Chew said...

Robbins' speech was also funny. I wasn't sure it would be after reading your description. Thanks for the tip. I'd have missed this otherwise.

Unknown said...

Somebody posted the following on the New York Radio Message Board. I couldn't agree more.

Seder appeals to some young people, but relatively few young people listen to political talk radio or AM radio in general. And Seder's voice is too high-pitched (he often sounds semi-hysterical) and he uses the "er" and "ah" verbal crutches far too often.

Jafafa Hots said...

yeah, Seders voice is too high-pitched. They should instead get someone that sounds more like Lionel.

yes, I'm joking.

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