Anniversary means time to start something new

It’s Jan. 11 and that means today marks four years since my very first blog post at www.CohenConnect.com.

Back then, when I started, I was still in Florida.

I hadn’t yet moved to the Tri-Cities or returned to Philadelphia.

The blog has been pretty successful and also a learning experience, since there are so many elements involved in getting readers – from the subject, to the writing and pictures, and arranging it all correctly on the emailed subscriber letter, Facebook and Twitter.

I’ve done a lot of experimenting and think I finally have it down, as long as I have time.

But I’m going to have less time because I’ve started freelancing for the weekly newspaper Philadelphia Gay News, or PGN as it’s known around here.

feature pgn

Yes, you know I got my IT Support Specialist certificate, but I’ve been reading the paper for 20 years and keeping up with it while I was out of town.

The publisher Mark Segal and I have been acquaintances for years and recently, the opportunity presented itself.

I’d really like to help with the paper’s website, epgn.com, but that will take some time. For now, I’ve been copy-editing and my first article just came out!

2019-01-11 pgn paper

I’m excited about the possibilities, and to be part of a small group of journalists and technical folks whose members have changed over time, but have been putting out the publication for 43 years.

In fact, PGN has won so many awards, there isn’t enough space on the newsroom walls for them all.

We should all have problems like that!

Anyway, click here to see my first article, on today’s front page!

P.S. You’ve seen me ending blogs with, “If you appreciate what you read here, subscribe with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. Don’t rely on social media with its hacking issues and censoring like thisthis and this.”

In case you haven’t checked, the first this is an article called Facebook Flags, Censors NPR Report on Inflated Government School Shooting Statistics.

censorship from fee article
via FEE: The Foundation for Economic Education

The second this is an article called With ‘Napalm Girl,’ Facebook Humans (Not Algorithms) Struggle To Be Editor.

napalm girl from npr
Nick Ut/AP via NPR

The third this is an article called Did Facebook Flag the Declaration of Independence as Hate Speech?

declaration of independence from snopes
andrasgs / Shutterstock via Snopes

Today, I’m going to start adding a fourth “this.”

From now on, until articles disappear or there’s no need, you’ll see a link to an article called Facebook censors king cake babies for nudity. No kidding, brought to my attention by New Orleans meteorologist David Bernard (who many of you may remember from WFOR in Miami).

nude king cake babies from nola times picayune
NOLA.com | Times-Picayune

My whole point is, it’s always better to be in control of your own content and thoughts. Facebook should be looking out for our privacy and getting rid of hate speech, including Holocaust-denial. Facebook deserves criticism including some of the latest:

How an Experimental Billion-Dollar Privacy Lawsuit Could Clobber Facebook

Amazon will win advertising dollars away from Facebook amid privacy concerns, a new survey suggests

Apple reportedly hired a major Facebook critic and former employee for its privacy team

Facebook privacy scandals get even worse

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Allegiant Airlines: Worst flight of my life

I didn’t plan to be writing this blog right now. I should have already landed in Allentown, got in my car, and been on my way home to Philadelphia.

Instead, I made the mistake of flying Allegiant Airlines.

Please keep in mind I’m writing this on my tablet and phone. Never done that before.

They were an hour late on my trip to Florida on Friday, and an hour late again on my return trip today. And I won’t be getting home until tomorrow.

FLL Allegiant gate
They abandoned the gate in Fort Lauderdale before making us change gates. No people below. Trust me.

We were over Savannah, Ga., when the pilot told us there was a problem reported with the de-icing gauge. He said they knew wasn’t a problem but it had to be looked into, so we would have to make a sharp turn and fly to Asheville. I’m very familiar with that airport and Allegiant from my time in the Tri-Cities.

But if anything could go wrong…

There was bad weather in Asheville so we had to circle and circle around Spartanburg, S.C., until the weather improved, rather than land in Asheville in a thunderstorm.

Then, just before 9, the pilot came on and announced Asheville weather hadn’t improved, and after another seven or eight minutes, we’d have to go further away, to Knoxville! Jamie, do you need an 11:00 lead on channel 6? Lots of angry people!

Google on Allegiant
We’ve seen “On Time” and “Delayed” but not “Redirected,” ever!

Daniel and Jennifer, you were here. And I picked you up on the outside.

When we got internet service, Allegiant had estimated we’d arrive in Allentown at 12:20am. Now, a replacement plane is headed here, to Knoxville.

But if there was no emergency, why didn’t they just fly us to Allentown?

When the trouble began, supposedly over Savannah, we had already flown about 466 miles north from Fort Lauderdale. We’d still have about 770 miles to go until Allentown. (Those are driving miles.)

But we wasted so much time and fuel circling and detouring that we could’ve been to Allentown! Who makes these decisions?

To hell with the customer! What’s in it for us?

They gave us a little glass of water just before we left Fort Lauderdale so late because their baggage contractor’s workers were taking their time, and the crew was not happy. Gee, free water from Allegiant Airlines! It’s a big deal for them.

And we got a free bottle of water here in Knoxville. Good thing, because everything is closed, although I hear there are vending machines.

Actually, we got free non-alcoholic drinks on the way back!

We found out after finally leaving Knoxville — there was paperwork to be done while we sat on the plane — we’d be getting $50 vouchers. Maybe next time, I’ll use it to check a bag, round trip, if I ever fly Allegiant again. But I’m in no mood to travel on any airline for a very, very long time.

On both flights, I signed up for Allegiant’s flight alerts to be informed if there would be any delays. Both times, I got the alerts way too late to do anything.

Allegiant text

So here I am, with water. Not hungry, but restless. Some nice people let me use their multi electrical outlet device because most of the outlets around the gate at the airport don’t work.

I’ve flown a lot and had my share of issues. I spent several days at Kennedy Airport, but not in a row, and they never close that place!

Back in 1987, the plane actually lost an engine and we had to get into crash position and return. But the airline took care of us.

In 2014, my flight from Israel arrived late and I ended up having to make and change arrangements to fly back to Florida. It took all day. But the airline took care of me.

Not so much this time, so I’m going to take care of them.

In 2015, I was supposed to be flown to Richmond for a job interview and that meant flying through Philadelphia in winter. Yes, Shane, your station and your predecessor!

The Richmond leg of the flight was canceled and I ended up spending the day at Philadelphia’s airport. It was a weekday, I couldn’t get out, and nobody I knew could get in to meet up. At least the flight was free, but the parking in Miami wasn’t.

And at least I don’t have to work tomorrow!

I will admit, the crew was very nice. They suffered as well.

So while I get ready to board, enjoy this Allegiant classic from 60 Minutes.

Click here for Allegiant’s response.

So we finally took off from Knoxville at 12:20am, and landed in Allentown at 1:20am.

Too bad for the folks heading from Allentown to Fort Lauderdale, like I did last week. They were supposed to take off at 8:34pm and arrive at 11:10pm, just like my first flight.

Now, they’re going to depart at 2am. Allegiant only flies the route a few days a week.

And the flight crew is also heading back to Fort Lauderdale tonight. How long are they supposed to work in a day? I’m sure the Federal Aviation Administration has its rules but it turns out, one flight attendant told me they never sign out, they were expecting a 15-hour day and it has happened before.

Somebody should look into that.

Big merger, big problem, big surprise!

This was starting to get a little hard to keep track of, and I wrote most of this last night. Good thing I waited to publish, because I had to really rewrite today!

It’s looking like the big media merger I’ve been writing about so frequently may not happen! Even better, it looks like one of the seven deadly sins – greediness – may have killed the deal!

But now, a new contender (and a good one) is putting all its stations up for sale, if the price is right.

Let’s start with the latest.

FTVLive’s Scott Jones learned privately-held conglomerate Cox Enterprises “intends to pursue strategic options for its ownership or other interest in CMG’s (subsidiary Cox Media Group) 14 TV stations.”

This is the statement from the president of Cox Media Group, known as one of the best owners of TV stations in the country.

Cox president

Notice it gives a very tentative timetable of “six months to a year to complete.”

And this is the statement from the president/CEO of parent company Cox Enterprises.

Cox ceo

It seems every letter of this type addresses uncertainty by encouraging employees to keep up the good work.

Cox Media Group owns TV stations, radio stations and newspapers. The parent company also owns Cox Communications, the largest private telecommunications company in the U.S., the nation’s third-largest cable company, advanced digital video, Internet, phone, and home security and automation services. Plus, there’s Cox Automotive, which helps dealers, manufacturers and car shoppers.

There’s no question Cox decided it would try to sell out because Sinclair Broadcast Group – arguably one of the dirtiest and definitely the largest company to own TV stations – seems to have unexpectedly lost its 14-month try for approval to merge with one of the most iconic as well as largest broadcasters, Tribune Media.

NO sinclair tribune

Everything had seemed set. The price of $3.9 billion had been agreed upon.

The Federal Communications Commission – with pro-business Republicans in the majority – even went out of its way to make it happen by reinstating rather than ending a rule!

It brought back the UHF discount in April 2017, less than a year after it was eliminated, paving the way for Sinclair and Tribune combined to meet national ownership limits. The merger was announced the next month.

— UPDATE: The FCC inspector general cleared Chairman Ajit Pai of being unfairly biased in favor of the Sinclair Broadcast Group–Tribune Media merger. —

The combined company was supposed to own control a whopping 233 TV stations and make a move into big cities like New York (WPIX), Los Angeles (KTLA), Chicago (WGN) and Philadelphia (WPHL). Sinclair stations would’ve reached 72 percent of U.S TV households.

Unfortunately for it, the limit was just 39 percent, so Sinclair decided to sell 23 stations – 14 of Tribune’s and nine of its own – to stay under the national TV ownership cap.

So what went wrong? A lot, even though it looked like nothing was going to stop the unfortunate merger.

Rupert Murdoch wikimedia commons
Rupert Murdoch, Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, The Baltimore Sun named several things: Sinclair was already too big; it forced its owners’ conservative views on local news around the country; the company’s ego grew, “assuming it would get its way;” and even behind-the-scenes influence from rival Fox Broadcasting owner Rupert Murdoch.

What finally did the deal in was,

Ajit Pai fcc wikipedia
Ajit Pai (Wikipedia)

“FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, an appointee of President Donald J. Trump who has been viewed as friendly to Sinclair and such a merger, raised ‘serious concerns’ (last) Monday about whether the deal would serve the public interest.”

It’s nice to see the public interest mentioned. Doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should!

Stay with me because if you haven’t realized, there are many aspects to this story. Let’s recap, as more and more information was revealed, to see where we are tonight.

Back in mid-January, I showed you the FCC fined Sinclair $13.4 million for

“allegedly airing news programming that was paid for by a sponsor. … The two Democrats on the five-member FCC pretty much called the Sinclair fine peanuts because Sinclair aired the sponsored content 1,723 times on 77 stations, has had trouble with the FCC before and grossed $2.7 billion in revenue last year. The fine could’ve been $82 million. … I think Sinclair should consider itself lucky. Very lucky.”

By then, it had already bought Bonten Media Group’s stations including WCYB in the Tri-Cities of TN/VA, where I’d been digital media manager.

I wrote,

Click here and see how the WCYB website’s look seemed to change overnight. It’s like everything is becoming the same and there’s no need nor room for creativity.”

Also,

“Sinclair requires conservative commentaries sent from its Maryland headquarters to air during its stations’ local newscasts. That causes viewers to think the biased people they see every night, tossed to by their local anchors, are local as well.”

I remembered, “In 2004, Sinclair barred the ABC affiliates it owned from airing the episode of Nightline that profiled American soldiers killed overseas. (It owns stations affiliated with all of the networks.) The same year, it tried to get its stations to carry a pre-election film that bashed presidential candidate John Kerry.”

And,

“Its gargantuan size already has liberals worried about its influence on elections.”

Bottom line: I admitted “with more competition, a broadcast license is no longer a license to print money as it used to be. But the airwaves belong to the public. TV stations have special responsibilities.” Yet rules were being loosened and I referred to that as, “You give them an inch and they ask for a foot!”

I questioned whether Sinclair would keep its promise to keep local programming local and pay to carry unique events like the Mummers Parade on Philadelphia’s WPHL-17.

On Jan. 27, I actually wrote,

“Next week, the Federal Communications Commission may let Sinclair Broadcast Group buy Tribune Media but force Sinclair to sell off a bunch of stations because it’ll be (way, way, way) too big.”

Fox network

Then, I mentioned 21st Century Fox planning to downsize and what so-called New Fox would look like.

“Reports are Fox will buy ten of those stations. That means, as I wrote earlier this month about the company:

earlier

(Those cities except San Diego had NFL football teams, and Fox – which carries most Sunday NFC games – won Thursday Night Football package that also involves the AFC.)

“Cleveland, are you listening?

“And also from earlier this month, don’t expect a list of Fox-owned TV stations on the Fox Television Stations Group’s website, no matter how many times I put up the link. That would be too relevant!”

Thursday Night Football logo

I called my Feb. 22 post “Got cable, satellite? You’ll foot the bill for Fox’s Thursday Night Football” and showed how Fox’s enormous bid of $3.3 billion for the rights for five years

“is going to trickle down to you and me.”

I traced the skyrocketing cost of sports TV rights over the decades but explained overpaying isn’t always bad because,

“These days, Fox doesn’t have much of a regular Thursday night lineup. The NFL would draw viewers.”

Then, naturally,

“That means Fox stations can expect a call from the network demanding more money for providing better programming – especially in cities with NFL teams – and that may not be so bad, considering what Fox airs on Thursday nights these days? (Do you know?) … And where will these stations get that extra money? Sure, selling ads for higher prices, but also demanding to charge your cable or satellite company more when its contract is up — Fox will insist they do — and that will raise your bill.”

That was part of Fox’s plan to air as many live events as possible and buy more stations. Which brought up Sinclair.

I explained,

“If the $3.9 billion deal goes through, Sinclair will have to sell off some stations because the Federal Communications Commission (public airwaves) and Justice Department (antitrust) ownership limits. Also, Sinclair and Tribune already own stations in some markets and compete, so the combined company would own multiple stations in one city. … Fox wants to buy some of those stations, Sinclair will be forced to sell, and New Fox will have the money from selling so much to Disney/ABC.”

I did note Philadelphia-based Comcast/NBC had “offered substantially more” for Fox at that point.

comcast fox disney

Also,

“Media watchdog groups have long criticized Sinclair for using shared-services agreements to control stations without owning them, which they see as a loophole around the FCC’s ownership rules.”

Plus,

“People strongly opposed to the mega-deal argue it would reduce the number of voices in media and diminish coverage of local news.”

And,

“The (New York) Times learned from New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone and two congressional aides, ‘The top internal watchdog for the F.C.C. opened an investigation into whether Mr. Pai and his aides had improperly pushed for the rule changes and whether they had timed them to benefit Sinclair.’”

A week later, Feb. 28, I pointed out,

Sinclair owns more Fox affiliates than anyone else, giving it power, and owns more Fox affiliates than stations of any other network. In fact, Variety reports that after the deal, Sinclair will have more Fox affiliates than even 21st Century Fox itself owns! … And Sinclair is proposing it be allowed to keep multiple stations in Harrisburg, Indianapolis, and Greensboro, N.C. — even though FCC rules say a company can’t own two of the top four stations in a local market.”

I posed the question,

“Will the merger bolster local news coverage and be a stronger competitor to internet giants like Facebook and Google — or harm competition?”

Broadcasting & Cable magazine quoted Business in the Public Interest chairman and CEO Adonis Hoffman, a former top FCC staffer, as saying,

“When any number of companies outside the broadcast sector can reach the entire country with the same programming, the national cap becomes a fiction that limits, and applies only to, broadcasters.”

I disagreed, saying,

“Those other companies — cable, satellite and the internet — don’t use our public airwaves and broadcasters do, so the rules should be different.”

Also at that point, the plan was

“for Tribune’s WPIX-New York (CW) and WGN Chicago (independent) to be sold, but still operated by Sinclair, which wants its stations to be seen all over the country and is how it has operated around the rules for years.

“Really gone will be Tribune’s Fox affiliate KSWB-San Diego. Expected to be gone are Tribune’s Fox affiliates in Seattle (KCPQ), Denver (KDVR, which Fox once owned), Salt Lake City (KSTU, which Fox once owned), Sacramento (KTXL) and Cleveland (WJW, which Fox once owned). Let this show Fox owned but sold three of those five stations, which shows a lack of commitment to those communities.

Plus, there’s Tribune’s CW Miami-Fort Lauderdale affiliate (WSFL-Channel 39). Imagine the Fox network buying Miami’s WSFL. I’m sure Fox affiliate WSVN’s owner Ed Ansin would have something to say about that. He has more experience than anyone in that situation because NBC did it to him twice: in Miami in 1989 and Boston in 2017.”

The next day, March 1, was one of the most popular posts, possibly because I hadn’t seen it reported at all by South Florida media. The post also had lots of cities, and old logos and promos.

credits wsvn
I started my producing career at WSVN.

“WSVN without Fox? It’s possible if….” ran through many examples from over the years of networks dumping their affiliates in certain cities because they wanted a station of their own. It was because of “the possibility WSVN-Channel 7 in Miami-Fort Lauderdale may lose its Fox affiliation” if Fox buys the competing CW affiliate, which was one of the stations that was going to be spun off from the Sinclair-Tribune deal. Fox hadn’t owned too many stations compared to other groups.

tv owner population share

I mentioned,

The plan (was) that Fox itself will buy several Tribune stations – all Fox affiliates already – but also WSFL-Channel 39, which is South Florida’s CW affiliate.”

WSFL

Then, I posed two questions,

“What would happen to programming on both stations?” and “Would (Fox) give up WSVN’s good ratings and help from its large news department, just to have a station of its own?”

But in 1989, NBC bought CBS affiliate WTVJ when Ansin wouldn’t sell. CBS bought independent (Fox still just airing on a couple of nights) WCIX with a small news department and signal 30 miles south of all the other stations.

In San Francisco, NBC demanded longtime affiliate KRON for a very low price, when the owners decided to sell. When KRON was sold elsewhere, NBC pulled its affiliation and moved former ABC affiliate KNTV up from San Jose.

In Boston, NBC wanted affiliate WHDH – owned by Ansin – for a very low price. Once again, he refused so NBC dropped WHDH and started a new station using New England Cable News; bumped the Telemundo signal on WNEU-Channel 60 in New Hampshire, which it owned, to a sub-channel, and put NBC on the main channel; bought WBTS-LD (low-powered) Channel 8; and leased a sub-channel of WMFP (virtual channel 60.5) in Lawrence, Mass. Then, after a year, it decided the station should be called NBC 10!

In Raleigh/Durham, NBC dumped its weak affiliate and affiliated with a new station that was owned by a company that owned successful NBC affiliates, but it had to start up a news department from scratch.

WNCN1

In Charlotte, Fox dumped one of its strongest affiliates that had a news department just to affiliate with the former UPN station, and start up a brand new news department, so it could carry Carolina Panthers football games.

You could say viewers in lots of the country got confused and there are no more partnerships, since companies will do whatever it takes to make more money.

Looking ahead, had the Sinclair-Tribune deal gone through, some CW affiliates owned by Tribune probably would’ve lost their affiliations to CBS-owned stations.

And separately, there was the channel 4-channel 6 swap in Miami.

I noted in the Miami market,

“Putting WSFL on the block goes against Sinclair trying to buy up stations in every city around the country – or just make a deal with the owners to operate them, to get around the rules. That’s because neither Sinclair nor Tribune have any other stations in Miami.”

And don’t forget Miami has the Dolphins NFL team.

I ended by showing,

“There are also examples where networks own stations but don’t put their own programs on those stations, because affiliating with competing stations makes more sense.”

But nothing had been decided about Miami.

feature no sinclair tribune miami

By March 7, there was finally some “definite” information, or so everyone thought since some details were released.

Sinclair

“announced it would sell several stations to stay under a new cap, but the deals it reached would let it continue to control the New York and Chicago stations it sells, so those big cities won’t count. (Is there ANYBODY who thinks that’s OK?)”

WPIX

“Sinclair (was supposed to) sell WPIX-New York for a measly $15 million to Cunningham Broadcasting. More than 90 percent of that company’s stock is controlled by trusts owned by the estate of Carolyn Smith, the late wife of Sinclair founder Julian Smith and mother of Sinclair chairman David Smith. So the Smith children own it. Talk about a shell corporation! Cunningham owns 20 stations but at least 14 of them are run by Sinclair!

“And it (was supposed to) sell WGN-TV Chicago for just $60 million to Steven B. Fader, chairman of Baltimore-based Atlantic Capital Group and business partner of David Smith in Atlantic Automotive Corp.

“Those stations are each worth hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe a half-billion.”

WGN-TV

On top of that, Variety says,

“Sinclair would not only continue to operate the stations and receive the lion’s share of their revenue, but the sale agreement with both buyers gives Sinclair an option to buy the stations back within eight years. That’s seen as a marker for the company to bide its time in the hopes that the FCC relaxes its station ownership restrictions in the near future.”

TVNewsCheck‘s editor Harry Jessell reported he spoke to Ansin who said Fox hasn’t mentioned anything about “moving into the market and no expression of interest in WSVN.”

I mentioned several other cities where the networks got rid of affiliates they didn’t want. Some cases were nicer than others.

On a national level, Disney’s bid beat Comcast’s for Fox in the U.S., but it wasn’t over.

Comcast logo sized

In Europe, Comcast outbid Fox to buy the 61 percent of Sky PLC Fox didn’t already own. Fox is still trying to consolidate ownership of the powerful British pay-TV company in order to turn it around and sell Sky to Disney.

fox sky news disney

Broadcasting & Cable (reported) eight of the 50 states’ attorneys general came out against the SinclairTribune merger. They told the Federal Communications Commission “it does not have the authority to raise the 39 percent national audience reach cap for TV station groups, that it does have the authority to eliminate the UHF discount” – the old rule that discounts the number of viewers UHF stations reach by half, because they were weaker and harder to watch years ago before modern technology like cable, computers, etc. – and that it should eliminate the discount.

They – according to B&C – argue

“getting rid of the cap would threaten diversity, competition, and localism, and cites Sinclair Broadcasting, whose Tribune deal would benefit from lifting or eliminating the limit, pointing out that it distributes news stories that must run in its newscasts.”

The attorneys general included the ones from Illinois (home to Tribune) and Maryland (home to Sinclair), who opposed the takeover because

“the combination would decrease consumer choices and diversity in the media marketplace.”

According to The Sun, Sinclair claimed

“the merger would allow the new company to better serve local viewers with expanded local coverage, better facilities and more programming, delivered in part by operational efficiencies.”

Days later, on March 11, I published one of my longest posts.

“Call to action: Help stop Sinclair from taking over Tribune” went into detail about why the deal was bad and showed you how to contact the FCC, your Congressional representative and your senator.

This was when Sinclair started ordering hundreds of its local news anchors around the country to recite a script using President Trump’s talking points against the rest of the media.

You’ll remember,

“I’m [we are] extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that [proper news brand name of local station] produces. But I’m [we are] concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.

“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media. More alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’ … This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.

“We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left or right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.”

feature group

And you’ll certainly watch it – and the parodies like above – in this post!

Blame it on Scott Livingston, Sinclair’s senior vice president of news, who wrote in a statement to CNN:

“Promo messages, like the one you are referring to, are very common in our industry. … “This promo addresses the troubling trend of false stories on social media [Livingston’s emphasis], and distinguishes our trusted local stations as news destinations where we are committed to honest and accurate reporting. This promo reminds our viewers of this mission.”

CNN also went into great detail about how the promos were supposed to “look and sound.”

“Talent should dress in jewel tones — however they should not look political in their dress or attire. … Avoid total red, blue and purples dresses and suits. Avoid totally red, blue and purple ties, the goal is to look apolitical, neutral, nonpartisan yet professional. Black or charcoal suits for men…females should wear yellow, gold, magenta, cyan, but avoid red, blue or purple.”

CNN concluded its description with,

“At the end of the promo, viewers are encouraged to send in feedback ‘if you believe our coverage is unfair’ and ‘Corporate will monitor the comments and send replies to your audience on your behalf,’ so ‘In other words, local stations are cut out of the interactions with viewers. Management will handle it instead.’”

I gave my opinion on the whole propaganda problem:

“TV stations should be run by their general managers who live in and are part of the community. And this is exactly the opposite. … It shouldn’t matter much whether GMs come from the sales side or the news side, as long as they’re serving the public interest. There should be hardly any interference from a major corporation’s headquarters.”

ABC News Nightline

I reminded readers, “Sinclair ordered all of its ABC stations not to air April 30, 2004’s episode of Nightline in which Ted Koppel read the names of the more than U.S. troops killed in action in the Iraq war,” how Sinclair said the Nightline program

“appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq. … Mr. Koppel and Nightline are hiding behind this so-called tribute in an effort to highlight only one aspect of the war effort and in doing so to influence public opinion against the military action in Iraq,”

and how the company’s lawyer Faber confirmed his company told its ABC affiliates not to air the program because,

“We find it to be contrary to public interest.”

Vietnam veteran and prisoner of war, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) disagreed. He wrote in a letter to David Smith:

“Your decision to deny your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war’s terrible costs, in all their heartbreaking detail, is a gross disservice to the public, and to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. … It is, in short, sir, unpatriotic. I hope it meets with the public opprobrium it most certainly deserves.”

Regardless of politics, whose opinion on “public interest” would you support, John McCain’s or David Smith’s?

Of course, Sinclair stations not airing the program with the rest of the country got many complaints.

So much for localism!

Speaking of David Smith, I had to mention The Baltimore Sun reporting he was arrested “and charged with committing a perverted sex act in a company-owned Mercedes” in August, 1996. It happened “in an undercover sting at Read and St. Paul streets, a downtown corner frequented by prostitutes.” Smith and Mary DiPaulo “were charged with committing unnatural and perverted sex act.” Police said “they witnessed the two engage in oral sex while Smith drove north” on Baltimore’s Jones Falls Expressway. Neither Sinclair nor its local flagship station WBFF-45 would comment. People in the media have lost jobs over less.

Is this someone who deserves a public broadcast license?

vote voting election

But back to politics. CNN also reported,

“According to campaign finance records, four of Sinclair’s top executives each have given the maximum campaign contribution of $2,000 to the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. The executives have not given any donations to the campaign of Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, the records showed.”

Looking back at that same electionThe Seattle Times wrote in 2013,

“Most notoriously, the company ordered its stations to air a documentary critical of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry right before the 2004 election. … After an uproar, the stations ended up airing just a few minutes of the documentary, Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal, as well as excerpts from a pro-Kerry documentary and interviews with veterans.”

The article continued,

President Barack Obama Official White House Photo
Official White House Photo

“In 2010, several Sinclair stations aired an infomercial about President Obama intended to sway voters in midterm elections. The 25-minute piece, funded by a Republican political-action group, said Obama “displays tendencies some would call socialist” and claimed the president had accepted campaign donations from Middle Eastern terrorist organizations.

“In 2012, on the Monday before the election, viewers in some swing states found their nightly news or other programs replaced on Sinclair channels by an ‘election special’ produced by Sinclair that was biased against Democrats.”

Therefore, I wrote,

“It appears Sinclair’s owners are far right-wingers using their assets (and our airwaves) to get what they want politically. That’s not the public interest.”

Neither is Sinclair being the king of the “must-runs,” which The New York Times reported in May arrive every day at its TV stations. The paper defined them as

“short video segments that are centrally produced by the company. Station managers around the country are directed to work them into the broadcast over a period of 24 or 48 hours.”

Again, so much for local control over content! The Times gave these examples:

“Since November 2015, Sinclair has ordered its stations to run a daily segment from a ‘Terrorism Alert Desk’ with updates on terrorism-related news around the world. During the election campaign last year, it sent out a package that suggested in part that voters should not support Hillary Clinton because the Democratic Party was historically pro-slavery. More recently, Sinclair asked stations to run a short segment in which Scott Livingston, the company’s vice president for news, accused the national news media of publishing ‘fake news stories.’”

komo

And it described a Seattle station the company bought less than five years earlier,

“Eight current and former KOMO employees described a newsroom where some have chafed at Sinclair’s programming directives, especially the must-runs, which they view as too politically tilted and occasionally of poor quality. They also cited features like a daily poll, which they believe sometimes asks leading questions.

“The journalists at KOMO described small acts of rebellion, like airing the segments at times of low viewership or immediately before or after commercial breaks so they blend in with paid spots. They all spoke on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal from the company.

“Those interviewed said that being on the other side of the country from the corporate headquarters outside Baltimore gave them some breathing room. But not always.

“In late 2013, for instance, after The Seattle Times wrote an editorial criticizing Sinclair’s purchase of KOMO, Sinclair ordered KOMO to do a story critical of the newspaper industry, and of The Seattle Times in particular, according to two of the people interviewed.

“KOMO journalists were surprised in January when, at a morning planning meeting, they received what they considered an unusual request. The station’s news director, who normally avoided overtly political stories, instructed his staff to look into an online ad that seemed to be recruiting paid protesters for President Trump’s inauguration. Right-leaning media organizations had seized on the ad, which was later revealed as a hoax, as proof of coordinated efforts by the left to subvert Mr. Trump.

“Only after reporters had left the room did they learn the origin of the assignment, two of them said: The order had come down from Sinclair.”

Livingston, the company’s vice president for news, told The Times,

“We work very hard to be objective and fair and be in the middle. … I think maybe some other news organizations may be to the left of center, and we work very hard to be in the center.”

I interpreted that to mean Sinclair works very hard to be to the right of other news organizations.

At least the Seattle station, an ABC affiliate, carries news.

Sinclair owns a Fox affiliate in Pittsburgh, WPGH-Channel 53. It used to produce its own newscast but no longer does. Instead, it runs a newscast produced by a competitor. That’s one less local television voice.

Sinclair pretty much closed up shop in Toledo, Ohio. Its NBC affiliate there has a few people left in news but production is done out of its CBS/Fox stations in South Bend, Indiana. That includes its anchors and weather people. Who knows if they’ve ever been to Toledo, know anything about it, its history, what’s popular there, etc.? The weather person is supposed to know the nuances and micro-climates of that area. Sinclair has shown none of that matters.

mark hyman
Mark Hyman

Sinclair had its former Vice President for Corporate Relations Mark Hyman give “must air” right-wing commentaries for years and then hired former Trump campaign spokesman and advisor Boris Epshteyn as its chief political analyst, a month after he left the White House.

Boris Epshteyn clip artSinclair does not offer commentaries from the other side, but tells you the news programming their network-affiliated stations air is left-wing liberalism.

Plus, don’t forget President Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner said Sinclair executives worked with the campaign to spread pro-Trump messages in Sinclair newscasts.

And, concerning the FCC chairman,

“A New York Times investigation published in August found that Mr. Pai and his staff members had met and corresponded with Sinclair executives several times. One meeting, with Sinclair’s executive chairman, took place days before Mr. Pai, who was appointed by President Trump, took over as F.C.C. chairman.

“Sinclair’s top lobbyist, a former F.C.C. official, also communicated frequently with former agency colleagues and pushed for the relaxation of media ownership rules. And language the lobbyist used about loosening rules has tracked closely to analysis and language used by Mr. Pai in speeches favoring such changes.”

Then I scrutinized prices for Tribune stations Sinclair was buying versus past station sales and wrote,

“I think the FCC should insist Sinclair itemize every TV station it plans to buy from Tribune, tell everyone how much it values each and how it adds up to $3.9 billion.”

I think most journalists try to be fair and leave their own opinions at home because they tend to be good people who try to do the right thing, unlike a lot of the corporations that only look out for shareholders and in Sinclair’s case, the owners’ political views. That has caused veteran journalists at stations being bought by Sinclair leaving for the competition, stations in other cities, or just retiring so they could keep the benefits they’ve earned at the other company.

Back on March 23, we thought we’d learned the fates of seven more TV stations that would’ve had to be divested.

They were to go to political commentator, entrepreneur, author of a nationally syndicated conservative newspaper column, and host of the daily radio show and the nationally syndicated TV program, The Armstrong Williams Show. Williams is also the largest African-American owner of television stations in the U.S.

armstrong williams

Wikipedia described him as,

principal in Howard Stirk Holdingsa media company affiliated with Sinclair Broadcasting that has made numerous television station purchases.”

Williams had been in business with Sinclair – a corporation with overtly and pushy conservative leanings – before, but this time looked different.

The backstory is that Williams helped Sinclair buy Barrington Broadcasting. He got NBC affiliate WEYI-TV in Flint-Saginaw-Bay City, Mich., and CW affiliate WWMB in Myrtle Beach-Florence, S.C., BUT according to Wikipedia,

“Both stations remain operated by Sinclair under a local marketing agreement, which resulted in allegations that the company was simply acting as a ‘sidecar’ of Sinclair to skirt FCC ownership rules. Williams defended the allegations, noting that he had full control over their programming, and received the majority of their revenue.”

He did buy five other stations, three from Sinclair.

No price was announced in this deal.

at&t time warner

Funny thing is, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, President Trump attacked AT&T’s $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner. However, he even spoke to Fox owner Rupert Murdoch in December and congratulated him on his Disney deal!

Maybe that’s because Fox owns Fox News Channel, which Trump likes, and Time-Warner owns CNN, which the president does not like.

Don’t forget Comcast had originally even offered more than Disney for all those Fox assets but was rejected! That may have been a good thing, since a federal judge let AT&T get Time Warner but the government is appealing. A Fox-Comcast deal would’ve been similar, with a content creator and a content provider.

Then I went over the FCC’s broadcast ownership limits and the reason a combined Sinclair-Tribune could not have simply kept the two highest-rated stations in a big city, or more than one in a smaller city.

Days later, on March 26, I mentioned the Sinclair Divestiture Trust. It’s a flexible list of stations in

“a series of Form 314 filings have been made with the FCC indicating the divestiture of up to 23 broadcast television properties by Sinclair.”

The stations – from both Sinclair and Tribune – were put in the trust “for the purpose of removing them from the licensee” – in other words, to be sold off.

According to RBR+TVBR, Sinclair noted stations were placed in the divestiture trust

“in order to retain flexibility, based on the outcome of Sinclair’s request to own two top-four stations in this market, to determine which station, if any, will be placed in the Trust.”

That’s because FCC rules would not have let the proposed controversial combination simply decide to hold onto the two highest-rated stations in a city.

I really wrote a lot because on March 30, I discussed how unionizing could’ve helped those news anchors at Sinclair-run stations who didn’t want to look into a camera and read that corporate promotional nonsense during newscasts. I think a union would’ve helped the journalists keep the business people in their place, which is out of the newsroom.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer — which properly discloses “KOMO News and SeattlePI have a content-sharing agreement” — called that script

“the next step in the company’s plan to undermine non-Sinclair outlets.”

The SeattlePI continued:

“The claim of balanced reporting is undermined by must-run segments like the one about the ‘Deep State’ that ran during KOMO’s 6pm newscast last week. In the March 21 segment, former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka parroted a Trump talking point regarding the existence of a ‘Deep State’ attempting to undermine the U.S. government.

“That segment was produced by Sinclair’s Kristine Frazao, who before coming to Sinclair was a reporter and anchor for the Russian-government funded news network RT, described as ‘the Kremlin’s propaganda outlet’ by the Columbia Journalism Review.

“Sinclair also requires stations to run segments from Boris Epshteyn, a Russian-born former Trump adviser who now serves as Sinclair’s chief political analyst. Epshteyn recently produced stories with titles like, ‘Pres. Trump deserves cabinet and staff who support his agenda, yield successes’ and ‘Cable news channels are giving way too much coverage to Stormy Daniels.’”

In January, Sinclair had some nerve when it “asked employees to donate to its political action committee meant to sway lawmakers.” FTV Live’s Scott Jones leaked the document that called the Sinclair Political Action Committee, “our fund that supports candidates for Congress who can influence the future of broadcasting” — in their interest, of course!

jerry springer
Jerry Springer

This all made me wonder when it’s time to jump ship, like WMAQ’s Carol Marin did in Chicago in 1997 when Jerry Springer started giving commentaries on her newscast. The New York Times called her “one of that city’s most popular and respected television news anchors.” Her co-anchor also quit.

I ended with New York magazine publishing a piece titled “Local news is turning into Trump TV, even though viewers don’t want it” describing — without repeating what’s above — how

“Trump’s handpicked FCC chair, Ajit Pai, spent much of last year dismantling regulatory obstacles to media consolidation — including two rules that stood in the way of Sinclair’s desired merger with Tribune Media.”

Then it presumed “Sinclair has repaid this favor with interest” and asked “Why has Sinclair’s programming become more right-wing, even as it has expanded into more left-leaning media markets?”

On April 4, my post “My urge: Follow your conscience, despite the cost” discussed how local TV news anchors around the country have been reading those nonsense marketing scripts the rulers of Sinclair Broadcast Group demanded.

According to Bloomberg, the day before, the statement takes “aim at the integrity of other U.S. media outlets.”

That left many – myself included – wondering why some of the company’s journalists with credibility didn’t just quit doing what they’re told, despite the fact they hate everything about it, personally and professionally? Wouldn’t you have more respect for someone who uses their conscience and just says no, regardless of the consequences?

Bloomberg reported,

“The short answer is the cost may be too steep. According to copies of two employment contracts reviewed by Bloomberg, some Sinclair employees were subject to a liquidated damages clause for leaving before the term of their agreement was up: one that requires they pay as much as 40 percent of their annual compensation to the company.”

Can you imagine?

And that right to enforce the liquidated damages clause isn’t just a scare tactic. I gave an example and later learned, a Sinclair assistant news director who left for a job in another city less than two months before her contract ended had to pay too much to leave.

With Sinclair, some employees who never appeared on television were still required to sign such contracts.

Want to fight? Then there’s forced arbitration which means no sympathetic jury for the employee.

No reasonable person can feel anything but resentment if they know how the company operates.

But don’t forget journalists are natural storytellers.

Mediaite reported in Portland, Ore., the general manager issued an internal memo instructing his staff not to answer questions from anyone contacting them! FTVLive’s Scott Jones got a copy of the memo, which said most callers “likely haven’t actually watched and don’t have full context on (sic) due to social media, etc. I will also remind you that giving statements to the media or sharing negative information about the company can have huge implications.” Click here to see it.

Despite what you read, President Trump tweeted twice he’s a fan of Sinclair.

But KOMO-Seattle anchor Mary Nam – remember, a Sinclair station – took issue with the president and had the guts to call him out for calling watching “Fake News Networks” funny.

Another Sinclair station, WMSN in Madison, Wisc., was dealing with record snowfall (even for them!) and an important state Supreme Court election. Sounds a lot more local, important and even life-saving than the bullshit Sinclair demanded.

And thanks again to FTV Live’s Scott Jones who found this gem from WGN-TV executive producer Jeff Hoover.

In Rochester, Norma Holland of WHAM-13’s Good Day Rochester wrote about her dilemma on Facebook:

The Huffington Post reported,

“Some employees have spoken out about their frustration at having to parrot the conservative politics of their employer,” but also, “Others say they’d like to do more, but they’re wary due to what they say is Sinclair’s policy and practice of closely monitoring its employees.”

Also, “There’s a lot held over us,” a journalist at a Sinclair affiliate told HuffPost on the condition of anonymity. “They pay attention to what websites we’re on.”

Plus,

“Sinclair employees say their parent company often pays especially close attention to its affiliates’ editorial activities, meddling in how they present their stories and graphics, and sometimes going so far as to delete offensive comments on an affiliate’s online articles before that station’s own web editors have a chance to do so.”

So a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has done their part to fight for what’s right. I hope they all still have their jobs, or moved on to something better. Unfortunately, I don’t think that was the case in Portland, Ore.

On April 10, I showed you Sinclair is having an effect on trust in local news.

Local news organizations remained the most trusted source of information in Pew Research Center’s polling on trust in media – even though in January, a Pew Research Center report announced fewer Americans regularly rely on TV news, down to 50 percent of U.S. adults, from 57 percent a year prior.

Then, The Poynter Institute says Emory University researchers found

“many TV local news stations are focusing more on national politics and have taken a rightward slant over the past year. And that move is stemming from ownership of the stations, not the demands of a local audience.”

Poynter noted,

“The study comes just as many are raising concerns about a coordinated effort by one major owner of TV stations that forces its anchors to record a segment about ‘the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country.’”

The researchers examined 7.5 million transcript segments from 743 local news stations and saw huge differences between other stations, and outlets owned by Sinclair.

“The authors found Sinclair stations, on average, carried about a third less local politics coverage and a quarter more national politics … (including) commentaries the stations are forced to run by former Trump official Boris Epshteyn.”

Again, how can they claim they’re good for localism?!

On April 11, I wrote about FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking at a Las Vegas meeting, the day before.

TVNewsCheck’s Harry A. Jessell reported him saying his approach to broadcast regulations was,

“You either believe in scrapping outdated regulations or you don’t. We do.”

Under the former Verizon lawyer’s leadership, eight rules were eliminated with more to come. (Of course, we know the UHF discount is back, putting Pai under investigation by the FCC inspector general.)girl watching tv

As for what’s next, according to Pai, “In particular, Commissioner [Michael] O’Rielly is now leading an effort to update our children’s television rules so that they better reflect the way that kids watch video these days, and I look forward to getting his recommendations.”

Jessell said O’Rielly got

“a call from an Ohio broadcaster who said his plans for a Saturday morning news program were ‘derailed’ by the need to make way for children’s programming.”

I don’t know which station but will go to go out on a limb and say the news program would be much cheaper using a set already in the studio and an announcer already on staff. And where was the required children’s programming anyway? That’s just my two cents.

Also from Jessell:

“Pai also patted himself on the back for helping broadcasters secure an additional $1 billion from Congress to insure that they will be fully reimbursed for moving to new channels in the wake of the FCC incentive auction.”

So much for helping the poor and the children! Ain’t government great?!

On May 4, I published the massive “Media mega-merger may be moving closer, impacting Miami” because we learned the biggest news for a local TV market if Sinclair and Tribune would’ve merged would’ve been Miami/Fort Lauderdale (of course!).

A week earlier, TVNewsCheck‘s Harry Jessell noted,

For nearly a year, Sinclair has been screwing around, working every angle in its grim determination to hang on to every Tribune station it could in the face of FCC ownership caps and Justice Department antitrust limits.”

But the deal announced in May, 2017, still hadn’t happened.

Government approval would have to come from the Justice Department for antitrust worries, and the FCC to approve ownership limits.

A number of stations would have to be sold and I’d already explained TV ownership limits, with four rules in play: 1. national TV ownership, 2. local TV multiple ownership, 3. the number of independently owned “media voices” – 4. and at least one of the stations is not ranked among the top four stations in the DMA (that’s the “designated market area” or city, and ranking based on audience share), and at least eight independently owned TV stations would remain in the market after the proposed combination.

On April 24, The Wall Street Journal reported Sinclair said it’ll spin off 23 stations in 18 markets – some owned by Sinclair and others by Tribune.

Also on April 24, Deadline magazine reported, “Sinclair expects the transactions for the station sales to close the same day the Tribune deal is approved, and now estimates it all will be wrapped up by June.” Obviously that didn’t happen.

These are the stations owned by Sinclair that would be divested if the merger goes through…

sinclair divest

and these are the stations owned by Tribune.

tribune divest

So we learned who would get the stations, but it’s more complicated than the charts show.

The official licensee could have a different name but we know we’re dealing with stations owned by Sinclair and Tribune.

More importantly and suspiciously is the last column, called Buyer. That’s because Sinclair has been the king of using shell companies to get around ownership rules. These corporations are either owned by the Smith family that owns Sinclair, or others that let Sinclair program them through local marketing agreements. Sinclair doesn’t technically own all those stations, but operates them as if they do.

Cunningham Broadcasting

Cunningham Broadcasting Corporation is the most controversial. It calls itself

“an independent television broadcast company that, together with its subsidiaries, owns and/or operates 20 television stations in 18 markets across the United States.”

Notice “owns and/or operates.”

As for independent, Forbes magazine (not a liberal publication) put out an article called “Meet the Billionaire Clan Behind the Media Outlet Liberals Love To Hate” and it described Sinclair’s owners and their ties to Cunningham.

“The Smith family, which includes brothers David, Robert, Frederick, J. Duncan and a flurry of family trusts, is worth a combined $1.2 billion, Forbes estimates, based on the family members’ ownership of stock in publicly traded Sinclair Broadcasting, share sales over the past 15 years, dividends and some private assets,” it read.

“Revenues have increased 281% over the last decade to $2.7 billion in 2017, while Sinclair’s share price has increased 367% over the same period, pushing its market capitalization up to a recent $3 billion. All of this growth has occurred under the control and oversight of David Smith, 67, the chairman and former CEO of the company, as well as the son of the company’s founder Julian Sinclair Smith,” it continued.

Jessell of TVNewsCheck reported, “Its financials are consolidated with Sinclair’s in its SEC filings and earnings reports.”

Forbes quoted Daniel Kurnos, an analyst at Benchmark Capital, as saying, “Sinclair plays some of the hardest ball of anyone,” from acquiring stations to negotiating advertisement pricing and retransmission fees, which are some of the highest in the business.

sinclair before tribune

Under David Smith, who wouldn’t comment for the article, Sinclair went from three cities – Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Columbus – to what it is now.

“To ‘purely make money’ in a scale-oriented business, David bought up as many broadcast stations as possible. First he concentrated on secondary markets, like Memphis, St. Louis and San Antonio, where operation costs were cheaper than in places like New York or Chicago.

“I believed that certain things were going to happen in the television industry, the most important being consolidation,” David told Forbes in 1996.

So much for public service!

Then came the controversial Cunningham, arguably rigging the system.

“In the 1990s, the company pioneered a technique to circumvent an FCC rule limiting ownership of more than one TV station per metro area. David’s mother, Carolyn Smith, started another business, Cunningham Broadcasting. Following Carolyn’s death in 2012, most of the ownership of Cunningham Broadcasting shifted to a family trust, which is included in the overall Smith family valuation.”

So Cunningham really isn’t independent, as its website claims!

Known as “Glencairn, Ltd. prior to 2002,” it got into some trouble back in 1998. In July of that year, Broadcasting & Cable magazine reported,

PUSH pushing FCC over Sinclair/Glencairn

“The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition is raising questions at the FCC about whether Sinclair Broadcasting is exercising control over a minority-headed TV group with which it has struck a series of local marketing agreements (LMAs).

“In a July 1 filing at the FCC, Rainbow/PUSH said it plans to study whether the LMA deal between Sinclair’s KABB(TV) San Antonio and Glencairn’s KRRT(TV) Kerrville, Tex., violates the commission’s prohibition against common ownership of two local stations. (The rules were more strict then.)

“‘Rainbow/PUSH has not had an opportunity to fully research this matter, and thus preserves here the question of whether Glencaim is the alter ego of Sinclair,’ the group told the FCC.”

More than three years later, in Dec., 2001, Broadcasting & Cable was finally able to report the decision.

FCC fines Sinclair for Glencairn control

“Sinclair Broadcasting exercised illegal control of business partner Glencairn Ltd., the FCC found Monday after three years of investigating the companies’ relationship.

“Each company was fined $40,000 but escaped tougher sanction sought by civil rights groups-a government rejection of Sinclair’s request to buy 14 stations from Sullivan Broadcasting.

“The commission’s three Republicans judged that the companies were liable for misinterpreting FCC policies, but found they did not intentionally mislead the agency about compliance.

“Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps wanted the FCC to pursue a tougher sanction and voted to designate the station sales for hearing in front of an administrative law judge.

“Sinclair has repeatedly ‘stretched the limits’ of FCC ownership rules, he said.”

Back to the Forbes article, last year, Cunningham paid Sinclair more than $120 million for running its stations. Also, Cunningham admits its treasurer and chief financial officer, Lisa Asher, worked as Sinclair’s assistant controller before moving over in 2002.

So we know Cunningham, set to buy Tribune stations in Dallas and Houston, appears to be a shell company, and we can make bets who will operate and control it if the Sinclair-Tribune deal ever comes to fruition.

But there’s a lot more evidence.

Cunningham is headquartered near Sinclair in Maryland, which is very convenient since

“Cunningham Broadcasting owns the FCC broadcast licenses and operates through various management agreements with Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. WNUV-TV in Baltimore, Maryland; WTTE-TV in Columbus, Ohio; WMYA-TV in Anderson, South Carolina; WRGT-TV in Dayton, Ohio; WVAH-TV in Charleston, West Virginia; WDBB-TV in Bessemer, Alabama; WBSF-TV in Flint, Michigan; WGTU-TV in Traverse City, Michigan; KBVU-TV in Eureka, California; KCVU-TV in Chico-Redding, California; WEMT-TV in Greeneville, Tennessee; WPFO-TV in Portland, Maine; WYDO-TV in Greenville, North Carolina; and KRNV-TV & KENV-TV in Reno, Nevada.”

bonten tri-cities stations
Bonten’s Tri-Cities stations, from the signature below my work email

Looking at its list of stations — something the Fox Television Stations Group never posted on its own website despite me calling them out for it herehereherehere (so far in no particular order, although I may have missed a couple), and my favorite, here — I showed you Sinclair bought Bonten Media Group but Cunningham bought the stations Bonten operated. Notice those stations listed on the website have no websites of their own.

WBFF

Another dead giveaway is that Cunningham is based at 2000 W. 41st Street, Baltimore MD 21211 and coincidentally, Sinclair flagship WBFF-45 (Fox affiliate) has the same address!

But not just WBFF.

WNUV

So is WNUV-54 (CW affiliate), which says it’s

“owned and operated by Cunningham Broadcasting Corporation and receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.”

(Sinclair, the corporation, is based in nearby Hunt Valley, MD.)

But that’s not all, folks!WUTV

There’s still WUTV-24 (MyNetworkTV affiliate), with the same look as the other websites, which says it’s

“a SBG Television affiliate owned and operated by Deerfield Media, Inc and receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.”

Deerfield, with apparently no website of its own (so see Wikipedia’s take), is another of the shell companies, formed in 2012 but not involved in the proposed Tribune transaction.

How’d that happen?

In Nov., 2012, TVNewsCheck reported,

“For years (before 2012), Fox Television Stations’ WUTB Baltimore gave Fox considerable leverage in its sometime contentious affiliation negotiations with Sinclair Broadcast Group.

“If Sinclair ever got out of line, Fox could threaten to yank its affiliation from Sinclair’s flagship station WBFF Baltimore and move it to WUTB.

“But last May, Fox relinquished that leverage when it extended its affiliation with WBFF and 18 other Sinclair stations for five years starting Jan. 1, 2013, and granted Sinclair an option to buy WUTB.

“Sinclair is now exercising that option by assigning it to a third party, Deerfield LLC.

“According to an FCC filing seeking approval of the deal, Deerfield is buying WUTB and allowing Sinclair to run the MNT affiliate through joint sales and shared services agreements.

“The deal gives Sinclair a virtual triopoly in Baltimore where it also operates CW affiliate WNUV, which is owned by Cunningham Broadcasting, Sinclair’s longtime duopoly partner that is controlled by trusts for the children of Sinclair’s controlling shareholders.”

But Sinclair and Deerfield were already in cahoots.

Months earlier, in July, 2012, MarketWatch reported Sinclair intended

“to buy six television stations from Newport Television LLC for $412.5 million and agreed to buy Bay Television Inc. for $40 million. … Sinclair also agreed to sell the license assets of its San Antonio station KMYS and its WSTR station in Cincinnati to Deerfield Media Inc. Sinclair will also assign Deerfield the right to buy the license assets of WPMI and WJTC in the Mobile/Pensacola market, after which Sinclair will provide sales and other non-programming services to each of these four stations under shared services and joint sales agreements.”

The next day, TVNewsCheck reported,

“Sinclair Broadcast is getting six stations in five markets for $412.5 million:
— Cincinnati (DMA 35) — WKRC (CBS)
— San Antonio, Texas (DMA 36) — WOAI (NBC)
— Harrisburg-Lancaster (DMA 41) — WHP (CBS)
— Mobile, Ala.-Pensacola, Fla. (DMA 60) — WPMI (NBC) and WJTC (Ind.)
— Wichita, Kan. (DMA 67) — KSAS (Fox)

“Sinclair is also acquiring Newport’s rights to operate third-party duopoly stations in Harrisburg, Pa. (CW affiliate WLYH), and Wichita, Kan. (MNT affiliate KMTW). Those rights include options to buy the stations. …

“While Sinclair was buying, it was also selling.

“It said it would spin off its CW affiliate in San Antonio (KMYS) and its MNT affiliate in Cincinnati (WSTR) to Deerfield Media Inc., presumably to comply with the FCC ownership limits. In the deal, Deerfield also picks up an option to buy two of the stations it is acquiring from Newport, WPMI-WJTC Mobile, Ala.-Pensacola, Fla.

“Sinclair said it intends to ‘provide sales and other non-programming services to each of these four stations pursuant to shared services and joint sales agreements.’

“In yet another deal, Sinclair said it is buying WTTA Tampa-St. Petersburg from Bay Television Inc. for $40 million. Since 1998, Sinclair has operated WTTA pursuant to a local marketing agreement.”

And that was the start of the Deerfield connection!

Even more telling is that Deerfield’s WUTV moved from Channel 24 (24.1) to 45.2, which is a subchannel of Sinclair’s WBFF! The website doesn’t tell why. It just explains to viewers watching over the air with an antenna how to rescan, but the reason is really the FCC’s recent spectrum auction.

With three stations realistically (unless you prefer names over control), Sinclair was in a great position to sell off some spectrum space and make even more money. This website shows Channel 24 will go off the air and the owner (or operator?) will get $122,912,964 for its spectrum.

So for those of you in Baltimore, do you need to reach the newsroom, are you looking for a job (Would they hire me for my investigative work?), or interested in inspecting the FCC public file of any of the three stations? All the information is the same, from address to phone numbers, and we already established three stations in one city are not allowed!

Why was the FCC the last to find out? Or did it know and ignore the facts for political reasons?hsh Howard Stirk Holdings

To the next perspective buyer…

HSH stands for Howard Stirk Holdings, and is owned by Armstrong Williams. That’s now mostly true.

In a Broadcasting & Cable article on the news section of HSH’s website dated July, 2013, Williams mentions suing the FCC because it

“adopted a new rule restricting joint sales agreements (JSAs) between television broadcasters in the same market.”

He claimed,

“It effectively slams the door shut on an important gateway to enhancing localism, viewpoint diversity, and opportunities in broadcast television ownership by minorities and underrepresented groups.”

But there’s more.

Armstrong Williams talked about the impact of a March 31, 2014, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling that television station owners cannot control more than one station in the same local market via the use of joint sales agreements and shared services agreements, often known as “sidecar” deals. Mr. Armstrong, who owns two TV stations through a sidecar agreement with Sinclair Broadcasting, argued that the ruling could cause minority owners, and small station owners more generally, to be forced out of existence.”

That’s from a C-SPAN article on the news section of HSH’s website dated April, 2014, where you can watch the whole interview.

Washington Times article from a few weeks earlier, on the same News page as the others on HSH’s website, said,

“The FCC, backed by the Obama administration Justice Department, argues that broadcasters have used the shared-service, or “sidecar,” arrangements to circumvent long-standing rules against owning multiple television stations in a single market, allowing them to raise ad prices and weaken market competition.”

It seemed every article in HSH’s News section mentioned Sinclair or those joint sales agreements designed to get by without abiding by the FCC’s ownership rules!

In other words, he was a great partner for Sinclair since he’s a minority (but without the views of most other minorities) and they’re both making money by using each other!

But I found it eventually gets somewhat better.

Wikipedia said Williams helped Sinclair buy Barrington Broadcasting in late 2013, so he got stations in Flint, MI, and Myrtle Beach, SC, but they remain operated by Sinclair. They’re actually his only stations run by Sinclair and remember, at the time, his company was accused of “acting as a ‘sidecar’ of Sinclair to skirt FCC ownership rules.”

But that was then.

A year later, he actually, really bought three stations from Sinclair: one in Charleston and two in Alabama. So they’ve been in business several times, and it may not be over.

That means as of now, Howard Stirk Holdings owns seven stations. Two are in the same Anniston-Tuscaloosa-Birmingham, Ala., market, and Williams’ first two are still run by Sinclair. Now, after other purchases, he’s expecting to buy three more if the Sinclair-Tribune merger happens.

standard media

Then there’s Standard Media GroupI hadn’t heard of them either. Its website says Standard General was founded in 2007 and is pretty much an investment adviser, but getting into the broadcasting business. I was skeptical since investment firms are more likely to sell than others with broadcasting in their blood, especially ones who invest in their communities.

However, I learned it’s owned by Soohyung Kim, who started Standard Media to buy nine of the 23 stations. He was a hedge fund manager involved with Media General, Young Broadcasting and LIN before Media General bought them, and Nexstar bought Media General. He owns no TV stations now, and he’s bringing his winning team from years ago with him.

Standard said if the deal goes through, it’ll fulfill its “goal of swiftly building a substantial broadcast television group with a strong and diverse voice” that includes four state capitals.

meredith corporation

TVSpy noted in St. Louis, where Sinclair owns a station and Tribune owns two, Meredith Corp. “signed a deal to acquire KPLR (CW) from Tribune for $65 million, pairing it with KMOV (CBS) which Meredith has owned since 2013.” But that may not happen, even if there is a merger. The Justice Department denied the company the immediate right to create the duopoly.

Sinclair already owns KDNL (ABC) and would also own Tribune’s KTVI (FOX). Great for owners’ synergies. Bad for the number of independent voices in such a big city. Which do you care more about?

We mentioned New York and Chicago, and those plans have changed.

Politico reported on a potential Sinclair news channel, even though Sinclair execs gave denied it. The channel may be just a few hours in the evening to challenge Fox News for conservative viewers. Fox News is carried in more than 90 million homes, compared to 80 million for WGN America which Sinclair would own if regulators approve, and 55 million for the Tennis Channel which Sinclair already owns. It would be based in Washington, DC, where the company already owns local station WJLA-7 and produces some of its national content.

Fox wasn’t on the list of buyers while negotiations were taking place.

Jessell of TVNewsCheck was more direct, saying all Sinclair

“has to do now is wrap up its negotiations with Fox. I don’t know what’s delaying that deal, except that neither Fox nor Sinclair is famous for making concessions. Once Sinclair does that, it can finalize its application and the FCC can complete it long-stalled review.”

That’s where I wrote,

Those greedy bastards are going to end up screwing everything up for themselves (which I’d love to see happen), and you’ve only read about half of the plans, so far!

NFL LogoFox wanted stations in football cities so badly, it got its hands on Cox’s KTVU in San Francisco (with an NFC team, the 49ers, and the AFC Oakland Raiders across the bay will now be moving to Las Vegas in 2020) and gave Cox its own stations in Boston (the New England Patriots are AFC) and Memphis (no NFL team).

Football teams have moved, but the cities Fox wants are Seattle (especially because it’s NFC), and Cleveland, Denver and Miami (because they have AFC teams). San Diego and St. Louis no longer have teams, so Fox isn’t interested in Tribune’s Fox affiliates in those cities.

Seattle, Cleveland and Denver should be easy. The stations are already Fox affiliates so prime-time programming and the amount of news shouldn’t change. And Fox has leverage because it can threaten to take away its affiliation from those stations, lowering their value, if they’re sold to another company.

Miami is a different story. Fox has a very good affiliate, WSVN-7, owned by Ed Ansin’s Sunbeam Television. The ratings are great, the Miami Dolphins play there, and as an AFC team, they show up on Fox on a few Sundays and may also now be seen on Fox on Thursdays.

Fox WSFL WSVN

But the station that’s available is Tribune’s WSFL-39, a CW affiliate without a news department despite a few morning attempts. Should Fox dump WSVN and start from scratch with WSFL? Would it be worth the effort?

In another article, Jessell analyzed the ownership numbers in this case, and you try to figure out what’s true.

He led by saying,

“Sinclair is telling the FCC that its coverage after spinoffs from its merger with Tribune will be just 58.7%. But that’s for regulatory purposes. (In other words, with the revived UHF discount that only counts channels 14 and up as half the audience of the market.) In the real world, where it matters, Sinclair’s national reach will be 66.3% — a full two-thirds of TV homes.”

But he said Sinclair is telling the FCC

“the coverage of the group will be just 58.7% and, with the UHF discount, below the statutory 39% cap. But those percentages are for regulatory consumption, not the real world.”

So there’s a 7.6-point disparity, the difference between 58.7% and 66.3%. How’d that happen? And don’t forget about the part,

“with the UHF discount, below the statutory 39% cap.”

Jessell explained Sinclair

“is claiming 58% because it is not counting stations in three big markets — WGN Chicago, KDAF Dallas, KIAH Houston — that it is spinning off to closely affiliated companies. Without those markets and the discount in effect, Sinclair’s reach will be just 37.39%, safely below the 39% cap.”

Plus, with Dallas and Houston (but not Chicago),

“Sinclair has put additional distance between itself and Cunningham” but will “have an option to buy the stations should the FCC ever ease the rules to allow it.”

So this is Jessell’s bottom line:

“So, again, for regulatory purposes, Sinclair’s reach will be 58.7% without the discount and 37.39% with it.

“But I don’t think that is reality. Those are not the numbers that Sinclair will be showing national advertisers, MVPDs, vendors and others with which it does business.

“In the real world, Sinclair will have a lot of control over Chicago and some control over Dallas and Houston, and its effective national reach will be 66.3%. (For the record, its reach with the UHF discount will be 41.1%, two points over the cap, but that will not matter because regulators will not be counting the three markets.)”

But Deadline noted Sinclair

“has faced further attention in recent weeks over a push to have local anchors at its stations read company-scripted messages, including a recent prohibition against fake news. The spots … struck many in media as too closely aligned with the dismissive rhetoric of President Donald Trump.”

So the company hasn’t been doing itself any favors.

On May 8, I showed you how the FCC had just published a letter from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s response to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) regarding the proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger. Sen. Durbin and others have been especially concerned about Tribune’s WGN-TV9 in Chicago.

Pai to Durbin
https://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2018/db0507/DOC-350587A1.pdf

And the last story I wrote was on May 9. “BREAKING NEWS: Fox buying Miami station” may have gotten more views than any other post.

The negotiation spat between Fox and Sinclair ended with 21st Century Fox announcing it would buy the seven TV stations Tribune owned that had to be spun off to not exceed ownership limits, but had not yet officially found buyers.

“21st Century Fox today announced a definitive agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media Company to acquire seven television stations for approximately $910 million. The transaction will grow Fox Television Stations’ (FTS) coverage to nearly half of all U.S. households, and its market presence to 19 of the top 20 DMAs, including the addition of key markets that align with Fox’s sports rights,” it said.

fox chart

Six of those seven are Fox affiliates, so not much would’ve changed for viewers in those cities.

Fox WSFL

Yet, the Miami/Fort Lauderdale station is a CW affiliate. What would become of it, and also Sunbeam-owned Fox affiliate powerhouse WSVN? We may never know since the merger looks dead.

The CEO of Fox Television Stations, Jack Abernethy, said,

“This transaction illustrates Fox’s commitment to local broadcasting and we are pleased to add these stations to our existing portfolio. With this acquisition, we will now compete in 19 of the top 20 markets and have a significantly larger presence in the west, which will enhance our already strong platform. This expansion will further enrich our valuable alignments with the NFL, including our new Thursday Night Football rights, MLB and college sports assets. We are also happy to add many talented Tribune employees to our group, some of whom we know well.”

That’s because Fox actually used to own the Cleveland, Salt Lake City and Denver stations but sold them to a company called Local TV which sold itself to Tribune. So much for Fox actually caring about those communities when it owned those stations, sold them, and now wants them back. I hope the people of Cleveland, Salt Lake City and Denver will challenge Fox’s proposed buy with the FCC.

Also, Fox entered into new network affiliation agreements with Sinclair and the stations it doesn’t own but still operates.

Of course, where would Fox find that approximately $910 million to buy the stations? By selling off most of its assets like its movie and TV studio, cable networks FX and National Geographic, and regional sports networks to Disney – keeping just its network, TV stations, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network and FS1/FS2 cable sports channels.

Remember, a much leaner “New Fox” network plans to concentrate more on live events, specifically NFL football.

But it may not matter due to this point from the Fox news release:

“Completion of the stations acquisition by 21st Century Fox is anticipated for the second half of this calendar year, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals, and is expected to be coordinated with the closing of Sinclair’s proposed acquisition of Tribune.”

And that’s not so likely anymore.

Since the merger announcement, there have been many holdups. Most notably is opposition from people who hate Sinclair’s conservative leanings, must-run commentaries on its local stations and its history of forced network preemptions. There are also those who think Sinclair was already too big of a company and adding Tribune to it would make it much larger.

After a merger, Sinclair said in a news release,

“Pro forma for the Tribune acquisition and related station divestitures, the Company will own, operate and/or provide services to 215 television stations in 102 markets.”

And I quickly responded,

“Something tells me that company doesn’t know what to say and brags too much, which makes its opponents angrier.”

Deadline magazine said that’ll “reach 62% of U.S. households, but 37.4% according to FCC rules limiting station ownership” — which is 39 percent.

Sinclair owner/chairman David Smith (who also controls Cunningham with his siblings, even though it claims to be independent) was apparently smart enough to stay quiet.

WSFL was supposed to be spun off and not take part in any Sinclair-Tribune merger, since Fox was concentrating on cities in the NFL’s NFC conference. The Miami Dolphins are in the AFC, and WSFL is a CW affiliate without a news department.

I suggested Fox look at CBS, making money while owning CW affiliates (it owns half of the CW) and also independent stations, while letting outside companies with either stronger reach or good news departments have the CBS affiliations.

I predicted WSFL losing its CW affiliation since CBS owns two stations in the market. There’s the CBS station WFOR-4, and WBFS-33 which became a MyNetworkTV affiliate to please CW partner Tribune, since CBS got the CW in so many other cities back when the WB and UPN combined.

If Fox ever gets WSFL, it would make perfect sense for CBS to move the CW affiliation to WBFS. WSFL would be a MyNetworkTV affiliate which is perfectly fine, since Fox owns MyNetworkTV.

Fox would have a place to air any network programming WSVN preempts, its Fox News would have access to WSVN’s powerful news coverage like it does from any other affiliate, it could say it owns a station in Miami/Fort Lauderdale to give advertisers more scale, and it could program and promote WSFL and its MyNetworkTV shows any way it wants.

That’s how I saw the perfect solution.

Of course, nobody is perfect and Fox doesn’t always make the right decisions.

It could start news at WSFL. That would give viewers another choice for news but be a kick in the face to WSVN and confuse the viewers, since the market is already splintered with popular stations in two languages.

And I had to say, the Fox Television Stations Group website never posted the acquisition news. But it did show press releases from Feb. 8, 2017 and Nov. 3, 2016.

Instead, it looks like there will be no Sinclair-Tribune merger. The FCC’s administrative judge could take a year to make a decision, and these companies – not to mention their employees – have ants in their pants.

Part of Sinclair’s statement last Monday, July 16, said,

“During these discussions and in our filings with the FCC, we have been completely transparent about every aspect of the proposed transaction. We have fully identified who the buyers are and the terms under which stations would be sold to such buyer, including any ongoing relationship we would have with any such stations after the sales. … At no time have we withheld information or misled the FCC in any manner whatsoever with respect to the relationships or the structure of those relationships proposed as part of the Tribune acquisition. Any suggestion to the contrary is unfounded and without factual basis. … As a result and in light of the ongoing and constructive dialogue we had with the FCC during the past year, we were *shocked* (my asterisks) that concerns are now being raised.

And with Cox coming in and putting its stations up for sale, the dynamics may have completely changed.

cox media group

I’m going to call it a night and return tomorrow with all the details of what went wrong (or right, if you saw things my way).

Each of the articles above came with details and pictures, and some with videos.

Please leave your comments in the section below, and don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work.

Certification expiring, definitely done teaching

The first thing I have to say is this blog was planned for today. It doesn’t have anything to do with Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision on public unions. Instead, it has to do with the calendar.

teaching certificate

The reason, as you see in the picture, is that my Florida teaching certificate expires tomorrow and since tomorrow will be Saturday, that really means today. I never had any intention of returning to a classroom, and never took any courses to do so. In fact, I left Florida, and it’s a lot harder to transfer teaching licenses from state-to-state than it is for driver’s licenses. Instead, I’m happily in the company of former teachers, some of whom left the classroom decades ago for their own reasons, and moved on with no regrets.

I became a teacher because I’ve always tried to help people. Before starting in 2006, I spent more than ten years successfully selling TV newscasts and web articles to the public, so they knew what was going on and became better citizens. I’ve worked all shifts at all hours, depending on resource needs and breaking news.

I may have come from a unique background but I did a whole lot more than spending eight years as a public school teacher in a large urban district. I became well aware of school districts’ needs, including the students, parents, teachers and other employees that depend on them.

I worked most of that time in Miami-Dade County, the fourth largest school district in the country. Broward County, where I worked briefly, is the sixth-largest. I found out how things get done in large bureaucracies. Those neighboring places are among the most diverse areas of the country with many needs ignored in the state capital, as I wrote in Wednesday’s blog.

2008-11 fall fest wild things are
Nov., 2008: classroom door after studying “Where the Wild Things Are”

My opportunity to teach came two years after returning to Florida from Philadelphia for family reasons. I was pretty much thrown into the classroom at Hubert O. Sibley Elementary (now Hubert O. Sibley K-8 Academy, named after the longtime president/CEO of the South Florida Educational Federal Credit Union) in the middle of the year. The regular 2nd grade teacher was about to go out on maternity leave. I had no formal training and scrambled to pick up as many of the regular teacher’s routines as possible, but my colleagues — who became like big sisters — helped by explaining lesson plans, while I knew how to make photocopies for them. Our relationship strengthened from there!

hubert sibleyThat was during the day. At night, I spent the next few years driving to schools around the district, taking the education classes I didn’t take while in college. It was hard work, and long days and nights, but I had students to use as examples while studying for my official teaching certification, and luckily the classes were sponsored by the district. That’s how much they needed teachers.

I moved to 1st grade for my first full year and got my students from the start. The one-year age difference was big for those children and they were out to please. I also benefited from a new team of teachers and best practices. My colleagues in all grades voted me Rookie Teacher of the Year.

Eventually, teachers moved or retired. I wasn’t the new guy anymore. Instead, I was grade chairperson.

My nights changed, as well. Instead of going to certification classes, I was getting busy getting schooled for state endorsements in English for Speakers of Other Languages and Gifted.

science projects sibley
Science projects my classes voted to do, and did according to the scientific method, included “Which kind of drink cleans pennies best?” and “What kind of laundry detergent removes dirt stains better: liquid or powder?”

Due to my different background than other teachers, the administrators “asked” me to figure out and run the school’s website. When we switched from actual gradebooks to putting in attendance and grades online, I was the point-person for any teacher with problems. In the middle of every quarter, I stayed hours late, printing out progress reports for every student in the school and dividing them up by teacher to be distributed. At the end of every quarter, I stayed hours late again, printing out report cards for every student in the school, and dividing them up by teacher.

smoke safety
Fire officials had students walk through a special trailer to teach them the danger of smoke.

That wasn’t it. Every year, I was removed from class to help administrators with the school’s annual School Improvement Plan. I sat at the assistant principal’s desk, in front of his computer, offering assistance with typing, technology and math. Eventually, after a few years, I spent days before that out of the classroom and in another school’s auditorium, full of assistant principals learning the district’s new procedure for that year.

May, 2007: my father teaching my class about dentistry at Sibley Elementary's Career Day
May, 2007: my father teaching my class about dentistry at Sibley Elementary’s Career Day

It was around this time the principal chose me to run a 12-month after-school/summer program if only we’d win the grant, so I spent more time away from the classroom, in an office with a computer, writing text and filling in blanks. The principal insisted that even if the money came through, he’d see to it that I stayed grade chair for 1st grade. Unfortunately, the grant wasn’t made to be.

I stayed too busy as grade chair for 1st grade, secretary of the school’s Educational Excellence School Advisory Council (EESAC, a Florida thing), and point-person for its annual Career Day.

Fall, 2006: I brought WTVJ NBC6 meteorologist Paul Deanno visited Sibley Elementary's Saturday Academy to teach about weather
Fall, 2006: I brought meteorologist Paul Deanno visited Sibley Elementary’s Saturday Academy to teach about weather

Separately, I got then-WTVJ meteorologist Paul Deanno to speak to children attending the school’s Saturday enrichment classes. (Paul is now chief meteorologist at KPIX in San Francisco.) Also, WPLG news anchor Calvin Hughes did a question and answer session with some of our 5th graders in the studio, through the school’s closed-circuit TV station. When things seemed to be going slowly, I quietly passed a handwritten question to the student interviewer. The assistant principal noticed and looked amazed! (I’d worked with both Calvin and Paul at Philadelphia’s KYW-TV.)

June, 2012: receiving my "Apple" for winning Teacher of the Year, the first to say Hubert O. Sibley K-8 Academy
June, 2012: receiving my “Apple” for winning Teacher of the Year, the first to say Hubert O. Sibley K-8 Academy

Then, I was elected Teacher of the Year and was told on the afternoon of the banquet in my honor that I was so good, I was being moved from 1st grade gifted to 3rd grade inclusion. Those were the lowest students, most in 3rd grade for the second time. Some reward!

Then, when I had to change classrooms for the first time in years — upstairs for the first time ever — I was made the union’s shop steward. I tried my best with each one of my growing responsibilities (including grade chair for 3rd grade, despite working with much more experienced teachers who actually knew the 3rd grade curriculum!), but decided that was probably going to be my final year at that school. There was only so much one person could do.2012-06 Teacher of the Year marquee

I’ll never forget the cries, up and down the 3rd grade hall, when the results of the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) came out. If a student failed the reading section, that student would probably have to redo 3rd grade because that’s when a students stops learning to read and starts reading to learn. The test was so important, absolutely nothing got in the way before it. Any extra resources were directed towards 3rd grade, not to any younger students, as if reading comprehension doesn’t take years. Were those younger students supposed to suddenly rise up in 3rd grade after pretty much being ignored for years before? When I taught 1st, the principal asked all teachers of younger students to give up our last hour of the day, which was our planning time, to help the 3rd graders.

I couldn’t tell whether those children’s cries up and down the hall were happy or sad. Teachers were given a list of 3rd graders, not by whose class they were in, so we had to read the names in alphabetical order to ourselves, pausing until one of our students’ names came up, and then let that student know his or her future. What a way to be told! I think a full quarter of students were held back at Sibley each year.

Since then, the assistant principal transferred to the same role at another school and is now in federal prison for child porn possession. (It was not school-related.)

As for the principal, I’m surprised he’s still there. The exact moment I decided to leave Sibley was when his secretary asked me, as EESAC secretary, to sign a paper. Let’s just say there were issues with that paper. Too bad I had no chance to take a picture with my phone, but I warned the EESAC president at the time, who was also going to be asked to sign. Then, the principal called me back downstairs in the middle of a 3rd grade teacher planning meeting I was leading to explain why he wrote what he wrote. There was no excuse and I told myself I’d never be associated with anyone like that again.

I hear nothing but complaints from former coworkers who haven’t transferred out to where their talents and energy would be appreciated. The school’s grade has been C for the past three years, a D before that, and C for the five years before that. But the year before, I was proud to say we actually earned an A.

No, I don’t have a master’s degree. It would be nice, but there was no time. Instead, I think I’ve seen more things and done more jobs reliably without extra pay (other than for being grade chair) than most public school teachers anywhere have.

One was the funeral of a 1st grade student’s mother. His estranged father had dressed up as Santa Claus and knocked on their door. That’s when he shot the mother to death. The boy transferred out, to a school in Fort Lauderdale.

In 2013, I switched to a Jewish private school that happened to be at the synagogue where I grew up. (Actually, it merged with another and this was their new location.)

hochberg classroomMany of the parents were respectful but too many were gung-ho about all the supposedly latest technology and a teacher who was a TV producer, etc. It was such a change from parents who were mainly poor Haitian immigrants, simply happy their children would have a positive American male influence. And it was such a disappointment!

So much for smart kids! There were certainly some, but way too many were needy and wouldn’t have made it in public school. Of course I’m generalizing, but the only advantage in life they had was that their parents were rich. When you’re that rich, and there’s a train coming while you’re being driven to school, there will be an announcement not to mark any students late that day. Are there excuses like that in real life?

mandatory meeting
Mandatory meeting with three hours notice? What was so important? What if somebody actually had plans?

I had no problem with the religious aspects but the way teachers were taken advantage of never ended. That’s what’s in contracts when parents are lawyers. They pretty much owned the teachers.

hochberg turkey tango
Nov. 19, 2013: 2nd grade teachers Mrs. Guttman and I doing the Turkey Tango at a schoolwide show. That was the year Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincided.

I left in January, 2014. If not, I would’ve had to come up with an idea for a program and offer it to students, whose parents would pay extra for them to stay after school, with the school and me splitting the extra tuition money.

The school isn’t there anymore. No website. It ended up merging with another school. Not even schoolwide shows like above could save it. Good riddance!

The last place I taught was Colbert Elementary in Hollywood, FL, after taking a few months off in early 2014.

I started as a permanent substitute as the place was renamed Colbert Museum Magnet Elementary. The name and curriculum changes were tries at improving the school, or at least the test scores. I hope it worked out. Remember, this was Florida.

colbert classroom
April, 2014: my Colbert classroom

As I remember it, each grade had to choose one thing from the curriculum per quarter and show it in museum form. That meant decorating the halls, for one, and inviting everyone to visit for an evening. We in first grade did aquatic life at the end of the 2013-14 school year. I was fairly new but got by. Unfortunately, the walls weren’t too good at holding tape and probably had to be repainted several times since then.

colbert museum

I had a great summer in Israel but didn’t have it in me to keep teaching. I had just had enough. It wasn’t the school’s fault. There was a great principal, Patricia Yackel, who was able to recognize every student in the entire school by name. Amazing! I didn’t care much for the assistant principal.

It was the day after Labor Day, 2014, early in the school year, and I’d known I couldn’t take it anymore. When I left, I told the assistant principal because Ms. Yackel wasn’t in the building at the time. That was a shame.

Despite all I’d been through, I still feel better about public schools and think every child should have a good one near his or her home.

Also, I’m against those “school choice” advocates trying to take money from public schools and let for-profit charter school companies run some. They can decide who they let in and refuse, while public schools can’t do that, so charter schools have a distinct advantage when it comes to test scores.

I also don’t care for private schools since they can also admit who they choose and don’t have to follow the same requirements other schools do. Besides, they lobby state legislatures for money they wouldn’t need if the children simply went to public schools, which most can. Others go for religious issues, which I understand. Then, there are those who have, or claim to have, special needs and require special settings. Meanwhile, the school takes the money to supposedly lower tuition but as I wrote, require more of the teachers, who usually make less money.

Wednesday, I got an email from a Florida doctor with an agenda. You could say I stay on his list for an education, even though I don’t know how he got my name. This is part of what he wrote:

“The outcome of the Primary Election on August 28 and General Election on November 6 will determine the future of our community for generations. One outcome could lead to expansion of vouchers to the middle class. Another outcome could threaten the $20 million we currently receive. We have arrived at the crossroads and all you need to do is vote. …

“Jewish schools received more than $20 million this year from state and federal programs but middle-class families will not experience tuition relief until the Florida Legislature passes an Education Savings Account (ESA) which will provide every Florida family an annual per student scholarship of about $7000 for use in paying tuition at a private school, irrespective of income level.
“This year’s elections are a tipping point. Immediately after the election, the new Governor must appoint 3 new Supreme Court judges. A Republican Governor will appoint judges who favor school choice programs. Judges appointed by a Democratic governor will create a majority that will support lawsuits that block vouchers and even threaten current funding.
“If we maintain a pro-school choice majority in the Florida House and Senate, ESA’s are a likely reality within the next 2 years.”

His endorsements will come and we can bet who they’ll be, at least in the general election.

Then yesterday, I got this from a national group writing about its efforts in Pennsylvania:

“We have helped secure millions of dollars for Jewish day schools through government advocacy.
“This includes funding for EITC and OSTC (Scholarships Tax Credits), enhanced security, school specific grants, and more. ALL of our children have benefitted over the past several years. And, our budget successes this week continued that trend.

“There are 8 communities with Jewish day schools in Pennsylvania, and we aim to serve each and every one of them.
“But we simply cannot do it alone. Your support will make a real, lasting impact on our children and families.”

So the point here was to ask for money.

But despite the emails I receive, please don’t think of this as a Jewish issue. It’s one area where Jewish and Catholic schools come together, and public schools don’t get the money.

Some parents and politicians have their own agendas.

As for me, I missed writing the news, took a wonderful managerial opportunity in the Tri-Cities of VA/TN, but couldn’t turn down a chance to return to my beloved Philadelphia. (I don’t regret the return; just the workplace.)

Back home, I’ve written news about the school district, listening and writing about budget issues, cuts made in the past, getting money from the state, and finding (and paying) lots and lots of new teachers. Click here for an example of one of my articles. I loved doing this and long-term projects such as the Democratic National Convention and NFL Draft, because most articles involved shootings, crashes and fires.

Enough already, and onto something meaningful. This former teacher hopes to make an announcement soon.

Click here to visit the section 2006-2014: Teaching Time.

Please, if you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Who would’ve thought of me as some type of music expert? Definitely not anybody who knows me! I’ve been planning this blog for a little while and the lyrics immediately came to my mind as the headline. (Of course, I’ve never heard of Five Man Electrical Band. They sang Signs in 1971.)

It’s actually pretty funny, considering the last post’s headline was a takeoff of Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson. The lyric goes “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” but I used somebody else’s name.

So signs. A fun post before vacation.

Philadelphia is the birthplace of our country. Where free speech was instituted. Maybe that’s why it’s known for some unusual ones.

I live in a high-rise so I found no need to put any up but by far, the most popular type is the one that tells delivery drivers to take their packages somewhere else.

I don’t know why people would order something and not be home to receive it. That means the driver has to stop, fill out a card, and delay everyone else’s packages. Why not just ask that it be delivered somewhere else?

Some people…

nice sign

… are nicer than others.

mean sign

Everybody wants their mail delivered, and not anybody else’s.

right address

While some signs are simple, I can’t figure what all these are about.

too many signs

I’m not exactly sure about this one either, but I do know it’s not meant for me.

Jesus signThe people living here are apparently very generous — with choices — but only for drivers who press hard enough to ring the bell and knock loudly on the door, and then find out nobody is home. If that’s the case, the driver gets to toss the package over their back gate! Like tossing packages never happens.

package choicesThe people who live below also offer choices. They start out nicely by writing “please” and then letting the driver choose which of two addresses they’d prefer to make their delivery! But by looking at the sign, I’d guess they didn’t even plan to be home. At least that information would save the driver from pressing hard enough to ring the bell and knocking loudly on the door! Of course, they probably expect somebody to be home at the address the driver chooses. Otherwise, it may mean a third stop. If that’s the case, I’d hope the driver gets to return the package to the warehouse and make the person pick it up. That’s too many delivery attempts in too few minutes!

pkg1

This sign also gives the driver a choice between two addresses, but at least both are businesses and open during the day when packages are delivered.

choice sign 2

This next one is for drivers who may not be too bright. I also put smiley faces on my 1st graders’ good homework…

package use doorbell
… but never combined them with exclamation points.

On the other hand, this person writing to the “Mail Person” needs better penmanship!

hardly readable

When I was working at CBS in Miami, I had a new computer delivered there. It was great! First, the boss was able to check it out and make sure all settings were correct. Then, he installed the programs I’d need in order to work at home. That was my idea.

And it came in handy when he was out and I left a little early, feeling sick. That night — July 27, 2005 — former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Art Teele shot himself in his head, committing suicide in the Miami Herald lobby! He’d been convicted of corruption and removed from office. I got home, turned on the TV and was the only person from the station able to put up a story.

Another time, I was about to head to the Keys on a Saturday morning when a small plane crashed into a lake in Aventura. The weekend morning news had a picture, and I listened and wrote a story. Then, I was on my way.

I never minded working from home, especially when it saved me from a rushed trip to the office for a single story.

Parking spaces are prized in Philadelphia. Garages are even more so, if you can get in and out. I found somebody decided to use chalk to make sure nobody blocked them…

no parking
… and prove they know the beginning of the alphabet!

ppa septa wideSpeaking of cars and parking, maybe someone above can teach the Philadelphia Parking Authority how arrows work. Here we are, on Aspen, approaching the corner of 24th Street. You can see the corner is a bus stop. You can take the 48 from Center City and get dropped off right in back of my building.
ppa septa tight

But take a closer look at the signs for drivers who want to park. The middle sign shows it’s not allowed past the sign because of buses. But the bottom sign says it’s allowed on both sides of the sign.

They say “The PPA don’t play” but it should at least make up its mind.

That reminded me of a sign on Front Street, south of South. You see how people with residential parking stickers can park their cars in their zone without having to obey days and time limits. I’m in zone 6. This is what I found last year, and shared with a reporter co-worker.

front street ppa sign

It may not be right but it’s easier to understand than this group of signs at a busy intersection in Bristol, VA. Remember, you only have until the red light turns green, if you’re lost and lucky enough to hit a red light!

2015-03-15 lots of street signs
Try figuring this out!

Some signs would save money if they weren’t changed.

district attorney krasner outside
Why does the name of the district attorney elected in November have to have his name up?

It’s kind of hard to see, but this is the second of two doors, also with Larry Krasner’s name.

district attorney krasner inside
Would anybody lose out if there were no names on signs, and only the stationery was changed?

And as we get closer to the bottom…

sign dog peeing
… this low sign was obviously meant for dogs who could read!

And I can’t leave out this classic from downstairs in my own building.

no dumping
OK. It’s funnier when approaching from a distance and can’t see the details on the right.

Anyway, I’m off for a week. Thanks for reading. You can check out some relatively old web stuff from when I was Digital Media Manager at WCYB in the Tri-Cities of TB/VA, 2015-2016. The format changed twice since then, and everything looks a bit different than it did, but I was able to capture some still shots here. The writing was more formal than this, but not completely A.P. style. That would come later.

And please, don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work.

feature signs

P.S. This is a bonus I found the next day in the 2000 block of Spring Garden. The sign was up the stairs and not easy to shoot when I zoomed in, but I felt worth a look. Should the “USPS/UPS Guy” have to be subjected to this? Should passers-by like me?

nasty to usps

Flakes and facts, lots on my mind

Gotta love a snow day if you don’t have anywhere to be. Yes, I have a busy week ahead and things to prepare, but they don’t require going out.

weblocalradar.gif
http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/cbs3-radar/

The TV people were right this time. It’s almost 1pm and I’m supposedly getting 3 inches of snow an hour, which should end up as 6-10 inches when it’s done, and the snow didn’t even stick at first.

The storm comes less than a week after this last one, last Friday.

2018-03-02 snowy icy friday
March 2, 2018

Luckily, I have lots on my mind to share with you today.

From ugly weather (to those of you in Florida) to an ugly video: Monday, Britain’s Independent reported, “The National Rifle Association has released a video containing a threatening message to journalists, warning them ‘your time is running out.’”

NRA National Rifle Association official logoYou see an angry looking and sounding “conservative political activist and TV host Dana Loesch telling “every lying member of the media” that “we are done with your agenda” and they have “had enough.”

She names lots of media hosts and shows. Then, at the end, she ominously says, “Your time is running out. The clock starts now,” and she turns over an hourglass.

Talk about bitter! Thousands of Americans have stood behind the young survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Florida that killed 17 of their classmates, as they called on lawmakers to reform the gun rules.

Click here for more details and reaction to the video.

video games

Also Monday, Variety reported President Trump will be talking about gun violence — with leaders of the video game industry!

According to the Entertainment Software Association, which represents major video game makers:

“Video games are enjoyed around the world and numerous authorities and reputable scientific studies have found no connection between games and real-life violence.” … “Like all Americans, we are deeply concerned about the level of gun violence in the United States. Video games are plainly not the issue: entertainment is distributed and consumed globally, but the U.S. has an exponentially higher level of gun violence than any other nation.”

But a group spokesman says they’ll be there anyway.

The entertainment magazine reports after the Parkland massacre, the President said,

“I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.”

The ESA — which operates a voluntary ratings system — said the White House meeting

“will provide the opportunity to have a fact-based conversation about video game ratings, our industry’s commitment to parents, and the tools we provide to make informed entertainment choices,”

but their titles don’t contribute to real-life mayhem.

In 2011, the Supreme Court struck down a California law to restrict minors’ access to video games, ruling it’s protected by the First Amendment.news flash

I’m excited about something else. It’ll help you watch out for hidden agendas in news, or media that knowingly publish falsehoods or propaganda.

The Nieman Journalism Lab announced a start-up initiative called NewsGuard that’ll fight fake news by rating more than 7,500 news sources. NewsGuard says it plans to hire dozens of people with journalism backgrounds and have them

“research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism — and which aren’t.”

The ratings will be like a traffic light. A real newspaper publishing good content will get green. A fake news site will get a red. Then, according to Nieman,

“A site that’s not putting out deliberately fake news, but is overwhelmingly influenced in its coverage by a funder that it’s not eager to disclose? Maybe a yellow.”

And the ratings — called “nutrition labels” – will come with “a 200- to 300-word write-up on each source’s funding, its coverage, its potential special interests, and how it fits in with the rest of the news” world since the founders acknowledge not all of the sites in a given color category are equal.

websites

I can’t wait for this to start. The folks behind NewsGuard are Steven Brill (founder of The American Lawyer and Court TV) and L. Gordon Crovitz (former publisher of The Wall Street Journal).

Brill told CNN “algorithms aren’t cutting it, so real-life reviewers are needed to judge reliability.”news websites

They say their “goal is to give everyone the information they need to be better informed about which news sources they can rely on — or can’t rely on.”

Analysts will work in pairs. They may not settle on a rating if they feel they don’t have enough information to be confident, or have editors weigh in if the analysts disagree.news interview

Plus, “The company will also have ‘a 27-7 ‘SWAT team’ that responds to breaking news and news items that are suddenly trending.”
It plans to stay in business by licensing “NewsGuard’s encyclopedia of news sources to social media platforms and search engines” – in other words, GoogleMicrosoft, Facebook and Twitter, which could leave out the reds or use them with a warning – and offering advertising for businesses that “want to be spared any embarrassment that comes from advertising on deliberately fake sites.”generic website

Brill said the tech companies will pay because, “We’re asking them to pay a fraction of what they pay their P.R. people and their lobbyists to talk about the problem.”

Good luck, guys!

Rupert Murdoch wikimedia commonsNow, to Rupert Murdoch’s chutzpah and greediness. In January, he called for Facebook to pay for the content his companies – 21st Century Fox and News Corp. – publish on the site, while it’s Mark Zuckerberg’s company that really does him a favor by distributing the stuff! (You can decide how much the stuff is worth until NewsGuard kicks off.)

Now, the U.K.’s The Register is reporting Facebook “abandoned its ‘fix’ for news after publishers complained about a drop in traffic” and that’ll mean more clickbait for the rest of us.

Facebook had added an Explore tab in October, to show us more from friends and family on our News Feeds, and remove professional publishers.

The Register described a few examples:

“Clickbait-focused publishers such as Buzzfeed had benefited enormously from being promoted on Facebook – and owed much of their success to lightweight ‘shareable content.’ But after the changes, traffic dropped sharply. Facebook rushed to assure publishers it was just a test. It has now formally abandoned the experiment, counting “feel-good news and service content” publisher LittleThings among the casualties.”

facebook f logoOn Feb. 28, the U.K.’s Business Insider reported once flourishing women-focused digital publisher LittleThings closed down, blaming Facebook’s huge algorithm tweak.

The Register explained Facebook has “come under fire” since the 2016 Presidential election. First, the News Feed was “hand-curated by low-paid graduates” but “accused of political bias.” Then it replaced the people “with an algorithm that valued ‘engagement’” but a “low bar for inclusion” exposed more “inflammatory and bogus material.”

It also quoted former senior Facebook exec Antonio Garcia Martinez, who explained how viral content was given a premium value.

“Rather than simply reward that ad position to the highest bidder, though, Facebook uses a complex model that considers both the dollar value of each bid as well as how good a piece of clickbait (or view-bait, or comment-bait) the corresponding ad is,” Martinez said. “If Facebook’s model thinks your ad is 10 times more likely to engage a user than another company’s ad, then your effective bid at auction is considered 10 times higher than a company willing to pay the same dollar amount.”

Donald TrumpAnd Donald Trump’s campaign – which spent very little money – was playing by Facebook’s rules since “rural targets were cheaper to reach than urbanites, and Trump wanted to reach them, so Facebook ad spending proved to be very good value.”

Bottom line, according to The Register:

“The results of Facebook abandoning this particular experiment is that clickbait-hungry publishers will continue to rely on the platform for exposure, rather than building their own brands, and Facebook will rely on clickbait-y free content to keep people on the site. It’s a marriage of the desperate.”

mark zuckerberg facebookThat’s not what I wanted to read.

I suggest Zuckerberg suspend all Fox and News Corp. accounts from Facebook for a week. Every newspaper, TV station, news anchor, etc. That should show ‘em!

Meanwhile, Miami’s CNN’s Jeff Zucker accused Facebook and Google of having a duopoly or monopoly on money from digital content, and wants regulators to look into the two companies.

jeff zucker cnnKeep in mind, CNN was a monopoly on 24-hour cable news from June 1, 1980 to 1996 when MSNBC started on July 15, and Fox News Channel went on the air on Oct. 7. (That’s except for when ABC/Westinghouse’s Satellite News Channel competed from June 21, 1982 until Oct. 27, 1983, and CNN founder Ted Turner bought it.)

Sounds like a sore loser. His ratings stink.

Late last month, he tried to come across as a spokesperson trying to protect good journalism when The Hollywood Reporter quoted him as saying,

“Everyone is looking at whether these combinations of AT&T and Time Warner (his own company, which AT&T wants to buy for $85 billion, and may put his own job in jeopardy -Lenny) or Fox and Disney pass government approval and muster, the fact is nobody for some reason is looking at the monopolies that are Google and Facebook. … That’s where the government should be looking, and helping to make sure everyone else survives. I think that’s probably the biggest issue facing the growth of journalism in the years ahead.”

Government “helping to make sure everyone else survives” sounds a whole lot like President Obama bailing out the U.S. banking and auto industries during the Great Recession. It was probably the best thing he did as President. Philosophically, maybe he shouldn’t have, but nobody can deny it worked and saved jobs.

But the banking and auto industries are not journalism. They’re not protected by the First Amendment. And intelligent people will turn to quality news, even if it’s hard to find, and that has already become harder and harder for years.

Advice for Zucker: Do a better job on TV. In contrast to President Obama, explain why you hired so many digital staffers a year ago, only to lay off roughly 50 of them last month – and why you shouldn’t be one to go.cnn

Vanity Fair reports, “Several high profile digital initiatives are being scaled back.” Media analyst Jeffrey McCall told Fox News the layoffs “seem to suggest that CNN may have outkicked its coverage” and Zucker wanted his digital group to “grow too quickly” before having a “comprehensive plan” in place. Also, “It does seem odd that these cuts are apparently targeted for the digital side at this time, when most strategists seem to think that’s an area for potential growth,” McCall said.

And the kicker (rather than “kick ass”), according to the Fox article,

“Last month, YouTube star Casey Neistat — hired by Zucker on the recommendation of his teenage son — abruptly walked away from CNN less than two years after CNN reportedly paid more than $20 million for his video-sharing startup Beme.”

at&t time warnerTime Warner is a big company. It owned AOL – one of the early pioneers of the Internet – until about the time you were hired. Why didn’t TW compete? Or did it, and free enterprise sent the experiment to wherever those 50 laid off digital staffers are?

According to TV Newser, the Justice Department sued to block the AT&T-Time Warner deal back in November, and the antitrust trial is set to begin March 19.

Zucker, get more people to your website and have your digital salespeople do a better job, you sore loser, or you’ll be out of a job!

comcast new 595x227Back to 21st Century Fox’s Murdoch. He got a black eye about a week ago when Philadelphia-based Comcast (the cable company that also owns competitor NBC) topped his company’s offer to buy the 61 percent of Sky PLC it didn’t already own. That could halt Fox’s attempt to consolidate ownership of the British broadcaster. It has owned 39 percent of Sky for years.

comcast
Today on https://corporate.comcast.com/, obviously important to the company!

But even more importantly, Sky is supposed to be one of many assets Fox plans to turn around and sell to Disney (owner of ABC) — while keeping only its American broadcast network, TV stations (you know by now Fox doesn’t bother list them on its Stations Group website) and plans to buy more, the Fox News Channel and the Fox Business Network — in a separate $52 billion follow-up deal.

But Fox was cheap.

fox sky news disney

Reuters reports Comcast offered £12.50 per share ($31 billion), significantly higher (more than 16 percent) than Fox’s £10.75 per share. (Yes, I know how cheap Fox is. I worked for them. The one exception is the NFL.) Sky already agreed to be sold to Fox, but the British government delayed the takeover because it’s concerned about Rupert Murdoch’s influence. In 2011, he closed the News of the World after its journalists admitted hacking phones to get scoops, but he still owns The Sun and Times newspapers.

Fox promised to keep Sky News fully independent for ten years, but faces skepticism across the pond. And with a ten-year promise, I don’t understand how it could be sold to Disney.

Reuters reports Sky’s shares jumped more than 20 percent, while shares of Comcast, Fox and Disney all fell. So if the Sky-to-Fox first part doesn’t happen, investors may expect a bidding war.

You’ll remember in December, Comcast bid $60 billion for Fox’s assets – “substantially more” than Disney – maybe even $10 billion more, according to Philly.com. But Disney’s bid beat Comcast’s. The Wall Street Journal reported Murdoch “was concerned that a Comcast deal would be opposed by U.S. regulators and instead opted for the lower Disney offer.” The deal still needs approval from the Justice Department.

The Hollywood Reporter says Comcast said at the time:

“When a set of assets like 21st Century Fox’s becomes available, it’s our responsibility to evaluate if there’s a strategic fit that could benefit our company and our shareholders. … That’s what we tried to do, and we are no longer engaged in the review of those assets. We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer.”

More merger news: Broadcasting & Cable reports eight of the 50 states’ attorneys general came out against the SinclairTribune merger. They told the Federal Communications Commission “it does not have the authority to raise the 39 percent national audience reach cap for TV station groups, that it does have the authority to eliminate the UHF discount” – the old rule that discounts the number of viewers UHF stations reach by half, because they were weaker and harder to watch years ago before modern technology like cable, computers, etc. – and that it should eliminate the discount.

That UHF discount was gone until FCC chairman Ajit Pai – a President Trump appointee under investigation for improperly pushing for rule changes to benefit Sinclair Broadcasting in its attempt to acquire Tribune Media. Now it’s back. Critics say Sinclair has forced local stations to provide favorable coverage to Republican candidates for years.

Ajit Pai fcc wikipedia
Ajit Pai (Wikipedia)

B&C claims Pai is “saying the previous commission should have considered the cap and the discount together, which it is now doing.”

The attorneys general are from Illinois (home to Tribune), Pennsylvania, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California and Virginia.

They – according to B&C – argue “getting rid of the cap would threaten diversity, competition, and localism, and cites Sinclair Broadcasting, whose Tribune deal would benefit from lifting or eliminating the limit, pointing out that it distributes news stories that must run in its newscasts.”

generic tvIn November, The Baltimore Sun reported Maryland’s attorney general opposed the takeover because “the combination would decrease consumer choices and diversity in the media marketplace.” Sinclair is based in Maryland.

According to The Sun, Sinclair claims “the merger would allow the new company to better serve local viewers with expanded local coverage, better facilities and more programming, delivered in part by operational efficiencies.”

The company announced it would sell several stations to stay under a new cap, but the deals it reached would let it continue to control the New York and Chicago stations it sells, so those big cities won’t count. (Is there ANYBODY who thinks that’s OK?)

WPIXAccording to Variety, Sinclair will sell WPIX-New York for a measly $15 million to Cunningham Broadcasting. More than 90 percent of that company’s stock is controlled by trusts owned by the estate of Carolyn Smith, the late wife of Sinclair founder Julian Smith and mother of Sinclair chairman David Smith. So the Smith children own it. Talk about a shell corporation! Cunningham owns 20 stations but at least 14 of them are run by Sinclair!

WGN-TVAnd it would sell WGN-TV Chicago for just $60 million to Steven B. Fader, chairman of Baltimore-based Atlantic Capital Group and business partner of David Smith in Atlantic Automotive Corp.

Those stations are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe a half-billion.

On top of that, Variety says,

“Sinclair would not only continue to operate the stations and receive the lion’s share of their revenue, but the sale agreement with both buyers gives Sinclair an option to buy the stations back within eight years. That’s seen as a marker for the company to bide its time in the hopes that the FCC relaxes its station ownership restrictions in the near future.”

The $3.9 billion deal – if it goes through – would make the nation’s largest television broadcast company even larger. Sinclair is already largest with 191 stations, while Tribune brings another 42 stations before divestitures. The post-merger reach would be 72 percent of U.S. homes. (Does that include the huge markets of New York and Chicago?)

This is something I didn’t consider in my last blog, about the possibility Fox buys Miami’s CW affiliate WSFL due to the merger, even though it doesn’t produce news, and gives up strong affiliate WSVN – simply to own a Miami station since Miami has an NFL team, the Dolphins. TVNewsCheck‘s editor Harry Jessell reported, “Fox has one other obvious option in Miami. It could buy ABC affiliate WPLG.” Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought it from Graham Media (the former Post-Newsweek) in 2014, and it’s Buffett’s only station.

I’m sure Buffett makes money but he has no vertical integration. Graham was supposed to help run the station after the sale, and it still has a Graham station look. So does its website. Also, Buffett is not the type to get attached (except maybe to Omaha) and would be willing to cash out of the price is right.

If he sells WPLG to Fox, then it makes sense ABC would probably call WSVN. Makes the most sense by far, but I wouldn’t swear on anything. In 1988, CBS seemingly surprised everyone by buying the former WCIX instead of affiliating with WSVN.

Jessell also reported he spoke to Ansin who said Fox hasn’t mentioned anything about “moving into the market and no expression of interest in WSVN.”

I also want to point out another example of a TV network not renewing a local TV station’s affiliation because it competed for viewers in part of a city where the network owned its own station. The last blog mentioned NBC getting rid of WMGM in Atlantic City because of its Philadelphia station, WCAU, and how ABC was much nicer years earlier when it paid the owner of KNTV in San Jose to leave the network because it owned KGO-TV in San Francisco. (WMGM shut down its news department.)

Since then, I remembered NBC dropped WHAG (now WDVM) in Hagerstown, Md., in the middle of 2016 because of Washington, DC’s WRC. Since then, the independent station really became competition, expanding its coverage area by 1.2 million households, also serving Chambersburg, Pa., Martinsburg, W.V. and Winchester, Va.

Also, I learned NBC dropped KENV-DT in Elko, Nev., which served a lot of the Nevada side of the Salt Lake City market. It aired its own news, but was run out of Sinclair NBC affiliate KRNV in Reno. That goliath Sinclair also owns three stations in Salt Lake City, but not the NBC affiliate. KENV is actually owned by Cunningham Broadcasting, and it shut down its news department.

wkptAnd then I remembered something similar in the Tri-Cities of TN/VA, where I used to work. ABC dropped affiliate WKPT, the only TV station owned by Holston Valley Broadcasting. Yes, the station was weak. But no, there weren’t any other local stations that carried news. And no, ABC couldn’t get one of the two that did to change over to ABC. Instead, it made a deal to put ABC on the CBS affiliate’s subchannel! That shows it pays to be big and powerful (in contrast to what happened at Ed Ansin’s two stations in Miami and Boston), and that networks have a lot more possibilities for affiliates when it comes to subchannels. It’s not a good idea to get on their bad side. WKPT dropped local news and I showed you the unbelievable farewell to the main anchor just before that happened!

Thursday Night Football logoAnd Jessell also wrote he’s hearing “Fox is once again pushing the idea that it should represent its affiliates in all retrans negotiation.” That means instead of each station demanding money from cable and satellite companies to carry them, Fox would do the work for them all and send each station its share. It would carry the power of nearly 200 stations, and those stations won’t have to bother negotiating. Of course, Fox would also carry power over the stations, and the network’s opinion is its programming (sports) makes the stations worth more and will take its share. Plus, somebody has to pay for Thursday Night Football!

For me, it was nice peeking out the window and watching the snowstorm as I wrote, but like this blog, and certain stations’ newscasts, it appears to be over.

weblocalradar (1).gif
http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/cbs3-radar/

feature snow

By the way, you’re not alone. This blog site reached more than 10,500 views today! Please, if you like what you read, subscribe with either your email address or WordPress account, and you’ll get an email whenever I publish.

Sad stereotypes too strong to silence (for now)

Texas Flip n Move logo

Last night, I did something I rarely do: open a Facebook post to the public, rather than just friends.

Today, I’m blogging about the online battle that followed, something I hadn’t planned to do.

pexels-photo-267482.jpeg

The story was about one of the hosts of a show on the DIY Network — part of Scripps Networks Interactive and sister to HGTV, the Food Network, Travel Channel, Cooking Channel, Great American Country, TVN, Fine Living and the Asian Food Channel.

You’re certainly familiar with some of them unless you’ve been living under a rock.

Unfortunately, it has since been reinforced to me that too many Americans have been living under figurative rocks.

diy network logo

Texas Flip N Move host Toni Snow — who along with her sister Donna — are “real estate entrepreneurs” who “compete head-to-head in a fast-paced and thrilling real estate flipping competition,” according to the show’s website.

It goes on, if you understand flipping, “Our flippers are under the gun to buy low, work fast and sell high.”

budget

And in a recent episode that was shot, produced and edited, Toni Snow asked a participant who was willing to pay full asking price for a refurbished school bus, “You’re not even gonna bicker a little bit, Jew us down?” according to CNN and People magazine.

Toni Snow NY Post Fox
Toni Snow from the New York Post, captured from http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2018/01/17/diy-apologizes-for-anti-semitic-slur-that-made-it-on-to-air.html

I’m not a regular watcher of that channel nor show, although I think I once saw part of an episode that was shown on HGTV.

I could say things about people from Texas but I won’t.

The network told CNN in an apology, “An inappropriate comment unfortunately made it past our team” and that they “immediately pulled the episode to edit it for future broadcast.”

im sorry

My original point was that Toni Snow needed to be edited out. In other words, she should be fired and the episode should never be shown again.

fired

That’s not hard to do.

Look at what’s happening over sexual misconduct these days. Kevin Spacey’s role in the movie All the Money in the World was recast with Christopher Plummer. Scenes from the film about J. Paul Getty’s grandson’s kidnapping were reshot in nine days, costing millions of dollars, a month before its opening. All the promotions/trailers had to be reworked. (See trailer #1 and trailer #2.)

all the money in the world
Sony-TriStar-Imperative Entertainment-Scott Free

Toni Snow reminds me of Hillary Clinton saying half of now-President Trump’s supporters fit into a “basket of deplorables,” back in Sept., 2016, less than two months before losing the election (watch here). I also thought about President Obama, competing against Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, saying economically struggling Americans “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy towards people who aren’t like them” back in 2008 (watch here).

This is an embed of the Facebook post. Be warned, not all is polite.

I have to note how hateful some Toni Schroeder Schwind comes across like those quotes politicians used above, just clinging to the past. I don’t know her but her profile pictures indicate she’s not Jewish, yet she insisted more than once,

“This comment has been around for ages and I think somewhat over reaction was an over reaction. Get over it.”

(Yes, her words.)

I’d say to ask a black person about the N-word, or another minority about slurs about them. Who is she to judge what’s offensive to most Jewish people?

And I wrote “most Jewish people” because some of my friends say it’s no big deal, or it’s the intent that matters.

I also originally angrily posted, “Only #Jews! What other group would tolerate that?”

jewish symbols
Jewish symbols
menorah
Even a menorah at the Bristol Motor Speedway‘s Speedway in Lights!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seems liberalism has replaced religion for many non-Orthodox Jews and that bothers me. Their thoughts and practices are certainly up to them, but it leaves me with a bad taste. I wonder what will be in the generations to come.

Others would say I should be doing more. Again, that’s their opinion. Most of us know stereotypes like “two Jews, three opinions” carry a bit of truth.

As for the speaker’s intent, who knows? I’m not a mind-reader. I did write in a private message off Facebook,

“I find people who say things like that about Jews and prices to have bad intent. The reason is simply, one side wants the price higher and the other wants it lower. It’s adversarial by nature.”

One friend wrote there are worse words and phrases.

I responded late last night,

“Look at the reaction from the post at this hour, and also all the news articles. It’s not exactly like the president using SHole because he’s the president. Besides, if people hear it on TV, they think it’s acceptable. Don’t give the public too much credit.”

girl watching tv

Something very similar happened at the TV station I worked at in the northeast Tennessee/southwest Virginia Tri-Cities region after I left.

I explained it,

“Are slurs against any minority group tolerable in 2018? After I left the Tri-Cities, a member of the local synagogue – the only one between Knoxville and Charlottesville – contacted me after the station I worked for did a story about a guy holding an auction and using the same phrase, just like his father taught him! It aired at 5:30. At 11, there was an apology. But he was just white trash and not on the payroll. What gets me is that it’s missed in the editing process. Of course, so do curse words on signs at anti-Trump rallies.”

 

cbs fuck trump pence
Like this. Can you find it? From the CBS Evening News, captured from http://www.ftvlive.com/sqsp-test/2018/1/17/you-might-want-to-look-a-bit-closer

Yes, I used a phrase where the stereotype fit (and not about somebody from Texas, as I promised earlier). I’m certainly not perfect. I tend to be middle of the road politically, but absolutely not politically correct. Society needs civilized discussion.

I’m guessing a photographer who grew up locally shot the interview, wrote the script and edited it. That’s what happens in small non-union markets.

jew people down wcyb

I have files of both the original piece and the apology but won’t show them publicly because the anchorwoman on air had nothing to do with putting together the story. She just read it, along with having to read the apology hours later with her face on air. Her co-worker who should’ve known better caused her to suffer enough embarrassment, and she was simply subbing on someone else’s newscast while that person was on vacation!

wcyb flag
Casey is innocent

I had this last thought while trying to fall asleep last night:

archie meathead cellar
Archie and Meathead (Mike)

“This conversation reminds me of an episode of All in the Family. It definitely was not my favorite because there was more drama than comedy. Archie and Meathead were locked in the basement and opening up to each other while drinking. Mike tried to convince Archie their fathers were very similar, but wrong as it turned out. Mike had changed completely, becoming a leftist. Archie, his older father-in-law, was more defensive and blindly insisted his father could do no wrong. Most of us have (had) relatives like that, even those who came to this country as immigrants. They lived among each other (in shtetels?) and had no way of understanding anybody else’s feelings or experiences until getting out in the real world. That’s the way things were then. Today, whether traveling a few blocks or watching TV, most people become exposed to others and realize it’s wrong to use and perpetuate stereotypes.”

You can click here to watch 14 minutes of the 1973 episode. They start talking about their fathers just before 8:30 in.

all in the family

At last check, the (very slightly edited) episode “Snow Sisters’ School Bus Flip” is scheduled to air again Friday, Jan. 26 at 8pm ET, Saturday, Jan. 27 at 3am ET and Sunday, Feb. 4 at 3pm ET.

Shame on DIY and Scripps Networks Interactive for having low standards, avoiding a teaching moment and not dumping it.

F caption grade sized

The rights of TV station owners vs. the public

tv news advertising

By now, I’m sure you realize I’m a fan of the underdog. Fly, Philadelphia Eagles, fly!

I also strongly believe in holding people in high positions accountable for their acts, even off the clock. Can’t deny that after the recent string of sexual harassment allegations and confessions from some of the smartest and most talented people in America.

That’s why I reacted so strongly when I saw this article by the editor of TVNewsCheck, one of several industry websites.

I’ve written articles condemning the loosening of many regulatory protections, like net neutrality.

Harry Jessell, who I tried to reach privately on LinkedIn (I always try to reach somebody privately before writing about them), wrote a column called “End Discriminatory Regs Against Broadcast” and it’s exactly what you may expect.

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He argued TV stations face too many rules and that Sinclair Broadcast Group should not have to pay a tentative $13.4 million fine to the Federal Communications Commission for “allegedly airing news programming that was paid for by a sponsor.”

fcc federal communications commission

Keep in mind, Sinclair owns 193 TV stations in 89 cities. See if they’re on the air where you live. They may be soon! Not too shabby!

sinclair before tribune
from http://sbgi.net/tv-stations/

That’s because FCC rules were recently loosened — reportedly cheered on by President Trump — so it can buy the Tribune Media stations around the country. That’ll get Sinclair’s controversial perspective on a tremendous number of new screens in big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Miami, among others, for the first time. Not too sympathetic!

It just bought Bonten Media Group‘s five stations including WCYB in the Tri-Cities of TN/VA, where I used to work. Click here and see how the WCYB website’s look seemed to change overnight. It’s like everything is becoming the same and there’s no need nor room for creativity. (Try to be creative and risk being kicked out, even if you’re specifically asked for suggestions during your interview. Companies want their own style and tone.)

wcyb
www.wcyb.com

Sinclair requires conservative commentaries sent from its Maryland headquarters to air during its stations’ local newscasts. That causes viewers to think the biased people they see every night, tossed to by their local anchors, are local as well.

In 2004, Sinclair barred the ABC affiliates it owned from airing the episode of Nightline that profiled American soldiers killed overseas. (It owns stations affiliated with all of the networks.) The same year, it tried to get its stations to carry a pre-election film that bashed presidential candidate John Kerry. (Some might even say the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech is only for station owners, not employees nor the public.)

sinclair broadcast group

Its gargantuan size already has liberals worried about its influence on elections.

tv owner population share
http://www.biakelsey.com

Jessell called the “sponsored news” rule antiquated and discriminatory, and claimed “native advertising has been around forever” under “names like advertorial, sponsored content, promoted content and infomercial.”

He also said it’s everywhere, and that print and digital media companies even get paid to invent it.

Plus, the rules may have been OK decades ago when broadcasters were becoming more powerful, rather than today when they face new competition from “aggressive digital giants.”

And he trusts viewers will eventually spot the advertising and change channels or media.

But I disagree. First, I don’t give viewers as much credit. There needs to be a separation — between news and opinion, as well as advertising — and I’d hate to be a journalist losing credibility by following Sinclair’s unique requirements.

I do admit with more competition, a broadcast license is no longer a license to print money as it used to be.

tv airwaves

But the airwaves belong to the public. TV stations have special responsibilities. Owners who don’t like them should be in a different business.

Anybody can print a newspaper, start a website, or even shoot material for a cable channel if they can get it carried.

Meanwhile, broadcasters get special protection like must-carry on cable systems, or they can demand money to be carried — which is much more common. (Then, of course, the network they’re affiliated with will demand a chunk of cash. It’s called reverse compensation.)

There used to be strict limits as to how many stations an owner can own. They’ve practically disappeared. Orders come from out of the area.

Owners were not allowed to own two stations in the same city. Now they can under certain circumstances.

Owners were not allowed to own two stations in neighboring cities (a grade-B overlap), since people who live in between can pick up both. Now they can.

Station owners are fighting like hell to be able to own newspapers. I believe the only one allowed without being grandfathered in that was OK was WNYW-Fox 5 in New York. Otherwise, the New York Post would’ve gone out of business. But then Fox also bought WWOR-Channel 9 and got rid of its news department — a big blow to New Jersey. (Fox’s newspaper business was later spun off into a different company.)

new york post
from WikiVisually

You give them an inch and they ask for a foot!

Look at this example in an ad on Rick Gevers & Associates’ website and newsletter!

many stations

That’s six stations and not a joke!

The two Democrats on the five-member FCC pretty much called the Sinclair fine peanuts because Sinclair aired the sponsored content 1,723 times on 77 stations, has had trouble with the FCC before and grossed $2.7 billion in revenue last year. The fine could’ve been $82 million.

Go to the article’s website and check out the comments. My favorite:

Fair enough Harry. (1) Remove broadcasters’ FCC licenses. (2) Charge broadcasters 8% of gross annual revenue for the right to transmit on the public airwaves. (3) Remove all special treatment regarding cable/satellite “must carry and retrans.”

Jessell’s response:

1) broadcasters could police airwaves privately; 2) station owners paid plenty for most of their frequencies; few got them for free; 3) retrans could be privatized and broadcasters would get the same amount of money. I have no love of must carry.

Did you notice the first part? Somebody else commented:

Broadcasters POLICE THEMSELVES??? haaaaaaaa, hysterical

And that person commented in a separate post:

Harry Jessell – is this particular article “End Discriminatory Regs Against Broadcast” – PAID FOR, in any way, shape or form?

What I wrote (using my own name):

Broadcasters use the public airwaves. Unlike other media, the airwaves broadcasters use belong to the people. They need to be protected, and the government has every right to regulate broadcasters in exchange for letting them use those airwaves. Throughout the decades, the government has been more and more lenient with broadcasters, letting them own more and more stations, and in closer proximity to each other, and licencing them for a longer time. If broadcasters don’t like it, then they should give up using the public’s airwaves that don’t belong to them and get into one of those other businesses you mentioned. Then they won’t have to worry about public service.

I think Sinclair should consider itself lucky. Very lucky.

I hope the underdog Eagles are as lucky in the NFC Championship against Minnesota and make it to the Super Bowl!

Philadelphia Eagles

Follow-up, fewer watching TV news, future president?

color bars

First, I have to thank everybody who looked at Monday’s blog post. The analytics were incredible, the best ever (and that’s all that counts, right? 🙂). If you haven’t seen it yet, it gives a brief overview of the place I worked for 15 months until August. Feel free to comment below it, or on my Twitter page. You can also subscribe to these blogs with your email address and get an email automatically every time I post.

skype

One thing I left out was that during the long interview process, in early 2016, while I was working a great job in the Tri-Cities of TN/VA, the future boss asked me at the end of a Friday Skype interview to write up a critique of the station’s website. I was literally told it was “to see how smart” I am. Two other managers were sitting right there. I was given a week, but finished it that weekend because I was so excited about the possibility of returning to Philadelphia.

Look below and see, it was a very long and thoughtful critique, and included multiple pictures. During my interview at Fox 29 — coincidentally on Leap Day, Feb. 29, 2016 — the boss even joked about still reading it! I guess it was good. Too bad most of it was never implemented. That was a clue of what was to come, but it was too late. I had already moved and started the job. (The document is a slideshow. Click below to move forward, back, or to stop it.)

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That’s all I have to say here on the subject of that station.

Just this week, a Pew Research Center report announced fewer Americans rely on TV news, and what type they watch varies by who they are. It found,

“Just 50 percent of U.S. adults now get news regularly from television, down from 57 percent a year prior in early 2016.”

starburst down

That’s a 14 percent decline! Not only that, but the number takes into account local TV (still first place), cable TV (still second place), and also network TV (still third place).

14

I think the demographics are even more interesting. According to Pew, college graduates and high-income people watch much less local TV and network TV news. Cable news varies little.

The research doesn’t say but perhaps these people are working longer hours or have more access to news on electronic devices. Or they find the product dumbed-down. The first two possibilities can’t be changed but the last can.

But I think the biggest finding has to do with age. Pew divided the population into four groups, from 18-29 through 65+. It found across all groups, the younger a person is makes them much, much less likely to watch local, network, and also cable TV news. That sounds ominous for the future.

old tv sets

Again, the research doesn’t say, but I’ve learned from working with people young enough to be my children they have no history of getting the news from a scheduled TV newscast, or even cable. They were raised with technology that hadn’t been invented when the older people were growing up. They have no special tie to the TV set, having to watch on schedule, and probably can’t imagine watching in black and white.

pexels-photo-261510.jpeg

(To go along with that, a huge majority of my students — who were younger around the year 2010, plus or minus a few — hadn’t even heard of a typewriter!) Also notice radio and newspapers were not even considered in the research.

radio newspaper

Note the research was not done on web reading but following my train of thought, Americans will continue to use newer technology to get their news, which makes the web — whether desktop, tablet, phone, or whatever comes next — more and more important. We cannot continue to dumb it down, make mistakes, and hire cheap, good-looking but inexperienced people in big cities. We also need to root out the so-called journalists that lack ethics.

desktop phone tablet

Click here to see the results in a chart, which also divides the American population by gender, race, and politics.

The Radio Television Digital News Association — and we know its agenda — asks, “Is the news for local TV stations all bad?”

Its former chair Kevin Benz admits, “Stations are producing more newscasts because local production is cheap with higher payback potential from selling local advertisers.” Let’s not forget we’re coming off an election year with lots of ads.

The organization claims “profitability has been trending level or up since 2010” and “This is also far from the first time local news has been written off due to changing consumption habits … but newsrooms have been slow to adapt.”

pexels-photo-267482.jpeg

Back in the Tri-Cities, I was told many people get their news from their Facebook feed. That’s pitiful and of course, Facebook benefits but the publishers really don’t, other than a click to their own websites.

In the past year, not much has come out of the Facebook Journalism Project led by former news anchor Campbell Brown — who has since shown her true politics with The 74 Million, advocating for charter and private schools by taking money away from public schools. (I wrote about that in “Why teaching isn’t for me anymore” here, almost two years ago.)

According to Digiday, problems are that publishers have different business models and want different things from Facebook. And Facebook has mostly let publishers see new products before they launched, and listen to their feedback on various subjects at twice-annual meetings with nice meals. Subjects have included Instant Articles and starting a subscription product so you can’t read unlimited articles for free. There’s also discussion about separating factual news from somebody posting fiction.

oprah
File: Oprah Winfrey

It didn’t help that NBC tweeted about Oprah Winfrey possibly becoming president in the future during Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards.

NBC’s website has now clips of her speech and this description:

“The media mogul received the Cecil B. DeMille award at the A-list event, and brought the crowd to its feet with a rallying cry for solidarity amid the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.”

The harassment scandals were huge. That’s what Oprah addressed. I’ve even written about it twice: here (“What is conscience? Elusive in the media, unfortunately”) and here (“Hey, you accused! Would Mom say, wait until your father gets home?”).

I’ve also tweeted about women who weren’t getting paid the same as men.

Variety reported, “Host Seth Meyers even joked about the prospect in his opening monologue. The tweet from NBC said, ‘Nothing but respect for OUR future president. #GoldenGlobes.’”

The next morning, the network put out a statement, blaming outsourcing. Of course, the first tweet was removed.

How horrible! Oprah hadn’t yet spoken at the time, she never mentioned anything about becoming president, viewers won’t know the difference between a tweet from NBC Entertainment or NBC News if it doesn’t say, and why would the network let a third-party vendor tweet on its account, especially without overseeing? The network has no competent employee in-house? Disappointing!

nbc sad
The peacock isn’t proud

And late-breaking Thursday morning, we learned 18-year Fox News veteran James Rosen left the network – without Fox giving a reason – after eight of his former colleagues claimed he “had an established pattern of flirting aggressively with many peers and had made sexual advances toward three female Fox News journalists,” according to TVNewser.

Mediaite reports,

“One accusation involved him groping a female colleague in a shared-cab—an action she did not consent to. He then reportedly attempted to retaliate after his sexual advances were denied by attempting to take her sources, which would serve to damage her professional image.”

Also, the Washington Post says it suspended 28-year reporter Joel Achenbach for 90 days what it called “inappropriate workplace conduct” involving current and former female colleagues. He apologized in a statement, but the paper will continue to investigate.

I’m going to end on a better note, in contrast to what I wrote about Monday. Know I’ve been interviewing with different national and international companies here in Philadelphia. Tuesday, I found out I made it to the next round with one firm, and I’m obviously very happy about that. I told the woman on the phone who was simply following up on her morning email that everybody has been so supportive. We’d talked before and her response was simply that they are a partnership, rather than a corporation, and that there is no need for competition amongst (potential) employees.

That’s nice to hear, and it gives me hope.

P.S. On a personal note: Tuesday night in Florida, my mother fell in the kitchen. She hit her face on the floor. There was lots of blood, but no concussion. Turns out, she broke her pelvis in three places: two in the front, and one in the back. No surgery required, but she’ll have to spend another day or two in the hospital. The next two weeks are supposed to be very painful, and it could take her four months to get better. The doctor suggested time rehab since she can’t do much. Please keep her in your thoughts. 😦

The news where I used to work: Unbelievable!

Most of you know I was a web producer for the Fox station in Philadelphia, but fewer of you know I haven’t worked there since last August.

Fox grade sized

The reasons are still to be discussed, and probably won’t be public.

However, I’ve come across some interesting and incorrect content from that station while working on my computer at home — material that would’ve caused me to be questioned, but not everyone there is treated the same.

For example, while I was still working there, a colleague was working on a story about “captured Georgia inmates” but used another picture — one of Bill Cosby, a police officer and a member of the fallen star’s entourage — by accident, instead. The mistake was caught by somebody at another Fox station and corrected. I don’t know how long it was up. The person who did that still works there.

cosby

At least in that case, somebody at another Fox station looked at the Philadelphia site better than the Philadelphia people themselves!

I’d love to have nothing to do with a place I used to work, but on Christmas, I accidentally hit Firefox on my home computer and the homepage for WTXF-Fox 29 came up. I never use Firefox and that was the home site for that particular browser.

Since I used to work on the website, I scrolled down to see what they would have on Christmas Day. Most was typical. The web team probably didn’t have its full staff in place on that Monday. (I know the guy who worked Christmas last year wasn’t there this year!)

be right back

Then, I got to the section on the homepage about their show The Q, starring Quincy Harris, and it was blank! It simply went from the title, to a link for “More Stories” on the bottom, with no links to the latest videos from his show in between. It looked bad for the station, the show, and the star. Didn’t anybody know?

Q 1st
fox29.com

Quincy may have been on vacation for some time since Thanksgiving, but that shouldn’t matter. The latest should have remained there. Instead, there was nothing — just blank space that was an obvious error.

Quincy is a great guy, like so many of my former co-workers, and also incredibly talented. It was just a few of the managers who made my life a living hell. The living hell part has been brought up and will be discussed ASAP.

talk to q
twitter.com/feedbaylenny and fox29.com

So I privately tweeted to Quincy and his team about the computer situation but if they told anyone, then nobody cared.

The next day, I was back on the computer and decided to check in again. Maybe a member of the station’s web team repaired Quincy’s section, which was probably a really quick fix. Still nothing.

I tweeted that publicly with a big circle where the missing links should’ve been. Maybe you saw it. I also supplied a link to Quincy’s page that contains his content. I hope it helped. Quincy shouldn’t have had to suffer.

q circled
twitter.com/feedbaylenny and fox29.com

Then, on Day 3, I was prepared to do something similar, like put a CBS3 logo in that area, but it didn’t come to that. Somebody, somewhere, changed the section to Entertainment. So the good news is, at least there’s content instead of blank space. The bad news is, there’s nothing special in that feed section that’s not on dozens of other websites and our local talent Quincy loses out, along with promotion for his show, weekdays at noon.

quincy w parents
November, 2016: Quincy with my parents

Let’s get something straight. I know it was the holidays but this is the fourth largest TV market in the country, based on the number of potential viewers in the area. It’s a TV station owned by one of the big four networks, a company that plans to sell off almost everything it owns (except for the network, TV stations, Fox News, and Fox Business) which makes its 28 stations in 17 cities an even more important part of the company. (And Fox may be buying more over the next few months, so watch out in places like Seattle, San Diego, Kansas City, and who knows where else?)

Was there absolutely nobody at the station to fix it? Nobody who could’ve been called in to fix it? What about emergency procedures, where somebody from another of those 28 stations in 17 cities can get in there and see what’s happening?

Disgraceful. There’s no excuse. I doubt there were even consequences after this major error it seems nobody noticed but should’ve. Well, they can’t try to blame me for this!

So to the Fox 29 web team, which for some reason was moved to the creative services department from the news department, you have issues: planning, scheduling, knowledge, not noticing something big missing from your home page, and not calling for help.

But apparently that’s how your bosses want it. Once, I had to put six job postings on the proper page. Five of the six were either part time or per diem. Only one was full-time. That’s what they budgeted. What did they expect to get? What would the head of Fox Television Stations say? What would Rupert Murdoch say? (Looks like several full-timers left the station since then. Several others left when I did. Notice a trend?)

That’s the problem with many conglomerates. They can’t get anything done. When I was working in the Tri-Cities, we could do almost anything using somebody in the building or calling on one of our four sister stations. Just four.

wcyb flag
Casey would rather work there than here!

Too many TV station managers like I worked with talk about how important Facebook is, and say it gets people to the station website which can make money, but putting up crap and doing it badly won’t get people to click. It only destroys any credibility left, and that’s happening faster in the age of Trump.

What people have been seeing is something that does not relay trust and stability.

Let’s take this past Friday as an example. It was a weekday, not a holiday, and a big news and weather day as well — the type of day journalists have to step up to the plate and be at their best.

I follow the station on Twitter and it follows me. First, I found somebody never learned how to use an apostrophe. Honestly, that skill isn’t needed to go on-air, but it’s very important for TV and web producers. Eventually, they got my message and fixed it. Then, it got better! I realized the story underneath was very fitting.

The error couldn’t have happened to better people. It’s just sad for the people of the Philadelphia region and beyond what’s left of this news-gathering group for the web.

Look what else I found they posted that day while I was going through my Facebook feed.

purple drank
facebook.com/fox29philadelphia

Ever heard of purple drank? Probably not. Does this post tell you anything specific about it? No. Care to guess if the Arlington is in Virginia or Texas? I wouldn’t waste my time. There’s no Arlington around Philadelphia, and I’ll explain where this came from in a moment. Plus, WHOA should probably be followed by an exclamation point.

connecticut man
facebook.com/fox29philadelphia

A Connecticut man? I think I’m seeing two. Unless one is from a different state. Am I supposed to guess? Does this post tell who the second guy is? No. Does it matter? No. Would I click? Not unless I’m into the gruesome. And what’s with the MORE and link at the end when someone can simply click like in the purple drank article? We called those MORON teases. A real tease would tell me at least one new thing I’d learn if I clicked.

police burglar

Here, it’s as if adding the word “police” somewhere near the top, even if it makes absolutely no sense, counts as attribution. Of course, the headline says he started out as a burglar. I don’t buy it. Probably an attempted burglar. Seems he was too busy to steal before he was caught! By the way, this was the only one of those three posts that did decently for the station. Viewers saw through the others.

None of these stories were exclusives, nor anything you’ll remember long-term. But you’ll find them on many of the other Fox-owned stations’ Facebook pages and websites because the stations share. I just looked at Los Angeles and Dallas. (LA mentioned the guy accused of breaking into the home happened in the Bay Area, and Dallas mentioned Arlington is theirs.)

kdfw drank
from Dallas
kttv connecticut
from Los Angeles
kdfw chickens
from Dallas
kttv burglar
from Los Angeles

The competition does, too, but there’s no verifying and the Fox stations that “borrowed” the article cannot change it, and that includes fixing mistakes. As for Facebook, the teases for those stories vary slightly but often not much. Too much trouble. Stations also repeat their posts, hoping they work better at a different time.

See for yourself. Click here for the Fox-owned stations website (rather than separately-owned affiliates around the country in places like Miami). Unfortunately, you may need to search by city name and the word Fox because the Fox Television Stations Group website doesn’t bother to list its stations nor their websites! (But you can complain, because there is press contact information listed: a phone number and email address!)

Then, go to their websites and Facebook pages. You won’t be overwhelmed by originality.

But there’s another issue at play here, and it’s a legal matter.

I seem to remember back on June 30, 2017, at 12:37pm, the senior web producer emailed:

Please be aware, new captioning guidelines go into effect tomorrow.  If anything appears on TV and is then cut for the web or social, it MUST have captions. Reporter packages, short clips, what have you. All must have captions. (From Lenny: For the record, the emailed version’s bold part was in bright red.)

There’s video, rather than just a picture, in this Facebook post, and I’m impressed they spelled San Bernardino correctly, with the R in the middle. Of course, they tagged the sheriff’s department’s Facebook site, which knows how to spell its own name.

bernardino
facebook.com/fox29philadelphia

Shouldn’t the video have been captioned, like this example from Sunday night?

Those of us old enough have known about closed-captioning since the 1980’s. It replaced a person using sign language for people who are deaf or hearing impaired. It’s nice to have during entertainment programming but necessary during news — whatever you define that as, these days — especially emergencies.

These days, stations offer real-time closed-captioning. That means there’s somebody listening live, probably in another city, and getting all the words on screen.

Closed-captioning means you can turn it off if you don’t want it, and open-captioning means it’s there and you have no choice. Back in the 1990s, some stations used captioning that wasn’t real-time. In other words, if it was in the newsroom computer, then it appeared, misspellings and all. Ad libbing and live shots were not captioned.

kttv bernardino
from Los Angeles

This video, from the Los Angeles area, certainly aired, but the version chosen to put on Facebook is slightly different. For example, it doesn’t have the lower thirds for locators and people who speak, nor the station logo and maybe the time and temperature that are put on live when you see them on TV.

However, you hear an anchor’s voice tossing to a reporter package and the video was clearly edited. In other words, everything here aired but not “100 percent exactly” as you see on Facebook.

But it still has to be captioned, according to the Federal Communications Commission, which licenses TV stations, even though this is on the web rather than TV.

Click here for the FCC’s page on Captioning of Internet Video Programming. It says:

FCC rules require captioned programs shown on TV to be captioned when re-shown on the Internet.

Look at the word re-shown. One would think this video was not not re-shown since it lacks the lower thirds, station logo, and time and temperature.

That got me wondering whether using video that has everything except the bells and whistles that were put on live when the newscast aired is a legal trick to get out of having to caption.

However, click here for the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, which says:

Title 47: Telecommunication
PART 79—ACCESSIBILITY OF VIDEO PROGRAMMING
Subpart A—Video Programming Owners, Providers, and Distributors

  • 79.4   Closed captioning of video programming delivered using Internet protocol.

(a) Definitions. For purposes of this section the following definitions shall apply:

(1) Video programming. Programming provided by, or generally considered comparable to programming provided by, a television broadcast station, but not including consumer-generated media. (The underlining is mine.)

Leaving out bells and whistles that may help the TV viewer is definitely considered comparable to programming. Therefore, it seems to me stations including Fox’s in Philadelphia are putting up video without captioning.

Again, web producers were told anything that aired had to be captioned on the internet (website, Facebook page, etc.), per FCC rules.

Go ahead and look at Fox stations’ Facebook pages. I did on different browsers. Ignore pictures. Ignore raw video that didn’t air, like most long news conferences. Ignore viewer video of something cute that goes on and on.

fb example
facebook.com/fox29philadelphia

Then, as you see above, put your cursor on the playing video and click the Captions button. Nothing? Then click More Settings, which is just below Captions. On this next screen, make sure your settings are correct.

caption choices

If you’re still having trouble, you may want to click here and go down to the section ‘Video Programming on Television and Other Equipment’ for details on filing a complaint.

Keep in mind, video with graphics like this are NOT captioned. They are put on by a central hub for all Fox-owned stations as decoration. The sound is NOT transcribed.

hub
facebook.com/fox29philadelphia

I suggest you do it, if not for yourself, then millions of other Americans. Besides, who knows what can happen to you one day?

President Trump has talked and talked about getting rid of regulations. His allies in the FCC already gutted net neutrality. It would be another shame if they decide to get rid of the captioning rules as well. It would be a shame for our hearing impaired neighbors, especially as the American population ages.

F caption grade sized