Friday, June 13, 2008

Sports Media Report - June 13 Update

What ever happened to the days of the media being an impartial observer?On Wednesday night, Texas Rangers outfielder Milton Bradley had to be physically escorted back to the team clubhouse while on his way to a possible confrontation in the Kansas City Royals broadcast booth. While in the clubhouse during the game, Bradley heard Royals TV announcer Ryan Lefebvre (the son of former big league player and manager Jim Lefebvre) commenting about his recent struggles in what Bradley found less than positive. Later, Rangers officials said they would not take any disciplinary action against Bradley. Yet, Bradley got to have his say to other media members, while local and national stories explained what Lefebvre had said. So does this mean it is acceptable for a pro player to berate a broadcaster and get away with it?

On Wednesday afternoon, Chicago sports station WSCR "The Score" 670 was airing what it termed "live coverage" of the press conference introducing Vinny Del Negro as the new coach of the Chicago Bulls. During the press conference, WSCH hosts Terry Boers and Dan Bernstein were making comments and played a couple of sound effects to indicate their displeasure at this hiring. Normally, I wouldn't have a problem with this happening. Some listeners saw some humor and entertainment value, while others were offended. That's part of the beauty of sports talk. Where I do have the problem is that this CBS Radio station told the listeners they were about to listen to "live coverage" of this announcement and press conference. That falls under the category of news coverage. Had the hosts waited until after the press conference was over or cut away from it before commenting, THEN it would be news coverage. Just as political analysts wait until after the speech to comment on what was said, the same formula should apply in this instance. Either tell the listeners you will have running commentary during the press conference, or do as you say and carry it uninterrupted as live "news" coverage.

Yes, the same day brought an athlete gaining unwarranted media attention and broadcasters discrediting live news coverage.

Meanwhile, as Notre Dame football approaches still another season of national TV for every home game and a national radio package (starting this season with ISP Radio replacing Westwood One), as of this writing there is no station in South Bend to carry the local broadcast. WNDV-FM 92.9 and WDND 1490 AM, which had been handling the local broadcasts since 1998, has ended its affiliation with Notre Dame. Both stations were Westwood One affiliates and have also undergone recent format changes. As of now, the closest ISP Sports affiliates are in Michigan City IN and Warsaw IN, neither of which has a strong signal into South Bend. Notre Dame opens again San Diego State on September 6.

Speaking of college football broadcasts the University of Central Florida faces problems having their football games aired in the Orlando market. WQTM 740 previously aired the games, but changed to Spanish after last season. Sports radio WHOO already carries Florida State football and does not have a strong signal around the UCF campus. WFLF 540 already carries the Florida Gators and the Orlando Predators broadcasts in the fall. WORL, a news-talk station, is actually based in Altamonte Springs and would also have signal strength issues. The Spanish station would not have any sports conflicts and offers the strongest signal. That would seem the way to go, rather than a split package which confuses the casual fan.

The University of Virginia has its radio network in place once again for the coming season, but still hasn't named a play-by-play voice. They open against USC the last Saturday in August. Officials were quoted as saying they started with a list of 100 candidates.The University of Washington has its radio package in place, but faces competition from television as the Pac-10 Conference announced that at least 7 of the Huskies games will be televised live for the coming season. This includes the Oklahoma game on ESPN Sept. 13, the Oct. 18 game against Oregon State on Versus, and the Oct. 25 game against Notre Dame on an ESPN Network.

CHICAGO - It has been 12 years since WGN Radio lost the Chicago Bears broadcasts. Yet the station continued its tradition of providing extensive pre and post-game programming for all Bears games over the years. Until now. Bears legend Dan Hampton has been let go by the station after years of analysis before and after every game. There are a number of reasons for the move. It appears that the Bears radio rights are secure with CBS owned WBBM Radio, while sister station WSCR also provides extensive Bears game day coverage. WGN Radio may have decided not to enter the always high bidding stakes for the next Bears contract, feeling strong without a potential loss leader. In addition, the success of the Cubs this season leads to the possibility of post-season baseball in October on WGN, and would likely conflict with Bears "coverage" for additional weeks into October, after what would be strong baseball ratings further into September than usual.

NEW YORK - CBS College Sports will be included as part of Cablevision's Sports Pak beginning later this month. Interesting that quiet negotiations were completed, while the Big Ten Network is still without cable deals in important midwest markets including Chicago.

LOS ANGELES - KLAC 570 will carry San Diego Chargers football broadcasts for the coming season, including all pre-season games. The press release issued added that Chargers "post-season games are also included", as if that is a given.Speaking of "ooops", Channel 13 TV Los Angeles mistakenly cut away from its Angels vs. Oakland A's telecast last Sunday (June 8) before the extra inning game was over. They failed to show the 12th inning A's game winning grand slam because of a movie starting at 5:00 PM. The station blamed this on a communications error on the telecast feed. Oh, the movie was not "Heidi". It was "Smilla's Sense of Snow".

SACRAMENTO - KHTK 1140 has lucked into a unique feature for its 9 PM to Midnight show on occasion. Host "Carmichael Dave" (from the suburb named Carmichael" is a 'super-fan' who now hosts a call-in show. But that isn't the unique feature. What began as a guest shot by the Kings' Ron Artest is now turning into a regular gig for the star forward. Artest has already made 7 appearances on the show since the Kings' season ended. Artest had tried to get on either TNT or ESPN's playoff coverage but was unable to do so. He was able to interview Kobe Bryant for a Fox-TV show recently. His appearances on local radio are being well received, and Artest has demonstrated a keen sense of humor on the air. That's something not often found among athletes turned broadcasters.

SEATTLE - Still no word about the future of the Mariners flagship station after this season, and the team's poor start could delay a decision. KOMO continues to build its news/talk format, but may not wish to keep the Mariners as a loss leader. The station was 19th in the market's ratings in early 2003 when it began broadcasting the Mariners games, and began this baseball season ranked 6th overall.

HOUSTON - Similar situation with the Astros radio rights as the team and Clear Channel continue into their exclusive 90-day negotiation period to extend the current contract. If no agreement is reached, the Astros broadcasts would be up for bidding on a new contract to begin next spring. Unlike the Mariners in Seattle, the Astros have shown signs of contending in the 2nd half of the season.

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