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Posts Tagged ‘Randy Michaels’

WFAN Making the Move to FM in November

In a bold, if not unexpected maneuver, WFAN will make the leap to FM in November. The New York Times columnist Richard Sandomir broke the news via Twitter today.

FishbowlNY first told you about the factors weighing in CBS Radio’s favor to create a WFAN-FM. We speculated that WFAN would be moved “in-house” to either 102.7 FM, home of Fresh 102.7 or NOW FM 92.3.  However, CBS Radio has confirmed its acquisition of Merlin Media’s ill-fated 101.9/WRXP for the purchase price of $75 million.

CBS Radio said in a statement that WFAN will remain on 660 AM with a simulcast on 101.9.

We have the memo from Merlin CEO Randy Michaels to staffers after the jump.

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WEMP Begins the Phase as New Rock 101.9

It’s been more than 24 hours since one of New York City’s worst radio “experiments” officially failed. When the 10 a.m. headlines concluded yesterday, WEMP/101.9 had wrapped up its nearly year-long all-news with one “final story.” The anchor, Gene Michaels, was abruptly cut off saying, “You’re listening…” Dead air ensued for six seconds.

Those who didn’t have their radios on, or tuned to the live stream, missed a faux anchor delivering the final story for FM News.

“It is to announce that a format change is about to occur at 101.9,” the male voice-over person said. “In just a few minutes FM News will become New Rock 101-9. The final line of the final story is this, a special note of thanks to everyone involved in FM News for their passion and support. Sometimes just saying thank you isn’t enough, but in this case, it’ll have to do. Thank you and good bye.”

With the immediate switch to Alternative Rock, 101.9 returns to a format Emmis ran prior to Merlin Media’s arrival last summer. There is no definitive word that this will become the permanent format. There is also speculation that Merlin will move the new version of WEMP to Chicago. It’s too soon to know if Merlin will keep the WEMP call letters. We can only assume that Randy Michaels can’t get rid of the calls fast enough, and lose the bad taste that was WEMP.

We’re told only 10 people were retained as on-air talent for the new station. Until that happens, though, they will provide additional content to the Philadelphia sister station.

The first song played on New Rock 101.9 was the Beastie Boys’ No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn. Thus closing the book on FM News 101.9 in less than 12 months. But it is not without precedent. Just think of Patrick Duffy emerging from the shower to a one-year dream season on Dallas. The dream of WEMP as an FM News station is thankfully over.

News Gone From WEMP, Alternative Music Returns

Staff meetings were held this morning at Merlin Media stations in New York, WEMP, and in Chicago, WIQI. Effective immediately, WEMP has flipped from its ill-fated News format. However, the surprise is, a planned News/Talk hybrid like Merlin is using in Philadelphia, is not happening.

The station is returning to its Emmis roots with 101.9 New Rock, an Alternative rock station.

The handwriting has been on the wall for FM News/WEMP to make a major change, after it was unable to get past a .6 in the ratings. Interestingly, a News/Talk idea gained traction when the station hired Mark Austin Thomas, a veteran of that genre.

Merlin Media CEO Randy Michaels tells All Access, ”It was a difficult decision to make, but after a year of minimal audience engagement, coupled with the format’s inherent expense, I felt it was time to make a change. I’d like to thank the people who poured their heart and soul into the effort and I wish them all the best.”

Update: FishbowlNY has learned from a source close to the situation at WEMP that virtually the entire staff has been let go, including management. News director Thomas, hired in May, and last month Terry Sheridan, brought in from WINS as newsroom manager, also was sent packing. We’re told a several younger editors, and a couple of reporters, siblings Mike Murillo and Michelle Murillo stay on, primarily to gather news for the sister station in Philadelphia. The new Alternative format began just as the 10 a.m. meeting concluded, although without jocks for the time being.

We’re told that the anchors Alice Stockton-Rossini, Catherine Smith, and Dave Packer are among the purged. However, Maria Garcia does remain. She has many years of DJ experience on Long Island.

Breaking: End of Line for Merlin’s WEMP as FM News

Merlin Media is ready to cut its losses as an all-news FM station. FishbowlNY has confirmed the upstart radio company, owned by Randy Michaels, is holding a full staff meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday. We’re told Merlin is also scheduling meetings at its Chicago newser.

Sources tell FishbowlNY that WEMP will become a hybrid News/Talk format, likely modeled after Merlin’s Philadelphia station, IQ 106.9.

Someone with knowledge of the situation says significant layoffs are expected at the meetings.

“They’re expecting the worst because they’ve already seen the worst.” the source tells FishbowlNY

Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting, we’re told that the new format is expected to launch in September. There’s no word if the meetings will expedite the tweaking.

WEMP has had nearly non-existent numbers since taking the 101.9 frequency from Emmis last summer. The station has been stuck at a .6 in recent months.

With endless struggles to find the right sound, several key managers, including VP of programming/news director Liz Aiello, and Merlin COO Walter Sabo, were shown the door by the start of 2012.

In May, WEMP hired Los Angeles News/Talk programming veteran Mark Austin Thomas to take the reigns into year-two.

Sara Lee Kessler Exits FM News 101.9/WEMP

Change is in the air and on the air at the upstart newser 101.9/WEMP. FishbowlNY has learned that veteran broadcaster Sara Lee Kessler has left the station. Kessler, best known for her long-running stint as WWOR/Channel 9 anchor, had been a reporter for WEMP since its inception in August.

One source tells FishbowlNY that Kessler is among several staffers that may be let go due to “outs” in their contracts as Merlin Media is now in a cutback mode.

However, another person with knowledge of the situation was not familiar with any personnel changes, other than Kessler. Additionally, that person could not confirm if Kessler left on her own volition or was squeezed out.

There’s been turmoil at WEMP since signing on last summer. The station has struggled mightily to find an audience, which led to the ouster of VP of programming Liz Aiello earlier this year and COO Walter Sabo in December.

Last week, Randy Michaels and Merlin began the march toward the future, naming Eric Seidel interim program director.

WEMP inched ahead in the January Arbitron ratings to a .7.

Update: FishbowlNY has confirmed that evening anchor Maureen Langan and reporter Bob Brown have also left the station.

Report: Interim Program Director Named at WEMP

It’s been three weeks since WEMP pulled the plug on its programming VP Liz Aiello. A report by NTS MediaOnline says Merlin Media has hired Eric Seidel, a former WGST station manager, to help his former boss Randy Michaels as the WEMP interim program director.

FishbowlNY learned earlier this month that the station was conducting a nationwide search for the next programming head.

The January Arbitron ratings released this week showed a slight uptick for WEMP at .7.

Merlin Media Tries to Work Magic in Finding a New Programming VP at WEMP

The wheels of the Merlin Media’s experimental All-News FM format are still coming off. As we reported over the weekend, WEMP 101.9 VP of programming Liz Aiello was fired Thursday, after just eight months with the company–six with the station firing on all cyclinders.

Updating the story today, FishbowlNY has learned that Merlin has handed the reins to veteran broadcasting exec Al Gardner, recently hired by Randy Michaels to helm a Philadelphia version of WEMP.

Sources also tell FishbowlNY that Merlin is conducting a nationwide for Aiello’s successor.

The ratings for WEMP have been abysmal, .5 in the most recent book, down .1 from the previous month.

There has been upheaval at Merlin Media in recent weeks, if not since first taking the air from Emmis’ WRXP in August.

Walter Sabo was ousted from his position as company COO before year’s end.

Walter Sabo Reportedly Out at as Merlin Media COO

With the clock about to strike midnight on 2011, it also appears to have struck midnight for Walter Sabo as Merlin Media chief operating officer.

Sabo, on his personal LinkedIn page, lists Merlin Media as his employer from May 2011 to December 2011 (8 months). Although, officially he joined the start-up company on June 27.

Merlin Media owns three radio stations, including FM News WEMP 101.9.

Adding further speculation that Sabo’s tenure may have ended with Merlin, the veteran radio programmer places his Merlin position is in the “past” category on LinkedIn.

On LinkedIn, he posts self-created businesses  Sabo Media and Hitviews as current jobs.

FishbowlNY attempted to reach Sabo and a spokesman for Merlin Media to confirm.

Merlin Media launched one of New York City’s first FM all-news stations in August,  a one-part cutting-edge, one-part experimental station.  

WEMP failed to gain ground in the overall December Arbitron ratings with a .6.  

Randy Michaels acquired WEMP and two other stations from Emmis in June.

Disgraced LA Times Parent Co. Exec Benefits from More Bankruptcy Nonsense

According to documents filed yesterday in bankruptcy court, the Tribune Company felt it would face protracted litigation from former VP & CEO Randy Michaels if it chose to contest his wrongful 2010 termination and bonus-due claims. (He was asked to resign last fall after allegations of workplace impropriety.) As a result, the company has decided to cough up $657,000 of the $900,000 he sought, plus $50,000 in legal expenses.

It’s not quite a done dunce-deal, as the bankruptcy court must still approve the settlement agreement. But it is more bad news for the corporate image of the LA Times parent; although layoffs at the paper have continued to occur since Michaels departed in a cloud of controversy, he gets to collect the equivalent of six plus years in star reporter salary.

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Merlin Media Founder Randy Michaels Arrested on DUI

Randy Michaels, who is no stranger to controversy, has been arrested north of Cincinnati on driving under the influence charges. Various reports say, the man who helped launch Merlin Media in June, was pulled over in a muddy construction area near Interstate 75  early this morning.

The Middletown, Ohio police report says Michaels, whose real name is Benjamin Homel, smelled of alcohol and was unable to perform sobriety tests.

He is scheduled to appear in court next Friday.

Michaels was ousted as Tribune CEO last year amid complaints into his behavior began to circulate.

Startup news station WEMP is part of the Michaels’ Merlin Media portfolio.

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