Thursday, August 11, 2016

8.11.16 Bee-otches of the Day: Heritage Broadcasting and Northern Star Broadcasting

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Names: Heritage Broadcasting, Northern Star Broadcasting
Ages: 33, 18
Occupation: northern Michigan broadcasters
Last Seen: Cadillac, MI, Traverse City, MI
Bee-otched For: putting themselves first over employees

In the world of broadcasting, people define "evil" with words such as "Clear Channel", "Comcast", "Cumulus" and "Fox".

People think that northern Michigan is pretty damn lucky. Most of the radio stations up north are indeed locally owned and even two of the four major TV stations, CBS WWTV 9&10 and WFQX Fox 32 are locally operated by Heritage Broadcasting.

But just because a TV or radio station is proud to be "100% locally owned and operated" doesn't mean that they'll take wonderful care of their workers.

Right now, two broadcasters - Heritage and Northern Star Broadcasting, the owner of Classic Rock The Bear, Big Country, EZ 95-5/106-3 and Rock 105 - are being sued by ex-employees claiming that they spat in their faces for having some type of disability.  The website reported on the lawsuits last week.

First off, Heritage. Last month, former station General Manager Bill Kring filed a suit against Heritage, which is owned by Mario Iacobelli, which has owned WWTV since 1989 and WFQX since 2007. Kring alleges that the station fired him because he was on medical leave, a violation of the Family Leave Act. Kring was placed on leave earlier this year because he begged a female employee to take her clothes off while he was staying at the Grand Traverse Resort in a room reserved by Heritage as part of the company Christmas party. Kring attended a meeting in Iacobelli's condominium in Cadillac that was also attended by his son Peter and a close Iacobelli friend, 9&10 News Director Kevin Dunaway. The three agreed to have Kring seek counseling during his leave. Kring's doctor claimed that he did suffer from mild depression and mild anxiety. After Kring's 90-day leave, the station promptly fired him. Now, Kring is suing the station, claiming that they violated the Family and Medical Leave Act saying that they didn't give him the full benefits he was entitled to. He is now suing the company for damages.

Amazingly enough, while GM at Heritage, Kring had a salary of $375,000 per year. Plus, the station gave him a BMW. Yet, many of 9&10's employees were being paid in peanuts.

Then, there's Northern Star. Also last month, former ad salesperson Kimberlee McCardell filed a lawsuit against the company because she was let go because of a disability she suffered from a car accident five years ago. McCardell suffered a serious brain injury from the accident that left her unable to multitask and unable to concentrate. She did seek a physician to help and took a two week leave of absence. However, company GM Mary Reynolds fired her as a result.

The suit claims that McCardell wants to be paid until she is 67 years old, back pay, attorney's fees and so on.

However, Northern Star won't be around much longer.

Recently, Mary and her husband Del announced that they are selling Northern Star to Black Diamond Broadcasting, based out of the Detroit area for a little south of $2 million. The reason for the sale is because Mary herself has had some health issues, suffering several strokes and a broken neck. Maybe if Ms. McCardell wins her suit, the Reynoldses will pony up a few bucks for her.

You know, I've never been totally fond of Mario Iacobelli nor the programming skills of Del Reynolds. First off, I feel sadly embarrassed that 9&10 was my local CBS affiliate growing up. They did gain brownie points in the late 90s by airing the Howard Stern Radio Show Saturday nights, but canceling the show for (drumroll please) INFOMERCIALS! Even worse, some of the infomericals were from the good 'ol NRA, which aired just WEEKS after the Columbine shootings. Stay classy, 9&10.

9&10 has been known for occasionally pre-empting CBS programming, especially during an election year. In 2006, the station even pre-empted a documentary about 9/11, claiming that they "would be fined $10 million by the FCC", yet, they apparently aired a movie and loaded the ad spots with political ads.

Let's bear in mind that 9&10 is in a "shared services agreement" with crosstown Fox 32, which is owned by some guy in Arizona. Rumor has it that the man is a close pal of Mario's and is paying him to be the de facto owner of the station. Heritage programs, sells ads and does newscasts on Fox 32. Some of the paid programs on Fox 32 include religious shows such as The 700 Club and Kenneth Copeland, who both use religion to scare people into giving them money to feed their luxurious lifestyles. Legally, Heritage cannot own two TV stations in northern Michigan because the market is too small per FCC guidelines.

Now, I know that a lot of folks think that the Reynoldses are nice, caring people. But sadly, they lovingly pissed off the hard rock and metal community a few years ago when they shitcanned their most-popular station, Real Rock 105 and 95-5 for simply Rock 105. They canned the popular Free Beer and Hot Wings show and replaced it with Cartman, who sounds like a puker Top 40 jock (and under the name "Fife", he just is, too).  95.5, of course is now "EZ 95-5", which has no real buzz in northern Michigan. Personally, I think Rock 105 is the blandest active rock station in Michigan. They wait too long to add any new rock and I swear to God, every time I listen to their web stream, they're playing "Heavy is the Head" by Zac Brown Band. You know there's other songs out there, right guys?

It's not known what will happen to the NSB stations when Black Diamond takes over, but they do own two stations in the Houghton Lake area: WUPS 98.5 and 92.1 The Twister. I know one of the guys from BD is a former exec from WRIF in Detroit, so who knows?

All I can say is that I'm happy that there's FINALLY some new blood ready to kick in up north with Black Diamond, but from the looks of things, the Iacobellis may own 9&10 and Fox 32 forever. Besides, they're remodeling a building south of Cadillac by US-131 that will house their new studios. This will of course end 50 years of employees driving all the way to the middle of nowhere and parking under the tower, dodging falling ice chunks as the snow melts from the tower in the springtime.

At least the Iacobellis are doing something right.

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