Is this the end of conservative talk radio on WTMJ-AM 620? The Milwaukee Business Journal reported Friday morning that Scripps has sold their radio operations WTMJ-AM (620) and WKTI-FM (94.5) to Craig Karmazin, the owner of Good Karma, the parent company of Milwaukee’s ESPN sports-talk station WAUK-AM (540).
WTMJ-AM is the former home to noted conservative author and media personality Charlie Sykes, a former editor of RightWisconsin. WTMJ-AM is currently home to two conservative talk radio personalities, Steve Scaffidi and Jeff Wagner.
In addition to Karmazin’s background in sports talk radio, putting the conservative talk radio format at WTMJ-AM at risk is the new owner’s political leanings. In a memo from Edge Messaging owner Brian Fraley to his clients, obtained by RightWisconsin, Karmazin’s ties to the Democratic party are spelled out.
“A quick check of FEC data indicates Good Karma’s owner, Craig Karamzin, is a major Democratic donor whose support for political campaigns include donations to President Obama, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Dan Kohl, the Democrat currently challenging Republican Congressman Glenn Grothman,” Fraley wrote to his clients. “A look at his record of donating to state candidates here shows he’s been a frequent contributor to Milwaukee [mayor] Tom Barrett and former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle.”
However, Fraley predicts that Karamzin will not try to create a liberal talk radio station in the Milwaukee market at WTMJ-AM.
“That format has not proved to be profitable and I would be very surprised if Good Karma would take this incredible asset that is WTMJ and fritter away its value with such a move,” Fraley said. “So while any forecasting as to the direction of the heritage radio station is pure speculation at this point, I would not be surprised to see WTMJ evolve into a 24-hour news station, that also broadcasts live sports as the flagship of the Brewers, Packers and Bucks. That would be a smart business move.”
An acquaintance of mine familiar with the Milwaukee media market — let’s call him Deep Voice — predicts that some of WTMJ’s current voices may be out the door because WTMJ apparently has a lot of high salaries. Deep Voice also thinks there miight be changes at WKTI, whose ratings haven’t been great since its change from its adult-hits format and name The Lake. WKTI was rated 10th in the market in June, and second among country stations.
Good Karma owns WAUK (540 AM) in Milwaukee and WTLX (100.5) in Columbus, branded as “ESPN Milwaukee” and “ESPN Madison,” respectively, along with WBEV (1430 AM) and WXRO (95.3 FM) in Beaver Dam. Karmazin’s thing appears to be sports, given the several ESPN affiliate stations he owns, and getting WTMJ, the originating station of the Packers, Brewers and Bucks, seems like an expansion of that concept. Karmazin’s statement on WBEV/WXRO’s website says:
“The heritage, prestige, and team at the stations, in addition to their incredible sports partnerships, fit our commitment to provide best-in-class opportunities for our teammates, content for our fans, and solutions for our marketing partners.”
Karmazin formerly owned what now is WRRD (1510 AM), which calls itself Resistance Radio, in Milwaukee, which is simulcasted on WTTN (1580) in Columbus. It’s not clear if Karmazin still owns WTTN.
Two thoughts come to mind. Good Karma might be hesitant to make wholesale changes given that WTMJ is the second rated station in the market, and is not really likely to be able to make format changes to get to number one. (Number one is a classic hits station, and WTMJ isn’t going back to music.) Those concerned about the possible loss of Scaffidi and Wagner still have a conservative-talk station, WISN (1130 AM), which has twice the conservative talkers in Jay Weber, Vicki McKenna (also heard in Madison), Dan O’Donnell and Mark Belling.