December 12th, 2005

WIBA Sells Name of Its Newsroom to a Business

By Melanie Conklin
Wisconsin State Journal

It’s been done with stadiums, pools and concert halls. Now, in an unusual move, Madison’s WIBA radio station has sold the naming rights to its newsroom.

Beginning Jan. 1, the WIBA newsroom will be called the Amcore Bank News Center.

"This simply means they get ‘name branding’ with the description of the news center on air," confirmed Jeff Tyler, vice president of Clear Channel Radio-Madison, which owns WIBA-AM 1310 and FM 101.5. "What listeners will hear on air is something like, ‘Now from the Amcore Bank News Center, here’s WIBA’s Jennifer Miller.’• "

Tyler and Amcore would not divulge what was paid for naming rights. But Tyler said "there are many examples of this in broadcasting and in other industries, from stadiums to business schools." Clear Channel Milwaukee’s WISN-AM 1130 sold its newsroom naming rights to Pyramax Bank last year.

"WIBA-AM 1310 is a market- leading radio station, and having the Amcore name associated with a station that has significant listeners helps us in building brand awareness," said Amcore Bank regional president Jim Hartlieb.

Tyler said the deal will not affect news content.

Kelly McBride, a journalism ethics trainer for the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., opposed the plan. "The idea is that a newsroom is an advocate for the public," McBride said. "It’s Madison’s news, not Amcore’s news. If you have corporate branding, that is going to taint the whole product as a marketing product."

But James Baughman, professor and director of UW- Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said he’s not disturbed by the sale. He said it’s a return to broadcast practices of the 1950s, a topic he’s exploring for his next book.

"From 1948 to 1956 the NBC nightly news was the Camel News Caravan," said Baughman. The name was tied to a cigarette manufacturer. "They even had a rule that they would not show a cigar or a ‘no smoking’ sign on air, although they made an exception for Winston Churchill."

Baughman said naming rights are part of a broader media trend. "Clear Channel is trying to maximize its profits. Advertisers are trying to find new ways of getting their brand out there. We’re going to be seeing more of this."

And Tyler said the high cost of producing quality news necessitates such an arrangement.

"WIBA-AM 1310 continues to have one of the largest radio news staff for a market our size in the country," Tyler said. "Having such resources is an expensive proposition."

WIBA news also is heard on five other Clear Channel stations in the Madison area.

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