Best selection of radio Christmas music

Best Christmas music

It bothers me that so many young people who are connected to the world via their smart phones still chose to listen to whatever generic, “PPM friendly” Christmas station is available via terrestrial. In Chicago, everyone flocks to Clear Channel’s WLIT-FM (93.9). Many of these people probably aren’t aware of the better alternatives available and that they can utilize them via their smart phone, even while driving. Many of these free alternatives have far expanded playlist and are either commercial free or have limited commercials.

Below is a list of some of my favorite sources for Christmas music.

AccuRadio has a variety of different Christmas channels via live stream. With dedicated channels for classic, jazz, children, country, etc., you’re sure to find a channel just right for you.

My favorite might be the Sky.FM Christmas Channel. The playlist varies from new to classic. What makes this station very unique is the many different versions of songs that I have never heard of before. There is also a higher emphasis on the more relaxed type of Christmas songs, which is why I listen to Sky.FM’s channel the most.

WLRA-FM, the Lewis University student-run station. From Thanksgiving to New Years Day each year, the station runs 24/7 commercial free Christmas music. Their playlist includes a mix of modern and classic songs. Promotional messages are played a handful of times each hour promoting the United Way of Will County. The station stream is available on popular radio apps such as iHeartRadio and Tune In Radio, via the WLRA mobile app or via the Lewis University website. Of course, for anyone in the Romeoville/Joliet area, you can listen on the dial on 88.1 FM.

SiriusXM has their own collection of fun Christmas channels, as well. Much like AccuRadio, SiriusXM has a selection of dedicated Christmas channels. These are also commercial free.

Google Play Music All Access and Spotify
Of course you can’t go wrong with full customization and the open-ended exploration provided by any of the music streaming services.

Please, people. If you have a smart phone or are by a computer all-day, spare yourself from the typical terrestrial garbage of a WLIT or any other Christmas radio station plagued with an abundance of commercials and a limited playlist.

By no means is the above list the end-all for good Christmas music listening. If you know of any other options worth considering, please share it by posting a comment below.

Cumulus drops Geraldo from syndication: Potential opening for Mike Huckabee?

According to a report by Inside Radio, Cumulus Media is pulling the plug on Geraldo Rivera’s (semi) syndicated program. Rivera airs on a handful of Cumulus stations, including WABC-AM (New York), KABC-AM (Los Angeles) and WOKI-FM (Knoxville, TN) from 8 to 11 a.m. CT.

Come January 2014, Rivera’s show will be heard as a local program in the New York City market exclusively on WABC.

While Cumulus has not announced a replacement for Rivera’s remaining stations, I’m wondering if Cumulus moves Mike Huckabee’s syndicated program to that slot since his current 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. CT show runs head-to-head against Rush Limbaugh. With Limbaugh staying put on most of his Cumulus news/talk affiliates, how much exposure does the Huckabee currently get? He would get more exposure on Cumulus stations in the 8 to 11 a.m. CT slot.

At the moment, this story has no implication on WLS-AM 890, the Cumulus news/talk station in Chicago. Assuming Cumulus does decide to replace Rivera with another syndicated talker, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if that person ends up on WLS sometime in 2014.

Milt Rosenberg back on WGN, joins Garry Meier

Milt Rosenberg was back on WGN-AM 720 yesterday, marking his first time on the station since his final “Extension 720” program on Dec. 20 last year. Rosenberg was on Garry Meier’s afternoon show to discuss the JFK assassination 50 years later, as well as his on-going podcast via

The podcast launched on May 16, is guest-driven, as “Extension 720” was, minus live callers. New podcasts are typically posted once or twice each week.

I had been thinking Rosenberg might be another great WGN comeback story, ala Kathy and Judy, Steve Cochran and Rick Kogan. Somewhat curious as to why that may not have happened, even if Rosenberg were to do only one night a week.

The Rosenberg and Meier discussion is podcasted on the WGN website…


SiriusXM P.O.T.U.S. channel leaves me wanting more

Politico’s Dylan Byers reports that NBC News journalist and MSNBC host Chuck Todd will soon have his own weekly Saturday show on the SiriusXM P.O.T.U.S. channel. The new program, Unscripted with Chuck Todd, will allow the host to discuss key political issues at greater depth, minus the restraints that come with television.

While I’m pleased by this, the addition of one weekend show doesn’t solve the programming hole P.O.T.U.S. has Monday through Friday once the sun goes down. Once Julie Mason’s live Press Pool broadcast concludes at 5 p.m. CT, it’s all repeat programming of either Mason or the Michael Smerconish Program from earlier in the day until Tim Farley’s Morning Briefing the next day.

I suppose it’s fair to assume P.O.T.U.S. isn’t the most profitable channel for SiriusXM, so going with repeat programming near the end of the day saves a lot of money that they may not make back. By 8 or 9 p.m. though, a Smerconish show from 12 hours ago is sometimes dated if the topic he’s discussing has newer details. I do love the idea of Smerconish’s long-form discussion and think a similar style program live in the evenings would be the perfect fit.

The sole reason I signed up for SirusXM this past summer was for their P.O.T.U.S. channel. I enjoy the free-flow of political conversation that is absent from the stench of partisan agenda. I wish we had more non-partisan political programs options via podcasting or on terrestrial radio.

Jerry Agar mentions blog post about his NewsTalk 1010 show

NewsTalk 1010 in TorontoI would like to thank Jerry Agar for referencing this blog on his CFRB-AM/NewsTalk 1010 radio show earlier today (as well as on his own blog). NewsTalk 1010 is by and large the WLS-AM 890 or WGN-AM 720 of Toronto, if not Ontario. It is a mega radio station in Canada with a lot of reach and heritage.

Agar, a former Chicago radio host at both WLS and WGN, was referencing the piece I wrote last week about him comparing Toronto politics, and more specifically Mayor Rob Ford, versus the political nonsense that Illinois is long known for.  In that piece, I mentioned that NewsTalk 1010 is the type of news/talk station I wish we had in Chicago. NewsTalk 1010, both on air and online, trumps most of the various talk stations in the U.S.

You can listen the audio from Jerry Agar’s show using the player below (approximately two minutes).

Awfully awkward: How else would I attempt to describe tonight’s Fox 32 newscast?

Craig Wall, Fox 32 News Chicago

Fox 32’s Craig Wall covering storm damage, live in Washington, IL. Minutes later, he was back in studio for a “Chicago’s Most Wanted” segment.

I don’t know what the hell I just watched, but apparently, it was supposed to be a primetime newscast in the nation’s third largest market.

Well, WFLD-TV/Fox 32 sure had me fooled…

– Tammie Souza’s recap of today’s severe weather was plagued with 30 to 40 seconds of on-and-off audio crumbling.

– While reporter Craig Wall went blue on camera during a newscast last week (figuratively, of course), tonight he was in two places at nearly the same time. Near the bottom-half of the newscast, Wall was live at Washington, IL reporting on storm damage; minutes later, he was in studio for the Chicago’s Most Wanted segment, without any acknowledgement of Wall’s alleged super human powers (or that the segment was previously recorded).

– With severe weather seemingly front and center on most people’s mind, it seemed highly appropriate that Fox 32, smack dab in the middle of the broadcast, would air a feature on a “pot sniffer” in Colorado — a story with no relevance or interest to anyone watching in Chicago, on this night or any night.

– A promo for “Good Day Chicago” and its host Corey McPherrin aired, just before returning to a live McPherrin who was co-anchoring tonight’s newscast. It’s also fitting that Fox 32 would air the promo considering he soon won’t even be on “Good Day Chicago.”

If anyone’s face should be changing colors, it should be Fox 32 General Manager Dennis Welsh and News Director Tom Doerr. Their faces ought to be red with embarrassment.

Granted, I’m not a regular viewer of Fox 32 News, so the chance does exist that I have it all wrong. Tonight’s shenanigans could very well just be “business as usual.”

Media Bits & Bytes (11/11/13)

Tim Armstrong profile… Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson wrote a fascinating profile of AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. The profile illustrates his rise at Google, AOL recruiting him as CEO and the renewed optimism that followed, his founding and subsequent attachment to Patch and the lead up to his public firing of Abel Lenz during a conference call in August.

I can’t recommend this piece enough, if not so much from a media standpoint, than from a business and technology end. The most interesting element was the narration of Armstrong’s “war” against Jeffrey Smith, an “activist shareholder” poised to turn AOL’s shareholders against Armstrong and his chosen board of directors. The piece left me second guessing on whether Armstrong is the asshole I previously said he was.

The piece is very, very long, but well worth the time.

’60 Minutes’/Benghazi goof… Politico’s Dylan Byers examines last night’s “60 Minutes” on-air apology about a previous report concerning Dylan Davies’ allegedly false account for what happened in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.

Second link of interest…
Politico Opinion: ’60 Minutes’ must do more than apologies

Art Bell in limbo… A week ago, Art Bell quit his SiriusXM “Dark Matter” program after only six weeks. The story has gotten further complicated since then. Bell has been shedding light on the situation on the message board. Bell is willing to return to the show, having proposed to SiriuxXM that his salary be waived in favor of allowing the show to stream for free via his website, He is yet to hear back and is now beginning to think there is something else at play. As always, on or off the air, Art Bell never fails to stir up mystique.

Pastor back at ESPN 1000… Robert Feder had the late Friday exclusive concerning management restructure involving various Disney-owned ESPN Radio stations, including Chicago’s WMVP-AM/ESPN 1000. In a nutshell, former ESPN 1000 General Manager Jim Paster will once again be overseeing the station along with (as well as local ESPN Radio stations and websites in New York and Los Angeles).

It’s too bad Dan McNeil is currently off air on rival WSCR-AM/670 The Score. McNeil has long resented Pastor dating back to his ESPN 1000 days, going as far as holding an on air celebration on The Score after Pastor left ESPN 1000 in Oct. 2009. Would have been interesting to hear McNeil react to Pastor coming back.

Cubs exercise out for WGN-TV… In 2010, WGN-TV Ch. 9 had an awesome commercial for their Chicago Cubs broadcasts. It was a montage of various Cubs play-by-play voices through the years on WGN, with the final sound bite coming from the then broadcast team of Len Kasper and Bob Brenly. The commercial ended with the words “Together Forever,” signifying how deep the relationship between the team and television channel was.

Ed Sherman explains why Chicago Cubs have exercised their right to WGN-TV after the 2014 season — unless WGN ponies up a lot of cash. “Together forever” may still apply, but only if the price is right for the Cubs.

The same Sherman link above also details Keith Moreland’s decision to leave the Cubs radio analyst job at WGN-AM 720.

Welcome back Grote… Mark Grote was back on 670 The Score this morning delivering updates during the “Mulli & Hanley” morning show. Grote has been off the air for several weeks while dealing with a personal issue.

Former WLS host Jerry Agar busy as ever thanks to Rob Ford and the Toronto political scene

Jerry Agar, News/Talk Radio Host

Jerry Agar

Rob Ford has been a lightning rod for controversy and high political drama since his rise to Toronto mayor in 2010. It’s only appropriate that Ford’s accent to the top came shortly after the arrival of Jerry Agar, talk radio’s own lightning rod for high political drama.

Agar spent a few years in Chicago, primarily as a midday host at WLS-AM 890 from Dec. 2006 to Oct. 2008. After WLS management made the foolish decision to remove Agar in favor of Erich “Mancow” Muller, he spent the better part of a year as a weekend and occasional weekday fill-in host at WGN-AM 720.  Since Feb. 2010, he’s been hosting the late morning midday show on CFRB-AM/NewsTalk 1010 in Toronto.

Considering his familiarity with the political shenanigans that Illinois is known for, I asked Agar how covering Mayor Ford and the Toronto political scene compares to his time in Chicago:

Nothing compares to covering Rob Ford. That is for two reasons. One is the man himself.  He is a walking headline. He is bomb ready to go off on a daily basis. I lost count of how many days there have been when I had a whole show planned and it went out the window because of the mayor and the need to talk about him — and I go on the air at 9 a.m. (ET). The other reason is that there are people [in] the media here, particularly the Toronto Star that have a visceral hatred for him. They spend all of their time it seems trying to bring him down. They claim righteous credit now, but they were after him before he got elected, so their practice of hounding his mother, hiding in the bushes at the family cottage and misreporting some stories on him is shameful.

Agar is a vocal and passionate talker who can easily rile up listeners who disagree with his conservative and libertarian views. Known for his sometimes lack of patience and tendency to raise his voice, it’s easy to assume that Agar is always angry. It didn’t take long for Agar’s brand of conservatism to get under the skin of some Torontonians.

Agar added:

What is fascinating is that he has actually accomplished some of the things he went to city hall to do. He reigned in spending, contracted out garbage collection to a private operator (for savings and fewer complaints about service) and pushed through a subway plan no one else could get done. He also got a contract done with the unions with no strikes, which is something his lefty predecessors could not do.

Certainly, such opinions are what his liberal listeners would take exception to on a daily basis.

For the record, I should state that having talked to a handful of people who have previously worked with Agar, he is typically known as a sincerely nice guy who is genuinely passionate about his political beliefs and that he truly believes in what he says on the air. A news anchor having worked with him in Chicago described Agar as a “real riot” while prepping for his show.

It was Agar’s high level of discussion and his ability to eloquently state an opinion that drew me to his WLS and WGN shows — even if I often found myself in disagreement with him. It’s that same level of discussion and passion that continues to draw me to his NewsTalk 1010 show in Toronto.  Even though I’ve never been to Toronto, nor do I have any ties with Canada, I can tune into an Agar show, having no familiarity with the issue being discussed, and instantly get pulled. I’ve found myself tuning into Agar the following day or listening to other NewsTalk 1010 hosts to see how an issue has progressed.

NewsTalk 1010 is the news/talk station that I wish we had in Chicago — a live and local station featuring a mix of conservative and liberal hosts that discuss the relevant news of the day. While the station excels on air, their web presence surpasses just about every other radio station in the United States. While their website design is decent and the navigation is very simple to operate, it is their high level of original content that greatly compliments the on air product. The website features an abundance of daily blogs and video features from station personalities, as well as a full archive of show podcasts.

While Chicago is lucky to WGN, which has gone back to playing up to its all live and all local strengths, it has become extremely soft by adopting a less controversial tone of conversation in exchange for a more friendly and general type of talk. I am not taking away from what WGN is doing today though — the station has assembled a variety of hosts, with different styles and credentials. The fact WGN falls short in the category of serious news/talk is purely strategic.

WLS, meanwhile, continues to make a half-assed effort. Asides from the “Roe & Roeper” show, the rest of their local lineup doesn’t come anywhere close to the level that Agar and the late Don Wade (with his wife Roma) brought each day. In addition, the absurd level of commercials and the continued “Traffic and Weather, First on the Five’s” routine makes it very hard to hear enough of Roe’s afternoon show to make it worth the effort. I wish WLS’s ownership, Cumulus, would try more of an outside the box approach, similar to what NewsTalk 1010 does, as opposed to the same cookie cutter, local conservative programming mixed in with syndicated conservative programming. In the case of WLS, they are lucky to have three live and local shows, compared to smaller markets which may only have one, if that.

Agar seems to be doing well in Toronto. In addition to his radio show, he is a columnist at the Toronto Sun and appears regularly on television via Sun News. While I often wish he was still in Chicago, I’m happy for his success in Toronto.

Agar can be heard live each weekday from 8 to 11 a.m. CT via the NewsTalk 1010 website or on mobile via the TuneIn app. I typically listen to his podcasts via the station’s website. To learn more about Agar and how he dissects doing talk radio in Canada versus the United States, I recommend his 2010 interview with the “Radiogirl” Margaret Larkin.

Worth your time: In-depth profile on Sun-Times Media Chairman Michael Ferro

Today’s recommended reading is in-depth profile of Sun-Times Media Chairman Michael Ferro (with his cooperation) from Bryan Smith of Chicago Magazine. Highly worth the time for anyone interested in journalism and the future of journalism, specifically at it pertains to Chicago.

Though this piece is from October, I had finally just gotten around to it yesterday thanks to a Facebook friend posting the same piece on her timeline.

I get the sense Ferro is more of a one-trick pony, as it pertains to his previous success. Certainly not feeling any better about the Sun-Times’ future…

On a somewhat related note, the Chicago Newspaper Guild came out yesterday stating its intention to exhaust all legal options against the Sun-Times in attempting to block another round of layoffs expected in early 2014, reports Robert Feder.

While commenting about the Guild’s position on their own website,  executive director Craig Rosenbaum makes this highly relevant (if not also obvious) statement worth repeating here.

. . . from a practical standpoint, I really cannot see how the Sun-Times can put out a viable product with any further layoffs in its editorial department.