WIBC-FM reporter Berman, 7 other Emmis employees lose jobs prior to sale of radio stations

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Emmis Corporation HQ
The headquarters of Emmis Corporation on Monument Circle. (IBJ photo/Dave Lindquist)

Emmis Corp. dismissed eight employees, including longtime WIBC-FM 93.1 reporter Eric Berman, on Wednesday in advance of a sale of the company’s Indianapolis radio stations to Urban One, the Maryland-based firm that owns WTLC-FM 106.7 among its local holdings.

According to an internal memo obtained by IBJ, Berman was the only on-air employee who lost a job. Other staff members worked in marketing, IT and online content creation. Berman reported on politics and served as the station’s Indiana Statehouse bureau chief. He was with WIBC for 28 years.

“I’m beyond grateful for my time at Emmis,” Berman said in text to IBJ.

Berman tweeted Wednesday afternoon: “Some personal news: this morning my tenure at WIBC came to an end. For 28 years, it has been my privilege to bring you fair and detailed coverage of news affecting Hoosiers’ lives, and I hope you’ll stick around for whatever comes next.”

The memo indicated that Emmis Corp., a newly adopted name for the Indianapolis company previously known as Emmis Communications Corp., made the personnel moves because Urban One doesn’t have positions for the workers in its post-acquisition plans.

Emmis confirmed the dismissals in an official company statement:

“Today, Emmis notified eight individuals that their positions have been eliminated. Impacted individuals are being provided severance and offered insurance coverage. These are difficult days, and we wish them nothing but success.”

In a deal announced in June and pending approval by the Federal Communications Commission, Emmis will sell WIBC, WYXB-FM 105.7 (B105), WLHK-FM 97.1 (Hank FM), WFNI-FM 93.5 and 107.5 (both known as The Fan) and Network Indiana, which provides news, talk and sports programming to more than 70 stations in Indiana, to Urban One for $25 million.

The projected roster of Indianapolis radio stations owned by Urban One:

  • WIBC-FM 93.1 (news and talk);
  • WFNI-FM 93.5 and 107.5 (Colts games, Pacers games and sports talk);
  • WLHK-FM 97.1 (country music);
  • WNOW-FM 100.9 FM (expected to be the new home for Urban One’s hip-hop music format following the sale of WHHH-FM 96.3 to the Bible Broadcasting Network);
  • La Grande 105.1 (Regional Mexican music);
  • WYXB-FM 105.7 (adult contemporary music);
  • WTLC-FM 106.7 (R&B music);
  • WTLC-AM 1310 (Gospel music).

No company is allowed to own more than five FM stations or five AM stations in Indianapolis. The Fan stations and La Grande are broadcast via translators, and translator stations are not counted as FM stations for the purpose of the FCC’s multiple ownership rule.

Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins recently told IBJ that he expects the FCC to deliver its ruling on the transaction this month.

During a May interview with IBJ, Taja Graham, Indianapolis market president for Emmis, said more than 100 employees work for the radio stations and Network Indiana.

Aside from getting out of the radio business in Indianapolis, Emmis remains the owner of Indianapolis Monthly magazine and two radio station licenses in New York City, plus multiple ventures focused on sales and marketing.

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23 thoughts on “WIBC-FM reporter Berman, 7 other Emmis employees lose jobs prior to sale of radio stations

  1. 28 years of loyal service and then summarily fired because the new owner couldn’t think of an appropriate position for for someone with that much experience. That just stinks.

  2. WIBC isn’t really much of a newsgathering organization anymore as much as it is “talk” (current events opinions) radio, but it’s sad to read that the final vestige of that station’s legacy is over.

  3. I have been a long-time listener to WLHK-FM 97.1, especially in the mornings, and I loved hearing Mindy Winkler and co-host on the air. Last week I tuned in and Mindy was not on the air. The new gal didn’t have Mindy’s pizzazz, nor did she have that morning energy to get me from home to work. I was so very disappointed. I tried for two more days to “tune in” to the new gal and finally decided I needed to find a new station. Congratulations Emmis Corp., if you were trying to run off listeners you succeeded. It’s not just the music that people tune to 97.1 for but rather the engagement and the new gal is simply missing the mark.

  4. This is a huge loss to Indianapolis and the entire state. Eric Berman is brilliant and one of the most knowledgeable reporters to ever grace the Indiana statehouse. I hope a local news operation has the good sense, and luck, to pick him up before he is snapped up elsewhere. Best of luck to you, Eric Berman. May your next act be even more fulfilling than the present one.

  5. Eric Berman was one of the few on-air employees with credibility. Huge loss for WIBC listeners and continues that once proud and respected station’s descent into being a continual object of ridicule.

  6. Another blow for local news and the art form of radio news reporting. This is what happens when companies sell, especially in broadcasting. The older and more experienced you are, the less attractive you are to the future plans. What a shame for a storied radio station that has already seen its news legacy cut back over the years. Best of luck, Eric.

  7. Eric Berman’s text response is ample evidence that he is a true professional. I’m confident he will pick up and continue his successful career and have many listeners.

  8. Indianapolis needs MORE news reporters, not fewer. Losing Eric Berman’s coverage at the State House is huge loss to our community. It takes years to establish the relationships and institutional knowledge that make a reporter an effective news gatherer. The State House is a very complicated and dynamic place with dozens of plates spinning in the air at the same time. Somehow Eric negotiates his way through all of that confusion to make sense of the State House news scene.

    We need his expertise and energy at the State House. I SO hope some other news outlet HERE scoops him up. We can’t afford to lose him.

  9. I have such respect for Eric Berman, his professionalism and coverage of political issues at the State House will be missed. I don’t understand the logic behind this decision and know that Eric will land on his feet and for the better. This just shows no matter who you are or how good you are at what you do corporations will do what they feel works best for them, the bottom dollar, and stakeholders without any concern for employees. I am sure they said, “this is not personal it is just business”. Nothing good last forever.

  10. I hate to say it, and they will NEVER admit it, but age discrimination is a real possibility here. I have faced it myself as have others.
    In our society, age and experience are often deemed a liability.
    The trouble is, where do you go from here when you will have a hard time “just starting over” which isn’t nearly as easy when you are the older person.

    1. Let’s hope so. Eric provides facts while those other two spew unsupported, one-sided opinions.

  11. I quit listening to commercial radio years ‘n years ago…SiriusXM is the way to go – after the exceptionally generous trial it’s less than $0.60/day and can be played in your car and just about anything connected to the Internet (including smart speakers). [Commercial Radio]: Play 2 songs, 5 minutes of commercials, play 1 song, 3 minutes of commercials, ad nauseam. And if you want sports, most of the games/matches have two stations: 1 for the home team, the other for the away.