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The Finebaum Zone?


The news that Cox Media Group is selling its Birmingham radio stations (including 97.3 The Zone), only days after the group and station reaffirmed their commitment to lure Paul Finebaum after his contract with Cumulus and WJOX expires, is the stuff of Friday afternoon confusion.

For the past year, Finebaum has been involved in a lawsuit with Citadel Broadcasting, and then Cumulus Media, who purchased Citadel, trying to get out of his contract.  He claimed the Citadel breached the contract after declaring bankruptcy and forcing Finebaum to alter his contract and accept less revenues.  Most observers expected that a move to Cox/Zone was in the works.

A settlement between Finebaum and Cumulus was announced this past Monday, with Cox Media then reaffirming its desire to sign Finebaum when his contract ended in January 2013.

But all that is up in the air with the latest news from Cox.  Statements on al.com by David DuBose, vice president and market manager for Cox in Birmingham, do nothing to address the Finebaum issue.  DuBose, a long-time fixture in Birmingham radio, announced an intent to put together a group to buy the stations, which definitely indicates he might not be in Cox’s long-term plans once they leave the Birmingham market.

And Finebaum was lying low.  Whether by plan or by last-minute consequence of the announcement, was broadcasting repeats of interviews from SEC Media Days.

It is not surprising the Cox Media would time the announcement that way.  Dropping bombshells on Friday afternoon, giving leadership a weekend to run for cover, is a popular public relations strategy — though its effectiveness is debatable.

For the past few months, the Zone has featured an afternoon program with Auburn alum Rachel Baribeau, first paired with Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky (who has been moved to a morning show) and then with Coach Max Howell.

No announcement has been made regarding that or any of The Zone’s programs.  But Baribeau had some good news of her own earlier this week.  She announced that she will be working as a sideline reporter for CSS Sports Conference USA football games.

But as for the future of the Paul Finebaum Show?  I guess we will have to wait until Monday.

Thanks to Kenny Smith (@KennySmith) for bringing this story to my attention.

John Carvalho, associate professor of journalism at Auburn, blogs about the sports media at johncarvalhoau.tumblr.com. Find him on Twitter at @johncarvalhoau. Read his previous columns here.

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