At the risk of sounding like a radio newscast, here are some stories we're following for the coming days:
* As reported by AllAccess.com on Friday, liberal talk WJMP/1520 Kent/Akron is dropping the Air America Radio-led format on July 5th. What will replace it should be familiar to Akron area listeners... the Fox Sports Radio format recently abandoned by Akron's AM 1350, the station now known as liberal talk "Radio Free Ohio" (WARF). WJMP will also reportedly carry Premiere's Jim Rome, making it basically a clone of the now-gone "Fox Sports 1350", without the Akron Aeros and Zips.
WJMP reportedly bailed out on its long-term carriage of the Air America feed just hours before Clear Channel launched the competing liberal talk format on 1350, without AAR's programming. Will WARF go after Air America programming? We don't know for sure. It's doubtful they'll pick up the bulk of the AAR schedule, but perhaps there's room for two of the biggest names on AAR, Al Franken and Randi Rhodes. We hear that CC as a whole is trying to make liberal talk work without the New York-based network...but it wouldn't be a shock to hear those two hosts on WARF at some point, if it's a local decision for operations manager Keith Kennedy and program director Jerry Mullins.
* Speaking of liberal talker WARF/1350, they'll be losing a "local only" show on Monday, but only in spirit. Veteran liberal pundit Bill Press has been doing morning drive on 1350, as a local show, for the past few weeks. He's done the show from studios at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress in Washington, with co-host Christy Harvey...who does press work for that think tank as her day job, and has been a regular on Al Franken's Air America show.
The local-to-Akron focus was incidental, as the plan was always to nationally syndicate the program, and the first step in that plan happens on Monday. Press' program will begin airing on Sirius Satellite Radio, on "Sirius Left" channel 143. It replaces Doug Stephan, who moves to a different channel next week. The show will also be pitched to over-air stations, but as of now, Akron's WARF is the only over-air affiliate. It'll also stream via the Center for American Progress' website, though the link is not yet available.
* The oddities at Beacon Broadcasting's WANR/1570 Warren have amused many local radio watchers, including myself. Local steel supplier magnate Harold Glunt recently filed to take over 100% of the company, which was formerly controlled by Michael Arch. The paperwork attached to the transfer of control, which lists hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt (much of it to Glunt himself) and unpaid bills, also includes a provision about changing the format of WANR, along with WEXC/107.1 Greenville PA and sister WGRP/940 in the same city. Glunt is aiming to put on youth-oriented Christian programming.
Right now, while WEXC ("Wexy 107") hangs onto the dying days of its oldies format, and WGRP continues to simulcast oldies WMVL/101.7 Linesville-Meadville PA, WANR has experimented with everything from 70's soft rock music via satellite, to religious remakes of popular tunes, to a wide variety of oldies tunes hosted by market veteran Ron Leader. Oh, don't forget the "Wolfman Jack" tapes! While plenty of stations do a "variety" format, not many of them would run the above in seemingly random combinations, sometimes in the same hour.
The status of WGRP is also up in the air right now, but basically, it's being run in an LMA by WMVL ("Cool 101.7"). WMVL's owners had filed to buy WGRP, but that never happened. When we find out what happens to that little station in Greenville, we'll let you know. It's entirely possible the WMVL folks will continue to run it, one way or the other.
ETA for the changes at 1570/107.1 - and maybe 940 - is less than 60 days after Mr. Glunt's transfer application is approved by the FCC, and closed financially.