Since announcing to the world - and probably to newspaper reporters in New Philadelphia - that the FCC approved Clear Channel's request to move WJER-FM/101.7 from Dover to North Canton, we've done a lot of thinking.
We've also gone diving back into our very own archives, in specific this item from September 2005. (Scroll to the bottom of the long "Trip Through Southeast Ohio" item for the WJER stuff.)
We haven't changed our collective editorial mind on any of this in the nearly seven months since the item first appeared in OMW...now that Clear Channel has the official go-ahead to move WJER-FM up north.
We once again can't see Clear Channel having any appetite to run co-owned WJER(AM)/1450. The station would have to be operated by remote from the CC World Domination Headquarters (Southern Command/Freedom Avenue).
Though we would not bet the (say it with us) soon-to-be-for-sale OMW World HQ on it, we'd be shocked if 1450 didn't end up in the hands of former owner/current operator Gary Petricola, or if he doesn't take it, in the hands of the folks at WTUZ/99.9 Uhrichsville ("Z Country"). The hefty local sports appetite in the Tuscarawas Valley would almost demand it, and the income from such broadcasts may almost cover whatever Clear Channel would ask for 1450 as a solo station.
And here's a thought.
The other FM station licensed to the Dover/New Philadelphia "twin cities" is CCM formatted WNPQ/95.9 New Philadelphia. The station has long been operated by one Mr. James Natoli as a Canton market rimshot, with studios on Convenience Circle a stone's throw from Belden Village Mall.
Mr. Natoli nudged WNPQ's tower a little north to Strasburg, just below the Stark/Tuscarawas County line between Dover/New Philly and Canton. That's it. With that nudge, he gets rimshot coverage to just north of his Belden Village area studio location, in theory encompassing nearly all of the Canton radio market.
You do the math. While WJER is a class A station, much like WNPQ, that much-farther-north tower location and the North Canton COL will get the new 101.7 - you guessed it - a large chunk of the Akron area as well. We remind the reader that one of our boomboxes here in northwest Akron gets WJER-FM *NOW*, at its current tower location...with the help of some height and a long-wire FM antenna out the deck. It is by far not a local signal up here, but on the above setup, is as clear as a local to our ears.
The folks at Clear Channel's Akron/Canton outpost have mined a lot of success selling their stations to a basic "combined market" of Akron and Canton. It was borne almost of necessity for WKDD when the long-time occupant of 96.5 Akron got pushed to 98.1 Canton by "KISS FM"'s move. And it is made all the easier by the hyper growth in the area between Akron and Canton. That's a lot of territory for a new 101.7 to cover, and promote itself as an "Akron/Canton" station.
Clear Channel could have engendered a lot less controversy by moving 101.7's tower location not as far north...say, close enough to Canton to serve it, but south of Canton. It could have simply shortcircuited "outrage" by pointing out that the new location was still close to Dover/New Philadelphia. But a COL move to North Canton moves the station's signal nearly entirely out of Dover/New Philly...which is exactly what needed to be done to create a new "Akron/Canton" station.
Then again, the use of the word "controversy" seems a bit silly at this stage in the game. Despite an occasional town council resolution urging the station to stay in Dover, the WJER-FM move apparently got about a dozen people to write to the FCC. That's hardly a groundswell of support for keeping the station there.
As we've noted before, the area is also served by a now-more-popular FM station with an extensive local news and sports presence - the aforementioned WTUZ. And it appears likely to us that WJER's AM side will stay down there, and probably with somewhat near its present state of local programming. That's hardly radio abandonment, especially when the FCC would consider even WJER(AM)'s presence alone as enough to allow the FM side to move.
Again, we repeat - this move is not happening tomorrow. Or three months from now. Still more needs to be done. But...just a thought...