Thursday, July 13, 2006

Random Musings About Recent News

Whenever breaking media news happens locally, we're usually either out of town or away from the keyboard more than we'd like to be, and this week is certainly no exception.

We've been looking into the announced sale of D&E Communications gospel WABQ/1540 Cleveland to Craig Karmazin's Good Karma Broadcasting, and we haven't noticed anything particularly new to pass along.

We didn't know until we read the FCC application, however, that D&E's Dale Edwards is listed "as manager and member of Radio Advantage One, LLC, licensee of WBKC(AM) Painesville, OH". We're sure this will fuel the Speculation Train on what happens next with Good Karma and its likely network partner, ESPN Radio.

WBKC is currently simulcasting classical WCLV/104.9 Lorain most of the day, in an effort for the latter station to gain at least some listeners in eastern parts of the Cleveland area. Last we heard, WBKC still breaks away from WCLV for a three-hour local morning drive show, and Cleveland Indians baseball broadcasts. We don't know if Edwards' interest in WBKC is large enough to even begin this line of thought...we're just throwing that information out there.

For now, we'll weigh in with some observations. The following is mostly our own speculation - you know, we should get a graphic for that! - but there are some reasonable educated guesses in here as well.

OBSERVATION 1: OMW finds it very hard to envision Craig Karmazin operating a 1,000 watt daytime sports outlet as his only Cleveland station. The WABQ signal struggles to even cover a decent chunk of its home county.

Karmazin is stuck with a daytimer in Milwaukee, WAUK/1510 Waukesha WI. And though he's managed to get an upgrade for that signal of 23,000 watts days/20,000 watts critical hours (the CP was approved last month), there's still basically no possibility of squeezing 24 hour operation - with any power level that makes it worthwhile - out of either WAUK, or his newest acquisition, Cleveland's WABQ.

UPDATE 7/13/06 11:47 PM: Our good friend Scott Fybush reminds us that the "critical hours" authorization is often confused with pre-sunrise/post-sunset authority. For one, apparently in the mind of Your Primary Editorial Voice(tm), who's never worked at a station with either.

Basically, it covers hours after sunrise and before sunset, and not the other way around. There's a great explanation of it on Scott's comment to this item. We've known him for over 10 years now, and we are constantly reminded that he's an excellent resource on things like this.

Karmazin will - if he hangs onto WABQ - most certainly upgrade the signal as much as possible. Our non-technical guess...he'll try to take the most advantage of the fact that Cleveland is on Lake Erie, and try to squeeze the signal between the existing higher power occupants...like, perhaps, Toronto's CHIN, Albany's WDCD, Waterloo IA's KXEL, and very powerful first and second adjacents (WCKY/1530 Cincinnati, WWKB/1520 Buffalo and the like).

Oh, and don't forget nearby daytimer WRTK/1540 Niles, from the Land of Glunt in the Mahoning Valley - otherwise known as Beacon Broadcasting. That would likely preclude any south-facing signal, for one. (WRTK, last we checked, ran ABC's 24/7 gospel format "Rejoice - Musical Soul Food". We don't know what it started running after that format died recently.)

Anyone with a better handle on this stuff, feel free to help us along.

OBSERVATION 2: If Karmazin hangs onto WABQ, even after upgraded, will he spring for a second "night" signal as he has done in Milwaukee?

In that market, WAUK pairs up with urban talk WMCS/1290 for nights as "ESPN 1510 Days, 1290 Nights". The arrangement with WMCS is a part-time LMA which landed one of WAUK's daytime hosts on the 1290 signal in early evenings, with ESPN programming the rest of the night and early morning.

One big problem with this may mostly be solved soon. WMCS won't relinquish the signal to WAUK and "ESPN Milwaukee" any sooner than 6 PM. In the dead of winter, 1510 actually has to sign off for a while before 1290 allows the ESPN affiliate to program it. That includes a show with the station's newest high-profile host, former WISN/1130 host Steve "The Homer" True.

Now, back to Cleveland. Can anyone even THINK of a station that would be available to Karmazin in this manner? We're coming up empty, at least when it comes to a signal that makes a reasonable approximation of being a full-market signal.

Every signal from Clear Channel, CBS Radio (all FMs) and Radio One is likely far out of the consideration. And certainly, all of Salem's stations are out. Aside from former Salem daytimer WCCD/1000, which does not have a night signal either and is owned by a church, and various lower-power rimshots from the east and west (Willoughby, Lorain, etc.), there's nothing left.

Which brings us to...

OBSERVATION 3: It's more of a question, really.

Does this set the stage for Karmazin to upgrade WABQ, hanging in there for a year or two with it as a 1000 watt daytimer mostly running ESPN network programming, then flipping it with ABC/Disney for the company's full-time Radio Disney signal on 1260?

In this scenario, ESPN would on 1260 24/7. Radio Disney lands on a bigger 1540, with no nighttime signal...and the Disney company gets a full-time signal for their own ESPN Radio format with Karmazin at the helm. (Remember, both ESPN Radio and Radio Disney are not involved in the Citadel/ABC deal.)

Is everyone happy? The only fly we can see in this ointment is the fact that ABC/Disney seems to eschew daytimers even for the kid-oriented Radio Disney format.

Just some Random Thoughts out of our brains...again, all of the above is purely OMW's own speculation...

9 comments:

Scott Fybush said...

Methinks there's some confusion here between "critical hours" and "post-sunset authorization."

"Critical hours" are the two hours AFTER sunrise and BEFORE sunset, when there's just enough skywave (especially at the upper end of the AM dial) to create additional interference.

So when a station like WAUK is granted a "daytime" power (23 kW) and a "critical hours" power (20 kW), it can only use those daytime facilities from 2 hours after sunrise until 2 hours before sunset. A grant of critical hours power does NOT give a station operating authority after sunset or before sunrise.

Pre-sunrise and post-sunset authority is a different thing, covering 2 hours BEFORE sunrise and AFTER sunset, and it's very hard to track - the FCC granted PSRA and PSSA facilities to many class D stations way back in the early eighties, but it subsequently lost the computer file with those authorizations in it, so if a station doesn't have the printout it received from the FCC back around 1980, it's SOL.

The National Radio Club compiled PSRA/PSSA data back in the day, and still lists it in its "AM Log." There's no PSRA/PSSA power listed for WABQ. (1540 in Niles has 2 watts of PSRA!)

With the protections it has to provide to 1540 in Niles, CHIN in Toronto, KXEL in Iowa, and so on, it's hard for me to imagine WABQ getting any useful night power no matter where it goes. The only possibility - and it's a remote one - would be to take advantage of the demise of WATJ and move to 1550, but even there night power would be limited to a few watts at best, since the class A signal being protected on 1550 is right across the lake in Windsor.

Johnny Morgan said...

2 red-hot watts.

Don't go spending that all in one place!

:-)

Anonymous said...

What about the possibility of WABQ getting a fulltime position in the "expanded" AM band, 1610-1700?

In greater Cleveland, this seems to be used only by low-power traffic advisory and municipal stations, but in other markets there are commercial stations up there, and I've hear Radio Disney on some of them.

Anonymous said...

Karmazin could also pull a WAUK/WMCS with WERE/1300. I assume the evening and weekend programming on WERE is brokered. He could buy the evening and weekend time for ESPN programming.

Anonymous said...

The only problem with that is whether or not WERE could expand the urban talk format further. But let's look at it anyway: such an arrangement would no doubt fit with WERE's "2 Live Stews" from 4p-7p.

Maybe WABQ could simulcast that show in order to deal with the 5-7p post-sunset operating hole in the winter...

The X-band... are such spots even available now? Note that no station in Ohio has one, and that may have been a long-ago political maneauver. But I too have heard R-D affils around the 1640-1670 range - WHKT/1650 in Portsmouth, VA, for example.

If feasible, upgrading WABQ to a X-band completes the picture. R-D keeps a 24/7 signal (most likely at 10kW/1kW) and ESPN gets the 24/7 coverage.

But, again, this is all a big IF.

- Nathan Obral

Anonymous said...

The only problem with that is whether or not WERE could expand the urban talk format further. But let's look at it anyway: such an arrangement would no doubt fit with WERE's "2 Live Stews" from 4p-7p.

Maybe WABQ could simulcast that show in order to deal with the 5-7p post-sunset operating hole in the winter...

The X-band... are such spots even available now? Note that no station in Ohio has one, and that may have been a long-ago political maneauver. But I too have heard R-D affils around the 1640-1670 range - WHKT/1650 in Portsmouth, VA, for example.

If feasible, upgrading WABQ to a X-band completes the picture. R-D keeps a 24/7 signal (most likely at 10kW/1kW) and ESPN gets the 24/7 coverage.

But, again, this is all a big IF.

- Nathan Obral

Scott Fybush said...

The FCC issued one set of X-band allotments back in the nineties, and has tried very hard ever since to forget that the band ever existed. It hasn't opened up any filing windows for new X-band signals since, and it's apparently in no hurry to revisit that policy.

Even if WABQ had applied for the X-band back in the day, it wouldn't have been allowed to move. The stations that got X-band slots were existing fulltime (class B) stations, not daytimer (class D) stations.

74WIXYgrad said...

Scott,

So why do they have the extra frequencies? Was it the idea of someone's favorite relative?

Scott Fybush said...

The expanded AM band was a classic "someone else's project" - it seemed like a good idea at the time, but as FCC leadership changed over the years, it fell WAY down the priority list.

There's no big-money lobbying effort to reopen the X-band for new applications, and the FCC has so much else on its plate that it's not about to do anything of its own accord.