Saturday, November 25, 2006

WWGK: No Tony Today, But A New Addition

Here at the OMW World Headquarters, we've finally found a radio which we can twist into the right position to regularly monitor Good Karma Broadcasting sports WWGK/1540 "Cleveland's ESPN Radio 1540".

It's not the best, most listenable signal this far away - static abounds, and a hissing noise is constant - but it's enough to endure to figure out what they're doing on the air.

To wit, we did NOT hear WJW/8 "FOX 8" sports anchor Tony Rizzo on 1540 again this week, after last week's special Ohio State/Michigan-themed show where he openly said that he'd like to be on regularly, and would try to work that out with his bosses on South Marginal Road.

"Cleveland's ESPN Radio 1540" instead ran the usual ESPN Radio programming for the 10 AM to noon Saturday slot, which we believe is whatever flavor of "College GameDay" airs then.

However, just minutes ago, the radio in the other room tuned to 1540 revealed the latest addition to the WWGK lineup: Westwood One's College Football Game of the Week.

The addition makes sense for the daytimer. Westwood One offers a regular weekday afternoon game during the college football season. It offers Notre Dame games separately, which air in Cleveland on Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100.

And..a game with a noon or 1 PM start is in no danger of being cut off by the station's sunset signoff.

We'll also note, though, that the NASCAR races the station carries on Sundays could be. To that end, we heard the station's Bernard Bokenyi in a recorded liner a week or two back warning listeners that the station was "going to low-power" at 5 PM, and signing off entirely at 5:45 PM.

That low-power is a sub-lightbulb level of 18 watts. WWGK would be lucky to make it far from Euclid Avenue and East 80th Street with that, though we once heard a scratchy signal from that power level as far away as Parma.

We're trying to remember, but we believe it's a post-sunset authority the station has on paper, but which hasn't made it to the FCC database. The FCC's online sunrise/sunset time lookup for WWGK notes a 5 PM sunset in November.

Perhaps former 1540 chief engineer and OMW reader Chris Quinn - now concentrating on the formerly co-owned station at 1460/Painesville which took the WABQ calls - can refresh our memory on this. We seem to recall that it's -not- a "critical hours" thing...


Anonymous said...

Even an early afternoon start for a college football game is no guarantee for a daytime station!
I was at at a local daytimer that carried Notre Dame football from the old Mutual Radio Network, the only person in the building on a Saturday afternoon, running the game as part of my airshift.
The game was a big, decisive late season matchup between ND and one of their hated rivals. Our November sign off time was 5PM. Wouldn't you know it, the game was tied at the end of regulation and went into overtime! Sure enough, the magic hour approached, and there was no way out.
How would you like to be the local announcer who, at 4:59, had to break into the game and say, "with the score tied 21-21 in overtime, FCC rules require us to leave the air."
I shut down the station, locked it up with lightning speed, and left it with every phone line in the place ringing or lit up, and the imagined sound of an outraged roar fading into the distance as I drove out of there as quickly as I could!

Anonymous said...

Similar horror story although the station I was calling games for just had to power down. The hometown basketball team was playing a team on the fringe of the reach of the station. I believe it was a Saturday afternoon game and boom the station had to power down and all those in attendance listening to my play by play where now listening to static and where looking at me at the media table and where really pissed... I tried to explain the situation at half time but that didnt placate several of them. Much to my PD's dismay WQKT was also doing play by play and the public address announcer gladly announced that "those listening to the game on Wblahblahblah, can now here the game on WQKT." That got them off my rear end good.

Anonymous said...

The NASCAR season did end this past Sunday. So any further danger of not finishing the matches before the station signs off are gone - for now, anyway.

Somehow I thinking the Notre Dame story was really at the old WLRO/1380 Lorain (now WDLW), which at that point was 1) a Mutual affiliate, 2) a Notre Dame affiliate, and 3) a daytimer. AM 1380's puny 57 watt night service wasn't added until the mid-80's...

- Nathan Obral

Anonymous said...

Yeah the FCC watches those power downs so closely.....

If it were I, I would have kept it on full power until the end of the game. In fact I recall doing that several times at a small AM.
But only if it was going to be 15-30 minutes. Not hours like WCER which somehow stays full power on Friday ngihts for high school football then at the end of the game you magically lose the signal.

Anonymous said...

The problem WWGK will have with NASCAR will happen next summer, if they decide to continue with the MNR contract..there are several races that start at night..the Coca Cola 600 among them...and they won't be able to air them at all..

Rain delays will also cause a headache, as those broadcasts can drag hours on end until they either start and restart a race, or finally decide to postpone into a Monday PM start time..

Anonymous said...

I had no idea that certain channels went down at night. I feel really stupid by asking this, but why does the the FCC require them to do so?

Ohio Media Watch said...

Good question.

The answer can basically be found by turning on any decent AM radio at night.

If you tune to 1540 at night in Northeast Ohio, you'll hear one of two stations: news/talk KXEL in Waterloo IA, or ethnic CHIN in Toronto, ONT.

At night, the ionosphere up in the sky acts as something AM radio signals "bounce off of" (skywave). It's the reason local WTAM/1100 can claim to be heard in "38 states and half of Canada" - despite the 50,000 watt signal, it's not groundwave pushing them to North Carolina and beyond. It's the ionosphere bouncing the signal thousands of miles to distant destinations.

And that only happens at night on the AM dial.

The upshot is that 1540 is occupied by several powerful stations like the above, that have priority at night to stay on the air and cover large distances.

And if you've every heard WWGK's 18-21ish watt power in that 45 minutes after sunset, you'll know it basically gets clobbered by KXEL, CHIN and others unless you're basically on Cleveland's near east side.

FM does not have this nighttime problem, so stations on the FM dial do not have to reduce power. Occasionally, as in the past week or two, an atmospheric condition causes FM signals to travel unusually long distances, but it's not associated with daylight and is sporadic.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Thanks OMW.

Anonymous said...

I remember when I first started out in the biz, I worked at an FM-AM combo. Whoever was on the air on the FM side had the responsibility of powering down the AM when it was time....needless to say, a lot of us would forget whoch wasn't hard to do when you're in the middle of your show. This was over 15 years ago, I'm sure that computers handle this now????

Anonymous said...

...and I forgot to mention - our GM was NOT happy when we would forget to power down the AM. I'm surprised heads didn't roll as a result!

Anonymous said...

...Not surprised, someone was opening them up to big fines. As for the powering down at sunset, it's called "post sunset authority". Meaning that if the class "A" station is west of you, you get to stay on with reduced power from your local sunset until about their sunset time. Likewise, stations that protect a class "A" east of them get to sign on low power early with what is called "pre-sunrise authority". An example is the 1060 in Canton. Some class "D" stations are just SOL and don't have either options.