Thursday, May 24, 2007

No Longer "Free"

A format flip in New York City may have minor, or future, effects on Cleveland.

CBS Radio talk WFNY/92.3 "Free FM" in the Big Apple has dumped the talk format. AllAccess reports that later today, the station will return to its old "K-Rock" slogan and rock format, focusing on 90's rock and "some currents and 80's titles".

At least for now, morning drive team Opie & Anthony - normally shared with XM Satellite Radio - remain in the new "92.3 K-Rock" lineup...staying in mornings on the otherwise rock-formatted station much like not-quite-immediate predecessor Howard Stern did for many years.

How does all this affect Cleveland?

Well, we'll be scouring for call letter changes, as we'd bet rather heavily that CBS Radio will swipe the station's historic WXRK calls from Cleveland's own "92.3 K-Rock" - which took the call letters after their NYC sister station went to "Free FM" talk. Could the Cleveland alt-rocker become "WXTM" again, if only out of convenience?

Programming-wise, there won't be much fallout here, since O&A - who air in afternoon drive on Cleveland's "K-Rock" - are still in that contract with CBS.

But, with CBS flipping away from "Free FM" in two large markets - San Francisco's KIFR/106.9 dumped the format a few days ago for a resurrection of classic hits KFRC - does this mean CBS Radio is cooling on "FM talk", at least the "hot talk" variety?

We've chronicled here persistent rumors that one or two Cleveland FM stations have been sniffing at an FM talk format for at least a year or two.

But wither CBS?

Does the company's new programming leadership under Dan Mason (the elder, of course, not the former "96-5 Kiss FM" PD) mean a move away from hot talk aimed at young men? Both "Free FM" flips happened after Mason took CBS Radio's top national programming job.

Does that mean the current WXRK/92.3 here isn't likely to expand its talk beyond "Rover's Morning Glory" and O&A?

And this is not really related, but sort item we have heard about that we just can't find another place for. And in an item about local FM talk, it would seem to fit.

OMW hears from numerous sources that Clear Channel rock WMMS/100.7 afternoon driver Maxwell got into quite a tiff with a member of "The Doors" rock band over the legacy of legendary frontman Jim Morrison.

The on-air interview with Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek got so heated, we hear, that Maxwell actually left the studio in mid-segment, and got into a tangle or three with roadies out of the studio.

Though much of this gets played up for ratings, we're told by a mole inside Oak Tree that this one was real, away from the microphone...


Ohio Media Watch said...

NOTE: We have kept this item up for comments, despite our original intent to close comments for the near future.


We reserve the right to open items without the ability to comment in the future.

--The Management

Anonymous said...

Yes Real Very Very Real at Oak Tree. He got up stormed out like a whipped puppie and called the Group a bunch of a-- Holes in front of about 10 caonest winners who were watching the Show as guests..

Anonymous said...

Is this the best Maxwell can do as a stunt for the Spring Arbs? I expected better..

firebird said...

R&R is reporting that the new call letters are WKRI.

Anonymous said...

WMMS is history, over, kaput. I don't think they have had decent ratings since the Next Generation format which was the last time the they were cutting edge and successful with music, promotions (Buzzardfests & that TV spot & Doctor Judy) and spawned a lot of djs most of which have found success in this or other markets. The bury the Buzzard stunt was the last straw and wasnt that 6 or 7 years ago?

Trefdawg said...

Hey why not change 92.3 to one of these:
Call letters WCUY Format Jazz
Call Letters WLYT Format Oldies, bring back Scott Howitt to program the station.
Hey I'm locked in a time warp, what can I say? The way it was, is the way it is.

Anonymous said...

WMMS should go Alternative again and put Maxwell in morning drive

Anonymous said...

The new call letters for KROCK in New York will be WXRI. I am surprised CBS didnt take the WKRK call letters John Gorman and Jim Marcheson used for their KROCK format in Detroit. The station is another FREEFMand have no need for those call letters unless they plan to change that station back to a rock format too. The station was known for hiring former Clevelanders Erin Carmen from WENZ and Mitch Todd from WMMS and "Millen" from 89X.

Anonymous said...

CBS Radio CEO Dan Mason may have a lot to do with the recent format flips. 106.9 Free FM in San Francisco had their format change abruptly following an Oakland A's broadcast. No notice was provided to station staff or on-air talent.

There is a movement to have one of the locally broadcasts shows - The Gray Area - placed on another CBS station in the Bay Area.

Steve DiNardo, our local CBS Vice President, is responsible for the change and you can send him inquiries at:

You can view more on this by checking out... or by visiting

Anonymous said...

Change 92.3 back to WCUY or WLYT? Nah, it wouldn't be the same not broadcasting from a second floor walk-up over an old car dealership at Cedar and Lee with the antenna 200 feet above you on the roof and a production studio that consisted of the audition channel wired into a cart recorder. And the paychecks sometimes late because the owner of the chain personally signed each one. And the highest rated show the midnight to 6AM program hosted by the PD, Chris Columbi, Jr. No, it just wouldn't be the same. Cool, but not the same.

Anonymous said...

Why get into a fight with an original band member? I'm sure they have their own issues with the Jim Morrison legacy and the fan-created Doors mythology. That's not the kind of fight listeners like to hear onair. Or maybe, if hot talk is dying, they really don't like onair battles (except sports - always fair game). I thought now that the CRB is going to try to push through radio royalties that talk would be the way to go for cheap content.

And, as someone who has only lived here around 15 years, y'all are very weird about your call letters. I don't know any other city where anyone is as connected to the call letters of their youth.

Anonymous said...

Too much mixed up information on the call letters in this discussion

WMMS Fan said...

The First Problem with WMMS is having a syndicated morning show. Bob and Tom do not belong on the air at WMMS. The station has not had a clue how to put together a morning show since Jeff/Flash were let go. How many incarnations have they had in the last 13 years? Brian/Joe,Liz Wilde,Danny and Darla,Dick Dale,Wolf and Mulrooney. It has been almost a morning show a year at that station. Having a talk show in the afternoon is not the answer either. WMMS was always known as a station that broke new music. Why are they not a Modern Rock format? That was the last time that station had any ratings.

Anonymous said...

The Buzzard is trying to be all things to all rock fans.

A little bit of classic rock for mullet crew, a little alternative for the Tony Hawk wannabes, and some metal for the head bangers.

WMMS feels that this way, they suck away some audience from both WNCX and K-Rock.

Bob and Tom would actually be a better fit on 98.5.

johnny morgan said...

>>And, as someone who has only lived here around 15 years, y'all are very weird about your call letters. I don't know any other city where anyone is as connected to the call letters of their youth.<<

And that's the dichotomy we have in Cleveland, and they have in places like Pittsburgh and other mid-sized rust belt cities: the majority of the key media demographic population was born here and stayed here. If you're 45, chances are you were born here, raised the family, and never left.

True, there has been a good deal of migration out of Cleveland--to major metropolitan places like NYC, Chicago, LA, and points south (Phoenix, Atlanta and Charlotte, to name just three). This has been going on for 20 years or so.

There has been some small amount of immigration to Cleveland, but as your own story attests, it was within the last decade, and (if I assume correctly) was of relatively younger people (then, 25-35).

That small amount of immigration died as this decade dawned, and the Comeback City lost a good deal of those people who came here in the first place--lost to sunnier and more economically vibrant (though very sterile and manufactured) climes like Charlotte and Houston.

What we're left with then is the remainder of that Comeback City migration of 10-15 years ago...and the core population being life-long residents who never got out.

The lifelong residents of Cleveland tend to be culturally conservative (but not politically so), and like to latch onto things that have good memories from their youth. Thus, Halle's and Higbee's are fondly remembered, as are Beer Night at the Stadium and the championship in 1964, as well as the great Browns and Cavs teams from the 1980s.

It's one reason why WMJI was such a success locally, and was a trendsetter nationally--it was a local "memory bank" because its audience was born here and stayed here. They could connect not only the music, but also the formatics and personalities (Lanigan, et al.) to stations from the past (CKLW, WIXY, WGAR, etc.)

This "homegrown" attitude is also the reason why the main TV anchors have been here for ages: Wilma Smith, Ted Henry, Dick Goddard, Don Webster, even down to Jim Donovan and Carl Monday. We Clevelanders tend to latch onto things we like and are skeptical (at best) about change.

Evidence of that last point need only be stated by seeing how many people give you blank stares when you say "Veterans Memorial Bridge".

Call letters are important because back when lifelong Clevelanders were growing up, call letters were announced...not slogans. Thus, call letters have more significance here than they would in more demographically-dynamic areas like NYC, Charlotte, or Phoenix.

Anonymous said...

92.3 K-Rock Cleveland is giving back the famous "WXRK" call letters to New York.

The new call letters will be WKRI, pending FCC approval.

The jocks and music on K-Rock Cleveland are staying exactly the same, it's just a call letter change.

Anonymous said...

Based on how they wimped out over both Imus and Opie & Anthony, CBS doesn't have the guts to do hot talk. For this format to work they have to be cutting edge... like Howard in his days. I say CBS is too chicken to put anything on the air that will work in the talk format.

Anonymous said...

blame Janet

Anonymous said...

I agree with John Morgan. WMJI in the early 90's had the same localism that WMMS had in the 70's through the mid 80's. They played local hits (Pixies Three), spotlighted local artists (Raspberries, Outsiders, Bocky and the Visions) and had either local people on the air or announcers that came from somewhere else that got plugged into Cleveland culture.
Was it any secret why WMMS was number one in the 70's and 80's and WMJI was number one in the 90's.
Wasn't WMMS's next generation the number one station 18 to 34 adults when it adopted a hybrid alternative format and hired mostly local people (most of them from Rock 107 I believe)

Neil in Radioland said...

I don't understand why WXRK whether in Cleve or NY would use the slogan "K-rock".

"X-rock" would be more logical.

Anonymous said...

92.3 never gets any ratings no matter what the call letters are or the format. Can anyone name a time when the station even cracked the top 15?

Anonymous said...

Isn't K-Rock in the Top 10 now in 18-34?

Anonymous said...

92.3 was once a ratings grabber. In the latter days of "Jam'n 92.3," WZJM did do very well - even with a revolving door in the morning slot (i.e., Chuck Booms' infamous three-week stint in 1997) Their last book, in early 1999, was the best they ever had.

And AMFM killed it for the Jammin' Oldies format, when WQAL would have been the more logical choice, IMHO. Far and away the dumbest programming move in Cleveland history, with Metropolis' botching of the John Gorman-led "North Coast Express" WNCX stands as a solid runner-up.

- Nathan Obral

Anonymous said...

>And, as someone who has only lived here around 15 years, y'all are very weird about your call letters.<

You can't blame us. Cleveland was known as having the best radio stations in the nation and not just WMMS and WMJI in their early days as an oldies station. The radio stations here were quality competitors. WMMS gets most of the credit and it probably should. Part of their success was the strong competition it had over the years. Let the best man win. Both M-105 and G-98 were bitter competitors with WMMS. These stations truly hated one another.

You were around for the WMMS-WENZ alternative rock era. You should remember that it was good radio, too and it provided Cleveland with lots of concerts and all day Buzzardfests. WMMS even did a free concert with Nine Inch Nails at the Odeon and announced it only hours before the show.

Today it is pretty bad and any pining you read about the good old days is well warranted.

Anonymous said...

I have to side with Nathan. WQAL struggled then and continues to do that now. 92.3 also struggles now. Jammin 92.3 would probably still be CHR and doing well if they hadn't stuck a fork in it. We probably wouldn't have a KISS either.