Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A FOX 8 Folo

On this day after Christmas, we've had a couple of days to read followup on the reported sale of "Cleveland's Own" WJW/8 "FOX 8" and its seven mid-market owned and operated sister stations to Oak Hill Capital Partners.

It's old news to us, of course, though we did have one bump in the road - which we quickly and publicly corrected.

In the end, though, our first report that Oak Hill would be buying the for-sale FOX O&Os turned out to be fully correct...though we couldn't foresee the moves involving Local TV LLC's Randy Michaels, his move to Tribune, and that latter company's offering administrative services to Michaels' now-former company.

In fact, we don't think ANYONE could have seen this "outside the box" move by the former Clear Channel radio boss, a long-time resident of the Northern Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati. (Thus, if Randy scratches his nose, he's arguably on topic for this report, give or take a river.)

Anyway, with the announcement Saturday morning that Oak Hill/Local TV and NewsCorp/FOX had signed off on the approximately $1.1 billion cash deal, it took the "mainstream media" until Monday to weigh in. Or Tuesday.

That's when the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Frank Bentayou chimed in with his article on the deal.

There's nothing not already reported elsewhere in Bentayou's story. A large part of that is because WJW VP/GM Greg Easterly was "traveling" and "not returning phone calls", and FOX PR types in New York were also not chatty about the news.

But we'd like to repeat an answer - OK, reported by us - to one unanswered question in the article:

"There was no indication in the announcements by either party to the deal that WJW or any of the other stations would shift their affiliation from Fox to another network."

That is true, for what it's worth.

But OMW reported earlier that the deal - according to our sources - involves a 10 year deal under which Oak Hill/Local TV would continue to affiliate WJW with FOX. (And, we presume, the other seven stations.)

FOX may have wanted to cash in to help fund the acquisition of Dow Jones (The Wall Street Journal et al.). But it surely didn't want to leave its affiliation in key markets to chance.

So, what happens inside, and outside, WJW?

Don't expect any changes - at least until Local TV takes over the station. Depending on regulatory approval and the like, the companies expect that to happen in the latter half of 2008.

Our only question: What does the "shared services" agreement mean? Who will be the "ultimate boss" for the station outside of South Marginal Road? Will that be Local TV's Bobby Lawrence, Tribune broadcast head Randy Michaels (through his "The Other Company", or whatever that ends up being called), or both?

It may not matter, particularly if they follow Sam Zell's apparent philosophy - put the power in the hands of your on-site management, and make them accountable for the station's performance.

We'll see...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas And Happy Holidays

Just a note to let you know we're still here, and to wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas, and a wonderful holiday season.

There will be a post or two up here sometime between now and the New Year...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: WJW, FOX O&Os Sold - This Time, Officially

OMW first reported weeks ago that Cleveland's WJW/8 "FOX 8" - and eight of FOX's other smaller market owned-and-operated stations - were being sold to Oak Hill Capital Partners.

The sale is now official. (Well, minus one of the stations, which we'll explain later.)

OMW hears that this News Corporation press release was put up this morning, on walls all over the local station's South Marginal Road headquarters:


News Corporation Announces Sale of Eight Television Stations to Oak Hill Capital Partners

NEW YORK, NY, December 22, 2007 – News Corporation announced today that it will sell eight of its owned-and-operated FOX network affiliated television stations to Oak Hill Capital Partners for approximately $1.1 billion in cash.

The stations include:

* WJW in Cleveland, OH
* KDVR in Denver, CO
* KTVI in St. Louis, MO
* WDAF in Kansas City, MO
* WITI in Milwaukee, WI
* KSTU in Salt Lake City, UT
* WBRC in Birmingham, AL
* WGHP in Greensboro, NC

The sale is subject to regulatory and other customary conditions and is expected to close in the third calendar quarter of 2008.


And here are some choice quotes from the Local TV people, courtesy of their press release, which we found on the FOX Business website:


J. Taylor Crandall, a Managing Partner of Oak Hill Capital Partners, said, "We are very pleased to add this outstanding portfolio of FOX affiliated television stations to the Oak Hill portfolio. These stations, like our existing Local TV television stations, have a strong commitment to providing quality news and serving the local community."

Bobby Lawrence, CEO of Local TV, said, "These are heritage stations in great markets. Their management teams and operations are a perfect fit with Local TV. The stations have an outstanding track record and we look forward to helping them continue their success."


FOX still retains its largest market owned-and-operated stations, many in a two-station duopoly, and a handful of other owned stations.

And it also still hangs onto one of the stations on the originally announced list.

The Chicago Tribune reports today that FOX O&O WHBQ/13 in Memphis TN will not be going to Oak Hill Capital Partners, for regulatory concerns.

Oak Hill/Local TV already owns the Memphis market's CBS affiliate, WREG. Current FCC rules don't allow such a duopoly with both stations affiliated with one of the "Big Four" networks. We'll assume FOX will deal off WHBQ separately.

At least we didn't have to wait months and months for this news to become official, like we did in a certain swap of radio stations between Canton and Michigan...

Weekend Update Without Chevy Chase

...or, whoever's doing that segment now on "Saturday Night Live". (That show is still on, right?)

We have a couple of items that can't wait until Monday. And we're basically on hiatus for the holidays, though again, we have promised to post major items whenever we are able to do so... like, perhaps, these...

BUTTE LEAVING WEWS: OMW hears that Scripps Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS/5 general manager John Butte is retiring from the station effective January 31st.

And what do you know...Butte's official retirement statement happened to fly out on the winds at 3001 Euclid, and ended up right here at OMW World Headquarters! Imagine that. Some of it may look like this, with a nod to Kenny Rogers in there somewhere:

"When I informed Bill Peterson of my intention earlier this week, I told him that in planning for WEWS’s historic 60th birthday celebration, that the time just felt right. It's that knowing 'when to hold em…knowing when to walk away' thing.

I’m 60, the station’s 60 and managing here for the past several years fulfilled my dream of running an important station in an important market."

One of our regular readers reminded us this afternoon that three of the four general managers at Cleveland market news operations have had a news background - Butte, WEWS' former news director, along with new WJW/8 "FOX 8" GM Greg Easterly and WOIO/19-WUAB/43 boss Bill Applegate.

And though WKYC/3's Brooke Spectorsky is not on that list, the local NBC affiliate has made unusually broad commitments to news and information programming, right down to its presumably-still money losing joint venture with Time Warner Cable for "Akron/Canton News".

We'll have to see who Scripps brings in to replace John Butte, and how that affects "NewsChannel 5"...

ALSO EXITING 3001 EUCLID: When reporter Carolina Leid departs "NewsChannel 5" on December 28th, she may also be able to give one of her co-workers a ride to the airport...but their planes will head in different directions.

Station "traffic and transportation reporter" Tricia Skidmore's last day will also be December 28th. She's moving to Chicago.

OMW hears that it apparently is not a new gig that will send Tricia to the Windy City. We hear that Skidmore's fiance is becoming more and more of a big wheel in Chicago's financial industry, and she's tiring of a commuter relationship. Tricia and her fiance are planning a June 2008 wedding.

We're not saying she may not end up on the air in Chicago in the future, but she's making the move for personal reasons.

Skidmore joined "NewsChannel 5" earlier this year. As we noted in an earlier item:

Though she joins WEWS from a station in Peoria IL, we're told Skidmore used to live in Mentor and Highland Heights, and graduated from a school in Cleveland Heights. And Skidmore's mother still lives in the area, in Willoughby Hills.

As we also reported then, Skidmore came to the station in a new in-house position. Traffic on "Good Morning Cleveland" was handled for many years remotely out of Metro Traffic by Linda Dawson, who is still heard on a number of area radio outlets...

UPDATE 12/22/07 2:10 PM: The below item is now official, as Oak Hill Capital Partners is indeed buying WJW and the other FOX O&Os that News Corporation is selling off. See our later posted item for details.

When we said "somewhat likely to be announced soon", we had no idea it had actually already been announced in an official press release just a couple of hours earlier!

Here's what we wrote...

THAT OTHER SHOE - ALMOST: OMW wondered about the disposition of "FOX 8", after a sale of the station and eight other smaller-market FOX owned-and-operated stations had been announced in the building...but the identity of the buyer still hasn't been named.

We helpfully pointed out initial reports - now merely speculation - that Oak Hill Capital Partners would pick up the stations under its "Local TV, LLC" banner, with former Clear Channel radio head Randy Michaels at the helm.

Then, it was officially announced that Michaels was leaving that company - heading for a big new job as the Broadcast and Interactive head at the giant Tribune Company.

Tribune, of course, has just come under the control of a long-time friend of Randy's, Sam Zell, a billionaire who made much of his money early on by selling the old Jacor radio group. Michaels ran Jacor for Zell.

We speculated here that Michaels' career move may be behind the delay in announcing WJW's new ownership.

Then, this announcement made everything start making sense:

Local TV and Tribune Company have entered into a letter of intent to create a third-party broadcast management company which will provide shared services to all of the stations Local TV and Tribune Company own respectively. The company will function as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tribune Company, and will provide back-office services, administration, and a number of other functions to the stations with the goal of maximizing efficiencies, sharing best practices, and fostering innovation.

Randy Michaels, who was just named CEO of Tribune Company’s Interactive and Broadcasting business unit, will head the company. This combination will allow Michaels and Lawrence to build on the great track record they have established in their careers together.

The new "shared services" company (we're sorry about that phrase, folks in Youngstown) will provide these management services for not only Tribune's mostly large market stations, but for Local TV, LLC's nine medum to smaller market stations as well - as well as other possible stations not in the mix right now.

So, it's still all speculation (again) about the future of "FOX 8" and its sister stations, but - and this is just reading the tea leaves here, it's not fact - we wouldn't be surprised if that clears things up at South Marginal Road sometime in the near future.

If, indeed, Oak Hill Capital Partners/Local TV, LLC is still ready to sign the agreement buying WJW and the other smaller-market O&Os, it would still bring the stations under Randy Michaels' top-level oversight in this new "shared services" firm.

That would be the definition of Local TV's stations being "folded into" the Tribune stations, as the third-party company is a subsidiary of Tribune.

Or, if for some reason, Local TV doesn't step up and buy WJW and the other FOX stations on its shopping list - whoever does would end up folding the stations into the above mentioned management company.

But we tend to think that the FOX stations in question will land with Oak Hill/Local TV. As we noted earlier, in a very uncertain atmosphere for investment firms, Oak Hill has continued to push on aggressively, even to the point of starting yet another fund for the purpose of marching on with acquisitions - likely of more TV stations. (Oak Hill does invest in many other things.)

So, we're not ready to mark this off as "in the bag" yet...but the above scenario does seem somewhat likely to be announced, soon...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Bruce Kalinowski Joins WKYC

And yes, this is the Cleveland TV weather move we hinted about some time ago. After not being able to get confirmation about it in all this time, it's now official.

WKYC/3's Frank Macek reports in his "Director's Cut" blog this afternoon that former WOIO/19 "19 Action News" metereologist Bruce Kalinowski will join Channel 3.

Kalinowski's exact role isn't yet known, but he'll fill the weather staff vacancy left when "Channel 3 News" chief meterologist Mark Nolan left the weather center a while back, to become co-host of the station's "Channel 3 News Today" morning show.

Kalinowski, a Northeast Ohio native known as Bruce Edwards on cable's Weather Channel, left WOIO earlier this year after an eight year run...

Randy, Tribune And TV 8

UPDATE 3:56 PM 12/20/07: The Sam Zell takeover of Tribune is complete, and Randy Michaels has been announced as "executive vice president and chief executive officer of Interactive and Broadcasting" for Tribune under Zell's leadership...


This is by no means a confirmation of our earlier report that Local TV, LLC, the television operating arm of Oak Hill Capital Partners, is in line to buy the FOX sub-top 10 market owned-and-operated stations being sold - most notably, for this report, including WJW/8 "FOX 8" in Cleveland.

But it may explain why nothing's been announced.

The Los Angeles Times reports (along with another story by the Wall Street Journal) that veteran broadcast executive Randy Michaels - now running the Local TV group - is heading for rejoin long-time colleague and partner Sam Zell, who's about to buy the chain.

From the Times article (free registration required):

Michaels' is the first name to surface as Zell begins assembling his management team. A company source said Michaels would probably focus on Tribune's broadcast and interactive businesses.

Anyone who knows Randy's history knows that he ran the old Jacor Communications for Zell, then stayed on after Clear Channel bought out the company as CC's top radio executive.

So, it's no surprise that Randy would lead the charge for Zell with his new company's broadcast - and interactive - divisions.

What does this have to do with "FOX 8", and the eight other FOX O&Os being spun off by News Corporation?

Well, we'd announced that a new buyer was "found", widely expected to be Michaels' Local TV group.

A number of folks who know this sort of thing better than we do are speculating that along with Michaels' move to Tribune, Oak Hill Capital Partners may invest in the new Sam Zell-led Tribune, folding its Local TV stations into that company.

In effect, if this all pans out (and this is major speculation and rumor at this point), Randy Michaels would still end up overseeing the nine smaller-market FOX O&Os, including WJW, but as Tribune's broadcasting boss...not Local TV's.

As such, this deal potentially being "in flux" may be the cause of the delay in the announcement of WJW's new ownership.

That, like everything in the preceding few lines, is our own speculation. But it makes sense, since we already know Randy Michaels is heading for Tribune.

Just some food for thought...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Wrapping Up Some Loose Ends

...and waiting for others.

First, a reminder: OMW will be sporadically updated between now and January 2nd, 2008. We will continue to provide "major" breaking news - i.e. format changes, sales, and major personality moves - throughout the holidays, into 2008.

And by our count, we've got at least a couple or three of those waiting to happen...

NOT YET, BUT...: We haven't heard an official announcement, even within the building, of a potential new hire by a Cleveland TV station. We hinted at it earlier.

We're still waiting for the shoe to drop, and we'll let you know as soon as we are able to do so. We're pretty confident that it'll happen...

HOW CINCINNATI SHOOK OUT: Just to "get it on the record here", Cincinnati market FM talk outlet WFTK/96.5 "SuperTalk FM"'s new format is indeed rock, as the station now carries the "96 Rock - Cincinnati's Pure Rock" moniker.

And by the logo on the station's still-under-construction new website, which carries the slogan "Angry in the morning, pissed all day", it would appear that former sports talk act "The Two Angry Guys" (Richard Skinner and Tom Gamble) will return to their former morning perch on 96.5 at the start of 2008.

And unless "pissed" refers to the mood of "SuperTalk" afternoon drive host Andy Furman when he heard about the format change, he's likely out the door.

Even from the outside, where we've been following the changes in that market, you almost need to buy a faster computer to keep track of all the changes in Cincinnati in the past year or two.

Remember, Furman was the long-time evening "SportsTalk" host on the market's dominant station, WLW/700, before he ran into the Bengals' T.J. Houshmanzadeh and lost. (So have the Bengals, but that's another matter.)

The "Angry Guys" got split up at sports talk WCKY, now "1530 Homer", and eventually reunited on the FM dial, where Furman had landed as well.

Now, instead of being followed by sports talk or political talk, Skinner and Gamble will be anchoring morning drive at a rock station that will presumably have a rock-and-roll "attitude" the size of a Mack truck.

Furman? There wouldn't appear to be any in-market options for him, unless someone changes to a sports or talk format and takes him on. Clear Channel once again has a market-wide monopoly on both talk and sports, between WLW, WKRC/550, WCKY, WSAI (now sports "ESPN 1360").

And though we wouldn't QUITE bet the OMW World Headquarters against it, it seems very, very, very unlikely that he'd be welcomed back to CC's Kenwood complex any time soon...or even after that.

OMW is reminded that there were brief rumors that Furman was talking with the folks at North American Broadcasting Columbus FM talk outlet WTDA/103.9 "Talk FM", before he landed with Cumulus and WFTK. We haven't heard any similar rumors now, but it's just a data point from the past...

AND WHILE WE'RE IN COLUMBUS: One thing most of our readers have learned since OMW started in August 2005...don't depend on us for perfect descriptions of music format stations and their playlists.

So, we'd like to delineate the formats used by two Clear Channel stations with similar on-air positioning: WMRN-FM-to-be-changed/106.7, the new Columbus market "Radio 106.7", and WNFF/94.1 in the Cincinnati market, the former WVMX "Mix 94.1" now going as "Radio 94.1".

We first dip back into the OMW archives for a format description of the Cincinnati "Radio" version:

The new "Radio 94.1," according to a Clear Channel source, will be a "guitar and pop" variety station targeting females ages 25-39. It is a new type of Adult Contemporary radio station that is being positioned as "Starbucks" style music. The DJs, to be named in the future, will be more laid-back and mellow, concentrating more on the song selection with less-intrusive bantering, according to the source.

Radio 94.1's core artists will include: Dave Matthews Band, Nora Jones, Jack Johnson, Rob Thomas, John Mayer, Tori Amos, Matchbox Twenty, Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Goo Goo Dolls, Bare Naked Ladies, and Sheryl Crow.

That description, as we mentioned before, is from an article by contributor Robert Riggsbee in Cincinnati's "Business Courier".

Now, let's hear about "Radio 106.7" in Columbus.

This description comes from Clear Channel Columbus programming chief John Crenshaw, in his release announcing the new station:

“It was time for Columbus modern rock fans to have their own station. Radio 106.7 will play new and established rock artists, in the longest music sweeps available in Columbus radio today, and we will even include music by some of Columbus’s best-known or soon-to-be-discovered local bands.”

The release goes on to talk about a playlist that "will include groups like U2, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Killers, Nirvana, Nickelback and the Dave Matthews Band in a sort of 'pop-rock-alternative' combination."

Unlike its Cincinnati sister, "Radio 106.7" is going after a 25-44, presumably male, demo. The stations do share Dave Matthews Band in their playlist samples, which would presumably indicate DMB's mass appeal.

But the two stations also share the same on-air philosophy - with both promising less intrusive on-air personalities, and a focus on "the music".

This isn't the first Clear Channel "format concept" to be tweaked from city to city. Even the venerable "Kiss FM" branding applies to varied playlists in different areas, with some leaning as heavy rhythmic outlets, and others much more CHR/Pop.

(Again, don't come to us for exact dissection of music formats.)

The theory, or so it goes, is that the laid-back, less interruption format interpretation, with some attention being paid to the music, will bring back folks who may have left music radio for the mighty iPod...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: "Supertalk" Blown Up In Cincinnati

Cumulus has blown up its "SuperTalk" FM talk format in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Enquirer TV/radio guru John Kiesewetter reports that WFTK pulled the plug on the talk format after the end of this morning's "Two Angry Guys" morning drive talk show with Richard Skinner and Tom Gamble. Construction noises have filled the 96.5 airwaves.

Skinner tells Kiese that the pair is still with the station, and will return to the station post-format change, after a previously scheduled vacation, on January 2nd.

But what airs after them - in a format supposedly set to launch Friday at noon according to a countdown on the station's website - is anyone's guess.

Cumulus has thrown up roughly four or five "possible" logos, including formats from country to religious to Spanish-language formats.

Talking to Kiesewetter, WFTK afternoon drive sports star Andy Furman doesn't seem optimistic. He doesn't seem to know if contract negotiations to renew his deal with Cumulus will resume before the deal ends at the end of the year, and he quips, "I’m not spinning country music, that's for sure."

It would appear that a full-fledged change to sports talk would have to include Furman, and his being out of the loop on this change is probably not a good sign for his future on the new 96.5 format...

BREAKING NEWS: Radio 106.7 Columbus Debuts Today

We could pat ourselves on the back, but it's not like it took a team of world-class scientists to figure this one out.

OMW hears that at noon today, as expected and rumored, Clear Channel Columbus will flip stunting WMRN-FM/106.7 Dublin "Television 106.7" to a modern/adult rock format as "Radio 106.7".

The station's new website, listed as "Under Construction", bears the logo shown here.

We hear from multiple sources - basically, everyone in Columbus short of Jim Tressel - that "Radio 106.7" will be as expected, a lightly-presented music-intensive station featuring modern, classic alternative and adult alternative rock aimed at 25-44 year old listeners.

Our sources have given us a list of core artists for the new station, including older familiar groups like U2, the Dave Matthews Band, Nickleback, Pearl Jam, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the like.

But we also hear that "Radio 106.7" will tout a deep playlist, and promises to play at least some new and established local rock artists out of Central Ohio.

OMW hears that "Radio 106.7" will not add air personalities until after the first of the year, and even then, will keep their on-air talk to a minimum. The station will also tout a low commercial load, and no liners.

The model for this format is presumably Clear Channel sister station WMVX/94.1 in Cincinnati, which adopted their adult-leaning rock format as "Radio 94.1" a while back. But it also reminds us of a station up in our colleague Scott Fybush's territory - Buffalo NY market rimshot WLKK/107.7 "The Lake".

It'll be interesting if the station tries to be "too cool for the room", or is more accessible than the Buffalo market's "Lake", which plays watery sound effects and called its air personalities "Lake Guides".

Those "Guides" were taken off the water, er, "The Lake", last month in an Entercom staff purge, and WLKK is now mainly automated. (An OMW hat tip to the aforementioned Mr. Fybush for his item in NorthEast Radio Watch.)

So, we'll see how "Radio 106.7" handles the on-air talent part of the equation.

Tbe next remaining shoe to drop - we don't know what call letters the new station will adopt.

The WMRN-FM calls will surely be bounced back to the station's former home city of Marion, and land on the current WDIF/94.3 - which flipped from AC "Mix 94.3" to the old WMRN-FM "Buckeye Country" format after 106.9 left town there.

Of course, as you'd expect in even the oddest stunt, OMW has gotten a few comments from those who enjoy the "TV theme song" stunt format. While it's an interesting oddity, there's not a lot of depth to it, and even the most enthusiastic listener would tire of it after more than a few days...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cunningham Renewed

As it turns out, Clear Channel talk WLW/700 personality Bill Cunningham was on a shorter leash than we realized - when he took over the former Matt Drudge Sunday night show syndicated by Clear Channel's Premiere.

But the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Kiesewetter reports that "Willie" says he's earned a full-year renewal for "Live On Sunday Night, It's Bill Cunningham". The show airs Sunday from 10 PM to 1 AM Eastern, though flagship WLW only carries the first two hours. (Think "America's Trucking Network", and its required 12 AM start.)

Cunningham tells Kiese that the show's initial presence in that time slot was actually only a three-month audition:

"The idea was: Let's see," Cunningham says. "We lost no affiliates. The PDs (program directors) are happy."

The programmers may be happy, but Willie's "we lost no affiliates" line isn't exactly correct.

After the Sunday night show debuted, we produced a list of affiliates - some of them major - who defected after Drudge's departure. The biggest was Los Angeles talk powerhouse KFI, where Drudge actually hosted his shows when in Southern California.

But enough affiliates apparently stayed aboard to make it worthwhile for Premiere, and Cunningham says he's been notified by an E-Mail that "Live on Sunday Night" got a pickup through the year 2008...

You Can't Work For A Radio Station While In Prison

There's closure to the case of a Louisville KY radio personality, who accepted a job offer to become promotions director of Canton top 40 WZKL/92.5 "Q92" - while he was well aware that he was getting into major legal hot water in his home market.

Todd Edward Smith, known on-air at Louisville's WDJX as "Todd Kelly", was sentenced Monday to seven years in prison for an elaborate charity scam.

Smith was convicted of setting up a bogus charity for ALS - "Lou Gehrig's Disease" - after falsely telling listeners that he had the disease. He pleaded guilty to taking some $120,000 dollars he raised for research, and spending the money on himself.

Northeast Ohio has a brief role in this story.

After Kelly/Smith was already under major scrutiny in the Louisville media for all this, WZKL "Q92" announced his hiring as their new promotions director - apparently not hearing of such things as "background checks", or not being aware that Google can be your friend. Oh, they hired him apparently not noticing the AllAccess item on the scandal, months earlier.

After learning of their new hire's legal situation, WZKL quickly withdrew the job offer, and hired someone who was not facing a potential seven years behind bars. We're pretty sure Kelly/Smith never worked a day for "Q92", assuming he was even able to leave Louisville.

As our title indicates, it's difficult to promote a Canton, Ohio radio station while you're locked up in a Kentucky jail cell....


OMW hears that it's official - long-time rock programmer Greg Ausham is headed for Clear Channel rock WRQK/106.9 Canton "Rock 106.9" as program director.

Ausham will also fill the PD vacancy down the Freedom Avenue hall at the company's talk WHLO/640 Akron.

OMW reported earlier that WRQK PD Keith Hamilton stepped down from his programming duties to concentrate on his long-running midday show. And WHLO program director Jerry Mullins left the building as well.

Ausham's programming history includes a number of popular rock radio stations, including WMMS in Cleveland and WLVQ in Columbus, Detroit's WRIF, and Rochester's WCMF. We hear he's been with locally-based syndicator Envision Radio Networks, where he landed after a stint programming ABC(/Citadel) rock WDVD "The Drive" in Detroit.

He takes over the programming reins at "Rock 106.9" and WHLO on January 3rd.

While we're making a stop at Freedom Avenue, we're hearing that long-time programming operations director Keith Kennedy has signed a contract extension, keeping him with the CC Akron/Canton cluster until the year 2013...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Clearing Up Columbus

As it turns out, the rumors (clearly marked as such in an item below) about layoffs at the Clear Channel Columbus compound were a bit overstated.

In this day where large numbers of employees are let go for financial/budget reasons at clusters all over America, we're "happy" (cough) to report that only three workers have actually been let go from the hallways at Clear Channel's Columbus operations.

OMW has confirmed that talk WTVN/610 newsman Stuart Osborne is indeed gone from the building for a second time, after being laid off a year ago (and returning a couple of months later).

Soft AC WLZT/93.3 "Lite 93.3" midday personality Amy Donovan and top 40 WNCI/97.9 part-timer "Fluffer", who is also a promotions assistant, also exit. A new part-time personality will be hired to replace Donovan.

OMW hears that a number of other staffers at CC Columbus shift duties or change air shifts, in some cases either slightly trimming or lengthening their shifts.

Among them, veteran WNCI midday host Andy Clark exits that role after 24 years, but continues as the morning driver on sister WLZT. Country WCOL/92.3 afternoon drive host Joe Boxer adds the WNCI midday shift to his duties.

At least it's on two different stations. We hear that Clear Channel Cleveland staffer Daune Robinson now occupies 10 AM-7 PM on the schedule of hot AC WMVX/106.5 "Mix 106.5", in addition to 7 PM-midnight on oldies WMJI/105.7 "Majic 105.7", along with midday voicetracking work on Canton market sister AC station WHOF/101.7 "My 101.7". We half wonder if her voicetracks ever end up with station name mentions like "My Majic Mix 101.7".

Back to Columbus, where two staffers - including WTVN reporter/anchor Scott Gerfen - move into new roles in the company's online content arena.

And there's one new job opening, where we hear WTVN is actually looking for a production director. Dean Haid, who's been in the role for a year now, moves up to concentrate on imaging for the company's two AM outlets, WTVN and sister talker WYTS/1230 "Your Talk Station".

And some moves involve the Columbus cluster's newest occupant, the soon-to-be-former WMRN-FM/106.7, set to launch a format this week rumored to be an adult rock/AAA-style format similar to Cincinnati's "Radio 94.1". The station moved in from Marion has been running TV theme songs stunting as "Television 106.7". (Yes, folks, we're well aware that the TV theme format is a stunt.)

The most notable move tabs rock WBWR/105.7 "The Brew" program director Laura Lee to add similar duties at 106.7 in its new format.

That would lend credence, in our eyes, to the prospect of "Television 106.7" launching a some sort of adult-oriented rock/AAA format - though we don't know Ms. Lee or her background before her current PD gig...

Your Tuesday News

At least two items from our Rumormill, and one correction, in this batch...

WEATHER OR NOT: OMW hears strong rumblings that a now-former Cleveland TV weather forecaster could be back on the air soon in the market at another station.

We haven't confirmed this, though it's quite likely obvious who we're talking about from our wording.

We don't know when this will be made official, or what role the new weather person would take at their new station...

COLUMBUS HIT AGAIN?: Clear Channel holiday season job cuts are almost a sad tradition now, and it looks like one of the company's Ohio clusters has been hit - again.

OMW hears that as many as seven people may have just gotten a holiday pink slip from Clear Channel's cluster in Columbus, just as the group prepares to launch another new station with a new format.

Among those rumored to be out: Stuart Osborne, the former-and-again WTVN/610 news anchor who was first let go in last year's round of holiday layoffs.

After we'd reported this last year, we heard Stuart on the air a few months later (doing a report via WAN for Cleveland's WTAM/1100), and didn't realize he'd been brought back. Well, that apparently didn't last long.

We're still confirming the other six employees that our sources tell us are gone from Clear Channel in Columbus. And we're wondering if some of this could be fluid, given that the company could well be bringing people in for the new 106.7 format.

Is it adult rock, in the "Radio 106.7" mold? Is it a full-market smooth jazz competitor for Saga's WJZA/WJZK rimshot combo? Is it something else? We'll find out soon.

But either of those formats could well not require a lot of air personalities.

By the way, we hear the new 106.7 format may debut as soon as tomorrow...

NO, TV 26 ISN'T INCLUDED: An update to our earlier item about Defiance-based, Clear Channel-owned LPTV outlet WDFM-LP 26.

Sources in the region tell us that the FCC filing we linked in Monday's item was indeed a mistake, and Clear Channel and Providence Equity Partners moved to make the application moot shortly after it was filed last May.

WDFM-LP was apparently included by mistake in a global filing for "all" of Clear Channel's TV stations. Those wildcards will get you, no?

Why it hasn't disappeared or been marked "dismissed" in the FCC application, we have no idea. We seem to remember a recently uncovered proposed FM swap being marked dismissed within days after we brought it to life.

So, no...the intent is as we suspected, for WDFM's FM outlet ("Mix 98.1") to continue to run the LPTV station as a side business.

Left unanswered, of course, is the future for WDFM/98.1 itself. It's one of a number of Clear Channel small market stations that didn't even get tabbed for the now-defunct GoodRadio.TV LLC buyout.

WDFM's FM side is one of four radio stations run out of the Clear Channel Defiance area operation, along with talk WONW/1280 and country WZOM/105.7 "The Bull", licensed to Defiance itself, and AC WNDH/103.1, which is apparently run out of separate studios in Napoleon.

If, as we've speculated, WDFM ends up in the hands of a Fort Wayne operator, we'll assume the LPTV side would stick with the remaining stations in Defiance, which - again, if Clear Channel is still trying to exit its micro-markets - could end up in another operator's hands.

Only 98.1 would be of interest to someone looking to run it as a Fort Wayne semi-rimshot....with an on-channel Fort Wayne booster likely to be revived if that scenario happens.

Again, all of the above is only our own speculation, aside from the confirmation that WDFM-LP 26 is NOT included in the Providence Equity Partners/Clear Channel Television deal...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday's Return

So, the ol' OMW Inbox has clogged up again over the weekend, and there are still some outstanding items...

WJW/FOX SALE?: Estimates are not always perfect, so we weren't 100% sure that we'd hear more by now on our story from last week - the pending sale of Cleveland FOX O&O WJW/8 and eight other FOX below-top 10 market stations, presumably to Oak Hill Capital Partners (Local TV, LLC).

The announcement made by a high-level FOX executive in two meetings a week ago today at South Marginal Road told staffers that there would be news on the identity of the buyer "by the end of (last) week".

So far, unless we're missing something, there hasn't been a peep about this outside of this report... though we have been featured twice in the popular industry web publication ShopTalk, and we also hear that the TV news gossip site NewsBlues has also reprinted us. That basically means every local TV news type on the planet has read our reports.

We'll read the tea leaves and listen for the rumblings as the new work week begins.

Oak Hill certainly seems well positioned to be the buyer.

From a November 23 article in the Dallas Business Journal:

Although large private-equity firms are having a rough year, that isn't stopping Oak Hill Capital Partners from pushing ahead with plans for a third fund that organizers hope can generate $4 billion, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The firm, which was formed by Fort Worth billionaire Robert M. Bass in 1999, already has received commitments for at least $1.4 billion for what is being called Oak Hill Capital Partners III LP, the Oct. 29 filing says.

This is similar to the earlier report from Reuters, echoed by columnist Tom Taylor - that the number of private equity funds that are able to swallow such big transactions has been dwindling with the economy's downturn.

In other words, for a deal that's somewhere roughly in that same dollar neighborhood, Oak Hill wouldn't appear to have a lot of competition for the smaller-market FOX O&Os...including "Cleveland's Own FOX 8".

We'll keep you posted...

TELE-WHAT?: More on the ongoing story out of the Columbus market, where you can actually keep track of "Television 106.7" from anywhere in the world.

Clear Channel's Columbus cluster has launched streaming audio for the current WMRN-FM Dublin, which moved from its long-time perch in Marion - and down one notch on the FM dial - last month.

The collection of TV themes is actually rather odd. We didn't recognize some of them in the half-hour long stretch we heard the other day.

But the name is even odder.

When CC Columbus decides to unveil a new format on the 106.7 signal - and we hear that could be later this week - could "Television 106.7" become "Radio 106.7"?

We can't claim credit for that one...we read it on a message board post, and like that post, we're just speculating. But it sure put some ideas into our Editorial Heads.

A stunt format named "Television 106.7" would certainly make sense for a station about to take that "Radio 106.7" positioner.

If that's the case, there's a model right down I-71 - Clear Channel's own "Radio 94.1" in Cincinnati, the station long known as AC "Mix 94.1".

Here's a description of the format as it launched in Cincinnati, courtesy of an article from September by contributor Robert Riggsbee in the "Business Courier":

The new "Radio 94.1," according to a Clear Channel source, will be a "guitar and pop" variety station targeting females ages 25-39. It is a new type of Adult Contemporary radio station that is being positioned as "Starbucks" style music. The DJs, to be named in the future, will be more laid-back and mellow, concentrating more on the song selection with less-intrusive bantering, according to the source.

Radio 94.1's core artists will include: Dave Matthews Band, Nora Jones, Jack Johnson, Rob Thomas, John Mayer, Tori Amos, Matchbox Twenty, Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Goo Goo Dolls, Bare Naked Ladies, and Sheryl Crow.

Clear Channel tends to cultivate these "next thing" formats, and if they work at all in one place, they get cloned rather quickly in other markets. (We don't know how Cincinnati's "Radio" is doing, though we suspect it would play into the company changing to such a format and positioner in a nearby market.)

But we warn you - this is all speculation on our part, with no internal evidence or even rumblings to support it.

We also remind you that half of the online Radio Observation World was convinced that Clear Channel was going to launch a "Bull" country station at 101.7/North Canton.

And outside Ohio, Clear Channel in the Milwaukee market stunted as if they were about to launch an FM liberal talk format to go along with successful Madison WI liberal talk outlet WXXM/92.1, complete with on air allusions to Air America Radio and its hosts.

We seem to remember that the Milwaukee FM in question ended up with a "Brew"-labeled rock format, which, to bring this full circle, has also already happened in Columbus.

Our motto? Again, don't believe the rumblings, or what even sounds plausible or obvious...

AND ONE MORE 106.7 STOP: Which, since we've gone on at length, needs a separate "stop".

Yes, Columbus Public Schools outlet WCBE/90.5 is aware that the new 106.7 full-power signal out of greater Columbus has wiped out their Newark translator on the same frequency.

The Newark Advocate newspaper heard from upset WCBE listeners, now hearing TV theme songs instead of public radio on 106.7 in that city.

And the answer from both Clear Channel Columbus and WCBE itself is as we outlined here when we started hearing from these folks: WCBE's translator has been displaced, legally, since translators are a secondary service subject to being knocked off by approved full-power stations, even new ones.

WCBE station manager Dan Mushalko didn't get back to us, but did tell the Advocate:

"I'd like to find another frequency that's clear, and switch frequencies, but we're probably crowded out of it," Mushalko said. "It's kind of crowded in Ohio. That's part of the problem."

Again, as we also alluded, there's a line seemingly a mile long to put new FM translators on in Newark, many of them dating back four years (!!) from the previously opened FM non-comm/educational filing window. (Coming up later this week - we'll walk through some of the more recent window's filings - though not many of them affect our primary coverage area.)

But Mushalko seems to want to find some way, telling the Advocate that based on donor numbers, there are around five thousand WCBE listeners in the Newark area:

"That's a lot of a community to not be serving," Mushalko said. "I've got to find a way to get this public radio service out to them."

PAUL HARVEY...GOODBYE!: Ending what must have been the oddest format pairing the veteran news commentator's program has ever had, OMW hears from multiple sources that Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting AAA outlet WLKR/95.3 Norwalk has said goodbye to ABC Radio Networks' icon Paul Harvey.

We haven't combed the affiliate list, but we'd have to believe WLKR, whose positioner in recent months has been "It's About The Music", was the only AAA format station in the nation carrying Mr. Harvey's newscasts and commentaries.

Outside of that, we hear WLKR has also moved along news-wise, and is the latest Ohio station to carry FOX News Radio - right down to, we hear from long-time Lorain County OMW reader/contributor Nathan Obral, using the FOX News Radio sounder for local newscasts...

AND YES, IT IS A CLEAR CHANNEL TV STATION: As it turns out, the nearly completed deal to buy Clear Channel's TV station doesn't just include the company's CBS affiliate in the Cincinnati market, WKRC/12 (and digital CW network affiliate subchannel "CinCW").

Though it is not listed in any of the press releases put out about this deal, Providence Equity Partners will also pick up - assuming the FCC paperwork is correct - tiny WDFM-LP/26 in the small Ohio town of Defiance.

Yes, you read that right.

WDFM-LP has operated by its sister FM powerhouse, WDFM/98.1 "Mix 98.1", since even before Clear Channel predecessor Jacor picked up the radio station in the late 1990's.

Today, "TV 26" is basically the LPTV-equivalent of a public access cable channel, with numerous public affairs shows geared at the listening/viewing area.

We'd assume that the station would remain in the hands of whoever owns WDFM's radio side.

But sure enough, an application filed in May by WDFM seeks to sell the station as part of the deal to the Providence Equity folks (aka "TV Acquisition, LLC"). There it is, right there in the FCC database.

We wonder - was this a mistake? Do the buyers know that along with a long list of network-affiliated stations markets large and small, they picked up an LPTV station in little Defiance, OH?

Or do they intend to flip WDFM-LP A) back to the radio folks - whoever ends up buying that radio station/cluster, or B) to someone else in the LPTV game? (Greg Phipps, you have a call on the white courtesy phone...)

Just guesses on our part, due to the unusual nature of WDFM-LP.

Speaking of "TV 26"'s radio mothership - we wonder who'll eventually end up with it, if Clear Channel is successful at selling off its supposedly unwanted small market radio stations.

We can't help but wonder if one of the numerous local group owners in nearby Fort Wayne IN will take a run at adding the full-B 98.1 FM signal to an existing group of stations. Remember, WDFM (FM) still has a license for the long-gone on-channel booster in that Indiana city...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Other Youngstown TV Shoe Drops

The job carnage at the OTHER Youngstown TV news operation, the one absorbing Parkin ABC affiliate WYTV/33's news production starting Monday, wasn't quite as severe as the list of cuts at the station being merged into it.

But the Youngstown Vindicator reports that "about a half-dozen" workers at New Vision's WKBN/27-WYFX/17-62 were told that their services were no longer needed - mostly off-air/engineering/production types.

The two on-air staffers gone from "27 First News" include veteran reporter Joe Bell, who told the Vindicator that he was "a little bit outside (New Vision's) price range". The 15 year station vet wasn't saved by seniority rules, since those rules were suspended in a recent contract pact.

Bell, of course, was a highly visible union leader at WKBN, though he doesn't give any thought to the possibility that may have contributed to his departure.

"First News" reporter Tricia Perry is also leaving, though Bell says she voluntarily left - accepting a station buy-out offer. Considering the situation at WKBN/WYFX/WYTV, that might be the smartest move of all.

The layoffs announced last week at WYTV were much more severe - with 40 employees gone, including anchors Vince Bevacqua and Gina Marinelli.

And OMW hears that Bevacqua reluctantly gave a very brief farewell speech on "33 News"' last originally-produced newscast. In a solo shot - without Angee Shaker, who stays aboard - Bevacqua thanked viewers, and we hear he seemed to allude to the fact that Friday's program may be his last television newscast - ever.

(Maybe he'll catch up with former WKBN anchor Robb Schmidt, who made the escape to the world outside TV news to Youngstown State University's athletic department, and land somewhere at YSU.)

OMW also hears that coverage of the news merger was muted on the stations involved.

WYTV did not report the news on its own 11 PM program, and Bevacqua's newscast-ending speech didn't mention the reason for his departure, or anything else about this ongoing story.

We're told that "27 First News" touched on the story during its 10 PM "First News on FOX" on FOX 17/62, with a short voiceover ending, ironically enough, the Youngstown Business Journal-branded business segment.

Speaking of the Business Journal, it's been the place where much of the "behind the scenes" action has been documented.

On Friday, the paper's Andrea Wood detailed the moves, including the filing of a police report by Bevacqua over apparently threatening message board comments on the Youngstown Vindicator's website. The comments in question have been removed, but at least some station employees' comments are still there. (And they laughed when we started requiring logins for comments here...)

As earlier reported, the "33 News" operation is taking the weekend off, as New Vision and WKBN/WYFX readies a new studio to produce the station's newscasts starting Monday.

What will "33 News" look like Monday?

Well, the branding will continue in some form, and we're guessing that New Vision will move the current set at Shady Run Road into the new space on Sunset Boulevard.

With Vince Bevacqua and Gina Marinelli gone, Angee Shaker stays, as, apparently, does long-time sports anchor Bob Hannon and veteran weatherman Stan Boney.

As for the rest - the Business Journal's Andrea Wood sums it up:

Separate news branding and anchors will be maintained but editorial content and some reporters will appear on WYTV, WKBN and WYFX newscasts.

We'll guess here that all of the combined operation's reporters will mostly appear on all stations for the vast majority of stories, such as breaking news or hard news stories. Why send two sets of reporters to the same fire or news conference?

If WYTV does split off reporting, it'll likely be for various "special report" series the station does now.

This is all speculation, to make it clear. But though we don't have any indication this will happen, and we don't want to introduce any unneeded worry, OMW wonders how long the reasonably large combined reporting staff at WKBN/WYFX/WYTV will continue at that size.

If it all fits under the Shared Services Agreement between WYTV owner Parkin and WKBN/WYFX's New Vision, then we'll assume that question gets put off until that agreement needs renewed. Again, we hear nothing to suggest that further cuts are in the immediate offing.

But a year or two down the road, or whenever Parkin can renegotiate the contract? Who knows?

And with that, that's why we said Tricia Perry may have been smart to take the buyout, and move on...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Moving On, Moved In, Moved On

We have mostly Cleveland TV-related items fact, all of them are...

BIG APPLE BOUND: OMW has learned that ABC affiliate WEWS/5 in Cleveland will be losing reporter Carolina Leid.

Ms. Leid is leaving "NewsChannel 5" for the nation's largest TV market, New York City. She takes a reporting job at ABC O&O WABC/7 in the Big Apple.

Carolina's last day at 3001 Euclid will be December 28th.

OMW hears that WEWS is looking for her replacement...

AC WITH JN: Long-running WEWS weekend show "Academic Challenge" enters its 40th season this weekend with a new host.

Station weather forecaster Jason Nicholas, who's been filling in for the vacationing Mark Johnson this week, will front the high school quiz show this season.

Previous "Challenge" hosts include Adam Shapiro (now with FOX Business Network as a Washington, DC-based field reporter) and another weatherman most associated with the show in his long run as host, former WEWS forecaster Don Webster.

"Academic Challenge" starts its season Saturday night at 7 PM on Channel 5...

This actually happened a few days long ago that the Drooling Male Message Board types have already dissected it backwards and forwards.

But a kind soul grabbed it out of that discussion and forwarded it to us, sans-drool: Former WOIO/19 "19 Action News" morning anchor Allison Alexander has landed.

In fact, she's rejoined her former news director at Reserve Square, Stephen Doerr, at ABC affiliate WLNE/6 in the Providence RI TV market.

Doerr came out of consultancy a while back to become Vice President/General Manager of the station licensed to nearby New Bedford MA.

At her new home station, Ms. Alexander is taking over an evening anchor slot when she joins WLNE on January 1st.

A Providence Journal article notes that Allison's contract with WOIO was "reportedly not renewed" in September, though we were hearing those rumblings back in July.

As we said in our earlier report on Mr. Doerr's new job, WLNE is considered by industry observers to be basically "the third station in a two station market", with the other two Providence-based network affiliates dominant in Rhode Island...

THAT SUIT: You might have noticed that OMW has not provided "blow by blow" coverage of that infamous wrongful termination lawsuit against WOIO by former managing editor David Eden.

Simply put, we don't have a department that covers the television equivalent of professional wrestling, so we stayed out of the fray.

But we'll wrap it up here by nodding to the Cleveland Plain Dealer's report this week of a "generous financial settlement" between the former "Free Times" editor and the Raycom CBS/MyNetworkTV affiliate in town.

Let's just say that according to the PD's James McCarty, the judge, and the jury's members, didn't really have a favorable view of the Reserve Square work environment - and the jury was about to deliver a costly, quick and unanimous smackdown upon WOIO.

That really doesn't come as a surprise to anyone who's heard anything about the "Action News" operations.

But we were always chuckling at the whole thing to begin with.

Only at Reserve Square would the former editor of one of the market's tabloid weekly newspapers be thrust into the world of television news, with no previous experience on the TV side...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hamilton No Longer WRQK PD

OMW hears this afternoon that Clear Channel rock WRQK/106.9 Canton "Rock 106-9" program director Keith Hamilton is dropping that title from his job description.

Hamilton took over as program director when Clear Channel took over the long-time Canton rocker from Cumulus.

We hear that Keith will continue with his midday air shift...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

FOX Selling WJW - Update

We've worked the phones, er, E-Mail, and gathered information from a number of our sources, and we now have a clearer picture of the impending sale of FOX owned-and-operated station WJW/8 "FOX 8" in Cleveland and a number of sister stations.

First of all, a clarification.

After sweeping the building at South Marginal Road, OMW hears that FOX honcho Dennis Swanson did NOT announce the actual identity of the buyer that has been found for WJW and eight other smaller market O&Os. Staffers were told that the buyer's identity should be known sometime by the end of this week.

We have confirmed, though, the announcement to WJW staffers in two meetings Monday that there is indeed a buyer, and many other details have become clearer.

The only name that's popped up as the likely incoming buyer of the sold-off FOX stations is indeed Oak Hill Capital Partners, known operationally as Local TV, LLC.

That's the group identified in our original item, and we're confident enough to predict their takeover will be officially announced in the next few days - though we have been told that there was interest from at least one or two other parties.

One other big piece of news we can share: WJW will remain a FOX affiliate under the sale agreement. The deal includes a 10 year contract with the network that's selling the station, though as we said before, we find it hard to envision any other outcome anyway.

OMW also hears that FOX's Swanson warned "FOX 8" staffers that the new company's benefit package would "not be as robust" as the one offered by the network.

We haven't "run the numbers", but we have heard many times that FOX actually pays well, and provides good benefits for its local employees. It'd probably be hard for Oak Hill/Local TV LLC (or any other similar size company) to match that.

So, anyway...

Status? Sale confirmed. Identity of buyer not yet official, but putting horses on Oak Hill Capital Partners/Local TV, LLC wouldn't be a risky bet, with the firm's identity to be officially revealed sometime before the end of the week.

OMW? Caught up...

Monday, December 03, 2007

EXCLUSIVE (?): WJW, FOX O&Os To Oak Hill

UPDATE 10:37 PM 12/4/07: We are trying to nail down this story on a nationwide basis, which we reported based upon information from long-time, trusted, reliable sources in this area.

The sale we were told was announced locally has not yet been reported elsewhere, but we're keeping an eye on it.

We'll add a new update later.

-- The Management


This may well be a national exclusive.

OMW hears that it has been announced to staffers at Cleveland FOX owned-and-operated WJW/8 "FOX 8" that the local station, and eight other FOX-owned stations are being sold to Oak Hill Capital Partners. The below-top-10 market outlets were put on the block to help fund FOX parent News Corporation's successful bid for the "Wall Street Journal".

Yes, that's the same Oak Hill Capital Partners which bought the New York Times TV stations, and now run them under the "Local TV, LLC" banner.

And yes, that's the same Oak Hill which hired former Clear Channel radio head Randy Michaels, he of suburban Cincinnati, to run the group.

The prospect was brought up recently in a Reuters article, which we found through Tom Taylor's daily newsletter.

OMW hears that Randy's name was mentioned at today's meeting with FOX brass visiting the South Marginal Road headquarters of WJW.

"Cleveland's Own" FOX 8 is the largest market station on the nine-station FOX sell-off list, followed by markets like Denver and St. Louis.

FOX's top 10 market O&Os (in places like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles) are staying with the company.

And unlike WJW, those big market stations have existing duopolies, which allows the company to operate two stations for not much more than the price of one.

Oh, and to answer a question we've already gotten from readers:

We haven't heard any definitive word, but we'd be shocked if Oak Hill/Local TV did not continue operating WJW as a FOX affiliate.

Though the network is selling the station, the FOX lineup and branding is very, very successful for WJW. Most industry observers believe the network affiliation won't go anywhere after the sale...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Tom Sullivan Dies

OMW hears that long-time Northeast Ohio radio personality Tom Sullivan has passed away at the age of 53. Tom, born Tom Farrar in Canal Fulton in 1954, died Friday afternoon.

From the Canton Repository's online obituary listing:

Tom spent over 30 years in radio and was known by his stage name Tom Sullivan. Tom worked for WKDD, WQMX, WHBC-FM and the old M105 in Cleveland and others. "If I put a smile on your face or made you laugh at one of my stunts, then it was all worth while"

Tom's last known radio job, as far as we know, was as the morning man a while back at Tuscarawas Broadcasting CCM outlet WNPQ/95.9 in the Canton market.

In addition to the above, Tom also opened the microphone in that market fairly recently at D.A. Peterson top 40 WZKL/92.5 "Q92", where he did weekend/swing as recently as a couple of years or so ago. Outside the region, the 1976 Kent State University graduate was also once heard in Fort Wayne IN and Charleston WV.

We don't have many details on Tom's condition before his death, but we know he's been fighting illness for some time.

A memorial service for Tom will be held this Wednesday at 7 PM, at Canal Fulton's Swigart-Easterling Funeral Home on East Cherry Street.

RIP, Tom...

Two More Outer Area Items

Our apologies if OMW is looking like Columbus And Youngstown Media Watch lately, but that's the bulk of what's been going on in Ohio the past two to three days.

Just as a teaser, though...early next week, we'll have a little more from a long-time Cleveland radio personality now "on the beach" - and no, we don't mean literally "on the beach" these days...

WIPING OUT A TRANSLATOR: Everyone knew that the move of Clear Channel country WMRN-FM/106.9 to the Columbus market, and the station's frequency move to 106.7/Dublin, would push a translator on that frequency off the air.

The translator has been owned by Sandyworld, Inc., one of the two organizations that filed repeated moves to try to stop the WMRN-FM move-in.

That effort being unsuccessful, and the station getting a construction permit for the move, the Sandyworld folks continued to try to derail the move as recently as a week before it actually happened.

Listeners in the Columbus market tell OMW that the Sandyworld translator did NOT go off the air when WMRN-FM's new signal lit up, causing some interference problems in the general area of the translator's existing location.

We don't know for sure, but we believe the translator gave up at some point, and signed off.

But the WMRN-FM move didn't just affect that facility.

OMW has heard from more than one reader that the new Clear Channel full-power 106.7 facility, currently stunting with TV theme songs, has wiped out another existing 106.7 translator - a 13 watt station that relays Columbus City School district outlet WCBE/90.5 in the Central Ohio city of Newark.

We've put in an inquiry to the WCBE folks, but haven't heard back yet.

But for those writing us: Basically, in FCC-land, FM translators are considered a "secondary service".

If a full-power station wins approval to set up a new or changed signal, the translator is basically required to move or shut off. Period.

And though WCBE is certainly providing a needed radio service to the Newark area, which would presumably be on the fringe of the 90.5 signal out of Columbus, when WMRN-FM got the construction permit for 106.7/Dublin, WCBE had no protection legally to prevent it from happening.

We're assuming that WCBE will seek a new frequency for the Newark translator, though a quick check of FCC records doesn't show it applying for such a frequency. (If they aren't looking to do so, maybe they just the past two days, we've had two non-regular readers apparently plug the "WMRN" calls into Google and find us, just to read or complain about this issue.)

But again - that's a move/decision the Columbus school district will have to make, and they've better hurry. The aforementioned FCC check shows a boatload of translator applications pending in Newark, dating back to 2003, meaning they'll have a lot of competition for a new spot on the Newark dial...

AND NOW ON THE LIFEBOAT, THE GENERAL MANAGER: In what's really not a surprise to most observers, the general manager of Parkin ABC affiliate WYTV/33 Youngstown is himself heading out the door.

Dave Trabert had dutifully passed on the, umm, stuff that the station's new management had fed him about the future of the market's third-ranked outlet under a rather thinly developed company, amid reports and rumblings from sources such as the Youngstown Business Journal, and of course, this very blog.

The Business Journal reports this weekend that Trabert says "it's time to go home" - home being Wichita, Kansas, where he ran KAKE-TV until coming to WYTV four years ago. His family apparently still lives in Wichita, even to this day.

As for the "body count" of job losses at WYTV after Friday's ultimatum, the Business Journal's Andrea Wood reports that "about 40" of the ABC affiliate's 70 employee roster won't be staying on with the moved Channel 33 operation, including eight of the 28 newsroom staffers. She reports that engineering staffers took the hardest hit in the round of cuts.

As expected, anchors Vince Bevacqua and Gina Marinelli won't be making the move to the WKBN/WYFX facility. Marinelli used to work there, of course.

WKBN/WYFX will make a similar personnel move next Friday.

Then, WYTV will take the weekend of December 8th and 9th to make the move, with 33's newscasts going dark that weekend in favor of syndicated programming.

Wood reports that the moved WYTV newscasts will retain the station's current "look and feel", but will share "newsgathering resources" with the WKBN/WYFX newsroom, with some combination of the WYTV and WKBN/WYFX news staffers producing similar content for both operations. (Remember, the latter folks are also expected to see similar job cuts next Friday.)

Will they buy reporters 3-station microphone flags, or just go without?

And Wood also reports that Ms. Marinelli, exiting as anchor at WYTV, is apparently lobbying for an open anchor slot on the only Youngstown station not involved in all this, Vindicator NBC affiliate WFMJ/21. That move would mean that she'd be one of the few local TV personalities seen on every commercial outlet in the market...