Wednesday, January 30, 2008

WKNR Changes

We've heard the rumors, but AllAccess makes it official today: Good Karma sports WKNR/850 "ESPN 850" Cleveland producer, anchor and reporter Bernard Bokenyi is no longer working at the station.

The radio trade site says Bokenyi, one of Good Karma boss Craig Karmazin's first two hires for his Cleveland operation, left the station on Friday. Bokenyi was originally hired for Good Karma's WWGK/1540, now "Cleveland's AM 1540, KNR2", which started before Karmazin bought sports talk mainstay WKNR from Salem.

Bokenyi came to the station along with Aaron Goldhammer, who's now WKNR's assistant program director, along with being producer/sidekick for mid-morning host Tony Rizzo.

The AllAccess report doesn't say who will replace Bokenyi.

But we have a good idea who it'll be.

After pressing our ears to the wall of the newsstand next to the WKNR studios at the Galleria, OMW hears it's been officially announced: Metro Networks afternoon update anchor Daryl Ruiter will make the move downtown, and will take much of Bokenyi's work load - including the production of "ESPN 850"'s afternoon drive show with Mark "Munch" Bishop.

We hear Daryl starts at WKNR a week from next Monday...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Losing Tony - The Third Time

UPDATE: WARF has already posted a new schedule, with 1-4 PM host Dan Patrick moving to a new live clearance from 9-noon, and new SNR addition "The 2 Live Stews" airing from 1-4 PM...both changes starting next Monday...


Clear Channel sports talk WARF/1350 Akron "SportsRadio 1350" could be the only sports radio station in America which has lost talk show host Tony Bruno for the third time.

Via AllAccess: Sporting News Radio has officially announced Bruno's departure from the network's midday slot - retroactively to his last show on January 18th.

Bruno will reportedly remain with the network for "special projects" the next couple of months, but he's done his last radio show for SNR. AllAccess reports that weekenders Bob Berger and Bob Stelton, along with evening host Arnie Spanier, are among the fill-ins until a permanent decision is made on Bruno's time slot.

And yes, Akron's 1350 has aired Bruno's national radio show in all of its incarnations.

The station was "ESPN 1350" when Bruno aired on ESPN Radio, and the then-WTOU picked him up again with its network change to FOX Sports Radio.

Of course, 1350 then flipped to liberal talk as "Radio Free Ohio", but returned as a sports station with Sporting News Radio - by then, Bruno's new radio home.

All three times, Bruno left his network employer while he was airing on 1350.

What's next...the "Sports Byline" network?

The CC Sale And Northeast Ohio

What's been "topic number one" in Northeast Ohio radio-land the past few days doesn't concern the debut of a new co-host this morning on CBS Radio AC WDOK/102.1 "Soft Rock 102.1".

It's not Craig Karmazin's latest move in his Sports Radio Empire, sort of headquartered these days at the Galleria in downtown Cleveland - depending on where Mr. Karmazin hangs his hat most of the year.

No, it's something that hasn't even happened yet.

Various trade publications last week reported the official word that the FCC has OK'ed the transfer of Clear Channel Communications (PDF file link) to two private equity firms - Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners. The move means only the Federal Trade Commission's approval stands between the deal and its consummation sometime later this year.

You might recall that Clear Channel proposed sending a number of stations into the "Aloha Trust", a third-party that would eventually have to sell the stations marked.

One of those stations was the company's top 40 WAKS/96.5 Akron "Kiss FM", which operates out of the Clear Channel Cleveland World Domination HQ at Oak Tree.

Well, with the FCC approval, the commission put a condition on it - a certain number of stations will indeed have to be transferred to that trust for eventual sale to another owner.

And as you can see in this list compiled by's Lance Venta - look! There's WAKS! (The list is taken from Appendix B of the FCC's order, in the PDF linked above.)

Also on the list are two of the company's Dayton area stations, and some southeast Ohio stations once tabbed for sale to the now-deceased "GoodRadio.TV LLC" effort, which will have to be sold to SOMEONE.

We're not just in the theoretical, anymore. The folks at Oak Tree will have to get WAKS off the ownership books to be sold, to comply with the FCC's wishes.

Or will they?

Some rumblings we heard floating out of Oak Tree, onto the wind and into our ears, say that Clear Channel may - or may not - sell the WAKS facility specifically. The feeling there is that if one of the other current five FM holdings out of Oak Tree were to get a larger price, they'd sell that station instead.

How the formats would shuffle out is anyone's guess. The low stations on the Format Change Speculation Totem Pole are usually hot AC WMVX/106.5, and rock WMMS/100.7.

But even classic hits WMJI/105.7 could be in play, if John Lanigan's latest reported on-air chatter about not signing another contract turns into reality. The conventional wisdom there is that 105.7 could become just about anything format-wise without "Lanigan and Malone" to hold it up in morning drive.

Who's out there buying? That could be a big problem for Clear Channel.

CBS doesn't have any room for a fifth FM, and CC wouldn't likely sell it to their primary in-market competitor. Radio One has room, but do they have the cash? The company is said to not be doing very well nationally, though Cleveland is a good market for them - with popular WZAK/93.1 and WENZ/107.9 leading the way. And again, would CC sell?

Salem also has been selling more than buying, and with a full-market FM signal running its "Fish" format already, what would they do with a second? Salem's three core formats are represented with decent signals in Cleveland - 95.5, 1220 and 1420 - and Salem doesn't strike us as a company that would buy prime real estate on the FM dial for top dollar.

As for other possibilities, the sold station would be a single FM, which means unless someone picked up one or two other signals from other operators, it doesn't make sense for the usual players, even those who aren't here already.

Entercom is one of those, but we doubt they'd enter the Cleveland market with a solo FM.

And some speculate that Good Karma's Craig Karmazin gets involved here.

Well, his AM holdings (specifically WKNR/850) are a direct competitor to Clear Channel's WTAM/1100. Do you think CC wants to sell him a powerful FM signal where he can run his sports programming against their big AM talk/sports outlet?

And if CC is - as we've mentioned - rumored to be selling whatever signal gets it the most money...would that big FM stick be too rich for Mr. Karmazin's money? Even if CC agreed to sell it to him?

He doesn't have many full-signal stations. His FM sports talker in Madison is a class A rimshot from Columbus WI, which is in the process of being moved into the heart of the market. His FM rocker in that market is a class A rimshot from southern end of the market.

We have no evidence that Good Karma is interested in - or can even afford - a full-market class B FM signal in a market like Cleveland. WKNR was the company's very first full-market, full-time AM signal in a top 30 market.

Then, there's the Akron Situation.

WAKS/96.5 is licensed to Akron. It's the former home of WKDD, of course, the 2008 version of which now resides on 98.1 Canton.

Assuming CC can't get "top dollar" for "lakefront" property with one of the other Cleveland FM stations, could 96.5 basically be moved back down to Akron, returning the station to its historic home just to get it off the books?

And could a 96.5 signal downgraded back into Akron - presumably from its former tower next to WCUE/1150 on Bellaire Road - satisfy the commission by being transferred to Freedom Avenue, on CC's Akron/Canton books?

Probably not, due to the general definition of the area market, but we're throwing it out there. We don't know the answers to pretty much all these questions, even in Rumorland.

For now, with WAKS tabbed to go into the Aloha Trust...we presume the folks at Oak Tree will continue to program and run it as they do now, until whenever the station goes out of the company...or if another of the Oak Tree FMs is sold instead in the required effort to reduce the company's ownership stake in the Cleveland market.

There are a lot of other questions here, and nearly all of the above is pure speculation. But since everyone else is talking about it...why not us?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Furman Resurfaces

It's not a full-time sports talk show, but long-time Cincinnati radio sports voice Andy Furman has landed a new gig.

Starting Monday, Furman will deliver one minute weekday commentaries on Cincinnati oldies outlet WDJO/1160 "Oldies 1160", during the morning drive show with Dusty Rhodes.

The station's website would seem to indicate that he'll opine on a broader scale:

Andy Furman talks about more than just sports! Listen Monday morning at 7:55 to find out what he knows, and what his opinion is!!

Cincinnati Enquirer radio/TV guru John Kiesewetter reports that the job sprang directly from Kiese's own story last Sunday in the newspaper, where Furman lamented that his radio career was over, and had decided to not pursue radio jobs in other markets, since he wanted to stay in town.

"Oldies 1160"'s Rodger Kay saw the story, then got in touch with Furman.

Andy Furman's best known, of course, for his lengthy stint hosting "SportsTalk" on Clear Channel talk WLW/700 "The Big One". After he was let go, he bounced back in afternoons on Cumulus talk WFTK/96.5 "SuperTalk FM", a job which recently ended as the station dumped FM talk to become "96 Rock"...

Friday, January 25, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: WDOK Announces New Trapper Jack Co-Host

CBS Radio Cleveland AC WDOK/102.1 "Soft Rock 102.1" has filled the open chair left by the departure of long-time morning drive co-host Robin Benzle.

The station has announced that Terry Moir will join "Trapper Jack and the Morning Show" starting Monday, January 28th.

Quoting the station's official release:

“Terry’s energy and passion for our business surpasses most that I’ve worked with over the years,” says Christopher Maduri, Senior Vice President and Market Manager for CBS RADIO’s four Cleveland stations. “Her talent and creativity are limitless and we are all confident that her joining Trapper and News Director Jim in the mornings will entertain our Greater Cleveland listening audience for years to come.”

Trapper Jack added, “Terry is such a positive person that she lifts every room she walks into. She’s fun, funny … and I’m absolutely thrilled she wants to come play with us.”

As she's a radio novice, you might be wondering...Terry WHO?

Moir is the Director of Programming and Sales Marketing for Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3, a job she's had for 10 years...after an 18 year stint at Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5.

And she'll still be WKYC's programming boss. She's not leaving 13th and Lakeside, according to the WDOK release:

Joining the ranks of individuals like Ryan Seacrest and Whoopi Goldberg who host morning shows on radio and then continue their day elsewhere, Terry will also continue in her position at TV-3.

We'll have any more as we find out...

More On Milwaukee

A quick follow to the item about Good Karma's Craig Karmazin and his purchase of Salem Christian talk WRRD/540 in the Milwaukee market...

The price Good Karma has now been revealed, thanks to FCC filings...$3.8 million.

And some more details are being made known.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel now reports
rumblings that Salem is selling its other station in Milwaukee, CCM outlet WFZH/105.3 "The Fish", to the folks at Educational Media Foundation ("K-Love").

That would answer a question we had - why would Salem sell a station with its core format, Christian teaching/talk? The answer: assuming the news about its FM outlet is true, Salem sees Milwaukee as an underperforming market, and is getting out entirely.

And the Journal-Sentinel article has another tidbit of information about Craig Karmazin's plans for what has become a two station Milwaukee cluster:

He notes that he's had a number of calls in recent days from folks interested in buying the station (WAUK). But it's not on the market.

"Like any asset in the world, I'm sure there's a price," he says. "But it's not something I'm looking to sell."

Right now, potential formats for WAUK run the gamut from liberal talk to Spanish-language sports, to brokered programming - that is, airtime purchased by individuals or groups, like churches.

"Anything would be a possibility," he says.

We're kinda shaking our heads at that potential format list - which we assume was drawn up by Tim Cuprisin on his own, without help from Mr. Karmazin.

If we had to bet a spare $10 bill, we'd put it on Craig doing with WAUK what he's done with his original daytime station here in Cleveland, positioning it as a second, mainly syndicated sports talk outlet to his new primary station in Milwaukee - "ESPN 540". Perhaps it becomes "ESPN 1510"?

This news affects what we've talked about here in two places.

First, now that we know Salem is selling out of Milwaukee ("EVERYTHING MUST GO!"), a similar scenario here - where Good Karma would buy the former home of WKNR, AM 1220 - wouldn't likely happen unless Salem sold out of Cleveland as a whole.

With its three core formats fully represented here, and just having taken money from Mr. Karmazin for its second best signal in the market, we doubt that's happening.

Second, well, Educational Media Foundation is on the prowl, looking to add another market to its reach by taking advantage of Salem's apparent exit from Milwaukee to add a full-market signal for its "K-Love" format.

That would tend to make us wonder about its role in the future of Clear Channel country WCKY-FM/103.7 "103-7 CKY" in Tiffin, which was the one station left out of the announced sale of CC's Findlay/Tiffin and Sandusky stations to BAS Broadcasting.

Is EMF looking to fill a signal hole in Toledo, where it owns western rimshot K-Love outlet WNKL/96.9 Wauseon?

And would it pay to move 103.7 up closer to Toledo? There's really not a LOT of room to do so, if any, and an outfit like EMF may be OK even with the current rimshot signal from the south - which does a "decent enough" job on car radios in areas where 96.9 has problems.

There are also rumblings that other local owners may be looking at 103.7, though we don't know who would fit that bill...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Craig's Milwaukee Upgrade

Craig Karmazin, who owns sports talker WKNR/850 "ESPN 850" and sister WWGK/1540 "KNR2" in Cleveland, has been a little busy in one of his other markets.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that his Good Karma Broadcasting is moving its sports talk format in that market to a new, full-time signal, as it picks up Salem Christian talk/teaching WRRD/540.

Good Karma's ESPN-based sports talk format in Milwaukee is currently housed at daytimer WAUK/1510 Waukesha, with a second nighttime home at local urban talk outlet WMCS/1290. The combo is promoted as "ESPN Milwaukee - 1510 Days, 1290 Nights". The format will simulcast on 540 AM starting in mid-February, and eventually, 1510 will get a second, currently unknown format. ("AM 1510, ESPN Milwaukee2" anyone?)

The move, aside from giving the station a 24 hour presence on one frequency, is apparently also driven by the impending loss of the nighttime time brokering deal with WMCS, which Milwaukee's Business Journal reports ends at the end of this year.

OMW readers, of course, know that Craig Karmazin has done business with Salem before, in his purchase of WKNR.

While speculation is likely to mount here, we wouldn't expect him to do something like, well, buy Salem's big-signaled WHKW/1220 "The Word", the company's home of the Christian talk/teaching format here in Northeast Ohio - and the original home of the WKNR sports format now on 850.

Salem very, very rarely sells its talk/teaching outlets. The format is the very core of its business plan, and the reason the company exists. We wonder if they're doing so in Milwaukee because of another shoe no one has hinted about yet, perhaps the purchase of an FM station up there where they can land the teaching/talk format.

We would expect a repeat of this move in Cleveland only IF Salem were to somehow land a full-market FM signal - or a reasonably good rimshot - for the current "Word" format, or if Salem somehow falls apart financially, and has to start selling signals.

Good Karma's new signal in Milwaukee sounds like it's a small one...just 400 watts, directional, which is less than half the company's WWGK/1540 down here.

But 540 AM is an amazing frequency. At the very, very low end of the AM dial, 400 watts gives WRRD coverage that may even be better than a high-band 5,000 watt station...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday And New Stuff

Some actual news has happened this weekend. Or, sometime in the last week, but we just got a Round Tuit(tm) now...

STO INDIANS ROAD GAMES IN HD, CONFIRMED: It's been rumored around the Internet for a while that SportsTime Ohio would "drop the other shoe" as far as HDTV coverage of Cleveland Indians games. But now, we have it confirmed.

WKYC/3 senior director Frank Macek gets the scoop in his "Director's Cut" blog from STO itself:

Regarding STO - yes, all Indians games (home & away) this season will be done in high definition according to Pat Kilkenney, SportsTime Ohio Vice President of Program Acquisition/ Executive Producer. Viewers having been asking - and now you shall receive.

STO had been broadcasting road games in SD, while WKYC - the network's over-air partner for the games - has been doing road games in HD. It looks like an All HD Season for Tribe fans starting in April.

Note that OMW hears (from other sources) that there will still be some SD games in the 2008 Indians spring training schedule...but it'll be all HD starting with Opening Day.

By the way, congratulations to Frank on the first anniversary of "Director's Cut". The blog is very useful to us, helping us keep track of some of the "behind the scenes" workings at the local NBC affiliate.

And his anniversary message may mark the first time anyone's ever called us a "great publication"...

SPEAKING OF THE TRIBE: One of the Indians broadcasters will be "on the mend" for much of spring training, due to a hip injury.

We'd heard about this from one of our regular sources, but it's confirmed by local sports media columnist/TV host Les Levine in the Lake County News-Herald - in an item Les ran last Sunday:

Several Indians players are re-habbing after suffering injuries during the past season. So is a member of their broadcasting staff. Mike Hegan should be ready for the final spring training in Winter Haven, Fla., after suffering a broken hip on the golf course. Like many of us do, Hegan reportedly attempted to move a golf cart while sitting on the passenger side, lost control and crashed into a tree.

Les also notes that iconic Cavaliers radio play-by-play broadcaster Joe Tait is also facing medical issues - with knee replacement surgery scheduled for the team's off-season.

We wish a speedy recovery for Mr. Hegan, and as for Mr. Tait...well, let's just hope no one decides to do surgery on his vocal cords...

NEW STATION, WELL, SORT OF: Actually, it's a new translator in the Akron area that's squeezed its way onto the airwaves, on a frequency that's second-adjacent to a Cleveland powerhouse.

An OMW reader living in the Akron area wondered what new station was stopping his radio scans at 102.5 FM, at first thinking it was some sort of pirate.

No, this thing actually has an FCC license.

It's W273BL/Akron, which has become the latest outlet for Educational Media Foundation satellite-fed network "Air1". "Air1" is the younger-skewing network that's the sister of the ubitquous Christian contemporary network "K-Love", both based near Sacramento, California.

The FCC construction permit for the new translator was recently transferred to EMF from Creative Educational Media, the owner of the religious "Oasis Network" - which is the licensee of WOFN/88.7 Beach City OH near Canton.

W273BL is pumping out 10 watts from an antenna on the WVPX/23-WONE/97.5 tower near Akron's Rolling Acres Mall.

And according to the link above, EMF had roughly just over a week to put 102.5 on the air in Akron, as the construction permit was to expire on January 28th.

We've talked about this sort of thing before - the massive number of unbuilt translator applications sitting around from a few years ago.

W273BL's original life as an application started in 2003, and its currently authorized construction permit was granted a few days after EMF took over the facility last November.

The new station is rather close, electronically, to CBS Radio AC WDOK/102.1 Cleveland. In its application, EMF's engineers argued - apparently successfully - that the translator wouldn't interfere with WDOK in populated areas - despite being within WDOK's protected 60 dBu contour. It's something about the interference happening only over a small airborne area, not affecting population.

The bigger problem would seem to be for the tiny translator, which can get wiped off the dial in much of greater Akron by WDOK's spillover, especially on radios with poor selectivity.

The W273BL application lists the primary station as KHRI in Hollister CA, and our original source says they heard that ID on the new Akron translator. The signal may be getting there via another of EMF's local translators in the area.

OMW noted earlier that EMF bought WCVJ/90.9 Jefferson, and flipped it to Air1, with the apparent intent on using it to seed commercial band translators in Northeast Ohio.

We're not even sure that rule (about needing a non-comm station nearby to feed commercial band translators) is still in place, or if EMF gets around it by using EMF's W215BS/Hinckley, which is on 90.9 as well, as the "off-air" feed originator.

And that's much more than we expected to ever write about a translator of a nationwide religious music network that basically has those tiny stations at every wide spot on the road...

ANOTHER WVKO ITEM: You can blame us for this one, as we took to the forums of Columbus liberal talker WVKO/1580's website to defend our earlier item about the station using a public Internet streaming audio feed to deliver programming normally sent by satellite.

The move has forced WVKO to replace Jones Radio's Bill Press in morning drive with Air America Radio's "The Young Turks" - or whatever AAR will put on in the time slot if the show, as reported by some, has ended. (We note it like that because the show's own website seems to indicate that they'll be back on Tuesday after Sam Seder subs for them.)

Well, a new show has debuted on WVKO, and not only is this an intended program change, it's local.

"What's What with Mike Cole" started a week ago today in the 5-6 PM weekday time slot, displacing one hour of AAR afternoon drive host Randi Rhodes. From the station's website:

Talk show host Mike Cole is a rising star in Central Ohio radio. Coined, “progressive talk in progress,” he takes a funny, critical and informed look at politics, current events, news and popular culture.

Umm, how can a talk show host whose program just started one week ago be a "rising star"?

As it turns out, Cole is actually returning to the same station he was on before.

We don't know how long the program lasted, but a quick Google search shows numerous references to Cole's program on the former incarnation of WVKO, back in the Stop 26 Riverbend days as a talk/gospel station focusing on the Columbus area African-American community.

We've never heard Mr. Cole, but in our view, it's a good move for the WVKO folks. It forges a link between the station's historic mission and its new one, and could smooth over some of the wounds made when Bernard Radio LLC took the station off the air, before returning it from a new transmitter site.

It is also the first "local" show on the station - as organizers and WVKO general manager Gary Richards promised local programming shortly after 1580 re-launched.

We wouldn't be surprised to see much of that local programming show up as more local sports coverage...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Warmup

Think warm as you read this item to wrap up our week.

After all, the weather forecast tells us that the wind chill over the weekend in Northeast Ohio will be roughly 200 degrees below zero, give or take a hundred...

DID YOU HEAR IT?: Anytime Cleveland market morning drive radio icon John Lanigan even remotely talks about his career and future, the Bat Signal appears in the sky, and OMW gets contacted by numerous readers.

That's what happened earlier this week, when a caller apparently called the WMJI/105.7 "Majic 105.7" morning fixture on Wednesday, suggesting something when Lanigan "goes on vacation or negotiates a new contract".

A reader tells us that Lanigan responded that there "will be no new contract", leading to massive speculation - at least among our readers - about Lanigan's retirement...and if it's soon.

We didn't hear the segment, and can't confirm it aired.

And we remind readers that just about everyone of that stature in this business throws out stuff - sometimes to set the tone or atmosphere for contract negotiations.

We're told that Lanigan has negotiated shorter contracts over the years, for the express purpose of being able to walk off into radio's sunset whenever he wishes to do so.

We also hear that both sidekick Jimmy Malone, and newsman Chip Kullick, have socked away money from other, non-show ventures, and would likely follow Mr. Lanigan off the dial if he retired.

This item is mainly up to get reaction from people who may have heard the quip mentioned above, which may or may not even mean anything. We also don't remember when Lanigan's current contract expires...

WHIO-FM MOVE SET?: OMW hears that the move of Cox talk WHIO-FM 95.7 Piqua, currently simulcasting the company's WHIO/1290 Dayton, has been announced as being approved.

The application to move the station from Piqua to the northern Cincinnati suburb of Sharonville was filed a year ago, and at least at this writing, there's no indication on the FCC website that it has been approved. (The FCC web database has lagged behind reality in the past.)

But OMW hears that the news of the move was delivered inside Cox's Dayton headquarters, and that employees were told that the station would be sold to another company.

We speculated on much of this long ago, even going so far as to point out the presence of long-time broadcast move-in specialist First Broadcasting on the application to move it.

And it's no secret that First Broadcasting still actually operates stations - in Cincinnati, no less - including the "MAX FM" adult hits trimulcast. Or simulcast. Or whatever it is now. (We haven't kept track.)

Wither the FM side of WHIO's news/talk simulcast?

We'd be surprised if it didn't land at the current WZLR/95.3 Xenia, which filed to move its transmitter location west - closer to Dayton - at the same time Cox filed the WHIO-FM move.

That last part is just our own guess, but it would appear to make sense to us. We have no indication that Cox, either as a company or locally in Dayton, is abandoning news/talk formats on FM.

This is very lightly sourced at this time, but our sources tell us they're surprised it hasn't popped up anywhere else...

ANOTHER TWEAK: We spent an entire item recently tweaking Columbus progressive talk outlet WVKO/1580 for being unable to acquire its satellite-fed syndicated talk shows by, well, satellite...which forced it to substitute a different morning drive talk show for Jones' Bill Press when an Internet feed went down.

Someone presumably associated with the station ripped us in a comment response, basically taking us to task for not knowing "what (WVKO) is up against" - and not just the inability to point a satellite dish through downtown Columbus buildings.

We'll take a "we'll agree to disagree" stance with that one, and chalk it up to WVKO's small budget or lack of engineering expertise.

But we're not going to let Good Karma Broadcasting sports WKNR/850 Cleveland "ESPN 850 WKNR" off so easy.

It's now a running on-air joke on the station's most popular local talk show, Tony Rizzo's midday show "Rizzo on the Radio". Somewhere after the WKNR move from Broadview Heights to downtown Cleveland's Galleria, the station was apparently not able to move its long-time toll-free number, 866-228-0850. (Try it! See if anyone answers!)

OK, new place, new number. We get that.

But MONTHS after the sports talk station "moved on up" to a deluxe studio in a downtown shopping mall, the station has no toll-free number of any kind. Period.

Efforts to return toll-free calling to WKNR callers have been chronicled in one of "Rizzo on the Radio" co-host/producer Aaron Goldhammer in one of those It Really Should Be Shorter "update" segments for the past few weeks, and Hammer told the Rizz and listeners last week that prospects of the new toll-free number being activated were "farther away than ever".


A sports talk radio station with no toll-free number? You might as well have one without play-by-play!

Now, the world has changed somewhat in recent years. Most callers use cell phones - either using their own minutes or a station-provided free call hotline. Even if callers at home don't use their cell phones, many of them have Internet-based phone services (Vonage, cable company services) with unlimited toll-free calling nationwide.

But...why in the world is getting a toll-free number such a big deal for a radio station, and why has it taken WKNR so long?

It really makes the station look unprofessional...and in our humble, outside opinion, Good Karma boss Craig Karmazin should stop the joking and get the number installed ASAP...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Sharp(ton) Move, Or Not?

We don't spend a lot of time listening to either of Radio One's AM stations in Cleveland, so when we first heard just what changes were made this week, we were surprised.

But starting Monday, the company has moved Syndication One host Al Sharpton's national show talk in the Cleveland market from urban talk WJMO/1490"The People's Station" to its original frequency home in Cleveland, gospel WJMO/1300 "Praise 1300". Syndication One is an arm of Radio One.

Sharpton's program airs in its live 1-4 PM time slot on WJMO, displacing the first two hours of local afternoon drive host Ronny Knight's show...which still airs starting at 4 PM.

Over on the 1490 side, we hear that at least part of that time slot is covered by the syndicated conservative religious-themed "Point of View" talk show. That's the show most known for its creator and former host, the late Marlin Maddoux. Kerby Anderson hosts the show these days.

From Al Sharpton to the show formerly hosted by Marlin Maddoux. Talk about a change in, well, the talk radio "point of view"!

The show is distributed by the USA Radio Network. We don't know if it's a free clearance, or if the "Point of View" organization pays for airtime. The show also airs on a number of stations in Ohio, including Canton talk/religious WCER/900. USA Radio Network programming has shown up often on WERE, in place of unsold time.

And we question, as well, the placement of an issues talk show in the middle of the daytime schedule of gospel mainstay "Praise 1300".

We'll assume that Radio One/Syndication One wanted to put Sharpton back on the company's best AM signal in Cleveland, where his show launched originally when the WERE news/talk format was on 1300.

And we wonder if the company is decoupling from its earlier vision to build a full-fledged national urban talk format - given that Al Sharpton is now the only remaining host in the Syndication One talk format launch lineup.

By the way, an aside here: Former Syndication One afternoon drive sports talk hosts "The Two Live Stews" have landed, doing 1-4 PM (Eastern) weekdays on Sporting News Radio.

That time slot on SNR's Northeast Ohio affiliate, WARF/1350 Akron, is filled locally by a delayed broadcast of The Content Factory's Dan Patrick Show. But when they were on either Radio One AM outlet in Cleveland, the WQXI/790 Atlanta-based "Stews" never had any opportunity to build a fan base south of the Ohio Turnpike due to signal issues...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Clear Channel Spins Five To BAS

AllAccess reports this afternoon that Clear Channel has spun off five stations in its Sandusky and Findlay/Tiffin clusters to local operator BAS Broadcasting. The move has been long rumored, and even hinted about here among recent news from that region.

The stations listed are CC's Sandusky cluster stations - sports WLEC/1450 "Sports Radio Sandusky", AC WCPZ/102.7 "Mix 102.7", and classic rock WMJK/100.9 Clyde "The Coast", along with WTTF/1600 Tiffin and one of its clustermates, the recently changed WPFX/107.7 North Baltimore, now AC outlet "My 107.7".

The move puts the entire Clear Channel Sandusky cluster under BAS, and two of Clear Channel's Findlay/Tiffin cluster stations in the company's hands as well.

But...note what's NOT on the list, and it's a big one: country WCKY-FM/103.7 Tiffin, which recently reimaged as "103-7 CKY" after years as "Buckeye Country".

We mentioned it very recently...when former WSPD/1370 Toledo talk host Denny Schaffer started his new Sunday morning music-and-commentary show, crafted with computerized, pre-recorded care from Denny's current home in the Atlanta area. (By the way, the music in the show? The songs weren't from WCKY's country playlist, but Christian contemporary hits provided by Denny himself.)

Since the BAS rumor has been kicking around a while, let us pull another from the unverified rumor mill. Some are wondering if Clear Channel - or another potential buyer - will nudge 103.7's signal just far enough north to make it a viable Toledo rimshot station.

We're not all that familiar with the region, but the signal right now is apparently better than we thought. But as pointed out by a local radio wag there, there would have to be a major effort - if not signal move - to make the station a serious Toledo player.

If there's another possible buyer for WCKY-FM that wishes to turn it into a Toledo-focused station, that'd be interesting. Of course, Clear Channel would have to be OK with the move, as it would bring another competitive outlet against its existing stations.

Perhaps a format operator that doesn't compete with Clear Channel, like a religious broadcaster, would be the player there. Since there's some question just how far 103.7 can move closer to Toledo, if at all, a religious operator would be much more willing to deal with a far rimshot signal.

Or, the company itself could hang onto it and have it serve some sort of "flanker" purpose alongside the existing CC Toledo stations.

This is enough speculation to make one queasy, so we remind you that we're just pointing out what we see as possibilities. None of this is backed by fact. We're just moving the chess pieces around in our collective heads.

BAS Broadcasting already has two stations in the region where it's buying the above stations - one being AC WFRO/99.1 "Eagle 99" out of Fremont. "Eagle 99" is pumping out ABC/Citadel's full-time satellite format "Hits and Favorites", with some fairly active coverage of local sports squeezed in there.

WFRO used to be WFRO-FM, before the station split from its former and historic AM sister station. That outlet was spun to ABC Radio, which ran it for a short time as an ESPN Radio outlet before shuttering the AM for make way for the company's new Radio Disney move-in for the Detroit market.

BAS also owns oldies outlet WOHF/92.1 Bellevue "92.1 The Wolf", which runs ABC/Citadel's "Pure Gold"/"Oldies Radio" format, rimshotting Sandusky and Fremont.

Slightly closer to the OMW World Headquarters, BAS owns the former Clear Channel stations in Mount Vernon, standards WMVO/1300 and AC WQIO/93.7 "Eagle 93.7" - which, as you'd expect from the name, runs the very same ABC/Citadel 24/7 format as WFRO...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Some Random Items

Starting our week with, well, odd stuff that may or may not be related:

WBNX BLOG: It's actually been around for a while, but we only recently stumbled onto a local TV station getting into this blogging thing.

Cleveland market CW affiliate WBNX/55 Akron's blog is mostly full of promotion for the station's CW network programming, and the various syndicated programming aired by the station.

But there are a few local tidbits in there, and not just appearances by station-linked stars or locations of auditions somewhere in Ohio.

One thing we'd like to see the folks on State Road address: Why in the world has the station not gained any clearance, at all, for its digital signal on local cable TV?

Since WBNX-DT lit up last summer, the station's been putting a steady digital signal into homes all over Northeast Ohio, which offers all CW network HD programming - complete with Dolby 5.1 sound, we're told.

But the digital/HD version of WBNX has yet - as far as we know - to gain a clearance on a single local cable system including, most notably, the Time Warner Cable monolith that is basically a near-monopoly in WBNX's service area.

TWC's Cleveland system happily passes along even the DT2 signal of WUAB, the market's MyNetworkTV affiliate...which for months has offered no actual programming after the demise of "The Tube" video music service. We just checked again, and it's still broadcasting that text slate explaining the exit of "The Tube".


Nowhere to be found, despite the fact that a decent chunk of the station's network programming is offered in HD - and the younger, tech-savvy audience desired by the CW would probably enjoy the programming even more in high definition.

We'll hazard a guess here - that TWC's Cleveland and Akron/Canton area systems are pushed to the brim in capacity/bandwidth for HD stations. The last outlet added was TBS HD, which was useful for roughly two weeks as the carrier of the Major League Baseball playoffs.

TWC has made at least one move we figure may eventually allow more HD programming. On many of its area systems, including the former Adelphia system based in Cleveland, TWC migrated C-SPAN 2 into the digital cable world at channel 186. That removal of one analog channel would easily free up room for at least two HD networks.

And with DirecTV eating TWC's lunch when it comes to HD programming, the cable outlet is surely feeling the pressure.

The "final solution" for cable systems looking to add massive amounts of HD programming is probably a year or two away here in Northeast Ohio.

"Switched Digital Video" or "SDV" will allow cable operators to offer basically HD channels live "on demand" other words, they won't take bandwidth to your home unless you actively tune them in.

There's only one problem with equipment. We presume that even once TWC deploys SDV here, they'll have to replace all the non-compliant cable boxes out there now, at least in the HDTV world.

And those who are lucky enough to own either the TiVo HD or TiVo Series 3 boxes will have to wait until sometime in the next year or so...when a reported device/dongle that makes them compatible with SDV systems will be made available.

The TV landscape will change dramatically in the next year, as broadcasters ready for February 17, 2009 - when all full-power analog signals go the way of the dodo bird. (See one of our earlier items for talk about the LPTV part of that equation...)

WUAB'S DT REPLACEMENT: We have absolutely no information on this being true, but we would not be surprised.

We have a hunch that at some point, WUAB/43 owner Raycom Media will climb onto the Retro Television Network bandwagon to program its second digital subchannels.

As noted above, WUAB-DT 43.2 is currently showing a really exciting program - the text slate informing viewers that the station had nothing to do with the demise of the former occupant of WUAB's second subchannel, music outlet "The Tube TV".

Meanwhile, other groups that were feeding "The Tube" via their subchannels have lined up with Equity Broadcasting, the group owner that is also owner of Retro Television Network, to carry the channel's "classic TV" programming.

In Ohio, Barrington Broadcasting NBC affiliate WNWO/24 "NBC24" Toledo offers RTN on its DT subchannel. The move was made after Raycom sold off WNWO after acquiring CBS powerhouse WTOL/11 in a group deal.

Not that terribly far from OMW's primary coverage area, Cox NBC affiliate WPXI/11 in Pittsburgh is an RTN affiliate.

We've seen the programming, and it's a pretty decent lineup of very popular TV shows from the 1960's, 1970s and 1980s.

Again, we have no word at this time that Raycom Media is even interested in such a deal. But it would be a natural replacement for WUAB-DT's second subchannel...

WHERE'S RONNIE?: And this is sort of linked to our first item.

An OMW reader over the weekend asked the question: Where did Ronnie Duncan go?

In addition to once being the morning drive host at Radio One talk WERE/1490 Cleveland Heights "The People's Station" (once at 1300), Ronnie also contributed sports material to WBNX - most recently seen on the station's website.

WERE moved in a different direction with a new local morning show ("Basheer Jones and Company"), and we can't find any mention of Duncan on WBNX's current website.

OMW has heard rumors that Ronnie may have returned to his native Baltimore MD, but a quick Google search hasn't unveiled him popping up at any media outlet there...

AND MORE ON RADIO ONE'S AM STATIONS: We don't have details, but sources tell OMW that there could be "some programming adjustments" involving Radio One's Cleveland AM stations - possibly taking effect as early as today.

The stations in question are the aforementioned WERE/1490, and gospel outlet WJMO/1300 Cleveland "Praise 1300".

WERE's lineup has consisted - after morning drive - of Radio One's "Syndication One" slate of syndicated talk show hosts. But the company has basically split apart that operation, with basically only the Rev. Al Sharpton's New York-based program left in the national lineup.

Over at WJMO, syndicated morning drive host Yolanda Adams - herself now under the "Syndication One" banner - had been followed by a new local midday show by WZAK's Grace Roberts. On the station's web page schedule, Roberts is no longer listed or pictured. Afternoon driver Ronny Knight is still there in both places.

As we reported earlier, WJMO program director Terry Bello is no longer with the company. Bello handled PD duties for "Praise 1300" in addition to his main job as midday host/APD/MD on WZAK...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Gladiators Tap WKNR

Not like it was any surprise, but the new Arena Football League team in Cleveland will air its games on Good Karma Broadcasting sports WKNR/850 "ESPN 850".

The Cleveland Gladiators and Good Karma announced Friday that WKNR, and sister sports outlet WWGK/1540 "KNR2", will be the Official Radio Home of the team in its first season, which kicks off March 3 at Quicken Loans Arena.

From the release issued Friday by the AFL team:

ESPN 850 WKNR and Cleveland’s AM 1540 KNR2 will air the Gladiators regular season games in 2008. The station will also air a short pre-game and post-game show during each broadcast. The Gladiators have not yet named an official broadcast team for the season.

The team, and station, have not yet announced which games will be heard on "ESPN 850 WKNR", and which games will be heard on "KNR2". We'll assume weekend/daytime games conflicting with other WKNR programming will be bumped to the 1,000 watt sister station.

As we said, the matchup is no surprise. Gladiators president/CEO Bernie Kosar, the former Browns quarterback, has an ongoing relationship with WKNR already...appearing on many of the station's local talk shows.

And the announcement fits with the station's strategy of taking the play-by-play rights for any number of area teams that are not already linked up with Clear Channel's WTAM/1100 (or WMMS/100.7).

The bad news for Good Karma, of course, is that Clear Channel holds mostly long-term rights to all the Cleveland market's major professional franchises...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sunday Heads Up: Denny's Northwest Ohio Radio Return

Toledo-area listeners haven't heard Denny Schaffer since he left Clear Channel talk WSPD/1370 for sister station WGST/640 Atlanta.

And aside from an occasional national talk radio fill-in (Denny has filled in for Premiere host Glenn Beck at least once), Denny himself hasn't been heard anywhere on the radio since an apparent temporary weekend stint at Atlanta sports talker WCNN/680 "The Fan" - his landing spot after WGST eviscerated its local talk radio lineup.

Since then, he's hosted a daily Internet show/webcast on his own hasn't been regularly heard on an actual radio station aside from fill-ins.

Until tomorrow.

But...don't get your hopes up, Toledo.

OMW hears that a Sunday morning version of "DennyRadio" shows up tomorrow morning from 8-10 AM on Clear Channel country WCKY-FM/103.7 Tiffin.

On a country station???

The common link would appear to be the man who actually replaced Denny after his stint at Clear Channel top 40 outlet WVKS/92.5 "Kiss FM", Johny D.

Though it took us a while to catch up with it, Johny D has apparently landed as WCKY-FM's program director and afternoon drive host after being bounced in the recent format change at CBS' former FM talk outlet in Detroit, WKRK/97.1 - now sports outlet WXYT-FM. (The WKRK calls landed, of course, at CBS Cleveland market alt-rocker "92.3 K-Rock".)

He ended up on Detroit radio after being unceremoniously bounced from both WVKS, and then from Cumulus top 40 outlet WTWR/98.3 "Tower 98-3" in the same market.

Yes, the Tiffin station is still a country outlet. Since Johny came aboard sometime late last year, the station has dropped the formerly-ubitquous "Buckeye Country" positioner in favor of a positioner that seems more appropriate for a top 40 station - "103-7 CKY".

And we'll assume that a friendship between Johny D and Denny brought "DennyRadio Sunday Morning" to the 8-10 AM slot on 103.7.

What will you hear, if you happen to catch the show?

We've garnered a lot of info about the show by listening to the existing "DennyRadio 24/7" feed, where Denny spoke with Johny D about the show on his Friday edition. (If you check back later Sunday, he promises to add the WCKY show to that feed.)

Schaffer says the 103.7 show will be pre-recorded ("I go to church on Sunday morning"), and will be "kind of a musical version" of the show he does on the Internet, interspersed with talk.

Our guess writing this on Saturday night: he'll send up some new material, with parts of his Internet show during the week, to WCKY, and the station will mix that in with country music on the automation system. On his Internet show, instead of commercial breaks, Denny mixes in various popular songs - none of ones we've heard so far are country songs.

As Denny himself said on Friday to Johny D, "you'll have to pay me a lot more to do this live".

Here's the thing: Despite the fact that both called the show "Denny's return to Toledo radio", WCKY-FM is a far Toledo rimshot, signal-wise.

We haven't driven the area in a while, but you can hear 103.7 roughly south of the Ohio Turnpike with any regularity, and even then, it's a distant signal in much of Toledo. The station hasn't ever tried to serve Toledo itself (it's the historic WTTF-FM, paired with WTTF/1600 even today).

If Johny D and company have any thoughts of trying to change that situation, some sort of facilities change would have to be made - if that's even possible.

Then again, maybe Johny's happy in small market radio, even after being heard in Detroit. After he was dumped by Cumulus top 40 WTWR/98.3 in the Toledo market, he continued to feed Clear Channel Lima top 40 outlet WLWD/93.9 "Wild 93.9" with an afternoon drive show from his Toledo-area home...even after WKRK picked him up in Detroit.

Johny D apparently made no friends at Clear Channel Toledo after he blasted the company after his exit from WVKS - and ditto at Cumulus Toledo and WTWR - but, we'll see how he holds on in Tiffin...

Columbus' 3200 Watt Internet Transmitter

Some people make use of personal FM modulators or transmitters to play their iPods, or send Internet radio streaming all around the house.

One Columbus radio station is using it the Internet to, well, provide actual programming content for the station...full-time.

It's been over one month since the liberal talk format returned to the Columbus airwaves, via the facilities of Bernard Radio's WVKO/1580 - which now being LMAed by a group called "Cowtown Communications". That group is headed up by veteran Columbus broadcast/sales executive Gary Richards.

The group felt the need to get on the air quickly from WKVO's new facility on Morse Road, so in early December, the liberal talk format popped up on 1580 with the help of Internet streaming audio.

That's right, WVKO's programming was delivered to the station by way of the official public Internet streams of the various syndicated programs - Air America's shows, Jones Radio's Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz, and the like.

That was late November, and for whatever reason, WVKO -still- uses this method to air programming on that old fashioned 1580 transmitter. We believe this may be related to the inability to properly aim satellite dishes from the station's studio facilities.

The lack of satellite reception equipment for over a month has also caused a temporary programming change at AM 1580 in Columbus.

WVKO has been airing Air America Radio's "The Young Turks" in morning drive recently, since they apparently can't bring up the web stream of Jones' Bill Press. That's right, a web stream has gone down, and it's changed the programming of an actual radio station!

This is ridiculous. Not only are interested listeners to the format in Columbus enduring AM radio static and Internet streaming audio for shows that should sound clearer, but the station actually has to change its schedule due to technical difficulties.

In brief listening to WVKO's web stream earlier, it appeared the station was on autopilot, running the Air America stream with frequent "You're listening on" liners. We also confirmed Friday from the station's web feed that "The Young Turks" was indeed being fed in the Press time slot in morning drive.

WVKO is able to insert local legal IDs, if the stream is any indication, and possibly commercial spots...though we didn't hear any in the time we checked in.

Is this any way to run a radio station in a market the size of Columbus? Are the Jones Radio people aware that at least one of their shows is not actually being aired because of this? (Jones' Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz haven't been affected on WVKO.)

Assuming the story we've heard about the station's studio location not being suitable to set up a satellite dish and get the proper view of the southern sky is true - why hasn't the station set up an alternate location for a dish?

We haven't been to the Morse Road transmitter facility since shortly before 1580 returned to the air. But we're pretty sure there's more than enough clearing for a satellite dish to sit there, aiming across Morse Road to the south...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tip Of The Hat To SOJ

OMW tips our virtual hat to the "Sunday Oldies Jukebox", the adult-programmed day full of oldies music heard every Sunday in the Akron market over WSTB/88.9 Streetsboro.

The Akron Beacon Journal's Jim Carney has an article in Thursday's paper about SOJ, which takes over the airwaves of the station programmed with alternative rock music six days a week by student volunteers at Streetsboro High School - using the on-air slogan "The AlterNation".

On Sundays, listeners in greater Akron and nearby are treated to a wide variety of oldies, including some that haven't been heard on the FM dial in a long time. (There's a reason that Clear Channel classic hits WMJI/105.7 "Majic 105.7" is not called "Oldies 105.7".)

The full day of programming is delivered by a hearty crew of adult volunteer announcers, some of them profiled in the ABJ article.

Leading the merry band of oldies-purveyors is the one and only "Uncle Bill" Weisinger, the program director of the effort. Carney has a sidebar Q&A with "Uncle Bill" here.

Like many of the SOJ staff, "Uncle Bill" is a regular OMW, a hearty "congratulations" to him, from us, on over 10 years of service in a radio format that's very much appreciated by its listeners...particularly as "oldies" becomes a dirty word on the FM band. SOJ actually celebrated its 10th Anniversary on November 30th of last year.

And a side nod to Rubber City Radio's WAKR/1590 in Akron, which has been embracing oldies music - and the word itself - in recent months. "SOJ" on 88.9 on Sundays is a nice "richer" companion to what WAKR does during the rest of the week, with a greater focus on lesser-played songs of the oldies era.

We were kind of preoccupied when SOJ's 10th anniversary came by, with infrequent updates, but we had a lot to say a year ago...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Midweek Housekeeping

While sharpening our creative writing skills, some brief headlines of stuff we've not posted so far...and some fairly new stuff...

BELLO EXITS: AllAccess reports that Radio One urban AC WZAK/93.1 Cleveland assistant program director/music director/midday personality Terry Bello is no longer in the building on St. Clair Avenue.

In addition to his duties on WZAK, Bello was also program director of sister gospel outlet WJMO/1300 "Praise 1300"...

MR. BURBANK'S RETIREMENT: We regret providing the proper coverage for the departure of a Cincinnati radio icon.

Though we mostly "live" up here near home in Northeast Ohio, we were certainly aware of Gary Burbank, who did afternoon drive on Clear Channel talk WLW/700 for some 27 years until retiring at the end of 2007.

Burbank's syndication effort showed up briefly on at least one Northeast Ohio station, but his profile was large, popular and based in the Tri-State. In fact, Burbank will still syndicate his "Earl Pitts: Uhmerikun" commentaries...keeping 'ol Earl alive beyond retirement.

Recently, listeners across America who subscribe to XM Satellite Radio were able to hear the last part of Burbank's career on XM Channel 173.

Those tuned to that channel this week in afternoon drive - or to that certain 50,000 watt blowtorch at 700 AM - have finally heard Burbank's replacement show.

As expected, WLW has tapped veteran sister rock WEBN/102.7 "Dawn Patrol" morning host Eddie Fingers, a regular Burbank fill-in, teaming up with station weekend baseball postgame host Tracy Jones. (And no, no one was buying the announcement by midday mainstay Bill "Willie" Cunningham.)

Fingers is no "spring chicken", either...he's been at WEBN for 22 years, starting just five years after Burbank first took the microphone on "The Big One".

Cincinnati Enquirer radio/TV guru John Kiesewetter breaks the news on his blog, which contains a truckload of rather interesting comments from listeners, station employees in anonymous garb and random people on the Internet.

And no, not many of the comments are nice.

We've never heard Fingers on the air. We've heard Jones once or twice on his baseball postgame show, and we've not yet heard the two together. do you replace a legend?

Don't ask rocker David Lee Roth, who crashed and burned spectacularly when Howard Stern exited over-air radio for the Land of Sirius.

We're not saying "Fingers and Jones" will suffer the same fate,'s tough walking in the shoes of someone who defined not only his time slot on his station, but was a pillar in the foundation of talk radio in his home market.

Our next question: What happens to Fingers' role on the "Dawn Patrol" show? We don't know that answer, yet...

DIGITAL TV PUSH: With all of America's full-power TV stations set to shut off their analog signals in just over a year - February 17, 2009 - there's been a renewed push to remind Americans about the switch.

Hardly a day goes by that one local TV station or another here in Northeast Ohio isn't running educational spots for the digital TV transition, or doing a story about it on a newscast.

What they don't tell you - at least some stations will still be broadcasting in analog after that date next year, though it's anyone's guess as to how long those stations will be on the air.

They are the collection of low-power TV/Class A stations, which are not affected by the 2/17/09 date. It's not known right now when they will be forced to move to digital only - for one, the costs are pretty high for operations that run on a smaller budget.

Here in the immediate OMW coverage area, the LPTV stations providing "general entertainment programming" include:

* Media-Com's WAOH-LP/29 Akron-W35AX/35 Cleveland, collectively known as "The CAT",

* Image Video's WIVM/52 Canton-WIVN/29 Newcomerstown, which serve the Canton and Dover/New Philadelphia area,

* And two LPTVers serving as network affiliates for the Youngstown market, WYFX-LP/62 Youngstown-WFXI-CA/17 Mercer PA ("FOX 17/62", the FOX affiliate sister of New Vision CBS affiliate WKBN/27.

That listing doesn't even account for translators, like the W58AM/Youngstown relay of "PBS 45 & 49" (WNEO/WEAO), or the numerous TBN translators dotting the landscape.

A cursory check of the FCC database shows that none of the above, except for W58AM, has applied for a digital companion channel - a move that would mostly be fruitless at this late date.

We have no idea how many of Northeast Ohio's LPTVers are readying for a digital-only future by cutting over to digital broadcasting, but we'd expect "few, if any" would be the answer.

"The CAT", the Akron/Cleveland simulcast run by Media-Com, is a sister station to talk WNIR/100.1, which pretty much defines the phrase "low-budget" all on its own. And TV equipment, of course, is much more expensive as a rule than radio equipment...let alone digital TV equipment.

We don't suspect the Image Video folks are running with a much larger budget in Canton, though they have another iron in the fire - they'll eventually have to upgrade some equipment to digital down the road as a major provider of outsourced production services to TV stations and even various cable sports networks. Still, we wouldn't bet the farm on WIVM or WIVN being digital on 2/17/09.

If we had to bet on the first digital LPTV operation in Northeast Ohio - aside from the W58AM translator on DT 44 - the bet would be on "FOX 17/62".

The New Vision outlet already provides a HDTV feed of its FOX signal to Armstrong Cable, and "WYFX" resides on the second digital subchannel of WKBN-DT (27.2). That means that only an over-air HDTV FOX signal would be missing even if the station doesn't make the digital "flash cut" switch next February.

The whole topic came to our attention courtesy of Metro Video's Greg Phipps, who owns four LPTV network affiliates in the western Ohio city of Lima.

Phipps' LPTV roster includes FOX affiliate WOHL-CA/25, CBS affiliate WLMO-LP/38, and ABC affiliate WLQP-LP/18. WOHL also carries MyNetworkTV programming in off-pattern hours. His group offers every network offered over-air in Lima aside from NBC, long-carried on full-power WLIO/35.

In an op-ed column in Sunday's Lima News, Phipps lays out his case for readers:

In Lima, our group of local network affiliate stations is not subject to the February 2009 cutoff date. Lima is in the unique position of being able to receive WLMO, WLQP, WOHL and MyNetwork TV on their existing traditional analog channels after the DTV cutoff.

I thank The Lima News and full-power station WLIO for reaching out and trying to educate viewers about the DTV transition. It’s important to make consumers aware of the coupon program and DTV changes. However, both fail to mention that three of our local major network affiliates, Fox, CBS and ABC, are not affected by the deadline and may continue to broadcast in analog for some time after the transition.

But here's the problem for Phipps and the other LPTV stations carrying "mainstream" programming, like major broadcast networks: With the LPTV DTV transition date up in the air, how many over-air stragglers will hang around the analog spectrum - assuming they don't already have cable, and aren't already getting all the stations on the same dial?

Phipps' concerns may be allevated by the fact that - as far as we know - all of his stations now have placement on most local cable systems in West Central Ohio, including Time Warner Cable's Lima system. It took them a while, but TWC in Lima finally added Metro Video's newest station - WLMO/38 "CBS 38" - to its roster.

All the other stations have some form of cable carriage, though not all ideal.

WAOH/W35AX are long-time residents of TWC Akron's cable channel 14, but haven't yet made inroads in most of the former Adelphia territories TWC has taken over in Cleveland.

And WIVM/WIVN gets high channel analog cable carriage in the former Adelphia territories south of Canton (99), but is relegated to digital cable channel 585 on TWC Canton.

We'll keep an eye on how the DTV transition affects these unique local stations...

AND CALL LETTER SHUFFLES: We haven't noted it here yet, but Clear Channel alt-rocker "Radio 106.7", the new entrant in the Columbus market that was once Marion country outlet WMRN-FM/106.9, is now sporting brand new call letters of WRXS with its new COL of Dublin.

And up the road at the station's former cluster in Marion, former AC outlet WDIF/94.3 has indeed picked up the WMRN-FM call go along with the "Buckeye Country" format it's been running since 106.9 went off the air in Marion...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Findlay And Lima Changes Monday?

OMW is hearing that some changes on the radio dial are about to take place on Clear Channel radio stations in the Findlay and Lima areas.

It starts with a brief official announcement on the website of Findlay-based classic rocker WFPX/107.7 North Baltimore OH "107.7 The Fox":

"Catch us on the dial at 106.3 on Monday!"

That's all it says.

106.3 in the region is currently oldies WBUK/106.3 Ottawa OH "The Big Buck", which pumps out mostly satellite-fed oldies...and is headquartered at Clear Channel in Lima.

"The Fox" targets Findlay from its location just east of that western Ohio city, and "The Big Buck" is a class A rimshot that touches both Findlay and Lima on the fringes of its signal coming out of a tower between those cities.

Clear Channel Findlay/Tiffin recently advertised to hire a program director for a new adult contemporary outlet in their cluster.

Add that with this new website an OMW reader in the region pointed out for "My 107.7" - a virtual clone of the "look and feel" of sister Canton market AC outlet WHOF/101.7 North Canton "My 101.7" - and the pieces seem to fit together for changes as soon as Monday.

We'd expect the new "My 107.7" AC format to displace "The Fox" classic rock format on that frequency. A brief click of the site's "Listen Live" link would seem to confirm brings up an error message tagged with the WPFX call letters.

In turn, the above announcement would place "The Fox" on 106.3 Ottawa, and unless Clear Channel Lima is making more changes to keep the oldies format going down there, "The Big Buck" would appear to be heading out.

None of this is confirmed by sources in the Findlay or Lima regions, by the way, aside from the above announcement of "The Fox's" format being heard on 106.3 on Monday.

That announcement is brief, and for all we know, "The Fox" will simulcast until the presumed AC format on 107.7 is ready. The wording on the WPFX website doesn't make it clear.

All of these stations are still in the Clear Channel fold, with the various changes to the company seemingly on hold.

The plan to take CC private in the hands of two private equity funds hasn't closed yet, and the once-proposed mass sale of small market stations ran into problems as well.

CC has managed to sell off some groups (Ashtabula, etc.), but with "GoodRadio" out of the picture as a large buyer of many of CC's small market clusters, the effort to sell the remaining groups targeted in Ohio and other states is going slowly. Some of these stations (including WBUK) were tabbed to go into the "Aloha Station Trust", but that hasn't happened yet, either.

So, for now, all of this is still in Clear Channel's court.

But, a question...if, for example, sales split the Lima and Findlay/Tiffin clusters to different companies...what happens, then? We'll just have to wait and see...

Friday, January 04, 2008

End Of The Week

No, no announcement yet...just a couple of updates, though! Well, it was a "couple of updates", but it grows by the hour...

WKSU RESPONDS: OMW reported the end of Kent State University NPR outlet WKSU/89.7's "Your Way Home", hosted most recently by staffer Daniel Hockensmith.

With Hockensmith's departure to the Crain Business Media Empire - in specific, Akron-based "Plastics News" - he won't be replaced as host, and the show will no longer air.

But WKSU public relations chief and regular OMW reader Bob Burford checks in with a clarification on the show's end:

For the record, we made the decision to discontinue “Your Way Home” primarily because 1) our audience has indicated they prefer our local reports to be integrated into the national news magazines, and 2) we felt the program never really reached its potential. Staffing had nothing to do with the move, as we will replace Daniel Hockensmith and will maintain the same number of reporters as we’ve had the last couple of years.

Bob points us to a note about the changes on WKSU general manager Al Bartholet's blog. (Wow, imagine that, getting official information from a blog! Heh.)

Mr. Bartholet cites station research that showed "more than 70 percent" of listeners preferred "All Things Considered" in the 6 PM slot, and echoes Bob Burford's note above...promising more in-depth local news reports within "ATC" and its morning drive sister show, "Morning Edition"...

STAFFER EXITS IN CANTON: We don't know much about this yet, but OMW hears that NextMedia AC WHBC-FM/94.1 Canton "Mix 94.1" on-air personality Madison Woods is out of the building, having been let go by the station on Friday.

We don't know the circumstances behind her departure from Market South.

Madison was best known at "Mix" as the one-time co-host of the station's morning drive show, most of that time with former 94.1 program director Terry Simmons....

SOMEONE SEND EXTRA NO-DOZ TO THE GALLERIA: A year ago, shortly after Craig Karmazin's Good Karma Broadcasting took over Cleveland sports talker WKNR/850 from Salem, then-afternoon driver Kenny Roda was dispatched on a plane to Arizona, where the Ohio State Buckeyes football team was about to get beat in the "BCS National Championship Game" by a team from Florida.

We remember Roda basically firing up the fancy phone codec machine in his hotel room just hours after he got off a plane from Cleveland, and we noted that the effort was something Salem wouldn't have done in its time as WKNR's owner.

Fast forward to this year, where WKNR is planning large chunks of Ohio State-related programming for THIS year's championship game against LSU.

We're not sure if Roda is in New Orleans, the site of this year's game. But we do know that two WKNR staff members are there - midday host Tony Rizzo and usual "KNR Overtime" host and general utility/fill-in host Michael Reghi.

We know for sure that WKNR is going along for the ride with Rizzo, who was sent to Louisiana by his primary employer, WJW/8 "FOX 8". We haven't checked, but we assume the same is true for Reghi and FOX Sports Net Ohio. That's one advantage to hiring guys with TV jobs...they're already there at the site of a big event, and the TV station has already paid the largest chunk of the tab.

"ESPN 850" is planning a large amount of live, local sports talk focusing on the Buckeyes, starting Saturday, with live appearances by Reghi, Greg Brinda and even a 1:30-4 PM Saturday edition of "Rizzo on the Radio", with the aforementioned Rizzo also on site in New Orleans.

Sunday features a show hosted by Roda and Jordan Sherwood, and another hour and a half with Reghi, who presumably gets out of the way at 12:30 for WKNR's carriage of NFL playoff coverage.

But it's Monday itself where the "No Doz" would come in handy, both at WKNR's Galleria studios, and in New Orleans.

WKNR promotes its coverage as "24 Hours of Buckeyes", and it runs from 4 AM Monday morning until the same time on Tuesday.

After a replay of the most recent "Buckeye Roundtable" show from the Buckeyes Radio Network, Greg Brinda will do a live, local show from 6-9 AM on Monday.

The schedule continues with a three-hour "Rizzo on the Radio", with Rizz and Hammer taking that coveted third hour at 9. Kenny Roda and Michael Reghi follow at noon, then Mark "Munch" Bishop, and a combination of Munch, Roda and Jordan Sherwood leads into the Buckeyes network pre-game and game coverage.

It all tops off with Munch, Roda and Sherwood with a four hour "wrapup" post game show scheduled to end at 4 AM. That's...Tuesday morning at 4.

It's enough Buckeye Talk (and game coverage) to make even the most diehard Scarlet and Gray fan to look for, well, something else. Unless the Buckeyes win, and then fans they'll probably want to talk about the win for another 24 hours.

The live shows on Monday will displace ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike", and Premiere's Jim Rome - which WKNR will move for the day to lightbulb powered sister station WWGK/1540 "KNR 2".

And that'll basically remove those popular shows that day from radios in the Akron area, for example. ESPN Radio has no affiliate in Akron these days, and Rome's show airs on another lightbulb powered station, Media-Com sports WJMP/1520 Kent(/Akron/Cleveland/Mars) "FOX Sports 1520".

On a good day, you MIGHT be able to hear WJMP without static 5 miles away from Brady Lake.

For that matter, it'll also force "Mike & Mike" and Romey fans in Cleveland suburbs like Bay Village to endure massive static, if they're not into the local Buckeyes talk...

AND IT'S OFFICIAL: It's almost a footnote at this point, but Clear Channel has won approval to actually purchase the Canton rock radio outlet it's been operating for many months in a local marketing agreement.

OMW hears, and has confirmed via the FCC database online, that the FCC approved the license transfer of WRQK/106.9 "Rock 106.9" from Cumulus to Clear Channel on December 20th.

The only step left is for Clear Channel to financially close on the purchase, which was tied in a swap with Clear Channel stations in Michigan that have been swapped to Cumulus.

And since Clear Channel has been operating WRQK, there's basically nothing left to do besides send back paperwork to the FCC to nail down the purchase. But since we covered this story and had a long-time exclusive on it, we felt the need to wrap it up...

Where'd We Go?

Thank you for hanging in there while we took an extended hiatus. And, welcome to 2008!

Here are some random items to carry you along for a while. And watch this space for a possible announcement sometime in the next few days...

FREEMAN EXITS 45/49: Kent-based PBS outlet WNEO/45-WEAO/49 "PBS 45 & 49" is saying goodbye later this year to a key, long-time employee.

The station says chief operating officer Don Freeman will retire on March 28 of this year.

Freeman has been with the Akron/Canton/Youngstown-targeted public TV station for nearly 20 years, and has been working in public TV for over 40 years.

He came to WNEO/WEAO in 1988 - from Columbus - as director of programming...adding operations duties along the way, before being named to his current post in 2006.

Under Freeman's direction, PBS 45 & 49 has spread its wings, and has become a solid second pubcaster in the Cleveland market - and the primary provider of PBS programming in the Youngstown market. The station has broadened a public affairs commitment to the underserved Akron area with the long-running panel show "NewsNight Akron", and has produced similar programs for the Youngstown market.

WNEO/WEAO says after retiring, Freeman will head back with his wife to his home state of Colorado this summer.

Freeman is known in the online world for keeping in touch with viewers, so he may read this...and we wish him the best...

AND ALSO ON THE PUBLIC SIDE: Radio division, that is, where OMW hears of a major scheduling change...also out of Kent.

We're told that Kent State University NPR outlet WKSU/89.7 has cancelled its locally-produced "Your Way Home" newsmagazine, which aired until Monday at 6 PM weekdays.

Sure enough, the show has disappeared from the WKSU online programming schedule, replaced by an extra half-hour of the NPR afternoon mainstay "All Things Considered".

Sources in Kent tell us that with the departure of some key news staffers - including host Dan Hockensmith leaving for Crain's Communications' Akron-based "Plastics News" magazine - it became more difficult for the station to produce the daily "Your Way Home"...

WCMH GOES HD: The Columbus TV market now has two HDTV-equipped news operations.

OMW hears that Media General NBC affiliate WCMH/4 "NBC 4" flipped its newscasts to HD over the weekend.

The station is also using 16:9 video in the field. Some of our readers in the market thought that the field video was in HD, but it's apparently only in widescreen SD for now...though that could change in the future.

The move is a part of a push by WCMH's current owner to add HDTV newscasts in even smaller markets like Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville SC-NC and Roanoke VA, where Media General has long owned stations.

Media General only recently bought "NBC 4" in Columbus from its previous owner, the network itself...NBC Universal.

The WCMH HD switch makes the news operation the second HD newsroom in the Columbus market, after Dispatch CBS affiliate WBNS/10's "10TV News HD". Up here in our home base of Northeast Ohio, all four major local TV news operations are running out of HD studios...