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...


Lance Venta said...

None of CBS' top Sports Talkers don't have toll free numbers after close to 20 years with the format.

WFAN New York, while taking many calls nationally from its webcast and partial TV simulcast has used (718)937-6666 since it moved to 660 in 1988.

WSCR in Chicago uses a local 312 number.

WIP in Philadelphia has two call in numbers. One in Philadelphia's 215 area code, and another in New Jersey's 856.

WERC alum said...

I believe it's a bit different in a city of 12 million residents or even 6 million (Chicago). Even in Philadelphia. There are enough potention listeners / callers in the metro area to keep the conversation lively without offering toll free service to outlying areas.

But in a market Cleveland's size, I do believe a toll-free number is needed to recruit enough callers to keep the conversation interesting.

I believe we're still not quite at the point where computers, cell phones and e-mails can compensate sufficiently.

WKNR-AM would likely benefit enough from restoration of toll-free service to justify the cost.

And I agree that the lack of such service reflects poorly on the station's image.