Sunday, November 30, 2008

WKRP? Well, Sort Of

A small Cincinnati TV station is getting nationwide attention for a name change - sort of.

Though we first picked up on this thanks to an item on the Cincinnati-area based Tri-State Media Watch blog last Monday, the name change of Cincinnati low-power Class A station WBQC-CA/38 to "WKRP" - inspired by the popular TV show about a fictional Cincinnati radio station - made the national news Saturday, via this Associated Press story.

That story was presumably inspired by Cincinnati Enquirer TV/radio guru John Kiesewetter's story about the name change Friday.

And now...the REST of the story. (No, ABC News Radio commentator Paul Harvey is not airing on "WKRP".)

As it turns out, so far, station owner Elliott Block has basically only changed the on-air branding of the station which once acted as Cincinnati's UPN affiliate.

The "WKRP" calls exist, for now, at least, solely on a low-power station in the Nashville TN market - WKRP-LP. If Block is making any effort to actually change the WBQC-CA calls, or if he's working out some sort of deal with the Tennessee station, we can't find it in the FCC records online.

But on a slow holiday weekend, newscasters tired of "Black Friday" stories ate up the "WKRP on the air in Cincinnati" story. We heard it all day Saturday on a number of national radio newscasts, including on both ABC News Radio and FOX News Radio.

Score one for Mr. Block.

The second score for the one-man LPTV kingpin of Cincinnati is a new digital signal.

Block has debuted the low-power digital companion channel to his other (OTHer?) station, WOTH-LP/25. WOTH-LD is lighting up digital tuners in Cincinnati, and it airs at least three, 25.2, is the rebranded WBQC, which does indeed show up on those digital tuners as "WKRP-TV".

We're pretty sure that the FCC has no regulations on the PSIP/tuner branding of non-primary subchannels, so Block could call 25.2 "Burnt Toast" in the digital tuner information, if he desired to do so.

For Block, it's not just the ability to join the new digital OTA universe with his new signal. Since he's not broadcasting any HDTV streams on WOTH-LD, he can pack it with SD subchannels...with a shopping channel apparently in the mix, and perhaps a third general entertainment channel possible as well.

Instead of running two or more separate LPTV transmitters, Block effectively can have four or five programming streams that appear to digital TV viewers as whole new channels. (We'll call this the "TBN Effect", as religious broadcaster Trinity pumps out five different program feeds on its stations, including Canton-licensed WDLI-DT up here.)

Block appears to be the most aggressive LPTV owner in Ohio when it comes to digital TV.

We have no word out of Lima that LPTV king Gregg Phipps - who owns the LPTV FOX, CBS and ABC affiliates in that market - is planning to go digital (or if he's even in a financial position to do so).

Here in our Northeast Ohio base, we wonder at times if Media-Com's WAOH-LP 29 Akron/W35AX 35 Cleveland "The CAT" doesn't broadcast in black and white.

And so far, Image Video's Canton-based LPTV operations (WIVM-LP 52 Canton/WIVN-LP 29 Newcomerstown) are not planning digital feeds, though one of their recently acquired stations to the west may light up as a digital station if the FCC paperwork means anything.

It's a tough road for these stations, usually run on a shoestring budget, with digital equipment adding more costs - in a time where the advertising market is depressed, and all stations are making less money.

Back to Mr. Block's use of the "WKRP-TV" name for one of his LPTV stations, even as just on-air branding. Doesn't FOX Entertainment, which bought the old MTM Productions ("WKRP in Cincinnati"'s producer), retain the trademark?

Block tells the Enquirer that he's actually registered trademarks "for 'WKRP' and 'WKRP Cincinnati.'" That's a claim repeated at the bottom of the new WBQC/"WKRP" website:

WKRP and WKRP Cincinnati are registered trademarks and owned by Block Broadcasting.

The observant viewer - we're not the first to notice this - will note that Block doesn't claim the trademark to the full name of the show that inspired him to change the station's name - "WKRP in Cincinnati". (Note that pesky "in" that's missing from Mr. Block's statements.)

And the "WKRP" calls, in some form, have bounced around small radio and TV stations over the years - even not that far from Cincinnati.

A small AM station in North Vernon IN, which is about 75 miles west of the Queen City, once took those call letters. And the "WKRP in Cincinnati" Wikipedia page claims that WCVG/1320 Covington KY took the WKRP calls and an "AM rock" format at about the time the show ended, though we have no real world confirmation of same.

Whether that's enough to stave off the FOX lawyers remains to be seen. Or, for that matter, lawyers for Clear Channel and Newport TV, which own talk WKRC/550 and CBS affiliate WKRC-TV 12 in the market, respectively.

But what won't be seen - on "WKRP-TV" or anywhere in the Block LPTV Empire - is the show itself. "WKRP in Cincinnati", the TV show, airs Sunday nights on Tribune superstation WGN America, and also airs Monday nights on the digital cable network "American Life".

The show reenters American TV lore every Thanksgiving, thanks to the infamous and wildly popular "Turkeys Away" episode - which aired on WGN America last Sunday night.

Block tells Kiese that he'd love to run the show on his new "WKRP-TV", but over-air broadcast syndication rights aren't available for the Original WKRP...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Oddities

OK, so we'll squeeze out one more update of odd stuff this Friday after the Thanksgiving Day holiday.

There is some more economic bad news for those in local media, but we'll put that on the back burner until our Monday morning update...keeping the meaning of "Black Friday" for holiday shopping crowds for now...

ION OF CHANGE: A little change could be coming to the digital signals of the ION Network's owned and operated TV stations, and the ION folks are going about proposing the changes in an unusual way.

We first got word of this from Jon Ellis' excellent Upper Midwest Broadcasting site, which reports that 42 ION-owned stations have filed an FCC form 314 to assign their licenses to Urban Television, LLC. Well, assign part of their licenses, at any rate. (Here's the application for Northeast Ohio's own ION outlet, WVPX/23 Akron.)

No, ION isn't selling its stations to the Urban Television folks.

Rather, they're proposing a shared time agreement, that essentially will split off a digital subchannel for each station, that would actually be owned by the Urban Television operation.

Why doesn't ION just sell time on their digital subchannels?

Well, the reason behind the FCC application is to try to invoke must carry rules for the Urban Television subchannel on cable and satellite...the theory being that if Urban Television actually has a separate FCC license for the subchannel, it'd fall under the same rules as other FCC (full-power) TV licenses.

ION - which owns 49% of the Urban Television operation - explains their rationale in this FCC filing (PDF file).

Of course, in Northeast Ohio, this is all academic for now. WVPX/23 has never lit up its digital TV allocation due to a host of Canadian-related issues on its original allocation, RF channel 59.

Due to that, and the fact that all broadcast stations will have to abandon channels above 51 after the February 17th digital transition, WVPX's very first digital broadcast will be after it "flash cuts" to channel 23, digitally, at the transition.

But it's probably a very, very safe bet that this new request for "owned shared time" subchannels won't be approved by the FCC before mid-February...

WHILE WE'RE TALKING DIGITAL FLASH CUTS: A reminder from our friends at Western Reserve Public Media in Kent, which operates local PBS affiliates WNEO/45-WEAO/49 under the "Western Reserve PBS" banner.

We've had a couple of OMW readers tell us that they're not currently able to get the new digital signal of WNEO/Alliance, the Youngstown market side of the station which sent its analog channel 45 packing recently to recamp on digital channel 45.

"Rescan is the mantra," we hear from the Western Reserve PBS folks.

In other words, if you're easily within the expected signal range of WNEO-DT, and haven't gotten it over-air since the analog went off over a week ago, you need to rescan your digital tuner or box.

The reason? WNEO-DT's "home address" on the TV band moved from RF channel 46, to the former analog home of RF channel 45, a week ago.

If you'd scanned in WNEO DT before last Friday, that information is no good due to the move.

The solution is can rescan your digital channels from your tuner or converter box menu, more than likely under the "Setup" menu option. If you're in the Youngstown market, that should bring back WNEO's new digital 45 signal as soon as the scan is done. (If you're still confused, contact the station's DTV Help Desk, where someone will walk you through it.)

As we've said frequently, but repeat here again, the Western Reserve PBS changes this month do not affect the group's Akron operation, WEAO/49, in either analog or digital format.

WEAO's analog 49 will sign off on the night of February 17, 2009, like all the other full-power analog stations in America, and the digital side of WEAO will continue at its present location.

And of course, cable and satellite viewers of both stations won't be affected.

But the "rescan mantra" will be necessary for TV viewers in many markets - including Cleveland - on the morning of February 18th.

A number of stations will make frequency changes on the digital side at the transition, including NBC affiliate WKYC and FOX affiliate WJW...which will still appear as "3" and "8" on digital tuner boxes...though WJW's digital signal will actually replace its analog signal on channel 8...

HAPPY HOLIDAYS: OMW readers in the Youngstown market tipped us today, and we confirmed, that Clear Channel hot AC WMXY/98.9 "Mix 98.9" has indeed flipped to Christmas music as of today.

It's the second such flip within the Clear Channel Youngstown cluster on South Avenue, as sister classic hits WBBG/106.1 "Big 106.1" made the Ho-Ho-Switch earlier.

It also sounds like Rubber City oldies WAKR/1590 Akron has started sprinkling in some holiday music, with WAKR program director Chuck Collins playing that a Christmas tune or three during his air shift this midday Friday. (We have heard at least two non-holiday tunes on WAKR in the past hour or so.)

Other than that, we're not going to keep obsessive track of the Christmas Music flips from now on, since just about any station with compatible music could still make the change as the holiday season wears on...

A TIE REPORT: Do you like to keep tabs on neckwear worn by a television network news anchor? A Northeast Ohio woman has just the ticket.

Associated Press TV writer David Bauder has the story of The Brian Williams Tie Report Archives, a blog by local teacher Nance Donnelly solely devoted to tracking what's hanging from the neck of "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams during his news broadcasts.

She describes herself in the Blogger "About me" section:

I'm a high school English teacher in a public school defined as an "urban school with a significant minority population" in NE Ohio.

Nance gives thumbs up or thumbs down to ties worn on the air by the NBC anchor, even assigning some of the worst ties to a special status:

What does "TWSNLBRAINDTM" Mean?

This strange acronym stands for Tie Which Shall No Longer Be Reviewed And Is Now Dead To Me. Brian wore it with such shameless frequency and it is such a boring, pedestrian tie (which spawned a series of ties with the similar color combination and stripes--always stripes!) that I have forever refused to describe it ever again. If you wish to read a description of this awful tie, you may refer to the 2/19, 4/18, 5/3, 5/10, and 5/15 Tie Reports. After that, I went completely over the edge and conferred TWSNLBRAINDTM status.

Umm, OK.

Seriously, Donnelly explains herself to the AP's Bauder:

"People must think, 'This poor woman must be one of those stalker freaks,' but it can't be any further from the truth," said its author, Nance Donnelly, who is teaching her students by example that if you want to be a writer, write every day.

OK, so she sounds normal.

We applaud and salute Ms. Donnelly, and encourage her to branch off to watch the ties worn by Northeast Ohio's own TV news anchors.

Heck, we do THIS blog, who are WE to snicker at a blog about a network news anchor's ties? And anything that gets high school students writing regularly is a good thing...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Random Midweek Update

We guess the Mighty Blog of Fun(tm) is not very organized this holiday week...and this may well be our last update before the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday...

CLOSING IN ON A HOME: Though it's technically a service and not a radio station, OMW has occasionally carried items about Akron's WCRS.

Those aren't FCC call letters - the acronym "WCRS" stands for "Written Communications Radio Service", otherwise known as the Akron-based radio reading service for the blind. In a previous life, WCRS was TCRRS - the "Tri-County Radio Reading Service" - and your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) may have volunteered there as a teenager.

We lost track of the story the past couple of years, where it took a rather terrifying turn, with loss of operating funding, state scrunity, and problems linked to the foreclosure of the former East Akron Rollercade on East Market Street, where WCRS' studios have been located. After a recent sheriff's sale, the building's out-of-town owner is kicking out the reading service folks.

WAKR/AkronNewsNow's Craig Simpson has the update in a story put out Tuesday. As it turns out, WCRS officials are now scouting out two potential sites - one not far from the Rollercade - hoping to find a new home sometime in the next month.

WCRS has had quite a harrowing ride in recent years, with even some legal hot water for the woman who started it all, long-time executive director Marcia Jonke.

All that's detailed in this Akron Beacon Journal article from last week.

WCRS is now under control of a new board of directors, and is being run by station manager and new board president David Binkley - who told the Beacon he managed to reduce the operation's sizable debts, and says WCRS will pay for whatever new space it finds.

WCRS' output is carried over a subcarrier of the University of Akron's WZIP/88.1, with special receivers needed to hear the programmming. WZIP has been a creditor for WCRS as well, but the Beacon story says WZIP has forgiven half the debt owed by the reading service...

NOD TO CHUCK: We didn't mention yet that long-time OMW reader Chuck Matthews has actually done something few have managed to do recently in the radio business - pick up new work.

Chuck has climbed aboard with Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting's Sandusky operation, with part-time production, on-air, voicetrack, board op and other work for ELB country WKFM/96.1 "K96" Huron and sports WLKR/1510 Norwalk "ESPN 1510", among other things, we're sure.

The former Cumulus talk WTOD/1560 Toledo program director continues to run his voiceover business, and continues to consult Matrix talk WNWT/1520, from his new perch in Vacationland...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Random Tuesday Stuff

Some items kicking around the Mighty Blog of Fun(tm)'s storage bin...

HSFB IN HD: The good folks at SportsTime Ohio have passed along their coverage plans for this coming weekend's Ohio High School Athletic Association high school football championships.

And the schedule of six games includes three that will be broadcast in HD format:

11/28 11:00am Div. VI - Delphos St. John's vs Bascom Hopewell-Loudon

11/28 3:00pm Div. IV - HD - Steubenville vs. Kettering Archbishop Alter

11/28 7:00pm Div. II - Sylvania Southview vs. Cincinnati Anderson

11/29 11:00am Div. III - HD - Columbus Eastmoor Academy vs Aurora

11/29 3:00pm Div. V - Youngstown Ursuline vs. Findlay Liberty-Benton

11/29 7:00pm Div. I - HD - Cleveland St. Ignatius vs. Cincinnati Elder

An STO release notes that only one HD production truck was available, but that still allows them three games in the HDTV format.

The STO folks note a veritable army will cover the championship games:

Matt Underwood, Al Pawlowski, Greg Frey, Andre Knott, Mike Cairns, Matt D’Orazio, Jerry Rudzinski, and Katie Witham will all be involved providing play-by-play, color commentary, and sideline reports. In addition, Mark Schwab of WTAM 1100 and Jim Isabella, the ‘Principal of High School Sports’ will be in the STO studio providing updates and halftime programming.

Cairns, Frey and Isabella will be on hand at STO tonight at 7 PM for a preview of the championship weekend...

INTERESTING HOLIDAY FILL: An alert OMW reader noted an interesting group of fill-ins for CBS Radio Cleveland AC WDOK/102.1's morning show on Monday.

And we're told among those filling in for Trapper Jack, Terry Moir and company on "Soft Rock 102.1" was a WDOK staffer who just became a former staffer. Now-former afternoon driver Dan Deely was heard by our reader on Monday morning, just days after he lost his regular shift to what we'll have to presume was a budget-linked schedule cutback.

As CBS Radio is moving rather rapidly to make live midday shows a thing of the past, Deely was bounced out of afternoon drive - after station veteran Nancy Alden was moved there from middays.

Deely was joined, we're told by our reader, by new midday voice Desiray McCray, and WKYC/3's apparently now-former reporter Vic Gideon.

(Our apologies for the earlier, incorrect name check to "19 Action News" weekend sports anchor and regular radio fill-in Chuck Galeti...the information given to us was correct, but we had Galeti mixed in our head with Gideon for some reason when we wrote it.) We weren't around this morning to hear if that group continued the fill-in today, but we'll assume so.

We'll also make the logical assumption that McCray is voicetracking the midday shift, in addition to her regular Saturday morning air shift.

As this is the Thanksgiving holiday week, expect to hear a number of fill-ins on the radio as the week progresses...

'STB: Another alert reader pointed out that the recently-returned WSTB/88.9 signal was actually off the air for a few hours on Monday morning.

By the time we were able to catch up, the Streetsboro City Schools-owned station was back on the air with its student-run "AlterNation" format.

OMW checked, and the off-air time was not planned, and not linked to the dispute that took WSTB off the air for a month recently.

But considering how closely that station has been watched, it's no wonder we were alerted...

'NEO: An official update: Western Reserve PBS Youngstown-market outlet WNEO-DT/45 Alliance is now operating on its (currently licensed, for now) full power facility.

Our friends at Campus Center Drive confirm to OMW that they've filed for a "license to cover", the official notification to the FCC that the station has successfully brought the construction permit on the air.

But as we've reported here, it's not the final signal for WNEO.

WNEO's new digital facility is putting out 44KW, a power level that will eventually increase when a new, maximized facility increases that power output by over 10 times (500KW).

But we're getting reports from well into Western Pennsylvania that even the pre-maximization WNEO-DT is putting an improved signal out that way - compared to the former WNEO-DT facility on RF channel 46.

We're not getting it here at all this far west - but we're firmly in the full-power signal grasp of WEAO-DT and the still-operating WEAO analog channel 49. WNEO-DT isn't meant for us...

Maybe Nothing To These - Yet

A couple of rumors, reports and such that may or may not mean anything to Northeast Ohio... yet:

CLEAR CHANNEL/CBS SWAP: A note in Monday's "Taylor on Radio-Info" E-Mail newsletter caught our attention.

Columnist Tom Taylor reports word that CBS Radio chief Dan Mason spent Monday in Houston, reportedly working out details a rumored swap that would have Clear Channel sending two stations to CBS Radio there.

As part of Clear Channel's recent privatization deal, the U.S. Department of Justice required it to flip a number of stations to another owner.

In addition to the two Houston outlets Taylor cites, one of those stations on the Flip List is right here in OMW land - Clear Channel top 40 WAKS/96.5 Akron, the Cleveland market's "Kiss FM", which still operates out of the Clear Channel World Domination HQ on Oak Tree while under the nominal care of the Aloha Trust spinoff company.

This is not at all to suggest that even if it were possible, that WAKS would end up in CBS Radio's cluster in Cleveland.

Not only would that put them over the ownership limits, CBS Radio itself is trying to unload its four Cleveland market stations, and pretty much all of its stations outside the top 10 markets.

But it's a reminder. The tighter-than-a-drum credit markets mean that station sales are not nearly as automatic as they once were...and by "once were", we mean even a few months ago.

Could the fate of the five Cleveland market FMs up for sale be decided, in part, by either Clear Channel or CBS working out swaps with other operators in other markets?

With debt-laden Big Deals pretty much a thing of the past, everywhere, in every line of business, this may be the only way the companies get those stations off the books in markets like Cleveland...

SPEAKING OF THE BAD ECONOMY: A brief note we spotted from Dave Hughes over at DCRTV, the long-established Washington DC-based media news and rumblings site:

Speaking of Gannett, we're hearing rumblings that the McLean-based media giant has started offering a series of employee cost-savings buyouts at many of its TV stations around the country. No word about buyout cuts at Gannett's Channel 9/WUSA.

In OMW land, of course, Gannett owns Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC/3, which just saw a number of reporters depart 13th and Lakeside involuntarily - mainly by the station exercising early contract-ending windows.

We don't know if this was part of the company-wide initiative Dave Hughes mentions, or if more cuts are on the way.

Unfortunately, it's probably not a bad bet to say that more cuts are on the way at anything remotely resembling a media outlet nationwide. And now that local TV and radio stations are no longer swimming in political ad buys, 2009 could get worse in a hurry.

One thing that continues to bother us: in the past few months of massive layoffs, it doesn't seem to matter how important you are to a station or a newspaper, or how many years you've been there.

If they can cut costs by taking you off the books, they'll do it, and institutional memory is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. (WKYC saw this in the most recent round, with the departure of veteran reporter Obie Shelton.)

There's gotta be a light at the end of the tunnel sometime, no? A light that isn't coming from a speeding, oncoming train?

Positive's all we can do right now...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Two Christmas Stockings Filled

The early flip to Christmas music has happened twice in Cleveland.

As expected, CBS Radio AC WDOK/102.1 "Soft Rock 102.1" and Salem CCM WFHM/95.5 "The Fish" have become the next Northeast Ohio stations - and the first Cleveland market stations - to flip to all Christmas music.

The moves comes after Clear Channel Canton market AC WHOF/101.7 "My 101.7" and Youngstown market classic hits WBBG/106.1 "Big 106.1" flipped to holiday music in the past week.

WDOK had been promoting a Christmas music flip later this week (Wednesday morning), but apparently decided to board Santa's music sleigh a little early. Listener comments about the flip on the WDOK web site start as early as Sunday afternoon.

WFHM, meanwhile, follows at least one other Salem "Fish" station (in Sacramento) in turning to Christmas music early. The station itself was Cleveland's first holiday music format changer last year...

Just Some Monday Stuff

There's nothing particularly pressing, right now...we just wanted to clear the Friday deck:

WNEO: We have yet to check in with the folks at Western Reserve PBS, so we're just putting this item up as a placeholder until we're able to get with them for an update on the newly-returned WNEO-DT/45 Alliance signal.

But our own observations - far afield from the WNEO transmitter in Salem - saw the WNEO digital signal lighting up on and off over the weekend, but not quite locking a signal from OMW World Headquarters in the Cleveland TV market.

(As we told our friends on Campus Center Drive, we suppose that's why they have that little WEAO transmitter site in Copley Township, with a full-power signal we have no trouble watching in large parts of the Cleveland market. Heh.)

As soon as we get the update, we'll change this item as well...the delay is ours, as we just contacted them a while ago...

SORT OF RELATED: A note from a reader about Northeast Ohio's other PBS affiliate:

Maybe it is just a freak of Lake effect snow, but I am receiving WVIZ-DT in northern Summit County today after never getting any kind of signal before. Is their new tower now broadcasting?

As far as we know, ideaStream's WVIZ is still broadcasting digitally from its second temporary location, an auxiliary tower at the WKYC transmitter site in the Parma antenna farm, with 10KW of power. (So our answer to our reader is - yes, we guess it's atmospheric conditions helping deliver WVIZ-DT.)

The move has at least provided much of southern Cuyahoga County with a shot at receiving the station...but the entire market will have to wait until WVIZ-DT's full-power post-transition signal lights up - possibly as soon as this month - from the new tower at WKYC's site.

From WVIZ-DT's latest FCC transition update, filed in mid-October (forgive the caps, it came that way):


As we've posted here more than once, WVIZ-DT will be able to light up the full-power DT 26 operation on the new WKYC site tower before the February 17, 2009 national transition...since unlike WKYC, it will not have to wait for an analog station to vacate its permanent digital home.

WVIZ will stay on its current RF channel (26), while WKYC can't light up RF channel 17 until WDLI/17 Canton shuts off its analog signal in February.

Until then, both stations are at pre-transition sites. WVIZ-DT's new temporary antenna is somewhat lower than where its permanent antenna will be (121 meters above average terrain, vs. 336 meters)...and as the better-than-expected performance of even WNEO-DT's lower power temporary facility shows, height matters.

And just to further confuse things, with digital PSIP information that rides along with the signal, WKYC will still show up as "Channel 3" on digital tuner boxes, and WVIZ will still show up as "Channel 25" those channel numbers (26, 17) will be invisible to the end user, unless they go deep into the menus of their converter boxes or digital tuners.

C'MON CAVS: The early on-court success of the Cleveland Cavaliers has resulted in TV success for Cavs TV rightsholder FOX Sports Ohio.

Though it's been mentioned elsewhere, we first noticed this news Friday in a blog from, of all places, the Los Angeles Times.

The Times passes along word that winning ways and star power (see: "James, LeBron") have fueled TV ratings increases in a number of NBA markets, including right here:

The New Orleans Hornets, coming off of last year's strong showing, are the league leader with a 163% ratings jump. The Cleveland Cavaliers' 109% ratings jump undoubtedly was driven by LeBron James leading the team to an eight-game winning streak.

The numbers come from the folks at Nielsen Media Research, in their primary business of rating television programming. Nielsen's numbers show an average of a 6.2 household rating for the Cavaliers on FSOhio, second among NBA markets nationwide.

(And yes, in something we never got around to posting, it does appear that FOX Sports Net's regional networks have dropped the "Net" in their names - leaving the local outlet as "FOX Sports Ohio". The slimmed down onscreen graphics now identify the team name up at the top right, i.e. "FSCavaliers".)

The L.A. Times blog entry contains the usual dumb comments...the first firing a shot at Northeast Ohio ("what else is there to do in Cleveland?"). Well, apparently, there's so much to do in Los Angeles that people have time to read Internet blogs and make comments about there being nothing to do in Cleveland...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Cleanup

UPDATE 3:15 PM 11/21/08: We added a new item below, about the debut of a new Toledo weekend radio show produced by one of our regular readers. Scroll down for the update...


Cleaning up some items as we intend to head out the door for the weekend...

WNEO'S DIGITAL: OMW hears from Western Reserve PBS that the station is still technically in testing mode today with its new digital signal for Youngstown market WNEO/45 Alliance, which lit up for the first time on Thursday evening.

For now, WNEO has been operating at one-quarter its licensed power (which is 44KW), and the signal will continue to occasionally go off, then on again today as the testing continues. At some point later today, Western Reserve PBS hopes to light it up at full power, permanently.

Even that 1/4-power signal is getting out, as we've heard folks picking it up as far afield as Cuyahoga Falls and North the station better performance to the west than the current configuration of Parkin Broadcasting ABC affiliate WYTV/33, which is at 50KW until it maximizes its power after the February digital transition.

And no wonder - WNEO-DT's antenna, the former analog 45 antenna, is over twice as high as WYTV-DT's antenna.

The signal being seen at reduced power today is a good sign for the new digital 45, as it will eventually maximize to 500KW at the very same antenna height...

JUKEBOXING IT: As the folks at "Sunday Oldies Jukebox" prepare for their second week back on the air via the facilities of Streetsboro City Schools-owned WSTB/88.9, there's another small piece of news.

The invitation to "SOJ" staffers to appear on John Carroll University's WJCU/88.7 University Heights has been extended, and the northern version of the Jukebox will air once again on WJCU's "Retro Radio" Saturday (4:30-6:30 PM).

OMW hears that the arrangement to substitute in one of Joe Madigan's two time slots is expected to continue at least through mid-December. Though the Cleveland market WJCU is not really a presence on the Akron radio dial, listeners can still check out the "SOJ" Saturday appearances via WJCU's Internet stream.

As far as "SOJ"'s original home base Sundays on WSTB, things are just a little different since it came back, with changed phone numbers and the like. Some interactive features are still missing, and the station may have to automate very early morning hours for a while. But the 50s and 60s music, the important part, keeps rolling.

All listeners need to know can be find on the SOJ website...

AT THE HOP: Speaking of oldies music, we neglected to give a plug to long-time OMW reader Chuck Matthews for a new project that starts this weekend.

"At The Hop with Allan Brady" starts Sunday evening on the station Matthews is consulting, Matrix talk WNWT/1520 in the Toledo market. It'll air every Sunday 9 PM-11 PM when there is no sports conflict.

Chuck tells us about it:

"ATH focuses on the 50s/early to mid 60s...playing doo wop, rockabilly, soul and hit parade. Essentially, the music that present 'oldies' and 'classic hits' stations have abandoned due to demos."

Matthews produces the show, and hosted it in an earlier version when he worked at Clear Channel's oldies outlet in the Raleigh NC market, WTRG. Brady later took over hosting duties on that show from Matthews, and is still in the Research Triangle of North Carolina at WWMY "Y102-9".

Chuck tells us he could have voiced the new "At The Hop" show for WNWT, but his imaging voice is already heard all over the station...

BEST WISHES: We won't cover this in detail, since our new friends over at Tri-State Media Watch have done so already.

But our best wishes to Cincinnati sports talk radio mainstay Lance McAllister, who's in the hospital recovering from a health-related incident this week.

After feeling discomfort in his chest for 36 hours, the WCKY/1530 "Homer" afternoon driver went to the hospital (spurred by a newspaper column on the topic), fainted, and actually flatlined - his heart stopped for a full 60 seconds.

One pacemaker later (it's being installed today), Lance says he hopes to be out of the hospital by Sunday to take his daughter to a concert. The station's Nick Brunker and Mo Egger have been filling in for him back at "Homer", though there's no word if Lance hopes to return to the airwaves Monday.

And he's bored, or so he says on his "Lot D" blog in an item posted Thursday night. McAllister updated it from the hospital:

I feel pain or discomfort. I'm a little bored....I have to sit around Thursday and do nothing. The burger Kelly brought me beat the mystery meat served for dinner. A nurse did come room to room with ice cream Wednesday night!

I have cable, (I watched UK-UNC and will watch the Bengals) and my laptop.

And hey, nothing beats being alive.

Here's hoping for a speedy recovery, Lance. And we're wondering if we'd be updating the Mighty Blog after flatlining for a full minute. Still, our own advice to him is - take it easy!...

Add 30 Days?

It looks like America's full-power TV broadcasters may get an extra 30 days to help assure a smoother digital TV transition.

Broadcasting & Cable Magazine reports that Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed "by unanimous consent" a so-called TV "nightlight bill", which would "would allow broadcasters to continue an analog signal for 30 days past the Feb. 17, 2009 cut-off date".

Though the bill reportedly has support of FCC commissioner Kevin Martin, and the support of the White House, B&C reports that nothing more will happen until the House of Representatives takes up the measure - after their return from the Thanksgiving holiday break on December 8th.

It isn't immediately clear to us, at least, what form the "Short-Term Analog Flash and Emergency Readiness (SAFER) Act" would take.

B&C quotes Meredith Attwell Baker, head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, as supporting the act, but that she has in mind a "limited extension for emergency and DTV transition information", not a full-fledged delay of the February 19th cut-off.

That 30 day "nightlight" would presumably take the form of the early analog cut-off in Wilmington NC, where local stations kept their analog signals on the air an extra month only to provide information about the transition itself (or to carry emergency information if that became necessary).

But unlike in Wilmington, a number of stations are planning to switch digital frequencies to occupy former analog channels on February 17th - among them, here in Northeast Ohio, WKYC-DT's planned move from RF 2 to RF 17, a channel now occupied by the analog side of TBN O&O WDLI/17 in Canton.

And other stations are abandoning analog entirely, like Western Reserve PBS' WNEO/45 Alliance, months before the transition. (So has Mid-State independent WMFD/68 Mansfield, though the WMFD folks also own analog LPTV/Class A outlet WOHZ-CA/41.)

Clearly, a lot of technical questions would have to be answered about how this would take effect.

B&C also reports that the NTIA's Baker and FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein are supporting an early, nationally-coordinated soft analog shut-off test, about a month before the transition date.

These tests have already taken place in Pennsylvania and in some individual markets, though there's no sign of one anywhere in Ohio (HINT! HINT!).

Meanwhile, as the analog side of WNEO is now gone for good, OMW hears that the Western Reserve PBS folks were not at all overwhelmed in calls from panicked viewers unable to watch anything from "NewsHour" to "Barney and Friends".

A number of factors are likely involved.

For one, as we've reported here extensively, the station has gone above and beyond in its role in digital TV education in Northeast Ohio, complete with talks and hands-on demonstrations for viewers.

And Western Reserve PBS has been incredibly proactive in informing its Youngstown area viewers about the early departure of analog channel 45, the Salem-based transmitter that services the Mahoning Valley and nearby areas.

They've been open and forthcoming about everything - and have even kept this very blog informed of every step involved.

We've written a lot about it. Not only is the WNEO move an important first step in Northeast Ohio's digital transition, but a number of station staffers have chipped in to provide us information and answer our questions.

Our thanks, specifically, go to Western Reserve PBS communications coordinator Diane Steinert, who never tires of our queries - and gets us answers to even the most arcane technical questions. Even station manager Bill O'Neil has kept OMW in the loop in this transition period.

But perhaps the most important factor keeping the phone traffic at the Western Reserve PBS DTV Help Desk to a minimum this week was the coordination with area cable TV systems and the two major satellite services - to keep the station's programming flowing for their Youngstown market subscribers even during the two days when WNEO wasn't on the air in either analog or digital form.

Those who did not depend on an analog TV antenna to receive WNEO's signal saw nary a hiccup, and likely had no idea that transmitter was gone. (Well, for a while early Wednesday, there was a minor glitch affecting some Armstrong Cable viewers - but the problem was ironed out quickly.)

But we're only talking about reaction to one station going dark, analog-style, in Northeast Ohio's smallest market, Youngstown.

Multiply even the calls Western Reserve PBS got by three for the rest of the market, and by a much larger number when all the Cleveland market analog stations go dark, and perhaps we'll have a better idea what will happen in February here and everywhere...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

THIS JUST IN: WKDD Turns To Billy Bush For Nights

With Clear Channel Akron/Canton hot AC WKDD/98.1's former local evening voice now being heard alongside morning host Matt Patrick, the station has turned to a big syndicated name to take the vacated evening slot.

The 7-11 PM weeknight slot once occupied by Krissy Taylor's voicetracked shift will be occupied starting Monday by Westwood One's "Billy Bush Show". Bush hosts TV's "Access Hollywood", and does his syndicated radio show from the TV show's studio.

Quoting 'KDD:

Billy is able to have the biggest names in Hollywood on his show every day. Using the resources of Access Hollywood, Billy delivers exclusive interviews, news and gossip while continuing to play music.

Ms. Taylor, meantime, is getting used to life as a live morning co-host at Freedom Avenue, settling in alongside Patrick for what is now being called "The Matt Patrick Show".

Patrick has made Krissy feel welcome both on the air and on his web page, where he jokingly caught her wearing a T-shirt from WKDD sister Youngstown market station "95-9 Kiss FM" (WAKZ). That's where she apparently still does 9 AM-noon (we presume voicetracked out of Freedom Avenue), according to her web page there.

And in something we didn't report yet, Youngstown's version of "Kiss FM" has also added resident Clear Channel/Premiere midday syndicated virus Ryan Seacrest from noon to 3...

THIS JUST IN: WKNR, OSU Re-Up Through 2012

As Buckeye Nation concentrates on this weekend's big football game with the Michigan Wolverines, the Ohio State Radio Network's Cleveland affiliate is crowing about the future.

Good Karma sports WKNR/850 "ESPN 850 WKNR" has announced a renewal of the station's contract to carry Buckeyes football and basketball in the Cleveland market. The new deal lasts through the year 2012.

Quoting a WKNR release:

"Given the enthusiasm that exists in Cleveland and the surrounding area for Ohio State football and basketball, I cannot imagine a better fit for the Ohio State Radio Network than WKNR Radio," said Ohio State Athletics Director Gene Smith. “WKNR is a sports giant in Northeast Ohio with superlative sports programming throughout the day. All of us at Ohio State are thrilled to have WKNR as part of the network."

"As the Ohio State Buckeyes continue their winning traditions on the field and on the court, we are pleased to offer Northeast Ohio Buckeye fans Ohio State Radio network and local programming to our fans and partners," (WKNR general manager) Keith Williams said.

With all three Cleveland-based professional teams locked into long-term or continuing deals with Clear Channel, the OSU contract is WKNR's biggest play-by-play plum. Good Karma boss Craig Karmazin knows full well that he couldn't afford to lose it.

As far as we know, all Buckeyes football games air on the big 850 signal, including, of course, this weekend's All Important Game With That Team From Up North.

We seem to recall that an OSU basketball game or three landed on sister station WWGK/1540 "AM 1540, KNR2" last season due to conflicts on the 850 side...but most of those games also air on 850...

WNEO Digital Coming Back - Step One

OMW hears that Western Reserve PBS' WNEO-DT/45 Alliance (the operation's Youngstown market facility) is indeed on course to return to the airwaves on Friday.

After the Kent-based PBS affiliate shut off the analog channel 45 signal for good on Wednesday morning, station engineers have been busy installing the new digital channel 45 transmitter, and have been testing it off-air into a dummy load.

The digital transmitter is being switched today into the now-formerly analog transmission line, and Western Reserve PBS officials tell OMW that they expect to begin testing the new signal tonight.

Assuming all the testing goes well, the WNEO digital signal on its new home on Channel 45 (both in reality and virtually) will permanently return to the air Friday.

And one note there - since WNEO-DT has moved RF frequencies, even those who had previously scanned its signal into digital tuners and boxes earlier will have to rescan it when it returns.

The previously scanned signal depended on WNEO-DT's presence on its earlier RF channel 46. That facility no longer exists, and is being replaced by the new home of WNEO-DT - on its former analog channel 45.

None of this, of course, affects Akron/Canton/Cleveland area viewers of WEAO/49, which continues in both its existing analog and digital forms. And WEAO viewers won't have to rescan their digital tuners or converter boxes either now, or at the federal digital transition on February 17, 2009 - as WEAO will remain digitally with its current facilities.

And none of this has affected the bulk of the Youngstown area's cable or satellite subscribers. The area's major cable systems - Time Warner, Armstrong and Comcast - and satellite TV providers DirecTV and Dish Network have all been feeding their viewers Western Reserve PBS programming via WEAO's signal.

Another technical note: An OMW reader tells us, and Western Reserve PBS officials confirm, that the new WNEO digital signal about to debut will operate at a power level of 44KW, the currently-licensed power level for the moved WNEO-DT. The new signal will, though, come from the higher antenna formerly used by analog channel 45.

WNEO applied this summer to maximize the station's digital signal at 500KW...but that's been held up due to a very small area of predicted interference that would be caused by the maximization of the digital signal of Detroit NBC affiliate WDIV/4 - which also lives on digital channel 45.

The Western Reserve PBS folks and WDIV owner Post-Newsweek came to an agreement (PDF file) to accept the minimal interference, which means the WNEO-DT 500KW maximization is likely to be approved soon.

Until then, it's possible at least some viewers who could receive WNEO-DT before the change may have more trouble picking it up on Friday, particularly outside of the immediate Mahoning Valley area and near the station's antenna site in Salem.

But we would fully expect Western Reserve PBS to quickly move to upgrade the power, when the 500KW construction permit is granted...

Another Radio Move - Sort Of

When it wasn't even looking, the Toledo market got another country music station recently - sort of.

It's a station that's been there, and been in the format, for some time.

But the recent FCC approval of a new city of license for Tiffin's WCKY-FM/103.7 "103-7 CKY" has apparently emboldened the Clear Channel station to start basically shouting "Toledo!!!" on the air.

Late last month, the FCC approved a new construction permit reallocating 103.7 from Tiffin to Pemberville. We've never heard of Pemberville, either, so we took to a map and found it as a small village/wide-spot-on-the-road east of Bowling Green in far eastern Wood County.

Like another such recently approved construction permit - Clear Channel sister hot AC WKDD/98.1 Munroe Falls - the WCKY-FM CP does not specify new facilities.

Indeed, the new COL of Pemberville is actually outside the projected signal strength measurements usually needed to approve such moves. Clear Channel engineers used the area's flat terrain to prove that the signal - in reality - was actually within the level needed to OK Pemberville as the new COL with the current facilities.

So, though Wood County technically gains a new allocation, WCKY-FM hasn't actually moved anywhere...yet.

But you'd hardly know that on the air.

"103-7 CKY"'s new legal ID jingle proudly proclaims the station as WCKY-FM "Pemberville, Toledo!!!!". Various announcements we heard on the station's Internet stream frequently mention Toledo, though do also mention some other area communities (Bowling Green and Findlay) along with it.

The situation surrounding WCKY-FM is murky, however.

As far as we know, the station is still being operated out of its Findlay studio facilities. (We presume a main studio waiver would be needed to move it up to Superior Street in Toledo, given the whole Pemberville signal strength situation we mentioned above.)

And it's widely believed that WCKY-FM is still on the sales block. The station was "orphaned" when the rest of the Clear Channel Findlay/Tiffin cluster was sold to BAS Broadcasting.

BAS, of course, flipped WPFX/107.7 North Baltimore (still off the air at this writing) to Dan Dudley's Toledo Radio, and is operating WTTF/1600 Tiffin for the next couple of years - before syndicated radio host Doug Stephan takes it over, reportedly to run it as a training operation for students at his alma mater, Tiffin's Heidelberg College.

So, with all this in the wings, why is WCKY-FM "103-7 CKY" blaring out of the speakers as a would-be Toledo station, with a new Wood County COL?

The best guess? It's there to cause Cumulus a little indigestion on behalf of Clear Channel's Toledo cluster.

Simply put, 103.7 can make a minimal effort to shave a few share points off of Cumulus country giant WKKO/99.9 "K100" just by "being there".

Again, WCKY-FM is not being operated out of Toledo, and we don't get the idea that any major assault on "K100" is planned.

But anything the station's mere presence can do to help its sister stations in Toledo - like CC's AC powerhouse WRVF/101.5 "The River" - would certainly be appreciated on Superior Street.

And any "presence" the station gains as a Toledo rimshot (and it's not a bad rimshot) would certainly help the stick's value if and when Clear Channel is able to sell it to another buyer.

The COL change, much like WKDD's COL move from Canton to Munroe Falls, "plants the flag" should any future owner decide to attempt to physically nudge 103.7 closer to Toledo.

As far as we know, former Toledo personality (WVKS/92.5, WTWR/98.3) Johny D is still program director at "103-7 CKY", and is still heard in afternoon least in the current state of affairs for the station...

The New Way To Cover News

Rest assured, given the current economic conditions and the flagging fortunes of media outlets, this'll be here soon enough.

But right now, a joint "news coverage sharing" venture between NBC and FOX is being implemented in markets where the two entities actually own stations. This USA Today story from last week has details.

Basically, the NBC and FOX-owned stations in those markets will create a shared assignment desk, with some camera crews from each station devoted to staffing it. The goal, presumably, is to cover news and events that would have been covered by each station separately - with just one crew shared between the two stations.

The joint effort would then serve up the video to the stations, which would make their separate decisions on how to use it.

The stations would, under the arrangement, theoretically be freed to use their own remaining non-shared crews to cover enterprise stories, and provide unique coverage not shared with the other station.

But it's not at all hard to frame all this as a cost-cutting measure, despite the FOX and NBC groups saying it'll help them beef up independent reporting.

The deal only applies, for now, to the NBC and FOX owned stations. Neither affiliate in Cleveland is owned by the network, though they both once were...NBC once owned WKYC/3, and FOX owned WJW/8 from the mid-1990's until this year's sale to Local TV LLC.

But it's easy to see that the idea of sharing news crews between competing stations will spread like wildfire in the current economic downturn. Local TV has already basically merged its news operations with Chicago-based Tribune, under the oversight of Tribune COO/former Jacor and Clear Channel radio head/suburban Cincinnati resident Randy Michaels.

We just hope the "independent reporting" doesn't mean that stations using such a shared resource would have just one or two reporters doing overhyped "sweeps" stories...still a feature of local news despite the recent implementation of people meters in Cleveland TV ratings.

Nah, that'd never happen...honest...

The USA Today piece notes that the NBC/FOX venture is also offering up its services to other TV stations in the markets involved, as well as radio, print and online news providers.

Using TV news audio is something many radio stations already do.

Among other local agreements, WKYC has a non-exclusive pact with a number of local stations, including both Rubber City Radio oldies/news WAKR/1590 and crosstown Media-Com talk WNIR/100.1 in the Akron market...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Love Ya, Cleveland (Magazine)

Since we don't usually buy Cleveland Magazine, we didn't know that a prominent local sports media personality is featured this month until we saw Bruce Drennan on the magazine's cover at a local newsstand.

Sure enough, the very interesting tale of the sportscaster's recent fall - and rise - is featured in a story titled "The Reconstruction of Bruce Drennan", which can be read online here.

The magazine also offers a podcast featuring the Drennan story.

The basics of the story are well known to OMW readers.

Drennan's sports broadcasting history in Cleveland started at the old WBBG/1260 in its "Super Talk" days. It includes stints at 1100, both at WWWE "3WE" and at WTAM, and broadcasting work for the Cleveland Indians - most famously, alongside Joe Tait in the Tribe TV booth for Len Barker's perfect game.

But his most recent on-air gig before the federal gambling raid on his house was the mid-morning slot at then-Salem sports talk WKNR/850. He then was sent to a federal minimum security prison in Morgantown WV, taking a plea deal for not paying income tax on gambling winnings. He wasn't charged with the actual gambling as part of the deal.

But the Cleveland Magazine piece contains some very interesting background surrounding Drennan's recent career resurrection as host of SportsTime Ohio's popular "All Bets Are Off".

For one, it notes that STO executives met with Bruce as he was awaiting his time in Morgantown, while he was host and program director of Internet sports talk outlet

The meeting boosted Drennan's spirits, as he was well-aware of their interest in using him after he got out of prison. The article suggests, however, that Drennan did not have a "gig waiting" when he returned to Cleveland - that he'd have to show the STO folks that he was repentant and not defiant, which he did, and they hired him.

We "get" Bruce Drennan, and we don't. He's actually a pretty solid "nuts and bolts" sports talker, and his schtick, well, is what it is. Bruce is Bruce.

But whether you like him or not, Cleveland apparently "lovvvvvves" him back just as much as he proclaims he loves Cleveland...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WNEO Analog Shutoff

The second Northeast Ohio full-power analog signal to leave the airwaves is about to do so.

As scheduled, Western Reserve PBS' WNEO/45 Alliance, the Youngstown market half of the Kent-based public TV operation, will shut down the analog Channel 45 transmitter on Wednesday morning - for good - to prepare for an upgrade to the digital WNEO signal, which will move from digital channel 46 to digital channel 45.

OMW hears from our friends at Western Reserve PBS that the analog 45 signal will go dark at around 7:30 to 8 AM on Wednesday. That means for two days, both the WNEO analog and digital signals will be off the air.

The station's programming will continue to be available during those two days to Youngstown market viewers who subscribe to all of the major cable systems serving the Mahoning Valley - Time Warner, Comcast, and Armstrong - and to subscribers of both major satellite TV services.

DirecTV had already made arrangements to keep the station's programming available to Youngstown market viewers while both WNEO signals are off for the required transmitter work.

And now, OMW hears that Dish Network has confirmed it will do the same. The satellite and cable companies will serve WNEO viewers via the signal of Akron-based WEAO/49.

For newcomers to the area, or those reading from outside Northeast Ohio, WNEO and WEAO (until recently known as "PBS 45 & 49") simulcast 24/7, so satellite and cable viewers will notice no change in Western Reserve PBS' programming.

The move tomorrow won't affect Western Reserve PBS viewers in the Cleveland/Akron/Canton area. WEAO/49 will continue to operate its full-power analog signal until the national digital TV transition (February 17, 2009), and will continue to operate its full-power digital WEAO-DT both before and after the transition.

Finally, on Friday, November 21, WNEO-DT is expected to return with a more powerful signal...after the analog rides off into the TV sunset.

For those who haven't followed every step of this, as we alluded, WNEO is actually the second analog station in Northeast Ohio to go silent early.

Mansfield's WMFD/68 did so earlier this year, and only WMFD-DT (68.1, RF 12) remains. Though Mansfield is more North Central Ohio than Northeast Ohio, it counts technically for this report since Mansfield is in the Cleveland TV market...

Cincinnati Way

Our primary focus here at OMW is Northeast Ohio, covering the radio and TV stations (and other media) of the Cleveland, Akron, Canton and Youngstown areas.

We'll occasionally run items from other parts of Ohio, as far afield as Toledo, Lima and Cincinnati, but we don't really have all that many sources in other parts of the state.

That's one reason we wholeheartedly welcome a new media blog that focuses on Cincinnati, Southwest Ohio and nearby areas.

Check it out at Tri-State Media Watch:

The blog mentions us as an influence, and we're grateful for the nod. We don't have any other connection with Tri-State Media Watch, though...

New Ohio Radio Ratings?

The folks at Arbitron will get some competition for radio ratings starting next year - and it will affect one Ohio market.

The New York Times reports that Nielsen, better known for its TV ratings, will provide radio audience measurement in 50 "small and midsize markets" starting in the third quarter of 2009, in a deal with radio group owner Cumulus, which has been seeking an Arbitron alternative for some time.

The Times also reports that in 17 of those markets, Clear Channel's radio stations will also take part in the new service.

But it took a nudge from's news headlines to bring this into focus for us:

The markets aren't being identified yet, but presumably metros like Youngstown are candidates, since both Cumulus and Clear Channel have stations there and are the dominant players.

UPDATE 12:31 PM 11/18/08: AllAccess has posted a list of the markets involved, and only Youngstown is listed in Ohio. Clear Channel and Cumulus also compete in Toledo, and in the much larger Cincinnati market, but the Arbitron-Cumulus deal only covers Youngstown.

This also gives us a chance to bring up a new development: Cincinnati has now surpassed Cleveland in Arbitron's radio market size rankings.

The Queen City is now the 28th ranked radio market in the country in the Fall 2008 rankings, thanks to over 21 thousand new residents. Cleveland slides to 29th, losing nearly the same amount of people as Cincinnati gained. Net gap between the two markets - about 86 hundred people.

The radio market size drop for Cleveland is similar to the drop in ranking for the Cleveland TV market over the past few years. Cleveland is now America's 17th largest TV market, down from the top 10 decades ago.

Remember, on the TV side, Akron and Canton are also included in the Cleveland market, where they are separate markets for radio...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Out Of The Chute

UPDATE 11/17/08 9:50 PM: Two alert readers with the ability to pick up Youngstown market stations tell us that Clear Channel classic hits WBBG/106.1 Niles "Big 106.1" flipped to holiday tunes late last week. We've confirmed the switch by going to the station's website, and listening online.

The station is now positioning for the season as "Youngstown-Warren's Christmas Music Channel"...


...for a Monday, with some newsy and some random items. Or maybe the title should be "Down The Chimney"...

SANTA'S FIRST GIFT: With snowy weather affecting Northeast Ohio, it's an appropriate backdrop as radio stations begin boarding Santa's sleigh in delivering Christmas music to area listeners.

The first aboard this year in the region is Clear Channel AC WHOF/101.7 North Canton, which officially flipped on the holiday tunes at noon today.

A quick OMW spin through the dial shows no other entrants in the Christmas Music Sweepstakes, so we'll award First of 2008 honors to "My 101.7".

Others are coming, though...just not yet.

A traditional Cleveland market Christmas music stronghold is CBS Radio AC WDOK/102.1 "Soft Rock 102.1", which has a web countdown to the start of its 2008 holiday music - if our math skills and calendar reading skills aren't failing us, it'll be 6 AM on Wednesday, November 26th.

Another Cleveland station likely to be Decking the Halls this year would be Salem CCM WFHM/95.5 "The Fish" - so far, no signs of a flip there, yet. We'd be surprised if they didn't make the switch soon. WFHM has made an early run at Christmas music before, and its sister station in Sacramento CA has already made the flip this year.

And we suspect Rubber City Radio oldies WAKR/1590 Akron OM/PD and OMW reader Chuck Collins will bring out the holiday tunes and catchy liners at some point in the next couple of weeks...

SPEAKING OF WDOK: We passed along word last week of a schedule change at the CBS Radio Cleveland AC outlet, as WDOK's schedule moved long-time midday host Nancy Alden into afternoon drive, with weekender Desiray McCray filling middays (in addition to her weekend shifts on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons).

We've heard from both in market and out of market sources that there was a good reason for it, though we wouldn't consider this an official confirmation.

As major companies pare down their schedules due to budget difficulties in the tight economy (and the extra tight media economy), we hear that CBS Radio is voicetracking midday shifts at its stations around the country.

This, if true, would continue the trend by other broadcasters - at least one group, according to trade reports, is abandoning live night shifts nationwide. The reports didn't say which group, but considering recent moves dumping evening personalities in markets like Toledo and Youngstown, Cumulus would be a safe guess.

It's getting harder and harder to find broadcast owners that aren't retrenching in some way. Even Clear Channel, which hasn't announced massive layoffs in recent weeks, pared down itself in the preparation for its takeover by private equity firms recently...

AKRON NATIVE RETIRING: We saw the announcement last week that long-time Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) president Barbara Cochran announced her upcoming retirement. Cochran will step down next June after 12 years of leading the organization.

But we didn't know that Cochran is an Northeast Ohio native - from Akron, specifically.

Another significant presence in RTNDA is from Akron, of course - Rubber City Radio VP/information media and OMW reader Ed Esposito, who is the current chairman of the news broadcasters' group.

Ed tells us Cochran is a Buchtel High School graduate, and also informs us that Barbara's mother still lives in Akron.

The RTNDA's release on Cochran's retirement quotes Akron's own Mr. Esposito in his role as Chairman:

“Barbara Cochran’s leadership took RTNDA’s advocacy on behalf of electronic journalists to a new level, especially in the fight to preserve hard-fought First Amendment gains and protections,” Esposito said. “Barbara’s stand for strong ethical practices and journalistic excellence help set a standard for our industry.”

He especially noted Cochran’s success in opening the U.S. Supreme Court to the release of selected audio recordings as one of the many highlights of her association career. “RTNDA’s Board and membership owe Barbara great thanks in helping to position the association and foundation to transform as well as transition as we determine our strategies to keep those interests at the forefront in this time of great challenge and opportunity,” Esposito added.

Barbara Cochran has maintained a very high (beyond industry) profile in her work for the RTNDA, and it sounds like the Akron native will be very difficult to replace...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Grab Bag

Rounding out our week...

NO 58:
With the digital side of Western Reserve PBS' WNEO/45 Alliance off the air this week in preparation for the station's early digital switchover, one of our readers noticed that the public TV outlet's Youngstown-based low-power translator is also off the air.

OMW has confirmed that the translator, known legally as W58AM and serving low-lying areas of the Mahoning Valley that may be shadowed from WNEO, is indeed off the air due to transmitter problems...and has been off the air since last weekend.

Of course, the station's engineers are a bit busy right now in Salem, making the various changes that will allow WNEO-DT, in a week's time, to upgrade its signal in the wake of the early shutoff of analog channel 45.

So, the channel 58 Youngstown repeater is on the back burner.

OMW hears from our friends on Campus Center Drive that if the analog W58AM transmitter can't be easily fixed - once they're able to get to it - Western Reserve PBS will go ahead and convert it to digital. The station has a digital construction permit that will allow it to move W58AM to DT channel 44.

For now, it's an answer we won't know until after the WNEO work is done.

We also don't know yet if Dish Network will be among the outlets providing the WNEO signal to Youngstown market customers while both the station's analog and digital signals will be off the air for about two days next week in the early conversion process.

And a reminder, again - Western Reserve PBS' WEAO/49 Akron is not affected by any of this, and will continue to pump out its existing analog and digital signals from the Copley Township transmitter site through February 17th, when the analog signal shuts off in the nationally-mandated transition to digital TV...

AN APOLOGY, OF SORTS: long-time Media-Com talk WNIR/100.1 "The Talk of Akron" morning co-host and sports voice Steve French.

In an earlier item about hot AC WKDD/98.1's current morning show, we noted that we hadn't remembered French as a member of the old WKDD/96.5 "Waking Crew", alongside Matt Patrick and Barbara Adams.

French wrote back to OMW, noting that he'd been on that show for "13 (expletive deleted) years". The expletive apparently convinced Gmail's spam filters that Steve was a spammer, and dumped his E-Mail into our Spam folder - which we only checked later this week, finding his missive among advertisements for body part extensions and dating services.

The expletive was the same one that got San Francisco host Charles "Karel" Bouley bounced from his weekend gig at Citadel talk powerhouse KGO...only in that case, it was on the air, albeit accidentally.

Well, Steve, we're human, and we apparently didn't listen enough to the "Waking Crew" show when you were there. Or, maybe we were concentrating on Matt and BA. Or, maybe we're just so used to you on WNIR these days, that our brain cells devoted to remembering you were filled with your long-time gig (over 12 years) at 100.1 alongside Stan Piatt, Jim Midock and Maggie Fuller.

We're only human. We're fallible.

Anyway, we mention Steve French because we were glued to the sound of his voice last night.

Around about 11 PM, we wondered if he'd still be in the press box of the Rubber Bowl at 5 AM today, instead of at the WNIR studios in Portage County, as the University of Akron Zips and the University of Buffalo Bulls were about to enter a fourth overtime period (!!!).

In case you haven't heard, Thursday's contest was the very last Zips football game scheduled for the aging Rubber Bowl, as the University of Akron will open a new on-campus football stadium sponsored by a telemarketing firm and a hospital chain that aren't paying us for the mentions.

We've always enjoyed French's work as the radio play-by-play voice of the Zips, even if we are "dumb guys". And his call of the Zips/Bulls game was worth staying up for.

Did we mention Steve French was a member of the old WKDD "Waking Crew" show cast for 13 years? Did we mention he's been a part of the WNIR morning show since 1996? Just checking...

A nod to Friend of OMW Chuck Matthews, who's made some more voiceover client pickups from his new base in the Sandusky area:

CHUCK MATTHEWS PRODUCTIONS signs a trio of APPALOOSA BROADCASTING stations for VO services; Classic Rock KRQU/LARAMIE, WY; Classic Hits KANT/GUERNSEY, WY; and KROW/LOVELL; WY. But that's not all! CMP also signs DESTINY COMMUNICATIONS Rock KEAU-FM/GREAT FALLS, MT for VO and imaging duties.


Demos at; Contact CHUCK at (419) 350-6188 for rates and availability.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Exactly one month after it was pulled off the air, Streetsboro City Schools station WSTB/88.9 Streetsboro has returned to the airwaves.

OMW hears that WSTB went back on the air late Thursday afternoon, and a quick check of the radio confirms its return, with the regular alt-rock "AlterNation" format that airs Monday through Saturday on the station operated out of Streetsboro High School.

OMW also hears that the return of WSTB does also mean the return of the station's "Sunday Oldies Jukebox" oldies programming this Sunday..."SOJ" volunteer program director Bill Weisinger confirms that to us this Thursday evening.

And in an arrangement made earlier this week before WSTB's return, "SOJ" will also make its scheduled appearance Saturday afternoon from 4:30 to 6:30 PM on John Carroll University's WJCU/88.7 University Heights, as air personalities "Guy Z" and "Rockn' Rick" substitute on Joe Madigan's regular "Retro Radio" program.

With WSTB back on the air, and "SOJ" back there Sunday, presumably it'll be just a one-time appearance on WJCU... a Cleveland market station which doesn't actually serve most of the regular WSTB listening area in the Akron market for obvious reasons: it's on a first adjacent frequency to WSTB's 88.9.

But WJCU has one thing WSTB had to abandon a while back - streaming audio on the Internet via the station's website...which will deliver what's now a "Sunday Oldies Jukebox" Saturday special back to Internet-capable listeners in the Summit and Portage County areas...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

CBS Radio Cleveland Changes

Some interesting changes are afoot among CBS Radio's four Cleveland stations.

The first involves AC WDOK/102.1 "Soft Rock 102.1" and hot AC WQAL/104.1 "Q104" program director Dave Popovich, as he takes on the additional role of director of programming for the entire CBS Radio cluster in Cleveland - which also puts alt-rock WKRK/92.3 "K-Rock" and classic rock WNCX/98.5 under his oversight.

There's no word at this time what this means for the existing PDs at "K-Rock" ("Nard") and WNCX (Bill Louis).

And one of our readers noticed a change on WDOK's website.

The station's schedule now lists veteran midday talent Nancy Alden in afternoon drive, with Desiray McCray listed in Alden's former midday time slot. Dan Deely is apparently now the former WDOK afternoon driver, as he's no longer shown on the schedule.

We haven't been listening to WDOK a lot, so we don't know when this schedule change took effect, or even if it has taken effect yet. We'd guess - but it's only a guess - that it happened Monday...

Craig Couch Exits WLKR

Morning host and program director Craig Couch has left Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting AAA WLKR/95.3 Norwalk (and sister sports WLKR/1510 "ESPN 1510").

Unlike a number of recent radio departures, Couch tells OMW that the exit was his own idea, as he's leaving the radio business. He tells us:

All-in-all, my 10-year career (started at AM930 WEOL) has been a terrific experience. I can't say enough about the good people at WEOL, WNWV, WKFM, WLKR-FM & WLKR-AM. I am happy to call many of them friends.

That being said, this is a shrinking industry. Although I never felt my job was in immediate danger, I began to take a look at other opportunities outside of radio.

Those opportunities lead him to a new job he starts next week: as a financial advisor for Edward Jones.

Couch tells us his decision to change careers was prompted by the start of the current national economic downturn, and his desire to learn more about it. As he learned more, he started becoming interested in a career in financial planning.

He didn't tell us what happens back at WLKR, so we asked around back at his now former radio home, and it appears midday host Maggie Scott moves up to morning drive - with Couch's off-air programming duties split up among the current staffers...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Service To Our XM Subscribers

Other than one small part, this isn't connected to Ohio radio.

But we figured if the folks at Sirius XM won't do it, we'd give our readers who subscribe to XM Satellite Radio the heads up...the service's music lineup changes, drastically, tomorrow.

We won't get into the details, but we found a new leaked (PDF format) lineup here, and a leaked (PDF format) FAQ about the XM lineup changes here.

The links are from an unofficial fan site run by XM users, where users are discussing the changes here.

The FAQ says the revamped XM lineup will take effect late tonight/early Wednesday morning at 12 AM ET.

For now, it doesn't appear that the other half of Sirius XM, Sirius, will go through the same changes - though a couple of Sirius channels have moved channel positions.

The base reason for the XM changes?

You may have heard that a rather large boatload of XM Satellite Radio employees, from programmers to on-air personalities, have been laid off at the company's Washington DC headquarters. The layoff numbers are in the high double digits, from most reports.

New parent Sirius is based in New York, and it appears most of the changes are designed to merge the music channel offerings between the two services.

It doesn't necessarily mean that XM subscribers will now get the existing Sirius-based services. Some offerings are being shuffled around, and it looks like Sirius subscribers will encounter some programming changes (mostly), just not wholesale lineup changes like on the XM side.

But the apparent new goal of Sirius XM is to drastically reduce costs of providing those music channels...and it would appear that however everything lands, the music channels will be the same on both services at some point, if not starting tomorrow.

Despite the changes, XM subscribers will still have shell out extra for the "stars" of the Sirius lineup in "Best of Sirius" - Howard Stern, Martha Stewart and the like, along with sports play-by-play offerings like NFL games.

The updated lineup shows very few changes to the news/talk lineup, though XM users will get such formerly-Sirius-only offerings like National Public Radio's satellite radio channel, and World Radio Network, the 24/7 service offering English-language programming from various international radio broadcasters (Radio Netherlands, Germany's Deutsche Welle, etc.)

Unfortunately for us, Sirius' carriage of Canada's CBC Radio One - CBC's news/talk/information service - is not coming over to XM. We presume because it's tied directly to Sirius' deal with Sirius Canada, a separate entity, still, than XM Canada. If they found a way to put CBC Radio One on XM, we'd dump our Sirius equipment entirely.

And speaking of news/talk offerings, there's the small point that concerns this report.

Yes, that's Clear Channel talk WLW/700 "The Big One" still present in the XM lineup at channel 173.

We mention this because there are rumors going around that Clear Channel will pull WLW from the XM lineup later this year. Clear Channel programs a portion of the XM spectrum separately from the satellite firm.

Art Vuolo, Jr., the Michigan-based radio/video chronicler also known as "Radio's Best Friend", weighs in, in this column we found on Mike Austerman's excellent

(WLW has) been available on XM Channel 173, but not for much longer. The powers-to-be at Clear Channel, who owns "The Big One," will take it off satellite radio because they can make more money with other programming that they can sell advertising on.

We don't know where Art is picking this up from, but we would be sad to see WLW go off of XM.

The station's 50,000 watt signal mostly appears here only at night, and we like keeping track of one of the country's better news/talk outlets right here in our home state...

BREAKING NEWS: Herb Score Dies

The man whose voice carried the sounds of Cleveland Indians baseball to generations of Northeast Ohio radio listeners has passed away.

The Cleveland Indians confirm that Herb Score, who called the Indians' games on radio (and initially, on TV) from 1964 through Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, died this morning at his Rocky River home at the age of 75 after a long illness.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has a detailed obituary for Score here.

The team expressed its condolences in a statement by team president Paul Dolan:

"Today is a sad day for the Cleveland Indians family and for Cleveland Indians fans everywhere. We have lost one of the greatest men in the history of our franchise. Generations of Indians fans owe their love of the Tribe to Herb Score, who was a powerful pitcher and legendary broadcaster. Our thoughts and prayers are with Nancy and the family."

Many Northeast Ohioans are far too young to remember Score's baseball career as a promising young left-handed pitcher with the Tribe...a career effectively cut short after Score was hit in the face by a pitch hit by (it would figure) a Yankees batter in 1957.

Though Score ended up returning to the mound, his playing career never attained the heights that many expected before the ball hit him.

Broadcasting eventually beckoned, and the rest is Cleveland Indians history.

And Score had a personal health battle after he stepped away from the Indians Radio Network microphone after that heartbreaking World Series loss in 1997. A year later, he was seriously hurt in a near-fatal car accident in New Philadelphia, which - along with a 2002 stroke - impacted his health for the remaining 10 years of his life.

As far as his broadcast career, perhaps no statement sums it up more than that of fellow iconic local sports broadcaster Joe Tait, the Voice of the Cavaliers. Quoting an article by's Justice B. Hill:

"No one in the history of the game has seen more bad baseball than Herb Score," Tait once said.

Yeah, a lot of bad baseball. And yes, Herb occasionally forgot which stadium he was in...which basically added to his charm, style and popularity among Northeast Ohio baseball fans.

But Herb Score made it entertaining, and we were also very disappointed that he never got to call a World Championship in 34 seasons as the Indians play-by-play voice...

Less Than 100 Days

"100 days" is a popular measuring stick for a number of things in our modern world.

Here, we're not talking about the progress of presidential administrations. We're talking digital we're less than 100 days from the mid-February day where every full-power TV station in the country will be forced to shut down that old analog transmitter, and solely broadcast its new digital signal.

Well, give or take a few stations shutting analog down early...among them, Northeast Ohio's own WNEO/45 Alliance, the Youngstown market half of "Western Reserve PBS", set to do so in less than 10 days.

And as per usual, it's Western Reserve PBS leading the way - almost singlehandedly, it would appear - in pre-DTV conversion education.

The Kent-based PBS outlet will hold another digital TV "Open House" for viewers, like the one the station held recently at its Campus Center Drive headquarters in Kent.

This second "Open House" will be held in the Youngstown area, Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m., at the Austintown Library, 600 S. Raccoon Rd., in Austintown:

This is a great opportunity to see converter box demonstrations, ask questions about antenna issues and learn more about the converter box coupon program. Free refreshments will be served!

Of course, those converter boxes on display will NOT actually be able to pick up WNEO's own digital signal, as it will shut down temporarily - starting tomorrow - in the process of returning it to the air in a permanent form after analog channel 45 shuts off for good later this month.

But we're once again flustered by the fact that among Northeast Ohio's TV stations, only Western Reserve PBS seems to be doing anything significant to educate viewers about the coming DTV transition, just over three months from when it actually happens.

As far as we know, every other TV station in the region is solely relying upon federally-mandated public service announcements, on-screen crawls and website sections to carry the message.

At very least, broadcasters in other markets and states have coordinated soft "tests" - cutting programming off the analog signal to inform viewers that if they see the message, they (or their cable system!) aren't ready for the digital transition.

A story on the national marking of the 100 day-till-DTV transition milestone by Broadcasting and Cable's John Eggerton has this telling piece of information:

For instance, (National Association of Broadcasters head) David Rehr pointed out that 150 stations in 49 markets had conducted soft analog shut-off tests. He said that next week, TV stations in Pennsylvania would be holding a statewide analog cut-off test, which he called the largest such test to date.

Next door to Pennsylvania, we know of no such plans in Ohio, or even individual plans in any Ohio market to coordinate such tests.

We believe that state broadcasters are putting together early plans to deal with the transition itself, but even that planning seems a bit late.

Perhaps Cleveland market stations, for example, need to contact the folks at ION Television, which owns WVPX/23 Akron. ION has coordinated many of those market-wide tests, including in New York City.

Of course, here, WVPX would not be able to actually participate in such a test... as its digital signal won't even be up and running until it "flash cuts" on channel 23 on February 17th.

And the B&C article quotes another FCC commissioner with some ideas as we head towards DTV Transition Day:

Commissioner Robert McDowell put in a plug for soft analog cut-off tests, more long-form PSAs and tailoring messages to local markets.

Gee, we didn't know an FCC commissioner reads OMW!

Heh...we're kidding, of course, but that's a drumbeat we've had here for some time... with many of the messages being put out over the air, and website sections, being just simple repackaging of national spots or web presentations.

While we're taking TV stations to task here, we'll aim at the cable companies as well.

It probably runs against every fiber of their being, but cable companies would be smart to publicize their lowest-cost "lifeline" tier as a, well, lifeline to viewers worried that they won't be able to pick up local stations over the air after the transition.

Yes, we know...the marketing on the cable side is usually geared toward bundling of multiple services - digital cable, high-speed Internet, digital phone and HDTV.

But perhaps some targeted marketing could be done, to grab those who aren't about to spend $99 a month on such services, but who would gladly fork over $10 or so a month to make sure they could still get basic TV service.

We're no sales force, so we'll leave that to the cable outlets.

In summary, as we approach February 17th, local stations need to do more, and need to do it more urgently.

While we appreciate that education is indeed part of the mission of Western Reserve PBS, they should not be forced to "go it alone" on this vital issue for the local TV industry...and as far as we can see, they are, right now, in the Cleveland and Youngstown markets.

We also realize that the economy and the state of media in 2008 has put the squeeze on staffing at the local commercial stations.

But by preparing more viewers before February 17th, stations will be less swamped on that date and immediately after. If even a certain percentage of those who watch TV only via antenna are not prepared, that's still a few thousand people in Northeast Ohio...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Vikings Bounce Ball To 1220

The Cleveland State University Vikings men's basketball team has hooked up with a new radio home in Cleveland.

The Vikings have inked a one-year deal with Salem Christian talk/teaching WHKW/1220 "The Word" to air all games live for the 2008-2009 season, according to a CSU sports news release issued last week. (Thanks to the folks at AllAccess for the hat tip, or, since we're talking about basketball, maybe the assist?)

Vikings basketball moves from last year's flagship station, Radio One gospel WJMO/1300. The "Voice of the Vikings", Al Pawlowski, also makes the move to 1220 for his fourth season doing the radio call of the games.

AllAccess notes that the weekly show with Vikings coach Gary Waters will continue to air on Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100.

The release says Vikings games will also be heard on WHKW's "The Word" sister station in the Youngstown/Warren market, WHKZ/1440 Warren.

This brings up a question we've had here before - is the deal to sell the Warren station to Pittsburgh-area radio station owner/minister Rev. Loran Mann officially dead?

We've heard from sources in the Pittsburgh region that Rev. Mann - a former Pittsburgh TV news reporter who owns WGBN/1150 New Kensington PA - was looking to "renegotiate" the purchase of WHKZ from Salem.

This little announcement would seem to indicate that the transaction is either still up in the air or dead...

Not Really Angry About It

Budget cuts have done it again in Cincinnati - split radio's "Angry Guys".

Cincinnati Enquirer radio/TV guru John Kiesewetter reports that one half of the morning drive duo, Richard Skinner, has been cut loose by Cumulus rock WFTK/96.5 "96 Rock" due to budget concerns. His partner in morning radio anger, Tom Gamble, remains - with someone who doesn't sound like an angry male, sidekick "Sister Karen".

Though Kiese reports that Skinner had just agreed to a new deal in October, and was working out the terms, he's not "angry" at all, calling Cumulus management "great people to work for":

"It's frustrating. Twice I've been part of a successful product on radio, but just the victim of circumstances. It's just an unfortunate situation in radio right now."

The earlier victimization came a few years ago, when Clear Channel sports "Homer" split the "Angry Guys" - moving Gamble to sister WLW/700 to replace the ousted Andy Furman on "SportsTalk". Then the company let Skinner go from the "Homer" morning drive show. Gamble didn't stay long with WLW, which eventually brought in Enquirer sports columnist Paul Daugherty to do "SportsTalk".

The "Angry Guys" were brought back together on the same 96.5 frequency Skinner now leaves, only under the former "SuperTalk" format. Furman, of course, had been brought on for afternoon drive at "SuperTalk", and was dumped with the format change to rock.

Furman ended up doing morning commentaries at oldies WDJO/1160 across town, though if he's still doing so, we can't find him on the "Oldies 1160" website. Maybe there's no room for Furman's pieces after WDJO picked up ABC News Radio's Paul Harvey.

And to tie it all together, 1160 was sports talk WBOB when the "Angry Guys" - two local sportswriters - first started doing radio.

And Kiese doesn't need a crystal ball to predict this:

With no more political advertising, and the economy crashing, don't be surprised to see more layoffs and cutbacks in broadcasting and all media.

Any wonder why it's getting to be a downer writing about the media?

This "beat" is starting to feel like doing the obituary section...