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...