Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sending 2008 Away

Much like the NFL's Cleveland Browns, we're quite ready to consign 2008 to a distant memory, as soon as possible...though we have no general manager or head coach to show the door.

There were people who prospered in 2008 in the local media, but the list was rather small.

Local TV and radio stations cut staffing, cut hard, cut deep and did so over many months. (Even so, they were outdone in that regard by the flagging newspaper industry.)

The list of talented media professionals now "on the beach", as the saying goes, is daunting...big enough to start some pretty big stations all on their own.

Is it any wonder that we here at the Mighty Blog of Fun(tm) want to look for optimism as we head into 2009?

Before you read the rest of this, we'd like you to read the annual "Year-End Rant" by our long-time friend and colleague Scott Fybush at his NorthEast Radio Watch. It's posted here.

Scott's been doing these "rants" about as long as we've known him...going on a decade, now.

He's not only a professional colleague, but a trusted, personal friend...and more importantly for this, he's one of those people with a rare handle on where the media business is, and where it could be going. His expertise is recognized literally worldwide.

In these darkest of times, Scott professes hope and optimism for the radio business, in particular.

He bases his hope on such things as the activity of local owners in small markets - owners that aren't beholden to major stockholders, who didn't overextend by buying fleets of stations with millions of dollars in debt, and who are concentrating on something old fashioned - serving their small, local markets directly.

In Northeast Ohio, stations like Dover-New Philadelphia's WJER/1450 come to mind.

Once-and-again WJER owner Gary Petricola continues to focus on that small sub-metro area with local programming, with news, sports and even local on-air personalities.

He took his station back from Clear Channel after that mega-operator peeled off FM 101.7 to turn it into Canton-market AC outlet WHOF "My 101.7"...and probably had a bit of money left over from the couple of million dollars or so that the broadcasting giant originally paid him for both stations.

(We wonder if he's thinking about adding, or would be able to add, one of those AM-to-FM translators to serve the core of Dover and New Philadelphia.)

And Mr. Petricola has competition, of course, with crosstown country WTUZ/99.9 also superserving the Dover-New Philadelphia "market" with local news and sports.

Or, how about Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting talk WEOL/930?

Lorain/Elyria is yet another small sub-market that is swallowed in the shadow of Cleveland.

Though WEOL does feature nationally syndicated hosts like Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, WEOL - and crosstown competitor country WOBL/1320-oldies WDLW/1380 - feature local news, sports and other efforts to serve the community...efforts the Cleveland stations do not make, since it's not the core of the market.

Both areas are not exactly thriving, economically. In hard hit Northeast Ohio, the Elyria/Lorain area is right up there at the top of the "hardest hit" category.

But the owners of all of the above stations are far better positioned to weather the 2008-2009 economic storm.

One thing would seem to be clear...the insane run-up of station values is over, at least for now.

The big radio companies can no longer come in and wave a few million at small market clusters.

For that matter, big market stations are in the bargain bin as well, with the recent sale of three full-market FM stations in Denver from CBS Radio to Wilks for UNDER $20 million. Not for one station, but for the ENTIRE CLUSTER.

It's not hard to imagine that some of those former local small and mid-market owners kept some of the piles of cash the big companies gave them for their former stations, and that some of them are looking to jump back a low price. columnist Tom Taylor has been pointing this out recently - saying there are a few of these former owners with money waiting to "pounce" on lower - and much more reasonable - station valuations.

But as our friend Mr. Fybush points out, it won't be as easy as shouting "we're back!". Even the old-new operators hoping to revitalize their end of radio will have to change with the times:

Some signals will (and probably should) go silent, and some jobs will never come back. The old ways of doing business may need to give way to some creative destruction, too; radio has been far too slow to move past the idea of the :60 spot as the universal advertising medium, and that, too, will have to change.

What doesn't change, though, is the fundamental idea of mass communications. In a world where everyone's a content creator, this radio true believer thinks there's still a place for that trusted voice sitting behind a microphone, giving his or her community the information - or the entertainment - they need and still want.

The TV side of the equation is more complex.

For one, TV stations are very dependent on their networks, and at least one of those networks is taking a big risk by putting its long-time late night talk host on at 10 PM, as the lead-in to the local news five nights per week.

The prime-time shows the networks offer are now pretty much all readily available to watch online, free and legally, from the networks' own websites...bypassing that pesky transmitter.

And local news content is available without charge, complete with video, at each station's website...supported financially only by brief commercials or banner ads.

Even without an advertising slump (car companies and dealers, etc. leading that way), local TV stations will have other obstacles, like drawn-out fights over cable TV carriage.

Just the other day, we saw Cleveland CBS affiliate WOIO/19 warning viewers that those who subscribe to the Wadsworth city-run cable system and the tiny "CableSuite 541" system in Conneaut could lose the station - and sister MyNetwork TV affiliate WUAB/43 - over such a dispute.

(The Conneaut system carries Erie CBS affiliate WSEE/35, a fact not mentioned in that WOIO spot, of course.)

From what we're hearing now, which we hinted at in an earlier item, that'll be just the tiniest of icebergs in that category in the coming weeks and months for local TV stations and viewers...involving large cable systems.

And none of this even mentions one of the biggest hurdles this year - the digital TV transition, which takes place just a second before midnight on the night of February 17, 2009. That process will take a lot of attention over the next month and a half - or more - at all local full-power stations.

The first part of 2009, if not the entire year, will be tough for all media - especially if the economic downturn shows no signs of ending soon.

But we're hanging onto some optimism.

Whatever form it takes, well-produced local content on both the TV and radio sides is a product with many takers. The question - will the financials allow such content to prosper?

Is venerable Akron market talker WNIR/100.1 "The Talk of Akron" looking smart here?

We've taken a few (mostly playful) shots over the years at the locally-owned station's well-known reputation for cheapness.

We've mentioned roughly 100 times that the station still runs its car dealer remotes via unequalized phone lines. We've noted that WNIR's studios best resemble trashed college dorm rooms, and its equipment may be actually taped together.

But...the station continues with its full schedule of locked-in local programming, 5 AM to 11 PM weekdays, 6 AM to 7 PM weekends. There's no talk of layoffs on Route 59 between Kent and Ravenna as far as we know...slow and steady, the station goes on as it has for decades.

It continues to be at or near the top in the Akron ratings, though there's some argument to be made for the fact that the station's audience skews older...and that's something WNIR will have to address at some point. At times, WNIR seems perpetually frozen in time at about 1984.

The important stuff is local content, with studios and offices long paid for, with very little capital expense....even for WNIR's sister low-power TV operation, which is not at all required to go digital this coming February 17th.

The station never built fancy studios in Summit County after changing its focus from Portage County to Akron back in the 1980s, around the time the 100.1 signal increased to 4200 watts to greater cover the area.

In general, when the entire media business crumbles around you, would you rather be inside an old studio with aging equipment and worn carpet...or standing outside a new studio complex without a job?

Yes, "The Talk of Akron" seems built for survival in times both good and tough.

And we couldn't list "local service" stations that have done this ownership thing right, without giving a nod to the fine folks at Akron's Rubber City Radio (WAKR/1590 -WONE/97.5 - WQMX/94.9), who continue a long tradition of local programming and community service.

The cluster has been full since the late 1980s, when the company bought now-country powerhouse WQMX to add to the historic pairing of WAKR and WONE. The company's home on West Market Street has seen modest, but still functional improvements.

Though Rubber City did buy other stations - four in or near Lansing MI - they did so nearly a decade ago...and probably weren't caught up in inflated pricing. The company has resisted the temptation to "build an empire".

Like the other stations above, the Akron-based group has continued to concentrate on local service and programming to connect its stations to the community.

We're not at all optimistic about the print side of things. Even before the economy dove south, newspapers were dealing with a growing sense of doom.

Back in 2006, we reported on the then-pending sale of the Akron Beacon Journal...which eventually ended up passing from Knight-Ridder, through McClatchy, to Canada's Black Press.

We chided the Beacon Journal's Debra Adams Simmons, who said - quoting from a Beacon Journal article - "I believe that the Akron Beacon Journal will continue to exist, whether or not the (parent) company is sold."

Here's our response from the 2006 item:


Ummm...when was the last time a major daily newspaper with no in-city competition actually FOLDED? Sure, companies could make drastic changes in the newspaper and its contents, but the newspaper business isn't in THAT bad a least yet.

Now, back to the end of 2008 going into 2009, where the newspaper business IS in that predicament, and then some.

Just about any expert on newspaper finances you can find is predicting that dozens and dozens of newspapers in cities large and small will be folding in the next few years...printing no more.

Just up the Ohio Turnpike and I-75 in Detroit, that city's two daily newspapers announced they'll no longer provide home delivery of their print editions four days each week. Readers of the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press will have to get the content online on those days, or if they want newsprint in their hands, they'll have to hoof it to a newspaper box or store.

And both newspapers and TV newsrooms are sharing resources like never before (read: saving money on costly local news coverage).

We've already written about the agreement between some NBC and FOX owned TV stations, where a shared assignment desk will send out single crews for such things as spot news, press conferences or other news both stations would otherwise separately cover.

We hadn't yet mentioned the recent pact between the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun (the New York Times article on it is here), where the two separately-owned newspapers will divide routine local news coverage in the Maryland suburbs between them, among other things.

We're wondering if similar agreements won't become commonplace in the newsrooms of Northeast Ohio, and elsewhere, in 2009...assuming all the local newspapers survive at all as separate entities. And we'd almost bet the OMW World Headquarters that a TV news crew sharing arrangement will pop up at local TV stations in the Cleveland market sometime in 2009.

Whew. We need some more optimism.

We'll close out with this from Scott Fybush's "Year-End Rant" at NorthEast Radio Watch...where Scott specifically talks about radio:

But hope for the future of radio, in some form, is not gone. It is not beyond salvaging. There is still magic to be had in these old airwaves, for those with the patience and vision to see beyond the short-term gloom.

We're hoping to, indeed, see beyond the gloom...and our most sincere wishes to all of you in local media, that 2009 will end up being a Much Better Year.

It could hardly be worse, after all.

Happy New Year! We'll be back "full strength" on Monday...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Heading Off

As promised, this is our final regular news update for 2008.

We'll do our best to put up any major breaking media news (station sales, major format or personality/anchor changes) during the Christmas holiday period...but we won't be updating regularly until January 5, 2009.

We will put up a very brief, non-newsy personal "Year End" message from your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) somewhere around the end of 2008.

So, if it's not here in this update, it'll have to wait year. (No, we're not run by the Cleveland Browns, and we aren't planning a coaching change in a week or so...)

THE HD LIVE VIEW: Other than Local TV FOX affiliate WJW/8's "SkyFOX HD" helicopter, and the remote cameras Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 controls at Progressive Field, all local TV news remote live shots in Cleveland have taken place in 16x9 standard definition - until now.

Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 unveiled the ability Saturday to do live, fully-digital HDTV news remote shots.

OMW hears that a full-digital path allows the HD live shots on "NewsChannel 5" - we saw one Monday with reporter Bob Jones standing alongside the Shoreway in downtown Cleveland. (We'll try to get a screen shot here sometime later today.)

The remote HD capability also allows the station's reporters and photographers to feed back remote HD video that they previously had to put into the system back at 30th and Euclid.

At this point, not all "NewsChannel 5" remote live shots will be in HD, as we hear "about half" of the necessary conversion has been made. But we hear the station is working on the remaining transmit and receive equipment, and all should be in digital format, soon.

The move at WEWS is part of the nationwide conversion of TV station remote broadcast equipment to a new band - which is being spearheaded by the folks at Sprint Nextel.

The cell phone company is paying for replacement equipment as part of its approval from the FCC to use spectrum in the current analog "broadcast auxiliary services" band, and the new equipment is digital...

SPEAKING OF DIGITAL TV: The OMW Mobile made a trip late last week up Broadview Road, to Parma...and the transmitter site of WKYC/3, to get some answers on the status of the construction of the new tower that'll hold the new digital antennas for WKYC and for ideastream PBS affiliate WVIZ/25.

We just got to the edge of the driveway leading into the WKYC facility, but from there (and the sidewalk), we could see numerous tower sections on their sides in front of the WKYC transmitter building.

OMW hears that a concrete base has been poured for the new combined WKYC/WVIZ tower, but our recent severe winter weather conditions may have put a damper on putting the tower up in the past week. Neighbors near the WKYC site told us late last week that they hadn't heard any tower construction recently...

COLUMBUS RADIO: The Columbus Dispatch's "Broadcast Bits" column today confirms our earlier reporting on the death of liberal talk on Bernard Radio's WVKO/1580.

Cowtown Communications' Gary Richards, who had leased the frequency since December 2007, reportedly closed out his run by playing some of his favorite music until 12 midnight. We tried to listen online, but the WVKO stream had already been changed over to the feed which will continue to carry liberal talk after the station's demise.

The Dispatch item confirms that local Catholic group St. Gabriel Radio, which owns WUCO/1270 Marysville and WFOT/89.5 Lexington, is taking over 1580 AM "at 9 a.m. Wednesday".

We can't confirm that timing, either, but we did catch St. Gabriel's online feed adding a legal ID for WVKO at midnight late last night/early this morning. We wouldn't be surprised if 1580 is already carrying the St. Gabriel-fed EWTN Radio programming.

Back at the now-former WVKO website, being run (as it had been during the format's on-air days) by the Ohio Majority Radio advocacy group, schedule changes announced for the non-radio web feed include a return of former Air America Radio host Randi Rhodes, with her Nova M Radio show being carried live on the stream at 3 PM.

As far as the legal status of WVKO is concerned, we heard on the station's final "Fight Back with Dr. Bob Fitrakis" show Monday that the St. Gabriel group is "leasing towards purchase" of the 1580 it appears to us that it'll be a local marketing/lease agreement with an eventual purchase option.

As such, we don't think it'll be immediately filed in the FCC database for WVKO...but we do expect an actual sale sometime down the road, because the group does buy its stations outright.

Meanwhile, the chatter about Mr. Richards hoping to buy the FM side of WVKO (103.1 Johnstown) is just chatter at this point.

We don't know if Bernard Radio is still offering the station for sale, if another party is coming in (there are unconfirmed rumors) to take over 103.1, or if Richards will be able to garner financial help from investors said to be linked to Dial Global syndicated host Ed Schultz.

Schultz' show has been replaced by Air America Radio's Thom Hartmann on the now-Ohio Majority Radio-run former WVKO webstream, though we're pretty sure his Dial Global stablemate and Columbus favorite Stephanie Miller is still offered there...

COLUMBUS RADIO 2: The Dispatch column also reminds us to update the coming schedule changes at North American Broadcasting talk WTDA/103.9 "Talk FM" in the Columbus market.

We'd already seen the schedule on the front of the "Talk FM" website, with major holes in the station's schedule prompted by the loss of two shows - the station itself moved morning drive Premiere talk fest "Bob and Tom" to sister rock WRKZ/99.7 "The Rock", and Clear Channel talk WTVN/610 reclaimed Premiere midday host Glenn Beck.

After it gives up "Bob and Tom" to WRKZ exclusively on January 8, WTDA will pick up TRN FM's "Mancow's Morning Madhouse", featuring Erich "Mancow" Muller.

If you've never heard of him, "Mancow" is the guy who held up traffic on the San Francisco Bay Bridge as a stunt, to parody then-President Clinton's airport runway haircut.

Since then, he's moved his "morning zoo"-type show more into conservative talk territory...Muller has been a regular contributor to TV's FOX News Channel.

With Beck moving to WTVN, the 10 AM-1 PM slot on "Talk FM" in Columbus will be filled by Westwood One's Dennis Miller Show, that program moving up from a 1-4 PM clearance on the station.

Miller will be followed by one of two shows WTDA is taking back from Clear Channel, a two hour clearance (1-3 PM) for self-syndicated financial advice guru and FOX Business Network host Dave Ramsey...who has been airing on WYTS/1230 "Talk 1230".

WTDA will then move The Content Factory's Dan Patrick to a delayed 3-6 PM afternoon drive clearance, followed by its only local show, "Shark on Sports" - moving to a one-hour time slot - 6-7 PM.

The 7-10 PM time slot on "Talk FM" will be filled by another syndicated host currently heard on WYTS - Talk Radio Network's Michael Savage.

We're not sure Glenn Beck for Dave Ramsey and Michael Savage is all that great of a trade for WTDA...but both Clear Channel and its Premiere syndication arm were clearly driving this bus.

We don't know yet how WYTS will replace Ramsey and Savage, or if the station will opt to carry Westwood One's "Fred Thompson Show" to replace the delayed afternoon drive delayed clearance of outgoing host Bill O'Reilly's "Radio Factor" show.

We're wondering if a host like United Stations' Lou Dobbs is in the mix somewhere. Right now, Dobbs' afternoon drive show is heard in the region on Newark's WCLT/ well as the station's HD3 simulcast on WCLT-FM/100.3...

TERRY LANDS: A former local FM program director will now call the panhandle of Florida home.

AllAccess reports that former NextMedia AC WHBC-FM/94.1 Canton "Mix 94.1" program director/morning co-host Terry Simmons is on the move again...from another NextMedia station, hot AC WDBY "Y105" in Danbury CT, to Cumulus hot AC WJLQ "Q100" in Pensacola FL...where he'll be PD and afternoon host.

The connection getting him to northwest Florida would be Cumulus programming SVP Jan Jeffries, noting to AllAccess that he worked with Simmons at WHBC-FM while consulting the Canton station...

AND FROM ALL OF US...: Us, being your Primary Editorial Voice(tm), our regular contributors and anyone else connected to OMW, to all of you...Merry Christmas, Happy Chaunkah, and any other joyous holiday wishes you so richly deserve.

We'll close out the year with a year-end message in a week and change, and return for good on the first Monday in January...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Assorted Holiday Stuff

As we wind down before Christmas and New Years, an announcement.

As we hinted earlier, OMW will indeed be on official "Holiday Hiatus" starting late tomorrow. We'll post a "year-end" message around the end of 2008, but not much more.

We'll definitely return on January 5th, 2009. If there are any major, breaking media news items, we'll try to at least mention them here - even during the hiatus.

But the level of "major, breaking media news" is very high over this holiday break...i.e. it'll basically take a major radio or TV station sale, a radio format change, a major local radio or TV personality's exit or retirement and such to bring us here. We won't be attending to the usual minutiae during the hiatus.

But to clear out our "hold file", here's some of that minutiae now...

SUNDAY, NOT SUNDAY: OMW hears that Local TV FOX affiliate WJW/8 Cleveland may be cutting its Sunday morning newscast, with at least one high-profile layoff attached to that budget-related move.

We still find the newscast on the "FOX 8" schedule for this coming Sunday, but don't know if it will air this coming weekend.

We're told that the station is likely to air infomercials in that Sunday morning time slot...and are working to confirm the rest of the details...

AIR1 AIRS IT OUT: Educational Media Foundation's Christian music network "Air1" has another Northeast Ohio translator. Well, they're trying.

An Alert OMW Reader tipped us off to the presence of W291BV Solon at 106.1 FM, a 13 watt facility carrying the "Air1" programming, which originates from the company's network studios near Sacramento, California.

We were bored the other day, so headed for the OMW Mobile to get a bead on the facility. (Not the programming, which we can already hear on at least two translators already.)

As it turns out, W291BV is a few furlongs away from Thistledown, in Warrensville Heights just north of the North Randall border on Emery Road.

Our excursion and look into the FCC database took us to a site behind a pizza restaurant (Google Street View link here), where we found the W291BV antenna about three-quarters of the way up a cell phone tower, with an FM yagi receive antenna about halfway up.

That FM receive antenna - pointing to the northeast - is presumably using off-air pickup to get EMF's full-power Air1 affiliate in Ashtabula County, WCVJ/90.9 Jefferson. We heard the WCVJ legal ID in our time within W291BV's signal range.'s apparently not ready for prime time yet. Even parked right at the tower site, in the pizza restaurant's parking lot, the station was distorted and unlistenable - let alone along the I-271/I-480 corridor it presumably intends to serve.

There's some sort of technical problem, and we don't know if it's with their transmitter or with the pickup of WCVJ, or both.

106.1 is probably being shoehorned onto the dial in Warrensville Heights within an inch of its life.

It's being squeezed by two powerful Clear Channel FM stations on each second-adjacent side - WMJI/105.7 and WMVX/106.5. It's co-channel with WBBG/106.1 Niles and WVNO/106.1 Mansfield, though the distance should be enough there.

The EMF folks seem determined to plug every little hole in the FM Akron, they recently started up the surprisingly-well-performing Air1 translator at 102.5, which can be heard on car radios north of Cuyahoga Falls, even...

TROY NEFF: This is our next to last item regarding self-made Toledo "media commentator" Troy Neff.

The former host of Clear Channel WCWA/1230 "FOX Sports 1230"'s brokered morning drive talk show moved out of "Troy who?" status earlier this month, when every media outlet in the market reported his stabbing in a road rage incident near his suburban Toledo financial planning office.

Not long after, Neff lost his WCWA brokered show after firing off a self-admitted "profane" E-Mail to Clear Channel staff, upset over what he thought was the "banning" of mentioning his name on WCWA's much more popular sister news/talk station, WSPD/1370.

Since then, Neff has also been bounced from the weekly "Toledo Free Press" newspaper, over questions about his unlabeled use of content from a financial planning news service he pays for. Quoting:

A sample check revealed at least six published contributions that were copied from a service that provides content for financial advisers’ newsletters. Offending columns included those published Dec. 14, Oct. 31, July 4, May 23, Aug. 3, 2007 and July 26, 2006. The original material was distributed by P.P.S. Advertising Ltd., but the columns were published under Neff’s name. Although he is not required to, Neff said he runs a disclaimer on the material in his client newsletter. He did not submit the disclaimer to Toledo Free Press editors.

A P.P.S. spokesperson said the material is copyright-free, but the spokesperson was not aware of any precedent for a newspaper columnist using the material under his or her name.

OMW also hears that Neff is no longer on the panel of ABC O&O WTVG/13 "13abc"'s public affairs show "Conklin and Company".

Thus, for the moment, it would appear the correct descriptive term for Neff is "financial planner", and since we don't cover news about financial planning businesses, it's the next-to-last mention for him here.

Mr. Neff has indicated that he'll return to the Toledo radio airwaves, presumably by buying time on another station - such as Cumulus talk WTOD/1560 or Matrix talk WNWT/1520.

Since we don't take ads here, and aren't sending him a bill for the publicity...we'll dutifully announce the new "home" of his brokered show, and that's about it for him here...

CBS SELLS OFF DENVER: CBS Radio has found an actual buyer to take its Denver cluster.

In an age where radio stations are about as difficult to sell as cars, CBS will flip its three Denver FM stations to Wilks Broadcasting for $19.5 million in cash, reports AllAccess this Monday morning.

It's part of the company's already stated long-term strategy to exit non-major markets (Denver is the 21st largest Arbitron market).

And we mostly mention it here because Wilks and CBS have already done business before in Ohio...Wilks purchased the CBS Radio cluster in Columbus back when the company first started selling off smaller market stations.

Quoting Wilks CEO Jeff Wilks:

"We continue to believe in the power and the future of radio, and look forward to adding Denver to our portfolio of radio broadcast stations. Denver is the market where I started my career and I’m excited to come back and operate these three leading stations."

We don't know if Wilks has enough money - cash or otherwise - to buy CBS Radio's cluster of four Cleveland stations...AC WDOK/102.1, hot AC WQAL/104.1, classic rock WNCX/98.5 and alt-rock WKRK/92.3.

But with Wilks certainly able to find Ohio on a map, maybe they'd be interested.

Since Denver is now Wilks' largest market by far, the company has no major market assets that CBS could eye for a swap.

We remember back when the company first announced the CBS Radio acquisition in Columbus. Our off-blog response was nothing short of astounding, with people familiar with Wilks warning us of massive layoffs and changes (many of which did actually happen) from a "bottom line" company.

Fast forward to today, where CBS Radio itself has been laying off people in droves in Cleveland and elsewhere, in the economic downturn that has claimed a lot of radio jobs...

FIGURING THE FACTOR: The "who'll replace Bill O'Reilly on radio" picture is clearing up.

After rumors of negotiations with former New York City mayor and former Republican presidential candidate Rudy Guiliani, it turns out that one of Guiliani's 2008 primary opponents will take over the Westwood One "Radio Factor" show.

The syndicator has announced that former U.S. Senator and "Law & Order" star Fred Thompson will officially take the radio reins from O'Reilly (PDF press release) starting March 2nd.

O'Reilly is leaving long-form radio with his last show on February 27th, reportedly to, let's see here, "concentrate on his FOX News Channel TV show". The "O'Reilly Factor" host is expected to still record short-form radio commentaries for Westwood One.

Before running for the nation's top job in the 2008 Republican primary race, Thompson had been tapped as a "special commentator" and fill-in for Paul Harvey by the folks at ABC Radio Networks.

(And to make this story even odder, yet ANOTHER 2008 Republican presidential contender, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, has added short-form ABC Radio commentaries to his weekend FOX News Channel talk show. We're not sure if another radio network has, say, Ron Paul on speed dial.)

The new "Fred Thompson Show" will, like O'Reilly's show before it, only take the two-hour 12 noon-2 PM Eastern slot.

The situation's also a bit murkier, since the radio arm of O'Reilly's primary TV employer, FOX, has already announced that it's moving its own syndicated evening host/former FNC personality John Gibson into the 12 noon-3 PM slot in mid-January.

O'Reilly's show has very limited Northeast Ohio clearance, with a live clearance on Spirit Media talk/variety WELW/1330 Willoughby, and a late night weekend play on Media-Com talk WNIR/100.1 "The Talk of Akron".

We don't know what WELW will do from noon to 2 PM, but we'd bet on WNIR keeping the Westwood One satellite receiver tuned to record Thompson when he starts in March...

WNEO's Continuing Transition Work

UPDATE 12/22/08 10:08 AM: OMW hears from Western Reserve PBS that Time Warner Cable is indeed now using the station's digital feed to feed the station to its analog cable subscribers.

It's not known yet, however, when (or if) TWC's former Adelphia systems in the Cleveland area will add the HD version of WEAO/49.

TWC systems in other parts of Northeast Ohio already carry the HD feed of Western Reserve PBS. When Time Warner took over the Adelphia systems, it added the HD feed of WEAO to the paper lineup cards almost immediately, but never actually added the station for former Adelphia subscribers.

The addition has become somewhat more critical for Western Reserve PBS, because of the recent end of the 24/7 PBS HD feed - which basically turned the digital/HD sides of WNEO/WEAO and Cleveland's WVIZ/25 into a simulcast until the past month or so...


After switching one of its two signals to digital-only, Western Reserve PBS still has more to do.

And as expected, the Kent-based PBS outlet has officially filed to ask for an early 500 kW power increase for Youngstown market outlet WNEO/45 Alliance, which shut off its analog and original digital signal in mid-November in favor of its previously-approved 44 kW digital signal from its tower in Salem...a digital signal move to the former analog 45.

Like many local stations, WNEO had already filed for what the TV engineering/FCC folks call "maximization", aiming to take advantage of the maximum allowed power for a digital facility.

In WNEO's case, the increased power level of 500 kW got FCC approval for a construction permit recently...but that permit, as we reported earlier, specified that it couldn't go on the air until the digital transition, late in the night on February 17th/morning of February 18th next year.

Last week, WNEO parent Northeastern Educational Television of Ohio, Inc. (Western Reserve Public Media) filed a request for a special temporary authority - to light up the station's 500 kW construction permit power level before the February digital transition.

Despite the fact that a few fortunate souls even far afield from Salem have been pleasantly surprised at the current 44 kW facility's performance, the new signal has also generated a host of viewer complaints from any number of people directly in the Youngstown/Warren area - the target market for WNEO/45.

The Western Reserve PBS folks helpfully point this out in detail, in the filing (PDF file) asking for the early 500 kW power-up:

Transition Related Viewer Reception Difficulties. Since November 19, 2008, when WNEO ceased analog and pre-transition digital broadcasts, WNEO’s call center has received roughly 150 calls from over-the-air viewers reporting reception problems.

The station’s call center staff attempted to determine the number of reception problems that were caused by viewer errors, and found there were very few, if any.

NETO believes that the majority of viewers who have contacted the call center cannot receive the WNEO-DT signal because of the signal strength of the post-transition 44 kW facility. In addition, the station has received several dozen e-mails from viewers who also reported similar reception issues.

Attachment A (found in the linked PDF file) lists locations where viewers have complained about the interim signal. The list pretty much includes every community in the Youngstown/Warren market including - and this is odd - both Alliance, WNEO's city of license, and Salem, the location of WNEO's transmitter site.

(We're no engineering experts, but we could see terrain issues in there, somewhere, causing difficulties even in those two communities.)

Meanwhile, Western Reserve PBS has one other digital problem on its plate - and it's a problem many other stations have.

Though it recently switched digital 45.1/49.1 to run the station's regular schedule in upconverted SD and many PBS shows in HD, the station has a number of PBS programs it does not run live off the satellite - and has to record for later use.

Though shows like "NewsHour" and PBS prime-time shows are aired by WNEO/WEAO live in pattern, in HD, off the PBS satellite feed - the following shows are recorded and converted:

Antiques Roadshow
Austin City Limits
This Old House Hour
All kids programs that are fed in HD, which the station is not airing in HD
All how-to programs

The good news is that this situation is temporary.

Western Reserve PBS station manager Bill O'Neil tells OMW that the station is readying the ability to record/timeshift PBS shows in HD:

We have HD capable servers in place. We are now moving to upgrade our station router to HD capability. We have quotes and are about ready to order. We’d like to have it all in place by February 17th.

It's a similar problem to one faced by commercial stations, which are having to deploy HD recording/timeshifting capability to run syndicated programs in HD.

Mr. O'Neil also tells us that they're awaiting word on when Time Warner Cable will, as it has with other stations, use new equipment to create a new analog feed for cable viewers - pulling a "center cut" from the station's digital/HD feed to drive analog cable channel 9 (in Cleveland).

TWC is apparently now using this method to create the analog/downconverted feed for a number of local stations that we don't believe have a direct fiber feed, including CW affiliate WBNX/55 and the other Northeast Ohio PBS affiliate, WVIZ/25.

(WVIZ just converted its 25.1 digital channel to the same mixed feed WNEO/WEAO has been using...we're told that the 24/7 PBS HD feed was pulled nationwide last Wednesday.)

Though the goal is not necessarily to improve analog picture quality - it's to ensure continued carriage for analog cable subscribers after February 17th - the move has dramatically improved picture quality for the stations listed least in our eyes.

As far as the 500 kW pre-transition upgrade for Western Reserve PBS' WNEO/45, Mr. O'Neil tells us:

We have high hopes that the FCC will move quickly on the STA for WNEO’s power. Medical facilities have been notified as required by the CP. The transmitter manufacturer has indicated the ability to provide an engineer quickly to “turn up the juice”.

Of course, even if the FCC doesn't act quickly, WNEO will be able to make the power increase at the February 17th transition...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

WVKO Losing Liberal Talk

Just a couple of weeks after Bernard Radio liberal talk WVKO/1580 Columbus celebrated its first anniversary, the format is about to go away.

Those associated with the current format, operated in a local marketing agreement by Gary Richards' Cowtown Communications, are announcing that the liberal talk format's last day will be Monday, December 22nd.

From the station's website:

WVKO AM will be changing format from “Progressive Talk” to “Religious” before the year is over. The station has been purchased, and the new owner will air Catholic Programming instead of Progressive Talk.

That "Catholic Programming" link leads you to the website of St. Gabriel Radio, the group which already owns two Catholic-themed radio stations in Ohio - including WUCO/1270 Marysville, which is being operated out of St. Gabriel's Columbus studios. (WFOT/89.5 Lexington, near Mansfield, is the other station.)

WUCO is something of a rimshot as far as Columbus is concerned. The apparent pending purchase of WVKO, which hasn't yet made it to the FCC website, would give the group an in-market signal.

But it displaces the "progressive talk" format in Columbus for a second time. The format was resurrected by Mr. Richards and company on WVKO just over a year ago, some time after Clear Channel flipped liberal talker WTPG/1230 to conservative talk "Talk 1230" WYTS...which also carries Premiere Radio sports talk mainstay Jim Rome.

As those associated with the about-to-die left-leaning talk format on WVKO start soaking in the news, the station's local programming has turned into something of a wake/goodbye.

The Saturday "Blue State Diner" show with news director Michael Alwood featured talk about the station's impending demise, with Mr. Richards himself talking about it via a call-in.

Richards told the show that they're trying to return the format "in some form" in the Columbus market, but didn't have a lot of specifics.

But, a followup call from a man claiming to be a long-time attorney of the WVKO general manager said Richards' company is "in talks with" WVKO owner Bernard Radio - over the possibility of purchasing the company's other Columbus market station, WVKO-FM/103.1 Johnstown.

Whether Mr. Richards can do that, financially, is anyone's guess. The current WVKO(AM) LMA operation has operated, by his own admission, as a "below shoestring operation", and he and others associated with the operation knew that Bernard Radio was actively shopping both stations.

To refresh a little history here, Bernard Radio is the operating arm of the D.B. Zwirn investment fund, which took over the former Stop 26-Riverbend stations out of bankruptcy. It, like other similar groups, are likely operating stations like these solely to keep their value for an eventual sale to another company or companies.

Of course, the radio sales market has basically cratered due to the economy and continuing credit crunch. St. Gabriel Radio has been doing its own fundraising to get the money to buy stations like WVKO.

Can Gary Richards find a path back to the radio dial on the FM side? Who knows?

WVKO-FM - which has been running a Spanish-language music format - is probably the worst FM rimshot in the Columbus market, which is full of them. It is a class A signal from far northeast of Columbus, near its city of license (Johnstown). Maybe that helps keep down the price.

We haven't driven the Columbus market recently to check out the signal, but 103.1's signal would appear to be but a rumor for the southern and western parts of Franklin County - even if the flutter could be reduced by turning off the FM stereo pilot in a talk format.

But...Richards and his Cowtown Communications are about to have no radio signal at all, as of Tuesday.

The station's final day of programming will feature what all involved say will be "an extended" edition of Dr. Bob Fitrakis' "Fight Back" show on Monday afternoon.

For the moment, at least, the WVKO website will continue. It's actually been under the administration of the Ohio Majority Radio folks, who have already put up another online petition to return the format to the Columbus airwaves.

The site says it'll also still offer up a progressive talk webstream featuring many of the station's current syndicated talk stars...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bill Gordon Dies

Long-time Cleveland TV and radio host Bill "Smoochie" Gordon has passed away at the age of 83.

The station which carried Gordon's "One O'Clock Club", Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5, confirms his death in a story posted on its NewsNet5 website. The Plain Dealer's Michael Heaton has an obituary which was just posted on

The Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office says Gordon was found dead in his Euclid apartment Thursday, and that the death is believed to be of natural causes.

In addition to his TV fame, hosting "One O'Clock Club" with legendary WEWS personality Dorothy Fuldheim, Gordon had an extensive radio career, and was heard on stations like WHK/1420 and WERE/1300, the latter one of the pioneering talk radio efforts.

Our Swiss Cheese Memory(tm-"Sam Beckett", "Quantum Leap") tells us we also heard Gordon do talk on the old WBBG/1260 "SuperTalk 1260", the former WIXY which later took a big band format ("Big Band Grandstand") - after a stint as religious WMIH, it's today's Radio Disney O&O, WWMK...

Beck Back To Old Columbus Home

UPDATE 12/19/08 1:31 PM: OMW hears that displaced WTVN/610 midday host Joel Riley will be designated the "primary fill-in" for the station's two remaining local hosts, Bob Conners and John Corby...duty which should give him at least a few weeks of airtime over the course of a year, since both Conners and Corby have extensive vacation time.

We're told Riley will also continue with Corby and Joe Bradley in the Friday "Big Bass Brothers" segment on Corby's show, and that he could have other duties in the Clear Channel Columbus cluster.

Our original item is below...


Premiere syndicated midday talk show host Glenn Beck is heading back to his long-time Columbus radio home.

Clear Channel talk WTVN/610 has announced that Beck's show will return to the 9 AM-noon slot on the station, displacing local host Joel Riley, starting on Monday, January 5th. The move mirrors one made up here in Cleveland, where Beck came back to WTVN sister station WTAM/1100, replacing local midday host Bob Frantz.

Frantz landed in the WTAM evening slot.

WTVN's new schedule starting January 5th does not list a weekday show for Riley. The rest of the schedule is unchanged, with evenings still occupied by soon-to-be-Premiere/ABC Radio host Sean Hannity and ABC's Mark Levin. Riley had occupied evenings until moving into middays.

OMW hears, however, that Joel Riley and his producer are "remaining with the station" with different roles. We haven't heard yet what those roles will be.

After WTVN originally bounced Beck in favor of local talk with Riley, it tried to convince him to move to sister talk WYTS/1230 "Talk 1230" - a move Beck and Premiere vetoed.

That sent Beck over to North American Broadcasting talk WTDA/103.9 "Talk FM", which eagerly put him into the 10 AM to 1 PM slot.

You do the math "Talk FM" heading for another format?

With Beck's move back to WTVN, and the previously announced move of Premiere's "Bob and Tom" to WTDA's sister rock outlet - WRKZ/99.7 "The Rock" - that leaves a 6 AM to 1 PM hole in the "Talk FM" schedule in early January.

We haven't heard any format change rumblings out of WTDA yet, but we also haven't heard what the station will do to replace seven hours of prime programming time it's about to lose.

We also don't know if WTDA afternoon drive sports talk host "Mark the Shark" is still being heard at all on his old home at 99.7, after the "Bob and Tom" move to that frequency...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Digital TV Hiccup

The two Cleveland TV stations with the biggest over-air digital TV problems may - or may not - see those problems resolved before the February 17 digital transition date.

Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 and ideastream PBS affiliate WVIZ/25 will transmit their post-transition signals from a new tower at the WKYC facility, but it's an open question if the construction - which was reportedly set to begin this week - will now be complete in time for the transition date.

In an FCC filing, WKYC says that though it expects tower construction to take about four to six weeks, it's filing for a special temporary permit (post-transition) for its current WKYC-DT facility on Channel 2 out of "an abundance of caution".

WVIZ, meanwhile, says it's being told the tower's construction "is not likely" to be completed by February 17th.

Both stations will abandon any temporary facility when construction is complete, though if - for some reason - the construction is done before the transition date, WKYC will still have to wait until that date for analog WDLI/17 to sign off.

The problem? Directly from the WKYC filing (PDF file):

However, circumstances beyond WKYC-TV’s control have put construction of WKYC-TV’s post-transition facilities by February 17, 2009 in jeopardy. More specifically, the tower crew hired to erect the tower and install the antenna, has been unexpectedly delayed on another project and cannot commence construction of WKYC-TV’s post-transition digital facilities until mid-December at the earliest. This delay has been caused by weather.

Construction is expected to take approximately 4 to 6 weeks and WKYC-TV still anticipates that it will begin digital operation on its post-transition channel 17 after midnight on February 17, 2009.

Nevertheless, as WKYC-TV mentioned in its DTV Transition Status Reports (Form 387), in northern Ohio, tower work after November is very problematic and weather-dependent. Therefore, because the tower crew has been delayed, construction of the tower and installation of the antenna may not be completed by February 17, 2009.

WKYC's filing does note that all the other things needed for the post-transition digital channel 17 facility are in place, including equipment.

WVIZ's filing calls for the station to modify its current temporary signal, and to move the antenna to the main/current WKYC analog tower at a much higher level. Quoting from that WVIZ filing (PDF file):

WVIZ-DT’s current STA operation (FCC File BDSTA-20080812ABK) is at 10 kW at 374.6 meters AMSL on a tower temporarily provided by WKYC-TV, Inc. ("WKYC radar tower") and serves 88.2% of the population historically served by WVIZ's analog transmitter.

For this phase-in proposal, WVIZ has secured permission from WKYC-TV, Inc. to utilize its taller tower ("WKYC television tower") at 10 kW with a radiation center of 507 meters AMSL, which would increase the proposed population served to 94.5% of the population served by WVIZ's analog transmitter.

Moreover, based on the experience of DTV licensees across the country, WVIZ-DT understands that the higher antenna placement will benefit the people tuning into WVIZ-DT over-the-air and result in fewer instances of service loss caused by signal problems.

WVIZ's filing notes that there's another reason the current temporary facility needs to be modified:

Expedited processing of this STA request is requested, as the current STA operation on the WKYC radar tower relies on a transmitter that has been borrowed for that purpose.

The owner of that transmitter has been patient but the equipment must be returned. ideastream has on hand the DTV transmitter needed for the proposed phasein STA operations and can mount it within the transmitter room at the WKYC television tower for the STA operation proposed herein following ordering and delivery of a few additional pieces of equipment.

OMW has no idea if tower construction has been started at the WKYC facility, as expected, this week.

But both the WKYC and WVIZ applications note the biggest problem: Northeast Ohio's winter weather, which has already packed a few punches even before the actual start of winter (and another such weather punch is in the forecast for late tonight into tomorrow).

Even if tower crews started the necessary process this week, there's no guarantee they'll be done in even six weeks due to the weather. The DTV transition date is now eight weeks away, so both stations have to be ready if the facilities aren't completed by February 17th...even if that deadline is only missed by a few days...

A Couple From Julie, And One More

After checking our TV sets, we're sure we're ready for the digital TV conversion in February. (Well, we were actually sure of that long ago.) More on that, later.

We're still not ready for the Cleveland Plain Dealer's, though we did happen to find a couple of local TV-related stories from PD media writer Julie Washington under - oddly enough! - the "Entertainment > TV" tab.

We're not sure if either of these stories has made print, yet, since that's become virtually impossible to figure out that answer without hoofing it to the local convenience store and picking up a copy of the PD, but here goes...

ADDING LYDIA TO THE LIST: Washington confirms what we reported back in November, when names of laid off staffers at Cleveland Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 started coming out from inside 13th and Lakeside.

WKYC reporter/weekend anchor Lydia Esparra is the final to confirm that she's becoming a former member of the "Channel 3 News" of five on-air staffers who won't be getting their contracts renewed. Esparra's last day is next Tuesday, December 23rd.

This was kind of "no surprise", aside from our own reporting last month. The station had earlier confirmed that the weekend evening newscasts would be anchored solely by veteran newsman Jeff Maynor, who's abandoning his weekend morning anchor shift.

Esparra's former weekend evening co-anchor, Chris Tye, is back to a regular reporting shift. Maynor's former morning co-anchor Kim Wheeler will still be there - but she'll now anchoring alone, as well.

The PD's Washington reports that Esparra has some very interesting post-WKYC plans:

Esparra will be able to realize her dream of filming a documentary about her family's journey from Puerto Rico to Youngstown, where she was born.

"I'm really pumped up about that," Esparra said. She'll continue as a free-lance producer for "The Today Show," and teach media relations at the Law Enforcement Education Center at Kent State University.

We had no idea, by the way, that she had any connection with NBC's "Today Show", let alone Kent State...

CHANGES AT 5: Julie Washington also catches up with Viki Regan, the general manager at Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 "NewsChannel 5" - basically the only Cleveland market TV newsroom so far untouched by layoff notices.

And Washington reports that Regan, who took over WEWS after a stint running a West Palm Beach FL station, has some ideas for a "legacy" station she tells Washington - quote - "has been living off its laurels and isn't reaching its potential":

Regan and news director Jill Manuel, who came on board in August, are trying to retrain their staff to think differently about news content and how people access it.

Manuel, who came to "NewsChannel 5" from Chicago's 24-hour cable news channel CLTV, points out one change coming next month...with investigative reporter Duane Pohlman churning out "daily investigative reports", as opposed pieces that are geared towards airing in series during "sweeps" ratings periods, after long, off-air investigation.

Of course, Cleveland recently switched its ratings measurement to the full-time "people meter" system, with more frequent ratings, rendering "sweeps" less important.

Pohlman has done "on the fly" investigative pieces before, including in the runup to this year's November election.

The station is also touting more frequent traffic and weather reports in "Good Morning Cleveland" (with new anchor team Pete Kenworthy and Kimberly Gill now in place), with "Google-style" traffic maps.

And like some other local stations have done, to some degree, WEWS promises more interactivity, using popular social networking services like Facebook and Twitter. (The aforementioned WKYC/3 has "official" pages on both services.)

Oh, that, and the old-fashioned TV stuff mentioned earlier...

AND NOT RELATED TO MS. WASHINGTON, BUT...: A brief take on Wednesday evening's "digital TV soft test", at least in Cleveland, at least from our viewpoint as a local cable subscriber.

It was no surprise to see the 5 minute message loop on ION O&O WVPX/23, even on cable.

As we noted in our previous update, WVPX has no digital signal alternative right now...which for our purposes, means that unless it fed cable systems via fiber (we're pretty sure it doesn't), cable viewers on our Cleveland-based Time Warner Cable system and elsewhere would get the analog loop.

A quick run through the local OTA channels on our cable box showed no other station improperly passing through the message to those who won't lose the station in February - due to being cable subscribers.

It also showed something an OMW reader pointed out to us - at least a couple of analog stations that had been fed to Time Warner Cable off of their over-air signals are now using, we believe, center-cut pictures from their digital/HD feeds downconverted for analog viewers.

Those two stations were ideaStream PBS affiliate WVIZ/25 and CW affiliate WBNX/55. The digital sides of both stations are present in the TWC lineup already (channels 411 and 407, respectively).

This means that some time very recently, WVIZ-DT converted its 25.1 digital signal from the fading PBS HD national feed, to a locally-broadcast HD/SD upconverted feed - much like the area's other PBS station, Western Reserve PBS did a ways back.

For those who haven't heard, the PBS HD 24/7 feed is being discontinued nationally. PBS' HD programs will appear mixed in with the regular digital feed now.

And that brings another question - do either of the local PBS affiliates have the ability to record and time-shift PBS HD offerings out of their normal "live" feeds?

This could turn into a similar situation to the one that has faced commercial that a number of syndicated offerings are offering HD feeds...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

DTV Test Day

As we reported earlier, Ohio TV stations will take part in a statewide "analog shutoff soft test" tonight for five minutes, tonight starting at 7:31 PM.

During the five minutes, the stations' analog signals will display a message telling viewers that their TV set is not ready for the coming national digital TV transition, which officially takes place just two months from now...late at night on February 17, 2009.

Full-power analog stations are required to shut off those signals at 11:59:59 PM on the 17th - going into the early morning hours of February 18th.

The message airing on those analog stations tonight will include a phone number for viewers to call to get more information, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Julie Washington:

As part of the test, viewers will be given a help-center phone number, said Christine H. Merritt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Broadcasters, which is coordinating the test.

The center, staffed with engineers from participating stations, will be open from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

OMW hears that the phone bank for the Cleveland market will be housed at ideaStream PBS affiliate WVIZ/25, and other local stations have said they'll answer calls as well.

This Associated Press article on the soft test (we found it on notes that it's not only statewide, but will take place in some 30 states.

40 stations in Ohio are on the list of those participating in the "soft test", including all of Northeast Ohio's commercial stations.

One major station that won't be airing the soft test might be a surprise to our readers, as reported above by the Plain Dealer - Western Reserve PBS (WNEO/45 Alliance-WEAO/49 Akron).

Station officials have told OMW that they don't want to preempt PBS' "NewsHour" - and that one of the public broadcaster's two stations, of course, has already made the digital transition...with WNEO/45 shutting off its analog signal back in mid-November.

Western Reserve PBS tells us that they'll still help answer viewer calls during the soft test tonight. And we hear that station president/CEO Trina Cutter will go door-to-door during the five-minute test, informing the half-dozen station viewers who haven't already heard about the digital TV transition.

(Yes, we're just kidding about the "door-to-door" thing. But we're pretty sure Trina has run out of libraries to visit. The Kent-based PBS station has, as we've documented, been waaaaaay out front in the DTV education realm in Northeast Ohio.)

And despite the fact that it does not even have a digital signal, and won't until it "flash cuts" on February 17th, ION O&O WVPX/23 is on the list of stations doing the soft test tonight.

No low-power stations are required to shut down on February 17th (i.e. "The Cat"-WAOH-LP/29 Akron and W35AX/35 Cleveland, Canton's WIVM/52-WIVN/29, etc.).

Of course, local stations use a variety of methods to feed cable systems and don't be surprised if you see the "you're not ready" message on cable or satellite. As near as we can tell, Cleveland's Time Warner Cable system still gets off-air analog pickup from a number of stations.

And we're wondering if even the fiber optic feeds many stations use to deliver signal to cable companies will get the correct output for tonight.

Unless the cable companies fall asleep between today and February 17th, the analog-to-digital transition should occur without a hiccup even for those who have only analog cable...the downconversion being done at the cable headend.

And both major satellite companies are converting their SD feeds of local TV stations to use a "center cut" picture from the station's digital/HD feed.

A note about the transition - the so-called "DTV Nightlight" bill has indeed passed Congress, and is expected to be signed into law soon.

It will provide stations the opportunity to keep analog signals on for an additional 30 days past February 17th - on a voluntary basis - to carry transition-related messages and emergency and public safety information.

It'll be interesting to see how the FCC implements the new law, which they'll be required to do by January 15th.

And some stations just won't be able to do it. For one, two Northern Ohio stations (WNEO, WMFD/68 Mansfield) have dismantled their analog facilities already, and a third (WVPX) would have no place or need for an analog "transition message" broadcast, since it's firing up digitally on its old analog channel...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Liverani Moves On

This isn't quite breaking was announced earlier this month, but we just found out now courtesy of an Alert OMW Reader.

Long-time FOX Sports Ohio senior vice president/general manager Steve Liverani is leaving the Northeast Ohio regional sports network, and will take the same post running FOX Sports Florida and sister network Sun Sports.

Quoting an FS Ohio press release:

Under Liverani’s leadership, FOX Sports Ohio has enjoyed tremendous success, expanding its local and regional programming beyond its extensive coverage of professional teams and creating added value for advertisers, affiliates, team partners and viewers.

Liverani was instrumental in securing long-term rights agreements with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cincinnati Reds, along with Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati. These key programming agreements, along with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cincinnati Bengals and two high school football “Game of the Week” packages, have established FOX Sports Ohio as the premier regional sports network in Ohio.

Liverani will continue to run FOX Sports Ohio until his replacement is found.

Liverani started running the operations and production departments at what was then known as SportsChannel Ohio back in 1994.

Of course, back that long ago, the network that became FOX Sports Net Ohio was the local cable rightsholder of the Cleveland Indians, a key sports franchise which branched out on its own with SportsTime Ohio in 2006.

Since then, FSN/FS Ohio held onto the Cavaliers, becoming the primary home of the local NBA team...with all but a handful of games airing only on the sports network. FS Ohio simulcasts a small number of games on Raycom Media MyNetwork TV affiliate WUAB/43 "My 43".

FOX Sports Ohio has also beefed up its local ancilliary programming, including new regular shows covering the area's local sports teams. That's production FSN Ohio basically didn't do before STO came into being...

Monday, December 15, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Metheny Lands In Chicago

Thanks to an AllAccess bulletin tonight, we now know where former Clear Channel Cleveland programming chief Kevin Metheny ended up:

TRIBUNE Talk WGN-A/CHICAGO PD BOB SHOMPER is exiting to join crosstown CITADEL Talk WLS-A as PD, and veteran programmer KEVIN METHENY, most recently at CLEAR CHANNEL/CLEVELAND as VP/Programming, is taking his place at WGN.

The dots are probably pretty clearly connected - WGN is Tribune's only radio property, and former Clear Channel/Jacor radio head Randy Michaels is now the company's Chief Operating Officer.

AllAccess quotes WGN VP/GM Tom Langmyer about Metheny's hiring:

"During his ten years in Cleveland, perhaps his most impressive feat was to take AM-1100 and make it the number one station in CLEVELAND and a top 25-54 performer. He did this through building the (primarily live and local news/talk) station to 'sound like CLEVELAND.' As a true radio guy, he has a great understanding and respect for WGN and what it means to CHICAGO. He also knows that WGN can be grown further in terms of relevance today as 'The Voice of CHICAGO.' KEVIN has a real ear for talent and is a proven coach with a winning track record."

Radio and Records' version of the story also quotes Metheny, "a longtime WGN fan" who's certainly aware of the station's history:

"I've loved Chicago and marveled at WGN since I was a child listening to Wally Phillips and Bob Collins. It's an honor to join the leadership of an American treasure like WGN Radio."

It's a very interesting choice. WGN is very much a "full-service" talk station, and has a full schedule of local talk not known for its "bite".

Meanwhile, Randy Michaels is certainly making no secret of his desire to "shake things up" at Sam Zell's Tribune, which just filed for bankruptcy. (Despite the shape of the company, WGN "Radio 720" is generally a top performer for the company.)

Michaels cut his programming teeth at WTAM/1100's now-sister talker in Cincinnati, WLW/700 "The Big One", which also has an extensive local programming schedule.

Metheny, meanwhile, was top programming boss for personalities as diverse as John Lanigan and Mike Trivisonno in his time at Oak Tree.

This should be fun to watch...

Gladiators, Arena League Suspend 2009 Season

It's been rumored for a while, but the Arena Football League has made it official... the indoor football circuit will not play in 2009.

The league voted late Sunday to suspend operations for the coming year, with an eye on restructuring - the AFL reportedly hopes to resume play in 2010, but that's not a certainty.

Since this isn't Ohio Sports Watch, we only note this because it means Good Karma sports WKNR/850 "ESPN 850" will lose one of its play-by-play properties through no fault of its own.

The AFL's Cleveland Gladiators started play in 2008, and were actually quite successful. But with no league operating, the Gladiators flagship radio station won't have any games to air. We haven't tracked the other AFL team in Ohio, the Columbus Destroyers, but they obviously won't be playing, either.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports today that "at least six" Gladiators employees are now without jobs, including sales staffers and the team's media relations director.

Play-by-play voice Mike Case's "day job" is over in Youngstown, as live reporter on Vindicator-owned NBC affiliate WFMJ/21's morning news...and analyst and former Brown Hanford Dixon surely has enough media work to keep him busy.

Gladiators co-owner and team president Bernie Kosar will presumably continue his on-air appearances through his deal with "ESPN 850 WKNR". At times, the former Browns quarterback is nearly as entertaining as the call of actual football games...

CBS Radio Starts Smaller Market Exit

CBS Radio has made its first major move in the effort to vacate its clusters in sub-top-10 swapping.

The company has started what apparently will be a slow exit from non-major markets by entering a multi-market swap with Clear Channel.

In a deal made public today, Clear Channel picks up five CBS Radio outlets in four markets: Baltimore, Seattle, Portland (two stations) and Sacramento. In exchange, CBS gets two popular stations in top 10 market Houston. All of the outlets involved are FM stations.

Though this deal does not involve the four CBS Radio stations in Cleveland - WDOK/102.1, WQAL/104.1, WNCX/98.5 and WKRK/92.3 - it could show a blueprint for the company's future plans in the markets it plans to abandon.

We say "a slow exit" because CBS Radio is parting with just one station in those markets, except for two in Portland.

Of course, none of the local stations could go to Clear Channel here, since the company is at the limit in Cleveland...and is just getting back WAKS/96.5 Akron since it'll be attributed to the Akron market...

Tim White's Farewell, And Our Take

As promised, here's our transcript of now-former WKYC/3 anchor Tim White's farewell message, which aired on the 11 PM newscast on his last day at the Gannett NBC affiliate in Cleveland.

And also as promised, we'll have some of our own comments...after the transcript:


ROMONA: Well, throughout the day, we've been saying goodbye to Tim White, my co-anchor and friend. It was his last day here at Channel 3. Now, Tim did have some final thoughts he wanted to share with all of you, and he left it for us on tape. It's a classy move from a classy guy. Tim, you will be missed...from all of us, good luck, and be well.

TIM: You know, it's not easy to know how to say goodbye to people and a place that you've loved for going on 10 years. So, I've decided to answer some questions that I've had from viewers, and to save TV time, I won't repeat the question. But here are the answers.

Yes, Romona and I really do get along that well, off-camera, too.

No, I don't wear a hair piece. It's all mine.

I don't think it's all Romeo's fault, and I do believe the Browns are gonna win the Super three years.

Yes, I do believe that Cleveland has already turned the corner...we're just too close to see how far we've come. Just ask someone who's...recently moved here...they'll tell ya.

It is true I don't often call it "Northeast Ohio". Everything north of Columbus and east of Cleveland.

They should have hung onto Jim Thome.

Yeah, I do worry that the news business is becoming more "business" than "news".

Yes, these really are hard times. In some ways, the years ahead will probably be more like the 1950's. And you know, that's not at all a bad thing.

Nope, I don't think it's bad luck. All Cleveland needs to soar is confidence and leadership.

Speaking of soaring, yes, LeBron is a force of nature. But the most remarkable thing about his talent and fame is how well he's handled it.

I disagree. The Plain Dealer may be smaller, but it's a darn good newspaper, and I wouldn't start the day without it.

And yes, Romona is the best dressed woman I know. And, she's nice, too.

No, I've never worked with a better sports guy than Jimmy Donovan. I don't think there is one.

And I agree. Betsy's made the transition to being a great mom as gracefully as she made the transition to being the main weather person.

I appreciate that, but if you like our newscast, the real people to thank are the reporters, and the producers, and the camera folk, and the directors and the editors, who work hard every day to make every newscast something we're proud of. Romona and I are just the tips of the iceberg.

Yep, folks around here do care a lot about veterans. The rest of the country should learn from us.

"What's it's been like?", you ask. Being here every night with you has been more than a job, it's been a blessing. Sure, it's been hard for me to have my family scattered all over the country, and all over the world. But you have made me feel like part of yours, and I will always be grateful for that.

It's not easy to move on, but it is time. I'll let you know what comes next. There's a lot of work to do.

And from the bottom of my heart, thank you. And for now, goodbye.


Tim White became a part of the fabric of Cleveland TV news after replacing another name in 1999 long known to Clevelanders - Judd Hambrick, one of two brothers who spent a lot of time on local TV news.

We missed his entrance here. By the time we'd caught up with Tim, he'd already established himself alongside Romona Robinson, and "Channel 3 News" was more competitive than ever. Before the mid-1990's affiliation switch in Cleveland, WKYC was always a distant third, behind dominant WJW/8 (then a CBS affiliate) and scrappy second-place competitor WEWS/5.

Some of that new competitiveness was certainly Channel 8 losing the news-friendly CBS affiliation for then-upstart FOX...though that network is now one of the "Big Four", and is currently more successful than WKYC's NBC...a network which recently had to throw the TV equivalent of a "Hail Mary" pass to shore up its 10 PM time slot by moving Jay Leno into primetime.

But the Tim-and-Romona team, and the rest of "Channel 3 News" alongside them, found its stride...and greater viewer numbers...along the way.

Despite all this, it's not all about how popular Tim White is - and he certainly is.

It's about the changing face of TV news. It's about TV stations owned by big companies losing a lot of money in the down economy, and not making a move to retain a key player...particularly, as in the case of Channel 3, where the remaining co-anchor is also a key player.

But even as the station makes some effort to shape a new anchor team with an eye to the future - Eric Mansfield and Carole Sullivan debut at 7 PM tonight - there's no mistaking one fact.

The TV business has changed, and the earthquake is now being felt at all levels.

People over 40 took it for granted. If you wanted the news on TV, you sat down in front of the set when the news people were ready to deliver it to you.

You turned on the TV at 6, or 11, or noon, or later, in the morning, and there it was. If something happened at 2:30 PM, it wouldn't be on TV unless it was deemed important enough to break into a soap opera.

Considering today's technology, that concept now seems quaint. If you want to buy a loaf of bread, do you have to show up at 6 PM and wait for the store to be ready to hand it to you?

Of course not.

As today's "news consumers" need to know, they go to the Internet. They go to places like WKYC's very own extensive And that's if they're even still looking for the news output of a traditional TV news operation, or a newspaper.

And since media outlets can't yet make nearly enough money off the Internet as they do selling commercials on TV (or newspaper ads and subscriptions), that means less money to, well, pay people to gather and deliver the news.

And bringing this back to Tim White - that means less inclination to pay high-profile anchors high-profile salaries...and to maintain large newsrooms full of people no matter what they get paid.

We should note here: We don't have any information on why Tim White and Gannett/WKYC were not able to reach a new deal...only the public statements about the changing news business.

But it's no secret that news operations are actively looking to pay less to run their newsrooms, be it by reducing anchor salaries, or the number of anchors, or the number of reporters, editors, and other support staff. This is not about whatever Tim White hoped to get out of Gannett in a new contract.

With the economy cratering, and ad revenue falling through the floor, that just throws gasoline on this already burning fire.

But even without that "extra gas", the fire is still burning, and the changing nature of how people even "consume" news "product" would still send the train in this direction.

Our best wishes to Tim White, for his future, and to all the folks at 13th and Lakeside, South Marginal, 30th and Euclid and Reserve Square, both on-air and off. It'll be a difficult road ahead for all of you...but you already knew that...

Heading For The Holidays

The coming week, local media outlets are winding down for the holiday season. You'll see and hear a lot of fill-ins starting today, but it's still early enough in December that some regulars will still be working at least part of this week.

We're here, too. Due to the general flow of news, the next three weeks will likely see fewer updates, and we'll probably try to put away the keyboard in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day...but we'll try to keep in touch...

TIM WHITE EXITS: Today starts the "new era" at Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 and its "Channel 3 News", as long-time evening co-anchor Tim White is out of the building.

Co-anchor Romona Robinson's tenure as solo anchor actually started Friday night at 11. Tim recorded a farewell message, which played during that broadcast. (We'll have a full transcript of it, later, in a larger item that will take an overall look at the situation facing local TV news in Cleveland and elsewhere.)

Though Romona will be "going it alone" at the news anchor position at 6 and 11, today is also the debut of WKYC's new two-person 7 PM anchor team, with former Akron Bureau Chief Eric Mansfield teaming up with reporter Carole Sullivan.

You can get a preview of some of their on-camera chemistry on Eric's blog. (OK, so maybe "on-Flip-camera chemistry", since it was recorded for the Internet in the newsroom. But you get the idea.)

Eric and Carole are no strangers, having worked together not only at WKYC, but at the old WAKC/23, when the Akron-based station still had its own local newscast as an ABC affiliate.

Eric would, of course, later return to that station via Channel 3's "Akron/Canton News", which ran on then-PAX affiliate WVPX until moving to cable, then to the history books...

WKYC TOWER: While we're electronically visiting 13th and Lakeside, we finally have an answer to this question - "when will WKYC's new tower go up?"

The answer is, basically, "soon".

Courtesy of WKYC "Director's Cut" blogger Frank Macek and a recent update:

WKYC will likely start assembly of our new broadcast tower in Parma (this) week as we get set to make our digital switch to Digital Channel 17 on February 17, (2009). The brand new tower will support antennas for both WKYC and WVIZ right next to our current tower location.

Of course, all of it, like all such construction at this time of year, is "weather permitting".

OMW believes that WVIZ will be able to light up its full-power digital signal shortly after the new tower is completed, and the WVIZ-DT antenna is put into place, because the station does not have to wait like WKYC does.

WKYC's new channel 17 digital signal, of course, can't hit the airwaves until Trinity Broadcasting's WDLI in Canton turns off that channel 17 analog transmitter for good...which won't happen until the night of February 17. WVIZ will maintain its current channel 26 digital allotment.

The move for both stations will drastically improve their digital coverage areas.

WKYC will be able to abandon its troublesome digital channel 2, which is the absolute worst channel to use for digital TV. Electrical noise both near and far plagues channel 2, and that noise "spikes" a digital signal, rendering it nearly useless for those who can even pick it up in the first place.

Without the noise, the "low-VHF" channels are propagation wonders. But the nature of digital TV means that instead of "seeing sparklies" on top of an otherwise watchable analog picture, digital viewers can "see nothing". WKYC will not have that problem on digital channel 17.

WVIZ's move to the WKYC tower will provide it with a full-power digital signal for the first time in its history.

The station had a long legal and technical dispute with CBS Radio, trying to put a full-power digital antenna on the tower that currently holds WVIZ's analog channel 25 antenna. CBS Radio owns that tower in North Royalton, home of its own WNCX/98.5.

Just when it looked like that dispute was ending, WKYC came by with a better deal for the Cleveland PBS affiliate...which, until the new signal is brought on the air, is broadcasting digitally at just 10KW of power from a small, lower-mounted side antenna on another WKYC tower.

Of course, that's MUCH better than the 1KW temporary signal that used to eminate from a tower behind WVIZ's now-former Brookpark Road studios in Parma...

WE DON'T DO MUCH PRINT, BUT...: We'd be remiss if we didn't note the lawsuit filed against the Cleveland Plain Dealer by its former long-time Cleveland Orchestra critic, Donald Rosenberg.

The controversy after Rosenberg was dumped by the PD has become national news, and indeed, the New York Times' Daniel Wakin has a story on the suit:

(Rosenberg) charged that orchestra officials had waged a “campaign of vilification” against him and that his bosses at the newspaper had caved in to demands that he be ousted.

Rosenberg's suit is aimed at both the PD and the Orchestra, alleging defamation, interference with his job and age discrimination. His reassignment came after the Orchestra was admittedly and openly displeased about a number of negative reviews of its musical director over recent years.

The 16-year veteran critic of the Orchestra is still with the Cleveland newspaper, though writing about other arts-related items. His beat was taken by a former PD intern.

About the national attention? Quoting the Times' Wakin:

Mr. Rosenberg’s case became a nationwide cause célèbre among music critics, a dwindling breed in a time of newspaper cutbacks. They said a prominent, knowledgeable voice had been silenced by an influential local institution.

Of course, as the Times notes, a lot of classical music writers have been "silenced" in the pages of local newspapers - but due to the economy and the generally sorry state of newspaper staffing levels these days...

BOB AND TOM MOVING IN C-BUS: Premiere Radio syndicated morning stars "Bob and Tom" are still on the air in Columbus, but they're moving.

North American Broadcasting's talk WTDA/103.9 "Talk FM" is dumping the show, which is normally heard on rock-formatted stations.

And since North American has one of those stations - rock WRKZ/99.7 "The Rock" - that's where "Bob and Tom" are going, starting today. The show will be simulcast for a while on both stations.

From the WRKZ website:

NABCO Director of Programming Operations, Hal Fish noted, “Bob and Tom have a long history of success in the rock format... I think that makes them a great fit for The Rock.” The Bob and Tom Show will simulcast on 99.7 The Rock and 103.9 Talk FM for several weeks. “We want to give current fans of the show plenty of time to get ready for the switch,” Fish said.

Beginning Thursday, January 8, 2009, The Bob and Tom Show will broadcast exclusively on 99.7 The Rock.

It's a definite signal upgrade for the Indianapolis-based hosts. WTDA's signal is less powerful than the signal of WRKZ (the former WBZX "The Blitz"), as it's a class A outlet licensed to the northern Columbus suburb of Westerville...and the 103.9 signal often has trouble south of (and in) downtown Columbus. WRKZ, meanwhile, is a full-market class B signal.

There's no word right now what "Talk FM" will air in morning drive after "Bob and Tom" go exclusive on 99.7...

WNIR'S WEB SITE: Rumored and even promised for what seems like months, there's new word that the upgraded website for Media-Com talk WNIR/100.1 'The Talk of Akron" could be about to debut. It may not be mythical after all.

Hang on, we're still checking on Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

Our word this time around comes from a short quip by WNIR midday mainstay Howie Chizek on his Friday show.

Chizek noted the presence of at least one out-of-town caller, who was apparently listening on hold, and mentioned that the station's new website with streaming audio was set to debut "at the first of the year" (he meant the year 2009, right?), so the out of town callers could "listen all the time".

We'll believe it when we hear, and see it.

For now, the only audio featured on the WNIR website is still the "Talk of Akron" jingle shout.

And the main graphic leading to the site's current content (schedules, etc.) is now officially fully dwarfed by the banner ads. One recently-added advertisement by a fast food chain is now somewhat larger than the content "window"...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday's Week Ender

Barring any breaking news, this one should wrap up our week...

CLEVELAND CHRISTMAS SWEATER: As mentioned earlier, way back when Premiere syndicated midday host Glenn Beck had not yet returned to Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100, Beck's "The Christmas Sweater" stage tour has a Cleveland stop...and it's this weekend.

And though the performance Saturday night at Playhouse Square's Allen Theater is sold out, you can still have a chance of meeting the popular talk radio personality.

Beck will be signing his "The Christmas Sweater" book - the inspiration for the stage play - Saturday from noon to 1 PM at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lyndhurst's Legacy Village. Quoting WTAM's release on the appearances:

In The Christmas Sweater, Glenn Beck delivers an instant holiday classic about boyhood memories, wrenching life lessons, and the true meaning of the gifts we give to one another in love. Based on a deeply personal true story, The Christmas Sweater is a warm and poignant tale of family, faith and forgiveness that offers us a glimpse of our own lives -- while also making us question if we really know what's most important in them.

The book has been #1 on the New York Times' bestseller list, which still shows it as #2 this week.

It's Beck's first book signing appearance in Cleveland since his show was last heard on WTAM - before he was replaced by trash TV talk host Jerry Springer's liberal talk radio show.

We happened to be in the neighborhood the last time Beck signed books at a suburban Cleveland bookstore, and the line for him wound around the large store, through the aisles and nearly out the door.

We don't know if that turnout will be repeated, since Beck only recently returned to his Cleveland radio perch.

But he's had successful appearances on behalf of WTAM's Clear Channel sister talk station in Akron, WHLO/640, which got a bit of a ratings bump up north when it picked up Beck's show after it was dumped in Cleveland...

TOLEDO AGAIN: At the risk of becoming Toledo Media Watch, another brief note about radio in Northwest Ohio's largest market.

We won't go into much detail about this, but embattled Toledo mayor Carty Finkbeiner has gone to Congress over his frustration with Clear Channel talk WSPD/1370.

The Toledo Blade reports that Finkbeiner is trying to strike while the iron is hot, as some lawmakers have kicked around reintroducing the media "Fairness Doctrine".

Quoting the Blade:

The mayor on Monday accused WSPD of violating the principles of the now-defunct rule by not giving him equal time to respond to its "daily diatribes" against him, and said he would take it up with Mr. Waxman. The doctrine, which was eliminated by President Reagan in 1987, required radio and TV stations to give equal time to issues and candidates.

This being Toledo politics and media, here's one other thing apparently under Finkbeiner's craw:

WSPD general manager Andy Stuart is one of the charter members of Take Back Toledo, a group unveiled last week to raise a petition to try to recall Mr. Finkbeiner from office.

Finkbeiner's appeal to Democratic California congressman Henry Waxman - who's taking over chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee - came as part of a lobbying trip by several mayors hoping to shore up the proposed bailout of the "Big 3" U.S. automakers.

Though it's been quite the topic on conservative talk radio, very few media or political observers expect the "Fairness Doctrine" to actually be reinstated.

Though Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had expressed interest earlier this year, there doesn't seem to be any momentum to start working on it on Capitol Hill - or even in the incoming Obama White House.

And, of course, there's a lot more on lawmakers' plates these days.

But none of this stopped what we believe to be a nationwide first - a local public official taking his personal beef with a media outlet to the halls of Congress...

LAYOFF WATCH: We haven't been able to find any word yet how the Raycom Media nationwide layoffs this week have affected the company's FOX affiliate in Cincinnati, WXIX/19. If Cincinnati Enquirer radio/TV guru John Kiesewetter has written anything on it, we can't find it in his radio/TV blog or elsewhere on

Maybe the newspaper is going to start a scavenger hunt, and give prizes to people who can find articles that should be a lot easier to find?

We're sure Jeremy at Tri-State Media Watch will keep an ear out for any news. We're both wondering if WXIX's ratings success, combined with speculation that the station's morning anchor may be headed to another market - may have helped it dodge a layoff bullet - for now.

Meanwhile, OMW hears that there are more newspaper layoffs in Canton, with an unconfirmed report that the Gatehouse Media-owned Canton Repository has let go three more staffers, bring recent layoff numbers to six - plus whatever positions Gatehouse didn't fill when it took over the Repository, Massillon's Independent and Dover-New Philadelphia's Times-Recorder from Copley Newspapers.

As far as we know, this is not connected to our earlier item about more expected job cuts at another Northeast Ohio newspaper operation.

And we're wondering - does a search for "layoff" in the OMW search box at the top of this report cause the Blogger/Google computers to start overloading?

Have a good weekend...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Neff Out At Toledo's WCWA

UPDATE 12/10/08 11:35 PM: And tonight, there are some more details.

The Toledo Free Press' below linked article has been updated. Here's the quote which pretty much says it all, in the eyes of Mr. Neff:

After describing the stabbing incident (to substitute host/Free Press editor-in-chief Michael S. Miller), Neff said, “Apparently people got a memo at WSPD from (program director) Brian Wilson not to mention the story, not to mention my name at all today. I’d just like to say that Brian Wilson can go screw himself.”

The Free Press article says Neff expressed similar, uh, sentiments directly to Wilson in E-Mail using stronger language, after learning of the supposed ban on saying his name on WSPD. The information about that is directly attributed to the now-former host himself.

(There's no word on if he got the idea for the E-Mail from a recent E-Mail that Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage sent to a fan.) (Yes, we're kidding.)

Clear Channel Toledo news operations chief Cassie Wilson tells the Free Press that she - not Brian Wilson - reminded news staffers of the station's policy against crime reporting...and that she didn't believe Neff's notoriety or extensive TV news coverage warranted an exception to that policy.

In her statement, she says the station's news department did not cover the recent problems of a local television weathercaster:

To that same end, we did not cover the story of a Clear Channel advertising client who purchased a brokered program and was involved in a road-rage situation. Our listeners are concerned with news that affects their daily lives, such as pocketbook issues. Radio news does not take its cues from the stories covered on television, and we do not report a crime blotter.

Speaking of that brokered arrangement - Neff tells the Free Press that he has been paying $40,000 a year to air the show on WCWA.

Presumably, he'll take that money offer to another station - Cumulus talk WTOD/1560 or Matrix talk WNWT/1520 would presumably be his first two stops - as he tells the Free Press that he hopes to be back on the air by the first of the year.

Our original evening update is below...


The Toledo talk radio host who was stabbed a day ago in a highly-publicized road rage incident is now a former talk radio host.

The Toledo Free Press weekly newspaper, where Troy Neff has been a contributor, reports tonight that "The Troy Neff Show" has been pulled from the lineup at Clear Channel sports/talk WCWA/1230 "FOX Sports Radio 1230", effective immediately.

The news has also been posted by Raycom CBS affiliate WTOL/11, added online to a previous story based on the station's interview with Neff this afternoon. Quoting:

News 11 has learned that Clear Channel, the company who owns the radio station carrying the Troy Neff show, has discontinued his radio show effective immediately. We are told it is due to an internal dispute between Neff and Clear Channel administrators.

OMW has not heard what prompted Clear Channel to cancel the show, either officially or via rumor.

We're wondering (and only wondering, at this point) if Neff's own description of the events on Holiday Lane near U.S. 20 didn't sit well with them.

You can hear his comments for yourself, as video of Neff's unedited interview with WTOL is at the link above.

On his own site, Neff has also helpfully posted audio of his call (MP3 link) into substitute host (and Free Press editor-in-chief) Michael S. Miller this morning on WCWA - on what no one knew at the time would be the last "Troy Neff Show" on the station.

By the way, in case Neff was talking about us in the interview, we did not actually report that the "road rage" incident happened or even started on I-75. We brought up the location of Neff's office near the I-75 interchange because we were wondering what a driver from out-of-state would be doing in that area.

As it turns out, the man suspected of stabbing Neff was apparently staying at a nearby Holiday Inn Express, as the street's name would suggest.

There's no word right now what'll run on WCWA on Friday morning, but we're guessing for the moment that they'll just clear FOX Sports Radio in the 6-10 AM slot.

Anyway, just to clarify in case Neff is reading again, we are not saying that his public interviews caused Clear Channel to pull the show. We don't know why they did.

But we do know that Neff's 6-10 AM morning show has been a brokered show, which means Neff paid Clear Channel for the airtime - in some form. We don't know if he paid directly to clear the hours, or if it's some sort of advertising deal involving his financial planning business.

But whatever Clear Channel got, financially, out of Neff...they felt the need to cancel the arrangement. In this economy. Where radio stations across the country are all but turning over couch cushions in the station lobby, hoping to find a few quarters that fell out of someone's pocket...