Thursday, January 15, 2009

Assorted Thursday

Welcome to our Thursday random scattering of items...we'll try to make sure none of the scatter hits our readers directly!

We don't want to injure anyone...

GANNETT FURLOUGH: Media giant Gannett is forcing workers to take an unpaid week off, a move the company says is meant to reduce layoffs in this troubled economic world for the media.

We first saw the item in a wire story posted on Frank Macek's "Director's Cut" blog for his employer, Gannett's NBC affiliate in Cleveland, WKYC/3.

But the Associated Press item Frank cited makes it sound like only Gannett's newspapers (including the Cincinnati Enquirer) are affected. Blame the AP, we'd wouldn't be the first time they wrote a media story that's newspaper-centric.

Unfortunately, it'll also affect WKYC's employees and the rest of Gannett's TV empire.

That's according to a Gannett memo from company CEO Craig Dubow leaked to the "Gannett Blog", a non-company effort run by former 20 year Gannett employee Jim Hopkins:

Today Gannett is implementing a furlough program across all U.S. divisions and at Corporate headquarters. This means that most of our U.S. employees -- including myself and all other top executives -- will be furloughed for the equivalent of one week in the first quarter. This furlough will be unpaid. Unions also will be asked to participate.

The bold print is ours, and this Gannett FAQ about the furlough program (also from Hopkins' blog) confirms further:

Q. Is everyone going to participate?

A. All levels of employees in all divisions in the U.S. and the corporate staff will participate to some degree, depending on a variety of factors. That includes U.S. Community Publishing, which is beginning its program immediately; USA Today, broadcast and digital. Union-represented employees will be asked to participate in lieu of layoffs. Top executives in the company are participating. Newsquest is taking other expense reduction measures at this time.

From Dubow's memo:

After much consideration, we decided a furlough program would be the fairest and least intrusive way to meet these fiscal challenges in the first quarter, which is traditionally the lightest time of the year. We sincerely hope this minimizes the need for any layoffs going forward.

But no one is guaranteeing that future layoffs won't happen...the media industry faltering even more than the general worldwide economy, it's almost a certainty at nearly all media operations, as we've seen here in Northeast Ohio over the past few months.

For the moment, WKYC's Scripps-owned ABC competitor WEWS/5 seems to be holding off without major staff reductions, a decision we hear was made at the company's corporate level. For now...

SPEAKING OF NEWSCHANNEL 5: We're hearing that WEWS is continuing to bolster its remote delivery of live HD news video.

OMW hears that the station is about to complete the project it started a while ago: upgrading all of its remote trucks and links to handle digital video in HDTV format - including a link between Akron and Cleveland.

As far as we know, "NewsChannel 5" is the only local news operation doing reporter live shots in HD (give or take Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 "FOX 8"'s "SkyFOX HD", assuming it's still flying). But we do hear the digital links - in standard definition for now - are being used at other stations in the Cleveland TV market after that Nextel 2 gHz conversion.

Oh, in addition to their existing live HD camera shots from Progressive Field, WKYC recently added an HD "skycam" at Cleveland State University. We saw its debut a few days ago...

We said "assuming it's still flying" there about "SkyFOX HD" because OMW hears that at least two local stations are grounding their helicopters due to the economy...

SPEAKING OF THE ECONOMY: OMW hears that the exit of long-time newsman Larry Wright from Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting talk WEOL/930 Elyria on Friday is not the only cutback driven by the faltering economy.

We're told that three of the company's employees have been reduced from full-time status to part-time status - morning drive host Les Sekely, operations manager/news director Craig Adams and reporter Colleen O'Neill.

We're not sure we track with the idea of a part-time operations manager/news director, even with programming/assistant operations manager Bruce Van Dyke still in the building. The job would seem to involve full-time work or beyond by its very definition...

INAUGURATION: You should have no problem finding media coverage of next week's Big Event, the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.

Not only are the major broadcast and cable news networks planning wall-to-wall coverage and then some, even cable networks with no news presence are joining in. The historic nature of this year's inauguration has prompted cable networks like BET and TV One, which primarily serve African-American audiences, to pull out all the stops on January 20th.

The folks at HBO are also big Inauguration Week players.

The premium cable and satellite channel will be the exclusive home of “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration,” the opening event for the 56th Presidential Inaugural. HBO will air the special Sunday, January 18th at 7 PM, and will open the broadcast to all cable and satellite subscribers for free. Quoting a press release:

The Opening Celebration will be a marquee event, featuring some of the biggest acts in the world of entertainment to celebrate our common heritage and our new direction. President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden will attend the event, which will be free and open to the public.

Time Warner Cable, the dominant provider here in Northeast Ohio, will go one step further.

TWC says it'll simulcast the HBO event down into analog cable land...where the network hasn't been available for some time in any form, even if you pay for it.

The HBO special will air on the company's Northeast Ohio systems on cable channel 23, the home of the TWC "Northeast Ohio Network" (NEON) local programming channel.

A Time Warner press release says the HBO event will air on the Northwest Ohio and Mid-Ohio systems on cable channel 24, and on cable channel 99 in Southwest Ohio...

CLEANING UP: And a reminder and an update from previous items.

Don't forget that tonight will see Ohio's second digital TV "soft test", where nearly all of the state's analog full-power stations will interrupt programming for five minutes starting at 7:30ish - telling those viewers that they need to upgrade to digital before February 17th.

Or, before whenever Congress figures out a new date. (At this writing, as near as we can tell, the date is still February 17th, though there are various efforts to change it.)

Sitting out the test will be Western Reserve PBS' WNEO/45-WEAO/49. Or maybe they aren't... because analog channel 45 has been off the air for good since could consider that a contribution to the "test", since you won't get regular analog programming on analog 45 before, during or after tonight's coordinated event.

And an update - the OMW reader claiming to be Beacon Broadcasting's Gregg Allen has checked in on our previous report about the company's new Christian contemporary music outlet, WRTK/1540 Niles.

Not Mineral Ridge...Niles...even if you have to plug in "Mineral Ridge" on a GPS if you want to drive to the transmitter site.

The (apparent) WRTK morning man writes:

Thank you for the correction! Noted on the Legal.

We'll be listening, Gregg...thanks to your handy streaming audio.

UPDATE 1/15/09 12:01 PM: And indeed, the legal ID correction has been made.

Anything we can do to help small radio operations avoid massive FCC fines for something that can be easily corrected...though WRTK's bigger FCC problem may be the fact that the station has occasionally broadcast well past its daytime hours, even well into the overnight hours into the next day.

An OMW reader pointed that out to us - saying it happened over a two day period near the end of December.

But your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) happened to be in the region then, and also heard WRTK pumping out the Christmas music at about 7:15 PM on one of those nights. We'll make the assumption here that the post-sunset broadcasting didn't continue past December 29th or so.

We also don't know if the station has a post-sunset authority or not. If not, it shouldn't be broadcasting until 6 PM in January, but 5:15 PM, according to the FCC's approximate sunset times for the WRTK facility.

Even with a post-sunset authority, the station shouldn't be on the air in any form as late as 7 PM at this time of year.

We'll give the WRTK folks a break on that, because we know that finding those post-sunset authorizations on the FCC's website is quite difficult. We still can't find the one for Good Karma sports WWGK/1540 Cleveland, and that authority was confirmed to us by the station's engineer in its WABQ days, the late Chris Quinn...


Anonymous said...

That would mean that Bruce Van Dyke is the ONLY full-time employee at WEOL now. And besides Craig and Colleen, part-timer Jared Kozar make up the news department now. And that's assuming that they are still offering Saturday newscasts.

Moreover, ALL newscasts outside of Les' show are VT'ed by Craig, reduced to two minutes once an hour, with clearances of the full ABC-E cast following.

And they still haven't named a replacement to Tim "Kelly" Parkinson as OM to the ELBC stations, either.

This is not good. Ol' 930 is having some 60th birthday.

- Nathan Obral

Anonymous said...

I'd be remiss not to mention the fact that Elyria-Lorain is a corporate cousin to Lorain County Printing & Publishing, owners of The Elyria Chronicle-Telegram.

Given that Lorain County is a two-newspaper county (!), and the serious financial woes involving The Lorain Morning Journal's owners (the badly troubled Journal-Register, which has come close to closing several papers in their chain), it isn't that hard to figure out here:

Can Lorain County still support two newspapers? Or even one? I don't even know now... and that's even without taking into consideration the economic a-bombs that Lorain and Elyria have faced (Ford, Republic Steel).

And obviously, if the Chronicle is hurting, then Elyria-Lorain has to be hurting.

Anonymous said...

Correction: Jared Kozar is a full time employee...

Christina Stamos said...

Correction: Jared Kozar is a full time employee