Tuesday, March 31, 2009

First TWC Northeast Ohio HDTV Wave

As noted in our Twitter update, it does appear that Time Warner Cable's Northeast Ohio division has rolled out the first wave of its coming HD channel lineup expansion.

We aren't near the OMW World Headquarters and our own TWC installation, or we'd verify it for ourselves.

Anyway, since we've already written about this extensively, with the help of TWC NEO executive Bill Jasso, we'll just put up the company's press release in this space...with thanks to the company's Travis Reynolds...


Time Warner Cable Kicks Off High Definition Launch Campaign

Over 30 HD Channels Added In Next Five Months

Akron, OH (MARCH 2009) – Beginning today, Time Warner Cable will rollout five new high definition channels per month. The channels launching today are:

* Palladia HD, channel 469
* Discovery Channel HD, channel 449
* USA HD, channel 443
* SCI FI HD, channel 476
* Disney HD, channel 456

“Time Warner Cable is an industry leader and committed to delivering more high definition offerings for our customers to enjoy,” said Steve Fry, Time Warner Cable Northeast Ohio Division President.

Palladia HD, channel 469, is a music-centric high definition television channel featuring music programming from MTV, VH1 and CMT. Palladia features concert series, events, and original Palladia productions including: VH1 Storytellers, CMT Crossroads, MTV2's $2 Bill, MTV Video Music Awards, VH1 Hip Hop Honors and CMT Music Awards. Original programming includes a weekly music video countdown show, artist interviews, backstage extras and a concert series.

Discovery Channel HD, channel 449, is dedicated to creating the highest quality non-fiction content that informs and entertains its consumers about the world in all its wonder, diversity and amazement. The network offers a signature mix of compelling, high-end production values and vivid cinematography across genres, including science and technology, exploration, adventure, history and in-depth, behind-the-scenes glimpses at the people, places and organizations that shape and share our world.

USA HD, channel 443, is a leading provider of original series and feature movies, sports and entertainment events, off-net television shows and blockbuster theatrical films.

SCI FI HD, channel 476, is a television network where "what if" is what's on. SCI FI fuels the imagination of viewers with original series and events, blockbuster movies and classic science fiction and fantasy programming.

Disney HD, channel 456, is a 24-hour kid-driven, family inclusive television network that taps into the world of kids and families through original series and movies.

More channel additions will be announced as they become available each month. By the end of July, Time Warner Cable customers will have over 30 new HD channels and more than 60 total. Additional HD channels will continue to be added through the end of the year.

Tuesday: Columbus And Beyond

UPDATE 3/31/09 7:25 PM: We have properly attributed the last item in this scroll to long-time Cleveland radio voice Ted Lux. Thanks, Ted! We're proud to call you a Friend of OMW...


It's pretty quiet on the radio/TV front in our home base area of Northeast Ohio, but there are plenty of items from Central Ohio. And...maybe one or two with a Cleveland-area link.

As per usual, we'll mark the sub-items with a bold-print headline, so you can quickly scroll past the stuff you don't want to read about...

ANOTHER ANALOG BITES THE DUST: With new FCC rules allowing public TV outlets to turn off analog transmitters with little fuss, another Ohio station has done so.

According to the station's website, THE Ohio State University's WOSU/34 Columbus, and sister WPBO/42 Portsmouth, powered down analog transmitters at 7 AM this morning, March 31.

Quoting a station DTV news page:

A new ruling announced by the FCC has given public television stations an opportunity to shutdown their analog signals between March 27 and March 31. Given this ruling, WOSU has shut down its analog transmitters for WOSU Columbus and WPBO Portsmouth on March 31st at 7am. WOSU analog will have been on the air for slightly over 53 years.

WOSU's Tom Rieland continues:

There are a number of factors that have led to this decision. Certainly, one is that in shutting down at the end of the month in lieu of June 12th, WOSU will save about $26,000 in utility bills at a time when that savings is critical to our budget.

However, that’s not the only consideration. Through Nielson numbers, we have seen a dramatic drop in the number of “unready” households in the Columbus market (those over-the-air viewers with analog sets without a converter box). With the Fox affiliate going off analog in February, many have gotten the message.

Also, by going off now, we are able to begin the process of taking the analog equipment off the tower, allowing us to maximize our digital over-the-air signal, which is now at half power. As more folks are tuning in through digital converter boxes or digital televisions, its critical for us to be at full power.

This is as good a time as any to remind readers that we're about to launch a sister blog that'll handle the "heavy lifting" of reporting about the digital TV transition.

Yes, we know some of you run screaming into the night when we spend too much time getting into the minutae of digital TV...so most of it will move to a new location starting tomorrow. We'll still link the items here, and provide a brief summary...so you don't have to separately check the other blog...

ON THE COMMERCIAL SIDE: TV/newspaper group Media General has brought out the job cut axe again, and we're not even sure that we're shocked by the numbers anymore.

Broadcasting and Cable reports:

The company has eliminated 130 positions. A reported 25-plus were cut at WNCN Raleigh, a dozen more at WJAR Providence, and 53 were laid off at Media General's TV-newspaper collective in Tampa, known as the Florida Communications Group, which also eliminated another 12 positions.

The layoffs are across all departments and "nearly all" stations, says a spokesperson.

Media General owns Columbus NBC affiliate WCMH/4, and we haven't yet uncovered news of layoffs at "NBC4".

But we uncovered this unrelated story on the station's website, with a headline that looked odd to us considering the information we were seeking: "Your Money: NBC 4 Helps You Connect To Jobs".

As of yet, we don't know if that would become useful to...former employees of WCMH...to "connect" THEM to new jobs...

ONE MORE COLUMBUS ITEM: Christian Voice of Central Ohio Christian AC WCVO/104.9 passes along word of its recent fundraising:

Central Ohio responded to keep (WCVO) 104.9 the River fully funded for the next six months during the radio station’s Spring 2009 Fundraiser. Over 2,400 donations were made during the week of March 23rd causing the on-air fundraiser to end six and a half hours early.

104.9 the River’s Program Director, Todd Stach says, “We really tried to be less planned and more focused on God being in control. It was a refreshing surprise that God chose to provide like He did in the midst of this economy.”

We're wondering how this affects, if it does, the still-pending CVCO purchase of Salem Christian teaching/talk WRFD/880 in the Columbus market...like sister WHKW/1220 here, known as "The Word". We'll have to drop Todd a reply and ask...

AND CLEVELAND: And beyond, due to the signal reach of Clear Channel talk blowtorch WTAM/1100 in Cleveland.

We mentioned Monday that some of WTAM's distant listeners in some of those "38 states and half of Canada" are having a tougher time picking up the Cleveland talker, because Fargo ND market talker WZFG/1100 Dilworth MN "The Flag" has been operating at full daytime power at night due to the flooding emergency situation in North Dakota.

Yes, the FCC does allow that operation in such situations - though as we recall, stations taking advantage of the provision do have to go non-commercial during those extended hours.

Long-time colleague and Friend of OMW Scott Fybush passes along word from WZFG's chief engineer Jim Offerdahl, who tells an online DXers list that the station known as "The Flag" has been mostly running at 25,000 watts, with occasional use of full 50,000 watts of power:

WZFG is operating at 25KW ND ch/nightime as of 3/27/09. 3/28/09 was at 50kw ND. Operating under FCC Rules Part 73 section 1250. Will continue at 25kw as long as broadcasting under emergency conditions. Probably 5 to 7 days. May go back to 50kw if there are any new major flood related emergencies.

As we mentioned Monday, WZFG's night power level is usually 440 watts.

OMW readers tell us that WTAM nighttime host Bob Frantz has been mentioning the situation and telling listeners about potential skywave interference, and that he's offered his thoughts and prayers to those affected by the flooding in North Dakota...

FITZ AWARD WINNER: A Friend of OMW - Cleveland radio veteran Ted Lux - passes this piece of local media union news along to us...and wrote it so well, we'll put it up as is:

On Monday night, retired longtime WKYC reporter Joe Mossbrook was presented with AFTRA's "Fitz Award."

The award, named after one time Channel 8 sports director, John FitzGerald ,was presented by Channel 3's Tom Beres, the Channel 3 AFTRA shop steward and an AFTRA Local board member. FitzGerald himself participated in the presentation and reported on the union's health and retirement fund. FitzGerald has been a trustee of the fund for years.

Joe has been active in local AFTRA for more than 30 years serving as the current President and former vice president.

And yes, that great set of pipes is still intact...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday's Delayed

We're a bit on the late side for your usual Monday morning update, as we've been spending time struggling with local Internet issues.

As we were preparing to make another trek to a Wifi hotspot, our service returned...

PD ON THE DEFENSE: In the today's troubled world of newspapers, those publications are turning to a tried, tested defense..."The rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated".

That's pretty much it in a nutshell for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which is putting out all the stops after that now-infamous online list of "10 Troubled Newspapers", mistakenly attributed to Time Magazine due to its presence on that magazine's website.

The paper has taken a two-pronged approach in the past few days.

First, on Friday, PD editor Susan Goldberg did a live interview on Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3's 7 PM news, with anchors Eric Mansfield and Carole Sullivan. (Sullivan, of course, is packing up her house and heading to San Diego, but will co-anchor the 7 PM "Channel 3 News" with Mansfield until this coming Friday.)

WKYC Director's Cut blogger and senior director Frank Macek provides a link to the full video of the interview at his site.

And as noted on the item, Goldberg "(puts) rumors to rest the Plain Dealer would not continue publishing 7 days a week, could close down, or might move on-line only as other papers have done recently."

The second prong in the PD's approach was a column on Sunday by reader representative Ted Diadiun. As his boss did Friday on WKYC, he talked about the very important journalistic light the newspaper shed upon two vital issues in Cuyahoga County in the past week, involving the proposed Medical Mart project, and now-former Cuyahoga County sheriff Gerald McFaul...who resigned that post "for health reasons" last week under the cloud of an investigation.

Diadiun asks:

Echoing (PD publisher) Egger: Who else would have the staff, expertise or resources to do that reporting? What radio talk show host, television reporter or blogger could have given citizens that information, and made it stick?

Speaking as a blogger here..."not us". We never claimed to be investigative reporters here, though we have actually broken some minor broadcast (and even print) stories.

But aside from an occasional story broken by local TV investigative reporters, very few outlets have the resources to handle "the big stories" that need more than just surface reporting.

And in her interview with WKYC, Goldberg noted the confusion that came with the "10 Endangered Newspapers" story...as it (apparently automatically) appeared on Time Magazine's site, lending it more credibility.

For now, Plain Dealer management continues to insist that a move to limited print publication, or online only publication, is not in the cards...well, at least in the cards that the PD holds in its hands right now...

ELVIS EXPANDS HIS BUILDINGS: New York-based top 40 morning radio star Elvis Duran is going syndicated. Well, more so.

Duran's show has been added to the syndication roster of Clear Channel's Premiere Radio arm, where it will be offered coast to coast.

Of course, Clear Channel also owns Duran flagship WHTZ "Z100", the top-rated New York City powerhouse now under competitive attack by CBS Radio's new "Now FM" (WXRK/92.3). And here in Northeast Ohio, Clear Channel owns Duran's Cleveland market affiliate WAKS/96.5 "Kiss FM".

Of course, "Elvis Duran and the Morning Show" has also been heard in markets like Philadelphia and Miami, with WAKS as his most recent addition.

But it's been an internal syndication within Clear Channel, and the move to Premiere will allow Duran and his crew to expand his base nationwide on many other stations owned by all companies...

HELLO, FARGO: The North Dakota city of Fargo is basically, at last check, holding its collective breath...as the flooded Red River has risen to record levels.

Though the river reportedly crested below levels that had been expected over the weekend, it's still running quite high, and there are concerns that a coming storm could bring winds that could cause levee breaks and flooding problems.

Throughout it all, radio has shined in Fargo, with no fewer than three competitive commercial radio news/talk operations going full-tilt providing residents with vital flood related information 24 hours a day.

Along with KFGO, the former Clear Channel operation that itself is actually behind sandbags, and WDAY, the local news/talker owned by the "Forum" newspaper, there's a third AM station in Fargo that's devoting its efforts to covering the flood threat full time.

It's "The Flag", known legally to the FCC as WZFG/1100 Dilworth MN (Dilworth is an eastern Fargo suburb). The station is owned by former WDAY general manager Scott Hennen, a talk show host who has occasionally been heard subbing for national talk radio personalities.

Aside from noting the excellent job of community service provided by the three stations in a true time of crisis (we've dipped into streaming audio a few times to listen), there's one other reason we mention it here...look at that frequency occupied by "The Flag".

WZFG indeed sits on 1100, the same frequency covered in "38 states and half of Canada" by Clear Channel talk WTAM here in Cleveland.

And normally, it puts out just 440 watts of power at night, aimed away from Cleveland (and San Francisco, where religious KFAX occupies that frequency).

But taking advantage of FCC rules, WZFG has been operating with as much as its full 50,000 watts of daytime power into the overnight hours. The FCC allows stations in emergency situations to maintain daytime power levels, and the situation facing Fargo would certainly qualify.

Though the WZFG signal is obviously not making it anywhere near Northeast Ohio, we've heard that some folks to the west are now getting a mix of WFZG and WTAM via skywave propogation.

OMW hears that KFGO/790 is also operating at night with daytime power levels, which has put it on some radios far to the east.

Our hats off to all the radio (and TV) people in Fargo for their community service, and our thoughts to all of the people in North Dakota... and here's hoping that any flooding problems as the Red River goes down will be minor...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

WKYC Tower: Up It Goes

LIVE FROM SEVEN HILLS/PARMA, OHIO -- OMW is on the road this Sunday evening, and yes, we found our way to the WKYC/3 transmitter site on Broadview Road in Parma.

And yes, Virginia, there is a tower Santa Claus. (No, we're not sure that works in late March.)

Your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) braved the soggy, windy weather this evening to snap this first shot of the under construction tower that will hold the new digital antennas for WKYC, and for ideastream PBS affiliate WVIZ/25.

(Our apologies for the quality of the photo, but it's not exactly perfect weather for outdoor photography of any sort... or that matter, for holding a small umbrella in the wind.)

No, we didn't enlist the help of one of our new friends along the Parma residential street next to the WKYC transmitter site to post this from the area nearby.

The "Seven Hills" part of our dateline is because we're using the free Wifi facilities of a certain national chain eatery...with a location just down Broadview Road from the WKYC site, on the Seven Hills side of the Seven Hills/Parma line.

We're warm, indoors and having dinner.

You can almost see the newly rising tower from this far away. It is being built directly adjacent to the existing WKYC/3 analog tower.

Closer to the site, here's more construction evidence...a much larger crane appears ready to hoist the next tower segment aloft.

There's more to tower construction than meets the eye, as our long-time friend and colleague Scott Fybush at NorthEast Radio Watch can certainly tell you.

But for the first time, the new WKYC/WVIZ tower seems, well, real to us...and not just some planned structure that might be built sometime down the road...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday Grab Bag

Yes, we're adding a Saturday update here at the Mighty Blog...mostly because Friday got away with us...

TOWER RISING: We've visited the transmitter site of Cleveland Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 so often, the site's neighbors living along a nearby Parma street are starting to recognize the OMW Mobile on sight.

We've made fast friends with a couple of 'em, and as a result, we're now hearing that WKYC's long-delayed tower is finally starting to go up - as of Friday. (As it turns out, if you live on a street that borders a TV station's transmission towers, you pay a lot of attention to what's going on in your backyard.)

Somewhere between now and Sunday evening, we're likely to be in the neighborhood. (Maybe one of the neighbors will invite us in for lunch!)

We'll try to take more pictures if there is significant photographic evidence of a rising tower, and then, assuming the weather holds, it'll take about four to six weeks to fully raise the new WKYC/WVIZ tower.

That would still give the folks at 13th and Lakeside - and at the ideastream headquarters in Playhouse Square - some breathing room to do testing before the digital TV transition...currently set for (let's see here, yes) June 12...

SPEAKING OF 13TH AND LAKESIDE: A story that as far as we know did NOT get told on WKYC's "Channel 3 News" itself affected a lot of people in the building this past week.

But we didn't know about it until we stumbled onto WKYC night assignment editor Danielle Fink's "Swing By And Spray" blog.

Fink is usually directing reporters and camera crews to stories, among them major accidents that cause headaches for motorists on the Shoreway or the Innerbelt. This accident caused major headaches...for WKYC night assignment editor Danielle Fink. We'll pick up her narration:

I am minding my own business doing my thing, getting ready for yet another web chat during the 7pm news when my cameraman Craig comes flying into the newsroom toward me. He's speaking a mile a minute and says 'there's been an accident in the garage and your car was hit.' He then flies back through the full length of the newsroom and down the stairs to the parking garage.

And what happened? Here's Ms. Fink again, from her blog:

What I was told: an SUV being driven by a man professing to Cleveland Police officers that he was under the influence of 'something' had driven erratically down the hill leading to the Channel 3 Parking Garage, had entered the parking garage, hopped the curb missing numerous other vehicles and numerous concrete barriers and had struck my vehicle smack dab in the center of the driver's side door....which in turn pushed my vehicle into Carole Sullivan's. It appears Carole's car sustained slight damage/scratches /pings.

My car, on the other hand, was t-boned between a concrete barrier and the SUV and was not drivable.

We're not surprised that Danielle is still freaked out about it. She's still in the early stages of dealing with insurance companies and trying to figure out what can be done with her car...which was basically destroyed while parked in a theoretically secure underground parking lot.

And Danielle? We don't have the money to buy a new car, either...so we sympathize with you more than most...

THIS IS STILL NOT HERE: Nope, at last check, Raycom Media MyNetwork TV affiliate WUAB/43 hasn't lit up its DT 43.2 channel with MGM's "This TV", a subchannel that will deliver second-tier catalog MGM movies and other programming to digital TV (and presumably digital cable) viewers starting on April 1.

That doesn't mean that our readers aren't still keeping track.

We hear that "This TV" has started populating its programming guide information with schedules, and that after all this time, 43.2 is no longer listed as "Tube"...it, too, shows up as "THIS TV" on digital tuners and converter boxes.

All this for a channel that we're pretty sure we're not going to watch to any degree.

Like some of our other readers, we do hope that someone in the Cleveland TV market picks up Retro Television Network (RTN), with what we consider to be a more appealing mix of classic sitcoms and dramas.

So far, the chances of that happening appear to be remote...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gazette Consolidation Response

Our earlier item on the conslidation between the co-owned Medina County Gazette and the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram got a lot of response.

But we've now received a "letter to the editor" from Chronicle-Telegram managing editor Julie Wallace, and we've given her the opportunity to respond directly in a new item...


I would like to comment on the merger of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram and the Medina Gazette.

Earlier this month, we – as in, Lorain County Printing and Publishing Co., the parent of both papers -- moved production of The Gazette to the Elyria location. That means copy editors for the news and sports side as well as production for other departments – advertising and classified – moved, too. We did not move the reporters out of Medina – that truly would have been silly. And Liz Sheaffer, the managing editor at The Gazette, still is in Medina to guide them.

We did all this with a reason that should be clear to anyone in our industry: to save money.

Given the state of our economy, and the even worse state of our industry overall, we’d be crazy to continue to operate the papers independent of one another as has been the case since the Hudnutt family bought The Gazette in 1964. We wanted to find ways to save money so we could continue to provide our readers with what they’ve become accustomed – insightful stories by award-winning sports writers, hard-hitting news stories by writers who know the area and top-notch photography. For fairly small papers, we’ve got pretty tremendous staffs, and we’re proud of them both.

We definitely don’t want either paper to go away or their independent identities, either. In fact, we want to find a way to strengthen both papers and emerge even stronger when this terrible period in our industry comes to an end.

I guess what bothers me about what has been said in some of the comments is that they imply Elyria is running the show for The Gazette. That’s not the case. The Medina professionals who moved to the Elyria locale are laying out the paper (albeit with a Chronicle designer doing or directing Page 1 layout, which admittedly looks different than it used to) and Liz Sheaffer continues to decide what stories will be written and where they’ll appear in the paper. She was making those decisions before, and she’s still making them.

Yes, an Elyria story did appear in one paper, but that was only because a family member involved in the story was from Medina County, and that happened to be the day of the switchover, which obviously created some upheaval and doesn’t constitute a normal day by anybody’s definition.

Lighting It Up For Thursday

Combing through our list of Thursday items...we'll find a common thread in here somewhere...

LIGHTING UP "THIS": Buried deep within the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Cleveland.com, hidden under those annoying rollover ads, and probably in small print in the Dead Trees edition of the PD, is a note that Raycom Media MyNetwork TV affiliate WUAB/43 "My 43" will finally launch the "This TV" subchannel soon.

We uncovered this item published Wednesday:

This TV, a new classic-movie channel, will launch on WUAB Channel 43 on Wednesday, April 1. Raycom Media is partnering with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studio Inc. (MGM) to roll out the network, according to a release. This TV will tap into MGM's library of film and television programming resources.

OMW and our readers noticed some time ago that WUAB put up a "This TV" ID slide on its digital subchannel 43.2, where "This" will live in Cleveland.

There's a little more information from an article written for the trade website TVNewsday, which also quotes a certain WOIO/WUAB executive:

"This partnership with MGM is an exciting venture for us," said Vice President and General Manager Bill Applegate of Raycom properties WOIO and WUAB TV. "Our viewers will reap the benefit of having another television station on the dial with material from the world's largest film and television library."

Both items mention that Raycom is in talks with local cable operators to bring "This TV" to life on cable lineups. We've long speculated that the channel will likely return to the digital cable universe occupied by WOIO's "WeatherNow", and take up similar space formerly occupied by WUAB music video subchannel "The Tube" somewhere in the 300s on Time Warner Cable's local digital lineup...

HIGH DEFINITION HOOPS: It's a big weekend for Ohio high school basketball, as all four state divisions will see the final round of boys' basketball playoffs.

And with news that SportsTime Ohio will dedicate its Saturday - starting at 10:30 AM - to live, high-definition telecasts of all four state championship games, comes a resurfacing. From an STO press release which landed in the OMW mailbox:

Mike Cairns, Brad Sellers, Al Pawlowski, Tony White, Andre Knott, and Pat Vuyanich will all be involved providing play-by-play, color commentary, and sideline reports.

In addition, Sue Ann Robak, Dave Wojciechowski and Jim Isabella, the ‘Principal of High School Sports’ will be in the STO studio providing updates and halftime programming. Prior to the Div. I Championship at 8:00pm, Robak and company will recap the previous three championships and preview the Division I match-up.

We actually missed this the first time we read the release - yes, that's now-former WEWS/5 "NewsChannel 5" sports reporter/anchor Sue Ann Robak making at least a one-day return to the Cleveland TV sports scene.

We'll have to check in with the SportsTime Ohio folks to see if Robak has any more planned work on the channel.

STO has employed many former over-air sports reporters in the Cleveland market, and even bought shows produced by one of Robak's now-former co-workers, current "NewsChannel 5" sports director Andy Baskin.

(Who, we're suspecting, really misses Robak's help after her contract wasn't renewed at 3001 Euclid. With the Cavaliers driving towards a hopeful championship, and the Indians about to break camp out of Goodyear AZ, the sports department there has only Baskin, and sports reporter Terry Brooks, to handle it all...)

Speaking of the high school basketball playoffs, it turns out that Rubber City Radio news/oldies WAKR/1590 Akron will be the sole radio home of the St. Vincent/St. Mary Fighting Irish team's playoff run.

The station carries the Fighting Irish state semi-final game on Friday at 2 PM, and will air the team's game on Championship Saturday if the Fighiting Irish win their Friday contest.

That Saturday game, if St. V's gets past Columbus St. Francis DeSales, would be at 5:15 PM...

AND SPEAKING OF WEST MARKET STREET: While fishing through the aforementioned TVNewsday site to find the article about WUAB's carriage of "This TV", we couldn't help but notice the face of a local radio executive adorning the top of the site's main page.

That's where you'll find a link to TVNewsday chief Harry Jessell's interview with Radio Television News Directors Association chairman Ed Esposito, known to mere mortals here in Northeast Ohio as VP/information media for Akron's Rubber City Radio. (And, an avid OMW reader, as we know him here.)

The news trade association won't be replacing Akron native Barbara Cochran when she steps down as president in June, so Esposito will be front and center dealing with a number of RTNDA issues, including embracing the digital world - from its own communications and operations, to the expanding world of online news delivery.

At the Akron Radio Center, Esposito has a front row seat to that new world...with Rubber City's existing and extensive news website AkronNewsNow.com, and the newest addition on West Market, the 24/7 streaming audio news feed dubbed "WAKRNewsNow".

Jessell's article points out that under Esposito's direction, that the RTNDA is moving towards becoming the RTDNA - which stands for the "Radio Television Digital News Association".

And like the stations operated by the group's members, the RTNDA is also dealing with lower budgets...with Esposito noting that digital technology is helping the association save money for both it and for members.

RTNDA is ending the print "Communicator" in favor of online communications, and is using digital delivery to facilitate lower-cost participation in the Edward R. Murrow Awards...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

THIS JUST IN: Monica Robins Takes WKYC 7 PM Co-Anchor Slot

This one was just posted by WKYC/3 "Director's Cut" blogger Frank Macek:

The Cleveland NBC affiliate is tapping "Channel 3 News" health reporter Monica Robins as the new co-anchor of the station's 7 PM newscast. Robins will join incumbent 7 PM anchor Eric Mansfield.

The opening is due to the exit of current 7 PM co-anchor Carole Sullivan. As expected, she'll be leaving Cleveland to follow her husband Mike to San Diego, where he's joining the coaching staff of the NFL's San Diego Chargers. The couple had returned to Cleveland earlier, after Mike Sullivan took a job on the Browns' coaching staff.

The "Director's Cut" blog reports that Sullivan's last day alongside Eric Mansfield is April 3rd, and Robins starts on the 7 PM show the following Monday, April 6th.

The article says Robins is expected to continue not only doing health-related reporting for WKYC, but also as anchor of the station's noon news show.

The 7 PM edition of "Channel 3 News" is the only WKYC evening newscast with two primary anchors...as Romona Robinson has been solo-anchoring the 6 PM and 11 PM shows since the departure of former co-anchor Tim White...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuesday's Full Basket

It's a pretty random, but important, collection of items in our basket on Tuesday morning...

OH, AND BY THE WAY, THE PD: The news of the impending end of another American newspaper had everyone buzzing Monday, including your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm).

Oh, by the way, employees of the Northeast Ohio sister paper of the Ann Arbor News took a budget hit Monday as well.

Shortly after we took ourselves out of the media news stream to attend to Real Life, the Cleveland Plain Dealer announced its own latest moves designed to save parent Advance Publications some money. Quoting the item posted by the PD's Michelle Jarboe:

The Plain Dealer will require non-union employees to take pay cuts and 10-day furloughs, in an attempt to cut costs but preserve jobs and continue to print seven days a week.

During meetings with employees Monday, Publisher and President Terrance C. Z. Egger announced that full-time, non-union employees must take 10 days of unpaid leave between April 20 and Oct. 4.

Full-time and part-time non-union employees will see their first $50,000 of pay cut by 8 percent and any additional pay reduced by 10 percent as of June 1.

The Monday article says about 370 employees will be affected by the furlough order, and 450 will be hit by the pay cuts. It also details other budget-related moves by Advance-owned papers elsewhere.

The pay cuts and furloughs mirror a trend that other big media companies have started. Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC/3 owner Gannett (a big newspaper owner) is one such company, as we've reported before.

We'll assume that at some point, the companies realize that you can't run a newspaper with a handful of people...so the only remaining choice is giving workers less money one way or the other. Or....well, you have to join the Rocky Mountain News, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and now the Ann Arbor News in basically throwing in the towel on daily newspapering.

And PD publisher Terrance Egger tells his paper that the Cleveland paper isn't headed in that direction:

Egger said The Plain Dealer is committed to protecting as many jobs as possible while curbing expenses. The company will continue to print a newspaper seven days a week, even as some other large newspapers reduce their printing schedules or switch to a Web-only product, he said.

"We want to be in it for the long haul," Egger told employees. "I don't see a way for all of us to get there without making some sacrifices."

But the short haul is looking awful for all newspapers, including the PD - which says it saw ad revenues fall "twice as much as expected" as it nears the end of 2009's first quarter.

The Plain Dealer may "want to be in it for the long haul", but is printing a newspaper seven days a week a viable model for anyone in 2009? The PD made money in 2008, Egger said, and hoped to make money in 2009...but that last piece of news makes that seem like a far off target.

We also got some comments on our "off the cuff" analysis of the Ann Arbor and Michigan situation vs. Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. One reader points out that Cleveland's most recent unemployment rate is more than Ann Arbor, which is traditionally more insulated economically due to the presence of the University of That Team Which Can't Beat Ohio State...er...Michigan.

Point well taken. It's also one reason Columbus hangs in there vs. Cleveland.

But the overall Michigan economy is awful. And those other Booth/Advance papers named are in that state's hardest hit markets - such as Flint, which has basically been falling apart economically since the 1980's.

What brought in "AnnArbor.com" as an option for Advance is likely that "college city" atmosphere...with the U of M influence making it a more connected, more intelligent city that would be a good laboratory for the Website Which Replaces Newspaper experiment...

IT'S BACK: A note in Monday's Inside Radio sent us scurrying to FCC records, and sure enough, Cleveland market top 40 outlet WAKS/96.5 "Kiss FM" is officially back in the Clear Channel fold again.

And all of this, without a single piece of equipment moving anywhere.

Of course, Clear Channel tabbed WAKS to the Aloha Station Trust in the process of its sale to two private equity firms. The sale triggered FCC local ownership guidelines, and at least technically revoked Clear Channel's grandfathered ability to operate stations like WAKS - which put the company over the ownership cap in the Cleveland market.

Ah, but since it's WAKS/*Akron*, Clear Channel was able to trigger a simple bit of shuffling that attributed 96.5, ownership limit wise, into the Akron Arbitron market. That allows the company to keep the station, and even allows it to continue operating it out of the Clear Channel Cleveland cluster on Oak Tree.

Again, without moving a single piece of equipment or changing studios...as "Kiss FM" never moved from Oak Tree, and was operated by Clear Channel even under the Aloha Trust ownership.

FCC records show the "reassignment" of WAKS to Clear Channel was approved a week ago, on March 17...

COX RADIO GOING PRIVATE: We hadn't mentioned that Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises is making a nearly $70 million bid to absorb its own Cox Radio division to make it private.

Cox, of course, was founded in Dayton, where it owns four radio stations - including the WHIO/1290-WHIO-FM/95.7 simulcast - and the Dayton Daily News...the first link in the Cox empire...

LOOKING FOR A MARKET MANAGER JOB?: We stumbled onto an ad placed in that same Monday edition of Inside Radio, with two Ohio Clear Channel clusters looking for a new leader:

Ashland/Mansfield dual market cluster - 6 FM-1 triplecast/2 AM
Lima/Marion dual market of 7FM/2 AM

Clear Channel Radio seeks experienced management professionals to assume the role of VP/Market Manager for each dual market. The ideal candidate should have previous market manager experience and a proven track record of ratings and revenue success. DOS’s and Operation Managers wanting career growth are encouraged to apply. Candidates should have a minimum of 5-7 years radio experience with a minimum of 2 years in management. College degree preferred.

We'll save her from spambots, but you can apply for this one by E-mailing one Melissa Burns at a standard Clear Channel address with a cover letter and resume. And, yes, "no phone calls, please!"...

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Harvey Menu Fills Up

AllAccess reports that ABC Radio Networks has announced some of the personalities available in the "menu" of commentators that will be offered to affiliates of Paul Harvey News.

The next up on the Not Replacing Paul Harvey List? Citadel/ABC Radio's own Roe Conn, the popular afternoon host on the company's Chicago talk station, WLS/890.

AllAccess quotes ABC Radio as saying the Roe Conn commentaries will be "one of the options available to our affiliates" to fill the time slots left behind by Harvey's death.

It looks like ABC/Citadel is still offering former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's "Huckabee Report" as the "primary option" for former Paul Harvey News affiliates.

That's an option that hasn't been appealing for Mr. Harvey's former stations in Northern Ohio, with oldies/news WAKR/1590 Akron and standards WNIO/1390 Youngstown already not picking up the Huckabee feature - even though it's a default on the former Paul Harvey News satellite feed channels.

And AllAccess reports that ABC Radio will offer "a package of news features" from the two men who temporarily filled in after Harvey's death, ABC News Radio veteran and KGO/San Francisco host Gil Gross and ABC News Radio Information Network morning anchor Doug Limerick.

As noted many times here, we have reason to believe that neither Gross, nor Limerick, were interested in "replacing" the legendary Paul Harvey on a permanent basis.

We'll assume these features, supposedly to be announced "in the near future", would take on different forms and would just be "one choice" for Harvey's affiliates looking to air similar programming...and the schedule for both men to do them would not be as extensive as even their own fill-in for Harvey was.

Maybe Gross and Limerick are more comfortable hosting just one regular segment among a menu of many others...

More Gannett Furloughs

This Monday is turning out to be full of bad news, unfortunately, and this one is on the economic side.

According to an internal memo obtained by the folks at the FishbowlDC blog, troubled media giant Gannett is turning to its employees for more unpaid time...saying the "unprecedented economic downturn" has forced it to make more "difficult decisions". Quoting:

One of those choices was between more layoffs or another round of furloughs. We chose, for most employees, a furlough program consisting of at least one week of unpaid leave to be taken in April, May or June.

The program will differ from the first quarter's in a couple of important ways:
The length of the furlough for employees will vary somewhat by division or location, depending on the division's operating needs and results.

Our higher salaried employees will be asked to make an additional sacrifice. This could be a second furlough week or a week's furlough plus a temporary salary reduction equivalent to one week's pay for the quarter, depending on the division and/or location.

Gannett, of course, owns Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC/3.

Check the memo for more details. We don't really have the heart this afternoon to regurgitate yet another piece of economic bad news in the media...

There Goes Another Newspaper

It seems like these days, we're passing along word of a newspaper dying about once every two days or so.

While this one isn't local, it has Northeast Ohio ties.

Readers won't be able to pick up the Ann Arbor News from newsstands or their doorsteps in that Michigan city after July, as the 174-year-old paper will (mostly) shut down its presses.

Echoing the now-dead Dead Trees edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Ann Arbor News owner Booth Newspapers will replace the paper with "a Web-based, media company called AnnArbor.com", according to publisher Laurel Champion in a story on the paper's current website.

Starting in July, the paper's newly-reminted website will, apparently, still manage to activate the presses for Thursday and Sunday print editions of "AnnArbor.com". Presumably, you can credit the traditional advertising supplements for that.

And things aren't much better at the Ann Arbor paper's sister Booth newspapers elsewhere in Michigan, according to this from the Bay City Times:

Beginning June 1, The Times, The Saginaw News and The Flint Journal will publish intensely local editions on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, which research shows are the highest readership days for newspapers.

Booth is not announcing how many jobs will be lost. though the Ann Arbor paper's publisher notes:

Champion, who will be executive vice president of AnnArbor.com, told News employees they can apply for positions with the new company, although job losses are inevitable.

"We have an extremely talented staff at The Ann Arbor News, and they have done a tremendous job through very difficult times," Champion said in a letter to readers. "There is nothing they did or didn't do that would have sustained our seven-day print business model."

And here's your Cleveland connection.

The Michigan-based Booth chain is actually an arm of Advance Publications, which - ta da! - owns the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

And a former PD executive, ex-chief marketing officer Matt Kraner, has been announced as the president and chief executive officer of AnnArbor.com.

You might recall that Advance threatened to shut down its Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger, until it got concessions from its employees.

And the Plain Dealer ended up on a controversial "10 endangered big city papers" list that got incorrectly attributed to Time Magazine, but was actually the product of the "247WallSt.com" website.

In that list, the author predicted that the Cleveland paper would close or go online-only by the end of 2010.

With PD owner Advance converting its Ann Arbor paper to a website, does that mean anything for the local paper's future?

We'd guess it isn't necessarily connected.

The Michigan announcements today mean Advance is indeed interested in trying to form a new model without newsprint, at least in some markets...though even the best online site is probably going to have a LOT fewer resources than a full-fledged paper that's sold to readers.

But for all the concern about Northern Ohio's economy, it's nearly vibrant compared to Michigan's economy.

he Flint/Saginaw/Bay City region, in particular, has been in a fast economic free fall since the late 1980's, when Michael Moore went after former General Motors CEO Roger Smith in "Roger and Me", and the current state of the reeling auto industry is making that worse.

So, we're still not on the "PD will fold or go online only next year" bandwagon.

But with newspapers continuing to die almost daily, and a poor overall economy...Big Print is going to have to figure out how, or if, it survives...

Some Other Monday Stuff

We were going to do our usual Monday "mix" item, but the previous entry got a bit larger than we expected.

So, here's the rest of the "mix"...

NEWS HITS HOME: We've noted a few occasions where a local news organization either becomes the story, or is directly affected by it.

Among other items: recently, Raycom Media CBS affiliate WOIO/19-MyNet affiliate WUAB/43 saw a high profile killing just across the street from their main entrance at Reserve Square in downtown Cleveland, at Perk Park. The same station was literally waterlogged a few months ago, due to a fire in an apartment in that high rise that sent water down into the Reserve Square basement housing the WOIO/WUAB operations.

But this item hits a local newsroom hard, and directly in the "heart".

On a typical day, word of a fully-involved house fire in Portage County's Randolph last week would have likely seen Record-Courier reporter Marci Piltz as one of the first on the scene. But in this case, she was literally first on the scene...as a victim.

The newspaper which employed Piltz reports that she - and a friend she was visiting at the Randolph home - were killed in that Thursday fire.

Newsrooms in the world of print media, especially, are having a hard enough time dealing with layoffs, consolidations and cutbacks. But one can only imagine the kind of emotional body blow they're dealing with in Ravenna.

Or, for that matter, at the ABC News Radio headquarters in New York City, where newsman George Weber will no longer be working...because he was found stabbed to death in his Brooklyn apartment over the weekend. (ABC News' radio arm, of course, also has been morning the death of commentator Paul Harvey.)

Our condolences to Marci Piltz's friends, family and Record-Courier colleagues...

NOT YET, BUT...: We continue to get questions about the status of the planned tower which will hold the new digital antenna for Cleveland Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3, and ideastream PBS affiliate WVIZ/25.

So late Sunday afternoon, we took another run to Parma, and to the Broadview Road transmitter location in question.

And there are signs of activity, though steel is not rising into the air, yet.

Since our last visit a few weeks ago, the tower sections we saw in front of the WKYC transmitter building have been moved.

They're still lying on the ground, but some have been moved to just behind the building, and others, back at the base of the WKYC radar tower (pictured here, from the public street that runs alongside the WKYC property).

You can also see what appears to be a small blue-colored crane-like device. We do mean "small" - there's no way this thing is getting the tower fully constructed. But...it's movement.

As the weather breaks, our guess is that construction on the new WKYC/WVIZ tower will begin in earnest sometime in the next couple of weeks...with the digital transition looming on June 12th.

To that effect, WKYC Director's Cut blogger Frank Macek notes the planned early sign-off of TBN O&O WDLI/17 Canton (April 16), and notes that indeed, it'll make life easier for WKYC-DT, which will camp out on digital RF channel 17:

...this extra time will allow us to do more testing and tweaking on our new channel prior to the actual transition date, once our new tower is constructed in Parma that will house both WKYC and WVIZ.

WKYC itself, along with all the major network affiliates in the Cleveland/Akron (Canton) TV market, still plans to keep its analog signal going until June 12. But the move likely means that it would (tower construction permitting) be able to show up with a full-power digital RF 17 signal on the transition date with less difficulty...

LARS: Westwood One parted company last week with syndicated evening talk host Lars Larson, but he's already landed with a new syndicator.

Larson will be heard starting next Monday via Compass Media Networks, a new company established by a former Westwood One executive.

Among Lars' reported 150 affiliates is talk WNIR/100.1 "The Talk of Akron". As with all of its syndicated programming, WNIR runs Lars Larson on delay in a weekend time slot (7-10 PM Saturday and Sunday), though he's occasionally heard live weekday evenings as the "fill-in" for local host Tom Erickson.

OMW hasn't heard if Larson will continue to be heard on WNIR.

But if the station's online schedule is to be believed, WNIR has picked up Talk Radio Network host Laura Ingraham for the weekend 10 PM-12 midnight slot formerly occupied by Westwood One's Bill O'Reilly...declining to join up with that network's replacement for the Fox News Channel host, Fred Thompson.

Oh, wait, they are carrying "Laura Ingram"! Sorry about that! Heh.

It's actually a return to WNIR for Ingraham. She occupied the 7-10 PM Westwood One time slot, and was heard in recorded form on WNIR, before she moved to Talk Radio Network's mid-morning schedule. Larson took over the Westwood One evening syndication...

Northeast Ohio Papers Consolidate

We actually hinted at this weeks ago, but we've finally picked up some of the details on a story that's been buzzing around the local media rumor mill like a supercharged insect.

OMW hears that two co-owned Northeast Ohio newspapers have officially merged their day-to-day operations - as the Lorain County Publishing-owned Medina County Gazette is now being operated out of the company's print mothership, the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram.

Sources tell us that the new arrangement started March 3, with "the majority of The Gazette newsroom" being required to work out of the Chronicle-Telegram's shiny new headquarters in downtown Elyria.

Left behind after 177 years publishing in Medina? We're told that "a handful of sales and classified people", five news staffers and one photographer now use the Gazette building as something of a satellite office...with the news material gathered in Medina sent via the Internet to Elyria.

The Gazette's printing operation moved to Elyria's presses some time ago - which were bought from a St. Louis newspaper.

With the layout operations moved there as well earlier this month, the Gazette looks like a near clone of the Chronicle...a change so visible it prompted this message from the Gazette's publisher on page one earlier this month:

Today, in partnership with our sister newspaper, The Chronicle, we are embarking on another journey. We are taking the best parts of both newspapers and developing a Gazette similar in design to our Lorain County partner, but distinct in what we offer the communities we cover.

There was no word on how that "journey" affected staffers.

This affects radio as well, as OMW recently reported that the papers' sister talk radio station, Elyria's WEOL/930, forced a number of full-time staffers into part-time work - even management. (Maybe if the radio folks could operate a printing press...they could get full time work with the company!)

The answer to our question will be borne out over time, we suppose: Do the Gazette's readers care that the bulk of the local newspaper's operations is now based in Elyria?

Or, indeed, with the sorry state of print journalism, financially, in 2009...are both papers endangered along with just about every other newspaper in America?

In a world where your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm) can openly speculate and predict that Northeast Ohio's two largest papers will consolidate at some point (again, just a prediction!)...how much of a guarantee is there that either the Elyria or Medina papers survive past the next year or two?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Our Friday Menu

And for those who are curious, the Thursday night menu was a pair of coney dogs from a nearby local outdoor drive-in restaurant...the business' opening a sure sign of spring in Northeast Ohio.

We can get Sonic chili dogs 12 months a year in Streetsboro, but these ones only from March through November...

NOT SO FAST, OMW: At the moment, we'd like to pull back on the back patting a bit.

In one of our Thursday items, we poured on the self-congratulation for correctly predicting the disposition of ABC Radio Networks' "Paul Harvey News" time slots, with former Republican presidential candidate/former Arkansas governor/Fox News Channel weekend host Mike Huckabee's existing "Huckabee Report" commentaries being fed down the old Paul Harvey satellite feed starting on Monday.

Notice that we said "being fed down".

That's similar language to what ABC Radio used when talking about what ended up being two week fill-in stints by KGO/San Francisco host and ABC News Radio veteran Gil Gross, and ABC News Radio Information Network anchor Doug Limerick.

So, will Huckabee's 5 minute commentaries continue to be fed down to Paul Harvey News' existing affiliate base for the long term, or is there more?

Thanks to a Friend of OMW, we got a look at the rest of what Inside Radio had to say on the topic. Some sample quotes:

A spokesman tells Inside Radio the network expects to have announcements about other personalities.

Our friends at AllAccess, who actually slipped this story "under the wire" late Wednesday night (we missed it), offer this:

With HUCKABEE's segments shorter than the standard HARVEY time slot, ABC will be offering additional short-form news features to be disclosed shortly.

That's one-third right. Huckabee's segments are all five minutes long, including commercial inventory.

The only former Harvey segment that doesn't match that time is the 15 minute "Noon Visit"...and we've speculated here that stations will probably start dropping that no matter what is offered in Mr. Harvey's place, due to the archaic nature of such a long "short form" feature.

(We noted here earlier that even ABC/Citadel itself already dumped the "Noon Visit" on two of its major market stations after Harvey's passing - to make room for full three-hour mid-morning clearances for the network's Joe Scarborough on WABC/770 New York, and for local host Frank Beckmann on Detroit's WJR/760.)

Time-wise, the five minute morning and afternoon drive editions of "The Huckabee Report" require no extra fill vs. the former Paul Harvey News time slots.

So, who are these "other people" and what role may thay play in ABC Radio's post-Paul Harvey world?

Quoting Inside Radio again:

There’s still no word on whether Paul Harvey Jr. will have a role. A network rep says, “He may have interest in returning to radio, but it’s not something he’s prepared to give an answer to today.”

Will ABC Radio's Life After Paul Harvey consist of offering Gov. Huckabee to stations in morning drive and middays, and eventually (assuming he wants to do it) offering Paul Harvey Jr.'s own "Rest of the Story" segments again? Remember, the Younger Harvey has both written and voiced that segment in recent years.

It sounds like as good a guess as any we've made. We don't see Gross or Limerick interested in a future role, and wouldn't put money on Dallas-based Ron Chapman returning to the former Harvey syndication.

BTW, with former Paul Harvey affiliates WAKR/1590 Akron and WNIO/1390 Youngstown declining to carry Huckabee starting Monday...we haven't yet heard out of the other two Northeast Ohio stations involved - WHBC/1480 Canton and WEOL/930 Elyria...

MORE COLLEGE B'BALL: With the University of Akron Zips giving a strong showing in their NCAA Men's College Basketball first round tournament game - "Insert Name of Month" "Insert Name of Excited Mental State", as we don't want to be sued by the NCAA - the spotlight was heavily on the MAC Champions on Thursday.

The game wasn't nationally televised, of course, since it's an early round contest...but OMW hears that viewers as far away as the Los Angeles market got treated to Zips vs. Zags.

Those listening to coverage via Sirius Satellite Radio were not treated to the Zips ISP Sports Network call by Akron Radio Superstar Steve French and Joe Dunn, heard locally on network flagship WARF/1350 Akron "SportsRadio 1350" and simulcaster rock WRQK/106.9 Canton "Rock 106.9". Sirius opted for Westwood One's national coverage instead.

At least one reader took us to task for our recent needling of Mr. French, who flies high over Akron radio as co-host of the popular morning show on talk WNIR/100.1 "The Talk of Akron", joining Stan Piatt, Jim Midock and Maggie Fuller.

Relax...we're just having fun, and we're pretty sure Steve is having fun as well...he's a "big boy", and he can take it.

And like most Radio Stars, he loves the attention and publicity...even from a little media blog like this one...

AND MORE HOOPS: An OMW reader tells us that another CBS affiliate in Northeast Ohio is doing the NCAA Round One split with local teams on Friday night.

We hear that New Vision CBS affiliate WKBN/27 Youngstown will opt for THE Ohio State Buckeyes' first round game, and like WOIO in Cleveland, will send the Cleveland State Vikings contest over to its sister MyNetwork TV affiliate - in the Youngstown case, its Parkin Broadcasting's WYTV-DT 33.2 "My YTV".

(Any regular OMW reader - with eyes closed - can tell you here that New Vision operates Parkin's WYTV and My YTV from its studios on Sunset Blvd. in Youngstown.)

For Youngstown, it's not as big a decision as it was for Raycom Media in Cleveland...but with an Ohio team involved, the New Vision folks presumably felt it was easy to offer the game by moving it to the now-sister subchannel that's carrying heavy sports branding....

AND SPEAKING OF YOUNGSTOWN: A quick visit to the Mahoning Valley earlier this week netted us another example of how New Vision/WKBN/WYFX operates WYTV as a nominally separate entity.

This week's Big Story in the Youngstown/Warren TV market was the bankruptcy filing of health care giant Forum Health, and the two local TV newsrooms were all over it.

We watched all four commercial stations' coverage of a bankruptcy court hearing which allowed Forum Health to dip into a cash reserve to pay immediate bills, and we watched the shuffle between WKBN and now-sister station WYTV.

Both stations featured live shots from the Federal Courthouse during early evening newscasts... at 5 PM, WKBN's "27 First News" led with the live shot, and at 5:30, it was on WYTV's "33 News". Two different reporters were used, with one coming over from another story she'd already filed.

Forum Health's CEO appeared live in studio for an interview early in a "27 First News'" newscast, then hung around the building a bit to do the same on the "33 News" set.

Standard "B-roll" footage of Forum Health's facilities, such as Youngstown's Northside Medical Center and Warren's Trumbull Memorial Hospital, was mixed in with footage of Newton Falls - the same footage on both stations. At some point, we could tell you when the water tower with "Newton Falls" on it would show up before it actually did so.

Newton Falls is the location Forum Health plans to build an urgent care center, a plan that's apparently still in effect post-bankruptcy filing.

Other, less important stories were near simulcast on both WKBN and WYTV due to their placement.

But more unnerving than that was the replay of "27 First News This Morning" (5-7 AM on WKBN/27) from 7-9 AM on WYFX "Fox Youngstown"...the only difference being a superimposed "First News on Fox" time/temperature bug on the latter station.

In the You Know Your Morning Show Is Taped From Earlier Department:

* "Live Skycam" footage of downtown Youngstown in the dark...being played long after sunrise....seen via the WYFX feed.

* A promo for the upcoming "CBS Early Show", starting in "just a few minutes" if you're watching the WYFX feed at 8:55 AM. No, not unless you recorded it off of WKBN, or invested in a DeLorean with a Flux Capacitor.

The new WKBN graphics look modern - and appear to have finally assigned the "Fox 17/62" branding for the station's Fox arm to the trash heap, as everything we saw the other day said "Fox Youngstown".

And yes, with access to an HDTV tuner, we confirmed that New Vision is still running both WKBN-DT 27.1 (CBS) and WKBN-DT 27.2 (Fox) in 720p HD format, the former being downconverted from the network's 1080i feed...the latter instead of an SD 480i feed.

We saw some occasional drop-outs, though we can't be sure that should be blamed on the electronic squeezing needed to fit two HD feeds into one channel's bandwidth...or just reception anomalies...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Your Digital TV Update

With the FCC laying down its latest guidelines for the Digital TV transition, the agency has now identified which stations will be signing off earlier than the new June 12 deadline for all full-power analog stations to shut down.

(Unless the government changes its mind again in May or so.)

And in most areas, including Northeast Ohio, the list (FCC PDF link here) doesn't come as any surprise.

In the Cleveland/Akron (Canton) TV market, only Trinity Broadcasting O&O WDLI/17 Canton has elected to leave the analog airwaves early - on April 16th. It joins a number of other TBN stations in choosing that date, the first date commercial stations will be able to make the early/pre-June 12 analog shutdown.

Despite language in a recently filed STA request that suggested an early transition, ION Media WVPX/23 Akron has filed that it will stay on in analog until the new deadline in June. And for WVPX, "transition" is somewhat accurate, as ION will have to flash cut onto current analog channel 23.

The WDLI move would theoretically pave the way for Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 to light up its new digital channel 17 facility after April 16, but it doesn't appear likely that the long-delayed new WKYC/WVIZ tower would be finished that soon.

WKYC, like all other major commercial stations in the Cleveland market, will shut off its analog signal on June 12. It would appear from the timing that WKYC would likely make the digital RF 2-to-digital RF 17 switch that same day, but that's just a guess. And all of this assumes that tower at the WKYC site on Broadview Road in Parma will be completed before June 12.

A quick look through the early shutoff list shows that nearly all of Ohio's commercial stations still running analog are keeping it going until June 12...except for one station, Steubenville Cox NBC affiliate WTOV/9, which intends to join its only competitor (West Virginia Media CBS/Fox/ABC affiliate WTRF/7) in digital-only land on April 16.

Like WTRF did, WTOV is eyeing a digital transition to its current analog channel, and has a construction permit to do so.

Will the WTOV filing be approved by the FCC, which is still applying scrutiny to markets where no major network affiliates are in analog, even in "nightlight" mode?

WTOV's form to request the April 16 cutoff is very interesting.

The station is relying upon an option on the form few knew about - pointing out that its Grade B contour would continue to get analog service from two out-of-market stations until June 12.

Qouting the language on the form, where WTOV checked:

Licensee CERTIFIES that the above-referenced station will RELY on the following major network affiliated station(s) to provide continuing full analog television service to its analog viewers until June 12, 2009, and that the station(s) listed individually or collectively cover, at a minimum, 90% of the population in the Grade B analog contour of the above-referenced station; and, therefore, the station does NOT need to comply with the public interest related conditions for early analog termination set forth in the Commission Report and Order, FCC 09-19, adopted March 13, 2009:

The two stations cited by WTOV as carrying the analog torch for viewers? Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 out of Cleveland, and CBS O&O KDKA/2 Pittsburgh.

On the non-commercial side of things, a number of Ohio stations are opting for early shutoff of their analog signals. Here's the list:

COLUMBUS: PBS affiliate WOSU/34, and sister WPBO/42 Portsmouth (3/31)

PBS affiliates WCET/48 and ThinkTV Cincinnati market PBS outlet WPTO/14 Oxford (both 5/1), along with nearby Kentucky Educational TV affiliates WCVN/Covington KY and WKON/Owenton (both 4/16)

DAYTON: WPTO ThinkTV sister WPTD/16 (also 5/1)

The PBS affiliates in the Youngstown market (Western Reserve PBS' WNEO/45 Alliance) and Toledo market (WGTE/30 and Bowling Green State University's WBGU/27) signed off analog some time ago. In the Cleveland market, both WVIZ/25 and WEAO/49 will keep analog going until June 12.

Trinity Broadcasting O&O's WKOI/43 Richmond IN (Dayton/Cincinnati) and WSFJ/51 Newark (Columbus) are also on the list to shut off early - on April 16, along with sister WDLI/17 Canton (as noted above).

And in WDLI's case, shutting off that aging analog transmitter out on U.S. 62 near Louisville, in eastern Stark County, may well be a mercy killing. It's been limping along for years, with WDLI's fancy digital facility near Akron's Rolling Acres Mall overshadowing it for some time.

By the way, we know some readers - especially those with little TV interest - glaze their eyes over at these updates.

As we get closer to the currently-still-valid June 12 transition date, OMW will create a separate blog to solely focus upon digital TV issues...particularly if the transition ends up being as newsy as it was when the date was being moved.

The tentative start of our new blog will be around mid-April.

The bulk of our digital TV items will only be found there, with just a brief summary and link posted right here on the original Mighty Blog of Fun(tm)...

Harvey To Huckabee

UPDATE 3/19/09 1:28 PM: Take another one off the Huckabee List.

Rubber City Radio VP/Information Media and OMW reader Ed Esposito tells us that Akron's WAKR/1590 does not plan to carry "The Huckabee Report" when it starts airing Monday in the former Paul Harvey News time slots...and that the Paul Harvey Era on WAKR will come to a close after this Saturday's "News and Comment" midday airing with ABC's Gil Gross (at 12:06 PM).

Ed tells us:

Interesting that ABC is also suggesting other long-form content hosts may be in the works. We haven't closed the door in that regard, but don't feel Huckabee is strong enough alone on his own at this point to carry the programs.

We're still awaiting word from the two other Harvey affiliates in Northeast Ohio, Elyria's WEOL/930 and Canton's WHBC/1480.

Our original item is below...


Word is coming out this morning that ABC Radio Networks will feed commentator and former presidential candidate/former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee's "The Huckabee Report" down the network which formerly aired Paul Harvey, starting Monday.

Inside Radio reports that though Huckabee will be among "a menu of commentators" ABC Radio Networks offers to former Paul Harvey affiliates, he will be the one heard on the same satellite channel/time slots which once delivered Harvey, who died recently at the age of 90. (No, we don't know which choices are on that ABC commentator "menu".)

The past few weeks, ABC Radio has been offering Paul Harvey News affiliates segments hosted by long-time Harvey fill-ins Gil Gross and Doug Limerick.

But...well? We'll crow about this one...we were right.

This very blog predicted that the Gross/Limerick fill-in gigs would be temporary, and that the appearances would only serve to provide Mr. Harvey's former affiliates compatible programming until a decision was made by the network on the future of the Paul Harvey franchise.

We also predicted that Huckabee's existing segments would be offered up as replacement programming in the Paul Harvey time slots, a prediction that seemed more obvious to us when the network added an afternoon version of "The Huckabee Report" in the past week.

OK, so it didn't take the proverbial rocket scientist to figure all this out. We didn't feel we were "out on a limb", to use another cliche.

But some trade publications and websites, and mainstream media outlets, announced Gross and Limerick as "Paul Harvey's replacements" with little consideration as to how long they would be there.

Gil Gross and Doug Limerick are two of the most talented radio news broadcasters in America. Their presence in Mr. Harvey's former time slot was likely of much comfort to those who followed Harvey's broadcasts over the years.

But, as we believe should happen, the Paul Harvey News franchise will be laid to rest along with the late iconic broadcaster himself. And we suspect Gross and Limerick feel the same way.

Gross continues as an afternoon talk host on Citadel/ABC's powerhouse San Francisco station, KGO/810. Limerick continues as the ABC News Radio Information Network morning drive (Eastern) anchor...a job which, oddly enough, puts his voice on Media-Com talk WNIR/100.1 "The Talk of Akron", the region's ABC Information Network affiliate.

Paul Harvey News had four major affiliates in the region: Rubber City Radio oldies/news WAKR/1590 Akron, NextMedia talk WHBC/1480 Canton, Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting talk WEOL/930 Elyria, and Clear Channel standards WNIO/1390 Youngstown.

We've already heard from sources at WNIO/Clear Channel Youngstown, and the word out of South Avenue is that WNIO will not be clearing the Huckabee broadcasts. WNIO picked up Paul Harvey News after it was moved over from Harvey's long-time affiliate, sister talk WKBN/570.

We're in the process of finding out if the other three will continue with Gov. Huckabee starting Monday...and will update this item when we learn more...

Time Warner Northeast Ohio HDTV Plans

It's consistently one of our "most asked" questions here at the Mighty Blog of Fun(tm): When will Time Warner Cable upgrade its HDTV lineup in Northeast Ohio?

The answer appears to be "starting soon, over the next few months".

Local TWC executive Bill Jasso has been kind enough to put a lot of the information that's already out there together, along with some new information, about channels coming to the TWC Northeast Ohio lineup.

Without further ado, here's the list we have from Mr. Jasso, quoting him directly...with specifics about channels already slotted to be added to the TWC NEO lineup between now and the end of April:

On March 31 we will be adding the following new HD channels to our entire footprint:
Palladia (MTV's music channel) Channel 470
Discovery Channel 449
USA Channel 443
Sci Fi Channel 476
Disney Channel 456

On April 29, we will add the following new HD channels:
Bravo Channel 466
CNBC Channel 486
TLC Channel 450
Animal Planet Channel 452
ABC Family Channel 460
ESPN News (customer must have Digital Basic Tier) Channel 432
MLB (customer must have Digital Basic Tier) Channel 438

We then plan to add at least five additional HD channels each month in 2009. We should end the year with about 100 HD channels.

Two notes: Some of these channels are already listed in TWC NEO's legal programming notices. And as per usual, they are listed to start "on or after" the dates in question...though it sounds like the local arm of the cable giant is planning for those dates, judging from the list above.

One reason that these additions will be possible is "Switched Digital Video" (SDV). Jasso confirms to OMW that the technology - which allows the company to shuffle channels off the main bandwidth unless requested by the user - is already in place:

Right now we have over 60 channels in the platform and it is totally un-noticeable to the customer, unless you are one of the 50-60 customers in Northeast Ohio with a Cablecard TV. We're working on a solution for those folks, and will announce it soon.

Oh, and yes, the HD TiVo boxes (HD/Series 3) also use cable cards, but TiVo customers tell us that the company is ready to send out those tuning adapters which allow the HD TiVos to use cable SDV. TiVo uses cable cards internally for its HD units.

We hear from customers who have cable cards in one form or another that they are getting letters explaining the channels affected, and TWC is communicating with TiVo HD/S3 users about the tuning adapters.

But hold on, says TWC's Bill Jasso...it appears there's some customer confusion on the TiVo/tuning adapter front:

We have over 100 people on the waiting list. But as we start calling these folks, we find that don't have the specific TiVo device that requires the adapter. Oh well, they call us anyway.

We're assuming that those mistaken calls are coming from folks with non-HD TiVos, such as the Series 2 sitting a few feet away from us right here in the OMW World Headquarters.

The tuning adapters aren't needed for the older TiVos, which don't record in HD. Those (Series 1, Series 2, DVD recorders) do not use cable cards, and the SDV tuning will be handled directly by the digital cable box that feeds the TiVo. (If we've saved your CSRs some calls, Bill...you're welcome. Heh.)

In an unrelated note, Jasso also tells us about changes for the "On Demand" service in the territories formerly owned by Adelphia:

We will be moving all of our VOD content channels in the Greater Cleveland (read: former Adelphia) area (systems) from the current Channel 1 portal, to their own separate channels. This is planned for the first week of May. This should make all VOD easier to navigate and reach.

Again, much of this information is "already out there", from the letters being sent to customers, to the legal "Programming Notices" page on Time Warner Northeast Ohio's website. We hope we were able to tie it all together for you, with official confirmation.

The legal notices page also notes some other changes, like the exit of West Virginia Media CBS affiliate WTRF/7 Wheeling from the TWC systems in the Dover/New Philadelphia/Newcomerstown region on April 1...as TWC continues to pare duplicate network affiliates from their local lineups...

UPDATE 3/19/09 9:25 AM: An OMW reader in the Dover/New Philadelphia area tells us WTRF has already been pulled, dating back to last week...with a slate explaining that TWC "is no longer permitted" to retransmit WTRF programming. WTRF is listed in the legal notices among stations and networks with contracts expiring...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

From Soup To Nuts

Well, OK...from broadcast (mainly television) to print, from broadcast to cable...here's our latest midweek contribution...

REMEMBERING TOM: Your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) has been without full-fledged Internet access for much of the past 24 hours, so we had to resort to posting-by-E-mail for our item on the death of former WKYC/3 personality Tom Haley on Tuesday.

We'll confess to once being a regular viewer of WKYC's "Today in Cleveland", the folksy and friendly morning news show that used to precede NBC's "Today Show".

In a day where TV stations increasingly see morning news shows as the Last Big Profit Center, with viewership numbers actually growing (vs. the shrinking numbers seen in the traditional nighttime news wars), the fact that a show like "Today in Cleveland" could be so dominant for so long seems almost antediluvian.

"Today in Cleveland" featured Haley and long-time partner Del Donahoo (also of "Del's Folks" fame) basically chewing the fat, talking to viewers as much as they were talking to each other, or, well, delivering news and information.

The simple set was a jumble of knick-knacks and personal effects brought in by the hosts, and sent in by regular viewers.

No bright stage lights, no fancy "Weather Center" with sophisticated Doppler Radar...it was more of a home breakfast nook than a TV news set.

Even when Haley and Donahoo were in the final years of their morning get-together, your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) was still somewhat younger than the older demographic "Today in Cleveland" surely attracted.

But the show had appeal even for us...and when we were up before 7 AM, we were usually watching Tom and Del.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, WKYC "Director's Cut" blogger Frank Macek shares video from the very last "Today in Cleveland" show from 1997, and his memories of Tom Haley, and Tim Lones at Cleveland Classic Media shares his memories as a long-time viewer.

Pictures, of course, are courtesy WKYC, and thanks to Mr. Macek's site and Mr. Lones' site for the assists...

THE WRESTLERS LOSE: The updated scorecard from Friday night's upcoming local TV sports battle: Ohio State 1, Cleveland State 1, World Wrestling Entertainment 0.5.

Thanks to our friends at CursedCleveland.com, we brought you word that Raycom Media would split first round NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament games involving teams of local interest between the company's two full-power Cleveland market signals.

The CBS-aired contests will be on CBS affiliate WOIO/19 (Ohio State) and MyNetwork TV affiliate WUAB/43 (Cleveland State).

Since the CBS coverage of the Cleveland State game starts somewhere after 9:30, WUAB will join its sister station's network NCAA coverage at that time...throwing the wrestlers to the mat, as it were. The only programming that gets ratings on MyNetwork TV, "WWE Friday Night Smackdown", will continue on without WUAB until it ends at 10 PM.

Thanks to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, we know the next step. WUAB will record the WWE show and air it later...after the game:

WWE Smackdown, the original program slotted on Channel 43 for that time period, will be preempted and will be rebroadcast immediately following conclusion of basketball on WUAB.

We're making the assumption here that WUAB will still air "Smackdown" starting at 8 PM, breaking from its live MyNetwork TV airing to go to the basketball coverage...before airing it again after the Vikings' game.

If the digital TV transition had happened back when it was supposed to air, maybe Raycom could have lit up WUAB-DT 43.2 and simulcast the wrestlers over there live, still opting to record/delay the WWE on the main channel.

But as digital TV viewers have noticed, 43.2 is now not even carrying the "This TV Cleveland" ID banner it had been carrying the past few weeks. (No, we don't know when "This TV"'s local channel will actually start programming.)

The other option would be to simulcast the WWE show on WOIO-DT 19.2 "WeatherNow", which at least has some digital TV carriage on local cable systems. We presume that "This TV" will also get clearance ("The Tube" did), but it's not up yet.

We're admittedly not fans of wrestling here at the Mighty Blog of Fun(tm), so we don't know if viewers will body slam their TV when the WWE is taken away for one night in its regular time slot.

The PD item also assures fans of CBS' soap operas, facing pre-emption on WOIO Thursday and Friday, will "pick up where they left off" on Monday...

NOT CLEVELAND AGAIN: Recently, an online item about the predicted health of newspapers kicked up a lot of controversy, including here in Cleveland.

What turned out to be a list NOT from Time Magazine tabbed the Cleveland Plain Dealer as one of 10 big city papers the author believed were in danger of not surviving. The list's author - who actually writes for the Internet site "247WallSt.com", not Time - said he expected the PD to either fold or go online only by the end of 2010, citing the economy...and the Even Worse economy here in Northeast Ohio.

Uh, oh...when it comes to predicting the demise of Cleveland's only major daily newspaper, here we go again.

Tuesday's death of the Dead Trees edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer prompted USA Today's David Lieberman to write about the poor health of the newspaper industry. And this line from today's story jumped out at us:

At least one city — possibly San Francisco, Miami, Minneapolis or Cleveland — likely will soon lose its last daily newspaper, analysts say. And it "could be a lot more widespread than people have been predicting," says Mike Simonton, who tracks media debt for Fitch Ratings.

We've gone up and down Lieberman's article, both online and in USA Today's own Dead Trees edition, and we find no citation directly from an analyst about that list of cities.

It seems to be a regurgitation of the 247WallSt.com piece that got slapped with a Time Magazine logo on both that magazine's website, and on Yahoo, and doesn't seem to be linked to Mr. Simonton's quote that immediately follows.

There's just that vague phrase - "analysts say".

When that original online article came out, Plain Dealer publisher Terrence Eggar came out firing, pointing out that A) the PD actually made money in 2008, B) it expects, with various cuts and budget reductions, to do so again in 2009, and C) it has no plan to shut down the presses any time soon.

Now, it looks like Eggar will have to contend with various "Demise of Newspaper" stories picking up "Cleveland" along the way, for the sole reason that other writers will grab that list of cities... now from the USA Today piece.

Again, regular readers here know that we're not exactly optimistic about the future of newspapers in this new age of the Internet, and in this flagging economy. And we believe Mr. Simonton is most likely correct in his thought that the closures could be more widespread than even expected now.

And we once again repeat our prediction that the Plain Dealer and Black Press' Akron Beacon Journal won't survive as independent entities for that much longer...though our prediction has always been that Advance would pick up the remnants of the Beacon for a song, and merge what's left into the Plain Dealer - which already has extensive circulation in the Akron market and elsewhere in Northeast Ohio.

(That's just a prediction, not based on any facts or even rumors. It'd basically mirror what happened recently in Denver.)

But those who do this sort of reporting for a living? They need to quit pushing along rumors based on one guy's list of "endangered papers" that appear to be no more than the predictions that we're making here - which are clearly identified as such, on our part...

AWARD WINNERS: OMW gets word from Columbus that Time Warner Cable's Northeast Ohio division has picked up a number of awards in the Ohio Cable Telecommunications Association's "IMAGE Awards" competition, given out at the trade group's convention in Central Ohio last night.

From the group's site, talking the awards:

The 2009 OCTA IMAGE Awards recognize and celebrate the many contributions Ohio cable systems make to their communities, and their efforts to enhance cable's image with customers and in the areas they serve.

TWC NEO's Bill Jasso tells OMW that the local Time Warner division picked up "a record 15 OCTA Image Awards for local programming, including the top Image Award for Excellence in Local Programming."

Programs on TWC NEO's "Northeast Ohio Network" (NEON) local channel taking Gold Image Awards include "Made Here", "The High School Game of the Week", "3 Squares", and "Helping Hands."

And yes, we know we have a lot of readers interested in some of Time Warner Cable's future moves, including addition of HDTV channels and implementation of the Switched Digital Video system (in part, to free up bandwidth for new channels).

We will have a more detailed update on that very soon, within the next day or so...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tom Haley Passes Away

Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC/3 is reporting the death of long-time
news anchor Tom Haley...best known for his stint co-anchoring the
station's early morning "Today in Cleveland".

Here is a link to the WKYC story on Haley's passing...we'll have more
to say about it later...


We are on the road, without direct access to Blogger, so if that link
doesn't work, please copy and paste it. We'll try to put it up on our
Twitter feed as a separate link...

Buckeyes Stay Put, Vikings Move

We haven't checked the NCAA men's basketball tournament brackets in depth, but we're pretty sure the chances of the Cleveland State Vikings actually playing THE Ohio State University Buckeyes in the tournament are very, very small.

But there's a face-off between the Buckeyes and Vikings on TV in the first round of the tournament, with both teams' games scheduled for Friday night. And in Cleveland...the Buckeyes apparently have the upper hand.

Our friends over at CursedCleveland.com ("Losing everything since 1964", a slogan that doesn't need any explanation to Cleveland sports fans) report that Raycom Media will air the Ohio State Buckeyes' first round contest on CBS affiliate WOIO/19...shuttling the Vikings' tournament opener to MyNetwork TV sister station WUAB/43 "My 43".

CC quotes WOIO/WUAB's Lisa McManus, who says WUAB will join in with the CBS coverage on time at 9:30 PM Friday night, though the actual CSU game won't start exactly on time since it's dependent on the previous contest.

As the blog says, it's no surprise that the Vikings are getting the move even in Cleveland State's hometown.

Cleveland is indeed "OSU North", and Buckeyes action is very popular among viewers in Northeast Ohio. (And listeners, as Good Karma sports WKNR/850 "ESPN 850" carries THE Ohio State University Buckeyes basketball radio network coverage.)

Cleveland State's story is that of Cinderella, and Horizon League teams generally aren't considered major contenders.

As CC properly noted, we did inform them that WUAB/43 does have HD capability. We don't know at this point if the Cleveland State game will be in HD. We'd guess "yes", since it's live off of the CBS satellite feed, which is already in-house at Reserve Square.

And WUAB surprised us before. When the local MyNetwork TV outlet picked up Fox's coverage of a baseball playoff game last year - bounced from WJW/8 "Fox 8" due to a local telecast of a cable/satellite Cleveland Browns game - it was in HD.

It could be worse for the Vikings and their fans. WOIO could have bumped the game to digital subchannel 19.2, otherwise known as "WeatherNow". As is, the WUAB side will have to figure out what to do with the preemption of at least part of MyNetwork TV's most popular show by far, "WWE Smackdown"...