Tuesday, March 31, 2009

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...


Shawn said...

The situation in Fargo might not be helping, but generally, WTAM has one of the worst 50K signals in the country. Their ground system is apparently in need of a massive overhaul, it can be hard under normal circumstances to pick them up in Toronto, DC, NJ and other areas where their signal should be cutting-through at night.

Mark Terlecky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Terlecky said...

I have a question I'm hoping someone here can answer. I live in Westlake and can pick up WOIO analog pretty good, but I can't pick up any of their HD channels. I can pick up 3.1, 5.1, 8.1, 43.1, and 61.1. I went on antennapoint.com and it shows the towers for all those stations are right in the same area. Is WOIO not broadcasting their HD signal at full strength? I also can't get 25.1 or 55.1 either right now. Do you know if they are holding back on their HD signals right now? I hope so, because I am going to lose all those channels if they aren't come June 12.

YEKIMI said...

I've never had a problem picking up WTAM when I visit my parents in the south. I've even listened to it driving home from there and never had a problem hearing it. Of course this is at night.

Andrew said...

WOIO-DT is on the air, but it is on VHF Channel 10. They're also running 3.5KW ERP. They have an application for an antenna height increase and a power increase on the order of about 10KW ERP that has yet to be granted by the FCC. That may help you, but I have a feeling WOIO's reception problems will still plague them. VHF and UHF band openings across Lake Erie are very common during the spring. There is a station on analog Channel 10 in London, ON (I forget the call letters) which booms into the Cleveland area during band openings. Analog signals easily trash digital signals, so reception during propagation enhancements can be especially problematic. WKYC has the right idea, and they are building a new tower and moving to UHF Channel 17. They are getting the heck off of VHF Channel 2. I wish WOIO would have stuck with 19, but the financial incentives of getting away with much less power are obviously their driving force with sticking to 10.
WVIZ is low profile basically due to legal battles with their analog tower owners, and very few people can receive their digital signal. This will be solved when WKYC builds their tower (WVIZ will also be on the same tower). As far as 55 goes, I'm not sure what their problem is. I also do not get the greatest signal from them, but it is watchable so long as I don't turn the roof top antenna more than about 45 degrees from Parma. Most of these stations including 55 have pending applications to raise their DTV antenna height and/or increase their power after June 12th.