Tuesday, April 07, 2009

News, Snow and Trouble

UPDATE 4/7/09 2:10 PM: Thanks to WNIR listener and OMW reader "Wayne in Akron", here's your answer to the "when it starts" question for the Akron talk station's new weekend show with Bob Earley:

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WNIR's new weekend "Earley In The Evening" show begins on Saturday, April 25th according to the station's website scroll and the commercial that has aired a few time.

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When we checked the website earlier, the scroll wasn't working for us, and Earley hasn't been added to the "24/7 Program Guide" schedule yet...and we haven't been listening to the station itself today.

Our original update is below...

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This was going to be a "trouble" update, but some other news got in the way.

So, let's brush snow off the back window of the OMW Mobile, and then shovel out some items...

EARLEY NIGHT: OMW heard a rumor about this over the weekend, and it's been confirmed. Akron market talker WNIR/100.1 "The Talk of Akron" is extending its local programming schedule.

Frequent station fill-in host Bob Earley is finally getting his wish, and will have a regular weekend time slot on the station.

"Earley in the Evening" will air Saturday and Sunday evenings from 7-10 PM, one of the few time slots the station doesn't already program with local talk. The new show follows Tom Erickson's 4-7 PM Saturday show, and "The Advice Line" with Bob Lewis on Sundays.

We don't know when Earley's new show will start, but we hear it was officially announced on the station's morning show...and we heard Erickson talking a bit about it on Monday night.

It appears WNIR will NOT follow former Westwood One syndicated host Lars Larson - who previously was heard on WNIR from 7-10 PM weekends - to his new syndication with Compass Media Networks.

Last weekend, we heard TRN's Laura Ingraham in the early weekend evening time slot - she's on the WNIR schedule in the 10 PM-midnight Saturday/Sunday time slot once occupied by Westwood One's Bill O'Reilly, and we presume that's where she'll be heard after Earley starts his local show.

Of course, nearly all of WNIR's syndicated programming is aired on delay in nighttime hours.

Earley is the station's regular fill-in host, taking the place of weekday hosts Howie Chizek and Bob Golic when they're on vacation.

And in "real life", he's the man responsible for the long-running yearly music concert series "Rockin' on the River". Friday evenings at Cuyahoga Falls' Falls River Square. This year's series opens up on May 22, which means there's plenty of time for the snow currently covering Falls River Square to melt...

TROUBLE PART ONE: The future of three Youngstown market radio stations and two Columbus market stations is very much "up in the air" following some financial difficulty for the stations' owner.

We're talking about Bernard Radio's trio in the Mahoning Valley - urban AC WRBP/101.9, talk WGFT/1330 and brokered/gospel WASN/1500 - and in Columbus, religious WVKO/1580 and Spanish-language WVKO-FM/103.1.

An OMW reader passes along this tidbit from Inside Radio, bouncing off of an article in the Wall Street Journal about Bernard Radio principal Daniel Zwirn:

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Wall Street wiz kid’s woes are good news for some radio owners. They’re likely celebrating the news that controversial hedge fund manager Daniel Zwirn is reportedly within days of turning over his holdings. The Wall Street Journal says a deal has been reached that would transfer some of Zwirn’s assets to new management. Several investment firms looked at taking over his portfolio, but the paper says many dropped out of bidding when it became clear Zwirn was attempting to find a new role.

Zwirn is a brash, 37-year-old high-flying portfolio manager who’s been under SEC investigation. Federal regulators have put a freeze on withdrawals from the $3 billion fund — which had been worth $5.5 billion before they started their review. Investors complained their cash funded his lavish lifestyle

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Inside Radio says it's "unclear" what impact the above would have on the five Ohio stations, which Zwirn picked up out of the bankruptcy proceedings for former owner Stop 26 Riverbend.

Stop 26, with attorney Percy Squire as majority owner, owed the largest chunk of its debt to Zwirn's fund. And like Florida-based Tama Broadcasting, Squire complained loudly about the process that ended up with Zwirn's Bernard Radio taking over the stations.

In Youngstown, Bernard Radio directly operates its three stations. It has a mainstream talk format with various syndicated conservative hosts on WGFT/1330, at least some local hosts on urban WRBP/101.9, and a combination of locally-programmed and satellite gospel, some Spanish language programming, and brokered English-language talk host Louie Free on WASN/1500.

In Columbus, Bernard Radio's two stations are operated by other parties. WVKO/1580 went from liberal talk to Catholic religion late last year after being LMA'ed by St. Gabriel Catholic Radio, and another group operates the Spanish-language format on WVKO-FM/103.1.

We've always maintained that Bernard Radio is not in the long-term ownership business, no matter what Mr. Zwirn's financial situation is at this time...

SHOPPING AROUND: Speaking of radio station ownership, an OMW reader passes along this "station for sale" listing he saw online:

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New Listing!
Cleveland, OH - Class B - AM Station
Willing to work on terms for a portion of the sale! New Transmitter. For more information,
contact Beth Griffin via email or call 770-831-8924.

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No, we don't know which station this is.

Class B stations licensed to Cleveland include: Good Karma sports WKNR/850, Salem Christian talk/teaching WHKW/1220, Radio Disney's WWMK/1260, Radio One gospel WJMO/1300 and Salem talk WHK/1420.

We'd immediately rule out two on that list.

We're pretty sure Craig Karmazin has no intention of selling WKNR, and we're pretty sure Disney/ABC does not intend to part with the market's Radio Disney station, WWMK.

Salem has sold off some stations lately, though we don't know if they're itching - again - to sell WHK, which has shuttled in and out of their local portfolio since 2001. The company's recent sale strategy seems to be to exit underperforming markets entirely (see: Milwaukee), and we don't think they're leaving Cleveland.

But, who knows?

That leaves Radio One's gospel WJMO/1300 in our list, and we're only not ruling that out because Radio One's overall financial status has been pretty rocky as of late.

But, as long-time friend and colleague Scott Fybush at NorthEast Radio Watch accurately points out to us, for station brokers, a listing for "Cleveland" could cover stations far afield anywhere in Northeast Ohio.

The station in question could be anywhere in the region. It's a lot like syndicated radio shows and their affiliate lists, which claim small market stations dozens of miles away as "Cleveland" affiliates...

TROUBLE PART TWO: It's the trouble one former Toledo market brokered radio host got into last year, after an encounter in what was initially described as a "road rage" incident, which ended up in him being stabbed.

The Toledo Blade has the roundup on ex-WCWA/1230 host Troy Neff's part of the case:

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Mr. Neff, 40, of Curtice, was convicted of disorderly conduct with persistence. The charge was reduced from a first-degree misdemeanor assault charge.

Judge S. Dwight Osterud sentenced Mr. Neff to 30 days in jail suspended, two years probation, and ordered him to take anger management classes.

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The Tennessee man who stabbed Neff in the incident is reportedly working on a plea bargain with prosecutors, after being charged with felonious assault and charges of tampering with evidence.

Neff's attorney tells the Blade that though the retirement planner and former brokered talk host "may not have reacted to the situation in the most mature way possible", he was still a victim.

What Troy Neff isn't, now, is a radio talk show host, brokered or otherwise.

He spent a reported $40,000 to broker the morning drive time slot at Clear Channel sports WCWA/1230, where he held forth as an issues-oriented host....not the only such non-sports show on "Fox Sports Radio 1230", as the station is still simulcasting former Toledo host Denny Schaffer's Internet-based show "DennyRadio".

And checking the WCWA online schedule, it now lists the "Mike Scott Jazz Show" weekdays in Neff's former morning drive time slot. We'll assume that's another brokered time situation due to the nature of the show.

After Troy Neff got into a dispute with Clear Channel and management at sister WSPD/1370, and sent what he admitted to be a profane E-mail to WSPD program director Brian Wilson, Clear Channel sent Neff and his money away. Yes, in a deep recession. Yes, when radio management would basically shake down grandmothers for spare change.

After Clear Channel parted ways with Neff, so did ABC O&O WTVG/13, which dumped him from the roster of commentators on the station's "Conklin and Company" public affairs show.

He also lost his column in the weekly Toledo Free Press newspaper, over other, unrelated issues.

There's only one part of this story left...if Neff manages to mount a return to the Toledo radio airwaves by opening up his checkbook.

He's about to lose one possible option to carry a new brokered show, as Matrix/Cornerstone talk WNWT/1520 is likely to dump its talk format at any time... as the broadcast arm of the Cornerstone Church is selling WNWT, and sister K-Love affiliate WNKL/96.9 Wauseon, to K-Love parent Educational Media Foundation in California.

The sale was approved March 27, according to FCC records, though final consummation is still pending. WNWT will be converted to non-commercial status under EMF's ownership, and that alone would spell the end for the commercial talk format now on the station.

If Mr. Neff wants to "ride again" on AM talk radio in Toledo, his only other option would appear to be to buy time on Cumulus talk WTOD/1560 "SuperTalk 1560"...

3 comments:

wayne-in-akron said...

WNIR's new weekend "Earley In The Evening" show begins on Saturday, April 25th according to the station's website scroll and the commercial that has aired a few time.

firebird said...

Radio brokers can be very creative when selling a radio station. As an example, there is only one county separates Metropolitan Atlanta with Metropolitan Chattanooga, though both cities are 116 miles apart. I've seen some Northwest Georgia stations marketed as Atlanta-based, yet the signals don't reach the northern suburbs.

Long live the resistance said...

I am told that the station for sale in "Cleveland" is WABQ in Painesville, a 1000 watt daytime, 500 watt night gospel station.