Friday, September 04, 2009

Local And Connected

Some of these items are local to our Northeast Ohio base, and others are only marginally connected...

FRY STEPS DOWN: The long-time leader of Time Warner Cable's Northeast Ohio division is calling it a career.

Beacon Journal business writer Betty Lin-Fisher reports that Steve Fry, who's been guiding the local arm of the cable company for as long as anyone can remember - the last 19 years as TWC's Northeast Ohio division president - is retiring.

Fry's been working for Time Warner Cable and its predecessors since he got a job as an installer for one of those predecessors some 39 years ago. The local division is now the third-largest group in Time Warner's firmament, behind only Los Angeles and New York...and grew larger with the acquisition of the former Adelphia and Comcast operations in Northeast Ohio.

The Beacon reports that Vin Zachariah, TWC's regional VP/operations in Southwest Ohio, will head to Akron to take over for Fry...who will stick around "in a back office" as a consultant, and offer his knowledge and expertise on a system he probably knows cable-by-cable, almost.

Aside from consulting, Fry tells the newspaper that he'll have more time to travel, see his daughter and grandchildren in Florida...and oh, finish up his college degree.

That's right. The 58 year-old Fry has no degree...he detoured from going to college (at Kent State) back when he got that installer's job.

Fry tells the Beacon Journal that he's picked up college credits along the way at Ohio University, and will complete work towards a degree, presumably in communications.

We presume, with Fry's extensive background running one of the largest communications-related operations in this region, that he'll get some work-based credit...

WITHER REV. MANN?: We told you earlier about a shift in the radio landscape in nearby Pittsburgh, where Educational Media Foundation has taken over the in-market class A frequency of 98.3 (licensed to Duquesne PA) and launched a full-power "K-Love" outlet.

Decamping from 98.3 is Keymarket, which is now promoting now-WOGI/104.3 Moon Township PA as the primary home of its "Froggy" country simulcast group. WOGI is the former WOGF, but historically, was East Liverpool OH-based WELA, the FM side of WOHI/1490. The 104.3 tower site hasn't moved from its location just across the Ohio/PA border from East Liverpool.

(We're told that since the change, WOGI is IDing as "WOGI...Moon Township, East Liverpool, PITTSBURGH!")

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette radio writer Adrian McCoy writes about the move as part of an overall article on the rise of religious radio in Pittsburgh - of course, a local Catholic group filed to purchase urban WAMO/106.7 and its two sister stations - and she talks to a Pittsburgh broadcaster connected to an Ohio station purchase, one we've written about before.

That broadcaster is Rev. Loren Mann, a former Pittsburgh television reporter who now owns WGBN/1150 New Kensington PA, a gospel outlet.

The Ohio station is Salem's WHKZ/1440 Warren, the mostly-simulcaster of Salem's Christian talk WHK/1220 "The Word" in Cleveland. Rev. Mann's Pentecostal Temple Development Corporation filed to purchase WHKZ last year.

McCoy doesn't talk to Rev. Mann about Ohio, so we headed to the FCC database and looked up the status of the proposed WHKZ purchase by his church group.

And...despite having received FCC approval in May of last year, it's still "proposed", and hasn't been finalized.

No, we don't know why.

Back in November, we noted that Pittsburgh area sources said Rev. Mann was looking to "renegotiate" the deal to buy the Ohio station.

Whether that's happening or not, still, we don't know...but the Post-Gazette article notes that the Rev. Mann is about to lose one direct gospel format competitor due to the changes in Pittsburgh market, an AM sister station to WAMO.

Meanwhile, his proposed purchase of WHKZ is still not finalized, and the station - last we checked - continues to combine a simulcast of big brother station WHK/1220 in Cleveland with its own infomercials and paid religious programming. And we assume WHKZ is still running Salem's own and Warren's own Hugh Hewitt in evenings...

THE END?: If we had to bet, this rumbling news story out west won't mean "the end" for a programming gig for a former Northeast Ohio programmer.

You might remember that Entercom Sacramento top 40 outlet KDND/107.9 "The End" got into major hot - or cold - water a couple of years ago, when a listener died in a contest called "Hold Your Wee for A Wii". Basically, listeners ingested large amounts of water, and were encouraged to hold off on trips to the bathroom...the last listener to hold off would get a Nintendo Wii video game unit.

Jennifer Strange, the listener/contestant, got an unexpected death sentence.

Fast forward to 2009, where radio trade sites are reporting a stunt by the folks at KDND, which is counting down to an announcement Tuesday morning and hinting about "the end" of "The End".

The stunt caught the attention of at least three local TV outlets in Sacramento, and some are expecting the station to change format.

Uhh....probably not.

Local Fox affiliate KTXL "Fox 40" in Sacramento writes:

Debunking rumors of a promotional gimmick, FOX40 News confirmed with a source at the station that KDND will be shifting directions starting on Tuesday, September 8th at 7:10am. It's unclear whether the station will change formats, talents or branding. The station is not expected to go silent completely

Well, that's good to know, KTXL. Did you really expect them to shut off the transmitter?

Please note the wording here...."shifting directions"..."formats, talents or branding".

The smart money is on the top 40 station at 107.9 FM in the Sacramento market unveiling a new name, but playing the same top 40 music that brought it enough ratings success to survive the fallout from the "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" fatal stunt.

Why? From the KTXL article:

The change at KDND will take place on the same day parent company Entercom Communications enters a civil lawsuit as a defendant following the death of Jennifer Strange by way of water intoxication during a station contest in 2007.

Aha! columnist Tom Taylor, always one to pick up such connections, writes in his E-mail newsletter this morning:

Lots of media are biting on the “goodbye” angle and there’s online speculation about a total format change. But that’s unlikely. More like, an image change, to pack away the “End” so it’s not being heard over the air during the sure-to-be-sensational courtroom trial. (Would you want your station associated with the breathless courthouse-steps TV coverage?)

We've written a lot about a California radio station, and have not explained why we're doing so in Ohio Media Watch.

The local connection is Dan Mason, the former program director of Clear Channel Cleveland top 40 outlet WAKS/96.5 "Kiss FM", who was brought in by Entercom Sacramento to steady the ship after the initial fallout from the infamous contest which brought the station unwanted attention worldwide.

As we noted, the Sacramento "End" was actually doing rather well in the ratings before it became known for the deadly contest...and Entercom turned to a well-respected programmer in the format to help keep the station going...the aforementioned Dan Mason.

Though we haven't talked to Dan, either when he was here, or since, we wonder why the name change wasn't done sooner.

Anyway, we tend to believe that Mr. Mason is pulling the strings on this, and will still be, as of Tuesday, program director of whatever the top 40 station at 107.9 in the Sacramento market is calling itself...

A LANDING: Speaking of radio types with past local ties, OMW occasionally updates readers on the status of Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton, the San Diego-based sportscaster who was heard evenings on Akron talker WHLO/640 (then owned by Susquehanna, now by Clear Channel) and doing play by play for the hockey Cleveland Crusaders (via now-WTAM/1100) in the 1970's.

We told you that "Hacksaw", after a long run in San Diego and Los Angeles local sports radio, ended up hooking up with Sirius XM Radio's "Home Plate" baseball-themed channel, where at last check, he was doing his own weekend show.

Hamilton may be heading back to the local airwaves in San Diego.

Jay Posner, who covers local sports media for the San Diego Union-Tribune, writes today:

As for the top sports station in town, XX Sports Radio, rumor is that a deal is near to bring in Lee Hamilton full time starting later this month. But that's a column unto itself.

There's a lot to explain here, for those not up on the San Diego sports radio scene.

"XX Sports Radio" is XEPRS/1090, broadcasting English-language sports talk from across the Mexican border and operated out of San Diego by one John Lynch.

Lynch pioneered not only sports talk radio in the San Diego market, but the concept of using Mexican-based "border blasters" to do so, at another station he used to own - XETRA/690 "Xtra Sports 690"...and Hamilton worked there for many years, even into its ownership by Clear Channel (which also grabbed the "Xtra" brand for other sports talkers it owned).

Hamilton's afternoon drive "Xtra" show was bounced by Clear Channel a couple of years or so ago. The station "went a different direction" after moving Hamilton and the sports talk format back and forth between the Los Angeles market's 1150 and 570 AM, and a new effort at 1360 AM in San Diego (690 having gone to different owners, and it's now doing Spanish-language news/talk).

Anyway, given Hamilton's history in the market and with Mr. Lynch, his apparent impending return to the airwaves on Lynch's current sports talk outlet isn't a surprise...


david5258 said...

glad to hear hacksaw is landing on his feet in san diego. sure be nice to be able to hear him back here in ne ohio. i enjoyed his program on 640 when whlo did live and local news talk.

Todd said...

One minor detail - WAMO-FM Beaver Falls/Pittsburgh is at 106.7 on the FM dial :-)

Ohio Media Watch said...

So noted and corrected, Todd. We often make little errors like that when trying to put up frequencies of out of market stations off the top of our head!

-The Management