Thursday, September 03, 2009

Of Jimbo, Frogs and Love

That's "Love" as in "K-Love", and "Frogs" as in amphibian radio and TV symbols...

MORE JIMBO: Former Youngstown-area congressman Jim Traficant could probably scratch his nose at this point, and he'd dominate media coverage...covering which direction he scratched, and at what time, and where.

In our last item, OMW visited the possibility that Traficant could wind up doing something on the air at Clear Channel talk WKBN/570 in his home market.

Though we'd earlier downplayed the prospect, Clear Channel Youngstown market manager and OMW reader Bill Kelly called the ex-lawmaker, just out of prison on a bribery and racketeering rap, a "folk hero" in the area... and he also compared Traficant to another ex-felon-former politician now doing talk radio in Providence RI, former mayor Buddy Cianci.

Over here, in the Cleveland TV market, Traficant is getting attention as well.

With his prison release this week, Cleveland TV stations sent their reporters over to the Youngstown/Warren area, examining the curious love (and hate) affair between the Valley and its former congressman.

Among those was Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 "Fox 8"'s Lou Maglio, and you can see the video from his story on the station's website here.

What you won't see in that video is Maglio's in-studio followup, where he said Traficant is "reportedly considering a gig as a radio talk show host".

We don't know if that's just Lou riffing off our own report, but just to clarify - we haven't heard any word out of the Traficant camp about his own feelings on this, or any actual job offers or potential offers he's received...or if he's interested in doing talk radio, for that matter. (As a blog that covers media, our sources within a former politician's inner circle are quite limited.)

We're reminded by several that Traficant does have some limited talk radio experience. He filled in at least twice on WKBN's sister station in Cleveland, WTAM/1100, before his trip to the federal prison system.

And we enjoyed watching some old C-SPAN video available on YouTube, posted on the Youngstown Vindicator's special Traficant section on, where he makes his case to House colleagues not to throw him out while the legal case against him was still pending.

(They did throw him out of Congress, which was only the second time that's happened since the Civil War.)

Watching the video, we couldn't help but think that Traficant would be a natural talk show host... and such a move would bring worldwide attention to a certain Youngstown-based talk radio outlet.

And his "rage against the machine" populism likely does have a pretty good sized ready audience in the Mahoning Valley, where voters turned out in Soviet-like record numbers for Traficant for decades.

As for it actually happening? As Clear Channel Youngstown boss Bill Kelly himself told OMW yesterday, "stay tuned"...

K-LOVE: It's not in Ohio, but has some minor effects on our eastern fringes...and who knows, maybe down the road in Northeast Ohio?

As rumored, California-based Educational Media Foundation has taken over operations of what was the primary signal of Keymarket's Pittsburgh-based "Froggy" country simulcast, WOGI/98.3 Duquesne PA. The signal is now running EMF's ubitquous "K-Love" Christian Contemporary music format via satellite from suburban Sacramento.

Our colleagues over at PBRTV have more here. They say the takeover is believed to be an "LMA-to-buy" deal. It also looks like Keymarket is picking up a couple of the "K-Love" translators in return.

"K-Love" and its sister younger-skewing Christian rock format "Air1" appear on a host of translators all over Northeast Ohio, and on a full-power "Air1" signal on WCVJ/90.9 Jefferson, near Ashtabula.

"Froggy" continues to be heard on its other simulcasters in Western PA, including WOGF/104.3 Moon Township PA - which will take 98.3's WOGI calls and become the primary station in the grouping.

We mention this item here on OMW for two reasons.

First, 104.3 used to be licensed to East Liverpool OH, and was the FM companion of WOHI/1490 there...which is still co-owned by Keymarket, and now runs...uhhh...we'll have to check back on that.

We believe at last check, 1490 was one of Keymarket's "Pickle" classic hits stations, basically simulcasting two "Pickle" FMs in Western PA with Citadel's "Classic Hits Radio" format (nee' "Pure Gold") and a local morning show with a fish eating a pickle, or something like that.

OMW reader Jim Martin used to work at WOHI...he's now doing morning drive on Tuscarawas Broadcasting Canton-market CCM outlet WNPQ/95.9 "The Light", using his real name of Jim Berni.

The 104.3 transmitter, despite a city of license move from East Liverpool to suburban Pittsburgh (Moon Township is where Pittsburgh International Airport is based), is still JUST over the Ohio/PA border, within sight of East Liverpool.

The second reason we mention this?

The EMF folks are still buying, in a world where most other media companies have trouble getting together the cash/credit/backing to do so.

Talking amongst some of our readers, we figured out that almost every major radio outlet in the Cleveland market is either for sale, or could be based on financial difficulties for the stations' parent companies.

About the only "big name" operator we'd leave off that list is Craig Karmazin's Good Karma Broadcasting, owner of sports outlets WKNR/850 "ESPN 850" and WWGK/1540 "KNR2" in Cleveland.

And though the rumors aren't even "solid", many think Karmazin will make a play for one of the for-sale CBS Radio FMs in the Cleveland market - alt-rock WKRK/92.3 "Radio 92.3" is the station most mentioned as a potential acquisition by Karmazin.

Again, this is crunchy rumor stuff, and we don't have anything even remotely solid to confirm any of this. It's just people moving around chess pieces based on faint rumor at this point. We have no idea if Karmazin is kicking any tires, or even seeing how much air is left in them.

Here's the problem for both Karmazin, and for EMF if they decide they want a full-market signal for a Cleveland "K-Love" a market they'd clearly love to serve using more than translators.

As near as we can figure, CBS Radio isn't interested in piecing out its four radio stations, which in addition to WKRK, include AC WDOK/102.1, hot AC WQAL/104.1 and classic rock WNCX/98.5.

And though CBS Radio has more than once reaffirmed its desire to exit smaller (non-top 10) markets like Cleveland, they aren't jumping at every offer.

We also note that Wilks Broadcasting, which bought CBS' Columbus market stations, was also the winning bidder for CBS' entire Denver cluster not that long below-fire-sale prices. We'd have to believe CBS isn't thrilled about dumping all of its large market FMs for a song.

We find it hard to envision some sort of multi-station deal that would split FMs between Karmazin, EMF and perhaps one other operator. It'd be a lot more tidy for CBS to find a single operator to "take over Cleveland"...but that is difficult in this environment.

But, that's just a guess at this point...and as always, We Could Be Wrong..

AND SPEAKING OF FROGS: The "spokesphibian" named Michigan J. Frog was long the symbol of the old WB television network, which was seen in Northeast Ohio on Winston Broadcasting's WBNX/55 Akron for much of its run. (WBNX wrestled the full-time WB affiliation in the Cleveland market from WUAB/43 early on, as it was a secondary affiliation to UPN on 43.)

Labor Day weekend is coming up, which means that Jerry Lewis will once again be a big part of the WBNX lineup.

The station, now the Cleveland market's CW network affiliate, will once again carry the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. This WBNX web page says it'll run from 10 PM Sunday, September 6th, through 7 PM on Labor Day itself.

Aboard as local hosts for the live broadcast from Cleveland's MetroHealth Medical Center are WBNX's Ronnie Duncan, Matt Miller, and Miss Ohio 2006 Melanie Murphy.

It's the 44th annual Jerry Lewis MDA telethon, and by our count, we believe this is WBNX's 10th local broadcast of the event.

Oh, and about the frog.

Drivers near the now-under-demolition State Road Shopping Center in Cuyahoga Falls may notice that ol' Michigan J., the former symbol of WBNX's former network, is still on the side of the station's studio building in neon form in if "The WB" had never left the airwaves of Channel 55.

We hear that aside from the cost of removing the Neon Michigan J., the folks at WBNX still see the frog as something of a sentimental mascot representing the rise of TV 55.

It was during the WB days that the former independent outlet built a very, very strong operation...which continues to this day under the WB's quasi-replacement, the CW.

WBNX, as a WB affiliate, went from a quirky local station running old shows and programming left over from other stations, to a solid (mini-)network affiliate...and is considered, even in today's CW days, one of that network's strongest affiliates.

And as such, we can understand why they don't want to pull down Michigan J. Frog...


Shawn said...

Is it just me or have the production values of the local MDA segments really suffered since WJW-TV dropped the telethon? Ronnie Duncan is barely tolerable as a sport-talk guy, let alone carrying the local portions of a 21 hour live tv broadcast, and the other "talent" that 'BNX puts on the air is amateurish beyond belief. Good cause, poor telecast!

Anonymous said...

The talent on WBNX blows away the (lack of) talent on that alleged Cleveland market CBS station. Melanie Murphy would be much more convincing as a news anchor than Sharon. And they can all speak a coherent sentence with proper grammar, unlike the mumbling buffoons at said CBS station.

Burt said...

That Michigan J Frog sign must be the largest Michigan J built. It would be interesting to find out if there are any that large. I hope they don't take it down since it is so unique. It's a bit of Hollywood in Ohio. I think the WB frog ate UPN and then CBS kissed the frog and it turned into the CW. Sorry, couldn't resist.

I agree with xxrancid, Melanie is a pro, easy on the eyes and seems friendly. But, I don't remember the MDA being on 19. Although, a decade or so ago CBS was on 8 and I remember Wilma seemed bored and seemed forced into helping host the telethon which seemed to take place in a empty plain walled studio. WJW didn't do as many taped stories with the actual sufferers of MD as what WBNX has done. I watched Duncan last year and thought he did a great job and he stayed enthusiastic the whole time. We'll see how it goes this time, and hope they raise a lot of money for a good cause. I have a friend with MD.