Friday, January 30, 2009

WCMH Dumps 11

Briefly: The Columbus Dispatch reports about the latest round of Ohio TV news job cuts.

The Dispatch's Molly Willow reports that Media General NBC affiliate WCMH/4 has laid off veteran news director Stan Sanders and ten other employees - there's no word who else was let go.

The TV trade site TV Newsday indicates that the Columbus cuts are among others nationwide by the company which bought "NBC 4" from the NBC network itself in 2006...

More Details

As we wrap up our out of town excursion, we'll wrap up some loose ends from a newsy week, particularly for our friends in Central Ohio...

SPORTSY: As it turns out, there's a good reason two Columbus radio stations flipped to a sports format within hours of each other this week.

The Columbus Dispatch's Tim Feran quotes RadiOhio president/GM Dave Van Stone, who says research helped lead the move of the "Fan" sports format from its long-time home on WBNS/1460 to displace hot AC "Mix 97.1" at WBNS-FM:

"According to a recent piece of research by Scarborough (a sports market-research company), Columbus, Ohio, ranks as the No. 1 sports city in the United States," Van Stone said. "Our listeners have told us over and over that we need to have a better signal."

But the new "97.1 The Fan" will have to break away from 1460 occasionally for one key piece of programming.

Feran reports that RadiOhio only has the rights to broadcast the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets on the AM dial, with Central Ohio's only actual major pro sports team already airing on the FM dial at Ingleside alt-rocker WWCD/101.1 Grove City "CD 101".

(OK, so the Buckeyes could almost be considered a pro sports organization in Columbus, if it weren't for that pesky collegiate/amateur thing.)

During Blue Jackets games, "The Fan's" new FM side will air its regular ESPN Radio feed.

Meanwhile, the "97.1 The Fan" flip prompted an early move to sports by Clear Channel's WYTS/1230, which brought "Fox Sports 1230" to the air an hour before WBNS-FM suited up in its FM sports uniform.

But Clear Channel Columbus operations manager John Crenshaw tells the Dispatch that as it turns out, WYTS was already ready to suit up as a sports outlet, and that the company also saw that Scarborough research about Columbus being the "number one sports city".

The "Fan" move to 97.1 only prompted an early start to the "Fox Sports 1230" format for WYTS, with the station sliding into FSR at 3 PM that day, after the previously scheduled Jim Rome show - a holdover from the WYTS talk format.

OMW hears that before the FM "Fan" debut was announced, 1230 had already planned to move to FSR this afternoon at 3.

This seems to be a good place to answer one Northeast Ohio listener's question from the OMW mailbag:

I remember that Clear Channel changed WARF 1350 AM over from "lefty radio" to Sports because the ratings hadn't moved from a 1 ... since the changeover, I haven't been able to find WARF on any of the ratings online since ...

I was wondering what the ratings were ... since they seem to have fallen off the edge of the Earth (ratings-wise, that is ...) since becoming the "under-represented" sports news station ... I still can pick up the signal if I looked for it ...

Our OMW reader calling himself "Ernest in Cleveland" accurately remembers that Clear Channel Akron/Canton cited disappointing ratings in its explanation for the format change from liberal talk to sports on WARF/1350.

Quoting from our earlier item, in 2007, where we reprinted the company's explanation:

While Progessive Radio is surviving in parts of the country, it has not in Akron. In two years ratings have not improved, and revenue has declined, despite the remainder of the market seeing an increase in revenue.

Before the format switch to Progressive Talk, 1350am was an all sports station. In the Winter of 2005, (the last ratings period for the station as sports) 1350am had 17,000 weekly listeners. In the latest release of ratings, for the Fall of 06, WARF had 11,600 weekly listeners, and was on the decline.* (Source: Arbitron Fall 05 and Winter 06 Akron Metro Persons 12+ Monday-Sunday 6am - Midnight)

There are two major points to make here.

WARF wasn't setting the world on fire, ratings-wise, in either format - and hasn't since. We don't have the numbers in front of us, but they're probably in that same universe...or less.

As always, those published "vanity numbers" (12-plus) are just a snapshot of (part of) what's going on. You can't point to them and say "look, less people are listening, why did they do that?" It is not that easy.

Quoting us, from our own item from 2007:

But the facts remain as we pointed out earlier. Simply put: even with similar (lower) ratings, sports outsells liberal talk, at least at this juncture. It "sells above its numbers".

That hasn't changed in the nearly two years since 1350 in Akron went back to sports.

And in today's challenging economic environment - syndicated sports radio appears to be format "comfort food" for radio giants like Clear Channel and CBS Radio. It requires virtually no care and feeding, and is easy to sell on the streets. It requires no explanation to advertisers hoping to reach male listeners, especially, and very little on-air attention.

And to tie this up into a bow, "Ernest in Cleveland", our reader, is apparently a regular caller or E-mailer to Dial Global's morning drive show with Bill Press - which started as a local-only show on WARF in its "Radio Free Ohio" liberal talk days...

EXPLAINING THAT FOX 8 CHANGE: As we reported earlier, visitors to "" are being sent to a new website for Cleveland Fox affiliate WJW/8 "FOX 8" - "".

Now, we know why.

Though the folks at the network have continued to spread the "MyFox" web branding to Fox affiliates not owned by the company - as WJW has been since the sale to Local TV, LLC - the move is driven by a new, larger web deal.

While browsing the mobile version of the new WJW "" site, we noticed a Tribune Interactive copyright notice.

And as an OMW reader pointed out, Tribune Interactive has launched something the Chicago-based media giant calls "The Syndicate", a new multimedia online framework. Quoting an official Tribune release:

Tribune Interactive today announced the launch of "The Syndicate," a new online multimedia content marketplace bringing the latest news, lifestyle stories and sports reports to visitors of Tribune Co.’s television and newspaper websites.

In addition to reading the best coverage of the day’s events, website visitors now can learn about the topics they care about -- news, business and entertainment -- through interactive elements such as videos, photos, graphics, trivia and quizzes.

Here's the part that takes in "FOX 8" locally:

The content, created 24/7, is culled from Tribune’s 23 television stations and newspaper websites, 17 TV stations owned by Local TV, LLC, and various outside vendors.

New WJW owner Local TV is operationally a sister company to Tribune. The Local TV stations (and Tribune's local TV operations) are managed by "The Other Company", headed by former Local TV head and current Tribune chief operating officer Randy Michaels, who lives in suburban Cincinnati.

So, you can add "interactive" to the list of WJW functions linked to Tribune via the Local TV-Tribune shared management deal...

TIME WARNER CABLE SITE: WJW isn't the only local media operation to see a new website this week.

Time Warner Cable's Northeast Ohio operation has a new website as well, as the cable giant revamps its own online presence.

The website has undergone major renovations, enhancing look and functionality, and has many new useful tools for current and prospective customers. People can utilize the website to purchase new products, upgrade current services or manage a customer account.

“The newly redesigned Time Warner Cable website is interactive, looks great and is easy to use,” said Steve Fry, Time Warner Cable Northeast Ohio Division President. “Current customers, as well as those out shopping, will find many helpful tools and resources.”

From the homepage, customers can easily navigate throughout the various sections of the website with one simple mouse click. The main links across the top of the homepage – Learn, Shop, Support, What’s On TV, Contact Us and My Services – serve as simple entry-points to begin utilizing the website.

The visual facelift is stunning, and there does appear to be more information (including an extensive FAQ list). We're still sorting through all the information, though, to see what's new...or if there's any word about the expanded services and HDTV lineup that we've reported about here...supposedly heading for TWC's Northeast Ohio system sometime in the next few months...

WBZ DROPS "OVERNIGHT AMERICA": This isn't a Northeast Ohio item per se, but worth noting due to nighttime radio skywave reception, and radio economic issues.

CBS Radio is still running the St. Louis-based syndicated overnight show "Overnight America with Jon Grayson", based at the company's KMOX/1120 continues to air on stations easily heard on Northeast Ohio's AM radio dial, including KMOX and KDKA/1020 Pittsburgh.

But Grayson's show will disappear from another easily heard station next week.

CBS news/talker WBZ/1030 Boston has gotten off of the syndicated overnight train, and will return local overnight host Steve LeVeille to his perch on Monday. He was recently let go in a CBS cost-cutting spree.

The news is rather huge in New England. It's the second time WBZ has reversed a decision to dump local overnight talk for a syndicated show that wasn't well-received - the first time, it was Tom Snyder's old national radio show that aired briefly on the Boston-based radio giant.

For a Northeast Ohioan, the concept of a "live and local" all night talk radio show seems like something out of the days of Marconi...though we seem to remember that Akron market talk WNIR/100.1 actually made a brief attempt at post-midnight weekend talk in the old "Dating Show" days (12-3 AM Saturday/Sunday nights, if we remember right).

And of course, WNIR does local talk until 11 PM weeknights even today.

But late night, overnight local talk doesn't have much history in Ohio. Even Clear Channel powerhouse WLW/700 Cincinnati's locally-originated overnight programming is the syndicated "America's Trucking Network" - produced at Kenwood, but meant for national audiences.

WLW sister talk WTVN/610 Columbus, of course, featured local host Steve Cannon behind the microphone until 1 AM for many years.

But many local listeners - including your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) - have tuned the dial to WBZ or KDKA for their own local overnight shows over the years...and that option is about to return for 1030 listeners...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Keeping In Touch

Your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) will be heading back to Northeast Ohio by late Saturday, it appears.

And those working in media will breathe a sigh of, not because they're glad to have us back in town.

If you've followed the Mighty Blog of Fun(tm) since we started in mid-2005, there's one particular truism. When we leave Ohio for any lengthy period of time, major changes happen in the media world. At one point, then-Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage actually lost his job temporarily. (Maybe we shouldn't have come back. Heh.)

OK, so we're mostly joking, but since we left the OMW World Headquarters earlier this week, there have been two format changes - with Dispatch hot AC WBNS/97.1 dropping its long-time "Mix" format to become the primary home of the AM side's "Fan" format, and Saga's oldies outlet WODB/107.9 swooping in to become hot AC "The New Mix 107.9" the next day.

So, hang in there until the end of the week...

NOT MYFOX: We actually didn't expect this one, but it happened this week.

Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 "Fox 8" has dumped the Fox Interactive "MyFox Cleveland" website it adopted when it was owned by the network, and has debuted the new "".

The move is not necessarily a direct result of the station's sale from Fox to Local TV. Fox Interactive has built many "MyFox" websites for Fox affiliates not owned by the Newscorp mother ship.

But we believe Local TV has a website deal with its other stations not acquired in the deal with Fox, so it makes sense to change.

A quick look at shows that it still offers items such as online video of the station's news stories, but we'll have to dig deeper to see what's missing and what's not...

RTN'ING IT: The digital TV subchannel expansion continues in Ohio.

We reported earlier that Raycom Cleveland MyNetwork TV affiliate WUAB-DT 43.2 will finally replace the "We Didn't Kill The Tube" slide with actual programming from MGM's This TV, part of a multi-station Raycom deal. (We haven't heard when that change will take place.)

In Columbus, viewers are getting the Retro Television Network (RTN) via a subchannel of Media General NBC affiliate WCMH/4:

RTN 4.2 has retro television at its best from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s! It has something for everyone including Leave it to Beaver, Knight Rider, Wagon Train, Rockford Files, and Black Sheep Squadron. Plus, look for current local programs including encore performances of NBC 4’s Daytime Columbus with Gail Hogan, weeknights at 8:00 p.m.

The latter shows some flexibility that the new "diginets" have - local stations can carve out time for non-network programming, though those that wish to run the services 24/7 can do so.

Or, they can dual affiliate, as Sinclair ABC affiliate WSYX/6 has done with the digital subchannel it established as Columbus' MyNetwork TV affiliate. That station now also runs, if we recall right, the aforementioned This TV in hours outside prime-time MyNetwork TV programming.

Missing in the Columbus digital subchannel equation? A player based in the Columbus market itself.

".2 Network", the locally-based subchannel's run by the Guardian Group, the Columbus-area company that sold WSFJ/51 "GTN 51" in Newark OH to Trinity Broadcasting a while back. "GTN" recamped on a low-power outlet on channel 23, and is still struggling to retain cable carriage it had as a "must carry" on 51.

But from recent trade reports, we learn that ".2 Network"'s start has been pushed back again. The Guardian folks were quoted in an article about new digital subchannel programmers getting some affiliate resistance - because the would-be affiliates were focusing resources on their main channels in this flagging economy.

Still, with This TV and RTN both picking up major groups in the past few days, we're left to wonder if the problem is more .2/Guardian getting squeezed out by its two largest subchannel programming competitors.

This TV is backed by studio giant MGM, and even with some financial and operational questions recently (mostly linked to its split with troubled Equity Broadcasting), RTN is still managing to sign up big broadcast groups...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Other Mix Shoe Drops In Columbus

Just one day after Dispatch's WBNS-FM/97.1 dumped hot AC "Mix 97.1"
for sports, another Columbus station has stepped in.

Saga oldies WODB/107.9 "B107.9" has picked up both WBNS-FM's discarded
format and identity as hot AC "Mix 107.9", launching with a "5,000
song marathon"...

Sports And Digital

Your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) is "on the road" for much of this week, and our updates will be a little more sporadic than usual.

But, we did manage to put some "breaking news" up here before it happened on Monday, didn't we? And as usual, our physical exit from Ohio prompted a major change...sorry, Columbus, we should have warned you!

THE SPORTS HIT THE FM FAN: And as reported here Monday, Dispatch hot AC WBNS-FM/97.1 Columbus "Mix 97.1" faded into oblivion as scheduled at 4 PM on Monday.

Those who were listening to the FM side (or its streaming audio) told us that the "Mix" format went out without any live air we'd mentioned, we're hearing the entire FM-side staff was let go earlier that morning.

OMW readers tell us a medley of Ohio State University Buckeyes-related music, fight songs, etc. led into the new "Sports Radio 97.1 The Fan" at 4 PM - a full simulcast of the long-running "1460 The Fan" on WBNS' AM side.

Given the station's Ohio State sports contract, you could say the new two-headed "Fan" is "Powered by the Buckeyes" obsession in Ohio's capital city like no other.

Speaking of "power", and for that matter, former Buckeyes, "The Fan's" afternoon drive team members - including Chris Spielman and Kirk Herbstreit - gushed about the wide availability of the station on its new FM signal, and looked forward to the end of complaints from areas even relatively close to Columbus which are cut off from the tightly directional 1460 AM night pattern.

Not gushing at all were fans of the music format blown off the FM dial in the latest move of an AM sports station to a big FM signal.

Station officials issued a statement on the former "Mix 97.1" website:

Anytime there is a dramatic change in direction for a business, there will be those that are happy, and those that are disappointed. We do not make changes of this magnitude without weighing both sides of the equation.

In the end, making this format change to Mix 97.1 was about providing central Ohio with what central Ohio has continued to ask for, a "sports" radio station on the FM dial. We realize there will be disappointed music listeners, as well as many very happy sports fans that are finally getting what they want.

The site even contains a helpful feedback dialog - just in case you're a former "Mix" listener who wants to try to spit into the wind and return the old format.

With the primary branding now on the FM side for WBNS' "Fan" format, we're among those wondering if 1460 will go off in a different direction. Right now, we have no indication that will happen.

Sports radio on FM has become a Big Deal in the past few months. CBS Radio started the latest fire by flipping another 97.1 FM, Detroit's FM talker WKRK, to sports as WXYT "97.1 The Ticket", a move from its old 1270 AM home (which like 1460 now with its new 97.1 home, still simulcasts its FM side today).

That station has been so successful on FM that Clear Channel's recent "restructuring" restructured a long time sports format competitor, WDFN/1130, right out of the local sports talk radio business.

CBS Radio quickly followed by flipping another FM talker to sports in Baltimore (WJZ-FM), then one in Dallas (KRLD-FM). The troubled broadcasting giant reportedly acted quickly after seeing positive PPM (Portable People Meter) returns out of Detroit's FM "Ticket".

Long-time readers know that we've been watching traditional AM spoken word formats (news/talk/sports) and their success on FM.

Just down the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes from OMW World Headquarters, Clear Channel has reaped quite a reward pairing a popular conservative talk local morning show with a fairly traditional Clear Channel AM talk lineup on Pittsburgh's WPGB/104.7, taking a lot of wind out of the sails of CBS Radio's legendary talk KDKA/1020...particularly in younger still-talk-friendly demos.

And the march continues.

Meanwhile, we don't know if it was prompted by "The Fan"'s move to FM, but Clear Channel flipped talk WYTS/1230 to sports on Monday afternoon, featuring the Fox Sports Radio lineup - and presumably, Premiere mainstay Jim Rome sticks around to anchor the new sports format.

WYTS had been running mostly a second-tier lineup of syndicated conservative hosts...the name hosts over on big brother talker WTVN/610. WYTS had just started the new year with additions of United Stations' Lou Dobbs, and Dial Global's Neal Boortz and Clark Howard to the schedule.

The WYTS website now shows the new "Fox Sports Radio 1230" logo...and nothing else, yet...

ONE MORE TO GO: That rumbling in Congress to move the digital TV transition date now has one important vote behind it, and could well end up on President Obama's desk soon.

The U.S. Senate has weighed in, voting "unanimously" to move the digital transition deadline from February 17th to June 12th.

The issue still has to be considered in the House, which has been kicking around its own DTV-related bills, but, according to the Associated Press:

...Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., has vowed to work with House leaders to bring (Senate Commerce Committee chair Sen. Jay) Rockefeller's bill up for a floor vote on Tuesday.

If the DTV delay bill passes in the House, President Obama is expected to sign it.

As we pointed out last time this proposal was mentioned here:

(Sen.) Rockefeller managed to ease some of these concerns by allowing broadcast stations to make the switch from analog to digital signals sooner than the June deadline if they choose...

The concerns come from places like PBS, where the AP quotes president/CEO Paula Kerger that a delay to June 12th could cost public broadcasters some $22 million in extra costs.

The upshot is that right now, it does appear that television stations can abandon analog for good on their own under the new plan, and those watching the moves say that hundreds of stations have already made it clear to the FCC that they are going to shut down analog on February 17th or WNEO/45 Alliance and WMFD/68 Mansfield have done already in Northeast Ohio.

But, what about the complicated situations? What about Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3, which has been trying to put up the tower holding its digital antenna set for RF channel 17 (we haven't checked on its progress as of late) for some time?

Is TBN O&O WDLI/17 Canton signing off its analog side on the night of February 17th, or will they wait until June?

We won't know that answer probably until after the date change bill is signed into law by President Obama, but if they hang around after the 17th of next month, WKYC won't be able to budge from its anemic temporary digital home on interference-plagued DT 2 until WDLI's analog 17 is gone... though it does have the authority to operate on the pre-transition DT 2 past February 17th in an STA...

"THIS" IS IT FOR WUAB-DT2: One of the folks keeping track of the digital TV application status is Virginia resident Trip Ericson, proprietor of the RabbitEars site with various TV station facilities listings.

Trip also lets us know that Raycom Media Cleveland market MyNetwork TV affiliate WUAB/43 has found new programming for its long-abandoned digital subchannel 43.2.

After the continual months-long run of a digital slide telling viewers that no, WUAB didn't kill "The Tube" music video channel, WUAB parent Raycom has signed a deal to air MGM's "This TV" service on 43.2 - and 14 other stations. TVNewsday reports the deals with Raycom, Tribune and two smaller groups give the so-called "diginet" over 60% national clearance.

"This TV" airs a number of movies and reruns, mainly from the MGM vaults. Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting, which runs a local rerun subchannel called "Me-TV" in Chicago and Milwaukee, is also involved in the new channel.

"Me-TV" carries more sitcoms and hour-long classic TV dramas than "This". Many of the programs it carries are seen on the Retro Television Network (RTN), which is aired subchannels of Toledo Barrington NBC affiliate WNWO-DT', and of Steubenville Cox NBC affiliate WSTV-DT.

Despite that similarity, MGM/Weigel's "This TV" and RTN are competitors.

We don't know when "This TV" will start on WUAB. It may already be up, but we're out of range of Cleveland local over-air digital signals at this writing...

Monday, January 26, 2009

FM Sports Tackles Columbus' Mix

Rumors are about to turn to reality in Columbus.

AllAccess confirms that Dispatch hot AC WBNS-FM/97.1 "Mix 97.1" will flip in about an hour to a simulcast of sports sister station WBNS/1460...the new station to be known as "97.1 The Fan".

OMW hears unconfirmed rumors that the move has already resulted in the dismissal of the entire (we're told) "Mix" FM staff.

More later...

Digital TV Date Etched In Water

It's been kicking around Washington for the past few weeks, but it looks like Congress may indeed try to stand in front of the speeding Digital TV Express Train, wave its arms wildly and shout into the train's loud whistle - "slow down!"

A number of reports late last week indicate that a key Republican U.S. Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas (ranking member of the Senate's Commerce Committee), has ended her opposition to a move of the digital TV transition date from February 17th to June 12th, and that a vote on the compromise could come as soon as today.

With Democrats in the House in favor of the move, and President Obama already on record in favor of it, there doesn't seem to be much standing in the way of that new June 12th date.

But not only can those in Congress change their minds, or mount new opposition...the devil's in the proverbial details.

And one of those details is jumping up and shouting at us.

From the article about the reported "compromise" in the Washington Post:

The bill would allow broadcasters to turn off analog signals before the June 12 deadline, and public safety agencies would be allowed to use those airwaves as soon as they are available.

Let's read that first part again:

The bill would allow broadcasters to turn off analog signals before the June 12 deadline

Now, a number of broadcasters have turned off analog signals early, including two in the immediate OMW coverage area, Western Reserve PBS' WNEO/45 Alliance and Mid-State independent WMFD/68 Mansfield.

To get FCC approval, stations like WNEO and WMFD had to provide detailed information on why the move had to be made early...involving various technical and even weather-in-Northern-Ohio explanations.

We obviously haven't seen this "compromise" bill the Senate is expected to vote upon this week, but it sounds like all a station would have to do to shut down before June 12th would be to ask to do so. And thus, if we're reading this right, they could go ahead and shut down on February 17th - as planned.

Now, we believe if the stations were allowed to do that with a new transition date, they'd have to run the requisite crawls and notices that they're shutting down the analog signal - all required by the FCC for 30 days before the planned early analog shutdown. (Both WMFD and WNEO had to run these messages.)

So it may not have been a coincidence that one Ohio station operator is apparently thinking ahead.

On our drive into the Mahoning Valley last week, we happened to be watching TV for a while at a local business, and noticed that both New Vision CBS affiliate WKBN/27 Youngstown and Parkin Broadcasting(/New Vision LMA partner) ABC affiliate WYTV/33 Youngstown were running frequent, fast moving, identical crawls.

The crawls moved so fast, we can barely remember, but they appeared to specifically address the stations (by call letters and city of license) shutting down on February 17th. The crawls were not the generic DTV transition crawls usually run by stations.

So, we're back to the question - if all the TV stations in a market got together and decided to stay with the February 17th date, the law (as reported in the press) would seem to allow that early transition - much like the one that took place in Wilmington NC in September, or the one that just happened in Hawaii.

Or, if one station wanted to go ahead and others wait, that would seem to be OK as well (though we suspect broadcasters will talk about this among each other in each market).

So...what stations will be left in analog on June 12th? Will that date basically be "the last stragglers turning off the analog", give or take a "nightlight" station or three? We'll see.

The local media weighs in on transition-related topics, with the original date under a month away.

The Youngstown Vindicator covers the recent power increase at Western Reserve PBS' WNEO/45. From the article by the Vindy's Shelby Schroeder:

(Western Reserve PBS' Amanda) Donatelli said the station has called about 20 of the residents who registered complaints to inform them of the upgrade. Of those, only one still had difficulty receiving a signal, which Donatelli said could be attributed to an ineffective set of rabbit ears.

“The main thing we’re telling people is to re-scan for channels,” she said. “After they’ve done that process, they should be able to pick us up clearly.”

Anyway, it wouldn't be a newspaper article about broadcasting without at least an error or five, so here goes:

WOUB switched to digital in September 2006, long before other stations were prepared for the transition.

Well, we're pretty sure the Ohio University outlet - as much good work as it did - did not "switch to digital in September 2006". It appears to be accurate that they have been running the post-transition WOUB-DT facility since (probably) then, but so have other stations.

Oh, unless they're not being truthful with the FCC in their Digital Transition Update filings, it would appear WOUB's analog facility is still on the air, and will run until the transition. So much for a 2006 "switch" as reported.

And as far as the FCC was concerned, WNEO's 44KW signal on DT 45 *was* the station's authorized full-power pre-transition facility (on 45). The Salem-operated station had been pumping out a more powerful signal than that on DT 46 for years, probably going back to the same time WOUB lit up its digital facilities.

The move to DT 45 - presumably done to expand the station's range in the post-transition world - temporarily hobbled WNEO's signal. But the Vindy article makes it look like the Western Reserve PBS folks were hoping to scrape along on the 44KW, when that was never the case.

Like many stations in the area, WNEO filed a timely "maximization" authorization on DT 45 to 500KW, a power level they expected to run post-February 17th. That maximization was approved, and then the station - not wanting to wait until February to go full-power, filed a special temporary authority with the FCC to go to 500KW early - which was approved on January 8th, and implemented this past week.

We realize all this technical stuff is hard for a newspaper writer to digest...particularly a general assignment writer who doesn't cover this stuff daily.

But in this case, the article has a few glaring errors. Some were facts not explored above, others appear to be errors just brought directly into the article from the telephone interview with the WOUB staffer.

The Vindicator did do SOME digging - as they went into the official filing for the WNEO early maximization STA request, as we did, and noted the wide range of Mahoning Valley viewers complaining of trouble with the pre-increase 44KW signal.

Anyway, we'll continue to watch...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Format Changes We Missed

Shortly after the start of every new year, some radio stations feel it's a great time for a fresh start...with a format change.

Since they're not in our regular listening area, OMW missed two of them - but we've caught up with them a full week before the end of January, so we can say "this month"...

W-WOW BACK TO TALK: The format wheel has been spun so often at one small Northeast Ohio station, WWOW/1360 Conneaut, we wouldn't be surprised to see TV's Vanna White around.

Its most recent format was Catholic religion, courtesy of the audio feed from Eternal Word Television Network as "Walking On Water Radio". Before that, it ran Citadel/ABC's "True Oldies Channel" satellite-fed format from New York morning radio host Scott Shannon's basement. Or perhaps from a closet near his "day job" at Citadel/ABC's WPLJ in the Big Apple.

The small station just a handful of miles from the Pennsylvania border brought in its own version of Vanna again on January 5th, and has landed on a news/talk format - again.

PBRTV contributor Tom Lavery gave us the first heads-up of the new format, which has a 7-9 AM local morning show:

The W-WOW morning show is hosted by Marty Landon and Gary Gersin with weather from WICU TV 12 meteorologist Julie Coates. The syndicated fare includes Laura Ingraham, Dave Ramsey, Bill Bennett and Sean Hannity.

The station lists local sports and a Saturday sports talk show, and has a new website...with a schedule that still lists some EWTN programming in late night and weekends, and what appears to be a midday 12-2 PM block with various local programs.

Ashtabula Star-Beacon writer and OMW reader Robert Lebzelter has more in an article from December. It quotes Landon, also the station's general manager, as saying the station seeks to fill a news/talk format void in Ashtabula County - a void caused by new WFUN/970 owner Media One Group's flip of the former Clear Channel talk station to sports as "ESPN 970".

In its previous news/talk incarnation, WWOW sold time (we presume) to Youngstown's Louie Free, his brokered talk show now heard back in Youngstown in middays on Bernard Radio gospel WASN/1500.

Judging from a listen to a recording of its first morning show on the station's website, it isn't shying away from using the "W-WOW" name for the station.

"W-WOW" went Catholic, format wise, shortly after John Marra Jr.'s Cause Plus Marketing bought the station...

JUST BARELY IN THE OMW COVERAGE AREA: A Youngstown-market reader tipped us that Forever's WJST/1280 New Castle PA dumped oldies in favor of sports, and we have confirmed it.

A dip into the Mahoning Valley allowed us a shot at hearing the station now calling itself "Fox Sports 1280", which is a format change from its previous incarnation as an oldies station ("Just Oldies").

We don't know when WJST made the format change, but we're presuming it was sometime earlier this month.

Friday, we heard WJST running the Dan Patrick Show (we presume from his new simulcast via Fox Sports Radio), and Premiere's Jim Rome. And, a Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl fight song we'd rather forget. (Can't Ohio pass a law jamming that sort of thing on our side of the border? Hmmm?)

Those desparately seeking out oldies music in the New Castle area can find it on Keymarket sister FM WKPL/92.1 Ellwood City PA, the 8,000th Western Pennsylvania incarnation of "The Pickle", running ABC/Citadel's 24-hour oldies format "Pure Gold"/"Classic Hits Radio" in tandem with sister WPKL/99.3 Uniontown PA.

(If we remember right last time we were within range of 1280, it was running Jones Radio's oldies format.)

92.1 is also audible in parts of the Youngstown market even from its new base near Beaver Falls. It was originally licensed to New Castle...and once had the WJST(-FM) calls, which it adopted after its original WKST-FM calls were moved to Pittsburgh's "96.1 Kiss FM"...

An Ohio Public Radio Merger

As in commercial radio, the Incredibly Awful Economy is starting to affect public radio as well.

That's what ultimately prompted a big move at Oxford's Miami University, where the university's NPR affiliate - WMUB/88.5 - will lose its original programming on March 1st.

Cincinnati Public Radio will operate it starting that date, and will program it as a repeater for its own NPR station, WVXU/91.7.

The Middletown Journal and the Dayton Business Journal have more, as does the university itself.

You might recall that CPR took over WVXU from Xavier University, the once quirky station acting as the original hub of the "X-Star Network" that reached from Southwest Ohio into lower Michigan. CPR's original station is WGUC/90.9, which is the classical music sister station to WVXU's NPR news and talk operation.

There's some talk that WVXU and CPR may establish a some sort of a news reporting presence in the Oxford/Butler County area, but at first, it appears WMUB's mission will be to serve as a simulcaster for the Cincinnati NPR station. Quoting the Middletown Journal article:

For at least the near-term, WMUB and WVXU will be simulcast, said Richard Campbell, Miami journalism director and chair of the WMUB Review Committee.

"We just don't know how it will all end up," he said. "The piece not fixed (in the agreement) is the journalism piece. I can imagine us being a kind of bureau for them that does stories on southwest Ohio and special stories for Butler County."

Though talk of Miami University letting WMUB go had been going on since 2007, the current worldwide economic crisis - and an expected large budget shortfall for the university - quickened the exploration. The deal between the university and CPR would save the school about $800,000 in direct and indirect costs, and result in jobs lost for 10 staff members - seven full-time workers and three part-time workers.

The Middletown Journal also reports a detail we hadn't seen elsewhere...that Antioch University's WYSO/91.3 Yellow Springs had originally been courted to take over WMUB, but the deal fell through...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

WNEO Goes Full Power

OMW hears that Western Reserve PBS' Youngstown market outlet, WNEO/45 Alliance, has successfully raised its power to the post-transition 500KW level.

As readers here already know, WNEO signed off its analog transmitter in Salem in mid-November 2008, going digital only with a 44KW authorization on its former analog channel, 45.

But as station manager William O'Neill notes in a station press release, Western Reserve PBS quickly found out that 44KW was just not enough, and filed for a special temporary authority to run the post-transition power at 500KW.

“Once we made the transition from analog to digital in November, it quickly became apparent that the new digital signal was not powerful enough to serve our WNEO viewers,” said William O’Neill, Western Reserve PBS station manager. “The FCC granted approval to significantly increase the power in February, but we asked them for permission to upgrade earlier since so many viewers were unable to pick up our signal. We received that approval earlier this week.”

Approval to run the higher power level, early, was issued by the FCC earlier this month (on January 8th), and our good friends at Campus Center Drive tell us that the station "upped the juice" on WNEO digital channel 45 on Wednesday afternoon.

In its filing of the STA application, Western Reserve PBS noted that it had received viewer complaints about the earlier, lower-power signal from locations as close as WNEO's city of license (Alliance), its transmitter site (Salem), and from communities all over the Mahoning Valley.

Western Reserve PBS' other outlet, Akron's WEAO/49, is operating at full digital power, and that facility will continue after analog channel 49 signs off at the digital transition...

Toledo Sale

It appears that the folks at Toledo's Cornerstone Church may be getting out of the broadcasting business.

AllAccess reports that the church's two radio stations - WNKL/96.9 Wauseon and WNWT/1520 Rossford - are being sold to California-based Educational Media Foundation for $2.8 million.

EMF, of course, programs the satellite Christian contemporary music format "K-Love" from suburban Sacramento, and has been operating with that format on WNKL via a local marketing agreement since late 2004. The 96.9 Toledo rimshot had been dance WXQQ after Cornerstone brought it on the air.

WNWT recently flipped from Christian music/gospel WDMN "Dominion 1520" to news/talk programming, carrying a wide variety of secular talk shows - mostly conservative, but WNWT has also been an affiliate of the show hosted by Dial Global liberal talk show host Stephanie Miller.

OMW hears that Cornerstone is also selling its other media holding in Toledo - MyNetwork TV affiliate WMNT-CA/48. We hear it's headed for non-church secular ownership.

Since it's being bought by the K-Love "mothership", we assume that WNKL/96.9 will continue to operate with that format.

What happens to WNWT/1520's secular talk format under that company's ownership?

We don't know. But we did uncover this from the sales agreement (PDF format) posted on the FCC's website:

Seller hereby consents and agrees to cooperate with Buyer in connection with the filing of a request by Buyer for a waiver of the FCC's "main studio" rules and where necessary a request to convert WNWT to noncommercial status, such waiver and noncommercial change to be effective on or after the Closing Date.

We'll make the assumption that a change to noncommercial status would doom WNWT's current commercial talk format. Our guess is that WNWT will, when this is all done, simulcast WNKL's K-Love feed - to act as a fill for areas WNKL's rimshot signal has trouble reaching.

Just a guess, again. We're just not aware of any AM-dominant formats in EMF's stable...and we find it hard to believe that "Air1" will be destined for the AM side...

Sports Radio Fallout

Some changes at a national sports radio network have created quite the fallout - at least for some stations.

As part of massive changes announced by Clear Channel on Tuesday, Fox Sports Radio (run by Clear Channel's Premiere syndication arm) also announced a lineup shift.

Out the door at FSR: shows including mid-morning's "Out of Bounds with Craig Shemon and James Washington", the nighttime show hosted by Andrew Siciliano and Crystal Fernandez, and Ben Maller's overnight show.

Locally, "Out of Bounds" has aired on Good Karma sports WWGK/1540 Cleveland "KNR2" (9-10 AM), and Media-Com sports WJMP/1520 Kent "Fox Sports Radio 1520" (9 AM-noon), until today.

What replaced the FSR mid-morning show today?

Why, it's syndicated host Dan Patrick, whose Content Factory show is now being offered directly on the FSR satellite feed.

Patrick's show already has one existing Northeast Ohio affiliate - Clear Channel Akron sports outlet WARF/1350 "SportsRadio 1350". And a quick check of one of our radios here at OMW World Headquarters before 10 AM found all three stations running Patrick's show....WARF via its syndication, WJMP and WWGK via least temporarily.

By 10 AM, WWGK scooted off to its regularly scheduled airing of ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd show. WJMP is still with the FSR feed of Patrick.

Since both stations are daytimers, the evening/night programming changes will have little, if any, effect on them. Afternoon drive show "The Drive With Chris Myers", heard on "KNR2", will see Myers gain a co-host - local KLAC/570 Los Angeles host Steve Hartman. (Part of the restructuring means that KLAC's staff is basically merging with FSR.)

How long will the 3-station arrangement last for Dan Patrick's show? We don't know.

We suspect that both 1520 and 1540 were taken by surprise...and since both stations basically run automated in a closet, overshadowed by much more popular "big brother" stations (WKNR/850 and WNIR/100.1), it's quite possible this very item will inform one or both operators that it's happening...

An Odd Wednesday

And considering the events of this week, "odd" may be an understatement.

Yeah, we're tiring rather rapidly of listing those tossed aside from the Good Ship Radio this week. For the moment, we'll lead with something not related to job loss...

THE ANALOG SHUFFLE: When local television stations figure out how they'll deal with cable systems and signal carriage, they have basically two choices.

Broadcasters can either demand "retransmission consent", which means they get some consideration (monetary, or carriage of related channels) from the cable system to permit them to carry their signal, or they can demand "must carry", which forces the cable system to carry their signal without compensation involved.

Stations like Trinity O&O WDLI/17 Canton choose the latter, and apparently, TBN pushed the issue going into 2009. WDLI landed on a whole truckload of Time Warner Cable systems it had not been on before, including the company's big Cleveland-based system.

And including Ashtabula, where an odd "one for one" trade prompted TWC to dump Erie PA PBS affiliate WQLN/54.

The Ashtabula Star-Beacon's Robert Lebzelter reports in an article last week that the cable company is partially acceding to subscriber pressure, and will bring back WQLN - for digital cable subscribers - in the Ashtabula/Conneaut/Geneva areas on February 18th.

The Erie PBS outlet says "that's not enough".

Lebzelter's article says WQLN officials continue to fight to return Channel 54 to the analog space it occupied until the addition of WDLI at the first of the year. Quoting:

Tom New, the station’s creative services director, said the cable giant is violating the must-carry law and wants it returned to the basic cable package.

“We believe that is unacceptable. We are still a local channel,” he said.

New said the station’s attorneys in Washington sent a letter Wednesday morning (1/14) both by U.S. mail and electronically, demanding to be returned to the basic lineup.

“Now we are in a holding pattern,” New said.

Time Warner Cable officials apparently have a different geographic view, citing that since the Ashtabula-area systems are fed out of Cleveland - WDLI gets the must carry designation and WQLN doesn't.

Ashtabula County is on the eastern edge of the Cleveland TV market, despite its proximity to Erie.

But the Erie PBS outlet points out that Ashtabula County is very much in its local service area, is closer to Erie, and they believe subscribers shouldn't be forced to pay for digital cable to watch the station.

Similar scenarios are being played out elsewhere in the Time Warner system, with the company dumping "duplicate" stations outside their market area - along with the general move from analog to digital.

And we note that practice isn't going over well with the Federal Communications Commission, according to this Associated Press article earlier this week:

The Federal Communications Commission is fining nine cable TV operators for attempting to thwart its investigation of a practice in which analog channels were transferred to a more expensive digital tier, leaving some customers without access.

We're wondering if this provided an avenue for WQLN in their effort to return to analog in the Ashtabula region.

This is not really directly related, but OMW feels the need to note that Time Warner Cable subscribers in Northwest Ohio lost their access to CBC television outlet CBET/9 Windsor, Ontario, Canada in the changes. CBET had long been on systems in Findlay and Bowling Green, camped out on analog channel 19.

We understand why it happened...but since we keep an eye on Canada, we're sad to see it'll be gone if we visit that part of the TWC footprint in the future.

As far as we know, CBET/CBC is still available on the Toledo-based Buckeye Cablesystem, including on its Erie County system based in Sandusky...

MORE DIGITAL, OR LESS?: This isn't necessarily a Northeast Ohio item, but it has one interesting local reference.

A recent Washington Post article talks about all the potential glitches regarding the nation's transition to digital television, which - at last check - is still set for February 17th. (Check back later, though. At last report, efforts to move the date to June 12th have apparently stalled in Congress...but, things could change.)

And among the concerns about signal strength and the like, comes this anecdotal item from a DC-area woman with relatives near here. Quoting:

Nicolle Singer, 29, of the District, said she is concerned that her retired parents, who live in a small Ohio town 60 miles west of Cleveland, will lose the channels they've come to rely on as a main source of news.

"They're annoyed because they feel like they're being forced to get satellite," she said. "Cable service isn't available where they live."

And her father is to reluctant to go on the roof of the two-story house in winter weather to replace the 20-year-old antenna with a stronger one.

OK, a few things.

One, we'll assume by the "60 miles west of Cleveland" location that Ms. Singer's parents live somewhere in in the Sandusky/Norwalk region. We don't know the area intimately, but we're surprised that there's even a small town that can't get service from Time Warner Cable's massive local system.

(Even so, Ms. Singer's parents are apparently - reluctantly - ready to sign up for satellite service...they're not all that happy about it, but they know it's an option.)

Two, we're wondering if that "20 year-old antenna" on the roof would still work, or if "a stronger (antenna)" means it's about to fall off the roof or fall apart, or if it's not enough to pick up the digital signals from the Parma antenna farm. We're wondering if they have tried it with a digital converter box, or just believe they are not expecting to get digital signals with it.

But it does reiterate a point we've made here before.

Cleveland is not the biggest sized market in the country, geographically. (We'd put a bet on Denver, which stretches into parts of Utah and we believe even parts of Montana.)

But the Cleveland/Akron (Canton) TV market is still pretty big, and there is still a possibility that even those with a modest roof antenna that far out will be unable to watch channels they used to receive in analog - probably with a coating of TV "snow".

We're talking digital here - either you have the signal, and it's perfect, or you lose the signal.

It's just a part of the transition, and no amount of delay in the date will fix that.

As we've said before, it'll be up to the local stations if they wish to employ digital TV fixes for areas like Sandusky, Mansfield/Ashland, Dover/New Philadelphia or Ashtabula, all on the edges of the Cleveland TV market. There are fixes available, including "distributed" TV boosters and digital translators.

(Our good friend Scott Fybush at NorthEast Radio Watch reports that a digital translator is already being used to good effect in the far flung Johnstown/Altoona PA market, extending one station's digital reach to State College - using PSIP to show WJAC/6's signal on a digital tuner as 6-1.)

In the end, the stations will have to decide whether it's worth "fixing" the outside ranges of the signal, given the small population in each area - and the small percentage of that population that doesn't have cable or satellite...

AND SOME BAD PRINT NEWS: You know we couldn't get too far from more layoff news, given the state of the economy and the collapsing media business.

This time, it's Ohio Print Media Watch, as OMW hears that Record Publishing has laid off as many as a dozen employees mostly at the Kent-Ravenna Record Courier daily newspaper.

We're told the R-C lost two reporters, two photographers (out of three), an advertising sales person, a classified ad taker, two circulation managers, and an ad designer, and that the company's weekly division in Stow let go "at least one other reporter/editor".

The layoffs - which happened January 12th - are being blamed, like everything, on the economy. We're told that the Ravenna-based newspaper has been particularly hard hit with a loss of display advertising from car dealers, and that there's only one car dealer even left in the Portage County seat.

OMW reported earlier that the paper shuttered its offices in Kent, part of a consolidation that sent most of the people (still left) to the R-C's Ravenna headquarters...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Clear Channel Layoffs Day 2

OK, as much as we tried to put it off, we have to dig in and share the fallout from the massive Clear Channel restructuring - and how it affects Ohio, as news of yesterday's 9% layoff at the radio giant continues to trickle down.

Or, as the trade website AllAccess headline says: "Now, 1850 People Have To Restructure Their Lives"...

YOUNGSTOWN: We have some word of the cuts made Tuesday at Clear Channel's South Avenue compound in suburban Youngstown.

OMW hears two on-air names let go were actually reported on NBC affiliate WFMJ/21's late newscast on Monday, and one is a long-time veteran of Mahoning Valley radio.

We hear that standards WNIO/1390 has parted company with Vince Camp, who was most recently heard doing the 2-5 PM afternoon shift for the station - as well as hosting WNIO's Sunday "Italian Hour".

We don't have Vince's resume memorized, but an older WNIO web page we found in a Google search says he started at WNIO in 1967. (We'll assume that's the former WNIO incarnation at 1540 in Niles, which is today's Beacon Media Christian contemporary WRTK/1540 "Freq 1540".) We seem to remember him from a stint at WBBW/1240, which is today's Cumulus Media sports talker "ESPN 1240", but we could be wrong.

Also reported to be out at South Avenue is hot AC WMXY/98.9 "Mix 98.9" afternooner Dana Jordan, and a still undetermined number of off-air staffers...

TOLEDO: In addition to the previously reported exit of part-time WSPD/1370 staffer Glenn Forbes, OMW hears that Clear Channel's Toledo cluster sustained 22 job cuts, 10 full-time and 12 part-time.

As with the other layoffs, we're told that the bulk of the impact in Toledo was felt in the sales, production and promotions departments, like this one mentioned in AllAccess' Clear Channel Restructuring List Of Doom:

STEVE “VANDAM” DAMSCHRODER exits as Promotions Director for CC/TOLEDO after two years.

DETROIT: No, we didn't misplace the state border, or start writing for Mike Austerman's excellent Michiguide. But there's a big change in Clear Channel's Detroit cluster that merits a Northeast Ohio sidebar.

Clear Channel has basically thrown in the locker room towel on its once-iconic sports talker there, WDFN/1130 - long known as "The Fan".

The Detroit News is among many outlets reporting that Tuesday's job cut wave resulted in the end of all locally-produced sports talk shows on WDFN. The station is reported to be airing FOX Sports Radio full-time, along with continuing to fulfill its 2008-2009 Detroit Pistons contract.

WDFN's demise is sudden, but the station has faced major competition from CBS Radio's rejuvenated sports competitor, WXYT "The Ticket". That station moved to 97.1 FM a while back, and still simulcasts on its old home of 1270 AM.

When WXYT was only on 1270, it was a tough competition between the two sports outlets in Detroit. But the move to the FM dial seems to have rocketed WXYT far above its now emaciated competitor.

The Northeast Ohio connection?

The Detroit News article mentions that Pepper Pike native Matt Dery will continue to be employed by what's left of WDFN:

Other on-air staffers such as Matt Dery and Rob Otto will remain to handle quarter-hour local updates and the Pistons pre- and post-game shows.

Dery was a staffer with the old WHK/1420 sports format in the 1990s, "The Voice of the Fan", and is still occasionally heard providing the Detroit perspective on local sports talk radio shows, particularly when local teams play Detroit squads.

And he gets mentioned occasionally in the rumor mill as a potential replacement for Cavaliers' radio legend Joe Tait, whenever Tait walks away from the microphone.

After what happened when Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert replaced Fox Sports Ohio TV voice Michael Reghi with Pistons TV voice Fred McLeod, Gilbert rather pointedly announced at Tait's latest contract renewal that Joe has the Cavaliers' radio play-by-play job "as long as he wants it".

WDFN was one of two large market Clear Channel sports stations basically wiped off the local programming map on Tuesday.

There's another Northeast Ohio connection here, as the other station was San Diego's KLSD/1360 "XTRA Sports"...which cut loose nearly all of its local talk hosts.

But former WHLO/640 Akron sports talk host and World Hockey Association Cleveland Crusaders radio voice (via then WWWE/1100) Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton wasn't listed in Tuesday's job cuts, as he's been out of the building for some time. He had already been let go in an earlier round of budget cuts...

AND MORE FROM ALLACCESS: There are more layoffs reported in Cincinnati, according to AllAccess:

Talk WLW-A morning news anchor SCOTT SPRINGER and reporter PERRY SCHIABLE, production staffer ADAM CAMPBELL, and Rock WEBN morning co-host JENNI HUSS are out at the company's CINCINNATI cluster.

We'll assume that our friends over at Tri-State Media Watch will have any more. We haven't really been covering Southwest Ohio now that it has its own, dedicated blog...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Clear Channel Cuts Item

This item will no longer be updated tonight.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, Wednesday's first update may be a little later in the day than usual, perhaps later in the afternoon. We'll revisit "what we know" about this big day of bad employment news, add any updates, and return to our usual cycle of other news (there is some of it!) as well.

But it'll won't be "first thing in the morning".


We'll continue to update this item through the day, bringing it to the top of this blog as new updates come in.

UPDATE 1/20/09 6:50 PM: The AllAccess list now adds another Ohio layoff:

WSPD/TOLEDO sports and news reporter GLENN FORBES is gone.

UPDATE 1/20/09 6:27 PM: On the heels of the 46 layoffs at Clear Channel's Cleveland market cluster, OMW has heard a little more from elsewhere.

We're told that the company's Lima cluster laid off three sales staffers, including one with on-air experience as well.

Former rhythmic CHR WLWD/93.9 "Wild 93.9" programmer Phil Austin had returned to the station about three months ago as a salesperson and a part-time night on-air personality. We hear he's joined on the unemployment line by another local salesperson with 18 years experience at the stations, and a national sales rep.

We're still trying to find out more about what happened in Youngstown and Toledo, and we'll update as soon as we know...

UPDATE 1/20/09 3:48 PM: From our sources in suburban Cleveland, we're getting some pretty breathtaking numbers - and not in a good way.

A reliable source at Oak Tree tells us that the Clear Channel Cleveland cluster is releasing 46 employees today: 25 full-time employees and 21 part-time employees.

46 people!?!?! Yes, that's what we're hearing.

OMW can now confirm that veteran talk WTAM/1100 Cleveland news reporter Greg Saber is among the job cut victims there. We also hear two other names in programming: country WGAR/99.5 morning co-host Michelle Maloney ("Mantel and Michelle"), and hot AC WMVX/106.5 "Mix 106-5" "Brian and Joe" morning drive producer Brigette Dineen.

And, we're told, "many more". WTAM afternoon drive host Mike Trivisonno just announced on the air that "over 50" of his fellow employees were laid off today. (He said he wasn't sure of the exact number.)

If this figure is even remotely accurate, that's more than some clusters employ across their entire building.

We're hearing that the bulk of those job losses at Oak Tree are in the sales, promotions and events departments, following the lead of the earlier cuts.

We haven't heard anything at this point about on-air cuts down I-77, at Clear Channel's Akron/Canton cluster on Freedom Avenue in Jackson Township. We hear that long-time sales people are among those let go. Freedom Avenue runs on a pretty lean basis, with many staffers taking two and three additional positions...with a lot of voice-tracked and syndicated programming.

(Update within an update from AllAccess: "CC/AKRON-CANTON, OH Promotions Director SAM PIETRANGELO exits"...the trade site, which has now set up a constantly updated page on the topic onside, notes that CC Dayton production director Phil Brown is also out after a 15 year run...along with another voice heard on AC WLQT/99.9 "Lite 99.9", station production manager Jeff Shade.)

We're still trying to nail down the story at Clear Channel's Youngstown cluster on South Avenue. While trying to listen for any hints, we noticed that weekend/part-time host Morris Ray is filling in for WKBN/570 afternoon drive host Ron Verb. We'll assume that means Ron is in a mandatory we won't make much of it.

But given Clear Channel's reported move towards syndicated programming, how long can the station hang onto three live-and-local weekday hosts?

Just a thought.

AllAccess quotes a "companywide email" from Clear Channel CEO Mark Mays:

As a result, we have eliminated approximately 1,850 positions across Corporate, Outdoor and Radio. While a significant portion of these positions represent a realignment in our sales departments, the positions span all departments and represent approximately 9% of the total CLEAR CHANNEL COMMUNICATIONS workforce.

UPDATE 1/20/09 1:55 PM: We're getting mostly a trickle of unconfirmed information out of Clear Channel's big Northeast Ohio clusters on Oak Tree and Freedom Avenue.

We're hearing that the company's Akron/Canton cluster has cut at least four off-air staffers, mostly in the sales department.

And we have not confirmed this yet, but we hear there's at least one pretty significant cut in Clear Channel's Cleveland newsroom. We won't mention any names until we get more details.

The AllAccess Clear Channel cut list continues to be updated in place at this Microsoft Word file. The latest update includes a nod to our report on cuts at Clear Channel Columbus, listed below...

UPDATE 1/20/09 1:04 PM: Only one more name so far, courtesy of AllAccess, in the territory of our friends at Tri-State Media Watch in Cincinnati:

TOMMY LEUGERS Production from Sports WCKY-A (1530 HOMER) and Talk WLW-A/CINCINNATI is out after 14 years.

Though the information is trickling out, OMW hears from our sources that a number of these "mandatory meetings" are happening this afternoon.

AllAccess is compiling an overall national list in a Microsoft Word file, which can be downloaded from this location...

UPDATE 1/20/09 11:05 AM: OMW hears that the two programming staffers cut at Clear Channel Columbus are news/sports staffer Colin Smith, and former "Joel Riley Show" producer Ben Johnson - who initially kept his job after Riley lost his weekday show, being replaced by Premiere's Glenn Beck.

Though it's not local, AllAccess and report that Clear Channel national news/talk senior VP Gabe Hobbs is one of those on the job cut list today.


Our first numbers come in from Clear Channel's cluster in Columbus, where we're told that the cluster has let go 8 sales employees, two employees in the programming department, and 8 more part-time promotions employees. We don't have any names yet.

We're also hearing of large layoffs of sales employees over in Pittsburgh, though we don't have any confirmation (and the cluster is out of our coverage area, anyway)...

That Other Story

With the inauguration of President Obama in the history books, the coverage and wrapup of today's events will continue into the night.

Though there will be some regular entertainment programming on the broadcast TV networks - most notably the FOX powerhouse "American Idol" at 8 - there will also be network specials wrapping up the day's events.

We'll also take this opportunity to note an hour-long ABC News Radio special airing on Rubber City Radio oldies WAKR/1590 Akron from 7:05 to 8 PM tonight. We mention it because we neglected to mention that the station was among those carrying the live Inauguration Day feed (11 AM-1 PM) today, and WAKR has also carried the bulk of ABC's special programming in the past couple of days.

You can add Rubber City/WAKR's as another coverage stop, including the use of live video from the folks at the Associated Press...

Captains Move Flagship To WREO

Though long-time Lake Erie Captains flagship WELW/1330 Willoughby will continue to air the Class A minor league baseball team's games, the team is getting a new flagship station in 2009.

The Captains have announced that Media One AC WREO/97.1 "Star 97.1" Ashtabula will become the new primary station on the Captains Radio Network, with "selected weekday day games" heard on Media One sister sports WFUN/970 "ESPN 970".

Quoting a press release the Captains sent directly to OMW:

“We are very excited about this new partnership and feel that our fans will benefit from the expanded signal coverage that Star will bring to us”, Captains VP and General Manager Brad Seymour explained. “We look forward to teaming with Media One Group and working toward building a long term partnership that will help grow our fan base and expand Media One’s visibility in our area.”

"The Lake County Captains are a class organization with a family friendly entertainment venue offering competitive minor league baseball for the past 6 years", Media One Group VP/GM Dana Schulte added. "Our new affiliation with the Captains will offer our Lake, Geauga, Cuyahoga and Ashtabula County listeners and the Captains continually growing fan base the opportunity to follow the Class A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians within a 100 mile radius."

As mentioned, the Captains will continue to be heard in 2009 on their original flagship, Spirit Media talk/variety WELW/1330 Willoughby...the Captains GM calls WELW "a very important part of our team", and note that the team looks "to continue our partnership for many years”.

We can't help it - we're drawn to the line about "expanding Media One's visibility" in the Lake County area, and about "Lake, Geauga, Cuyahoga" county listeners.

"Star 97.1"'s 50,000 watt signal reaches well into Lake County, and even into eastern Cuyahoga County.

Media One isn't the first Ashtabula-area operator to make an effort to serve listeners to the west. Music Express country WKKY/104.7 Geneva has been focusing on Lake County for ages.

And frankly, the state of Ashtabula County's economy makes expanding focus to the west almost imperative for stations there...

That Big Day Is Here

We feel kind of short handed on this day, with major news breaking out all over, and just one person to keep track of it - your Primary Editorial Voice(tm).

But we'll do our best...and please, if you hear anything, let us know...

AS SCHEDULED: It's been rumored for weeks, and reported in major newspapers the past few days...and yes, it does appear radio giant Clear Channel has brought out the layoff axe.

Trade websites are starting to line up the job cuts, which are expected to affect roughly 7 percent of the company's 20,000-plus workforce. (We've seen that "total workforce" number cited at anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000.)

As of yet, we've not heard of any layoffs at Ohio's Clear Channel clusters, though they're certainly expected.

OMW hears that "most" Clear Channel clusters are indeed having mandatory meetings later today, and that it is expected - as reported earlier - that the company's sales force will bear the brunt of the job cuts today.

We're hearing that there's one odd "side effect" - the company's FTP servers are down today for "emergency maintenance". Is that cover wording for "sorting out employee access, so people being let go don't do anything nasty on the way out the door"?

Again, nothing yet from Ohio, that we've heard...but unfortunately, we do expect more...

INAUGURATION DAY: The conventional wisdom about today's Clear Channel cuts was that the company wanted to "bury the news" on a day pretty much devoted to the inauguration of incoming president Barack Obama.

That major event will happen just under two hours from this writing in Washington DC, and the coverage won't be lacking.

As thousands of Ohioans descend upon the Nation's Capital today joining the throng, they'll be joined by thousands of reporters - including some from Northeast Ohio stations.

And local TV stations, via their networks, will carry large chunks of today's festivities - much of it preempting programming clear into the evening.

Plain Dealer TV writer Mark Dawidziak delineates your TV viewing options, inauguration-wise, in this rundown. Beacon Journal pop culture writer Rich Heldenfels does the same here, with some guide to how local stations are wrapping around the coverage.

(Note: As Mr. Heldenfels did, we saw an earlier press release from Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5, saying that the station was going to entertainment programming from 7-8 PM - presumably, "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" - but TV listings this morning show the local station going with ABC's extended "World News Tonight". The listings also show WEWS/5 and WOIO/19 going with network coverage during the day all the way until their local newscasts, but list WKYC/3 airing "Ellen" and "Dr. Phil" as usual.)

If you don't want to wear out the remote, Heldenfels is also "live blogging" the TV coverage on his "Heldenfiles" blog.

And further underlining our New Media World, both the PD's and the Beacon's feature live video coverage provided by the Associated Press - prominently displayed on each home page.

Radio-wise, we'll assume that every news/talk station in the state will at very least carry their network's live coverage of the Inauguration itself. We've heard both Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 Cleveland and Media-Com Akron market talk WNIR/100.1 promoting live coverage - WTAM joining FOX News Radio at 11 AM, WNIR joining ABC News Radio at 11:30 AM.

We assume a sweep of the AM radio dial at noon will find the event on nearly every station, on local NPR outlets WKSU/89.7 Kent (and its simulcasters) and WCPN/90.3 Cleveland, and maybe even on some FM music stations. Considering the historic nature of this particular inauguration, we'd be shocked if Radio One's WZAK/93.1 and WENZ/107.9 weren't paying atention to this.

If you miss the inauguration itself, Western Reserve PBS will reportedly replay it at 9 PM tonight on WNEO/45-WEAO/49, with Cleveland PBS outlet WVIZ/25 carrying it live from 11 AM to 2 PM. We're sure C-SPAN will also repeat it.

If you don't want to watch any of this, it looks like your broadcast options are stations like Raycom MyNetwork TV affiliate WUAB/43 and Winston Broadcasting CW affiliate WBNX/55, along with non-news oriented cable networks...

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Week Ahead

Our Monday morning update is more about what's ahead, as opposed to what's behind. But the view ahead is kind of scary...

MORE ON EXPECTED CC CUTS: There are now some numbers and details being attached to the reported first round of Clear Channel-related job cuts, thanks to the national media.

Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal's Sarah McBride reported that the San Antonio-based radio giant is planning on "about 1,500 layoffs" on Tuesday, resulting in a loss of about 7 percent of the company's nationwide workforce of some 20,000 people.

McBride's article says the bulk of the cuts will be in the company's sales departments ("dropping those who aren't top performers", she writes), but the article says programming will also be affected:

On the radio side, the company is likely to eliminate chunks of local programming and replace it with national programming, much as it has brought Ryan Seacrest's Los Angeles-based radio show to other markets in recent months. If a local show seems successful, the company will try to syndicate it faster than it might have in the past, a person familiar with the situation said.

But leave it to long-time friend and colleague Scott Fybush - in this week's NorthEast Radio Watch - to provide a little "reality check" to Internet-fueled rumors that Clear Channel was installing satellite dishes at all transmitter sites to bypass local studios:

We're quite certain, for one thing, that the satellite receivers that have been installed at CC transmitter sites nationwide are not, as a prominent blogger has been suggesting, designed to eliminate local studios - they are, rather, part of the company's emergency response plan that was put in place after Hurricane Katrina wiped out its New Orleans studios, forcing its New Orleans stations to be fed via satellite from Baton Rouge.

We also have seen, in recent weeks, online rumors of job cuts in the range of "20 percent" - which appears to be basically overheated Internet rumor at this point.

Clear Channel refuses to comment on the reports in the WSJ, and earlier, in the New York Post. We'll see what happens on Tuesday.

But if Clear Channel sneezes, it's a big deal in OMW land. The company has a large number of stations within the purview of this report, including big clusters in Cleveland, Akron/Canton, Youngstown and all other major Ohio cities, from Columbus to Cincinnati to Toledo.

Toledo, where the Toledo Blade picks up on the WSJ article, and tries a local angle:

It was not immediately clear what effect the changes will have in the Toledo area.

Asked about the national cuts, Andy Stewart, market manager for the Toledo-area Clear Channel stations, said last night, “I have no knowledge of that.”

Clear Channel owns 21 stations in northwest Ohio, including five in Toledo: WCWA-AM, WIOT-FM, WVKS-FM, WSPD-AM, and WRVF-FM.

Aside from butchering the spelling of Stuart's last name - really, is there some sort of newspaper edict that articles about broadcast media must have at least one mistake? - the Blade's "staff report" has no new information.

That's no surprise to us. In our survey of various Clear Channel-linked sources around the state of Ohio the past week or two, no one seems to know anything at the local level. They're all just waiting - like us - for that shoe to drop.

The San Antonio big wigs have put a clamp on this. If these reports are accurate, they seem determined to bury the bad news on Tuesday, when anything not related to the Presidential inauguration will be in "a brief look at other news", if it gets any attention at all.

Unfortunately for them, that ship has mostly left the dock.

Though, consider this. In the Huge Wave of Bad Economic News, the upcoming Clear Channel job dump is just one of a number of massive layoffs.

In that Toledo Blade article, it's followed by word that car rental giant Hertz is letting some 4,000 workers go. Within the past week, electronics retailer Circuit City announced all remaining stores, including stores in Bainbridge and Canton, will be liquidated, and that some 35,000 employees will be out of work as a result.

It's a big deal for us media-related types, but as far as a national economic story goes, this is just one story in the flotilla of bad economic news.

We're reminded that not that long ago, CBS Radio - before its recent ongoing series of job cuts - let go just north of 100 people in one day, nationwide. At the time, that one-day layoff was characterized by many as a "job massacre".

That seems kind of quaint by recent standards...

TELL US NEXT TIME: Your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm) didn't find out about this until it was nearly done.

But we'd have appreciated a heads up on Friday's guest host stint by Good Karma sports WKNR/850 "ESPN 850" CEO Craig Karmazin, who stepped in for newly-hired afternoon drive host Michael Reghi.

The Karmazin 3-6 PM fill-in was promoted on the station's website, but we didn't see it until just before 6 PM.

Not that we missed a lot, we'd suspect. (The audio from the show hasn't made it to the station's website "Audio Vault", at least as of this early Monday writing.)

If we had to guess how Karmazin's "talk to the boss" show went, we'd say that it was touting both Reghi's rise to PM drive, and also Mark "Munch" Bishop being named sports director...similar to the Good Karma boss's appearance on "The Really Big Show" with Tony Rizzo and company on Monday morning.

(We're guessing that the ESPN Deportes feed didn't make an appearance Friday.)

As for Bishop, Tony Rizzo noted Monday that he's the top salesman in the entire Good Karma chain, including the company's other stations in Wisconsin, Illinois and Florida, though we wonder how much of that was tied to his now-gone afternoon drive show...

DTV WEEK: As of this writing, the national digital TV transition is still scheduled for February 17, under one month away.

That still could change this week, as lawmakers are still kicking around bills that would move the date to June 12 - with the U.S. House expected to take up their version Wednesday, and the Senate to reconsider a measure blocked by Republicans in the chamber on Friday.

Scattered numbers of stations have already taken their analog transmitters dark, including two in the OMW Coverage Area - Western Reserve PBS' WNEO/45 Alliance, and Mid-State Television independent WMFD/68 Mansfield.

And after all full-power broadcasters in Wilmington NC first made the switch in September 2008, an entire state has joined them.

Broadcasters in Hawaii set their statewide digital transition for January 15, and there was no delay on the islands...all full-power analog signals there went dark as scheduled last week.

There wasn't a mad rush of infuriated viewers in America's 50th state, according to a number of reports like this one from the trade magazine Broadcasting and Cable:

KITV Honolulu President/General Manager Michael Rosenberg, who's also the state's DTV coordinator, says the station received about 20 calls from viewers. "It's not been overwhelming," he says. "Technically, everything went well."

Of course, we're talking Hawaii here, where viewers are not holed up in the house with sub-freezing weather in January and February.

But there were some weather issues with a windstorm. Since it switched early, Hawaii TV stations don't need the recently-passed "Nightlight" bill to keep analog stations on with transition and emergency information for a month or so. some point, the digital transition will happen, be it February 17, June 12 or whenever. In our humble opinion, if lawmakers do move the date to June - they'd better stick to it...

WRESTLING WITH THIS ITEM: We'll freely admit - we're not exactly wrestling fans, even of the classic style of wrestling done in high school and college.

So, we have no idea what the Bill Dies Memorial Wrestling Tournament is.

But the folks at Time Warner Cable tell us it "features the best high school wrestlers from Northeast Ohio", and it'll air a number of times this coming week on TWC's Northeast Ohio Network.

The NEON air dates for the past weekend's tournament will be Tuesday at 9 PM, Friday at 7 PM, Saturday at noon and 10:30 PM, and next Sunday at 7 PM. After that, it'll be on the company's Local On Demand service on channel 1 or 501, depending on where you are in the Time Warner Northeast Ohio universe.

If any of this even remotely intrigues you, you can find out more at

Friday, January 16, 2009

Closing Friday

Many of the items below have to do with the upcoming transition to digital TV, which is currently scheduled for February 17th, 2009.

But first, we've got an elephant in the middle of the room that we can't ignore...

CLEAR CHANNEL RUMORS: We've touched on it before, briefly...the rumors that massive job cuts are in the works at Clear Channel clusters around the country, after an important managers' meeting in Dallas a while back.

Since then, the radio rumor mill has pumped out January 20th - next Tuesday - as the likely date for the announcement of a slew of layoffs.

We filed that in the back of our head, but the New York Post is forcing us to pull it up to the front.

What the Post is calling a "$400 million restructuring" by Clear Channel is reported set to begin Tuesday, as rumored.

Quoting the article by the newspaper's Peter Lauria:

According to three sources with knowledge of the plan, the restructuring will include layoffs across the company's radio, outdoor advertising and international divisions as well as cuts to programming budgets and consolidation of back-office operations.

A precise headcount for the layoffs could not be obtained. Clear Channel has about 30,000 employees worldwide.

The company is also likely to move toward a "national programming" model that would require less local-level staffing, despite being criticized in the past for a similar action using centralized disc jockeys that made it appear as though they were broadcasting from local stations.

This has all been in the rumor mill for some time, but it's the first time it's made the mainstream print media.

The newspaper quotes its sources that the "initial" (yes, "initial") round of layoffs at Clear Channel will start Tuesday, presumably allowing the company to make cuts "under the radar"...since the entire nation will be kind of pre-occupied on January 20th with a big event in Washington DC.

A source tells the Post that the plan was always in the works, but that the sharp economic downturn basically sped up the timetable.

Clear Channel told the newspaper that it wouldn't comment on the report.

Now, a reminder here.

The New York Post is not infallable. Newspapers can make mistakes, or get things wrong, particularly in stories that quote anonymous sources like this one.

But it does seem that massive changes of some sort are in the works at Clear Channel, and they're not likely to mean good news for employees. Here's hoping the news isn't as bad.

Whether you like Clear Channel or not, we don't cheer on people losing their jobs in this or any economy...

DTV TEST: Your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) grabbed an analog tuner last night for one reason - we wondered if any of the Cleveland market TV stations would do something different in the 5 minute "soft test" of the planned February 17 analog signal shutdown.

They didn't.

We don't know who coordinated or produced it, but all local stations used the same, coordinated 5 minute video loop to provide viewers with information and help about the upcoming loss of analog signals.

The only difference we saw? For some reason, ideastream PBS affiliate WVIZ/25 Cleveland felt the need to superimpose its logo on the video.

As announced, Kent-based PBS affiliate Western Reserve PBS' WEAO/49 Akron didn't participate, so we got a snippet of "NewsHour"'s Ray Suarez on our channel scan.

We didn't get a chance to see TBN's WDLI/17 Canton (we can't pick up the analog on our indoor antenna), and by the time we got to infomercial outlet WOAC/67 Canton, it was in, well, an infomercial. We don't know if they ran the test a minute earlier than the other stations - which was 7:31 to 7:36 PM.

We actually captured the video of all this, which basically turned out to be nothing more than changing analog signal strengths on the same video (except WVIZ's logo).

We also recorded the 5 minute video loop off of ION's WVPX/23 Akron via cable, since as noted last time, the station has no digital feed until it "flash cuts" in the transition...

THAT MOVE: And yes, we said "currently scheduled" above, as the move to change the digital TV transition date rolls on in Congress.

Broadcasting & Cable reports that June 12 appears to be the next target date. That's the date included in the draft of a House bill in that body's Commerce Committee:

According to a draft of a bill introduced by House Energy & Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the bill would change the DTV Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 to insert the new date. It would also move the expiration date of any DTV-to-analog coupons that have expired to Sept. 15, 2009.

It would also include one replacement coupon per household for any coupons that had expired anytime during the life of the coupon program.

There are other considerations, including directing the FCC to figure out how new owners of the soon-to-be-vacated spectrum can access it. The spectrum will open up whenever TV stations on analog channels 52 through 69 shut off their analog transmitters.

This is still relatively early in the process. There's no guarantee that the date will be moved at this point, though it seems to be rolling in that direction in Congress - the body which set the date in the first place back in 2005.

Our suggestion? If Congress does change the date, the slogan could be - "The DTV Transition - June 12, 2009 - WE REALLY MEAN IT THIS TIME! HONEST!"

Just a thought...

NIGHTLIGHT: Meanwhile, B&C also reports that the FCC has implemented the so-called "Nightlight" plan, where some analog stations will be able to stay on air for a month past the digital transition to provide transition-related and emergency information.

Quoting B&C's John Eggerton:

According to a source familiar with the item, which had not been released at press time, it allowed more stations to participate than originally proposed, will allow broadcasters to solicit limited sponsorships for the information on the analog signal, and will not require stations to broadcast all 30 days. The 826 broadcasters that the source said now qualify to keep the nightlight on will also have an easy route to requesting to do so, essentially sending an e-mail to the FCC.

Under the early version of the plan, very few stations would be able to take advantage. In Ohio, just a handful of stations were on the tentative list, including Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 in Cleveland.

But Eggerton's article says the FCC's earlier estimate, taking into account station spacing and the like, was "conservative"...and that the agency will also encourage low-power analog broadcasters to provide information post-transition - presumably in markets that don't have a full-power station that can't stay on.

There's still question what'll happen if the transition date moves, though...B&C suggests it "may be as simple" as changing the bill's effective date...

FROM DIGITAL TV TO ANALOG AM: Here's one item definitely NOT related to the etched-in-water DTV transition date.

ESPN Radio is making some changes that are likely to affect both of the radio network's Cleveland affiliates, Good Karma sports WKNR/850 "ESPN 850", and "little brother" station WWGK/1540 "KNR2".

The schedule changes are detailed in this Radio Business Report article.

On February 2nd, ESPN Radio will move evening host Doug Gottlieb into the 4-7 PM (ET) afternoon drive time slot. The change will mean Gottlieb's exit from Cleveland radio, since both WKNR and WWGK carry other programming - WKNR with afternoon driver Michael Reghi and the first hour of evening host Kenny Roda, WWGK opts for Fox Sports Radio's Chris Myers.

ESPN Radio evenings will be handled by SportsCenter anchor Brian Kenny (8-10 PM) and a new "live (sports) news and information block" from the network until 1, where "AllNight with Jason Smith" continues. This programming is heard after 9 PM on WKNR, except when the station runs its non-official local post-game shows about the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Indians.

Fast forward to March 16th, with daytime changes at ESPN Radio that will affect "KNR2".

The midday show ("The Herd") hosted by Colin Cowherd will expand by one hour, and will run from 10 AM to 2 PM. Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt's show moves to 2 to 4 PM, and the move will end Van Pelt's separate one-hour one-man show...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Assorted Thursday

Welcome to our Thursday random scattering of items...we'll try to make sure none of the scatter hits our readers directly!

We don't want to injure anyone...

GANNETT FURLOUGH: Media giant Gannett is forcing workers to take an unpaid week off, a move the company says is meant to reduce layoffs in this troubled economic world for the media.

We first saw the item in a wire story posted on Frank Macek's "Director's Cut" blog for his employer, Gannett's NBC affiliate in Cleveland, WKYC/3.

But the Associated Press item Frank cited makes it sound like only Gannett's newspapers (including the Cincinnati Enquirer) are affected. Blame the AP, we'd wouldn't be the first time they wrote a media story that's newspaper-centric.

Unfortunately, it'll also affect WKYC's employees and the rest of Gannett's TV empire.

That's according to a Gannett memo from company CEO Craig Dubow leaked to the "Gannett Blog", a non-company effort run by former 20 year Gannett employee Jim Hopkins:

Today Gannett is implementing a furlough program across all U.S. divisions and at Corporate headquarters. This means that most of our U.S. employees -- including myself and all other top executives -- will be furloughed for the equivalent of one week in the first quarter. This furlough will be unpaid. Unions also will be asked to participate.

The bold print is ours, and this Gannett FAQ about the furlough program (also from Hopkins' blog) confirms further:

Q. Is everyone going to participate?

A. All levels of employees in all divisions in the U.S. and the corporate staff will participate to some degree, depending on a variety of factors. That includes U.S. Community Publishing, which is beginning its program immediately; USA Today, broadcast and digital. Union-represented employees will be asked to participate in lieu of layoffs. Top executives in the company are participating. Newsquest is taking other expense reduction measures at this time.

From Dubow's memo:

After much consideration, we decided a furlough program would be the fairest and least intrusive way to meet these fiscal challenges in the first quarter, which is traditionally the lightest time of the year. We sincerely hope this minimizes the need for any layoffs going forward.

But no one is guaranteeing that future layoffs won't happen...the media industry faltering even more than the general worldwide economy, it's almost a certainty at nearly all media operations, as we've seen here in Northeast Ohio over the past few months.

For the moment, WKYC's Scripps-owned ABC competitor WEWS/5 seems to be holding off without major staff reductions, a decision we hear was made at the company's corporate level. For now...

SPEAKING OF NEWSCHANNEL 5: We're hearing that WEWS is continuing to bolster its remote delivery of live HD news video.

OMW hears that the station is about to complete the project it started a while ago: upgrading all of its remote trucks and links to handle digital video in HDTV format - including a link between Akron and Cleveland.

As far as we know, "NewsChannel 5" is the only local news operation doing reporter live shots in HD (give or take Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 "FOX 8"'s "SkyFOX HD", assuming it's still flying). But we do hear the digital links - in standard definition for now - are being used at other stations in the Cleveland TV market after that Nextel 2 gHz conversion.

Oh, in addition to their existing live HD camera shots from Progressive Field, WKYC recently added an HD "skycam" at Cleveland State University. We saw its debut a few days ago...

We said "assuming it's still flying" there about "SkyFOX HD" because OMW hears that at least two local stations are grounding their helicopters due to the economy...

SPEAKING OF THE ECONOMY: OMW hears that the exit of long-time newsman Larry Wright from Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting talk WEOL/930 Elyria on Friday is not the only cutback driven by the faltering economy.

We're told that three of the company's employees have been reduced from full-time status to part-time status - morning drive host Les Sekely, operations manager/news director Craig Adams and reporter Colleen O'Neill.

We're not sure we track with the idea of a part-time operations manager/news director, even with programming/assistant operations manager Bruce Van Dyke still in the building. The job would seem to involve full-time work or beyond by its very definition...

INAUGURATION: You should have no problem finding media coverage of next week's Big Event, the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.

Not only are the major broadcast and cable news networks planning wall-to-wall coverage and then some, even cable networks with no news presence are joining in. The historic nature of this year's inauguration has prompted cable networks like BET and TV One, which primarily serve African-American audiences, to pull out all the stops on January 20th.

The folks at HBO are also big Inauguration Week players.

The premium cable and satellite channel will be the exclusive home of “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration,” the opening event for the 56th Presidential Inaugural. HBO will air the special Sunday, January 18th at 7 PM, and will open the broadcast to all cable and satellite subscribers for free. Quoting a press release:

The Opening Celebration will be a marquee event, featuring some of the biggest acts in the world of entertainment to celebrate our common heritage and our new direction. President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden will attend the event, which will be free and open to the public.

Time Warner Cable, the dominant provider here in Northeast Ohio, will go one step further.

TWC says it'll simulcast the HBO event down into analog cable land...where the network hasn't been available for some time in any form, even if you pay for it.

The HBO special will air on the company's Northeast Ohio systems on cable channel 23, the home of the TWC "Northeast Ohio Network" (NEON) local programming channel.

A Time Warner press release says the HBO event will air on the Northwest Ohio and Mid-Ohio systems on cable channel 24, and on cable channel 99 in Southwest Ohio...

CLEANING UP: And a reminder and an update from previous items.

Don't forget that tonight will see Ohio's second digital TV "soft test", where nearly all of the state's analog full-power stations will interrupt programming for five minutes starting at 7:30ish - telling those viewers that they need to upgrade to digital before February 17th.

Or, before whenever Congress figures out a new date. (At this writing, as near as we can tell, the date is still February 17th, though there are various efforts to change it.)

Sitting out the test will be Western Reserve PBS' WNEO/45-WEAO/49. Or maybe they aren't... because analog channel 45 has been off the air for good since could consider that a contribution to the "test", since you won't get regular analog programming on analog 45 before, during or after tonight's coordinated event.

And an update - the OMW reader claiming to be Beacon Broadcasting's Gregg Allen has checked in on our previous report about the company's new Christian contemporary music outlet, WRTK/1540 Niles.

Not Mineral Ridge...Niles...even if you have to plug in "Mineral Ridge" on a GPS if you want to drive to the transmitter site.

The (apparent) WRTK morning man writes:

Thank you for the correction! Noted on the Legal.

We'll be listening, Gregg...thanks to your handy streaming audio.

UPDATE 1/15/09 12:01 PM: And indeed, the legal ID correction has been made.

Anything we can do to help small radio operations avoid massive FCC fines for something that can be easily corrected...though WRTK's bigger FCC problem may be the fact that the station has occasionally broadcast well past its daytime hours, even well into the overnight hours into the next day.

An OMW reader pointed that out to us - saying it happened over a two day period near the end of December.

But your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) happened to be in the region then, and also heard WRTK pumping out the Christmas music at about 7:15 PM on one of those nights. We'll make the assumption here that the post-sunset broadcasting didn't continue past December 29th or so.

We also don't know if the station has a post-sunset authority or not. If not, it shouldn't be broadcasting until 6 PM in January, but 5:15 PM, according to the FCC's approximate sunset times for the WRTK facility.

Even with a post-sunset authority, the station shouldn't be on the air in any form as late as 7 PM at this time of year.

We'll give the WRTK folks a break on that, because we know that finding those post-sunset authorizations on the FCC's website is quite difficult. We still can't find the one for Good Karma sports WWGK/1540 Cleveland, and that authority was confirmed to us by the station's engineer in its WABQ days, the late Chris Quinn...