A Newsy, Newsy Week’s End

(Our apologies for posting this without allowing comments…it’s a mistake that has been corrected. Thanks! — The Management)

Local media news items are stacking up like so many planes trying to land, so we’ll try to close them out as we close out the week. And since we’ve done a lot of TV items recently, let’s start on the radio side…

WERE, WJMO SWAP: Radio One, on the heels of selling off its Dayton stations (we’ll revisit that below), has announced major changes in Cleveland involving its two AM outlets.

Starting Monday, June 4th, Radio One swaps frequencies between urban talk WERE, which moves from 1300 to 1490, and gospel WJMO, which moves from 1490 to 1300. Cleveland Plain Dealer entertainment/media columnist Julie Washington has the story online Friday, and presumably in the Dead Trees edition of the paper on Saturday.

The move shuttles WERE local morning driver Ronnie Duncan, and Radio One talkers Al Sharpton and the Two Live Stews, to the less-powerful 1490 frequency (1,000 watts), while WJMO syndicated morning host Yolanda Adams and local afternoon driver Ronny Knight end up on the more powerful 5,000 watt, but directional, signal of 1300 AM.

In between Ms. Adams and Mr. Knight – a new local midday show hosted by Radio One sister WZAK/93.1 mainstay Grace Roberts.

Radio One local VP/GM Chris Forgy tells Washington that the new frequency will allow WJMO’s gospel format to better serve African-American listeners who’ve moved out to the southern and western suburbs.

Meanwhile, Forgy says research says “most” WERE listeners will still be able to listen on the talk format on 1490.

Who’s the “winner” here? Clearly, it’s the “Praise” crew moving to 1300.

1300 is not even the fourth best signal in the market, and its advantages aren’t as clear over 1490 as the power level would indicate. Some listeners will actually lose the gospel format after it moves to 1300, due to a tight directional pattern.

But the station IS five times more powerful than 1490, at least in the direction the signal goes. And in AM radio these days, it’s all about boosting the power in core areas to overcome new noise and interference, from anything from power lines to computers to fluorescent lights.

Not only that, the article would seem to indicate a larger promotional push for the WJMO move, with Ms. Adams even recording telephone calls to inform listeners of the new frequency. And WJMO adds a new local personality. Meanwhile, WERE is relegated to a “most people can still hear it” comment from Mr. Forgy.

By the way, Radio One is exiting the Dayton market entirely, as well as selling all but one of its Louisville KY stations. The buyer is Main Line Broadcasting, the broadcasting arm of Washington DC private equity fund Arlington Capital Partners. Main Line got rolling with stations it bought in Richmond VA.

The company says it is shedding the stations so it can exit “non-core markets” with smaller African-American population.

In both markets, Radio One operates many stations outside their traditional urban radio core, including country WKSW and sports WING in Dayton…

BERNIER WITH GODDARD:
A second item on Ms. Washington’s plate is a big one… WJW/8 veteran (super-veteran) (mainstay) (iconic) meteorologist Dick Goddard will no longer be going solo in the evening.

It’s “FOX 8 News In The Morning”‘s Andre Bernier moving a week from Monday to the evening editions of “FOX 8 News” alongside Goddard, where the two meteorologists will forecast together. Scott Sabol picks up Bernier’s morning show duties.

New WJW VP/GM Greg Easterly, fresh up from his news director job, moves quickly to dispel notions that Bernier being moved is a sign that Goddard will soon retire after 40-plus years of forecasting the weather, in Ms. Washington’s article:

“Dick has no plans to go, and we want him here as long as he wants to be.”

Congratulations to Mr. Easterly for taking the “Joe Tait Route”, much like Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has done. Dick Goddard, like the popular Cavs radio voice, makes his own retirement date, and any manager who thinks otherwise does so at his or her own peril.

Julie also reports what we’d reported earlier: the elevation of Sonya Thompson into the WJW news director’s post vacated by Easterly’s upward movement…

WE THOUGHT HE LEFT: But Ms. Washington has an item we didn’t already have.

It turns out the search for a replacement for Renita Jablonski as local host on WKSU/89.7’s “Morning Edition” has been much more difficult than imagined.

So much so, that a familiar voice will fill in the slot from June 4th through roughly September: long-time former host Leonard Will.

Yep, that’s the same Leonard Will who retired with much fanfare a few months ago, in January.

WKSU PR guru Bob Burford tells the PD that Will’s return won’t be permanent…

BC & LJ REDUX: And we have another Julie Washington item that both follows up on our earlier post, and adds new information.

Ms. Washington reports that WJW “FOX 8″ will air that previously expected prime-time retrospective looking back on the career of retiring “Big Chuck” Schodowski and the show which made him famous, “Big Chuck & Lil’ John”.

And, of course, its predecessor, “Hoolihan and Big Chuck”, along with the WJW veteran’s early days on the “Ghoulardi” show with Ernie Anderson.

The show will air at 8 PM on Friday, June 22nd, around which time the show itself will presumably end for good…

AND MORE TV NEWS: This one is an exclusive item, though it’s basically tying up loose ends.

OMW hears that former WKYC/3 news director Mike McCormick has indeed landed in the Gulf Coast region job-wise, not far from his hometown of Jacksonville FL. (Well, that’s “not far” as in “somewhat closer than Cleveland”.)

We hear McCormick starts on June 11th as news director of WPMI/15, the Clear Channel-owned (for now) NBC affiliate in Mobile AL. That’s the second interview stop we were alerted about in an earlier E-Mail.

Clear Channel, of course, is in the process of selling its TV assets…

SPATZ IS BACK: And an item not related to Cleveland radio or TV, but one we spotted on AllAccess this afternoon.

Former WWIZ/103.9 “Rock 104″ program director Matt Spatz, who left the Cumulus Youngstown market rocker in March 2006 to program Clear Channel rock WROV/96.3 in Roanoke VA, is heading back home.

This time, it’s Clear Channel rock WNCD/93.3 Youngstown that’ll be Spatz’s destination, where he takes over the PD reins left behind a couple of months ago, when Steve Granato moved over to program sister hot AC WMXY/98.9 “Mix 98.9″.

Welcome back “home”, Matt!

BREAKING NEWS: Tom Meyer To WKYC

An OMW reader just found this item on WKYC/3 senior director Frank Macek’s excellent “Director’s Cut” blog.

Frank reports that WOIO/19 investigative reporter Tom Meyer will be coming to “Channel 3 News” as Chief Investigative Reporter.

In the end, it basically amounts to a “trade” between the local NBC affiliate and CBS affiliate, if a bit removed.

Former “Channel 3 News” investigative reporter Carl Monday left WKYC bound for “19 Action News”, though he’s had to sit off camera to wait out a non-compete. WOIO has teased his upcoming start, telling viewers to E-Mail “CM Investigations” in short promos.

The WKYC press release, linked on the “Director’s Cut” blog above, says Meyer has to go through the same waiting game as well, in this quote from Channel 3 VP/GM Brooke Spectorsky:

“Tom will join channel 3 starting in mid-October and on the air by mid-January. For now, Tom is still under contract with WOIO, so Northeast Ohio viewers will need to be a bit patient before they can see him on Channel 3.”

Meanwhile, OMW hears that Carl Monday and Tom Meyer may not exactly get along under the same roof, which is why it doesn’t surprise us that Meyer has jumped to Monday’s former employer.

No word on who gets custody of the library stories…

EXCLUSIVE: WKDD Munroe Falls?

It hasn’t been that long since we pointed out a new way the FCC does business with radio stations, and how the agency now handles such things as changing a station’s community of license.

In the past, in the process followed by Clear Channel to move the allocation of WJER-FM/101.7 Dover to North Canton, a company had to bring up a mountain of evidence to change an FM allocation – then, after that was approved, file a construction permit under that new allocation and wait for it to be approved.

101.7, of course, eventually got approval to move to North Canton as today’s AC WHOF(FM), otherwise known as “my 101.7″.

Under the new “one step” rules, the license community change is a “minor change”, and can be filed as a part of a new construction permit application.

That’s exactly what Clear Channel has just done with WHOF’s sister Canton-licensed hot AC, WKDD/98.1.

A reader we’ve never encountered before dropped us a note: why hadn’t we mentioned that WKDD has filed for a new COL of the Akron suburb of Munroe Falls?

The answer: we didn’t know.

But here it is in the FCC’s FM Query lookup.

You’ll notice, if you dig into it, that the new application basically only deals with the COL change, and does not propose any change in facilities for the station – which now broadcasts from a tower outside of Hartville in Stark County.

The application also has the evidence meant to support the change from Canton to Munroe Falls, including our favorite part, the inclusion of the Kimpton Middle School newsletter to parents as an “information source” aimed at Munroe Falls residents.

Why is Clear Channel doing this?

Just a guess here, which would seem to be a valid one: they’re “planting the flag” for some sort of future move of the 98.1 facility into the Akron market.

Not the station itself, per se. The report on ownership attached to the application notes that 98.1 is already attributed into the Akron Arbitron market, which obviously wouldn’t change with the new COL.

But the new application doesn’t specify a technical facility change.

Another guess here: any physical move of the 98.1 facility north would require a lot of technical coordination with facilities like, just to name three, second-adjacent CBS classic rock WNCX/98.5 Cleveland, and two sister Clear Channel first-adjacent stations: classic rock WXXR/98.3 Fredericktown, and newly-dropped-in country WYBL/98.3 “The Bull” in Ashtabula.

While those last coordinations are “in-house” for now, of course, Clear Channel has filed to sell WYBL and its sister Ashtabula stations to Tom Embrescia’s “Sweet Home Ashtabula”, and WXXR will eventually end up with a new owner as well.

One presumes if Clear Channel eventually has any designs to nudge WKDD/98.1 north, physically, the company would make an agreement of some sort with the new buyers for mutually-acceptable engineering.

Anyway, the application makes the argument that since no technical facilities changes are proposed within it, spacing rules don’t need to be considered.

At least, yet…

Thursday Mix – Serious To Funny

And therefore removing any doubt that items just fall together here, with no particular rhyme or reason…until they start running together coherently, as if by magic…

BIG TEN, NOT YET: An OMW reader tipped us to this article on the “Bucknuts” site, which is an independent sports news site catering to All Things Athletic concerning The Ohio State University. (We hear there’s a state law prohibiting one from referring to that big university in Columbus without using the article “The” in front. We can’t afford the fines.)

The article features a visit to Buckeye Nation from Mark Silverman, the president of the new Big Ten Network. The cable/satellite network will showcase all the conference’s sports that don’t already air on major network or cable outlets like ABC, ESPN and the like – including football and basketball games that used to air on “ESPNPlus”, the local/regional syndicator.

This line in the article caught our reader’s eyes:

And unlike other startup networks such as NFL Network and ESPNU, Big Ten Network has enjoyed immediate success reaching deals with such broadcasting giants as DirectTV and Time Warner (TW serves 65 percent of the cable customers in Central Ohio).

We don’t remember reading anything about a deal between Time Warner Cable and the Big Ten Network, so we asked our contact with TWC’s Northeast Ohio operations, long-time VP Bill Jasso.

Jasso tells OMW that there is no TWC deal with “BTN”, at least not at this time:

Yes, the article does sound like we have a deal, but we don’t. Any deal would be statewide at least, and probably national in scope.

Mr. Jasso says that there are “serious talks” going on between Time Warner and the Big Ten Network, though, and he’ll let us know when there’s anything to tell.

We suspect there will be a deal, at least in Ohio, given the popularity of the Buckeyes. But the “Bucknuts” article repeats something we’ve heard, as well:

A media member cited a published report that stated the Big Ten Network wanted $1.10 per customer from the cable/satellite providers and asked if that was a possible sticking point with negotiations and if the BTN came down off of that figure.

“I can’t comment on particulars,” Silverman said. “But what I can tell you is that we are looking for are two types of deals: There’s a deal for the eight states within the Big Ten, and there’s a deal for the states outside of the eight. Those deals vary tremendously and we believe the deals we have on the table are fair.”

That $1.10 figure we’ve seen in trade reports is apparently for those eight Big Ten states – cablers outside the Big Ten region would be charged something on the order of 10 cents a customer.

Again, this assumes that a national deal isn’t struck with, for example, TWC.

One Ohio cable company has already agreed to carry the Big Ten Network. Multichannel News reports that Toledo’s Buckeye Cablesystem has signed up for All Big Ten, All The Time TV. Buckeye will also carry the HD feed the BTN folks will offer…

WHILE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT HD SPORTS: Good news for Cleveland Browns fans with high-definition TV sets.

CBS, the broadcast network which carries AFC games – and thus, carries the bulk of the Browns’ schedule – is ramping up HDTV coverage of its NFL games.

A network spokeswoman tells some media writers – including San Diego Union-Tribune sports media writer Jay Posner, who had first word – that CBS will carry “up to 6″ NFL games each week in HDTV format.

Jay’s item – in the article linked above – says “5 or 6″. Each of the Sunday daytime NFL carriers, CBS and FOX, generally have no more than 6 games per week.

On FOX, the odd-game-out is usually upconverted from SD to 720p HD widescreen. On CBS, the non-HD games will still be – as far as we know – in non-widescreen SD.

The count by those keeping track: only 7 of CBS’s 107 games in 2007 will not be in HD, and at least six weeks in the NFL season will have ALL games in HD on all network carriers.

Of course, the Browns being the Browns…watch them land some of those non-HD games. But many, many more Browns games will be in HD this coming season, and the NFL has decreed that all games for all teams will be in HD in 2008…

AND THE “FUNNY” PART: Anyone who’s watched late night Cleveland TV the past few years is well aware of Marc Norton, the owner of Norton’s Furniture – and his odd TV commercials. You know, the ones which end with him saying “…and you can count on it”.

It would appear Mr. Norton is trying to branch out.

We noticed that he’s putting a new website URL onscreen during his TV spots – themarcnortonshow.net.

So, we visited, and it appears he’s trying to expand his self-made commercial presence into a media business. The site offers “The Marc Norton Show” on video for $1.39 an episode (“First Episode Now Available!”), along with links to his TV spots and other related material, including outtakes.

Quoting – we believe – the furniture store owner and would-be TV producer, as posted on the site:

I have become popular all over the North East Ohio, and even the nation. I have been shown on show such as Midnight Madness and Talk Soup. I am in negotions with major TV networks as well as talk radio superstars! Be sure you have the ability to Laugh out loud when you move into my site, I don’t want to be responsible for you getting fired when your boss sees you having too much fun.

We say “we believe” because the site spells his first name “Mark” in most of its writings, despite the correct spelling even being in the URL for it…

Midweek Teasers

Well, mostly teasers, as it’s a motley collection of semi-developed items and rumblings…with SOME very solid news…

FAREWELL SOON: OMW was the very first place where the impending retirement of WJW/8 “FOX 8″‘s Big Chuck and Lil John was reported in October 2006, much to the chagrin of, well, management on South Marginal Road.

Just one day later, Plain Dealer entertainment/media writer Julie Washington talked to “Big Chuck” Schodowski, who told her that he was considering retirement…oh, right about now, in the summer of 2007.

This clashed with our account that Schodowski and co-host “Lil John” Rinaldi were basically being nudged to the exit door after many years by FOX corporate – not the local management, as we painstakingly said at the time, but the New York-based overseers of our local FOX affiliate here in Cleveland.

Water under the bridge, as far as we’re concerned.

Whoever prompted what, Schodowski was gracious about it, and we were reminded that despite appearing ageless, the long-time weekend movie/sketch show host was 72 years old.

So, here we are in May 2007, and OMW hears rumblings that “Big Chuck and Lil John” are about ready to tape their final show. “Is that all there is?”

To that end, OMW readers tell us that Schodowski has been talking on the air about his impending retirement, including a series of spotlights on various regular skit cast members, and talk of a “Best Of” show in prime-time.

It appears the last original show featuring the local TV icons will air sometime late next month…

SMOKE ABOVE SOUTH MARGINAL: According to the latest update of Rick Gevers’ “ND List”, “FOX 8″ has indeed named its new news director:

WJW-TV, Cleveland, OH…late this afternoon SONYA THOMPSON was named ND for this FOX o-and-o. Sonya’s been the Assistant ND here for more than ten years. She’ll replace as ND the man who promoted her, GREG EASTERLY, who himself was promoted to General Manager last week. Long time EP ANDY FISHMAN has been named Assistant ND to replace Sonya.

We reported here earlier that WJW was looking at two strong in-house candidates…

OVER AT LAKESIDE: We haven’t yet learned who’ll take the same job (ND) at Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3, though we think that job is also down to two candidates as well – if not one.

But someone’s apparently stalking former WKYC/3 news director Mike McCormick. Out of nowhere, we received an unsigned note claiming he’d interviewed for yet another ND opening in the Gulf Coast region…you’ll recall that the gossip site NewsBlues earlier reported his interest in running the newsroom at New Orleans’ WWL/4.

Both stations would be within relative easy travel distance of McCormick’s original home base of Jacksonville FL.

We won’t say more than that, as we can’t vouch for the veracity of the anonymous note…

NOT “GOOD” FOR ASHLAND/MANSFIELD: That’s not “Good” as in “Not GoodRadio.TV”, as the official list of Clear Channel small market Ohio spinoffs to that company is out.

And according to AllAccess, as expected, the company’s Ashland/Mansfield cluster is not on the list of stations being picked up by former PAX TV/Ion Networks executive Dean Goodman’s new radio company.

The other clusters listed here are on the list, including Lima, Findlay, Tiffin, Sandusky, Chillicothe and Marion, as well as Clear Channel’s cluster in nearby Wheeling WV – yes, including the 50,000 blowtorch WWVA/1170.

That is particularly interesting, when you remember that Clear Channel filed in 2004 to MOVE that station out of Wheeling to a new COL of the Akron suburb of Stow. The move, of course, was vacated later that year by Clear Channel, for reasons having nothing to do with zoning radio stations in Stow. (Sorry, Denise! Couldn’t resist!)

Oh, and AllAccess notes that WSRW-FM/106.7 Hillsboro and WMRN-FM/106.9 Marion’s “original facilities” aren’t included in the sales, both stations having filed for COL moves under Clear Channel. Both stations’ sister AM outlets will stay with GoodRadio.TV, it appears.

WMRN-FM, we presume, stays with Clear Channel whenever it manages to move into Columbus, and we believe WSRW-FM moves to Chillicothe. There’s a frequency change or two in there as well.

CC’s Ashtabula stations, as reported earlier, are going to veteran Cleveland radio executive Tom Embrescia’s “Sweet Home Ashtabula”. Yes, Matt is his son, and no, Tom doesn’t own the Jamestown NY MediaOne stations, which are owned by his brother.

What about CC’s Ashland/Mansfield stations?

Well, one of the biggest problems is that the “Mid-Ohio” cluster is incredibly spread out geographically, with signals bordered on the north by the Sandusky stations, on the northeast by Canton and Akron, and to the south by Columbus.

We’ve heard the name of Saga thrown out there as a possible suitor, but we can’t see them absorbing all those facilities…and would expect that some of the outer stations (i.e. like “Fox Classic Rock” simulcasters WXXF/107.7 Loudonville and WXXR/98.3 Fredericktown) might get split off from the heart of the cluster.

Just a guess on our part…

We’re Still Here

OMW publishes as frequently as possible, given news events in the local media world, and the schedule of your Primary Editorial Voice(tm).

So, this is not an official “hiatus” announcement – if it had been, the attention signal you just heard in your head would have been followed by more hallucinations. But we may not be able to get around to updating this report until sometime Tuesday evening.

We’ll try to post “breaking” media news as soon as possible, and we could be back sooner than then.

Thank you, and enjoy!

– The Management

Closing The Week

We’ve got a bunch of items just waiting to see air. Or, umm, pixels…

NEWS DIRECTOR SHUFFLE: Cleveland has been one of the larger TV markets to have two news director openings at the same time.

OMW hears noise that one of the two positions is all but filled, and the other has some strong candidates.

We’ll get to that one first.

We’re told by sources walking by South Marginal Road that two in-house candidates are among the top contenders for the job to replace Greg Easterly at FOX O&O WJW/8 – a couple of station news producers. Easterly, of course, moved up to the station’s general manager post recently.

Over at Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3, just about anyone who has even been near 13th and Lakeside tells us that acting news director Rita Andolsen is well-liked, well-respected by staffers and a good candidate.

But another name has surfaced connected to the opening at Channel 3 News – someone who’s already in the building and has ND experience.

Hmm. Why do we feel the need to rent the DVD of the 90’s TV sitcom “Night Court”?…

WHILE WE’RE WATCHING (SO TO SPEAK) CLEVELAND TV: At another station, in another job competition, OMW hears that a popular former Cleveland Browns player will do some anchor fill-in this weekend on Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 “NewsChannel 5’s” sportscasts.

Yes, it’s Reggie Rucker, who was most recently seen working on Channel 5 as a part of the station’s Cleveland Browns draft coverage.

We don’t get any indication that it’s more than a fill-in for Rucker, as the station sorts through what to do with All Sports On-Air Positions Aside From Sue Ann Robak’s Job. Former WKYC/3 sports anchor Andy Baskin continues his regular fill-in on WEWS.

Speaking of former Cleveland Browns players doing TV – we wonder if Raycom Media CBS affiliate WOIO/19 will tap WNIR/100.1 afternoon drive talk host Bob Golic again to do fill-in… with the departure of David Pingalore to Orlando.

We believe we heard, or perhaps read somewhere, that “19 Action News” will put reporter Tony Zarella at the sports anchor desk as a fill-in. We would credit the proper source on that, but we can’t remember where we saw it…

THE VOICE OF STEELE – ER, TYLER: Maverick Media Lima programmer and OMW reader Dan Baisden passes along that he’s tabbed Shannon Steele as the new female station imaging voice for his cluster’s top 40 WWSR/92.1 “Star 92.1″.

Steele is not only the midday star at Entercom Buffalo’s WKSE/98.5 “Kiss FM” (one of the few not owned by Clear Channel), but, well, she’s also Sue Tyler of Northeast Ohio radio fame.

Most recently on D.A. Peterson top 40 WZKL/92.5 “Q92″ in the Canton market, Sue’s resume includes stations from WMMS/100.7 and then-WZJM/92.3 in the Cleveland market, to WKDD/then-96.5 and WRQK/106.9 in the Akron and Canton markets.

We’ve had people wondering how to contact her, but she doesn’t appear to have put up a website for her imaging work. originalsteele – at – hotmail – dot – com should get you to her directly, if you’re not a spambot and can reconstruct that address…

HOMERUN?: We haven’t independently confirmed this, but our source is usually pretty reliable about this topic.

“Moohead Radio”
, the sports-oriented website run by the head bovine otherwise known as Marc Steenbarger in real life, says that the satellite service DirecTV may finally relent on its now second-year prohibition limiting the distribution of SportsTime Ohio.

Last year, and again this year, the Cleveland Indians’ TV network is only available to DirecTV customers in certain areas – most notably Northeast Ohio. The areas are known internally as Zone 1 and Zone 2.

Moohead, er, Marc, tells us that DirecTV has agreed to open up STO and the Tribe to the other two zones in the rights area for the Indians – Zone 3 and Zone 4.

But…not until next year.

Moohead notes that those wishing to get the Tribe on satellite TV this year – and are in those areas outside of Northeast Ohio, etc. – will still have to use Dish Network, which has carried STO in all of the Cleveland market zones since the network launched…

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