Piatt, Fuller Out At WNIR

We already knew Stan Piatt wasn’t long for Broadcast Park…the home of talk WNIR/100.1 “The Talk of Akron”.

After weeks of rumors that even reached this corner, the station announced recently that the 36-year ringleader of its four person morning drive show would retire “between now and July”, and that WNIR was actively seeking a “funny person” to replace him.

The weather’s kind of cool for July, and it’s even colder on Route 59 between Kent and Ravenna.

Piatt and morning co-host Maggie Fuller are out of the building at WNIR, leaving only sports director Steve French and news director Phil Ferguson left among the morning crew.

Don’t believe us? Go to WNIR.com right now. Or, just follow along with the graphic on the right side of this item.

The morning show has been removed entirely from the station’s “Station Info” pull down menu, and the “Program Guide” schedule link does not work, at least in our browser.

And Piatt and Fuller are now off the WNIR “Contact Us > Staff Directory” page. French and Ferguson remain.

Talk about your Soviet-style purge.

We have seen no statement from the Brothers Klaus, though we honestly don’t expect to see one (and not just because we’re not on the station’s Christmas e-card list).

We haven’t confirmed how it officially went down on Tuesday, but we strongly believe that Piatt and Fuller both resigned.

We also don’t know if French and Ferguson will mount a show on Wednesday morning, or if they’ll have a third person in the studio. (Comedian/former WNCX morning co-host Jeff Blanchard was there on Friday.)

We have heard the same kinds of stories listeners have heard about “what happened” that led to the exit of Stan and Maggie today.

We can’t confirm the rumblings, which are all over social media. We may never be able to confirm everything, or be able to pass along all the details.

But in one day, the WNIR morning drive fun-fest basically fell apart in half, and Stan Piatt’s retirement got pushed up a few months.

(Note that we’ve told you already that we didn’t expect to hear Stan, bound for Pittsburgh and a new life with his new love, on WNIR past October or November. We should have bet on mid-September.)

We will tell you what we’re able to tell you, and we’ll do so whenever we’re able to tell you…please don’t bug us for the “juicy details”…

THIS JUST IN: Trapper Jack, Jim McIntyre Exit WDOK

A bombshell hit Cleveland morning radio today, as the two longest-running hosts on the CBS Radio AC WDOK/102.1 “New 102″ morning team are leaving the station.

In fact, this morning was the last day for Trapper Jack after 17 years on the station’s morning show, and “Infoman” Jim McIntyre exits this week after 18 years.

Co-host Jen Toohey, who moved over from sister hot AC WQAL/104.1 “Q104″‘s morning show to join WDOK, remains… and in fact, WDOK has performed what we call around here a “Soviet-style purge” on its website…Toohey’s picture and the name “New 102 Mornings” are the only signs of the morning show on the WDOK website at this time.

Trapper Jack’s farewell speech was posted on the “New 102″ website for a while, but the story linking to the audio was then scrubbed. (A reader provided the direct MP3 download link to the Trapper Jack audio, but since we’re linking it here, that’ll probably be gone by the time you read this.)

UPDATE 5:25 PM 12/19/12: The MP3 file has indeed gone away on the CBS Radio WordPress site. As of this writing, the direct WDOK podcast link still has the audio. Some Internet searching also found the audio here, though we don’t know the source – download at your own risk.

Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5′s website has a complete story on the exit, with some quotes from the farewell speech, and an audio link, written by NewsNet5.com’s Tina Kaufmann…herself a former radio type with Akron’s Rubber City Radio Group.

Rubber City country powerhouse WQMX/94.9 is the current radio programming home of former WDOK programmer Sue Wilson, who Trapper Jack thanked for hiring him after his exit from then-WLTF/106.5 “Lite Rock 106 1/2″ (today’s Clear Channel adult hits WHLK/106.5 “The Lake”).

Trapper Jack told his audience that the pair was told November 15th that their contracts wouldn’t be renewed, but the company would not say why. He said “person or persons” would be brought in with Jen Toohey, and wished both the show and the station success in a very classy farewell.

We’ll have a complete transcript of the Trapper Jack farewell speech later today, in an update to this item…and yes, this is the level we alluded to, when we talked about the kind of thing which would take us out of our Holiday Hiatus…

A Savage Exit

As we quipped when liberal talk radio network Air America died, this would have been a much bigger story here a few years ago.

But with syndicated talk show host Michael Savage making his “triumphant” exit from syndicator Talk Radio Network now, we believe that only affects a single station in the OMW immediate coverage area.

Savage declared victory in his contract battle with the Oregon-based TRN, as he was seeking to be released from his deal to pursue deals with other syndicators.

From the host’s own MichaelSavage.com (forgive the upper case):

AFTER A GRUELING LEGAL BATTLE THAT COST HIM AND HIS FAMILY DEARLY, MICHAEL SAVAGE CAN ANNOUNCE HE WON! HE IS FREE AT LAST. FREE TO WORK WITH WHOMEVER HE WISHES IN THE RADIO INDUSTRY FROM TODAY FORWARD.

The item says Savage will be off the radio “for some time”. Indeed, he’s now entirely gone from the TRN website, in what we’ve called a “Soviet-style purge”.

The statement released by the company’s CEO Mark Masters is brief:

“We are all looking forward to announcing a bright future; radio’s October Surprise will begin on Monday, October 1st.”

This would have been a big deal here on the Mighty Blog of Fun(tm) back in 2008. But as far as we can tell, there’s a single Savage affiliate left in Northeast Ohio.

That would be Media-Com talk WJMP/1520 Kent(/Akron/Cleveland/Jupiter), the puny AM sister station to the much more successful “Talk of Akron”, WNIR/100.1.

WJMP was running “The Savage Nation” on a 15 hour delay, weekdays from noon to 3 PM, also running the show live at 6 PM as long as the daytime station’s signoff time was after 6.

Friday afternoon, WJMP was airing Thursday night’s show with frequent Savage fill-in Jeff Kuhner, who just said he was “sitting in” without mentioning Savage, and without playing Savage’s theme music or opening.

Savage appeared briefly in late nights on WNIR itself, though we don’t know how long that stint lasted. The station now runs Salem host Mike Gallagher in the post-midnight hours (after Dial Global’s Jim Bohannon), along with TRN’s Laura Ingraham (“Ingram” according to the WNIR program guide page).

Savage’s affiliate history in Northeast Ohio was rocky, to say the least.

Featuring what is still one of our favorite quotes ever from a radio executive, Salem talk WHK/1420 Cleveland bounced Savage in 2008, in the middle of a controversy over his comments about autistic children.

From our July 2008 item quoting Salem Cleveland general manager Mark Jaycox talking to the Plain Dealer:

“This guy’s a knucklehead, and I want to get rid of him.”

Months earlier, he was squeezed off the schedule at Clear Channel talk WHLO/640 Akron, in a move not related to his on-air comments. WHLO reshuffled the schedule in April 2008 to make room for then-WKDD/98.1′s Matt Patrick, in his first regular talk radio stint.

It worked out well for Patrick, of course…he is now heard in morning drive at Clear Channel talk KTRH/740 Houston, with another show at sister talk KPRC/950. For Northeast Ohio listeners, Matt Patrick is also still is on the weekend schedule on Clear Channel’s big talker here, WTAM/1100 Cleveland (Saturday 1-4 PM).

After WHLO dropped Savage, Melodynamic talk WCER/900 Canton was Savage’s affiliate…but of course, WCER is now silent, after a brief LMA by former WINW/1520 programmer Curtis Perry III as gospel “Joy 900″.

(As near as we can figure, Perry recamped to the revived WINW, restarting “Joy 1520″ from temporary facilities featuring 250 watts into a long-wire antenna on the northern end of downtown Canton.)

Clear Channel talk WKBN/570 Youngstown is also a former Savage affliate, dropping him a few years ago.

Again, this would have been a much larger story about 4 years ago.

We found two other active Savage affiliates in Ohio in a brief Google search: Clear Channel talk WIMA/1150 Lima, and Runnymede talk WHTH/790 Heath (AM sister station to WKNO/101.7, once licensed to Newark, now licensed to New Albany with a signal that reaches much of Columbus).

But like Dr. Laura in her last days on terrestrial radio, “The Savage Nation” has disappeared from big market clearances in Ohio radio…

Bombshell At One Radio Lane – Alden Out

UPDATE 1/4/12 10:39 AM: The item has been corrected to reflect that Nancy Alden moved back to middays on WDOK in 2009. And a glitch caused by the WordPress mobile client, with much of the item becoming underlined, has been corrected.

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CBS Radio AC WDOK/102.1 Cleveland has had one constant on its schedule over the past 20-plus years…veteran air personality Nancy Alden.

Well, until today.

OMW has confirmed that Alden’s contract with WDOK hasn’t been renewed, and she has exited One Radio Lane as of Tuesday afternoon.

That confirmation of our own is also confirmed by the fact that Alden’s page has been wiped off the WDOK web site.

A visit there reveals the typical radio “Soviet-style purge”, returning the simple message “Page not found – Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.” “Nancy who?”, anyone?

And Alden’s departure could be just the first change at One Radio Lane.

Until her exit today, you’d probably have to think long and hard to remember WDOK without Nancy Alden.

As near as we can piece together, she joined WDOK in 1987 or thereabouts, moving up the schedule from late nights to nights (“The Lady In Red”) to middays, where she spent the bulk of her on-air time at 102.1.

Alden moved to WDOK’s afternoon drive slot in November 2008. (UPDATE: For whatever reason, we missed her swap back to middays in August 2009. Maybe we were on hiatus?)

Alden came to Cleveland as part of the launch staff at WNCX/98.5 when it started as “The North Coast Express”, before a format change to the current classic rock format not long afterwards – when owner Metropolis Broadcasting basically came apart.

Before that, she had a lengthy stint at Akron’s WKDD/then-96.5, now Clear Channel hot AC WKDD/98.1.

And are more changes coming to 102.1?

Well, the space on WDOK’s website normally dedicated to a link to On Air personalities links now to “Feedback”, asking listeners to let the station know “what do you want from your station in 2012″.

From that page:

Our Resolution for 2012 is to be a better station and YOU can help us!

WDOK has been part of your family for a long time. But we want to hear how we get better… We play More Music with a Better Variety. All the music you love. We have never been more committed to you and Cleveland.. Tell us how we can better serve you, our loyal listeners…

The “On Air” link at the bottom of the WDOK webpage is still active, listing “Trapper Jack and The Morning Show” and Desiray McCray, with Alden now also gone from that page.

Notice the mention of “music” in that message, and not one mention of on-air personalities.

Thus, it appears quite likely to us that WDOK will adopt a “more music” presentation, perhaps tweaking that AC music mix and with air personalities, what few there are, largely voicetracked.

We hear Trapper Jack is still under contract for 2012, and we expect him to return (but have not confirmed that), but we’re not at all sure of the composition of the show around him when he comes back.

OMW heard earlier today that WDOK has also dropped the syndicated “Delilah” program in the evening. That show is indeed absent from the WDOK airwaves this Tuesday evening.

Note that tomorrow morning, 102.1 gets a competitor…Rubber City Radio’s WNWV/107.3 “The Wave” will launch its “new generation” format. (UPDATE: Rubber City Radio did a “soft launch” of the new format on Tuesday evening.)

After an automated “Smooth Jazz Christmas”, the station goes “smooth AC”…with more vocals and a more upbeat music selection, which may surprise those who expected the old smooth jazz format to return lock, stock and saxophone.

(The traditional smooth jazz format will remain on WNWV’s HD2 subchannel and online, called “Wave Classics” by the new ownership.)

“Smooth AC” is generally considered to be the evolution of the smooth jazz format, and there are still plenty of saxophones and Kenny G tunes around. Format pioneer KTWV in Los Angeles, which originally licensed “The Wave” to WNWV and other stations back in the day, has also gone in this direction in 2012.

More than one reader has noted that former WDOK programmer Sue Wilson is in the building at West Market Street, as program director and morning drive co-host of Rubber City Radio’s country powerhouse, WQMX/94.9.

And if you’re going any direction of AC in Cleveland, having Sue Wilson already across the hall from 107.3′s temporary home in Akron is not exactly a bad thing…though we have no idea if she has had a role in the new station’s development.

We also note that 107.3′s new contact page lists no program director…midday host Mark Ribbins, a Wave veteran, is assistant program director/music director.

“The Wave” will broadcast from the Akron Radio Center until new studios are completed in Independence later this year.

WNWV starts its new format life with some WDOK veterans on the air, including morning driver Dan Deely and afternoon driver Bobby Thomas. (Deely’s bio notes he lives in Independence, happy for a short commute to the coming 107.3 studios.)

WQMX middayer Lynn Kelly will also handle the 6-midnight shift of “Cleveland After Dark”, presumably helped by the magic of voicetracking. (Or, by doing without sleep.)

Also aboard the new “Wave” is Grace Roberts, who started her career at the station (under Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting ownership, of course), and eventually became a mainstay at Radio One urban AC WZAK/93.1 and gospel WJMO/1300.

Is WDOK gearing up for the competition by making these changes? Make your own guess.

But RadioInsight’s Lance Venta, Internet domain name snoop extraordinare, tells OMW that the domain name “new102.com” was registered last month by a registrar normally used by CBS and other radio companies.

Meanwhile, OMW hears that the other half of CBS’ female-audience division, hot AC WQAL/104.1 “Q104″, could see some changes as well…

LeCharles Bentley Quits WKNR

On the eve of what was supposed to be a “major announcement” regarding a scheduling overhaul for Good Karma sports WKNR/850 “ESPN 850″, that station has lost one of its star players.

LeCharles Bentley abruptly resigned from WKNR Thursday night… just as “Xs and Os with the Pros,” the show he co-hosted alongside Je’Rod Cherry, was set to begin. (It was so sudden that liners featuring LeCharles’ name still played at the end of commercial breaks, but Je’Rod and show producer Emmett Golden had to conduct the show as if he never had existed on Planet Earth.)

While the normally outspoken LeCharles himself is keeping VERY quiet about this matter, we have learned the source of his dispute with the station.

Sources close to the situation are telling us that it was a dispute over pay for Golden – $8 per hour for a two-hour show – and Golden was set to be removed from “Xs and Os”, effective next week, due to pay issues.

(Note that there was no “Xs and Os” scheduled for Friday night, due to pre-existing high school football coverage.)

Objecting to how WKNR handled the situation, the former St. Ignatius and Ohio State star simply walked out – but, we hear, not before offering to cover Golden’s pay for the show.

And to prove this wasn’t a stunt, any and all mention of LeCharles has already been eliminated from WKNR’s website in yet another “Soviet-style purge.”

We will have much more on this developing story as details warrant…

Little Doubt: Maxwell Out

It appears that CBS Radio Cleveland classic rocker WNCX/98.5 is moving on without “The Maxwell Show”.

Program director Bill Louis is on the station this morning, playing the station’s usual classic rock music, with not a hint of any mention of “The Maxwell Show”, the talk show which has occupied the WNCX morning drive airwaves.

And the exclamation point on Maxwell’s exit comes when you go to the WNCX website, which has been scrubbed of all mentions of the show, not to mention “The Maxwell Show”‘s own section of the website, which returns “Page not found – Sorry, no posts matched your criteria” as of this morning.

We coined a phrase for this: it’s the most complete “Soviet-style purge” of a station’s morning show that we’ve ever seen, both on the web and on the air.

We don’t know the behind-the-scenes on this yet.

We do know that just one studio over, CBS Radio’s Cleveland cluster (male audience division) is about to debut a new, high-profile, multi-person morning show on WKRK/92.3 “The Fan” – set to start as a sports station on Monday.

With Kevin Kiley, Chuck Booms, update anchor Jeff Thomas and producers Tony Mazur and Josh Potter, is there any room for the similarly-staffed “Maxwell Show” in the Halle Building competing for that audience?

It would seem not.

A major hat tip to our own Secondary Editorial Voice(tm), Nathan Obral, for posting this news on his Twitter account on Thursday evening…

Jim Mantel Out At WGAR

Veteran Clear Channel country WGAR/99.5 morning star Jim Mantel is now officially a man without a station.

Sources at Oak Tree confirm that Mantel is out as morning drive host at WGAR, as is morning show producer “Captain Tony” McGinty.

As usual, the “Soviet-style purge” has removed the “Mantel in the Morning” page from WGAR’s website, and Mantel’s name from the station’s air personality list.

Mantel’s Twitter account is still around, though it hasn’t been updated since Sunday.

McGinty’s Twitter account is no longer accessible as of this writing, and the Google cache for the account shows it was updated recently. McGinty’s Facebook account is also missing.

UPDATE: An OMW reader tells us that McGinty is available on Twitter under a new account name.

UPDATE: We’re also told McGinty has a new Facebook page address, too.

From a memo announcing Mantel and McGinty’s departure from Oak Tree:

(WGAR program director) Charlie (Connolly) begins the search begins today for WGAR’s next morning show. On the interim, he and Lori Hovater will handle morning duties.

We don’t know why Mantel is gone from WGAR, along with his producer, but the best educated guesses involve ratings – remember, Cleveland is now firmly in PPM land – and what we’d have to assume is his more-than-decent compensation package, earned by hosting a top-rated morning drive show for many years…

Wednesday’s Radio And TV Openness

We’ve got a couple of corrections in the hopper.

But first, some FM radio on-air changes… at least one of which has been actually been discussed openly with listeners. Now, there’s a change…

FISH MOVES: When a radio station is forced to consolidate its staffing and lineup – usually leaving at least one person out of work – management isn’t exactly forthcoming about the moves.

Leaving personalities often leave with what gets called a “Soviet-style purge” from station websites and promotional material…the material scrubbed with mentions of the former station employee like he or she was never there.

So, we’ve got to hand it to Salem Cleveland general manager Mark Jaycox.

Salem’s CCM outlet, WFHM/95.5 “The Fish”, has done some schedule shuffling. And instead of having to pull teeth to get information about it, all we have to do is go to a station web page and start copying and pasting from Jaycox’s own letter:

To remain competitive and to continue to broadcast the same great music our audience has come to enjoy for the past 8 years, Our company: Salem Communications has required some minor adjustments to several of their Fish stations, with reference to certain shifts and air talent.

Jaycox’s letter goes on to note that Mark Rein moves into afternoon drive, where, “we are excited to see what Mark’s fun and entertaining style of talk will do in this important time slot.”

Rein’s move to 3-7 PM displaces now-former afternoon driver Kristine Lane, who Jaycox notes will – again quoting Jaycox’s letter – “remain part of our family in a new marketing role.”

And as for middays?

Our beloved Gina Hart, unfortunately will be moving into a consultant role with Salem in the short term, as we automate the mid day period, from 10am to 3pm.

That “consultant role” and “in the short term” wording (not to mention “unfortunately”) doesn’t sound good for Ms. Hart. But in the 2009 world of radio, an automated midday shift is nearly ubiquitous.

So, there’s your upshot.

We can’t remember a last time that a radio station manager has admitted to listeners that a daypart was automated. Well, aside from the joking use of “Otto Mation” on some stations’ schedules. We also can’t remember the last time a local manager indicated in public that changes were basically forced upon the local cluster by corporate decisions.

Len Howser and Brooke Taylor remain as morning drive co-hosts on “The Fish”, Cleveland version…

TOLEDO CHANGES: Here’s an exit at Cumulus Toledo that apparently is not another layoff budget cut. Well, directly, anyway.

Quoting AllAccess on Tuesday afternoon:

CUMULUS Alternative WRWK (106.5 THE ZONE)/TOLEDO APD/MD/middayer CAROLYN STONE has decided to exit to raise her two daughters. She had been off-air on maternity leave since the beginning of the year. CAROLYN spent four years with THE ZONE.

WRWK PD DAN MCCLINTOCK is looking to fill a future on-air position. Send resume and mp3 to dan.mcclintock (at) cumulus.com.

We had a tip on this earlier, but AllAccess got up the item before we had a chance to try to confirm it.

OMW hears that Stone is probably doing just fine without a paying radio job, as far as being able to exit on her own and to raise her family…

PRICETAG FOR 67: Even non-rated, rimshot infomercial outlets have their price.

Several OMW readers pointed out that the digital paperwork for the sale of WOAC/67 Canton to Illinois-based Radiant Life Ministries has hit the FCC website, and if you guessed the religious broadcaster is paying $7 million for the station…congratulations!

Radiant Life Ministries is an arm of the Tri-State Christian Television empire, as we noted in our earlier item. TCT owns, among other stations, WNYB/24 Jamestown NY, just down I-86 from Erie PA…in the southern end of the Buffalo NY market.

For those of you wishing that WOAC would somehow be bought by someone who would turn it into a secular independent station, here’s another dose of reality.

“Cleveland Classic Media’s” Tim Lones signed up for TCT’s E-newsletter after our first item on the WOAC sale, and Tim tells us that the TCT folks are already touting their latest incoming station.

Since the graphic is a bit big, we’ll type the message from TCT owners Garth and Tina Coonce here, in part:

TCT Television Network is very pleased to announce that TCT has just signed an agreement to purchase a major market television station in the Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Ohio market.

Channel 47 is a powerful one mega-watt digital signal that covers the entire Northeast section with 1.7 million households of Ohio.

Tim points out to us that they do refer to WOAC by its digital channel RF number, 47.

They don’t mention that even with its digital facility in Portage County’s Brimfield Township, across Ohio 43 at I-76 from the tower holding WNIR/100.1 and its sister low-power/Class A TV station WAOH-LP/29, WOAC is still not as easy to catch as far north as Cleveland compared to the market’s other full-power stations out of the Parma antenna farm. But we digress.

We don’t know the “channel 47″ reference means that they’ll abandon the former analog channel number, 67, which is now being sent via PSIP (as usually expected) as 67-1 on WOAC’s now sole signal, its digital one. Analog 67 was shut off in February, of course…

ERRATA: It’s not major stuff, but we thought we’d correct ourselves again.

In our most recent item about Akron market talk WNIR/100.1 “The Talk of Akron” picking up Talk Radio Network’s Michael Savage for “network fill-in” – taking three hours of the time slot normally occupied by the station’s Tom Erickson – we got off onto a tangent about TRN and its “hard sell” to affiliates.

We neglected to remember that Rusty Humphries is not the only TRN program on Savage’s former Akron market home, Clear Channel talk WHLO/640.

We’d forgotten that former Premiere syndicated host Phil Hendrie’s latest show is now syndicated by TRN. The Los Angeles-based Hendrie airs late nights on WHLO, from 2-5 AM.

And Rusty Humphries airs before him from 11 PM-2 AM, not at 9 PM as we advised in the other item. It’s self-syndicated financial advice guru Dave Ramsey in that earlier evening slot on WHLO.

We’ll flog ourselves with a printed WHLO schedule to make up for it. (And even THAT schedule isn’t right Tuesday-Friday, unless the station has taken to playing one hour of Phil Hendrie at the same time as “Wall Street Journal This Morning” at 5 AM.)

That’s not all.

OMW reader “Wayne in Akron”, an avid listener to WNIR, points out that we incorrectly attributed one comment to him in our followup item.

It was another reader (“king-of-kings”) who made the comment about Mike Gallagher, not Wayne. Wayne did correctly inform us that WNIR evening host Tom Erickson would return on Wednesday night, not this past Monday.

Here, take the last dose of our Mea Culpa, Wayne…and thank you for paying attention to “The Talk of Akron” and pointing out stuff we miss…we really do appreciate it!

1480 Moves To More Talk

OMW hears that NextMedia oldies WHBC/1480 Canton, as long rumored in This Space, is finally bringing on the talk.

We hear from many sources this evening that WHBC veteran afternoon drive host Brice Lewis was let go after his Thursday program.

And sure enough, the station has done the “Soviet-style purge” of Mr. Lewis from its website.

Listed on the WHBC schedule 3-7 PM now is “Afternoons on WHBC”. Lewis is also off the station’s “On-Air Personalities” page as of today.

OMW hears that taking his place in the afternoon drive slot will be a name that’s no surprise to anyone who has been reading this missive in recent weeks – Brady Russell, who did something of a talk tryout for WHBC a few weeks ago on a Sunday evening, and who we hear now gets the shot for a 5 day-a-week talk radio gig.

Russell returns to his former radio employer, and even to his old time slot, only on the AM side instead of the FM side. He was the afternoon driver at sister AC WHBC-FM/94.1 “Mix 94.1″ until he was let go after a controversial comment in 2005 prompted listener complaints.

In his new role, Brady will likely have somewhat more leeway, as he’ll be on an AM station moving more and more towards talk, and somewhat likely with a strong conservative bent. Mr. Russell’s comment that got him showed the door at 94.1 involved a colorful response to protesters at President Bush’s second inauguration.

To that end, OMW hears that WHBC will become one of the first affiliates of the new Westwood One syndicated talk show hosted by comedian/commentator/former Monday Night Football voice Dennis Miller.

Miller is slated to debut on 1480 in April – we presume April 2nd. His show doesn’t start until March 26th.

He’ll be Russell’s lead-in, from what we’re told, in the noon-to-3 PM time slot. The Dennis Miller radio show will be produced live in the 10 AM-1 PM Eastern time slot, if we remember right, so that means a two hour rolling delay on the WHBC side.

We don’t know how this affects midday host Tom Jarrett, but we’re told he’s been mixing talk and music in the hours before 12 noon…mid-morning local talk, anyone?

There isn’t much left to do to turn WHBC into a full-fledged talk station.

The morning drive show is already a news/information program with Fred Chenevey and Pam Cook. If Tom Jarrett segues to talk, the addition of Miller’s program and local afternoon drive talk with Brady Russell puts the station in the format all day…and no matter what Brian Novak does at night, the time slot is frequently pre-empted by sporting events anyway.

(We’re wondering if an old rumor we passed along happens at this point – that WHBC picks up Sporting News Radio for evenings/nights/weekends. We’re just guessing at that one, as we’ve heard nothing recently on that.)

It’ll be interesting to watch.

In one of the more important talk time slots, middays, the station is gambling on a comedian known for his high-minded obscure cultural references and with no radio talk experience. Dennis Miller’s show will have to climb pretty high to reach even a decent fraction of the audience of one Rush Limbaugh, on both WHLO/640 Akron and WTAM/1100 Cleveland.

But that’s been one of WHBC’s problems in trying to move to the format – the lack of good syndicated talk programming not already claimed by other stations in or near the Canton market…

Followup to a Bombshell

OMW reported earlier today that Salem sports WKNR/850 Cleveland was on the outs with the ESPN Radio Network. We have a little more clarification.

As we mentioned earlier, OMW sources tell us that the folks at ESPN dropped a bombshell on WKNR on Monday…a 90-day notice to get out of the network’s contract with the long-time affiliate. We hear that ESPN Radio will eventually be heard on another Cleveland market outlet, and from what we are told, that outlet will be a 24/7 affiliate of the network.

It appears, for now, that ESPN isn’t going to be pulled immediately from the WKNR airwaves, despite Salem’s obvious displeasure with the exit move.

As we reported here first, the station performed what we’ve called in the past a “Soviet-style purge” of ESPN’s mentions on the WKNR website, including erasing program listings for morning show “Mike and Mike” in at least two places. (We also believe an ESPN news ticker once graced the ‘KNR site…that’s definitely gone.) By the way, a tip of the OMW hat to long-time reader Nathan Obral for first noticing the absence of ESPN material on WKNR’s website.

While station management may have wanted to pull the plug immediately on ESPN Radio, cooler heads seem to have prevailed. Not only would that move mean a mad scramble for a new morning show, nighttime and weekend programming, but it would have cost the station tonight’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game. To the on-air listener, there’s no riff between WKNR and ESPN. Yet. We’ll see how that changes over the next three months, and when.

Now, as far as that “what next” option for the sports network… there really seem to be very few options. Let’s ride the Speculation Train, shall we? All of the above is merely open thinking on our part. Feel free to hit the comments or the local radio message boards to dissect this one:

STOP 1: With ESPN leaving Salem, there goes all that company’s stations – even if one of them were willing to go 24/7 with ESPN alongside WKNR, which would be unlikely even in the best of a Salem/WKNR relationship. WHK and WHKW aren’t changing from their talk and religious formats, anyway.

STOP 2: Clear Channel has no stations to give ESPN for full 24/7 coverage, as they have no other Cleveland AM stations besides WTAM/1100. And even if there were a Clear Channel FM in dire trouble, it wouldn’t go all-network sports, ever.

STOP 3: Both of Radio One’s AMs have a purpose – WERE/1300 with its new company-driven urban news/talk format, and WJMO/1490 with its long-time local gospel format. Ditto, certainly, with their FM stations.

That leaves no other full-market, full-time Cleveland signals left for ESPN besides one: company-owned Radio Disney outlet WWMK/1260. We’d almost consider the in-house move from kids radio to ESPN a given, except we don’t know if ESPN has ever flipped a Radio Disney station to ESPN sports.

Note that ESPN Radio owns a full-time Pittsburgh sports station, WEAE/1250…which does its best to be competitive in the tough Pittsburgh sports radio market.

It just swiped Stan Savran, former afternoon drive competitor (WBGG/970) to WEAE’s popular afternoon drive show with Mark Madden, to help with Steelers coverage and fill-in talk.

And in an odd coincidence in this situation, former station owners Jacor and Capstar once swapped WEAE and WKNR in a two-city deal made necessary by regulatory concerns at the time.

Be sure you realize we have NO even rumored information that WWMK/1260 is the eventual destination for ESPN Radio in Cleveland. But if our speculation turns out to be correct, and ESPN Radio does go 24/7 on Disney’s own 1260 frequency – it seems likely from the company’s history in sports formats that they’ll make a run at being competitive…with at least some local presence on the air.

It would be a fun ride…

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