The Clear Channel Aftermath

We should be used to this by now, but you never get used to hundreds of broadcast professionals getting tossed out of their radio studios for Christmas.

Or any other time, really.

In what’s become a very sad tradition around this time of year, broadcast giant Clear Channel Media+Entertainment+Pork Rinds looked at its staffing levels in markets across the nation and said, “oh, we can do without these people” as the year comes to a close. (And really, anymore, we’re only half kidding about the “Pork Rinds”.)

But the job cuts were shocking here in Ohio.

Kasper

Kasper

The radio artist known only as “Kasper” had been a mainstay, a force at Clear Channel’s Cleveland top 40 outlet, WAKS/96.5 “Kiss FM”.

After a brief stint at the company’s Philadelphia top 40 outlet WIOQ “Q102″, Kasper (who was still voicetracking back to Cleveland) came back to Oak Tree, and not only returned live to “96.5 Kiss FM”‘s afternoon shift, but took assistant program director and music director stripes as well.

That move felt all the more important because WAKS fell under the oversight, programming-wise, of rock/talk WMMS/100.7 program director Bo Matthews. Kasper was a steady hand to help Matthews keep an eye on his second station.

And though we don’t have the numbers to back it up, as far as we know, Kasper’s afternoon drive show was quite popular in the appropriate demos.

Success apparently isn’t enough to save you from the job cut ax anymore, particularly if bean counters feel that assistant program directors are too much of an expense.

John Crenshaw

John Crenshaw

Though we don’t really cover Columbus these days, John Crenshaw is a long-time OMW reader.

He has extensive ties to Northeast Ohio, as the Edinburg native (“halfway between Akron and Youngstown”) worked extensively in all decent size Northeast Ohio markets before coming to Columbus. (You may have known him as “Big Dave” or some variant up here.)

“Big Dave” became Johnboy Crenshaw (JbC) and eventually rose within the hierarchy of Clear Channel Columbus to become operations manager of the entire cluster until last year, when changes landed him as the program director of country giant WCOL/92.3.

We don’t say “giant” lightly.

A quick look at ratings we can’t directly quote here shows WCOL at the top of the most recent PPM numbers in Columbus (6-plus), a position WCOL has frequently occupied in Central Ohio.

Dominant might not be strong enough a word to describe WCOL’s success…it’s one of the most successful large market country outlets in the nation.

Again, as in the case of fellow OMW reader Kasper, success apparently isn’t enough to save your job when the bean counters are calling the shots.

Sure, we’ve said that before, as have others, when large broadcast companies feel the need to cut a few hundred (or thousand!) employees all at once.

But not only is it the end of the year…Clear Channel is in a financial squeeze.

Owned by private equity firms Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners, a recent financial report says the company has to deal with over $10 billion in debt.

From AllAccess.com:

MOODY’S INVESTORS SERVICE has issued a report that CLEAR CHANNEL COMMUNICATIONS is facing a stiff challenge in managing the more than $10 billion of debt that will come due in 2016. They write that the company may be forced into a restructuring of its balance sheet.

Tom Taylor, the respected radio industry reporter now putting out the excellent “Tom Taylor Now” E-mail newsletter, notes that Bain and THL may not own Clear Channel by that 2016 date anyway, since they’ve already held the company much longer than such equity firms usually stay in place.

But while the two private equity concerns still own Clear Channel, the bottom line is still foremost…and the company is likely moving towards even more direct syndication (Ryan Seacrest, its stable of Premiere talk stars, and more) and less local programming.

Rich Minaya

Rich Minaya

Out in this week’s cuts was one Rich Minaya, afternoon drive host at Clear Channel’s Miami talker, WIOD/610-and-FM-translator.

If you’ve been around Northeast Ohio and listening to talk radio for a long time, you might have heard Rich on the old WWWE/1100 “3WE”…but he was known as Rich Michaels when he hosted the mid-morning shift at 3WE.

The Miami station is advertising for “its next spoken word star” to replace Minaya.

If the Horseshoe Casino had a Radio Betting Window, we’d almost bet that the “local” host on WIOD will be Compass Media Networks’ Todd Schnitt, whose “Schnitt Show” has been based at sister talker WFLA/970 Tampa. The Tampa station stops airing him later this month.

Schnitt actually started his afternoon talk show on WIOD, while still back in Tampa doing morning drive on WFLA’s sister top 40 outlet WFLZ as “MJ Kelli” (his original job there). WFLA picked up the talk show later.

Schnitt, by the way, is heard weeknights from 10 PM until 1 AM on Clear Channel talk WHLO/640 in Akron.

Speaking of that station, this round of cuts appears to have concentrated on major and large market stations.

But it would be no surprise if another round of job cuts in the future visited Akron, Canton, Youngstown, and the like.

There was a side effect of the cuts in Youngstown.

Kasper was voicetracking afternoon drive on the company’s WAKZ/95.9 “Kiss FM” in his former home market, competing against his former radio home, now-Cumulus top 40 WHOT/101.1 “Hot 101″.

Another victim of this week’s Clear Channel budget cuts, “Flick”, was voicetracking nights on the Youngstown market “Kiss FM” outlet from the company’s “Kiss” outlet in Pittsburgh…where he was assistant program director/music director/afternoon drive host. He had originally worked at South Avenue as “95.9 Kiss FM”s night jock.

“Dave and Jimmy” in morning drive, Ryan Seacrest all day, anyone?

Whoever ends up in WAKZ’s afternoon drive shift probably won’t have the extensive knowledge and background Kasper had…of his hometown…

Clear Channel Layoffs Post

Those watching the trade sites aren’t surprised: An estimated 150 to “many hundreds” of Clear Channel employees nationwide are being told today that their services aren’t necessary.

This post, affecting Northeast Ohio’s Clear Channel stations, will be a running list as we update it. All Access and other sites have been tracking those laid off in some other Ohio markets, like Dayton.

The so-called “Reduction in Force” is affecting mainly Clear Channel’s medium and smaller markets.

———-

UPDATE 1:00 PM 10/28/11:

AKRON/CANTON
————
Rock WRQK/106.9 afternoon driver Todd “Fishhead” Fisher

ASHLAND/MANSFIELD
—————–
Country WNCO-FM/101.3 midday host-Talk WNCO/1340 program director Gene Davis
Production director Bryan Moore
Utility/sports/news staffer Josh Bowman

UPDATE 5:10 PM 10/26/11:

YOUNGSTOWN
———-
Rock WNCD/93.3 and Top 40 WAKZ/95.9 program director Matt Spatz
Board operator Todd Heston
– Classic hits WBBG/106.1 program director Jeff Kelly adds duties as WNCD program director, and Hot AC WMXY/98.9 program director Steve Granato adds WAKZ duties to his plate.

Weekend Special

A few items hanging around for the weekend, hiding from all the rain and chilly temperatures…

WEST MARKET CHANGES: Two staffers are no longer at the Akron Radio Center, as the AkronNewsNow newsroom faces an economic-driven “retooling” of some of its operations. But one other staffer is returning.

The layoffs are of two key on-air names at the Rubber City Radio Group newsroom on West Market Street in Akron, which serves oldies/news/sports WAKR/1590, rock WONE/97.5 and country WQMX/94.9: WAKR morning news anchor/assignment editor Marcy Pappafava, and veteran sports anchor/morning news editor Joe Jastrzemski.

Yes, that’s right, Joe Jastrzemski is “on the beach” after a 17 year run covering sports at the Akron stations.

It’s probably much easier to list what he has NOT covered…he’s been a regular at high school, college and pro sports events, and other events like the annual Akron Marathon, which he just covered again last week.

From Joe’s WAKR bio, still in place at this hour on AkronNewsNow.com:

“Following four years in Cleveland, Joe moved onto WELW-AM in Willoughby for over a decade as News and Sports Director. Joe moved to WAKR in 1994 and has been in Akron ever since.

The Associated Press has honored Joe for having the best regularly scheduled sportscast (2005, 2006 and 2007) and also recognized Joe as Ohio’s Medium Market Radio Sportscaster of the Year, Reporter of the Year and News Anchor of the Year.

Joe’s sports experience goes beyond reporting; he has also served as the public address voice of Canal Park for the Akron Aeros for the last ten years, and also works the microphone for Cleveland State men’s and women’s basketball since the 1977-78 season.

Joe also has done play-by-play for the Akron Aeros as well as coverage of Summit County high school games.”

Jastrzemski has also been news editor during the “Ray Horner Morning Show”.

And since Pappafava has been the news anchor for the program, that leaves one on-air opening…and someone returning to the Akron Radio Center will take that role starting Monday.

Lindsay McCoy left the building to take a position as editor of the Cuyahoga Falls edition of Patch.com, the network of local news sites set up by America Online (and now run by AOL’s Huffington Post subsidiary).

She’ll be back on WAKR on Monday as Ray Horner’s news anchor.

It’s definitely a bittersweet set of changes for RCRG VP/Information Media and long-time OMW reader Ed Esposito.

On the “bitter” side, Ed tells us it’s “tough to say goodbye” to Pappafava and Jastrzemski.

“They’re both quality people and quality performers”, Esposito says, noting that he’s known Joe Jastrzemski for 20 years, as one of the first people he met when returning to Cleveland.

Oh, and Ed also hired Marcy – out of a previous career as a retail buyer and manager. The Pittsburgh-area native has been serving as the current president of the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters, quite a change from buying trips for big retailers in large cities in her pre-radio life.

But while saying goodbye to two colleagues and friends, Esposito says he’s happy to bring McCoy back to the newsroom, calling her “a great part of our more recent history” who will bring qualities such as “enthusiasm and energy” to Horner’s weekday broadcasts.

“The Ray Horner Morning Show”, with Jastrzemski’s exit from the building, will no longer have regularly scheduled sportscasts, though the show will present sports news as needed.

And the station will continue its carriage of numerous local sports events, including a complete schedule of high school sports play-by-play broadcasts.

In fact, Esposito tells OMW, the station’s high school basketball schedule will be even more extensive this season – thanks to the absence of the Cleveland Cavaliers on the WAKR airwaves, due to the NBA lockout…

RTDN-LOCAL: Esposito is coming off of his terms as chairman of the Radio Television Digital News Association and its associated educational foundation – the news organizations recently changed the “News Directors” part to “Digital News”, so the pair is now known as RTDNA and RTDNF.

The news industry group has long had a bit of an Akron flavor to it, and not just because of Esposito…president-emeritus Barbara Cochran, as we’ve reported before, is also an Akron native.

And now, yet another person with local ties is in RTDNA’s hierarchy.

He’s Vincent Duffy, news director of public radio’s Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor MI – who many likely still remember from his time at Kent State University’s WKSU/89.7-and-its-many-simulcasters…not to mention his stint as the second host of Western Reserve PBS’ Friday night news/discussion show “NewsNight Akron”.

Duffy was WKSU’s program director until April 2007, when he left to become news director of the network of three Michigan NPR outlets.

At the organization’s recent convention in New Orleans, Duffy was named chairman-elect of RTDNA. Here’s video, from the RTDNA/F’s YouTube page, of him after he was chosen for the role.

Congratulations, Vince, in your new role!

NOT A NEW ROLE, AT LEAST YET: Just a day removed from his exit from Good Karma Broadcasting sports WKNR/850 “ESPN 850″‘s “Xs and Os with the Pros”, former Ohio State and NFL star lineman LeCharles Bentley popped up on the station’s competition.

But Bentley’s 5 PM Friday visit to “The Bull and The Fox” on CBS Radio sports WKRK/92.3 “The Fan” was not at all about his radio career.

LeCharles had a lively chat with Adam “The Bull” Gerstenhaber and Dustin Fox about, well, not radio…but football, first the Ohio State Buckeyes, and then the Browns.

There was no mention of his self-imposed departure from WKNR, which is detailed in the item just below this one. Indeed, there was no mention of WKNR or his recent stint there, at all.

He was last heard on that show Wednesday evening, spending much of Thursday evening tweeting about his departure, and retweeting supportive messages from listeners.

We have heard nothing about any future on-air role at “92.3 The Fan” for Bentley. As we noted, the Friday spot on “The Bull and The Fox” was not any audition…it was a football talk…

Busy News Cycle

UPDATE 10:30 AM 1/15/11: We have corrected now-former WTAM/1100 evening anchor Dean Leyland’s name below. Sorry about that!

And we hear that now-former WTAM weekend evening anchor Cliff Baechle is not leaving the building – his voice will be heard elsewhere, moving to a weekday gig feeding news to Clear Channel hub stations WPGB/104.7 Pittsburgh and WKBN/570 Youngstown from Oak Tree…

————

Though your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) clearly has his own schedule when it comes to updating this blog, sometimes the flow of news almost demands an update.

This is one of those times, with numerous reports of local media comings and goings, and some new information about same, flooding our “news desk” this Friday evening.

Let’s get out the news squeegee and clear off this news window…

ROBIN SHOW’S REPLACEMENT?: We did something we normally have not done in the past 5 years…checked in with the final “Robin Swoboda Show” Friday morning on Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 in Cleveland.

As befitting the modern communications age, Robin announced Thursday on her Facebook account that Friday would be her last show, saying that the station was going in “a different direction”…and we may have a clue about that direction, now.

First, Swoboda poked fun at her own exit throughout Friday’s show, snickering about looking for a job when a job seeking expert came on, and noting she wouldn’t be eating out until she found work.

But she didn’t say what would occupy the 10-11 AM weekday time slot she’s giving up as of Monday.

No, we had to turn to the (Wilkes-Barre PA) Times-Leader newspaper for that.

The what?

Thanks to an assist from our friend and colleague Lance Venta at RadioInsight, follow along with this article about a brand new “Fox 8 News” hire in Cleveland:

Starting Feb. 1, (WBRE weathercaster Kristi Capel) will present the weather forecast to viewers watching the Fox news station in Cleveland, Ohio.

Her new duties in Cleveland include early morning traffic reports and an entertainment show arriving mid-day.

Aha! So, maybe the “direction” WJW is headed is Entertainment Land. It’s not clear from the wording what Capel’s role on the new show would be.

The article in the Wilkes-Barre newspaper says she’s been doing morning weather at WBRE/28, the NBC affiliate in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market, for three years…and judging from the comments by readers on the item, she appears to be quite popular.

We linked the newspaper article earlier on our Twitter account (it is dated January 7th), but the details we share here were not there when we saw the article.

An “entertainment show”, whatever that means, would certainly be compatible with “Access Hollywood Live”, which “Fox 8″ airs from 11 AM-12 noon.

The Pennsylvania article says Capel isn’t starting at South Marginal until February 1st, so we still don’t know what the station will air instead of “The Robin Swoboda Show” for the next two weeks.

We’d expect local fill-ins, but don’t know what format it’ll take…or even what “an entertainment show” means, and how it’ll be different from Robin Swoboda’s now-former show.

RESERVE SQUARE LAYOFFS: We do know that some newsies are no longer calling the basement of Reserve Square their professional home, after layoffs.

OMW hears that reporter Dawn Kendrick, a newscast director, a photographer and two web producers are gone at Raycom Media CBS affiliate WOIO/19-MyNet affiliate WUAB/43’s “19 Action News”, part of a drive to cut a lot of money from the station’s budget.

And more layoffs could be on the way, though we don’t have confirmation of that right now.

We do know that existing staffers are being asked to do more, with less, and some off-air news operations are merging…

AND ON THE RADIO SIDE: OMW hears that Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 evening news anchor Dean Leyland (our apologies for misspelling his name earlier) is gone, but we have not yet confirmed why.

The station put up an advertisement on All Access’ job listings for a full-time news anchor/reporter, just today. (If you’re a reader here and can’t find WTAM’s address or the name of its news director or his E-mail address, don’t bother…)

RADIO EXITS, 2: OMW hears that Clear Channel Columbus has let go three staffers – news director LuAnn Stoia, and anchors Ron Smith and Greg Kurtz.

The stated reason? Clear Channel’s Columbus newsroom, based at talk WTVN/610, will no longer be providing news “hub” services to other Ohio stations.

The newsroom at sister talk “The Big One”, WLW/700 Cincinnati, will take over those duties.

The station says that WTVN will continue producing local news focused on Columbus, but those remaining news staffers will not have a news director as a supervisor. They’ll report to program director Mike Elliott…

BUT INCOMING: Back at Oak Tree, OMW has learned of a new hire in the WTAM newsroom, separate from the previous item. (We learned about it earlier this week, and only got a Round Tuit[tm] tonight.)

And it means you’ll be hearing the name “Courtright” on Cleveland’s AM 1100 in the 21st Century.

She’s Julie Courtright, and regular OMW readers don’t need to be told that she is the daughter of late Cleveland radio news legend Ken Courtright, who counted 1100 as one of his big career stops, twice: first in the WWWE “3WE” days, and later, as a part-time newsman at WTAM.

A quick search on the family name will provide articles on Ken’s passing, and items on Julie’s career before WTAM hired her… including stints at Wilber country/oldies WOBL/1320 Oberlin-WDLW/1380 Lorain, and Tuscarawas Broadcasting’s WTUZ/99.9 Uhrichsville.

(Ken’s son, Alan, does voiceover work, and once did news for Rubber City Radio oldies/news WAKR/1590 Akron.)

We have confirmed that Julie Courtright will be heard anchoring on WTAM on weekend evenings, and will report during the week. (And no, we have no idea how that affects long-time weekend evening anchor Cliff Baechle…)

WHERE’S FIG?: As we suspected, and others suspected, it’s a big new gig that’s taking away Brian “Fig” Figula from his post as program director of NextMedia hot AC WHBC-FM/94.1 Canton “Mix 94.1″.

And we’re talking a major market gig.

All Access reports that Figula lands in the program director slot at Greater Media AC WMGC/105.1 “Magic 105.1″ in Detroit.

Quoting:

According to GREATER MEDIA Market Mgr. STEVE KOSBAU, “BRIAN’s energy, focus and vision will help us maximize the great opportunity that comes with being DETROIT’s only mainstream AC radio station.”

“Fig” is no stranger to Michigan…he came to Canton after programming NextMedia sister station WGER in Saginaw MI.

And he’s no stranger to larger markets, with on-air experience and programming department stripes at CBS Radio hot AC WQAL/104.1 Cleveland “Q104″ before heading to Michigan the first time.

Congratulations to Brian! And if he’d like us to stop using the “Fig” nickname, he’s invited to let us know…

Closing Out The Week And Year

After this, OMW will go on official Holiday Hiatus, with a return scheduled for January 3, 2011.

As per usual, we’ll try to get any major media news mentioned here, either on the blog itself or via our Twitter feed.

You can see our Twitter feed on the right hand side of the blog, even if you don’t “do” Twitter…and the items will also appear on our Facebook page…

4:30 NEWS: The trend of early TV news getting earlier isn’t going away with the new year.

Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 enters the Really Early News Race on January 3, when “Channel 3 News Today” moves its start time to 4:30 AM.

Quoting an item on the “Director’s Cut” blog, by blogging colleague/WKYC senior director Frank Macek:

“People lead busier lives, and viewing patterns have changed,” said WKYC News Director Rita Andolsen. “There is now a significant news audience beginning as early as 4:30 in the morning, and we want to serve their needs with the market’s best news, weather and sports coverage.”

“The timing is right,” added Brooke Spectorsky, President and General Manager. “Given how actively this winter has begun, our viewers need weather, traffic and school closings even earlier.”

OMW readers know that WKYC is the second area station to stake its pre-5 AM claim.

Last month, we reported the expansion of WEWS/5’s “Good Morning Cleveland” to 4:30 AM, a move made easier by ABC’s move of “America This Morning” to a 4 AM start.

The pre-5 AM newscast trend is growing, as the importance of morning news in TV grows nationwide. For one, morning audiences are growing… as, in many cases, evening news audiences are shrinking for local stations.

As with WEWS, WKYC will extend its existing morning news team into the earlier half-hour, with anchors Mark Nolan and Hollie Strano, and reporters Maureen Kyle, Darrielle Snipes, along with WTAM/1100 traffic reporter Pat Butler. We’d list the Bloomberg business reporters, but we’re pretty sure they’re nowhere near 13th and Lakeside…

63 CANDLES: Ohio’s oldest TV station is blowing out 63 candles today.

Scripps-owned WEWS/5 Cleveland, which still carries the same ownership, calls and channel number, has more on its NewsNet5 website:

On December 17, 1947, WEWS signed on the air bringing the Cleveland Press Christmas party hosted by Hollywood legend Jimmy Stewart to the few television sets in Cleveland.

We were the eleventh television station in the country in the pioneering days of sending pictures through the air.

The call letters for the station were derived from the initials of Scripps founder Edward Willis Scripps. The Scripps company has owned the station the entire 63 years.

WEWS notes that they’ve been in the current facility at East 30th and Euclid for almost as long – the station starting life at East 13th and Chester, spending its first decade with WEWS-FM/102.1 (today’s CBS Radio AC WDOK).

The NewsNet5 piece has video: from the station’s 50th anniversary show (with now-former anchor Ted Henry), and from the 35th anniversary, with Fred Griffith (now at WKYC/3’s on “Good Company”) and Wilma Smith (now 6 PM anchor at WJW/8).

And one interesting fact, coming out of a discussion with long-time friend and colleague Scott Fybush (“NorthEast Radio Watch”): WEWS is one of just four Ohio stations that is on its original pre-1952 channel number…a reallocation taking place that year

That means that though WKYC/3 started on Channel 4 (as WNBK), and WJW/8 started on Channel 9 (as WXEL)…WEWS has always been on Channel 5.

The other Ohio stations? Feel free to guess in the comments.

About the only thing that’s changed with WEWS over the years, aside from the faces on the air? It started life as Cleveland’s CBS affiliate…

9 OUT THE DOOR: Unfortunately for 9 employees at 30th and Euclid, they aren’t there to help blow out the proverbial 63 candles.

OMW hears that the station’s use of the “Ignite” control room automation system has cost 9 WEWS operations department employees their jobs. The layoffs are effective today, we hear.

Such systems are all the rage in TV, and we’ve actually been at TV facilities that reminded us of the “Christmas Carol” scene in an episode of TV’s “WKRP in Cincinnati”, where sales manager Herb Tarlek is the only employee at the WKRP of the Future…and shuts down the station by a switch on a small console on his desk…

NO KISS: A tumultuous year for Clear Channel top 40 WVKS/92.5 “Kiss FM” morning host “Andrew Z” is ending with unemployment.

Andrew Zepeda announced on his personal Facebook page that his contract with the station was not picked up:

As listeners you can tell today KISS FM made it official and has decided not to renew my contract which is up at the end of the month. We had 5 great years at KISS FM taking the show from some of its lowest ratings ever to its highest ratings in over 10 years! It’s disappointing that the station has decided to not stand by me. All I can ask is that you continue to let management know your displeasure.

For now, it appears the new “Kiss FM Morning Show” is basically the “Andrew Z in the Morning Show Without Andrew Z”, with a cast listed as: Bacon, Sara Hegarty, Demetrius, Donny P, Carlos Diaz, and Calen Savidge.

Using Zepeda’s last name in the OMW search engine will bring up a previous story about his legal troubles. Media reports out of Toledo say he is now asking the court to allow him to enter alcohol treatment in lieu of entering a plea…

DAILEY MEMORIAL: We have word of a local memorial for Mahoning Valley native Mark Dailey, who passed away after a long and distinguished career in Toronto…most notably, as a newsman and announcer for “CityTV” in Canada’s largest city.

OMW reader Ed Byers, known as “Ed Richards” in his local radio/TV days, has more:

The Ohio Memorial services for Mark will be held 12 Noon, Saturday, January 15, 2011, at St. Rose Church in Girard. Blackstone Funeral Home in Girard is handling arrangements. His sister Cathy tells me the Hampton Inn on Belmont Avenue (Liberty Township) has a special bereavement rate for those of you coming in from out of town.

Ed tells us the memorial is indeed January 15th, not this Saturday (as printed in a short Warren Tribune-Chronicle obituary).

You can read the full obituary courtesy of the Youngstown Vindicator, with more details on Mark’s life than we’ve even presented here.

Condolences can be left on Mark’s obituary at the Blackstone’s Funeral Home site here

FELLER MEMORIAL: Cleveland TV and radio spent much of the past few days mourning the death of a local sports giant.

Bob Feller, the Hall of Fame Cleveland Indians pitcher known as “Rapid Robert”, died of leukemia Wednesday at the age of 92.

The official TV home of the Indians, SportsTime Ohio, is airing three Feller specials:

The Bob Feller Story, Bob Feller’s Homecoming, and MLB Network’s Studio 42 with Bob Costas: Bob Feller can be seen consecutively Friday night starting at 6:00pm.

There has been plenty of talk about Feller’s death on area TV and radio stations, and interviews about the impact of “The Heater from Van Meter” on the Cleveland Indians, the only franchise where he ever played…

TV People Changes

Some exits at local TV operations…

END OF HIS ERA: OMW has confirmed a tip we received Tuesday about Time Warner Cable’s management locally.

Vin Zachariah has resigned as head of Time Warner Cable’s Northeast Ohio division for “personal reasons”.

He took over the local arm of the cable giant in September 2009, taking over for long-time TWC NEO boss Steven Fry.

We’re told that Doug Whiting, the company’s Midwest Regional Vice President for Customer Operations, will step in on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is selected…

SOME LAYOFFS: As hinted here on Tuesday, one local TV operation has indeed laid off three off-air staffers.

The station is Western Reserve PBS (WNEO/45-WEAO/49), where three staffers are gone due to economic conditions.

Western Reserve Public Media president/CEO Trina Cutter confirms the layoffs in a statement released to OMW. The statement will be reprinted in full at the bottom of this item:

One is a production assistant position; the other two are master control and traffic positions. Staff members will be asked to multitask to pick up some of the work of the three employees, while outsourcing also will help cover the tasks. It pains us to have had to make the reductions, but it was necessary for us to modify our budget to meet expenses.

OMW hears that one of those let go was a long-time station staffer, who had been with the Kent-based public TV operation (formerly known as “PBS 45 & 49″) for 29 years. (NOTE: We have removed the staffer’s name.)

Cutter tells OMW that the cuts were needed to shore up the station’s finances:

If we were to continue on course without modification, we would end up with a deficit budget in FY11. In this economic environment, it’s challenging to find more corporate support for general operations, plus we have experienced a decrease in support from foundations and cuts in State of Ohio funding.

Cutter does note that membership revenue, the “single largest source” for Western Reserve Public Media, is “holding steady”.

But about the production side of the house, the station’s top boss notes:

Like most PBS (and even many commercial) stations, we cannot maintain a fully staffed, full-time production crew — and, in fact, we never have. Throughout the organization’s history, the majority of the crews for our productions — including pledge — have been outsourced on a per-project basis. “NewsNite” and “NEOtropolis” were designed this way. It’s not news that more and more businesses and organizations are focusing on an “outsourcing” model. It is a national trend that began before the economic downturn.

“Survival of the fittest”, Cutter calls it, noting that unlike certain competitors, Western Reserve doesn’t have money from a county “sin tax” to fund arts organizations.

OMW hears that the move to Kent State’s new studio means “NewsNite” is produced with help from students at KSU, and that “NEOtropolis” is produced at the station’s hub at Main and Market in Akron by “a mix of freelance professionals and some temp staff from the station”.

Cutter’s statement is below:

———–

We did lay off three employees (Monday). One is a production assistant position; the other two are master control and traffic positions. Staff members will be asked to multitask to pick up some of the work of the three employees, while outsourcing also will help cover the tasks. It pains us to have had to make the reductions, but it was necessary for us to modify our budget to meet expenses.

If we were to continue on course without modification, we would end up with a deficit budget in FY11. In this economic environment, it’s challenging to find more corporate support for general operations, plus we have experienced a decrease in support from foundations and cuts in State of Ohio funding. The good news is that membership revenue, the organization’s single largest source of revenue, is holding steady. We are grateful to our members for their continued loyal support.

Like most PBS (and even many commercial) stations, we cannot maintain a fully staffed, full-time production crew — and, in fact, we never have. Throughout the organization’s history, the majority of the crews for our productions — including pledge — have been outsourced on a per-project basis. “NewsNite” and “NEOtropolis” were designed this way. It’s not news that more and more businesses and organizations are focusing on an “outsourcing” model. It is a national trend that began before the economic downturn.

It’s a “survival of the fittest” economic world right now. As long as Western Reserve Public Media stays fiscally and operationally “fit,” we will continue to thrive. And unlike many nonprofit organizations, Western Reserve Public Media does not have an endowment that we can draw on in difficult times; the advantage of a sin tax like arts organizations in Cuyahoga County; or a board that focuses on fund-raising for the station. We may be a nonprofit organization, but we operate very much like a small business that must expediently maneuver through, adapt to and meet challenges in the environment.

Disjointed, But Here

You may notice that we’re trying out some new things, and new ways of updating the Mighty Blog of Fun(tm).

Just bear with us…as we’re testing how these new methods work in practice. For the nonce, you could well see Twitter-style mini-updates in the main OMW stream for a while…like below…

HAILING COLUMBUS: OMW hears that the new Central Ohio 102.5 signal, licensed to Baltimore OH, has apparently made its move to the new facility intended on serving the Columbus market.

An OMW reader on Columbus’ east side, near the suburb of Bexley, tells us he can hear what is now known as “Highway 102.5″, now legally WCVZ/Baltimore:

“…before today getting 102.5 was out of question. Now I can hear 102.5…with no problems and little to no static from (their) new tower”

The move comes after the swap we detailed below. Try to follow along, as this one takes a few twists -

Back in the day, there was a three station AM/FM/TV combo in the Southeastern Ohio town of Zanesville – WHIZ/1240, WHIZ-FM/102.5 and WHIZ-TV/18.

The FM side of the WHIZ Media Group equation has been through a lot, lately.

Some time ago, WHIZ filed for a relocated signal for 102.5, moving it to the Columbus ex-urb of Baltimore… a southeast rimshot signal that would put a decently-listenable signal over much of Franklin County.

The community-minded WHIZ folks didn’t want to be without an FM signal once 102.5 headed for the Big City, so they purchased WCVZ/92.7 South Zanesville from Columbus area-based Christian Voice of Central Ohio…which had been operating it as CCM “92.7 The River” as a sister station with its WCVO/104.9 Gahanna (“104.9 The River”).

WHIZ Media Group then moved the locally-programmed hot AC “Z” format from 102.5 to the newly acquired 92.7 as “Z92″. CVCO decamped to its new noncomm WZNP/89.3 Newark “The Promise”, folding in some of the WCVZ “River” programming with the “Promise” lineup of Christian teaching/talk.

After a simulcast period, WHIZ made WCVZ/92.7 the sole home of the “Z92″ hot AC format, and launched automated country music on the former “Z” frequency, 102.5, at the time still serving the Zanesville area.

That’s the way it’s been until today

Wednesday, WHIZ Media/Southeastern Ohio Broadcasting Systems swapped calls on its two FM stations.

Hot AC “Z92″ is now WHIZ-FM, and country “Highway 102″ is now WCVZ. The formats remain unchanged.

In a story aired by the TV side of the WHIZ newsroom, group owner Hank Littick talked about the changes, including the transmitter site relocation for now-WCVZ/102.5:

The new WCVZ will continue with a country music format and will serve most of the Muskingum County area, but not all,

It will open up access to hundreds of thousands of listeners west of Zanesville and all around the Columbus market. Littick says where a lot of impact will be felt is the northwest and west side of Columbus. He says starting today (Wednesday) that area will have a new radio station.

Littick says the move will also be a big win for advertisers who will have access to over 1.4 million potential listeners in the new signal area in an affordable, economical way.

As we’ve said before, we’re not betting on “Highway 102″ lasting as a Columbus market station.

We don’t believe Mr. Littick and company intend to operate it long-term over there, and that the eventual plan for 102.5 is a sale to some other operator. Of course, the radio sales landscape has pretty much hit rock bottom since the filing to move 102.5 to the Columbus market.

The only active buyer of stations in markets the size of Columbus these days appears to be California-based Educational Media Foundation, which is spreading its “K-Love” satellite-fed CCM format all over this part of the country.

Just in the past few of months, EMF has put new in-market signals on the air in Pittsburgh, where it bought then-WOGI/98.3 Duquesne PA from Keymarket and flipped “Froggy 98″ to K-Love (“Froggy” took the WOGI calls to 104.3 Moon Township PA, which heads up the simulcast now…K-Love moved the WPKV calls to 98.3).

In Indianapolis, EMF just took over former classic hits outlet WKLU/101.9 Brownsburg IN from owner Russ Oasis, and also flipped it to “K-Love”.

We’re not ready to predict that the new Columbus market 102.5 will eventually end up in EMF’s hands as a K-Love outlet. But…who else is out there buying radio stations?

Perhaps Alpha Broadcasting is a player. The new Oregon-based group is headed up by Larry Wilson, the man who built Citadel before selling it off to its current owners – who then went on a spending binge right before the recession and paid a gazillion-dollars for the former ABC Radio big market stations.

Wilson’s back in the game, spending just north of $50 million to restablish a presence in Portland.

It’d been thought that Alpha would concentrate on the Pacific Northwest, but there’s this interesting quote from today’s Taylor on Radio-Info newsletter, written by respected columnist Tom Taylor:

Wilson’s got backing from Endeavour Capital (which invested with Wilson’s Citadel back in 1996) and they’re now saying they’re interested in mid-sized markets all over the country. That broadens the scope from the earlier emphasis on the West coast.

Assuming “mid-sized” markets means places like Portland, say, Columbus…though we suspect Alpha, if it ever does find the 614 area code, would like to have more than one station. CBS Radio has already sold out of the market, so we wonder who else would be interested.

Again, this is all just speculation. We have no idea if Larry Wilson can find Columbus on a map, let alone if his Alpha group is interested in buying stations there…

A BIG PROMOTION: It’s the market move of the week, as a Toledo sports TV veteran heads for the Big Time.

That’s as in New York City, where ABC O&O WTVG/13 “13abc” sports anchor Rob Powers is headed as a weekend sports anchor at the network’s flagship station, WABC/7.

Quoting a “13abc” story on Powers’ move:

He’ll be traveling back and forth working for both stations for the next few weeks before moving to WABC full time October 17.

And Powers will still be getting his paychecks from the same company, of course, as WTVG is also owned by Disney/ABC.

The story notes that Powers has been the Toledo station’s sports director for eleven years, and also says he has been co-anchoring the station’s 5:30 PM newscasts for the past five years.

OMW hears that Powers is from suburban Cleveland (Westlake, to be specific), and had job offer nibbles from this market in the past…

EMERGING: The folks at New Vision TV crow that they’ve emerged from the bankruptcy process. From a company release:

New Vision Television today emerged from its 80-day restructuring process with a solid balance sheet, significant working capital, experienced management and employees, and a proven business plan.

“New Vision’s restructuring process was extraordinarily efficient – about ten weeks from start to finish,” said Jason Elkin, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of New Vision. “Among the major TV broadcasting groups, we are the first to emerge from this court-supervised process. With the elimination of all $400 million of our historical debt, New Vision now has one of the strongest balance sheets in our sector. Being debt-free will enable us to invest in our people, our product and complementary acquisitions to drive New Vision forward, while our competitors continue to focus on daily liquidity and covenant compliance.”

Since this isn’t The Financial Section, we don’t really have much to say about this bit of corporate puffery.

But as a reminder, New Vision owns Youngstown market CBS affiliate WKBN/27 and sister Fox affiliate WYFX “Fox Youngstown”, and operates Parkin Broadcasting ABC affiliate WYTV/33 and its sister MyNetwork TV affiliate “MyYTV”…

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