We Didn’t Have To Tune To WTAM To Hear Him Tonight

The vast Ohio Media Watch staff is compiling local media news and events far away from our suburban Akron home. It seems to be falling into our laps!

You could say that almost literally, tonight.

A tune into CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman tonight yielded an audience member who sounded a bit familiar, but we had no idea how familiar. The guy playing Dave’s “Stump the Band” audience game was asked what he did for a living, and he told Dave that he was a radio news anchor at Cleveland’s WTAM/1100! That’s when we stopped our typing, looked up and paid attention.

It turns out he’s WTAM’s E.J. Becker, who’s heard more often these days on stations like WPGB/104.7 Pittsburgh and WISN/1130 Milwaukee, by the magic of newscasts fed down the Clear Channel computer network from the company’s local World Domination Headquarters in Independence.

Since E.J.’s bio isn’t on the WTAM (or WPGB or WISN) sites, we didn’t know that he has experience singing in opera. He acquitted himself quite well in the “Stump the Band” game, and ended up with the usual prizes, including a dinner from a popular steakhouse. (We didn’t write the name down, but I believe it was Ruth’s Chris.)

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Norm N. Nite Finds A (Satellite) Home

He’d been broadcasting a weekly show from his hometown of Cleveland…on New York City’s oldies WCBS/101.1. So, when the legendary station got all “JACKed” up, Norm N. Nite was without a gig, on a radio station that not only didn’t play his brand of music…but on a station with no air personalities!

Our good friends at AllAccess.com report today that Norm has a new gig. He’ll be on Sirius Satellite Radio’s “Sirius Gold” channel on Saturday afternoons, 3-6 PM ET. Of course, that means Northeast Ohioans – at least those with Sirius receivers – will be able to hear the show without driving to New York City or subscribing to America Online.

It’s part of an overall deal between Sirius and the Cleveland-based Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, which puts their Alan Freed Studio to much greater use. Norm and other Sirius hosts will use the studio on a daily basis.

You Can’t Keep An Ohioan Away TOO Long

We try to get away, but we come back, for whatever reason, to Northeast Ohio. There’s something that brings native sons home. And as such…

AllAccess.com reports that Kasper, the one-named former afternoon drive/MD/APD sensation at Cleveland’s 96.5 KISS FM is headed back to that position and back to Cleveland. He’s been doing afternoons at WIOQ “Q102” in Philadelphia. For listeners, Kasper wasn’t gone as long, as he’s been voicetracking nights at KISS for a few months. AllAccess reports that the move will be effective by late August or early September.

Nights at the Clear Channel Cleveland CHR station now go to a guy going by the name of J-NIICE, a weekender at sister WIHT “Hot 99.5” in the Washington, DC market. “Stick”, who’d been doing afternoons in Kasper’s absence, exits.

We’re not sure if Kasper didn’t like cheesesteaks, if he missed Jacobs Field or being able to drop in on Youngstown from time to time, but it’s good to have him back. CHR really isn’t our format, but from what we’ve heard of his show, he’s scary talented.

By the way, in This Space’s Small World Department: We’re spending this next week or so in the same building Kasper worked in at one point in his career…only they’ve remodeled it somewhat since he left. He wouldn’t recognize the place!

In another Scary Coincidence, Kasper and I have both been heard on one of the same frequencies in another market, many years apart. And we’ve never met!

Housekeeping

The entire Ohio Media Watch staff will be away from Northeast Ohio for the next week and a half or so.

This doesn’t mean we’re going on vacation as far as this brand new blog is concerned. There will still be updates, and there is the ability to hear some Northeast Ohio radio from our current location…though both the listening and updates won’t be nearly as frequent until about July 7th. Thanks for bearing with us!

Getting Restless – And Crossing Boundaries

It seems WNIR/100.1 afternoon talk host Bob Golic has started a trend in Northeast Ohio media.

Golic, who took over for legendary host Joe Finan earlier this year, had previously made his mark in sports media. After all, he IS a former NFL player, including a long stint with your (first incarnation) Cleveland Browns. But aside from his flirtation with Hollywood after he left the then-Los Angeles Raiders – his most known TV role was on “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” – Golic had mostly done sports radio and TV. He co-hosted a sports talk show on KMPC/1540 in Los Angeles, and did sports-related features for ABC O&O KABC/7 there.

Despite some fears he’d be a “dumb jock”, Golic has ended up as a capable general issues host on WNIR. And now, the waters seem open for others in Northeast Ohio to flex their creative muscles in another media field:

* WOIO “19 Action News” lead sports anchor Chuck Galeti has only been the #1 sports guy at the local CBS affiliate for a few months…but already is, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Roger Brown, wanting off the sports beat. It seems dealing with prima-donna athletes is rubbing Chuck the wrong way, so he’s looking to do news, and 19’s looking for a new sports anchor. Galeti did news reporting on a freelance basis on 19 before being hired by to be the weekend, and later, weekday sports anchor. And he’s been seen as recently as this week in the anchor spot as a fill-in.

One note to Chuck: You’re tired of prima-donna athletes? How many politicians have you interviewed lately? One turn with Cleveland mayor Jane Campbell could send you scurrying back to both Kellen Winslow and his father

* We saw WMMS/100.7’s Mark “Munch” Bishop filling in on 19 recently, and assuming Galeti makes the jump into news, weekend sports anchor David Pingalore – newly arrived from Pennsylvania – will likely make the move to weekdays, and Bishop would seem to be a good weekend fit. Perhaps 19 will have little problem with the move. As animated as Galeti CAN get, Pingalore would be even more so next to 19 weather anchor Jeff Tanchak… who sometimes appears as if he’s imploring high school basketball players to jump higher when he’s describing incoming severe weather. Jeff…keep your clothes on. And considering the recent history of your station, we DO mean that quite literally.

And at least Pingalore isn’t Charlie Minn. Did we mention Pingalore isn’t Charlie Minn? By the way, we’ll take any reports of whatever market has next been graced with Mr. Minn’s presence. Fresno didn’t know in time to warn us, so we have to return the favor for his next market.

One can accuse 19 Action News of a lot of things, but you can’t accuse them of having a lack of energy. (Yes, there will be an occasional opinion on this blog. Please consider it the equivalent of a local newspaper column that for whatever reason, does not exist in much of this area.)

* Roger Brown’s column today also prompted us to bring in our next contestant: Tony Rizzo. “Rizz” has already done sports talk radio on the old, lamented WHK/1420 sports format. He’s frequently mentioned as the guy most folks would like to see back on sports talk radio.

But the FOX 8 “Tag Team Sports” anchor is doing other radio work these days. In addition to a regular weekend non-sports show on WERE/1300, presumably brokered by his restauranteur co-host, Rizzo did general talk fill-in for midday mainstay Howie Chizek on Golic’s home station, WNIR. We heard an earlier fill-in for Howie mention Rizzo was going to be filling in…but unfortunately, didn’t hear the show itself.

All of this moving around between sports and news and talk radio is making us dizzy. This Space longs for the time when you knew Dick Goddard was doing the weather. Oh, wait. Dick Goddard is STILL doing the weather!

"The Tube" Invades Northeast Ohio Digital TV

Nearly all of the Cleveland/Akron market’s TV stations have digital signals up and running. (The exceptions include WB affiliate WBNX/55 and PAX’s WVPX/23, for technical reasons involving Canadian stations.) In addition to providing high definition versions of network programming – or even local news, in the case of Cleveland’s WJW/8 (FOX) – they can also deliver second and even third programming services not seen on the main analog channel.

Among the digital pioneers is Raycom’s WUAB/43 (UPN), which is co-owned with CBS affiliate WOIO/19. Raycom recently signed a deal to put something called “The Tube”, a music video network, on a secondary digital channel for WUAB.

It’s up. And it’s bad. Really, really, bad. (This is the part of the blog where we descend into “musings”, in case you’re keeping track.) We’re not in the target audience, so we may not be the best to judge the quality of the music or artists being played on “The Tube”. We’re talking about the technical quality. The video signal on WUAB-DT 43.2 suffers from Low Bandwidth Syndrome.

To fit a new channel into the main digital signal, they have to balance the bandwidth between the main signal (43.1, a simulcast of WUAB’s analog signal during the day, and the location of UPN HDTV programming in prime time) and the new channel. The balance can’t be too much in favor of the secondary channel, but in this case, it’s even less than expected. I’m sure they’ll tweak it from time to time, but a recent Robert Plant video deteriorated into pixel blocks more than once…and any fast moving or changing music video is likely to do the same.

We can be thankful at least for one thing – they aren’t using the DT version of “CBS 19”, which has a much larger slate of HD programming than “UPN 43”. Heaven knows how this thing would affect the picture quality of Cleveland Browns games this fall!

The only other major network DT signal in this market carrying a secondary program is the digital side of WKYC Channel 3 -WKYC-DT 3.2 – which broadcasts “NBC Weather Plus” with local inserts from Channel 3’s meteorologists. You can watch it online via WKYC’s website if you don’t have a digital TV, and it’s slowly showing up in the digital tiers of some area cable systems. Considering WKYC’s painfully-bad low digital channel number (DT 2), picking up “Weather Plus” over the air is a challenge for many.

WEAO/49 Akron carries the separate PBS HD feed 24/7 on its WEAO-DT 50.1. 50.2 is a simulcast of their analog signal – which, in itself, is simulcast both in analog and digital on WNEO/45 Alliance and its DT 46, not to mention little Youngstown analog translator W58AM.

And Trinity Broadcasting Network O&O WDLI/17 Canton carries four non-HD digital feeds… one of its main analog signal, and three of other TBN services aimed at different audiences (kids, Spanish-language viewers, etc.). Despite the presence of WDLI’s big analog tower off of U.S. 62 in Louisville, the digital version of this religious broadcaster beams out of Copley Township, Summit County, just up the road from Rolling Acres Mall. They’re in the same complex as WVPX/23 and its future DT antenna, not to mention WONE-FM/97.5 and WAPS/91.3, with WEAO/49 and WEAO-DT/50 nearby.

Whenever it manages to settle the technical issues with Canada, WVPX-DT (30) will likely have the usual PAX TV complement of east and west feeds, the Worship network and another religious channel known as FamilyNet. This, of course, assumes someone doesn’t pick the carcass of the ailing 7th network apart by then.

Over in Youngstown/Warren, NBC affiliate WFMJ/21 uses its digital signal to transmit a second full channel, WB affiliate “WBCB”…which has some cable carriage in the market.

Ongoing and Upcoming Stories

At the risk of sounding like a radio newscast, here are some stories we’re following for the coming days:

* As reported by AllAccess.com on Friday, liberal talk WJMP/1520 Kent/Akron is dropping the Air America Radio-led format on July 5th. What will replace it should be familiar to Akron area listeners… the Fox Sports Radio format recently abandoned by Akron’s AM 1350, the station now known as liberal talk “Radio Free Ohio” (WARF). WJMP will also reportedly carry Premiere’s Jim Rome, making it basically a clone of the now-gone “Fox Sports 1350”, without the Akron Aeros and Zips.

WJMP reportedly bailed out on its long-term carriage of the Air America feed just hours before Clear Channel launched the competing liberal talk format on 1350, without AAR’s programming. Will WARF go after Air America programming? We don’t know for sure. It’s doubtful they’ll pick up the bulk of the AAR schedule, but perhaps there’s room for two of the biggest names on AAR, Al Franken and Randi Rhodes. We hear that CC as a whole is trying to make liberal talk work without the New York-based network…but it wouldn’t be a shock to hear those two hosts on WARF at some point, if it’s a local decision for operations manager Keith Kennedy and program director Jerry Mullins.

* Speaking of liberal talker WARF/1350, they’ll be losing a “local only” show on Monday, but only in spirit. Veteran liberal pundit Bill Press has been doing morning drive on 1350, as a local show, for the past few weeks. He’s done the show from studios at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress in Washington, with co-host Christy Harvey…who does press work for that think tank as her day job, and has been a regular on Al Franken’s Air America show.

The local-to-Akron focus was incidental, as the plan was always to nationally syndicate the program, and the first step in that plan happens on Monday. Press’ program will begin airing on Sirius Satellite Radio, on “Sirius Left” channel 143. It replaces Doug Stephan, who moves to a different channel next week. The show will also be pitched to over-air stations, but as of now, Akron’s WARF is the only over-air affiliate. It’ll also stream via the Center for American Progress’ website, though the link is not yet available.

* The oddities at Beacon Broadcasting’s WANR/1570 Warren have amused many local radio watchers, including myself. Local steel supplier magnate Harold Glunt recently filed to take over 100% of the company, which was formerly controlled by Michael Arch. The paperwork attached to the transfer of control, which lists hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt (much of it to Glunt himself) and unpaid bills, also includes a provision about changing the format of WANR, along with WEXC/107.1 Greenville PA and sister WGRP/940 in the same city. Glunt is aiming to put on youth-oriented Christian programming.

Right now, while WEXC (“Wexy 107”) hangs onto the dying days of its oldies format, and WGRP continues to simulcast oldies WMVL/101.7 Linesville-Meadville PA, WANR has experimented with everything from 70’s soft rock music via satellite, to religious remakes of popular tunes, to a wide variety of oldies tunes hosted by market veteran Ron Leader. Oh, don’t forget the “Wolfman Jack” tapes! While plenty of stations do a “variety” format, not many of them would run the above in seemingly random combinations, sometimes in the same hour.

The status of WGRP is also up in the air right now, but basically, it’s being run in an LMA by WMVL (“Cool 101.7”). WMVL’s owners had filed to buy WGRP, but that never happened. When we find out what happens to that little station in Greenville, we’ll let you know. It’s entirely possible the WMVL folks will continue to run it, one way or the other.

ETA for the changes at 1570/107.1 – and maybe 940 – is less than 60 days after Mr. Glunt’s transfer application is approved by the FCC, and closed financially.