Short Takes

A few short items on our plate this Tuesday evening:

* WKYC/3 VP/News Richard Moore is heading south, to take a broadcast journalism teaching position at the University of South Carolina. The move described in a brief item in today’s Plain Dealer is something Moore says he’s “always intended” to do. Moore’s been with the Gannett-owned NBC affiliate for three years. For his part, WKYC GM Brooke Spectorsky calls Moore “a great leader”.

* Satellite radio provider XM Satellite Radio has apparently figured there’s enough traffic in Cleveland. But despite an announcement that XM is expanding its premium “NavTraffic” display system to include Cleveland, Cincinnati and seven other cities, we can’t find any indication if that’ll eventually translate to local reports on the on-air XM Radio “Instant Traffic and Weather” service. NavTraffic supplies data to GPS-based navigation systems, and hops aboard XM’s national satellite footprint. The over-air reports are, if we remember right, provided by the Traffic.com folks.

* And former Clear Channel/Sandusky promotions director Dan Baisden – an OMW reader – picks up production and programming assistant, and swing on-air duties at BAS Broadcasting’s Mount Vernon combo, WQIO/93.7 “Eagle 93.7” and WMVO/1300. But Dan? We’re not sure a move from Sandusky to Mount Vernon is exactly “crosstown”…unless that word that involves a good chunk of Ohio… (We’re teasing!) Dan tells us he’ll also help out with BAS’ Fremont-based operations…where the company has another AC “Eagle”, WFRO/99.1…

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FOX 8 Morning News About To Be Clipped By 2 Hours?

A small item on DCRTV this morning, quoting TV insider subscription site FTVLive: “It looks like the four hours of locally-based morning news on DC’s Channel 5/WTTG are numbered. FTVLive reports that Fox is planning a national morning show in the 7 AM to 9 AM slot, to compete with like shows on NBC, ABC, and CBS. FTV says that a late summer launch is planned with Juliet Huddy and Mike Jerrick, who currently host the 1 PM ‘Dayside’ show on sister Fox News Channel…..”

Of course, like WTTG in our Nation’s Capital, WJW/8 here is also owned and operated by Fox. (Or, “FOX”, if you prefer.) Like WTTG, WJW has a lengthy local morning news program, which runs from 5 AM to 9 AM weekdays. One would have to assume that if the network is staking out the 7-9 AM turf for a national show, FOX 8 would be an automatic affiliate as a network O&O… and “FOX 8 News in the Morning” would be cut back to 5-7 AM weekdays.

FTVLive is usually pretty “plugged in”. It’s one of those sites that trades insider gossip from TV newsrooms across the country.

We’re not so sure that such a move wouldn’t be a mistake. Clearly, FOX hopes to bottle some of the success it’s found on cable…not necessarily with “Dayside”, but rather, with FNC’s own morning show (“Fox and Friends”). With FNC chief Roger Ailes taking over the broadcast stations group (the O&Os, including WJW), it would seem to be a natural.

But one of the reasons the FOX local morning shows do so well is that local viewers are looking for a local alternative to “Today”, “Good Morning America” and “The CBS Early Show”. Putting up even a fairly decent local morning news/talk show is usually a recipe for good ratings for any non-network affiliated station. In one of our former home markets, the struggling UPN affiliate basically got on the map because of its popular local morning show…a show so well received, they expanded it to 7 days a week recently.

We’ll have to see. Would Cleveland rather watch the local morning crew, or Yet Another National 7-9 AM Show? We’ll see.

Today’s Debuts

The palatial OMW World Headquarters in northwest Akron is ideally situated to catch many of Northeast Ohio’s broadcast outlets, but we’re not well placed to hear two stations which aired major changes today.

Part of it, at least, was not waking up early enough to catch either WZKL/92.5 “Q92″‘s new morning host DeLuca, moving from nights to mornings on the Canton market CHR station. For that matter, our post-morning drive wakeup call also precluded catching Ronnie Duncan’s debut as the new morning host on Radio One urban talk WERE/1300 in Cleveland.

But there are also signal issues involved. Down here in the Akron area, WERE fights it out with some distant oldies station somewhere in America…all the way up I-77 until roughly the Route 82 interchange. “Q92”, in the meantime, nudges back and forth with the more dominant WXRK/92.3 “92.3 K-ROCK” in the Cleveland market.

Anyway, OMW did manage to make that trek up 77 this afternoon…to get a brief earful of WERE’s first day in the new format.

The station is now calling itself “News/Talk 1300 WERE, The People’s Station”…the first part of that tagline also used by Salem conservative talk competitor WHK/1420, the last part being used by many other affiliates of Radio One’s new urban talk network. We heard the last 30 minutes or so of Rev. Al Sharpton’s 1-4 PM debut, and the first 45 minutes or so of the national debut of sports talkers “The 2 Live Stews” – otherwise known as Doug and Ryan Stewart out of Atlanta’s WQXI/790.

Rev. Sharpton had a number of first day guests…we heard Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, an appropriate guest for this first day of Pre-Super Bowl Week in the Motor City. He also mentioned an appearance by Rev. Jesse Jackson earlier in the show. Jackson’s Premiere-syndicated weekend show airs Sunday evenings on Clear Channel liberal talk WARF/1350 Akron (“Radio Free Ohio”).

And we bring that up because Rev. Sharpton didn’t sound too bad as a radio host. He’s had some experience, doing a weekend show on WLIB/1190 New York City for some time now. (The Sunday show is local, and outside the auspices of WLIB LMA partner Air America.) Is Rev. Sharpton a “Rush Killer”? Probably not…if only due to the limited scope of the Radio One network, and its self-described mission to target African-American listeners. And that doesn’t even take into account the anemic nature of many of its affiliates’ signals.

Afternoon drive sports talk hosts “The 2 Live Stews” are much more experienced in “mainstream” talk radio, as a top-rated afternoon drive show in their home market of Atlanta. They sounded a bit more disorganized than we’d expected, though certainly that could be due to the new national syndication. But of the Radio One lineup, they’re likely to have the most appeal to non-traditional urban talk listeners.

It’s also a great week for their debut, leading up to the Super Bowl…one of the Stewart brothers is a former Detroit Lions player, and they’ll be broadcasting from Detroit most of the week.

Unlike the debut of liberal talk’s Air America Radio, both Rev. Sharpton and the Stews had less technical glitches and more affiliates. When AAR started, the place was mostly run by non-radio people…with little clue how to run a radio operation. Radio One’s experience certainly showed with the debut of the “Syndication One” operation. And they’re contracting with the folks at Premiere to sell commercial time, so the national spots were filled from day one on Monday.

It’s difficult for us to rate this network. Not only has it only been on the air for one day, but we’re not really in the target audience for it. (It might help to know that as part of the job, OMW’s Primary Editorial Voice once regularly did news anchoring for an urban AC station in the mid-Atlantic…which must have been jarring for regular listeners of the syndicated “Tom Joyner Morning Show” in that market.) But it didn’t sound like there were any major problems… at least in the time we heard the network.

One note: OMW hears that at least “The 2 Live Stews” picked up Radio One sports talker WING/1410 Dayton as an affiliate on day one, displacing ESPN Radio’s “Sports Bash”…a smart move, as they’re not only a sports show, but they’re syndicated by “ESPN 1410″‘s parent company. We don’t know if any of the other Radio One network shows found a home there.

Down I-76, Pittsburgh urban AC WAMO/860 will dump that format next month to pick up the Radio One network offerings.

WNIR/TV 29-35 Owner Passes Away

Before Richard Klaus got ahold of it, 100.1 FM was a small, Portage County radio station… paired with sister AM 1520, and basically serving Kent and Ravenna and other Portage County towns.

Klaus, president and owner of the station now known as WNIR “The Talk of Akron”, along with WJMP/1520 and low-power TV combo WAOH-LP 29/W35AX, passed away over the weekend at the age of 86.

Local radio listeners are well aware of his accomplishments. Your Primary Editorial Voice’s addiction to talk radio started after listening to one of the first shows of Howie Chizek, who held forth on a new talk show on the stations then known as “WKNT AM and FM, Kent, Ohio”. At the time…and we’re talking about 1974 here…100.1 FM and 1520 AM simulcast a format of adult contemporary music, with middays held by Chizek’s talk show. The date was not long after Klaus bought the stations in 1972, as we recall.

Then…there was a transformation, all under the direction of Richard Klaus.

100.1 FM embraced the talk radio it started by adding the former Youngstown market host. It changed call letters to WNIR, the calls standing for an early station slogan, “Winner 100”. Local talk filled the schedule from Stan Piatt’s morning show, through Chizek’s 5 hour midday show, and eventually into afternoon drive with Joe Finan – who, oddly enough, will start competing with his old radio home next month. Finan’s show wasn’t on the schedule when WKNT became WNIR originally…long time listeners will remember the “GameRadio” afternoon drive show, which occupied the slot at the start of the talk format.

The other thing Klaus did of significance was to secure a power boost for the 100.1 FM frequency. With the signal opened up to a full “Class A” authorization at 4200 watts, the signal suddenly covered both Akron and Canton, and made the little Portage County FM into an Akron market powerhouse. And the “Winner 100” slogan gave way to the slogan still used today, “The Talk Of Akron”. The station became a mainstay at or near the top of the Akron ratings book. We haven’t checked, but we’re pretty sure it hasn’t left the top 5 12-plus for years.

Klaus’ flagship radio operation built its empire on a mainly local schedule of talk radio programs. The station does not air any syndicated programming until after 11 PM on weekdays and 7 PM on Saturdays, even today.

And Klaus also established a television beachhead, putting on the low-power TV network of Akron-based Channel 29 and Cleveland-based Channel 35. One key decision on the TV side was securing full-time cable carriage on the Time Warner Northeast Ohio system.

While his son William (jokingly referred to by on-air staffers as “Kaiser Bill”) has been running the day to day operation in recent years, those key pieces were the work of his father…who transformed the Akron radio market for good.

As far as talk radio goes, WNIR had virtually no competition in the Akron market until recently, when Clear Channel launched WHLO/640…and later, sister liberal talk WARF/1350. The presence and dominance of WNIR virtually assured that WAKR/1590, for example, would not last as a news/talk competitor…despite its “News Authority” reputation. WAKR’s brief stab at a talk format was killed by a combination of WNIR’s dominant place in the market, and Cleveland’s blowtorch WTAM/1100. Despite the news presence, WAKR returned to a satellite-fed standards format outside of morning drive.

The Beacon Journal article on Klaus’ passing mentions other work that is less familiar to local listeners…including his writing post-war novelty songs, a “plane-to-plane” interview with astronaut John Glenn, and his technical innovations in Cleveland sports broadcasting. The Broadcasters Hall of Fame inductee also worked with stations such as the old WJW-FM/104.1 and WERE/1300 in Cleveland, and Canton’s WHBC.

Our condolences to the Klaus family and to the family at WNIR/WJMP/TV 29-35.

Why Not Hannity in Cleveland? And…"Ballot Box Stuffing"?

One of the biggest “missing pieces” of syndicated conservative talk radio in the Cleveland market is ABC Radio’s Sean Hannity.

The FOX News Channel star’s radio program does quite well for Akron’s Clear Channel talk WHLO/640, and was recently added at Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting’s talk WEOL/930 Elyria. Yet, despite becoming the second most-popular syndicated radio talk show in America – after former WABC co-worker Rush Limbaugh – Hannity can’t get arrested in Cleveland radio itself.

One reason – Clear Channel, which carries Hannity in many other markets, has nowhere to put him in Cleveland. There’s no room for him on the company’s only AM station, WTAM/1100, with Mike Trivisonno established in afternoon drive, and sports play-by-play and talk filling the evening hours. In markets like Cincinnati, Clear Channel owns half the AM stations, and clears Hannity on conservative talk WKRC/550…which allows them to keep the original “Big One”, WLW/700, free of syndicated programming.

We bring this up here today because of news out of Boston. Numerous trade websites report that Salem talk WTTT/1150 in that market is picking up Hannity in his live (3-6 PM) slot starting on Monday, February 6th. We think this may be Hannity’s second Salem talk pickup, after Denver’s KNUS/710.

So the question gets asked again – why doesn’t Salem talk WHK/1420 clear Hannity in Cleveland? It’s already added two non-Salem talkers, both from Talk Radio Network – Laura Ingraham in middays, and Michael Savage at night.

As for Hannity, he could well be one of the reasons that WHLO/640 has shown up in bottom rung of the Cleveland book for the first time in years – Premiere’s Glenn Beck being the other. Other than a rights issue with Clear Channel and WHLO, we can’t see why Salem hasn’t picked up Hannity in Cleveland. Salem’s Boston cluster moved quickly to pick up Hannity…whose delayed run on Greater Media talk WTKK/96.9 got pushed into the middle of the night as their schedule got too crowded.

You might recall from a story early in our run…that WHLO blocked Canton’s talk/religious WCER/900 from picking up Michael Savage for a midday delayed broadcast. But Canton isn’t Cleveland, and TRN isn’t ABC Radio. It’s easy to imagine Clear Channel insisting on Canton market rights for its syndicated talk programming, but difficult to imagine them holding a claim in Cleveland…where for one, a clear WHLO signal does not reach half the market.

One sidebar to an earlier item – WHLO sister liberal talk WARF/1350 has removed a website poll about forthcoming midday host Joe Finan. Clear Channel Akron/Canton operations director Keith Kennedy noted on this very blog that it appeared that a number of “No” votes were coming from the same computer IP address. We haven’t heard if that address resolves to a Time Warner “Roadrunner” cable modem located somewhere between Kent and Ravenna…

New Show, New Job Posting

A couple of items on this early weekend morning:

* It’s not often a new radio show starts with a built-in audience, and with some of its affiliates even unaware of it…but that probably happened tonight. Regular listeners to Premiere’s “Coast to Coast AM” overnight paranormal-themed talk show know that Art Bell, the show’s original and still part-time host, lost his beloved wife Ramona as a result of an asthma attack.

Art’s left the show he originated, and come back, and left again. His most recent return brought him back to the “Coast to Coast” microphone at his Pahrump NV home two Sundays per month.

After returning to the show after Ramona’s death last week, Art announced that he’d be back on the air again every Saturday and Sunday night starting this week. As he again told listeners just a few minutes ago at this writing, the show allows him to immerse himself in his work…in the process of grieving over his wife’s death. (Having lost a very close relative ourselves about 4 years ago, we’re certainly aware of that thought.)

The move displaced Ian Punnett, a “Coast to Coast” regular who had been doing the shows Art wasn’t doing on weekends. But instead of putting Punnett on the sidelines, the “Coast to Coast” people established a new beachhead for him – “Coast to Coast Live with Ian Punnett”, to air every Saturday from 10 PM to 1 AM Eastern time, before Art’s Saturday show.

The first “Coast to Coast Live” premiered this Saturday evening. George Noory continues to host the weeknight editions of the program. The Saturday late evening time slot was once occupied by “Dreamland with Whitley Streiber” on a number of “Coast to Coast AM” affiliates…a program started by Bell himself, which eventually moved to an Internet-only broadcast.

The new Punnett show gets an automatic pickup on many “Coast to Coast” affiliates, since they’d been running the show’s repeats – the so-called “pre-roll” – for at least part of the time slot. Among those stations – Cleveland Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 and Akron sister station WHLO/640, which both aired Punnett’s debut tonight at least in part.

* Speaking of WHLO, OMW spotted this job ad online tonight for it, sister liberal talk WARF/1350 and hot AC WKDD/98.1:

“Clear Channel Radio Akron/Canton is looking for candidates for future expansion in our newsroom at our growing cluster. Daily duties involve gathering, writing, producing, anchoring news coverage across our 3 station group consisting of a conservative news talk, a progressive news talk and a HOT AC/Adult CHR. Newsroom is a 100% digital environment. This is a full time position. Send materials to: News Opening, Clear Channel Radio, 7755 Freedom Avenue NW, North Canton, Ohio 44720, and Attention Keith Kennedy. Clear Channel Radio is an Equal Opportunity Employer.”

Why We Kept Talking About Joe Finan

There’s a reason we kept mentioning the name of former WNIR/100.1 afternoon drive legend Joe Finan, who retired from the Akron market talker one year and change ago.

He’ll be back on the air.

Clear Channel liberal talk WARF/1350 “Radio Free Ohio” will air a new midday program hosted by Finan starting in February. The new gig for Finan was announced officially by the station this afternoon, and WARF has already started hinting at his return on their website. Like the station’s first pre-launch “Radio Free Ohio” website, the web page has a few snarky shots at Finan’s former employer, and his replacement there, former Browns defensive star Bob Golic. (Yes, it’s difficult to live down working next to a TV character named “Screech”.)

OMW hears that Joe Finan’s next radio chapter begins February 13th from 11 AM to 1 PM weekdays. The move will result in Finan’s 2 hour show taking an hour each from Jones/WYD’s Stephanie Miller and Air America Radio’s Al Franken.

It’ll be interesting to see Finan do something he’s never done – compete directly with WNIR midday fixture Howie Chizek. Regular listeners to both hosts are certainly aware that there’s no love lost between Chizek and Finan, and that they frequently threw on-air zingers at each other while they shared the same building. February 13th at 11 AM should be VERY interesting listening for that reason alone…