Hearing From Central and Southeast Ohio

Two notes from readers south of the usual OMW coverage area…

* An OMW reader tells us that Clear Channel talk WTVN/610 Columbus is running promos that they are “about to take over another station”. While it very well could be hinting of something as bold as adding an FM simulcast to 610, it also could be alluding to a promotion temporarily taking over…a gas station, to offer lower gas prices in a promotional stunt.

We have no inside information on this, but our proverbial $20 at the OMW Betting Window would probably go to the gas promotion at this point – as such wording has been used by stations in the past. But we will be keeping our eye on it, just in case…

* Kyle McPeck’s “The King of Zanesville” blog weighs in on something that’s been in progress for a while now – the planned COL move of that city’s WHIZ-FM/102.5 to Baltimore OH…making it a Columbus market station.

Kyle has details on the construction permit application for the new WHIZ-FM facilities on his blog. WHIZ will leave behind WHIZ/1240 and WHIZ-TV/18, the NBC affiliate in that small one-station TV market.

Kyle wonders why WHIZ hasn’t come clean on this move…well, stations tend not to do that, particularly in a small, tightly-controlled media market like Zanesville. We’re guessing that they worry about losing those FM advertising dollars before the move is actually completed.

While we were looking at the WHIZ details, we once again checked records for WJER-FM/101.7 Dover. A construction permit application for the newly-approved COL of North Canton has yet to show up in the FCC’s online database. There’s no hurry there – Clear Channel still has a month and a half or so to file it, and then three years to build it out…


Joe Finan’s Next High-Tech Advance

If you thought the idea of WARF/1350 “Radio Free Ohio” midday host Joe Finan blogging was odd…here’s the next step.

The Clear Channel Akron liberal talker’s show is now available in podcast form at the station’s website. Like other podcasts – including the recently established feed for sister WTAM/1100 afternoon motormouth Mike Trivisonno – you can either download manually, or put the “XML” URL into your podcast catcher (iTunes, etc.) to download the show automatically.

Fortunately for Finan, who first came to radio prominence in the days of scratchy transistor radios and 45 RPM records, producer/sidekick/WARF program director Jerry Mullins is likely doing the actual computer work…

DirecTV HD Locals in Cleveland – Possible Date

If you’re a DirecTV subscriber waiting for the satellite service to offer HDTV local channels in the Cleveland market, you might want to get out your calendar for June.

OMW hears that Cleveland market DirecTV subscribers are getting an HD locals launch date from the company’s customer service representatives – June 28th.

For DirecTV subscribers to get the new HD locals, they’ll have to get new MPEG4-capable equipment from the satellite company.

At launch, the HD locals will almost surely be limited to the “Big Four” networks – the digital sides of WKYC/3 (NBC), WEWS/5 (ABC), WJW/8 (FOX) and WOIO/19 (CBS). DirecTV has yet to add other HD network affiliates in other markets, and even of those “other networks”, only WUAB/43 (UPN) is available in HD format in the Cleveland market. WBNX/55 (WB) is still constructing its own digital operation…

"My Network TV" Landing in Youngstown

UPDATE: The Business Journal reports the WYTV news conference has been cancelled, and will be rescheduled…

The “new network situation” is becoming clearer in the Youngstown market, where UPN/WB replacement The CW is already set. It looks like My Network TV will find a Mahoning Valley home as well.

The Youngstown-Warren Business Journal reports that Chelsey Broadcasting ABC affiliate WYTV/33 will announce a “second local channel” at a ribbon-cutting event tomorrow. (Thanks to an alert OMW tipster for passing this on!)

Though WYTV’s news release does not officially detail the second outlet’s programming, the Business Journal says it’s expected to become the Youngstown market’s affiliate for My Network TV, the FOX-owned mini-network developed after FOX’s UPN O&O’s got stiffed in the move to The CW. CW will air in Youngstown on current WB affiliate “WBCB”, a digital/cable/satellite channel run by NBC affiliate WFMJ/21.

The Wednesday event is a launch for the construction of new downtown Youngstown studios for WYTV, which is going to move to a new facility to be built on East Federal Street. Historically, only WFMJ (owned by the Youngstown Vindicator) has broadcast from downtown Youngstown, with both WYTV and Piedmont CBS affiliate WKBN/27 – and now FOX affiliate WYFX/62 – staked out far from downtown. WYTV’s longtime home is on Shady Run Road, south of downtown off I-680 and Midlothian Blvd.

WYTV is also expanding its early evening local news block, which will run a full 90 minutes from 5 PM to 6:30 PM starting on June 12th.

The move to add a second channel and My Network TV accomplishes two things – it means all three outlets of the original “Big Three” networks will have secondary channels with other networks…with WFMJ/21 hosting WB affiliate “WBCB” on its digital channel, and on cable and satellite, and WKBN/27 running “FOX 17/62” on a pair of LPTVers, on cable and soon-to-be satellite, and now on its own digital subchannel. It also means Youngstown will now get all the over-air networks locally.

The Business Journal article does not say how WYTV intends to deliver the second channel, but we’ll assume it’ll mirror WBCB (and now WYFX) with a digital subchannel and at least cable carriage.

Even if WYTV had not picked up My Network TV for a second channel, most Youngstown market cable viewers would have had no problem watching it anyway. Youngstown never had a UPN affiliate, even as a digital subchannel…and Cleveland’s future My Network TV affiliate – WUAB/43 – has long filled that role on cable in the market.

What we’ll have to see is if WYTV forces its hand with local cable outlets in the Youngstown market, and uses its new My Network TV channel to take over WUAB’s channel slot…

WKYC Weekday Morning Replacement

Oh, we almost forgot this one, even though we caught the tail end of it being announced on last night’s “Channel 3 News at 11” on Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC/3:

Weekend anchor Kim Wheeler is “moving on up” to weekday mornings. She’ll replace Carole Sullivan, who recently announced her departure from the station and from Northeast Ohio. Sullivan will follow her football coach husband to Kalamazoo MI, where he works for Western Michigan University…

Two (Hot) Weekend Items

That’s hot, as in the temperature…as it’s currently 82 degrees at the OMW World Headquarters in northwest Akron. The items are actually rather mild…

HOT WEEKEND ITEM 1: Air America syndicated midday host Jerry Springer returned to the Northeast Ohio airwaves early this evening – apparently by accident. While running some errands around town, we heard the former WTAM/1100 Cleveland mid-morning time slot occupant on Akron liberal talker WARF/1350 “Radio Free Ohio”.

We say “by accident” because “Springer on the Radio” has never been scheduled – or as far as we know, even heard – on WARF, even in weekend replays.

The station’s weekend schedule currently lists repeats of WYD/Jones weekday host Stephanie Miller in the 5-8 PM Sunday time slot. It also appears that schedule is flexible, because “Radio Free Ohio” started airing an infomercial after the ABC newscast at 7 PM – and after about 7 minutes of dead air preceding ABC.

Springer’s program repeats for an hour on the Air America national schedule in the Sunday 6-7 PM ET time slot where he was heard on WARF tonight…so the 1350 automation computer apparently got confused and dumped into the live Air America satellite feed, complete with non-matching spot breaks and different cue tones.

The airing tonight is still a far cry from Springer’s former weekday morning time slot on WTAM, which he lost earlier this year to local talker Bob Frantz…

HOT WEEKEND ITEM 2: A discussion with some online friends earlier in the week got us in the mood to make the drive over to Warren…to devour three chili-cheese hot dogs at the city’s iconic Hot Dog Shoppe. (Your Primary Editorial Voice was a regular visitor to that establishment in the early 1990’s.)

While we were in the Mahoning Valley, we did a cursory check of some stations with a questionable status. So far, the bankruptcy-induced ownership/management changes at the Stop 26 Riverbend stations have not made it to the air.

WRBP/101.9 Hubbard was running what sounded to us like ABC’s “The Touch” urban AC 24/7 format…we don’t know if that’s any different than what they’ve done in the past on weekends, but the station is still calling itself “102 Jams”.

The Stop 26 AM stations were running their usual formats – WGFT/1330 Campbell with gospel, and WASN/1500 Youngstown with Spanish-language music. We did not hear an English legal ID on the latter, but did hear a liner out of nowhere in English, saying 1500 was “the station playing your kind of music”.

The stations must not be looking at impending loss of transmitter site lease, which prompted the bankruptcy receiver’s appointed management to shutter Stop 26’s WVKO/1580 Columbus a while back. The manager is operating the stations as ownership transitions from the bankrupt Stop 26 to Bernard Radio, the radio operating company of investment firm D.B. Zwirn – the largest creditor on Stop 26’s list…

Cincinnati Radio/TV Station Combo Reunites – In A Way

Long before Hearst Argyle owned Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT/5, and before Clear Channel ended up with talk WLW/700, both stations were co-owned in the Crosley era.

The ownership situation is not changing, but the stations are now teaming up for a news and weather sharing partnership…which isn’t really even the most interesting part of this story.

As Cincinnati Post radio/TV columnist Rick Bird notes, the new WLW/WLWT partnership – which puts the TV station’s weather forecasters on WLW – means WLW is dumping CBS affiliate WKRC/12 in that role.

You know…the only TV station in the market owned by WLW owner Clear Channel.

We’re scratching our head here…trying to remember when a corporate behemoth allowed such a move. In fact, we’ve even heard WLW midday mainstay Mike McConnell grumble on the air that corporate policy – presumably out of San Antonio – restricted him to mentioning only Channel 12 when it came to even talking about local TV news!

Not anymore…the hook is now with WLWT/5…as the agreement, according to Bird, covers not only weather…but news sharing, “personalities and marketing”. We’re wondering if McConnell will get now clipped for talking about Channel 12…

WKRC/12 will still, according to Cincinnati Enquirer radio/TV columnist John Kiesewetter, provide weather forecasts for all the other Clear Channel radio outlets in the market. The deal only covers WLW.

For “The Big One”‘s part, program director Darryl Parks correctly notes that the company’s local clusters do have autonomy to make such decisions. And we’ve seen first-hand evidence of such in other Clear Channel markets. But you have to wonder…would many other Clear Channel news/talk stations be able to dump local TV sharing agreements with company-owned stations?

In CC’s home market, San Antonio, the company recently changed the name of its TV station to WOAI-TV…to match WOAI/1200, the “flagship” CC news/talker which started the entire chain back in the day, and even gave Clear Channel its name.

Up in our friend Scott Fybush’s home market of Rochester NY, the company did the same with its TV outlet (then WOKR), changing the name to WHAM-TV to match news/talk WHAM/1180. And a similar move was made just down the New York State Thruway in Syracuse, where Clear Channel’s former WIXT-TV was rechristened WSYR-TV, to match news/talk WSYR/570.

In all three markets, the moves coincided with heavy cross-promotion.

So we say – “only in Cincinnati”. That Mr. Parks and company were able to do this is not a huge surprise. The Cincinnati Clear Channel cluster has always enjoyed such autonomy, dating back to the days when Randy Michaels was running the CC national radio office out of nearby Covington.

And WLW itself has almost always been handled with a “hands off” policy out of San Antonio. Parks, as the Cincinnati cluster’s AM operations manager, has been able to exert a strong hand, even when the station has been embroiled in controversy. In effect, he’s been able to handle things locally.

The fact that this policy continues, long after Randy Michaels left Clear Channel, is attributed to one thing and one thing only in our minds – money.

We’ve noted here before that WLW is the ratings and revenue monster in the Cincinnati market. It is by far the most profitable radio station in Cincinnati, lapping even sister FM rocker WEBN/102.7 by some margin. Basically, when you’re the cash cow and one of the most profitable radio stations in the entire chain, Clear Channel doesn’t mess with you out of San Antonio…let alone upper management in Cincinnati.

Clear Channel is not without its “corporate mandates”, certainly. They do exist, and have been well documented in other situations. But if a local cluster or station shows a long track record of success, they CAN talk the company out of such mandates if it makes sense locally…as this proves…