WJMP Back on Air

For you sports radio diehards in Kent, Ravenna and parts of the Akron area who’ve missed it –

Media-Com sports WJMP/1520 Kent “Fox Sports Radio 1520” is back on the air this afternoon. The station went off the air a couple of days ago, reportedly due to a lightning strike to its transmitter…

More on That Cincy Swap

We don’t normally spend much time watching the Cincinnati market, but a high-profile frequency swap and two formats we normally watch have added up to more interest on our part up here.

Radio & Records Online confirms our earlier report – liberal talk WCKY will indeed move to the 1360 AM frequency when sister sports “1360 Homer, The Sports Animal” takes up residence on the flamethrower at 1530. (We’re still not sure if the call letters will move with the formats.)

R&R quotes Clear Channel Cincinnati AM operations manager Darryl Parks: “Moving Homer to 1530AM will enable us to broadcast The Sports Animal at 50,000 watts. Increasing the station’s reach gives us the opportunity to better serve the huge demand for Sports radio in the region.”

What demand there is for liberal talk in the region is still an open question.

None of our facts below have changed, and Parks – at least in quotes in the R&R snippet today – does not even reference WCKY, the liberal talk format or locally-based syndicated host Jerry Springer. It’s all about “Homer”.

That, along with his quotes from the Enquirer earlier this month would still seem to place the liberal talk format in some jeopardy in its new home at 1360 AM.

Our “totally off the wall guess” – the fate and future of Cincinnati’s “The Revolution of Talk Radio” solely depends on one thing…the status of Springer’s radio contract. They’ll either have to wait it out, or buy it out. One of the two.

Springer likes doing the radio show and has – if you believe him – eschewed runs for political office to do it, but if the audience is not there…Clear Channel will not continue to keep running his show.

Without the Springer contract, we’d believe that the liberal talk format would not be making the move to 1360 on July 7th. We’re also wondering how much Springer and Clear Channel’s deal to syndicate him via Air America are complicating this situation…

UPDATED: Liberal Talk in Last Days in Queen City?

AllAccess reports a Clear Channel press release out of Cincinnati – the cluster’s sports outlet, WSAI/1360 “1360 Homer, The Sports Animal”, is reportedly moving to the 50,000 watt signal at 1530…currently occupied by liberal talk WCKY “The Revolution of Talk Radio”.

The “Homer” move is set to take place July 7th.

UPDATE (10:01 AM 6/30/06): OMW hears from at least two sources that at least for now, the liberal talk format will make the move to 1360 AM when sports moves to 1530 on July 7th. We’re not altogether certain that the move will be a long-term one, for the reasons we state below from our earlier item. The following, as we remind you again, is just our own speculation…

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Enquirer radio/TV guru John Kiesewetter quotes Jones Radio syndicated afternoon host Ed Schultz as sounding a warning for the future of WCKY’s liberal talk format.

“Republicans and conservatives … are trying to get WCKY-AM in Cincinnati to take us off the air,” Schultz wrote in an E-Mail to members of the Hamilton County Democratic Party a few months ago. “Sources inform us right-wingers have even gone so far as to call local advertisers and tell them they will not do business with them because they buy advertising during ‘The Ed Schultz Show'”

But the more important wording in the article comes from Clear Channel Cincinnati AM programming chief Darryl Parks, who tells the Enquirer that WCKY’s liberal talk format “could be dropped” if anemic ratings are not improved.

Quoting the article:

“We’re not happy with the (ratings) results. We’re always looking for a way to improve our product (stations),” Parks says. “This isn’t about any political ideology. This is all about ratings and revenues.”

It always is about ratings and revenue in commercial radio, and though we don’t know the revenue side of the equation, the ratings have been pitifully low for “The Revolution of Talk Radio”.

The 50,000 watt blowtorch – in the latest 12-plus numbers in Cincinnati – was even beaten by WDJO/1160 Florence KY, which flipped to the “real oldies” format that was featured on 1530 before liberal talk showed up…complete with 1530’s former morning host Dusty Rhodes. (We don’t have in-demo numbers in the Cincinnati market, but that picture couldn’t have been much better for WCKY…if it was, you wouldn’t see that quote above out of Mr. Parks.)

And Springer’s show is on its last legs as well. Not only is it not popular in Cincinnati…it doesn’t seem to be catching on anywhere. Cleveland CC sister talker WTAM/1100 dumped Springer for a local show hosted by Bob Frantz. Even within the liberal talk format, Springer just lost another big market – Miami – to Jones Radio’s Stephanie Miller.

Liberal talk was a gamble in mostly conservative Cincinnati, and we don’t think the company would have even mounted the format without a big local name to anchor it – that name being Springer…the former Cincinnati mayor and TV news anchor…

The Sounds of Silence – Er…Static

UPDATE (6/29/06 3:05 PM): OMW hears that WJMP’s transmitter was hit by a lightning strike, taking the Kent-licensed AM station off the air. 1520 is expected to return to the airwaves sometime Friday…

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If a radio station no one listens to goes off the air, did it make a sound?

A message board post prompted us to fire up our two best radios, and…sure enough… Media-Com sports WJMP/1520 Kent “Fox Sports Radio 1520” is still off the air this late afternoon/early evening, a good hour and a half before its prescribed sunset sign-off. WJMP has a scratchy signal here at the OMW World Headquarters in northwest Akron, but we can tell if it is on the air.

Considering how the much-neglected sister of popular talk WNIR/100.1 is usually treated, we wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t noticed even at Broadcast Park, give or take a silence sensor or three.

As far as we know, Media-Com’s Klaus family hasn’t anted up for a backup generator since both stations were taken off the air during the 2003 blackout, and WNIR itself is on the air with no difficulty.

WJMP’s transmitter and towers are co-located with WNIR’s studio complex on Route 59 between Kent and Ravenna, as is the computer running Scott Systems that is the only other component of WJMP’s existence. (WNIR’s tower site moved out to its current location – on Route 43 in Brimfield Township at the I-76 interchange – a few years ago.)

We haven’t heard any mention of 1520’s off-air status in the past half-hour or so on WNIR, but the “big brother” talker usually ignores its daytime rimshot sister station on the air…

DirecTV Cleveland HD Locals Are Up – Well, Some of Them

As expected, and reported earlier by OMW, DirecTV has lit up their Cleveland market “local-into-local” HDTV service.

A press release from the company states that the initial offering only includes WKYC/3 (NBC), WEWS/5 (ABC) and WJW/8 (FOX). As far as the other channels are concerned, DirecTV says they are “in discussions with the owner of the CBS affiliate and (hope) to add this station to the DIRECTV lineup in the near future.”

That affiliate, of course, would be Raycom Media’s WOIO/19, and it’s not like we’re surprised that Reserve Square has thrown the proverbial monkey wrench into the proceedings. They were a tough negotiator with Time Warner and Adelphia before the services came to an agreement with them to add WOIO’s HDTV offerings.

Don’t expect, even if there’s an agreement with Raycom, for the HDTV feed of WUAB/43 to show up right away on DirecTV.

At the onset of the HDTV “LIL” service, DirecTV is only offering the ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX affiliates. As we also reported earlier, local regional sports networks will also be offered in HDTV (SportsTime Ohio and FOX Sports Net Ohio), but it doesn’t appear that either WB or UPN affiliates will be shown before those affiliates change their networks in the fall.

The market’s current WB Network affiliate, Winston Broadcasting’s WBNX/55 Akron, has not yet lit up its under construction digital facility. It’s still not clear if that will happen before the station turns to the new CW Network in September…

Former PAX TV Mines Warner Brothers 70s and 80s Titles

The network now known on-air as the “i” network has reached a pact with Warner Brothers Domestic Cable Distribution. ION Networks – the new name for the parent of “i” – has picked up the rights to a whole warehouse load of old Warner Brothers-produced and represented content. Locally, ION – formerly PAX TV – owns WVPX/23 Akron.

The list includes classic 1970’s and 1980’s TV shows like “Welcome Back, Kotter”, “Growing Pains”, “Perfect Strangers” and “Scarecrow and Mrs. King”…and movies include a host of what appears to be mostly 70’s and 80’s big name titles (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, “All the President’s Men”, “2001” and the like).

The new agreement kicks off July 1st with an especially timely movie – “Superman III”, which airs just days after the opening of the theatrical release “Superman Returns”. The original “Superman” is also included in the package. The rest of the Warner Brothers offerings start airing on the former PAX TV in August.

OK, so the catalog is growing a bit of dust on it…but you don’t have to explain any of these shows and movies to someone, say, in their early 40’s. The question the “i” folks will have to answer is – will people come back and revisit the titles?

The old sitcoms, in particular, have developed into something of a niche for outlets like Chicago’s WWME-LP, a low-power outlet which calls itself “ME-TV”. It’s the sister of Weigel Broadcasting’s full-power independent in that market, WCIU/26.

We’re wondering how much ION/i paid for the rights. Warner Brothers, through its sister AOL service’s website, has been offering some of these shows for free Internet viewing…

Next Adelphia Step Approved

A federal bankruptcy judge has given his approval to the sale of Adelphia’s assets to Time Warner and Comcast, a sale which will eventually put nearly all of the company’s Northern Ohio cable systems under Time Warner’s control.

The sale has been held up by creditor concerns over the overall Adelphia restructuring plan, but the judge’s order means it can proceed without that overall plan.

But the approval doesn’t automatically give a green light to the Adelphia system breakup, in which Adelphia’s regional holdings will be divided between Time Warner and Comcast. Those two entities are also trading some regional systems to consolidate their local holdings.

Here, it’ll be Comcast giving its Cleveland-based network to Time Warner…elsewhere, Comcast will pick up some Time Warner systems.

The Adelphia sale must still be approved by the FCC, which is expected to tackle the matter in mid-July. The FTC already weighed in with its approval. There is also a linked transaction regarding Adelphia’s majority interest in two joint ventures…which the company proposes to sell to Comcast. At least one of those ventures has Northeast Ohio ties.

This is all pushing the Adelphia asset transaction up against a July 31st deadline. After that date, Time Warner and Comcast can get out of the deal. Adelphia’s chairman has been quoted as calling the July 31st date a “drop dead” date…