Two More Columbus Items

Just a couple of quick ones:

LIBERAL TALK RADIO BACK IN COLUMBUS: It had been rumored around liberal/progressive political circles and the blogosphere for a day or two, but it’s now official – liberal talk radio is making a comeback in Columbus.

Columbus Dispatch radio/TV writer Tim Feran confirms that Bernard Radio’s WVKO/1580, which recently returned to the air after being silent, will pick up the format on Monday. It’ll feature a similar lineup to the market’s former liberal talk outlet – Clear Channel now-general market talk WYTS/1230.

WVKO general manager Gary Richards, a long-time local sales executive in the market, says the new station will not only feature all three Jones Radio liberal syndicated talk shows – Bill Press in morning drive, Stephanie Miller in middays and Ed Schultz in early afternoon – but will likely also run Air America’s Randi Rhodes and Rachel Maddow.

Such a schedule would basically make WVKO’s lineup nearly identical to the lineup employed by the former WTPG/1230, now a general talker dubbed “Your Talk Station”.

Richards also promises “local news and talk”, and says the upcoming election season should provide fuel for the station’s fortunes.

The format debut/return is Monday, barring possible “technical glitches”, says Richards.

WVKO has been running a Spanish-language format, since its return to the airwaves from a new Morse Road tower site…

TV TUNES: TV show theme songs are what new Columbus market move-in WMRN-FM/106.7 Dublin is offering listeners, as the station stunts into its eventual permanent format.

OMW hears that the TV Tunes will be heard on the new station until mid-December.

And we’ve had at least one listener tell us that he believes the translator station that occupied that frequency, relaying Ohio State University’s WOSU-FM (or perhaps technically, WOSB-FM Marion), may not have signed off yet. If it hasn’t, it’s obviously getting clobbered by the new station.

The WMRN-FM calls, of course, will eventually migrate back to Marion, where the former 106.9 “Buckeye Country” format has moved to former AC outlet WDIF/94.3…

Employee Bomb About To Drop In Youngstown

In what’s no surprise to anyone not in denial, the coming days will bring news of employment status to workers at two Youngstown TV stations.

The Youngstown Business Journal reports that employees of Parkin Broadcasting ABC affiliate WYTV/33 will find out – in their pay envelopes – Friday whether they’ll still have jobs after December 9th. And workers at New Vision Television CBS/FOX combo WKBN/27-WYFX/17-62 will get similar notices December 7th.

As expected, WYTV’s news and on-air operations will be moved to the facilities of WKBN and “FOX 17/62” on December 10th as a part of a “shared services agreement” between the two broadcasting companies. Left behind at WYTV’s long-time Shady Run Road facility, says the Business Journal’s Andrea Wood, will be roughly 10 sales and management employees.

And though this story has also appeared in on the Youngstown Vindicator’s website, Wood reports that WYTV anchor team Vince Bevacqua and Gina Marinelli will be out in the job upheaval. Wood reports that Angee Shaker will be the sole weekday WYTV anchor.

The link here, of course, is that agreement first uncovered in Parkin’s FCC filings to buy WYTV, which gives New Vision’s WKBN/WYFX the opening to produce newscasts for the ABC affiliate. But Wood also notes that New Vision itself guaranteed the 15-million dollar financing Parkin needed to buy WYTV.

One item we missed – WYTV has cancelled a large chunk of its local programming on sister digital/cable outlet “MyYTV”, including the station’s 10 PM newscast, and the two hour afternoon public affairs program “For The People”, which was simulcast on Cumulus standards WSOM/600 Salem.

The job cuts for union employees come in two steps – those who aren’t let go from WYTV with the Friday notice have a few days to decide if they’re going to stay or leave. After that, the other shoe drops at WKBN/WYFX, as employees there will learn their own status December 7th.

We hate to say “we told you so”, but…we (and others, like Andrea Wood) told you so.

The numbers are just what they are.

It’d have been an absolute fantasy to believe that a lightly capitalized, small company would be able to come in, buy a TV station and keep paying for a third full, separate newsroom staff in a market the size of Youngstown – a market that is literally shrinking by the day, with a very soft economy that only gets softer every year.

We feel for the WKBN/WYFX/WYTV employees. The key here is certainly “saving money”, frankly, and we tried to sound that warning as early as possible.

When we talked about this before, and quipped about “life boats”, we got some heat for suggesting that talent like WKBN anchor Robb Schmidt had seen the financial handwriting on the wall.

“You don’t know”, we were told, that Schmidt was leaving solely because he got an excellent opportunity (and that he did) in the Youngstown State University athletics department, a perfect fit for the long-time former sports anchor.

But…we feel we’d be insulting Mr. Schmidt if we didn’t think he had any idea what was about to happen at his now-former station.

So, yes, he went for a nice new career opportunity.

But by the time he left WKBN/WYFX, Robb Schmidt surely had to know that much leaner times were ahead at his station. We are happy he made such a soft landing, as it were…and we hope the same for employees of both stations.

But, as expected and long predicted by this corner and others…it’s not about making a better newscast for Parkin and New Vision. It’s about being more “efficient”, and lining up numbers on a spreadsheet that translate to less money going out of the companies’ bank accounts.

We understand the economic reality here. As mentioned, the Youngstown media market is a tight place to compete, and there may not be enough money to go around for three separate local news operations.

But…we’re still saddened by the news…

WMRN About To Move

By the time you read this, former Marion Clear Channel outlet WMRN/106.9 may be broadcasting as the company’s new Columbus-based WMRN at 106.7.

OMW hears that what should be a couple of weeks of stunting starts on the latter frequency on Thursday afternoon at 12 noon.

WMRN’s long-time Marion signal at 106.9 went dark earlier this month, nudging the “Buckeye Country” format to WDIF/94.3, known until the move as AC outlet “Mix 94.3”. Recent Upper Sandusky move-in WYNT/95.9 Caledonia remains as the cluster’s sole AC station, and a quick look at the “Majic 95.9” website shows that it’s running Christmas music – like a stocking-load of other AC stations across the country are doing.

The relocated WMRN-FM in the Columbus market will take new calls at some point, kicking WMRN-FM back to Marion for “Buckeye Country 94.3”.

The lighting up of 106.7 was expected to happen earlier this month, but it took some time for the way to be legally cleared – and the frequency to become clear after an appeal by translator operator Sandyworld, Inc. That translator has been running a relay of Ohio State’s WOSU-FM on 106.7, and Sandyworld was one of two entities trying to block the WMRN COL move.

We’ve sniffed around the Clear Channel Columbus empire, and we’ve not smelled anything that would indicate what a permanent format would be.

Not even a whiff.

But if our experience with the company’s most recent move-in – Dover/New Philadelphia’s WJER-FM 101.7 to the Canton market AC outlet WHOF “My 101.7” – is a guide, expect obfuscation, balls in the air, and all that.

We’ve learned…don’t believe what you hear (or read), even if it comes from a trusted source. We were burned last time, and won’t be burned again.

So, if we hear anything about the future plans of new move-in WMRN-FM, we’ll pass it along, but with a grain of salt large enough to break into a lifetime supply.

We’ve obtained a copy of the company’s press release about the move, and this line from occasional OMW reader and Clear Channel Columbus operations manager John Crenshaw gave us a chuckle (no, we didn’t get it from him):

“Thursday at noon will bring Dublin and Columbus a most unique radio station. If you could just see my tongue pressing firmly against my cheek. And stay tuned for more fun and games in the coming weeks as the 106.7 format is ultimately revealed.”

No, we’re not laughing at the “tongue in cheek” part or the “fun and games” part.

We’re chuckling about the apparent need to identify the station in the release as a “Dublin” station, since that’s the new 106.7 community of license.

Of course, the company had to build up the Columbus suburb of Dublin in the tedious and ponderous FCC process of creating a new allocation to one of many suburbs of the state capital… but we’ll assume it’s safe now not to have to repeat the “service to Dublin” line in a company press release, since the construction permit is already on the books.

At least Dublin has more than a newsletter to parents of middle school children backing it up as a community needing that ridiculous “first service” label…

The full Clear Channel release, which is meant to be spread far and wide, is below…

—————-

November 28, 2007

For Immediate Release

Contact: John Crenshaw

Operations Manager

Clear Channel Radio Columbus to add fifth FM Signal

After several years of filing initial FCC applications, WMRN-FM 106.7 will make its debut Thursday, November 29 at noon. WMRN had been broadcasting to the Marion, Ohio market at the 106.9 frequency. Beginning Thursday, WMRN will be broadcasting from 106.7 and will provide radio service to the City of Dublin and greater Columbus.

CCRC Operations Manager John Crenshaw: “Thursday at noon will bring Dublin and Columbus a most unique radio station. If you could just see my tongue pressing firmly against my cheek. And stay tuned for more fun and games in the coming weeks as the 106.7 format is ultimately revealed.”

CCRC Director of Engineering Greg Savoldi: “The 106.7 signal will emanate from Columbus’ premiere north side tower site, the WOSU-TV tower at Highland Lakes, Westerville. The FCC classes 106.7 as a B1, as it will radiate 7300 watts from over 600 feet in the air, providing primary service coverage to over 1 million Central Ohioans.”

WMRN-FM becomes the seventh station in the Clear Channel Radio Columbus cluster, joining 92.3/WCOL, 93.3/WLZT, 97.9/WNCI, 105.7/WBWR, 610/WTVN and 1230/WYTS. (WMRN-FM’s call letters will change pending FCC approval.)

Mutual Decision

OK, so we’re a bit out of the saddle, but yes, we did actually manage to find the story written by Plain Dealer media columnist Julie Washington over the weekend.

(Though, as always, we appreciate the help…especially when Ms. Washington’s efforts usually require a search party to find if you don’t get the Dead Trees edition of the PD.)

This is hardly news to anyone who has worked in radio or TV, but stations and employees frequently have different takes on what happens when someone no longer works there.

Such appears to be the case with now-former WDOK/102.1 Cleveland morning drive-host Robin Benzle, whose departure from the CBS Radio AC outlet after 12 years we covered at the start of November.

Benzle did indeed “say goodbye”, and then took off for a previously planned out-of-country trip. But she’s back, and she’s apparently wondering why station management called her exit from the morning drive co-host slot a “mutual decision”.

Benzle tells Ms. Washington that her WDOK contract wasn’t renewed:

Benzle insists she didn’t want to leave.

“How can I travel if I don’t have a job?” she asked. She has no definite plans.

We’ve gone through our earlier item, and nowhere in his carefully worded response does WDOK programmer and long-time OMW reader Scott Miller say either that A) her contract wasn’t renewed or B) give any reason at all for the departure.

He did say that Benzle would be a “spokesperson for many key WDOK clients”, though she presumably could continue that on her own without her contract being renewed.

Anyway, the now-former WDOK host says she hopes to return to Cleveland radio, though she tells the PD that doesn’t think it’d be very likely to get an offer that doesn’t cast her as a “giggle queen”, noting the general male-oriented nature of Cleveland drive-time radio.

Oh, and at this point, we’d like to note that your very own Mighty Blog of Fun(tm) did not bring up the “cancer scare” issue. Ms. Benzle successfully fought skin cancer a few years ago, and urged cancer screening, but she’s not dying – despite all the misplaced “get well” wishes.

No matter what he says, one way or the other, about Robin Benzle’s exit, local CBS Radio honcho Chris Maduri does confirm to Ms. Washington that they’re trying out potential replacement co-hosts…

Happy Thanksgiving

As noted in a previous item, OMW will basically “go dark” for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, though we will post any major news involving the local media if we’re able to do so.

But here we are, slipping one under the door at deadline…

FINAL HO-HO-HO UPDATE, AND A FORMAT ADJUSTMENT: It’s Salem CCM WFHM/95.5 “The Fish” in Cleveland as the latest holiday convert, with a planned switch to Christmas music…at least according to their website, at any rate…at midnight tonight/Thanksgiving morning.

(And a further update as we create this item: the WFHM Christmas music switch happened with the first song past midnight, at 12:02 AM Thanksgiving Day…Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime”.)

Any further updates won’t be provided. For one, we’re “goin’ fishin'” after this, and for another, what’s newsworthy about a station flipping to holiday music on Thanksgiving or after? Hmm?

Thanks to Rubber City Radio operations manager and oldies WAKR/1590 Akron program director Chuck Collins for checking in with OMW on his own station’s holiday flip. He tells us:

We switched Monday at 9am and the calls have run three-to-one in favor. Of course the ones who hate it say they love the station (Oldies) and will be back after the holidays.

Speaking of liners, just wait ’til you hear the oldies T: “We have more Beatles than a Florida double-wide! 1590 WAKR…News! Sports! Oldies!”

Heh. We bring this comment “up front” for one reason…we’re officially taking the “standards” off of our regular format description for WAKR.

Music on the Akron station has been migrating into the oldies (er…classic hits?) category slowly for the last few months, and it’s been a while since we’ve heard any titles that wouldn’t be comfortably found on a traditional 50’s/60’s AM oldies outlet.

Which really, is how it should be.

FM oldies stations, like Cleveland giant WMJI/105.7 “Majic 105.7”, have nudged their own playlists into the 1970’s and even the 1980’s, as they struggle to keep a hold on listeners that are still, umm, demographically desirable.

But there are still plenty of older in-demo (i.e. 25-54, or up to 64 on the AM side of things) listeners who enjoy the older rock-era/pop titles.

Of course, like John Lanigan, Jimmy Malone and company on WMJI are the rock of “Majic”, and WMJI could well change formats to anything short of polka music if Lanigan decides to retire anytime soon, WAKR’s driving force is its “News Authority” image and extensive local news and information coverage.

In our view, lowering what we’d have to presume would be very aged demographics to keep the still mature – but more saleable – news listener between newscasts is a smart move for the folks at 1590.

We’ve found ourselves actually listening to WAKR more, since it’s moved into oldies music…

DAILY TALK: Time Warner Cable’s “Northeast Ohio Network” has quietly added a companion sports talk show to Les Levine’s long-running effort.

“The Daily Dose” is hosted by Patrick Pierson, and airs weeknights at 7 PM – immediately following “More Sports and Les Levine”.

Pierson has a very short commute to get to the set of his own new show, as he’s the producer of Les’ show – and we assume the “Daily Dose” set is next to Levine’s own set at Time Warner Cable’s Cleveland studios on Lakeside Avenue.

Like that program, “The Daily Dose” usually features a knowledgeable local sports media figure. The times we’ve tuned in, we’ve seen some WKNR staffers dropping in.

But Pierson is, of course, somewhat younger than his TV sports talk mentor. So, we’re resisting the temptation to call Patrick’s show “More Sports: The Next Generation”…

AND A LEGEND PASSES: We got a note recently wondering why we haven’t mentioned the passing of legendary Cincinnati sports broadcaster Joe Nuxhall.

He certainly deserves the note.

We don’t really know much about the long-time Cincinnati Reds radio voice, who started in that role in 1967 (!!!) and has been heard even in recent years on the team’s radio network, based at 50,000 watt flamethrower Clear Channel talk WLW/700.

He’s certainly an iconic name in broadcasting in the Cincinnati area, and hugely popular.

But we’re up here in Northeast Ohio, so our experience and exposure to Nuxhall and his broadcasting career have been limited.

We’ll turn the electronic stage over to others.

First, there’s Cincinnati Enquirer radio/TV guru John Kiesewetter’s own farewell to Nuxhall on his blog. It’s a little more personal than a newspaper story.

Kiese quotes Reds broadcast partner Marty Brennaman, who should certainly know, from earlier this year:

“With all due respect to Pete Rose, there is no bigger figure in City of Cincinnati than Joe Nuxhall. In all the years we’ve been together, going back to ’74, I have never heard one person ever ever utter a negative comment about him. That’s almost unbelievable! You can’t expect that of anybody!”

And we’d like to share another personal story, from a freelance TV technical producer who first wrote us about a past experience with Nuxhall:

“It’s 1982, and I am a senior at the (University of Akron) working at the college radio station (now WZIP) doing afternoon sports. I had a chance to go down to Florida for spring break, and since we always did a preseason baseball special, I applied for credentials from the myriad of teams that trained in the Tampa/St. Pete area to get some original content.

To make a long story short, for the most part I was blown off by just about everybody… with one notable exception – the Ol’ Lefthander took pity on the poor college kid, and sat down in the visitor’s dugout with him at old Al Lang Field and chatted about the Reds and the state of the National League for a good ten minutes. That was Joe’s way.

If you read the papers and the blogs, you can’t find anyone who didn’t have an experience comparable to mine.

Twenty-five years in television production later, I have met and worked with a lot of so-called professional talent, and very few have lived up to Joe’s standard.”

RIP, Mr. Nuxhall. We weren’t from the “Tri-State” and heard you maybe for 10 minutes via WLW’s giant signal, but it sounds like you were a giant yourself…

AND ONE MORE DEATH-RELATED NOTE: OMW recently passed along the passing of former Cleveland talk radio host John Dayl, who ended up living and working in Arizona.

We noted that a reader called Dayl “a Gary Dee wannabe” and didn’t have much nice to say about Dayl in his time here.

Well, another local broadcast pro has better memories:

“He also worked at WERE in the 80’s, and was truly a nice guy and a true professional. One day, he decided to make chili for us at the station. To this day, and apologies to my wife because she makes GREAT chili, it was the best chili I’ve ever tasted.”

The note comes to us directly from long-time WKNR talk host Greg Brinda…which proves one thing.

People say a lot about other people in the business, and many of it is based on their own personal experience or take on what happened while they were around that person.

Someone’s “untalented jerk” may be someone else’s “great guy who was nice and made the best chili”.

Have a great Thanksgiving Day weekend, everyone. We’ll see you back here next week…

And Still Another Ho-Ho-Ho Destination

Rubber City Radio standards/oldies WAKR/1590 Akron has become the latest participant in the Northeast Ohio Holiday Music Radio Sweepstakes, flipping sometime today.

We particularly like one of the liners we heard today:

“The one time a year you let a fat man down the chimney, and don’t call 911. News, sports and holiday music…1590/WAKR!”

WAKR is no stranger to running traditional Christmas and holiday music. But this year, that sleigh is being driven (sorry, couldn’t help it) by the station itself.

This is the first holiday season that WAKR is programming its own music, and not taking the satellite feed from the folks at Dial Global/Westwood One. When the satellite feeds change, that basically changes formats for the station, and usually it happens right around Thanksgiving itself – so until this year, WAKR adopted holiday music whenever their satellite provider changed.

Anyway, this year, that means local staffers like WAKR program director/Rubber City Radio operations manager Chuck Collins, Bob Allen, Tim Daugherty and Debbie Golden will provide the wraparound to the holiday tunes – either live or via the magic of computer voicetracking…

Another One Rides The Sleigh

To almost no one’s surprise, CBS Radio AC WDOK/102.1 “SoftRock 102.1” has become the first Cleveland market station to flip to holiday music.

OMW hears that it was WDOK program director and OMW reader Scott Miller who launched the Christmas tunes parade at 9 AM today.

We didn’t hear it directly from Scott, but really, it was not a surprise that today was the day for the flip. WDOK has usually been the first Cleveland market station to adopt the usually popular and profitable Christmas music run – which many AC stations see as a boost to their year-end fortunes.

The move comes after not one, but both, Canton market AC stations went to holiday tunes – Clear Channel’s WHOF/101.7 “My 101.7”, and NextMedia’s WHBC-FM/94.1 “Mix 94.1″…