Some Quick Hits

In the “we don’t know much, haven’t confirmed many details, but here’s what we know” file…

FOX 8 LAYOFFS?: We’re still working this one, but here are the sketchy details so far.

OMW hears that the Local TV LLC era at “Cleveland’s Own” WJW/8 “FOX 8” is starting off with a bumpy ride for employees, with a number of layoffs of support and off-air staffers last Friday.

We say “a number” because we haven’t confirmed the actual number. Last time we went down this path a few weeks ago, we had been told by a source that a certain number of people were laid off at Raycom’s WOIO/19-WUAB/43 a while back…only to get quick clarification of the number from company staffers worried that employees would fear more massive layoffs.

At WJW, we’re hearing that more layoffs are expected this week, apparently in the news and engineering departments. We don’t know if any of those job cuts involve on-air talent.

But as far as worrying employees, well, we get the idea that those at South Marginal Road are aware of the above apparent facts.

Still, as always, we remind you that it’s not a good idea to base decisions about your future, or concerns about it, on what’s reported in a blog. And since this report is often picked up in national trade publications like the excellent “ShopTalk”, we felt the need to be vague on some of this, until we get a clearer picture of the exact numbers…

TRIV’S SURGERY: No, we haven’t put this up yet, because we don’t know much (or if there is much) beyond what Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 afternoon host Mike Trivisonno has said on the air.

But we dug into the online archives to hear Triv call into his own show Friday, hosted by former WMMS/100.7 morning drive co-host Ed “Flash” Ferenc…so we’ll piece together what we’ve heard.

Triv’s been absent from his 3-7 PM show on WTAM, he said Friday, since he underwent a surgical procedure…apparently related to a prostate cancer diagnosis of some sort.

The only medical detail we heard in the Friday broadcast described what sounds like some sort of mass radiation treatment for Triv. We’ll spare the graphic details.

On that Friday show, the WTAM afternoon driver said he was expecting to be back on the air Monday. But that was apparently too soon, as Triv producer/sidekick Paul Rado noted Monday afternoon on the show that the host would be considered “day to day”…he could be back as soon as Tuesday afternoon, or not.

Friday, apparently post-surgical procedure, Triv urged men over a certain age to get prostate cancer testing, repeatedly…and repeatedly thanked listeners, “even those who hate me”, for their well wishes.

He sounded like he could have done the show from his hospital bed, complete with wisecracks and jokes with show guest Peter Lawson Jones, the Cuyahoga County commissioner. But when told by Rado and studio producer Marty Allen that he sounded fine, Triv quickly added that well, he didn’t feel QUITE as well as he sounded.

Here at your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm), we listen to Triv’s show about 100 percent less than we did when this blog began. Like many, we scratch our heads wondering how this host has become the “Voice of Cleveland”, at least talk radio wise.

We don’t “hate him”, on air, and we’ve actually heard that he’s a pretty decent guy off the air. We genuinely wish Mike Trivisonno good health…and hope he’s physically able to return to his afternoon drive perch on “The Big One” soon….

LIMA TV BATTLE: There’s a pretty fierce battle over the FOX TV affiliation in the Lima market.

The owner of the market’s current and long-time FOX outlet, low-power WOHL-CA/25, is suing the owner of long-time NBC affiliate WLIO/35 “NBC Lima” – claiming that Block Communications is trying to swipe the FOX affiliation from WOHL.

The Lima News reports that WOHL owner Greg Phipps is trying to block a proposed deal between FOX and WLIO with a court injunction.

WLIO and Block actually kicked the tires in an attempt to buy Phipps’ operation, but pulled away – believing the asking price was too high ($4 million).

Block’s attorneys don’t deny that they’re hoping to nab the FOX affiliation – which would be placed on a new WLIO digital subchannel, presumably alongside WLIO’s existing CW Network operation.

But after dropping the plan to buy WOHL, Block’s attorneys reportedly say that the interest in moving Lima’s FOX affiliation came from the FOX network brass, looking to increase their coverage in Lima from a low-power outlet to a full-power signal.

For Phipps’ part, the Metro Video owner – who also owns all the other network affiliates in Lima via various low-power outlets – is quoted in the article saying losing the FOX affiliation would “cripple” his business:

“We won’t be able to survive,” Phipps said fighting back tears. “It’ll shut down.”

This, presumably, despite the presence of “ABC 18” and “CBS 38” in the Phipps fold.

However, the other two stations are newer, and carrying FOX programming has been very successful for WOHL…it’s clearly the strongest of Phipps’ three Lima network stations, and the most established. And overall, Phipps’ operations are struggling financially, which prompted the earlier sale talks with Block/WLIO.

It is a battle fought often by low-power stations. The big networks are more than willing to hook up with low-power outlets if there’s no other choice for affiliation.

But with full-power digital becoming more and more important than low-power analog, being on a digital subchannel of an established station is a draw for a network these days…just months before the February 2009 digital transition.

We saw it in Cincinnati, where the CW Network declined to affiliate with long-time UPN low-power outlet WBQC-CA/38, choosing then-Clear Channel-now-Newport owned CBS affiliate WKRC/12’s new “CinCW” digital subchannel instead.

For now, at least, the Lima News reports that temporary injunction against a Block deal with FOX is still in place, as lawyers ready to prepare final arguments in the case by next month…

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