Our Return

OMW will return at "full strength" on Monday, November 3, 2008.

See you then!

–The Management

Advertisements

Mid-October Closeout

This will likely be the final item for the week, and could be our final update for the rest of the month.

We will try to post major, breaking events…like format changes, major personality or anchor changes, broadcast station sales, and, well, returning radio stations.

But in case we don’t get a Round Tuit(tm), this might be up for some time…and here’s a grab bag of items to close out our agenda for a while…

NO MORE RADIO BILL: It was posted as a rumor some time back, but it seems to be turning into reality.

The New York Daily News, the Washington Post and others passed along word this week that FOX News Channel host Bill O’Reilly – after signing a new four-year deal with the cable outlet for a reported $10 million a year – is likely to end his Westwood One syndicated radio talk show next year.

Quoting the Post’s Howard Kurtz:

O’Reilly said he will probably give up his syndicated radio show, which has been far less successful than his television program. “My duties at Fox are expanding,” he said, adding: “I just can’t work 60 hours a week.”

Though he has decent clearances for the two-hour daily show in New York City (Buckley talk WOR/710) and Los Angeles (Citadel talk KABC/790), O’Reilly’s “Radio Factor” never really caught on nationwide as a competitor to Premiere talk titan Rush Limbaugh.

Here in Northeast Ohio, you can find Rush at a bunch of places on the AM dial – Clear Channel talkers WTAM/1100 Cleveland, WHLO/640 Akron and WKBN/570 Youngstown are his primary affiliates here.

At one time, Limbaugh was also carried on WFUN/970 Ashtabula and WKVX/960 Wooster. Former Clear Channel outlet WFUN dropped Rush and the talk format when it moved to ESPN Radio under new owner Media One Group, and the Dix Communications-owned WKVX moved to its regular format from 12-3 PM, oldies via Dial Global’s satellite feed.

O’Reilly?

His most prominent Northeast Ohio affiliate is Spirit Media talk WELW/1330 Willoughby, which carries “The Radio Factor” in its live 12-2 PM time slot weekdays.

A quick check of his Ohio affiliate list shows claim of a clearance on Melodynamic talk/religion WCER/900 Canton from 9-11 PM.

But, we can’t find O’Reilly on the station’s own website schedule, which lists United Stations host Lou Dobbs (of CNN fame) in that late evening slot. At that time of night, the 75 watt WCER signal struggles to reach past Belden Village Mall, anyway. By the time you get to Akron/Canton Airport, CHML/900 Hamilton ON Canada makes mincemeat of what’s left of the WCER nighttime signal.

(And since former WCER operations manager and OMW reader John Amrhein moved up I-77 to Freedom Avenue as news director of WHLO/640, we don’t know who replaced him in the shadow of the WRQK/WHOF tower at 22nd and Whipple.)

O’Reilly’s list also notes clearances on Cumulus talk WPIC/790 Sharon PA, in the Youngstown market, as well as Columbus (Clear Channel’s second talker, WYTS/1230) and Toledo (Matrix talk WNWT/1520, listed under former calls WDMN).

And when we first wrote this, we forgot a weekend O’Reilly clearance on Media-Com talk WNIR/100.1 in the Akron market – late Saturday and Sunday evenings. That’s not surprising, considering WNIR is much better known for its weekday local programming than for whatever it delays into late nights and weekend evenings. We’re not alone in our oversight – the “Radio Factor” list also forgot to add WNIR.

But compared to Rush Limbaugh, O’Reilly’s “Radio Factor” is almost in hiding in Ohio…a “Non Factor”, as it were.

The show’s syndicator, Westwood One, isn’t putting an end date on the radio show just yet, and it seems likely they’ll still syndicate a two-minute radio version of his TV “Talking Points Memo”.

And whenever Bill does pull the plug on the long-form show, we’re guessing Westwood One will offer stations another show in a similar time slot – The Dennis Miller Show, which airs locally, for now, only on NextMedia talk WHBC/1480 Canton.

Miller, when we weren’t looking, also landed in Columbus from 1-4 PM on North American Broadcasting FM talker WTDA/103.9…a direct competitor to O’Reilly’s current Columbus affiliate, WYTS…

MATT, ER, JAKE, ER, MATT: Thanks to the folks at AllAccess, a shoutout to an OMW reader and former Northeast Ohio radio guy.

Matt Haze slipped out from under our radar, and landed in Los Angeles, where the trade site says he’s launching a new venture:

MATT HAZE of THE MATT HAZE ENTERTAINMENT GROUP has turned his hobby of phoners into a career. His business offers services with radio, television, voiceover and live entertainment.

His primary service, judging from his new website, is selling phoners to help radio personalities juice up the rest of their (non-professional, listener) phoners…at $20 a pop, complete with the ability to conveniently pay online.

Matt was most recently on Northeast Ohio airwaves under the air name Jake Reynolds, as a personality for Clear Channel hot AC WKDD/98.1 in the Akron market, along with creative services work for WKDD, and sister stations WHLO/640 and WARF/1350.

He also lists producing and on-air work at CBS Radio hot AC WQAL/104.1 “Q104”, and is apparently involved in Los Angeles with internet hip hop/R&B show “The What’s Hot Radio Show with Mr. R”.

Best of luck on your new venture, Matt, and here’s hoping the OMW Karma pays dividends for you!

CUTS, CUTS: We’re sick of it. We’re sick of it.

But with the down economy (and then some), broadcast groups across the country are continuing with their annual wave of layoffs…a wave which started much earlier this year, and doesn’t seem like it’ll end any time soon.

Any search on the word “layoffs” here on OMW will bring you far too many results…ditto with words like “cutbacks”, “let go”, “released” and the like.

The economic crisis, combined with the continued reduction in advertising revenue for just about all forms of media, means the word “hired” may be a distant memory at most companies for a long time.

We don’t have any immediate word of recent job cuts at local media outlets, though we didn’t note a while back about two graphic artists being shown the door at Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 Cleveland – losing their jobs as victims of the corporate mandate to centralize graphics that recently showed up on “Channel 3 News”.

WKYC senior director and “Director’s Cut” blogger Frank Macek has put up an item saying goodbye to graphic artists Joe Wood and Lance Deevers.

(We’re still waiting, by the way, for the “Director’s Cut” item on the upcoming departure of “Channel 3 News” evening co-anchor Tim White at the end of his contract…which the station appears to have handled on the news side of things.)

Anyway, back to the “heads up” warning…

AllAccess says that Cumulus seems to be dropping folks here and there from some of their smaller market stations. There’s no indication, right now, that the moves have spread to Cumulus clusters in Ohio…for now, the reported damage is in places like Rockford IL and the Quad Cities area not far from there.

A number of other radio companies’ stock prices have dropped to the point where you can buy a share of their stock for a dollar, and still get change back.

Some of that, of course, is fueled by the lagging stock market, where a Dow Jones Industrial Average drop of 500 points in one day barely makes you blink anymore.

But some of it is the, in general, poor health of the media industry.

And when media companies aren’t healthy, they start looking about how to reduce costs.

The smart operators don’t go in with a hatchet. While they’re certainly not immune to financial pressures of today’s Incredibly Awful Economy, the smart ones look to the future, and perhaps an opportunity to gain ground on other operators that cut staff to the bone, and then some.

Here’s hoping, for all of those reading, that there are smart operators around these parts. If not, we may have a handful or less of people to cover in the coming years…

Board Won’t Accept WSTB GMs Resignation

A brief update from last night’s Streetsboro City School board meeting: the board rejected long-time WSTB/88.9 general manager Bob Long’s resignation request, over the various issues that have been chronicled extensively here and elsewhere.

We don’t really have time to go into much detail, but the website of Streetsboro’s Gateway News newspaper has more here.

The WSTB website, being maintained by station staff and students, weighs in briefly as well. Quoting:

The off-air situation may have taken a swing in the right direction last evening.

The site promises a larger update later…like for us, real life gets in the way of spending much time on this…

WSTB Update – 10/22

As we mentioned in an earlier item, you might not see as much of us here through the end of the month, as Life Intervenes.

We did want to put up the latest about Streetsboro schools-owned WSTB/88.9, the beleaguered Portage County station that’s been off the air after certain photos were found on station computers a week ago Monday.

The story is not going away any time soon.

Those associated with the station are holding an informal meeting/gathering tonight at the Streetsboro location of CiCi’s Pizza. Details, including an offer for free drinks (umm, of the soft drink variety, of course, something that needs to be mentioned considering this situation), are up on the WSTB website, as well as at the Sunday Oldies Jukebox site.

Also up there is a plea to WSTB supporters to attend a school board meeting scheduled for Thursday evening at Defer Intermediate School. The WSTB group is urging a peaceful show of support, and the wearing of station related items if possible.

Apparently, among the “personnel matters” set to be discussed at the meeting will be the board’s acceptance of the now-officially-submitted resignation of long-time station manager Bob Long – who will remain as a member of the teaching staff even with a resignation of his station manager post.

Those updating the WSTB site have included this in bold print:

“A WSTB – 88.9FM without BOB LONG is NOT acceptable, and we ask that you demand the same.”

Meanwhile, at least a couple of the most recent newspaper updates include some indication by school administrators that they plan to return WSTB to the airwaves, though no target date has been announced.

A Cleveland Plain Dealer item today quotes superintendent Linda Keller, who tells the PD the controversial photos are “no longer being investigated”:

Keller said the radio channel will be back on the air after the school puts the station’s computer system back together and integrates it into the school’s computer system.

“We’re proud of our radio station, which has been on the air for more than 30 years,” she said.

And from the latest Kent-Ravenna Record-Courier article:

“We are moving ahead to get the station up and running,” Keller said in her statement Tuesday. “Along with the high school principal, this morning I met with our students who are connected with the radio station. I am very impressed with their commitment to the station, their studies and to Streetsboro High School. These are exceptional students.”

One person who isn’t meeting with school officials – since he’s apparently still banned from the building – is WSTB information technology director Dan Kuznicki.

The 24 year-old Kuznicki is pictured in the controversial photos that involve apparent drinking at an out-of-town New Year’s Eve party in the presence of an 18 year-old former student, a student Kuznicki and others associated with the station say was not drinking – and couldn’t, because he was taking medications after an accident – and say had his parents’ permission to be there.

Though Ms. Keller is indeed now saying the station will return soon, it’s an open question when, and in what form.

The quickest way to do so would be to return both Mr. Long and Mr. Kuznicki to their former posts. That obviously is not happening, given Long’s resignation and the fact Kuznicki is banned from the facilities, at least for now. Both men have the “institutional knowledge” that would be needed to return the station to its prior state, even with potential obstacles regarding the computer setup.

It would seem possible that the station could resume limited hours using CDs instead of computer automation, but as of yet, there is no publicized specific plan to do so. (One assumes that the district would have to name an interim general manager first, assuming Long’s resignation is accepted Thursday.)

There’s also no word if the adult volunteers of “Sunday Oldies Jukebox” would be quickly welcomed back into the building.

And the clock continues to tick, as at least in the FCC’s online database, we can’t find any required notification to the FCC that the station is silent.

Much could happen between now and Friday, or things may not happen. We’ll try to get word of any major developments up here, and if not, we’re sure the various sites and news sources we link here will be updated…

First HD Radio Talk Simulcast

As we suspected would happen one day, Northeast Ohio’s first HD Radio simulcast of an AM talk station is now up.

Clear Channel talk WHLO/640 Akron can now be heard on the HD2 channel of sister* rock WRQK/106.9 Canton.

The move was made possible by the HD Radio Alliance’s recent decision to allow commercial radio formats on HD2 side channels. The group, which counts Clear Channel as a member, had previously agreed not to run commercial feeds on those side channels.

The policy change by the group is one reason stations are able to create those new FM translator-based feeds of HD2 subchannels, like Ithaca NY CHR outlet “Hits 103.3” or Harrisburg PA urban AC “The Touch 95.3”.

Both translators at those frequencies are simulcasting the FM HD2 feed of full-power commercial stations in the market. (The Harrisburg station started life as one of those temporarily-authorized FM translator refeeds of the market’s AM 1400, the original home of the urban AC format, but owner Cumulus flipped that station to sports.)

The Akron/Canton markets are not compact enough – even separately – for an FM translator to have much impact, in case an operator here tried to do the same.

WHLO’s simulcast on WRQK HD2 is not the first such in Ohio. We’re reminded that Clear Channel sister talker WTVN/610 is also heard on an HD Radio side channel of AC WLZT/93.3.

* – We reported earlier that technically, WRQK is still owned by Cumulus, with the big two-state swap announced between the two companies not yet having been completed. But Clear Channel has been operating WRQK in an LMA since 2007…

WSTB Coming Back?

UPDATE 10/21/08 2:26 PM: An update, and much more, from those on the WSTB side of this has been published on the WSTB website. There’s also more in this editorial on the “Sunday Oldies Jukebox” site…including copies of two of the pictures in question.

So far, there’s no published word from school officials that the station is nearing any return soon, in the wake of changes to the situation today detailed in our update immediately below.

As we’re going to have to take more time away from the Mighty Blog here in the next couple of weeks, feel free to check the links we’ve provided. We’ll weigh in if there’s any significant news regarding the station’s return, or any other disposition of the situation…

UPDATE 10/21/08 9:58 AM: The WSTB roller coaster ride continues.

OMW hears that long-time WSTB general manager Bob Long’s resignation is back on the table again. We’ve obtained a copy of a statement he’s released, which is reprinted here:

STATEMENT REGARDING MY RESIGNATION

On Monday, October 20, 2008 I submitted my resignation as Station Manager of WSTB-FM.
While progress toward resolving prior issues was occurring at one level, on Monday morning the radio station entrance door lock was changed without my knowledge and without explanation. It is my assumption that this was done to limit staff access outside of the school day in compliance with Jarod’s Law. While it is the school district’s decision on interpretation of Jarod’s Law, it is not possible for me to operate the radio station with such restrictions of access.

I urge the district to find another Station Manager as soon as possible so that WSTB can return to the air quickly.

October 21, 2008

Our original item, where it seemed progress was being made towards returning WSTB to the airwaves as soon as late this week, is below…

—————-

Off-air Streetsboro schools radio station WSTB/88.9 may be returning as soon as “late this week”.

That’s the word in a brief item posted today to the web site of the “Gateway News”, a weekly Record Publishing newspaper which serves the Portage County city. Quoting:

(WSTB general manager Bob) Long said he was prepared to resign Monday morning, but he had some conversations Sunday night and he feels “pretty confident that we’re coming to some consensus.” He did not say who the conversations were with.

The slightly more positive tone is also being sounded by those posting messages to WSTB’s regular website…where those writing said they had planned to make other pictures available to those asking to see all the pictures that were considered in the case, but, quoting:

Copies of ALL of the questioned photos exist, and although we had a plan to release them today we feel that with the potential for progress this week the release is unneccesary.

An article in weekend editions of the “Gateway News” sister paper, the Kent-Ravenna Record Courier, cites some items that may still need to be squared away before WSTB returns to the air, quoting school superintendent Linda Keller:

“The station has been operating (a separate computer network) under a separate server from the school district and that has raised some questions.”

And further from the article:

Keller said the district is working to ensure the computers meet “specific network connectivity requirements” of the state’s E-Tech program.

(This) week, Keller said the station’s computers will be connected to the district via fiber optic lines, providing enhanced security and accountability.

Meanwhile, we do have a button set on the OMW Mobile’s Newly Repaired Car Radio for 88.9, and we’ll keep listening as the week progresses…

The FM News/Talk Watch And CBS

No, not in the Cleveland market, but more on CBS Radio and Cleveland in a bit.

We have a regular feature here we haven’t brought up in a while – the FM Talk Watch.

We should call it the “FM News/Talk Watch”, as we’ve never really used it to track the so-called “hot talk” stations that have dwindled to a very few these days. We’re talking about the move of traditional AM news/talk/sports formats to the FM dial…as either simulcasts or moves.

And CBS Radio has just uncorked a big one out in California.

AllAccess reports that classic hits KFRC/106.9 San Francisco is about to be supplanted…by an FM simulcast of CBS Radio’s venerable all-news outlet, KCBS/740.

The move set for next Monday bumps off the music format reestablished by the company – the reinvention of the long-time oldies outlet at 99.7 FM (and 610 AM) after CBS killed off the “Free FM” talk format on the new 106.9 frequency.

(To tie it altogether, a few years ago CBS swapped 610 to religious operator Family Radio – which owns WCUE/1150 Cuyahoga Falls in the Akron market – and paid a boatload of cash to take over Family Radio’s long-time full market FM home at 106.9. The Family Radio satellite feed you hear on WCUE is now based at 610 AM in San Francisco, though nominally so for FCC purposes from a nearby FM in Sacramento.)

It’s a drumbeat we’ve hit upon here, frequently. Eventually, big AM news/talk/sports stations are going to have to find some home on FM, be it a simulcast, a full-blown move, or even an HD2 or HD3 simulcast.

The latter is a pittance right now, and who knows where it goes in the future, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Clear Channel land its big AM talkers on an FM HD2/3 channel at some point – CBS has already done so in most of its large markets.

Anyway, as silly as it seems to look at Cleveland market AM powerhouse/blowtorch WTAM/1100 and wonder when it’s going to add an FM simulcast…how long can AM hold in there, when younger listeners barely can find the *FM* dial, let alone AM? That’ll become a big problem when those listeners start populating the older news/talk-friendly demos.

There’s also the other problem – right now, Clear Channel really doesn’t have a horribly failing FM station upon which to plant something like a WTAM simulcast, so it doesn’t happen.

For now, most news/talkers are addressing those demo headaches by tripping all-over themselves to grow their Internet presence – from streaming audio to podcasts to extensive news and information sites. Pretty much all news/talkers these days even frequently use their web site branding on the air.

(One of these days, Akron market talker WNIR/100.1 will catch up with the late 20th Century, and unveil their rumored new website. We may actually fall over dead waiting in front of the keyboard before that becomes reality. Of course, in the “FM News/Talk Watch”, “The Talk of Akron” has everyone beat by nearly 35 years if you count the 1974 debut of midday host Howie Chizek on 100.1.)

We’re not sure if CBS in San Francisco sees the “future is now” with the move to simulcast its all-news station on FM, or if the classic hits format just wasn’t catching on, and they had no other options.

Oh, speaking of Cleveland and CBS – yes, we did see DCRTV’s item quoting sources talking about a stall in the sale of the company’s mid-market clusters, believed to include markets like Baltimore and Cleveland.

Quoting Dave Hughes’ site:

Slumping Market Stalls CBS Radio Sale – 10/13 – Reliable industry sources tell DCRTV that the sale of those CBS radio stations in Baltimore and other mid-sized and small markets won’t happen. At least until maybe late 2009 – at the earliest. Because of the current stock crisis, and the severe tightening of the credit market, radio companies that have been and are still solid – a la Bonneville, Emmis, Entercom, and Greater Media – can’t secure the backing of big lending institutions for a purchase. That’s not to say there won’t be some more cuts at CBS Baltimore, but folks still working at WHFS, WWMX, WLIF, WQSR, and WJFK-AM will still be working for CBS for a good while longer, we hear…..

While we have no information beyond Dave’s item, it would certainly make sense…as the massive economic crisis is likely to affect EVERYTHING business-related, certainly the ability to raise large amounts of banking capital to buy expensive radio stations.

Unless they have raised large warchests, like FOX owner NewsCorp’s Rupert Murdoch says his firm has, even the most stable companies may have to wait out the credit crunch.

(And no, we haven’t heard anything about FOX/NewsCorp buying radio stations, though they do have a pretty extensive radio/news network operation these days…)