Hoping For Good News

Yes, your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) is the bearer of bad news again.

On our Twitter account, we shamelessly begged for some good news to throw into the below mix, but there doesn’t seem to be much to share.

And yes, we’re as tired of the drumbeat of bad economic news as you are, but here we go again…we don’t make the media news, we just report it…

IDEASTREAM CUTS: OMW hears that Cleveland public broadcaster Ideastream is cutting 8 percent of its full-time staff – resulting in the elimination of nine full-time positions.

And the pubcaster – which owns PBS affiliate WVIZ/25 and NPR affiliate WCPN/90.3 – has named one very specific culprit for the job cuts…in addition to the economy in general, and the reduction in corporate backing that all public media outlets have seen.

It was thought to be good news in Columbus recently, when state lawmakers and Governor Ted Strickland came to an agreement on a new budget. The spending plan got to the finish line…filling an over $3 billion budget gap… with a reported combination of new income from slot machines at horse racing tracks, and a host of spending cuts.

Those cuts have thrown Ideastream for a budget loop.

A staff memo Friday from CEO Jerry Wareham, which floated down from Playhouse Square to the OMW World Headquarters, explains:

At a staff meeting this afternoon, we announced action being taken to maintain financial stability so ideastream can continue to provide valued service.

In anticipation of declines in grants and contracts funded through the State of Ohio and declines in support from corporations, the ideastream budget for fiscal year 2010 (October 1, 2009 – September 30, 2010) reduces unrestricted operating expenses by 7% from the $21.2 million budgeted for the current fiscal year.

Various grants and contracts funded through the State of Ohio for Educational Services, WVIZ/PBS, and 90.3 WCPN that totaled $1,469,274 at the beginning of fiscal year 2009 are expected to decline by 57% to a total of $636,654 in 2010. Support from corporations is also expected to decline 10% to 15%.

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OMW hears that in addition to staff reduction by attrition, and part-time hours reductions, key officials at Ideastream have also taken pay cuts. CEO Wareham himself will take a 15 percent cut in his salary.

OMW has heard only one on-air name directly affected by the job cuts – Bobby Jackson, who is music director for WCPN, and who has also hosted the evening local jazz music show in recent months.

Those expecting to hear that show will not hear it starting tonight, though the station will continue with jazz music in the evening hours.

WCPN will instead turn to a syndicated jazz music show. “Jazz with Bob Parlocha”, which originates at WFMT/Chicago’s Jazz Satellite Network. Parlocha himself is based in Northern California, where he once programmed commercial jazz outlet KJAZ, and records his programs for the WFMT service.

We’re hearing today that Mr. Jackson is still in the building for now. The job cuts take effect at the end of the group’s fiscal year in early October, and staffers have the option of staying around until October 2nd. The evening jazz programming change takes effect immediately, we’re told, as of tonight.

The other eight full-time positions affected are administrative jobs across the Ideastream system…

MORE PUBLIC TV PROBLEMS: OMW has reported that Erie PA PBS affiliate WQLN/54 has lost its analog cable carriage in far eastern Ohio.

Time Warner Cable dumped WQLN on analog in the Ashtabula region, replacing it with carriage of TBN O&O WDLI/17 Canton. The cable company later partially relented, but stuck WQLN’s feed only on digital channel 379.

Despite Ashtabula County’s proximity to WQLN, the area is in the Cleveland market. The Time Warner system in Ashtabula already carried Cleveland’s WVIZ as its sole PBS outlet on the analog side, and needed to make room there for wider WDLI carriage…which bounced WQLN from analog cable.

But it’s a planned cable change elsewhere that could deliver a fatal body blow to the Erie public TV station, and threatens its very existence.

WQLN depends on Canadian viewers for a large chunk of its financial support. The station has long been carried on cable in the London, Ontario region, and actively pursues those viewers to the point of carrying “WQLN-TV Erie/London” legal IDs, and airing programming to attact Canadian viewers, particularly on weekends.

But it’s about to lose those London cable viewers, reports the Erie Times-News:

Rogers Cable decided to replace WQLN-TV with Detroit’s public television station, WTVS-TV, and plans to end transmission of WQLN on Aug. 18. (WQLN president Dwight) Miller said contributions from about 1,700 London viewers account for about 20 percent of his station’s total donations.

Why would the Canadian cable system dump WQLN for the Detroit outlet?

Signal quality, according to Rogers officials. Rogers receives WQLN over-air, but can pipe in WTVS directly by fiber.

Like the big American systems, Rogers has an extensive group of interconnected systems in Southern Ontario, and hauling the WTVS feed to London can be done by Rogers internally with little effort…much like Time Warner Cable can bring WVIZ to Ashtabula with no signal problems on the far eastern edge of the Cleveland TV market.

Its survival at stake, WQLN is hoping to find a way to provide its own fiber feed to Rogers, and hopes that’ll keep it on the cable system’s channel 8 in London.

It’s also mobilizing viewers, directing them on WQLN.org (and presumably over air) to let Rogers know how they feel.

Oh, and did we mention that like WVIZ and other public broadcasters, WQLN is looking at a large budget cut out of the state of Pennsylvania?

WQLN is not alone in getting significant Canadian viewership. Just up I-90 and the New York Thruway, Buffalo PBS outlet WNED also has a healthy viewer base in nearby Toronto (“WNED-TV Buffalo/Toronto”), which has helped it weather Western New York’s long-declining economy.

And in a situation even more akin to WQLN’s, WPBS-TV Watertown NY aims at viewers and supporters in Canada’s capital, Ottawa…a base which dwarfs the tiny Watertown TV market…

JUST DOWN THE ROAD: Here’s another Northwest Pennsylvania item with some effect in far Eastern Ohio.

The man who lived out his radio dreams in a small town on the Pennsylvania/Ohio border has passed away. The Meadville Tribune reports the death of Arthur W. Cervi Sr. on June 14th, at the age of 89. (A hat tip to the Erie Press and Tower media blog, and long-time friend and colleague Scott Fybush at NorthEast Radio Watch, for the item.)

Cervi kept a “day job” at Westinghouse for decades, and did disk jockey work at night at venues around Pittsburgh. But his career passion was establishing and operating WVCC-FM/101.7 in Linesville PA.

Linesville, as the town name would suggest, is a very short drive from Ohio on the PA side of the state line. The station also served Ohio communities like Andover, and other small towns along Ohio Route 7 and Ohio Route 11 near Pymatuning Lake.

Cervi put WVCC (“The Wonderful Voice of Crawford County”) on the air in 1970, and ran it from his Linesville home until as recently as 2003. He sold WVCC to the Vilkie family, which now operates it as classic hits WMVL “Cool 101.7”, and targets it to nearby Meadville PA.

Oh, and there’s one more Ohio connection.

We’re told that Mr. Cervi once owned a second broadcast license – the station formerly known as WAQI and WAST at 1600 in Ashtabula. That station is long dark and deleted. But one of our regular readers tells us that a quick trip off of U.S. 20 on North Bend Road will take you to its small, brick former studio building…now overcome by weeds…

CALLING TIME WARNER SUBSCRIBERS: We’d like to hear from you, if you’re a Time Warner Cable subscriber having major issues.

Like one of our regular readers, Phil in Bainbridge, who gives us this account:

Here in the Bainbridge area, we had an outage of all SDV channels (starting on Wednesday). I was credited 4 days service, as I subscribe to MLB Extra Innings.

Then on Sunday, the outage moved to regular HD and digital channels like ESPN HD, HGTV HD, and TNT HD. Those are not SDV channels. They have been intermittent. As of the time I’m writing this email to you, they are out.

At this point, we have no evidence that such outages are widespread.

But we note that the aforementioned Mr. Fybush has had some struggles with both Time Warner Cable broadcast and Internet service in his hometown of Rochester NY the past few days, and that our colleague Jeremy Moses at Tri-State Media Watch reports a problem with some PPV events in the company’s Southwest Ohio service area.

Here at OMW World Headquarters, we’re not seeing any problems, even with the SDV channels recently added to upgrade TWC’s HDTV lineup. But…we want to know if we’re missing something more widespread.

And yes, former Comcast subscribers now in the TWC empire, we’re well aware that you haven’t joined the New HD Channel Parade just yet.

It’s yet another example of how splintered the entire TWC network is, here in Northeast Ohio. The company swallowed two very distinct systems when it merged in the former Adelphia/Cleveland-based system, and the Comcast system serving the Elyria and Mentor areas. Problems like described above by our reader in Bainbridge could be somewhat localized.

We haven’t yet heard of any resolution to the Comcast issues…but we’re assured we’ll be able to let you know when something does happen…

A BEAR OF A STORY: Normally, OMW leaves the Rest of the News Not Related to Media to other media outlets. But one story this morning has a very slight media connection.

Kent State University is warning its community of the sighting of a black bear near the university’s main campus.

Though we’re not Ohio Bear Watch, a detail in this story got us to thinking. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s update via Cleveland.com:

City and University police are on the lookout for a hungry black bear spotted early Sunday evening nosing around a Dumpster at a Bob Evans restaurant.

The bear made an appearance about 8:30 p.m. near the corner of Ohio 261 and South Water Street, according to police.

It didn’t take long for us to process that location, on the far southern edge of the main KSU campus, in our Media Mind.

Just a short drive – or bear walk – down Ohio 261 from the Bob Evans, you’ll find our friends at Western Reserve PBS (WNEO/45-WEAO/49)…which is located on Campus Center Drive just south of 261. Campus Center is the very next intersection past Water Street heading east/northeast on the four-lane road.

No, we haven’t heard any Bear Sightings from regular OMW readers like Western Reserve station manager Bill O’Neil, or communications coordinator and OMW liaison Diane Steinert, so we’ll assume the bear didn’t wander over to Campus Center Drive.

But O’Neil does note: “We often see deer here and an occasional coyote…”

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