Friday Closure

Unless another major local Northeast Ohio media personality decides to step down, this will close out the week for your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm).

Your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) is groggy, and most of our earlier activity via our Twitter account was before we found both caffeine and our first meal of the day…hopefully, this will be more coherent, after we’ve met both requirements.

And it’s not all followup to that big Thursday evening news…

SPEAKING OF WHICH: The Other Shoe in the Matt Patrick’s Future Sweepstakes dropped this morning on Clear Channel talk outlet WHLO/640 Akron, where the 30-plus year host from hot AC WKDD/98.1 also hosts a separate, mid-morning local talk show.

The folks at Freedom Avenue weren’t saying much Thursday about the future of that program, except to note that Patrick would have a separate announcement for his WHLO listeners today at 9:06 AM. And boy, did he.

Unlike on the WKDD website, where there’s now a section with both audio and text from Patrick’s 7:45 announcement that he’s stepping down, there’s not much on the WHLO site about the long-time personality’s exit from the talk radio side of his work.

But indeed, Matt Patrick will leave Freedom Avenue entirely in mid-December. His last WHLO show will be December 17th, one day before what’s sure to be a Big Deal – his last show after 30-plus years on WKDD the following morning.

And, well, Matt doesn’t sound all that happy that he’s leaving both gigs.

After “making (his) decision” not to return to the WKDD morning drive post, Patrick told his WHLO listeners this morning that he’d hoped that Clear Channel would make him an offer regarding staying on the air in his 9 AM-noon talk show slot on WHLO. Such an offer, he says, never came.

So, he clarified again that he’s “not retiring” – wording he also used on WKDD, but which did not make it to the prepared statement on his exit – and Patrick told his WHLO listeners that he’d return “somehow, somewhere” after his December 18th exit…presumably after some family time and regrouping.

(The “somehow, somewhere” line is interesting. The competitive landscape ahead of Matt Patrick is rather intimidating if he hopes that means a return to radio in the Akron market. We’ll dissect the options, if there are any, in a separate post in the next few days.)

Why is Matt Patrick walking away from the Clear Channel microphones?

Well, regular OMW readers might recall that the folks at Freedom Avenue advertised for a future WKDD morning drive opening – effective January 2010 – back in April, on the AllAccess trade website.

We picked up on that, and Matt Patrick himself picked up on our item, responding that his contract was indeed up at the end of the year…and that the advertisement basically dragged the negotiations into the open.

It doesn’t take much to figure out the rest.

Clear Channel, like many of the financially-strapped mega-broadcasters in 2009, is likely trying to shed itself of expensive contracts, or get that high-paid talent to take deep pay cuts, particularly in markets the size of Akron(/Canton).

We have no insight into how much the company pays Matt Patrick, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that they approached his contract talks with cuts in mind…and that the two parties couldn’t get their numbers close enough to forge a new deal.

That’s the economic reality of radio in 2009…high-paid, veteran local personalities are almost “dead men walking” until their next contract renewal negotiations.

So, between now and then, Matt Patrick will play out the string on both WKDD and WHLO, with a likely heavily-hyped “last show” on 98.1 on December 18th, a day after he hangs up the talk radio hat over on WHLO…

ANOTHER PROGRAMMING ANNOUNCEMENT: For once, the promise of a “major programming announcement” on Good Karma sports WKNR/850 Cleveland “ESPN 850” was not something about a charity golf tournament.

The station announced during Friday’s “Really Big Show” that sports director Mark “Munch” Bishop will mount a new, local sports talk show from 5-6 AM weekdays, starting Monday, called “Munch in the Morning”.

That time slot is not a typo.

Bishop, of course, was originally hired by WKNR to host the 3-6 PM afternoon drive slot now occupied by former Cavaliers TV play-by-play voice Michael Reghi…and now, he’ll be hosting a one-hour early morning lead-in to ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” show.

And yes, we also noticed that “RBS” leader Tony Rizzo brought in “program director Jason Gibbs” to make the announcement. Not “assistant program director”, the title Gibbs took over from RBS executive producer/sidekick Aaron Goldhammer.

It’s the first time the Good Karma-owned sports outlet has actually had someone with the title of “program director”. Programming-related management wasn’t even in the consideration before Goldhammer took the APD title, and boss Keith Williams is a sales-oriented general manager.

It’s no stretch to guess that Good Karma boss Craig Karmazin generally has more programming input into his station than any of his employees…

DIGITALLY YOURS IN YOUNGSTOWN: Over-air viewers of Western Reserve PBS in the immediate Youngstown area now have their options back.

The folks on Campus Center Drive have announced that W44CR, the low-power digital translator aimed at low-lying areas of the Mahoning Valley, is on the air. It replaces W58AM, the long-time analog translator for WNEO/45 in Youngstown which long broadcast on Channel 58. At least one OMW reader tells us he’s picked up the new signal already.

The new facility is located at the same location – the WFMJ/21 tower just south of downtown Youngstown. It’s necessary because many viewers in the immediate Youngstown area are unable to pick up the WNEO signal due to terrain issues between the Valley and Salem, where the 45 facilities are located…

AND SPEAKING OF WESTERN RESERVE PBS: One of the Kent-based public TV outlet’s most popular local programs is “NewsNight Akron”, the weekly news roundtable show featuring Akron-area journalists…hosted by WKYC/3 anchor Eric Mansfield.

“NNA” is moving to a new time slot…just a bit later than its current perch at 9 PM on Fridays, to a new regular time slot of 9:30 PM on the same night.

We’ll electronically bring in a regular “NNA” panelist – Rubber City Radio-WAKR/1590 VP/information media and OMW reader Ed Esposito – to explain…in one of his “Letters from the Editor” on AkronNewsNow.com:

We’ll still be yipping and yapping about news and community events in our hometown but we’ll be doing so a bit later to make room for a hip new program about the local economy. I know — the words hip and economy really don’t belong together — but this fresh approach to money mattes in our region adds a new element to programming aimed at showcasing just what makes northeast Ohio tick, and the kinds of things we should think about to help make northeast Ohio improve.

The move is scheduled to take place next Friday, November 6th…so if you’re a “NewsNight Akron” junkie, it’ll still be on at 9 PM tonight.

Or, you could be like us….we pick up the show off of two TiVo recordings, at the early time slot and a 5 AM Saturday repeat.

The linked article by Ed Esposito primarily focuses on one of our earlier items, the impending departure of WKDD morning drive icon Matt Patrick. It’s worth a read for that reason, as well…

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UPDATE: Matt Patrick Exiting WKDD

He’s been the primary morning drive host at Clear Channel Akron/Canton hot AC WKDD/98.1 (formerly 96.5) for over 30 years, but WKDD mornings will be without Matt Patrick in 2010.

The station has announced Patrick’s departure from his morning drive perch, with his last show on WKDD in mid-December. He’ll announce the exit to listeners tomorrow morning at 7:45 AM.

More details, including a release from the station, are forthcoming…and this item will be updated again later this evening…

————-

UPDATE 10/29/09 6:10 PM: And that release from WKDD is reprinted below.

There’s no mention in the release of Patrick’s second job at Freedom Avenue, as the midday host at WKDD sister talk station WHLO/640 Akron.

OMW hears that an announcement will be made on Patrick’s WHLO program at 9:06 AM Friday…

——————-

Matt Patrick to step away from Hosting WKDD morning show

Host to say goodbye after 30 years on December 18th

Akron, Oh (October 30, 2009): Radio Personality Matt Patrick is set to announce he will step down as the host of the morning show on 98.1 FM WKDD after 30 years.

In a Statement scheduled to air on WKDD Friday morning October 30th, at 7:45am, Matt explains his upcoming departure: “I have decided that the time has come for me to step away from this microphone. WKDD, and this, the greatest audience in all of radio has been my home for over 30 years. That is ALL of my adult life. I have had the greatest job in the world, but now the time has come to say goodbye.” “You have given my family a gift that is greater than you will ever know. Thank you!”

Patrick started his Akron radio career at what was then rock station 96.5 WCUE in July of 1979. The station later morphed into top 40 WKDD. In 2001, WKDD moved to its current dial position 98.1fm. In the mid 80’s when Morning Zoos were standard fare on radio, Patrick lead a popular ensemble known as the “Waking Crew” featuring Patrick, News Anchor Barb Adams, and sidekick Steve French. The results were untouchable ratings for WKDD.

As radio listening habits changed in the 90s Patrick’s bad boy style toned down as he became a family man. In 1999, WKDD started a relationship with Akron Children’s Hospital in what became a national success story, the radiothon. In 10 years WKDD has raised over six Million dollars for Akron Children’s Hospital, which Patrick is especially proud of.

Matt Patrick’s Final broadcast on WKDD will air the morning of December 18, 2009 from 5:30am until 9am.

Out Of The Box On Tuesday

Yeah, we’ve hung onto a lot of items, though our Twitter feed has previewed one of them…

A SUNNY EXIT, AND ENTRANCE: Word spread quickly on Friday that Saga Columbus OM/PD Tony Florentino’s contract was not being renewed, and sure enough, he exited the building shortly thereafter.

As it turns out, someone was waiting to take the job at the “Columbus Radio Group” stations, including AC powerhouse WSNY/94.7 “Sunny 95″…Cincinnati radio vet T.J. Holland heads up I-71 to take the Saga Columbus gig. (The Columbus group also includes Hot AC WVMX/107.9 “Mix 107.9”, classic hits WODB/104.3 “Big Hits B104.3”, and smooth jazz WJZA/103.5.)

Holland spent 14 years in Cincinnati at what used to be the Susquehanna cluster, which was swallowed into Cumulus Media Partners.

Among his programming experience that’ll serve him well at Saga Columbus – oversight of AC WRRM “Warm 98”, and hot AC WNNF “Frequency 94.1”. He’d been director of programming for the Susquehanna-turned-CMP stations in Cincinnati from 2003 through March, when he lost his gig due to budget cuts.

What about Tony Florentino, now “on the beach”, gig wise in Columbus?

We haven’t heard a thing linking him to anything, but a reader helpfully reminds us that, as far as we know, Clear Channel Columbus is still looking for a PD for top 40 mainstay WNCI/97.9 and AC WLZT/93.3…of course, after Michael McCoy’s exit to Detroit…

NEWSPAPERS…OUCH: It’s pretty much been a fact these days…newspapers are losing readership by the thousands, and the slide is nowhere close to ending…if it will ever end.

Nowhere was that more apparent than the most recent numbers from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the measuring stick officially used by publications to audit readership.

Newspaper trade bible “Editor and Publisher” weighs in:

On a comparable basis, ABC reported that for the 379 newspapers filing with the organization, average daily circulation plunged 10.6% to 30,395,652 — one of the most severe drops in overall circulation. Sunday circulation for 562 reporting newspapers was down 7.4% to 40,012,253.

Locally, the “Top 25 Newspapers” list puts Cleveland’s Plain Dealer at number 16 with a bullet – a bullet downward, as with the other papers, the PD showing a circulation drop of 11 percent weekdays (271,180 readers), and nearly 5 percent on Sunday (390,636 readers).

E&P points out that it’s not just that readers are treating newsprint like it’s coated in H1N1 flu… it notes that many of the papers are trimming non-core-paid distribution, and shrinking their distribution areas overall. So, if you can’t find the Plain Dealer in a box in Western PA, that may be why…

NEWSPAPERS OUCH TWO: With the current state of the economy and the newspaper business, it may be no surprise to learn that another Northeast Ohio paper is plotting out salary cuts.

But the “17 percent” cut figure proposed by Akron Beacon Journal owner Black Press seems to have surprised just about everyone.

The plan first came to light courtesy of an E-mail to Beacon Journal union members, published at the Poynter Online journalism site in the popular column of Jim Romenesko:

Subject: The company isn’t pleading poverty, but wants you to

Your Guild bargaining team met with the company Monday, where after 16 months the company revealed its economic proposal. The 19 issues in the proposal opened with the company re-nigging on a previous tentative agreement over severance pay and closed with a 17% pay cut. If you could think of a benefit you have now, it probably was included in the other 17 cuts.

A quick estimate by the Guild, according to figures supplied by the company, the cuts to wages and benefits combined would fall between 25 – 36 percent depending on your seniority and health care coverage.

This line, from Black Press negotiator Karen Lefton, caught the most flack:

When pushed on the issue by Guild staff representative Bruce Nelson, Lefton stated, “we are not saying we are not making a profit, we aren’t pleading poverty.” She went on to say that the company is not unable to pay at current levels, they just doesn’t want to.

Rubber City Radio/1590 WAKR and its AkronNewsNow.com site went further, adding audio reaction from the Beacon’s Stephanie Warsmith (reporter, and secretary for the Akron Newspaper Guild) and from Lefton, citing the decline in advertising revenue for the print industry…

WKBN UPGRADE: We haven’t gotten official confirmation that the upgrade to New Vision CBS affiliate WKBN/27 Youngstown’s signal is complete, but it would sure appear so from the OMW World Headquarters.

The Youngstown outlet is now reaching even deeper into the Cleveland market, after having moved its antenna “up top” on the station’s tower. It was side-mounted before, due to the presence of analog channel 27’s antenna on top.

With analog history as of last June, crews finally got up there and put the new, main, digital antenna on top. All the wiring was expected to be complete early Monday morning.

The new WKBN signal is not perfect here at the OMW World Headquarters, which is roughly 20 air miles from the Parma antenna farm. But it’s the best it’s ever been, and we figure with a semi-decent outdoor antenna, we’ll probably get the station full-time now.

We don’t expect such luck even with the planned 1000 kW upgrade to now-puny-sister station WYTV/33, Youngstown’s ABC affiliate which is operated by New Vision in that deal with owner Parkin Broadcasting.

We’re told that crews are headed there, next. But one thing we’ve learned is that “height is everything” in regards to digital TV signals, and even the upgraded WYTV antenna will not be nearly as high as WKBN’s nearby facility. And height is important, if you’re down in a valley, and hope to get any signal out of it.

No matter. We know the Youngstown signals are “bonuses” for those of us in the Cleveland market…

Some Clarifications and Updates

Following along with some items that have popped up in the past few days…

SABO GONE: We don’t know much more, but we can confirm that Good Karma sports WKNR/850 Cleveland “ESPN 850” has parted ways with producer/sidekick/update anchor Josh Sabo. (And no, that’s not just because we’ve heard WKNR’s Tony Rizzo say those exact words about three times now.)

We’re getting very little information as to why, but it appears that it has nothing to do with any on-air comments or on-air performance.

As such, we’re closing the books on this item…which mostly got attention because Sabo was a producer/contributor to WKNR’s highest profile local show, “The Really Big Show” with WJW/8 “Fox 8” sports anchor Rizzo. Rizzo continues with co-host Aaron Goldhammer and update anchor Jeff Thomas.

We’ll echo others…and say that this would be an excellent chance to give Jeff a greater on-air role in the 9 AM-noon program.

Though Jeff Thomas is still an “embedded” employee of Metro Networks, the company shuttering its Independence facility has put Jeff in the Galleria studios along with Rizzo and company…and it’d be interesting to see how his talents could be used more…

WKBN UPDATE: If you’re one of those viewers on the fringes of New Vision Youngstown CBS affiliate WKBN/27 (like, say, us), and were disappointed that moving the station’s digital antenna to the top of the tower didn’t allow a signal lock last night, hold on.

Station chief engineer Tom Zocolo checks in with OMW, and passes along a detailed explanation he wrote up for a local message forum: there is still some new transmission line work to be done.

WKBN has rigged up a temporary line until the factory-made new line can be created and flown in….so the station can stay on the air for the next few days. We’re told that such a process is standard procedure in such antenna work.

With the work still in progress, Zocolo says that the WKBN facility has been operating at about 30 percent of its usual power, and will continue at that level until the final work is completed.

When will that be?

Checking the weather forecast – and even invoking “27 First News”‘ own meteorologist Don Guthrie – Zocolo says it looks like the final work will be done late Sunday night into Monday morning, from midnight to 5 AM.

Assuming all goes well, Monday morning should bring the stronger signal…though as noted before, WKBN’s regular digital signal even before this move was picked up with very little difficulty by those in the core of the Mahoning Valley area.

In the explanation, WKBN’s Zocolo also says sister-via-LMA WYTV/33’s work is up next after WKBN’s:

In this case, all of the old analog antenna and transmission line must first be removed from the tower before the new line and antenna can be installed. I have no estimate on the time frame because every bit of tower work is dependent upon the weather conditions.

Even when it’s not raining, high winds can stop work at the top of the tower. Just as an example, the crew has been on site at WKBN for a little over a month. We’ve needed about 10 good working days to get where we are right now…

Thank you, Tom, for writing all this up, and for forwarding it to us directly!

THE BSK SPEAKS: As hinted earlier, long-time Cleveland sports media personality Kendall Lewis has said his first words “on air” since suffering a stroke in recent weeks.

“The BSK”‘s current job is as program director and afternoon drive host for Paul Belfi’s Internet sports operation SportsTalkCleveland.com, and thus, his first post-stroke call was to STC’s “Press Box Rants” show with Greg Kozarik.

You can hear Kendall’s call via audio posted to this page.

To us, “The BSK” sounds like he could indeed resume his program soon, though he cautioned that he’s still working on not only his voice, but other resulting problems from the stroke…

Two More Upgrades

Mid-October is apparently the season for local TV and radio signal upgrades, and there are two more we haven’t yet told you about.

Briefly before that: everyone short of the Cuyahoga County dog catcher has E-mailed us to let us know that producer/sidekick/update anchor Josh Sabo is apparently out at Good Karma sports WKNR/850 Cleveland “ESPN 850”, at least according to an announcement made on the station’s “Really Big Show with Tony Rizzo” earlier today.

We didn’t hear the announcement, and as of yet, don’t know any details about Sabo’s apparent departure from the sports talk station. If we find out anything, we’ll let you know.

For now, back to the technical facilities upgrades…one on the TV side, one on radio:

49 PLUS 70: A Cuyahoga County viewer E-mailed us late last week, wondering if Western Reserve PBS’ WEAO/49 Akron had upgraded its digital over-air facilities on RF channel 50. He tells us he’s seeing a stronger signal from the station.

No, you aren’t imagining that, and it’s not just temporary atmospheric conditions (or shedding leaves).

Our good friends over at Campus Center Drive in Kent tell us that indeed, WEAO lit up its post-transition “maximized” construction permit on October 15th. The upgrade pushes the Akron half of the Western Reserve PBS simulcast from 180 kW to 250 kW.

It’s not the only facility upgrade for the public TV outlet.

OMW also hears that Youngstown viewers will get the digital replacement for the former analog translator on Channel 58, soon…with arrival and installation of the new digital Channel 44 translator (W44CR) expected within the next couple of weeks.

RADIO UPGRADE: Canton-based religious broadcaster WILB/1060 has lit up its upgraded facility.

The upgrade takes WILB “Living Bread Radio” from 5 kW to 15 kW, and gets it at least a chunk of Cuyahoga County.

Not like you’d know they realize that, from an announcement on the Living Bread Radio website:

WE’RE ON THE AIR!
Catholic Radio in Cleveland – AM 1060

AM 1060 WILB has expanded its coverage area from 1 million listeners to more than 2 million in Northeast Ohio. With the completion of a two year 15,000 watt signal upgrade project and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval of the upgrade AM 106(0) began transmitting at 15,000 watts on October 20, 2009.

(snip)

We say hello to Cuyahoga County and surrounding areas after more than 5 years of transmitting the Word of God to Stark, Summit and Carroll Counties. Join us as we welcome Cleveland and the surrounding areas to our AM 1060 Radio Family.

They were in such a hurry to announce the upgrade, the Living Bread Radio folks grabbed another web page about another event, and blew past the spacebar a few times.

Of course, even with 15 kW of power, there are other problems for WILB.

First and foremost, it is and will always be a daytime station, at least as long as CBS Radio powerhouse KYW/1060 is around.

Second, even within the daytime parameters, WILB had to squeeze in next to other stations – like second adjacent WJTB/1040 North Ridgeville, and had to consider first adjacent CHOK/1070 Sarnia ONT, second adjacent WWNL/1080 Pittsburgh and the like.

(Our favorite part of the WILB construction permit application – the station showing that 1090 kHz wasn’t a problem, since no station in the entire region will ever be authorized for 1090 with Clear Channel talk giant WTAM on 1100.)

We haven’t been on the northern edge of the new WILB signal yet, and weren’t really listeners before, anyway…but a quick radio check today easily shows a more powerful WILB than we remember hearing. A lot of times, these upgrades on the AM side aren’t just about reaching new areas…they’re about punching through the increased noise on the AM band…

AND TV RELATED RADIO: OMW hears that as scheduled, New Vision CBS affiliate WKBN-TV/27 Youngstown has turned off its transmitter today – to allow the move of its digital antenna to the top of the 1432 foot tower today.

The move from “side mount” to “top mount” could improve fringe area or nearby market reception of WKBN’s digital signal, which also carries sister Fox affiliate “Fox Youngstown” on digital subchannel 27.2 (in high-definition, along with WKBN).

Those looking for the missing over-air CBS and Fox programming in Youngstown can find it on Time Warner Cable and Armstrong Cable, which are fed via fiber from the stations’ Sunset Boulevard studios. We aren’t in the market to check, but we’ll assume the station is also continuing to feed the original low-power analog TV homes of Fox Youngstown programming – WYFX-LP 62 Youngstown and WFXI-CA 17 Mercer.

One thing we didn’t mention earlier: the WKBN-TV antenna move today also affects a former sister station.

Yes, that’s the former WKBN-FM on the WKBN-TV tower. Clear Channel Youngstown director of engineering John Clarke checks in with OMW about the status of WMXY/98.9:

WMXY’s (original calls WKBN-FM) main antenna is located at the 1370 foot level on the South tower at Sunset Blvd, just below the top mount TV stick.

When the tower crew is within 100 feet of our main panel antenna, we move WMXY over to our Auxiliary antenna site on the 550 foot North tower.

We have been operating on the auxiliary antenna during the daytime hours most good weather days the last week…while they rig the tower for the move.

While we are operating at 25 KW ERP from the Auxiliary antenna, we lose some fringe coverage and no HD operation from the Auxiliary site.

So, if you’re a bit far afield from Youngstown today and having trouble receiving the station now known as hot AC WMXY/98.9 “Mix 98.9”, you’ll know why.

One of our readers in Cleveland’s Slavic Village area is asking if the WKBN-TV upgrade will get its signal into downtown Cleveland.

Well, probably not, we’d guess. We know people as far west as Parma who’ve been able to get the WKBN signal, but we’d be shocked if it was a regular visitor into downtown Cleveland.

More so than from Cleveland/Akron/Canton viewers, the WKBN upgrade today will likely be welcomed by in-market viewers in places like Mercer County PA…any reception we get over on this side of Youngstown, outside of its home market, is a sheer bonus…

On The Tuesday Radio Side

After an item chock full of digital TV news, it’s time to expand our Tuesday diet to radio. And yes, we know. We know…the below.

KIM’S RETURN: Yes, you let us know by E-mail, by carrier pigeon, by taking out a billboard (well, almost).

That was indeed former Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 afternoon drive co-host Kim Mihalik on her former home station over the weekend, guest hosting the Clear Channel talk station’s local Browns post-game coverage on Sunday afternoon.

(WTAM airs its own post-game show after Browns games – the network post-game call-in show airs on the FM flagship, rock-but-really-talk-considering-Rover-and-Maxwell WMMS/100.7.)

It’s an on-air role that until this week was filled by WTAM sports talk host/Indians beat reporter Mark Schwab, who’s since left “The Big One” for the weekend sports anchor role at Raycom CBS affiliate WOIO/19’s “19 Action News”.

It actually wasn’t Kim’s first on-air appearance on her former station, where she was let go in November 2005 for “budgetary reasons”.

Your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) cut down on his Triv Diet many, many months ago, so we only occasionally check in with Mike Trivisonno’s WTAM afternoon drive talk fest these days.

It was by sheer accident that we hit the button for WTAM on the OMW Mobile radio Friday, and heard Mihalik good naturedly bantering back and forth (by phone) with Triv about an “embarrassing” incident back when she was on the show.

If there was any leftover animosity between the two since her departure from Oak Tree in 2005, it wasn’t showing on the air at all…though we had no idea at the time that she was about to do a fill-in sports talk stint that weekend.

After leaving WTAM, Mihalik was best known for her stint on the local post-Stern/David Lee Roth CBS Radio classic rock WNCX/98.5 morning drive show with Wynn “Mud” Richards and local radio vet and OMW reader Mike Olszewski. The ‘NCX morning slot is now filled by host Scott Miller and comedian Jeff Blanchard.

Kim also did some TV work for Fox Sports Ohio’s “Cleveland Rants”, back when that show still existed.

Is she in line for a regular return to WTAM? That’s the question on readers’ minds, if our E-mail is any indication.

There is an opening at 1100, after all…but would the former Triv co-host be in the consideration for Mark Schwab’s former position as Indians beat reporter and sports host?

For the moment, we don’t know the answer to that question – from either side of the ledger.

We get the idea that for now, at least, Mihalik is just helping out the short staffed WTAM sports department with some weekend fill-in…

SPEAKING OF SPORTS: OMW has very much covered the march of spoken word formats to the FM dial, such as news/talk and sports. We’ve also tried to cover the use of FM translators to provide better “fill-in” coverage for AM stations, a practice which is now officially in the FCC rules.

This one covers both.

Gunther Meisse’s WRGM/1440 Ontario, the Mansfield area’s ESPN Radio affiliate, has now lit up an FM signal on 97.3.

From the story (dated October 15th) on WRGM sister TV station WMFD/68’s website:

Today, WRGM AM1440 has begun simulcasting on 97.3FM in Mansfield, Ontario and Lexington to over 70,000 people. This makes WRGM AM1440 / 97.3FM the First FM sports station in the market.

97.3 is legally W247BL/Crestline, a 120 watt translator Meisse’s group bought from Mansfield Christian School – owners of Christian contemporary WVMC/90.7 – a while back.

The FCC has been granting special temporary authority for AM stations in certain conditions (low power or directional night signal, etc.) to use FM translators as “fill-ins” to the anemic AM signal. As of earlier this month, what had been a piecemeal policy – STA by STA – is now reality in FCC rules.

WRGM would certainly qualify, signal wise.

The 1000 watt daytime signal on 1440 is highly directional, but serviceable for most of the Mansfield area…with some notable exceptions north and east of the WRGM tower.

But there are holes-a-plenty in WRGM’s 28 watt (!) nighttime signal, and many of them not at all far from the Meisse complex on Park Avenue West in Mansfield.

The 120 watt signal of W247BL/97.3 Crestline eminates from that Meisse tower on Park Avenue West, and when you consider that mono programming will eliminate “stereo flutter” on the edges of the signal, it should cover a decent chunk of the immediate Richland County area.

Meisse also owns AC WVNO/106.1 “Mix 106”, as well as the aforementioned WMFD/68 and its low-power sister station/WMFD subchannel WOHZ-CA/41, which mostly features classified advertising text, weather information and WVNO’s audio…

Digital TV Activities

Suddenly, the over-air digital TV scene is as nearly as active in Northeast Ohio as it was in the days before the analog TV shutoff, back on June 12th…

A 19 UPGRADE: OMW hears, third-hand, that Raycom Media Cleveland CBS affiliate WOIO/19 has completed an interim digital signal upgrade.

We’re told that last Wednesday, WOIO’s engineers nearly tripled the power coming out of the station’s transmission system – with a power level of 9.5 kW. WOIO’s digital signal has been pumping out just 3.5 kW since it first signed on. The FCC granted the temporary signal upgrade late last month.

Though even the 9.5 kW signal is modest for high VHF broadcasting – remember, many other VHF stations nationwide are asking for many times that, and WOIO continues to use interference-plagued RF channel 10 – the move returned “Cleveland’s CBS 19” to full-time over-air reception on our best digital TV over-air setup here at OMW World Headquarters, about 20 miles as the Digital Crow flies from the Parma antenna farm.

We’re told by an OMW reader in New London OH, a small outpost between Ashland and Norwalk on the western fringe of the Cleveland TV market, that the new signal gives him at least a chance at catching WOIO on a regular basis. Of course, that far away, our reader isn’t using a modest indoor antenna aimed out a second floor window like we use here.

Again, note the word “interim” in regards to the 9.5 kW WOIO signal. It’ll help the station reach some more viewers, particularly in the immediate Cleveland-Akron area, but it’s not the long term plan.

OMW hears that Raycom does hope to eventually camp out WOIO on a UHF digital RF channel.

For various reasons, explained here on OMW by RabbitEars.info‘s Trip Ericson a few weeks ago, WOIO can’t “just go back” to RF channel 19. The station seems resigned to how long the process may take.

Though some other Raycom stations (and others) have already made some similar changes, Alabama-based Raycom is a group that mostly has stations south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Nearly all the other Raycom outlets don’t have to deal with something WOIO has to consider – Canadian allocations.

While getting its Cleveland market CBS affiliate off of RF channel 10 – occupied by pesky lil’…er… big Canadian outlet CFPL/10 – is presumably a priority for the engineering folks at Reserve Square, other new allocations have to consider Canada as well.

And the Canadians have a habit of hanging onto unused allocations, or those no longer used, and “notifying” them to the U.S., so U.S. stations won’t camp out there in the future.

For the nonce, let us know if you’ve been getting an improved WOIO/19 over-air signal since about Wednesday night…

AND ANOTHER UPGRADE: A CBS affiliate that Cleveland market over-air viewers often seek out as an alternative station is making its final digital moves.

New Vision’s WKBN/27 Youngstown is preparing to “top mount” its digital TV antenna this week, according to this story on the “27 First News” website:

At about 8am Wednesday, the antenna used to broadcast WKBN-TV and FOX Youngstown will be turned off for about 12 hours.

A crew is going to remove the 4,000 lb. analog antenna from the top of the tower, lower it to the ground, and mount the digital antenna in its place. The work, if all goes as planned, will take about 12 hours.

WKBN/WYFX helpfully remind viewers that while the antennas are being moved, over-air viewers will lose the station’s signal for about 12 hours. The station has fiber connections to Time Warner Cable and Armstrong Cable, so those viewers will continue to be able to watch during the antenna moves.

The station hints that viewers in places on the edge of the signal, like perhaps the OMW World Headquarters, could see improvements:

Until now, the digital antenna has been on a side mount several hundred feet below the top of the tower. The additional height should improve the digital signal, probably to be noticed only by those viewers in fringe areas.

For the nonce, WKBN’s digital signal is the most powerful in the Youngstown market, even from that “side mount” location. Moving the antenna up could well help the signal get further out of the Mahoning Valley…very few people in the Valley have any trouble picking up WKBN-TV.

OMW readers know that New Vision has been, recently, transmitting WYFX’s “Fox Youngstown” signal in HD format via WKBN subchannel 27.2. This will probably give some fringe area viewers (again, maybe folks in part of the Cleveland market) an alternative should they have problems receiving another “VHF Nightmare” station, Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 in Cleveland.

And last time we were in the Valley, with a digital TV tuner, New Vision was still pumping out “Fox Youngstown” from its original over-air home, LPTV outlet WYFX-LP/62 Youngstown. (And we presume, though we couldn’t get it from our location, sister WFXI-CA/17 Mercer PA.)

Those who don’t have Time Warner or Armstrong cable, but an analog TV tuner, would presumably have those signals as an alternative to the off-air Fox Youngstown signal via digital WKBN-TV during the 12 hour work window on Wednesday…

AND ANOTHER UPGRADE: Back in Cleveland, Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 is notifying viewers of its own antenna work.

WEWS has never been one of the Cleveland market’s Digital Problem Children. It operated at 870 kW, 285 meters above average terrain for many years before the digital TV transition in June, and eventually will offer a 1000 kW signal from an antenna 310 meters above average terrain.

Until that final signal goes on, the station found a lower spot on a nearby tower, and is operating at a paltry, anemic, puny signal level of 843 kW, 191 meters above average terrain. It’s a wonder you can pick up the station outside Parma!

Of course, that last paragraph is an attempt at Digital TV Humor. We bet very few have noticed a lower signal out of WEWS’s temporary facility, especially in the core of the Cleveland-Akron TV market.

FCC rules require WEWS to notify viewers who may have difficulty picking up the temporary signal, so the station has done so both on the air and by posting a link to this FCC map of the signal on the station’s website.

The map shows a comparison between the now-gone WEWS/5 analog signal, and the STA for the temporary digital signal. The orange and red symbols represent viewer loss in places like Mansfield and Ashtabula, though the new 1000 kW higher antenna would presumably fix much of that.

The new facility, with both increased power and height, could also gain WEWS some more over-air viewers on the fringe of the Cleveland market, or even in parts of the Youngstown market.

Those who have cable or satellite have been reading the above, and wondering how it affects you.

Well, if you’re an NFL football fan, being able to pick up WKBN’s digital signal in the Cleveland market could give you more game options, as WKBN (CBS) and WYFX (Fox) don’t always carry the same games that Cleveland’s WOIO (CBS) and WJW (Fox) carry.

It won’t help you avoid any potential Cleveland Browns home blackouts, since the Youngstown market has always been included in the NFL’s “blackout zone” for the Browns (the Youngstown signals land well within the 75 mile blackout radius), but perhaps you’ll get more variety in other games…

AND FINALLY: In this busy digital TV item, a note that a new signal has popped up for a few Cleveland market viewers.

It’s the market’s first low-power digital TV station – Daystar’s WCDN-LD 53.1/53.2, which is the replacement for now-former analog LPTVer WCDN-LP/53.

Yes, Daystar is a prominent religious TV operator that has a mixed collection of full-power and low-power TV “O&O’s”. It even squeezed itself onto the subchannel of a public TV station in Orange County CA (KOCE) after its controversial bid to buy the station fell through.

OMW hears that in addition to its own Daystar religious programming on 53.1, WCDN-LD is also offering the Home Shopping Network feed on 53.2 – programming we believe is also carried on analog LPTVer WXOX-LP/65. (Maybe the Daystar folks got an idea from what they had to do at KOCE, and are leasing out 53.2 to WXOX?)

Though WCDN-LD is well-situated on the WBNX-TV tower in Parma – 338 meters above average terrain – it is still a low-power station, putting just 300 watts into the air in its digital form, which lives on RF channel 7.

Thus, it’s no surprise to us that we haven’t been able to receive its signal some 20 miles out from the Parma antenna farm.

Some may be wondering how WCDN-LD is able to squeeze onto new digital RF channel 7, when Local TV Fox affiliate WJW is on RF channel 8. We’re told you can do that, as long as the two signals are basically coming from the same area.

WJW’s facility, of course, is not far away in Parma…and back when WJW-DT was using RF channel 31, it sat comfortably next to WBNX-DT’s RF channel 30 facility…