The Big Followup

As usual when major media news breaks here, we spend time afterwards sorting it all out…

MANTEL’S EXIT: It’s the day after long-time WGAR/99.5 morning man Jim Mantel was shown the door at the Clear Channel Cleveland country outlet, and instead of being behind the microphones at Oak Tree, he’s communicating with his fans via social media.

Mantel noted on his Twitter account:

“Probably heard that I’m no longer on the air at wgar. Was lucky to do morning in my hometown for 18 1/2 yrs. On the other hand shot 78 today”

He confirmed via that same Twitter account that the end of his contract meant the end of his over 18 year run as WGAR’s morning drive host, in a response to a listener:

“Contract was coming up and they decided not to renew it.”

We’re told that Mantel also appeared on WOIO/19-WUAB/43’s “19 Action News”, but can’t find a link to the story on the station’s website.

Of course, Mantel is by far not the first well-compensated morning drive star (or media personality in general) to see the end of his run when a station did not want to renew his deal.

Radio and TV stations across the country, and certainly in Northeast Ohio, point to the flagging economy…when deciding not to pay large salaries to even the most popular personalities. We have chronicled those stories extensively here at OMW over the past few years.

Whether a radio station renews a contract or not, and how much it costs to do so, matters little to the listener.

And in the country format, with long-time loyal listeners, it’s no surprise that those listeners are weighing in online…with several comments already posted to our earlier item on Mantel’s exit.

WGAR’s Facebook page, at this writing, is filled with wall posts from disgruntled listeners. (Click on either of the “Others” links to see them.)

If those listeners indeed will “stop listening” to WGAR to protest Mantel’s removal as morning drive host, there are plenty of alternatives – though none in the immediate Cleveland radio market.

Cleveland is literally ringed with powerful and successful out of market country stations – including (west to east) Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting’s WKFM/96.1 Huron “K96”, Rubber City Radio’s Akron market WQMX/94.9 Medina, Cumulus’ WQXK/105.1 Salem “K105” and Music Express’ WKKY/104.7 Geneva.

All four of these stations have some fringe in-market coverage in the appropriate geographic parts of the Cleveland market, but country format stations often “play to the room” – with programming, particularly morning shows, that cater to the station’s hometown area.

Will Mantel’s exit from WGAR prompt an in-market country format competitor?

Well, his availability (after any post-contract non-compete period) may embolden someone to step up to the plate…but we’re having a hard time finding likely in-market candidates for a format change.

CBS Radio would otherwise be a candidate to mount a new country station…but the company is very much in “caretaker” mode in Cleveland, hoping to find an eventual buyer with CBS’ national mandate to sell “smaller market” (non-Top 10 market) stations. It’s the same reason a sports format flip at CBS in Cleveland is unlikely, despite CBS’ recent passion for big FM sports talkers.

The other two major competitors in Cleveland, Salem and Radio One, basically don’t do country. (Radio One once owned the country outlet in Urbana in southwest Ohio, WKSW, but that’s now owned by Main Line with Radio One’s exit from the Dayton area.)

And the market’s former smooth jazz outlet, ELB’s WNWV/107.3 Elyria, already made its change to AAA late last year as “V107.3”. (As noted above, ELB has experience in the format with long-time country outlet “K96”.)

Meanwhile, Jim Mantel is left to work on his golf game…

SHE WON’T BE HER KIDS’ RADIO HOST: Nationally, the big news in radio Tuesday night was The End of the Dr. Laura Show.

Talk Radio Networks’ long-running advice show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger dropped that bombshell on CNN’s “Larry King Live” last night, saying she’ll exit talk radio when her TRN deal ends at the end of this year:

In announcing her decision “not to do radio anymore” after being in the business for more than 30 years, Schlessinger said, “I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry or some special-interest group deciding this is a time to silence a voice of dissent.”

Schlessinger has been in a bit of hot water lately, due to an incident on her radio show (again, quoting the CNN piece):

National furor erupted when Schlessinger used the N-word 11 times in five minutes during a call August 10 with an African-American caller who was seeking advice on how to deal with racist comments from her white husband’s friends and relatives. The conversation evolved into a discussion on whether it’s appropriate to use the word ever, with Schlessinger arguing it’s used on HBO and by black comedians.

She apologized for the incident on her program.

And though Schlessinger framed her exit from radio as a “freedom of speech issue”, she says she’s “not retiring and not quitting”, and will continue to express herself via avenues like her website and YouTube channel.

And all this fuss over “Dr. Laura” has prompted most Ohio listeners to say, “she’s still on the radio?”

After years of clearances on big Clear Channel talkers like WTAM/1100 in Cleveland, Schlessinger has all but disappeared from the radio dial in Ohio – supplanted on large market stations mainly by Premiere’s Glenn Beck (even if Beck did himself disappear for a while from many of those same stations).

“Dr. Laura” used to be syndicated by Premiere, of course, but eventually migrated to TRN after Schlessinger took over ownership of her own show via her “Take on the Day Productions”.

Dr. Laura’s Ohio affiliate list in 2010 has just three stations – Canton’s WCER/900, Findlay’s WFIN/1330 and little WBLL/1390 in Bellefontaine.

Like the demise of liberal talk network Air America, this would have been a much bigger Ohio story a few years ago…

VALLEY UPDATE: We shouldn’t be surprised, we guess, but the incoming owner of now-Beacon Broadcasting’s two Ohio stations is a regular OMW reader.

And as a result, Chris Lash tells us of some of his plans for WANR/1570 Warren, and sister daytimer WRTK/1540 Niles.

Lash will take over WANR and WRTK September 1st in a local marketing agreement, pending approval and closure of his purchase of the stations.

WANR will continue under his ownership as a Fox Sports Radio affiliate, and we guess the station’s local sports commitments will continue – and maybe grow.

WRTK will go a different format direction, which Lash says he’ll announce after he takes it over. Until simulcasting WANR, WRTK ran Christian contemporary music, once using the Beacon handle “Freq 1540”.

Lash tells OMW that he’s already in the process of renovating the former WNIO studio building on Webb Road in the Mineral Ridge section of Trumbull County (the current WRTK transmitter site), and will move both stations’ operations into that building.

He shared pictures with us, which need editing (due to nasty graffiti!), and we’ll try to put them up here later today…


7 Responses to The Big Followup

  1. Neil P says:

    Doctor Laura might be on only three small stations in Ohio, but she can be heard loud and clear on the Detroit blowtorch WJR.

    • Good catch, Neil, though despite its good signal down here, WJR is not even a small factor in the Cleveland radio market. Nor, for that matter, is CKLW in Windsor, though it was decades ago…

  2. Steve Holland says:

    With the comment about CBS Radio trying to sell their Cleveland stations, maybe they should cease with the “keep them on auto pilot until someone buys them” mentality and actually try to make some money with these medium market stations. You have to wonder about people’s business sense sometimes.

  3. Tim says:

    I say flip 92.3 to country. Put Jim Mantel in the morning and bring back Danny Wright and Mike Ivers if possible. Play more of a gold based country format and only the new artists that lean traditional and throw in some bluegrass and Americana type music. Call it “Real Country 92.3”. Are any radio PD’s out there brave enough to try it? There is a bigger audience than you think out there for real traditional country.

    • Neil from Beachwood says:

      This is an excellent suggestion.

      • Except for one thing…the format would skew WAY too old for a full-market top 30 market FM station.

        There’s a reason you don’t hear “traditional” country on FM stations in big markets…it’s hard to sell, even with such a formidable air staff.

        No, if someone does mount a country competitor to WGAR, it will be with similar music demographically. And we already went through the market conditions that would make such a competitor unlikely in Cleveland.

  4. sara denn says:

    Probably didn’t renew Mantel’s contract to pay for Trivisonno’s re-upping for 5 years. Amazes me that Triv continues to hold his ratings as his show is no longer entertaining — all he does anymore is argue with his callers. Thought the new producer might add something, but haven’t seen anything yet, andI can’t figure out what Seth has on Triv that he keeps him. I haven’t laughed or found any entertainment since Marty/Paul were let go. Have been listening a lot of years , but yesterday was the limit with all that arguing and yelling — I changed the station and not sure I’ll be back.

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