The Curious Case Of WXOX…Radio?

We reported earlier that Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 “Fox 8” has applied to reallocate RF channel 31, its former digital home, presumably hoping to relocate from its post-transition VHF home at RF 8.

While investigating that move, we stumbled onto another piece of interesting potential news.

Is Cleveland in line for a so-called “Franken FM”, a new commercial “radio station” on the lower end of the FM dial?

For those unfamiliar with the “Franken FM” phenomenon: Low-power TV station operators occasionally take advantage of the fact that the audio carrier for analog channel 6 shows up on the FM dial at approximately 87.7 FM…creating a new “radio station” on most modern FM radios.

One of the operators that does this regularly is Venture Technologies, and what do you know…Venture owns Cleveland LPTVer WXOX-LP/65, which was recently forced off the air due to its presence on spectrum purchased by cell phone carrier Verizon Wireless. (WXOX’s Home Shopping Network programming popped up briefly on Daystar’s WCDN-LP/53.2.)

After years of trying to relocate, first to analog 44, and then to digital 31 – after WJW abandoned that channel for RF 8 – Venture filed a displacement application last April to relocate WXOX-LP to…drumroll, please!…analog channel 6.

The bid to relocate on digital 31 was dismissed by the FCC in September of last year…Venture says in an STA application that it was waiting for Canadian coordination.

A move to analog channel 6 could only mean one thing – Venture wants to use the audio carrier on 87.7 for a “radio station”.

It does so in other markets.

In Chicago, Venture launched the audio carrier of WLFM-LP/6 as smooth jazz “Smooth 87.7”, a move it made immediately after Clear Channel flipped long-time smooth jazz outlet WNUA/95.5 to Spanish-language hit radio as “Mega 95.5”. The station, now tagged as “smooth AC”, is operated by a small company headed by former WNUA executive Pat Kelley.

In the Los Angeles market, Venture leases out the audio carrier of KSFV-CA/6 San Fernando Valley for the Spanish-language religious radio service “Guadalupe Radio”.

Other “Franken FMs” are well-known.

One that actually picked up a little steam was dance-formatted WNYZ-LP “Pulse 87” in New York City, which even hired a high-profile morning show once heard on another station.

It now still operates as a radio station, airing a variety of brokered foreign language and other programming. The dance music format ended up on a “Pulse 87” webcast set up by the station’s former program director.

In Denver, a group of local operators created “87.7 The Ticket”, using the audio carrier of KXDP-LP/6 as a full-fledged local sports radio station.

One question we can’t answer: how long will these “Franken FMs” be allowed?

The FCC finally relented on them at some point, ceding that they have no control over LPTV stations “operating” as radio stations, but insisting that the stations air SOME visual programming. This is usually done as unrelated slide shows, or with a camera into the radio studio.

But the technical underpinnings of the “Franken FM” phenomenon could be going away.

We turned to our long-time personal friend and colleague Scott Fybush (“NorthEast Radio Watch”, “The Radio Journal”, 100000watts.com), as we often do in matters like this.

Scott tells us that “there’s an FCC rulemaking proceeding underway now to determine what the end date will be” for analog LPTV broadcasting, which would end the “Franken FM” phenomenon…the FM audio carrier is carried with the analog LPTV signal, and the same phenomenon does not happen with digital LPTV, on channel 6 or any other channel.

When this happens is anyone’s guess, it appears…Scott says the current guess is somewhere between 2012 and 2015.

But NPR (the public radio entity formerly known as National Public Radio) recently asked the FCC to immediately end the “Franken FM” phenomenon, presumably concerned that these “commercial radio stations” are popping up right next to the reserved, non-commercial band (88.1-91.9 MHz).

Venture fired back with a strong rebuttal to the NPR request.

As far as the other analog LPTVers in the Cleveland market go, they are either already running digital stations (the aforementioned WCDN, and some of WIVM-LP/52 Canton’s simulcasters) or have applications or construction permits to go digital (WAOH-LP/29 Akron and sister W35AX Cleveland, and WIVM itself, likely to light up its Canton digital signal soon).

WXOX tried to move, as we mentioned, to digital RF 31 and earlier to analog 44, the latter running into trouble, apparently, due to WNEO/45 Alliance…

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Fox 8’s New Day Dawning

Several of our readers stumbled upon a new Facebook page purporting to be for Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 “Fox 8″‘s new mid-morning show (along with a Twitter account), and it appears to be official.

That’s because “Fox 8” has put up a placeholder on its website for the new show, “New Day Cleveland”, in the slot formerly occupied by “Robin”, the link for the former-but-still-in-reruns “Robin Swoboda Show”.

The link on WJW’s website doesn’t say much…it’s “under construction”, literally, with the “New Day Cleveland” logo in pieces being put together.

But the Facebook page brings more light to the show which would appear to be set for a February 7th debut. That’s when “The Robin Swoboda Show” turns into “To Be Announced” on various TV listing sites, according to long-time OMW contributor Nathan Obral.

“Infotainment” is the key word for the new show, according to the Facebook site:

A show that will bring you cooking, travel, health, entertainment and so much more.

It’s the best way to start your day…it’s a New Day Cleveland!

And the site confirms our earlier reporting, as new “Fox 8 News” meteorologist Kristi Capel, inbound from WBRE/28 in Wilkes-Barre PA, joins up with WJW entertainment reporter David Moss for the new show.

The page also lists a cast of other personalities who have been seen on “Fox 8”: radio personalities Rebecca Wilde, Jen Toohey, and Jimmy Malone, and “more!”.

Moss and Wilde have hosted “fill-in” shows for the still-there-but-former-not-really-“Robin Swoboda Show”, though as the station gears up for “New Day”, we presume that they’ll run Robin’s repeats through the end of next week.

What the “New Day” Facebook page does not promise: more “sponsored programming”…

BREAKING NEWS: Brooks Found Not Guilty

Former Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 “NewsChannel 5” sports anchor Terry Brooks has been found not guilty of all 9 counts against him.

That’s according to the station itself, which posted the news on its own website Thursday afternoon.

The station reports that the Cuyahoga County jury found Brooks not guilty on four counts of rape, four counts of attempted rape and one count of kidnapping.

Brooks left 3001 Euclid shortly after the indictments were announced, saying he needed to devote his time to his defense. “NewsChannel 5” recently announced that former WKYC/3 weekend sports anchor Mike Cairns was hired to fill the opening left by Brooks’ departure.

Three Pronged Item

Here’s that “three pronged item” we promised, all from the world of radio this time. Wait…it looks like we’ve added some prongs…

NEW Q104ER: This is no surprise to anyone who follows our Twitter account, but CBS Radio hot AC WQAL/104.1 Cleveland “Q104” has named its new afternoon drive host.

And she’s coming from across the border to do it.

She’s Heather Backman, who comes to the Cleveland station from Montreal’s Virgin 96 FM.

Quoting a CBS Radio press release:

“Heather’s love of pop culture, music and social networking will make her a perfect addition to the Q104 team,” says (WQAL program director Dave) Popovich. Heather also spent time as the Midday Host at WSTZ in Jackson, Mississippi, WKXJ in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Afternoon Drive at WMXF in Chattanooga. ”I was so excited about the station and the position itself, but then after meeting the staff, I knew I wanted to make this move,” states Heather B.

Of course, Heather takes the afternoon drive slot vacated by Jen Toohey, when she took over for Rebecca Wilde on the station’s morning drive show with Allan Fee.

And yes, since we tweeted about her arrival at Q104, Heather popped up in our Twitter timeline, wondering just what an Ohio Media Watch is…

STATE OF WKNR: The day of President Obama’s “State of the Union” address was probably a good day for Good Karma Broadcasting president Craig Karmazin to give his own “State of the Company” address, Tuesday afternoon on both of his Cleveland radio stations.

But Karmazin’s “Ask the Owner” segment, from 3-4 PM on WKNR/850 “ESPN 850”, and then 4-5 PM on WWGK/1540 “KNR2”, was prompted by major changes at both stations, announced Friday and covered heavily in items below this one.

So, did Karmazin take leave of his senses, knocking the popular “Jim Rome Show” off the big signal for an hour, exiling it to “KNR2” so he could expand the also popular “Really Big Show” with Tony Rizzo and company?

Karmazin told listeners that it’s quite clear…local programming is the key to success for the company’s Cleveland operation:

We have four years of research. And the research shows that, whether it’s “Munch in the Morning”, whether it’s “R&R” in the afternoon, whether it’s “The Really Big Show”, when we have local programming on, more people listen each hour.

We add listeners incrementally when we have local shows, and when we have national shows, we still have a great, large amount of people listening, but each hour a national show’s on, our audience goes down.

And that’s by every measure we have, from dollars of revenue that we make on those hours, to the Internet streaming, to when we used to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to subscribe to the research that would tell us the same thing.

That’s what the research told us. It doesn’t mean that “Mike and Mike” don’t have a ton of passionate fans, and we love having “Mike and Mike” on the station. We love having “Jim Rome” on the stations. It’s just…those are the facts of what we’ve seen over the years.

And fans also continued to ask about the possibility of upgrading the WWGK signal, which Good Karma tried to do some time ago.

Karmazin made it clear that the upgrade option, a 3000 watt signal upgrade specified in a WWGK construction permit, was off the table due to local government opposition at the station’s North Royalton transmitter site:

I don’t see it. I tried…I came on the air, I told you, “support us in North Royalton”. We went up for a vote, we got voted down in that community, to move our tower there that would have gotten us great coverage throughout down to about Canton, that was voted down by the local town board.

OMW had heard some time ago that there was a possibility of renewed negotiations between Karmazin and North Royalton officials to revive the project, but we haven’t heard anything else since.

That prospect appears to be dead, with Karmazin noting the growing importance of mobile Internet listening on smartphones and the like – indeed, we were listening to his “KNR2” segment on our own Android device.

Karmazin noted that the WWGK signal started becoming “clear” in his drive up through Fairlawn, to which we replied that he must have a good car radio and have been driving away from power lines.

Anyway, you can mark the 1540 upgrade “dead” at this point, it sounds like the construction permit will be allowed to expire in August.

Karmazin also made clear, in a response to a caller’s question, that an FM signal for the company’s Cleveland operations is not in the cards, right now, at least.

The rest of the two hours consisted of the expected mix of callers upset about Rome’s first hour moving, those who want more local programming, and the usual flack about various station elements (i.e. Tony Rizzo’s sidekicks, etc.)…

BEST WISHES: Our heartiest “get well soon” wishes to Cleveland radio sports icon Joe Tait.

The “Voice of the Cavaliers” was released from Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday after successful cardiac surgery, and the team says the Hall of Fame broadcaster is now undergoing “an intensive rehabilitation period” before heading home.

Numerous reports say Tait still very much hopes to return to the Cavaliers Radio Network microphone before season’s end…

CHRIS HAS BEEN BUSY: Long-time OMW reader Chris Lash, who heads up Whiplash Radio, has certainly been busy as of late.

Lash has announced a number of changes coming to his Mahoning Valley operations:

* Classic hits WANR/1570 Warren is not only dropping the “Blizzard” moniker, it’s changing formats and call letters.

1570 has already filed for the former Pittsburgh call letters WHTX, and will change from classic hits to adult standards.

Lash calls the format hole left by the flips of the Valley’s existing standards outlets – Clear Channel’s WNIO/1390 to sports, and Cumulus’ WSOM/600 to talk – “too big to ignore”.

Staying on the Warren station will be local news, now “powered” by the Warren Tribune-Chronicle’s tribtoday.com website, and extensive sports coverage.

* And that brings us to another piece of news coming out of Mineral Ridge. The station soon to be known as WHTX will become the home of the area’s minor league baseball team, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

Lash already announced that WANR-to-become-WHTX will carry Pittsburgh Pirates games, which are also heard from across the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line from Cumulus sports WLLF/96.7 Mercer PA “ESPN 96.7”.

We don’t know what games will shuttle where between the Pirates and Scrappers, and local sports, but Lash may be able to utilize sister classic country daytimer WYCL/1540 “The Farm” for some early or day games…

WAKE: OMW reader Patricia Kellogg passes along that there’ll be an Irish wake for Gary Wells, also known as WRUW/91.1’s Flannery O’Connor, this weekend.

It’ll be Saturday at 3 PM at Wilbert’s in downtown Cleveland.

We can’t find anything about Wells or his alter ego on the Case Western Reserve University station’s website…but maybe we missed something…

Some Leftover Stuff

And now, some items that have nothing to do about major changes at a local sports radio station…though we’ll revisit that in the next day or so…

PERMANENT REPLACEMENT: It may just be a coincidence, but as the trial of former Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 “NewsChannel 5” sports anchor/reporter Terry Brooks plays out on the station’s own newscasts, the man who’s been filling in for him has been given the job permanently.

He’s Mike Cairns, who is well familiar with the role of second sports anchor/reporter from his previous work as weekend sports/anchor reporter over at Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3. At WEWS, he’ll join sports director Andy Baskin.

OMW hears that Cairns will continue his work on various SportsTime Ohio shows, including “Tee It Up Ohio”, the “Ohio High School Kickoff Show” and “The Viking Basketball Report”, as well as play-by-play work for the network’s OHSAA coverage. Cairns freelances for STO and other outlets through his own company.

We also hear that OMW reader Andre Knott, whose day job is as Browns beat reporter and sports anchor/host for Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100, continues to do freelance fill-in at NewsChannel 5.

In fact, we saw him at the station’s sports anchor desk the day after getting this news.

And no, we’re not going to cover the trial of Terry Brooks. If you want those legal details, head to his former employer’s website. We’ll put up a mention here when it’s finished, though…

FIXTURE MOVES: For the past few years, Rick Allen has been a fixture at the CBS Radio Cleveland cluster…where he’s done duties ranging from overnights at classic rock WNCX/98.5 to weekends at hot AC WQAL/104.1 “Q104”.

Starting soon, “Rockin’ Rick” is headed back to his native Akron, radio-wise.

Rick has announced that he is leaving the CBS cluster for Akron’s own Rubber City Radio – he still lives in Akron’s Ellet neighborhood.

His role there will be similar, and he’ll be heard at one point or another on all the Akron group’s stations – rock WONE/97.5, country WQMX/94.9 and oldies WAKR/1590.

Rick’s been in the business for a long time.

Your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) is one of many who heard the start of his career at WAPS, the Akron Public Schools station which at the time was a student-run top 40 station at 89.1 FM. (Of course, though still owned by the Akron school district, WAPS is now professionally-run AAA “The Summit”, at 91.3 and simulcasting in the Youngstown area at 90.7.) Rick was an Akron student, just 12 at the time.

As a teenager, Rick ended up starting his commercial radio career on Akron’s WKDD/then-96.5.

And no, we don’t know exactly how long he has been in the radio business, but it’s probably been over 30 years…

THE COURTRIGHT AND WTAM UPDATE: We already noted here that a member of a noted local broadcasting family has joined Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100’s newsroom.

She’s Julie Courtright, the daughter of late Cleveland news icon Ken Courtright…who, we’re reminded, actually appeared on the station now known as WTAM a number of times.

Quoting our own item on his passing last April:

In addition to his time at WERE, Courtright was also heard on many incarnations of 1100 AM in Cleveland – KYW, WKYC, WWWE “3WE”, and as noted in our previous item, even on the current WTAM as a weekend newscaster in the 1990s.

We’ve also answered some other questions about WTAM’s recent newsroom moves.

OMW hears that veteran weekend evening anchor Cliff Bachele is staying at Oak Tree. Though he won’t be heard on 1100 anymore, Cliff will take Monday-Friday anchoring on two of Oak Tree’s hub stations – talk WKBN/570 Youngstown and talk WPGB/104.7 Pittsburgh. That’s a role he was filling three days a week, along with the WTAM weekend duties.

AND OUT THE DOOR: And in the process of clearing up the WTAM newsroom situation, a reader asked about newsman Nate Marinchick.

Unfortunately, we’ve learned that Nate was let go in the shuffle involving the recent WGAR/99.5 morning show changes. Lori Hovater has taken Nate’s duties, voicetracking news for both WPGB and WGAR…

AND OUT THE DOOR TWO: We apologize for the confusion on our Twitter and Facebook presence over the past few days, but we honestly didn’t know she was gone.

We noted watching a Sunday night story on Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 “Fox 8 News” about a decision by Parma mayor Dean DiPiero to not run for office again, and commented that his wife, of course, was “Fox 8 News” reporter Kathleen Cochrane.

We thought the line “he talked with his family about the decision” sounded kind of odd, considering that a key member of “his family” worked at that very same station.

As it turns out, she doesn’t, anymore.

Sources at South Marginal tell us that Cochrane did not return to the building after taking a leave of absence this past summer.

You’d never know it from the “Fox 8 News” website, where Cochrane’s bio (complete with the information about her well-known husband) is still posted as of this writing, with an update date of October 2010.

OMW also heard earlier that the station’s Danielle Frizzi is also no longer in the building, and her bio has been removed from WJW’s website…

AND STILL THERE: Despite her recent high-profile departure, there’s still a section on Fox8.com for former mid-morning host Robin Swoboda.

That’s likely because “The Robin Swoboda Show” still exists at 10 AM weekdays on Fox 8, but without either Robin or, well, a name of ANY sort.

The show currently airing – hosted by WJW entertainment reporter David Moss and former WQAL/104.1 “Q104” morning co-host Rebecca Wilde – has no name. And it continues to use Swoboda’s sets and graphics (without the “RS” logo designed for Robin, though the logo, Robin’s picture and name are still all over the website).

We’ve reported numerous times that incoming Fox 8 meteorologist Kristi Capel is expected to take a role on whatever show replaces Robin’s local program.

We’re admittedly not the target audience for “The Robin Swoboda Show Without Robin”, but a brief watch showed us a nice chemistry between Moss and Wilde, and a nice energy that came through on the air.

(Yes, OMW reader Rebecca Wilde, that is a compliment, though we were initially just poking fun at the fact that your show has no name…)

AND YOUNGSTOWN: One of our readers wasn’t happy that there was no information about a number of recent TV anchor changes in the Youngstown market.

We’ll let him chime in here via a recent comment:

I know that Youngstown is a relatively small market of no interest to most of OMW’s following, but there were two significant departures of on-air personalities in recent weeks that received no mention whatsoever, namely, Cindy Matthews (WFMJ) and Jennifer Jefcoat (WYTV). Not to mention the addition of Teresa Weakley, moving to WKBN from WKRN in Nashville last September.

OK, consider them mentioned. (We have not verified the item past our reader’s comment, though we’ll attempt to get more information for a later update.)

Here’s a bit of OMW Behind The Curtain here: We do cover Youngstown whenever it comes up media-news-wise, but our sources in the Mahoning Valley are almost all radio-related.

Thus, when changes happen on the TV side of things in Youngstown, we often have to scramble to keep up. And, we can’t receive any of the Youngstown TV stations here at OMW World Headquarters, so if someone is new or missing, we can’t see it here. We can pick up the stronger Youngstown radio stations.

That having been said, consider this a request: If you’re an OMW reader in Youngstown with any information on TV changes, please let us know…and for that matter, that request applies to everyone reading…

The Really Big Fallout

OK, we’ll run out of “really big” titles at some point.

More on Friday’s bombshell at the Galleria, and since we’re now getting complaints about our verbosity, we’ll save the other stuff for a later update.

A reminder: if you don’t like our writing or the length of our posts, feel free to file for a refund of every penny you’ve paid us to read OMW.

All of the rumors and speculation this past week, much of it fueled by a Facebook update by Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100’s Mike Trivisonno, centered around a possible move of Good Karma sports WKNR/850 “ESPN 850″‘s Tony Rizzo from middays to afternoon drive.

Though we certainly speculated on what the Triv vs. Rizzo battle could be like, we also cautioned in this space – before Friday’s announcement – that we hadn’t heard Rumor One about such a move either directly or indirectly out of the Galleria.

Skepticism turned out to be an accurate feeling on our part, with the big announcement being not a Rizzo move, but an hour expansion.

And instead of talking about Rizzo’s chances against Triv, that collision with popular Premiere host Jim Rome has become the focus of the announcement…with Rome shuttled off to a station we’re fairly sure you can hear on parts of Euclid Avenue, WWGK/1540 “KNR2”.

What happened?

Well, if you hear Triv tell the tale – or whoever posted a more recent update to his Facebook and Twitter presence – Rizzo blinked.

Here’s the show’s most recent series of updates. We’ll once again assume that the ALL UPPER CASE ones are from the host himself, particularly the last one:

We thought Tony Rizzo was dumb when we heard he would go to afternoon drive. Now we know he is just afraid.

RIZZO ALWAYS KNEW YOU HAD NO BALLS. COME ON PUNK JOIN THE BIG TIME.. BRING YOUR RUG AND YOUR INTERNS. SEE HOW YOU DO VS TRIV.

NOBODY CAN BEAT ME. I AM THE BEST THAT EVER HIT CLEVELAND RADIO. EVERY STATION KNOWS IT TOOOO. HAVE THE RATINGS TO PROVE IT. SORRY IF THAT HURTS.

It sounds, to us, that Triv is trying to ignite an old-fashioned radio war that never actually happened.

We know the rumors of Rizzo moving to afternoon drive have been out there, so they presumably filtered over to Oak Tree at some point.

We ignored them entirely, until that Triv Facebook/Twitter update.

(Again, the show’s Facebook status updates are automatically copied to the “TheTrivShow” Twitter account, much like our own updates are posted on both services.)

We’re not at all sure that Rizzo/WKNR “blinked”, since as noted, we were not directly hearing the “Rizzo to PM drive” rumors, just hearing from people asking about them.

Instead of a “Triv vs. Rizzo” battle, the focus, after the announcement did happen, turned to the exile of the first hour of Premiere’s Jim Rome to what we called “Radio Siberia”, Good Karma “brother” sports station WWGK/1540 “KNR2”. (And no, we’re not calling it “brother” because Mark “Munch” Bishop has a new 2 hour show on the lesser station.)

Several readers are wondering if Clear Channel rock/talk WMMS/100.7 would pry Rome’s show from WKNR…the station has seen success with young male skewing talk, Rome would fit well between “Rover’s Morning Glory” and “The Alan Cox Show”, and Premiere parent Clear Channel owns WMMS.

We would expect that a number of dominoes would have to fall for that to happen, and we don’t see any of those dominoes wobbling right now.

The first one would presumably be a clause in the contract giving Premiere the right to pull Rome from WKNR if he doesn’t air live for all three hours on the big 850 signal, but we would think Good Karma’s Craig Karmazin doesn’t make the move he made Friday if there is such a clause.

So, speculate all you want about what Clear Channel (either at Oak Tree or at the Premiere level) does next. For right now, the reality on Monday is that Jim Rome will not be heard on WKNR at 12 noon for the first time in years – originally on 1220, then on 850 – and will be heard on a station that serves part of Cleveland’s East Side that used to play gospel music.

Speaking of alternatives to WWGK for the first hour of Rome: our friends at South Avenue have checked in to remind us that some Cleveland area listeners may have another option, Clear Channel sports WNIO/1390 Youngstown “The Sports Animal” – one of Rome’s more recent affiliates.

Over at Clear Channel sports WARF/1350 “Fox Sports 1350” in Akron, the station is trumpeting its live carriage of Rome all over the place, including on its website, where this banner was spotted early Friday afternoon…

OMW hears that the banner’s “Hear The Whole F’In Show” wording was not “toned down” – a similar banner appears on WARF’s website now – but that it was reworked for layout issues.

And back at the Galleria, we have to give props to the embattled Craig Karmazin, who is getting flack from Jim Rome fans.

He’s signed up to take more direct flack from listeners on his “Ask The Owner” show, to be heard this coming Tuesday from 3-4 PM on “ESPN 850”. Very few station owners or managers would do that, though maybe he’s hoping the angry mobs of Rome fans will calm down by Tuesday…

The Really Big Bombshell

As it turns out, all those rumors about Good Karma sports WKNR/850 Cleveland “ESPN 850” midday host Tony Rizzo being heard in the afternoon were true.

But…not in late afternoon, as expected in a Facebook status update by Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 afternoon drive host Mike Trivisonno and/or his staff.

As OMW tipped minutes before a “big announcement” on WKNR, Rizzo’s “Really Big Show” is not moving…it’s expanding.

Starting Monday, Rizzo, Aaron Goldhammer, Chris “Negative Ned” Fedor and the gang will host 9 AM-1 PM on “ESPN 850”.

Wait, you ask…isn’t Premiere’s Jim Rome, a station mainstay, on from noon to 1 PM on WKNR?

Not anymore, as the station announced that Rome’s first hour, much like ESPN Radio show “Mike & Mike”‘s last hour, will be banished to Radio Siberia…sister station WWGK/1540 “KNR2” (the last two hours of Rome will continue to be heard on 850).

Hope you liked the first hour of Rome, Bay Village, Avon and Lorain County…you’ll now have to struggle to hear it on Clear Channel sports WDFN/1130 in Detroit.

Listeners closer to Akron will be able to pick up “The Jungle”‘s first hour on Clear Channel sports WARF/1350 Akron “Fox Sports 1350”, which is already heavily promoting that fact.

WARF aims a pretty nice little northern lobe towards much of the Cleveland area, and acted as a defacto country station when Cleveland had no such outlet, back in the days of the late Jaybird Drennan on the old WSLR “Whistler”.

Also announced Friday: Station utility player Mark “Munch” Bishop adds a daily live, local show on “KNR2” from 7-9 AM. We assume he’s keeping “Munch in the Morning” on 850 from 5-6 AM.

The station has announced that owner Craig Karmazin will host a special “Ask The Owner” program, 3-4 PM Tuesday on WKNR, to talk about the changes. We sincerely hope he brings a flak jacket to the Galleria.

Here’s the bottom line, as we see it:

* Karmazin gets an extra hour, 12 noon-1 PM, to sell local spots. This will overcome, somewhat, his own announcement that the station will air 2 fewer minutes of spots each hour. (OMW hears that such a move, a reduced spot load, could be temporary.) Again, in commercial radio, it’s All About The Revenue.

* WKNR gains that at a very big cost. Jim Rome’s status on the station is pretty much iconic.

Romey has come to Cleveland numerous times, and has frequently expressed his pleasure at Cleveland being one of his first big market affiliates.

“C-town” enjoys a special status in “The Jungle”…not any more…and Rizzo himself noted on the air that his fill-in opportunities on Rome’s show have likely come to an end.

And Karmazin also noted on-air that Rome is “not happy” with the decision, and that Premiere is “not happy”, though they’ll deal with it.

When we first heard of what would happen, just 10 minutes before it was unveiled on the air, we almost discounted the information…why in the world would WKNR mess with Rome, who at last check, does very well for the station?

* A big winner in this is the aforementioned WARF, the Akron sports station which carries Rome’s full 3 hour live show.

Like sister talk WHLO/640 when it picked up Premiere’s Glenn Beck – when Cleveland’s WTAM dropped Beck for Jerry Springer – expect a Cleveland ratings bump for WARF…and certainly an Akron bump, as it picks up Akron area listeners used to hearing Rome on WKNR at noon.

And it may be a bigger bump than WHLO got…WARF is the best Akron AM signal in the Cleveland market. It’s by far not a “perfect” replacement for WKNR in the entire market, but close-in western and southern Cleveland suburbs can likely get WARF much clearer than they can get WWGK.

WWGK has a 3,000 watt construction permit that is still valid until later this year (August).

We haven’t checked on this in a while, but last we heard, the WWGK move to the WKNR site in North Royalton was still being negotiated with local officials who initially voted down the proposal. We haven’t heard anything on the topic in some time.

Even with that new site, whenever it happens, the WWGK signal will be no match for WKNR’s 50 kW daytime output, and people in Lake County will still be straining to hear Jim Rome’s first hour either way.

We’ll have to see how this all plays out, but it was sure an interesting announcement…one way or the other.

We’ve been buried in this, and don’t yet have time to deal with an unrelated piece of news: Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 “Fox 8” in Cleveland, Rizzo’s former employer and former sister station to 850 AM, has applied to reallocate digital RF channel 31, presumably signaling a move back to its pre-transition digital home.

Very little information is available on this potential move, which you can see in its early stages on the FCC website.

And thanks to Trip Ericson at RabbitEars.info for the heads up.

Oh, and Clear Channel variety hits “106.5 The Lake” has ditched its old call letters – “Mix 106.5″‘s WMVX – for the call letters WHLK.

No, as far as we know, “HLK” doesn’t stand for “Hulk”, as long-time personal and professional Friend of OMW Scott Fybush (“NorthEast Radio Watch“) joked…