Clear Channel Layoffs Post

Those watching the trade sites aren’t surprised: An estimated 150 to “many hundreds” of Clear Channel employees nationwide are being told today that their services aren’t necessary.

This post, affecting Northeast Ohio’s Clear Channel stations, will be a running list as we update it. All Access and other sites have been tracking those laid off in some other Ohio markets, like Dayton.

The so-called “Reduction in Force” is affecting mainly Clear Channel’s medium and smaller markets.

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UPDATE 1:00 PM 10/28/11:

AKRON/CANTON
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Rock WRQK/106.9 afternoon driver Todd “Fishhead” Fisher

ASHLAND/MANSFIELD
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Country WNCO-FM/101.3 midday host-Talk WNCO/1340 program director Gene Davis
Production director Bryan Moore
Utility/sports/news staffer Josh Bowman

UPDATE 5:10 PM 10/26/11:

YOUNGSTOWN
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Rock WNCD/93.3 and Top 40 WAKZ/95.9 program director Matt Spatz
Board operator Todd Heston
– Classic hits WBBG/106.1 program director Jeff Kelly adds duties as WNCD program director, and Hot AC WMXY/98.9 program director Steve Granato adds WAKZ duties to his plate.

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Comings And Goings, Late October Edition

OMW once again becomes Grand Central Station, Media Hub…

3001 EUCLID, INCOMING: Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 “NewsChannel 5” has two incoming newsies, and one is a familiar local TV name from the past.

The station has already announced the arrival of Macie McInnis Jepson as one of two new “Good Morning Cleveland” co-anchors, the other to be named later.

And yes, she is a name you’d recognize if you watched local TV news in the 1990s, says the station’s announcement:

Northeast Ohioans will recognize Macie from her years at WJW Fox 8, where she was employed from 1994 through 1999. At various times during those years, she anchored the morning, noon and 5 p.m. newscasts.

Though she most recently worked at WFAA in Dallas – yes, the same place WEWS found incoming 11 PM anchor Chris Flanagan – local ties and familiarity mean a lot in the Cleveland market.

WEWS news director Jill Manuel on the hire:

“Announcing Macie as one of our morning news anchors is another step in strengthening this very important news daypart,” explained NewsChannel5 News Director Jill Manuel. “Many viewers already know Macie, and her knowledge of the people, places, and things that matter to Northeast Ohioans will be advantageous to everyone who engages with NewsChannel5 in the morning on-air, online and through our social media platforms.”

Macie will arrive November 28th, the station says…

3001 EUCLID, SECOND INCOMING: There’s been a second hire for “Good Morning Cleveland”, but not a co-anchor, yet.

OMW hears that Josh Boose joins WEWS as the MMJ for the morning show – yes, they called them reporters back in the day. He’s been a reporter/anchor for Gannett NBC affiliate WGRZ/2 in Buffalo.

But it’s actually a return to Northern Ohio for Boose, who is a native of Milan…and to the building, as he was an intern for the long-running WEWS staple “The Morning Exchange”.

Boose’s career stops include independent WMFD/68 Mansfield, WFSM in Fort Smith AR, WSJV in South Bend IN, and a stint as an associate producer at…Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 across town.

He’ll start December 1st…and we apologize for the earlier typo in his name…

3001 EUCLID, INCOMING AND OUTGOING: With new traffic and transportation reporter Alicia Roberts in the building at NewsChannel 5, yes, the person who had the position before has left the building.

Patty Harken’s last day on Euclid Avenue was Friday.

Harken has extensive traffic reporting experience, including a long stint with Cleveland’s Metro Networks cluster before going to WEWS…

NO, NOT FOX 8, YET: You may have noticed the barrage of ads warning DirecTV users that they’re about to lose a whole bunch of Fox-owned networks, including regional sports networks like Fox Sports Ohio.

Yep, it’s yet another of those carriage disputes, where the viewers could get held hostage…if there’s no resolution, of course, before the December 1st deadline.

If there’s no deal, yes, FSOhio would be gone with a number of other Fox-owned networks, though the dispute does not involve – for example – Fox News Channel. FNC is involved in a separate deal.

And no, you won’t lose Local TV LLC’s WJW/8 “Fox 8” on DirecTV without a new agreement, at least not yet.

Though we learned last time that the Fox network does indeed negotiate carriage deals for its former O&O here, the broadcast channels don’t appear to be tied into this dispute.

AdWeek has an excellent article on the latest carriage battle, and explains:

Though this particular agreement covers carriage arrangements for the Fox cable networks, carriage agreements between the two are also due up by the end of the year for Fox’s 27 TV stations.

That’d explain why Fox’s website on the battle, KeepMyNets.com, says some local Fox stations could go away “soon”:

You’ll notice that WJW isn’t on the list, but there was that same confusion in the Fox/Time Warner Cable carriage battle. WJW is also not listed if you put a Northeast Ohio Zip Code into the Fox site, but Fox Sports Ohio is definitely affected.

The website for the DirecTV side of this little spat is OurPromiseToYou.com

THREE DEEP: Good Karma sports WKNR/850 “ESPN 850” has unveiled its replacement for the evening program “Xs and Os With the Pros”, which lost one of its pros when football star LeCharles Bentley left the show in a behind-the-scenes dispute.

The other pro is still in place, and the show’s now called “3 Deep”, with Je’rod Cherry, WKNR utility staffer Will Burge and Emmett Golden as hosts.

Yes, the same Emmett Golden who was reportedly being removed from the original show due to money issues.

The versatile Dave DeNatale will handle SportsCenter updates on “3 Deep”, and moves into the producer/anchor/sidekick role for the late evening show “Cleveland SportsNight with Reghi and Roda”, with former afternoon drivers Michael Reghi and Kenny Roda. (By the way, the show that replaced “Afternoon R&R” has no overall name – the station is just calling it “Hooley, Brinda and Fedor” for new afternoon drive hosts Bruce Hooley, Greg Brinda and Chris Fedor.)

We heard an abbreviated “3 Deep” on Monday, and it won’t air the rest of the week, due to pre-emptions like ESPN Radio’s coverage of the World Series, “Buckeye Roundtable” and the station’s own “High School Hysteria”…

AND FOR NOW…: We have more stuff, but we’re ending for now since this item is so long. Expect another brief update sometime soon…

The Sports Radio Imaging Battle

Our extensive coverage of “The Sports Radio Battle” in Cleveland, between Good Karma’s “ESPN 850 WKNR” and CBS Radio’s “92.3 The Fan”, got noticed by someone well-qualified to talk about the respective stations’ sound.

And we mean “sound”…as in “overall station sound”.

After all, Ken Dardis of Cleveland’s Audio Graphics, Inc. was directly responsible for WKNR’s first “sound” in the 1990s, when he was the sports station’s first creative/production director.

Ken adds a much less important title with this item: OMW Guest Columnist, with his take on the imaging side of sports radio in Cleveland in 2011, and just how important that overall “station sound” is.

And we thank Ken for his patience with this rather rag-tag operation…that operation being your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm). So, let’s hand the keys, virtually, over to Ken…

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By: Ken Dardis, president, Audio Graphics, Inc., former creative/production director, Sports Radio WKNR (1990-1997)

My caveat for what follows is that it is easy to comment on another person’s work, especially when you have no knowledge of the limitations within each radio station.

There’s been a lot of chatter at Ohio Media Watch over the sports battle now being waged. WKNR and WKRK are competitors in a town that’s not big enough to support two sports talk stations. That neither of these stations has rights to broadcast any of Cleveland’s major sports teams’ games makes this fight brutal.

I’ve read comments at Ohio Media Watch that this is a battle of sports talk stations. In my opinion this war will not be won by the hosts – though they do impact each station’s image. Referring to callers as “idiots” (as I heard on one station) and expressing outrage that callers do not have “common sense” (which a host allegedly does on the other station) are not ways of building a following.

I commented to “Your Primary Editorial Voice(tm)” that this contest boils down to how each station positions itself through imaging. I received a request in reply: “Can you provide me with your current take on both stations’ imaging?”

Being responsible for creating the image of WKNR between the time it went on the air (December 1990) and when it was sold to Clear Channel (December 1997) gives me the latitude to comment on this subject.

In its early days, WKNR was the most-listened-to sports talk station in the nation, four consecutive years (Arbitron). Also, for the first five years WKNR operated without a program director; our General Manager was Jim Glass, Jack Callaghan was News Director, and I acted as Creative/Production Director responsible for what happened when the hosts stopped talking.

After a week of listening to WKNR and WKRK, with the intent of digesting how they are positioning themselves today, I’m left with a sense that neither station invests much time in painting a picture of what it represents.

The only promotions I was exposed to were a few recorded promos – on both stations – that recycle listeners to another daypart. The quality of production was simple voice-over-music, with a clip from the show and a tag of “(host name) on (station name) at (time of day).”

When it came to the act of “positioning,” though, there is a void and it doesn’t matter which station you’re tuned to.

Having stated my opinion, I’ll now mention some immediate adjustments that I would make. (Keep in mind my opening sentence.)

Have the hosts speak about other hosts, and what those “other hosts” are talking about. I cannot recall hearing this happen even once.

Speak about what you’re speaking about. Many times I heard ten-minute stretches of talk with no reference to anything other than the thoughts carried by the host – and no comment on what the conversation was about as it progressed. It was as if the host expected me to have been listening at the onset of the talk, and if I didn’t hear the opening lines it was up to me to figure out what the topic was.

Don’t dwell too long on the same subject. Imagine one person talking for ten minutes on one subject with no outside comment, then place yourself at a bar in a group that includes that person. It gets boring, quickly. (One day I heard nothing but conversation about Hillis sitting out a game, despite the NBA having cancelled pre-season play.)

Someone on staff should carry a recorder to Cleveland sports events and get some soundbites from fans, to use in promotions. Integrating fan comments into promotions, and during programs, ties a station closer to its listeners. Here’s an example of how we handled this concept, which was present in 60% of our promotions – http://audiographics.com/audio/fans.mp3

What caused me the most head-shaking was hearing every sports talk host, on either station, refer to the station name as simply “92.3 The Fan,” or “WKNR.” There was no emphasis, no pride, no attachment to these words or letters as being representative of “bigger than life.” Say the station’s name with conviction. Equate this to meeting someone at a party, shaking their hand, and introducing yourself with enthusiasm.

Finally, it would help audience attention deficit to occasionally mention something other than professional sports. The listeners do have a life outside of sports. They have a family, go out for meals and entertainment, and may even have children who are active in a school or amateur sports program.

The sports talk radio station that walks away with the prize in this fight is going to be the one that positions itself as the heavyweight sports-talker most closely tied to the fans.

Both stations currently focus on the hosts, at the expense of building the station’s image. And, IMO, these hosts sound too caught up in their own importance to place the station’s name above theirs on the marquee.

Imaging is not simple, but it is effective. So far, it’s a draw in Cleveland’s new sports-talk war – with the listener losing.
—-
Footnote:
Here are a few examples of promotional spots I wrote and produced (sometimes voiced) at WKNR. Joe Kelly provided the balls-in-the-throat vocals on most of the copy.
http://audiographics.com/audio/joe_kelly-wknr_promo.mp3
http://audiographics.com/audio/sindelar30.mp3
http://audiographics.com/audio/indiansclassical.mp3


Ken Dardis is now President of Audio Graphics, Inc., a Cleveland based analytive, metrics, and music company focusing on the internet radio industry.

http://www.AudioGraphics.com
http://www.RRadioMusic.com
http://www.RadioRow.com

The Monday Followup

As usual when big news comes out, there’s a followup that comes a little later…

BIG SHOES: To say that the next afternoon driver at Clear Channel Cleveland country WGAR/99.5 has “big shoes to fill” is probably our understatement of the year.

But the station has begun the daunting process of filling the afternoon drive time slot left open by one of the biggest tragedies in local radio history – the passing of Chuck Collier.

All Access reports that Clear Channel Cleveland OM Keith Abrams (Hi, Keith!) is starting the process of looking for WGAR’s next afternoon driver/music director. Collier, a 40 year WGAR vet going back to its days as an AM adult contemporary outlet at 1220, passed away in late September.

Quoting the All Access item:

The station is looking for a candidate who “must have strong SELECTOR skills and 3-5 years on-air experience (Country preferred but not necessary).” Candidates who, in the station’s words, “take great pride in creating extraordinary content,” can send their materials to WGAR PD CHARLEY CONNOLLY at charleyconnolly (at) clearchannel.com.

Now, that’s a tough job…picking who follows a legend like Chuck Collier…

107.3’S PRICE: FCC documents that showed up today put a $6.5 million price tag on the sale of WNWV/107.3 Elyria – from Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting to Akron’s Rubber City Radio Group.

Upon approval, the station now known as AAA-formatted “V107.3” will become the fourth station in the RCRG Northeast Ohio cluster, joining oldies/news/sports WAKR/1590 Akron, rock WONE/97.5 Akron, and country WQMX/94.9 Medina.

All three of those stations are operated out of the Akron Radio Center, on West Market Street between two Akron landmarks, the West Point Market and Acme #1.

But 107.3 will not be operated out of Akron, aside from any temporary operation needed for a short time after the sale’s closure. (Rubber City is not entering an LMA with Elyria-Lorain, so that company will continue to operate 107.3 from its Elyria studios until the sale is final. When the sale is final, Rubber City will have to find a new home for 107.3.)

And despite the fact that the location is mentioned in the agreement now found in the FCC database, Rubber City will not operate 107.3 from ELB’s existing Cleveland-area sales offices in Rocky River.

One good reason? There isn’t a studio there, or room to build the necessary studios. We don’t know if the Akron-based company will keep West Side sales offices in Rocky River, but they won’t be operating WNWV from there.

We have also heard every rumor you could imagine about future format plans for 107.3. We don’t trust ANY of these rumors enough to even hint about them, and there well could be no format change in the short term.

Our best guess? That decision has yet to be made.

While we’re talking about Rubber City, congratulations to long-time promotions guru Joyce Lagios, who has been promoted to VP/Marketing and Promotions for the Akron stations. Her time goes back to the common ownership of WAKR, WONE and then-WAKR-TV at Copley Road…if the stations have been out in the community, Joyce has been there.

The company also announced that Jody Wheatley has been named promotions and music director for WQMX…

NEW TRAFFIC: Scripps Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS/5 has a new traffic reporter, as of today.

From a memo sent last week about the hiring of Alicia Roberts from Florida:

Alicia will assume the role of Traffic/Transportation Multi-Media journalist.

Alicia comes to Cleveland via Tampa where she was the morning traffic reporter and a fill-in anchor at WFLA-TV in Tampa. While in Tampa, Alicia built an extensive on-line and social media community around Tampa traffic to extend her brand and the station’s.

Alicia has also worked at WFXT and WYBE in Philadelphia. She has a Master of Science degree in Communications from Drexel University and a B.A. from Temple University.

Alicia’s first day on the job will be Monday, October 17th.

We weren’t watching whatever WEWS calls the Program Formerly Known As “Good Morning Cleveland” this morning, and did not see Alicia – no relation, by the way, to former 5’ers Alicia Booth or Stephanie Roberts (yes, that’s a joke).

We also don’t know what this means for “GMC” traffic reporter Patty Harken…

LASH DOINGS: Whiplash Radio’s Chris Lash is checking in with the Mighty Blog of Fun(tm) on some changes at one of his two Youngstown market stations.

Lash is again taking a more active role at his standards WHTX/1570 Warren, he tells us:

WHTX Program Director Ray LaShure has left the building, and (Lash is) assisting operator Jim Davison with day-to-day programming responsibilities. WHTX has a new redesigned website at www.fabulous1570whtx.com and will now be the new hourly news affiliate of CBS Radio News in Warren/Youngstown.

OMW hears that one of our own, Secondary Editorial Voice(tm) Nathan Obral, helped in the website redesign.

Lash also still owns talk WYCL/1540 Niles, which is still operated by Philip Cato…

AND AS USUAL: If we missed something, we’ll get a Round Tuit(tm) as soon as possible…

THIS JUST IN: WNWV/107.3 Sold To Rubber City Radio

The rumors have been bouncing all over Northeast Ohio radio for some time, and have intensified this week, but it’s now official – with confirmation coming from the website of the co-owned newspaper to Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting AAA WNWV/107.3 Elyria “V107.3”.

ELB announced today that it is selling WNWV to Rubber City Radio Group, which owns Akron market stations oldies/news WAKR/1590, rock WONE/97.5 and country WQMX/94.9.

From ELB’s sister paper, the Chronicle-Telegram:

The agreement still needs to receive approval from the Federal Communications Commission before the sale can formally take place, said Paul Martin, president and CEO of Lorain County Printing and Publishing, which owns Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting and The Chronicle-Telegram.

Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting will continue to operate its four other stations, WEOL and WLKR on the AM dial and FM stations WLKR and WKFM.

From that wording, it appears there is no LMA deal in place for RCRG to operate 107.3 before sale approval, so ELB is driving that bus until that happens.

Those expecting a format change today, or some other kind of on-air change at “V107.3”, likely will hear the status quo, at least for now.

And nothing is changing at ELB’s four remaining stations, country WKFM/96.1 “K96” Huron, AAA WLKR-FM/95.3 and oldies WLKR/1510 Norwalk, and the only station left in ELB’s Elyria cluster, talk WEOL/930 Elyria. (Of course, 107.3 has long targeted the Cleveland market as a whole for many years, complete with a sales office in Rocky River.)

And anyone who says anything about Rubber City Radio’s future plans for 107.3 is probably just guessing at this point…

THIS JUST IN: WJW/8 Likely Headed To UHF Soon

If you’re an over-air TV viewer tired of not being able to receive Fox programming or local news from Local TV LLC WJW/8 Cleveland’s “Fox 8 News”, here is some GOOD news.

Your long, regional TV nightmare is nearly over.

That’s because the FCC has weighed in on WJW’s request to move its over-air signal from RF channel 8, to its pre-transition UHF channel of 31…off the trouble-plagued VHF band.

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) released Tuesday, the agency says it is in favor of the move, saying it “warrants consideration”. You can read the notice here (PDF document).

In it, Community Television of Ohio – the local licensing arm of Local TV LLC – makes very clear what we’ve frequently reported here since the digital transition started:

Community Television states that it is seeking the channel substitution because after it terminated analog service on June 12, 2009, and began digital-only operations on its post-transition VHF channel, “a sizeable number of the Station’s viewers could not receive the Station’s over-the-air
signal, and many apparently still cannot.”

According to Community Television, “Viewers throughout the service area have complained about reception difficulties, and, consistent with viewer ratings, many of these complaints come from areas southeast of the Station’s transmitter.”

Community Television also notes that viewers reporting difficulty receiving WJW(TV) invariably report that they have no difficulty receiving the UHF stations in the area.

The FCC ruling agrees, and proposes substituting channel 31 for channel 8 in the Cleveland TV allocation tables, with a new facility on 31 for 600 kW at 317 feet meters…a very similar setup to what WJW had before June 2009, when it moved its digital facilities to the former channel it long used in analog, 8.

The NPRM states that there shouldn’t be many problems on the WJW end, equipment-wise, for the return to 31:

Community Television has selected channel 31 because this was its pre-transition digital channel and it has retained much of the channel 31 transmission equipment.

The bottom line – if you got WJW-DT fine before June 2009, you’ll likely get it again after this is all approved.

And yes, even though the underlying “channel” after this will be 31, something called “PSIP” will continue to identify WJW on your tuner as 8, just as with the other local stations – WKYC, for example, is RF channel 17, but shows up on digital tuners as “3” even now.

And every other TV station in the Cleveland market, save for WVPX/23 (which flash cut on channel 23), is in the same situation.

PSIP is a data stream alongside the digital signal that basically tells your tuner, “yeah, I know we’re on channel 31, but we’re really still 8, display it as 8” as a “virtual channel”.

It’s the same reason WOIO is on RF channel 10 (main) and 24 (Akron-based translator), but still shows up as “19” from either facility…and ditto with Western Reserve PBS WNEO/45 Alliance’s Youngstown translator (W44CR-D) on RF 44.

So, you’re asking, enough of this “PSIP” stuff…when will I be able to watch “Fox 8” on my over-air tuner?

We dug into the process with the help of one of our regular technical advisers, long-time friend and colleague Scott Fybush of NorthEast Radio Watch. (And if you haven’t subscribed to NERW, now would be a good time to do so!)

Scott tells us that the process may not take all that long.

By the time a proposal like this gets to NPRM status, it’s basically the FCC saying “we’re going to do this, unless someone has a good reason why we shouldn’t.”

Comments are due 30 days after it appears in the Federal Register (so, probably, about 6 weeks from now), reply comments 45 days after (so, about 8 weeks from now) – and once those are in, the FCC will give WJW the go-ahead and it can flip the switch on the 31 transmitter that’s presumably still in the building in Parma.

Scott notes that if all is in place, WJW could be back on the UHF band by the end of the year.

The one unknown is “Canadian coordination”.

CityTV’s CITY-TV-2, a repeater for CITY-TV in Toronto, has long been blasting 1000 kW analog on UHF channel 31 from Woodstock, Ontario (near London) – a signal we’ve seen on our portable TV set along Ohio’s Lake Erie shore in the two years since WJW initially abandoned RF 31 for RF 8.

But the two stations co-existed for years before the U.S. digital TV transition.

And Canada has completed its own digital TV transition, at least the first major phase – where stations in “mandatory markets”, such as London, have to convert to digital. (Well, aside from the CBC in London and some other markets, which got a year extension, but that’s another story.)

We’ve done some digging, and it appears that CITY-TV-2 did indeed convert from 1000 kW analog to 20 kW (!) digital at the end of last month.

With WJW’s historic presence on RF 31 pre-transition, co-existing with CityTV’s much more powerful analog Woodstock facility for years, it’s quite possible all is OK with Canadian coordination.

But the big move that allowed the FCC to green light the WJW move was much closer to home.

From the FCC NPRM notice:

At the time it was filed, Community Television’s proposed channel 31 facility caused impermissible interference to the facilities proposed in a pending digital flash-cut application for Class A television station WRAP-CA, channel 32, Cleveland, Ohio. By letter dated September 1, 2011, D.T.V. LLC, the licensee of WRAP-CA, notified the Commission that it was surrendering its Class A status and asked that the station revert to low power television status. As a secondary low power television station, WRAP-LP is no longer entitled to interference protection. Thus, Community Television’s proposal now complies with the Commission’s interference protection rules.

We don’t know for sure, but we suspect WRAP-CA came to some sort of deal with WJW, perhaps with “Fox 8” offering to help pay for the small station’s digital conversion. That’s just a guess on our part.

We’re affected by all this here at OMW World Headquarters.

Though our primary source of local TV signals is Time Warner Cable, we had a TWC outage at a very bad time for us – Sunday evening, 15 minutes before one of the few shows we take time out to watch, CBS’ “The Amazing Race”.

We were able to see that show, thanks to WOIO’s new RF 24 translator on the WVPX/WONE tower near the remnants of Akron’s Rolling Acres Mall and our two digital over-air tuners.

But while waiting for Phil Keoghan to send off the “Amazing Race” teams to their next adventure, we flipped over to “Fox 8”, and have no idea what the Fox network was running, as we had a blank screen…

Blog Housekeeping

UPDATE: Our review has found that the original information behind the entry is not as solid as we thought it was, so we’ve pulled the item for good. At this point, we consider it to be inaccurate.

Our apologies to readers, and to any radio trade sites which may have picked up the item originally.

A note:

Our earlier item about Clear Channel classic hits WMJI/105.7 morning host John Lanigan’s contract has been pulled “off stage” pending internal review.