The Storm Rides Out

On a day seeing Northeast Ohio pelted with thunderstorms (and some lost power or cable TV service), let’s take advantage of a calm period to update some items we’ve been piling up for the past day or more.

But nearly all of the below items have previously been announced on our social media presence…

THE END OF ONN: Ohio’s only regional cable TV news operation will be no more as of August 31st.

The Ohio News Network, an arm of the Dispatch operation in Columbus, announced Wednesday afternoon that its final day on the air will be the last day of August.

More from, well, the soon-to-be-shuttered network’s website:

“We launched our 24 hour statewide network in 1997 and have focused on bringing viewers coverage of Ohio news, weather, sports and politics in the most professional manner possible. Changing news consumer habits is the primary contributor to us making this most difficult decision. We thank viewers for the support of ONN over the past 15 years.”

The Columbus Dispatch’s Tim Feran writes on the end of ONN in the newspaper co-owned with the network, noting that the ONN Radio operation will not be affected.

One clue to a major problem for ONN could be right at the top of the ONN website, where some of the network’s major cable providers are listed along with the ONN channel number on those systems:

Time Warner Channel 362 AT&T U-Verse Channel 233 WOW! Channel 187 Insight Channel 58

ONN started on the former Adelphia system in the Cleveland area on analog channel 70.

After Time Warner Cable took over that system, ONN was bumped into the 100s, digital cable-wise, and eventually landed in the “digital simulcast” news tier alongside the other news networks in the 300s.

But ONN was nowhere to be found near the primary home of those networks, analog cable channels in the 30s…and we’re betting even digital cable subscribers still punch up the analog numbers for networks with no HD simulcast.

ONN, of course, is not available at all on either Dish Network or DirecTV…and never has been on either satellite provider.

In essence, especially outside Columbus – Dispatch’s home market and home of the company’s dominant CBS affiliate, WBNS/10 – ONN was a low-profile cable channel…something you can’t afford to be as a regional operation.

Then, there’s the the fact that Ohio is very separated geographically.

People in the Cleveland TV market generally don’t care about the day-to-day news in Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton or other markets.

People in the Cincinnati TV market generally feel the same way about Northeast Ohio’s daily happenings.

There are exceptions, such as major stories of statewide interest, or stories which affect more than one part of the state.

ONN’s greatest strength and highest profile was its use of bureau reporters at affiliate stations. Here in Northeast Ohio, that reporter has been ONN’s Cristin Severance, based at 3001 Euclid Avenue at Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 “NewsChannel 5″‘s newsroom.

“NewsChannel 5” has long used reports from Severance and her ONN predecessors to beef up local news coverage. But at this point, it’s not known if WEWS will bring Cristin under its own wing after August 31st as a local reporter…or if another station will take advantage of her reporting skills…

TO CHICAGO: It had been rumored for awhile, and announced on a Facebook page, but it’s now official…former Cleveland radio host Maxwell is about to start a morning drive gig in Chicago.

Chicago media beat dean Robert Feder has more in his column on the TimeOut Chicago website:

Jim Richards, operations manager of Merlin Media classic rock WLUP-FM (97.9), coolly confirmed Wednesday that Maxwell, just in from Cleveland, will debut from 5:30 to 8:30am Monday on the Loop.

“Coolly” likely refers to Richards’ quote to Feder, saying “he’s not being advertised as the new morning man”.

To that end, Maxwell writes on his Facebook page that he’ll be “playing a ton of music”, so he’s basically not launching a “talk show” there.

And as such, not going along to Chicago for the ride are his talk radio sidekicks in Cleveland (Stansbury, “Chunk” and the like), who were along for his long stint in afternoon drive on Clear Channel talk/rock WMMS/100.7, and his blink-or-you’d-miss-it stint in morning drive at CBS Radio classic rock WNCX/98.5.

And of course, WMMS replaced Maxwell with Alan Cox, whose last gig was mornings at Chicago alt-rocker WKQX/101.1 “Q101”. Cox’s show on WMMS quickly became a ratings winner.

To confuse you even more, the original “Q101” became all-news “FM News 101.1”, and just recently flipped to adult hits as “i101”. “i101” and “The Loop” are sister stations, first under Emmis, and now under Randy Michaels’ Merlin Media.

And to end this mess, Maxwell has actually been already voicetracking for yet another Merlin Media station in Chicago, the new home of the “Q” alt-rock format, WKQX-LP/6-FM 87.7 “Q87.7”, where we’re told he uses the on-air name of “Slater”.

(Merlin, of course, LMAs the audio signal of WKQX-LP from Venture Technologies, which owns WLFM-LP/6-FM 87.7 here in Cleveland, prepping for a launch as AAA-formatted radio station “87.7 Clevelanders Rock”. And, again, WLFM-LP are calls moved to Cleveland from the Chicago station. There, we think we’re done.)

We don’t know when the radio personality known as Maxwell and the radio executive known as Randy Michaels crossed paths first…we believe the former Cleveland radio host worked under Randy’s domain at Clear Channel Radio at some point in his career. Michaels left Clear Channel before Maxwell started at WMMS.

Maxwell was cruising along at WMMS until contract renewal time, where we’re told he was basically asking for similar money to what morning driver Shane “Rover” French got to move to the station.

WMMS held its ground, and moved on…eventually bringing “The Alan Cox Show” to the station, keeping the afternoon drive talk component to its so-called “man cave” male-targeted mix…

SUIT SETTLED: The legal wrangling is finally over between D.A. Peterson Canton market top 40 outlet WDJQ/92.5 “Q92” and its former morning hosts, Pat DeLuca and Charlotte DiFranco.

And in the end, it looks like a win for the former “Q92” morning stars, and a “moving on” for the station.

The Canton Repository wraps it up:

Former radio personalities Pat DeLuca and Charlotte DiFranco can keep streaming their Internet show, and their former employer must pay them unused vacation time.

The newspaper reports that it’s a victory for the pair, which got the OK earlier to continue the Internet show despite a non-compete contract provision covering a radius 60 miles from the station near Alliance, but, according to Stark County judge Charles E. Brown Jr., not covering a non-terrestrial radio show on the Internet.

The Repository article says DeLuca and DiFranco will get their unpaid vacation time…apparently when “Q92” receives past broadcast audio that both sides agreed the pair will not use.

The Canton market top 40 outlet replaced “The DeLuca Show” with what is now known as “The Nikolina & Jeremiah Morning Show”…

FOX 8 AKRON: We now know, as we tipped you first on social media Wednesday afternoon, where Local TV LLC Fox affiliate WJW/8 “Fox 8 News” will hang its bureau hat in Summit County.

After abandoning its nearly 12 year home at “Studio 8” at Summit Mall, “Fox 8 News” is going to college in Akron…literally.

The station and the University of Akron are unveiling a new Akron bureau home for “Fox 8 News”…at the UA School of Communication.

Quoting a press release from UA:

“The studio provides us a more central location, with easier access to news breaking out of Akron and surrounding cities,” says Greg Easterly, president and general manager of FOX 8. “In addition, there are so many scholars on the university campus—political analysts, lawyers, scientists, engineers, specialists in education, health and psychology—professionals who can help us inform our viewers and will be more easily available to our reporters.”

Easterly talks about the move from Summit Mall, in an article by Akron Beacon Journal pop culture writer Rich Heldenfels:

“There was nothing bad about it,” WJW General Manager Greg Easterly said of the mall location. “It was a very visible location. We had always had a vision to tie a store in with it. … We had an idea of what we wanted it to be and it never quite came together that way.”

So, “Fox 8 News” is trading neighbors…from Orange Julius at Summit Mall, to the University of Akron’s “Z-TV” student television operation, WZIP/88.1 and The Buchtelite at UA’s Kolbe Hall. UA School of Communication interns will get opportunities as well.

The Heldenfels article notes that WJW will share space with a “Z-TV” production studio, and Akron-based reporter (and UA graduate) Dave Nethers will use an office at Kolbe Hall.

The article notes the attention paid to the Akron/Canton area by Cleveland TV news operations, with WKYC/3’s former Akron/Canton News broadcasts and WEWS/5’s bureau down the hall from Heldenfels at the Beacon Journal.

And omitted, with good reason, is Raycom Media WOIO/19-WUAB/43’s “19 Action News”, which has no bureau in either Akron or Canton.

We guess gassing up and driving south on I-77 is their definition of…(cue Drew Carey’s voice)…”everywhere!”…

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Late July Mixed Bag

In which we update some stuff, bring on new items and more…

87.7 BUILDING BLOCKS, BUT WHEN?: We’re hearing some details surrounding the launch of Venture Technologies/Murray Hill Broadcasting’s WLFM-LP 6/87.7, which will operate as a radio station under the name “87.7 Clevelanders Rock”.

First, an appearance by station operators Tom Wilson and Tom Embrescia on the soon-to-be-extinguished “Good Company Today” on NBC affiliate WKYC/3 shed at least some light on what shape the soon-to-launch radio station will take.

Embrescia told hosts Hollie Strano and Michael Cardamone that the music format for “87.7 Clevelanders Rock” will be Adult Album Alternative rock, otherwise known as “AAA” or “Triple-A”.

It’s a format last tried in the market by Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting’s WNWV/107.3, and the format was changed (semi-)back to smooth AC when Akron’s Rubber City Radio Group bought the now-former “V107.3” and brought it back to its former identity as “The Wave”.

OMW hears from multiple sources that “87.7 Clevelanders Rock” has found a morning drive host, and yes, our own reaction was, “who?”

He’s…drumroll, please!…Archie Berwick.

Again, who?

Berwick is a former CBS Radio Cleveland promotions staffer, who we’re told has been doing similar work with the New York Mets. As far as we know, though we could be wrong, Archie has no significant on-air experience.

The Used To Work For CBS Radio Cleveland vibe continues, as we hear former alt-rock WKRK/92.3 air personality Rachel Steele – already linked with the new station – is expected to handle afternoon drive for 87.7.

OMW hears that various other former Northeast Ohio personalities and radio staffers showed up at Saturday’s audition, but we don’t know if any of them has an inside track at the new station.

We also hear, as we’ve reported before, that “87.7 Clevelanders Rock”‘s search process continues outside of Saturday’s public audition.

Where will WLFM-LP hang its studio hat?

Though the audio on the video from “Good Company Today” deteriorates by that point, we heard Tom Embrescia mention the Cleveland Agora…and we now hear that the famed location at 5000 Euclid Avenue will indeed be the home of 87.7.

We don’t know, however, if the new station will use the space formerly occupied by WHK/1420 and WMMS/100.7. We’re told that a recording studio using the Agora building is no longer there.

We hear from more than one source that there’s no word if the station will make its debut before the end of this month, as previously promised…but we’d consider that unlikely at this point…

LIVE ON LAKESIDE: We hinted that WKYC’s “Good Company Today” was “soon-to-be-extinguished”, and well, it is, sort of.

After the schedule-gulping NBC coverage of the Olympics in London ends in mid-August, WKYC will basically combine elements of “Good Company Today” with the noon edition of Channel 3 News, and the result will be “Live on Lakeside”.

Quoting an item on blogging colleague Frank Macek’s “WKYC Director’s Cut” blog:

Hosted by Hollie Strano and Michael Cardamone, the new show will be a mix of news, weather, entertainment, lifestyle and advertiser friendly segments.

Airing from 11a.m. – 12:30p.m., the show will also feature News Anchor Amanda Barren, Meteorologists Bruce Kalinowski and Marcus Walter, Arts, Culture and Entertainment Reporter Karina Mitchell, Lifestyle and Features Reporters Joe Cronauer and Desiray McCray, “Ways To Save” Anchor Matt Granite and a host of other contributors.

Whew! It’s almost easier to list who WON’T be on the new show.

And yes, Karina Mitchell is the wife of new “Channel 3 News” anchor Russ Mitchell, a broadcaster in her own right. Karina was most recently doing entertainment reporting for CBS News – where her husband was weekend anchor of “The CBS Evening News” for years.

And the new show apparently adds CBS Radio AC WDOK/102.1 “New 102” afternoon driver Desiray McCray on a permanent basis.

We’ve seen McCray join Caradmone on the set of “Good Company Today”, as that program comes to its end.

“GCT” has been a half-hour show this week in order to accomodate various E/I “NBC Kids” preemption reschedules…and on Friday, those shows will preempt what would have been the last “Good Company Today”, according to TV listings.

We’re assuming that weekend sports events forced the moves.

The show occupying the 11 AM to 12:30 PM time slot obviously moves it out of the way of direct competitor “New Day Cleveland” on Local TV LLC Fox affiliate WJW/8 “Fox 8”, and presumably moves the fourth hour of NBC’s “Today” show with Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford to a 10 AM live clearance, next to the rest of “Today”.

“Live on Lakeside” premieres on August 13th…

LANIGAN TO THE RESCUE: Listeners to Clear Channel classic hits WMJI/105.7 “Majic 105.7” morning icon John Lanigan got some “inside” news related to the horrific mass murder at a Colorado movie theater early Friday.

Lanigan’s son is Lt. Jad Lanigan with the Aurora (CO) Police Department, and among other duties, he was tasked with dealing with the media late Thursday and early Friday.

But John Lanigan’s wife heard the younger Lanigan’s voice from the scene, and the WMJI morning host asked if his son was indeed involved in the arrest of the shooting suspect.

Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5’s NewsNet5.com and WJW/8’s Fox8.com have more.

Lt. Lanigan didn’t have much time to talk to his father, but briefly confirmed via text message that he was indeed a part of the arrest team.

There was at least one other radio connection to the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado…Denver sports radio intern and blogger Jessica Ghawi, known professionally as Jessica Redfield, was one of the earliest identified among the 12 dead…

MANSFIELD DOINGS: A new radio station has sprouted up in Mansfield, and it’s another FM translator.

Christian contemporary “99.3 The Light” has been on the air since earlier this month.

It’s yet another arm of the Gunther Meisse Broadcast Empire in mid-Ohio, with its analog home being W256BG/99.3 Butler. 99.3 is rebroadcasting the “home” feed for “The Light”, on WVNO/106.1’s HD2 sidechannel.

The Mid-State folks moved the station’s location north from near Bellville to the company’s complex in the Mansfield suburb of Ontario, and off the former frequency of 99.1.

In its previous incarnation, 99.1 Butler was a translator in the network rebroadcasting Mansfield Christian School CCM outlet WVMC/90.7, and now, it’s a commercial competitor to WVMC.

Sister WVNO “Mix 106.1” programmer and morning co-host Tony Mitchell tells the Mansfield News Journal that some local content will be added to the Salem Radio Network “Today’s Christian Music” feed:

Mitchell said positive local news and weather forecasts will be featured, along with area pastors.

“We’ll have local pastors giving half-hour sermons on Sunday mornings and every day we’ll have a ‘Pastor’s Minute’ where we’ll have local pastors taking a minute to give a quick word of encouragement,” he said.

Christian radio is a crowded field in the Mansfield area.

Not only is local stalwart WVMC in the format, but Educational Media Foundation’s “K-Love” airs on owned station WYKL/98.7 Crestline.

And back to the Gunther Meisse Mid-State Multimedia Empire, which includes not only WVNO and ESPN Radio affiliate WRGM/1440-W247BL/97.3, but TV operations WMFD/68 and WOHZ-CA/41.

OMW apparently missed WMFD’s conversion to local HD studio programming, which we believe started back in March.

The move means WMFD’s “NewsWatch” local newscasts are now in HD, and that means every newscast in the Cleveland TV market is in HD.

The main local newscasts in Cleveland converted long ago, but Mansfield is actually on the far southwest fringe of the Cleveland/Akron (Canton) TV market…

87.7 Clevelanders…Audition?

The off-air buzz in the Cleveland radio community is about the curious way new quasi-radio station WLFM-LP “87.7” is going about its upcoming launch.

We have heard that the station, operated by Cleveland radio veteran Tom Wilson with help from his old ownership partners, has been working behind the scenes to staff up.

In fact, OMW hears that at least one key staffer has already left the operation, before it even has hit the airwaves.

But simultaneously, the station now calling itself “87.7 Clevelanders Rock” is borrowing a page from the “American Idol” playbook, with open auditions for air talent set for Saturday, July 21st from 10 AM to 2 PM, at Beachland Ballroom and Tavern on Waterloo Road in Cleveland.

Here, we’ll show you a poster about the audition session, which has been at very least seen online, if not elsewhere:

And in case you need it in text form, you can also read it right here:

Sooo… do you ‘wanna be Cleveland’s next Radio Star? Bigger than Trivisonno? Edgier than Rover? More caustic than Lannigan?

Here’s your chance… cause we’re looking for kick ass talent, funky writers, and comedians who will make us pee our pants laughing…

Were kicking off a brand-spanking new radio station, 87.7 Clevelanders Rock!, and we’re looking for your beautiful self!

If you think this could be your thing… and you believe you are star material… here’s what you do:

Just show up LIVE… & Yes, you can bring some of your peeps… Bring your “A” game and show us your stuff in 3 minutes or less. WOW us and you could be a star on 87.7 Clevelanders Rock!

And yes, the last name of Clear Channel classic hits WMJI/105.7 “Majic 105.7” morning star John Lanigan is spelled with the extra “n” on the flyer itself. (You’d think a local radio vet like Tom Wilson would be able to spell Lanigan’s last name, or would be able to correct it.)

The station also has an early Facebook page.

We’re not the only ones scratching our head at what appears to be a radio stunt.

(Again, remember, we know the station is searching outside this process for radio pros.)

After going through the saga of the former “V107.3″”s return to “wallpaper” music as smooth AC “The Wave”, and the “generic alternative hits” of low-wattage alt-rock translator “99X”, Cleveland Scene alt-weekly music writer Anastasia Pantsios catches readers up with 87.7:

Now “87.7 Clevelanders Rock” is set to become the latest station promising to shake things up with a hyper-local format that will “work to sound like Cleveland,” driven by a team of local personalities tuned into what’s happening on the streets. It’s handicapped by a signal so far down the dial it’s staring at the asses of local college radio stations (don’t confuse it with WJCU 88.7 FM, John Carroll’s respected campus station) and the fact that the analog signal is scheduled by the FCC for obsolescence in three years.

Just after that, Pantsios herself makes the “88.7” error in her piece, but she’s not alone – the above linked Beachland Ballroom calendar initally made the same mistake (it’s since been corrected).

And Pantsios outdoes even us with the snark:

“Yes, you can bring some of your peeps,” they advertise, because every lame routine sounds great when a bunch of your friends are cheering madly.

“You could be the next Howard,” they promise.

Just don’t expect a paycheck like Howard’s.

The Scene writer is clued in at least a bit to some of this – she helpfully provides a link to one of our previous stories in the Scene item online.

She correctly notes the FCC is scheduled to extinguish the “87.7” “radio” signal in three years…which we told you numerous times will happen because the low-power analog Channel 6 TV station that provides the audio carrier will be forced to go digital, ending the “FM simulcast”.

We’ve done some more digging, and had a lot of help from readers, and some more names are being attached to the effort to create “87.7 Clevelanders Rock”.

The flyer apparently came out of “Black Tie Studio”, run by former CBS Radio Cleveland graphic designer Sandy Harsanyi Murphy. (Remember, ex-CBS Radio suit Chris Maduri is helping run the new station.)

Rachel Steele, another former CBS Radio Cleveland type – is also involved…she was an air personality on former alt-rock outlet WKRK/92.3 (now sports “92.3 The Fan”).

The invite is also posted to Facebook as an event.

Again, keep in mind with all this “audition” stuff floating around…that the station has actively been corralling actual radio types behind the scenes.

But if you’re holding an audition for the public on July 21st, can you make the “end of July” air date you promised earlier this month?

We doubt it. We have also heard no names bandied about as potential on-air personalities for the new station. (We don’t know if Steele will have an on-air role or not.)

Down I-77, I-480 and Ohio 14, Ohio 43 and Ohio 59, the audition process continues on air at Media-Com talk WNIR/100.1 “The Talk of Akron” – hoping to find a new host in the wake of the untimely death of station and Akron radio icon Howie Chizek.

After former WMMS’er Jeff Kinzbach and regular caller John “Couch Burner” Denning, former WAKC/23 anchor/news director and former Akron city spokesman Mark Williamson tried his hand at the craft of talk radio on Monday.

(We don’t believe Mark has ever done talk before, even while working at then-WAKC/WAKR-TV sister station WAKR/1590…which only had a brief run at talk long after the two stations split ownership-wise.)

Maybe the Klaus brothers, owners of WNIR, should try an open audition at “The Funny Stop”, the Cuyahoga Falls comedy club that’s both a regular station advertiser and second home for morning driver Stan Piatt.

Nah…nevermind.

Back to 87.7, where there’s finally an E-mail address attached to this thing:

clevelandstalentsearch(at)gmail.com

Even if you’re not going to show up Saturday, we presume that address would put you in touch with the folks behind “87.7 Clevelanders Rock”…

A Cooler Combination

Cooler because, though we have highs in the mid-80s, it’s sure cooler than it was last time we set the air conditioning in the OMW World Headquarters to “freeze”…

A STEADY HAND: So, you’re a Cleveland TV station, and your news director has “made the move up” to a job with your parent company. You’re heading into an all-important period which will gain you new viewers…the 2012 Summer Olympics, live from London.

But SOMEONE has to run the newsroom until a permanent candidate is found, and it’s going to be kind of busy due to the aforementioned events to temporarily turn the duties over to an assistant.

Where do you turn?

If you’re Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3, you put “Channel 3 News” in the hands of a trusted pro, and that’s just what’s happened at 13th and Lakeside.

To say former WJW/8 general manager Virgil Dominic is an experienced newsman is sort of like saying the Grand Canyon is this little hole in the ground in Arizona.

Dominic has been named interim news director at WKYC, guiding the ship with a steady hand until a permanent replacement for Rita Andolsen is found.

Andolsen, according to the item on our blogging colleague Frank Macek’s “WKYC Director’s Cut” blog, “has embarked on a new role as Director of Advocacy and Community Initiatives working closing with Gannett corporate and twenty other Gannett broadcast stations.” (Whew!)

For long-time watchers of local TV news in the Cleveland market, Virgil Dominic is basically “The Man Who Built NewsCenter 8”, leading the folks at Cleveland’s then-CBS affiliate to a decade and a half of dominance in local TV news.

Dominic left South Marginal Road in 1995, as the station was transitioning to a Fox affiliation (and later as a Fox O&O). The “Director’s Cut” item quotes WKYC president and general manager Brooke Spectorsky:

“For the past six years, he has been with us as a talent mentor and consultant, and we see this as a continuation of that vision.”

And yes, Virgil Dominic started his large market TV career as WKYC’s main anchor in 1965…

MORE AT 13TH AND LAKESIDE: “Good Company Today” co-host Joe Cronauer has indeed expanded his horizons at “Channel 3 News”.

The broadcasting veteran, previously best known as part of the “Brian and Joe” team on a number of area radio station, is now setting the alarm clock very early…joining the “Channel 3 News Today” morning team as a “lifestyles and features” field reporter.

Quoting the announcement, once again found on Channel 3 News senior director Frank Macek’s “WKYC Director’s Cut” blog:

Joe will scour the area looking for unique, unusual, fun, community based, interesting stories that he knows will get viewers talking.

That would put him as WKYC’s opposite number to “Fox 8 News In The Morning” reporter Kenny Crumpton, though we don’t know if, in fact, Cronauer will be “Kickin’ It”.

(Yes, it’s a bad joke.)

Cronauer joins “Channel 3 News Today” anchors Chris Tye and Erin Kennedy, weather anchor Hollie Strano, reporters Amanda Barren and Stephanie Coueignoux, and traffic anchor Pat Butler (shared with Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100)…

AND TO THE 3RD POWER: Our third brief item about the gang at 13th and Lakeside.

Not only will WKYC join NBC Summer Olympics coverage later this month, they’re also sending some people to London.

We’ve seen promos that say that two members of the aforementioned “Channel 3 News Today” – Chris Tye and Amanda Barren – are bound for England…though we don’t know exactly what they’ll do.

Presumably, they’ll try to bring stories of any Northeast Ohio athletes in the Games…

SPEAKING OF THE OLYMPIAD: Unless an agreement is reached soon, Dish Network customers in the Youngstown TV market will have to find some other way to watch the NBC broadcast network’s coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

That’s because on July 6th, they lost the Mahoning Valley’s NBC affiliate, Vindicator-owned WFMJ/21, in a carriage dispute between the local broadcaster and the second-largest satellite provider.

WFMJ is very much playing up the “David vs. Goliath” battle in an FAQ on its website:

DISH is one of the largest television companies in America. WFMJ is locally owned and operated right here in Youngstown. We are invested in Youngstown and other communities we serve, and we take our commitment to serve the public seriously. When large companies based in big cities take the local signal, sell it to you for a high price, and pay little or nothing to WFMJ, they are taking money and jobs out of Youngstown without providing anything in return. We don’t think Youngstown citizens should be asked to subsidize DISH Network or its wealthy shareholders.

The website advises viewers worried about losing NBC’s Summer Olympics coverage to consider moving to another cable or satellite provider, or to pick up the station’s free over-air broadcast signal.

In our experience, only those in far, outlying ends of the Youngstown TV market should have any problem picking up the WFMJ over-air signal, and even some of those folks have NBC affiliated alternatives available OTA, like the aforementioned WKYC, Pittsburgh’s WPXI/11 and the like.

Those looking for WFMJ’s local newscasts are now able to stream them live from the station’s website…

NEW DIGS: You may have noticed this week that the set for Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5’s “NewsChannel 5” broadcasts is a bit cramped, and that you aren’t seeing the weather and sports anchors moving around at the main set.

That’s because the current set has been temporarily moved to WEWS’ Studio C, while a revamp is happening in Studio A this summer.

It’s no secret…6 and 11 PM co-anchor Chris Flanagan shares all the details on the station’s NewsNet5.com:

All newscasts are moving from Studio C to Studio A. Studio A is where ‘Academic Challenge’ and the Ohio Lottery drawings are broadcast out of. We will move back into Studio C after Labor Day.

We will unveil our new anchor desk, weather center and expanded state-of-the-art set later this summer.

There are pictures and video of the current setup, and there’ll probably be more along the way as construction gets going.

One of the primary features of the new set will be LED lighting, allowing the set to look crisper and brighter for viewers of the station’s HD broadcasts…and making things cooler in the studio, to boot…

JEFF’S DEBUT: We managed to catch some of Jeff Kinzbach’s audition for the 10 AM-3 PM time slot on Media-Com talk WNIR/100.1 “The Talk of Akron”…of course, in the time slot left open by the unfortunate death of station icon Howie Chizek.

The former star of WMMS/100.7’s “Jeff and Flash” team seemed genuinely interested in the job, at least if we’re reading some of his on-air comments correctly.

Kinzback lauded WNIR as one of the last bastions of true, local radio, and noted that he is an Akron area resident…eastern Medina County, we’re guessing, based on his comment that he was the announcer for his daughter’s high school band at Highland High School.

Up next in the audition rotation, unless things have changed from the earlier announcement: 25 year regular Howie caller John “Couch Burner” Denning on Thursday.

Regular fill-ins Bob Earley and Jim Isabella will handle the shift when other auditioners aren’t scheduled…

UPDATE 12:44 PM 7/11/12: Reader Derrick King notes in our comments to this item:

I managed to catch an announcement this morning on WNIR. The next new fill in is Monday when former WAKC news anchor and former Plusquellic administration official Mark Williamson takes the microphone.

Youngstown And Nearby

Most of the items this time around are from the Mahoning Valley, though at least one is from nearby…and one item involves the Cleveland market…

RICH MORGAN: Readers in the Youngstown/Warren TV market have been peppering our inbox with questions about market veteran Rich Morgan…who’s been absent from his duties as morning and noon meteorologist for New Vision-to-be-LIN CBS affiliate WKBN/27’s “27 First News”.

We did some digging, but the question could have more easily been answered (for both us and our readers) by going to Rich’s bio page on the WKBN-TV website

Rich Morgan recently had surgery and will be off of the air for a total of five weeks. He talks about it in further detail on his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/myvalleyweather.richmorgan. Kirstie Zontini is filling in during his recovery.

From Rich’s Facebook page, posted June 1st:

I am having surgery to relieve pressure on the nerves in my neck that control the strength in my arm.

Since the surgery, Rich has written about undergoing the therapy needed to recover.

We understand this has now been addressed on the air as well…though we don’t know when the station let viewers know about Morgan’s condition…

HER NEW JOB: This one’s not from the Mahoning Valley, per se, but is about a former Youngstown TV reporter.

We told you a while back that Peggy Sinkovich, who has reported for WYTV/33 (Trumbull County bureau chief) and later for the entire New Vision-LIN operation (adding WKBN-TV and WYFX-LP “Fox Youngstown”), was heading for Cleveland…where she’ll be seen on Local TV LLC’s WJW/8 “Fox 8 News”.

We have some more information on her role at Dick Goddard Way.

OMW hears that starting in the Fall, Sinkovich will be the new “I-Team” investigative reporter for “Fox 8 News”, with help from general assignment reporter Jack Shea contributing investigative pieces.

We hear that Sinkovich and Shea will likely be seen daily on the station, working out of the newsroom and presumably, spending less time off air…

BACK IN COUNTRY: Whiplash Radio’s WYCL/1540 Niles is back to a familiar format for the daytimer – classic country.

Yes, the station has also returned to its former name and imaging in the format – “1540 The Farm”.

The classic country “Farm” format was the first format change made by Whiplash owner and OMW reader Chris Lash when he bought the station from Beacon Broadcasting.

1540 has been through a number of formats going back to the Beacon days… Christian contemporary music, sports, standards music, and talk. Until the recent change, WYCL had been operating as a simulcast of Whiplash sister standards station WHTX/1570 Warren “Fabulous 1570”.

Those wondering what happened to the King of Youngstown Brokered Talk Radio, Louie b. Free, can be assured that his eclectic show goes on via WYCL, airing 8 AM-noon weekdays on “1540 The Farm”.

Both stations are operated by Jim Davison and Laurel Taylor’s JL Communications, and Jim tells OMW that “The Farm” can be heard in streaming audio on the station’s website, a subsection of the WHTX site… though those listening on smartphones and tablets via the TuneIn app are getting an entirely different feed.

Jim notes that the station changed streaming providers, and that feed comes from whoever took over the old WYCL feed.

WYCL also features a new outdoors show on Saturday mornings with host Jim Slinsky, and an antiques show will debut later this month.

The station will carry Notre Dame football in the fall…

HD ADD-ON: OMW hears that Clear Channel talk WKBN/570 Youngstown has followed many other Clear Channel talk stations in simulcasting its programming on the HD Radio side of a co-owned FM station.

The feed of WKBN is now being heard on the HD2 sidechannel of rock WNCD/93.3 “The Wolf”.

Just to the west in Akron, Clear Channel talk WHLO/640 gets similar HD Radio rides on the sidechannels of hot AC WKDD/98.1 and rock WRQK/106.9.

For now, at least, the feed of WKBN on WNCD’s HD sidechannel does not appear to signal any future move to an analog FM frequency…rather, it’s seen as a way to increase HD Radio listenership by offering the popular AM talker in the format…

AND NEARBY: In the Canton market, where D.A. Peterson top 40 WDJQ/92.5 Alliance “Q92” has once again managed to hire a promotions director who is not awaiting a criminal trial.

He’s local radio veteran and OMW reader Matt Spatz, most recently heard doing weekend/swing work at Rubber City Radio rock WONE/97.5 Akron.

He had previously programmed at Clear Channel Youngstown (rock WNCD, and top 40 WAKZ/95.9 “Kiss FM”) until budget cuts forced him out last October.

And the “criminal trial” reference is not at all aimed at Matt, of course…who practices clean living, as far as we know.

It’s a reference to a Louisville KY radio personality the Alliance station hired for the promotions director job a few years ago…who was very much in legal hot water when he was offered the job at “Q92”.

We’ll visit our own February 2008 item wrapping up the saga of Todd Kelly/Smith:

Former WDJX/Louisville KY personality and promotions guy Todd Kelly (Todd Smith) has been sentenced for defrauding listeners and donators by faking ALS, otherwise known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Smith has been sentenced to 15 years on state charges, which will be reduced to 5 years if he pays back some 74 thousand dollars in restitution, with interest. He’d already been sentenced to 84 months in prison on federal fraud charges.

Even if his sentence was reduced to 5 years, Kelly/Smith is still sitting behind bars in Kentucky, unable to run promotions for “Q92” or any radio station that’s not behind bars. (Unless he was released early, of course.)

Since this saga was resolved, WDJQ has managed to hire promotions directors not awaiting sentencing to prison, and we can assure them that, as far as we know, Matt Spatz will continue that trend.

Our congratulations to Matt…we’re always happy to see OMW readers do well!

And the item fits in our theme, as “Q92″‘s signal does well in the nearby Youngstown market…

The Post-Howie Era Begins

In announcements airing now on Media-Com talk WNIR/100.1 “The Talk of Akron”, the station says it’s about to begin the process of filling the open 10 AM-3 PM weekday time slot.

The station says it can’t “replace” legendary voice Howie Chizek, who died suddenly last month at the age of 65 while taking underprivileged kids and their chaperones to Walt Disney World in Orlando FL.

But the announcement – “a message from the Klaus Brothers (owners Bill and Bob Klaus)” voiced by WNIR production director Tom Cullison – acknowledges that the station does need to fill Howie’s time slot, and says a number of people will be auditioning for the job in the coming weeks.

Up first in the audition rotation the week of July 9th are a radio veteran and…a regular caller.

Jeff Kinzbach is best known for his long run with Ed “Flash” Ferenc (“Jeff and Flash”) in morning drive, on Cleveland rocker WMMS/100.7. Currently, Kinzbach is doing fill-in work at CBS Radio classic rocker WNCX/98.5. The announcement says Jeff will be heard on Tuesday, July 10th.

Thursday, July 12th, one of Howie’s most known regular callers tries his hand at hosting the show. He’s only been known as “Couch Burner”, but according to an Akron Beacon Journal article on Howie’s funeral, the 25 year regular Howie caller is known away from the WNIR call-in lines as John Denning.

The remainder of next week, 10 AM to 3 PM on WNIR “The Talk of Akron”, will be filled by regular fill-in hosts Bob Earley and Jim Isabella, who will continue doing so as the process continues. The announcement notes that both Earley and Isabella are also candidates for the permanent job.

Again, when your previous host was nearly cemented into the time slot for 38 years, not much seems permanent.

The process of replacing Howie is similar to, but not quite the same as the “Akron Idol” auditions to replace afternoon drive host Joe Finan. Finan “retired” from WNIR, then not long after, took the midday time slot at Clear Channel then-liberal talk WARF/1350 “Radio Free Ohio” (now “Fox Sports 1350”). He passed on shortly after his last show on that station.

This time, at least so far, there are no “waitresses and truck drivers” on the audition list…though the task is clearly more difficult than replacing Finan was. (Back then, at least a couple of readers encouraged your Primary Editorial Voice[tm] to throw the OMW hat into the ring, but it wasn’t to be. And, probably not this time, either.)

With that in mind, we wonder if there is another former Northeast Ohio celebrity who will read about this opening, and be urged by relatives to apply so they can return home. That’s reportedly how Bob Golic, the former Cleveland Browns/NFL star and actor (“Saved By The Bell: The College Years”), came to Broadcast Park…as the story goes, his mother saw an article about Finan’s retirement in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and urged him to apply so he could return to the area…