TV Retrans Wars Hit Cleveland – Fox 8 and DirecTV

UPDATE 8/31/12: Both DirecTV and WJW Fox 8 owner Local TV LLC announced an agreement today, with no signal interruption…

UPDATE 8/30/12 10:20 AM: Fox 8 has put up a more extensive site on their side of the dispute – keepwjw.com. Note that there’s not one mention of trying to pick up the station’s currently anemic over-air signal as an alternative…

——

The ongoing wars over TV retransmission consent are hitting Cleveland.

Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 has posted a note on its Fox8.com titled “Important Message for DirecTV Customers From Fox 8”, warning customers of the largest satellite service of an impending disruption of the station’s signal…as soon as Saturday.

If WJW Fox 8 does not reach an agreement with DirectTV by 12:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 1, by law, DirecTV cannot carry this station on its system.

DirecTV and WJW Fox 8 are in negotiations for fair compensation for the programming we provide.

The Cleveland Fox affiliate is asking its viewers to call DirecTV, and to repost the note on Facebook and Twitter.

This one’s a bit more complex than most retransmission consent agreements.

For one, last we checked, former WJW owner Fox is actually handling the retransmission consent negotiations for the station now owned by Local TV LLC.

For another, we note that WJW’s current RF channel 8 on-air signal is hard to pick up in many parts of the market. That’s why the station filed to return to RF channel 31, its pre-transition digital home, but that move is still stuck in the FCC, thanks to a dispute by RF channel 30 occupant WBNX/55, the Winston Broadcasting-owned CW affiliate for the Cleveland market.

(The dispute is fun to read about, if frustrating for the folks on Dick Goddard Way. Search “WBNX” in our search box for some samples.)

Stations often direct viewers on the disputed platform to pick up the free, widely available over-air signal instead, but that’ll be frustrating for many in-market viewers. For that matter, for some viewers to the east in the Cleveland market, it may be easier to pick up WKBN-TV/27.2, a standard definition simulcast of “Fox Youngstown”.

We presume WJW will, if there’s not a last minute deal, direct viewers to Dish Network, Time Warner Cable or AT&T U-verse, or other cable operators in the market. (Dish, by the way, reached an agreement with Vindicator NBC affiliate WFMJ/21 Youngstown right before the start of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.)

WJW has its own high profile sporting event after the September 1st deadline: The Cleveland Browns regular season opener with the Philadelphia Eagles, September 9th, will be on Fox…a result of it being a home game with an NFC away team.

We’ll see if that’ll force an agreement before kickoff…

Advertisements

Major League Catchup

No, that’s not something the Cleveland Indians are about to try, based on their dismal play as of late.

It’s something we’re going to try now, after an unplanned Life Intervenes(tm) hiatus for about two weeks. (Note: We’ll have a planned hiatus for personal reasons, right after the Labor Day holiday. Or, maybe we’ll be more active…)

Anyway, on with the show…

OTHER SHOE DROPS: We already told you that now-former Ohio News Network Cleveland bureau reporter Cristin Severance had found a new gig…just days before the Columbus-based cable news outfit leaves the airwaves at the end of this week.

We also told you that she’d have some Cleveland company at Scripps ABC affiliate KGTV/10 in sunny San Diego, and now, it’s official.

KGTV is also hiring Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 reporter Dan Haggerty, and making him the second happy Clevelander to be able to treat snow shovels as a thing of the past.

It’s no accident.

It’s no secret in the Cleveland TV news community that Severance and Haggerty are together as a couple, and they’ll move their happy homestead to Southern California while sharing a workspace.

And though they leave a lot of friends behind in the Cleveland market, we wish both Cris and Dan the best in a beautiful city, San Diego…

THE NAKED MOVE: We’re sorry, former Raycom CBS affiliate WOIO/19-WUAB/43 “19 Action News” anchor Sharon Reed…this stuff writes itself.

After being out of the TV rumor mill for a while, Reed’s name is surfacing in St. Louis, as a potential anchor replacement in that market.

And there should be no surprise in the headline by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Joe Holleman, “Once-nude anchor in the mix for KMOV job”.

Vickie’s Newton’s KMOV Channel 4 anchor chair is still warm from her final show Thursday night. But the rumors already are heating up about possible replacements — including Sharon Reed, a former high-profile anchor at Cleveland’s CBS affiliate.

Reed made national headlines in 2004 when she agreed to be recorded disrobing for artist Spencer Tunick’s nude group photo shoot in Cleveland, which Reed was covering for WOIO Channel 19. The segment sent ratings through the roof and earned Reed an appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”

Jokes are flowing freely to our keyboard…(“Maybe they’re trying to save on the clothing allowance”)… but despite the Nude Stunt, Reed is a capable news anchor and reporter, when she plays it straight.

We do wonder if we should give a heads up to team members of the St. Louis Rams, the St. Louis Cardinals and the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, though…but if she isn’t dating pro athletes, or trying to date them, she does a decent job in the sports arena as well…

THE OTHER NUDE 19 ACTION NEWS ANCHOR: The operation at Reserve Square had one distinction no other newsroom in the country could claim: it employed two female anchors you could see without clothing just by searching the Internet.

But unlike her former “Action News” colleague Sharon Reed, Catherine Bosley’s situation was more sympathetic.

Celebrating great medical news, Bosley and her husband visited a Florida bar in Key West, where she eventually got into a “wet T-shirt contest”. The photos in question were supposed to stay in the bar, but someone unleashed them on the Internet, and the then-WKBN/27 Youngstown “First News” anchor and her husband were mortified.

Bosley left “27 First News” and was hired at WOIO/WUAB, and she’s done a fine job since coming to Cleveland.

But when such pictures land on the Internet, and with questionable outlets like the skin magazine Hustler, they’re hard to eradicate.

The Plain Dealer’s Rachel Dissell reports that Bosley’s legal team won a battle with the Cincinnati-based skin magazine, and its notorious publisher Larry Flynt, last week.

Local news anchor Catherine Bosley triumphed this week over Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt in the latest round of a years-long battle over a revealing photo of her his publication ran without permission.

This week, a federal appeals court rejected an appeal by Flynt’s company to overturn a 2010 jury verdict that had awarded her $135,000 in damages.

The Bosleys had the copyrights to the pictures, Dissell writes, because, according to court documents, they negotiated for those rights with the amateur photographer who took the Key West bar shots.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Sharon Reed asked for the attention, and Catherine Bosley did not.

It’s incredibly difficult to “unring the bell” when it comes to Internet content, particularly pictures of unclothed, attractive females. But we wish Catherine Bosley all the best in similar efforts…

WLFM TESTING, AGAIN: Cleveland’s newest “radio station”, the 87.7 FM signal powered by Murray Hill Broadcasting’s WLFM-LP analog TV channel 6, has changed up its testing.

The past few days, the station has aired a long, continuous tape of 3-5 second snippets of popular songs of the past few decades.

YouTube user dannykewl, whom we believe is also an OMW reader, shared a sample on the popular video sharing website:

From Danny’s description on the YouTube video:

They are playing a pre-recorded cassette tape loop of the Billboard Time-sweep which has a snippet of every Billboard magazine Hot 100 song from 1955 till 1992, in order. This 4+ minute video clip has the timesweep somewhere in the 1978 – 1980 range. They have a Western Digital logo screensaver on the channel 6 video, with no station ID seen. I have heard occasional audio ID’s, “This is WLFM Cleveland”

Some quick Google searching tells us that the station has apparently dumped the cassette tape’s audio onto a Western Digital brand consumer media player resulting in the screensaver logo noted above.

In the early testing using this loop, the audio had massive dropouts, leading us to wonder if WLFM was testing a studio-transmitter link over the Internet from the station’s apparent home (the Cleveland Agora) to the transmitter site (in Parma). That was just a guess on our part, though. Presumably, if they were doing that, they were using the Internet serving capabilities of the WD device.

As far as the station’s debut, unless you count this continuous loop, we doubt very much that they’ll make the second deadline of August 31st…this Friday.

The station now identifies itself as “87.7 Cleveland” on its placeholder website, though “87.7 Clevelanders Rock” is still in the title. (We’ll be that sounds familiar to AAA format fans…remember “107.3 Cleveland”?)

As of yet, we have no news on a debut. But if the WLFM folks have a rabbit to pull out of the audio side of a TV transmitter on 87.7 FM, we’ll let you know…

CAVS TV CHANGES: The Cleveland Cavaliers will, as earlier announced, air 81 games this season on Fox Sports Ohio…but there’ll be a change or two around the games.

Fred McLeod will continue to call Cavaliers action on FSOhio, with ex-Cavs star Austin Carr returning alongside him.

But with the exit of Dionne Miller, the network has made some changes elsewhere on the broadcast team.

Jeff Phelps gives up the role of sideline reporter, to become the full-time pre-game and post-game “Cavaliers Live” host.

He’ll add duties for road games this year, doing those shows from the FSOhio studios in Independence…and will continue doing shows for home games from Quicken Loans Arena. He’ll be joined for all shows by former Cavalier and FSOhio veteran Campy Russell.

FSOhio adds Allyson Clifton for sideline work. She’s a University of Toledo grad who’s worked for ABC affilate WTVG/13 and the Buckeye Cable Sports Network in that city, as well as with the AAA Toledo Mud Hens of minor league baseball’s International League.

Phelps, of course, remains behind the microphone at the Halle Building with WEWS sports director Andy Baskin as co-host of “Baskin and Phelps”, otherwise known as “Cleveland’s Talking Heads”, middays on CBS Radio sports WKRK/92.3 “The Fan”…

“NEWSNITE”, DEAD OR ALIVE: The word out of Western Reserve PBS, home of WNEO/45 Alliance and WEAO/49 Akron, is that the long-running news discussion program “NewsNite” returns this fall…with a new format.

But the back and forth discussion of weekly local news events, particularly in the Akron area, will not return.

From a station release:

Previously composed of a news panel discussing the week’s top regional stories, the program now features one-on-one interviews that address noteworthy news events about Northeast Ohio.

Long-time “NewsNite” panelist Jody Miller will preside over an interview program similar what she did with the show’s “NewsMaker” specials, which aired mostly during the holidays.

The new season’s debut is September 7th at its usual time, 8:30 PM on Fridays. It also repeats on Mondays at 6:30 PM.

The season’s opening show will feature interviews with John Green, PhD, distinguished professor at the University of Akron and director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics; Dan Moulthrop, curator of conversation at the Civic Commons; and Diana Swoope, PhD, senior pastor of Arlington Church of God. They will discuss the Civility Project, a year-long study addressing the impacts of civil discourse, particularly as it relates to politics. Topics planned for upcoming episodes include the work of University Park Alliance and the 10th anniversary of the Akron Marathon.

Quoting Western Reserve Public Media president/CEO Trina Cutter:

“Using the ‘NewsMaker’ format provides a way for Western Reserve Public Media to continue its long-standing commitment to keep NewsNite on the air,” said TrinaCutter, Western Reserve Public Media president and CEO. “We will continue to offer timely, in-depth coverage of regional news topics while at the same time broaden the discussion to include community leaders and news makers.”

Though Trina Cutter doesn’t quite finish that thought, “a way to continue its long-standing commitment to keep NewsNite on the air” sounds to us like, well, that it’s cheaper to pay one interview panelist.

“NewsNite” host Eric Mansfield is out of broadcasting now, as a senior media relations executive at Kent State University. (His predecessor at the old “NewsNight Akron”, Vince Duffy, is a public radio executive in Michigan these days.)

But we bet regular “NewsNite” panelists like Rubber City Radio VP/Information Media and OMW reader Ed Esposito, and regulars from the Akron Beacon Journal and Kent State University’s WKSU/89.7 would have welcomed the opportunity to bounce Northeast Ohio’s issues off each other in front of the camera…

IN TAMPA: The slightly rain delayed Republican National Convention has quite a Northeast Ohio media presence.

This is an incomplete list, so we’ll add any we missed.

WKYC “Channel 3 News” has sent primary anchor and former network news anchor Russ Mitchell to Tampa, and he’ll repeat the assignment with the Democrats in Charlotte.

We’ve seen WEWS “NewsChannel 5” reporter John Kosich doing live shots from Tampa.

Radio-wise, WKSU/89.7 news director M.L. Schultze gets Tampa duties, with senior reporter Mark Urycki covering the Democrats in Charlotte. (It’s a mini “Ann’s Corner”, if you will…though we don’t think personal and professional Friend of OMW Ann VerWiebe, WKSU’s marketing guru, is driving the “Folk Alley” bus down to Tampa or Charlotte…)

We heard alternate Republican convention delegate Bryan Williams, the veteran Summit County politician, on Rubber City Radio oldies/news WAKR/1590 during the “Ray Horner Morning Show”…and he’ll continue to share his insights from Tampa, with another delegate doing so for the Democratic National Convention…

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS INSIDER: SportsTime Ohio’s “High School Sports Insider” is back on the air, as OMW reader Bill Castrovince continues his recovery from having a brain tumor removed.

The show airs Mondays at 6:30 PM on STO…and it’s produced by Twinsburg’s Classic Teleproductions with Bill Boronkay aboard alongside Castrovince…

SPEAKING OF RECOVERY: Medical rehab appears to be going well for a long-time Akron and Canton radio sports personality.

Joe Jastrzemski has most recently been heard on NextMedia talk WHBC/1480 Canton, but is best known for his 17 year stint doing sports and news in Akron for Rubber City Radio’s WAKR.

Joe has been moved from Akron General Medical Center to the ManorCare center on West Market Street, a short drive from his former Akron radio home.

Joe would like to pass along his sincere thanks for all who have checked in with him during this time, and provided support and comfort.

We know you’ll hear him calling a game or doing a newscast or sportscast, somewhere on the radio, as soon as humanly possible.

And for now, we certainly hope he’s able to go home, soon…

RADIO PARENTS: At this rate, they’ll be able to staff a children’s radio station.

Our sincere congratulations to Kasper, assistant program director/music director/afternoon drive host at Clear Channel Cleveland top 40 WAKS/96.5 “Kiss FM”, and his wife, Clear Channel Akron hot AC WKDD/98.1’s Krissy Taylor, for their latest, uh, co-production. From Kasper via AllAccess:

NATALIE IRENE was born WEDNESDAY morning (8/22) at 11:58, weighing 7lbs exactly,” KASPER told ALL ACCESS. “Mom and big sister KATIE are doing great. Yep, two daughters. We’re in trouble!”

We’re wondering what Clear Channel markets will hear voicetracks one day from Katie and Natalie. Dad is already heard in his former home market of Youngstown on WAKZ/95.9 “Kiss FM”, and in Dallas on that market’s “Kiss FM”. Mom voicetracks into Grand Rapids in addition to her work on WKDD…

A VOID: Those of us who do this whole online media coverage thing are a small group.

You already know about our long-time personal and professional friend Scott Fybush (“NorthEast Radio Watch”), and we’ve also mentioned long-time friend Blaine Thompson (“Indiana RadioWatch”).

Many of us look up to those considered the best at what they do, like Tom Taylor.

The radio and media coverage veteran spent the past five years writing what he called a “slightly addictive” daily radio newsletter called “Taylor on Radio-Info”, brought to you by the Chicago-based Radio-Info.com, run until recently by the parents of the late Doug Fleming.

That’s changed, as “Talkers” magazine publisher Michael Harrison has taken over the editorial operations of the site that grew out of Doug’s cherished message boards….and with the change, there’s no more “Taylor on Radio-Info”. (The Flemings held onto the message boards, under the new URL RadioDiscussions.com.)

Tom told his readers last week that he was taking a break, for now, and we wish him much success in whatever his next endeavor will be.

And speaking for OMW, we will eventually stop twitching early Monday mornings, when we’ve read the latest “NorthEast Radio Watch” and then have nowhere else to go to get our fix…at very least until the AllAccess folks start updating for the day…

Not Really A Hiatus

It’s just that we’ve had a lot of Real Life Intervening(tm), and have had precious little time to update.

We are readying a new update which we HOPE to have up in the next two days.

No, not right now. We’re tapping this out on our smartphone, and have an appointment in 10 minutes. So, we’ve gotta go…

Press Release Theatre, Vol. 5 (Ann’s Corner)

Posted while listening to Murray Hill Broadcasting WLFM-LP 6/87.7’s latest testing loop, dozens of oldies/classic hits/classic rock song “hooks”.

It’s time once again for “Ann’s Corner”, from one of our most prolific sources of press releases – Kent State University public WKSU/89.7-and-its-many-simulcasters marketing/public relations guru and personal and professional Friend of OMW Ann VerWiebe.

(Whew!)

The event is the annual Folk Festival put on by the WKSU folks…which means our friend Ann will be a very, very busy woman in September…

——

The 46th Kent State Folk Festival once again lays claim to its autumnal residency with concerts and events lined up from Thursday, Sept. 20 through Saturday, Sept. 22. The Kent Stage hosts concerts each night with Folk Alley ‘Round Town driving up the musical temperature throughout Kent on Friday and a big move downtown for the free Saturday workshops.

WKSU Executive Director Al Bartholet says, “We are really excited about this year’s line-up! The ‘Round Town buzz has already started and having workshops downtown will add even more of a community atmosphere to one of the Kent State Folk Fest’s most beloved events.”

The folk frenzy kicks off with two mainstage shows on Thursday, Sept. 20. Both shows begin at 8 p.m. On Manchester Field at Kent State University, Delhi 2 Dublin brings a raucous international flavor to the stage. With a mix of Celtic, Bhangra percussion, and Asian spice, the five members of Delhi 2 Dublin twist multiple genres into a high-energy stage show that has been an international hit at summer festivals, bringing audience members to their feet wherever they go. This concert is presented in conjunction with Kent State University’s Center for Student Involvement.

Singer/songwriters John Gorka and Tracy Grammer co-headline the opening night show at the Kent Stage on Main Street in Kent. With his warm sense of humor and talent at crafting personal and touching songs, Gorka has been an audience favorite since he emerged from the Boston folk music scene in the late 1970s. Grammer rose to prominence as the partner of the late singer/songwriter Dave Carter. After Carter’s death, Grammer has continued to interpret his work, discovering unreleased songs that have added to his considerable library of beautiful, soul-stirring songs.

On Friday, Folk Alley ‘Round Town fills venues up and down the streets of Kent with folk, roots and acoustic music ranging from intimate solo acts to rowdy bands. Nearly three-dozen bars, clubs, restaurants, churches, shops and other community spaces are committed to presenting free concerts beginning at noon and continuing late into the night. Find the ‘Round Town performance matrix online at KentStateFolkFestival.org.

Also on Sept. 21, the Kent Stage welcomes Over the Rhine with openers Girlyman to the Kent State Folk Festival. Led by husband and wife duo, Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, Over the Rhine has quietly become very popular. Sparked by Bergquist’s powerful voice and the pair’s intelligent songwriting, fans across the country are drawn to this Cincinnati-based group. Now performing as a quartet, Girlyman takes advantage of skillful vocal harmonies to create engaging folk-pop songs that reflect the band members’ varied life experiences.

Saturday starts off with a seismic shift as the free Community Workshops move off campus to downtown Kent. From noon to 5 p.m., the hour-long workshops will invite musicians and music fans to learn more about everything from Russian folk and jug band music to clogging and arranging music for group sings. Several workshops on the business of being a professional musician will also be presented. A schedule grid for workshops is available at KentStateFolkFestival.org.

For the grand finale on Sept. 22, three Legends of Folk come to the Kent Stage. All three headliners – Tom Paxton, the Red Clay Ramblers and John McCutcheon – are making return visits to the Kent State Folk Festival, the longest, continually running folk festival on a college campus in the U.S. A prominent player in the ‘60s folk music revival, singer/songwriter Tom Paxton has long believed in the power of a well-written folk song. Paxton was twice nominated for Grammy Awards and received a 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy. He has also picked up Lifetime Achievement Awards from ASCAP and the BBC.

For four decades, the Red Clay Ramblers have been taking North Carolina string music to places it has never been. Adding bluegrass, country, rock, New Orleans jazz and more to their old-time mountain music, the Ramblers have traveled around the world and taken their game to Broadway, where they earned a Special Tony Award for Fool Moon in 1999. The band’s musical Lone Star Love or the Merry Wives of Windsor, Texas was debuted by Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland.

Singer/songwriter John McCutcheon started his career by picking up an acoustic guitar but quickly graduated to a roomful of instruments, including fiddle, banjo, autoharp, jaw harp and the hammered dulcimer (on which he is considered one of folk’s best performers). When his children were young, McCutcheon used his songwriting skills to create songs for the younger set that engaged them without condescension. His most recent CD is a tribute tied to Woody Guthrie’s centenary.

Tickets are now on sale for all Kent State Folk Festival concerts and are available at the Kent Stage, by phone at 888-718-4253 or online at TheKentStage.com. The Kent Stage is located at 175 East Main St. in downtown Kent and the box office is open Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The festival website – KentStateFolkFestival.org – offers artist bios and videos, along with the complete list of free Folk Alley ‘Round Town performances Community Workshops at venues throughout the city of Kent.

The line-up for the 46th Kent State Folk Festival (all concerts at The Kent Stage unless otherwise noted):
Thursday, Sept. 20 at 8 p.m.: Delhi 2 Dublin (Manchester Field at Kent State University) – FREE.

Thursday, Sept. 20 at 8 p.m.: John Gorka and Tracy Grammer – $21.

Friday, Sept. 21 (various times): Folk Alley ‘Round Town (35 venues throughout Kent) – FREE.

Friday, Sept. 21 at 8 p.m.: Over the Rhine with Girlyman – $26.

Saturday, Sept. 22, 12 p.m.-5 p.m.: Workshops (9 venues throughout Kent) – FREE.

Saturday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m.: Legends of Folk featuring Tom Paxton, The Red Clay Ramblers and John McCutcheon – $43 gold circle, $30 reserved.

Festival support is provided by Kent State University, the City of Kent, Cascade Auto Group, Great Lakes Brewing Company, Audio-Technica, Lehman’s, PARTA and Dominion East Ohio.

WKSU broadcasts NPR & Classical Music at 89.7 FM, and is a service of Kent State University. WKSU programming is also heard on WKRW 89.3 FM in Wooster, WKRJ 91.5 FM in Dover/New Philadelphia, WKSV 89.1 FM in Thompson, WNRK 90.7 in Norwalk and W239AZ 95.7 FM in Ashland. The station broadcasts four HD Radio channels – adding WKSU-2 Folk Alley, WKSU-3 The Classical Channel and WKSU-4 The News Channel to the analog broadcast schedule. The WKSU website is http://www.wksu.org.

A Pile Of Items, Released

UPDATE 8/16/12 10:05 AM: If you read this before 10 AM, scroll down for an additional item…

——–

As per usual, important items pile up in a clump of anywhere from three to a half-dozen. This update doesn’t cover everything in that pile, but we’ll get close enough to doing so.

And coming ’round the bend sometime in the next few days – “Couch Burner, The Followup”.

Yes, as reported here and by the Akron Beacon Journal, John Denning has taken over the 10 AM-3 PM time slot on WNIR/100.1 “The Talk of Akron”…after 25 years of listener calls to nearly 40 year Akron talk radio icon Howie Chizek under that flaming furniture nickname.

We’ll go back to that topic later. But first…

YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A MURRAY HILL: We expressed some skepticism when WLFM-LP 6/87.7 “87.7 Clevelanders Rock” honcho Tom Wilson told local media that a company named Murray Hill Broadcasting owned the station that was owned, according to the FCC, by Venture Technologies Group.

We should have waited a while longer.

Murray Hill, with Wilson named as “managing partner”, has filed to buy WLFM-LP outright from Venture, a company Wilson has worked with frequently in the past.

Price tag, according to documents filed with the FCC? $25,000.

Not bad for a “Franken FM”, riding the analog audio airwaves of TV channel 6 at 87.75 mHz FM, at least for another three years, playing the role of a radio station in America’s 30th largest market. (More on that three year thing in a bit.)

When the station actually launches playing more than sports fight songs and a hit by a local band whose frontman is actually working at another station, is anyone’s guess.

WLFM staffers have been telling friends of the station’s Facebook page that they’re planning on launching by the end of this month (two weeks away!), presumably from studios in the Cleveland Agora building at 50th and Euclid.

We’ve heard no more about staffing decisions, aside from the presence of former CBS Radio promotions staffer Archie Berwick in morning drive, and former CBS Radio alt-rock (now sports) WKRK/92.3 personality Rachel Steele in afternoon drive…

We have heard rumors of some more off-air staffers heading for the Agora, and perhaps a veteran programmer from another market potentially in the mix at 87.7, but we haven’t yet confirmed those rumblings yet…

AND ABOUT THAT WLFM “THREE YEAR” THING”: In two of its other markets, Venture has been trying to convince the FCC to let it inject an analog audio carrier alongside a digital channel 6 signal…the audio carrier, of course, to show up on FM radios at 87.7.

The FCC came back and basically said, well, no.

From Tom Taylor’s excellent Taylor on Radio-Info column – a column we hope continues somewhere, somehow after the sale of Radio-Info.com to “Talkers” trade magazine publisher Michael Harrison:

The gear from Axcera would let Venture’s Pittsburgh and Lubbock TV stations continue transmitting an analog radio signal at 87.7 after the required conversion to digital TV in 2015. In other words, they could continue to be heard on most FM radios in analog. That would require more transmitter power, however, and the FCC doesn’t fancy that idea.

Tom helpfully provides a link to the FCC decision regarding Venture’s WBPA-LP Pittsburgh and KFMP-LP Lubbock TX.

At this writing, WLFM-LP in Cleveland has not filed an application for a digital channel 6 facility.

But it sure sounds like this potential “out” for it and the other so-called “Franken FMs” isn’t passing muster with the FCC.

Without such a change, the radio station created by WLFM-LP’s presence on the analog FM dial will have to find some other home on September 1, 2015…

SCRIPPS HIRED HER, HOWEVER…: Cristin Severance, a fixture at Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5’s “NewsChannel 5”, has been a fixture in doubt…since her employer, the Columbus-based Ohio News Network, announced it would end operations on August 31st.

No network, no Cleveland bureau…but as it turns out, Scripps has hired Cristin Severance.

Just not in Cleveland.

Starting next month, Severance will be working for another Scripps ABC affiliate, KGTV/10 in San Diego, as a “consumer investigative reporter”.

Though she’ll certainly miss her friends in Ohio, Cristin tells OMW that she’s very much looking forward to the trek west.

“I’ve really enjoyed living and working in Cleveland, but this is a dream position for me in a city (where) I’ve always wanted to live. It is the Scripps station, so I’ll still be apart of the WEWS family,” Severance told us as she works out her final days at 3001 Euclid.

OMW hears that she’ll have inbound Cleveland company in San Diego and at KGTV, though we’ll share that piece of news with you later…

TO TV, AND BACK TO RADIO: Rubber City Radio Group oldies/news WAKR/1590 Akron morning news anchor Lindsay McCoy, who has been alongside morning host Ray Horner since her return to the Akron station, is leaving again.

This time, Lindsay moves into television, taking a multimedia journalist role at Vindicator NBC affiliate WFMJ/21 in Youngstown.

And now alongside Horner as WAKR’s new morning news anchor, at least for the next while, is someone who’s no stranger to the station or its former TV sister station.

Mark Williamson was most recently the long-running spokesman for Akron mayor Don Plusquellic.

But thousands of Akronites still remember him as the anchor and news director on “23 Newsday” at Akron’s former ABC affiliate, WAKC/23…now ION network O&O WVPX/23, serving the entire Cleveland market.

He also has an early stint at WAKR itself on his resume, back when the radio stations (WAKR and then-WAEZ/97.5, now rock WONE) were co-owned with the TV station.

Rubber City Radio VP/Information Media and long-time OMW Reader Ed Esposito talks about his new anchor.

“I think Mark’s experience on both sides of the fence provides him with a unique view of how the system works,” Esposito tells us. “He’s an intelligent person who was the spokesman for the mayor, but now he’s an intelligent person using that experience to help our listeners understand the story behind the story.”

Esposito says that Williamson will be in the role part-time “while we post the position of anchor/reporter as required.”

And just what requirements are attached to the job of morning anchor on WAKR?

“We’ve posted the news anchor/reporter position and are looking for someone with electronic journalism experience; we are a digital news operation producing news for broadcast, online, mobile and social media platforms with text, audio, video and short-form (Twitter, mobile) presentation,” Esposito tells OMW. “Looking for someone with natural curiosity and the confidence to ask questions that get to the heart of the story.”

Esposito also tells OMW that a producer will be added to the Ray Horner Morning Show, though that job description is still in the works…

LOW POWER: Media One Group hot AC WREO/97.1 “Star 97.1” in Ashtabula is proud of that station’s signal…often invoking its reach from Cleveland’s eastern suburbs all the way to Erie PA (“Mentor, Cleveland, Erie and you”).

That signal isn’t what it should be.

WREO explains on its web page:

We are having some work done on our star 97.1 radio towers. We hope to have it done soon so that we can get back to providing you with the regional coverage and fun tunes you love from Cleveland to Erie. We have a very low signal going out to Ashtabula and Geneva right now. We miss you all as well.
Be back soon from your Star 97.1 family

Listeners in the region are definitely noticing the difference. An OMW reader in Lake County asked us about 97.1’s signal problems, which prompted us to check.

And you can bet Media One Group is working as hard as possible to get things back to normal at WREO. The station, especially in its current incarnation, spends a lot of time paying attention to affluent Lake County suburbs of Cleveland.

And unlike most stations, WREO can’t instruct its far flung listeners to stream its audio. “Star 97.1” offers no stream.

The low-power signal means the voice of a regular OMW reader isn’t going as far as it normally does.

Chuck Matthews tells us he’s now entering “year 3” as the station voice for “Star 97.1″…

COURTRIGHT, THE NEXT GENERATION: Could there be a new generation of the Courtright family in Cleveland radio news?

OMW hears that Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 news anchor/reporter Julie Courtright could make that possible.

Julie is going to be away from the WTAM airwaves for a few weeks in the next month or so for good reason: she and her husband are expecting their first baby, a baby girl, due date September 21st.

OMW readers are well aware of the Courtright family’s history in local radio news.

Julie’s father, the late Ken Courtright, spent decades doing radio news in Cleveland, including (twice) on the 1100 facility where his daughter now works.

Like her father, Julie worked her way up in radio news, being heard in Dover/New Philadelphia and in Oberlin before taking the WTAM job.

And Courtright’s son, Alan, has his own voiceover business in Medina, and was also heard doing radio news at Rubber City Radio’s WAKR a ways back.

We hear Julie “is sure (the new arrival in the family) will carry on the Courtright broadcasting tradition”, though we don’t know if she’ll take a page from the folks in Massillon.

Newborn babies in that high school football-mad community are presented with small footballs in the crib… we wonder if Julie and her husband will put a small microphone in their infant daughter’s crib…

Commotion At Broadcast Park, A WNIR Decision?

The first of our items this week concerns the most active place media-wise in the OMW Coverage Area…the installation known as “Broadcast Park”, the home of Media-Com talk WNIR/100.1 “The Talk of Akron” on Ohio 59 between Kent and Ravenna.

We have to get this up early Monday, because it appears likely a major announcement will take place on the station later this morning.

We were prepared to tell you that former WMMS/100.7 “Buzzard Morning Zoo”/”Jeff and Flash” co-host Jeff Kinzbach was readying to take the 10 AM-3 PM slot on WNIR, becoming the successor to the late Howie Chizek.

What we can tell you now is…that Kinzbach will NOT be taking that position.

No, all signs are pointing to an announcement that the successor to the nearly 40 year WNIR midday fixture (pictured at left), who ruled the Akron radio roost for much of that time, will be…one of his long-time regular callers.

Word spread around the local radio community at about the same time that the Akron Beacon Journal posted this item on Ohio.com late Friday:

John “Couch Burner” Denning will take over Howie Chizek’s spot on WNIR (100.1-FM), multiple sources said Friday.

This, despite the fact that both the station and Kinzbach had previously announced he would be the second auditioner to handle a full week in the 10-3 slot starting today.

Denning, of course, was the first to do so.

Judging from a Facebook status update later pulled by Kinzbach, the relationship between the radio station and the former WMMS host fell apart, and fast.

We won’t repeat the full update here, as it has been pulled.

But most of our readers have already seen it, judging from our E-mail and message board posts, so we’ll distill it in this item.

Kinzbach posted that he’d heard a station promo for his week-long audition stint had been pulled, and that “someone had been hired”.

After not hearing from WNIR officials, and playing some phone tag with the station, Kinzbach posted that he was eventually told that was indeed the case, and that he was told that “they have hired a guy who was a frequent caller to the station.”

Ladies and gentlemen, the successor to a man who owned Akron midday radio ratings for nearly 40 years…is going to be a man who until Howie’s death was only known to listeners as “Couch Burner”.

The Ohio.com blurb linked above actually gives some background on John Denning.

He’s a former banker and University of Akron graduate who apparently got the nickname from starting the practice of burning couches at UA. No, really.

What he isn’t is a even a moderately experienced radio personality, unless you count 25 years of short calls on the other end of a phone line from Howie Chizek.

We heard brief snippets of Denning’s auditions.

He acquitted himself well – for a caller with no radio experience. We thought he needed some more depth, and needed to laugh out loud less often, but that was only a first impression.

What leads one of Akron’s top rated radio stations to hire a regular caller to replace its most iconic host after his death?

Our take: lowered expectations.

Whomever would take over WNIR’s 10 AM-3 PM shift, he or she would not likely ever come close to Howie Chizek’s dizzying success…and that applies to Denning, Kinzbach or any of the other auditioners.

It even applies to veterans like Bill Hall, the WAPS/91.3 “The Summit” host and former WNIR fill-in who returned to his former station temporarily for the same role…as vacations and the illness of evening host Tom Erickson (more on that topic later) stretched regular fill-ins Bob Earley and Jim Isabella into beyond full-time roles.

For their part, Earley repeatedly told listeners that he wasn’t interested in the 10-3 slot, and Isabella said he was interested.

We once called them “the safe choices” if the station wanted to serve its current listeners with familiar voices.

But…”Couch Burner?”

If you’re the Klaus brothers, and you realize that Howie is gone for good…and no one will come close to his dominance…why make a “big move” to replace him?

Maybe there’s a money part to the decision, but we suspect it’s more in the “You Can’t Replace Howie, Literally” file.

John Denning is by far not the first radio caller to end up as a host, even in Northeast Ohio radio.

But Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 Cleveland afternoon drive host Mike Trivisonno didn’t head directly from his time as the caller known as “Mr. Know-It-All” on Pete Franklin’s old 3WE “Sportsline” show to succeed Franklin on the station now known as WTAM.

Triv was hired (by Norman Wain, if we recall correctly) to read morning sports on the last WNCX/98.5 morning show before Howard Stern showed up. While in the building, he also did sports talk on then-co-owned WERE/1300.

(Today, WNCX/98.5 is a CBS Radio-owned classic rocker, and WERE is now on 1490 AM as a brokered talk station under Radio One, with 1300 now carrying gospel as WJMO.)

Triv then moved to Franklin’s old “Sportsline” shift on WTAM in evenings, and then was moved to afternoon drive, and finally, 1100 AM found its solution in that long-chaotic time slot. The rest is Triv History.

Is that the kind of path ahead of John Denning, as he prepares to host six days a week (don’t forget Klaben remotes on Saturdays!) in the time slot long occupied by his favorite host? (NOTE: We don’t know if Denning will pick up the Klaben remotes.)

We don’t see it, but we could be wrong.

We mentioned that the station’s full-time local schedule was thinned…by the death of Howie, a vacation for afternoon driver Bob Golic, and illness suffered by 7-11 PM host Tom Erickson.

We’ve heard Earley mention that they were not expecting Tom back for months, and that the WNIR evening talker had “an infection”, but we found out just how bad Erickson’s condition was in an item by Akron Beacon Journal pop culture writer Rich Heldenfels:

According to Erickson’s daughter Heather Nagel, he has mainly been fighting the effects of a nasty case of peritonitis, an infection which has ruined his stomach and spread into the rest of his body. He has been hospitalized for months, Nagel says, and cannot eat or drink. Surgery is planned, but it could well be another three to six months before he gets back to work.

Since he hasn’t worked for some time, Erickson’s family says he isn’t getting paid, and has exhausted sick time and vacation time, and needs help paying medical bills.

To that end, a fundraiser is planned for this coming weekend, quoting a notice posted on Erickson’s website by his family:

On Sunday August 19th, from 5-8pm at Ripper Owens Tap House, we will support Tom by holding a fundraiser with 10% of ALL sales being donated and complete with an awesome raffle of prizes with tickets only $1 each or 6 for $5, a 50/50 raffle, a money machine, and….a two set performance by HUMAN NATURE!!!

Ripper Owens Tap House is on Waterloo Road in Akron.

A list of the raffle items so far, including some celebrity swag you’d expect from a radio host, is on the site…as is a link to donate to Tom’s cause via PayPal, and an address to send him get well cards.

And we suspect that if he has a laptop in the hospital and is able to use it, Tom is probably reading this. Our sincere best wishes to you, Tom, for a smooth, prompt recovery.

We are aware of other local media personalities who have gone through similar health crises, and who are going through those medical problems even now.

We stand at the ready to help them, as best we can…