Yet Another Retrans Battle, And A Bit Of Football

The latest retransmission consent battle (read: over money) has left Dish Network subscribers in the Cleveland TV market without CBS or MyNetwork TV programming…since early Thursday morning.

The dispute between the nation’s number two satellite TV provider and Raycom Media removed WOIO/19 and WUAB/43 from the Cleveland local channels lineup.

So, since we’ve been down this road before, let’s bring in both sides…first, the local TV stations:

For months, we have been working to resolve this matter, but so far have been unable to reach an Agreement with Dish Network for the continued carriage of WOIO and WUAB. This is particularly disappointing because all the other TV providers in our area have Agreements with us and those Agreements are fundamentally similar to the one we have been negotiating with Dish Network.

As a result, on August 1st, Dish Network customers lost access to WOIO and WUAB.

Raycom urges Dish subscribers to call the company, and suggests alternative providers like DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and Cox Cable.

Oh, and:

And you can always get your local broadcast channel free over the air.

We needed that laugh. More on that later.

Enter Englewood, Colorado, and the folks at Dish Network, who say Raycom “blocked” viewers from their channels on the satellite service.

(quoting Sruta Vootukuru, director of programming) DISH has offered to pay Raycom the same rates as our primary competitors; yet Raycom has stalled negotiations, refusing to accept that fair offer. DISH has negotiated hundreds of local retransmission agreements and on behalf of customers, we hope Raycom will soon agree to terms in line with market standards.”

At this time, Montgomery, Ala.-based Raycom has refused DISH the legal right to carry its programming unless DISH pays more than four times what it was paying under the previous agreement.

About that “always free over the air” line from WOIO/WUAB/Raycom – regular readers are laughing along with us, well aware of the difficulty many over-air viewers in the core of the Cleveland area have in decoding the 9.5kW/still-getting-interference-from-Canada signal currently offered by WOIO.

Folks in the Akron/Summit County area get a lot of help from the well-placed WOIO digital translator on RF 24, but viewers north of Akron have no shot at that low-power signal.

Dish Network has much more on their side on a site called “Fair Satellite”, here.

Our take? This would get resolved a lot faster if it happened about a month later, when the Cleveland Browns open up the regular season on September 8th…in a game with the Miami Dolphins televised by WOIO’s network, CBS.

Pre-season games are handled once again this year by Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3, which opens up its four game warmup slate next Thursday (!) against the St. Louis Rams.

By the way, Browns pre-season play by play on the radio side, with Jim Donovan on TV, will be handled by WKNR’s Michael Reghi…taking the role that Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 sports director Mike Snyder did for many years prior.

While we’re talking Browns in this item anyway, a note: the End of the Clear Channel-Browns relationship has popped up again, this time in Mansfield.

We hear that Mid-State sports WRGM/1440 and its 97.3 FM translator “ESPN 1440 & 97.3” take the radio broadcasts from long-time Mansfield rightsholder WMAN/1400(-WMAN-FM/98.3).

Anyway, back to the Dish/Raycom dispute…as usual, you can watch many of the shows on both channels online.

CBS.com has an extensive selection of full episode video, and 19ActionNews.com is heavily promoting the existing streaming of their local newscasts…

Advertisements

Not Rumors, For The Most Part

We generally deal in facts here at the Mighty Blog of Fun(tm), give or take an occasional rumble.

And at this juncture, there are a LOT of rumbles out there, and nearly all of them haven’t been confirmed to our satisfaction yet.

The item just before this one is just one example…there are more hot-and-heavy rumors out there.

So, if you’re looking for the answer to “who’s about to be fired”, after hearing it on a certain morning drive show…not yet. We’ll pass along changes as soon as they happen, and not before.

We are not immune to speculation here, but generally speaking, when nothing has actually HAPPENED yet, we don’t weigh in.

(There are limited exceptions to that, like when a certain afternoon drive talk show host loudly announced that he was SURE he was about to get competition, which never happened.)

Anyway, moving on to our verified items…

LONG-TIME EXIT: A local TV type behind the camera has left the building.

That building is 3001 Euclid Avenue, where Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 says goodbye to managing editor Jim Scott, who has been with the station for five years.

OMW hears that the decision was his.

Scott’s family never left Pittsburgh when he took the job in Cleveland, and he’s returning to Pittsburgh after some family members passed away.

We hear that Jim Scott was well-respected and liked at “NewsChannel 5”, and we wish him well personallly and professionally…

INDIRECT: Western Reserve PBS’ WEAO/49 Akron has been off the air for a large chunk of April due to transmission line problems, and Mother Nature hasn’t at all been cooperative.

Those heavy rains and high winds we’ve been experiencing for much of the month mean that tower crews literally can’t get up on the station’s tower in Copley Township and repair the broken line.

In the meantime, WEAO has the bulk of its viewership still in the fold, as the massive Time Warner Cable system in the Cleveland/Akron/Canton area has been carrying the feed from sister Youngstown-market outlet WNEO/45 Alliance, unaffected by the problems in Copley Township, since a day after the outage began. (And thankfully, someone turned down the volume on the feed shortly after it started.)

Other local cable systems have been able to pick up the WNEO feed, but it does appear Cox Cable, DirecTV and Dish Network subscribers will have to wait until the over-air signal of WEAO/49 is back.

Western Reserve PBS communications coordinator and OMW Handler Diane Steinert (we’re pretty sure that’s on her business card) writes:

We’ve learned that the satellite companies and Cox Cable are unable to make the switch. They’ve all been great in trying to do so, and we appreciate their efforts. Repair work is still being thwarted by the weather.

When will it be fixed? Look for an extended period of dry, less windy weather, which seems almost unthinkable here in Northeast Ohio this month…but we’re sure our friends at Campus Center Drive will get the station back on as soon as possible.

And our apologies to Diane, for a small mistake in our previous item, which has been fixed.

We meant that we didn’t know if DirecTV subscribers would get the WEAO signal back BEFORE the over-air signal returns, not WHEN…

CLASSIC CHUCK: Clear Channel country WGAR/99.5 Hall of Fame afternoon driver Chuck Collier apparently counts Dayton among his resume stops, and is now being heard in the region again.

That’s because Collier is on the schedule at a new classic country outlet in the market, Springfield’s WIZE/1340. Until the flip, it was the eastern simulcaster of Dayton sports station WONE/980.

Clear Channel made the move after Main Line Broadcasting pulled country outlet WKSW/101.7 out of Springfield, off the frequency and out of the country format.

(It’s now modern AC WCLI-FM “Click 101.5” Enon, targeting Dayton itself. And that presumably means the WKSW calls are available, should, say, the folks at WKSU/89.7 wish to grab them for one of the station’s repeaters.)

Of course, Chuck Collier isn’t budging from either his WGAR afternoon drive perch, or his voicetracked midday shift on sister classic hits WMJI/105.7.

As far as we can tell, Chuck comes to Springfield via the magic of Clear Channel’s “Premium Choice” country format. When “Premium Choice” started, we noted here that we’d heard Chuck would be one of the voicetracked talents…

WOIO Gets “Me”

Raycom Media CBS affiliate WOIO/19 pulls out another pronoun in the digital TV subchannel universe, which will make this a very challenging post to write.

That’s because WOIO recently signed up to air “Me-TV,” as in “Memorable Entertainment Television,” operated by Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting in a joint venture with movie studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. (You know, the same MGM whose very existence was in total limbo all of last year.) It joins the ranks of other subchannel “retro networks” like Tribune’s Antenna TV – seen on LocalTV Fox affiliate WJW/8.2 – and the Retro TV Network – seen on Media-Com’s LPTV duo of WAOH-LP 29 Akron/W35AX Cleveland.

Most of Me-TV’s lineup is a steady lineup of classic TV show reruns from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” “The Honeymooners,” “M*A*S*H,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Dobie Gillis,” “Bonanza,” “The Big Valley,” “Cheers,” “Perry Mason,” and so on. It’s reminiscent of what TV Land’s lineup was pre-2007… when they to operated as a “retro network.”

Me-TV also features long-running Chicago horror host Svengoolie (portrayed by Rich Koz) on late-night Saturdays. Of course, Weigel has carried “Svengoolie” on their flagship station, independent WCIU/26 Chicago, for many years.

Me-TV is also a sister operation to “ThisTV,” a mostly all-movie channel airing on WOIO’s sister station, WUAB/43.2. ThisTV mainly airs the bulk of MGM’s modern-day film library that Ted Turner didn’t get his hands on – most of which is the United Artists library (the same former film studio that founded WUAB in the first place). In addition (and I doubt for E/I requirements), ThisTV airs the old DiC 1980s cartoon stable of “Inspector Gadget” and “Heathcliff and the Catilliac Cats” in the early mornings.

The question, however, is why WOIO signed up to carry Me-TV (h/t: RabbitEars.info) which still sports an incredibly weak digital signal on RF 10 instead of on the more powerful WUAB. And if you type in a Cleveland zip code on Me-TV’s website, it spits back “coming soon to WOIO” – yours truly and our Primary Editorial Voice(tm) have tried.

Also in question is the fate of WOIO’s 19.2 subchannel, which currently carries the weather service “WeatherNow” – if “Me” wound up on 19.3, that would compromise the HD capabilities of CBS’ national HD 1080i feed. But since WUAB only broadcasts with a more limited 720i resolution, and can add another 480i subchannel, they could get away with adding “Me” to 43.3… joining it alongside “My” at 43.1 and “This” at 43.2.

“My,” “This” and “Me…” they aren’t network or even ‘netlet’ names. It’s an English lesson gone horribly awry.

Those “Block”-heads at WUAB Return

It’s baaaaack.

Raycom My Network TV affiliate WUAB/43 Lorain has apparently decided to revive their former “43 The Block” branding – nearly six years after dropping the name the first time.

PhotobucketThe new “My 43 The Block” logo is not shown on WUAB’s website yet – a new www.wuab.com URL redirects to the current my43.net site – but all promos and station IDs have been redone to feature the new-old logo (shown in a screen capture to the right below the original “Block” logo).

For those who don’t remember, WUAB first used the “Block” name in 2002, in an effort to reposition the station following the loss of Cleveland Indians “free TV” rights. The original “Block” also was notable for cut-in segments filmed around the region featuring local comedians Mike Polk, Cody Dove, and Jack Hourigan. Eventually, those segments were discontinued, and the “Block” name was phased out in favor of the UPN branding standard as “UPN 43” (but keeping the stylized “43” script).

It’s surprising in a sense not just because of the significant time gap in between usage of the “Block” name, but also because it directly violates the branding standards set for My Network TV, which affiliated with WUAB after the CW (a merger of UPN and the WB) bypassed WUAB to affiliate with Winston Broadcasting WBNX/55 Akron.

Given that My Network TV no longer qualifies as a network but is a minor programming service for reruns, one can’t help but wonder if Raycom is planning to either de-emphasize the affiliation completely or turn WUAB into an outright independent for the first time since 1994.

The other pressing questions are when WUAB will revive both the “Star Movie” and Superhost…

URGENT: Bill Ward out at WJW

CORRECTION (04/01/2001 at 3:08PM): Art Lafredo, in fact, did retire from WJW three years ago… the post below has been amended to reflect the change. My apologies for the oversight.

Here’s a sample of Bill Ward’s work from the late 1970s, when he was at WEWS/5:

———————————————————————-

OMW has learned that Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 is currently making a series of budget-related personnel cuts. Most of them are or will be behind-the-scenes staff, such as chyron operators and floor directors.

One of the cuts, however, is a very noticeable one… longtime booth announcer/voice-over talent Bill Ward.

Bill was among those dismissed from WJW after nearly 28 years with the station. His tenure at the station dates back to when the station still had the WJKW calls and was a CBS affiliate – and Howard Hoffman still lent his talents to voice the top-of-the-hour IDs. Prior to that, Bill enjoyed long stints as booth announcers for both Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 and at the old WGAR/1220 (yes, back when WGAR was on the AM dial with a Top 40 format).

And fans of the long-running “Big Chuck and Lil’ John” will automatically recognize Bill either in on-camera roles or for voice-over duties, essentially assuming those roles from original co-host Bob “Hoolihan” Wells. (This also means that after director/technician Art Lafredo retired three years ago, legendary meteorologist Dick Goddard is the only connection remaining to “Houlihan & Big Chuck & Lil’ John” left at South Marginal… er, Dick Goddard Way.)

Bill will be replaced by an internet-provided voice (and Bill’s voice will still exist in existing station promos or commercials) but for many viewers, that otherwise subtle change will be more than noticeable.

Assorted Monday News Nuggets

LAFORCE IS WITH FOX 8: It looks like Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 has brought aboard a new sports reporter after former weeknight sports anchor Tony Rizzo’s departure last December.

VermilionOhioNews.com posted on their March 28 issue that Vermilion native Allie LaForce has been hired by WJW as a sports reporter. A recent broadcast journalism graduate of Ohio University (where she also played on the Bobcats’ girls basketball team), LaForce was the Miss Teen for 2005 and also made a guest appearance on the long-defunct NBC soap “Passions.”

Most recently LaForce worked as a sideline reporter for Sportstime Ohio during the 2010 Mid-American Conference’s football season and the 2011 MAC men’s basketball tournament, and if memory serves this Secondary Editorial Voice ™ correct, LaForce also made a contribution and fill-in or two for WJW a few weeks ago.

Not sure if her duties also will lend to weekend sports anchoring or fill-in for 30-year WJW veteran John Telich, who has been the lone remaining regular sportscaster at the station. Whenever Telich has had a day off, veteran anchors Bill Sheil and Lou Maglio, and web/tech guy Dan Jovic have done the sportscasts in his place, usually on the weekends. (And yes, Rizzo and Dan Coughlin will most assuredly return for Friday Night Touchdown next fall.)

TIME WARNER MOVES: Next Monday (April 5), much of Time Warner Cable’s extensive system in Northern Ohio will make yet another significant realignment to their channel lineups. It’s the most significant realignment since March of last year, when the HD channels were all reassigned to the 1000+ channel allotment.

Of special note is that the greater Akron, Mansfield, Kent and Medina areas will have the following Cleveland broadcast channels move so that their channel name and channel position match:

• Channel 3, WKYC, will be on 3 or 1003 (HD)
• Channel 5, WEWS, will be on 5 or 1005 (HD)
• Channel 8, WJW, will be on 8 or 1008 (HD)

Most other areas – including the Cleveland metro systems – are already “on-channel.”

ShopNBC, the Travel Channel, truTV and SPEED will also be made available in digital format only (joining Oxygen), and can only be seen with the aid of a digital cable converter box. Soapnet and Science Channel will move to the Digital Variety Package (in areas where the two channels are not there already).

All Time Warner Cable customers will have new lineups mailed to them seven days prior to when the channels changes occur – which would be within the next few days. To see how your service area is changing, check twcguide.com, and select your respective state and city. Rich Heldenfels’ blog at the Akron Beacon Journal’s the330.com has in detail the updated Akron lineup.

VIRGIL DOMINIC JOINS THE U OF A: Respected long-time newscaster, news director and general manager Virgil Dominic is still active in the television medium, even after retiring from WJW/8 over 15 years ago (in the wake of the longtime CBS affiliate’s switch to, and eventual purchase by, Fox).

Recently, Dominic joined the University of Akron’s School of Communication as a lecturer, and is now teaching “Broadcast Newswriting” for the Spring 2011 semester for the university’s telecommunication students.

On how much teaching students relates to his time working in commercial television, Dominic said:

“I had so many mentors throughout my career. They helped me so much and teaching is my way of honoring them… In many ways, by teaching I find myself learning all over again. For me, that is a wonderful feeling.”

For those who don’t know, Dominic entered the Cleveland market in 1965, joining then-NBC O&Os WKYC/3 as their lead news anchor – and also did work for then-sister station WKYC/1100 (even serving as a anchor for NBC Radio News when the now-defunct network had their radio O&Os each produce one newscast daily). After a successful stop as news director for Atlanta’s ABC affiliate, he was hired by then-WJKW/8 to institute the “Newscenter 8” format for the Storer-owned station, and eventually became the station’s general manager.

In addition to his work with the University of Akron, Dominic still serves as a consultant with his Virgil Dominic Communications, with former employer WKYC (now a Gannett-owned NBC affiliate) as one of his main clients.

MATT WATROBA AT FOLKALLEY: Kent State University NPR outlet WKSU/89.7’s FolkAlley.com has added another host (or “folkie,” as they put it) to their stable.

Longtime folk music personality/singer/songwriter/educator/performer Matt Watroba recently joined FolkAlley – which features traditional folk, contemporary singer/songwriter, Americana, Celtic, bluegrass, world and acoustic instrumentals – bringing aboard a well-respected, multitalented “music geek” to the internet and HD2 sub-channel service. (Again, that’s how they put it.)

Prior to joining FolkAlley, Watroba hosted the popular “Folks Like Us” program for over 22 years on Wayne State University NPR outlet WDET/101.9 Detroit, where it was dropped in late 2009 in a programming philosophy shift. He already had a presence on FolkAlley.com as they carried the nationally syndicated radio program “Sing Out! Radio Magazine,” a show that featured his interviews, live and recorded music.

Watroba will produce streaming content for FolkAlley.com, in addition to live broadcast hours and will contribute to the Folk Alley blog. Watroba will also appear as a guest host for “The Folk Alley Radio Show,” and for WKSU itself.

FolkAlley.com is (naturally) heard over the Internet and on the HD2 streams of the Kent State University-owned station’s full-power outlets (WKSU/89.7 Kent, WKSV/89.1 Thompson, WNRK/90.3 Norwalk, WKRW/89.3 Wooster and WKRJ/91.5 New Philadelphia).

REMEMBERING MARY HOLT: We’d be remiss not to mention the passing of a landmark music personality in the Cleveland market.

Mary Cordelia Brown, best known as Mary Holt, was the first African-American female announcer in Cleveland radio and television, beginning her long career at the old WSRS/1490 in 1952. From there, she found long success at WJMO/1540 (which swapped dial positions with WSRS in early 1959 to become WJMO/1490) and at WSRS’s successor, WABQ/1540, throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

To dampen complaints from other WJMO staffers who felt forced to ‘babysit’ the control board while she on the air, Holt successfully studied up on broadcast engineering and became a pioneering engineer in her own right.

Holt also made contributions to WJW/8, WEWS/5 and KYW-WKYC/3 at various points; most notably at KYW-TV as host of “Spirituals,” a gospel music program on Sundays. A radio version of “Spirituals” also aired on WJW/850 during the mid-to-late 1950s.

Holt also was one of the first announcers in the market to play what was then known as “hillbilly music” (otherwise known as “country and western”) under the pseudonym “Cindy Lou.” Consequently, as many people mistook pioneering rock-and-roll disk jockey Alan Freed for a black announcer, listeners to Holt also made the incorrect assumption that she was white.

Holt passed away back on March 9, at the age of 89, at the Eliza Bryant Nursing Home. The Plain Dealer obit offers more into her fascinating life, and even then, it doesn’t do much justice…

TV People Changes

Some exits at local TV operations…

END OF HIS ERA: OMW has confirmed a tip we received Tuesday about Time Warner Cable’s management locally.

Vin Zachariah has resigned as head of Time Warner Cable’s Northeast Ohio division for “personal reasons”.

He took over the local arm of the cable giant in September 2009, taking over for long-time TWC NEO boss Steven Fry.

We’re told that Doug Whiting, the company’s Midwest Regional Vice President for Customer Operations, will step in on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is selected…

SOME LAYOFFS: As hinted here on Tuesday, one local TV operation has indeed laid off three off-air staffers.

The station is Western Reserve PBS (WNEO/45-WEAO/49), where three staffers are gone due to economic conditions.

Western Reserve Public Media president/CEO Trina Cutter confirms the layoffs in a statement released to OMW. The statement will be reprinted in full at the bottom of this item:

One is a production assistant position; the other two are master control and traffic positions. Staff members will be asked to multitask to pick up some of the work of the three employees, while outsourcing also will help cover the tasks. It pains us to have had to make the reductions, but it was necessary for us to modify our budget to meet expenses.

OMW hears that one of those let go was a long-time station staffer, who had been with the Kent-based public TV operation (formerly known as “PBS 45 & 49”) for 29 years. (NOTE: We have removed the staffer’s name.)

Cutter tells OMW that the cuts were needed to shore up the station’s finances:

If we were to continue on course without modification, we would end up with a deficit budget in FY11. In this economic environment, it’s challenging to find more corporate support for general operations, plus we have experienced a decrease in support from foundations and cuts in State of Ohio funding.

Cutter does note that membership revenue, the “single largest source” for Western Reserve Public Media, is “holding steady”.

But about the production side of the house, the station’s top boss notes:

Like most PBS (and even many commercial) stations, we cannot maintain a fully staffed, full-time production crew — and, in fact, we never have. Throughout the organization’s history, the majority of the crews for our productions — including pledge — have been outsourced on a per-project basis. “NewsNite” and “NEOtropolis” were designed this way. It’s not news that more and more businesses and organizations are focusing on an “outsourcing” model. It is a national trend that began before the economic downturn.

“Survival of the fittest”, Cutter calls it, noting that unlike certain competitors, Western Reserve doesn’t have money from a county “sin tax” to fund arts organizations.

OMW hears that the move to Kent State’s new studio means “NewsNite” is produced with help from students at KSU, and that “NEOtropolis” is produced at the station’s hub at Main and Market in Akron by “a mix of freelance professionals and some temp staff from the station”.

Cutter’s statement is below:

———–

We did lay off three employees (Monday). One is a production assistant position; the other two are master control and traffic positions. Staff members will be asked to multitask to pick up some of the work of the three employees, while outsourcing also will help cover the tasks. It pains us to have had to make the reductions, but it was necessary for us to modify our budget to meet expenses.

If we were to continue on course without modification, we would end up with a deficit budget in FY11. In this economic environment, it’s challenging to find more corporate support for general operations, plus we have experienced a decrease in support from foundations and cuts in State of Ohio funding. The good news is that membership revenue, the organization’s single largest source of revenue, is holding steady. We are grateful to our members for their continued loyal support.

Like most PBS (and even many commercial) stations, we cannot maintain a fully staffed, full-time production crew — and, in fact, we never have. Throughout the organization’s history, the majority of the crews for our productions — including pledge — have been outsourced on a per-project basis. “NewsNite” and “NEOtropolis” were designed this way. It’s not news that more and more businesses and organizations are focusing on an “outsourcing” model. It is a national trend that began before the economic downturn.

It’s a “survival of the fittest” economic world right now. As long as Western Reserve Public Media stays fiscally and operationally “fit,” we will continue to thrive. And unlike many nonprofit organizations, Western Reserve Public Media does not have an endowment that we can draw on in difficult times; the advantage of a sin tax like arts organizations in Cuyahoga County; or a board that focuses on fund-raising for the station. We may be a nonprofit organization, but we operate very much like a small business that must expediently maneuver through, adapt to and meet challenges in the environment.