A Trip Through Southeast Ohio

Normally, not much farther south than Canton comes to the attention of our OMW Ears… but a recent jaunt down to Pittsburgh for dinner with some friends brought us back the long way, via I-70 and I-77 back into Northeast Ohio. Some random notes from that excursion:

* The talk radio market is actually more competitive in the Wheeling WV/Ohio Valley region. Long-time leader WWVA/1170 Wheeling has a new competitor, and among those involved are former station employees. Former WWVA afternoon drive host George Kellas, originally bounced from the now-Clear Channel owned news/talker for Sean Hannity, is doing afternoons on talk WKKX/1600 Wheeling, known as “The Valley’s watchDAWG” (their spelling, not ours!). His show is also being simulcast on Weirton WV’s WEIR/1430, which apparently (like certain Youngstown/Warren area AM oldies stations) is being fed via the WKKX Internet feed. Weirton’s just across the river from Steubenville, Ohio.

As for his former station, WWVA moved Hannity out of afternoon drive for a local show for two hours, and now the entire afternoon slot on 1170 is filled locally by Steve Novotney, who has hosted a Saturday morning sports talk show for them. “The Drive Home” is not a sports show, however, and Novotney is a much better host than the young man who used to claim 2 hours of the slot.

OMW heard some interesting back and forth between the competing hosts. Kellas passed along local rumors that Wheeling’s historic Capitol Music Hall, home of WWVA’s “JamboreeUSA”, was going to shut down its operations for good at the end of the year. Across the dial on 1170, Novotney proudly pointed out that HIS show didn’t spread rumors. The facility, of course, is now owned and operated by WWVA parent Clear Channel. (For the record, OMW has no idea of the status of that building’s operations.)

We also heard a promo for former WWVA news reporter David Bloomquist, who does mornings on WKKX, and heard a promo for a show hosted by former WWVA news director Tammie Beagle on WEIR/1430.

The other major talk outlet in the market is WOMP/1290 Bellaire – WSTV/1340 Steubenville, which had mostly syndicated talk programming when we heard it. It’s the former local home of Pat Campbell, who now does morning drive for Clear Channel talk WFLF/540 (“NewsRadio 540 WFLA”) in the Orlando, FL market.

* Down the road in Cambridge, at the I-77/I-70 interchange, former talker WILE/1270 is now “ESPN 1270”, a full-time sports station mostly running the ESPN Radio feed, along with local news and sports updates.

* And in New Philadelphia, on the southern end of the OMW coverage area, we heard still unchanged WJER/1450 and WJER-FM/101.7 with their usual mix of AC-ish music, local news and live air personalities. The reverse LMA, with former owner Gary Petricola operating the stations (and doing remotes!), is apparently open ended for now…as Clear Channel is apparently not planning anything with either facility, at least until their proposed move of 101.7’s COL from Dover to North Canton is approved and executed.

That would presumably – when the facilities are built out – send WJER-FM up to Freedom Avenue. But wither the AM? We still find it hard to believe that Clear Channel has even the slightest interest in operating AM 1450. It’d be a standalone in the Dover/New Philadelphia area, as 101.7 would become a Canton market station and 1450’s signal really doesn’t reach far into Stark County, let alone to the Freedom Avenue complex north of Belden Village Mall.

Our bet here – that Clear Channel sells off 1450 after the 101.7 move is approved or completed. Perhaps WTUZ/99.9 would be a candidate to operate the station in combo with their FM? Or maybe Mr. Petricola hangs onto it? We don’t know…but it’s hard to imagine Clear Channel Akron/Canton being interested in a 1000 watt AM station that doesn’t reach its primary marketing area.

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