Morning Thoughts

Some random, unconnected, late morning thoughts:

THINKING OF FM: OMW has promised you updates on FM stations across the country flipping to a news, talk or spoken word format, and there’s another on the way. Bonneville, which has been leading the way in this, is buying Emmis’ CHR/rhythmic KKFR/92.3 in the Phoenix market and will flip it to a simulcast of their news/talk AM in the market, KTAR/620.

The announcement follows the company’s move in two other large markets, moving all-news powerhouse WTOP in Washington DC to a primary FM broadcast, and adding an FM simulcast of flagship news/talk KSL in Salt Lake City. And it follows the company’s announced goal of adding more news and talk on the FM band.

Bonneville, of course, doesn’t own any stations in Ohio. But we still believe the trend will become red hot in the next couple of years, particularly if Bonneville and others (Clear Channel in Pittsburgh and Minneapolis) have success with these new operations. If nothing else, the presence of the spoken word format on FM lowers its demographics by a few years.

Oh, and if Good Karma Broadcasting’s Craig Karmazin is really serious about mounting a sports talk station in Cleveland, he’d do well to look at an FM. We don’t know if he can afford a full-market FM in a top-30 market, but he’s young and likely agrees with us on this trend.

The obvious Cleveland FM candidate would be Moody’s WCRF/103.3, but they’ve likely turned down any number of multi-gazillion dollar offers from the majors over the years. If they didn’t sell in the big Cleveland Frequency Swap of 2001, they may not sell now…and as well as he seems to do, Karmazin likely doesn’t have that kind of money.

Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting’s WNWV/107.3 Elyria could well be another candidate, but we’re sure the locally-owned Cleveland-targeted smooth jazz outlet has also seen offers from the major groups and turned them down before. And we don’t expect that to change.

It’s a thought, though…FM is the new “plastics” for news/talk format operators. (Think “The Graduate”…)

WHOOPI! (YAWN.): You’ve no doubt heard by now that comedienne Whoopi Goldberg is the latest mega-star to try her hand at radio, with a recently announced deal with Clear Channel. “Wake Up with Whoopi” is set to start in morning drive on July 31st, and is aimed mostly at AC stations. Stations will apparently be able to program the show’s music locally, much like a couple of other syndicated morning shows which aim at different demographics.

The Premiere-syndicated show will be based in New York City, and a CC executive hints to Radio & Records that some “major” stations are already on board. The initial affiliate list will be announced in early July.

We’re going to assume that Whoopi’s morning show is not likely to be heard in Cleveland or Akron/Canton, at least on Clear Channel-owned stations. For that to happen, either or both WMVX/106.5’s Brian and Joe or WKDD/98.1’s Matt and Angela would have to go, and that’d be considered somewhat north of “unlikely”. (Unless, of course, Mr. Patrick has a REAL retirement announcement in his future. Heh.)

And though the music mix would apparently be locally selected, the show seems aimed at AC stations, anyway…though we suppose hot AC stations could come along for the ride.

Like AllAccess news/talk/sports maven and Friend of OMW Perry Michael Simon, we were also rankled by Whoopi’s press release. “Radio is an area I have always wanted to play in,” it quotes the star of such gems as “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. (Not every movie can be “The Color Purple”.)

You know, Whoopi? We’ve always wanted to “play in” the movie business. Can you call up a producer or two and make that possible? Thanks. Sheesh! At least the Air America Radio folks didn’t say they wanted to “play in” radio when that motley collection of movie stars, comedians and an actual talk show host or two started their venture…

What, Whoopi, you saw John Tesh doing morning drive for a smooth jazz station or two and thought it’d be easy?

RADIO WASTELAND: Regular OMW readers know we’re pretty much a news/talk/sports creature when it comes to our regular listening. (We try, really, not to give short shrift to music formats, but there’s only so much one can say about Matchbox 20, and actual PERSONALITY radio offerings on the music side are few and far between in 2006.)

We were up in Lake County visiting some friends the other night, and we did a scan of the AM band in the 8 PM hour…and were sorely disappointed.

The lakeshore counties have the benefit of getting any number of stations on both AM and FM from anywhere from Detroit to southern Ontario. ABC Radio news/talk WJR/760 Detroit and CHUM’s news/talk CKLW/800 Windsor ON blast across the lake like local signals into the lake-facing counties, and were no exception the other evening. It’s no wonder that CKLW, in its historic top 40 incarnation, regularly showed up in the Cleveland ratings book.

This night, though, it wasn’t contemporary music or even local – or Canadian – talk blasting across Lake Erie from that powerhouse stick at 800 AM. It was, and no, we’re not making this up, DAVE RAMSEY. Yes, the homespun Southern money advice guy is now being cleared in Canada. (Isn’t there a law against that?) Presumably, Ramsey considers CKLW his Detroit market affiliate, though the station mostly aims at the Canadian side with its news/talk format.

For ABC’s WJR, it was Dr. Laura Schlessinger, enjoying one of her now-very-few 50,000 watt clearances. Here in Ohio, Dr. Laura can’t field a station larger than Canton’s 500 watt religious/talk WCER/900, but she hangs in there on WJR for whatever reason.

And CKLW and WJR were not the only booming disappointments that night. Sean Hannity was heard on two stations, WRVA/1140 Richmond and WOWO/1190 Fort Wayne. Clear Channel powerhouse WHAM/1180 Rochester was pumping out…Michael Savage. Why do we even bother to bandscan at night?

Locally, Cleveland’s 50,000 flamethrower, WTAM/1100, was dutifully presenting a Cleveland Indians game with, we believe, Kansas City…and 50,000 watt day/4700 watt night WKNR/850 was covering the team down the street from where we were, the Lake County Captains. Our frustration was mostly aimed out of town…as the Indians and Captains play-by-play offerings were certainly preferable to a blowtorch signal delivering Dr. Laura or Dave Ramsey…

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