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John Kiesewetter on the world of local and national TV

Senior Entertainment Reporter John Kiesewetter has been covering TV and media issues for 20 years. After joining the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1975 as a summer intern, he worked as a county government and suburban reporter; assistant city editor and suburban editor; and features editor supervising the Life section. He has a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

WEBN: It's Been A Blast

Negative Calorie Cookies from Brute Force Cybernetics... Martin Luther King Kwiks... Jerry Springer’s endorsement of the American Expense Card ("Don’t cross state lines without it")... The "We Are The Fools" parody song...

I had forgotten how many laughs I've had listening to WEBN-FM (102.7) over 40 years while researching my Sunday A&E story on the station's 40th anniversary. WEBN has produced some absolutely brilliant satire, much of it concentrated in the old Fool's Day Parade and then sprinkled over the rest of the year. The head-banging metal music isn't my favorite, but I still punch up WEBN to hear what they're up to... like getting Donald Trump(!) to do promos for the station contest.

From the first day 40 years ago, Frank Wood understood that the best radio comes out of a keyboard (a typewriter, later a computer), not the microphone. He and his father filled the air with commercials for fake stuff from Brute Force Cybernetics, and the legacy continued though Jay Gilbert, Tom Sandman, Joel Moss, Scott Reinhart and other members of the Committee for Aesthetic Public Spectacle, in a studio somewhere between the WEBN Garment District and Frog's Mountain. Maybe in Frog’s Meadow?

My favorite WEBN memories are from the Fool's Day Parade, when it was an all-day event for 20 years or more. I'd make sure I spent part of my day out in the car, so I could listen and laugh… to spots for the Lard Rock Café... Quakers Mate lubricants... former Congressman Buz Lukens, who solicited sex from a minor, rapping the "Child Thing"... Or the Columbia School of Car Salesmen spot with John Nolan and Jeff Wyler... Or all the variations on Tree Frog Beer, which, of course, gets you there faster. One year they did Jacor Beer ("You’ll get higher than the stock ever will").

But the station also has been a creative force in other ways – like the "WEBN Album Projects"... The graffiti billboard campaign with the call letters spray painted over another company's sign... Eddie Fingers offering to father Madonna's baby... Dennis "Wildman" Walker stuck on that downtown billboard for 61 days until the Bengals won a game in 1991... Or buying up all the tickets to the 1984 Police concert at Riverfront Coliseum, and given them away to listeners... Or inspiring rockin' parents. (In 1995, the station received a graduation invitation from a Kentucky girl named "Webn." True story.)

Not everyone was amused, of course, through this four decades of decadence. Like the Mother Teresa endorsement for Tree Frog Beer. (As I recall, it only aired once and was pulled after Catholic groups complained.) Or the furor by mental health advocates over the Robin Wood-Eddie Fingers "padded cell" TV commercials. WEBN pulled the commercials, and later ran an apology spot with GM Dave Macejko. As the camera panned out, you could see he was in a straitjacket too… Soon the cancellation of a TV campaign, and an "'apology spot," became part of the overall media strategy for stations coast to coast..

On WEBN, they like to say, "Portions are pre-recorded; others are given no thought whatsoever." But that was seldom the case. In 2000, they went to great lengths to scam listeners into thinking that a dead guy – a former listener named Gary Willis, who allegedly won $1,000 in a 1970s WEBN contest, and moved to San Francisco – had bequeathed $11,000 to 'EBN to give away to listeners who heard his hacking cough ("coughing up the cash") on the station. They even had a woman from a San Francisco Clear Channel station call my voice mail claiming to be the widow. After I reported that old-time WEBN staffers didn't remember Gary Willis, and that an Atlanta station had done a "coughing up the cash" contest a month earlier, they admitted it was all a hoax, just a way to give away $1,000 each to 11 listeners….

I have so many WEBN memories... the spectacular fireworks... morning host Robin Wood (and her poster for something like the Academy of Broadcasting and Bar Fighting?)... Bob the Producer's eulogies... But enough from me...

What are your favorite memories of WEBN? I can’t wait to read them.... Open a cold Tree Frog Beer and pour out your remembrances on the keyboard...

Another Honor For WUBE-FM

Country WUBE-FM (B105) is on a roll. First the Marconi Award nomination for station of the year in July, and now a Country Music Association nomination for Bill Whyte and Amanda Orlando as personality of the year.

Whyte won the award in 1991, in his first stint on the station. Will the Whyte stuff win again? We'll find out Nov. 7, when ABC broadcasts the 41st annual "CMA Awards" (8-11 p.m., Channels 9, 22).

The National Association of Broadcasters' Marconi Awards will be handed out Sept. 27.

Fireworks Not In HDTV

For the second consecutive year, the WEBN fireworks will not be in high definition -- for the same reason. It's too expensive.

"We looked at doing it in HDTV early on in our process, and decided against it. We'll re-evaluate it for next year," says Richard Dyer, Channel 5 general manager. Last year Channel 12 bailed on doing the fireworks in HDTV, after two years in high def, because of the cost, says Hank Hundemer, Channel 12 chief engineer.

With most HDTV production trucks committed to major sporting events, the price for renting the equipment for a one-shot event is .... well, in the words of Hundemer... "brutally expensive, painfully expensive, ridiculously expensive. The price was completely absurd."

Maybe next year?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Would You Pay Extra For Big Ten, NFL Networks?

So here's the deal: If you're a Time Warner Cable customer, would you be willing to pay extra for the Big Ten Network or NFL Network?

News that Northern Kentucky's Insight cable system has picked up the Big Ten Network -- in addition to having the NFL Network already -- probably will prompt (again) a lot of Time Warner bashing on this blog. Before that happens, I'd like to frame the conversation in another way:

Time Warner says it wants the Big Ten Network and NFL Network as an extra-pay digital sports tier, so just the sports fans -- not all customers -- pay for it. Sort of like those who buy the Major League Baseball or the NHL packages.

Yes, I know that Insight has placed the Big Ten Network and NFL on a standard digital tier, not a special sports-only tier. But Time Warner's corporate stance is that the company wants them on an extra-pay sports tier... and that doesn't appear to be changing any time soon.

So if you're a TWC subscriber, would you be willing to pay extra for the NFL/Big Ten channels? No? Yes? How much more a month? And if TWC sticks to its guns on this one, are you a big enough NFL/Big Ten fan to switch to satellite to get those channels?

Tell me about it.

Big Ten Network Launches on Insight

If you want to see the Big Ten Network premiering Thursday, you'll have to have DirecTV or live in Kentucky and have Insight cable.

Insight Communications announced late this afternoon that it will carry the Big Ten Network at 8 p.m. on Channel 527. It will be on the digital standard tier, not an extra-pay sports tier (which is what Time Warner wants). So again Insight is far ahead of Time Warner in sports channels. It got ESPNU before Time Wartner, and has the NFL Network, Fox Sports Ohio Reds games in HDTV and now the Big Ten Network.

Insight also will offer a free preview for the first two weeks on Channel 99.

"We know we have a lot of Big Ten fans here who want the channel," says Maggie Woolf, Insight's Edgewood-based marketing director. Insight has about 86,000 customers in Northern Kentucky.

DirecTV has the Big Ten Network because the satellite service is owned by News Corporation (Fox), which has a substantial investment in the BTN.

The Big Ten Network promises 39 football games, starting with Ohio State-Youngstown State at 1 p.m. Saturday. It also will have 140 men's basketball games, 55 women's basketball games, soccer, field hockey, volleyball, wrestling and baseball.

By the way, Time Warner's local spokeswoman Karen Baxter says her company is still in negotiations with the Big Ten, but she doesn't expect an agreement before the 8 p.m. Thursday debut.... or anytime soon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Geek To Me

Hey, do you know Jesse Yeary or Luke Neyer? They're the Cincinnati guys on the fourth season of "Beauty and the Geek" starting Tuesday, Sept. 18.

Here's what I know, from the CW:

Jesse Yeary, 26, software engineer.
Education: Graduate of University of Cincinnati College of Engineering.
Hobbies: Playing video games, watching sci-fi shows and listening to music.
In Five Years: "If fabulously wealthy, I'd like to become a professional student because there are a lot of interesting classes that I never had time to take. Plus, I would spend free time with the girl of my dreams."

Luke Neyer, 23, electrical engineering major at Ohio State University.
Hobbies: Boxing, raquetball and video games.
In Five Years: "Married."

Do you know them? Go to school with them? What can you tell us?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Channel 9 News on Delkus, Anchors and Ohio Lottery

Some Channel 9 news this morning:

--The two new anchor/reporters to replace David Rose (mornings and 5:30 p.m. news) will be hired soon after Labor Day. They're expected to be on the air by the end of September, near the start of the fall TV season, says Bill Fee, general manager.

--"Cash Explosion" and the nightly Ohio Lottery numbers will move from Ch. 9 to Ch. 5 in October. Fee says he couldn't reach a deal with the Ohio Lottery on compensation for the air time. Ch. 9 has been the local lottery affiliate for most of the last 20 years, except for 1999-01, when it aired on Ch. 5. The lottery requires two minutes at 7:28 p.m., which is very valuable real estate for TV stations. "We just couldn't reach an agreement for what that time was worth," Fee says.

--Fee denies that former weatherman Pete Delkus was offered a "lifetime contract" to stay at Ch. 9. Delkus told a Dallas website that Ch 9 offered him a lifetime deal when he left two years ago for Dallas. "That was Pete's ego talking," Fee says. Delkus was offered a "long-term contract similar to the 10-year deals we have with Clyde and Carol," Fee says.
See the Delkus interview in my Aug. 16 blog:

Dave Lee Dies

Friends of Dave Lee, longtime oldies DJ on WKRC-AM, say he died Sunday morning. He was best known for his celebrity impersonations on the air.

When Forrest Gregg coached the Bengals, Lee called the NFL office and fooled Commissioner Pete Rozelle into thinking he was talking to the Bengals coach. Rozelle gave him permission to air the bit on WKRC, and Lee later appeared on "Good Morning America" because of the bit. But I can't remember what the prank call was about. Do you?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Return of Frog News

Most of us call it "Frog News," but Ch. 5 calls it the "Cincinnati Bell WEBN Fireworks Preview." Whatever! Feature segments about the WEBN fireworks, leading up to the 9:05 p.m. Sunday blast-0ff, will air on Channel 5's 6 p.m. news this week. Look for them about 6:15 p.m., says Brennan Donnellan, news director.

"Other material" will air during the 11 p.m. news this week, and in the morning news, he says. The WEBN fireworks, first telecast by Ch. 19 (in the early 1980s?), return to Ch. 5 this year. Ch. 5 aired the fireworks in the late 1980s, before moving to Ch 9 and Ch 12. And now back to Ch. 5.

This is the 30th anniversary for the WEBN-FM fireworks, and the 40th for the station. The first fireworks aired on a Tuesday night -- imagine that! -- on the station's 10th birthday, on Aug. 30, 1977.

Were you around back in 1977, and did you go to the first WEBN fireworks?
What's your favorite 'EBN fireworks memory?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ch 12 GM Resigns

Chris Sehring, the WKRC-TV (Channel 12) general manager who guided the station into the "Local 12" branding, launching the CinCW digital affiliate and producing a Local 12 newscast for Channel 64, has resigned effective Sept. 14. He'll be missed. He was a great competitor and a nice guy -- even though his 11 p.m. news was No. 1 forever, and he did killer ratings with CBS prime-time, he was always gracious in talking about his TV competition in town, and never rubbed it in, at least in talking to me. He's a class guy, and a visionary leader not afraid to take risks with the CW, or Ch 64 partnership, or "The Dish" and Cincinnati State.

Sehring sent a mass email today to the other TV station managers here, TV managers in other markets, and advertising and media contacts entitled, "This is a GOOD THING!" Sehring said he's leaving Ohio for a "very interesting opportunity in a larger TV market with more responsibilities." He apologzied from being cryptic, "but it will all make sense soon."

Sehring is leaving Clear Channel about a month before the company sells off its TV division. He had been commuting between Cincinnati and Harrisburg as a regional VP over both stations.

Here's his email:

"Mass emails are a lousy (but efficient) way to communicate with friends. I hope to speak to each of you "in person" soon. But just so you "hear it from me" first, I will be leaving my beloved Local 12/CinCW and this wonderful city for a "new opportunity."
"I can't share any more details now, but I can assure all of you that this move, as tough as it will be, is a very interesting opportunity in a larger TV market with more responsibilities. My family and I don't want to leave Cincinnati (or Ohio -- my home state). And I don't want to appear so mysterious -- and I hate to be cryptic. But it will all make sense soon.
"More to come... but here's the head's up!"
PS: Again, my apologies for the "mass email."

Hopefully some of those who worked for Chris Sehring, or know him, will post some comments about him on this blog.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Anchorwoman Fired

Did you see Fox's "Anchorwoman" reality show Wednesday? Then you were one of the few to see the first and only episode about model and WWE diva Lauren Jones as a news anchor in Tyler, Texas. Fox canceled the reality show after one low-rated telecast.

Only 2.7 million viewers saw the show nationally, about one-third of the audience for "So You Think You Can Dance?" the previous Wednesday, says Nielsen Media Research. It drew a 2.3 rating (or 20,400 viewers) and a 4% share of the audience on Channel 19 here.

The remaining episodes will be posted on the Fox Broadcastcasting website.,

No great loss, eh?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pete Rose, The Apprentice?

It worked for Jerry Springer – so could a shot on a popular reality TV show jump start Pete Rose’s career?

Baseball all-time hit king, who was banned from baseball in 1989, could be a contestant on "The Apprentice" in the 2007-08 TV season. Mogul Donald Trump plans a celebrity version his NBC reality show this winter.

Trump told the New York Post that Rose and Carmen Electra, another Cincinnati West Side native, also could be on the show, in which contestants play for a charity.

Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, CNBC’s Jim Cramer, Joan Rivers, Naomi Judd, George Foreman, Tony Hawk, Danica Patrick, Jeff Gordon and original "Apprentice" villain Amorosa also are under consideration, he says. "There are more than a hundred others who want to be on the show," Trump told the paper.

Wendy Luckenbill, NBC’s publicist for "The Apprentice," says details have not been finalized.

"The next version of The Apprentice will be a celebrity edition for later this season. The celebs will be playing for charity. No premiere date or production date has been determined yet. The celebs aren't locked just yet. All are still being negotiated at this time," she says.

If you were the executive producer, would you cast Pete for the show? Or would he be far down your list, given the choices Trump says he has? How would Pete do on the show? Would you bet that Rose could do anything to improve his image? What are the odds?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

WVXU-FM in HD, Next

WVXU-FM (91.7) began broadcasting in high-definition today, on the two-year anniversary of the former Xavier University station being taken over by Cincinnati Public Radio. You'll hear it on WVXU-HD1.

At Monday noon, HD radio owners will hear on WVXU-HD2 -- a long awaited day for fans of the "Future of Rock 'n' Roll, based on comments on this blog last month when I announced the HD partnership with WVXU. Equipment was being installed at the Longworth Hall station today to get get the signal to WVXU. After hoping to get it up yet this week, it's been decided to launch the HD debut at noon Monday, says Kevin Reynolds, Cincinnati Public Radio community relations manager.

Cincinnati Public Radio made Ohio history in 2003 with classical WGUC-HD, the first Ohio HD station. It added a 24-hour jazz station on WGUC-HD2 last year.

As I wrote last month, hooking up with is a smart move for Cincinnati Public Radio. It fills a void in Cincinnati radio, and allows the public radio operator to reach a new audience and demographic. As great as the old Oxford-based WOXY-FM was, until the station was sold in 2004, it was always tough to get decent reception over-the-air in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Some of you said you'd buy HD radios to hear WOXY. Have you got one yet? Heading out to buy one soon?

Ch. 5 Picks Up Bengals NFL Network Game

For the second year, WLWT-TV will simulcast the Bengals' NFL Network game later this season. Ch. 5 has rights to the Bengals-San Francicso 49ers game at 8:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at San Francisco. (NFL Network incorrectly lists game as a Bengals home game.) Bryant Gumbel and Emmy-winning NFL analyst Cris Collinsworth will do the game.

Ch. 5 carried the Bengals-Ravens game last Nov. 30, the second NFL Network telecast in the inaugural season.

One more note for Bengals fans: Dennis Janson, John Popovich and the Ch 9 sports gang preview the Bengals season with "Stripes 2007" 8-9 p.m. Thursday, pre-empting a repeat of the Emmy-nominated "Ugly Betty" pilot.

High School Musical Notes

I knew "High School Musical 2" was going to be huge, but did anybody ever expect the Disney Channel sequel to be this big? Consider this:

--The 17.24 million viewers made it the No. 1 show for last week on cable or broadcast TV. It drew nearly 6.5 million more viewers that the No. 1 broadcast show, NBC's "America's Got Talent" (10.83 million). "HSM2" nearly doubled the ratings of the No. 2 show, CBS' "60 Minutes" (9.9 million).

--"High School Musical 2" became the No. 1 all-time basic cable telecast by beating a North American Free Trade Agreement debate on CNN (16.8 million) on Nov. 9, 1993. Next was the best ever ratings for ESPN’s "Monday Night Football," the Giants-Cowboys game (16 million) on Oct. 23, 2006.

--"High School Musical 2" now is the No. 1 basic cable movie, surpassing TNT's "Crossfire Trail" (12.5 million) on Jan. 21, 2001.

--It's the No. 1 show watched by kids 6-11 (6.1 million) and tweens 9-14 (5.9 million). About 80 percent of all girls 6-11 watched "HSM2."

--Disney’s Friday line-up with 14 million viewers was the largest prime-time audience for any network (excluding sports and Olympics) in nearly 10 years (Sept. 5, 1997, on NBC).

So with "High School Musical 2," "The Closer," "Saving Grace," "Damages," "Mad Men," "Rescue Me," "Burn Notice," "Army Wives," "Greek," "Monk" and other shows, will broadcast TV have a hard time winning you back this fall? What is your favorite summer basic cable drama (and why)?

Monday, August 20, 2007

High School Musical Help!

With "High School Musical 2" setting a cable record -- the most watched basic cable telecast EVER, with 17.2-million viewers -- I'm doing a follow-up story about kids and parents having trouble finding back-to-school HSM backpacks, lunch boxes or clothes. I hear that HSM back to school stuff is very hard to find.

If your kids haven't found what they've wanted, and are disappointed going to store -- or have lucked out -- e-mail me at, subject: HSM. Please e-mail me by 4 p.m. Tuesday. I'm looking for parents and kids. Need your names, ages, daytime phone number in addition to your email.


Sunday, August 19, 2007


WCPO0-TV (Channel 9) became the first Cincinnati station to broadcast local news in high-definition TV today at 6 p.m. I wasn't watching, but I'll watch at 11 p.m. to see if I notice any difference in clarity on my analog set. (Cleveland and Columbus stations started local news in HDTV earlier this year.)

Update on Tuesday morning: What are the other stations going to do? Ch 19 says it will "likely" do news in HDTV sometime next year. Ch5 won't say for "competitive reasons." And Ch 12 won't say until after sale of Clear Channel TV division is finalized in late Sept. or early Oct.

Ch. 9 is shooting news video with 16:9 digital cameras, but not HD cameras. New HD field cameras will arrive early next year. First night Ch 9 had problems with 7-day weather chart, with only 5 days seen on standard 4:3 analog TV sets. They hope to fix that in a day or two. Local news cut-ins during "GMA" will remain in standard def until October, when new equipment arrives. For now Ch 9 can't do cut-ins in HD because of the local news ticker crawl at bottom of screen. "We can't do two things at once," says GM Bill Fee.

Here's the announcement from Channel 9:


The first Tri-State television station to launch in High Definition (HD) is WCPO-TV-9; the E.W. Scripps owned ABC affiliate in Cincinnati Ohio . The first telecast was Sunday, August 19th 2007 at 6:00 p.m. Area viewers will now see a more detailed in-depth picture and experience enhanced digital audio no matter what type of television set they have in their homes.

“We’ve always positioned ourselves as the technology leader. Now, once again WCPO is at the forefront of a technology revolution,” says Vice President and General Manager Bill Fee. “WCPO will now be one of the most technically advanced high definition stations in the country. In fact, much of the HD equipment we’re premiering is the first of its kind in the affiliate marketplace. This commitment to providing our viewers with the very best product available is what we’re all about.”

These enhancements include high definition mapping and forecasting, which allows viewers to see incredible detail as it relates to where they live. More detailed mapping also provides added information for tri-state viewers during a severe weather situation as viewers will literally be able to map a line from their residences to the storm front.

Now all news stories will broadcast in 16 x 9 format. “If you’ve ever watched HD you’ve seen the difference,” states WCPO Chief Engineer Joe Martinelli. “Now you’ll be able to experience that difference in local news. The deeper color, the detail. It’s almost equivalent to actually being at the location.”

WCPO has always been a broadcast pioneer. In fact, in the early days of television WCPO was only one of two TV stations in the nation feeding locally originated programming to the networks for re-broadcast. WCPO was also the first Cincinnati television station to use regular mobile reports and taped interviews for local news. In addition, WCPO led the market with live coverage of spot news, using remote vans and a jet helicopter, all under the guidance of veteran newsman Al Schottelkotte.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Pete Delkus Update

There's a terrific story about Pete Delkus by Ed Bark, former Dallas Morning News TV critic, on his site, Someone posted the link on a different post today, but I wanted to make it a separate blog so folks could easily see it.

In the story, Delkus tells Bark that Channel 9 counter-offered his 2005 Dallas deal by offering him a lifetime contract here. All he told me in April '05 was that Channel 9 had made him a generous counter-offer that made his decision to leave Cincinnati more difficult. (He was completing the first year of a 7-year contract signed in 2004. The fine print allowed him to leave for only three cities: Chicago, Dallas or his hometown of St. Louis.)

Bark wrote a great story. Delkus fans will enjoy it.

Anyone still miss Pete? How does he rank among your all-time favorite Cincinnati forecasters? Top 5? Who's your No. 1 favorite forecaster? (Ira Joe Fisher? Tony Sands? Joe "Doogie Howser" Lizura? Todd Hunter? Tim Hedrick?)
Bonus points to the person who can name the most Channel 5 weathermen.

Rudi Johnson on MTV's Cribs Tonight

I just learned that running back Rudi Johnson gives Bengals fans – and the rest of the country – a guided tour of his Amberley Village home on MTV’s “Cribs” at 10:30 p.m. today. You’ll see his personal chef preparing healthy meals on the half hour show, says Greg Hawkins of Hawkins Media Services.

The homes of rapper-actor Bow Wow and reggaeton singer/rapper Don Omar also are featured on this episode.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

RIP John from Cincinnati

"John from Cincinnati," just nine weeks old, died Tuesday. The mysterious stranger, who had been seen by only a few people on HBO, was declared dead two days after its first season finale. TV Week reported Tuesday that less than 1 million viewers saw John him on Aug. 5, his second-last appearance on the cable channel.

Although no one was quite sure where John was from, it was clear he wasn't from Cincinnati. A drug addict named Butchie Yost speculated in June that was from Cincinnati, and John -- who repeated what he heard others say -- agreed.

Mourners may express condolences to TV Week blogger Michele Grippi, one of the few who will miss the show.

I guess "John from Cincinnati," whatever he was, didn't have supernatural powers or the ability to save himself.

Reds HDTV DH Set

Fox Sports Net Ohio makes local TV history by televising a Reds doubleheader in HDTV on Aug. 28. The 7 p.m. Reds-Pirates game from PNC Park already was scheduled for HDTV already, and the Reds and MLB have approved FSNO’s request to do the first game (from an Aug. 5 rain-out) in HDTV too.

"Reds Live" will air at 4:30 p.m., followed by Game 1 at 5 p.m. A "Reds Live" postgame show will air after Game 1 and after Game 2.

And FSNO also has great news for Big Red Machine fans: The retirement ceremony for Dave Concepcion's No. 13 will be telecast live on Saturday, Aug. 25, before the Reds-Marlins game at Great American Small Park. The "Reds Live" pregame show will air a half-hour early, at 6 p.m., followed by the on-field ceremony at 6:30 p.m., and the game at 7 p.m.

Hispanics Upset with WLW-AM Again

The second offensive WLW-AM promotional campaign in four months has prompted a national Hispanic organization to demand the resignation of Clear Channel market manager Chuck Fredrick.

A recent WLW-AM on-air promotion offering "helpful phrases" to communicate with illegal aliens, with Spanish music in the background, is proof that Fredrick "reneged on his commitment" to "prevent future offensive materials" on the station after removing its "The Big Juan" billboards in May, says Brent A. Wilkes, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) national executive director.

"The local Hispanic community is outraged that the station is deliberately demeaning them in an effort to increase ratings and profit at the station," said Wilkes, based in Washington, in a letter to John Hogan, Clear Channel Radio CEO in San Antonio, Texas. "They are demanding that Mr. Fredrick be removed from his position and that the demeaning advertisements stop."

In June, a month after the station removed billboards with a Mexican man and a donkey, the Hispanic Chamber Cincinnati USA declared WLW-AM "non-friendly" to Hispanics, and urged members to boycott advertising on the region’s No. 1 staion.

At issue this week is a 30-second promotion with a man saying offering "a few useful phrases next time you converse with an illegal alien" who doesn’t speak English. Then a woman speaks in Spanish, with the man's voice translating the phrase. One was: "Be careful with those hedge clippers around the garden."

Jason Riveiro, Cincinnati-based Ohio LULAC deputy director, says the promotion is "insulting" because of the stereotype, and because of the Mexican background music implying that all illegal aliens are Hispanic. "And we’re offended by their audacity to do this after we had an issue with them (about the billboards) the last time," Riveiro says.

Riveiro says his group targeted Fredrick because he promised in May to review station marketing.

"When I met with face-to-face with him in May, he told me, 'The buck stops here.' And that all advertising and marketing that goes out, he’d have final say on it," Riveiro says.

Fredrick could not be reached for comment, after repeated attempts. After billboards were removed in May, he sent a letter to Hispanic chamber saying "WLW wants to be part of the solution moving forward."

But after a couple meetings with Fredrick, Hispanic chamber members "felt… (he) was insincere in his responses… (and) was not open and honest," according to the chamber's June newsletter. So members launched a campaign to persuade "large, medium and small local companies" not to use WLW-AM, the newsletter said.

Wilkes, in an interview, noted that some talk radio stations "thrive on being politically incorrect and attacking minorities. They make a good bit of money going close to the line as they can get, or going over it, and clearly they've gone over it this time. I think it's unfortunate that Clear Channel is not policing this, and that they're fueling racial divisiveness."

He pointed out the complaint was about a station on-air promotional announcement -- not a remark from a talk host who has free speech rights. "This is the voice of the station. That makes it a lot worse," Wilkes says.

Wilkes' letter also renewed LULAC's request for a community advisory board "to work with the station’s management to prevent future misconduct by the station." During the billboard controversy local Hispanic leaders asked WLW-AM to establish such a board.

Making Room For More "Today" Show

The "Rachael Ray" daytime show will move back an hour, to 11 a.m., on Channel 5 to make room for the new fourth hour of the "Today" show starting Sept. 10.

NBC announced today that Ann Curry, "Today" and "Dateline NBC" anchor, will stick around to co-host the new 10 a.m. portion with national correspondent Natalie Morales and correspondent Hoda Kotb. Also making "regular appearances" as co-anchors will be familiar "Today" show faces David Gregory, Nancy Snyderman, Amy Robach, Giada DeLaurentiis, Jenna Wolfe and Tiki Barber.

Channel 5 is among the 90% of NBC affiliates carrying the fourth hour of the TV’s No. 1 morning show. "Rachael Ray" will bump "Montel Williams" to 2 p.m., replacing NBC’s canceled "Passions." The soap's last telecast is Sept. 7.

Is a fourth hour of "Today" too much? Will you watch without Matt, Meredith and Al? Or will Ann Curry keep viewers tuned in?

What makes the "Today" show No. 1 for almost 12 years?

CET Adds New PBS World Channel

CET joins 54 other PBS stations Wednesday in launching the new World digital documentary, public affairs and news channel over-the-air as digital Channel 48.2, plus Time Warner digital Channel 950 and Insight Channel 219.

PBS' World will air repeats of "Nova," "Nature," the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Charlie Rose, "Tavis Smiley" and other popular PBS personalities and programs. Susan Howarth, CET president and CEO, calls it "the best of the best."

Grace Hill, CET program director, says the new World channel will help satisfy viewers who have called asking for repeats of the "NewsHour," or an earlier time slot for "Charlie Rose."
On World, "NewsHour" will air at 10 p.m. weeknights, and "Charlie Rose" will replay at 5 p.m. weekdays.

There could be some confusion over the World, so stick with me here:

--Create -- with such shows as "Lap Quilting," "One Stroke Painting" and "America Sews" – will remain as Time Warner digital Channel 949. But it vanishes from Insight digital Channel 219, and as an over-the-air digital channel on Channel 43.2, due to the new World.

--CET Kids will no longer be 24/7 on Time Warner. When the World takes over TWC digital Channel 950, Kids will share an instructional TV (ITV) channel. So Kids will air 3:30 p.m.-8 a.m., around the educational program block on TWC digital Channel 931.

--Don't trust the CET online listings for World at It’s full of inaccuracies. It lists the “NewsHour” at 9 a.m., and “Wild Chronicles” at 10 p.m., and no “Charlie Rose” repeats. On the station blog, COO Jack Dominic laments about the listings screw-ups in “Ain’t Technology Great” on the CET blog.

--The CET website also still lists CET Kids as over-the-air digital Channel 48.3, even though the station dropped broadcasts months and months ago.

--And one question: If the benefit of adding World is so people can watch favorite shows at a different time – and the World is a Time Warner digital channel, requring a digital box – won’t those viewers have a DVR in the digital cable box to record their favorite PBS shows and watch on-demand at home? Why would anyone with a TWC DVR box wait to see Charlie Rose at 5 p.m. the next day, when they could DVR it and watch anytime? Am I missing something here?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Remembering Merv Griffin

With Letterman, Leno, Kimmel, Conan and all the late night talk shows today, it's hard to remember how revolutionary it was for Merv Griffin to be hired by CBS to host a late-night talk show back in 1969. Griffin had a successful daytime talk show, so CBS put him on at 11:30 p.m. to compete with late-night king Johnny Carson on NBC, and Joey Bishop on ABC. It was the first time both ABC and CBS went after Carson, and it didn't work for CBS. But it was great fun having the choice of three shows to see lots of stars, much more than today -- because each show ran 90 minutes, and had a wider guest list. (The first casualty was Bishop and his sidekick Regis Philbin, replaced by Dick Cavett six months later.)

It was the same way with Griffin's daytime talk show. Along with Mike Douglas, and Steve Allen and others, daytime viewers had a chance to see many of Hollywood's greatest/newest stars. I recall Griffin, a former band singer, as a good listener and interviewer, but he would gush over his guests. (Was it "Second City" that did the killer parody of him gushing? Help me out here.)

He made his money, of course, creating "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune." He created a new show for call, "Merv Griffin Crosswords," will will debut Sept. 10 on WKRC-TV (10:30 a.m., Channel 12). It replaces "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," which was not renewed by Ch. 12.
For more about "Crosswords," go to

For a perspective on the career of the game show creator/producer/talk show host/singer Merv Griffin, I contacted Raymond J. Brune, the 1980 Elder High School graduate who is one of the two co-heads of television for Merv Griffin Entertainment. Brune said he couldn't talk, deferring comment on Griffin to Griffin's son. So I thought it was worth repeating comments about Griffin from my November Q&A with Brune:

What's Merv like?
"Merv is amazing. Every day is like being in graduate school – watching him work, negotiate, produce, create and manage people. One of the cool things about Merv is that he's in a position to produce shows just for the love of TV. Making money is not the priority. He’s not afraid to tell network presidents to get lost if they don’t agree with his vision. "
So he gives you clout?
"He can call anyone in Hollywood for a meeting. Through Merv, I've met (and pitched to) Rupert Murdoch (Fox), Les Moonves (CBS), Kevin Reilly (NBC) and all the power players in Hollywood. It's incredible that we can finally get projects on the air without going through the layers of management that develop shows. "
He knows everyone?
"In May I had dinner with him and Nancy Reagan. On Merv's 81st birthday in July, our meeting was interrupted by a call from Air Force One. The president wanted to wish Merv happy birthday. "

Were you a Merv Griffin fan? Have a favorite memory to share?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Channel 19's New Weatherman

Frank Marzullo from Youngtown's NBC affiliate WFMJ-TV has been hired by Ch. 19 for one of its two weather vacancies. Here's the staff note from Ch. 19 News Director Steve Ackermann late Friday:

"Please join me in welcoming Frank Marzullo to the Fox 19 weather team. Frank will be joining us from WFMJ-TV, the NBC affiliate in Youngtown, Ohio. Prior to working as the morning/noon weathercaster at WFMJ, Frank worked at WTAP-TV in Parkersburg, WSAZ-TV in Charleston/Huntington and worked briefly on the assignment desk of our sister station, WOIO-TV in Cleveland. Frank is a graduate of Youngstown State University and is currently working on his meteorology certifcate through Mississippi State University. We are working quickly to add a third member to our weather team. Once we make that announcement, we'll have a better idea of the specific assignments for each person on the weather team."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cool Iggy Pop Clip From '70s Cincinnati TV

Someone posted a YouTube link on the radio ratings blog earlier today of a 1970 Cincinnati rock concert clip featuring Iggy Pop (then called Iggy and the Stooges). I'm starting a new string here, so you can help identify it. The clip is called "Midsummer Rock TV 6/13/70 Iggy Pop & the Stooges."

Actor/announcer Jack Lescoulie, who was at Ch. 5 in the late 1960s, is the host of this telecast, called "Midsummer Rock." He chats with a TV reporter named Bob Waller. I don't recognize the setting. The June 13 date would be two weeks before Riverfront Stadium opened. Is it Crosley Field? Carthage Fairgrounds?

Look at the 9-minute clip and see if you can provide any details. Do you remember the concert? The venue? Lescoulie? Waller? Was it a live telecast? I know somebody can fill us in!

Spring Radio Ratings Recap

WLW-AM (700) continues to rock, but not most of the rock stations, in the spring quarter Arbitron ratings that came out last week during my vacation. (Sorry, still catching up to stuff.)

The 50,000-watt news-talk-sports station extended its No. 1 streak to 7-1/2 years, with what operations manager Darryl Parks called "our second-best book since 2002."

Setting the pace was strong April-June evening ratings April-June for the Cincinnati Reds. The station had heavily promoted "Brennamania," the new Reds radio father-son team of Marty and Thom Brennaman, with billboards, banners near Great American Small Park, and online vidoes. (As great as Marty & Thom are, should some credit for increased ratings go to Jeff Brantley's candor in the booth?)

Most of the rock stations, however, lost listeners compared to a year ago. Classic rock WOFX-FM (92.5 The Fox) fell from No. 7 to No. 11, while contemporary hits WKFS-FM (Kiss 107.1), soft rock WRRM-FM (Warm 98.5), rocker WEBN-FM (102.7) and WVXM-FM (Mix 94.1) also dropped. Even newcomer progressive rook WSWD-FM (94.9 The Sound) slipped in only its second quarterly report.

A notable exception was the "Cincinnati's greatest hits" format on don't-call-us-oldies WGRR-FM (103.5), which jumped to No. 4 from No. 6 in the overall rankings and to No. 3 in the 25-54 demographic bought by most advertisers. The classic rock on WOXY-FM (MAX 97.7) also jumped from No. 21 to No. 15.

The area's new FM talk station, WFTK-FM (SupertalkFM 96.5), also lost momentum in its second quarter, falling from No. 19 to No. 21. Andy Furman, the former WLW-AM "SportsTalk" host who does 4-7 p.m. on SupertalkFM, attributed the ratings drop to "growing pains.” Most new formats need 15 months (five quarterly ratings surveys) to establish listener habits, he says. Things should pick up when the station adds the "Two Angry Guys" morning show (in late November, I hear). Morning is prime-time for radio, and the Two Angries will give the station a strong local morning presence and a fighting chance. (Question: Will the Two Angries just talk sports, as they have on Clear Channel, or will they do general talk, to fit the station's format? What do you think?)

Below are the rankings and audience percentage for listeners ages 12 and older in April-June. You won't find WSAI-AM (1360) on the list, which is why Clear Channel dropped the talk reruns and picked up ESPN Radio in June.
1. WLW-AM (11)
2. WUBE-FM (6.9)
3. WRRM-FM (6.4)
4. WGRR-FM (6.3)
5. WIZF-FM (5.1)
6. WEBN-FM (4.9)
7. (tie) WMOJ-FM, WKFS-FM (4.0)
9. WKRC-AM (3.7)
10. WKRQ-FM (3.6)
11. WOFX-FM (3.1)
12. WSWD-FM (2.8)
13. WAKW-FM (2.2)
14. WVMX-FM (2.1)
15. WOXY-FM (1.4)
16. (tie) WHKO-FM, WPFB-FM (1.3)
18. WDJO-AM (1.2)
19. WCKY-AM (1.0)
20. WYGY-FM (0.9)
21. (tie), WDBZ-AM, WFTK-FM (0.8)
23. (tie), WGTZ-FM, WLQT-FM (0.7)
25. (tie) WMMX-FM, WTUE-FM (0.6)
27. (tie) WCIN-AM, WFCJ-FM, WIOK-FM (9.4)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

ESPNU, ESPN2HD Arrive August 29

Just in time for the college football season, ESPN2HD and ESPNU will arrive on Time Warner Cable in Greater Cincinnati on Aug. 29.

Someone noted in a post on my blog yesterday that Time Warner had listed the new channels in the "Channel Lineup Change Notifications" page on its website.

Here are more details announced this morning:

--ESPNU, with 70 football games this year, will be digital Channel 110 in most communities. That’s on the digital value tier, not the standard tier. In former Adelphia areas, ESPNU will be on Channel 125.
--ESPN Classic will cost more. It will move from Channel 32, on the standard tier, to Channel 109 on the digital value tier, to package with ESPNU.
--ESPN2HD will be on Channel 976 on the high definition standard tier, provided at no additional cost to TWC customers with HDTVs.
--Outdoor Life moves from Channel 109 to Channel 177.
--The Asian-American AZN moves from Channel 110 to Channel 159.
--Channel 32 will be vacant for now.
--All customers will receive a new channel lineup by mail this month, says Karen Baxter, local spokeswoman for Time Warner, Greater Cincinnati’s biggest cable opeator.

Since debuting in 2005, ESPNU has televised several UC, Xavier, Kentucky and Miami University basketball games – including the Crosstown Shootout last year -- and some UC and Miami football games. ESPNU also carries men’s and women’s college basketball, baseball, softball, ice hockey, volleyball, wrestling and lacrosse.

ESPNU has been available to Insight cable customers in Northern Kentucky, and on the Lebanon city cable system.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Only One Bengals Preseason Game in HDTV

I've seen your questions on this blog about Bengals games in high-def, so here's the good news/bad news:

Only one preseason Bengals game will be in HDTV, thanks to ESPN's Monday night telecast from Atlanta on Aug. 27. It will be simulcast in HDTV by Channel 12.

None of three local game broadcasts – produced by the team, not Channel 12 – will be in HDTV, starting with the preseason opener Thursday (7:30 p.m., Channels 12, 22).

Now for the good news: All of the 16 regular season games probably will be in HDTV. CBS, which airs AFC games, will do almost all ("five or six games per week") in HDTV, says a CBS Sports spokesman. Fox will do all NFL games in HDTV, including the Bengals home games with the Arizona Cardinals (Nov. 18) and St. Louis Rams (Dec. 9).

More good news: All 20 Bengals games – four exhibition and 16 regular season --will air live here, because all home games sold out, says Vince Cicero, corporate sales and marketing director.

If you want to watch on tape-delay, like the old days, three preseason games (not the ESPN game) will repeat twice Fox Sports Net Ohio. The Detroit game replays on FSNO at midnight after the game, and at 4 p.m. Sunday (after the Reds-Padres game).

Cicero says it's too costly for the club to produce preseason games in HDTV. "We’ll re-evaluate it for 2008. The costs are coming down each year, because more equipment and trucks are becoming available," says Vince Cicero, corporate sales and marketing director.

If CBS can't do the entire regular season in HDTV, why should we be surprised that the Bengals aren’t doing exhibition games in HDTV?

Let me anticipate your other questions: Still no word on Time Warner Cable picking up the NFL Network or Big Ten Network. But Time Warner says ESPNU will be added this month, but no word yet on date or channel position.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Joelle Girone Update

Joelle Girone is back to work after taking a break from TV news after losing her baby at 23 weeks in February. The former Channel 12 and 5 reporter now is with the March of Dimes, an agency which helped her through her troubled times. She gave me permission to post her email, and invite her fans to email her at work:

Hi Kiese,

This is Joelle Girone, formerly of Local 12 and News 5. I just wanted to say "Hello," and let you know that I've landed on my feet after a very difficult time for my family. As you know, my husband and I lost our first child at 23-weeks into my pregnancy in February. (What a shock for us all! I've never had health problems and know of no one in my family whose ever had pregnancy problems!) I recently learned from doctors that I have an inherited thrombophilia (my blood clots too easily) which can lead to small clots forming in the placenta and if bleeding continues can lead to premature rupture of the amniotic sac and pre-term birth. Believe one, including myself, expected anything like this to happen.

Since then I have made a lot of changes in my life, and probably one of the most important is a switch in my professional career. I am now the Communications Coordinator for the March of Dimes in Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. The March of Dimes website was my lifeline when things were falling apart and I’m grateful to work for the one organization whose goal is to prevent premature birth and save babies lives.

I'd be honored if you update folks on my situation. I will also offer to you the fact that a simple blood test could have made the difference in my case... yet, doctors won’t test women for the inherited thrombophilias until you lose 2 or 3 first trimester pregnancies, or 1 pregnancy in the second or third trimester. When I get pregnant the next go around I will be on baby aspirin, a prenatal vitamin, a high dose folic acid supplement, and 2 shots of heparin (a blood thinner) each day. This situation is staggeringly common... and yet, we don’t act in a preventative manner because of cost. I would argue the cost, when we don't test, is already too high.

I love your blog and love keeping up with the interesting world that is "broadcasting." Thanks for letting everyone know what was going on with me... and a special thank you to those who cared enough to ask. I’ll be in touch...!! :)

My work phone at the March of Dimes is (513) 769-3588 ext. 34.

Joelle Girone

Monday, August 06, 2007

Another Change in Weather At Channel 19

Just got back from vacation to learn two things:

--Nobody posted any comments on my blog the past week, so I will do them ASAP. Thanks to all who commented on "The Simpsons Movie," the posts will be up very soon.

--Channel 19 is looking for its third chief meteorologist in 10 months. Paul Horton has accepted a job as morning and new weatherman for KPHO-TV, the CBS station in Phoenix (Channel 5). He will leave WXIX-TV on Sept. 30, two weeks after Valerie Abati goes to Pittsburgh on Sept. 14. And Pat Barry had triple-bypass surgery 10 days ago, and he's unavailable to fill in for a while.

Horton says it was a tough decision to leave the station which promoted him to chief meteorologist in January, after Rich Apuzzo was fired in October. But the Oregon native said wanted to get West, closer to his family. His parents have a winter home in Palm Springs. He wasn't looking for a job, he says. His former news director in Spokane invited him out over the July 4th holiday, saying that KPHO-TV wanted his personality for the morning show. He says he turned them down twice before accepting the job. Ch. 19 bosses didn't know he was considering leaving until last week, when he told them he wanted out of his contract. The three-year deal he signed in January allows him to buy out the remaining contract, which he's doing with help from the Phoenix station, he says.

Horton, 36, says he "felt terrible" to tell Ch. 19 bosses that he wanted to buy out his contract and move on. "They were pretty upset, and for good reason," he says. "It was a really tough decision. They promoted me, and they believed in me . I love it here, but after I talked to my family and friends, I decided I'd be crazy not to do this. You don't know when another position out West might open up again."

News Director Steve Ackermann said in a staff note Friday: "We were disappointed when Paul came to us about this, and we are sure our Fox 19 viewers will be disappointed to hear that Paul is leaving at the end of September."

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