Friday, October 23, 2009

23 OCT 09: Double-Talkers

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We were delayed in posting today because of an outage at , out of our control. If you were frustrated by this, our apologies.)

For Columbus sports fans, the first big move of the baseball off-season came Thursday -- even before the World Series contestants were finalized. They should be able to hear major league games on radio throughout next season. That is, without going to a high hill at the edge of town and attempting to tune in stations in Chicago or Cincinnati.

WRCG radio tried to end years of listener frustration Thursday, by launching an AM-FM simulcast. Your blog apparently learned the details first, through this e-mail from a station manager:


When we last spoke, I mentioned PMB would have more news for you to pass along. We're pleased to announce that you can now hear WRCG on the FM dial at 106.9. The FM channel will be a straight simulcast of what you hear on the AM channel. The AM signal will remain intact as well.

After years of struggling with signal issues on WRCG, we are glad to be able to provide this service to the community.

As a side note and of course I can't speak for Davis Broadcasting, but from what I hear on the air, they are simulcasting their AM 1580 programming on WIOL / 95.7 - like I said though, I don't know the details on that....

Thanks Richard for the service you provide;


Joseph C. Brannan

PMB Broadcasting, LLC

In case you came in late: WRCG-AM once was the undisputed champion of talk radio in Columbus. It had Rush Limbaugh, Atlanta baseball, University of Georgia football and Doug Kellett hosting "Talkline." In fact, the simulcast is another case where Kellett's advice finally was heeded years after it was given.

But in recent years, WRCG began eroding. First WDAK-AM took Rush Limbaugh's talk show. I'd say Limbaugh "jumped" stations, but I'm not sure his body literally allows for that....

After Doug Kellett left WRCG for a radio station in Nashville, the station's tower was moved because of business development in north Phenix City. A one-mile move turned into an engineering nightmare, and the AM signal became almost impossible to hear at night. Yet for some reason, right-wing talk show hosts never declared this a government conspiracy.

(Federal rules currently limit WRCG's AM signal to a nighttime power of 79 watts. That's barely enough to dry your laundry, much less broadcast Atlanta baseball games across a city.)

Archway Broadcasting was unable to solve WRCG's signal problems, and the station's listening audience declined as a result. The ratings dropped faster than a motel room price being haggled by Clark Howard....

So PMB Broadcasting hopes to solve the problems with hearing WRCG, by putting the signal on FM as well as AM. And the managers found a way to do it without changing the sound of its established FM stations, such as WCGQ and WKCN. If Bear O'Brian had a talking contest with Neal Boortz, I'm not sure it would ever end.

The simulcast of WRCG's programming is on a frequency reserved for low-power "translators" rebroadcasting other signals. The translator at 106.9 FM is licensed NOT to Columbus -- but to Crystal Valley, Georgia. Yes, the part of town with the somewhat notorious mobile home park. The mention of a radio station's signal there might launch an economic renaissance.

We checked online Thursday night, and found WRCG's FM tower apparently is in the heart of Columbus near Warm Springs Road. But here's the strange thing - it only has ten watts of power. That's even less than the AM signal at night. Have homeowners near the tower been urged to limit their cell phone use after sunset?

Truth be told, a ten-watt FM signal from the heart of Columbus ought to be strong enough to cover the "tri-city" area. But people who want to hear WRCG at night in Harris or Talbot Counties still could be frustrated next baseball season. For them, the "strike zone" still won't be wide enough.

Joseph Brannan's comments on a Davis Broadcasting simulcast is accurate, and we mentioned that first here last week [15 Oct]. So this makes two radio conglomerates in Columbus to move to AM-FM simulcasting in two weeks. Yet curiously, neither station's web site mentions the adjustment yet - so at least around here, radio is still faster than the Internet.

A couple of questions are unsettled, after WRCG's launch of an FM simulcast. Will Clear Channel Radio do the same sort of thing with WDAK? Or will the managers decide the voices of Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are loud enough already?

Another issue comes to mind from these recent adjustments. Columbus has six AM radio stations - and now one-third of them are copied on FM. Is this a good thing for local diversity in broadcasting? Does it mean local radio has run out of ideas - or are the groups quietly negotiating to add a couple of the Sirius XM channels?

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THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on the 2010 Columbus Mayor's race ended Thursday afternoon - and the final outcome may surprise you. Minister Zeph Baker ran away with the poll, taking 65 percent of the votes thanks to a big spurt in the last two days. That'll teach me to keep a political poll open through a Wednesday Bible study night.

One Zeph Baker backer wrote he has a "realizable vision.... His vision will create jobs with construction done by Columbus contractors and Columbus residents, only thus reducing our unemployment rate to 0...." This sounds like the input from Columbus Council will be zero as well.

Councilor Skip Henderson was second in our incredibly non-scientific poll, at 19 percent. Wayne Anthony and Teresa Tomlinson tied for third at six percent. And one person suggested Muscogee County School Board member Cathy Williams, because she's "not afraid to question any situation that comes up." Question, no - but vote against the Muscogee County Public Education Center, she didn't.

While the contenders go out and search for donors, we'll hunt through the Thursday news headlines:

+ Fort Benning officially closed the Infantry School, as it was folded into the combined "Maneuver Center of Excellence." WLTZ reported the center's official slogan is "One force, one fight." Some skeptics doubt that phrase really describes Columbus public safety these days.

+ NCR announced it will reduce its worldwide workforce by as much as ten percent. That could mean 2,200 job cuts, as the company prepares to open its new Columbus ATM plant. Someone should have realized if the tellers are automated, the "workers" building them could be as well.

+ The web site "Total Beauty" ranked the U.S. cities with the ugliest men - and concluded Mobile is tied for fifth place. This is due in part to Mobile ranking third for the "worst teeth." And you thought all the unashamed rednecks lived well outside the city limits....

+ Columbus knocked off Northside 2-0 in the Georgia state high school softball tournament at South Commons. With Muscogee County Schools closed today, I suspect plenty of teenage guys will attend this event - but unlike the players, the guys will be satisfied simply to reach first base with them.

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