Gone is the iconic ABC news sounder used for almost two decades. In its place is a less bombastic, snappier six-note, Fox News-like intro.
That may have been the most noticeable change for regular news listeners of WLW-AM (700) Thursday, as the station officially became an affiliate of the Fox Radio News network dropping its long time association with ABC.
The move is part of a landmark agreement signed last year between Clear Channel and Fox that brings Fox’s radio news presence to some 500 Clear Channel stations.
Conversely, the deal is a major blow to ABC’s radio news operation, which is likely losing a few hundred affiliates in the deal. ABC has often been considered the most comprehensive and respected radio news network. WLW news director, Jeff Henderson, doesn’t think listeners will notice any loss of quality in the station’s historic shift to Fox, which has had a radio news division for only a few years.
“We’ve been very pleased with the Fox product,” Henderson said. “So far so good.”
Listeners will hear a mix of national news reports from Fox’s established cable news reporters and personalities, along with radio- only reporters hired for the network.
Under the arrangement, Clear Channel’s radio news departments around the country are also feeding stories to Fox. Henderson said it’s an incredible synergy with Fox and Clear Channel stations linked by broadband for sharing stories, something that would not be possible to pull off with traditional radio networks, like ABC.
“We’ll be completely integrated and linked up,” he said. “With this system you just press a button and it’s there.”
WLW has used the new affiliation to freshen up its newscast branding elements. There is a news “starts now” intro, with a whoosh and thumpa’ thumpa’ sounder under weather and traffic. The station has added a new positioning statement, “Live, local and late- breaking.”
Darryl Parks, WLW operations manager, said there are no plans to use the Fox cable news positioning statements like “fair and balanced.”
There will still be an ABC presence on WLW. Paul Harvey’s reports will stay and Parks is waiting to close a deal that would keep such hi-profile ABC talent as Sam Donaldson and Ann Compton around for morning interviews with Jim Scott.
In the old days a radio network would rarely make its talent available if a station was not an affiliate, but ABC clearly has to play by some different rules in the new Fox/Clear Channel environment. Some observers speculate ABC may have to lay off radio news employees because of the affiliate loss in the Clear Channel/ Fox deal.
“We are just looking for marquee people and we have access to all the Fox (cable news) people as well,” said Parks. That could mean Cincinnati native Bill Hemmer, who left CNN for Fox this summer, could also show up on WLW for interviews and reports.
A Fox spokesman said there is no start date yet for Hemmer, but it will likely be late this month. Hemmer will be a daytime anchor and has expressed an interest to also contribute to the radio network, although his job duties are still being worked out.
Affiliations will not change on Clear Channel’s other Cincinnati stations. WCKY-AM (1530) will remain an ABC affiliate. WKRC-AM (550) keeps its CBS network newscasts, while also using Fox news updates.