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Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

Recently in Clear Channel Communications Category

Omar Romero Headshot.jpgClear Channel Radio is going with one of its own to handle the key afternoon drive host job at Mega 95.5, the new contemporary Spanish music-formatted station that debuted on May 22. Beginning June 15, Omar Romero will handle both afternoon drive responsibilities and the program director job for Mega 95.5. The call letters for the new station have not yet been designated.

Romero most recently was afternoon drive host and program director at the Clear Channel's Houston outlet KLOL-FM (101.1), which has a contemporary Latino pop sound. He also previously held various programming and on-air jobs at Clear Channel outlets in Dallas and Albuquerque. Romero was born in El Salvador and moved with his family at an early age to Houston, where he started his career at KLTN-FM (102.9), which has a regional Mexican music format.

Mega 95.5 replaced smooth jazz WNUA-FM (95.5). Clear Channel dumped smooth jazz because it wasn't generating enough ad revenue to continue as a viable format.

Clear Channel Radio's smooth jazz WNUA-FM (95.5) is dead. Better forget about it, folks. You can be sure heartless Clear Channel Radio has, even though they continue to stream the format online. Still for those longing for another smooth jazz outlet, it is already here. It actually launched the same day WNUA died last Friday. The new station, WLFM-FM (87.7), which broadcasts from atop the Hancock Center, acquired the smooth jazz format broadcast rights from the Smooth Jazz Network (a division of Clear Channel).

As senior vice president and market manager, Patrick Kelley will oversee operations at WLFM, which he said in a statement will "deliver Chicago a hipper, cooler smooth jazz station." Kelley said he hopes to create a station with a very strong Chicago identity. WLFM will blend the most popular playlists from WNUA with new programming. including shows on which smooth jazz artists play the music and serve as hosts. WLFM's morning show from 6 to 10 a.m., for instance, will be hosted by Chicago native and jazz artist Brian Culbertson. WLFM will go by the nickame "The L."

More layoffs at Clear Channel Communications in Chicago on Tuesday. Among those staffers shown the door today are Jeff Murray, who was known as Smash on WKSC-FM's (103.5) "Drex in the Morning" morning drive show. In addition to serving as music director for the show, Murray also was Drex's sidekick and engineer. Also let go were Troi Tyler and Irene Mojica from WVAZ-FM (102.7) and overnight host Erica Campbell at WGCI-FM (107.5).

The ax also fell on Bill Cochran, who was creative director at Clear Channel's smooth jazz WNUA-FM (95.5). One source described Cochran, who also filled in on occasion for on-air talent, as one of the station's most recognizable voices. Cochran had worked at WNUA for more than two decades.

With Cochran having been let go, a source said WNUA had lost the last of its "heritage voices." Cochran's departure also fueled speculation that Clear Channel might be preparing to introduce a new format at WNUA, which has not proved a huge moneymaker for Clear Channel in recent years. Some observers familiar with the Chicago radio market believe it might make sense for WNUA to go country. CBS Radio's WUSN-FM (99.5) is the only major country-formatted station now operating locally.

A Clear Channel spokeswoman said Tuesday that the company had to adjust its business to the realities of the current economy and advertising market. She added the layoffs on Tuesday "complete a process begun in January" when Clear Channel laid off a number of staff.

PX187_3D18_7.JPGIt's not hard to fathom what parent Clear Channel Communications was thinking when the broadcasting behemoth made the abrupt decision Monday to dump the syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show" at its urban adult WVAZ-FM (102.7) and replace it with the syndicated "Steve Harvey Morning Show," which had been airing on sister Clear Channel urban contemporary station WGCI-FM (107.5).

The reason for the switch can be summed up in two words: young adult. In a press release announcing the changes, Clear Channel dropped in ample hints that it wanted to pull in a younger morning demographic on WVAZ. The release noted that the Harvey show is the number-one-rated syndicated morning show in the top 50 metro markets among young adults 18 to 34 and adults 18 to 49, as well as women 25 to 54. As has often been stated, advertisers covet the younger demos, and that clearly is what the Harvey show, with its heavily comedic bent, is in business to deliver. And with advertising sharply dropping off at nearly every radio station nationwide, managers at every station are doing what they must to pull in advertising.

Though Joyner has a long history here in the Chicago market, his syndicated show appealed, for the most part, to an older listener base. In a email sent to his fan base on Monday, Joyner wrote that "we got where we are by knowing who you are, what you want and by Super Serving our audience." Joyner also suggested in his email just how important the Chicago market was to his syndicated show. "Chicago is home, it's the Mother Ship, the Flagship, all those words that mean it is the place that launched the TJMS," he wrote.

Meanwhile, Clear Channel is expected to announce by week's end what will repalce Harvey on WGCI. It's likely to be another show popular with young adults.

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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