It’s a tumultuous time in Greater Cincinnati’s media scene. In addition to The Enquirer’s ongoing staff shakeups, troubles abound at Clear Channel Communications and at the firm that owns Cincinnati Magazine.
This all occurs just a month after the recent sale of CityBeat to Nashville-based SouthComm, Inc.
Clear Channel, which owns the most radio stations in the local market, laid off several employees last week.
Among the people who were let go were Tony Bender, the program director for WKRC (550 AM) and WCKY (1530 AM); Sherry Rowland, promotions director for WLW (700 AM); Mark Bianchi, digital sales manager; and traffic reporter Brian Pitts. The staffers reportedly were laid off due to budget cuts.
Based in San Antonio, Texas, Clear Channel owns 850 radio stations across the United States, making it the nation’s largest radio station group owner both by stations and revenue. Locally, the media giant owns the previously mentioned WKRC, WCKY and WLW, along with WEBN (102.7 FM), WKFS (107.1 FM) and WSAI (1360 AM).
If you're in the media and need a job, you might want to consider applying to become The Enquirer's new sports editor. The last editor, Barry Forbis, recently quit to work for Fox Sports in Los Angeles. Here are the requirements for the job.
Meanwhile, Emmis Communications Corp. — which owns Cincinnati Magazine — is struggling to keep its stock listed on the NASDAQ exchange while the firm’s owner is being roundly criticized for asking an Indiana court to approve a plan to vote so-called “dead shares” of the company.
Indianapolis-based Emmis is seeking to vote the shares of preferred stock that the company had bought from shareholders at a sizeable discount. Typically, such shares are considered “extinguished” and no longer viable under tax and accounting rules. But Emmis executives said the shares weren’t actually bought, they merely were part of a “total return swap.”
If a judge agrees, Emmis will be able to vote those shares and convert its remaining preferred stock into common stock, so it doesn’t have to ante up the cash for unpaid dividends.
To deal with its financial problems, Emmis has borrowed a total of $31.9 million from controversial businessman Sam Zell, chairman of Equity Group Investments, to help keep the firm afloat.
Besides Cincinnati Magazine, Emmis owns similar publications in Atlanta, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Austin, Texas and elsewhere. Also, it owns radio stations in New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Terre Haute, Ind., as well as in Bulgaria and Slovakia.
A rally will be held at Fountain Square today to commemorate the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and to demand a thorough investigation of the incident.
The event begins at 5 p.m. and attendees are asked to bring signs that aren’t posted on sticks, to comply with a local law, and also to wear hooded jackets. Martin, 17, was wearing a “hoodie” when George Zimmerman allegedly killed him Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla.
Rallies have been held across the nation during the past week to protest the handling of Martin’s case. Many of the participants have worn hoodies in a show of solidarity with the slain teenager, often carrying signs that state, “I am Trayvon Martin.”
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory posted a similar photograph on his Facebook page over the weekend. It’s unclear if Mallory plans to attend today’s rally.
Among the groups organizing the rally are Occupy The Hood and the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center.
Zimmerman, 28, who says he belongs to a neighborhood watch program in his gated community, began following Martin at about 7 p.m. for what he described in a 911 call as “suspicious behavior.” Martin was walking back to his father’s condominium after buying iced tea for himself and Skittles for his soon-to-be stepbrother.
"This guy looks like he's up to no good, on drugs or something," Zimmerman told a 911 dispatcher.
Some sort of encounter occurred that resulted in Martin’s death. Sanford Police didn’t arrest Zimmerman, saying that it appeared he acted in self-defense.
Sanford Police accepted Zimmerman’s version of events at face value. “Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don't have the grounds to arrest him,” Sanford Police Chief Billy Lee told ABC News earlier this month.
After the incident became publicized through Facebook, Twitter and other social media, public outcry grew. More than 2 million people have signed an online petition demanding justice, and the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department have launched investigations.
Nearly two years after she filed the lawsuit, a congresswoman who lost in the March primary election has dropped her legal action against a political opponent.
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township) told The Enquirer today that she decided to drop her defamation lawsuit against Madeira businessman David Krikorian. Schmidt filed the suit in June 2010, and had sought $6.8 million in damages.
Krikorian is claiming victory in the dispute, and told CityBeat the lawsuit was an intimidation tactic by well-funded special interests.
“Her lawsuit was entirely without merit,” Krikorian said. “It was meant to silence and intimidate me and cost me money. It did not work.”
Krikorian ran as an independent against Schmidt in 2008; he unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic primary for the same seat in 2010 and again this year.
During the ‘08 campaign, Krikorian distributed a pamphlet alleging Schmidt had received “blood money” from the Turkish government in return for her opposition to a congressional resolution that declared Turkey had committed genocide against Armenia during a 1915 conflict.
But the lawsuit proved to be Schmidt’s undoing. She received more than $400,000 in free legal assistance from the Turkish Coalition of America to support her suit. In August 2011 the House Ethics Committee ruled that Schmidt received an “impermissible gift” but didn’t “knowingly” violate the law. She was ordered to repay the coalition, which she has yet to do.
Shortly thereafter, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonpartisan watchdog group, dubbed Schmidt as one of the most corrupt members of Congress.
All of the drama took its toll: Schmidt lost the GOP primary earlier this month to challenger Brad Wenstrup. He defeated her 49-43 percent.
“It’s time to move on,” Barrett Brunsman, Schmidt’s spokesman, told The Enquirer today about dropping the lawsuit.
The Turkish Coalition of America was among Schmidt’s top contributors, donating $7,500 to her 2010 reelection campaign through its political action committee, and donating $7,600 to her in 2008.
Schmidt also traveled to Turkey at least twice while in office. The coalition picked up the tab for one of the trips.
Politico reported March 12 that Schmidt was in Washington, D.C., on Election Day, March 6, at a private luncheon with Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan.
“At times, Rep. Jean Schmidt has been closer to Turkish interests than those of her Cincinnati-area constituents,” Politico’s Jonathan Allen wrote. “Never was that proximity problem more telling than on Tuesday, when Republicans denied Schmidt renomination to run for another term.”
When Allen sought comment for the article, Brunsman refused to confirm if the meeting occurred and sent an email that stated, “I think you have lost your way.”
For his part, Krikorian said the experience has taught him that Ohio needs to pass legislation that penalizes lawsuits filed solely to silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their opposition. Such a tactic is known as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” or SLAPP.
“I think the Ohio Legislature should consider passing an anti-SLAPP statue to prevent these kinds of abuses of the legal process,” he said. “This lawsuit was an attempt to intimidate and silence me by Rep. Schmidt and the Turkish lobby.”
Krikorian apparently lost in the March 6 Democratic primary by just 59 votes to William R. Smith, a virtual unknown from Pike County who didn’t campaign, answer questionnaires or grant interviews. A recount is under way and Krikorian has asked for a federal investigation of Victory Ohio Super PAC, which made robo-calls on Smith’s behalf but isn’t registered with the Federal Election Commission.
Krikorian picked up 14 more votes in Hamilton County on provisional ballots once the results were certified. Meanwhile, Clermont County certifies its results on Tuesday.
A review of the fine print in Ohio law could spell trouble for Duke Energy in its dispute with Cincinnati about who must pay to move utility lines to accommodate the city’s streetcar project.
Readers of CityBeat’s March 6 cover story know that one of the legal arguments made by Duke Energy is that it said the system qualifies as a utility itself under Ohio law. And one utility has no legal obligation to reimburse another utility, Duke added.
City officials disagree with Duke’s interpretation, and the two sides currently are trying to negotiate a compromise to the impasse.
The city is willing to pay $6 million to relocate Duke’s natural gas, chilled water, fiber and electrical infrastructure along the streetcar route, but the firm insists it will cost at least $18.7 million and possibly more.
A close reading of the Ohio Revised Code (ORC), however, reveals it is unlikely that a streetcar system qualifies as a “public utility.”
Under Ohio law, the following items are defined as public utilities:
“A motor transportation company, when engaged in the business of carrying and transporting persons or property or the business of providing or furnishing such transportation service, for hire, in or by motor-propelled vehicles of any kind, including trailers, for the public in general, over any public street, road, or highway in this state.” ORC §4905.03
But motor-propelled vehicles aren’t defined under Ohio law. The ORC does, however, define “motor vehicle” as:
“(B) “Motor vehicle” means any vehicle, including mobile homes and recreational vehicles, that is propelled or drawn by power other
than muscular power or power collected from overhead electric trolley wires.
“Motor vehicle” does not include utility vehicles as defined in division (VV)
of this section, motorized bicycles, road rollers, traction engines, power
shovels, power cranes, and other equipment used in construction work and not
designed for or employed in general highway transportation, well-drilling
machinery, ditch-digging machinery, farm machinery, and trailers that are
designed and used exclusively to transport a boat between a place of storage
and a marina, or in and around a marina, when drawn or towed on a public road
or highway for a distance of no more than ten miles and at a speed of
twenty-five miles per hour or less.” ORC
“(B) “Motor vehicle” means any vehicle, including mobile homes and recreational vehicles, that is propelled or drawn by power other than muscular power or power collected from overhead electric trolley wires. “Motor vehicle” does not include utility vehicles as defined in division (VV) of this section, motorized bicycles, road rollers, traction engines, power shovels, power cranes, and other equipment used in construction work and not designed for or employed in general highway transportation, well-drilling machinery, ditch-digging machinery, farm machinery, and trailers that are designed and used exclusively to transport a boat between a place of storage and a marina, or in and around a marina, when drawn or towed on a public road or highway for a distance of no more than ten miles and at a speed of twenty-five miles per hour or less.” ORC §4501.01(B)
Streetcars operate using overhead trolley wires, thus they aren’t considered motor vehicles under Ohio law. But do they even qualify as vehicles? The ORC defines vehicles as:
“(A) “Vehicles” means everything on wheels or runners, including motorized bicycles, but does not mean electric personal assistive mobility devices, vehicles that are operated exclusively on rails or tracks or from overhead electric trolley wires, and vehicles that belong to any police department, municipal fire department, or volunteer fire department, or that are used by such a department in the discharge of its functions.” ORC §4501.01(A)
Of course, streetcars run on rails and use power from electric
trolley wires. So, they aren’t vehicles either. The conclusion: Either “motor-propelled vehicles” mean the same as “motor
vehicles” (in which case it doesn’t apply to streetcars) or “motor-propelled”
is an adjective to “vehicle” (which also doesn’t apply, as streetcars aren’t
vehicles). In each instance, a streetcar system doesn’t fall into the legal realm of a “motor transportation company” and therefore isn’t a “public utility.”
Of course, streetcars run on rails and use power from electric trolley wires. So, they aren’t vehicles either.
The conclusion: Either “motor-propelled vehicles” mean the same as “motor vehicles” (in which case it doesn’t apply to streetcars) or “motor-propelled” is an adjective to “vehicle” (which also doesn’t apply, as streetcars aren’t vehicles).
In each instance, a streetcar system doesn’t fall into the legal realm of a “motor transportation company” and therefore isn’t a “public utility.”