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New Arena’s Opening Act Undecided

No, John Michael Montgomery is not the opening act at the new Spokane Arena, which is probably a relief to those of you who are saying, “Who?”

This country crooner plays the Arena on Sept. 16, but the genuine opening concert will probably be on Sept. 15.

And the performer will be … we still don’t know yet. The Arena people are still furiously working the phones, trying to nail it all down.

Actually, you could call Montgomery one of the opening acts, since the nights of Sept. 15, 16 and 17 are considered the opening three days. The hockey-playing San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks are already booked for Sept. 17, which you might call the Opening Puck Gala.

By the way, somewhere around 5,000 tickets have been sold in less than a week for the Montgomery show. The opening acts, The Mavericks and The Tractors, are also big draws.

Those 5,000 people would have practically filled the old Coliseum, but in the new Arena, it’s only about half-sold. There are still plenty of good seats left.

Surely you joust

The Northwest Renaissance Festival is not exactly swarming with spectators so far, but don’t stick the lance in it yet.

This celebration of all things Tudor is attracting about 250 people a day to its 20-acre site, about 18 miles northwest of Spokane on Nine Mile Falls Road (SR 291). “It’s not as good as we were hoping, but it’s good enough to keep going,” said director Tienne Rogers.

Before the festival opened on June 24, Rogers said they hoped to attract 1,000 people a day.

The good news is they have not had to cut back on the cast of 47 actors - in fact, they keep adding new acts every weekend. A duo of fire-eaters and bed-of-nails-enthusiasts called Isabella and Ariecchino will be on hand this weekend, she said.

The festival got off to a bit of shaky start, and Rogers admits that the first weekend was “dress rehearsal.” But she also says that the festival has been smoothed out and many more activities have been added. She encourages spectators to spend the whole day at the site, and witness the jousting, the live chess match and other events.

The cost is $10, $5 for children age 5-12, at the gate. The site is between mileposts 18 and 19 on SR 291, near Tumtum. It runs Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 6, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Fine, you’re both first

It’s the battle of the Forecast Firsts between KHQ-6 and KXLY-4.

Both stations are billing their weather broadcasts as the “Forecast First.” Mr. Spotlight is not exactly a math whiz, but he does know that one of them must be wrong.

So we got out the old Timex and checked out Tuesday’s 5 p.m. broadcast. We found that KXLY’s weathercast came at 5:11 p.m., and KHQ’s came at 5:16 p.m., although frankly, five minutes either way hardly seems worth arguing about.

Congratulations to KREM-2 for staying above this fray.

KREM changes

Tracy Vedder, a KREM-2 reporter for five years, has gotten herself a new job: reporter for KOMO-TV in Seattle.

It’s a big step up, and well-deserved. Vedder was one of the most-respected TV reporters in Spokane.

Her replacement may come as a surprise: Darin Watkins, formerly a reporter at KXLY-4. Watkins was unceremoniously dumped by KXLY a year ago because of what the station said were “repeated violations of our company’s quality standards.” Specifically, KXLY accused him of prematurely broadcasting the name of a Fairchild B-52 crash victim, who turned out not to be a crash victim at all.

Watkins said that he was told to broadcast the name by a producer speaking into the earphones.

KREM-2 news director Ron Comings said that he has reason to believe that Watkins was unfairly blamed. Comings said he’s delighted to pick up a reporter with so much local experience.

Watkins, a Spokane native, has been working part time for KIRO-TV in Seattle since he left KXLY. He’ll start at KREM at the end of this month.

The KXLY-KZZU marriage

Veteran broadcaster John Rook, who owns KCDA-FM, has just done the equivalent of standing up in the church and shouting, “Stop the wedding!”

It’s not exactly a wedding; he is referring to KXLY’s proposed purchase of KZZU-FM/KTRW-AM.

Rook has filed a “petition to deny” with the Federal Communications Commission, arguing that the sale should not be allowed.

Rook’s contention is that the sale violates the FCC’s rule which prohibits one company from owning too many stations in one market.

However, KXLY contends that the sale is allowable because KZZU-FM and KTRW-AM are “failed” stations. The parent company of KZZU-FM and KTRW-AM has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy since 1990. The too-many-stations rule can be waived if the FCC determines that the stations are “failed.”

Rook contends that the Spokane stations are not even remotely “failed.” He says that the two Spokane stations have been thriving for years; in fact, KZZU-FM is Spokane’s top-rated station. Rook contends that the parent company’s financial problems stem from its holdings in other states.

It’ll be up to the FCC to sort this all out.

Meanwhile, Rook says he’s just trying to stand up for the little guy. If the purchase goes through, KXLY’s parent company will own one TV station, two FM radio stations and two AM radio stations in Spokane (not to mention one cable TV station). Rook, in his petition, says that would “alter the competitive environment in the Spokane market to the detriment of stand-alone stations such as KCDA.”

Change at KGA-AM

Beginning Monday, Carole Geer takes over as news director and co-anchor of KGA-AM’s morning News Express.

Geer, who has 18 years of broadcast experience, was formerly the station’s afternoon news anchor. She replaces Stephan Kaufman, who is no longer with the station. Bob Castle will take over for Geer in the afternoons.

Those fun KGA-AM callers

When fellow columnist Doug Clark and I guest-hosted a talk show on KGA-AM Tuesday, a caller let fly with a particularly nasty obscenity, one which employed the f-word in a way previously unknown to me. The word made it on the air, too, because KGA has no time delay.

Aren’t talk radio stations required to have a time delay? It’s not required, but most do, according to Kris McGowan of the Federal Communications Commission in Seattle. She said it would “make good sense” for a talk station such as KGA to get a time delay.

She said a penalty would be unlikely in this case, since the obscenity was neither “willful” nor “repeated.”

New KDRK morning guy

Jim Diamond, out of Billings, Mont., takes over the morning show at KDRK-FM on Monday. He’s a veteran of morning shoes in both Billings and Bozeman, Mont.

He replaces the recently canned Jay Daniels and Kevin James.

, DataTimes