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January 12, 2004

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WLIR Legend Ends at 92.7

*It's been 45 years since the call letters "WLIR" were first heard at 92.7 in Garden City, NEW YORK, and more than 20 years since that spot on the dial became the home of the New Wave sound. But as of noon on Friday (Jan. 9), listeners to 92.7 in Nassau County and adjoining corners of New York City, Westchester and southern Connecticut are hearing something very different - the Spanish hits of "Latino Mix" WCAA (105.9 Newark NJ).

The moves were no surprise, of course - it's been months since Univision Radio announced it was paying $60 million to The Morey Organization (aka Jarad Broadcasting) for the class A signal that sits right on the Nassau/Queens line - but for the passionate fans of WLIR, who've followed the station through two decades of ups, downs and even license revocations, it was an emotional moment nonetheless.

In recent years, WLIR on 92.7 was barely a shell of the groundbreaking station it once was; its playlist was as likely to include Dido as Kraftwerk, for instance. In its waning days, though, the station began to mix some of that classic New Wave back into its programming, and by Friday morning that was about all 92.7 was playing. And then noon came around, Alphaville's "Forever Young" played, and WLIR officials Jed Morey and John Carraciolo took the mike to thank listeners for all their years of support.

Over at WCAA's Madison Avenue studio, a countdown (and, judging from the pictures on the station's Web site, a pretty good party, too) led into the start of the simulcast on 92.7. While there's a fair amount of overlap between the 92.7 signal (which will take the calls WZAA) and the 105.9 signal from the Empire State Building, the addition of 92.7 will expand Latino Mix's reach into areas of Nassau County and southern Connecticut that currently can't hear 105.9 clearly because of first-adjacent interference from WBLI (106.1 Patchogue) out in Suffolk County. In effect, what Univision Radio gets for its $60 million is a signal that will cover the entire market and thus compete better with the only other Spanish-language FM signals in the market, SBS' WSKQ (97.9 New York) and WPAT-FM (93.1 Paterson NJ).

As for the Morey Organization, it now focuses its efforts on its three signals out on Long Island's East End: rocker "The Bone" WDRE (98.5 Westhampton), dance/top 40 "Party" WXXP (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke) and WBON (107.1 Hampton Bays), the signal that's been simulcasting WLIR since Jarad bought it from now-defunct Big City Radio last year.

With the demise of WLIR, 107.1 was reborn at noon Friday as "The Box 107.1," playing many of the same modern rock tunes that had been on WLIR at the end, albeit without the 80s "classic alternative" tracks. 107.1 is also where the WLIR call letters end up, since Jarad kept them when it sold 92.7 to Univision. (A few listeners out on the East End were hearing "WLIR Westhampton" legals on 107.1 after the flip, which makes no immediate sense to us; we also wonder where the legal main studio for the three East End stations is, since they're currently being programmed out of Jarad's 1103 Stewart Avenue building in Garden City, far outside their signal contours.)

And the final piece of the puzzle, at least for now, is former WLIR staffers Jon Daniels, Malibu Sue and Rob Rush. They've moved over to Barnstable's "Island 94.3," WMJC (94.3 Smithtown), where Daniels is now PD and afternoon drive host, Malibu Sue is handling middays and Rush is doing nights. WMJC is trying hard to attract former WLIR listeners; on Thursday morning, it introduced Sue with a promise that she'd do a 94-hour marathon on the air, and the next day it echoed WLIR's farewell with its own playing of "Forever Young" (plus a noon spin of Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio" as a tip of the hat to Univision, we suppose...)

*There was other news from New York this week, as well, including the death of a legendary broadcaster. John A. Gambling was the son of John B. Gambling, who more or less originated the concept of a "morning show" on radio when he took over the shift on WOR (710) back in 1925. "Rambling With Gambling" passed to John A. in 1959, capping a career for him that already included other hosting duties (most notably "Music from Studio X") on WOR, and he held down the job there until his own retirement in 1991, when he handed the show over to his son, John R. Gambling, who hosted the show until being fired from WOR in 2000. John A. also ran JAG Communications, which owned several New England stations, including Providence's WLKW and Albany's WROW, in the eighties.

John A. Gambling retired to Florida, where he died Thursday (Jan. 8) at 73; his son John R. is now the midmorning host at WABC (770). (And WOR stepped up to the plate with a nice tribute to John A. on Friday morning.)

Over at WPLJ (95.5 New York), Rich Kaminski is the new midday host, while Christine Taylor (formerly of WPTP in Philadelphia) takes over Jamie Lee's former shift at night. (She'll be known as "Christine Richie" in deference to afternoon guy Race Taylor.)

At WKTU (103.5 Lake Success), Mike Opelka is the new assistant PD and morning show producer.

And at ABC Radio News, a legendary voice says goodbye at week's end - Bob Hardt, who's been on the air in New York since the sixties (when he did local news on WABC) will retire January 17, and the airwaves will be a little poorer for it.

Where are they now?: Al Brady Law, who programmed and ran New York stations that included WXLO, WABC, WNBC, WYNY and WWDJ, not to mention Boston's WHDH/WZOU, has landed in Toledo, where he's the new PD of talker WSPD (1370).

In Westchester, Vincent Pastore - "Big Pussy Bompensiero" from The Sopranos - is the newest talk show host on WVOX (1460 New Rochelle), doing one hour a week at the station as a favor to owner William O'Shaughnessy, the kind of guy who can call in favors like that. (Though not, apparently, to make sure his name is spelled correctly on the top banner of the station's own Web site...)

Heading up the Hudson Valley, J.R.Gach is switching stations at Galaxy's Albany cluster, moving (effective today) from mornings on "K-Rock" WKRD (93.7 Scotia) to afternoons on classic rock WRCZ (94.5 Ravena). That sets into motion a string of changes at WKRD that includes Tim Noble from afternoons to mornings and The General James from nights to afternoons.

It's the end of the line for Utica's country "Bob", WRBY (102.5 Rome) - Clear Channel pulled the plug on the format there on Friday and replaced it with a spinning "Wheel of Formats" that's still twirling at press time Sunday night. Bob's Web site was being forwarded to the site of Syracuse sister station WWDG (105.1 the Dog), prompting speculation that the Dog will soon be barking in Utica as well, where it would compete against Galaxy's K-Rock just as it does in Syracuse. (MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: The wheel stopped spinning this morning and landed on hot AC "Mix 102.5." More next week...)

Over on the AM dial, WIBX (950 Utica) bumps Laura Schlessinger from its schedule, replacing her (from 9-noon) with Laura Ingraham; in the afternoon, news anchor Jon Meyer moves to the sales department and is replaced by "Adam the Bull."

There's a 10 PM news war brewing in Syracuse: tonight marks the launch of WSTM (Channel 3)'s 10 o'clock broadcast on UPN sister station WSTQ-LP (Channel 14). WSTM used to produce the 10 PM show for Fox affiliate WSYT (Channel 68), but that contract went to WTVH (Channel 5) a couple of years ago. And WSYT has competition at 10 from another source, too: Time Warner's News 10 Now, which debuted a few months ago. WSTM's Dan Kloeffler will anchor the 10 PM show, with Joe Zone handling sports and Cheryl Nelson joining the staff for weather duties.

Here in Rochester, EMF Broadcasting's national "K-Love" contemporary Christian format made a stealthy entry into the market last Thursday, showing up on WMJQ (105.5 Brockport) via an LMA-to-buy with owner George Kimble. The move ends WMJQ's simulcast of religion from WASB (1590 Brockport)/WRSB (1310 Canandaigua); it also marks an end to regional religious broadcaster Family Life Ministries' attempt to buy WMJQ to expand its Rochester reach. (Ironically, it was Family Life's chief engineer who did the legwork on WMJQ's pending application to move to 104.9 and relocate its antenna closer to Rochester.)

Stepping on the NERW soapbox here: EMF isn't a familiar name to a lot of broadcasters in this region; its only holding here now is Utica's WKVU (100.7) - but it's one of the fastest-growing station groups in America, both through the purchase of commercial FM facilities nationwide (dozens in the last year alone) and through the filing of hundreds of translator applications in last year's window (including a proposed daisy-chain of signals from Utica east to Albany and beyond.)

There's nothing wrong, much less illegal, about that, of course - but the expansion of "listener-supported K-Love" can't be good news for local religious broadcasters, and proponents of localism in broadcasting (of which this column has been among the staunchest) can't help but be dismayed that K-Love's programming is fed entirely by satellite from Sacramento. (We were also dismayed by the fundraising drive we heard on K-Love's stations in Ohio as we drove through a few weeks ago; notwithstanding that EMF had just spent millions of dollars over the last two years to buy those stations, its hosts were putting on the hard sell to convince listeners that the entire network was on the verge of running out of money and going dark unless those pledges started coming in.)

Back to Rochester: bedraggled oldies outlet WBBF (93.3 Fairport) gets a morning show again today, with the addition of George "Ace" Acevedo to double the Entercom station's airstaff (it has had only an afternoon show for the last month or so.) Acevedo's resume includes stops in Tampa, Albuquerque and San Francisco; we hope his welcome package here includes a warm winter coat and a good snow brush!

Meanwhile at the Clear Channel cluster that includes WHAM (1180 Rochester), there won't be a need for moving vans after all. The seven-station group was planning to relocate to suburban Greece (with the help of a hefty county tax break), but its landlords at Midtown Plaza (or, as WHAM's piped-in-from-Albany "local" talk host called it, "Midtown Mall") made the cluster a deal it apparently couldn't refuse - so the stations will stay put in downtown Rochester.

And jazz station WGMC (90.1 Greece) will finally power up its new 15 kW signal this Wednesday, meaning we may not need the big rooftop antenna to hear its programming anymore. (Though, like several newspaper letter writers, we too want to know why weekend jazz host Tom Pethic lost his shifts there...)

And up in Watertown, WWTI (Channel 50) has apparently stopped carrying the "Daybreak" morning show from its sister stations in Syracuse and Binghamton; it's now running "ABC World News this Morning" until 7 AM instead.

*Moving up the St. Lawrence River, the big news from CANADA was a three-way format flip involving several of Rogers' FM stations in and around Ottawa. It all played out Friday morning, and it happened like this:

Country CKBY (105.3 Ottawa) picked up the mainstream top 40 torch that was dropped last year when CHUM's "Kool" CKKL (93.9) flipped to classic hits/hot AC "Bob." Under the banner "105.3 Kiss FM," the signal picks up right where Kool left off, voiceover talent and all, and promises to give Newcap's newcomer CIHT (Hot 89.9) some competition, though Hot leans much more urban than Kiss.

The country format that lived on 105.3 as "Y105" moved down the dial, airstaff and all, to CIOX (101.1 Smiths Falls), the big signal from 30 miles southwest of Ottawa that had been doing modern rock as "Xfm." (Some of X's airstaff have moved over to Kiss as well.)

And CJET-FM (92.3 Smiths Falls), which was doing country on a much more local level for Smiths Falls and nearby Carleton Place, no longer needs to do country now that "Y101" is on the air, so it's become Canada's newest "Jack," targeting a broader audience that now includes at least part of the Ottawa market (though it's still bound by a license condition, left over from its late-nineties conversion from AM to FM, that bars it from soliciting advertising in the Ottawa market.)

Meanwhile in Toronto, CHWO (AM 740) abruptly fired morning man Bob Dearborn on Tuesday. Dearborn says the station told him its revenues fell far short of projections last year, and that they couldn't afford him "even at half the salary." Dearborn's resume includes a long stint in Chicago at WCFL and WJMK, as well as hosting "Night Time America" on the RKO Radio Network for four years. CHWO has named Norm Edwards as Dearborn's replacement - and Dearborn's now looking for new opportunites (you can reach him at [email protected])

*In PENNSYLVANIA, Glenn Kalina's out as morning man at Philadelphia's WMWX (95.7). Jo Momma moves from afternoons to morning drive at Mix, with Charlie Maxx moving to middays and Brian Murphy going from nights to afternoons. Meanwhile at the Beasley cluster in town, "Wild" WLDW (96.5) says it's been getting nasty notes from Clear Channel asserting its trademark on the nickname - and firing back with promos suggesting listeners erase "Wild" from their dictionaries.

Forever Broadcasting is shuffling formats in Altoona, flipping WFBG (1290) from standards to news-talk with a lineup that includes Rich DeLeo's local morning show, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and Laura Schlessinger. On the FM side, meanwhile, it looks like curtains for oldies "Magic," as WXMJ (99.5 Mount Union) flips to a simulcast of newly-acquired top 40 WPRR (100.1 Altoona) while its former "Magic" simulcast parent WMAJ-FM (104.9 Hollidaysburg) is stunting and promising a new format Tuesday. ANd over in Johnstown, WCCL (101.7 Somerset) has parted ways with morning hosts Brad Lorence and Jessica Taylor.

And in Scranton, WEZX (106.9 Scranton)/WPZX (105.9 Pocono Pines) PD Rob Lipshutz is reportedly out after a long run at the rock station.

*There's a new oldies station in NEW JERSEY - two of them, in fact: Greater Media dropped the standards from WMTR (1250 Morristown) and WWTR (1170 Bridgewater) last week, flipping the signals to "Classic Oldies," the pre-British Invasion format that's slowly making inroads on the AM dial around the country.

*In CONNECTICUT, "Power 104" WPHH (104.1 Waterbury) is the latest addition to Wendy Williams' roster of affiliates for her syndicated afternoon show, based at New York's WBLS.

*RHODE ISLAND's WHJY (94.1 Providence) is getting a new program director early next month: he's Scott Laudani, who moves over from Saga's WAQY/WLZX in western Massachusetts.

*More MASSACHUSETTS news: Boston's Kiss 108 (WXKS-FM 107.9 Medford) has finally officially filled the shoes of veteran afternoon jock Dale Dorman, who's now doing mornings at WODS (103.3). After Dorman's contract wasn't renewed last year, his shift was split between jocks Artie the One Man Party and Romeo; now Artie gets the nod for the 2-6 PM shift, while Romeo becomes the permanent 6-10 PM jock at Kiss.

WAZN (1470) has completed its move from Marlborough to Watertown; it's now transmitting with 850 watts non-directional from one tower of the WTTT (1150 Boston) site in Lexington and will soon begin testing its 1400 watt day/3400 watt night directional signal. (WTTT, meanwhile, has changed morning hosts - Don Feder is out as of today, replaced by former Gene Burns producer Jimmy Carter.)

And in Worcester, Art Volpe is the new VP/market manager for Clear Channel's WTAG and WSRS.

*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Bev Valentine (last heard doing part-time work on Boston's WZLX and Fairhaven/New Bedford's WFHN) has joined the morning show at WJYY (105.5 Concord).

*And from MAINE comes word that Ellis O'Brian, the first weather forecaster on WCSH-TV (Channel 6), died last Thursday.

*That's it for another week...except for a few housekeeping issues. First, a reminder that while we don't ask you for a password to read NERW, this isn't a free product, either. Many of you have already sent in subscription payments for 2004, and to all of you we say "thank you." If you haven't, what are you waiting for? Your contribution - of any amount - makes it possible for us to keep NERW, now in its tenth year, coming to you week after week after week...and if you sign up at the $60 level, you even get a free 2004 Tower Site Calendar. For all the details - and easy credit card/PayPal payment links - just click here.

If you haven't seen it yet, don't miss our roundup of all the news that was fit to remember from last year... Click here for our 2003 Year in Review package!

*And if you still haven't ordered one, we have plenty of 2004 Tower Site Calendars still available for your enjoyment!

Just as in past years, the calendar features a dozen spiffy 8.5-by-11 inch full-color images of tower sites from across the nation - everything from Washington's WTEM to New York's WCBS/WFAN (shown at left) to Los Angeles' KHJ to WCTM in Eaton, Ohio.

Other featured sites include Cedar Hill in Dallas, Lookout Mountain above Denver, CKLW Windsor, WELI New Haven, WPTF Raleigh NC, WBT Charlotte NC, WAJR Morgantown WV, WMT Cedar Rapids IA and the mighty 12 towers of KFXR (the old KLIF 1190) in Dallas.

Unlike last year, this year's calendar features heavier paper (no more curling!) and will be shipped shrink-wrapped on a cardboard backing to make sure it arrives in pristine condition.

All orders received by January 11 have now been shipped, and we've already heard from recipients as far away as Tacoma, Washington and Kitchener, Ontario, so if you've already ordered, you should be enjoying your calendar any day now. (And if you ordered before the end of 2003 and haven't received your calendar yet, please let us know!)

If you haven't ordered yet, what are you waiting for? It's too late for Christmas gift-giving - but perhaps you still need a calendar for 2004...or maybe you didn't find one under the tree, despite all those hints you dropped.

So order now and help support NERW and Tower Site of the Week. Better yet, place your subscription for 2004 at the $60 level by using the handy buttons below, and you'll get your 2004 Tower Site Calendar absolutely FREE. What more could you want? (Local news on the weekends, maybe?)

Order the 2004 Tower Site Calendar at $16 each (US and Canada only - e-mail us for overseas ordering information.)
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Don't want to order by credit card? You know the drill by now - make those checks payable to "Scott Fybush," be sure to include sales tax ($1.32 per calendar) for New York state calendar orders, and send them along to 92 Bonnie Brae Avenue, Rochester NY 14618. (Sorry - we can't take orders by phone.)

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NorthEast Radio Watch is made possible by the generous contributions of our regular readers. If you enjoy NERW, please click here to learn how you can help make continued publication possible. NERW is copyright 2003 by Scott Fybush.