November 22, 2004
WBIX: The Collapse
*It's becoming increasingly clear that there
are no winners in the scandal that's had the attention of most
of MASSACHUSETTS for the last week or so - and certainly
not the staff or listeners at WBIX (1060 Natick), where afternoon
host Mark Mills admitted on the air late last week that the people
putting together the station's business format weren't getting
paid and expected to be sent packing any minute.
announcement actually came a day before Chris Egan, the
EMC heir who had been planning to buy the station from self-confessed
swindler Brad Bleidt, said he was pulling out of the deal. Egan
said that his withdrawal from the deal would cost him somewhere
in the six figures, but that allowing the station to go through
a court-ordered receivership sale would be more likely to put
at least some cash back in the pockets of the clients Bleidt
defrauded before attempting to kill himself.
Bleidt, meanwhile, ended the week under arrest on federal
mail-fraud charges, two days after he checked himself in to the
psychiatric ward of Massachusetts General Hospital.
The inevitable question: what now for 1060? With Egan out
of the picture, the station's future now appears to be up to
attorney David Vicinanzo, the court-designated receiver in the
Bleidt case. At the head of the list of creditors, no doubt,
will be Alex Langer, to whom Bleidt still owes at least seven
million dollars for the WBIX license. (Bleidt paid more than
$13 million for the station, most of it in the form of a loan
But Bleidt's accused of taking roughly $35 million from investors,
and if WBIX is in fact the only significant asset that's left
from his activities, it will be up to Vicinanzo to determine
how to wring the most cash he possibly can from the station.
That, in turn, may mean not a continuation of the business format
but rather an outright sale to another operator - and that, in
turn, means there may not be much point to trying to continue
the station's operations under the current format. Several staffers
are already gone from WBIX, including Mills' afternoon producer,
and the rest are expected to learn more about their fate this
week. We'll keep you posted.
*Meanwhile out on Cape Cod, GBH Telecommunications
(a partnership between Boston's WGBH and funder Public Radio
Capital) remained the leading bidder at week's end for the new
94.3A allocation in Brewster, holding steady with its bid of
$3.927 million. Other notable leading bidders in this FM Auction
#37 include "RadioActive, LLC" (the return of former
Clear Channel radio honcho Randy Michaels), with bids of $2.695
million for 97.9A Dannemora NY, $301,000 for 92.5A Old Forge
NY and $570,000 for 107.1A Saranac Lake NY; Nassau Broadcasting,
with $879.000 for 97.3A Jefferson NH and $762,000 for 105.9A
Hardwick VT; Vermont Broadcast Associates, with $936,000 for
100.3A Barton VT; Double O Broadcasting, with $399,000 for 97.5A
Delhi NY; PPRE, LLC, with $144,000 for 96.5A Speculator NY; and
Iorio Broadcasting, with $208,000 for 102.7A Clarendon PA. The
auction resumes with round 53 on Monday morning...
The all-Christmas bandwagon made a stop on Birmingham Parkway
last week, as Infinity's WODS (103.3 Boston) flipped from oldies
to holiday music for the season. Last year, Entercom's WQSX (93.7
Lawrence) made the flip, too - will it do so again this year?
*A long-running dispute that threatened to
take a northern MAINE radio station off the air has been
resolved, at least for now, as WSYY (94.9/1240 Millinocket) buys
its studio site from landlord Katahdin Timberlands LLC - and,
more importantly, signs a lease for its Hammond Ridge tower site.
WSYY had been operating without a lease on the Katahdin Timberlands-owned
site since January, and had been threatened with eviction. It's
now safe at least through 2006, though the proposed construction
of a resort next to the tower site may still pose a problem down
a brand-new radio station on the air in NEW HAMPSHIRE as
of Friday (Nov. 19), as Bob Vinikoor flips the switch to launch
WUVR (1490 Lebanon) onto the Upper Valley's airwaves.
WUVR is the first AM station licensed to Lebanon, and Bob
tells us it's operating from a Nautel XL-1 transmitter and a
Kintronics folded unipole tower, with the site designed by Bill
Sitzman and engineered by Russ McAllister.
For now, it's simulcasting Bob's talk station, WNTK (99.7
New London) - but when Bob gets sister station WQTH (720 Hanover)
on the air in the next year or so, he hopes to make WUVR a good
old full-service community station for Lebanon. Neat...
Meanwhile, the all-Christmas flip took place at Clear Channel's
WGXL (92.3 Hanover) last week.
And a native New Englander is back home after a long stint
in the desert. Angela Anderson was most recently doing news at
KXNT (840) and the rest of the Infinity cluster in Las Vegas,
but the Emerson graduate just landed a new gig as news director
of WGIR (610 Manchester) and its Clear Channel sisters in the
Granite State. Welcome home!
*More all-Christmas sounds in CONNECTICUT:
WBMW (106.5 Ledyard) and WXLM (102.3 Stonington) both made the
flip on Friday, bringing lots of "ho-ho-ho" to the
Norwich/New London/Groton area.
top story out of NEW YORK this week is the return of a
very old set of call letters to the Rochester TV dial, as Clear
Channel announced Friday that it will flip WOKR (Channel 13)
to WHAM-TV in January 2005.
The WHAM-TV calls belonged to Rochester's original TV station,
first on channel 6 and then on channel 5, from 1949 until 1956,
when it and WHAM radio were sold to separate owners and the TV
side became WROC-TV (which moved from channel 5 to channel 8
in 1962). WHAM (1180) and WOKR have been co-owned for several
years now, and they've experimented with some newsgathering cooperation
and cross-promotion since then.
The call change, however, takes that cooperation to a new
level - and while both sides emphasized that the radio and TV
stations will operate under separate management from separate
facilities (indeed, Clear Channel's been busy renovating its
downtown Rochester radio studios), the local media scene was
quickly abuzz with jokes about WHAM talk host Bob Lonsberry anchoring
the news on WHAM-TV 13 alongside WOKR fixture Don Alhart.
(And down the Thruway, the rumor mill has been buzzing for
a while about a call change in Syracuse that would flip Clear
Channel's WIXT, channel 9, to WSYR-TV, the calls that graced
channel 3 - now WSTM - as recently as 1980. There's even some
talk that Clear Channel's Albany Fox affiliate, WXXA-TV, could
rebrand as WGY-TV.
It goes without saying, of course, that the local daily rag
performed its usual mediocre job of press-release regurgitation,
duly repeating several errors in the WHAM press release, including
the claim that WHAM-TV became WROC-TV in 1962. We're taking bets
from Rochester-area readers on how many months will elapse before
said rag's Sunday TV book reflects the call change in each of
the three different places that the "WOKR" calls appear...)
*The WHAM-TV call change may have led channel 13's newscasts
(really!) at 5 and 6 on Friday, but it wasn't even the most consequential
piece of broadcast news out of the Flower City this week. That
honor - if that's the right word - goes to Infinity's sudden
dismissal of John McCrae as operations manager/PD of its Rochester
cluster, which includes classic rock WCMF (96.5), top 40 WPXY
(97.9), AC WRMM (101.3) and active rock WZNE (94.1 Brighton).
None of that "philosophical differences" or "pursuing
different interests" business here, either - the New
York Times reported Saturday that McCrae was fired for taking
gift certificates (we hear they were for Best Buy) that were
meant for contest prizes and using them for personal use. The
Times says the McCrae incident was one of the concerns
that led Infinity to announce this week that it was implementing
a group-wide ban on the use of independent record promoters.
(The local rag? Guess nobody's sent them a press release yet;
there's been nary a word about this story in its pages, which
may explain why the Times sells as well as it does
Another all-Christmas convert, and it's no surprise: Entercom's
WBBF (93.3 Fairport) made the flip early last week, just as it
did last year around this time.
We stopped by the final broadcast/station open-house party
for departing WGMC (90.1 Greece) general manager Jason Crane
on Friday to say so long, and while we were there we picked up
some news about the station's new schedule, effective today:
Crane's replacement, Rob Linton, will handle the midday shift
from 11-2, while WGMC office manager (and veteran western NY
broadcaster) Jack Mindy takes over Crane's old "Traffic
Jam" shift from 2 to 6 PM.
One final Rochester note: Cary Pall, still well-remembered
locally for his days at WKLX (98.9, now WBZA), is leaving his
current post as PD of Columbus oldies station WODB (107.9 Delaware
OH) at year's end, and it really is all about "new opportunities"
- we hear he's looking to get into station ownership, and we
wish him the very best in that endeavor.
Over in Buffalo, some good news for fans of Jackson Armstrong
on WWKB (1520) - the station is pulling the plug on the sports
play-by-play that pre-empted Armstrong many nights, sending University
of Buffalo games over to Lockport's WLVL (1340) and telling the
Buffalo Bisons baseball team to look for a new place to buy time
for its games next season.
Speaking of Buffalo sports, Adelphia's Empire Sports Network
is verging ever closer to extinction. With its star attraction,
Sabres hockey, idled by the NHL strike, Time Warner Cable has
decided to drop the network from its cable systems in the Rochester
market, where it had already been exiled to a digital pay tier.
(At the same time, Time Warner's raising cable rates, again.
Hmm - a dish would look mighty nice atop NERW Central...)
In Albany, WROW (590) has finally picked a replacement for
long-departed (we're talking last July) afternoon talk host Dan
Lynch. It's looking south down the Thruway to pick up the Mike
and the Mad Dog show from Infinity's WFAN (660 New York), providing
the show with its very first out-of-market affiliate.
And congratulations to Ally Reid, who moves up one notch in
alphabetical order as she trades middays on WFLY (92.3 Troy)
for a new gig at WFLZ (93.3) down in Tampa, Florida.
Is a format change
on the way at New York's WQCD (101.9)? PD Blake Lawrence has
been on the air saying he's working hard on a project that's
due Monday at noon, and the word is that the Emmis-owned station
is segueing from smooth jazz to something called "chill,"
which is a sort of melange of smooth jazz, electronica, world
beat, pop, dance, and...well, OK, we can't really explain it
either. But it's doing OK out in Santa Fe, New Mexico at "Blu
102.9," KLBU, and now it's apparently coming to CD 101.9.
More as it develops...
The New York Yankees lost the ALCS (it just never gets old,
does it?), and now they've lost one of their announcers, too.
Charley Steiner is reportedly heading to Los Angeles to join
the Dodgers' radio team, and the rumor mill says Suzyn Waldman
will end up in the Yankees booth alongside John Sterling for
opening day. (Which, need we remind you, will pit them against
the World Champion Red Sox...)
Pacifica's WBAI (99.5 New York) spent much of Wednesday off
the air, thanks to a manhole fire that took out the station's
link to its Empire State Building transmitter. WBAI was silenced
about 4 AM and didn't get back on the air until 1:20 PM or thereabouts.
here, but it bears noting anyway: Morey's WLIR (107.1 Hampton
Bays) has dropped its "Box" nickname and has assumed
the identity of its predecessor, modern rock pioneer WLIR (92.7
Garden City, now WZAA). The Morey stations out there on the East
End will reportedly be streaming their audio soon, too.
*An all-Christmas station has arrived in
NEW JERSEY, as WKOE (106.3 Ocean City) tries to get attention
for its new "Breeze" format by stunting with the holiday
tunes. (The other two Breezes, WBHX 99.7 and WWZY 107.1, stick
with the soft AC for now.)
*Lots of all-Christmas action in PENNSYLVANIA,
where converts this week include Philadelphia's WSNI (104.5)
and WBEB (101.1), Pittsburgh's WWSW (94.5), Allentown's WLEV
(100.7) and Scranton's WFEZ (103.1 Avoca).
Radio People on the Move in the Harrisburg market: Melanie
Gardner's departed Metro Networks (where she did traffic for
Lancaster's WGAL-TV) to become morning co-host at WARM-FM (103.3
York), replacing the departed Kelly West. And ex-New Englander
Tory Gates has left Metro in Harrisburg as well - he's headed
to DC and a gig doing traffic reporting for XM's nationwide traffic
*We're saddened to begin our news from CANADA this
week with two obituaries. Legendary jock Tom Rivers was one of
the giants of Toronto radio, both in physical form (he was a
towering 6'8") and in the impact he had on the industry
during a career that began in Detroit and then included stops
at CHUM, CFTR (where he defected from CHUM in 1983), CHOG (in
its "Talk 640" era), CJEZ and most recently brief stints
at CHWO (AM 740) and CJAQ ("Jack FM.") Rivers died
Friday after a battle with cancer; he was 57.
And over in London, CHRW (94.9) is mourning the loss of its
general manager, Kaarlo Korkiala, who was found dead in his apartment
last Monday at age 38. Korkiala had been involved with CHRW since
his days as a student at the University of Western Ontario in
1985; he had been the station's news and sports director since
2001 and had been named GM earlier this year. PD Grant Stein
is serving as CHRW's interim general manager for now.
Toronto's "Jazz 91 FM," CJRT (91.1), has hired CBC
host Ralph Benmergui as its new morning jock, replacing the departing
Tish Iceton. Benmergui starts at CJRT in December.
The all-Christmas format's not unique to the U.S.; Toronto's
CJEZ (EZ Rock 97.3) made the flip last week as well.
And if you're looking for a classic aircheck fix, you could
do a lot worse than to visit our old pal "Mr. Aircheck,"
a.k.a. former CING (107.9 Burlington) oldies jock Russ Horton,
who's streaming pieces of his collection 24/7 at www.live365.com/stations/mraircheck4159.
Check it out!
*You're less than two months away from 2005
- so why haven't you ordered your Tower Site Calendar 2005
It's now for sale, among other outlets, at the NAB Store -
yup, that was the 2005 edition on the counter in San Diego -
as well as being on the racks at Universal Radio in Ohio.
And we're pretty sure the cover of the Tower Site Calendar
2006 has now been photographed - but we won't spoil the surprise
just yet, will we?
This year's calendar begins with WSTW/WDEL in Wilmington,
Delaware on the cover, ends with Sutro Tower in San Francisco
on the inside back cover - and along the way makes stops at WNBF
in Binghamton, CFNB in Fredericton, Poor Mountain in Roanoke,
KXNT in Las Vegas, WBBR in New York, Gibraltar Peak above Santa
Barbara, WDEV in Waterbury, Vermont, WRIB in Providence, WOOD
in Grand Rapids, KFJZ in Fort Worth, KYPA in Los Angeles and
the top of Chicago's Hancock Tower.
We're holding the price from last year, notwithstanding increases
in printing costs and PayPal fees - just $16 postpaid ($17.32
including sales tax to New York addresses). And as always, it's
free with your $60 or higher subscription to NorthEast Radio
Watch/fybush.com. You can use PayPal, below, or send your check
or money order, payable to Scott Fybush, to 92 Bonnie Brae Avenue,
Rochester NY 14618.
And here's an even better deal - We still have
plenty of 2004 calendars left, so how about this? For just $20
postpaid ($21.65 in New York), we'll send you both the 2005 and
2004 editions. It's almost like getting an extra calendar free!
(Or, if you just need the 2004 edition, that's still on clearance
at $8 - and if you buy two 2004 calendars, your third is free!)
So why wait until the last minute? Why make us wait until
the last minute? Why not let me park my car back in the garage
where it belongs? Buy your calendars now, won't you?
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2004 by Scott Fybush.