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November 7, 2005

Susquehanna sells - and holiday radio's here

*The first week of November brought plenty of news from PENNSYLVANIA - none of it bigger than the $1.2 billion sale of Susquehanna Radio to Cumulus Media Partners, a partnership of Cumulus Media and three investment firms.

In our region, the sale affects only the Susquehanna group in York - talker WSBA (910 York), AC WARM-FM (103.3 York), oldies WSOX (96.1 Red Lion) and silent WGLD (1440 Red Lion) - but it also closes a long, proud history of a group (owned by Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff, perhaps better known for its dishware) that grew from a handful of central Pennsylvania stations to a nationwide cluster with major outlets in San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta and elsewhere.

(We should note, too, that Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff is also selling its SusCom cable service, which serves some 225,000 subscribers in Pennsylvania, New York, Maine and Mississippi. Comcast, which already owned 30% of SusCom, is paying $775 million for the rest of the company.)

One more Susquehanna note before we continue: little WGLD was back on the air briefly last week, keeping its license from an impending expiration.

*Across the state, adult hits came to Pittsburgh Tuesday when Steel City Media dumped the lagging classic rock format on WRRK (96.9 Braddock) in favor of "96.9 Bob FM." The station is running jockless for now - even in mornings, previously occupied by the syndicated Bob & Tom show.

A happy 85th anniversary to KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh), which marked that milestone Wednesday. Even if it's not the first radio station in America, a claim most radio historians now reject, it still deserves acclaim for the publicity machine that Westinghouse put into action way back in November 1920 to put radio in the public eye, and for the way it's continued to promote its long and storied history even now.

Up in Greenville, WEXC (107.1) has parted ways with PD Skip Tracy, and the decision apparently wasn't mutual. Matt Rhodes is the new PD at "Freq 107."

Yes, it's barely November - but there are already three stations in the Keystone State playing nonstop Christmas tunes. In Scranton, Times Shamrock's WQFM (92.1 Nanticoke)/WQFN (100.1 Forest City) flipped from oldies to "ho ho ho," with Entercom's WFEZ (103.1 Avoca) right on its heels. Rumor has it that the oldies won't be returning to WQFM/WQFN after the holidays.

Meanwhile in Philadelphia, it was no surprise at all when Clear Channel's WSNI (104.5) made the flip over the weekend, and now the only real question is how long it will take for Jerry Lee's WBEB (101.1) to do the same. WSNI, by the way, is picking up John Tesh's syndicated morning show from 5-8 AM; current morning host Jennifer Ryan will continue to be heard doing traffic during Tesh's show and hosting the 8-9 AM hour.

*It's technically a NEW JERSEY story, but the move of WTTM (1680 Princeton) to its new home in Lindenwold, which was being completed over the weekend, is really all about Philadelphia and its radio listeners. WTTM spent much of last week playing country music from its old tower site near Pennington, N.J. (lovingly automated by chief engineer Neal Newman) while getting the new Lindenwold facility ready to go on the air. NERW hears that Multicultural Broadcasting will begin running Spanish-language programming on WTTM once the move is finished.

And speaking of Pennington, some sad news to report: that's where Julian Breen lived, and we were as stunned as everyone else in the business at the news of Breen's death last week. Breen was the APD/MD at WABC during some of its most successful years, from 1968-1971. From there, he became PD at KYA in San Francisco before returning to the East Coast to become vice president of Greater Media. He's credited with creating the "Magic" format at WMGK (102.9 Philadelphia) and WMGQ (98.3 New Brunswick). More recently, Breen was one of the go-to guys for ratings analysis, through his Supertrends (later Breen Broadcast) consultancy. Julian Breen died Oct. 29 of pancreatic cancer; he was just 63.

*We begin our NEW YORK report out at the eastern tip of Long Island, where Cherry Creek Radio's WHBE (96.7 East Hampton) quietly applied over the summer to move up the dial to 96.9, a move that was granted last week by the FCC. WHBE, which simulcasts the Bloomberg Radio programming of WBBR (1130 New York), will remain at its present class A (4.3 kW/384'), but will get to drop its directional antenna, which will allow it to send a little more signal to the North Shore.

WLIX-LP (94.7 Ridge) is expanding the reach of its "Radio X" modern rock format. Scotty Hart's station now has two translators on the air - W235BB (94.9 Hauppauge) and W284AZ (104.5 Selden), increasing its reach to much of the island's population.

In New York City, there was once again country music to be heard on the air last week, as XM leased out much of the day on WNYE (91.5) for three days, in advance of the Country Music Association awards later this month in New York. Expect to hear more country simulcasts, courtesy of the CMA, on WNYE as the awards get closer.

All-Christmas came to Albany last week, as WKLI (100.9) became the first station in the state to make the flip this season.

In Syracuse, NBC affiliate WSTM (Channel 3) and UPN affiliate WSTQ-LP (Channel 14) are on the block; the pair of stations are among 10 markets in which Raycom says it's selling out. We'd be unsurprised to see names like LIN and Gannett in the mix of possible buyers - and we can't ignore Granite, which owns CBS affiliate WTVH (Channel 5) and which has been creating LMA'd quasi-duopolies in other markets.

Two station sales in the Rochester market made no headlines whatsoever locally - and indeed, it's likely that most listeners in town have never even heard of the stations involved. But that didn't keep WMJQ (104.9 Brockport) from changing hands to EMF Broadcasting, which has been LMA'ing the facility for a few years now with its "K-Love" contemporary Christian format. EMF is paying George Kimble's Finger Lakes Radio Group $4 million for the facility, which was recently upgraded to cover most of the market.

And out to the west in Orleans County, Jimmy Swaggart's Family Worship Center is paying CSN International $950,000 for WJCA (102.1 Albion), which means the station will become part of Swaggart's "SonLife" network.

In Buffalo, Kerry Gray is out as PD of Citadel modern rocker WEDG (103.3), with no replacement named yet.

And a correction from Binghamton to our obituary last week on Fred "Bumper Morgan" Merrin - he worked at WKOP(AM), not WKOP-FM, and he worked at WENE as well. (Who didn't?)

*Big changes at CONNECTICUT's WEZN (99.9 Bridgeport) - "Star 99.9" morning man John Harper was abruptly ousted from his wakeup slot last week, after more than a decade at the station. His replacement is former WVIT/WTIC-TV sportscaster Tony Terzi, son of Hartford TV veteran Al Terzi. Terzi joins newscaster Marit Price (who just joined Star in July) and traffic reporter Tommy Edison. Meanwhile, Star has officially hired former WQSX ("Star 93.7") jock Mike McGowan for afternoons; McGowan has a long history in Connecticut, albeit in the Hartford market, and he'd been doing the afternoon slot on WEZN on an interim basis.

Down the road in Greenwich, WGCH (1490) has acrimoniously parted ways with veteran morning newsman Jim Thompson. The station tried to move Thompson to middays, but he claimed his contract guaranteed him morning drive. So for more than a week, he continued to show up for mornings, reports the Greenwich Citizen-News, only to find someone else on the air in the timeslot. Now he's out of a job at WGCH after 28 years, though the station continues to employ his wife, Dima Joseph, as morning show producer.

In Hartford, WCCC (106.9) has named Mary Scanlon (formerly of WKCI and WRKI) as the co-host of Sebastian's new morning show, to debut in January.

*A long-planned antenna move in MASSACHUSETTS is finally a reality. Entercom's WAAF (107.3 Westborough) has signed on its new transmitter and antenna at Stiles Hill in Boylston (on the tower of WUNI-TV 27). The new facility puts out 9.6 kW/1099', and it's expected to improve WAAF's signal towards Boston (it's about 10 miles closer than the original WAAF site on Mount Asnebumskit in Paxton), at the expense of some of the wide-area coverage the station's long enjoyed into eastern Connecticut and western Massachusetts.

(WAAF's having a bit of a struggle with the FCC to get its database correct; the grant of the license to cover for its new facilities also accidentally changed the listed city of license back to Worcester, and now Entercom has to "respectfully remind" the Commission that it's now Westborough, thank you very much...)

Former WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston) "Connection" host Dick Gordon has found a new job. The show was apparently especially popular at WUNC (91.5) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and after it was cancelled, WUNC ended up offering Gordon an opportunity to move down there and create a new show for national distribution. It's slated to debut in the spring of 2006; no word yet on whether it'll get picked up by any New England public radio stations.

Down on Cape Cod, Jake Demmin is the new GM of the Nassau stations (WPXC/WDVT/WTWV). He comes to the area from Kansas City, where he was working for Entercom's stations there.

*Another NEW HAMPSHIRE AM station has flipped to travelers information, following the lead of WBNC (1050 Conway). This time, it's Nassau's WEMJ (1490 Laconia), which has ditched its news/talk format to become "Visitor Information Radio," cranking out a nonstop loop of news headlines, traffic and tourism information for the Lakes Region.

Meanwhile, we hear that Brit Johnson is out as GM of Nassau's WJYY (105.5 Concord) after a long run there.

*In CANADA, the CBC is reworking the Radio One schedule, replacing the Vancouver-based afternoon "Roundup" (which hasn't been the same since it ceased being "Richardson's Roundup" a while back) with something called "Freestyle," hosted out of Vancouver by Kelly Ryan. Toronto listeners will only get the first hour of the 2-4 PM show, though; listeners there (and in Vancouver and Winnipeg as well) will have their local afternoon show expanded to four hours, beginning at 3 PM.

The CBC also replaces "Canada at Five" with longer national newscasts at both 4 and 5 PM. And it's introducing "National Playlist," an 11:30 AM music show hosted by Jian Ghomeshi (late of Moxy Fruvous) and Shelagh Rogers.

And in Ottawa, they're mourning Brian Murphy, who brought freeform FM to the city on the overnight shift at CKBY (105.3) in the early seventies, then went on to serve as the first music director at CHEZ (106.1) when it signed on in 1977. Murphy died Monday (Oct. 31).

*As promised last week, here's a quick rundown of where the NBA can be found around the dial in NERW-land:

  • The Boston Celtics have made their move from WWZN (1510) to WRKO (680), with Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell still behind the mikes. The Celts' network also includes WEEI-FM (103.7) in Rhode Island, WVEI (1440) in Worcester and seven other affiliates in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.
  • The New York Knicks call WEPN (1050) home, while the New Jersey Nets get the big signal of WFAN (660) this year.
  • The Philadelphia 76ers remain on WIP (610) this year, with a six-station network extending as far as Lancaster and Atlantic City.
  • The Toronto Raptors remain on CJCL (Fan 590).

We'll get to the AHL next week, we promise!

*Tower Site Calendar 2006 is just back from the printer, and we've got to say, we're especially proud of the way this one turned out.

Once again, we bring you more than a dozen images from the collection that have never seen print before, including that nifty nighttime view of New York's WMCA that graces the cover. You also get to see WSB, KTAR, Mount Wilson, CBV and many, many more, plus all those fun dates in radio and TV history, civil and religious holidays, a handy full-page 2007 calendar, and the always-popular hole for hanging.

And we do it all with no increase in price, for the fourth year running!

The calendars are shipping now, so there's no need to wait until the holidays to enjoy all that tall steel and all that broadcast history. Order now and beat the rush!

You can get one free with your 2006 subscription to NERW at the $60 level, or order the calendar (plus other goodies) at our brand new Store! We think you'll like this one - and as always, we thank you for your support.

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 2005 by Scott Fybush.