The HD Alliance Makes its Moves
*There aren't many folks alive today who were listening
to the radio when the first FM stations lit up the dial in the
late thirties. Many of us - your editor included - are too young
to have any memory of the first regular color TV broadcasts in
the mid-fifties, or of the dawn of FM stereo in the early sixties.
So it's a neat thing, we think, to have a front-row seat for
the debut of another new medium. While it may not have been immediately
apparent to anyone but the tiny handful of HD Radio receiver
owners (most of whom are also broadcast engineers or managers,
anyway), last Thursday's coordinated announcement of new HD multicast
formats from the big groups that are part of the HD Radio Alliance
represented the biggest infusion of new radio formats on the
dial at one time in history.
NEW YORK was one of the first markets to be announced
(and, indeed, already had at least one multicast going, with
the CBS-FM oldies format on the HD2 channel of WCBS-FM 101.1),
and the announcement effectively launched no fewer than 11 new
signals on the Big Apple dial.
In addition to the oldies, CBS Radio also unveiled (no surprise)
"K-Rock 2" on the HD2 channel of WFNY-FM (92.3), continuing
the format that's already available as a webcast from that station's
previous incarnation as WXRK. Its third FM signal, WNEW (102.7),
will carry "news," reportedly a simulcast of WINS (1010),
which has signal deficiencies in much of New Jersey.
Clear Channel had
its five FMs ready to go on Thursday. Perhaps the biggest news
from that cluster was the return of country, on the HD2 channel
of WKTU (103.5), which was the city's last full-signal country
station back in its WYNY days. WHTZ (100.3) has "new top
40," featuring entire albums from the station's core artists.
On WAXQ (104.3), it's "deep tracks," complementing
the classic rock on the main channel. WWPR (105.1) has "Power
Espanol," adding a Spanish-language flavor to the hip-hop
that's on the main channel. And WLTW (106.7) has "Lite Classics,"
a sort of return to the softer sounds Lite played in its earlier
Emmis launched with one FM, WQHT (97.1), which is offering
"Old School Hip-Hop" on its HD2 channel. Within the
next few weeks, WRKS (98.7) will add gospel on its HD2, while
WQCD (101.9) will put "Chill" on its HD2 channel.
The HD alliance also launched new formats in several other
markets around the region, and we'll catch up on those as we
go state-by-state this week.
From the little
bits of the HD2 programming that we've heard on webcasts (which
is where most listeners will catch the new stations, at least
initially), the new medium is clearly in its very earliest days.
With the exception of Z100's HD2 channel, which is voicetracked,
the new signals are mainly jukeboxes for now. Whether they become
more than that depends on whether or not the "Alliance"
is correct in its gamble - that putting all these signals on
the air at once, with the attendant promotion, will help crack
the chicken-and-egg dilemma, giving listeners a reason to want
to seek out receivers and giving manufacturers the justification
to start making HD Radio receivers in quantity, thus bringing
down the prices from the current $299-and-up levels. We'll be
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*In other news from the Empire State, Emmis is losing its
market manager for its three New York stations. Barry Mayo, who
took over from the legendary Judy Ellis in 2002, has decided
not to renew his contract when it expires February 28. He'll
remain with WQHT, WRKS and WQCD until a replacement is named,
and he says he'll continue to consult the stations as well.
Over at WOR (710), it appears that Food Network personality
Tyler Florence will fill at least one of the open slots on the
schedule. The New York Post's John Mainelli reports that
Florence will be joining the station for either the 11 AM food
show recently vacated by Rocco DiSpirito, or the afternoon slot
recently vacated by Bob Grant (and left doubly vacant when DiSpirito
ended up leaving WOR rather than filling Grant's shoes in that
WLIB (1190) has pulled Air America's late-night talker Mike
Malloy from its schedule. Replacing him in the 10-midnight slot
will be ABC's "Satellite Sisters" show, which apparently
wanted a New York clearance quite badly. Imhotep Gary Byrd's
overnght talk show continues from midnight until 5 AM, when the
Air America leased-time programming resumes.
Out on Long Island, two WHLI (1100 Hempstead) personalities
have left the station. Morning man Gil David and afternoon jock
Bill Houston both did their final shows last week. Paul Richards
is now handling mornings, with Joe Satta taking over at noon
and staying on the air until sunset.
Over at WNYH (740 Huntington), acting GM/PD Rob Jontay is
also on the air for some pretty long hours, though it's all being
done through automation. (The station has no studio for now,
as it gets back on its feet after being silent for much of last
year.) Tom Pantaleo (who's on air at WNYH as "Steve Ronson")
is the other voice being heard along with the mix of oldies,
big band and country that the station's programming while it
looks for leased-time programmers and gets settled in under new
owner Dr. Richard Yoon.
Heading upstate, public radio WRVO (89.9 Oswego) has finally
said goodbye to the "temporary" studios in Lanigan
Hall at SUNY Oswego that it ended up occupying for 37 years.
Last week, the station flipped the switch on its new digs across
an alleyway on the ground floor of Penfield Library, entering
the 21st century with six studios' worth of Wheatstone digital
consoles and other goodies. WRVO will hold its official grand
opening of the new studios on June 10.
Is Sinclair about to pull the plug on its News Central operation
for good? The Buffalo News' Alan Pergament reports that
staffers at WNYO-TV (Channel 49) in Buffalo were told last week
(unofficially, at least) that the 10 PM newscast, which has been
soundly beaten by the WIVB-produced competion on WNLO (Channel
23) since both shows launched, may not be long for the world.
Add that to the recent closures of News Central newsrooms
in Rochester and Pittsburgh (where Sinclair outsourced its news
operations to larger stations), and to similar rumors in a number
of other News Central markets (Milwaukee, Las Vegas and Birmingham),
and NERW can't help but think that the company's getting ready
to shut down the centralized newsroom in Hunt Valley, Maryland,
leaving a handful of its stations (including flagship WBFF in
Baltimore) running standalone newscasts and the rest either outsourcing
their news or doing no news at all. Given the low ratings that
almost all the News Central offerings have garnered, not to mention
the generally lukewarm reception viewers have given to getting
their "local" weather and national news from anchors
hundreds of miles away, it's unlikely the product will be missed
much if and when it disappears.
*From PENNSYLVANIA, there are more
HD2 launches to report, though not quite as quickly as in New
Within a few months, there will be 11 new signals on the air
in Philadelphia, and they'll break down like this:
Clear Channel will turn its HD2 signals on tomorrow, with
WUSL (98.9) offering "Xtreme Hip-Hop," WIOQ (102.1)
programming Hurban, WSNI (104.5) programming soft AC/standards,
WDAS-FM (105.3) offering "R&B Love Songs" and WJJZ
(106.1) playing AAA. CBS Radio will put alternative rock on WYSP
(94.1), while WOGL (98.1) will play 70s oldies, which isn't that
different from what's on the main channel. And Greater Media
will launch its HD2 signals in the next two or three months,
with "WMMaRchives" live performances and other material
from the vaults on WMMR (93.3), "Club Ben," with a
varied range of rhythmic music, on WBEN-FM (95.7) and "Deep
Tracks" on WMGK (102.9).
There's also some news from the other end of the state - midday
jock Big Ray Edwards is no longer with WKFB (770 Jeannette),
with Frankie Day now handling that shift as well as mornings.
*CONNECTICUT will get HD2 launches
soon as well, with Hartford fairly high on the list of markets
targeted by the HD Alliance. Clear Channel will launch its lineup
on February 1, with WWYZ (92.5) offering classic country, WKSS
(95.7) running "Gay Radio/the Pride," WPHH (104.1)
doing classic hip hop and WHCN (105.9) running "Deep Tracks."
CBS Radio will also launch HD2 channels in the market soon, with
WZMX (93.7) programming reggaeton, WTIC-FM (96.5) simulcasting
WTIC (1080) and WRCH (100.5) running jazz.
Over in Danbury, WLAD (800) has named a replacement for Pete
Summers, who moved to South Carolina last fall after 20 years
in mornings on the station. Larry Caringer, who's worked at WEZN
(99.9 Bridgeport) and WKCI (101.3 Hamden), and was most recently
creative director at the All Comedy Network, has been named as
WLAD's new morning man.
*Over in RHODE ISLAND, Pawtucket Red
Sox play-by-play man Dave Jageler won't get to call this summer's
Fenway Park matchup between the Pawsox and the Rochester Red
Wings. That's because Jageler was just named to the radio team
of the Washington Nationals. His calls will still be heard just
fine in the Ocean State, though, since the Nats have signed with
WTWP (1500 Washington) as their flagship, and that big 50-kilowatt
signal (formerly WTOP) gets into New England just fine after
dark. No replacement has been named yet by the Pawsox.
The new share-time station on 91.5 in East Greenwich has calls:
it'll be "WRJI" sharing the channel with WCVY (91.5
On TV, public broadcaster WSBE (Channel 36) has finally figured
out a way to get its signal to DirecTV, so Providence-market
customers of DirecTV now get WSBE instead of Connecticut Public
TV's WEDN (Channel 53) from Norwich.
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*Eastern MASSACHUSETTS is about to
become a major hotbed of HD2 activity, based on last week's announcements.
Greater Media already has HD Radio on the air at all five
of its FMs, and now it's adding subchannels on all five. WBOS
(92.9) adds "Coffee House," taking its main-channel
AAA format more acoustic. WTKK (96.9) puts on "Classical
2.0," which we've got to think is a prelude to Greater's
eventual purchase of classical WCRB (102.5). On WKLB (99.5),
it's classic country, with "Laugh Tracks" comedy on
WROR (105.7) and smooth jazz on WMJX (106.7), restoring one of
the more notably missing formats to the market. (Which is only
fair, since it was Greater Media's WSJZ 96.9 that last had the
format in town.)
Clear Channel will
launch January 27, with "Xtreme Hip-Hop" on WJMN (94.5)
and "Artist Channel" top 40 on WXKS-FM (107.9). Entercom's
WMKK (93.7) is carrying the "Star" rhythmic oldies
format that used to be on the main channel in its WQSX days (and
has lived on as a webcast ever since), while WAAF (107.3) will
carry "Live Rock," featuring concerts from rock artists.
At CBS Radio, it's all-80s on WBMX (98.5), "Lost Classics/Deep
Tracks" on WZLX (100.7), "Super Oldies" (from
Elvis to the Beatles) on WODS (103.3) and "Indie and Ultra
New Rock" on WBCN (104.1).
There's also some HD2 content coming to Springfield, with
Clear Channel launching "new top 40" on WHYN (93.1)
and Americana on WPKX (97.9) on March 31.
Meanwhile over on the analog dials, WRKO (680) made more programming
tweaks last week, adding a substantial business element to its
morning show. Under the "Boston Business Today" umbrella,
WRKO's morning lineup will now include appearances from Globe
columnist Steve Bailey and Herald business editor
Cosmo Macero, as well as Wall Street Journal Radio elements.
WRKO also shuffled its weekend schedule, dropping the Spencer
Hughes show (which had been coming by ISDN from the West Coast)
and adding "Recovery Road," a program about addiction
and recovery, on Sundays from 4-5 PM.
Congratulations to WBIX (1060 Natick) - now back under the
ownership of Alex Langer, officially, the station turned on its
new Broadcast Electronics 4MX50 transmitter (the first in the
country) last Wednesday at 8:30 AM. Chief engineer Grady Moates
reports that the new box tuned up nicely into the unusual load
of the triplexed antenna system (also home to WKOX 1200 and WSRO
650), and that it's sounding, as he'd say, "loud and clean."
On TV, "Candlepin Bowling" is returning to the airwaves.
It'll be on WLVI (Channel 56) on Saturdays at 6 and Sundays at
2, starting March 4. WLVI's Frank Mallicoat and Mike Morin, of
WZID (95.7 Manchester NH), will host.
And out west, Sean "Fish" Fisher is the new morning
man at WLZX (99.3 Northampton). He comes from former sister "Lazer"
station WLZR (now WHQG) in Milwaukee.
*One bit of NEW HAMPSHIRE news:
WEMJ (1490 Laconia) has pulled away from its new travelers' information
format, returning to its former talk format for part of the day
to carry Rush Limbaugh and Howie Carr on weekday afternoons.
*And just a couple of bits of news from
CANADA: Bill Gable, who's had a long and notable career
at stations such as CKLW, KHJ, WEAM and WHBQ, joins CHWO (740
Toronto) for afternoon drive.
Up north, CHLF (100.3 Barrie) adds a new rebroadcaster: its
Huntsville signal, on 98.9, will sign on this afternoon at 3,
carrying "Life 100.3"'s contemporary Christian format
deeper into Cottage Country.
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2006 by Scott Fybush.