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February 27, 2006

Sporting News for sale: What now for WWZN, WSNR?

*It's been a turbulent time for sports radio in eastern MASSACHUSETTS - and it's not getting any quieter any time soon. The last few months have brought the launch of ESPN Radio on WAMG (890 Dedham)/WLLH (1400 Lowell and Lawrence); staff changes, new transmitters and the impending end of the Red Sox contract at WEEI (850 Boston); the return of Eddie Andelman at WTKK (96.9 Boston) - and now the third all-sports player, WWZN (1510 Boston), is officially up for sale, along with the rest of its parent company, The Sporting News.

The company's billionaire owner, Paul Allen, confirmed last week that he's hired an investment firm to review several offers that he's received to sell the company, which includes the flagship magazine as well as Sporting News Radio (formerly One-on-One Sports) and its three stations, WWZN, WSNR (620 Jersey City NJ-New York City) and KMPC (1540 Los Angeles). WSNR dropped most Sporting News Radio programming several years ago and now runs leased-time ethnic programming, and WWZN let most of its local staff (including Andelman) go last year. (It also lost its flagship sports franchise, the Celtics, to WEEI's sister station WRKO.)

Just as The Sporting News is the third-largest major sports magazine (after Sports Illustrated and ESPN: The Magazine), so SNR is a distant third (at least in affiliate count and ratings) behind ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio. Would a new owner keep the radio network and the stations as a loss-leader brand extension to the magazine, as Allen has done? Or could the radio stations be headed to separate ownership and away from sports formats? As always, stay tuned...

MANDATORY SUBSCRIPTION FEES? They've become a fact of life for many of the most popular radio and TV websites out there. This week, the leading aircheck archive site - Uncle Ricky's - was forced to implement a subscription fee to help cover the rising costs of keeping that wonderful site on line. Out on the West Coast, subscription fees are a fact of life at and, too.

Here at East RadioWatch, we've managed to hold off from imposing a password and mandatory subscription fee, but we depend on your support - and that of our advertisers - to keep it that way.

If you still haven't subscribed yet for 2006, do it right now at our Support page - and enjoy another exciting year of NERW, guilt- (and password-) free. And if you have become one of our many subscribers, thank you!

*Sports fans everywhere mourned the loss of Curt Gowdy last week. As we reported in an update to last week's NERW, Gowdy died last Monday morning (Feb. 20) in Florida, at age 86.

Gowdy came to Boston in 1951 after several years calling games in New York, and for the next fifteen seasons he was a fixture in the Red Sox booth. And while he went on to even greater heights as a network broadcaster (calling the first Super Bowl and five more thereafter, as well as the World Series and almost every other major sporting event), he remained fondly remembered by Sox fans. Last August, the Sox honored him with a special day at Fenway Park, Gowdy's last Boston appearance. And on Saturday, his funeral procession circled Fenway, in a final gesture of respect to the man whose low-key style defined Red Sox radio for decades to follow.

Gowdy was, of course, also a broadcast owner in the region. In 1963, he bought WCCM (800) and WCCM-FM (93.7) in Lawrence, later renaming the FM after himself - WCGY. In 1969, Gowdy added WBBX (1380) in Portsmouth, NEW HAMPSHIRE to his holdings, which also included KOWB (1290) and KCGY (95.1) in Laramie, Wyoming. Gowdy sold WBBX in the eighties, followed in 1994 by WCCM/WCGY and in 2002 by the Wyoming stations.

*In other news around the Bay State, Paul Marshall's on his way out of town, headed for the music director/afternoon gig at Entercom's KQRC (98.9) in Kansas City. Marshall had been at sister station WAAF (107.3 Worcester) until just a few months ago; he'd been doing fill-in at WBCN (104.1 Boston) in the meantime.

Former Boch Broadcasting/Cape Cod programming honcho Gregg Cassidy has returned to his old stomping grounds in Denver: he's been named PD at KIMN (Mix 100.3) there.

Where are they now? Dick Gordon, former host of WBUR's now-defunct "The Connection," began his new role as host of "The Story with Dick Gordon" last week at WUNC (91.5) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. WUNC will take the show daily over the next few weeks, and it will roll out nationally beginning in May.

And we've been remiss in failing to mention the passing of Robert Posey, veteran Berkshire County radio newsman whose career included stops at WSBS, WNAW, WBEC and WKZE. Posey died January 29 at his Sheffield home. He was 62.

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*In PENNSYLVANIA, Chio is back on the Philadelphia morning radio dial. Just a few months after exiting WIOQ (102.1) for a very brief interlude in San Diego, he signed on with Beasley's WRDW (Wired 96.5) last week. Meanwhile, at sister country station WXTU (92.5), afternoon guy Cadillac Jack is out the door and looking for a new gig.

And while we're in Philadelphia, Clear Channel's smooth jazz WJJZ (106.1) has new voices in drivetime: Sherri Lee Stevens is doing mornings there now, with Salina Jones beginning today in afternoons.

Over in the State College market, WSMO (94.5) has launched a website for its new smooth jazz format, at (The station's apparently running entirely off satellite for now; a banner on the home page tells listeners to tune to sister station WOWY 97.1 for school closings and weather delays.)

East of Altoona, WWLY (106.3) changes city of license from Huntingdon to Mount Union (to fill the gap left by the move of WXOT 99.5 Mount Union to Centre Hall, in the State College market), and flips from a simulcast of oldies WALY (103.9) to "Froggy" country, further extending the network from WFGY (98.1 Altoona).

Speaking of "Froggy," WOGF (104.3 East Liverpool OH) is moving its operations across the state line into a new facility in the Center Place Shopping Center in Center Township, Beaver County. Sharing the facility are WOHI (1490 East Liverpool), which has restored some of the local programming it dropped last year, and "Pickle" oldies WKPL (92.1 Ellwood City).

And WAMO (860 Millvale-Pittsburgh) flips to its new urban talk format today, retaining Tom Joyner in mornings and Bev Smith's evening talk show.

*This week's NEW JERSEY news all comes from the Millennium cluster: Andy Santoro gets promoted from general manager of WKXW-FM (101.5 Trenton) to senior vice president of the company.

Meanwhile, out on the shore, WKOE (106.3 Ocean City) has been granted its construction permit to move to Bass River Township, north of Atlantic City, moving one notch up the dial to 106.5. It'll run 1450 watts at 208 meters above average terrain, operating from the WWSI (Channel 62) tower in Tuckerton. (WKOE apparently changed its IDs from Ocean City to Bass River Township a few months ago, even though the CP hadn't yet been granted, or built.)

*Does a nation still coming to terms with the impending loss of UPN and The WB really need another new TV network? Whether or not it does, it's getting one - at least in NEW YORK and nine other markets where Fox Television Stations needs something to fill the prime-time slots about to be left empty by the demise of UPN.

Fox will replace UPN on WWOR (Channel 9) with something called "My Network TV," a mini-network that will launch with two English-language "telenovelas," an attempt to translate the success of that format in the Spanish TV world, where nightly hour-long dramas that run for several months at a stretch are a programming staple.

"My Network TV" will also be offered to non-Fox stations in other markets, on terms that may be more favorable to stations than the initial contracts being offered by the other new network, The CW. That should make for an interesting horse race over the next few months in markets such as Buffalo and Syracuse, where former WB and UPN affiliates are all trying to figure out who'll land where this fall. In other markets where CW affiliations have already been announced, "My" will become an obvious choice for the station left out - Sinclair's WCWB Pittsburgh, LIN's WCTX New Haven/Hartford, and Tribune's WPHL Philadelphia. And then there's the Boston market, where Shooting Star's indie WZMY in Derry, New Hampshire has itself been branding as "My TV" since last September. It's reportedly considering legal action against Fox over the name - though since the corporate rivalry between Fox and CBS will likely prevent former UPN affiliate WSBK in Boston from becoming a "My" affiliate, it's not at all out of the question that the dispute could yet be resolved with the two "My" contenders hooking up

*On Long Island, WBLI (106.1 Patchogue) has a new co-host for its morning show, as Dana DiDonato arrives from WSMW in Greensboro, N.C. to join Steve Harper there.

In Albany, Dennis Lamme is heading west after nine years at the helm of the Clear Channel radio cluster there. The Missouri native will leave Albany March 3 to become Clear Channel's regional vice president for its St. Louis trading area. Lamme has been serving as chairman of the New York State Broadcasters Association and as president of the Capital District Radio Association.

Another Clear Channel market chief is leaving, this one on the TV side: on March 31, WHAM-TV (Channel 13) VP/GM Kent Beckwith will retire after 43 years at the station. Beckwith joined what was then WOKR just a few months after its 1962 debut; he says he wanted to leave the station at the top, and the ABC affiliate has long held the top spot in Rochester TV ratings and revenue.

Across town, state Assemblywoman Susan John has filed the "Broadcast Employees Freedom to Work Act," a bill designed to invalidate noncompete agreements for TV reporters and anchors like Rachel Barnhart, the former WROC-TV (Channel 8) weekend anchor who's fighting to get her noncompete overturned.

Oh, and one more Rochester TV note - NBC affiliate WHEC-TV (Channel 10) is using the Olympics to promote its new news-promo cliche. "Coverage You Can Count On" replaces the slightly less-hackneyed "Digging for Answers. Reporting them First." as the phrase to be drilled into viewers' brains for the next several years.

On the radio side of things, Crawford's WLGZ (990 Rochester) turned on its HD Radio signal Thursday, becoming the second AM music station in the state to go digital, after WOLF in Syracuse. NERW's had the opportunity to do some listening to the HD signal, and it's pretty impressive in digital stereo. (Paid NERW subscribers can drop us a line for a link to download some audio clips of all three Rochester AM stations that broadcast in HD, so you can hear for yourself.)

And one more note from central New York: the Syracuse Post-Standard reports that Cazenovia College's WITC (88.9) has received a $20,000 grant from the Howard L. Green Foundation to buy a new transmitter and EAS equipment. The new gear will finally allow WITC to broadcast in stereo.

*In RHODE ISLAND, Bryant University is moving in to a new facility for its cable TV production and its WJMF (88.7 Smithfield), part of a $2.5 million expansion of the school's communications program.

At WPRO (630 Providence), E.J. Kritz (also known as E.J. Evans) arrives as producer of the new Dave Barber midday talk show. E.J. formerly worked at the old WXAL in Vermont.

In South County, Chris DiPaola's WBLQ-LP (96.9 Ashaway) is looking for a new frequency, now that it's being hit hard by co-channel interference from WHBE (96.9 East Hampton NY), which recently moved up from 96.7. DiPaola has moved the LPFM's antenna to the Ashaway fire station to try to improve its signal a bit in the meantime.

*The MAINE Public Broadcasting Network has chosen a new president/CEO to replace the departed Mary Anne Alhadeff. Jim Dowe, who's stepping down as chairman of the Bangor Savings Bank, takes over as head of MPBN after being unanimously chosen by the public broadcaster's board of directors.

*And there's a new station on the air in CANADA's capital city.

Evanov's CJWL (98.5 Ottawa) signed on last Monday (Feb. 20) at 10 AM. It's running a soft AC/standards format as "Jewel 98.5," with a 700-watt signal that doesn't reach much beyond the city itself.

The station's studios are located at 124 York Street in Ottawa's Byward Market area, just a couple of blocks away from CHUM's MediaMarketMall and right across from the former studios of CHEZ (106.1).

From the NERW Archives

(Yup, we've been doing this a long time now, and so we're digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five and ten years ago this week, or thereabouts - the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as "New England Radio Watch," and didn't go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997. Thanks to for the idea - and thanks to you, our readers, for the support that's made all these years of NERW possible!)

February 28, 2005 -

  • BOSTON - If the measure of a man is in the lives he touched, then the late David Brudnoy lived a full life indeed. On Sunday afternoon, Brudnoy's friends - and even his casual listeners on WBZ (1030) counted themselves as friends - lined up around the block to fill the Cutler Majestic Theater for a tribute to one of the most eclectic personalities ever to grace a microphone. For two and a half hours, the crowd - including Boston mayor Tom Menino and other local notables - heard from friends and family across the many facets of Brudnoy's life. "He did all things all the way," said Peter Meade, Brudnoy's close friend and former WBZ host, as he introduced the speakers. To judge from the stories Brudnoy's family shared, that was a trait that distinguished David as far back as his childhood in Minnesota. His cousin Rachel Brudnoy shared the tale of how a 12 year old Brudnoy worked the phones and persuaded a Minneapolis hotel, a car dealer and a luxury restaurant to prepare for the state visit of a fictional "Grand Emir of Aden." Brudnoy's doctors spoke of the incredible strength that brought him back to life after the 1994 illness that left him all but dead. Several of his students at Boston University spoke of the energy, enthusiasm and wit he brought to the classroom, including his attack on the use of the word "like" in students' speech. In the last years of his life, Brudnoy was adopted by the Emerson College chapter of the Phi Alpha Tau fraternity, whose members were in turn adopted by "Brother Bruds," who brought them into the whirl of what student Roman Sturgis called "the Brudnoy-centric universe." Brudnoy's former producer, Kevin Myron, shared the nickname that the erudite, scholarly Brudnoy bestowed on him ("Yo"), saying Brudnoy's direction to him when planning the memorial service was,"Yo, make it something I'd like to be at." There's no question that Brudnoy ("whose favorite topic was David Brudnoy," as one speaker said) would have laughed and cried along with the crowd at the Majestic, especially as his longtime partner Ward Cromer closed out the afternoon with his stories of life and travel with Bruds. One of Brudnoy's few unfulfilled wishes in a life he lived with incredible fullness was to visit India and the Taj Mahal, a wish Cromer said he'll fulfill later this year when he travels there to sprinkle some of David's ashes at the site. And in thanking those who mattered most to David, it's worth noting that Cromer singled out the callers, the "vox populi" who carried on a dialogue that lasted for decades. Cromer spoke movingly of Brudnoy's final show on WBZ the night before his death, when Meade took calls from listeners while Brudnoy listened intently from his hospital bed at Mass General. Of one such call, from a listener named Keri who credited David for getting her started in radio (and that would be NERW reader Keri Rodrigues of WHJJ in Providence), Cromer said "callers such as Keri meant the world to David." David, in turn, meant the world to so many of us, who miss his voice every night on the radio and the joy of his presence, and you'll forgive your editor for the personal aside, I hope, in saying just how much it meant to be in the company of so many of those who loved David Brudnoy.
  • WLLH (1400 Lowell and Lawrence) and WAMG (890 Dedham) have spent the last few years doing Spanish tropical under the ownership of Mega Communications, but Mega's been selling off many of its facilities, and now the company's exiting New England completely. The investment firm of Waller Sutton is backing the $9 million purchase, but so far we know nothing about who'll be running the stations or what happens next. Stay tuned...
  • We now know where Pittsfield's WBEC-FM (105.5) will be transmitting from when it completes its move eastward to the Springfield market. The FCC has already approved the allocation change that moves WBEC-FM to Easthampton, and last week Vox applied for new technical facilities for the station, which will run 850 watts at 602 feet above average terrain from a tower in Westhampton, where it should do well into Northampton and Amherst (but may have less signal into Springfield and vicinity than we'd initially expected.)
  • A RHODE ISLAND high school station may soon be sharing its channel. WCVY (91.5 Coventry) had been the target of several competing applications for its frequency, citing its limited broadcast schedule. And while at least one of those applications was withdrawn, the FCC last week accepted for filing an application submitted way back in 1997 from "Educational Radio for the Public of a New Millennium" (that wouldn't be a religious broadcaster, now would it?) to share time on 91.5. ERFTPOANM, or whatever we're supposed to call them, would run 100 watts on the channel, with a city of license of East Greenwich. It's still not too late, NERW believes, for WCVY to go full-time on 91.5 and thwart the ERFTPOANM application, and we'll keep watching this one for developments.
  • The last shoe has dropped in the Nassau call changes in Concord, NEW HAMPSHIRE, where the former "Outlaw Country" WOTX (102.3) changes calls to WWHK, for its new "Hawk" classic rock format.
  • And with that we come to PENNSYLVANIA and the week's other top story. It was no secret that WPLY (100.3 Media) was losing the Preston and Steve morning show at the end of February; after sitting out a six-month noncompete, the pair will reappear this fall on Greater Media's WMMR (93.3 Philadelphia). But it was something of a surprise even to Y100's staffers when the end of the Preston & Steve show Thursday morning was followed just hours later by the complete demise of the station's modern rock format. The duo's final Y100 show was peppered with clues about the impending end, including their last song, "Alive" by Pearl Jam, which was the last song played on the old WDRE (103.9 Jenkintown) before it dropped modern rock in 1997. There's a powerful irony at work: upon its purchase by Radio One, 103.9, of course, went urban as "the Beat," WPHI - and now those calls and that format are being heard on the more powerful 100.3 facility. Two hours after Preston and Steve signed off, dropping a mention of a new website at, middayer Bret Hamilton noted "it's my last day, too," and at noon became the last live voice heard on Y100. After not quite 12 hours of automation, WPLY went to dead air at 11:55 Thursday night, resurfacing minutes later as "the Beat."

February 26, 2001 -

  • It's gone from AC to smooth jazz to modern AC to rhythmic oldies -- and now Buffalo's WBUF (92.9) has come full circle to the rock format they last had more than twenty years ago. The Infinity-owned station abruptly killed off its "Dancin' Oldies" format and "B92.9" nickname on Thursday, slipping into a day of stunting with Queen's "We Will Rock You" and taunts against Citadel's "97 Rock" (WGRF 96.9) before relaunching Friday (2/23) at noon with Genesis' "Abacab" (not, as the Buffalo News had it, "Turn It On Again"!) The new "Rock 92" brings Howard Stern back to the Buffalo airwaves half a decade after his less-than-successful stint on WWKB (1520), filling the rest of the day with a mix of rock tunes that seems, thus far, to lean rather heavily towards the 80s. (Buffalo listeners have had access to Stern for the last year and a half through Toronto's CILQ, Q107, for whatever that's worth...)
  • Next stop in NEW YORK? Binghamton, where the FCC approved Clear Channel's purchase of WINR (680) from dentist Paul Titus this week, over the strenuous objections of commissioner Gloria Tristani. By adding WINR to its existing cluster (sports WENE 1430 Endicott, rock WKGB 92.5 Susquehanna PA, AC WMXW 103.3 Vestal, CHR WMRV 105.7 Endicott and country WBBI 107.5 Endwell), Clear Channel brings the combined Binghamton market share of its stations and those of rival Citadel to a whopping 91.2 percent, reducing Binghamton to a duopoly in Tristani's view. By not considering whether or not the market can support three competitors and whether there were other potential buyers for WINR, Tristani writes, "we may never know if the cementing of a duopoly in Binghamton was inevitable, or simply another case of regulatory malfeasance by the FCC. While WINR today is far from a major player in the market (it's been decades since the station's days as an important top-40 outlet), NERW thinks it will be interesting to see how Clear Channel rebuilds the station to take on Citadel's dominance of the AM dial in Binghamton. (Those paying close attention to Binghamton in the last year or two will recall that it was originally Citadel that planned to acquire WINR, moving its news-talk WNBF from 1290 down to the superior 680 signal, then moving standards WKOP from 1360 to 1290 and leaving Titus with 1360, the weakest AM in town. Now WNBF faces the likelihood of a competing news-talker on 680, drawing resources from Clear Channel's Premiere talk lineup and its upstate network of radio newsrooms. This should be interesting!)
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE is next on NERW's agenda, and have we ever been hearing a lot about that religious pirate on 88.7 somewhere around Londonderry! It's been on the air just about every night, we're told, with nary an ID to be heard. The end could be in sight, though: one NERW reader checked in to report that the pirate's second harmonic, at 177.4 MHz, was wreaking havoc with his reception of WHDH-TV, whose channel 7 occupies 174-180 MHz. WHDH has been alerted to the problem, and that's the sort of complaint that tends to send the Enforcement Bureau running.
  • The big news in MAINE is a new simulcast in the Bangor area. WNSX (97.7 Winter Harbor) dropped its relay of former sister station WMDI (107.7 Bar Harbor) this week to join its new Clear Channel sister station in Searsport with classic rock as "The Fox at 97.7 and 101.7." The Searsport station gets new calls, too, changing from WBYA to WFCX.
  • A few tidbits from across PENNSYLVANIA: Pittsburgh's own Clarke Ingram checked in with a format shift at the station he programs in the Steel City. Don't call "The Beat" (WJJJ 104.7) "Jammin' Oldies" anymore; the new phrase is "Jammin' Hits," with an added emphasis on more recent rhythmic tunes.

New England Radio Watch, March 3, 1996 -

  • Veteran WBZ newsman Darrell Gould died of colon cancer on Friday, March 1. Darrell was 57, and had been ill for quite a while with various ailments. I worked with Darrell at the end of his WBZ career, and I've rarely met anyone friendlier or more fun to work with. Darrell was always ready with an impromptu song or a bad pun, and he and another 'BZ reporter were famous around the building for their doo-wop duets. Professionally, Darrell was BZ's statehouse reporter for much of the '70s and '80s, and then the evening anchor until his retirement last year. Before coming to WBZ in 1966, Darrell had worked at WHYN in Springfield, WICE in Providence, WPOP in Hartford, and WHOU in Houlton, Maine, to name a few. Funeral services will be held Tuesday morning. Darrell leaves his wife and three daughters...and a saddened group of friends and colleagues.
  • WCMX(AM) 1000 in Leominster MA is back on the air after being dark for more than three years. The 1kw daytimer is now owned by a local church and programming religion. The old WCMX tower and ground systems, near the intersection of Mass. Route 2 and I-190, were torn out and replaced by a new tower and ground system at the same location last summer. I'm not sure where the new WCMX studios are. The signal is adequate but far from strong at my Waltham MA listening post, some 25 miles southeast of Leominster. WCMX is now the third religious outlet in the Leominster-Fitchburg market, along with WFGL 960 Fitchburg and the "Greenville NH" 94.3 translator for WGLV Hartford VT. The only other stations in the market are WEIM 1280 Fitchburg, with a local AC/news format; WXLO 104.5 Fitchburg, which functions as a Worcester station (the much larger city of Worcester is about 20 miles south of Fitchburg); and college station WXPL 91.3, with a very erratic broadcast schedule.
  • Also west of Boston, there's word that currently-dark WBIV 1060 Natick MA has found a new transmitter site. WBIV was ousted from its old site in Ashland MA when WBPS (then WBMA) took over the equipment last year. Now the station wants to return as a 50kw daytimer from a site on US20 on the Wayland/Sudbury town line, near the towns' waste-transfer station. WBIV's new owner is one Alexander Langer of Florida; I'd be interested to know if anyone has ever heard of him. (We soon would! - Ed.)

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*Didn't find a Tower Site Calendar 2006 under the tree/menorah/Blaw-Knox diamond tower model of your choice over the holidays? Our supply is running low, but you've still got time to place your order - don't wait!

We've got to say, we're especially proud of the way this year's calendar 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!

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 2006 by Scott Fybush.