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March 20, 2006

WABC-TV's Bill Beutel Dies

*Few TV anchors have ever had the impact on a market that Bill Beutel did over more than three decades in NEW YORK at WABC-TV (Channel 7). The Cleveland native came to the third-rated station in 1962 after a stint with CBS radio, working for both the local news and for ABC's network news operation. In 1968, Beutel went to London as ABC's bureau chief there. Two years later, he returned to New York and WABC-TV to launch a new experiment called "Eyewitness News," and in the years that followed, Beutel and co-anchor Roger Grimsby set a new standard for hard-hitting, fast-paced local TV news.

Beutel and Grimsby remained together on the anchor desk (and atop the ratings) for 16 years, with Beutel taking on another assignment in 1975, serving as anchor of "AM America," the ABC network morning offering that would evolve (without Beutel) into "Good Morning America" the following year.

Beutel left the anchor desk at WABC in 2001, though he remained with the station as a reporter until his retirement in 2003. Beutel died Saturday at his home in Pinehurst, N.C. He was 75.

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*Over at WABC radio, morning host Curtis Sliwa spent most of last week on vacation, while the station waits to see how the tension between Sliwa and co-host Ron Kuby plays out. Kuby was subpoenaed to testify in defense of "Junior" Gotti, on trial for allegedly ordering a hit on Sliwa in 1992. Sliwa and Kuby were last on the air together last Monday, and while they're both professionals, there's no question that the real-life drama outside their studio has to be adding some tension to their radio partnership. (And what is it about Mob hits on radio hosts, anyway? Last Sunday's "60 Minutes" carried an interview with a former colleague of fugitive Whitey Bulger who claimed that he almost carried out a hit on Boston Herald columnist and WRKO host Howie Carr a few years back...)

Here at NERW, we like rumors and unsubstantiated message-board postings as much as the next radio column. But we've learned over the years to be suspicious of rumors planted by those with an axe to grind, which is why we've largely steered clear of much of the gossip surrounding Air America and WLIB (1190 New York). Whatever may, or may not, be happening with the relationship between the network and its New York flagship, which is leased from Inner City Broadcasting Corp., it won't be happening at the end of March, as the rumors had claimed. Last week, Air America put out a press release announcing that it had extended its lease with WLIB until August, and that "over the next several months, Air America and Inner City will seek to enhance and extend their long-term relationship."

While the message-board crowd has been parsing that wording to death, the word we're getting is that both sides are serious about keeping Air America programming in place on 1190, and that we'll know more well before the current deal expires August 31. Stay tuned...

On the public radio side of the fence, WNYC (820) has its signal back to normal after suffering transmission-line damage from a fire in the Meadowlands a week ago. The station has also shuffled its schedule a bit, moving News and Notes with Ed Gordon from 9 AM to 10 PM, adding Open Source with Christopher Lydon at 9 PM and putting an hour of BBC news on at 9 AM.

On Long Island, Gabrielle Vaughn's arrival at WBLI (106.1 Patchogue) comes with a few more schedule changes - Al Levine moves from middays to afternoons, Wendy Wild moves from afternoons to nights, and LJ Lovely moves from nights to the sales department, though she'll still fill in on the air as well.

Cumulus is rearranging a simulcast in the Catskills: WZAD (97.3 Wurtsboro) flipped last week from relaying "Mix 97" WCZX (97.7 Hyde Park) to rebroadcasting country "Wolf" WKXP (94.3 Kingston), which now IDs as "94.3 The Wolf 97.3."

In Albany, public radio WAMC (90.3/1400) was in the headlines last week with its $3.5 million plan to upgrade its facilities on Central Avenue in Albany. WAMC occupies three historic buildings along Central Avenue, and it's planning to renovate them, add additional parking, and to renovate several buildings across the street as well.

(WAMC also made some less desirable headlines, when a review of newly-released records showed that the station's CEO, Alan Chartock, received a 45 percent pay increase between 2004 and 2005. Chartock defended the raise, saying it reflected his retirement from his other post as a SUNY Albany professor to devote himself full time to WAMC, and he argued that his salary - now $166,000 - is not out of line for a manager of a network the size of WAMC's.)

Also in Albany, Crawford's WDCD (1540)/WPTR (96.7 Clifton Park) have a new PD/morning host, as Peter Kaye moves up from afternoons to replace Gary Mac, who's off to a new gig in Missouri.

In Syracuse, WSYR (570) has filled the vacancy in its news department caused by the death of Bill Leaf in a drunk-driving accident earlier this year. His sister, Maria Leaf, returned to Syracuse from WTOP in Washington to help the family deal with the legal aftermath of the crash, and she's now joined WSYR as an afternoon news anchor and nighttime reporter. Other staffers at WSYR are handling the coverage of the trial of the driver charged in Bill Leaf's death, and of Maria Leaf's activism against drunk driving. (And more sad news from Clear Channel Syracuse: sales executive Robert Schumacker died last Thursday, at 48.)

And here in Rochester, a federal judge ruled Friday that he didn't have jurisdiction to hear former WROC-TV (Channel 8) reporter/anchor Rachel Barnhart's lawsuit against the station. Instead, an arbitrator will now decide whether station owner Nexstar can enforce a noncompete provision in Barnhart's contract, or whether the station's attempt to renew her contract on much less favorable terms amounted to "constructive termination," breaking the noncompete. That, in turn, means Barnhart will be out of work for up to three more months, by which point the one-year noncompete will be more than halfway finished anyway.

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*There's a format change of sorts on the NEW JERSEY shore, where WJSE (102.7 Petersburg) moves from modern rock "Digital 102.7" to a more mainstream approach as "102.7 the Ace." Early listening suggests that there's still plenty of modern rock mixed into the "Ace" format.

The New Jersey Radio Museum has scheduled its first fundraising event. On May 12, it will host a performance by veteran Garden State TV personality "Uncle Floyd" at the Baker Theatre in Dover. Tickets (at $25 for a pair) will benefit the NJRM's campaign to build a new facility at the Dover Area Historical Society; contact Carl Van Orden at for more information.

*In PENNSYLVANIA, the "Frank" flip at WBYN-FM (107.5 Boyerstown) brought new calls last week - the station's now WFKB.

In Philadelphia, Chio starts his new morning gig on Beasley's "Wired" WRDW-FM (96.5) today.

It's almost baseball season, and while we won't have our annual baseball-on-the-radio roundup until next week (for the majors, with the minors coming later in April), there are a few shifts that we can report early. The Phillies, displaced from WLPA (1490 Lancaster), will remain on the air in that area at WPDC (1600 Elizabethtown). And over in Harrisburg, the AA Eastern League Senators move from WKBO (1230) to WTKT (1460), where they'll have a bigger signal this season.

In Scranton, WSJR (93.7 Dallas) PD Jim Dorman is recovering from a house fire. Nobody was injured, thankfully, but Dorman's house was severely damaged.

And on the TV dial, WSWB (Channel 38) in Scranton has signed on with The CW. WSWB is presently a WB affiliate, also running UPN out of pattern, and it's not clear where My Network TV will now land in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this fall.

*Sean Hannity is back on the air in CONNECTICUT, albeit in a less desirable time slot than his old afternoon drive home on WDRC (1360 Hartford) and its network of talk stations. Hannity was replaced there by "Tuned Into Connecticut" with local sportscaster Dan Lovallo, who'd been doing morning sports on WDRC. Now Hannity has landed on WTIC (1080), replacing "The Dream Doctor" from 10 PM-1 AM, at least when the Red Sox and UConn sports don't displace him. (Much of the Hartford market can hear Hannity on his flagship station, WABC, in any case.)

*In RHODE ISLAND, WALE (990 Greenville) has been off the air again for a few days. No word on what's going on there this time.

*The rumor mill's working overtime in MASSACHUSETTS where the Red Sox and radio are concerned. The upcoming 2006 season is the last one in the current contract between the Sox and Entercom's WEEI (850), and the team has made no secret of its desire to buy a station to serve as its flagship. The latest round of speculation centers on WBOS (92.9 Brookline), one of Greater Media's five FMs in the market.

The Boston Globe reported Saturday that the Sox are in talks to acquire an interest in WBOS, which could flip from its current AAA format to sports talk, with AAA landing on WCRB (102.5 Waltham), which Greater Media is in the process of acquiring from Charles River Broadcasting.

But the report raises as many questions as it answers, especially where the ownership cap is concerned. Greater can't control more than five FM stations in the Boston market, so if it adds WCRB to its existing five-station cluster, it must get rid of another of the FMs in the cluster. Based on the current ownership rules, that means the Sox would have to acquire enough of WBOS so that Greater Media no longer has an "cognizable interest" in the station. In practice, that would mean that Greater couldn't own more than 5 percent of voting stock in WBOS, nor could it broker more than 15 percent of WBOS' airtime. Effectively, then, the Sox would have to buy WBOS outright, and that doesn't sound like what the team has in mind.

Meanwhile, the rumor mill's churning almost as hard on the question of David Lee Roth's troubled foray into morning radio. Roth was supposed to have visited Boston last week, originating his show from WBCN (104.1) on Thursday and Friday, but the visit was abruptly scrubbed. CBS, meanwhile, is denying that it's made any deal with Opie and Anthony that would put the XM shock talkers in Stern's old slot. As always...stay tuned.

*From MAINE, an update on the fate of WRMO (93.7 Milbridge) in the wake of the death of station owner Lyle Robert Evans. Station manager Marty McSorley checked in to report that WRMO is indeed on the air with a classic hits format, and he says that once Evans' estate is settled, there are some big things in store for the station. We'll look forward to providing some updates on WRMO later this spring.

A correction from last week's NERW: WPXT (Channel 51) in Portland has signed with The CW, not with My Network TV, as we reported. My is likely to land on sister station WPME (Channel 35), but no deal has yet been signed.

*Absolute Broadcasting is growing its station holdings in NEW HAMPSHIRE. The company, which owns WSMN and WSNH in Nashua, has reached a deal to buy WKBR (1250 Manchester) from Steve Silberberg's Devon Broadcasting. Absolute will begin operating WKBR today, flipping it from oldies to Fox Sports Radio as "Fox Sports 1250." The station will also carry the "Friday Night Lights" football show from WSNH. No purchase price has been announced so far.

New Hampshire Public Radio has a new program director. Abby Goldstein comes to Concord from KERA in Dallas, where she served as PD. She'll start at NHPR on May 22.

And in Portsmouth, WSCA-LP (106.1) is looking for a new general manager after the departure of Joseph Galli. The station says after three months on the job, Galli found that it was more than the 20 hours a week he'd signed up for, so both sides parted with no hard feelings. Board president Tim Stone has stepped down from that position to serve as interim GM of the community LPFM.

*While Steve Silberberg is selling his AM in New Hampshire, he's buying one in VERMONT. The FCC granted his White Park Broadcasting a waiver to acquire WVAA (1390 Burlington). Why the waiver? With the FCC's current market-based crossownership rules, Silberberg's holdings in the Montpelier-Barre and Upper Valley areas all counted against his Burlington ownership cap. Arbitron's designation of separate markets in those areas would eliminate that issue, but there's normally a delay before a change of designated market for a station can be reflected in a license-transfer application. That's been waived, and now WVAA can officially join WTWK (1070 Plattsburgh), WRSA (1420 St. Albans), WFAD (1490 Middlebury), WUSX (93.7 Addison) and WLFE (102.3 St. Albans) in Silberberg's Burlington-market holdings.

*In CANADA this week, the CRTC appears to have awoken from a long winter slumber, releasing a whole slew of broadcasting decisions. Perhaps the most interesting are in western Canada, where the CBC and Radio-Canada applied for medium-power FM boosters in Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg to complement their huge AM signals out there. Unlike the AM-to-FM conversions at most of the big-city CBC/Radio-Canada signals in eastern Canada, the AM facilities will stay on the air out west, with the FM signals serving to supplement their coverage in urban areas.

Back east, the CBC applies for a new Radio Two outlet in Baie Verte, Newfoundland. It would run 49 kW/284m on 95.5. It's also reapplying for a Radio-Canada "Espace Musique" outlet in Windsor, Ontario, after the original grant of a signal at 107.9 was rejected by Industry Canada. (Remember, in Canada stations are licensed by the CRTC but have all their engineering matters approved by Industry Canada.) The relay of CJBC-FM (90.3 Toronto) would now operate at 103.9, with 6 kW/74.2m and a directional antenna nulling the signal towards Detroit.

One more bit of CBC news: in Ottawa, Adrian Harewood is the new host of Radio One's "All in a Day" afternoon show.

There were several station grants from the CRTC, including two more new AM signals in Montreal. Radio Chalom, which now operates a service aimed at the city's Jewish community on a subcarrier of CIRA-FM, will move to 1650 kHz with 1 kW, while another subcarrier operator, Radio Moyen Orient du Canada, will move its mostly Arabic programming to 1450 kHz, also with 1 kW. (The CRTC rejected another Montreal application, for a religious station at 650 kHz.)

Perth, Ontario, halfway between Ottawa and Kingston, is getting its first radio station. Norm Wright and Brian Perkin have been granted 700 watts on 88.1 for a station that will carry AC and easy listening music aimed at the town's large population of retirees.

In Petit-de-Grat, Nova Scotia, La cooperative Radio Richmond ltee. has been granted 5.2 kW on 104.1 for a new French-language community station.

From the application file, CKOT (1510 Tillsonburg), which has been granted a move to FM, has found a frequency on which to make the move. It's applying for 107.3, with 15 kW/163.5m and a directional antenna. CKOT is asking the CRTC to allow it to keep its daytime-only signal on 1510 as well.

Over in Cambridge, CJDV (107.5) applies to boost power, from 2.5 kW to 20 kW/69m with a directional antenna. And in Toronto, community station CHRY (105.5) wants to expand its coverage of the city's North York neighborhoods with a power boost from 50 watts to 250 watts/63.5m with a directional antenna.

In Ottawa, Evanov's new CJWL (98.5) makes its official debut today, after testing for the last few weeks. "The Jewel" will play soft AC and standards.

A final note from Canada this week: after a year or so off the air, Quebec shock jock Jeff Fillion is returning to radio - but not on the airwaves. He launched a new webcast at on Friday, with an attack on his former boss, Patrice Demers.

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!)

March 21, 2005 -

  • It was a quiet week stateside (which was convenient, seeing as how we spent it visiting stations in New York City and Philadelphia instead of chained to the keyboard), so we'll start things off in CANADA this week. And being that it was a quiet week in the major cities, we're left to kick off this week's report way up in Port Elgin, Ontario, a quiet - and very nice - little town on the shore of Lake Huron. Until now, broadcasting in Port Elgin has meant CFPS (1490), the 1000-watt simulcast of Bayshore Broadcasting's oldies CFOS (560) over in Owen Sound, 20 miles or so to the east. Now the CRTC has approved Bayshore's application to take CFPS dark, replacing it with a new adult contemporary station on 97.9, with 3800 watts of power and 126 hours a week of local programming for a community that's had almost none until now.
  • In NEW JERSEY, Friday night indeed brought the end of "B-98.5," WBBO (98.5 Ocean Acres), as Press Communications replaced the hot AC there with modern rock "G Rock Radio," in a new simulcast with WHTG-FM (106.3 Eatontown). Matt Knight moves over from the old WBBO airstaff to do nights on the new "G."
  • A postscript to the saga of North American Broadcasting, former owner of WALE (990 Greenville) in RHODE ISLAND: the company's now bankrupt, with its last remaining station, KFNX (1100 Cave Creek AZ) in the Phoenix market, up for auction March 31. The bidding starts at $3.6 million.
  • The FCC grants the addition of 98.9A in Adams, MASSACHUSETTS to the table of allocations - but it'll be years before the frequency goes up for auction and anything gets built there. The FCC also allots 98.7A to East Harwich, denying competing proposals from John Garabedian to allot 98.7B1 to Nantucket and Monomoy Media for 98.7A at South Chatham. Garabedian tried to argue that East Harwich and South Chatham aren't "communities" for allotment purposes - and while the FCC bought the argument for South Chatham, it found that East Harwich is listed in the census and worthy of an FM allocation - and so the channel goes to East Harwich. (Again, it'll be years before anything actually gets built there.)
  • Ed Perry's not only the owner of WATD (95.9 Marshfield) - he's also trying to be the defender of journalists' right to cover stories in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Perry was arrested for disorderly conduct, trespassing and resisting arrest back in 2002 for attempting to interview a security guard at the Hanover Mall, and even though the charges were later dropped, he's suing the mall's former owner and its security company for violating his civil rights. Perry says the mall owners and the security company have tried to settle with him, but he's spent more than $20,000 in legal fees in an attempt to prove a point - that reporters should be able to cover stories (a report of a carjacking, in this case) without fear of arrest.

March 19, 2001 -

  • The slow, steady parade to oblivion for the rhythmic oldies format claimed another victim Friday afternoon (3/16). CONNECTICUT was the scene this time, and Infinity's "dancin' oldies" WZMX (93.7 Hartford) the station in question. As 5 PM rolled around, "Z93-7" launched into Donna Summer's "Last Dance" and part of a promo before announcing "Now...Hartford has become HOTford" and relaunching as "Hot 93.7," the city's first true urban FM.
  • We enjoyed the chance to hear something different on 1080 kHz late Saturday night, thanks to a jointly-scheduled equipment test that took both WTIC and KRLD in Dallas off the air at the same time. Here at NERW Central in Rochester, WTIC's signoff at 1:35 AM was followed by two dueling Spanish-language stations, which we believe to have been WVCG (Coral Gables FL) and a Cuban. Just after 2:00, KRLD returned to the air; WTIC returned to the air at 2:30.
  • The FCC's decision last week to clear the way for dozens of station transfers to be completed was good news for two stations in MAINE, among others. Cumulus had been stalled in its attempt to buy WSKW (1160 Skowhegan) and WCTB (93.5 Fairfield) from Mountain Wireless, thanks to the previous Commission's policy of "flagging" transfers that could result in over-concentration of market revenues.
  • Nothing doing this week in VERMONT, so we'll jump across Lake Champlain to the North Country of NEW YORK and the debut of a brand-new FM station. WYSI (96.1 Norwood) made it on the air Friday (March 16), but not with the format we'd suspected from its calls. Instead of relaying co-owned "Yes FM" (WYSX 98.7 Ogdensburg/WYUL 94.7 Chateaugay), WYSI is simulcasting the softer AC sounds of another Tim Martz station, WVLF (96.7 Canton). (Thanks to North County correspondent Michael Roach for keeping an ear on 96.1 for us all these months!)
  • The FCC's decision on flagged applications was good news for Clear Channel in central New York; the company gets to add Kenneth Roser's WLFH (1230 Little Falls) and WOWB (105.5 Little Falls)/WOWZ (97.9 Whitesboro) to its group. Just to the west, outside of Syracuse, Clear Channel also gets to add Cram Communications' WVOA (105.1 DeRuyter).
  • Here in Rochester, 98PXY is dead -- at least, that's what the liners on the suddenly jockless Infinity CHR (WPXY 97.9 Rochester) have been claiming since Friday morning. The stunt ends Monday morning, when 'PXY will apparently announce it's "dead serious" about the latest Infinity group-wide contest...
  • Heading south to NEW JERSEY, Citadel's bowing out of the Atlantic City market with a $19.4 million sale that puts Charlie Banta back in the radio picture. Banta cashed out of his Mercury group with a sale to Citadel back in 1999. Now he's the lead partner in the Millennium Radio Group, which is picking up three stations and LMA rights to a fourth from Citadel. The stations are AC WFPG-FM (96.9 Atlantic City), country WPUR (107.3 Atlantic City), Comedy World affiliate WFPG (1450 Atlantic City) and the LMA on modern AC WKOE (106.3 Ocean City), which had been Citadel's only Garden State properties.
  • What's Alexander Langer planning for his next big PENNSYLVANIA move-in? We've seen the application for WVFC (1530 McConnelsburg), and the plans look like this: The station, presently an obscure daytimer at the southern edge of the state about halfway between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, would move to 1180 and change city of license to King of Prussia, a suburb of Philadelphia. The new 1180 would run 2300 watts, daytime only, from three towers at the WWDB (860) site on Germantown Pike (from the looks of it, one of the three would be part of the 860 array and the other two would be new 60-meter sticks). The FCC accepted the move-in application this week; we'll keep you informed as it works its way through the system.

New England Radio Watch, March 20, 1996 -

  • A clarification about the status of folk station WADN 1120 Concord MA: A pair of trailers are in place at the transmitter site off Rt. 62 in South Acton, but they are NOT yet being used as studios and offices. WADN is planning to move out of its current studios in Concord's Damonmill Square complex, but has not done so yet.
  • A reshuffling of the schedule at WABU-TV 68 in Boston means that Charles Adler's "Adler On Line" talk show is now radio-only on WRKO 680 from 7 to 10pm weeknights. The 8-9pm hour had previously been simulcast on TV 68. Now Adler is on TV from 4-5pm daily.
  • More consolidation down in southwest Connecticut, as Commodore Broadcasting buys WSTC 1400-WKHL 96.7 Stamford. Commodore already owns WNLK 1350-WEFX 95.9 Norwalk, WRKI 95.1-WINE 940 Brookfield, and several stations in nearby Westchester County, NY.
  • More information on the demise of WDIS 1170 Norfolk, MA. Reports in the local weekly indicate the station had its power cut off after failing to pay an electric bill in the neighborhood of $2,000. Owner Albert Grady is reportedly working on getting it back on.

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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 we have a few still available at special clearance prices!

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.