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July 17, 2006

CBS Cuts Claim Jobs in NY, Boston, PA

*It was a bad week at NEW YORK's Black Rock - but even more so for more than a hundred CBS Radio staffers around the country, including some veterans of the company, whose jobs were cut in a mass layoff.

Among the biggest names in New York City to fall under the budget-cutting axe were Chad Brown, general manager of "Jack FM" WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) and Rob Barnett, president of programming at CBS Radio. Out in Los Angeles, where he led KROQ to revenue dominance, general manager Trip Reeb (a veteran of Rochester's WCMF, way back when) lost his job. And there were even more cuts in other NERW-land markets - which we'll get to later on in this week's NERW.

INDEPENDENCE ISN'T EASY (OR FREE): It now appears that Radio & Records will keep publishing under its new corporate ownership - but in the process, another respected trade publication, Billboard Radio Monitor, has ceased publication, and we're sorry to see it go.

It's a reminder that independence doesn't come easily in today's corporate age.

Here at NERW, we pride ourselves on twelve years (and counting) of editorial independence. There's no filter on the news you read here. Our editorial staff of one answers only to you, our readers, and therein lies the catch:

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*Up here in Rochester, the past week brought some huge changes to the antenna configuration on Pinnacle Hill, just up the road from NERW Central. CBS Radio, whose WCMF (96.5) and WPXY (97.9) have long transmitted from the WROC-TV/WHEC tower at Pinnacle, has now hung a new 8-bay Shively antenna from the new American Tower Systems tower on the hill - and it's now building out a new transmitter room, complete with two new Harris transmitters and Shively combiners for both analog and digital. And not to be outdone, the other class B FM signal from Pinnacle, public radio WXXI-FM (91.5), lowered its 32-year-old Jampro antenna from its tower last week. It's been replaced by a new Dielectric 8-bay antenna, and later this year a new transmitter will bring HD Radio to that signal as well.

With final bids due today from prospective purchasers of CBS Radio's clusters in Rochester, Buffalo, and the other markets the company plans to exit, the stations in upstate New York were spared the company-wide layoffs, we're told.

Where are they now? Former Clear Channel Rochester market manager Ken Spitzer has exited his most recent job, as market manager for Clear Channel's Raleigh/Durham cluster, we're told. Steven Portnoy, former news guy at WSYR (570 Syracuse), has moved up the ranks from WMAL (630 Washington) to a new job as a reporter for ABC News Radio. And we're sorry to report the death of Dave Sennett, whose career in upstate radio included stints at WTLB (1310 Utica) in the fifties, WOLF (1490 Syracuse) and WKBW (1520 Buffalo) in the sixties, and then many years as afternoon host on WHAM (1180 Rochester). Sennett was also at WPRO in Providence in the early sixties. Sennett died July 6; he'll be remembered at a memorial ceremony Saturday (July 22) here in Rochester.

Moving downstate, WSPK (104.7 Poughkeepsie) has a new morning guy - Chris Marino moves north from WLDI (95.5) in the West Palm Beach, Florida market to take the spot last occupied by "Woodman," who's reportedly leaving the business. Marino starts his new gig August 4.

Across town in Poughkeepsie, the old WKIP (1450) building at 20 Tucker Drive was demolished last Tuesday. Chief engineer Bill Draper tells NERW that Clear Channel originally planned to keep the building (which dated from 1968), but with no easy way to connect it to the two-year-old studio complex next door that now houses WKIP and its sister stations, the decision was made to demolish it and replace it with a new addition to the current studio building. (Longtime WKIP/WRNQ morning man Van Ritshie came up from Florida to take the first whack at the old building.)

In New York City, WWPR (105.1 New York) has a new program director. Helen Little moves up from Radio One in Philadelphia, where she was overseeing programming for the company's three stations there.

And out on Long Island, some changes are coming at WBLI (106.1 Patchogue). NERW hears that morning man Steve Harper is being moved across Long Island Sound to Cox sister station "Star 99.9" WEZN-FM in Bridgeport, CONNECTICUT, where he replaces Tony Terzi (who himself replaced another Harper, longtime wakeup guy John Harper) - and we're hearing that bigger changes may be on the way at WBLI. Stay tuned...

Also in the Nutmeg State, Brian "Munchie" Donovan takes the music director/afternoon drive slot at WKSS (95.7 Hartford-Meriden), filling the big shoes recently vacated by Jo Jo Brooks, who's now at WIOQ in Philadelphia.

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*The CBS Radio cutbacks in MASSACHUSETTS claimed several top sales managers at WBZ, WODS and WZLX; WBMX (98.5) marketing director Anne-Marie Kennedy - and Edward Hyson, better known as "Oedipus," the longtime program director at WBCN (104.1 Boston). Oedipus stepped down from the WBCN PD chair two years ago, and had been working as CBS Radio's VP/alternative music, but with the gradual disappearance of that format from prominence at CBS, it wasn't hard to see the writing on the wall.

What's up with Mario Mazza? The WCRB (102.5 Waltham) programming VP took issue with reports here and elsewhere last week that he had exited the classical station to take a new job running public radio WHIL (91.3) down in Mobile, Alabama. We're always happy to correct errors when we make them, so we'll note that Mazza is still at WCRB right now. But the president of Spring Hill College, which owns WHIL, confirms to the Globe that they've hired Mazza down in Mobile and still expect him to start there this fall, so we're standing by that part of the story. Mazza has not replied to our request for clarification.

*In RHODE ISLAND, Opie and Anthony's syndicated show has arrived on WSKO (790 Providence) and WSKO-FM (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale), and that means some schedule changes at "The Score." Andy Gresh and Scott Zolak move from mornings to the 9-noon slot, which displaces John "Coach" Colletto from the station's lineup.

(And just as NERW goes to press this Monday comes word that O&A have also added Buffalo's WEDG, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's WBSX and WMOS out on Long Island's East End to their lineup. More on that next week.)

*In MAINE, WLOB-FM (96.3 Rumford) has moved to its new transmitter site just east of Norway - and we hear the 40 kW/1412' facility is putting a nice clean mono signal into Portland, boosting the range of the news-talk station considerably.

*A happy 75th anniversary to one of the oldest stations in VERMONT. WDEV (550 Waterbury), one of the finest community radio outlets in New England, marked that milestone yesterday, with tributes that included a special section in the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus and an ice cream social for current and former staff.

*Up to CANADA we go next, for the latest round of media consolidation - the C$1.7 billion deal that will make CHUM Ltd. part of the Bell Globemedia family.

BGM already owns the CTV television network, the nation's largest commercial network, as well as the Globe and Mail national daily, 17 cable networks and a minority share in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors. By adding CHUM, BGM immediately becomes a major radio player, with 33 radio stations in the country's largest markets. CHUM's 21 cable networks, including MuchMusic, will add substantially to BGM's cable portfolio.

As for broadcast TV, here's where things get a little complicated. BGM will keep CHUM's "Citytv" stations, including flagship CITY-TV (Channel 57) in Toronto - but it will have to sell off the "A Channel" outlets CHUM has assembled around the country, including CHRO (Channels 5/43) in Ottawa/Pembroke, CKVR (Channel 3) in Barrie and CFPL-TV (Channel 10) in London. As soon as the deal was announced, CHUM began making deep cutbacks in its news operations around the country. While Citytv in Toronto was left mainly intact, we're told there were 22 people cut in Barrie, where news coverage will be scaled back to focus mainly on the station's home turf in Barrie and vicinity. In Ottawa, the "A Channel" noon news has been cancelled - and the cuts were even deeper out west, where Citytv newscasts were cancelled in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

In other Canadian news, CHUC-FM (107.9 Cobourg) has begun testing its signal; it will eventually replace the station's current AM signal on 1450.

And up in North Bay, Haliburton's new CFXN (106.3) is now on the air, testing its adult hits format as "The Moose."

*One of the deans of the broadcast industry in southern NEW JERSEY has a new home on the dial. Harry Hurley, a fixture on the 1450 spot in Atlantic City through several callsigns (mostly WFPG, but more recently WKXW and WENJ), lost his morning gig there a week ago as part of a larger set of cutbacks at Millennium's Atlantic City operations, which also claimed the jobs of marjet manager Dan Sullivan, WFPG-FM (96.9) midday veteran Marlene Aqua, WPUR (107.3) jock Lyndsey King and accounting clerk Lynne Spector-Olita.

No sooner was Hurley out the door at WENJ, though, than he was hired down the road at WIBG (1020 Ocean City). Hurley's signed a three-year deal to do mornings at the contemporary Christian station, where he'll start July 31.

Just up the Parkway, the callsign swap is complete: WBBO (98.5 Ocean Acres) is now WKOE, while WKOE (106.5 Bass River Township) is now WBBO.

And up in South Orange, the former general manager of WSOU (89.5) at Seton Hall University pleaded guilty last week to embezzling more than half a million dollars from the school. Michael Collazzo, who ran WSOU until 2004, admitted that he created a shell company (with the initials "W.S.O.U.") to divert income from leasing out the station's subcarriers. He also admitted to stealing nearly a quarter of a million dollars in WSOU underwriting income. Collazzo, 58, will be sentenced August 18; prosecutors are recommending he spend five years in prison.

*It made big headlines last year in eastern PENNSYLVANIA when Radio One pulled the modern rock format off WPLY (100.3 Media), sending "Y100" into exile as a webcast. Now "Y" is returning to the broadcast airwaves in collaboration with innovative public radio station WXPN (88.5 Philadelphia).

WXPN has hired former Y100 PD Jim McGuinn to launch its "Y-Rock on XPN" programming, which will include over-the-air segments on WXPN's main channel on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8-11 PM and Fridays from 7-11 PM, beginning August 30. The "" site that has carried the torch for Y since the station went off the air last year will be merged into WXPN's "XPoNential Music" web service, and will relaunch August 1 as ""

Over in Pittsburgh, the fallout from the CBS Radio cutbacks includes longtime morning man John Cline, who was moved from the former WBZZ (93.7 Pittsburgh) to WZPT (100.7 New Kensington) when the plug was pulled on "B93.7" a few years back. Now Cline's out of his gig at "Star 100.7," where JR, Kate and Bubba continue on in mornings.

We've been remiss in not noting the FCC's ruling on Keymarket's attempt to move "Froggy" WOGF (104.3) from East Liverpool, Ohio across the state line to Moon Township, Pennsylvania, just west of Pittsburgh. Keymarket had appealed the FCC's initial denial of the move, and earlier this month the FCC affirmed that decision, ruling that Keymarket's application was defective. While WOGF's short-spacings to WPGB (104.7 Pittsburgh) and WLSW (103.9 Scottdale) are indeed grandfathered under the pre-1964 spacing rules, the FCC says those spacing rules can't be invoked at the allocations stage of a move-in proceeding - so unless Keymarket can find a way to change its city of license without moving its transmitter site at the same time (as it would apparently need to do in order to put the required signal over Moon), the WOGF move is off the table. (NERW notes that once the city of license has been changed, then the transmitter can be moved under the short-spacing rules, as we've seen done in cases like that of 97.5 in Trenton/Philadelphia.)

Speaking of "Froggy," there's a new one in State College: Forever Broadcasting has launched a "Froggy 98" simulcast of WFGY (98.1 Altoona) on what's now WSGY (98.7 Pleasant Gap). That sets a whole chain of call changes into motion: WJHT (103.1 State College) becomes WQKK (it has the "Quick Rock" format that was on 98.7 as WQWK); "Hot" WYOT (92.1 Johnstown) becomes WJHT; and "Froggy" WSGY (106.3 Mount Union) becomes WFZY.

A few more Pittsburgh notes: Stan Savran, late of WBGG (970), has been hired by crosstown competitor WEAE (1250), where he'll do some fill-in sports hosting for now. And up at WAVL (910 Apollo), they're still looking for the vandals who lit firecrackers under the station's tower just before Independence Day, causing damage that knocked the religious station off the air for much of a day.

There are new calls for the former WNAK-FM (94.3 Carbondale) - it's now WLNP, reflecting its new "Lite fm" identity.

And we'll close out with some TV news: WILF (Channel 53) in Williamsport has new calls, WQMY, reflecting its upcoming flip from a simulcast of WSWB (Channel 38) to the new My Network TV. (WSWB will go from WB/UPN to The CW in September, and WQMY will likely seek full cable carriage in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market.) My Network TV also signed an affiliate in the Harrisburg market, where it will be seen on a subchannel of WHP-DT, presumably displacing the cable carriage of Philadelphia's WPHL in the area.

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!)

July 18, 2005 -

  • A few years ago, it looked as though eastern MASSACHUSETTS could become a major production center for public radio - not just the weekly entertainments of "Car Talk," but also a significant amount of daily news and talk programming. Over at WGBH, the joint partnership with the BBC that produced "The World" is approaching its tenth anniversary. But it was Boston University's WBUR-FM (90.9), under former GM Jane Christo, that harbored visions of serious national glory, launching Chris Lydon's "The Connection" into national distribution not long after its 1993 local debut, followed a few years later by "On Point" in the evenings (an outgrowth of WBUR's 9/11 coverage) and "Here and Now" in middays. We know, of course, what happened next: the heated departure of Lydon and the team that created "The Connection" (now ensconced at WGBH and producing "Open Source"), followed a few years later by the ouster of Christo herself. And last week, WBUR interim GM Peter Fiedler announced a series of cuts that promise to bring WBUR's production load more in line with its slimmed-down budget.
  • The most notable change is the cancellation, effective after the August 5 broadcast, of "The Connection." While Lydon's eventual replacement, former CBC host Dick Gordon, was doing a capable job with the program, it faced a crowded field of competitors for a finite number of daytime slots in a public radio universe where many stations are still trying to balance news and music on a single signal. (We find that, in the end, across NERW-land "The Connection" was being heard only on WNED(AM) in Buffalo, New York's North Country Public Radio and WPNI(AM) in Amherst, as well as on WBUR's own network.)
  • On the commercial side of things, WODS (103.3 Boston) has named Pete Falconi as its new PD, taking the "acting" part of his title away. Falconi's a veteran of New England radio, having been PD at the old WEGQ (93.7) as well as at WXLO/WORC-FM/WWFX in Worcester.
  • On the TV dial, WBZ-TV (Channel 4) has opened a Worcester bureau, staffed by reporter Ron Sanders and photojournalist Terry MacNamara. WBZ is billing it as the first such effort by a Boston station, though an alert reader reminds us that in the days when channel 7 was WNEV (we're talking the late 80s here), owner David Mugar had a Worcester bureau (at the Worcester Telegram and Gazette) as part of his New England News Exchange.
  • A veteran morning voice in MAINE returns to the airwaves today. Mark Persky's been off the air in Portland since last winter, when he quietly vanished from the morning show at WBLM (102.9) after almost three decades. Now he's across town at Nassau's "Frank," WFNK (107.5 Lewiston), starting at 5:30 this morning with the debut of the revamped "Big Show" there.
  • There's a station sale along US 6 in northwestern PENNSYLVANIA: Kinzua Broadcasting is selling WRRN (92.3 Warren), WNAE (1310 Warren) and WKNB (104.3 Clarendon) to Frank Iorio's Iorio Broadcasting. Iorio, who holds the CP for a new FM on 102.7 in Clarendon, is better known as the owner of WMBA (1460 Ambridge) and WBVP (1230 Beaver Falls) outside Pittsburgh; he's paying $1.25 million for the three-station combo.

July 16, 2001 -

  • We'll begin this week in CANADA, where CTV is consolidating its hold on the broadcast outlets that carry its network signal across the country. Out in Vancouver, the CTV-owned "VTV" (CIVT Channel 32) is about to begin carrying CTV network programming after several years as an independent, and back East, the network has struck a deal to acquire its Montreal affiliate for a whopping C$ 121,500,000. CFCF-TV (Channel 12) was part of the WIC group that merged with Global earlier this year, causing all that shuffling out west as well. In Montreal, though, Global already owned CKMI (Channel 46), which meant CFCF needed to be put in trust until a buyer could be found. CTV and parent BCE were the obvious choice, since CTV has been on an acquisition spree that's snapped up almost all of the stations that were once privately-owned affiliates. (You'd have to look all the way to St. John's, Newfoundland, we believe, to find the biggest private CTV affiliate remaining!) What will become of CFCF's distinctive on-air look and its "Pulse" newscasts when the Great Homogenizers of CTV take over? We suspect the generic blue set and CTV logo will end up gracing CFCF once the deal closes...we'll keep you posted.
  • We'll cross back to the States in NEW YORK, noting that Buffalo's WWKB (1520) is still running that business format (with no legal ID noticed on one recent top-hour break) instead of the promised 70s pop, and there's no sign of Opie and Anthony on WCMF here in Rochester, either.
  • In fact, about the biggest news we can offer this week is Eolin's conversion of its LMA in Elmira to an outright purchase. You might recall that Eolin, which operates four stations in Corning, has been running WENY (1230) and WENY-FM (92.7) for White Broadcasting under an LMA for a few months now; this week, Eolin announced it would pay $2.2 million for the pair, which simulcast news-talk WCLI (1450 Corning) and satellite AC WCBA-FM (98.7 Corning), respectively. The purchase finally separates the radio stations from sister TV outlet WENY-TV (Channel 36) after more than three decades of common ownership.
  • Over in Binghamton, Paul Szmal (formerly of Utica's WRCK) and Maggie Page (formerly of crosstown WYOS) kicked off their new morning show on Clear Channel's "Mix" WMXW (103.3 Vestal) this morning. Meanwhile, AC competitor WLTB (101.7 Johnson City) has filed to move translator W273AB (102.5) down from Ingraham Hill, where WLTB itself now operates, to the old 101.7 site a few miles west in Endicott.
  • A very happy 90th birthday to WTIC (1080 Hartford) institution Bob Steele, who's still going strong with a monthly Saturday-morning show, 62 years after joining the staff at WTIC. A check of the NERW archives reminds us that Steele did promise to retire a few years ago - but not until his 100th birthday a decade from now!
  • RHODE ISLAND is getting a new radio tower, and we're getting a good excuse to vacation on Block Island next summer. The flimsy old tower that held WADK-FM (99.3) and WCRI (95.9) is being replaced by a 250-footer bearing a new six-bay antenna to be shared by both stations. With the change, WCRI will begin transmitting in stereo for the first time in its history. (Quite a change from the old days as WVBI, when we had trouble tuning them in while walking from the ferry dock to the tower!)

New England Radio Watch, July 20, 1996

  • (No issue that week!)

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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.