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November 13, 2006

Clear Channel Cuts Continue


It's that time of year again...

...when we ask for your subscription support as we head towards a new year of NERW.

NorthEast Radio Watch is part of an ever-shrinking breed of radio industry websites open to anyone without a password or a mandatory payment.

Here at NERW, we still believe that it's not an especially efficient use of our time to be issuing passwords and renewal reminders. We'd rather be out there taking pictures of towers and twirling the dials to bring you actual news about radio and television across the northeast U.S. and eastern Canada, just as we've been doing, week in and week out, for over a dozen years now.

There's a catch, though, and here it is - even if there's no mandatory subscription fee, that doesn't mean that NERW comes to you each week free of charge. We ask you each year to do your part by making a voluntary contribution to help keep NERW coming. So far, the system has worked. Many of you support NERW each year, and for that, we're grateful.

But there are still many more of you who don't, and at some point, we're going to have some tough decisions to make about how to keep the bills paid and the NERW-mobile gassed up. We still consider, from time to time, whether it's time to put our fresh weekly content behind a password and a fee, just to make sure there's enough money in the bank to keep doing the column at all.

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*What's the most stable radio station in the nation's number one market, NEW YORK? You could make a pretty good case for Clear Channel's "Lite," WLTW (106.7), where morning man Bill Buchner had been in place for 17 years, midday jock Valerie Smaldone for 22 years and night jock J.J. Kennedy for 18 years.

That longevity, however, was apparently no match for the nationwide restructuring that's hitting Clear Channel markets from coast to coast. Early last week, WLTW pulled Buchner and Kennedy off the air. While PD Jim Ryan tried to paint the moves in the best light possible, telling the New York Daily News that Buchner's dismissal was "100% based on improving the product" and unrelated to the nationwide Clear Channel shakeout, it's hard to see the timing as coincidental. (For whatever it's worth, Ryan says that while Buchner's numbers overall were good, the station was weak in the morning hours before 8:00; he also tells the News that Clear Channel considered putting Whoopi Goldberg's new syndicated morning show on WLTW before placing it on sister station WKTU over the summer.)

Buchner's been replaced with a team that includes his former co-host, Christine Nagy, along with Karen Carson and weather from Nick Gregory. The new morning show debuts today on WLTW. As for nights, it's widely rumored that Delilah's syndicated show will make WLTW its New York home soon, a rumor Ryan's not denying...stay tuned.

Also out at Clear Channel is WKTU (103.5 Lake Success) production director Valerie Palma, after a nine-year run at the station.

Over at classical WQXR (96.3 New York), there's no filling the shoes of 50-year veteran Lloyd Moss, who retired at the end of September from the station's afternoon drive slot, but WQXR weekend morning host Elliott Forrest will do his best when he takes over afternoons, beginning today. Forrest's career has included mornings at WQXR's erstwhile competitor, the old WNCN (104.3), as well as extensive TV work at A&E and E!, among other stops.

*Binghamton's not the sort of market you'd think of as a hotbed for progressive talk, so it's no great surprise that Citadel is pulling the plug on the format at WYOS (1360) after a year and a half. The format never got much promotion at WYOS, which has the city's worst AM signal (5000 watts days, just 500 watts at night) and has long been a weak sister to the city's heritage news-talk outlet, WNBF (1290). As of Monday, WYOS joins ESPN Radio, becoming Binghamton's second all-sports station after Clear Channel's WENE (1430 Endicott), which programs Fox Sports Radio.

Donnie Michaels didn't last long in his latest go-round as PD of Clear Channel's WPKF (96.1 Poughkeepsie); after just a few days, he's out and Jimi Jamm is back in at "Kiss."

Here in Rochester, it appears that Clear Channel's WHAM-TV (Channel 13) has quietly assumed operation of the former "WRWB," the cable-only outlet on channel 16 that now identifies itself just as "CW Rochester." Ads for CW began showing up on WHAM-TV's website last week (including one, now removed, that had a "WHAM-DT" ID under the "CW 16" logo), and the CW outlet carried a WHAM-produced election night special at 10 PM Tuesday. (Meanwhile, later in the evening, we heard WHAM radio carrying a stale delayed broadcast of the syndicated Sean Hannity show, recorded before the polls had closed that night. Would that have aired before the Clear Channel cutbacks reduced WHAM's news staff a week earlier?)

Ed Bradley is being remembered this week (and rightly so) for his TV career at CBS News, but the legendary newsman began his career in radio, working first at WDAS (1480 Philadelphia) and then as one of the founding staffers when WCBS (880 New York) went all-news in 1967. He kept a toe in radio in recent years, too, as the voice of NPR's "Jazz From Lincoln Center." We join in the mourning for one of the industry's giants, who died Thursday at 65.

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*We can now set a date for the long-awaited format swap in eastern MASSACHUSETTS: WCRB (102.5 Waltham) is now promoting December 1 as the date when its classical music moves down the dial - and 25 miles north - to what's now WKLB-FM (99.5 Lowell). WCRB will keep its present Waltham studio and its airstaff when it changes dial positions and owners, passing from Charles River Broadcasting to Nassau. Meanwhile, WKLB is promoting a "big change" on the air, but it's not yet directing its listeners to its new, full-market spot at 102.5; those promos will presumably appear a little closer to the day of the swap.

The Boston Red Sox are moving to a new spot on the dial in Worcester and vicinity next season, leaving Clear Channel's WTAG (580) for Carter Broadcasting's WCRN (830). WCRN says it will have its tower work completed by Opening Day, allowing it to finally put its long-pending construction permit for 50 kilowatts at night on the air - and filling a big chunk of the MetroWest gap in Sox coverage that will result from the team's Boston move to WRKO (680). (And - yikes - is the team's Hartford outlet, WTIC 1080, serious about the negotiations with the Yankees that were being reported in local media last week? If it comes to pass, Sox fans outside New England would lose their last nighttime AM link to the Olde Towne Team.)

The Boston talk host who lost his job a week ago is trying hard to get it back. John DePetro is using his website to rally listener support for a return to WRKO (680 Boston), including a petition former listeners can sign. (It had just under 400 names on it as we went to press Sunday night, though that included plenty of questionable ones - "Rush O'Reilly"? - and a scattering of anti-DePetro comments, too.)

DePetro wrote to WRKO, offering to undergo sensitivity training and even to give a weekly hour of airtime to Grace Ross, the gubernatorial candidate he called a "fat lesbian" on what turned out to be his last WRKO show.

DePetro's entreaties to his former employer fell on deaf ears, though: Entercom put out a statement calling the firing "appropriate and justified," saying "we have moved on and wish him well."

With crosstown talker WTKK (96.9) already overstocked with talk hosts, now that Jay Severin is back in afternoons, the picture for DePetro's Boston future looks bleak - and given the budget cutbacks across the board at Clear Channel, is there a home for him at his former station, WHJJ (920) in Providence?

The Clear Channel "restructuring" claimed one victim in the Springfield market last week: Jessica Tyler is out as morning co-host and music director at WPKX (97.9 Enfield CT), with PD Justin Tyler taking on the MD role there as well.

*When the Clear Channel axe landed in RHODE ISLAND, it took with it most of the morning show at WSNE (93.3 Taunton MA), including 21-year veteran Joanie Edwardsen and her husband, Chuck Hinman, who was the station's news director. We're hearing that the cuts aren't finished at the Providence cluster just yet.

*In CONNECTICUT, the Clear Channel cuts include WPOP (1410 Hartford) PD Bob Plante; the ESPN Radio outlet has been little more than a 24/7 network feed for a while now, in any event. Down the hall, WKSS (95.7 Hartford) loses morning guy Steve Coates and middayer Adam Axe, as well as traffic guy Sky Daniels and promotions director Dawn Bucalo.

In the New London market, "Yo Sunny Joe" Allen is the new morning guy at Red Wolf's WBMW (106.5 Ledyard), where he replaces Michael Burns. Allen was previously at WMAS-FM in Springfield, and he's heard on New York's WNEW (Mix 102.7) as well.

*There's a new sidekick on morning radio in NEW JERSEY, as Suzanne Ansilio joins Jim Monaghan at WDHA (105.5 Dover) in two weeks. Ansilio was briefly at WFNY-FM (92.3 Free FM) in New York, but she's much better known for a long run in Los Angeles radio, including a dozen years at KLOS (95.5).

*Inner City Broadcasting is exiting radio ownership in eastern PENNSYLVANIA. It's selling WHAT (1340 Philadelphia) to consultant Tom Kelly's Marconi Broadcasting, for a price All Access reports as $5 million. No word yet on what changes might be on the way to WHAT's black-oriented talk format.

More Clear Channel cutbacks in the Lehigh Valley: Scott Lowe is out after three years as night guy (and production director) at WAEB-FM (104.1 Allentown); he's looking for work, and a Clear Channel jock from Los Angeles is voicetracking nights on B104 now. (Meanwhile, WAEB-FM has hired Eric Tyler, late of WTWR in Toledo, to fill the afternoon drive/music director hole created when Mike Kelly moved to mornings. Tyler will also serve as B104's imaging director.)

Cutbacks, too, at Radio One in Philadelphia: the cluster's black gospel outlet, WPPZ (103.9 Jenkintown), is now running jockless after the dismissal of morning man Ed Long. (He came to WPPZ from Clear Channel's WDAS 1480 in June.)

The return of smooth jazz to the Philadelphia radio dial is set for Wednesday. That's when Nassau will pull the plug on classic rock WTHK (97.5 Burlington NJ), handing the frequency over to Greater Media, which will flip it to WJJZ, restoring the calls and format that went away in August from what's now "Philly's 106.1" WISX. The new WJJZ will launch from the longtime 97.5 site in downtown Trenton, but it's expected to become a full Philadelphia signal early in 2007 with a move to the Wyndmoor tower just north of Philadelphia that, ironically, is also home to 106.1's antenna.

In central Pennsylvania, WWWH (88.5 Halifax), an as-yet-unbuilt construction permit just north of Harrisburg, changes calls to WMBH. (The station is owned by George Flinn's Memphis-based Broadcasting for the Challenged.)

In Somerset, WBHV (1330) has dropped its southern gospel format and flipped to ESPN sports; it's apparently picking up the WSMO calls recently in use in State College. (The WBHV calls were being parked on 1330, ex-WYSN, and have now returned to State College.)

A former Scranton TV news director has made the leap to politics. Frank Andrews Shimkus, formerly of WNEP (Channel 16) and WYOU (Channel 22), was elected to the Pennsylvania state legislature Tuesday, winning 72 percent of the vote.

*In CANADA, there's a new program coordinator at CHUM-FM (104.5 Toronto), but he's a familiar name to our Boston readers. David Corey comes to CHUM from WXKS-FM (107.9 Medford), after more than two decades at "Kiss 108" that included a run as assistant PD/music director.

In Cobourg, Ontario, CHUC (1450) wants the CRTC to grant it a one-year extension of AM-FM simulcasting. The AM signal was to have gone silent this past weekend, but CHUC says it's having trouble resolving interference between its new 107.9 FM signal and air navigation systems, so it's hoping it can keep the AM on the air in the meantime.

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!)

November 14, 2005 -

  • If you'd cornered us a year ago and asked us to place a bet that WKOX (1200 Framingham) would ever be able to build its new directional array at the WUNR (1600 Brookline) site in Newton's Oak Hill neighborhood, we'd have declined. At the time, it didn't appear that the local political climate would ever allow Clear Channel to follow through with its plan to replace WUNR's existing pair of towers (each 350 feet tall) with five 199-foot unpainted, unlit towers to be used by WKOX (with 50 kW), WUNR (with 20 kW) and WRCA (1330 Watertown, moved from Waltham) with 25 kW day, 17 kW night.
  • Things change, though, especially when you have a patient plaintiff with deep pockets and a very good case to make against the city of Newton - and so it came to pass that the city and the stations finally reached a settlement last week (thanks to Mark at Boston Radio Watch for sniffing that out!) that could lead to construction getting underway at the site as early as the end of this week.
  • The settlement, which is due to be approved by Newton's Board of Aldermen on Wednesday, would establish a $100,000 remediation fund to help neighbors near the site deal with increased RF levels after the towers are built and the stations have been on the air for three years. (In the first three years that stations are operating with their new facilities, the stations themselves will be required to assist neighbors within the blanketing zone with RF-related issues, which is not much more than the FCC requires, anyway.) The settlement also limits what the stations can do at the site in the future without city approval - no power increases, and no adding wireless services to the towers, either. In sum, though, it seems to represent a pretty convincing win for the stations - especially for WKOX, which will get a decent Boston signal out of the deal. We'll be following this story closely as construction gets underway.
  • Up in MAINE, Bud Sawyer is out at Nassau's WLAM, Lewiston (1470) after a very long career that's included long stints at WPOR in Portland and at earlier incarnations of WLAM. The station's flipping to ESPN sports from standards at the end of the month, it seems.
  • In RHODE ISLAND, David Bernstein is out of a job as WPRO (630 Providence) program director. Bernstein came to WPRO in May 2003 after stints programming WOR and WBZ; he's now back home in New Jersey (where he had been commuting to Providence), and no replacement has been named yet in Providence.
  • In NEW JERSEY, Press Communications' WKOE (106.3 Ocean City) is making an Atlantic City move. It's been granted FCC permission to change city of license to Bass River Township, and to change frequency to 106.5, which will reduce interference from WJJZ (106.1 Philadelphia) and from sister station WHTG (106.3 Eatontown). WKOE and its "Breeze" sister stations are also getting some programming help from a veteran New York City PD. Joe McCoy, who programmed WCBS-FM (101.1) before it became "Jack," has become the "programming advisor" for WKOE, WBHX (99.7 Tuckerton) and WWZY (107.1 Long Branch.)

November 12, 2001 -

  • Last week, we had no news from why not start off this week with news of a new AM outlet for Montreal? The new 1000 watt station at 1610 kHz will be the first full-time expanded band AM station in Canada (the now-defunct "portable" CHEV 1610 Etobicoke, Ont. was the first overall), and it will run a multilingual format aimed at Francophone Montrealers of Haitian, Latin American and African descent. "CPAM Radio, Inc." is the licensee for the new station authorized this week by the CRTC, and we can tell you we know nothing whatsoever about them - but we'll pass along anything we find out!
  • We'll slip back across the border, logically enough, in MAINE, where Maine Public Broadcasting puts its newest signal on the air Tuesday (Nov. 13). WMEP (90.5 Camden) will serve an area of the mid-coast that's had spotty reception from the existing transmitters in Portland, Bangor and Waterville.
  • Across the river in VERMONT, Bob Vinikoor buys WNBX (1480 Springfield) from Bob and Shirley Wolf, for a reported $75,000. We suspect Vinikoor will use WNBX to relay the talk programming of his WNTK-FM (99.7 New London NH) into the lower reaches of the Connecticut River Valley.
  • We'll start our NEW YORK news by observing that no New York City mayor in history has had his own radio station - until now. But don't expect Mike Bloomberg to sell WBBR (1130 New York) or the rest of his Bloomberg, L.P. empire; despite reports that competitors such as Thomson (which, being British, would have to sell the radio property) have been sniffing around, the word from 499 Park Avenue is that the company is now being operated at a sufficient arm's-length from Hizzoner-to-be that it won't be on the block any time soon.
  • Meanwhile, the New York City schools won't be handing the keys of WNYE-FM (91.5) and WNYE-TV (Channel 25) to competitors WNYC (820/93.9) and WNET (Channel 13), after all. The school board didn't approve Chancellor Harold Levy's plan to let the bigger public broadcasters take over management of the stations; instead, WNYE will stay in school hands as part of a broadband platform for delivering educational material to schools.

New England Radio Watch, November 13, 1996

  • Wanna buy a full class B Boston FM? That's the question CBS will have to be asking, after yesterday's agreement with the Justice Department to sell Infinity's WBOS (92.9 Brookline-Boston) and CBS's WMMR (93.3 Philadelphia) in exchange for Justice approval for the CBS-Infinity merger. Justice was apparently worried that the new CBS/Infinity group would control in excess of 40 percent of the market revenue in both Boston and Philadelphia, as well as giving CBS/Infinity near-total control of the rock audiences in both cities.
  • This means the final CBS/Infinity group in Boston will include news/talk WBZ (1030), smooth jazz WOAZ (99.5 Lowell-Boston), classic rock WZLX (100.7), oldies WODS (103.3), and modern rocker WBCN (104.1). What happens to WBOS now? It's possible that one of Boston's other major groups will work out a trade with CBS for WBOS. Likely candidates include Evergreen and American Radio Systems. Other possible local buyers include Woody Tanger's Marlin Broadcasting, which is known to want a stronger signal for its North Shore classical outlet, WBOQ (104.9 Gloucester), and which is flush with cash after selling its Philadelphia and Detroit stations. And who's celebrating the most? Probably the folks at little WXRV (92.5) up in Haverhill, who could end up as the city's only AAA outlet if new owners change WBOS's low-rated "rock of the 80s and 90s" format.
  • A Vermont radio station says it won't budge from its controversial transmitter site. WIZN (106.7) Vergennes-Burlington just received a letter from town officials in Charlotte, Vermont informing them their tower is causing fear and resentment among the neighbors, some of whom say they're getting WIZN on their toasters. WIZN officials say they've been willing to work with the neighbors all along, and they won't move off Pease Mountain. NERW's comment: A recent trip to Vermont took me past this tower, just off route 7...and it didn't seem any different from any other transmitter site. At the base of the tower, WIZN's signal didn't even overload the radio in the NERW-mobile.
  • There's a dearth of TV news managers in Connecticut. Last week, WFSB-TV (3 Hartford) assistant news director Bob Longo returned home to upstate New York to become news director of WKBW-TV in Buffalo. And yesterday, WVIT-TV (30 New Britain-Hartford) news director Steve Schwaid announced he's leaving for sister station WTOG in Tampa.

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*It's here! As seen in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Omaha World-Herald and the Chicago Sun-Times, Tower Site Calendar 2007 is now shipping!

This year's edition features what we think are the finest tower images yet - from the cover image of WCCO Minneapolis all the way to the back-cover centerfold of WBZ in Boston, and from KGO San Francisco to KOIL Omaha to Philadelphia's famed Roxborough tower farm, captured in a dramatic dusk shot with the lights all aglow.

This sixth annual edition once again contains plenty of historic dates from radio and television history in the Northeast and beyond, and as always, it comes to you shrink-wrapped and shipped first class mail for safe arrival.

You can even get your 2007 calendar free with your new or renewal subscription to NERW at the $60 level.

Visit the Store and place your order today - and be among the first to get the Tower Site Calendar 2007!

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.