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February 11, 2008

Smooth Jazz Out, Rock In at 101.9 in NYC


*Just short of its twentieth anniversary as NEW YORK's smooth jazz station, Emmis' WQCD (101.9) abruptly dropped the format on Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 5), playing short pre-recorded farewells from several "CD101.9" staffers before a 4 PM flip to WRXP, "101.9 RXP, the NY Rock Experience."

"Adult rock" is the company's official name for the new format, a broad-based music mix that draws from alternative rock, AAA and classic rock, with an obvious debt to the former WNEW-FM (102.7), and perhaps a less-obvious debt to at least some of the previous incarnations of 101.9 itself in its WPIX-FM days, especially its flirtation with New Wave music in the late seventies.

WQCD PD Blake Lawrence is the only survivor from the old format, and he's promising to hire an airstaff that will actually have input into the music they play. So far, there's just one live jock on WRXP's air - Bryan Schock, in afternoons.

The former "CD101.9" continues on the HD2 channel of 101.9, and there are promises that it - and the main channel - will eventually be available as a webcast, too.

The demise of WQCD means the end of one of New York's longest on-air tenures: Dennis Quinn had been with 101.9 since the early seventies, surviving all those format changes at WPIX and almost twenty years of WQCD; the rest of the airstaff, including middayer Deborah Rath, afternoon jock Paul Cavalconte and evening host Sharon Davis, had also enjoyed long runs at the station and are now looking for work.

*So are at least three New York program directors, thanks to the massive nationwide job cuts at one big broadcaster. Last Thursday, Tracy Cloherty lost her PD gig at CBS Radio's WXRK (92.3 K-Rock) after just seven months on the job. At first, it seemed that Cloherty's dismissal might be a sign of bigger changes to come at the revived K-Rock, which hasn't yet found its stride, and which now faces a major challenge up the dial at WRXP - but then the news started coming fast and furious of other cuts across CBS Radio's nationwide operations, apparently nearly 200 of them by the time the blood stopped flowing sometime Friday.

Two other New York CBS program directors also lost their jobs in the cost-cutting moves: Rick Martini, who oversaw the launch of the successful "Fresh" hot AC format at WWFS (102.7), and Crys Quimby, who came east from CBS' Los Angeles operations to serve as PD at all-news WCBS (880).

And that wasn't all - WXRK chief engineer Richie Herby, WCBS-FM promotions director Theresa Beyer and WFAN promotions director Jocelyn Taub are all out as well.

There were cuts at Emmis, too, even as the company launched the new WRXP: Kesha Monk is out after four years on the midday shift at WRKS (Kiss 98.7).

*We've seen several rumored launch dates come and go (and indeed, the station's website still says "Coming January 2008"), but Mega Media says this morning will be the official launch of top 40
"Pulse 87" on the audio carrier of WNYZ-LP (Channel 6) in New York. The station's new morning show, with Star and Buc Wild, won't launch until next Monday on the station, which can be heard at 87.7, just below the FM dial.

*It's technically a NEW JERSEY station - but New York listeners who still miss the Caribbean format that once filled much of the programming day on WLIB (1190 New York) can head down the dial to WSNR (620 Jersey City), where "One Caribbean Radio" launched late last week, with a staff that includes former WLIB PD Bob "Spiceman" Frederick. For the moment, the "One Caribbean Radio" website shows programming from 10 AM to midnight on Saturdays and Sundays - will that expand if there's demand for the format?

There's a new callsign in New Jersey, too: Youngshine Media's new 88.1 in Hopatcong will take the calls WDNJ when it launches.

*Up in Rochester, the Brother Wease contract drama came to an abrupt end Thursday morning, when Entercom announced (on the air, during Wease's former morning show on WCMF 96.5) that it was unable to come to terms on a new contract for the veteran WCMF morning man.

Despite rumors that Entercom might turn to a syndicated morning show to replace Wease, the company is sticking with the rest of his morning show cast for the moment. As of Friday, the former "Radio Free Wease" has become "The Men's Room," hosted by former Wease producer Bill Moran and sidekicks Tommy Mule and Sally Carpenter. Entercom says it will add additional talent to the show in the weeks to come.

As for Wease, he says legal concerns are forcing him to remain quiet for now (though he did make one brief on-air appearance Thursday, calling in to WHAM midday host Bob Lonsberry to thank him for his support), but he also says he'll be back on the air in Rochester in some form, and that he may be doing some off-air work in the meantime. (And we're hearing that Wease has been seen in the hallways of WHAM owner Clear Channel, as well as over at independently-owned urban outlet WDKX.)

Crawford Broadcasting exited the crowded field of religious radio stations in the Rochester market Saturday night as it signed off "102.7 the Light," WRCI (102.7 Webster), ending 15 years of Christian broadcasting on that frequency, originally WDCZ. The station returns to the air today as WLGZ-FM, "Legends," simulcasting with Crawford's WLGZ (990 Rochester) and adding oldies to the adult standards that have been heard on the AM side.

Crawford shuffles the AM and FM airstaffs to fill out the programming lineup on the new "Legends" simulcast - former WRCI weekender Yvonne will join Legends morning host Scott Taylor for the new 5-10 AM morning shift, followed by Legends afternoon jock Maggie Strickland, who moves to 10-3, with former WRCI afternoon host Mark Shuttleworth handling afternoons on Legends, followed by the current Legends lineup - Joe Peters from 7-midnight and Elisabeth McMahon overnight. (Light morning host Gina Jones, middayer KB Cooper and evening jock Jay Matthews move to weekends on the new Legends 102.7; we had this information incorrect in early editions of this week's column.)

In Ithaca, Saga has been granted a CP to move translator W238AA (95.5) up the dial to 95.9, getting it out of the way of WFLR-FM (95.9 Dundee), which holds a CP to move to 95.5 in Odessa. Saga's application says W238AA relays WQNY (103.7 Ithaca), though we'd long remembered it as a relay of WYXL (97.3 Ithaca) - but it also has a pending application for Special Temporary Authority to relay Saga's WHCU (870 Ithaca) instead. (In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Saga also has an application pending to relay its WFEA 1370 Manchester over W231BR at 94.1, which now relays WMLL 96.5 Bedford.)


Still haven't ordered your 2008 Tower Site Calendar? You do realize that it's, don't you? We're already down to the last 100 or so calendars, and they're going fast. The 2006 and 2007 editions of the calendar sold out, and this one will do so as well, possibly as soon as this month.

This year's edition is a particularly fine one, if we do say so ourselves. From the cover photo of KAST in Astoria, Oregon to the back cover shot of the Blaw-Knox diamond tower at WBNS in Columbus, this year's calendar features 14 all-new full-color shots of famous broadcast sites far and wide. There's KROQ in Los Angeles, KFBK in Sacramento, WESX in Salem, WGAN in Portland, Black Mountain in Vegas, Mount Spokane in Spokane, and many (ok, several) more.

The calendar is just $18 with shipping and handling included - or better yet, beat our move to mandatory subscriptions later this year and get a free calendar with your $60 subscription to NERW for 2008. (Remember, the proceeds from both the calendar and the subscriptions help keep NERW right here on the web, as we head into our fourteenth year of news and analysis.)

So click right here and you can be sure to have your very own Tower Site Calendar 2008! (And thank you!)

The 2008 Tower Site Calendar is dedicated to the memory of Robert Eiselen (1934-2007), whose digital imaging skills made even a bunch of pictures of radio towers look almost like art. His contributions were essential to the calendar's evolution from 2003 to the current edition, and he will be missed dearly.

*There's a new PD at two more MASSACHUSETTS stations - with Cadillac Jack McCartney's move to the PD chair at New York's WWPR (Power 105.1), his former PD role at Boston's "Kiss 108" (WXKS-FM 107.9 Medford) and "Jam'n 94.5" (WJMN 94.5 Boston) will be filled by former Kiss/Jam'n assistant PD/music director Chris Tyler. (Cadillac remains as operations manager at the Clear Channel Boston stations, splitting his time between Boston and New York.)

Kiss morning show producer Jim Clerkin adds MD responsibilities there, as well.

The CBS Radio cuts hit the company's Boston cluster as well. We haven't managed to compile a complete list of the people affected, though it sounds as though most of the cuts were at WBCN (104.1) and WZLX (100.7).

There won't be an FM translator for WESO (970 Southbridge); the FCC turned down its application for special temporary authority to put a new translator on the air at 106.1, relaying the AM signal's programming. (NERW notes that the FCC has been approving such STAs to allow existing FM translators to relay AM signals - but creating new translators when the Commission is still cleaning up the mess from the last window for translator applications back in 2003 would open an ugly can of worms indeed.)

*Pamal shuffled its lineup in central VERMONT on Friday, pulling the plug on AAA WEBK (105.3 Killington) after 16 years and replacing it with the "Cat Country" format that's been running on lower-powered WJEN (94.5 Rutland).

Pamal had kept the AAA format running (most recently as "The Peak") ever since buying WEBK from original owner Dan Ewald seven years ago, but "it doesn't have the numbers," said Pamal GM Debbie Grembowicz in a Rutland Herald interview.

After several weeks of simulcasting, the 94.5 signal will relaunch under new calls WDVT and an as-yet-undisclosed format. WEBK jocks "Uncle Dave" Tibbs and James Emmons will stay with Pamal after the transition.

Meanwhile in Bennington, Southern Vermont College is considering selling WBTN (1370), ending more than five years of college operation of the little AM station. Robert Howe donated WBTN to the college in 2002 in hopes that the station would be the cornerstone of a communications program, and its operations have lost about $450,000 since then. The Bennington Banner reports that the college trustees voted last week to end direct operations of the station no later than September, with options including an outright sale or a lease of the station.

(NERW notes that WBTN is the only real local radio voice for Bennington; former sister station WBTN-FM 94.3 is part of Vermont Public Radio's statewide network, while onetime local outlet WHAZ-FM 97.5 Hoosick Falls NY is now simulcasting religious programming from Albany-market WHAZ 1330 Troy.)

*Western PENNSYLVANIA's last live overnight talk show is history. As part of an overhaul of evening and overnight programming at CBS Radio's KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh), Gary Dickson's "After Midnight" is off the schedule, with former WTZN (93.7, now WBZW) hosts Scott Paulsen and John Steigerwald joining the KD roster next Monday (Feb. 18).

Here's how it all shakes out: Paulsen (best known for his long run on WDVE) and Steigerwald (best known as a TV sportscaster) get a trial run, through the end of March, for a 7-10 PM talk show that replaces Neal Boortz's syndicated offering. Bill O'Reilly remains in place from 10-midnight, followed in Dickson's former slot by Dennis Miller, from midnight-3 AM, and the "Midnight Radio Network" (formerly "Midnight Trucker") from 3-5 AM.

Pittsburgh's WJAS (1320) has a new afternoon personality, but he's not local. Syndicated host John Tesh, heard in most markets in the evening, including on WJAS' sister station WSHH (99.7) - but he also has an afternoon version of his show, which will be heard from 3-8 PM on the AM side. That means WJAS PD and afternoon drive jock Mike McGann is out after just over five years with Renda. (As our friends over at tell us, McGann has a long Pittsburgh career that included stops at WTAE/WXKX and WIXZ as well as management duties in the Harrisburg market at WRKZ.

We don't normally spend a lot of time on birthdays here at NERW - but we can't let one important date pass without comment: last Monday was the 90th birthday of a Pittsburgh radio institution. Porky Chedwick is still going strong, more than half a century after his radio career began, and our hat's off to him! (And to Jason Togyer over at for noting the big day...)

The CBS Radio bloodbath didn't spare the clusters in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and here's an incomplete list of the cuts: in Pittsburgh, Jim Meltzer is out as market VP/GM, while in Philly, WYSP production director Rich DeSisto is out after a decade. Also out at WYSP is VP/sales Peter Kleiner and Eagles pre-/post-game host John Russell.

In the State College market, Steve Williams is the new operations manager at WZWW (95.3 Bellefonte), moving north from First Media Radio's other "3WZ," WWZW (96.7 Lexington Park VA).

And "Joe FM" (WJOW 105.9 Philipsburg) has added a second frequency: the country station is now simulcasting on sister signal WZYY (106.9 Renovo), replacing rocker "106.9 the Surge" and bringing the sounds of "Joe" to the Lock Haven area.

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*In CANADA, the CRTC has denied an application from Bayshore Broadcasting for a high-power (5.4 kW) FM transmitter in Owen Sound to relay its AM signal there, CFOS (560). The CRTC says the proposed FM signal on 96.1 would extend beyond the 15 mV/m contour of the AM signal, in violation of its current policy that allows some signal-challenged AMs to operate lower-powered "nested" FM relays. It also says it would effectively give Bayshore three full-market FM signals in Owen Sound, in violation of current policy that allows only two FMs to an owner.

To the north, Manitoulin Island's CFRM (100.7 Little Current) has modified its request for a 50-watt relay transmitter in Sudbury: it's now asking to operate on 107.1 there, instead of on 100.7.

And the CRTC has granted a frequency change in northwestern New Brunswick: CIKX-FM-1 (91.7 Plaster Rock) moves to 88.3, allowing Radio-Canada to move CBAF-FM-21 Bon Accord from 107.5 to 91.7.

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 12, 2007 -

  • If you ever had any doubt that radio's a fickle business - and that RHODE ISLAND is a particularly insular place - just ask Dave Barber. A year ago, the talk host left the Flint, Michigan market after more than a quarter of a century there, bound for Providence to take over Steve Kass' former 9-11:45 AM shift on WPRO (630). As of Wednesday, Barber's out of that shift, and out of WPRO, as the station brings John DePetro back to Providence to take over mid-mornings. DePetro made his name in Rhode Island across town at WHJJ (920 Providence), before leaving in 2004 to do mid-mornings at Boston's WRKO. That gig, of course, ended disastrously last fall when the station fired DePetro after a series of anti-gay slurs (not to mention weak ratings), and now DePetro's returning to a less hostile market, where he'll presumably be a little more careful with his choice of language.
  • Over at DePetro's former station in MASSACHUSETTS, there's change in the air, too. Scott Allen Miller did his last morning show at WRKO (680 Boston) on Friday, and he's now looking for a new gig, even soliciting career advice from his audience. Replacing him as of this morning, of course, is former state House speaker Tom Finneran. With only some fill-in talk gigs in his past, does the radio novice have what it takes to hold an audience day in and day out in one of the toughest talk markets in the country? (2008 update: No.)
  • News from pirate land: Gary Toussaint of Mattapan never followed up with the information he promised the FCC after being hit with a $10,000 Notice of Apparent Liability for illegal operation of "Choice FM" on 102.9 in Boston - and now that NAL has turned into a forfeiture order. "Choice FM" remains on the air, at last check, though its website offers the station for sale (complete with "entertainment license," whatever that is.)
  • Meanwhile, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau didn't waste much time catching up with another high-profile pirate. It seems agents visited "Touch 106.1" back on January 11, more than a week before the Globe article that put the station in the spotlight, and ordered it off the air within ten days. It, too, was still on the air at last check.
  • There's some high-profile revolving-door action this week in NEW YORK, too, including big changes at both of the hip-hop stations in Market #1. At Emmis' WQHT (97.1), there's a smooth changing of the guard in the PD chair, as John Dimick departs after three years to become VP/programming and operations for Lincoln Financial Media down in North Carolina. Replacing Dimick is his second-in-command, as Ibrahim "Ebro" Darden moves up from APD/MD to PD at "Hot 97."
  • Uptown at Clear Channel's "Power 105.1" (WWPR), Ed Lover moves from afternoons to morning drive, filling out a cast that already includes Egypt, Donnel Rawlings and Ashy.
  • There's yet another new station coming on the air in CANADA's largest market, as Evanov begins testing its new 50-watt signal on 103.9. The new station will be called "Proud FM," and while it's boasting of being North America's first gay radio station, that's not quite true - there was a pair of AMs in Seattle a few years back, among others. Mary Jo Eustace and Ken Kostick will be the new station's morning hosts, with former CKFM producer "Bingo Bob" on board as their producer.

February 10, 2003 -

  • For the first time in nearly half a century, the top of Mount Washington, NEW HAMPSHIRE is silent as NERW goes to press late Sunday night. A fire Sunday afternoon destroyed the former WMTW-TV (Channel 8) transmitter building atop the Northeast's highest peak, more than 6200 feet above sea level. While channel 8 left Mount Washington almost exactly a year ago (NERW, 2/4/2002) for a new tall tower in Baldwin, Maine, its transmitter building remained behind on the mountaintop, home to generators supplying power to the entire mountaintop. The building also continued to house the transmitter of WHOM (94.9 Mount Washington).
  • The fire broke out around 4 PM, cutting off power to the Mount Washington Observatory nearby. Four observatory staffers were in the Sherman Adams Building that sits a few dozen yards from the WMTW building; they were evacuated Sunday night amidst concern that worsening weather over the next few days could leave them stranded for several days without heat or power. Sources tell NERW that by the time a snow tractor reached the summit Sunday evening, the WMTW building was "burnt to a crisp," with only the entranceway still remaining. No damage was reported to the nearby Yankee Building (home to the transmitter and antenna of WPKQ 103.7 North Conway NH), or to the Sherman Adams Building. It's not clear at press time whether the WHOM antenna suffered any damage.
  • The WMTW building was built in 1954 for the start of TV service on the mountain, which had already become an important broadcast facility thanks to Edwin Armstrong's FM experiments there in conjunction with the Yankee Network, which lasted from 1938 until 1948. WHOM's presence on the mountain dates to 1958, when 94.9 signed on as WMTW-FM. Its two transmitters sat near the door that connected the TV/FM transmitter room in the WMTW building to the living quarters there. Until last summer, when WMTW-TV removed the last of its equipment, channel 8 staffers were stationed on the mountain all year long, working rotating shifts and living at the transmitter building for weeks at a time. (NERW wonders whether an on-site engineer would have caught the fire before it could have done any damage; we may never know.)
  • With its transmitters destroyed, it will likely be late into spring or early summer before WHOM can resume its broadcasts from the mountain, which reached listeners about a hundred miles radius -- south to Boston, north well into Quebec, east to central Maine and west to Lake Champlain and beyond. In the meantime, Citadel, which owns WHOM and WPKQ, has moved WHOM's soft AC format to WCYI (93.9 Lewiston), breaking the modern rock "CYY" simulcast with WCYY (94.3 Biddeford) for the duration. We're told WHOM will apply for special temporary authority to use the licensed auxiliary facility of Citadel's WBLM (102.9 Portland), running 100 kilowatts at 150 meters from a site in New Gloucester, Maine.
  • As for WPKQ, its transmitter and antenna are intact at the mountaintop but lack any source of power. The observatory, which took over responsibility for power generation on the mountain when WMTW left, plans to attempt to get a generator to the top of the mountain on Monday, so WPKQ's broadcasts could be restored this week, if weather permits -- a big "if" on a peak known for having some of the worst weather in the country. (At the time the fire started, Mount Washington was reporting temperatures of 1 degree Fahrenheit, 54 MPH winds, blowing snow and freezing fog -- and that's a good weather day up there!)
  • Al Makkay has sold his three FM stations on MASSACHUSETTS' Cape Cod. CHR WRZE (96.3 Nantucket), oldies WCIB (101.9 Falmouth) and rock WPXC (102.9 Hyannis) make up one of the biggest clusters on the Cape, and their new owner knows more than a little about clusters. Frank Osborn's "Qantum Communications" (no "u" there) is paying $32 million for the three stations (WRZE and WCIB are full Class B facilities; WPXC is an A with a pending application for B1 status). Osborn's name should sound familiar; he ran the Aurora Communications cluster in Connecticut and downstate New York (now part of Cumulus), and before that ran his own Osborn Communications group, subsequently sold to Pilot and now part of Citadel.
  • The big news from CANADA was Friday's noontime launch of Ottawa's newest radio station, Newcap's CIHT (89.9). The station shed its tentative nickname of "the Planet" during its pre-launch stunting, debuting instead as "Hot 89.9" with a format that leans much more strongly towards urban CHR than the dance-heavy programming promised in CRTC hearings. Does CHUM's CHR entry in the market, "Kool" CKKL (93.9), have anything to worry about? We'll see when the next round of BBM ratings comes out....

February 12, 1998-

  • Radio Disney is coming to the Nutmeg State. Hibernia Broadcasting, the Craven/Thompson owned group that runs Mouse affiliates WPZE (1260 Boston) and WHIM (1450 West Warwick RI) is buying WRDM (1550 Bloomfield) from Ital-Net Broadcasting, which has been running Spanish programming on the 5000/2400 watt DA-2 Hartford-market AM. No word yet on what happens to WRDM's affiliated LPTVs, WRDM-LP 13 Hartford and WDMR-LP 65 Springfield MA.
  • Elsewhere in CONNECTICUT, it's the sounds of silence for WNLC (1510 New London). The standards station is temporarily dark while engineers try to find a permanent fix for problems stemming from a fire in one of the doghouses of the (eight-tower) AM array last year. The standards roll on for now on co-owned WNLC-FM (98.7) East Lyme.
  • In NEW YORK, it's been a big week here in NERW's hometown. First, the University of Rochester's WRUR-FM (88.5) celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a fifty-hour broadcast that started Saturday night and wrapped up Monday. NERW notes that the FM actually goes back only to 1966 -- but 1948 was the start date for the carrier-current AM on 640.
  • Jacor finally made a move early Thursday morning with long-neglected AC WVOR (100.5). Despite the heritage calls and the killer signal, WVOR has been sagging in the ratings, dropping into a tie for ninth place in the Fall book. Now WVOR's changed positioners, becoming "Mix 100.5," with liners promoting "the best music of the 80s, 90, and 70s" -- in THAT order. Music thus far has ranged from "China Grove" by the Doobie Brothers to "No Rain" by Blind Melon. (We kid you not...we just heard that very segue.)

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