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April 7, 2008

CBS Cutbacks Hit Local TV Staffs


*If you still believe there's such a thing as a safe job in broadcasting these days, we'd sure like to know about it. The latest evidence that times are hard - not that we really needed any further evidence - comes from CBS' local television stations, which went through a painful round of staffing cuts last week everywhere from Los Angeles to Boston.

The cuts were especially severe at Boston's WBZ-TV (Channel 4)/WSBK (Channel 38), where initial reports indicated that as many as 30 staffers lost their jobs. We still haven't been able to confirm that number (and the company's not saying), but there's no question there were significant cutbacks on the TV side at Soldiers Field Road.

The most prominent cutbacks involve three veteran on-air personalities: sports director Bob Lobel, arts correspondent Joyce Kulhawik and sportscaster-turned-news anchor Scott Wahle.

Lobel has been with WBZ since 1979, Kulhawik since 1981 and Wahle since 1989, most recently as co-anchor of the 9 PM newscast on WSBK. The station isn't saying how much longer any of the departing air talent will remain, but it sounds as though they'll be gradually eased out as their contracts are bought out, with Steve Burton likely to replace Lobel as sports director.

Behind the scenes, many of the dismissed employees didn't get the same luxury, with some being escorted out the door as soon as the news was announced. The list of job cuts included veteran engineer Fred Boudreau, commercial producer Roger Lyons, writer Casey Sherman and managing editor David Kaplar.

*In other news, Clear Channel has flipped its Worcester translator, W235AV (94.9 Tatnuck) from relaying WJMN (94.5 Boston) to relaying WTAG (580 Worcester). The move gives WTAG some new coverage at night

Boston Radio Watch reports former WZLX (100.7 Boston) morning man Steve Sweeney will be returning to the airwaves next week. The comedian will be heard weekdays from 9-10 AM on WWZN (1510 Boston).

Springfield's new Fox affiliate launched on schedule last Monday morning at 5. "Fox 6 Springfield" operates as a subchannel of WGGB-DT (Channel 55), replacing Hartford's WTIC-TV (Channel 61) on western Massachusetts cable systems, where it's seen on channel 6 on Comcast systems and channel 10 on Charter systems. (WTIC remains available in Comcast areas on a higher digital tier.)

The promised WGGB-produced 10 PM newscast won't debut until the middle of this month, but there is some new-to-the-market programming on Fox 6 - it's also a secondary My Network TV affiliate, carrying My programming from 11:30 PM-1:30 AM weeknights.


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 50 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.

*The CBS cutbacks hit NEW YORK's WCBS-TV (Channel 2) hard as well. Reporters Scott Weinberger and Andrew Kirtzman lost their jobs in front of the cameras, and there were job losses behind the scenes as well.

There's a lineup change to report at WWRL (1600 New York), as the Access.1-owned talker pulls more Air America programming off its schedule. Instead of Air America's Lionel from 9 AM-noon, WWRL now carries two hours of infomercials followed by a local show at 11 with Ron Samuels. At noon, Air America's Thom Hartmann is out, replaced by Ed Schultz, and the Al Sharpton show (on tape delay) replaces Air America's "Clout!" from 8-10 PM. ("Clout!" gets moved to a 4-6 AM taped replay.)

That leaves Randi Rhodes (3-6 PM) and Rachel Maddow (6-8 PM) as the only live Air America clearances on WWRL - except that Rhodes is now under suspension by Air America management after making some intemperate comments about Hillary Clinton during a live appearance for the network's San Francisco affiliate last week.

A former WAXQ (104.3) morning host who made a brief splash in the market a decade ago has died. Darian O'Toole (real name Karen Begin) came to the US from Nova Scotia, working first in Atlantic City and then at WMMR in Philadelphia before heading west to San Francisco, where she spent most of her radio career.

In late 1997, fresh off a format change that ended her run in morning drive at KBGG-FM (98.1) in San Francisco, O'Toole came to Q104 for what proved to be an unsuccessful stint in morning drive that lasted only nine months. O'Toole eventually returned to San Francisco, where she was last heard on "Free FM" KIFR (106.9).

In recent years, O'Toole had been struggling with health problems. She died last Monday (March 31) of complications from a broken leg, at the age of 40.

On the TV side in New York, there's a new news director and a new image for WNBC (Channel 4), which has been lagging in the ratings in recent books. Vickie Burns moves north from NBC O&O WRC (Channel 4) in Washington to take the helm at the former "NBC 4HD," which has now returned to an older brand, "News 4 New York." Burns replaces Dan Forman at 30 Rock.

Over at Fox's WNYW (Channel 5), Dianne Doctor is reportedly inbound as news director, rejoining GM Lew Leone, who was her boss at WCBS-TV a few years back. WNYW news director Scott Matthews left a few months ago to join CNN.

A format change in Syracuse today wasn't much of a secret - broke the story last week that Buckley is shuffling formats on its three-station cluster in the Salt City. The simulcast of WSEN-FM (92.1 Baldwinsville) and WSEN (1050 Baldwinsville) will shift from its present oldies format, heavy on 60s and 70s tunes, to a classic hits format that's focused on the 70s and 80s. Fans of the Beatles and Beach Boys won't be disenfranchised, though - Buckley will flip its other AM, WFBL (1390 Syracuse), from talk to 50s and 60s oldies this morning.

WFBL has failed to catch ratings fire through several incarnations of the talk format. Most recently, it's carried a lineup of shows from Buckley's WOR Radio Network, plus Bob and Sheri (more commonly heard on FM AC stations) in morning drive and TRN's Michael Savage at night. Savage already has a new home in Syracuse - he moves to the 10 PM-1 AM slot on Clear Channel's WSYR (570 Syracuse) last filled by Mike McConnell. (The station has been rerunning Glenn Beck's morning show in that slot as a temporary measure.)

The existing WSEN airstaff stays in place, and WFBL will have local jocks as well. Bob Brown will do a local morning show on 1390, followed by voicetracked shifts from WSEN air talent: John Carucci in middays, with a live noon request hour, Gary Dunes in afternoon drive and Diane Wade at night. (Lots of jingles and reverb, too!)

The Don and Mike Show is a Washington institution, but it never managed to attract much of an affiliate base in NERW-land. One prominent exception is Rochester's WHTK (1280), where the DC duo have had a solid following over the years. Will that loyalty survive the departure of co-host Don Geronimo? Geronimo (real name Mike Sorce) had been talking about leaving the show ever since the death of his wife, Freda, almost three years ago. More recently, he'd set a date in May to leave - but after putting the show in "best-of" mode since mid-March, Geronimo announced last week that he'll return for one final show on Friday before calling it quits for good. Co-host Mike O'Meara and the show's cast of sidekicks will keep it going without Don. (The show was also heard up north on Clear Channel's "Zone" trimulcast in the Burlington-Plattsburgh market, WXZO 96.7 Willsboro/WEAV 960 Plattsburgh/WTSJ 1320 Randolph VT.)

Speaking of WHTK, it and its Clear Channel sister stations will be pretty lonely at the end of the summer. They, along with the Trailways bus terminal, will be the last remaining tenants once the city of Rochester closes Midtown Plaza at the end of July. Clear Channel is still looking for a new home for its cluster once Midtown is demolished next year.

In Hornell, the latest chapter in the long-running saga of WKPQ (105.3 Hornell) and WHHO (1320 Hornell) involves a consent decree that settles FCC allegations of problems with the stations' public files. Owner Bilbat Radio has agreed to pay a total of $20,000 to settle those charges, which clears the way for the stations' licenses to be renewed. In the meantime, as regular NERW readers may recall, Bilbat lost the stations' equipment, buildings and land in a foreclosure last year, leaving them in a state of limbo under which Bilbat has been holding the licenses while Terry Gilles' Gilles Leasing Services owns the equipment. But wait - there's more: Bilbat had a deal in place to sell the Hornell stations to Elmira radio owner Bob Pfuntner's Pembrook Pines group. After much litigation, that agreement was revised last year to give Pfuntner the big WKPQ FM signal, while Bilbat would keep WHHO and acquire Pembrook Pines' WABH (1380 Bath). Now it seems the Pembrook Pines deal is completely dead - the transfer application for WKPQ was dismissed "at transferor's request" a couple of weeks ago.

There's a new night show on Buffalo's WTSS (Star 102.5). The station is one of eight Entercom ACs nationwide to be testing out "Your Time with Kim Iverson," which originates at KAMX in Austin. In Buffalo, Iverson's show replaces John Anthony's local night shift on Star, up against Delilah on Regent's WJYE (96.1).

In Albany, Rob Ryan has resigned as PD/afternoon jock at WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville). He's leaving "Jamz 96.3" to move back to Colorado, where most of his family is located; no replacement has been named yet.

*There's a new radio station in Keene, NEW HAMPSHIRE, as Great Eastern completes its move of the former WVRR (101.7 Newport) down to the Keene area. Now on 101.9, licensed to Westminster VT, it's relaunching as "K-Rock," with new calls WKKN and a lineup that will include the "Greg and the Morning Buzz" show from WGIR-FM in Manchester.

The new WKKN will also pick up selected games of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, who just extended their contract with flagship WGIR through the 2010 season, as well as adding another new affiliate, WTSL (1400 Hanover).

Up in the Lakes Region, WEZS (1350 Laconia) has changed format, dropping smooth jazz after six years due to what the station says was a "declining audience."

As of last Monday, WEZS has flipped to oldies, with a new web presence at

And in Concord, we'd thought that WWHK (102.3 the Hawk) was actually owned by Nassau these days - but it turns out the station is still being LMA'd from Capitol Broadcasting Corp., a remnant of the old Vox group that operated the station back in its WOTX days. It seems Nassau's attempt to purchase WWHK outright was thwarted by the FCC's multiple-ownership rules, which bar the company from controlling the seven FMs it would have had in the Concord Arbitron metro. Nassau appealed the denial, noting that the Concord metro had just been created when the transfer application was filed in 2005. But the FCC ruled last week that there was evidence that Nassau and Arbitron were working together to create the new metro - and that the sale can't go through.

*The New York Yankees are still being heard on the radio in central VERMONT, but they've moved to a weaker signal with the demise of last year's Rutland-area affiliate, WEBK (105.3 Killington). When Pamal moved "Cat Country" WJEN up to 105.3, it placed the Yanks on Cat's former home at 94.5 in Rutland, now "The Drive" WDVT. That class A signal serves Rutland just fine, but doesn't get out beyond the valley as well as the big 105.3 signal did.

On TV, J.J. Cioffi has announced plans to step down as sports anchor at WCAX (Channel 3) this summer. Cioffi will leave the station July 24 to move to Palm Springs, California, where he's hoping to work either in radio or at a golf course.

*The second half of a MAINE callsign shuffle is complete: the former WJAE (1440 Westbrook) is now WJJB - and we bet J.J. Jeffrey would still like to reclaim the heritage WJAB calls that used to be on 1440. (The sports trimulcast of WJJB, WJJB-FM 95.5 Topsham and WWBK 900 Brunswick uses "WJAB" as its imaging identity, but the real WJAB calls are down in Alabama on a noncommercial FM.)

*In RHODE ISLAND (where our Yankee-lovin' pal at, Mike Fitzpatrick, checked in to report his relief that the team is still being heard in town on WPRV 790), the head honcho at the sports station that drove 790 out of the format now has a new title. Joe Harrington has been station manager at WEEI-FM (103.7 Westerly) for the last four years; now he's been promoted to VP/GM at the Entercom outlet.

*Radio People on the Move in CONNECTICUT: Peter Bush has departed the afternoon shift at WEBE (107.9 Westport), to spend more time focusing on his racing career. No replacement has been named yet.

On the TV side of things, Dennis House goes solo on the 11 PM newscast at WFSB-TV (Channel 3), as Denise D'Ascenzo leaves the co-anchor chair there. She remains on the air at 5, 5:30 and 6 PM.

There weren't a lot of clever April Fool's pranks this year, but one of the better ones created a link between NEW JERSEY and California, as anarchic freeform WFMU (91.1 East Orange) and even more anarchic freeform KFJC (89.7 Los Altos Hills) swapped programming all day on Tuesday. Both stations have large and enthusiastic online followings, and those listeners found themselves at KFJC's website and stream when they typed in, with a similar switcheroo for KFJC aficionados at The on-air programming was switched, too, with only a quick WFMU legal ID interrupting the flow of Northern California oddness over 91.1 (and 90.1 in the Catskills.) Listener reaction was, shall we say, a bit mixed - check it out at WFMU's Beware of the Blog.

*In PENNSYLVANIA, we can add two more to the growing list of AM stations using FM translators. Shippensburg Broadcasting is paying Four Rivers Community Broadcasting $10,000 for W230AX (93.9 Middle Spring), which it plans to use to relay WEEO (1480 Shippensburg). And our pals over at report that WANB (1580 Waynesburg) has been granted special temporary authority to rebroadcast its signal on W286AL (105.1 Waynesburg), using that 10-watt FM outlet to put WANB programming on FM 24 hours a day. (Yes, there's also a WANB-FM on 103.1, but it has a CP to move to Mount Pleasant.)

It'll be a little while longer before ESPN Radio shows up on WGLD (1440 Manchester Township). The newly-moved Cumulus station was rushed on the air to meet the start of the Phillies season, and it's been stunting with a loop of great moments in Phillies history (a loop that we suspect probably hasn't needed editing since 1980) when it hasn't been carrying live games. The full ESPN feed is due to arrive sometime next month.

At Philadelphia's WIP (610), Glenn Macnow rejoins his former partner Anthony Gargano on the midday shift, replacing Steve Martorano in that slot.

As for the CBS cutbacks on the TV side, it appears 11 off-air positions were cut at Philadelphia's KYW-TV (Channel 3)/WPSG (Channel 57); there's no word about job cuts at Pittsburgh's KDKA-TV (Channel 2)/WNPA (Channel 19).

In Pittsburgh, Kerri Griffith joins John Cline as co-host of the new morning show on "Q92.9" (still WLTJ, with no sign of new calls in the offing.)

In State College, Rick Kennis ("Rick Houston" on the air, where he does middays) has been promoted to PD of the "Joe FM" combo of WZOW (105.9 Phillipsburg)/WZYY (106.9 Renovo).

And in Erie, Scott Bremmer, a veteran reporter at WSEE-TV (Channel 35), has been promoted to news director at that CBS affiliate.

NERW LIVE IN PERSON! If you're in Southern California, come see NERW editor Scott Fybush deliver the latest version of the "Tower Sites I've Known and Photographed" slideshow, Tuesday, April 8 at the SBE Chapter 47 meeting in Burbank, CA. Details at the SBE Chapter 47 website,

*One of CANADA's biggest AM signals goes silent this morning. CBA (1070 Moncton NB) will shut off its 50,000-watt transmitter at 7 AM Atlantic time (6 AM Eastern), 69 years after the station first took to the airwaves.

It's being replaced by CBAM (106.1 Moncton), at least in the local area, but it leaves behind many CBC Radio fans in the northeastern US who will lose their last on-air link to CBC's programming.

The CHUM Radio division of CTVglobemedia has a new leader. Chris Gordon moves to Toronto from the VP/GM chair at CHUM's Ottawa stations. He replaces Duff Roman, who'd been running the group on an interim basis after former CHUM Radio president Paul Ski moved over to Rogers Communications last fall.

Guess who's back on the air in Toronto? Former CNN Headline News anchor Lynne Russell has been living in Canada for the last few years, and she's joined the staff of CFRB (1010 Toronto), where she's now doing a talk show from 1-3 PM on Saturday.

One more note about Toronto DJ Chris "Punch" Andrews, who died March 30 - in addition to his work at CFRB/Mix 99.9, we're reminded that Andrews was also the driving force behind Canada's only CRTC-licensed high school FM station. Andrews served as PD and technical director of "RAV 90.7," aka CFU758, at Vaughn Secondary School in Thornhill, helping dozens of students to learn all about the radio business.

And plans for two over-the-air HDTV services in Canada have been quashed. The CRTC rejected a proposal from YES TV Inc. for a Toronto-only service aimed at young viewers, as well as a more ambitious plan from HDTV Networks Inc. for a nationwide network that would have included transmitters in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax. The CRTC expressed doubts about the viability of YES' business plans, and it said HDTV's proposal, which called for most programming to be national, doesn't fit with the priorities of Canadian regulators, who require local content on over-the-air stations.

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!)

April 9, 2007 -

  • There's always some risk involved in tweaking a station that's consistently at the top of the ratings, but when that station is at the top of the NEW YORK ratings, any tweak at all becomes a decent-sized gamble. But Clear Channel has some pretty solid reasoning behind its quiet shift last week that moved WLTW (106.7 New York) away from the "Lite" identity that's been the station's cornerstone since its debut in 1984. While the "Lite" branding still appears from time to time on the station, it's now "New York's 106.7," with what looks like a pretty hasty Photoshop job on the station website, now accessible at and in addition to the old and
  • So what's wih the new identity? One factor, of course, is the new competition from CBS' "Fresh FM" WWFS (102.7 New York), which is missing no opportunity to associate "Lite" with the sleepy soft AC music that 106.7 spent so many years playing. WLTW's gradual move away from that music toward a hotter adult contemporary sound (verging, at times, on almost a pop-CHR sound) is another factor in the change.
  • And then there's the people-meter factor: WLTW understands, as so many PDs will learn soon enough, that as Arbitron shifts over to its new automated ratings system, a lot of the old realities of the diary system will no longer apply. Already, the word is that most of the station's entries in Arbitron diaries were simply "106.7," without calls or slogan, and once the Portable People Meter kicks in in New York, all that will matter will be getting radios to land on that frequency, no matter what the slogan. (Clear Channel's Hudson Valley "Lite" stations, WRNQ 92.1 Poughkeepsie and WCTW 98.5 Catskill, retain the branding for now.)
  • It's really in CANADA, of course, but CKEY-FM (101.1 Fort Erie ON) continues to target the Buffalo market, just over the Niagara River, and now it's doing so with a new nickname. "Wild 101" was replaced by "Z101" last week, with a more mainstream top-40 format and a reworked airstaff. Ellen Z is out in afternoons, with Keith Kelly handling that shift for now, and PD Dave Universal created a minor message-board stir when he installed "Taylor Kaye" (Jenny Wade, late of WKSE in Buffalo) in late nights. There's a Taylor Kaye across the lake at Toronto's CHUM-FM, too, and at last check, the new Z101 website didn't show any name at all in the 10 PM airshift. (Interesting, too, given the CRTC's previous interest in CKEY's Canadian bona fides, that the new Z101 site, unlike the old "Wild" site, shows only a Buffalo request-line number, and no Canadian studio phone.)
  • Out in Nova Scotia, the CRTC has granted CFDR (780 Dartmouth) a move to FM. Newcap will shed its 50% interest in CKUL (96.5) in order to make the FM move, which will also come with a format change. CFDR is now country as "780 KIXX," but it will go to alternative rock when it moves to 88.9 with 21 kW, leaving only CHUM Ltd.'s CJCH (920) on the AM dial in metro Halifax.
  • Most of our RHODE ISLAND news this week, oddly enough, comes from Greenville, the small town just west of I-295 outside Providence. That's where Alex Langer's now been granted a construction permit for a new signal on 1140. If built, the station will use 27 kW days, 1.2 kW nights from a new six-tower array to be built near Harmony, just west of Greenville on US 44. (Langer also owns WRPT 650 and WBIX 1060 in the Boston market.) Greenville is also the city of license of WALE (990), which was once again silent last week. No word on when this troubled station might be back on the air.

April 7, 2003 -

  • (No issue while we were at NAB!)

April 9, 1998-

  • The fallout continues from the April Fools stunt in which WAAF (107.3 Worcester-Boston) afternoon jocks Opie and Anthony announced the "death" of Boston mayor Tom Menino.
  • If the station's goal was to get publicity, WAAF succeeded -- there have been articles in the Boston papers almost every day since the stunt -- but at a price. The mayor was not amused by WAAF's offer to put the jocks in a gallows on City Hall Plaza so Menino could throw pies at them. Instead, an angry mayor reportedly faxed a letter to the FCC on city letterhead, asking the commission to investigate the incident. The letter comes at a very bad time for WAAF owner American Radio Systems, which just last week received Justice Department approval to sell its stations to CBS (although WAAF is one of several stations that must then be spun off). It's now up to the FCC to approve the sale, and an angry mayor can't help matters much. This week, ARS fired Opie and Anthony, suspended WAAF general manager Bruce Mittman for a month, and placed program director Dave Douglas on a one-month suspension. No permanent replacement has been named for the PM drive slot.
  • Elsewhere in MASSACHUSETTS, commercial digital TV came one step closer this week, as WHDH-TV (Channel 7) applied for a license for WHDH-DT on Channel 42. Channel 7's longstanding refusal to lease space on its Newton tower is finally paying off; it's one of the few major-market TV stations that won't have to make expensive modifications to its tower, evict other tower occupants, or build a new tower to accomodate the weight of a DTV antenna.
  • Could one of the oldest construction permits in the northeast finally be coming to the air? NERW notes that WEIB (106.3) in Northampton has applied for a license to cover...and we hope to hear soon from our Western Massachusetts readers about the status of 106.3. That frequency's been in FCC limbo for literally decades.
  • In CONNECTICUT, there are new calls for the dark 1510 in New London. The longtime WNLC will become WWJY when it returns to the air; the WNLC calls and standards format live on over on the FM dial at 98.7 in East Lyme.(2008 update - It never returned on AM.)

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