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September 22, 2008

Lobel's Radio Days

*When former WBZ-TV sportscaster Bob Lobel and WODS (103.3 Boston) afternoon jock Karen Blake teamed up for a brief stint as guest hosts of WODS' morning show a few months ago, it's a good bet that nobody listening (and perhaps not even Lobel and Blake themselves) expected the pairing to become permanent.

"Permanent" may still be a bit of a stretch - but starting today, Lobel and Blake will take over from Dale Dorman (now relegated to Saturday duty, beginning next weekend) as the new morning team on "Oldies 103."

What's going on over at 83 Leo Birmingham Parkway? The message boards and mailing lists were alight with speculation over the weekend, up to and including the idea (improbable, we'd think) that Lobel, along with the Patriots and Bruins rights that CBS holds on its other Boston stations, could be the building blocks of a new all-sports station on 103.3.

CBS itself isn't saying much beyond the suggestion that the presence of Lobel, who's been on the beach since being bought out of his WBZ-TV contract last year, may be only in a "guest host" role - which, of course, only fuels speculation about what PD Jay Beau Jones might have in mind over the long term.

Playing into that speculation are a few more moves: J.J. Wright appears to be Blake's replacement in afternoons, and former evening jock Patrick Callahan just returned to the station last week, after budget cuts claimed his job back in February. (He'd been over at Greater Media's WROR in the meantime.) Oh, and out in Worcester, morning co-host Chris Zito disappeared from Citadel's WXLO (104.5 Fitchburg) late last week - and did we mention that Jay Beau Jones used to program WXLO before moving to WODS?

*In other news from eastern MASSACHUSETTS, budget cuts hit hard at Metro Networks' Boston office early last week, claiming the jobs of about half a dozen staffers, including Joe Stapleton, who'd been with Metro for 23 years. Mauzy Stafford, who'd been heard in mornings on WODS, Chris Fama and news director Bob MacNeil lost their jobs as well.

Some good news? Sure - Entercom's WEEI took home "Sports Station of the Year" in the NAB's Marconi Radio Awards, handed out at last week's NAB Radio Show down in Austin, Texas. Across the hall at the Radio and Records convention, CBS Radio's WBMX won "best hot AC station," while music director Mike Mullaney won the "music director of the year" honors. Congratulations, all around...

*A venerable VERMONT station brand is back on the air in the Burlington market, as Vox's WXZO (96.7 Willsboro NY) flipped last Wednesday (Sep. 17) at 9 AM from talker "the Zone" to oldies as "True Oldies 96.7 DOT-FM."

Credit Vox honcho Ken Barlow for this one - the original WDOT (then on 1400, now WCAT 1390) was one of his first stops in the business as a young DJ, and the new DOT-FM brings together several WDOT alumni: after Don Imus (who stays on from the old format), it's Dave Hunter from 9 AM-noon, Barlow from noon-4 PM, Big John Hill from 4-7 PM, and then ABC's True Oldies (last heard in the market on Vox's WVTK 92.1) with Scott Shannon at night. Another WDOT veteran, R.J. Potter, is doing weekends.

The "Zone" talk format stays in place on the AM side of the former simulcast, WEAV (960 Plattsburgh NY) and WTSJ (1320 Randolph), and the WXZO calls will stay in place on 96.7. That's because the WDOT calls are in use elsewhere in Vermont - on 95.7 in Danville, part of the "Point" AAA simulcast owned by one of Vox's competitors, Steven Silberberg, who also owns DOT-FM's oldies competition in the Burlington market, WXAL (93.7 Addison), as well as WCAT, the former WDOT itself.

And a correction - WJPK (100.3 Barton) is indeed on the air playing country, but it's actually "Hot New Country," as "Kix 100.3," simulcasting sister station WKXH (105.5 St. Johnsbury).


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*Another MAINE TV station has turned off its analog signal. WPME (Channel 35) pulled the plug on its analog transmitter on Wednesday (Sept. 17), running a slate directing viewers to WPME-DT.

The callsigns are spinning at Atlantic Coast Broadcasting's Portland-market stations as they settle in with their new formats: the former WLOB-FM (96.3 Gray) is now WJJB-FM, reflecting its mve from the WLOB talk format (still heard on WLOB 1310 Portland) to the "Big Jab" sports network. The former WJJB-FM (95.5 Topsham) took the calls WUEI on Sept. 5, then flipped again to WGEI on Sept. 12. It's now part of the WEEI sports network, and it's being simulcast on 95.9 in Saco, which inexplicably changed calls from WRED(FM) to WRED-FM on Sept. 9, and which has not yet legally changed to the WPEI calls it apparently intends to use.

And Nassau is putting the word out about its big format shuffle, set to happen October 2: classical "W-Bach" will move from WBQQ (99.3 Kennebunk) and WBQW (106.3 Scarborough) to what's now "Bone" rocker WHXQ (104.7 Kennebunkport); "Bone" will move to the 106.3 Scarborough facility (still simulcasting with WHXR 106.7 North Windham), while 99.3 will become a simulcast of Nassau's "Wolf" country WTHT (99.9 Auburn).

*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Gary James has departed WNTK (99.7 New London)/WUVR (1490 Lebanon) after a brief stint as host of the "Wake Up New Hampshire" morning show. James, who'd been running WMEX (106.5 Farmington) before that station was sold, will be focusing on his DJ/entertainment business (on the web at, while former Congressional candidate Grant Bosse and weekend host Bridget Leroy take over as interim co-hosts at WNTK.

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*When the FCC sits down for an open commission meeting on Thursday, one of the topics on the agena is the protest filed by some Ithaca radio listeners to what they see as excessive media consolidation in that small upstate NEW YORK city.

As of this past Thursday (Sept. 18) at 5 PM, Ithaca's dominant radio cluster, the 2 AM/3 FM Saga Communications group, has some new commercial competition - Finger Lakes Radio Group's WFIZ (95.5 Odessa), playing top 40 as "Z-95.5, Ithaca's Hit Music Channel."

As NERW readers know, this is the former WFLR-FM (95.9 Dundee), now relocated to Connecticut Hill, overlooking Ithaca, with studios in the South Hill Business Campus on Danby Road. While WFIZ kicks off its debut with 10,000 songs in a row, sans commercials or jocks, WFLR-FM's country format has completed its move to WFLR (1570 Dundee) and FM translator W245BL (96.9 Dundee), imaging as "Country 96.9 and 1570."

The debut of WFIZ also means a venerable Ithaca translator has to move - W238AA (95.5), which now relays WHCU (870), slides up the dial to 95.9.

*Veteran Buffalo jock Harv Moore has lost his latest job, as morning co-host at WECK (1230 Cheektowaga), to budget cuts. Lorraine O'Donnell joins the talk station to co-host mornings with Tom Donohue; meanwhile, at sister station WLVL (1340 Lockport), Doug Young is out as news director.

In Syracuse, Galaxy's "K-Rock" (WKRL 100.9 North Syracuse/WKRH 106.5 Minetto and Utica-market WKLL 94.9 Frankfort) has found a replacement for departing PD Ty. While she heads down to the Baltimore market and WCHH (Channel 104.3), "Nixon" is heading in the other direction, moving from assistant PD/music director/afternoons at WQXA-FM (105.7 York PA) to the PD chair at K-Rock. (Useless trivia - reverse QXA's call letters and you have K-Rock's main Syracuse competition, WAQX...)

Galaxy is selling an Oswego translator: W291BU (106.1) has been relaying "TK105.5" WTKV (105.5 Oswego), but now it's being sold to M&D Translator for $5,000.

In Albany, Sherman Baldwin is the new PD at WROW (590), taking the role last filled on a full-time basis by Scott Allen Miller. After Miller's departure in June, morning co-host Jackie Donovan was apparently handling programming duties at the station; now she'll be focusing on the morning show she hosts with Steve Van Zandt; Baldwin will take the afternoon air shift that was home to Sacramento-based Mark Williams until last week. Baldwin comes to WROW from WUPE in the Berkshires, and he's promising to bring a liberal perspective to the station, which has been sparring with upstart competitor WGDJ (1300 Rensselaer) and Clear Channel's established WGY (810 Schenectady) for the talk audience.

As we'd predicted last week, the WZCC calls that temporarily resided on the new 1400 construction permit in Middletown are gone - Bud Williamson has moved those down to 1240 in Cross City, Florida, bringing the WMJQ calls from Cross City back up to the Empire State. (Those calls have heritage in both the Rochester and Buffalo markets, and had been on another unbuilt Williamson CP, for 1330 in Ontario, NY.)

Where are they now? Lloyd Lindsay Young, whose flowery weather forecasts were a staple on New York's Channel 9 (WWOR) in the eighties, was most recently seen at KERO-TV (Channel 23) in Bakersfield, California - but now he's disappeared from KERO's airwaves. Young tells the Bakersfield Californian that he's leaving the city, but hopes to stay in the business. He's still being heard on radio, at least at last check, on San Francisco's KGO (810).

Tony Brunton, who was one of the original reporters on the WCBS (880) team when the station flipped to all-news in 1967, died Sept. 14 at 76. Brunton started out in news at WICC (600 Bridgeport CT) in 1956, and he came to WCBS in 1964. In later years, he served as director of special-event coverage for CBS Radio News.

And while this column has made no secret over the years of our baseball leanings (Go Sox!), we can't let the week go by without a farewell to the spot where so much Red Sox history happened. The last game at Yankee Stadium Sunday night gave broadcasters a chance to shine - not only the WCBS (880) team of Suzyn Waldman and John Sterling, who got the chance for one last "Thuuuuuuuuh Yankees Win!" call from the old stadium, but also the YES Network's Michael Kay. Even though the game coverage was on ESPN, that network graciously invited Kay to call the seventh inning from its booth, a classy note on a very classy night for a team that may not be heading to the postseason, but is certainly honoring its history with grace and style. (Now, about those Tampa Bay Rays...)

*Central PENNSYLVANIA's public broadcaster is expanding. Harrisburg-based WITF (89.5) hopes to fill a void in the Chambersburg area, where the only strong public radio signal is WGMS (89.1 Hagerstown MD), which relays all-classical WETA (90.9 Washington DC). To bring NPR news and talk into the region, WITF is paying Bob Stevens' Broadcast Communications Inc. $875,000 for the license of what's now WROG (102.9 Cumberland MD).

WROG signed off from Cumberland a month ago to make room for a signal upgrade at Stevens' WANB-FM (103.1 Waynesburg), and Stevens now holds a construction permit to move the WROG license to Chambersburg, downgrading it to a class A signal which WITF will use as a news-talk station.

The move will displace W227BZ, a translator for low-power WRZO-LP (102.9) in Chambersburg - but the LPFM station says that's not a problem, because the translator was there primarily to alleviate interference to WRZO from WROG, and with WROG gone from 102.9, that's no longer an issue.

We're sure WITF will find a welcoming audience in Chambersburg for its programming - but not, apparently, among the online readers of the local paper, the Public Opinion, who were weighing in with some nasty comments on the paper's message board last week. (And you wonder why we don't have a message board here at NERW?)

Over in York, Citadel made some cutbacks at WSBA (910): morning co-host Dennis Edwards and news director Cathy Clark are both gone, Edwards after 10 years and Clark after more than 20.

*In NEW JERSEY, last Monday (Sept. 15) brought Catholic programming to WBUD (1260 Trenton) - and new calls, as well: it's now WFJS, honoring the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (who was, we'd note parochially, bishop of the Rochester diocese as well as the first prominent Catholic TV priest.)

Millennium kept the WBUD calls in house, however - they've migrated up the dial and over to the shore, replacing WADB on 1310 in Asbury Park, which continues as a Fox Sports outlet.

Down in Cape May County, WSJQ (106.7 North Cape May) changed calls to WKOE in August - and now it's changed format as well, flipping on Friday to country as "Coast Country 106.7." The syndicated "John Boy & Billy" show now occupies morning drive there.

*Radio People on the Move in southern New England: Chris Eagan moves from WPRO-FM (92.3) in Providence, RHODE ISLAND to WEZN-FM (Star 99.9) in Bridgeport, CONNECTICUT, becoming assistant PD and afternoon drive jock and replacing former New York talent Steven E. Roy on that airshift.

*Another quiet week in CANADA, though we can report calls for the new blues station that will soon appear at 101.9 on the Ottawa dial: "Dawg FM" will be CIDG when it signs on next year.

Out in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia (50 km west of Truro, on the north shore of the Bay of Fundy), the CRTC has approved a new 50-watt community radio station. The Parrsboro Radio Society will operate the station at 99.1, programming a pop/country/folk format.

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!)

September 24, 2007 -

  • A MASSACHUSETTS judge barred WRKO (680 Boston) Howie Carr from jumping ship to rival talker WTKK (96.9 Boston) last week, but the decision didn't make the host's future much clearer. Suffolk Superior Court Judge Allan van Gessel ruled Wednesday, just hours before Carr was to have started his WTKK morning shift, that while WRKO owner Entercom couldn't enforce the non-compete clause in Carr's contract, it could enforce a clause that allowed WRKO to match any competing offer for Carr's services.
  • What does "match" mean? There's the seven-million-dollar question as the legal battle keeps plodding along: would merely matching WTKK's paycheck be enough to force Carr to stay with WRKO, or are there other factors at play, too, such as the Red Sox preemptions that have annoyed Carr all summer, not to mention WTKK's FM signal and the conspicuous absence of Carr's nemesis Tom Finneran over at the Greater Media talker. In any case, WRKO succeeded in barring Carr from his scheduled Thursday morning debut on WTKK, but for now that's the extent of the victory. Carr was already off the air at WRKO last week while the lawsuit was being heard, and he's not rushing back to the WRKO studios now, either, which leaves substitute hosts filling the afternoon slot both there and on the remaining affiliates of Carr's syndicated show.
  • Over at WTKK, the picture's only marginally brighter. While the station issued a statement saying "we are disappointed that Howie will not be on WTKK tomorrow, but we are hopeful that he will be a part of the Greater Media family in the very near future," there's every reason to expect Entercom to drag the legal wrangling out as long as possible, which leaves WTKK filling its morning drive slot with substitute hosts as well. That's Michael Graham, for the moment, with weekender Michelle McPhee handling Graham's usual 10-noon slot.
  • A venerable NEW HAMPSHIRE callsign is no more. The WKBR calls survived well over half a century of radio turbulence, moving from 1240 to 1250, going silent for a while in the nineties, and enduring a merry-go-round of owners and formats in recent years. Now "The Game," as the Manchester sports station is known, has dropped its heritage calls, becoming WGAM. Those calls move from Absolute Broadcasting's sister station on 900 in Nashua (itself a survivor of gale-force radio turbulence in recent decades), which becomes WGHM.
  • Our NEW YORK news begins out on eastern Long Island, where the end of business talk on WBZB (98.5 Westhampton) and its call change to WBON was followed by a one-day simulcast with sister station WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays) - and then by Thursday's launch of "La Nueva Fiesta," with a Spanish tropical format under the programming and operations helm of New York/Long Island radio veteran Vic Latino.
  • In Albany, AllAccess reports that Paul Vandenburgh has departed Pamal's WROW (590) as PD and morning man after a decade at the station - and that WROW is now looking for a replacement. Could Vandenburgh be headed back to his old stomping grounds, the former WQBK (1300 Rensselaer, now WTMM) to relaunch it for Regent as a talker after the collapse of its short-lived "Eve" format?
  • Now that Moses Znaimer has sold his TV holdings, he's starting to build a radio empire in CANADA. In addition to CFMX (103.1 Cobourg/96.3 Toronto), the classical music station he recently bought and relaunched under new calls CFMZ, Znaimer announced last week that his MZMedia group is buying CHWO (740 Toronto), the 50,000-watt adult standards station that's widely heard up and down the East Coast. The sale ends more than half a century of Caine family ownership of CHWO, in both its original incarnation as a local Oakville station on 1250 (that facility's now religious CJYE, still held by the Caines) and, since 2000, on the 740 signal that used to be the CBC's flagship, CBL.

September 22, 2003 -

  • It was a bad week for modern rock fans in New England - and nowhere more so than in Hartford, where Clear Channel abruptly pulled the plug on modern rock "Radio 104" WMRQ (104.1 Waterbury) at 4 o'clock last Monday afternoon (Sept. 15), replacing it with urban "Power 104.1," a clone of the successful WWPR (105.1 New York) that launched a year and a half ago down in the big city. The new "Power" is a direct competitor to Infinity's WZMX (93.7 Hartford), which took the market by storm when it began playing hip-hop and R&B in the spring of 2001. WMRQ's old format lives on for now as a Webcast (, albeit without jocks or PD. One of WMRQ's jocks, afternoon host/APD/MD Chaz Kelly, has already landed a new gig - she stays within the company and moves down I-91 to become PD of top 40 WKCI (101.3 Hamden) in the New Haven market.
  • Hurricane Isabel whipped her way across the northeast last week, knocking many stations off the air for at least a few hours - and taking down one PENNSYLVANIA tower. Philadelphia's WHAT (1340) lost its tower Thursday night at the height of the storm. The Inner City Broadcasting urban talker had a long history with this tower, located on Conshohocken Avenue not far from the big Bala Cynwyd studio cluster.
  • An upstate NEW YORK talk show host is off the air this week after making allegedly racist comments about a candidate for Monroe County executive. Rochester mayor (and Democratic candidate) Bill Johnson is black - and it's not hard to figure out why people took offense to comments WHAM (1180) midday host Bob Lonsberry reportedly made last week about an "orangutan" in the race. (Playing monkey sound effects didn't help, either.)
  • The controversy hit the Democrat and Chronicle (one of several media outlets in town that's a former Lonsberry employer) on Saturday, and today Lonsberry was off the air, with a substitute host at the mike. At the end of the show, WHAM played a taped message from a tired-sounding Lonsberry, in which he offered a lukewarm apology and suggested that "racism is in the eye of the beholder, not in the heart of the speaker." (We'll grant Lonsberry this much - in his statement, he pointed out that when he intends to offend someone, he does so without apology. True.) WHAM's not saying yet whether or when Lonsberry will be back on the air.
  • Another station sale in the region: George Kimble's Radio Group is expanding to the southern Finger Lakes, buying WFLR (1570) and WFLR-FM (95.9) in Dundee from Lakes Country Communications. We'd be stunned if the AM, a 5000-watt daytimer, doesn't join the Radio Group's "Finger Lakes News Network" (WGVA 1240 Geneva, WSFW 1110 Seneca Falls, WAUB 1590 Auburn, WCGR 1550 Canandaigua); we'll keep an ear on the FM as well, which is now running satellite AC as "Mix 96" and will join the Radio Group's AC WNYR (98.5 Waterloo) and rock WLLW (99.3 Seneca Falls.) No purchase price has been announced on this one yet.

September 25, 1998 -

  • Two of Boston's AM stations are changing hands -- one as part of a long-anticipated deal, the other out of the blue.
  • The expected sale is that of CBS' WNFT (1150), which was one of the American Radio Systems stations CBS was required to sell in order to satisfy government regulations. The others (WRKO, WEEI, WEGQ, and WBMX) are going to Entercom, and now WNFT is going to Mega Broadcasting for a reported $5 million. Mega's only current assets in New England are WNEZ (910 New Britain) and WLAT (1230 Manchester) in the Hartford market, and while WLAT fits with Mega's group profile as a Spanish broadcaster, WNEZ runs an urban format, which leads NERW to wonder whether WNFT will stick with its current ABC/SMN "Touch" R&B oldies format, or whether its future is as a Spanish outlet. In any event, it's nice to see 1150 being put in the hands of an owner who'll likely pay some attention to it. Over the last decade, it's been WHUE, WMEX, WROR, and WNFT, with formats that included business news, oldies, leased-time Spanish, Kidstar children's programming, simulcasts of several FMs, and a few days as a testbed for digital AM.
  • Now for the surprise: "Mr. D" is selling WNTN (1550 Newton). Orestes Demetriades' Newton Broadcasting Corporation was one of the last single-station owners in the Boston market, running the 10 kilowatt daytimer with a mix of leased-time programming (largely Spanish and Chinese) and AC music. Late word is that WNTN is being sold to Robert Rudnick's Colt Communications for $602,800.
  • A third station sale in MASSACHUSETTS this week is outside the Boston market. WKPE (1170 Orleans) is being donated by GramCam Communications to UMass Boston, which will likely make it the latest outlet in the folk-music network that includes 91.9s WUMB Boston, WFPB Falmouth, and WBPR Worcester. This is the final nail in the coffin of commercial AM on Cape Cod; the other one, WUOK (1240 W. Yarmouth) was donated to Boston University by Ernie Boch last year and became WBUR(AM). WKPE's rock programming survives on 104.7 FM in Orleans.
  • In NEW YORK, doors are spinning at several Rochester radio stations. At CBS, staffers said farewell on Monday to Harry Jacobs, operations manager of WCMF (96.5)/WRMM (101.3) and PD of WCMF. He's leaving to go to the Burlington, Vermont market, but we're not sure what he'll be doing there yet. No replacement has been named. Across town at the Entercom stations, it's the end of a morning era for country giant WBEE-FM (92.5), as Bill Coffey departs for a sales gig in Reading, PA after a decade on the air in Rochester. And a belated note about WRMM's weekend schedule: Sundays from 10-3 are now the domain of Mike O'Brian, former PD of WBBF (950) towards the end of its top-40 era. Mike's also a veteran of WVOR (100.5) and the "What's On Cable" guy at Time Warner. It's nice to hear him back on the air...

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