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September 29, 2008

Scranton's Ron Allen Dies

*One of the legendary voices of northeastern PENNSYLVANIA radio has died. Ron Allen joined Scranton's dominant top-40 station, WARM (590), back in 1958 as a member of the "Sensational 7" team of DJs, spending more than a decade doing afternoons and the Saturday countdown.

But Allen long outlasted the top-40 heyday of WARM. He transitioned into WARM's sports director in the late sixties, starting the "Ron Allen Sportsline" show that continued into the early nineties, with a short hiatus in the 70s when he took a PR job at Pocono Downs.

Allen made WARM the voice of high school sports in the region, and he was a major booster of the Red Barons minor-league baseball team when it came to town in 1989.

Allen had been off the air since suffering a stroke in 2000, ending his broadcast career, but he remained in close contact with many of his former colleagues. After his death last Tuesday, some of them traveled from around the country for a Friday wake. Allen's former colleague Dave Yonki, now proprietor of the "590 Forever" tribute site, reports that attendees included John Hancock, who was PD at WARM in the mid-eighties and now hosts a nighttime talk show on WBT in Charlotte, N.C.

Ron Allen was 71.


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*In other Keystone State news, the Scranton morning team of Jay Daniels and John Webster will mark their 5,000th show on WEZX (106.9) on Friday. The Scranton Times-Tribune (which shares ownership and a building with the station) reports that as far as it can tell, that makes the pair the longest-running duo still on the air at the same station where they began. That was back in 1985, and here at NERW we can think of at least one pair that might have Daniels and Webster beat - Indianapolis' Bob and Tom started on WFBQ (94.7) back in 1983, and they're still there, albeit with national syndication added to their portfolio now. (Any other nominees?)

There's some closure to report in the case of Bruce Bond, whose fall from grace was pretty swift after his days in Harrisburg radio (largely at WNNK, with a later comeback at WRKZ) came to an end a few years ago. We last saw Bond in May, when he was arrested in New York City on charges of using stolen bank account information as part of a scheme to forge checks. Last week, Bond pleaded guilty to the charges; he'll be sentenced (to up to seven years) next month.

In Philadelphia, WOGL (98.1) has named a permanent replacement for the late Ron O'Brien in afternoon drive: Cadillac Jack Seville, whose Philly radio career stretches back to the old WEGX (Eagle 106), had been doing the shift on an interim basis and now gets to remove "interim" from his title.

Pittsburgh's controversial sports talker, Mark Madden, is returning to the airwaves, possibly as early as next Monday. Madden was pulled from the airwaves at WEAE (1250) after some uncomplimentary comments about Ted Kennedy, and now ESPN has released him from his contract (which reportedly had another year left on it) so he can go across town to Clear Channel's WXDX (105.9 the X). He'll take over afternoon drive at the station, which is nominally a modern rocker but has always had a strong talk component, going back to its days as Howard Stern's Steel City outlet. (And as our friends over at point out, the last hour of Madden's 3-7 PM shift will find three sports talk shows emanating from Clear Channel's studios in the "Giant Flash Cube" in Green Tree - Madden on WXDX, Joe Bendel on WBGG 970, and Ellis Cannon on WPGB 104.7.)

In Erie, WQLN-TV (Channel 54) has disappeared from the analog TV dial. The station's main antenna failed back on September 15, taking the station off the air completely, and a temporary antenna that was installed last week couldn't handle both the analog and digital (channel 50) signals. With the end of analog TV fast approaching, and with cable systems on the Canadian side of the border already equipped to receive WQLN-DT for their customers, the public broadcaster decided to restore the digital signal at full power from the auxiliary antenna, leaving the analog off the air until the main antenna can be replaced. That could happen as late as December, giving WQLN's analog signal just a few more months of life before the plug is pulled for good next February.

And back in Scranton, Lou Kirchen is moving from the GM's chair at WNEP (Channel 16) to sister station WBRC (Channel 6) in Birmingham, Alabama. Her post at WNEP will be filled, on an interim basis, by general sales manager Chuck Morgan.

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*A NEW HAMPSHIRE low-power FM station is getting a new full-power lease on life. The FCC has granted Highland Community Broadcasting, owner of classical WCNH-LP (94.7 Concord), a construction permit for a full-power signal on 91.5 in suburban Bow. Running 100 watts/439' from Wood Hill, south of Concord, the signal should be an improvement over WCNH's present 34-watt signal from just west of town. Most critically, the FCC has granted a waiver to allow Highland to continue to operate the LPFM signal while it builds the full-power signal, assuring a smooth transition from 94.7 to 91.5 when the time comes.

Concord's WKXL (1450) is returning to the FM dial - but not, as had been suspected, with the purchase of the former WKXL-FM, now silent WWHK (102.3). Instead, Gordon Humphrey's New Hampshire Family Broadcasting is buying translator W282AF (104.3) from Concord Bible Fellowship; the translator will move to the WKXL tower on Redington Road and has already applied for Special Temporary Authority to relay the AM signal.

In Keene, Saga's getting ready to flip programming on its WZBK (1220), replacing the "Unrock" standards format with a simulcast of the progressive talk from sister station WKVT (1490) across the Connecticut River in Brattleboro, VERMONT. WZBK simulcasts on translator W276CB (103.1).

And here's a DTV application we've been meaning to mention for a while now: if New Hampshire Public Television gets its way, TV broadcasting could return to the highest point in New England for the first time since the 2003 fire that destroyed the Mount Washington transmitter facility of WMTW-TV (Channel 8).

WLED-DT (Channel 48) currently operates from the same Mann Hill tower that's home to WLED's analog signal on channel 49, but NHPTV has a pending application to relocate the DTV signal to WMTW's former tower on Mount Washington, running 105 kW average power. If granted, the move would give WLED-DT primary coverage over an area extending north almost to Sherbrooke, Quebec, west over Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, south almost to Concord and east almost to Augusta, MAINE.

*In other Pine Tree State news, UMaine sports are switching radio affiliates in the Bangor market - but it's all within the Blueberry Broadcasting family. Football and hockey broadcasts from the Black Bear Sports network (part of the nationwide Learfield group) had been heard on WVOM (103.9 Howland), but they're shifting to sister stations WAEI (97.1)/WABI (910), the new WEEI sports outlets in the Bangor market.

The broadcasts also add a new outlet up north, as Allan Weiner's new WBCQ (94.7 Monticello) picks up UMaine sports. Its sister station on AM 780 has changed calls, by the way - it's no longer WCXH, but WXME, and is reportedly silent after several months of simulcasting the "Channel X" network from up north.

And down in the Portland market, there's another call change to report as Atlantic Coast finishes shuffling its formats: WJJB (1440 Westbrook) is now WRED, parking the call from 95.9 in Saco; Atlantic Coast has requested the calls WPEI for that signal, which is part of its chain of WEEI affiliates in the market.

*The MASSACHUSETTS Broadcasters Hall of Fame held its induction ceremonies Wednesday afternoon at the Dedham Hilton, and what a class of inductees it was!

The roster included reporter/media critic Bill Buchanan, legendary DJ Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg, WBZ's Larry Glick, Bob Lobel, Sarah-Ann Shaw and Shelby Scott, veteran TV news anchor Jack Hynes, station owners Norman Knight (Knight Quality Stations) and Donald Thurston (Berkshire Broadcasting) - and that was just the living inductees. Honored in memoriam were WBZ hosts Carl DeSuze and David Brudnoy, WHDH's Bob Clayton, TV talk host Louise Morgan, DJs Norm Prescott and Sunny Joe White, and the dean of Boston talk radio, Jerry Williams.

Radio People on the Move: As WODS (103.3) continues to revamp its schedule, it's bringing in Tom Kent's syndicated oldies show for the 7-10 PM slot on weeknights, pushing Mike Finegan's slot back to 10 PM-2 AM. In Worcester, Steve Donovan returns to WXLO (104.5 Fitchburg) for mornings, taking the place of fellow standup comedian Chris Zito. Over at WUMB (91.9), they're shaking up the schedule a bit, as morning man Dick Pleasants moves to afternoon drive, with a series of guest hosts (most recently George Knight) handling morning duty.

On the North Shore, WESX (1230) has completed its transmitter move, leaving behind the Marblehead site it's called home since it signed on in 1939 in favor of a diplex with WLYN (1360) at its site in Lynn. WESX changes city of license from Salem to Nahant in the process.

Where Are They Now? Emily Barsh, who was a producer at WBZ (1030) when your editor arrived there in the early nineties, has been making a name for herself in New York TV production circles - and we note that she's just signed on with MSNBC as a producer of Keith Olbermann's "Countdown."

*A RHODE ISLAND program director is leaving: after seven years at WBRU (95.5 Providence), PD Chris Novello has resigned. He's being replaced, at least on an interim basis, by Wendell Clough, a WBRU alumnus who was last at Citadel's Portland, Maine cluster doing marketing and promotion.

*There's a new morning show in western NEW YORK: at Citadel's WEDG (103.3 Buffalo), Rich "the Bull" Gaenzler moves from middays to mornings, filling the space that PD James Kurdziel has been occupying since the station took Opie and Anthony off the air a few months ago. Kurdziel moves to middays, ahead of the Shredd and Ragan show that's settled nicely into afternoon drive ever since the duo were ousted from mornings by...yup, O&A.

Over at Regent's Buffalo studios, we hear production guru Skip Edmunds is out after more than three decades at the Rand Building, starting with the old WBNY (96.1, now Regent's WJYE).

Some translator news from the region: with its Warsaw FM translator, W279BO (103.7) now running 24 hours a day at 250 watts, Lloyd Lane's WCJW (1140 Warsaw) is apparently looking to expand. Lane's paying $5,000 each for two more translators: W286BQ (105.1 LeRoy) from Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes, and W280EB (103.9 Alfred) from Daniel Peltz.

In Syracuse, Clear Channel has shifted translator W252AC (98.3 Camillus) back to simulcasting WPHR (106.9 Auburn); it had been relaying WWDG (105.1 DeRuyter), but that station's being sold off as part of the Aloha Station Trust.

Over in Johnstown, we hear WIZR (930) has flipped to Catholic programming.

Heading downstate, Dennis Jackson has changed the calls on his unbuilt construction permit in North Salem. The 100-watter on 90.1 won't sign on as WVWA after all (sob!), but will use the WJJZ calls recently abandoned in Philadelphia; and, yes, it will be a jazz station when it signs on next year. (We're still holding out hope for a one-day WVWA reunion when the station gets on the air...maybe on 9/9/09?)

From the obituary file: former New York Giants football star-turned-broadcaster Dick Lynch died Wednesday at his home in Queens. Lynch moved into the broadcast booth when he retired after the 1966 season, and he went out in style - the last game he called for the Giants on radio was the team's come-from-behind championship last February. Lynch was 72.

In Albany, they're mourning Fred Campbell, who was known as "Coach" at WPYX (106.5), where he did morning sports for many years. Campbell died last Monday (Sept. 22) at 61.

And we're sorry to report the passing of veteran Binghamton engineer Ron Shoemaker, who spent 42 years at WNBF-TV/WBNG-TV (Channel 12). Even after retiring from channel 12, Shoemaker continued to work part time at WICZ-TV (Channel 40), as well as for the Binghamton Senators hockey team and Veterans Arena. Shoemaker died Thursday at 72.

*In eastern CANADA, it looks like the CRTC didn't fully coordinate with the FCC on a New Brunswick FM allotment - otherwise, CJRI (94.7 Fredericton NB) wouldn't have been experiencing major interference from the new WBCQ-FM on the same frequency over in Monticello, Maine!

CJRI has been granted temporary permission to use 104.5 while a permanent solution is found. Owner Faithway Communications is also applying to add three low-power relay transmitters, with 50 watts each in Woodstock (101.1), Saint Stephen (99.9) and New Brandon (99.7).

A religious broadcaster in Quebec is getting a new transmitter, too: CIRA (91.3 Montreal) will bring its "Radio Ville-Marie" service to Rimouski, with 111 watts on 104.1.

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!)

October 1, 2007 -

  • A month after the death of beloved MASSACHUSETTS talk host Paul Sullivan, WBZ (1030 Boston) has named a replacement for its weeknight 8-midnight slot - and in keeping with tradition at the CBS Radio-owned news-talk station, it's an in-house move. "NightSide with Dan Rea" makes its debut Monday night on WBZ, and if it doesn't sound like a major shift in the station's sound, that's the idea, since Rea has been sharing fill-in duties on Sullivan's old timeslot for months now. (WBZ weekend/swing host Jordan Rich has been the other regular fill-in on Sullivan's show; he'll return to his usual duties now.)
  • Rea, of course, is best known to Boston audiences for his 33-year reporting career on WBZ-TV (Channel 4), which included the exoneration of convicted murderer Joe Salvati. But before he joined the TV side in 1974, Rea was a talk host on WBZ radio, so in a sense he's coming home to his roots by rejoining the AM station.
  • After years of effort and planning, VERMONT Public Radio achieved a long-held goal Monday morning, as it split its programming into two statewide networks. The "original" VPR network (WVPS 107.9 Burlington, WVPR 89.5 Windsor, WVPA 88.5 St. Johnsbury, WRVT 88.7 Windsor, WBTN-FM 94.3 Bennington and several translators) has become a 24/7 news-talk service, with a new midday lineup that includes BBC news at 9, On Point at 10, The Story at 1 and Day to Day at 2. Meanwhile, the classical programming that was heard in middays on the main VPR network has moved to the new VPR Classical network, with new flagship WOXR (90.9 Schuyler Falls NY), WVTQ (95.1 Sunderland) and WNCH (88.1 Norwich), as well as HD-2 subchannels on WVPS, WVPR, WVPA and WRVT. VPR, which also launched a redesigned website at as part of the relaunch, promises additional VPR Classical frequencies in the months to come.
  • The "Man Talk" format at CBS Radio's WTZN (93.7 Pittsburgh) is over, just six months after "The Zone" was launched in early April as part of the company's highly-touted "Free FM" talk initiative. On Monday, the station began stunting with Christmas music, while dropping hints about a possible return to the frequency's heritage with top 40 as "B94" WBZZ. (As we go to press Monday night, there's a site up at that makes copious reference to that "missing B" in the middle...get it?) Out of work are midday host John McIntire, afternoon host Scott Paulsen and late morning host Paul Steigerwald - and off the air, at least for now, are syndicated hosts Opie & Anthony and Dennis Miller.

September 29, 2003 -

  • Just as NERW was going to "press" late Sunday night, embattled WHAM talk show host Bob Lonsberry was updating his own Web site with a blistering screed against the community leaders calling for his dismissal. If Lonsberry's goal was to get himself fired, he succeeded; just after his regular shift had ended Monday afternoon (with transit chief Bill Nojay again on fill-in duty), WHAM issued a statement that Lonsberry had been fired "for inappropriate behavior."
  • The final blow, NERW suspects, was a passage in Lonsberry's column clearly aimed at Rochester's Catholic bishop, Matthew Clark, in which Lonsberry called the bishop "nothing more than a funny collar and a title, a self-important relic out of touch with the leadership above and the worshippers below." For someone supposedly about to attend diversity training (see below), such comments clearly were out of keeping, as WHAM acknowledged in saying "it became obvious to us that (Lonsberry) is not embracing diversity or the beliefs of the station."
  • Lonsberry had been off the air for more than a week, ever since the Democrat and Chronicle got wind of a pair of off-the-cuff comments made during two of his shows in late August and early September. In the first, responding to a news item about an orangutan escaping from the Rochester zoo, Lonsberry headed into a commercial break by saying, "Headline - orangutan escapes from zoo, runs for county executive. Fascinating stuff." In the second, on September 18, Lonsberry wrapped up his show with his usual "Listeners on the Loose" segment, in which callers have 15 seconds to make a comment or, often, play a sound effect down the line. In response to a caller who played monkey noises, Lonsberry said, "Freakin' monkey's loose up at the zoo again...and he's running for county executive. What's with that?"
  • Lonsberry is a frequent and outspoken critic of Democratic county executive candidate and Rochester mayor Bill Johnson, who happens to be black, and the remarks were taken by many as a racist comment on Johnson, whose supporters immediately began circulating tapes of the comments in local media circles. That turned out to be enough to get the D&C to mention the comments on its editorial page - which in turn set off a week of protests against Lonsberry and the station from the local NAACP, a group of religious leaders and the heads of both the local Democratic and Republican parties.
  • Lonsberry was absent from the airwaves all week, appearing only in a short and reluctant-sounding recorded apology at the start and finish of Monday's show. Attorney Frank Cegelski and transit agency chairman Bill Nojay served as guest hosts for the week. And after first announcing that Lonsberry would be back last Wednesday, then today, WHAM and Lonsberry sent out faxes Thursday night announcing that Lonsberry will stay off the air "indefinitely" while he undergoes diversity training. At press time, the NAACP was still demanding Lonsberry's dismissal and threatening a boycott of the station.
  • Some sad news from MASSACHUSETTS: WBZ (1030 Boston) evening talk host David Brudnoy told listeners last week that in addition to fighting AIDS, he's also suffering from a rare skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma. Brudnoy says he's already had several lesions removed from his face, and he'll undergo both chemotherapy and radiation treatment in the weeks to come, which may cause him to miss some of his shifts on WBZ, in addition to his extensive additional work as a WSBK (Channel 38) commentator, newspaper movie critic and Boston University journalism professor.
  • A format change in VERMONT: Bob Vinikoor's WNBX (1480 Springfield) has dropped its simulcast of talker WNTK-FM (99.7 New London NH) to become "Real Oldies 1480," with market veteran Ray LaMire (late of WMXR in Woodstock) doing mornings and a talented lineup of voices tracking the rest of the day (you should hear the overnight guy!)
  • In MAINE, Bob Duchesne signed off last week from Bangor's WQCB (106.5 Brewer), where he was the first voice heard on the station way back in 1986. Duchesne had been Q106.5's morning man for all of those 17 years, and his honors included being named the Country Music Association's small market personality of the year in 1994.

October 1, 1998 -

  • Another station sale in MASSACHUSETTS: This time out, it's Clear Channel taking possession of the major competitor to its news-talk WHYN (560) in Springfield. Eleven years after signing the station on, Curt and Cele Hahn are selling their WNNZ (640 Westfield) to Lowry Mays' big group, which also owns WHYN-FM (93.1) in Springfield. No word yet on potential changes to the 50-kilowatt (by day, anyway) talker, which was the last major locally-owned radio station in Hampden County. WNNZ is the descendant of the old 1570 in Westfield, which was WDEW and WLDM at various times. Hahn bought out two competing applicants for the 640 channel before signing it on in July 1987. He points out that it's only appropriate that a company called "Clear Channel" should have a station on one of the two CONELRAD clear channels - 640 and 1240.
  • In Boston, the big news is on the TV side, as Stu Tauber resigns after a two-decade stint as general manager of WSBK (Channel 38), effective January 1, 1999. Tauber's departure is just one of the changes at UPN38 -- it's also cancelling its 10PM newscast that's produced by New England Cable News, effective October 4. The stated reason is a change of focus, with sports and entertainment taking precedence over news. NECN will continue to produce news inserts to run during Bruins games. (NERW notes that the channel 38 newscast has never been a serious ratings threat to WLVI or WFXT). WLVI, meanwhile, has expanded its Saturday newscast to a full hour.
  • WBUR (90.9) will increase its local news commitment in a big way on Monday, with the debut of the hour-long "Hear and Now" at noon. The weekday show will be hosted by Tovia Smith and Bruce Gellerman, with a full-time staff of six. And which Boston newspaper called WBUR "99.9" this time? Believe it or not, it wasn't the big broadsheet...
  • Greater Media's making some changes, too. WROR (105.7 Framingham) will be the first GM station to operate from the new facility on Morrissey Boulevard, starting this weekend. WBOS, WSJZ, WMJX, and WKLB-FM will move later on. The WROR move was the most critical, because Friday is the last day of WROR's lease on its 13th floor space in the Prudential Tower. Early word from GM folks who've seen the new studios is that they're very impressive; we're hoping to visit early next year ourselves. Former WBOS/WSJZ general manager John Laton is serving as a group-wide consultant in the move after being ousted from his GM position; that job will not be filled, we hear.

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