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October 13, 2008

Boyce Out at New York's WABC

*It's been a few weeks since we've led off with big news from NEW YORK - but this week, there's big news indeed from two of the city's biggest stations.

After 14 years at the helm of what's arguably the most important talk radio station in the country, Phil Boyce announced on Thursday that he's leaving the PD chair at WABC (770) - and by the end of the day, he was out the door at the 17th floor of 2 Penn Plaza.

The official word from Citadel was that Boyce's departure was entirely of his own doing, and while Boyce didn't immediately announce where he's headed next, Sean Hannity - one of Boyce's proteges at WABC - hinted that whatever Boyce is doing next, he'd be involved in it somehow. (It bears noting that Hannity just announced contract extensions with both of his employers, Citadel and Fox News Channel.)

Whatever the official announcements may have said, speculation was rampant heading into the weekend: why was Boyce's departure so abrupt, and might it have had something to do with Citadel's truly dreadful financial picture, as the company's stock remained mired below the $1 level, raising the spectre of de-listing from the New York Stock Exchange?

Another question about the timing of the announcement - if it was indeed entirely voluntary on Boyce's part, why was no succession plan immediately in place for the station that's been Boyce's baby for over a decade? (And speaking of pet projects - with Boyce out the door, what becomes of the annual "Rewound" nostalgia festival on Memorial Day, and the popular "Saturday Night Oldies" that Boyce implemented at WABC a couple of years back?)

*Those looking for certainty in the world of New York radio could find it last week at the Clear Channel cluster, though it may not have been the kind of certainty that fans of local radio would seek: once again, local content and local talent is giving way to national syndication.

This time, it's the relentless march of Ryan Seacrest across the nation's airwaves. As his "On Air" show has moved east from its Los Angeles home base, it's displaced local midday and afternoon jocks all over the country, and last week it was Shelley Wade's turn. The veteran middayer at WHTZ (100.3 Newark) is still at Z100, at least for now - but instead of her familiar 10 AM-3 PM shift, she's suddenly on overnights, replaced by the inevitable Seacrest, who at least made the right noises in the press release about how he's "always wanted to play those Z100 jingles," never mind that it's the automation in Manhattan that will be doing that, not Seacrest in Hollywood.

This is actually the second time Wade has been bumped by Seacrest - when he arrived at Boston's Kiss 108 earlier this year, it marked the end of Wade's voicetracking for the Boston station from New York. (We think there's some kind of irony there, but it's probably too depressing to contemplate.)

And there's a bit of news from CBS Radio, too - it's finally turned on the HD Radio multicast channels on WXRK (92.3 New York). On 92.3-HD2, it's the "K-Rock 2" modern rock format that has been running as a webcast for the last few years, and on 92.3-HD3, it's a simulcast of sports WFAN (660).

Here's a station move we've been meaning to mention for a few weeks now: Clear Channel is trying again to move its WPHR (106.9 Auburn) closer to its target audience in Syracuse. Over the last decade or so, WPHR has applied for several city-of-license changes, as well as experimenting with an on-channel booster in Syracuse. Now it's applying to downgrade from full class B (14 kW/941') to B1 (9 kW/406'), using a directional antenna at the campus of Onondaga Community College, on Onondaga Hill south of Syracuse.

WPHR's new city of license would be Solvay - and even if nobody else seems to remember this, we note that the relocated "Power 106.9" wouldn't be the first station ever to be licensed to that west-side Syracuse suburb: WQSR (1320) operated as a Solvay daytimer in the fifties and sixties.

In Bath, WABH (1380) has been granted a construction permit for a power boost; it will go from its present 2500 watts by day and 112 watts at night to 10 kW days/450 watts at night, still from its existing three-tower site alongside I-86 south of the village.

In Syracuse, WSIV (1540 East Syracuse) is reviving its proposal to move from its current daytime tower site along the Thruway just east of I-481. The station has twice been granted a CP to move from that site to the shorter tower of what's now the two-tower array of sister station WOLF (1490) just north of downtown Syracuse - but the move can't happen until WOLF builds out its own CP to go non-directional from the taller tower of the array. That still hasn't happened, so WSIV reapplied for its CP as soon as its previous CP expired on Sept. 19. If the move is ever completed, WSIV will stay at 1000 watts by day; at night, it uses 57 watts from a separate site near downtown Syracuse.


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Chris Ingram - yes, the son of the legendary Dan - has a new on-air shift: he's doing afternoons at WVOS-FM (95.9 Liberty), up in the Catskills.

Some TV news this week: In the Albany market, CW affiliate WCWN (Channel 45) has quietly added a 10 PM newscast produced by sister station WRGB (Channel 6). Unlike the other 10 PM news in town, over on Newport Television's Fox affiliate WXXA (Channel 23), the CW show is a brief 11-minute update, pushing back the start of "Dr. Phil" by a few minutes.

Over at WTEN (Channel 10), there's a new news director: Rob Hubler moves north from WGCL in Atlanta, where he was an executive producer, to fill the office last occupied by Dana Dieterle, who's now in Cleveland at WOIO/WUAB.

They still call it the "Regional News Network," but the "news" is mostly gone at WRNN-DT (Channel 48). The Kingston-licensed station, seen on cable throughout most of the New York City TV market, has cancelled the last of its Hudson Valley-oriented news programming, leaving only "NewsCenter NOW Long Island" at 4:30 PM weekdays, as well as two talk shows later in the evening, surrounded by "Inside Edition," "Access Hollywood," "Law and Order" reruns and lots and lots of paid programming.

A correction: we reported last week that the new "Hits 103.3" in Ithaca was running as an HD Radio subchannel of WIII (99.9 Cortland); in fact, it's on the HD2 of sister station WYXL (97.3 Ithaca.)

In New York, WINS (1010) is mourning one of the anchors who helped launch its all-news format back in 1965. Lew Fisher was with the station for 36 years, starting back in WINS' music era in the fifties. He was 90 when he died on Sunday.

And here in Rochester, we remember one of the city's veteran broadcast engineers. Stan Manson came to WOKR (Channel 13) forty years ago, and remained at the station (now WHAM-TV) for his entire career, most recently as engineering manager. Manson, who was in his early sixties, died Tuesday (Oct. 7); you can see a video tribute from WHAM-TV here.

Edited by NERW's own Scott Fybush - on sale now as an e-book or printed volume!

*Another new format in Randolph, VERMONT: under its new Great Eastern owners, WCVR (102.1) has traded a simulcast of Burlington classic rocker "Champ" (WCPV 101.3) for its own classic rock format as "V102, Vermont Quality Rock."

*A veteran NEW HAMPSHIRE sportscaster is changing stations. After more than three decades with the station that's now WKBK (1290 Keene), Bob Lund has joined Great Eastern's new WEEY (93.5 Swanzey). For now, he's doing local sports inserts during WEEY's programming from Boston's WEEI network.

There's a call change just to the north - WPLY (96.3 Walpole) becomes WFYX; will a change from its current simulcast of oldies WWOD (104.3 Hartford VT) be next?

*Budget cutbacks hit WDRC in Hartford, CONNECTICUT at week's end: five full-time and four part-time positions were cut at the stations, including WDRC-FM afternoon jock Doug Taylor and WDRC(AM) mid-morning talker Mary Jones. Her slot will be filled by the syndicated Glenn Beck show, while on the FM Larry Wells moves from middays to afternoons, with Floyd Wright moving into middays from overnights.

*It was a quiet week in MASSACHUSETTS, where our only news is of the "Where are they now?" variety: Former WFCC (107.5 Chatham) PD Steve Murphy, who had moved to Milwaukee as PD of that city's now-defunct commercial classical station WFMR, is back on the air at WFCC. Steve's still based in Milwaukee, but he's working from a home studio there as morning man for the World Classical Network, heard on WFCC as well as Rhode Island's WCRI (95.9 Block Island) and Vermont's WCVT (101.7 Stowe). Steve's career also included stops at WQRC on the Cape (now a sister station to WFCC) and at WBOQ in Gloucester. And despite being deep in Brewers territory now, Steve reports he's still rooting hard for the Red Sox (as are we!)

Here's another "Where are they now?": We've reported before on the whereabouts of former WDLW (1330 Waltham, now WRCA) owner Anthony Martin-Trigona, most recently in October 2000, when the indefatigable litigator was suing Clear Channel in Florida over its national contests.

Now known simply as "Andy Martin," he's back in the headlines, but not in a very complimentary way: he's on the front page of today's New York Times, in an article accusing him of launching the whisper campaign about Barack Obama's background - and of being a notorious anti-Semite as well.

*A big PENNSYLVANIA FM signal was knocked off the air by vandals early Thursday morning. The transmitter site of WILQ (105.1 Williamsport) is in a fairly remote spot, high above the city on Skyline Drive - but it wasn't remote enough to keep a big piece of logging equipment called a skidder from slamming into the building around 4 AM Thursday. Backyard Broadcasting chief engineer Tom Atkins says the vandals apparently hot-wired the skidder and went for a joyride, which didn't last long.

The ride ended when the skidder slammed into a corner of WILQ's concrete-block transmitter building, knocking the station off the air. The good news, if you can call it that, is that the transmitter wasn't hit; the bad news, however, is that the transmitter building was a total loss. WILQ quickly got back on the air from an auxiliary site, and Atkins and his crew salvaged what they could from the building. (We're writing this, oddly enough, from the laptop in the passenger seat of the NERW-mobile as we drive through Williamsport, and WILQ's signal - at least over the weekend - is pretty good in the city, though not as good as its usual booming full class B.)

The damage was still being assessed of press time; initial estimates were in the low six figures, and the vandals still hadn't been caught as of Sunday night.

In Philadelphia, the rumors keep swirling about mornings at WYSP (94.1), which have been filled with all-music blocks since Kidd Chris was sent packing back in May. Is Danny Bonaduce headed east from CBS Radio sister station KLSX (97.1) in Los Angeles?

Clear Channel's Philly cluster has a new operations manager, as Brian Check gets promoted to that role, while remaining PD at WISX (My 106.1). There are new PDs at two of the stations under Check's aegis, too - Kashon Powell moves up from APD/MD to PD at WUSL (98.9), while Tracy Austin returns to Philadelphia from Australia (where she was PD of Nova 106.9 in Brisbane) to be PD of WIOQ (102.1).

Four Rivers Community Broadcasting (the "Word FM" folks) have calls for their new station on 88.3 in East Nottingham: it'll be WZXE when it signs on.

In TV news, Erie public station WQLN-TV has turned off its analog signal for good. WQLN's analog and digital signals both went off the air when the station's tower suffered a lightning strike a few weeks back, and the original plan was to restore the analog Channel 54 signal at low power for the few months remaining before the February sunset. The station has now changed its mind; while it's restored WQLN-DT (Channel 50) to the air on a temporary auxiliary antenna, it now says the analog signal won't be returning. Cable customers in London, Ontario, who've been without WQLN service for a few weeks, should have the station's signal back soon as well. (They've been getting Buffalo's WNED in its place.)

Where are they now? Mike Pintek, former talk host at KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh), and a Harrisburg news director before that, has signed on with CBS Radio's WHFS (105.7) in Baltimore to do middays at that FM talk outlet.

And the former president/COO of York-based Susquehanna Radio has a big new job: Nancy Vaeth-DuBroff is now the VP/market manager of Entercom's cluster of stations in Austin, Texas.

*In CANADA, the CRTC has opened a call for applications for new stations in the Halifax, Nova Scotia market. Proposals are due Dec. 8.

In Quebec, Radio-Canada will add a new transmitter at St.-Donat to improve the reach of its premiere chaine service. The 5.4 kW signal on 89.7 will relay CBF-FM (95.1 Montreal) to the area near Mont Tremblant Park.

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 15, 2007 -

  • Regent Broadcasting is exiting one of its upstate NEW YORK markets, opening the door for an Oklahoma owner known for his religious stations to enter the region.
  • While Regent was a dominant player in the Watertown market, where its country WFRY (97.5) often pulls some of the highest shares of any station in any rated market in America, that market (Arbitron ranked #279) was also the smallest in Regent's portfolio, making the $6.25 million deal with David Stephens' KXOJ, Inc. an easy one for the Cincinnati-based group owner. In addition to country giant "Froggy," KXOJ Inc. also gets classic hits WCIZ (93.3 Watertown), news-talk WTNY (790 Watertown) and sports WNER (1410 Watertown) - and we're left to wonder what exactly an Oklahoma operator plans to do with a cluster in northern New York.
  • Make that two clusters, actually: KXOJ is also buying a group of St. Lawrence Valley stations from Tim Martz for $5.25 million. Up there, KXOJ gets AC "Valley" WVLF (96.1 Norwood), top 40 "Yes" WYSX (96.7 Morristown), oldies WPAC (98.7 Ogdensburg), classic hits WRCD "Fox" (101.5 Canton, rimshotting Ottawa), country WNCQ (102.9 Canton) and oldies WMSA (1340 Massena).
  • What's next? We'd note that in addition to their religious stations, the Stephens family has some experience running secular formats in Oklahoma, particularly sports - and we'd also note that they've been known to buy stations and then sell them very quickly, too, so there may be more changes yet to come on these stations. We'll be listening...
  • A veteran Utica morning man is changing signals. Former WRCK (107.3 Utica) Bill Keeler has been leasing morning drive on Clear Channel's "Kiss" simulcast (WSKS 97.9 Whitesboro/WSKU 105.5 Little Falls) and selling his own airtime, but with Kiss about to change hands (it will go to Ken Roser as part of a big shuffle of Utica ownership), Keeler is taking his morning show elsewhere - specifically, to Mindy Barstein's WXUR (92.7 Herkimer), which has been without a morning show since the end of Don Imus' syndication last summer.
  • In Albany, Paul Vandenburgh has now officially departed WROW (590), and he's gone public with his plans to buy WTMM (1300 Rensselaer) from Regent. Vandenburgh tells Capital News 9, where he was doing his shows on Fridays, that he'll relaunch WTMM with a talk format similar to the one he ran there when the station was known as WQBK; he'll also bring Dan Lynch over from WROW for afternoons.
  • A silent MASSACHUSETTS station is back on the air. WNSH (1570 Beverly) isn't running with its new 30 kW daytime facility just yet - that's due to change on or about Thursday - but it's once again broadcasting, at least, with a female-oriented talk format and a new morning show, as it picks up the North Carolina-based Bob & Sheri syndicated talk show.
  • Out on Cape Cod, WKPE (103.9 South Yarmouth) ended its stunting Thursday and flipped to top 40, reverting to the "Cape 104" branding last heard on WKPE in its days on 104.7 from Orleans, between 1983 and 1992.

October 13, 2003 -

  • It must be an exciting week for the folks at Boston's sports talker, WEEI (850) - after all, they're the flagship station for baseball's next World Champions. (This week's NERW is being written Sunday night in lieu of the rained-out Game 4 of the ALCS; we reserve the right to dream and to dream big, and you Yankees fans can keep it to yourselves.)
  • But in the midst of all that excitement, WEEI will be without its popular morning team for a while longer, thanks to the continued fallout from an offhand remark John Dennis and Gerry Callahan made a couple of weeks ago as they discussed a newspaper photo of a gorilla that had escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo.
  • As we reported last week, WEEI initially suspended Dennis for two days for remarking that the gorilla was a "METCO (urban-suburban exchange student) gorilla waiting for a bus to Lexington." That wasn't enough for the coalition of city officials, religious leaders and other civic groups protesting the comments, though, and after a meeting with METCO officials last Tuesday, WEEI suspended Callahan as well, extending the suspensions for both hosts for two weeks. (2008 note: OK, it didn't happen in 2003 - damn you, Aaron #@!%^ Boone! - but a year later, well, that was a different story. And what are the Yankees doing this October?)
  • In Springfield, TV viewers are about to get something that more closely resembles a local CBS affiliate. For decades, CBS service to Springfield and the Pioneer Valley has come from CONNECTICUT's WFSB (Channel 3) - but now WFSB is getting ready to launch a separate service to the Massachusetts side of its market. It'll still be "CBS3" on cable, but WFSB owner Meredith has bought W67DF (Channel 67) in Springfield from Trinity Broadcasting, and it will soon move to channel 45 and increase its power from Mount Tom, selling local ads and increasing WFSB's presence in Springfield. (WFSB has experimented over the years with local ad sales and even local news inserts on Springfield cable, but this will be its first stab at a Springfield broadcast signal.)
  • Arthur Liu is adding two more New York-market signals to his portfolio - though they're both actually across the river in NEW JERSEY. Liu's Multicultural Broadcasting is spending $150 million to acquire Radio Unica's 15-station group, which includes WWRU (1660 Jersey City) and WJDM (1530 Elizabeth). WWRU already shares the tower site of Liu's WKDM (1380 New York) on Paterson Plank Road in East Rutherford; we expect it will drop Unica's Spanish news-talk programming in favor of the same leased time fare that already runs on Liu's WPAT (930 Paterson), WKDM, WNSW (1430 Newark) and WZRC (1480 New York).
  • Meanwhile on the radio dial, the all-Christmas stunting on WKXP (94.3 Kingston) ended at 9:43 last Monday morning, as Cumulus relaunched the former oldies station (ex-WBPM) as "Kicks 94.3," playing country and competing with Clear Channel's WRWD (107.3 Highland). Former WBPM morning guy Nick Robbins moves over to sister station WKNY (1490 Kingston), while middayer Laura Smith and afternooner Chris Lucas are out. Replacing them are Buzz Stephens (from former country outlet WUSX in Huntsville, Alabama) in mornings and Beth Christy (from WKXP sister station WCZX) as PD/afternoon drive.
  • The big story from CANADA was the death Tuesday (Oct. 7) of media mogul Israel "Izzy" Asper. Asper was a Manitoba banker in the early seventies when he acquired the physical assets of a tiny TV station on the North Dakota/Manitoba border and won a license from the CRTC to put it on the air in Winnipeg. KCND (Channel 12) in Pembina, N.D. thus went dark, with its tower and transmitter being trucked across the border to reappear as CKND (Channel 9), the cornerstone of what would become a media empire.
  • Asper went on to acquire an interest in the new Global network in Ontario, then bought Global outright and eventually built it into Canada's third national network. Meanwhile, his CanWest Global was buying newspapers - from the Montreal Gazette to the Vancouver Sun and Province to the startup of the National Post - not to mention TV interests in Australia and New Zealand and, recently, several radio stations in Canada. Asper was 71 when he died; though he was still CanWest Global's chairman, he'd ceded most of his power to his children last year.

October 16, 1998 -

  • With most of the big names in radio a continent away at the NAB Radio Show in Seattle, it's been a quiet week back here in the Northeast, with all of one format change to tell you about. It's in upstate NEW YORK, at the unusual two-AM combo created last year in Canandaigua. Alert NERW readers will recall that WCGR, the 250-watt daytimer at 1550 kHz, finally built its CP for a kilowatt full-time on 1310 -- but then asked the FCC for permission to "recharacterize" the frequency change as a new station application, thus allowing WCGR to keep both 1310 (with a great signal toward Rochester but a bit of a null towards the city of license) and 1550 (with a good signal in Canandaigua and not much else).
  • After a bit of confusion at the FCC, things settled down with the WCGR calls moving to 1310, 1550 picking up the WLKA calls that once graced a sister FM, and both simulcasting a (mostly-automated) 70s-heavy soft AC format. Until this week, that is...when hitting the "1310" preset in the NERW-mobile produced not the usual Neil Diamond, but conservative Christian talk and USA news instead.
  • Here's what's happened: WCGR has LMA'd the 1310 facility to David Wolfe's WASB (1590) in Brockport, in Rochester's western suburbs. Under the new calls of WRSB, 1310 is simulcasting WASB 20 1/2 hours a day, with WCGR programming still being heard from 5 till 8:35 AM on weekdays (albeit without veteran upstate broadcaster Jack Mindy, who's left the station). It makes for an interesting combination, since 1310 can be heard from Canandaigua up to the east side of Rochester, while 1590 can be heard from roughly one end of its own property to just short of the other end -- and that's on the days when the transmitter is actually working. Here at NERW Central, no more than 12 miles from WASB, the signal simply does not exist, except on very good days with a communications-grade receiver, a good antenna, and a high tolerance for co-channel stations in Auburn and Salamanca.
  • As for 1550, it's reclaimed the WCGR calls and continues the AC format, but with a signal that's hard to hear outside northwest Ontario County. We're told Wolfe has an option to buy 1310 eventually; we'll keep an eye on this one.
  • Moving along to MAINE, the Saga stations in Portland have a new boss. He's Cary Pahigian, who programmed WBZ in the 1980s and most recently ran Ernie Boch's stations on Cape Cod. Now he becomes: vice president of Saga/New England, market manager of Portland Radio, and GM of WGAN, WZAN, WMGX, and WYNZ (which is to say, all of Portland Radio except WPOR AM-FM). Pahigian replaces the retiring Bob Gold.

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