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October 20, 2008

Job Cuts at Entercom

*Wall Street's lack of confidence in radio stocks hit home in eastern MASSACHUSETTS in a big way late last week, as Boston became one of the Entercom markets to weather big job cuts as the broadcaster's stock continued to fall. A year ago, ETM traded for more than $18 a share; it closed Friday at $1.40, matching other radio groups such as Citadel and Westwood One in their financial agonies.

In addition to some company-wide austerity measures, including pay freezes and a halt on company contributions to employees' 401(k) plans, Entercom cut staff at its stations around the country.

In Boston, the most visible cut was in mid-mornings at troubled talker WRKO (680), where Reese Hopkins had joined the station last December as its lone African-American host, drawing some rare critical praise for the station amidst its struggles with high-priced morning man Tom Finneran and afternoon star Howie Carr, whose attempt to flee to competitor WTKK was thwarted amidst some contentious lawsuits a year ago.

That didn't make Hopkins any less expendable, though - and now he's out the door, his local shift replaced by a live clearance for Laura Ingraham, whose syndicated offering had been heard in late nights on WTKK.

Also out at the Boston Entercom cluster: WRKO executive producer Andy Strecker and WAAF morning show producer Dave DiGando, along with at least nine others behind the scenes.

*When the Red Sox faced off against the Rays Saturday night for Game 6 of the ALCS, the game was missing from TV screens across Sox Nation thanks to a technical disaster at TBS headquarters in Atlanta.

No, it wasn't a crazed Braves fan seeking revenge - as best we can tell from what TBS is saying publicly, it was a fluky set of circumstances involving a massive power surge that fried not one, but two routers and made it impossible for TBS (or several other Turner networks) to switch any external feeds out of the building.

Granted, if it had been up to us, we'd have bumped Headline News off the air and switched the whole mess from CNN's New York control room, or given ESPN emergency clearance to put the international feed that it was producing on its domestic network until the TBS broadcast could be restored...but in any event, it gave the WRKO broadcast team a chance to reconnect with a Boston audience suddenly deprived of a video feed.

And in the end...well, if destiny calls for the Series to be played by a team playing in a large, dank parking garage with ugly carpeting where a field is supposed to be, then so it goes. (But, Tito, did you really have to leave Lester in that long? Really?)

*Clear Channel has a new market manager for its Worcester stations, WTAG/WSRS: Sean Davey adds those responsibilities to his existing duties 45 minutes to the west at Clear Channel's Springfield cluster (WHYN/WHYN-FM/WPKX). He replaces Mike Schaus, who exits the Worcester cluster.

Across town, Sully is out as morning sidekick on WXLO (104.5 Fitchburg).

Nassau's WCRB (99.5 Lowell) is losing its general manager, as Paul Kelley joins Saga Communications as VP/market manager for its cluster in Norfolk, Virginia.

Longtime NERW readers may recall that one of this column's frequent topics in its early years was the woeful state of reporting in the Boston Globe about the radio industry. That changed a few years back, when Clea Simon took over the paper's "Radio Tracks" column. Sadly, the ongoing cutbacks at the Globe have taken their toll on its radio coverage, and this past week's column (which focused on our good friend Donna Halper, and also mentioned a certain Tower Site Calendar) marks the end of a good run for Simon - and, after one farewell column next week, of regular radio coverage in what was once New England's newspaper of record.

The Globe's impending redesign also means the end of the weekly TV listings book, which appeared in yesterday's Sunday Globe for the last time.

And it's not just Morrissey Boulevard facing cuts: in Chicago, Robert Feder, whose Sun-Times column was probably the best local newspaper column about broadcasting still being published, took a buyout offer and offered up his last column last week.

Here at NERW, we're a little saddened to have outlasted these and other fine columns (Dean Johnson in the Boston Herald and Mark McGuire in the Albany Times Union come immediately to mind), and all the more committed to being here each and every week as we approach our 15th anniversary next year.


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*NEW YORK's only NFL team, the Buffalo Bills, won their matchup with the San Diego Chargers Sunday afternoon, but not without some headaches for anyone who wasn't watching from the chilly confines of Ralph Wilson Stadium.

A stray helium balloon apparently floated into a high-voltage line next to the stadium just before game time, knocking out power to the stadium itself and to the broadcast trucks parked outside - and that meant that CBS viewers missed big chunks of the game action until power could be restored and the broadcast back to New York could get back on line.

Of course, many viewers in the Buffalo market weren't seeing the game, anyway, as the carriage dispute between LIN's CBS affiliate WIVB (Channel 4) and Time Warner Cable drags on. It's reportedly costing WIVB in the form of significant drops in ratings and ad revenue - and while Time Warner says it's not recording higher disconnect numbers than usual, we're hearing that Dish and DirecTV installers have been very busy in the last few weeks.

While some Time Warner customers in Niagara County had access to the game broadcast (such as it was) on Toronto's CFTO, the CTV affiliate was blacked out on cable in other parts of the market where it doesn't meet the FCC's "significantly viewed" standard.

So that left radio as the link between many Bills fans and the game, and flagship station WGRF (96.9 Buffalo) came through, putting its announcers on cell phones at one point to keep the broadcast going when the power failed in the booth.

(And about that "only NFL team" claim - last time we checked, the Jets and Giants both play their games in New Jersey, don't they?)

*The Entercom cuts hit the Rochester cluster last week, too: cuts there included at least one on-air position: WCMF (96.5) night guy "Big Marc" Ferenchak, who'd been one of the handful of survivors when WCMF changed hands from CBS to Entercom a year ago.

(Ironically, one of the jocks who lost his job in that shakeup is returning to the air - Dino Kaye, who's been doing sales for WHEC-TV since losing his WCMF gig, has been hired by Stephens Media to do afternoons at its WFKL 93.3. He'll be selling for Stephens when he's not on the air at "Fickle.")

Bruce Mittman's Community Broadcasting group is adding another signal to its Watertown-market cluster: it's paying LiveAir Communications $200,000 for the construction permit of WEFX (94.1 Calcium). The new station will join a cluster that already includes talker WATN (1240 Watertown), ESPN outlet WBDB (1400 Ogdensburg), talker WQTK (92.7 Ogdensburg), oldies WGIX (95.3 Gouverneur), AC WTOJ (103.1 Carthage) and top 40 "Border" WBDR (106.7 Copenhagen).

Finger Lakes Radio Group is adding another translator in Ithaca. In addition to its existing mini-cluster of top 40 startup WFIZ (95.5 Odessa) and translator W242AB (96.3 Ithaca, relaying classic rock "Wall" WLLW 99.3 Seneca Falls), Finger Lakes is paying $2,000 for new translator W299BI (107.7 Ithaca). What will it relay? The company's only other full-power FM in the region is AC WNYR (98.5 Waterloo), but now that crosstown Saga has set the precedent for HD2-translator relays with its "Hits 103.3" on WYXL (97.3-HD2) and W276AO (103.3), anything's possible. (And we note that "Hits" is now streaming at

At New York's WWPR (105.1), Boston native Free (late of BET's "106th and Park") joins Ed Lover as morning co-host.

Down the dial at WNYZ-LP (87.7), Jewelz Lopez departs as night jock - she's headed to Tampa, where she takes middays at WYUU (92.5). Meanwhile, Andre Ferro joins "Pulse 87.7" for nights...and what's the big announcement the station is planning for this morning during the Star and Buc Wild show? We'll update this week's column as soon as we know.

(Monday update: That would, as rumored, be the end of the "Star and Buc Wild Show," as the station moves to an all-music format in morning drive. The official word from PD Joel Salkowitz was that Pulse's "stationality" was ill-served by the personality-heavy morning show; given Pulse's well-reported budget issues, we'd suspect the bottom line was at play, too.)

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

*We can now put a price on the VERMONT deal that moved Randolph's WCVR (102.1) and WTSJ (1320) from Bruce Danziger and Ken Barlow's Vox group to their former partner Jeff Shapiro's Great Eastern: the stations sold for $700,000. And a correction from last week: the new slogan at WCVR is, logically enough, "World Class Vermont Rock."

WCVR and WTSJ will join all the other stations in the Upper Valley today as they remember the late DJ Pauline Robbins, who succumbed to breast cancer in January. Last October, the stations set aside competition for a day to honor the ailing Robbins with "Polly's Think Pink Radiothon," raising $37,000 for breast cancer awareness. Today, they'll again join forces for "Think Pink II," running from 6 AM until 7 PM on some 20 stations in Lebanon, Hanover, White River Junction, Randolph, Claremont and vicinity.

*The analog TV sunset will come a little early in southern NEW HAMPSHIRE. WZMY (Channel 50) in Derry is pulling the plug on its analog signal at noon on Dec. 1, reports Broadcasting and Cable. While the My Network TV affiliate is promoting the shutdown as an early opportunity for Boston-market viewers to make sure they're ready for the big day in February 2009, NERW suspects there will be little, if any, reaction, since WZMY (and its predecessor on Channel 50, WNDS) has always been one of the most cable- and satellite-dependent signals in the market. (Indeed, its off-air signal was never seen in our old Waltham home base a decade or so ago...)

*In NEW JERSEY, they're mourning Tom "Mr. Maze" Maciaszek. The longtime staffer at WOBM-FM (92.7 Toms River) and WOBM (1160 Lakewood Township) died last week after three decades at the stations. Most recently, Maciaszek had been the producer for the morning show on WOBM(AM).

*An obituary in northeast PENNSYLVANIA as well: back in 1971, Tim Karlson came to the region from his native Baltimore (where he was born Tim Kidwell) to work at the now-defunct WSCR (1320), then moved to the market's biggest station, WARM (590), in 1974. After a brief stab at doing TV weather in 1983 at WBRE-TV (Channel 28), Karlson made the move to TV for good as sports director at WNEP-TV (Channel 16) at the height of that station's dominance.

In 1992, Karlson was diagnosed with a brain tumor, but he remained on the air during treatment, turning his hair loss into a signature feature of his broadcasts, wearing "Karlson's Kaps" sent in by viewers. As the disease progressed, Karlson left the air in 2000 to work in creative services on the other side of the WNEP building.

Karlson was also a part of the broadcast team for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons in that team's early years.

Karlson died Thursday at his home; he was just 56.

*Christmas came early in Pittsburgh: WWSW (94.5) was in all-holiday mode over the weekend, but fear not: with more than a week yet to go before Halloween, the station isn't on the all-Christmas, all-the-time bandwagon just yet, returning to regular programming this morning. (In our other life as news editor of, we note that the first all-Christmas station this year appears to be St. Louis' WMVN, which flipped October 10 as it awaits a format change early in 2009.)

*A new station has formally launched in CANADA: CJLO (1690 Montreal) stopped testing and signed on for real last Wednesday (Oct. 15) at 1 PM, kicking things off with the Replacements' "Left of the Dial."

And Milkman UnLimited reports Darryl Kornicky is departing Newcap's CILV (Live 88.5) in Ottawa, heading down the 416 and the 401 to Kingston to become the new morning host at CIKR (K-Rock 105.7).

From the NERW Archives

(Yup, we've been doing this a long time now, and so we're digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five and ten years ago this week, or thereabouts - the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as "New England Radio Watch," and didn't go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997. Thanks to for the idea - and thanks to you, our readers, for the support that's made all these years of NERW possible!)

October 22, 2007 -

  • If NEW YORK radio listeners - at least those who listen to WABC (770) in the mornings - are a little confused this week, we don't blame them. After all, it's been a week now since the Drudge Report "confirmed" that Don Imus would be heading to WABC for morning drive, beginning December 3. That would mean the end of the Curtis (Sliwa) and (Ron) Kuby morning show that's become a fixture on WABC, and indeed, Kuby signed off last Monday by saying what sounded like a farewell to his audience...except that no official announcement of the change followed, and indeed, a week later there's still been no confirmation from Citadel management that it's bringing Imus back to the airwaves, or that Kuby's really gone from the station.
  • Is Imus really coming to WABC? Probably...but we'd expect a more coordinated announcement from Citadel than what we're seeing so far, if only to provide Kuby a more dignified exit. (Sliwa will stay with WABC, says the rumor mill, perhaps in what's now John Gambling's midday slot.)
  • With former PD/morning host Paul Vandenburgh heading over to the competition (Regent's WTMM 1300), Pamal's WROW (590 Albany) has picked a replacement: former WGY talker Scott Allen Miller, most recently heard in mornings at Boston's WRKO, comes to WROW to direct programming and host the morning show.
  • It's not just the Curtis/Kuby/Imus transition that's not going quite the way it was meant to go - in MASSACHUSETTS, Howie Carr continues to fight the ruling that's preventing him from making the jump from Entercom's WRKO (680) to Greater Media's WTKK (96.9). Earlier last week, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Allen van Gestel ruled in Entercom's favor, saying it had the legal right to match WTKK's offer, and thus to keep Carr's services locked up until 2012. Carr and his legal team are appealing the ruling; Carr's not returning to WRKO willingly; and in the meantime both WRKO's afternoon shift (hosted, for the moment, by Todd Feinburg) and WTKK's morning drive (where Michael Graham is holding forth for now) remain in limbo. (With, we'd note, the looming question of a new Boston home for Imus if he does indeed return to syndication - could that be WRKO's cue to cut its losses on the flailing Tom Finneran morning show and install former WTKK fixture Imus in its morning slot?)
  • Amidst all the turmoil at Entercom Boston, there's one morning host whose position is stable as can be: Greg Hill has signed up for another five years in morning drive on WAAF (107.3 Westborough), with no walkouts, lockouts or lawsuits needed. (Congratulations...)
  • Most of the commercial radio stations in Rutland, VERMONT are now operating from a single studio/office location, now that Pamal has completed its move of WSYB (1380 Rutland) and WZRT (97.1 Rutland) from the WSYB transmitter site on Dorr Drive to the Opera House studios that began as the home of WJJR (98.1 Rutland) and later added WJEN (94.5 Rutland) and WEBK (105.3 Killington). The Dorr Drive facility will continue to house the WSYB transmitter, of course, as well as storage space for Pamal.
  • Over in the Upper Valley, we've been remiss in not mentioning the format change at WMXR (93.9 Woodstock) that replaced "Rock 93.9 & 101.7" with news and talk as "93.9 the Pulse," a sister station to WTPL (107.7) over in Concord, NEW HAMPSHIRE. The talk format includes a local morning show with Greg Fennell, Glenn Beck, the Gardner Goldsmith show from WTPL, WMUR-TV news simulcasts and Red Sox baseball. The rock format, including the Manchester-based "Morning Buzz" show, continues, for now, on WVRR (101.7 Newport NH) - but that's likely temporary, with WVRR moving to 101.9 in the Keene market sometime soon.

October 20, 2003 -

  • Forever Broadcasting is already a mighty big player in western PENNSYLVANIA, but it's about to get even bigger in the Altoona market with a $2.1 million purchase of Vital Licenses' top 40 WPRR (100.1 Altoona) and sports WVAM (1430 Altoona).
  • Forever already owns four stations in the heart of the market: news-talk WFBG (1290 Altoona), country WFGY (98.1 Altoona), oldies WALY (103.9 Bellwood) and classic hits WMAJ-FM (104.9 Hollidaysburg) - not to mention two simulcasts to the east, WXMJ-FM (99.5 Mount Union, simulcasting WMAJ) and WWLY (106.3 Huntingdon, simulcasting WALY.) And while Johnstown is a separate radio market from Altoona, it shares a common TV market and some signal overlap - and Forever has two AMs and three FMs there and is adding another one of each. NERW notes that the seller here, Vital, is controlled by Kristin Cantrell, the daughter of Forever principal Kerby Confer - and that when Vital bought WVAM/WPRR back in 1999, crosstown competitor WRTA (1240) raised the issue of common control of the stations, which both sides adamantly denied. At the time, Forever's four stations controlled 58.5% of the market's revenue, while the WPRR/WVAM pair had 18.8%.
  • Other New York news: Batavia's WBTA (1490) is changing hands from Kevin Doran (not the same Kevin Doran who anchors the news on Rochester's WROC-TV) to HPL Communications, whose principal is Daniel C. Fischer (the same Dan Fischer who's the general manager of Vox's WKSN/WMHU in Jamestown.) Sale price: $275,000, not a bad deal for the only commercial station in Genesee County.
  • RHODE ISLAND's WPRO (630 Providence) was one of two Rush Limbaugh affiliates around the country to announce last week that they wouldn't be carrying the substitute hosts being offered by Premiere Radio Networks during Limbaugh's monthlong absence for drug addiction rehabilitation. Instead, WPRO PD David Bernstein planned to bring his old WOR colleague Joan Rivers to the 630 airwaves - until Premiere stepped in and put pressure on WPRO, as well as Baltimore's WBAL, to stick with the fill-in hosts. WBAL actually carried its own hosts in place of Limbaugh for a few days; WPRO was to have put Rivers on the air today but reversed its decision late Friday afternoon.
  • The student radio station at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell is about to get its third set of calls. Originally WLTI ("Lowell Technological Institute"), then WJUL ("University of Lowell"), the 91.5 facility is about to become WUML, reflecting the school's current name. The station's student leaders, still sore over university officials' decision to hand the morning hours on 91.5 over to the Lowell Sun, say they're not happy about losing their longtime calls but are powerless to do anything about it. (They also say UMass leadership is planning similar call changes for WSMU at what's now UMass-Dartmouth and for WMUA at the flagship UMass campus in Amherst, and NERW notes that WUMD and WUMA are both available calls...)

October 23, 1998 -

  • Two of Boston's biggest AM stations will soon have a new owner. The FCC gave its go-ahead this week to Entercom's purchase of WEEI (850) and WRKO (680) from CBS, and the deal is expected to close within days. A few weeks later, CBS will pay Entercom $75 million for two Tampa Bay-area FMs, and only then will the deal wrap up with Entercom taking control of CBS' WEGQ (93.7 Lawrence), WAAF (107.3 Worcester), and WWTM (1440 Worcester). In the end, $225 million will change hands from Entercom to CBS; the deal is being spread out for "tax reasons," we hear. The Boston stations used to belong to American Radio Systems until CBS bought them out -- and now we know what some of that money is being used for. American Tower Systems, which is still controlled by ARS' former owners, is spending $100 million to buy 322 radio towers in Atlanta, the midwest, and the southwest.
  • You can't keep them accurate: Boston's largest daily told its readers on Thursday about new programming at ``WGBH-FM (90.7)''. By comparison, the newly-colorful tabloid competitition was on a completely different plane of existence with Dean Johnson's cogent, insightful summary of the Summer Arbitrons. Did we mention we're glad to have Johnson's column available on-line?
  • A VERMONT college station is fighting for its life after its transmitter died Monday night. WWLR (91.5) at Lyndon State College went off the air when its transmitter on Vail Hill smoked out, and the station estimates the cost of replacement at $21,000. "Impulse 91.5" was one of the few bright spots on the Northeast Kingdom radio dial when last NERW was up that way a few years ago, and we'd hate to see it be silenced. Late word is that the station will be back on by next Wednesday at a quarter of its regular power; a new solid-state transmitter will follow to replace the old tube beast.
  • Our NEW YORK news begins with a double swap of city of license. Jacor's WMAX-FM (107.3) began identifying as "South Bristol," rather than "Honeoye Falls" last week, while WNVE (95.1) now uses "Honeoye Falls" instead of "South Bristol." What hasn't changed -- yet -- is the actual transmitter sites, but when it does, 95.1 will move some 25 miles closer into Rochester by using the Baker Hill site in Perinton, while 107.3 effectively leaves the Rochester market to run a paltry few hundred watts from Bristol Mountain. And given that, at least for now, there's no way the WMAX-FM signal actually reaches South Bristol city grade, NERW wonders if the changed COL is even legal. (And as we noted when this application was first filed, it's all game-playing anyway; neither South Bristol nor Honeoye Falls has even the remotest importance to the Rochester-based programming of either station...)
  • AM DX notes: Montreal's CBF (690) has been missing from the airwaves, and we're inclined to think CBF is now FM-only on 95.1. Toronto's CBL (740), scheduled to sign off for good this past week, has won a reprieve. Because replacement FM CBLA (99.1) isn't getting out as well as it was supposed to, and because relay CBLA-FM-1 (90.5 Crystal Beach) hasn't even been built yet, 740 will stay on for at least a few more months, and we'll still have something to listen to in the NERW-mobile. On the X-band, three new stations have lit up on this side of the continent: KCJJ (1630) in Iowa City, Iowa, joining the current 1560 there; WQSN (1660) in Kalamazoo, Michigan, taking its calls and sports format from the AM 1470 there, which becomes WKLZ; and WJNZ (1680) in Ada, Michigan, near Grand Rapids, the X-band offshoot of WMHG (1600) in Muskegon. 1680 has been widely reported by DX-ers who have heard its urban format, first under the assigned calls of WBHD, then as "Jamz 1680."

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