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November 3, 2008

A Sad Start for Ithaca's Z95.5

*It was supposed to be a joyous week in upstate NEW YORK - the debut of the airstaff at Ithaca's new top-40 station, Finger Lakes Radio Group's WFIZ (95.5 Odessa). In the course of just a few months, PD/morning man Tommy Frank had arrived from Indiana, assembled a crew that included morning co-host Heather B., assistant PD/night guy Justin Wright and the syndicated Ryan Seacrest in afternoons.

On Wednesday, "Z95.5" closed out its inaugural 10,000-song commercial-free stunt with the debut of Frank's morning show, followed later in the day by Wright's on-air debut.

And then the joy gave way to tragedy: early Thursday morning, Frank was found dead in his apartment, felled by a heart attack at the age of 42 (or possibly 43, if the dates shown on WFIZ's website tribute are correct), leaving behind a young son.

The Bangor native (whose real name was Thomas Foley) had a long list of call letters on his resume: morning co-host ("Frank & Stein") at WRFY in Reading, then PD at the short-lived WSKS in Scranton, WAYV in Atlantic City, WWHT in Syracuse, WKRQ Cincinnati, WAZY Lafayette, Indiana, WJFX Fort Wayne, WNDV South Bend and WTBT/WGER in Saginaw before returning to the northeast a few months ago.

In the wake of Frank's sudden death, WFIZ GM Frank Lischak has named Wright to serve as PD and morning co-host, which means the station is once again looking for an APD/night jock.

Meanwhile, a memorial fund in Frank's name has been established at his alma mater, the New England School of Communications (NESCOM), at 1 College Circle, Bangor ME 04401.

*In NEW YORK CITY, the CBS Radio cluster has promoted Mark Chernoff to vice president of programming, giving him oversight over WCBS, WCBS-FM, WINS, WXRK and WWFS in addition to his existing role as operations manager at WFAN and VP of sports programming for CBS Radio.

It's getting hard for us to even keep complete track of all the talented radio people displaced by job cuts across the industry, but we know we can add several more at Cumulus' Hudson Valley cluster. Those out of work there include WRRV/WRRB morning co-host Diane (replaced by Brandi Hunter), night guy Tigman (a 10-year veteran) and overnight jock Scott Perry at WPDH, and 16-year WCZX morning veteran Brian Jones.

Over at Clear Channel, Paty Quin returns to middays at WRWD (107.3 Highland) after a two-year absence; her return sends Krista Jones to middays at sister station WBWZ (93.3 New Paltz).

In translator news, Bridgelight Communications is buying the translator that's been carrying its programming into Poughkeepsie. It's paying Apple Community Broadcasting a remarkable $55,000 for the 10-watt signal of W255BY (98.9), which relays WJUX (99.7 Monticello).

In Binghamton, Thunder Reynolds, late of WAAL, signs on with Equinox Broadcasting's WRRQ (106.7 Windsor) for afternoons. "Q107" also adds Josh Evans, who does sales for Equinox's Elmira-market stations, to track nights.

In Syracuse, Jim Tate is out at Buckley's WSEN (92.1/1050 Baldwinsville), as John Carucci moves from nights to afternoons at the classic hits station.

Mark down a new address for Stephens' three Rochester-market stations (WRMM, WZNE and WFKL), as they vacate the 17th floor of the HSBC Building for new digs on the eighth floor of the First Federal Building on the other side of downtown Rochester. The new mailing address is 28 E. Main Street, 8th floor, Rochester NY 14614.

Stephens' move allows Clear Channel to begin gutting the HSBC Building studios in preparation for the move of its cluster from the now-closed Midtown Plaza across the street, where the radio stations will be the last tenants remaining when they move out before year's end.

More translator news: in Olean, Jeff Andrulonis' Colonial Radio Group is buying W289AS (105.7 Olean) from Edgewater Communications for $15,000; while the 10-watter is currently licensed to relay Family Life Radio's WCID (89.1 Friendship), we suspect it will be relaying Colonial's WLMI (103.9 Kane PA) before long.

In TV news, Tribune's continuing rebranding of its owned-and-operated stations is coming to New York, where WPIX (Channel 11) will drop its "CW11" identity soon, in favor of a modified version of the "circle 11" logo that it used on and off from the seventies until the launch of The WB in the mid-nineties. The CW itself isn't going away - at least not right away - but it's nice to see one of the nation's foremost independent stations regaining its local identity.

*Just across the state line in VERMONT, there's a new morning man and production director at WEQX (102.7 Manchester), as Darwin (aka Brian Bushner) returns to his old stomping grounds after several years at Albany's WZMR. Darwin's return to mornings at EQX sends Amber Miller back to middays after her interim morning shift.


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*Most of our PENNSYLVANIA news comes from Philadelphia - and not just from Citizens Bank Park, home of the world champion Phillies (with hearty congratulations to legendary Phils broadcaster Harry Kalas, who finally got to call a Series win live after almost four decades with the team; while he was the Phillies announcer for their last - and only other - championship back in 1980, the broadcast deals back then didn't allow local announcers to call the Series, even on the teams' flagship stations.)

At Greater Media's Philadelphia cluster, WNUW (97.5 Burlington NJ) has a new PD and - temporarily - a new format. Don Gosselin moves down the hall from WBEN-FM (95.7 Philadelphia) to take the PD reins at "Now 97.5," which flipped to all-Christmas music late last week before usuall all-Christmas stalwart WBEB (B101) could beat it to the punch.

Gosselin's move opened up a PD vacancy at Ben-FM, which was promptly filled by Jules Riley. The former operations manager at Citadel's Scranton cluster returns to the Keystone State from St. Louis and the PD chair at WARH and the now-defunct WMVN.

On the corporate level, Peter Smyth adds a new Greater Media title: in addition to being president/CEO of the group, Smyth is now the chairman of the board as well, succeeding the late John Bordes, who died Sept. 25.

Over at CBS Radio, the rumors are apparently true - Danny Bonaduce is headed east from Los Angeles to take over mornings on WYSP (94.1 Philadelphia), effective next Monday.

Meanwhile at the CBS Radio cluster in Pittsburgh, the budget axe was in full swing last week, claiming at least seven jobs. Most prominently, longtime PD Ryan Mill is out at WBZW (93.7), after a 15-year career that's included several stints programming that station. Cluster PD Keith Clark will handle B's programming duties. At KDKA (1020), production director Dennis Elliot and producer Jim Amato are out, as well as two general sales managers and two promotions directors at the CBS FM stations.

In Scranton, Ryan Seacrest's "On Air" show has landed yet another new affiliate: he's taking the noon-3 slot on Entercom's WKRZ (98.5 Freeland)/WKRF (107.9 Tobyhanna), displacing Kelly K to the 9 AM-noon shift.

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*A quiet week in MASSACHUSETTS, which means we can catch up on at least one item we'd been neglecting to mention: it appears that Barry Armstrong's Money Matters Radio has flipped WESO (970 Southbridge) from its "Spirit 970" classic country format to a simulcast of the business talk heard on WBNW (1120 Concord).

Out west, there's a new morning man at WPKX (97.9 Enfield, CONNECTICUT), as Mike Tyler returns to the region from Pittsburgh's WDSY. That moves Marc Spencer to afternoons and Bob Martin to middays at "Kix."


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*Just one story from CANADA this week, but it's a pretty big one: as CHUM (1050) and CHUM-FM (104.5) prepare to move out of their longtime studio home at 1331 Yonge Street, they're opening the doors to the public one last time in a couple of weeks.

The farewell CHUM open house will take place Saturday, November 15, from noon-4 PM, including tours of the building and the CHUM Museum within - and Milkman UnLimited reports there will be a "special CHUM souvenir" available to visitors with a donation to the CP24 CHUM Christmas Wish charity.

(Yes, NERW plans to be there, weather and border delays permitting, so expect full coverage in the November 17 issue!)

The 1331 Yonge Street site, which has been home to CHUM since 1959, has been sold to a developer, and the stations are moving downtown to 250 Richmond Street West over the next few months. The landmark neon sign is already gone from Yonge Street - it was dismantled in early September so it can be refurbished before being installed at the new studios on Richmond.

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!)

November 5, 2007 -

  • Is it still news when we've known it was coming for weeks? That's where things stand with the latest headlines from NEW YORK, where Citadel's WABC (770) sent morning co-host Ron Kuby packing after Thursday morning's "Curtis and Kuby" show, following that a few hours later with the long-awaited official announcement that Don Imus would be coming to WABC's morning drive on December 3.
  • Imus will take a pay cut from his old CBS Radio salary to return to the airwaves; reports have him earning about $5 million a year from the deal, which will also bring back his former WFAN newsman Charles McCord. (What of producer Bernie McGuirk? Nobody's saying, and there are rumors that McGuirk may be pursuing his own new show in the Boston market.)
  • The new show will be syndicated by ABC Radio Networks, and the big speculation now revolves around where Imus might land in some of the other markets where he used to be heard. Will WTKK in Boston, which has been trying without success to break Howie Carr's WRKO contract (and which lost another round in court last week), fall back on its former morning man? (Or will WRKO, which is struggling with the Tom Finneran morning disaster, cut its losses and go with the proven offering from New York?)
  • At the other end of the state, Holy Family Communication's WHIC (1460 Rochester) dedicated its new transmitter site Tuesday morning, interrupting its usual Catholic programming for a special live broadcast from the site hosted by general manager (and Rochester radio veteran) Jack Palvino, and featuring a blessing from Rochester's Bishop Matthew Clark, who said he's never blessed a radio tower before. Holy Family also saluted the town of Henrietta for its quick approval of the new site, a rare feat in this day of rampant NIMBY-ism, and one made easier by the site's location in an industrial area with few neighbors to complain. The site's not quite finished yet - the new phasor had just been delivered last week, and the antenna tuning units and ground system weren't yet complete - but WHIC expects to be on the air from the new site before the end of autumn.
  • Just down the road in Livingston County, Bob Savage's WYSL (1040 Avon) filed its formal interference complaint with the FCC last week, alleging that the upper digital sideband of WBZ (1030 Boston)'s HD Radio operation is causing prohibited interference within the "interference-free" contours of WYSL in all three modes (daytime, critical hours and nighttime) of its operation. Savage and several other broadcasters have created a new website at to rally support for their campaign against nighttime use of HD Radio on the AM dial - can they prompt additional formal complaints like WYSL's, and will the FCC listen?
  • Regent Communications continued the selloff of some of its non-core stations last week, following the sale of its lone Albany AM (WTMM 1300 Rensselaer) with the sale of its lone AM in the Buffalo market. Dick Greene's Culver Communications will pay Regent $1.3 million for WECK (1230 Cheektowaga), which has been doing automated classic country as a flanker to Regent's big WYRK (106.5 Buffalo).
  • October was a month of frequency upgrades in PENNSYLVANIA. On October 17, the venerable religious outlet WPEL (1250 Montrose) switched off that frequency after more than half a century, moving its 1000-watt daytime signal down the dial to 800 kHz, where that kilowatt will carry further. WPEL(AM) runs a southern gospel format, while its sister station WPEL-FM (96.5) serves both Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Binghamton with a religious teaching format.
  • In central Pennsylvania, WXPN (88.5 Philadelphia) spent last week celebrating its big facility upgrade, having traded the former WXPH (88.1 Harrisburg) for the 7 kW signal of WZXM (88.7 Middletown).
  • 88.7 now has the WXPH calls, and as of Nov. 1, it's relaying WXPN's AAA format to a wider region that now includes York and Lancaster as well as Harrisburg. As for 88.1, it's now WZXM, carrying "Word FM" religious programming from new owners Four Rivers Community Broadcasting.

November 3, 2003 -

  • Two years and six weeks after the World Trade Center was destroyed, New York City once again has DTV service from all the major English television networks. WABC-DT (Channel 45) signed back on the air last Thursday (Oct. 30) from the newly-completed Four Times Square mast, restoring ABC digital service to market #1. ABC was the last of the major nets to get DTV back on the air; CBS and Fox had been operating their digital signals from the Empire State Building even before 9/11, and the ESB would later become home to low-power signals for WNBC-DT and WPIX-DT (WB). (UPN service was restored on a subchannel of Fox's WNYW-DT, and PBS was restored by WNET via a low-power transmitter on the roof of its studio building.) With the arrival of WABC-TV at 4 Times Square, the building begins a new era as a major primary site in New York. In addition to ABC, Univision has signed a lease for space in the building, and is already broadcasting a low-power Telefutura signal there for WFUT-DT (Channel 53).
  • Another hopeful note in the ongoing restoration of full TV service to New York: Pax's WPXN (Channel 31) moved its signal from Eagle Rock Avenue in West Orange, N.J. to Empire last week.
  • Three proposed call letters and several rumored target dates later, the new talk station in MASSACHUSETTS finally launches this week. Salem's WTTT (1150 Boston) began stunting over the weekend with an all "Danny Boy" format, which will end Tuesday (11/2) at noon when it launches its conservative talk format, anchored by Don Feder, moving over from sister WROL (950 Boston).
  • A long-running LMA in MAINE has come to an end: Mountain Wireless is once again programming WSKW (1160 Skowhegan), WHQO (107.9 Skowhegan) and WCTB (93.5 Fairfield) on its own, after years of leasing them to Clear Channel's Augusta-based cluster. No word yet on programming changes; WSKW was running a sports simulcast with CC's WFAU (1280 Gardiner), WHQO was simulcasting news/talk with CC's WCME (96.7 Boothbay Harbor), and WCTB was doing AC.
  • WWRX (103.7) in Westerly, RHODE ISLAND is breaking away from its parent network at Boston's WFNX; it's just launched a new morning show with Jay Ferreira, formerly of WAAF in Worcester and WCCC in Hartford, and now takes only a few weekend shows from Boston.

November 6, 1998 -

  • An upstate NEW YORK radio station is making the move to a new frequency. Watertown's WCIZ (93.5) began telling its listeners last week to get ready to adjust their dials to 93.3, and NERW's ears up in the North Country tell us the change has now happened. The classic hits station known as "Z93" jumps from 4000 to 6000 watts with the change, and moves from a tower north of Watertown to a site shared with sister station WFRY (97.5) in the hills east of town.
  • Meantime in the Buffalo area, WHLD (1270 Niagara Falls) wants to move its transmitter some 30 miles south. The ethnic outlet is currently 5000 watts day, 144 watts night from a two-tower array on Grand Island, halfway between Buffalo and Niagara Falls. An application filed this week with the FCC would move WHLD to the WNED (970) site in Hamburg, on the shore of Lake Erie south of Buffalo. WHLD's new 5000/143 watt DA-1 operation would blanket Buffalo and Niagara Falls by day, and would be fairly solid in the ethnic neighborhoods on Buffalo's south side at night as well. Could a city of license change, perhaps to Hamburg, Lackawanna, or Orchard Park, be next?
  • Craig Fox is making some call-letter changes at his central New York stations. WNDR (103.9 Mexico) has applied for WVOQ, presumably to match simulcast partner WVOA (105.1 DeRuyter), and WMBO (1340 Auburn) has applied for WKGJ -- and we have NO idea what that stands for! WMBO's been simulcasting WOLF (1490) Syracuse and WOLF-FM (96.7) Oswego. Continuing the lupine theme, WOLF-TV in Scranton, Pennsylvania also has new calls -- it's returned to the "WSWB" that was on its construction permit years ago (and which later spent years on the CP for channel 64 there, now a Pax TV outlet). The WOLF-TV calls move to the sister station on channel 56 in Hazleton, until now known as WWLF. And Fox isn't letting his heritage calls disappear in Central New York -- his W60BY Syracuse becomes WMBO-LP, and W18AL becomes WNDR-LP.
  • In the Rochester area, Jacor has filed formal applications to shuffle transmitter sites for WNVE (95.1 Honeoye Falls) and WMAX-FM (107.3 South Bristol). As expected, "the Nerve" files to move its 50,000 watts from Bristol Mountain some 30 miles north to Baker Hill in Perinton, within sight of downtown Rochester, while "Jam'n 107" flees from Bloomfield up to Bristol Mountain, where its whopping 650 watts will barely reach Rochester on a good day (but should cover the central Finger Lakes quite nicely). NERW wonders whether a reshuffling of some of Jacor's Rochester-area formats will follow, both to accomodate the new coverage areas and to account for the still-unbuilt CP for 102.1 Albion.
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, one of the founders of "The River" in Haverhill is heading south. Mike Mullaney was the founding music director when WLYT (92.5) became WXRV back in 1995, and was the station's morning guy for the last two years as well. Now he's gotten an offer he can't refuse, to become assistant program director at WBMX (98.5) in Boston. He'll start later this month; no replacement has been named yet.
  • Brockton's WCAV (97.7) wants to move north; it's applied to move from its current facility alongside route 24 south of the city to a 150-meter tower on North Quincy Street, at the northern edge of Brockton (and, of course, a few miles closer in to Boston). WCAV would go from its current 3000 watts at 84 meters AAT to 2700 watts at 150 meters AAT. Also moving is WCRB (102.5 Waltham), which has been granted FCC approval to move across the highway from the WBZ-TV tower in Needham to the FM128 tower in Newton.
  • Two new calls in VERMONT this week, and one's an oldie-but-goodie. The WNBX calls date back to the very dawn of radio in the Connecticut River Valley in the twenties, and later spent years on the FM side of WKNE in Keene (now WKNE-FM 103.7). More recently, they've been attached to the 100.5 in Lebanon NH. Now Bob and Shirley Wolf have laid claim to this piece of history, attaching it to their AM 1480 in Springfield, formerly WCFR. Up the valley a bit in White River Junction, WKXE (95.3) becomes WWSH-FM, joining "Wish" sister stations WSSH (101.5 Marlboro) and WZSH (107.1 Bellows Falls). The WWSH calls used to be in Pittston, Pennsylvania.

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