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November 17, 2008

Wease Returns, While CBS Cuts

*To the strains of Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock & Roll to Me" and a new tune, "The Wease is Back," one of western NEW YORK's best-known radio talents returned to the airwaves Saturday night, testing the waters of a new studio ahead of the real launch this morning.

That would be Rochester's Brother Wease, of course, whose contract dispute with his former station, Entercom's WCMF (96.5), made headlines both here and in the mainstream media a year ago. Wease ended up departing WCMF after a quarter of a century, leaving his former sidekicks behind to start their own morning show - and as of today, after waiting out a non-compete in his WCMF contract, he's over at Clear Channel's rival classic rocker, WFXF (95.1 Honeoye Falls).

In a radio environment where talent costs are often among the first things to be cut by managers trying to make sense of a plummeting economic picture, "The Fox" is hoping its investment in Wease and a new crew of sidekicks, as well as in the contract to carry Bills football, will pay off in ratings and revenues for a station that's had relatively low visibility in town in its five years on the air.

There was nothing low-visibility about WFXF this morning, however - from a bottom-of-the-front page "Welcome back, Wease" ad in the Democrat and Chronicle (paid for by sponsor Salvatore's Pizza, which is advertising a "$9.51 Welcome back, Wease" special) to rolling billboards on the streets of downtown Rochester to the TV crews that jammed into the packed studio at Midtown Plaza, it was hard to miss Wease's return.

That's Clear Channel traffic manager Lisa Becker at right in the photo above - a longtime Wease fan from his WCMF days, she had the honor of introducing Wease as he signed back on the air. Later in the morning, Rochester mayor Bob Duffy was scheduled to drop by, and no doubt one of the topics will be the fate of the building where Clear Channel's studios are currently located.

The radio stations are the last tenants left in the otherwise-vacant mall, which is now owned by the city. While construction work is underway a few blocks away at the new studios at the HSBC Building, where the old CBS Radio studios are being gutted, Wease and company aren't expected to be in their new digs (on the 16th floor, one level down from Wease's old WCMF studios) until February at the earliest.

In the meantime, the Wease crew is using the old WHAM (1180) studio, sharing close quarters around the console instead of the usual lounge setting that they'll enjoy at the new digs.

As for the man himself? Wease was clearly happy to be back behind a mic, and he'll be happier still, we think, when the introductory festivities are over - after just a few minutes this morning, Wease was already complaining about the nonstop flood of "welcome back, we missed you" phone calls he was taking.

And was that Wease's former WCMF colleague, midday jock Dave Kane, we saw hanging out just outside the studio? (Tuesday update: Kane checked in with NERW to say that while there are indeed a few guys around town who look like him, he's never been up at the Clear Channel studios, Monday morning included.)

*While Clear Channel tests the value of a high-profile committment local programming with Wease, other big broadcasters continue to cut back.

In New York City, CBS Radio cut at least four more jobs last week, including Jeff Mazzei, the WCBS-FM (101.1) assistant program director who'd more or less single-handedly kept the oldies format alive on the station's HD2 signal between the 2005 flip to "Jack FM" and the 2007 return to oldies on the main channel. Mazzei, a 23-year veteran of CBS-FM (and of WNBC/WYNY before that), had been voicetracking overnights and the Sunday night countdown show. Also out at CBS in New York are a receptionist at WXRK, a sales assistant at WFAN and at least one veteran engineer.

Meanwhile in Buffalo, longtime WJYE (96.1) afternoon jock Bob "the Godfather" Galli exited last week.

Where are they now? Former WABC program director Phil Boyce has disclosed where he's going next: he's joining Talk Radio Network, where he'll serve as president of programming, overseeing a talent roster that includes Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham and Mancow - but not his WABC protege Sean Hannity, with whom Boyce was widely rumored to be planning to work after departing the Citadel-owned talker. And Vinny Brown, who made his name programming New York City stations including WRKS and WBLS/WLIB, has hired on with Stevie Wonder's station in the LA market. He'll be serving as executive VP at KJLH (102.3 Compton).

Clear Channel is shuffling the schedule at its WYYY (94.5 Syracuse), moving John Tesh's syndicated show from nights to afternoons, where Glenn Hamilton is now on the air.

More Christmas flips: Albany's WKLI (100.9) made the switch at 5 PM on Monday, followed later in the week by Clear Channel's WRNQ (92.1 Poughkeepsie) and WCTW (98.5 Catskill) - and at week's end by the big gun in the Clear Channel "Lite" family, WLTW (106.7 New York), as well as by WMXW (103.3 Vestal) in the Binghamton market and by WTSS (102.5) in Buffalo.

Add an AM station to the list, too: WVTL (1570 Amsterdam) replaced its talk format with Christmas music last week, though its morning show remains on the air.

There's a new noncommercial FM signal coming to eastern Niagara County and the fringes of the Buffalo market, as Lockport Community Television has been granted a construction permit for a 90.5 signal licensed to Rapids, New York. The 250-watt/74' directional facility will use a site about halfway between Amherst and Lockport, where it will be tightly wedged in between the CBC's Crystal Beach, Ontario relay on the same frequency and the as-yet-unbuilt new Holy Family Communications signal on 90.7 in Lancaster.

Speaking of 90.7, the frequency will be the home of a new noncommercial FM signal in Napeague, on Long Island's East End - and that new 6.25 kW/315' DA signal has calls: KCBE. Yes, "KCBE" - and no, we don't know whether that was an FCC glitch or a deliberate request by the Community Bible Church, the licensee of the new signal.

In TV news, there's a big opening coming in front of a green screen in Syracuse: veteran WSYR-TV (Channel 9) chief meteorologist Dave Eichorn's contract isn't being renewed when it's up at year's end, we hear.

One more belated TV note before we move on: when we finally had a chance, long after Election Night, to settle back with our DVR and check out what some of the network coverage had looked like (we were, of course, busy working on local coverage ourselves that long night), we noticed something interesting on Rochester's WHEC - no HD signal from NBC until halfway through Barack Obama's victory speech, awfully late into the night, even at times when there wasn't local SD content being superimposed on the network feed. Were other local affiliates in SD all night, too? Drop us a line and let us know...

And speaking of NBC, the network lost one of its most distinctive voices last week. Howard Reig came to the network in 1952 from General Electric's WGY/WGFM/WRGB in Schenectady, where he had already been a staff announcer for a decade, much of that time as WGY morning host. At NBC, Reig worked for more than half a century in almost every imaginable capacity, anchoring newscasts, announcing sports events, doing local announcing for WNBC-TV, and for almost a quarter of a century, from 1983-2007, introducing the NBC Nightly News. Reig's retirement from full-time duty in 2005 marked the end of the staff announcer era at NBC. He died last Monday at his home in Florida; he was 87.


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*The return of veteran MASSACHUSETTS sportscaster Bob Lobel to the radio airwaves turned out to be temporary indeed.

When Lobel came on board as morning co-host on CBS Radio's WODS (103.3) on September 22, station officials hinted that the longtime WBZ-TV personality might be appearing in only a "guest" role - and that's turned out to be the case.

Chris Zito, who recently departed Worcester's WXLO, joined the WODS staff on Wednesday, working alongside Karen Blake from 6-9 AM weekdays. Zito's arrival is hardly a surprise; in Worcester, he worked with Jay Beau Jones, who's now PD at WODS.

With Zito's return, however, came staffing cuts at WODS and its sister CBS Radio stations: at WZLX (100.7), longtime overnight jock "Reverend Al" Cole, is out. News anchor/morning sidekick June Knight is gone at WODS, replaced by updates "from the WBZ newsroom." But the WBZ (1030) newsroom is a few staffers smaller than usual, too: Bob McMahon, a 16-year 'BZ veteran (and before that a veteran of Utica and Syracuse radio and of the old WEEI), is out, as are sports guy Alan Segel, who'd been there more than 20 years, and producer Scot Cooper, who was coming up on two decades there.

(The usual disclosure: your editor used to work with McMahon, Segel and especially Cooper, and was trained by Cooper in the now-arcane arts of cart-bulking and reel-splicing; any cuts in that newsroom inevitably hit pretty hard at this address, and we're hopeful all three can be back at work somewhere soon.)

Out west, the analog TV dial in Springfield is emptying out ahead of next February's transition date. On November 5, public station WGBY turned off its analog channel 57 transmitter as it begins juggling antennas and transmission lines to get ready for its Feb. 17 switch from digital channel 58 to digital channel 22. And on the other side of the Mount Tom tower farm, ABC affiliate WGGB will turn off its analog signal on channel 40 December 1, allowing it to get ready to move its digital signal from channel 55 to channel 40 by the time transition day arrives.

On the North Shore, translator profiteer Radio Assist Ministry gets $22,000 for the license to W243CD (96.5 Gloucester). The buyer, White Mountain Broadcasting tells the FCC it intends to use the translator to relay Calvary's WSMA (90.5 Scituate) - we note that the New Hampshire phone number listed for White Mountain happens to be that of Brian Dodge's WWNH (1340 Madbury), for whatever that might be worth.

Out on Cape Cod, add WKPE (103.9 South Yarmouth) to the Christmas-music list - it flipped November 10, we're told, and when "Cape 104" returns to its regular format after Christmas, there will be some changes, most notably the exit of morning host Steve Binder.

In Worcester, budget cuts have claimed the job of AJ Crozby, who was the night jock at Citadel's WXLO (104.5 Fitchburg) and production director for the cluster there.

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*A Providence, RHODE ISLAND FM station is back to full power after losing its antenna to lightning damage.

Thanks to Mike Fitzpatrick of for this picture ("Exclusive to NERW!," he notes) showing the new three-bay directional ERI at WSNE (93.3 Taunton MA), which replaces the old auxiliary antenna for WJAR (Channel 10) at that station's tower site in Rehoboth, Massachusetts.

*The count of all-Christmas stations in PENNSYLVANIA's largest market now stands at two: WBEB (101.1) made its flip last week, joining Greater Media's WNUW (97.5) in the format.

In Pittsburgh, Clear Channel has promoted Alex Tear to operations manager of its six-station cluster. Tear retains his PD duties at two of the stations, oldies WWSW (94.5) and top-40 WKST-FM (96.1).

There's a new noncommercial station coming to St. Mary's: WRWV will be the calls of Invisible Allies Ministries' signal on 91.1, running 110 watts/610' from the WKBI-FM (93.9) tower. The new station will relay WRXV (89.1 State College).

And on TV, the Keystone State's stations will all be cooperating tonight for a one-minute simulated shutdown of their analog signals, testing viewers' readiness for the real thing come February. The coordinated test will take place at 6:25 PM on every TV station in the state, with one exception: WQLN-TV in Erie is already gone from the analog dial after its transmission line failed this fall.

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*In CANADA, the CRTC has plenty of work on its agenda over the next few months, with a big public hearing scheduled for January 26 in Orillia to consider a slew of new station applications and a few troublesome license renewals.

Perhaps the most troublesome has been Pellpropco's CHSC (1220) in St. Catharines, Ontario, which has been in the CRTC's sights recently amidst accusations that the station had abandoned its service to its city of license on the Niagara Peninsula in favor of serving Italian-speaking listeners in Toronto. The CRTC says there's evidence that CHSC has considerably exceeded the 15% limit for "third-language" (non-English/French) programming. There are also issues with CHSC's required financial statements, missing logger tapes, and even the location of CHSC's main studio. The station lost its old St. Catharines studio in a bankruptcy auction a few months back, and has apparently been operating from a sales office in the Toronto suburb of Woodbridge.

Also on the agenda is the renewal of Quinte Broadcasting's CJBQ (800 Belleville), which may have violated the Canadian-content rules.

Then there are dozens of applications for new stations: seven for 89.1 in Orillia, Ontario, most from regional players such as Larche Communications, Bayshore Broadcasting and Rock 95, as well as from national group Newcap. There's also an application for a low-power information station on 98.5 in Orillia from Jack McGaw's Instant Information Systems.

Over in Bracebridge and Gravenhurst, Ontario, four applicants, including Evanov, Bayshore and Larche, want new signals on 102.3, while McGaw seeks a low-power signal on 101.9 and JOCO Communications has two applications for signals on 101.7.

In Huntsville, Ontario, Muskoka-Parry Sound Broadcasting is applying to boost power on CFBK (105.5), from 5 kW to 43 kW. The company is a subsidiary of Haliburton Broadcasting, which is also on the agenda at the January hearing, when the CRTC is expected to approve its sale to Newcap.

Moving along to eastern Ontario, My Broadcasting hopes to expand its regional "My FM" network into Brighton, with 1.45 kW/482' DA on 100.9.

Out in western Ontario, Five Amigos Broadcasting wants a new station in Wallaceburg, south of Sarnia. The new AC station on 99.1 would run 1 kW/197' DA.

Over in Windsor, the CBC has apparently dropped its plan to install a "nested" low-power FM relay of its Radio One signal, CBE (1550), on 102.3. Instead, it's asking the CRTC for permission to abandon AM entirely in Windsor, replacing the 10 kW AM signal with two FM transmitters, one on 97.5 in Windsor (19 kW/426' DA, with a deep directional null toward Detroit's WKRK 97.1 and WJLB 97.9) and one on 91.5 in Leamington (10.4 kW/193' DA). If CBE's move to FM is granted, it will mean the end of one of only two main CBC Radio One transmitters still remaining on AM between Winnipeg and Newfoundland - and the other, CBI (1140 Sydney NS) has permission to go to FM as well.

Yet there are also a couple of applications for new AMs in this massive Notice of Public Hearing, both in the Toronto area: Kumar Nadarajah wants 1000 watts by day, 175 watts at night on 960 in suburban Markham for an ethnic station, occupying the frequency recently vacated over in Kingston by CFFX; meanwhile, in Toronto's Scarborough neighborhood, Subanasiri Vaithilingam wants 1000 watts by day and 87 watts at night on 1350, also for an ethnic station, using the frequency abandoned in nearby Oshawa when CKDO moved to 1580 a couple of years back.

In the Maritimes, CKBW (94.5 Bridgewater NS) is applying to add a second signal: it wants a country station on 100.7, with 10 kW/488'.

And in a separate proceeding from the January hearing, the CRTC is seeking comments on an application from Newcap to extend the reach of its Prince Edward Island FM signals to the outer ends of the island. If granted, CKQK (105.5 Charlottetown) would add 103.7 in Elmira and 91.1 in St. Edward, while CHTN (100.3 Charlottetown) would be heard on 99.9 in Elmira and 89.9 in St. Edward.

*In Hamilton, the financial struggles at CanWest Global mean big programming cuts at CHCH (Channel 11). The station has cancelled four local talk shows, closed a regional news bureau in Oakville and cut its noon newscast back to half an hour - and there's word that veteran anchors Dan McLean and Connie Smith could lose their jobs as the cuts continue. Also on the chopping block is the morning newscast on Global Ontario, which will be replaced by a simulcast of CHCH's morning show.

*And in Toronto, NERW was on hand as CHUM (1050) listeners turned out in the rain Saturday, some waiting in line for over an hour to shuffle through the halls of the station's venerable 1331 Yonge St. studio building for one last time as the station prepares to move downtown after half a century at its present site.

Voices from CHUM's past such as Bob Laine and Gord James were behind the mikes in the air studio, broadcasting live while the room filled with listeners touring the station all afternoon. CHUM's history was on display as well, as the offices at the south end of the building were transformed into a CHUM Museum for the day, featuring old CHUM Charts and other memorabilia.

The event benefited the CP24/CHUM Christmas Wish charity, which offered two prints showing the CHUM building in earlier days as a gift to donors.

CHUM isn't moving out just yet, by the way - its new home at Richmond and Simcoe Streets won't be ready until early 2009. (And when it does, we hope to be on hand to chronicle the move for you!)

Read - or written - any good books lately? We're compiling a special NERW Bookshelf column for Thanksgiving week, and we're looking for books about radio or TV in our region, or written by radio or TV people. If you've got something to add to our list, let us know!

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 19, 2007 -

  • One of the best-loved voices in PENNSYLVANIA radio history has been silenced. Hy Lit died Saturday, almost two weeks after undergoing what was supposed to have been routine knee surgery for an injury he suffered when he fell Nov. 4, followed by what his son Sam tells the Philadelphia Inquirer was a series of "bizarre complications."
  • Lit was one of Philadelphia's first rock-and-roll DJs, starting his career at age 20 in 1955 at WHAT (1340), where he quickly made a name for himself before moving first to NBC-owned WRCV (1060) and then, by late 1957, to top-40 giant WIBG (990), where his achievements included introducing the city to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles - and an amazing 73 rating for his evening show, likely an all-time ratings record for any DJ. Lit quickly became a TV star as well, hosting a dance show on WKBS-TV (Channel 48) that was syndicated to other Kaiser TV stations around the country.
  • In 1968, Lit made a brief shift to the world of "underground" FM radio, helping to launch a rock format on WDAS-FM (105.3) before returning to WIBG in 1969. Later in the seventies, Lit would work at WIFI (92.5), then at WPGR (1540) and WSNI (104.5) in the eighties. The next phase of Lit's long career in Philly radio began in 1989, when he joined CBS' WOGL-FM (98.1) and became the first voice heard on WOGL (1210) the next year. Lit remained with WOGL-FM until 2005, when he retired from the station as part of a settlement of an age-discrimination lawsuit against CBS.
  • Even after a half-century on the air, though, Lit remained active in the business, launching a streaming radio station at that's still active under Sam Lit's leadership. Lit was an early inductee into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia's Hall of Fame, among many honors. He was 73.
  • Few PDs are as closely identified with a cluster as Jim Rising was with Entercom's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton station group - he was there for the sign-on of WKRZ (98.5 Wilkes-Barre) three decades ago, and he rose (no pun intended) to become OM of that station, as well as market leader WGGY, news-talk WILK and AAA WDMT (102.3 Pittston), where he also served as PD. Rising resigned from the cluster last Monday, and we wish him the best in his future endeavors (and not only because his page of links at the WDMT website included one to this page, in which he wrote "Scott has a great grip on this business and is usually right." Thanks, Jim...)
  • The week's other big pair of stories came out of the talk radio arena in MASSACHUSETTS, where the Howie Carr/WRKO/WTKK saga came to an end (for now, anyway) with the announcement on Thursday that Carr was ending his fight to break out of his contract with Entercom's WRKO and would be back on the air there the following afternoon. And indeed, when 3 o'clock rolled around on Friday afternoon, there was Howie, more or less back in his usual form, albeit sounding somewhat constrained by management as to how much he could say about his absence from the airwaves.
  • As it turned out, the final piece of the puzzle snapped into place rather neatly: with Carr blocked from jumping over to its morning-drive slot, Greater Media's WTKK (96.9) went right back to that slot's previous occupant, announcing on Friday that it had signed up as the first affiliate of Don Imus' new morning show, syndicated out of Citadel's WABC (770 New York). While WABC had initially said that syndication of Imus wouldn't begin until a month or so after his Dec. 3 relaunch in New York, WTKK says it will be on board promptly at 6 AM that day.
  • Over on the TV side of things, the Springfield market is finally getting its own Fox affiliate, but not the way we'd thought it was going to happen. LIN's WWLP-TV (Channel 22) added sister station WFXQ-CA (Channel 28) last year, and both the call letters and insider buzz strongly hinted that the low-power signal (presently a simulcast of WWLP's NBC programming) would eventually become the market's Fox outlet. But then Gormally Broadcasting bought ABC affiliate WGGB (Channel 40) from Sinclair and entered into talks for a Fox affiliation - and late last week, owner John Gormally announced that he'll be launching "Fox 55" on a subchannel of WGGB-DT (yes, Channel 55) by the end of the year. The new Fox outlet will replace Hartford's WTIC-TV (Channel 61) on cable systems in Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties, and it will have the Springfield market's first 10 PM newscast, produced by the WGGB news staff. (That staff shrunk by a few people last week; Gormally says the station was slightly overstaffed when he took over, which seems an odd claim for a former Sinclair outlet, and he's not saying exactly how many pink slips he handed out in the last few days.)
  • Is there anything in radio more depressing than pre-holiday budget cuts? Probably not - especially the one last week that cost a veteran NEW YORK air talent his longtime job. Al Bernstein was not just part of the inaugural WLTW (106.7) airstaff back in 1984; he'd spent several years at the station's predecessor, WKHK, and a decade before that had started his career on 106.7's original occupant, WRVR. Along the way, Bernstein also spent time at WQIV (104.3), WBLS (107.5), WYNY (97.1) and WNEW-FM (102.7) - and then, of course, 23 years as the late-morning host on Lite. Now he's out, 33 years almost to the day since his WQIV debut, following fellow WLTW veterans Bill Buchner, Stephen Roy and J.J. Kennedy, and leaving Valerie Smaldone as the sole survivor among WLTW's charter airstaff. Who'll snap up Bernstein's versatile talents?

November 17, 2003 -

  • Two eastern Long Island radio stations have some explaining to do to the FCC. It seems inspectors were checking out the Manorville tower that's home to WDRE (98.5 Westhampton) and WXXP (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke) about a month ago, and something didn't quite add up when it came to the antenna heights for the two stations. Jarad's classic rock "Bone" WDRE is supposed to have its antenna 40 meters above the ground, but it was radiating from 114 meters up; sister dance station "Party 105.3" is supposed to be at 90 meters but was spotted at 132 meters. The stations have until Tuesday to explain what happened and try to avoid an FCC fine over the matter.
  • The Christmas music battle came early to New York City. As of Thursday (Nov. 13) at noon, the AC version of "Blink" is gone from WNEW (102.7 New York), replaced by "The New 102.7" and nonstop holiday music. It's Infinity's shot across the bow of Clear Channel's dominant AC, WLTW (106.7), which already announced that it would go all-Christmas right after Thanksgiving - but the absence of the "Blink" name from 102.7's holiday imaging is already prompting more than the usual message-board chatter about what's next for the battered remnant of a radio station that is WNEW.
  • And we're sorry to report the passing of one of the better-known sports radio callers in New York. Mets fan Doris Bauer was known as "Doris from Rego Park" during her frequent cough-ridden calls to WFAN; she died Monday (Nov. 10) of complications from breast and lung cancer at age 58.
  • The big buzz upstate is about the future of sports WNSA (107.7 Wethersfield), the lone radio property of the very bankrupt Adelphia. Bids are due any day now in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the station, whose huge signal covers the region between Rochester and Buffalo but lacks all-important downtown penetration in either city; NERW hears the two potential buyers sniffing around the facility are Entercom and Citadel, both of which have significant clusters in Buffalo. Entercom, of course, would dearly love to silence the chief competitor to its sports outlet, WGR (550 Buffalo), not to mention inherit Sabres' broadcast rights for WGR; Citadel would love to have a fourth U.S.-based transmitter in the event the CRTC shuts down its LMA of "Wild 101" CKEY (101.1 Fort Erie ON).
  • Meanwhile in North Jersey, it's finally the end of the road for the stations that made up Jukebox Radio. As of late last week, W276AQ (103.1 Fort Lee) and its sister translator over in Rockland County, W232AL (94.3 Pomona NY), along with their former parent station up in the Catskills, WJUX (99.7 Monticello), are relaying the religious programming from new owner Bridgelight's WRDR (89.7 Freehold Township). W276AQ had been relaying oldies WKHL from Stamford, Connecticut; W232AL had been silent since the summer; WJUX had been carrying on with the same automated mixture of music, infomercials and old ads for businesses 100 miles away in Bergen County.
  • It's not as though MASSACHUSETTS rocker WAAF (107.3) has had much to do with Worcester for a long time now; its studios decamped from the Cocaine Realty Building downtown about a decade ago, moving first to an office park in Westborough and then to Entercom's new complex in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston - and it holds a CP to move its transmitter east from Mount Asnebumskit in Paxton to Stiles Hill in Boylston. But now WAAF can take the whispered "Worcester" out of its legal ID completely, with the FCC's approval of its petition to change city of license to Westborough. NERW suspects that WAAF, once freed of the requirement to put a city-grade signal over "Wormtown," will eventually seek to edge its transmitter even closer to Boston. Though WAAF is already constrained by short-spacings to WERZ (107.1 Exeter NH) and WFHN (107.1 Fairhaven MA), it's also a pre-1964 allocation, which could give it some interesting leeway when it comes to squeezing between third-adjacents WMJX (106.7 Boston) and WXKS-FM (107.9 Medford).
  • Do people in Philadelphia like Christmas music? That's what the rival AC stations in the City of Brotherly Love must be hoping. Jerry Lee's WBEB (101.1) has stayed away from the all-holiday format in past years, but last Wednesday (Nov. 12) it made a stealth flip at 3 PM, trying to beat Clear Channel's WSNI (104.5) to the punch. It worked, for about four hours - and then WSNI, which had already done an all-Christmas weekend, plugged in the holiday tunes and made its own flip.

November 20, 1998 -

  • The big news this week comes from CONNECTICUT's capital, where moving vans are poised to take away the city's oldest radio station -- and to bring in an NFL team.
  • This being NERW, we'll start with the radio station. After 73 years, Hartford's WTIC will have its main studio somewhere other than the Insurance City beginning next year. WTIC signed on back in 1925 from the Travelers Insurance building on Grove Street, and remained there until 1961, when it moved to Broadcast House on Constitution Plaza along with WTIC-TV 3. When the stations were sold separately in 1974, WTIC-TV became WFSB and stayed on Constitution Plaza, and WTIC AM-FM moved to the Gold Building at Pearl and Main Streets. Its lease there expires next year, and so AM 1080 and FM 96.5 are heading off to the 'burbs -- to the 10 Executive Drive, Farmington home of sister stations WZMX and WRCH.
  • As for the football team: New England viewers and listeners would had to have been hiding in a Faraday cage all week to miss the fuss over the Patriots' planned move from Foxboro to Hartford in 2001. On the broadcasting side of things, CBS looks like the big loser in this deal, since Boston was one of the very largest markets in its AFC deal, and the folks at CBS-owned WBZ-TV and WBCN were hoping for big things from their Pats contracts. Now it's not even clear whether WBZ will have Pats telecasts for games that don't sell out in Hartford; the Boston Globe quotes NFL sources as saying that Boston will be in the blackout zone. The big winner, clearly, is Hartford's WFSB, which becomes the Pats' home-town station in three years. Will CBS' WTIC and WZMX step up to the plate (now there's a mixed metaphor!) and make the radio bid, too? We'll be watching...
  • As for the TV and radio coverage, it sounds like WEEI broke this one on radio Wednesday, with all the stations in both markets jumping on board by the evening newscasts. When Pats owner Bob Kraft held his Hartford news conference Thursday morning, WBZ-TV and WHDH cut into their impeachment-hearings coverage (as did all three Connecticut affiliates and Providence's WPRI and WJAR), while WCVB and WLNE stayed with Kenneth Starr. (2008 note: How the Patriots' fate changed in just a few short years...)
  • As MASSACHUSETTS reacts to the impending loss of the Pats, we note the re-emergence of former American Radio Systems honcho Steve Dodge. His new project, American Tower Corp., made some headlines this week with two big acquisitions: the $336 million purchase of OmniAmerica and the $185 million buy of Telecom Towers. Like ATC, both companies are big players in the little-noted but big-money world of tower leasing.
  • Up in VERMONT, it's a well-deserved retirement for a fixture of Central Vermont morning radio. Bob Bannon started at Montpelier's WSKI (1240) in December 1947, and began doing morning drive there in 1955. He stayed there until 1997, when he moved his show down I-89 to Barre and WSNO (1450), from which he did his last show on November 6. Bannon is 83 years old. What a career!

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