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December 1, 2008

Bob Grant Out (Again) at WABC

(Editor's note: We didn't plan on putting out a full NERW issue this week, truth be told - but Thanksgiving week was busier than we'd expected, so here we are pecking away in the passenger seat of the NERW-mobile on the way back from a week on the road in Indiana. We haven't forgotten about our "NERW Holiday Bookshelf" feature - that will appear next week, and if you have a last-minute suggestion for a recently-published volume NERW readers might enjoy hearing about, you have a few more days to send it in. And read on for our one-day "Cyber Monday" special on the 2009 Tower Site Calendar, too...)

*The schedule changes at NEW YORK's WABC (770) have once again ousted Big Apple talk icon Bob Grant from a regular spot on the schedule. Grant returned to WABC last year in the 8-10 PM weekday slot, but never found the same listener loyalty there that he'd had in many years of afternoon drive on WABC and later on WOR. Now the launch of fellow WABC host Curtis Sliwa into national syndication means bigger schedule shuffles up at Two Penn Plaza, as the tape-delayed Laura Ingraham show, displaced from the 10 PM-1 AM slot by the new Sliwa show, slides down to 8-10 PM.

What happens to Sliwa's local slot, from 10-11:45 AM? For now, Sliwa continues to work that shift as well, but there's lots of buzz about MSNBC morning host Joe Scarborough moving into that position - and if that happens, can national syndication for Joe be far behind?

As for Grant, who's nearing his 80th birthday, he'll still be heard on fill-in shifts on WABC for now.

Across town at Inner City's WBLS (107.5), budget cuts have forced two longtime station voices out. Vaughn Harper, who launched the station's signature "Quiet Storm" evening show way back in 1976, and overnight host Champaine are both out. Champaine had been at WBLS since 1983; Harper had returned to WBLS a few years ago after spending time at several other New York stations and suffering a stroke.

Who was that filling in on WCBS-FM (101.1) all through the holiday weekend? Why, none other than Famous Amos, best known from his stint a few years ago in afternoons on the old WTJM (105.1). Expect to hear more of "El Famoso" around Christmas, too, we're told...

Out east, WLIM (1580 Patchogue) is trading Spanish AC "Radio Formula" for Spanish religion as "Radio Adonai."

WRUN (1150 Utica) will be changing city of license: the central New York relay of Albany's WAMC has been granted a CP for New Hartford as part of the reconstruction project that's replacing its venerable five-tower array with four new towers at the old Thomas Road site in Oriskany. With the new, more efficient antenna array, WRUN will go from its present 5 kW days/1 kw nights to 4.6 kW days/370 watts at night. (It originally applied for 480 watts at night, but Canada objected - that forced the power reduction to 370 watts, which in turn meant WRUN won't cover all of Utica at night, which in turn led to the city of license change.)

Over at Galaxy's Utica cluster, WUMX (102.5 Rome) has parted ways with morning man Sam Schrier, who'd just arrived in April from Rochester's WBEE. "Mix" is running jockless, with Christmas music, for now.

And down the road in Syracuse, CNYRadio reports overnighter Spidr Murfee, the last live overnight DJ on the Salt City's commercial dial, is out at WSEN (92.1/1050), along with several part-timers.

In Ithaca, WFIZ (95.5 Odessa) promotes morning co-host Stacy Scott to assistant PD; she just came to the station a couple of weeks ago from WAKZ (95.9 Sharpsville PA/Youngstown OH) to replace the departed Heather B. Across town, Citadel's WIII (99.9 Cortland) is looking for an afternoon host after the departure of Spencer, who's heading for a career in PR.

In Plattsburgh, WIRY (1340) is getting ready to move to its new studio home on Route 9 south of the city, now that its longtime home on Cornelia Street faces demolition and a new life as the site of a Walgreens drug store. In a feature story on Burlington's WCAX-TV last week, station officials say they'll include a museum in the basement of the new studio to house some of the vintage equipment that's been a hallmark of the old studios.

*Another Plattsburgh AM station is losing its star talker, as Rush Limbaugh moves his Burlington-market affiliation across Lake Champlain from WEAV (960 Plattsburgh) to WVMT (620 Burlington, VERMONT). WEAV was the last remaining piece of the old "Zone" talk-radio simulcast with WXZO (96.7 Williston NY) that was broken up when new owners flipped the FM side to oldies.

The Burlington/Plattsburgh market also moved closer to having another full-power TV signal last week, as Jeffrey Loper's Twin Valleys Television buys WCWF (Channel 40) in Saranac Lake from Channel 61 Associates, LLC. That group is owned by Floyd Cox, Donald McElhone and WWBI TV Inc. (which owns WWBI-LP, channel 27 in Plattsburgh) - and there's an agreement in place among those partners that any sale over $1,000,000 requires the approval of only two of the three partners. From the paperwork submitted with the sale, it appears that McElhone and Cox signed off on the sale - for a non-coincidental $1,000,001 - without the approval of WWBI.

(WCWF, incidentally, is presently off the air after having operated, apparently briefly, in analog on channel 40; it tells the FCC it's building out a conversion to digital on the same channel.)

Where are they now? Steve Hammel, whose career as a TV news director included stops at Rochester's WHEC and Syracuse's WSTM, as well as at WHTM in Harrisburg, recently moved from KPHO in Phoenix, where he was VP/general manager, to the same position at WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C.

*WKZE-FM (98.1) from Salisbury, CONNECTICUT has been targeting its marketing at the Hudson Valley, across the New York state line, for the last few years - and now it's edging into the area with a translator signal. WKZE's owner, Willpower Radio, is paying Digital Radio Broadcasting $55,000 for W255BX (98.9) in Hudson, NY.


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*Bill Drake spent most of his career out west, but the wizard of streamlined top-40 radio had a huge influence on the sound of the MASSACHUSETTS airwaves, where his corporate consulting work for RKO General made the early WRKO-FM (98.5 Boston) a mid-sixties cult favorite before the company pulled the trigger in 1967 and put Drake's top-40 format on WRKO (680), creating one of the Hub's legendary radio stations.

Drake, who died Saturday in California at 71, was criticized almost as often as he was imitated - his creation, a format that emphasized tight segues and shotgun jingles over lengthy DJ patter, was viewed at the time (and is still seen by some) as removing personality from the airwaves. In some of its extreme forms - at WRKO-FM, and for a time at its New York sister station WOR-FM (98.7) - the Drake format was combined with total automation to create radio that anticipated today's increasingly jockless dial.

But in other venues, including WRKO in its heyday, Drake's tight formatics allowed talented "Boss Jocks" to shine in a fast-paced environment of hit music, killer jingles, and must-listen specials such as Drake's masterpiece, "The History of Rock & Roll," setting a standard for music radio that remains unmatched forty years later.

And even if the northeast was never as fertile a territory for Drake as were the midwest (CKLW) and the west (KHJ, KFRC, and the list goes on), there's still no question that Drake's influence lives on here, as close as the nearest oldies station, where the Drake sound lived on (thanks, in part, to his Drake-Chenault music automation systems) long after its inventor had retreated to California, where he all but disappeared from public view in the decades before his death.

*For more than half a century, the self-supporting tower that crowned Boston University's College of Communications building was an icon along the Charles River, but as of Saturday morning, it's history.

WBUR-FM (90.9) hadn't used the tower in many years - it moved its transmitter across the street to the top of the Law Building in the seventies, then out to Newton in the eighties, and its studio moved out Commonwealth Avenue to new digs a few blocks west in the nineties. And as taller buildings surrounded the Communications building, the old tower became something of a liability.

Still, it was something of a surprise to see Communications dean Tom Fiedler quoted in the BU Daily Free Press as saying the tower "speaks of old technology" - and we hope there was more context to his comment that "in 2008, radio is old, the technology of our grandfathers" than appeared in the article. (After all, BU is still very much the licensee of WBUR, which at last check was still thriving as one of Boston's top-rated stations.)

*Another analog TV station has left the air early: WGGB (Channel 40) in Springfield went dark over the weekend, clearing the way for WGGB-DT to move from channel 55 to 40 before the February deadline.

*On the NEW HAMPSHIRE seacoast, midday jock/music director Dan Lunnie is out at WOKQ (97.5 Dover)/WPKQ (103.7 North Conway) due to budget cuts; PD Mark Jennings is handling the airshift at the moment.

*Half of the midday team at "NEW JERSEY 101.5" is out, as Judi Franco departs the "Dennis and Judi Show" at Millennium's WKXW-FM (101.5 Trenton)/WXKW (97.3 Millville). The station is moving Michele Pilenza from nights to be Dennis Malloy's co-host - and that moves Michelle Jerson from fill-in duties into the evening hours.

*A veteran PENNSYLVANIA programmer is heading west. Jim McGuinn, who defined modern rock radio in Philadelphia in his years at the helm of WDRE (103.9), WPLY (100.3) and most recently the "Y-Rock on XPN" stream on WXPN (88.5), is moving to Minnesota to program "The Current," Minnesota Public Radio's modern-rock/AAA hybrid heard on KCMP (89.3 Northfield MN). McGuinn, who'd been doing afternoon drive on WXPN, started his career in the eighties at WEQX (102.7 Manchester VT/Albany); he starts in Minnesota in January.

When the Community Radio Collective gets its new noncommercial signal, WFTE (90.3 Mount Cobb), up and running in the hills east of Scranton, it will have a translator signal just south of Scranton as well: Community is buying translator W289AU (105.7 Moosic) from Digital Radio Broadcasting.

On the TV side, another of the increasingly small fraternity of 40-year, one-station TV veterans is retiring. Dick Hoxworth came to WGAL radio (now WLPA 1490) in Lancaster in 1968 out of the Air Force, but soon moved to WGAL-TV (Channel 8), where he's been ever since, most recently as morning and noon anchor. Hoxworth will anchor for the last time on Christmas Eve.

Up the road in Scranton, WSWB (Channel 38) will shut off its analog signal next Monday (Dec. 8), allowing construction of WSWB-DT to get underway.

*Just across the state line in DELAWARE (which always seems to fall into the cracks between NERW and our friend Dave to the south at, high school station WMPH (91.7 Wilmington) is in danger of being exterminated by budget cuts. The Wilmington News Journal reports that the Brandywine School District is eyeing the $70,000 budget for the station (which includes the salary of WMPH's lone employee, Clint Dantinne) in hopes of cutting costs. While Brandywine officials tell the paper they're hoping to rework the station as part of an academic program, they say it could go dark in the meantime, a fate that wouldn't sit well with its student staff or fans of its increasingly rare dance-music format.

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

*In CANADA, Rogers Broadcasting is buying out its partner in Kingston, where John Wright had owned the majority share in CIKR (K-Rock 105.7), CKXC (Kix 93.5) and the LMA of cross-border WLYK (102.7 Cape Vincent). Rogers invested in Wright's KRock 1057 Inc. back in 2000, helping him to put CIKR on the air in 2001 and CKXC on the air last year; there's no word on how much Rogers is paying to buy the stations outright.

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!)

December 3, 2007 -

  • The NEW YORK morning radio dial is spinning this week, in ways both predictable and not.
  • The predictable first: this morning marks the return of Don Imus to the radio, with flagship WABC (770 New York), radio syndication through WABC parent Citadel Broadcasting, and TV coverage via RFD-TV, which is still chiefly available to viewers with direct-to-home dishes, though the network is working on expanding its cable footprint. (With Imus coming to WABC this morning, last Friday marked the finale of the station's very successful "Curtis & Kuby" morning show, albeit without Ron Kuby, who was sent packing from WABC a few weeks earlier. While the station had made noises about keeping Curtis Sliwa on its schedule in another slot, Sliwa didn't sound all that certain about his future in the Friday broadcast.)
  • Almost as inevitable as Imus' return was the eventual demise of Whoopi Goldberg's syndicated morning show. "Waking up with Whoopi" made an initial splash with big-market affiliates that included Chicago's WLIT, Philadelphia's WISX and New York's WKTU. But the show failed to catch on in most of those markets, disappearing from both Chicago and Philadelphia earlier this year. Last week, Whoopi lost her New York flagship, when WKTU abruptly pulled the show after its Wednesday airing, with no replacement in place. Syndication of the show (which actually originated from a studio at sister station WWPR in Manhattan, rather than at WKTU's Jersey City studios) continues for now, but it's hard to imagine that Goldberg, with other committments that include a co-host role on ABC's "The View," will continue to do the show for very long for a network that now numbers fewer than a dozen stations, the largest in Norfolk, Virginia. (In NERW-land, Whoopi is also heard on Binghamton's WMXW and Utica's WUMX.)
  • What will KTU do next? Whoopi's co-host, Paul "Cubby" Bryant, is a versatile talent who loyally gave up his afternoon slot on Clear Channel's WHTZ (Z100) to smooth Goldberg's transition to radio. That should make him a strong candidate for the KTU morning slot - or for afternoons there, if former KTU morning guys Hollywood Hamilton and Goumba Johnny return to mornings there.
  • And then there's the biggest surprise in the New York morning arena: Star and Buc Wild, ousted from WWPR in a blaze of negative publicity in May 2006 after Star (real name: Troi Torain) engaged in a nasty on-air feud with jocks at rival WQHT, are planning a January return to the city's airwaves. In itself, that's not all that surprising - but it's where they plan to return that's of particular interest. That's WNYZ-LP, the low-power TV station broadcasting from Long Island City on channel 6. As we've reported previously here on NERW, it's not WNYZ's video signal that's of interest to Star. It's the audio carrier at 87.76 MHz (which migrated, briefly and not necessarily legally, up to 87.88 MHz), right at the bottom of the FM broadcast band. The signal's been on the air for more than a year now, broadcasting in Russian. Last week, Mega Media, which is leasing WNYZ from owner Island Broadcasting, announced that it will relaunch the frequency on January 15 as "Pulse 87," an English-language top-40 station, with Star and Buc Wild and the rest of their crew in morning drive.

December 1, 2003 -

  • It looks as though WSNJ-FM (107.7 Bridgeton NJ) has a buyer. AllAccess reports this morning that Radio One will pay $35 million for the station, building out its CP to move to 107.9 as a class A facility licensed to Pennsauken NJ and operating from the WKDN/WTMR tower in Camden, just across the Delaware River from Center City Philadelphia. NERW expects this move to really heat up the battle for Philadelphia's urban listeners - Radio One already has its WPHI (103.9 Jenkintown) in the hunt against Clear Channel's top-rated WUSL (98.9 Philadelphia) and urban AC WDAS-FM (105.3), and it looks as though Beasley is in the race to stay with the urban CHR at "Wild" 96.5, which just changed calls Monday from WPTP to WLDW.
  • For more than 80 years, CKAC (730 Montreal) has been the undisputed radio behemoth of French CANADA, dominating the news-talk audience not only in Montreal itself but in much of the rest of Quebec, thanks to the network that carries much of its programming to the rest of the province. Now CKAC is about to get a serious competitor, with an airstaff that includes CKAC's own veteran morning man, Paul Arcand. CKOO (98.5 Longueuil) dropped its French rock format over the weekend and began playing nonstop Christmas tunes - and when it returns to regular programming in January, it'll be with French news and talk. The move represents a big gamble for Corus, the broadcaster that's put together a large station group in Montreal (CKOO, French CHR CKOI, French all-news CINF, English AC CFQR, English all-news CINW and rimshotters CIME and CFZZ) but hasn't made much of a French ratings dent beyond the huge numbers CKOI consistently runs up year after year.
  • CKOO is making some big moves to launch its new format, and the hiring of top-rated morning personality Arcand is the biggest of all. He announced in October that he'd leave CKAC next summer, after nearly a decade doing mornings, and his radio roots in Montreal go back to the mid-80s and stints at now-defunct CKVL (850, which operated from the very same Verdun studios that CKOO now uses) and CJMS (1280).
  • The big story from English Canada is a power boost for London community station CHRW, the voice of the University of Western Ontario. It moved from the university campus to the One London Place tower in downtown London on Friday, bumping its power from 3000 watts to 5300 watts (with a directional antenna) and moving one notch up the dial, from 94.7 to 94.9. CHRW's move helps out CIWV (94.7 Hamilton) as well, eliminating a major source of co-channel interference there.
  • And, yes, there are all-Christmas stations north of the border to tell you about: in Toronto, Standard's CJEZ (EZ Rock 97.3) and Rogers' CHFI (98.1) both made the flip; in Kingston, Corus' CFFX (Oldies 960) flipped over the weekend - and in Ottawa, Rogers' CKBY (105.3) went all-Christmas amidst rumo(u)rs that it won't go back to country after Boxing Day. Will country move to what's now XFM (CIOX 101.1 Smiths Falls)? We'll keep you posted...
  • At the other end of NERW-land, western PENNSYLVANIA will soon be spinning the radio dial to keep up with one of Pittsburgh's top-rated personalities. Jim Quinn and sidekick Rose Somma-Tennent will reportedly leave Steel City Media's WRRK (96.9 Braddock) early in 2004 to take over mornings at Clear Channel's WJJJ (104.7 Pittsburgh). Quinn's right-leaning talk show has never quite fit in with the classic rock that fills the rest of the day on "Channel 97," but there's no need to wonder how he'll fit in with the R&B oldies on "104.7 the Beat" - his move to WJJJ will bring a new format and new calls to WJJJ, which has been limping along towards the bottom of the ratings ever since the "jammin' oldies" format began heading south a couple of years ago. Clear Channel isn't saying much about the rest of its programming plans yet for 104.7, but it's reasonable to guess that Rush Limbaugh could eventually move there from Infinity's KDKA, and that the company will tap the talk talent at sister sports station WBGG (970) as well.

December 4, 1998 -

  • In MASSACHUSETTS, there's a new format at Worcester's WNEB (1230). New owners Heirwaves, Inc. took control from Bob Bittner on Saturday, flipping the station from a simulcast of Bittner's WJIB (740 Cambridge) to Christian contemporary music, as "Hard Rock 1230."
  • It's official; as we speculated a few months back, Greater Media is signing a 15-year lease on a Morrissey Boulevard building to house all its Boston stations. WBOS (92.9 Brookline) and WSJZ (96.9) will move from 1200 Soldiers Field Road in Brighton, WKLB-FM (99.5 Lowell) and WMJX (106.7) will move from the Salada Tea building on Stuart Street, and WROR-FM (105.7 Framingham) will move from the Prudential Tower. It'll create quite the media circus down there; the Boston Globe and WLVI (Channel 56) are already housed next door to each other across the street from Greater's new home, which is itself just down the block from the 1960s and early 70s home of WHDH-AM/FM/TV.
  • In CONNECTICUT, WMMM (1260 Westport) was back on the air earlier this week, testing with relays of WSHU (91.1 Fairfield) as it prepares to return to full-time operation.
  • In NEW YORK, the big news out of the Big Apple is the sale of WNWK (105.9 Newark, N.J.), one of the most underappreciated FM signals in the city. It's just been sold to Heftel Broadcasting for a whopping $115 million. It'll flip from multilingual to a Spanish-language format once the deal closes. WNWK, being a class B1, doesn't have the reach of the other large New York FMs (it's also hampered by a first-adjacent signal in Patchogue, Long Island, among others), but it's still pretty solid in the city and the Jersey suburbs from its Chrysler Building transmitter.
  • One more from the translator files: Say hello to W212BA, 90.3 in Geneva. It's the newly-granted translator of Geneva public radio outlet WEOS (89.7), and it will operate from WEOS's old transmitter site on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, filling in some gaps in WEOS' new signal from a tower a few miles away. Not to be outdone, religious station WCIY (88.9 Canandaigua) has applied for a 105.7 translator in Geneva. This is Family Life Ministries' second try for a Geneva frequency; the FCC dismissed an application for 104.3 back in June.
  • And we join with the staff of Buffalo's WBEN (930) in mourning the passing of Clint Buehlman, a WBEN personality from the 1940s until his retirement in July 1977. Buehlman was Buffalo's most popular radio host for years, as the "AM M-C" at the helm of the WBEN Good Morning Show. Buehlman hosted the show from March 1943 (when he joined WBEN from rival WGR) until he left the station. He died Tuesday at his home in Snyder, outside Buffalo. Buehlman was 85 years old.

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