January 5, 2009
Happy New Year - You're Fired!
*Yeah, it looks like 2009 is shaping
up to be another one of those years, at least judging
by the last moments of destruction that 2008 wreaked on an already
fragile radio business.
The culprit this time was CBS Radio, both in Hartford, as
we'll see in a moment, and in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, where
word began spreading during the day on New Year's Eve that more
big changes were afoot at the once-mighty WBZ (1030 Boston).
so much of the industry had gone to syndicated programming outside
of the major weekday drivetime slots, WBZ long prided itself
on - and profited handsomely from - its steadfast determination
to remain live and local all night long, with a stellar lineup
of hosts in that slot over the years that included Dick Summer,
Larry Glick, Bob Raleigh and most recently Steve LeVeille.
Well, so much for that tradition. As of the new year,
LeVeille - and his local "Steve LeVeille Broadcast,"
weeknights from midnight to 5 AM - is history at WBZ, as are
Saturday night hosts Pat Desmarais and Lovell Dyett, the latter
a 37-year veteran of the station.
nights are now occupied by the syndicated Kim Komando computer
show - and weeknights on the mighty 50,000 watt voice of Boston
will now come from...St. Louis, where Jon Grayson, who's been
doing talk for a few years at CBS sister station KMOX (1120),
will take his local show semi-national (as "Overnight America")
beginning this week. In addition to WBZ and KMOX, Grayson's show
will also air on WCCO (830 Minneapolis) and KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh).
Enough loss of local flavor for you? Wait, there's more: also
gone, as part of the cutbacks, was WBZ's already fairly minimal
committment to local news after 8 PM, when its daytime all-news
format gives way to talk.
While the evening news shift at the station had never been
filled on a permanent basis since the death of Darrell Gould
back in 1996, a rotating cast of weekenders and part-timers had
been doing live hourly news updates during the Dan Rea show,
then recording local news to run overnight during LeVeille's
WBZ - the largest commercial radio news operation in New England,
mind you - will run only recorded newscasts from 8 until midnight,
and no local news at all overnight.
Just in case that still wasn't enough, local sports
coverage on WBZ has been cut back as well. Tom Cuddy, who'd been
at the station since 1985, lost his job just in time for the
new year - and that means that in addition to recording the newscasts
for the evening shift, afternoon news anchor Diane Stern is reading
sports headlines during the afternoon news, too, leaving Gil
Santos as the last remaining weekday sports voice at WBZ.
NERW's view (continuing on the themes we started exploring
in our Year-End
Rant last week, in case you missed it, or our big Year
in Review package):
"Are they planning to sell the station for spare parts?"
That was the Hartford Courant last week, commenting
on CBS Radio's other New England cutbacks, but the despairing
question may as well apply to WBZ, and the answers are just as
complex in both markets.
Your editor, as has been frequently noted in this space, claims
no absence of bias here, being an alumnus of WBZ, and a former
colleague of LeVeille, Cuddy, Dyett and the many others who've
recently been shown the door on Soldiers Field Road. And in fairness
to the local management in Boston, there's no reason to believe
that these are cutbacks that anyone in the building wants to
be making. It's hard to imagine WBZ's leaders taking any pride
in eliminating programming that had become an institution in
the community, and if they were free to do so without putting
their own jobs at any more risk, they'd surely point the finger
up the food chain to the CBS bosses in New York, for whom "WBZ"
is just another entry in the ledger books, not an 87-year-long
tradition of connection between talented broadcasters and a devoted
audience across much of New England.
And those executives in their Black Rock offices would tell
you, in turn, that "it's just business" - they've got
a stock price that needs to be kept from plunging any further
into the gutter than it's already gone, and this is simply the
way of the world in 2009, paring back everything but the bare
essentials in hopes that eventually the decreased costs will
catch up with the ever-sinking revenues. Were you to have the
temerity to suggest that those revenues are falling as fast as
they are because the content has been slashed to ribbons,
pumped up by the empty calories of infomercials and leased-time
programming, well, there are plenty of fingers to be pointed
- the AM audience is aging out of the "sales demographic,"
and all the money that needs to be made is being made during
weekday mornings and afternoons anyway, and...well, you've heard
them all plenty of times by now.
No blame here, either, should be attached to Jon Grayson of
KMOX, who had the class to show up on a regional radio message
board last week to introduce himself and talk about the show
he's been doing in St. Louis. He'll find, soon enough, that the
WBZ nighttime audience doesn't take kindly to "outsiders"
- and there will no doubt be plenty of comparisons to the ill-conceived
evening programming change back in 1990 that's become part of
WBZ lore. You probably know that story: to save money in bad
economic times, WBZ sent local evening host David Brudnoy packing,
replacing him with Tom Snyder's syndicated show, which was a
perfectly good program...just not Brudnoy, and not from Boston.
Back then, the listeners spoke, and spoke loudly, and before
too long Snyder and his colortinis had been sent packing, with
Dr. Brudnoy back in his evening pulpit for what was left of his
But back then, there was still a shred of accountability left.
No, the Westinghouse Broadcasting of 1990 was little more than
a shell of the great Group W days of Don McGannon, but it was
still a relatively small company - fewer than a dozen AM stations,
all of them massive presences in their big markets; a small group
of recently-acquired FMs; and a half-dozen legendary TV signals.
What happened at WBZ back then was more than just an entry against
a huge conglomerate's bottom line. WBZ was part of the foundation
of the company, and when it failed to live up to that responsibility,
as it did when it swapped Brudnoy for Snyder, there was still
a sense that the company had fallen short of a committment it
made to New England way back in 1921.
What will happen late tonight, when an old woman somewhere
in southern New Hampshire can't sleep and turns on her radio?
Her friend Steve won't be there, with no explanation or apology
(indeed, the RadioSteve.com
website, registered to CBS, simply disappeared when LeVeille
was let go, though it lives on at an alternate
address), and when she picks up the phone to call 254-1030
(or the old 254-5678, which still worked, too!) to share her
dreams or her memories, as New Englanders have been doing all
night long for more than half a century, it will ring unanswered,
or get forwarded to a control room 1200 miles away where it will
be answered by someone who doesn't know Falmouth from Fitchburg,
much less what "Glick University" was or who Norm Nathan
(Worse yet? We're hearing very plausible reports that suggest
a prominent WBZ sponsor was prepared to buy out the overnight
hours to keep LeVeille in place, but was told the new show was
already a done deal.)
Who's to blame? Nobody - and everybody. For this is just another
sign, really, of the utter breakdown of the compact that broadcasters
once made with the public: they'd get stewardship of a scarce,
precious resource - in this case, the mighty 50,000-watt signal
that blankets New England and the northeast at night - in exchange
for the responsibility of using that voice in the public interest.
If they slipped in that responsibility - say, by abandoning any
pretense of covering the news after 8 at night - there were consequences,
in the form of license-renewal hassles. And for taking on that
responsibility, they were rewarded in the form of healthy profits,
year after year.
Now that system is in shambles. With no danger of losing their
licenses, and no remaining requirements for anything beyond the
most perfunctory public service, the old equation began breaking
down. WBZ could, if it wished, run nothing but colon-cleanser
infomercials from dusk until dawn - and sadly, it's no longer
clear that the leaders, so-called, of CBS - or any of the other
big broadcasters - would feel any more or less pride in their
product in that case than they do now. (And how sorry is it that
we do actually have to give CBS a modicum of credit for not
running all-night colon-cleanser ads on WBZ and KDKA and
WCCO and KMOX; the new Grayson show may not be able to replace
what's been lost, but it's at least better than what might have
been, and may yet be.)
The audience left us, they'll tell you, if you can even find
them to ask. They're listening to their iPods or to streaming
audio or texting each other on their phones, they'll say by way
of excuse. But until and unless they can come to terms with the
reality that they left the audience behind, as well -
that they can't replace content with colon-cleaners, abandoning
the long heritage of innovation and self-promotion and audience
growth and just plain investing in the damn product that
once made companies like Group W justly proud of the service
- service! - they provided, without that audience inevitably
heading off to some other medium that treats them with a little
If that equation doesn't start changing, then the Courant
(itself the victim of the same slash-and-burn mentality as
newspapers race radio to the bottom of the barrel) may as well
be right: it's time to sell the whole thing for spare parts.
(Why aren't we quite ready to chuck it all, then? We refer,
again, to the Year-End
Rant, wherein we try to find a few rainbows in what seems
like a pretty deep vat of despair these days...and we offer our
own new year's resolution to do the best we can in 2009, with
our readers' support,
of course, to spotlight the radio people and stations who still
understand the relationship between content and audience - and
to call 'em as we see 'em where everyone else is concerned.)
*Where were we? Oh yes, cutbacks - and it's not just Boston:
in Brockton, morning fixture Steve Mason signed off his 5:30-9
AM shift at WXBR (1460) last Monday (Dec. 29), only to be told
his services were no longer required after 24 years with the
station, which was still WBET when he started there in 1984.
While Kevin Tocci remains on board to read news updates every
half hour in morning drive, the remainder of WXBR's morning now
comes from a satellite feed, which made it tone-deaf at best,
and downright insulting at worst, for station manager Dick Muserlian
to tell the Brockton Enterprise (the station's former
owner) that "listeners will not notice a change" as
a result of Mason's dismissal. (See "mini-rant," above.)
Back to Boston for a moment, to note that WRKO (680) started
the new year by making Todd Feinburg's status as morning co-host
with Tom Finneran permanent (or at least as "permanent"
as anything in radio is at the moment). The morning show now
starts half an hour earlier, at 5:30, with 30 "best-of"
minutes, and ends an hour earlier, at 9, clearing the way for
three hours of Laura Ingraham, via syndication, from 9 until
noon. (And you can spare us the "what best-of Finneran?"
jokes; rest assured we've already made 'em.)
Over on the TV side of things, WCVB (Channel 5) starts the
new year without a news director: after eight years on that job
at the Hearst-Argyle ABC affiliate, and many years behind the
scenes before that, Colleen Marren departed at the end of December,
apparently after being unable to reach a new contract deal. Neil
Ungerleider, the station's web guru, is handling the ND job on
an interim basis. And down the street at New England Cable News,
Boston TV veteran Tom Ellis is out of a job; his weekend shift
on NECN ended in late December after 16 years at the cable network
and decades in the industry.
a format change to report on Cape Cod: WKPE (103.9 South Yarmouth)
came off its all-Christmas format to become "Cape Country,"
the first stab at that format on the Cape in a few years, since
WCIB (101.9) made a brief flip to country a while back, and a
pretty far cry from the top-40 format the signal had been running
for just under a year.
*The CBS "Happy New Year" cuts
weren't limited to Boston - they hit hard in CONNECTICUT,
too, claiming two of the biggest on-air names from the WTIC (1080
Hartford) roster and leaving that once-proud station as not only
a shell of its former self, but also as the target of what's
proving to be a pretty noisy public outcry.
staff cuts, made just as 2008 slumped to its unlamented end,
eliminated the jobs of morning co-host Diane Smith, who left
her TV news career a decade ago to join Ray Dunaway on "Mornings
with Ray and Diane," and Colin McEnroe, the Hartford
Courant columnist who had been WTIC's iconoclastic afternoon
talk host since 1992.
Dunaway will go solo, at least for now, as host of a morning
block that will be trimmed back by an hour, ending at 9 AM to
allow Jim Vicevich to start his talk show an hour earlier. In
the afternoons, McEnroe's show will be replaced by a news block
anchored by Bill Pearse and Aaron Kupec.
Smith has other irons in the fire to keep her busy - she hosts
several programs, including the new "Connecticut on the
Road," for Connecticut Public TV - and McEnroe still has
his column in the Courant, where he weighed
in yesterday on what losing the show means to him, and, obliquely,
on some of the points we've been rambling on about, especially
the idea that the blame for the split between so many AM stations
and the people who should be listening falls as much on the stations
themselves as anything else.
But don't believe us - go read
it for yourself, and then read the comments
that have been flowing in on the Courant's several articles about
the WTIC cutbacks, and then consider that on top of the rest
of this mess, WTIC morning man Ray Dunaway is now doing Saturdays
as well, because an earlier WTIC cutback axed the weekend show
the Courant's Stan Simpson was doing, and then ask: if
you were running a radio station - not just a profit-and-loss
statement but a radio station, like the one WTIC was for
all those decades under Travelers Insurance and even Arnold Chase
- would you want to set off the state's major newspaper like
*Meanwhile in Danbury, "Mr. Morning" starts the
year on a new station. After almost 20 years at Berkshire Broadcasting's
WDAQ (98.3), Bill Trotta has moved over to Cumulus' WDBY (105.5
Patterson NY), where he'll start next Monday. Trotta replaces
Terry Simmons, who was also WDBY's PD; he's moved south to WJLQ
in Pensacola, Florida. Meanwile at 98Q, Zach Dillon, the PD and
afternoon guy, is filling in on mornings while the station looks
for a replacement for Trotta.
Did you miss it while you
were vacationing last week? Catch up on a whole year's worth
of radio and TV happenings across the Great Northeast, plus a
particularly spirited (if we do say so ourselves) Year-End Rant,
all on one handy page that will help you remember a year many
of us would probably just as soon forget.
Just click on the banner above
to visit's NERW's 13th annual Year in Review, brought to you
this year by these nice folks:
*After the turmoil that marked so much of
the latter half of 2008, it was a mercifully quiet start for
2009 here in NEW YORK, rung in here with some familiar
voices and faces - Dick Clark, still recovering from his devastating
stroke but in very good spirits on ABC, and Famous Amos on the
streaming audio from New York's WCBS-FM.
Thruway in Amsterdam, Ken Roser is trading talk for music at
WVTL (1570 Amsterdam), where Christmas tunes gave way to a standards/soft
AC format (they're calling it "beautiful music") similar
to his WADR (1480 Remsen)/WUTQ (1550 Utica) an hour to the west.
WVTL's local shows, Bob Cudmore in morning drive and "Valley
Talk with Mike Mancini & Sam Zurlo," from 9-10 AM, remain
in place on weekdays.
Speaking of Utica, WOUR (96.9) afternoon jock Paul Szmal has
moved to Chicago to work with live-entertainment promoter Feld
Entertainment, reports CNYRadio.com,
moving "Genesee Joe"'s shift into Szmal's former timeslot
and shifting weekender CJ into the night gig.
Buried in the flood of end-of-the-year decisions from the
FCC was the latest chapter in the ongoing saga (no pun intended)
involving Saga's acquisition of Eagle Broadcasting's four-station
cluster in Ithaca, and there's no great surprise here - the
ruling upheld the sale, saying the Finger Lakes Alliance
for Independent Media (FLAIM), which has opposed the deal since
it was first announced back in 2005, failed to make the case
that it merited an exception from the usual rules under which
the FCC uses Arbitron markets to determine how many signals an
owner can hold in one area.
But the real story here is in the statement from the two minority
FCC commissioners who will be in the majority shortly. Michael
Copps and Jonathan Adelstein "reluctantly concur" in
the decision, but they say, rather pointedly, that they did so
only because of the limited amount of information available in
the record. And while they don't say so outright, it seems likely
that cases like this might get a rather different hearing under
the new Commission, once it's seated.
New calls: 89.7 in Medina, west of Rochester, will be WFWO.
STILL NEED A 2009 CALENDAR?
...because there are still a few copies of Tower
Site Calendar 2009 in stock at the fybush.com
Our business manager (aka Mrs. Fybush)
says we're heading for another sellout, so don't sit around waiting
for a clearance sale that won't be happening.
So fill that empty space on your wall today,
with a brand-new Tower Site Calendar 2009!
now at the fybush.com Store!
*VERMONT rings in the new year with
a new rock station. After spending some time stunting with Christmas
music, former country outlet WLFE (102.3 St. Albans) flipped
to active rock as "Rock 102.3, Pure Rock Radio" as
soon as the holiday was over.
on the new signal come straight outta Nebraska, courtesy of the
syndicated "Todd N Tyler Morning Empire" based at KEZO
(92.3 Omaha), giving the show its only non-midwest clearance;
the rest of the day, at least for now, is satellite - and there's
a power increase still in the works; now that WRGR (102.3 Tupper
Lake) over in the Adirondacks has moved to 102.1, WLFE can follow
through with its move to Grand Isle, closer to Burlington, and
power increase to class C3. (WRGR, though it also had a pending
CP to go to C3 on 102.1, tells the FCC that due to financial
constraints, it will remain a class A signal for now.)
On the other end of I-89, WMXR (93.9 Woodstock) applies to
move up to Hurricane Hill, overlooking the highway just west
of White River Junction. From its present 666 watts/683', "Maxx"
would move to 3.5 kW/427' with a directional antenna protecting
co-channel WLVB (93.9 Morrisville) and adjacent WFTN-FM (94.1
*In MAINE, Blueberry Broadcasting
emerged from Christmas with a new format on WQSS (102.5 Camden)
- it's flipped from classic hits to AC under the new slogan "Midcoast
102.5." And is there more to come, in the way of a flip
from country to talk (simulcasting WVOM 103.9 Howland) at WMCM
(103.3 Rockland)? That's what the rumor mill is suggesting...
*Remove that "interim" from in
front of the "PD" title at WBRU (95.5) in Providence,
RHODE ISLAND - Wendell Clough now has the job for real,
replacing the departed Chris Novello.
*Our NEW JERSEY news begins, sadly,
with an obituary: Kevin Collins Jr. was just 24 when he succumbed
to cystic fibrosis on Dec. 28 - but he'd enjoyed quite a rocket
of a start in his radio career by then. Collins was a native
of the Jersey Shore, and in his short life he worked everywhere
from college station WMCX (88.9 West Long Branch) to Millennium's
Monmouth/Ocean cluster (WJLK, WOBM and WCHR-FM) - not to mention
WMRV (105.7) up in the Binghamton, N.Y. market, where he'd spent
some time in afternoon drive last year before the disease got
the better of him. Donations in Collins' memory can be made to
the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, New Jersey chapter, here.
*So much for oldies - er, classic hits - in Altoona,
PENNSYLVANIA: WALY (103.9 Bellwood) flipped to AC right
after Christmas, as "The New WALY 103.9."
In Pittsburgh, the arrival of the new KMOX-based Pat Grayson
show doesn't displace any local talent at KDKA (1020); the weeknights
there have been filled with syndicated programming (most recently
a tape-delayed Dennis Miller from midnight to 3 AM, followed
by the Midnight Trucker show from 3-5 AM) for well over a year
There's a new format to go with new calls in Laporte: the
former WCOZ (103.9) is now WNKZ, and it's migrated from oldies
(simulcasting "Gem FM" WGMF 107.7 Tunkhannock) to hot
AC as "KZ104." The WCOZ calls haven't gone far, though
- WNKZ co-owner Kevin Fitzgerald is also the president of the
nonprofit Telikoja Educational Broadcasting, which now has the
WCOZ calls on its new 90.5 construction permit in Laceyville,
west of Tunkhannock.
And speaking of Fitzgerald and Tunkhannock, he's got a pending
application to move WGMF's city of license south to Dallas. The
"Gem FM" transmitter would stay on Briar Mountain,
at least initially, but we suspect there could be a Scranton
move-in coming later on, if this move is granted.
Edited by NERW's own Scott Fybush - on sale now as
an e-book or printed volume!
*As for CANADA, they know how to
take their holiday vacations - the CRTC closed its doors on Dec.
23, and doesn't reopen until today, which leaves us with just
one tiny bit of news to report: in Peterborough, Ontario, CKQM
(105.1) has applied to move from its present 50 kW/300' facility
to the CHEX-TV tower a few miles to the northeast. From there,
it will run 7.5 kW/910', essentially maintaining its current
coverage - and will apparently clear the way for Corus' CKRU
(980) to begin operation on 100.5. (NERW thinks the issue here
may involve intermod products landing in the air navigation band
above the FM dial.)
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 LARadio.com
for the idea - and thanks to you, our readers, for the support
that's made all these years of NERW possible!)
January 7, 2008 -
- It was one of the biggest radio stories of the summer in
NEW HAMPSHIRE, MAINE and the rest of northern New England last
year: Entercom, programmer of Boston's highly successful WEEI
(850 Boston), was to partner with Nassau to spread WEEI's sports
format to Portland, Concord, the Lakes Region, the Upper Valley
and Cape Cod - and in exchange, Entercom would take a half-interest
in Nassau's classical WCRB (99.5 Lowell) for the improbably-low-sounding
sum of $10 million. (Nassau had paid $60 million for the station
just a year earlier, after all.)
- As 2007 wound to a close, Nassau began laying the groundwork
for the format changes that would accompany the start of its
WEEI simulcasts: in Concord and the Lakes Region, WNNH (99.1
Henniker) and WLKZ (104.9 Wolfeboro) moved from oldies to classic
hits ("Frank") to clear the way for classic rocker
"Hawk" WWHK (102.3 Concord)/WWHQ (101.5 Meredith) to
become WEEI affiliates. And the "Free Beer and Hot Wings"
morning show heard on several Nassau stations started saying
goodbye to listeners in Portland ("Bone" WHXR/WHXQ).
But then rumors started spreading about problems with the deal,
and even as the champagne was being chilled and we were stepping
away from the computer on New Year's Eve afternoon, the companies
pulled the plug on their plans for a network. "The transaction
hit an impasse," was the word from Nassau's Lou Mercatanti
to Clea Simon at the Boston Globe, and we've still heard nothing
definitive about what caused the deal to fall apart at the last
- So in the absence of hard fact, we'll offer some educated
speculation. First, from the Entercom side of the fence, there's
no question that the deal was more essential to announce in August
than to close in December. In August, WEEI faced what could have
been a serious challenge to its sports supremacy: while Entercom
had locked up a long-term Red Sox contract, at no small expense,
its morning stars John Dennis and Gerry Callahan were flirting
with other suitors - not just the long-rumored Greater Media
dream of flipping WBOS (92.9) to an all-sports format, but also
a possible Nassau flip of WCRB to sports. Allying Nassau with
WEEI took away that option for Dennis and Callahan, and it's
no coincidence that the pair re-signed with Entercom soon after
the Nassau deal was announced. With Dennis and Callahan safely
under contract, and the Sox not only safely under contract but
celebrating their second World Series in four years, the threats
to WEEI are significantly blunted today as compared to last summer.
And while WEEI could certainly have benefited from adding WCRB's
FM signal (with its strong reach from southern New Hampshire
into Boston's northern and western suburbs) to its existing network,
we have no way of knowing if that simulcast was ever anything
more than rank speculation, anyway.
- The year's first big station sale came early, and it involved
a familiar face in VERMONT radio. Ken Barlow's history in the
Green Mountain State includes stints at WCFR in Springfield and
WDOT in Burlington, then the launch in the nineties of WCPV (Champ
101.3) and WXPS (now WXZO 96.7). After his Dynacomm group sold
those stations to Capstar in 1999, Barlow went on to join Bruce
Danziger and Jeff Shapiro to build the Vox Radio Group, which
at one point owned more stations in northern New England than
any other broadcaster.
- In 2005, Vox sold most of its stations to Nassau. Barlow
and Danziger then formed Vox Communications Group, which picked
up Vox Radio's cluster in western Massachusetts. And now Vox
Communications is coming into Vermont with an $11 million purchase
of Clear Channel's Burlington and Randolph stations - including
Barlow's old haunts, WCPV and WXZO.
- Here's what the entire cluster looks like: there's AC "Star"
WEZF (92.9 Burlington), with a class C signal from Mount Mansfield
that is, hands-down, the best commercial FM signal in Vermont.
Classic rock "Champ" is now heard on both WCPV (101.3
Essex NY) in the Burlington market and on WCVR (102.1 Randolph)
in central Vermont. WXZO (96.7 Willsboro NY) now carries a talk
format as "The Zone," simulcast on WEAV (960 Plattsburgh)
and WTSJ (1320 Randolph). South of Burlington, there's also "True
Oldies Channel" WVTK (92.1 Port Henry NY).
- Even before the new year began, some big changes were underway
in NEW YORK radio. On New Year's Eve, Allan Sniffen's New York
Radio Message Board broke the news that Valerie Smaldone had
become the latest veteran of Clear Channel's WLTW (106.7 New
York) to depart the station. Both Smaldone and WLTW are putting
the best possible face on it, calling it a mutual decision not
to renew Smaldone's contract after 24 years. In a statement on
her own website, Smaldone calls it a "heart-wrenching"
move, while WLTW PD Jim Ryan framed the move as a choice for
Smaldone to focus on the many other elements of her career as
an actress, voiceover talent and writer. But it's a pretty safe
bet that Clear Channel, now in serious cost-cutting mode as it
prepares to be taken private, wasn't in any hurry to open its
wallet to pay the veteran midday jock what she's worth, either.
Over the past year or so, WLTW had already cut loose its other
founding voices - Stephen Roy, Al Bernstein, Bill Buchner, JJ
Kennedy and Bill Buchner - and the company has made similar cuts
at other big AC stations around the country as well, including
two prominent departures from KOST in Los Angeles over the last
few weeks, morning co-host Kim Amidon and middayer Mike Sakellarides.
- A contract dispute leads off our PENNSYLVANIA news. Lloyd
Roach was one of the founders of the Route 81 Radio group back
in 2003, combining his own WCOJ (1420 Coatesville) with capital
from the investment firm WallerSutton to form a group that included
holdings in the Harrisburg, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Elmira
- Roach departed Route 81 in 2005, and an FCC ruling issued
last week provides some insight into the dispute that developed
between him and the cluster he left behind. In 2006, Roach filed
petitions to deny against the license renewals of WCOJ and Route
81's other Pennsylvania stations, WHYL (960 Carlisle), WNAK (730
Nanticoke), WCDL (1440 Carbondale), WAZL (1490 Hazleton) and
WLNP (94.3 Hazleton). Roach claimed that WCDL and WLNP were out
of compliance with FCC main-studio rules, that WNAK and WHYL
had technical problems with their towers, and that Route 81 in
effect stole his equity interest in the company. The FCC quickly
tossed out the first two complaints, finding that the stations
were in compliance with the rules.
- As for the third charge, which stemmed from Roach's September
2005 decision to exercise a "put option" to sell his
18.9% interest in Route 81, the Commission found that to be a
question for the courts, renewing the licenses and dismissing
Roach's complaints. (But we'd note an interesting revelation
from the decision: Route 81 says it advised Roach against exercising
that option back in 2005, warning him that the lack of cash flow
at the stations would end up leading to his options being valued
at zero, as indeed they were.)
January 5, 2004 -
- In NEW YORK, WNEW (102.7) is slowly firming up its new identity
as "Mix 102.7," including the naming of a new morning
team. At week's end, Gregg Daniels will leave MASSACHUSETTS and
WBMX (98.5 Boston), where he was doing afternoons, and he'll
head for the big city to join former WBMX morning sidekick Lynn
Hoffman (now with VH1 Classic) to be the latest occupants of
the morning chair at the latest occupant of the 102.7 frequency.
No word yet on what becomes of Rick Stacy, who'd been doing mornings
in the "Blink v.2" and holiday-music incarnations of
- Heading up the Hudson Valley, Poughkeepsie's WRNQ (92.1)
ended the year by changing its slogan - instead of "Q92,"
it's "92.1 Lite FM," a close clone of Clear Channel
sister station WLTW (106.7) down in New York City.
- In Syracuse, a new morning show launches today on WFBL (1390),
as former WIXT reporter Bill Colley joins Buckley's talk station
for 5-9 AM duties. In its previous incarnation on 1050, WFBL
had a morning show that consisted of news headlines from Metro
Networks and syndicated features; the addition of a real live
local morning show, along with hourly news updates from Time
Warner's News 10 Now cable network, is a sign that the new WFBL
intends to be real competition for Clear Channel news-talker
- Rochester religious outlet WDCZ (102.7 Webster) said goodbye
to those calls after 11 years on the air New Year's Eve, replacing
them with WRCI (and a new Web site at www.wrcifm.com, too!) The
idea, we're told, is to give Rochester listeners easier call
letters to remember when they write to the preachers who buy
time on the station (who track mail based on call letter mentions,
and who were apparently getting WDCZ confused with Buffalo sister
- In PENNSYLVANIA, Monday marks the launch of Clear Channel's
WPGB (104.7 Pittsburgh), with a talk lineup that includes Jim
Quinn in the morning and Sean Hannity in the afternoon. A few
final additions to the weekday lineup: Ellis Cannon moves over
from WEAE (ESPN Radio 1250) to do sports talk from 6-8 PM, followed
by Michael Savage from 8-11 PM and George Noory's Coast to Coast
AM show (moving over from WPTT 1360) from 11 PM until 5 AM. And
in addition to being heard over in Wheeling, West Virginia on
WWVA (1170), Quinn's show will also air on WHLO (640) in Akron,
January 1, 1999 -
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- NEW YORK's WQEW shut down its standards format right on schedule
at midnight Dec. 27 with little fanfare. After a rebroadcast
of their tribute to the late Nancy LaMott, WQEW closed things
out with "Stardust" and a one-minute message from Stan
Martin, then dumped into Radio Disney with a Randy Newman tune.
(Hanson, thankfully, didn't play until later in the hour!) The
Disney automation crashed briefly about 15 minutes later while
trying to play the legal ID.
- With Disney on 1560, Long Island's WGSM (740) was released
from its contract with the Mouse and promptly went to a simulcast
of co-owned standards station WHLI (1100 Hempstead). The two
are now claiming "35,000 Watts" of power -- too bad
the math doesn't really work that way.
- Meanwhile in MASSACHUSETTS, standards returned to the airwaves
with the surprise format change at WPLM (99.1/1390) in Plymouth
that dumped the smooth jazz of "Jazzy 99.1" for a female-oriented
AC/standards blend as "Easy 99.1." The AM still splits
from the simulcast in mornings for business talk. Also flipping
to standards was WNBP (1450 Newburyport), which unveiled its
new "Legends 1450" identity Christmas day.
- Up in MAINE, we're told WJJB (900 Brunswick) is simulcasting
sister FM WCLZ (98.9) for the moment. And we hear that WAYD (105.5
Islesboro) will be on the air by month's end as adult standards
"The Bay," serving communities up and down the Maine
coast from Camden north to Mount Desert Island. It's co-owned
with WQSS (102.5 Camden) and will operate from WQSS's facilities.
- Tonight we're gonna party like it's...1983 all over again?
That's what the airwaves sounded like New Year's Eve, as stations
that would ordinarily never play the Artist formerly known as
Prince gave "1999" a spin to usher in the New Year.
Our Boston-area listeners heard the Purple One on WEGQ, WJMN,
WBCN, WXLO, and WMJX (which broke format in a big way to play
it!). Rhode Island and southeastern Mass. heard it on WRIU, WPRO-FM,
WBRU, and WFHN at midnight. WBMX, WROR, and WXKS-FM all hit it
a few minutes after midnight. In northern New York, Mike Roach
reports hearing it in full on CKKL Ottawa and in part on WYSX
Ogdensburg -- but U2's "New Year's Day" was more popular,
being heard on Ottawa's CHEZ and CKQB and on Brockville's CHXL
(and on Boston's WBOS and WXRV, too.) Here in Rochester, we caught
it on WZNE and WPXY. Just after the New Year rang in, we also
caught a new TV spot for "The Nerve" (WNVE 95.1) promising
a big expansion of the station's playlist. Formerly a straight-ahead
modern rocker, the Jacor station is adding 70s and 80s hard rock
like AC/DC and Aerosmith to its mix. An attempt to inflict further
damage on CBS rocker WCMF (96.5)? Sure sounds that way...
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2009 by Scott Fybush.