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May 4, 2009

Severin Off Air, CC Keeps Cutting

*There are some weeks when it's enjoyable to write this column. This is not one of those weeks - and not just because the Official NERW Laptop suffered a massive operating-system meltdown Wednesday night, forcing your editor to spend most of Thursday and Friday rebuilding it from scratch. (Public service announcement: back up your data - and since you probably won't, burn yourself a Knoppix CD or DVD now so you have it around when you really need to recover the data you can't get at any other way.)

No, this was an unpleasant week to write NERW because, yet again, we're leading off with two of the stories we like least: massive staffing cuts at a big broadcast group, and noisy headlines about a noisy talk host in the eye of a controversy over something he said on the air.

First, the job cuts: last week brought round two of Clear Channel's ongoing attempt to figure out which parts of its 850-station nationwide operation are worth the money its private-equity owners spent for the company. The first round back in January claimed about 1,850 jobs around the country, most of them in sales and promotions. At the time, certain alarmist bloggers warned that the company had bigger plans that involved centralizing most, if not all, of its programming.

Those dire warnings still haven't come to pass, but last Thursday's job cuts, which involved at least 590 of the remaining Clear Channel staffers, did cut deep into the company's programming payroll - and in the process began to shed light on the company's new programming direction.

Last week's cuts (which were decided at a level far above local managers, from what we're hearing) were not spread evenly across the company, as will be evident in our market-by-market rundown later in this week's issue. Instead, it appears that Clear Channel attempted to analyze which of its stations - and even which dayparts within stations - were producing significant returns to the company's bottom line, and which were (at least on paper) bringing in too little to justify the payroll expense.

The result, as best we can make out from the patchwork of cuts across the region, is a new system of "haves" and "have-nots." Some of the "haves" are big-market giants like New York's Z100 and Q104, where star air talent will find themselves doing extra work voicing generic tracks under the company's "premium choice" program - and it's those generic tracks that will replace the local talent that was cut at second-tier stations like WSNE in Providence or WKGS in Rochester. Some of the "haves" are the largest stations in the company's medium markets, where cuts to local talent were minimal last week. But some of the other "haves," interestingly, are stations in smaller markets like Manchester and Poughkeepsie, where talent costs are apparently low enough to allow the company to keep at least some local presence alive and still make a profit.

Last week's cuts also reached into Clear Channel newsrooms, as the company continued its effort to centralize as much news programming as possible, and even into some markets' engineering departments, where some talented and long-serving engineers found themselves out of work. We'll have more thoughts on these cuts in the weeks to come, as we see whether it's possible for an anchor in Albany to credibly report the news from Worcester, or what happens when something breaks in a studio in Boston and the guy who built that studio is no longer in the building to fix it quickly.

And it bears noting that for all the criticism directed at Clear Channel, that company was hardly the only one going through financial spasms last week. Just ask any Cumulus employee, after that company's announcement that each of its employees will be taking a week off without pay between now and the end of June...

*We'll have as much information as we could round up about the Clear Channel cuts, market-by-market, throughout this week's column - but first, there's that other big noisy story coming from eastern MASSACHUSETTS to address.

That would be WTKK (96.9 Boston) afternoon talk host Jay Severin - or is that "former WTKK talk host" Jay Severin?

The facts, as best we can ascertain them: Severin, predictably, used the flu headlines last week to bang away at a favorite topic, Mexican immigration. Equally predictably, Severin minced no words as he attempted to link the flu outbreak to illegal immigrants - followed, just as the usual script dictates, by protests and outrage from the usual quarters.

Severin is no stranger to controversy, of course, and neither is WTKK itself, so the extent of the station's reaction was slightly surprising: it quickly pulled Severin off the air, calling his suspension "indefinite" and adding, rather pointedly, that the station "has not been using the remarks for which he has been suspended in on-air promos," apparently to counter Severin's claims that WTKK was doing just that.

So far, so normal - we've seen this basic scenario play out many times in the world of talk radio, with the length and permanency of the suspension depending largely on the offending talk host's ratings and revenue stream and the extent to which the station thinks it can reap publicity and improved ratings from the controversy.

Where does Severin fit on that continuum? The rumor mill was churning hot and heavy over the weekend, with considerable speculation that WTKK owner Greater Media is less interested in milking the matter for publicity than in using the furor as an excuse to jettison Severin's hefty salary (reportedly as much as a million dollars a year) and stagnant ratings.

Will Severin's local show give way to, say, a much less-expensive syndicated Sean Hannity? Stay tuned...

(OK, we can't let this one go without passing along a few choice quips from frequent Severin foil Scot Lehigh, who spared no punches in a Saturday Globe column that called the talk host "the pied piper of the pugnacious p.m. pinheads" and labeled him "a bigot and a fraud" delivering "crude, bombastic, xenophobic discourse" over WTKK's airwaves. Is it really possible to imagine a Boston without the Globe, and the give-and-take that's long existed between its columnists and the talk radio dial?)

*Clear Channel didn't have a lot of staff to cut in Boston, but it still lost some key people. At WXKS-FM (Kiss 108), Dierdre Dagata had been shuffled from middays to weekends to nights, but now she's gone from the station, with her 8 PM-12 AM shift now being handled via out-of-market voicetracking. (Ironically, the tracking comes from Kiss in Dallas and Jackson Blue, who'd been doing nights at WXKS-FM until last fall.)

Behind the scenes, chief engineer Steve Riggs is out after nearly two decades with WXKS and WJMN. His experience with the station included several studio moves and rebuilds, including the recent relocations of WJMN from Waltham and WXKS from its longtime Medford home into a new cluster studio in Medford.

Also gone from the Kiss 108 airwaves is Shelley Wade, who'd been tracking middays from New York's Z100 for the last couple of years.

In Worcester, the cuts came at Clear Channel's WTAG, where 20-year station veteran George Brown is gone as PD, a post he'd held for the last decade. News anchor Tim Cooney is out as well.

Up the AM dial in Worcester, WNEB (1230) returns to the air today as a Spanish-language talker, "Radio Sol." The new format will also include Spanish-language Red Sox broadcasts from the Spanish Beisbol Network (SBN) and some Spanish-language inspirational music.

Progressive talk is returning to Boston's airwaves, thanks to a new leased-time deal with Blackstrap's WWZN (1510), where programmer Jeff Santos is already leasing mornings for his own talk show. Now Santos is taking much of the rest of the daytime hours as well, running Stephanie Miller at 10 AM, Ed Schultz at noon, Thom Hartmann at 3 PM and another local hour from 6-7 PM.

*On the TV front, Fox viewers around Boston are enjoying a much-improved signal from WFXT-DT (RF 31), now that the Fox owned-and-operated station has completed an antenna-replacement project at its transmitter site in Needham. The old WFXT analog channel 25 antenna is finally down from the candelabra tower after many months of operation at vanishingly low power, and the transmission line that was causing so many analog signal problems is gone as well. In their place is a new top-mounted DTV antenna and new transmission line - and a full-power WFXT-DT signal that's among the best in the market.

The latest analog signal to go silent is Worcester's WUNI-TV (Channel 27), which has now yielded to WUNI-DT (RF 29).

Out in Springfield, WGBY-DT has finally settled in on its permanent RF channel, 22, now that WWLP-TV's analog signal is gone from that spectrum. WGBY-DT moved down from its temporary channel 58 facility last Monday (April 27).

And while we're in Springfield, we note that WSHM-LP (Channel 67, aka "CBS3") begins supplying a daily stream of radio newscasts today for Clear Channel's WHYN (560). The CBS3-branded newscasts will run twice each hour from 11 AM until 7 PM, replacing newscasts that had been fed to Springfield from Worcester's WTAG; WHYN news director John Baibak will continue to do the morning news in-house.


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*In NEW YORK City, WRXP (101.9) morning man Matt Pinfield is taking some time off. He announced late last week that he's voluntarily heading into rehab for an unspecified substance addiction, leaving co-host (and WRXP PD) Leslie Fram to handle the morning shift with producer Matt Ianni until he's able to return.

When WABC (770) parted ways with longtime PD Phil Boyce a few months back, there was a lot of concern in the radio community about the fate of one of Boyce's pet projects, the annual Memorial Day "Rewound" format-breaker that replaces a day of talk reruns with classic Musicradio 77 airchecks. It turns out those concerns were well-founded: while there will still be a "Rewound" this year, it won't be heard at 770 on the dial. Instead, this year's edition will be relegated to the WABC webstream and to WPLJ-HD3, usually a simulcast of 770. It's no great surprise, but it is something of a shame, since we hear that the history buffs behind Rewound (including WABC production guru Johnny Donovan and author Peter Kanze) have an exciting batch of new finds on tap for this year's Rewound. (Will it be the last one?)

Clear Channel's New York cluster is rapidly becoming a major production hub for the company, with jocks such as WHTZ's Elvis Duran and WAXQ's Maria Milito serving as big players in the "Premium Choice" program that makes their work available to stations in smaller markets. (Duran's Z100 morning show, for instance, added Richmond's WRVQ as an affiliate last week when that station dumped its local morning talent.) As a result, cuts there were minimal - Eddie "The Intern" Finocchiaro from the WAXQ morning show is the only one we're aware of.

It was Cumulus, not Clear Channel, doing the cutting in Westchester County last week, leaving WFAS-FM (103.9 Bronxville) PD/afternoon jock Dave Ashton without a job. (But not for long, as you'll see later in this week's column.)

The hallways over on Secor Road are pretty empty these days, with WFAS(AM) morning man Bob Barnum serving as Ashton's afternoon replacement on the FM on an interim basis. With John Tesh in middays and evenings automated, that leaves just morning man Jay Michaels as a dedicated FM personality on what was once a much bigger station. Curt Hansen of sister stations WICC/WEBE in Connecticut is handling PD duties for now, and looking for a new APD/afternoon jock at WFAS.

To the north, we're hearing that Clear Channel quietly flipped formats at WCTW (98.5 Catskill) on Friday, replacing "98.5 Lite FM" with "98.5 the Cat" and edging the music to a hotter flavor of AC. The "Cat" nickname has a long history on the station; it was just four years ago that it gave way to "Lite" as part of what was then a three-station semi-simulcast in the region. Now Poughkeepsie's WRNQ (92.1) is the last remaining Hudson Valley "Lite FM."

In Albany, the Clear Channel cuts slashed deepest at WPYX (106.5), where middayer Suzanne, night guy Vinnie DePalma and overnight jock John Clark are all out. Down the hall at WHRL (103.1), PD Tim Noble, night jock Dru and part-timer Chambers are gone, and at WKKF (Kiss 102.3), middayer DJ Thomas and APD/night jock Corey Kincaid are out. At WGY (810), news guy Greg Fry is out, less than a year after he moved to Albany from Ithaca's WHCU, where he was assistant news director.

In Syracuse, it was PD Butch Charles losing his gig as PD of WWHT (107.9) and WPHR (106.9), with ops manager Rich Lauber handling programming duties for now.

Meanwhile, Craig Fox and Sam Furco closed Friday on their purchase of Clear Channel's WWDG (105.1 DeRuyter), and no sooner was the ink dry than the "Nova" modern AC format was gone from the WWDG airwaves - indeed, WWDG itself was gone from the airwaves, and will remain dark until Fox and Furco relaunch it with a new format.

Here in Rochester, the cuts claimed morning shows at WDVI (100.5 the Drive), where Michael Gately is out after a dozen years with the station, and down the hall at WKGS (Kiss 106.7), where PD/morning man Erick "E-Man" Anderson was the lone local jock, replaced for now by automation as best we can tell. Michelle (Mackenzie) Ferland lost her part-time production gig, and another former Clear Channel Rochester talent, sports guy Brad Davies, lost his morning show at KBME (790) in Houston less than a year after moving down there. Also gone is the long-running "Sound Bytes" weekend computer show, which ran for nearly 20 years on the market, most recently on WHAM (1180) and before that on WXXI (1370). And Jennifer Wylde, who tracked afternoons on WFXF (95.1) from her home base at WBGG-FM (105.9) in Miami, is gone from Clear Channel as well.

More non-Clear Channel job cuts - Ron Dobson is out at Buffalo's WBEN (930), where he'd been doing evenings on the Entercom talker. Budget cuts are being blamed for the decision, which puts Dobson off the air in Buffalo for a second time; he'd been at WGR (550) in its talk days, before Entercom flipped that AM signal to sports to protect WBEN's talk format. There's no word at press time on which syndicated talker will replace Dobson on WBEN.

A few bits of TV news: in New York, WABC-DT (RF 45) is now running two 720p HD streams, with ABC's new "Live Well TV" network having launched last Monday on 7.2. (Local weather continues on 7.3 in standard definition.) The "Live Well" service is running on all of ABC's owned-and-operated stations, including WPVI-DT (RF 64) in Philadelphia.

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*In CONNECTICUT, Jeannine Jersey has resigned as APD/afternoons at CBS Radio's WTIC-FM (96.5 Hartford), in order to go back to school. The station is looking for a replacement.

Clear Channel's cuts were relatively small in the Nutmeg State, but still significant: David Kohn is out in Hartford, where he did nights on WWYZ (92.5) and was assistant production director for the cluster. In New Haven, middayer Ryan Smart and night jock Brady are out at WKCI (101.3), and cluster promotions director Kelly Colonghi is out of work, too.

*Clear Channel's cuts were the week's big (and really only) story from RHODE ISLAND, where the brunt of the pain fell on AC "Coast" WSNE (93.3 Providence), which lost most of its local presence. Morning host Tad Lemire is out, replaced by a simulcast of "Matty in the Morning" from Boston's Kiss 108 (WXKS-FM). And with little local programming left on WSNE, PD Chris Duggan, who was also programming classic hits WWBB (101.5), is out as well.

On the NEW HAMPSHIRE seacoast, there were big cuts at Clear Channel's top-40 WERZ (107.1 Exeter), where the "Ralphie and Suzanne" morning show is history. That puts former Bostn jock Ralphie Marino as well as co-host Suzanne Lewis out of work. Also gone is Glen Turner, who was the station's PD, MD and afternoon jock. Is a format change on the way at 107.1, especially since CC is now simulcasting Boston's top-40 Kiss on WSKX (95.3 York Center ME) in the area?

Other cuts in the seacoast cluster include WHEB (100.3 Portsmouth) night jock Jason "JR" Russell.

In Manchester, Saga is losing WZID (95.7) PD/afternoon jock Bob Bronson - but it's to a big promotion, not to budget cuts: he's headed for New York City, where he'll be the new morning co-host at Clear Channel's WLTW (106.7) alongside Christine Nagy. Bronson replaces Karen Carson, who's headed west to Clear Channel's KOST (103.5) in Los Angeles to do middays - and replacing Bronson in Manchester is Dave Ashton, fresh off losing his WFAS job down in Westchester County. Ashton will serve as operations manager for Saga's Manchester cluster, as well as PD of WZID.

In Keene, Saga is adding yet another translator to what's already a very impressive roster of low-power signals. W256BJ (99.1, formerly W255BQ on 98.9) moves south from Claremont to the WZBK (1220) tower. Saga already has two translators there - W276CB (103.1) carrying "Kool Oldies" from the HD3 of WKNE (103.7) and W281AU (104.1) carrying classic rock from WKNE's HD2 - along with the rest of its 3 FM/2 AM cluster in town.

Up in Conway, New Life Media has grabbed the former Hartford callsign WPHH for its new CP on 91.1.

And on TV, Alisha McDevitt gets promoted from assistant news director to news director at WMUR (Channel 9), replacing Andrew Vrees, who's moved south to the ND job at Hearst-Argyle sister station WCVB in Boston.

*It was a quiet week in MAINE, but we do have a new callsign to report: if 101.1 in Machias makes it to air, its callsign will be WLEK.

*Vox AM/FM, LLC is selling one of its VERMONT stations, but Middlebury's WVTK (92.1, licensed across the lake in Port Henry NY) is staying in the family. For $550,000, the station changes hands to Burton K. Barlow and his wife Lori Young-Barlow. "Burton K. Barlow" is better known, of course, simply as Ken Barlow, one of the partners in Vox and the manager of the Burlington cluster that Vox bought from Clear Channel last year, and the change in ownership isn't expected to produce any programming or staffing changes at the Addison County-focused AC station.

*Clear Channel's cuts across PENNSYLVANIA included WXDX (105.9 Pittsburgh) weekender AJ Jones, WAEB-FM (104.1 Allentown) PD/middayer Laura St. James (who'll continue to do weekends at New York's WLTW), WAEB-FM morning show producer Mike Evans, WLAN-FM (96.9 Lancaster) night jock/promotions director Aaron Price and production guy/part-timer D-Murph and, in Harrisburg, chief engineer Tim Portzline. At Reading's WRFY, it's jocks Chuck Corbin and Susie Summer who were cut.

In Pittsburgh, they're mourning KQV (1410) PD Erik Selby, who died suddenly of an aneurysm last Monday (April 27) at the far too young age of 43. Selby had been with KQV since 1992, and his resume also included stops at WEZE-FM and WPLW. He's survived by his wife, Susan Barr Selby, who is KQV's ad sales manager. A memorial service will be held next Saturday (May 9) at the farm the Selbys operated in Penn Township.

Family Life Network has a callsign for its new 90.9 signal in Laporte: it will be WCIJ.

DTV news: in Erie, the analog signal of WFXP (Channel 66) went dark at noon last Monday (April 27), leaving WICU (Channel 12) as the last analog standing in that market.

*In CANADA, someone is calling someone's bluff when it comes to small-market local TV, but it's not quite clear who's getting the better end of the deal in the C$3 sale of CKNX-TV (Channel 8) in Wingham, CHWI-TV (Channels 16/60) in Wheatley/Windsor and CKX-TV (Channel 5) in Brandon, Manitoba from CTV to Shaw.

Those three "A Channel" outlets were the ones CTV told the CRTC it planned to shut down this summer - unless the CRTC yielded to CTV's pleas to force cable companies to pay subscriber fees to carry local TV signals.

That's when the Shaw family - which controls both Shaw Cable and the Corus broadcast empire - entered the picture, offering to take the "A Channel" stations off CTV's hands for a dollar a piece, an offer CTV gleefully accepted.

"Cable is rolling in money and can obviously afford to underwrite the losses. Good for them. I'm sure they will live up to the existing conditions of licence placed on these stations, which is wonderful news for the employees and for the people of Windsor, Wingham and Brandon," said CTV CEO Ivan Fecan in a statement Thursday afternoon.

At least in the short term, the move is indeed a win for Fecan and CTV: in Wingham and Windsor, Shaw's dollar buys not much more than a pair of licenses, since CKNX and CHWI long ago outsourced most of their news production and master control to CFPL-TV (Channel 10) in London, which CTV isn't selling. (The $1 sale offer for the stations didn't include any real estate, either.)

But Shaw has plenty of programming it could put on the stations, and it has experience at its cable systems and at the one small TV station it owns directly, CJBN-TV Kenora, in producing low-cost local content, which means that even if it ends up running the Wingham and Windsor stations at a loss, it may well be worth it to Shaw simply to demonstrate to the CRTC that small-market TV can indeed survive without cable subscriber fees.

(Derek DeCloet in the Globe and Mail expanded quite clearly on that point in a column on Saturday that's well worth reading.)

*Two of Corus' Quebec AM stations received last-ditch CRTC permission to stay on the air until May 1 while the company continues to try to fix reception issues with the new FM signals that are supposed to be replacing them.

In Sherbrooke, CHLT-FM (102.1) proved to be an inadequate substitute for CHLT (630), especially in outlying communities such as Magog and Coaticook, and while Corus was granted a higher-powered signal on 107.7 instead (over the objections of Vermont Public Radio, which has many listeners to its WVPS 107.9 Burlington signal in the area's Anglophone communities), issues with getting building permits issued delayed construction of a new tower until this spring.

Meanwhile in Gatineau/Ottawa, CJRC (1150) stayed on the air while the CJRC-FM (104.7) transmitter was moved to a new location to try to overcome initial coverage problems with that signal. There, too, delays in getting permits issued delayed construction of the new FM facility.

Those AM signals on 630 and 1150 finally fell silent on Friday, and their replacements are now on the air for good, running the "Souvenirs Garantis" French-language oldies format that recently replaced French news-talk on Corus' regional network.

There will be a new FM signal on the air in Caraquet, New Brunswick from July 1 until September 30. The 50-watt Radio Canada outlet on 93.9 was licensed as a temporary relay of CBAF (88.5 Moncton), for the purpose of covering the Acadian Festival of Caraquet and the Worldwide Acadian Convention.

In Toronto, former CHUM (1050) PD Brad Jones is now out of work. He'd remained with CTV - at least temporarily - after last month's format flip from oldies to the "CP 24 Radio" TV simulcast.

And a belated obituary: Les Walton, who'd spent 24 years as news director of CKTB (610 St. Catharines), died April 23 in Hamilton after suffering a stroke. He was just 52.

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, ten and - where available - fifteen 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!)

May 5, 2008 -

  • More than two years after CBS Radio put its Rochester cluster up for sale, the last of the stations in the group have finally found new owners. On Thursday, Entercom, which bought the CBS cluster but had to spin three signals to stay under the ownership cap, announced that it's reached a deal with Oklahoma's Stephens Media Group to buy AC "Warm" WRMM (101.3 Rochester), adult hits "Fickle" WFKL (93.3 Fairport) and modern rock "Zone" WZNE (94.1 Brighton). Purchase price is a reported $13.25 million, which NERW notes is about half of the number we heard being floated for the stations when they first went up for sale, a sign of the seismic downward shift in station sale prices in recent months.
  • At the direction of the FCC and the Justice Department last November, Entercom put those three stations (WRMM and WZNE from the original CBS cluster and WFKL from Entercom's own cluster) into a "hold-separate" arrangement known as the Rochester Radio Group. Under the terms of the FCC/Justice deal, the stations were to go into a trust if no buyer was found after six months, and the trust documents were filed April 17. (It's not immediately clear whether the stations will still be transferred to trustee David Pearlman and then to Stephens, or if the FCC will allow Entercom to sell them directly to Stephens.)
  • While the lawyers do their thing, Stephens wasted no time taking over operation of the stations under a JSA. Cluster manager Mike Ninnie stays in place as Stephens' market manager, and all three stations' formats remain in place for now, too. Citing budget considerations, Stephens let at least three employees go, though - WRMM morning co-host Dee Alexander, Fickle newsman Bob Kirk and at least one behind-the-scenes staffer.
  • The big news from New York City was the official announcement that John R. Gambling will indeed be returning to the station he and his family called home from 1925 until 2000. The new "John Gambling Show" debuts this morning on WOR (710), where it will be heard from 5:30-9 AM on weekdays. Joe Bartlett stays on to do a 5-5:30 morning news block, then serve as Gambling's co-host and news anchor for the rest of the show. Bartlett's former co-host, Donna Hanover, remains with the station as arts critic and fill-in host, and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who'd been appearing weekly with Gambling over at WABC until Citadel let Gambling go, will make a regular Friday-morning appearance on the new WOR show.
  • There's a station sale at the top of our PENNSYLVANIA news, too: Cary Simpson's Allegheny Mountain Network is selling its biggest signal, WGMR (101.1 Tyrone), to Forever Broadcasting, already the dominant player in the region. Forever will pay $2.5 million over ten years for the station in a deal that includes a noncompete for that ten-year period, as well as translators W267AC (101.3 Altoona) and W264BB (100.7 Lewistown).
  • Another long-delayed station sale suddenly became a reality late last week, as Clear Channel exited MAINE with an $11 million sale of its Bangor and Augusta/Waterville clusters to Blueberry Broadcasting, a new company whose principals are Louis Vitali, late of Mariner Broadcasting (which owned Maine's "W-Bach" stations and still owns WCCC in Hartford) and Bruce Biette, a former Maine broadcaster who's been involved with Convergent Broadcasting down south. We'd been hearing rumors about this deal for several months, as it apparently became stalled in the drama surrounding Clear Channel's attempts to go private and to sell many of its smaller clusters. At one point, the Maine stations were included in the list of signals being transferred to GoodRadio.TV, a sale that was never consummated.
  • Now the signals are going into Blueberry's hands - 17 of them, in all. In Bangor, the company gets talker WABI (910 Bangor), AC WKSQ (94.5 Ellsworth), top 40 WWBX (97.1 Bangor), country WLKE (99.1 Bar Harbor), modern rock WFZX (101.7 Searsport), oldies WGUY (102.1 Dexter), talk WVOM (103.9 Howland) and country WBFB (104.7 Brewer), but due to ownership caps, it will have to spin off two of those signals, WFZX and WGUY. In Augusta and vicinity, the Blueberry cluster will include the sports trimulcast of WFAU (1280 Gardiner), WRKD (1450 Rockland) and WIGY (97.5 Madison), as well as talk WCME (96.7 Boothbay Harbor), AC WKCG (101.3 Augusta), classic hits WQSS (102.5 Camden), country WMCM (103.3 Rockland), oldies WABK-FM (104.3 Gardiner) and big-signalled rocker WTOS (105.1 Skowhegan).
  • Steve Silberberg has added a new simulcast for his AAA WXRV (92.5 Andover) in north central MASSACHUSETTS. "The River" is already heard on WLKC (105.7 Campton NH), and now it's expanded west down Route 2 to the former WNYN (99.9 Athol), which drops its satellite-delivered classic rock format and its calls to become WXRG, a straight simulcast of 92.5. The WXRG calls come from Silberberg's 99.1 in Whitefield, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which now takes the WNYN calls.

May 3, 2004 -

  • The sale of three radio stations in upstate NEW YORK to Lloyd Roach's Route 81 Radio group is now off the table - and Roach's LMA of WKLL (94.9 Frankfort), WRCK (107.3 Utica) and WTLB (1310 Utica) is abruptly over.
  • There's a lot of "he said, she said" going on right now, but here's what we know for sure: Galaxy Broadcasting head honcho Ed Levine came to the stations' Utica studios last Monday (April 26) with police officers in tow to pull the plug on the LMA. Levine was apparently upset that Route 81 (which was doing business in Utica as "Route 76 Radio") had changed the format on WKLL, flipping it from Galaxy's "K-Rock" modern rock format to a simulcast of the standards on WTLB. WKLL immediately flipped back to modern rock, with the standards staying put on 1310.
  • Local programming on WNSA (107.7 Wethersfield) came to an end on Thursday, and as we prepare this week's NERW on Sunday night, there's nothing but dead air on the powerful signal that hits both the Rochester and Buffalo markets. WNSA changes hands to Entercom on Monday morning, and a new format is expected very soon. In the meantime, WNSA's staff (including talk hosts Howard Simon, Jim Brinson and Angelo "Zig" Fracassi) is out of work, though there are rumors that Simon, at least, will end up on Entercom's surviving sports station, WGR (550). WGR's also in line to get the Sabres play-by-play next season - if there is an NHL season this fall, that is.
  • In PENNSYLVANIA, the long simulcast of WQED (Channel 13) on WQEX (Channel 16) in Pittsburgh came to an end Saturday. WQEX is now being leased out to the America's Store home shopping network, with three hours on Tuesday morning remaining in the hands of WQED to program with kids' and public-affairs shows.

April 30, 1999 -

  • One of the last big locally-owned radio groups in New England is succumbing to the pressures of corporate consolidation. Fuller-Jeffrey announced late Friday afternoon that it has agreed to a $63 million buyout by Citadel Communications. In F-J's Portland home base, Citadel gets classic rock giant WBLM (102.9), modern rock simulcast WCYY (94.3 Biddeford)/WCYI (93.9 Lewiston), CHR WJBQ (97.9), AC WHOM (94.9 Mount Washington NH), and AAA-AC WCLZ (98.9 Brunswick). On the New Hampshire seacoast, Citadel gets country monster WOKQ (97.5 Dover)-WPKQ (103.7 Berlin) and classic rock simulcast WXBB (105.3 Kittery ME)-WXBP (102.1 Hampton). The companies' statement makes no mention of F-J's Portland AMs, WJAE (1440 Westbrook) and WJJB (900 Brunswick), which don't appear to be included in this deal.
  • "We are truly passing heritage radio stations to a heritage company," says F-J founder Bob Fuller, who calls Citadel "a company well known for its commitment to community service."
  • NERW's editorial comment: Bob Fuller and J.J. Jeffrey are among the finest broadcasters in New England. We were heartened a few years ago by their decision to sell their stations outside the region and focus their energies on the Portland and Seacoast markets. Their presence has helped the Portland market, in particular, sound like something much bigger than market 162. Can the market be served as well by a company from Nevada, whose owners know nothing about WBLM's beginnings in the little transmitter shack in Litchfield, or about the mighty reach of WHOM's mountaintop transmitter, or about the historical reasons for returning the WJBQ calls to 97.9? We're inclined to doubt it, and we hope Fuller and Jeffrey continue to keep a hand in the region's broadcasting scene. It would be a shame, indeed, if Portland and Portsmouth become nothing more than branch offices for companies based in Nevada, Michigan, and Texas. (2009 note: They did, and it was.)
  • Two of CONNECTICUT's biggest radio stations are being sold. A new group called "Aurora Communications" will pay $66 million for WEBE (107.9 Westport) and WICC (600 Bridgeport), taking the stations from Martin Pompadur's "ML Media Partners."
  • So who's Aurora? The principals in the new group are Frank Osborn, the former NBC executive who later ran the Osborn Communications station group before selling it to Pilot a few years back, and Frank Washington, the former FCC Mass Media Bureau deputy chief who runs former Capstar station WFAS AM-FM over in White Plains NY. (Washington was to have taken over more former Capstar properties -- WINE/WRKI Brookfield, WPUT Brewster/WAXB Patterson NY, and WZZN Mount Kisco NY -- but those purchases have been on hold and may now become Aurora acquisitions instead.) Aurora says it will try to grow as a small and medium-market operator, taking advantage of markets where groups are forced to spin off stations as a result of hitting ownership limits. Meanwhile, it's a nice cash-out for ML, which paid $12 million for WEBE and $6 million for WICC in the 80s.
  • There's a new station testing in VERMONT. WEXP (101.5) is licensed to Brandon but operating from a site closer to the much bigger city of Rutland, some 20 miles to the south. It's being heard testing with a dance-music CD; no idea yet what the final format will be.

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