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October 26, 2009

So Long, Soupy

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*He was best known for his TV comedy, but Soupy Sales made a big mark on the NEW YORK radio scene as well.

Long before the first pie was thrown at his face on TV, Sales was doing radio in Huntington, W.V., where he went to college - and then TV in Cincinnati, Cleveland and then Detroit, where he launched "Lunchtime with Soupy" sister station WXYZ-TV in 1953. That brought Sales to Los Angeles, and then to New York, where he shot to TV stardom with a daily show on WNEW-TV (Channel 5) that parent company Metromedia syndicated nationwide during the 1960s.

It was at WNEW-TV that Sales did one of his most famous bits, the New Year's Day 1965 request to kids watching the show to send him the "little green bits of paper" from their parents' wallets. Channel 5 suspended him briefly, but the incident only boosted his reputation as a TV rebel.

The Channel 5 incarnation of "The Soupy Sales Show" lasted only two years, but Sales returned to the New York airwaves two decades later as a key part of the final burst of creativity at WNBC (660), where he occupied the midday hours from 1985 until 1987, sandwiched between Don Imus in morning drive and Howard Stern in the afternoon.

On the air, Sales frequently sparred with his WNBC colleagues, though behind the scenes relations were reportedly more cordial. Sales' radio run came to an abrupt end amidst NBC budget cuts in 1987, as WNBC entered its final days; he left the air mid-shift on his last day on the station after an on-air attack at management and did not return the next year when WNBC left the air for good, though he later reconciled with then-PD Dale Parsons, according to his account on the New York Radio Message Board this week. (Stern also apologized to Sales many years later, calling the comedian one of his "childhood heroes.")

Sales never returned to radio - or to a regular TV gig - after WNBC, though he continued to make occasional guest appearances in his later years. He died Wednesday night at a hospice in the Bronx, at age 83.

*The FCC has affirmed a $10,000 fine against two Brooklyn FM pirates. Jean Clerveau and Jocelyn Edwards denied that the signal on 90.5 coming from their East 19th Street apartment last year was theirs - but while they argued that the station was actually being run from a different building across the street, the FCC says they're still liable for its operation, since Clerveau's name was on the apartment's electric bill, and FCC agents saw the coaxial cable from the 90.5 transmitting antenna going into the couple's apartment.

*In addition to Soupy Sales, the New York radio scene lost several more veterans this month. Last week, we told you about the death of veteran WWRL (1600) personality Hank Spann, but we neglected to mention the death of another important member of the 'RL team. Mark Olds, who died October 8 at age 88, was general manager of WWRL until his retirement in 1982. For part of that time, Olds also managed sister station WRVR (106.7, now WLTW). During a five-decade career, Olds also worked at WIP and WCAU in Philadelphia, WSAY in Rochester, WNLC in New London, and WINS and WNEW in New York, as well as at stations in Reno, St. Louis, Chicago and Cleveland. It was during that Cleveland stint, at then-KYW (now WTAM), that Olds hired a young announcer named Phil Donahue, who later credited Olds for helping him get his start in the business. Olds also taught at Fordham University from 1984-1991.

And Bruce Charles, who was a key part of the WNEW (1130) news team for a quarter of a century, died October 16 in Florida. Charles (real name Charles Bruce Benjamin) spent 25 years at WNEW before retiring in 1987. He had come to WNEW from Cleveland, where he was news director at WHK (1420), then a Metromedia sister station. Charles was 85.

*True stories of odd radio remotes: friends-of-the-column George Greene and Jerry Bond spotted this "Radio Disney" tent at the Rochester zoo over the weekend, handing out bumper stickers for "Radio Disney - AM 1460."

What's odd about that? AM 1460 in Rochester is all-Catholic WHIC...and the "Radio Disney 1460" in question is WDDY in Albany, 200 miles to the east of Rochester. This was at least the second time the Albany Disney outlet was dispatched on a promo run to Rochester - they were spotted at a Rochester Red Wings game over the summer, too.

Over in Buffalo, Entercom has added another sports franchise to its roster at WGR (550): Niagara University basketball will be heard this season on the sports station, with some games being bumped to sister station WWKB (1520) when there are conflicts with the rest of the WGR lineup.

*On TV, Eric Hoppel has been named news director at Albany's WNYT (Channel 13), replacing Paul Lewis. Hoppel had been WNYT's assistant news director.

THE 2010 CALENDAR IS HERE!

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*Eastern MASSACHUSETTS could get another 50,000-watt AM signal, if WBIX (1060 Natick) owner Alex Langer has his way. He's applying to move WBIX's daytime signal from its current site in Framingham (on the two-tower array formerly used by WKOX 1200, until that station moved to Newton earlier this year) to the five-tower array in Ashland that WBIX already uses at night.

That Ashland array was built in the early eighties for the 1060 signal, back in its original incarnation as WGTR, but was repurposed in the mid-nineties for the new signal on 890 that's now silent WAMG Dedham. 1060 later returned to the Ashland towers for nighttime use only, diplexing with WAMG.

WBIX's proposed return to Ashland could reignite a battle that kept the old WGTR from ever becoming fully licensed at the Ashland site: back then, WBZ (1030) objected to potential interference to its signal from the third-adjacent WGTR signal, and a steady stream of objections from WBZ itself and from its Group W sister station, KYW (1060 Philadelphia) ensured that WGTR's then-25 kW daytime signal on 1060 remained at the Program Test Authority stage for a decade and a half.

This time, WBIX is submitting a series of measurements that it says demonstrate that the FCC's "M-3" conductivity map overstates the ground conductivity between Ashland and WBZ's transmitter in Hull -and therefore that there will be no prohibited overlap between the 25 mV/m contours of WBZ and the relocated WBIX.

Will CBS object to 1060's move this time? Stay tuned...

*In other Boston radio news, it looks like Howie Carr and Entercom's WRKO (680) are stuck with each other for a while longer. Two years after engaging in a high-profile attempt to pry Carr loose from his WRKO contract, Greater Media's WTKK (96.9) is at least feigning a total lack of interest in making a second run at moving Howie to FM. Asked by the Boston Herald whether he's considering Carr at the end of his WRKO contract in 2012, Greater Media CEO Peter Smyth replied, "I think Howie Carr is a terrifically talented guy. I like him but I’m not (going to)."

Will that attitude change come 2012? Again, stay tuned...

Veteran New England programmer Beau Raines is out as PD and morning host at Northeast Broadcasting's WXRV (92.5 Andover) after a little less than a year in that position; music director/APD Catie Wilber is now serving as acting PD while a permanent replacement is chosen.

And where's Uncle Dale? One of the Boston market's longest-serving talents is apparently off the schedule at WODS (103.3).

Dale Dorman moved to a Saturday-morning shift there in September 2008, leaving behind his morning show with little fanfare - and with even less fanfare, he quietly vanished from Saturday mornings a few weeks back, too, apparently ending some 40 years on the Hub's radio dial at WRKO, WROR, WXKS-FM and finally WODS.

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*There's a station move in the works in the Atlantic City, NEW JERSEY market, where Atlantic Broadcasting is applying to move modern rock WJSE (102.7) right into Atlantic City. Here's how the move would play out: WJSE would change city of license from Petersburg to Ocean City, and would move its transmitter site some 15 miles north to the Ocean Club Condominiums, right on the Boardwalk. (That's also the site of WTTH 93.1, though WJSE would apparently be on the other one of the two Ocean Club towers.)

WJSE's new 4.1 kW/399' directional facility would serve more of Atlantic County than its present signal, at the expense of most of the station's present coverage of Cape May County. To maintain the fiction of "first local service" to Petersburg, sister station WTKU (98.3) would change city of license from Ocean City to Petersburg, remaining at its present transmitter site.

Meanwhile up in North Jersey, Newark Public Broadcasting's WBGO (88.3 Newark) has revised its application to move its transmitter across the Hudson to Manhattan. Instead of its original proposal to build a new site atop the Trump condominiums next to the United Nations, WBGO has now filed to amend its construction permit to instead specify the Four Times Square site on the west side. As with the original East Side CP, the new proposal, for 2800 watts/834', calls for a directional antenna to protect nearby signals on Long Island; even so, the relocated WBGO would put a 60 dBu signal over all of New York City as well as lower Westchester and, of course, a big chunk of northern New Jersey.

*While we wait to find out who'll face the Phillies in the World Series (Go Angels!), here's a reminder about how radio coverage of the team's bid will play out: only Phils flagship WPHT (1210 Philadelphia) will get to broadcast the home team's call of the game. The rest of the extensive Phillies network across eastern PENNSYLVANIA and beyond will have the opportunity to pick up ESPN Radio's network coverage of the Series, which will also be heard on ESPN's own affiliate lineup, including WPEN (950 Philadelphia) and its new FM sister on 97.5.

And speaking of Greater Media's new FM sports outlet in the Philadelphia market, it didn't take long for the inevitable call change to take effect, so mark down WPEN-FM as the new calls for the former WNUW (97.5 Burlington NJ). Yes, that means Greater now has "WPEN-FM" and "WBEN-FM" as clustermates in Philly, something that might have caused confusion back in the diary days but shouldn't be much of an issue in the PPM world.

Speaking of calls, a correction from last week: while Telikoja Educational Broadcasting did indeed pick up Pittsburgh's venerable WAMO calls, they're going to the 88.7 in Dushore (ex-WEMR, calls with their own longish history in nearby Tunkhannock), not to 91.3 in Carbondale, which remains WFUZ for now.

A well-known Philadelphia TV anchor is moving on: Fox's WTXF (Channel 29) won't renew Dawn Stensland's contract when it expires at year's end. Stensland has been WTXF's late-evening anchor for eight years, and she's been in Philadelphia TV since 1997. Kerri-Lee Halkett, who already anchors WTXF's early-evening newscasts, will add the 10 PM show to her duties when Stensland departs.

And in Harrisburg, Craig Hume replaces Caroline Imler in the news director chair at Newport Television's WHP-TV (Channel 21)/WLYH (Channel 15).

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

*In CANADA, there are some big changes coming to CBC's TV news broadcasts today. On the heels of September's expansion of early-evening local CBC newscasts to 90 minutes (5:30 to 7 PM), the CBC is now reinstituting late-night local news in most of its markets, in the form of a 10-minute news update at 10:55 PM inserted between a slightly shortened version of "The National" and "The Hour," which will now start at 11:05. Local anchors for the new 10:55 newscasts include Adrian Harewood in Ottawa (moving to TV from CBC Radio 1's "All in a Day" afternoon regional show, with Alan Neal taking over the radio show), Aaron Saltzman in Toronto, Susan Pedler in Windsor and Andrew Chang in Montreal.

The CBC changes also include a rebranding of the national all-news network formerly known as CBC Newsworld, which relaunches today as "CBC NN."

There's a new signal on the air between Chatham and Windsor. CKXS (99.1 Wallaceburg) signed on this past Tuesday (Oct. 20) at 9 AM, and its airstaff will make their official debut this morning, along with the station's adult contemporary format. The new station's talent roster includes GM Greg Hetherington and Gary Patterson (two of the five partners in the station under the "Five Amigos" banner), along with Jay Smith, Dana Treacy and Chris Prince. There's a website up at www.ckxsfm.com as well.

And right across the lake from NERW Central, there's a new oldies show being heard weekday afternoons on CJBQ (800 Belleville), which is still a country station the rest of the day, except for its mid-morning talk block. But from 3-6 PM, Freddy Vette is now playing "Great Songs from the 50s and 60s," and sounding pretty good doing it, too. (Thanks to NERW reader Eric Florack for catching this diversion from the usual format!)

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. Note that 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!)

October 27, 2008 -

  • For almost six decades, one of the quirks of TV in NEW YORK's Southern Tier has been the lack of a CBS affiliate in the Elmira market. While that small city has had an NBC affiliate (WSYE, now WETM-TV 18) since 1956 and an ABC affiliate (WENY-TV 36) since 1969, viewers in Elmira and Corning (and their cable systems) have pointed their antennas 60 miles east to Binghamton all those years to watch CBS on channel 12, WBNG-TV. In early 2009, that will change, thanks to WENY-TV. Owner Lilly Broadcasting signed a contract last week to bring CBS to Elmira on a subchannel of WENY-DT, displacing WBNG from cable systems in the Elmira market.
  • The new CBS service from WENY will apparently launch first on cable, since WENY-DT never built out its interim channel 55 allocation. Instead, WENY will build its DTV signal (also on channel 36) at the Higman Hill transmitter site above Corning, leaving behind the site on Hawley Hill in Elmira that it's shared with WSYE/WETM for forty years. WENY's analog signal has been at low power in recent years, anyway, since a fire destroyed its full-power RCA transmitter.
  • And one more CBS note before we move on from the Empire State: Lou Dorfsman, who died Wednesday (Oct. 22), was part of the unparalleled team that gave the CBS of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s a corporate visual identity like nothing else the broadcasting industry has ever known. While he didn't design the iconic eye logo (that honor went to Bill Golden), Dorfsman was responsible for all the many ways the eye - and later the distinctive CBS Didot font - were used in the company. After Golden's death in 1959, Dorfsman became the network's art director, and with the support of network president Frank Stanton he created a distinctive look and feel for all things CBS, from the stationery with the famous dot showing secretaries precisely where to start typing, to the custom-made elevator panels with back-illuminated CBS Didot numerals, to the "Gastrotypographicalassemblage" that graced the Black Rock cafeteria.
  • In PENNSYLVANIA, CBS Radio is bringing in some outside-the-market programming help for KDKA (1020), as Mark Mason, PD of sister station WINS (1010 New York) comes on board to help take some of the load off cluster PD Keith Clarke. Mason will work with KDKA director of news and programming Marshall Adams to keep the AM station competitive against Clear Channel's FM news-talk competitor, WPGB (104.7).
  • The big news from MASSACHUSETTS was all about Reese Hopkins, the WRKO (680 Boston) talk host who lost his job amidst the Entercom cutbacks a week earlier. It turns out WRKO narrowly avoided yet another public relations headache when it let Hopkins go: last week, Hopkins was arrested on charges that he raped a 12-year-old girl in New York City in 2004. The girl claims that she was visiting a friend at her Manhattan apartment, and that the friend's mother was dating - and living with - Hopkins.
  • Police arrested Hopkins Wednesday night at his home in Malden. He was arraigned Friday in Manhattan, where he denied the charges. Hopkins says he was living in Connecticut at the time the incident allegedly occurred, and that he wasn't in New York on the day in question. "No one in radio will touch me again, even if I'm found innocent," Hopkins told the Boston Herald on Friday.
  • Congratulations to the broadcasters in the Upper Valley - they banded together on Monday to raise $41,000 during their 13-hour "Polly's Think Pink Radiothon," funding breast cancer research in memory of veteran air talent Pauline Robbins-Loyd, who died in January. This was the second "Think Pink" event; the first, held last year as Robbins-Loyd was dying, raised $37,000.

October 25, 2004 -

  • It's hard to imagine what could be more distracting to most of New England (and the vast expanses of Sox Nation beyond) than a Red Sox run at the World Series, so it's no great surprise that there's very little for us to report this week - which is just as well, because there's a ballgame to watch! But we live to bring you broadcast news, so here's the skimpy little run of it for this most distracted week (with a promise to be back with much more next Monday, no matter how this whole heart-in-the-throat week ends....)
  • *Gotta start in MASSACHUSETTS, of course - where the big news (aside from the obvious) was a management shuffle at Viacom's WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and WSBK (Channel 38) that found general manager Ed Goldman heading for the showers after a long run up there on the second floor. We can't be completely unbiased about this one here at NERW, since your editor worked under Ed in the mid-nineties when he had oversight of WBZ radio (and, for a time, the entire CBS lineup of AM stations, too.) Goldman's replacement, Julio Marenghi, comes to WBZ/WSBK from the station manager post at New York's WCBS-TV (Channel 2); it brings him full circle in a career that began - no kidding - in the WBZ mailroom.
  • It's a good week for Boston's WEEI (850), which gets the honor as Sox flagship station of being the only station allowed to carry the home-team radio call of the Series; the rest of the Sox network gives way to ESPN Radio's play-by-play - which means that even parts of the Boston market (which stretches west into Worcester County, far beyond 850's nighttime reach) have to listen to the national feed (or, worse, watch the Fox TV coverage with former '67 Cardinal Tim McCarver and Cards home broadcaster Joe Buck!) instead of the properly biased home team.
  • Not that we condone this kind of thing, but there's a Red Sox banner flying from one of the WTLB (1310 Utica) towers in upstate NEW YORK as we go to press Sunday night. The Galaxy-owned standards station didn't put it there, and they're rather upset with whoever did climb the tower late last Wednesday night or early Thursday morning to do it, inasmuch as they were trespassing and rather seriously endangering themselves in the process. So, this public safety reminder from your friends at NERW: there's no reversing the curse that 5,000 watts of RF energy can put through you. Stay away from live towers!
  • Down in the big city - you know, the one with the only baseball team ever to drop a 3-0 lead in the postseason - Salem's shuffling programming at its two AM stations. wiping out the contemporary Christian music that's been heard on WWDJ (970 Hackensack NJ) and rebranding 970 as a second program stream for its religious WMCA (570 New York).
  • They weren't as unhappy as Yankees fans - and really, who could be this week? - but about 200 upset senior citizens were out protesting over the weekend in NEW JERSEY, calling on WCMC (1230 Wildwood) to reconsider its decision to flip from standards to oldies. The Press of Atlantic City reports that the protesters carried signs that read "What are we, chopped liver? Wait till you get old!" and were especially vocal about the disappearance of longtime WCMC morning man Jim MacMillan and his very local show.
  • And up there in CANADA - you know, the country with only one major league baseball team (sorry, Montreal) and no NHL hockey either (er, sorry, Montreal) - there's one new radio station conducting on-air testing. CHSL (1610 Toronto) comes from the San Lorenzo Latin American Community Centre; it's reportedly testing with 250 watts before turning on the full kilowatt that it'll eventually run.
  • Meanwhile in Ottawa, which could probably use a good Sens game right now, the local radio outlets of the CBC and Radio-Canada said goodbye to one of the region's longest-running studio locations last week. Thursday's edition of All in a Day on CBO (91.5 Ottawa) was the last to be broadcast from the Chateau Laurier, the venerable railroad hotel that's been home to CBO and its predecessor stations (remember, the CBC began as the Canadian National Railways' radio network) since 1924. CBO and its sister stations (CBOQ 103.3, CBOF 90.7 and CBOX 102.5) move down the street to a new home at 181 Queen Street, and thus ends a very long bit of history.

October 22, 1999 -

  • As Alex Langer prepares to transform little WJLT (1060 Natick) into the latest revival of Boston's WMEX, he's hiring some big names to help. In what has to be one of the more curious career moves in Boston media, Mark Berryhill is leaving his news director job at WHDH-TV (Channel 7) to become vice president and general manager of the new 'MEX. The move leaves Channel 7 with a serious management gap, since assistant news director Staci Feger-Childers announced her departure from 7 Bulfinch to become news director of Buffalo's WKBW-TV (Channel 7) earlier in the month. So...just what does Berryhill see in a little AM daytimer? The plan is to bring well-known voices like Jerry Williams back to the Boston talk scene on WMEX, from a studio in a yet-to-be-announced downtown Boston location. Also moving to the 1060 spot will be Upton Bell, now heard on WRPT (650 Ashland), whose frequency will become home to the WJLT calls and religious format now on 1060. (The WMEX calls, by the way, have been hibernating on AM 1530 in McConnellsburg, PA, the once and future WVFC...just in case you wondered.) We'll see how successful this bet of Berryhill's and Langer's is when we hear WMEX powering down at, oh, 4:45 on a December afternoon...
  • Amherst will now have two full-time public radio outlets in town. For several years, WFCR (88.5) has been leasing part of the broadcast day of crosstown WTTT (1430) to carry additional news and talk programming. Now that service is going 24/7, under the new calls "WPNI" (known on-air as 1430/PNI).
  • Back to Boston for a few more news notes: Beau Raines is leaving KCFX (101.1) in the Kansas City market to become PD at WROR (105.7 Framingham), replacing the now-consulting Harry Nelson. And we note the passing of one of WGBH-FM (89.7)'s longest-running voices. Bill Cavness died Monday (10/18) at age 75. In addition to hosting "Reading Aloud" and "Chamberworks," Cavness founded "Morning pro Musica," the show better known for Robert Lurtsema's years at the helm.
  • Next stop, NEW YORK, where Saturday found two of the Big Apple's best-known media voices silenced for good. Jean Shepherd's late-night rambles on WOR (710) showed a generation of listeners what real storytelling is all about. In addition to radio, Shep wrote books, movies ("A Christmas Story"), spent some time in television -- and all but disappeared from public view in the last few years. He was living in Sanibel, Florida, enjoying his hobby of amateur radio (as K2ORS), and making occasional speaking tours. Shepherd was 78.
  • On the TV side, Jim Jensen was one of New York's top-rated anchors, with a career at WCBS-TV (Channel 2) that began in 1964 and survived a bout with drug rehab in 1988. Jensen retired in 1995, and had been hospitalized for heart trouble when he died Saturday morning (10/16). Jensen was 73.
  • Back to New England we go, starting in VERMONT, where WCLX (102.5 Westport NY) is now a fairly potent Burlington signal from its new site across the lake. The station is running oldies in stereo right now...but in a few weeks, it will switch to progressive rock, under the guidance of many of the same folks who used to run the late WEXP (105.1 Plattsburgh, now oldies WKOL). NERW is pleased, and planning a trip to the Champlain Valley sometime soon...
  • Speaking of WEXP, the current holder of those calls, 101.5 in Brandon, has taken on an actual format. "Express 101" is running CHR, commercial-free at the moment, aimed at the Rutland market.

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