January 3, 2011
New Year Dawns with Format Changes
Were you on vacation last
week? Away from the computer? Did you miss our giant 2010 Year in Review special? It's available
all year, including the Rant, right
*Welcome to the new year - and to new formats
at a bunch of signals from one end of NERW-land to the other.
most of the flips were either expected long before Christmas
or took place in time for us to mention them on the Twitter
feeds we were updating over the holidays, at least one is brand-new
That's in the Albany, NEW YORK market, where Townsquare
Media flipped WBZZ (105.7 Malta) from AC "Buzz" to
all-Christmas music as "Santa 105.7" back on November
1, one of the season's first flips - and where "Santa"
stuck around for an extra week, long after most of the region's
other Christmas stations had unceremoniously switched back to
regular programming on or just after Christmas Day.
At midnight, "Santa" finally flew out of the Capital
District, leaving behind a new station called "105.7 Crush
FM," with new calls WQSH.
The new format is billed as "90s and More," a close
cousin to the "Gen-X" formats that have launched recently
in markets such as Louisville, St. Louis and out on Long Island,
and it promises to mix a heavy diet of pop hits from the 1990s
with a handful of compatible songs from the preceding and succeeding
"Basically this is the music you enjoyed during your
halcyon days and havent heard much of in the past few years
until now," says the station's website.
No airstaff is listed, but we'd expect some announcements shortly.
*Moving down the Hudson Valley, the new year will start with
new morning shows at two stations: at Clear Channel's WBWZ (93.3
New Paltz), Chris Marino takes over as PD and replaces Mark Bolger
as morning man on the hot AC station ("Star 93.3"),
where he'll be joined by Jess Peters, who'd worked with Marino
across town at WSPK (104.7). Marino keeps his PD duties down
the hall at WPKF (Kiss 96.1), but he gives up his afternoon shift
there, to be replaced by Star afternoon jock Fuzzy, who will
in turn be replaced by Kiss night guy Tony Flash.
Meanwhile at Pamal's WBPM (92.9 Saugerties), "Robinson
and Sean" will be the new morning team, starting next week.
*In the Mohawk Valley, Bill Keeler starts 2011 without a radio
station. The veteran Utica air personality had been doing mornings
on WXUR (92.7 Herkimer), but station owner Mindy Barstein is
installing the syndicated "Bob & Tom" on 92.7 beginning
next week, returning them to Utica morning drive for the first
time since Clear Channel sold former Bob & Tom outlet WOUR
(96.9) a few years back.
Keeler had been leasing the morning hours on WXUR, and he
says he wanted the station to succeed. "I took a radio station
that nobody knew about and helped it get a name in this area,"
he said in an
article on his Utica Daily News website announcing
his departure. Keeler says he was offered the afternoon slot
on WXUR but turned it down, and he says he'll keep publishing
the online Daily News while he looks for new opportunities.
Syracuse, Clear Channel didn't just migrate its WSYR news-talk
format to the FM dial Sunday night - it's not even acknowledging
WSYR's eight-plus decades of history on the AM dial now that
"FM Newsradio 106.9 WSYR" is on the air.
The transition began on Dec. 22, when Clear Channel pulled
Fox Sports Radio off the air at WHEN (620) with no warning at
3 PM, replacing the sports station with a simulcast of WPHR (106.9
Solvay), which began rebranding the next morning as "Power
620," directing the urban FM station's listeners down to
the AM dial to continue to hear the format. A few days later,
Clear Channel filed to return the WSYR-FM calls to Syracuse (where
they were heard until the mid-80s on 94.5, now WYYY), swapping
them with WPHR on "Star 94.7," a Clear Channel-controlled
AC station serving West Palm Beach.
7:00 Sunday night, "Power" disappeared from the FM
dial, replaced by "FM Newsradio 106.9," the latest
in a string of recent Clear Channel AM-to-FM talk moves.
Does the FM-only branding on this one indicate that the simulcast
with 570 will be only temporary, perhaps with Fox Sports returning
to the AM dial at 570 once the transition is complete? And how
will Syracuse's urban community react in the new year to the
loss, once again, of the city's only FM that programmed to them?
Clear Channel drew fire from the community when it pulled Power
off the air a few years ago to stunt 106.9 with a country format,
and the AM 620 signal, though it has excellent coverage of the
city and beyond, isn't likely to be seen as a worthy substitute
for Power's former FM signal.
*On TV, the new year looked set to dawn with some dark screens
on cable and satellite systems around the region, but most of
the high-profile carriage disputes were either resolved or extended
with just days or mere hours to spare. Hearst and DirecTV reached
a long-term carriage deal on December 30, keeping ABC affiliates
in Boston, New Hampshire, Maine and Pittsburgh and NBC stations
in Vermont and New Hampshire on the satellite - and then Sinclair
and Time Warner Cable reached a temporary agreement on New Year's
Eve to keep Fox and MyNetwork stations in Pittsburgh, Buffalo,
Rochester and Syracuse and CBS in southern Maine on cable for
two more weeks while they continue their negotiations.
The Sinclair/Time Warner talks took a particularly interesting
turn in the last days of 2010 when Time Warner announced that
it had struck a deal directly with Fox to continue supplying
network shows to the cable operator, completely bypassing Sinclair
and significantly reducing its leverage in carriage negotiations.
Time Warner Cable had already shown its muscle earlier in the
month when it replaced Smith Television's WKTV in Utica and WVNY
in Burlington with out-of-market NBC and ABC affiliates, a move
that prompted as-yet-unresolved legal wrangling among Time Warner,
Smith and Nexstar, whose WBRE Wilkes-Barre and WUTR Utica were
being imported against its wishes.
Here in Rochester, there was yet another twist: as Sinclair
Fox affiliate WUHF (Channel 31) looked poised to vanish from
cable screens, Newport's WHAM-TV (Channel 13) suddenly announced
the addition of a 10 PM newscast on its CW subchannel (cable
16/DTV 13.2), clearly meant to grab viewers who'd been watching
WUHF's 10 PM news in the event it went dark on cable. Even though
WUHF stayed on cable, WHAM launched its new newscast Saturday
night (Jan. 1); a new anchor for the 10 PM show will be announced
soon, we hear.
And while we wait to learn what will become of Sinclair and
Time Warner (though we'd note that an extension almost always
leads to a resolution pretty quickly), we note that one more
upstate TV signal quietly disappeared from some screens at year's
end: Northwest Broadcasting, the successor to the old Stainless
Broadcasting, has been unable to reach a deal with DirecTV, and
that meant its stations - Fox outlets in Spokane, Yakima, southern
Oregon and Binghamton's WICZ (Channel 40) - disappeared from
DirecTV on New Year's Day.
*An obituary from New York City: Dr. Billy Taylor will be
best remembered for the legacy he left in the jazz world, where
he was a prominent pianist and composer for many decades, not
to mention a longtime contributor to "CBS News Sunday Morning"
and the musical director of David Frost's talk show in the early
But Taylor had a long career in radio as well. After working
as a musical director for several NBC radio shows, Taylor became
a DJ at WLIB (1190) in 1959. He took a brief detour to WNEW (1130)
from 1962-1964, but soon returned to WLIB as more than just a
jock. Taylor programmed WLIB, and in 1971 he joined forces with
Percy Sutton to create Inner City Broadcasting, which purchased
the station. Taylor was a founding partner and board member at
ICBC, and he even did mornings on WLIB in the early months of
Later in the decade and well into the 1980s, Taylor became
a fixture on NPR, hosting several series including "Jazz
Alive." He also appeared frequently on TV, not only as arts
correspondent on "Sunday Morning" but as the host of
shows on WNJU (Channel 47), Bravo and elsewhere.
Taylor died Tuesday (Dec. 28) at 89; ironically, a year almost
to the day after Sutton's death.
CALENDAR 2011 - IT'S HERE!
It's 2011 now - and that 2010 calendar on your
wall won't do you much good, will it?
But lucky for you, we're here to help:
Tower Site Calendar 2011 is now available, featuring
more than a dozen great images of radio and TV broadcast facilities
all over the country (and even beyond - this year's edition takes
us to Mexico!)
Thrill to a night shot of KFI's new tower!
Check out the WAEB Allentown array just after it lost a tower
- or enjoy the history at venerable sites like those of KID in
Idaho Falls, WCAP in Lowell, KTKT in Tucson and Rochester's Pinnacle
But wait - there's more! We now have a
small supply of the new FM Atlas, 21st edition,
as well as a limited supply of Tower Site Calendar 2010
as well - plus signed calendars, back isues and much
more in the fybush.com store!
Orders of 20 or more calendars get a discount.
We'll even add a bow or a gift card upon request.
now at the fybush.com Store!
*Radio People on the Move in MASSACHUSETTS:
Ben Parker is coming back to Boston after several years of
mornings at WPKZ (1280 Fitchburg). The former WRKO newsman has
been hired as a reporter at WBZ (1030), but he says he'll advise
WPKZ as it transitions to a new morning host. Station veteran
"Ray C" will be back in mornings this week, but it
appears the permanent morning host there will be Rich Teter,
last heard at Worcester's WCRN.
On the South Shore, there's a subtle format change at WPLM-FM
(99.1 Plymouth), where "Easy 99.1" emerged from Christmas
music with more soft AC tunes from the 60s and 70s mixed in with
current music. (Boston's WODS, meanwhile, exited the all-Christmas
format with the addition of more 80s tunes to its format.)
And on the North Shore, Keating Willcox isn't just leasing
WNSH (1570 Beverly) to the Merrimack Valley-based Costa-Eagle
group: he's now filed to sell the station outright. Costa-Eagle
will pay $400,000 for the station, which began simulcasting WNNW
(800 Lawrence) late last year.
*The "Champ" is no more in VERMONT:
as had been widely hinted in the days leading up to Christmas,
New Year's Day brought a new format to replace the classic rock
that has long been a staple on Vox's WCPV (101.3 Essex NY). The
first format flip in WCPV's 17-year history brought ESPN Radio
over to the FM dial in the Burlington market.
The new "ESPN 101.3" has one local show, "Rob
& Rich" with Rob Ryan and Rich Haskell, debuting this
afternoon from 4-6 PM. The rest of the day is network programming,
moving ESPN over from Northeast Broadcasting's Champlain Valley
AM trimulcast of WCAT (1390 Burlington), WRSA (1420 St. Albans)
and WFAD (1490 Middlebury). Those stations flipped from ESPN
to Fox Sports Radio - and the airtime Fox Sports used to get
on Vox's WEAV (960 Plattsburgh NY) has been filled with more
*There's a new signal on the air in central
NEW HAMPSHIRE: WPVH (90.7 Plymouth) filed for its license
to cover December 21. The station, owned by the Wentworth Baptist
Church, is carrying programming from the North Carolina-based
Fundamental Broadcasting Network; it joins WOGM-LP in Jamestown,
New York as that network's second NERW-land affiliate.
*A post-Christmas format change in MAINE:
after less than a year as "The Edge," WCTB (93.5 Fairfield)
stopped rocking last week, flipping to the satellite-fed True
Oldies Channel, already heard on sister station WSKW (1160 Skowhegan).
*Radio People on the Move in CONNECTICUT:
WDAQ (98.3 Danbury) is on the hunt for a new program director
and afternoon guy as Zach Dillon moves on - he'll leave "98Q"
on January 14 to move to Waco, Texas, where he'll be PD/morning
man at KWTX-FM (97.5).
On the TV side, WSAH (Channel 43/RF 42) in Bridgeport is in
the hands of a trustee as the station goes up for sale. Multicultural
Broadcasting, which has had plenty of success operating leased-time
radio stations, tried to follow the same path into TV, but with
far less luck: creditors had already forced Multicultural to
turn over four of its TV stations, including Boston-market WMFP
(Channel 62/RF 18), to trustee Lee Shubert. As 2010 drew to a
close, Multicultural filed to move WSAH into the trust as well.
Shubert has already sold two of the stations Multicultural bought
from Scripps for $170 million back in 2006 (that's where the
"WSAH" calls came from - the station once carried Scripps'
Shop-At-Home Network), and now he'll try to sell WSAH, WMFP and
KCNS in San Francisco.
WSAH currently carries infomercials on 43.1 and Chinese-language
programming on 43.2; while Bridgeport is part of the New York
City DMA, the station has never had full cable or satellite carriage
across the number-one market.
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*The biggest change in PENNSYLVANIA radio
was one we'd known about for a few months now: the New Year's
Day switch from ESPN Radio to Radio Disney at Pittsburgh's WEAE
(1250), which had been by far the smallest-market owned-and-operated
signal in the ESPN Radio fold.
If the new Radio Disney format on 1250 is meant to be temporary
while Disney seeks a buyer for the station, you'd never know
it by the calls: as soon as the format changed, 1250 began identifying
itself as "WDDZ, Pittsburgh." Those calls had belonged
to the now-silent Disney outlet in Pawtucket, R.I., and it's
not yet clear what callsign will show up on that station when
it returns to the air later in 2011 under Salem's ownership.
(Ironically, "WEAE" would be a halfway-decent choice
of calls in Pawtucket if 550, as expected, ends up largely simulcasting
Salem's religious WEZE 590 in Boston.)
in Pittsburgh, the ESPN affiliation moved over to Clear Channel's
WBGG (970) right on schedule New Year's Day, with a new schedule
on 970 that includes veteran Steel City sports talker Stan Savran
from 10-11 AM on weekdays, leading into the local "Tunch
and Wolf" show from 11-1, followed by an hour of Jim Rome,
two hours of ESPN's Scott Van Pelt and three hours of local talker
And what of former Radio Disney outlet WWCS (540 Canonsburg)?
That station, owned by Birach Broadcasting, has been running
a repeating loop directing Disney listeners up the dial to 1250,
with no word yet on what programming might show up there next.
*Where are they now? Former Pittsburgh morning man John Garabo
had been in the Cayman Islands, working at ZFKY (Rooster 101),
but he's now leaving the Caribbean in search of work back in
*Erie public broadcaster WQLN (channel 54/FM 91.3) is suing
the local authority that operates the Presque Isle Downs Casino,
saying it should have been included among the Erie-area nonprofits
that receive a share of the casino's revenues. The authority
shares revenue with nonprofits deemed to be "dedicated regional
assets," and WQLN says it meets those criteria, including
"hav(ing) a strong history of service to the community,
a large operating budget and a regional audience base."
*In Scranton, the
new year started with a temporary antenna for WEZX (106.9), which
suffered damage from a windstorm that ripped across its site
atop Montage Mountain last Monday afternoon (Dec. 27).
The wind ripped WEZX's antenna right off the side of its tower,
says the station's director of engineering, Kevin Fitzgerald,
and that forced Rock 107 to turn to its auxiliary site atop Bald
Mountain to stay on the air until a temporary antenna could be
brought to Montage Mountain. (Credit veteran engineer Jim Travis
of Family Life Network for the save on that one, since he had
an extra broadband antenna in his inventory!)
Kevin says a new antenna will soon be on order for WEZX, and
he hopes to have the station back to full power (with HD restored)
before too long.
*There's a new slogan at Philadelphia's former "Big Talker."
WPHT (1210) is now branding itself as "Talkradio 1210"
as it prepares to launch its new program schedule today. The
new lineup brings Chris Stigall to town to do mornings and knocks
Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck off the Philly airwaves for now,
with no replacement affiliates yet having been named.
*WPAZ (1370 Pottstown) is back on the air under the management
of the WPAZ Preservation Association, the nonprofit that's in
the process of buying the signal from the Four Rivers ("Word
FM") group, which acquired WPAZ from longtime owner Great
Scott Broadcasting. WPAZ went silent on December 10, 2009, when
Great Scott abruptly pulled the plug on the station, but it's
been back with automated music since early December to hold the
Not far away, one more new station slid in under the wire
just before Christmas: with just a couple of days to spare before
its construction permit was to have expired on December 26, Berks
Radio Association completed construction of WKTW (91.3 Longswamp
Township), applying to the FCC for a license for the 22-watt
signal. The new station transmits from a site north of Boyertown,
using a directional antenna aimed south at Boyertown and Pottsville.
And speaking of Four Rivers, it's been granted another construction
permit to extend its "Word FM" network: the newest
signal will be at 90.9 in Elysburg, with a 290-watt/643' directional
signal aimed east at Shamokin and west at Sunbury.
12 months, one page - all the year's
news and events in one place!
*It was a very quiet few weeks in CANADA,
though it starts with at least one big personnel move: Milkman
UnLimited reports Brian DePoe is headed down the Autoroute
from Montreal's CFQR (92.5 the Q) to become PD at Ottawa's Majic
100 (CJMJ) and 93.9 BOB FM (CKKL), effective tomorrow.
*Meanwhile, the CRTC denied a request from Radio Dégelis
to add a transmitter at Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec, to relay
its CFVD (95.5 Dégelis). CFVD said it needed the 5750-watt
signal at 102.5 to maintain its own financial viability, but
the two existing commercial stations in Rivière-du-Loup
told the CRTC that they're also in tough financial straits that
would be further compromised by a new competitor.
The CRTC also turned thumbs-down on an application from CKGS
(105.5 Saguenay) to add a second transmitter on 105.9. The new
transmitter would have extended CKGS' reach from the La Baie
area to Chicoutimi and Jonquiere, two of the larger cities that
were amalgamated into Saguenay a few years back, but the local
broadcasters in those cities successfully complained of the new
competition that the 250-watt CKGS relay would have provided.
the NERW Archives
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.
One Year Ago: January 4, 2010 -
- As 2009 drew to a (merciful) close across the broadcast landscape,
the obituary pages were full of notable broadcast names, seemingly
nowhere more so than in NEW YORK, where the days around Christmas
brought one piece of sad news after another.
- Christmas Eve brought word of the death of a legendary top-40
voice, George Michael, who went on to a second incredibly successful
career as a TV sportscaster. After an early stint as a music
promoter followed by DJ jobs at stations in Wisconsin, Missouri
and Colorado, Michael shot to fame as one of the original "boss
jocks" on Philadelphia's WFIL (560) back in 1966, and he
was the second big WFIL personality we lost in 2009, two months
after the death of his colleague Jim Nettleton in October. As
WFIL's night jock, "King George Michael" quickly became
a legendary figure, winning numerous awards and dominating the
ratings. Michael moved north to New York's WABC in 1974, replacing
Bruce Morrow on the night shift at "Musicradio 77"
and becoming one of the dominant voices of the station's last
decade as a top-40 giant. The next phase of Michael's career
began in New York, where he worked as a weekend sports anchor
on WABC-TV, a gig that led him to fulltime TV work beginning
in 1980 as sports director at Washington's WRC-TV, a job he held
for more than a quarter of a century. Along the way, a local
sports highlight show evolved into the syndicated "George
Michael's Sports Machine," one of the most successful syndicated
shows in the history of local TV. Michael had been fighting cancer
since 2007, though he was well enough to travel to Philadelphia
in 2008 to be inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame.
He was just 70 when he died December 24.
- Christmas Day brought another obituary, as the New York radio
community lost its good friend Henry Lewis, a staple of the city's
radio dial for more than 60 years. Born Henry Lewis Lilienthal,
Lewis' broadcast career began back in 1945, when he was a teen
announcer on WNYC's Police Athletic League broadcasts, and it
was with that station that he was most closely associated, working
there as a staff announcer in the fifties, again in the sixties,
and once again from 1987 until he was hospitalized in November.
In addition to his WNYC work (most recently as a Saturday-night
music host on WNYC AM 820), Lewis had worked at numerous other
New York stations, including WINS, WNEW, WQXR, WNCN and WRFM.
Lewis was 77.
- And on the day after Christmas, New York lost one of its
most notable broadcast owners - though station ownership was
just one small part of the legacy of Percy Sutton, who was born
the son of an ex-slave and rose to become one of the city's most
powerful political figures. The Texas native first came to prominence
as a civil rights lawyer in the fifties and early sixties, counting
Malcolm X among his clients. He was elected to the state Senate
in 1964 after numerous failed attempts, and two years later became
Manhattan borough president, holding that post for more than
a decade before making an unsuccessful run for mayor of New York.
By then, Sutton was also a radio station owner. In 1971, he bought
the Amsterdam News, the city's most prominent black newspaper,
and followed that up later in the year by buying WLIB (1190),
making it the city's first black-owned radio station. Three years
later, Sutton's Inner City Broadcasting (whose partners included
eventual New York mayor David Dinkins) added WLIB's sister station,
WBLS (107.5), to the group, which would eventually expand to
18 stations as far afield as San Francisco and Texas, with additional
business interests that included cable systems and the famed
Apollo Theater in Harlem. Sutton was 89 and suffering from dementia
when he died in a New York nursing home on December 26.
- MAINE's own Stephen King is taking a chance on progressive
talk at one of his Bangor-market FM stations. WZON-FM (103.1
Dover-Foxcroft) moved to a new tower site with improved reach
into Bangor not long ago, and it's dropping its relatively short-lived
simulcast with sports WZON (620 Bangor) effective today to become
"The Pulse." The new station's lineup includes syndicated
liberal talkers Bill Press (6-9 AM), Montel Williams (9-noon),
Ed Schultz (noon-3 PM), Randi Rhodes (3-6 PM), Ron Reagan Jr.
(6-9 PM), Stephanie Miller (9 PM-1 AM), Joey Reynolds overnight
and a 5 AM replay of Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show, as well as local
news and CNN Radio national news. The station may add a local
talk show in the future as well.
- The weeks around Christmas and New Year's are typically very
slow ones in CANADA - but this year brought one big format flip
in the nation's largest market. Astral's CJEZ (97.3 Toronto)
emerged from all-Christmas with new calls and a new format, ditching
AC "EZ Rock" for classic hits with a strong 80s flavo(u)r.
The new format, called "Boom," is an import from Astral's
network of stations in Quebec, where the music is similar but
the announcers are in French. Toronto's new CHBM (Boom 97.3)
has some familiar English-language voices behind the mike, carrying
over morning hosts Humble Howard and Colleen Rushholme and afternoon
jock Kris "KJ" James and adding former CHUM-FM jock
Maie Pauts for middays.
Five Years Ago: January 2, 2006 -
10 Years Ago: January 1, 2001 -
15 Years Ago: New England Radio Watch, January 3, 1996
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2011 by Scott Fybush.