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January 24, 2011

Mourning Two Broadcasting Pioneers

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*In an era where most women in radio were relegated to clerical work or hosting homemaker shows, Ruth Meyer blazed a trail through the industry in NEW YORK that few radio managers have equaled.

Meyer came to New York from her hometown of Kansas City, where she started out writing copy for KCKN (1340), then fell into the orbit of top-40 pioneer Todd Storz, who hired her away to work at WHB (710). In 1958, she took on what was supposed to have been a temporary programming job at New York's WMGM (1050), only to quit over philosophical differences - as she told author Bob Shannon in his recent book "Turn it Up!," she believed that she understood the new top-40 format much better than WMGM's management did.

Fortunately, another Storz protege was working across town at WMCA (570), and Meyer soon ended up there as well. Her original title was "production director" - as a woman, she wasn't considered qualified to be a program director - but Ruth Meyer was programming WMCA, and doing it superbly.

The WMCA "Good Guys" were Meyer's creation, and so was the smiley-face sweatshirt that became a New York icon for a few years in the early 1960s. For a decade, until her departure in 1968, Meyer kept WMCA fully competitive with its much more powerful competitor, WABC (770), and even today it's not hard to find listeners who'll gladly argue that B. Mitchel Reed and Gary Stevens and the rest of the WMCA "Good Guys" were making better radio than WABC.

Meyer consulted for European stations for a few years after leaving WMCA, then returned to New York radio in 1973 to program WHN (1050); later in the decade, she also programmed WNEW (1130) and returned to WMCA, by then doing talk. Meyer also worked for NBC, helping to develop the youth-oriented "Source" network, and for ABC Radio before retiring to Kansas City, where she died Saturday morning.

A memorial service in New York is being planned.

*While Ruth Meyer was blazing a trail in New York radio, Liz Dribben was beginning her broadcast career at the University of Buffalo's WBFO (88.7) - but she soon moved to television, becoming one of the best-known faces of WKBW-TV (Channel 7) in the 1960s as host of "Dialing for Dollars" and "In Conversation."

Dribben moved to New York in 1969, soon joining CBS News, where she worked from 1972 until 1993 as a producer and newswriter. In later years, she was back on the air at WNYC and WEVD; she also taught broadcast journalism at Columbia University. In 2001, she was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Dribben died last Thursday in New York after a brief illness; she was 73.

*You'd think "FM Station Goes Stereo!" would be a headline from 1968 or so - but not in Sag Harbor, where WLNG-FM (92.1) has been a prominent monophonic holdout for decades now, largely at the behest of longtime station manager/air personality Paul Sidney, who believed mono-only operation extended the reach of the class A FM signal.

But Paul's been gone for a few years now, and when WLNG installed a new transmitter and antenna last year, speculation grew that the legendary little FM signal on the East End would finally flip the stereo pilot "on" for good - and so it did last week, with RDS, no less.

Back in New York City, talker Curtis Sliwa added a sixth day to his morning shift at Salem's "970 the Apple" (WNYM Hackensack NJ), where he's now also heard on Saturday mornings from 7-10.

*On the TV side of things, the week began with the spotlight turned on Tribune's WPIX (Channel 11), where the station's entire sports department was abruptly eliminated as new management tries to stabilize what's become a troubled shop. The New York Post reported that sports anchor Lolita Lopez is being reassigned; it also reports that the station will attempt to introduce "one-man-band" reporter/photographers to its staff.

There's speculation, too, that local sports may be on the chopping block as Comcast takes over NBC's owned-and-operated TV stations, especially in Philadelphia, where Comcast has its own local sports operation in place already. But that, of course, was hardly the big Comcast/NBC headline heading into the weekend - and where that big story is concerned, we'll pass along an interesting rumor that's making the rounds: might Keith Olbermann, seeking a change of pace after the tensions of his last few years at MSNBC, be poised to rejoin his old buddy Dan Patrick to talk sports...at a new "NBC Sportschannel" that will combine the resources of Comcast's Versus and local sports networks and NBC's own sports operation? *Radio People on the Move in the Finger Lakes: Dave Ashton is back in Ithaca, this time as mornng man and PD at Saga's WYXL (97.3) alongside Jen Mattison on the new "Dave and Jen in the Morning." Ashton had been PD at WIII (99.9 Cortland) in the 1990s, reports CNYRadio.com; at Lite Rock 97.3, he replaces Brian Stoll, who's moved down Route 13 to do mornings at Elmira's WLVY (94.3).

In Rochester, Megan Carter gets a promotion at WPXY (97.9): she's now music director as well as midday jock.

Up north, a familiar face and voice in Watertown broadcasting is moving on. Rick DeFranco spent 14 years as meteorologist on WWNY (Channel 7), much of it while also doing radio at stations such as WSLB (1400 Ogdensburg), WPAC (92.7 Ogdensburg) and WTOJ (103.1 Carthage).

DeFranco left WWNY on Wednesday to move out to Montana, where he's now looking for work; he'll continue to do weather for two radio clients in the North Country, WVLF (96.1 Norwood) and WRCD (101.5 Canton).

And two college stations around the state are temporarily off the air: in Schenectady, Union College's WRUC (89.7) succumbed to a lack of maintenance last fall, and it's now undergoing a complete rebuild over the winter, with a plan to be back on the air by spring. At the other end of the state, a missed license-renewal filing took St. Bonaventure University's WSBU (88.3) off the air in the fall. It came back on once the proper paperwork was wrangled, but then fell silent again when its automation computer suffered a massive failure. It's expected back on the air soon as well.

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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 Hill.

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*It's been almost nine years since CANADA's first national all-sports radio network folded - but now the same signal that was the Toronto flagship of the ill-fated "Team Sports Radio" is poised to once again talk sports.

It was a high-profile moment a decade ago when CHUM (1050) ditched its longtime oldies format to launch "The Team." This time around, 1050 is all but forgotten, having been largely wasted with a simulcast of CTV's CP24 TV news channel since the oldies were once again abandoned in 2009.

But sometime in April, that will change once more, when CHUM becomes the flagship of the new TSN Radio Network. TSN, of course, is the cable sports channel owned 80% by CTV and 20% by ESPN, which licenses its "SportsCenter" (er, "SportsCentre") brand and supplies other programming to the TV network - and which is expected to supply at least some ESPN Radio content to TSN Radio as well.

The first host named for the new network is a former "Team" host, Mike Richards, who moves to TSN Radio from Calgary's CFAC (Sportsnet Radio FAN 960), where he'd been morning man until just this past Thursday.

TSN Radio has yet to announce additional hosts or an affiliate lineup, but it's a pretty good guess that it will be heard on at least two former "Team" network stations that have continued doing sports locally, CFGO (1200 Ottawa) and CKGM (990 Montreal).

*While TSN Radio is in the process of being born, Canada's digital radio system took another step into the grave last week. Last June, we told you that the CBC/Radio-Canada was abandoning its commitment to the Eureka-147 digital audio broadcasting system that launched to great fanfare in 1999. And after surrendering its Montreal digital radio licenses last year, CBC/Radio-Canada proceeded to ask the CRTC to cancel its licenses in Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor and Vancouver as well. The CRTC granted that request last week, and by Friday DAB listener Bill Hepburn (very possibly, in fact, the lone DAB listener remaining) reported that only five DAB signals, from commercial stations CFNY, CFRB, CHBM, CKFM and CJRT, remained on the air in Toronto.

*The new Haliburton station up in Barry's Bay (and yes, it will indeed carry their "Moose FM" brand) has call letters now: mark down CHBY for that new signal on 106.5, whenever it makes it to air.

Were you on vacation earlier this month? Away from the computer? Did you miss our giant 2010 Year in Review special? It's available all year, including the Rant, right here! And don't wait until NERW Monday for breaking news - follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates as they happen!

*There's a new chapter in that high-profile story out of NEW JERSEY: the assets of the bankrupt Atlantic Broadcasting are now officially up for sale. Media Services Group has been hired by the trustees handling the bankruptcy, and the brokerage firm is now marketing Atlantic's three FMs (WTKU 98.3, WWAC 102.7 and WMGM-FM 103.7) and two AMs (WOND 1400 and WBSS 1490), as well as the stations' studio building in Linwood and the two tower sites it owns. Atlantic paid $9.5 million for the cluster in 2008, and it's at least $6 million in the hole to its creditors.

*Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, PENNSYLVANIA is applying for higher power for its radio station: WRKC (88.5) would install a directional antenna to go from 440 watts to 1500 watts from its present site atop Holy Cross Hall on campus, 140 meters below average terrain.

Mark down "WLVX" as the new callsign for K-Love's signal on 107.1 in Greenville, heretofore WEXC. EMF Broadcasting closed on its three-station deal on the Pennsylvania/Ohio line on Thursday and promptly changed the FM calls. EMF isn't changing the callsigns of sister AM stations WGRP (940 Greenville) and WLOA (1470 Farrell), but then it's not keeping them, either... (And yes, Connecticut readers, we're well aware that those WLVX calls were in the Hartford market once upon a time.)

In Williamsport, they're mourning Kathy Thomas, the news director at WRAK (1400) and its Clear Channel sister stations. Thomas had been with the cluster since 1997 and had been news director since 2004; she died Jan. 9 at age 59.

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*In RHODE ISLAND, the FCC has officially cancelled the license of WRJI (91.5 East Greenwich). The Spanish-language religious station had been off the air for more than a year, and had made the mistake of admitting as much to the Commission, which is required by law to delete the license of any station that remains continuously silent for a year. WRJI had applied to move from East Greenwich to Providence, but the FCC dismissed that application as well, noting that it would remove the sole local service to East Greenwich and that it failed to protect other nearby applications on 91.5 (not to mention Providence's own WDOM on 91.3.)

But the saga of WRJI (which was licensed to share time with WCVY at Coventry High School) may not be over that fast - our ears in the Ocean State report that the station's programming was still being heard on Sunday.

*What looked like a relatively peaceful parting of the ways between a CONNECTICUT TV station and its longtime weatherman has turned a little uglier: Geoff Fox went on a scheduled vacation from WTNH (Channel 8) after being told that his contract wasn't going to be renewed - but when he left a couple of weeks ago, he said he expected to work through the end of the contract February 28.

That's now changed: Fox reports on his website that the station has notified him he won't be back on the air when his vacation ends this week. He says WTNH told him the public outcry over his dismissal is a "distraction," and so he's gone from the station's airwaves after a quarter of a century there.

*And it was a very, very quiet week in MASSACHUSETTS, except at Entercom Boston, where WEEI (850) afternoon show producer Brett Erickson is out, leaving the show with just one producer for now.

 

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.

One Year Ago: January 18, 2010 -

  • Fans of dance music in NEW YORK City are once again without a radio station. After less than three months, JVC Broadcasting abruptly pulled its "Party FM" dance/hip-hop format off the audio carrier of Island Broadcasting's WNYZ-LP (Channel 6) on Thursday, raising questions along the way about the future of the "Franken-FM" stations that have been using channel 6 LPTVs as pseudo-FM stations heard at 87.7 on the dial. "It's hard to invest in a radio station when you don't know if the government will shut it down tomorrow," said JVC CEO John Caracciolo in a statement announcing the end of the simulcast. Caracciolo says it's not clear how much longer the FCC will continue to allow analog LPTVs to continue without converting to digital, a move that would make the channel 6 audio unavailable to analog FM listeners.
  • "Party" continues to be heard on Long Island, via parent station WPTY-FM (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke) on the East End and once again via translator W268AN (101.5 Plainview), which had been carrying JVC sister station "La Fiesta" WBON (98.5 Westhampton). As for WNYZ, it was off the air for a bit after the end of the "Party" simulcast, though it returned, at least briefly, with a simulcast of New York's WCBS-FM. An unsourced item on WNYZ's Wikipedia entry claims that the station will be leased out to Idaho-based CSN International for its religious programming, but we've been unable to confirm that. And as for those dance fans, it's been a tough year for them - first last October's shutdown of the always financially-shaky "Pulse 87" operation that had been leasing WNYZ, and now this. Will there be a third try somewhere down the road?
  • The final collapse of New York-based Air America Radio made big industry headlines at week's end, but the bankruptcy liquidation of the pioneering progressive talk network won't affect many timeslots on any NERW-land radio stations. There were no full-time Air America affiliates in the region, and hadn't been for several years, and even in New York Air America was only being cleared for a few hours a day on nominal flagship WWRL (1600): Montel Williams' mid-morning show was delayed to 3-6 PM, followed by Ron Reagan Jr. from 6-8 PM, and three overnight hours were filled with a delayed Rachel Maddow rebroadcast and "Clout with Richard Greene." There's no word yet on what programming will now be heard during those hours on WWRL.
  • The bigger news from Buffalo was the death of one of the city's media pioneers. Alfred E. Anscombe began his radio career back in the late 1930s as a sports announcer for the old Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation, which then controlled much of the Queen City's radio dial, including WKBW, where Anscombe rose into the management ranks in the years following World War II. As station manager, Anscombe led WKBW radio into its top-40 dominance in the late 1950s and spearheaded the effort to put WKBW-TV (Channel 7) on the air in 1958. He served as vice president of the TV station before leaving for bigger things in 1960, becoming executive vice president of Metromedia.
  • Meanwhile, Anscombe was building new holdings in two other areas: UHF TV and cable TV. On the UHF front, Anscombe put WEPA-TV (Channel 66) in Erie and WBJA-TV (Channel 34) in Binghamton on the air in the early 1960s, naming the Binghamton staton after his wife's initials. While the Erie station eventually went dark, the Binghamton station remained on the air through several subsequent owners, becoming today's WIVT. Anscombe founded several small cable companies in western New York, which were eventually combined into International Cable, which later merged into Adelphia and then into today's Time Warner Cable.
  • In 1996, he was the founding chairman of the Buffalo Broadcasters Association, which inducted him into its hall of fame in 2000. He was inducted into the New York State Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame five years later. Anscombe died Tuesday at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital. He was 89.
  • This week's top story from PENNSYLVANIA is one of the worst-kept secrets in recent radio memory: CBS Radio is indeed pulling the plug on Pittsburgh's top-40 "B94" WBZW for a second time, replacing it with an all-sports format as "93.7 the Fan" under new calls KDKA-FM. The flip won't take place until February 15, but CBS isn't keeping B94 intact in the meantime. No sooner did the press release go out last Tuesday than the station went jockless - but at least some of its airstaff will stay with CBS on sister station WZPT (Star 100.7), which will add some of B94's top-40 playlist to its existing hot AC format. B94 morning man Bubba will join J. R. Randall and Shelley Duffy on the Star morning show, while Melanie Taylor moves from B94 to Star for middays.
  • The details of the new sports format on 93.7 are less clear. The new station has a program director - former ESPN Radio PD Terry Foxx - and a sports director, Jeff Hathhorn, who already holds that role for sister station KDKA (1020). And it sounds as though Gregg Giannotti, who's been a fill-in host and show producer at CBS sports flagship WFAN in New York, might be heading to the Steel City as well; he tweeted that he's "leaving N.Y. to host full-time in another market" soon. There's speculation, too, that CBS may be putting the pieces of a national sports network together, as Pittsburgh joins other recent CBS sports-format launches in Boston and Dallas and more established signals in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit and several other big markets.
  • In MAINE, there's a format shift at Saga's WBAE (1490 Portland)/WVAE (1400 Biddeford): the stations have segued from hot talk to "Advice for Life." Bob and Tom remain on board for mornings, and the rest of the syndicated lineup includes Clark Howard at 10 AM, Laura Schlessinger at 1 PM, Dave Ramsey at 4 PM, Dr. Joy Browne at 7 PM and Loveline at 10 PM.
  • The struggling local TV business in CANADA took another big hit last week when Rogers eviscerated its local newsrooms at its CityTV outlets around the country - none of them worse than the original, CITY-TV (Channel 57) in Toronto. While Rogers says only 6% of its total staff was cut, those cuts went deep, starting with veteran anchor Anne Mroczkowski, who'd been with CITY-TV for 30 years.
  • In Toronto, CITY cancelled its noon and 5 PM newscasts, as well as its evening "CityNews International" broadcast that was distributed to other CityTV outlets around the country. Gone also are the weekend newscasts, leaving only a stripped-down "Breakfast Television" and 6 PM and 11 PM broadcasts on weekdays. That's still more than some other CityTV markets - in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg all but "Breakfast Television" were axed in the cutbacks. As for the 24-hour cable news channel City was to have launched in Toronto to replace the CP24 service that stayed with CTV in the breakup of the former CHUM properties, we're hearing that it won't materialize, either.

Five Years Ago: January 16, 2006 -

  • There aren't many folks alive today who were listening to the radio when the first FM stations lit up the dial in the late thirties. Many of us - your editor included - are too young to have any memory of the first regular color TV broadcasts in the mid-fifties, or of the dawn of FM stereo in the early sixties. So it's a neat thing, we think, to have a front-row seat for the debut of another new medium. While it may not have been immediately apparent to anyone but the tiny handful of HD Radio receiver owners (most of whom are also broadcast engineers or managers, anyway), last Thursday's coordinated announcement of new HD multicast formats from the big groups that are part of the HD Radio Alliance represented the biggest infusion of new radio formats on the dial at one time in history.
  • NEW YORK was one of the first markets to be announced (and, indeed, already had at least one multicast going, with the CBS-FM oldies format on the HD2 channel of WCBS-FM 101.1), and the announcement effectively launched no fewer than 11 new signals on the Big Apple dial. In addition to the oldies, CBS Radio also unveiled (no surprise) "K-Rock 2" on the HD2 channel of WFNY-FM (92.3), continuing the format that's already available as a webcast from that station's previous incarnation as WXRK. Its third FM signal, WNEW (102.7), will carry "news," reportedly a simulcast of WINS (1010), which has signal deficiencies in much of New Jersey.
  • Clear Channel had its five FMs ready to go on Thursday. Perhaps the biggest news from that cluster was the return of country, on the HD2 channel of WKTU (103.5), which was the city's last full-signal country station back in its WYNY days. WHTZ (100.3) has "new top 40," featuring entire albums from the station's core artists. On WAXQ (104.3), it's "deep tracks," complementing the classic rock on the main channel. WWPR (105.1) has "Power Espanol," adding a Spanish-language flavor to the hip-hop that's on the main channel. And WLTW (106.7) has "Lite Classics," a sort of return to the softer sounds Lite played in its earlier years.
  • Emmis launched with one FM, WQHT (97.1), which is offering "Old School Hip-Hop" on its HD2 channel. Within the next few weeks, WRKS (98.7) will add gospel on its HD2, while WQCD (101.9) will put "Chill" on its HD2 channel.
  • From PENNSYLVANIA, there are more HD2 launches to report, though not quite as quickly as in New York. Within a few months, there will be 11 new signals on the air in Philadelphia, and they'll break down like this: Clear Channel will turn its HD2 signals on tomorrow, with WUSL (98.9) offering "Xtreme Hip-Hop," WIOQ (102.1) programming Hurban, WSNI (104.5) programming soft AC/standards, WDAS-FM (105.3) offering "R&B Love Songs" and WJJZ (106.1) playing AAA. CBS Radio will put alternative rock on WYSP (94.1), while WOGL (98.1) will play 70s oldies, which isn't that different from what's on the main channel. And Greater Media will launch its HD2 signals in the next two or three months, with "WMMaRchives" live performances and other material from the vaults on WMMR (93.3), "Club Ben," with a varied range of rhythmic music, on WBEN-FM (95.7) and "Deep Tracks" on WMGK (102.9).
  • Eastern MASSACHUSETTS is about to become a major hotbed of HD2 activity, based on last week's announcements. Greater Media already has HD Radio on the air at all five of its FMs, and now it's adding subchannels on all five. WBOS (92.9) adds "Coffee House," taking its main-channel AAA format more acoustic. WTKK (96.9) puts on "Classical 2.0," which we've got to think is a prelude to Greater's eventual purchase of classical WCRB (102.5). On WKLB (99.5), it's classic country, with "Laugh Tracks" comedy on WROR (105.7) and smooth jazz on WMJX (106.7), restoring one of the more notably missing formats to the market. (Which is only fair, since it was Greater Media's WSJZ 96.9 that last had the format in town.)
  • Clear Channel will launch January 27, with "Xtreme Hip-Hop" on WJMN (94.5) and "Artist Channel" top 40 on WXKS-FM (107.9). Entercom's WMKK (93.7) is carrying the "Star" rhythmic oldies format that used to be on the main channel in its WQSX days (and has lived on as a webcast ever since), while WAAF (107.3) will carry "Live Rock," featuring concerts from rock artists. At CBS Radio, it's all-80s on WBMX (98.5), "Lost Classics/Deep Tracks" on WZLX (100.7), "Super Oldies" (from Elvis to the Beatles) on WODS (103.3) and "Indie and Ultra New Rock" on WBCN (104.1).
  • There's also some HD2 content coming to Springfield, with Clear Channel launching "new top 40" on WHYN (93.1) and Americana on WPKX (97.9) on March 31.

10 Years Ago: January 15, 2001 -

  • A week ago, there was no local newscast at 10 PM in Buffalo. A week from today, there will be two. One, as we've known for a while now, will be on channel 23. That's the former public TV WNEQ, which is now in the process of being taken over by LIN Broadcasting's CBS affiliate, WIVB-TV (Channel 4). At the moment, WNEQ programming consists of just a slate advertising the January 29 debut of the WIVB-produced 10 PM newscast, along with the station's new call letters, WNLO.
  • But while WIVB was making its plans to launch WNLO next week, one of its competitors decided there was no point waiting. We knew Gannett was working on a news alliance with Pax affiliates in its markets (NERW, 10/23/2000), but we didn't realize it would result in a 10 PM show on WPXJ-TV (Channel 51), the Batavia-licensed Pax outlet that covers Buffalo and Rochester. That's just what WPXJ and Gannett's WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) decided to do, though, with the show launching last Friday (Jan. 18) on just a few hours' notice. WGRZ anchor Victoria Hong, sportscaster Ed Kilgore and meteorologist Kevin O'Connell anchor the new broadcast. Hong is also the co-anchor at 6 and 11, though WGRZ officials say they'll decide this week whether she'll keep all three shifts permanently.
  • As for WIVB and WNLO, here's what we know so far: WIVB weekend anchor Lisa Flynn will anchor WNLO's 10 PM news, with meteorologist Don Paul adding the 10 o'clock show to his duties. WNLO will rebroadcast WIVB's morning "Wake Up!" show from 8-9 AM weekdays, followed by Martha Stewart. "Access Hollywood" will kick off WNLO's evening schedule at 7, followed by "Entertainment Studios," "Queen Latifah" and "Oprah" (a rebroadcast of the afternoon WIVB showing). After the news at 10 will come a replay of "Inside Edition," "Three Stooges" reruns," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," a repeat of the 10 PM news, and then into home shopping overnight.
  • The 10 PM wars leave two contestants on the sidelines: ABC affiliate WKBW-TV (Channel 7), which was to have bought UPN affiliate WNGS (Channel 67) last year, and the Sinclair duopoly of WUTV (29, Fox) and WNYO-TV (49, WB). Will either one try to enter the market with news at 10 now? This promises to be most interesting to watch...
  • One big radio move this week in the Flower City: After four years at Infinity, Dave Symonds is making the trip across Chestnut Street. The former WRMM (101.3) PD joins Entercom/Rochester today (Jan. 22), serving as operations manager of all four stations (oldies WBBF AM-FM, country WBEE-FM and 80s WBZA) and as program director for WBZA. In his role as OM, Symonds replaces Fred Horton (who still hasn't been replaced on the WBEE morning show, though we hear 'BEE veteran Bill Coffey was back for a visit last week). In his role as "Buzz" PD, he'll get to turn the station from a jukebox into, well, an actual station. Best of luck!
  • Next stop: Syracuse, and a peculiar filing from the Syracuse Community Radio folks. Remember them -- the ones trying to get into the Salt City by way of rimshot FMs and translators, feeding their one station (WXXE 90.5 Fenner) by a cruddy-sounding mono phone line? Seems their other full-power CP, WXXC 88.7 Truxton, was expiring last week (Jan. 14). Sure enough, an application was filed with the FCC for a license to cover for the station on January 16. There's just one problem: as best NERW can figure out, WXXC hasn't actually been built yet. We'll be piloting the NERW-mobile out that way later this week to see what, if anything, now exists at the site in northern Cortland County, but we know that WXXE's not mentioning anything about WXXC on the air (at least not during our Webcast listening over the weekend), nor has anyone out that way heard a signal on 88.7.
  • It's been all sales, all the time in MASSACHUSETTS, with the latest FCC filing late last week showing Greenfield's WHAI (1240/98.3) passing from the Haigis family to Saga Communications. WHAI had earlier been rumored to be going to Connriver, but that deal never came to fruition. WHAI will give Saga a northern arm to its Pioneer Valley cluster, which now includes Springfield rocker WAQY (102.1), news-talk AM duo WHMP (1400 Northampton) and WHNP (1600 East Longmeadow), and active rock WLZX (99.3 Northampton). We suspect a WHMP simulcast is in the cards for AM 1240 once this deal is complete. As for the FM, it faces off against Vox's WRSI and WPVQ, which are just a week or so away from their big frequency swap.
  • We can tell you much more about two of the deals that broke just in time for last week's issue. Mark down $11 million as the price Salem is paying for Carter Broadcasting's WROL (950 Boston)...and we'll call it a nice reward for the quarter-century or so that Ken Carberry and family have tended the 5 kW (90 watts after dark) signal from the Saugus marshlands. (And indeed, we hear the senior Carberry is taking a well-deserved Florida vacation!) Carter keeps WCRN (830 Worcester) with its new big signal and swing format, as well as WRIB (1220 Providence) and WACE (730 Chicopee), at least for now.
  • Clear Channel, meanwhile, is paying $10 million for Framingham's WKOX (1200), though Mays & Co. will no doubt be spending a bit more to build out the station's CP to go to 50 kW from the WUNR site in Newton, not to mention the cost of fighting community opposition to the construction of new towers in that very residential area.
  • The big buzz in CANADA this week came from a rumor that's been making the rounds for a long time now: a format change at Toronto's legendary CHUM (1050) -- except this time it looks like the change is really going to happen. After decades as the top-40 giant in Toronto, CHUM went to oldies, largely automated, a few years back. Now reports in the Toronto papers say the station will flip to sports in April, challenging Telemedia's "Fan 590" CJCL for the format. (And guess who already has Blue Jays broadcast rights?)
  • LATE UPDATE: Just hours after this week's NERW was posted to fybush.com Sunday night, CHUM announced that there will indeed be a switch to sports in a few months -- and not just at 1050 CHUM. The CHUM Group will flip most of its AM properties to the new "Team" sports network, including CKLC (1380) in Kingston (where several staffers were laid off this week), CKPT (1420) in Peterborough, and more.

15 Years Ago: New England Radio Watch, January 17, 1996

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