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July 18, 2011

Merlin Keeps NYC Guessing

Stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook feeds for breaking-news updates as they happen!

*GALLUP, N.M. - As we write this week's column in the midst of a cross-country drive (more on that in a bit), we're still waiting for the shoes to finish dropping at the 101.9 spot on the NEW YORK radio dial, where Randy Michaels' Merlin Media group took over WRXP from Emmis Communications on Friday.

Here's what we know so far: WRXP in its current form came to a close Thursday, as the jock lineup (Steve Craig, Leslie Fram, Matt Pinfield, "Drelio") exited the station and said their on-air goodbyes. The music continued into Friday, when it was replaced by something called "101.9 FM New," which at least for the weekend appeared to be a female-friendly hot AC mix.

The week may also bring new calls to 101.9, which has requested "WEMP" (perhaps for the "EMPire State"?), a set of calls more familiar from their longtime use in Milwaukee. But what of the domain names that were registered for "WYNY" on 101.9? As always with Michaels and the programmers he's assembled, it's hard to tell what's smokescreen and what's real until it becomes official.

Whatever the new 101.9 format will be, it didn't materialize this morning: the "FM New" programming continued with longtime 101.9 veteran Paul Cavalconte hosting and former WINS (1010) traffic voice Jeff McKay giving the traffic information - but, as of yet, no sign of the news or talk that's been rumored for the station.

It's just that kind of chaos on which Michaels thrives; in Chicago, the rumors of his planned flip of WKQX (101.1) to all-news led CBS to pull the trigger on its own long-rumored addition of an FM simulcast of all-newser WBBM (780), which will be heard starting next week on WCFS (105.9), which had been struggling with the "Fresh" AC format. But CBS appears to be in no hurry to make a similar move in New York, where its three FM properties ("Now" WXRK 92.3, WCBS-FM 101.1 and "Fresh" WWFS 102.7) are finally healthy and profitable after years of their own format struggles.

One more loose end: the "RXP" branding survives, as does its sister "Q101" in Chicago, thanks to deals that Merlin struck to sell that intellectual property to a group that specializes in barter ad deals for radio. The new "RXP" continues as a jockless stream at

We'll have much more on Merlin next week, no doubt - as well as on our Facebook and Twitter feeds, linked above, as news breaks.

*There was a format change in Buffalo, too, as Dick Greene's WECK (1230 Cheektowaga) pulled the plug on his attempt to go up against talk giant WBEN (930/107.7).

On Tuesday, WECK PD/afternoon host Brad Riter and midday talker Nick Mendola both lost their jobs, replaced temporarily by Fox Sports before Friday's format change to "The Breeze," an attempt to mix soft AC with some more contemporary tunes. (Coldplay, for whatever reason, kept getting mentioned as a core artist of the new format.)

Morning host Tom Donahue, a veteran of Buffalo music radio, continues with the new format.

*Radio People on the Move: Aaron Read has exited the GM post at WEOS (89.7 Geneva) after four years on the job - and he's headed all the way west to become chief engineer at KCSB (91.9) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. (That explains why the column is coming from New Mexico this morning; your editor hit the road with Read, a longtime friend, to help him get to the West Coast quickly - and to experience the majesty of a coast-to-coast road trip. Expect some interesting Tower Site of the Week installments soon...) Back at WEOS, station manager Greg Cotterill has taken over from Aaron.

In New York, Kristin LaBar has exited weekends at WWFS (102.7). The Scranton and Allentown radio veteran had been with "Fresh" since it launched in 2007, and she's now looking for new opportunities.

Where are they now? Melissa Long, who moved on from Rochester's WROC-TV (Channel 8) to CNN Headline News a few years back and then to Bloomberg, has landed a new job in Atlanta, where she's the new 10 PM anchor for the newscast Gannett NBC affiliate WXIA (Channel 11) produces for sister station WATL (Channel 36).


Maybe you need an extra copy for the wall of your shop. Maybe you gave your first copy away as a gift. Maybe the year just got away from you and you forgot to order your Tower Site Calendar 2011.

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Tower Site Calendar 2011 features 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.

But wait - there's more! We also have a small supply of the new FM Atlas, 21st edition back in stock, as well as a limited supply of Tower Site Calendar 2010 - plus signed calendars, back isues and much more in the store!

Orders of 20 or more calendars get an even bigger discount. We'll even add a bow or a gift card upon request. But don't are limited, and the calendar will sell out soon!

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*Could a new commercial FM signal be coming to PENNSYLVANIA's largest market? Family Stations quickly fell out of the headlines after founder Harold Camping's Judgment Day prediction went astray in May, followed by Camping's debilitating stroke in June - but alert observers noted that Family quietly applied last week to change its Philadelphia-market WKDN (106.9, licensed in Camden, NEW JERSEY) from non-commercial to commercial status.

Since Family Radio itself isn't commercial, rumors are swirling that WKDN, which has a big class B signal blanketing most of the Philadelphia market, might be up for sale, or at least for trade. It wouldn't be the first time Family has unloaded a big FM signal; in recent years, it has traded commercial-band FMs in San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento for AM stations. (And the rumor mill obligingly notes that Greater Media has recently upgraded a pretty big AM signal, WPEN 950, that's being underutilized as a simulcast of sports-talk WPEN-FM 97.5 - or could the other player be CBS, which did the San Francisco AM/FM trade with Camping and which would no doubt love to move its Philly sports-talker, WIP 610, to FM?)

*Across the Keystone State, public radio development directors gathered for their annual convention last week in Pittsburgh, where the public radio scene has been plenty busy lately.

The gathering produced a big honor for one local broadcaster: Scott Hanley, the former general manager of recently-sold WDUQ (90.5), received the Public Radio Regional Organizations (PRRO) award for his service to the public radio system at WDUQ and through the JazzWorks programming service he built there. Hanley's still involved in public radio as one of the voices of the new Pubradio jazz service that aims to supplant JazzWorks as a source for jazz on the radio.

*And a new construction permit in Selinsgrove has call letters: it'll be WFBV on 90.1, the radio voice of the Beaver Springs Faith Baptist Church.

*Eastern MASSACHUSETTS will continue to wake up to Matt Siegel and "Matty in the Morning" on Clear Channel's WXKS-FM (Kiss 108) for a few more years. After three decades in morning drive, Siegel just won a five-year contract extension that will carry him to age 66.

In Worcester, the old WTAG (580) morning team of Hank Stolz and Sherman Whitman has reunited. Stolz moved up the dial to rival talker WCRN (830) a few years back, and this morning Whitman joins him to do news. Whitman was laid off from WTAG during February's round of Clear Channel cutbacks.

*In downeast MAINE, there's a new owner for silent WRMO (93.7 Milbridge). Charles Begin's Pine Tree Broadcasting will pay $35,000 to the estate of the late Lyle Robert Evans for the signal. Begin, a Maine radio veteran who's now based in Maryland, had apparently been involved with a low-power AM operation along the coast a few years ago; this is his first entry into full-power ownership.


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*There's a new signal on the air in CANADA: the fast-growing "My FM" group has begun testing on CJGM (99.9 Gananoque, Ontario), with the official launch of the new signal near Kingston set for July 29 at noon.

And that's it for this slow summertime news week...much more next Monday when we're back from the road.

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: July 19, 2010 -

  • For the first time since 1983, there's a new commercial FM station transmitting from within the NEW YORK City limits. After some on-and-off testing, Bill O'Shaughnessy's WVIP (93.5 New Rochelle) last Monday officially turned on its new transmitter atop the same Montefiore Medical Center residence in the Bronx that's been home to WFUV (90.7 New York) for the last few years - and will eventually become home to WFAS (103.9 Bronxville) as well. From the new site (which replaces WVIP's longtime home atop a Yonkers apartment building), 93.5's 1750-watt/433' class A facility throws a 60 dBu signal over most of Manhattan, all of the Bronx, most of Queens, part of Brooklyn, a big chunk of New Jersey - and it still reaches most of its old home turf in Westchester and Fairfield counties, too. But wait - there's more! The new WVIP signal is in HD, at the newly-authorized -14 dBc enhanced power level, and at least initially it has HD-2 and HD-3 subchannels carrying a simulcast of sister station WVOX (1460 New Rochelle) and a Music of Your Life satellite feed, though we hear that those will be replaced by leased-time programming (much like WVIP itself) in the weeks to come.
  • (What was the last commercial FM station to move into the city? That was "Z100," Newark-licensed WHTZ 100.3, which relocated from the hills west of Newark to the top-top-top-top-top of the Empire State Building 27 years ago this summer...)
  • In Rochester, we're mourning Tom Noonan, whose long run in Rochester radio included stints at WVOR, WKLX, WBBF (in its later oldies FM incarnation) and most recently at WLGZ (102.7), where he'd recently moved from weekends to the weekday 7-midnight airshift. Noonan suffered a fatal heart attack after his Tuesday-night shift on "Legends 102.7," and the station mourned his passing in class, including an on-air tribute in his usual timeslot Wednesday night. Noonan was 63.
  • We close with one more Empire State obituary: newsman Roberto Cano was known on-air as Bob Ortiz during a career that included stops at WBAI, WPLJ and most notably at the original WKTU (92.3), where he was part of the late-seventies airstaff that took the disco station from nowhere to first place. Cano also worked at Boston's WBZ-TV in the seventies; he died June 28 and a memorial service is scheduled for July 24 at 11 AM at Grace Church at 10th and Broadway.
  • It turns out that the sale of WGAJ (91.7 Deerfield) that we reported on last week was just a prelude to a bigger station transfer in western MASSACHUSETTS: the WFCR Foundation, the nonprofit group that raises funds and provides support for the University of Massachusetts' WFCR (88.5 Amherst), is not only buying the former Deerfield Academy station for $10,000 - it's also ponying up just over half a million dollars to purchase WNNZ (640 Westfield), the Clear Channel-owned AM signal that WFCR has been operating under an LMA since 2007. The WFCR Foundation will pay a total of $525,000 for the WNNZ license, but Clear Channel will keep the three-tower transmitter site on Root Road north of Westfield, leasing it back to WFCR for at least the next ten years. From that site, the 640 signal blankets most of western Massachusetts with 50,000 watts by day, but at night it's much more limited, with just a kilowatt. WFCR's existing program lineup on WNNZ, which provides a news-talk alternative to the news/classical blend on WFCR's main FM signal, is expected to continue unchanged. The sale will leave Clear Channel with one AM station (WHYN 560) and three FMs (WHYN-FM 93.1, WRNX 100.9 and WPKX 97.9) in the Springfield market, though there's also a pending application to relocate WPKX to the Hartford, CONNECTICUT market to the south.

Five Years Ago: July 17, 2006 -

  • It was a bad week at NEW YORK's Black Rock - but even more so for more than a hundred CBS Radio staffers around the country, including some veterans of the company, whose jobs were cut in a mass layoff.
  • Among the biggest names in New York City to fall under the budget-cutting axe were Chad Brown, general manager of "Jack FM" WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) and Rob Barnett, president of programming at CBS Radio. Out in Los Angeles, where he led KROQ to revenue dominance, general manager Trip Reeb (a veteran of Rochester's WCMF, way back when) lost his job.
  • WSPK (104.7 Poughkeepsie) has a new morning guy - Chris Marino moves north from WLDI (95.5) in the West Palm Beach, Florida market to take the spot last occupied by "Woodman," who's reportedly leaving the business. Marino starts his new gig August 4.
  • Across town in Poughkeepsie, the old WKIP (1450) building at 20 Tucker Drive was demolished last Tuesday. Chief engineer Bill Draper tells NERW that Clear Channel originally planned to keep the building (which dated from 1968), but with no easy way to connect it to the two-year-old studio complex next door that now houses WKIP and its sister stations, the decision was made to demolish it and replace it with a new addition to the current studio building. (Longtime WKIP/WRNQ morning man Van Ritshie came up from Florida to take the first whack at the old building.)
  • The CBS Radio cutbacks in MASSACHUSETTS claimed several top sales managers at WBZ, WODS and WZLX; WBMX (98.5) marketing director Anne-Marie Kennedy - and Edward Hyson, better known as "Oedipus," the longtime program director at WBCN (104.1 Boston). Oedipus stepped down from the WBCN PD chair two years ago, and had been working as CBS Radio's VP/alternative music, but with the gradual disappearance of that format from prominence at CBS, it wasn't hard to see the writing on the wall.
  • In RHODE ISLAND, Opie and Anthony's syndicated show has arrived on WSKO (790 Providence) and WSKO-FM (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale), and that means some schedule changes at "The Score." Andy Gresh and Scott Zolak move from mornings to the 9-noon slot, which displaces John "Coach" Colletto from the station's lineup. (And just as NERW goes to press this Monday comes word that O&A have also added Buffalo's WEDG, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's WBSX and WMOS out on Long Island's East End to their lineup.)
  • Up to CANADA we go next, for the latest round of media consolidation - the C$1.7 billion deal that will make CHUM Ltd. part of the Bell Globemedia family. BGM already owns the CTV television network, the nation's largest commercial network, as well as the Globe and Mail national daily, 17 cable networks and a minority share in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors. By adding CHUM, BGM immediately becomes a major radio player, with 33 radio stations in the country's largest markets. CHUM's 21 cable networks, including MuchMusic, will add substantially to BGM's cable portfolio.
  • As for broadcast TV, here's where things get a little complicated. BGM will keep CHUM's "Citytv" stations, including flagship CITY-TV (Channel 57) in Toronto - but it will have to sell off the "A Channel" outlets CHUM has assembled around the country, including CHRO (Channels 5/43) in Ottawa/Pembroke, CKVR (Channel 3) in Barrie and CFPL-TV (Channel 10) in London. As soon as the deal was announced, CHUM began making deep cutbacks in its news operations around the country. While Citytv in Toronto was left mainly intact, we're told there were 22 people cut in Barrie, where news coverage will be scaled back to focus mainly on the station's home turf in Barrie and vicinity. In Ottawa, the "A Channel" noon news has been cancelled - and the cuts were even deeper out west, where Citytv newscasts were cancelled in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

10 Years Ago: July 18, 2001 -

  • We'll begin this week in CANADA, where CTV is consolidating its hold on the broadcast outlets that carry its network signal across the country. Out in Vancouver, the CTV-owned "VTV" (CIVT Channel 32) is about to begin carrying CTV network programming after several years as an independent, and back East, the network has struck a deal to acquire its Montreal affiliate for a whopping C$ 121,500,000. CFCF-TV (Channel 12) was part of the WIC group that merged with Global earlier this year, causing all that shuffling out west as well. In Montreal, though, Global already owned CKMI (Channel 46), which meant CFCF needed to be put in trust until a buyer could be found. CTV and parent BCE were the obvious choice, since CTV has been on an acquisition spree that's snapped up almost all of the stations that were once privately-owned affiliates. (You'd have to look all the way to St. John's, Newfoundland, we believe, to find the biggest private CTV affiliate remaining!) What will become of CFCF's distinctive on-air look and its "Pulse" newscasts when the Great Homogenizers of CTV take over? We suspect the generic blue set and CTV logo will end up gracing CFCF once the deal closes...we'll keep you posted.
  • We'll cross back to the States in NEW YORK, noting that Buffalo's WWKB (1520) is still running that business format (with no legal ID noticed on one recent top-hour break) instead of the promised 70s pop, and there's no sign of Opie and Anthony on WCMF here in Rochester, either.
  • In fact, about the biggest news we can offer this week is Eolin's conversion of its LMA in Elmira to an outright purchase. You might recall that Eolin, which operates four stations in Corning, has been running WENY (1230) and WENY-FM (92.7) for White Broadcasting under an LMA for a few months now; this week, Eolin announced it would pay $2.2 million for the pair, which simulcast news-talk WCLI (1450 Corning) and satellite AC WCBA-FM (98.7 Corning), respectively. The purchase finally separates the radio stations from sister TV outlet WENY-TV (Channel 36) after more than three decades of common ownership.
  • Over in Binghamton, Paul Szmal (formerly of Utica's WRCK) and Maggie Page (formerly of crosstown WYOS) kicked off their new morning show on Clear Channel's "Mix" WMXW (103.3 Vestal) this morning. Meanwhile, AC competitor WLTB (101.7 Johnson City) has filed to move translator W273AB (102.5) down from Ingraham Hill, where WLTB itself now operates, to the old 101.7 site a few miles west in Endicott.
  • A very happy 90th birthday to WTIC (1080 Hartford) institution Bob Steele, who's still going strong with a monthly Saturday-morning show, 62 years after joining the staff at WTIC. A check of the NERW archives reminds us that Steele did promise to retire a few years ago - but not until his 100th birthday a decade from now!

15 Years Ago: New England Radio Watch, July 20, 1996

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