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October 31, 2011

A Rough Week for Radio

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


*Some weeks, it just hurts to sit down and write this column. Over 17 years, we've chronicled a lot of ups and downs in the radio business all over the northeast, and in the last few years it seems like there have been more downs than ups many weeks.

But this past week - this past Wednesday, to be specific - set a new level of ugly, as dozens of talented, hard-working, dedicated radio people all over the region found out their jobs had been pulled out from under them, and by several different companies all at once.

Industry gossip leading up to Wednesday made it pretty clear that local Clear Channel Radio employees in small and medium markets would be the targets of some pretty extensive firings as part of the company's plan to centralize more of its operations. (We could reprint the press-release PR-speak about "improving local service" and whatnot, but really, why bother?)

It wasn't just Clear Channel Radio making cuts on Wednesday, though: Townsquare Media pulled the plug on local airstaff in one of its markets, Cumulus eviscerated one of its big markets out west, affecting several New York veterans along the way, and Clear Channel's traffic services, operated separately from the radio stations, went through their own Black Wednesday, leaving at least one local office reportedly unable to fully service its clients on Thursday.

As usual, the companies involved won't confirm who was affected, or even the total number of employees, but here's what we've been able to piece together over the last few days. (If you're not on the list and should be, let me know and I'll run a second list next week...)

Albany: New York's state capital was doubly hit, with job losses at both Clear Channel and Townsquare. On the Clear Channel side, the list included Steve Bleznyk, PD at sports talker WOFX (980) and APD at talker WGY (810/103.1); creative services director Marc Pineiri and WTRY (98.3) morning man John Gabriel, leaving co-host Jaime running solo. (Also gone, we're hearing, is morning traffic reporter/billing clerk Jessica Lamp.)

Across town at Townsquare Media, the entire airstaff of "Crush" WQSH (105.7) is gone: the morning crew of Mark Vanness and Meredith MacNeil and evening guy "Sugar Bear." Word from inside Townsquare is that new PD Terry O'Donnell stays, operating the station jockless while the 90s-pop format stays in place. And down the hall at rocker "Q103" (WQBK/WQBJ), veteran afternoon jock Jeff Mrozek is out as well.

Allentown: WZZO (95.1) middayer/promotions director Barry Dawson is out.

Binghamton: Tim Boland is gone from afternoons at Clear Channel's WKGB (92.5).

Boston: With Clear Channel Radio's cluster out of the firing line this time, the pain came at the newly-merged Total Traffic/Metro Traffic operation, where the word is that as much as half the staff (and much of the local management) ended Wednesday jobless. For those spared the axe this time, we're told, it was still a painful transition as the remaining employees scrambled to service the company's clients without many of their usual resources, including the helicopter used for traffic reports on WBZ radio and television.

Harrisburg: Jeni Gipe, who did afternoons on WRVV (97.3) as well as traffic and production work, is gone.

Hudson Valley: Many of the cuts at Clear Channel's Poughkeepsie-based cluster were off-the-air - director of engineering/IT Reg Osterhoudt (aka "Rick Knight") and traffic manager Dawn Morvillo are out. So are news director Cameron Hendrix, production director Lou Brown and WRNQ (Lite 92.1) middayer Michelle Taylor.

New York City: At least five traffic reporters are gone from Metro Traffic here, including Mike Weinstein and Brian Duhaime, as well as Cathy Hogan behind the scenes. And out in Los Angeles, the aftermath of Cumulus' acquisition of Citadel's KLOS/KABC sent a slew of incredibly talented radio people out the door. The firings there included KABC production director Howard Hoffman, alumnus of New York stations such as WABC, WALL and WVWA, and KLOS PD Bob Buchmann, who came to Los Angeles in 2009 after working at Long Island's WBAB and New York's WAXQ.

Northwest New Jersey: Mike Anthony is gone from afternoons at WSUS (102.3).

Reading: Nick Harris, who'd done middays at WRFY (102.5), is out.

Rochester: WHAM (1180) took the big hits this time - gone from the top-rated news-talker are reporter Brendon O'Riordan, weekend newsman Bill Flynn and, perhaps most shockingly, morning co-host Beth Adams, who'd put in more than two decades of early wakeups alongside Chet Walker, who now has to carry the show as solo host. Also gone is Joe Bonacci, who'd been programming both WDVI (100.5) and WKGS (106.7).

Syracuse: Another stunner here, as Clear Channel dismissed afternoon talk host Jim Reith, a 27-year veteran of WSYR (570/106.9), filling his timeslot with syndicated programming that includes Sean Hannity and what's at least temporarily a seven-hour run of Michael Savage, live and then repeated. Also gone: "Producer Bill" Ali, who'd produced Reith's show and done traffic reporting; WSYR morning news producer Mike Foltz and Rachel Marisay, who'd worn many hats - news on WSYR, and middays on both WYYY (94.5) and WBBS (104.7), the latter as "Gabby Knight."

Williamsport: It was nearly a clean sweep at Clear Channel's top-rated WKSB (Kiss 102.7), where the purge claimed the jobs of most of the airstaff: morning co-host Gail Bair, middayer Lou Kolb (a two-decade veteran, and blind, to boot!) and afternoon host Tom Turner. Only veteran morning man Gary Chrisman survived; even the voicetracked evening show is gone, since jock Jeni Gipe lost her day job down in Harrisburg. Down the hall, Ted Bennett is gone as well, and he too had been doing double duty: mornings on "Bill" WBYL (95.5)/WBLJ (95.3) and voicetracking nights on WBZD (93.3)

So what shows up in place of all those local radio people? We'll spare you the "new paradigms" and "program-delivery efficiencies" and all that; the expectation on the ground is that most of those shifts will end up being filled, at least for now, by Clear Channel's "Premium Choice" satellite service, which might provide some cute anecdotes about whatever it is J-Lo is up to, but probably won't be very useful when there's a surprise late-October snowstorm bearing down on a small market...about which, more later in this week's column.

*At least two NEW YORK broadcasters have another year of job security: the Yankees have extended their broadcast deal with CBS Radio's WCBS (880) through the 2012 season, ensuring another year of overly-dramatized outfield fly ball calls from John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman in the booth - and another year of speculation about where the Yankees' radio rights will land for a longer-term deal starting in 2013.

Upstate, Bob Miller is switching signals in the Hudson Valley: after doing mornings at WGNY (1220 Newburgh)/WGNY-FM (98.9 Rosendale), he's heading a few exits up the Thruway to take over mornings (with Brian Jones) at Pamal's WBPM (92.9 Saugerties).

In Albany, there's a new high-definition local newscast on the air: ABC affiliateWTEN (Channel 10) made the switch late last week, and it's doing HD in the field as well, unlike CBS affiliate WRGB (Channel 6), which had been the only HD local news outlet in the market.

*In Utica, Steve Doerr is the new general manager for Smith Media's WKTV (Channel 2) - and like his predecessor in the job, Vic Vetters, he'll also hold the same title up in VERMONT, where he's also overseeing Burlington-market WVNY (Channel 22)/WFFF (Channel 44). Doerr's arrival completes an inadvertent market-for-market swap with Providence, RHODE ISLAND: he'd been running WLNE (Channel 6) there until April, while Vetters left Smith in Utica and Burlington to become GM at WJAR (Channel 10) in Providence.

While we're in the Mohawk Valley, the Little Falls Times reports that Joe Isabel's Cranesville Block Company plans to put WKAJ (1120 St. Johnsville) on the air as early as December 15th. The new station will be a sister to WCSS (1490 Amsterdam), but will have its own studios on Main Street in St. Johnsville.

*Up north, Flack Broadcasting is paying $42,000 for the translator that's now W201CB (88.1 Lowville). When it changes hands from North Country Public Radio (St. Lawrence University), the translator will shift to 98.9 - and will relay one of Flack's commercial stations, either WLLG (99.3 Lowville) or, more likely, WBRV (900 Boonville).

NCPR didn't need the 88.1 Lowville translator any longer because it has replaced that 10-watt signal with a full-power outlet. 220-watt WXLD (89.7) is the fourteenth full-power signal on the NCPR network.

*Out west, Bill Dorrion takes over mornings today on WKZA (106.9 Lakewood/Jamestown), reports Dorrion was formerly heard on WWSE (93.3 Jamestown), where he hosted the Saturday oldies show. And we're hearing that WKZA owner Cross Country Communications (which has some ties to the Hall group in New England) has started testing the signal of its newest Jamestown station. The new Celoron-licensed signal on 95.3 has new calls, too: it's now WLKW-FM, adopting a venerable Rhode Island callsign still in use on Hall's WLKW (1450 West Warwick RI).

While we're out along I-86, there's a shift of frequencies for Jeff Andrulonis' Colonial Radio Group in the Olean market: the news-talk format that's been running for a few months on WVTT (103.9 Kane PA) is now being heard as well on WBYB (96.7 Portville), where it replaces the "Bob" country format. (It's also on the air in Smethport, PA on the HD2 channel of WXMT 106.3.)

"Bob" lives on via HD subchannels and translators: it's now on 96.7-HD4 (yes, 4!) and 106.3-HD3, as well as analog translators at 95.3 and 99.1. The rest of Colonial's translator/subchannel lineup includes "Mountain" AAA on 103.9's main channel, 96.7-HD3 and an Olean translator at 98.7 and Fox Sports Radio on 96.7-HD2 and an Olean translator at 93.9.

And we close the Empire State portion of the column this week with an obituary for Dan Burke, who was a key part of the Capital Cities Communications executive team for almost half a century. Burke came to Capital Cities' WTEN in Albany in 1961 and worked his way up the corporate ladder to become CEO in 1990. By then, Capital Cities had emerged into national prominence with its 1986 purchase of ABC, and Burke remained at the helm of the combined company until his retirement in 1994. Burke died Wednesday in Rye, New York, at age 86.


It's been a couple of months since we posted our "open letter" to NERW/ readers announcing some upcoming changes to the site.

The response has been unbelievably gratifying: already, hundreds of you have signed up for subscriptions to the new version of, and many of you have sent along very kind notes of thanks and support.

And after some delays, this is the week when we finally flip the proverbial switch (or, perhaps, to hit the proverbial "plates on" button).

If you've already'll get login information for the new site in your e-mail within the next few days. If all goes well, we'll move over to our new servers on Wednesday, November 2 - and after a short transition period, much of the information there will be available only to our paid subscribers. (Fear not - we won't bring the paywall into place until everyone who's subscribed has their login information in hand!)

Please note that some services at will be inaccessible for a time on Wednesday, and possibly Thursday as well. Please bookmark as an alternate web address to reach our archival content, and you can e-mail me at my gmail address (last name at gmail dot com) if e-mail is down for the count during the switch.

If you're not yet a paid subscriber, we hope you'll join us soon. (All one-year subscriptions entered before the changeover will run through the end of November, 2012, so there's no advantage to waiting until the last minute.)

Thanks for your patience. It's a big transition for us (our first redesign since...gulp...2001), and we appreciate your support as we work our way through it.

Subscribe now!

*A station sale in northwestern PENNSYLVANIA: Chris Lash's Whiplash Radio is taking over at WHYP (1370 Corry) under an LMA-to-purchase deal with Vilkie Communications.

Lash is a native of the region - and, reports, he even worked at the station (formerly WWCB) while he was in high school.

Lash will take over operations in Corry on December 1. No purchase price has been announced.

Near State College, Magnum Broadcasting's WQKK (106.9 Renovo) has flipped formats: it's dropped its "Qwik Rock" simulcast with WQCK 105.9 in favor of soft AC as "Y106.9."

In the Philadelphia suburbs, the identity shift at the former WPAZ (1370 Pottstown) is complete: last Monday's reimaging as "The Buzz" came with new calls, WBZH, as well. While WBZH continues to struggle with an ailing transmitter - it was off the air for much of Friday and Saturday - its old calls have been parked up the road at a construction permit belonging to Four Rivers Community Broadcasting, which flipped WZMV (89.1 Mohrsville) to "WPAZ" last week.

And in Pittsburgh, it's a sad end (at least for now) to one of the region's longest radio careers: Porky Chedwick has ended his Friday show on WEDO (810 McKeesport) after just a few weeks back on the air. The famed R&B jock, whose Steel City career goes back to the 1950s, called his move to Florida a "failed attempt at retirement" when he came back to western Pennsylvania to resume his show in September - but he now tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he was unable to find sponsors for his weekly hour on WEDO, and now he's calling it quits at the age of 93.

While there's evidently no longer space on the Pittsburgh dial for "Pork the Tork," there seems to be room for an all-Steelers station: "Steelers Nation Radio" debuted last week on the HD2 channel of flagship WDVE (102.5) as well as on the web, making it Clear Channel's second sports-branded HD2 offering, alongside the all-Penguins content over at WXDX (105.9)-HD2.

*In NEW JERSEY, Princeton University's WPRB (103.3) turned on HD Radio last week, using its HD2 signal to carry Indian programming, apparently from the former operators of the now-defunct "Dhoom FM" WDDM (89.3 Hazlet). In the short-spaced melange of signals that is the Northeast Corridor, there are already reports of interference between WPRB's upper HD sideband and the analog signal of nearby WKTU (103.5) in the New York City market.

Down on the shore, WIBG (1020 Ocean City) has segued from contemporary Christian music to secular, conservative talk with a lineup of hosts that includes local Tea Party organizer Larry Trulli. WIBG will retain its Sunday religious programming.


A decade ago, it was just a goofy idea: "Hey, you should put some of those tower pictures into a calendar!"

But when Tower Site Calendar 2002 appeared, it was a hit - and ten years later, the fun still hasn't stopped.

And now it's that moment at least some of you have been waiting for: the release of our latest edition, Tower Site Calendar 2012, seen for the very first time right here!

As befits a tenth-anniversary edition, this one's special: in addition to all the great tower photos and historic dates you've come to expect from our calendars, the new 2012 edition is our first-ever themed calendar, paying special homage to the many stations that began broadcasting during radio's first big boom year of 1922.

The 2012 edition brings something else that's new to the Tower Site Calendar: the option of a spiral-bound edition that will hang flatter on your wall.

The calendars are back from the printer, and the first shipments went out to early purchasers on Saturday. But don't worry: we still have plenty of both versions of the calendar (plus the signed, limited-edition version) on hand. So don't miss your chance to be part of the very first shipments...or to make your 2012 calendar order part of the subscription you'll soon need to continue enjoying all of the features of

Order now - or subscribe - at the Store!

*The big, and rather unexpected, story from New England as we write the column on Sunday night is the snowstorm that blustered its way up the coast over the weekend, taking down power and phone lines from the mid-Atlantic states up into the Canadian Maritimes.

Thankfully, there have been no reports so far of any downed towers - but plenty of signals were silenced as the storm made its way through the region, most notably in the Merrimack Valley, where we're hearing that every signal in Lowell was silent early Sunday morning. Much of CONNECTICUT was affected as well, with some areas taking on two feet of snow from the freak storm.

*A few new signals to report in MASSACHUSETTS: in Marshfield, WUMT (91.7), the new relay of Boston's WUMB-FM (91.9), has applied for its license to cover, while out west in "Baptist Village" (in reality, Hampden, east of Springfield), construction on the new religious outlet WJCI (89.5) wrapped up just before the snow started flying.

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: At midnight, Clear Channel pulled the trigger on its big facility shift in the Springfield market, killing off WRNX (100.9 Amherst) and flipping the frequency to country as "Kix 100.9." For now, it's a simulcast of WPKX (97.9 Enfield CT) - but not for long, since the 97.9 facility is moving south to Windsor Locks, Connecticut, with a new transmitter site in downtown Hartford.

Much more later this week on the new

*A pair of noncommercial construction permits in MAINE and NEW HAMPSHIRE is changing hands: Word Radio Educational Foundation, which owns WSEW (88.7 Sanford ME) and the new WRKJ (88.5 Westbrook ME), is acquiring WMEK (88.3 Kennebunkport ME) and WMTP (91.1 Conway NH) as donations from New Life Media.

As for WRKJ, it was supposed to be a combination of religious programming from WSEW and community programming from Dave Patterson's WJZF-LP (97.1 Standish) - but Patterson's death October 21 may change those plans. Patterson put the low-power station on the air from his home in 2005 and had been running it from his home; he was just 64 when he died of diabetes.

*On TV, Gannett's NBC affiliate WCSH (Channel 6) in Portland is launching another hour of morning news today: in addition to its own 5-7 AM broadcast, it will produce an hour of local news from 7-8 AM on CW outlet WPXT (Channel 51), which had run a WCSH-produced 10 PM newscast from 2003-2008.


WBTA Radio Batavia NY is currently accepting applications for the position of News Producer/Staff Announcer. This is a full time position that we anticipate will open before the end of the year. Qualified candidates shall have previous experience in a commercial radio station and a strong interest and proficiency in news reporting and production. WBTA offers an above market-average salary, health insurance benefit, 401K and paid vacation. Reply to Daniel Fischer, President, WBTA, 113 Main St., Batavia, NY 14020. WBTA is an equal opportunity employer.

You can have your ad here, for just a few dollars a week! Click here for information on the most economical way to reach tens of thousands of Northeast radio and TV people each week.

*Even CANADA wasn't spared the job losses last week: Nida Drake is out after 14 years as morning host on ""Y101" (CKBY 101.1 Smiths Falls), leaving Mark Papousek solo.

More changes at Toronto's CJCL (Sportsnet Radio 590): Jeff Blair goes solo from 9 AM until noon, returning co-host Michael Grange to fill-in status. Norm Rumack moves from weekend overnights to weekday overnights, replacing Jeff Summit, who takes over the 7-11 PM slot, suddenly more critical now that it's not being preempted by Raptors basketball.

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: November 1, 2010 -

  • Three NERW-land stations tied for the title of "first all-Christmas flips" when they kicked off November by going 24/7 holiday music: in the Albany market, both Clear Channel's WTRY (98.3 Rotterdam) and Townsquare's WBZZ (105.7 Malta, now "Santa 105.7") made the flip Monday morning, as did Equity Communications' WEZW (93.1 Wildwood Crest) on the Jersey shore. And as the countdown on the "Santa 105.7" website helpfully reminds us, it's still 53 days until Christmas... (More Christmas? Why, yes: reports Galaxy's WZUN (102.1) in Syracuse and WUMX (102.5) in Rome also made the flip on Monday.)
  • Want to keep a room full of media historians busy for hours? Just stick your head in the door, ask them, "Was KDKA the first radio station?" and run. But whether or not that November 2, 1920 election-night broadcast by KDKA in Pittsburgh, PENNSYLVANIA in fact marked the start of radio in the United States (and there's plenty of well-documented evidence to suggest that everything KDKA did that night had been done elsewhere, earlier), it unquestionably marked the breakthrough of radio into the national consciousness - and thus radio's transition from a curious hobby to a new mass medium. The Westinghouse publicity machine that propelled KDKA into the history books survives today under the station's current CBS ownership, and so it should come as no surprise that the station is marking tomorrow's 90th anniversary in style. In partnership with the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh's Strip District, KDKA hosted a weekend open house that featured appearances by KDKA personalities, a slide show of the station's highlights and a display of artifacts that included that transmitter shown above, a 1930s-era replica (including some original parts) of the transmitter used on that fateful night in 1920. The celebration continues Tuesday with live broadcasts from the Heinz center, featuring Marty Griffin, Robert Mangino and Rob Pratt from 9 AM until noon and Pratte, Mike Pintek and Bill Rehkopf from noon until 3 PM.
  • In Philadelphia, Christmas tunes have arrived on the radio dial - not on the analog side, at least not as of late Sunday night, but on three HD2 subchannels. WPEN-FM (97.5 Burlington NJ) resurrected the very same Christmas programming (imaging and all) that it was running on 97.5-HD2 last year as "Now FM," WNUW, and Greater Media is reportedly simulcasting that relic of "Now FM" on the 95.7-HD2 of WBEN-FM. Meanwhile, Jerry Lee's WBEB (101.1) has put Christmas music on 101.1-HD2.
  • The big news this week out of MASSACHUSETTS is all about Catholic radio, starting at 1060 on the dial this morning at 8. That's when WQOM (1060 Natick) will return to the airwaves as an all-Catholic outlet of Buffalo-based Holy Family Communications. The inaugural program on WQOM will be a live Mass from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, celebrated by Boston Archbishop Cardinal Seán O’Malley, and while the station is boasting "50,000 watts of power," it's still not clear whether construction has been completed (or even begun) on the station's full daytime facilities at the Ashland transmitter site, shared with WAMG (890 Dedham), that it's been using for nighttime operation. In its prior incarnation as WBIX, 1060 transmitted by day from the old WKOX (1200) facility in Framingham, but WQOM didn't pick up the lease on the studio/transmitter facilities there.
  • Over in Worcester, Catholic programming is coming to WNEB (1230) as Blount Masscom sells the 1000-watt signal to a new company called Emmanuel Communications. Emmanuel will pay $500,000 for WNEB, which presently does Spanish talk as "Radio Sol."
  • We start our Empire State coverage in western NEW YORK, where "Slick Tom" Tiberi is back on the air at WGRF (96.9), two years to the month after losing his evening airshift on "97 Rock" to Citadel budget cuts. Tiberi tells the Buffalo News he's being paid less now than he made when he was dismissed in 2008 - but he's happy to be back on the air at all, connecting with a fan base that stayed with him during his absence through podcasts on Tiberi's website,

Five Years Ago: October 30, 2006 -

  • Even as Clear Channel was making national headlines over the possibility that it might go private, the company quietly went through a "restructuring" on Friday that leaves several veteran employees in western NEW YORK out of work. While the in-house memo that went out Friday afternoon said "these individuals have not been fired," we're not sure how else to describe the status of the five Clear Channel Radio employees in Rochester who are collecting severance pay and unemployment checks this week. Craig Kingcaid was the cluster's chief engineer; Susan Ashline had been reporting for WHAM (1180) for several years; Rob Jason had joined the WHAM news staff just last year after leaving the executive producer's slot at WROC-TV (Channel 8); Mike DiGiorgio was Bob Lonsberry's producer for his midday talk show; and Jonathan Wallace was in the promotions department. (Another veteran of the cluster, Dan Guilfoyle, left the sales department recently in what was apparently an unrelated move; we're also hearing that some of the remaining staffers may have some of their titles shuffled.)
  • The memo says the "restructured" employees will be encouraged to apply for jobs elsewhere in the company, including (we'd presume) the "many new positions (that) are being created during this restructure in an effort to continue to super-serve our advertising and listening community." It goes on to say "the positions being created will focus on our online products and will also include an expansion of our sales force." And, oh yes - it reminds the remaining staffers that "those outside of our stations may not fully comprehend the changes that are taking place," and reminds them not to talk to the media, leaving that duty to the cluster's market manager. Since the news broke late on Friday, and NERW goes to press Sunday night, we've been unable to reach the local management; we'll be happy to report their comments in next week's issue.
  • Longtime New York program director John Mainelli is returning to the PD chair, this time at CBS Radio's "Free FM" WFNY-FM (92.3). Mainelli, whose resume includes stops at WABC and WOR, was most recently the radio reporter for the New York Post - even while continuing to do consulting for talk radio around the country.
  • In Westchester County, Bill O'Shaughnessy is bringing a venerable callsign back to the airwaves. On Wednesday (Nov. 1), he'll flip WRTN (93.5 New Rochelle) to WVIP-FM, paying tribute to the late Martin Stone's WVIP in Mount Kisco, an erstwhile sister station to O'Shaughnessy's WVOX (1460). The WVIP calls are still in use on 1310 in Mount Kisco, though that station's now merely a simulcast of Spanish religious WWRV (1330 New York); the former WVIP-FM on 106.3 in Mount Kisco is now WFAF.
  • Western MASSACHUSETTS' new sports station signed on right on schedule Thursday afternoon at 2, as Entercom put WVEI-FM (105.5 Easthampton) on the air from Mount Tom. Before the station's simulcast of WEEI (850 Boston) kicked in, it stunted for a few hours with readings from Dr. Seuss books, paying tribute to the author's hometown, Springfield. WVEI-FM will take the Red Sox broadcast rights from Springfield's WHYN (560) and Northampton's WHMP (1400) next season; the Sox will apparently continue on WHMP simulcast WHMQ (1240 Greenfield).
  • It's the end of an era in Atlantic CANADA: CHNS (960) in Halifax, Nova Scotia is silent for good, now that Maritime Broadcasting System has completed its AM-to-FM conversion. CHNS-FM (89.9) signed on in July as classic rock "Hal FM." With the three-month simulcast period over, so is the run of CHNS on AM, which dated back to 1926.

10 Years Ago: October 29, 2001 -

  • The doors have been spinning in radio managers' offices all over MASSACHUSETTS this week, at two of the biggest clusters in Boston. We'll start at Clear Channel, where some old familiar faces are back on the job in the Waltham studios of WJMN (94.5 Boston). Just a few months after leaving the PD chair at "Jam'n" to take over the same seat at crosstown WXKS-FM (107.9 Medford), a bout of management consolidation has "Cadillac Jack" McCartney taking that job back. McCartney will now handle programming for both "Jam'n," with its urban-CHR sound, and "Kiss 108," Clear Channel's more mainstream entry in the CHR battle - a far cry from the old days, when the two stations (and WJMN predecessor WZOU) were bitter rivals. WJMN PD Dennis O'Heron stays with Clear Channel, becoming marketing director of both stations, while WXKS-FM music director Kid David adds the same duties at WJMN, displacing Michelle Williams, who departs the station.
  • But wait - there are changes on-air as well at "Jam'n," beginning with morning drive, where Baltazar is out of the morning show, replaced by afternoon drive jock Ramiro Torrez. Morning co-host Pebbles stays. And AllAccess reports that both stations will go voicetracked during overnights beginning January 1, 2002, thus also displacing WXKS' Chris Shine.
  • Religious satellator news: The "Living Proof" folks have managed to get their application for a new 91.7 in Lunenburg reinstated, which can't be good news for Boston's WUMB (though there's probably not much they can do to prevent the incursion into their chain of signals on 91.9 in Boston and Worcester and Maynard's WAVM on 91.7); meanwhile, down on Nantucket, a settlement finds "Broadcasting for the Challenged" yielding to "Nantucket Public Radio" for the 89.5 frequency there. That new station will run 78 watts vertical, 500 watts horizontal at 36 meters AAT from a stick on Swain Hill, a mile or so west of Nantucket village. (We're sure Nantucket fans of Boston's WGBH will be none too thrilled about this one...) 2006 Update - We were wrong about WUMB, which did find a way to keep Living Proof from doing too much damage to its signals. But we were mostly right about the WGBH fans on Nantucket; in the end, Nantucket Public Radio's WNCK on 89.5 ended up as a simulcast of WGBH for that very reason.
  • While we're down that way, we note the passing of one of Boston sports radio's most prolific callers. "Butch from the Cape," aka Thomas Speers, died October 17 of cancer. The former bar owner became a regular on WEEI when it went all-sports a decade ago, mocking the Red Sox and other Hub teams. Speers had lived in Connecticut before moving to the Cape, and was charged with harassment (though later acquitted) for making anti-Semitic calls to a radio host in Waterbury; he also served prison time for running gambling rings in the Nutmeg State. Speers, who had been honored by WEEI when he disclosed his illness last year (in an event called "Butchiepalooza"), was 58.
  • Two call changes from VERMONT and NEW HAMPSHIRE: WCFR-FM (93.5 Springfield VT) changes calls to WXKK, to match country simulcast "Kixx" partner WXXK (100.5 Lebanon NH), while the WCFR-FM calls pop up across the Connecticut River at the former WLPL (96.3 Walpole NH), which in turn simulcasts oldies WWOD (104.3 Hartford VT).
  • Just to add to the simulcast fun: WMXR (93.9 Woodstock), which had been simulcasting country with the Springfield station, has dropped out of that format in favor of a simulcast with classic rock WVRR (101.7 Newport NH).

15 Years Ago: New England Radio Watch, October 30, 1996

  • After 52 years of radio and 70 years of a full life, Norm Nathan passed away on Tuesday night, October 29, at his home in Middleton, Massachusetts. Norm was not only one of the finest broadcasters New England has ever known, but he was also a colleague and, I'm proud to say, a friend. I trust NERW readers will understand if I depart from the usual rundown of news items and indulge in some remembrances of Norm.
  • Over the years, Norm came to find himself as the last of the breed, as colleagues such as Jess Cain, Dave Maynard, and Larry Glick left radio or went into semi-retirement. I know Norm was crushed when his old radio home, WHDH, disappeared from the airwaves in August 1994, especially when he found out the last noise heard on the station was a toilet flushing. In the end, Norm's show sat alone even on WBZ. At the end of a week filled with hard news and the political, hard-edged talk of David Brudnoy and Bob Raleigh, Norm's show was where we all went for a soft chuckle, a smile, and the feeling that there was somebody out there who just wanted to cheer you up.
  • There's something more than a little bit eerie about the timing of Norm's death. For the last few months, WBZ has been in the process of moving out of its old studios, and into a new facility on the other side of the building. The new studios are cleaner, brighter, and better-equipped...but I will never picture Norm anywhere other than in the dark, somewhat musty old talk studio. It was just a few days ago that they finished tearing out the guts of that studio, and it was unsettling to walk into that familiar room and find only an empty physical space. Suddenly, it's not merely physically empty; there's a huge spiritual hole there too. It's 2 A.M. as I write this; Norm's time of the night. This was the hour when he hit his stride, making life a little brighter for listeners all along the path of BZ's booming signal. Norm's producer, Tony Nesbitt, found the right phrase on BZ tonight, when he talked about "a hole 38 states wide." So did another colleague, who asked simply, "What will I listen to now?" Out there in the vast corporate world that's radio in the 1990s, there are still a few remnants left of a simpler time, in the days before shock jocks and satellites, when a jazz record and a joke could be the foundation for a half-century of great radio. We've just lost one of the best. Goodbye, old sport.
  • There's one fewer silent AM station in Massachusetts this week, with the return to the airwaves of Worcester's WNEB (1230). The station has been silent since 1991, but it signed back on last Thursday (Oct. 24) under the ownership of Bob Bittner, who also owns WJIB (740) Cambridge and recently sold WKBR (1250) in Manchester NH. WNEB uses 947 watts, non-directional, from the old tower site on Worcester's west side, near Chandler Street. Programming for now is largely a simulcast of WJIB's beautiful-music, although plans include Spanish-language broadcasts at night.
  • With WNEB's return, only two AMs in Massachusetts remain silent, and in danger of losing their licenses in February: WBIV (1060) in Natick and WCEG (1530) in Middleborough.
  • In business news, SFX Broadcasting's Hartford group has hit near-maximum size with last week's purchase of WWYZ (92.5 Waterbury). "Country 92.5" was owned by the Gilmore family, who will keep their WATR (1320) in Waterbury, along with $25.25 million of SFX's cash. SFX's Hartford properties include WKSS (95.7, CHR), WHCN (105.9, classic rock), WMRQ (104.1 Waterbury, modern rock), and WPOP (1410, mews-talk). The company also owns WPKX (97.9 Enfield CT) in the Springfield MA market and WPLR (99.1) New Haven, which has an LMA with Yale University's WYBC (94.3).
  • Boston University's public radio station is about to expand its reach on Cape Cod. WBUR (90.9) already simulcasts most of its programming on three small Cape noncomms, WSDH (91.5) at Sandwich High School, WKKL (90.7) at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable, and WCCT (90.3) at Cape Cod Voc-Tech in Harwich. Now WBUR is buying car dealer Ernie Boch's WUOK (1240) in West Yarmouth. WUOK has been simulcasting sister FM WXTK (94.9) for a year or so...but it can trace its roots all the way back as the Cape's oldest station, WOCB.

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