In this week's issue: Merlin exits NYC with WRXP sale to CBS - FCC hears from Schumer on WKAJ deletion - Elmira's Carl Proper dies - Clear Channel shuffles Seacoast formats
**COME SEE US IN PERSON! BOOTH D14 AT THE SBE 22 EXPO, THURSDAY, OCT. 11 AT TURNING STONE, VERONA, NY!**
By SCOTT FYBUSH
MONDAY UPDATE: Merlin Media is exiting New York City after a tumultuous yearlong run that included a failed attempt to challenge CBS Radio's all-news domination - and it's exiting by selling its WRXP (101.9) to CBS, for a reported $75 million.
Beginning next month, CBS will LMA 101.9 from Merlin and use it to simulcast sports WFAN (660) on the FM dial.
It's still not clear how the deal will be structured to comply with the FCC's ownership caps. CBS is at the limit right now with three FMs (top 40 "NOW" WXRK 92.3, classic hits WCBS-FM 101.1 and hot AC "Fresh" WWFS 102.7), three AMs (WFAN and all-news WCBS 880 and WINS 1010) and two TVs (WCBS-TV 2 and WLNY-TV 55).
TUESDAY UPDATE: Following up on yesterday's big news about WRXP's sale to CBS - and the inevitable question about how CBS stays under the ownership cap in New York City: the betting line right now seems to be that it's CBS' most recent acquisition, WLNY-TV, that goes away, sort of. Remember the FCC's upcoming UHF DTV spectrum incentive auction? WLNY's spectrum ought to be fairly valuable to buyers (and thus to CBS), and even if it's sold, CBS would retain the cable/satellite must-carry rights for WLNY's programming. And those rights are probably much more valuable than WLNY's limited OTA signal, anyway.
*Out there in the Mohawk Valley of central NEW YORK, just off the side of Route 5 in a field next to an abandoned warehouse, there sits a four-tower array that's never broadcast a watt of power.
As NERW readers well know from our previous coverage, this is - or at least was supposed to have been - WKAJ (1120 St. Johnsville). When we last revisited the WKAJ saga back in June, the FCC had tossed out a "Petition for Waiver and Reinstatement" that permittee Cranesville Block Company had filed in a last-ditch attempt to get the Commission to grant a license to the 10,000-watt day/400-watt night station - even though construction on the facility wasn't completed (or even substantially started) until January 2012, a month after WKAJ's construction permit had expired in December 2011.
Two area congressmen weighed in on behalf of Cranesville and its principal, Joe Tesiero, but to no avail: rules are rules, they were told, and if WKAJ wanted to make a case that catastrophic weather and the sudden disappearance of its contractor had delayed construction, the time to do that was before the CP expired, not long afterward. But having sunk more than $300,000 into construction (and who knows how much now on legal fees), Cranesville wasn't giving up so easily. Over the summer, it prevailed on Senator Chuck Schumer to intervene with the FCC. In a July letter to chairman Julius Genachowski, Schumer said "it is difficult to see what harm would be caused by the waiver" WKAJ sought, and noted that the challenges the station faced during construction were "extremely unforeseeable."
In late September, Genachowski responded, writing, "I appreciate your interest in this matter and have directed the Chief of the Media Bureau's Office of Communications and Industry Information to respond." A letter the same day from that official, Michael S. Perko, tells Schumer that "Commission staff will complete its review of the [WKAJ] Application for Review and prepare a recommendation for the full Commission as expeditiously as possible. Please be assured that in reaching a disposition, the Commission will give careful consideration to issues raised by [WKAJ] and the views discussed in your letter."
Will the intervention of one of the Senate's most powerful Democrats (in an election year, no less) be enough to get the FCC to overlook deadlines and rules that are usually among the agency's most rigid? And if WKAJ is allowed to sign on despite having started construction after an expired CP, how will the FCC thread the needle to avoid creating a precedent for other would-be late builders? Stay tuned...we'll continue to watch this one closely.
Meanwhile, Tesiero appears to have learned from the WKAJ debacle; construction is reportedly well underway up in the Adirondacks on WYVS (96.5 Speculator), his new FM construction permit that was just granted in July.
*One of the congressmen who intervened unsuccessfully on WKAJ's behalf earlier in the year is now embroiled in another media controversy. Republican Richard Hanna was scheduled to take part in a televised debate that was to air on both ABC affiliates in the newly-redrawn 22nd district, WSYR-TV (Channel 9) in Syracuse and WUTR (Channel 20) in Utica. When Hanna dropped out of the debate, the stations planned to instead interview his Democratic challenger, Dan Lamb, for a half-hour. But Lamb says Hanna put pressure on the stations to cancel that broadcast, and he's releasing e-mails from WUTR indicating that Hanna may have threatened to withdraw his advertising dollars and refuse to cooperate with the stations' news departments if the Lamb interview proceeded.
Those e-mails, in which WUTR GM Stephen Merren says "we are going to have to back out of this taping...and deal with our relationship with Congressman Hanna on our own," were apparently not intended for the Lamb campaign (or for public distribution), but were sent to Lamb's campaign manager by accident. That's causing some embarrassment for WUTR owner Nexstar, which is in the process of buying WSYR-TV from Newport Television; when contacted by rival Syracuse stations WSTM/WTVH, Merren told them he'd "been asked by my company to let this run its course" and offered no further comment. Hanna's campaign has also declined to comment; Lamb's campaign, meanwhile, is making political hay, saying Hanna "should be ashamed of himself for using his money to influence the journalistic decisions of a local news station."
*In Elmira, they're mourning the dean of the city's TV news community. Carl Proper started working at what was then WSYE-TV (Channel 18) in 1957, just a year after the station signed on as a satellite of Syracuse's WSYR-TV (now WSTM). After starting out as a typical jack-of-all-trades announcer, hosting "TV Clubhouse with Coach Carl" and other local fare, Proper settled in as the station's newsman, and that's where he stayed for a remarkable 49 years before his retirement in 2006 from what had become WETM-TV. Even after stepping away from the anchor desk, Proper remained involved with WETM as a "community ambassador" right up until his death Saturday morning at age 74.
*Jason Furst is moving on from his post as PD of Clear Channel's talk stations in Syracuse and Rochester. Less than a year after adding WHAM (1180 Rochester) and WHTK (1280 Rochester) to his portfolio at WSYR (570 Syracuse)/WSYR-FM (106.9 Solvay), Furst is on his way down to Charlotte, North Carolina to succeed Carl East as PD at Greater Media's WBT.
In one last duty before departing, Furst plugged in more Sean Hannity to replace Michael Savage at night on WSYR. (WHAM had dropped Savage earlier this year; his new Rochester affiliate, WYSL, is carrying TRN's replacement offering in the 9 PM slot, Jerry Doyle.)
Across town, we send our best wishes to WPXY (97.9 Rochester) afternoon guy Raphael. The 98PXY jock/marketing coordinator, whose full name is Raphael Opida Jr., headed to boot camp last week as a commissioned officer candidate with the Army National Guard, attached to the HSC 642nd Aviation Support Battalion here in Rochester.
*We're not quite sure when it happened, but Townsquare Media's AM stations in and around Oneonta have flipped formats. WDOS (730 Oneonta) was doing classic country, while WCHN (970 Norwich) and WDLA (1270 Walton) were doing standards; now they're all simulcasting a news-talk/sports format under the "CNY News" banner. The lineup includes "Big Chuck" in morning drive, Glenn Beck at 9, Mike Huckabee at noon and ESPN from 3 PM until 6 the next morning.
Out there in the open spaces between Rochester and Buffalo, WCJW (1140 Warsaw) keeps growing its translator network. The country station is already heard at four spots on the FM dial in Warsaw, Batavia, Avon and Nunda, and now it's adding a fifth, W283AU (104.5 Houghton). That translator is now owned by Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes, but it's asked the FCC to change its primary station from WZXV (99.7 Palmyra) to WCJW and to relocate to Eagle, near Bliss in south-central Wyoming County.
*TV People on the Move: Suzanne Goldklang has left her seat at the anchor desk at Binghamton's WICZ (Channel 40) after two years with the Fox affiliate. Goldklang, who's also worked at WLNY on Long Island and WVII/WFVX in Bangor, MAINE, hasn't said yet where she's headed next.
*Two New York radio obituaries: Bob Vernon made a mark on the New York City AM dial in the mid-1970s as "Vernon with a V" in the afternoon hours on WNBC (660), where he was heard from 1974 until 1976. Vernon started his career at WIMA in Lima, Ohio and spent some time at WGAR in Cleveland before joining WNBC. He later ended up as a TV anchor in Minneapolis at KSTP-TV and in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he was seen on WRAL-TV and WLFL-TV; he also had a TV voiceover career. Vernon, whose real name was Robert Vernon Cosart Jr., had retired to Colorado when he died Sept. 30, at age 70.
And Dr. Chuck Crane was a dentist in Florida when he died September 27, but long before he established a dental practice in Sarasota, he was one of the first jocks on the lineup at Z100 (WHTZ 100.3 Newark NJ) back in 1983, where he went by "Dr. Christopher Reed" on the air in the midday shift. Crane also served as operations director at Z100 in early 1984 before heading to Chicago to program WLS. Crane came back to New York in 1986 to program WYNY (97.1) in its last few years as an AC station. Crane was just 58.
*Along the NEW HAMPSHIRE Seacoast, Clear Channel is in the midst of a format flip at two of its FM signals. After several years of hot AC, WERZ (107.1 Exeter) returned to its top-40 heritage on Thursday, picking up the Premium Choice-driven lineup that's been airing on sister station WSKX (95.3 York Center ME). The one piece of the "Kiss" lineup from 95.3 that's not making the trip up the dial to the new "Z107" is the morning show: gone is the syndication of "Matty in the Morning" from sister station WXKS-FM down in Boston, replaced by Elvis Duran's show from Z100 in New York.
So what becomes of 95.3? The "Net Gnomes" over at our partner site, RadioInsight, turned up a bunch of registrations for "95.3 the Coast," which suggests pretty strongly to us that when WSKX relaunches on Tuesday at noon, it will be with some form of AC or perhaps adult hits, like Clear Channel's recent launch of "101.7 the Harbor" down the coast in Boston. (This will thus mark the second time that Matty Siegel has lost an affiliate called "The Coast"; he'd also been heard on WSNE 93.3 in the Providence market for a time.)
*On the other side of the Granite State, we can fill in some of the gaps around last Monday's flip of WKKN (101.9 Westminster VT/Keene NH) from rock to a simulcast of country "Kixx" WXXK (100.5 Lebanon NH). With one exception, the WKKN airstaff is gone after the flip; that includes Parker Springfield, who was the station's operations manager and who now says he's leaving broadcasting for a while after turning down a chance to relocate to Great Eastern's Upper Valley cluster. The one exception is Elise Valentine, who's staying on board to staff Great Eastern's Keene studios, oversee WEEY (93.5 Swanzey)'s WEEI simulcast, and to do a "Kixx" airshift in the afternoons from Keene. And up in Lebanon, there's another new addition to the Kixx airstaff: Jim Bosh, late of WWYZ (92.5) in Hartford, becomes the Kixx PD and morning co-host alongside Amy Beaulieu.
*A radio promotion in VERMONT: Amber Huyghe adds the titles of music director and interim PD to her midday shift at Pamal's WZRT (97.1 Rutland), filling the hole left behind when KD Dankwa departed for Memphis and KWNW last month.
*This was the week of the big sports radio split in eastern MASSACHUSETTS: after running a loop for a day directing WEEI (850 Boston) listeners over to the FM dial to hear the WEEI local sports programming on WEEI-FM (93.7 Lawrence) and its sister stations, AM 850 relaunched Friday morning as a fulltime ESPN Radio outlet.
As we'd predicted, there's been a bit of outcry from listeners in a few areas south and west of Boston where the 93.7 signal suffers interference. Entercom's trying to rectify that by keeping WEEI audio in place on the HD2 signals of WAAF (107.3 Westborough) and WKAF (97.7 Brockton); there's not much it can do, though, for WEEI's AM fan base along the Atlantic coast all the way up to New Brunswick.
*North of Boston along the coast, WNBP (1450 Newburyport) officially unveiled its new addition on Wednesday at noon. NERW readers have known for months that W291CC (106.1) was moving from southern Maine to become WNBP's FM simulcast, and now everyone's in on the secret: it's now "The Legends" on both AM and FM, playing "Legendary Songs and Legendary Singers of the '50s and '60s."
Bob "Doc" Fuller, the legendary broadcast owner who started his radio career at his hometown WNBP as the station's first jock and later owned the station, joined current owners Pete Falconi and Carl Strube on Wednesday to cut the ribbon, as it were, on the FM addition.
Friday was Chris Puorro's last day with the Codcomm cluster on Cape Cod; after a busy few months getting "Frank FM" (WFRQ/WHYA) and WPXC (102.9) moved into their new Hyannis studios, Puorro is leaving his post as PD/ops manager and moving to Orlando, where he's the new coordinator of broadcasting at the University of Central Florida, licensee of WUCF (89.9). No replacement has been named yet at Codcomm.
*In CONNECTICUT, WGCH (1490 Greenwich) is in new hands this week as parent company Business TalkRadio Network continues its journey through bankruptcy court. The court-appointed receiver handling the case has fired longtime BTRN CEO Michael Metter, and former COO Jeff Weber is back in place, running the network and its two remaining stations (WGCH and WLFP in the Pittsburgh market) until they can be sold.
*Four Rivers Community Broadcasting has two new "Word FM" religious signals on the air in PENNSYLVANIA. WZXB (90.5 Bechtelsville) and WZXN (90.1 Newburg) both applied for their licenses to cover last week. WZXB serves the Boyertown area in Berks County, east of Reading, while WZXN serves the Shippensburg area southwest of Harrisburg. The sign-ons bring "Word FM" (based at WBYO 88.9 in Sellersville) to an even dozen full-power stations in eastern and central Pennsylvania, plus seven translators.
And that's not the only move Four Rivers is making to broaden its reach: it's also buying translator W245AG (96.9 Gladwyne) from United Ministries for $124,000. Why so much for a 90-watt translator? Because it's a 90-watt translator sitting on the WPVI (Channel 6) tower in the Roxborough antenna farm, serving a fairly substantial chunk of the Philadelphia market. The translator had been relaying another religious station, WBMR (91.7 Telford).
*More translator news: in Wilkes-Barre, Bold Gold is applying to relocate translator W265BM (100.9 Folstown) from its present site on a ridge south of Nanticoke to the tower of WYCK (1340 Plains), right off the 309/115/I-81 junction just east of downtown Wilkes-Barre. The translator would switch from relaying its former owner, WHLM-FM (103.5 Berwick), to relaying WYCK's "Game" sports format, and it would boost power from its present 5 watts to 99 watts.
*TV People on the Move: In Pittsburgh, Alex Bongiorno is departing WTAE (Channel 4) after more than three years as news director, with no replacement named yet. Up the road in Erie, Bill Cummings (late of KSWT-TV in Yuma, Arizona) takes over from Lisa Adams as news director at WICU (Channel 12)/WSEE (Channel 35); Adams stays with the NBC/CBS duopoly as an anchor. And in York, it appears Jim Buchanan is out after almost two decades doing weather on Fox affiliate WPMT (Channel 43).
*And a Keystone State story that's somewhat slipped through the cracks: Pat Cloonan's McKeesport Daily News column recently reported that EMF Broadcasting had flipped its 98.5 in Confluence (near Uniontown, south of Pittsburgh) from the K-Love network to the harder-edged Air 1. That sent us looking for a call change, and it turns out we'd missed it back in March, when the former WKEL became WYRA. K-Love is still available in the Pittsburgh area on WPKV (98.3 Carnegie) and in Uniontown on translator W292DH (106.3), and it appears Air 1 via WYRA will also be available in Pittsburgh on translator W257CD (99.3).
*It was a very quiet week in CANADA, and should be an even quieter one this week, what with the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday today, though the CRTC does promise a decision this week on the license renewal of troubled CJRN 710 in Niagara Falls.
But there's one piece of news that should gladden the heart of our Boston broadcasting history colleague, Dr. Donna Halper. The Lesley College professor is perhaps best known for having broken the music of Rush in the United States during her days as music director of Cleveland's WMMS in the 1970s. Rush, in turn, has become unfortunately notorious for its continued absence from Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In the band's native Toronto, one radio station is now stepping up the long-running campaign to rectify that omission: CKGE (94.9 Oshawa) launched a petition drive in August to push the band's quest for recognition. Last week, the station announced that it would be trading its "94.9 the Rock" nickname for "94.9 the Rush" this week, when "RushCon" comes to Toronto - and no sooner did it do so than the good news came from Cleveland: Rush is one of 15 nominees for the half-dozen Hall slots that will be filled in 2013. Will we be seeing Dr. Donna rocking out with Geddy Lee and the boys at a ceremony in New York next year? Here's hoping...
*And a little teeny bit of Hockey on the Radio: with the NHL indefinitely idled, Ottawa's CFGO (Team 1200) has come up with a way to keep bringing Senators games to their fans - it's once again importing live play-by-play of Ottawa's American Hockey League affiliate, the Binghamton Senators. CFGO carried the B-Sens' run to the Calder Cup championship in 2011, and it's once again simulcasting coverage from WBBI (107.5 Endwell) in the Binghamton market until there's NHL action back on the ice.
*Good news, everybody! The 2013 Tower Site Calendar is finally coming back from the printer this week, and on its way out to YOU!
This is the 12th edition of our annual calendar, which features photos of broadcast towers taken by Scott Fybush on his travels.
The 12-month wall calendar boasts a full-color photo each month of a well-known broadcast transmitter site.
This year’s edition includes sites in Florida, Wisconsin, Kentucky, California, Iowa, Idaho, Las Vegas, Colorado, Boston, Cleveland, Albuquerque, upstate New York and western Massachusetts. We've also redesigned the calendar to make it more colorful (don't worry; the pictures are still pristine) and make the spiral binding our standard binding -- your calendar will hang even better on your wall now! And of course, we still have the convenient hole for hanging.
Order 20 or more for a 10% discount! And while you're at the Fybush.com store, check out the new National Radio Club AM Log and the final stash of FM Atlas editions.
For more information and to order yours, click here!
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: October 10, 2011 -
*The stations owned by NEW JERSEY's Nassau Broadcasting Partners have lived to broadcast for at least another week while the company awaits a judge's decision about how its bankruptcy will be handled.As we'd been reporting, Nassau's lenders, led by Goldman Sachs, were in court Thursday in Delaware asking Judge Kevin Gross to order the company into immediate Chapter 7 bankruptcy and liquidation - but Nassau management, led by Lou Mercatanti, had a different idea: it asked Judge Gross to convert the involuntary Chapter 7 petition into Chapter 11, which would allow Nassau to keep operating its stations.
Nassau says its stations have positive cash flow right now, and argued that continued operation during an orderly restructuring will allow the stations to keep producing revenue while the lenders look for buyers. (Radio Business Report says Mercatanti even submitted a letter Goldman Sachs had sent in August, asking Nassau to make a voluntary Chapter 11 filing before September 4.)
As of Sunday night, there's been no ruling from Judge Gross, so Nassau operations continue as usual (for some value of "usual," given the company's financial woes) while the company and its lenders await the judge's decision about what the next step will be.
*RHODE ISLAND's public radio dial completed its transition over the weekend, as WRNI (1290 Providence) consummated its deal with the Wheeler School and the local Latino Public Radio group to swap programming.As first reported here in NERW, the deal plays out like this: Rhode Island Public Radio is paying Wheeler $75,000 a year plus three percent of increased revenues to shift its NPR lineup from 1290 on the AM dial to Wheeler's recently-upgraded WELH (88.1 Providence). LPR, in turn, goes from leasing 12 hours a day on WELH to 24 hours a day on 1290, giving it the platform it needs to qualify for Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding and continued growth.
There's another piece to the puzzle that emerged late last week, just ahead of the Saturday morning frequency swap: to avoid confusion, Rhode Island Public Radio has dropped the on-air use of the "WRNI" branding; instead, it's now "RI NPR," with a new logo that doubles as a stylized coverage map of its three FM signals: WELH in Providence and the northern parts of the state, WCVY (91.5 Coventry) in west-central Rhode Island and WRNI-FM (102.7 Narragansett Pier) in South County and Newport.
*Eastern CONNECTICUT's Red Wolf Broadcasting is adding another signal to its portfolio: owner John J. Fuller is the principal in "CSI Media Research," the winning bidder on that new class A FM signal on 94.9 just across Long Island Sound in Montauk, New York - and Fuller has now given that new 94.9 signal the "WJJF" calls he originally used on his first station (now WCRI 1180 in Hope Valley, R.I.)
Our friends over at RadioInsight.com note that Fuller recently registered "949News.com" and several similar domain names for the new station, suggesting it will try to fill the talk gap created by the demise of the old WXLM-FM - but they also note that Fuller followed up with a flurry of possible decoy registrations, including "949JohnFM.com" and "EagleCountry949.com."
Five Years Ago: October 8, 2007 -
*Remember the TV show "Quantum Leap," wherein a scientist named Sam Beckett was sent traveling through time and space, "striving to put right what once went wrong"?
It's increasingly looking as though CBS Radio chief Dan Mason is trying to be the industry's Sam Beckett, returning WCBS-FM and K-Rock to New York, KFRC to San Francisco, WYSP to Philadelphia, and now the legendary B94 to western PENNSYLVANIA.
Just as the buzz (no pun intended) on the message boards was speculating, the Christmas-music stunting at the former "Man Talk" WTZN (93.7 Pittsburgh) came to an abrupt end at 5 o'clock Friday afternoon, when the station launched into a retrospective of its 23 years as WBZZ, returning to its former top-40 format with Justin Timberlake's "Sexyback" as its first song.
(Former B94 PD Clarke Ingram noted - within minutes, no less - that there were a couple of inaccuracies in the B94 retrospective: the station had signed on April 2, 1981, not April 1, and its first song in the new format was actually Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," not "You May Be Right.")
Those technicalities aside, CBS is embarking on a format war with Clear Channel, whose "Kiss" WKST-FM (96.1 Pittsburgh) has owned the top-40 category in the Steel City for the last few years. The move also raises questions about the future of CBS' hot AC entry, "Star 100.7" (WZPT New Kensington) - is a format change for that station in the offing, too?
No airstaff has been announced yet for the revived B94, though we're hearing a lot of rumors that the John, Dave, Bubba and Shelly morning show is likely to make a return. There's also no word about new calls. (The WBZZ calls are tied up in the Albany market these days, and for now the revived B is still legally WTZN.)
*There's finally a fulltime CW affiliate in VERMONT: Fox affiliate WFFF (Channel 44) in Burlington has turned on a subchannel on WFFF-DT (Channel 43), providing an over-the-air signal for "CW Burlington," which is also seen on most area cable systems on channel 20, replacing New York's WPIX there. The September 27 launch of the CW subchannel clears the CW programming out of WFFF's 10 PM-midnight timeslot, which makes way for the upcoming launch of a 10 PM newscast on WFFF soon.
*Is there enough radio in CANADA's capital city yet? Apparently not, to judge by the 11 applications on deck for a December 3 CRTC hearing to consider the possibility of new signals in the Ottawa-Gatineau area.
There are really only two frequencies involved in this pile of applications: 99.7, where tourist information station CIIO now operates as an unprotected low-power service, and either 101.7 or 101.9.
On the 99.7 front, applicants include CIIO itself (to boost power and become a protected service, arguing that it's now the city of Ottawa's official emergency information station); Christian Hit Radio Inc., which wants to add a religious station to its contemporary Christian CHRI on 99.1; Ottawa Media Inc., for a AAA format; and Mark Maheu, for a pop station. (This is also the frequency on which Hamilton's CIWV has applied for an Ottawa relay.)
On 101.7, there's Radio de la communaute francophone d'Ottawa, for a French community station; while on 101.9, there's Reel-Radio, for a French campus station; Fiston Kalambay Mutombo, for a French Christian station; Instant Information Services, for a French-language tourist station to complement CIIO; Corus, for an English-language news-talk station; Astral Media, for a "soft adult" format; and Frank Torres, for an all-blues station.
Would the grant of a 101.7 - or even a 101.9 - wreak havoc with the attempts of WRCD (101.5 Canton NY) to play in the Ottawa market from across the border? And will CJSS (101.9 Cornwall) object to a co-channel signal just up the road in Ottawa? Stay tuned...
Ten Years Ago: October 8, 2002 -
It's been two months since J.R. Gach was last heard on the air in NEW YORK's Capital District, and almost every day has brought e-mail from listeners wondering why the WGY (810 Schenectady) afternoon talk host suddenly disappeared without any notice to his fans. Thanks to the Albany Times Union and Mark McGuire (probably the best daily newspaper reporter covering broadcasting in the northeast right now), we have some answers to offer. Gach was diagnosed with bipolar II mental disorder, which his wife Suzie blames for the outbursts that marked his show's final months on the air at WGY. In a lengthy narrative given to the paper, Suzie Gach says J.R. suffered a breakdown in mid-August while returning home from a weeklong vacation.
While Suzie Gach filled in on J.R.'s shift (she was eventually replaced on-air by Ed Martin, who continues to occupy the time slot), J.R. was undergoing inpatient, then outpatient treatment at a rehab center in Saratoga Springs. Gach is now back home, and it's unclear whether or not he'll ever return to WGY's airwaves. Suzie Gach tells McGuire that her husband's personality has changed since beginning treatment (he's now going by "Jay" instead of "J.R."), while WGY management declined to comment specifically. We'll keep you posted here at NERW as we hear more, and we'll be keeping the Gaches in our thoughts.
The FCC was busy in PENNSYLVANIA over the summer. The Commission handed out several Notices of Apparent Liability during August: $7000 to WGET (1320 Gettysburg) for failure to properly fence its towers, and $20,000 to WFBS (1280 Berwick) for failure to mark and light its towers and unspecified equipment problems. (The FCC also cited KFNX in Cave Creek, Arizona, a sister station to WALE 990 in Greenville, RHODE ISLAND, for failure to power down at night. NERW wonders why WALE itself has escaped the FCC's notice, and we note that the bankruptcy filing by WALE/KFNX owner Francis Battaglia doesn't make the NAL go away....)
On a happier note, WFBS is adding a weekend show from Philadelphia's "Geator," Jerry Blavat, to its schedule. Blavat was in negotiations to do a weekend show on the big signal of Philly's WPHT (1210) as well, but the two sides couldn't come to terms over a playlist (or lack thereof), we're told.
Fifteen Years Ago: October 9, 1997 -
We'll begin this week in upstate NEW YORK, where an unlikely pair of radio personalities have taken their dislike of each other to the airwaves. We told you in last week's NERW about the dismissal of WCMF (96.5 Rochester) personalities Rich ("the Bull") Gaenzler and Beth Donohue, along with night jock Zak Wood from sister station WRMM (101.3, and not "WRRM" as the local paper reported). Just hours after Donohue was fired, she turned up across town on Jacor-owned talker WHAM (1180), joining midday talk host Bob Lonsberry to vent her frustration with WCMF.
That was just the start of the feud, as Lonsberry kept up a running stream of commentary and calls on the state of WCMF, once the city's lone progressive rocker, and now one of several rock stations vying for Flower City listeners. One WCMF listener who had participated in the station's focus group the night before the firings called in to the Lonsberry show to talk about what he'd heard. That, coupled with Lonsberry's assertion that veteran WCMF morning jock "Brother Wease" is sounding tired and old, was enough to get Wease back in the station for a rare afternoon appearance, as he turned WCMF into a talk station to sound off against Lonsberry, who then devoted much of Wednesday's show to the issue, even inviting WCMF advertisers to jump ship to WHAM or its sister stations (including modern-rock competitor WNVE). It's unusual (except on WJIB/WJTO's "Let's Talk About Radio") to hear the nuts and bolts of the business -- ratings, demographics, music tests -- discussed on the air with as much passion as we've seen this week. We'll keep you posted on the outcome.
From NEW HAMPSHIRE, one that we neglected to mention last week: Manchester's WKBR (1250) has dropped its simulcast of co-owned AAA WXRV (92.5 Haverhill, Mass.) and is now running the One-on-One sports network. Also in Manchester, there's word that Notre Dame College's WRND (91.7) has left the air for good...we'll keep you posted on that one.
And in CONNECTICUT, the program lineup at Hartford's WTIC (1080) is being reshuffled to bring Colin McEnroe back to the weekday lineup after a one-year absence. McEnroe joins the Bruce Stevens show, which will now begin at 3 PM, replacing the last hour of Dr. Laura Schlessinger. He'll drop his daily commentaries and Sunday night talk show on the (soon to be) CBS talker.