In this week’s issue… Ordway out after long WEEI run – Cox sells remaining CT FMs – WTKK, WODS add airstaff – WPRO makes more cuts – RIP Paul Benzaquin – WBAI moves way uptown – Chunky joins Philly’s Wired
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Glenn Ordway was part of Boston’s WEEI before the station was even doing all-sports, and he survived multiple owners and three incarnations (590, 850 and 93.7) – but the veteran sports talker’s long run at WEEI came to an abrupt end late last week when he became the biggest name in a big week of talent shuffles in eastern MASSACHUSETTS.
Perhaps with an eye toward Ordway’s remarkable 27-year run at the station (where he started doing Celtics games in 1987, was one of the charter crew of talk hosts during WEEI’s 1991 flip from all-news to sports and even spent a few years as PD in the mid-1990s), Entercom gave Ordway the chance to say goodbye on the air, announcing his dismissal Wednesday but keeping him on the afternoon “Big Show” through Friday.
Why is Entercom parting ways with someone they valued highly enough to give a reported five-year, million-dollar-a-year contract as recently as 2009? The company’s not saying, but the immediate reasons are pretty obvious. When Ordway re-upped in 2009, CBS Radio was still months away from launching its rival “Sports Hub” (WBZ-FM 98.5), which quickly turned out to be a much more potent threat to WEEI’s sports dominance than most observers had expected. Had WEEI quickly shifted gears to FM itself, it might have staved off “Sports Hub,” but instead Entercom held its fire and remained on the AM dial for two long years – which also, unfortunately for WEEI, turned out also to coincide with a downward slide for its bread and butter, the Red Sox.
Chained to a painfully expensive Red Sox rights deal, that appears to have left Entercom with little choice but to cut costs where it can – and while it can’t easily get out of its Sox contract, WEEI did apparently have a ratings-target clause that gave it an out from Ordway’s five-year deal.(The Globe reports that Ordway’s salary was already cut in half in 2011 when his show failed to hit its ratings goal, but even $500,000 a year is a lot to be spending on talent in 2013.)
The station also had a ready replacement waiting in the wings, at least if “the wings” are 3,000 miles to the west at sister station KIRO (710) in Seattle. That’s where Boston native Mike Salk has been working since 2009, and where he’s now packing his boxes to move back home as Ordway’s replacement alongside Michael Holley on “The Big Show.” Salk has prior Boston radio experience at the old “ESPN 890″ (WAMG) and at WWZN (1510), but the WEEI gig will put him in a much bigger spotlight as Entercom tries to attract the same younger listeners who’ve been moving to the Sports Hub’s afternoon show with Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti. (They, in turn, spent part of their Thursday show praising Ordway, who gave them prominent exposure as guest hosts on the “Big Show” earlier in their own careers.)
As for Ordway, he’s saying publicly that he hopes to be back on the air before long in Boston, but options appear to be few at this point. There are no obvious holes in the Sports Hub lineup where he’d fit, and little reason to think he’d appear on a third-string sports outlet such as 1510, now WUFC. (Nor, for all the message-board chatter, is there any real reason to think Clear Channel would invest in flipping its all-comedy WXKS 1200 to Fox Sports Radio with the significant local presence that would be needed to compete with CBS and Entercom in that arena.)
*Ordway’s departure from WEEI was just one of many talent shifts in the market in a very busy week. Right there at WEEI, Kevin Winter was cut from his gig doing sports updates on the Dennis and Callahan morning show after just two months on the job. But the bigger noise came in the top-40 arena, with big additions at two of the three clusters now fighting for dominance in that format.
At Greater Media’s rhythmic WTKK (Hot 96.9), the 13,000-song commercial-free music sweep that started with the station’s launch in early January came to a close at 10 AM on Thursday, when the station segued into regular programming with the first of its air talent. We knew that former WJMN (94.5) morning producer Melissa would become WTKK’s midday jock, but we’d thought former WJMN morning co-host Pebbles was coming to “Hot” to do mornings there. Instead, at least initially, Pebbles signed on at “Hot” doing the 3 PM shift with mornings remaining jockless. (Out in Sacramento, meanwhile, CBS Radio’s KZZO has posted an opening for a new morning host, which is relevant here because that gig’s current occupant is former WJMN morning co-host Baltazar…could he be Boston-bound to reunite with Pebbles?)
WTKK also made a prominent behind-the-scenes hire, adding Jill Strada as assistant PD/digital brand manager. Strada had been in Miami as PD of Beasley’s “Power 96.5,” WPOW, and before that was PD at New York’s WRKS (98.7) and APD at WQHT (97.1).
*Across town at CBS Radio’s WODS (AMP 103.3), PD Dan Mason is filling out his airstaff. Joining AMP in April will be morning host T.J. Taormina, who’s moving north from Clear Channel’s Elvis Duran morning show at New York’s Z100. That’s where Taormina has spent his entire career so far, working his way up from answering phones to being Duran’s co-host. AMP also recently added a live night host, Dustin Carlson, who’s on air as “Slater” from 7 PM-midnight. He most recently worked at CBS sister station KXTE in Las Vegas, and has also worked in Denver, Milwaukee and his native central Washington state. In addition to nights, “Slater” is also handling the station’s imaging, replacing previous imaging director Doug MacAskill.
Please log in (at the bottom of the page) to view the rest of this column. If you're not yet a member, click here to join; your membership gives you full access to current NERW and Tower Site of the Week columns and more than a decade of searchable archives, and it costs as little as a quarter per day. Why are we now subscriber-based? Click here to read more about the reasons behind our decision.
*It’s 2013! Do you have your 2013 Tower Site Calendar yet? It can be on your wall in just a few days, if you order right now!
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!
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: February 20, 2012 -
*It’s been just over two years since Nick Cannon took over morning drive on NEW YORK‘s WXRK (92.3 Now), and now he’s leaving the show under what he says are doctor’s orders.
Nick Cannon rehearsing before his WXRK debut, January 2010
Cannon, who made a name for himself as a comedian, actor, rapper and host of “America’s Got Talent” before marrying Mariah Carey, has been battling health problems for his last few months as Now’s morning man. Cannon was hospitalized in California in early January with kidney issues, and last week he went back to the hospital, reportedly to treat blood clots in his lungs.
In a statement released Friday, Cannon said the strain of the radio show had become too much:
“Under doctor’s orders, I have been asked to make my health first and cut back on some of my professional commitments in order to allow my body to get the rest that it needs to keep up with the demands of my multi-tasking schedule. It has been an absolute pleasure working with CBS Radio and the 92.3 NOW morning show team and I would like to thank them for their unwavering support. I will continue to host my syndicated Cannon’s Countdown weekend show and look forward to contributing to 92.3 NOW whenever possible. Even Superman has to sleep,” he said.
Taking Cannon at his word about his health issues (and we have no reason to doubt him about the stress level, especially as we’ve been dealing with repeated hospitalizations for Mrs. NERW at this end), his departure still raises some inevitable questions about the future of CBS Radio’s attempt to take on Clear Channel’s WHTZ (100.3) in the New York top-40 arena.
While “Now” and Cannon’s show have done respectably in the ratings in a little over a year on the air, they still lag far behind the dominant Z100, and the departure of PD Dom Theodore earlier this month started the rumor mill chugging about the possibility of a format flip. CBS attempted to quash those rumors by putting out a release announcing its intention to hire a replacement PD, but no new PD has surfaced yet – and now CBS has a relatively low-rated huge FM signal in market number one with no PD and no morning star. (Cannon’s co-host Sarah Lee is working with afternoon jock Lil Cee in mornings for now.)
*WXBR (1460) in Brockton, MASSACHUSETTS is indeed being sold. As we first reported a month ago, the buyer is indeed a Haitian broadcaster: Azure Media, LLC, which is paying Michael Metter’s Business Talk Radio $250,000, is owned by Florida-based Jhonson Napoleon and his wife Betsy. (He’s a US citizen; she’s a citizen of Haiti.)
Despite the huge hole in commercial radio for a Haitian-targeted station (filled out, of course, by a slew of pirates in the Boston and Brockton areas), it’s not clear that WXBR will leave its existing English-language talk format behind when it changes hands. Azure’s one existing station, WFHT (1390 Avon Park FL), is an English-language talker that runs mainstream shows such as Neal Boortz, Mark Levin and Michael Savage.
The quarter-million dollar purchase price, incidentally, is just a quarter of what Metter paid for the station (then WBET) in 2006; it’s also a significant discount from the $325,000 asking price for WXBR.
*There’s a new signal on the air on the east side of the Springfield market: WWQZ (89.5 Baptist Village) signed on for the first time on Saturday afternoon, the first New England outlet for the Greenville, S.C.-based “The Life FM” network. The new 33-watt facility in the hills between Hampden and Wilbraham was built by Mike Fitzpatrick of NECRAT.us tower-photo fame, and it will soon be joined by simulcaster WWQA (89.9 North Granby CT).
*Unless you vacation in a high-end hotspot such as Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket or the Hamptons, you’ve probably never heard of “Plum TV.” But the denizens of the fancy restaurants and expensive boutiques in those resort areas (not to mention Sun Valley, Vail, Telluride and Aspen) have been tuning into the lifestyle-oriented cable channel for several years, though apparently not in sufficient numbers to save the network from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Plum TV founder Tom Scott (you might know him better as the co-founder of Nantucket Nectars juices) has found a savior for the network; “stalking horse” bidder PMG Media will kick off the bidding at $15 million when the auction takes place March 1.
*Radio listeners in NEW HAMPSHIRE are getting a better classical-music signal. Harry Kozlowski’s Highlands Community Radio recently moved classical WCNH from a low-power license on 94.7 in Concord (now WNHN-LP) to a full-power signal on 91.5, licensed to nearby Bow. But that turns out to have been just the first step in some bigger expansion plans: WCNH has now moved in with New Hampshire Public Radio at its Pillsbury Street studios in Concord as part of a partnership that also includes a simulcast of WCNH’s classical programming on the HD2 signal of NHPR flagship WEVO (89.1 Concord). Under the new brand “Classical NH,” WCNH is hoping the partnership will expand to additional HD signals around the state, as well as a more prominent streaming presence.
It’s the first time there’s been classical programming associated with NHPR since the main NHPR network went to a fulltime news-talk format in 2000.
*There’s a tower down in VERMONT‘s Upper Valley: WNHV (910 White River Junction) went silent in May 2010 and had its license deleted last September. By then, WNHV’s owner, Nassau Broadcasting, had lost the lease on the station’s longtime tower site just off US 5 south of White River Junction, owned by former station licensee Great Northern Radio. Last week, Great Northern had the tower dismantled, removing the last physical evidence of WNHV’s half-century of existence. The land around it is being donated to the town of Hartford, which will use it for recreation.
Five Years Ago: February 18, 2008 -
*Make a list of the most memorable voices in the history of Boston morning radio, and a few names are bound to be at the top. There’s the roster of legends at WBZ – de Suze, Maynard and Lapierre – and several greats from the FM era, such as Laquidara and Siegel.But at or near the top of that list, for anyone who listened to the radio in eastern MASSACHUSETTS between the late fifties and early nineties, would be the name of Jess Cain, who died Thursday morning at his Back Bay home.
A World War II veteran, the Philadelphia native turned to acting after the war, then took a job teaching communications at Notre Dame University before moving to Boston in the mid-fifties with his colleague Jack Hynes.
Cain was the morning man at Boston’s WHDH (850) from 1957 until 1991, a remarkable run that spanned multiple owners and multiple formats. Along the way, he contributed characters like Sidney Flack and Hap Smiley to the lexicon, as well as tunes such as “Fly Me to Methuen” (to the tune of “Fly Me to the Moon”) and the immortal “Yaz Song” that was one of the theme songs for the “Impossible Dream” season in 1967.
In addition to his radio career, Cain returned in later years to the stage, taking part in amateur theater productions until the last few years, when his illnesses began to take a toll.
It’s arguable that Cain never received the honors he deserved, in part because WHDH radio ceased to exist not long after his retirement. (Its successor at the 850 spot on the dial, WEEI, aired the “Yaz Song” in Cain’s memory Thursday, and over at WBZ, Jordan Rich devoted an hour of his show Friday to Cain.)
Cain was 81; a public memorial service is scheduled for Saturday (Feb. 23) at 10 AM at the Glastonbury Monastery in Hingham.
*In other Boston news, it turned out CBS Radio wasn’t done cutting jobs in the Hub even after the axe had swung in most of its other markets. In all, we’re told there are now 15 or so fewer jobs at CBS’ Boston stations.
Among the positions cut was that of WBZ assistant news director Paul Connearney, who’d been at the station since the 1991 demise of his previous employer, all-news WEEI (590). WBZ also lost one IT position, while over at WBCN (104.1) overnighter “Juanita the Scene Queen” was moved off that shift to part-time weekend status. And at WODS (103.3), Patrick Callahan lost his spot on the jock roster, with JJ Wright moving from overnights to Callahan’s former night slot.
Over at Entercom, there’s a new member of the Red Sox radio team for the 2008 season. With the departure of Glenn Geffner, Dave O’Brien will now handle 135 of the 162 regular-season games alongside Joe Castiglione. Dale Arnold will cover most of the rest, with studio host Jon Rish filling in on a few while O’Brien is taking care of his ESPN duties.
*One of NEW YORK‘s more obscure spots on the FM dial is about to get an injection of new programming ideas from the opposite coast. WNYE (91.5), which has programmed a mixture of overflow NPR talk programming and ethnic shows for the last few years, has signed a deal with Seattle’s KEXP (90.3) to provide it with music programming.
KEXP, which is licensed to the University of Washington but operated as an independent alternative music voice (with funding from Microsoft founder Paul Allen, among others) will supply WNYE with a three-hour weekday morning show customized for the New York market, followed at 9 AM by a three-hour simulcast of KEXP’s Seattle morning show, as well as several weekly specialty shows.
Upstate, Eric Straus has sold the last of his radio holdings. The onetime Hudson Valley owner moved heavily into Internet advertising a few years back, creating the “regionalhelpwanted.com” and “cupid.com” sites that link with local radio stations to provide non-traditional revenue. Now he’s selling that business to onTargetjobs, which owns sites such as CareerBank.com. The $100 million sale apparently includes Regional’s three radio stations in the Glens Falls market, WWSC (1450 Glens Falls), WCKM (98.5 Lake George) and WCQL (95.9 Queensbury).
In Albany, “Talk 1300″ has new calls. Paul Vandenburgh’s station was to have become WCBI (Capital Broadcasters, Inc.), but those calls already belong to a TV station in Mississippi – so the former WTMM (1300 Rensselaer) is now WGDJ.
*Two veteran PENNSYLVANIA radio newspeople are taking voluntary retirements as part of CBS Radio’s cutbacks. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that 37-year KYW (1060 Philadelphia) veteran Don Lancer, the station’s business editor, and South Jersey bureau chief Ed Kasuba, who’s been with the station 33 years, both offered to retire to fulfill CBS’ goal of reducing two positions from the KYW news staff. Lancer is the longest-serving member of KYW’s staff.
Meanwhile over on the engineering side, CBS Radio engineering honcho Glynn Walden is relocating from New York to Philadelphia, where he’ll also serve as chief engineer of KYW.
A new owner is taking control of Philadelphia-market independent TV station WTVE (Channel 51). Richard French, who owns the New York-market Regional News Network, based at WRNN-DT (Channel 48 Kingston NY), is leading a group that’s paying $11.5 million to buy WTVE out of bankruptcy. Will WTVE become a southern arm of French’s RNN?
*In CANADA, there’s a frequency change coming in Ontario’s “Cottage Country” next month, as Larche Communications completes its acquisition of Rogers’ “Jack FM” CICX (105.9 Orillia), which it received (along with C$8.2 million) in trade for its “KICX” CIKZ (106.7 Kitchener). Up in the Midland/Orillia area, Larche will move the “KICX” country format from CICZ (104.1 Midland) back to 105.9, where it started back in the nineties. That March 3 shuffle will bring a new, as yet undisclosed, format to 104.1.
Ten Years Ago: February 17, 2003 -
*A week after a fire severely damaged their transmitter facilities high atop Mount Washington, NEW HAMPSHIRE, the radio stations (and many other users) that depended on New England’s highest peak are still struggling to get back to normal.
The former WMTW-TV transmitter building and the Yankee Power House were completely gutted by the blaze last Sunday, which apparently started in the exhaust system of one of the kerosene generators in the WMTW building. The good news is that the WHOM (94.9 Mount Washington) antenna appears to have survived the blaze intact, as did the original 1937 Armstrong tower.
But restoring FM service from Mount Washington will still take some time. A generator was brought to the summit last Wednesday, three days after the fire, restoring power to the Mount Washington Observatory — but not providing enough power yet to allow the other services at the summit — including New Hampshire State Police communications, the transmitter of WPKQ (103.7 North Conway) and the studio-transmitter link for WLOB-FM (96.3 Rumford) to resume operation.
For the moment, then, WPKQ is operating with “a few hundred watts” from a two-bay antenna atop its studio building in downtown North Conway, providing some service to the Mount Washington Valley but not yet elsewhere. WHOM’s programming continues to be heard over WCYI (93.9 Lewiston), as well as on a low-powered 94.9 transmitter whose location NERW hasn’t yet determined. We hear the next step for WHOM, until it can rebuild its destroyed transmitter facilities, will be an antenna on the new WMTW-TV (Channel 8) tower in Baldwin, Maine. WPKQ, whose transmitter and antenna are located in a different building on the mountaintop, hopes to have enough power up there by the end of this week to resume transmission from the Rock.
It wasn’t a good week, at least in the public eye, for two TV news operations in upstate NEW YORK. Here in Rochester, the long-expected axe fell on the local newsroom at Sinclair-owned Fox affiliate WUHF-TV (Channel 31), as the Maryland-based broadcaster announced that it had fired co-anchors Christine Persichette and Sherman Burdette, sports anchor John DiTullio, as well as three other full-time and five part-time news staffers.
WUHF’s 10 PM newscast will become part of Sinclair’s “News Central” operation, based at a new facility in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Reporter Melanie Barnas will anchor local inserts in the broadcast, but all national news, sports and weather will emanate from Maryland when the new format launches March 3.
NERW’s comment: We sincerely hope Sinclair is underestimating the intelligence of Rochester viewers. Our experience suggests that local viewers are very savvy about where their news comes from — and that people in Rochester won’t take kindly to seeing “their” news being delivered by someone in Maryland. And we hope somebody in town snaps up talented people like Sherman Burdette and John DiTullio soon; DiTullio, in particular, has developed quite a local following with his raspy sports delivery, and we can’t imagine why Sinclair would completely drop local sports coverage from its newscast. (2008 note: News Central was relegated to the dustbin of history three years or so after its arrival in Rochester.)
Meanwhile in Syracuse, Granite’s WTVH (Channel 5) is making headlines in journalism circles for all the wrong reasons. The CBS affiliate recently replaced its 5 PM newscast with a broadcast called “CNY Live” (following closely the format developed by sister station WKBW-TV in Buffalo for “WNY Live” last year), moving anchor Donna Adamo out of the news department to host the show.
Fifteen Years Ago: February 19, 1998 -
Hot on the heels of last week’s format change at WVOR (100.5), Jacor flipped formats at two of its other Rochester, NEW YORK, stations Wednesday night. This time, the format changes affected the FMs that Jacor bought last year from Auburn Cablevision. The AAA format of WMAX-FM (106.7 Irondequoit) and simulcast WMHX (102.3 Canandaigua) was first to go, replaced around dinnertime by Delilah and her blend of very soft AC. Delilah was followed by…Delilah, and then more Delilah, and then more, as WMAX/WMHX stunt with a unique all-Delilah format en route to a rumored soft AC format, countering ARS/CBS’s WRMM (101.3).
Round two came just hours later – 2 AM to be exact – as the smooth jazz on WRCD (107.3 Honeoye Falls) gave way to rhythmic CHR as “Jam’n 107″ — the first direct competition to ARS/CBS’ CHR WPXY (97.9) in a decade. “Jam’n” debuts with 15,107 commercial-free songs in a row; no word yet on who’ll be on the air once the talent debuts there. The long-term strategy for WRCD remains unclear, considering that Jacor has filed to move the already-weak suburban signal even further south to Bristol Mountain, where it wouldn’t reach the Rochester market — except, perhaps, through an as-yet-unbuilt 107.9 translator on Rochester’s Pinnacle Hill.
Moving along to MASSACHUSETTS, WQVR (100.1 Southbridge) could soon be putting a much stronger signal into Worcester. It’s applied to boost its power from 2100 to 6000 watts and move from its current site near the Connecticut line to a site along route 169 just south of the Massachusetts Turnpike. Athol’s WCAT-FM (99.9) has also applied to boost power slightly, moving from its current site near Athol to a site closer to Templeton and Gardner.
One of the sloppiest translator applications of all time has been rejected in MISSISSIPPI — oh, wait, we mean CONNECTICUT. W220BS (91.9) was originally applied for as 91.3 in “Meriden, Mississippi” — until someone realized that there’s a Meridian in Mississippi and a Meriden in Connecticut and you can’t hit both with one translator. In any event, the Monroe Board of Education’s petition for reconsideration has been granted, and W220BS’s construction permit has been rescinded.
And this from RHODE ISLAND: WKFD (1370) in Wickford is being sold by Jerome Gaudet to “Full Power Radio of Wickford, Inc.” (Well, isn’t 250 watts full power?) — but the new owners will have to act fast, since WKFD’s license will disappear April 9 if the silent station isn’t returned to the air.