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In this week"s issue... Cichon leaves WBEN amidst big Buffalo shifts - LI"s JVC buys in Florida - Plum TV folds - Another Pittsburgh-area AM silenced

By SCOTT FYBUSH

*It"s been a week of big changes in western NEW YORK broadcasting, and nowhere, perhaps, bigger than in the newsroom at WBEN (930 Buffalo). News director Steve Cichon has become a fixture in the market over his 20-year career, starting out as a producer at WBEN, moving down the hall to WIVB (Channel 4) and then to the program director"s chair at the old WNSA (107.7) before returning to WBEN in 2003.

Cichon (photo: WBEN)
Cichon (photo: WBEN)

As news director at WBEN in recent years, Cichon has been as Buffalo as Buffalo gets - and when he"s not running the newsroom, he"s been busy writing books about the history of the Parkside neighborhood where he lives ("A Complete History of Parkside") and about Buffalo"s legendary Channel 7 news team ("Irv! Buffalo"s Anchorman: The Irv, Tom and Rick Story") - and blogging constantly about Buffalo history at StaffAnnouncer.com and on Facebook.

Which is why it was rather a shock early last week to see Steve"s announcement - yes, right there on Facebook - that he"s moving on from WBEN, and from broadcasting, at least for now. Cichon will leave WBEN on May 31, and in June he"ll launch a new company called "Buffalo Stories, LLC," where he says he"ll be "working with small businesses and non-profits to tell their story."

No replacement has been named yet at WBEN - and in the meantime, we send our very best wishes westward down the Thruway to Steve on his new venture!

Buffalo"s also mourning a local morning TV institution this week. In the heyday of WKBW-TV (Channel 7), the evening dynasty of Irv, Rick and Tom was accompanied by the morning powerhouse called "AM Buffalo," and for much of that show"s run, it was Brian Kahle hosting. Unlike many such morning shows (including the current incarnation of "AM Buffalo" itself), Kahle"s show was more than just fluff; most notably, he sparred with volatile Buffalo mayor Jimmy Griffin in 1987, ending with the mayor stalking off the set after Kahle cut his monthly interview short. (As the Buffalo News" , that wasn't a moment Kahle really wanted to be remembered for.)

Kahle and Linda Pellegrino with Ed McMahon (photo: Gary Walters)
Kahle and Linda Pellegrino with Ed McMahon (photo: Gary Walters)

Kahle started at "AM Buffalo" in 1978 and stayed with Channel 7 until 2001, spending his last few years there as an anchor and reporter after leaving the morning show in 1997. More recently, he"d been running a marketing firm in Lockport and hosting a weekly talk show on WLVL (1340). Kahle was found dead in his Lockport home Monday night; he was 68.

The general manager who was at WKBW when Kahle departed is now leaving Channel 7 himself. Bill Ransom announced last week that he"s retiring in June after 18 years at WKBW and nearly 25 years at parent company Granite Broadcasting, where he"d also been at the helm of Syracuse"s WTVH (Channel 5) from 1989 until 1995. No replacement has been named yet at WKBW.

And Ransom"s not the only Buffalo GM heading for the exits: over at WIVB (Channel 4)/WNLO (Channel 23), Chris Musial announced his retirement last week, too. Musial will leave the LIN-owned CBS and CW affiliates at the end of May, and there"s been no replacement announced there, either.

weck-timeless-smThere"s a format change in Buffalo: Wednesday morning brought a flip from soft AC to standards at Dick Greene"s WECK (1230 Cheektowaga) and its FM translator at 102.9 in downtown Buffalo. The former "Buffalo"s Breeze" is now "Timeless WECK," with Tom Donohue still in morning drive and Dial Global"s standards format filling the rest of the day. While the "Breeze" format went up against much bigger AC players including Townsquare"s WJYE (96.1) and Cumulus" WHTT (104.1), the new "Timeless WECK" has its format pretty much to itself after the demise last year of Cumulus" "Swing 1270" (WHLD, now carrying CBS Sports Radio.)

In Syracuse, Clear Channel wants more digital power at WYYY (94.5). As a grandfathered superpower class B station, WYYY runs 100 kW of analog power at 649 feet above average terrain, rather than the 28.5 kW a normal class B station would run at that height. As a result of being grandfathered, WYYY is limited to an HD power level of just 1% of that 100 kW, rather than the 4% (-14 dBc) that a non-grandfathered station can now automatically run, or the 10% (-10 dBc) that a non-grandfathered station can run with FCC permission and a non-interference showing. WYYY is now asking the FCC for special temporary authority to increase its digital power to 2,850 watts, which would be 10% of normal class B power at WYYY"s antenna height up on Sentinel Heights.

Down the road east of Utica, Mars Hill Network wants some technical changes at WMHU (91.1 Cold Spring). The relay of WMHR (102.9 Syracuse) is now licensed with 560 watts/470" DA from a site north of Little Falls, but Mars Hill is applying to move it westward to a new site near Middleville, north of Herkimer, where it would run 380 watts/745" DA, with a pattern aimed mostly eastward.

*Downstate, Steve Borneman"s tenure at the helm of Clear Channel"s WOR (710 New York) turns out to have been a brief one. He departed Clear Channel last week after just five months as station manager, a post he took after many years as general manager across town at WABC (770)/WPLJ (95.5). Another WPLJ/WABC veteran, Tom Cuddy, will be taking on additional responsibilities in his role as WOR"s program director.

*A Long Island broadcast group is making a big expansion in north central Florida. JVC Broadcasting, owned by John Caracciolo and Vic "Latino" Canales, is acquiring the Asterisk Communications clusters in the Ocala-Gainesville market. In Ocala, JVC gets AC WMFQ (92.9) and country WTRS (102.3), stations we just recently profiled on Tower Site of the Week, while in Gainesville, JVC"s new signals are smooth jazz WXJZ (100.9), talk WBXY (99.5) and country WYGC (104.9). JVC is paying $3.5 million for the five Florida stations.

wmfp-plum*It looks like Plum TV has hit the pits. Last week, we noted that the Boston-market affiliate of the upper-demo TV network, WMFP (Channel 62), appeared to be on the verge of switching affiliations to NBC"s CoziTV rerun network - and not only did that change come to pass early Monday morning for viewers in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, but Plum also disappeared for the denizens of Martha"s Vineyard and Long Island"s Hamptons, where local Plum outlets quietly went dark on cable within the last few weeks.

The network, which also included outlets at several ski resorts out west, had already gone through a brush with bankruptcy in recent years, only to be rescued by a new round of investors who"d been trying to improve Plum"s visibility in larger markets like Boston. Now it appears to be gone for good - and it"s certainly gone from Boston, where Cozi is now airing on WMFP"s 62.1 channel over the air and on Comcast cable 20.

*Barry Armstrong"s Money Matters stations have picked up two shows last heard in the Boston area on the defunct WTKK (96.9). WBNW (1120 Concord), WPLM (1390 Plymouth) and WESO (970 Southbridge) are adding two hours of Don Imus from 6-8 AM weekdays. Imus, last heard in Boston more than two years ago, is airing in a timeslot formerly occupied by Bloomberg Radio, which is itself now cleared on the bigger signal of Clear Channel"s WXKS (1200 Newton). The Armstrong stations are also carrying John Batchelor"s syndicated talk show from 9 PM-1 AM nightly; he"d been heard on WTKK right up until that talk station"s demise last year.

*Radio People on the Move: Mikey Muscatello is heading from Boston to New York City for a new production gig at Sirius/XM satellite radio - and that creates an opening at Entercom Boston, where he"d been the imaging director for WAAF (107.3)/WKAF (97.7).

*Where are they now? Adam Rivers, who made his mark in the Connecticut River Valley at Springfield"s WMAS-FM (94.7) and at Connecticut"s WILI-FM (98.3), is moving on up again. He"s been working as PD and afternoon drive at Clear Channel"s WKSI (98.3) in Winchester, Virginia for the past year - but now he"s departed that gig and is reportedly on his way to a larger market within Clear Channel. Stay tuned...

wmrq-bomba*CONNECTICUT"s John Fuller wants to relocate two of his Red Wolf Broadcasting translators. W258AL (99.5 Clinton) has been relaying "La Bomba" (the Spanish tropical format from WMRQ 104.1"s HD2) from the WMRQ tower up on West Peak in Meriden for the last few months, but it runs only 50 watts from up there and overlaps somewhat with the other Hartford-area "La Bomba" signal on 97.1 from the east side of the market. So Red Wolf is applying to move W258AL westward into Waterbury, where it would run 250 watts from the center tower of the WATR (1320) array, super-serving Waterbury"s large Hispanic population. (Correction: the proposed 99.5 site is the former WTXX-TV 20 tower nearby, not the WATR array.)

Across Long Island Sound, Red Wolf is applying to relocate translator W230AL (93.9 Montauk) from Long Island"s eastern tip to the heart of the Hamptons, some 10 miles to the west. The translator of news-talk WJJF (94.9 Montauk) now runs 27 watts from the WJJF tower, but it would jump to 250 watts if it"s granted its proposed move to the tower in East Hampton also used by WEHN (96.9 East Hampton).

*There"s a new religious signal reaching Millinocket, MAINE, where Light of Life Radio has boosted the power at WRPB (89.3 Benedicta). Formerly a 145-watt/207" class A signal serving only a remote area east of Millinocket, WRPB has flied for a license to cover its power increase to 2 kW/200" from the same site. WRPB relays the "Worship-FM" programming that originates at WWWA (95.3 Winslow).

Sure enough, the call change we mentioned last week (wherein Blueberry"s WVOM 103.9 became "WVOM-FM") was the prelude to the arrival of a WVOM(AM). Those calls are now installed on the former WRKD (1450 Rockland), the first call change there since the station signed on way back in 1952. At least for now, WVOM 1450 is still doing a Fox Sports Radio simulcast with WFAU (1280 Gardiner) and WIGY (97.5 Madison).

WKZV in 1997 (photo: radiohawk/Wikipedia)
WKZV in 1997 (photo: radiohawk/Wikipedia)

*It"s been a rough few years for small AM stations in western PENNSYLVANIA.

From Connellsville to Oil City to Carnegie to Somerset, we"ve watched as shifts in the economy have impelled station owners to surrender their licenses rather than continue losing money trying to keep them afloat. The latest entry on that unhappy list appears to be WKZV (1110 Washington), the 1000-watt directional signal that signed on as WKEG back in 1970. Most recently programming classic country, WKZV had been operating only sporadically in the past year following the death of co-owner Stanley Supinski, and there"s now word that his widow, Helen Supinski, has signed off the station for the last time and sold the land on which its two-tower directional array sits, with the towers soon to be demolished.

*There"s a new PD at Clear Channel"s "V97"(WVRT 97.7 Jersey Shore/WVRZ 99.7 Mount Carmel) in Williamsport. Adam Schraf started out as an intern at Clear Channel in Harrisburg and has been working there most recently as a traffic reporter at Total Traffic Network.

Along the arc of Paul Drew"s career in top-40 radio, his 1968-69 stop in the program director"s office at WIBG (990 Philadelphia, now WNTP) wasn"t much more than a blip between two stints programming the mighty CKLW. But we can"t let the news of Drew"s death last week pass without notice, since he was such an important force on the national level for so many years, first as a PD in the Bill Drake empire and eventually as national PD for the RKO General stations, including Boston"s WRKO (680) and New York City"s WOR-FM/WXLO (98.7). Drew was 78 when he died Thursday in California.

The Philadelphia Soul arena football team has picked up a radio affiliate for its last six games of the season. Its games will air on WBZC (88.9 Pemberton) across the river at Burlington County Community College in New Jersey.

*There are two fewer analog TV stations in eastern CANADA this week. Corus quickly flipped its CBC affiliate CHEX-TV (Channel 12) in Peterborough from analog to digital (still on RF channel 12) after receiving CRTC permission, and a similar flip will happen any day now at sister station CKWS-TV (Channel 11) in Kingston, if it hasn"t happened already. For now, there"s still analog transmission at several of Corus" relay sites - CHEX-TV-1 (Channel 22) in Oshawa and the CKWS relays in Spencerville and Brighton remain in analog. (And if you"re reading this week"s column in any of the central New York communities that still get CKWS on cable, we"d love to know if the signal is still reaching you over the border.)

ckgm-690As the CRTC"s hearings on the proposed acquisition of Astral Media by Bell continue to drag on, there"s a bit of news on one small front of that huge proposed deal. Bell is asking the CRTC for a waiver to continue owning CKGM (TSN Radio 690) in Montreal as a fourth English-language signal if the deal is approved, and a big part of the case for the waiver involves the claim that no ready buyer for CKGM as a standalone AM station exists. Enter Rogers, which intervened in the proceeding last week to object to Bell"s proposed acquisition of The Movie Network, now owned by Astral. But Montreal media guru Steve Faguy that Rogers also told the CRTC that "it would be prepared to make Bell a reasonable offer to acquire CKGM-AM and that we would be prepared to operate it as an English sports radio service."

The Rogers intervention notes that "[g]iven our sports properties (which include the Fan 590 [CJCL] in Toronto) and the fact that we now have a presence in the Montreal market with our recent acquisition of CJNT-DT, Rogers Media is confident that it has the infrastructure in place to operate the station profitably."

The next step in the ongoing Bell/Astral hearing, Faguy says, will come by tomorrow, when Bell is due to provide its final written replies to the issues raised thus far in the hearing.

Over at the other English-language commercial radio outlet in Montreal, Corus" CKBE (92.5 the Beat), there"s an opening at night now that Paul Hayes is leaving. Hayes has been hosting "Heartbeats" at night since the Bear"s launch two years ago, but he"s heading back home to England at the end of June.

*2013 isn’t even half over yet, which means there’s more than six months’ worth of gorgeous photos waiting to adorn your wall! (The pictures from past months haven’t faded, either.)

We want to make sure as many people as possible enjoy these, so we’re now offering Tower Site Calendar 2013 at half price for the rest of the year!

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: May 21, 2012 -

In the earliest years of this column, back in 1994 and 1995, one story dominated our headlines: the consolidation of Boston broadcast ownership under a handful of large cluster operators. Our first issues (then known as “New England Radio Watch”) chronicled the disappearance of independent owners and the rise of the earliest duopolies and triopolies and, eventually, even bigger clusters.

But as the early Granums and Infinitys and Chancellors gave way to today’s CBS Radio and Greater Media and Entercom, two things remained true in Boston: Clear Channel was trying to compete with a much smaller cluster than its rivals, and one old-line operator, Steve Mindich’s WFNX (101.7 Lynn), remained staunchly independent, immune to the run-up in prices that led many other independents to sell out.

On Wednesday, that all changed with the surprise announcement that Mindich had struck a deal to sell WFNX’s license – but not its call letters or modern rock format – to Clear Channel Media Entertainment for a price widely rumored (but not yet confirmed) to be $11 million.

For Mindich, it means the end of a broadcast legacy that began in 1983, when the Boston Phoenix publisher paid $1.1 million for what was then WLYN-FM, a suburban signal that had recently segued from leased-time ethnic programming to “new wave” music as “Y-102.”

Over the next 29 years, 101.7 established a niche for itself as the radio voice of Boston’s alternative music scene, breaking bands, sponsoring contests and launching the careers of dozens of talented radio people who made their way through the studios that never moved from the old WLYN-FM digs, in a run-down building way off the beaten path in downtown Lynn.

(Just a sampling of the names with WFNX on their resumes includes Bill Abbate, later with WBCN and WZLX; Sharon Brody, now of WFNX; Nik Carter, later at New York’s WXRK; Joanne Doody, later at WXRV; Tom Irwin, aka “Tai the Morning Guy” and later at WRKO and WROR; Juanita “the Scene Queen”; and Neal Robert.)

The WFNX studio in 2006

In an interview with WBUR after the sale was announced, Mindich said he’d received plenty of unsolicited offers for the station over the years, including some at the height of the market that would have paid him much better than the Clear Channel offer.

“I realized given that sustaining the station over the last four years in particular has been extremely difficult, and the recession has just really killed us, I made the decision. It had to be done,” said Mindich, who was reportedly in tears when he made the announcement to the WFNX staff on Wednesday morning.

The station had approximately a dozen full-time staffers and several part-timers, and Mindich says “eight or nine of them” were let go immediately upon the announcement.

WFNX’s airstaff (D-Tension and Henry Santoro in morning drive, station veteran Julie Kramer in middays, Adam 12 in afternoons and Jim Ryan at night) were promptly replaced by automation, though Kramer and Adam 12 were back on the air for farewell shows Thursday and Friday.

The sale to Clear Channel doesn’t include an LMA, so the automated WFNX programming (and, Mindich promises, more farewell shows) will continue for the next several months until the signal is handed over to its new owner.

See the WFNX studio and transmitter sites in this 2006 Tower Site of the Week

So what does Clear Channel plan to do with its new property? That was the, er, $11 million question on the minds of everyone in Boston radio as soon as the news began to spread.

It’s not hard to see why Clear Channel wanted an additional FM outlet in Boston: it’s the only top-ten market in which the giant broadcaster is significantly underpowered when compared to other big clusters in town. While Greater Media boasts five FMs, CBS Radio has four FMs plus powerhouse AM WBZ (1030) and Entercom comes to the plate with three FMs (two of them simulcasting) and two AMs, Clear Channel has been competing with two class B FMs and two less than full-market AMs. The FMs, rhythmic top-40 “Jam’n” WJMN (94.5) and mainstream top-40 “Kiss 108″ WXKS-FM (107.9), dominate the younger demographics in the Boston market, while the AMs are talker WXKS (1200) and Spanish AC “Mia” WKOX (1430).

It’s “Talk 1200″ that’s been at the center of lots of the immediate format speculation for 101.7: after making a significant investment in upgrading the formerly Framingham-based WKOX into a Newton-licensed 50,000-watt signal featuring Rush Limbaugh and local hosts Jeff Katz and Jay Severin, the AM station has struggled to achieve even single-digit shares in the ratings.

Is that a function of 1200′s limited directional signal, which misses much of the outer suburban reaches most likely to be amenable to the talk format? Or is it simply a matter of being on the AM band while many listeners won’t venture away from FM? In recent years, Clear Channel has become more aggressive about moving its talk formats to FM in search of larger, younger audiences, thus far with mixed results – while Pittsburgh’s WPGB has been a success, Minneapolis’ KTLK-FM retreated to AM in favor of FM sports, and the jury is still out on more recent AM/FM simulcasts in Syracuse and Albany.

In this particular case, the outlook for a 1200/101.7 simulcast appears questionable at best: if the AM signal on 1200 struggles to reach the talk audience out along the I-495 outer beltway, especially at night, the class A FM signal on 101.7 from downtown Boston’s One Financial Center gives up the ghost not far outside Route 128, limiting its reach to Boston and its inner suburbs, not the area that’s traditionally been a stronghold for WXKS’ flavor of talk.

As for a big signal increase on 101.7, it’s unlikely at best. While Clear Channel controls several of the bigger signals short-spaced to WFNX nearby on the dial, including WWBB 101.5 in Providence and WGIR-FM 101.1 in Manchester, a signal shift to upgrade 101.7 still remains almost impossibly challenging. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the intermediate-frequency (IF) spacing protection between 101.7 and WBUR-FM on 90.9 that would require any higher-powered signal on 101.5 or 101.7 to transmit from outside the core of the Boston market, surrendering the one big advantage WFNX gained in its 2006 move to its current site – good building penetration in the downtown core. (That factor alone may be enough of an advantage over the 1200 signal to justify putting talk there.)

What else could arrive on 101.7 if it’s not talk? Some flavor of male-leaning rock is a possibility, complementing the female-leaning WJMN and WXKS-FM and competing with CBS Radio’s classic rock WZLX, Entercom’s active rock WAAF and Greater Media’s alternative rock WBOS and classic hits WROR. Less likely are country (which would nibble away at Greater Media’s surging WKLB-FM but would be hampered by a weak suburban signal) and some flavor of adult contemporary, which could cannibalize Clear Channel’s own Kiss 108.

There’s a very real, very substantial hole on the Boston FM dial for two more formats as well, both of them fitting nicely with the existing 101.7 signal. A straight-on urban format like the ones that have brought Clear Channel big success in New York (WWPR) and Philadelphia (WUSL and WDAS-FM) might cannibalize too much of WJMN’s listenership. What about a Spanish-language format? Clear Channel has tried several AM approaches to the largely Dominican and Puerto Rican Spanish-speaking communities in the market, including the current “Mia 1430.” But the company’s attempts at Spanish-language FM in bigger markets have fallen somewhat flat in recent years, with a full-scale retreat in Philadelphia (where “Rumba” WUBA went from a full-market FM to a partial-coverage AM to oblivion) and only mixed results at WNUA in Chicago.

One more possibility that’s received relatively little speculation: even without acquiring WFNX’s branding, music library and staff (some of which Mindich may yet repurpose into a streaming-only version of ‘FNX), could Clear Channel keep 101.7 playing some form of alternative rock? Assuming it’s not off-limits due to a non-compete (which we’ll know more about when the sale agreement is filed, perhaps as early as today), modern rock is a format Clear Channel knows well in big markets including Los Angeles (KYSR 98.7) and Philadelphia (WRFF 104.5), it’s a good fit for 101.7′s strong signal over Boston’s college neighborhoods, and it’s a niche that will otherwise be left unfilled when Mindich signs WFNX off the airwaves for the last time sometime this summer.

No matter what comes to 101.7, or what sort of stripped-down “FNX” might survive online, that will be a sad day for Boston radio. In its heyday, WFNX was more than just a radio station. It was a cultural touchstone for two generations of young Bostonians, an entry point into the city for uncounted thousands of college students arriving from elsewhere, and a vital part of one of the best live-music scenes anywhere in the country.

And it was, of course, one of the last independents left standing, leaving in its wake only Steve Silberberg"s WXRV (92.5) up in the Merrimack Valley as a big stand-alone commercial FM voice in a city where WBCN and WCOZ and WCGY once defined what independent rock radio could be.

Five Years Ago: May 19, 2008 -

If a PENNSYLVANIA shock jock plays a racially inflammatory song parody on his show March 21, does it make an impact? In the case of Kidd Chris, morning personality at CBS Radio"s WYSP (94.1 Philadelphia), the answer would appear to be "yes - but not until almost two months have passed."Back in March, the show played a parody song called "Schwoogies," which crudely stereotyped blacks. And while the song was reportedly played several times on March 21 and at least once more on March 24, CBS Radio management apparently didn"t learn about it until sometime very late last week.

Calling the song "highly offensive and completely inappropriate for broadcast on our airwaves," WYSP fired Kidd Chris (real name: Chris Foley) and PD John Cook, and quickly cancelled a widely-publicized birthday party for Foley that had been set for Friday night.

Here"s what the official statement had to say: "When senior management of the station learned that it had been played, they took immediate steps to prevent it from ever appearing on the station again. At the same time, we launched an extensive internal investigation into the situation including a thorough review of the editorial controls and systems we have in place to prevent this type of content from airing. We instituted additional educational training for the station, and have taken appropriate disciplinary action, including termination of the individuals involved."

And here"s what we"re wondering: given that the content of Kidd Chris" show was hardly a secret, and given the kind of scrutiny CBS has faced in recent years over controversial content from Howard Stern, Opie & Anthony, JV & Elvis and so on, can we really believe that whatever "editorial controls and systems" CBS had in place could have completely overlooked the "Schwoogies" song for almost two months. And, furthermore, that CBS would just happen to have "learned" that the song had been played a few days after an e-mail went out from the group "Racial Dignity in Media" that (according to the Philadelphia Inquirer) called for complaints against the station?

Maybe we"re just cynical. Maybe it"s that we haven"t slept all week since welcoming a new baby to the NERW family last Tuesday morning (read on for the details)...but the whole thing seems more than a little odd from where we sit.

Meanwhile, the message boards are aflame with talk of WYSP"s morning-drive future. While Kidd Chris still had most of a three-year contract remaining, the station was embroiled in a tough battle for rock listeners against Greater Media"s WMMR (home to Kidd Chris" nemeses, Preston and Steve) and Clear Channel"s WRFF. For now, reports the Inquirer"s Michael Klein, WYSP will go jockless with rock in the morning, but there have been rumors of a return by former WYSP host Paul Barsky, who"s still under contract to the station, or of a simulcast of the morning sports-talk show from sister station WIP (610 Philadelphia).

Ten Years Ago: May 19, 2003 -

NEW YORK"s oldies station is slowly returning some pre-1964 music to its playlist, after gradual changes over the past few years that removed pretty much everything from WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) that predated the Beatles. No, the "O" word hasn"t returned to the Infinity station"s imaging - and, yeah, there"s still some "80s Billy Joel in the playlist - but the station made a concession to its older listeners over the weekend when it returned doo-wop music to its Sunday night schedule.

You"ll recall the outcry last August when CBS-FM eliminated the "Doo-Wop Shop" on Sundays; as of last night, it"s back, in a modified form - under the title "The Heart of Rock"n" Roll," and hosted by former WCBS-FM personality Norm N. Nite, who"s back in Cleveland and doing the show from the Alan Freed Studio at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Don K. Reed loses that Sunday night airshift, but remains on weekday overnights.

In Buffalo, we"d neglected to mention that WGRZ (Channel 2) dropped its 10 PM newscast on LMA partner WPXJ (Channel 51) a few weeks back, while we were out of town. We"ll miss the nice signal on the Buffalo news (WPXJ, licensed to Batavia, comes in quite well in Rochester!) - but we"ll be able to tune in to another sorta-Buffalo newscast in a few months, when Sinclair expects to launch its Maryland-based "News Central" on WB affiliate WNYO-TV (Channel 49); Sinclair"s bigger Fox affiliate, WUTV (Channel 29), will continue to carry syndicated shows at 10. The WPXJ newscast had been getting roundly beaten in the ratings by WIVB"s 10 PM news on sister station WNLO (Channel 23).

In NEW JERSEY, the last piece of the former Y107/Rumba "quadcast" returned to the air last week, as Press launched "107.1 the Breeze" on WWZY (107.1 Long Branch). The station shares its Jones soft AC format and "Captain Jack" Aponte morning show with sister WBHX (99.7 Tuckerton) down the coast; we hear it"s looking to return to the Long Branch transmitter site it used to use before Big City moved north to the current site at Atlantic Highlands, which improved New York City coverage at the expense of the Jersey Shore.

Meanwhile down the dial, Nassau replaced the WPST simulcast on WEMG-FM (104.9 Egg Harbor City) with country late last week; still no commercials, and word is that this, too, may turn out to be a stunt.

Fifteen Years Ago: May 21, 1998 -

The FCC has granted WXPS (96.7) a move from Vergennes, VERMONT to Willsboro, NEW YORK, on the opposite side of Lake Champlain. The 96 MHz part of the dial is getting active in New York"s North Country; WVNV (96.5) in Malone has been granted a change of class from A to C3, and the FCC has allocated 96.5A to Speculator, a tiny village high in the Adirondacks.

The folks at Syracuse Community Radio have a callsign for one of their construction permits. 88.7 in Truxton NY will be WXXC. Meantime, the FCC granted a CP for SCR"s 90.5 MHz station in Fenner NY.

The new 97.9 construction permit in Jewett (in the Catskills between Oneonta and Albany) was assigned the WAXK calls, while the 1660 kHz facility in the New York City market (licensed to Elizabeth NJ) has applied to change calls from WJDM to WBAH. The sister outlet on 1530 remains WJDM for now.

On to MASSACHUSETTS, where news director Bill Pohovey has parted ways with WHDH-TV (Channel 7); no replacement has been named yet. One of the creators of Channel 7"s format, Joel Cheatwood, was ousted this week from his most recent job as news director at WMAQ-TV (Channel 5) in Chicago. He"s being moved to a position in program development with NBC"s owned-and-operated stations. Cheatwood came under fire in Chicago for making many of the same changes he made at WHDH and at WSVN in Miami; it seems Chicago was even more resistant than Boston to the fast-paced tabloid style that Cheatwood brought with him.

A format change in the Worcester market: WXXW (98.9 Webster) has dumped the satellite oldies (and the Don & Mike talk show in afternoon drive) to go classic rock as "98-9 the Bus."
In NEW HAMPSHIRE, there"s a new station on the air way up north. New England radio veteran Barry Lunderville, who sold his WZBZ (now WDOT 1070 Plattsburgh NY) to Alex McEwing"s Family Radio, has put WXXS (102.3) on the air in Lancaster with a hot AC format. "Kiss 102""s studios are at 20 Middle Street in Lancaster; it"s transmitting with 700 watts from more than 600 feet above average terrain.

Dennis Jackson"s new 106.5 in Farmington has been assigned the WZEN calls.