In this week’s issue…Cumulus empties Geraldo's vault - It's Red Sox contract time - Gearhart makes retirement permanent - More on Bell's job cuts
By SCOTT FYBUSH
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*Whatever Cumulus' plans might be to revive its flagging flagship, NEW YORK's WABC (770), they won't include one of the station's star personalities. Geraldo Rivera still appears on the WABC website as we finish the column Sunday night, but the 10 AM-noon host hasn't been on the air since Tuesday and he won't be coming back.
On Wednesday, Rivera posted on Facebook that Cumulus' new CEO, Mary Berner, and market manager Chad Lopez "do not intend to honor the handshake deal I made with the ousted company chief John Dickey, an agreement to extend my current contract for a year."
Cumulus hired Rivera in 2012 to host back-to-back local shows for WABC and KABC in Los Angeles, then swapped out his KABC shift for national syndication a few months later. The national syndication ended in early 2014, leaving Rivera as a (presumably) highly-paid local-only host, a tenuous situation at a company that's been trying hard to cut costs at its local stations.
It's not yet clear who'll end up with the mid-morning shift at WABC, especially in the context of a schedule that's likely to be in flux again whenever either Cumulus or Don Imus decide they're done with each other. (Recall that Imus said earlier this year that when he's ready to go, he plans to just walk away from his morning show without any advance notice or fanfare.) Will Cumulus look to syndication to fill the 10-noon slot? It wouldn't surprise us one bit. Less likely, we think, are the rumors that Keith Olbermann, recently departed again from ESPN, might fill the slot.
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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, fifteen and - where available - twenty 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: December 1, 2014
*One of the bigger recent radio deals in PENNSYLVANIA is expected to close today, adding two more FM signals to CBS Radio's Philadelphia group while sending a third AM to Beasley Broadcasting.
The swap of CBS' WIP (610) for Beasley's WXTU (92.5) and WRDW-FM (96.5) is just part of a bigger deal that also finds CBS getting Beasley's WQAM (560), WPOW-FM (96.5) and WKIS (99.9) in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale and Beasley getting CBS Radio's clusters in Tampa and Charlotte.
Much as we'd love to be "Miami Radio Watch" right now, our focus is on the Philadelphia piece of this deal, and here's how it looks like things will shake out once the paperwork is all signed this week:
Beasley's purchase of the 610 facility doesn't include the WIP callsign or the current CBS Sports Radio format, which has basically just been filler anyway ever since CBS moved the WIP local sports format over to WIP-FM (94.1) a few years back. Instead, 610 will change calls to WTEL, restoring a callsign that was used for seven decades on what's now Beasley's WWDB (860 Philadelphia). Is more leased time in store for a cluster that's already leasing out its other two AMs? WWDB offers a motley lineup of ethnic talk and infomercials, but it does appear to be sold out in its limited daytime-only schedule, so we'd suspect some of those clients will be offered additional hours on the new WTEL 610. Will some religion move down the dial from Beasley's WTMR (800 Camden NJ), too?
Over on the CBS side, it appears that early rumors about a format flip at WRDW-FM are unfounded. We already knew that CBS wasn't going to touch top-rated country station WXTU (92.5), but speculation was running high that the "Wired" rhythmic top-40 format on 96.5 was headed for the exit, to be replaced by a simulcast of all-news KYW (1060). But despite KYW's signal problems in parts of the Philly metro and the handicap these days of being on AM in general, all indications now are that KYW will remain AM-only after the Beasley deal closes, showing that CBS still believes it can generate significant ratings and revenue on the AM dial in Philadelphia just as it does with New York's WCBS and WINS, Boston's WBZ and Los Angeles' KNX.
That, in turn, means some form of top-40 stays in place on 96.5. Our sister site RadioInsight has discovered that CBS has already built a new "Wired 96.5" web presence on its own servers, so the name comes along from Beasley as well. Will the new year bring a reboot of top-40 across three big CBS signals that are struggling with the format right now? We'd expect at least some synergy among Wired in Philly, "AMP 92.3" (WBMP) in New York and "AMP 103.3" (WODS) in Boston - and we still wouldn't rule out a name change to "AMP" in Philadelphia as well.
*In northern MAINE, religious WFST (600 Caribou) is recovering from a dramatic crash a week ago. A car slammed through the front window of the station early Saturday morning, scattering desks and equipment in the WFST offices before apparently backing out and driving away. The driver left a license plate at the scene, and police say that made it easy to catch Christy Paul, who still had papers from the WFST office stuck in the grill of her car when police showed up at her house.
She's been charged with leaving the scene of a accident, driving to endanger, and criminal mischief. The station says it thinks her car may have been airborne for 25 feet or more as she flew off the end of the Caribou bypass across Sweden Street and into the station; it's back on the air while it repairs the building and while station officials look into getting some concrete barriers across from the end of the bypass.
(And fortunately, nobody was inside the station that late at night, so nobody was hurt in the crash.)
Five Years Ago: November 29, 2010
Kevin McNicholas was a familiar voice on radio stations all over the Bay State that contracted with him to provide reports from the State House for many decades. Sadly, that voice was silenced last week when McNicholas, the dean of the Beacon Hill press corps, died on Thursday at 61. McNichols had been running the “Radio News Service” out of the State House since 1975, supplying sound from state political stories and other Boston news items to stations around the state that included WATD (95.9 Marshfield) and WFCR-FM (88.5 Amherst). He’d been suffering from cancer of the bladder.
There’s still no word from WBZ (1030) about a permanent choice of a new anchor for its morning newscasts, but a very familiar voice will be back behind the mike for a few days next week. Gary LaPierre, who retired in 2006 after 43 years at the station, will be the guest anchor the week of December 6. And in the meantime, WBZ has announced that veteran Boston anchor Rod Fritz, who’s been doing weekend news there, will be the temporary replacement for Ed Walsh after his last morning shift on Tuesday. Could Fritz be the permanent pick, too? That’s certainly the consensus out there in message-board land, and it’s hard to think of many other anchors out there who are as talented as Fritz, as experienced in Boston – and as available!
A format flip on the NEW HAMPSHIRE/MAINE state line: Clear Channel’s WMYF (1380 Portsmouth) quietly flipped from standards to ESPN Radio as “The Sports Animal” early last week.
There’s a morning show shift coming in NEW YORK City, where Patty Steele is leaving the “Scott and Todd Big Show” on WPLJ (95.5) next month after more than a dozen years alongside Scott Shannon and Todd Pettengill. Steele and her husband, veteran New York City programmer Steve Kingston, are in the process of buying a station in Florida, WSJF (105.5 St. Augustine Beach), under the name “Cortona Media”; it’s not clear whether her departure from WPLJ is related to the new acquisition.
In Binghamton, Equinox’s WRRQ (106.7) has completed its relocation from Windsor, far to the east of town, to centrally-located Ingraham Hill. The move changes WRRQ’s city of license from Windsor to Port Dickinson, significantly improving its coverage of the market and eliminating the station’s need to rely on translators to reach Binghamton-area listeners. “Now, everyone can get Q106.7; no need to tune anywhere else,” say the promos running (over and over again) on the new signal.
Ten Years Ago: November 28, 2005
There was a time - and it wasn't that long ago - when the NEW JERSEY Meadowlands were an undesirable place for just about anything other than an AM radio transmitter facility. From the 1920s, when stations like WOR and WLWL first built sites there, to the present day, the swamps just across the Hudson River from New York City have been the preferred spot for AM broadcasters in the nation's largest market. With the construction of Giants Stadium in the 1970s, the Meadowlands began to become desirable for other uses, too, and in recent years, the area south of the stadium complex has become a hotbed of development. WOR, as you'll recall, is losing its current site in Lyndhurst to the massive EnCap golf course/housing development that's being planned for 800 acres in East Rutherford, North Arlington and Lyndhurst - and now two other AM stations in the neighborhood are crying foul about what they say will be detrimental effects to their signals from the EnCap project.
WINS (1010) and WLIB (1190) tried to prevent the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission from granting its approval for Phase I of the project, arguing that planned 15-story apartment buildings would disrupt the stations' directional patterns, making their transmitter sites unusable. The matter will now go to the New Jersey Supreme Court, where WINS and WLIB hope to get an injunction to keep construction from starting on the housing portion of the project. It promises to be an interesting fight, and we'll be keeping tabs on it - stay tuned! (2010 update: EnCap went bankrupt, and whatever development threat existed to WINS and WLIB appears to be dead for now.)
There's a station sale to report: the Haddon family's Sunbury Broadcasting is paying $3 million to acquire WVLY-FM (100.9 Milton) and WMLP (1380 Milton) from Milton-Lewisburg Broadcasting. Sunbury's launching an LMA with the stations (which now do AC on the FM and talk on the AM) right away - and that apparently isn't sitting too well with the existing staff there, which has replaced the WVLY/WMLP home page with a message saying "We regret to inform our faithful listeners..." that the stations have been sold.
Fifteen Years Ago: November 28, 2000
A month after being charged with domestic assault, religious broadcaster Brian Dodge has left Vermont, leaving "Love 1480" (WNBX Springfield) silent while it awaits new management. Dodge had operated the station, the former WCFR(AM), since 1998 under an LMA-to-buy with owners Bob and Shirley Wolf. Dodge, who also owns WWNH (1340) in Madbury N.H., would have paid $150,000 for the station. Instead, he notified the Wolfs a week before Thanksgiving that he would be leaving WNBX and the southern Vermont area.
The Wolfs tell the Rutland Herald they plan to have WNBX back on the air sometime in December under the management of Keith Marsh, a minister in nearby West Lebanon, N.H. Like the Dodge deal, the two-year agreement with Marsh would eventually lead to a sale of the station. Marsh would begin running a religious format on WNBX in early 2001, with holiday music filling the airwaves until then. He tells the Herald he plans to change the station's call letters and add local news and sports programming. As for Dodge, he has pleaded not guilty to charges that he hit his wife and choked her with a towel at the couple's Springfield home in October. He also faces charges of violating a restraining order imposed after his initial arrest.
One bit of CONNECTICUT news on this holiday-shortened update: We now know what the new calls will be for New Haven's channel 59 when the station switches from WB to UPN (or is that just "PN"?) on New Year's Day. Since "WBNE" won't work anymore, the station will become WCTX. NERW wonders whether Tribune's WTXX (Channel 20) in Waterbury will change its calls as well when it switches from UPN to WB on the same day.
The DX clubs' mailing lists have been buzzing with the latest from CANADA: reports of testing on Toronto's 740, silent since the 1999 sign-off of CBL. The new adult standards station, run by Oakville's CHWO (1250), has reportedly been testing with an open carrier, though we've yet to hear it across the lake. No word yet on whether it'll use the CBC facilities at Hornby, or whether it will use the CHWO/CJMR site in Mississauga...stay tuned!
Twenty Years Ago: November 25, 1995