In this week’s issue: Cannon departs “Now” morning show – Brockton’s WXBR sold – New talk lineups in Connecticut – Tower down in Vermont – Classical partnership in New Hampshire
by SCOTT FYBUSH
*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.
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.
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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 21, 2011 -
*It’s still not a done deal as we wrap up this column late Sunday night, but the impending merger of Citadel Broadcasting into Cumulus Media promises to create a 900-station behemoth that could bring some changes to NEW YORK and several other NERW-land markets.
Given all the acquisitions both companies have made in the post-1996 consolidation era, it’s remarkable how little overlap exists among their station groups. Nationwide, the analysts say, a combined Cumulus-Citadel would have to shed only a handful of stations: one in Dallas, two in Nashville and possibly (as we’ll see later in this week’s column) one in central Pennsylvania.
For the most part, though, each company has stayed away from the other’s turf. In market number one, Citadel became a player with its 2006 acquisition of ABC Radio’s WABC (770) and WPLJ (95.5) – but those stations have never competed directly with the suburban clusters that Cumulus picked up in its purchase of the old Aurora group in 2001.
Those stations – WFAS/WFAS-FM/WFAF in Westchester County; the Poughkeepsie-based cluster that includes oldies WALL/WEOK, modern rock WRRV/WRRB, AC WCZX, rock WPDH/WPDA and country WKXP/WZAD; the Danbury, Connecticut cluster that includes sports WINE/WPUT, rock WRKI and country WDBY; and the Bridgeport-based WEBE/WICC – will form a powerful suburban counterpart to WABC and WPLJ.
(And there’s one interesting “what if”: Cumulus has built out, but not yet licensed, a move of WFAS-FM 103.9 from Westchester to the WFUV tower site in the Bronx. Cumulus was reportedly trying to sell the moved-in 103.9 signal, which made no economic sense as a standalone with only partial coverage of New York City – but now that signal just might make some sense as an FM outlet for WABC.)
*Meanwhile in the Hudson Valley, Juergen Klebe’s Sunrise Broadcasting has received a license to cover for WGNY-FM (98.9 Rosendale), and it’s set to sign on with regular programming any day now.
The class A signal reaches from north of Kingston to south of Poughkeepsie, complementing the more southerly reach of Klebe’s WJGK (103.1 Newburgh, the former WGNY-FM) and WGNY (1220 Newburgh).
According to the Sunrise website, 98.9 will be carrying the same oldies format now heard on 1220 and sister station WDLC (1490 Port Jervis) – and like the Newburgh FM, it will be operating in HD, with something called “The Drive” on 98.9-2.
*The North Carolina-based Bible Broadcasting Network has been trying to sell WYFY (1450 Rome) for years now, and it’s finally found a buyer. Ron and Corinne Frisch’s Tune In Radio, LLC will pay BBN just $20,000 for the 1000-watt station’s license, plus an additional $70,000 for its real estate. Tune In Radio owns just one other station at the moment, silent WQMS (1500) in Quitman, Mississippi.
Down the Thruway, unbuilt WKAJ (1120) wants to move from Little Falls east to St. Johnsville, and to boost its power in the process. Currently permitted for 1500 watts day, 250 watts at night in Little Falls, WKAJ would go to 10,000 watts by day, 400 watts at night from a four-tower array off Route 5 just west of St. Johnsville. The daytime signal, using two of the towers to create a mostly north-south pattern, will give 5 mV/m coverage from Herkimer almost to Johnstown, neatly complementing the reach of sister station WCSS (1490 Amsterdam) to the east.
*A big shift in MASSACHUSETTS: one of the original talkers from the start of WEEI’s all-sports era 20 years ago is being relegated to fill-in status as Entercom shuffles the lineup there. Dale Arnold had been co-hosting with Michael Holley in middays for many years – but now Holley’s being moved to afternoons, effective next week, to co-host “The Big Show” with Glenn Ordway. Who replaces “Dale and Holley” from 10-2? WEEI’s not saying officially, but the Herald reports that the nod will go to Lou Merloni and Mike Mutnansky
As for Arnold, he says WEEI has assured him he’ll still get plenty of work doing vacation relief and weekends, as well as filling in on Celtics and Red Sox broadcasts as needed – but he admits (again, to the Herald) that he regrets passing up an offer to do Bruins play-by-play four years ago.
*One of the signature voices of WBZ (1030) at the dawn of its top-40 era has died. Jay Dunn began his broadcast career in 1954 at Portland’s WGAN, and by 1961 he had joined the staff at WBZ, where he was mostly heard in the 12:30-3:30 PM slot, taking the handoff from Dave Maynard and passing the baton to Jefferson Kaye (and later to Ron Landry after Kaye’s departure to Buffalo and WKBW.)
Dunn himself left WBZ in 1967, later working at Chicago’s WGN, Cincinnati’s WCKY, Philadelphia’s WPEN and WIBG and New York’s WNEW. He left radio in 1976 and went into real estate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., though he returned to New England in the mid-nineties to retire in New Hampshire, where he died last Monday (Feb. 14). Dunn was 78.
*Fresh off the success of its Kingston flip that transformed AC CFFX (104.3) into classic hits CKWS-FM, Corus has pulled a similar nostalgia act up the Seaway in Cornwall, Ontario. Last Monday, CJSS (101.9) ditched its “Rock 101.9″ format, becoming “Greatest Hits, CJSS 101.9 FM.” The station’s airstaff stays in place (though the syndicated Donny Osmond show will be added soon), and sister station CFLG (104.5) has taken its AC music mix a little more contemporary to avoid playlist overlap.
More changes in Quebec radio: with Cogeco now firmly in control of the former Corus stations, the “Souvenirs Garantis” French-language oldies network is fading away in favor of Cogeco’s own “CKOI” network based at Montreal’s French hot AC CKOI (96.9). The latest switches are in Gatineau/Ottawa and Trois-Rivieres. In Gatineau, CJRC (104.7) made the flip to “CKOI” last Monday; in Trois-Rivieres, CHLN (106.9) makes the flip today. That leaves “Souvenirs Garantis” with just two full-time outlets: CJTS (104.5) in Sherbrooke, which is up for sale, and CFOM (102.9) in Quebec City. (The network is also heard overnight on CKAC 730 in Montreal.)
Five Years Ago: February 19, 2007 -
*In other news from around the Bay State, it’s just over a week until moving day for CBS Radio’s WZLX (100.7 Boston), which is leaving the Prudential Tower after 13 years on the 24th floor for new digs in the former WSBK (Channel 38) building in Brighton, already home to sister stations WODS (103.3) and WBCN (104.1). When WZLX moves on March 2, it will leave the Pru with no radio studios for the first time since the early seventies, when CBS moved WEEI (590) and WEEI-FM (103.3) into the building. Over the years, the Pru has also been home to studios for WBCN and WVBF/WKLB/WROR, and of course its rooftop tower remains an important FM transmitter site.
More remarkably, WZLX’s move will leave Boston’s Back Bay with no commercial radio stations for the first time since the thirties; just as New York’s radio stations have decamped from midtown Manhattan for the cheaper rents downtown and in New Jersey, Dorchester and Brighton have now become the hotbeds of broadcast activity in the Hub.
*An old RHODE ISLAND callsign is returning to the airwaves, as the construction permit for 1370 in Charlestown applies for the calls WKFD. Those calls were on 1370 in nearby Wickford from the sixties until that station went dark in the late nineties, and they’ll now return to the frequency, albeit with somewhat less coverage of southern Rhode Island than the old Wickford facility had. (2012 update: the CP eventually expired unbuilt.)
*We’ll start our NEW YORK report this week in Albany, where EMF Broadcasting is putting both of its national religious networks on the air at once with a two-station LMA (eventually to become a purchase) from Ed Levine’s Galaxy Broadcasting. As of Friday, rocker “The Bone” is gone – and its simulcast signals have been replaced by contemporary Christian “K-Love” (on WBOE 94.5 Ravena) and Christian rock “Air One” (on WOOB 93.7 Scotia).
Galaxy had struggled to find a foothold in the Albany market, where its pair of class A signals was up against much bigger clusters owned by Clear Channel, Regent and Pamal/Albany Broadcasting. It’s in a stronger position in its remaining markets, Utica and Syracuse, where Levine will now focus all his resources.
As for EMF, the Albany purchases extend an upstate “K-Love” foothold that already includes signals in Rochester, Utica and Plattsburgh.
*In MAINE, WHQO (107.9 Skowhegan) applies for new calls WFMX, last used in North Carolina, to better match its “Mix” identity.
There’s a new format coming to the FM dial in central Maine, as Light of Life Ministries prepares to shuffle formats on its cluster of religious stations. On March 2, the “God’s Country” Christian country format now heard on WMDR (1340 Augusta) will move to WMDR-FM (88.9 Oakland) and its translators in Portland, Freeport and Bangor, displacing the “Zap” Christian rock format now heard there. There’s no word yet on what will show up as a new format on 1340.
*The AM dial is getting ever quieter in CANADA‘s Maritime provinces. It’s already empty in Prince Edward Island, and soon you may be able to count Nova Scotia’s remaining AM signals on the toes of one foot.
Halifax was one of the earliest cities in which the CBC moved its Radio One service from AM to FM, silencing CBH (860) in favor of CBHA (90.5) way back in 1989. Now Sydney, the principal city on Cape Breton Island, will soon lose CBI (1140). The CBC has applied to move CBI to FM, on 97.1, with 100 kW DA/123 m. If the move is granted, and once the various other AM-to-FM moves that the CRTC has approved (including CHER 950 Sydney) are carried out, Sydney will be left with only CJCB (1270) on AM, keeping company with remaining Nova Scotia AM signals CJCH (920 Halifax), CKDH (900 Amherst), CKAD (1350 Middleton), CKDY (1420 Digby) and CFAB (1450 Windsor) – and CFAB has applied for a move to FM, too.
The CBI application is only one of a pile of Sydney applications that the CRTC will consider at an April 16 hearing in Membertou, NS. Barry Maxwell Martin applied for 103.5 (26.5 kW/170 m) for a rock station, Newcap applied for 101.9 (100 kW DA/123 m) for a classic rock station, Andrew Newman applied for 93.1 (50 kW/86 m) for an AC station, and HFX Broadcasting applied for 100.9 (23.4 kW DA/168 m) for a “youth contemporary” station.
Ten Years Ago: February 18, 2002 -
One of NEW YORK’s biggest AM stations will soon be on the move again, for the second time in just over three decades, thanks to a planned golf course that would claim its transmitter site in the New Jersey Meadowlands. WOR (710) has been at its Valley Brook Avenue site in Lyndhurst, N.J. only since 1968, when it moved out of its prior location in Carteret, where it had been since the early thirties. Within a few months, though, WOR will have to tear down these three towers and its transmitter building, thanks to a “notice to vacate” issued by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.
EnCAP Golf Holdings will end up with the current WOR transmitter site, but it will have to pay for WOR’s relocation. It won’t be a long move this time; the new WOR site will be just 700 meters northeast from the current site, on a swampy spit of land along Fish Creek within sight of Exit 16W of the New Jersey Turnpike. To make it work, WOR has applied to the FCC to maintain its current 50 kW day and night, with a slightly different pattern that throws deeper nulls to the northwest and southwest, but otherwise leaves WOR’s coverage essentially unchanged. The new pattern will come from three 204-meter towers. We’ll keep you updated on the first move of a New York 50-kilowatter in decades as it progresses; stay tuned!
Up in VERMONT, Vox is engineering another big allocations move that would put a new signal into Burlington. WWOD (104.3 Hartford) would see its 104.3C3 allocation moved way across the state – and indeed, across Lake Champlain – to Keeseville, N.Y., where it would put a decent signal into Burlington. The all-important local service to Hartford would be provided by WSSH (95.3 White River Junction), which would see its 95.3A allocation changed to Hartford, with a power boost to 6 kW.
CANADA’s broadcast regulators are trying again to put some new radio stations on the air in Toronto. The CRTC reissued its call for applications this week, noting that 101.3 (the channel currently used by multicultural CHIN to relay its 1540 AM signal to the eastern parts of the city) is one potential frequency for a new station or stations in Canada’s biggest city. The CRTC also cleared up its Montreal call for applications, specifying that the call is for new AM operations, presumably on the 600, 850, 1410 and 1570 frequencies now sitting vacant.
Fifteen Years Ago: February 15, 1997 -
The folks at WHYN AM/FM in Springfield MA are mourning their late general manager. Mike Marder died early Monday morning, less than two months after he was diagnosed with leukemia. Marder had been at WHYN since early 1995, capping a career that started at Westinghouse’s KYW-TV in Philadelphia, continuing through several other Westinghouse stations, and then as general manager at several stations in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Marder was 53 years old. PD Gary James is serving as interim GM for the time being.
Connecticut TV Fun: Hartford’s WHCT-TV (Channel 18) is back on the air to beat the FCC deadline, but the station’s ownership is still up in the air. Two If By Sea Broadcasting filed a request for emergency relief last week, asking the FCC to hurry up and grant its purchase of the station from a bankruptcy trustee – and the answer from the folks in Washington was a resounding “no.”
Meantime, WHCT owner-to-be Lowell Paxson has sold his other Connecticut TV property. WTWS (Channel 26) in New London, which runs the InfoMall service, is being sold to Roberts Broadcasting. In another bit of TV fun to come, the Boston Globe reports Meredith Broadcasting is getting closer to a deal to buy WABU (Channel 68) in Boston and its satellite stations in New Hampshire and on Cape Cod…we’ll see what comes of that.
From our new home base in Upstate New York: Radio listeners in Rochester are hearing a familiar voice with a not-so-familiar name. To mark his 20th anniversary on the Flower City’s airwaves, Tony Matthews of WRMM-FM (101.3) has returned to his real name, Tony Infantino. Matthews says he never wanted to use an air name, but the programmers who were running WMJQ (92.5, now WBEE-FM) when he started in radio insisted. By whatever name he uses, his morning show with Dee Alexander is one of Rochester’s highest-rated radio shows.
Up in Watertown, radio listeners are getting used to a new FM lineup. Gone is hit radio WTNY-FM “T93.5,” and new to the air is “Froggy Country 97.5,” WFRY. Rocker WCIZ, which used to occupy the 97.5 frequency, is now at WTNY-FM’s old 93.5 spot, with a much weaker signal.