In this week's issue: Finneran leaves WRKO, Howie wants to join him - Remembering Lovell Dyett, Paul Resnik - Radio-Canada seeks Windsor shift - Stephen King pares Bangor airstaff
by SCOTT FYBUSH
*Anyone looking for stability in the world of MASSACHUSETTS talk radio isn't going to find it in the spring of 2012. While rumors continue to swirl (as yet entirely unconfirmed) about the addition of an FM simulcast to Clear Channel's ratings-challenged WXKS (1200 Newton), Entercom's bigger competing talker, WRKO (680 Boston), is losing its morning man of five years.
Tom Finneran came to WRKO in 2007 in hopes of rebuilding a public image that had been tarnished when he left his position as speaker of the state House of Representatives amidst a controversy over legislative redistricting that ended with a federal indictment and a plea-bargain. Disbarred and out of a lucrative job with a nonprofit group, Finneran launched his radio career to reviews that were at best mediocre - but he settled in alongside co-host Todd Feinburg to make the "Tom and Todd Show" a moderately successful fixture on a station that's been trying to find a stable niche in a very crowded talk radio market.
But one of the drawbacks of hiring someone who's not a talk radio host to be a talk radio host is the possibility that your host may want to go do something else that doesn't involve a 3 AM alarm clock - and that appears to be the case at WRKO, where Finneran abruptly announced last Monday that he'd do his last show on Thursday (May 31). In a statement, Finneran said he'd been offered "other opportunities" at WRKO, but that “those opportunities are of interest to me, but not compatible with the hours I keep in the effort I make to prepare for, and to execute, a well-informed show every morning.”
For now, it's not yet clear where Finneran is going (though presumably somewhere outside of radio), nor is it clear what WRKO's long-term plans for morning drive look like. Feinburg is hosting morning drive solo, at least for now, though the rumor mill is also churning about an imminent "big announcement" from former WRKO midday host (and WCVB-TV contributor) Michele McPhee that might involve a return to talk radio.
And then there's Howie Carr: the perpetually disgruntled WRKO afternoon host is once again making noises about moving on, saying in an interview on one of his affiliates (WGAN in Portland) that he's not a candidate to replace Finneran - "N-O...no mornings; it would be suicidal for me to go to AM drive" - and repeating his long-held desire to move to the FM dial - "the AM band is great for old-timers like us...but it's on its way out and I've got to get to an FM station." Carr's current WRKO contract expires this fall, and he's made no secret of his strong desire not to see it renewed.
Could that eventually lead to a move to a Clear Channel talk FM on 101.7?
As yet, that's still purely speculative, and it's likely we won't know what Clear Channel's plans for the current WFNX facility will be until at least sometime in July, when the $14.5 million sale closes. A weekend tweet from WFNX says the last full day of programming under the current ownership will be Saturday, July 21, with Clear Channel's new programming - whatever it may be - presumably taking over Sunday, July 22 or Monday, July 23.
(WFNX, incidentally, will be saying farewell in style: tickets are now on sale for a big concert June 30 at the Paradise rock club. "We Want the Airwaves: A WFNX Celebration" will feature some of the local bands WFNX made famous and appearances by WFNX jocks, as well as a preview of an upcoming film about WFNX by the same name.)
*While the message boards churned and roiled with speculation about the future of talk radio in Boston, market veterans remembered one of the classiest acts ever to occupy a prominent place in Boston talk radio history.
Lovell Dyett's death on Tuesday (May 29) at age 77 closed the books on a career that began in Washington, D.C. in the 1960s, when he was part of the first wave of black broadcasters to break down the color barrier on mainstream radio and TV. Dyett won an Emmy Award for his daily show on Washington's WTOP-TV (Channel 9, now WUSA-TV) before moving to Boston to work on the Senate campaign of Edward Brooke. Remaining active in media, Dyett worked at WGBH-TV (Channel 2), WNAC-TV (Channel 7) and WBZ-TV (Channel 4, where he hosted "Black News") before joining the airstaff at WBZ (1030) in December 1971 as host of the Sunday night "Lovell Dyett Program."
It was the first time WBZ had a regular program talking about the issues affecting New England's black communities, and it became a weekend evening staple on the station, eventually settling in to a long run on Saturday nights, where Dyett's deep voice and distinctive sign-off ("I love you. I love you madly") brought a special flavor to the WBZ lineup.
CBS Radio budget cuts in 2009 took Dyett off the air briefly, but pressure from listeners and community groups brought the show back in reduced form, running for just half an hour at 4:30 on Sunday mornings. (Dyett's former Saturday night slot is now occupied by infomercials.)
In recent months, Dyett had been suffering from kidney failure, and he was living in a long-term care facility in Melrose at the time of his death.
*A northern NEW HAMPSHIRE FM station is applying to relocate. WSCY (106.9 Moultonborough) enjoys wide coverage of the Lakes Region and beyond from its 130-watt/2096' class A facility atop Faraway Mountain, north of Lake Winnipesaukee, but owner Northeast Communications Corp. is looking to get the station a stronger signal into the most populous parts of the region, south of the lake. That's why WSCY is applying for a big increase in power and a big drop in height, going to 4.3 kW/390' from the tower on Parade Road in Laconia that's already home to WLNH-FM (98.3 Laconia) and WWHQ (101.5 Meredith).
There's a new station on the air in southern New Hampshire: WUMV (88.7 Milford) applied for its license to cover last week, extending the AAA/folk format of Boston's WUMB-FM (91.9) to the area west of Nashua.
On the seacoast, Lori D. is changing stations: she's departed Clear Channel's WHEB-FM (100.3 Portsmouth), moving over to Aruba Capital Partners' WXEX (1540 Exeter)/WXEX-FM (92.1 Sanford ME), where she's also doing middays.
*In MAINE, Stephen King hasn't been shy about the financial problems he's having with his station group in Bangor, and the Bangor Daily News reports he showed up in person last week to deliver some bad news to two staffers whose jobs were being cut. Dale Duff and Clem LaBree had been hosting afternoon drive on sports talker WZON (620 Bangor) for almost twenty years. They'd also been doing play-by-play for the station's high school sports broadcasts, which will continue with part-time talent. For now, at least, WZON is simulcasting syndicated talk from sister station WZON-FM (103.1 Dover-Foxcroft) in place of Duff and LaBree's show.
*In VERMONT, they're mourning Kevin Ohl, whose career in the Green Mountain State included mornings at the old WQCR (98.9 Burlington, which transitioned to WOKO during Ohl's tenure there) as well as WVMX (101.7 Stowe, now WCVT) and WKDR (1390), where he produced the long-running Louie Manno and Jim Condon show. Ohl had been fighting leukemia when he died May 29 at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. He was just 51 years old.
*An obituary from CONNECTICUT as well: Paul Resnik worked under several names in the Nutmeg State in the 1970s and 1980s, including "Cash Sunshine" in mornings on WAVZ (1300 New Haven), Paul Taylor on 99.1 in New Haven during the station's transition from WNHC-FM to WPLR, and as "Eddie Haskell," alongside Gary Lee Horn on the "Haskell and Horn" morning show on WHCN (105.9 Hartford). Resnik later went to Orlando to be part of the inaugural airstaff at one of the first AAA stations in the country, WMMO (98.9). In recent years, he'd been working for Symantec in Florida as a multimedia producer. Resnik died May 27 in Florida; he was 63.
*Our NEW YORK news begins out on Long Island, where one of the market's biggest morning shows is picking up a simulcast. Beginning this morning, WBLI (106.1 Patchogue)'s Dana DiDonato and Jeffrey Jameson will be heard not only on Long Island but also on Cox sister station WHTI (Hot 100.9) in the Richmond, Virginia market.
Radio People on the Move in New York City: Carolina Bermudez is departing the Elvis Duran morning show on WHTZ (100.3), where she'd been part of the cast since January 2005. She says her next move is "an incredible opportunity in TV," the details of which have yet to be announced. Over at Cumulus, there's word that Tony Mascaro, operations manager for WPLJ (95.5), will be adding program director duties (such as they are) at sister station WABC (770), filling the office vacated last November by Laurie Cantillo. And there's an HD Radio subchannel on the move: "One Caribbean Radio," last heard on WQHT (97.1-HD2) until last fall, has returned to the digital airwaves on WWPR (105.1-HD2).
TV People on the Move: After a decade as news director at WABC-TV (Channel 7), Kenny Plotnik is moving on. Plotnik announced his resignation in a memo to his staff ("the New York Yankees of TV news," as he described the perpetually top-rated operation), ending a 25-year run that started when Plotnik came on board at 7 Lincoln Square as 11 PM producer in 1987.
In Syracuse, Roger Morabito leaves WSYR-TV (Channel 9) this week for a new job as communications manager for Onondaga Community College. Morabito served as channel 9's interim news director last year, and most recently has been the ABC affiliate's interim news director.
Central New York's NPR news and talk station, WRVO-FM (89.9 Oswego), is making some schedule changes: as of June 18, the nightly old-time radio shows that have been a staple of WRVO programming for decades will be cut back to two hours from the current three, with the CBC's "Q with Jian Ghomeshi" taking over the 9 PM hour. (There will be two more hours of old-time radio on WRVO's HD2 channel, airing weeknights from 8-10 PM.) The CBC's "Day 6" joins the weekend schedule, and there's a new weekend local show as well: "Earth Eats" will feature food news for locavores, and it airs Saturdays at 4:30 PM.
That's what's happening in central PENNSYLVANIA, where the board of directors at WITF (89.5 Harrisburg)/WYPM (93.3 Chambersburg) last week approved a format change that will remove classical programming from a schedule where it had been heard weekdays from 10 AM-3 PM and in the overnight hours. "Classical Air" hosts Cary Burkett and Joe Ulrich will stay with WITF to produce local arts and culture features; their airtime will be replaced by a new lineup of network shows that will include Diane Rehm, "Here and Now," "Talk of the Nation" and "On Point."
WITF will continue to provide classical music via a 24-hour webstream at its witf.org website once the schedule changes take effect June 25.
*In Pittsburgh, Lee Ferraro is departing WYEP (91.3) after 16 years as general manager. In his time at the community station, Ferraro oversaw its growth into a full-time AAA format and its move into its own building on the South Shore - a facility that's now also home to quasi-sister station WESA (90.5). Ferraro says the move is of his own volition, and that he's not sure what's next, though he "hopes to stay in public radio at some level." The proverbial nationwide search is underway for his replacement.
*There's a call change in the Poconos: we'd already reported that WTSX (96.7 Lehman Township) was planning to change calls to WABT, and as of Saturday the change is official. If you hear an echo of "77-WABC" in the new calls at "Pocono 96.7," rest assured that's entirely intentional...
*They're mourning two Pennsylvania radio veterans this week: in Pittsburgh, Ralph Wiethorn worked in Altoona and Steubenville before joining new FM station WKJF (93.7) and its sister station WKJF-TV (Channel 53) in the 1950s. Wiethorn later moved on to WWSW (970/94.5), and was the first voice heard on WQED (89.3) when it signed on in 1973. Wiethorn served as director of the Pittsburgh branch of the Columbia School of Broadcasting in later years, and then at Dean Institute of Technology. He died May 25, one week shy of his 83rd birthday.
Over in Philadelphia, David Gomberg was better known as "Dave Neal" in a long career in news that began at WCAM (1310) in Camden and then took him to KYW (1060) as news director early in the station's all-news format. Gomberg later worked as a producer and assignment editor at several Philadelphia TV stations, including KYW-TV (Channel 3), WPVI (Channel 6) and WCAU-TV (Channel 10). He later worked as a consultant to Fox's WTXF (Channel 29). Gomberg was inducted into the Philadelphia Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame in 2010. He died early Wednesday morning (May 30) after a long illness; he was 86.
*AM radio may be fading out in most of CANADA, but that's not stopping the CBC/Radio-Canada from trying to rearrange its signal lineup in Windsor, Ontario. Y0u'll recall that the CBC Radio One programming left the AM dial there last October, when the plug was pulled on CBE (1550) in favor of CBEW (97.5) and a network of FM relays around southwestern Ontario.
That left Radio-Canada's CBEF (540) as the corporation's lone AM signal in the region - but that could change soon. In a filing last week with the CRTC, Radio-Canada says the CBEF tower site near Amherstburg, along the La Salle River south of Windsor, is facing the need for expensive tower repairs. Instead of fixing the 540 site, Radio-Canada is proposing to move CBEF up the dial to 1550, taking over the former CBE facilities that have been sitting idle since last fall. (Attempts to sell the two-tower 1550 site along Highway 3 southeast of Windsor have apparently been unsuccessful.)
Radio-Canada's proposal calls for CBEF to use the very same technical facilities (10,000 watts fulltime) that CBE used on 1550, an increase in power from CBEF's 2500 watts. To retain CBEF service in the Sarnia area, Radio-Canada is also proposing to add an FM relay up there, running 2.6 kW on 98.3. If granted, it will join an existing CBEF relay on FM in Leamington and the recent addition of CBEF-2-FM, a "nested" FM repeater in Windsor itself that signed on in April at 105.5.
*There's a new afternoon jock at Montreal's CKBE (92.5 the Beat), but "Cousin Vinny" Barrucco is a familiar voice in the city. He left Astral's CJFM (Virgin Radio 95.9) over the winter and was apparently sitting out a non-compete while waiting to join the Cogeco-owned "Beat," where he fills the 4-8 PM timeslot last occupied by AJ Reynolds.
*Dan Sys' Canadian Radio News fills us in on some new callsigns in eastern Canada: in Fredericton, NB, Astral's new 93.1 will resurrect the CIHI calls last heard on AM 1260 there (it's now CKHJ); in New Glasgow, NS, the sister station to CKEC (94.1) on 97.9 will be CKEZ; and in Shelburne, Ontario, Bayshore Broadcasting's new country signal on 104.9 will be CFDC.
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: June 6, 2011 -
*Broadcast stations in places like Alabama, Missouri and Oklahoma have plenty of experience covering tornados and their aftermath. But twisters aren't a common part of life in western MASSACHUSETTS, so when a devastating storm developed near Springfield on Wednesday afternoon, TV and radio stations in Springfield and Worcester had to scramble to respond to the sudden emergency just before rush hour.
On TV, all three Springfield-based stations - NBC affiliate WWLP, ABC affiliate WGGB and CBS affiliate WSHM - went wall-to-wall with coverage (including dramatic sky-cam images of the tornado whipping up water from the Connecticut River in downtown Springfield) as the storm approached, staying with the story late into the evening as the extent of the destruction became clear (and even as at least one of the three tornadoes passed close to WWLP's tower site on Provin Mountain, south of Springfield.)
On radio, the coverage was a little more mixed, as stations with pared-down news staffs (or none at all) struggled at first to rise to the occasion. Listeners to Worcester's WTAG (580) reported hearing afternoon host Jordan Levy announce that the staff was evacuating the studios as the storms approached, followed by several minutes of dead air. In Springfield, heritage news-talker WHYN (560) started out in syndication mode at first, relaying the Howie Carr show out of Boston's WRKO. Within a short time, though, radio stations around the area were in wall-to-wall mode, either originating their own coverage or relaying TV audio. WHYN's John Baibak and Kevin Johnson stayed on the air until midnight, simulcasting their coverage on WHYN's three FM sister stations.
Within hours, media from all over the nation descended on western Massachusetts to cover the story - not just the Boston and Hartford TV stations but also network crews reporting on what had become a national story. While those crews quickly moved on to the next big story, the local stations in the Pioneer Valley continued to report on (and assist with) the area's recovery, providing information on the availability of relief supplies and food and helping to coordinate donations.
In the longer run, the storms are already prompting discussions of how the area might be better prepared should another tornado ever hit. That preparation might include the installation of warning sirens, but it's also likely to include a greater role for radio and TV. Will broadcasters be more ready if there's a "next time"?
*For one Pioneer Valley station, the storm came at an especially bad time: the region's public station, WFCR-FM (88.5), was mourning its longtime morning host after his sudden death the previous weekend.
Bob Paquette discovered radio while attending UMass Amherst and working at its student station, WMUA (91.1), and he began his career by traveling widely, working in Montana, Arizona and California. Within a few years, he was back in Amherst working at WTTT (1430, now WPNI), and in 1991 he returned to his alma mater and WFCR. In addition to his on-air work hosting "Morning Edition," Paquette lent his voice to the UMass graduation ceremonies, reading the names of each graduate for many years. He had survived a 2004 bout with leukemia, and his death (of a heart attack) last Saturday, May 28, came as a shock to the WFCR family and his listeners. Paquette is survived by his husband, Michael Rice Packard. He was just 55.
*The week's other big story straddles the RHODE ISLAND state line, as Boston's WGBH expands the reach of its classical service into the Providence market with a deal that will place the programming of WCRB (99.5 Lowell) on Bryant University's WJMF (88.7 Smithfield RI).
The background: WCRB's move from 102.5 to 99.5 a few years back was bad news for classical-music fans south of Boston, and especially in the Providence market, which received a fringe signal from 102.5 but none at all from 99.5. As for WJMF, the college station has been sitting on a construction permit to upgrade its present 225-watt/131' signal to 1200 watts/535' DA from a new site in Johnston, closer to Providence.
That construction permit was due to expire on Friday, but before it did, Bryant reached an agreement with WGBH that will bring classical music back to Providence listeners: beginning in August, student programming will be replaced by a WCRB simulcast on the newly-expanded 88.7 signal, which will provide city-grade coverage of most of the Providence market. The students will land on 88.7's new HD2 coverage, and at least for now they seem to be making the best of it, telling listeners on the station's Facebook page that the student programming will also be available via streaming audio and iTunes, as well as on a mobile DTV channel provided by WGBH-TV.
The exact terms of the deal between Bryant and WGBH haven't been made public; in a statement announcing the agreement, WGBH said it "involves no capital commitment" on the Boston station's part. It's also not clear what becomes of Bryant's other construction permit, authorizing a new signal on 90.7 in Danielson, Connecticut, just over the border from Rhode Island.
*Radio People on the Move: Bob Stuart has been a fixture at the 92.5 spot on the dial since its days as Haverhill-licensed WLYT, and he was the only remaining member of the station's charter airstaff from its 1995 debut as AAA "River" WXRV. Now he's gone from WXRV's afternoon airwaves and from the station's website, and WXRV is seeking a replacement. Over at Entercom Boston, Jeff Brown arrives from Portland, Oregon to become the cluster's new VP/market manager, replacing the departed Tim Murphy. Brown will share the title with Julie Kahn, who's also been named New England market manager. Kahn will continue to focus on the broadcast side of the operations, while Brown will focus on Entercom's interactive media platforms. And at Greater Media's WTKK (96.9 Boston), the syndicated "John and Jeff" return to overnights, replacing David Stein.
*The week's biggest news in NEW YORK happened right after last week's issue of NERW hit the web: EMF Broadcasting's WKLV-FM (96.7 Port Chester) signed on Monday (May 30), ending months of speculation about just when the national "K-Love" contemporary Christian service would arrive in the nation's biggest market.
Early reports on the station's signal coverage from its new transmitter site atop the Trump Plaza building in New Rochelle (snapped just hours before sign-on by our tower photography colleague Mike Fitzpatrick of NECRAT.us) have been mixed: while it's providing a strong signal to Westchester County and adjacent parts of Connecticut, the new 96.7 signal is reportedly suffering serious interference from unlicensed stations in the Newark, N.J. area.
*Veteran New York City station manager Steve Swenson is heading for Washington. Swenson, who's now at the helm of CBS Radio's WCBS (880) and WINS (1010), will become the senior VP/market manager for the company's five Washington, D.C.-market signals, including sports-talk WJFK (106.7). No replacement has been named yet in New York.
*In TV news, NEW JERSEY state officials are expected to announce this week that they're handing over operations of the state-owned NJN television network to a new nonprofit being formed by WNET (Channel 13), the Newark-licensed and New York City-based public broadcaster.
The Star-Ledger of Newark reports that the state will continue to hold the NJN licenses and won't receive any money from WNET for their operation; instead, WNET will receive $2 million in CPB grants earmarked for NJN and another $2 million annually in tower-lease fees from tenants of NJN's broadcast towers. (What's in it for the state? The end of its $11 million annual subsidy of NJN's operations.)
The deal is expected to go into effect July 1, ending the existing NJN operation (including the nightly NJN News). It's still not clear what will become of NJN's statewide radio network, which is not included in the deal with WNET and Steve Adubato's Caucus Educational Corp.
MONDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: State officials announced the deal's terms on Monday, including the TV network's new identity as "NJTV." While the existing NJN newscast will end at the end of June, WNET's NJTV will launch a new nightly newscast in the fall. As for radio, the network will be split: New York's WNYC will get the stations in Trenton, Netcong, Sussex and Toms River while Philadelphia's WHYY will get the stations in Atlantic City, Berlin, Bridgeton, Manahawkin and Cape May Court House.
Five Years Ago: June 4, 2007 -
*It took several years, but one of the more star-crossed AM signals in MASSACHUSETTS has found a buyer.
WWZN (1510 Boston) has had a difficult last few years, as One-on-One Sports and its successor Sporting News Radio have tried to make a go of it as the market's number-three sports radio station, in the shadow of behemoth WEEI and feisty upstart WAMG/WLLH, with a signal that misses many of the growth areas in the market and what we hear is a very unfavorable transmitter-site lease to boot.
Over the years, WWZN has attempted to compete with a variety of local shows, including several years with veteran talker Eddie Andelman and a few seasons as the Celtics' flagship. Those stabs at local programming failed to draw ratings or profits, and last year the station let most of its local staff go and switched to a combination of Sporting News Radio network feeds and leased-time shows while owner Paul Allen (through his "Rose City Radio") put the station and its SNR sisters in Los Angeles and New York up for sale.
The Los Angeles station, KMPC (1540), found a buyer earlier this year, switching to Korean-language programming. And now WWZN and WSNR (620 Jersey City NJ) are also being sold, to a new company formed by Davidson Media principal Peter Davidson.
His new "Blackstrap Broadcasting" will spend $20.5 million (and probably a little more, as we'll explain later in the column when we get to the WSNR piece of the deal) to acquire the two stations - and no sooner had that news broken last week than the message boards and mailing lists were aflame with speculation about the future of WWZN after Blackstrap takes over.
The new company inadvertently fueled some of that fire with a press release that touted Davidson's committment to serving the needs of recent immigrants with programming in their languages, a description that fits the WSNR format (mostly Russian), but which would seem to portend a format change away from sports at WWZN after more than seven years with the format. That was on Tuesday, and by Thursday WWZN GM Anthony Pepe had issued a follow-up release saying first that "we are excited about the opportunity to continue with sports programming at 1510 The Zone" - and then that "1510 The Zone has been brokering time since 2005 and that will continue to be the business model under the new owners."
*It was almost three years ago that MAINE radio listeners staged a noisy protest against a plan to flip WLVP (870 Gorham) from Air America talk to ESPN sports, persuading Nassau to stick with the progressive talk format for a while longer. With the recent changes at Air America, most notably the recent end of the Al Franken show, Nassau faced little opposition last week when it tried the flip again. On Friday morning, WLVP dropped Air America and began picking up the 24/7 ESPN feed as "ESPN 870," and this time Nassau says there were only a few complaints. The station says it will also add some local high school sports to the schedule.
*As we noted above, the other half of the big Blackstrap Broadcasting deal last week was in the NEW YORK market, where WSNR (620 Jersey City NJ) joins the new Blackstrap group. Its call letters notwithstanding, it's been a few years since WSNR carried very much Sporting News Radio programming. Instead, its very directional signal - beamed narrowly to the east from Lyndhurst, New Jersey across lower Manhattan and into Brooklyn and southern Queens - has been largely occupied with leased-time Russian programming, a perfect fit for the huge Russian community in Brighton Beach and nearby Brooklyn neighborhoods.
We don't expect that to change under the new ownership, but it does appear that WSNR will move forward with plans to abandon the "temporary" transmitter site that it's called home for more than a dozen years, since the station lost the old (and far superior) site in Livingston, N.J. that had carried 620 since its WVNJ days.
The Lyndhurst site is being claimed by the enormous EnCap golf/hotel/housing project, the same development that led to the demolition of the old WOR site just down the road earlier this year, and Rose City had already been working to move WSNR a few miles north to a new site adjacent to the WBBR (1130) directional array. That project will continue, with Rose City paying for geotechnical surveys of the new site and Blackstrap and Rose City splitting the rest of the costs of the move from now until the sale closes. Rose City will then get half of the money EnCap is paying WSNR to move from its current site.
Ten Years Ago: June 3, 2002 -
A tornado that swept across eastern NEW YORK Friday afternoon took down the tower of Gloversville's WENT (1340), temporarily silencing the local voice of Fulton County. The National Weather Service says winds at the height of the storm measured at least 73 miles per hour, enough to topple the 180-foot self-supporting tower behind WENT's Gloversville studios. Crews were at work over the weekend to repair the antenna to allow WENT to get back on the air; a new tower will be needed for permanent use.
Time Warner Cable is getting ready to launch its "Capital News 9" all-news channel in the Albany market, and that means hiring a staff to get things going this fall. In addition to former WNYT (Channel 13) staffer Chris Brunner as news director, the station has named Mary Rozak, formerly assignment manager at Fox affiliate WXXA (Channel 23) as assistant news director. The station also has a logo - borrowed almost exactly from its Tampa sister operation, Bay News 9!
MASSACHUSETTS radio listeners will have to try a little harder to find Laura Schlessinger on the radio. After bumping the Premiere talker from mid-mornings to an 11 PM delayed broadcast, Entercom's WRKO (680 Boston) ditched the program completely last week. Occupying the 11 PM - 1 AM slot, beginning tonight (June 3), will be "VB's Pleasure Palace," a local talk show hosted by the Howie Carr producer formerly known as "Virgin Boy." (And if you were hoping to tune into VB over the Internet, sorry; WRKO, along with the rest of Entercom's stations around the country, suspended its streaming audio last week, citing the continuing questions about copyright issues.)
A familiar PENNSYLVANIA voice is returning to Philadelphia's FM airwaves. John De Bella, the longtime morning voice of WMMR (93.3), will begin doing morning drive at classic rocker WMGK (102.9) June 10. De Bella's been off the air in Philly for a few years, since the end of a stint at WYSP (94.1). Ironically, WMGK and WMMR are both under the same Greater Media corporate roof these days...
Fifteen Years Ago: June 5, 1997 -
It's been a very big week for Steve Dodge and the folks at American Radio Systems. The largest New England-based broadcaster picked up four more stations in its own back yard last week, paying a reported $6 million for Precision Media's two AMs and two FMs on the New Hampshire seacoast. ARS gets standards WZNN (930) Rochester, standards WMYF (1540) Exeter, adult AC WSRI (96.7) Rochester, and CHR WERZ (107.1) Exeter. This is the second time in two weeks that a New Hampshire Seacoast station's been bought by an out-of-town broadcaster; WSTG (102.1) Hampton, now under Fuller-Jeffrey control, ended its computerized countdown Tuesday afternoon and launched a simulcast with F-J's classic rock WXBB "Arrow" (105.3 Kittery ME).
There is no word yet on any possible format changes at American Radio Systems' new seacoast properties; it will be interesting to see whether the AMs begin picking up sports or talk from ARS's WEEI and WRKO Boston, and whether the near-CHR of ARS' WBMX (98.5) Boston shows up as a simulcast up the coast. It will also be interesting to see whether ARS can exploit WERZ's dial proximity to another new ARS station, WAAF (107.3 Worcester). WAAF's signal into Boston is notoriously bad, although it got a boost this week when ARS took over operation of WNFT (1150 Boston) from Greater Media and flipped it from a simulcast of country WKLB-FM 96.9 to WAAF's hard rock. WERZ had been one of the factors limiting a possible eastward move of WAAF (the others are 107.1 WFHN Fairhaven and third-adjacents WMJX 106.7 Boston and WXKS-FM 107.9 Medford). Could ARS slide WAAF to the northeast by turning WERZ off? Could Boston be treated to the sounds of "WAAF Methuen"? Only time will tell...and NERW will be here to let you know.
In VERMONT, correspondent Doug Bassett reports Brattleboro's WKVT-FM (92.7) has dropped the satellite classic rock in afternoon drive to go live with longtime staffer Bill Howard at the mike. Crosstown WTSA-FM (96.7) had been the only live voice in town in the afternoons with John Ashley. This is the first big change at WKVT since it was bought by Keene NH's WKNE AM/FM earlier this spring.
Just over the border, by the way, there will soon be some new TV signals coming out of Quebec. Quebec City's CKMI (Channel 5) is switching from CBC to Global, and will put relay stations on the air in several Quebec cities this September. The CKMI relay in Montreal will be on Channel 67, and may just make it into northern Vermont. Montreal's CBMT (Channel 6) is expected to get a relay in Quebec City to maintain CBC English TV service there. Also expected on the air soon will be Ottawa relays for Hamilton's CHCH-TV ("ONtv," Channel 11) and Toronto's CITY-TV (Channel 57). The CHCH relay will also be on channel 11, while Ottawa viewers will get Citytv on 60.
In MASSACHUSETTS, we find Boston's WGBH trying for an experimental television license from the WGBH-FM transmitter on Great Blue Hill. The proposed station, which NERW guesses will be a test of DTV, will operate on channel 17 with 6.839 kW visual power. NERW research director Garrett Wollman notes that the DTV Table of Allocations recently released by the FCC gave WGBH spots at channels 19 (WGBH-TV) and 43 (WGBX). The table also includes a channel 18, for WMFP (NTSC channel 62) Lawrence-Boston.