In this week’s issue…Merlin exits Philadelphia as EMF strengthens its position – Local staff slashed as WBAI fights for survival – Langer adds Cape Cod AM – Translator applicants file for CPs
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*NERW’s back from “Big Trip 2013,” and in the months to come we’ll be sorting through thousands of pictures and many hours of audio to bring you highlights of the broadcast scene in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota on future installments of Tower Site of the Week and over at our sister site, Tophour.com.
Meanwhile back home, big changes were coming to two big FM signals in the two biggest markets we cover along the East Coast.
The first shoe to drop was in Philadelphia, where it was pretty much a given that Randy Michaels’ Merlin Media group was looking to unload WWIQ (106.9 Camden NJ), the former Family Radio outlet it had purchased a year and a half ago for $22.5 million, apparently outbidding CBS Radio for the property. Merlin had big plans for WWIQ, pulling Rush Limbaugh away from his longtime home at CBS Radio’s WPHT (1210) and attempting to challenge CBS all-news sister station KYW (1060) with a morning show that was initially fairly heavy on news.
The sale of WWIQ’s New York sister station WEMP (101.9) to CBS removed some of the infrastructure on which WWIQ had depended for its news content, and within the last few months “IQ 106.9″ had eliminated nearly all of its local content in favor of the syndicated Don Imus in morning drive.
And then came the big announcement last week: Merlin was selling WWIQ – but not, as in New York, to CBS Radio. Instead, the class B signal at 106.9 is going to EMF Broadcasting, the California-based religious broadcaster that seems to have a bottomless wallet when it comes to acquisitions. The purchase price hasn’t been officially announced, but it’s rumored to be in the $19 million range, reflecting the softening marketplace for even the biggest of signals. Once the sale closes, 106.9 is expected to take on the “K-Love” contemporary Christian format now heard on WKVP (89.5 Cherry Hill NJ), while the small 89.5 signal across the Delaware River will likely take EMF’s Christian rock “Air 1″ format.
What happens to WWIQ’s current programming? We’d be surprised if Limbaugh doesn’t return to WPHT fairly quickly, giving the ailing AM talker a much-needed boost and probably reducing WPHT’s current hosts to three-hour shifts instead of their current four-hour daily shows. In a market that’s traditionally been resistant to syndicated talk, it’s unlikely the rest of the WWIQ lineup, including Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage, will get full-market clearances in the near future.
*Just as Philadelphia’s media scene was digesting the latest change among the big FM signals there, the next chapter in NEW YORK‘s longest-running radio saga was unfolding 75 miles to the northeast, where WBAI (99.5) let most of its on-air staff go amidst ongoing financial turmoil.
Unable to pay its bills – not only payroll, but also the expensive rent check for its Empire State Building transmitter site – WBAI’s local management turned to Pacifica’s national leadership, and it was the network’s interim executive director, Summer Reese, who appeared on the air at 99.5 on Friday afternoon to break the news that “we will be laying off virtually everyone whose voice you recognize on the air.” That includes the entire news department, which broadcast the final “WBAI Evening News” on Friday – but not controversial general manager Berthold Reimers, who’s still at WBAI as part of the stripped-down staff trying to keep the station going.
What remains of WBAI doesn’t appear to be sustainable, at least not for long: Andrew Phillips, formerly of Pacifica’s KPFA in Berkeley, is the new interim PD at WBAI, presiding over a schedule which will apparently be heavy on reruns and offerings from other Pacifica stations. That, in turn, can’t be good news for WBAI’s already anemic fundraising: without local content, what incentive will WBAI’s dwindling base of listeners have to dig deeper to help save the station?
Even so, there’s no indication that WBAI’s local management or Pacifica at the national level intends to sell WBAI’s remaining major asset, its commercially-licensed class B signal from Empire. Using the recent sales of two other New York-market Bs as a benchmark, it’s likely 99.5 would be worth something less that the $75 million WEMP fetched last year, and probably a bit more than the $40 million Cumulus paid for WFME (94.7, now WNSH), a B transmitting from New Jersey…but those numbers only come into play if Pacifica is willing to sell, and last week’s moves suggest it’s still not at that point.
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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 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: August 13, 2012
*Clear Channel had big hopes for WXKS (1200 Newton) when it launched the station as eastern MASSACHUSETTS‘ newest big-ticket talker back in 2010. By pulling Rush Limbaugh over from Entercom’s WRKO (680 Boston) and building a new “Rush Radio” around him, Clear Channel would take its Premiere Radio Networks talent in-house in a top-ten market, carving a hole out of the talk landscape that it hoped would drive either WRKO or Greater Media’s WTKK (96.9) out of the crowded format.
But despite the “expert” predictions at the time that WRKO would suffer a “a slow and painful demise” without Limbaugh, Entercom’s talker just kept on going, locking disgruntled afternoon host Howie Carr into a series of contract renewals and somehow surviving questionable hires like former state House speaker Tom Finneran. And by hanging on, WRKO has now thwarted Clear Channel’s plans for 1200, forcing the newcomer out of the talk format and apparently into a comedy format beginning this morning.
The story played out in installments all last week, beginning with the news that Limbaugh’s show would be returning to WRKO along with Premiere’s “Coast to Coast AM,” followed by the news that the local staff at WXKS – morning man Jeff Katz, afternoon host Jay Severin and PD Paula O’Connor – was history.
With Katz and Severin off the schedule, “Talk 1200″ (which had dropped the “Rush Radio” name after it failed to catch fire in the market) briefly rolled out an interim lineup of third-tier syndicated talent, but that turned out to be a smokescreen for a bigger change: on Friday, 1200 began stunting as “Gaffe 1200,” playing a ten-minute loop of political mishaps.
And that turns out to be a prelude to a truly new format launching this morning on the 1200 signal: “Comedy 1200″ is the result of Clear Channel’s taking control of the “24/7 Comedy” network, which has achieved surprising ratings success as a niche format in markets such as Norfolk and Kansas City.
In Boston, it appears Clear Channel will be using one of its star personalities, veteran WXKS-FM (107.9) morning man Matt Siegel, to help drive ears to its new format. Lance Venta over at Radio Insight notes that the company has registered several domains such as “MattyComedy1200.com.” Will Siegel’s heavily-promoted “major announcement” at 8:30 this morning be the launch of comedy on 1200? It makes perfect sense: why not take advantage of the big “Matty in the Morning” audience on Kiss 108 to promote the new comedy format on its almost-unknown AM sister?
Like Clear Channel’s other recent format launch in Boston, July’s “Harbor 101.7″ (WHBA), the new “Comedy 1200″ won’t be a ratings giant. But it will be cheap to run, especially compared to “Talk 1200″; it’s almost sure to exceed the 1 share that was about the best WXKS(AM) could do in 31 months of talk; and it will bring in a younger demographic than the aging Rush audience…and there’s nothing funny about that.
*Over at Entercom, the return of Limbaugh to the noon-3 PM slot promises to help WRKO regain at least some of the dominance it once enjoyed on the Boston talk landscape. Once the dust settles (no later than next week, though the imminent launch of comedy on 1200 may push things up sooner), WRKO’s lineup will look like this: Michele McPhee, recently rehired to fill the ex-Limbaugh slot, will move from 11 AM-3 PM to morning drive alongside Todd Feinburg. Barry Armstrong’s “Money Matters Radio” will continue to lease the 9-11 AM slot, followed by an hour hosted by Washington-based talker Jeff Kuhner at 11 to lead into the one-two punch of Limbaugh at noon and Howie Carr at 3.
For WRKO, the added cost of Limbaugh’s rights fees, while substantial, is a small price to pay to consolidate the talk audience; even if it will never be the mass-market format it was in the days of Jerry Williams, WRKO’s talk still attracts a devoted listener base that’s especially attractive to advertisers in an election year, and losing a competitor promises to boost WRKO’s bottom line (and likely WTKK’s as well) in the short term. And for Clear Channel, it’s likely the rights fees WRKO will pay Premiere for Limbaugh will quickly exceed whatever profit (if any) the radio division made from Rush’s presence on “Talk 1200.”
*So what have we learned? Here’s NERW’s analysis:
Signal matters, but less than you’d think. Clear Channel spent several years and millions of dollars to move the former WKOX (1200 Framingham) from the western suburbs into the heart of the Boston market as a 50,000-watt fulltimer, and it was inevitable that the new 1200 signal would come in for plenty of scrutiny after the move. Like every Boston AM save for WBZ, the 1200 signal has impairments, especially after dark anywhere west of the Route 128 beltway.
Those signal flaws didn’t help “Talk 1200,” to be sure – but despite what you might read elswehere, they weren’t the main reason it failed, either. Within 128, and especially in much of the city of Boston at night, 1200′s signal is fully competitive with WRKO, yet the new station’s ratings were just as anemic in strong-signal areas as out in the suburbs where both 1200 and 680 struggle to be heard.
Promotion matters, even more than you’d think. Talk radio listeners are creatures of habit, and by definition, conservative talk listeners really don’t like change. When Limbaugh’s show moved from WRKO to WXKS back in March 2010, it was immediately clear that not all his listeners got the message: the front-desk phones at WRKO were ablaze for days with angry callers who knew Rush wasn’t on 680 but didn’t know why, or where he’d gone. Most of Clear Channel’s attempts to promote Limbaugh’s new home up the dial were kept in-house, but no matter how often “Rush Radio” or “Talk 12oo” were promoted on co-owned Kiss 108, the message never completely got through: Limbaugh’s numbers on 1200 never came close to his audience on 680, and listeners who found Rush on 1200 didn’t automatically stay put for the rest of the new station’s lineup. Once WXKS launched its local lineup, its hosts (especially Katz) worked social media as hard as they could, but the followings they built were more loyal than numerous.
In talk radio, service elements really matter. With CBS Radio’s WBZ (1030) long established as the Boston market’s main destination for radio news, the other spoken-word players in the region have struggled to find the balance between cutting costs and maintaining the other elements that make a radio station more than just a collection of standalone talk shows. The former WHDH (850) tried to compete with its own all-news block in morning drive in the early 1990s, to no avail; WRKO, for its part, experimented with outsourcing local newscasts but eventually brought them back in-house, realizing that part of what has kept the station successful is its emphasis on the news and traffic that surrounds its talkers.
Over at Clear Channel, WXKS struggled with the question of “stationality”: it launched as a low-cost operation without much local Boston flavor to surround Beck and Limbaugh and Hannity, and while it added a small local news operation in drivetime, 1200 never picked up an image as a place to turn for breaking news, or for much else beyond its talk lineup. Might it have been different if 1200 had picked up even a second-tier sports franchise, or developed a signature community event? We’ll never know – but it’s safe to say that one reason WRKO retained listener loyalty even without Limbaugh was the reputation it built over decades of doing more than just talk.
Rush is a draw, but not enough to build a whole new station. Without Limbaugh, 1200 probably wouldn’t have registered in the ratings at all. But something didn’t go according to plan even with talk radio’s most powerful voice on board. Even limited to areas where both stations enjoyed competitive signals, Limbaugh’s audience from 680 didn’t (you’ll excuse the pun) “rush” to find him in his new home up the dial, and the “Rush Radio” branding from 1200′s launch didn’t even survive a year. It’s worth noting that after launching a flurry of new “Rush Radio” outlets prior to Boston, Clear Channel didn’t launch any new ones after WXKS made its initial flop. Will Rush’s return to 680 restore the ratings the station enjoyed before 2010? Those numbers will be closely watched, no doubt, in the next few months.
*In other Bay State news, WGBH is growing again. The Boston public broadcaster is picking up some of the slack across the border at NEW HAMPSHIRE Public Television after budget cuts severely reduced state funding for NHPTV. A new partnership between the two broadcasters will have WGBH handling programming duties for NHPTV – and that means a new schedule that syncs up the main “NHPTV Prime” service with WGBH’s main 2.1 channel and “NHPTV Explore” with WGBX 44.
The synchronized schedules will mean the end to cross-border viewing: NHPTV’s flagship station, WENH (Channel 11), will be removed from the Massachusetts cable systems that have carried it for decades, while WGBH will disappear from New Hampshire cable systems. Over the course of the next year or so, NHPTV members in Massachusetts will be encouraged to renew instead with WGBH, and vice-versa. Behind the scenes, NHPTV has shed 20 staffers, and it’s now an independent agency separate from the University of New Hampshire, which long held the licenses for WENH and its sister stations.
Local program production will continue at NHPTV’s Durham studio, but those productions will now be seen only in the Granite State, a big reduction in potential audience from the days when WENH was a welcome alternative to WGBH for many Boston-area viewers.
*Meanwhile, a southern New Hampshire TV icon is returning to the small screen. Charismatic weatherman Al Kaprielian was a staple on Derry’s channel 50 in its days as WNDS, and after a brief absence he returned to the station when it became WZMY. Its most recent flip to WBIN under new owner Bill Binnie once again pulled Kaprielian off the air, but you can’t keep a good screechy-voiced weatherman down: he’s back on WBIN doing hourly forecasts from 2-9 PM daily, starting next Monday.
*Radio People on the Move: Scott Zolak, the Patriots quarterback-turned-talk-host, is now officially part of the Pats’ radio team on flagship WBZ-FM (98.5 Boston), where he’s been named to join veteran play-by-play man Gil Santos for Santos’ final season with the team. Zolak replaces another former Pats player, Gino Cappelletti, in the team’s radio booth.
*Today’s launch day for “RadioBDC,” the new online alternative-rock station hosted by the Globe‘s Boston.com and staffed by many of the jocks and programmers who used to be part of WFNX (101.7), including PD Paul Driscoll and jocks Julie Kramer, Adam 12 and Henry Santoro. The new stream will officially kick off at noon, up against the “WFNX.com” online remainder of the old WFNX operation.
*In CONNECTICUT, WLAT (910 New Britain) wants to lose one of its four towers at night. Reducing its night pattern to just three towers will mean a power drop from 5000 watts to 2800 watts at the Gois Broadcasting station, which will remain 5000 watts non-directional by day. (It will also open up a big chunk of land that can apparently be sold off for new housing. )
On the FM dial, John Fuller’s Red Wolf Broadcasting has expanded its reach to Bridgeport with the acquisition of translator W285DE (104.9). It’s broadcasting the “La Bomba” Spanish hits format from the HD2 of Red Wolf’s WMRQ (104.1 Waterbury), which is also heard via translator in the Hartford market.
*There’s a tower missing in NEW YORK‘s Southern Tier, too, but WYOS (1360 Binghamton) didn’t intend to drop from three towers to two over the weekend – but it wasn’t counting on a tractor catching the guy wires, either, partially topping one of the end towers in the in-line array. WYOS normally runs 5000 watts during the day and 500 watts at night from all three towers, and the job of rebuilding the damaged tower gets to fall on a new owner, since the ESPN Radio affiliate just changed hands from Cumulus to Townsquare Media at the start of August.
*Back upstate, WUSP (1550 Utica) is now in the hands of its new owners-to-be, Good Guys Broadcasting. The new owners are moving quickly to separate the station from its former FM sister, WUTQ (100.7 Utica), which retained the AC/talk format that had been heard on 1550, its FM translator at 95.5, and WRCK (1480 Remsen). WUTQ’s weekend ethnic programming remains on the 1550/1480/95.5 trimulcast, which is also featuring Good Guys co-owner Tom Coyne in morning drive and veteran Utica broadcaster Hank Brown from 9 AM until noon. The new WUSP is carrying New York Mets baseball and will be picking up New England Patriots football in the fall.
*In Dansville, WDNY (1400) made a format segue Friday afternoon, as owner Genesee Media flipped the station from adult standards to an adult hits mix that’s heavy on the 1970s.
*Radio People on the Move: Bethany Watson is the new morning co-host on the Elvis Duran morning show based at New York’s Z100 (WHTZ 100.3 Newark). Watson moves to New York from KDWB in Minneapolis to take the role last filled by Carolina Bermudez. Back in the Finger Lakes, Sammy Carillo is the new program director at Bath-based Family Life Network, which added a new signal last week when WCOM-FM (89.3 Silver Creek) signed on along the Lake Erie shore south of Buffalo. Northeast of Buffalo in Medina, WFWO (89.7) has applied for a license to cover, though our ears in Orleans County don’t report having heard the black gospel station (programmed from Buffalo, in the old WKBW-TV studios at 1420 Main Street) on the air at all yet.
*In Syracuse, Saundra Smokes had just started her broadcast career a few weeks ago, building on her long experience as a Post-Standard reporter to host a Saturday talk show on Clear Channel’s urban “Power 620″ (WHEN). The veteran journalist died suddenly on Monday after suffering a heart attack and collapsing at home. She was just 57.
*In New York City, Peter Straus was one of the legendary names in radio ownership, making WMCA (570) one of the nation’s most distinctive radio voices during the three decades in which he controlled the station.
Straus took over WMCA from his father, Nathan Straus Jr., in the 1950s, and under his leadership the station became the top-40 home of the “Good Guys,” riding the wave of Beatlemania to a solid competitive spot against 50,000-watt competitors such as WMGM, WINS and WABC. But Straus’ WMCA did more than just play music: it offered incisive editorials penned by Straus himself, and in 1969 it began a transition that made it the city’s first full-time talk radio outlet.
With hosts such as Alex Bennett, Bob Grant, Barry Farber and “Long John” Nebel, WMCA offered a spectrum of opinions that would be unrecognizable in today’s compartmentalized talk landscape, and it held on against bigger competitors (once again, WABC) until 1987, when Straus sold the station for $10 million.
Straus also owned stations elsewhere, including WGVA (1240) upstate in Geneva, and he raised a third generation of Straus family broadcasters; his son, Eric, owned a cluster of stations in the Hudson Valley and later launched radiohelpwanted.com and several other sites linking radio to the Internet.
Straus served as director of the Voice of America under President Carter from 1977-1979 and held several other international positions as well. He died Monday at his Manhattan home, at age 89.
*On TV, today is launch day for the new MundoFox network, the bilingual effort by Fox to target Hispanic audiences. While much of MundoFox’s effort is being aimed at the southwest, the new web launches with three low-power affiliates in NERW-land: WPXO-LD (Channel 34) in New York City, WFXZ-CD (Channel 24) in Boston and WPSJ-CD (Channel 8) in Philadelphia.
*A year after its launch, western PENNSYLVANIA‘s new NPR news outlet is rebranding. Pittsburghers are modest people by nature, and when the former WDUQ (90.5) changed hands to a new group called Essential Public Media, the new “Essential Public Radio” branding for the station apparently came off a little heavy-handed, especially in the hands of the station’s mostly out-of-market new management.
That’s why the station is now going just by its calls, WESA – and the identity change comes with a schedule reboot that includes an extra hour of “Morning Edition” from 9-10 AM in place of “The Takeaway,” which is itself about to reboot as a midday hour. WESA is also replacing “On Point” and “Tell Me More” with the “Diane Rehm Show” – and no, it says it won’t consider bringing back the jazz programming that went away with the demise of WDUQ last summer.
WDUQ’s former general manager is back in the world of public radio: after a year working with other nonprofits, Scott Hanley is on his way to Birmingham, Alabama to be the new general manager at WBHM (90.3), licensed to the University of Alabama – Birmingham.
*In Philadelphia, All Access reports WBEB (101.1) has cut several sales and engineering staffers as well as production guy/weekend jock Mark Shepperd, who’d been with the station only six months. Over at Clear Channel’s WIOQ (102.1), the search is on for a new program director as Tim “Romeo” Herbster moves up to a new national role as VP/national programming projects.
*The big news from CANADA continues to be the fight over Bell’s proposal to convert Montreal’s CKGM (990, soon to be 690) from English to French. Wrapped up in the larger issue of Bell’s as-yet-ungranted purchase of Astral Media, the CKGM conversion has drawn a record response at the CRTC. Last week, the Montreal Canadiens weighed in, asking the CRTC to grant Bell an exemption allowing it to exceed the usual ownership cap in order to keep CKGM’s English-language sports format; meanwhile, the Parti Quebecois, one of Quebec’s largest political parties, has weighed in opposing the sale of Astral to Bell at all.
*In Ottawa, veteran program director Doug Anderson has retired after 35 years in the business, most recently programming CKBY (Y101). Joel Lamoreaux moves from Rogers Radio in North Bay to replace Anderson in Ottawa.
Five Years Ago: August 11, 2008
*Non-compete contracts became a thing of the past for broadcast employees in NEW YORK State as of Thursday, when Gov. David Paterson signed the Broadcast Employees Freedom to Work Act. The legislation was strongly supported by AFTRA, but faced intense opposition from the New York State Broadcasters Association, which attempted to rally its members to lobby against the bill.
The governor, however, was sympathetic to the case presented by AFTRA and its members. “The contract provisions we’re banning placed an unfair burden on these professionals by limiting their ability to move to other employers within the same market or within a certain time period,” Paterson said in a statement after signing the bill. “With the approval of this bill, we hope to empower broadcasters with greater independence as they pursue employment options.”
At least here in western New York, the immediate question raised by the bill’s passage was, “what happens to Brother Wease?” The former WCMF (96.5 Rochester) morning man has been off the air since his contract dispute with WCMF’s new owners, Entercom, flared up late last year; while he’s now working for Clear Channel, we’re told other provisions of Wease’s Entercom contract will still keep him off the air until around Thanksgiving, when he’ll reappear at Clear Channel’s WFXF (95.1 Honeoye Falls).
*There’s one other Clear Channel Rochester note to offer this week: WHTK (1280 Rochester) quietly changed its branding from “Hot Talk 1280″ to “Sportstalk 1280″ last week. We’re sure that has nothing, nothing at all, to do with the impending format change at Entercom’s WROC (950 Rochester), which has apparently registered “sportsradio950espn.com” as a new domain name.
*The biggest news out of New York City was also from Clear Channel, as yet another PD is departing its cluster there. This time it’s Bob Buchmann, PD of WAXQ (104.3 New York), whose exit next week will put Tom Poleman, the cluster’s senior VP/programming, in control of Q104.3, assisted by APD Eric Wellman. Buchmann’s 2-4 PM airshift will be divided between middayer Maria Milito and afternoon jock Ken Dashow.
(Another former New York PD also exited Clear Channel last week; Kevin Metheny had spent a decade with CC’s Cleveland cluster, but is probably best known, forever, as the WNBC programmer dubbed “Pig Virus” in Howard Stern’s “Private Parts” book and immortalized by Paul Giamatti as “Pig Vomit” in the movie version; there’s no word yet on where Metheny is headed next.)
*Over on the New York AM dial, Wednesday (Aug. 6) marked the debut of Salem’s new talker. WNYM (970 Hackensack NJ) wrapped up several days of stunting (including an all-Sinatra day) with an hour of a countdown clock, followed by a brief welcome to its talk format, then right into the Mike Gallagher show. While there are no strictly local shows on WNYM, Salem is trying to create as many links as it can between its syndicated lineup and the city, most notably in the case of Gallagher, the former WABC morning man whose program originates from the Empire State Building. The rest of the lineup includes the Wall Street Journal Report (5-6 AM), Bill Bennett (6-9 AM), Dennis Prager (noon-3 PM), Michael Medved (3-6 PM), Hugh Hewitt (6-9 PM), Laura Schlessinger (9-midnight), John Gibson (midnight-3 AM) and Jim Bohannon (3-5 AM). WNYM brings Fox News Radio an hourly clearance in New York as well, with Metro Networks providing local news headlines.
*While we’re across the Hudson, we note that Arthur Liu’s Multicultural Broadcasting has been granted a construction permit to power WNSW (1430 Newark) up to 10 kW days/7 kW nights from the site in Clifton, NEW JERSEY that it now shares (under Special Temporary Authority, at reduced power) with WPAT (930 Paterson). WNSW’s former 5 kW site in Union, N.J. was demolished last year. In order for WNSW to power up, another Multicultural station has to be moved. The FCC also granted WNYG (1440 Babylon) a CP to move east to Medford, where it will diplex on the existing site of WLIM (1580 Patchogue), running 1 kW days, 190 watts nights, DA-N. Liu will have six months to sell WNYG, which was grandfathered over the limit of five AM signals allowed in a single market.
(And we’d note that WNYG’s move will end a very long history of broadcasting from the little brick building alongside Route 109 in Babylon; it seems as though almost everyone in Long Island radio history passed through those studios at one time or another during their many years as home to WNYG and its erstwhile sister station, WBAB-FM.)
*Moving back upstate, Citadel’s split with Opie and Anthony extended to Buffalo last week, as the New York-based morning duo vanished from the airwaves of WEDG (103.3), abruptly replaced by PD “Evil” Jim Kurdziel, who says he’s there only temporarily. Don’t expect a morning return for Shredd and Ragan, now well-established in afternoons at WEDG; instead, Kurdziel is looking for a new local morning show for the station.
*Canandaigua’s WCGR (1550) quietly changed formats last week. The little daytimer had been part of the Finger Lakes Radio Group’s “Finger Lakes News Network,” based at sister station WGVA (1240 Geneva), but once WGCR’s AM signal began simulcasting on translator W283BF (104.5), we hear there were some territorial squabbles with Rochester’s big-signal WHAM (1180) over rights to Michael Savage, who’s heard live at 6 PM on FLNN and delayed later at night on WHAM. In any event, WCGR is now running satellite oldies, leaving FLNN on its remaining affiliates – WGVA, WAUB (1590 Auburn) and WFLR (1570 Dundee).
(A few more Finger Lakes translator notes – in Ithaca, Saga’s two AM stations are now being heard on the FM dial – WHCU 870 on W238AA 95.5, formerly a relay of WYXL 97.3, and WNYY 1470 on W276AO 103.3, formerly on 103.1 as a relay of WQNY 103.7.)
*In Watertown, Intrepid Broadcasting’s WBLH (92.5 Black River) debuted for real August 1, ending a month and a half of stunting (we never did get to hear its 45-minute loop, alas) with the sign-on of an adult hits format as “Your Tunes 92.5.” WBLH’s studios are in the J.B. Wise Plaza, just north of Public Square in downtown Watertown.
*And we close our Empire State report this week with several obituaries:
Joe Famm was born Joe Famiglietti 92 years ago, starting his media career with the old New York Mirror. When the paper folded, “Joe Famm” moved to WABC, serving as City Hall bureau chief for many years, as well as president of the New York Press Club. Famiglietti’s wife, Pamela, had died in June.
Floyd Misek was known as “Floyd the Food Guy” to viewers of Rochester’s R News and its Time Warner cable sister stations around the state. After leaving R News in 2004, Misek had been hosting programs for Rochester’s Marketplace Liquors on WHEC (Channel 10); earlier in his career, he’d written for the Watertown Daily Times as “Dr. Lazaro.” An accomplished chef and caterer, and a good friend and former colleague to your editor, Misek died Aug. 1 in New York of a brain tumor. He was just 58.
We vividly recall the national headlines back in 1979 when Ragan Henry became the first African-American owner of a commercial TV network affiliate as his BENI Broadcasting purchased WHEC-TV from Gannett. In several decades of TV and radio ownership, his holdings also included Philadelphia’s WWDB-FM and Atlanta’s WAOK/WVEE. Henry died July 26 at age 74 after a long illness; he didn’t want his passing announced immediately, and news of his death emerged only late last week.
And as the world mourns Isaac Hayes, who died Sunday (Aug. 10) at his Memphis home, we recall that in addition to his tremendous musical career, Hayes was also a New York City morning host, doing mornings on WRKS (Kiss 98.7) from 1996-1999, then continuing as local host after the station picked up the Tom Joyner syndicated show from 1999-2002. Hayes would have turned 66 next week.
*In PENNSYLVANIA, Miss Jones is history at Radio One’s WPHI (100.3 Media/Philadelphia), just a month after moving her morning show there from its original home at New York’s WQHT (97.1). For now, WPHI is running a music-intensive morning show as it looks for a new host.
*Across town at CBS Radio’s WYSP (94.1 Philadelphia), Jeff Sottolano has been promoted from music and marketing director to PD, filling the gap left in May by the dismissal of John Cook. Sottolano has had a meteoric rise within the company, starting just seven years ago as an intern at Rochester’s WZNE (also 94.1) and rising to PD at that station before moving to WYSP in 2006.
*CBS Radio’s talker WPHT (1210 Philadelphia) is reworking its evening lineup. With the departure of Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli from the 6-10 PM Monday-Thursday/9 PM-midnight Friday slot (he’ll now be heard Sunday nights at 10), Dom Giordano moves up from late nights to fill Mazzarelli’s “1210 Tonight” slot.
*In Pittsburgh, there’s a new local sports lineup at ESPN Radio’s WEAE (1250) to fill the hole left by the firing of Mark Madden a few months back. Stan Savran, who worked at WEAE’s predecessor WTAE, then later went to Clear Channel’s WBGG (970), returns to 1250 to anchor the 10 AM-1 PM show alongside Guy Junker and Chris Mack. From 3-6 PM, Scott Paulsen, late of WDVE, WTZN and (briefly) KDKA, is now working with former WEAE middayer Eddy Crow and former Steelers defensive back Mike Logan.
*Speaking of KDKA, the venerable station is for sale for the first time in its 88 years. CBS Radio announced last week that it’s looking to downsize its station holdings, spinning off about 50 stations in smaller markets. That could include the Hartford, CONNECTICUT cluster, complete with the big 50 kW signal of WTIC (1080) – and employees in Pittsburgh were told last week that their stations are being shopped around as well. NERW notes that while the name on the license has changed over the years, from Westinghouse to CBS to Infinity and back to CBS, KDKA has never been offered for sale. In the face of a slumping market and tough competition from FM talker WPGB (104.7), would this heritage signal bring as much value now as it would have a few years ago – and would a new owner tolerate the interference from WBZ (1030 Boston)’s digital signal, a tradeoff CBS is now willing to make internally?
*In the Erie market, WYNE (1530 North East) was off the air last week after a fire destroyed its transmitter facility. The fire was apparently set by teenage arsonists seeking to cover up a burglary at a dentist’s office – which happened to occupy the building that was once the studios for WHYP (1530/100.9) and their successor stations WEYZ/WRKT, and which was still home to the transmitter for 1530. WYNE returned to the air Friday after putting up a smaller transmitter structure to replace the damaged building; its studios in downtown North East were not damaged.
*Down the road in Erie proper, budget cuts at Citadel claimed the job of WXKC (99.9) morning newsman Dave Benson, who was sent packing after the August 4 morning show. Benson had been with “Classy 100″ for over two decades.
*And we have three obituaries from the Keystone State to close out this section of our report:
Ed Harvey, who died August 6 in Malvern, began his Philadelphia broadcast career in 1951 when he joined WCAU radio and TV as an announcer. In 1960, he became the first talk host in the city to take phone calls on-air, and he continued to host “The Talk of Philadelphia” as WCAU transitioned from full-service to full-time talk. (He also continued to do other announcing, incuding calling the Eagles’ last championship season in 1960.) Harvey left WCAU in the early seventies, working in PR, but he kept a hand in radio, spending a brief time as owner of WYIS (690 Phoenixville, now WPHE). Harvey was 92.
James McKenna, who died July 23 in Hightstown, N.J., was best known for his long career as a Washington attorney, representing clients including ABC. But he was also a station owner in the seventies and eighties, with holdings that included WCMB/WSFM (now WTKT/WHKF) in Harrisburg, as well as WWQM in Madison, Wisconsin and KQRS in Minneapolis. McKenna was 90.
And Edie Huggins, who died July 29 in Philadelphia, blazed a pioneering trail as the first black woman to work on-air as a TV reporter in the city. Huggins spent 42 years at WCAU-TV (Channel 10), starting as a features reporter on John Facenda’s “Big News Team,” anchoring the midday “What’s Happening” show and more recently working as a street reporter and host of the “Huggins’ Hero” segments. Huggins, who had been battling cancer, was 72.
*In RHODE ISLAND, they’re awaiting the reissue of the Providence Arbitron ratings after the book was abruptly withdrawn last week. Arbitron says six diaries were returned from a “media-affiliated” household in East Greenwich, R.I., and that those diaries substantially affected ratings for WPRO (630 Providence)/WEAN (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale).
The Boston Herald and other media outlets immediately focused on WPRO’s morning host, John DePetro, who happens to live in East Greenwich, and local TV newscasts led with video of DePetro in his car leaving the station, saying little of substance about the issue. The Herald reported that the six questionable diaries claimed to be from three women and three men, all aged 27-34, who reported 109 hours of listening to DePetro’s show – and that the spring book jumped WPRO from 11th place (with a 2.0) to fourth place (with a 6.8) among listeners 25-54.
What will the revised numbers say – and will DePetro’s job be affected? Stay tuned…
*The public TV station serving western MASSACHUSETTS will leave the analog airwaves earlier than planned. WGBY (Channel 57) announced last week that it will turn off its analog signal November 5, retiring an aging analog transmitter that has been operating at half-power and easing the transition that will replace the current WGBY-DT (Channel 58) with a new signal on channel 22, currently home to the analog signal of NBC affiliate WWLP-TV. (WWLP-DT will remain on its present channel, 11.)
*In Boston, the second local newscasts in HD hit the airwaves at noon on July 29, when WHDH (Channel 7) quietly inaugurated its HD broadcasts. “7 News in HD” is being seen not only on WHDH-DT, but also at 10 PM on sister station WLVI-HD. There’s no word on when the remaining two standard-def local newscasts, CBS’ WBZ-TV/WSBK and Fox’s WFXT, will go HD.
*In Fall River, Keri Rodrigues has departed WSAR (1480), where she was PD/news director and morning co-host, to join the Bristol County District Attorney’s office. In her new job as assistant director of community affairs, she’ll be focusing on child and senior abuse; Hector (“Happy Hec”) Gauthier continues in morning drive on WSAR.
*And we join in mourning one of the giants of Boston TV news. At various times in his long career, Jim Thistle served as news director for WKBG-TV (Channel 56, now WLVI); WBZ-TV (Channel 4), where he expanded the evening newscasts to 90 minutes; WCVB (Channel 5), where he served as news director from 1974-1982 at the peak of the station’s local prominence; and WNEV (Channel 7, now WHDH-TV), where he worked from 1988-1990. In his later years, Thistle turned to academia, joining the Boston University faculty in 1982 and training a new generation of TV reporters, anchors and producers. Thistle had been battling cancer; he was 66 when he died July 29 at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
*In MAINE, the closing of the $11 million Blueberry Broadcasting purchase of the former Clear Channel stations in Augusta and Bangor brought some personnel changes. Jack O’Brien, who’d been working as operations manager for Citadel’s stations in Des Moines, Iowa, returns to Maine to be director of programming and operations for the stations. That sent Steve “Reverend” Smith, who’d had the PD/OM roles at WTOS (105.1 Skowhegan), packing; also out at WTOS are APD/afternoon jock Chris Rush and midday jock Jessie.
*In CANADA, Newcap is expanding its footprint in Ontario with the C$18.95 million purchase of 12 FM stations from the Haliburton Broadcasting Group. The stations are the “Moose FM” outlets in the Muskoka, North Bay and Timmins areas; it appears that Haliburton keeps its French-language stations in Sudbury, Timmins, Hearst and Kapuskasing, as well as its “Moose” station in Haldimand/Norfolk (CKJN 92.9) and CIYN (The Coast) in Kincardine, but we won’t know for certain until the assignment application is filed with the CRTC.
In Toronto, changes are underway now that Moses Znaimer has taken control of CFZM (740); the station’s standards format will give way to at least one talk show beginning today, when Dale Goldhawk launches the 10 AM-1 PM “Goldhawk Fights Back” show. A preview of the show on Goldhawk’s website identifies Znaimer’s target audience as “Zoomers – boomers with a zest for life,” which may give a clue as to the station’s new calls. (They’re also Znaimer’s initials, reversed, to complement sister station CFMZ 96.3.)
And we note the passing of Richard Dolph “Dick” Buchanan, whose family put CKPC in Brantford, Ontario on the air in 1923. Buchanan had owned CKPC (1380) and CKPC-FM (92.1) since 1972, when he purchased the stations from his mother. Buchanan recently boosted power on both signals – to 25 kW on the AM and 80 kW on the FM – and took pride in keeping both stations live and local around the clock. Buchanan died July 29 after a battle with cancer. He was 76.
Ten Years Ago: August 11, 2003
*One of CANADA’s largest broadcasters is taking an interest in the radio scene across the border. Standard Radio, which owns Toronto’s CFRB, Montreal’s CJAD, CJFM and CHOM and Ottawa’s CKQB, among others, bought a 25% interest (the maximum allowable to a foreign owner) in Martz Communications last week, giving it a piece of a broadcaster that’s been giving it headaches in Montreal.
*Tim Martz has long specialized in border broadcasting, buying and selling stations everywhere from Calais, Maine to northern Minnesota with an eye towards sending his signals across the border into Canada. At the moment, his station group includes nine stations in northern New York: top 40 WYUL (94.7 Chateaugay), oldies WICY (1490 Malone), country WVNV (96.5 Malone), top 40 “Yes FM” WYSX (98.7 Ogdensburg)/WYSI (96.7 Canton), AC WVLF (96.1 Norwood), oldies WMSA (1340 Massena), rock WRCD (101.5 Canton) and country WNCQ-FM (102.9 Morristown) – and of those, the one that’s the biggest concern to Standard is WYUL, which puts a signal into much of Montreal, yet is unbound by the Canadian regulations on hit music content, language (unlike the Montreal stations, it can give traffic reports in French and English) and Canadian music content.
*With Standard’s money in the picture, will WYUL ease up on its attacks on Standard’s CJFM (“Mix 96″), including the taunting Web site URL of www.nixthemix.com? Or will Standard put its hit-music energy into the cross-border signal and refocus CJFM in another direction? It should be interesting to watch…especially for Standard’s Montreal competitors.
*While we’re in the Seaway Valley, a surprise format change at Corus: it dumped the country at CJSS (101.9 Cornwall) on Friday afternoon, replacing “Blaze” with “Rock 101.9,” which looks like a carbon copy of Corus’ very successful CFMI (Rock 101) in Vancouver. Could this, too, be a reaction to the Standard/Martz moves, especially so close on the dial to “Fox” 101.5 over in Canton?
*Just across the border in upstate NEW YORK, WJJL (1440 Niagara Falls) is in chapter 9 bankruptcy proceedings – but with a steady hand to guide it through its recovery. Pittsburgh-based broker/consultant Ray Rosenblum, a good friend of this column, has been named as “special consultant” to WJJL’s owner M.J. Phillips Communications by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Carl Bucki. We enjoy WJJL’s unusual and obscure oldies format, and we’re hopeful that Ray can help the station get back on its feet.
*Up in north central MASSACHUSETTS, WINQ (97.7 Winchendon) broke from its simulcast of news-talk WKBK (1290 Keene NH) last week; it’s now doing country as “Wink Country,” we’re told.
*On the LPFM front, the Talking Information Center gets 104.3 in Pittsfield, where it’ll bring its talking-book service to the Berkshires from the WBRK-FM (101.7) tower; over in North Adams, Gospel Train Ministry gets 98.9 for an LPFM.
*Citadel has handed off the keys to WAHL (99.9 Athol) and WCAT (700 Orange); the FCC has signed off on the sale of the stations to Steven Silberberg, doing business as “County Broadcasting.”
*And a very belated obituary: V. Birney Imes, Jr. died March 12 in Alabama, just three days short of his 89th birthday. Imes was an important player in Granite State broadcasting, buying WMUR (Channel 9) in Manchester in 1981 and building it from a tiny station in an old house on Elm Street into a respected broadcast operation before selling it to Hearst-Argyle in 2000 for $185 million, a $180 million profit over his purchase price.
*Boston’s WB affiliate was knocked off the air Tuesday morning when a 42-ton crane crashed through the roof of its studio building. The crane was attempting to put the STL tower in place at the building next door to WLVI (Channel 56) on Morrissey Boulevard, which will be the home to Greater Media’s Boston group (WBOS, WSJZ, WKLB-FM, WROR, and WMJX) this fall. The crane flipped on its side, sending the 140-foot tower into the hallway at WLVI.
*The Channel 56 building was immediately evacuated, but engineers were able to get a signal back on the air from the transmitter site within about an hour. Later in the day, WLVI borrowed a satellite truck from New England Cable News to downlink the Kids’ WB programming from sister station WPIX (Channel 11) in New York. Meanwhile, WLVI’s news staff became the guests at WCVB (Channel 5), where they were able to produce a 10 PM newscast using WCVB’s equipment. At this writing, the exact cause of the accident still hasn’t been determined.
*In other MASSACHUSETTS news, Newburyport’s WNBP (1450) is being sold — and one of the new owners was there when the station first went on the air in 1957. Long before Bob Fuller was a station owner, he was a 16 year old kid from Newburyport whose first radio job was at the brand-new daytimer on 1470. Fuller went on to bigger and better things as a station owner, and WNBP eventually became WCEA, then WNCG, and then went back to its original calls while moving from 1470 down to 1450 and full-time status. Now Fuller is teaming with Al Mozier (an employee of Fuller’s Fuller-Jeffrey Broadcasting) to buy the station from Win Damon. Damon will stay on as morning host and sales manager; Mozier will become station manager.
*In NEW YORK, the big news this week is in the Albany market. Just a few weeks after getting FCC permission to change city of license from Johnstown to Altamont, WSRD (104.9) has applied to move its transmitter some 40 miles southeast to the WPTR (96.3 Voorheesville) site in the hills south of Schenectady. With 570 watts from the new site, WSRD will have decent coverage of most of the Albany market. Down the road a bit, someone called “Pee Wee Communications” tried applying to share time with SUNY Albany’s WCDB (90.9) — only to have their application tossed right back at them for failing to submit any engineering data.
*The Sound of Life network has WHVP (91.1 Hudson) on the air, filling the gap between WFGB (89.7 Kingston) and its Albany translators. Next up this fall: WSSK (89.7 Saratoga Springs) and WLJH (90.9 Glens Falls).
EMF Broadcasting, for 93.1 in Saratoga Springs NY, relaying WYKV (94.5 Ravena); WAMC for 95.9 in Peekskill NY, relaying WOSR (91.7 Middletown); Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes for 101.3 in Richford NY and Daniel Peltz for 105.1 in Waverly NY, both relaying WEBO (1330 Owego); Pathway Community Radio for 93.9 in Elmwood (Syracuse) NY, relaying WOLF (1490 Syracuse); Times/Shamrock for 100.7 in Clarks Green PA, relaying WEZX (106.9 Scranton); Four Rivers Community Broadcasting for 97.1 in Harleysville PA and 104.9 in Center Square PA, relaying WBYO (88.9 Sellersville), for 100.9 Scranton, relaying WBYH (89.1 Hawley), for 99.3 in Waynesboro, 100.3 in Shippensburg and 102.3 in Gettysburg, relaying WZXQ (88.3 Chambersburg), for 106.7 in Easton, relaying WBYX (88.7 Stroudsburg) and for 99.7 in Temple, relaying WZMV (89.1 Mohrsville); Family Life Ministries for 92.5 in Hazleton PA, relaying (for now) WVIA (89.9 Scranton); Ted Schober for 101.3 in Palermo NJ, relaying WIBG (1020 Ocean City-Somers Point); Penn Jersey Educational Radio Corp. for 92.3 in Harmony Township NJ and 95.9 in Warren Township NJ, relaying WDVR (89.7 Delaware Township NJ); WYRS Broadcasting for 96.9 in Trenton, relaying WLNJ (91.7 Lakehurst) and 92.9 in Pomona, relaying WYRS (90.7 Manahawkin); Saga for 100.3 in Brattleboro VT, relaying WKVT (1490); Bible Broadcasting Network for 105.5 in Saco ME, relaying WYFP (91.9 Harpswell); David Stout for 98.7 in Bangor, relaying WZON (620).