by SCOTT FYBUSH
In this week’s issue: CHAM joins comedy bandwagon – Remembering Bud Wertheimer – Illness takes WPDH’s Cooper off the air – Cormier lands in Brattleboro – WXBR locates new home – WDEA’s Foster, WJYE’s Chille step down
Astral Media pioneered all-comedy north of the border earlier this year at CKSL (1410) in London, Ontario, and apparently found enough success there that it’s replicating the format in the next big market to the east, where it flipped CHAM (820 Hamilton) from country to comedy at 8:20 Tuesday morning. Unlike CKSL, which is running a feed from the US-based “24/7 Comedy” network with little local content, CHAM has an “Ambassador of Funny” in the person of Mike Nabuurs, the lone on-air holdout from 820′s former country format. Nabuurs is contributing local entertainment news and traffic updates to CHAM during drivetimes, with “24/7 Comedy” supplying the rest of the content.
The move comes two years after CHAM returned to country from a brief stint with talk, only to run into the buzzsaw of a bigger FM country competitor, Durham Radio’s CHKX (KX 94.7).
*In Toronto, Corus’ CFMJ (640) is shuffling its schedule a bit, moving the syndicated Charles Adler show to evenings and bringing in Jeff McArthur to handle Adler’s former afternoon shift. McArthur’s a busy guy: he’s based at Corus’ London cluster, where he does the 9 AM-noon shift on CFPL (980) and had been doing mornings on CKDK (103.9 Woodstock), though he’s given up that gig to take the Toronto talk slot.
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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: August 22 & 29, 2011 -
*Our NEW YORK news begins with an obituary: Bob Sherman wore many hats in his long career in radio, television and interactive media, beginning with his first management job in 1975 at the helm of CBS-owned WCAU (1210 Philadelphia). Sherman quickly shot to the top of the industry, taking over in 1979 as executive VP of NBC’s owned-and-operated radio stations, a role that found him installing Howard Stern on WNBC. After three years at NBC Radio, Sherman left radio for a while to run an ad agency, but came back with two groups in the 1990s, first WP Radio and then, in partnership with MTV co-founder Bob Pittman, the Roberts Radio group that became a major Hudson Valley player before selling out to Clear Channel in 2000.After Roberts Radio, Sherman joined Pittman at AOL-Time Warner, but he (and Pittman) came back to radio 2003 with the Pilot Group investment firm, where Sherman served as chairman and CEO for one of its big investments, Double O Radio. Double O, of course, was just in last week’s headlines for the impending sale of most of its stations (including its Oneonta-based cluster) to Townsquare Media – and no sooner did that sale become public than we learned of Sherman’s last Sunday after a battle with liver cancer. Sherman was 69.
*The big news in TV news came from one of the state’s smallest markets. We knew Nexstar was preparing to relaunch news at Utica’s ABC affiliate, WUTR (Channel 20), and its sister Fox station WFXV (Channel 33) – but until last week, nobody in the market suspected that the new Nexstar news operation, due to launch September 12, will be the first high-definition local newscast in Utica.
Nexstar also announced some staffing plans for its new newsroom: Joe Parker will serve as news director and WUTR’s 6 and 11 PM anchor, joined by former WKTV anchor Caroline Gable as co-anchor. Gable will also anchor WFXV’s 10 PM newscast, while Jeff Matthews will be chief meteorologist. (CNYRadio.com has a complete list of reporters as well.)
Will the flash of HD help WUTR/WFXV in its latest attempt to overthrow the market’s long-dominant NBC affiliate, WKTV? A little competition never hurts…
*The beginning of September will bring a frequency swap at Blueberry Broadcasting’s cluster in Bangor, MAINE, as country WBFB (104.7 Belfast) and sports WAEI-FM (97.1 Bangor) swap formats and calls. The move will bring “The Bear” and its country format to the somewhat bigger 97.1 signal, swapping WAEI-FM’s sports to the lesser 104.7 facility. (Sports will also remain on WAEI 910 on the AM dial.)
Blueberry will continue the “Bear” simulcast on its two coastal signals, WLKE (99.1 Bar Harbor) and WMCM (103.3 Rockland), and the simulcast might make a little more sense once the overlap with 104.7′s signal goes away.
*We know a little more about last week’s NERW lead story out of RHODE ISLAND: while Rhode Island Public Radio has indeed filed with the FCC to make the changes that would shift its flagship Providence signal from WRNI (1290) to the Wheeler School’s WELH (88.1), the last pieces of the deal are still coming together behind the scenes. The plan calls for RIPR to pay Wheeler $75,000 a year plus three percent of increased revenues from making the AM-to-FM swap; RIPR would then lease the 1290 signal to Latino Public Radio (which has been leasing half of the program day on WELH) “at cost.” RIPR general manager Joseph O’Connor says he’s hoping to pull all the pieces together in time to make the switch happen by October 1.
Five Years Ago: August 27 & September 3, 2007 -
*It’s been literally years in the making, but VERMONT Public Radio is finally about to throw the switch on an expansion that will bring its second service, an all-classical network, to the state’s largest market.On Friday, August 31, VPR will take control of what’s now WAVX (90.9 Schuyler Falls NY), replacing that station’s Christian rock format with classical and changing the calls to WOXR.
“The calls signs don’t have any particular importance, other than an homage to the great New York classical station, WQXR,” says VPR president Mark Vogelzang. (He jokes that they could also stand for “Only eXcellent Radio.”)
The station is expected to sign off as WAVX on Wednesday, when VPR closes on its purchase of the station from Christian Ministries, Inc. It will return Friday at – when else? – 9:09 in the morning.
When it does, it will help to fill out the VPR Classical network that signed on in 2004 at WNCH (88.1 Norwich), serving the Connecticut River Valley. The network grew in a small way with translators, then added a second full-power signal, WJAN (95.1 Sunderland, now WVTQ), earlier this year – but until now, it’s been heard in Burlington and vicinity only via web streaming and the HD2 channel of VPR’s main network.
The 90.9 signal that’s being added to the network will reach some 175,000 new listeners, not only in greater Burlington but also across the lake in the Plattsburgh, NY area, where the transmitter is located. (It’s a 2.7 kW/1073′ class C2 signal, coming from the WPTZ-TV tower on Terry Mountain.)
As for the “Wave” programming, Christian Ministries will continue it – on HD.
It’s using some of the proceeds of the WAVX sale to upgrade its flagship station, WGLY (91.5 Bolton), and will put the Wave on WGLY’s HD2 signal.
(And full disclosure, since now it can be told – your editor has served, with no small amount of pride, as a consultant to VPR on this project.)
*The newest FM station in CANADA (for a few minutes, anyway) hit the airwaves in Peterborough, Ontario at noon on Tuesday. CKPT-FM (99.3) takes over where CKPT (1420) left off, freshening up the soft AC that was on the AM. The new “Energy 99.3″ takes a hot AC approach, and it’s running jockless until September 10. (The CTVglobemedia-owned station will continue simulcasting on AM for 90 days before 1420 goes silent for good.)The next newest station in Canada will likely be My FM’s new outlet in Nappanee. CKYM (88.7) is close to completing its testing, and when it signs on, Milkman UnLimited reports Rob Calabrese will be doing mornings, with Matt McIntyre in middays and Jamie Cybulski in afternoons.
Ten Years Ago: August 26 & September 4, 2002 -
A country music war is brewing in the Upper Valley region of VERMONT and NEW HAMPSHIRE, where the dial was spinning so fast last week that even some of the radio folks we know up there had a hard time keeping it all straight. Here’s what we know:
Vox Media returned the “Bob Country” name and format to the dial last Friday (Aug. 30), replacing “Star” soft AC on WSSH (95.3 White River Junction) and WZSH (107.1 Bellows Falls). The “Bob” nickname was last heard on WMXR (93.9 Woodstock) and WCFR-FM (93.5 Springfield, now WXKK) a couple of summers ago, before being pulled by Clear Channel to leave its “Kixx” (WXXK 100.5 Lebanon NH) as the only country outlet in the market. Vox’s version of “Bob” includes original Bob PD Heath Cole, who also keeps his PD duties at oldies WWOD (104.3 Hartford)/WCFR (96.3 Walpole NH), with a slate of live and local voices to come.”The battle is on! Let the fun begin!” says Vox’s Ken Barlow of the format war with Kixx.
Elsewhere in the Green Mountain State, “The Lake”, WLKC (103.3 Waterbury), dropped its soft AC sounds over the weekend and began stunting with quiet nature sounds (mostly birds chirping, which has made for a relaxing afternoon putting this issue together!) and occasional IDs proclaiming the station to be “Pure Vermont Radio” and “environmentally sound.”
Tuesday (Sep. 3) marked the debut of WLIE (540 Islip), the new talker that replaces standards WLUX on the frequency. The lineup begins with David Weiss and Tracy Burgess doing a morning news block, followed by live, local talk with Ed Tyll, John Gomez and Mike Siegel. Other voices heard on the new station include Jim Bohannon, Mike Gallagher and Michael Medved (in late-night tape delay). Brokered programming continues in the evening on 540 for now.
Meanwhile up in Albany, we caught the first day of the new format on WHTR-FM (93.7 Scotia) and WHTR (1400 Albany), as owner Galaxy pulls the hot talk and replaces it with modern rock as “K-Rock.” The Albany K-Rock isn’t a straight simulcast of its sisters in Utica (WKLL 94.9 Frankfort) and Syracuse (WKRL 100.9 N. Syracuse/WKRH 106.5 Minetto), but the music mix sounded familiar.
Fifteen Years Ago: August 28, 1997 -
Our top headlines come from the business section this week, where the investment firm of Hicks, Muse, Tate, and Furst made national news with its $2.1 billion acquisition of SFX Broadcasting. The deal give Hicks, Muse the largest station group by number of stations (314) and the third-largest by revenue. Here’s what it creates in the Northeast: Hicks’ Capstar group owns the old Knight Quality group (WGIR AM/FM Manchester NH; WHEB-FM, WXHT(FM), and WTMN in the Portsmouth NH market; WTAG-WSRS(FM) in Worcester MA; and WEZF(FM) in Burlington VT) and the old Commodore Media group (WINE, WSTC, WNLK, WPUT, and WFAS on the AM side and WRKI, WKHL, WEFX, WAXB, WZZN, and WFAS on the FM side in southwestern Connecticut and Westchester County NY).
Hicks’ Chancellor group has the big-market properties (WXKS AM-FM and WJMN in Boston, the amazing five FM combo in New York that now includes WAXQ, WHTZ, WKTU, WLTW, and WNSR (ex-WDBZ), and WALK AM-FM, WBAB-FM and WBLI on Long Island). And the SFX deal will bring into the fold still more properties in southern New England and vicinity. In Massachusetts, it’s WHMP AM-FM and WPKX(FM) in and around Springfield. In Rhode Island, it’s WHJJ, WHJY, and WSNE in the Providence market. In New York, it’s WTRY AM-FM, WGNA AM-FM, and WPYX in Albany and WGBB(AM) and WHFM on Long Island. And in Connecticut, it’s WHCN, WKSS, WMRQ, WWYZ, and WPLR on the FM side and WPOP(AM). Not to mention Hicks, Muse’s acquisition of LIN Broadcasting’s TV stations, which brings WTNH New Haven-Hartford and WIVB Buffalo into the fold.
NERW suspects Hicks, Muse may run into trouble keeping both WTNH and the enormous cluster of 8 FMs and 4 AMs in Connecticut, and even if that passes muster with the feds, there’s still that persistent rumor that Hicks, Muse’s next target is American Radio Systems — which would bring three more Hartford FMs into the mix, while bolstering Hicks, Muse’s presence in Boston and bringing it into the Rochester and Buffalo markets.
We’ll begin the rest of the week’s news with another buyout, this time in MASSACHUSETTS and for all of $8 million. WNRB (1510), the withered descendant of the once-mighty WMEX, is in for yet another new owner and format. Communicom and its religious programs will give way by the end of September to One-on-One Sports, the Chicago-based network that’s buying small AM facilities in big markets nationwide (they debut Monday in New York City on WXLX (620) Jersey City NJ). This will be something like the tenth format for 1510 in the last decade; you’ll be forgiven if you’ve lost track too. In any event, WNRB will have at least a bit of local sports. Boston University football will return to commercial radio this fall on WNRB, after several years on BU’s noncomm WBUR-FM (90.9). Giant Sports is handling the business end of the deal.
The much-hyped format swap between Boston’s 96.9 and Lowell’s 99.5 happened right on schedule last Friday at noon, with the new “Country 99.5″ making its debut with “Gone Country,” while “Smooth Jazz 96.9″ used “Smooth Operator” to mark its start. The legal calls remain WKLB-FM on 96.9 (they hide it in plain view by saying “If you’re looking for WKLB-FM Boston, tune to 99.5″) and WOAZ on 99.5 (where it’s being buried very quietly while the WKLB-FM calls get transferred). And the WOAZ website at www.woaz.com still bears a big “Oasis 99.5″ logo. What will the new 96.9 call be? NERW’s been hearing it will be WSJZ, but M Street is reporting this week that 96.9 has requested WOAZ — even though the “Oasis” identity has dried up and blown away.
Another format change is reportedly on the way as well, down the AM dial at 1260. WPZE, the newest property of Hibernia Broadcasting, will reportedly take on Disney/ABC’s “Radio Disney” kids format. Disney’s been pushing the format hard around the country — it just debuted on 50kW KTZN (710) Los Angeles and there are rumors it might even show up on WABC itself.
Beverly’s little WNSH (1570) is being sold by FSAM Corp. to Willow Farm Inc. NERW wonders why Hicks, Muse didn’t grab this one too while they were at it…