By SCOTT FYBUSH
Another year has come and gone here at NERW Central, and as
we sit down to revisit the events of the last 12 months, we're
left with the conclusion that 2003 was not among the more exciting
years in broadcasting history. Many of the issues that confronted
the industry a year ago - ownership limits, digital broadcasting,
obscenity standards - remain just as unresolved this New Year's
Day as they were last year.
2003 brought few new programming innovations, only a handful
of major station sales and almost no new station sign-ons (or,
for that matter, stations going dark). Perhaps we can call stability
a virtue, then, as we try to distill a Top 10 list out of the
year's big news stories:
1. Lights Out
When most of the
region went dark just after four in the afternoon on August 14,
broadcasters - especially radio broadcasters - rose to the challenge.
With TV literally out of the picture in most areas (even when
broadcasters had adequate backup power, battery-operated TVs
are still scarce in many households), blacked-out areas such
as New York City, Toronto and upstate New York instinctively
looked to radio, and what they found was a tribute to the power
of the medium. Some stations ended up broadcasting from their
transmitter sites (like the Q104 crew shown here, high above
a darkened Times Square), while others had enough studio power
to keep going as usual, but all did a good job of keeping people
informed and entertained through the worst blackout in more than
2. You Can't Say That on the Radio
An open mouth and an open mike can be a dangerous combination,
as several talk show hosts around the region learned to their
dismay in 2003. In Boston, WRKO (680) morning co-host John "Ozone"
Osterlind lost his job for a mid-August comment about the Palestinians;
down the hall, WEEI (850) spent much of the fall trying to make
amends for a comment its morning team of John Dennis and Gerry
Callahan made comparing an escaped zoo gorilla to an urban-suburban
transfer student. A zoo animal tripped up Bob Lonsberry, midday
host on Rochester's WHAM (1180), as well; he lost his job after
local political leaders complained about comments that seemed
to equate the (black) mayor to an escaped orangutan (and it didn't
help when Lonsberry made even more incendiary remarks on his
own Web site while the station was trying to defuse the controversy!)
And with the FCC still not providing stations with a coherent
set of guidelines about what is and isn't acceptable broadcast
content, it was still possible for New York's WNEW to face a
$357,000 fine for the "Sex for Sam" contest on the
defunct Opie and Anthony show (heard on multiple Infinity radio
stations), while U2 lead singer Bono could use the "f"
word - in adjectival form, mind you - across the entire NBC television
network with impunity.
3. What Happened to Local TV News?
as the FCC talked about the importance of "localism"
in broadcasting, several TV stations in the region shuttered
their news operations completely. Utica's WUTR (Channel 20) axed
its local newscasts at the end of July, leaving Utica viewers
with a choice between one remaining local news operation or a
simulcast of Syracuse news. In Burlington, Vermont, September
12 was the end of the line for WVNY (Channel 22)'s latest noble
attempt to compete with big guns WPTZ and WCAX; due credit goes
to WVNY owner Straightline Communications for trying valiantly
to make sure all of its 25 news employees found new jobs - and
for hanging on to the news operation for as long as it did. In
Watertown, WWTI (Channel 50) kept paring back its news operation,
while in Erie, WSEE (Channel 35) lost one of its daily newscasts
under a joint operating agreement with crosstown WICU (Channel
Even some of the stations that kept their "local"
newscasts lost most of the localism. Rochester's WUHF (Channel
31) and Pittsburgh's WPGH (Channel 53) laid off many of their
local news employees when they switched to Sinclair's Maryland-based
"News Central" operation, which is expected to spread
to Buffalo as well in 2004.
4. Ahoy, matey!
The never-ending battle between unlicensed broadcasters and
the FCC heated up in 2003, and nowhere was it hotter than Brattleboro,
Vermont, where Radio Free Brattleboro sparred with the FCC for
months following a late-June visit in which the Commission offered
its standard order: show us your "authority to broadcast"
or shut down. RFB leaders came up with their own interpretation
of "authority to broadcast," getting thousands of signatures
on a community petition and trying, without success, to get Brattleboro
officials to endorse their cause. At year's end, RFB remained
on the air at its new 107.9 frequency. The FCC also came calling
at places like Burlington Free Radio and several of New York's
high-powered pirates, but for every operation it tried to shut
down, a dozen others flourished - many with Web sites and even
billboards - on other parts of the dial.
(As for LPFM, it remained a non-entity for listeners in most
populated parts of the region; while a few LPFM'ers made it on
the air in remote parts of Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and
northern New York, the FCC dragged its heels on dealing with
a controversial study, conducted in part in New England, that
attempted to show that 100-watt LPFMs can exist without interference
three channels away from full-power FM outlets.)
5. Fire on the Mountain
The winter of 2002-2003
was the first in nearly half a century in which New England's
highest peak wasn't tended by on-site broadcast engineers - and
so when a fire broke out in the old WMTW-TV transmitter building
on Mount Washington on February 9, it kept burning until the
structure was nothing but a pile of ashes.
While WMTW-TV itself had moved to a new tower in Maine a year
earlier, the blaze destroyed the transmitter of WHOM (94.9 Mount
Washington) and the generators that powered WHOM, WPKQ (103.7
North Conway NH) and the Mount Washington Observatory. Quick
work by engineers had both FM stations back on the air within
days, but it was much later in the summer before full power was
restored on The Rock.
6. Tower Down in Portland
Portland market suffered another transmitter destruction on December
11, when the 528-foot tower that held WMGX (93.1 Portland) and
WYNZ (100.9 Westbrook) collapsed, apparently the result of corrosion
that weakened one of the 17-year-old tower's guy anchors.
Nobody was hurt, though the falling tower crushed several
cars and trucks in a nearby warehouse's parking lot, and both
stations were back on the air within a day from backup sites.
Planning was underway at year's end for a replacement tower of
the same height, this time with three levels of double guy wires.
What's very pink, full of "J. Lo" gossip and unable
to last a full year? The latest strange turn in the bizarre saga
of WNEW (102.7 New York), Infinity's ill-fated attempt to bring
back the ratings and prestige the station once enjoyed.
After killing off
the vestiges of the talk format that was WNEW's last grasp at
ratings glory (until Opie & Anthony's "Sex for Sam"
misstep removed its one star program from the schedule), WNEW
stumbled through the first few months of 2003 with no format
to speak of - just a loop of top-40 music and the promise of
something new "coming soon."
That something arrived in early April, amidst a huge publicity
barrage: "Blink 102.7," a melange of current top 40,
R&B oldies from the 70s and early 80s (when its target young
female audience hadn't even been born yet), a morning show featuring
J.Lo's sister and her boyfriend talking about J. Lo and not much
else, and lots and lots of Kiefer Sutherland liners.
Remarkably, the format failed to catch fire in the five months
it was given to live; in September, it was replaced by a tamer
"Blink" with more straightforward AC formatics, and
two months later 102.7 began playing Christmas music...
8. ...And So Did Everyone Else
Or so it seemed for
the last six weeks of 2003, when stations all over the region
fought to see who could be the first to ditch their regular format
in favor of nonstop holiday tunes.
By the time WNEW flipped on November 13 (becoming the first
station in New York history to go all-Christmas for more than
a day or two), it already had company - Rochester's WBBF flipped
a week earlier, and Philadelphia's WBEB and WSNI flipped within
hours of each other on November 12, two weeks before Thanksgiving,
never mind Christmas. (By the time that holiday finally arrived,
some 40 stations across the region had made the holiday flip,
with many communities - Buffalo, Rochester, Boston and Providence
among them - having two all-Christmas stations.)
9. Canada Meets "Jack," "Bob"
It started as a
Webcast from Long Island - but "Jack" was apparently
Canadian at heart, as the format that mixed current hits with
70s and 80s classic rock and a healthy dose of anti-formatic
attitude ("Playing What We Want") took off in Vancouver
and quickly spread to eastern Canada.
Rogers licensed the original "Jack" in Toronto and
Orillia, while CHUM Group spawned "Bob" stations in
Ottawa, Brockville and London and Corus showed up in Cambridge
with something called "Dave"; the apex (or perhaps
the nadir) of the trend came on Halloween, when Rogers' CIOX
in Ottawa stunted for the day as "101.1 Frank FM,"
playing pretty much anything.
Can "Jack" make it in the U.S.? Format creator Buzznet
Media says it has several affiliates on this side of the border
ready to try the format in 2004...
10. Two Years After 9/11
New York's broadcast
scene took several more big steps toward regaining a sense of
normalcy in 2003. WKCR, the last of the World Trade Center FMs
still operating on emergency facilities, finally went back to
full power in the fall from 4 Times Square.
After a summer of construction at that new site, a new mast
rose more than 300 feet above the roof with space for auxiliary
antennas for every FM and TV station in town. (Univision and
ABC both signed contracts to put auxiliary analog and full-power
digital TV signals at that site by year's end.)
Over at the Empire State Building, antenna work continued
in an attempt to better accommodate the city's TV broadcasters;
Pax's WPXN (Channel 31) joined the crowd there in the fall, along
with a new digital signal on channel 12 from WPIX. (ABC and NBC
also reinstated DTV service to New York late in the year.)
And while plans for a 2000-foot TV tower in New Jersey failed
to gain the FAA's blessing, the city's TV broadcasters worked
out a deal to use the top of the 1776-foot tower that will rise
on the World Trade Center site as an eventual permanent home
for both analog and digital TV in the nation's biggest market.
10 1/2: The Year in Digital
Listed as an afterthought because - for consumers, at least
- that's where digital broadcasting both began and ended the
On the TV side, the region ended the year with nearly all
its stations up and running in digital. The exceptions were in
areas with antenna-location problems (the Burlington stations
trying to put a new tower on Mount Mansfield and the New York
stations still trying to squeeze onto a crowded Empire State
Building) and a few laggards who ended up being cited by the
FCC for their continued delays (WKBW in Buffalo and WJAR in Providence,
That's the good news; the bad news is that despite explosive
sales of HDTV monitors, few of those expensive boxes ended up
being connected to over-the-air DTV tuners, which remained relatively
pricey and hard to find (a recent check of our local big box
electronics stores turned up precisely two models), leaving viewers
to watch DTV over cable (where available) or satellite - or just
to cue up the DVD player and ignore broadcast TV completely.
It's an issue broadcasters and the electronics community will
have to solve sooner or later.
And on the radio side, a few more stations added Ibiquity's
HDRadio system - New York's WNYC-FM and (for a time) WZRC and
WPAT on the AM dial, Philadelphia's WXTU and WWDB during the
NAB Radio Show, Syracuse's WOLF and - at year's end - WBZ in
Boston. But they were still broadcasting to almost nobody, with
the rollout of consumer receivers delayed by a change of audio
codecs mid-year. That drove early-adopter types even harder into
satellite radio, where XM ended the year with more than a million
The Year in Sales
kicked things off in Providence with the $16 million purchase
of "Hot" WWKX (106.3 Woonsocket)/WAKX (102.7 Narragansett
Pier), plus WMOS (104.7 Montauk NY/New London CT) from AAA Entertainment.
Holy Family Communications picked up WAAT (750 Olyphant) in the
Scranton market from Kevin Fennessy, flipping it to Catholic
radio as WQOR. Brad and Bonnie Bleidt's Perspective Broadcasting
paid Alex Langer $10 million for business radio WBIX (1060 Natick
MA), while Saga picked up WINQ (97.7 Winchendon) from Joe Gallagher's
Aritaur group for $400,000.
FEBRUARY: Frank Osborn's Qantum Communications pays
$32 million for Al Makkay's Cape Cod group - top 40 WRZE (96.3
Nantucket), oldies WCIB (101.9 Falmouth) and rock WPXC (102.9
Hyannis). In Pennsylvania, Susquehanna adds WSOX (96.1 Red Lion)
to its York cluster for $23 million. In Albany, public radio
WAMC-FM (90.3) pays $500,000 to pick up WHTR (1400) from Ed Levine;
in late April, it changes calls to WAMC and begins simulcasting
MARCH: ABC turned its LMA of sports WEVD (1050 New
York) into a $78 million purchase, while Arthur Liu bought WLXE
(1380 New York) back from Mega Communications (for $37 million)
after three years. North of Boston, WBOQ (104.9 Gloucester) changed
hands within the Tanger family, passing from Marlin Broadcasting
to Westport Broadcasting for $5.8 million. WGCH (1490 Greenwich
CT) passes from John Becker to Business Talk Radio for $1.5 million.
In Massachusetts, Pamal pays the Western Massachusetts Radio
Company $8 million for WRNX (100.9) and WPNI (1430) in Amherst,
while in New Jersey, Nassau pays Mega $16 million for WEMG-FM
(104.9 Egg Harbor City).
breakup of Big City Radio and the demise of "Rumba 107"
means new owners for several of the "quadcast" sticks,
with Jarad paying $2 million for WWXY (107.1 Hampton Bays NY),
Press paying $20 million for WWZY (107.1 Long Branch NJ) and
Pamal LMA'ing WYNY (107.1 Briarcliff Manor NY) en route to a
$20.3 million purchase. In Rochester, Winton Road Broadcasting
sells WWWG (1460) to Holy Family Communications for $300,000;
on June 1, it flips to Catholic programming as WHIC.
In Maine, Bill McVicar pays Citadel $190,000 for WCRQ (102.9
Dennysville/Calais) and soon takes WQDY (1230 Calais) silent
to stay under the ownership cap there. Citadel exits Athol/Orange,
Mass. as well, selling WAHL (99.9 Athol) and WCAT (700 Orange)
to Steve Silberberg for $875,000.
On the noncomm side, Heirwaves pays $237,000 for WBPV (90.1
Charlton MA) from the Bay Path Vocational School District.
And in Canada, Doug Kirk and Rae Roe pay Corus C$9 million
for CKGE (94.9) and CKDO (1350) in Oshawa, Ontario.
MAY: Salem picks
up WAMG (1150 Boston) from Mega for $8.6 million. Bankrupt North
American Broadcasting exits New England with the $2.35 million
sale (at auction) of WALE (990 Greenville/Providence RI) to Cumbre
Communications, which promptly flips the station from leased
phone-line talk to Spanish. And Vox pays Philip Weiner $3 million
to add WUHN (1110) and WUPE (95.9) in Pittsfield, Mass. to its
JUNE: A TV sale adds WAWA-LP (Channel 14) in Syracuse
to Raycom's WSTM-TV (Channel 3) there; it becomes UPN outlet
WSTQ-LP later in the fall. Up in Maine, Clear Channel converts
WGUY (102.1 Dexter) from an LMA with Concord Media to a $1.2
million purchase; in southern New Hampshire, Ernie Anastos sells
WOTW (900 Nashua) to Balanced View LLC for $635,000.
Monticello Mountaintop Media closes out its controversial
history with WJUX (99.7 Monticello NY) by selling the station
to Bridgelight Corp., which is also buying WJUX translators W232AL
(94.3 Pomona NY) and W276AQ (103.1 Fort Lee NJ) from Gerald Turro.
JULY: Max Media, former owner of WSYT in Syracuse,
re-enters the region, paying $7.5 million for Sunair Communications'
"Big Country" cluster (WYGL, WYGL-FM, WLGL, WWBE) and
"Flyte" (WFYY 106.5 Bloomsburg PA) in central Pennsylvania.
In northern New Hampshire, Barry Lunderville LMAs WMOU (1230
Berlin) from Jericho Broadcasting en route to a $75,000 purchase.
Roach makes a big splash with the debut of "Route 81 Radio,"
picking up WKJN/WCWI/WAZL around Scranton and WHYL (960 Carlisle
PA) from Citadel for $2.5 million, WNAK (730 Nanticoke PA) from
Seven Thirty Broadcasters for $475,000 and the six-station Eolin
Broadcasting cluster in Elmira/Corning, the latter for $4.5 million.
Access.1 Communications gets the South Jersey stations of
the late Howard Green (WMGM-TV, WMGM-FM, WOND, WTKU, WGYM and
WUSS) for $22 million.
Canada's Standard Radio buys 25% of Martz Communications,
giving it a back door into Montreal and Ottawa with no pesky
WNEB (1230 Worcester) passes from Grace Broadcasting to Windsor
Financial Corp. to help satisfy a debt. Up in Maine, Saga buys
WIDE (1400 Biddeford) from Saco Bay Communications for $350,000.
And at month's end, Clear Channel sheds WMTZ/WNTJ in Johnstown
(for $9.13 million) and WICT in Grove City PA (for $2.28 million),
both to Forever Broadcasting.
SEPTEMBER: Astral Media finds a buyer for its eight
Quebec AM stations and CFOM (102.9) in Quebec City; after a plan
to sell them to a TVA/Radio Nord joint venture was rejected by
the CRTC, Sylvain Chamberlain and Gaetan Morin step up with a
C$12 million deal that's yet to be consummated at year's end.
Crawford Broadcasting bows out of Syracuse, selling WDCW (1390)
to Buckley Broadcasting for $1.2 million. Down in the Finger
Lakes, George Kimble's Radio Group adds Lakes Country Communications'
WFLR (1570/95.9) Dundee to its cluster for $600,000.
Steve Silberberg adds WGAW (1340 Gardner MA) to his Athol/Orange
cluster, paying Anastos Broadcasting $235,000 and ending the
simulcast with WSNH in Nashua. Carmen Nardone buys WLYC (1050
Williamsport PA) from Williamsport Communications for $55,000.
On TV, Quorum Communications sells to Nexstar, which puts
Utica's WFXV (Channel 33) and WPNY-LP (Channel 11) in the same
hands as Rochester's WROC-TV, Wilkes-Barre's WBRE-TV and Erie's
Radio adds to its New York holdings, paying $60 million for Jarad's
WLIR (92.7 Garden City NY). Arthur Liu's Multicultural Broadcasting
does its own big deal, paying $150 million for the Radio Unica
15-station group that includes WWRU (1660 Jersey City NJ) and
WJDM (1530 Elizabeth NJ). Upstate, Kevin Doran sells WBTA (1490
Batavia) to Daniel Fisher's HPL Communications for $275,000.
Ben Smith's GEOS Communications enters the edge of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
market, paying Citadel $515,000 for WCWY (107.7 Tunkhannock PA).
Over in Allentown, Matthew Braccilli pays Lehigh Valley Broadcasting
Associates $940,000 for WHOL (1600). Vox sells WCED (1420 DuBois)
to Jay Phillipone's Priority Communications for $150,000. And
Forever adds two more to its Altoona cluster, buying WVAM (1430)
and WPRR (100.1) from Vital Licenses (owned by Forever principal
Kirby Confer's daughter) for $2.1 million.
NOVEMBER: Al Severy LMAs WASR (1420 Wolfeboro) to Paul
Hatch and his son in preparation for a $320,000 sale. In Worcester,
Blount Communications buys WNEB (1230) from Windsor Financial
DECEMBER: Radio One wins the bidding for WSNJ-FM (107.7
Bridgeton NJ), agreeing to pay $35 million for the signal, which
is being moved to 107.9 in Pennsauken NJ, across the river from
Philadelphia. (At year's end, the station had yet to formally
change hands from the Bold family to Ed Seeger, who's selling
it to Radio One.)
entered Maine in a big way, paying $18.3 million for Mariner
Broadcasting's six FMs (the four W-Bach outlets, WQEZ Kennebunkport
and WBYA Islesboro), then adding the WMTW radio group (the WMTW
Newsradio 2 AM/1 FM combo, WMEK and WTHT) to the new cluster
for an additional $12 million.
WRTA (1240 Altoona PA) goes from David Wolf's Altoona Trans-Audio
Corp. to Handsome Brothers, Inc., owned by crosstown WBXQ/WBRX
partner David Barger, for $500,000; over in Wheeling, W.V., Altoona-based
Keymarket pays $1.35 million for Clear Channel's WVKF (105.5
Bethlehem WV). In Indiana, Pennsylvania, Renda Broadcasting buys
WDAD (1450) and WQMU (92.5) from RMS Management for $3.25 million.
At year's end, Saga Communications expands its reach in the
northern Pioneer Valley, adding AAA WRSI (93.9 Turners Falls
MA)/WRSY (101.5 Marlboro/Brattleboro VT) and country WPVQ (95.3
The Year in Programming,
People and Calls
JANUARY: The usual round of post-New Year flips brought
changes across the region - WYNS (1160) Lehighton PA went dark
and then reappeared with ESPN, simulcasting WEEX 1230 Easton;
WSFT (107.9 South Williamsport PA) became WRVH, "The River";
WXHC (101.5 Homer-Cortland NY) went oldies; WMVI (1160 Mechanicville/Albany
NY) became WABY; WQSO (96.7 Rochester NH) relaunched with 60s
and 70s hits as "The Wave." On TV, Maine's WMPX (Channel
23) in Waterville flipped to WPFO as "Portland's Fox."
In Canada, CFAN-FM
(99.3 Miramichi-Newcastle NB) signed on January 10, though its
sister AM on 790 wouldn't go dark for many months. Over in Nova
Scotia, CKEN (1490 Kentville) signed off, with its calls and
country format going to the former CKWM (97.7 Kentville), which
in turn moved its calls and AC format to CKEN's FM replacement
at 94.9. And in Ottawa, CIHT (Hot 89-9) began testing.
WKMB (1070 Stirling NJ) signed off its old country format
in favor of black gospel on the 18th. (Brian) Smith and (Bruce)
Barber split up after 18 years in mornings on WPLR (99.1 New
Haven), replaced by "Chaz and AJ" from Long Island.
In Vermont, WCVR (102.1 Randolph) ditched its country format
and began simulcasting classic rock WCPV (101.3 Essex NY).
The morning shows shuffled in Philadelphia, with Paul Barsky
ousted from WMMR (93.3) while Glenn Kalina arrived at WMWX (95.7),
just the start of some much bigger changes later in the year
there. On the other side of the state, WMBS (590 Uniontown) flipped
from oldies to standards.
And the month closed out with the return, on January 27, of
"KB Radio" oldies on WWKB (1520 Buffalo), complete
with Danny Neaverth and Jackson Armstrong.
Sanft launched an oldies format at his newly-purchased WARE (1250
Ware MA) to start the month, while Phil Drumheller's nearby WGAM
(1520 Greenfield) changed calls to WIZZ and launched its own
oldies format, also with the help of Jay "Biggie" Fink
and Dennis Jackson.
Up in New Hampshire, WLTN (1400 Littleton) flipped from news-talk
to oldies. In South Jersey, the WKXW-FM (New Jersey 101.5) simulcast
moved from WKXW (1450 Atlantic City) to WKOE (106.3 Ocean City),
with 1450 going sports. WPAM (1450 Pottsville PA) went silent
for a while as its LMA expired.
The Station nightclub fire Feb. 20 in Warwick, R.I. had deep
repercussions in the broadcast community; not only was the club's
co-owner, Jeff Derderian, a TV news veteran in Boston and Providence,
but the fire claimed the lives of Jeff "The Doctor"
Gonsalves of WHJY; Dale Latulippe, son of former WRKO newsman
Don Latulippe; and WNRC (95.1 Dudley MA) student DJ James Gehan.
In New York, the remains of WNEW (102.7)'s talk format gave
way to stunting with top 40 tunes; over in central New Jersey,
WAWZ (99.1 Zarephath) relaunched with an energetic contemporary
Pittsburgh's WBZZ (93.7) reimaged, losing its longtime "B94"
to become "93-7BZZ," with no particular ratings gain
as a result.
Ottawa's CIHT launched for real February 7 as "Hot 89.9,"
while CJOJ (95.5 Belleville) flipped the same day from 80s-90s
hits to classic hits.
New to the air: WYFU (88.5 Masontown PA), WFSG-LP (103.7 Indiana
PA, on the 24th)
MARCH: After exactly 20 years at Boston's WBCN (104.1),
Bill Abbate gave up his overnight shift. Down on the Connecticut/Rhode
Island line, WUXL (102.3 Stonington) flipped from classic rock
"XL102" to AC as "Mix 102" WXLM on March
3. Not far away, WWRX (103.7 Westerly) separated from the "FNX
Radio Network" to go its own way with modern rock.
In New Jersey, WTKU (98.3 Ocean City) abandoned its "Kool"
AC/oldies mix to return to oldies. And speaking of oldies, legendary
WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) morning guy Harry Harrison retired after
his March 19 show, ending a long career that included stints
at WMCA and WABC.
In Binghamton, Clear Channel killed
country "B-107" (WBBI 107.5 Endwell), stunting as rhythmic
top 40 "Kiss" for a day - and putting a fright in crosstown
WWYL "Wild 104" - before relaunching with classic rock
as "The Bear" April 1, targeting WWYL's classic rock
sister, Citadel's WAAL, instead.
South of Pittsburgh, WNJR (92.1 Washington) moved to 91.7
and increased power from 13 watts to 950 watts. In Allentown,
WFMZ (100.7) ditched "My 100.7" to become "Soft
Rock 100.7." Over in Philadelphia, Paul Barsky got a new
job as morning man/operations manager on WPTP (96.5), though
the morning gig wouldn't even last the year. Near State College,
smooth jazz WOJZ (98.7 Pleasant Gap) flipped to oldies "Wowie"
under new calls WOWY. In Harrisburg, Bruce Bond's noncompete
ended March 20, allowing him back on the air at WRKZ (102.3 Carlisle)
in morning drive. And in Pottsville, WPAM (1450) came back on
the air March 16 as classic rock "Phoenix 1450."
New to the air: WVBH (88.3 Beach Haven NJ).
Gone for good: WMBT (1530 Shenandoah PA), silent March 29
and sending its license back to the FCC a few months later, becoming
the only U.S. station in NERW-land to be deleted this year.
was the big story here, with the April 10 launch of Infinity's
"radio for women" AC format on WNEW (102.7 New York)
- and just up the dial, the demise of "Rumba 107" brought
about three new 107.1 signals, with WYNY (107.1 Briarcliff Manor)
becoming WXPK, simulcasting WSPK (104.7 Poughkeepsie), WWXY (107.1
Hampton Bays) simulcasting WLIR (92.7 Garden City) and WWYY (107.1
Belvidere NJ) becoming AC "Lite 107" targeting Easton
and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Over on the AM dial, WEVD (1050)
dropped those historic calls to become WEPN at month's end. And
out at the end of Long Island, WFTU (1570 Riverhead) returned
to the air with automated music.
In Connecticut, WNTY (990 Southington) dropped its original
calls to become WXCT, "The X." Over in Taunton, Massachusetts
(OK, Providence, if you must), WSNE (93.3) relaunched as "The
Up in the Bangor market, WNSX (97.7 Winter Harbor) dropped
its simulcast of classic rock WFZX (101.7 Searsport) to go all-sports.
New to the air: WIBF-FM (88.7 Port Republic NJ), initially
MAY: WLLF (96.7 Mercer PA/Youngstown OH) dropped smooth
jazz for oldies, while Cumulus sister station WWIZ (103.9 Mercer)
flipped from oldies to rock as "Rock 104." In Chambersburg,
WCHA (800) flipped from news-talk to standards (as did sister
WHAG 1410 Halfway MD) on May 1.And Starboard Communications launched
its Catholic format on WZUM (1590 Carnegie/Pittsburgh PA).
WWZY (107.1 Long
Branch NJ) returned to the air as "107.1 the Breeze,"
with soft AC and a simulcast of the morning show from WBHX (99.7
The "Boston Talk Party" on WBPS (890 Dedham) ended
May 29, with 890 swapping calls with Mega's WAMG (1150 Boston)
and beginning a "Mega" simulcast for several months.
WCBS-FM filled Harry Harrison's void in morning drive by naming
Dan Taylor as permanent host; Randy Davis replaces Taylor in
North of Syracuse, a fire May 18 took out the studios of WAMF
(1300 Fulton NY).
In Vermont, WSYB (1380 Rutland) begins simulcasting its news-talk
on WWWT (1320 Randolph), ending the satellite oldies there.
At month's end, CHUM Group pulled the plug on top 40 "Kool"
CKKL (93.9 Ottawa), installing the "80s, 90s and Whatever"
format as "93.9 Bob FM."
New to the air: CFJR-FM (104.9 Brockville ON), replacing CFJR
(830); WMDI-LP (107.9 Lakewood NJ)
JUNE: First it
was "Bob" in Ottawa - and now "Jack" (the
original version of the bit-of-everything format, created by
Long Island's Buzznet Media) in Toronto, replacing top 40 "Kiss
92.5" on Rogers' CISS (92.5) June 4. Sister CHFI sent morning
host Bob Magee to "Jack" (and sent co-host Erin Davis
packing), bringing "Mad Dog and Billie" over from CISS
to replace them.
To the east, CKGE (94.9 Oshawa) flipped from modern AC "Magic
@ 94.9" to rocker "94-9 the Rock" a week later
under its new ownership.
WCBS-FM parted ways with Dan Ingram after 12 years of weekend
duty, cutting another tie to its oldies heritage.
Up in Albany, "Smooth Jazz 104.9" WZMR (104.9 Altamont
NY) evolved to smooth jazz/R&B oldies "104.9 Love FM."
Another 104.9 shift took place in Scranton, where WWDL became
"The New 104-9 The Music Station" with a hotter AC
Silent this month: WCKL (560 Catskill NY), which remains dark
at year's end, and WQDY (1230 Calais ME), which returned its
license so owner Bill McVicar could add WCRQ (102.9 Dennysville)
to his Down East cluster.
Back on the air: WMVL (101.7 Lineville); the former WVCC signed
back on with satellite oldies as "Cool 101.7."
New to the air: WWHL (92.9 Southampton NY), on June 26, simulcasting
- and eventually taking on the calls of - AAA WEHM (96.7 East
Hampton NY); WFHL (88.1 New Bedford MA), with religion; CJLS-FM
(95.5 Yarmouth NS), replacing AM 1340 there.
Gone for good: CJFX (580 Antigonish NS), on June 30, moved
to 98.9 FM.
JULY: The month
began with two new "Kiss" top 40s in Vermont; on July
3, WZRT (97.1 Rutland) flipped over from "Z97," while
smooth jazz WJVT (92.1 Port Henry NY) became WVTK, not quite
simulcasting as "Kiss FM 92.1 - 97.1."
In Connecticut, Ross Brittain exited WKSS (95.7 Hartford)
after eight years in mornings. In Boston, Sporting News Radio
cancelled its local morning show on WWZN (1510), laying off about
20 staffers and cutting its ties to the Boston Globe.
Charlton's WBPV (90.1) signed back on as WYCM, with the same
contemporary Christian programming that was on WNEB (1230 Worcester).
To the north, WAHL (99.9 Athol) changed calls to WNYN.
New York's WLXE (1380) ended its regional Mexican "La
X" programming, flipping to leased-time Russian and back
to its WKDM calls; up in the Hudson Valley, hot AC WBWZ (93.3
New Paltz) got a bit hotter, moving from "Z93" to "Star
In Rochester, July 1 saw religious WWWG (1460) become Catholic
WHIC; a few weeks later, WPHD (94.7 Tioga PA/Elmira NY) changed
calls to WMTT, trading with the new 96.1 South Waverly PA, down
Out on Long Island, WWHL (92.9 Southampton) changed calls
to WHBE, then swapped that call with WEHM (96.7 East Hampton).
(The AAA music stayed with the WEHM calls at 92.9 while WHBE
on 96.7 went to Bloomberg business radio.) And WWXY (107.1 Hampton
Bays) became WBON, a call that would seem to better match "The
Bone," its sister station WDRE (98.5 Westhampton).
In New Jersey, WIBF-FM (88.7 Port Republic) changed calls,
to WXXY, and format, from a simulcast of religious WXHL-FM in
Delaware to all-80s.
Ottawa's CBO (91.5) said goodbye to 24-year morning veteran
John Lacharity. In Brockville, CFJR-FM (104.9) officially launched
July 14 - the same day sister station CJPT (103.7) dropped "The
Point" to become another "Bob." Over in Cambridge,
Ontario, CIZN (92.9) signed off July 20, replaced by the better
signal of CJDV (107.5), doing "80s, 90s and whatever"
as "Dave," yet another new name for the same basic
format. Another "Bob" arrived on July 24, when CHUM
Group blew up "Star" CHST (102.3 London) in favor of
"102.3 Bob FM."
New to the air: test signals from WNYA (Channel 51) in Pittsfield,
Mass.; CKHA (100.9 Halliburton ON), on July 19; WPHD (96.1 South
Waverly PA/Elmira NY), testing (it would later play Christmas
music, then go soft AC.)
AUGUST: After 23 years at Boston's "Kiss 108"
(WXKS-FM 107.9 Medford/Boston), and a long stint before that
at WRKO, Dale Dorman was out the door - but not for long, as
he soon landed in mornings at Infinity's "Oldies 103"
WODS, replacing Paul Perry, who ended up in Chicago at WJMK.
In Nashua, WOTW relaunched with oldies as WSNH, "AM 900
the Spirit." Over in Winchendon MA, WINQ (97.7) dropped
its simulcast with Saga news-talk sister WKBK (1290 Keene NH)
to go country as "Wink Country." Way out in eastern
Maine, WCRQ (102.9 Dennysville) went top 40 as "the Border."
"Jack" or "Dave" for CJSS (101.9 Cornwall
ON) - it dropped country "Blaze" for straightforward
"Rock 101.9" August 8. And Barrie got its "CHAY"
back, with the return of soft AC on 93.1 to replace the station's
several years as "Energy."
A few missing morning voices along the Hudson: in Albany,
Brian Cody, Ellen Rockwell and Big Ray departed WFLY (92.3 Troy)
amidst a dispute about the direction their show was headed; in
New York, WQXR (96.3) sent 25-year veteran Gregg Whiteside packing
rather abruptly, supposedly over something he said in the station
hallway, but questions about what really happened still linger
at year's end. In Philadelphia, Don Imus was sent packing from
big WPHT (1210) to little WWDB (860), replaced by local host
Labor Day weekend brought smooth jazz to WEMG (104.9 Egg Harbor
City NJ); after four months of stunting with country, it became
WOJZ, "Smooth Jazz 104.9" on Aug. 29.
New to the air: "Rythme FM" CJEC (91.9 Quebec City);
WUPC-LP (102.3 Arrowhead Village NJ), returning to the air Aug.
13 after an abortive start in 2002; CHGK (107.7 Stratford ON),
as "Mix FM," testing before its official debut Sept.
Gone: WFJY (1470 Portage PA), moving to Wilkinsburg, near
Pittsburgh, and 660 kHz (it was still silent on both frequencies
at year's end); WWAC (Channel 53) in Atlantic City, as the station
goes DTV-only on channel 44 under new calls WMCN-DT.
much for "Blink" - after all that hype, WNEW (102.7)
pulled the plug on the bizarre mix of top 40 currents, 70s and
80s R&B oldies and JLo-related gossip on September 12, keeping
the "Blink" name but going for a more mainstream AC
sound, at least for the next couple of months. In better New
York FM news, Columbia University's WKCR (89.9) finally regained
the big signal it lost with the destruction of the World Trade
Center, signing on from Four Times Square. A few weeks later,
Hurricane Isabel took out the tower of WHAT 1340 down in Philadelphia.
Out on Long Island, WLIE (540 Islip) cancelled most of its
remaining talk programming and hooked up with Business Talk Radio
to program its weekday.
Morning duo "Karlson and McKenzie," ousted earlier
in the year from Rochester's WZNE, landed at WPDH (101.5) in
Poughkeepsie. In Hartford, modern rock "Radio 104"
WMRQ flipped to urban "Power 104.1" WPHH Sept. 15.
WIDE (1400 Biddeford ME) flipped to a simulcast of standards
WBAE (1490 Portland), taking new calls WVAE later in the year.
Down the coast in Bangor, Bob Duchesne parted ways with WQCB
(106.5 Brewer) after 17 years - the station's entire history
- as its morning man.
On TV, John Dougherty
left WMTW (Channel 8); in Albany, Ed Dague retired from the anchor
chair at WNYT (Channel 13) after 38 years in the market.
Over in New Hampshire, WNTK (1020 Newport) moved back down
the dial to its original 1010 frequency and added 37 watts at
night. Across the Connecticut River, WNTK owner Bob Vinikoor
flipped WNBX (1480 Springfield VT) to oldies as "Real Oldies
Another "Jack" in Canada, as CICX (105.9 Orillia)
dropped "EZ Rock" over Labor Day weekend. In Ottawa/Hull,
"Classique" CHLX (97.1) segued to "Couleur,"
working some smooth jazz in with its classical programming.
New to the air: WNYA (Channel 51) in Pittsfield and Albany
relayer WNYA-CA (Channel 15), bringing broadcast UPN to the Capital
District (Sept. 1); CKXT (Channel 52) as "Toronto One,"
the newest independent in Canada's biggest market (Sept. 19);
CJLL (97.9 Ottawa), with CHIN's multilingual programming (Sept.
New to the world: Ariel Joy Fybush, the Official NERW Baby
(Sept. 15, 4:26 AM, 7 lbs., 2 oz.)
Gone for good: CFJR (830 Brockville ON); also, a full night's
sleep at NERW Central!
OCTOBER: Veteran New York morning man Jim Kerr returned
to the airwaves Oct. 7, displacing "Radio Chick" Leslie
Gold and her crew from "Q104" WAXQ (104.3).
Up in the Hudson
Valley, WBPM (94.3 Kingston) changed calls to WKXP, stunted with
"Christmas 94.3," then flipped to country October 6
as "Kix." Way up north, the former WPAC (92.7 Ogdensburg)
flipped to WBDB, the third leg of the Watertown-based "Border"
top-40 simulcast, a week later. Athol, Massachusetts' "Oldies
99.9" (WAHL) gave way to classic rock as "Eagle,"
WNYN, under new ownership.
WNTJ (1490 Johnstown PA) changed calls to WSPO, resurrecting
the former 850 (ex-WJAC, now WLYE) calls. Down in Delaware, Wilmington's
WJBR (1290) dropped standards to go sports as WWTX, "The
Ticket." In South Jersey, WBNJ (93.1 Wildwood Crest) became
WDTH, matching its "Touch" format. In Lowell, Mass.,
WJUL (91.5) got its third set of calls: WUML, for "UMass
Lowell," where student broadcasters feuded with the adminstration
after losing three hours of morning programming to a new partnership
between the university and the local paper, which launched "Lowell
Sunrise" on October 6. And after thinking about WYTS and
WJTK, Salem finally settles on WTTT as the new calls for the
former WBPS (1150 Boston).
New to the air: CBMG (101.9 Cowansville QC), part of a series
of changes that include the move of CBF-FM-8 Trois-Rivieres from
88.1 to 96.5 and CBMZ Trois-Rivieres from 106.9 to 93.9; WMUD-LP
(89.1 Moriah NY); CKBT (91.5 Kitchener ON), as R&B/top 40
"The Beat"; WABC-DT (Channel 45), returning Oct. 30
after more than two years off the air post-9/11.
low-rated hot AC "Point" format of Philadelphia's WPTP
(96.5) went away November 17, replaced by a day of Christmas
music, a stunt involving the "station janitor" playing
rhythmic top 40, and finally an actual rhythmic top 40 format
as "Wild 96.5," WLDW.
Salem's new Boston talker finally launched November 4, after
several weeks of delays. WTTT (1150) features Boston Herald
columnist Don Feder in morning drive and syndicated talk
the rest of the time. In Worcester, WNEB (1230) began simulcasting
WVNE (760 Leicester), keeping WVNE's religious programming going
after the 760 daytimer signs off at sunset.
WRKW (92.9 Saugerties) picked up the "Waking Up With
the Wolf" show from Albany sister WPYX, a challenge to rival
WPDH in Poughkeepsie, where Wolf used to work. In Rochester,
WBBF (93.3 Fairport) parted ways with morning host Tom George,
put afternoon guy Mike Vickers in his place, flipped to Christmas
music early in the month, then parted ways with Vickers a few
weeks later. And WYSI (96.7 Canton NY), way up north, picked
up the WPAC calls recently dropped in Ogdensburg.
The end of its LMA with Clear Channel brought some programming
changes to Mountain Wireless' central Maine cluster: WSKW (1160
Skowhegan) kept ESPN sports, sending former Clear Channel sisters
WFAU and WIGY to Fox Sports, while WHQO (107.9 Skowhegan) kept
Rush Limbaugh but lost the morning show it simulcast from WCME
(96.7 Boothbay Harbor).
"Jukebox Radio" finally met its demise mid-month,
as WJUX (99.7 Monticello NY) and its former translators in Pomona
NY and Fort Lee NJ flipped to religion from WRDR (89.7 Freehold
And in Montreal,
Corus ended the month by blowing up the French rock format on
CKOO (98.5), stunting with Christmas and promising a French news-talk
format in January to challenge longtime market leader CKAC (730).
In London, CHRW (94.7) moved up the dial - and up in power -
New to the air: WKTW (770 Jeannette PA), moving down from
1530, at least for testing; CBC Radio Two transmitters in Huntsville
ON (104.7) and Owen Sound ON (97.1); WHTX-LP (Channel 43), bringing
Univision to Springfield MA on what used to be Hartford's channel
10; WXGR-LP (101.5 Dover NH), though it would be destroyed by
fire after just a month.
DECEMBER: Clear Channel shook up the news-talk scene
in Pittsburgh by hiring Jim Quinn away from WRRK (96.9 Braddock)
to bring his conservative talk show to WJJJ (104.7 Pittsburgh),
which will drop its rhythmic oldies format in January to become
talker WPGB. The move had repercussions down I-70 in Wheeling,
W.V., where much of the local on-air staff at WWVA (1170) will
be replaced by a Quinn simulcast and a centralized news operation
The WFBL calls returned home to Syracuse's AM 1390 Dec. 1,
replacing religious WDCW there. WFBL on 1390 is simulcasting
the news/talk format it was running on AM 1050 from Baldwinsville,
which changed calls to WSEN and will eventually switch to a simulcast
of oldies WSEN-FM. Over in Rochester, the city's entire broadcast
community mourned the murder of one of their own after WCMF (96.5)
overnight jock "Unkle" Roger McCall, a 29 year veteran
of the station, was shot to death December 12 during an apparent
In Massachusetts, WBOQ (104.9 Gloucester) ditched its standards
format for oldies as "North Shore 104.9" on Dec. 22;
down the road in Beverly, WNSH (1570) applied to boost power
from 500 watts all the way to 50 kilowatts - by day, anyway.
In Canada, Bea-Ver Communications won permission to add a
Windsor relay for its CKUE (95.1) from Chatham-Kent, adding a
big new market to that rock station's reach.
On TV, the former
W67DF in Springfield, Massachusetts became "CBS3" WSHM-LP,
a new local CBS outlet that will replace Meredith sister WFSB
(Channel 3) from Hartford on Springfield-area cable systems in
And at year's end, the WNEW saga continued - Dec. 26 saw yet
another relaunch, this time as AC "Mix 102.7."
New to the air: WNBC-DT (Channel 28), from Rockefeller Center,
completing New York's major-network DTV dial in the wake of Sept.
11; the night signal of WBIX (1060 Natick), being tested early
in the month; WMHQ (90.1 Malone NY), with Mars Hill religion;
WAPP-LP (100.3 Westhampton NY); WIHR-LP (94.1 Jamestown NY).
Gone: CISD (107.7 Iroquois ON), whose license was surrendered.
- WILL McDONOUGH, 67, Boston Globe sports columnist
and radio/TV commentator (1/9)
- GENE COLLINS, 66, former WTEN Albany station manager (1/18)
- GARY MARDER, WUNI Worcester general manager (1/22)
- STAN MARTIN, 64, New York radio veteran (WQEW, etc.) (1/28)
- STAN HAYES, former Binghamton news director (1/31)
- MICHAEL "THE DOCTOR" GONSALVES, 40, WHJY Providence
overnight DJ (2/20)
- JAMES GEHAN, 21, WNRC Dudley MA jock (2/20)
- DALE LATULIPPE, 46, son of former WRKO newsman Don Latulippe
- GARY KENNERKNECHT, 52, former upstate NY news director and
CBS News producer (2/24)
- FRED "MISTER" ROGERS, Mister Rogers (2/27)
- ED BOLD, 82, owner of WSNJ Bridgeton NJ (3/4)
- VALERIE CORCORAN, 48, CKKW/CFCA Kitchener promotions (3/7)
- V. BIRNEY IMES, 89, former WMUR-TV owner (3/12)
- JIM HARLAN, 53, former WNEW personality (3/13)
- JOHN DOVE GIBBS, 80, former WWSW/KQV GM (3/25)
- BOB ANDERSON, 59, WYNZ Portland morning man (3/29)
- ALAN RAVITCH, Connecticut DJ "Al Late-Nite Lawrence"
- CHRIS BORGEN, 76, former WCBS-TV police reporter (4/25)
- GUS PARMET, 83, "Calling All Sports" creator (4/25)
- JERRY WILLIAMS, 79, Boston talk legend (4/29)
- HANK BEHRE, 80, WERA Plainfield NJ founder (5/8)
- DAVID IVES, 84, longtime WGBH leader (5/16)
- C. ROBERT OGREN, 59, WPRI engineer (5/18)
- "PRETTY" PATTI HARRISON, wife of Harry Harrison
- ANDRE BERNARD, 78, veteran WNYC-FM music host (5/22)
- WINTHROP "WIN" BAKER, 72, former WBZ, WNEV VP/GM
- BOB GILMORE, 72, former WGBH-TV producer (6/7)
- WAYNE VAN EXAN, 64, former CFRB overnight host (7/1)
- ERNIE BOCH, 77, Cape Cod station owner and car dealer (7/13)
- CLIFFORD T. WILLIAMS, 26, tower worker killed in fall from
WOGF tower in Greene Township, PA (7/15)
- JOHN REGAN "TEX" McCRARY, 92, WNBC morning host
and PR man (7/29)
- GREG DELMONACO, 51, former RI, Elmira/Corning station manager
- BRIAN McGARRY, 53, former WGAN, WMGX jock (8/12)
- DANA RAYMOND, 89, Edwin Armstrong's patent attorney (Aug.)
- KEN COLEMAN, 78, Red Sox announcer (8/22)
- SEAN KIMERLING, 37, WPIX-TV sports anchor (9/9)
- BRIAN FLORENCE, 38, WNEW "Sex for Sam" participant
- AMARJIT DHANJAL, 31, CHIN radio engineer in Toronto, killed
in remote-van accident (10/4)
- ISRAEL "IZZY" ASPER, 71, CanWest Global chairman
- ROBIN TAYLOR, WLTW overnight DJ (10/13)
- DEAN ANTHONY, 68, former WMCA good guy and WHLI PD (10/24)
- ROD RODDY, 66?,
former WKBW jock and TV announcer (10/27)
- BOB SMITH, 59, Smith Broadcasting owner (10/28)
- MARCIA MASTERS (BUSH), WBCN morning show comedienne (10/30)
- Dr. JEROME KOEPPEL, former WXKC/WRIE, WZVU owner (11/7)
- DORIS "FROM REGO PARK" BAUER, 58, WFAN frequent
- "UNKLE" ROGER McCALL, 59, WCMF Rochester overnight
jock shot to death in an apparent robbery (12/12)
- HOLLIS "MAC" McCURDY, 84, former Standard Broadcasting
- RICHARD "DICK" CORBIN, 74, former WCAP, WOTW DJ
NorthEast Radio Watch is made possible by the generous
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click here to
learn how you can help make continued publication possible. NERW
2003 by Scott Fybush.