By SCOTT FYBUSH
So here we are again, at the end of the tenth year in which
NERW has chronicled the broadcast goings-on of the northeastern
U.S. and eastern Canada. (Actually, NERW existed to a limited
degree in 1994 as well, but if we did a "1994 Year in Review,"
it's lost to posterity now.)
What can we say about 2004? With one big exception, the sales
picture was a quiet one indeed, with few big deals going down
(unless your corporate name was Nassau!) Satellite radio continued
to draw headlines in both the trade press and the wider media
world, while terrestrial digital radio garnered plenty of talk
within the industry but ended the year right where it began -
completely unknown to the average listener. (And broadcast digital
TV wasn't doing much better.)
We lost some great broadcasters - David Brudnoy, Salty Brine,
Scott Muni, Chuck Leonard and Nick Berg, just to name a few.
A few new signals popped up on the airwaves, with many more
translators poised to hit the air in the year to come.
And we saw a whole bunch of towers...but we're getting ahead
of ourselves, aren't we? Let's jump in with our traditional starting
point, the Top 10 list of the year's big stories in NERW-land:
1. Going Orbital
Opie & Anthony
made the jump first, signing with XM Satellite Radio almost as
soon as their contract with Infinity expired in June - but their
spotlight was stolen a few months later by archrival Howard Stern,
who announced in October that he'd leave terrestrial radio when
his contract expired in 2006 to explore the new,
four-letter laden frontier of satellite radio at Sirius. For
the next few weeks, Stern's show was heavily laden with talk
of Sirius, prompting some affiliates (most notably Citadel's
stations in Syracuse, York and Providence) to begin cutting the
Stern show off promptly at 10. Syracuse's WAQX upped the ante
during Stern's Christmas vacation, pre-empting his "best
of" shows for...Opie and Anthony, on a one-day delay from
Public radio wasn't immune, either - Morning Edition founding
host Bob Edwards decided not to stick around after being somewhat
ungraciously ousted from the show just before its quarter-century
mark, joining XM for a new morning program.
2. Holy $#&*!
Stern's move away from terrestrial radio wasn't just a question
of more money. After years of doing battle with the FCC, the
particularly pitched nature of that battle in 2004 may have been
more than even the "King of All Media" wanted to deal
with on a daily basis. Fear of fines - which Congress attempted
to raise at least tenfold during the year - led Clear Channel
to drop Stern from its stations that carried the show (including
WXDX in Pittsburgh and WNVE in Rochester, though Stern would
return to both markets on Infinity-owned stations later in the
year.) It also prompted many of the region's ABC affiliates (including
Young's station in Albany and Hearst-Argyle's stations in Boston,
Manchester and Portland) to pre-empt the network's Veterans Day
airing of Saving Private Ryan, out of the not entirely
unjustified fear that the FCC would receive - and respond to
- complaints about the explicit language used in the World War
II drama. And in Rochester, University of Rochester officials
briefly required students at WRUR (88.5) to record their shows
two weeks in advance so they could be screened for content.
3. Au revoir, CHOI-FM?
However stern (no
pun intended) the FCC could be in 2004, its actions were far
less punitive than those of its northern neighbor. The CRTC responded
to complaints about Quebec City's CHOI (98.1) - including concerns
about the station's musical content, its responsiveness to CRTC
concerns, and the political criticism its morning hosts aimed
at Quebec City political leaders - by denying the station's license
renewal. But CHOI owner Genex Communications didn't back down,
sending its listeners into the streets of Quebec City and putting
them on a bus to Ottawa to show their support. In the end, CHOI
was granted a short-term license extension while it argued its
case in court, dealing the CRTC a huge black eye.
4. The Collapse of WBIX
On November 10, Boston
business talker WBIX (1060 Natick) was making headlines for all
the right reasons, as station owner Brad Bleidt threw a gala
bash to celebrate the station's long-awaited activation of a
full-time signal. A day later, Bleidt was back in the headlines,
this time exposed as a self-confessed embezzler who'd stolen
money from his investment firm's clients to pay for the radio
After attempting suicide, Bleidt wound up under psychiatric
evaluation at year's end. His planned sale of WBIX to Chris Egan
fell through, and the station wound up back in the hands of original
owner Alex Langer. With the WBIX staff out of work, 1060 reverted
to satellite talk as a bankruptcy trustee prepared the signal
for yet another sale, which will surely be a major story in 2005.
5. The Christo Era Ends
As head of Boston public radio giant WBUR, Jane Christo was
one of the market's most colorful characters, ruling her domain
with an iron fist while at the same time transforming what had
been a small college station into one of the major forces in
the public radio system. But WBUR's expansion into Rhode Island
with the purchase of two AM stations there a few years back may
have been too much; post-9/11, WRNI (1290 Providence) and WXNI
(1230 Westerly) faced big budget cutbacks as WBUR attempted to
keep them in the black. In the summer of 2004, WBUR pulled most
of what was left of the WRNI staff, followed in September by
the announcement that the stations were being put up for sale.
That was one too
many surprises for the Rhode Islanders who had given millions
of dollars to WRNI, and their anger prompted a Rhode Island investigation
of WBUR's finances, which led to a Massachusetts investigation,
which led to Christo's resignation and the installation of Boston
University executive Peter Fiedler as the station's interim leader.
A subsequent internal investigation dismissed claims of financial
improprieties on Christo's part, but questions about improper
hiring (including the appearance on WBUR's staff of many Albanians,
possibly connected to Christo's Albanian husband) lingered, even
as the planned sale of WRNI/WXNI was put on hold.
6. Remembering Bruds
David Brudnoy was much more than just the evening talk host
on WBZ (1030 Boston). A professor at Boston University, movie
reviewer for community newspapers, political commentator, author
and devout libertarian, Brudnoy was far from your usual radio
personality - and that was even before he made national headlines
in 1995 with his revelation, after spending several months recovering
from a near-death illness, that he was infected with the AIDS
Brudnoy hung on for
nearly a decade after that, continuing to travel and to maintain
his busy schedule even as he battled the occasional illness that
would take him off the air, sometimes for weeks or months at
a time. So when he entered the hospital in early December for
treatment of a stubborn cough, most of his listeners assumed
he'd be back shortly, at least until he appeared on WBZ in a
taped interview in which he revealed that he was just hours from
WBZ's programming turned into an on-air wake, with Brudnoy
listening from his hospital room; he died the next evening (Dec.
9), just in time to make the end of the 6:00 news, which was
exactly the way he would have wanted it. The station promptly
named Paul Sullivan, who'd taken the 10-midnight shift from Brudnoy
in 1995, to take over Brudnoy's slot, even as Sullivan was himself
recovering from the successful removal of a brain tumor.
7. Nassau Gets Big in New England
Nassau group was barely a presence in New England as the year
began, holding only a handful of stations in Maine. By mid-year,
Nassau had grown to become the region's biggest station group,
at least by number of stations, spending nearly $48 million to
end up with 32 stations in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine,
including much of the former Vox group as well as former Tele-Media
and Sconnix stations. (Nassau was a seller, too, collecting $40
million from the equally ambitious Millennium group for two New
Jersey FM stations.) At the end of the year, New Jersey-based
Nassau had turned its attention to territory south of the region,
planting its flag in Frederick, Maryland with the acquisition
of stations there and in nearby Hagerstown.
8. Air America Arrives
In a year of big
politics, it was inevitable that political talk radio would be
a flashpoint - but it was a surprise to many in the business
when a group of investors announced the formation of "Air
America Radio," a talk network designed to appeal to liberal
After an almost comically rocky start, including financial
problems that took the network off the air after just a few weeks
in Los Angeles and Chicago, the network began to rebound on the
strength of surprisingly good ratings in Portland, Oregon and,
to a lesser extent, at New York flagship WLIB (1190), leading
groups such as Clear Channel, Entercom and Saga to begin using
Air America programming on some of their lesser AM signals.
By the end of the year, Air America was on the air in Boston,
Portland, Providence, Burlington, the Pioneer Valley, New Haven,
Philadelphia and Rochester in addition to WLIB.
9. FM Auctions, AM Windows
The radio dials are never full, at least not if you're the
FCC, and 2004 brought opportunities for broadcasters to add new
services on both AM and FM. In January, the FCC opened a window
for major AM change applications and new AM station applications
for the first time in three years, bringing in several dozen
applications for stations everywhere from northern Maine to southwestern
Pennsylvania. The largest of the proposed changes - a move of
Wheeling, W.V.'s WWVA (1170) to the Cleveland suburb of Stow
- was withdrawn by Clear Channel later in the year; most of the
rest of the applications will see action sometime in 2005.
On the FM dial, an auction of vacant FM allocations kept the
Commission busy later in the fall. When it was all over, Boston's
WGBH had won its bid for a new FM channel in Brewster, paying
$3.927 million for the privilege. (Other FM channels in New Hampshire,
Vermont, northern New York and rural Pennsylvania went for far
less, and several desirable channels, including one that would
serve Buffalo, were pulled out of the auction and reserved for
The year also brought the sign-ons of many of the new FM translators
that sprouted from the Commission's 2003 window for new applications
in that service, with many, many, many more to come
10. Sox Win! Sox Win! Sox Win!
You thought maybe
we weren't going to mention this one? The heart-in-the-throat
postseason for the ages was a huge boon not only to Sox radio
flagship WEEI, its radio affiliates throughout New England, Fox
TV affiliates everywhere and the Sox-owned NESN sports network,
but the World Series win brought big promotional opportunities
to just about every Boston radio and TV station, which blanketed
the airwaves with coverage of the win and the victory parade
that followed. And we'll call it right here, right now: we're
going for two in '05.
The Year in Sales
JANUARY: Nassau began its sales onslaught with the
$12 million acquisition of Tele-Media's WNNH/WLKZ/WHOB in New
Hampshire, then followed up with the $5 million purchase of the
last Sconnix stations, WLNH/WBHG/WEMG in New Hampshire's Lakes
Region. Ed Bold's family sold off the other half of Bridgeton,
New Jersey's WSNJ, AM 1240, to Quinn Broadcasting in a $550,000
deal that made WSNJ and Millville's WMVB sister stations. BisiBlue
LLC bought WIPS (1250 Ticonderoga NY) from Empire State Radio
added to its Concord cluster with Vox's WNHI/WJYY/WOTX, for $9
million. Vox spun off WRSI-WRSY and WPVQ in western Massachusetts
to Saga, for $7 million, and Glens Falls' WMML/WENU/WENU-FM/WFFG
to Pamal, for $2.5 million. Hearst-Argyle had the TV deal of
the month, picking up Harron's WMTW-TV (Channel 8) in the Portland,
Maine market for $37.5 million. Regent swapped some stations
with Citadel, giving Citadel entry into the Erie market (WRIE/WXTA/WXKC/WQHZ)
and Reading (WIOV AM-FM) in exchange for a cluster in Bloomington,
Illinois. And Galaxy announced plans to sell its Utica cluster
(WTLB/WKLL/WRCK) to the growing Route 81 family, for $2.75 million.
MARCH: Still more Nassau acquisitions - and Vox sales
- with a $22 million deal that landed Nassau the Vox clusters
in Barre-Montpelier, Vermont and the Upper Valley. Steve Mindich
unloaded WWRX (103.7 Westerly RI) to Entercom, for $14.5 million.
Entercom also added a Buffalo-market FM, Adelphia's WNSA (107.7
Wethersfield Township), for what would turn out to be a $10.5
million pricetag. Hartford County Broadcasting sold Connecticut's
WRYM (840 New Britain) to Eight Forty Broadcasting for $1.06
million, while just down the road, Davidson Media entered the
Nutmeg State with the $1.4 million purchase of WXCT (990 Southington).
Bob Heckler sold WXBH (1190 Cobleskill) to Doug Stephan's Viva
Communications, for $120,000. In Canada, Haliburton Broadcasting
picked up CKNR (94.1 Elliot Lake) from North Channel Broadcasting,
for C$625,000. And on the TV side, Pegasus bought LMA partner
WPME (Channel 35) in the Portland market from KB Prime Media
for $13.8 million.
had the biggest purchase of the month, paying $22 million for
Lappin's WMAS AM-FM in Springfield, Mass. Down the road in Connecticut,
Freedom Communications paid Mega $3 million for WLAT and WNEZ
in the Hartford market. A western Pennsylvania deal saw Clear
Channel spin off WJST-FM, WKST and WBZY in the New Castle market
to the Forever/Keymarket companies for a total of $2.85 million.
Magnum Broadcasting paid $200,000 for Westview Communications'
WZYY (106.9 Renovo PA). Up in New Hampshire, Embro struck a deal
to sell WKXL in Concord to former senator Gordon Humphrey for
$830,000. On TV, Scripps bought out Shop at Home (including WSAH-TV
in Connecticut and WMFP in Boston) for $185 million, while in
Canada, Radiomedia worked out a deal to sell its AM stations
to Corus and several FMs to Astral.
MAY: Saga tried again to add Eagle Broadcasting's Ithaca
cluster (WYXL/WQNY/WHCU/WTKO) to its family, in a $13.4 million
deal that still hadn't been approved at year's end. Vox spun
its Jamestown stations to Jim Embrescia's Media One for $4.5
million. Davidson Media Group paid $2.6 million for Providence's
WALE (990) in a bankruptcy sale from Cumbre Communications. Renda
paid $900,000 for Longo Media Group's WLCY (106.3 Blairsville
PA). Vox closed on its $2.025 million buy of Berkshire Broadcasting's
WNAW/WMNB/WSBS in the Berkshires, while Route 81's proposed purchase
of those Galaxy stations in Utica was abruptly halted, along
with the LMA to Route 81. On TV, Pegaus picked up WSWB (Channel
38) in Scranton from LMA partner KB Prime Media for $2 million,
while CTV of Derry announced plans to sell WNDS (Channel 50)
up there in southern New Hampshire to Diane Sutter's Shooting
Star. In Canada, Suzanne Rochon Burnett sold CHOW (91.7 Welland
ON) to David Holgate and Pat St. John.
JUNE: Vox spun off WTPL (107.7 Hillsborough NH) to
one of its principals, Jeff Shapiro, whose Great Eastern group
paid $1.6 million for the station. Nassau spun off WCHR-FM and
WOJZ in New Jersey to Millennium, for $40 million. And Brad Bleidt
announced a deal to sell WBIX (1060 Natick) to Chris Egan - we'd
hear more about that later in the year, of course.
JULY: Nassau picked up two more from Vox in Vermont,
adding WEXP in the Rutland market and simulcast WVAY down south,
for $2.5 million. And the new Double O group agreed to pay $9.75
million for BanJo's cluster of stations in Norwich, Oneonta,
Delhi and vicinity in upstate New York.
AUGUST: A small buy for
Nassau, which paid $500,000 to pick up WTKZ (1320 Allentown PA)
from the rapidly-diminishing Mega group - and a bunch of interesting
deals that hadn't been consummated at year's end: K Radio Licensee's
sale of WGSM on Long Island to Atmor Properties, Chowder Broadcast
Group's sale of WORC in Worcester to Antonio Gois and Clear Channel's
purchase of WILM in Wilmington, Delaware for $48 million. On
the TV side, Dorothy Brunson took home $48 million (most of it
in the assumption of outstanding debt) from TBN for WGTW (Channel
48) in Philadelphia.
SEPTEMBER: Nassau was at it again, this time paying
$2.3 million for Northstar's WMOO/WIKE in northern Vermont. Magnum
Broadcasting paid $2 million for WPHB/WUBZ in Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania,
while Ernie Anastos spun off WNRI in Woonsocket, R.I. to Bouchard
Broadcasting for $900,000. Dan Vilkie picked up WGRP in Greenville,
PA for $50,000, while up in Erie, Mercyhurst College got WEYZ
(1530 North East) for $30,000 (plus an $80,000 gift-in-kind to
the college) from Corry Communications. Doc Fuller announced
the sale of WNBP in Newburyport to Todd Tanger - and WBUR put
WRNI/WXNI in Rhode Island up for sale, at least briefly.
OCTOBER: No sales action!
Morley returned to the fray, assembling P J Radio LLC to pay
$4 million for WDLC/WTSX in Port Jervis, N.Y. And up in Vermont,
Steve Silberberg's White Park Broadcasting paid Ken Squier's
Radio Vermont $400,000 for WVAA (1390 Burlington).
DECEMBER: Nick Galli (Burbach Broadcasting) re-entered
Pennsylvania with an $8 million deal for Al Dame's Johnstown
and State College signals. Davidson Media Group expanded its
Rhode Island reach with a $7.5 million deal to buy WAKX and WKKB
from Citadel. In New Jersey, a $4.9 million three-way deal saw
WKOE in Ocean City go from Ocean Broadcasting to Millennium to
Press. And in the Catskills, the new Watermark Communications
struck a $2.5 million deal for WSUL (98.3 Monticello).
The Year in Programming,
People and Calls
JANUARY: The year began with a call change in Rochester,
as WDCZ (102.7 Webster) became WRCI. (And, yes, a full year later
the WDCZ calls were still appearing in the local rag's TV book.)
Also here in town, EMF's "K-Love" satellite contemporary
Christian format came to WMJQ (105.5 Brockport), via an LMA with
option to buy.
Clear Channel launched FM talk on WPGB (104.7 Pittsburgh)
January 5, and talk - including WPGB's Jim Quinn morning show
- also came to Altoona's WFBG (1290), replacing standards. Also
out that way, Forever rearranged its plate, flipping Altoona's
WMAJ-FM (104.9 Hollidaysburg) to classic rock "Rocky"
as WRKY and moving WXMJ (99.5 Mount Union) to a simulcast of
WPRR (100.1 Altoona). And back in Pittsburgh, WKTW (770 Jeannette)
changed calls to WKFB.
The end of WLIR (92.7
Garden City) brought a simulcast of Spanish hits WCAA (105.9
Newark NJ) to the renamed WZAA; the WLIR calls moved out to Morey's
"107.1 the Box," WBON (107.1 Hampton Bays), with a
series of call swaps that put WLIR on 107.1, WBON on "Bone"
WDRE (98.5 Westhampton) and WDRE on "Party" WXXP (105.3
New Jersey's WMTR (1250 Morristown) went to oldies from standards,
while up in the Albany market, WKRD (93.7 Scotia) dumped "K-Rock"
for classic country as "Eagle."
In Canada, Ottawa's CKBY (105.3) moved its country format
to the former CIOX (101.1 Smiths Falls), creating a new home
for top 40 "Kiss" at 105.3 and flipping country CJET-FM
(92.3 Smiths Falls) to "Jack FM." (A series of call
changes later in the year would put the CKBY calls on 101.1,
the CISS calls on 105.3, and the CJAQ calls on the Toronto Jack
at 92.5 that was formerly CISS.) Meanwhile in Montreal, CKOO
(98.5) flipped to FM talk in French.
It was a bad month for several well-known radio names: Bruce
Bond was ousted from his latest Harrisburg home, WRKZ (102.3
Carlisle), Bob Dearborn was the victim of budget cuts at Toronto's
CHWO (740), Glenn Kalina lost his morning gig at Philly's WMWX
(95.7), J.R. Gach was out as WKRD changed formats, and Gary LaPierre
of WBZ (1030) in Boston had to deal with the "revelation"
that he'd been broadcasting from his home in Florida some mornings.
Two notable retirements: ABC's Bob Hardt and CHFI's Don Daynard.
New to the air: CKBT (91.5 Kitchener), as "The Beat"
spun the wheel at its Harrisburg-market stations, moving country
from WCAT-FM (106.7 Hershey) to the new "Red 102.3",
the former WRKZ (102.3 Carlisle). WRKZ got the WCAT-FM calls,
too, while 106.7 flipped to "Cool Pop" WCPP.
To the west, WHUN (1150 Huntingdon) began simulcasting the
talk of WFBG in Altoona. In Albany, "Eagle 93.7" flipped
from WKRD to WEGB and then to WEGQ, bringing back memories of
an earlier "Eagle 93.7" with those calls in Boston.
A south Jersey voice fell silent with the sign-off of WSNJ-FM
(107.7 Bridgeton), which would eventually be moved north to the
In New Hampshire, WZBK (1220 Keene) flipped from "WKBK-2"
talk to "Unrock" standards; in Maine, WCTB (93.5 Fairfield)
went classic hits as "the River," while WNSX (97.7
Winter Harbor) dumped sports for a simulcast of "Fox"
classic hits from WFZX (101.7 Searsport).
In Canada, CFMK (96.3
Kingston) dropped country for classic hits/hot AC "Joe."
And at month's end, Clear Channel, wary of FCC fines, pulled
Howard Stern from all its stations - including Rochester's WNVE
(95.1 Honeoye Falls) and Pittsburgh's WXDX (105.9).
New to the air: CIKZ (99.5 Kitchener/Waterloo), as country
MARCH: Crawford began the month by flip-flopping formats
and calls in Albany, putting religion and the WDCD calls back
on 1540 and moving WPTR's oldies to the former WDCD-FM (96.7
Clifton Park). Over on the border near Watertown, Clancy-Mance
took advantage of the Kingston format change at CFMK to flip
WBDR (102.7 Cape Vincent) to country as "Kix," leaving
top 40 "Border" on two other signals there.
In northeastern Pennsylvania, WKJN (1440 Carbondale) went
dark and changed calls back to its original WCDL, while WCWI
(94.3 Carbondale) became WNAK-FM, simulcasting standards with
WNAK (730 Nanticoke) under new owners Route 81. And WCWY (107.7
Tunkhannock) went country as "Buzzard Country" WBZR.
Route 81 also made a big move in Utica, dumping "K-Rock"
from WKLL (94.9 Frankfort) and installing standards there with
a simulcast of WTLB (1310 Utica). Route 81 also installed standards
at WHYL (960 Carlisle), replacing oldies; down the road at WHBO
(92.7 Starview), oldies gave way to smooth jazz as WSJW. Over
in Johnstown, Forever did some shuffling, moving news-talk WNTJ
from 1490 to 850, formerly country WLYE. 1490 became sports WSPO,
and the 850 simulcast on 990 in Somerset changed calls from WVSC
In Amsterdam, country WBUG (1570) became news-talk WVTL, while
in Binghamton, Clear Channel segued WMRV (105.7 Endicott) to
hot AC as "Star 105.7."
It was a very bad
month for Doug Lane, owner of Scranton's WICK and WWDL, as he
was arrested for child molestation.
Philadelphia's "Wild" WLDW (96.5) became "Wired"
WRDW-FM, and one more change in Scranton brought soft AC WFEZ
(103.1 Avoca) to the air on March 31, replacing the WAMT simulcast
of "Mountain" WDMT (102.3 Pittston) now that both signals
shared a tower.
The spinning door: David O'Leary was out of a morning job
at WBOS (92.9) in Boston, though he'd resurface in Providence
at WSNE-FM later in the year; Don Cannon retired after a long
career at Philadelphia's WOGL (98.1); and Mark Giardina moved
over to the government PR side of things after 30 years doing
news in Rochester, most recently at WXXI (1370).
And the month closed with the launch of Air America Radio,
on a small lineup of stations that included WLIB (1190 New York).
New to the air: classical WCNH-LP (94.7 Concord NH) on March
1, religious CHJX (105.9 London ON), multiethnic CKDG (105.1
Montreal) and WFJY (660 Wilkinsburg PA, moved from 1470 Portage
PA), on March 26.
APRIL: WXPK (107.1 Briarcliff Manor) kicked off the
month by launching a AAA format for Westchester as "The
Peak." Just over the state line, Scott Shannon's "True
Oldies" format launched on WREF (850 Ridgefield CT).
In Philadelphia, WZZD (990) dropped
religion for conservative talk as WNTP on April 5.
Nassau set the format wheels twirling in Maine as it began
tweaking its new acquisitions, moving country WTHT (107.5 Lewiston)
to the former "Kiss" WMEK (99.9 Auburn), relaunching
107.5 as classic hits "Frank" WFNK, launching classic
rock/Howard Stern "Bone" on WHXR (106.7 North Windham,
formerly news-talk WMTW-FM) and WHXQ (104.7 Kennebunkport, formerly
soft AC WQEZ), restoring standards to WLAM (1470 Lewiston, formerly
a WMTW simulcast) and introducing Air America on WLVP, the former
news-talk WMTW. Air America also landed in the Burlington market
on WTWK (1070 Plattsburgh NY).
Still more action in the Scranton area, with WCWQ (93.7 Dallas)
dropping its simulcast of rocker WBSX (97.9 Hazleton) and flipping
to country WSJR. Speaking of Hazleton, Route 81 returned WAZL
(1490) to the air there as a local voice. Over in the Pittsburgh
market, WFJY (660) flipped calls to WCIX, while Sheridan changed
the calls of WSSZ (107.1 Greensburg) to WJJJ, the former calls
of 104.7, now WPGB.
Entercom put sports and the WEEI-FM calls on the former WWRX
(103.7 Westerly RI), though it was unable to carry Red Sox baseball
on the Rhode Island signal because there was already a rightsholder
in the market.
In Hartford, former New York morning stars Star and Buc Wild
appeared on WPHH (104.1 Waterbury), fueling speculation of a
return to the Big Apple once their non-compete at WQHT (97.1)
was up. Art Lake celebrated 60 years at Providence's WJAR, while
up in Manchester, Charlie Sherman quit his sports director job
at WMUR (Channel 9) after significantly less time, and in Boston,
Peter Brown left the news director gig at WBZ-TV (Channel 4)
after a long run there.
MAY: The collapse
of Adelphia meant the end of local sports on WNSA (107.7 Wethersfield
Township); it spent the month simulcasting new sister station
WGR (550 Buffalo), then stunting with water sounds before relaunching
May 24 as AAA "107.7 the Lake."
Down in Corning, WCBA-FM (98.7) went to a simulcast of AC
WENY-FM (92.7 Elmira) under its new Route 81 ownership; later
in the year, 98.7 would instead simulcast standards with WCBA
(1350 Corning). Over in Saugerties, WRKW (92.9) dropped rock
for oldies as "Cool."
In Pittsburgh, the death throes of top 40 WBZZ saw "93-7BZZ"
give way to "B93.7," which would prove rather short-lived.
The much longer-lived WQEX (Channel 16), which had been a public
TV outlet since 1959, took advantage of its newly-granted commercial
status and began to be leased out to America's Store home shopping,
beginning May 1.
In Connecticut, WXCT (990 Southington) went Spanish as "SuperMax
990," and up in Montreal CKOO (98.5) had new calls of CHMP.
In Philadelphia, the FCC finally caught up with powerful pirate
"El Sol 95.3," shutting it down (and discovering that
its operators, "The Moors," claimed to have a license
signed by an ancient Egyptian priestess...)
New York's WFUV (90.7) finally reached a settlement with its
neighbors at the Botanical Garden that would lead to the demolition
of its controversial unfinished tower and the construction of
a new transmitter site atop a Bronx apartment building. And in
Rochester, the University of Rochester's WRUR (88.5), concerned
about the FCC's content crackdown, announced a new policy that
would require student and community DJs to record their shows
two weeks in advance. (By the end of the summer, community DJs
would be back on the air live.)
New to the air: WJPG (88.1 Cape May Court House NJ).
JUNE: Western Pennsylvania's "Cat Country"
(WICT 95.1 Grove City) joined the "Froggy" family under
new calls WWGY.
In western Massachusetts,
WMNB (100.1 North Adams) and WUPE (95.9 Pittsfield) dropped AC
for an oldies simulcast as "Whoopie," while sister
WUHN (1110 Pittsfield) flipped from classic country to standards.
Saga's trimulcast of WHMP (1400 Northampton), WHNP (1600 East
Longmeadow) and WHMQ (1240 Greenfield) added Air America talk.
In Connecticut, R&B WKND (1480 Windsor) began simulcasting
on new sister station WNEZ (1230 Manchester); it would later
put black gospel on 1480 and complete a call swap between the
two stations in October.
Two call changes on the Connecticut/Rhode Island line: WHJM
(107.7 Pawcatuck CT) picked up the WWRX calls, while WADK-FM
(99.3 Block Island RI) became WJZS.
It was the end of the line for a few veterans: Joe Franklin
retired after decades at New York's WOR (710), while Oedipus
hung up his PD stripes at Boston's WBCN (104.1), though he remained
with Infinity as a corporate programmer. (He'd be replaced by
Dave Wellington, from KXTE in Las Vegas.) Joe McCoy was out the
door at WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) after almost two decades in
the PD chair there, while Doug Banks' morning show at WBLS (107.5
New York) was replaced with Rick Party, in what would prove to
be a rather brief tenure.
New to the air: "Generations Rock" CIGR (104.5 Sherbrooke
era ended in Pittsburgh, as WBZZ (93.7) dropped top 40 for rock
as "K-Rock," picking up the WRKZ calls that had been
over in Hershey and returning Howard Stern to the Steel City
airwaves. Down the dial, WCIX (660 Wilkinsburg) picked up its
third callsign for the year, becoming WPYT.
In Rochester, Stern arrived on Infinity's WZNE (94.1 Brighton),
while Clear Channel flipped formats and calls on two signals
July 4, giving classic rock "Fox" WFXF (107.3 South
Bristol) the much stronger signal that had belonged to modern
rock "Nerve" WNVE (95.1 Honeoye Falls).
Up in the St. Lawrence Valley, a complicated series of call
and format swaps saw WNCQ (102.9 Morristown) and WPAC (96.7 Canton)
do a little dance that resulted in 102.9 becoming a Canton-licensed
frequency, still with the WNCQ calls and "Q Country"
format, while 96.7 remained "Yes FM," but with a Morristown
city of license, a stronger signal and new calls of WYSX. Those
calls had been on 98.7 Ogdensburg, which took the WPAC calls
and dropped "Yes FM" for oldies.
In Albany, Crawford dropped oldies on WPTR (96.7 Clifton Park)
in favor of contemporary Christian "Pulse 96.7," while
down the road in Cobleskill, WXBH (1190) became WSDE, still doing
news and talk.
In Connecticut, WJJF (1180 Hope Valley) changed calls to WCNX
and went silent, briefly, while its tower was being replaced.
PDs saw the door, as WKRZ (98.5 Wilkes-Barre)'s Jerry Padden
departed after 23 years, while WIP (610 Philadelphia)'s Tom Bigby
took a plum job as OM of KRLD (1080 Dallas), an office vacated
by another former northeasterner, Tyler Cox, who headed off to
Salem to head up their talk programming. Dan Lynch departed his
longtime afternoon slot at Albany's WROW (590) to move to Florida,
while John DePetro left Providence's WHJJ (920) for the mid-morning
talk slot at WRKO (680) in Boston. Albany veteran Bob Mason retired
from WRCZ (94.5 Ravena). Rochester veteran Bob Lonsberry returned
to WHAM (1180) after almost a year's absence, and food talker
Arthur Schwartz parted ways with WOR (710) in New York, to be
replaced by chef Rocco DiSpirito.
In Watertown, Clear Channel axed long-form local news at struggling
WWTI (Channel 50), replacing it with hourly newsbriefs.
New to the air:
CHMY (96.1 Renfrew ON), multiethnic CJSA (101.3 Toronto), classical
WNCH (88.1 Norwich VT) from Vermont Public Radio (July 20), and
CJTN-FM (107.1 Quinte West ON), on July 22, replacing CJTN 1270,
which would be silent by the fall.
AUGUST: Both transmitters at Cumulus' standards WDEA
(1370 Ellsworth ME) failed on August 19, leaving the station
off the air for more than a month and forcing Downeast Maine
Red Sox fans to go hunting for another signal on which to follow
their team's amazing run for the postseason. (WDEA would eventually
get back on the air with a new transmitter, but not until September
Erie's Mercyhurst College added an AM signal in northwestern
Pennsylvania, acquiring WEYZ (1530 North East) and flipping it
to WYNE, simulcasting the arts and cultural programming on its
WMCE (88.5 Erie).
WXXY (88.7 Port Republic NJ) gave up its all-80s format and
went black gospel as "Rejoice," while up in New Hampshire,
WSNH (900 Nashua) spent some time carrying oldies from WMEX (106.5
It was a month for new PDs in New York, with Blake Lawrence
arriving at WQCD (101.9), his old boss Dave Logan arriving at
WCBS-FM (101.1) and Frankie Blue taking the helm at WNEW (102.7),
at least until a drunken post-holiday-party airshift put that
job in question at year's end. (His predecessor, Smokey Rivers,
was off to Dallas and the KVIL PD job.)
And in Syracuse, dozens of veterans of WOLF (1490) came together
for an amazing all-day reunion, both on and off the air.
New to the air: "Rhythme FM" CFGE (93.7 Sherbrooke
QC), followed in November by relay CFGE-1 (98.1 Magog QC).
lost its standards station as the month began, with WPEN (950)
flipping to 50s and 60s oldies. Oldies also showed up in northwest
New Jersey, where WNNJ (1360 Newton) ditched its classic country
format to become "Oldies 1360."
In western Pennsylvania, WJST (92.1 Ellwood City) became WKPL,
oldies "Pickle." The WJST calls and "Star"
AC format moved to quasi-sister-station WBZY (1280 New Castle),
which flipped a month or so later to "Just Oldies 1280."
WVFC (1530 McConnellsburg) requested a call change to WFYL,
but the call change (and the station's planned move to 1180 and
the Philadelphia suburb of King of Prussia) still hadn't taken
effect at year's end.
Air America came to Rochester's WROC (950), where it replaced
Laura Ingraham and Bill O'Reilly. In Watkins Glen, WGMF (1490)
changed calls to WTYX, parking them there after they were replaced
in Jackson, Mississippi. (And just down the road in Elmira, the
former public TV translator, W30AA, reappeared as Clear Channel-operated
UPN outlet WTTX-LP, which will eventually have to move when DTV-only
full-power PBS outlet WSKA takes channel 30 in Corning.)
Clear Channel also removed country "Kixx" from WXXK
(93.5 Springfield VT), flipping it to news-talk WTSM, simulcasting
WTSL (1400 Hanover NH). Across Vermont, WZEC (97.5 Hoosick Falls
NY) moved from hot AC "Point" to "Light Rock 97.5"
More TV news: Josh Binswanger returned from the History Channel
to become WBZ-TV (Channel 4)'s new lead anchor, while Ernie Anastos
announced he'd be moving from WCBS-TV (Channel 2) to Fox's WNYW
(Channel 5) in New York in 2005. On the radio, Dan Taylor's short
run as WCBS-FM (101.1) morning host ended, as did Ed McMann's
long run at WXKS-FM (107.9) in Boston (though McMann would quickly
resurface in Providence at WWBB). The veteran morning team of
Ken & Kitty departed WCTO (96.1 Easton PA) for Cincinnati
and WYGY (96.5), while CJMF (93.3) in Quebec City put controversial
morning man Robert Gillet back on the air, though he'd be gone
again in December after ratings didn't materialize.
In Canada, Radio-Canada relaunched its "chaine culturelle"
service (the old French FM Stereo network) as "Espace Musique,"
adding more rock and pop music to the classical and jazz already
America took the headlines as the month began, with Clear Channel
bringing the network to Boston via WKOX (1200 Framingham) and
WXKS (1430 Everett), replacing Spanish religion and standards,
respectively. (WXKS morning man Bill Wightman quickly found new
work on the North Shore at WBOQ.) The network also found an affiliate
in Providence, where WHJJ (920) used it to fill several holes
in its schedule. And up in Portland, public outcry reversed Nassau's
decision to replace Air America with sports on WLVP (870 Gorham),
bringing Nassau CEO Lou Mercatanti to town for a "public
meeting" with WLVP's listeners.
A public outcry also
brought about a format reversal in south Jersey, where WCMC (1230
Wildwood) dropped standards for oldies but then flipped back
less than two weeks later after demonstrations from Cape May
County's senior citizens.
WWDJ (970 Hackensack) tweaked its religious/talk mix to become
"WMCA 970," promoting itself alongside sister Salem
station WMCA (570).
Up in the Mohawk Valley, WCSS (1490 Amsterdam) moved from
standards to soft AC; in Pittsburgh, Sheridan moved WJJJ (107.1
Greensburg) from simulcasting WAMO-FM (106.7 Beaver Falls) to
WAMO (860 Millvale), relaunching the combo as adult R&B "Magic
107.1 and 860 AM." And in Maine, Citadel parked the WJZN
calls (late in Memphis) on the former WEZW (1400 Augusta).
On the TV dial, WGTW (Channel 48) in Philadelphia flipped
to TBN programming at the start of the month. In Providence,
veteran WPRI (Channel 12) anchor Walter Cryan came out of retirement
to try to bring WLNE (Channel 6) the ratings that have long eluded
it. Boston's Ed Goldman parted ways with WBZ-TV (Channel 4) after
more than a decade as general manager, with former WBZ mailroom
worker Julio Marenghi returning from WCBS-TV to take on GM duties.
In Canada, CBC radio left the studios in Ottawa's Chateau
Laurier that it had occupied since what's now CBO (91.5) signed
on in 1924.
And, oh yeah, a certain Boston baseball team made history
when it recovered from a 3-0 deficit to win eight straight postseason
games, defeat the hated Yankees and win its first World Series
in 86 years. It was a good month.
New to the air: CKLX (91.9 Montreal), with "Couleurs
FM" jazz, and CHSL (1610 Toronto), with Spanish religion.
Jersey saw the biggest action of the month, as a Nassau/Millennium/Press
deal replaced Nassau's smooth jazz WOJZ (104.9 Egg Harbor City)
with Millennium's modern AC "SoJo 104.9." Millennium's
simulcast of "New Jersey 101.5" (WKXW-FM Trenton) moved
from WKOE (106.3 Ocean City) to WIXM (97.3 Millville), which
dropped its "Mix" format to make room for SoJo. And
WKOE then changed hands from Millennium to Press, which flipped
it to soft AC "Breeze," matching its two other "Breezes"
up the Jersey Shore.
The former WSNJ-FM reappeared at its new home on 107.9 in
Pennsauken, actually transmitting from Center City Philadelphia,
with new owner Radio One testing for several weeks, flipping
calls to WPPZ, then launching an R&B format as "WRNB,"
calls which eventually replaced WPPZ in December. (The new WRNB
also grabbed the Tom Joyner morning show from WDAS-FM, which
brought back veteran Philly morning duo Carter and Sanborn to
replace the Fly Jock.)
In Worcester, the former "Fox" (WWFX 100.1 Southbridge)
stunted as "100.1 the Sox" before relaunching as classic
hits "100.1 the Pike"; meanwhile, WORC (1310 Worcester)
flipped from talk to Spanish tropical.
New York's smooth
jazz WQCD (101.9) got a little daring with its Nov. 22 relaunch
as "New York Chill, CD 101.9," with PD Blake Lawrence
incorporating some of that European smooth-sounding genre into
the station's music mix. Out on Long Island, WBEA (101.7 Southold)
reimaged from "the Beach" to a more urban top 40 sound
as "Blaze 101.7," while WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays) reimaged
as...WLIR, bringing back the modern rock sound that used to be
heard on 92.7 in Nassau. On the AM dial, Steve Malzberg left
WABC (770) after a few years of overnights, moving down in power
and up the dial to take on mornings at WWRL (1600).
Air America came to New Haven, replacing sports on WAVZ (1300);
talk WARL (1320 Attleboro MA) got a bit more mainstream as "1320
the Drive"; WELV (1370 Ellenville NY) dropped standards
for a country simulcast as WRWD; WVKZ (1240 Schenectady NY) dropped
talk for "Real Oldies"; and WRDD (1580 Ebensburg PA)
and WNCC (950 Barnesboro PA) flipped to business talk, though
WNCC was soon silenced by a tower collapse.
Wease extended his empire west down the Thruway to WBUF (92.9
Buffalo), setting himself up to replace Howard Stern in mornings
there in 2006. His boss in Rochester, Infinity programming executive
John McCrae, was ushered out the door. (The New York Times reported
it was for payola; the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle just
never reported the incident, though it did reprint the press
release - errors and all - in which WOKR channel 13 announced
it would change calls to WHAM-TV early in 2005.)
In Allentown, the fight over the future of WDIY (88.1) came
to a conclusion when the last of the board members who'd supported
a controversial merger with public TV WLVT (Channel 39) left
the board, leaving a new board to find other ways to ease the
station's budget problems. Meanwhile in Connecticut, Wesleyan
University students fought - successfully, it seems - a plan
by Wesleyan president Doug Bennet, a former NPR president, to
have WESU (88.1) pick up some NPR programming from Fairfield's
WSHU. (December would bring a similar fight at the University
of New Haven, where WNHU 88.7 hoped to link up with Connecticut
Public Radio for several hours a day.)
And the conclusion of the FCC's big FM auction found Boston's
WGBH winning its bid for a new FM channel in Brewster, paying
$3.927 million for the privilege. (Other FM channels in New Hampshire,
Vermont, northern New York and rural Pennsylvania went for far
New to the air: CKKK (99.5 Peterborough ON), wisely eschewing
its calls and calling itself "Kaos FM"; WAVX (90.9
Schuyler Falls NY) and Bob Vinikoor's WUVR (1490 Lebanon NH).
Gone for good: WPAA (91.7 Andover MA), deleted from the FCC's
database after being silent for over a year.
WBUF (92.9) abandoned the last of its daytime rock to go to FM
talk. In Pittsburgh, WRRK (96.9 Braddock PA) began stunting,
promoting a January format change. WGHQ (920 Kingston NY) and
WMAS (1450 Springfield MA) both abandoned standards for talk.
In Maine, Citadel parked the WODJ calls from Michigan on WTVL
(1490 Waterville) for a week or so, returning the old calls just
before year's end.
The aftermath of the all-Christmas formats across the region
- and there were many - brought at least one format change: WUCL
(93.5 Remsen NY) became Utica's classic hits "River,"
giving up on its oldies "Kool" identity. Oldies also
disappeared at year's end in Bangor, where WWMJ (95.7 Ellsworth)
relaunched as classic rock "I-95."
Rhode Island TV
reporter Jim Taricani was sentenced to six months of home confinement
for doing his job, refusing to name the source of a videotape
he used as part of WJAR's investigation of a statehouse scandal.
In Rochester, veteran WHEC anchor Gabe Dalmath stepped down on
New Year's Eve, ending a three-decade career at the station.
Up in the North Country, the tower of WNBZ (1240 Saranac Lake)
came down in a storm. And New Hampshire Public Radio's president,
Mark Handley, announced he'd step down late in 2005 to travel
the world. Sounds good to us...
New to the air: WCOF (89.5 Arcade NY), and the return of WCDL
(1440 Carbondale PA). And gone for good: WCBG (1590 Chambersburg
PA), the victim of some questionable engineering that found a
city water tower going up just a few hundred feet from its four-tower
array. After several years of lawsuits back and forth, the city
bought WCBG (at a $1 million loss, said owner M. Belmont Verstandig
Inc.) and took it dark on December 4, the only AM station in
NERW-land to go dark in 2004.
With that, we get ready to close the book on our eleventh
year at the keyboard and head for number twelve. We hope you've
enjoyed the ride with us - and if you haven't yet shown your
our efforts, we hope you'll take a moment and make your subscription
contribution for 2005. (Just follow that link above, and remember
that all contributions at or above the $60 level get a free 2005
Tower Site Calendar!)
And as we do every year, we close out our Year in Review by
remembering the many great radio and TV people our region lost
- BRUCE KIZZER, 49, WWNY-TV Watertown director of buildings
and grounds (Dec. 2003)
- JOHN A. GAMBLING, 73, former WOR morning host (1/8)
- ELLIS O'BRIEN, WCSH Portland weatherman (1/8)
- RAYMOND FRANK KOHN, 87, WFMZ Allentown founder (1/15)
- HARRY FLEETWOOD, 86, late-night WNBC/WRCA, WNCN host (1/18)
- KEN JORDAN (BERGER),
60, WLNG Long Island DJ (1/20)
- JACK PAAR, 85, "Tonight Show" host (1/27)
- ED SCIAKY, 55, Philadelphia DJ at WRTI, WMMR, WMGK (1/29)
- GORDON LEWIS, 83, WIDE Biddeford ME founder (1/31)
- BILL "THE" KLEIN, 60, WHAM Rochester entertainment
- AL CASEY, 60, former WXLO Worcester PD (2/23)
- KENNETH "HUBCAP" CARTER, 60, WLGZ Rochester/WPTR
Albany DJ (2/27)
- DICK COVINGTON, 77, voice of KYW (3/3)
- BOB BALFOUR, former CE of WERA/WVNJ in New Jersey (3/9)
- ROGER HADDON, 77, WKOK/WQXK/WEGH Sunbury PA owner (4/1)
- MEL MILLER, 75, former WEEI, WMEX, WRKO PD (4/7)
- GENE KLAVAN, 79, former WNEW morning man (4/8)
- CHRIS CLARK, 79, Providence College sports voice (4/10)
- JOHN LAWRENCE (UNCLE SKIP) SCOTT, 73, WHEN-TV Syracuse kids'
host, WSCV/WSLE Peterborough NH founder (4/14)
- PAT PARSON (PASQUALE TOMINARO), 65, WCBS newsman, WQNJ founder
- JERRY HOWORTH (JERRY HOWARD), 84, WBZ, WEEI, WJDA, WATD personality,
"Radio New England Magazine" host (4/24)
- MILT FULLERTON, 62, WPRO newsman (4/29)
- JEAN ENSIGN, 87, former WNRC/WVOX, WRTN, WVIP GM (5/3)
- GEORGE BALCAN, 72, longtime CJAD morning host (5/4)
- NICK BERG, 26, Pennsylvania-based engineer murdered in Iraq
- PAUL HATCH, 66, WASR Wolfeboro NH GM (5/16)
- GARY STEVENS, 87, former WVOX host (5/17)
- GEORGE NICHOLAS, 75, former WWSW Pittsburgh DJ (5/30)
- LOU VERRUTO, 56, WIVB Buffalo GM (6/3)
- JOE NIAGARA, 76, legendary Philadelphia DJ (6/4)
- MIKE McCARDELL, 52, WGAN Portland morning co-host (6/4)
- CARL REY, WBZ-TV engineer (6/4)
- BILL NENNO, 85, longtime WGVA,WFLR DJ (6/9)
- PAUL BROWN, 79,
voice of WQLN Erie (6/12)
- AL MOZIER, 63, WNBP Newburyport GM (6/15)
- DON KELLY, co-founder of K&K Broadcasting (Erie PA, WZVU
in NJ) (6/16)
- BOB HAGEN, 68, former KYW ND, WMCA/WNEW/WINS newsman (7/4)
- GENE LaVERNE, 80, former WHEB, WFEA, WFGL/WFMP DJ (7/6)
- BILL RANDLE, 80, former WCBS DJ, later in Cleveland (7/9)
- TOM RANKER, 56, WSBA/WARM-FM/WSOX York VP/GM (7/23)
- TOM MISCZUK, 48, WTIC-TV Hartford reporter (7/27)
- BOB MURPHY, 79, New York Mets announcer (8/3)
- JEAN POULIOT, 81, founder of Quebec's TVA, TQS, ex-owner
of CFCF (8/8)
- CHUCK LEONARD, 67, legendary WABC jock (8/12)
- VINNIE PERUZZI, 51, Boston's "Disco Vinnie" (8/13)
- PETE DOBROVITZ, 51, Rochester reporter (WROC/WHEC/WOKR),
R News founder (8/17)
- MAURY PARENT, 72, veteran Nashua DJ (8/19)
- WARREN P. "CLIP"
SMITH, 63, Buffalo talk host (WGR, WBEN) (8/21)
- SCOTT MUNI, 74, New York radio legend (9/28)
- ROBERT H. SAUTER, 72, WTIV, WFRA/WVEN founder (10/13)
- Dr. DAVID WOLFE, 68, owned Rochester's WASB-WRSB (10/14)
- NORM "SHERWOOD" GERBER, 77, former WENE, WNBF,
WPTR DJ (10/28)
- DOM MILONE, 42, former WNGZ, WPHD/WMTT/WCDW PD (11/1)
- WALTER "SALTY" BRINE, 86, WPRO icon (11/2)
- KAARLO KORKIALA, 38, CHRW London ON GM (11/15)
- VINCENT KRUG, 92, New York Daily News executive who
named WPIX (11/18)
- TOM RIVERS, 57, legendary Toronto DJ (11/19)
- RICHARD BURR BRONSON, 84, former WABI PD, GM (11/19)
- DAN IANNUZZI, 60,
founder of Toronto's CFMT-TV (11/20)
- PETE FRANKLIN, 76, former WFAN talk host (11/23)
- NEAL (WALSH) NEWMAN, 49, WIP assistant PD (12/2)
- BILL COFFEY, 56, WBEE Rochester morning host (12/7)
- DAWN BLACKSTOCK FLEMMING, 31, former WBLK Buffalo DJ (12/8)
- DAVID BRUDNOY, 64, WBZ talk host, BU professor, movie critic,
- BOB BERGER, former WHYN GM (12/11)
- BIRD BERDAN, 84, WPTZ Plattsburgh weatherman (12/14)
NorthEast Radio Watch is made possible by the generous
contributions of our regular readers. If you enjoy NERW, please
click here to
learn how you can help make continued publication possible. NERW
2005 by Scott Fybush.