By SCOTT FYBUSH
It’s time once again for our Year in Review, the 28th time we’ve gathered up our headlines from the previous 12 months and tried to sum it all up for you. Year in Review installments started Monday with The Year in Sales and continued yesterday with the first half of our Year in People and Formats. It will appear daily through our wrap-up on Friday, January 1, so check back every day for a new installment. We’ll resume our regular NorthEast Radio Watch report on Monday, January 3. (And in the meantime, our own Twitter and Facebook feeds and of course Lance Venta at RadioInsight will be here with any breaking news!)
The third installment of our Year in Review (catch up on Tuesday’s installment here) continues our annual roundup of people and formats on the move in the never-ending whirl that is radio and TV in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada.
Another big Audacy shift came at Boston’s WEEI, where Glenn Ordway announced his retirement, ending a 50-year radio career that encompassed WEEI’s entire run as a sports station.
Vermont PBS and Vermont Public Radio began the month by merging as “Vermont Public,” though most of their operations would remain separate for the time being. Over at Maine Public, Mark Vogelzang’s retirement took effect, with Rick Schneider taking over as president and CEO. And at Buffalo-Toronto Public Media (WNED/WBFO), former MTV executive Tom Calderone arrived as only the third CEO in the stations’ 60-plus years.
Seven Mountains’ realignment in the Southern Tier continued in Hornell, where WKPQ (105.3) joined the “Bigfoot” simulcast with WCBF (96.1 Elmira); former Bigfoot outlet WOBG (97.1 Canaseraga) returned to “Cool” oldies as WZHD.
Saga realigned several formats in Vermont and New Hampshire, replacing variety hits “Bratt FM” (WKVT-FM 92.7 Brattleboro) and Fox Sports WZBK (1220 Keene) with “Rewind” classic hits.
More Evanov “Jewels” changed formats: CJGB (99.3 Meaford ON) became “Lite,” while Evanov’s sale of CKHZ and CKHY in Halifax resulted in CKHY becoming “Surge 105.1” on July 19.
In Englehart, Ontario, CJBB (103.1) flipped from classic rock “Train” to “Ranch Country.”
And a former Long Island radio executive, Stephanie McNamara-Bitis, was sentenced to 15 months in prison and restitution for the money she embezzled from her former employer, Long Island Radio Broadcasting.
The FCC’s Auction 109 opened, giving bidders the chance to win commercial FM construction permits in locations ranging from northern New Hampshire to Rutland, Vermont to Long Island’s East End to the outskirts of Erie, Pennsylvania.
In Buffalo, Cumulus moved Shredd and Ragan from their longtime home on WEDG (103.3) to the vacant morning slot across the hall on WGRF (97 Rock), filling one big void but creating another.
Veteran programmer Pat Paxton stepped down as chief programming officer at Audacy after a 20-year run with the company, with Jeff Sottolano moving up as his replacement.
In Providence, iHeart’s WSNE (93.3) made its AC a little hotter, rebranding from “Coast” to “Now 93.3.” Up in New Hampshire, iHeart put the studio property for its Portsmouth, NH stations up for sale, part of a slimming down of the company’s real estate that also included a studio move out to the exurbs of Pittsburgh.
Under a new LMA from Costa-Eagle, WCCM (1490 Haverhill) and its 103.7 translator changed branding, becoming “LatinX 103.7.”
Boston’s WGBH cancelled the long-running weekly “Beat the Press” talk show, several months into its usual summer hiatus, marking the end of Emily Rooney’s tenure with the public broadcaster.
In State College, Seven Mountains relaunched its WOWY stations, segueing from oldies to classic hits.
Veteran Rochester anchor Maureen McGuire, a rare native who stayed in her hometown, retired from WROC-TV (Channel 8) after 24 years with the station, the longest any lead anchor has ever stayed there.
Gone: CKRT-TV Riviere du Loup, Quebec (Aug. 31), after losing its Radio-Canada affiliation.
It was Cox Media Group’s turn to make economy-driven cuts to its stations, cutting several veteran PDs including Long Island’s Jeremy Rice. On the TV side, Cox’s Boston Fox affiliate, WFXT (Channel 25) continued to struggle in one of the nation’s most competitive local news markets, eliminating several of its newscasts and reducing staff in an effort to cut costs.
The bizarre battle between two “Alt”-branded stations in the Albany market came to an end as Townsquare flipped WQSH (103.5) to a simulcast of classic rock WQBK (105.7), leaving Pamal’s WINU (104.9) as the last Alt standing.
Up north, EMF’s purchase of Tim Martz’s border FM signals sent the “Wild Country” format that had been on WVNV (96.5 Malone) to sister stations WICY (1490 Malone) and WPDM (1470 Potsdam) and their translators, replacing oldies and country formats, respectively. Over in Plattsburgh, WPLB (1070) took new calls WJMP to match its “Jump” classic hip-hop format.
In addition to EMF’s K-Love and Air 1 launches up on the border, the EMF purchase of Hall’s WROZ (101.3 Lancaster PA) meant the end of the AC “Fun” format on that big signal Sept. 30, followed by a return to the air later in October with Air 1.
Binnie pulled the plug on its regional “Frank” classic rock format at WNNH (99.1) in the Concord market, moving the station to active rock as “the Bone.”
On the Jersey shore, veteran programmer Robby Bridges signed on with Press’ “Boss” (WWZY/WBHX) as PD, hosting mornings with his wife Rochelle Gagnon and bringing a host of well-known names to the station.
Audacy’s “Bet” sports format took over from ESPN on WWKB (1520 Buffalo), followed later in October by the same flip at Boston’s WEEI (850).
In Canada, CJFB (105.5 Bolton) moved to a higher-powered signal on 102.7 on Sept. 3 as part of the “Moose FM” network; new owners at CIYN (95.5 Kincardine) replaced classic rock with “Shoreline Classics.”
One of the year’s biggest format changes came late in the month in New York, as Audacy pulled the plug on the country format it had inherited when it bought WNSH (94.7) from Cumulus. In its place, “the Block” launched Oct. 22 with classic hip-hop, changing calls to WXBK and running jockless through year’s end, bringing veteran WBLS PD Skip Dillard over from the competition.
Beasley’s “Toucher and Rich” morning show from WBZ-FM (98.5 the Sports Hub) announced regional syndication, joining several Cumulus signals in Maine. Those included WCYY (94.3) in the Portland market plus two stations that flipped to simulcasts of WCYY, WPKQ (103.7 North Conway NH, formerly country) and WJZN (1400/95.9 Augusta, formerly classic rock “Capital 95.9”), along with sports WEZQ (92.9) in Bangor.
Rogers made some big changes to its Toronto sports station, CJCL (Sportsnet 590 the FAN), replacing fixed air shifts with a more flexible lineup designed to move around depending which sports are in season and what’s making news. Rogers also rebranded its all-news stations with “CityNews” branding to match its CityTV stations, launching those new brands on CFTR in Toronto, CKGL in Kitchener and CJNI in Halifax.
Across town, the month started with the end of the last “Jewel” in the Evanov crown, as CKDX (88.5) joined the “Lite” brigade.
Back in New York, Steve Somers announced his retirement from WFAN, the last of the sports pioneer’s original airstaff to still have a regular shift there. Another veteran, Sherman Whitman, retired from WPKZ in Fitchburg, ending a half-century on radio in central Massachusetts.
In Burlington, Vox flipped WCPV (101.3) from sports “Game” to country as “101.3 the Wolf,” moving the Game format to sister sports station WEAV (960 Plattsburgh) and its translators. Great Eastern’s purchase of WXMS (97.9) over in Plattsburgh flipped that signal from country “Moose” to all-Christmas, a perfect match for its callsign.
In Rochester, iHeart made a surprise flip from hot AC “Mix” to country on WDVI (100.5), putting the new “Country 100.5” in competition with Audacy’s market-leading WBEE and hiring former WBEE morning co-host Jeremy Newman to do afternoons.
Forever’s takeover of the rest of the Hall cluster in Lancaster split the former ESPN simulcast of WLPA (1490) and WONN-FM (92.7) – the AM and its 92.5 translator became “Rocky” WRKY, simulcasting WYCR (98.5), while 92.7 went top-40 as “Nu 92.7” WNUU.
More format changes: Beasley’s WCTC (1450 New Brunswick) added an FM translator and flipped from talk to Fox Sports; WELH (88.1 Providence) ended its LMA to Rhode Island Public Radio, going automated with “Cutting Edge Classics” alt-rock; Stan Bennett’s WEZR/WPNO in western Maine went talk as “The Patriot”; WEEO (1480 Shippensburg PA) became WRDD, simulcasting “Red” WCAT-FM from Carlisle and adding a new translator; Buffalo’s WECK rebranded as “Big WECK” with a more straight-ahead oldies format; and iHeart added its regional Jim Polito morning show to its WXKS (1200) in Boston.
The end of the year was a time for veteran broadcasters to step back: in Philadelphia, WPVI (Channel 6) icon Jim Gardner announced his plans to scale back to just the 6 PM “Action News,” leaving the 11 PM show early in 2022 on his way to eventual retirement. Kim Lemon retired from Lancaster’s WGAL (Channel 8) after 42 years, 40 of them as main news anchor. Tom Messner left the weather desk at WPTZ (Channel 5) in the Plattsburgh-Burlington market, Cindy Williams announced her plans to leave her longtime anchor post at WCSH (Channel 6 in Portland), Steve Murphy stepped down after 35 years at CTV Atlantic in Halifax, Keith Fingers was out at WBAB (102.3) after 40 years at the Long Island rocker, Ray Dunaway announced his December exit from WTIC (1080 Hartford), and Glenn Kalina exited WOGL (98.1), his most recent stop in a long Philadelphia career. More exits in early December included Jane Flasch of WHAM-TV, the dean of Rochester TV reporters, and Syracuse meteorologist Wayne Mahar, a 36-year WSTM veteran.
In Buffalo, Cumulus filled the morning opening at WEDG (103.3) by looking west, bringing Cassiday Proctor in from Kansas City, then adding Anthony Wise from St. Louis a few weeks later to fill out the “Cass & Anthony” show.
Wayne Norman marked 50 years at WILI (1400 Willimantic CT), a job he initially took just as a fill-in.
In Toronto, CHFI (98.1) made a high-profile announcement of the new morning team it’s launching early in 2022, hiring Pooja Handa and Gurdeep Ahluwalia from CP24 to replace Maureen Holloway after her exit in October.
Down the road in Belleville, CBO-1 moved from 104.7 to 90.3 after the CBC realized it had made a mistake choosing a frequency for the new CBC Radio 1 outlet that was plagued by co-channel interference from Syracuse’s WBBS across the lake.
Around the region, noncommercial broadcasters applied for new signals in the FCC’s first filing window in almost a decade, then awaited word from the Commission as it sorted their applications into grantable “singletons,” conflicting “MX groups” and ungrantable apps that were dismissed, a process that will continue well into 2022.
New to the air: “WBFO the Bridge,” a new AAA format (“college radio for adults”) on the HD2 of Buffalo’s WBFO (88.7), Oct. 23.
A second all-digital AM station hit the airwaves in the region, as WSRO (650 Ashland MA) flipped to the MA3 HD Radio system, drawing listener reports from much of southern Rhode Island.
Bob Barnett exited Audacy’s Rochester cluster after a long run at the helm of WBEE (92.5), moving down the Thruway to program WYRK and WMSX for Townsquare in Buffalo. Meanwhile back at the Rochester cluster, WROC (950/95.7) dropped ESPN for CBS Sports Radio as “the Fan.”
At Audacy’s “Alt” (WNYL 92.3) in New York, the Cane and Corey morning show was abruptly gone from the schedule as a suspension turned into a firing. The suspension apparently had to do with a curse word that aired on the show and some dishonesty with management about the incident; the firing came after the duo broke company rules by starting their own podcast in which they discussed the incident while still under suspension – and apparently for violations of the company’s vaccination rules, too.
Cumulus dropped the “Nash” country format on WZCY (93.5) in Harrisburg, bringing back that station’s longtime WTPA calls and the rock format that went with it there. Meanwhile at the iHeart cluster in town, Ken Matthews ended his local afternoon show on WHP (580), launching a new national syndicated show the next day that’s still heard in afternoon drive on WHP. Over in Allentown, iHeart dropped the all-podcast format at WSAN (1470), replacing it with oldies.
In Olean, Seven Mountains began making changes to the Sound stations it bought, rebranding rock WQRS (98.3 Salamanca) as “G.O.A.T. Rock” with a new simulcast on WOEN (1360 Olean and its 96.3 translator), flipping WMXO (101.5) from “Mix” to all-Christmas and then relaunching it afterward as “Pop.”
On the state line, WATS (960 Sayre PA) dropped its longtime simulcast of sister WAVR (102.1) to go talk as “Liberty 960.”
And New England native Shawn Tempesta said goodbye to Boston listeners, leaving his midday shift on WMJX (106.7) as part of an exit from Audacy’s KMXB (Mix 94.1) in Las Vegas, where he now lives and where he also hosts a TV show and a thriving webcast.
*What will we remember from this endurance race of another strange year? Join us again tomorrow as we boil it down to our Top Ten Stories.