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2004 In Review

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January 17, 2005

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Big Switch in Trenton

*Radio listeners in NEW JERSEY's capital city are about to get a big shakeup on their FM dial. On February 14, Nassau will move WPST's calls and top 40 format from the 97.5 spot where it's been heard for nearly three decades to the 94.5 facility that's been classic rock "Hawk" WTHK.

The Hawk, in turn, will move to 97.5 - but for how long? NERW notes that Nassau recently won FCC approval to move the 97.5 allocation from Trenton to Burlington, from which the facility will effectively become a Philadelphia-market signal.

The 94.5 half of the move is pretty obvious in that context: WPST is a dominant presence in the Trenton market (and a huge cash cow for Nassau), so moving it to a comparable facility (both 97.5 and 94.5 are class B signals) that will remain focused on Trenton will keep 'PST going for listeners there. But we strongly suspect that many more changes are in the works for 97.5, especially in light of the fact that Nassau has no other properties in the core Philadelphia market, and that it's a company that prefers to compete in suburban and small-city markets. (Not to mention that the cash infusion from an eventual sale of an upgraded Philadelphia-market 97.5 signal would more than pay for all the buying Nassau's been doing in New England and more recently in Maryland.)

It won't happen overnight, of course - Nassau has yet to file an application to move the 97.5 license, and any construction of a new facility would probably take at least another year - but stay tuned...

*Speaking of Philadelphia, our lead PENNSYLVANIA item for the week finds Christy Springfield moving from her longtime (20 years!) home at WOGL (98.1) to oldies competitor WPEN (950), where she'll be doing middays.

Over in the western part of the state, WKQW (1120 Oil City) and WKQW-FM (96.3 Oil City) change hands, from the estate of the late Stephen Olszowka to William Hearst's Clarion County Broadcasting, which owns WWCH (1300 Clarion) and WCCR (92.7 Clarion) down the road to the east. Hearst is paying $540,000 for the pair, which are currently doing oldies on the FM and talk on the daytime AM.

*The fight over payola allegations in upstate NEW YORK took some noisy new turns this past week, as former WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls) PD Dave Universal took to the trades to defend his actions while programming Buffalo's "Kiss."

Universal told All Access that "Entercom and my GM knew that I occasionally went with record reps to various sporting events to build relationships. Never once was I told not to do this," adding, "With all that's going on in the state of New York, it was easier for them to get rid of me, than defend how I did business for them."

Unfortunately for Universal, the publicity about the whole affair - coupled with the Armstrong Williams scandal in Washington - got the attention of FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, who at week's end persuaded chairman Michael Powell to launch an Enforcement Bureau investigation into the case.

Will the low profile of similar allegations against former Infinity Rochester programming VP John McCrae protect him from a similar investigation, especially with state attorney general Eliot Spitzer reportedly beginning his own payola inquiry? McCrae's kept quiet, unlike Universal - and it can't hurt him that the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, unlike the Buffalo News and the New York Times, hasn't shown any interest in pursuing the story. (A D&C editor tells NERW that the story's never made their pages because "we haven't been able to source it.")

Former WPXY (97.9 Rochester) and WWHT (107.9 Syracuse) jock "Java Joel" Murphy is looking for a new gig this week. He was let go from his evening shift on Chicago's "Kiss" (WKSC 103.5) last week after making what the station described as "inappropriate" remarks on the air. (The Chicago Sun-Times' Robert Feder reports that the remark had to do with a reference to the 80s TV show "Mr. Belvedere," in which Joel joked about adopting "three black kids" and "taking them to the zoo to see where they came from."

Joel had been voice-tracking evenings in Rochester (at "Kiss" WKGS 106.7) and in several other markets as well; at press time, he was still listed on the WKGS website. (And we notice, in checking out said website, that the Rochester "Kiss" is no longer airing the tracked-from-L.A. "Valentine in the Morning," instead offering a local morning show with PD Erick "E-Man" Anderson. Guess we need to pay a little more attention to Kiss every once in a while, don't we?)

Meanwhile on the TV dial, the long-awaited call change at Rochester's channel 13 finally happened last Monday morning, with WOKR signing off for the last time at 1:42 in the morning (using original WOKR announcer Jerry Carr to make the final announcement) and WHAM-TV debuting minutes before the 5 AM newscast. (NERW was most amused by morning anchor Doug Emblidge, one of the wittier guys in the business, starting the first newscast by appearing to be taking notes on all the technical details - studio-transmitter link callsigns and the like - that were mentioned in the sign-on.) "13 WHAM News" brings with it a new graphics package and music; we're still waiting to see much of the promised closer promotional relationship with WHAM (1180), where we understand several anchors were still slipping up and referring to "News Source 13" instead of "13 WHAM News" for much of last week. (All in good time, we're sure...)

A few more notes from upstate: in Buffalo, the International League Bisons have a new broadcast home for the next three seasons, leaving WWKB (1520) and its 50 kilowatts for Infinity's standards WECK (1230 Cheektowaga) and a kilowatt signal that does fine in the city but lacks the long reach of 'KB. (The Bisons manage their own radio rights, leasing time to air their games.)

Down in Olean, Robert Pfuntner's Pembrook Pines group is paying Vox $950,000 for talk WOEN (1360) and hot AC "Mix" WMXO (101.5). Pfuntner already has WZKZ (101.9 Alfred) just up the road from Olean, as well as eight other stations in Elmira, Newark, Bath and Warsaw.

Former WGRZ (Channel 2) news director Randal Stanley has a new gig in Washington, as he takes over the ND chair at sister Gannett station WUSA-TV (Channel 9), whose GM, Darrell Green, is a fellow WGRZ alumnus. And in Syracuse, Loren Tobia announced that he'll be leaving the ND chair at WTVH (Channel 5) at the end of January; no word on where he'll be heading next or who'll take over at 5.

In New York City, the attention's on morning drive, as Star and Buc Wild return to the airwaves this morning on WWPR (Power 105.1), kicking off what promises to be a heated battle for listeners against their former station, WQHT (Hot 97.1). Meanwhile, Ru Paul has a new co-host for his WNEW (Mix 102.7) morning show, as he's reunited with former WKTU partner Michelle Visage.

*A veteran MASSACHUSETTS newscaster is saying farewell to the daily grind. After just under a quarter-century at WBZ-TV (Channel 4), Liz Walker announced Friday that she's giving up her anchor chair on the station's noon newscast to focus instead on her family and on her studies at Harvard Divinity School. (Walker left WBZ's evening newscasts in 2000 to begin her studies at Harvard.)

Walker won't vanish from the CBS4 airwaves completely, though: she'll soon start a new Sunday morning public-affairs program called "Sunday with Liz Walker," to be seen each week at 11.

Meanwhile, channel 4 has apparently come to terms with veteran sports anchor Bob Lobel, who was back on the air this past weekend after a lengthy leave of absence while his contract was renegotiated.

Across the room at WBZ (1030), overnight talk host Steve LeVeille will spend some time filling in for 8-midnight host Paul Sullivan while Sullivan undergoes another round of treatment for a brain tumor. A series of substitute hosts will handle the overnight hours while LeVeille's on evening duty. (We're still waiting to get the call here...)

More talent shuffling on the FM dial: Neal Robert's out of afternoons at WBOS (92.9 Brookline), which means veteran George Knight moves from evenings to afternoons and Scott Lucus takes over in the evening.

In Orange, WCAT (700) changes calls to WJOE; no word yet on whether any format changes are planned at the daytimer, which simulcasts talk with WGAW (1340 Gardner) down the road.

Cape Cod newsguy Matt Pitta has departed WQRC (99.9 Barnstable) to go to work for the AP in Boston; Angela King takes over as news director at 'QRC.

Out in Springfield, WPKX (97.9, licensed to Enfield, CONNECTICUT) has a new morning show. Mark Spencer comes in from afternoons at WVOR (100.5 Rochester NY) to replace Nick Damon, who's off to Myrtle Beach.

*Air America's getting a new affiliate today in VERMONT, where Saga's flipping political directions at WKVT (1490 Brattleboro), ditching Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Howie Carr, Clark Howard and Lars Larson in favor of Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo, Randi Rhodes, Jones' Ed Schultz and Fox's Alan Colmes. The move reflects the lefty politics of Brattleboro - but will it find advertising support? Stay tuned...

Meanwhile, the WCAT calls that just disappeared from Orange, Mass. are apparently headed to Burlington, where Steve Silberberg has requested them for what's now WVAA (1390).

*Barry Lunderville is adding to his NEW HAMPSHIRE station cluster by converting his LMA of Profile Broadcasting's WLTN (1400 Littleton) and WLTN-FM (96.7 Lisbon) to a purchase. Terms of the deal haven't been disclosed.

*MAINE's minor league baseball team has a new flagship station for the 2005 season. The Eastern League Portland Sea Dogs move from WLVP (870 Gorham) to WBAE (1490 Portland), plus a six-station network, one of the largest in the minors.

*In CANADA, the CRTC has opened a call for applications for new stations in Charlottetown, P.E.I. Applications are due April 11 - and we'd be stunned if they didn't include one from Rogers for a P.E.I. outlet for the FM news-talk network it will soon be launching elsewhere in the Maritimes.

Speaking of Charlottetown, Milkman UnLimited reports that veteran CFCY (630)/CHTN (720)/CHLQ (93.1) station manager Frank Lewis has retired after a career that began at the stations back in 1966.

There are several new DTV signals about to hit the air in Toronto: the CBC has been testing CBLT-DT (Channel 20) and CBLFT-DT (Channel 24) from the CN Tower, and CTV will soon begin tests of CFTO-DT (Channel 40) as well, we're told.

In Montreal, Corus' all-news CINW (940) has a new morning team, pairing Barry Morgan (formerly of CJAD and CKGM) with CINW's Nathan Bernier.

Sorry to report the death Saturday (Jan. 15) of Willard A. Bishop, the founder of the Kentville, N.S. stations that evolved into today's Annapolis Valley Broadcasting. Bishop was, among other things, an FM pioneer, creating Canada's first FM network between CKWM in Kentville and CKTO in Truro. Bishop sold what was then known as Evangeline Broadcasting in the late 70s; he was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1997. Bishop was 78.

NERW Classifieds

*We're pleased to announce the return of the NERW Classifieds after a long absence. If you're looking to reach thousands of broadcast professionals in the Northeastern U.S., eastern Canada and beyond (more than 70,000 hits every Monday alone!), there's no more economical way to do it. Rates start at just $5/week for a 50-word ad, and the fifth week is always free when you pay for four. Click here to learn more...and read on for this week's ads:

  • 19yr broadcast veteran with exceptionally smooth pipes, looking to voice your next project! Unique, conversational delivery. Commercials, radio/tv imaging, narration, on-hold messages, spokesperson. Home studio. Delivery via MP3, CD. 24 hour turnaround in most cases. Dry or produced. Gary Begin Voice Talent (731) 424-5025. 2/21 

*We're busy shipping out the Tower Site Calendar 2005 to radio fans from coast to coast and far beyond (would you believe New Zealand?)

Didn't find one under the tree this year? That's OK - we've still got plenty, and we're shipping them out daily.

This year's calendar begins with WSTW/WDEL in Wilmington, Delaware on the cover, ends with Sutro Tower in San Francisco on the inside back cover - and along the way makes stops at WNBF in Binghamton, CFNB in Fredericton, Poor Mountain in Roanoke, KXNT in Las Vegas, WBBR in New York, Gibraltar Peak above Santa Barbara, WDEV in Waterbury, Vermont, WRIB in Providence, WOOD in Grand Rapids, KFJZ in Fort Worth, KYPA in Los Angeles and the top of Chicago's Hancock Tower.

(You can see some previews of this year's calendar images at Tower Site of the Week - where the archive listing's newly updated!)

We're holding the price from last year, notwithstanding increases in printing costs and PayPal fees - just $16 postpaid ($17.32 including sales tax to New York addresses). And as always, it's free with your $60 or higher subscription to NorthEast Radio Watch/ You can use PayPal, below, or send your check or money order, payable to Scott Fybush, to 92 Bonnie Brae Avenue, Rochester NY 14618. (Please note that the prices below are valid for U.S. and Canadian orders only; please e-mail for information about overseas shipping.)

And here's an even better deal - We still have plenty of 2004 calendars left, so how about this? For just $20 postpaid ($21.65 in New York), we'll send you both the 2005 and 2004 editions. It's almost like getting an extra calendar free! (Or, if you just need the 2004 edition, that's still on clearance at $8 - and if you buy two 2004 calendars, your third is free!)

Order the 2005 Tower Site Calendar for $16...
Order the 2005 and 2004 Tower Site Calendars together for just $20...
...or subscribe to NERW at the $60 level and get a FREE 2005 Tower Site Calendar
...and you can still order the 2004 Tower Site Calendar at our special clearance price of $8! (US and Canada only - e-mail us for overseas ordering information.)

Don't want to order by credit card? You know the drill by now - make those checks payable to "Scott Fybush," be sure to include sales tax (8.25%) for New York state calendar orders only, and send them along to 92 Bonnie Brae Avenue, Rochester NY 14618. (Sorry - we can't take orders by phone.)

Thanks for your support!

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 is copyright 2005 by Scott Fybush.