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2004 In Review

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March 14, 2005

ESPN En Route To Boston's 890?

*Is a third all-sports station on the way to eastern MASSACHUSETTS? It certainly appears that way as we learn more about the impending sale of WAMG (890 Dedham) and WLLH (1400 Lowell and Lawrence) from Mega Communications to a new entity called "J-Sports."

We've already reported theat the sale is financially backed by WallerSutton, the investment house that backed the Route 81 Radio acquisitions in Pennsylvania and upstate New York last year. But Route 81 doesn't appear to be involved this time, as it turns out. Instead, the key player is one Jessamy Tang, an MIT graduate who served as general manager of Pittsburgh ESPN affiliate WEAE (1250) until departing in 2002 "to pursue other interests."

Those interests appear to involve a flip of WAMG and WLLH from their present Spanish tropical format to ESPN Radio, presently heard late at night and weekends on WEEI (850 Boston). And we hear that WEEI is dropping ESPN (we're guessing Fox Sports Radio will replace it), clearing the way for an ESPN move up the dial to 890, which was once the Boston flagship of the defunct Prime Sports Radio, circa 1995-96.

(One other note on the $9 million deal: it seems the FCC's as uncertain as anyone about the status of WLLH's synchronous transmitter in Lawrence. The sales documents describe the Lawrence transmitter, on the air since 1937, as an "amplifier," and they explain that there's no formal renewal of that transmitter shown in FCC documents, since it's been considered an "auxiliary service," renewed along with the main WLLH license. One condition of the deal is that the Lawrence transmitter get a formal license renewal - and a clarification of its power increase to 1000 watts, which was apparently done on the basis of a verbal approval from the FCC - and it appears that that renewal may be for a short term only. Stay tuned!)

We can tell you more this week about Christopher Lydon's return to the public radio airwaves. The former WBUR (90.9) talk host will indeed be hosting a show on UMass Lowell's WUML (91.5 Lowell), but he'll be heard far beyond the Merrimack Valley.

When "Open Source" debuts May 30, it will be produced at Boston's WGBH (89.7), which will also air the hourlong show Monday-Thursday at 7 PM, bumping back the start of the "Eric in the Evening" jazz show by an hour. Starting July 4, "Open Source" will also be syndicated via Public Radio International, which distributes WGBH's "The World" as well. And when new studios are ready at UMass Lowell in a year or so, Lydon will move production of the show up there.

There's a big change of scenery on the way for WBCN (104.1) - it's one week away from leaving behind the Fenway studios, at 1265 Boylston Street, that the station has called home for the last two decades and change (ever since moving from the penthouse of the Prudential Tower). The Infinity modern rocker will join sister station WODS (103.3) in the former Channel 38 facility at 83 Leo Birmingham Parkway in Allston, and we believe WZLX (100.7) will eventually move there as well from its digs in the Pru.

There's a new night jock on Kiss 108 (WXKS-FM 107.9 Medford), as Jackson Blue moves up from Cape Cod's WRZE (96.3 Nantucket). He'll do double duty on Kiss and the Rose for the next few weeks.

And just to round out the whole Boston AM sports radio thing, Sporting News Radio's WWZN (1510) bade farewell to one of its charter staffers on Friday as Dave Jageler did his final midday "Eddie and Jags" show. He's off to Pawtucket to be the new play-by-play voice of the PawSox (and yes, we're getting our 2005 Baseball Special ready to go later this month; there's plenty of news in the minors this year!)

*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Saga made a surprise flip at Manchester's oldies WQLL (96.5 Bedford) early last week, dropping "Cool 96.5" in favor of classic rock as "The Mill" (a reference to Saga's studio location in the historic mills of Manchester.

New calls there are WMLL - and it'll soon have a Manchester translator as well, with the FCC's approval of translator W231BR on 94.1 (which can't be good news for fringe Concord signal WFTN-FM, also on 94.1 from Franklin.)

*As expected, Nassau unleased its "Wolf" country format on VERMONT last week, putting the name (also in use in Concord, N.H. and Portland, Maine) on what had been "Bob Country" WSSH (95.3 White River Junction) and WZSH (107.1 Bellows Falls). The stations are now WXLF and WZLF, respectively. (And there are rumors that Nassau's "Frank" hot AC/classic hits blend, also in use in Portland, is en route to New Hampshire's WHOB...)

*We were premature on one CONNECTICUT format change: while WXLM (102.3 Stonington) indeed jettisoned morning man "Yo Sunny Joe" Allen last week, the Citadel station was still doing AC as "Mix 102.3" at week's end, though it does appear that a format change - perhaps to a simulcast of news-talk WSUB (980 Groton) - is coming, sooner or later.

A Nutmeg State LPTV signal is getting a new owner. W11BJ is currently located at the Rattlesnake Mountain site that's home to WVIT (Channel 30) and WTIC-TV (Channel 61), but it holds a construction permit to move to Mount Tom, above Springfield, Massachusetts, where it will become W28CT under new owner LIN, which already owns NBC affiliate WWLP (Channel 22) there. W11BJ is currently doing some low-budget local shows, and there's no word yet on what it might program when it becomes W28CT. (We note that Springfield has no Fox affiliate, and we also note that LIN is becoming an active Spanish-language programmer via its "WAPA America" satellite service.)

And down in Fairfield County, WEBE (107.9 Westport) ditches Delilah at night, turning to Elizabeth Yates (formerly of archrival WEZN "Star 99.9") to host the new local "Love Notes" show.

*Long Island's most powerful AM station is staying put in NEW YORK state. WGSM (740 Huntington) was in the headlines last year when it applied, during the FCC's AM major-change window, to move to Mount Olive, N.J., where it hoped to build a big directional array and aim 50,000 watts back at New York City.

But applicants who submitted proposals during that window that turned out not to be mutually-exclusive with other applications (as WGSM's was) had to follow up with full-fledged applications (and filing fees) by a certain deadline. Perhaps it was the pending sale of the station, or perhaps it had something to do with the almost certain opposition that the application would encounter both from the locals out in Warren County and its neighbors on the dial at 710 and 770; in any case, WGSM didn't follow through, and the Mount Olive application is now officially dead.

(Also off the table are proposals for new stations on 1550 in Nantucket MA, 1060 Montpelier VT, 830 Bangor ME and 1230 Fort Fairfield ME.)

Meanwhile in lower Manhattan, the carpenters' union that owns the building at 395 Hudson Street isn't happy with Emmis' WQHT (97.1) after the shooting last week in the building's lobby. Hot 97 says it will institute new rules to try to prevent future incidents, including limiting in-studio guests to a single, er, posse member upstairs in the studios and providing the landlords with a week's notice when guests are expected. Will it make a difference? We'll see.

It looks as though RuPaul's history at WNEW (102.7 New York), with Rick Stacy handling mornings for now alongside Michelle Visage as the ever-troubled "Mix 102.7" tries, yet again, to find itself. Will it make a difference? We'll see.

Over on the AM dial, WWRL (1600 New York) picks up Fox Radio's Alan Colmes for 10 PM-midnight weekdays.

Congratulations to WABC (770 New York) PD Phil Boyce, who adds the title of VP/talk programming for the ABC radio stations to his portfolio. Boyce may not have much work to do at successful stations such as KGO in San Francisco and KABC in Los Angeles, but NERW suspects he'll be involved as WLS in Chicago seeks a stronger direction after the loss of several of its key personalities.

We're sorry to report the passings of two well-known New York voices. Wally Parker, who died Feb. 15 in New Jersey, began his career at the old WAAT (970 Newark) before going on to WHN, WNEW and WABC, where he spent a quarter-century as an announcer both locally and on the ABC radio and television networks. And Jim Gash all but created the job of street reporter during his 1959-74 tenure at WNEW, when there was barely an event he didn't cover. Gash, whose work was all the more remarkable for the poor eyesight that forced him to employ drivers for much of his career, died Thursday, March 3.

Heading upstate, WTBQ (1110 Warwick) segues to an all-talk format weekdays, adding Neal Boortz from 10 AM-noon and Clark Howard from 2-4 PM. They join an already talk-heavy format that includes Frank Truatt's morning show, "Roundtable" from 9-10 AM and John Moultrie from 4-6 PM. It appears WTBQ will keep programming music on weekends and on its webstream after hours.

In Albany, Tom Joyner's syndicated morning show is history at Pamal's WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville). The station's now looking for a local replacement. Meanwhile across town at Clear Channel's WPYX (106.5 Albany), sidekicks John Mulrooney and Ellen Z. are history at the "Wake Up With the Wolf" show, with Bob Wolf's former sidekick John Tobin returning to the show.

Our best wishes go out to Brother Wease of Rochester's WCMF (96.5) and Buffalo's WBUF (92.9). Wease, known to his doctors as Alan Levin, headed to New York City last week to begin treatment for the rare cancer that's attacking his sinuses. Trooper that he is, though, Wease has his New York apartment wired up with ISDN - and he says he'll remain a part of the morning show from there as much as his health allows. (He hopes to be back home in a few weeks.)

And Buffalo's WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls) has a new PD, as Jimmy Steele heads back to town from a PD gig at Clear Channel's WNCI (97.9) in Columbus, Ohio. Steele, who fills the chair left vacant by Dave Universal amidst a payola investigation, has a prior history in the market; most recently, he helped program WKZA (106.9 Lakewood) down in the Jamestown area.

*In NEW JERSEY, there's some interesting talk of cooperation between WAJM (88.9 Atlantic City) and WXXY (88.7 Port Republic). WAJM operates limited hours from Atlantic City High School, and WXXY broadcasts a 24-hour gospel format that has a hard time reaching listeners in Atlantic City because of first-adjacent WAJM. The Press of Atlantic City reports that WXXY management has approached WAJM to discuss cooperation, which might include broadcasting school sports and school board meetings on WXXY, and might include some evening and weekend simulcasts of WXXY programming on WAJM. (Then again, the Press also located WXXY at "87.7" and WAJM at "87.9," so we'd take the rest of the story with a grain of salt, too...)

Meanwhile on the AM dial, Access.1's WUSS (1490 Pleasantville) is reportedly now simulcasting the oldies of WTKU (98.3 Ocean City).

And up in Monmouth County, WCNJ (89.3 Hazlet) becomes WDDM this week - and its owner, WVRM Inc., agrees to make a "voluntary" $10,000 payment to close out an inquiry into accusations that the station aired underwriting announcements that were overly commercial, violating the FCC's guidelines. (The FCC's increasingly turning to such consent decrees to close out cases like this without resorting to expensive and time-consuming investigations.)

*Our top PENNSYLVANIA story continues to be the merry-go-round of formats, calls and ownerships in the Johnstown and State College markets between Forever Broadcasting and Nick Galli's 2510 Communications in the wake of 2510's acquisition of the former Dame stations.

We'll start with the ownership swaps: 2510 is selling WGLU (99.1 Ebensburg), WQKK (92.1 Johnstown), WRSC (1390 State College) and WBUS (93.7 Boalsburg) to Forever for a total of $6.65 million ($4 million for WGLU/WQKK, $2.65 million for WRSC/WBUS). And Forever is selling WSPO (1490 Johnstown), WUZI (97.7 Somerset) and WUZY (105.7 Portage) to 2510 for $2.5 million.

WGLU already has a new format - or at least slogan - as it prepares for its new Forever ownership, ditching its former "Power 99" identity to become "Hot 99" sharing a morning show, music playlists and perhaps some other air talent with what's now "Hot 103" in State College (the former WBHV 103.1, soon to be WJHT) and with Forever's WPRR (100.1 Altoona), which also becomes "Hot 100."

So as best we can piece things together, here's how each company's station lineup now looks:

On the Forever side, it's news-talk WRSC and talk WMAJ (1450) in State College, along with classic rock WBUS, AC "Lite" WLTS (94.5 State College), "Quick Rock" WQWK (98.7 Mill Hall), "Hot 103" and the eventual Centre Hall move-in of WXMJ (99.5 Mount Union, now simulcasting WPRR), too. In Altoona, the company has talk WFBG (1290), sports WVAM (1430), country WFGY (98.1), WPRR, oldies WALY (103.9 Bellwood) and active rock "Rocky" WRKY (104.9 Hollidaysburg). And in Johnstown, Forever has talk WNTJ (850)/WNTW (990), country WFGI-FM (95.5) and AC WKYE (96.5), along with WGLU and rocker WQKK.

Galli's 2510, meanwhile, has a State College cluster that includes oldies WOWY (97.1 University Park), WBLF (970 Bellefonte, temporarily simulcasting WOWY) and the former WJHT (107.9 Port Matilda), which will apparently be spun off under new calls WCNU. And in Johnstown, it has sports WSPO, southern gospel WYSN (1330 Somerset), the "Wuzz" classic rock combo of WUZI/WUZY and oldies WCCL (101.7 Central City).

If your head is spinning, you're not alone - these swaps follow hot on the heels of Forever's acquisition of Clear Channel's Johnstown cluster and subsequent format flips. And there's no question that these two companies now control a huge share of the central Pennsylvania listening audience (and radio revenue pie) between them.

There's a station sale on the other end of the Keystone State, too, as Bob Mermell's De Wit Media Group sells WPSN (1590 Honesdale), WDNH (95.3 Honesdale), WYCY (105.3 Hawley) and WDNB (102.1 Jeffersonville NY) to Vincent Benedetto's Bold Gold Media Group. The deal's valued at $4 million, and it brings a new format to WPSN, which picks up ABC's True Oldies.

In Philadelphia, former Radio One GM Lynn Bruder has a new job overseeing Beasley's rhythmic top 40 WRDW (Wired 96.5) as GM. Dave Donahue's out of the top job at the Beasley stations (along with a number of salespeople), and Natalie Conner takes the other half of his job, becoming VP/GM of country WXTU (92.5).

In Pittsburgh, veteran jock "Big Ray" Edwards (whose career includes stops at WZUM, WYEP and WLSW) takes the morning reins at WKFB (770 Jeannette). Edwards was already heard on Saturday afternoons at "770 KFB," and now he's also heard from sunrise (6:15, this month) until 9 AM weekdays.

And there are new calls (again) for the former WWMD (101.5 Waynesboro). After an abortive stab at becoming "The Eagle" was thwarted by Nassau's grab of the moniker across state lines (at WARX 106.9 Hagerstown MD), 101.5 has dropped its short-lived WEEG calls and is now WFYN. What does it stand for? Beats us - but it hasn't escaped our attention that it could stand for a particularly nasty jab at its new Hagerstown rival...

*In CANADA's capital city, CHUM Group's CKKL (93.9 Bob FM) will spend a day as "Paul FM" soon, as payoff for a nifty promotion that found no less a personage than Prime Minister Paul Martin lobbying U2 to add Ottawa to its concert schedule. (Can you imagine President Bush participating in a similar promotion in Washington? Neither can we...)

In any case, Ireland's most famous rockers will indeed play Ottawa - and so the PM's office was awash in "93.9 Paul FM" gear last week as morning hosts J.R. and Sandy offered their congratulations.

And we can report call letters for the new 94.5 in Wingham, thanks to loyal reader Dan Sys: it's CIBU.

*It's March now - and that means a special deal for fans of the Tower Site Calendar 2005. We're well aware that many of the calendar's fans buy it for the pictures, not the actual calendar pages...but that doesn't change the fact that by this time of the year, we're not exactly shipping 'em out the door at a breakneck pace, and Mrs. NERW would very much like a corner of her living room back.

So while she rediscovers the floor beneath those boxes of calendars and we begin to line up the images for Tower Site Calendar 2006, you get the very first crack at our Calendar Clearance Deal for 2005.

Here's how it works: instead of our list price of $16 for this fabulous, full-color, glossy calendar, you can now pick one up for just $8, postpaid. ($8.66 to New York State addresses.) Better yet, if you order two calendars at this special clearance price, we'll throw in a third for free - $16 for THREE calendars, with nine exciting months of 2005 yet to go. (That's $17.32 in NYS.)

Maybe you've already hung your original 2005 calendar on the wall, and you're thinking it would be nice to have another copy to stick away in pristine condition. Maybe you really want to frame that spectacular September page right now - but you still need a calendar later this year. Maybe you just want to help Mrs. NERW clean out the living room and give happy NERW baby Ariel more space to practice walking.

Whatever your motive, now's your big chance, because while there are still 2005 calendars left, there may not be any in a few weeks. (Remember, the 2002 and 2003 editions were total sellouts, and I've had to turn away several of you who were hoping to add these now-rare calendars to your collections.)

And we've got two more great deals for you, too. We still have a few 2004 calendars left, and while they're getting rare, Mrs. NERW wants them gone - so they're yours, in pristine condition, for just $5 postpaid. (Buy two and the third is free!) Or order the 2004 and 2005 calendars together for just $10, postpaid. (What a deal!)

(New York orders pay $5.41 for the 2004 calendar, $10.83 for the 2004 and 2005 together.)

And as always, the calendar's free with your $60 or higher subscription to NorthEast Radio Watch/ In fact, we've got a great deal for new or renewing $60 subscribers: we'll send you two 2005 calendars if you subscribe now. Or, if you'd prefer, we'll hold a brand-new Tower Site Calendar 2006 for you with your subscription, and you can be among the very first to see the 2006 edition when it's released this summer. Remember, we count on your subscription dollars to keep NERW coming each and every Monday morning!

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Order the 2005 Tower Site Calendar on CLEARANCE for $8...
Order the 2005 and 2004 Tower Site Calendars together for just $10...
...or subscribe to NERW at the $60 level and get two FREE 2005 Tower Site Calendars
...and you can still order the 2004 Tower Site Calendar at our special DEEP clearance price of $5! (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.)

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