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August 29, 2005

WPEN Heads For The Locker Room

*MONDAY UPDATE: Your editor doesn't normally see two of his former colleagues at WBZ making news on the same day, but it's an unusual Monday. Over at WBZ itself, Jay McQuaide is departing at week's end to join Blue Cross/Blue Shield, reports Jay got his start in the business at WLLH in Lowell (opposite yours truly at WCAP), and after a detour to Orlando's WDBO (580), he landed at WBZ in 1992 as midday anchor and designated fill-in for morning man Gary LaPierre.

And the guy who hired Jay (and your editor) at WBZ is returning to the Boston radio scene. Brian Whittemore left the PD/ND chair at WBZ in 1996 to go to KDKA in Pittsburgh and then WCCO in Minneapolis as GM. He's been out of the WCCO job for a couple of years, but now he's headed to WRKO to fill the operations manager post left vacant by Mike Elder's move to Fox News Radio. Welcome back, boss!

*It's been not much more than a year since WPEN (950 Philadelphia) dropped its long-running standards format and flipped to oldies, challenging the market's oldies leader, Infinity's WOGL (98.1), with a jock lineup that included familiar Philly voices like Jerry "Geator" Blavat, Jim Nettleton and Christy Springfield.

On October 3, WPEN will drop the oldies and become PENNSYLVANIA's newest sports station, going up against the dominance of Infinity's WIP (610) with a lineup that will include Jim Rome in middays, former WIP (and WFAN) host Jody McDonald in afternoons and Sporting News Radio's Tony Bruno (who got his start at WIP) in late mornings.

WPEN enters the battle with a newly-strengthened night signal, now that it's running 21 kW after dark from the site of daytimer WWDB (860), but it doesn't have much else going for it right out of the starting gate. The station had the Phillies for a few years, but its old 5 kW night signal didn't meet the team's expectations, so the baseball games are now on Infinity's WPHT (1210). And while WPEN was rumored to be picking up the rights to 76ers basketball, the team decided to stay with WIP for another season.

(On the other hand, WPEN will reportedly drop much of the leased-time programming it's been running all weekend.)

Over on the other side of the state, WKST-FM (96.1 Pittsburgh) is losing its OM/PD, as Mark Anderson heads to Las Vegas in November to work for Audience Development Group. No word yet on a replacement at "Kiss."

South of Da Burgh, WANB (1580 Waynesburg) changes calls to WXXP, which NERW notes was the callsign on Pittsburgh's pioneering modern rocker (now WZPT 100.7 New Kensington) more than a decade ago.

And in Erie, Joe McIntyre's leaving WRTS (103.7) to program top 40 WQQB (96.1 Rantoul IL) in the Champaign, Illinois market.

*In NEW JERSEY, they're mourning Ed Beck, the talented radio jack-of-all-trades who was making a name for himself as a voiceover artist, jock (nights at "Breeze" WWZY 107.1 Long Branch) and station manager (WDDM 89.3 Hazlet). Ed died at his home in Belmar last Wednesday (August 24) at the far too young age of 33.

*A quiet week in NEW YORK, with just a couple of Radio People on the Move to report. In Albany, Rob Ryan is the new PD at WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville), inbound from KLZR/KKYD in Topeka. And in Utica, WLZW (98.7) PD/afternoon jock Peter Naughton's leaving for the bright lights of TV, where he'll be working at WSYR-TV (Channel 9) in Syracuse.

Probably the biggest move of the week is downstate, though, where three staffers at WBLI (106.1 Patchogue) are headed up to Poughkeepsie to take over the morning slot at WPDH (101.5) formerly occupied by Karlson and McKenzie. The moves by middayer Reno, MD/weekend jock LJ Lovely and weekend jock Matt Goldapper will leave a slew of openings for J.J. Rice and his crew to fill at WBLI, no doubt.

We hear that the staff at WROC-TV (Channel 8) in Rochester is "cautiously excited" about the impending addition of a 10 PM newscast that they'll be doing for Sinclair's WUHF (Channel 31). WUHF's News Central broadcast will go off the air Thursday (Sept. 1), and the word from WROC's Humboldt Street facility is that they hope to have the retooled 10 PM newscast ready to debut before Election Day in November, using WUHF anchor/reporters Melanie Barnas and Ty Chandler along with the WROC staff.

NERW notes that the Sinclair "News Central" concept has been a hard sell in our region. Two Sinclair stations, ABC affiliate WGGB (Channel 40) in Springfield, Mass. and CBS affiiliate WGME (Channel 13) in Portland, Maine had well-established news operations before News Central debuted and never adopted the News Central concept. In Syracuse, Fox affiliate WSYT (Channel 68) has a long history of contracting out for its 10 PM newscast (currently with Granite's WTVH), and that hasn't changed. In Buffalo, News Central launched from scratch at WB affiliate WNYO-TV (Channel 49) and has failed to achieve much traction in the market, with Sinclair recently cutting the broadcast back to 30 minutes from an hour. Only in Rochester and Pittsburgh (at Fox affiliate WPGH) has Sinclair replaced a fully-local news operation with News Central. Rochester's backing away from the concept now; will Pittsburgh - where ratings have suffered at WPGH - be next?

While we're on the TV side of the equation, as we watch nervously to see what havoc Hurricane Katrina wreaks on the Gulf Coast, we're thinking particularly of one upstate New York native who's working down there. Jeff Baskin grew up in Rochester and spent some time at Utica's WKTV before becoming a meteorologist at New Orleans Fox affiliate WVUE (Channel 8) some five years ago. He was just about to make a big move to Portland, Oregon and KOIN-TV this week; we'll keep our fingers crossed that he - and everyone else down there - rides the storm out safely.

And one more Rochester note: a spin of the dial at NERW Central today found WMJQ (105.5 Brockport) operating on its new frequency, 104.9, with considerably better coverage of Rochester from its new site in the western suburb of Ogden. Owner George Kimble leases the signal out to EMF for its "K-Love" contemporary Christian format. (NERW notes that the move to 104.9 likely displaces two unprotected Rochester-area signals: newcomer WNYL-LP 104.9 down in Lima and long-running high school station WIRQ on 104.7, which is now on its fourth frequency since starting out on 90.9 way back in 1959.)

*The format change we were wondering about in VERMONT last week - the arrival of classic country at WXAL (93.7 Addison) - still hasn't happened, but there's another change in the works within Steve Silberberg's cluster of stations on the shore of Lake Champlain. Next Monday (Sept. 6), WVAA (1390 Burlington) will pick up the Air America talk and WTWK calls currently being heard on the daytime-only 1070 signal from Plattsburgh, N.Y.

NERW notes that there's a long history of calls and formats moving between these two signals; 1390's previous identity as WKDR had also migrated across the lake from 1070 some years back. And we note that when 1390 flips to WTWK in a week's time, the format it'll be abandoning will be...yup, classic country. We're now hearing that August 30 will be the day when the country moves to 93.7. Stay tuned...

Down I-89 at sister station WNCS (104.7 Montpelier), Mark Abuzzahab is departing the PD chair. He's headed for one of the motherships of the AAA format, Clear Channel's KBCO (97.3 Boulder CO), where he'll be MD/night jock.

And - can it be? We hear construction is finally underway on Mount Mansfield for a new monopole tower that will handle analog and digital signals for most of Burlington's TV stations and for WEZF (92.9) and WVPS (107.9), as well, replacing the small cluster of towers that now crown Vermont's highest point. It's taken many years to get through the tangle of regulatory and NIMBY issues that have hampered construction up there; we'll keep you posted as construction progresses.

(While we're on the subject of Vermont TV, we were pleased to see that former WVNY Channel 22 news director Peter Speciale has a new ND gig, at WCJB in Gainesville, Florida. Speciale lost his job along with the rest of the WVNY news staff when the station cancelled its newscast a couple of years ago; he'd been working for HDNet in the meantime.)

*In MASSACHUSETTS, Alex Seseske is retiring from WUPE (95.9 Pittsfield)/WMNB (100.1 North Adams) after a three-decade career with WUPE, most of that time as its morning man. For the last few years, Seseske has been doing middays; he'll be replaced in that slot by Eric Greene, who moves over from WBEC-FM (105.5 Pittsfield) as that station edges ever closer to its move out of the Berkshires and into the Springfield market.

Over in Worcester, PD Chris DelVecchio checked in from WCHC (88.1) to report that the College of the Holy Cross station is suffering from technical problems that are keeping it at very low power, restricting the signal to not much beyond the Holy Cross campus. They're looking for help - and if you can help WCHC out, we'd be happy to put you in touch with them.

*The Hall cluster in southeast CONNECTICUT did some format shuffling last week, putting classic hits on WNLC (98.7 East Lyme) as "98.7 the Sound." The standards that had been heard on WNLC move to sister station WICH (1310 Norwich), which keeps its full-service format but tweaks its music elements, replacing the AC that it had been playing. Consultant Clark Smidt worked with VP/programming Jim Reed and GM Andy Russell on the flips.

*Most of CANADA remains without much useful service from CBC radio and television, as the lockout of thousands of CBC employees enters its third week with no resolution in sight. From what we've been hearing of CBC radio, it's largely automated music programming, while CBC TV is using BBC news to replace Canadian newscasts and otherwise mainly showing repeats.

The rest of the radio dial has been spinning pretty furiously on the northern shore of Lake Ontario lately. First, CHUM flipped CKLY (91.9 Lindsay) from AC "Y92" to adult hits "91.9 Bob FM," bringing the "we play anything" bandwagon to that corner of Ontario.

And no sooner did that flip happen than Loyalist College's CJLX (92.3 Belleville) began testing its new signal at 91.3. CJLX station manager Greg Schatzmann checked in to report that the new 91.3 is running 2.9 kW from about 300' up the Oak Hill radio tower north of Belleville, a big improvement over CJLX's previous 50-watt operation. The station hopes to begin regular programming on 91.3 by mid to late September.

And to the west, the last daytime-only AM in Canada may be coming to its end. The CRTC last week granted the application of CKOT (1510 Tillsonburg) to move to FM - but with a catch. The Commission also granted Byrnes Communications' application for a new FM on 104.7 in Woodstock, which will run 1910 watts with an AC format. 104.7 was also the frequency CKOT wanted, so the grant of its application comes with a "find a new frequency" requirement. The CRTC examined the possible use of 107.3 at low power, which might mean that the daytime-only 1510 signal would stay on the air as a simulcast. Stay tuned.

*You know what the news - no, we won't steal Mr. Harvey's line - how about a calendar? Tower Site Calendar 2006 is just back from the printer, and we've got to say, we're especially proud of the way this one turned out.

Once again, we bring you more than a dozen images from the collection that have never seen print before, including that nifty nighttime view of New York's WMCA that graces the cover. You also get to see WSB, KTAR, Mount Wilson, CBV and many, many more, plus all those fun dates in radio and TV history, civil and religious holidays, a handy full-page 2007 calendar, and the always-popular hole for hanging.

And we do it all with no increase in price, for the fourth year running!

The calendars are shipping now, so there's no need to wait until the holidays to enjoy all that tall steel and all that broadcast history. Order now and beat the rush!

You can get one free with your 2006 subscription to NERW at the $60 level, or order the calendar (plus other goodies) at our brand new Store! We think you'll like this one - and as always, we thank you 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.