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August 14, 2006

Dominoes Tumble on Philly FM Dial


*Smooth jazz fans in southeast PENNSYLVANIA are without a radio station this week, and plenty of other listeners in and around Philadelphia may soon be punching buttons, listening for other changes on the city's dial.

The big, immediate news was the long-rumored end to smooth jazz at Clear Channel's WJJZ (106.1 Philadelphia), which ended that format last Thursday (August 10) at noon, signing off with a montage of its artists and with Hall and Oates' "She's Gone" before relaunching with rhythmic AC as "Philly's 106.1," the new home (effective this morning) of the syndicated Whoopi Goldberg morning show.

At the same time, the soft AC "Sunny" format on sister station WSNI (104.5 Philadelphia) came to its own end, signing off with Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" - and launching into a slightly-delayed simulcast of WJJZ.

That, however, is only a temporary move - a new format for 104.5 is expected to arrive as soon as today, and we'll update the column accordingly when it launches.

Why pull the plug on smooth jazz, a format that had attracted a stable and loyal, if not enormous, audience for Clear Channel in Philadelphia? There's speculation that the format was drawing too many listeners away from the company's powerhouses in the market, urban AC WDAS-FM (105.3) and urban WUSL (98.9). (WUSL, by the way, has a new morning man - Sam Sylk, who started last week, returning to the station from a stint at WGCI in Chicago.)

With Clear Channel looking to make some high-profile rollouts of its new Whoopi morning show, the WJJZ flip became all but inevitable. And in a market that's always been friendly to rhythmic formats, the rumor mill was already working overtime about the new "Movin'" rhythmic AC format that debuted earlier this summer at Sandusky Radio's KQMV in Seattle - a format that just happens to target the same female audience that Whoopi's show does.

Clear Channel's not the only format-flip player in the market right now, either. There's still the open question of what becomes of Greater Media's new 97.5 signal when it moves in to the market soon. There's ongoing speculation about Greater's long-term committment to adult hits on its WBEN-FM (95.7). There's the Radio One cluster, where Daisy Davis just arrived this week as the new operations manager, and where WPHI (100.3 Media) hasn't been performing up to its potential. (Could smooth jazz land on one of Radio One's signals?)

Way out on the edges of the rumor spectrum, there's still some buzz about CBS Radio's long-term committment to oldies on WOGL (98.1) - and on what might happen to Greater's "Ben FM" if (and it's a big if) CBS were to bring "Jack" to town on 98.1.

All that, however, remains pure speculation at the moment - and we're sure most of the market is looking closely to see where 104.5 is headed before taking any more action. As always...stay tuned!

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*The other big Philadelphia news last week was the death, on his 81st birthday, of Mike Douglas, who moved from his first career as a big-band singer to new fame as a TV talk-show host in the sixties. Douglas' first show was on Westinghouse's KYW-TV in Cleveland - but when Westinghouse reversed its 1956 station swap with NBC in 1965, the KYW-TV calls and most of its staff moved from Cleveland to channel 3 in Philadelphia. The Mike Douglas Show became one of the era's most successful syndicated offerings, and it continued to emanate from Philadelphia until 1978, when Douglas moved the show to Los Angeles.

In Scranton, they're mourning Terry McNulty, the longtime morning host on WARM (590) who died Friday (Aug. 11) at 70. McNulty worked briefly at WSCR (1320 Scranton) in the fifties, then came to WARM and stayed, making features like "Pass the Pineapple" fixtures on local radio.

McNulty remained at WARM until 1998, when he was let go by Citadel. An age-discrimination lawsuit followed, which was settled in 2004. That's also when McNulty returned to the airwaves, spending a year doing mornings on WNAK (730 Nanticoke) before retiring in 2005.

Up along the border with western New York, there's a new owner at WLMI (103.9 Kane), as former Boston newsman Chuck Crouse's Beech Tree Broadcasting sells the station to Jeffrey Andrulonis' Colonial Broadcasting, which also owns WLYC (1050 Williamsport). Pittsburgh's Ray Rosenblum brokered the deal, which is valued at $390,000.

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*In upstate NEW YORK, the FCC has declined to reduce the $11,000 fine it proposed against MB Communications' WYLF (850 Penn Yan) for violations that included insufficient tower fencing, EAS problems and overpower operation at night. MB (principally owned by Russ Kimble) argued that it lacked the financial ability to pay the fine, but the FCC disagreed.

It's been a busy year for public radio station WRVO (89.9 Oswego) - they recently flipped the switch on their new 50 kW transmitter, improving signal strength into the Syracuse market. WRVO's also been expanding its reach through additional transmitters. It recently struck a deal with Colgate University to put WRVO programming on WRCU (90.1 Clinton) during hours when the station's not being programmed by students. And after a long absence, WRVO programming has also returned to WSUC (90.5 Cortland) at SUNY Cortland at times when the students aren't on.

Elsewhere on the noncommercial dial, Bath-based Family Life Ministries is selling W201CP (88.1 Binghamton) to Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls.

In Buffalo, fans of WEDG (103.3)'s Shredd and Ragan show started a petition drive last week to try to persuade the Citadel station to return the duo to mornings - but it didn't last long. The petition site, at, now carries a message saying that the station (and the coupon company that was hosting the petition) have asked that it be removed.

"Shredd & Ragan and Opie & Anthony are friends outside the radio waves and do not desire to have their listeners against each other. My simple wish was to get the Buffalo community to rally together to support a local Radio Team that has been with us for over a decade," says "Dan," the petition's creator.

The last morning host on the old "95BBF" in Rochester has died. Known as Don Michael Girard during his 1980-82 stint at WBBF (950 Rochester), and at his previous job at WZZD (990 Philadelphia), Don Garrard later ended up in Jacksonville, Florida, where he was doing mornings at Cox's WJGL (96.9) when he died last week at 53.

Plenty of TV news from across the Empire State this week, too: here in Rochester, we're hearing reliable reports that Time Warner will soon transfer management of its "WB16" cable channel (soon to become a CW affiliate as, simply, "TV16") to Clear Channel's WHAM-TV (Channel 13). Will 16 become available over-the-air as a subchannel on WHAM-DT? Will WHAM program a 10 PM newscast on 16, competing with the WROC-TV produced newscast on Fox affiliate WUHF?

In Binghamton, WBNG-TV (Channel 12) is now under Granite management, and that means a new boss. Les Vann, general manager of Granite's WTVH (Channel 5) in Syracuse, has been promoted to executive VP for central and southern NY, overseeing both CBS affiliates. Bob Krummenacker becomes VP/station manager at WBNG, handling local operations there.

When Katie Couric makes her "CBS Evening News" debut September 5, she'll be seen a little later in the Albany market. Freedom's WRGB (Channel 6) will move the network newscast to 7 PM next month, extending its 6 PM newscast to a full hour. While 7 PM network news was once standard in large markets, Albany will be one of only four Eastern Time Zone markets to carry Couric at 7. (The others are WCAX in Burlington, KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh and WJZ in Baltimore.)

Across town at Clear Channel Fox affiliate WXXA (Channel 23), a new morning newscast will debut next month. Anchors for the new broadcast will be Diane Lee (moving up from WYOU-TV in Scranton) and Mark Baker (late of WAOW in Wausau, Wisconsin).

And in New York, there's now a "WMCA-TV." No, it's not a new broadcast outlet from Salem, owner of Christian talk WMCA (570 New York) - it's a webstream featuring videos of the preachers heard on WMCA and sister station WWDJ (970 New York).

*The next piece of the WCRB saga came together late last week, when Charles River Broadcasting confirmed that it's selling its RHODE ISLAND stations - classical WCRI (95.9 Block Island) and CNN Headline News WCNX (1180 Hope Valley) - to Christopher Jones, son of WCRB founder Ted Jones.

No format changes are expected at either station, and here's the interesting part: in the press release, Jones said he hoped to also acquire Charles River's remaning MASSACHUSETTS stations, Cape Cod's classical WFCC (107.5 Chatham) and rock WKPE (104.7 Orleans), as well as the World Classical Network service that's being run out of WCRB.

Meanwhile, though, WCRB's owner-to-be, Nassau, says it has big plans for classical expansion, too. Nassau's Lou Mercatanti told the Boston Globe last week that he expects to flip several of the company's stations in NEW HAMPSHIRE and VERMONT to classical, programming them out of WCRB. There's no word yet on which signals or markets might be targeted for flips.

In southern Vermont, WTSA (1450 Brattleboro) is back on the air after a few silent days - its transmitter overheated, and a replacement was brought in late last week, we hear.

*Northern MAINE is getting an over-the-air Fox affiliate. WAGM-TV (Channel 8), the CBS affiliate in Presque Isle, says it will launch Fox on a subchannel of WAGM-DT (Channel 16) sometime in early October. The new subchannel is also expected to replace the national "FoxNet" service on Aroostook County cable systems.

*There's plenty of AM-to-FM action in southern ONTARIO this week - and a rare AM-to-AM move, too.

In Oshawa, Durham Radio's CKDO (1350) pulled the plug on that AM frequency just after the 10 AM news on Sunday, returning to the air later that night on its new frequency of 1580, where it boosts power from 10 kW days/5 kW nights to 10 kW fulltime. CKDO is also heard on an FM relay at 107.7 in Oshawa, and that's where most of the listeners are these days, we suspect.

To the east, CHUC (1450 Cobourg) signed on its new FM facility at 1 PM last Friday. The new CHUC-FM (107.9) is known on-air as "107.9 the Breeze" (no connection, we're pretty sure, to the ill-fated fast ferry that briefly connected Toronto to Rochester), and after a 90-day simulcast period, the AM signal on 1450 will go dark for good. There's a connection here to the CKDO move - CHUC was granted a move from 1450 to 1580 a few years ago, but then abandoned that plan in favor of the move to FM, opening the 1580 frequency for use in Oshawa.

To the west, CKOT (1510 Tillsonburg) will remain on the air as Canada's only daytimer, but it will soon have a 24/7 FM signal as well. The CRTC last week granted CKOT a license to use 107.3 (with 4.5 kW average ERP and a directional antenna) as a 24-hour signal for its AM country programming. CKOT also has separate soft AC programming on the long-established CKOT-FM (101.3 Tillsonburg).

Up in Sudbury, CKBB (102.9) is apparently silent; an article in the local paper says the road signs advertising the tourist information that had been heard on that frequency will soon be coming down.

Quebec's top shock jock is coming to satellite radio. Jeff Fillion, who's been heard only on webcasts for the last year or so, has signed a deal that will put him on XM Canada beginning September 4.

Quebec is getting some new FM signals, too: the CRTC has granted Radio Classique a new Quebec City outlet, on 92.7 with 2.1 kW average ERP and a directional antenna. It's also allowing Corus' CFEL (102.1 Montmagny) to move its signal closer to the South Shore, with some coverage into Quebec City itself.

And in the Maritimes, MBS has been granted an AM-to-FM move in Sydney, Nova Scotia, where CHER (950) will take its classic-hits format to 98.3, with 100 kW.

*That's it for the week's news - but read on for the big announcement about Tower Site Calendar 2007!

From the NERW Archives

(Yup, we've been doing this a long time now, and so we're digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five and ten years ago this week, or thereabouts - the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as "New England Radio Watch," and didn't go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997. Thanks to for the idea - and thanks to you, our readers, for the support that's made all these years of NERW possible!)

August 15, 2005 -

  • In MASSACHUSETTS, WRKO (680 Boston) GM Tom Baker is out of a job as Entercom eliminates his position; cluster manager Julie Kahn assumes his responsibilities. (WRKO also had a guest appearance by ousted WBZ reporter Flo Jonic last week; she filled in on the station's morning show.) Over in Worcester, the WSRS (96.1) morning team of Austin Davis and Kerry Mathieson is out as well, with Jackie Brush and WTAG's Greg Byrne filling in.
  • In NEW HAMPSHIRE, WEVS (88.3 Nashua) signed on Tuesday (Aug. 9) just before 11 AM, improving New Hampshire Public Radio's service to the southern end of the state. The station's transmitter sits atop St. Joseph's Hospital, with 5 kilowatts of power aimed mostly north-northwest. Over in Keene, Jay Stevens is back on the air at WKNE (103.7), replacing Adam Weinreich in mid-mornings. Stevens was on WOQL (then at 98.7) until 2004, when he went to work at Disney World as a sound engineer.
  • Outside Philadelphia, we're delighted to report that the FCC has granted WHHS (107.9 Havertown) a construction permit to move to 99.9. The station needed waivers from WJBR (99.5 Wilmington DE) and WPHI (100.3 Media) to make the move, which allows it to stay on the air after the class D high school station (the oldest in the nation) was displaced from 107.9 by the sign-on of WPHI sister station WRNB (107.9 Pennsauken NJ). WHHS still has to be back on the air by December 18 to avoid losing its license for being silent more than a year, but in the capable hands of engineer Mark Humphrey and several other friends of high school radio in the area, that shouldn't be an issue.
  • And in CANADA, the big news is the lockout of about 5,000 CBC employees that's getting underway just as we go to press Sunday night. Expect dramatically curtailed CBC services - a single national morning show, for instance - until this latest labor issue is resolved.

August 13, 2001 -

  • We'll begin our New England report up in MAINE, where there's been plenty of news in our absence. Over at Portland's Saga cluster, Ken McGrail resigned from his PD/afternoon gig at oldies WYNZ (100.9 Westbrook); he's headed for PD/morning drive down the coast at WQEZ (104.7 Kennebunkport). Down the hall, Chris Duggan gives up his PD job at country WPOR (101.9), though he'll stay on the air middays until a replacement is named. Saga's WZAN (970) shuffled its programming lineup, replacing G. Gordon Liddy with Phil Hendrie from 10 AM till noon, and adding Jim Rome in Ed Tyll's old noon to 3 PM slot. WZAN also adds Fox Sports on weekend overnights, and Patriots football (formerly on the WJAE/WJJB network) once the season starts.
  • The "Big Jab," meanwhile, grabs the Portland Pirates AHL rights for the fall from WZAN. The stations have now joined WRED (95.9 Saco) at the WLOB facility on Warren Avenue, leaving the old WJAE/WJBQ quarters a few blocks away on Warren vacant.
  • Bangor's WWBX (97.1) officially entered the Clear Channel family this week, moving over from Gopher Hill Broadcasting on the same day Clear Channel sold WGUY (102.1 Dexter) to Mark Jorgenson's Concord group. (No coincidence there; Clear Channel had to spin something before it could acquire WWBX).
  • A format change on the other side of the Connecticut River: in VERMONT, WZSH (107.1 Bellows Falls) and WSSH (95.3 White River Junction) move from "Lite FM" to hot AC "Star." Programming includes the syndicated Bob and Sheri in mornings, Westwood One hot AC in middays, PD Art Steinberg in the afternoons and Delilah at night.
  • MASSACHUSETTS finally has Opie and Anthony to kick around again. Three years after being booted from WAAF (107.3 Worcester) for that moronic "Mayor Menino is Dead" April Fools' stunt, Infinity finally brought the pair back to Beantown, inserting them (against some internal pressure, we hear) into the WBCN (104.1) lineup. Since their start on 'BCN last week, former afternooner Nik Carter has moved to middays, sending middayer Bill Abbate to evenings. We hear the duo spent their entire first show recounting the WAAF stunt, which must have been absolutely riveting to listeners of their other affiliates around the country...
  • Not much happening in NEW JERSEY, until you get to Cape May. That's where WSAX (102.3) dumped its automated smooth jazz last week and began simulcasting the satellite standards from WMID (1340 Atlantic City).

New England Radio Watch, August 19, 1996

  • Two Cape Cod radio stations spent some time off the air this weekend. WWKJ (101.1 Mashpee MA; ex-WFAL, WUNZ) and WJCO (93.5 Harwich Port; ex-WFXR, WUNX) were recently bought by car dealer Ernie Boch, and just last week changed from a modern rock simulcast to classic rock (WWKJ) and soft AC (WJCO). And then, over the weekend, someone cut the cables leading out to the stations' satellite dishes. Wire- service reports claim the damage was sufficiently severe to take both stations off the air, and to keep WJCO off the air through Monday. Boch is offering a $10,000 reward for information about the crime.
  • NERW is considering buying earplugs to block out the roar of rumors concerning the impending demise of one of Greater Media's two Boston country FMs. The best-sourced rumor so far has Greater Media going to a simulcast on WBCS (96.9) and WKLB (105.7) on or about Monday, August 26...and then launching some new format on one of the stations a week or so later. The baseless speculation so far includes:
  • The WBCS calls moving to 105.7 (so Greater Media doesn't have to pay up on its million-dollar promise to keep WBCS country through January 1), and 96.9 being reborn as something new.
  • Country staying on 96.9 and the whole mess being sold to American Radio Systems, with ARS then moving the format and calls from newly- purchased rimshotter WAAF 107.3 Worcester-Boston to 105.7, and selling the 107.3 stick. That would give ARS the full complement of five Boston FMs, and get Greater Media out of a market where it's become a relatively minor player.
  • Country staying on 96.9, and 105.7 being reborn as an 80s-music station, possibly under calls like "WATX" ("W-Eighties").
  • Those are just a few of the many rumors making the rounds; rest assured that the Official NERW Receiver is making frequent stops on both frequencies, and any changes will be reported here at once.
  • American Radio Systems has been making big headlines by buying stations, but the Boston-based company also sells a station from time to time. The latest ARS sale involves WNEZ (910), until recently their sole AM property in the Hartford CT market. WNEZ has been drawing minimal ratings with a CNN Headline News/sports talk format, but it's been a very minor player in the ARS Connecticut stable, which also includes or is about to include WTIC (1080 Hartford; full-service), WZMX (93.7 Hartford; 70s), WTIC-FM (96.5 Hartford;hot AC), and WRCH (100.5 New Britain; AC). Now ARS is selling WNEZ to Mega Broadcasting for $750,000. Mega plans to take the station Spanish, just as it's doing with its other East Coast acquisition, WURD (900) Philadelphia. WNEZ will join WPRX 1120 Bristol, WRYM 840 New Britain, WLAT 1230 Manchester, and WRDM 1550 Bloomfield in broadcasting all or part of the day in Spanish. WNEZ's signal is adequate in most of the area by day, but at night the New Britain-licensed 5 kW station is hampered by a directional pattern that aims southeast from its Farmington transmitter site, away from Hartford. No word on whether Mega is buying the Birdseye Road transmitter site as well (the building used to house the station's studios back when it was WRCQ).

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*It's here! Tower Site 2007 is now at the printer, and we'll begin shipping it out just after Labor Day.

This year's edition features what we think are the finest tower images yet - from the cover image of WCCO Minneapolis all the way to the back-cover centerfold of WBZ in Boston, and from KGO San Francisco to KOIL Omaha to Philadelphia's famed Roxborough tower farm, captured in a dramatic dusk shot with the lights all aglow.

This sixth annual edition once again contains plenty of historic dates from radio and television history in the Northeast and beyond, and as always, it comes to you shrink-wrapped and shipped first class mail for safe arrival.

Why place your order early this year? Two reasons - first, we're printing a more limited quantity of calendars this year than in past years, and we do expect the 2007 calendar to sell out before long. And second, if you order before September 1, you can order your 2007 calendar at the same $16 price that we've been offering ever since the 2003 edition. After that, because of increases in production and postage costs, we'll be forced to raise the price don't wait!

You can even get your 2007 calendar free with your new or renewal subscription to NERW at the $60 level.

Visit the Store and place your order today - and be among the first to get the Tower Site Calendar 2007, just as soon as it rolls off the presses in a few short weeks!

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 2006 by Scott Fybush.