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May 14, 2007

JV & Elvis Out at NYC's Free FM


*The suspension is over for JV and Elvis at NEW YORK's WFNY-FM (92.3 Free FM). As of Friday afternoon, the mid-morning team who came to CBS Radio's Free FM from San Francisco last year are out of work - and the talk station now has another daypart to fill in addition to its late-night slot.

Jeff Vandergrift and Dan Lay had been off the air for over two weeks, ever since a local Asian-American group began protesting a rebroadcast of an old segment (originally aired in San Francisco, then later aired at least once without incident on WFNY-FM) in which the show called a Chinese restaurant and mocked an employee's accent.

What was acceptable even a few months ago, however, is now problematic in the wake of the Don Imus debacle - and so after a week of "best-of" shows and a week of fill-ins Cabbie and Larry Wachs, JV and Elvis are gone and questions are swirling about whether there's a future for a deliberately edgy talk station in a world full of protests over any perceived slight.

The next Free FM hosts in the crosshairs are morning men Opie and Anthony, who now have Al Sharpton calling for their dismissal from CBS Radio over a segment that never even aired on the terrestrial simulcast of their XM Satellite Radio show. The duo began their XM show Friday by apologizing for the bit, which involved a homeless man ranting about Queen Elizabeth II, and signed off with the same line they've used in the past before previous dismissals in Boston and New York.

So far, CBS appears to be standing by Opie and Anthony, but we've seen how quickly that support can fade as protests build - and if the O&A show were to disappear from the Free FM schedule, the station would be on even shakier revenue ground, raising serious questions about how long the format can survive.

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*Over at sister station WFAN (660 New York), the revenue hole created by Don Imus' firing hasn't been filled, either, and as Imus launches what's reported to be a $120 million wrongful-dismissal suit against CBS Radio, the station's still trying to fill the programming hole in morning drive, at the very least.

NBC News correspondent David Gregory is the latest fill-in, and when he takes the morning drive reins today, he'll be the first post-Imus host to be heard on WFAN and seen on MSNBC, which will be producing the show in a reversal of the old Imus arrangement, in which WFAN owned the show and sold the content to MSNBC.

Will Gregory be able to pull off the balance Imus struck for so many years before his downfall, mixing low-brow morning humor with top-name political interviews? As a regular Today fill-in host, Gregory has the morning-show experience, and as NBC's White House correspondent, he's as well-connected as it gets. We'll be watching (and listening) to see how the experiment works.

On Long Island, "101.7 the Beat" has returned to its previous nickname, as WBEA (101.7 Southold) returns to "The Beach" just in time for summer. Meanwhile, WEHM (92.9 Southampton)/WEHN (96.9 East Hampton) PD/morning man Brian Cosgrove is leaving the station and heading for public radio; he'll become midday host at WLIU (88.3 Southampton) next month.

In Albany, Sally Stamp comes to WXXA (Channel 23) as general manager, moving down the Thruway from her previous sales position at sister station WSYR-TV (Channel 9) in Syracuse. And over at the Times Union, Mark McGuire is the latest newspaper TV critic to lose his gig; while he remains at the paper and will continue to blog about TV and radio, his media writing will be limited to a Sunday column that he describes as "a blend of pop culture, including some TV-related coverage." The rest of the TU's TV coverage, like so many other newspapers today, will be limited to wire-service copy - and we'll miss McGuire's deep reporting on the media scene to our east.

In Utica, Stew Schantz is out as PD of Galaxy's WRCK (107.3), with budget cuts to blame.

And down in Liberty, WVOS (1240) is segueing from country to talk.

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Here at East RadioWatch, we've managed to hold off from imposing a password and mandatory subscription fee, but we depend on your support - and that of our advertisers - to keep it that way.

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*Our New England coverage this week begins with a couple of "get well soon" stories.

CONNECTICUT broadcaster Dennis Jackson is in critical condition in an Arizona hospital after a motorcycle crash in southern Utah on Friday afternoon. Jackson, who owns a small cluster of stations that include WQQQ (103.3 Sharon CT), WMEX (106.5 Farmington NH), WCLX (102.9 Westport NY) and WRIP (97.9 Windham NY), was vacationing with his son when he lost control of the cycle. He was airlifted to a hospital in Flagstaff with multiple internal injuries, a broken arm and a concussion.

That's the bad news - the good news is that at last report, while Jackson was still sedated and in intensive care, his vital signs are improving and he's expected to be off a breathing tube soon.

We'll keep you posted as we hear more...and we're hopeful for a full (if slow and difficult) recovery for one of our favorite small-market broadcasters.

Meanwhile in MASSACHUSETTS, WBZ (1030 Boston) host Paul Sullivan is recovering from surgery to remove another brain tumor. The station reports that Sullivan is at home and resting comfortably; he was scheduled to call in to guest host Dan Rea on Friday night to update listeners on his progress.

*One other bit of CONNECTICUT news: the talk format that had been airing on WXCT (990 Southington) under an LMA is over; as of Thursday, the station is running Spanish contemporary Christian "Radio Cantico Nuevo" in a simulcast with WNSW (1430 Newark NJ).

*In VERMONT, it's all but official that the Clear Channel stations in Burlington and Randolph are being sold to Dean Goodman's GoodRadio.TV, LLC group. The Vermont Guardian reports that Goodradio is spending a total of $452 million to buy 36 markets from Clear Channel, including the Burlington cluster of AC WEZF (92.9), oldies WVTK (92.1 Port Henry NY), classic rock WCPV (101.3 Essex NY)/WCVR (102.1 Randolph) and talk WXZO (96.7 Willsboro NY)/WEAV (960 Plattsburgh NY)/WTSJ (1320 Randolph).

Meanwhile, the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin reports that the Clear Channel radio cluster there has been sold as well, but that no buyer has been announced. Will that be GoodRadio, too?

*In MAINE, Jennifer Rooks is leaving Portland's WCSH (Channel 6), where she's a weekend anchor and reporter, to become host of a revamped version of Maine Public Broadcasting Network's weekly "MaineWatch" public affairs show. Rooks will debut on MPBN June 4.

*Mike O'Donnell has made the move from New England to PENNSYLVANIA. The former OM/PD at NEW HAMPSHIRE's WERZ (107.1 Exeter), whose career also includes stops at WXLO, WRZE and WFHN, is the new PD at Entercom's WKRZ (98.5 Freeland)/WKRF (107.9 Tobyhanna) in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market, replacing Tias Schuster.

There's a PD opening in Philadelphia, where reports that WPHT (1210) PD Grace Blazer has resigned after 11 years with the station and 13 with CBS Radio.

On the TV side, Fox O&O WTXF (Channel 29) has a new news director. Phil Metlin, former news director at Fox's WTVT (Channel 13) in Tampa, moves north to take the job at Fourth and Market.

Milton's WMLP (1380) has named a replacement for the Don Imus timeslot, and it's about as far in the other direction as the station could go - Salem's "Morning in America" with Bill Bennett is the new morning show at WMLP, and also at WKSN (1340 Jamestown NY) and WYBG (1050 Massena NY).

*A NEW JERSEY translator is changing hands, as Bridgelight LLC buys W220AA (91.9 Parlin) from Maria Liadis for $55,000. The translator was a relay of WDDM (89.3 Hazlet), but will now relay Bridgelight's WRDR (89.7 Freehold) instead.

*In CANADA, there may be some big regulatory changes on the horizon. The Globe and Mail reported Friday that CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein says he's planning to ease the agency's regulatory hold on Canadian broadcasters. In a speech in British Columbia, von Finckenstein said the CRTC "must give fuller play to the energy and creativity of market forces," within the confines of the Broadcasting Act that guides it.

In Moncton, religious CITA (105.9) is applying to move to 105.1, to get out of the way of the impending move of CBA (1070) to 106.1. CITA would increase power from 50 watts to 880 watts/82.5 meters on its new frequency.

There's a new PD at CFQR (92.5 Montreal), as Chris Kennedy moves from Joint Communications, where he'd been consulting clients that included...CFQR.

Also in Montreal, "Radio Shalom" has officially launched on CJRS (1650).

*We promised you Atlantic League baseball-on-the-radio information in this week's issue, and we aim to here it is:

As reported last week, the Newark Bears return to WSOU (89.5 South Orange) after four seasons away, with a partial schedule. Downstate, the Camden Riversharks will be heard on Rowan University's WGLS (89.7 Glassboro) for 14 games, as well as 19 more webcast-only games. And the Somerset Patriots enter their tenth season on WCTC (1450 New Brunswick).

In Pennsylvania, the Lancaster Barnstormers' full 126-game season will be heard on WLPA (1490), while the brand-new York Revolution play all 126 games on WSBA (910), with Darrell Henry behind the mike. (His debut even merited a review in the York Dispatch.)

The Long Island Ducks are heard Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays on WBZB (98.5 Westhampton) and WNYG (1440 Babylon).

In Connecticut, the Bridgeport Bluefish continue to be heard on WVOF (88.5 Fairfield).

Next week, we'll continue our look at the independent minor leagues, tackling the Can-Am League.

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!)

May 8, 2006 -

  • It's been an exceptionally bad few weeks for hip-hop radio in NEW YORK. First came the latest shooting at Emmis' WQHT (97.1), which touched off an eviction battle with the station's landlord that's still underway. And then came the rivalry between Hot 97's Raashaun Casey, aka "DJ Envy," and the station's former morning host, Troi Torain, aka "Star," who moved to rival station WWPR (Power 105.1) and was also heard, via syndication, on about a dozen other stations, including WPHH in Hartford and WUSL in Philadelphia. The feud between the DJs had been brewing for a while, apparently, but it exploded last week, when Star was first fired and then arrested for a series of on-air comments beginning May 3 that apparently threatened DJ Envy's four-year-old daughter with sexual abuse and kidnapping.
  • Several New York City Council members brought the comments to light in a news conference Wednesday, and by that afternoon Clear Channel had fired Torain. On Friday, Torain was arrested after appearing at a New York police station to surrender his handgun and weapons permit. Charged with endangering the welfare of a child and with a fourth-degree weapons possession charge, Torain was released on $2,000 bail after pleading not guilty early Saturday morning. At least for next week, WWPR plans to use syndicated host Tigger and weekend DJ Egypt as a replacement for the now-cancelled "Star and Buc Wild Morning Show." It's still not clear what the ultimate consequences for Clear Channel might be. Several New York politicians are calling on the FCC to conduct an investigation of the incident, and it's likely that even if New York has heard the last of "Star" on its airwaves, it hasn't heard the last about this war of words.
  • In the Upper Valley of VERMONT and NEW HAMPSHIRE, an FM station is finally cleared to make its move all the way west into the Burlington market. WWOD (104.3 Hartford VT) has been trying for years to move to Keeseville, New York, a suburb of Plattsburgh across Lake Champlain from Burlington. An initial attempt to make the move was thwarted when a rival broadcaster came up with a counterproposal that instead put a new class A facility on 94.1 in Keeseville. But WWOD owner Nassau came back with a new proposal - they asked the FCC to shift that 94.1A Keeseville allotment (which has not yet gone up for auction) to Morrisonville, deeper into the Adirondacks, and then to move WWOD's 104.3C3 signal from Hartford to Keeseville. The FCC approved that move last week. (It also approved two related moves - Nassau's WXLF 95.3 will change city of license from White River Junction to Hartford to retain "first local service" there, never mind that they're really the same place - and there'll be a new allotment at 104.3A at Enfield, New Hampshire.) WWOD still needs to file a full application to be relicensed at its new city of license; we'll keep you posted as it picks a transmitter site and moves forward with its big relocation.
  • An update from NEW JERSEY on that devastating transmitter-site fire in Atlantic City: WOND (1400 Pleasantville) is now back on the air from that site, using a temporary transmitter into the (undamaged) antenna tower. WMGM-FM (103.7 Atlantic City) remains on the air from the WPUR (107.3) backup site atop the Trump Taj Mahal hotel/casino, and WTKU (1490 Pleasantville) and WMGM-CA (Channel 7) remain off the air for now.

May 13, 2002 -

  • We'll start in NEW YORK, where last Wednesday (May 8) brought the long-expected end to the country format on Big City Radio's "Y107" quadcast in the Big Apple's suburbs. After a day of construction noises, the four stations on 107.1 (WYNY Briarcliff Manor, WWXY Hampton Bays, WWYY Belvidere NJ and WWZY Long Branch NJ) launched into their new life as "Rumba 107," playing much the same diet of Spanish hits now heard on "Mega" WSKQ (97.9 New York) and "Latino Mix" WCAA (105.9 Newark NJ). Can the relatively weak in-city signals of the "Rumba" stations (aided slightly by the tower move at WWZY last week that now finds the station reaching Brooklyn much better from Atlantic Highlands, N.J.) compete with the strong signals of Mega and Latino Mix? Will the Belvidere (serving the Easton, PA area) and Hampton Bays signals stay with the simulcast? And what about the remaining staff at Y107, including morning guy Ray Rossi, who are now out of work, not to mention the country listeners in the big city who are again without a station? We'll keep you posted...
  • Elsewhere in New York City, two noncommercial FM stations are at odds over a proposal by one to improve its Manhattan signal. Bronx-based WFUV (90.7), the radio voice of Fordham University, wants to put a 600-watt booster atop the Riverside Church, using the tower once occupied by the former WRVR (106.7, now WLTW from the Empire State Building). But the application has met with opposition from WFMU (91.1 East Orange), the community-supported station across the Hudson that draws some of its best listenership in the upper Manhattan area to be served by the proposed "WFUV-2." NERW hopes both sides can find a way to work this out, especially after we've just spent some time listening to the many signals in Paris and London that are just 0.4 MHz apart -- from the same tower, in some cases -- and get along just fine.
  • Talker WOR (710) added Bill O'Reilly to its schedule last week (denying, the whole time, gossip that claimed syndicator Westwood One was making big payments to large-market stations to get clearances for the show), then lost PD John Mainelli the next day. Mainelli resigned from the Buckley-owned talker May 9, in what he and the station are calling an amicable departure. Mainelli had been at WOR for just a few weeks, arriving amidst high hopes that he could freshen up the aging station to compete against his old home, WABC. There's no word about Mainelli's plans, yet, nor about WOR's plans for a replacement.
  • Syracuse Community Radio is at it again: with just hours to go before the expiration of its CP for translator W208AQ (89.5 Marcellus) on April 30, the SCR folks filed for a license to cover for the facility, which could be their best hope to actually put a listenable signal into Onondaga County. Only problem is, W208AQ hadn't been built yet; several NERW readers who visited the site report seeing no sign of an antenna, nor any power connections to the transmitter! (This is not the first time SCR has done this; alert readers will recall the saga of WXXC, 88.7 in Truxton, which SCR falsely told the FCC was on the air, only to lose the license after several other area broadcasters informed the Commission otherwise. NERW's take: SCR missed several good opportunities to win the friendly cooperation of the region's existing broadcasters, and we don't see what the group hopes to gain by misleading the FCC now, especially with the scrutiny it faces from other stations in the region.)
  • We'll start the PENNSYLVANIA catch-up in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which saw plenty of action in NERW's absence. Citadel reshuffled its deck in a big way, beginning with the demise of the doo-wop oldies format on WARM (590), which returns to the news-talk it had been doing for years. The doo-wop oldies end up on WEMR (1460 Tunkhannock), which is now "Mighty 1460," breaking from the adult-standards simulcast with WKJN (1440 Carbondale) and WAZL (1490 Hazleton). On the FM side, the "Z-Rock" combo of WEOZ (95.7 Olyphant) and WAOZ (97.9 Hazleton) split as well, with WEOZ becoming "Z-Talk" and WAOZ shifting to a simulcast of new rock WBSX (93.7 Dallas). The Z-Talk lineup includes Bob and Tom, Don and Mike, Opie and Anthony, Phil Hendrie and Tom Leykis. WARM, meantime, starts its day with local host Rob Neyhard. The schedule also includes Dr. Joy Browne and Sean Hannity. WBSX, meanwhile, has been running promos announcing a move to "97.9 X," and at press time the WBSX calls have moved to 97.9, with 93.7 now identifying as WCWQ. That, in turn, matches the new calls at two other Citadel stations: WBHD (94.3 Carbondale) is now WCWI, while WEMR-FM (107.7 Tunkhannock) is now WCWY. WBHD had been simulcasting CHR WBHT (97.1 Mountain Top), while WEMR-FM had been simulcasting AC WMGS (92.9 Scranton); speculation in the market is that WCWQ, WCWI and WCWY will all soon be doing "Cat Country," a format that had been heard on 94.3 and 93.7 a few years ago.
  • In RHODE ISLAND, we hear half of the "Z-100" combo of WZRA (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale) and WZRI (100.3 Middletown) is breaking away; WZRA is becoming WSKO-FM, relaying the sports programming of WSKO (790 Providence) to southern Rhode Island. The FM side will split from the AM for some baseball play-by-play; 790 will take the Pawtucket Red Sox, while 99.7 will carry the Yankees when there's a conflict. WSKO also shifts its schedule a bit, adding local sports talk in late mornings.

May 15, 1997-

  • We'll start this mid-May NERW with the latest from Boston's morning drive circus: Talker WRKO has hired "Morning Guy Tai" from modern rock WFNX (101.7) as the station's new morning co-host. He'll join Marjorie Clapprood in morning drive, replacing the departed Pat Whitley. The new "Clapprood and Company" morning show will debut next Monday at 5:30; it will be shortened by an hour to make room for an extra hour of Dr. Laura Schlessinger at 9 AM. WRKO program director Kevin Straley is defending his unorthodox choice, saying Tai (whose real name is Tom Irwin) is eager to move to the talk arena from his days as a rock jock.
  • From RHODE ISLAND comes word of new call letters for the erstwhile WPJB-FM (102.7 Narragansett Pier). Now that the station is owned by Back Bay Broadcasting and simulcasting WWKX ("Kix 106") Woonsocket, it's going by WAKX(FM).
  • From MAINE comes some call letter confusion in the Bangor market, where WWFX (104.7 Belfast) isn't going to become WEBR after all. Instead, the station now known as "the Bear" will be WBFB, a set of calls that was last seen in Rochester NY some 22 years ago, on the classical FM at 92.5 that's today's country WBEE-FM.
  • Here in NEW YORK, there are new calls for Buffalo's "Alice @ 92.9." The former WSJZ is now WLCE. And an historic set of Rochester AM calls, WPXN, will soon resurface in the Big Apple. With Lowell Paxson's purchase of WBIS (Channel 31) in New York, the station will dump its locally-produced business, news, and sports programming for Paxson's infomercials within a few months, and become WPXN(TV). Channel 31 was noncommercial WNYC-TV until just last year, when the City of New York sold it for $207 million. (The WPXN calls, by the way, were on the 1280 signal once known as WVET and WROC, later as WPXY and WKQG, and today as WHTK). Paxson owns or controls several New England stations, including WHAI-TV (Chanel 43) Bridgeport CT, WHCT (Channel 18) Hartford, WHRC (Channel 46) Norwell MA, WGOT (Channel 60) Merrimack NH, and W54CN Boston. His stated intent is to ally himself with programmers to create a seventh TV network in the US.

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*It's here! As seen in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Chicago Sun-Times, and on WCVB's "Chronicle," Tower Site Calendar 2007 is not only now shipping - it's close to a sellout! If you're waiting for the 2007 edition to go on clearance sale, don't keep waiting - the word from the shipping department is that only about 15 copies remain, and we expect to sell them all in the next few weeks.

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.

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!

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 2007 by Scott Fybush.