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September 17, 2007

Rock Returns to Philly's WYSP


*The radio dial in eastern PENNSYLVANIA was spinning like crazy last week - and nowhere more so than at CBS Radio's WYSP (94.1 Philadelphia), where most of the remaining remnants of the failed "Free FM" talk experiment were wiped away on Thursday afternoon, replaced with a return to the rock format that has long defined the station.

The move back to rock came abruptly, with the first rumors reaching print on Tuesday morning, followed quickly by talk of "being fired" by late-morning host Paul Barsky, who's actually apparently still at the station in an off-air capacity.

Wednesday brought the final shows for afternoon talkers Matt and Huggy and night talkers Scotty and Alex, and Thursday found Opie & Anthony broadcasting from the WYSP studios (an already-planned appearance, promoting a local live show over the weekend) and dropping big hints about a 5 PM announcement. Best-of shows filled the remainder of the day until 5, when O&A and PM driver Kidd Chris kicked off the new format with Guns 'n' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle."

The revived rock format will continue to include the New York-based Opie & Anthony morning show, as well as Kidd Chris in afternoons (though without two of his producer/sidekicks, Brad Maybe and Monkeyboy, who are also out of work), with a new jock lineup to be announced soon.

The move gives Philadelphia no fewer than four rock stations - WYSP, Greater Media's WMMR (93.3), Clear Channel's modern-leaning WRFF (104.5) and Greater Media's classic rock WMGK (102.9) - which may be explainable, at least in part, by the switch to the Arbitron people-meter and the renewed ability to measure young male listenership.

Will any of the rock players blink? Stay tuned...

*It's not a format change for Jerry Lee's WBEB (101.1 Philadelphia), but there's new branding for the venerable AC station: "B101" has now licensed the "Fresh FM" branding that's been fairly successful for CBS' WWFS (102.7 New York), and will apparently use both sets of branding for now.

Veteran Philly jock Marilyn Russell has a new gig, as she joins Greater Media's adult hits WBEN-FM (95.7 Ben FM) for mornings, alongside Dave Cruise. Russell's most recently been associated with WYSP on weekends, with the "Y Rock on XPN" modern rock on WXPN (88.5 Philadelphia), and before that with WPLY, WMGK and WIBF/WDRE.

Speaking of WMGK, Rob Calvert is the new morning producer/on-air talent there, moving up from WOCL in Orlando.

Over on the AM dial, WPEN (950)'s "700 Level Sports Fanatics" have moved from evenings to noon-3, replacing Jim Rome. Geoff Harbaugh is now doing evenings on the Greater Media sports station.

Across the state in Pittsburgh, WDSY (107.9)'s morning co-host Chris DeCarlo has left the station after a 20-year run (with a six-year interruption from 1996-2002.) No replacement has been named for DeCarlo, who's leaving for family reasons.

And in the Lehigh Valley, they're mourning former WAEB (790 Allentown) jock Guy Ackley, who died in a collision between his motorcycle and an SUV being driven by a teenager Saturday afternoon in Lowhill Township. Ackley had been working in the advertising business in recent years, operating his own agency, Ackley Advertising. He was 58.


Think the arrival of the new phone book is an exciting time of year? (We do, actually, with apologies to Steve Martin, but that's not the point.)

Here's a really exciting spot on the calendar - in fact, it is the calendar. Yes, the 2008 Tower Site Calendar is back from the printer and ready for shipping all over the US and beyond.

This year's edition is a particularly fine one, if we do say so ourselves. From the cover photo of KAST in Astoria, Oregon to the back cover shot of the Blaw-Knox diamond tower at WBNS in Columbus, this year's calendar features 14 all-new full-color shots of famous broadcast sites far and wide. There's KROQ in Los Angeles, KFBK in Sacramento, WESX in Salem, WGAN in Portland, Black Mountain in Vegas, Mount Spokane in Spokane, and many (ok, several) more.

If you've been following our adventures, you know that the 2006 and 2007 editions of the calendar sold out. If you've been following postal rates and the cost of printing, you know they've both gone up.

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Or better yet, beat our move to mandatory subscriptions (also coming this fall) and get a free calendar with your $60 subscription to NERW for 2008. (Remember, the proceeds from both the calendar and the subscriptions help keep NERW right here on the web, as we head into our fourteenth year of news and analysis.)

So click right here and you can be one of the first to have your very own Tower Site Calendar 2008! (And thank you!)

*In MASSACHUSETTS, all eyes are on Howie Carr, whose contract with Entercom's WRKO (680 Boston) expires Wednesday. Carr is set to start Thursday morning as the new morning man on Greater Media's WTKK (96.9 Boston), but will legal action keep him from making the jump across town to the FM talker, where there's already an office and staff awaiting him? We'll be listening.

(In Worcester, meanwhile, Carr affiliate WCRN 830 has shuffled its schedule to cover Carr's move out of afternoon drive. Hank Stolz moves from mornings to 2-6 PM, while Peter Blute's morning show expands to 6-10 AM.)

With veteran WCVB (Channel 5) general manager Paul La Camera settled in in his new role running public broadcaster WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston), it's no surprise to find some of WCVB's longtime staffers making the move over to the noncommercial side. The latest is David Boeri, who was in the public broadcasting arena at WGBH before joining WCVB in 1991. He's been named as the host of "Radio Boston," a new weekly hour-long show focusing on a single issue each week. The show will debut on WBUR this Friday at 1 PM, and its web component is already up and running.

Where are they now? Former WEEI exec Bev Tilden is moving from CSB School of Broadcasting to The Content Factory, where she'll be vice president of marketing. (She rejoins former Chancellor/AMFM colleague Jimmy DeCastro at the syndication company, which is about to launch the new Dan Patrick radio show.)

In the Worcester market, Steve Tuzeneu is packing up and heading out after more than a decade as station manager of Blount's WVNE (760 Leicester) and WNEB (1230 Worcester). He's taking the same position at KJRL (105.7 Herington KS), part of the Great Plains Christian Radio network.

And we hear that mourners waited in line for as long as two hours on Wednesday to pay their respects at the wake for WBZ (1030 Boston) talk host Paul Sullivan, who died Sept. 9 at age 50. Sullivan's funeral was held Thursday at the Immaculate Conception Church in Lowell, where Sullivan's son Ryan delivered a eulogy. Mourners also heard from WBZ's Carl Stevens, who read a moving poem he'd written for the station's morning news on Monday, as well as from Kendall Wallace, publisher of the Lowell Sun, where Sullivan was the longtime political editor.

*A veteran NEW HAMPSHIRE talk host has landed on a new station. Arnie Arnesen's now doing mornings at WCCM (1110 Salem), as well as Sunday mornings at 11 on WZMY (My TV 50).

*Clear Channel has launched the new program schedule for its RHODE ISLAND talker, WHJJ (920 Providence): Helen Glover moves from middays to 8-10 AM, shortening the syndicated Quinn and Rose show to 6-8 AM and Glenn Beck to 10 AM-noon, followed by Rush Limbaugh from 12-3 PM, moving over from WPRO.)

*A fire damaged a CONNECTICUT radio tower last week, but it didn't knock WSTC (1400 Stamford), WCTZ (96.7 Stamford) or WEDW (88.5 Stamford) off the air. The fire 350 feet up the 380-foot tower did melt the radome on one of the WCTZ antenna bays, we're told; it burned out on its own, which is just as well, as fire crews had no way to reach it.

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*We'll start our NEW YORK news, such as it is, on Long Island, where the sale of three Morey Organization stations has apparently fallen through.

Michael Metter's Connecticut-based was to have paid $5 million for WBZB (98.5 Bridgehampton), WDRE (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke) and WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays), but the deal didn't close.

Now WBZB is dropping BTRN programming and has reverted to its previous calls, WBON. Will the active rock "Bone" format return as well? And will BTRN find a new Long Island outlet? Stay tuned...

It should come as no surprise that when nighttime operation of AM HD Radio became legal at midnight Friday morning, New York's WOR (710) was first in line to flip its exciter on - and it should come as no surprise, either, that the mailing lists were abuzz within minutes with reports that ranged from "no big deal" to "IBOCalypse Now!"

Within a day or two, WOR had been joined by WABC (770), WFAN (660), WCBS (880), as well as Hartford's WTIC (1080), Schenectady's WGY (810), Philadelphia's WPHT (1210) and Boston's WBZ (1030), WMKI (1260) and WXKS (1430 Everett) in running digital after dark.

Will stations like WYSL (1040 Avon) in the Rochester area experience the interference they've been fearing? Will HD supporters like WOR find that they're getting the coverage they're hoping for? Will cheaper, more sensitive radios ever appear on the market? We'll be following the saga as it develops.

Heading upstate, Dick Wells, weekend host at WTBQ (1110 Warwick), is recovering after collapsing during a performance last week. Wells, 74, was on a respirator at a local hospital late last week.

In Binghamton, commercial radio opponent William Huston has lost his bid to deny license renewals to Clear Channel's six-station cluster. The FCC last week dismissed the petition Huston filed last year against the stations, in part because it was filed two days late, and in part because it says any question about whether that level of ownership is excessive should be handled within the Commission's ongoing inquiry into ownership consolidation, not in individual license-renewal proceedings.

In Elmira, Brian Thompson has left the morning show at WPGI (100.9 Horseheads), where he was also program director. No replacement has been named yet.

And in Geneva, Aaron Read is the new general manager of Hobart and William Smith's WEOS (89.7). He comes from Boston, where he was a contract engineer for several stations and an audio engineer for the public radio show "The Infinite Mind," and he replaces Mike Black, who's now with WXXI in Rochester.

*NEW JERSEY 101.5 (WKXW 101.5 Trenton/WXKW 97.3 Millville) has made official a hiring decision we'd known about for a few weeks: Casey Bartholomew is back at the Millennium talk station fulltime, as Ray Rossi's new co-host on the "Jersey Guys" afternoon show. The former "Scott and Casey" co-host, who left New Jersey 101.5 in 2002, replaces Craig Carton, now in mornings at WFAN (660 New York).

Speaking of New Jersey 101.5, there was a scare at the station's Ewing Township studios Wednesday morning, after a station employee developed a rash that was initially linked to a suspicious piece of mail. The building was evacuated, with broadcasts moved to an emergency studio (in the old building next door, we believe) for about an hour and a half before the mail was determined to be harmless and the evacuation called off.

*There's a fight brewing in CANADA's largest market between the CBC and a small broadcaster hoping to serve the city's Caribbean communities. The Caribbean and African Radio Network (CARN) won a license from the CRTC last year, but it was denied the use of its desired frequency, 98.7. With no other space open on the Toronto FM dial, CARN is trying to put public pressure on regulators to reconsider that decision. That's where the CBC comes in, since it's the network's Radio One transmitter, CBLA (99.1 Toronto), that's concerned about interference from second-adjacent 98.7. The CBC says it has sound engineering studies to prove that it can't coexist with a low-power 98.7 signal, but CARN says its plans to co-locate with the CBLA transmitter, atop the First Canadian Place tower in downtown Toronto, would alleviate that interference.

Toronto's Sun TV (CKXT-TV 52) is adding transmitters in Ottawa and London.

Last week, the CRTC approved new rebroadcast signals on channel 54 analog/62 digital in Ottawa and on channel 26 analog/19 digital in London. The station is already available on digital cable in both markets, and it will be barred from soliciting local advertisers outside its current Toronto/Hamilton home base.

And there's a new PD at Ottawa's CHEZ (106.1): James "Gruff" Gushnowski is inbound from Lloydminster, Alberta and CKLM (106.1 the Goat).

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!)

September 18, 2006 -

  • It's a week of big changes on the eastern MASSACHUSETTS television dial - perhaps the biggest since the ownership and affiliation changes that rocked the Boston market in the mid-nineties - and once again, maverick station owner Ed Ansin is driving much of the action.
  • Ansin's 1993 purchase of then-CBS affiliate WHDH-TV (Channel 7) introduced a new hard-driving tabloid style of news to the market, carrying the station from also-ran status to first place in the ratings. His move to NBC two years later (when former affiliate WBZ-TV became a CBS O&O) touched off more than a decade of tension between the Peacock network and Ansin's Sunbeam Broadcasting. Boston is the largest market where NBC doesn't own its affiliate, and for the last few months, there's been a growing buzz that the network wants to change that. Since Ansin's not selling, the rumor mill quickly settled on Tribune's struggling WLVI (Channel 56), the WB-turned-CW affiliate whose "Ten O'Clock News" was once the premiere prime-time newscast in the market. The growth of Fox's WFXT over the last few years has damaged WLVI's ratings, and Tribune has made no secret about its desire to sell some of its weaker outlets. (It's already parted with stations in Atlanta and Albany.)
  • There's another station sale in the Bay State as well - Karl Nurse's Truro Wireless is selling little WCDJ (102.3 Truro) to "Dunes 102FM, LLC," whose principal, Thomas Troland, has owned several small stations in Arizona under the "Skynet Broadcasting" banner. Sale price on the station is $550,000, and while the trades are reporting that WCDJ was running a news-talk format before going silent Sept. 1, it's our understanding that the station has spent most of its life silent, being fired up from time to time to keep the license alive.
  • In VERMONT, Nassau Broadcasting's worst-kept secret finally became a reality on Friday morning at 10, when top 40 WORK-FM (107.1 Barre) gave way to classic hits "Frank FM." The new "Frank" is the latest in a growing batch of stations with that name across New England, from the original WFNK in Portland to newer "Frank" outlets in Nashua, New Hampshire and on Cape Cod. (That one's an adult hits station, unlike the others.) We're not sure yet how much of the WORK-FM airstaff will remain; the new website for Frank appears to have been hastily copied from yet another Nassau "Frank" down in Pennsylvania, right down to the "107.5 Frank FM" in the title bar...
  • One of the best-known TV anchors in Rochester, NEW YORK has lost a battle with cancer that few in town even knew he was fighting.
  • Gabe Dalmath left the anchor chair at WHEC-TV (Channel 10) at the end of 2004, ending a 29-year career at the station - and a career in broadcasting that began in the Army in the late sixties and continued in the suburbs of New York City in the early seventies at stations such as WFAS, WVOX and WNEW. (Another of his early gigs was at WGBB on Long Island, where he worked with another young newscaster named Rich Funke, who'd later become WHEC's sports anchor and is now the station's lead newscaster himself.)
  • In 1976, Dalmath came to Rochester as weekend anchor at WHEC, soon becoming lead weeknight anchor, a post he'd keep for 25 years before being moved to mornings in 2001. Dalmath also replaced the late Eddie Meath as host of the station's annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, which became a passion of his. After his departure from WHEC in 2004, Dalmath worked with a local mortgage company and with Dalmath Associates, the public-relations firm founded by his wife, Jean. Most recently, he'd been one of the principals in an audience-research firm called Critical Tracking.
  • Dalmath was diagnosed with kidney cancer in June, but few in town knew he was seriously ill until the news of his death was announced Friday night (Sept. 15). He was just 60 years old.
  • In PENNSYLVANIA, Ken Matthews is out as morning man at WAEB-FM (104.1 Allentown) after many years on that shift. Afternoon jock Mike Kelly is filling in for now, but we suspect we haven't heard the last of Matthews in the Lehigh Valley. Down the hall at WZZO (95.1 Bethlehem), Kelly Nova returns (from weekend/swing duty at WMMR in Philadelphia) to take over middays, moving PD Tori Thomas to the vacant afternoon slot. And last Monday was launch day for religion on WYHM (1470 Allentown), after 24 straight hours of Vicki Carr's "It Must Be Him." "Him" - "Hymn" - get it? Yeah...

September 17, 2002 -

  • There's a new TV station on the air in CANADA - albeit with some familiar faces and programming. Rogers launched "OMNI.2" on Monday morning (Sept. 16) at 6, broadcasting to Toronto on channel 44 with 179 kW visual. Industry Canada (which regulates the technical aspects of Canadian broadcasting) doesn't have a callsign listed for the station as of Tuesday; it's shown as operating from a site north and west of downtown Toronto, not the CN Tower where the rest of the city's TV stations are located.
  • "OMNI.2" is a sister station to Rogers' established CFMT (Channel 47), which will eventually be rebranded OMNI.1, keeping the European, Latino and Caribbean portions of its multiethnic programming, as well as its English-language lineup, including David Letterman. That leaves OMNI.2 to pick up the African and Asian-language programming that had been seen on CFMT, including an English-language newscast at 8 PM, followed by "OMNI News" in Cantonese. The new service had cable carriage from the start (which is only fitting, since it's co-owned with Rogers Cable), as far afield as London and Barrie. In most areas around Toronto, OMNI.2 is seen on Rogers channel 14, displacing Buffalo's WKBW-TV to channel 18. That, in turn, sends PBS outlet WNED-TV (which IDs as "Buffalo/Toronto") way up the cable dial from 18 to 61.
  • We'll start the US side of things in MASSACHUSETTS, where the big changes are taking place at Greater Media's WROR-FM (105.7 Framingham). The station is moving from 60s and 70s oldies towards classic rock, and it's doing so in a big way: beginning this Friday and continuing all weekend, WROR will turn over its airwaves to a "Who's Who" of Boston rock radio history. Among the jocks to be heard on the reunion weekend: Peter Wolf (who made his name on WBCN before the J. Geils Band ever hit the charts), Charles Laquidara, Ken Shelton, George Taylor Morris, Maxanne Sartori, Harvey Wharfield, Jeff Gonzer, Annalisa, J.J. Jackson and Tom "Tai" Irwin. And when WROR returns to its usual lineup the next Monday, several familiar voices will be missing, including middayer Stella Mars and night guy J.J. Wright. J.J.'s already landed elsewhere; he's been heard this week doing fill-ins at WODS (103.3).
  • A familiar voice has returned to RHODE ISLAND's airwaves, for a few months at least: Providence mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, fresh from his conviction on corruption charges, began a stint co-hosting the mid-morning shift on WPRO (630 Providence) with Steve Kass on Monday. Cianci is due to report to federal prison in early December to begin serving a 64-month sentence, so don't expect this to be as long a run as Hizzoner's early-90s stint on talk competitor WHJJ (920)...

September 18/19, 1997-

  • American Radio Systems has a new owner, and it's not the long-rumored Jacor. Late Friday afternoon, CBS announced that it's paying $2.6 billion for ARS. Here's how the deal will shake out in the Northeast:
  • Boston will be the one Northeast market where the combined CBS/ARS will have to shed stations. CBS already owns news/talk WBZ (1030), classic rock WZLX (100.7), oldies WODS (103.3), and modern rock WBCN (104.1). ARS has talker WRKO (680), sports WEEI (850), WNFT (1150, currently simulcasting WAAF), Worcester sports-talker WWTM (1440), 70s rock WEGQ (93.7 Lawrence), modern AC WBMX (98.5), and hard rock WAAF (107.3 Worcester). Both companies were already near the limit for station ownership in Boston; it will be interesting to see what gets shed. NERW suspects WNFT, WEGQ, and WAAF will be the first to get spun; likewise it's a near-certainty that CBS will hang onto clear-channel WBZ, sports-rights-heavy WEEI, and FM powerhouses WBMX, WODS, and WBCN. We'll keep you posted.
  • The rest of the roster: In the Portsmouth N.H. market, ARS brings standards WZNN (930 Rochester) and WMYF (1540 Exeter), modern AC WSRI (96.7 Rochester), and CHR WERZ (107.1 Exeter). In Hartford, ARS has newstalk WTIC (1080), hot AC WTIC-FM (96.5), classic rock WZMX (93.7), and AC WRCH (100.5 New Britain). In New York City, CBS has sports WFAN (660), all-news WCBS (880) and WINS (1010), modern rock WXRK (92.3), oldies WCBS-FM (101.1), and classic rock WNEW-FM (102.7). In Rochester, ARS contributes modern AC WZNE (94.1 Brighton), rock WCMF (96.5), CHR WPXY (97.9), and AC WRMM (101.3). And in Buffalo, ARS has standards WECK (1230 Cheektowaga), modern AC WLCE (92.9), urban WBLK (93.7), AC WJYE (96.1), and country WYRK (106.5).
  • It's a sad week for local radio listeners along Long Island Sound, with two of the area's AM stations shutting down within days of each other. We'll begin on the NEW YORK side of the line, where the story of WVIP (1310) in Mount Kisco came to a close Saturday night. As we reported last week, WVIP's historic round studio burned to the ground, prompting an outpouring of assistance from area engineers and from the Westchester community. As soon as WVIP was back on the air from a temporary studio, listeners and advertisers began showing up at the trailer with food, supplies, and entertainment, while WVIP's air staff cranked out local programming through an old Radio Shack mixer.
  • It all came to an end on Saturday, though, with a phone call from the hospital bed of owner Martin Stone. Unwilling to keep losing money on the station, Stone ordered WVIP off the air at the end of the broadcast day, and after a farewell speech by phone from the hospital, WVIP broadcast a tape of its first broadcast, 40 years ago next month, and signed off, apparently for good. The WVIP license has not been returned to the FCC, and it's possible someone may buy the license and put 1310 back on the air, but it won't be Martin Stone. NERW salutes the WVIP staffers and volunteers who tried to keep the station alive; we hope someone finds a way to pull it off in the end.
  • Also silent is the 1260 frequency in nearby Westport, CONNECTICUT. After years of struggling as a stand-alone AM, owner Mark Graham announced late last week that he's donating WMMM's license and transmitter to Sacred Heart University. WMMM's final broadcast came Monday morning, complete with a phone call from Chile from weekend DJ Jose Feliciano (of "Light My Fire" fame). After an emotional farewell from Graham, WMMM played "My Way" and left the airwaves. Sacred Heart will return 1260 to the airwaves around Thanksgiving, programmed by its existing WSHU (91.1 Fairfield)/WSUF (89.9 Noyock, N.Y.) public radio operation, and likely with news-talk programming similar to WSUF.
  • Say goodbye to "Talk 94.9" on the Cape...and hello to "Talk 95.1." West Yarmouth's WXTK fired up this morning on its new frequency of 95.1, getting out from the shadow of Mount Washington's giant WHOM, and giving the latter an incredible signal all the way down into Boston once again. Further down the Cape, the construction permit for Truro's WCDJ (102.3) has been extended yet again; there's still no sign that Karl Nurse's station will actually be built any time soon.

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