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January 14, 2008

Wease Contract Dispute Festers at WCMF


*There's nothing terribly unusual about a contract dispute between a prominent radio personality and a radio station. But in the case of upstate NEW YORK's Brother Wease, who's been off the air at WCMF (96.5 Rochester) since December 21, the dispute is playing out on newspaper front pages and even on the air.

That's something most stations, and most air talent, try to avoid, but Wease has long prided himself on running what he calls an "honest show," where he and his co-hosts talk frequently about internal business at the station. As WCMF has gone through a rocky transition from former owner CBS Radio to new owner Entercom, that's made for some stressful times on both sides of the studio glass.

As we told you last week, Wease's contract expired at the end of 2007, leaving the rest of the "Radio Free Wease" crew on the air without Wease himself. As contract negotiations between Wease and Entercom dragged on with no resolution last week, tempers began to flare on the air - and at one point, Entercom regional vice president Mike Doyle joined the Wease crew in the studio to take phone calls and talk about the progress of the negotiations.

The news wasn't good - Doyle said he'd started out being "90 percent sure" that a deal could be reached to bring Wease back, but he told listeners he's growing more doubtful. And Wease himself appeared briefly by telephone, sounding equally uncertain. (The station's website changed to an "under construction" message around the same time, as Entercom finally took down the old Wease-heavy CBS site.)

It's a high-stakes game for both sides: Entercom was clearly counting on Wease to be the face and voice of WCMF for some time to come, since it didn't bring over most of the rest of the station's airstaff from CBS, so it would be a big rebuilding effort if the station loses Wease - and Wease, for his part, doesn't have many other local options if he can't come to terms with Entercom.

With a ratings book now underway, how long will Entercom keep the rest of the Wease team on the air before it tries something, or someone, else in morning drive? It's no wonder that they, too, are uneasy about the situation - and it's admirable, we think, that they're carrying on as well as they are under the circumstances.


Still haven't ordered your 2008 Tower Site Calendar? You do realize that it's, don't you? We're already down to the last 150 or so calendars, and they're going fast. The 2006 and 2007 editions of the calendar sold out, and this one will do so as well, possibly as soon as this month.

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.

The calendar is just $18 with shipping and handling included - or better yet, beat our move to mandatory subscriptions later this year 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 sure to have your very own Tower Site Calendar 2008! (And thank you!)

The 2008 Tower Site Calendar is dedicated to the memory of Robert Eiselen (1934-2007), whose digital imaging skills made even a bunch of pictures of radio towers look almost like art. His contributions were essential to the calendar's evolution from 2003 to the current edition, and he will be missed dearly.

It's not quite the sunset of analog TV yet, but the over-the-air signal of WNYE-TV (Channel 25) has been off the air for several weeks now. WNYE says it's trying to find some hard-to-locate parts for its aging transmitter to get back on the air soon. WNYE-DT (Channel 24) is on the air at low power from the Brooklyn Tech tower of sister station WNYE-FM (91.5).

Even though it's mostly gone from the region's airwaves (save for Utica and Binghamton), the Whoopi Goldberg morning show is still being produced, for now, out of the studios of New York's WWPR (105.1). But Goldberg has now lost her co-host as Paul "Cubby" Bryant returns to a local airshift in New York. Bryant had been doing afternoons at WHTZ (100.3), but he's now the morning man at WKTU (103.5), filling the slot Whoopi's show occupied until just a few weeks ago.

Over at WNYC (820/93.9), where they're getting ready to start moving into their new Varick Street digs in a month or so, there's a new host on board for the evening classical music shift on FM 93.9. Terrence McKnight joins WNYC from Georgia Public Broadcasting, where he hosted Atlanta Symphony Orchestra broadcasts.

The FCC's still working its way through all those thousands of applications for new noncommercial FM signals, and it's slowly handing out a few actual construction permits, including one on Long Island. Michael Celenza's Celenza's "JCM Radio of NY" got its CP on New Year's Eve for a new 32-watt signal on 89.3, licensed to Lindenhurst.

Legendary morning man Herb Oscar Anderson is back on the air. The former WABC jock just launched a daily two-hour syndicated show, which he produces from his Florida home during the winter and from his farm near Albany in the summer. It's being heard from 8-10 AM weekdays on the Music of Your Life network.

In the Hudson Valley, they're mourning Gary Zoehfeld, who worked for numerous stations in the Albany, Poughkeepsie, Springfield and Hartford markets under air names that included Gary Mitchell, Gary Hamilton, Lee Hamilton, Jim O'Brian and Gary Z.

*Some sad news from NEW HAMPSHIRE: Pauline Robbins, whose battle with cancer inspired the "Polly's Think Pink Radiothon" that united Upper Valley broadcasters last fall to raise $37,000 during a daylong simulcast, lost that battle Saturday morning. She was just 30. Memorial services will be held Wednesday at the Ricker Funeral Home in Lebanon.

Over at New Hampshire Public Radio, a schedule change we overlooked when it took place back in November: "The Front Page," the network's weeknight arts and culture magazine, has been replaced by a rotating lineup of BBC cultural shows airing in the 6:30 PM slot, including "Culture Shock," "The Word," "On Screen," "One Planet" and "Science in Action." NHPR says it will continue its commitment to arts and culture with new programming later this spring.

*Just across the state line in MAINE, Clear Channel is spinning the ol' format wheel at WUBB (95.3 York Center), which serves the New Hampshire seacoast as well as southern Maine.

The country "B95" format disappeared last week, replaced by a temporary simulcast with classic hits WQSO (96.7 Rochester NH), but the station has been dropping big hints about its next format - while its website boasts, "Coming Soon! Sports Radio!," ads in local papers (and other clues on the website itself) point to top 40 and "Kiss," possibly with some simulcasts from Boston's WXKS-FM (107.9 Medford).

Up the coast in Portland, Don Imus is back on the air. Saga, which used to carry Imus on WZAN (970), says the "Bob and Tom" show is doing well enough in Imus' old slot there to earn a permanent berth, so it will begin airing Imus next week on sister stations WBAE (1490 Portland) and WVAE (1400 Biddeford), which are playing standards the rest of the day.

 Read NERW's comprehensive 2007 Year in Review

Miss our complete look back at the year that just ended? Have you caught (and responded to) our Year-End Rant yet? We'll be printing some of your responses in this space next week - and in the meantime Click here for NERW's comprehensive recap of 2007.

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*In MASSACHUSETTS, it was a quiet week in Boston radio, but there was plenty happening 40 miles to the west in Worcester.

For the second time in three years, Bruce Palmer has lost a job with Clear Channel. This time, he's out of the early afternoon shift at WSRS (96.1 Worcester), replaced by Donna Mac, who's been working part-time at WSRS and part-time at sister station WSNE (93.3 Taunton/Providence).

Down the hall at Clear Channel news-talker WTAG (580 Worcester), afternoon talker Jordan Levy has signed a new contract to stay at the station, telling the Telegram & Gazette that "there’s enough rollovers in the contract that I could be there until I’m 106." Levy has been with WTAG for 15 years; many of his former colleagues there have decamped for competitor WCRN (830) in recent years.

We're hearing that Jay Beau Jones, operations manager at Citadel's WORC-FM (98.9 Webster), is moving on to bigger things...

On the South Shore, they're mourning George Denham, longtime co-host of the Saturday night "Yesterday's Memories" show on WATD (95.9 Marshfield). Denham, who was well known as a DJ at local record-collector conventions and other events, died Saturday of cancer. Funeral services will be held Wednesday at the Kraw-Kornack funeral home in Norwood; donations can be made to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, in care of WATD.

And congratulations to WSAR (1480 Fall River) afternoon talk host Keri Rodrigues, who's the proud new mom of little Matthew Thomas Henry Smith. After some health scares for Keri following an emergency C-section, mother and baby (and father Ed Smith) are all back home and doing well now.

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*A controversial PENNSYLVANIA TV newscaster is now officially out of work. Alycia Lane was released from her contract with CBS' KYW-TV (Channel 3) last week, nearly a month after her altercation with a police officer in New York City. Will the high-profile Lane find another job in Philadelphia - or in New York, where she's become the focus of tabloid headlines since her arrest?

Tom Bigby, who spent a decade and a half programming WIP (610) in Philadelphia, has landed a new PD gig at another CBS Radio sports outlet. He's now at the helm of WXYT (97.1/1270) Detroit.

Ramsey Lewis' syndicated show is the new morning offering at WJJZ (97.5 Burlington NJ/Philadelphia), where it replaces the local Al Winters morning show.

We gave it up for dead last year when its tower site was plowed under, but little WVZN (1580 Columbia) won't give up easily. There's word from central Pennsylvania that the station is back on the air, running 500 watts into a longwire antenna with the same Spanish-language religious format the station had before going silent.

Across the state, CBS Radio's "B94" in Pittsburgh (WBZW 93.7) now has a morning show: Bubba, who was part of two previous B94 morning show incarnations before the station's 2004 format change, returns to mornings alongside "Buck Head," who was most recently at KKRZ (100.3) in Portland, Oregon.

It's a new year, and as sure as there's a new Tower Site Calendar on the wall, there's a new set of call letters on that quirky little low-power FM signal in Gap (near Lancaster) that seems to change calls as often as some radio people change...well, in any event, it's changed calls 17 times now in less than five years.

So if you had "WLRI-LP" marked down next to 92.9 Gap in your notebook, scratch it out and write down "WOPR-LP" instead, preferably very lightly, in pencil.

(The most recent website we could find for 92.9,, dates from just after the last call change, last September's transition from WLIZ-LP to WLRI-LP, and it calls the station "LanChester's News Leader." It also notes that the station was silenced by a transmitter malfunction on Oct. 11. And as always, the lines are open if anyone from WOMB-LP - er, WLIZ-LP - er, WLAL-LP - er, WLRI-LP - er, WOPR-LP wants to share the rest of what has to be a most interesting story.)

*Over the Delaware River in NEW JERSEY, it didn't take long for Nassau to pull the plug on ESPN at WPHY (920 Trenton) after signing the deal to lease out WCHR (1040 Flemington) to ESPN. The Philadelphia-targeted ESPN format on WPHY went away sometime during the day last Monday, replaced with a simulcast of WCHR's religious format, which moves to 920 now that 1040's becoming a simulcast of ESPN Radio flagship WEPN (1050 New York). WPHY PD and afternoon host Dan Schwartzman is out as a result of the format change.

And it turns out it's not just an LMA - Disney has an option to buy WCHR from Nassau, for $8 million.

One more job cut at Nassau in Trenton: WPST (94.5) night jock Tim Kennaly is out, with co-host Shinn continuing solo.

*Our news from CANADA this week is the impending sign-off of yet another AM station that's made the move to FM. But before Corus' CFFX (960 Kingston ON) goes silent for good, it's going out with a bit of a bang. In coordination with several DX clubs, CFFX will broadcast special test material early Tuesday morning (Jan. 15), just before the plug is pulled for good on the venerable AM signal, the erstwhile CKWS. (It's now moved to FM as "Lite 104.3.") All the details of this test, and others, are at

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!)

January 15, 2007 -

  • With a full complement of station staff, local media, area engineers, itinerant tower photographers and TV news helicopters on hand, the second try at the demolition of the WOR (710) towers in Lyndhurst, NEW JERSEY came off without a hitch Thursday morning. Tripods already lined the driveway of WOR's new tower site a half-mile away in East Rutherford when we pulled up to add ours to the crowd an hour or so before the scheduled 11:01 demolition. Just like the first attempt last September, the weather was flawless (if a bit chillier) - clear blue skies and a dynamite view across the river to the Manhattan skyline. But unlike that try, which was halted by local police after the proper permits hadn't been obtained, this one went right on schedule.
  • In fact, as WOR began its live remote broadcast of the event, the top of the first of the towers (tower 3, the closest to the old transmitter building) had already quietly begun to pitch over before many in the crowd even noticed that the demolition was underway. As the tower crews cut the top level of guys to towers 2 and 3 simultaneously, it took a little over 20 seconds for the two big pieces of steel to fold in on themselves and hit the ground. Tower 3 was first to fall, crumpling about a third of the way up, then landing the bottom of the tower in a sort of arch that would later fall (and which we'd later climb through to survey the wreckage), followed quickly by the twisting demise of tower 2, the southernmost in the array.
  • After a few minutes' delay as the tower crew emerged from hiding and moved its saws to tower 1, the easternmost in the array, the cameras again began clicking as the final tower began tipping, bent in half, implanted its top section in the ground to form an inverted "U," then disappeared from sight to cheers from the crowd and enormous sighs of relief from WOR chief engineer Tom Ray and the station's management.
  • Speaking of NEW YORK radio history (as Jean Shepherd might have said, segueing into a WOR station ID), the WNEW call letters packed up and flew south last week, after 73 years on the air in New York. The former WNEW (102.7) is now WWFS, for "Fresh FM," and the WNEW calls now live on the CBS Radio signal at 106.3 in Jupiter, Florida (near West Palm Beach) that was WJBW-FM. There's no attempt there to trade on the legacy of the WNEW calls - just a parking maneuver to make sure nobody else in New York tries to use them.
  • Univision split its New York FM simulcast Friday, keeping "La Kalle" and its reggaeton/hurban format on WCAA (105.9 Newark NJ) and flipping WZAA (92.7 Garden City) to regional Mexican as "Que Buena," with Los Angeles-based morning host Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo.
  • It's no surprise, really - but the CRTC made CBA (1070 Moncton)'s move to FM official last week, granting the CBC's 50 kW signal permission to move to 106.1 MHz, where it will operate with 69 kW. The CRTC says it's assured that "the area currently covered by CBA" will continue to have service from the new 106.1 or other CBC transmitters - and while that's true of the local area around Moncton, it's not the case for all the skywave listeners CBA has south of the border, not that they're any of the CRTC's concern.
  • So much for oldies on FM in Erie: Connoisseur flipped WFGO (94.7) from "Froggy" to adult hits "Bob FM" last week, sending the "Froggy" oldies down to WFNN (1330), where they replace sports talk. Some of WFNN's sports play-by-play moves to WJET (1400), which remains mostly talk. Look for the calls on the FM to change to WXBB, while the WFGO calls move to 1330.
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, Tom Finneran joins the ranks of politicians-turned-radio hosts. The former state House speaker, who's fresh from a guilty plea on obstruction of justice charges, signed on with WRKO (680) to take over the morning show, effective sometime next month.
  • The Finneran show will run from 6-10 AM, filling what had been the first hour of the former John DePetro midmorning slot, which still lacks a host. And the hiring of Finneran means the departure of Scott Allen Miller, who came to WRKO in the fall of 2003. Miller remains on the air until Finneran's show is ready to go, an unusual move in a business where few personalities get even a day to say goodbye. (He's looking for work outside the Boston market now.)

January 13, 2003 -

  • It's a hot New Year in RHODE ISLAND, thanks to Citadel's purchase of urban "Hot" WWKX (106.3 Woonsocket) and WAKX (102.7 Narragansett Pier) from AAA Entertainment. The deal adds "Hot" to an already significant Citadel presence in the Ocean State: talk WPRO (630 Providence), sports WSKO (790 Providence) and WSKO-FM (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale), CHR WPRO-FM (92.3 Providence), AC WWLI (105.1), as well as the adjacent New Bedford cluster of news-talk WBSM (1420), CHR WFHN (107.1 Fairhaven) and rocker WKKB (100.3 Middletown RI). For the $16 million purchase price, Citadel also gets to add one more station to its regional cluster: WMOS (104.7 Montauk NY), the Long Island station that markets to southeastern Connecticut from its studios at the Mohegan Sun casino in Ledyard, Connecticut.
  • CONNECTICUT's Sebastian is about to add a station in his home state to his lineup, as WAVZ (1300 New Haven) picks up his 3-6 PM sports show from WNNZ (640 Westfield) in the Springfield, MASSACHUSETTS market. Both Clear Channel stations are imaging as the "Zone" already, so it won't disrupt the flow too much -- and Sebastian's already familiar to New Haven listeners from his long run on FM in Hartford, anyway.

January 12 & 15, 1998-

  • Much of the upper Northeast remains paralyzed by the Ice Storm of '98, with hundreds of thousands of people on both sides of the border without power or heat. The storm has taken a major toll on the region's broadcast facilities. NERW's correspondents across the area have been checking in throughout the weekend with updates, and here's what things look like for the broadcasters of the Northeast as of Monday evening, starting with the areas that have suffered the most damage:
  • QUEBEC - Montreal's top-rated English-language news outlet, CJAD (800), lost all four towers at its South Shore transmitting site at the height of the ice storm early Friday morning. CJAD management decided not to move the news programming to their FM sister station, CJFM (95.9), and "Mix 96" continued to play soft-rock tunes while 800 remained silent, adding only a top-hour newscast from CJAD to its usual morning show. That decision prompted CJAD news anchor Jim Duff to fire off an angry letter to station management, saying he'd rather quit than work for a station "that put the motive of profit ahead of public service."
  • In the meantime, the newly Duff-less CJAD leased time from Ottawa's CFRA (580) for a bottom-hour newscast that reached listeners on Montreal's West Side. CJAD also arranged to borrow the La Prairie, Quebec transmitter site of the former CFMB (1410). The foreign-language station moved to 1280 (the former CJMS facility) last September, leaving the fully-functional four-tower 1410 array standing but unused. CJAD turned on its temporary 1410 transmitter on Sunday, after securing a source of fuel for the generators at the La Prairie site. It will be Wednesday at the earliest before a temporary 800 kHz facility can be operating again at CJAD's own site in Saint-Edouard. The 675-foot towers that had been standing there since 1962 were crusted with as much as 6 inches of ice on each face when they toppled.
  • ONTARIO - A wire-service photo that appeared on the front page of Monday's Buffalo News (among other papers) showed the tangled wreckage of "a TV tower on Wolfe Island, near Kingston." That tower carried CKWS (Channel 11) and CFMK (96.3); the CFMK web site still doesn't reflect that station's presumed off-air status.
  • Still dark is Cornwall's CJSS (1220); its newscasts are being heard on Ottawa's CFRA (580), which has been doing an extraordinary job of informing its own listeners in Ottawa, as well as filling the gaps of the missing stations in Cornwall and Montreal. CFRA can be heard on the Internet at; it's well worth a few minutes of listening.
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE - Worst damage in the Granite State was suffered by Laconia's WLNH (98.3), whose 300 foot tower came down in the storm. With help from Manchester's WZID (95.7), which loaned a remote truck, WLNH engineers were able to put a flea-powered signal on the air from the truck's 30-foot mast. WLNH was a key station in the New Hampshire EAS system; the 14 Lakes Region stations that monitored it will have to rely on alternate sources until WLNH gets up to full power again. Chief engineer Dick Wholey came to town from WLNH corporate parent Sconnix to help restore the signal. Also affected by the collapse of WLNH's 35 year old tower was WBHG (101.5 Meredith), which shared the tower. It's been operating from a backup antenna with extremely reduced power, in part simulcast with WLNH. Laconia's WEZS (1350), the former WLNH(AM), also helped out with a WLNH simulcast for part of the weekend.
  • NEW YORK - Only one station in St. Lawrence County has remained on with full power throughout the storm; it's WMSA (1340) in Massena. Nearly everyone else in the St. Lawrence Valley has suffered at least on-and-off power failures, including Watertown TV stations WWNY (Channel 7) and WWTI (Channel 50). WWTI was off the air Friday and Saturday, and WWNY, which lost power at its studio, was programming directly from its live truck to its transmitter on Saturday. The WCIZ (93.5) tower on Perch Lake Road north of Watertown was reportedly toppled by the ice buildup, while sister station WFRY (97.5) is operating with only 20 watts or so from its exciter. WTNY (790) has been on and off the air since the start of the storm because of repeated power failures. NERW hasn't heard anything yet on the status of stations in Potsdam, Ogdensburg, and Canton, areas most heavily affected by the storm. In Plattsburgh, WIRY (1340) has continued its long tradition of community service with comprehensive local information updates, as well as storm information and Real Audio on its Web site. WMEX (102.5 Westport) is reportedly silent.
  • MAINE - It appears the Pine Tree State suffered the worst damage from Ice Storm '98, with several stations still off the air from the storm. Portland's WBLM (102.9) remains silent because of the ice damage to its antenna. Its Fuller-Jeffrey sister stations, WCYY (94.3 Biddeford) and WCYI (93.9 Lewiston) have become the "Rock Radio Shelter," adding 'BLM's album rock to their modern rock formats, and adding WBLM jocks (including morning team The Captain and Mark) to its usual voice-tracked format. (NERW would love to hear tapes of this one -- and anyone else running storm-altered formats). The 102.9 signal may return with minimal power soon from a temporary antenna, perhaps just with a tape loop telling listeners to move down the dial to 94.3 or 93.9.
  • Bath's WJTO (730) came back to life Monday morning, after being silenced by first a power failure and then a dead generator. WJTO is using only 400 watts for now, with station manager Tory Gates providing extra local newscasts and storm information. WLAM-FM (106.7 North Windham) is back on, but WLAM (870 Gorham) remains silent. In Sanford, WCDQ (92.1) has rigged a temporary antenna on the lower two-thirds of its (formerly) 240 foot tower, getting it back on the air with about 80 watts. 'CDQ's Russ Dumont tells NERW a new antenna is on the way, which will get Mount Rialto Radio up to about 500-750 watts until the tower can be replaced.
  • Portland's four commercial broadcasters joined forces for a simulcast telethon that raised more than $300,000 for storm relief. The telethon was broadcast from the studios of WGME (Channel 13) and was also seen on WCSH (Channel 6), WMTW (Channel 8), and WPXT (Channel 51). WGME has been working with WGAN (560) to simulcast morning news programming, to reach the many Mainers who still have no power for their TVs. Knowing that some of them are listening to channel 6's 87.75 MHz audio frequency on battery-powered radios, WCSH has been making sure to read closure information out loud in addition to putting it on screen.
  • We've finally heard from a NERW reader in Bangor; apparently the most damage up there was to WBFB (104.7 Belfast), whose tower on Mount Waldo collapsed. "The Bear" is back on from a backup site belonging to WKSQ (94.5 Ellsworth). WEZQ (92.9) remains silent after losing part of its tower. WKSQ has been on the air with public service broadcasts of storm information in place of its usual hot AC format. On the TV side, WLBZ (Channel 2) ran its own telethon the same night as the Portland simulcast.

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