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May 26, 2008

More Philly Morning Shifts


*Another Philadelphia morning host is out of a job: after just over two years in mornings at Clear Channel's WIOQ (102.1 Philadelphia), Chris Booker was abruptly let go on Thursday. That leaves Q102 with no wakeup show, but perhaps not for long - the rumor making the rounds is that the next Q102 morning-drive entry will be the Elvis Duran "Morning Zoo" from sister station WHTZ (Z100) up in New York City.

Booker, of course, has New York history, too: he did mornings on the "Blink" incarnation of WNEW (102.7) and evenings on WXRK/WFNY-FM (92.3). Will he be headed back to 92.3 in its current "K-Rock" incarnation? An unsourced addition to Booker's Wikipedia entry on Monday claimed he's signed a new contract there...

Over at Radio One, Colby Colb is out as PD and afternoon jock at WPHI (100.3 Media), with night jock Pooch taking over afternoons and DJ Touchtone moving to nights. No replacement has been named for Colb's PD duties.

WPEB (88.1 Philadelphia), the little community station in West Philadelphia, is back on the air under new licensee Scribe Video Center. The station has new studios at 541B S. 52nd Street, and it's promising to be an "independent, noncommercial community radio station dedicated to reflecting, representing, incorporating, empowering [and] serving the West Philadelphia community."

*On the other side of PENNSYLVANIA, WEAE (1250 Pittsburgh) afternoon sports talker Mark Madden was off the air for a couple of days after some controversial comments he made last week about Ted Kennedy. It's not clear whether Madden's absence was directly related to the comments; the Post-Gazette's Bob Smizik, no fan of Madden's, has been putting some public pressure on ESPN to respond to Madden's comments through columns such as this one on Friday.

TUESDAY UPDATE: "Pursuant to our contractual rights," ESPN announced Tuesday that it has fired Madden; no permanent replacement for the 3-7 PM shift has been named yet. More next week...

Where are they now? Two former Pittsburgh radio icons are finding work in other media. Scott Paulsen, late of WDVE and (briefly) KDKA, is writing a regular column for the Washington (PA) Observer-Reporter, which also offers a video podcast of Paulsen's comments. Doug Hoerth, last heard on WPTT (1360 McKeesport), was heard over the weekend on the webstream. And onetime WKST-FM (96.1) PD John Trout just got hired in Indianapolis to be PD and morning man (under the name Paul Kenny) at "Warm" WRWM (93.9 Fishers).

One Keystone State obituary this week: Peggy Lynn, whose real name was Pauline Pierce, was one of the star voices of WEST (1400 Easton) as long ago as 1939, and listeners were tuning in to "Listen and Win with Peggy Lynn" as late as 1970, when she retired from the station. Pierce died May 21, aged 90.


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 35 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.

*One of the most famous stations in NEW YORK radio history is one that never existed. WVWA (900 Pound Ridge) was a late-night lark created by staffers at WALL (1340 Middletown) and some friends back in 1974. The "Nine!" tape they created was a pitch-perfect parody of the consultant-driven AM radio of the era, and in the ensuing 34 years it's taken on a life of its own, spawning a parody sequel ("Ninety-Nine") in 1999, a WVWA tribute website, a Tower Site of the Week in 2004, and countless jokes from those in the know.

But now, all these years later, WVWA is about to become a real radio station, just a few towns north of Pound Ridge, yet.

For this, we can thank Dennis Jackson, the independent-minded station owner whose Foothills Public Radio applied for, and was granted, a construction permit for 100 watts on 90.1 in North Salem, NY as part of last year's noncommercial application window. NERW can now report, exclusively, that Jackson has applied for the WVWA calls for his new signal - and that the original "Nine!" braintrust is already hard at work tweaking the old jingles and shouts for the station that's already being dubbed..."Ninety!"

No, Bob Roberts won't be doing mornings, nor will Johnny West be doing evenings. Instead, we're told Dennis has "refined, molded, polished, honed, shaped and pulled out of left field a revolutionary new formatic programming concept" that will likely include a lot of jazz, as well as community programming.

When will the real WVWA hit the airwaves of metro eastern Westchester (and nearby Danbury, Connecticut, where it's likely to appear via translator)? We hear it'll take a while for chief engineer Ira "Carts" Finkelstein to put everything together, but word is that the auspicious date of 9/9/09 may bring the latest chapter in the bizarre (but extremely fun) story that is WVWA. Stay tuned...

(One more note here: the WVWA calls remained unused until September 2004, when Clear Channel put them on half of its Atlanta-rimshot "Viva" simulcast. The calls were abandoned down in Georgia in December 2006, and have been available ever since.)

*New York's Educational Broadcasting Corp., the parent of WNET (Channel 13) and WLIW (Channel 21), won't be acquiring a Florida public broadcaster after all. EBC announced last week that it's reached a joint agreement with Barry University, licensee of WXEL (90.7) and WXEL-TV (Channel 42) in West Palm Beach, to withdraw its deal to buy the stations. The two sides cited delays in FCC approval of the transaction. It's not clear now whether some of the other suitors for the station, including rival south Florida PBS outlet WPBT in Miami, will again attempt to purchase WXEL.

(There's a Rochester connection here, too: WXEL's general manager is Jerry Carr, who spent much of his career in the Flower City at WOKR and later as the founding GM of WUHF-TV.)

The New York State Broadcasters Association has named its new class of Hall of Fame inductees: veteran Albany Broadcasting executive John Kelly, Bills announcer Van Miller, Rush Limbaugh's syndicator Edward F. McLaughlin, former WOR general manager Bob Bruno and the late Roger King of King World Productions will be inducted at the NYSBA executive conference June 24 in Bolton Landing.

Where was Rob Ryan headed when he left the PD chair at Albany Broadcasting's WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville) in April? Denver, as it turns out, where he'll be working weekends and swing at KYGO (98.5).

Another big New York City AM signal has adopted HD Radio. CBS turned on the digital signal at WINS (1010 New York) at midnight on Wednesday. (Also adding HD this week was Clear Channel's WELI 960 in New Haven, CONNECTICUT.)

We're sorry to have to pass along three obituaries this week: veteran New York City newsman Keeve Berman, whose career included two years as news director at WOR-FM (98.7) and ten years with ABC Radio News, with a later stint at WMCA (570), died May 8 in a Florida nursing home. Berman's career began in Pittsburgh, first at WEDO (810 McKeesport) and later at KQV and WTAE. He retired to Florida five years ago, where he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Berman was 71.

In Buffalo, former WUWU (107.7 Wethersfield Township) owner Ron Chmiel died May 14 at his Amherst home. Chmiel was best known locally for the dental practice he ran for 37 years, but his interests always extended outside dentistry as well. In addition to his ownership of WUWU in the early eighties, he was a co-owner of a local music production company. Chmiel was 72.

And in NEW JERSEY, we note the death on May 19 of John Pepe, longtime sports director at the former WERA (1590 Plainfield). Pepe was 74.

TV People on the Move in New York City: WCBS-TV (Channel 2) anchor Jim Rosenfield is out as of this past Thursday, the victim of budget cuts at the station. Rosenfield had been back at Channel 2 since 2005, and had most recently been anchoring at noon and 6 PM. Over at WNBC (Channel 4), Sue Simmons is apparently still in the good graces of management after that unfortunate tease a couple of weeks back; she's rejoining Chuck Scarborough to anchor at 6 and 11. Lynda Baquero and David Ushery had been anchoring at 6; Ushery will remain Simmons' co-anchor at 5 PM, while Baquero will be reassigned. (Scarborough will continue anchoring solo at 7 PM.)

*A veteran MASSACHUSETTS anchor is out of a job after a political dispute at Comcast's CN8 regional cable network. Barry Nolan wasn't shy about his feelings when the Boston local Emmy awards chose to honor Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly. In addition to giving several interviews in which he spoke out about O'Reilly ("This is an appalling choice for an honor," Nolan said), Nolan reportedly placed fliers on tables at the award ceremony listing quotes from O'Reilly and excerpts from the infamous Andrea Mackris sexual-harassment suit against O'Reilly.

That didn't sit well with CN8, which transformed Nolan's two-week suspension into dismissal; the "Backstage" arts show he co-hosted with Sara Edwards will continue without Nolan.

*Clarifying our lead MAINE story from last week, WCSH/WLBZ news director Mike Curry is retiring from the Gannett-owned NBC affiliates in Portland and Bangor; still no word on a replacement.

*On the NEW HAMPSHIRE/VERMONT border, Great Eastern is swapping formats at several of its Upper Valley signals. The "Pulse" talk format that had been airing on WMXR (93.9 Woodstock VT) has moved to WTSL (1400 Lebanon NH), consolidating the separate talk lineups that had been on both signals. The new "Pulse" on WTSL will also have an FM simulcast, as translator W232AP (94.3 White River Junction) has been granted Special Temporary Authority to simulcast AM 1400.

The move frees up WMXR to flip to classic hits as "MAXX 93.9," also carrying Red Sox and Patriots games.

In Bennington, Vermont, WBTN (1370) has a new owner on the way. "Shires Media Partnership," a community group formed to preserve the station's local programming, will pay Southern Vermont College $100,000 for the station. The new nonprofit group includes representation from the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce and the local cable access channel, and students from the college will continue to have access to the station as well, its leaders say.

And on the New Hampshire seacoast, there are new calls for the "Kiss" simulcast on WUBB (95.3 York Center ME) - it flips to WSKX, a scramble of the calls of parent station WXKS-FM (107.9 Medford MA).

*Back to CONNECTICUT: Gois Communications is acquiring the last remaining station from the defunct Freedom Communications. Gois already paid $2.65 million for Freedom's WNEZ and WLAT in the Hartford market; now it's adding an additional $150,000 to buy WKND (1480 Windsor) from bankruptcy trustee Larry Patrick.

Speaking of WKND, the station's former owner has died. Richard Weaver-Bey came to WKND as a salesman in the sixties, and later added a portfolio of real estate to the radio station. Weaver-Bey died May 17, at age 63.

*The big news out of CANADA this week comes from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, where two new FM signals are now on the air.

Newcap's CHRK (101.9 Sydney) began testing a few weeks ago, and the official launch, as "The Giant" (with a "hits" format heavy on 80s and 90s pop), will come Tuesday morning (May 27) at 8:00.

Also testing is CKCH (103.5 Sydney), which is running TV theme songs for now, again with no nickname or format announced yet.

Three new religious signals are coming to the Maritimes: on Prince Edward Island, International Harvesters for Christ Evangelistic Association has been granted 50-watt signals on 91.3 in Charlottetown and 91.1 in Summerside. In Nova Scotia, CJLU (93.9 Dartmouth) has been granted a 175-watt (DA) relay on 88.3 in Wolfville, serving the Annapolis Valley.

An Ontario religious broadcaster is extending its reach as well: CKJJ (102.3 Belleville) has been granted a 250-watt relay on 103.5 up north in Bancroft, joining existing relays in Brockville, Cobourg, and soon in Kingston.

And in Hamilton, the CFL's Tiger-Cats are adding an FM signal to their broadcasts, as CJXY (107.9 Burlington) joins sister station CHML (900 Hamilton) this season. (Pre-season games start June 12.)

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 28, 2007 -

  • One of the most controversial radio formats in NEW YORK history is now history itself. After a year and a half punctuated by incidents including the implosion of David Lee Roth's morning show, the return of Opie & Anthony, the cancellation of JV & Elvis, the total lack of a permanent late-evening show and general ratings indifference to the rest of its lineup, "Free FM" breathed its last Thursday morning, as WFNY-FM (92.3 New York) spent the rest of the day stunting with construction noises before relaunching at 5 PM with more or less the same "K-Rock" format the station used in its prior incarnation as WXRK. Those calls will be coming back from their exile in Cleveland (where the K-Rock outlet on 92.3 will take new calls WKRI), and Opie & Anthony will remain in morning drive, but the rest of the Free FM crew is out. PD John Mainelli returns to his consulting business, while midday host Nick DePaolo and afternoon host Leslie "Radio Chick" Gold are out of work for now, and evening hosts Ron & Fez continue their separate show on XM Satellite Radio.
  • The end of "Free FM" - complete with an on-air "apology" from GM Tom Chiusano leading into the first song on the reborn "K-Rock," Nirvana's "All Apologies" - shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone who's been following recent developments at CBS Radio, where Dan Mason is trying to clean up some of the messes created by his predecessors in recent years. In the case of "Free FM," it's arguable that the initial concept was solid, as CBS tried to keep some of the young male audience that would otherwise have abandoned 92.3 when Howard Stern moved to Sirius in 2006. But a combination of questionable programming decisions (the disastrous Roth show, momentum-killing scheduling choices such as Jim Cramer's money show) and a lack of promotional support helped to doom the station, and the newly-cautious talk radio atmosphere following the Imus debacle pretty much sealed WFNY's fate.
  • Of course, the return of K-Rock is far from a slam-dunk, despite a massive promotional campaign that was already in high gear just a few hours after the format change. The old K-Rock was a success for one big reason: it had Stern in the morning. Opie & Anthony don't bring anywhere near the audience to 92.3 that Howard did, and their suspension over on XM, of all places, is a reminder that they, like any edgy talkers in this era, are always skating one slip away from oblivion - and then what?
  • On the TV side of things, WABC-TV (Channel 7) is recovering from a fire Sunday night that damaged its studio at Columbus Avenue and West 66th Street. The fire apparently began in a lighting fixture in the main news studio, which is also the "Live with Regis and Kelly" studio, and it more or less destroyed the Eyewitness News set. WABC went to black when the fire began, a few minutes before its 11 PM newscast, returning to the air with a West Coast network feed at 1 AM. It did get a 5 AM newscast on the air this morning, using a single camera in the newsroom, which was not damaged. (And we're pleased to note that nobody was injured in the fire, though the studio ended up with several inches of water in it, and it could be a few months before the melted set can be rebuilt and things can get back to normal.)
  • In CONNECTICUT, the week's big story was the flooding at the soon-to-be-former studios of Hartford's WFSB (Channel 3) that knocked the station off the air Friday afternoon. The problem was a water main break in the basement of the four-story Constitution Plaza studios, which sent 100,000 gallons of water cascading through the lowest level of the building. That's where the station's remote trucks are parked, where its studios are located - and where its electrical and telephone systems are located, too. The water damage took out power and phone service to the building, and that in turn took WFSB's programming dark. Network programming was restored, after a while, from the station's Avon transmitter site, but local news was another matter: WFSB moved a skeleton crew down the street to the Connecticut Public TV studios, where they originated short-form inserts that aired on WFSB's broadcast signal (using, we'd assume, CPTV's microwave link to its old transmitter site on WFSB's Avon property) but not on cable. Also disrupted was programming on WFSB's sister station, WSHM-LP in Springfield. Its downtown Springfield newsroom was unaffected, but its master control is co-located with WFSB in Hartford, and at various times over the weekend its "CBS 3 Springfield" IDs were being seen on WFSB, and vice-versa. By Sunday night, the damage had been repaired sufficiently to allow WFSB to get back into its Constitution Plaza studios and back on the air - but we're sure the staff there is just counting the days (about six weeks' worth, we're told) until the station's shiny new facilities in Rocky Hill are ready for occupancy.
  • In northeast PENNSYLVANIA, things got a little less "EZ" at Entercom's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton cluster last week. On Thursday, the plug was pulled on soft AC "EZ 103," WFEZ (103.1 Avoca), and on Friday morning it was replaced with the latest link in the "WILK News-Talk Network," joining sister stations WILK (980 Wilkes-Barre), WBZU (910 Scranton) and WKZN (1300 West Hazleton) in that simulcast. WFEZ will change calls to WILK-FM - and if that sounds slightly familiar, it should. Back in the fall of 1998, sister station WWSH (102.3 Pittston, now WDMT) briefly changed calls to WILK-FM, while 103.1, then licensed to Freeland, changed calls from WWFH to WILP-FM. As best we can recall, the stations never actually joined the WILK simulcast back then, but clearly the idea's been percolating for a while there.

May 27, 2003 -

  • The era of "dollar-a-holler" talk programming on RHODE ISLAND's WALE (990 Greenville) came to a close at seven o'clock Wednesday morning, when North American Broadcasting handed over the keys to Cumbre Communications, which won WALE's bankruptcy auction in Phoenix on Tuesday for a whopping $2.35 million. For the price, Cumbre gets a station that's seen much better days. Though it claims "50,000 watts" of power, its signal never matched up to the boastful coverage maps handed to prospective talk hosts (see the example above). While the maps claimed coverage of Boston and beyond, WALE's daytime signal heads east into Providence and out over the fishes - and you don't even want to ask about the night signal, assuming anyone bothered to make the switch on time. (Station personnel were reportedly told, should an FCC inspector show up, to offer to get a manager - and then head for the back door and keep walking!) Add to that the talk programming that arrived over bad voice-grade phone lines (usually sold under deceptive pretenses to starstruck folks with no radio experience who were told "we want to make you a talk host"), and it's likely that nobody much noticed, or mourned, when NABC's programming ended on WALE last week.
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, Pat Whitley is back to a full-time weekday gig on WRKO (680 Boston), taking over the 9-noon slot that Doreen Vigue and Darlene McCarthy have been holding down as the "Daytime Divas."
  • In Randolph, VERMONT, WWWT (1320) flipped format last week, switching from satellite oldies to a simulcast of news-talk WSYB (1380). The move comes just a few months after sister station WCVR (102.1) dropped country to begin simulcasting Burlington rocker WCPV (101.3 Essex NY).
  • North of Syracuse, in Fulton, WAMF (1300) is recovering from a fire that destroyed the Schuyler Commons shopping plaza, home to its studios, last Sunday (May 18). Don DeRosa's station was able to resume broadcasting from its transmitter site on Lakeshore Road, but the studios (including a new digital audio system that had just been installed the previous day) are apparently a total loss.
  • In Rochester, Kevin LeGrett has parted ways with Infinity Broadcasting, where he was GM of the four-station cluster that includes WPXY, WZNE, WCMF and WRMM. He's headed to Citadel, where he'll become a regional vice president based in Buffalo and overseeing Buffalo, Syracuse, Ithaca and Binghamton.
  • And we leave the Empire State with this mystery: Granite Broadcasting's WKBW-TV (Channel 7) in Buffalo won't let the revived "KB Radio" (WWKB 1520) share its call letters - but it'll gladly let Jim Carrey plaster his new movie Bruce Almighty with WKBW references and logos? Discuss...
  • Another AM station in CANADA is entering its final weeks. CFJR (830 Brockville) signed on the transmitter of CFJR-FM (104.9) last week, simulcasting its AC format as "104-9 'JRFM and 830 CFJR." Testing of the new transmitter is scheduled to last several months; the AM station should go silent at the end of the summer, we hear.

May 30, 1998-

  • Say goodbye to the number-two public TV station in Buffalo. The Western New York Public Broadcasting Council voted last week to sell WNEQ (Channel 23) in order to pay for the digital conversion of flagship public broadcaster WNED-TV (Channel 17). WNEQ signed on in 1987, with the stated intention of offering viewers in Western New York and Southern Ontario a more diverse diet of public television. In the ensuing years, however, WNED made the decision (in NERW's opinion, a misguided one) to leave its antiquated-but-functional studios for a huge (and hugely expensive) brand-new broadcast palace in downtown Buffalo. The costs of that project made it difficult for WNED to program Channel 23, and (at least according to published reports) contributed to the decision to sell WNEQ. WNED will need to do some fancy footwork at the FCC to sell WNEQ as a commercial station. Channel 23 is allocated noncommercial to Buffalo, but Channel 17 is allocated as a commercial license, a relic of its days as pioneering NBC O&O WBUF-TV in the 1950s. WNED hopes the FCC will agree to reallocate channel 17 as noncomm and channel 23 as commercial. We'll keep you posted...
  • In other news from NEW YORK, there's a new station on the air in Eastern Long Island. Jarad Broadcasting's WXXP (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke) went on at noon on Wednesday, as dance-CHR "Party 105." Jeff Levine, PD of sister stations WLIR (92.7 Garden City)-WDRE (98.5 Westhampton), handles PD duties for WXXP as well.
  • The former WNWK (105.9 Newark NJ) is now New York's latest Spanish-language station. Heftel Broadcasting flipped the switch to "Caliente 105.9, tu pulso Latino" this week. No word yet on how New York's WQHT -- "Hot 97" -- feels about another station using the Spanish translation of its name.
  • Confirming what we'd suspected, WIGS (1230) in Gouverneur is indeed dead and gone, reducing the "FSR Network" to WGIX (95.3 Gouverneur) and WSLB (1400 Ogdensburg). Now we're told WSLB is only being mentioned in top-hour legal IDs, with "95.3" the sole identification at other times. Further up route 11 in Chateauguay, WYUL (94.7) has reportedly turned on its permanent oldies format.
  • Morning show movement: Buffalo's "Alice," WLCE (92.9), is now getting its morning show from sister ARS station WTIC-FM (96.5) in Hartford. The "Craig and Company" show started this week on WLCE, after a weekend of heavy promotion. Krista Bettino moves down the Thruway from WHTT (104.1 Buffalo), where she was Danny Neaverth's morning sidekick, to WPXY (97.9 Rochester), where she'll do the same with Scott Spezzano. WPXY also adds Music Director duties for night guy Mike Danger.
  • It's a game of PD musical chairs in MASSACHUSETTS. Rick Shockley, program director of CBS oldies outlet WODS (103.3 Boston), has left the building for the warmer climates of Phoenix and oldies KOOL (94.5). Next door at Greater Media's smooth-jazz WSJZ (96.9), Bill George has departed as well, for the even more hospitable climes of Honolulu and a PD gig at KUCD (101.9) and KKLV (98.5). And out at WJMN (94.5 Boston), assistant PD/music director Cat Collins is headed for Denver and KQKS (104.3). Chris Tyler joins WJMN for overnights from WERZ (107.1) Exeter NH.
  • Up in MAINE, there's a new CHR on the air. Pilot's WCRQ (102.9 Dennysville) went up this week. Becky Nichols joins "CRQ 102-9" as PD and morning host from WQRB Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Tom Mitchell, PD of Pilot's WNTQ (93.1 Syracuse), is consulting WCRQ. NERW looks forward to hearing this one next month as we drive through the Calais area.

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