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September 14, 2009

ESPN Moves in Boston

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*Just a month after the eastern MASSACHUSETTS sports radio world was transformed by CBS Radio's launch of WBZ-FM as "Sports Hub 98.5," there's another big transformation coming.

The details are still a little murky as this issue of NERW heads for the "send" button late Sunday night, but here's what we know so far: as of Monday morning, ESPN Radio's national programming will be gone from WAMG (890 Dedham)/WLLH (1400 Lowell & Lawrence), the pair of relatively weak signals that have been struggling to find a niche as "ESPN Boston" since 2005. The local hosts on WAMG/WLLH offered up farewell shows on Friday, as station owner Waller Sutton prepared to pull the plug on the sports format at 890 and 1400 and flip to something new today.

But even as ESPN Radio disappears from 890 and 1400, it's apparently poised to re-emerge somewhere else on the Boston radio dial, tied in to ESPN's soon-to-debut new local presence at

Speculation ran rampant on message boards and in the newspapers over the weekend, and much of it centered on Entercom's WEEI, the longtime Boston sports Goliath now in the crosshairs of the new WBZ-FM. The Globe speculated on Saturday that Entercom and ESPN may be a natural fit, with the national ESPN programming taking over WEEI's current AM signal at 850 and WEEI's local sports programming moving to one of Entercom's FM signals.

That's something we've speculated about here in NERW in recent months, too - and it seems to us that the basic factors haven't changed: on the one hand, WEEI at 850 is hampered by an AM signal that has limited reach to the west of Boston after dark, as well as by the general sense that AM is becoming increasingly irrelevant to younger listeners; on the other hand, replacing any of Entercom's existing FM signals with WEEI would mean an almost inevitable decline in Entercom Boston's bottom-line revenue, since it would hold the status quo for WEEI while taking away the revenue now derived from WMKK or WAAF.

The components of that equation may have shifted over the summer, though: the threat of a strong-signalled FM competitor in the form of WBZ-FM has no doubt increased the pressure on Entercom to bolster WEEI's presence in the marketplace, even at the expense of some of its existing FM revenue - and the opportunity to partner with the strong national brand of ESPN presents probably the best available scenario for Entercom to retain at least some of the revenue it now derives from the 850 AM facility.

From the other side, an alliance with Entercom and WEEI presents a far better option for ESPN and parent company Disney than any other potential Boston signal. Disney's own WMKI (1260) is both tied up with Radio Disney and lacking in signal coverage outside Route 128 after dark; most of the other AM possibilities are even more signal-challenged - not to mention already spoken for with (presumably profitable) leased-time or religious programming.

(As for the only other formidable AM signals on the dial: Blackstrap's 50 kW WWZN 1510, is clearly going in another direction, adding to its non-sports programming with additional hours from Jeff Santos' Revolution Radio, including new simulcasts of WCVB-TV's morning and evening newscasts. Clear Channel's newly-50 kW WKOX 1200 is now the sole home of the Spanish tropical "Rumba" format in the market, with former simulcast WXKS 1430 Everett having flipped last week to Spanish AC "Mia," one of Clear Channel's national "Premium Choice" formats. And Salem's WEZE 590, with 5 kW low on the dial, seems to be succeeding with its longtime religious format.)

An ESPN/WEEI alliance could also put ESPN network programming on a new WEEI-FM signal during overnight and weekend hours, replacing the Fox Sports that's now used as filler - and it would no doubt provide additional national exposure for some of WEEI's local hosts.

All that, of course, begs the question: which signal would Entercom use for a WEEI-FM? This, too, is something we've explored before in NERW, and the dynamics haven't changed much: active rock WAAF uses the west suburban WAAF (107.3 Westborough) signal for wide-area metro coverage and the Blue Hill-based class A WKAF (97.7 Brockton) to fill in signal gaps within, and south of, Boston - and neither signal, by itself, would suffice to give WEEI full-market coverage. And adult hits "Mike" WMKK (93.7 Lawrence) enjoys near-full-market coverage from its class B facility in Peabody, north of Boston - but it's also a very low-cost, high-profit contributor to Entercom's bottom line with its current jockless format. A deal with struggling Nassau to acquire classical rimshotter WCRB (99.5 Lowell)? It's also a possibility, especially as station values continue to slump.

So how does this all play out in the end? We'll know soon enough - and we'll have an update here (and on our Twitter feed @NERadioWatch) as soon as there's news to report.

*Down on the South Coast, they're mourning a morning talent who died far too young. Sharon Fogaren, co-host of the "JR and Sharon" show on WFHN (107.1 Fairhaven), suffered a heart attack on August 20 and died Sept. 2 at a Boston hospital. Fogaren had been with Fun 107 "off and on for 14 years," the station reports. She was just 43; for now, JR is hosting the show solo.

Out west, there's a callsign change in Orange and Athol: WJOE (700) quietly became WVBB on Sept. 2, swapping its callsign with an FM station in Columbia City, Indiana, near Fort Wayne. That Hoosier station, which had been "106.3 the Vibe," became "Joe FM" last year - and finally has calls to match. (You can hear a bunch of IDs from the new WJOE in Indiana over on our sister site,!)

Former "Candlepins for Cash" host Bob Gamere has pleaded guilty to child pornography charges, which could send the ex-WNAC-TV/WLVI sports anchor to prison for at least five years. Gamere was caught in a 2007 sting operation in which he sent an e-mail with child porn to an undercover agent.

One more Bay State note: the WBCN call letters that long signified progressive rock in Boston now stand for conservative talk in Charlotte. CBS Radio parked the callsign on the former WFNA (1660 Charlotte) as part of the August shuffle that moved "Mix" WBMX from 98.5 to 104.1 (with its own very brief detour to that 1660 facility) - and now it has flipped the Charlotte WBCN from sports-talk to satellite-fed conservative talk.

*There's a new TV station coming to RHODE ISLAND, at least in the form of a DTV subchannel. WNAC (Channel 64) in Providence began running color bars on its 64.2 signal last week, and soon that channel will be home to "MyRI," carrying MyNetworkTV programming and other independent fare, complementing the Fox programming on WNAC's 64.1 channel and the CBS programming on sister station WPRI (Channel 12). MyNetworkTV programming had been running on a delayed basis on WNAC.

A veteran Ocean State engineer has died: Egidio "Ed" Policastri spent many years as chief engineer at WPRO (630) and WPRO-FM (92.3). He died Sept. 2 at age 84.

*Northern VERMONT's freeform rock station, WCLX (102.9 Westport NY) is off the air, the victim of the weak economy and a dispute between station owner Dennis Jackson and programmers Diane Desmond and Russ Kinsley, who'd been leasing the frequency for the past decade. Last Wednesday (Sept. 9), Jackson pulled the plug on WCLX's programming just after the 5 PM legal ID, saying that while "Russ and Diane worked for ten years to make it a commercial could not be sustained."

The freeform rock format (a descendant of Kinsley's earlier ventures, including the late WEXP 105.1) continues in streaming form at the former WCLX website,, where Kinsley and Desmond say they're looking for a new on-air home for the format. As for the 102.9 facility, it's silent for the moment while Jackson considers other options, which he says could include the sale of the license.

*The economy isn't any kinder to rock stations in MAINE, at least judging by the comments of the only station owner we know who's also a mainstream magazine columnist. That would be Stephen King, whose latest Entertainment Weekly column mentions his ownership of WKIT (100.3 Brewer) - and makes the claim that rock radio, as we know it, "is on life support."

"I see the balance sheets," King writes, and goes on to add, "If I may wax vulgar, ad revenues are in the pooper." But while King asserts that the only radio formats now making money are - his words, here - "right-wing ratchet-jaws like El Rushbo," his column doesn't offer much hope for the survival of music formats on FM, though it does offer a piece of advice that Boston mayor Tom Menino might like: "As far as I'm concerned, you can take Opie and Anthony and shove 'em where the sun doesn't shine." Thanks, Uncle Stevie...


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*NEW YORK City's classical music listeners now know the date and time that their commercial classical station will cease to exist, before being reborn up the dial (and lower in power) in noncommercial form.

The transition of WQXR from 96.3 to 105.9 will happen at 8 PM on October 8, when the 96.3 frequency will transfer from its longtime owner, the New York Times Co., to Univision Radio. Univision's WCAA (105.9 Newark NJ) will transfer its "La Kalle" format down the dial to 96.3, and the WQXR calls and 105.9 facility will come together under public broadcaster WNYC, which will launch its new version of WQXR with a live Orpheus Chamber Orchestra concert that will be simulcast on WNYC-FM (93.9) and on a new website at

WNYC hasn't yet announced a staff lineup for the new WQXR 105.9, but with the closure of WQXR's current studios and offices near Union Square, it seems likely that much of the current 96.3 staff won't be retained for the new station, which will broadcast from WNYC's new studios on Varick Street downtown.

As it happens, NERW will be in the New York area that night (we maintain a firm policy of never refusing Springsteen tickets, especially for one of the final Giants Stadium shows), and we'll have a full report on the transition in the Oct. 12 edition.

Another New York City noncommercial voice is hoping to strengthen its signal in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Those are weak spots at the moment for Fordham University's WFUV (90.7), but the AAA station hopes to change that with a new directional booster mounted atop the Epic apartment building at 125 W. 31st Street. WFUV is now seeking to raise $75,000 from its listeners to match a challenge grant of $25,000 to build the 2500-watt booster.

Meanwhile on the commercial side of the dial, Clear Channel's Z100 (WHTZ 100.3 Newark) has named a new night jock. "Mo Bounce" comes to Z from Houston's KKHH, filling a void created back in June when Billy the Kidd left Z100 to return home to Dallas.

On the HD Radio dial, CBS Radio is making some changes to its subchannel lineup: next month, it will flip the HD2 channel on WWFS (102.7) from "WNEW," the classic-rock tribute to the station that long occupied 102.7's main signal, to a new interactive format programmed by CBS partner Last.FM.

And on the TV dial, Monday brings some changes to the local news lineup: WNBC (Channel 4)'s 5 PM newscast is gone again, replaced by lifestyle-fluff "LX New York," while WPIX (Channel 11) debuts its 6:30 PM newscast, the only major local news at that hour in the city.

*And we can't leave the New York area without at least a quick mention of last Wednesday's date - 09/09/09 - and the recollections it inspired in the minds of many radio junkies of "NINE!," the famed parody tape that took on a life of its own after emerging from a late-night production session back in 1974 at the studios of WALL (1340) in Middletown.

The "NINE!" gang turned out to be more prescient than anyone could have imagined in their depiction of a radio format stripped down to the barest essentials, and that might explain why their mythical "WVWA Pound Ridge" kept emerging from the mists every five years, including the "Ninety NINE" sequel in 1994, the website in 1999 and a certain Tower Site of the Week installment in 2004.

While there was some anticipation of another stab at the WVWA legacy this year, we hear that the original "NINE!" team - including West Coast production guru Howard Hoffman and voice legend Randy West, veteran New York/Connecticut PD Pete Salant, WCBS-FM jock Russ "Famous Amos" DiBello and Philly engineer Rene Tetro - came to the conclusion that radio, circa 2009, was doing a good enough job of parodying itself that there was simply nothing further to add.

(Apparently there was also something about some washed-up rock band from the sixties on 09/09/09, too, but unless WVWA's Johnny West says it's "one of the world's two great groups," we're not paying attention...)

*Moving upstate, the changes in the Syracuse radio dial that we told you about in our last issue two weeks ago turned out to be just the start of a chaotic time in the Salt (or "Emerald," if you really insist) City.

Clear Channel's feint toward a country roadblock turned out to be short-lived, as "Young Country 106.9" (WPHR) lasted just a weekend before returning to its previous format, urban "Power 106.9." It's still not clear whether "Young Country" was intended to be merely a stunt to rattle new country competitor WOLF-FM (105.1 DeRuyter), or whether Clear Channel was itself rattled by the protests that developed when it looked like Syracuse was about to lose its only station focused on the city's black audience.

As it turns out, that audience is now getting a stronger signal from "Power," since the "Young Country" shuffle coincided with WPHR's move from Auburn to a new city of license, the Syracuse suburb of Solvay, and to a new transmitter site on the Onondaga Community College campus in the hills south of the city. WPHR took a drop in power - from class B to B1 - to make the move, but it also ended up much closer to the core of the Syracuse market.

In the meantime, there were more changes in other corners of the Syracuse dial: on AM, the new Leatherstocking group took control of the former Buckley stations at the start of September and promptly switched WSEN (1050 Baldwinsville) from a simulcast of classic hits WSEN-FM (92.1) to a simulcast of oldies WFBL (1390 Syracuse). That's only temporary, we're told, as a new format for AM 1050 is readied.

Not to be left out, Galaxy Broadcasting quietly segued its WZUN (102.1 Phoenix) from AC "Sunny" to classic hits, retaining its nickname and airstaff.

There's no news director at the moment at public broadcaster WRVO (89.9 Oswego), where Chris Ulanowski disappeared from the station's website last week with little explanation. Ulanowski had spent almost a quarter-century with WRVO, and the station's not saying whether his departure had anything to do with Ulanowski's arrest in August in nearby Fulton on charges of marijuana possession. In the meantime, WRVO PD Fred Vigeant is overseeing newsroom operations at the station.

(Some happier news from WRVO: the station now has a callsign for its construction permit up north in Clayton, which will be WRVH on 89.3.)

On the TV side, Syracuse-area viewers lost their CBS broadcast signal for much of last week, thanks to a power-supply failure in the transmitter at WTVH-DT (Channel 5, RF 47). While WTVH licensee Granite, which still controls the transmitter, worked to restore the over-the-air signal, a feat it accomplished on Friday, the station's new operator, former rival Raycom, temporarily put WTVH's programming on the 3.3 subchannel of its NBC affiliate, WSTM-DT (Channel 3, RF 24).

And speaking of WTVH, our friends at caught this announcement of an auction tomorrow at the station's former studios and offices at 980 James Street, where the last of the office furniture and whatever else Granite left behind will be disposed of. Over the summer, WTVH's master control moved down the street to the WSTM studios at 1030 James Street, closing out decades of neighborly competition between the two stations.

We credit, too, for catching word of another HD Radio subchannel that's using a translator to find a broader audience in the Ithaca market. Saga Communications has been in the forefront of this somewhat controversial development, putting multiple HD subchannels on analog translators in places such as Keene, N.H. and Asheville, N.C. - and in Ithaca, too, where it launched top-40 "Hits 103.3" on WYXL (97.3)'s HD2 and on W277BS (103.3 Ithaca) last year.

Now Saga has added an HD3 to WYXL, running a AAA format as "98.7 the Vine" - and it's apparently acquiring a translator from Clear Channel to bring that format to analog-only listeners. That would be W254BF (98.7 Ithaca), which recently moved from 98.3, where it was W252AA, relaying WPHR from Auburn. With WPHR's move out of the Finger Lakes and into Syracuse, Clear Channel notified the FCC that the translator had become "obsolete" - but not to Saga, apparently, which seized the opportunity to create what will amount to its fifth FM signal in Ithaca, alongside two AM signals.

(More upstate translator news: Roser Communications Network is buying W286AH, 105.1 in Amsterdam, from Northeast Gospel Broadcasting, presumably to relay WVTL 1570 on the FM dial.)

Albany's "Big Ray" is leaving his morning gig at WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville), trading "Jamz 96.3" for a move to Atlanta. The station is looking for a replacement.

Up north, Don Whitman is out as PD of Stephens Media's WYSX/WPAC/WNCQ; no replacement has been named there, either.

*Here in Rochester, Clear Channel's latest flip to its oft-changing rimshot signal on 107.3 took place at midnight on Sept. 9, when the former "Country 107.3" (WROO South Bristol Township) became WHTK-FM, simulcasting the sports-talk format of Clear Channel's WHTK (1280 Rochester).

With the new simulcast comes a schedule change for WHTK: the local sports talk show hosted by John DiTullio moves from late mornings to 3-6 PM, clearing the way for live carriage of Dan Patrick's 9 AM-noon show and putting DiTullio up against the "local" show on the market's other sports-talker, Entercom's WROC (950). We put "local" in quotes here only because the WROC show, "Schopp and the Bulldog," is actually a simulcast from sister station WGR (550 Buffalo), though the distinction scarcely matters for most western New York sports topics, especially during Bills season.

WHTK has also re-upped with the Rochester Amerks for three more years of AHL hockey, starting in just a few weeks.

*In Buffalo, veteran WBFO (88.7) newsman Mark Wozniak is sleeping in this morning. After two decades as local host of "Morning Edition," Woz moves to afternoons and "All Things Considered" hosting duties, handing off mornings to midday jazz host/music director Bert Gambini. Wozniak will mark his 30th anniversary at WBFO in November.

*From the obituary pages: Jerry Barsha, who spent 32 years at WSYR (570) and WSYR-TV/WSTM (Channel 3) as an anchor and investigative reporter, died Sept. 10 at age 83. Barsha worked at the stations from 1957 until his retirement in 1989; he also taught at Onondaga Community College for 35 years.

In Albany, they're remembering Dale Lane, who died Sept. 5 at age 62. Lane was best known for his time at WFLY (92.3 Troy) during the station's rock era of the 1960s and 70s, but he also worked at several other Capital District stations, including WTRY and WSNY/WWWD.

And New Yorkers with long memories are remembering Tuck Stadler, whose days as a newsman at WINS (1010) predated the station's flip to all-news in 1965. Stadler died July 10 in Maryland, at age 87.


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*The week's big news out of PENNSYLVANIA centered on Pittsburgh, where the end of urban radio on WAMO came abruptly around 6 PM last Tuesday (Sept. 8), as Sheridan pulled the plug on both WAMO-FM (106.7 Beaver Falls) and WAMO (860 Millvale), signing off the FM with the Jackson 5's "Never Can Say Goodbye" and Boyz II Men's "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye." Those two stations, as well as sister station WPGR (1510 Monroeville), are now silent as they await the launch of Catholic formats under new owner St. Joseph Missions, which paid just over $8 million for the trio.

With Pittsburgh now lacking an urban station - by far the largest market in the country with that distinction - there's already an outcry from the city's black community. Former WPTT (Channel 22, now WPMY) owner Eddie Edwards tells Pat Cloonan of the McKeesport Daily News that he's "saddened - and outraged - by events that led to a final sign off for the WAMO stations," calling for an investigation into the circumstances around the sale.

Meanwhile, the sale of Keymarket's "Froggy 98" (WOGI 98.3 Duquesne) in Pittsburgh has triggered a series of call changes in the region: "Froggy" sister WOGF (104.3 Moon Township) has taken the WOGI calls that used to be on 98.3, and after a brief stint as WOGF, 98.3 is now using the calls WPKV, standing for the new "K-Love" contemporary Christian format that's delivered to the Steel City by satellite from California. The WPKV calls come to Da Burgh from another EMF Broadcasting signal in western Pennsylvania - and that station, on 90.7 in Nanty Glo, near Altoona, is now WPAI, flipping in the process from "K-Love" to EMF's other format, Christian rock "Air 1."

*State College didn't have to spend very long without its "QWIK Rock." The rock format disappeared from its second incarnation, on the former WQWK (103.1 State College), back in August, when Forever Broadcasting flipped that facility to news-talk as WRSC-FM. Over Labor Day, "QWIK Rock" returned, up the dial and under different ownership, on Magnum Broadcasting's former "Joe FM," WJOW (105.9 Phillipsburg)/WZYY (106.9 Renovo).

"Joe" had already been mixing rock with its country format, though that rock-country hybrid doesn't seem to be finding much success anywhere it's been tried. There's no word yet on a jock lineup for this latest version of "QWIK Rock."

On the Ohio state line, our friends at Ohio Media Watch tipped us off to a sort of a format change at WEXC (107.1 Greenville), where "Indie 107" is now mixing conservative talk with its Christian rock, starting with Glenn Beck from 9 AM-noon and Jason Lewis from 9 PM-midnight.

On the New York state line, there's a new HD-on-FM translator on the air in Smethport: W237CS (95.3) is now relaying the HD2 of WXMT (106.3), which is doing news-talk as "Talk Radio 95.3," complete with a website listing at least a partial schedule that includes Mancow, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham and Dave Ramsey.

Moving east, we're hearing that Telikoja Educational Broadcasting has signed on WEVP (91.7 Laporte) with a AAA format - and with WEVP now licensed to Laporte (and a second noncommercial station, Family Life's WCIJ 90.9, on the way), that town's commercial station, WNKZ (103.9), is applying to change its city of license to nearby Dushore, with no change in technical facilities proposed for now.

In York, the morning team of Kelly West and Bobby Quinn are out at Cumulus' WARM-FM (103.3), leaving just one local jock - middayer Traci Taylor - listed on the WARM-FM website.

There are still no arrests - or even suspects, apparently - in the mysterious toppling of one of the five towers at WAEB (790 Allentown) earlier this month. The station now has special temporary authority from the FCC to operate non-directionally at night with reduced power while it reconstructs the array. Local officials say they don't think there's any connection between the WAEB destruction and the near-simultaneous downing of two towers at KRKO (1380 Everett, Washington), for which the eco-activist group Earth Liberation Front is claiming responsibility.

Philadelphia's ESPN Radio outlet, WPEN (950), has parted ways with one of its star personalities. Jody McDonald leaves behind former 11 AM-3 PM co-host Harry Mayes, who stays at "ESPN 950" with new co-host Dan Schwartzman, who'd been doing evenings.

And back in Pittsburgh, we congratulate webmaster Eric O'Brien on his recent nuptials - and thank him for passing along word (via Frank Gottlieb of KQV) of two recent obituaries:

Hilary Bogden, a former WJAS (1320 Pittsburgh) announcer, died Sept. 3 at age 85 - just a day after the death of another ex-WJAS announcer who went on to become a legend in another market. Jim White also worked at KDKA (1020) before decamping for St. Louis in 1969 to become assistant news director at KMOX (1120). White stayed at KDKA for 30 years, the last 20 as overnight talk host on that mighty signal covering most of the country all night long. White died Sept. 2 at 72 of complications from surgery.

*Just a few bits of NEW JERSEY news: the new 89.3 construction permit in Freehold has calls - WSFS - and a new owner, as "FM Pregnancy Centers," which obtained the CP, transfers it to Domestic Church Media Foundation, owner of Catholic station WFJS (1260 Trenton), which will pay $5,000 over five years for the CP.

And on the shore, WADB (1310 Asbury Park)'s "Shore Sports Report" afternoon show is now being simulcast on sister station WOBM (1160 Lakewood).

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*In CANADA, Evanov Communications continues to add to its station group with the CRTC approval of its purchase of CKPC (1380) and CKPC-FM (92.1) in Brantford from the estate of Richard Buchanan. The CKPC stations bring Evanov's Ontario holdings to 10 signals, as well as stations in Winnipeg and Halifax and a pending application for new stations in Quebec.

In Exeter, Ontario, My Broadcasting has launched its fifth station. CKXM (90.5) had its official debut August 31, after spending most of the month testing. My's next new signal will be on 100.9 in Brighton, and that has UCB Canada applying to move its Cobourg relay of CKJJ (102.3 Belleville) from 100.9 to 90.7, boosting power from 42 to 250 watts.

In Ottawa, JR returns to CFGO (Team 1200) after several years across the hall at CKKL (93.9 Bob FM). His return to "Three Guys on the Radio" sends Stuntman Stu back across the hall for mornings on Bob.

In Montreal, Steve Kowch, late of Toronto's CFRB, has signed on as PD/news director at Astral sister station CJAD (800).

In Truro, Nova Scotia, community station CINU (98.5) has been granted permission to move to 106.3, to avoid interference with CKRH (98.5 Halifax); the CRTC also granted a developmental station license to the Truro Live Performing Arts Association, but ordered it to find a different frequency from the 106.1 it had proposed, due to the conflict with CINU's new channel.

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, ten and - where available - fifteen years ago this week, or thereabouts. Note that 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 8, 2008 -

  • It's been a rough year so far for the smooth jazz format, with prominent defections in large markets such as New York and Washington, DC. Last Friday, the trend came to eastern PENNSYLVANIA, as Greater Media pulled the plug on smooth jazz at WJJZ (97.5 Burlington NJ). This was the second incarnation of the format in the Philadelphia market - back in August 2006, Clear Channel changed formats at the original smooth jazz WJJZ (106.1 Philadelphia, now WISX), and in November, Greater Media picked up the format and the calls on 97.5, which was in the process of moving into the market from its longtime home in Trenton, N.J.
  • As the format faded out at 6 PM Friday (Sept. 5), it was replaced by a weekend of stunting that promised something "new" and "now" for the Philadelphia market. "Now" arrived at 9 o'clock Monday morning, when WJJZ exited its stunt with the now-ubiqitous "Don't Stop Believing," then launched into a brief, selective recap of the history of Philadelphia radio before announcing a "new" approach to adult contemporary radio under the moniker "Now 97.5," with a new website at PD Michael Tozzi (who came to 97.5 from the original WJJZ 106.1) is out, as are the rest of the WJJZ airstaff.
  • Elsewhere in the Keystone State, WPTT (1360 McKeesport) flipped to business talk last Monday (Sept. 2), becoming WMNY, "Money Talk 1360." Programming is mostly syndicated, but next Monday will bring the launch of "Pittsburgh Renaissance Radio," to be heard weekday afternoons from 3-6.
  • In Albany, NEW YORK, Jeff Lyons has returned to WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville) to co-host the morning show with Big Ray and serve as music director. Lyons left Albany Broadcasting in 2005 to work at Cumulus' cluster down in Tallahassee, Florida. As Vox Radio Group settles in at the former Clear Channel stations in VERMONT, it's making some format tweaks. Gone is ABC's "True Oldies Channel" from WVTK (92.1 Port Henry NY), replaced by an AC format aimed at Addison County, the area around Middlebury that's lost most of its own signals to Burlington rimshot status.
  • In MAINE, the Labor Day holiday brought some big changes in the Bangor radio landscape. Blueberry Broadcasting's WABI (910 Bangor) and WWBX (97.1 Bangor) dropped their talk and top-40 formats, respectively, in favor of the Boston-based WEEI sports network. Mark down new calls "WAEI" for the 97.1 facility. And the two signals Blueberry couldn't keep when it bought Clear Channel's Bangor cluster are now simulcasting. WFZX (101.7 Searsport) has dropped its modern rock format and flipped to oldies in parallel to WGUY (102.1 Dexter).

September 13, 2004 -

  • Nassau has been a busy purchaser of radio stations all across New England in the last year or so, and now the New Jersey-based broadcaster is going as far north as it's possible to get in VERMONT, paying Northstar Media $2.3 million to acquire WMOO (92.1 Derby Center) and WIKE (1490 Newport), a pair of stations way up there at the Canadian border where I-93 heads into Quebec. WMOO, which also has a translator in St. Johnsbury at 99.3, has been doing hot AC (and won some national headlines a few weekends ago when it was taken over by Phish to become their official broadcaster, "the Bunny," during the band's final concert nearby); WIKE does country - and all from a building painted in black-and-white cow spots. Really.
  • The Air America juggernaut is reportedly on its way to MASSACHUSETTS. After a rough start earlier this year, the left-leaning talk network has found a powerful ally in Clear Channel, which has put Air America programming on the air in the last few weeks in markets from San Diego to Madison to Ann Arbor. Now the Boston Herald reports that Clear Channel is about to clear Air America on its two Boston-market AMs, WKOX (1200 Framingham) and WXKS (1430 Everett), replacing leased-time Spanish religion and mostly-satellite standards, respectively. While neither signal has full-market coverage (despite WKOX's long-standing CP for a move to Newton that's being blocked by NIMBY locals), the combination of the two hits most of the core of the market during daylight hours, at least. If other Clear Channel/Air America markets are any indication, it's a pretty good bet that programming will also include syndicated offerings from Ed Schultz as well as Air America's Randi Rhodes and Al Franken.
  • There's a big morning opening in NEW YORK, as WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) drops Dan Taylor off morning drive and puts out the call for tapes and resumes. Taylor took over from Harry Harrison about a year and a half ago, in the midst of some pretty big managerial and programming shakeups at the not-quite-oldies-anymore station; he's still on CBS-FM's website for now, but we suspect the veteran of great stations like WHN (where he was the very last voice on the air) will move on to something else sooner or later.

September 10, 1999 -

  • We're back from vacation, only to find yet another media mega-deal awaiting us: the CBS-Viacom merger, undoing the 1970 spin-off that created Viacom in the first place.
  • From our narrow Northeast broadcasting perspective, this has just one immediate effect: assuming all the appropriate regulatory approvals, it creates Boston's first TV duopoly, pairing CBS' WBZ (Ch. 4) with Viacom's WSBK (Channel 38, and its Providence LMA, WLWC 28 New Bedford). The rumors are already aswirl about what a duopolized channel 38 could look like, especially if (as expected), CBS/Viacom is forced to spin off the UPN network. Could the market see a return of "WBZ News 4 on TV 38"? (And what of Detroit, where CBS's WWJ-TV has no news department, but Viacom's WKBD is the company's only station that still has nightly news?)
  • We'll start off the rest of the news of the past two weeks in CONNECTICUT, where Cox is adding to its station lineup in the Fairfield County area as part of a multi-station trade with AMFM. The big prize in this deal is Los Angeles combo KFI (640)/KOST (103.5), which go to AMFM in exchange for a grab-bag of AMFM properties around the country. In addition to Atlanta's WFOX (97.1 Gainesville), Miami's WEDR (99.1), and a cluster in Jacksonville, Cox gets WEFX (95.9 Norwalk), WKHL (96.7 Stamford), WPLR (99.1 New Haven), the sales rights to WYBC-FM (94.3 New Haven), and news-talk simulcasters WSTC (1400 Stamford) and WNLK (1350 Norwalk) to add to its "Star 99.9" WEZN Bridgeport.
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, "FM Talk 96.9" is finding its legs on (mumble it quickly now, 10 dB under the music bed!) WSJZ Boston. Local programming kicked off this week with San Diego's Stacy Taylor following Don Imus at 10AM (along with, at least the first day, CNN network feeds that weren't properly potted down!), one day's worth of Mike Barnicle, and former WRKO night guy Jay Severin, among others. It's now sounding as though Taylor, anyway, is only a temporary host, and we suspect we'll have more programming changes to talk about soon as 96.9 settles in.
  • Established talker WRKO (680) isn't taking all this lying down -- it's bolstering its local identity by dropping Metro Networks news service to return to in-house news, led by market veteran Rod Fritz. He's coming back from exile in the land of PR to head up a morning news block to replace the Jeff Katz/Darlene McCarthy show. We also hear Andy Moes and Lori Kramer will have roles to play in 'RKO's latest reincarnation.
  • Up in NEW HAMPSHIRE, Manchester's WKBR (1250) is getting yet another new identity, dropping One-on-One Sports to go country. Most of the day will come from ABC's "Real Country," but we hear Sean Sullivan from WYRY (104.9 Hinsdale) is joining the station to do mornings and serve as station manager. We hear WKBR will continue to originate from the studios of WXRV over in Haverhill, Mass. -- and we wouldn't be one bit surprised to hear "K-Bear 1250" as the non-ID.
  • A station sale tops VERMONT news this week, with Excalibur Media adding WCVR (102.1) and WWWT (1320) in Randolph to its existing group of WZRT (97.1)/WSYB (1380) Rutland and WXNT (92.1) Port Henry NY. Under current owners Ed and Margaret Stokes, the stations had been running ABC's Real Country format.
  • Tons of news from NEW YORK over the last two weeks, and we'll tackle it from west to east, starting in Buffalo. That's where Mercury Communications is paying $535,000 to add WHLD (1270 Niagara Falls) to its station group (which includes ethnic WMNY, rock WGRF, modern rock WEDG, and oldies WHTT). Observant readers will recall that WHLD holds a CP to move from Grand Island to the WNED (970) site south of Buffalo, pumping a directional signal right over the heart of the city, and we'll be not one bit surprised to see some of the leased-time programming now on WMNY move to the stronger signal.
  • In Rochester, some big changes are in the works at CBS's cluster, as John MacCrae moves down the Thruway from Syracuse's WAQX (95.7 Manlius) to take over PD reins at WCMF (96.5). He replaces Rick MacKenzie, who stays on the 17th floor but focuses on modern AC WZNE (94.1). The first step in breathing some life into the Zone? A new morning team -- and one that Boston listeners would recognize. After a brief interlude in Connecticut, Karlson and McKenzie (NOT Rick!) began their new Zone gig Thursday morning. First caller? A guy who told them to "shut up and play more music" (!) The duo were last at WEGQ (93.7 Lawrence-Boston), until the "Eagle" folded its wings and became "Star" last spring; the demo CD Zone sent out to local media was made up entirely of bits from the old WEGQ show.
  • One final note before we go this week: We were saddened to learn of the passing September 1 of Bill Pfeiffer, the creator and moderator of Radio Journal. It was back in 1991, at the birth of r.r.b., that a college student in Boston began contributing local items to Bill, who always welcomed them with the same respect and professionalism with which he greeted items from "big-time" industry folks like Rich Wood and Mark Howell. As I moved ahead in my career, Bill was always there at the other end of the e-mail, offering advice, humor, and sometimes a dissenting (but always civil) viewpoint. In the last year or so, we crossed ways a bit when it came to distribution of NERW -- but always in a friendly fashion, ending with a solution we could both agree upon. We corresponded almost daily for eight years, and though we never met in person, and talked by phone maybe half a dozen times in all those years, the news of Bill's death in a crash caused by a drunk driver came with as much of a jolt as the loss of a close local friend would have.
  • Bill was a staunch crusader for local radio, and even though his own career in the field was spotty at best, I'd like to think he inspired a lot of us to strive for the kind of radio he loved best. He died far too young, just a few months shy of his long-awaited marriage, and just three years after the death of his beloved mother following a tragic fire in their home in Missouri. Bill Pfeiffer leaves a void in the on-line radio community that won't soon be filled. So long, friend...hope there's a dozen live, local stations on the dial where you are now.

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