TUESDAY MORNING UPDATE: Greater Media has launched the official format on Boston’s 96.9. “Hot 96.9” launched at 11 this morning on the former talk WTKK, ending a week of “micro-formats” and, as widely expected, putting Greater right into the rhythmic top 40 game against Clear Channel’s WJMN (Jam’n 94.5) and WXKS-FM (Kiss 108) and CBS Radio’s WODS (Amp 103.3). Here’s what Greater had to say just after the launch:
Hot 96.9, the Rhythm of Boston, will feature rhythm and dance music from today, along with throwbacks from the 80’s and 90’s, including artists like Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Usher, and Rihanna. Hot 96.9 Morning Show Personality Pebbles officially kicked off the new format in the studio this morning at 11am by playing the first of 13,000 songs in a row. “Throughout my years in radio, I’ve witnessed firsthand the rich history Boston has of embracing rhythmic hit music,” said Greater Media Boston Director of Programming Cadillac Jack McCartney. “We have identified a huge gap in the market to super-serve Adults who have graduated from the many teen stations currently in the city, but who still want a radio station that gives them some of the great throwbacks they grew up with, along with the best rhythmic hits of today, and without all the interruptions. Hot 96.9 is that station!” “The entire Greater Media Boston team has had a lot of fun over the past week with our format stunts, and hope that others have enjoyed it,” said Greater Media Boston Market Manager Rob Williams. “We are excited to introduce Hot 96.9 to Boston.”
We may be a little short on the ground in the next few days as we deal with two family health emergencies in two cities, so if you’re looking for additional updates and don’t see them here, please visit our colleague Lance Venta over at RadioInsight.com, too.
(And please allow a few extra days for calendars to be shipped out, since one of those emergencies involves Mrs. NERW, who’s usually handling order fulfillment…)
In this week’s issue… WTKK plays the “micro-format” game – Mendte, Bissinger out in Philadelphia – WOR, WABC swap talkers – FM jock heads to Utica AM dial – TV anchor moves to WPRO mornings – CBS Sports Radio launches across region – WFME flip gets nearer – Wolf howls again in Hudson Valley – and much, MUCH, more…
By SCOTT FYBUSH
NOTE TO READERS: It’s a new year at NERW, and we’re kicking it off with what may be the most extensive single NERW column ever…right on the heels of our big seven-part Year in Review series. We’re grateful to all of you who have subscribed to the column and helped continue to make it possible for us to bring you independent, comprehensive coverage of the broadcast scene in our region in the new year. And we’re offering you some new options to try out our coverage: in addition to annual subscriptions (as low as $15 a year), you can now try a one-week password for as little as $5.95 when you visit our Membership page. (This week, that adds up to about a dime a story for everything you’ll read in this jam-packed issue, plus bonus access to the complete Year in Review!) And it’s not too late to get your hands on a 2013 Tower Site Calendar at the Fybush.com Store!
*When we closed out our 2012 Year in Review less than a week ago, we labeled a whole bunch of stories as “stay tuned,” expecting some kind of resolution to come around sometime early in 2013. But little could we have imagined how quickly so many of those threads would all come together. The first few days of 2013 have included the launch of a new national sports radio network (leading to affiliation and format changes all over the region), the departure of two prominent talk hosts in Philadelphia, the move of another prominent host in New York, FCC approval for a big FM sale across the Hudson, a TV anchor becoming a radio morning host in southern New England, a longtime FM voice taking a turn at AM morning drive in central New York, and…oh yeah, the end of a long experiment in FM talk in Boston and the impending launch of a new music format.
Where to begin? If only for the sake of all the attention it’s received, we begin at WTKK (96.9 Boston). When last we checked in with a regular column in this space, it was already clear that the Greater Media station’s talk format was on its way out after 13 years. In the last hours of 2012, the last bits of the old format crumbled away with the announcement that the last remaining local talk show, Marjorie Eagan and Jim Braude’s morning show, was ending January 2.
WTKK’s demise as a talk station provided the second bit of very fortunate news in less than a year for the market’s longest-running talker, Entercom’s WRKO (680), which regained Rush Limbaugh last summer when Clear Channel pulled the plug on its lackluster “Rush Radio/Talk 1200” experiment at WXKS (1200 Newton). And if WXKS’ downfall lay in its lack (whether perceived or actual) of a strong full-market signal, WTKK’s signal dominance was undercut repeatedly by a lack of a clear “stationality.” Was 96.9 the uber-conservative talker that Michael Graham represented in the afternoon? If so, and if it had made a stronger play for the rights to Limbaugh last summer, it might have used its signal advantage to outplay WRKO at its own game, especially as 680 struggled to find a morning host who worked. Was WTKK the sort of middle-of-the-road talker that Braude and Eagan and syndicated middayer Michael Smerconish represented? There was a full-service path to be pursued there, too, but only if accompanied by the kind of news-intensive image that has worked so well for so long for CBS Radio’s WBZ. But that takes more than just a NECN television simulcast and headlines piped in from Clear Channel.
WTKK’s demise as a talker after Braude and Eagan signed off Wednesday morning prompted some brief discussion of what would be next for the pair (in addition to Braude’s NECN work and Eagan’s newspaper column), and that question at least has a short-term answer: they’ll be guest-hosting “Boston Public Radio” tomorrow afternoon on WGBH (89.7), where managing director Phil Redo just happens to have been one of their former general managers at WTKK.
But further speculation about Braude and Eagan’s next moves, or the fate of the talk format in general, was quickly eclipsed by the bigger question of where 96.9 is headed next. Astute observers, led by the indefatigable detective work of Lance Venta’s RadioInsight.com, had already put together a few of the pieces: domain registrations pointed to some sort of urban-leaning format, longtime Boston top-40 programmer “Cadillac Jack” McCartney had just recently departed his programming role at Clear Channel in New York, and WJMN (94.5 Boston) morning co-host Pebbles had been let go after 17 years there.
So when Braude and Eagan gave way to a stopset, a legal ID and Rihanna’s “Diamonds” at 10 AM on Wednesday, it was all blindingly clear: WTKK had flipped to rhythmic top-40 as “Power 96.9,” taking on WJMN head-on. But then Rihanna gave way to some much harder-edged hip-hop and R&B, and Greater Media issued a curiously-worded release talking about more “surprises” coming to 96.9 over the following week, and the “Power” playlist began repeating itself every five hours – and it became clear that whatever 96.9 was going to be, “Power” wasn’t it.
Nor was the “Nova 96.9” dance format that replaced “Power” on Thursday morning at 10, or the “Mike 96.9” adult hits that began playing on Friday at noon, or the “Bone” active rock that kicked off at midnight on Sunday.
So what was going on here?
More, clearly, than just a stunt: with domain names and Twitter handles and Facebook accounts that can now be created at almost no expense, each of these “micro-formats” (a Venta neologism that quickly began making the rounds somewhere between Power and Nova) ends up serving multiple purposes: flushing the old WTKK audience (and dampening any immediate outcry from WTKK talk fans about whatever format comes next), drawing publicity in the mainstream media (where several outlets treated Power as the “new format,” only to backtrack quickly), tweaking the competition and making sure the industry was paying attention when Greater began dribbling out some actual news about the station’s future.
As expected, Greater Media quickly announced that Pebbles would be the new 96.9 morning host, and that Cadillac Jack had joined the company as VP of programming for the Boston cluster. Pebbles isn’t the only WJMN hire; yet another bit of news late in the week was that former “Ramiro and Pebbles” producer Melissa would be joining the new 96.9 as well.
By the time all that news was out in the open, it was clear that “Mike” and “Bone” were nowhere close to what 96.9 will be doing whenever the permanent format launches. With McCartney at the helm and Pebbles and Melissa on board, and given what Greater is already doing on its other four FMs in the market, it’s pretty clear that 96.9’s final format will be something targeted a little more rhythmic and urban than AC sister station WMJX (Magic 106.7) and a little more female and younger than classic hits sister station WROR (105.7).
*Next up, Philadelphia, where the new year brought the disappearance of two prominent names that were both fairly new to talk radio, WPHT (1210)’s Buzz Bissinger in afternoons and WWIQ (106.9)’s Larry Mendte in mornings.
Better known for his sportswriting (he’s the author who gave us the original book version of “Friday Night Lights”), Bissinger was a surprise pick last June when WPHT moved star talker Michael Smerconish from afternoons to the former Rush Limbaugh slot in middays. It was a curious choice, even with WPHT’s decision to pair Bissinger with one of the market’s longest-running and most versatile talk talents, Steve Martorano. In late December, Bissinger was suddenly absent from the show, and now he tells Philadelphia magazine that he resigned just before the end of 2012. Never one to spare a punch, Bissinger calls talk radio “fundamentally trivial,” and station staffers returned the favor, telling the magazine that WPHT needed to employ a second level of delay and dump button to keep Bissinger’s show within FCC standards. (And having said that: Bissinger also tells the magazine’s Victor Furillo that he actually enjoyed the experience, even if it “wasn’t meant to be.”)
Then there’s Merlin Media’s “IQ106.9,” where last year’s launch included a return to the airwaves for one of the city’s more colorful broadcasters. Larry Mendte made his name as a TV anchor before being ousted from KYW-TV (Channel 3) amidst a scandal that involved an affair with a co-anchor and a felony conviction for improperly accessing her e-mail, a charge Mendte is still fighting. That all made Mendte the perfect hire for Merlin’s colorful CEO, Randy Michaels, and Mendte says Michaels provided him with hands-on coaching as he learned to do talk radio alongside WWIQ PD Al Gardner and an eventual third morning co-host, New York’s Lionel.
In a posting to his blog on the Philadelphia magazine site, Mendte says he was fired just before Christmas, and while he praises Michaels, he hints that the station itself is headed toward a sale, following on the heels of Merlin’s sale of its New York station (the former WEMP/WRXP) last year. Mendte says his dismissal from WWIQ only “hit the pause button” on his talk career, but it’s hard to imagine where else he’d pursue it, at least in Philadelphia.
*In New York, we’re getting a much clearer view of what WOR (710) is going to look like under its new owner, Clear Channel. For those (including your editor) who expected the $30 million sale was going to turn WOR into a New York clearinghouse for Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio Network syndicated offerings, 2013 is kicking off with a surprise: there’s much more local (or at least exclusive-to-WOR) content on the new schedule than almost anyone anticipated. Contrary to some rumors that had him leaving the station, morning host John R. Gambling stays in place in morning drive. Following Gambling at 10 AM, instead of Premiere’s Glenn Beck, WOR remains local with a new hire – none other than Mark Simone, the onetime FM music jock who’d reinvented himself as a talk host on crosstown WABC (770). Simone abruptly made the leap from Cumulus to Clear Channel as 2013 began, giving up a WABC gig that included two Saturday shifts and regular fill-in duty on several of the nationally-syndicated shows originating at WABC, including Don Imus. (More on the changes at WABC in a bit.) Joan Hamburg remains in place at noon, and WOR has renewed its deal to carry the syndicated Dave Ramsey financial-advice show from 2-4 PM, surprising those of us who’d expected Clear Channel to swiftly move its Rush Limbaugh show from WABC to WOR.
Following Ramsey, there’s a new local WOR offering replacing the station’s former David Paterson show: Rita Cosby, the former TV talk host who’d been a regular WOR fill-in, becomes WOR’s permanent 4-6 PM host, leading in to the syndicated Andy Dean show from 6-9 PM. And then at 9, there’s another unexpected twist to the schedule: John (Kobylt) and Ken (Chiampou) started their talk career in the northeast, rising to notoriety at WKXW (New Jersey 101.5), but since 1992 the duo have become afternoon institutions on the West Coast at KFI (640 Los Angeles). Now they’re back in New York, at least virtually: WOR is carrying the final hour of their Los Angeles show from 9-10 PM, followed by an additional WOR-only hour from 10-11 PM. The rest of the night is syndicated: Clyde Lewis from 11PM until 1 AM and then George Noory overnight.
(WOR also has a new website, matching Clear Channel’s usual template and, sadly, without the extensive material on WOR’s long history that was a feature on the old Buckley site. And is the black-and-orange coloring on the WOR logo a subtle homage to new sister station KFI’s colors?)
*Over at Cumulus, Jeff McKay is the new addition to the airstaff. The veteran traffic reporter made his “McKay Way” famous on WINS (1010), then made a high-profile jump to Merlin Media’s WEMP (FM News 101.9) in 2011, only to be left without a regular New York traffic client when the plug was pulled on that format last summer. McKay had been doing fill-in hosting at Wall Street Journal Radio since leaving Merlin in the fall, but now he’s on board with Radiate Media and working from a new home-based traffic center, from which he’s feeding reports to both WABC (770) and WPLJ (95.5) during morning drive.
With Mark Simone’s abrupt departure, WABC has some weekend holes to fill, and it filled one of them in a curious way: Simone’s former Saturday evening talk slot (which had started out as the “Saturday Night Oldies Show,” a spinoff of the old WABC “Rewound” events) was filled this past weekend by…some vintage “Rewound” airchecks from past Memorial Days. (No, we don’t expect that to be permanent, and yes, it’s likely there are more infomercials in WABC’s weekend future.)
That brings us to another Cumulus shoe on the verge of dropping: late last week, the FCC gave its approval to the $40 million (and potentially more) purchase of WFME (94.7 Newark) from Family Stations. That’s not quite the last hurdle Cumulus had to clear before it could add a second full-power FM to its New York City cluster, but it puts 94.7 much closer to its eventual flip from Family’s religion to a new commercial format programmed by Cumulus. How fast will that flip happen? That still depends on some additional factors: perhaps most critically, the FCC has yet to approve the main-studio waiver needed for Family to take over WDVY (106.3 Mount Kisco) from Cumulus, replacing part of the coverage the network will lose when 94.7 goes away. And of course we don’t know yet how far along Cumulus has come in getting a new studio and new programming ready for 94.7 – nor where Family stands in its stated goal of replacing 94.7 with a new AM home for its programming in New York City. And what might that new programming sound like? The betting line still leans heavily toward country, if only based on Cumulus’ stockpiling of domain registrations for a new “Nash FM” brand (thanks, RadioInsight.com!) and the ever-louder buzz we keep hearing about some prominent names being hired.
*And then there’s CBS Sports Radio, which launched January 2 as a joint venture between CBS (which is providing most of the content) and Cumulus, which is syndicating the network and providing it with a lot of its initial distribution, as we’ll see when we work our way through the region in this edition of NERW. One of the most-watched carriage situations for the network is in New York City, where we’d expected it might find a 50,000-watt AM berth on CBS Radio’s own WFAN (660) now that WFAN’s local shows are being heard on the FM dial via WFAN-FM (101.9). That might still come to pass – but it didn’t happen on launch day. For now, CBS Sports Radio’s full-time signal in New York is relegated to an FM HD subchannel, on WCBS-FM (101.1)’s HD3. That’s the former simulcast spot for WCBS (880)’s all-news format, which is now heard on WCBS-FM’s HD2. The HD2 spot had been the home of “ToNY,” the adult-hits remnant of WCBS-FM’s flirtation with “Jack FM” back in 2005; now “ToNY,” too, appears to be history.
*In Syracuse, Cumulus started the year with changes at two of its clusters: at rocker “Rebel” WXTL (105.9), afternoon host Dave Frisina is now also the PD, and he’s picked a new midday jock, Roger McCue, late of crosstown competitor WTKW/WTKV. McCue replaces Jessica Novak, who joined the station last March. (Yesterday, incidentally, was the first anniversary of WXTL’s switch from talk to rock.) Across the hall, the launch of CBS Sports Radio on January 2 meant programming changes at WSKO (1260 the Score), which has ditched Don Imus in the morning in favor of the network’s new morning offering with Tiki Barber, Brandon Tierney and Dana Jacobson. WSKO is also picking up the network’s Jim Rome show from noon until 3, which shifts local host Mike Lindsley to afternoon drive, replacing the recently-departed Brent Axe. (WSKO is also live and local from 10 AM until noon, covering up all but an hour of CBS Sports Radio’s John Feinstein in late mornings.)
In Rochester, Jim Rome has been a fixture on WHTK (1280) going back to the days when the station was doing “Hot Talk” instead of sports for most of the day, but Rome’s move from Premiere to CBS Sports Radio cost him his clearances on Clear Channel sports stations around the country, including KLAC in Los Angeles, WOFX (980 Troy) in the Albany market…and, yes, WHTK, where listeners began hearing the new Fox Sports midday offering with Jay Mohr last week.
In Buffalo, Cumulus wasn’t quite ready to launch CBS Sports Radio on day one – but its attempt to keep its plans secret went astray when WHLD (1270 Niagara Falls) showed up on the network’s inaugural affiliate list, and then when someone at the corporate IT department apparently jumped the gun and replaced the old “Swing 1270” website with the new “Sportsradio 1270 the Fan” website on Thursday. The swing tunes kept playing, though (with what were apparently pre-tracked references to “Swing1270.com”) up until just before midnight on Sunday, when the station finally made the flip to sports.
WHLD will carry 21 hours a day of CBS Sports Radio’s national lineup, with the remaining three hours being the noon-3 PM slot where the network carries Jim Rome. Rome’s previous Premiere affiliates were given the right of first refusal to continue carrying the show under Cumulus syndication, and in Buffalo that’s Entercom’s WGR (550), which is live and local most of the rest of the day. When WGR goes to Rome at noon, WHLD’s schedule indicates it plans to go live with a noon-3 show hosted by Rich “the Bull” Gaenzler, who’ll then slip across the hall to continue hosting afternoons on Cumulus modern rocker WEDG (103.3).
Across town at Townsquare Media, the new year started with a veteran voice absent from the airwaves at WYRK (106.5), where the market-leading country station parted ways with midday jock John LaMond after 25 years. What gives? WYRK says it was looking to “move in a new direction,” and it hasn’t yet named a midday replacement. (We’re also hearing that Joe Russo is out as PD of WYRK’s sister station, “Jack” WBUF 92.9.)
Townsquare is definitely moving in a new direction 200 miles down the Thruway in Utica, where it’s hired a new morning man at WIBX (950). Bill Keeler isn’t the usual AM radio morning fare: he’s best known for his many years on the FM dial as host of a sharp-edged talk show that’s been heard over the years on the old WRCK (107.3) and most recently at Mindy Barstein’s WXUR (92.7 Herkimer), where he bounced from mornings to afternoons to mornings before being replaced by the syndicated Bob & Tom in 2011. Keeler’s hardly been idle; he’s taken stabs at an online newspaper (the now-defunct “Utica Daily News”) and streaming radio (the now-defunct MOVARadio.com) and has been doing TV shows in Utica and Syracuse as well. As of next Monday, he’ll try his hand at a more structured morning talk environment, working alongside news anchor Kristine Bellino on a reworked “WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning.” It’s an innovative move on the part of Townsquare’s Utica market manager, Karen Carey, who we admired for her time in that post with Clear Channel Rochester a few years back.
Speaking of Clear Channel Rochester, its own well-known morning man, WQBW (95.1)’s Brother Wease, has lost one of his cast members. For years now, Wease’s show has developed sidekicks and sent them out into the world after honing their comedic skills on the show. Among the most notable are talk host Stephanie Miller, Opie of the Opie & Anthony satellite radio show and Seattle’s BJ Shea – and joining them in the “Wease Alumni Club” now is Jamie Lissow, who left the show after Wease’s annual 24-hour charity marathon wrapped up on December 21. On Twitter, Lissow says it was his decision, and considering how his standup comedy career has been thriving, there’s no reason we can see to doubt that. Lissow had been with Wease for just over four years, as the last remaining member of Wease’s original cast when he made the move to Clear Channel in late 2008.
Radio People on the Move: Lenny Diana started out on Long Island at the old WDRE, and after stops in Buffalo, Pittsburgh and most recently in Indiana (where we saw him in Fort Wayne last summer), he’s headed back to 631-land as the new PD of Connoisseur’s WWSK (94.3 the Shark). Making a reverse New York-to-Midwest move is Brian Phillips, late of WRXP (101.9) in New York. After a stint in music promotion with Megaforce Records, Phillips is back with Merlin Media as a jock at WIQI (101.1 Chicago). And former WXRK (92.3) jock/APD Rob Wagman is out west now, where he starts today as afternoon jock on Salem’s contemporary Christian “Fish,” KFSH (95.9) in the LA market.
*Is 2013 going to be the year of familiar personalities appearing on stations where you’d never think to find them? The latest such example is longtime morning man Bob “Wolf” Wohlfeld, who’s taken his “Waking up with the Wolf” morning show to stations in Albany and the Hudson Valley (most recently Albany’s WPYX) that have all had one thing in common: they’ve all been commercial active or classic rockers. But the latest stop for “the Wolf” is a little different: beginning today, he’s waking up at WDST (100.1 Woodstock), a station traditionally known for a much more laid-back AAA approach to the music. Wohlfeld’s arrival at WDST means some shuffling the rest of the day: Greg Gattine moves from mornings to afternoons, sending Jimmy Buff from afternoons to middays and Carmel Holt from middays to evenings. (And you’ve got to love Wohlfeld’s official statement on the move, wherein he calls WDST a “legendary station in its own right, owned and run by actual humans. Humans? Can you believe that?”)
Saga Communications (doing business locally as “Cayuga Radio Group”) is adding once again to its dominant cluster of signals in Ithaca. In addition to its existing two AMs, three FMs and three translators (two with unique formats fed by HD subchannels, one relaying WHCU 870), Saga will soon begin relaying its other AM, WNYY (1470), on the FM dial. It’s paying Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes $60,000 for translator W249CD (97.7 Cayuga Heights). That translator was applied for way back in the 2003 “Great Translator Invasion” window, but wasn’t granted until October 2012, when the FCC began to break through the freeze that had tied up thousands of those applications. Saga’s applying to upgrade the W249CD signal from 3 watts at a site east of Ithaca (near Saga’s WHCU/WYXL 97.3) to 175 watts at the WNYY tower site south of Ithaca, co-located with Saga’s other translators.
There’s translator action in the Hudson Valley, too: Clear Channel has applied to move W296AT (107.1 Catskill) to 106.9 and relocate the signal to the same tower as co-owned WCTW (98.5 Catskill, on the center tower of WCKL 560), where it would run 125 watts. And from that new site, the 106.9 translator would have a new parent station, too – instead of relaying Albany-market WPYX (106.5), it plans to simulcast Clear Channel’s WHUC (1230 Hudson), which currently runs a standards format.
In Binghamton, Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls has silenced translator W201CP (88.1) up on Ingraham Hill. It’s interfering with WWSA (88.1 Greene), the new relay up near Norwich of WSKG (89.3), and so it has special temporary authority to remain silent until a CP to move it to 89.7 can be built and it can resume relaying KEFX from Idaho.
*A radio obituary from the Empire State: Bob Jones was a fixture on standards radio for much of the time the format was still a fixture on the New York City dial, hosting “Milkman’s Matinee” and “Make Believe Ballroom” along with other airshifts on WNEW (1130) from 1975 until the station was sold to Bloomberg in 1992. (And yes, remarkably, that means this week marks the 20th anniversary of Bloomberg Radio on what’s now WBBR.) Jones moved over to the New York Times‘ radio group, hosting middays on WQXR (then on 96.3) and then becoming the final morning man on sister station WQEW (1560) until it became a Radio Disney outlet in 1998. Jones died Dec. 29, at age 70.
*In NEW JERSEY, Townsquare Media has found a new regional VP to replace Zoe Burdine-Fly (now with Clear Channel in Chicago). Greg Janoff takes over at the helm of the cluster that includes New Jersey 101.5 (WKXW), adding Townsquare to a resume that includes stints as executive VP/revenue at Merlin in New York and GM of CBS Radio’s WINS in New York.
*In western MASSACHUSETTS, a peripatetic LPFM wants to move again. WKGT-LP in North Adams lost its original frequency, 98.9, when a new full-power allocation landed on that channel. (The new full-power 98.9 in Adams isn’t on the air yet, but it will eventually be part of the UMass Amherst-based WFCR network). WKGT-LP took a displacement that moved the signal to 107.1, but owner Gospel Train Ministry tells the FCC that real-world incoming interference to the station on that frequency (largely from WFFG in Glens Falls, NY) has been higher than expected. So the low-power station’s next stop will be at 104.3,
The Cumulus corporate move from ESPN Radio to CBS Sports Radio affects Springfield: WHLL (1450) is still calling itself “The Hall,” but it’s made the flip from ESPN to CBS as of last week.
And back over Boston way, we send our best wishes to Rex Trailer and his family. The beloved former WBZ-TV (Channel 4) children’s show host spent some time in a Florida ICU last week, and his website reports it may still be a while before he’s able to come home to Massachusetts. (They’re trying to raise funds in the meantime to cover expenses for his family to stay near him in Florida.)
Under a consent decree with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston, WGBH has agreed to pay just over $300,000 to settle an investigation into its accounting system. U.S. attorney Carmen Ortiz says WGBH wasn’t adequately tracking the way money was spent from some $60 million in federal grants for its programming and operation. The consent decree comes with a five-year compliance plan to ensure the public broadcasting behemoth better tracks and reports the way its grant money is spent.
*The talk lineup in central CONNECTICUT shifts this week, at least at Buckley’s “Talk of Connecticut Network” (WDRC 1360 Hartford, WSNG 610 Torrington, WMMW 1470 Meriden, WWCO 1240 Waterbury). Local talker Mary Jones had been heard from noon-2 PM, but she’s moving to the 3-6 PM slot, swapping with Dave Ramsey. Ramsey’s now on from noon until 3 on WDRC and its sister stations, and while the moves also wipe out the hour of TRN’s America’s Radio News Network that was airing at 5 PM, Buckley is sticking with TRN in the 10-noon slot, where it’s now carrying the Andrea Tantaros show that replaced Laura Ingraham when she changed syndicators.
There’s a Cumulus ESPN-to-CBS Sports Radio swap here, too: in the Danbury market, WINE (940 Brookfield) and simulcast WPUT (1510 Brewster NY) made the switch last week.
A Nutmeg State obituary: Gary Peters (born Gary Almeida) was best known for his years as program director of Bridgeport’s WICC (600), where he arrived in 1976. Over the years, Peters also worked at WDRC, WEZN in Bridgeport, WKHL in Stamford, WATR in Waterbury and in New York at the old WQCD. He’d been in poor health lately, suffering from emphysema, and he was waiting for a lung transplant when he died last Thursday (Jan. 3) in Bridgeport, at age 64.
*The start of 2013 brought a big change to the talk lineup in RHODE ISLAND, too, as a familiar TV voice takes on daily radio duty at the biggest talker in Providence. That’s Cumulus’ WPRO (630 Providence)/WEAN (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale), where WJAR (Channel 10) evening news anchor Gene Valicenti is now the host of the “WPRO Morning News” from 6-9 AM on weekdays. Valicenti’s already known to WPRO listeners from a weekend shift he’d been doing there, and at least for the moment he’ll work a double shift, radio in the morning and TV in the evening. What becomes of the current WPRO morning team? Tara Granahan moves to an off-air position as assistant PD, and Andrew Gobeil (who himself came to WPRO from a TV gig at ABC affiliate WLNE) is reportedly out.
*CBS Sports Radio is coming to VERMONT by way of northern New York, where Vox is flipping WEAV (960 Plattsburgh NY) away from Fox Sports Radio to become the new network’s affiliate serving Burlington. It’s a sister station to Burlington’s ESPN outlet, WCPV (101.3 Essex), and is reportedly also carrying some NBC Sports Radio content on weekends.
*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, the sports radio news was not about CBS Sports Radio (which has no Granite State affiliates just yet) – it was about Boston’s WEEI, which almost expanded its regional network a few years back to include a whole bunch of Nassau-owned stations only to find the plan scotched by Nassau’s financial meltdown. Last week, though, one of those ex-Nassau stations finally did enter the WEEI network fold, by way of new owner Great Eastern. As we’d tipped you about here on NERW back in December, the former WWHQ (101.5 Meredith) is now WZEI, carrying WEEI’s talk shows to the Lakes Region and down into the Concord area as well, nicely meshing with the northern fringe of the main WEEI-FM (93.7 Lawrence-Boston) signal. Unlike the mothership, WZEI doesn’t carry Red Sox baseball or Celtics basketball yet; the Sox are on WEMJ (1490 Laconia) and the Celtics are on Great Eastern sister station WTPL (107.7 Hillsboro), which was being heard on 101.5 in a temporary simulcast before WZEI launched.
On the TV side, Bill Binnie has added several new over-the-air signals relaying his WBIN-TV (Channel 50). Through subsidiary New Hampshire 1 Network Inc., Binnie owns several low-power TV licenses in southern New Hampshire, and he’s keeping those licenses alive with special temporary authority for operation on VHF channels from the WBIN studios. Operating now from that location are W07DR-D (Channel 7, licensed to Manchester), W39AR (now on RF 4, licensed to Concord) and the former Nashua-licensed W33CR, now using the WORK-LD callsign and operating on RF 3. With well under 100 watts on each of those channels, there’s every reason to believe that these are basically placeholders and that we’ll see these licenses get moved again to higher-powered locations sometime soon.
*There was plenty of news from MAINE to start the new year, and the biggest surprise among the Pine Tree State headlines came from the Augusta-Waterville market. In our Year in Review roundup, we highlighted Don Brown as one of the veteran voices who left the region’s airwaves last year – but it turns out Brown’s ouster from WABK (104.3 Gardiner) after a 44-year run wasn’t the end of his career. After waiting out a six-month severance period from Blueberry Broadcasting, the 72-year-old Brown is back in the saddle as of today, doing mornings at WCTB (True Oldies 93.5) in Fairfield.
Brown tells Bangor’s WABI-TV that being let go from WABK after all that time was “the toughest thing that ever happened” to him after the death of his wife, but he says his return to the air at WCTB is “a rebirth.” Brown’s move to WCTB displaces the voicetracked morning show that had been hosted by another veteran jock, Joe McMillan; he’ll temporarily move to middays at WCTB and will continue to be heard on his other gig Down East at WRMO (93.7 Milbridge).
Blueberry was busy, too, in the new year: as expected, it’s now combined three of its signals in Augusta/Waterville and Bangor into a simulcast. Brown’s old central Maine home, WABK, is now fully simulcast on Bangor-area WBAK (104.7 Belfast) and Down East on WBKA (107.7 Bar Harbor), all doing classic hits as “Big 104.” WABK and WBAK had been running similar (but not simulcast) formats for the last year or so, and 107.7 began simulcasting 104.7 late last year when Blueberry acquired the former “W-Bach” (then WBQI) from Nassau.
*Way, way Down East, WCRQ (102.9 Dennysville) has filed a curious application: it wants to drop power from 100 kW down to 51 kW, the lowest it can run and retain its current class C1 status. What gives? We suspect it’s simply a matter of saving on the power bill – even at reduced power, WCRQ will still have plenty of juice over its target markets of Calais, Machias and nearby parts of New Brunswick.
*Beyond the big Philadelphia talk shifts, much of the rest of the week’s news from PENNSYLVANIA was driven by Cumulus. After swallowing Citadel, the company had a big roster of ESPN Radio outlets from one end of the Keystone State to the other – and that meant a slew of shifts from ESPN to CBS Sports Radio as of January 2. The new Cumulus/CBS Sports Radio signals include WRIE (1260 Erie), WLLF (96.7 Mercer, serving nearby Youngstown, Ohio), WHGB (1400 Harrisburg, plus an FM translator at 95.3), WGLD (1440 Manchester Township/York) and WIOV (1240 Reading, plus an FM translator at 98.5). That’s nearly all of the full-time CBS Sports Radio signals in Pennsylvania so far, except for the one big CBS Radio clearance at WIP (610 Philadelphia), which we’d long known would be breaking away from its simulcast with WIP-FM (94.1). In Pittsburgh, CBS Sports Radio has no full-time clearance, but its updates are already airing on CBS Radio’s KDKA-FM (93.7 the Fan), which will
(CBS Sports Radio also lists clearances on the “Game” network – WICK/WYCK/WCDL – in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but we’re pretty sure that’s just for the Jim Rome show; it’s listing WNTW 990 in Somerset as an affiliate as well, which could mean there’s a split coming in the news-talk simulcast between WNTW and Johnstown’s WNTJ 1490.)
Back to Cumulus: when Christmas tunes replaced hot AC “Wink 103” on WARM-FM (103.3 York) in November, keen-eared observers noticed that the holiday music was being branded not as “Wink” but as “Warm 103,” stirring suspicion that the old “Warm” AC format was coming back after Christmas. And sure enough, that’s just what happened: the powerful signal is back to “Today’s Hits and Yesterday’s Favorites,” so far running jockless.
*Radio People on the Move in Philadelphia: Beasley’s WRDW-FM (Wired 96.5) is on the hunt for a whole new morning show after parting ways not only with star morning man Chio back in December but now also with his co-host, Shila. At Clear Channel, Chris Jones (aka “Maxwell”) moves from nights to afternoons at WIOQ (102.1), taking Tim “Romeo” Herbster off the air so he can focus on his corporate programming duties; Michael Garafalo (aka “Prolifik”) moves to Philadelphia from Hartford to take over nights on Q102, though he’ll keep tracking his night shift on WKSS in Hartford, too.
On the webcast front, Sam Lit’s HyLitRadio.com has added a voice familiar to West Coast listeners: longtime LA morning man Charlie Tuna is now doing mornings on Lit’s streaming service, weekdays from 6-11, which is an impressive coup indeed.
On the public radio front, the new year brought a new format to the HD2 channel of WXPN (88.5 Philadelphia): it’s now “XPN2 Singer-Songwriter Radio,” expanding the brand of WXPN’s main-channel service. The new incarnation of “XPN2” appears to mark the very end of the station’s attempt to continue the alternative-rock legacy of the old WPLY (Y100), which had survived in reduced form via WXPN’s HD2 since 2006, when WXPN absorbed the “Y100Rocks.com” streaming service that was the initial replacement for Y100.
In Pittsburgh, Jim Lapiana has been promoted from general sales manager to GM at Sinclair’s WPGH (Channel 53)/WPMY (Channel 22), replacing Adam Frank, who’s now in a corporate post with Sinclair.
Out along the I-80 corridor between Bellefonte and Clearfield, there’s a new outlet for Invisible Allies Ministries’ State College-based “Rev FM” network: WRPV (90.5 Allport) filed for its license to cover on December 28.
*And there are two obituaries that fell during our holiday hiatus: in Erie, Tom McLaren began his career at public radio WQLN (91.3) in 1974, just a year after the station’s debut, and by 1983 had risen to the post of station manager, a job he held for 18 years. McLaren was also the voice of many WQLN-TV (Channel 54) productions, and had been working since his retirement as the stations’ historian. McLaren died December 17, at age 82.
Meanwhile in Scranton (and many other newsrooms around the country), they’re mourning Paul Steuber, the veteran news director who was known for his multiple stints at WNEP (Channel 16) and competitor WBRE (Channel 28). Steuber was most recently working in Salisbury, Maryland, and that’s where he died Christmas Day at age 65.
*So where was it a quiet start to 2013? In CANADA, apparently, where the big news involves another talker from KFI in Los Angeles expanding back east. Bill Carroll came to KFI’s midday shift three years ago from Toronto, where he’d been a fixture at CFRB (1010), and as of today he’s back on the air in the GTA with a 4-7 PM show on CFMJ (640). Carroll’s still based in LA, where we’re not quite sure how he’s navigating the overlap between his KFI show (12-3 PM PT/3-6 PM ET) and the Toronto shift, though at least he’ll never have to worry about saying the wrong frequency on the air.
Up north, the CBC is moving two more of its low-power AM relays in remote communities to FM. It’s applying to relocate CBLH (1010 Hornepayne ON) to 92.3 with 50 watts/60 m, and CBOL (1450 Armstrong) to 91.3, also with 50 watts/60 m. Both stations relay CBC Radio One from CBQT (88.3 Thunder Bay). On Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula, CBC/Radio Canada has also applied for a pair of AM-to-FM moves for low-power relays in Murdochville: CBMJ (relaying CBC Radio One’s CBVE 104.7 Quebec City) from AM 750 to FM 99.5 and CBGA-6 (relaying Radio-Canada premiere chaine CBGA 102.1 Matane) from AM 1270 to FM 97.7. Both new FM signals will run 98 watts/367 m, non-directional.
And if you missed it amidst our holiday updates, there’s now an HD Radio signal in the Golden Horseshoe. Corus’ CING (Vinyl 95.3) in Hamilton quietly turned on its HD in late December for the few Canadians with digital receivers. (We heard from one who’s getting it loud and clear in digital in downtown Toronto.) Because of the CRTC’s regulatory policies on subchannel services, there’s only an HD-1 on 95.3 for now.
*It’s 2013! Do you have your 2013 Tower Site Calendar yet? It can be on your wall in just a few days, if you order right now!
This is the 12th edition of our annual calendar, which features photos of broadcast towers taken by Scott Fybush on his travels.
The 12-month wall calendar boasts a full-color photo each month of a well-known broadcast transmitter site.
This year’s edition includes sites in Florida, Wisconsin, Kentucky, California, Iowa, Idaho, Las Vegas, Colorado, Boston, Cleveland, Albuquerque, upstate New York and western Massachusetts. We’ve also redesigned the calendar to make it more colorful (don’t worry; the pictures are still pristine) and make the spiral binding our standard binding — your calendar will hang even better on your wall now! And of course, we still have the convenient hole for hanging.
Order 20 or more for a 10% discount! And while you’re at the Fybush.com store, check out the new National Radio Club AM Log and the final stash of FM Atlas editions.
For more information and to order yours, click here!
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.
One Year Ago: January 9, 2012 –
*The FM landscape in NEW YORK City promises to be an interesting place in 2012. As the new year began, we already knew that financial woes at Inner City Broadcasting could lead to WBLS (107.5) going up for sale – but it now appears that WBLS may not be the only big New York FM signal to hit the auction block in the next few months.
At this time last year, Family Stations founder Harold Camping would have told you, if you’d asked, that the world wasn’t even going to be around in 2012, and the cost of publicizing his prediction of global apocalypse in 2011 began to spark speculation of station sales long before we all found out that the world was going to keep on existing past May (and then past Camping’s revised October apocalypse date.)
It turns out that the first two big Family FM signals to be sold – WFSI (107.9 Annapolis MD) to CBS, for $8.5 million, followed by WKDN (106.9 Camden NJ) to Merlin Media, for $22.5 million – may not have brought in enough cash to pay Family’s bills. Now it’s WFME (94.7 Newark NJ) that appears to be getting readied for a sale. Last week, Family asked the FCC to change the station’s status from noncommercial to commercial, the same procedure that preceded the sales of WFSI and WKDN last year.
*In Syracuse, Cumulus started the new year with a talk-to-rock format flip: WXTL (105.9) went to a TV-themes stunt after the Bob & Tom morning show on Friday morning, followed at 1:05 PM with the launch of “The Rebel,” a new classic rocker.
“We’re giving central New York a new and different choice for rock, with deeper album cuts and true variety,” said operations manager Tom Mitchell.
Aside from Bob & Tom, whose syndicated morning show continues, there’s no airstaff yet at the station, which is being programmed by WAQX (95.7) PD Hunter Scott – but there’s almost nobody in the market who’s failed to notice that the launch of the Rebel came just days after veteran WTKW (99.5) jock Dave Frisina got his walking papers from Galaxy Communications.
There’s plenty of disruption elsewhere on the upstate airwaves: not only are the Buffalo Bills moving to a new radio home – Entercom’s WGR (550) – this fall, there’s a schedule change at their former flagship. Yup, it’s Cumulus again: at the former Citadel Buffalo cluster, Shredd and Ragan are returning to morning drive on WEDG (103.3 the Edge) today after more than five years in afternoons. The popular duo were displaced to make room for Opie and Anthony in the mornings, but they stayed in afternoons long after O&A decamped for satellite radio. Their return to mornings shifts Rich “The Bull” Gaenzler back to afternoons.
Here in Rochester, Pete Kennedy is back on the air in a familiar location: he worked at the HSBC Building when the 16th and 17th floors were home to WPXY (97.9) under CBS Radio, then followed “98PXY” to new owner Entercom, which shifted him to sister station WBZA (98.9) before cutting him loose last year. Now the “Mayor” is back at HSBC, where he started last week as morning man on WDVI (100.5 the Drive). Down the hall on the 16th floor, WHAM (1180) talker Bob Lonsberry is getting used to his new schedule, which finds him working 9 AM-1 PM on WHAM and then 3-5 PM on WSYR (106.9/570) in Syracuse. WHAM’s schedule shift displaced the syndicated Michael Savage show, but it wasn’t gone from the market for long: Savage is now being heard at night on Bob Savage’s WYSL (1040 Avon) and its Rochester translator at 92.1.
*In PENNSYLVANIA, it was Cumulus making some cuts once again at a former Citadel property: Jim Bone is gone at WBSX (97.9 Hazleton), and the syndicated Michigan-based “Free Beer and Hot Wings” morning show is now being heard instead at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton active rocker. Across town at Entercom, veteran talk producer “Bosco” is reportedly out at WILK after several decades with the station.
Up the road in Carlisle, WIOO (1000) isn’t back home just yet, but the classic country station (also heard on WEEO 1480 Shippensburg and two FM translators) is at least in temporary quarters after the fire last week that heavily damaged its York Road studio building. The fire apparently started in electrical wires in the first-floor ceiling, just a few minutes after PD Ray Thomas had left the building for lunch on that holiday Monday. It’s still not clear when (or if) WIOO will be able to move back home.
Five Years Ago: January 7, 2008 –
*It was one of the biggest radio stories of the summer in NEW HAMPSHIRE, MAINE and the rest of northern New England last year: Entercom, programmer of Boston’s highly successful WEEI (850 Boston), was to partner with Nassau to spread WEEI’s sports format to Portland, Concord, the Lakes Region, the Upper Valley and Cape Cod – and in exchange, Entercom would take a half-interest in Nassau’s classical WCRB (99.5 Lowell) for the improbably-low-sounding sum of $10 million. (Nassau had paid $60 million for the station just a year earlier, after all.)
As 2007 wound to a close, Nassau began laying the groundwork for the format changes that would accompany the start of its WEEI simulcasts: in Concord and the Lakes Region, WNNH (99.1 Henniker) and WLKZ (104.9 Wolfeboro) moved from oldies to classic hits (“Frank”) to clear the way for classic rocker “Hawk” WWHK (102.3 Concord)/WWHQ (101.5 Meredith) to become WEEI affiliates. And the “Free Beer and Hot Wings” morning show heard on several Nassau stations started saying goodbye to listeners in Portland (“Bone” WHXR/WHXQ).
But then rumors started spreading about problems with the deal, and even as the champagne was being chilled and we were stepping away from the computer on New Year’s Eve afternoon, the companies pulled the plug on their plans for a network.
“The transaction hit an impasse,” was the word from Nassau’s Lou Mercatanti to Clea Simon at the Boston Globe, and we’ve still heard nothing definitive about what caused the deal to fall apart at the last minute.
So in the absence of hard fact, we’ll offer some educated speculation. First, from the Entercom side of the fence, there’s no question that the deal was more essential to announce in August than to close in December. In August, WEEI faced what could have been a serious challenge to its sports supremacy: while Entercom had locked up a long-term Red Sox contract, at no small expense, its morning stars John Dennis and Gerry Callahan were flirting with other suitors – not just the long-rumored Greater Media dream of flipping WBOS (92.9) to an all-sports format, but also a possible Nassau flip of WCRB to sports. Allying Nassau with WEEI took away that option for Dennis and Callahan, and it’s no coincidence that the pair re-signed with Entercom soon after the Nassau deal was announced.
With Dennis and Callahan safely under contract, and the Sox not only safely under contract but celebrating their second World Series in four years, the threats to WEEI are significantly blunted today as compared to last summer. And while WEEI could certainly have benefited from adding WCRB’s FM signal (with its strong reach from southern New Hampshire into Boston’s northern and western suburbs) to its existing network, we have no way of knowing if that simulcast was ever anything more than rank speculation, anyway.
Also speculative – but it’s a speculation we’re pretty comfortable making – is the notion that Nassau, in the end, needed Entercom more than Entercom needed Nassau. While Nassau could certainly still create a sports network out of the stations that were targeted to become WEEI relays, it’s hard to imagine the national sports coverage of ESPN Radio, Fox Sports Radio or any of their competitors having the same regional appeal as the non-stop Sox/Pats/Celtics (and occasionally BC Eagles and Bruins) talk that makes up most of WEEI’s programming day. (We can also speculate that Entercom won’t give up on the idea of an expanded WEEI network on stations other than Nassau’s.)
*The year’s first big station sale came early, and it involved a familiar face in VERMONT radio. Ken Barlow’s history in the Green Mountain State includes stints at WCFR in Springfield and WDOT in Burlington, then the launch in the nineties of WCPV (Champ 101.3) and WXPS (now WXZO 96.7). After his Dynacomm group sold those stations to Capstar in 1999, Barlow went on to join Bruce Danziger and Jeff Shapiro to build the Vox Radio Group, which at one point owned more stations in northern New England than any other broadcaster.
In 2005, Vox sold most of its stations to Nassau. Barlow and Danziger then formed Vox Communications Group, which picked up Vox Radio’s cluster in western Massachusetts.
And now Vox Communications is coming into Vermont with an $11 million purchase of Clear Channel’s Burlington and Randolph stations – including Barlow’s old haunts, WCPV and WXZO.
Here’s what the entire cluster looks like: there’s AC “Star” WEZF (92.9 Burlington), with a class C signal from Mount Mansfield that is, hands-down, the best commercial FM signal in Vermont. Classic rock “Champ” is now heard on both WCPV (101.3 Essex NY) in the Burlington market and on WCVR (102.1 Randolph) in central Vermont. WXZO (96.7 Willsboro NY) now carries a talk format as “The Zone,” simulcast on WEAV (960 Plattsburgh) and WTSJ (1320 Randolph). South of Burlington, there’s also “True Oldies Channel” WVTK (92.1 Port Henry NY).
(NERW notes that these stations were originally among the big group of signals in small Clear Channel markets that were supposed to go to the Goodradio.TV group in that deal that never came to fruition last year; we also note that this is Clear Channel’s second New England spinoff to a group with roots in the old Vox Radio Group – the company’s stations in the White River Junction/Lebanon/Hanover market were sold last year to Jeff Shapiro’s new Great Eastern Radio group, which is now competing against the former Vox, now Nassau, cluster in that region.)
*In CONNECTICUT, Clear Channel’s WELI (960 New Haven) has named a replacement for Jerry Kristafer, who’s headed north to Hartford’s WDRC-FM for mornings. As had been widely rumored, WELI will pick up Don Imus for its morning drive slot, effective next Monday (Jan. 14).
*In addition to the Nassau/WEEI/WCRB developments we covered at the top of the column, there’s other news out of MASSACHUSETTS, starting with a new format on the AM dial. WJOE (700 Athol) quietly dropped its oldies format last Wednesday (Jan. 2), flipping to ESPN sports.
Ten Years Ago: January 6, 2003 –
Radio listeners in PENNSYLVANIA’s largest market can be forgiven if they’re a little confused in the morning this week — and it has nothing to do with New Year’s revelry, just some staffing changes at two Greater Media FMs.
We’ll start with struggling hot AC WMWX (95.7), which brought familiar Philly voice Glenn Kalina to its morning airwaves this week. Mix also brought Brian Murphy (a Philly vet most recently heard on Boston’s WODS) to middays, displacing Lauren Valle, and moved former morning guy Joe Mama to afternoons, replacing Rick Stacy. Just to complete the shuffle, the station won’t be carrying Delilah’s syndicated nighttime show any longer; her replacement on Mix has yet to be announced. Down the hall at WMMR (93.3), Paul Barsky’s latest Philadelphia gig has come to an end. With Barsky’s contract not being renewed, ‘MMR is using sports guy “Vinnie the Crumb” and former WHFS Washington jock Graeme to handle mornings until a permanent replacement is named.
Over in the Williamsport market, Backyard Broadcasting started the new year with a new set of call letters on WSFT (107.9), which relaunches with hotter AC as WRVH, “the River”. (NERW notes that Nassau was slapped with a cease-and-desist from Clear Channel after launching a “River” in Easton last year; this one is even closer to WRVV in Harrisburg, as it happens.)
While the rumor mill keeps churning in Buffalo (where both UPN viewers had to switch their dials from WNGS, channel 67, to WNLO, channel 23 when that affiliation moved January 1), there’s some actual news from elsewhere in NEW YORK.
Syracuse’s new “Dog” (WWDG 105.1 DeRuyter) hired its first jock, bringing “Scorch” over from competitor WKRL (100.9 North Syracuse)/WKRH (106.5 Minetto). Scorch had been doing mornings at Galaxy’s K-Rock; he’ll be doing the 2-7 PM shift for Clear Channel’s new rocker. South of Syracuse, oldies fans in the Cortland area have a station to call their own again. A few months after WKRT (920 Cortland) switched from oldies to talk, locally-owned WXHC (101.5 Homer) has dropped its AC format to become “Oldies 101.5.”
Down in the New York market, the end appears to be very near for “Rumba 107,” the latest format on the Big City quadcast at 107.1 (WYNY Briarcliff Manor NY, WWXY Hampton Bays NY, WWYY Belvidere NJ, WWZY Long Branch NJ). With the stations changing hands to Nassau soon (for a reported $43 million), the Rumba Web site is already down and we hear the jocks at the Spanish-English hybrid CHR are out of work. We’ll be spending some time in the New York market later this month, so stay tuned for the latest on this one.
Fifteen Years Ago: January 8, 1998 –
Radio listeners in southern Vermont and New Hampshire are mourning one of the area’s best-known morning jocks. Ian Taylor died in his sleep New Year’s Eve, just a few days before he was to have started a new job doing mornings on oldies WXOD (98.7 Winchester NH). Taylor was born Edward O’Donnell in Utica, New York in 1952, and attended the now-defunct Grahm Junior College in Boston. After working at stations in Utica and Albany, his career included stops at WEQX (102.7) Manchester VT, WPYX (106.5 Albany), and four years as morning host at WKVT-FM (92.7) Brattleboro VT. In recent months, he had been working as a salesman for WYRY (104.9) Hinsdale NH.
The oldest TV station in MASSACHUSETTS has a new look. WBZ-TV (Channel 4) unveiled its new logo featuring a “4” in a three-quarter circle Sunday night (you can see it at www.wbz.com, albeit in black and white), and was promptly dubbed “The Circle 4 Ranch” by sports anchor and station wag Bob Lobel. The retro-look logo accompanies the launch of BZ’s 50th anniversary campaign and revamped morning show.
Up the dial and down the road, future PaxNet affiliate WHRC (Channel 46, soon to be WIPX) in Norwell has launched a local newscast of sorts. “Norwell News” debuted last week on channel 46.
“Kiss 108,” WXKS-FM (107.9) Medford-Boston, has been shuffling its DJ lineup in the wake of J.J. Wright’s recent departure. Ed McMahon takes over Wright’s old 10 AM – 2 PM shift, while “Artie the One Man Party” follows Dale Dorman from 6-10 PM, Skip Kelly works 10 PM -2 AM, and Christine Fox gets the all-night shift. Also shuffling jocks is modern rocker WFNX (101.7 Lynn), where Julie Kramer is replacing Adrian in the 10 AM – 3 PM spot, Angie C. departs the morning show (with Chris Kennedy filling in as interim host), and Cruze, ‘FNX’s new program director, takes the PM drive slot.
In MAINE, Pilot Broadcasting is moving north from its Pine Tree State stronghold in the Waterville-Augusta market. Pilot is paying Tim Martz $5.2 million for his Maine stations. In Presque Isle, that’s market-dominating country WBPW (96.9), hot AC WQHR (96.1), and oldies WOZI (101.7). Pilot also gets WHRR (102.9 Dennysville), the Calais-area station that has yet to pick a permanent format.
As we’d suspected a few weeks back, RHODE ISLAND now has a Radio Disney affiliate. WHIM (1450 West Warwick) quietly switched from country to kids radio late last month, ending a 30-plus year association between the WHIM calls (for most of that time on 1110) and country music in the Ocean State.
The Rochester, NEW YORK market is getting a new low-power TV station. WBGT-LP (Channel 40) is owned by David Grant, a former Rochester TV engineer who now owns Fox affiliate WYDC (Channel 48) Corning-Elmira. Like WYDC, WBGT will go by “Big TV” on the air, and will feature a diet of sitcoms and old movies once it goes on the air later this month. This is the same license as the long-defunct W40AG, although it will transmit from the WRMM-FM (101.3) tower on Rochester’s west side instead of W40AG’s location on the WBEE-FM (92.5) tower east of town. If WBGT has already cranked up to its full 10 kilowatts, it will have serious signal problems south and east of town; here at the NERW listening and viewing post on the south side, the WBGT color bars are just barely viewable with an indoor antenna. Grant says he’s working on UPN affiliation and cable carriage for his new station.