In this week’s issue… Rush moves to WOR: What next for WABC? – Celtics seek post-WEEI radio home – Buffalo Broadcasters name Hall inductees – New TV on air in Montreal
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*The end to one of the biggest “what-if” scenarios in NEW YORK radio came quietly late last week, when Cumulus Media and Clear Channel came to terms on a new agreement that will keep Clear Channel’s Rush Limbaugh on the big former ABC/Citadel talk stations now owned by Cumulus in major markets such as Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth and Washington.
But while Rush won’t move from legacy affiliates including WLS, WBAP and WMAL (not to mention smaller Cumulus outlets such as WXLM 980 in Groton, Connecticut), the deal between Cumulus and Clear Channel will bring Limbaugh to a new spot on the New York City radio dial beginning in January 2014, as he leaves Cumulus’ WABC (770) after a quarter of a century in favor of Clear Channel’s WOR (710).
The reasonably amicable resolution of what could have been an ugly dispute (there are few good options for replacement Limbaugh affiliates in many of the big Cumulus markets) continues a pattern of cooperation between the two big “C” companies: Cumulus’ stations are part of Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio streaming service, while Clear Channel’s stations now take part in Cumulus’ SweetJack daily deal site.
Amicable as it may have been, though, the shift of Limbaugh from WABC to WOR will force some big changes on both stations’ schedules:
*On WOR, Limbaugh’s arrival in the noon-3 PM slot will displace one of the station’s longest-running hosts, Joan Hamburg, from her current noon-2 PM airshift, which in turn opens up some interesting questions about what direction the daily WOR schedule will end up taking. There’s no reason to think John R. Gambling’s morning show is going anywhere (and we note here the death on August 17 of Gambling’s mother, Sally, at age 83; she was also, of course, the wife of John A. Gambling, John R.’s predecessor on the WOR morning shift.) What’s less clear, though, is whether Hamburg’s show will move into the 10 AM-noon slot now occupied by Mark Simone. If Hamburg does go to mid-mornings, where her service-oriented show would be an odd lead-in to Limbaugh’s politics), Simone would likely return to the fill-in/weekend duty he’d been doing for years at WOR and before that at WABC.
The New York clearance of Dave Ramsey’s financial advice show from 2-4 PM will be history in January, wiped out by the last hour of Rush and the first hour of Sean Hannity, who’s moving his show completely off Cumulus’ stations, WABC included; Hannity’s 3-6 PM shift on WOR will thus also take out the 4-6 PM show now hosted by Rita Cosby. At least for now, WOR has been clearing some second- and third-tier Clear Channel/Premiere talk in the evening: Andy Dean from 6-9 PM, Los Angeles-based John and Ken from 9-11 PM, Clyde Lewis from 11 PM-1 AM and Coast to Coast AM overnight. (Where have you gone, Jean Shepherd?)
But if WOR’s path is reasonably clear – Clear Channel bought it from Buckley, after all, primarily to be a New York clearinghouse for its Premiere talkers, augmented by Gambling and other local hosts – WABC’s future is a little murkier.
Under Cumulus, of course, much of the “special sauce” that once made WABC such a distinctive talk station has vanished: in recent years, WABC has itself been largely a clearinghouse for syndicated product, including not only Limbaugh and Hannity but also the aging Don Imus in morning drive and Cumulus’ Geraldo Rivera, Mark Levin, John Batchelor and Red Eye Radio overnight.
With Limbaugh and Hannity off the schedule, Cumulus will have some big decisions to make. Does it pull its own lackluster Mike Huckabee midday offering into the noon slot Limbaugh now occupies? And will Talk Radio Network’s Michael Savage, now heard 9-11 PM, make good on his promise to become the nationwide Cumulus replacement for Hannity in afternoons? Or might WABC turn back to a more local approach to counter the increased syndication on WOR? Those answers, no doubt, will trickle out over the next few months, continuing to give us something to talk about here on NERW as 2013 turns into 2014.
*The week’s other top story came from MASSACHUSETTS, where Entercom’s WEEI was back in the headlines for a second week running as the Boston Celtics announced they’d broken off negotiations to renew the deal between the team and the station. The Celtics and Entercom had been together for eight years, first on WRKO (680) and then on WEEI since 2008. But while the team was in a strong negotiating position back then, winning its most recent NBA championship in 2008, there’s been quite the turnover since then, with the Celtics now staring down what looks to be a string of rebuilding years before they’re once again contenders.
That puts the team in quite a weak position when it comes to finding a new radio home. With the considerable overlap of schedules between the NBA Celtics and the NHL Bruins, there’s not much room for the basketball team on what would otherwise be its likeliest new radio voice, CBS Radio’s “Sports Hub” WBZ-FM (98.5), and the length of the NBA season means CBS is unlikely to want to bump a considerable number of Celts/Bruins conflicts over to any of its non-sports outlets in town. (We still vividly recall how the late WBZ 1030 night host David Brudnoy bristled at being preempted by Bruins hockey in the days before there even was a WBZ-FM.)
If the Celtics don’t go to the Sports Hub (and that’s not a certainty), the options slim down pretty quickly. The market’s third sports station, WUFC (1510), would no doubt welcome the addition of a major sports franchise to help draw attention to its “NBC Sports Radio 1510” programming, and with the Celtics in no strong position to demand much money for the radio rights, WUFC’s programmers could probably afford the games. But there was a reason the Celtics didn’t want to continue the five-year deal they had with 1510 in its previous WWZN incarnation from 2001-2006: the highly directional 1510 night signal misses big chunks of the market, especially to the west of Boston.
A Celtics move to 1510 – or to leasing time on any of the market’s other second-tier AMs, if it comes to that – would make it all the more essential for the team to have a strong radio network outside of Boston, and that’s another problem with the loss of WEEI. Entercom ran the Celtics network until last season, with much of the team’s reach coming via WEEI’s own network everywhere from Cape Cod to Providence to Worcester to Springfield to southern New Hampshire. Only a handful of non-WEEI outlets were on the network at the end, mainly in more distant locations such as northern Vermont (WDEV in Waterbury and WVMT in Burlington), Bangor (WZON) and Concord (WTPL). Even if those stations want to continue carrying the Celtics, there’d have to be a network in place to service them, and that’s something WUFC lacks the infrastructure to provide.
Could there yet be a Celtics-WEEI rapprochement? With the Bruins and Patriots both across the street on the Sports Hub, WEEI’s only other strong play-by-play offering once the Red Sox wrap up their season is Boston College football, and even a flailing Celtics team still provides some much-needed nighttime appointment listening that might yet be valuable to WEEI, if a break from the negotiating table were to bring the team back at a lower price.
One way or another, the team hopes to have a radio voice in place by the time NBA preseason action gets underway October 7. It’s all enough, no doubt, to have the Celtics’ current ownership wishing the team had maintained the broadcast portfolio it once owned outright – the Celtics, after all, put WEEI’s original sports format on the air in 1991 back when WEEI was still on AM 590, and the team also owned Fox affiliate WFXT (Channel 25) before selling it to Fox itself.
*We can say with some certainty that wherever the Celtics land, it won’t be Emerson College’s WERS (88.9 Boston). But even without sports play-by-play, WERS is making dramatic changes to its evening lineup. With no notice last week, WERS pulled two of its longest-running specialty shows off the air in favor of additional hours of the AAA format that’s becoming the station’s focus. “Rockers,” WERS’ daily reggae show, traced its history back to the 1970s and an Emerson student named Doug Herzog who’d go on to run MTV; “88.9 @ Night,” which followed “Rockers” on weeknights at 10, was one of the Boston area’s premiere venues for hip-hop music in a market where urban formats were very slow to arrive on the FM dial.
This latest change comes on the heels of another controversial move at WERS, the recent addition of the station’s first paid staffer, morning host George Knight, and it’s raising some as-yet-unanswered questions about what Emerson’s long-range plans for its potent radio voice might be. While plenty of colleges and universities have sold off their student radio outlets in recent years, perceiving a lack of student interest and an increasingly off-core expense, Emerson is rather a different animal. As arguably the most prominent training ground for New England broadcasters today, WERS is unquestionably a core part of Emerson’s mission, and we’d think it would remain essential for students to continue to be right at the center of its on-air product.
At the same time, it appears Emerson wants to make its radio voice a more consistent part of the Boston dial, appealing to a larger chunk of the audience with a more consistent format – and to the extent that that’s what it should be training its students to do in the real world once they graduate, there’s some validity to WERS’ more formatted approach. Can WERS pull it off without losing the pieces that have made 88.9 a unique part of the Boston dial for so long? The key may lie in the weekend schedule, where the last pieces of “WERS at Night” live on in the form of Saturday- and Sunday-night R&B shows, heard alongside long-running specialty shows such as “Standing Room Only,” the Broadway show that spawned an entire format now heard on WERS’ HD2 signal.
*Out west, there’s a station sale in the Berkshires: Vox Communications has filed to sell its six stations in North Adams, Pittsfield and Great Barrington to Greg Reed’s Reed Miami Holdings LLC. The Vox stations operate under two ownership names – Gamma Broadcasting for oldies WUPE (1110 Pittsfield), talk WBEC (1420 Pittsfield) and top-40 WBEC-FM (95.9 Pittsfield) and Berkshire Broadcasting for oldies WUPE-FM (100.1 North Adams), AC WNAW (1230 North Adams) and full-service WSBS (860 Great Barrington). No purchase price has been disclosed for the stations; Vox paid just over $2 million for the Berkshire Broadcasting stations in 2004, $4.3 million for WBEC and the former WBEC-FM (105.5) in 2002 and $3 million for WUPE and what’s now WBEC-FM on 95.9 in 2003; of that $9.3 million total, Vox recouped $5.75 million when it sold the 105.5 license to Entercom in 2006, a sale that moved 105.5 eastward into the Springfield market as an outpost of the WEEI network.
*Back in June, your editor traveled to the Merrimack Valley to spend a very pleasant evening talking radio with some of the region’s most interesting thinkers at a panel discussion that accompanied a screening of the new documentary “Corporate FM.” If you missed the chance to hear me chat with Donna Halper, Dan Kennedy, WPKZ owner Bill Macek, WHAV.net’s Marc Lemay and the documentary’s director, Kevin McKinney, you’ll get to hear a replay of the panel discussion twice this week over WHAV.net, which sponsored the presentation. It airs Monday night at 9 and again Thursday night at 9, and you can find more details and a link to the streaming audio right here.
*There’s a new news director coming to RHODE ISLAND‘s ABC affiliate. WLNE (Channel 6), with studios in Providence but licensed to New Bedford, has named Nicole Moye as its new news leader. She moves east from Tribune-owned Fox affiliate WPMT (Channel 43) in York, Pennsylvania, where she was assistant news director, and she fills a void left behind when Bob Rockstroh resigned in July.
*There’s a new news director at the next ABC affiliate to the west, too – WTNH (Channel 8) in New Haven, CONNECTICUT, where Al Carl moves up after a year and a half as managing editor. Carl replaces Erik Schrader, who’s now general manager at KSNW in Wichita, Kansas.
In Hartford, Allison Demers has departed CBS Radio’s WRCH (100.5) after 13 years with the AC station, most recently as morning co-host. Demers was recently ordained as a minister and says she wants to spend more time on that work and with her family; no replacement has been named yet on the WRCH morning show.
Sports on the move: Yale University football will be heard this fall on WAVZ (1300) as part of a new three-year deal, with some games simulcast on Clear Channel sister station WELI (960). (And while we don’t always get around to doing a full “College Sports on the Radio” roundup as often as we should, we’ve been belated in noting the new University of MAINE deal that lands the prominent Black Bears hockey and football broadcasts on Blueberry Broadcasting’s WVOM 103.9 for the next five years, while UMaine basketball and baseball will become an important part of the lineup at Dan Priestly’s WGUY 1230 and its FM translator at 94.1; some overflow may move to Priestly’s sister stations WWNZ 1400 or WNZS 1340.)
*In addition to the big news from the big city, our NEW YORK news includes an impending format change in Binghamton, where Equinox Broadcasting is completing a flip that began with its surprise decision back in June to move oldies “Cool” from WCDW (100.5 Susquehanna PA) to the bigger signal that had been AC “Q107” WRRQ (106.7 Port Dickinson). Since the flip in June, “Cool” has been simulcasting on both the 106.7 signal from the main Ingraham Hill tower farm and the rimshot 100.5 signal, a class A from a site east of Binghamton in Windsor, NY. Last week, though, Equinox moved callsigns, turning 106.7 into WCDW and putting the calls WDRE (famous from earlier stints on alternative stations on Long Island and in Philadelphia) on 100.5. That call swap is tied into a flip that has moved the alternative “Drive” format to 100.5 from its initial home on Equinox translator W283AG (104.5 Binghamton) and one of 106.7’s HD subchannels.
There’s a new format coming to 104.5 after a period of simulcasting; “Drive,” meanwhile, will use Equinox translator W236AP (95.1 Binghamton) to help fill in the areas on the west side of Binghamton that can’t easily hear the main 100.5 signal. (Equinox also has two other HD/translator formats in town, rock “Z93” and soft AC “Sunny 107.”)
One bit of irony: one of the reasons the 100.5 signal has to be an east-side rimshot into Binghamton is the tight spacing to an older signal on the same frequency, Clear Channel’s Rochester station, WDVI, that’s also known as “100.5 the Drive.”
*Binghamton will soon be the site of one of several big radio-related events taking place around the Empire State in early autumn. The Binghamton Broadcasters Reunion takes place September 14 at the DoubleTree Hotel on Water Street, featuring actor Edward Herrmann as its special guest alongside award honorees Barb Mack (Broadcaster of the Year), Dana Potter (Living Legend), Anne Marie Courtney (Special Achievement) and John Davison (Audio Technica Award)…and we’ll be there, too, with some of the first Tower Site Calendar 2014 copies to come off the presses!
The Buffalo Broadcasters will hold their annual Hall of Fame induction gala on September 28 at the WNED studios in downtown Buffalo, and they just announced the Class of 2013 last week: the late WIVB anchorman Bob Koop gets the Memorial Award, TV journalist Nancy Sanders will accept the Al Anscombe Award, Dave May gets the Behind the Scenes Award, veteran NBC consumer reporter Janice Lieberman gets the Buffalo Bob Smith Award, longtime WEBR/WNED jazz- and newsman Al Wallack and WKBW anchor Linda Pellegrino get the General Award, and St. Bonaventure student Danny Bush Jr. gets the Tim Russert “Medal of Merit Award.” The event will also honor the 50th anniversary of religious outlet WDCX-FM (99.5).
In October, the action shifts downstate as the Audio Engineering Society holds its 135th convention at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. The event runs from October 17-20 and includes an extensive lineup of broadcast-related sessions, as well as some nifty historical sessions on topics including the recording of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” album at Abbey Road back in 1967.
*And we note the passing of Cal Brady, who began his career as air talent in Buffalo at stations that included WYSL (1400)/WPHD (103.3) and WBUF (92.9) before moving out west and becoming a station owner on the Oregon coast. Brady died on Monday in Los Angeles of liver and kidney failure.
*Central NEW JERSEY‘s AM talk station announced a new program lineup last week. In the wake of longtime morning host Jack Ellery’s retirement from WCTC (1450 New Brunswick), the Greater Media station has named Bert Baron as the permanent replacement from 6-9 AM. Baron’s move opens up a series of changes the rest of the day: Laura Ingraham will now be heard for three hours, from 9 AM-noon, followed from noon-3 PM by veteran Jersey radio guy Tommy G and then from 3-6 PM by Steve Malzberg’s NewsMax syndicated offering.
In Newark, Josh Jackson has been promoted to the new role of vice president of content at WBGO (88.3), overseeing not only on-air programming but also online content for the noncommercial jazz outlet, where he continues as host of the weekly “Checkout” show.
*Williamsport, PENNSYLVANIA was the last market standing as Barry Drake sold off his Backyard Broadcasting empire in market-by-market chunks, and now it too has been sold. This sale is all within the family, though: longtime local manager Dan Farr is the buyer, doing business as “Backyard Broadcasting PA LLC.”
No purchase price has been disclosed for the sale, which includes news-talk WWPA (1340 Williamsport) and its FM translator W267BJ (101.3), oldies WBZD-FM (93.3 Muncy), rock simulcast WZXR (99.3 South Williamsport)/WCXR (103.7 Lewisburg), top-rated country “Q105” WILQ (105.1 Williamsport) and hot AC WLMY (107.9 Williamsport), and there’s every reason to believe that no changes at all are planned in that lineup when Farr takes ownership.
*In Allentown, public broadcaster WLVT (Channel 39) is relaunching its weekly public affairs show under a new name with a new host this fall. After 14 years as “Tempo InDepth,” most recently anchored by departed general manager Amy Burkett (who’s now running WTVI in Charlotte), WLVT’s new offering beginning Sept. 20 will be “Focus,” anchored by former “Tempo” reporter Laura McHugh with reporting from Grover Silcox and Brittany Garzillo. The new show will air Fridays at 7:30, with several weekend repeats.
*At the western edge of the Keystone State, Cumulus is re-filing to move WWIZ (103.9 Mercer) a little closer to the larger Youngstown market across the Ohio state line. An earlier CP to change WWIZ’s city of license to West Middlesex PA expired unbuilt earlier in August. The new WWIZ application would maintain the station’s present facility on Mercer-West Middlesex Road just north of I-80.
The “singleton” translator applications just keep coming: last week, there were applications for new translator CPs on 103.3 Erie PA (KAWZ 89.9 Twin Falls ID, via translator W207BA), by Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls; 99.3 Reading PA (WLCH 91.3 Lancaster), by the Spanish American Civic Association for Equality; 92.3 Laureldale PA (moved from 92.1, and now relaying WLAN-FM 96.9 Lancaster instead of WRFY 102.5 Reading), by Clear Channel; 92.1 Irwin PA (WKHB 620 Irwin), by Broadcast Communications Inc.; 106.5 Hammonton NJ (WKVP 89.5 Cherry Hill) by Broadcast Learning Center, Inc.; 104.1 Hammonton NJ (WVBV 90.5 Medford Lakes NJ), by Ted Schober; 96.7 Tremley NJ and 97.9 Redwood NY (both WRDR 89.7 Freehold Township), by Bridgelight LLC; 95.1 Fort Greene (Brooklyn) NY (WJUX 99.7 Monticello), by Bridgelight LLC; 103.7 Durhamville NY (WMVN 100.3 Sylvan Beach) by Wolf Radio, Inc.: 107.1 Hauppauge NY (changed to WSUF 89.9 Noyock from the originally-proposed WPAT-FM 93.1 Paterson NJ) by Juan Alberto Ayala; 97.7 Saranac Lake NY, moved from 98.1, and 97.3 Pittsfield MA, moved from 97.9 (both WNGN 91.9 Argyle), by Northeast Gospel Broadcasting; 94.5 Flanders NY (WSUF 89.9 Noyock), also by Ayala, who’s shifted that application from 94.1; 106.7 Corning NY and 107.1 Bath NY, moved from 106.7 (both relaying WKPQ 105.3 Hornell), by Bilbat Radio; 93.7 Chittenango NY, moved from 93.5 (WTKW 99.5 Bridgeport), by Galaxy; 97.7 Westchester MA (WSRS 96.1 Worcester), by Clear Channel; 102.1 Millbrook CT (WKCI 101.3 Hamden, changed from WKSS 95.7 Hartford), by Clear Channel; 96.1 Danbury CT (WEZN-FM 99.9 Bridgeport), by Sacred Heart University, which is expected to convert the signal back to a noncommercial relay of its own WSHU-FM once the CP is granted.
*In CANADA, Montreal’s newest TV station has begun testing. CFHD (Channel 47) will be multicultural “ICI TV” (International Channel/Canal International) when it signs on, at least if it can resolve a touchy trademark dispute with CBC/Radio-Canada, which still plans to use some sort of “Ici” branding on its French-language services beginning this fall. The new station, led by Sam Norouzi, plans to launch for real in late September or early October, reports Montreal media maven Steve Faguy, who says CFHD will feature some programming from OMNI, the multicultural network owned by Rogers that was formerly aired on CJNT (Channel 62).
The introduction of CFHD was part of the deal that allowed CJNT to be relicensed as a full English-language commercial outlet of Rogers’ City TV service – and today marks the launch of the first daily City program in Montreal, “Breakfast Television” from 6-9 AM. (More on that from Steve, here and here.)
Down the road in Hudson/St.-Lazare, Evanov Communications is asking the CRTC and Industry Canada for permission to change transmitter sites for its new service, “106.7 Jewel FM,” CHSV. The station was to have broadcast with a 500-watt/95 m non-directional signal from a Bell-owned tower in Hudson, but Bell says that tower is overloaded and can’t safely hold the CHSV antenna. So Evanov now wants to move CHSV 5.3 km to the southwest to a Rogers tower, where it would run 2650 watts max DA/1420 watts average/95 m. Evanov says it could launch CHSV “within weeks” if the move is granted promptly. The CRTC is taking comments on the application until September 16.
And we note the passing of Kim Calloway, who made a mark in Toronto as a newsman and jock at CHUM (1050) and especially at CHUM-FM (104.5) in the 1960s before heading west to work in Victoria, Vancouver and eventually in Kelowna, B.C. That’s where he became a respected local news voice, and it’s where he died Thursday of cancer, at age 69.
It’s August and summer is winding down –just a few more months to enjoy your Tower Site Calendar. If you haven’t bought one yet, what are you waiting for? They’re 50% off the regular price and will be for the rest of this year, so get yours today! The months may have passed, but the pictures are timeless! (They make great posters, too.)
And watch this space in the next few weeks as we begin pre-orders of the all-new Tower Site Calendar 2014, which is now in production!
Who’ll be featured in the next edition of the world’s most popular radio tower calendar? Stay tuned…
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: August 27, 2012
*As AM radio tries to find a foothold in the early 21st century, the hot format of the moment is all-comedy – a format that just picked up another convert in CANADA.Astral Media pioneered all-comedy north of the border earlier this year at CKSL (1410) in London, Ontario, and apparently found enough success there that it’s replicating the format in the next big market to the east, where it flipped CHAM (820 Hamilton) from country to comedy at 8:20 Tuesday morning. Unlike CKSL, which is running a feed from the US-based “24/7 Comedy” network with little local content, CHAM has an “Ambassador of Funny” in the person of Mike Nabuurs, the lone on-air holdout from 820′s former country format. Nabuurs is contributing local entertainment news and traffic updates to CHAM during drivetimes, with “24/7 Comedy” supplying the rest of the content.
The move comes two years after CHAM returned to country from a brief stint with talk, only to run into the buzzsaw of a bigger FM country competitor, Durham Radio’s CHKX (KX 94.7).
*In Quebec, French-language talk dominated the week’s radio news, nowhere more so than at CKLX (91.9 Montreal), where the former “Planète Jazz” gave way to hot talk last Monday morning. RNC Media is still awaiting CRTC approval to fully convert the station from jazz to a Montreal clone of its successful Quebec talker, CHOI (98.1), so in the meantime it’s still programming jazz after 7 on weeknights and most of the day on Saturday and Sunday.
*A veteran radio manager is returning to the business right where he left off in upstate NEW YORK. For more than a decade now, Bob Morgan has been in the tower business, serving as senior VP/broadcast for American Tower – but before he joined ATC in 1999, he was the market manager for American Radio Systems/CBS Radio here in Rochester. Now he’s right back in the former CBS Radio suite on the 17th floor of the HSBC Tower, which is now home to Clear Channel’s Rochester cluster, where Morgan stepped in last week to fill the VP/market manager slot vacated by Kevin LeGrett’s promotion to senior VP/operations. The move also reunites Morgan with some of the talent who worked for him at ARS/CBS, most notably Brother Wease, who’ll be facing a contract renewal soon at Clear Channel’s WQBW (95.1 the Brew).
Much of what’s now the Clear Channel Rochester cluster was once the Lincoln Group – and on Thursday, veterans of that old-line broadcast company learned that its founder had died.
Albert “Bud” Wertheimer was a second-generation broadcaster, son of FM pioneer Al Wertheimer, and when Bud entered the business in 1963 FM radio was just beginning to wake from its long 1950s-era slumber. Bud Wertheimer started Functional Broadcasting to secure the Muzak franchise in western New York, a franchise that required FM signals to carry the all-important Muzak subcarrier.
Thus were born WDDS (93.1) in Syracuse and WVOR (100.5) in Rochester, the stations that would eventually become the core of the Lincoln Group. In the group’s heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, when Wertheimer had partnered with Rochester’s Jack Palvino, the group would come to own not only WVOR but also Rochester’s clear-channel AM giant, WHAM (1180), as well as WBUF (92.9 Buffalo) and stations in eastern Ohio. WVOR, in particular, epitomized the Lincoln Group’s ethos: the “Heart of Gold” was the first Rochester FM station to top the ratings, adopting many of the service elements (including a hefty dose of local news and constant community involvement) that were once the sole province of AM radio.
In the Lincoln Group’s last years, Wertheimer was a pioneer in building station clusters, taking advantage of relaxed FCC ownership rules to add two more FMs and another AM in Rochester before selling out to American Radio Systems in 1996 for $30.5 million. (It was that transaction, which would have created an eight-station cluster in town, that prompted Justice Department action that led to many of today’s ownership limits; it also forced ARS to divest much of the former Lincoln Group to Jacor, which begat today’s Clear Channel cluster.)
More big news from Buffalo: after 34 years on the air, Joe Chille is leaving his morning host/PD position at Townsquare Media’s WJYE (96.1) later this week. Chille has been a Buffalo fixture since joining “Joy 96″ in its easy-listening days back in 1978, and he says his next move involves “exploring new opportunities” in public relations. Chille’s last show on WJYE is slated for Wednesday, and no replacement has yet been announced.
*Some good news from eastern MASSACHUSETTS: the TV antenna that failed in April has finally been repaired and returned to its perch 1300 feet atop the Richland tower in Needham, restoring WBZ-TV (Channel 4/RF 30), WCVB-TV (Channel 5/RF 20), WSBK (Channel 38/RF 39) and WGBX (Channel 44/RF 43) to their usual spot at the top of the tower. The return of that upper master antenna to full-power service on Friday allowed the identical lower master antenna, which had been a temporary full-power aux for those four stations, to be returned to WGBH-TV (Channel 2/RF 19), allowing WGBH to go back to full power for the first time since April.
*A veteran VERMONT broadcaster is starting a new gig at the other end of the Green Mountain State. Steve Cormier is best known as the longtime co-host of the “Corm and the Coach” morning show on several Burlington stations, but he’s now making his home down in Brattleboro as the new morning man at WTSA-FM (96.7) and station manager for WTSA-FM and WTSA (1450). In Brattleboro, Cormier is working for station owner Kelli Corbeil, whose late husband Bill was a good friend of Cormier’s.
*In MAINE, Rick Foster says the decision to leave WDEA (1370 Ellsworth) was “totally mine.” Foster departs the station, which just changed hands from Cumulus to Townsquare Media, on Friday – which happens to be the 50th anniversary of his start there. He’s spent most of his time at WDEA doing mornings, and no replacement has yet been named.
Five Years Ago: August 25, 2008
Last week, NERW broke the story of a major rearrangement of Atlantic Coast Radio’s Portland-market signals, and this week we can fill in all the blanks – and tell you about some changes down the road at the Nassau stations, too, not to mention a big change up in Bangor.
First, Atlantic Coast: As we reported last week, it’s the end of the line for “Red Hot 95.9.” That station – WRED (95.9 Saco) – will become half of a new Atlantic Coast sports station in the market, as owner J.J. Jeffrey affiliates with Boston’s WEEI and puts its sports programming on 95.9 and on WJJB-FM (95.5 Topsham), which had been half of the locally-programmed “Big Jab” sports signal.
The Big Jab will stay in the market on a stronger signal, replacing talk on what’s now WLOB-FM (96.3 Gray) and remaining on WJJB (1440 Westbrook). And the talk programming will stay in place, too, but only on WLOB (1310 Portland).
Those changes will all take place Sept. 1, and there will be new calls, too – 96.3 will become WJJB-FM, 95.5 will be WTEI and 95.9 will be WPEI.
(A quick bit of NERW analysis before we move on: whether or not you believe the rumor that WEEI owner Entercom forced Atlantic Coast’s hand by threatening to move the valuable Red Sox radio rights elsewhere in the market, Jeffrey ends up with an interesting competitive position in southern Maine. While he won’t have a total sports monopoly in the market – Nassau’s WLVP 870/WLAM 1470 are fulltime ESPN Radio, and the Portland Sea Dogs are heard on Saga’s WBAE 1490 – Jeffrey will now have outlets offering both local sports talk and the Boston-centric WEEI product, not a bad hand to play if the goal is to deliver a young male audience.)
NERW readers with longish memories will by now have noted that the initial announcement of a New England-wide WEEI network last winter included numerous Nassau stations, WLVP/WLAM among them. As WEEI relaunches its regional network plans, Nassau is still absent – but there is now a Bangor affiliate. September 1 will also bring the WEEI network to Blueberry Broadcasting’s WABI (910 Bangor) and WWBX (97.1 Bangor), replacing talk on the AM side and top 40 “B97” on the FM. That’s a pretty big signal for WEEI, and even if the WEEI network is being handled separately from the Red Sox rights, we have to wonder how much longer Stephen King will be able to hang on to the Sox over at WZON (620).
And returning to the Portland/southern Maine end of things, there’s a format shuffle coming from Nassau, too: In October, it will move classical “W-Bach” from its present homes on WBQW (106.3 Scarborough) and WBQQ (99.3 Kennebunk) to what’s now “Bone” classic rocker WHXQ (104.7 Kennebunkport). The 106.3 frequency will flip to “The Bone,” simulcasting with WHXR (106.7 North Windham) to blanket the Portland market, at the expense of York County; 99.3 will flip to “Wolf” country, simulcasting Nassau’s WTHT (99.9 Auburn) to improve the Wolf’s coverage of the full Portland market, where Nassau’s apparently looking at sagging ratings for Saga’s country giant, WPOR (101.9 Portland), and seeing vulnerability. (There are no changes planned – at least not yet – for the northern outposts of the “W-Bach” network, WBQX 106.9 Thomaston and WBQI 107.7 Bar Harbor.)
NERW’s spending Labor Day weekend in western PENNSYLVANIA at the National Radio Club convention, and we’ll have a format change to listen to while we’re there.
Renda’s WPTT (1360 McKeesport) is trading its talk format for business talk, and that means the departure of one of the station’s fixtures, Lynn Cullen. She’ll do a final week of shows on WPTT this week, wrapping up on August 29, just a day before the station flips to its new format and new calls of WMNY. (Those calls were last seen in NERW-land a few years ago at the Buffalo AM signal that’s now WBBF.)
Meanwhile, construction is finally underway on a new tower site for Renda’s other AM in the Pittsburgh market, WJAS (1320). NERW readers may recall that WJAS lost its current site near the mouth of the Squirrel Hill tunnel after its landlord sold the property to the city of Pittsburgh, apparently ignoring a “right-of-first-refusal” clause in Renda’s lease. Renda ended up going to court, filing a suit that was settled when the city’s Urban Renewal Authority sold WJAS a new piece of land north of downtown.
While WJAS is building, WPXI (Channel 11) is tearing down. Now that the Cox-owned NBC affiliate is in its new home on the city’s North Side, wrecking crews were hard at work last week demolishing most of WPXI’s former studio building on Rising Main Avenue, just north of downtown. Only the original 1950s-era core of the building, still home to WPXI’s transmitters, will be saved; while WPXI had planned to move its tower to the new studio site, the neighbors objected, and so the transmitters will stay put at the old location.
In Harrisburg, Cumulus has flipped WTCY (1400) to ESPN sports, returning the station to its original callsign, WHGB. But it’s not the end of the line for the “Touch” urban AC format that WTCY was carrying – it’s alive and well on WNNK-HD2 (104.1), and being heard by most of the market via translator W237DE (95.3 Harrisburg). Can a translator carry an FM station’s HD2 signal? Cumulus believes it’s on solid ground with the FCC here, and we’ve heard nothing from the Commission to contradict that.
*In VERMONT, there’s a new morning show to replace the long-running “Corm and the Coach” at “Champ” WCPV (101.3 Essex NY)/WCVR (102.1 Randolph). “Rich and Mary’s Morning Mess” pairs Mary Cenci, who’d been doing afternoons at the station, with Rich Haskell, who returns to the station he programmed from 1997-2000. Steve Cormier retains his operations manager title as he moves to middays, and former morning show producer Carolyn moves to afternoons to replace Cenci.
In Rutland, veteran sportscaster Jack Healey has left WSYB (1380), ending a career there that began in 1971. (He left in 1975 for now-defunct competitor WHWB, but returned in 1982.) Healey is heading for the world of webcasting, joining the crew at NortheastSports.net to do play-by-play for Castleton State University. Healey is also leaving his play-by-play gig as the voice of UVM hockey, a job that helped him win the “Vermont Sportscaster of the Year” award 18 times and landed him in the Vermont Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
Ten Years Ago: August 25, 2003
It’s been literally years in the making, but VERMONT Public Radio is finally about to throw the switch on an expansion that will bring its second service, an all-classical network, to the state’s largest market. On Friday, August 31, VPR will take control of what’s now WAVX (90.9 Schuyler Falls NY), replacing that station’s Christian rock format with classical and changing the calls to WOXR. “The calls don’t have any particular importance, other than an homage to the great New York classical station, WQXR,” says VPR president Mark Vogelzang. (He jokes that they could also stand for “Only eXcellent Radio.”)
The station is expected to sign off as WAVX on Wednesday, when VPR closes on its purchase of the station from Christian Ministries, Inc. It will return Friday at – when else? – 9:09 in the morning. When it does, it will help to fill out the VPR Classical network that signed on in 2004 at WNCH (88.1 Norwich), serving the Connecticut River Valley. The network grew in a small way with translators, then added a second full-power signal, WJAN (95.1 Sunderland, now WVTQ), earlier this year – but until now, it’s been heard in Burlington and vicinity only via web streaming and the HD2 channel of VPR’s main network.
In Albany, Regent has not only returned to sports on WEEV (1300 Rensselaer) after the demise of the GreenStone Media talk network – it’s also returned to the station’s former calls of WTMM. Will the format change (which creates a simulcast with WTMM-FM 104.5 Mechanicville) be permanent?
Fifteen Years Ago: August 24, 1998
It’s not often that a brand new radio group bursts on the scene – and even less often that such a group does so by buying nearly a dozen stations in two states at once. But that’s what Lloyd Roach, owner of WCOJ (1420) in Coatesville, PENNSYLVANIA did last week, creating a new group that will be a major presence in one market, a minor presence in another and with the potential to add significantly to its holdings in the months to come.
Roach’s new “Route 81 Radio” launches with WCOJ and clusters in two markets. In the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, the group is buying WKJN (1440 Carbondale), WCWI (94.3 Carbondale) and WAZL (1490 Hazleton) from Citadel and WNAK (730 Nanticoke) from Seven Thirty Broadcasters. WKJN, WCWI and WAZL have long been somewhat forgotten corners of Citadel’s big Northeast Pennsylvania cluster. WCWI does “Cat Country,”simulcasting out-of-market WCTO 96.1 Easton PA; it’s simulcast with WEMR 1460 Tunkhannock, which presumably needs a new format now. WKJN and WAZL have been simulcasting the news-talk of WARM 590 Scranton, which was itself rumored to have been for sale. WNAK is probably the best known of the four, running a standards format that has long shown up well in the ratings up and down the valley. The deal also includes WHYL (960 Carlisle), which has been doing oldies for Citadel on the fringe of its Harrisburg cluster.
Route 81 will make its biggest splash, though, in a market that’s not even near Route 81. The new company is buying the Eolin Broadcasting “Radio Works” cluster that includes talkers WENY (1230 Elmira) and WCLI (1450 Corning), AC “Crystal” simulcast WENY-FM (92.7 Elmira) and WCBA-FM (98.7 Corning), oldies WGMM (97.7 Big Flats) and oldies WCBA (1350 Corning).