In this week’s issue… Dave Herman’s sad ending – TV change in NYC – Remembering Bill Mazer, Roy Shapiro – Utica TV sold – CBC seeks new Ontario outlet
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Over the course of nearly 20 years of writing this column, there’s one particular type of story your editor has come to dread writing. It’s the sort of story wherein we learn that radio people are humans, and not at all immune to human foibles and failings. We try, in the course of assembling this column week after week, not to dwell too much on sordid stories of radio and TV people getting arrested for drunk driving or bank fraud or what have you.
But sometimes, you just can’t ignore a story, and so it is with Dave Herman. If you listened to NEW YORK radio in the glory days of rock and roll FM – the days, let’s say, when Lou Reed got regular airplay – you know Dave Herman’s legacy. Starting at Metromedia’s WMMR (93.3 Philadelphia), where he created the “Marconi Experiment” freeform radio in the late 1960s, Herman moved to New York for a short stint at WABC-FM (95.5) before settling in at Metromedia’s WNEW-FM (102.7) by 1972, becoming a morning institution for almost two decades. As WNEW began its long, slow fade, Herman departed for WXRK (92.3) in 1991, returning to WNEW for another brief stint from 1997-1999.
And then came the news Thursday that federal prosecutors had busted Herman at his vacation home in the U.S. Virgin Islands after spending nearly a year building a case against him for trying to arrange a tryst with a six-year-old girl. You can read more about it in the Daily News if you’d like all the sordid details; we’ve been trying not to think about them too much since they became public.
Suffice it to say that assuming Herman is convicted – and the case seems awfully solid – the 77-year-old jock is likely headed to federal prison for much of the rest of his life. For now, he’s been returned from the Virgin Islands to New Jersey to await trial, and we’ll keep you posted as the case unfolds.
*When Bill Mazer died Wednesday at age 92, two markets mourned: not just New York City, where he was a fixture on radio and TV for decades, but also upstate in Buffalo, where a young Mazer is still fondly remembered for his time at WGR (550) and WGR-TV (Channel 2). Born in Ukraine and raised in Brooklyn, Mazer actually came to Buffalo in 1948 to work at WKBW (1520), but his move to WGR four years later solidified his place in Queen City broadcast history. At WGR, Mazer was part of the crew that launched the TV station in 1954. On both radio and TV, Mazer became WGR’s top sports voice, calling Bisons baseball games, minor-league hockey, college football and much more.
In 1964, Mazer came home to New York to become part of the talk radio experiment at WNBC (660), talking sports on weekday afternoons in an early preview of the format that would eventually take over 660 four decades in the future. In that turbulent era for WNBC, Mazer lasted only a few years before moving over to WOR (710), doing some network sports and even game-show work, and then, in 1971, taking over the sports desk at independent WNEW-TV (Channel 5). His regular trivia segments on the air earned him the “Amazin” nickname that stayed with him for decades, and he parlayed them into a series of sports trivia books.
Mazer was part of Rangers and Islanders hockey broadcasts and Knicks and Nets basketball broadcasts, and was part of the early airstaff at WFAN (1050) in 1988, hosting a lunchtime interview show from Mickey Mantle’s restaurant that continued into WFAN’s years on 660. (He returned to WFAN for a one-off shift in 2007 to mark the station’s 20th anniversary.)
Mazer closed out his New York City career with a decade in morning drive at WEVD (1050), where he expanded beyond sports to general-interest talk. After leaving WEVD in 2001, Mazer, by then almost 80, stayed on the air up in Westchester County with a regular shift on WVOX (1460 New Rochelle) that lasted until his retirement in 2009. He died in Danbury, Connecticut, where he’d been in an assisted-living facility for the last two years.
*On TV in the New York City market, veteran anchor Rafael Pineda announced his retirement from Univision’s WXTV (Channel 41) during Thursday’s newscast. When Pineda steps down from Noticias Univision 41 on December 20, it will close out a stint of nearly 42 years with the station that started way back in 1972 – and it will end his run as the longest-serving news anchor on the New York TV dial. (Local pride compels us to note that there’s still an even longer-serving anchor upstate, where Don Alhart is still going strong at WHAM-TV 13, where he’s been on the air since 1966.)
*When the government shutdown closed the FCC almost a month ago, we noted in NERW that it stranded several impending station sales – and one of those has now been filed. Smith Broadcasting was once a fairly sizable small-market operator across NERW-land and beyond, but a series of sell-offs over the last few years has left the company with just one remaining property, NBC/CW affiliate WKTV (Channel 2) in Utica.
Just as the doors were slamming shut at the FCC, we got word that WKTV was about to be sold, and now we know the details: for $16 million, plus an assumption of debts, WKTV goes to a new Atlanta-based company called Heartland Media. It’s led by Bob Prather, who was president/COO of Gray Television before resigning in June. Prather had been at the helm of Gray since 1994, and had built it into a big player in the industry. Is he planning similar growth for Heartland? Whatever the new company’s larger plans may be, it’s picking up the long-dominant station in Utica, where the only local competition is the Nexstar duopoly of WUTR (ABC)/WFXV (Fox) just up Smith Hill.
Mars Hill Broadcasting has completed a big upgrade to its signal east of Utica: WMHU (91.1 Cold Spring) moves from its original site north of Little Falls to a new site in Middleville, north of Herkimer and not far from WKTV’s tower. While WMHU’s power doesn’t change much – from 560 watts/470′ DA at the old site to 380 watts/745′ at the new site – it’s a much better location for reaching the population corridor in the Mohawk Valley, giving the station a 60 dBu signal over Herkimer as well as Little Falls.
*In Albany, Townsquare Media is looking for a new market manager with the impending departure of Dan Austin after two years on the job. Austin tells the Albany Business Review he’ll say more today about where he’s heading next, though it’s within the radio business. Austin’s career has included a stint as GM across town at Pamal’s Albany Broadcasting cluster; ironically, that’s now where his longtime Regent/Townsquare predecessor Bob Ausfeld went after departing Townsquare in August 2011 and opening the job for Austin.
After 17 years of operation under California-based Family Stations, WFME-TV will change its calls to WNYJ-TV on Friday, switching its programming from Family’s religious fare to the international news and documentary offerings from Virginia-based MHz Networks. No sale of the station has been filed yet at the FCC, but over the weekend the WFME website carried a headline (without a story) announcing the “Sale of WFME-TV.”
Regular readers of this column know, of course, about the financial woes Family has been suffering since expending huge sums last year promoting the end-of-the-world prophecy of its longtime leader, Harold Camping. Family’s need to raise cash to sustain its operations led to the selloff of many of its biggest signals, including the $40 million sale to Cumulus of the former WFME (94.7 Newark), now country WNSH.
That left WFME-TV as something of an orphan, still operating from the old WFME building on First Mountain in West Orange (on RF channel 29) with a hodgepodge of programming that includes some older Family-produced material on 66.1, simulcasts of Family’s current WFME-FM (106.3 Mount Kisco) and San Francisco flagship KEAR (610) on 66.2 and 66.3 respectively, foreign language programs on 66.5, Radio Taiwan audio on 66.6 and National Weather Service audio on 66.7. On 66.4, WFME-TV has been carrying MiND TV independent public television from Philadelphia, a reciprocal deal in exchange for WFME-TV’s programming running in Philadelphia on MiND’s WYBE (Channel 35) on the 35.66 subchannel.
It’s not clear yet whether any of the subchannel programming, or the relay in Philadelphia, will go away when MHz Networks takes over the main channel and the calls change on Friday. For MHz, the new WNYJ-TV will be a foothold in the New York market, though only a partial one: the over-the-air signal lacks the reach of the Empire State Building signals, and Family has been slow to get cable carriage for the station. It’s on Dish Network, DirecTV and Verizon FiOS (as well as AT&T U-Verse in Connecticut), and it’s up at channel 96 on Time Warner’s Manhattan system, but while Cablevision carries the channel in parts of north Jersey and Rockland County, right now it’s not available to Cablevision customers in the outer boroughs of New York City, Long Island, Westchester or Connecticut.
*On TV in south Jersey, the FCC has granted WMGM (Channel 40) a construction permit for a switch to digital for its low-power relay in Atlantic City. WMGM-LP (Channel 7) will move to RF channel 10 as WMGM-LD, running 3 kW DA and relocating way inland to a tower in Waterford Works, closer to Philadelphia than the shore.
*There’s a new morning team in southern CONNECTICUT, where “Big Jim” Murray comes to Connoisseur’s WEZN (99.9 Bridgeport) next week. Murray, who’s moving north from Atlanta and sports talk at WZGC (92.9 the Game), will replace Tad Lemire, whose move to Tulsa and KRAV left Anna Zap working solo on the morning shift at “Star 99.9.” Murray has plenty of New England history: he worked at the old WFNX in Boston alongside current WEZN OM Keith Dakin.
And we’re sorry to pass along late word of the death of Sam Tilery, longtime promotions director for WEZN and its sister stations WPLR (99.1 New Haven) and WFOX-FM (95.9 Norwalk). Tilery spent more than 30 years with WPLR, and the station marked his death by playing Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising.” (“Sam loved Bruce, but only upbeat Bruce, so we thought that was an appropriate tribute,” explained GM Kristin Okesson in a memo to employees.)
*A lot of MASSACHUSETTS radio folks (along with the rest of New England, of course) are paying more attention to baseball than radio this week, so it’s fitting that our top story is Red Sox-related: as Entercom basks in the extra visibility and revenue that comes from owning the flagship station of a World Series team, it’s found a way to put the local Sox call on two frequencies. MLB rules, of course, restrict the local announcers to being heard on only the hometown flagship, sending the network call (ESPN, this year) to the team’s other affiliates – even those like WVEI (1440) in Worcester and WVEI-FM (103.7) in RHODE ISLAND that are part of Entercom’s own WEEI network.
MLB also allows ESPN affiliates, even in the home market, to carry the network coverage, which is why St. Louis listeners can hear the games both on CBS-owned Cards flagship KMOX (1120) and on Hubbard’s ESPN outlet, WXOS (101.1). In Boston, though, Entercom owns both Sox flagship WEEI-FM (93.7 Lawrence) and ESPN outlet WEEI (850) – and as we’ve explored many times before in this space, those signals overlap over Boston proper but each serve rather different areas outside the city. In exchange, apparently, for clearing some ESPN spots on the WEEI-FM broadcast, Entercom has been carrying the local call with Dave O’Brien and Joe Castiglione on both FM and AM, except when previous commitments (such as a football game Friday night) have kept the AM side busy.
*Alex Langer is up and running with test broadcasts from the first AM signal to transmit from within Boston city limits in many decades. WMSX (1410 Dedham) lit up its 610-watt signal from a site in Readville on Wednesday afternoon, following a hectic few days in which its Valcom whip antenna had to be lowered, cleaned and reassembled to make it work properly after having spent most of the last decade in storage. (Langer is reusing the antenna after it was last pressed into duty as a temporary site for the old WSRO 1470 in Marlborough, before that frequency was moved into Boston as today’s WAZN.)
For now, WMSX is running jazz music as its test signal; Langer tells NERW no definite decision has been made on a launch date for an as-yet-undetermined permanent format.
To the west, Saga in Springfield is looking for a new PD/ops manager at WAQY (102.1) and WLZX (99.3) now that Rob Cressman is on his way to the Clear Channel cluster in Indianapolis. Cressman had been with the Saga group for five years.
And we’re sorry to have to pass along word of the death of Brian Edgerton, longtime transmitter supervisor for Boston’s WHDH-TV (Channel 7) and WLVI (Channel 56). Edgerton died October 15 after a lengthy illness; you can see pictures of him on the night of the analog shutdown back in 2009 over at the Archives @ BostonRadio.org.
*In southern MAINE, Pete Falconi and Carl Strube have a new FM translator on the air for their WWSF (1220 Sanford), and now they’re aiming for more power on the FM side. They’ve applied to boost W272CG (102.3) from its present 50 watts to 140 watts, nearly duplicating the coverage of the AM side of “Legends.”
*Before Merlin Media exits eastern PENNSYLVANIA with the sale of WWIQ (106.9 Camden NJ) to EMF Broadcasting, it’s leasing the station out for a week to one of the star personalities of the now-defunct “IQ 106.9” talk format. As Glenn Beck slowly loses terrestrial radio clearances, he’s pushing his subscriber-based “Blaze” online radio/TV network as a replacement in some of those lost markets. That includes Philadelphia, where he’s launching a customized “TheBlaze Radio Philadelphia” today that will include local news headlines and traffic inserted into the national Blaze content.
To promote the new localized stream, it’s being broadcast on WWIQ for one week, starting this morning with a live remote broadcast of the Doc Thompson morning show from a Philadelphia bar; we’re assuming EMF will launch K-Love on 106.9 next week when the stunt is over.
(The other star talkers from WWIQ, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, make their debuts on CBS Radio’s WPHT 1210 today, of course.)
*Over at CBS Radio, they’re mourning the death of Roy Shapiro, who spent 42 years as an executive at Group W and then CBS. Shapiro started with Westinghouse in 1962, and in 1965 he was one of the executives who built the pioneering all-news format at KYW (1060). Shapiro served in corporate roles with Westinghouse as VP/GM of Group W Radio Sales and as VP of strategic planning. In 1983, he became general manager at KYW, a post he held until his retirement in 2003. He’d continued to consult for KYW and other CBS stations in retirement, right up until his death Tuesday at age 76.
There’s an obituary from Erie, too, where Fred Vossburg Jr. died Friday at age 74. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Vossburg joined WSEE (Channel 35) as an engineer in 1963 and spent his entire career at the CBS affiliate.
*In CANADA, the CBC’s current management has a conflicted relationship to over-the-air broadcasting. With the end of analog TV, the CBC turned off all but a minimal complement of mandated over-the-air TV transmitters in big cities, and in small communities across Canada it’s trying to reduce the considerable expense of providing over-the-air radio service as well. Last week, the CRTC approved applications to reduce broadcast power at several CBC sites, including Radio One outlet CBLJ (88.3 Wawa ON), which drops from 50 kW/115 m to 4.8 kW/133 m, and Radio-Canada’s CBVG (88.5 Gaspe QC), which drops from 4250 w max DA/2160 w average/410 m to 2610 w max DA/1730 w average/385 m.
At the same time, though, the CBC applied to add a brand-new Radio One transmitter along the Lake Erie shore. In Tillsonburg, Ontario, CBC listeners are sandwiched between the Windsor outlet (now CBEW 97.5, augmented by CBEW-FM-1 91.9 Leamington) to the west and the London outlet, CBCL (93.5), to the east. Neither CBC outlet puts a full city-grade signal over Tillsonburg, which is why the CBC is now applying for a new signal there on 88.7. The new relay of CBCL would run 8180 watts max DA/2060 watts average DA/78.9 m, with a tight north-south directional signal protecting co-channel CIMX in Windsor. (The CBC’s application acknowledges that the new Tillsonburg signal will receive interference from CIMX.) Comments on the Tillsonburg application are due November 22; will CTV-owned CIMX object?
Up north, the CRTC is also considering an application from North Superior Broadcasting for a new relay of CFNO (93.1 Marathon) in Beardmore, Ontario, out on Trans-Canada Highway 11. The new signal on 107.1 would run 260 watts/74 m.
And the CRTC has granted a new community station in Bathurst, New Brunswick. Bathurst Radio’s new station will run on 103.3 with 50 watts/32 meters, running a pop/rock/dance format with 10 hours a week of syndicated programming.
One more important note this week: if you’re about to flip your 2013 Tower Site Calendar to the November page, please note that the human beings who produce the calendar (which would be your editor and Mrs. Editor) made a little goof: Thanksgiving is, as always, on the fourth Thursday – which would make it November 28 this year, not, as the calendar indicates, November 21. Want a corrected PDF you can print out? It’s yours for the asking – just drop a line to lisa at fybush dot com.
Yes, the 2014 Tower Site Calendar has gone to press, and you can be the first to reserve your very own. We expect to have them in our hands at the end of the month, and we’ll send them right to you, spiral bound, shrink wrapped and best of all, with a convenient hole for hanging!
This year’s pinups include the iconic towers of Catalina Island, a combiner system in St. Louis, the twin towers of KNRS in Salt Lake City, a historic rooftop site in Jamestown, New York and many more!
If you want a tower calendar on your wall NOW, you can pick up the current edition for just $5 with your 2014 order this week!
Click here to order your 2014 calendar!
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: October 29, 2012
FRIDAY UPDATE: The power and phone service are slowly being restored to parts of lower Manhattan after the devastation Sandy wreaked across the city’s infrastructure, and that’s good news for many of the broadcasters who call that area home. WOR returned to its 111 Broadway studios on Friday, and power came back on at its New Jersey transmitter site, too. The news was not so good for WMCA (570) and WNYC (820); their shared transmitter site in Kearny, N.J. had about 18 inches of water inside the building, and that means equipment damage that will take some time to replace. WNYC director of engineering Jim Stagnitto tells NERW 820 might be back on the air late this weekend if all goes well.
(New York had another big story overnight: at midnight, Suzyn Waldman launched CBS Radio’s new WFAN-FM on 101.9, a nod to the day 25 years ago when hers was the first voice heard on WFAN in its original incarnation at 1050 on the dial.)
Many of the Connecticut and Long Island signals that were silenced by power outages made it back on the air Thursday, including WLUX (540 Islip), WICC (600 Bridgeport) and WGCH (1490 Greenwich). We’ve been remiss, too, in not noting the simulcast of News 12 Long Island that went on for several days nonstop on WHLI (1100 Hempstead), which stayed on the air past its usual daytime-only hours to help keep Long Island informed.
The scope of the devastation along the Jersey shore is still not fully accounted for, at least from a broadcast perspective, but we know of at least one signal that won’t be back any time soon: Stagnitto tells us the transmitter of New Jersey Public Radio’s WNJO (90.3 Toms River) is “somewhere out at sea” after the Seaside Park community where it was located was hit by the worst of the storm surge.
We’ll have a comprehensive report from across the region in Monday’s NERW. (Have you sent us details from your station’s response to the storm yet?)
WEDNESDAY UPDATE:We have the first confirmed report of a tower down because of the storm. WRCR (1300 Spring Valley) lost the top of its center tower to Sandy’s winds. The station reportedly remains on the air at reduced power.
Meanwhile, WINS (1010) is now back on the air at full power, ending its simulcast on WXRK (92.3), which is back to top-40 as “92.3 NOW.”
We’re still awaiting word on the fate of WINS’ neighbor, WLIB (1190), which remains off the air, as do WMCA (570)/WNYC (820), which share an especially low-lying site in Kearny, where flooding was severe.
And there’s non-Sandy news today as well: WRKO (680 Boston) has once again flipped its morning show, sending Michele McPhee and Todd Feinburg packing and installing fill-in host Jeff Kuhner in the slot. More in the next NERW…
TUESDAY NIGHT UPDATE:The day’s big news came from WINS (1010), which returned to the air, apparently at reduced power, around 4:20 this afternoon. At least for now, WINS continues to be simulcast on CBS Radio sister station WXRK (92.3); the longer the simulcast lasts, the more speculation is swirling about whether CBS plans to return to the “NOW” top-40 format there, or whether a WINS simulcast just might become permanent. (NERW’s take: not quite yet, but it’s only a matter of time.)
We’re still learning about the extent of the difficulties many stations are having with their lower Manhattan studios, what with the continued extensive power outages south of 31st Street. WOR, for instance, was not only without power at its 111 Broadway studios but also without phone lines, which explains why the station spent the day simulcasting WNBC (Channel 4) audio before returning to local programming from its Lyndhurst, N.J. transmitter site tonight.
With millions of people still without power from Connecticut down to Delaware, it may yet be a few days before we have all the details on what’s become of coastal sites along Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. In battered south Jersey, WIBG (1020 Ocean City) is reportedly the only AM signal on the air, simulcasting with sister WIBG-FM (94.3 Avalon). In Connecticut, Paul Thurst’s Engineering Radio blog provides details (and pictures) of the destruction at WICC (600) off the coast in Bridgeport: propane tanks went flying and the three-phase power lines to the site are down, so it may be a while yet before WICC is back on the air. (Also off the air in southern Connecticut is Clear Channel’s WKCI 101.3 Hamden/New Haven, after simulcasting sister WELI 960 this morning; it’s Cox’s WPLR 99.1/WEZN-FM 99.9 that are apparently filling the void of nonstop information for area listeners.)
We’ll be back with more updates in the morning; thanks to everyone across the region who’s been keeping us informed about the happenings in their local markets!
TUESDAY MORNING UPDATE:The radio dial continues to be ravaged by Sandy’s aftermath all along the coast from Delaware up to Connecticut, but nowhere more so than in the New Jersey Meadowlands, where most of the New York City AM dial is off the air. WOR (710) is an exception, with its recently-built three-tower site just up high enough to stay above the floodwaters. Chief engineer Tom Ray, who spent the night out in the Meadowlands, reports the water is ten feet deep at the WOR site, at least six feet above its usual level, filling the culverts that line the swampy site.
Just down the road, though, the sites that line nearby Polito Avenue and Valley Brook Road in Lyndhurst are reportedly inundated. (Ray reports “four feet of water” at the intersection of Polito and Route 17, a short distance from the towers.) The flood damage means CBS Radio’s big all-news WINS (1010) remains off the air indefinitely, with its programming still shifted to WXRK (92.3) in place of that signal’s usual top-40 music. Also off the air: WINS’ neighbors WLIB (1190) and WSNR (620), as well as WMCA (570), WNYC (820), WPAT (930), WNYM (970), WADO (1280) and WWRV (1330) from the Meadowlands.
Across the swollen Hudson, the flooding in lower Manhattan has wreaked havoc with studio power. WOR lost its studio power Monday night and has been rebroadcasting audio from WNBC (Channel 4), while WABC-TV (Channel 7) audio continues to be simulcast on WEPN (1050) and WEPN-FM (98.7). CBS reported this morning that its Hudson Square studios were operating “by candlelight,” and power has been disrupted at other studios uptown as well.
As you’ll read below in our comment section, our readers are reporting that much of the FM dial is silent along the Jersey shore, where the devastation from Sandy may make rebuilding a lengthy process. Several big signals are turning to simulcasts to be heard; Atlantic City’s WFPG-FM (96.9), for instance, is silent but sending its programming over to Townsquare sister WENJ-FM (97.3 Millville.)
Much of the Connecticut dial is also silent, including big-signal WICC (600 Bridgeport), whose site on Long Island Sound sits at a vulnerable spot and is likely underwater. WGCH (1490 Greenwich), WAXB (850 Ridgefield) and WSHU (1260 Westport) are also reported off the air. Across the Sound, WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue) is silent, with its programming running on WALK (1370) – and if you’re wondering about WLNG (92.1 Sag Harbor), it survived the storm and was back on the air with local emergency information this morning from a soggy but functioning studio.
As for the rest of the region, it appears Sandy’s direct hit on New York City may have spared New England and upstate New York the worst of the storm – at least for now. Rains were heavy everywhere from central Pennsylvania to New England, and as we learned from Hurricane Irene last year, huge damage can result when all that water starts working its way downstream through flooded rivers. We’ll be keeping an eye on the aftermath – and we hope you’ll keep sending us information on Sandy’s aftermath in your markets.
TUESDAY OVERNIGHT UPDATE:It’s quickly becoming clear that the worst of the storm is being felt along the New Jersey shore and up through New York City and Long Island Sound. In New York, power outages in lower Manhattan have affected the Clear Channel cluster and the CBS Radio studios, which are running on generator power. At CBS, WINS (1010) is off the air, with its programming running instead on WCBS-FM (101.1); as we write this just after 1 AM, WCBS (880) and WFAN (660) are still on the air from High Island in the Bronx, but also simulcasting on WWFS (102.7) and WXRK (92.3), respectively, in case rising waters take High Island off the air.
(Later in the 1 AM hour, WCBS-FM returned to 101.1, with WINS moving its programming to 92.3 in place of WFAN.)
Several other AM signals, including co-located WMCA (570) and WNYC (820), as well as WSNR (620), WLIB (1190) and WWRL (1600), have been reported silent, which suggests there are some major flooding issues in the New Jersey Meadowlands where all those signals emanate. Power outages in New Jersey and in the Catskills have also silenced WFMU (91.1 East Orange)/WMFU (90.1 Mount Hope NY). Along Long Island Sound, WICC (600 Bridgeport) is also reported silent.
And there’s some interesting radio coming from stations that aren’t normally live or local overnight: WABC (770) has local updates during its syndicated programming with none other than Russ “Famous Amos” DiBello hosting. Up in Vermont, where Sandy’s fury has been muted (but where people are on edge because of all the damage Irene’s flooding caused a year ago), WDEV (550 Waterbury) is running live all night long with a crew of four.
MONDAY NIGHT UPDATE:Broadcasters around the region are already suffering Sandy’s effects, even before the worst of the storm hits. It’s impossible to get a full picture of what’s happening, given power and communications outages, but here’s what we know as of about 8 PM on Monday:
Scattered power outages have taken at least some coastal stations off the air, including New Jersey’s WMGM (103.7 Atlantic City) and WFMU (91.1 East Orange), New York’s WDVY (106.3 Mount Kisco), Rhode Island’s WEAN (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale) and WELH (88.1 Providence) and New Hampshire’s WMLL (96.5 Bedford/Manchester). Several stations have had to evacuate studios in low-lying coastal areas: WALK (97.5/1370) has moved to its backup studio at the Suffolk County Emergency Management Center, and WLNG (92.1 Sag Harbor) is in the process of evacuating its studios as water there continues to rise.
All over the region – and there’s no spot in the region being left untouched by this storm – there’s extended local news coverage on TV and radio and plenty of AM/FM and radio/TV simulcasting going on. In New York City, where the storm may end up hitting hardest, all of the local TV news operations have gone wall-to-wall, offering live streaming as well as blowing out syndicated and network shows for the duration.
At the transmitter end, we know of several big stations where engineers are on the scene to ride out the storm and keep coverage going, and of course our thoughts are very much with everyone out there covering the storm and making sure that coverage gets out to viewers and listeners.
It’s too soon just yet to know whether the raging winds and incessant rain will lead to any tower damage around the region, but we know of one casualty so far: the sign outside the WTNH (Channel 8) studios on Elm Street in downtown New Haven succumbed to the wind this evening.
We’ll continue to provide updates here – and on Twitter and Facebook – as long as the power and internet hold out here at NERW Central, where the winds are blowing pretty fiercely right now.
* * *
*We’ve covered plenty of storms and their aftermaths in 18 years of writing this column – but never has there been a single storm that’s threatened so much of the region at once as Hurricane Sandy.
With plenty of advance notice of the storm’s ferocity and its predicted path, many stations spent the weekend getting ready, whether lining up radio simulcasts (in New York City, for instance, WABC-TV’s Monday coverage will be simulcast on co-owned ESPN radio outlets WEPN 1050/WEPN-FM 98.7) or making sure transmitter sites are prepared (Boston’s WBZ 1030, with its transmitter on the coast in Hull, will have an engineer on duty there beginning Monday morning).
Out on Long Island’s East End, where waters were already beginning to rise on Sunday, WLNG-FM (92.1 Sag Harbor) ditched its music format Sunday afternoon for nonstop storm coverage, and out on Nantucket the new WAZK (97.7) was one of many stations gearing up to provide local storm information this morning as well.
We’ll have an ear out for reports of stations off the air or damaged, and assuming our own power and net connections stay up (we’re right in the path of the storm on Tuesday here in Rochester), we’ll keep this page, as well as our Facebook and Twitter presences, updated as news comes in. Please use the comment section to let us know what’s happening as Sandy hits your area!
*As central PENNSYLVANIA braces for high winds and heavy rains from Sandy, it’s otherwise been a relatively quiet week in the Keystone State.
In Philadelphia, CBS Radio has landed Villanova University’s basketball and football rights. The Wildcats move to WIP (610) from their previous home on Greater Media’s WPEN (950), which will flip from a “Fanatic” sports simulcast with WPEN-FM (97.5) to religion under new owner Family Stations sometime in early December. A letter from Family founder Harold Camping to New York listeners announcing the sale of WFME (94.7 Newark) revealed that the new calls on 950 will, as expected, be WKDN; Family parked that callsign on its State College station (88.3, formerly WXFR) after selling WKDN-FM (106.9 Camden NJ, now WWIQ) last year.
(As for WIP on 610, it’s soon to depart its own sports simulcast with WIP-FM 94.1 in favor of the new CBS Sports Radio network.)
In the Danville area, Joe Reilly’s Columbia Broadcasting is applying for a frequency change on a translator of WHLM (930 Bloomsburg). W290CG started out on 106.1 in Bloomsburg, but concerns over interference to co-channel WLZS in Beaver Springs sent the translator first to 105.9 and then, under special temporary authority, down to 105.5 with a move westward to Danville. WHLM has now asked the FCC to make that move to 105.5 permanent, using a site east of Danville.
Pittsburgh’s WYEP (91.3) has named a new co-host for its “Morning Mix” on weekdays. Joey Spehar, who now hosts the “Friday Night Block Party” on WYEP, will join Cindy Howe in the mornings.
In Philadelphia, they’re mourning Andy Hopkins, who was the midday guy for almost two decades at WPEN (950) when it was the “Station of the Stars.” Hopkins moved into software development after leaving WPEN. He died while out playing golf in Delaware last week. He was 69.
*There’s an subtle ownership change in western MASSACHUSETTS, where Vox Communications is transferring its eleven stations (including six in the Berkshires) to a new company called Gamma Broadcasting LLC. The new Gamma group still has Bruce Danziger at its helm and Ken Barlow and Keith Thomas as partners, but they yield up some of their ownership interest in the company to Kevin LeRoux and Ira Rosenblatt, who get a 38% interest in the company in exchange for assuming a portion of its debts. In addition to its stations in North Adams (WUPE-FM/WNAW), Pittsfield (WBEC-FM/WBEC/WUPE) and Great Barrington (WSBS), Vox/Gamma also owns stations in central Virginia and the Florida Keys.
*In western CONNECTICUT, they’re remembering “Commander Jim” Clarke, who was on the air for many years at WRKI (95.1 Brookfield). Clarke died October 17, at age 59. And we’re getting belated word as well of the death of Donald Molinelli, who was known as “Don Moline” during his years as program director of the old WBIS (1440 Bristol, now WPRX 1120). Moline, who’d also worked at WKQW (1300 Spring Valley NY, now WRCR), succumbed to leukemia August 16, at age 68.
*Has anyone been working in southern MAINE radio longer than Mike Audet? The veteran WGAN (560 Portland) newsman began his career at Waterville’s WTVL (1490) all the way back in 1954 and eventually worked in just about every Portland newsroom – WLOB, WCSH radio, WGAN, then three decades as morning newsman on WPOR before returning to WGAN as afternoon news anchor. Audet announced last week that he’ll retire from WGAN at the end of 2012; no replacement has yet been named.
Five Years Ago: October 27, 2008
*For almost six decades, one of the quirks of TV in NEW YORK’s Southern Tier has been the lack of a CBS affiliate in the Elmira market. While that small city has had an NBC affiliate (WSYE, now WETM-TV 18) since 1956 and an ABC affiliate (WENY-TV 36) since 1969, viewers in Elmira and Corning (and their cable systems) have pointed their antennas 60 miles east to Binghamton all those years to watch CBS on channel 12, WBNG-TV.In early 2009, that will change, thanks to WENY-TV. Owner Lilly Broadcasting signed a contract last week to bring CBS to Elmira on a subchannel of WENY-DT, displacing WBNG from cable systems in the Elmira market.
(NERW notes that the startup of CBS service on WENY-DT will leave only two markets in New York without a full portfolio of “Big Four” network affiliates: there’s still no CBS in Utica, where viewers watch Syracuse’s WTVH, and no NBC in the Watertown market, served by Syracuse’s WSTM and Plattsburgh’s WPTZ.)
(W300BV is still awaiting special temporary authority to relay WEBO’s AM programming; for the moment, it’s carrying religion from the Family Life Network’s WCII 88.5 in Spencer instead.)
In Binghamton itself, public broadcaster WSKG is marking the 70th anniversary of “War of the Worlds” with a special broadcast Thursday night on both TV and radio. A crew of local actors and WSKG personalities will recreate the famed 1938 broadcast in the WSKG studios, complete with sound effects, and based on what we saw of the preparations last week, it should be quite a show!
In Buffalo, the Ryan Seacrest juggernaut is claiming the late-morning slot at Entercom’s WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls). The arrival of the syndicated “On Air” show in the 10 AM-1 PM slot shifts Shannon Steele (who’d been heard from 10-3) to 1-6 PM. DJ Anthony moves back from 3-7 PM to 6 PM-midnight, displacing Miguel from his evening slot.
Here in Rochester, Brother Wease has picked a staff for his new WFXF (95.1 Honeoye Falls) morning show, set to debut November 17. Joining Wease on “The Fox” will be comedian and Rochester native Jamie Lissow, who returns here from New York City, where he’s been appearing on Fox News Channel’s “RedEye” show, along with a female sidekick from New York named Lilly, who’s worked with syndicated hosts Ron & Fez and Opie & Anthony. Producing the new show will be Anthony Cruz, who’s produced morning shows in New York at the old WNEW and WWPR.
In Albany, the “Darwin and Cat” morning show on WZMR (104.9 Altamont) has split up, as Darwin exits the station for a new, as yet undisclosed, radio gig. Darwin also served as music director at “The Edge,” a post that will be filled by APD “Mike the Enforcer.”
New York’s WAXQ (104.3) has named a new PD. Q104 veteran Eric Wellman came to the station from Long Island’s WBAB in 2000, and has been serving as APD/music director under Tom Poleman, who relinquishes the PD reins as he rises in the Clear Channel corporate ranks, where he’s now senior VP of programming overseeing New York as well as Philadelphia, Boston and Miami.
There’s word from California that budget cuts at Cumulus have claimed the job of Kerry Richards, who went from New York’s WOR to the chief engineer’s office at KNBR/KFOG/KSAN in San Francisco. He’s looking for work, and says he’s willing to relocate. (We’ll put anyone who’s interested in touch with Kerry; just drop us a line.)
In baseball news, the New York Mets are sticking with CBS Radio’s WFAN (660) for a new “multi-year” deal. The Mets just marked their 22nd season with WFAN (even longer if you include its predecessor station on 1050, WHN), and now they’re also being heard on WFAN’s new FM HD relay, via WXRK-FM (92.3)’s HD3 subchannel. And we’re sure it’s just coincidence that it’s also been 22 years since the Mets were last world champions…or maybe we’re just still bitter about Game 6 of that particular series.
In TV news, New York City’s TV stations will join forces Tuesday night just before 6 PM to test viewers’ readiness for the DTV conversion. For two minutes, most of the city’s stations will replace their usual analog broadcasts with a message warning viewers that they’ll lose their analog signals for good in February, and alerting them to the government’s coupon program for DTV converters.
Dorfsman retired in 1987, as CBS was farming out more of the tasks he’d long handled in-house, and we wonder what he’d thought of some of the design coming out of the network in recent years. (CBS old-timers knew, for instance, that the “eye” logo was reserved for the sole use of the TV network, yet after the Group W and Infinity stations were merged into the CBS Radio operations, the division unveiled a logo that included – yup – the eye.)
Lou Dorfsman was 90 years old.
*In PENNSYLVANIA, CBS Radio is bringing in some outside-the-market programming help for KDKA (1020), as Mark Mason, PD of sister station WINS (1010 New York) comes on board to help take some of the load off cluster PD Keith Clarke. Mason will work with KDKA director of news and programming Marshall Adams to keep the AM station competitive against Clear Channel’s FM news-talk competitor, WPGB (104.7).(After trying to hear KDKA after dark in several spots well within the Pittsburgh metro, we’d suggest a good start might involve turning off the HD Radio signals at sister stations WINS and WBZ, which wreak havoc on KDKA’s signal starting even before sunset – but that’s not a programming decision, and of course it plays into some complex politics within the CBS Radio family…)
*We have not one, but two pieces of news this week concerning staffers of the late, lamented “Spectrum” show that emanated from NEW JERSEY on shortwave radio a decade or so ago. Co-host Dave Marthouse, a veteran of Jersey stations that included WSUS and WCTC, is selling the Virginia radio station he owned with longtime Jersey engineer Tony DeNicola.
Meanwhile, “Spectrum” founder Mark Emanuele is partnering up with John Forsythe (who runs WNJC 1360 Washington Township PA) to operate WIFI (1460 Florence Township), operating the station as a leased-time outlet for would-be broadcasters hoping to reach into the Philadelphia market.
(And, yes, your editor was also one of the founding staffers of “Spectrum” way back in the early nineties…)
It turns out WRKO narrowly avoided yet another public relations headache when it let Hopkins go: last week, Hopkins was arrested on charges that he raped a 12-year-old girl in New York City in 2004.
The girl claims that she was visiting a friend at her Manhattan apartment, and that the friend’s mother was dating – and living with – Hopkins.
Police arrested Hopkins Wednesday night at his home in Malden. He was arraigned Friday in Manhattan, where he denied the charges. Hopkins says he was living in Connecticut at the time the incident allegedly occurred, and that he wasn’t in New York on the day in question.
“No one in radio will touch me again, even if I’m found innocent,” Hopkins told the Boston Herald on Friday.
*Best wishes to WODS (103.3 Boston) morning co-host Bob Lobel, who’s home and recuperating after undergoing back surgery for the second time in five months. Lobel will be broadcasting from home for a while as he recovers.
Ten Years Ago: October 27, 2003
*The roster of living top-40 legends gets smaller every day, it seems, and last week we lost another one. On Friday morning (10/24), Dean Anthony died at age 68. Anthony put down radio roots at Washington’s WPGC before coming to NEW YORK in the fall of 1964 to become one of the “Good Guys” at the legendary WMCA (570). Anthony held down the overnights at WMCA for four years, then left (with most of the other staffers) in 1968, only to return a few months later and stay through the start of WMCA’s talk format in 1970. Later, Anthony worked at “97DJ” (WWDJ 970 Hackensack) and did mornings on WTFM (103.5 Lake Success) before joining the staff of WHLI (1100 Hempstead) in 1981. For the past 22 years, he served as program director (later VP/PD) and midday jock at WHLI, giving up the airshift just a few weeks ago as his cancer progressed.
*In MASSACHUSETTS, Salem is indeed picking new calls for its soon-to-launch talker on 1150 in Boston. After contemplating “WYTS” and then “WJTK,” it now appears that the station will be WTTT when it launches in early November. (Those calls have a long Bay State history, having spent four decades on what’s now WPNI 1430 in Amherst.)
*Up in Lowell, the former WJUL (91.5) began using its new WUML calls last week.
*In Athol, the oldies on WAHL (99.9) gave way to classic rock under the new ownership of Steven Silberberg’s Northeast Broadcasting last week. What was “Oldies 99.9” under Citadel is now “Eagle,” with new calls of WNYN-FM pending.
*CANADA’s newest radio signal is in the Kitchener-Waterloo market, where CanWest Global began testing last week on CKBT (91.5 Kitchener), the new “91.5 the Beat.” Initial signal reports suggest the 4000-watt signal is making it almost to the western suburbs of Toronto, at least for DX aficionados.
Fifteen Years Ago: October 30, 1998
*Digital TV is on the air in New England. The folks at WCVB-TV (Channel 5) moved up the debut of WCVB-DT (Channel 20) a few days to broadcast the launch of John Glenn’s shuttle mission on Thursday. Boston was one of just two Northeast markets to see Glenn in HDTV (well, at least those with $15,000 to spend on an HDTV set); the other was New York, where WCBS-DT (Channel 56) is on the air. The HDTV transmission came from Harris, working in a joint venture with Rochester’s Eastman Kodak, which handled film-to-HDTV transfer of the 1962 mission films. (NERW got to see a demo of those a few hours before launch time, and they looked very nice indeed!)
*In other MASSACHUSETTS news, the FCC paid a visit to Worcester State College on Monday to shut down “WSCW” (94.9), the campus station that moved from carrier current to unlicensed FM a few years back (and was leaving a dead carrier up all summer, to boot). An article in the campus newspaper says the station was assured by the local radio engineer who supervised the move to FM that it was completely legal, and that the FCC said it hadn’t actually received any complaints. WSCW is now returning to carrier-current and cable audio, and considering Real Audio and an application for licensed FM in Worcester.
*It’s official: Mega Broadcasting, the buyer of WNFT (1150 Boston), is also picking up WBPS (890 Dedham) from John Douglas’ Achievement Radio Holdings for $4 million. If NERW remembers correctly, there was already some cross-ownership there…and we wonder whether this sets the stage for a duplicate of Mega’s Hartford situation, with one station (WLAT 1230 there, WBPS in Boston) doing Spanish, and the other (WNEZ 910 there, WNFT in Boston) doing R&B oldies.
*Up in VERMONT, Burlington’s former top-rated morning show is back together after a year. Steve Cormier and Coach Tom Brennan left the airwaves a year ago on WIZN (106.7 Vergennes) when Howard Stern came in. When Cormier’s six-month non-compete ended in April, he went to WCPV (101.3 Essex), and with the end of Brennan’s one-year non-compete on October 22, he was free to rejoin Cormier for their “Corm and the Coach” show. The duo kicked off with a live show in front of 600 people at the Burlington Sheraton.
*This NERW is coming out a few hours later than usual because the NERW-mobile spent Friday night on the road to Buffalo, enjoying the plethora of “War of the Worlds” remakes that filled the airwaves of the Queen City. WNUC (107.7 Wethersfield) kicked it off at 7 with Orson Welles’ 1938 classic. Then at 8, WWKB (1520) pulled out the tapes of the WKBW 1968 version — and, not to be outdone, WGRF (96.9) and WEDG (103.3) both launched into their own modern versions. It’s a good thing we had plenty of tape decks on hand, because the WGRF and WEDG version didn’t start off as a simulcast. Each station used its own format and jocks for the first hour, and then once Buffalo was under full Martian attack, the two joined for a simulcast that ended with Irv Weinstein (now a WKBW-TV anchor, but back in 1968 one of KB radio’s top newsmen) as the last man alive in a Martian-ravaged downtown Buffalo. And when the simulcast split again, WGRF returned to its classic rock format with David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust,” while WEDG went back to modern rock with the help of REM’s “It’s The End of The World As We Know It.” All in all, a most enjoyable night of radio, and one more stations ought to emulate.