In this week’s issue… Buckley exits Hartford – Ottawa’s “Bear” hibernates – Vermont FM seeks state-line hop – Mets add LI signals – Hot 97 on TV?
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*When Richard D. Buckley joined with John Jaeger in late June 1957 to pay $830,000 for WHIM (1110) in Providence, who could have imagined that it would inaugurate more than half a century of continuous family ownership in New England – or that by the time that family tradition came to an end, the Buckleys would be the last ones standing out of all of the family owners who built and grew the region’s broadcasting industry?
Two years after buying WHIM, Buckley-Jaeger Broadcasting paid $815,000 for WDRC (1360 Hartford), and by October 1959 it had built out the FM construction permit that came with the AM station – and for 55 years since then, the Buckley family has owned WDRC-FM (102.9) and WDRC(AM), along with three more simulcast AM stations that joined the cluster later on. Now that amazing stretch of family ownership is coming to an end with the announcement that Buckley Radio is selling the WDRC stations to Connoisseur Media for an as-yet-undisclosed price.
It’s no surprise that Buckley is winding down its ownership: after Richard D. Buckley’s death in 1972, his son, Richard D. Buckley, Jr. (“Rick”) took over the reins of the company, which had by then expanded to include stations in Seattle (KOL), San Francisco (KKHI), Los Angeles (KGIL), Philadelphia (WIBG) and Minneapolis (WWTC). Rick Buckley sold some of those stations and added a big one, New York City’s WOR (710). But with Rick Buckley’s death in 2011, the company’s growth years drew to a close. WOR, of course, was sold to Clear Channel at the end of 2012, and Buckley later sold one of its FM signals in Monterey, California.
That left a company stretched thinly across the country: CEO Joe Bilotta, who’s been with Buckley since the early 1970s, is based out in California, where he oversees Buckley Radio clusters in Bakersfield, Merced and Monterey/Salinas, while the Hartford stations became Buckley’s lone remaining East Coast outpost, overseen by Rick Buckley’s nephew, Eric Fahnoe.
“All businesses have lifecycles, and the radio industry certainly has seen its share of change in recent years,” Bilotta said in the announcement of the sale. That’s an understatement, really: when the senior Buckley bought WDRC 55 years ago, radio was a family business even in markets as large as Hartford. In the decades that followed, Buckley’s competitors transitioned from individuals like T. Mitchell Hastings and Scott Killgore (and the local behemoth, Travelers Insurance) to giant corporations such as Clear Channel and CBS Radio. But while those companies moved staff and changed formats with abandon, WDRC remained a stable, almost family atmosphere, retaining executives for decades at a stretch and staying put at the same Blue Hill Avenue address for the last four decades.
Since there’s no LMA before the sale (brokered by Richard Foreman), nothing will change until the deal closes, which is expected to happen in June. After that, we’d be surprised if Connoisseur makes many changes at WDRC-FM. “The Big D” has made a smooth transition in recent years from oldies to classic hits (with oldies surviving on HD2), carving out a comfortable slice of the market against CBS Radio’s AC WRCH (100.5) and Clear Channel’s classic hits WHCN (105.9).
Connoisseur, for its part, tends not to be overly quick about changing formats when it takes over. WDRC is right in the backyard of Connecticut-based CEO Jeff Warshaw, whose first purchase in his home state came a year ago when he acquired Cox’s WPLR (99.1 New Haven), WEZN (99.9 Bridgeport), WFOX-FM (95.9 Norwalk) and the LMA of Yale’s WYBC-FM (94.3 New Haven). Connoisseur hasn’t touched the formats at any of those stations since taking over, and the addition of WDRC-FM will mesh nicely with that Milford-based cluster, making Connoisseur the only owner that can offer advertisers anything close to full statewide reach in Connecticut, give or take the New London/Norwich market in the state’s southeastern corner and the Danbury market at the western edge.
What’s less clear is the future of WDRC’s AM stations. When Connoisseur bought the Cox cluster, Cox had already spun off WSTC (1400 Stamford) and WNLK (1350 Norwalk) to Sacred Heart University’s WSHU public radio operation. The Buckley AMs – WDRC (1360) in Hartford, WMMW (1470 Meriden) to the southeast, WWCO (1240 Waterbury) to the southwest and WSNG (610 Torrington) to the northwest – take up a lot of resources for little return. Three of the four stations have big directional arrays, none runs more than 5,000 watts, and their “Talk of Connecticut” simulcast has drawn combined ratings as low as a 0.1 in recent books. While Connoisseur has maintained legacy AMs at some of its clusters, including WHLI (1100) on Long Island and WJET (1400)/WFNN (1330) in Erie, Warshaw has been much more enthusiastic about building on the FM side. Will he want to keep WDRC’s network of small AMs, or might they be spun off?
If Warshaw seeks expansion in the Hartford market, he may have opportunities. CBS Radio has long been said to be interested in spinning off its cluster, which includes four FMs and the market’s big AM gun, WTIC (1080). Clear Channel is less likely to be a seller of its four FM/one AM cluster. And there are two independent operators still making a go of it with big FMs: John Fuller’s Red Wolf (WMRQ 104.1) and Marlin (WCCC-FM 106.9, as well as WCCC 1290).
We’ll be watching closely as Connoisseur takes over, and we’re sorry to see the end of the Buckley family’s long run as the last of the old-school ownership groups in the region. (Buckley senior’s ownership history actually went back even earlier than WHIM in 1957; the money for that purchase came from the profit he and Jaeger made from their brief ownership of New York’s WNEW in 1954-55 and its sale to what became Metromedia; Buckley was a top executive at WNEW and its sister TV station, WABD/WNEW-TV 5, even as he was building his station cluster.)
*Speaking of WDRC, a former station executive has died. Jack Roberts made the rounds as a top-40 jock and programmer back in the sixties and seventies, making stops everywhere from Boston’s WRKO and WMEX and Providence’s WPRO to smaller signals such as WBET in Brockton and WHIL in Medford. (Pause here for the obligatory chuckle at that other trade’s story that links all those historic callsigns to the far-flung stations where they’re used now, not to the places Jack actually worked…that’s why you read NERW instead, right?)
Roberts served as VP/GM at WDRC along the way, too, and eventually made his way westward as an executive producer for CRN Digital Talk Radio. He’d been ill in recent years, and he died Friday in Los Angeles at age 62.
*Another CONNECTICUT institution is also leaving the daily anchor desk. Al Terzi joined the news staff at WTIC radio and TV way back in 1968, and by the time WTIC-TV (Channel 3) went to new ownership as WFSB in 1974, Terzi was already one of the state’s best-known anchors. After a brief interlude in Florida from 1978-1980, Terzi returned home, anchoring at WTNH (Channel 8) from 1980-1994, back at WFSB from 1994 until 2012, and at a second incarnation of WTIC-TV (Channel 61) since then.
Terzi has been the 5 PM anchor there since the station launched that newscast a year ago, but he told “FOX CT” colleagues last week that he’ll step back from that role at the end of the month. At age 72, he’ll stay with WTIC-TV as co-host of the Sunday morning political show, “The Real Story.”
*Over at Clear Channel, Mike Bower is out as afternoon host on WUCS (ESPN 97.9) in Hartford and WAVZ (1300) in New Haven. No local replacement for “The Bower Show” has been named yet; Bower says his contract was up and Clear Channel chose not to renew it.
*In an otherwise quiet week in MASSACHUSETTS, the big news once again came from Boston’s WBUR-FM (90.9), where Mike LeClair and his engineering team are pushing ahead on an attempt to get a new Cape Cod signal on the air barely a month from now. WBUR just bought the soon-to-expire construction permit for 89.1 in Eastham from Home Improvement Ministries, and there’s no way Home Improvement’s plans to build a brand-new tower for the station could possibly get carried out before the CP expires April 14.
So instead, WBUR has applied to modify the 89.1 CP to call for the use of an existing cellular tower in Eastham. From there, the new 89.1 would run 42 kW/180′, horizontal-only, instead of the current permit’s 23 kW/285′, vertical-only. Can WBUR get a high-powered facility on the air in just a month? If it can meet the deadline, it will have solid coverage of the entire mid-Cape and outer Cape from its new signal, nicely complementing WBUA (92.7 Tisbury)’s coverage of Martha’s Vineyard and the lower Cape. (And it won’t still need its last remaining non-owned simulcast, over Cape Cod Tech’s WCCT-FM 90.3 in Harwich, which will have its coverage area duplicated by the new 89.1.)
*Two radio obituaries from the North Shore: Norm Durkee was “the Voice of the Radio” on Salem’s WESX (1230) for four decades, starting at the station as an engineer in 1948, when it had been on the air for just a few years. Durkee rose to become the station’s general manager before retiring in 1987. He died February 28, at age 91, survived by his wife of more than 66 years, Laura. A memorial service was held in Wenham on Saturday.
And Doug Mascott was a part of community programming on WMWM (91.7 Salem) for almost 15 years, hosting the Sunday morning local music show “Trax of the Town” beginning in 1999. Mascott began his broadcasting career at Curry College’s WMLN (91.5 Milton) in 1984; he’d also worked at the old WVVE (102.3 Stonington CT) and at WNSH (1570 Beverly, now WMVX). Mascott was just a few days short of turning 50; a memorial show aired in his usual 9-noon slot yesterday on WMWM.
*In VERMONT, there’s a rare opening at Hall’s country giant, WOKO (98.9 Burlington), created by the impending retirement of market veteran Thom Richards. He’s been part of Burlington-Plattsburgh radio since arriving there from New Hampshire in 1978, working at WDOT (1400/1390) and WVMT (620) before joining what was then WQCR in 1985. After WQCR became WOKO in 1990, Richards settled in as afternoon jock, a post he’ll leave at the end of the month when he retires.
Up in the farthest reaches of the Northeast Kingdom, the little town of Canaan (pop. 1078) has been on the books with an FM channel allocation for many years now. A 1990s construction permit for a station to be known as WXMX was never built, and the channel went back into the pool for auction years later. In an FCC auction in April 2012, veteran NEW HAMPSHIRE broadcaster Barry Lunderville paid $9,400 for the class C3 construction permit – but now he’s applying to shift 94.1 down in class and one state to the right, relocating the new 94.1A allocation to Milan, New Hampshire.
That move, if granted, would make the new signal much more useful to Lunderville: it would put it right on the tower of his existing WKDR (1490 Berlin), giving that AM signal a 6 kW/-69′ FM counterpart for its simulcast of “Outlaw” classic hits/classic rock WOTX (93.7 Lunenburg). Unless we’re misreading the FCC records, Lunderville will have plenty of time to get that new signal built: the Canaan signal he won in the 2012 auction still doesn’t have a granted construction permit, and so the three-year clock to construct and license a facility hasn’t started yet.
From the LPFM front: the new 102.7 in Concord has taken calls, WICX-LP.
*In Reading, PENNSYLVANIA, Jo Painter has retired as general manager of WEEU (830). Just as the independently-owned station is a rarity these days, Painter herself was a rare breed of GM – she also hosted the station’s 3-5 PM local talk show until stepping down at the end of February. No replacement has been named yet for the GM post, but the afternoon timeslot now belongs to Andi Kurzweg (of the radio station’s sister newspaper, the Reading Eagle) and “Good Afternoon Berks Country.” Painter had been with WEEU for 29 years.
Across town, the Reading Fightin Phils have a new radio voice as they get ready to kick off the 2014 Eastern League season. Mike Ventola comes to the team’s broadcasts from two years with the Frontier League’s Southern Illinois Miners; before that, he’d been a broadcast assistant with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and, back in 2010, with the Reading team. The Fightin Phils stay on Clear Channel’s WRAW (1340) this season, even though the station just flipped from oldies to Spanish hits for the rest of its broadcast day.
Radio People on the Move: Jared Fallon (aka “Jare Jordan”) is the new PD at WIOQ (102.1 Philadelphia), filling the gap left by Stan Priest’s exit from Q102 in January. Fallon comes to Philadelphia from Clear Channel’s WKFS (107.1) in Cincinnati – and the PD chair over there at “Kiss 107” gets the other end of the Pennsylvania transfer, being filled by Pittsburgh native Thomas Deelo. (He’s mostly been working down south in Panama City, Memphis and Tuscaloosa since leaving western Pennsylvania.)
Across the street at Radio One’s WRNB (100.3)/WPPZ (103.9), there’s a replacement for another departed PD. Filling Elroy Smith’s shoes at the cluster will be Darrick “Brown” Williams, inbound from Radio One’s Charlotte stations.
There’s a Radio One connection to a move in Pittsburgh, too: after less than a year as general manager of Tim Martz’ WAMO (660 Wilkinsburg, plus translator on 100.1), Gary Gunter has hit I-70 westbound, becoming VP/GM of Radio One’s WFUN-FM (95.5)/WHHL (104.1) in St. Louis. No replacement has been named yet at WAMO.
There’s some callsign news in that part of the state, too: Loren Mann has officially swapped calls at his pair of Pittsburgh-market AMs, making them WGBN (1360 McKeesport) and WMNY (1150 New Kensington). In Greensburg, mark down WJLW-LP as the new call for the new LPFM on 100.3.
The week’s lone station sale in the region was in Bellefonte, where silent WJVM (90.3) is changing hands from original permittee KC Club, Inc. (the local Knights of Columbus) to Voice of Divine Mercy, the newer nonprofit that’s actually been planning to operate the Catholic station. The sale price is listed as just $1,000, plus an LMA before closing; once WJVM signs on, which is expected to happen any day now, it will be affiliated with Pittsburgh-area Catholic outlet WAOB (106.7/860).
Translator moves around Scranton: Geos Communications’ W282BJ (104.3) wants to relocate from its current 22-watt facility just east of downtown to a 27-watt signal much higher up on Bald Mountain, west of downtown. The translator, which relays “Gem 104” from WZMF (730 Nanticoke), would also change frequency to 104.5, putting it co-channel with another “Gem” translator serving Wilkes-Barre.*
*Our NEW YORK news starts on Long Island, where we noted a weird little oddity a couple of weeks ago in much of the coverage of that strange stunt the WKJY (98.3 Hempstead) morning show pulled. Most of the reporting about that homophobic party RSVP that turned out to be phony emphasized that “station management” wasn’t aware of what morning hosts Steve Harper and Leanna Karlson were doing. It was odd because Harper himself was management, serving as the PD of “K98.3” – and we say “was” because he’s apparently about to lose that title. Jerry Barmash reports in TunedIn NYC that WKJY will announce today that Harper’s being replaced as PD by afternoon jock Jon Daniels. After serving a weeklong suspension, Harper and Karlson are back on the air with the morning show, and will apparently stay in place there.
*Just barely in time for the start of the season (and yes, Baseball on the Radio is coming soon here at NERW), the Mets and WOR (710) have finally picked a pre-game/post-game host. Seth Everett, who’s been doing sports on WINS (1010) and Fox Sports Radio, will lead into and out of the game broadcasts with Howie Rose and Josh Lewin; he’ll also host a sports-talk show in the evening hours when the Mets are off or rained out, and we assume he’ll contribute to a morning show if WOR ever gets one again.
The Mets have also added FM coverage of much of Long Island: they’ll be heard on the otherwise-religious “Hope FM” network based at WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays) and five translators in Hauppauge, Selden, Manorville, Shirley and Plainview, as well as the HD2 of WBLI (106.1). Will there be more additions to the Mets network before the season starts?
*In a world awash in reality TV, there have been surprisingly few shows set in radio stations. That’s about to change, thanks to VH1 and Emmis’ WQHT (97.1). They’re teaming up for a new reality show, “This is Hot 97,” which will debut on March 31. The show will feature Hot 97’s airstaff and behind-the-scenes crew, as well as the hip-hop artists who frequently visit the station. Will viewers want to see what really happens in a radio station’s hallways in 2014? (Or a reality-show version thereof?)
*New York Public Radio (WNYC/WQXR) is no stranger to big donations, but today it’s announcing the biggest one yet: a $10 million grant from the Jerome L. Greene Foundation that’s believed to be the biggest single gift ever made to a local public broadcaster. The Times reports most of the Greene money will be directed to new digital initiatives, including a groundbreaking new “Discover” feature on WNYC’s mobile app that will allow users to create customized playlists of WNYC content they can listen to even when they’re offline (say, in the subway). A portion of the gift will subsidize ticket prices at WNYC’s Greene Performance Space, which was endowed by an earlier $6 million gift. In all, the Greene foundation has now given $21 million to WNYC, including $5 million to acquire WQXR in 2009.
*Craig Fox already has plenty of FM on the tower behind his studios on West Kirkpatrick Street on the north side of Syracuse, and now he wants to add one more. Translator W237AY (95.3 Dewitt), which carries classic rock “Dinosaur” as a relay of WOLF-FM (105.1-HD3) and WNDR-FM (103.9 Mexico), is applying to move from its current site southeast of town on the WAQX (95.7 Manlius) tower to the Kirkpatrick Street tower, where it would run 99 watts instead of its present 250. (That Kirkpatrick Street site is normally the home of WOLF 1490, but it’s silent for the moment.)
Speaking of “Dinosaur,” it’s making some lineup changes: evening jock Peter Naughton was billed as a temporary host in that slot from day one a month ago, and now there’s a permanent host from 7-midnight: the syndicated Charlie Tuna show is now being heard at night. Dinosaur has also picked up Tuna’s all-70s Sunday night show, also from 7-midnight. Naughton is still on the air on Sundays from 10 AM-3 PM. In middays, Tony Fallico is also a temporary host, and Dinosaur is still looking for a permanent jock for that part-time gig.
And will there be a baby Dinosaur soon? Fox’s WMBO (1340 Auburn) was stunting with all-Beatles at the same time as WNDR earlier this year, but it stayed “WBTL” when the Syracuse FMs went to Dinosaur. Now there’s word that WNDR is running the same “coming soon” promos with foot-stomping, tree-crunching noises that led to the launch of the Syracuse Dinosaur…so stay tuned.
There were no new LPFM grants in the Empire State last week, but two new callsigns: 105.1 in Greenwich will be WGRE-LP, while the Utica market’s 97.3 in Whitesboro will be WHIH-LP.
When Geoff Edwards died in Los Angeles, he was remembered (and rightly so) for his many years as a host of game shows such as “Jackpot!” But he had a prominent radio career as well – and before he was a popular personality at LA stations such as KMPC and KFI, he started out in Albany, where he worked at WOKO (1460) during his college years in the early 1950s. Edwards was 83 when he died in California on Wednesday.
*Almost all our NEW JERSEY news is about the 107.9 spot on the dial. In Manahawkin, translator W300AO has flipped from simulcasting parent station WJRZ (100.1) to a relay of sister station WRAT (95.9 Point Pleasant), extending the reach of the RAT’s rock format down the shore into Ocean County. To make it possible, WRAT is also now being carried on WJRZ’s HD2.
Over in Middlesex County, the application from “Fords Hispanic Community Radio” for an LPFM on 107.9 has been dismissed at the request of the applicant. This was one of the hundreds of applications from the Texas-based Hispanic Christian Community Network filing mill, and it’s not unreasonable to suspect that it asked for the dismissal to avoid increased FCC scrutiny into the filing practices of HCCN’s Cesar Guel. (Two other HCCN-prepared LPFM applications remain active in Hazlet – or “Hazler,” as the sloppily-prepared application called it – and Red Bank; as yet, none of HCCN’s hundreds of applications has actually been granted by the FCC, and more than a dozen are facing an FCC notice of inquiry looking for evidence that the purported applicants even actually exist.)
One bit of non-107.9 news: in Franklin Township, Om P. Tschand is transferring the CP for new translator W224CW (92.7) to Rahul Walia, and apparently not willingly: the transfer paperwork says it’s happening “to the extent required by court order.” The translator, to be built on the WMGQ (98.3) tower in New Brunswick, is currently listed as relaying WWFM (89.1 Trenton), but we’d expect that to change before it signs on.
*There aren’t many radio brands strong enough to come back for a second outing after being abandoned, but one of them is in CANADA‘s capital city, where “The Bear” returned to CKQB (106.9) in 2011, two years after then-owner Astral had abandoned the name as part of an attempt to roll out the “Virgin Radio” brand across its big-market FM signals. “Virgin,” a brand associated with top-40, never made much sense on a rock station, which is why the Bear was reborn.
But now the Bear appears to be on its way to a permanent hibernation, a result of the station’s spinoff to Corus as part of the larger Bell-Astral acquisition. The station’s airstaff is gone, with a notice on the website saying Corus plans to take it in a “fresh new direction.” As our content partners at RadioInsight.com have noted, that’s a tip that the next stop for 106.9 will be the “Fresh FM” hot AC format Corus is already using in other Canadian markets, including Hamilton and London. The new format is due to launch by the end of March; when it does, it will put 106.9 in direct competition with Rogers’ “Kiss” (CISS 105.3), Bell’s CJMJ (Majic 100.3) and Rogers’ CIHT (Hot 89.9) in what’s become one of the most crowded radio markets in the country.
In Tillsonburg, Ontario, the CBC has the go-ahead from the CRTC to put a new Radio 1 relay on the air. The signal at 88.7 will run 2.06 kW average/8.18 kW max DA/78.9 m, wedged in tightly against co-channel CIMX to the west in Windsor; it will relay CBCL (93.5 London), filling a gap between the London signal and the Leamington relay of Windsor’s CBEW.
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