In this week’s issue… Ordway relaunches in Boston while Gambling returns to NYC airwaves – LIN/Media General deal shakes up Providence TV – Codcomm adds on Cape Cod – Billy Joel gives WLNG the plug of a lifetime – Plus: Baseball on the Radio 2014 – the Majors
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*When longtime WEEI host Glenn Ordway got back behind a microphone a week ago for the launch of his new streaming sports talk show, it didn’t seem wildly exciting, at least not on the surface – the new website at SportsTalkBoston.com was barely even a placeholder, the audio levels were all over the map, and the talk wasn’t very different from what WEEI and archrival WBZ-FM (98.5 the Sports Hub) already fill the airwaves with hour after hour.
But if other ex-WEEI hosts have failed to set the world on fire after going out on their own (just ask Pete Sheppard, who tried his own show up the dial on WUFC 1510 before ending up working for Ordway), Ordway himself is a little different. With 27 years at WEEI under his belt, he’s a far better-known quantity than most ex-WEEIers – and he has more powerful allies, too, like one of his successors as WEEI’s top programmer, Jason Wolfe.
Wolfe also got the axe as part of Entercom’s attempt to overhaul WEEI last year, and as of April 10th, he’ll be on board at Ordway’s SportsTalkBoston as “chief content officer,” overseeing the expansion of programming beyond the 3-6 PM “Big Show Unfiltered” that’s now the sole offering there. Even as a single-show producer, SportsTalkBoston is already getting much better reach than your average podcast outlet. Starting today, “Big Show Unfiltered” will be heard nationwide on SiriusXM, and Wolfe says he’s looking for more outlets, too…which means the sports rivalry between WEEI and WBZ-FM may have a third serious contender in the mix now.
(Over at WEEI, meanwhile, the departure of Ordway’s replacement Mike Salk has reunited another veteran pair of hosts; for now, Dale Arnold and Michael Holley are the long-term temporary team in afternoon drive, reviving the “Dale and Holley” show they did in middays from 2005-2011.)
A veteran of even longer standing is returning to the airwaves of New York City. When John R. Gambling left WOR (710) at the end of 2013, there was a sense in the air that the host wasn’t quite ready to end the 88-year run of Gamblings on the radio in the city. Sure enough, last week brought the announcement that Gambling is reuniting with former WOR GM Jerry Crowley, in the former WOR studios at 111 Broadway, now home to Salem talker WNYM (970 Hackensack NJ).
Starting April 14, Gambling will take the 11 AM to 1 PM shift on “970 the Answer,” adding a second local show two hours after morning host Joe Piscopo signs off. Producer Frank Morano, who’s part of the Piscopo morning show, will join Gambling on the air from time to time, especially when Gambling’s broadcasting from his winter home in Florida.
(And no, there’s still no permanent host named for the WNYM afternoon shift that was vacated when Curtis Sliwa abruptly departed for WABC middays – nor for Gambling’s old WOR morning shift, where Elliot Segal crashed and burned earlier this year.)
*RHODE ISLAND is the state in NERW-land most affected by the big Media General-LIN deal that broke late last week. LIN, of course, is headquartered in downtown Providence, and while the $1.6 billion deal has Media General buying LIN, it’s LIN chief executive Vince Sadusky who’ll be running the merged TV group, raising hope that it will keep Providence as a headquarters.
Providence is also one of five markets where the combined company will exceed the ownership cap. It can’t keep both LIN’s CBS/Fox pair, WPRI (Channel 12) and, under an LMA, WNAC (Channel 64), as well as Media General’s NBC affiliate, WJAR (Channel 10). Which station will stay with the merged company and which will go? Informed speculation suggests WPRI/WNAC, with its strong network affiliations and the NFL football they bring to the table, are more likely to stay, with WJAR being put up for sale.
Who’d want WJAR? Both Sinclair and Nexstar remain strongly in acquisition mode, and Gannett may still be a buyer even after swallowing Belo’s station group a few months ago. Sinclair may have even have some fresh trade bait to offer as it battles with the Justice Department to complete its planned acquisition of Allbritton’s stations.
To speed that deal along, Sinclair told the FCC last week that it will tweak its plans in several markets, including central PENNSYLVANIA: instead of shifting its CBS affiliate, WHP-TV (Channel 21) in Harrisburg, to a closely-linked “sidecar company” when Sinclair acquires Allbritton’s ABC outlet, WHTM (Channel 27), Sinclair now says it will spin off WHP-TV completely. (Sinclair also operates Nexstar’s CW station, WLYH, channel 15, and that management deal would also go with WHP-TV, leaving Allbritton with only WHTM in that market.)
Back to the LIN/Media General deal: in addition to WNAC/WPRI, Media General will also get LIN’s stations in Buffalo (CBS outlet WIVB-TV 4 and CW outlet WNLO 23), Springfield (WWLP 22, NBC), New Haven/Hartford (ABC affiliate WTNH 8 and My affiliate WCTX 59). In addition to WJAR, Media General’s only other property in NERW-land is Albany ABC affiliate WTEN (Channel 10) and its operating agreement with Shield Media’s Fox station, WXXA (Channel 23).
The Fybush Media podcast is back – for real! Listen to our latest episode right here!
Season two of “Top of the Tower” offered you several preview editions during the NAB Show last month in Las Vegas – and now we’re (finally!) back to regular weekly editions. Join host Scott Fybush and a wide variety of industry insiders every Wednesday for interesting conversation about what’s happening in the business of radio and TV, not to mention programming, engineering and the newsroom.
Find “Top of the Tower” on all your favorite podcast platforms or right here at fybush.com – and check out our Season 1 Archives, too!
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: March 25, 2013
*Does NEW JERSEY need more TV service? We know plenty of Jerseyites who’d say “yes” – but there’s probably not one of them who will end up being satisfied with the FCC ruling last week that will create (at least on paper) a new TV station serving Middletown Township in Monmouth County. We’ve been following this story here at NERW for almost four years, starting from the day back in June 2009 when the principals behind Press Communications asked the FCC to reallocate KVNV (Channel 3) from Ely, Nevada to Middletown (and, at the same time, to move KJWY channel 2 from Jackson, Wyoming to Wilmington, Delaware.)
The FCC, of course, thought it had a way to block KVNV and KJWY (doing business as “PMCM, LLC”) from making their epic cross-country moves: not long after KVNV and KJWY applied, the Commission created two new (and highly unusual) VHF digital allotments on its own for New Jersey and Delaware – and it placed channel 4 in Atlantic City and channel 5 in Seaford specifically to put them far enough away that they couldn’t put their transmitters in New York City or Philadelphia, as PMCM planned for its stations.
Channel 4 went on the air quickly and is now WACP-TV, running a nonstop diet of infomercials, and channel 5 holds a construction permit and is expected on the air soon. But with everything to gain and virtually nothing to lose, PMCM continued to appeal its case. Back in 2009, we told readers that “our reading of Section 331(a) suggests that the Commission would have a hard time saying no” to the move in the end – and not to brag or anything, but we turned out to be right.
PMCM went to court seeking vindication of its theory, and in December it won a unanimous ruling from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, ordering the FCC to approve the KVNV and KJWY moves. Last week, the FCC took the first step toward complying with the court’s order: it issued a pair of Report and Orders reallocating the Ely and Jackson channels to “Middletown Township” and “Wilmington,” respectively, and directing PMCM to submit applications within 30 days for construction permits for its new facilities.
Those facilities won’t be in New Jersey or Delaware, of course: KVNV’s new allotment coordinates put its new 10 kW signal atop Four Times Square in Manhattan, while KJWY’s new channel 2 facility would be in the Roxborough tower farm in Philadelphia.
*In CONNECTICUT, they’re mourning a DJ who died far too young. The name on his birth certificate was Kevin Cleary, but for most of his time at WCCC-FM (106.9 Hartford), and before that at WMRQ (104.1 Waterbury), he was known as “KTAG” – “Kevin the Afternoon Guy.” More recently, he’d been “Kevin the Part-Time Guy,” but he was still a beloved part of the Hartford radio family when he died on Friday at his home in Bristol. A native of Rochester, N.Y., Cleary was just 44 years old.
Up on West Peak, John Fuller’s Red Wolf Broadcasting has put its “La Bomba” Spanish-language service on the air at W258AL (99.5 Clinton), which just completed a ten-mile move up to West Peak in Meriden. From there, it’s now relaying the HD2 of co-located WMRQ (104.1 Waterbury), adding lots of “Bomba” coverage to the existing Red Wolf translators in Bolton and Bridgeport.
*There’s one fewer TV newsroom now in NEW YORK‘s state capital. Friday’s 10 PM newscast was the last to originate from the Corporate Circle studio of WXXA (Channel 23) as the Fox affiliate completed its operational merger with ABC outlet WTEN (Channel 10). In the months since WTEN began operating WXXA for its new owners, Shield Media, the Fox station cancelled its 5 and 11 PM newscasts and began shedding staffers such as lead anchor Ann Hughes.
The Times Union reports Friday’s WXXA newsroom closure meant the elimination of 20 more jobs, including meteorologist Jason Caterina and reporter Steve Flamisch. WXXA’s remaining morning and 10 PM newscasts now come from WTEN’s Northern Boulevard studios, produced mainly by WTEN’s existing staff.
*Radio folks all over western New York are mourning Burton O. Waterman. “Uncle Burt” had a long career in engineering, largely based around his home in Cassadaga, near Jamestown. That’s where he built WNYP (Channel 26) in the 1960s, and where he worked for many years engineering WKSN (1340) and WHUG (101.7). After retiring, Waterman continued to work with former WKSN/WHUG colleagues Dan and Deb Fischer, building a new storefront studio in Batavia afeter they bought WBTA (1490) there in 2003. That studio on Main Street is now named after Waterman, complete with a plaque in the entryway. Waterman died last Monday (March 18), at age 89.
Five Years Ago: March 23, 2009
There’s word just in from CTVglobemedia that the plug is once again being pulled on oldies on the Toronto AM dial. Thursday morning at 5, CHUM (1050) will give way to “CP 24 Radio 1050,” which sounds like it will be mainly a simulcast of CTV’s “CP24” cable news channel. With the CRTC’s recent rule change allowing oldies formats on the FM dial, will Toronto see a move of oldies to FM…or is this curtains for the format for good? More next week…
During George Weber’s years on NEW YORK’s WABC (770), he built up quite a following as the talk station’s morning “News Guy,” and even after losing that gig in early 2008, after the Curtis & Kuby morning show where he’d worked gave way to Don Imus, Weber stayed active as a reporter and anchor with ABC Radio News. He was scheduled for several shifts last week at ABC, and after he didn’t show up Saturday, concerned co-workers called the police. They entered Weber’s apartment in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood Sunday morning, where they found him apparently stabbed to death. Neighbors told the New York Post they believe Weber was murdered sometime Friday night. (The last entry on Weber’s blog was dated Friday.) Police say there were no signs of forced entry, but neighbors told the paper the apartment had been ransacked.
Weber was a native of the Philadelphia area who started his career at WBUX (1570 Doylestown PA), then worked at WAEB (790 Allentown) before heading west in the mid-eighties, where he worked at KIMN in Denver (alongside his future WABC program director Phil Boyce), KOA in Denver, KGO in San Francisco and KOGO in San Diego before joining WABC in 1995.
Moving upstate, there’s a surprise from Oneida, where one of the region’s truly old-school mom and pop stations has been sold. We didn’t know WMCR (1600) and WMCR-FM (106.3) were for sale, and it appears owner Vivian Warren, who bought the stations in 1969 and continued to run them after the 2005 death of her husband and co-owner, Bill, wasn’t actively trying to sell them. But when Cooperstown-based James Johnson came calling with an offer, Warren decided to accept – and now the stations are about to get their first ownership change in four decades.
From what Johnson tells the Oneida Daily Dispatch, the stations are going into good hands. Beginning in 1995, Johnson built a three-station cluster in Norwich (WKXZ/WBKT/WCHN) into the eight-station BanJo group before selling the stations to Double O Radio in 2004 for nearly $10 million. Since then, he’s bought and sold restaurants and real estate and invested in a Broadway musical, as well as getting elected to the Otsego County board of representatives.
Ten Years Ago: March 22, 2004
One of the most interesting stories we’ve followed here on NERW in the last decade has been the growth of the Vox group around the region, as Bruce Danziger and Jeff Shapiro began with a handful of stations and built them into one of the dominant ownership blocks in New England. But with last week’s announcement that Vox would part with 10 of its core stations in VERMONT and NEW HAMPSHIRE, the ride appears to be nearing an end. For $22 million, New Jersey’s Nassau Broadcasting will add the Barre-Montpelier cluster of talker WSNO (1450 Barre VT), “Froggy” country WWFY (100.9 Berlin VT) and top 40 WORK (107.1 Barre VT); the Upper Valley cluster of sports simulcast WNHV (910 White River Junction VT)/WTSV (1230 Claremont NH), “Bob Country” WSSH (95.3 White River Junction VT)/WZSH (107.1 Bellows Falls VT), “Oldies 104” WXOD (104.3 Hartford VT)/WCFR (96.3 Walpole NH) and the big signal of rocker WHDQ (106.1 Claremont NH) to its fast-growing station group.
(For those keeping score at home, these 10 stations join 20 more that Nassau bought or is buying in New Hampshire and Maine: WBYA, WBQI and WBQX in the Bangor area; WTHT, WMEK, WLAM, WMTW, WMTW-FM and WBQW in the Portland area; WBQQ and WQEZ in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport; WLNH, WBHG, WEMJ and WLKZ in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region; WNHI, WNNH, WOTX and WJYY in Concord and WHOB in Nashua. Nassau says the latest deal will give it more stations than any one owner has ever had in New England, and we can’t find any reason to disagree.)
A veteran MASSACHUSETTS jock has a new gig: Bill Abbate, long of Infinity’s WBCN (104.1), is joining Greater Media’s WBOS (92.9 Brookline) as Amy Brooks’ morning co-host. Meanwhile, Barbara Jean Scannell is leaving Greater Media (where she was general sales manager) to be the new GM at Infinity’s WBMX (98.5). WBMX gets a new OM/PD, too, as Jon Zellner arrives from Kansas City’s KMXV/KSRC to handle programming for Mix and for WODS (103.3 Boston). Zellner is also Infinity’s VP for adult top 40 programming.
And here’s some good news: David Brudnoy returns to the air tonight at WBZ (1030), where he’s been off the air since last September. We couldn’t be happier to welcome him back!
WXCT (990) in Southington, CONNECTICUT is getting a new owner, as ADD Media files to sell the talk station to the Davidson Media Group for a reported $1.4 million. Davidson owns or is buying six stations in North Carolina, most of them running either Spanish-language programming or religion.
A northeast PENNSYLVANIA broadcaster is in trouble with the law. Doug Lane, owner of WWDL (104.9 Scranton), WICK (1400 Scranton) and WYCK (1340 Plains), was arrested last week and charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault and corrupting a minor. Police say Lane molested a boy between 1990 and 1994; the victim, now 25, recently came forward, and media accounts say several others have now also accused Lane of molesting them. Lane is free on $10,000 bail.
Fifteen Years Ago: March 24, 1999
When a radio station dismisses air talent, the talent usually goes quietly. Two disc jockeys in Albany, NEW YORK are trying to change that relationship. Bob Mason and Bill Sheehan were fired from WXCR (102.3 Ballston Spa) last year, just a year or so after jumping to the upstart classic rocker from their longtime home at competitor WPYX (106.5). On Monday, they filed a $50 million lawsuit against WXCR’s owner, Clear Channel Communications, alleging everything from fraud to breach of contract to age discrimination.
Mason and Sheehan tell Mark McGuire of the Albany Times Union they were a “valuable commodity” when they made the move to WXCR, but now they’re “damaged goods,” and they blame what they call a Clear Channel “conspiracy” that’s kept them off the air for seven months now. The pair say Clear Channel hired them away from WPYX to remove the competition they were offering to Howard Stern, heard in Albany on Clear Channel’s WQBK/WQBJ (103.9/103.5). With that accomplished, they believe Clear Channel had no further use for them, and they think they’re being blackballed from potential openings at other area stations.
There’s more morning-show shuffling taken place in northern New York, at the Clancy-Mance cluster in Watertown. Johnny and Erica Spezzano’s top-rated show is moving from hot AC WTOJ (103.1 Carthage) over to sister CHR “The Border,” WBDR (102.7 Cape Vincent) and WWLF (106.7 Copenhagen), as part of a series of changes at WTOJ that are moving that station towards a softer AC format. Joe Brosh moves to WTOJ’s morning drive from afternoons, and Border morning guy Jack Day completes the circle by moving to WTOJ in afternoon drive. Across town at WTNY (790), Mike Gallagher’s syndicated talk show debuts in the 9-noon slot, bumping Laura Schlesinger to the 3-6 PM slot now being occupied by One-on-One Sports. And for those still wondering: Yes, Johnny Spezzano is the brother of Rochester’s WPXY morning guy Scott Spezzano, and a dead ringer on the air, too.
Heading back downstate, there’s nothing but silence where the lone local voice of Rockland County used to be. WRKL (910 New City) signed off at 3 PM on Thursday (March 18), as new owners Polnet decide what to do with the station. Rockland County officials are understandably uneasy about this, since they’ve relied on WRKL as essentially their only conduit for emergency information. We’ll be keeping an eye on this one; WRKL was always one of the best small-market news operations in the state, and it would be a shame to lose it for good. Rockland’s only other radio station, noncommercial WNYK (88.7 Nyack), has applied to move its transmitter slightly to the northeast, moving up from 10 watts at 17 meters to 2 watts at 139 meters, which should improve coverage considerably.
Plenty of changes this week involving Chancellor Media, beginning with the company’s decision not to follow through on plans to acquire LIN Television. LIN’s Northeast properties are WTNH (Channel 8) New Haven and WIVB (Channel 4) Buffalo. Chancellor did win FCC approval this week for its merger with Capstar, which brings a whole host of Northeast stations into the Chancellor group, including the Albany cluster of WGNA AM-FM/WTRY AM-FM/WPYX/WXLE, the Hartford cluster of WPOP/WWYZ/WKSS/WMRQ/WHCN, New Haven’s WPLR, and Stamford/Norwalk’s WNLK/WSTC/WEFX/WKHL. Four Capstar stations that aren’t going to Chancellor are WRKI/WINE Brookfield and WAXB/WPUT just across the New York line in Patterson and Brewster. They remain in trust awaiting a buyer; a proposed sale fell through last fall.
In MASSACHUSETTS, there’s finally a signal on 106.3 in Northampton, almost two decades after the FCC began the application process for that channel. After years of competitive hearings among several applicants, a settlement was reached recently, and now listeners in the Pioneer Valley have reported hearing signal tests from the new WEIB. No word yet on format for this one.
In MAINE, we now know why 1490 in Portland is changing calls from WPOR(AM) to WBAE. The station will soon end its simulcast of WPOR-FM’s country music in favor of satellite adult standards as “the Bay.” It may not be a huge revenue producer for Saga, but it will likely shave a bit off the ratings of standards WLAM (870 Gorham/106.7 N. Windham). Ironically, WLAM’s morning man is Bud Sawyer, who spent decades at WPOR before being let go last year.