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.

sportstalkbostonBut 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.)

John R. Gambling (photo: WOR)
John R. Gambling (photo: WOR)

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.)

lin-media-llc-logo*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.

mediageneralTo 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).

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*”WLNG, look out. We’re going to be crashing your station, Billy Joel and I.”

That rather unexpected plug for everyone’s favorite radio voice at the eastern tip of NEW YORK‘s Long Island came Thursday night on Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show,” as a chat between Fallon and Joel about doo-wop music somehow veered into a discussion of their mutual appreciation for the one and only WLNG (92.1 Sag Harbor), complete with mentions of its reverb-laden audio.

Will Fallon’s off-the-cuff plan to drive out to the Redwood Causeway this summer with Joel to take over the WLNG airwaves, “late one night when they least expect it,” come to fruition?

If it does, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time Joel’s been to the station. A fixture out in Sag Harbor, Joel’s actually a fairly frequent visitor, seen here in this 2008 photo with ‘LNG jock Brian “the Cannon” Bannon, who reports that all the publicity about Joel’s plug made for a “majorly interesting” few days at the station.

(And if Joel and Fallon do make a late-night appearance at WLNG, you’ll read all about it here in NERW…)

Here’s the video of the conversation, with the WLNG part starting about two minutes in:

*It’s been a long road back from the brink of oblivion, but WKAL (1450 Rome) is once again serving as a local radio voice for a city that’s long been served mostly by stations from nearby Utica. WKAL signed on way back in 1946, owned by the Kallett family and operating out of the co-owned Capitol Theater. For more than 25 years, the 1450 signal has been either a simulcast of an FM station (former sister WFRG 96.1, now WODZ and operating from Utica), or programmed from out of town with a satellite-delivered religious format (under Bible Broadcasting Network, as WYFY), or silent entirely.

WKAL's new studio
WKAL’s new studio

But California broadcaster Ron Frisch didn’t want to see the station go dark, and for the last three years he’s been working to revive it after buying it from BBN. For the last few months, Frisch and engineer Bob Carter have been building out new studios in an office building on Black River Boulevard in Rome and testing the signal with programming from the 1920s Radio Network – and as of March 11, Frisch has WKAL back up and running with full commercial operation as “Talkradio 1450 WKAL.”

Bob Cain, a longtime fixture on WODZ, is the new local morning man on WKAL, followed by a syndicated talk lineup with hosts such as Dr. Joy Browne that leans away from the heavily-political bent of competitors WIBX (950 Utica) and WSYR (570 Syracuse); WKAL will also carry Rome Free Academy sports and ABC news.

*In Buffalo, this is Jim Ranney’s last week as news director at WBFO (88.7), ending nearly 25 years as part of the WNED public broadcasting family that began when he joined the staff of what was then WEBR (970) in the late 1980s. Ranney stayed on as WEBR became WNED(AM), left for a while to work at WGR (550), returned to WNED, then oversaw the merger of WBFO into the WNED operation in 2012. He’s leaving to become communications director for state Senator Patrick Gallivan; no replacement has been named yet. There’s also no replacement yet for longtime WNED/WBFO host Mark Phillips, who retires from the station next Sunday. Phillips has been an evening and weekend anchor since the WBFO merger; earlier, he’d worked at WBUF (92.9) and WWKB (1520), as well as at WHAM in Rochester.

*Some big changes at Pamal’s Hudson Valley stations: WLNA (1420 Peekskill) and WBNR (1260 Beacon) drop their “Hudson Valley Talk Radio” format today, flipping to classic country as “1260/1420 Real Country.” The music still stops at 4 every weekday for two hours of Dave Ramsey’s talk show, and there’s talk and religion on weekend mornings as well as NASCAR racing.

Nolan (photo: WHUD)
Nolan (photo: WHUD)

Down the hall at WHUD (100.7 Peekskill), John Nolan has retired after a long run on overnights. “The Night Owl” has been part of the WHUD family since 1981. Weekender Bruce Owens moves to the weekday overnight seat, keeping WHUD as one of the few stations these days with a live jock all night long.

*Richard Hayes had already enjoyed a successful career as a singer (“Babalu”) and a game show host (“Supermarket Sweep”) before turning to talk radio in that format’s first big rollout in the 1970s. He spent some time as part of the early talk lineup at WMCA (570) in New York, then moved to Philadelphia, where he worked at both ends of the big talk rivalry between WWDB (96.5) and WCAU (1210). He’s perhaps best remembered today for the even bigger radio accomplishments of his son, Drew Hayes, who spent many years programming spoken-word stations in Chicago (WLS, WSCR and WBBM) and is now the operations manager for Cumulus at KABC in Los Angeles. Richard Hayes died March 10 in Los Angeles, at age 84.

*There’s an eerie MASSACHUSETTS connection to that deadly TV helicopter crash last week in Seattle: while the chopper that went down near the Space Needle was flying for Seattle’s KOMO-TV (Channel 4), its tail number (N250FB) was a clue to its previous identity. Until just a few months ago, that helicopter was based in Boston and bore the logo of WFXT (Channel 25), “Fox Boston,” though it was also shared by CBS’ WBZ-TV (Channel 4).

Out on Cape Cod, John Garabedian’s Codcomm group is once again adding signals. After signing on a fourth full-power signal, WKFY (98.7 East Harwich) last year, Codcomm is now poised to upgrade two Cape translators to 250 watts each, relocating both of them westward. W264BA (100.7 Harwich Port) and W230AW (93.9 Centerville) both come to Codcomm from Jeff Shapiro’s Nantucket Public Radio, which currently operates 100.7 from a site in Harwich and 93.9 from a site in Barnstable. If their upgrades are granted, 100.7 would move to 100.5 from the WHYA (101.1)/WPXC (102.9) tower in Barnstable, while 93.9 would move to a site near Mashpee. The 100.7 signal will carry WPXC’s HD3, which is in turn a simulcast of WKFY’s soft AC “Coffee” format, while the 93.9 signal will carry WPXC’s HD2, which is a simulcast of “Frank” WFRQ (93.5), restoring the “Frank” service to the lower Cape that was lost when Codcomm moved 101.1 last year.

Out west, the Hampshire Arts Connection has been granted a CP for a new LPFM on 103.1 in Amherst.

wsou-poster*Last week, we sang the praises of the Cornell University students and alumni who’ve moved WVBR (93.5 Ithaca) into a snazzy new home. This week’s “college radio still draws passion” story comes from NEW JERSEY, where Rob Longo graduated from Seton Hall University 22 years ago. He went into the video production business, but his college years at WSOU (89.5 South Orange) stayed with him – which is why he’s now fundraising for a documentary about his alma mater.

“Pirates of the Airwaves – the WSOU Story” is set to debut April 6 at the Garden State Film Festival, and Longo calls it a labor of love for a station that’s “underfunded, under appreciated, misunderstood, a true underdog that has been punching well above its weight and has become a powerhouse of a radio station in the biggest market in the United States by launching successful careers, winning awards, facing obstacles, and launching bands into stardom for the last 65 years!”

The bold print is his, but not without reason: while he’s finished all the interviews and most of the editing, he’s trying to raise $20,000 within the next two weeks to finish color correction, music licensing and all the other little details that stand between two years of work and a movie premiere in just two weeks. Check out the project’s Indiegogo page, where he’s offering swag that includes DVD copies of the movie and a 3-D printed pirate ship that’s also a real radio, tuned to WSOU’s 89.5 frequency…and if you have a few dollars and a belief in the importance of promoting college radio, maybe you can help Rob make his movie a reality.

*And speaking of movies and radio, we backtrack to Massachusetts and the legendary “Mistress Carrie” of WAAF (107.3). NERW readers already know that in addition to her long-running afternoon shift on the rock station, she’s been passionate in her support of the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, making several visits to war zones over the last few years.

Emerson College student Steve Milo wanted to bring Mistress Carrie’s story to a bigger audience, and for his senior project, he spent several months with her to create a short documentary film about her life and career. Milo got an “A” on the project just before graduating last spring, and now the short film is out on YouTube for the public (complete with a bit of NSFW language, because she wouldn’t be Mistress Carrie, otherwise…)

*Binnie Media has some big changes brewing in NEW HAMPSHIRE, where its purchase of much of the former Nassau cluster created a near-statewide platform for its newly-launched “New Hampshire 1” news brand. Drive-time newscasts are now being heard on 7 Binnie FM signals, with a news staff that includes Nick Carpenelli, Moneen Daley, Laura Montenegro and Dan McCready. Once new studios are completed in Concord, “New Hampshire 1” will also be the news branding on WBIN-TV (Channel 50).

wbub-lpOn the music side, Binnie has hired another well-known programming name: Scott Laudani’s resume includes a long run at WHEB (100.3 Portsmouth) and WGIR-FM (101.1 Manchester), as well as time at WSHK/WSAK on the seacoast, WHJY in Providence, WPLR in New Haven and WAQY and WLZX in Springfield. Now he’s signed on as PD of Binnie’s “Frank FM” stations, WFNQ (106.3 Nashua) and WNNH (99.1 Henniker/Concord), where he’s working with his former WHEB colleague “Doc” Garrett, now the GM of the “Frank” stations.

In Portsmouth, Cultural Media Connection’s WBUB-LP (101.5) not only has a shiny new callsign – it’s already applied for a license to cover for its new signal, which signed on March 11. “The Bubble” is playing 1970s hits and streaming from its new website at thebubble.fm.

Joseph Rayball’s career moved back and forth between politics and radio, but he’s being remembered in the radio community as the owner of WVNH (1110 Salem) in that station’s early years in the 1960s. Rayball became an administrative assistant to Massachusetts congresswoman Margaret Heckler from 1968 until 1973, went back into radio as the general manager of WARA (1320) in Attleboro, Mass. from 1973 until 1979, and then returned to Heckler’s office before working for the Attleboro and then Cambridge housing authorities. We’re just getting word of Rayball’s death back on January 11 on Cape Cod; he was 81.

*A coastal MAINE station wants to improve signal toward Bangor. WNSX (97.7 Winter Harbor) is applying for a 22-watt booster in Holden, where WNSX-1 would fill in a gap where terrain blocks the main 97.7 signal from reaching westward.

wezr-z1055In Lewiston-Auburn, there’s a new studio almost done for WEZR (1240 Lewiston), which is getting ready to relaunch with its new FM translator at 105.5 – and with a new brand, “Z105,” to go with it. There’s a local morning show coming next week, as well. But while WEZR breaks in its new studio, veterans in the market are shedding a few tears now that the wrecking crew has finished razing the old “Downeast Broadcast House,” the barn-like building that was the longtime home of the old WLAM (1470 Auburn). Only the WLAM transmitter remains at the site, with programming coming from Binnie Media’s Portland studios.

In southern Maine, Bible Broadcasting Network has been granted a construction permit for new translator W286CU (105.1), relaying WYFP (91.9 Harpswell).

And congratulations to our old Maine radio buddy Dan Billings, who traded radio for politics some years back, becoming chief counsel to governor Paul LePage. You can now call him “Justice Billings,” since his nomination to Maine’s Superior Court was confirmed by the state Senate last week.

*NERW was quick to tell you about Bellows Falls, VERMONT LPFM station WOOL-LP (100.1) signing off a few weeks back to clear the way for a license to be issued for its new full-power replacement, but we overlooked mentioning the debut of that new full-power signal on March 8. “Black Sheep Radio” went from 6 watts on 100.1 to 550 watts/387′ DA on the new WOOL (91.5) when that signal went on the air March 8 from the same transmitter site just across the Connecticut River on the New Hampshire side. WOOL licensee Great Falls Community Broadcasting says it’s the only independent public media organization in Vermont or New Hampshire operating at that sort of power level without any affiliation with a college, high school or statewide public radio network.

*In CANADA, Corus is moving from personality talk back to music in Toronto after being burned by the controversy that drove former CFNY (102.1 the Edge) morning host Dean Blundell and his crew off the air. Longtime midday host Josie Dye is moving to mornings alongside evening host Greg Beharrell and Dominik Diamond. Fred Kennedy, who’d been filling in on mornings after Blundell was axed, moves back to afternoons alongside Melanie Mariani, beginning next Monday.

Up in Cottage Country, the religious broadcaster UCB Canada wants a new transmitter in Maynooth, north of Bancroft. UCB says its existing Bancroft relay (CKJJ-FM-4 on 103.5) of CKJJ (102.3 Belleville) doesn’t reach all the way to Maynooth, and there’s demand from that small town for its programming. The proposed Maynooth signal would run 50 watts on 94.7. Out west, Acadia Broadcasting wants a new 50-watt FM signal in Ignace, Ontario. CKDR-FM-1 (97.5) would replace the current Ignace low-power relay of Dryden’s CKDR-FM (92.7), operating on 1340 AM.

*And so we come to something vaguely resembling spring, and to the start of our annual Baseball on the Radio special features.

As always, we start with the major leagues, and this year that means we start with the New York Mets and their big radio change. After a quarter-century on WFAN (660, and more recently 101.9) and its predecessor stations, the team is now the star attraction for Clear Channel on WOR (710). And after a quarter-century with little or no radio network outside New York City, the move from CBS to Clear Channel means more radio coverage for the Mets in the hinterlands, where the team’s fan base may be small but is fiercely loyal. The Mets have been heard in Syracuse for the last two years on Galaxy’s ESPN stations, WTLA (1200 North Syracuse) and WSGO (1440 Oswego), plus translators at 97.7 and 100.1, and in Utica on WUSP (1550, plus translator at 95,5); this year, they add Binghamton-market coverage on Clear Channel’s WENE (1430 Endicott). The team’s also on in Glens Falls via WMML (1230), and it will fill in some gaps in WOR’s Long Island coverage via otherwise-religious WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays) and its five translators in Suffolk and Nassau counties.

The Mets radio team, as we’ve reported, is finally back in place: Howie Rose and Josh Lewin return from the WFAN broadcasts, with Seth Everett now handling pre- and post-game duties on WOR.

The team’s TV picture has finally stabilized, too: we knew, of course, that most games would be on the SNY network that the team partially owns, and now we know that a handful of games will continue to be seen over the air on WPIX (Channel 11) in New York and a small network of affiliates upstate.

In Spanish, Los Mets are in their second year with WEPN (1050), with no change to the booth lineup of Juan Alicea, Max Perez Jimenez and Nestor Rosario.

wfan-yanksnetwork*There’s change on the Yankees side of the Triborough Bridge, too, but in a more subtle way. John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman are still being heard on a CBS Radio signal, but this year that signal is the simulcast of WFAN (660/101.9) instead of the team’s longtime home upstairs at WCBS (880). Because the flagship change was “all in the family” within CBS Radio, it appears initially that there’s not much change down the line on the extensive Yankees radio network.

We do know that the Yanks get an FM simulcast in Binghamton, as well as in New York: because Clear Channel is putting the Mets on WENE (1430), the Yankees shift to WINR (680 Binghamton) and its powerful “Oldies 96.9” translator. (In the middle of last season, Clear Channel also put the Yankees on a full-time FM home at the edge of the Rochester market, WODX 107.3 South Bristol.)

Though the team is now only a minority owner of the YES Network, the games of course stay put there for the majority of TV coverage, with some YES-produced games over the air on WWOR (My 9) in New York and an upstate affiliate lineup; in Buffalo, that affiliation shifts from WBBZ (Channel 67) to My affiliate WNYO-TV (Channel 49), which has somewhat better cable coverage around the market and across the border into Canada.

Yankees Spanish-language broadcasts stay on WADO (1280) once again.

*The World Champion Boston Red Sox have, by now, just about justified that huge 10-year radio contract they signed with Entercom back in 2006. In the next-to-last year of that deal, Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien are back in the Fenway booth on WEEI-FM (93.7 Lawrence/Boston) and an affiliate lineup that’s largely unchanged across New England. One exception to the status quo is right on the boundary between Red Sox and Yankees territory, where the Yankees’ move to WFAN means that WLAD (800) in Danbury, Connecticut has dropped the team after many years and joined the Sox network instead.

“With this reshuffling, we felt it was a good time to move to serve the large Red Sox fan base in Greater Danbury.,” says WLAD GM Irv Goldstein. “And the fact that the Sox will be defending a World Series title is icing on the cake.”

Out in the hinterlands of Red Sox Nation, we’re extremely excited about one small addition to the affiliate list: after flipping to sports last fall, WRSB (1310 Canandaigua)/WASB (1590 Brockport) join the Sox lineup this spring, and there’s an FM translator for WRSB about to sign on, further enhancing your editor’s summer soundtrack here at NERW Central.

Sox TV, of course, remains on team-owned NESN, with no over-the-air coverage save for the occasional Fox network game; Spanish-language Sox games continue on WUFC (1510).

(And yes, we absolutely did say in last year’s “Baseball on the Radio” column that 2013 was a “rebuilding year” for the Sox. Heck of a rebuild, boys…)

*The Philadelphia Phillies continue their unusual relationship with CBS Radio: talker WPHT (1210) is the nominal flagship and will carry all games, while sports behemoth WIP-FM (94.1) picks up everything that doesn’t conflict with the Eagles. The network appears largely unchanged from last year, with a large roster of affiliates across eastern and central Pennsylvania, south Jersey and Delaware.

On TV, the Phillies have a new over-the-air partner: Comcast Sports Network produces all of the games, including a few early-season outings on sister TCN/The Comcast Network, and now that Comcast owns NBC and WCAU (Channel 10), the 11 over-the-air games move there from their former home on Tribune’s WPHL (Channel 17). A small network of over-the-air affiliates for those 11 games includes WSWB (Channel 38) in Scranton, WLYH (Channel 15) in Lebanon and WHVL (Channel 29) in State College. The TV broadcasts pick up some new analysts this year as former players Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs join the CSN team, with some guy named Mike Schmidt popping in on Sundays to add his analysis, too.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, fresh off their first postseason appearance in over two decades, maintain their broadcast status quo: CBS Radio’s KDKA-FM (93.7 the Fan) returns for its third season as flagship of a network that extends into eastern Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland as well as blanketing western Pennsylvania. Root Sports has the TV action, with no broadcast TV games.

The Toronto Blue Jays start their season with radio affiliates in 8 of Canada’s 10 provinces (only Newfoundland and PEI are missing), but the team is likely to end the season with one of those provinces missing, once Rogers closes on the sale of New Brunswick’s CKNI and CHNI to new owners less likely to carry the Rogers-owned team. Closer to home, the team will stay firmly in place on its Rogers-owned radio flagship, CJCL (Sportsnet 590 the FAN) in Toronto, and on Rogers Sportsnet for all TV coverage.

In next week’s issue. we’ll continue our Baseball on the Radio (and TV) coverage with a look at the high minor leagues – play ball!

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HERE, CYBER MONDAY IS CYBER WEEK

On Cyber Monday and the following six days, you can get $5 off your entire purchase. Just enter “cyberweek” in the coupon code space in your cart. Does not apply to products on sale.

The Radio Historian has created another historic calendar for 2021, and we’re selling it!

This year’s calendar features 13 new full-color historic images of radio broadcasting from 1913 to 1969. We only have 30 and they sell out fast, so don’t wait!

The 2021 Tower Site Calendar is in the final stages and heading to the press, and we are ready to take your order!

This is the 20th year we have been publishing our calendar. In addition to the beautiful cover shot of WEJL, we have photos from New Jersey, Nebraska, Texas, and much more!

And while you’re getting your calendar, don’t forget the other great products in our store.

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.

1 COMMENT

  1. Scott,

    This is not broadcasting-related, but have you seen the film “Rochester: A City of Quality” from 1963? Maybe you can scan the video for any station towers. :-)

    Paul

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