In this week’s issue… New PDs in NYC – New format for a Boston AM? – Curt Hansen, RIP – Antenna down in NH – Big fine for Philly LPTV

By SCOTT FYBUSH

CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi and 6ABC’s Jim Gardner have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. They join KYW’s Malcolm Poindexter and Larry Kane as the only other broadcast-news anchors in the hall.

Ciarrocchi, who celebrated her 32nd year behind the anchor desk at CBS3, has the distinction of being the first female anchor inducted. The Chester County native, who grew up watching Mort Crim, Vince Leonard and Jessica Savitch, joined the station on March 15, 1982, and credits her longevity to a genuine love of the community and desire to tell its story. She’s come a long way since her radio days, when her first on-air appearance was as a screamer for a Halloween spot.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/celebrities/20140501_Ciarrocchi__Gardner_get_a_Hall_of_an_honor.html#L4otRWVHVSKxmt7w.99

CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi and 6ABC’s Jim Gardner have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. They join KYW’s Malcolm Poindexter and Larry Kane as the only other broadcast-news anchors in the hall.

Ciarrocchi, who celebrated her 32nd year behind the anchor desk at CBS3, has the distinction of being the first female anchor inducted. The Chester County native, who grew up watching Mort Crim, Vince Leonard and Jessica Savitch, joined the station on March 15, 1982, and credits her longevity to a genuine love of the community and desire to tell its story. She’s come a long way since her radio days, when her first on-air appearance was as a screamer for a Halloween spot.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/celebrities/20140501_Ciarrocchi__Gardner_get_a_Hall_of_an_honor.html#L4otRWVHVSKxmt7w.99

CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi and 6ABC’s Jim Gardner have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. They join KYW’s Malcolm Poindexter and Larry Kane as the only other broadcast-news anchors in the hall.

Ciarrocchi, who celebrated her 32nd year behind the anchor desk at CBS3, has the distinction of being the first female anchor inducted. The Chester County native, who grew up watching Mort Crim, Vince Leonard and Jessica Savitch, joined the station on March 15, 1982, and credits her longevity to a genuine love of the community and desire to tell its story. She’s come a long way since her radio days, when her first on-air appearance was as a screamer for a Halloween spot.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/celebrities/20140501_Ciarrocchi__Gardner_get_a_Hall_of_an_honor.html#L4otRWVHVSKxmt7w.99

CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi and 6ABC’s Jim Gardner have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. They join KYW’s Malcolm Poindexter and Larry Kane as the only other broadcast-news anchors in the hall.

Ciarrocchi, who celebrated her 32nd year behind the anchor desk at CBS3, has the distinction of being the first female anchor inducted. The Chester County native, who grew up watching Mort Crim, Vince Leonard and Jessica Savitch, joined the station on March 15, 1982, and credits her longevity to a genuine love of the community and desire to tell its story. She’s come a long way since her radio days, when her first on-air appearance was as a screamer for a Halloween spot.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/celebrities/20140501_Ciarrocchi__Gardner_get_a_Hall_of_an_honor.html#L4otRWVHVSKxmt7w.99

CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi and 6ABC’s Jim Gardner have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. They join KYW’s Malcolm Poindexter and Larry Kane as the only other broadcast-news anchors in the hall.

Ciarrocchi, who celebrated her 32nd year behind the anchor desk at CBS3, has the distinction of being the first female anchor inducted. The Chester County native, who grew up watching Mort Crim, Vince Leonard and Jessica Savitch, joined the station on March 15, 1982, and credits her longevity to a genuine love of the community and desire to tell its story. She’s come a long way since her radio days, when her first on-air appearance was as a screamer for a Halloween spot.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/celebrities/20140501_Ciarrocchi__Gardner_get_a_Hall_of_an_honor.html#L4otRWVHVSKxmt7w.99

(A brief note before we launch into the column: yet again, we’re in the midst of some family health issues, and this time 500 miles from home, yet. While Lisa recuperates from emergency surgery in Indiana, there may be a delay in handling subscription inquiries, shipping orders from the Fybush.com Store and possibly in posts here as well. Thanks, once again, for your patience as we try to get through our latest ordeal.)

wnow-now*There’s a new program director on the way to NEW YORK‘s number-two top-40 station – and perhaps some bigger changes, too. Rick Thomas is on his way eastbound from CBS Radio in Los Angeles to take over as program director of WNOW-FM (92.3), filling the chair that’s been empty since Rick Gillette exited for Cumulus in Washington back in December.

Thomas had been programming two older-skewing stations in Los Angeles, AC KTWV (94.7) and classic hits “K-Earth” KRTH (101.1), but he comes armed with a top-40 background from stints in Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco. His arrival at WNOW fuels the ongoing speculation that the station is considering a rebranding to CBS Radio’s national “AMP” brand.

Uptown at Cumulus, another CBS PD named “Thomas” is taking the helm of what’s definitely a national brand. Brian Thomas exits CBS (where he’d most recently been based in Tampa, programming country WQYK-FM and classic hits WRBQ-FM) to come back to New York to program “Nash” country WNSH (94.7 Newark) and serve as Cumulus corporate PD. Brian Thomas’ New York experience includes a stint as PD of WCBS-FM (101.1), where he supervised the return of classic hits to replace “Jack” back in 2007.

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*Few stations have been in program-test mode for as long as WJOB-FM (93.3 Susquehanna PA), which began broadcasting an urban format to the Binghamton area way back in early July 2012. For whatever reason, WJOB-FM didn’t fiile for a license to cover its construction permit until just last week, and its listeners aren’t likely to notice much of a change when the station finally becomes fully licensed soon.

In Ithaca, Saga hopes to consolidate all of its many translators at the Troy Road site of WNYY (1470), up on the hill south of town. One of WNYY’s four towers is already home to W240CB (95.9, relaying WHCU 870), W244CZ (“96.7 the Vine”), W249CD (97.7, relaying WNYY), W254BF (“98.7 the Buzzer”) and W277BS (103.3, relaying WQNY 103.7). Saga’s latest applications would add three more translators to the site: W235BR (94.9, relaying WFIZ 95.5), W242AB (96.3, relaying WYXL 97.3) and W262AD (100.3, relaying WIII 99.9). W235BR moves there from the roof of the old WFIZ studios on Route 96B near Ithaca College; W262AD moves from a tower just across the street, and W242AB moves from the “City Lights” site on a hill west of Ithaca.

“Radio Free Rochester” now has a callsign: after polling future listeners, the LPFM group has picked WRFZ-LP as its new calls.

In Syracuse, WSTQ-LP (Channel 14) has applied to flash-cut to digital as the analog LPFM sunset approaches next year. The now-Sinclair-owned CW affiliate would go to 15 kW digital from its present 9.8 kW analog, and it would make a big move up from its present home on Craig Fox’s WOLF (1490) tower near downtown to the Onondaga Hill tower of NBC sister station WSTM (Channel 3), which also broadcasts “CW6” on its 3.2 subchannel.

*In Buffalo, they’re mourning Albert “Del” Monaco, who went into radio when he was discharged from the Navy after World War II. Monaco’s career eventually brought him home to Buffalo after long stints in Arizona, California, Michigan and Iowa; from 1985 until 1990 he was news director at WYRK (106.5). Monaco died Albert 12, at age 85.

We’re also getting belated word from VERMONT of the death of a former Southern Tier radio owner. Dean Slack worked at WJOY (1230), WEZF (92.9) and WVMT (620) in Burlington from the 1950s until 1974, then moved to Corning to buy WCBA (1350). Under Slack’s ownership, WCBA became the top dog in Corning radio, adding WCBA-FM (98.7) in the 1980s before selling the stations to what eventually became the Eolin and then Great Radio clusters. Slack died March 12 in Corning, at age 85.

wbin-antennapick*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, it took a huge helicopter to pluck the old analog channel 50 antenna from WBIN-TV’s tower in Hudson. The 30-year-old Bogner antenna had been retired back in 2008 when then-WZMY went digital-only.

Removing the old analog antenna, all 3600 pounds and 47 feet of it, leaves WBIN-DT (RF 35) and WYCN-LP (Channel 13) on the tower.

(Thanks to Rick Zach of Binnie Media for the photo at left!)

*A day after WBIN’s Thursday tower pick, Steve Silberberg completed his takeover of WWHK (102.3 Concord), replacing the temporary loop of “Live from the River Music Hall” excerpts with the station’s first real format in years. It’s now “102.3 the River,” a partial simulcast of AAA WXRV (92.5 Andover) with local ads and news for central New Hampshire inserted into the “River” feed. Will that same Concord feed take over for the straight WXRV simulcast that’s been heard to the north on WLKC (105.7 Campton).

*Our CONNECTICUT news this week revolves around WEBE (107.9 Westport), beginning with some current programming moves: afternoon guy Mike McGowan is picking up the PD reins and getting a new morning talent, too: Jay Michaels moves within the Cumulus family, shifting from the soon-to-be-defunct True Oldies Channel. It’s a return to mornings for Michaels, who was the wakeup man at WFAS-FM (103.9 Bronxville) for two decades until last year.

And we’re very sorry to pass along news of the death, far too young, of Curt Hansen, who created WEBE three decades ago.  After starting his career at smaller-market outlets such as WCFR in Springfield, Vermont, WEIM in Fitchburg, WSAR in Fall River and eventually at WKCI/WAVZ in New Haven, it was Hansen who worked with GM Vince Cremona back in 1983 to transform the former WDJF into an adult contemporary powerhouse as “WEBE 108.” Hansen picked up programming duties for WICC (600 Bridgeport) when it became a sister station to WEBE in 1989, and he eventually became regional VP of operations and programming for what became the Cumulus clusters in the Hudson Valley and Danbury along with WEBE/WICC. Hansen retired in 2012, becoming “operations manager emeritus.” He died on Wednesday (April 30) of complications from COPD and emphysema.

wufc-yahoo*There’s apparently new format coming to the AM dial in eastern MASSACHUSETTS – but we’re hearing that the news release that went out last week about a “libertarian talk” lineup on WUFC (1510 Boston) may have been premature. Wallis Communications announced that it’s taking over June 1 with an LMA from owner Blackstrap, replacing most of the current Yahoo! Sports Radio programming with a slate that will include Glenn Beck, Alex Jones and the same “Dr. K” morning show that Kevin Wallis is currently running (and hosting) on his first outlet for the programming, WILC (900 Laurel MD) on the fringe of the Washington market.

If that all comes to pass, it will keep 1510 as a deep niche player in the market – but before fans of Beck and Jones start setting up presets for the new station, there may be a hitch: sources tell NERW the release went out before a contract for the LMA had actually been signed. As with so much involving the 1510 spot on the dial, it’s likely we won’t know with certainty what’s happening there until June 1 actually rolls around.

*There’s a call change in western Massachusetts, where WTUB (700 Orange-Athol) is now WWBZ. At least when last we checked, the daytimer (ex-WCAT) rebroadcasts WFNX (99.9 Athol), which in turn rebroadcasts owner Steve Silberberg’s WXRV (92.5 Andover).

One new LPFM callsign: A.P.P.L.E. Seed Inc’s 98.1 in Brookfield will be WACF-LP.

*Philadelphia TV anchors Pat Ciarrochi of KYW-TV (Channel 3) and Jim Gardner of WPVI (Channel 6) have been inducted into the PENNSYLVANIA Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame. Ciarrochi, the first female anchor inducted, just marked 32 years behind the Channel 3 anchor desk; Gardner, of course, is an institution at Action News.

*In the Scranton market, WEJL-FM (100.1 Forest City) is hoping to move closer to the core of the market. Currently running 750 watts/926′ from a ridge east of Carbondale, the FM relay of ESPN outlet WEJL (630 Scranton) wants to move a few miles southwest to Salem Mountain Road, south of Carbondale and east of US 6, where it would run 6 kW/318′ DA.

WVZN (1580 Columbia) nearly went off the air for good several times in the last few years, but in the hands of religious broadcaster Radio Vision Cristiana, it’s applying for a new permanent transmitter site. The 500-watt daytimer had been running from a temporary longwire antenna since losing its longtime site just east of the Susquehanna River south of Columbia; now it’s applying for a new tower site just north of its old site, on Deascenti Drive on the southeastern edge of Columbia. From there, it would remain 500 watts day and 4.8 watts at night.

*A Philadelphia low-power TV station is learning the very hard way about the costs of ignoring the FCC when it comes calling. An inspector tried to visit WPHA-CD (Channel 38) on several occasions in 2011, only to find a locked gate keeping them away from the office door. A man identifying himself as the station manager told the agents he had a doctor’s appointment, then refused to let them in when they came back the next day, too. Adding in fines for operating at a tower adjacent to its licensed location, the FCC issued an $89.200 Notice of Apparent Liability against owner D.T.V. LLC.

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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: May 6, 2013

Conventional wisdom says we”re living right now in a time of transformative media change, as established news sources come under siege from newer, more nimble ventures.

wbin-smIn the world of local TV news, though, “new” doesn”t automatically mean “success” – especially in markets where a single player might have a six-decade head start on a newcomer. Markets such as, say, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which is where we start this week”s column with the news that Bill Binnie”s WBIN (Channel 50) has pulled the plug, for now, on the 10 PM local newscast that launched back in the fall of 2011.

In its year and a half on the air, that newscast suffered from two big drawbacks: first, it was never truly “local,” emanating from the centralized newsroom at INN (Independent News Network) in Davenport, Iowa, where an Iowa-based anchor introduced stories from three reporters based in New Hampshire; second, it attempted to compete not only against the very established Manchester-based WMUR (Channel 9), which offers its own 10 PM show on its 9.2 MeTV subchannel, but also against the big newsrooms to the south in Boston. (And even here, the advantage went very much to WMUR, which can draw on the considerable resources of Hearst sister station WCVB in Boston.)

The Binnie group promised early on that the Iowa-based production would be only temporary while it worked to build a full-fledged news operation in New Hampshire, and as recently as February Binnie told the Concord Monitor that he was planning to “double his reporting staff” and expand the evening newscast to an hour. But we”re hearing that concerns with the quality of the Iowa-based production led WBIN to pull out of the deal with INN, abruptly replacing the 10 PM newscast with the syndicated “OMG! Insider.”

WBIN
WBIN”s inaugural newscast, 2011

Will news come back to WBIN? The station has retained one of the three local reporters on its staff, and weatherman Al Kaprielian is still on staff as well, doing hourly weather updates from afternoon into prime time (the former INN-produced newscast used an Iowa-based forecaster instead) – but the most that Binnie VP Periklis Karoutas would tell the Monitor is that Binnie “is doing news and will continue to do so.”

As for some of the bigger plans Binnie”s been talking about for his fast-growing radio/TV group, including a statewide live morning news show, their failure to materialize just yet might well be taken as another sign that even for an owner with the considerable resources of a business magnate like Bill Binnie, getting into broadcasting in a big way is still harder than it looks.

*Binnie”s operation wasn”t the only local news start-up to run into tough times in recent weeks – there”s a shuttered newsroom in upstate NEW YORK, too.

With 80,000 people in Cattaraugus County and the nearest full-fledged TV market more than an hour away in Buffalo, the Olean area has long tempted broadcasters looking to establish a small TV news beachhead. There had been several attempts at low-budget local news in the past on the city”s LPTV stations before broadcaster Jeff Andrulonis bought the stations (now consolidated into one license, WVTT-CA on channel 25) in 2011 and combined it with his Colonial radio group.

WVTT25bannerv1_newColonial had ambitious plans, too: Andrulonis put a news-talk radio outlet on the air, WVTT (96.7 Portville) and began simulcasting its local morning show on the LPTV station – and then added evening newscasts on TV, simulcast on radio. Ambitious though it was, Colonial also operated on a tight budget, with Andrulonis himself (a former TV reporter in Elmira and Harrisburg) anchoring the evening shows.

Even with its lean operations, though, the news from Olean turns out to be “no news”: as of a couple of weeks ago, the local newscasts are gone, the local news staff has been let go, and the morning radio timeslot that had been home to “Twin Tiers Morning” is now instead carrying the Quinn & Rose “War Room” show from Pittsburgh.

(Which is a shame for residents of Olean and adjoining areas of Pennsylvania; with the WVTT newscasts gone, there”s once again no real TV coverage of local happenings, unless it”s a story so big that the Buffalo stations bother to send a crew traveling to the Twin Tiers.)

*In MAINE, Saga is shifting formats at WYNZ (100.9 South Portland). Gone is classic hits “Big Hits Y100.9,” and in its place as of last Monday is a wider variety of music as adult hits “Rewind 100.9.” For now, the new version of 100.9 is running jockless, but all indications are that an airstaff, including veteran morning man Chuck Igo, will be back on the air soon.

*Conventional wisdom says we”re living right now in a time of transformative media change, as established news sources come under siege from newer, more nimble ventures. wbin-smIn the world of local TV news, though, “new” doesn”t automatically mean “success” – especially in markets where a single player might have a six-decade head start on a newcomer. Markets such as, say, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which is where we start this week”s column with the news that Bill Binnie”s WBIN (Channel 50) has pulled the plug, for now, on the 10 PM local newscast that launched back in the fall of 2011.Read more at: http://www.fybush.com/nerw-20130506/
*Conventional wisdom says we”re living right now in a time of transformative media change, as established news sources come under siege from newer, more nimble ventures. wbin-smIn the world of local TV news, though, “new” doesn”t automatically mean “success” – especially in markets where a single player might have a six-decade head start on a newcomer. Markets such as, say, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which is where we start this week”s column with the news that Bill Binnie”s WBIN (Channel 50) has pulled the plug, for now, on the 10 PM local newscast that launched back in the fall of 2011. In its year and a half on the air, that newscast suffered from two big drawbacks: first, it was never truly “local,” emanating from the centralized newsroom at INN (Independent News Network) in Davenport, Iowa, where an Iowa-based anchor introduced stories from three reporters based in New Hampshire; second, it attempted to compete not only against the very established Manchester-based WMUR (Channel 9), which offers its own 10 PM show on its 9.2 MeTV subchannel, but also against the big newsrooms to the south in Boston. (And even here, the advantage went very much to WMUR, which can draw on the considerable resources of Hearst sister station WCVB in Boston.) The Binnie group promised early on that the Iowa-based production would be only temporary while it worked to build a full-fledged news operation in New Hampshire, and as recently as February Binnie told the Concord Monitor that he was planning to “double his reporting staff” and expand the evening newscast to an hour. But we”re hearing that concerns with the quality of the Iowa-based production led WBIN to pull out of the deal with INN, abruptly replacing the 10 PM newscast with the syndicated “OMG! Insider.” WBIN WBIN”s inaugural newscast, 2011 Will news come back to WBIN? The station has retained one of the three local reporters on its staff, and weatherman Al Kaprielian is still on staff as well, doing hourly weather updates from afternoon into prime time (the former INN-produced newscast used an Iowa-based forecaster instead) – but the most that Binnie VP Periklis Karoutas would tell the Monitor is that Binnie “is doing news and will continue to do so.” As for some of the bigger plans Binnie”s been talking about for his fast-growing radio/TV group, including a statewide live morning news show, their failure to materialize just yet might well be taken as another sign that even for an owner with the considerable resources of a business magnate like Bill Binnie, getting into broadcasting in a big way is still harder than it looks.Read more at: http://www.fybush.com/nerw-20130506/

*Conventional wisdom says we”re living right now in a time of transformative media change, as established news sources come under siege from newer, more nimble ventures. wbin-smIn the world of local TV news, though, “new” doesn”t automatically mean “success” – especially in markets where a single player might have a six-decade head start on a newcomer. Markets such as, say, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which is where we start this week”s column with the news that Bill Binnie”s WBIN (Channel 50) has pulled the plug, for now, on the 10 PM local newscast that launched back in the fall of 2011.Read more at: http://www.fybush.com/nerw-20130506/

Five Years Ago: May 4, 2009

There are some weeks when it’s enjoyable to write this column. This is not one of those weeks – and not just because the Official NERW Laptop suffered a massive operating-system meltdown Wednesday night, forcing your editor to spend most of Thursday and Friday rebuilding it from scratch. (Public service announcement: back up your data – and since you probably won’t, burn yourself a Knoppix CD or DVD now so you have it around when you really need to recover the data you can’t get at any other way.) No, this was an unpleasant week to write NERW because, yet again, we’re leading off with two of the stories we like least: massive staffing cuts at a big broadcast group, and noisy headlines about a noisy talk host in the eye of a controversy over something he said on the air.

First, the job cuts: last week brought round two of Clear Channel’s ongoing attempt to figure out which parts of its 850-station nationwide operation are worth the money its private-equity owners spent for the company. The first round back in January claimed about 1,850 jobs around the country, most of them in sales and promotions. At the time, certain alarmist bloggers warned that the company had bigger plans that involved centralizing most, if not all, of its programming. Those dire warnings still haven’t come to pass, but last Thursday’s job cuts, which involved at least 590 of the remaining Clear Channel staffers, did cut deep into the company’s programming payroll – and in the process began to shed light on the company’s new programming direction.

Last week’s cuts (which were decided at a level far above local managers, from what we’re hearing) were not spread evenly across the company, as will be evident in our market-by-market rundown later in this week’s issue. Instead, it appears that Clear Channel attempted to analyze which of its stations – and even which dayparts within stations – were producing significant returns to the company’s bottom line, and which were (at least on paper) bringing in too little to justify the payroll expense.

The result, as best we can make out from the patchwork of cuts across the region, is a new system of “haves” and “have-nots.” Some of the “haves” are big-market giants like New York’s Z100 and Q104, where star air talent will find themselves doing extra work voicing generic tracks under the company’s “premium choice” program – and it’s those generic tracks that will replace the local talent that was cut at second-tier stations like WSNE in Providence or WKGS in Rochester. Some of the “haves” are the largest stations in the company’s medium markets, where cuts to local talent were minimal last week. But some of the other “haves,” interestingly, are stations in smaller markets like Manchester and Poughkeepsie, where talent costs are apparently low enough to allow the company to keep at least some local presence alive and still make a profit.

Last week’s cuts also reached into Clear Channel newsrooms, as the company continued its effort to centralize as much news programming as possible, and even into some markets’ engineering departments, where some talented and long-serving engineers found themselves out of work. We’ll have more thoughts on these cuts in the weeks to come, as we see whether it’s possible for an anchor in Albany to credibly report the news from Worcester, or what happens when something breaks in a studio in Boston and the guy who built that studio is no longer in the building to fix it quickly.

We’ll have as much information as we could round up about the Clear Channel cuts, market-by-market, throughout this week’s column – but first, there’s that other big noisy story coming from eastern MASSACHUSETTS to address. That would be WTKK (96.9 Boston) afternoon talk host Jay Severin – or is that “former WTKK talk host” Jay Severin?

The facts, as best we can ascertain them: Severin, predictably, used the flu headlines last week to bang away at a favorite topic, Mexican immigration. Equally predictably, Severin minced no words as he attempted to link the flu outbreak to illegal immigrants – followed, just as the usual script dictates, by protests and outrage from the usual quarters. Severin is no stranger to controversy, of course, and neither is WTKK itself, so the extent of the station’s reaction was slightly surprising: it quickly pulled Severin off the air, calling his suspension “indefinite” and adding, rather pointedly, that the station “has not been using the remarks for which he has been suspended in on-air promos,” apparently to counter Severin’s claims that WTKK was doing just that.

So far, so normal – we’ve seen this basic scenario play out many times in the world of talk radio, with the length and permanency of the suspension depending largely on the offending talk host’s ratings and revenue stream and the extent to which the station thinks it can reap publicity and improved ratings from the controversy. Where does Severin fit on that continuum? The rumor mill was churning hot and heavy over the weekend, with considerable speculation that WTKK owner Greater Media is less interested in milking the matter for publicity than in using the furor as an excuse to jettison Severin’s hefty salary (reportedly as much as a million dollars a year) and stagnant ratings. Will Severin’s local show give way to, say, a much less-expensive syndicated Sean Hannity? Stay tuned…

Clear Channel didn’t have a lot of staff to cut in Boston, but it still lost some key people. At WXKS-FM (Kiss 108), Dierdre Dagata had been shuffled from middays to weekends to nights, but now she’s gone from the station, with her 8 PM-12 AM shift now being handled via out-of-market voicetracking. (Ironically, the tracking comes from Kiss in Dallas and Jackson Blue, who’d been doing nights at WXKS-FM until last fall.) Behind the scenes, chief engineer Steve Riggs is out after nearly two decades with WXKS and WJMN. His experience with the station included several studio moves and rebuilds, including the recent relocations of WJMN from Waltham and WXKS from its longtime Medford home into a new cluster studio in Medford.

Progressive talk is returning to Boston’s airwaves, thanks to a new leased-time deal with Blackstrap’s WWZN (1510), where programmer Jeff Santos is already leasing mornings for his own talk show. Now Santos is taking much of the rest of the daytime hours as well, running Stephanie Miller at 10 AM, Ed Schultz at noon, Thom Hartmann at 3 PM and another local hour from 6-7 PM.

Ten Years Ago: May 4, 2004

The sale of three radio stations in upstate NEW YORK to Lloyd Roach’s Route 81 Radio group is now off the table – and Roach’s LMA of WKLL (94.9 Frankfort), WRCK (107.3 Utica) and WTLB (1310 Utica) is abruptly over.

There’s a lot of “he said, she said” going on right now, but here’s what we know for sure: Galaxy Broadcasting head honcho Ed Levine came to the stations’ Utica studios last Monday (April 26) with police officers in tow to pull the plug on the LMA. Levine was apparently upset that Route 81 (which was doing business in Utica as “Route 76 Radio”) had changed the format on WKLL, flipping it from Galaxy’s “K-Rock” modern rock format to a simulcast of the standards on WTLB. WKLL immediately flipped back to modern rock, with the standards staying put on 1310.

Local programming on WNSA (107.7 Wethersfield) came to an end on Thursday, and as we prepare this week’s NERW on Sunday night, there’s nothing but dead air on the powerful signal that hits both the Rochester and Buffalo markets. WNSA changes hands to Entercom on Monday morning, and a new format is expected very soon. In the meantime, WNSA’s staff (including talk hosts Howard Simon, Jim Brinson and Angelo “Zig” Fracassi) is out of work, though there are rumors that Simon, at least, will end up on Entercom’s surviving sports station, WGR (550). WGR’s also in line to get the Sabres play-by-play next season – if there is an NHL season this fall, that is.

In PENNSYLVANIA, the long simulcast of WQED (Channel 13) on WQEX (Channel 16) in Pittsburgh came to an end Saturday. WQEX is now being leased out to the America’s Store home shopping network, with three hours on Tuesday morning remaining in the hands of WQED to program with kids’ and public-affairs shows.
Fifteen Years Ago: April 30, 1999

One of the last big locally-owned radio groups in New England is succumbing to the pressures of corporate consolidation. Fuller-Jeffrey announced late Friday afternoon that it has agreed to a $63 million buyout by Citadel Communications. In F-J’s Portland home base, Citadel gets classic rock giant WBLM (102.9), modern rock simulcast WCYY (94.3 Biddeford)/WCYI (93.9 Lewiston), CHR WJBQ (97.9), AC WHOM (94.9 Mount Washington NH), and AAA-AC WCLZ (98.9 Brunswick). On the New Hampshire seacoast, Citadel gets country monster WOKQ (97.5 Dover)-WPKQ (103.7 Berlin) and classic rock simulcast WXBB (105.3 Kittery ME)-WXBP (102.1 Hampton). The companies’ statement makes no mention of F-J’s Portland AMs, WJAE (1440 Westbrook) and WJJB (900 Brunswick), which don’t appear to be included in this deal.

“We are truly passing heritage radio stations to a heritage company,” says F-J founder Bob Fuller, who calls Citadel “a company well known for its commitment to community service.”

NERW’s editorial comment: Bob Fuller and J.J. Jeffrey are among the finest broadcasters in New England. We were heartened a few years ago by their decision to sell their stations outside the region and focus their energies on the Portland and Seacoast markets. Their presence has helped the Portland market, in particular, sound like something much bigger than market 162. Can the market be served as well by a company from Nevada, whose owners know nothing about WBLM’s beginnings in the little transmitter shack in Litchfield, or about the mighty reach of WHOM’s mountaintop transmitter, or about the historical reasons for returning the WJBQ calls to 97.9? We’re inclined to doubt it, and we hope Fuller and Jeffrey continue to keep a hand in the region’s broadcasting scene. It would be a shame, indeed, if Portland and Portsmouth become nothing more than branch offices for companies based in Nevada, Michigan, and Texas. (2009 note: They did, and it was.)

Two of CONNECTICUT’s biggest radio stations are being sold. A new group called “Aurora Communications” will pay $66 million for WEBE (107.9 Westport) and WICC (600 Bridgeport), taking the stations from Martin Pompadur’s “ML Media Partners.” So who’s Aurora? The principals in the new group are Frank Osborn, the former NBC executive who later ran the Osborn Communications station group before selling it to Pilot a few years back, and Frank Washington, the former FCC Mass Media Bureau deputy chief who runs former Capstar station WFAS AM-FM over in White Plains NY. (Washington was to have taken over more former Capstar properties — WINE/WRKI Brookfield, WPUT Brewster/WAXB Patterson NY, and WZZN Mount Kisco NY — but those purchases have been on hold and may now become Aurora acquisitions instead.) Aurora says it will try to grow as a small and medium-market operator, taking advantage of markets where groups are forced to spin off stations as a result of hitting ownership limits. Meanwhile, it’s a nice cash-out for ML, which paid $12 million for WEBE and $6 million for WICC in the 80s.

There’s a new station testing in VERMONT. WEXP (101.5) is licensed to Brandon but operating from a site closer to the much bigger city of Rutland, some 20 miles to the south. It’s being heard testing with a dance-music CD; no idea yet what the final format will be.