In this week’s issue… More morning shuffles in NYC – Ray Marks, RIP – Baseball moves in central PA – Ottawa FM wants a boost
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Morning drive in New York City has been a surprisingly volatile shift lately, and this week the volatility comes in the world of Spanish-language radio, where Luis Jimenez is headed back to his original New York radio home, Spanish Broadcasting System. In a 14-year run at SBS, Jimenez took WSKQ-FM (97.9) to the top of the ratings, the first time a Spanish-language station had landed there – and then he made big headlines in 2008 when he jumped ship to competitor Univision Radio. Jimenez was a big part of the launch of WCAA (105.9), which quickly transitioned to a better signal as WXNY (96.3), but he disappeared from that station last year amidst big budget cuts at Univision.
Now he’s returning to SBS, but not to WSKQ. Instead, Jimenez will be on sister station WPAT-FM (93.1 Amor FM), where his “Sin Censura con Luis Jimenez” (“Uncensored”) show will be originated for national syndication. Is Jimenez a big enough name to pull WPAT-FM out of its distant third place among New York’s big Spanish-language FMs, far behind both WSKQ-FM and WXNY?
*One area where radio turbulence has calmed dramatically in recent months is the fight for New York sports play-by-play rights. The Mets and Yankees are now firmly settled on iHeart’s WOR (710) and CBS Radio’s WFAN (660/101.9), respectively, and last week MSG Networks quelled any speculation about a flagship shift for the Knicks and Rangers by announcing a two-year deal to keep them in place on ESPN Radio’s WEPN-FM (98.7), where both teams have been heard for 11 years, going back to the days when WEPN was on 1050 on the AM dial. With both NFL teams in stable deals (the Jets on WEPN, the Giants on WFAN), the suspense now – if you can call it that – will come with the Islanders’ move to Brooklyn next season. Could Brooklyn hockey be a bigger draw on WFAN than its current NHL franchise, the Devils? Or might the Brooklyn team be a natural winter counterpart to the Mets on WOR? We’ll be watching for an announcement there in the next few months.
And there’s an afternoon-drive move on what’s been a very stable part of the dial: Amy Eddings is exiting the local host chair for “All Things Considered” at WNYC (93.9/820) in New York; she’s apparently headed home to Ohio.
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*In upstate NEW YORK, Ray Marks had a long and prominent career in radio news in and around Buffalo, starting as a reporter/anchor at WYSL (1400)/WPHD (103.3) and WGRQ (96.9) and a producer at WIVB (Channel 4). He was best known for his many years as an anchor and news director at WBEN (930) and WGR (550), right up until Entercom merged his WGR newsroom into the WBEN operation in the 1990s. Marks stayed in radio as news director at Jamestown’s WJTN (1240)/WWSE (93.3), then went on to contribute stories to WBFO (88.7) and teach at Medaille College in retirement. Sadly, his retirement was cut short by a leukemia diagnosis last year, and after a courageous fight against the disease, Marks died on Wednesday. He was 70.
Another chapter in the long, sad saga of Robert Pfuntner’s Pembrook Pines group has closed: the $130,000 sale of WZKZ (101.9 Alfred) to Sound Broadcasting LLC has closed. The sale reunites the country station with the former Pfuntner stations in Olean (WMXO/WOEN) that were sold to Sound last year.
Does anyone in greater Buffalo even know that three translators in the market relay the Christian hit radio programming of WXHL (89.1) from Christiana, Delaware? Priority Radio’s “Reach Radio” feeds signals in Buffalo, Grand Island and Lockport by satellite from WXHL, but that Grand Island signal, W206CA (89.1), is being displaced. Across the border, the new CKYY (89.1 Welland) both causes interference to and receives interference from the Grand Island translator, and so Priority is applying to move it to 106.9. The translator would still run its current 8 watts from the WNED-TV tower on Whitehaven Road, and because a translator in the commercial band can’t be fed by satellite, 106.9 would get its signal from WXHL’s 88.1 translator in Buffalo.
Albany-based public broadcaster WAMC (90.3) wants to strengthen its footprint in the Pioneer Valley of MASSACHUSETTS, where it’s long competed for ears against WFCR (88.5 Amherst). This time, it’s right on WFCR’s home turf (at least before WFCR relocated most of its operations down to Springfield): WAMC has applied for a 300-watt on-channel booster, WAMC-2, that would aim its signal eastward from Hadley over the heart of Amherst. That area is well within WAMC’s predicted 60 dBu signal, but is somewhat shadowed in the real world from WAMC’s main transmitter on Mount Greylock. WAMC already has a construction permit for another on-channel booster in the Pioneer Valley: WAMC-FM-1 is planned to run 250 watts, aimed into Northampton and Florence from Horse Mountain in Williamsburg.
*A translator flip in MAINE that slipped past us (and everyone else) at the end of last year: Stephen King’s AAA WZLO (103.1 Dover-Foxcroft) is now being simulcast into Bangor over translator W252CT (98.3), which had been relaying his sports-talk “Zone” WZON (620). The translator is getting its WZLO programming over the HD2 of co-owned WKIT (100.3).
Up on Streaked Mountain in western Maine, Light of Life Ministries’ WMDR-FM (88.9 Oakland) now has special temporary authority for lower-power operation while it works to rebuild the tower that fell in a December storm. WMDR tells the FCC that winter weather conditions make access to the site a challenge and reconstruction impossible, so it’s operating at 6.7 kW/1187′ from a temporary shorter replacement tower, with a return to its full 100 kW/ 1282′ on hold until spring or summer.
And we send deep condolences to Mark Vogelzang, the head of Maine Public Broadcasting (and formerly of VERMONT Public Radio) on the passing over the weekend of his wife, Rhonda, following a long illness.
*If you’re a baseball fan in central PENNSYLVANIA, you’re probably (but far from certainly) a Phillies fan – and you’re probably going to have to twist your dial to find your team this coming summer. The Phils had been heard on Cumulus-owned sports talker WHGB (1400) and its FM translator on 95.3, but that station (which just relocated its translator home to a more potent signal on 96.5) is switching to the Washington Nationals this year. That clears up a territorial conflict with the station that took over ESPN Radio when WHGB switched to CBS Sports Radio in 2013: Hall’s WLPA (1490 Lancaster) was already carrying the Phils, but its new FM sister, WLPA-FM (92.7 Starview) covered too much of Harrisburg and couldn’t carry Phillies games in conflict with WHGB. Now Hall has full rights to the Phillies in both Lancaster and Harrisburg, and this year the Phils will be heard on both 1490 and 92.7. (The WLPA simulcast will still split for Penn State football, where WHGB still holds the exclusive territorial rights to Harrisburg.)
The Nats will also replace the Phillies on Cumulus’ WGLD (1440 York) – and we will, of course, have the complete Baseball on the Radio rundown in another month or so, when the season’s ready to get underway.
Family Life Ministries already has deals with Entercom to use HD subchannels on its big FM signals up in Buffalo and Rochester, and now it’s using a commercial FM in Pittsburgh to provide an extended footprint under which it can expand its translator signals in western Pennsylvania. FLM has filed to boost W254AV (98.7 Kittanning) to 99 watts, using Renda’s WSHH (99.7 Pittsburgh) as the originator of the HD feed that W254AV will relay.
*With the end of analog channel 6 operation, Newcap sees a big opportunity to improve the signal of its top-40 station in CANADA‘s capital city, CILV (Live 88.5). When CILV signed on in 2005, it had to protect Global’s CIII-TV-6 on channel 6, just below the FM dial, and that in turn dictated sharing the transmitter site at Camp Fortune, Quebec used by CIII-TV-6 and most of the rest of Ottawa’s TV stations. That limited CILV to 2.3 kW average/12 kW max DA/254.6 m – and that made Live 88.5 a tough catch in Ottawa’s eastern and southern suburbs. With CIII-TV-6 now operating in digital on UHF, Newcap is applying to move CILV to the market’s other community tower site, at Manotick, Ontario south of the city. From there, 88.5 can run 37 kW average/90 kW max DA/130.7 m, serving more of greater Ottawa while still protecting the CBC’s co-channel CBME to the east in Montreal.
Over in Montreal, last Monday was the official launch day for Evanov’s “Radio Fierte,” CHRF (980), and there’s not much we can say about the launch that Steve Faguy doesn’t have in more detail (including launch-day audio!) over at his blog.
*In Toronto, Corus has pulled the plug on “Spirit of Radio Sunday,” the 11 AM-5 PM block that it started a year ago as a way to honor CFNY (102.1)’s roots as a pioneering indie-rock voice back in the early 1980s. Scot Turner had hosted and produced the show, which aired for the last time February 1.
A sad story from the Toronto suburbs: Jim Leek was a Christian radio host on CJMR (1320) in the 1990s, then moved over to sister station CJYE (1250 Oakville) when it launched as a fulltime contemporary Christian signal in 2001.
Leek had been with CJYE ever since, as morning host and music director. He died January 29 while on vacation in Florida, in an apparent accident while scuba diving.
Leek was 58. No replacement has been named yet at “Joy 1250” for the morning shift.
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, fifteen and – where available – twenty 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: February 10, 2014
That programmer, Scott Shannon, famously took WHTZ (Z100) from “worst to first” in 1983 before leaving the city for a less successful venture with “Pirate Radio” KQLZ in Los Angeles in 1989. Two years later, Shannon was back in New York as PD and morning man on ABC’s WPLJ (95.5), and there he remained for almost 23 years, right up until the surprise announcement midway through Friday morning’s “Scott and Todd Show”: it was Shannon’s last show, he told listeners, and come Monday co-host Todd Pettengill would have the “Todd Show” all to himself.
But Shannon’s not following other New York morning icons like John R. Gambling and Harry Harrison into retirement. Reading between the lines of his comments on Friday – “No way,” he told the Daily News when asked if he’s hanging up his headphones. “It’s just a change” – there’s every reason to believe the decision to abruptly end Shannon’s run on WPLJ was a Cumulus corporate one, not Shannon’s own.
The move removes one of the last of the big 1980s personalities from New York’s morning airwaves, and so far it raises more questions than it answers about Cumulus’ plans for WPLJ – and for music radio in general – going forward. That’s because while Todd launches his solo “Todd Show” on 95.5 this morning, down the dial on WNSH (94.7), “America’s Morning Show” is going (pardon the phrase) “NASH-ional.” As NERW subscribers were the very first to find out in our Extra on Wednesday morning, the Nashville-based show headed by Blair Garner has been exclusive to WNSH listeners in the months since it launched last year, but as of today it will be heard on 20 “NASH” outlets around the country, including new flips WXTA (97.9 Edinboro PA) in Erie and WZCY (106.7 Hershey) in Harrisburg.
*Is Buffalo’s third-rated TV station about to be sold? All signs point to an imminent announcement from Granite that WKBW-TV (Channel 7) is on its way to the E.W. Scripps Company, a move that would put the struggling ABC affiliate in the hands of a new owner with deeper pockets and a better ability to compete with the market’s dominant newsrooms at LIN-owned CBS affiliate WIVB (Channel 4) and Gannett’s NBC affiliate, WGRZ (Channel 2).
While we’re in Buffalo, we note with great sadness the passing of Ben Bass, who was never a star of the radio scene but was always one of those people who kept the stars on the air behind the scenes. Over the years, Ben’s resume included stops at Buffalo State’s WBNY, WGR, WJYE and recently an audio production gig at WNYB-TV. A passionate broadcast historian, Ben, N2YDM, was also very active with several local amateur radio clubs. He’d been sick last week, and a friend checking in on him early last week found him dead in his kitchen. Funeral services will be held this morning in Amherst. Ben was 59 years old.
*There’s a new radio station officially on the air just north of CANADA‘s biggest city. CFMS (105.9 Markham) made its official debut as “105.9 the Region” on Wednesday morning at 6, offering a full-service format aimed at the million or so potential listeners in York Region. In addition to English-language traffic and news during drive times, CFMS runs ethnic programming in evening hours in several South Asian languages to meet its conditions of license as a multiethnic station. (The Toronto Star apparently didn’t quite get that detail, writing that the station is carrying those shows “to meet the needs of its culturally diverse audience.”)
Five Years Ago: February 8, 2010
The three-way battle for talk radio listeners in Albany is down to two competitors. Albany Broadcasting is pulling the plug on talk at WROW (590), and we’re hearing most of the station’s staff, including morning host Steve van Zandt, was let go this morning. (Also out are news director Heidi Kelly and news producer Tom Rigatti; most of the actual WROW newscasts had already been outsourced.) The 590 signal will be simulcasting soft AC/standards WKLI (100.9) for the time being; WROW PD Jackie Donovan, who co-hosted the morning show, stays on as a WKLI jock, we’re told. There’s no word about a new Albany affiliate for the station’s other local show, Susan Arbetter’s “Capital Pressroom,” which is produced by Syracuse public station WCNY. The “Magic” format from WKLI will apparently become WROW’s new permanent format in a few months, when a new format arrives on 100.9.
*In the years just after World War II, Hornell, NEW YORK was a happening little place. The small city of 15,000 or so people boasted a daily newspaper, and beginning in 1946, its own FM station, WWHG-FM (105.3), named for newspaper publisher W.H. Greenhow. In 1948, a competing AM outlet, daytimer WLEA (1320), sprouted – and two years after that, the paper launched its own AM daytimer, WWHG (1590), then promptly bought out WLEA, silenced 1590 and moved WWHG down the dial to 1320. (A new WLEA quickly returned to the airwaves as yet another kilowatt daytimer, operating on 1480, where it continues to this day.)
In later years, the AM station on 1320 became WHHO, while the FM became WKPQ. And as of last week, the AM station is off the air, its license cancelled by the FCC for failure to live up to the terms of a 2008 consent decree.
That agreement, which we reported in NERW back on April 7, 2008, obligated licensee Bilbat Radio to pay $20,000 to settle allegations of public-file discrepancies at WHHO and WKPQ. The payments for WKPQ were apparently made, since the FM station was successfully transferred to a new owner (which also ended up with the studio building and transmitter site for both stations, by way of a 2007 foreclosure sale), but the picture for WHHO and owner Bill Berry was less rosy.
Despite an installment-plan agreement under which Berry could have paid WHHO’s $10,000 fine (er, “voluntary contribution to the U.S. Treasury”) in ten installments of $1,000 each, it appears that not even a single payment was made.
*As one western New York station died last week, another was being born. Go west from Hornell 60 miles or so and you come to Little Valley, in Cattaraugus County, where the Seneca Nation signed on WGWE (105.9) last Monday morning at 6, kicking off the broadcast with a traditional Seneca prayer of thanksgiving. WGWE’s regular format is Citadel’s satellite-delivered classic hits, but the station also has a local morning show and noontime request show, hosted by Mike Smith, aka “Smitty,” who left a long stint at Olean’s WPIG to join the station. It’s based in a former convenience store in Salamanca, and its 7 kW/626′ class B1 signal reaches north almost to Erie County and west almost to the Pennsylvania state line. WGWE (the calls come from a Seneca word that means “what’s up”) is also carrying Buffalo Bandits lacrosse games, and plans to add high school sports to its schedule as well.
Out on Long Island, Barnstable is about to pull the plug on its AC format at WLVG (96.1 Center Moriches), using the signal to simulcast its Nassau County “K-Joy” (WKJY 98.3 Hempstead) to Suffolk County listeners. March 1 is the target date for “KJOY 96.1 Suffolk” to make its debut, replacing the former “Love 96.”
One of CANADA’s oldest TV newsrooms is a smoky, waterlogged mess today, and it may be a while before the newspeople at CTV’s CJOH (Channel 13) in Ottawa can return to their usual home base on the second floor of CJOH’s Merivale Road studios in suburban Nepean after a fire ripped through the facility early Sunday morning.
Nobody was working in the newsroom when the fire broke out overnight, and by the time a security guard summoned firefighters, there had already been extensive damage (estimated at over $2 million) to the newsroom, including the apparent destruction of most of CJOH’s archives.
The show must go on, of course, and CJOH’s news staff is relocating to the A Channel (CHRO) newsroom at Byward Market in downtown Ottawa for the next few days, at least. Fortunately for them (if not for Ottawa news consumers), the space was available after CTV cancelled most of the local news product on A Channel.
As of Sunday afternoon, CTV was considering its options, which include the possibility of moving CJOH’s operations out of the Merivale building for good. CTV sold the building several years ago and had been leasing it back.
Ten Years Ago: February 7, 2005
If the key to market dominance comes from owning all of the biggest signals in that market, then Qantum Communications is about to dominate the eastern tip of MASSACHUSETTS. Frank Osborn’s cluster already includes Cape Cod’s top-40 WRZE (96.3 Nantucket), classic hits WCIB (101.9 Falmouth) and rocker WPXC (102.9 Hyannis) – and now Osborn has struck a $21.3 million deal to acquire the Cape cluster that belonged to the late Ernie Boch, Sr.
The sale closes down Boch Broadcasting after a very successful decade or so, and it will give Qantum four of the Cape’s seven full class B FM signals, adding Boch’s news-talk WXTK (95.1 West Yarmouth) and AC WCOD (106.1 Hyannis) to WRZE and WCIB. To stay clear of the FCC’s market-concentration rules, Boch’s oldies simulcast of WTWV (101.1 Mashpee) and WDVT (93.5 Harwich Port) will be put in a trust along with WPXC, pending eventual sale. (All three are lower-powered class A signals.)
Is it the end of the line for one of NEW HAMPSHIRE’s oldest radio stations? After 47 years at 502 West Hollis Street in Nashua, WSMN (1590) signed off Tuesday evening (Feb. 1) at 6:00. As had been rumored for some time, WSMN lost the lease on the land that was home to its studio building and three-tower directional array, and it’s not easy to find space – or zoning permission – for a new directional array these days. In recent years, WSMN had been leased out, running business news as “The Tiger 1590.” With that frequency silent, WSNH (900 Nashua) running a steady diet of ESPN sports and WHOB (106.3 Nashua) operating from new studios in Hooksett, there’s not really a local station in Nashua anymore.
On a happier note – or at least one that doesn’t involve any stations going dark – Nassau did some restructuring of its new holdings in Concord and the Lakes Region last Friday (Feb. 4) at noon, moving country from “Outlaw Country” WOTX (102.3 Concord) to what had been classic rock WNHI (93.3 Belmont), which becomes “93.3 the Wolf” and keeps Don Imus as a holdover from the old WNHI. The classic rock, in turn, moves to 102.3 as “The Hawk,” which will share the format and the nickname with the former “Big 101.5,” WBHG (101.5 Meredith).
In NEW YORK, WQHT (97.1) is bringing back its “Miss Jones” morning show on Wednesday, minus producer Rick Del Gado and cast member Todd Lynn, as it attempts to address the controversy over the “We Are the World” parody that the show aired a few weeks after the Asian tsunami. Del Gado and Lynn lost their jobs for their role in creating the song, while the remainder of the show’s cast – save for “Miss Info,” who does the news – ended up with two-week unpaid suspensions, with their salaries being donated to tsunami relief. Station owner Emmis Communications will also make a $1 million donation to the relief fund.
It’s a very long way from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the East End of Long Island, but Cherry Creek Radio is making that jump. The small group operator based in the Denver suburbs is paying $12 million to pick up AAA Entertainment’s four-station cluster out east, which includes AAA (the format, that is) WEHM (92.9 Southampton), Bloomberg business news WHBE (96.7 East Hampton), rhythmic top 40 WBEA (101.7 Southold) and soft AC WBAZ (102.5 Bridgehampton). This is Cherry Creek’s first outing east of the Mississippi; its other 32 stations are all out west, from the Tri-Cities of Washington to the California desert to rural Colorado. And the deal takes Rhode Island-based AAA completely out of the broadcast business in the northeast, leaving it with clusters of stations in Illinois.
In PENNSYLVANIA, the long-running rumor of a Philadelphia morning show move appears to be true: All Access reports that Y100 (WPLY 100.3 Media) will lose Preston Elliot and Steve Morrison to Greater Media’s crosstown WMMR (93.3 Philadelphia) in a few months. The move will no doubt spark message-board chatter about a format change at the Radio One modern rocker, but we’ve heard those rumors often enough before. As always…stay tuned.
Fifteen Years Ago: February 11, 2000
The revolving door of radio talent spun again this week in MASSACHUSETTS, with most of the spinning taking place at 55 Morrissey Boulevard, the Greater Media broadcast center. As we suspected last week, WBOS (92.9 Brookline) morning host Robin Young is out the door, with ‘BOS veteran David O’Leary taking on wakeup duty at the AAA-ish AC (and again, we’ll forswear any format-change speculation!). But wait — there’s more, and it’s happening down the hall at WROR (105.7 Framingham), where Jimmy Roberts and Dan Justin are both out. The new lineup after morning institutions Loren and Wally finds Stella Mars handling middays, followed by fellow ‘BOS survivor Julie Devereaux in afternoons. J.J. Wright stays on board but moves to evenings, with Chuck Igo continuing on the overnight shift.
Across town in Waltham, Ralphie Marino is leaving WJMN (94.5 Boston), but this one’s a voluntary departure, and for an awfully good reason: he’s headed to mornings in market #1, at WKTU (103.5 Lake Success NY). No word yet on who’ll take over afternoons at Jam’n.
The largest radio groups in two NEW YORK cities changed hands this week, as Forever Broadcasting’s sale to Regent Communications closed. In Utica, Regent’s new holdings include country giant WFRG (104.3), news-talker WIBX (950), and AC WLZW (98.7), while the Watertown group includes country giant WFRY (97.5), news-talker WTNY (790), and rocker WCIZ (93.3).
Twenty Years Ago: February 11, 1995
We’ve been “Blessed!” Well, that’s what you’d think to tune in AM 1510 here in Boston. Yes, they’ve finally changed calls to WNRB(AM), “Boston’s Blessing.”
Programming is satellite-delivered contemporary christian music, although one liner mentions that there will also be some religious teaching, both national and local. WNRB is the only station currently owned by Communicom, and as such it now ID’s as “The 50 thousand watt flagship station of Communicom.”