In this week’s issue… Philly’s “Wild” gets AMPed – WBZ’s Katic dies, Silva to retire – 2 new FMs on Long Island? – PA FM “Max”ed out – CT joins Hall of Fame game – It’s NAB Show time!
By SCOTT FYBUSH
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – It’s springtime in the desert, and that means it’s time for many radio and TV folks from across NERW-land and far beyond to gather for the annual NAB Show. We’ll be out here all week, bringing you regular updates here on fybush.com as well as on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds and over at those of Radio World. We’ll be following some big story threads: a brewing controversy about whether the methods used for PPM ratings encoding unfairly penalizes news and talk stations, the FCC’s slow march toward TV spectrum repacking and (maybe) new rules for the AM band, all the latest new gear from the show floor, and much more. (You can also see me as a guest on “This Week in Radio Tech,” live from Las Vegas on Thursday at 6 PM ET/3 PM PT.)
Back home in the Northeast, though, it was a busy week indeed in the industry, with new formats in Pennsylvania and more. Before we get to those stories, we start in Boston, where our old colleagues at WBZ (1030) lost a valued colleague last week and prepared for the departure of another.
Mark Katic, who died Friday after a battle with cancer, came to WBZ in 1999 as a sports reporter after working in RHODE ISLAND at WHJJ (920 Providence). After two years on the sports desk, Katic moved to news, and for a decade and a half became an important part of the WBZ newsroom as both a reporter and an anchor, winning several AP and Murrow awards for his work. Katic had been out of the newsroom for several months as his health declined.
Just a few days before Katic’s death, there was another big piece of news from Soldiers Field Road: after 36 years at WBZ, afternoon anchor Anthony Silva will retire in June as he gets ready to turn 65. This is one of those stories your editor can’t be impartial about – in the 1990s, I had the privilege of writing for Anthony and his on-air partner Diane Stern on the WBZ Afternoon News, and there are few as professional as they are in the industry.
Silva came to WBZ in 1979 after a career that included stops at WMLO (1570 Beverly), where he started at age 15 by buying two hours a week to program “The Folk Review” on Sunday afternoons. He was later hired by WMLO and then at WNBP in Newburyport and at Boston’s WEZE and WMEX. As news director at WMEX, he hired a young Diane Stern, beginning a radio partnership that’s continued for many decades.
After a few years outside the radio business, Silva joined WBZ as the replacement for Susan Wornick. Silva’s afternoon shift was the first incarnation of news radio on WBZ, starting as “60 to 6,” then “90 to 6,” and eventually expanding to four and then finally five hours of the station’s all-news wheel once it started in 1991. Along the way, he picked up the business beat, producing and hosting business reports that also air in morning drive and hosting the “Business Breakfast” at which he interviewed prominent local business leaders.
Retirement will allow Silva to pursue his many other interests, including folk music (he was a founder of the Me & Thee coffeehouse in Marblehead), sailing and family. We wish him all the best on his next chapter!
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In the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market, an overcrowded field of sports signals (most recently the addition of CBS Sports Radio on Cumulus’ WARM 590) pushed Entercom’s WHBS (102.3 Pittston) out of the format. The “Sports Hub” began stunting with a nonstop countdown on Tuesday, and at 7 AM Friday it flipped to rock-AC (with an 80s lean) as “Max 102.” The new station is jockless so far, and new calls WMQX are on the way. (Those calls have a history with Entercom, which used them for many years in Winston-Salem/Greensboro, at an oldies station best known as the last radio stop of Jackson Armstrong.)
In Philadelphia, CBS Radio pulled the trigger Friday afternoon at 5 on the long-expected format segue of top-40 “Wired” (WRDW-FM 96.5) to its own “AMP” top-40 brand. The core of the “Wired” airstaff under former owner Beasley, morning host Chunky and afternoon host/PD Buster Satterfield, exited the station earlier in the week; replacing Sattterfield in the PD chair is Bobby Smith, who’d been working for CBS in Orlando and had previously been part of the airstaff at the old WXXM (Max 95.7) in Philadelphia.
Also in Philadelphia, the new HD-fed translator signal on 97.1 has indeed rebranded: since iHeart’s WIOQ has long owned the “Q” brand, the Spanish-language signal (W246AQ 97.1 and WPEN 97.5-HD3) that was to have been “Super Q” will instead be “Supra FM” when it launches.
In Pittsburgh, Salem has reserved the calls WPGP once it closes on the purchase of Radio Disney’s WDDZ (1250). The former WCAE/WTAE/WEAE will use Salem’s “Answer” talk format, and the calls are a clue that Salem hopes to pick up some of the audience that scattered when iHeart flipped WPGB (104.7) from talk to country last year.
*Radio People on the Move in CONNECTICUT: Connoisseur’s WEZN (Star 99.9) in Bridgeport has hired Jay Raven, late of WCCC-FM (106.9 Hartford), as the new co-host alongside Anna Zap on the “Anna and Raven” morning show, which launches next Monday. Over at Connoisseur’s WDRC-FM (102.9) and the WDRC AM stations in Hartford, Gary Kurtz is the new sales manager. Kurtz was a general manager at WFNX in the Boston market and has also worked for Entercom and CBS Radio in Boston and for Cumulus in Worcester.
The Connecticut Broadcasters Association has named the first class to its new CBA Hall of Fame. The initial dozen members will be inducted at a luncheon ceremony October 20 in Hartford. Posthumously, they include Boyd Arnold and WTIC’s Arnold Dean; living inductees include former WDRC talker Brad Davis, veteran TV anchor Al Terzi, station owner Dick Ferguson, and, we’re pleased to note, several engineers: WVIT’s Joe DiMaggio and WCCC/WWUH’s John Ramsey.
*Across Long Island Sound, Nutmeg State broadcaster John Fuller might be one step closer to adding two more FM signals to his empire. He asked the FCC to allocate two more FM channels to the East End, 94.5A in Sagaponack and 103.3A in Shelter Island – and last week, the Commission added those channels to its allotment table. That, of course, is just the first step in a long process that will lead to an eventual auction of those frequencies, which could take years.
(As an example, consider the FCC’s FM Auction 98, due to start in July: while it’s full of new channels in remote parts of Texas and California, it also includes a pair of New England class A signals that had been in previous auctions, only to have the winning bidder default. This time around, both 97.3 in Jefferson, NEW HAMPSHIRE and 105.9 in Hardwick, VERMONT will have a $35,000 starting bid. There’s a $25,000 starting bid on 100.9A in Westfield, New York, the channel that will open up east of Erie once Connoisseur finishes moving WRKT in North East from 100.9 to 104.9.)
*In New York’s Mohawk Valley, Northeast Gospel Broadcasting’s WVVC-FM (88.1 Dolgeville) has filed for a big move: it wants to relocate from its current site in Caroga Lake, up in the Adirondack foothills, southward to the WKTV (Channel 2) tower in Middleville, near Herkimer. WVVC-FM would trade its current 11 kW power for just 150 watts from the WKTV site, but it would go from 102′ to 676′ above average terrain, picking up new coverage of a wide area east of Utica.
In the Hudson Valley, “J Will” is the new PD for iHeart’s WPKF (96.1 Kiss FM) and WBWZ (Rock 93.3). J Will, whose real name is Jaleel Williams, comes from WAJZ (96.3) in the Albany market, where he was doing mornings until late last year (and where he’s the son of longtime programmer Ron “Sugar Bear” Williams). At iHeart, Williams replaces Sammy Suarez, who left for Charleston for family reasons last year, and he’ll also be on the air in afternoon drive on Kiss.
That 19-inning, seven-hour Yankees/Red Sox marathon Friday night/Saturday morning created some headaches for broadcasters: on the TV side, WPIX (Channel 11), carrying the YES Network-produced coverage, simply ran out of commercials as the game plodded past 1 AM into a time when WPIX would have been running infomercials. For the last inning of the game, WPIX simply showed a shot of the field at Yankee Stadium where the ads would have been. On radio, we hear several Sox affiliates ended up carrying overnight programming from flagship WEEI-FM in Boston after the game ended (with, we’d note, a Sox win!)
We’re sorry to report the death of Ken Prewitt, the longtime morning host at Bloomberg Radio in New York. Prewitt came to New York from Cleveland in 1981 to work for Wall Street Journal Radio, then went on to TV jobs at CBS and ABC before joining Bloomberg in 2005. Prewitt went on medical leave from Bloomberg in 2013 after being diagnosed with brain cancer; he was 68 when he died Saturday at home in Manhattan.
One of the more interesting LPFM signals in the initial batch that signed on in the early 2000s in upstate New York was WKEG-LP (104.7 Limestone), which operated from Rock’n Rick’s bar and nightclub right on the Pennsylvania line along US 219. The FM station was one of many projects from bar owner Rick Pecora, who died Wednesday at age 45 from cancer. Pecora also served as a councilman for the town of Carrollton, and he’d recently reopened the former Rock’n Rick’s as “Chef Michael’s Speed Trap Restaurant,” named for his long-running battle to get more 40 MPH speed limit signs posted on the highway, which was a frequent target for ticket-writing police.
In southwest Ontario, “Chatham-Kent” was just plain “Chatham” when George Brooks started at CFCO (630) way back in 1976. The Chatham native shared his battle against cancer with his radio family, and he’s taking a well-deserved retirement that started after his final show Friday. Brooks also worked at the old CKAR (630) in Huntsville and CHEX (980) in Peterborough before joining CFCO. Most recently, he was doing middays at the Blackburn-owned station.
Does the Toronto area need another ethnic AM signal? The CRTC will consider that question at a June 12 hearing, at which Neeti P. Ray, Radio Humsafar and Ravinder Singh Pannu will present their plans to use 1350 AM in Brampton for programming that would target a South Asian audience. Each application calls for 1000 watts by day and between 38 and 55 watts at night, non-directional.
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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, 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: April 14, 2014
*Some NAB Shows bring with them big changes in the broadcasting industry’s outlook. Some come with exciting new technological developments. And some, like NAB Show 2014, are purely evolutionary. Sure, there were some interesting new developments in the integration of radio into streaming audio (my colleague Lance Venta covered some of those on his RadioInsight live blog), and sure, we got to hear iBiquity explain how this year, finally, was the year when HD Radio will break through to mass-market status (and, yeah, there actually was an HD receiver in our otherwise stripped-down, manual-window-crank Toyota Yaris rental).
But if we don’t have a whole lot new to say about last week in the desert, it’s largely because the 2014 edition of the NAB Show, at least for local broadcasters, was more of an evolutionary event. So what did we learn?
On the radio side, we learned that broadcasters – at least most of the ones we talked with – are finding their place in the digital landscape. The revenue picture on the terrestrial side is still surprisingly strong, and we heard from lots of stations, even in smaller markets, that understand that their future lies not just in a transmitter attached to a tower but in being a local source of audio (and sometimes video) content across all sorts of platforms. Is your station selling space on digital signage at local arenas and event facilities? It’s bringing in good money for some operators, and it’s become a platform some automation vendors can now support.
We met “GatesAir,” which looked an awful lot like Harris Broadcast, at least for now. There are new transmitters in the works there, and of course our Nova Scotian friends at Nautel had their new GV series of high-efficiency FM transmitters on display for the first time, too. And it was nice to see new FM antenna products from several NERW-land vendors, including a new high-powered broadband antenna from Shively and several new offerings from their Maine competitor, Dielectric, back from its near-death experience with a fairly vibrant show presence under new owner Sinclair.
*One of the oldest AM transmitter sites in the NEW YORK market is now history. In 1941, WHN (1050) moved from a site in Astoria, Queens to a new 50,000-watt facility in what was then the untracked swamp of East Rutherford, New Jersey, and it stayed there through call changes (WMGM, back to WHN, then eventually WFAN, WUKQ, WEVD and finally WEPN) and ownership changes, surviving a 1950 storm that toppled its towers and the 1970s construction that built an entire sports complex right next door.
In 2009, though, some even closer construction – the massive (and, to many, massively ugly) Xanadu shopping and entertainment complex – finally forced WEPN to move. The developers of Xanadu paid ESPN to build a new three-tower site across the Turnpike on the Secaucus/North Bergen line, then took control of the East Rutherford site before collapsing in a morass of lawsuits and bankruptcy filings that left the mammoth complex uncompleted and vacant right through the Super Bowl that took place right next door in January. Now development is once again moving forward on Xanadu, renamed American Dream Meadowlands, and that sent the bulldozers to work last week, removing the three towers that were once prominent landmarks along Routes 3 and 120.
Five Years Ago: April 12, 2010
It was just a few months ago when VERMONT’s long-running “Corm and the Coach” morning show returned to the airwaves in a burst of publicity, but as of Thursday the duo of Steve Cormier and Tom “Coach” Brennan is once again off the air. Money’s at the root of the problem; in a Facebook posting, Cormier complained that he hadn’t been paid by his new station, Convergence Media Group’s WNMR (107.1 Dannemora NY), since last November. For now, WNMR is still on the air with syndicated talk, but without its star personalities, can the station still find traction in a competitive (and probably over-radioed) market?
An FCC fine against a CONNECTICUT religious station is provoking lots of controversy among those who spend a lot of time reading the Commission’s tea leaves. At issue is whether or not stations are required to keep their licensees’ articles of incorporation as part of their public files. WIHS (104.9 Middletown) didn’t have its articles of incorporation in its file when someone came to ask for it, nor did it make it available later on, and it now faces a $1250 fine as a result.
In upstate NEW YORK, several public broadcasters are cooperating to get a new signal on the air in Ithaca before its construction permit expires. WITH (90.1 Ithaca) was granted to Hobart and William Smith Colleges almost three years ago, and now it’s poised to sign on within a few weeks as part of a partnership between Hobart and William Smith station WEOS (89.7 Geneva) and Rochester public broadcaster WXXI. Under the deal, WXXI is building the WITH facility at the tower site north of Ithaca owned by Binghamton public broadcaster WSKG, which already uses that tower to transmit WSQG (90.9 Ithaca), relaying the news/classical hybrid format of WSKG-FM in Binghamton. When WITH hits the air in May, it promises “fresh offerings to meet the needs of the Ithaca community,” though specific details haven’t been announced yet. Meanwhile, WXXI will work with WEOS to provide expanded public-affairs programming, including coverage of HWS campus events. WEOS’ existing staff will stay in place, and will continue to manage the school’s low-power station, WHWS-LP (105.7 Geneva) as well. It’s not yet clear what becomes of WEOS’ existing Ithaca translator, W201CD (88.1), which is owned by Ithaca Community Broadcasting, which has its own unbuilt CPs in nearby Odessa and Watkins Glen.
Ten Years Ago: April 11, 2005
There was a time when radio stations prided themselves on stability and consistency, celebrating decades of history and heritage call letters. Today, at least in upstate NEW YORK, it seems that the thing to be is “Fickle.” In any case, that’s the new nickname for the Entercom station formerly known as oldies WBBF-FM (93.3 Fairport), which flipped Thursday morning (Apr. 7) to a “random” mix of classic hits and hot AC tunes that sounds awfully similar to all those “Jack” stations and their clones from coast to coast, albeit developed locally by operations manager Dave Symonds and GM Mike Doyle. WBBF’s “Ace and Marti” morning show continue, but the station’s running automated the rest of the day, at least for the moment. And as of this morning, the heritage WBBF calls (which have been in the market since 1953, most of that time on the sister facility at 950 now known as WROC) have been replaced on 93.3 by “WFKL.” (Interesting trivia: every single one of the signals in Entercom’s Rochester cluster – 950, WBEE 92.5, 93.3 and WBZA 98.9 – has had the “WBBF” calls at some point in its history.)
Meanwhile at the other end of the Empire State, WXRK (92.3 New York) is still “K-Rock” – but as of last Monday morning, it’s traded in the alternative rock it’s been playing since 1996 for a broader rock format that includes older artists such as Motley Crue, calling itself “K-Rock. Great Rock. Period.” The new (or perhaps “the new old”) K-Rock ran jockless all last week (with the exception, of course, of Howard Stern in morning drive), but the jocks will be back this week, we hear. The modern rock lives on as a webstream called “Krock2.”
RHODE ISLAND will continue to have public radio service on WRNI (1290 Providence) and WXNI (1230 Westerly). Boston University’s WBUR announced late last week that it’s officially dropping any thought of selling the two stations, ending a saga that started last fall and helped to bring about the downfall of longtime WBUR station manager Jane Christo. BU is reportedly talking to Bryant University about helping it manage the Rhode Island stations.
We’re pleased to report that Jim Taricani is once again a free man. The WJAR (Channel 10) reporter served four months of his six-month house arrest for refusing to disclose the source of tapes that helped uncover a City Hall scandal. A judge reduced the sentence by two months for good behavior – and Taricani will be back on the job at Channel 10 on Wednesday.
Fifteen Years Ago: April 14, 2000
One of the best-known names in MASSACHUSETTS television is scaling back her hours. Twenty-one years after coming to WBZ-TV (Channel 4) to anchor the evening news, Liz Walker is leaving the 5 and 11 PM newscasts to spend more time with her family. Walker will stay at WBZ working days and anchoring the noon news; no permanent replacement has been picked for the 5 and 11.
Whither Jeff Katz? The erstwhile (and almost-forgotten) WRKO morning host is back out West, where he’s now doing mornings at Las Vegas talker KXNT (840 North Las Vegas).
CONNECTICUT gets a new TV newscast Monday (4/17), as WTNH (Channel 8) in New Haven launches a daily 10 PM newscast on sister station WBNE (Channel 59). WTNH reporter Verna Collins will anchor Sunday-Wednesday, while Andrea Stassou will take the chair Thursday-Saturday, competing with the 10 PM newscast simulcast on WTIC-TV (Channel 61) and WTXX (Channel 20).
Mega Broadcasting arrived in NEW YORK this week with a $24.5 million deal that gets the up-and-coming Spanish-language broadcaster an AM frequency in the Big Apple. Mega is buying leased-time ethnic WKDM (1380 New York) from Arthur Liu’s Multicultural Broadcasting, with Liu getting not just the cash but also two Mega properties in the Washington DC market (WZHF 1390 Arlington VA, which does reach Our Nation’s Capital, and WKDV 1460 Manassas VA, which does not), a new market for Liu. The New York station fills a hole in Mega’s East Coast grouping that now includes Boston (WAMG “Mega 1150” and WBPS “Amor 890”), Hartford (WNEZ “Jamz 910” and WLAT “Mega 1230”), and Philadelphia (WEMG “Mega 104.9/900” and WSSJ 1310), not to mention several DC stations and two in Florida. Ironically, Mega won’t be able to call WKDM “Mega,” since that nickname is already being used by Spanish Broadcasting’s WSKQ (97.9 New York). Mega also can’t call WKDM “Amor,” since that’s in use at SBS’s WPAT-FM (93.1 Paterson NJ).
Twenty Years Ago: April 10, 1995
The new calls at 104.1 Waterbury-Hartford CT are WMRQ — calls that have a New England history behind them. WMRQ was the incarnation of Boston’s 103.3 FM just before the current WODS, “Oldies 103.”
WRKO 680 (50kw DA, talk) is now live and local from 5:30am to midnight, except for Rush, with the addition of a weeknight “Sex Talk” show from 10pm-12mid. It’s hosted by Phyllis Levy, who comes to WRKO from Chicago, where ARS’s John Gehron heard her while he was working for Pyramid at WNUA.
Two new TVs: In Boston, Telemundo has turned on LPTV W32AY, with a *very* good signal from the Prudential Tower. And in New Haven CT, after more than 35 years as a CP, WTVU(TV) channel 59 has signed on at long last. The station is owned by K-W Television of Skokie IL, and is being operated as an LMA by LIN Broadcasting’s WTNH-TV 8, the ABC affiliate in New Haven. WTVU is running a paltry 100kw or so from WTNH’s site in Hamden CT. WTVU gets the WB affiliation, the same week indie WTXX-20 Waterbury picks up UPN.
Opie and Anthony from Long Island have taken over the afternoon duties at hard-rocker WAAF.