In this week’s issue… Apple challenges top-40 establishment – Z100’s Kincaid heads west – NY AMs go silent – Shakeup in Philly TV – Sports battle in Montreal
By SCOTT FYBUSH
Back in the late 1990s, when then-Clear Channel began propagating brands like “Kiss” and “Mix” into markets from coast to coast, we started wondering how long it would take before those formats might evolve into something truly national. Clear Channel’s evolution into the multiplatform beast called “iHeart” got closer, launching talents like Elvis Duran and Ryan Seacrest into prime drivetime shifts all over the country, and Cumulus is testing the waters with the even more nationally-focused “Nash” and “Nash Icon” country formats. Radio Disney used AM to put its national product in more than half of all the radio households in the country before switching to streaming as its main platform. Entirely away from the terrestrial broadcast bands, Sirius XM has created national radio in the form of dozens of niche channels – but to the extent it has recognizable personalities, they’re largely refugees from terrestrial radio (hi, Howard!) or celebrities from outside radio extending their brands (howdy, Oprah!)
But as it turns out, what may be the most interesting radio move of the year – and the most dramatic step toward true nationwide “radio” in the old-fashioned personality sense – came last week from a completely non-radio player. But for the transmitter and tower, the new “Beats 1” is unquestionably a radio station, complete with a roster of star DJs in weekday shifts and a bunch of specialty shows hosted by big names such as Elton John.
It’s a model that’s likely to be more familiar to listeners in Europe, inasmuch as it’s unabashedly modeled on the BBC’s national Radio 1 service. Beats 1, however, ups the ante by going after a fully global audience with air talent based in studios in London, Los Angeles and, yes, New York, where Ebro Darden now follows up his morning shift at Emmis’ WQHT (Hot 97) with a worldwide airshift on Beats 1.
Can the company that changed the world by putting a universe of personalized audio choices in millions of hands and pockets now find success with a mass-appeal format that’s meant to be a little bit of everything to everyone? We’ll be watching (and borrowing our kids’ Apple devices to listen) as Beats 1 and its sister Apple Music service try to define the next chapter of radio for an audience that hasn’t found a lot of inspiration from “radio” as it now exists.
(Read more thoughts on Beats 1 from our content partner Lance Venta at RadioInsight.com)
We’re a community.
Meanwhile at iHeart, one of its biggest NEW YORK names is making a big – and interesting – move. After nine years at WHTZ (Z100), JJ Kincaid is leaving afternoons and the big city behind to become the new PD and morning man at iHeart’s Denver top-40 station, KPTT (95.7 the Party). At Z100, JJ was a social media innovator, sharing his shift with listeners all over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and beyond. He’s also a second-generation radio geek of the highest order (his father, Robert Cohen, had a long career in Boston and later at the Voice of America), and we can’t wait to see what he’ll get himself into in Denver.
We also can’t wait to see who lands in the rare drive-time opening at Z100; iHeart already has a search underway for Kincaid’s replacement.
*Ed Baer is as veteran as an on-air talent gets in New York, and now he’s headed to what we hope will be a pleasant retirement. Baer worked at WMCA, WHN and WYNY before going up the Hudson Valley as morning man at WHUD (100.7 Peekskill) from 1986 until 2000. Baer was most recently doing weekends at WHUD (100.7 Peekskill), where he did his final “Pop Rewind” Sunday morning shift June 28.
Another veteran New York air talent is Mets announcer Howie Rose, and we wish him a speedy recovery after he experienced health problems while on a team flight to a West Coast road trip last week. The Mets plane had to make an emergency landing in Detroit, where Rose was treated and sent back home to recuperate; he’s expected to rejoin the team when the Mets come back east after the All-Star Break.
*Two AM signals in New York are heading for the exits: in Putnam County, Cumulus had taken WPUT (1510 Brewster) dark last year, citing financial issues, and now it’s returned the license to the FCC for cancellation. After several decades as a local voice for the exurban landscape between Westchester and Poughkeepsie, WPUT had spent its final decade as a mostly-forgotten simulcast of WINE (940 Danbury CT), most recently with sports.
With WPUT gone from the AM dial, the heritage callsign has been preserved: Dennis Jackson wasted no time filing to flip his WQCD (90.1 North Salem NY, ex-WJZZ) to WPUT-FM.
While WPUT(AM) is dead for good, there’s still at least a faint flicker of life left to WYBG (1050) way up north along the Canadian border in Massena. The little AM daytimer has struggled mightily in recent years as owners Curran and Dottie Wade have tried to keep it alive in the face of competition from bigger FM clusters on both sides of the border. A transmitter fire silenced it for several months in 2013, and WYBG had been listed for sale for several years now.
Last week, WYBG made headlines when the Wades took it silent. In theory, WYBG could stay silent for up to a year, but it appears that if no buyer emerges, the Wades plan to return the license after 30 days instead of requesting a silent STA. Is this the end? We’ll keep you posted.
*Upstate, we start with TV People on the Move here in Rochester, where the big news these last few weeks has come from Nexstar’s WROC-TV (Channel 8). After the departure of longtime evening anchor Kevin Doran, co-anchor Maureen McGuire has been holding down the Sunday-Thursday shifts solo, but that changed last night with the arrival of new co-anchor/managing editor Adam Chodak. The Rochester native moves across town from Sinclair’s WHAM-TV/WUHF, where he’d been co-anchor of the morning news. Across the studio at WROC, there’s a big hole at the weather desk, where chief meterologist Scott Hetsko told viewers last week that he’s once again having health issues and may be off the air for a while. Stacey Pensgen moves from weekends to fill in for Hetsko, and we send our very best wishes to the Hetsko family for a speedy recovery.
And we were remiss last week in failing to note the death June 25 of Bob Mills, Hetsko’s long-ago predecessor at the WROC weather desk. Mills started in Rochester radio in 1951 at WRNY (680), then jumped in 1953 to WVET (1280) and its new sister station, WVET-TV (Channel 10), as part of the TV station’s inaugural airstaff. When WVET’s owners, Veterans Broadcasting, bought WROC in 1961, Mills joined most of the rest of the WVET staff in moving over to WROC-TV, where his comedic talents enlivened the weather forecast until 1974. Mills also continued on AM 1280 (which became WROC) as the afternoon host through the 1960s and early 1970s. After his retirement from TV, Mills went into the travel business and ad production, eventually moving to Georgia. He was 83.
One more TV (and radio) guy moving on: veteran Rochester engineer Nolan Stephany is transitioning from WXXI to Albany’s WNYT/WNYA, where he’ll become chief engineer later this month. We’ll miss him in Rochester, but wish him all the best on his new gig (and look forward to having some neat Tower Site of the Week installments to offer soon, too!)
In Utica, WIBX (950) morning host Bill Keeler didn’t take that extra gig of middays on Boston’s WMEX (1510), but he’s got something extra on his plate now anyway: his morning talk show is now being simulcast on Fox affiliate WFXV (Channel 33), starting today. Keeler is a TV veteran, having offered a late-night version of his radio show in the past on WFXV and other area stations.
In Buffalo, Steve Cichon shares word of the death of Lou Douglas, a stalwart member of the WBEN (930) and WBEN-TV (Channel 4) news staffs as far back as 1957, when he came on board as a junior announcer after earlier stints at WWJ in Detroit, WELM in Elmira, WHUC in Hudson and WPPA in Pottsville, PA. Douglas was a key part of the WBEN radio coverage of the Blizzard of 1977, remained with the station as a weekend news anchor until his retirement in 1987, and then came back a few years later to do news at WWKB (1520) for a short time. Douglas was 85.
In Syracuse, we still have fond memories of the reunion that Craig Fox’s WOLF (1490) staged for veterans of the historic top-40 signal more than a decade ago – and now we’ll get to do it all again! On Saturday, August 8, Fox will stage another reunion at WOLF’s longtime Kirkpatrick Street home, but this time the reunion will include not only WOLF veterans but also alumni of WOLF’s old rival, WNDR. WNDR’s old AM home at 1260 is now Cumulus’ WSKO, but Fox has the WNDR calls in place on his “Dinosaur” oldies at the Kirkpatrick Street studios.
The reunion will air live on WOLF (and, we suspect, the rest of the Dinosaur signals, including the current WNDR 103.9 Mexico) from 9 AM-1 PM and again from 4-6 PM, with a luncheon in between and a dinner event open to the public afterward. Fox and the Dinosaur team are looking to get the word out to WOLF and WNDR alumni – contact Lee Goodman at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
*In CONNECTICUT, Davidson’s WXCT (990 Southington) is back to English-language programming for the first time in years. It’s now airing an oldies format, simulcasting across the state line with WACM (1490) in West Springfield, MASSACHUSETTS. For all the excitement that’s being generated in some corners of the message-board world, it’s not clear if this is really a new format or just filler until a new leased-time operator materializes for the signals.
Lisa Wexler’s afternoon talk show has moved across the Westchester-Fairfield line from WFAS (1230 White Plains) to WGCH (1490 Greenwich), where she’s being heard from 4-6 PM weekdays.
*With all the talk signals competing for what’s now something of a niche audience in Boston, it appears Salem will go in a different direction once it closes on the $500,000 purchase of Radio Disney’s WMKI (1260 Boston). Salem requested the new calls WBIX once it takes over – which appears to be a pretty clear cue that instead of installing its “Answer” talk format, they’ll instead be going with business talk. That’s a format Salem uses in other markets such as Orlando and Miami, and it’s a format that will go into direct competition with suburban WBNW (1120 Concord) and with Barry Armstrong’s leased midmorning slot on WRKO (680). (The WBIX calls, of course, have a checkered earlier history in Boston on Natick-licensed 1060, which collapsed dramatically when owner Brad Bleidt’s financial improprieties were exposed, leading Bleidt to attempt suicide. Does any of that augur well for a revival of the callsign?)
Speaking of callsigns, astute observers of the FCC database might have noticed last week that the Nantucket Police Department requested, and was granted, the calls KAPD-LP for its new LPFM signal on 105.5. At an FCC that’s deregulated almost everything else, the distinction between K- and W- calls has remained (mostly) sacred, and that may explain why the grant of the callsign was quickly erased from the FCC’s database; for now, the 105.5 CP is once again listed simply as “NEW” until it picks a W callsign.
At Greater Media in Boston, Sue Tabb is the new co-host alongside David O’Leary on “Magic Mornings” at WMJX (106.7). Tabb fills the big shoes left behind by Candy O’Terry’s exit earlier this year.
In Westfield, the New England Public Radio Foundation has purchased the Root Road tower site of WNNZ (640) from iHeart for $167,809, reports the Springfield Republican. The foundation had earlier purchased the WNNZ license and transmitter for $600,000 back in 2010.
*We recall Dave Barber as a RHODE ISLAND talk personality at WPRO in Providence (and more recently as the TV host for the General Assembly’s “Straight from the Gavel” show), but before coming to the Ocean State, he was a staple of the talk landscape in Flint, Michigan. That’s where Barber died Saturday after falling ill during a rehearsal dinner for a wedding he was attending. Barber spent more than a week in a medically-induced coma; he was just 60 years old.
*From a transmitter site at the highest point in NEW HAMPSHIRE, Townsquare’s WPKQ (103.7 North Conway) serves a huge chunk of MAINE with a country format, but there are some changes coming. Our content partner, RadioInsight, picked up early on this morning’s relaunch of 103.7: out goes the simulcast of WOKQ (97.5 Dover), the country giant along the seacoast – and in comes “103.7 the Peak,” still country but localized (sort of) to the area it serves from Portland up to the New Hampshire mountains. PD Herb Ivy adds Peak duties to his existing gig at Portland-market sisters WBLM and WCYY. Mornings will be the syndicated “Fitz in the Morning” from Seattle, with WOKQ morning man Roy Sullivan tracking middays on WPKQ, followed by Annie Snook (late of crosstown country competitor WPOR) in afternoons.
Also at Townsquare, AJ Dukette is the new PD for WPKQ’s sister station on Mount Washington, WHOM (94.9) and for top-40 WJBQ (97.9) in Portland. Dukette, of course, is a New Hampshire veteran, most recently with Binnie Media’s Concord cluster.
And we’ve been remiss in not noting the move of Tim Moore, WJBQ and WHOM’s longtime PD, to the senior VP/programming position over at iHeart’s New Hampshire stations, completing the Maine-New Hampshire swap that sent Jeff Pierce from from iHeart to Saga’s Portland cluster.
*In PENNSYLVANIA, it’s a big shakeup at CBS’ KYW-TV (Channel 3) in Philadelphia. Anchor Chris May, meteorologist Kathy Orr and sportscaster Beasley Reece were all sent packing after Monday’s newscasts. Morning co-anchor Ukee Washington will move to the 5, 6 and 11 PM newscasts alongside Jessica Dean, while Kate Bilo will take Orr’s place.
In State College, Seven Mountains Media is starting to make changes to the clusters it bought in two separate transactions last fall. As of Friday, it’s goodbye to active rocker “Eagle 98.7” in the State College market. It’s now doing a rock-heavy AAA format as “98.7 the Freq, College Radio…All Grown Up.” The former WEMR, licensed to Pleasant Gap, has requested new calls WFEQ.
Family Life Ministries wants to move its Williamsport translator, W212BJ, from its present home at 90.3 up the dial to 101.7. The move will eliminate interference to and from WJVM (90.3) down in Bellefonte.
In Gettysburg, translator CP W272CX (102.3) goes from Charlie Lougherty’s Four Rivers Community Broadcasting to Hilltop Communications for $10,000; it will become a translator for WTTR (1470) in Westminster, Maryland and will presumably be moved south over the state line.
In Pittsburgh, Chris K is the new midday jock at Steel City’s WLTJ (Q 92.9) starting today. He moves from WDZH (98.7 AMP Radio) in Detroit to fill Debbie Wilde’s shoes as she joins Jim Krenn in mornings.
Back in Philadelphia, we note the passing of Jim Weitzman, whose New World Radio owns WNWR (1540) as well as stations in Washington and other markets. Weitzman, a veteran communications lawyer, entered ownership to provide a venue for international voices to be heard on US airwaves, and that’s just what WNWR and its sister stations have done over the years. Weitzman died of ALS on June 25 at age 68.
In Scranton, “Jay Daniels,” who was half of the long-running Daniels & Webster morning team on WEZX (Rock 107) from 1985 until 2010, died June 28. Daniels, whose real name was Jeffrey Longaven, had also worked at WKRZ (1340/98.5) in Wilkes-Barre and, before that, at WAQY (102.1) in Springfield, Mass., where PD Jim Rising brought him along to help build WKRZ in 1980. Daniels became ill in 2011 and spent the last few years battling cancer, diabetes and a stroke. He was 61.
And we note, too, the passing of Jay Waggoner, the veteran engineer who grew up in Syracuse, spent quite a while in Florida and at Clear Channel and Cumulus in Cincinnati and had most recently been chief engineer for Entercom in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
*A format change in CANADA could signal the doom of an attempt to resurrect a long-dormant Montreal AM frequency. In addition to its as-yet-unbuilt permits for new English and French talk stations on 600 and 940, the TTP group will soon have to request an extension of its permit for a new French-language sports signal on 850. There’s been little (really no) solid news from TTP for more than a year about whether any of these new AM signals will ever see air. And now there may be another big competitive reason not to spend all the money it will cost to launch 850: Radio Nord announced last week that it’s flipping CKLX (91.9 Montreal) from French-language talk “Radio 9” to sports in French.
CKLX had tried without much success to challenge the market’s French talk leader, Corus’ CHMP (98.5), but the high-energy 98.5 talk format has built a lead that appears tough to dismantle. So CKLX is now going after the sports niche that was last occupied by CHMP’s AM sister, CKAC (730), the once-giant station that’s become nothing more than a 50,000-watt traffic outlet for Quebec’s transportation ministry. CKAC’s sports play-by-play, including the all-important Canadiens, moved to CHMP, leaving little for CKLX (or the eventual 850, if it happens) to use as a building block for an all-sports format, at least until baseball comes back to town.
Up north, the CRTC has approved the CBC’s request to shut down two low-power AM relays and replace them with one high-powered Radio One signal. CBNM (1230 Malartic) will be replaced by a 22.8 kW average/50 kW max DA/189.1 m signal on 101.1 that will also cover Val-d’Or, where CBML (570) will shut down once the new FM comes on.
In Kentville, Nova Scotia, Newcap wants to add a new FM signal to the market. The CRTC has opened a call for comments on whether Kentville can handle a new station. That process may or may not lead to a call for applications for others interested in competing with Newcap’s application for 5.3 kW average/14 kW max DA on 94.3 with an as-yet-undisclosed format.
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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: July 7, 2014
*It’s been quite a few years since Opie and Anthony have been a terrestrial radio story here in NERW. Once the pair, veterans of Boston-market WAAF and New York’s WNEW (102.7), had migrated to the uncensored realm of satellite radio, it looked as though they were set for a long run there, first as XM’s answer to Howard Stern on Sirius, then as in-house competitors after the Sirius/XM merger.
But here they are back in our headlines again, thanks to Anthony Cumia’s Twitter feed, where he unleashed a torrent of invective late one night late last week, aimed at a woman who apparently took offense to Cumia taking pictures in (of all places) Times Square.
Was the tirade an unleashing of racism, or was it merely nasty? The answer is academic – either way, SiriusXM moved quickly to pull Cumia off the air, even though he deleted the flood of tweets from his feed. For now, at least, Cumia’s longtime on-air partner Gregg “Opie” Hughes remains in place on what may or may not still be the “Opie and Anthony Channel.” It’s not yet clear what will become of the channel, or of Hughes – or whether this is the end of a partnership that’s made more than its share of headlines over the years.
*Back on the terrestrial airwaves of NEW YORK, Friday was launch day for Cumulus’ new WNBM (103.9 Bronxville), and it all went down with a minimum of on-air fuss. The automation on the former WFAS-FM wrapped up around midnight as July 3 became July 4, and after a few hours of a ticking clock, “New York’s Best Mix” made its low-key debut at 1:03 PM with a short announcement from PD Ken Johnson, followed by a full weekend of a music mix very heavy on classic R&B.
*Our MASSACHUSETTS news is all about WFNX, in one way or another. The current holder of that storied callsign, on 99.9 out west in Athol, finally wrapped up its “Vote 99.9” format-changing stunt last week by announcing it was sticking with the variety hits it’s been running, renaming itself simply as “WFNX 99.9.”
Meanwhile, the historic WFNX, the 101.7 signal licensed to Lynn that Clear Channel flipped to “Harbor” WHBA, then “Evolution” WEDX, has finally taken the WBWL calls that it was expected to pick up when it flipped to country as “The Bull” a couple of weeks ago.
*It’s not exactly a format change, but Press Communications has once again rebranded a pair of stations at the NEW JERSEY shore. Back in the spring of 2013, Press had flipped AC “Breeze” WWZY (107.1 Long Branch) and its Ocean County simulcast, WBHX (99.7 Tuckerton), to a more hot AC approach as simply “107.1 FM” – but now there’s a brand attached to that frequency, as the stations become “Fun 107.1, More Music, More Fun,” retaining the hot AC format.
Five Years Ago: June 28/July 5, 2010
The NEW YORK State Broadcasters Association inducts some big names into its Hall of Fame tonight at its 48th annual executive conference in Bolton Landing. This year’s class includes two living inductees: WHAM-TV’s veteran anchor Don Alhart (44 years and counting at the same station!) and Jim Roselle of WJTN (1240) in Jamestown, who has even Alhart beat – he’s been with WJTN for 57 years! From the roster of broadcasters we’ve lost, the NYSBA is inducting New York rock radio legend Scott Muni, Dan DeNicola of Albany’s WRGB and New York’s Percy Sutton, longtime owner of WLIB and WBLS – a worthy lineup, indeed.
VERMONT Public Radio is getting ready to bring its classical network service to the Randolph area and to the I-89 corridor through central Vermont. VPR closed on its purchase of WCVR-FM (102.1 Randolph) last week, and it will relaunch the station in early July under new calls WVXR, joining existing full-power VPR Classical signals in the Burlington, Upper Valley and Bennington/Manchester areas.
Ten Years Ago: July 4, 2005
*Citadel never got much respect for its attempt to do a pop-oriented top 40 in central PENNSYLVANIA, and last week the company pulled the plug on “Cool Pop” at WCPP (106.7 Hershey), replacing it on Thursday with soft AC as “Mix 106.7.”
That wasn’t the only change Citadel made in the Harrisburg area; the company also announced that it’s selling WQXA (1250 York) to Wilkins Communications Network, which runs a chain of 10 religious stations that includes WWNL (1080 Pittsburgh). The $250,000 sale has already brought an end to WQXA’s “Real Country” programming, with Wilkins taking over via a time brokerage agreement last Friday.
Over in the State College market, WGMR (101.1 Tyrone) dropped its “Revolution” moniker in favor of “G101,” completing its transition from modern rock to top 40.
*Don’t sound the death knell yet for WSMN (1590) in Nashua, NEW HAMPSHIRE. The station signed off in January after losing its studio and tower site just off Route 3 – but now the license has been purchased, for a reported $250,000, by Tom Monaghan’s Absolute Broadcasting, which also owns WSNH (900 Nashua). Monaghan says he’ll have the station back up and running from a temporary transmitter site by the end of August; NERW wonders whether a replacement for WSMN’s three-tower directional array could ever be built in what’s now a very pricey and NIMBY-prone part of New England…
*In southeastern CONNECTICUT, WSUB (980 Groton) has completed handing off its news-talk format to WXLM (102.3 Stonington), and we’re told the AM side has now flipped to Spanish hits as “Magia 980.”
Fifteen Years Ago: July 7, 2000
Twenty Years Ago: July 1, 1995
*Boston’s number-three public radio outlet, UMass/Boston’s WUMB 91.9, is making some changes to stay CPB-qualified. Starting Monday, WUMB will join WGBH 89.7 and WBUR 90.9 in carrying All Things Considered. ‘GBH carries the show 5-6:30pm, ‘BUR carries it 5-7pm, and ‘UMB will carry the West Coast feed from 7-9pm. Until now, WUMB has been essentially all music, with folk during the day and “Quiet Storm” urban at night. But the station hasn’t been meeting the minimum audience requirements for receiving federal money, so they’re adding ATC in hopes of bringing more listeners over from WBUR and WGBH. WUMB simulcasts on WBPR 91.9 Worcester, and will soon add WFPB 91.9 Falmouth on Cape Cod.
*Meanwhile, not much further up the dial, WLYT 92.5 in Haverhill (30 miles north of Boston) has been quietly edging closer to a AAA format. They’ve dumped the “W-Lite” slogan, and are ID’ing just with calls and frequency. And the music is moving away from generic soft rock and towards the Shawn Colvin-heavy sound of WBOS 92.9. Perhaps ‘LYT is setting itself up to grab audience if WBOS changes format? In any case, despite a weakish signal south and west of Boston, it’s become quite a listenable station.