In this week’s issue… Behind CBS Radio’s cuts and changes – Boston’s V Brothers Reunite – Remembering CT’s Ed Henry, NY’s Brigham, Rogers – Voices Radio gets a reprieve
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*It’s easy to alarm readers (or at least gin up attention and subscription revenue) by constantly predicting dire tragedy. For 21 years now, that’s not how we’ve rolled at NERW. Even when the stopped-clock rule takes hold and big things are happening, we’d still rather drop back a bit and offer a reasoned analysis, and that’s just what we intend to do this week as we track the changes that are taking hold at CBS Radio.
We still don’t believe, for a number of reasons, that there’s much validity to the rumors that CBS intends to sell its entire radio division. There aren’t many buyers out there who could afford the entire roster of premium properties, and most of those buyers would have serious ownership-cap issues if they did try to absorb CBS.
We do believe, however, that the wheels continue to turn on a possible sale of several smaller CBS markets, and a series of management changes late last week continues to point to Hartford as one of the markets that’s likely on the chopping block. Longtime market manager Suzanne McDonald exited the Hartford cluster as part of the shuffles, and it’s telling that CBS isn’t replacing her. Instead, Boston market manager Mark Hannon will oversee WTIC (1080), WTIC-FM (96.5), WZMX (93.7) and WRCH (100.5) remotely. Who’d be in the market for the Hartford cluster? Connoisseur, certainly, as it aims to expand beyond its existing Hartford holdings of WDRC-FM (102.9) and the four-AM cluster based at WDRC (1360). Or might other medium-market groups like Alpha or Townsquare want to add Hartford? However you size it up, it’s likely much easier to sell a Hartford-sized cluster right now than to find the right buyer for much bigger clusters in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.
Elsewhere at CBS, David Yadgaroff moves up from sales manager to SVP/market manager in Philadelphia, replacing Marc Rayfield as he heads north to run the New York cluster. It appears Yadgaroff will be one of several CBS Radio market managers charged with overseeing sales as well as the overall operation of his cluster.
In Pittsburgh (another smaller market where a cluster sale is possible), we know more about an earlier round of CBS Radio staffing cuts: at WDSY (Y108), veteran morning man Jimmy Roach is out, leaving Brian “Monty” Montgomery flying solo. Down the hall at WBZZ (Star 100.7), middayer/APD/MD Scott Alexander and night host Lindsay are out, with afternoon jock Flick taking on APD/MD duties.
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Our latest one features Donna Halper discussing her life in radio, from her time at WMMS when she helped Rush get US airplay, to what she learned from Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg.
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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 28, 2014
*A running thread in this column over the last few years has been the rise and gradual fall of traditional news-talk radio on the FM dial. This week’s big chapter comes from western PENNSYLVANIA, where Clear Channel’s WPGB (104.7) was an FM talk pioneer when it launched back in 2004. With Pittsburgh DJ-turned-talk host Jim Quinn in mornings, Rush Limbaugh in middays and, for five seasons, Pirates baseball in the evenings, “NewsTalk 104.7” aimed to replicate many of the elements that had long made CBS Radio’s KDKA (1020) a Steel City success story.
For a time, it worked, but then a funny thing happened: even without Rush or the Bucs, KDKA’s relentless local focus overcame its AM dial position, while Clear Channel budget cuts began to erode whatever numbers WPGB had started to build up. The Pirates rights went back to CBS in 2012, landing on “Fan” KDKA-FM (93.7), and then last winter Clear Channel abruptly pulled the plug on the “Quinn and Rose” morning sho, replacing it with a regional show based at WWVA (1170) over in Wheeling, West Virginia. At one point earlier this year, KDKA(AM) boasted nearly four times as many listeners as WPGB, leaving 104.7 as by far the lowest-rated full-market FM signal in the Pittsburgh market.
So when rumors began to swirl this summer that WPGB was due for a format change, the only real surprise was that it had taken Clear Channel so long. As our sister site RadioInsight first reported over the weekend, the next chapter for 104.7 appears to be country, though the flip may not occur until Labor Day weekend.
*Up on Florida Mountain, at the hairpin curve on Route 2 overlooking Adams, Massachusetts, things are slowly getting back to normal for the FM stations that lost their tower in a March storm. WNNI (98.9 Adams), the new northern Berkshires relay of public station WNNZ (640 Westfield), was just completing construction at the site when the tower came down. In June, it applied for a modification of its construction permit to move to a new antenna on a pole erected next to its former site, and last week WNNI requested a license to cover the 630 watt/382′ facility. The other station at the site, Vox’s WUPE-FM (100.1 North Adams), continues to operate under STA from a temporary 661-watt facility at the same location while it works on a permanent tower replacement.
*Marti Casper has been a fixture at the 93.3 spot on the Rochester dial through multiple calls, formats, and owners: the station was Entercom’s oldies WBBF when she started out on the morning show, and she survived a format change to adult hits (“Fickle 93.3,” WFKL) and then the station’s sale to Stephens Media. For the last five years, she’d been solo in mornings on Fickle after the departure of her former co-host, George “Ace” Acevedo; last Tuesday, she was abruptly ousted, apparently amidst budget cuts at Stephens. No replacement has been named yet, and it’s not clear what’s going on at Fickle (nor, generally, at Stephens overall, which has been one of the more inscrutable broadcast groups in the region.)
Five Years Ago: July 26, 2010
After not quite two years as a talk station, CANADA’s Astral Media has flipped CHAM (820 Hamilton) right back where it came from. On Thursday at noon, CHAM ditched “Talk 820,” which had failed to make much of a dent in Corus’ dominant CHML (900) since launching in September 2008. In its place is “Today’s Country 820 CHAM,” returning the 50,000-watt signal to the format it had used for decades before making the flip to talk.
The revived country CHAM features morning host Mike Nabuurs, who’d been doing the station’s late-morning talk shift. And along with sister station CKOC (1150)’s oldies format, we believe it makes Hamilton the only large Canadian market that still has two stations playing music on the AM dial – three, if you count Evanov’s nearby CKPC (1380 Brantford), which recently flipped to a news/country hybrid.
John Manzi worked in several New England states during his long radio career, but it was in RHODE ISLAND that Manzi became known as “Big Ange,” bringing his high-energy delivery to stations that included WJAR, WICE, WHIM and most memorably WPRO. Manzi, who also went by “Andy Jackson,” worked in Binghamton (WINR), Elmira (WELM) and Maine (WASY, WZON) as well during a career that stretched from the sixties into the late eighties. He died July 17 in Providence, at 67.
Some good news for NEW HAMPSHIRE’s scrappy little classical station: Harry Kozlowski’s WCNH-LP (94.7 Bow) received planning board approval last week for the new transmitter installation it’s planning at its new full-power CP, WCNU (91.5 Bow). Some neighbors had objected to the new signal, but others showed up in force at a planning board meeting to support WCNU’s proposal, which would add a small transmitter shed and even smaller antenna to an existing 40-foot pole. (NERW notes that “I don’t want to look at a shed every day,” an actual objection from an actual neighbor at the board meeting, may well be one of the least persuasive NIMBY complaints we’ve ever seen…)
In New York City itself, public station WNYC-FM (93.9) will soon be operating from fully licensed facilities for the first time since 9/11. Until now, WNYC has remained officially licensed at its long-gone World Trade Center site, while its actual operation has remained under Special Temporary Authority with 4 kW from the Empire State Building master antenna. The problem with WNYC’s return to its old Empire home was the short-spacing that plagues so many stations in the region – when 93.9 moved from Empire to the World Trade Center in the early 70s, it lost the grandfathered short-spacing it enjoyed to adjacent-channel WZMX (93.7 Hartford), and WZMX’s current owner CBS Radio objected to the interference an Empire-based WNYC-FM would cause to the Hartford station. WNYC and CBS finally reached a settlement, and now WNYC-FM will once again be licensed to Empire at 5.4 kW/1361′, just shy of the 6 kW a full class B signal would use at that height. With WNYC’s impending return to licensed status, only one of the Trade Center FM signals is still in license limbo: SBS’ WPAT-FM (93.1) continues to operate under STA at Empire as it works out its own short-spacing issues.
Ten Years Ago: July 25, 2005
As Boston’s WBZ-TV (Channel 4) fights to regain the ratings dominance it once held in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, it will do so under a new news director. Last week, the station sent ND Matt Ellis packing, two years after Ellis replaced longtime news director Peter Brown. For the moment, newsroom veteran Jen Street is running things until a permanent replacement for Ellis is named.
NEW YORK may soon have one fewer analog TV signal, as the owners of WLNY-TV (Channel 55) in Patchogue apply to turn off their analog signal and go digital-only (on channel 57 for now, though they’ll have to move from that interim channel in a few years.) Here’s the back story – the spectrum that’s now UHF channels 52-59 is being reallocated out of broadcast use, and the FCC has already auctioned several of those channels to new users, even though they won’t be able to occupy them right away. A subsidiary of Qualcomm landed what’s now channels 55 and 56, and they’re now making offers to stations on those channels to speed up the transition and abandon analog TV earlier than scheduled. It’s a pretty good bet, we think, that very few of WLNY’s viewers are watching the over-the-air analog signal, and for everyone else watching on cable or satellite, the station will remain available as usual.
Heading upstate, Albany’s WAMC completed its takeover of WRUN (1150 Utica) last week, returning the signal to the air after a few days of silence. It’s now the westernmost link in the WAMC public radio network, which stretches north to Plattsburgh, south to Middletown and east to central Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Fifteen Years Ago: July 28, 2000
After just a few months as a public radio outlet, the lone AM station in Bennington, VERMONT is about to return to commercial operation. WBTN (1370) came along with Vermont Public Radio’s purchase of WBTN-FM (94.3) from Belva Keyworth last winter, and for the moment, VPR had been using the AM mostly to simulcast the FM, breaking away for a few minutes of local news, commentary, and death notices on weekday mornings. VPR announced this week that it will sell 1370, and the new owner should be familiar to anyone who’s ever put a piece of professional broadcasting gear in a carrying case. Those blue canvas camera covers and bags come from Porta-Brace of North Bennington — whose owner, Robert Howe, will soon buy WBTN(AM) from VPR to continue operating it as a local voice for Bennington County. “WBTN-AM is in good hands with Bob Howe and I’m sure he will be successful in operating this legacy station that the Bennington community supports so strongly,” said VPR president Mark Vogelzang,
Staying north for another moment, we see that the FCC has flagged the Clear Channel purchases in the Bangor market for ownership-cap review. By the way, we miscounted in our estimate of what Communications Capital Managers paid for the six stations involved — it was actually just over $13 million, for a tidy profit of just under $7 million from the sale.
The big news this week in MASSACHUSETTS is the impending departure of Charles Laquidara. The Big Mattress’ finale on WZLX (100.7 Boston) comes on Friday (8/4), and Charles will have a busy week leading up to the last show — from being honored with a star on the Tower Records sidewalk on Monday to an open house Wednesday night at the Hard Rock Cafe. (Which reminds us…NERW would very much like to hear from anyone in WZLX signal range able to tape the last Laquidara shows; read on to see why we won’t have the NERW-mobile parked in the shadow of the Pru ourselves.)
It must be “end of an era” week, as over on the TV side, WCVB (Channel 5) announced its post-Chet’n’Nat lineups. Just as the last issue was going to press, GM Paul La Camera spake thusly: Natalie Jacobson will do the 5 and 6 PM shows, the former with Anthony Everett and the latter solo. In between, Everett and Heather Kahn continue on the 5:30, and both return at 11. What of Jacobson’s former (on- and off-air) partner, Chet Curtis? He’ll anchor Sunday nights with Pam Cross, as well as doing in-depth reports for channel 5 and its Web presence. Just to add to the fun, a new news director is also on the way to 5 TV Place: Coleen Marren comes to WCVB from Hearst-Argyle sister station WISN-TV (Channel 12) in Milwaukee. She starts August 22.
Meanwhile over at WBZ-TV (Channel 4), the new post-Liz Walker lineup shakes out like this: With Walker now doing the noon show and going home to her son, Joe Shortsleeve and Lisa Hughes take the 5 and 11, Ted Wayman and Sara Underwood handle the 5:30, and Hughes does the 6 with Jack Williams.
Twenty Years Ago: July 26, 1995