In this week’s issue… Ordway’s back, Orsillo’s out, O’Brien’s moving – New WNY FM closer to reality – More AMs go dark – NJ radio veteran retires – New talker in NH – Tower Site Calendar 2016: Get Yours Now!
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*It’s a good thing we wait until the very end of Sunday night to finish these Monday-morning columns – otherwise, we’d have missed out on the news of Glenn Ordway’s return to WEEI (93.7), two and a half years after an acrimonious parting of the ways with the Entercom sports station. Neither Ordway nor WEEI quite clicked in the same way afterward; Ordway tried to do a streaming show, picked up a few terrestrial affiliates, but it didn’t go well without the big platform of WEEI. Meanwhile at Entercom, other replacements – Mike Salk from Seattle and then Tim Benz from Pittsburgh – failed to click with the Boston audience.
So when Ordway tweeted “Who says you can never go back home?……. Talk to you soon
#WEEI” on Sunday night, the message was pretty clear: he’s about to head to middays, where Lou Merloni and Christian Fauria have been holding down the shift since Benz’ departure. That would put a very big name up against Scott Zolak and Marc Bertrand over at WBZ-FM (98.5), and it would all happen against the backdrop of some other big changes that have been brewing in the Boston sports landscape over the last few days:
*As mediocre as the 2015 Red Sox have been on the field, suffering Crimson Hose fans have at least been able to count on some comforting, competent voices in the broadcast booth sharing our misery. On the team-controlled NESN TV broadcasts, while sidekick Jerry Remy has been through personal and family struggles, play-by-play man Don Orsillo has been the lead voice since 2005, calling the highs (two championships in 2007 and 2013) and the lows (2015, for instance!)
And so at a time when the team is desperate to grab on to any bit of stability it can find, it’s…jettisoning Orsillo after this season draws to a merciful end in a few weeks. While the news emerged early in the week, it took until Saturday for anyone from the Sox brass to explain why one of the best voices in the business is being sent packing in favor of one of his radio colleagues.
“We felt that starting next year, it was worth going in a different direction re-energizing the broadcast,” Sox partner Tom Werner told the Herald on Saturday. “And when the opportunity presented itself to bring Dave O’Brien to NESN, we just felt after a great deal of thought and consideration that was the right decision to make.”
Oh – right: the ousting of Orsillo has big radio implications, too, because it will also bring a change to the Sox radio booth, where O’Brien has been the team’s lead voice since 2007. (His veteran partner, Joe Castiglione, is staying put on radio; on TV, Remy will “continue to have a role,” Werner said.)
So what’s going on here? It’s no coincidence, we think, that the 10-year radio deal between the Sox and Entercom’s WEEI-FM (93.7) is about to run out. We’ll no doubt be spending plenty of column space over the next year or so assessing the odds on who’ll have the Sox on the radio past 2016, but we know this already: in the economy of the mid-2010s, there’s no way the team will get the kind of big-dollar deal it made with Entercom a decade ago. Yes, the Sox remain a solid star attraction for sports radio, but in an age of budget realism, there’s probably a good case to be made for Werner and partners to move O’Brien over to the more lucrative TV booth that they control. (That’s especially true when you consider that giving O’Brien the full-time Sox TV gig makes it less likely that he’ll leave to pursue other outside work like his current job with ESPN that pulls him out of the Sox radio booth several times each season.)
We’ll have plenty to talk about over the winter as this all plays out: will the Sox respond at all to the fairly loud fan outcry about the way they handled Orsillo’s dismissal, for instance? What will Remy’s new TV role be, and who else might end up in the NESN booth? Who’ll replace O’Brien on radio – and where will they air after 2016? (And why can’t the Sox be like the Dodgers, who just calmly announced that Vin Scully will be back in his accustomed spot in 2016 for his 67th season with the team? No drama there, and of course nobody equals Vin at all.)
We’re a community.
*The Sox weren’t the only sports radio shakeup last week: in NEW YORK, ESPN shook things up at WEPN-FM (98.7) with the news that Daily News columnist Mike Lupica is exiting the 1-3 PM weekday slot after four years there. Moving in the proverbial “different direction,” it appears 98.7 will be sliding the “Hahn and Humpty” show (Alan Hahn and ex-Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro) from evenings to the former Lupica slot.
*Out on Long Island, JVC Broadcasting is growing with the addition of three translators. It’s paying Bridgelight LLC $120,000 for W250BX (97.9 Redwood), W251BY (98.1 Gordon Heights) and W271BZ (102.1 Tiana). For now, JVC says it will repeat WEBE (107.9 Westport CT) on 98.1 in central Suffolk County and 102.1 near Riverhead and WLNG (92.1 Sag Harbor) on 97.9 in the Hamptons, but that’s surely just a temporary move.
*At the other end of the state, it looks like a long-allocated FM channel will finally be coming alive in the Buffalo market. The class A signal on 92.1 in Amherst won’t be a great facility – it’s co-channel with a powerful Canadian signal, CKPC-FM in Brantford, Ontario, which will limit its interference-free coverage even on the US side of the border – but that didn’t stop 10 applicants from filing for the channel when the FCC opened a window back in 2010. (It had actually been allocated nearly a decade earlier and briefly listed for auction at a starting bid of $800,000, but a quirk in FCC rules allowed it to be changed to a noncommercial allocation in 2004.)
The original 10 applications were slimmed down to three using the FCC’s points system, and one of those three (Lockport Seventh Day Adventist Church) was later eliminated. That left Medaille College and Calvary Chapel of the Niagara Frontier to work out a time-share or a settlement, and they came up with a settlement: CCNF will pay Medaille $20,000 for the costs it incurred on its application and Medaille will withdraw, leaving CCNF in sole possession of the 92.1 CP. It’s currently planned for 1050 watts/335′ from the WBFO (88.7) tower in Amherst, where it will primarily cover the north side of Erie County.
In Utica, the “Good Guys” appear to have closed up shop at WUSP (1550) and its sister stations, a translator on 95.5 and WRCK (1480) up north in Remsen. Local broadcasting veterans Frank Abadessa and Tom Coyne paid $350,000 for the stations back in 2011, taking them as spinoffs from Roser Communications, which kept the previous AM calls of WUTQ on its WUTQ-FM (100.7).
In a market with lots of owners chasing declining revenue (including Galaxy with its competing sports stations, WTLB/WRNY/WIXT), Abadessa and Coyne struggled to make a dent with their “Good Guys Broadcasting,” picking up CBS Sports Radio, the New York Mets and the New England Patriots. In the end it didn’t work. Coyne and Abadessa reportedly moved on to other jobs a few months ago, leaving the station running mostly on automation. Its leased-time ethnic weekend programming has largely moved back to Roser’s WUTQ-FM, and as of mid-August the WUSP stations are off the air and we’re hearing it will take a bankruptcy proceeding to sort out what becomes of the license assets.
*There’s a very long history of live radio at music events at the Watkins Glen race track, going back to the, er, unlicensed “CFR” that operated on AM and FM throughout the 1973 “Summer Jam” show that drew a record 600,000 fans to the area.
When Phish came to the track a couple of weekends ago for its “Magnaball” concert, the jam band once again had its own radio outlet up and running. Over the years, Phish has sometimes operated as a Part 15; other times, it’s leased out a full weekend of airtime on a local signal, and that’s what it did this year as “Bunny Radio 104.9” took over from the usual classic rock on Community Broadcasters’ WNGZ (104.9 Montour Falls).
*In MASSACHUSETTS, Doug Tribou has left WBUR (90.9) after seven years. Tribou came to WBUR to work at its weekly NPR sports show, “Only a Game,” and he’ll continue to pursue sports topics during a year as a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan, where he’ll be studying sports, media and advertising.
Where are they now? Veteran Boston jock Joe Martelle is releasing an audio version of his book “Radio Pro – How to Be a Real Air Personality” in September. Martelle’s health didn’t allow him to voice the entire book, so WBZ’s Jordan Rich helped out with most of the reading. The audiobook will be available at amazon.com in a few weeks.
*A sad day in NEW JERSEY: after 57 years on the air, Pinky Kravitz has officially retired from “Pinky’s Corner” on WOND (1400 Pleasantville), the same station he’s been on since 1958. Kravitz has been off the air since May 14, when he began suffering health issues that led to heart surgery and a lengthy recovery.
At 88, Kravitz and his family have decided he can’t come back to the air, and “all good things must come to an end.” Kravitz also had a “Pinky’s Corner” TV show on WMGM-TV (Channel 40) until the end of local news there last year.
Across town, Townsquare Media has picked up Philadelphia Flyers broadcasts for WENJ (97.3 Millville) and WPGG (1450 Atlantic City), which makes for a nice pairing with the hockey team’s flagship, WPEN (97.5 Burlington).
(And yes, hockey season is around the corner – and no, there’s still no news of a new flagship for the Islanders as they relocate to Brooklyn from Nassau County.)
*We’re on Labor Day format-change watch, of course, and there are some early flippers. In NEW HAMPSHIRE, for instance, Binnie Media is pulling the plug on “99.1 Frank FM” at WNNH (99.1 Henniker) in the Concord market today. In place of the classic rock, WNNH will become “NH1 News Radio,” using Binnie’s TV news operation (seen on sister station WBIN-TV 50) as the base for what will mostly be a syndicated talker. The new lineup includes Don Imus in the morning, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Praeger, Howie Carr and Michael Savage, as well as hourly local news and simulcasts of WBIN’s 6 and 10 PM newscasts.
*In MAINE, Binnie’s making changes in Portland: Dave Winsor is out after 15 years in mornings on WTHT (99.9 the Wolf). As of last Monday, the new morning show at WTHT brings in former night guy Andy Austin and newcomer Paul Hunt alongside Winsor’s co-host Michelle Taylor.
*In VERMONT, there are Radio People on the Move at Burlington’s Vox cluster: Tara Madison’s exit from afternoons at WEZF (Star 92.9) brings Eric Forand into that shift from his previous part-time gig. Eric’s also the new webmaster for the Vox stations, while Madison’s off to Columbia, South Carolina to be assistant PD and middays at WTCB (106.7).
*In CONNECTICUT, Tim Spence arrives tomorrow as the new PD for iHeart’s spoken-word stations, WUCS (97.9)/WPOP (1410) in Hartford and WAVZ (1300)/WELI (960) in New Haven. Spence had been at several sports stations in Denver; he replaces Dave Zaslowsky, who’s now at Chicago’s WLS.
*It’s been a bad few years for small AM stations in western PENNSYLVANIA, and WAVL (910 Apollo) appears to be the latest victim. The station’s licensee, Evangel Heights Assembly of God, was blunt in its notification to the FCC that the station has gone silent and won’t be coming back under current ownership:
“THE MANAGER RETIRED. THE BOARD VOTED TO GO SILENT AND HIRED A CONSULTANT TO ASSIST IN NOTIFYING THE FCC AND IN SELLING THE RADIO STATION.”
That consultant would be Pittsburgh broker Ray Rosenblum, who’ll now have the challenge of unloading a station with 5000 daytime watts, 69 nighttime watts, with a pattern that covers a decent chunk of territory east of Pittsburgh but doesn’t really reach the Steel City itself.
Down the road, EMF Broadcasting hit a roadblock in its attempt to move translator W292DH (106.3) from Uniontown closer to Pittsburgh. EMF (operating on behalf of iHeart, which is buying the signal) wanted to relocate the translator to a Pittsburgh site under special temporary authority, but the FCC shot that down last week, reminding EMF that an STA application has to at least attempt to cover the station’s licensed service area (which is still Uniontown) and that it can’t be used as a cover to build out a construction permit, which EMF already holds for its planned move to Pittsburgh. If and when 106.3 gets moved, it’s planned to be an FM relay for iHeart sports signal WBGG (970).
*More central Pennsylvania shifting underway thanks to Seven Mountains Media: as WHUN-FM (106.3 Mount Union) gets ready to become part of a new three-signal country network with WLZS (106.1 Beaver Springs) and WJUN-FM (92.5 Mexico), the “Hunny” oldies format heard there will survive. On Tuesday, “Hunny” will slide down the dial to what’s now WLAK (103.5 Huntingdon), which has long been in a simulcast with “Merf Radio” WMRF (95.7 Lewistown).
*Radio People on the Move: CBS Radio’s “96.5 AMP” (WZMP) is finally putting live talent on middays and afternoons starting September 10. “Silly Jilly” (Osterman), who was last heard in the market a few years back on iHeart’s WIOQ, will move to AMP from Houston, where she was at CBS’ KKHH. Following her in afternoons will be Mike Adam, who’s been at sister station WBMP (92.3 AMP) in New York City.
In Gettysburg, WGTY (107.7) is saying farewell to Paesan Pellegrini, who started there as morning host in 1989, became PD in 1991, then shifted to afternoons in 2004. Pellegrini announced his retirement last week and did his final show on Friday.
In Williamsport, the Adventist Community Broadcasting Corp. has signed on WOLR-LP (98.9).
And we note the passing of Dave Parks, who was the overnight “Boss Jock” on WFIL (560) before moving west to become a programmer in San Diego. Parks died on Monday after a brief illness.
*In CANADA, the CRTC isn’t waiting for the nation’s courts to finish ruling on its revocation of Aboriginal Voices Radio’s licenses in Toronto, Ottawa and three other cities. While acknowledging that CKAV (106.5 Toronto) and its sister stations can continue broadcasting for now, the CRTC put out a call for applications for replacement services targeting the urban aboriginal populations in those cities.
“The Commission encourages applicants to consider innovative approaches and is not limiting the type of service that can be proposed,” the notice reads. “Issuing the call at this time will provide potential applicants with early guidance in developing these innovative proposals and will ensure that if the appeal is denied, the issue of service to the urban Aboriginal communities in these markets can be considered without delay.”
Applications are due January 12, 2016.
*Today is launch day for RNC Media’s new French-language sports station, CFSI (91.9 Sport). It’s a call and format change from the station’s short-lived incarnation as talker “Radio 9,” CKLX, and it likely puts the final nail in the coffin of TTC Media’s planned French-language sports AM on 850.
In Kingston, Corus has flipped “FM 96” (CFMK 96.3) to “Big 96,” adding classic hits to the station’s classic rock format. The flip at noon Friday brought CFMK into the same format as sister station CJKR (“Big 97.5”) in Winnipeg.
And in Hamilton, Bell’s CKOC (1150) is in the final stages of its transition from oldies to sports, launching into a “top 500 songs” countdown Thursday that will culminate with the launch of “TSN 1150” on September 7.
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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: September 1, 2014
*In Buffalo, Townsquare and PD Dave Universal have completed their rebranding of WJYE (96.1). After freshening the music on the former “Joy 96” a few months ago, Tuesday morning brought a 7 AM relaunch as “Mix 96,” with new calls WMSX.
“Mix” goes right up against Entercom’s hot AC behemoth, “Star 102.5” WTSS, as well as a former “Mix,” Cumulus’ WHTT (104.1), in search of the office-and-minivan crowd.
*If you’ve been reading NERW since the spring of 2013, you know that Cumulus has been plotting for quite a while now to put an FM replacement in place for the former WFAS-FM (103.9) in Westchester County, NEW YORK.
In April 2013, NERW was first to report on Cumulus’ plan to move translator W232AL (94.3 Pomona) across the Hudson to the WFAS (1230) tower in Greenburgh to fill in some of the gap once 103.9 relocated to New York City. As it turned out, it was more than a year before the 103.9 move finally took place. On July 4 of this year, WFAS-FM relaunched as WNBM, licensed to Bronxville and transmitting from the Bronx with an urban AC format as “Radio 103.9,” part of Cumulus’ New York cluster.
Meanwhile, the AC format from WFAS-FM has lingered on in something of a zombie state. Its staff was dismissed just before the move to the Bronx, but an automated version of the format quickly appeared on an HD subchannel of WPLJ (95.5 New York), even as WPLJ’s main channel programming appeared on W232AL in Rockland County. Behind the scenes, Cumulus and the translator’s owner, Bridgelight, were working through FCC bureaucracy to complete the move of the translator, first increasing its power on the Rockland County side of the river and then re-filing to make the move to the WFAS site in Greenburgh.
That most recent Greenburgh application was filed in July, and on Thursday it was rewarded with a construction permit. Working in near-record time, Cumulus crews descended on the Secor Road site to build out the translator, which took air Friday afternoon as “WFAS-FM 94.3,” delivered over the WPLJ subchannel.
*Starboard Media has completed its $10.1 million purchase of WNSW (1430). While licensed to Newark, NEW JERSEY, the former Multicultural Broadcasting signal covers a big chunk of the greater New York market, where its “Relevant Radio” programming makes it the first full-time Catholic broadcaster in the region. The Radio Cantico Nuevo Spanish-language religion that had been leasing the 1430 signal is still heard in the market over the HD4 of WVIP (93.5 New Rochelle) and over translator W292DV (106.3) in Long Island City.
Five Years Ago: August 23 & 30, 2010
On the US side of the border, a venerable eastern PENNSYLVANIA AM station has quietly vanshed from the FCC database. WOYL (1340 Oil City) was Venango County’s first radio station when it signed on in December 1946; it went silent 63 years later, in December 2009, due to a transmitter failure, and while the FCC granted Special Temporary Authority for WOYL to remain silent through June 2010, it was never renewed and WOYL now appears to be gone for good. (A bit of irony here: WOYL is the second half of a former share-time on the frequency to disappear; WSAJ at Grove City College, which operated only two days a week on the channel, left the AM dial a few years ago.)
Upstate NEW YORK radio listeners had a bit of a scare last week when WFXF (95.1 Honeoye Falls) morning man Brother Wease was hospitalized with heart problems. Fortunately (especially given Wease’s recent brush with cancer), Wease spent only a few days in the hospital and is recuperating well – but his listeners had a surprise Wednesday morning when Clear Channel plugged WHAM (1180 Rochester) midday talker Bob Lonsberry into Wease’s morning slot. Lonsberry, as conservative as Wease is liberal, frequently spars with Wease on-air, but this was his first time serving as Wease’s fill-in.
Ten Years Ago: August 29, 2005
*MONDAY UPDATE: Your editor doesn’t normally see two of his former colleagues at WBZ making news on the same day, but it’s an unusual Monday. Over at WBZ itself, Jay McQuaide is departing at week’s end to join Blue Cross/Blue Shield, reports AllAccess.com. Jay got his start in the business at WLLH in Lowell (opposite yours truly at WCAP), and after a detour to Orlando’s WDBO (580), he landed at WBZ in 1992 as midday anchor and designated fill-in for morning man Gary LaPierre.
And the guy who hired Jay (and your editor) at WBZ is returning to the Boston radio scene. Brian Whittemore left the PD/ND chair at WBZ in 1996 to go to KDKA in Pittsburgh and then WCCO in Minneapolis as GM. He’s been out of the WCCO job for a couple of years, but now he’s headed to WRKO to fill the operations manager post left vacant by Mike Elder’s move to Fox News Radio. Welcome back, boss!
*It’s been not much more than a year since WPEN (950 Philadelphia) dropped its long-running standards format and flipped to oldies, challenging the market’s oldies leader, Infinity’s WOGL (98.1), with a jock lineup that included familiar Philly voices like Jerry “Geator” Blavat, Jim Nettleton and Christy Springfield.
On October 3, WPEN will drop the oldies and become PENNSYLVANIA‘s newest sports station, going up against the dominance of Infinity’s WIP (610) with a lineup that will include Jim Rome in middays, former WIP (and WFAN) host Jody McDonald in afternoons and Sporting News Radio’s Tony Bruno (who got his start at WIP) in late mornings.
*A quiet week in NEW YORK, with just a couple of Radio People on the Move to report. In Albany, Rob Ryan is the new PD at WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville), inbound from KLZR/KKYD in Topeka. And in Utica, WLZW (98.7) PD/afternoon jock Peter Naughton’s leaving for the bright lights of TV, where he’ll be working at WSYR-TV (Channel 9) in Syracuse.
Probably the biggest move of the week is downstate, though, where three staffers at WBLI (106.1 Patchogue) are headed up to Poughkeepsie to take over the morning slot at WPDH (101.5) formerly occupied by Karlson and McKenzie. The moves by middayer Reno, MD/weekend jock LJ Lovely and weekend jock Matt Goldapper will leave a slew of openings for J.J. Rice and his crew to fill at WBLI, no doubt.
We hear that the staff at WROC-TV (Channel 8) in Rochester is “cautiously excited” about the impending addition of a 10 PM newscast that they’ll be doing for Sinclair’s WUHF (Channel 31). WUHF’s News Central broadcast will go off the air Thursday (Sept. 1), and the word from WROC’s Humboldt Street facility is that they hope to have the retooled 10 PM newscast ready to debut before Election Day in November, using WUHF anchor/reporters Melanie Barnas and Ty Chandler along with the WROC staff.
*The format change we were wondering about in VERMONT last week – the arrival of classic country at WXAL (93.7 Addison) – still hasn’t happened, but there’s another change in the works within Steve Silberberg’s cluster of stations on the shore of Lake Champlain. Next Monday (Sept. 6), WVAA (1390 Burlington) will pick up the Air America talk and WTWK calls currently being heard on the daytime-only 1070 signal from Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Fifteen Years Ago: August 28, 2000
Keeping track of Canadian radio stations used to be easy — no more than a dozen stations in even the largest market, with format and call changes taking place at the rate of perhaps one or two per market per year. The past week in NEW BRUNSWICK seems to throw the old order completely out the window, with no fewer than six new stations and an AM-to-FM move being authorized by the CRTC.
Here’s how it plays out: In Moncton, both existing commercial broadcasters are getting new frequencies. Maritime Broadcasting System, owner of country CKCW (1220) and oldies CFQM (103.9), gets to move CKCW to FM with 19kw on 94.5. Atlantic Stereo, owner of rock CJMO (103.1), gets to add a new station on 96.9 with 100kw, also approved with a country format (though the CRTC notes that one of the two is likely to change away from country before both stations take the air). NERW notes here that CKCW’s move to FM restores the country format to the band where it was found before last year’s format swap took 1220 to country and 103.9 to oldies. [We’re also wondering what will become of CJCW, the 590 kHz outlet in Sussex that relayed CKCW’s programming to the areas west of Moncton in the 1220 null…]
But wait; there’s still more new radio coming to Moncton! On 99.9, Denis Losier was granted a license for a 9500 watt French-language commercial outlet, the first in Moncton since the 1985 demise of CHLR (1380). Losier will operate the station in conjunction with CKCW and CFQM, with Maritime Broadcasting owning 49% and using its studios on St. George Boulevard for the new 99.9. Want religion? You’ll have that, too, when two low-power Moncton stations sign on. At 100.9, James Houssen was granted a 50 watt station, while the International Harvesters for Christ Evangelical Association (why do we have this image of ministers on big farm tractors?) was granted 50 watts on 105.9.
Twenty Years Ago: September 1, 1995
*Ron Della Chiesa said goodbye to “MusicAmerica” today (Thursday, August 31), with a final show that concluded with Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Della Chiesa will be back next Tuesday on GBH, but with a morning classical show that promises to be a far more sterile undertaking.
*From the TV front: After more than 5 years off the air, Concord, New Hampshire’s WNHT-21 is back up and testing. They’ll return soon as WNBU-TV, a mostly-simulcast of Boston University’s WABU-TV 68 Boston. It’s a killer signal…covers Southern New Hampshire at least as well as the state’s only commercial VHF, WMUR-9 Manchester. Meanwhile down in Boston, Peter Temple has left his job as general manager of Tribune’s WLVI-56 (WB). No word on a replacement; the station is also without a news