In this week’s issue… Bull to replace Buffalo’s Norton – Jack Kinnicutt, RIP – New FM in Albany – “More” streaming in Philadelphia – Christmas music arrives on the dial
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*How do you replace a market legend? If you’re Cumulus in Buffalo, NEW YORK, you stay within your cluster and tap another solid talent who’s already in the building. WGRF (96.9) morning man Larry Norton is just a few weeks away from his final show December 4, and last week Cumulus announced that his spot on 97 Rock will be filled by Rich Gaenzler.
“The Bull” has plenty of name recognition in town, most recently as the afternoon host on sister station WEDG (103.3 the Edge) and the midday sports guy on WHLD (1270). He’ll keep the rest of the 97 Rock morning team (Christine Klein, Rob Lederman and producer Steve Tripi) with him as he moves over to the WGRF corner studio. There’s no word yet on who’ll take over afternoons on the Edge or what will become of the midday show on WHLD.
*One of the signature voices of Rochester radio in the 1980s and 1990s has died. Jack Kinnicutt was part of the talk team on WBBF (950) in its underappreciated early-80s era, just after it flipped from top-40. Later, he held down middays on WHAM (1180) before venturing into politics. Kinnicutt worked for several economic development agencies and for former senator Al D’Amato before eventually retiring to Arizona. He’d been running a computer repair service in the Tucson area when he was diagnosed with a fast-moving cancer earlier this year. He died Saturday; plans for a memorial service are expected to be announced this week.
*There’s about to be a big absence at iHeart’s cluster in New York City, where Dave Foxx is stepping down as creative services director at the end of the Z100 Jingle Ball December 11. Foxx has been a part of the Z100 team for more than 30 years, later adding duties at WKTU (103.5) when it became a sister station under Clear Channel. In a Facebook post, Foxx said the decision to leave is entirely his own; he’ll continue to service his other outside clients without interruption.
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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: November 17, 2014
If you live in greater New York City, need your daily fix of “I Love Lucy,” “Adam 12” or “Leave it to Beaver,” and you get your TV from an antenna, this may have been a confusing week for you. In the latest chapter of a saga we’ve been documenting on and off here at NorthEast Radio Watch for the last few years, PMCM LLC abruptly shut down WJLP (Channel 3)’s transmitter atop 4 Times Square in Manhattan on Monday, only to put the MeTV affiliate back on the air two days later after the latest in a series of emergency rulings from the FCC.
What’s at stake, still, is the question of how WJLP will identify itself on viewers’ TV sets now that it’s completed its long move from its former life as KVNV in Ely, Nevada. Back there, the station’s virtual digital channel was easy to figure out: it had been an analog station on channel 3, and so its digital incarnation was 3.1.
A week ago, things came to a head when the FCC issued an order directing WJLP to change its virtual channel to 33.1 (as WFSB had requested) or leave the air – and while PMCM filed an appeal asking for a stay of the order, it also took the station off the air completely on Monday night. On Wednesday, its request for a stay was granted and the station came back on using 3.10 again. (Its engineers actually had to duck out of the big CCW/SATCON convention across town to go put the transmitter back on the air at midday!)
For now, that’s only a temporary solution, and WJLP is still fighting to get its second cross-country move fully licensed.
*The week’s other huge story, of course, came from eastern MASSACHUSETTS and the career of one Howie Carr. If you read our NERW Update on Thursday, you know what’s coming today: having been officially freed at long last of the Entercom contract he hasn’t wanted for years, Carr is now all done with longtime flagship WRKO (680 Boston) and ready to start his new syndicated show this afternoon on a new Boston home.
And as we hinted on Thursday, Carr’s new Boston home takes on a new name today: the former WUFC (1510 Boston) drops that call (what did it ever mean, anyway?) to loop back to its longtime identity as WMEX. In the 38 years since those calls were last heard at 1510, they’ve moved around to, among other spots, 1150 in Boston (now WWDJ), 1060 in Natick (now WQOM), 106.5 in Farmington NH (now WNHI), 88.7 on Martha’s Vineyard (now WMVY) and most recently WMEX-LP (105.9) in Rochester, New Hampshire, which keeps that callsign for LPFM use after apparently reaching a deal to share it with the Boston AM.
At least for now, the rest of the 1510 lineup remains unchanged: Kevin “Dr. K” Walls, who’s leasing most of the broadcast day from owner Blackstrap, is on morning drive, followed by an hour of Boston Herald Radio, then the syndicated Glenn Beck and Dennis Miller shows. Carr comes on at 3 with his new show, pushing Sean Hannity back to a delayed 7 PM timeslot.
*iHeartMedia isn’t wasting any time building out a facility shuffle that will significantly downgrade one of RHODE ISLAND‘s biggest FM signals. WWBB (101.5 Providence) is collateral damage in the upgrade of sister station WBWL (101.7 Lynn), which will remain a class A signal from downtown Boston but will lose its big directional null to the south. More than that, “101.7 the Bull” will lose the massive adjacent-channel interference that it suffers within the Boston market from WWBB once “B101” drops from class B to class A and relocates to downtown Providence.
*Listeners in CANADA‘s capital city can now hear country music on a local signal. On Monday, Bell Media’s CKKL (93.9 Ottawa) unplugged adult hits “Bob” after 11 years on the frequency, and on Wednesday at noon a ticking clock counted down to the launch of “New Country 94,” kicking off with 10,000 commercial-free songs.
The old “Bob” airstaff is out, including morning man Cub Carson and John “Milky” Mielke, who’s perhaps better known these days as the proprietor of the Milkman UnLimited website. Here’s hoping they all find new work soon!
Five Years Ago: November 15, 2010
*Several familiar talk voices are missing in MASSACHUSETTS: Greater Media’s WTKK (96.9 Boston) decided not to renew the contract of its evening talk host, Michelle McPhee.
While McPhee said she’d work out the rest of her current contract through the end of the year, WTKK instead pulled her off the air. “We will be announcing a new weeknight show in the near future,” says the WTKK website, which is listing “TBD” in McPhee’s former 6-10 PM slot for now.
Meanwhile, WTKK weekend host Jimmy Myers is also off the air. The veteran sports talker says “96.9 Boston Talks” wanted to shift him from salaried employee to a leased-time arrangement under which Myers would pay $500 an hour for his airtime and then sell his own spots to sponsors, a deal that didn’t interest Myers.
Over at Clear Channel, “Cadillac Jack” McCartney has decided not to stay in Boston after all. After splitting his time between programming WJMN and WXKS-FM in Boston and WWPR in New York, he’s now been named fulltime PD for “Power 105.1” in New York. But wait – there’s an even bigger programming opening now at the Medford studios, where PD Chris Tyler is being shifted down I-95 to become operations manager/PD for Clear Channel’s Providence cluster.
*There’s a buyer for silent WDDZ (550) in Pawtucket, RHODE ISLAND, and Salem’s $550,000 purchase of the former Radio Disney outlet will reunite the Providence-market signal with a Boston AM that was briefly a sister station a decade and a half ago.
It was back in 1994 when Peter Ottmar’s Back Bay Broadcasting picked up both the 590 facility in Boston that had been WEEI, flipping it to business talk as WBNW; a year later, Ottmar bought 550 in Pawtucket (ex-WICE), turning it into WPNW, a simulcast of the Boston station. The 550/590 simulcast lasted less than two years; by 1997, Salem had acquired 590 in Boston, flipping it to religion as WEZE, while the Rhode Island station went to standards under the WLKW calls.
Now the 550/590 pairing will return, with 550 (under new, as-yet-unannounced calls) largely simulcasting Salem’s WEZE feed from Boston.
*In upstate NEW YORK, Geneva’s WFLK (101.7) is changing hands. Russ Kimble’s MB Communications is selling country “K-101.7” to the Finger Lakes Radio Group, owned by Kimble’s brother George and Alan Bishop. The $450,000 deal will bring WFLK into the Radio Group’s extensive cluster of stations across the Finger Lakes, creating a near-monopoly along the Routes 5 & 20 corridor that will include Geneva-based talker WGVA (1240), AC WNYR (98.5 Waterloo), classic rock WLLW (99.3 Seneca Falls) and additional AM signals with FM translators in Canandaigua, Auburn and Dundee.
After almost half a century, KDKA (1020) quietly moved its studios out of the Gateway Center in downtown Pittsburgh over the weekend. The radio station is now keeping company with the rest of the CBS Radio cluster at Foster Plaza in Greentree, a couple of miles west of its longtime home. KDKA-TV (Channel 2) and WPCW (Channel 19) remain at Gateway Center, at least for now. (Ironically, even as the radio and TV halves of KDKA were going their separate physical ways, their online presences were combining under the new CBSPittsburgh.com banner, which also takes in sports “Fan” KDKA-FM 93.7.)
Ten Years Ago: November 14, 2005
If you’d cornered us a year ago and asked us to place a bet that WKOX (1200 Framingham) would ever be able to build its new directional array at the WUNR (1600 Brookline) site in Newton’s Oak Hill neighborhood, we’d have declined. At the time, it didn’t appear that the local political climate would ever allow Clear Channel to follow through with its plan to replace WUNR’s existing pair of towers (each 350 feet tall) with five 199-foot unpainted, unlit towers to be used by WKOX (with 50 kW), WUNR (with 20 kW) and WRCA (1330 Watertown, moved from Waltham) with 25 kW day, 17 kW night.
Things change, though, especially when you have a patient plaintiff with deep pockets and a very good case to make against the city of Newton – and so it came to pass that the city and the stations finally reached a settlement last week (thanks to Mark at Boston Radio Watch for sniffing that out!) that could lead to construction getting underway at the site as early as the end of this week. The settlement, which is due to be approved by Newton’s Board of Aldermen on Wednesday, would establish a $100,000 remediation fund to help neighbors near the site deal with increased RF levels after the towers are built and the stations have been on the air for three years. (In the first three years that stations are operating with their new facilities, the stations themselves will be required to assist neighbors within the blanketing zone with RF-related issues, which is not much more than the FCC requires, anyway.) The settlement also limits what the stations can do at the site in the future without city approval – no power increases, and no adding wireless services to the towers, either.
In sum, though, it seems to represent a pretty convincing win for the stations – especially for WKOX, which will get a decent Boston signal out of the deal. We’ll be following this story closely as construction gets underway.
Elsewhere in MASSACHUSETTS, Gary LaPierre returns to WBZ (1030)’s morning drive today, a month and a half after he suffered a heart attack.
On the FM side, Paul “Neanderpol” Marshall is out as afternoon jock at WAAF (107.3 Westborough), but he didn’t stay on the beach long enough to get sand between his toes. He’s now over at WBCN (104.1 Boston), where he’ll fill a yet-to-be-announced shift.
Fifteen Years Ago: November 13, 2000
Our news this week begins here at home in upstate NEW YORK, where Entercom flipped formats on three out of its four Rochester stations while most of us were busy paying more attention to voter turnout Tuesday. That evening at 5, classic hits “The River” WQRV (93.3 Avon) and adult standards WEZO (950 Rochester) were replaced by a simulcast of the oldies format from sister station WBBF (98.9 Rochester). Twenty-four hours later, WBBF’s oldies moved for good to the 93.3/950 simulcast, as 98.9 flipped to this week’s most popular new format nationwide, 80s oldies. “The Buzz” is the new nickname for the station once known as WHFM, WZKC, and WKLX, and we’re pleased to say we heard Moving Pictures’ “What About Me” no less than four times in the new station’s first few days. A new PD and airstaff for 98.9 is on the way, we hear, and in the meantime “93BBF” launches the new Tom George morning show on Monday (11/13). Still to come are new calls for 98.9, which we’re told will be WBZA (does that have a ring to it, or what?), with the WBBF calls moving to 950 and 93.3. What’s more, we hear 93.3 will be looking to make a signal upgrade, changing city of license to one of those east-side “P” towns, and tower location to the WBEE (92.5) tower on Five Mile Line Road in Penfield, thus bringing that stick full circle to its earliest days as WBBF-FM, almost 40 years ago. As for fans of the adult standards once heard on 950, they’re being directed just up the dial to Crawford’s “Legends 990”, WLGZ, which has already claimed about half of 950’s audience anyway.
Up in VERMONT, Clear Channel is expanding in the state with a buyout of Excalibur’s five stations. At the core of the deal are talk WSYB (1380) and CHR WZRT (97.1) in Rutland, which Excalibur partner Joel Hartstone acquired for $5.5 million back in 1989 as “H&D Broadcasting.” Since then, Hartstone, Marty Beck, and Jim Champlin have added oldies WLCQ (92.1 Port Henry NY) and country simulcast WWWT (1320) and WCVR (102.1) in Randolph. Clear Channel’s purchase price: a reported $5.8 million. Clear Channel also owns WEZF (92.9), WXPS (96.7 Willsboro NY), WEAV (960 Plattsburgh NY), and WCPV (101.3 Essex NY) in the Plattsburgh market.
Twenty Years Ago: November 9, 1995
As discussed in this space earlier, WKOX in Framingham MA has now formally filed with the FCC for a power upgrade and daytime site change. As expected, WKOX is proposing to use the WNTN (1550, 10kw ND-D) tower on Rumford Ave. in Newton (Broadcasting and Cable mistakenly called it “River Street”) for its daytime operation, with 50kw ND. Newton is about halfway between Framingham and downtown Boston — about ten miles to each. 50kw will give WKOX a nice strong signal over all of metro Boston from there. For night operation, WKOX would add a third tower at its Mt. Wayte Ave. site in Framingham, and increase from 1kw to 50kw, VERY directional to null WOAI, CFGO, etc. Rumor has it that WKOX will soon be sold by Fairbanks Broadcasting to Salem Communications (WEZE 1260 in Boston), which would replace WKOX’s new news-talk format with religion.
A new CP in Boston: modern-rocker WFNX 101.7 Lynn has been granted its application for a 3-watt translator on Boston’s John Hancock Tower. The 101.3 translator will be called W267AI, and should fill in some of WFNX’s signal problems in the parts of Boston where their target audience of college students live. No word on when it will make it to the airwaves.
And some late-breaking news from Southern New England: Liberty Broadcasting has been sold to Robert F.X. Sillerman’s SFX Broadcasting, which is in turn spinning off Liberty’s New England operations to Multi-Market Broadcasting (isn’t that Cousin Brucie’s company?) The stations involved are WHJJ (920; news-talk), WHJY (94.1; AOR), and WSNE (93.3; ac) in the Providence market and WPOP (1410; news-talk), WMRQ (104.1; modern rock), and WHCN (105.9; AOR) in the Hartford market, along with WTRY/WPYX/WGNA AM-FM in the Albany market and a station in Richmond VA. SFX keeps Liberty’s stations in the Washington DC area (WHFS, WXTR/WXVR, WQSI) and on Long Island (WBAB/WHFM, WGBB, WBLI).