In this week’s issue…Cumulus empties Geraldo’s vault – It’s Red Sox contract time – Gearhart makes retirement permanent – More on Bell’s job cuts
By SCOTT FYBUSH
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*Whatever Cumulus’ plans might be to revive its flagging flagship, NEW YORK‘s WABC (770), they won’t include one of the station’s star personalities. Geraldo Rivera still appears on the WABC website as we finish the column Sunday night, but the 10 AM-noon host hasn’t been on the air since Tuesday and he won’t be coming back.
On Wednesday, Rivera posted on Facebook that Cumulus’ new CEO, Mary Berner, and market manager Chad Lopez “do not intend to honor the handshake deal I made with the ousted company chief John Dickey, an agreement to extend my current contract for a year.”
Cumulus hired Rivera in 2012 to host back-to-back local shows for WABC and KABC in Los Angeles, then swapped out his KABC shift for national syndication a few months later. The national syndication ended in early 2014, leaving Rivera as a (presumably) highly-paid local-only host, a tenuous situation at a company that’s been trying hard to cut costs at its local stations.
It’s not yet clear who’ll end up with the mid-morning shift at WABC, especially in the context of a schedule that’s likely to be in flux again whenever either Cumulus or Don Imus decide they’re done with each other. (Recall that Imus said earlier this year that when he’s ready to go, he plans to just walk away from his morning show without any advance notice or fanfare.) Will Cumulus look to syndication to fill the 10-noon slot? It wouldn’t surprise us one bit. Less likely, we think, are the rumors that Keith Olbermann, recently departed again from ESPN, might fill the slot.
We’re a community.
North of the city, Dennis Jackson’s W276BV (103.1 Stamford CT) has refiles its application to relocate to New Rochelle, this time as a directional 85-watt signal relaying WVOX (1460 New Rochelle). An earlier attempt to relocate W276BV was quashed by Bridgelight’s co-channel W276AQ (103.1 Fort Lee), which had submitted some sketchy interference complaints from Westchester County listeners. But with Bridgelight’s subsequent application to move the Fort Lee translator to 102.3, Jackson sees an opening to try again with the Westchester move.
*We promised you we’d post the video of our big night at the Empire State Building last month as soon as it became available, and thanks to our friends at This Week in Radio Tech, it’s now here for your viewing enjoyment! Thanks again to everyone at Empire, publicist Peggy Miles, AES and David Bialik and the SBE for making it all possible…
*There’s a new permanent morning host at NEW JERSEY 101.5 (WKXW Trenton). With the sad announcement that Jim Gearhart’s recovery from a head injury and concussion is still ongoing and he won’t be able to return to the morning show, the Townsquare Media talker has named fill-in host Bill Spadea as Gearhart’s replacement.
Spadea (left) has been Gearhart’s substitute since 2014; he’s also continuing as host of the nightly “Chasing News” (formerly “Chasing New Jersey”) on WWOR-TV (Channel 9) and Philadelphia’s WTXF (Channel 29).
Gearhart’s forced retirement ends a long and impressive career that goes back to WKXW’s launch as a talker, and even before that to stints at WCBS (880) just before its 1967 flip to all-news, as well as KQV in Pittsburgh and WPOP in Hartford. His legacy at New Jersey 101.5 lives on in the name of the station’s building, dubbed the “Jim Gearhart Broadcast Center”
An AM move is underway along the Garden State Parkway: with just hours to go before losing its longtime site in Union, Multicultural Broadcasting’s WJDM (1530 Elizabeth) has moved north up the Parkway to a new STA facility that’s triplexed at the Clifton site of sister station WPAT (930 Paterson) and WNSW (1430 Newark). WJDM’s application to go directional at the Clifton site at higher power remains pending.
South Bergen Community News has filed for a license to cover for WSBP-LP (94.3 Wood Ridge). The new community signal will cover a stretch of the Route 17 corridor from Hackensack down to East Rutherford.
*A very happy birthday to one of the deans of PENNSYLVANIA broadcasting. Myron Jones turned 90 on Friday, and he’s still going strong long after selling off the Erie stations he founded, WJET radio and TV. It was back in 1951 when Jones put WJET on the air at 1570, followed by WHOT in Youngstown, Ohio and then by WJET-TV (Channel 24) in 1966.
Jones was inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1997. He tells WJET-TV his secret to living to 90 is “behaving yourself.”
*Ever since the Boston Red Sox signed a 10-year deal with Entercom back in 2006, it’s been a constant subject of conversation in MASSACHUSETTS media circles. And now that the $20 million/year deal is nearing its end, it looks like Entercom is trying to keep the next cycle of Sox radio rights from being quite as much of a headline topic.
On Friday, the Herald reported that the Sox are close to a new deal with Entercom that will keep the team in place on WEEI-FM (93.7) while reducing the cost to a more reasonable level. Entercom GM Phil Zachary told the Herald‘s Gayle Fee he hopes to have the new contract nailed down before Christmas, denying rumors that Entercom will simply barter the airtime to the team going forward.
In fairness to both the station and the team, their options are rather more limited now than they were a decade ago. While CBS Radio’s WBZ-FM (98.5 the Sports Hub) is a fierce rival to WEEI, CBS management has been reluctant to overpay for sports contracts. That’s true even in a situation like this one where losing the Sox would be a deadly blow to the WEEI end of the rivalry; in any event, if CBS did make a real run at the Sox rights, Entercom could have chosen to invoke its right to a two-year extension of the 2006 contract, a choice it apparently turned down earlier this year. The other big player a decade ago isn’t in the picture now: if the team and Greater Media had teamed up to launch a sports talker on WBOS (92.9) back then, we’d almost certainly not be talking about a WEEI/WBZ-FM rivalry now.
And of course we must admit (sigh…) that the team itself isn’t exactly working from a point of strength right at the moment. While Entercom got two World Series wins out of this last contract, it’s also endured last-place finishes three of the past four seasons. If there’s a blue-chip team in town now, it’s the Patriots, and CBS has them locked down at WBZ-FM for some time to come.
*A long-silent Bay State AM signal is now well and truly dead. We reported earlier this year that the FCC had sent an inquiry to Al Grady’s Discussion Radio, Inc. about the status of WDIS (1170 Norfolk). Grady and his lawyer responded a month later, saying the station’s building had been condemned in June 2014, forcing WDIS off the air, but that they’d sent the FCC “numerous faxes” requesting permission to remain silent.
Faxes don’t comply with the Commission’s filing standards, of course, and even if WDIS had been granted silent status, it still would have had to resume some sort of operation before June 2015 to keep the statutory clock from ticking down to the one-year mark after which licenses are cancelled as a matter of law. Since WDIS didn’t do that, the FCC has now officially pulled its license and deleted its callsign, telling Grady that a “business decision on the part of Licensee to allow the building to deteriorate to the point of condemnation,” and then to not find an alternate site, doesn’t merit any special review of the case.
*Back in the days when this column was called “New England Radio Watch” and your editor resided in suburban Boston, I was a frequent co-host of a little radio show called “Let’s Talk About Radio,” heard each weekend on Bob Bittner’s WJIB (740 Cambridge) and its sister stations in Worcester, Manchester and later in Maine.
“LTAR” faded away after a few years, but Bittner resurrected the show a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been running on Sundays from 7:30-8 AM on WJIB and WJTO (730/98.3 Bath).
*Radio People on the move in NEW HAMPSHIRE and MAINE: Matty Jeff has departed Saga’s WPOR (101.9 Portland) to become the new PD/afternoon jock at WGNA (107.7 Albany), taking the role previously filled by Steve Giuttari before he went to WFMS in Indianapolis. Jeff’s move from Saga to Townsquare is complemented by a reverse move – Mark Jennings leaves Townsquare’s WOKQ (97.5 Dover) after 32 years at the station to take over at WPOR as ops manager/PD/afternoons. WOKQ is now looking for a replacement to fill Jennings’ big shoes.
*We continue to learn more about the job cuts Bell Media’s inflicting across CANADA, including a high-profile radio dismissal in London, Ontario last Monday. Just after Steve Garrison finished his morning show on CJBK (1290), he was called in to be notified his job was no more. Garrison had been in radio for 44 years, starting in Stratford at age 17. He’d been at CJBK since 1975, and on morning drive for 27 of those 40 years. In August, Garrison was shifted from morning drive to a 9-10 AM slot, and as of last Tuesday he’s at loose ends. “I never thought my career would ever end this way,” he told the London Free Press.
Meanwhile in the Rogers stable of stations, Wayne Cavanagh is retiring at year’s end after 46 years in radio, much of it at CJET in Smiths Falls. That’s where he’ll do his last show Dec. 24 as morning co-host at what’s now “92.3 JACK FM.”
*HD Radio is still something of a new concept north of the border, but now another broadcaster is jumping in: Byrnes Communications’ CIHR (104.7 Woodstock) has added an HD2 that’s carrying all Christmas music for now.
A long-delayed new AM signal just west of Toronto will be even more delayed: Elliot Kerr’s new CKNT (960 Mississauga) has been granted another one-year extension, allowing him until November 30, 2016 to put the news-talker on the air. Why the third extension, which the CRTC doesn’t often grant? Kerr blamed Industry Canada, which turned down his initial plans for a transmitter site. If it makes air within the next year, CKNT would run 700 watts by day, 104 watts at night, which isn’t much “oomph” to get through the dense construction of much of Mississauga.
Over at Radio Insight, Lance Venta has picked up on a domain registration and new website for what will be known as “Max 103.1” when Torres gets the suburban Montreal signal back on the air. Torres also owns CIDG (101.9) in Ottawa and CIUX (105.5) in Uxbridge, outside Toronto.
*You’ve probably never been to Ear Falls, Ontario. We’ve never been to Ear Falls, Ontario. It’s a long way from anywhere to the thousand or so people in Ear Falls, which is 50 bumpy miles north of the Trans-Canada Highway out there in very rural northwest Ontario. But when there’s radio news from Ear Falls, we’re here to report it, and so you’ll surely want to know that Acadia Broadcasting has applied to flip CKDR-4 from 1450 on the AM dial to 97.5 FM, using 50 watts/34.6 m. The Ear Falls signal will continue to relay CKDR from Dryden, which itself flipped from AM to 92.7 FM a few years back. The move will leave CKDR with one remaining AM relay in Hudson, and will leave Ear Falls with only one AM signal, CBOI (690), the low-power relay of CBC from Thunder Bay.
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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: December 1, 2014
*One of the bigger recent radio deals in PENNSYLVANIA is expected to close today, adding two more FM signals to CBS Radio’s Philadelphia group while sending a third AM to Beasley Broadcasting.
The swap of CBS’ WIP (610) for Beasley’s WXTU (92.5) and WRDW-FM (96.5) is just part of a bigger deal that also finds CBS getting Beasley’s WQAM (560), WPOW-FM (96.5) and WKIS (99.9) in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale and Beasley getting CBS Radio’s clusters in Tampa and Charlotte.
Much as we’d love to be “Miami Radio Watch” right now, our focus is on the Philadelphia piece of this deal, and here’s how it looks like things will shake out once the paperwork is all signed this week:
Beasley’s purchase of the 610 facility doesn’t include the WIP callsign or the current CBS Sports Radio format, which has basically just been filler anyway ever since CBS moved the WIP local sports format over to WIP-FM (94.1) a few years back. Instead, 610 will change calls to WTEL, restoring a callsign that was used for seven decades on what’s now Beasley’s WWDB (860 Philadelphia). Is more leased time in store for a cluster that’s already leasing out its other two AMs? WWDB offers a motley lineup of ethnic talk and infomercials, but it does appear to be sold out in its limited daytime-only schedule, so we’d suspect some of those clients will be offered additional hours on the new WTEL 610. Will some religion move down the dial from Beasley’s WTMR (800 Camden NJ), too?
Over on the CBS side, it appears that early rumors about a format flip at WRDW-FM are unfounded. We already knew that CBS wasn’t going to touch top-rated country station WXTU (92.5), but speculation was running high that the “Wired” rhythmic top-40 format on 96.5 was headed for the exit, to be replaced by a simulcast of all-news KYW (1060). But despite KYW’s signal problems in parts of the Philly metro and the handicap these days of being on AM in general, all indications now are that KYW will remain AM-only after the Beasley deal closes, showing that CBS still believes it can generate significant ratings and revenue on the AM dial in Philadelphia just as it does with New York’s WCBS and WINS, Boston’s WBZ and Los Angeles’ KNX.
That, in turn, means some form of top-40 stays in place on 96.5. Our sister site RadioInsight has discovered that CBS has already built a new “Wired 96.5” web presence on its own servers, so the name comes along from Beasley as well. Will the new year bring a reboot of top-40 across three big CBS signals that are struggling with the format right now? We’d expect at least some synergy among Wired in Philly, “AMP 92.3” (WBMP) in New York and “AMP 103.3” (WODS) in Boston – and we still wouldn’t rule out a name change to “AMP” in Philadelphia as well.
*In northern MAINE, religious WFST (600 Caribou) is recovering from a dramatic crash a week ago. A car slammed through the front window of the station early Saturday morning, scattering desks and equipment in the WFST offices before apparently backing out and driving away. The driver left a license plate at the scene, and police say that made it easy to catch Christy Paul, who still had papers from the WFST office stuck in the grill of her car when police showed up at her house.
She’s been charged with leaving the scene of a accident, driving to endanger, and criminal mischief. The station says it thinks her car may have been airborne for 25 feet or more as she flew off the end of the Caribou bypass across Sweden Street and into the station; it’s back on the air while it repairs the building and while station officials look into getting some concrete barriers across from the end of the bypass.
(And fortunately, nobody was inside the station that late at night, so nobody was hurt in the crash.)
Five Years Ago: November 29, 2010
Kevin McNicholas was a familiar voice on radio stations all over the Bay State that contracted with him to provide reports from the State House for many decades. Sadly, that voice was silenced last week when McNicholas, the dean of the Beacon Hill press corps, died on Thursday at 61. McNichols had been running the “Radio News Service” out of the State House since 1975, supplying sound from state political stories and other Boston news items to stations around the state that included WATD (95.9 Marshfield) and WFCR-FM (88.5 Amherst). He’d been suffering from cancer of the bladder.
There’s still no word from WBZ (1030) about a permanent choice of a new anchor for its morning newscasts, but a very familiar voice will be back behind the mike for a few days next week. Gary LaPierre, who retired in 2006 after 43 years at the station, will be the guest anchor the week of December 6. And in the meantime, WBZ has announced that veteran Boston anchor Rod Fritz, who’s been doing weekend news there, will be the temporary replacement for Ed Walsh after his last morning shift on Tuesday. Could Fritz be the permanent pick, too? That’s certainly the consensus out there in message-board land, and it’s hard to think of many other anchors out there who are as talented as Fritz, as experienced in Boston – and as available!
A format flip on the NEW HAMPSHIRE/MAINE state line: Clear Channel’s WMYF (1380 Portsmouth) quietly flipped from standards to ESPN Radio as “The Sports Animal” early last week.
There’s a morning show shift coming in NEW YORK City, where Patty Steele is leaving the “Scott and Todd Big Show” on WPLJ (95.5) next month after more than a dozen years alongside Scott Shannon and Todd Pettengill. Steele and her husband, veteran New York City programmer Steve Kingston, are in the process of buying a station in Florida, WSJF (105.5 St. Augustine Beach), under the name “Cortona Media”; it’s not clear whether her departure from WPLJ is related to the new acquisition.
In Binghamton, Equinox’s WRRQ (106.7) has completed its relocation from Windsor, far to the east of town, to centrally-located Ingraham Hill. The move changes WRRQ’s city of license from Windsor to Port Dickinson, significantly improving its coverage of the market and eliminating the station’s need to rely on translators to reach Binghamton-area listeners. “Now, everyone can get Q106.7; no need to tune anywhere else,” say the promos running (over and over again) on the new signal.
Ten Years Ago: November 28, 2005
There was a time – and it wasn’t that long ago – when the NEW JERSEY Meadowlands were an undesirable place for just about anything other than an AM radio transmitter facility. From the 1920s, when stations like WOR and WLWL first built sites there, to the present day, the swamps just across the Hudson River from New York City have been the preferred spot for AM broadcasters in the nation’s largest market. With the construction of Giants Stadium in the 1970s, the Meadowlands began to become desirable for other uses, too, and in recent years, the area south of the stadium complex has become a hotbed of development. WOR, as you’ll recall, is losing its current site in Lyndhurst to the massive EnCap golf course/housing development that’s being planned for 800 acres in East Rutherford, North Arlington and Lyndhurst – and now two other AM stations in the neighborhood are crying foul about what they say will be detrimental effects to their signals from the EnCap project.
WINS (1010) and WLIB (1190) tried to prevent the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission from granting its approval for Phase I of the project, arguing that planned 15-story apartment buildings would disrupt the stations’ directional patterns, making their transmitter sites unusable. The matter will now go to the New Jersey Supreme Court, where WINS and WLIB hope to get an injunction to keep construction from starting on the housing portion of the project. It promises to be an interesting fight, and we’ll be keeping tabs on it – stay tuned! (2010 update: EnCap went bankrupt, and whatever development threat existed to WINS and WLIB appears to be dead for now.)
There’s a station sale to report: the Haddon family’s Sunbury Broadcasting is paying $3 million to acquire WVLY-FM (100.9 Milton) and WMLP (1380 Milton) from Milton-Lewisburg Broadcasting. Sunbury’s launching an LMA with the stations (which now do AC on the FM and talk on the AM) right away – and that apparently isn’t sitting too well with the existing staff there, which has replaced the WVLY/WMLP home page with a message saying “We regret to inform our faithful listeners…” that the stations have been sold.
Fifteen Years Ago: November 28, 2000
A month after being charged with domestic assault, religious broadcaster Brian Dodge has left Vermont, leaving “Love 1480” (WNBX Springfield) silent while it awaits new management. Dodge had operated the station, the former WCFR(AM), since 1998 under an LMA-to-buy with owners Bob and Shirley Wolf. Dodge, who also owns WWNH (1340) in Madbury N.H., would have paid $150,000 for the station. Instead, he notified the Wolfs a week before Thanksgiving that he would be leaving WNBX and the southern Vermont area.
The Wolfs tell the Rutland Herald they plan to have WNBX back on the air sometime in December under the management of Keith Marsh, a minister in nearby West Lebanon, N.H. Like the Dodge deal, the two-year agreement with Marsh would eventually lead to a sale of the station. Marsh would begin running a religious format on WNBX in early 2001, with holiday music filling the airwaves until then. He tells the Herald he plans to change the station’s call letters and add local news and sports programming. As for Dodge, he has pleaded not guilty to charges that he hit his wife and choked her with a towel at the couple’s Springfield home in October. He also faces charges of violating a restraining order imposed after his initial arrest.
One bit of CONNECTICUT news on this holiday-shortened update: We now know what the new calls will be for New Haven’s channel 59 when the station switches from WB to UPN (or is that just “PN”?) on New Year’s Day. Since “WBNE” won’t work anymore, the station will become WCTX. NERW wonders whether Tribune’s WTXX (Channel 20) in Waterbury will change its calls as well when it switches from UPN to WB on the same day.
The DX clubs’ mailing lists have been buzzing with the latest from CANADA: reports of testing on Toronto’s 740, silent since the 1999 sign-off of CBL. The new adult standards station, run by Oakville’s CHWO (1250), has reportedly been testing with an open carrier, though we’ve yet to hear it across the lake. No word yet on whether it’ll use the CBC facilities at Hornby, or whether it will use the CHWO/CJMR site in Mississauga…stay tuned!
Twenty Years Ago: November 25, 1995