In this week’s issue… Stephanos lands at WCVB – NYC AM sold – New urban in Boston – WFAS drops last local shows – Hetsko returns to WROC – Bob Elliott, RIP
By SCOTT FYBUSH
(Editor’s note: This week’s NERW will appear in two parts – today’s news update, followed on Tuesday by a NERW Extra analyzing the first week of AM translator window applications. So don’t forget to join us again right here in this space Tuesday morning for more NERW…)
If you’re trying to make sense of where Boston TV is heading, here’s a bit of advice that’s been true ever since 1972: don’t bet against WCVB (Channel 5). While Sunbeam’s WHDH-TV (Channel 7) is working out its post-NBC future next year and Comcast is getting ready to launch its new “NBC Boston,” one of the market’s biggest local news stars is now on board with WCVB, where she’s helping to launch a new newscast that will take on her former employer directly.
That would be Maria Stephanos, who reappeared on Channel 5 last week to end five months of local TV exile after her departure last September from Fox affiliate WFXT (Channel 25). Her exit from WFXT was a blow to that station as it settled in under new Cox ownership, and it could have been a huge boon for Comcast in its attempt to give Boston viewers a reason to try out the new local newscasts it will launch next year on its new NBC affiliate.
But instead of going to the new NBC Boston, or to Sunbeam to help bolster WHDH after the loss of NBC, Stephanos is joining the already formidable WCVB newsroom, where she’s now anchoring at 7 and 11 PM with Ed Harding.
And Stephanos’ new job comes with a new newscast, too: WCVB is about to become the last of Boston’s big four TV newsrooms to launch a 10 PM broadcast, which Stephanos will anchor on WCVB’s MeTV 5.2 subchannel. The new “Ten O’Clock News” (a heritage name that once graced newscasts on WLVI, and before that on public TV WGBH) will go up against Stephanos’ old flagship WFXT prime-time newscast. It will also compete with WBZ’s 10 PM offering on WSBK (Channel 38) and WLVI’s 10 PM news on WLVI (Channel 56) – and it will, we believe, make Boston the only market with four local stations all doing news at 10 PM Eastern.
Stephanos was one of two big local news stars who appeared to be potential prizes for Comcast’s new entry. The other, former WHDH chief meteorologist Pete Bouchard, did sign on with “NBC Boston.” Why isn’t Stephanos headed there? Perhaps it’s the fact that she could go right back on the air with WCVB instead of waiting a year for Comcast’s new station to launch. Or – could it be that there’s still a chance that NBC calls WHDH’s bluff and ends up buying channel 7 instead of competing with it?
We’ll be watching closely for more clues – and so, we suspect, will Stephanos, from her new comfortable perch in Needham at channel 5.
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For now, it’s an LMA between Zindagi programmer NJ Broadcasting LLC and WWRL owner Access.1, but NJ Broadcasting plans to buy the 25 kW signal. NJ Broadcasting is owned by Dr. Nimisha Shukla of Edison, NJ, and its programming had been heard on an HD subchannel of WQHT (97.1) and on several translators. (RadioInsight reports those signals are now carrying another South Asian service, Radio 8K, also heard on WWTR 1170 in New Jersey.)
*Across the river in Brooklyn, Pacifica’s WBAI (99.5) faces a new challenge in the form of a federal lawsuit filed by Dr. Gary Null, the longtime WBAI host whose medical supplements and books have been pledge-drive staples at the troubled station. The suit accuses WBAI of making its own pirated copies of Null’s programs and offering counterfeit versions of Null’s products to fulfill pledges from listeners expecting to get genuine Null materials. (To make matters worse, Null says WBAI took months and in some cases years to fulfill those pledges.)
Leaving aside the question of how WBAI became so dependent on Null, whose programming surely wasn’t what Pacifica’s founders had in mind for the network, the suit isn’t specifying exactly how much Null seeks in damages – but any amount would be bad news for the financially-strained WBAI and the national Pacifica organization, which is also named in the suit.
*In Westchester County, Cumulus dealt another blow to local radio last week when it dismissed the last four employees who were keeping WFAS (1230 White Plains) barely alive as a Westchester station. The talk format WFAS had been carrying, including local morning host Peter Marrone, is now gone, replaced with a 24/7 feed of the Cumulus-syndicated CBS Sports Radio. The move gives that network an AM clearance in the New York market, where it had previously been heard on the HD3 of WCBS-FM (101.1) and during some overnight and weekend hours on CBS’ WFAN (660/101.9).
Over at Pamal’s WHUD (100.7), night host Kathy Millar is out after five years at the helm of “Night Rhythms.”
Upstate, Entercom’s “Alt Buffalo” (WLKK 107.7 Wethersfield) is looking for a new morning host following Tiffany Bentley’s crosstown move to Cumulus’ WEDG (103.3), where she’s now music director and afternoon jock.
In Jamestown, Bible Broadcasting Network translator W203BV (88.5) has filed for a license to cover for its move to 91.9. The shift gets the translator out of the way of an upgrade across the state line at WYVL (88.5 Youngsville PA).
Here in Rochester, Brian McGlynn’s W248BH (97.5 Gates) has filed to upgrade to 250 watts as a fill-in translator of Crawford’s WDCX (990 Rochester). This one’s not part of the FCC’s AM improvement window, because the translator’s only moving a few miles and it’s going to a class B station, which can’t file under the improvement window until July. (We’ll have a full recap of the past week’s improvement window filings in a special NERW issue tomorrow…)
And one of the happiest stories we’ve been able to cover is the return of chief meteorologist Scott Hetsko to Rochester CBS affiliate WROC-TV (Channel 8). Hetsko had been sidelined since June with heart problems that forced him to undergo a heart transplant in September. After several more months of recuperation, everything checked out cleanly for Hetsko last week – and he was back on the air for WROC’s post-Super Bowl newscast Sunday night.
In his trademark form, Hetsko started the broadcast by declaring himself “in for Stacey Pensgen,” WROC’s #2 meteorologist who’d been covering his shifts for the last eight months.
Here’s to a continued healthy recovery for Hetsko – and lots of good times with his family, including a 10-year-old son and 3-year-old twins!
(A salute, too, to WROC sports director John Kucko, who heads home today from California after doing Super Bowl coverage for WROC and literally dozens of Nexstar sister stations from coast to coast.)
*Congratulations to NEW JERSEY‘s WSOU (89.5 South Orange), which was honored at Newark’s Prudential Center on Saturday for the 50th anniversary of “Hall Line,” the post-game call-in show that follows every Seton Hall basketball game.
More than 120 WSOU alumni, staff and friends gathered for the event, which included pre-game honors on the court and a reunion for the show’s original hosts, Vincent Bickler and Robert Windrem. Bickler later worked for CBS and Windrem still works for NBC News; together, they hosted a special “Hall Line” after Seton Hall’s win over Georgetown.
Other “Hall Line” alumni attending the event included ESPN’s Bob Picozzi, Devils radio play-by-play announcer Matt Loughlin, WINS’ Frank Garrity, ABC Radio’s David Rind, and MSNBC’s Brian Wisowaty. ESPN’s Bob Ley addressed the reunion by video.
*In MASSACHUSETTS, there was a stealth format change in Boston: Alex Langer’s WZBR (1410 Dedham) flipped to an urban format last week as “The Bass of Boston.” Will the new leased-time programmers try to find a translator to get their new format on FM?
Radio People on the Move: Greater Media’s been busy promoting some good people lately, and now that includes Buzz Knight. The former jock at Connecticut’s WRKI and New York’s WNEW-FM made a name for himself programming WZLX in Boston. He joined Greater Media in 2002, where he’s been VP of program development – and is now Senior VP of program development.
Where are they now? Former WBZ (1030) engineer Norm Avery went west in the early 1990s to become chief engineer at KABC/KLOS in Los Angeles, and while he survived changes in ownership from ABC to Citadel to Cumulus, the ongoing Cumulus cuts claimed his job last week, which we were most sorry to hear.
Bob Schuman did news at WROR (98.5) in the early 1980s, working for RKO General as it tried to stave off a license revocation. He later went on to work at a long list of big stations around the country, most notably in Detroit at WJR/WHYT, WOWF/WYCD and most recently at WOMC, where he was news director. Schuman died Jan. 30 of congestive heart failure; he was 65.
And Bob Elliott may have become nationally famous as half of the comedy duo Bob & Ray, but their pairing began as a strictly local Boston affair. Elliott, who died Tuesday at 92 at his home in Maine, started his radio career at WHDH (850) in the early 1940s, but was quickly off to serve in the Army in Europe. When he returned, WHDH had hired Ray Goulding as an announcer – and by 1946 the two were inextricably paired in middays and then mornings. Five years later, it was off to NBC and a pairing that would last more than four decades until Goulding’s death. In Elliott’s memory, we’re hanging some Einbinder Flypaper and asking you to write if you get work.
*In the years when RHODE ISLAND‘s WLKW (990/101.5 Providence) was one of the top beautiful-music signals in the country, Norm Jagolinzer was that station’s distinctive voice. Jagolinzer also worked at WARA in Attleboro and WPRO in Providence. He retired in 2004 and was inducted into the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame. Jagolinzer died Feb. 1 at 83.
*In VERMONT, Vox has brought the syndicated Elvis Duran morning show back to WXZO (Planet 96.7), where it had been heard from 2012-2012. WXZO morning host/OM/PD Mike “Slater” Wheaton moves down the hall to WEZF (92.9), where he’ll become PD/MD and afternoon host. Jennifer Foxx, who’d been Star 92.9 PD, will stay with the station as midday host. Steve “Stevie Beats” Bassett takes over as PD/MD at WXZO.
*It was a quiet week in PENNSYLVANIA broadcasting, except for some Radio People on the Move in Pittsburgh.
At public radio WESA (90.5), Deanna Garcia is now serving as acting news director. Across the river at PNC Park, Joe Block takes over from the Red Sox-bound Tim Neverett in the Pirates’ radio booth this season. Block is inbound from Milwaukee, where he was the #2 voice in the Brewers’ booth next to Bob Uecker; in Pittsburgh, he’ll work with Greg Brown on KDKA-FM (93.7) and ROOT Sports.
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