In this week’s issue… Breakfast Club takes WJMN to syndicated mornings – More translator moves on New England AMs – Julius La Rosa remembered – Rogers adds more big Ottawa names
By SCOTT FYBUSH
In Boston, iHeart’s five radio stations now have just one local morning show with the abrupt cancellation of “Frankie V and Ashlee” from WJMN (94.5) on Wednesday, after less than a year.
Frankie (Vinci) had moved back home to Boston not long after iHeart put him on the Jam’n morning shift last July, doing bicoastal duty while also hosting on San Diego’s KHTS-FM (93.3). (It was a big deal in part because Vinci’s brother Mikey does nights on iHeart’s Kiss 108 just down the hall.)
Frankie’s morning replacement on WJMN as of Thursday is iHeart’s syndicated “Breakfast Club” from New York’s WWPR (Power 105), a show that’s been enjoying quite a streak of attention in the media lately, including magazine profiles and TV guest shots for its star, Charlamagne Tha God. If iHeart’s goal is to create more high-profile national programming that it can spread across dozens or even hundreds of markets, there are worse places it could start; it may even be that the top names that a show like the Breakfast Club attracts will be a bigger draw in Boston than did the local show with Frankie and Ashlee Feldman (who stays on the WJMN staff doing local inserts).
But it wasn’t just Frankie getting the iHeart axe last week; 90 miles to the west, WHYN (560 Springfield) lost its local voice in the morning for the first time in its long, proud history when iHeart pulled “The Adam Wright Show with Bo Sullivan” off the air after Friday morning’s show. Wright (left) and Sullivan are both gone from the station (and were quickly disappeared from the WHYN website and social media); in their place, WHYN is now carrying the Jim Polito morning show from WTAG (580 Worcester), which is a very, very long 50 miles from Springfield, notwithstanding Polito’s time as a Springfield news anchor on WGGB (Channel 40).
“It was not about Adam and Bo. It was about Jim and having a product that matched the market,” regional president Sean Davey told the Springfield Republican (from his Boston office). Especially given Sullivan’s 20 years with WHYN, it’s hard to make much sense of that, except in the context of a difficult, difficult time for iHeart – and thus for so many of its dedicated employees.
Meanwhile in Springfield, if you missed news director John Baibak’s 5-6 AM local hour this Monday morning, you’ve already missed the only full hour of programming on WHYN that now originates from anywhere in the 413 area code.
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*Elsewhere in the Bay State, “Joe Breezy” is leaving his post as afternoon jock, assistant PD and music director at CBS Radio’s WODS (103.3 AMP) in Boston – but don’t read anything in about the future of the top-40 format there. Breezy, whose real name is David Armbrecht, is headed to Nashville to follow his fiancee to her new job as chief meteorologist at WKRN-TV there. That’s Danielle Vollmar, who’s been part of the weather team at WCVB (Channel 5) since 2013. Armbrecht and Vollmar will be getting married right after they leave their respective stations June 15, and they’ll start in Nashville in July. A search is already underway at WODS for Breezy’s replacement.
Joel Palmer was the heart of the creative service department at Worcester’s WSRS/WTAG for over 30 years, from the time he joined the stations in 1985 until his death May 6 at age 67. Before that, he’d spent 16 years doing “everything,” as he said in his bio, at WARE (1250 Ware), starting in 1968. Funeral services for Palmer were held last Wednesday in Worcester; mourners were asked to wear his favorite color, blue.
*Binnie Media is adding a translator for its newly-purchased NEW HAMPSHIRE AM. It’s paying Northeast Gospel Broadcasting $71,500 for W269BA (101.7 Woodford VT), which will move to Dover to relay WTSN (1270).
*Saga has completed another translator – er, “metro signal” – move into Portland, MAINE. It’s filed for a license to cover on the move of W264BG (100.7 Benedicta) from Aroostook County down to 107.1 in the Portland market. The new W296CZ runs 150 watts from the WGAN (560) tower site in Westbrook, relaying WBAE (1490).
Cooper Fox is headed back to New England, where he starts June 1 at Townsquare in Augusta as operations manager for WEBB (98.5) and WMME (92.3) as well as brand manager of WJZN/WTVL. Fox moves back east from WEHP (92.7) in Erie, Pennsylvania, where he’s been doing afternoons and serving as PD.
(Speaking of Erie, public broadcaster WQLN-TV is once again beset with transmitter problems; it spent the entire weekend off the air and is trying to get things fixed today.)
*Our NEW YORK lead story this week takes us back to the early years of television, when one of its biggest stars was CBS entertainer Arthur Godfrey, the redheaded singer known for both his smooth voice and his short temper. Godfrey never made bigger headlines than in 1953, when he abruptly dismissed a young singer who’d become famous as a guest on his program.
Julius (“Julie”) La Rosa was a sensation on the Godfrey shows, and he became one of the year’s biggest news stories after Godfrey fired him on the air during his morning radio broadcast on October 19. Everybody loves an underdog, and La Rosa’s dismissal gave him a round of even bigger successes with other TV guest appearances, a national tour and a TV show of his own.
In later years, La Rosa kept on performing as the spotlight faded, appearing in musicals, giving concerts and – the reason he’s leading off this section of NERW – hosting radio shows for many years at WNEW (1130) and then at WNSW (1430) into the 1990s. (He also forgave Godfrey, even showing up at his old boss’ bedside as he was ailing in later years, according to his WNEW colleague Anita Bonita.)
La Rosa died Thursday at his Wisconsin home, at age 86.
*After its big staffing cuts in Binghamton, iHeart has named a replacement for the departed Tom Scott as PD of WBBI (107.5) and WINR (680/96.9); Julie Dunn, who’s been tracking afternoons for WBBI from her home base in Rochester, will serve as PD for the Binghamton country stations as well as for Rochester’s WNBL (107.3). JP Hastings, who’d been PD for WNBL and for WVOR (102.3), takes over the PD reins down the Thruway for WYYY (94.5) in Syracuse after the ouster of veteran PD/morning host Kathy Rowe. Hastings continues as WHAM (1180 Rochester) morning host as well.
*A translator sale in PENNSYLVANIA: He’s Alive, Inc. is selling the permit for W283BZ (104.5 Altoona) to Colonial Radio Group of Williamsport for $50,000.
Pittsburgh Public Media is keeping a historic callsign alive on its jazz signals in the Steel City. After buying WZUM (1550 Braddock) earlier this year, PPM has now changed the calls of its original signal west of town to match – what was WYZR (88.1 Bethany WV) is now WZUM-FM.
*In CANADA, Carol Anne Meehan was one of the most prominent names to disappear from CTV Ottawa (CJOH) during last fall’s cutbacks there. Now she’s coming back to the capital region’s airwaves on Rogers’ CIWW (1310 News), where she’ll host the 1-3 PM talk block beginning May 30. Her new show will follow former Bell colleague Mark Sutcliffe, who’s heard from 9 AM-1 PM.
Out east, CJFX (98.9) in Antigonish, N.S. is applying for a second FM signal. Atlantic Broadcasters has requested 60.6 kW/215 m on 93.5 for the station, which would carry a country format.
We’re a community.
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: May 18, 2015
WRKO is losing Rush Limbaugh – again. After having the syndicated host get pulled away when then-Clear Channel launched “Rush Radio” WXKS (1200), only to return three years ago when that rival talker failed, Premiere Radio Networks now says it can’t come to terms with Entercom on a renewal, and so it will seek another home for Limbaugh this summer.
*The news last week of a change of control at Philadelphia’s WBEB (101.1 More FM) was no surprise to anyone who’s been following NERW or other industry sources for the last few months. As we reported, for instance, back in March:
When (half-owner Jerry) Lee’s longtime business partner Dave Kurtz died in 2005. Lee bought out his interest in the station, paying $85 million for half the station, which valued the whole thing at $170 million. That number looks awfully high in retrospect, doesn’t it, especially when $22 million of that was financed at over 10% interest?
After a tentative sale earlier this year fell through, Lee’s creditors have now taken control of the station by restructuring the board of Jerry Lee, LLC, the licensee: Zell Credit Opportunities Fund now has three of the five seats on the board, giving it the power to outvote Lee himself – and almost certainly to ready WBEB for another try at a sale so it can recover at least part of what Lee still owes.
*WBEB’s change of control wasn’t the only move on that part of the dial in eastern PENNSYLVANIA. Over in Lancaster, Hall relaunched WROZ (101.3 Lancaster) on Thursday at noon, dumping its “Rose” moniker after more than two decades to become “Fun 101.3,” with a little newer music and a slightly harder edge.
*In central NEW YORK, the name Joe Galuski was synonymous with “morning radio” for most of the last two decades. Galuski, who died Thursday after a lengthy fight with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, came from Buffalo’s WGR (550) to Syracuse’s WSYR (570) in 1988 and moved to mornings in 1998, becoming an institution in the community. He’d been off the air since last fall, with co-hosts Mark Wainwright and Joe Kilpatrick officially on the roster as “fill-ins” while WSYR and the region hoped for his recovery. Sadly, he took a turn for the worse just after his family posted a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for his treatment last week. Galuski was 64.
*On Long Island, Connoisseur relaunched WBZO (103.1 Bay Shore) on Friday morning, and as significant as the new name – “103.1 Max FM” replaces “B103” – is the new airstaff lineup at the rock-leaning classic hits station. Jim Douglas, the Long Island veteran who’d been spending some time in mornings at CBS Radio’s WWFS (Fresh 102.7) in New York, is back on the air doing mornings at WBZO, displacing Jim O’Brien. Another Long Island veteran, Ralph Tortora, becomes PD and afternoon jock, while OM Patrick Shea is doing middays. Former WBZO afternoon host “Wiseman” moves down the hall to become morning host at sister stations WHLI (1100)/WALK (1370).
Five Years Ago: May 16, 2011
*This was supposed to be a big week for NEW YORK CITY‘s newest FM signal. But instead of launching a new format on Wednesday, Michael Celenza’s W293BU (which would have become W292DV with its move to 106.3) is silent and trying to resolve an interference complaint from a co-channel station.
Since the 106.3 signal began testing with 99 very directional watts from Manhattan’s Four Times Square on May 5, Press Communications’ NEW JERSEY country station, WKMK (106.3 Eatontown), has been logging interference complaints from its audience, which includes a population of fringe-signal listeners in New York City, northern New Jersey and Long Island who have no local country station.
In most cases, a station like WKMK that’s experiencing interference outside its protected signal contour (which, in the case of WKMK, doesn’t even touch any of New York City) would be out of luck. But the interference rules for translators are different: they look at “actual interference” to regular reception that takes place even outside a station’s protected contour, and they put the responsibility on the translator to fix the problem.
After spending several days soliciting interference reports from its listeners and sending them to the FCC, WKMK declared victory last Thursday night, telling its listeners: “We are pleased to announce that the radio station that had been causing interference since last Thursday May 5, 2011 to our Thunder 106 signal in NJ, Manhattan, Long Island, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens, has suspended operations. Accordingly, you should no longer be experiencing any interference issues relative to the Thunder 106 in the communities we have previously been communicating to you. Over the next several weeks we will be meeting with the NYC radio broadcaster in an attempt to help them resolve their interference issues but IN NO WAY will we accept ANY interference to our Thunder 106 signal pattern and your right to receive and enjoy our THUNDER 106 Rockin’ Country Programming.”
What happens now? That’s not immediately clear. On the FCC front, the translator filed an application on May 6 for a license to cover the 106.3 facility, and that application remains pending (“accepted for filing”) as of Sunday evening. If WKMK’s objection keeps it from being granted, the translator’s owner (and Clear Channel, which hopes to use the translator to relay the HD2 channel of its WLTW, which continues to rotate a new format each day) still have some options. The translator started out in Brooklyn on 107.1, and it could return there by way of another minor-change application – though 107.1 is an equally-problematic frequency in the region, with co-channel stations in Monmouth and Westchester.
*The Boston Phoenix is selling its MAINE FM outlet. Since 1999, when Steve Mindich paid $1.02 million for the former WCDQ and its AM sister, WSME, WPHX-FM (92.1 Sanford) has been rebroadcasting the modern rock of WFNX (101.7 Lynn-Boston) to York County and parts of the Portland market.
But that’s about to change: Andrew Hartmann’s Aruba Capital Holdings, which owns WXEX (1540) just over the state line in Exeter, NEW HAMPSHIRE, is paying $1 million for the class A FM signal. The deal does not include WPHX (1220 Sanford), which has been silent since a transmitter failure last year.
*It’s all about translators this week in western PENNSYLVANIA, where there are new signals on the air at 97.5 and 100.1 in the Pittsburgh market.
The 97.5 facility, which signed on Friday, is Bob Stevens’ W248AR Monroeville, simulcasting WKFB (770 Jeannette) for Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs and extending that daytimer’s programming past sunset, when it’s carrying an oldies format.
On 100.1, it’s Tim Martz’ W261AX Pittsburgh, which began testing its potent 99-watt signal from the KDKA-TV tower over the weekend with a relay of WDUQ (90.5). That’s only temporary, though – the translator will soon be fed instead by an urban format, about to be launched on WPYT (660 Wilkinsburg), which Martz is in the process of acquiring.
Not far away in Green Tree, KDKA (1020) dedicated the newsroom in its new studio facility last week in memory of Fred Honsberger, the 30-year KDKA news and talk veteran who died in 2009. Honsberger’s widow, Chris, was at the station for the dedication ceremony.
Ten Years Ago: May 15, 2006
It’s been an exceptionally bad few weeks for hip-hop radio in NEW YORK. First came the latest shooting at Emmis’ WQHT (97.1), which touched off an eviction battle with the station’s landlord that’s still underway. And then came the rivalry between Hot 97’s Raashaun Casey, aka “DJ Envy,” and the station’s former morning host, Troi Torain, aka “Star,” who moved to rival station WWPR (Power 105.1) and was also heard, via syndication, on about a dozen other stations, including WPHH in Hartford and WUSL in Philadelphia. The feud between the DJs had been brewing for a while, apparently, but it exploded last week, when Star was first fired and then arrested for a series of on-air comments beginning May 3 that apparently threatened DJ Envy’s four-year-old daughter with sexual abuse and kidnapping.
Several New York City Council members brought the comments to light in a news conference Wednesday, and by that afternoon Clear Channel had fired Torain. On Friday, Torain was arrested after appearing at a New York police station to surrender his handgun and weapons permit. Charged with endangering the welfare of a child and with a fourth-degree weapons possession charge, Torain was released on $2,000 bail after pleading not guilty early Saturday morning. At least for next week, WWPR plans to use syndicated host Tigger and weekend DJ Egypt as a replacement for the now-cancelled “Star and Buc Wild Morning Show.” It’s still not clear what the ultimate consequences for Clear Channel might be. Several New York politicians are calling on the FCC to conduct an investigation of the incident, and it’s likely that even if New York has heard the last of “Star” on its airwaves, it hasn’t heard the last about this war of words.
Is there anything more we can say at this point about that big MASSACHUSETTS story, the at-long-last finalized deal for Red Sox radio rights beginning with the 2007 season? We still don’t officially know just how much Entercom is paying for the 10-year deal, but it does appear that the initial figure we’d heard of $20 million a year is somewhat on the high side. We do know that the future Sox flagship, WRKO (680 Boston), is already making some changes. No more “Taste of Boston” at night – instead, that 7-10 PM slot on weeknights is now called the “Todd Feinburg Show,” broadening its focus to add more political and issues-oriented talk to its previous diet of food and entertainment talk. Next spring, Feinburg will share those evening hours (except on Fridays, when the night games will be on WEEI, which will also host weekday afternoon Sox games) with baseball. Sox pregame broadcasts on WRKO will start at 6:30 most weeknights, cutting off the last half-hour of Howie Carr, and pre- and post-game shows will apparently be simulcast on WEEI as well.
Fifteen Years Ago: May 14, 2001
It’s been a long time since Greater Media added to its station count, but this week we’re able to start our update in NEW JERSEY with word of a four-station sale to the New Brunswick-based group. New Jersey Broadcasting Partners will sell adult standards simulcast WMTR (1250 Morristown)/WWTR (1170 Bridgewater), modern rock WDHA (105.5 Dover) and active rock WRAT (95.9 Point Pleasant) to Greater Media for an undisclosed amount, adding the four stations to Greater’s existing Central Jersey combo, full-service WCTC (1450 New Brunswick) and AC WMGQ (98.3 New Brunswick).
Next stop, NEW YORK, and we’ll begin with some changes in the Big Apple. On the air, fans of Laura Schlessinger will have to stay up late to hear her advice show starting May 29, when WABC (770) moves her from 10 AM to 11 PM. No word yet on how WABC’s schedule will shift to fill Laura’s old slot, which was already cut down to two hours earlier this year. Meanwhile, WKTU (103.5 Lake Success) PD Frankie Blue addeed another station to his duties this week, with the departure of Joel Salkowitz as PD of Clear Channel sister WTJM (105.1 New York). What will happen now to the fading “Jammin’ Oldies” format? We’ll be watching closely. Also in the Clear Channel family, WHTZ (100.3 Newark) middayer Lisa Taylor will be leaving her shift to move to Nashville and start her own business. Taylor’s been in that spot on Z100 since 1996; now PD Tom Poleman has two slots to fill, as he continues to search for a night jock as well.
MASSACHUSETTS radio is playing musical chairs again: John Osterlind, longtime midday guy (“O-Zone”) on active rock WAAF (107.3 Worcester), is moving across the hall at Entercom to join Peter Blute on the morning show at talker WRKO (680 Boston). Osterlind fills the seat left vacant since the death earlier this year of Andy Moes. Meantime, rumor has former WAAF afternoon guy Tom Birdsey following former boss Bruce Mittman to WFNX (101.7 Lynn) and the afternoon shift, competing against former WAAF partner Rocko in the timeslot. And while Osterlind arrives at WRKO, PD Al Mayers is gone; he’s reportedly headed to New York to be station manager at Bloomberg newser WBBR, says M Street.
Twenty Years Ago: May 14, 1996
The weirdness continues in the unusual case of WBIV 1060 Natick MA and WRPT 1050 Peterborough NH. It seems that before Alexander Langer bought WRPT from the Peterborough Broadcasting Company, he had reached an agreement to pay WRPT to turn in its license (the station has been dark for years). Langer’s application to change WBIV into a 50kw directional daytimer was contingent upon WRPT handing in its license. So when Langer decided instead to buy WRPT (and, as discussed in the last NERW, move it 100 miles southeast and 400 khz down the dial to AM 650 at Foxboro MA), he had to ask the FCC to suspend processing of the WBIV application until the WRPT matter could be resolved. The practical upshot is that Langer has asked the FCC for permission to keep WBIV dark for 6 more months (it has been silent now for over a year). In truth, WBIV could be off for far longer, since their planned transmitter site is still an empty field.
New England’s tallest mountain could soon be losing a transmitter. WMTW-TV 8, which has operated from Mount Washington NH since 1958, has reportedly applied to move its transmitter off the mountain to a site near that of WCSH-TV 6 Portland ME, near Sebago Lake in Maine. I visited the WMTW site last summer, and had the pleasure of chatting with several of the engineers who live at the top of the mountain in week-long shifts year-round. It’s undoubtedly a huge expense for WMTW, and the advantage it once provided — incredible coverage across eastern Maine, northern New Hampshire, northern Vermont, and a huge swath of Quebec — no longer seems to matter as much now that many of those remote viewers are plugged into cable or DSS. What’s unclear is what would become of WMTW’s erstwhile sister station, what’s now WHOM 94.9 FM. The WHOM transmitter is housed in the WMTW transmitter building. It’s powered by WMTW’s generator, and the WMTW engineers handle maintenance. I doubt WHOM would want to leave the transmitter unattended through the winter months, when it’s often impossible to reach the summit of the mountain, and winds rage to 200+ miles per hour. WZPK 103.7 Berlin NH also has transmitter facilities at the top of Mount Washington. (2011 update: WMTW indeed left the mountain, and the WHOM/WZPK transmitters stayed behind, unattended, until a fire several years later destroyed the former WMTW transmitter building. WHOM eventually moved into a new building and remains on Mount Washington.)