In this week’s issue… The end of “Dennis & Callahan”? – WBAI license renewed – New CHR in Olean – Charlie Morgan, RIP
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*What’s in the water this week in Boston? While the feud between WHDH-TV (Channel 7) and DirecTV continues to boil (more on that in a bit), there’s a new battle starting that may break up the long-running morning show on WEEI-FM (93.7).
John Dennis is on vacation this week from the station and from the “Dennis and Callahan Morning Show,” but the Globe reports he may not be rejoining on-air partners Gerry Callahan and Kirk Minihane when he returns.
As Chad Finn reported over the weekend, Dennis threatened to quit the station Thursday night, leading to a lengthy conversation with GM Phil Zachary on Friday.
“Our plan is to keep him on the WEEI team until at least September 2017,” Zachary told Finn. “[Dennis] and I spoke at length today about a number of priorities for the next few months, and Dino’s very much on board.”
Those priorities may not include the morning show, though; Finn quotes several sources as saying that when Dennis returns in two weeks, “it would be a major surprise” if it’s as part of what appears to be becoming a Callahan and Minihane morning show.
*Back in TV-land, the Rio Olympics are airing on Boston’s WHDH-TV (Channel 7), still an NBC affiliate for the moment, but DirecTV viewers still aren’t seeing them, thanks to the ongoing standoff between WHDH/WLVI owner Ed Ansin and the AT&T-owned satellite carrier. With DirecTV in no hurry to pay big subscriber fees for a station that’s likely to lose NBC in a few months, this could be a lengthy dispute, even though senator Ed Markey is trying to use his deep telecom connections to broker a settlement and get WHDH back on the screens of the 10% or so of Boston-market viewers who use satellite.
(WHDH is also trying to reach agreement with Dish Network, but it’s still on the air there for now.)
While it still seems likely that NBC will need more of an over-the-air presence than its existing Telemundo station in the market, New Hampshire-based WNEU (Channel 60), we’re hearing that one of WNEU’s subchannels will begin carrying NBC Boston’s future syndicated and local news lineup as early as September, even though NBC network programming can’t go there until 2017.
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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: August 10, 2015
*”It’s like coming back to worship at the cathedral.”
There might have been just a bit of hyperbole there, but for the dozens of people who packed into the old WOLF studios at Syracuse’s Inner Harbor on Saturday, 401 West Kirkpatrick Street was absolutely a place to worship. It had been 75 years since WOLF signed on and 11 years (almost to the day) since WOLF alumni last gathered for a reunion, and this time the reunion expanded to also include alumni of WNDR (1260), WOLF’s fierce rival.
The music that played on both WNDR and WOLF has migrated to “Dinosaur Radio,” the oldies station (heard on WNDR 103.9 Mexico and four translators) that Craig Fox operates from the old WOLF building, and for four hours Saturday morning (and three more hours later in the day), the alumni retook the airwaves.
Above: Mastriano and Wray; Rhodes and Caplan on the air. Below: Vann, Cavanaugh, Snyder, Rhodes and Markert; the Dinosaur crew wraps up the morning broadcast
Some of the voices from the 2004 event are gone now, including Red Parton (who signed WOLF on the air in 1940), Ron Bee (who co-hosted the 2004 broadcast) and Dick Clark, who worked at WOLF while attending Syracuse University. But this year’s event brought back other big names who worked at WOLF and WNDR, including Dusty Rhodes, who went on to become a Cincinnati radio legend, Dick Mastriano, who did news at WNDR and pretty much everywhere else, Gary Vann, Howie Castle, Peter C. Cavanaugh, John Gabriel (still on the air at WROW in Albany) and Phil Markert.
*Erie, PENNSYLVANIA was in the FCC spotlight last week as the FCC’s FM Auction 98 drew to a close. Overall, the auction was a bust, raising just over $5 million from a collection of 129 CPs, about half of them in tiny Texas towns – but three Erie bidders ran up the total for the new class A signal on 100.9 (licensed to nearby Westfield, New York) that will eventually replace Connoisseur’s WRKT (100.9 North East) when that signal moves to 104.9 from a site closer to Erie. Connoisseur dropped out of the bidding first, leaving a two-way fight between Westfield Broadcasting and Rick Rambaldo’s The ERIE Radio Company LLC. The ERIE group won out at $714,000, putting Rambaldo back in control of the 100.9 frequency where he launched “Rocket” before selling to NextMedia, which then became part of Connoisseur.
*iHeartMedia is reaching more of eastern MASSACHUSETTS after completing the last stage in its upgrade of WBWL (101.7 Lynn). As of last Monday, “101.7 the Bull” is operating under program test authority with a class B1 signal (13.5 kW/453′) from Medford, using the same tower the station used as WFNX from the 1980s until 2006, when it moved to One Financial Center in downtown Boston. All along, 101.7 was a class A signal; as NERW readers know, it took some serious shuffling to get it to class B1, including a significant downgrade of WWBB (101.5 Providence, RHODE ISLAND) from class B to class A.
Five Years Ago: August 8, 2011
*It was a very, very quiet week upstate; the biggest news came from sleepy Canandaigua, where the Finger Lakes Radio Group pulled the plug on the oldies at WCGR (1550) and the FM translator at 104.5 that’s where most of its audience now listens. Last Monday, WCGR flipped to a simulcast of the company’s latest acquisition, country WFLK (101.7 Geneva), which is now imaging as “K-101.7 and 104.5.” The move also ends the simulcast on WCGR of the morning show from Geneva’s WGVA (1240).
*And we note with sadness the passing of one of the busiest engineers in the region. Ken Jones had a hand in the construction and maintenance of plenty of broadcast facilities in western Massachusetts and Connecticut. While he’d most recently been working as a contract engineer, Jones had been in management with Clear Channel, at one point serving as a regional engineering manager for the company. He’d also worked for WGGB-TV and for Vox Communications.
Jones was 71 when he died last Wednesday, apparently of complications from what was supposed to have been routine surgery. In addition to his wife, Delores, Jones is survived by his son, Jamieson, who’s also a broadcast engineer. Funeral services will be held tomorrow in Springfield.
*There’s a new format on the air at what had been PENNSYLVANIA‘s last smooth-jazz signal: after pulling the plug a week ago on “Smooth Jazz 92.7,” WSJW (92.7 Starview) relaunched last Monday with classic rock as “92.7 KZF,” with new calls WKZF. The Hall-owned station enters a fairly crowded rock market in the Harrisburg/York area.
Ten Years Ago: August 6, 2006
An unusual weather system with winds that may have hit 120 miles per hour took down a radio tower in central MASSACHUSETTS last Wednesday. WESO (970 Southbridge) lost its 240-foot guyed tower in the town of Dudley when the “derecho” (a system of downburst clusters that are part of a heavy windstorm) ripped across southern New England. The National Weather Service says it was the first derecho in the region since 1995.
WESO went silent when the tower went down, but returned over the weekend at low power from a makeshift wire antenna. Chief engineer Rick Kenadek and engineering consultant Kurt Jackson were working to get a temporary tower up, and planning to replace the downed tower, which dated from 1955. Kenedek tells NERW that the winds loosened one of the tower’s guy wires, bringing the rest of the structure down.
On the South Shore, the weekend was devoted to a celebration of the upcoming centennial of Reginald Aubrey Fessenden’s Christmas Eve 1906 broadcast from Brant Rock in Marshfield. Saturday’s highlights included a live WATD (95.9 Marshfield) broadcast from the Daniel Webster Estate and Heritage Center, featuring New England broadcasters past and present, including WHDH’s Fred B. Cole (now 91), station owners Barry Lunderville, Dennis Jackson and Marshall Sanft, and a telephone hookup with a parallel Fessenden celebration taking place in Scotland. A gala party Saturday night was highlighted by the presentation of the first “Reginald A. Fessenden Broadcasting Award” to WBZ’s Gary LaPierre, and several tables full of his WBZ colleagues turned out to salute LaPierre for the honor.
The week’s other big story from the Bay State was, of course, last Monday’s announcement that Greater Media, Nassau and Charles River Broadcasting had finalized the transactions that will give Nassau the WCRB call letters and classical format and the 99.5 Lowell facility that’s now Greater Media’s WKLB. The WKLB calls and country format will move to WCRB’s present 102.5 Waltham facility, and Greater Media will get Nassau’s WTHK (97.5 Burlington NJ), soon to become a full-market Philadelphia move-in. The sale price of WCRB to Greater Media hasn’t yet been disclosed, but there’s reliable word that the Nassau/Greater swap includes a $20 million cash payment from Greater to Nassau. In addition to the cash, Nassau will enter the Boston market for the first time with the WCRB acquisition. On its new 99.5 signal, WCRB’s classical format will reach more deeply into southern New Hampshire (at the expense of coverage in downtown Boston, on the South Shore and in the western suburbs), linking up with Nassau’s four-station “W-Bach” network on the Maine coast.
The big story in NEW YORK last week was Air America’s announcement that it will change flagship stations at the end of August, when its current lease with Inner City Broadcasting’s WLIB (1190) expires. Beginning September 1, most Air America programming will instead air on Access.1’s WWRL (1600), displacing a daytime lineup there that currently includes leased-time health shows (10 AM-3 PM) and several syndicated talkers. WWRL’s current morning show, featuring Sam Greenfield and Armstrong Williams, will remain in place, as will its weekend Caribbean music programming and, likely, its carriage of the late-night Alan Colmes show. So what will be heard on WLIB come September? Inner City’s not saying yet, but the rumors are very strong that the station will end up with a non-Air America lineup of other progressive talkers, likely with the involvement of former Clear Channel Radio boss Randy Michaels.
Upstate, the Rochester broadcast community is mourning longtime WOKR (Channel 13) meteorologist Bill Peterson, who died Saturday (Aug. 5) at 58 after a long, public struggle with cancer, lung disease and heart disease. Peterson came to Rochester in 1982 from his native Wisconsin and never left channel 13, becoming the station’s chief meteorologist, a post he held until his health problems forced him to retire in 2001. Even after he retired, Peterson’s health was still the subject of regular updates on channel 13 (now WHAM-TV), and the station devoted much of its weekend newscasts to sharing memories of Peterson from staff and viewers. Not many broadcasters merit that level of coverage, but it’s a tribute to the connection that Peterson forged with the community that it didn’t seem a bit out of place. (The station’s Monday 6 PM newscast will also be dedicated to Peterson.)
In western PENNSYLVANIA, the format didn’t change at Connoisseur Media’s WUSE (93.9 Fairview), but just about everything else at the Erie-market country station did. As of last Monday, “US 93.9” has given way to “The Wolf,” with new calls WTWF. The station’s airstaff is expected to remain in place, though it’s running jockless right now.
Fifteen Years Ago: August 13, 2001
The big news in NEW YORK came as no surprise, really; everyone in the business knew that ABC wanted WEVD (1050 New York) as the Big Apple flagship for ESPN Radio. Now we know the price and the terms under which control of WEVD will pass from the Forward Association to the Disney gang. ESPN programming will begin full-time on 1050 September 1, under an LMA that gives Disney the option to begin negotiations for a $78 million purchase of the 50,000 watt station any time in the next two years. Forward officials say their goal is to return to a focus on their print offerings (the weekly Forward), using the money from WEVD to support the struggling newspaper. The Forward Association reportedly wants to become a non-profit, according to the “Save WEVD” folks who have been fighting for months to keep the present quirky talk lineup in place on 1050. So what about those call letters? It’s a safe bet that labor leader Eugene Victor Debs wasn’t an Islanders fan, so we’d expect a possible change (though Disney never did flip its Radio Disney outlet on 1560 from the old “WQEW”). M Street beat us to the punch in noting that the logical “WSPN” is in use on FM up in Saratoga Springs, at Skidmore College’s 91.1.
Elsewhere in NEW YORK, there are some unhappy listeners and viewers in the public broadcasting arena, thanks to a pair of decisions to merge operations in the New York City area. On the TV side, the board of directors at WLIW (Channel 21) on Long Island voted last week to approve a merger with Newark, N.J.-licensed WNET (Channel 13). By joining forces with the bigger WNET operation, WLIW officials say, they can avoid the massive financial burden of the upcoming DTV conversion. Long Island viewers say they’re worried about losing the distinctive programming (in particular, British comedies) that WLIW has long offered. WLIW board member Anne Ellis resigned before the vote on the merger, and lawmakers are being asked to examine the deal.
On the radio side, program producers and listeners of WNYE (91.5 New York) are launching their own last-ditch effort to keep the city’s Board of Education from handing operations over to the WNYC public radio folks. We’ve seen the e-mail petition they’re circulating, and while we know the “Save WNYE” crew means well, a word of advice: your letters to the school chancellor would be better received if you call him “Harold” Levy and not “Howard”…
A few more bits of news from the city: John Fullam has resigned as general manager of Clear Channel’s WHTZ (100.3 Newark) and senior VP for regional operations for Clear Channel. No replacement has been named. Fordham University’s WFUV has been denied, again, in its attempts to put an on-channel booster for its 90.7 signal in Manhattan. And on the TV side, there’s finally more DTV action: WPIX-DT 33 had its license to cover granted this week, while WNET-DT 61 is right behind.
Twenty Years Ago: August 1/9, 1996
That loud sucking sound you’re hearing near Boston’s Copley Square is coming from the American Radio Systems headquarters, as ARS keeps buying and buying and buying. Within the last few weeks, ARS has spent about $67 million buying KXOA-AM-FM/KQPT-FM Sacramento, KRBT-FM/KNAX-FM Fresno, and KOQO-AM/FM Fresno. Now ARS has turned its attention back to home, spending a reported $24.9 million to buy WAAF (107.3)/WWTM (1440) from Zapis. WAAF targets the Boston market with a hard-rock format, serving a small niche, but one that it has all to itself. WWTM is all sports, with a signal that doesn’t reach anywhere east of Worcester County very well. They join ARS’ existing stable of stations: WRKO (680), its flagship talker; WEEI (850), which is all sports; WEGQ (93.7), the Lawrence-licensed 70s outlet; and WBMX (98.5), the hot AC “Mix 98.5.”
WRCZ (101.7) in Pittsfield MA has returned to its original calls of WBRK-FM, and is using ABC’s syndicated AC “Star” format as “Star 101.7.” “FMedia!” reports “Z101” was the lowest-rated FM in Berkshire County.
After about 2 years as morning host of Boston’s WMJX “Magic 106.7,” Gary Dickson is headed off to Houston’s oldies KLDE (94.5). The move brings Dickson back to his old employer, Entercom, for whom he had worked in Pittsburgh before coming to Boston as Tom Bergeron’s replacement on Magic. Mike Addams moves across the hall from WMJX’s sister station WBCS “Country 96.9” to handle morning duties on Magic, and Addams’ former co-host, Tom Doyle, will keep things going on WBCS while Greater Media figures out how it’s going to drop country from either WBCS or newly-purchased WKLB (105.7), probably within a month.