By SCOTT FYBUSH
In the meantime, here are some headlines and links to more coverage of what little was making news back home. (You’ll always find breaking news at our news partner, RadioInsight, and at our Twitter and Facebook feeds.)
Philadelphia – Josh Innes Out at WIP
Philadelphia – Three Suspended in Fake Caller Scandal
Erie – Man Charged in WERG Thefts
Buffalo – Hall of Fame Nominations
Watertown – MeTV, Laff, Escape Coming Sept. 1
Watertown – WWNY’s Friot Retires
Have a happy and safe Labor Day, and we’ll see you back here in September!
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Our latest one features Donna Halper discussing her life in radio, from her time at WMMS when she helped Rush get US airplay, to what she learned from Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg.
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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 31, 2015
*It’s a good thing we wait until the very end of Sunday night to finish these Monday-morning columns – otherwise, we’d have missed out on the news of Glenn Ordway’s return to WEEI (93.7), two and a half years after an acrimonious parting of the ways with the Entercom sports station. Neither Ordway nor WEEI quite clicked in the same way afterward; Ordway tried to do a streaming show, picked up a few terrestrial affiliates, but it didn’t go well without the big platform of WEEI. Meanwhile at Entercom, other replacements – Mike Salk from Seattle and then Tim Benz from Pittsburgh – failed to click with the Boston audience.
So when Ordway tweeted “Who says you can never go back home?……. Talk to you soon
*As mediocre as the 2015 Red Sox have been on the field, suffering Crimson Hose fans have at least been able to count on some comforting, competent voices in the broadcast booth sharing our misery. On the team-controlled NESN TV broadcasts, while sidekick Jerry Remy has been through personal and family struggles, play-by-play man Don Orsillo has been the lead voice since 2005, calling the highs (two championships in 2007 and 2013) and the lows (2015, for instance!)
And so at a time when the team is desperate to grab on to any bit of stability it can find, it’s…jettisoning Orsillo after this season draws to a merciful end in a few weeks. While the news emerged early in the week, it took until Saturday for anyone from the Sox brass to explain why one of the best voices in the business is being sent packing in favor of one of his radio colleagues.
“We felt that starting next year, it was worth going in a different direction re-energizing the broadcast,” Sox partner Tom Werner told the Herald on Saturday. “And when the opportunity presented itself to bring Dave O’Brien to NESN, we just felt after a great deal of thought and consideration that was the right decision to make.”
Oh – right: the ousting of Orsillo has big radio implications, too, because it will also bring a change to the Sox radio booth, where O’Brien has been the team’s lead voice since 2007. (His veteran partner, Joe Castiglione, is staying put on radio; on TV, Remy will “continue to have a role,” Werner said.)
*We’re on Labor Day format-change watch, of course, and there are some early flippers. In NEW HAMPSHIRE, for instance, Binnie Media is pulling the plug on “99.1 Frank FM” at WNNH (99.1 Henniker) in the Concord market today. In place of the classic rock, WNNH will become “NH1 News Radio,” using Binnie’s TV news operation (seen on sister station WBIN-TV 50) as the base for what will mostly be a syndicated talker. The new lineup includes Don Imus in the morning, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Praeger, Howie Carr and Michael Savage, as well as hourly local news and simulcasts of WBIN’s 6 and 10 PM newscasts.
Five Years Ago: August 22 & 29, 2011
*Until CBS dropped its WIP bombshell, the week’s big news from the spoken-word format front was coming from MASSACHUSETTS, where former WTKK (96.9) talker Jay Severin resurfaced across town at Clear Channel’s WXKS (1200 Newton), where he’s now doing local afternoon talk. It’s the first stab at a local afternoon show on the struggling AM talker, which was running Sean Hannity in that timeslot with no appreciable ratings dent to show for the effort.
The addition of Severin in afternoon drive pushes Hannity to a 6-9 PM delayed airing on WXKS – and spurs speculation that Clear Channel might be looking at using Severin as a regional afternoon show on some of its other New England talk outlets.
WTKK made some programming changes of its own last week, too: it’s moving Michael Graham from middays to the afternoon slot that used to be Severin’s before Greater Media sent him packing in April. That sets up a three-way live afternoon talk battle in Boston, pitting Graham on WTKK and Severin on WXKS against WRKO’s veteran Howie Carr.
*The big news in TV news came from one of the state’s smallest markets. We knew Nexstar was preparing to relaunch news at Utica’s ABC affiliate, WUTR (Channel 20), and its sister Fox station WFXV (Channel 33) – but until last week, nobody in the market suspected that the new Nexstar news operation, due to launch September 12, will be the first high-definition local newscast in Utica.
Nexstar also announced some staffing plans for its new newsroom: Joe Parker will serve as news director and WUTR’s 6 and 11 PM anchor, joined by former WKTV anchor Caroline Gable as co-anchor. Gable will also anchor WFXV’s 10 PM newscast, while Jeff Matthews will be chief meteorologist. (CNYRadio.com has a complete list of reporters as well.)
Will the flash of HD help WUTR/WFXV in its latest attempt to overthrow the market’s long-dominant NBC affiliate, WKTV? A little competition never hurts…
*And it’s the end of the line for an AM station that’s been silent more than it’s been on the air the last few years. Bisiblue, LLC asked the FCC earlier this month to cancel the license and delete the callsign of WIPS (1250 Ticonderoga), and as of August 4 the daytimer appears in FCC records as “DWIPS.”
*The week’s big news from CANADA came from Quebec, where Astral Media rebranded its “Rock Detente” network of stations on Thursday, relaunching them as “Rouge FM” with a new red color scheme and not much actual change to the French-language AC format that’s been a fixture on the network since the “Rock Detente” branding launched on CITE-FM (107.3 Montreal) more than two decades ago.
The other stations affected by the change are CIMF (94.9 Gatineau), CITF (107.5 Quebec City), CITE-FM-1 (102.7 Sherbrooke), CHEY (94.7 Trois-Rivieres), CFIX (96.9 Saguenay), CFVM (99.9 Amqui), CJOI (102.9 Rimouski) and CHRD (105.3 Drummondville.)
Ten Years Ago: August 28, 2006
*It’s hard to think of a recent week’s news that’s been as dominated by a single broadcast company as last week was by Pennsylvania-based Entercom.
In a pair of deals announced Monday morning, David Field’s rapidly-growing broadcast group picked up four station clusters from CBS Radio for $262 million – and struck a $30 million deal to buy Boston’s WILD-FM (97.7 Brockton) from Radio One.
We’ll assess the impact of both deals in this week’s NERW, starting in MASSACHUSETTS, where the Radio One sale made for big headlines. From Entercom’s side of the fence, it was a straightforward move to improve the coverage of its active rocker, WAAF (107.3 Westborough) into the core of the Boston market, where WAAF has struggled to be heard clearly for decades.
Entercom wasted no time getting the WAAF signal on the new frequency – within a few hours of the announcement on Monday, WILD-FM’s urban format was history, and by Tuesday WAAF was ID’ing with both frequencies. As Field noted in a conference call after the deals were announced, the addition of 97.7 to WAAF is extraordinarily cost-effective, requiring no new staff or expenses beyond the tower rent and power bill at WILD-FM’s Great Blue Hill transmitter site.
The acquisition of 97.7 should also put an end to Entercom’s long quest to get a listenable 107.3 signal into Boston itself, where the interactions among the FM signals on the Prudential Tower make it difficult for any signal from “outside” to penetrate the city effectively. For the last year or so, Entercom has been tweaking a new WAAF transmitter site at Stiles Hill in Boylston in an effort to improve its Boston coverage; while the move there from WAAF’s original site on Mount Asnebumskit in Paxton has been criticized for reducing the station’s renowned reach into western New England, we’re hearing that there are no plans to rethink the move and return to Paxton. (The coverage lost as a result of the move from Paxton to Boylston was, after all, well outside the Boston market, where WAAF makes all its money.)
*A station sale in RHODE ISLAND: Chris DiPaola’s Southern Rhode Island Public Broadcasting sells WKIV (88.1 Westerly) to EMF Broadcasting, which has been programming the station with its “K-Love” contemporary Christian format for the last year or so. The $100,000 sale comes on the heels of a power increase at WKIV, which goes from 100 w/66′ AAT to 1.2 kW/122′ AAT at a new transmitter site.
*A NEW YORK morning show is no more. Buckley’s WOR (710 New York) abruptly pulled the plug on Ed Walsh after his Friday broadcast. Walsh, who replaced John A. Gambling in 2000 when WOR ended the “Rambling With Gambling” franchise after seven decades, is being replaced beginning this morning with WOR weekend host Joe Bartlett, who’ll host mornings alongside Donna Hanover
WHTZ (100.3 Newark NJ) has filled the high-profile vacancy created when Cubby Bryant moved over to sister station WKTU to become Whoopi Goldberg’s morning sidekick. J.J. Kincaid will move to Z100 from Clear Channel’s Dallas “Kiss” (KHKS 106.1 Denton) to take over afternoons, effective September 12.
A Watertown broadcaster who rose to national prominence died last week. Tony Malara began his career at Syracuse University’s WAER (88.3), then worked at Watertown’s WWNY-TV (Channel 7), eventually becoming the station’s general manager before moving up to network management at CBS. Malara served as CBS TV’s head of affiliate relations, then as the network’s president, before his retirement in 1995. Most recently, he had moved into television ownership – his Malara Broadcasting bought stations in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Duluth, Minnesota from Granite in 2004, entering into shared-services agreements under which Granite operates the stations as quasi-duopolies. Malara also served as president of the New York State Broadcasters’ Association in 1978-79.
*In eastern PENNSYLVANIA, there was little surprise when Clear Channel finally unveiled the new format on WSNI (104.5 Philadelphia) at noon on Wednesday, after more than a week of stunting. In place of the soft AC “Sunny” format that had been on WSNI, it’s now Spanish tropical “Rumba 104.5,” the city’s first-ever full-market Spanish FM station.
Fifteen Years Ago: August 27, 2001
There’s a new signal on the air in CONNECTICUT, and even though it’s just a watt, we’d bet plenty of people can tune in W220CE (91.9 Southington). That’s because the new WMNR (88.1 Monroe) translator sits high atop West Peak in Meriden, shoulder-to-shoulder (well, bay-to-bay) with most of the big FM signals in Hartford and vicinity.
The final days of talk on NEW YORK’s WEVD (1050 New York) are apparently upon us, and so is another protest from Chuck Zlatkin’s “Save WEVD” group. This time, they’re planning a candlelight vigil outside WEVD’s studios at 333 Seventh Avenue, to begin at 9:30 PM on Friday (August 31) and end with the candles being snuffed out at midnight, when 1050 will reportedly become ESPN Radio under ABC management.
On the TV side, we hear October 1 will be the debut of Univision’s second network, to be known as “Telefutura.” WHSE (Channel 68) in Newark, N.J., WHSI (Channel 67) in Smithtown, WHSP (Channel 65) in Vineland, N.J. and WHUB-TV (Channel 66) in Marlborough, Mass. will be the initial affiliates in NERW-land; we’d expect some call changes down the road.
We’ll start this week’s news from CANADA with word that CBC’s Radio Two service will soon be available in Quebec City. As part of the CRTC’s mandate to broaden the reach of CBC/Radio-Canada services, the CBC won permission this week to put a new CBM-FM (93.5 Montreal) relay on the air in Quebec City. The new signal, with 308 watts, will be at 96.1, the former home of noncomm CKIA (“Radio Basse-Ville”), which is moving (or perhaps has already moved) to 88.3.
Twenty Years Ago: August 25, 1996
After more than three years of bitter head-to-head competition for Boston’s country-music audience, the war between WBCS (96.9) and WKLB-FM (105.7) came to an end late Friday night. WKLB-FM jock Greg Williams closed out the evening with several appropriate songs, winding down with the lyric “It was over, just like that,” and the brief comment, “Ain’t that the truth…WKLB-FM Framingham Boston.” And after a few seconds of dead air, 105.7 slid into a simulcast with WBCS that’s expected to continue for about two weeks. The former WBCS air talent remained on the air Saturday, giving dual IDs as “Boston’s Country Stations, WBCS 96.9 and WKLB 105.7.” We’ll know Monday morning whether WKLB’s top air talent, morning hosts Loren and Wally, will be part of this interim simulcast format.
It’s pretty much a given that the simulcast will end September 5, with one of the signals staying country (possibly under the WKLB calls, meaning Greater Media may actually have to pay up on its million-dollar promise to keep WBCS country through the end of 1996), and the other one likely taking the heritage WROR calls that recently returned to the market on Greater Media’s AM 1150. (Boston’s largest daily newspaper somehow managed to report on the WMEX-to-WROR call change without ever once hinting that WROR has a legacy in the Boston market. The newspaper report claimed that the WMEX calls were purchased by “a Tejano station in Texas,” which would be quite a feat considering that Texas is almost entirely K-call country, except for a handful of pre-1923 W stations — WTAW, WRR, WBAP, WFAA, WOAI, and WACO! No sign yet in the FCC database of anyone claiming the WMEX calls.)
Police on Cape Cod have made an arrest in the sabotage on WWKJ (101.1 Mashpee) and WJCO (93.5 Harwich Port). A 15 year old boy from Centreville MA was in juvenile court on Friday, charged with cutting the cables from the stations’ satellite dish. Station officials say the cable-cutting also damaged one of the receivers, leaving WJCO (soft AC “Coast 93.5”) off the air for almost two days. It appears the boy may have been upset about the stations’ format change from modern rock, and that he may have had adult help.
Out in Western Massachusetts, a distinctive FM station may be in for some big changes. Radio Skutnik, Inc. is selling its Greenfield MA properties, WRSI 95.3 and WGAM 1520, to Watertown Radio Associates of Claremont NH. Watertown’s ownership is cross-linked to Northstar Broadcasting, which owns WTSV-WHDQ Claremont NH, WNHV-WKXE White River Junction VT, WSSH Marlboro VT, and WXPS and WCPV in the Burlington VT market. I believe they also now have an interest in WZSH Bellows Falls VT, which along with WSSH serves the Brattleboro VT area, just to the north of Greenfield. Will Watertown be willing to spend $650,000 and keep WRSI’s distinctive AAA format? Time will tell, but it doesn’t look good. Skutnik has an option to repurchase WGAM, a 10kw DA daytimer, for $70,000. WGAM currently programs a satellite standards format.