In this week’s issue… Bold Gold buys in the Catskills – FM flip in Gatineau/Ottawa – Thoughts from the Radio Show
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*A big chunk of the broadcast industry was away in Nashville last week, enjoying the food and music at the NAB/RAB Radio Show. That included your editorial team both here and at RadioInsight, our sister site, and you’ll hear much more in a bit about our thoughts on the show.
Back home, meanwhile, the radio scene in NEW YORK‘s Catskills made a big shift with Bold Gold Media Group’s $1.6 million addition of Watermark Communications’ three-station group. Bold Gold, which owns country “Thunder 102” WDNB (102.1 Jeffersonville), is adding AC WSUL (98.3 Monticello) and classic hits WVOS-FM (95.9 Liberty) and AM simulcast WVOS (1240 Liberty) to its cluster, creating a much bigger presence in the region.
For Vince Benedetto’s Bold Gold group, the Catskills now join its home base in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as a cluster market; over in northeast Pennsylvania, Bold Gold does a sports simulcast on multiple AMs and translators, as well as FMs with AC and satellite-fed talk; in the Poconos, Bold Gold has AC WDNH (95.3), classic hits WYCY (105.3) and news-talk WPSN (1590).
Bold Gold says the deal with Watermark should close by the end of this year. It’s not clear yet whether WDNB will join WSUL and WVOS at their studios just off Route 17 – or what will become of WVOS(AM), which is likely to split from its FM simulcast and take on a sports or talk format accompanied by a translator if Bold Gold follows its usual pattern.
The new combined Bold Gold-Watermark cluster will compete against Townsquare’s WPDA (106.1) and WZAD (97.3 Wurtsboro), which simulcast rock WPDH and country WKXP from the Poughkeepsie-Kingston market; they’ll also compete with Bud Williamson’s Middletown-based WALL (1340), which reaches into the Catskills via translators. And they’ll be competing from what’s now a very dominant position in the market, hoping to take advantage of at least a bit of a development boom in the region. We’ll keep watching closely as Bold Gold settles in with its new acquisitions…
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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: September 28, 2015
*It’s been a busy year in central PENNSYLVANIA for the Confer family. Kerby Confer’s wife and daughter have been realigning the FM dial in and around State College with their Seven Mountains Media group – and now Kerby Confer’s Forever group is pushing eastward across the mountains with the $4.25 million acquisition of WGTY (107.7 Gettysburg) and WGET (1320 Gettysburg) from the Times & News newspaper, which has owned the stations since putting the AM signal on the air back in 1950.
What’s in the mix now for these stations, which have long occupied an enviable niche at the western edge of the sprawling Harrisburg-York-Lancaster market? Forever is a country expert, so it’s hard to imagine any change in WGTY’s core format – but could 107.7 soon be sporting the “Froggy” branding that Confer uses in many of his other markets? As for WGET, it’s been doing sports for a while now, and while Forever doesn’t do a lot of AM these days, WGET has a decent signal that’s a notch above some of the failing AMs that Confer has turned off in recent years.
*In Erie, Lilly Broadcasting spent a good chunk of money not long ago to build out a second control room to allow NBC affiliate WICU (Channel 12) and CBS affiliate WSEE (Channel 35) to originate simultaneous live newscasts from the old WICU studios on State Street. But the move apparently hasn’t paid off; as of October 12, Lilly will stop originating separate newscasts on each station. Instead, WICU and WSEE will simulcast a common “Erie News Now” newscast at 6 and 11 on weeknights and from 6-7 AM on weekday mornings, just as they already do on weekends. Amanda Post and Mike Ruzzi will be the weeknight anchors, with Geoff Cornish doing weather. Mark Soliday, Kara Coleman and Katie McGraw will anchor the morning show, which will also air from 5-6 AM exclusively on WICU. The NBC side of the Lilly pair will also add the market’s first weekend morning newscast beginning Oct. 17.
WGBH in MASSACHUSETTS is growing again. Through its subsidiary Public Radio International, the public broadcaster is acquiring GlobalPost, the Boston-based international journalism center founded by Phil Balboni, previously of WCVB (Channel 5) and New England Cable News. Nine of GlobalPost’s dozen or so staffers will make the move to PRI and WGBH’s Allston headquarters, where they’ll contribute Post-branded segments to “The World” and other PRI offerings.
Five Years Ago: September 26, 2011
*We spend a lot of time in this column writing about bad things that happen in radio. Stations get bought out by giant, cost-cutting corporations; people get laid off; veteran broadcasters die; historic broadcast facilities meet the wrecking ball.
So it’s nice, from time to time, to be able to lead off on an otherwise slow news week with some good news: whatever they’ve had to weather in the real world of today’s broadcasting, when you put enough broadcasters in one room for an evening, you can’t help but have a good time – and to feel pretty good about what we as broadcasters do.
That was true when Rochester’s broadcast veterans held their first reunion last week, it was true when Massachusetts broadcasters inducted their Hall of Fame honorees, it was true when Buffalo’s broadcasters did the same on Thursday night, and it was especially true when Binghamton’s broadcasters came together for their biennial reunion on Saturday night.
It’s been a rough time in Binghamton: entering the Riverwalk Hotel from the parking lot, the effects of the flooding a few weeks ago were immediately apparent in the bare studs and plastic sheeting where the hotel’s ground floor was being repaired after being inundated. But upstairs in the ballroom, the radio and TV veterans of the Southern Tier share the kind of camaraderie that can only come from spending time in a small but ambitious market like Binghamton.
Over the course of a three-plus-hour program, emcee and reunion organizer Ray Ross managed to introduce and praise nearly all of the 200 or so attendees, and what a crowd it was! This year’s special guests included legendary Chicago jock Dick Biondi, an Endicott native whose broadcast career started in town at WINR, WKOP and WENE, and singer Gary Lewis, who’s now a resident of upstate New York himself.
*If you listened to New York’s WABC (770) in the 1960s and 1970s and happened to write in for a QSL card, the odds are very good that the engineer’s signature on the back of the card is that of “Win Loyd.”
Winston H. Loyd worked for WABC and sister station WPLJ (95.5), as well as for ABC-TV, from 1952 until his retirement in 1987. His work for the station was noted at the time with the placement of a bronze plaque (right) at the base of the WABC tower in Lodi, New Jersey honoring his “loyal, dedicated service” over 35 years.
After his retirement, Loyd went back to college to earn his associate’s degree.
Win Loyd died September 18 in New Jersey, just shy of his 89th birthday.
*It’s not every day a radio station turns 90 (at least until next year, when several hundred venerable stations will hit that mark), but Boston’s WBZ (1030) made the most of its new nonagenerian status when its birthday rolled around last week.
No pretense to unbiased reporting here: your editor, of course, is a proud alumnus of the WBZ family, and it was an honor to be on hand for many of the celebrations. On Monday morning, Boston mayor Tom Menino stopped by the station’s Allston studios to proclaim “WBZ Day,” and later in the day the station made the fourth addition to its “Hall of Fame” wall just outside the building’s main entrance.
Carl deSuze is the first posthumous inductee to the very exclusive club, but his addition fits an ongoing pattern: like deSuze, the rest of the club’s members were beloved WBZ morning voices – Dave Maynard, Gary LaPierre and Gil Santos. In his 43 years at WBZ, deSuze set the stage for his successors, establishing the station’s morning slot as a New England institution. While deSuze died in 1998 at age 83, his wife and two daughters were on hand for the ceremony unveiling his plaque. (Daughter Samantha is keeping up the family tradition; her radio career currently finds her at WCTK in the Providence market.)
Ten Years Ago: September 25, 2006
SEASIDE, Oregon – NERW’s on the other side of the country this week, attending the International Radio Club of America convention in this most scenic resort town, and we bet some of the folks at NEW YORK’s WOR (710) might like to be this far from home at the moment too, after a breakdown in communications led the heavily-promoted demolition of the station’s old three-tower antenna array to be indefinitely postponed at the very last minute. We were there last Wednesday (Sept. 20), having flown down for the day, and we’ve never seen so many people so excited to watch a bunch of towers fall down. WOR threw a party for its clients at its new transmitter site, about half a mile north of the old site, and many engineers from the city’s other stations showed up to see the action as well, as did plenty of TV and newspaper reporters from New York City and north Jersey.
Right up to the scheduled demolition time at 10 AM, excitement at the site was running high. Cameras were trained on the old 689-foot towers, waiting for the moment when the tower crews would cut one side of guy wires on each towers, letting the guys on the other two sides pull the towers down in a matter of seconds. Then…nothing happened. After about an hour of rumors, word emerged that the Lyndhurst police department had called a halt to the demolition – and after another half-hour, Lyndhurst police chief James O’Connor appeared at the new site (in neighboring Rutherford, N.J.) to tell the gathered reporters why he’d stopped the demolition. O’Connor says he only learned about the demolition at 8:30 that morning, and he was worried about what would happen when drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike (which runs alongside the old site, in full view of both the towers and the Manhattan skyline to the east) suddenly saw the WOR towers come tumbling down.
WOR engineering director Tom Ray, who’d hoped that the demolition would provide a celebratory cap to the years of work that have gone into the station’s relocation, says the responsibility for notifying O’Connor and other public safety officials rested with “another party.” (NERW believes that other party would be the developers behind Encap, the huge golf resort project that will eventually use the old WOR site.)
Fifteen Years Ago: September 24, 2001
The AM radio landscape in the Merrimack Valley of MASSACHUSETTS is about to change again, thanks to Costa-Eagle’s $1.5 million sale of WCCM (800 Lawrence) to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. The sale leaves Eagle-Costa with two of the valley’s five AM stations: the facilities that are now running Spanish-language programming as WNNW (1110 Salem, N.H.) and WHAV (1490 Haverhill). The plan, as we understand it, is to combine their programming under the WNNW calls on the 1490 facility, with the English-language WCCM programming and calls moving to 1110.
The move will effectively take the Eagle-Costa stations out of contention in Lowell, where WCCM had been trying to compete with Lowell-licensed WCAP (980) with programming that included Lowell Spinners baseball. As a daytimer, the new WCCM 1110 won’t be able to carry Spinners’ night games, and its day signal is hard to hear in Lowell even under the best of circumstances. As for the AM 800 signal, with 1000 watts by day and 244 watts at night, it’s not heard well outside the central Merrimack Valley, which leads us to wonder why the Archdiocese is spending all this money on a facility its leaders won’t even hear at their suburban Boston headquarters. Could a move south be in the offing? (This isn’t the Archdiocese’s first broadcast effort, by the way; back in the 1960s, it owned WIHS-TV 38, ancestor of today’s WSBK!) The switches are expected to take place sometime around January 2002. (The purchase never happened, and WNNW eventually moved to 800, with WCCM taking the 1490 spot.)
Twenty Years Ago: September 25, 1996
The ubiquitous Dr. Laura Schlessinger has added yet another New England outlet. Hartford’s WTIC (1080) has bumped Hartford Courant columnist Colin McEnroe from his mid-morning slot and dropped in Dr. Laura instead. McEnroe will be heard doing commentaries on TIC’s morning and afternoon drive shows, as well as on a Sunday night talk show. Across town at WDRC (1360), Bob Grant has been dropped from the schedule, reportedly because programmers there don’t think his abrasive talk fits with WDRC’s standards format. Phil Callan moves from middays to PM to fill Grant’s timeslot. And at WHCN (105.9), new owner SFX is moving towards classic rock, both to pull WHCN away from its new stablemate, modern-rocker WMRQ (104.1), and to go after ARS’s 70s rocker, WZMX (93.7).
A bit further south in Connecticut, Quinnipiac College seems to be making big plans for its newly-purchased AM. The former WXCT (1220) in Hamden is now dark, but will reportedly resurface sometime in January with the WQUN calls. Quinnipiac has been advertising in the trades for a GM/PD, a morning host/operations manager, and two newspeople to work alongside the student staff. The station’s in good hands; NYC radio veteran Lou Adler is apparently the driving force behind the project.