In this week’s issue… Progressive talk fades out in Ithaca – Oldies format jumps Lake Champlain – Philly radio tradition ends – Stroke of luck for Canadian radio employees



*How will progressive talk go out in upstate NEW YORK? Not with a bang, but with a whimper as Saga pulls the plug on the format at WNYY (1470 Ithaca) on February 1, replacing the talk with oldies.

As general manager Chet Osadchey explained to the Ithaca Times, it’s not so much that WNYY is leaving the format, but rather that the format left WNYY – of the syndicated hosts who were doing weekday shows for terrestrial radio, only Alan Colmes, Stephanie Miller and Thom Hartmann remain available, leaving too many schedule holes for the station to try to keep plugging.

For a format that was once represented in NERW-land markets as big as New York, Boston and Buffalo, what’s left of progressive talk can be counted on one hand. There’s still Saga’s WHMP network in western Massachusetts (though it, too, is on life support in Springfield, where it appears the addition of an FM translator to WHNP 1600 will bring a flip to a music format) and Saga’s WKVT (1490) in Brattleboro, Vermont.

As for WNYY, when it changes formats next month, it will also change translators: its present FM signal, W249CD (97.7), will move to 105.1 in East Longmeadow, Mass. to become WHNP’s FM, while W237DX (95.3 East Liverpool OH) moves to 94.1 in Ithaca to relay the oldies from WNYY.


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*In New York City, Rick Thomas’ contract is up as PD at WBMP (92.3 AMP), and so he’s exiting the top-40 station. No permanent replacement has been named yet.

Congratulations to Ron Parker – the veteran New York jock (WCBS-FM, and most recently WNSH) just started a new gig as afternoon host on Cumulus classic hits WLS-FM (94.7) in Chicago!

Way up Route 17 (or is it I-86 now?) in Hancock, The Scranton Times LP’s WQFM has filed for a license to cover its move from 107.1 to 104.5. The relay of Scranton’s WEZX (Rock 107) had been plagued by the technical challenge of receiving the WEZX signal on 106.9 and retransmitting it at 107.1; it should sound cleaner now.

*In MAINE, Scott Hooper is out as PD and morning host on Bill Binnie’s “W-BACH” classical network (WBQX 106.9 Thomaston and WTHT 99.9-HD2/96.9 in Portland); is a format change from classical imminent?

Down the coast, the Harpswell Radio Project’s WHPW-LP (97.3) has filed for a license to cover.

*Formats on the move in VERMONT and vicinity: the oldies that had been on WCAT (1390 Burlington) and its translator at 98.3 are migrating across the lake. That AM signal is silent for the moment, and what had been “Big CAT” is now “Mid-Century Radio” on the former WTWK (1070 Plattsburgh), now renamed WPLB, along with its translator at 103.7. (If you’ve been following the bouncing format ball there, this is the signal that had been simulcasting country from “97.9 the Moose,” WZXP Au Sable, and then had been stunting briefly as “What Is 103.7?”)

*Radio People on the Move in MASSACHUSETTS: Boston radio veteran Bev Tilden is stepping down as GM at Cape Cod Radio, where Greg Bone takes over daily leadership at WQRC (99.9), WFCC (107.5), WOCN (104.7) and WKPE (103.9).

There’s a radio obituary from the Cape, too; Al Makkay, who died January 12, started in radio in the 1950s in Arizona after serving in the Army. He worked his way up through management posts around the northeast in the 1960s and 1970s, then entered radio ownership in 1981 with the purchase of what was then WKZE (104.7) in Orleans. Makkay launched WPXC (Pixy 103) in 1987 and later added WCIB (101.9 Falmouth) and WRZE (96.3 Nantucket) to his Makkay Group before selling in 2003.

*In CONNECTICUT, Tim Helmecki has departed his post as assistant chief engineer at CBS Radio in Hartford. He’s taken a new job in IT outside the broadcast field, leaving behind a 20-year career with the cluster that started as a producer/board op at WTIC (1080) and included time as the road engineer for UConn Radio Network sports play-by-play. He’s been in the engineering department there since 2004; he’ll continue to do some freelance engineering for sports broadcasts.

*In NEW JERSEY, Debbie Mazella has been promoted to PD from APD at Beasley’s WMGQ (98.3 New Brunswick); she’s still doing middays there as well. Mazella fills the hole created when Jeff Rafter jumped to Press Communications last month, becoming VP/programming there.

Matt Raback moves up from VP/sales to VP/market manager for Cumulus in its York-Lancaster-Reading PENNSYLVANIA cluster; he’s now overseeing sports WIOV (1240), country WIOV-FM (105.1) and WZCY (106.7),

In Philadelphia, the Inquirer reports that KYW (1060) has quietly stopped announcing school closings, ending a long tradition of using numbers instead of names to run through the list of hundreds of small districts in the tri-state area it covers. And we send our congratulations to KYW’s Steve Butler, who has renewed his contract for the long term as PD and as VP/news programming for CBS Radio.

At Beasley’s Philadelphia cluster, Matt Smith takes over as VP/GSM, moving up I-95 from the VP/market manager post at sister station WJBR in Wilmington, Delaware.

Over at Temple University’s WRTI (90.1 Philadelphia), station manager Bill Johnson gets promoted to GM, filling the big shoes left behind when Dave Conant retired from that post at the end of the year.

And there’s a new callsign for CBS Radio’s “Today’s 96.5” – WZMP has become WTDY-FM.

West of Philadelphia in Exton, W221DG (92.1) has signed on, relaying the HD2 of WRTI (90.1); when WRTI’s main channel is doing classical by day, the HD2 and 92.1 are in jazz, and vice versa at night.

In Pittsburgh, Kathy Berggren is leaving KDKA (1020)’s morning traffic reports behind to join AAA, where she’ll oversee public and community relations.

*And if you’ve ever been part of a group lottery pool at your radio station, it’s nice to know that sometimes they pay off. That’s our big story from CANADA, where the employees at Blackburn’s stations in Wingham (CKNX 920, CKNX-FM 101.7 “The One” and CIBU 94.5) have been paying in $2 a week for years now. On January 6, their bets paid off: 27 of the employees there will share a C$1 million payout, which means $37,000 each.

Our other story from Canada? It’s small, but we’ve been checking regularly on CFBN (93.3 St. Catharines) for the last year or so as we’ve driven past – and after months of testing, the signal is now up and running with a short loop of bridge information for the Welland Canal.


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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: January 18, 2016

*In western PENNSYLVANIA, Pittsburgh Public Media is making a move to get more signal into Pittsburgh itself. The former managers of WDUQ (90.5, now WESA) formed PPM after Duquesne University put that station up for sale, and when they couldn’t get the 90.5 signal, they bought what’s now WYZR (88.1 Bethany WV), rimshotting Pittsburgh from the southwest.

Now PPM is paying $75,000 to buy WZUM (1550 Braddock) from Ed deHart’s AM Guys LLC, which paid $16,000 to buy 1550 when it was silent as WLFJ. WZUM had been running an oldies format that found an avid fan base, but it couldn’t find financial viability as an AM daytimer.

*In northeast Pennsylvania, Connoisseur has dropped the religious format on WBYN (1160 Lehighton); instead, the station is now a northern simulcast of the company’s Lehigh Valley ESPN signals, WEEX (1230 Easton)/WTKZ (1320 Allentown).

Five Years Ago: January 16, 2012

*We start this week in CANADA, because it’s up there that broadcasters are lining up for an oh-so-rare shot at a new FM signal in the country’s largest market. The 88.1 frequency in Toronto was vacated last year when student/community station CKLN lost its license after years of battling with the CRTC, and now the agency’s application window has closed for broadcasters hoping to replace CKLN on the dial. In all, 27 applications came in before the window closed earlier this month, and the list includes just about every existing commercial player already in the Toronto market, not to mention several from the outlying markets.

The CBC wants a shot at the frequency, presumably to relocate Radio-Canada’s CJBC (860) from the AM dial. So does Astral, which is already maxed out on station ownership in Toronto (but is an FM relay of CFRB 1010 in the offing?), and so do multicultural broadcaster CHIN, which already owns CHIN-FM (100.7) and CHIN (1540, which already has a low-power FM relay) and Moses Znaimer’s MZ group, presumably to replace or supplement “Zoomer Radio” CFZM (740).

We already knew that Ryerson University, once-burned by its testy relationship with the late CKLN, was applying for a replacement signal on 88.1, and we knew that Evanov Communications (dba “Dufferin Communications”) wanted to move “PROUD FM” (CIRR) from 103.9 to a higher-powered signal on 88.1 –  but we now know as well that French-language community station CHOQ (105.1) and Fitzroy Gordon’s Intercity Broadcasting Network, which just put CKFG (98.7) on the air, are also in the hunt for better signals at 88.1. From around the region, there are applications from Doug Kirk’s Durham Radio (seeking a smooth jazz replacement for its CIWV 94.7, recently flipped to country), Barrie’s Rock 95 Broadcasting and Trust Communications Ministries (CJLF “Life 100 FM”), and Midland-based Larche Communications. From beyond the GTA, there are also applications from Newcap, from Montreal’s Tietolman-Tetreault-Pancholy group, which was recently granted a new Montreal AM signal, and from Frank Torres, who owns Ottawa blues-rocker CIDG (“101.9 the Dawg.”) And those are just the English- and French-language applicants: there are also more than a half-dozen applications that appear to be for foreign-language facilities.

*A veteran western MASSACHUSETTS morning team is out: Dan Williams spent 32 years at WHYN-FM (93.1), while co-host Kim Zachary had been there for 16 years – and after 15 years together in morning drive, they’re now gone from the Clear Channel Radio – er, “Clear Channel Media and Entertainment” – hot AC station. No word yet on who’ll replace them in mornings at “Mix 93.1.”

Ten Years Ago: January 22, 2007

*Nearly three years after his Vox group sold most of its stations in NEW HAMPSHIRE and VERMONT to Nassau Broadcasting, Jeff Shapiro is coming back to the Upper Valley as owner of the “other” cluster in the market.Shapiro’s Great Eastern Radio LLC is buying Clear Channel’s signals, including news-talk WTSL (1400 Hanover NH) and WTSM (93.5 Springfield VT), AC WGXL (92.3 Lebanon NH), rock WMXR (93.9 Woodstock VT)/WVRR (101.7 Newport NH) and country WXXK (100.5 Lebanon NH), for an as-yet-undisclosed price.

“We are thrilled to be returning to the broadcasting community in the Upper Valley,” says Shapiro, who owned WHDQ in Claremont for almost 20 years before selling to Nassau in 2004.

The Upper Valley stations will join Concord-market WTPL (107.7 Hillsboro) under the Great Eastern umbrella.

*In PENNSYLVANIA, Marconi Broadcasting’s WHAT (1340 Philadelphia) relaunched late last week with a rather daring new format. In place of the urban talk that former owner Inner City Broadcasting offered, Marconi CEO Tom Kelly is turning the little AM signal (for which he paid $5 million) into “Skin Radio,” which will mix modern rock and hip-hop. Alvin Clay is the PD of the new station, which will feature what Kelly describes as “young non-radio folks” on the air.We’re big fans, here at NERW, of any sign of fresh thinking on the air, especially on the AM dial, but if you believe, as we do, that “Skin Radio” will end up drawing most of whatever audience it gets from its webcast, you’ve got to wonder what Kelly was thinking by spending as much as he did on the broadcast signal. And since Kelly’s an experienced radio player (he’s keeping his music-research business going even as he launches “Skin Radio”), we’re particularly eager to find out. Stay tuned…

*Two NEW YORK public broadcasting executives are preparing to move on from their leadership posts. At WNET/WLIW in New York City, Bill Baker will step down in early 2008 after 20 years as president, with former NBC News president Neal Shapiro replacing him. (Shapiro’s already on board at Educational Broadcasting Corporation, WNET’s parent, for a yearlong transition process.)Up the Hudson, Deborah Onslow’s retiring as president of WMHT Educational Telecommunications in the Albany/Schenectady market. Onslow joined the stations in 2001 from WGBY in Springfield (and from WXXI in Rochester before that); no word yet on a replacement at WMHT.

A format change in the Finger Lakes: The Radio Group has pulled WSFW (1110 Seneca Falls) out of the “Finger Lakes News-Talk Network” simulcast with WGVA (1240 Geneva), WCGR (1550 Canandaigua) and WAUB (1590 Auburn). The daytime-only signal on 1110 is now the “Finger Lakes Visitors Channel,” with a repeating loop of travel information and weather forecasts.

There’s a new talk show starting today on WYSL (1040 Avon). Rochester attorney and political activist Bill Nojay, who was a regular substitute for WHAM’s Bob Lonsberry, has landed a regular 2-3 PM weekday slot on WYSL, where he’ll be talking about Rochester’s economic future.

*In CANADA, the CBC is about to make another round of programming changes on its radio services, especially at Radio Two, where an aging audience is prompting concerns about the network’s future. So beginning in March, and continuing over the next year, the mostly classical programming on Radio Two will be joined by an increasing amount of jazz and pop, with a strongly Canadian flavo(u)r to it. Radio One, meanwhile, will lose most of its music programming, and its afternoon “Freestyle” pop culture show will be replaced by a new Toronto-based arts show hosted by Jian Ghomeshi.

And we remember Canada’s pioneering TV meteorologist, Percy Saltzman, who died last Monday (Jan. 15) at 91. Saltzman was working for the federal weather service in 1947 when he began providing forecasts for CBC radio, and when CBC TV went on the air five years later, Saltzman was the very first live air talent to be seen on the new service. Saltzman spent 20 years with the CBC before joining CTV as part of the inaugural staff for the new “Canada AM” morning show. In 1974, he moved to the new CITY-TV, and later worked for Global before retiring in 1982.

Fifteen Years Ago: January 23, 2002

The sound of sports talk is coming to southern CONNECTICUT this week, as yet another Clear Channel station ditches the standards format in favor of satellite-delivered talk. This time around, it’s WAVZ (1300) in New Haven making the change. As soon as tomorrow (Jan. 24), the 1000-watt station will become “The Zone, Fox Sports Radio 1300,” airing the 24-hour Fox Sports feed distributed by Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio. WAVZ was already carrying local sports programming that included Ravens AHL hockey; that will continue, but the station doesn’t expect to add much more in the way of local talk. The standards continue for New Haven listeners on WQUN (1220 Hamden).

Elsewhere in the Nutmeg State, we noted the arrival of some “refugee” call letters from South Florida, buried amidst the FCC’s call changes this week. Those would be “WTMI,” recently sent packing after decades in Miami, where they were associated with the classical music format on 93.1 FM. Cox Radio turned off the classics in Miami on New Year’s Eve, flipping the station to dance as WPYM, “Party 93.1,” which opened the door for the folks at Marlin Broadcasting to apply for the WTMI calls for WCCC (1290) in West Hartford. There’s a family connection there: Marlin sold WTMI to Cox a few years back, and WTMI’s classical programming, from Marlin’s Beethoven network, is still heard on 1290, at least after Howard Stern’s show is over each morning.

Clear Channel picked up another FM in MAINE this week, converting its LMA of Gopher Hill Broadcasting’s WQSS (102.5 Camden) into full-fledged ownership for $1.72 million.

Down in Portland, Chuck Igo landed on his feet as the new afternoon-drive jock on oldies WYNZ (100.9 Westbrook). Igo, who’s always lived in the Portland area during his long career in Boston radio (most recently in overnights on WROR), will keep making the haul down I-95 to do weekend work at the Greater Media cluster in the Hub.

Twenty Years Ago: January 18, 1997

The talk radio wars in Hartford have claimed a victim: WPOP (1410) abruptly cancelled all its programming last week, and after a weekend of dance/CHR music, re-emerged Monday (1/13) as “Sports Radio 1410,” minus its entire programming staff. The format change comes just on the heels of WPOP’s sale to SFX Broadcasting from Multi-Market Communications, which had run the station as a mix of local and satellite talk. Among the shows that originated at WPOP was the syndicated “Judy Jarvis Show,” which has shifted production to the Robinson Media Arts Center next to the Connecticut School of Broadcasting in Farmington. Jarvis no longer has a Hartford-area outlet. Jarvis needed to move no matter what, since the WPOP studios in Newington are being sold as part of SFX’s consolidation of its many Hartford stations.

Boston University’s public radio station, WBUR (90.9) Boston, is taking yet another step towards 24 hour news and talk. ‘BUR is pulling the plug on Tony Cennamo’s overnight jazz block. Cennamo is an opinionated host whose views on what does (and doesn’t) make good jazz have polarized many in the Boston jazz community. He’s also been with ‘BUR for what seems like forever. No word on whether anyone else in town will pick up Cennamo’s show.

And finally this week, a major programming note from NERW Central: After seven years in Boston, I’m picking up the radio and heading west next month. Starting February 3, I’ll be the assignment editor of R News, Time Warner’s 24-hour cable news channel in Rochester NY. As most of you know, I’ve spent the past five years as a newswriter and editor at Boston’s WBZ, and while it’s been an exciting, rewarding place to work, I’m ready for a new challenge — even if it is TV! (2007 update: But I came back to radio in the end…) Don’t panic, though — NERW will live on. The nice thing about the Internet is that I can use it just as easily from Rochester NY as from Waltham MA. I’ll still be getting regular Boston updates from NERW’s many friends up here, including Boston Radio Archives co-creator Garrett Wollman and contributing editors Peter George, Donna Halper, and so many others. The scope of this column will change a bit, though — as we change the name to “North East Radio Watch.” You can still call us “NERW” for short, and we’ll still cover the goings-on on and off the air in the six New England states. Starting this spring, though, you’ll also read about what’s happening in upstate New York here in NERW, as I begin re-acquainting myself with the radio dial I grew up with (it was emptier then!)