In this week’s issue… Farewell to a WABC legend – Empire sues WBAI for $1.3M back rent – RI talker back on air – Worcester morning man, Toronto legend ousted – Quebec TV gets less local
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*How many radio personalities these days are recognizable by nothing more than their initials? In NEW YORK, there was only one “HOA,” and now the city is mourning one of its radio greats after the death Sunday morning of the legendary Herb Oscar Anderson.
Anderson’s broadcast career began in Janesville, Wisconsin, just out of high school after World War II, when he moved from sportswriting at the local paper to announcing at the radio station it owned, WCLO (1230). His early radio career took him to Rockford, Illinois, then to the Air Force for three years, to WDBO in Orlando, then to Iowa and to what became his big break at WDGY in Minneapolis. Anderson’s success on the air at the Todd Storz-owned top-40 pioneer got the attention of CBS, which hired him at WBBM in Chicago.
That, in turn, prompted a job offer from New York’s WABC (770) – but HOA’s first stint there was a short one. He was quickly moved to the ABC network, where his variety show met a quick demise as ABC pulled itself out of the network radio entertainment business. HOA had brief stints at WMGM (1050) and WMCA (570) before being called back to WABC in late 1960 to become the morning link in the “Swinging Seven,” the station’s original rock ‘n’ roll DJ lineup.
Something of an anachronism even at the beginning of WABC’s rock era, HOA nonetheless became an institution on the New York radio dial of the 1960s. His mellow approach started with the ditty he sang to start each show – “Hello again, here’s my best to you. Are your skies all gray? I hope they’re blue” – and continued through the morning as he pulled off the surprisingly difficult feat of appealing to both WABC’s core teenage audience and older listeners. He was part of the remarkably stable WABC lineup throughout the sixties until he departed in 1968, saying the arrival of a harder rock sound just didn’t fit with his show.
Anderson decamped to Minnesota after leaving WABC, but when country upstart WHN came calling a few years later, he returned to New York for another chapter, which also found him spending some time at WOR (710) before leaving the city’s airwaves for good later in the 1970s. (He was approached for a morning opening at WCBS-FM in the late 1970s, but turned down the chance for yet another bite at the apple.)
In recent years, Anderson had been splitting his time between homes in Hutchinson Island, Florida and Hoosick Falls, NY. In addition to appearing on the occasional “Radio Greats Weekend” (including one a decade ago on the Jersey Shore), he’d returned to the radio in both locations, appearing on an Albany-based streaming station and doing Sunday nights on WOSN (97.1) in Vero Beach, where his sound remained remarkably unchanged from his WABC days.
Anderson’s health apparently took a turn for the worse last week, when he was hospitalized in Vermont. He was 88.
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*It wouldn’t be a new year without another crisis at NEW YORK‘s WBAI (99.5), the Pacifica station that’s seemingly been hanging on by a thread for most of this century. WBAI’s management and programming woes created budget deficits that forced the station to give up its longtime lower Manhattan studio a few years ago, leaving it essentially homeless until it could decamp to a smaller space in Brooklyn. But in order to maintain its full-market class B FM signal, WBAI pretty much had to stay put at its Empire State Building transmitter site – and that’s created massive financial pressure as Pacifica tries to keep up with the rent there.
How much does it cost to operate from Empire? That’s been a closely-guarded secret, but the lawsuit that Empire’s owners filed against WBAI had to disclose Pacifica’s lease terms – and so we know now that the WBAI lease, which runs through 2020, costs just over $25,000 a year for the transmitter room space, just over $473,000 a year for tower and combiner space and $17,000 a year for access to the backup antenna and combiner.
That’s a lot of money for any station, of course, but it’s been nearly fatal for WBAI. The lawsuit (filed in November but revealed this week by the WBAI-NowThen blog) claims that Pacifica owed Empire nearly $1.4 million in current and back rent and late fees as of November 2016.
Would a judgment against Pacifica be the end of WBAI? Of course not; the station has been sitting on an unbuilt construction permit to move from Empire to a competing tower site, the Durst Organization’s Four Times Square a few blocks north and west. But that would only add to Pacifica’s financial woes if it can’t get out of the Empire lease. So as always, stay tuned for the next chapter in a story one wag of our acquaintance has dubbed “radio’s slowest-flushing toilet.”
*Upstate, Jud Heussler is departing the APD/MD/afternoon gig at Buffalo’s “Kiss” (WKSE 98.5 Niagara Falls); he’s headed somewhere warmer (as yet undisclosed).
And how’s this for an anniversary celebration? Here in the Rochester market, WYSL signed on in Avon as a daytimer at 1030 on the dial in January 1987, which means it had a 30th anniversary to mark before the month ran out.
Now a 20,000-watt blowtorch at 1040, augmented by a downtown Rochester translator at 92.1, WYSL has been a one-owner operation all along – and that’s owner Bob Savage at center at Sunday night’s anniversary party, flanked by longtime staffers J.C. DeLass and Bob D’Angelo.
And yes, that’s a cake in front of them, every bit of it edible except the (real) mic cord, created by Avon bakers Melissa Sav and Tina Wiggins Culhane from the Cake Place, who appeared on “Cake Wars” last year.
(Longtime NERW readers know that your editor took a personal interest in WYSL in its earliest days, when it was the first new station to sign on in town while I was in high school; you can see our 20th anniversary retrospective on the station on Site of the Week.)
*Over in Auburn, Craig Fox has again restored the venerable WMBO calls to AM 1340, swapping them out with one of his LPTVs, which becomes WNDR-LP.
*RHODE ISLAND talker John dePetro disappeared from Cumulus’ WPRO (630)/WEAN (99.7) in December under murky circumstances, claiming ill health even as he was heard filling in for other syndicated talkers. Now he’s back on the Ocean State airwaves on a rather lesser signal; on Wednesday, he started a new 1-5 PM show on WADK (1540 Newport), which puts only a fringe signal into Providence.
*Hank Stolz has been a fixture on central MASSACHUSETTS morning radio for years, first at WTAG (580) and for the last decade as morning host on Carter Broadcasting’s WCRN (830 Worcester). But “The WCRN Morning News with Hank Stolz” came to an abrupt end last week; Stolz says he was told on Monday that Tuesday would be his last show on WCRN, and after his farewell show the station replaced him starting Wednesday with a simulcast of the morning news from Boston’s WFXT (Channel 25).
The move leaves Worcester with no truly local morning show; WTAG’s morning show, while based in Worcester, is simulcast on WHYN (560 Springfield), making it more of a regional broadcast.
*Cheryl Fiandaca is changing TV stations: after three years at WHDH-TV (Channel 7), she departed the newly-independent station two weeks ago and starts tomorrow as chief investigative reporter across town at CBS’ WBZ-TV (Channel 4).
*And we salute the Bay State’s own John Garabedian, who hung up the proverbial headphones Saturday night as he hosted his last “Open House Party” broadcast from his Southborough basement studio, wrapping up a radio tradition that he started on WXKS-FM (Kiss 108) in 1987 (and which dates back to an earlier “Open House Party” that started on Worcester’s WORC in 1955!)
The show will continue in syndication with host Kannon, and of course Garabedian remains active in radio as owner of Cape Cod Radio’s four stations.
*Our story last week about CONNECTICUT‘s WQUN (1220 Hamden) wasn’t very clear about what’s changed at the Quinnipiac University standards station: the new voices there aren’t in the morning but rather later in the day. Brian Smith, who was part of the “Smith and Barber” morning show for many years at New Haven’s WPLR, has started in afternoons at WQUN – and after joining WQUN in October as operations manager, another former WPLR voice, Pam Landry, is now doing the noon to 3 PM shift.
*A NEW JERSEY FM station continues to defend the fringes of its signal against new translators in southeast PENNSYLVANIA. WVLT (92.1 Vineland) succeeded in keeping a Philadelphia translator off its frequency, and now it’s battling W221DG (92.1 Exton), the new signal west of Philly that’s relaying the HD2 of Temple University’s WRTI (90.1 Philadelphia).
WVLT filed a lengthy complaint last week against the translator, which belongs to WRTI engineer Jeff DePolo, including affidavits from listeners in the Exton area who say they regularly tuned in to the distant WVLT signal until the translator signed on a few weeks back. Can DePolo find an alternate frequency for W221DG on the incredibly crowded Philadelphia-area dial?
*Four years after Penn College sold WPTC (88.1 Williamsport) to the Williamsport Lycoming Broadcast Foundation, the “K-Love” outlet is being sold to the network itself. EMF will pay the foundation $160,000 (plus a $10,000 option payment already made) for the signal; that’s $35,000 more than the college got when it sold WPTC in 2013.
*In CANADA, Bell Media made a lot of headlines last week for its “Let’s Talk” campaign to raise awareness of mental illness and the resources to treat it – but the company was also making headlines for the way it was treating some of its own personnel.
In Grand Falls, N.B., 24-year-old CIKX (93.5) morning host Maria McLean said she was fired from the company after telling management that her doctor recommended she take time off to adjust to new depression medications, an allegation Bell denied even as the story made headlines across Canada and beyond.
And in Toronto, it’s widely believed that Ingrid Schumacher was the longest-running host on a single station in the history of Canadian FM. She moved from the newsroom to afternoon drive at CHUM-FM (104.5) in 1978 after the previous host, some guy named Rick Moranis, headed to Los Angeles for a comedy career. After Moranis returned, Schumacher moved to middays, and there she remained, becoming a Toronto radio institution…right up until she was abruptly ousted last week, without much explanation.
*A lot of the local news in smaller Quebec markets has become a little less local now that TVA, the province’s biggest commercial broadcaster, has begun centralizing its smaller newscasts.
The evening newscasts on Sherbrooke’s CHLT (Channel 7) and Trois-Rivières’ CHEM (Channel 8) have been switched out of TVA in Montreal (shown at left) for a few months now, and TVA is now preparing to open a Quebec City production hub for CJPM (Channel 6) in Saguenay and CFER (Channel 11) in Rimouski.
While news anchors and reporters remain local in each community, the use of distant control rooms has meant job cuts for production staffers (at least two full-timers in each small market, according to a union complaint) and has forced local newscasts to be pre-recorded because each hub can switch only one show at once. In Montreal, that means Sherbrooke’s local news is done live for two weeks each month, while Trois-Rivières’ news is recorded an hour before airtime; the two shows then switch places for the rest of each month. Local reporters complain that the arrangement means breaking news can’t always find its way to the air immediately; TVA says it had to centralize news production in order to convert the local shows to HD economically. (And we’d note that in Anglophone Canadian TV, centralized news production has become common, especially for local Global stations around the country.)
*Russ Thompson was a familiar voice on Toronto radio for more than four decades, most of them in afternoon slots on stations that included CKEY (580/590), CBL (740), CKFM (99.9) and finally on CJEZ (97.3) until his retirement in 1992. Thompson died January 16, at 82.
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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: February 1, 2016
*Long before a former congressman became “Morning Joe” or a reality-show star became a leading presidential candidate, RHODE ISLAND‘s Buddy Cianci was a pioneer at the art of crossing the line repeatedly between media and politics.
The former Providence mayor, who died suddenly Thursday at 74, served two stints in office, one stint in federal prison and enjoyed multiple runs on talk radio and local TV over more than 30 years, which is why he’s leading the column this week.
Buddy first came to radio as a child performer on WJAR, but his broadcast career began in earnest after he was ousted from the mayor’s office in 1984 after pleading no contest to an assault charge. Cianci landed on WHJJ (920), the talk successor to his old WJAR radio home, in 1985. “The radio was a godsend,” he recalled in his memoirs, and perhaps it was more than that: it also served as a staging ground for his successful run to return to the mayor’s office in 1990.
While that phase of Cianci’s political career is credited with the revival of downtown Providence, it didn’t end so well for Buddy: in 2001, he found himself under federal indictment for racketeering, extortion and other charges, and in 2002 he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. Before the sentence started, though, Cianci was back on the radio, this time at WPRO (630) – and as soon as he was out of prison in 2007, he was back on WPRO, establishing himself as the station’s afternoon star in a run interrupted only by an unsuccessful 2014 bid for yet another term as mayor.
Along the way, Cianci had also picked up a TV career as a commentator for ABC affiliate WLNE (Channel 6), the third-ranked station trying desperately to get visibility. He was at the WLNE studio in Providence Wednesday night taping his weekly show there when he began complaining of abdominal pains; an ambulance took him to Miriam Hospital, where he died Thursday morning.
*Few radio people were so beloved for so long in their home markets as Nick Nickson right here in Rochester, NEW YORK. Amazingly, in a 60-year career here, Nickson worked at just two stations. His career began in the late 1940s at a new station called WARC (950), which became WBBF in 1953 and flipped to all-out top-40 a few years later. Nickson settled in to afternoon drive there, becoming part of a lineup that routinely garnered 50-shares or better on a 1,000-watt signal that didn’t cover the entire market even then.
The “Old Professor” rose from air talent to management by the 1970s, serving as general sales manager of WBBF and GM of its classical FM sister station, WBFB (92.5). In the 1980s, he joined WBBF colleague Jack Palvino over at WHAM (1180), where he served as sales manager while becoming a public face for the station at events all over town. Nickson retired in 2007, but continued to do voiceovers for Rochester’s Zweigles hot dogs and other clients. He died Thursday in Rochester at 93, survived by his wife, two daughters and his son Nick Jr., who’s famous in his own right as the voice of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.
Five Years Ago: January 30, 2012
*It was just over a year ago when we learned that Clear Channel planned to move WPKX (97.9) from its Springfield cluster across the border to become part of its Hartford, CONNECTICUT group of stations – and as of last Friday morning at 6, the station”s move is complete.
WPKX made its technical move a little earlier in the week, turning off its Enfield-licensed transmitter at Provin Mountain in Massachusetts and beginning tests of its new Windsor Locks-licensed class A facility atop the One City Place skyscraper in downtown Hartford, using Clear Channel”s satellite country service to provide temporary programming.
But nobody seriously believed 97.9 would remain country after its move, since the Clear Channel Hartford cluster already includes dominant country station WWYZ (92.5 Waterbury); instead, the long-running speculation that WPKX would do sports proved to be reality. Just up the road from ESPN”s worldwide headquarters in Bristol, WPKX is now “97.9 ESPN,” duplicating the format Clear Channel already offered in the market on WPOP (1410 Hartford), albeit with an FM signal that reaches more of the market at night than the directional AM signal covers. (That includes ESPN’s own Bristol headquarters complex, where the “Worldwide Leader” had been operating an experimentally-licensed FM signal, WX4ESPN on 98.1, carrying ESPN Radio programming; that signal is now silent.)
*The future of the newest AM station in upstate NEW YORK is up in the air after the FCC cancelled its construction permit. Cranesville Block Company’s WKAJ (1120 St. Johnsville) had until December 15, 2011 to complete construction and file for a license to cover, but that date came and went with no sign of anything on 1120 save for some publicity surrounding a morning show to be hosted by longtime Utica personality Hank Brown.
Last week, the FCC deleted the WKAJ calls, sending the 10,000-watt daytime/400-watt night facility into limbo, but don”t count the station out yet: it appears Cranesville actually built the WKAJ facility and had begun the lengthy process of proofing it when the construction permit ran out, and we hear the station’s Washington lawyers are working with the FCC to get WKAJ reinstated so the station can sign on legally.
*With all the paperwork completed, there’s just one step remaining in SUNY Buffalo’s sale of public station WBFO (88.7 Buffalo, and satellites WOLN 91.3 Olean/WUBJ 88.1 Jamestown) to fellow public broadcaster WNED. That’s the actual closing of the $4 million transaction, followed by WNED’s takeover of WBFO”s operations, and it’s now slated to occur February 29th, with WNED operating WBFO as of March 1. WNED still hasn”t laid out exactly what programming changes are in store when it takes over, nor has it said which WBFO employees will make the move downtown. (For WBFO employees with many years of service under their belts, it will likely make more financial sense to stay with the university system in other capacities until retirement.)
In the short term, it appears WBFO will largely simulcast the news and talk programming now heard on WNED (970), but WNED officials have indicated their intention to explore a sale of the 5,000-watt directional AM signal down the road; in the meantime, fans of WBFO’s distinctive weekend blues programming are already wondering if the next few shows will be the last, at least in the current daytime slots.
WNED says the WBFO calls will remain in place on 88.7.
Ten Years Ago: January 29, 2007
*The founder and longtime station adviser to high school station WAVM (91.7) in Maynard, MASSACHUSETTS, died last week, just as his trial on child rape and indecent assault charges was getting underway.
Joseph Magno spent all day last Monday in court as attorneys held a pre-trial hearing in the case, then died at his home in Hudson that night, apparently of a heart attack. Magno had been under house arrest there since last March.
Magno, 66, had been in poor health for the last year or so, since the charges against him became public. A jury was to have been seated for the trial later in the week; the charges will now be dismissed once a formal death certificate is filed with the court.
Before Magno made headlines on those charges, he was a prominent figure for his tireless work to keep WAVM on the air in the face of threats to its survival from several religious broadcasters. The station eventually worked out a settlement that will allow it to boost its power to 500 watts, an upgrade that should take place in the spring.
*Qantum Communications wants to move WRZE (96.3 Nantucket) to the Cape Cod mainland. It”s applied under the new FM rules to change “The Rose” from a Nantucket-licensed class B signal to a Dennis-licensed class B1, running 25 kW/297″ from the WCOD (106.1 Hyannis) tower on Hokum Rock Road in Dennis.
*In northeast PENNSYLVANIA, sports radio is back on the AM dial. Responding to Connoisseur’s flip of sports WFNN (1330 Erie) to oldies WFGO a couple of weeks ago, Citadel’s flipping WRIE (1260 Erie) from standards to sports today as “ESPN Radio 1260 the Score.” WRIE will also carry the Jim Rome show in middays.
Former WFNN talk hosts Captain Dan and Allan Carpenter have resurfaced; our friends over at PBRTV.com report that Captain Dan is joining WJET (1400) PD Jeff Johns and Mike Boremann for a new morning show on WJET, replacing Don Imus. Carpenter, meanwhile, takes over mornings at “Bob FM” WXBB (94.7 Erie).
Up in State College, Steve “Hitman” Hilton drops the nickname and moves from WGMR (101.1 Tyrone) to the new WBHV (94.5 State College) for weekends; also joining WBHV is Mak McKeehan, for nights.
And in Scranton, we can finally put some punctuation on our ongoing coverage of the move of WBZU (910, ex-WGBI) from its longtime Davis Street tower site to the rooftop tower of WEJL (630 Scranton): the Davis Street tower came down last week, with the aid of a big crane. Thanks to Entercom CE Lamar Smith for sharing the pictures!
Fifteen Years Ago: January 30, 2002
It may have been “The Best of Everything,” but the music format that aired for the past year or so on WDRC (1360) in Hartford and three other Buckley Broadcasting AMs in CONNECTICUT has been replaced by talk, effective today (Jan. 28). Replacing the adult contemporary format, which ranged in vintage from big-band standards to more recent tunes, is a talk lineup that includes current WDRC morning host Brad Davis, followed by Joy Browne and the Dolans. We hear the stations, which also include WSNG (610 Torrington), WWCO (1240 Waterbury) and WMMW (1470 Meriden), will add the Bill O’Reilly syndicated afternoon talk show when it launches later in the spring.
We’ll detour next to CANADA to report the sad news of Peter Gzowski’s death last Thursday (Jan. 24), a result of the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema that followed a lifetime of smoking. Gzowski first came to attention in the late sixties as the youngest editor ever named at Maclean”s magazine, but his broadcast career began in 1971, when he joined CBC Radio as host of a new nationwide show called “This Country in the Morning.” He left CBC Radio a few years later for an ill-fated stint on CBC-TV as the uncomfortable host of “90 Minutes Live,” then returned to writing before rejoining CBC Radio in 1982 to host “Morningside.” It was in that role, from the fall of 1982 until the show ended in 1997, that Gzowski became the unofficial voice of Canada, conducting tens of thousand of interviews with everyone from prime ministers to the most average of Canadians. A typical “Morningside” show was as likely to include a call for favorite pie recipes as an interview with a political leader or literary luminary. Gzowski”s commitment to documenting the quirks and distinctions of Canadian society came through in the contests the show ran, including one for the best completion of the phrase “As Canadian as…” (The eventual winner: “As Canadian as possible, under the circumstances.”)
Gzowski never left the world of print, either, compiling several volumes of Morningside Papers and several other Canadian best-sellers, most recently A Peter Gzowski Reader, a compilation of his columns for the Globe and Mail and other recent articles. Gzowski had also returned to TV after the end of “Morningside,” hosting occasional specials for CBC television and radio. He was 67 years old, and was survived by his ex-wife, five children and his longtime companion, Gillian Howard.
Twenty Years Ago: January 25, 1997
Welcome to the first edition of “NorthEast Radio Watcher.” If this looks and sounds familiar to you, it should. NorthEast Radio Watcher (aka NERW) is the successor to “New England Radio Watcher” (coincidentally enough, also aka NERW), which for the last few years has attempted to chronicle the ups and downs of broadcasting in the six New England states and vicinity. The new NERW will maintain that mission — but in keeping with our relocation to a new home base in Rochester NY, we’ll also be including news and notes from across upstate New York. No need to panic; with any luck, the only thing you”ll notice will be somewhat infrequent posts for the next six weeks or so as we relocate.
And with that, on with the all-new, completely-changed, same-as-it-ever-was NERW:
Just in the nick of time: As the FCC clock ticks ever closer to February 9, one Massachusetts station has been saved from extinction. WCEG (1530) in Middleboro MA has returned to the air from a transmitter site in North Middleboro, running one kilowatt daytime-only with programming from the Massachusetts Radio Reading Service. WCEG started out in the early 90s as a nifty little local music station, but with a tiny signal in a sparsely- populated area, it failed to catch on. Brockton’s WMSX (1410) bought the station a few years back, simulcasting it with WMSX for a time, and running Portuguese-language programming for a while as well. WCEG had been dark for several years, and was in danger of losing its license when Steve Callahan took it over with the radio-reading format, which NERW thinks is a clever way to provide a public service while simultaneously keeping WCEG alive.
WCEG’s return leaves just a handful of dark stations facing extinction next month. Here”s the roll call: WTOX (1450) and WHMX (105.7) way up in Lincoln ME are being purchased by Bangor Baptist Church — except that the application to transfer WTOX has somehow been dismissed. NERW speculates that WHMX may return simulcasting the church’s WHCF (88.5 Bangor). WRPT (1050) Peterborough NH has an application pending to change frequency and city of license, becoming 650 kHz in Ashland MA. The same owner has been granted permission to return dark WBIV (1060) Natick MA to the air as a daytimer from the WKOX site in Framingham MA, but with two weeks to go, there”s still no sign of WBIV. WHWB (970) Rutland VT has been dark for years and shows no sign of returning. WQQW (1590) Waterbury CT will expire quietly, allowing its new owners to expand the pattern and power of their WWRL (1600) in New York City. And amazingly enough, NERW knows of not a single licensed station in upstate New York that is presently dark! We’ll update the list again as February 9 approaches.
From the radio-with-pix front (noted in the milliseconds between Patriots-related programming): Another nifty independent station is about to bite the dust in the Boston market. WNDS (Channel 50) in Derry NH is being sold to the new Global Shopping Network, and by mid-March, it’s slated to become the fifth Boston-area UHF station running either home shopping or infomercials. Meantime, Boston’s WCVB (Channel 5) is kicking off its 25th anniversary celebration with on-air promos, and celebrating the 15th anniversary of its evening magazine show “Chronicle.” And over in upstate New York, Syracuse”s WSTM (Channel 3) has hired Don Lark as its main weekday anchor. Lark was known for many years as the main anchor on WFSB (Channel 3) in Hartford CT. Back on the air after being dark for many years is Channel 26 in Jamestown NY, now with a new transmitter site closer to Buffalo and with the religious programming and WNYB-TV calls that used to be on Channel 49 in Buffalo, which is now WB affiliate WNYO-TV.
A few station sales to report: Bob Bittner Broadcasting is adding a third New England station, WJTO (730) in Bath ME. Bob tells us he plans to keep most of WJTO’s talk programming, along with some of the beautiful music heard on his WJIB (740) Cambridge-Boston and WNEB (1230) Worcester MA. Between 730 and 740, Bob’s stations will cover most of the Atlantic coast from Cape Cod to Maine during the day.