In this week’s issue… CBS/Entercom prepare for spinoff trust – Host ousted in NE PA – Anchors shuffle in upstate NY – PLUS: Baseball on the Radio – The Major Leagues
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*When Entercom filed its applications with the FCC last week to acquire CBS Radio’s stations in big markets around the country, we had an initial glimmer of hope that we were all about to learn just which stations were destined to be spun off to keep the new Entercom under the FCC’s market caps in places like Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle and Boston.
Then we started looking through the filings as they hit the FCC’s website late at night, startled to see major CBS properties such as Boston’s WBZ and San Francisco’s KCBS appearing to be headed for the spinoff trust being administered by broker Eliot Evers.
“WHAT?” was roughly the tone of the text messages heading back and forth between the headquarters of NERW and our media partner RadioInsight, at least for the few minutes it took us to dig deeper into the hard work being done by the fleet of lawyers both companies have no doubt engaged.
And here’s what we can conclude after that deeper examination: at least for now, Entercom hasn’t actually decided which stations will be sold (with one exception in our region, which we’ll get to in a moment), and so it’s playing a clever waiting game with the FCC.
In its filings, Entercom acknowledges that it will have to sell at least two FM stations in the Boston market, but it’s asking the FCC for general permission to potentially put any of CBS Radio or Entercom’s current Boston signals into the eventual spinoff trust. That could include Entercom’s sports WEEI-FM (93.7 Lawrence), R&B WKAF (97.7 Brockton), rock WAAF (107.3 Westborough), or even AMs WRKO (680) or WEEI (850). On the CBS side, it could include sports WBZ-FM (98.5), classic rock WZLX (100.7), top-40 WODS (103.3), AC WBMX (104.1) or even the mighty WBZ (1030).
We can speculate endlessly, of course, about which signals might actually end up in other hands, and whose hands those might be, but there’s something else quietly telling about the Entercom filing: it strongly suggests that Entercom itself doesn’t actually have a buyer (or more likely, a tax-free swap partner) lined up yet, which means we may be in for a few months (if not longer) before we have any actual answers about what happens next and what the final picture will look like in Boston.
In the meantime, life goes on at the CBS Radio stations, including a big transition coming up at the end of the week as the CBS all-news stations launch their own internal traffic operations to replace the service (and the familiar voices) that have come from iHeart/Premiere’s Total Traffic for many years now. We still don’t know how many of the outside traffic personalities will end up working for CBS Radio itself, but it’s something we’ll be keeping an eye on (no pun intended) in the days to come.
As for that one station we know Entercom will be shedding? It’s in an unlikely spot at the fringe of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market, where WGGI (95.9 Benton) is the Columbia County relay of country WGGY (101.3 Scranton). It was able to be part of the Entercom cluster under the old contour-overlap rules, and it remained grandfathered in along with WGGY, WMGS (92.9 Scranton), WKRZ (98.5 Wilkes-Barre),WMQX (102.3 Pittston) and WILK-FM (103.1 Avoca) when the rules changed. But that grandfathering goes away as part of the complex CBS Radio transaction – and so WGGI has to go into the spinoff trust and eventually must be sold off as a tiny part of this huge deal.
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*The TV chairs are spinning here in upstate NEW YORK, where Scott Levin surprised the Buffalo market last week with the announcement that he’s leaving the anchor desk at WGRZ (Channel 2) as soon as May sweeps are over.
The Buffalo News reports one of Levin’s colleagues won’t be moving on so quickly. John Beard, the veteran anchor who returned to Buffalo from LA, had been planning to leave the morning anchor chair at WGRZ at the end of last year, then extended his time there – and now he says he’ll stay at least through the end of 2017. It doesn’t appear there’s been any decision made yet about whether Beard will take Levin’s place on WGRZ’s evening newscasts.
Here in Rochester, there’s a new anchor coming to WHEC (Channel 10) from a much bigger market. Deanna Dewberry is leaving NBC’s KXAS (Channel 5) in the Dallas-Fort Worth market; she’ll make her first appearance on WHEC this afternoon at 5.
There are changes up in Watertown, too: after 37 years as evening anchor and managing editor at WWNY (Channel 7), Anne Richter will retire from the CBS/Fox station April 28. Her retirement opens up a new job for another WWNY anchor, Jeff Cole, who’ll move from the morning/noon anchor chair to become evening anchor and managing editor. Jeff Nelson, who anchors WWNY’s 11 PM newscast and the 10 PM newscast on Fox sister WNYF (Channel 28), has been named assistant news director there, too.
*Downstate, there’s a new PD at ESPN Radio’s WEPN-FM (98.7) in New York, where Justin Craig has been promoted to senior director of programming and operations for ESPN Radio in Bristol. That moves Ryan Hurley from APD to PD in New York, while “Stephen A. Smith Show” producer Jonathan Winthrop adds APD duties for WEPN-FM.
*Bernie Kimble was best known for his many years in Cleveland radio (most recently at WNWV and at Lorain County Community College), but he started his radio career here in Rochester in 1971 at WCMF (96.5), the pioneering freeform rock station where he eventually became music director. Kimble then moved on to the PD chair at competing rocker WMJQ (92.5) later in the 1970s. He also worked in the region as PD of the old WCCK (now WRTS) in Erie and at WJJZ (now WISX) in Philadelphia. Kimble died last week in Ohio.
His career only intersected broadcasting briefly, but the death of Bob Drew on March 19 is still worthy of note, because that brief intersection included the longest game in professional baseball history. Drew was both general manager and radio announcer (on then-WPXN 1280) for the Rochester Red Wings on that legendary spring night in 1981 when their away game against the Pawtucket Red Sox stretched out to 32 innings before being suspended in the middle of the night when the International League rulebook was finally invoked.
By the time the game was finally resumed two months later (the Pawsox won in the 33rd inning), Drew had been fired as the Wings’ GM, but he returned to the radio booth to call the game on the radio network of the Baltimore Orioles, the parent team whose games were suspended on account of the ongoing MLB strike.
Drew went on to manage a minor-league team in Madison, Wisconsin, then came back to Rochester to run a golf shop. He was one day shy of his 81st birthday.
*In southern NEW JERSEY, Chelsea Corrine is the new midday jock at “Cat Country” WPUR (107.3 Atlantic City), where she replaces the recently departed “Georgia” (aka Jennifer Scordo, who’s left radio to focus on her family business. Corrine heads down the Parkway from Press Communications’ WKMK (106.3 Eatontown)/WTHJ (106.5 Bass River Township), where she’d been co-hosting in mornings until that shift went to the “Pork Roll and Eggs” morning show recently displaced from WWZY (107.1 Long Branch).
Speaking of WWZY, it has an airstaff now for its new “Boss” format. “The Morning Kickstart” debuts this morning with Rob Acampora and Wendy McClure. They’re followed by Michele Amabile in middays and Press Communications’ new VP of programming, Jeff Rafter, in afternoon drive.
*In northeast PENNSYLVANIA, there’s more news from Entercom beyond the impending sale at WGGI. Back at the core of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre cluster, Entercom’s WILK talk network abruptly ditched afternoon host Steve Corbett last week. The Citizens Voice reports that Entercom market manager Ryan Flynn sent out a terse memo to staffers Wednesday: “Effective immediately, Steve Corbett will not be returning to WILK. Steve will be shifting his focus to work on some other projects outside our company. We appreciate the work Steve has done on WILK and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Corbett had been with the stations (WILK-FM 103.1 Avoca, WILK 980 Wilkes-Barre, WBZU 910 Scranton) since 2006, when he returned to the area after a newspaper stint in California; he’d previously worked for 17 years at the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre.
*Where are they now? The former “Chunky” from Philadelphia’s WRDW (96.5, now WZMP) and New York’s WNOW-FM (92.3, now WBMP) has been doing country out in Portland, Oregon at KUPL-FM (98.7). He’s headed back to the world of rhythmic starting today as the new morning man at Beasley’s WMGC (105.1 the Bounce) in Detroit, where he’ll be on the air as “Big Boy.”
*Congratulations to CONNECTICUT‘s Danny Lyons: he came to WEBE (107.9 Westport) from New York’s WNBC (660) back in 1987, and he’s still there to celebrate his 30th anniversary, which he did with fanfare late last week.
*Along the seacoast in NEW HAMPSHIRE and MAINE, there’s a new branding at WXEX (1540 Exeter) and WXEX-FM (92.1 Sanford); they’re now “Classic Rock 92.1 and 97.1” to reflect the new translator for WXEX(AM).
*In RHODE ISLAND, Samantha DeSuze is stepping away from her part-time gig at WCTK (98.1 New Bedford-Providence) to spend more time looking after her mother. DeSuze (who is, of course, the daughter of WBZ legend Carl DeSuze) will keep her other part-time gig at WATD (95.9) in Marshfield, MASSACHUSETTS.
*In CANADA, there’s a format change between Ottawa and Montreal, where RNC Media’s CHPR (102.1 Hawkesbury ON) and CJLA (104.9 Lachute QC) have gone from French AC “Planete 104.9/102.1” to French classic hits as “POP 104.9/102.1.”
*Reg Sellner was one of the first TV stars at CKCO-TV (Channel 13) when it came on the air in Kitchener, Ontario, and he spent decades there, hosting all sorts of local productions such as cooking shows and “Canadian Bandstand,” eventually becoming promotions manager for CKCO and its sister radio stations, CKKW/CFCA. He retired in 1995 after just over 50 years with the station. Sellner died Monday at age 84.
In Toronto, Betty Kennedy hosted talk shows on CFRB (1010) from 1959 until 1986, as well as many years as a panelist on the CBC’s “Front Page Challenge.” Kennedy died last Monday at 91.
*And with that, it’s time to start our annual look at Baseball on the Radio (and TV, too).
It’s a year of few changes across the Major League landscape in the region – at least for now. Take, for example, our beloved Boston Red Sox, now ensconced in a renewed deal with Entercom that will keep the team in place on WEEI-FM (93.7) for years to come. (That is, unless Entercom’s absorption of CBS Radio and its sports competitor, WBZ-FM 98.5, brings about a change in the Boston FM sports scene.)
Whatever happens in Boston, Entercom will continue to run the Sox radio network, and this season brings a few changes: on the New Hampshire seacoast, Binnie’s WTSN (1270/98.1) has joined the network, while western Connecticut’s WLAD (800/94.1) has dropped the Sox in Danbury.
On TV, it’s team-controlled NESN, of course, though the big question this season will continue to be Jerry Remy’s health and how long he can hang on in the number two seat on the TV broadcasts. We’re assuming that some of the voices we’ve been hearing in that seat during spring training will be heard at times during the regular season, too.
The New York Yankees and WFAN (660/101.9) enter another season together with the venerable John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman in the booth and the usual extensive web of affiliates all over New York State and well beyond, including lone outposts in Florida and Hawaii. (Away from the network coverage, there are reports that WFAN is cutting back on road travel for its own Yankees and Mets beat reporters, who may be doing more of their work from lower Manhattan this year.)
Spanish-language radio remains on WADO (1280), enhanced by Univision Radio’s new Spanish-language sports format there.
It’s the YES Network for TV, with the usual smattering of games airing on WPIX (Channel 11) and a small broadcast network across upstate New York.
The New York Mets are all settled in now on iHeart’s WOR (710), along with a small but growing regional network that adds Danbury’s WLAD (800/94.1) this season. In Spanish, los Mets are on WEPN (1050), the ESPN Deportes flagship.
TV coverage on SNY comes with a new home base, as the Mets’ TV network has relocated its main studio from the Time and Life Building in midtown Manhattan down to 4 World Trade Center and new 49th-floor digs. 25 TV games air on WPIX and a small regional network that includes WCCT in Hartford, WCWN in Albany and Spectrum Cable Sports (ex-Time Warner Cable Sports) across most of the rest of upstate.
The Philadelphia Phillies are now solely on WIP (94.1) in Philadelphia, having ditched the dual-flagship arrangement with CBS that had them also on WPHT (1210). WTTM (1680 Lindenwold NJ) remains the Spanish-language flagship.
On TV, it’s CSN Sports Philadelphia, where John Kruk has joined the broadcast booth this year. A dozen or so games move to co-owned WCAU (NBC 10), and a few others get displaced to Comcast Network for Philly-area viewers.
The Pittsburgh Pirates and KDKA-FM (93.7) retain their durable partnership, along with a huge radio network that stretches across western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland. As usual, ROOT Sports has all TV coverage, with no broadcast TV.
Across the border, the Toronto Blue Jays are fully corporately synergized, with radio on Rogers-owned CJCL (Sportsnet 590 the FAN) and a coast-to-coast network that’s actually added a few stations as far west as British Columbia, and TV mostly on Rogers Sportsnet.
“But wait,” you may say – “what about the Yard Goats and the Rumble Ponies?” Fear not…we’ll get to the minor leagues in next week’s Baseball on the Radio installment!
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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: March 28, 2016
*Now that it’s signed its first few tenants, NEW YORK‘s 1 World Trade Center has ordered TV antennas to be mounted on the distinctive spire that rises 1776 feet above lower Manhattan.
The order goes to RFS, which conducted testing last year in conjunction with the Metropolitan Television Alliance and the Durst Organization, which manages the site. Last week, RFS announced that it will install a circularly-polarized VHF antenna (model 662-16D), as well as a PEP40E UHF antenna that will allow for variable polarization. That means that the UHF stations that end up at 1WTC will have a choice of operating either with the usual horizontal polarization or with a combination of horizontal and vertical, which many experts consider preferable for mobile and indoor reception.
The multi-million dollar question, of course, remains just who’ll be using those antennas. On VHF, we know so far that public broadcaster WNET (Channel 13) have signed deals to use the new 1WTC site. So has NBC, which is currently operating on UHF with WNBC (Channel 4/RF 28) and WNJU (Channel 47/RF 36), and CBS, which operates on UHF with WCBS-TV (Channel 2/RF 33).
*In Syracuse, today’s the day for a big shuffle in FM formats – and some of the moving pieces appear to still be in motion.
Here’s what we know so far: with Family Life Ministries taking over WSEN-FM (92.1 Baldwinsville) and WMCR-FM (106.3 Oneida) from Leatherstocking, the oldies format on WSEN-FM disappears from 92.1 sometime today. The WSEN-FM intellectual property migrated up the dial last Monday at 3 PM to Galaxy’s WZUN (102.1 Phoenix), which has merged its previous AC “Sunny 102” format in a pretty remarkable way, keeping all of the WSEN-FM airstaff on board alongside its own existing crew.
*A venerable MASSACHUSETTS studio facility was severely damaged by a three-alarm fire on Friday. Back in 1996, WBUR (90.9 Boston) moved out of its longtime home at Boston University’s College of Communications building at 630 Commonwealth Ave. to a new home up the road at 890 Comm. Ave., leaving behind its old studios to BU student station WTBU, which was mostly on carrier-current AM back then.
WTBU’s been at the 630 Commonwealth Avenue facility ever since, doing student-run radio from the same rooms where “Car Talk” got started. It’s not yet clear what started Friday’s fire, which left the studios covered in soot and silenced WTBU for the time being. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more about the cause of the fire and the extent of the damage to WTBU and other BU facilities in that 1950s-era building.
Five Years Ago: March 26, 2012
*Barnstable Broadcasting is exiting Long Island with the sale of WHLI (1100 Hempstead), WIGX (94.3 Smithtown), WKJY (98.3 Hempstead) and WBZO (103.1 Bay Shore) to Connoisseur Media. NERW hears the deal was announced at an employee meeting this afternoon. RadioInsight reports the price on the deal is $23 million; we”ll have more in a mid-week update here and on Twitter and Facebook as it develops.
*In eastern MASSACHUSETTS, Jack Williams has been a fixture behind the news desk on WBZ-TV (Channel 4) for as long as many of his viewers have been alive. That”s about to change, though: last week, the CBS owned-and-operated station announced that Williams, 68, is beginning to reduce his workload at the station after 37 years there.
Jonathan Elias takes over the 11 alongside Lisa Hughes starting tonight.
*About that high-powered pirate that was shut down by FCC agents earlier this month? “Hot 97 Boston” tells the Jamaica Star that it was making a “move from Terrestrial Digital Radio back to a Digital Internet Radio platform,” claiming that it was the station”s “tremendous success that led to us lending our amazing brand locally for simulcast on terrestrial radio.” Almost two weeks after the raid, there”s been no sign of a signal on the station”s former 87.7 MHz frequency, and no shortage of listeners on its Facebook page asking what happened.
*There are two new FM signals on the air in Down East MAINE.
WRMO (93.7 Milbridge) went silent after the death of owner Lyle Evans back in 2010. Evans” estate sold the station to Chuck Begin”s Pine Tree Broadcasting last year, and now WRMO is back from a new 22.5 kW/669″ class B facility on Martins Ridge, near Franklin, engineered by Washington, DC”s Chris Roth.
It”s now programming gold-based AC as “93.7 the Wave,” reaching Ellsworth and Bar Harbor with a city-grade signal and providing a fringe signal as far away as Bangor.
There”s also a new signal on the air from the Augusta-based Light of Life religious folks: WRNM (91.7 Ellsworth) applied for a license to cover its construction permit last week.
*In PENNSYLVANIA“s Poconos, Bud Williamson unveiled a new format and nickname at his newly-purchased WTSX (96.7 Lehman Township) on Friday. The new “Pocono 96.7,” which relocated from Port Jervis, New York to clear the way for K-Love”s WKLV-FM (96.7 Port Chester) New York City move-in, is playing the “Greatest Hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s” with a jock lineup that includes John Perry in mornings, John Harper in the afternoons and two former Clear Channel voices, middayer Lou Brown and night guy Rick Knight (Reg Osterhoudt).
Ten Years Ago: March 26, 2007
*RHODE ISLAND will soon have its first locally-owned public radio station. “Rhode Island Public Radio” is buying two Rhode Island radio stations – existing public radio outlet WRNI (1290 Providence) and WAKX (102.7 Narragansett Pier).WRNI has been providing NPR news and talk to northern Rhode Island since 1998, when Boston”s WBUR bought the station. It”s been an up-and-down ride ever since, as WBUR has weathered management shakeups, a Rhode Island state investigation into the use of money donated by Rhode Island listeners, and an aborted plan by former WBUR general manager Jane Christo to sell WRNI and its sister station, WXNI (1230 Westerly).
Now Boston University has agreed to keep WRNI in public radio hands, selling it for $2 million (paid over a ten-year period) to the Rhode Island Public Radio group, formerly known as the Foundation for Ocean State Public Radio. WBUR will continue to provide engineering and programming assistance to WRNI for the next five years, and it will sell WXNI separately, since RIPR”s other purchase announced this past week will make the Westerly AM signal redundant. (Money from the WXNI sale will go towards reducing the sale price of WRNI.)
That other purchase is WAKX, for which RIPR will pay Davidson Media $2.65 million, funded by a loan from the Rhode Island Foundation.
That signal will give RIPR coverage of much of South County and Newport for the first time. (It”s currently LMA”d out with a smooth jazz format, which will continue to be heard on Davidson”s WALE 990 Greenville, at least when that station”s on the air – it”s been off again for a few days, we”re told.)
Joseph O”Connor, general manager of WRNI, will stay on the job when the station changes ownership.
*NEW YORK“s WNYC will partner with Boston”s WGBH, the New York Times, BBC World Service and Public Radio International to launch a new morning show next year. The show will be one of two new rivals to NPR”s “Morning Edition,” joining a new NPR-produced “alternative” morning offering. WNYC will continue to carry Morning Edition on WNYC-FM (93.9), while the new show will air on WNYC (820). (Will Boston”s WGBH, which currently runs Morning Edition at the same time as rival WBUR, carry the new show on its main signal? Stay tuned…)
On Long Island, it”s the end of the line (terrestrially speaking, anyway) for Scotty Hart”s modern rock “Radio X” network, anchored at WLIX-LP (94.7 Ridge), with translators W235BB (94.9 Hauppage) and W238BA (104.5 Selden). Next Sunday (Easter Sunday, as it happens), the stations will flip to a religious format, and they”ll soon add two more translators, W268AN (101.5 Plainview) and W243BF (96.5 Shirley). Radio X will live on, for a while anyway, on its webcast at radiox.fm.
*We know more this week about the new FM talk entry in western PENNSYLVANIA. When CBS Radio relaunches WRKZ (93.7 Pittsburgh) on April 2, it”ll have new calls, WTZN, and (as rumored in last week”s issue) a new identity, “The Zone.” Opie and Anthony remain on board for morning drive, followed by Dennis Miller”s new syndicated show at 10 AM, John McIntire (formerly of KDKA) at 1 PM and Scott Paulsen (late of WDVE) at 4 PM. The new “Zone” is being billed as a talk station designed specifically for men, whatever that might mean.
Fifteen Years Ago: March 25, 2002
CONNECTICUT is getting a new AM station on an old frequency. It”s been almost exactly ten years since WQQW (1590 Waterbury) went silent; soon, though, listeners in that area will have a new 1590 facility, licensed to nearby Oakville. The just-granted station, owned by Puerto Rico-based “Fair Communications Community,” will run 500 watts day, 220 watts at night from a two-tower array just west of Route 8 on Frost Bridge Road, a few miles north of Waterbury. The pattern will aim vaguely northwest by day; at night, it will be a figure-eight aimed north and south, a far cry from the huge signal WQQW used to pump out before being bought by New York”s WWRL and taken silent. (The CP expired, unbuilt.)
MASSACHUSETTS is also getting a new station, as New Bedford Christian Radio finally wins its long-sought construction permit for 88.1 in New Bedford. The 300 watt, vertical-only signal will come from 41 meters above average terrain from a site near the WJFD (97.3) tower just east of Sconticut Neck Road in Fairhaven.
Twenty Years Ago: March 28, 1997
Local music and talk are making a bit of a comeback in the Boston suburbs. WSRO (1470) in Marlborough is now being run by Lindsy Parker, ex-PD at the Talk America Radio Network and at WSAR (1480) Fall River. Parker and owner Doug Rowe say they”re committed to live, local talk. Further down I-495 in Norfolk MA, WDIS (1170) has dropped its Talk America programming, and is playing adult contemporary music with live, local DJs.
The FCC is out with its latest list of proposed expanded-band allocations, and once again the Northeast gets the very short end of the stick. Only two stations up this way receive spots in the expanded band under the new plan. WTRY (980) Troy NY would move to 1640, and WZNN (930) Rochester NH would move to 1700. Like earlier FCC lists, the latest proposal raises more questions than it answers. Among the stations listed is WJRZ (1550) Toms River NJ – whose construction permit expired without ever being built! If the Commission”s goal is to reduce interference, NERW thinks WJRZ(AM) has done its part for the cause without ever receiving an expanded-band slot. The FCC might also want to check the call letters on the list; many are quite outdated by now!
New England”s religious broadcasters are engaging in some territorial squabbling when it comes to new translators. Christian Ministries, Inc. is fighting a petition to deny that was filed against its proposed translator on 96.3 in Quechee VT, which would have relayed WCMD (89.9) Barre VT. CMI is also applying for 91.7 in Woodstock VT, just down the road. Meantime, the folks at WPVQ (93.9) Turners Falls MA are fighting a petition to deny filed by Harvest Broadcasting Association against their proposed translator in South Hadley MA.