In this week’s issue… Seven Mountains Shakes Up NW PA – Beasley’s “New” Boston Country Lineup – WRKO remembered – WECK Beefs Up – Remembering Frank Deford
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*When some groups come into new markets, they’ll immediately put out a statement that says “we don’t anticipate making any immediate changes.” PENNSYLVANIA‘s Seven Mountains doesn’t make those statements – and with good reason, as their moves last week along the I-80 corridor around DuBois made perfectly clear.
Last fall, Seven Mountains put down $4.5 million to buy four FMs and an AM from First Media, just a few months after paying Cary Simpson $400,000 for two FMs and an AM up in the Wellsboro/Mansfield market.
Now the company, led by second-generation broadcaster Kristin Cantrell, has pulled the trigger on big shuffles in both markets, and here’s how it plays out:
On Tuesday, our suspicion that country WOWQ (102.1 DuBois) would become another Seven Mountains “Bigfoot Country” outlet came true, but with a twist: WOWQ takes new calls WIFT, and it picks up a simulcast to the west in the form of the former WZDD (101.3 Strattanville), which is now WKFT, extending “Bigfoot” into the Clarion/Brookville area with a stronger signal.
WZDD’s former rock simulcast partner, WZDB (95.9 Sykesville), keeps on rocking, but it’s swapped out the John Boy & Billy morning show for another syndicated show, Free Beer & Hot Wings – and it takes on a new name, “Clear Rock 95.9,” perhaps referring to the eastern edge of its coverage into Clearfield? (The AM station Seven Mountains bought there, WCPA 900, continues with its present oldies format for now.)
Up north in Wellsboro, Seven Mountains made one move in late May, when WNBT-FM (104.5 Wellsboro) dropped its sleepy AC format for another “Bigfoot,” and it telegraphed two others with call changes earlier on that bore fruit with a Friday format shift. That’s when WOGA (92.3 Mansfield) dumped its longtime WNBT-FM simulcast, going classic hits as “WOGA in Tioga.”
To the west down US 6, WOGA has a new set of frequencies in Wellsboro, where it’s now simulcasting on the former WNBT (1490), which dumps its standards format and takes new calls WNDA. The AM signal, in turn, simulcasts on two translators, W233CB (recently moved to 93.1 in Wellsboro) and W228DM (93.5 Tioga).
For Seven Mountains, the addition of the Wellsboro and DuBois signals extends a reach that’s already very significant in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, where two other “Bigfoot” simulcast groups serve the Susquehanna Valley and the Huntingdon/Mount Union area, augmenting a big Seven Mountains cluster in State College. (We showed you that operation on Tower Site of the Week recently.)
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While WRKO has now been a talker for more than twice as long as its entire top-40 existence, its rock ‘n’ roll heritage has lived on in the form of a Saturday night oldies show, several tribute websites and, last weekend, a 50th anniversary reunion on and off the air.
It was a who’s who of WRKO history at the Crowne Plaza in Newton on Friday night for the reunion dinner hosted by former PD Mel Phillips, shown here with the “red phone” hotline that was a gift from his former airstaff.
Founding GM Perry Ury, now 91, was there, reports NERW correspondent Clark Smidt, along with Arnie Ginsburg, Chuck Knapp, JJ Jeffrey, Harry Nelson, and many other big ‘RKO names.
“The event was SRO with the outstanding men & women who started this 50kw iconic blow torch, Boston 1968,” Smidt writes. “Radio’s best is yet to come and the passion, spirit and voices in the room prove it.”
The on-air reunion came Saturday night, when former ‘RKO jocks took over the signal for four hours of conversation and oldies.
Up the dial, 1967 was also the launch year for beautiful music on WJIB (96.9), and we hear some of the remaining veterans “from the waterfront” gathered back near the old studio locations for their own reunion over the weekend.
*At the former Greater Media cluster, now Beasley, top-rated country WKLB-FM (102.5 Waltham) has a new PD. Mike Brophey goes back to the earliest days of WKLB, which he joined back in 1996, so the news of his retirement early last week came as a surprise, especially when coupled with the departure of his wife, Ginny Rogers, WKLB’s APD/music director.
Brophey’s replacement is a familiar face in Boston: David Corey returns to the Hub – and to the US – from his time in CANADA as Bell Media’s VP/radio programming. Corey was last in Boston in 2006, when he left WXKS-FM (107.9) after a long run there that ended with him as APD/MD.
*Over at Emerson College, the school held its induction ceremony Saturday night for four new members of its Hall of Fame. This year’s class includes Deb Daigle MA ’83, who recently moved from WGBH to media relations at Wellesley College; record promoter Roger Lifeset ’67, veteran rock radio talent Dave Thomson ’69 and CBS Radio News operations manager Linda Coombs ’77.
*From the reading list: the Globe‘s Mark Arsenault offered up a lengthy Sunday piece about the “well-mannered” public radio battle between WBUR and WGBH, complete with expert quotes from yours truly. (TL;DR? There’s enough room in the market for two big public radio entities to find plenty of listenership, and both are growing without cannibalizing each other’s audience.)
*It was truly the end of an era, albeit a quiet one, in VERMONT television as the Martin family handed over the keys to the state’s oldest TV station at the end of May. WCAX (Channel 3) in Burlington. It’s hard to argue with the family’s conclusion that standalone TV ownership doesn’t work in today’s conglomerate world, but still worth noting that the sale to Gray Television ends the era of independent local TV affiliate ownership in New England.
*In northwestern RHODE ISLAND, Epic Light Network is paying St. Joseph’s Radio Station, Inc. a single dollar for the unbuilt CP of WSJQ (91.5 Pascoag), which has until January 2018 to sign on with its planned Catholic format.
In Providence, Scott Isaacs is the new news director at WJAR (Channel 10), filling the gap left earlier this year by Chris Lanni’s departure. Isaacs had been at Boston’s WCVB for more than a decade.
*The sad news last weekend of the death of sports commentator Frank Deford had a CONNECTICUT connection; as we noted when Deford retired from NPR just a few weeks back, the veteran writer recorded many of his NPR commentaries over the years at WSHU (91.1) in Fairfield.
*In Buffalo, NEW YORK, Buddy Shula’s beefing up his staff at WECK (1230 Cheektowaga). The station has moved from AC to a more full-service mode; in addition to having recently added CBS Radio News, it’s also hired veteran Buffalo newsman John Zach as news director and morning news anchor. What’s Shula up to with WECK? It sure sounds like an attempt to attract the listeners who used to hear CBS News and Zach’s local newscasts on Shula’s former station, WBEN (930), doesn’t it?
Here in Rochester, we welcome Paul Strater to town as the new chief engineer at Nexstar’s WROC-TV (Channel 8). He comes to Rochester from Chicago to replace Francis Fasuyi, who’s off to Lynchburg, Virginia and Sinclair’s WSET (Channel 13).
*In Albany, Empire Broadcasting is rearranging several of its AM and transmitter signals, keeping the Bloomberg-fed “Empire News Network” programming on WPTR (1240 Schenectady) while breaking WAIX (1160 Mechanicville) and its 106.1 translator away from the news-talk to go to a AAA format as “106.1 the X, Albany’s Independent Experience.”
Albany veteran Flounder and newcomer Brad Berletic are the only air personalities announced so far for the new “X.”
Over at Pamal’s Albany Broadcasting cluster, Kevin Richards moves from middays to mornings at WKLI (100.9 the Cat), partnering with Dana Race. Pete Kelly moves from mornings on Glens Falls sister station WKBE to take over middays on WKLI; meanwhile, Richards will still track middays on Glens Falls’ country WFFG.
Heading north, the FCC has marked the license of WIRD (920 Lake Placid) as “deleted” after warning licensee Radio Lake Placid that a “red light” penalty would be assessed if it failed to pay the station’s license fees.
*Back in the Keystone State, Jim Jefferson retired Friday after 43 years at WJPA (1450/95.3) in Washington, most of that time as news director. The Bradford native, born Jim Rhone, started in radio in the late 1960s at his hometown WESB (1490). WJPA hasn’t yet named a replacement for Jefferson, whose shoes in southwestern Pennsylvania will be hard ones to fill.
Some big shoes in southeastern Pennsylvania will stay filled for a while longer: Preston and Steve have signed a long-term deal to remain in place in mornings at Beasley’s WMMR (93.3 Philadelphia) for the foreseeable future.
Up the Turnpike extension, Tori Thomas has departed Cumulus’ WBSX (97.9 Hazleton), where she was PD and afternoon jock; she’s back in the Lehigh Valley now as a part-timer at Connoisseur’s WODE (99.9 the Hawk) in Easton.
*In an otherwise quiet week in CANADA, RNC Media has asked the CRTC for permission to finish moving CHXX (100.9) from Donnacona, Quebec into Quebec City. “Pop 100.9” is still required to originate 14 hours a week of programming from its studio in Donnacona, though the rest originates from the provincial capital; RNC argues that Donnacona is part of the Quebec City administrative region and already receives service from all of Quebec City’s stations.
Interested in the internal strife that’s ripping apart the oldest community FM station in Montreal? That’s CINQ (102.3), “Radio Centre-Ville,” and our colleague Steve Faguy posted a lengthy piece last week looking into the feuds among the different ethnic groups that share control of the station.
We’re a community.