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In this week’s issue… CBS cuts hit Philly – New partner for Curtis – First DTV spectrum shares emerge – Statehouse news fades away – New stations, newscasts in Canada

By SCOTT FYBUSH

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*The ongoing cutbacks at CBS Radio have been hitting especially hard in eastern Pennsylvania, specifically at classic hits WOGL (98.1 Philadelphia).

Veteran afternoon talent “Cadillac Jack” Seville lost his job at WOGL on Tuesday, ending (for now) a long run in Philly afternoons that goes back to the old WTRK, “Electric 106,” back in 1991. He’d been in afternoons at WOGL since 2008. In a farewell message on Facebook, he told fans, “I hope that you think positive thoughts and have well wishes. Stay tuned. Bigger and better things are on the way. God Bless.”

As WOGL gets ready to make its move from 400 Market Street (in the old KYW 1060 space, still occupied by sister stations WPHT 1210 and, just downstairs, WIP-FM 94.1) back out to Bala Cynwyd, Cadillac Jack isn’t the only staffer who won’t be coming along. Overnight jock Ron Cade (below), who’d been with WOGL all the way back to 1988, is also out, as is promotions director Samantha Simon.

The job cuts also mean two long-running weekend shows are gone, Cadillac Jack’s “Brunch with the Beatles” and, especially sadly, Cade’s “Elvis & Friends,” which had been a Philadelphia radio staple since 1978.

Out in Bala, where WOGL will be joining the former Beasley stations, there were still more job cuts as CBS prepares to consolidate its promotion departments: WTDY (96.5) promotions director Kristen Stoltz is out, and so is night jock Jennifer Reed at WXTU (92.5).

Will the cuts help make the impending CBS Radio merger into Entercom any more successful? Perhaps for the accountants – but it’s hard to argue that a WOGL without Cadillac Jack and Ron Cade is a better station for Philadelphia’s loyal listeners, isn’t it?

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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: June 13, 2016

*It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than 19 years since we pulled up roots from New England, but last week at least gave us the chance to spend some quality time in our old stomping grounds.

And what a joy it was to stop in and see some friends who are doing low-power FM in ways that ought to make the movement proud.

You’ll see WBNH (105.1 Bedford, NEW HAMPSHIRE) in more detail in an upcoming Tower Site of the Week a few months down the road…and when you do, you’ll see how our friend (and fellow Western New Yorker) Harry Kozlowski is working with the community access channel and town leadership in that Manchester suburb to provide something much more than just a loop of music to fill time between occasional emergency announcements.

And then there’s Haverhill, MASSACHUSETTS, where Tim Coco’s many years of work to bring local radio back to that struggling city are finally paying off. On Wednesday, Tim and his crew from WHAV.net filled a banquet hall to honor Haverhill’s radio legacy and raise money for the impending FM launch of WHAV-LP (97.9).

whav-lapierreThe crowd included more than a dozen radio stars who got their start at Haverhill’s original WHAV (1490, now WCEC) and WHAV-FM (92.5, now WXRV) – Paul Bellefeuille, Michael Burns, Joe Clementi, Joanne Doody, Patricia Johnson, John Katsaros, Gary LaPierre (right), Marc Lemay, Dave “Mack” Macaulay, Bill “Maxwell” Macek, Eddie McGee, Rick O’Shey and Mark Watson. One more ex-WHAV’er made an appearance by video, since Tom Bergeron is more than a little busy these days in Los Angeles (though he’s been a staunch supporter of Coco’s work back home in Haverhill.)

Five Years Ago: June 11, 2012

*There’s now a date for Rush Limbaugh’s move to his new Philadelphia home, Merlin Media’s WWIQ (106.9 Camden NJ). He’ll switch stations two weeks from today, on Monday, June 25 – and when he does, his old slot on CBS Radio’s WPHT (1210 Philadelphia) will be filled by a live clearance of WPHT’s star talk host, Michael Smerconish. Replacing Smerconish in afternoon drive on WPHT will be the duo of longtime Philly talk host Steve Martorano and sports writer Buzz Bissinger.

*There’s no more turbulent scene right now than talk radio in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, where the last few days alone have seen the retirement of a veteran overnight host, the return of a midday host who’d decamped to TV news, the sudden disappearance of most of the syndicated shows at a third station and the impending retirement of two of the city’s public radio icons.

Overnights first: the abrupt surprise of the week was the announcement on Wednesday that after 13 years in the midnight-5 AM slot on WBZ (1030), the “Steve LeVeille Broadcast” would be coming to an end after just two more shows…er, “broadcasts.”

LeVeille in the WBZ studio, 2011

For fans of the overnight slot (and this column counts itself unabashedly among that number, your editor having been an occasional guest as recently as last September), the news came as a stunner: it’s been just three and a half years since CBS pulled the plug on local talk at WBZ and several of its sister stations, installing the St. Louis-based “Overnight America” in place of the local LeVeille. An impassioned outcry from listeners and advertisers reversed the decision after just a few weeks, and LeVeille returned, triumphant, as the last remaining local overnight talk host in New England (and possibly the entire northeast, give or take the sports guys at New York’s WFAN.)

This time around, WBZ says the decision to leave, and to leave immediately, was entirely LeVeille’s. At age 57, with a newly-purchased summer home in Maine, LeVeille says he’s ready to settle down there year-round. At least for now, WBZ management seems eager to dispel any idea that LeVeille’s departure will open the door to syndicated programming overnight. After Steve’s final signoff early Friday morning, WBZ says the weekday overnight shifts will be filled on a rotating basis by interim hosts (presumably including weekender Jordan Rich and frequent LeVeille fill-ins Morgan White, Jr. and Bradley Jay) while a search is underway for a permanent successor.

*Down the dial, we now know where Michele McPhee’s next radio stop will be: right back at Entercom talker WRKO (680 Boston), where she had a short run last year before moving over to WCVB-TV (Channel 5). McPhee, whose experience also includes a long run as a crime reporter at the Boston Herald and a talk stint at WTKK, starts today in the 11 AM-3 PM slot on WRKO, where she displaces two hours of Laura Ingraham’s syndicated show and the 1-3 PM show that had been hosted by Jen Brien.

*On TV, it’s the final week for iconic WNBC (Channel 4) anchor Sue Simmons, who winds down her 35-year run with the station on Friday. Earlier this year, Simmons was removed from the 5 PM newscast, leaving her last assignment at 11 PM with longtime on-air partner Chuck Scarborough; no replacement has been named yet for that slot.

*Speaking of “channel 4,” over-the-air TV viewers in NEW JERSEY and eastern PENNSYLVANIA may have noticed a new signal on the air last week, at least if they’re using an antenna that can get low-band VHF signals.

Licensed to Atlantic City, brand-new WACP (Channel 4) began testing its signal from the Waterford Works tower farm in Camden County that’s also home to NJTV public station WNJS (Channel 23). That gives it at least a fringe signal over much of Philadelphia – and it will entitle the new station to must-carry rights on Philadelphia-market cable TV as well, once owner Western Pacific Broadcast LLC begins regular programming.

Ten Years Ago: June 11, 2007

*It’s been nearly twenty years since General Electric sold off its NBC Radio division, dismantling what had once been arguably the most important radio station group in the country.

When Walt Disney hands off the keys to much of ABC Radio to Citadel today, it will mark the end – or at least a major transformation – of a station group that had an equally large impact on American radio.

Unlike the NBC sale in 1988, which marked the effective end of the NBC Radio Network as an independent entity and the demise of the WNBC call letters on NEW YORK radio, the sale of ABC Radio will bring with it almost no immediate changes as far as listeners are concerned.

In part, that’s a reflection of the independence ABC’s radio properties long maintained from their sister TV operation. WABC (770) and WPLJ (95.5) operate from studios at 2 Penn Plaza, many blocks from the ABC Radio newsroom at 125 West End Avenue, which is itself a long hike from the Columbus Circle headquarters of ABC television and WABC-TV.

(There are some ABC-TV facilities at 125 West End as well, so there will be some unraveling of ties there over the next few years. ABC Radio News will continue to be operated by ABC, which will license its programming to Citadel’s ABC Radio Networks for distribution.)

As best we can tell, there are no immediate programming or staffing changes in the offing at WABC or WPLJ, the only ABC Radio properties in the northeast, and indeed, the most obvious change for the now-Citadel staffers at those stations is that they’ve lost the Disney theme park “silver passes” they enjoyed as Disney employees.

*Elsewhere in New York, Cumulus has taken the next step toward moving WFAS-FM (103.9) closer to the lucrative New York City market. The station officially changed city of license last week to Bronxville from its longtime home of White Plains. For now, there’s no change in the station’s facilities – its transmitter remains at its longtime home in Greenburgh, where the station’s studios and sister station WFAS (1230 White Plains) are located as well – but we’d expect to see an application filed sooner or later to move 103.9 down to a transmitter site in southern Westchester or the Bronx.

WYSL (1040 Avon) marked its 20th anniversary back in January, but owner and founder Bob Savage (one of the “good guy” independent broadcasters we so admire in this column) sensibly waited until a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon in June to celebrate the milestone.

It’s rare indeed these days to see a standalone AM survive, thrive and even grow (WYSL’s gone from a 500-watt daytimer to a big 20 kW signal in its two decades), and here’s wishing Bob, and the other owners like him in the region, continued success.

*We’ll make CANADA our next stop, as we assess the fallout of the CRTC’s decision to approve CTVglobemedia’s acquisition of CHUM Ltd., albeit with one enormous condition. CTV knew it would have to divest some of CHUM’s nationwide portfolio of television stations, but it had hoped to keep CHUM’s big-market roster of Citytv outlets in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg and to spin the more marginal “A-Channel” stations CHUM owns in Ontario and British Columbia.

Combining the City stations with CTV’s existing national network was more than the CRTC was willing to countenance under its “one-to-a-market” TV ownership policy, though, and a divided CRTC ruled late last week that if the CTV purchase of CHUM is to go forward, it will have to be without the City stations. CTV can, if it wishes, keep the “A-Channel” stations, the rationale there being that even though A-Channel’s CKVR is seen in Toronto and its CIVI is seen in Vancouver, those are actually Barrie and Victoria stations, respectively – and under Canadian regulations, those stations really do provide news and public affairs for the areas where they’re licensed.

In the wake of the ruling, CTVglobemedia isn’t saying yet whether it will follow through with the C$1.4 billion acquisition of CHUM, or with the proposed C$137.5 million spinoff of the A-Channel stations to Rogers. Even without the City stations, the CHUM radio group of 34 stations and its 20 specialty cable services (plus A-Channel, if it were to stay with CTV) would combine with CTV’s existing TV, cable and print outlets to create an impressive media behemoth.

*The big news in MASSACHUSETTS will come today, when WGBH-FM (89.7 Boston) moves its announcers from their longtime home on Western Avenue in Allston to the new broadcast center overlooking the Mass Pike off Market Street. WGBH-TV/WGBX will make the move later this month, and by July, the old Western Avenue facility will be history. Over on the radio side, the playlists for today’s inaugural broadcasts were drawn from listener suggestions; the first track played from the new digs at 9 AM will be Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

Fifteen Years Ago: June 10, 2002

There’s about to be one fewer local TV news operation in MAINE. Management announced Tuesday that it will pull the plug on local news at WB affiliate WPXT (Channel 51) and UPN affiliate WPME (Channel 35) in the Portland market. “Our Maine News,” which aired at 10 PM on both stations, will broadcast its last newscast this Friday. The Pegasus-owned duopoly dropped its Fox affiliation (on WPXT) last year, and has been struggling with the region’s poor economy since then. A 7 PM newscast launched last fall on WPXT was soon cancelled due to poor ratings, and the ratings for the 10 PM show have suffered as well. WPXT had been doing news for nearly a decade.

For years, we’ve pointed to WICC (600) in Bridgeport, CONNECTICUT as an example of full-service radio at its best – music, news and talk all combined to create a top-rated, locally-responsive AM radio station. As of this morning (Monday), that’s history. WICC eliminated its weekday music as part of a station overhaul that includes new sounders and the station’s first jingles in nearly a decade. John LaBarca stays in mornings with Tim Quinn, but now it’s purely a news/talk block, followed by an hour of talk with Quinn at 9 and two hours of the syndicated Neal Boortz show from 10 until noon, replacing the Terry Michaels midday show (Michaels has left the station, we’re told, but will do fill-in work at other Cumulus stations in the region) Chris Conley will still do an hour of news at noon, but now that’s followed by the syndicated Clark Howard show from 1 until 4. Fred Ebert remains on the schedule from 4-7 PM, followed by Yankees baseball or Laura Ingraham’s syndicated show. We’ll be sorry to see WICC turn into a more typical 21st century medium-market AM station; we still think there’s room for a full-service format in this day and age.

Up here in Rochester, “Big Dog Country” now has appropriate calls: the former WNNR (103.5 Sodus) became WUUF last week. (Freckles the NERW Wonder Dog says “Woof!” to that…)

Country competitor WBEE-FM (92.5 Rochester), and Entercom sister stations WBBF (950 Rochester/93.3 Fairport) and WBZA (98.9 Rochester), will soon be doing its thing from a new home. After decades at Midtown Plaza, most recently on the fifth and sixth floors of the B. Forman Building, Entercom is moving its cluster to the High Falls entertainment district. The new storefront studios at 192 Mill Street will be right behind the offices of public broadcaster WXXI. (And WBZA’s even got actual on-air personalities to fill its studio window, after more than a year of automation, with former WMAX-FM/WVOR jock Michael Gately handling middays and an afternoon jock on the way!)

Twenty Years Ago: June 12, 1997

The big news this week comes from the Granite State, where WNDS (Channel 50) in Derry has returned to independent programming after would-be station buyer Global Shopping Network reportedly missed a payment on the station. As we reported last week here in NERW, Global is having serious financial troubles, and it appears that WNDS’s owner, CTV of Derry, isn’t willing to sit by and wait for things to straighten out. “Star Trek” fans across eastern New England are already celebrating; WNDS was known for its Trek reruns, and they’re already back on Channel 50. What’s more, CTV has reportedly asked nearly all of WNDS’ dismissed staffers to come back to work, including weatherman Al Kaprelian, a cult favorite among WNDS viewers.

We have actual news from RHODE ISLAND this week, and plenty of it, beginning with word that Citadel is adding Phil Urso’s WDGE/WDGF combo to its Providence station group. WDGE is the modern rocker on 99.7, licensed to Wakefield-Peace Dale, while WDGF is the dance station on 100.3 licensed to Middletown. Citadel entered Rhode Island earlier this year with the purchase of Tele-Media, which owned WPRO AM/FM (630/92.3), WLKW (790), and WWLI (105.1) in Providence.
CONNECTICUT radio listeners could get a new urban FM, if the owners of WNEZ (910 New Britain – Hartford) have their way. They’re talking about buying an FM in the market if they can afford one, although NERW wonders what they’ll find available in this era of mega-opoly, when almost all of Hartford’s FMs belong to either SFX or ARS. In the meantime, “910 Jamz” carries on with urban on AM.