In this week’s issue… CN Tower catches fire – VPR CEO steps down – New NHL team raids NERW-land talent – New urban in Reading – Remembering Kevin Fennessy
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*When there’s a fire burning a quarter-mile up in the sky, the pictures aren’t very dramatic, but the fire early Wednesday morning at CANADA‘s tallest free-standing structure, Toronto’s CN Tower, was still plenty alarming.
It’s still not quite clear what caused one of the cables up to the tower’s antennas to catch fire, but the smoke from the fire tripped an alarm that caused security to cut power to all of the antennas, which are housed inside a fiberglass sheath above the “Skypod” that houses the observation decks, restaurant and the two floors full of transmitters.
Firefighters took elevators up the tower to the top of the Skypod, 1500 feet above Toronto, where they climbed into the sheath to ascend about 100 feet of ladder to the burning cable, where they used carbon dioxide extinguishers to put out the fire.
For a few hours, that took the CN Tower’s FM and TV signals off the air; these days, that accounts for only a small fraction of TV viewership, which is mostly on cable or satellite, and about half of the market’s FM signals, though most of the FMs stayed on the air from auxiliary transmitters at other locations.
The fire was out a little after 7, and regular broadcasting resumed quickly afterward. It’s believed to have been the first fire in the 40-year history of broadcasting from the tower.
The 2022 Tower Site Calendar – PREORDERING OPEN NOW!
This is a special year for our calendar – it’s the 20th anniversary for us, and the 100th anniversary of America’s radio boom in 1922, when the industry really took off and stations erupted all over the country. This special edition of the calendar will showcase the survivors from the Class of 1922, which grew into some of America’s biggest radio stations.
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*Radio People on the Move in NEW YORK City: at ESPN Radio’s WEPN-FM (98.7), Dave Rothenberg moves from nights to middays alongside Rick DiPietro and Chris Canty for the new “Humpty and Canty” show. Former “Hahn, Humpty and Canty” midday host Alan Hahn replaces Rothenberg in the 7-10 PM slot.
Over at CBS Radio’s WBMP (92.3 AMP Radio), afternoon mix show host Jay Dabhi has been promoted to music director.
*Leatherstocking Media’s last remaining unsold station has new calls. The former WSEN (1050 Baldwinsville) is now WBVG; it’s applied for another silent STA after telling the FCC it returned to the air with borrowed equipment that’s since had to be returned. Leatherstocking’s WMCR (1600 Oneida) is also back on the air with a music loop while awaiting transfer to its new ownership.
Tred Hulse is out as afternoon sports host at iHeart’s WOFX (980 Troy), a year after taking over the 3-6 PM slot at the Fox Sports Radio affiliate. Hulse, who’d been with WOFX and its sister stations for 17 years, had been doing afternoons down the hall at WRVE (99.5 Schenectady) when Roger Wyland’s departure from WOFX last year opened up the chance to do the local afternoon show. For now, WOFX is back to being all-satellite, running Doug Gottlieb’s Fox Sports show in the 3-6 slot that Hulse had occupied.
*The Guinness Book of World Records has finally recognized what those of us here in Rochester have long known: WHAM-TV (Channel 13)’s Don Alhart has been on the job longer than any other local TV anchor in the world. Alhart, 72, started at what was then WOKR in 1966 (on June 6, as he’ll gladly remind you!), but it took a while for the Guinness folks to properly honor his achievement. Last year, Guinness listed Dave Ward of KTRK in Houston (49 years on the job) as the record holder – but Ward started in November of 1966 and retired this past spring. Now it’s Alhart who has the official certificate (and no plans, as of now, to end a run that’s at 51 years and counting.)
*We’re saddened indeed to have to share news of the death of Kevin Fennessy, who lived a full life of radio in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida and a few other states along the way. A native of Philadelphia, Kevin’s career started in the suburbs (WJJZ, WAAT and WTTM in Trenton) before he landed at WPEN (950) in 1972. Kevin worked nights at WCAU-FM (98.1), then at WCAO in Baltimore, WAMS in Wilmington, KQV in Pittsburgh and WOAI in San Antonio. In 1982, he landed at WHAM here in Rochester as PD, then programmed WKBW in Buffalo and WFIL in Philadelphia. Fennessy also worked at WPXY in Rochester and WEGX in Philadelphia before moving deeper into management, sales (at WFPG in Atlantic City) and eventually ownership. In more recent years, he’d owned WAAT (750 Olyphant) and WFBS (1280 Berwick) in northeast Pennsylvania and done production at WMCA/WWDJ in New York before relocating to Florida, where he’d been doing VO work before suffering health setbacks. He’d had a heart attack and stroke last week that led to his death Saturday, and he’s dearly missed by a whole community of radio people he mentored along the way.
*In PENNSYLVANIA, the national controversy over the Charlottesville protests briefly extended to small-town Bloomsburg as news emerged that Dave Reilly, son of WHLM (930) owner Joe Reilly and night jock on the station, had been a participant in Charlottesville. It took a day for Dave Reilly to issue a statement disavowing any racist sentiments and announcing his resignation from WHLM, but by then the damage had been done: several advertisers, including Bloomsburg University, bowed to public social media pressure to cut ties with the station. Can the station rebuild its strong ties with the community that Joe has supported for so many years now? Here’s hoping…
*The same visit to central Pennsylvania that took us by WHLM last fall also found us visiting Drew Kelly at WQKX (94.1) down the road in Sunbury – and by an odd coincidence, he was in the news last week too, announcing his departure as VP of programming at Sunbury Broadcasting to take on an exciting new role as marketing and communications director at the Miller Center for Recreation and Wellness down the road in Lewisburg. Kelly’s departure leaves a big void not only in the programming chair for WQKX and its sister stations but also in the air chair, where he was WQKX’s morning man.
*There’s a new hip-hop signal on the air in Reading, where translator W257DI (99.3) is now “Loud 99.3,” fed from WLEV (100.7 Allentown)’s HD4. The new format is running commercial-free for what’s left of the summer. It’s run by “Major Keystone LLC,” which paid $15,000 for the translator from Spanish American Civic Association For Equality earlier this year.
*In Philadelphia, Mark Shepperd is the new afternoon jock at WBEB (101.1 More FM), returning to the market he used to call home in a series of stints at WYXR (104.5), WIOQ (102.1), WIP (610) and WXTU (92.5). Shepperd replaces Logan, who’s now down at WINK-FM in Fort Myers, Florida.
WHAT (1340 Philadelphia) has moved translators, relocating its Spanish-language “El Zol” format from W246AQ (97.1 Collingswood, NEW JERSEY) to W260CZ (99.9 Philadelphia). That translator, which is actually owned by WHAT licensee Aztec Capital Partners, is the former W273CM (102.5 Clayton NJ), which had briefly tried to move to 92.1 but was pushed off that channel by interference complaints from WVLT (92.1 Vineland NJ). Meanwhile at 97.1, owner Priority Radio has resumed its prior simulcast of religious sister station WXHL (89.1 Christiana DE) while it looks for a new tenant.
*A station sale in MAINE is creating a new ownership cluster. James Talbott’s Katahdin Communications is paying Clearwater Communications $525,000 for WKTJ-FM (99.3 Farmington), in a deal that will combine “Big Hits 99.3 KTJ” with erstwhile competitors WSYY (1240)/WSYY-FM (94.9) up the road in Millinocket.
Down in the Portland market, Mijo Irizarry is departing WHTP (104.7 Kennebunkport), where he’s been doing afternoons and serving as music and imaging director for the last two years. Next Monday, Irizarry (who started not all that long ago at WWKX in RHODE ISLAND) will start his new gig as evening jock in the much bigger market of Miami, at CBS Radio’s WPOW-FM (96.5). Also headed to a bigger market is Chris Clare, PD of Binnie’s WTHT (99.9 Auburn), who’s the new PD at Cumulus’ NASH (WNNF 94.1) in Cincinnati.
*VERMONT Public Radio just marked its 40th anniversary with a big open house at its renovated Colchester headquarters. Now it will enter its fifth decade with a search underway for a new leader. VPR president/CEO Robin Turnau says she’ll step down in March, 29 years after she started with the network coordinating membership and volunteers. She’s been in the top job at VPR since 2009, when Mark Vogelzang departed.
*There are a few holes to fill at Cumulus in central MASSACHUSETTS, where operations manager/WXLO (104.5 Fitchburg) PD Lance Ballance is out and looking for his next opportunity. It’s not just Ballance who’s gone from WXLO – midday host/APD/music director Mary Knight has also departed after 16 years at the station.
The newest NHL team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, made some inadvertent radio headlines late last week as news spread that the Vegas CBS Radio cluster, apparently miffed at losing the team’s radio rights to rival Lotus, was banning any mention of the team anywhere on its six stations. Once the internal memo about the ban was leaked, local CBS managers quickly reversed course, assuring the team and its own staffers that the Golden Knights would indeed be mentioned on sports KXST (1140), news-talk KXNT (840) and the music stations in the cluster.
But we’d be talking about the Knights this week even if that little tiff hadn’t happened, since the team is raiding NERW-land for its radio and TV team. On the radio side, the Knights have hired Dan D’Uva away from the AHL Syracuse Crunch to call their games, which will air on KRLV (1340). And on TV, AT&T Sports Net has engaged the services of longtime Boston Bruins announcer Dave Goucher. He’ll work alongside Shane Hnidy, late of the Winnipeg Jets’ TV team. Bruins flagship WBZ-FM (98.5 the Sports Hub) has already put out a call for a replacement for Goucher when the Bruins season starts in just a few weeks.
*Aside from the CN Tower, it was a quiet week once again in CANADA; the only big news came from provincial Quebec, where RNC Media rebranded CHOA (96.5 Rouyn-Noranda) from “Rythme FM” to “WOW” on August 7. Canadian Radio News reports that leaves only one “Rythme FM,” in Saguenay, that’s not owned by Rythme owner Cogeco.
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