In this week’s issue… Carton charges leave WFAN future murky – Syracuse reporter dies suddenly – Maine FM frequency in dispute – Connecticut FM upgrades
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Sports radio works especially well in NEW YORK because it lends itself to very big personalities – and when very big personalities like WFAN (660/101.9) morning co-host Craig Carton get in trouble, they get in trouble in a big way.
It wasn’t anything Carton said on the air that knocked him out of his prominent role at WFAN last week; instead, it was his arrest early Wednesday morning on charges that he started a Ponzi scheme to try to get out of more than a million dollars in gambling debt he’d run up.
Prosecutors charged Carton and Michael Wright with four counts of fraud, alleging that they approached investors to buy into what they said were blocks of concert tickets purchased in bulk at face value to be resold at a premium. As far back as October 2016, the FBI says Carton had lined up $4.6 million from a hedge fund that wanted to invest in the scheme – except that there were no blocks of tickets, just money flowing from the hedge fund to pay off the casinos where Carton had run up his debts.
Not that there’s ever a good time for a prominent morning man in market number one to be arrested, but the timing of Carton’s charges was particularly bad for CBS Radio and WFAN. As one of the top revenue producers in the entire division, a strong WFAN is important to the consummation of the impending spinoff of CBS Radio to Entercom – and any tremors in the foundation at WFAN can have a big effect on that big deal.
CBS moved quickly to suspend Carton, bringing in Phil Simms as the interim morning co-host alongside “Boomer and Carton” host Boomer Esiason. On Thursday morning, Esiason addressed the issue, telling listeners, “I love my partner for 10 years. I still love my partner. I love his family, I love his kids. And I am praying every single day that he lands on his feet, that they land on their feet.”
What next? One potential Carton replacement, frequent WFAN guest and soon-to-be-ex-New Jersey governor Chris Christie, says he’s not in the running for the spot (and is rumored to be heading for a cable news commentary job). With football season now underway, Simms’ presence in the morning will at least buy CBS some time as it tries to keep WFAN stable ahead of Entercom’s eventual arrival in the market.
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*Elsewhere around New York City, Ed Cohen has been officially named as Mike Crispino’s successor in the Knicks’ radio booth. The MSG Network-produced call of the game airs on ESPN Radio’s WEPN-FM (98.7), where Cohen joins Brendan Brown.
We’re back from the NAB’s Radio Show in Austin, and we’ll be talking about it on the next edition of our Top of the Tower Podcast. At the Marconi Awards that were taking place while we were getting stuck overnight in Baltimore on the way home (thanks, Southwest Airlines!), New York radio produced some big winners: CBS Radio’s WCBS (880) was named Legendary Station of the Year, Funkmaster Flex of Emmis’ WQHT (Hot 97) was Major Market Personality of the Year, and out on Long Island WRHU (88.7) at Hofstra was Non-Commercial Station of the Year. Other NERW-land honors went to WBEB in Philadelphia (AC Station of the Year) and Emmis’ WLIB in New York (Religious Station of the Year).
*It’s a sad start to the week in central New York, where longtime WSYR (570/106.9) newsman Kevin Schenk died on Friday of a ruptured aortic aneurysm. Schenk started in Watertown, worked as a producer at WSTM (Channel 3), co-hosted afternoons on WSYR with Joe Galuski, returned to WSTM (Channel 3) as a weekend anchor, and then once again rejoined WSYR as a reporter and anchor, also appearing on iHeart sister station WHAM in Rochester. He was just 54.
*We still don’t know anything more definite about what signals Entercom will spin off as it acquires CBS Radio’s cluster in eastern MASSACHUSETTS – but we know that CBS is still making deals before it exits Boston. It’s renewed the contract of Mike Thomas, who serves as VP of sports programming for CBS Radio and VP of programming for the CBS Radio Boston cluster. And in another multi-year deal, it’s renewed its rights to keep the Patriots on WBZ-FM (98.5 the Sports Hub). Will Entercom end up keeping Thomas, the Sports Hub, the Pats and the Bruins in addition to its Red Sox and Celtics rights and archrival WEEI-FM (93.7)? Or will Justice Department antitrust pressure – or simply the ability to generate cash with a pricey spinoff – lead one or the other franchise to be spunn off?
*In southern MAINE, Word Radio Educational Foundation is upping the ante in a long-running fight over the bottom of the FM dial along the seacoast. Word’s WMEK (88.3 Kennebunkport) first applied to move to 88.1 back in 2010, after the FCC dismissed two 88.1 applications from Brian Dodge’s Granite State Educational Fellowship. But Word says it was constrained from further expanding the WMEK signal by an application for 88.1 filed by New England Broadcasting Educational Group. New England was granted a construction permit for WVCA (88.3 Newbury MA) to share time with WBMT (88.3 Boxford MA) at Masconomet Regional High School. Word says New England never built out the 88.3 share-time before applying for a further modification to make WVCA a full-time signal on 88.1 at Seabrook, NEW HAMPSHIRE. That WVCA move has yet to be granted – and now Word has applied for a big upgrade to WMEK that depends on WVCA not getting 88.1. The WMEK upgrade application would move the signal 20 miles inland to the tower of WMEA-TV (Channel 26), taking WMEK from its present 300 watts to 4.8 kW/207 m with coverage westward to Rochester and southward beyond Portsmouth, N.H.
Binnie Media’s WFNQ (106.3 Nashua) is applying to move north: it would trade its existing coverage over the state line into northern Massachusetts for more reach toward Manchester with a proposed move to a tower site above the Premium Outlets off the Everett Turnpike just north of Nashua. The 6 kW/81m DA signal WFNQ is applying for would, we suspect, open up more space on the Massachusetts side of the border for Bloomberg to expand the 106.1 translator network it’s creating around AM signals WNBP (1450 Newburyport) and WRCA (1330 Watertown).
Back in Maine, Mark Jennings is leaving WPOR (101.9 Portland) after two years as PD/afternoon host. The veteran Jennings (long with WOKQ on the seacoast) is looking for new work, and Saga is looking for a replacement in Portland.
*While we wait for RHODE ISLAND Public Radio to close on its sale of WRNI (1290 Providence) to Latino Public Radio, we know what the AM signal’s new calls will be: it’s requested WRPA as its new identity once it takes over the station it’s been leasing from RIPR.
Hall Communications has applied for new calls at its WLKW (1450 West Warwick); the sports talker becomes WPVD, shedding one set of long-ago heritage Providence calls for the callsign recently dropped by Brown Student Radio’s as-yet-unbuilt LPFM, now WBRU-LP.
*One of the lower-profile signals in CONNECTICUT is seeking a bigger reach. The Archdiocese of Hartford’s WJMJ (88.9 Hartford) is applying to move from its current site west of Hartford near Burlington to the Rattlesnake Hill tower site in Farmington, home to WVIT-TV, WTIC-TV and WRCH (100.5). With 2.3 kW/436m from that site, WJMJ would significantly expand its coverage eastward and southward over more of central Connecticut.
*In northwest PENNSYLVANIA, Inspiration Time Inc. has requested new calls for the AM signal it’s buying from Mercyhurst University. What’s now WMCE (1530 North East) will become WZTE; it also has a pending construction permit to change city of license to Union City, allowing Inspiration Time’s WCTL-FM (106.3) to move from Union City closer in to Erie.
And of course we can’t do a column on September 11 without paying our respects to the broadcast engineers who lost their lives while doing their jobs sixteen years ago this morning. This column is, as always, dedicated to the memories of Isaias Rivera, Bob Pattison, Bill Steckman, Don DiFranco, Steve Jacobson and Rod Coppola. Our 2002 story about what happened that day at the World Trade Center and in the weeks afterward is available here.
We’re a community.
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: September 12, 2016
*As another milestone anniversary of the September 11 attacks came and went in NEW YORK over the weekend, perhaps the most remarkable conclusion we can offer in our fifteenth-anniversary update is how little there actually is to update.
Over the weekend, we reposted the “9/11 Plus One” article that first appeared in this space in 2002, and in doing so we were struck by how optimistic we were back then about the prospects for an improved reconstruction of the broadcast facilities that were destroyed on that terrible September day. At the time, we thought, it would be “no more than a year” before construction was underway – or even complete – on a new tower that might return New York’s TV signals to the heights they’d occupied on the old 1 World Trade Center.
Instead, in a way we could hardly have anticipated back then, a combination of political delays, technical holdups and transformations of the entire broadcasting landscape have left the situation not that much different from the way we left it back in 2002.
*It’s been three years since China Radio International came to MASSACHUSETTS with Radio One’s lease of WILD (1090 Boston) to a group led by James Su of California. Now Su’s Radio Boston Broadcasting, Inc. is buying the AM signal out from Radio One, ending that company’s 17-year run in the market. It was back in 1999 that Radio One paid $10 million for then-WCAV (97.7 Brockton), and a year later when the company bought WILD from the Nash family for $5 million.
The sale price this time doesn’t even break the $1 million mark: Radio Boston Broadcasting is paying $888,231 to take ownership of the station. That money will come partially from Su, whose Universal Broadcasting Group owns 78% of the company, and partially from AIM Broadcasting, which owns 22%. AIM, in turn, belongs to John and Greg Douglas – and if that first name sounds familiar, it’s because John Douglas was a radio owner in Boston back in the 1990s, when his Achievement Radio Holdings had WBPS (890).
*Who’s “Tony” and what’s he doing in Utica, NEW YORK? That’s Galaxy’s new HD-fed translator format at W256AJ (99.1), the high-powered Smith Hill signal that had been simulcasting ESPN with WTLB (1310) and its Mohawk Valley sister stations.
The new format launched at 11 Thursday morning, fed by the new HD2 signal of WKLL (94.9 Frankfort); it’s a variety hits format that’s launching with 10,000 commercial-free songs. (As for ESPN and WTLB, it will return to the FM dial before long on the translator Galaxy is buying from Vermont.)
Five Years Ago: September 10, 2012
*Even as voters in Quebec were giving their nod to the separatist party that wants to pull the province free of English-speaking CANADA, complete with a platform calling for control of broadcasting in Quebec to shift from the CRTC to the provincial level. one Montreal TV broadcaster is asking the CRTC for permission to switch from multilingual television to full-time English-language programming.
When Rogers announced back in May that it planned to buy CJNT (Channel 62, aka “Metro 14”) from Channel Zero, the big national broadcaster was clear about its intent to make CJNT the Quebec home for its CityTV service, which currently has a not-quite-national reach stretching from Vancouver to Ontario but no further east. Even before the sale went through, Rogers struck an affiliation deal with Channel Zero to begin branding CJNT as “CityTV” and to carry some of City’s programming – but it was stymied by the longstanding restriction on the CJNT license designating it as a multicultural station, with 75% of its prime-time programming required to be in languages other than English or French. Rogers is supplying some of that programming, too, from its Toronto-based “OMNI” multicultural network.
At a hearing on November 7, the CRTC will consider Rogers’ request to approve its C$10.3 million purchase of CJNT and to relicense the station as an English-language CityTV outlet. At the same time, the CRTC will also hear a related application from a new group called “ici” (International Channel/Canal International) for a new TV station in Montreal that would be fully multicultural, providing shows in 15 languages aimed at 18 ethnic groups. The new signal would operate on channel 47, with 5.5 kW max DA (2,7 kW average)/196 meters, and it would share a common master control and a news staff with CJNT, though its sales staff would operate autonomously. Rogers says it will provide 10% of the value of the CJNT purchase to ici over five years to help launch the new station, and it tells the CRTC it will make its OMNI programming available to ici, “should ici decide to acquire it.”
That’s Border International Broadcasting’s WLYK (102.7 Cape Vincent), which transmits from U.S. soil but aims its programming and sales across the river at Kingston, Ontario. As of Friday night, “The Lake” has segued from oldies to AC as “102.7 Light Hits, the Lake.”
A former Watertown-market sister station of WLYK has also flipped, and more dramatically: as of Tuesday, WEFX (100.7 Henderson) has ditched classic rock (“100.7 the Fox”) in favor of country as “100.7 the Eagle.” It’s one of two country signals in Community Broadcasters’ portfolio; the other is “Wolf” WLFK (95.3 Gouverneur), up north of Watertown.
Ten Years Ago: September 10, 2007
*Some sad news from MASSACHUSETTS just as we go to press early this Monday morning: Paul Sullivan, the former WBZ (1030) evening talk host, lost his battle with brain cancer Sunday night.
Sullivan’s fight took a turn for the worse last week, when WBZ released a statement from his family saying that Sullivan was taken off medical treatment and was receiving hospice care at Saints Memorial Medical Center in Lowell.
“Paul is surrounded by his family and friends and would like everyone to know how important all the thoughts and prayers have been to him,” said the statement.
That was Thursday, and now comes the word that Sullivan died with his beloved family by his side on Sunday evening, just ten weeks after he said farewell to his listeners in an emotional final show from the WBZ studios June 28.
Sullivan, 50, was a true Bay State original, a newspaper guy who came late to the radio medium, adding WLLH (1400 Lowell) to his career at the Lowell Sun in the late eighties. Sullivan began filling in for the late David Brudnoy on WBZ in the late nineties, and took over the evening shift after Brudnoy’s death in 2004, replacing Brudnoy’s nightly academic seminars with an earthier (and distinctively Merrimack Valley-accented) approach to talk radio.
It wasn’t long afterward that Sullivan’s brain cancer was diagnosed, and once again the WBZ family is mourning a good friend and talented broadcaster, lost far too young.
We here at NERW send our sympathies to Sullivan’s family and his colleagues. We’ll update this week’s column with any information about memorial services and special WBZ programming as it becomes available. (As we write this early Monday morning, Dan Pierce is on the air filling in for Steve LeVeille, and he’s talking about other topics.)
*As the soap opera that is the rest of Boston talk radio rolls on, Entercom Boston has averted one crisis, even as it’s knee-deep in legal action over another.
First, the success: over the weekend, Entercom’s WEEI sports network came to terms with morning talkers John Dennis and Gerry Callahan, clearing the way for them to return to the air from a month-long lockout as early as this morning, and with a five-year contract that will keep them in place at WEEI for a while to come.
We’ll defer to David Scott’s Scott’s Shots column over at Boston Sports Media Watch for all the details on the negotiations, which he says went all the way up to Entercom CEO David Field and lasted well into the weekend. But we’ll also note that Dennis and Callahan ended up in a much weaker negotiating position when their “Plan B” – a possible Nassau-run sports network hubbed at WCRB – suddenly turned into a Nassau/Entercom joint venture to put WEEI content on many Nassau stations in New England. We’d also note that WEEI was struggling to find adequate replacements for its morning team, just at a point where the station is heading into a critical programming season, what with the Patriots season underway and the Red Sox deep in the last weeks of a tight race to the playoffs.
But even if Field (and local honchos Julie Kahn and Jason Wolfe) can now relax a bit about their lineup on WEEI, the picture remains cloudy just down the hall at WRKO (680 Boston), where there’s just over a week remaining until the end of Howie Carr’s contract and plenty of legal action afoot to figure out where the Herald columnist and syndicated afternoon talker will land.
The rumor mill on Carr’s attempt to jump to rival talker WTKK (96.9 Boston) went eerily quiet just before Labor Day, right after a couple of columns (carefully planted, perhaps, by WRKO’s master PR practitioner, George Regan?) noted that Carr stood to make as much as $7 million from WTKK. And since then…radio silence, as it were, except on Carr’s own show, where he’s not discussing the contract issue at all.
So will Carr show up on WTKK’s morning drive in a few weeks? Stay tuned…
*Elsewhere on the FM dial, WXKS-FM (107.9 Medford) said farewell to its longtime home at 99 Revere Beach Parkway. Boston Radio Watch reports that “Kiss 108” signed on from its new digs across the street at 10 Cabot Road, shared with sister station WJMN (94.5 Boston), on Monday, August 27. WXKS (1430 Everett) will move its studios over to the new facility soon as well – but not with PD and morning man Raffy Contigo, who’s moved on to Houston’s KLOL (101.1). Afternoon jock Jose Miguel Espinal takes the PD chair at “Mega 1200/1430,” reports BRW.
*We knew the newly-freed Buddy Cianci was returning to the RHODE ISLAND airwaves on Citadel’s WPRO (630 Providence) – but we didn’t know, until now, how many changes Cianci’s return would bring to the schedule, not only at WPRO but across town at Clear Channel’s WHJJ (920 Providence).
Clear Channel, which syndicates Rush Limbaugh through its Premiere Radio Networks division, is bringing the Rush show in-house in Providence, moving him from WPRO to the noon-3 slot on WHJJ, effective next Monday. It’s still not clear whether Limbaugh’s move to WHJJ means the end of the local Helen Glover show, which has been occupying that slot as WHJJ’s only local entry – but it is clear that some big shuffles are in the works on the WPRO lineup.
Mornings on WPRO will be the province of John DePetro, who’ll yield his mid-morning slot to Cianci and former morning man Ron St. Pierre. They’ll be on the air from 10 AM until 2 PM, followed by an expanded Dan Yorke show from 2-6.
Can the local Cianci/St. Pierre show outdraw the syndicated Rush in the famously self-absorbed Providence market? We’d take that bet…
*It was a busy couple of weeks in PENNSYLVANIA, and especially in Philadelphia, where a closely-watched experiment to see if modern rock could work with HD Radio on a flea-powered AM signal has ended in – well, c’mon, what did you really expect it to do in eight months?
Tom Kelly’s Marconi Radio will continue its “Skin Radio” format online, but the terrestrial signal of WHAT (1340 Philadelphia) flipped on Aug. 31 to “Martini Lounge Radio,” a standards format. (We hear the digital signal’s been turned off there, too.)
Fifteen Years Ago: September 10, 2002
In MASSACHUSETTS, Costa-Eagle made the swaps on its Merrimack Valley AMs last weekend. The English-language talk that had been on WCCM (800 Lawrence) moved to the former WHAV (1490 Haverhill), with WHAV changing calls to WCCM. (What happens to listeners in Lowell who tuned into WCCM for Spinners baseball and other programming? They can’t hear 1490 there — in fact, it doesn’t even serve Lawrence well — and it’s likely the Spinners will change stations next year.) WHAV’s “Radio Impacto” Spanish-language news-talk moves down the dial to daytimer WNNW (1110 Salem NH), which changes calls to WCEC (“Costa Eagle Communications”), while WNNW’s Spanish tropical format and call letters move to Lawrence and the AM 800 signal.
A big change in the Boston TV market, even if the station in question is across the line in New Hampshire: NBC is buying WPXB (Channel 60) in Merrimack, N.H. from Lowell Paxson for a reported $26 million. The station, which now carries ShopNBC, will switch to NBC-owned Telemundo eventually, joining WTMU-LP (Channel 32) in Boston with the network feed. (Paxson’s son Devon owns WWDP, channel 46 in Norwell, which had been carrying Telemundo until switching to home shopping earlier this year.)
A surprise station sale in CONNECTICUT, as John Fuller adds WKCD (107.7 Pawcatuck) to his WBMW (106.5 Ledyard) and WJJF (1180 Hope Valley RI) in the Groton-New London area; no word on how much Fuller is paying to buy the CHR station from AAA Entertainment.
Just across from Buffalo, there’s some noise being stirred up in CANADA over the new format at CKEY-FM (101.1 Fort Erie). “Wild 101,” programmed in Buffalo at Citadel, made its debut last Friday afternoon — and quickly drew complaints about its playing of unedited rap songs. The CRTC (and presumably the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council) are investigating; meantime, Wild is reaping a publicity bonanza in Buffalo.
We were in Niagara Falls last Friday morning to hear travelers information CFLZ (105.1) move its programming down the dial to CJRN (710), while CFLZ became the new home of the modern AC “River” format that had been on 101.1. As “105.1 the River,” CFLZ is running stereo for the first time, albeit with a signal that doesn’t really go south into Buffalo; the travelers information on 710 now reaches most of western New York and southern Ontario, meanwhile!
Twenty Years Ago: September 11, 1997
This week’s news begins in NEW YORK, where a small Hudson Valley radio station burned to the ground early Wednesday morning. The fire at WVIP (1310) in Mount Kisco began sometime before 1:30 in the morning, but was not reported immediately because nobody was at the daytime-only station. It took firefighters more than three hours to put out the flames, and by then WVIP’s famous round studio building was a total loss. WVIP’s 82 year old founder, Martin Stone, was taken to a local hospital for observation for high blood pressure after watching the station burn down.
Amazingly, WVIP was back on the air later Wednesday morning, operating from makeshift studios in the nearby transmitter building. It’s a tribute to the local broadcasting community that engineers and managers from other local stations have been pitching in almost nonstop since the fire to help get WVIP back on the its feet with a temporary studio and automation system. We’ll keep you posted over the next few weeks as WVIP recovers. Next month marks the 40th anniversary of this pioneering suburban station.
Up to NEW HAMPSHIRE, where Manchester listeners have a new station to add to their dials. WLMW (90.7) made its debut this week after years as a construction permit. The station is calling itself “Manchester’s new family radio station,” and it’s programming Donald Wildmon’s Mississippi-based American Family Radio network. Even though it’s just 15 watts, WLMW broadcasts from high up on Mt. Uncanoonuc in Goffstown, the same site as Manchester’s other FMs, and it’s been heard almost as far south as Nashua.
There’s yet another new format at little WVAY (100.7) in Wilmington, VERMONT. Another proposed sale of the station has fallen through, and so WVAY has dropped its simulcast of WSSH (101.5 Marlboro) and is back to doing its own programming, with jocks Debra Lee, Todd Phillips, and Joel Garofalo back behind the mike as of last Wednesday. WVAY is also reportedly back on its old 99.7 translator in Marlboro, W259AB. This was one of the translators that allegedly was under the control of Brian Dodge.
And just hours after we wrote that Philadelphia’s WFLN (95.7) was still classical, Greater Media proved us wrong. Last Friday at 6 pm, 48 years of classics came to a close, replaced by Sheryl Crow and the modern AC sounds of WXXM, “the Max.” The end of classical on WFLN was probably inevitable; the station had changed hands several times in the last year, each time for a bit more money, increasing the debt load on each successive owner. NERW is very sorry to see WFLN go; your editors visited the station back in 1994, and found the people who worked there to be among the friendliest and most professional radio folks anywhere. WFLN was a cultural institution in Philadelphia, and while Temple University’s WRTI (90.1) and its relays are stepping to the plate by adding classical music, that will in turn dilute WRTI’s legacy as the jazz station in Philadelphia.