In this week’s issue… Entercom lands with a bang – Will “Alt” spread beyond NYC? – iHeart settles in at WBZ – EMF makes surprise buy- WFAN’s new lineup
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*You know the old chestnut when a new company takes over at a broadcast cluster – “We’re not planning to make any changes at this time?” That wasn’t a promise Entercom made when it assumed control Friday at most of what had been CBS Radio, and the signs of change in (or on) the air came as early as 10 AM in NEW YORK. That’s when Entercom abruptly pulled the plug on “AMP Radio” at WBMP (92.3), replacing top-40 with exactly the alt-rock format our content partner RadioInsight.com had anticipated the company would be pushing hard as soon as it took over.
The new “Alt 92.3” is part of a trio of major Day 1 changes Entercom made at former CBS markets: “Alt” also replaced AMP at KVIL (103.7) in Dallas-Fort Worth, while classic hip-hop “Jams” was a surprise replacement for classic hits at WJMK (104.3) in Chicago. In New York, “Alt” launched without much infrastructure behind it – it’s running jockless and commercial-free for the now-standard “10,000 songs,” with no programmer yet named for the format.
The launch also came without a full-fledged website, and even its social media debut was bungled slightly when Entercom head honcho David Field accidentally tweeted out the handle of a different “Alt 92.3,” Cumulus’ New Orleans entry. (And iHeart, meanwhile, staked out its own claim to “Alt” by launching its “Alt Project” modern rock feed earlier in the week on an HD subchannel of its WAXQ 104.3.)
We’ll have more thoughts about the AMP-to-Alt transition for subscribers later in the column, but first a quick rundown of the other Day 1 changes at the former CBS Radio markets in NERW-land:
-In New York, Entercom’s arrival meant the departure of longtime CBS market manager Marc Rayfield. He’d been commuting to Hudson Square for the last two years from his home base in Philadelphia, where he’d spent nearly three decades with the eventual CBS Radio cluster. For a company that had most of its personnel moves well choreographed before the takeover, there was no immediate replacement named; instead, veteran manager John Fullam will be the interim market manager in New York while he also takes over the Denver cluster. (Fullam had been with Greater Media in Philadelphia before last year’s Beasley buyout, and had of course been at the helm at iHeart in New York for many years before that.)
-In Philadelphia, Entercom’s arrival as a broadcaster in its own corporate home town brought few immediate changes. Oddly, the end of KYW (1060)’s CBS Radio ownership actually brought more of CBS to its airwaves: the top-hour network news that’s long aired on sister station WPHT (1210) is now also airing as part of the first block of local newscasts on KYW – a sign, perhaps, that Entercom intends to not only retain but strengthen its news stations’ affiliations with CBS Radio News, which remains part of CBS itself?
-In Boston, Entercom made few immediate changes at the new group of stations it inherited – sports WEEI/WEEI-FM and active rock WAAF from the old Entercom cluster, top-40 “AMP” WODS and hot AC “Mix” WBMX from CBS and AC “Magic” WMJX from Beasley. While former CBS employees get used to their new Entercom email addresses, they’re still staying put (at least for now) at their existing studios on Leo Birmingham Parkway. WMJX made a slightly early flip to all-Christmas on Friday, though that would likely have happened under Beasley, too. And WODS brought back the “Oldies” branding on its HD2 channel, for whatever that’s worth. (More on the other changes in Boston in a moment…)
-The most visible changes in Hartford were also on HD subchannels: since Entercom didn’t get “Sports Hub” WBZ-FM (98.5) in Boston from CBS, the Sports Hub simulcast on an HD subchannel of Hartford’s WRCH (100.5) under CBS became a WEEI simulcast under Entercom.
-In Pittsburgh, the transition went largely without fanfare, which is a little sad for one important reason: for all the public mourning about the end of a 90 year legacy for “CBS Radio,” Friday was the first day in 97 years and two weeks in which KDKA (1020) was under anything other than its original ownership. Yes, the “CBS Corporation” that sold its radio portfolio to Entercom was really Westinghouse in disguise – back in 1995, it was Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse that acquired CBS, though it took the CBS corporate name…which means it was really Group W’s radio era that came to an end Friday. Will any commercial broadcaster in the United States get to 100 years under the same ownership? (And yes, we’re already getting ready for a solid year of “KDKA wasn’t actually the first radio station” when its centennial comes around in 2020…)
What’s next for the new Entercom and its “Alt” brand? And what of the Boston stations being spun off to new owners? Keep reading…
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In addition to our cover photo of WELI in Radio Towers Park in Hamden, Connecticut, we have a page that features Rhode Island Public Radio affiliate WNPN.
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*Is there more “Alt” yet to come from Entercom, as the company bets on one of the few formats that’s consistently drawing the younger listeners who are becoming ever more elusive for broadcast radio? In New York, the void was obvious – the last stab at modern rock there was the ill-fated WRXP (101.9), which disappeared as soon as CBS bought the signal in 2012 to make it WFAN’s FM sister.
In many of Entercom’s other markets, new and old, the openings are narrower. In Philadelphia, iHeart already owns the niche with its WRFF (Radio 104.5), and there’s no obvious flip candidate in the CBS-turned-Entercom cluster anyway (even “Today’s 96.5,” WTDY, which has been struggling with its AC format since flipping last year.) In Hartford, there’s Full Power Radio’s WMRQ (104.1).
And then there’s Boston, where speculation started to swirl as soon as the New York flip went down. While Boston’s AMP has struggled against iHeart’s venerable “Kiss 108” WXKS-FM and its rhythmic competitors, iHeart’s “JAM’N” (WJMN) and Beasley’s “Hot” (WBQT), there’s a bigger question mark in the new Entercom cluster, where there’s now massive audience overlap between WBMX and WMJX. Having secured WMJX as a gold-plated prize from Beasley (which got the Sports Hub in return), would Entercom flip Mix to alternative rock, competing with Beasley’s “Alt 92.9” WBOS, perhaps after waiting out the next month of AC on Mix and holiday tunes on Magic? (And if so…is there a deal in the works to return the heritage WBCN calls to Boston after their exile to AM in Charlotte, where Beasley now controls the callsign?)
We know nothing yet about Beasley’s plans for Sports Hub, which is still on the ground floor at the old CBS Radio Leo Birmingham studios for now, though it’s expected to move to Beasley’s Dorchester headquarters in the next few months. Programmer Mike Thomas stays with 98.5 as it makes the move to Beasley.
And at iHeart, it’s a combination of “hurry up” and “wait” as it begins to take possession of the new signals that will fill out its cluster in Boston. The “hurry up” came mostly at WBZ (1030), which changed owners for the first time in 96 years and two months. It won’t move out of the WBZ-TV building for a few months yet, which means the now-iHeart radio employees will still walk into the newsroom every day under a giant CBS eye. Behind the scenes, though, the station moved to an iHeart website and streaming almost immediately, with a change to NexGen automation behind the scenes on Friday night as well. At least in the short term, WBZ radio will continue to use news sound (but not reporter voices) from WBZ-TV, and the CBS Radio News affiliation stays in place as well for the moment, complete with the “CBS Evening News” and “60 Minutes” simulcasts.
Some of the other pieces of the new iHeart Boston will take longer to come together. Until iHeart finishes putting talker WKOX (1430 Everett) into trust, which could be early in 2018, it can’t take over operation of Entercom’s competing talker WRKO (680), which ends up in the limbo of a divestiture trust in the meantime. As for iHeart’s new FMs, we know so far that at least one WZLX (100.7) part-timer won’t make the transition from CBS – that’s veteran jock Cha Chi Loprete, who’s now off the WZLX schedule.
*One bit of (mostly) unrelated Bay State news: long before Entercom owned WAAF and what’s now WVEI (1440 Worcester), those stations belonged to Bernard Waterman. The World War II veteran bought what was then WAAB(AM) in 1956 and put its FM sister on the air in 1961 as WAAB-FM, then sold the stations in 1968 so that State Mutual Life, in which he owned significant shares, could put WSMW-TV 27 on the air. Waterman Broadcasting also owned radio in San Antonio (KTSA) and still owns NBC affiliate WBBH-TV (Channel 20) and controls ABC affiliate WZVN down in Fort Myers, Florida. Waterman was still actively involved in running those stations when he died Nov. 12 at age 96 on Sanibel Island, Florida.
*Which brings us back to New York and the other big change at the former CBS cluster that predated Entercom’s arrival. We’ve known for months that the lineup at WFAN (660/101.9) would be shifting this time of year, and now we know all the details:
The biggest hole that awaited Entercom at WFAN was in afternoons, where station icon Mike Francesa had announced his plans earlier in the year to step down come December. Interim hosts will fill his chair after his last show (and all the inevitable publicity) on December 15 – and come January 2, Chris Carlin, Bart Scott and Maggie Gray will take the revamped 2-6:30 PM shift. “The Afternoon Drive with Carlin, Scott and Maggie” will bring together former WFAN producer Carlin (more recently at Philadelphia sister station WIP), NFL veteran Scott (who’d been across town at WEPN-FM) and Sports Illustrated host Gray, who’ll become one of the few regular female voices on WFAN.
In mornings, where the arrest of former co-host Craig Carton had come as an unwelcome surprise a few months back, Boomer Esiason will now be paired with Greg Giannotti, who moves one studio over from CBS Sports Radio’s network morning show.
The new schedule also gives midday hosts Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts an extra hour; they’ll now go from 10 AM until 2 PM instead of signing off at 1 as they now do for Francesa.
(Our content partner Lance Venta had lots of thoughts about that new lineup; you can hear him analyzing the lineup – a day before it was officially announced! – on last week’s Top of the Tower podcast.)
*EMF Broadcasting is still in acquisition mode, and last week it made a surprise purchase at the northern end of the Albany market, paying Empire Broadcasting $550,000 for WJKE (101.3 Stillwater). The sale of the station will mean the end to Empire’s latest revival of the AC “Jockey” format on the station, which primarily targets Saratoga County. It will leave Empire with three AMs yet to sell – WAIX (1160 Mechanicville), WABY (900 Watervliet) and WPTR (1240 Schenectady), plus WAIX’s potent 106.1 translator. For EMF, flipping WJKE to K-Love will give that format more Albany-market coverage, supplementing its southern signal, WYKV (94.5 Ravena); EMF also has Air 1 on WOOB (93.7 Scotia) at the western end of the market.
Radio People on the Move: middayer Luke Gelheiser is the new music director at WEQX (102.7 Manchester VT), replacing the departed Kim Neaton.
*In Syracuse, veteran morning man “Big Mike” Fiss will do his last show on WZUN (102.1 Phoenix) Wednesday, closing the chapter on a 40-year career in radio. Fiss was an institution on WYYY (94.5) going back to its days as WSYR-FM in 1979. He left that station, by then in Clear Channel’s hands, in 2001 and went across town to Galaxy’s “Sunny 102.” Fiss, 67, says he’s looking forward to doing more volunteering and sleeping in a bit. Over in Utica, Galaxy has hired Gary “Big Poppa” Spears, who’s moving from Roser’s “Kiss” (WSKS/WSKU) to afternoons on WUMX (Mix 102.5).
In Binghamton, the Bundy Museum’s WBDY-LP (99.5) beat its construction permit deadline and signed on Sunday; we’ll be eager to hear what the museum (which includes the local broadcasting hall of fame) does with its new radio voice.
*To the north, it’s yet another sad chapter in the demise of a 90-year-old radio tradition in Saranac Lake: the Adirondack Daily Enterprise reports a tax auction will take place Nov. 29 for the two properties that used to hold the studio and tower of WNBZ (1240). Station owner Ted Morgan has reportedly disappeared and is said to be in the Caribbean; while WNBZ-FM (106.3 Saranac) is still on the air with automated programming, WNBZ(AM) and its three other sister stations have all been silent for many months now. Morgan bought back the “Radio Park” properties after they went up for one tax auction in 2014, but the Enterprise reports the deadline for a buyback of the two parcels on Santanoni Avenue has now passed and they’ll go to a new owner after the auction.
*Back downstate, the FCC gave Jeff Warshaw’s Connoisseur group an unexpected gift at its meeting last week. In addition to its expected approval of new ownership rules that allow daily newspapers and TV stations to be co-owned with radio, the FCC also approved a rule change that will no longer count “embedded markets” against the radio ownership cap for the larger markets in which they’re embedded.
What does that mean for Warshaw in particular? It means his stations in the Stamford-Norwalk, CONNECTICUT and Nassau-Suffolk, NY Nielsen radio markets (both embedded in the larger New York City market) will no longer count against the ownership caps in NEW JERSEY, where Connoisseur has been eager to buy. Could Beasley’s ex-Greater Media stations in Morristown and New Brunswick be headed to Connoisseur now that the rule is changing?
*Speaking of Long Island, Vic “Latino” Canales is giving up his share of JVC Media’s station cluster (WJVC 96.1, WBON 98.5, WRCN 103.9, WPTY 105.3). The co-founder of the cluster will trade his share of JVC to co-owner John Carraciolo in exchange for three of JVC’s south Florida signals, WSVU (960 North Palm Beach) and its two translators, valued at $450,000.
*Word Radio Educational Foundation is trying again to rearrange its station lineup in NEW HAMPSHIRE and MAINE: instead of upgrading WMEK (88.3 Kennebunkport) from class A to B1, a move that was hindered by co-owned WSEW (88.7 Sanford), it’s now applying to move WMEK from 88.3 to 88.7, downgrading it from 300 watts to 100 watts and abandoning a CP that would have moved it to 88.1. Instead, WSEW in Sanford would get a big upgrade, moving to 88.1 with 50 kW/66m from a site near Northwood that would give it coverage from Manchester, NH eastward into southern Maine.
Speaking of Manchester, school board member Rich Girard is ending his “Girard at Large” morning show after six years on the air. Girard started the show as a leased-time offering on WGAM (1250) in 2011 and has more recently been doing the 6-9 AM show on religious noncomm WLMW (90.7).
*In PENNSYLVANIA, the fallout from the new WFAN lineup in New York affects sister station WIP (94.1) in Philadelphia, too: Chris Carlin’s move to WFAN creates an afternoon gap at WIP, where Jon Marks will move from evenings to work alongside Ike Reese. Joe Giglio takes over the 6-10 PM slot from Marks, effective immediately.
*While many experts had all but written off Beasley’s commitment to sports radio, it just made a big move to strengthen its Philadelphia sports stations, WPEN (97.5) and WTEL (610), hiring Eric Johnson as its new director of sports content. Johnson, of course, has been the longtime PD of the legendary NEW JERSEY 101.5 (WKXW-FM Trenton), where Townsquare has yet to name a replacement. Johnson had been with the station for 19 years, and his last day in Trenton will be December 2.
More moves at Beasley: Rich DeSisto, who’s been APD/afternoons on WBEN-FM (95.7) and a weekender at WMGK (102.9), is the new PD just down I-95 at WJBR (99.5 Wilmington DE), though he’ll continue to do some work in Philadelphia as well.
*At the western edge of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market, EMF took over WGGI (95.9 Benton) from Entercom on Thursday. The former simulcast of country “Froggy” (WGGY 101.3 Scranton) has requested new calls WKBP.
*In Pittsburgh, we note, sadly, the death of KQV (1410) co-owner and business manager Cheryl Scott. She was a daughter of Robert Dickey, Sr., who managed the news-talk station for years under previous owners Taft and Richard Mellon Scaife. Scott, who died Nov. 10, was 65.
And there’s a new signal on the air at the edge of the Erie market, where Connoisseur has filed for a license to cover for WJRK (95.9 Mina NY). The new class A signal comes from the tower just over the New York line that was long home to WRKT (100.9 North East), the signal Connoisseur just moved to 104.9 closer to Erie. (We’ll get our first listen to WJRK when we pass through the area tomorrow; right now, we don’t know what Connoisseur is programming on 95.9, if anything.)
*Is Bell cutting again in CANADA? The St. Catharines Standard reports at least five jobs were cut last week at the Bell stations there, a move it says is part of nationwide job cuts. In St. Catharines, those cuts included veteran CHTZ (97.7) personality and music director Paulie Morris, who started there back in 1986.
Rick Gibbons is the new 1-3 PM talk host on “News 1310” CIWW in Ottawa. The former Ottawa Sun publisher had been a host on competing talker CFRA (580) a few years back.
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: November 21, 2016
*Just a few short years ago, Alexander Broadcasting made a good case to its federal lawmakers and, through them, to the FCC: because Rockland County, northwest of New York City, is underserved by local radio, its little WRCR (1300 Spring Valley) should be allowed to go to 1700 on the dial with a fulltime 10 kW/1 kW signal that could provide emergency information in case of an incident at the nuclear plant just across the Hudson River.
The FCC duly opened a special auction for the 1700 facility, which Alexander won with a $409,000 bid, and in July 2015 WRCR shut down its old 1300 signal and went on the air at the top-top-top-top-TOP of the dial with a new home for its mix of local talkers, syndicated talk, AC music and Rockland Boulders baseball.
That format turned out to have a lifespan of just over a year – last Monday morning, WRCR’s morning show carried an announcement that the station’s AM signal was switching to Radio India programming under a one-year LMA. The New Jersey-based Radio India apparently provided some of the funding last year for Alexander to build out the 1700 facility, and that means the local programming from WRCR’s studios at the Boulders’ ballpark has gone online-only.
Steve Possell and Jordan Baker are still being heard on the WRCR stream for now with their “Steve and Jordan Morning Show,” along with several other local shows, and station owner Alex Medakovich says he can still put emergency information on the AM signal if needed.
But for the people of Rockland County, it’s effectively the disappearance of a local radio voice yet again. Radio India’s programming is directed southward toward the larger Indian-American communities in north Jersey and Queens, to the extent they can even hear the AM 1700 signal. WRCR’s listenership leaned older, so it’s likely many of them will struggle with a streaming-only service for what remains of the local programming. And if there is ever an emergency over at the nuclear plant? It’s hard to imagine Rocklanders rushing to 1700 AM to find information, especially since there was never actually a newsroom at WRCR.
*VERMONT has lost a broadcasting institution. Don Mullally was part of WSTJ (1340 St. Johnsbury) for longer than the station was even known as WSTJ – he joined in 1952, when then-WTWN was just three years old. He’d been the station’s morning man for most of that time, returning to the air even after suffering a stroke in his 70s. Mullally was also longtime director and PA voice at the Caledonia County Fair
He’d left the airwaves at WSTJ just a few weeks ago as his health declined; he was 87 when he died on Friday.
“Don was the person we all looked up to in our broadcast world,” said station owner Bruce James. “He was the one we patterned our announcing roles after. He was the epitome of local radio and was blessed with a golden, rich, baritone voice that we will all remember.”
*After 25 years hosting “World Cafe,” David Dye is stepping back from his role at the University of PENNSYLVANIA‘s WXPN (88.5 Philadelphia) at the end of March 2017. Dye will stay with WXPN and “World Cafe” as a part-timer, contributing interviews and other content to the nationally-syndicated show. He’ll also keep hosting WXPN’s “Funky Friday,” as well as launching a new local weekend show.
Five Years Ago: November 19, 2012
*You”ve probably never heard of a guy named “Martin Krimski.” But under his broadcasting alter ego, “Jefferson Kaye,” he was one of the most prominent voices in top 40 radio in the 1960s and 1970s in Boston and Buffalo, then an important part of the full-service landscape in Buffalo, and eventually one of the nation”s top voice-over talents from his base in New Jersey.
On Friday, he died in Binghamton, where he had been living in recent years to be closer to his family as he battled cancer.
After serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, Kaye began his radio career in Providence in the late 1950s, where Krimski became “Jeff Krimm,” then “JK the DJ” on WHIM (1110) and WRIB (1220). By 1961, his rich pipes had caught the attention of Boston”s WBZ (1030), which brought him on board as part of the Westinghouse station”s transition from the middle-of-the-road “Live Five” to a more aggressive top-40 format. Kaye quickly made a mark for himself on WBZ, moving up from overnights to weekday afternoons. And he distinguished himself as well as the host of Sunday night”s “Hootenanny,” the show that brought folk music to a large and passionate audience around New England and helped to make performers like Joan Baez into household names.
In 1966, Kaye moved from Boston to Buffalo”s WKBW (1520), where he”d achieve his greatest radio fame. Starting out as the night jock riding KB”s big 50 kilowatt directional signal all across the northeast, Kaye soon moved into the program director chair, where he played a huge role in shaping the tight sound of “one of America”s two great radio stations” during its heyday. Kaye was the driving force behind WKBW”s celebrated “War of the Worlds” recreation in 1968, as well as a second version in 1971.
Kaye could be gruff – broadcaster Bob Savage still treasures Kaye”s 1969 memo announcing his hiring as a weekend jock at KB and warning fellow staffers, “If you see him in the halls, don”t bother speaking to him or developing any close ties….he may not last.” But he was meticulous about every element of the station”s on-air sound, and he kept WKBW at or near the top of the ratings throughout his tenure.
In May 1974, Kaye moved to WBEN (930) to become the afternoon host and then only the third morning man in that station”s history, replacing the legendary Clint Buehlman after his four-decade run. It was through Kaye”s work on Buffalo Bills broadcasts on WBEN that he came to the attention of NFL Films, where he eventually succeeded yet another legendary broadcast talent, “Voice of God” John Facenda. Kaye moved from Buffalo to New Jersey, building a voiceover career that also included several decades as the on-air voice of Philadelphia”s WPVI-TV (Channel 6).
*The week”s other big story comes from northwestern PENNSYLVANIA, where something rare happened last week: the launch of a brand-new signal in a sizable market as a competitive stand-alone commercial station.
It”s happening, of course, in Erie, where Rick Rambaldo made a name for himself in the late 1980s when he bought a sleepy rimshot FM station and built it into “Rocket 101,” WRKT (100.9 North East), then grew that single station into one of the biggest clusters in the market before selling to what”s now Connoisseur Media.
As of Friday at noon, Rambaldo and his partner, auto dealer Dave Hallman, Jr., are actively competing against Connoisseur and Townsquare with their new Erie Radio Company LLC. That”s the new name for what started out as “First Channel Communications,” which paid just over $1.3 million at an FCC auction last year for a new class A signal on 92.7 licensed to Lawrence Park, just east of Erie.
If you”ve been following those spectrum auctions, you know that most of the signals being auctioned are pretty iffy, squeezed into the last remaining open corners of the dial in remote areas. This one”s a bit of an exception, made possible by changes in the FM protection rules between the U.S. and Canada that once protected the signal of London, Ontario”s CJBX (92.7) on Lake Erie”s south shore. CJBX no longer receives protection from interference within the U.S., but it still puts a potent signal into much of the area around Erie, and that means the new Lawrence Park 92.7 will itself likely suffer interference outside the immediate Erie area, especially in the hills to the south and especially in the summertime.
Still, a new signal is a new signal, and Erie Radio is making the most of it. Over the last few weeks, Rambaldo”s been building a brand-new transmitter site atop a luxury apartment building on the lakefront just west of downtown, and from all indications he”s doing it right. There”s a new 73-foot tower in place atop the South Shore Towers, with an ERI directional antenna and a Nautel HD transmitter…and not only is there an Omnia processor, but Omnia head honcho Frank Foti himself appears to have made the drive over from Cleveland to be there in person for the station”s launch.
So what”s Erie Radio doing with its new signal? We already knew the new calls – WEHP – and now we know those calls stand for “Happi,” Rambaldo”s tag for a new top-40 format that puts the new 92.7 in direct competition with his old NextMedia/Connoisseur station, WRTS (Star 103.7) and with Townsquare”s “i104.3,” a more recent entry heard on WXKC (99.9)”s HD2 and a centrally-located translator. But while i104.3 is totally automated and Star has been depending on out-of-market talent such as Ryan Seacrest, “Happi” will be going local once its studio is ready in a few weeks.
Here”s what we know so far about the airstaff: former WRTS morning host Shari McBride will be Happi”s operations manager and morning co-host, alongside newcomer “Beeber,” who”s inbound from North Carolina. “Girl” will do middays, “Brody” will be the afternoon host, and evenings will give local YouTube star Katie Santry her first radio gig. (She”s already been doing videos for the station, including one showing the tower being hoisted to the rooftop by crane.)
There”s no website or streaming audio feed just yet; those will presumably be coming along with Happi”s new downtown studio, which will be at 1229 State Street, just four blocks south of the storefront studios Rambaldo built for NextMedia in the old Boston Store.
Ten Years Ago: November 19, 2007
*One of the best-loved voices in PENNSYLVANIA radio history has been silenced.Hy Lit died Saturday, almost two weeks after undergoing what was supposed to have been routine knee surgery for an injury he suffered when he fell Nov. 4, followed by what his son Sam tells the Philadelphia Inquirer was a series of “bizarre complications.”
Lit was one of Philadelphia”s first rock-and-roll DJs, starting his career at age 20 in 1955 at WHAT (1340), where he quickly made a name for himself before moving first to NBC-owned WRCV (1060) and then, by late 1957, to top-40 giant WIBG (990), where his achievements included introducing the city to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles – and an amazing 73 rating for his evening show, likely an all-time ratings record for any DJ. Lit quickly became a TV star as well, hosting a dance show on WKBS-TV (Channel 48) that was syndicated to other Kaiser TV stations around the country.
In 1968, Lit made a brief shift to the world of “underground” FM radio, helping to launch a rock format on WDAS-FM (105.3) before returning to WIBG in 1969. Later in the seventies, Lit would work at WIFI (92.5), then at WPGR (1540) and WSNI (104.5) in the eighties.
The next phase of Lit”s long career in Philly radio began in 1989, when he joined CBS” WOGL-FM (98.1) and became the first voice heard on WOGL (1210) the next year. Lit remained with WOGL-FM until 2005, when he retired from the station as part of a settlement of an age-discrimination lawsuit against CBS.
Even after a half-century on the air, though, Lit remained active in the business, launching a streaming radio station at HyLitRadio.com that”s still active under Sam Lit”s leadership.
Lit was an early inductee into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia”s Hall of Fame, among many honors. He was 73.
Fifteen Years Ago: November 20, 2002
The sale of the CBS affiliate in Erie, PENNSYLVANIA has some citizens worried that their city will soon be served by only two TV news operations — and it appears their concerns aren”t far off the mark. WSEE-TV (Channel 35) recently changed hands, becoming the first property of Initial Broadcasting of Pennsylvania, a company controlled by Kevin Lilly, whose father, George, controls SJL Communications, which owns Erie”s NBC affiliate, WICU (Channel 12). And later this week, Initial will lay off 18 of WSEE”s 66 staffers, including weekend sports guy Red Hughes and weekend weathercaster Tina Zboch. (Weekend news anchor Kara Calabrese is leaving of her own volition.) Also leaving is 28-year WSEE veteran Carol Pella, who tells the Erie Times-News that she was offered a management position but turned it down.
WSEE wants to enter into a joint operating agreement with WICU, which will handle some of the station”s back-office and master-control duties. Under the JOA, the stations” news operations would remain separate, with about 25 to 30 employees remaining at WSEE to handle those duties. WSEE is also applying to replace its current STL tower at its Peach Street studios with a taller tower which would also carry microwave links to the WICU studio building.
Twenty Years Ago: November 21, 1997
The last daytime-only music station in the Boston market could soon be operating 24 hours a day. WILD (1090) is expected to make an announcement next Tuesday that it”s reached a deal with noncomm WUMB (91.9) at UMass/Boston to share programming. The nature of the deal remains a closely guarded secret, but it”s rumored to involve the possible purchase of full-time signal WNFT (1150) from CBS, which must shed several of the stations it”s buying from American Radio Systems (a group that includes WNFT).
NERW speculates a deal like this: The UMass system gets WNFT as a tax-exempt donation from CBS/ARS. UMass allows WILD to program WNFT with WILD”s urban format, in exchange for a portion of the advertising revenues from 1150. WILD owner Nash Communications then either leases out time on the 1090 daytimer, or sells it for stick value. UMass gets a new revenue source for WUMB, in addition to the public relations value of getting WILD its long-desired night signal. WILD is also making noises about taking its programming to FM; something the locally-owned urban station has long wanted to do, but been unable to afford. (2007 note: The rumored deal never happened, and WILD remains a daytimer on 1090.)
In other news around MASSACHUSETTS: Oldies listeners in Boston won”t have “Austin of Boston” to wake up with any more. The veteran WODS (103.3) jock has reportedly rejected a move to the night shift, and will leave the CBS-owned station when his contract is up.