In this week’s issue… Can WBAI survive January? – NBC’s New Year surprise – Buffalo loses Irv – WAMC buys its tower – WCAX goes unmanned – Remembering Lou Adler, Fran Schneidau
By SCOTT FYBUSH
(A few quick programming notes as we head into 2018: first, Lisa is once again back in the hospital out of town – so if you’ve placed an order from the Fybush.com store or need help with a subscription, please be patient; it could be a few days before she can get back to you with assistance. Whether or not you’re a subscriber, this week’s column is free for all to read in its entirety. If you enjoy our comprehensive coverage and want to read it all year long, please consider subscribing! And if you were away from the site over the holidays and you missed our huge Year in Review 2017 package, follow the link below to get caught up on what you missed. On with 2018…)
*As we were preparing our big Year in Review 2017 special in the last year’s waning days, we considered making the travails of NEW YORK‘s WBAI (99.5) one of our top ten stories.
Turns out it’s a good thing we waited, because as turbulent as WBAI’s 2017 was, 2018 promises to be even more challenging for the Pacifica station, and we’ll be surprised indeed if it doesn’t end up high on our list of big stories in the new year.
Our story so far: after years of management turmoil, WBAI ended 2017 in the worst shape it’s been in during 57 years of Pacifica’s ownership. It had lost its lower Manhattan studio space several years earlier, finally landing in Brooklyn after operating from borrowed studios. Its programming had become even more fractured than usual, its fundraising anemic, and its payments to Pacifica’s national office had fallen behind schedule.
That’s no worse than anything WBAI had weathered time and again, but the difference this time was 1400 feet above midtown Manhattan, where the rent was also becoming increasingly overdue in the one place it absolutely, positively had to be paid on time. For while WBAI could survive from makeshift studios with iffy programming, it couldn’t survive if it lacked a transmitter site – and the Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT) was getting increasingly impatient as WBAI’s backlog for its transmitter rent crept past the million-dollar mark.
WBAI’s managers looked for local political support, holding a rally on the steps of City Hall, but didn’t find much. Not that it would have mattered once the issue hit the courts, where WBAI’s claim that the rent should be free for noncommercial stations found no sympathy. Instead, a judge sided with ESRT and very much against Pacifica, awarding ESRT a summary judgment for $1.8 million in back rent and counting…plus lawyers’ fees.
WBAI’s bad winter just got colder from there: while ESRT let it keep operating from Empire while the bill kept running up (at last account, it had reportedly grown past $2.4 million), the aging 99.5 transmitter gave up the ghost in mid-December, leaving WBAI off the air for a few days before Christmas and then again just before New Year’s.
And out there in the wider dysfunctional world of Pacifica, the obvious solution – a swap of WBAI’s valuable commercial license for a lesser signal and desperately-needed cash, allowing WBAI to survive and rebuild – remained politically unattainable.
*Which is where we pick things up entering 2018 and the prospect of a whole new world of hurt for WBAI locally and Pacifica nationally. With the wolf at the door (ESRT has reportedly filed its default judgment in every location where Pacifica operates, including its headquarters in California), it would seem that Pacifica’s national board is finally at the point where it can’t avoid taking some sort of action.
This, however, is Pacifica – and so what would be obvious anywhere else is rather more complex. Pacifica’s national board met on Dec. 28 to consider a plea from its interim executive director to take the big step of filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The idea was sound: bankruptcy would give the board some time to plot out an orderly swap of the WBAI signal (still likely worth anywhere from $35 to $50 million on the open market, we’d guess), pay off whatever debts couldn’t be discharged by bankruptcy, and stabilize the remainder of Pacifica that would remain.
But did we mention this is Pacifica? The board went into executive session and emerged without having taken any action. (Why? One suspects the representatives of each Pacifica station’s local boards didn’t want a bankruptcy trustee dissolving those boards, which have long exercised more power than the national board.)
And so Pacifica and WBAI stumble into 2018. In the absence of bankruptcy or an agreement on a New York signal swap (would it have been to Cumulus, for the Bronx-based signal of WNBM 103.9 – or to EMF, for the Westchester-based signal of WKLV 96.7?), the next plan appears to involve hitting the subprime lending markets, taking out a loan on the real estate of Pacifica’s Los Angeles station, KPFK, raising quick cash to pay off the ESRT judgment. After that, the logic seems to run, Pacifica could then move forward on a New York swap, pay back the loan (at 9.75% interest!) and somehow stabilize itself.
If that doesn’t all come to pass, what’s next? We predicted the endgame in this space a few months ago: with the power of the courts behind it, at some point ESRT will pull the trigger and begin moving to seize Pacifica assets. That could be the real estate in LA or Berkeley, or it could eventually be the 99.5 license. And if that ends up in a bankruptcy auction sometime in 2018, with Entercom, Cumulus, Emmis and perhaps even Univision all potential bidders… at that point, we’d probably have our top story of the year.
STILL HAVEN’T BOUGHT THE CALENDAR?
NOW IS YOUR CHANCE!
We’re one third into the year, so it’s time to put the Tower Site Calendar on sale.
Though the months are over the pictures remain, and they remain beautiful. Especially at half price.
This is the 20th year we have been publishing our calendar. In addition to the cover shot of WEJL, we have photos from New Jersey, Nebraska, Texas, and much more!
You can get the regular calendar, or you can order a storage bag for it if you keep them, or you can get it signed by Scott (and get a complimentary bag).
And when you’re purchasing your calendar, don’t forget to take a look at the other great products in our store.
*What’s the polar opposite of WBAI’s chaos? We head 160 or so miles north to the top of Mount Greylock State Reservation in western MASSACHUSETTS, where Albany-based public broadcaster WAMC-FM (90.3) faced the possibility of losing its transmitter site through no fault of its own.
(photo: Mike Fitzpatrick/NECRAT.us)
For more than half a century, WAMC has shared space at the top of Greylock with WCDC-TV (Channel 19), but the end of 2017 brought the end of WCDC, which sold off its spectrum in the repack auction. WCDC’s owner, Nexstar, didn’t want to keep the Greylock tower, and so it went up for sale. And after “months of negotiations,” WAMC CEO Alan Chartock announced on Dec. 22 that he’d reached an agreement to pay $1 million to buy the tower from Nexstar.
No panic here: Chartock said WAMC was able to make the payment out of its operating funds, followed by a fundraising appeal to listeners. WAMC routinely makes $1 million or more each time it holds a fund drive; Chartock says its February drive will be “supersized” to help pay for the tower purchase, and there’s every reason to think WAMC’s listeners will come through once again.
*At the other end of the Bay State, “NBC Boston” marked its first anniversary by ceasing to be “NBC Boston.” Comcast surprised the market Sunday night by rebranding its Boston affiliate as “NBC 10,” which matches its position on cable (well, on Comcast, anyway) and satellite but will only add to confusion south of Boston with Providence’s WJAR (Channel 10), which has had that same identity for many decades now.
For over-the-air viewers, of course, “NBC 10 Boston” shows up in a few different slots, none of them “channel 10” – it’s 60.2 from the WNEU/Telemundo transmitter up in NEW HAMPSHIRE, 60.5 from the WMFP transmitter in Newton (but not for long, since WMFP is about to go dark on RF 18 thanks to the spectrum auction) and 8.1 from low-power WBTS-LP in Needham.
Will the new identity and the upcoming Winter Olympics help get this relative newcomer some traction? Consider this: we’re told that in the recent November sweeps, former NBC affiliate (and now independent) WHDH-TV (Channel 7) made a solid first-place finish, with NBC Boston barely registering with its local newscasts.
*WBOQ (104.9 Gloucester) surprised North Shore listeners with a format change after Christmas. “North Shore 104.9” had been doing oldies for years, but now it’s a mainstream AC station, leaving an even more gaping hole for an oldies/classic hits format in greater Boston.
*Much of our New York news in the final weeks of 2017 came in the form of obituaries, and you’ll forgive us if we start close to home.
Irv Weinstein was a Rochester boy, a Franklin High School graduate who started his career as a teen actor on WHAM (1180) in the 1940s. The broadcast world, though, knew him quite rightly as the legendary face of TV news 60 miles down the road in Buffalo. Weinstein arrived at WKBW (1520) in the late 1950s, honed his style on “Pulse! Beat! News!” updates on the top-rated top-40 station, then in 1964 moved next door to struggling sister station WKBW-TV (Channel 7).
Channel 7 and its “Eyewitness News” didn’t stay in the ratings basement for long. With Irv at the anchor desk alongside weatherman Tom Jolls and sportscaster Rick Azar, WKBW-TV shot to the top and didn’t budge. Weinstein’s hard-edged style was perfect for Buffalo’s turbulent news landscape in the 70s and 80s. By the time the Blizzard of ’77 ravaged the region, Irv was the man the entire market looked to (as did many viewers across the border in Toronto, where he attained a cult following as well.)
Weinstein retired at the end of 1998 (and WKBW-TV sank to the ratings cellar not long afterward), moving to southern California. That’s where he shared the news in the summer of 2016 that he’d been diagnosed with ALS – and that’s where Weinstein died on Dec. 26, at age 87.
*Downstate, Lou Adler lived many broadcast lives: reporter, anchor, educator, industry leader, station manager and even small-market owner. Adler, who died Dec. 22 at 88, was perhaps best known for his tenure at 88 on the dial, where he started with WCBS (880) in 1959, moved to CBS Radio and WCBS-TV, then returned as part of the inaugural anchor team when 880 went all-news in 1967. Until 1981, he co-anchored mornings with Jim Donnelly while also working as head of news operations and then as news director.
Adler jumped to WOR (710) in 1981, did some anchoring at ABC News, WINS (1010) and Atlanta’s WCNN, served as president of the RTNDA, bought a radio station in RHODE ISLAND (the now-defunct WKFD 1370 in Wickford), and started a new career as an educator at CONNECTICUT‘s Quinnipiac University.
At Quinnipiac, Adler oversaw the school’s purchase of a commercial AM license, which he relaunched as full-service WQUN (1220 Hamden). In retirement, Adler remained in the area; he’d been suffering in recent years from the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease.
*Connecticut was also the beat of one of Adler’s WCBS colleagues, reporter Fran Schneidau. She left her first career as a stockbroker in the 1970s to do news at WICC (600) in Bridgeport, but she soon came on board at WCBS as a suburban reporter covering Rockland and Westchester counties in addition to southern Connecticut.
By the time she retired from WCBS last February at the close of a 39-year radio career, Schneidau was covering only Connecticut – and what coverage it was, especially in an era when other sources of suburban news were fading away! Colleagues remember her as a thorough, fair reporter who was always kind not only to co-workers but competitors. She was 79 when she died Dec. 26.
*Back in New York City, public broadcaster WNYC starts the year with some holes to fill after firing talk host Leonard Lopate and weekend music host Jonathan Schwartz. Both veteran WNYC personalities had been pulled off the air in December amidst investigations into harassment allegations from co-workers, and later in December WNYC announced it was dismissing both of them. Lopate’s firing, in particular, leaves two hours of daily talk in the hands of interim hosts until the station comes up with a permanent replacement.
Out on Long Island, New Year’s Eve brought silence to WLIX-LP (94.7 Ridge), Scotty Hart’s pioneering soft AC LPFM. “After 12 and a half years, WLIX has reached its
conclusion and the end of its intended mission,” Hart told listeners in a message on his website on Sunday as he signed the station off at noon. WLIX’s translator in Coram at 93.3 immediately joined the “Breeze” format fed from an HD channel of WVIP (93.5) to a Plainview translator at 101.5. Its former 96.9 translator, which was owned by a different entity, is in the process of being sold. It’s not yet clear what will become of the 94.7 license in the new year; we’ll be watching that story as we wish Hart well on his next chapter.
As WLIX was signing off, Long Island was also getting news of the death of Al Case, the veteran air talent and engineer who was long associated with WGBB (1240 Freeport) and then with WLNG (92.1 Sag Harbor). Case, whose real name was Al Lush, had been WLNG’s overnight voice for many years, mostly via voicetracking. Ironically, he had made it a habit for many years to do his New Year’s Eve show live. Case, who died Dec. 30, was also the founder of the online Amityville Community Radio in his hometown, where he also served as a volunteer firefighter.
*Upstate, Ed Trefzger has taken over management of WDNY-FM (93.9 Dansville) from owner Genesee Media, flipping the station from classic hits to “Classic Rock 93.9.” Down the road in the Corning-Elmira market, a call flip at year’s end moved WENY-FM to 97.7 Big Flats-Corning, swapping the WENI calls to its simulcast partner in Elmira on 92.7, now licensed to South Waverly PA.
In Binghamton, Al Fusco died Dec. 21 at age 78; he’d been on the air in the 1970s at WENE (1430) and in mornings on WNBF (1290), as well as at WBNG-TV (Channel 12) and WINR (680).
And south of Buffalo, little WSPQ (1330 Springville) ended 2017 by going dark, filing an STA to stay silent for economic reasons. Will a buyer emerge to save this station at the edge of the Buffalo suburbs, perhaps with an FM translator play as the filing window fast approaches in late January?
*Up at the top of VERMONT, it was the first New Year since 1954 to be rung in high atop Mount Mansfield with nobody in residence at the transmitter building of WCAX-TV (Channel 3). As transmitters become ever more reliable (and over-the-air viewership rather less important in the Burlington market), new owner Gray Television made the decision to let WCAX run unattended in December.
It’s the end of an era – we’re pretty sure Mount Mansfield (where WCAX had been sharing space with its competitors WPTZ and WVNY) was not only the last mountaintop site in NERW-land to still have a full-time transmitter crew, but likely the last of its kind anywhere in the country. In winter, when the Mansfield auto road becomes a ski trail, access to the site was extremely limited; the engineers who worked at the site would alternate stints of several days to a week at a time up the mountain.
Can WCAX get an engineer up the mountain by snow cat within a few hours if the need arises? And is the danger of longer off-air time worth the considerable savings from not staffing the site? We’ll see how that works in this bitter winter and the ones that follow.
The station’s farewells, such as they were, mostly took place on the air on Thursday and Friday as the weekday all-news staff did their last shifts. KQV had been mostly automated on the weekend, and so its final hours on the air were its usual talk shows and old-time radio, with only a short recorded announcement from co-owner Bob Dickey, Jr. playing each hour, including as the last message heard on the station before its midnight signoff.
What now? Whatever you might read elsewhere about an auction or a possible new owner, the official word we’ve been given is that there is nothing, as yet, to report about a sale of the station’s license or its potentially valuable North Side transmitter site.
(We’ll have more thoughts on what happened to KQV and what could yet become of it in this week’s Top of the Tower Podcast.)
*In Philadelphia, the new year brings a new morning show to Radio One’s WRNB (100.3 Media), but not the one we expected: in dropping the syndicated Tom Joyner morning show, WRNB is going local instead. “The Quincy Harris Morning Show with K Foxx” brings Harris back to radio starting this week, and it will mean a busy day for the busy host: after his 6-10 AM shift at WRNB, he’s still doing “The Q” at noon on Fox’s WTXF (Channel 29). Afternoons go from local to syndicated as D.L. Hughley replaces Lady B.
In the hills between Reading and Allentown, the Berks Radio Association has returned its “full-power” FM license in favor of an LPFM. WKTW (91.3 Longswamp Township) ran only 22 watts from its site above the Bear Creek Mountain Resort; it’s now been replaced by 100-watt WKTW-LP (107.1 Lenhartsville), closer to I-78.
*And we finish off this week back in the land of the TV repack, as the end of 2017 brought the end of several TV signals in the region. In the Harrisburg market, WXBU (Channel 15/RF 23) was scheduled to go dark on Friday; Sinclair had long since moved its former CW programming (as WLYH) over to a subchannel of sister WHP-TV (Channel 21). Sinclair also turned off MyNetwork affiliate WUTB (Channel 24/RF 41) on Friday, moving it to a channel-share on WBFF (Channel 45/RF 46).
In Philadelphia, WYBE (Channel 35) is reportedly running crawls saying it will go dark on that channel this Friday (Jan. 5); it will end up as a channel-share on WLVT (Channel 39) in the Lehigh Valley, as we’d reported earlier.
In New York City, Univision’s pioneering UHF station WXTV (Channel 41, licensed to Paterson, NEW JERSEY) signed off its RF 40 facility on Friday, moving to a channel-share on RF 30 with sister UniMas outlet WFUT (Channel 68).
In Hartford, Entravision’s WUVN (Channel 18) turned off its full-power RF 46 signal on Dec. 31, moving to a channel-share with Unimas sister station WUTH-CD (RF 47), at much lower power but still with full-market cable coverage. Telemundo competitor WRDM-CD (Channel 50/RF 19), meanwhile, lit up a simulcast on NBC’s WVIT (Channel 30/RF 35) last week.
*Just one bit of news from CANADA: George Noory’s “Coast to Coast AM” is changing some of its affiliations north of the border, and that includes Toronto, where the show started airing Monday on Bell’s CFRB (1010), moving up the dial from Corus’ CFMJ (640). Over at 640, the overnight hours appear to be filled now by repeats of talk from earlier in the evening.
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 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: January 2, 2017
*After a full year of headlines about NBC’s unorthodox launch of a new owned-and-operated station in Boston, was there any question about where NERW would be parked on New Year’s Eve?
Twenty-two years after our VHS machines were rolling on the affiliation swap that brought NBC to WHDH-TV (Channel 7), our hard drives were filling up with video as Comcast made its much-anticipated launch of “NBC Boston” over multiple DTV signals and a full market’s worth of cable and satellite systems.
For a few hours on Saturday night, there were effectively two NBC stations in town – on Ed Ansin’s WHDH, one last night of NBC network programming played out, including a mention of the affiliation swap at the end of “NBC Nightly News” and promos for upcoming network shows during a prime-time network new year’s special and the very last NBC show to air on Channel 7, a rerun of “Saturday Night Live” that wrapped up at 2:03 AM on Sunday.
Meanwhile, “NBC Boston” emerged at 6 PM on Saturday with live coverage of Boston’s First Night festivities, hosted from Copley Square by weekday evening anchors Phil Lipof and Shannon Mulaire, simulcast on Comcast’s New England Cable News and on the three over-the-air signals that make up the new NBC station, WNEU (60.2) from New Hampshire, low-power WBTS-LD (8.1) from Needham and a new subchannel, 60.5, on WMFP (RF 18) from Newton. (Will Comcast end up buying WMFP from NRJ, its spectrum-speculator owner, in the new year as the spectrum auction trickles to a halt?)
On Sunday morning, NBC took the wraps off its new studio in Newton, officially launching its own local newscasts at 5:30 with its full weekday morning crew, traffic reports and all; “Sunday Today” became the first NBC network show at 8, followed by more local news at 9.
At Entercom’s WAAF (107.3 Westborough)/WKAF (97.7 Brockton), 2017 starts with one big set of changes and could soon bring another. A realignment of airshifts takes effect at the rock station today, moving Mike Hsu from middays back to the Hill-Man morning show and Mistress Carrie back to middays, where she held court until 2005. WAAF’s new afternoon show will pair comedians Matty Blake and Nick Stevens.
But will the new lineup be heard on 97.7 for very long? It appears that Entercom is poised to flip the format on that half of the simulcast any day now, leaving rock on the suburban 107.3 signal and repurposing the city-focused 97.7 facility into…what? The rumor mill suggests either classic hits (filling the void CBS left behind a few years ago with the WODS flip to top-40) or urban AC, possibly heading off Beasley’s impending launch of its new 106.1 translator/WRCA (1330) combo.
*In CONNECTICUT, tomorrow morning brings a new local morning show to Connoisseur’s WFOX (95.9 Southport). Instead of the simulcast of WPLR (99.1)’s Chaz and AJ that’s been running there, Ken Tuccio will take over with “First Thing Fairfield County,” which he’ll add to his existing gigs as host of the “Welcome to Connecticut” podcast and the new “Local Drinking Show” on New Haven’s WTNH (Channel 8).
Five Years Ago: January 7, 2013
*Greater Media has launched the official format on Boston’s 96.9. “Hot 96.9” launched at 11 this morning on the former talk WTKK, ending a week of “micro-formats” and, as widely expected, putting Greater right into the rhythmic top 40 game against Clear Channel’s WJMN (Jam’n 94.5) and WXKS-FM (Kiss 108) and CBS Radio’s WODS (Amp 103.3).
*Next up, Philadelphia, where the new year brought the disappearance of two prominent names that were both fairly new to talk radio, WPHT (1210)’s Buzz Bissinger in afternoons and WWIQ (106.9)’s Larry Mendte in mornings.
Better known for his sportswriting (he’s the author who gave us the original book version of “Friday Night Lights”), Bissinger was a surprise pick last June when WPHT moved star talker Michael Smerconish from afternoons to the former Rush Limbaugh slot in middays. It was a curious choice, even with WPHT’s decision to pair Bissinger with one of the market’s longest-running and most versatile talk talents, Steve Martorano. In late December, Bissinger was suddenly absent from the show, and now he tells Philadelphia magazine that he resigned just before the end of 2012. Never one to spare a punch, Bissinger calls talk radio “fundamentally trivial,” and station staffers returned the favor, telling the magazine that WPHT needed to employ a second level of delay and dump button to keep Bissinger’s show within FCC standards. (And having said that: Bissinger also tells the magazine’s Victor Furillo that he actually enjoyed the experience, even if it “wasn’t meant to be.”)
Then there’s Merlin Media’s “IQ106.9,” where last year’s launch included a return to the airwaves for one of the city’s more colorful broadcasters. Larry Mendte made his name as a TV anchor before being ousted from KYW-TV (Channel 3) amidst a scandal that involved an affair with a co-anchor and a felony conviction for improperly accessing her e-mail, a charge Mendte is still fighting. That all made Mendte the perfect hire for Merlin’s colorful CEO, Randy Michaels, and Mendte says Michaels provided him with hands-on coaching as he learned to do talk radio alongside WWIQ PD Al Gardner and an eventual third morning co-host, New York’s Lionel.
In a posting to his blog on the Philadelphia magazine site, Mendte says he was fired just before Christmas, and while he praises Michaels, he hints that the station itself is headed toward a sale, following on the heels of Merlin’s sale of its New York station (the former WEMP/WRXP) last year. Mendte says his dismissal from WWIQ only “hit the pause button” on his talk career, but it’s hard to imagine where else he’d pursue it, at least in Philadelphia.
*Beyond the big Philadelphia talk shifts, much of the rest of the week’s news from PENNSYLVANIA was driven by Cumulus. After swallowing Citadel, the company had a big roster of ESPN Radio outlets from one end of the Keystone State to the other – and that meant a slew of shifts from ESPN to CBS Sports Radio as of January 2. The new Cumulus/CBS Sports Radio signals include WRIE (1260 Erie), WLLF (96.7 Mercer, serving nearby Youngstown, Ohio), WHGB (1400 Harrisburg, plus an FM translator at 95.3), WGLD (1440 Manchester Township/York) and WIOV (1240 Reading, plus an FM translator at 98.5). That’s nearly all of the full-time CBS Sports Radio signals in Pennsylvania so far, except for the one big CBS Radio clearance at WIP (610 Philadelphia), which we’d long known would be breaking away from its simulcast with WIP-FM (94.1). In Pittsburgh, CBS Sports Radio has no full-time clearance, but its updates are already airing on CBS Radio’s KDKA-FM (93.7 the Fan).
Ten Years Ago: January 7, 2008
*It was one of the biggest radio stories of the summer in NEW HAMPSHIRE, MAINE and the rest of northern New England last year: Entercom, programmer of Boston’s highly successful WEEI (850 Boston), was to partner with Nassau to spread WEEI’s sports format to Portland, Concord, the Lakes Region, the Upper Valley and Cape Cod – and in exchange, Entercom would take a half-interest in Nassau’s classical WCRB (99.5 Lowell) for the improbably-low-sounding sum of $10 million. (Nassau had paid $60 million for the station just a year earlier, after all.)
As 2007 wound to a close, Nassau began laying the groundwork for the format changes that would accompany the start of its WEEI simulcasts: in Concord and the Lakes Region, WNNH (99.1 Henniker) and WLKZ (104.9 Wolfeboro) moved from oldies to classic hits (“Frank”) to clear the way for classic rocker “Hawk” WWHK (102.3 Concord)/WWHQ (101.5 Meredith) to become WEEI affiliates. And the “Free Beer and Hot Wings” morning show heard on several Nassau stations started saying goodbye to listeners in Portland (“Bone” WHXR/WHXQ).
But then rumors started spreading about problems with the deal, and even as the champagne was being chilled and we were stepping away from the computer on New Year’s Eve afternoon, the companies pulled the plug on their plans for a network.
“The transaction hit an impasse,” was the word from Nassau’s Lou Mercatanti to Clea Simon at the Boston Globe, and we’ve still heard nothing definitive about what caused the deal to fall apart at the last minute.
So in the absence of hard fact, we’ll offer some educated speculation. First, from the Entercom side of the fence, there’s no question that the deal was more essential to announce in August than to close in December. In August, WEEI faced what could have been a serious challenge to its sports supremacy: while Entercom had locked up a long-term Red Sox contract, at no small expense, its morning stars John Dennis and Gerry Callahan were flirting with other suitors – not just the long-rumored Greater Media dream of flipping WBOS (92.9) to an all-sports format, but also a possible Nassau flip of WCRB to sports. Allying Nassau with WEEI took away that option for Dennis and Callahan, and it’s no coincidence that the pair re-signed with Entercom soon after the Nassau deal was announced.
Fifteen Years Ago: January 6, 2003
Radio listeners in PENNSYLVANIA’s largest market can be forgiven if they’re a little confused in the morning this week — and it has nothing to do with New Year’s revelry, just some staffing changes at two Greater Media FMs.
We’ll start with struggling hot AC WMWX (95.7), which brought familiar Philly voice Glenn Kalina to its morning airwaves this week. Mix also brought Brian Murphy (a Philly vet most recently heard on Boston’s WODS) to middays, displacing Lauren Valle, and moved former morning guy Joe Mama to afternoons, replacing Rick Stacy. Just to complete the shuffle, the station won’t be carrying Delilah’s syndicated nighttime show any longer; her replacement on Mix has yet to be announced. Down the hall at WMMR (93.3), Paul Barsky’s latest Philadelphia gig has come to an end. With Barsky’s contract not being renewed, ‘MMR is using sports guy “Vinnie the Crumb” and former WHFS Washington jock Graeme to handle mornings until a permanent replacement is named.
Twenty Years Ago: January 8, 1998
Radio listeners in southern Vermont and New Hampshire are mourning one of the area’s best-known morning jocks. Ian Taylor died in his sleep New Year’s Eve, just a few days before he was to have started a new job doing mornings on oldies WXOD (98.7 Winchester NH). Taylor was born Edward O’Donnell in Utica, New York in 1952, and attended the now-defunct Grahm Junior College in Boston. After working at stations in Utica and Albany, his career included stops at WEQX (102.7) Manchester VT, WPYX (106.5 Albany), and four years as morning host at WKVT-FM (92.7) Brattleboro VT. In recent months, he had been working as a salesman for WYRY (104.9) Hinsdale NH.
The oldest TV station in MASSACHUSETTS has a new look. WBZ-TV (Channel 4) unveiled its new logo featuring a “4” in a three-quarter circle Sunday night (you can see it at www.wbz.com, albeit in black and white), and was promptly dubbed “The Circle 4 Ranch” by sports anchor and station wag Bob Lobel. The retro-look logo accompanies the launch of BZ’s 50th anniversary campaign and revamped morning show.
Emerson College’s WERS (88.9) will move into new quarters in August. Emerson’s new Ansin Building at 180 Tremont Street gets its name from the parents of WHDH-TV owner Ed Ansin, who donated $1 million to the school. WERS has spent the last 14 years in second-floor studios at 126 Beacon Street.