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In this week’s issue… Mike Joseph’s big impact – Morning show out in MA – New newscast in PA – LI AM sold, seeking new site – Evanov tries again in Toronto

By SCOTT FYBUSH

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*Mike Joseph wasn’t from the northeast – he grew up just over the state line in Youngstown, Ohio and started his career in Coshocton, Ohio and Grand Rapids, Michigan – but over four decades in radio he had a massive influence on the sound of top-40 stations all over our region.

Joseph, whose death April 14 at age 90 was just made public last week, was probably best known for his creation of the “Hot Hits” format in the 1970s and 1980s. But his roots went much deeper than that, all the way back to the late 1950s in Buffalo where he had a hand in WKBW’s pioneering “Futuresonic” top-40 format. That propelled him to New York and WABC, where he began that big signal’s transformation from network block programming to the top-40 legend it would become for two decades. The 1960s found Joseph working with WFIL in Philadelphia and WPRO in Providence, as well as big successes outside the region that included WKNR in Detroit.

In the 1970s, Joseph moved his attention to the FM dial, first in Milwaukee and then very prominently at WPJB in Providence and WTIC-FM in Hartford, where he stripped away lots of clutter and focused intently on a very tight rotation of top hits and a jock approach that today we’d call “PPM-friendly.”

Then came “Hot Hits” as we knew it in its heyday: in 1979, Joseph took the programming reins at WFBL (1390) in Syracuse, where “Fire 14” made a lot of noise in just over a year on the air (even if a lot of paychecks reportedly bounced!)

In Philadelphia, WCAU-FM (98.1) hired Joseph in 1981, playing a roster of hits that expanded beyond traditional “top-40” into R&B and early hip-hop. (WCAU-FM’s owner, CBS, would later use a variant of the format, without Joseph’s consulting services or the “Hot Hits” trademark, at Boston’s WHTT, among other stations.)

Later in the 1980s, Joseph went “electric,” launching top-40 on WTRK (Electric 106) in Philadelphia and mixing album tracks with the hits in Albany on “Electric 99,” WGY-FM. By then well into his sixties, Joseph retired from radio in the 1990s, leaving behind a tantalizing (and never executed) concept of “tabloid all-news” that would have been a sort of “hot hits” counterpart to the WINSes and KYWs of the world. (Thanks to the essential Sean Ross for catching that forgotten bit of history in his outstanding tribute to Joseph.)

And speaking of tributes to Mike Joseph and Hot Hits, Cape Cod programmer Steve McVie has long maintained an outstanding online archive of the format, which is a must-read this week. Back in 2002, he recalls, Joseph’s son Michael A. emailed him and asked, “Ok, I give. What’s the fascination with my father’s now archaic HH format?”

The answer, of course, is that anyone who did top-40 radio any time from the late 1950s well into this century built what they did on the back of Mike Joseph’s work – and his death at the age of 90 marked the end of a fascinating era.

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Season two of “Top of the Tower” offered you several preview editions during the NAB Show last month in Las Vegas – and now we’re back to regular weekly editions. Join host Scott Fybush and a wide variety of industry insiders every Wednesday for interesting conversation about what’s happening in the business of radio and TV, not to mention programming, engineering and the newsroom.

Find “Top of the Tower” on all your favorite podcast platforms or right here at fybush.com – and check out our Season 1 Archives, too!

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From the NERW Archives

Yup, we’ve been doing this a long time now, and so we’re digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five, ten, fifteen and 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: May 15, 2017

*What’s in the air for local radio ownership in NEW HAMPSHIRE? As the Landry brothers, Rob and John, settle in with their new Sugar River group (the former Koor Broadcasting stations), Jeff Shapiro’s Great Eastern Radio offered up a surprise announcement late last week that it’s selling three stations in the Lakes Region and Concord to the family that founded one of them.

The $2.6 million deal puts sports WZEI (101.5 Meredith), classic rock WLKZ (104.9 Wolfeboro) and news-talk WTPL (107.7 Hillsboro) into the hands of Lakes Media LLC. Lakes belongs to Dirk Nadon, the veteran New Hampshire broadcaster who put 101.5 on the air as WMRQ with his late stepfather, Bill Forbes, and partner Gary Howard back in 1988. Dirk Nadon went on to be operations manager at Curt Gowdy’s WCCM/WCGY, then served as director of engineering for Nassau in northern New England and for Binnie Media when it took over the Nassau stations. (He was our tour guide just last year when we visited Binnie’s Concord headquarters, a few months before Binnie announced it was selling its TV spectrum and shutting down its local news operation there.)

Five Years Ago: May 13, 2013

*Seven years after an upstate NEW YORK state college entered the public radio business, it has abruptly shut down its station, leaving behind plenty of questions about a newly open space on the dial.

wuowSUNY Oneonta put WUOW-LP (104.7) on the air in 2007 to help provide emergency communications in town in the wake of devastating flooding in the region, and just last year it returned the LPFM license and signed on a new full-power outlet, WUOW (88.5 Milford), along with an Oneonta translator, W217BY (91.3), for which it paid $12,500.

Even though that move had already been planned and paid for, it appears that the Oneonta campus had by then already decided to pull the plug on its venture into public radio. From an initial staff of three (plus a part-timer), WUOW was down to just one staffer – and on Thursday, that staffer, SUNY Oneonta communications lecturer Gary Wickham, had the sad duty of signing the station off.

With a mixture of AAA music and some local talk, WUOW had competed against relays of two larger public stations, Binghamton”s WSKG (via WSQC 91.7 Oneonta) and Albany’s WAMC (via two translators in the area). Will either of them (or someone else) end up with the WUOW licenses? For now, SUNY isn’t saying whether it still plans to sell the licenses, though it had offered them for sale back in 2011.

*We still think of Bruce Mittman primarily as a Massachusetts broadcaster, but he’s becoming a bigger name in upstate New York radio. Last week, Mittman’s Community Broadcasters (which he owns along with Jim Leven) filed a $3.6 million deal to buy Backyard Broadcasting’s stations in the Elmira/Corning and Olean markets. In Elmira, Community picks up a cluster of three FMs and two AMs: top-40 “Wink 106” WNKI (106.1 Corning), the only class B signal in the core of the market, along with country “Big Pig” WPGI (100.9 Horseheads) and classic rock “Wingz” WNGZ (104.9 Montour Falls), plus talker WWLZ (820 Horseheads) and WRCE (1490 Watkins Glen), which relays WNGZ when it’s not carrying auto racing on the weekends. In Olean, Community picks up market-leading country giant WPIG (95.7) and oldies WHDL (1450).

Ten Years Ago: May 12, 2008

*Not quite three years after it arrived in New York City, “Jack” has finally hit the road for good. CBS Radio kept the trademarked “Jack” nickname on the HD2 channel of WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) even after it pulled “Jack” from the main channel last summer. But the elements that made up a typical Jack slowly vanished from the multicast channel, with “Jack” voice Howard Cogan giving way to CBS-FM’s Pat St. John a few months ago. And now the “Jack” name has disappeared as well, with the adult hits format now ID’ing simply as “101.1 HD2” for the moment. (We’re hearing that CBS would have been happy to have kept the “Jack” name on the air, but that the format’s syndicator, SparkNet, didn”t want it relegated to an HD subchannel.)

*In the NEW JERSEY Meadowlands, the much-ballyhooed EnCap project has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and all work has ceased on the massive rebuilding that was supposed to have transformed hundreds of acres of swampy landfill in Rutherford and Lyndhurst into a massive golf course/housing development. What’s the radio connection? It was at EnCap’s behest that the Meadowlands Commission took the old tower site of WOR (710 New York), and it was EnCap’s money that paid for WOR to build a brand-new site half a mile away.

*Yet another market in CANADA is about to lose its last AM. The CRTC has granted CKRU (980 Peterborough ON) permission to move to FM – but it denied the Corus oldies station (known on air as “980 KRUZ”) the frequency it desired. CKRU hoped to move to 96.7, but nine other applicants also proposed using that frequency for new stations in Peterborough or nearby Kawartha Lakes (Lindsay) when the CRTC put out a call for applications.

The CRTC ended up granting one of those applications, determining that Pineridge Broadcasting, which owns CHUC-FM and CKSG-FM in Cobourg, is the best qualified to operate a new Peterborough station – and that because of the potential overlap in coverage into the Cobourg area, it should be granted the use of 96.7, with 13 kW average DA. That leaves Corus to find another frequency on the crowded southern Ontario FM dial for CKRU’s FM move – and 90 days to do it.

Meanwhile, Peterborough’s other remaining AM, CTVglobemedia’s CKPT (1420), is no more: engineers pulled the plug on the AM transmitter there last Monday (May 5), seven months after CKPT-FM (99.3, soon to move to 99.7) signed on, and just shy of half a century after it originally signed on.

Fifteen Years Ago: May 12, 2003

How important is NEW YORK’s “Blink” (WNEW 102.7) to Infinity right now? Enough to take the full attention of operations manager Steve Kingston, at the very least; he’s giving up the programming reins at sister rock outlet WXRK (92.3) to concentrate completely on the launch of the top 40-80s-90s-pop-entertainment-talk-Jennifer Lopez hybrid (did we miss anything?) format up the dial. Robert Cross heads to New York from Infinity”s KROQ (106.7 Pasadena) in Los Angeles to handle programming at K-Rock.

Over at Clear Channel, Frankie Blue is out as PD of dance-CHR WKTU (103.5 Lake Success), seven years after launching the format. Assistant music director Jeff Z. is handling interim PD duties, with help from cluster manager Tom Poleman.

The big news out of MASSACHUSETTS was the sale of WAMG (1150 Boston); Mega Communications, which paid $5 million for then-WNFT in 1998, will get $8.6 million from Salem for the station when the deal closes later this year. The sale of WAMG will trigger a few other changes around the dial: for Salem, it will likely mean a reshuffling of programming from WROL (950) and WEZE (590) as 1150 adopts a conservative secular talk format under new calls; for Mega, it means moving the Spanish tropical “Mega” format and WAMG calls down the dial to Dedham-licensed WBPS (890), which Mega has been leasing out to a talk programmer.

Twenty Years Ago: May 14, 1998

Boston’s AM 1150, WNFT, has broken away from its simulcast with WAAF (107.3 Worcester). The ARS (soon to be CBS) station began running the satellite “Touch” R&B oldies format earlier this week, perhaps as a challenge to longtime urban daytimer WILD, just down the dial at 1090. The ARS/CBS sale is expected to close any day now, and NERW wonders whether WNFT will end up staying with the CBS stations (WBZ, WZLX, WODS, WBCN, WBZ-TV, plus ARS acquisition WBMX) or being sold off along with the stations the Justice Department ordered CBS to sell (WRKO, WEEI, WEGQ, WAAF).

More from MASSACHUSETTS: Cape Cod probably needs another FM allocation the way it needs more summertime traffic on US 6, but that hasn’t stopped someone from asking the FCC to allocate 94.3A to Brewster, near the “elbow” of the Cape. If you’re keeping track, that means that the Cape would have 13 commercial FMs (plus two AMs) for a total year-round population of just over 200,000. This allocation would have been impossible, of course, before Ernie Boch’s WXTK in West Yarmouth moved from 94.9 to 95.1 last year. (And NERW notes also that the 102.3 CP in Truro, WCDJ, is *still* unbuilt…)

Two station sales to report: Joe Gallagher’s Auritaur Communications (which owns WBEC AM/FM in Pittsfield, is buying WNGN in Hoosick Falls NY, and has an interest in WBET/WCAV in Brockton through KJI Broadcasting) is paying $1 million for WMVY (92.7 Tisbury), the Cape and Islands’ really cool AAA station. Meantime, troubled business-talker WADN (1120 Concord) changes hands from Ned Crecilus’ Assabet Communications to Susan Armstrong’s Money Matters Radio, for a reported $450,000. Money Matters programs the morning business show on WADN.

Radio people on the move: Rochester’s WHAM (1180) welcomes Randy Gorbman back as news director. It’s Randy’s second time on the job; he left a couple of years ago to become operations manager at WIBX (950) down the Thruway in Utica. WHAM has also replaced its evening rerun of “Dr.” Laura Schlessinger with a new local talk show, hosted by former WPXY (97.9) morning co-host Joan Brandenburg. Her show airs weeknights from 8-10 PM. Speaking of PXY, part-timer/promotions assistant Cory Kincaid is moving down to the Elmira market, where he’ll do nights on WNKI (106.1 Corning). Aaron Brillbeck is leaving the morning news slot on the North Country’s “FSR” (WGIX 95.3 Gouverneur/WSLB 1400 Ogdensburg) to work at WSYR (570) in Syracuse.

In MAINE, there’s a new station to report. Religious WWWA (95.3 Winslow) signed on April 10. It’s running from the same Augusta studios as sister station WMDR (1340). Up in Presque Isle, WOZI (101.7) has applied to change frequency to 101.9 and move to the Mars Hill site south of town.