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
*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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*Up on the North Shore of MASSACHUSETTS, it’s still not clear why “North Shore 104.9” (WBOQ Gloucester) evicted legendary talent Dana Hersey and his co-host Kevin “Mugs” McGonagle from their morning slot.
It’s been only a few months since WBOQ shifted from oldies to AC, and about two years since the station had re-hired Hersey, who’s still beloved by many in the market for his long run as host of WSBK-TV’s “Movie Loft.”
Why did WBOQ part ways with Hersey and McGonagle? The station isn’t saying, and it’s not yet clear what will replace their morning show.
*Here’s an interesting coda to the long, strange saga of NBC Boston: WBTS-LD (Channel 8), the low-power TV signal that NBC bought and put on the air from Newton in late 2016 as one new home for its Boston affiliation, will have to leave its current RF 46 facility in the impending repack.
That won’t matter much for “NBC 10” viewers – they can now get a better signal in greater Boston via WYCN-CD (Channel 15), which channel-shares with WGBX on RF 43, and they’ll soon get an even better signal when NBC/Telemundo finishes its impending move of WNEU (Channel 60/RF 32) from NEW HAMPSHIRE down to the main Boston tower farm in Needham.
So what to do with that little WBTS-LD license? It won’t go to waste: it’s headed for RF 36 from a new city of license, Providence, RHODE ISLAND, and a new tower site in Norton, Mass.
What gives? We expect WBTS-LD to become the new home of Telemundo Providence, where Comcast sold off the spectrum of current outlet WRIW-CD (Channel 50/RF 36) and will channel-share WRIW on Ion’s WPXQ (Channel 69/RF 17). But WPXQ’s site is fairly far south of Providence and doesn’t put much signal right into the city, and so WBTS will slide right in as a replacement for the current WRIW signal. (Confused yet?)
*Out west, Spectrum Cable is sparring with civic leaders in Berkshire County once again, this time over plans to pull Boston ABC affiliate WCVB (Channel 5) off its cable systems in 413-land. Berkshire County is officially part of the Albany market, at least as far as FCC rules are concerned, and so it’s understandable that out-of-state cable operators don’t want the expense or spectrum usage of carrying duplicate network signals that are considered out-of-market to local Berkshire County viewers. That’s how predecessor Time Warner Cable pulled Springfield’s WWLP (Channel 22) off the system, leaving only WCVB and (for some viewers) Boston CBS O&O WBZ-TV (Channel 4) as sources of Massachusetts-based TV news. Will local politicians in Berkshire County be able to hang on to the statehouse coverage that WCVB provides? Spectrum seems less cooperative, across the board, than Time Warner was.
It’s flipped WBAE (1490 Portland) and sister station WVAE (1400 Biddeford) several times in recent years, and last week brought what looks like a more permanent shift of both signals to “107.1/93.5 the Bay, EZ Favorites.” The move takes WBAE (and its 107.1 translator) out of the second-tier talk format that had been flanking WGAN (560), and it moves WVAE from a York County simulcast of WGAN with the launch of the new 93.5 translator in Saco. (WGAN is picking up a new translator of its own down that way.)
*We start our NEW YORK news out on Long Island, where WLIM (1580 Patchogue) changes hands from Polnet to Cantico Nuevo Ministries. Cantico Nuevo, which already owns WNYG (1440 Medford), is paying $350,000 for the WLIM license and striking a separate deal for the transmitter property, where WNYG has been a tenant for several years and where WLIM is still recovering from the loss of one of its towers over the winter.
(The photo shown above, which we took on a Long Island visit last July, is probably the last one ever taken of the full three-tower array at WLIM; it’s still not clear what Cantico Nuevo’s long-term plan for rebuilding is, nor what the plan is for owning both WNYG and WLIM at the same site.)
*In New York City, Entercom’s new “Alt 92.3” (WBMP) is staffing up: Mike Kaplan, late of iHeart’s “Alt 98.7” (KYSR) in Los Angeles, returns to the company as senior VP of programming and PD of WBMP. And Christine Malovitz, who’s the new midday jock (and the first air talent on the station), moves east from Entercom’s KNOU in St. Louis – but she has a history in the region as “Electra” on WPLY in Philadelphia and WBTZ in Plattsburgh/Burlington.
*John Vidaver was among the most versatile air talents ever to have graced a microphone in New York City, where he worked a diverse roster of formats ranging from classical (WQXR and WNCN) to beautiful music (WPAT and WTFM) smooth jazz (WQCD) to rock (WNEW-FM) to AC (WYNY and WCBS-FM, just before its switch to oldies in 1972).
Vidaver had also worked at a who’s-who of stations around the region, including WHLI on Long Island, WRCR and WRNW upstate and at Shadow Traffic. He was 70 when he died last Monday (May 7) in Oradell, N.J.
*Up in the Adirondacks, “Adirondack 105” hit the air with its “everything that rocks” format on Tuesday, as Jon Becker’s North Country Radio returned WLPW (105.5 Lake Placid) to the airwaves after buying the long-dark signal from the now-defunct Saranac Lake Radio group. North Country built a new tower for WLPW and sister station WSLP (93.3); Becker also acquired the former WNBZ (1240 Saranac Lake) and will be returning it to the air soon as well. It’s all part of a newly competitive broadcast scene in the Tri-Lakes area, where Ricki Lee will be returning another former Saranac Lake Radio station, WRGR (102.1), to the air soon as well. (You’ll hear more from Ricki on an upcoming “Top of the Tower” podcast!)
And Doug Cole, who died May 3 at 83, was best known for his years as a DJ, production director and programmer in Albany at WTRY, WPTR and WABY, where he landed after starting his career up in Newport, VERMONT at WIKE (1490). Cole moved from radio into advertising in the 1970s, then into academia in the 1980s as a professor at the Center for Media Arts in Manhattan and at Marist College in Poughkeepsie.
*In PENNSYLVANIA‘s Lehigh Valley, we’re learning at least a little about what public broadcaster WLVT (Channel 39) is planning to do with the windfall it’s getting from selling its spectrum at auction.
WLVT says it’s hiring a dozen journalists – starting with veteran Express-Times editor Jim Deegan as managing editor and former WDAF-TV (Channel 4, Kansas City) anchor Monica Evans as host/executive producer – with the intent of stationing a reporter in each of the region’s counties. That “Reporter Corps” will feed content into a new nightly newscast that will launch in September, a rarity in public television.
“This newscast is not intended to cover crime, weather and traffic,” said Yoni Greenbaum, WLVT’s chief content officer. “It is about the revival of community journalism, which has been eroding steadily over the last decade.”
*Evanov Broadcasting is trying once again to boost its coverage in CANADA‘s biggest market. After regulators rejected several previous applications, Evanov is now applying to move its Toronto signal, CIRR, from 103.9 to 103.5, while sister station CIDC up north in Orangeville would go from 103.5 to 103.7.
Evanov’s last upgrade attempt hit the rocks earlier this year because it would have moved CIRR from 103.9 to 103.7, which would have caused interference to the south across Lake Ontario with Brock University’s CFBU (103.7 St. Catharines). By instead moving CIDC up in Orangeville to 103.7, Evanov can use a very directional antenna, taking what’s now a 30 kW/190 m signal on 103.5 and transforming it to 10.4 kW average/45 kW max DA/187 m, with most of the signal going north into Cottage Country and very little into Toronto. (Its city-grade coverage drops dramatically, from almost 6 million listeners to just over 200,000.)
CIRR, meanwhile, would get a huge jump – from 10 watts average/225 watts max DA/123 m from a downtown hotel on 103.9 to 8.5 kW average/20 kW max DA/325 m from First Canadian Place on 103.5, increasing potential listenership from just over a million to more than 6 million – and the 103.9 frequency would open up in downtown Toronto for a possible new low-power signal, too.
On the programming side of things, though Evanov isn’t exactly saying as much, it appears the top-40 “Z103.5” format that now rimshots Toronto on CIDC would move to the new CIRR on 103.5, with the station’s current GLBTQ-oriented “Proud FM” format moving to an HD subchannel. It’s not clear what Evanov would program on CIDC at 103.7, though it would seem to be an ideal coverage area for an extension to the company’s “Jewel” soft AC format, now heard in the region on CKDX (88.5 Newmarket).
Will this be the Evanov app that finally gets the CRTC’s blessing? It doesn’t appear to have any interference issues, it makes more efficient use of the crowded spectrum around Toronto, and it (sort of) keeps “Proud FM” alive with its niche format. We’ll be watching to see what, if any, opposition it draws as it works its way through the CRTC process.
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: 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.
SUNY 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.