In this week’s issue… Boeheim, Steiner join Galaxy ownership – Entercom sends Zachary south – NYC FM makes its move – Towers down in Boston – Maritimes format change – Southern Tier TV pioneer dies (Subscribe now to read it all!)
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*It’s already been a busy year in central NEW YORK for Ed Levine’s Galaxy Media. The Syracuse-based radio and events company bought out its private equity investors, struck a surprise deal to sell WOUR (96.9) in Utica to Townsquare – and now it’s selling just over a fifth of the company to seven minority investors, including Syracuse University basketball coach Jim Boeheim.
“I’ve been working on this for about 6 months,” Levine told NERW.
“The first person that I approached was Coach Boeheim, who I’ve had a personal and business relationship with for over 20 years.” Levine said. “I wanted this group to be made of folks with deep ties to Central New York.”
In addition to Boeheim, the investment partners include former SU basketball star Etan Thomas, sports memorabilia dealer Brandon Steiner, former GE executive Joyce Hergenhan, broadcaster Lynn Martin of LM Communications, and investment firms Leigh Baldwin & Co. and Bryson Investment Group.
Levine says he may sell as much as 6% more of Galaxy’s equity, bringing minority ownership to 27%, though control of the company will stay firmly with Levine and his wife Pam, who’ll continue to manage Galaxy.
The company has become increasingly focused on its events business, including this past weekend’s “Taste of Syracuse”; Levine says Galaxy’s new Charlotte office will stage ten events in the Carolinas over the next year.
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*An hour to the south in Binghamton, the broadcast community is mourning the death of Gino Ricciardelli, the dean of the city’s engineers and one of the few people whose career spanned the start of television itself all the way through to the DTV conversion.
A World War II veteran, Ricciardelli came back to Binghamton after the war to work at WNBF radio – and to find himself charged with learning how to build the market’s first TV station, WNBF-TV (Channel 12), where he turned on the transmitter for the debut of Binghamton TV in 1949. After two more years at WNBF, he went on to work for WQAN in Scranton, consulted with RCA on the first megawatt UHF station, WHUM-TV in Reading, then returned to Binghamton in 1957 to build the second station in the market, WINR-TV (Channel 40), followed by its first educational outlet, WSKG-TV (Channel 46).
Ricciardelli’s colorful career went on to include many decades with channel 40, now WICZ-TV, and with its parent company Stainless Broadcasting, where he remained a consultant well into the 21st century. Along the way, he was honored in every imaginable way, including being named a fellow of the Society of Broadcast Engineers in 2014 (above left) and receiving a “living legend award” at the 2007 Binghamton Broadcasters Reunion.
Last July, Ricciardelli gathered with his fellow engineers one last time for a 95th birthday party at the Bundy Museum, where he was once again honored for his long service to the community. He died Friday (June 1) in Binghamton, and we’ll have more details on his passing and memorial plans as they become available.
*Moving down the road to New York City, Pacifica’s WBAI (99.5) swapped transmitter sites last week, leaving behind the Empire State Building after 51 troubled years for what it hopes will be a happier new home a few blocks away at Four Times Square.
As we told you in NERW in April, Empire’s owner, the Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT), reached a deal to settle WBAI’s back rent of more than $1.8 million and to end the station’s contract early. With the help of the Public Media Company’s Marc Hand, Pacifica worked out a deal with the owner of Four Times Square, the Durst Organization, for a new lease that has the cost of a new transmitter and installation rolled in to the deal.
For a station that has “perpetually troubled” almost baked into its description, WBAI now gets a breather for a year or so – but not permanently. In late 2019, the payments will once again start to be due on all of Pacifica’s new debt, which means we’re all but certain to be right back here writing about the station’s attempt to stay afloat at its new home.
(As for that new home, it’s 10 kW/282m, lower in height but higher in power than the previous 4.3 kW/415m from the Empire master antenna; in theory, at least, there should be little or no change in the station’s reach.)
*There’s a new PD at Cumulus’ WPLJ (95.5), where Dave LaBrozzi fills the gap left behind when Rick Gillette left back in January. For the last 14 years, he’s called Baltimore home, programming WLIF and WWMX for CBS Radio and then Entercom; before that, LaBrozzi’s career included a VP/programming post at Clear Channel in Pittsburgh, as well as several posts in Texas.
*Back here in Rochester, Entercom honored Steve Hausmann for his 50th anniversary in broadcasting last week. The New England native and devout Red Sox fan started as a teenager at WJDA (1300 Quincy) way back in 1968, worked his way through college at Emerson with summer gigs at WHDH, and we’ve called him ours in Rochester since he started doing sports at WHEC-TV (Channel 10) back in 1987.
He’s been with what’s now the Entercom cluster since 2001 as news anchor and now co-host at WBEE (92.5) – and now he does his work from what’s been officially designated the “Steve Hausmann Newsroom.”
*And in Buffalo, we remember Paul Smith, the versatile and talented engineer whose full-time work was at Buffalo State (including engineering campus station WBNY 91.3), but who was also a fixture elsewhere in the market, working audio for the Sabres and Bills and doing engineering for Dick Greene at WECK and WLVL.
Smith took ill on May 11 in his office at the college and underwent two surgeries for what turned out to be a ruptured aorta; sadly, he didn’t recover, dying May 30 at just 62 years old.
*There’s a tower site missing in MASSACHUSETTS, where crews quietly took down the four towers on Waverley Oaks Road in Waltham that were home to WMEX (1510) and its predecessors from 1981 until the station went dark almost a year ago.
The station never owned the site (shown here in a photo from Mike Fitzpatrick’s NECRAT.us), and the lease terms for the towers and transmitter building were widely thought to have been among the biggest reasons why the station’s succession of owners had a hard time turning a profit in its last few decades. The latest owner, Ed Perry, bought the license last year with an understanding that he wouldn’t have access to the Waltham site; with just under a month to go to return WMEX to the air, he’s working on building a 1 kW daytime facility under Special Temporary Authority at the WBIX (1260) site in Quincy, not far from the old location WMEX left behind when it moved to Waltham as WITS back in 1981.
*Over at NBC Boston, Ben Dobson is the new news director, moving up from NBC sister station WVIT in Hartford. Dobson will also oversee Telemundo’s WNEU and New England Cable News; he worked for NECN before becoming WVIT news director in 2016.
In western Massachusetts, Saga launched a new “metro signal” on Saturday, flipping translator W245BK (96.9 Amherst) from a simulcast of talker WHMP (1400 Northampton) to “Pure Oldies 96.9,” fed by an HD subchannel of WLZX (99.3 Northampton). The WHMP talk format will stay on FM, via a new Saga translator, W268CZ (101.5 Northampton).
And over at WGBY (Channel 57), they’re mourning Jim Madigan, who was a public affairs host at the Springfield public broadcaster from 1990 until lung disease forced his retirement last year. Madigan had worked in New York State, at the old WLDM (1570) in Westfield and spent eight years at WGGB (Channel 40) before joining WGBY, where he hosted “Connecting Point” and “The State We’re In.” Madigan, who died the weekend of May 26, was 65.
*Just down the road in CONNECTICUT, Phil Zachary is packing up his office at Entercom’s Hartford cluster as he prepares for his new job, replacing Steve Swenson as market manager at Entercom in Washington, D.C. Zachary was bumped to Hartford last fall when Entercom kept CBS Radio’s Mark Hannon on board to oversee its merged Boston cluster; he’ll continue to oversee Hartford and the WEEI offshoots in Springfield and Providence until Entercom finds a replacement there. (Swenson, meanwhile, had been in Washington since 2011, when he moved south from a long career in news radio in New York City at WINS and WCBS.)
Before leaving Hartford, Zachary had some staff shuffling to do at WTIC (1080 Hartford), where the end of UConn Huskies basketball and football rights also means the end of Bob Joyce’s 26 years with the station. It appears Joyce will be following the rights over to iHeart’s WUCS (97.9), while his play-by-play partner on UConn women’s basketball, Joe D’Ambrosio, moves to a new role as morning sports anchor on WTIC, which means he won’t be continuing with the Huskies in their new home. D’Ambrosio had been part of the WTIC afternoon sports-talk show with Andy Gresh until last year, when the show was cancelled and replaced with former Boston talker Todd Feinberg.
And we note with sadness the passing of Joe Bilotta, who spent more than 45 years with the former Buckley Radio group in Hartford and beyond. Bilotta worked closely with the late Rick Buckley to grow the company from its base at WDRC in Hartford to outposts in California and, in its most ambitious expansion, the 1985 purchase of New York’s WOR. Bilotta became the company’s COO in 2001 and then president/CEO a decade later, upon Buckley’s death. In his last few years with the company, he oversaw the sale of its properties, sending WOR to iHeart and the Connecticut stations to Connoisseur. Bilotta died on Friday; details of a memorial haven’t yet been announced.
*In central VERMONT, Sugar River’s WCVR (1320 Randolph) has a new translator – W261DJ (100.1) – and a new morning man. Mike Fitts started in late May on “Mike in the Morning” on the station now known as “North Country 1320 and 100.1.”
*In PENNSYLVANIA‘s Lehigh Valley, four TV stations are making history with their new channel-share. RF channel 9, once the sole province of religious WBPH (Channel 60) in Bethlehem, is now being shared with commercial independent WFMZ (Channel 69) and public broadcaster WLVT (Channel 39), which in turn picked up the “zombie license” of the former WYBE (Channel 35, now WPPT) after that Philadelphia-based station sold its spectrum last year.
From what we’re hearing, the channel-share includes three 720p HD services, the main channels of WLVT, WBPH and WFMZ, plus seven 480i standard-definition channels from WPPT (35.1/35.2 with MHz WorldView and World), WLVT (39.2/39.3 with Create and France 24), WBPH (60.2 with Worship Network) and WFMZ (69.2/69.3 with AccuWeather and an information page for viewers) – though we’re also hearing that those WFMZ subchannels may be shifting over to sister station KJWP (Channel 2) from the Roxborough antenna farm in Philadelphia.
The next step in the process will come July 18, when WLVT and WFMZ shut down their separate RF channels, on 39 and 46 respectively.
*Philadelphia is one of several markets where Radio Disney had been quietly airing on HD Radio subchannels for the last few years, as part of an arrangement between Radio Disney and the HD Radio Alliance partners. That deal appears to have ended, at least where Entercom is concerned; the Radio Disney feeds disappeared last week from WXTU (92.5) in Philadelphia as well as WBMP (92.3) in New York and other Entercom stations in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Denver and Los Angeles.
*And on the other side of the state, we wish a very happy 70th birthday to WBVP (1230 Beaver Falls). PBRTV.com reports 230 people attended a gala event May 25 that included an appearance by Alan Boal, the last surviving member of WBVP’s original 1948 airstaff, as well as the debut of a new book, Behind The Microphone, The History of Radio in Beaver County, written by station owner Mark Peterson, Kenneth Britten, and David Felts.
*Our news from CANADA starts near the MAINE border in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, where Acadia Broadcasting let out “The Tide” at CHTD (98.1) last week. The country format had been on the station since it first signed on back in May 2001, but it’s now given way to AC as “98.1 Charlotte FM,” an identity drawn from Charlotte County, which encompasses St. Stephen.
*In Montreal, community station CHAA (103.3 Longueuil) is on its way from the tower at Olympic Stadium over to a new transmitter home on the CBC tower at Mount Royal. The CRTC approved CHAA’s application to go from its present facility (340 watts average/1.4 kW max DA/193 m) to 403 watts average/1.7 kW max DA/285 m, which will more than double CHAA’s population reach in metro Montreal. CHAA had initially faced opposition from native station CKRK (103.7 Kahnawake) to the south, which had been concerned that a CHAA upgrade would impede its own ability to get a signal boost, but CHAA agreed not to oppose any upgrade attempt by CKRK down the road.
Over at Bell’s CJAD (800), Steve Faguy reports that Joey Elias has ended his “Comedy Show,” which had aired weeknights at 11 for a decade. For now, CJAD is instead carrying simulcasts of sister station CFCF-TV (Channel 12)’s CTV national and local news in that slot.
*In Toronto, CILQ (Q107) said goodbye to weekend staple “Psychedelic Sunday” at the end of May. Andy Frost started the show way back in 1985, when the Zeppelin and Floyd tracks he played were still relatively fresh; he’s now 62, and he says the show’s ratings were still strong and he’s not sure why Corus decided to pull the plug on the Sunday afternoon staple.
Over at CITY-TV (Channel 57), it was a 27-year run for Kevin Frankish as host of “Breakfast Television” – and it wrapped up Friday, a few days after Frankish surprised Toronto viewers with news that he was doing his last week of morning shows. Frankish, 54, says he’ll stay with CityTV to produce documentaries.
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