In this week’s issue… iHeart names news-talk leaders – Pittsburgh’s DeNardo remembered – WPIX, WTNH join “Club 70” – New ID for NYC’s “Alt” – PLUS: Baseball on the Radio – Single-A Edition
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*It’s been a fretful year for WBZ (1030 Boston) and its new iHeart talk sister stations, WRKO (680 Boston) and WXKS (1200 Newton), in eastern MASSACHUSETTS. They’ve been operating with interim leadership since iHeart announced back in November that it was picking up WBZ from CBS Radio and WRKO from Entercom – but last week, that finally changed with the announcement of Rob Sanchez’s arrival as the cluster’s new VP for news-talk-sports programming.
At WBZ, Sanchez fills a hole left vacant when iHeart decided not to keep veteran WBZ PD Peter Casey on board. Without a permanent PD, WBZ has been in the hands of APD/interim PD Bill Flaherty and newsroom manager Jon MacLean, who’ve had the challenge of keeping things running amidst some staff cutbacks (most notably anchor Rod Fritz), union unrest and the death of veteran reporter Lana Jones. Over at WRKO, it’s been Michael Czarnecki keeping things running during the handoff to iHeart from Entercom – but there’s been nobody at the top to fully oversee all the challenges of integrating these longtime competitors (not to mention iHeart’s own “Talk 1200,” home to content from iHeart’s Premiere Radio Networks including Rush Limbaugh.)
At WBZ, especially, Sanchez’ arrival was greeted with excitement and relief. That’s because his background is squarely in the all-news tradition that BZ staffers are trying to keep alive: Sanchez worked at former Group W sister station WINS in New York, as well as spending a dozen years at former CBS sister station WCBS, where he served as assistant PD/ND. Sanchez then moved down to Washington to launch CBS Radio’s ill-fated all-news WNEW (99.1), where he was news director until the station folded. He’d remained in Washington with CBS/Entercom, serving as OM/PD of Spanish-language WLZL (El Zol 107.9).
With his return to news and talk, Sanchez faces plenty of challenges. In the next few months, WBZ and WRKO will leave their existing separate homes in Brighton, moving into iHeart’s expanded facility in Medford. With a monopoly (on the commercial side, anyway) on the news and talk format in Boston, there’s plenty of speculation about how iHeart might realign some of its holdings – will WBZ’s local nighttime talk, for instance, move over to WRKO? Will Limbaugh move back to the bigger WRKO signal from the lesser WXKS? (And what of the “-sports” at the end of Sanchez’ new title? Right now, there’s no sports on any of iHeart’s Boston properties.)
Meanwhile, Flaherty gets promoted to a new title as director of operations for news-talk-sports, presumably taking on new responsibility at WRKO/WXKS as well as WBZ. And MacLean, reportedly, will be moving to a new “regional news director” role – which leads us to wonder whether iHeart is looking to bring some of WBZ’s news content to its existing news-talk outlets around the region, including WXTK on Cape Cod, WHJJ in Providence, WPOP and WELI in Connecticut, WTAG in Worcester, WHYN in Springfield and WGIR in New Hampshire?
We have a great lineup of podcasts here on our site. While you’re catching up with your summer reading, don’t forget about your summer listening. Now is the time to make sure you’re up to date with Top of the Tower.
Our latest one features Donna Halper discussing her life in radio, from her time at WMMS when she helped Rush get US airplay, to what she learned from Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg.
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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: June 19, 2017
*Think you understand what’s happening under the hood in the complicated world of local television broadcasting these days? Spectrum auction, repack, ATSC 3.0, UHF discounts…it all made for plenty of discussion at all sorts of levels at NAB in Las Vegas in April (and at an informative SBE Ennes Educational Seminar a week ago in Syracuse, too.)
And just when you think you might have a decent handle on all of the changes that are coming to the television landscape, you run across something like this, the 54 pages of legalese that was appended to the channel-sharing arrangement under which Bill Binnie’s WBIN (Channel 50) in Derry, NEW HAMPSHIRE will become a spectrum-sharing tenant on the RF 27 spectrum of Univision’s WUTF (Channel 66) in Marlborough, MASSACHUSETTS.
We’ll spare you all the verbiage (unless you enjoy that sort of thing, in which case, have at it) and skip to the interesting part: when Binnie and Univision entered into this deal back in January, they did more than just make the “usual” (by today’s standards) detailed agreements about who’ll cover what costs and how much bandwidth each station will get when they move in together at WUTF’s Hudson transmitter site and shut down WBIN’s much less potent OTA transmitter north of the border.
Here’s the more interesting part: Binnie has an option to sell off the WBIN license to Univision, by way of a put/call agreement that was included in the sharing deal. Within 60 days of the FCC’s announcement of the auction results (which came in May), either side can trigger that sale, putting what remains of WBIN in Univision’s hands for (if we’re reading this correctly) a $16.76 million payment to Binnie.
Less the $6.81 million that Univision pockets from the WBIN auction proceeds under the deal (10 percent of the $68.1 million total, in exchange for the 10% of WUTF’s digital capacity that WBIN would have taken under the channel-share deal), that means that Univision would pay out a net $9,956,000 to completely buy Binnie out of the WBIN license, trading his future contributions toward WUTF’s expenses (including the eventual conversion to ATSC 3.0) for continued sole control of all of the RF 27 spectrum.
*CBS Radio’s latest cuts fell last week in western PENNSYLVANIA, where Ally Butler and Andy Davis are out after a little over a year together in morning drive on WDSY (107.9 Pittsburgh). Butler had moved from middays to mornings to launch the new show back in February 2016, when Davis joined Y108. No replacement has been named yet at the country station, which has been struggling to hold its footing against Forever’s Froggy stations.
*Across the state, there were more changes on the Philadelphia FM dial, too, this time at Jerry Lee Radio’s WBEB (More FM 101.1), where Logan has departed the afternoon shift.
We’ll post a more detailed tour of the new CBC studios at the London Public Library downtown later on over at Site of the Week – but for now, here are a couple of shots of the interesting open newsroom-studio that faces Dundas Street.
A small group of CBC fans showed up streetside early Monday morning for the 6 AM launch of “London Morning,” which went off without a hitch, as did the relaunch in the afternoon of “Afternoon Drive,” which has moved production from Windsor to London and is now heard on CBC transmitters in both markets (including the Windsor relays in Chatham-Kent, Leamington and Sarnia.)
Five Years Ago: June 17, 2013
*There’s a new AM signal coming to eastern MASSACHUSETTS, as owner Alexander Langer moves forward on a relocation of the former WMSX (1410 Brockton). When Langer announced his $100,000 purchase of the silent AM signal from Kingdom Church exactly a year ago, he told us he didn’t have a move immediately planned – WMSX “happened to be a good local signal at the right price,” he said then – but anyone familiar with his signal-upgrade work knew better, especially given WMSX’s lack of a viable Brockton transmitter site.
Working with consulting engineer Charles Hecht, Langer filed for his move on Monday. He’s proposing to transfer WMSX from Brockton to a new community of license of Dedham, abandoning the old Linwood Street site in Brockton in favor of a new 75-foot Valcom fiberglass whip antenna to be located in an industrial section of Readville, right at the southern tip of Boston’s city limits. (It will, in fact, become the only AM station transmitting from within the city of Boston.)
From that new site on Sprague Street, the new WMSX would run 610 watts by day and just 25 watts at night. At least on paper, that day facility will put about 600,000 people within its 2 mV/m contour, including most of Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan as well as a ring of south suburban Boston including Dedham, Milton and parts of Quincy and Brookline.
Assuming the move is granted (and there’s no reason to expect it won’t), it’s likely the new WMSX will follow in the path of another Langer move-in. What’s now WSRO (650 Ashland) was moved into the Framingham area from southern New Hampshire, and Langer has slowly grown that small facility into an important voice for the fast-growing Portuguese-speaking community in MetroWest that had lacked its own radio outlet. Will the new WMSX find a similar ethnic niche in the diverse neighborhoods it will serve? There are certainly openings, as the slew of unlicensed Haitian Creole signals in the area attests every day.
*Where are they now? The Reverend Earl Jackson made a name for himself as the general manager of WLVG (740 Cambridge) during that station’s days as a black gospel/religious outlet in the 1980s, including several encounters with bankruptcy. After exiting WLVG (which eventually ended up in the hands of Bob Bittner as WWEA and then WJIB), Jackson decamped for Virginia – and it wasn’t until late last week (with an assist from Universal Hub, by way of the now-defunct Washington Examiner) that we made the connection between WLVG’s Earl Jackson and the Rev. E. W. Jackson who’s making headlines as the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Virginia.
(If you’re keeping score at home, Jackson is at least the second former Boston radio operator to make headlines at the rightward end of national politics: as we’ve noted here on several occasions, former WDLW 1330 owner Anthony Martin-Trigona has become a perennial candidate and political gadfly under the name “Andy Martin.”)
*A stealth format change in Binghamton: Equinox Broadcasting appears to have quietly killed off AC WRRQ (106.7 Port Dickinson), instead using that frequency to simulcast its oldies WCDW (100.5 Susquehanna PA). At least for now, that puts “Cool 100” on the Ingraham Hill 106.7 signal, the east-side rimshot 100.5 and a string of translators around the valley; will any of those translators instead end up with some of Equinox’s other HD-subchannel feeds? (The company also runs rock “Z93,” soft AC “Sunny 107” and AAA “104.5 the Drive” on translators fed by WRRQ’s HD subs.)
Ten Years Ago: June 16, 2008
*The shock of Tim Russert’s far-too-early death on Friday afternoon was felt all over the country, but nowhere more so than in his native western NEW YORK.
Russert never worked in radio or television in Buffalo, of course; his road out of South Buffalo took him into the political arena, as an aide to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, before he joined NBC as Washington bureau chief in 1984. But as Russert became a fixture on the NBC and MSNBC airwaves over the last two decades, he missed no opportunity to talk up his Buffalo roots. When he wasn’t shamelessly promoting the Bills and the Sabres at the end of “Meet the Press” many weeks, Russert was talking about his Canisius High School education and his days growing up as the son of “Big Russ,” Tim Russert Sr.
In 2003, the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers (now the Buffalo Broadcasters) inducted Russert into their hall of fame, honoring him with the “Buffalo” Bob Smith Award, which recognizes Buffalo natives who achieved fame outside the Queen City.
As news of Russert’s sudden collapse and death spread on Friday, Buffalo’s TV and radio stations sprung into action – not only NBC affiliate WGRZ (Channel 2) but the rest of the Buffalo newscasts were filled with local residents’ memories of Russert throughout the weekend, and much of the front page of Saturday’s Buffalo News was dedicated to Russert. And Buffalo voices were all over the networks throughout the weekend, too – Buffalo mayor Byron Brown, in particular, was seen several times on MSNBC and NBC itself, and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, another prominent son of Buffalo, shared some touching stories about the bond he shared with his fellow western New Yorker.
NERW joins with the rest of the broadcasting industry in sending our deepest condolences to the Russert family and to his family at NBC; he leaves behind a void that won’t be filled easily or quickly, if at all.
*VERMONT‘s “Corm and the Coach” are ending their 16-year partnership. After their July 2 show, “Coach” Tom Brennan will leave the popular morning show he’s been hosting with Steve “Corm” Cormier since 1992, when they debuted on WIZN (106.7 Vergennes).
The pair moved to their current home base, “Champ” WCPV (101.3 Essex NY) in 1998. (They’re also heard in central Vermont on the Champ simulcast, WCVR 102.1 Randolph.)
Brennan tells the Burlington Free Press that he’s tired of 4 AM wakeup calls; Cormier, who’s also the PD of WCPV/WCVR, plans to continue in mornings. He says the move isn’t related to the impending sale of WCPV and its Clear Channel sister stations, which is expected to close within the next few months.
Brennan, who coached the University of Vermont basketball team for almost two decades, won’t leave the airwaves completely; he’ll remain with ESPN as a basketball analyst.
*There’s a new FM signal on the air in eastern CANADA; Kentville, Nova Scotia, to be precise. Newcap’s CIJK (“K-Rock 89.3”) launched Thursday morning at the frequency-appropriate time of 8:09:30. The classic rock station offers new competition to Maritime Broadcasting System’s two Annapolis Valley signals, CKWM (97.7) and CKEN (94.9).
Fifteen Years Ago: June 16, 2003
You know it’s been a slow week in NERW-land when we lead off with a format change on the outskirts of a major market in CANADA! Be that as it may, Durham Radio pulled a bit of a surprise midweek when it pulled the plug on the modern AC “Magic @ 94.9” that had been running on CKGE (94.9 Oshawa), serving the fast-growing Durham region east of Toronto.
When Durham bought the station, the rumor in Toronto radio circles had CKGE flipping to a simulcast of smooth jazz “Wave” CIWV (94.7 Hamilton), which shares common ownership just across the lake at the other end of the “Golden Horseshoe.” Instead, CKGE is now “94-9 the Rock,” with legendary Toronto programmer David Marsden on board helping out. Al Joynes and Laura Mainella handle mornings, followed by Vanessa Murphy in middays and Rockin Rod in afternoons – and Marsden himself will handle 7-midnight on Thursdays and Fridays.
It’s been a bad week for a NEW YORK public broadcaster. Schenectady’s WMHT laid off some of its television staffers last month; now it’s pulled the plug on most of the local classical music programming at WMHT-FM (89.1) and its Hudson Valley simulcast, WRHV (88.7 Poughkeepsie). Four full-time announcers, including shop steward Lawrence Boylan, were let go in the switch to the satellite; WMHT is promising to keep local programming in the morning, as well as retaining some local specialty shows.
Twenty Years Ago: June 18, 1998
Chalk a big one up for Clear Channel Broadcasting. On Wednesday, the broadcaster picked up Pennsylvania-based Dame Media in an $85 million stock deal. Clear Channel is already a major owner in New Haven (WELI/WAVZ/WKCI), Providence (WWRX/WWBB), and Springfield (WHYN AM-FM). It’s a TV owner in Albany (WXXA-TV), and it’s a major investor in Albany’s WQBK/WQBJ, WXCR, and WTMM. The Dame purchase gives Clear Channel WGY (810 Schenectady), WRVE (99.5 Schenectady), and WHRL (103.1 Albany) to add to the group, along with six Utica-area stations — the trimulcast standards WUTQ (1550 Utica)/WRNY (1350 Rome)/WADR (1480 Remsen), rocker WOUR (96.9 Utica), CHR WSKS (102.5 Rome), and AC WRFM (93.5 Remsen).
In other news from NEW YORK, it’s official: New York City’s WNEW (102.7) is picking up former WAAF afternoon guys Opie and Anthony as part of what looks like a former overhaul. The CBS-owned station will reportedly drop veteran DJs including Pat St. John and Scott Muni, as it heads in more of an alternative-rock direction.
Binghamton’s WIVT (Channel 34) remains off the airwaves, but cable viewers are again seeing local programming. Public broadcaster WSKG (Channel 46) leased space in its Gates Road facility in Vestal to WIVT, which was knocked off the air by a tornado that destroyed its tower and much of its studio building. It’s something of an irony for the folks at WSKG, who were rumored to be contemplating buying Channel 34 a few years ago (when it was still WMGC) and running it as a commercial operation from the WSKG studios. Broadcasting & Cable magazine reports WSKG hopes to keep WIVT as a permanent tenant.
WGKP, we hardly knew ye: The Sound of Life religious network must think it’s covering Albany well enough with its translator on 98.9; it asked the FCC last Friday to delete the construction-permit for never-built WGKP (89.9 Rensselaerville), which would have broadcast from the same New Scotland site that W255AJ is using. NERW guesses it must be much cheaper to run a one-watt translator than a 340-watt “real” station.
Up north, Ogdensburg’s WZEA (98.7) went on the air “for real” this week, as hot AC “Yes-FM.” New calls are already in place; list this one as WYSX from now on. We’re told live jocks are now on the air at this Tim Martz-owned station. While we’re in the area, we note that CJSS (1220) in Cornwall, Ontario has applied for 101.9 MHz; part of a slew of Canadian AM-to-FM applications in the last few weeks, it seems. Others include London’s CKSL (1410 to 102.3), Sarnia’s CKTY (1110 to 106.3; we’re sure WBT likes this one), and St.-Georges-du-Beauce, Quebec’s CKRB (1460 to 103.3, ending a regular DX catch in the Boston area). In Lindsay, CKLY has now gone silent on 910 and is only on 91.9.