In this week’s issue… WBAI adds former WNYC talker – Hall of Famers named – Translator auction wraps – Remembering Hall, Vrable, Johnson
By SCOTT FYBUSH
Jump to: ME – NH – VT – MA – RI – CT – NY – NJ – PA – Canada
*There’s a reason most radio trade publications go dormant the week of July 4, especially when the holiday falls in the middle of the week. Not much was happening in broadcasting last week – but we were still here chronicling it, just as we’ve been for almost 25 years now. And this week, we’re making what content we have free for all readers. If you’re already a NERW subscriber, thanks – and tell a friend! (And if you’re not, there’s much more content like this every Monday here at Fybush.com for as little as 29 cents a week – sign up right here!)
*Our lead story, such as it is, is the return of a familiar voice to the NEW YORK airwaves. Leonard Lopate was a midday fixture on WNYC public radio for more than 30 years when he was suspended and then fired last December amidst allegations that he’d sexually harassed and bullied co-workers. Lopate denied the allegations, and in late May he showed up on a new weekly podcast, “Leonard Lopate at Large,” co-produced by Robin Hood Radio (WHDD/WBSL/WLHV) up in CONNECTICUT and by low-power WPWL-LP (103.7), “Pawling Public Radio,” in Putnam County.
As of next week, Lopate’s weekly hour will get bigger visibility when it begins airing at 1 PM on Mondays over WBAI (99.5), Pacifica’s New York outlet. (Monday evening update: a statement released today by WBAI indicates the Lopate show will be heard not just on Mondays but every weekday from 1-2.) It’s a return home for Lopate, in a way; his radio career started there in 1977 during another one of WBAI’s eternal power struggles. At the time, some WBAI veterans attacked Lopate for bringing a more commercial sound to the station (which was thought to be in the acquisition crosshairs of Percy Sutton’s Inner City Radio), and after several years hosting “Round Midnight” and other shows at WBAI, he moved on to WNYC for the bulk of his career.
Will Lopate’s WNYC audience find him in an hour-long slot up the dial at WBAI? The Pacifica station hasn’t been very good at promotion in recent decades, and we’ll be watching to see whether it makes any concerted effort to let New Yorkers know Lopate is back on the radio – and if so, what sort of reaction it will get.
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*It took more than 15 years, but last week the FCC finally closed out its Auction 83 proceeding, resolving the last handful of applications from the so-called “Great Translator Invasion” in which thousands of new FM translators were proposed way back in the spring of 2003.
The proceeding’s second-highest bid brought a translator win for iHeart in western MASSACHUSETTS, where it had applied for 100 watts on 97.3 (transmitting from downtown Springfield but licensed to nearby Westfield). That signal was worth $92,000 to iHeart, which outbid Great Northern Radio, which had applied for 97.3 up in South Hadley to relay WRSI (93.9 Turners Falls). WRSI is now owned by Saga, of course – and iHeart will likely need a different primary for its 97.3 translator, too, which had originally applied to relay what’s now WUCS (97.9), long since moved across the state line to CONNECTICUT.
*Ed Perry has applied for a new version of the Special Temporary Authority (STA) under which his WMEX (1510) is operating from its diplex with WBIX (1260) in Quincy. The latest STA calls for 2 kW day, 100 watts night, non-directional; WMEX is still awaiting grant of a CP for its permanent move to the WBIX site with 10 kW day, 100 watts night, non-directional – and it’s still simulcasting Perry’s WATD-FM (95.9 Marshfield) in the meantime.
Speaking of WMEX, Warren Duffy was “Cousin Duffy,” one of the jocks on 1510 in its top-40 peak in the late 1960s. Duffy came to afternoons on WMEX in 1968 from the Richmond brothers’ sister station in Washington, WPGC, working there for just a year or so before heading west to a new gig at KMET in Los Angeles. After a few years at KMET and KDAY, he moved into record promotion and then became a born-again Christian in the 1980s, handling PR for the Crystal Cathedral and eventually returning to radio at Salem’s KKLA.
Duffy had been battling brain cancer; he died June 13 in Arizona, at 80.
*VERMONT Public Radio was a winner in Auction 83, too, paying $21,000 for 107.5 in Burlington (proposed, for now, to relay flagship WVPS 107.9 from across the lake in Willsboro, NY) and outbidding Steve Silberberg’s application for 107.5 at the WCAT (1390) site in Burlington.
*There was one Auction 83 translator winner in MAINE, where David Stout won 99.3 in Old Town, north of Bangor, for just $750. The new translator is listed as rebroadcasting WZON (620 Bangor); it appears Salt Pond Community Broadcasting didn’t bid for its competing application for 98.9 in Orono, relaying WERU (89.9 Blue Hill).
*Back in New York, we know at least two of the inductees into the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame: they were celebrating last week at Rochester’s WHAM-TV (Channel 13) when the news arrived that veteran anchors Ginny Ryan and Doug Emblidge will be joining their record-holding colleague Don Alhart in the hall this autumn. (We’ll have the complete list next week.)
And there’s belated word of the death May 17 of Sam Hall, whose long career in New York City radio news started at the old WNEW (1130) and went on to include stints at WOR and the RKO network, WNBC/WYNY and the NBC network (including some news duties on “Imus in the Morning” at WNBC), and finally at WQEW/WQXR, where he retired as news director in 2006. Hall was 81; a memorial service was held for him on Saturday. (photo: WQXR)
*In PENNSYLVANIA, Seven Mountains/Southern Belle is adding another signal up in the hills between Harrisburg and Lewisburg: it’s paying Starview Media $70,500 for little WJUN (1220 Mexico) along with its translator, W298CR (107.5). The deal will reunite WJUN with its former FM sister, now “Bigfoot Country” WIBF (92.5 Mexico).
There’s another obituary from iHeart in Pittsburgh. Mike Vrable was known as “Mike Steele” during many years there as a WDVE (102.5) part-time jock and Steelers/Penguins producer. Vrable started out up in Beaver Falls on 106.7 before that rock format transitioned down to Pittsburgh as today’s WXDX (105.9 the X) in 1996. He departed for Austin, Texas and KLBJ-FM (93.7), then came back to Pittsburgh in 2011. Vrable died Tuesday (July 3) at just 51; he’d been suffering from bowel cancer.
Over at CBS’ KDKA-TV (Channel 2)/WPCW (Channel 19), Jay Howell is the new general manager, returning to Pittsburgh after holding the same post for a year at sister stations KOVR/KMAX in Sacramento. Howell is the son of John Howell, longtime station manager across town at WPXI (Channel 11).
*Up the road in Loretto, Matt Lightner’s applying for new calls at WWGE (1400). When he takes over, the station will become – yup! – WYUP.
There’s also a call swap in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market, and we’re not sure why: WGMF (1460 Tunkhannock) is now WZMF, while WZMF (730 Nanticoke) becomes WGMF. Both AMs serve as parent signals for a big chain of “GEM Radio” translators up and down the valley. And while we’re digging into the callsign database, 7 Mountains/Southern Belle has reserved new calls WZBF for what’s now WVYS (96.9 Ridgebury) when it flips from “YES FM” over to its new “Bigfoot Country” identity sometime this summer.
*And in NEW JERSEY (and far beyond), Tom Petner is being mourned after a long career in TV news. Petner’s management career included stints as VP/news at WWOR (Channel 9) in Secaucus in the 1980s and early 1990s, then at WTAE (Channel 4) in Pittsburgh before going to work for APBNews.com and Vault Inc. He spent some time teaching at Temple University, then joined the ranks of trade publishers as editor of TVSpy and 247Newsroom before retiring in 2013. Petner died July 1 in Freehold after a fight with cancer; he was 71.
*The week after CANADA Day is always a slow one north of the border, and so we don’t have much Canadian news to report in this issue, save for the death of J.J. Richards.
Richards came to Toronto in 1957 to join the news department at CHUM (1050), back in the days when top-40 AM stations also did international news. Richards moved to TV in 1964, joining CFTO-TV (Channel 9), then to the CBC in 1967 to cover Toronto city hall. (Photo: CHUMTribute.com)
He left Toronto in 1967, working in Greece and then going to the west coast to work in Victoria and Vancouver for 26 years before retiring to southern California. That’s where he died June 30, at age 88.
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