In this week’s issue… An historic move in Boston – Remembering Vermont’s Condon, MA’s Levy, PA’s Brinkman – NY FM signs off – Mets on the move?

By SCOTT FYBUSH

Jump to: MENHVTMARICTNYNJ PACanada

*BOSTON – It was just walls and doors and wires.

But for longer than almost any other major radio station, WBZ (1030)’s walls and doors and wires maintained the very same address, 1170 Soldiers Field Road, Allston. That’s where Westinghouse built a new building for radio and its fledgling television station way back in 1948, and it’s where WBZ’s new owner, iHeart, made its last broadcast on Saturday night before inaugurating its new high-tech studio complex for the station at 1 Cabot Road in Medford.

Most of WBZ’s staffers said their farewells to the old building on Friday (a few, unexpectedly, for good – more on that in a moment), leaving only a handful of weekend staffers and engineers on hand Saturday to observe the history of the station’s exit from Soldiers Field Road.

For the record, anchor Mike Macklin (right) was the last live voice from the old WBZ studios just before 6 PM, while his colleague Garo Hagopian goes into the books as the very last voice ever, delivering recorded newscasts at 6 and 7.

Assistant news director Jon MacLean and master control operator Britt Chittick (left) were the last WBZ staffers on duty in the building, with Chittick holding the honor of being the final WBZ operator to sign off as control of the station shifted to Medford seconds before 8 PM. Within minutes, engineers were busy turning off the last equipment in Allston, packing up news servers and other essential equipment for the ride up to Medford, where Morgan White Jr. was the first live talk host from the new studios a few hours later.

And then it was just the ghosts of all the legends who made great radio at that address over the years – deSuze, Glick, Maynard, Brudnoy, Gil Santos, and so many more – sharing partly-empty hallways with WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and WSBK (Channel 38), which remain in Allston and will likely take over some of the old WBZ radio space. (For now, anyway; rumors persist that CBS, which owns the building, will leave in the next few years and Harvard will take over the land.)

We’ll have much more in the near future on WBZ’s shiny new Medford home, which we’re looking forward to seeing while we’re in town (not to mention visits to Beasley’s new WBZ-FM studios and a few other recent moves). In the meantime, a few remnants of the long radio history remain at Soldiers Field Road: iHeart will continue to rent space at the building for WBZ radio’s auxiliary transmitter, and the WBZ Radio Hall of Fame plaques for Dave Maynard, Carl deSuze, Gil Santos and Gary LaPierre are still attached to the front of the building, awaiting an eventual move to Medford.

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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: August 28, 2017

*After half a century as a student-run operation on a commercial license that covers most of RHODE ISLAND, and after more than a year of uncertainty as a potential sale loomed, WBRU (95.5 Providence) is in its final days as a modern rock station.

As our content partner RadioInsight.com first reported exclusively on Friday, the secretive sale process around WBRU has produced a buyer for the class B license: EMF Broadcasting, which will turn 95.5 into another outlet for its national “K-Love” format under new calls WLVO.

The sale, reportedly for a price tag of $5.5 million, marks the second time in just a few years that a big Providence class B FM has suffered a reduction in local coverage. iHeart’s signal shuffle at WWBB (101.5 Providence) two years ago took that former class B down to a class A signal while leaving its local programming intact; this time, it’s the local programming that goes away, while the 95.5 signal will remain in place carrying EMF’s California-based programming.

While WBRU has made only a brief statement indicating that an FCC filing for the sale will be made in the very near future, RadioInsight’s closer scrutiny of other FCC filings turned up a call change at WPVD-LP (101.1 Providence). That’s the share-time LPFM construction permit that belongs to Brown Student Radio, a university group that has no direct connection to BBS or WBRU – but which has now applied to change its callsign to WBRU-LP.

*In MASSACHUSETTS, it’s a happy reunion between CBS Radio’s WBZ (1030) and Josh Binswanger, who produced and hosted the weekend “Kid Company” show there from 1990 until 1995. Binswanger began doing television work at WBZ, too, co-anchoring the noon news on WBZ-TV (Channel 4) for a year before following former WBZ colleague Tom Bergeron to the new FX network, where he was an on-air host. That launched him into two decades as a talent on cable TV, where he’s been the face and voice of numerous documentaries and other programs over the years.

And now he’s headed back to WBZ to take over early next month as co-anchor of the morning news block, a role that’s passed through several hands in the decade since Gary LaPierre retired. (Most recently, it was Joe Mathieu in that seat alongside Deb Lawler; he left a few months ago and has since joined WGBH as local “Morning Edition” host.)

*The death of Jay Thomas on Thursday produced plenty of obituaries remembering his gifted turns as a comic actor on “Murphy Brown” and “Cheers,” not to mention his long run as a Christmastime staple on David Letterman’s “Late Show.” But in NEW YORK – and in Charlotte and Los Angeles, too – he’s still well-remembered for his long radio career, too.

The native Texan started his radio career down south, most notably working for (and apparently even owning a piece of) Stan and Sis Kaplan’s stations, including WAPE in Jacksonville and WAYS in Charlotte. It was while he was at WAYS that New York came calling, luring him to mornings at WXLO (98.7) at the height of its “99X” glory days.

Thomas was arguably the first of the city’s top FM morning men, moving from WXLO over to WKTU (92.3) not long after ‘KTU dethroned WABC to become the first FM station to top the New York ratings. His run at WKTU lasted until the station’s end in 1985, when its flip to “K-Rock” as WXRK brought in Howard Stern from WNBC to do mornings. While Thomas would later do more radio – in Los Angeles at KPWR (105.9) and at SiriusXM – the rest of his career would be known more for television comedy.

Thomas had been suffering from cancer; he was 69.

Five Years Ago: August 26, 2013

*The end to one of the biggest “what-if” scenarios in NEW YORK radio came quietly late last week, when Cumulus Media and Clear Channel came to terms on a new agreement that will keep Clear Channel’s Rush Limbaugh on the big former ABC/Citadel talk stations now owned by Cumulus in major markets such as Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth and Washington.

wabc770But while Rush won’t move from legacy affiliates including WLS, WBAP and WMAL (not to mention smaller Cumulus outlets such as WXLM 980 in Groton, Connecticut), the deal between Cumulus and Clear Channel will bring Limbaugh to a new spot on the New York City radio dial beginning in January 2014, as he leaves Cumulus’ WABC (770) after a quarter of a century in favor of Clear Channel’s WOR (710).

The reasonably amicable resolution of what could have been an ugly dispute (there are few good options for replacement Limbaugh affiliates in many of the big Cumulus markets) continues a pattern of cooperation between the two big “C” companies: Cumulus’ stations are part of Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio streaming service, while Clear Channel’s stations now take part in Cumulus’ SweetJack daily deal site.

Amicable as it may have been, though, the shift of Limbaugh from WABC to WOR will force some big changes on both stations’ schedules:

*On WOR, Limbaugh’s arrival in the noon-3 PM slot will displace one of the station’s longest-running hosts, Joan Hamburg, from her current noon-2 PM airshift, which in turn opens up some interesting questions about what direction the daily WOR schedule will end up taking. There’s no reason to think John R. Gambling’s morning show is going anywhere (and we note here the death on August 17 of Gambling’s mother, Sally, at age 83; she was also, of course, the wife of John A. Gambling, John R.’s predecessor on the WOR morning shift.) What’s less clear, though, is whether Hamburg’s show will move into the 10 AM-noon slot now occupied by Mark Simone. If Hamburg does go to mid-mornings, where her service-oriented show would be an odd lead-in to Limbaugh’s politics), Simone would likely return to the fill-in/weekend duty he’d been doing for years at WOR and before that at WABC.

Ten Years Ago: August 25, 2008

Last week, NERW broke the story of a major rearrangement of Atlantic Coast Radio’s Portland-market signals, and this week we can fill in all the blanks – and tell you about some changes down the road at the Nassau stations, too, not to mention a big change up in Bangor.

First, Atlantic Coast: As we reported last week, it’s the end of the line for “Red Hot 95.9.” That station – WRED (95.9 Saco) – will become half of a new Atlantic Coast sports station in the market, as owner J.J. Jeffrey affiliates with Boston’s WEEI and puts its sports programming on 95.9 and on WJJB-FM (95.5 Topsham), which had been half of the locally-programmed “Big Jab” sports signal.

The Big Jab will stay in the market on a stronger signal, replacing talk on what’s now WLOB-FM (96.3 Gray) and remaining on WJJB (1440 Westbrook). And the talk programming will stay in place, too, but only on WLOB (1310 Portland).

Those changes will all take place Sept. 1, and there will be new calls, too – 96.3 will become WJJB-FM, 95.5 will be WTEI and 95.9 will be WPEI.

(A quick bit of NERW analysis before we move on: whether or not you believe the rumor that WEEI owner Entercom forced Atlantic Coast’s hand by threatening to move the valuable Red Sox radio rights elsewhere in the market, Jeffrey ends up with an interesting competitive position in southern Maine. While he won’t have a total sports monopoly in the market – Nassau’s WLVP 870/WLAM 1470 are fulltime ESPN Radio, and the Portland Sea Dogs are heard on Saga’s WBAE 1490 – Jeffrey will now have outlets offering both local sports talk and the Boston-centric WEEI product, not a bad hand to play if the goal is to deliver a young male audience.)

NERW readers with longish memories will by now have noted that the initial announcement of a New England-wide WEEI network last winter included numerous Nassau stations, WLVP/WLAM among them. As WEEI relaunches its regional network plans, Nassau is still absent – but there is now a Bangor affiliate. September 1 will also bring the WEEI network to Blueberry Broadcasting’s WABI (910 Bangor) and WWBX (97.1 Bangor), replacing talk on the AM side and top 40 “B97” on the FM. That’s a pretty big signal for WEEI, and even if the WEEI network is being handled separately from the Red Sox rights, we have to wonder how much longer Stephen King will be able to hang on to the Sox over at WZON (620).

And returning to the Portland/southern Maine end of things, there’s a format shuffle coming from Nassau, too: In October, it will move classical “W-Bach” from its present homes on WBQW (106.3 Scarborough) and WBQQ (99.3 Kennebunk) to what’s now “Bone” classic rocker WHXQ (104.7 Kennebunkport). The 106.3 frequency will flip to “The Bone,” simulcasting with WHXR (106.7 North Windham) to blanket the Portland market, at the expense of York County; 99.3 will flip to “Wolf” country, simulcasting Nassau’s WTHT (99.9 Auburn) to improve the Wolf’s coverage of the full Portland market, where Nassau’s apparently looking at sagging ratings for Saga’s country giant, WPOR (101.9 Portland), and seeing vulnerability. (There are no changes planned – at least not yet – for the northern outposts of the “W-Bach” network, WBQX 106.9 Thomaston and WBQI 107.7 Bar Harbor.)

Fifteen Years Ago: August 25, 2003

Last week, NERW broke the story of a major rearrangement of Atlantic Coast Radio’s Portland-market signals, and this week we can fill in all the blanks – and tell you about some changes down the road at the Nassau stations, too, not to mention a big change up in Bangor.

First, Atlantic Coast: As we reported last week, it’s the end of the line for “Red Hot 95.9.” That station – WRED (95.9 Saco) – will become half of a new Atlantic Coast sports station in the market, as owner J.J. Jeffrey affiliates with Boston’s WEEI and puts its sports programming on 95.9 and on WJJB-FM (95.5 Topsham), which had been half of the locally-programmed “Big Jab” sports signal.

The Big Jab will stay in the market on a stronger signal, replacing talk on what’s now WLOB-FM (96.3 Gray) and remaining on WJJB (1440 Westbrook). And the talk programming will stay in place, too, but only on WLOB (1310 Portland).

Those changes will all take place Sept. 1, and there will be new calls, too – 96.3 will become WJJB-FM, 95.5 will be WTEI and 95.9 will be WPEI.

(A quick bit of NERW analysis before we move on: whether or not you believe the rumor that WEEI owner Entercom forced Atlantic Coast’s hand by threatening to move the valuable Red Sox radio rights elsewhere in the market, Jeffrey ends up with an interesting competitive position in southern Maine. While he won’t have a total sports monopoly in the market – Nassau’s WLVP 870/WLAM 1470 are fulltime ESPN Radio, and the Portland Sea Dogs are heard on Saga’s WBAE 1490 – Jeffrey will now have outlets offering both local sports talk and the Boston-centric WEEI product, not a bad hand to play if the goal is to deliver a young male audience.)

NERW readers with longish memories will by now have noted that the initial announcement of a New England-wide WEEI network last winter included numerous Nassau stations, WLVP/WLAM among them. As WEEI relaunches its regional network plans, Nassau is still absent – but there is now a Bangor affiliate. September 1 will also bring the WEEI network to Blueberry Broadcasting’s WABI (910 Bangor) and WWBX (97.1 Bangor), replacing talk on the AM side and top 40 “B97” on the FM. That’s a pretty big signal for WEEI, and even if the WEEI network is being handled separately from the Red Sox rights, we have to wonder how much longer Stephen King will be able to hang on to the Sox over at WZON (620).

And returning to the Portland/southern Maine end of things, there’s a format shuffle coming from Nassau, too: In October, it will move classical “W-Bach” from its present homes on WBQW (106.3 Scarborough) and WBQQ (99.3 Kennebunk) to what’s now “Bone” classic rocker WHXQ (104.7 Kennebunkport). The 106.3 frequency will flip to “The Bone,” simulcasting with WHXR (106.7 North Windham) to blanket the Portland market, at the expense of York County; 99.3 will flip to “Wolf” country, simulcasting Nassau’s WTHT (99.9 Auburn) to improve the Wolf’s coverage of the full Portland market, where Nassau’s apparently looking at sagging ratings for Saga’s country giant, WPOR (101.9 Portland), and seeing vulnerability. (There are no changes planned – at least not yet – for the northern outposts of the “W-Bach” network, WBQX 106.9 Thomaston and WBQI 107.7 Bar Harbor.)

Twenty Years Ago: August 24, 1998

It’s not often that a brand new radio group bursts on the scene – and even less often that such a group does so by buying nearly a dozen stations in two states at once. But that’s what Lloyd Roach, owner of WCOJ (1420) in Coatesville, PENNSYLVANIA did last week, creating a new group that will be a major presence in one market, a minor presence in another and with the potential to add significantly to its holdings in the months to come.

Roach’s new “Route 81 Radio” launches with WCOJ and clusters in two markets. In the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, the group is buying WKJN (1440 Carbondale), WCWI (94.3 Carbondale) and WAZL (1490 Hazleton) from Citadel and WNAK (730 Nanticoke) from Seven Thirty Broadcasters. WKJN, WCWI and WAZL have long been somewhat forgotten corners of Citadel’s big Northeast Pennsylvania cluster. WCWI does “Cat Country,”simulcasting out-of-market WCTO 96.1 Easton PA; it’s simulcast with WEMR 1460 Tunkhannock, which presumably needs a new format now. WKJN and WAZL have been simulcasting the news-talk of WARM 590 Scranton, which was itself rumored to have been for sale. WNAK is probably the best known of the four, running a standards format that has long shown up well in the ratings up and down the valley. The deal also includes WHYL (960 Carlisle), which has been doing oldies for Citadel on the fringe of its Harrisburg cluster.

Route 81 will make its biggest splash, though, in a market that’s not even near Route 81. The new company is buying the Eolin Broadcasting “Radio Works” cluster that includes talkers WENY (1230 Elmira) and WCLI (1450 Corning), AC “Crystal” simulcast WENY-FM (92.7 Elmira) and WCBA-FM (98.7 Corning), oldies WGMM (97.7 Big Flats) and oldies WCBA (1350 Corning).

1 COMMENT

  1. Jim Quinn is also on WAVL 910 Appolo in Western Pennsylvania from 6a to 9a , will rose joint him at 8a their or will he drop that station.

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