In this week’s issue… Changes coming in Philadelphia? – Mets jump to new radio home – New morning show in Toronto – Remembering Bill Gable
By SCOTT FYBUSH
We’ll bring you full coverage of the convention in next Monday’s NERW and, more immediately, over at the Top of the Tower Podcast, where Wednesday’s episode will come from the show floor.
Back home, here are a few of the big stories we’re following as we travel –
*In eastern PENNSYLVANIA, Entercom is making some headlines ahead of the convention. It’s finally made official what we’d long suspected, signing a deal for 67,000 square feet at the 2400 Market Street office building just down the road from 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, where it will combine its new headquarters with its local stations, now at four different locations around the city and nearby Bala Cynwyd.
It’s brought WBEB (101.1) under its radio.com banner, ahead of closing on the $57.5 million deal that will make WBEB an official part of the Entercom cluster. And what’s going on at its WTDY (96.5)? The station has dropped its afternoon host, Rebekah “Bex” Maroun, with no immediate replacement – could this lead to a format change at the hot AC station, which competes perhaps too closely with new clustermate WBEB?
*In NEW YORK, Entercom officially announced its new five-year deal to move the Mets over to WCBS (880) from iHeart’s WOR (710), along with promotional support from the rest of the Entercom cluster (save, perhaps, for the Mets’ former home, WFAN, where the rival Yankees are the dominant radio partner). There’s no word yet about whether the existing Mets booth team of Howie Rose and Josh Lewin will move over, but no real reason to expect them not to, either. One immediate change: as soon as the Mets season is (officially) over, Pete McCarthy’s evening “Sports Zone” show on WOR goes away, likely replaced by more syndicated talk from iHeart’s Premiere.
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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: September 25, 2017
*When Ken Squier announced earlier this year that he wanted to sell his Radio VERMONT Group to local owners, he meant it: beginning October 1, the stations that have been in his family since 1931 will go into the very good hands of local broadcast veteran Steve “Corm” Cormier.
Vermonters know Corm best as the longtime co-host of the “Corm and the Coach” morning show that aired on several Burlington-market stations including WIZN (106.7), where he was also PD in the 1980s and 90s. More recently, Corm’s been getting into station management down at WTSA in Brattleboro – and even more recently as Squier’s sales manager at the Radio Vermont stations.
The deal, which has yet to be filed with the FCC or have a price announced, will give Corm three programming streams in central Vermont: the heritage full-service Radio Vermont on WDEV (550 Waterbury)/WDEV-FM (96.1 Warren) and translators, AC “101 the One” on WCVT (101.7 Stowe) and WEXP (101.5 Brandon), and country WLVB (93.9 Morrisville).
[2018 update: a year later, there’s still been no actual transfer of the licenses filed at the FCC. It appears Cormier is running the WDEV stations under an LMA.]
*In Binghamton, Steve Gilinsky’s WLTB (101.7 Johnson City) has split off its full-market translator at 102.5 (W273AB Vestal) with a separate format from top-40 “Magic 101.7.” As of last Friday night, it’s now doing classic rock as “102.5 the Vault,” picking up some of the slack left behind from Equinox’s recent flip that took one of its translators, “Z93” (W225BC/WRRQ-HD3), from classic rock to hip-hop.
*In CANADA, “Tootall” (aka Robert Wagenaar, but everyone knows him as “Tootall”) signed off Friday after a remarkable 40-year run at Montreal’s CHOM (97.7), most of it spent in middays.
In addition to a day of tributes from CHOM staffers and alumni, local dignitaries and musicians, Tootall was honored Friday night with a concert at Montreal’s Club Soda featuring still more tributes and an all-star lineup of Montreal bands.
Nobody will fill Tootall’s shoes (we’ve seen ’em – they’re big!), but the midday shift on CHOM will belong to Randy Renaud beginning today.
Five Years Ago: September 23, 2013
*A venerable central PENNSYLVANIA AM station is hitting hard times. WHYL (960 Carlisle) has been flirting with bankruptcy for a few years now, but its staff held on and kept things going at “Nice 960″ right up until last week. That was when veteran morning man Ben Barber apparently couldn’t take the uncertainty any longer. With the station facing a forced sale and paychecks apparently on the verge of being cut off, Barber announced on Wednesday that he’s retiring, closing the books on a 50-year career spent entirely in Cumberland County.
“It’s turned out to be a very, very good 50 years,” Barber told the Carlisle Sentinel, which reports that his co-host Dennis (Gerkin) Edwards was laid off the next day. Barber says he’d have liked to have stayed a little longer, but health issues also contributed to the decision to step down.
WHYL remained on the air at last report, but running on automation while awaiting new ownership.
*A radio brand long established in Australia has arrived in CANADA‘s Niagara Region, courtesy of Vista Radio. Last week, Vista pulled the plug on adult hits “Ed 105.1″ (CJED) in Niagara Falls, playing Christmas music for a few days while promising a “gift” for the region on Friday at noon. And when noon arrived on Friday, it wasn’t just CJED flipping formats: Vista also flipped its sister station, “Z101″(CFLZ 101.1 Fort Erie), creating a new top-40 simulcast between the pair of overlapping signals under the new branding of “2Day FM.”
*A big noncommercial FM signal in MAINE is back on the air with reduced facilities after suffering severe damage to its antenna system. Light of Life’s WMDR-FM (88.9 Oakland) was knocked off the air at its Streaked Mountain antenna site August 30, with water in its transmission line causing severe arcing that damaged its ten-bay antenna. Engineer Joel Epley tells NERW he’s hung a three-bay Shively antenna on the tower to get WMDR-FM back on the air at 4800 watts ERP, a far cry from its usual 100 kW, but a big improvement over no signal at all. The damaged main antenna came down from the tower last weekend and is now on its way back to Shively for rebuilding. “It will be several weeks at least before we can get it rebuilt and hung on the tower again,” Epley reports.
Ten Years Ago: September 22, 2008
*When former WBZ-TV sportscaster Bob Lobel and WODS (103.3 Boston) afternoon jock Karen Blake teamed up for a brief stint as guest hosts of WODS’ morning show a few months ago, it’s a good bet that nobody listening (and perhaps not even Lobel and Blake themselves) expected the pairing to become permanent.“Permanent” may still be a bit of a stretch – but starting today, Lobel and Blake will take over from Dale Dorman (now relegated to Saturday duty, beginning next weekend) as the new morning team on “Oldies 103.”
What’s going on over at 83 Leo Birmingham Parkway? The message boards and mailing lists were alight with speculation over the weekend, up to and including the idea (improbable, we’d think) that Lobel, along with the Patriots and Bruins rights that CBS holds on its other Boston stations, could be the building blocks of a new all-sports station on 103.3.
CBS itself isn’t saying much beyond the suggestion that the presence of Lobel, who’s been on the beach since being bought out of his WBZ-TV contract last year, may be only in a “guest host” role – which, of course, only fuels speculation about what PD Jay Beau Jones might have in mind over the long term.
Playing into that speculation are a few more moves: J.J. Wright appears to be Blake’s replacement in afternoons, and former evening jock Patrick Callahan just returned to the station last week, after budget cuts claimed his job back in February. (He’d been over at Greater Media’s WROR in the meantime.) Oh, and out in Worcester, morning co-host Chris Zito disappeared from Citadel’s WXLO (104.5 Fitchburg) late last week – and did we mention that Jay Beau Jones used to program WXLO before moving to WODS?
*A venerable VERMONT station brand is back on the air in the Burlington market, as Vox’s WXZO (96.7 Willsboro NY) flipped last Wednesday (Sep. 17) at 9 AM from talker “the Zone” to oldies as “True Oldies 96.7 DOT-FM.”
Credit Vox honcho Ken Barlow for this one – the original WDOT (then on 1400, now WCAT 1390) was one of his first stops in the business as a young DJ, and the new DOT-FM brings together several WDOT alumni: after Don Imus (who stays on from the old format), it’s Dave Hunter from 9 AM-noon, Barlow from noon-4 PM, Big John Hill from 4-7 PM, and then ABC’s True Oldies (last heard in the market on Vox’s WVTK 92.1) with Scott Shannon at night. Another WDOT veteran, R.J. Potter, is doing weekends.
*When the FCC sits down for an open commission meeting on Thursday, one of the topics on the agenda is the protest filed by some Ithaca radio listeners to what they see as excessive media consolidation in that small upstate NEW YORK city.As of this past Thursday (Sept. 18) at 5 PM, Ithaca’s dominant radio cluster, the 2 AM/3 FM Saga Communications group, has some new commercial competition – Finger Lakes Radio Group’s WFIZ (95.5 Odessa), playing top 40 as “Z-95.5, Ithaca’s Hit Music Channel.”
As NERW readers know, this is the former WFLR-FM (95.9 Dundee), now relocated to Connecticut Hill, overlooking Ithaca, with studios in the South Hill Business Campus on Danby Road. While WFIZ kicks off its debut with 10,000 songs in a row, sans commercials or jocks, WFLR-FM’s country format has completed its move to WFLR (1570 Dundee) and FM translator W245BL (96.9 Dundee), imaging as “Country 96.9 and 1570.”
The debut of WFIZ also means a venerable Ithaca translator has to move – W238AA (95.5), which now relays WHCU (870), slides up the dial to 95.9.
Fifteen Years Ago: September 22, 2003
*It was a bad week for modern rock fans in New England – and nowhere more so than in Hartford, CONNECTICUT, where Clear Channel abruptly pulled the plug on modern rock “Radio 104” WMRQ (104.1 Waterbury) at 4 o’clock last Monday afternoon (Sept. 15), replacing it with urban “Power 104.1,” a clone of the successful WWPR (105.1 New York) that launched a year and a half ago down in the big city. The new “Power” is a direct competitor to Infinity’s WZMX (93.7 Hartford), which took the market by storm when it began playing hip-hop and R&B in the spring of 2001. WMRQ’s old format lives on for now as a Webcast (www.radio104.com), albeit without jocks or PD. One of WMRQ’s jocks, afternoon host/APD/MD Chaz Kelly, has already landed a new gig – she stays within the company and moves down I-91 to become PD of top 40 WKCI (101.3 Hamden) in the New Haven market.
*Hurricane Isabel whipped her way across the northeast last week, knocking many stations off the air for at least a few hours – and taking down one PENNSYLVANIA tower. Philadelphia’s WHAT (1340) lost its tower Thursday night at the height of the storm. The Inner City Broadcasting urban talker had a long history with this tower, located on Conshohocken Avenue not far from the big Bala Cynwyd studio cluster.
Twenty Years Ago: September 25, 1998
*Two of Boston’s AM stations are changing hands — one as part of a long-anticipated deal, the other out of the blue.
*The expected sale is that of CBS’ WNFT (1150), which was one of the American Radio Systems stations CBS was required to sell in order to satisfy government regulations. The others (WRKO, WEEI, WEGQ, and WBMX) are going to Entercom, and now WNFT is going to Mega Broadcasting for a reported $5 million. Mega’s only current assets in New England are WNEZ (910 New Britain) and WLAT (1230 Manchester) in the Hartford market, and while WLAT fits with Mega’s group profile as a Spanish broadcaster, WNEZ runs an urban format, which leads NERW to wonder whether WNFT will stick with its current ABC/SMN “Touch” R&B oldies format, or whether its future is as a Spanish outlet. In any event, it’s nice to see 1150 being put in the hands of an owner who’ll likely pay some attention to it. Over the last decade, it’s been WHUE, WMEX, WROR, and WNFT, with formats that included business news, oldies, leased-time Spanish, Kidstar children’s programming, simulcasts of several FMs, and a few days as a testbed for digital AM.
*Now for the surprise: “Mr. D” is selling WNTN (1550 Newton). Orestes Demetriades’ Newton Broadcasting Corporation was one of the last single-station owners in the Boston market, running the 10 kilowatt daytimer with a mix of leased-time programming (largely Spanish and Chinese) and AC music. Late word is that WNTN is being sold to Robert Rudnick’s Colt Communications for $602,800.