In this week’s issue… Conventions, celebrations in New York – Sale consolidates Vermont competitors – Another studio move in Boston – Holliday time ends in Philly
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*The middle of October has become a busy time for broadcast events in New York City these last few years. The Audio Engineering Society, including the broadcast sessons so ably organized by David Bialik, has become an annual fixture at the Javits Center instead of alternating years between coasts. The former CCW/SATCON convention, focusing on TV production and distribution, became “NAB Show New York” when the NAB bought it in 2014, and it’s now made itself at home in the adjoining convention hall to AES at Javits. And the New York State Broadcasters Association, which moved its annual gathering from Lake George to New York some years back, now holds its Hall of Fame induction right at Javits during the AES and NAB events, too, bringing sales and management training into the mix.
We were there for most of both conventions (including moderating a panel for AES on “Modern Transmission Facilities” on Thursday afternoon), and especially enjoyed the NYSBA luncheon, where ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir was honored as Broadcaster of the Year. Muir, a Syracuse native, told of being driven to the newsroom at WTVH (Channel 5) before he was old enough to drive himself, kicking off a career that took him to Boston’s WCVB and then to the network alongside his childhood idol, Peter Jennings.
And the Hall of Fame inductees were a special class, too: Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay spoke of fulfilling his own childhood dream to be in the booth of his favorite team (though he admitted he’d rather have been on the road had the Yanks made it to the ALCS). Dave Davis’ colleagues at WABC-TV (Channel 7) praised the retired general manager’s long tenure and his background in the newsroom. Anchors Doug Emblidge and Ginny Ryan of Rochester’s WHAM-TV (Channel 13) spoke of their long partnership behind the desk, where they’ve become a community institution. And Maureen Donnelly accepted the award for her late husband Dan Ingram, giving a moving talk full of memories of how Ingram was there at the dawn of WABC’s Musicradio days. (“Our honor group today is the New York State Association of Broadcasters, and our word of the day is ‘thank you,’ Donnelly said to a standing ovation.)
(left to right above: Emblidge, Ryan, Hall of Fame committee chair Ed Levine, Donnelly, Kay, Davis, Muir)
Over at the AES, the broadcast sessions kicked off Wednesday morning with disaster preparedness tips from consultant Howard Price, Emmis’ Alex Roman and Jason Ornellas from Bonneville in Sacramento. (Hear from Howard on this week’s Top of the Tower Podcast.) We heard from the team at “Radio Kingston,” where WGHQ (920) has gone noncommercial and is preparing a move next year into an elaborately renovated octagonal building on Broadway, which you’ll be seeing more of on this site in the months to come.
And then, on Friday night, Bialik’s big annual off-site extravaganza took us downtown to the Greene Space performance studio at WNYC, where there were no “grinning, glowing, globular invaders” – just a celebration of the impending 80th anniversary of Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds.”
Director Sue Zizza pulled together members of several audio drama troupes for a live presentation of excerpts from the 1938 broadcast (and a modern update, too, imagining a C-SPAN call-in broadcast in the wake of a Martian invasion), plus a demonstration of sound effects. Then it was time for some history: archivists Seth Winner and Sammy Jones shared stories of restoring audio from a set of transcription discs of the original CBS broadcast. (Did you know most of the versions released in later years are incomplete? And that the discs that came from a Manhattan recording studio for Welles’ personal use are actually dubs, while the originals remain missing?)
Another historian, New Jersey’s Herb Squire, finished off the night with an examination of the legends and reality surrounding the broadcast. In an era when live remote broadcasts had to be coordinated long ahead of time with the phone company, Squire noted, listeners might have figured out that it wasn’t really possible back in 1938 to do the immediate switches to New Jersey scenes of Martian attacks that Welles pulled off on his show. And as a “sustaining” (unsponsored) broadcast up against the top-rated Edgar Bergen show, fewer listeners actually heard “War” than might have remembered it later on.
The legend, however, lives on – and we’ll be in the audience again next week when it’s Buffalo’s turn to honor its own “War of the Worlds” legacy.
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*The week’s other big story came from VERMONT, where the Goldman family is exiting the Burlington market after 55 years. It was way back in 1963 when Si Goldman added WCAX (620 Burlington) to his holdings in Jamestown, N.Y., changing the calls to WVMT. WXXX (95.5 South Burlington) joined the family in 1990, and in 1997 the elder Goldman sold the stations to his son, Paul, operating as Sison Broacasting.
That’s about to change with last week’s announcement that Sison will sell WVMT and WXXX to crosstown competitor Vox AM/FM LLC, which will take over under an LMA on January 1 with closing to come later on. Ken Barlow’s Vox group is already tied as the market’s biggest cluster by station count, led by AC “Star” WEZF (92.9 Burlington), plus rhythmic top-40 “Hot” WXZO (96.7 Willsboro NY), classic hits WVTK (92.1 Port Henry NY), sports WCPV (101.3 Essex NY) and sports WEAV (960 Plattsburgh NY).
Adding the Goldman pair to its existing cluster will give Vox a near-complete lock on spoken-word content in the market, as well as a pop music wall of dominance across WXZO, WXXX and WEZF.
“We look forward to merging our operations to better serve the Burlington-Plattsburgh radio market,” Barlow said in a statement. With five FMs and two AMs, the expanded Vox group goes head-to-head with Hall Communications’ five stations – country giant WOKO (98.9), classic hits WKOL (105.1), classic rock WIZN (106.7), active rock WBTZ (99.9) and standards WJOY (1230) – and ups the competitive ante against several smaller players in the market, including Steve Silberberg’s multiple FMs and WCAT(AM), Impact Radio (WTNN), and the broadcasters just across the lake in Plattsburgh.
With the three biggest groups now consolidated to two, what will 2019 bring to what had been an unusually competitive little market? We’ll be listening.
(The Sison/Vox deal hasn’t yet been filed with the FCC, so no price tag has been announced; Doug Ferber’s DEFcom group brokered the deal.)
*The studio shuffles continue apace in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, where Entercom moved WAAF (107.3) late last week. As we’ve been chronicling here in NERW, WAAF was one of the last two Entercom stations left at the company’s longtime studio space at 20 Guest Street in Allston, where WRKO (680) and WKAF (97.7) departed over the summer for new owner iHeart’s studios up in Medford.
WAAF didn’t have as far to go, moving just half a mile across Market Street to the former CBS Radio building, the old WSBK-TV studios at 83 Leo Birmingham Parkway. WAAF’s new studio is on the top floor of the building, in the space (seen at left in 2011) that CBS had used for WZLX (100.7) before that station, too, was sold to iHeart and moved to Medford.
Somewhat incongruously, active rocker WAAF now shares its corner of the building with the much softer AC WMJX 106.7, which came to Entercom in the swap that sent “Sports Hub” WBZ-FM 98.5 to Beasley. (Check out the Sports Hub’s new digs at Beasley’s Dorchester facility in this new feature on RadioInsight’s new tech section!)
The WAAF move leaves just one more puzzle piece before the Boston radio market once again settles into some stability: the ground floor at the back of the Leo Birmingham Parkway building, the former WBZ-FM space, is in the process of being renovated to house WBZ-FM’s fierce competitor, Entercom’s sports WEEI-FM (93.7), which for now is the last station remaining over at Guest Street.
*Out on Cape Cod, CodComm’s “Frank FM” (WFRQ 93.5 Mashpee, plus a 93.9 Hyannis translator) has a new morning show, bringing Doug Frye and Mina Greene back together more than a decade after they were last paired at WCIB (101.9). Frye comes to Frank from Cape Cod Broadcasting, while Greene was doing weekend news up in Boston at WBZ.
*Chris Crowley is headed back to western NEW YORK, but in a country mode this time. The former PD of rocker WCMF in Rochester has been out west programming another Entercom rocker, KGON in Portland, Oregon. Now he’s Buffalo-bound, filling the vacant PD slot at Townsquare’s WYRK (106.5) after Wendy Lynn’s departure over the summer.
Mike Ryan is headed up the Northway from his current night gig at Pamal’s WFLY (92.3) in Albany, joining sister station WKBE (107.1 the Point) in Glens Falls as APD/music director. In December, Mike will add morning duties on WKBE when current morning guy Ben Ryan crosses the hall to take over mornings on WFFG (Froggy 100.3).
And while it’s not a truly new development (we think it happened in late March), our drive down to the city picked up on a simulcast change in Little Falls: Galaxy’s WIXT (1230) switched from a relay of ESPN Radio from Utica, via WTLB 1310, to “Tony,” the variety hits format that runs on the HD2 of WKRL (94.9) and on Galaxy’s 99.1 translator in Utica.
*We don’t often write about record company reps here, but Capitol Records’ Joe Rainey was a particularly good friend to the radio industry, always looking out for his programming colleagues. (If you see a Lucite nameplate on the desk of a music radio programmer, the odds are very good it was a gift from Rainey to commemorate a job promotion.) So it was a shock to learn of his death on Oct. 12 at just 43. A memorial service was held last week in Baldwin on Long Island, where Rainey is survived by two young children and his wife, L.J., who works for Cox Radio.
*A pair of mutually-exclusive translator applications in CONNECTICUT make up one of two “MX” groups that will go to auction sometime in 2019 as the FCC tries to wrap up the last lingering bits of business from its four AM translator windows over the last few years. Out of the hundreds of applications filed in the Auction 100 proceeding last year, the FCC has already identified and granted “singletons” (applications without any competition), and it has a filing window open now for the last bits of paperwork needed on the mutually-exclusive groups that were resolved in settlements.
That leaves just a dozen or so groups of applicants who failed to resolve their MX status through settlements, including Candido Dias Carrelo’s WFNW (1380 Naugatuck) and Red Wolf’s WSNG (610 Torrington), which both applied for 104.5 and which will face off in an auction with a $20,000 starting bid.
The other MX group that will go to auction next year is on Long Island, where Universal Stations’ WLIE (540 Islip) and Immaculate Heart’s WNSW (1430 Newark, NEW JERSEY) will square off for 99.1 in Nassau County, with a $10,000 starting bid.
*In eastern PENNSYLVANIA, Harvey Holiday will wrap up a nearly 30-year run on WOGL (98.1) December 12, after the station celebrates his long tenure there with “The 12 Days of Harvey Holiday.” The veteran jock hit the Philly airwaves in 1970 at WDAS and later worked at WUSL, WIOQ and WPGR before joining WOGL in July 1989. Holiday’s “Street Corner Sunday” doo-wop show ended back in January, but he’d continued as the midday jock there before deciding to retire this year.
A new translator means a new format for WKVA (920 Lewistown), which has transitioned from oldies to classic hits as “Big 100.3.” The station’s now being programmed by Craven, who’s also PD at sister FM station WCHX (105.5). He’s added midday duties on Big to his morning show on WCHX.
In Pittsburgh, WAMO (660 Wilkinsburg plus translators at 100.1/107.3) is switching out syndicated morning shows. As of today, the New York-based “Breakfast Club” replaces Steve Harvey on the Martz-owned station.
*In CANADA, the CBC continues to work on filling some of the gaps in its national Radio One coverage. The latest hole being plugged is on the west coast of Nova Scotia, where the CBC is applying for 420 watts/257m on 107.1 in Digby, where it will retransmit CBHA from Halifax.
Bob Hooper spent more than 40 years at CHML (900 Hamilton), starting in 1961 as a news anchor and rising into management, even as he stayed on the air doing Tiger-Cats CFL broadcasts, for which he was the lead play-by-play voice from 1997 until his retirement in 2001. After leaving CHML, Hooper went to work for the team itself, serving for two years as media relations director. Hooper died Thursday (Oct. 18); he was 79.