In this week’s issue… New owners for a Long Island radio icon – Christmas flips begin in NJ, NY – New “Jack” in PA – More retirements in Canada
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Among a certain subset of radio people, there’s a special place in the heart for a little radio station on the East End of Long Island. WLNG (92.1 Sag Harbor). Readers of this column probably don’t need much of an explanation for our passion for the things that make WLNG unique; as we showed you in our visit there last summer, it’s more than just the throwbacks – all the jingles, the lost-dog reports, the remotes from the converted school bus – that distinguish WLNG. None of those things would matter if WLNG weren’t also a successful 21st century business, which it is. For all the money that’s come to the Forks and the Hamptons in the last few decades, this area still likes to think of itself as the small towns it once was, and WLNG still speaks to that image of its market.
All that, and it gets namechecked by Billy Joel on late-night TV. But when the news spread last week that WLNG had been sold to its first new set of owners in decades, it wasn’t Billy writing the check. Instead, Main Street Broadcasting has applied to transfer WLNG to a new company called Bark Out Loud Dogs Media, helmed by Sandra Foschi, a New York City-based physical therapist who owns a house in Sag Harbor.
Bark Out Loud Dogs is paying $3.9 million for WLNG, which sounds like a huge figure for a class A FM station until you look at the unusual breakdown of the sale price: $3.2 million for WLNG’s waterfront studio property (and former AM transmitter site) on the Redwood Causeway in the midst of some of the most expensive real estate anywhere, leaving $700,000 to account for the actual broadcast assets – $575,000 for the license and $125,000 for the FM transmitter site property (“Mount Sidney”) a few miles to the south in a rather less pricey part of Noyac.
WLNG had quietly been for sale for several years, following the death back in 2011 of Robert O. King, who’d bought the station from its founders back in 1969. King was a remarkably low-profile owner, leaving the operation of his station to longtime general manager Paul Sidney and his successor, current GM Gary Sapiane, each of whom had only a small ownership stake in the station. It was King’s estate that had continued to own the license, and his heirs who slowly began to look at unlocking some of the incredible real estate value that had grown under the studios over the years.
What happens now? Read on…
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*While the WLNG license and real estate will be in Foschi’s name, there’s another twist to this story: though she’s not a broadcaster, she’s married to a broadcasting veteran. Foschi’s husband, Bill Evans, is the longtime weatherman at WABC-TV (Channel 7) in New York, as well as a familiar radio voice on WPLJ (95.5) and WNSH (94.7) in New York, with a long radio career of his own down South before he came to WABC. As part-time Sag Harbor residents, Evans and Foschi are also WLNG listeners – and Sapiane tells local news site 27 East that when they began approaching the station about a purchase last year, they were clear that they didn’t intend to change much about what makes WLNG work.
While the format (or lack thereof) and the jingles may not change, the physical location likely will; at some point, we’d expect the Redwood Causeway property to be repurposed for some sort of high-end homes, which will force WLNG’s studios to move somewhere else in town. We’re looking forward to hearing more from Foschi and Evans about their plans for this very special radio station, and we’re hoping for the best as WLNG moves into its next incarnation.
*Elsewhere on Long Island, Rob Rush moves up from music director and afternoons to PD at Connoisseur’s WWSK (94.3 the Shark), while morning man Brian Orlando adds APD duties. Patrick Shea, the cluster’s operations manager, had been programming the Shark.
In NEW YORK City, Entercom is realigning its HD subchannels. On WNEW (102.7), the HD2 has flipped from its longtime smooth jazz format over to Christmas music; down the dial on WNYL (92.3), the simulcast of WNEW that had been running on HD2 has been quietly replaced by new modern rock tracks under the “New Arrivals” banner.
At Galaxy Media, Carrie Wojtaszek adds responsibility as the Syracuse-based company’s first COO. She’s been managing Galaxy’s events division for the last 10 years, and will continue to oversee that fast-growing part of the company. (And congratulations to Galaxy, too, for becoming completely locally-owned last month, as Ed Levine and partners finished buying out the downstate financiers who’d been backing the company.)
Alan Bishop’s Finger Lakes Radio Group turned on its new format for Canandaigua and the east side of Rochester at 1:00 Friday afternoon, replacing the “Cougar” stunt with “rockin’ easy” classic AC as “The Lake” on WCGR (1550) and its two powerful translators on 104.5 (Bristol Mountain) and 100.1 (Baker Hill). The “Lake” moniker had a fairly long run at Canandaigua’s full-power FM at 102.3, then WLKA and now iHeart’s WVOR (Sunny 102.3), from 1989 until 1996 – and this is where we note that Sunny flipped to Christmas music just after Halloween, continuing its tradition as an early convert to the ho-ho-ho tunes.
Back over at the Lake, which will soon open an office in WVOR’s former home on Main Street in Canandaigua, it’s a 10,000-song commercial-free run toward the holidays, after which we’ll see what Bishop has in the works for air talent.
Here in Rochester, Chris Debbins (he’s just “Debbins” on his afternoon airshift) is now assistant PD as well as music director for Entercom’s top-40 WPXY (97.9). And over at noncommercial “Jazz 90.1,” WGMC marked its 45th anniversary with a special broadcast Friday afternoon, bringing back air personalities from throughout its long history to say hello to today’s listeners.
*It was Buffalo’s turn in the “War of the Worlds” spotlight last Tuesday, when the historic North Park Theatre played host to the premiere screening of Bob Koshinski’s documentary about WKBW’s 1968 take on Orson Welles’ classic radio play. Two of the voices from the 1968 version, Sandy Beach and Danny Neaverth, were on hand for the event, sharing a panel after the screening with Koshinski and a younger Buffalo jock, Pat Feldballe.
Couldn’t make it out for the event? A shortened version of the documentary aired Wednesday night on WNED-TV – and Bob has posted the full version for streaming.
Family Life Ministries’ WCIH (90.3 Elmira) has transmitted from the Pennsylvania side of the border ever since it signed on in 1989 – and now it’s licensed to a Pennsylvania community, having filed for its license to cover as “WCIH Ridgebury.” There’s no change to WCIH’s signal, so why the move? Expect a filing at some point from Ridgebury’s other existing license, Seven Mountains’ “Bigfoot” WZBF (96.9), if our FCC radar is working…
Some sad news from Batavia, where longtime WBTA (1490) morning man Jerry Warner has entered hospice care. Warner came to WBTA more than 30 years ago after a long run in Rochester at the old WEZO (101.3), where his deep tones were an important part of that station’s beautiful music image. Warner has been off the air at WBTA for almost a year after being diagnosed with cancer, and is now being cared for at Crossroads House in Batavia. (Monday morning update: we’ve just received word that Warner has died. More details in next week’s NERW.)
And we remember Kate Doordan Klavan, who inadvertently started a radio career in the sixties when she rode the WPEN (950 Philadelphia) traffic helicopter to promote the Heart Association, where she was then working. WPEN liked her reports, hired her and started her on a radio career that took her to WHN (1050), WINS (1010) and WABC (770) in New York, where she also did network radio news work. She later moved out west, serving on the Salt Lake Olympic committee in 2002, then continued on to Santa Barbara, where she died October 13 at 62.
*While we wait for some big format-change shoes to be dropping soon in eastern PENNSYLVANIA, there was a format flip out west on Thursday afternoon. Matt Lightner’s WWGE (1400 Loretto) changed calls to WYUP recently, added a new Altoona translator at 107.1 (W296ED), and relaunched at 5 PM as “107.1 Jack FM.”
Radio People on the Move in Pittsburgh – and all at Entercom: Bill “Broadway” Bert has exited the morning show on WDSY (107.9). Broadway had been at Y108 for just over a year, working alongside Jade Hilliard and “Cowboy Curt” Hughes, who stay in place there.
Down the hall and around the corner at KDKA (1020), Marty Griffin is planning to be back on the air this morning, two months after announcing he was taking time off for treatment for throat cancer. Griffin says he’s on the mend, though he’s lost 40 pounds and is still weak from radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy – and we wish him the very best on his return to his usual 9-noon shift.
*Radio People on the Move in NEW JERSEY: At Townsquare’s Trenton clusters, Suzanne Montoya moves up from sales manager at WPST (94.5) to VP/station manager of WPST and sister AM stations WNJE (920) and WCHR (1020); Chris Squire goes from sales manager to general sales manager at sister station WKXW (New Jersey 101.5).
It wasn’t the first in the country this year, but Equity’s WEZW (93.1 Wildwood Crest) was still one of the earliest flips to Christmas music last week, as it always is.
*On MASSACHUSETTS‘ South Shore, WATD-FM (95.9 Marshfield) said goodbye to an air personality who’d been there almost from the beginning. Cathy Dee moved down from Maine not long after the station’s 1976 debut and has been a full-time staffer for four decades, most recently holding down afternoons. Now there’s a big hole to fill there after Cathy did her final WATD airshift on Friday; no word yet on who’ll replace her on the drive home.
On TV, there’s some intense engineering work coming to Boston’s tower farm in Newton and Needham, and the first big piece happened late last week when Fox affiliate WFXT (Channel 25) moved from the Cabot Street candelabra above the Needham Sheraton over to the 350 Cedar Street tower that’s home to most of its big competitors.
Channel 25 has operated from Cabot Street – and nowhere else – since the very first day it went on the air as WXNE more than 40 years ago. And it will return there eventually, after the old antennas are all removed from the candelabra arms and a new, post-repack WFXT antenna on RF channel 34 is installed at the top of the tower itself. At that point, Cabot Street will also become an auxiliary site for the other big broadcasters who use the Cedar Street tower (WBZ-TV, WCVB, WSBK, WGBX), while WFXT will have its auxiliary site at Cedar Street and its main at Cabot Street.
Along the way, there will be a complex dance of new transmitters, antennas and climbers to get everything where it needs to be while keeping everyone on the air, and we’re looking forward to chronicling what may be one of the most complex repack rearrangements in the country. (Thanks to Mike Fitzpatrick and NECRAT.us for the pictures of WFXT’s new interim setup at Cedar Street!)
*Sounds of silence: on Cape Cod, UMass Boston’s WFPB (1170 Orleans) went silent in mid-October after losing the lease at the two-tower site it had called home since the 1950s. The AM daytimer had recently relicensed as a nondirectional signal, and we hear it will soon return from a new antenna at a different site out there by the elbow of the Cape.
Out on Martha’s Vineyard, WYOB-LP (105.5 Oak Bluffs) went silent a few weeks back, telling the FCC “signal limitations” led it to discontinue broadcasting from the local high school where licensee “M&M Community Development, Inc. – Oak Bluffs Branch” had been operating.
In the Berkshires, Bill Graulty Jr. started out at WBEC (1420 Pittsfield) after learning radio in college at WDCR up at Dartmouth College. He later did news for Albany’s WAMC and then served as news director for WBRK (1340/101.7), where he did commentaries even in retirement (when he began a second career in PR). Graulty was 68 when he died October 24.
*Where are they now? Robby Bridges started his career in RHODE ISLAND before hitting it big as a programmer with Cumulus in CONNECTICUT. He’s been in Detroit the last few years, programming WDRQ (93.1 NASH FM) and WDVD (96.3) for Cumulus – but now he says he’s not renewing his contract there and is headed back to Providence to be closer to his family.
*In MAINE, Blueberry Broadcasting is applying to downgrade WABK (910 Bangor). The former WABI, one of the state’s oldest stations, has been running 5000 watts day and night from its transmitter site in Brewer – but it would drop to 210 watts at night, non-directional, if the FCC grants Blueberry’s request to take down the second tower in the night array, making WABI non-directional day and night.
*In CANADA, Rick Hodge has been a Golden Horseshoe institution for 45 years, starting at CKTB in St. Catharines, spending more than two decades as part of the “Roger, Rick and Marilyn” morning show on CHUM-FM (104.5 Toronto) – and then abruptly announcing midweek that last Friday’s morning show would be his last on CHRE (105.7 EZ Rock) in St. Catharines. (He also spent some time on the old CJEZ in Toronto before moving back to St. Catharines.) Hodge’s farewell announcement followed just days after his former CHUM colleague Roger Ashby announced his December departure from CHUM.
Up north, Bayshore Broadcasting has launched a new classic hits format under the “MAX FM” banner, replacing AC formats in Orillia (CISO 89.1, ex-“Sunshine 89.1”) and Wasaga Beach (CHGB 97.7, formerly “the Beach.”)