In this week’s issue… iHeart, Entercom shuffle Philly AC dial – New owner looks to make lakeside splash – Carton convicted – Remembering talented engineers with NERW-land roots
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Every market has one – that troubled frequency that just can’t seem to find success even as it shuffles through format after format. In southeastern PENNSYLVANIA, that station has been iHeart Media’s 106.1 in Philadelphia, which has kept the WISX calls for a dozen years as it’s flipped through “Philly’s 106.1,” “My 106.1,” “Mix 106.1” and then ditched its various flavors of AC for throwback hip-hop last year as “Real 106.1.”
As with so many of those throwback stations, “Real” didn’t turn into a long-lasting success, even with veteran Philly talent Chio Acosta in mornings. A few weeks ago, RadioInsight’s Lance Venta uncovered some interesting domain registrations pointing to another possible format change at 106.1, and on Friday at noon 106.1 stopped being “Real,” flipping to Christmas music as simply “106.1 FM.”
Chio had already tipped listeners on Twitter that he wouldn’t be back today, and the news soon emerged that the rest of the airstaff – his co-host Shila Nathan, middayer Nichole Michalik and afternoon jock Johnny V – were also out.
So what happens next at 106.1?
Here’s where it gets interesting: the Christmas format now running there is, of course, the usual seasonal stronghold down the dial for competitor WBEB (101.1), which typically racks up massive ratings and revenue with a sometime-in-November flip to holiday tunes. And WBEB made a change of its own last week, rewinding from its “More FM” branding back to the “B101” identity it used from 1993 until 2013, modified this time as “B101.1.”
WBEB, of course, recently changed hands from Jerry Lee Broadcasting to Entercom, turning it from a rare standalone FM to one cog in a larger cluster that includes two other stations, classic hits WOGL (98.1) and hot AC WTDY (96.5), with overlapping playlists. Assuming the new B101.1 still goes Christmas in the next few days or weeks, will it emerge on Boxing Day with any tweaks to its format to better harmonize it with WOGL and WTDY, trying to keep 101.1 and 98.1 near the top of the ratings and pull 96.5 out of its status as another one of those troubled frequencies?
Which brings us back around to Lance’s scoop a few weeks ago about iHeart’s potential plans for 106.1 – as he picked up with his unique “Domain Insight” skills, Philadelphia appears to be one of several markets where iHeart is planning to launch a soft AC format under the “Breeze” brand name.
The first Breeze launches later today across the country in Sacramento, at (ironically) another “BEB,” iHeart’s KBEB (92.5) in Sacramento, which had been doing country as “Bull.” Assuming Philadelphia’s “Breeze” isn’t just a smokescreen – and there’s no reason to think it is – its eventual soft AC format will pose yet another challenge to Entercom’s attempts to sort out its own AC positions up and down the dial.
We’ll be watching closely as all these possibilities converge around the holidays…and of course Lance will be there at RadioInsight with instant reporting as soon as there’s anything to sniff out.
MONDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: WISX indeed flipped to “Breeze” soft AC at noon, two hours after WBEB made its Christmas flip. Did iHeart push Entercom to make its flip earlier than planned? (More at RadioInsight…)
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*Up the road in NEW YORK, a relatively quiet week found Entercom’s WFAN (660/101.9) in the spotlight as former morning co-host Craig Carton was convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud and securities fraud for his role in a ticket-resale scheme that prosecutors say was a scam. It took a federal court jury in Manhattan just five hours to find Carton guilty, agreeing with the prosecution case that claimed he took in some seven million dollars from the scheme.
And if WFAN managers thought they were out of the woods – Carton, after all, exited the station as soon as he was arrested last year – they weren’t having much luck with his replacement, either. Gregg “Gio” Giannotti was all over the tabloids last week, too, as his running feud with afternoon host Mike Francesa got loud and stupid, with Francesa attacking Giannotti on the air, calling him and co-host Boomer Esiason “those two morons” and – well, if it’s something you care about, you’ve probably already read about it in the Post.
So we’ll instead turn upstate, all the way out toward Buffalo. You might recall our mention back in late September of Buffalo native Tom Langmyer’s induction into the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame – and the news that his most recent position at the helm of Scripps’ news/talk/sports radio stations was going away with that company’s sale of all its stations.
You can’t keep a good man down, and Tom’s as good as they get. He’s taking everything he’s learned in his extensive radio career, including his time running WGN in Chicago and KMOX in St. Louis, and using it to start a new station ownership group.
Tom’s new Great Lakes Media Corp. will focus on small markets in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and he’s getting started right away looking for radio stations and digital properties to bring under his new umbrella.
Want to know more? We do, too, which is why we’re planning to get Tom on the Top of the Tower Podcast later this week to talk about what he has in the works.
*We’re on the move this week, too, taking the latest version of the “Tower Sites I’ve Known and Photographed” presentation to Society of Broadcast Engineers chapters around the state. We’ll be here in Rochester Tuesday, in Buffalo and Syracuse Wednesday and in Albany on Thursday – drop me a line if you’re interested in attending!
*We don’t often have a reason to write about little WDLA-FM (92.1) in Walton, up there in the hills east of Binghamton, and maybe that’s because WDLA’s morning slot has been so consistent. Ron Galley has held down mornings on what’s now “Big Kat Country” for 47 years, a run that will come to an end with his final show on Thursday. Galley has also been the radio voice of Walton High School Warrior football – and we wish him all the best as he leaves the position he’s held since 1971.
*Bill Quinn’s career in radio started at Syracuse University in the 1950s, when he began an on-air and programming career that included stints at WFBL and WNDR in Syracuse and WTLB in Utica, where he was known as “Wild Bill Quinn.” As a programmer and consultant, his work later took him to WPRO in Providence, RHODE ISLAND, WBAL in Baltimore and WINX in Washington, D.C. Quinn died Friday in Syracuse, at 83.
And while Bill Croghan was a native of Alden, east of Buffalo, he made his mark on radio out west after serving in the Air Force. Croghan did news on KRDO radio and TV in Colorado Springs, then moved into engineering as the chief at Lotus Broadcasting’s clusters in Tucson and Las Vegas. A visit with Bill (or at least a meetup at Barry Mishkind’s annual luncheon) was always a highlight of an NAB Show, and we had the pleasure of featuring many of Bill’s sites on Site of the Week (such as this 2009 visit to Black Mountain Arden) and in the Tower Site Calendar over the years.
Bill was extremely active in emergency preparedness, serving with the Civil Air Patrol and on numerous committees for EAS even after health issues forced him to retire from Lotus. He died in Las Vegas on Saturday.
*Radio People on the Move in MASSACHUSETTS: Beasley Media’s Boston cluster has yielded up two “national format brand managers,” with promotions landing on WBZ-FM (98.5 the Sports Hub) PD Mike Thomas and WKLB (102.5) PD David Corey. They’ll keep their local responsibilities – but Thomas is now overseeing spoken-word across the company, while Corey’s now the national captain for country.
Over at country competitor WBWL (101.7 the Bull), iHeart has named Amanda Jo Parker assistant PD, moving her from Springfield to Medford. She’ll keep her afternoon shift on iHeart’s WRNX (100.9) in Springfield, tracking it from Medford along with her evening airshift on the Bull.
*Congratulations to longtime friend-of-the-column Donna Halper, who’s been picked as one of two winners of this year’s “Prize for Collecting Works on Paper” by Historic New England. Dr. Halper, a professor at Lesley University, will be honored Thursday evening in Waltham for her work collecting the history of New England broadcasting, and we’re of course completely thrilled for her! (Hey, Historic New England – you should come see our office and attic, too!)
*And we remember our friend Ron Gitschier, a Merrimack Valley native who started out at WLLH in Lowell before shipping out for a long career with the Navy. Ron ended up in north Florida at the end of his Navy career, engineering several small AM stations around Jacksonville before signing on a decade ago with an upstart broadcast group in Flagler County, an hour to the south between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach.
Ron had a hand in literally every station that signed on in the county, building a four-station group that started with new sign-on WNZF (1550 Bunnell) in 2008 and added three FM signals after our 2011 visit (featured here on Tower Site of the Week.)
Ron was one of those guys who did a little bit of everything, serving not only as chief engineer for the cluster but also (under his airname “Ron Charles”) as news director and WNZF morning host, where we had the great fun of serving as on-the-scene reporter for the penultimate Space Shuttle launch for him later on that same 2011 trip.
When we last passed through his part of Florida just last month, Ron wasn’t around to give a tour – instead, we found him in northern California visiting his new grandbaby. We promised we’d catch him next time, but there won’t be a next time; Ron suffered liver failure and died early Wednesday morning. He was just 56.
*The NEW HAMPSHIRE Association of Broadcasters handed out its annual Granite Mike awards Thursday at NHAB’s annual convention in Manchester. You can see the whole list here – but special mention goes to this year’s Broadcaster of the Year, 30-year WKBK Keene veteran Dan Mitchell; to this year’s Stations of the Year, WLKZ (104.9 Wolfeboro) and WMUR-TV (Channel 9) in Manchester; to “Above and Beyond” winner Fred Portnoy, the volunteer who worked to move WNHN-LP in Concord to a new studio location; and to WFNQ (106.3 Nashua)’s Mike Haze and Sean McDonald of WMUR-TV, the Air Personalities of the Year.
Particular recognition, too, goes to WBNH-LP (105.1 Bedford), where Harry Kozlowski and his team (left) racked up five awards, including two first place wins (play-by-play and best LPFM), quite a showing for a little local LPFM signal.
*In CANADA, the rollout of the full schedule on CKNT (960 Mississauga) continued last week with news that former CHUM (TSN Radio 1050) morning host Mike Richards will take the morning shift on the new “Sauga 960.” After his time on sports radio, Richards moved to the podcast world, where he’s been hosting the “Raw Mike Richards Show.”
In Brampton, Radio Humsafar has been trying to build CIRF (1350) for three years now, with the CRTC recently denying a proposed site change that would have made it more of a Mississauga signal. As the broadcaster tries to find another workable site, the CRTC has extended its permit for another year, giving it until Oct. 21, 2019 to build out the 1000-watt AM signal.
In Moncton, N.B., CKUM (93.5) has a new identity as “CODIAC FM,” reports Canadian Radio News. The University of Moncton station had been calling itself “Radio J,” then for the last few years had branded just with its call letters.
Fred Napoli was a fixture on late-night Toronto radio for decades, most notably at CKEY and then at CKFM and sister station CFRB. Napoli, whose career started in Guelph at CJOY in 1960, also worked in Hamilton at CHML in the early 1960s and at the CBC in the early 1980s between stints at Standard Broadcasting. He retired from CFRB in 1993 and continued to do voiceover work throughout his retirement years. Napoli died early next week, though we don’t yet have many details.
And there’s sad news from down in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where a car crash on Monday night killed Leslie Sole and his wife, Terri Michael. Sole was a former Rogers TV CEO credited with helping to create the “OMNI” branding for its multiethnic stations, while Michael had a long, successful career on the air in Montreal (CHOM) and Toronto (CHFI, CJEZ/EZ Rock, CILQ/Q107 and CKFM). CHOM was where Sole (then the PD) met Michael back in 1975, when she was working as the first solo female morning host in a big Canadian market. Michael had continued to work in radio and TV in Mexico, hosting shows on a local FM station in Cabo.