In this week’s issue… NERW EXCLUSIVE: WRKO shifts schedule – Lewin leaves Mets booth – More airstaff at NYC’s ALT – Leclerc seeks big Quebec growth
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Almost a year after taking possession of Boston talk station WRKO (680) from Entercom, iHeart is beginning to put its own stamp on the schedule. Later today, NERW has learned, WRKO will announce a post-Thanksgiving schedule change that will move midday host Jeff Kuhner back to mornings, putting morning co-host Doug “VB” Goudie in middays and ending Kim Carrigan’s tenure with the station after three years.
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The swap reverses the 2015 schedule change that launched former WFXT-TV anchor Carrigan into mornings (in a partnership, at the time, with Boston.com) and put Kuhner in the noon to 3 PM slot after WRKO passed on renewing its Rush Limbaugh contract. At the time, iHeart was challenging WRKO with its own talk outlet, WKOX (1430), hoping to use Limbaugh as the hook to draw listeners up the dial. “Talk 1430” never became a force in the market, nor did its successor in the format, WXKS “Talk 1200” – and there was plenty of speculation that when WRKO and WXKS became clustermates last year, iHeart might seek to move Limbaugh back to the bigger and higher-rated 680 signal.
Instead, it appears that PD Rob Sanchez and SVP/programming Dylan Sprague are committed to keeping WRKO local heading into the 2020 election cycle. In morning drive, Kuhner will be more political and harder-edged than “Boston’s Morning Show with Kim & VB” had been. He’ll still be followed by “The Financial Exchange with Barry Armstrong,” then VB at noon and Howie Carr (syndicated, but originating locally) at 3. Syndication returns at 7 with Joe Pags, Mike Siegel, Coast to Coast AM and an hour of Gordon Deal at 5 AM.
Kuhner will make the official announcement of the change on his show at noon today, NERW has learned; as of Sunday night, Carrigan’s page was already gone from the WRKO website.
Will Kuhner’s dreams of syndication improve at all in the morning slot? The other iHeart news/talk signals in the region (WHJJ in Providence, WXTK on Cape Cod, WGIR in NEW HAMPSHIRE, WTAG in Worcester) all have their own local morning offerings – and all carry Limbaugh in middays, so there won’t be any regional presence for VB, either.
And not only is Limbaugh not getting moved to the revamped WRKO, he also quietly lost a second broadcast outlet that helped his show reach some outlying Boston listeners. iHeart’s nationwide rollout of its “Breeze” soft AC brand included a quiet launch last week on the HD2 of WJMN (94.5) in Boston. That had been a simulcast of “Talk 1200,” helping Limbaugh’s outlet overcome its less-than-full-market signal on AM.
*Over at WRKO’s former Entercom sister station, WEEI-FM (93.7), Kirk Minihane won’t be returning to his former position on the morning show alongside Gerry Callahan. The company announced last week that it’s instead moving Minihane to his own podcast on its Radio.com network, putting a formal end to the “Kirk & Callahan” pairing, just over two months after Minihane revealed that he’d been taking time off the show while dealing with suicidal thoughts and depression.
With Minihane moved to podcasting, the morning show on WEEI is now “Mut and Callahan,” making Mike Mutnansky the foil to Callahan on the FM airwaves.
Out on Cape Cod, Karen Blake is out after five years of morning drive at WQRC (99.9 Hyannis), leaving the morning show in the solo hands of her fellow Boston radio veteran, Ralphie Marino.
*The MASSACHUSETTS Broadcasters Association handed out its annual Sound Bites Awards last week, including a Radio Station of the Year nod for WCTK (98.1 New Bedford), TV Station of the Year to WCVB (Channel 5) in Boston, Broadcaster of the Year for Matty Siegel of Boston’s Kiss 108 (WXKS-FM), and Radio Air Personality to Chris Kellogg of WMAS-FM (94.7) in Springfield. (See the full list of winners here.)
*The NEW YORK Mets will have a new voice in their radio booth when they move to WCBS (880) next year. Josh Lewin, who’d been part of the Mets radio team since 2012, says he’s taken an as-yet-undisclosed new play-by-play role somewhere away from New York. Will Wayne Randazzo, who’d been the Mets’ pre- and post-game host on WOR (710), move over to work the games along with Howie Rose, who’s renewed his contract with the team?
Entercom has named permanent afternoon and late-night hosts at its “ALT 92.3” (WNYL). Corey Bonalewicz is inbound from sister station WBBM-FM (B96) in Chicago to take the 2-6 PM shift, while Kevan Kenney moves up from weekend afternoons to take the 10 PM-2 AM shift.
And since we’re big proponents of outdoor advertising to keep radio stations in the front of listeners’ minds, we were happy to see the news that ALT is doing custom murals in its listeners’ neighborhoods. The initial mural, in Brooklyn, was designed by the lead singer and graphic designer of the band Portugal. The Man, and will stay up through December.
On Long Island, “WBWD” is the new callsign to replace WLIE (540 Islip).
The National Radio Hall of Fame held its induction dinner last week in New York City, with this year’s inductees including veteran New York City jocks Jim Kerr (WAXQ) and Kid Kelly (late of Z100), as well as longtime WOR (710) host Joan Hamburg and WFAN’s Mike Francesa.
*In Watertown, tensions continue to flare between Stephens Media and NABET-CWA Local 51024, which represents on-air talent at the cluster that includes WFRY (97.5), WCIZ (93.3), WTNY (790) and WNER (1410). The union picketed the station’s offices last Monday, protesting the August layoffs of three people, a move it says violates the contractual requirement that the stations have live airstaff from 5 AM until 6 PM.
Stephens officials tell WWNY-TV that they’ve already rehired one of the three, and are creating new positions and inviting the other two laid-off staffers to apply to come back.
In Canandaigua, Genesee Media flipped the switch last week on its new 95.5 translator for WOKR (1310) – and with the addition of FM, it’s flipped the format from talk to classic country, supplied by Local Radio Networks. The 95.5 translator, W238DG, is highly directional to the northeast from the AM site, wedged between Bob Savage’s new WYSL (1040) translator west of Rochester and Saga’s WFIZ in Ithaca, all on the same frequency.
In Elmira, Europa Communications has shifted its “Hot” hip-hop format to a new frequency. Translator W275AB operated on 102.9 from downtown Elmira for almost a quarter of a century without incident, but when it moved out of the valley and up the hill to a new site in Horseheads a few months ago, it triggered an interference complaint from WMHR (102.9 Syracuse), which said its listeners in the Finger Lakes were having trouble hearing its religious programming.
And so “Hot 102.9” (fed by an HD subchannel of WPHD 96.1) is now “Hot 103.3,” using that same Horseheads hilltop site and 250 watts, directional aimed south.
*A station sale in northwestern PENNSYLVANIA leads our Keystone State news: Oil City’s WKQW-FM (96.3), WKQW (1120) and a construction permit for translator W281CA (104.1) are all going from Clarion County Broadcasting to Twilight Broadcasting, headed by Robert Lowe, for $265,000. Lowe takes immediate control of the stations under a time brokerage agreement; no word yet on what changes might be in store for the AC format on “KQW 96.3” or the sports on “ESPN 1120.” Clarion paid $540,000 for the AM/FM combo when it bought the stations from Stephen Olszowka back in 2005.
In Carlisle, Scott Johnson is the new morning host on “Good Time Oldies” WHYL (960, plus its FM translator at 102.9). Johnson’s history with WHYL goes back to the old WHYL-FM (102.3), where he worked while he was still in high school 31 years ago. He later worked at Philadelphia’s WBEB, at CBS Radio in Baltimore and at WXCY in Delaware before leaving radio in 2011.
And in Philadelphia, astute NERW readers (or those who just opened the column a few hours late!) caught our update last Monday that iHeart did indeed flip WISX (106.1) to soft AC as “the Breeze” at noon, two hours after pushing Entercom rival WBEB (101.1) to an early launch of its annual all-Christmas format.
Meanwhile at Entercom, there’s a new morning show at hot AC WTDY (96.5), where Sean “Coop” Tabler moves north from WGH-FM in Norfolk, Virginia to pair up with Casey Reed, who returns to 96.5 after working as music director and afternoon host on iHeart’s WIOQ (Q102). Midday host Karle will produce the new “Coop and Casey” show.
Entercom has also promoted KYW (1060) editor Christina Hammerschmidt to news director.
And there’s word that WNWR (1540) has returned to the air after several months of silence, apparently with Spanish-language programming.
*In Francophone CANADA, Leclerc Communications is angling to become a much bigger player with its proposed C$19 million purchase of CHOI (98.1 Radio X) in Quebec City and CKLX (91.9 Sports) in Montreal from RNC Media. Leclerc filed the details of the deal with the CRTC late last week, including two big requests: to change CKLX from its present specialty talk format to a mainstream music format, a Montreal version of its hot AC/AAA “WKND Radio” that runs on CJEC (91.9 Quebec City) – and a waiver of the usual ownership limits to allow CKLX to be co-owned with CJEC and CFEL (102.1) in Quebec City.
As Steve Faguy reports, that three-station combination, if approved, would give Leclerc a 28.5% share of the Quebec City market, significantly higher than Cogeco’s 19% or Bell’s 16%. Meanwhile in Montreal, the format change to “WKND” would include midday and weekend simulcasts with the existing Quebec City operation – and would leave the city once again without a full-time Francophone sports station.
*We’re saddened by the news of Randy Tieman’s untimely death Friday, not much more than a year after his long run at CTV Montreal came to an end. Tieman spent just over three decades doing sports on CFCF-TV (Channel 12), along with some time on its eventual radio sister CKGM (TSN Radio 690), before the TV station closed its local sports operation in August 2017. Known for his distinctive facial hair (his social media handle was “SportsStache”) and for his upbeat take on life, Tieman had been battling multiple illnesses in retirement. He was just 64.
Near the Ontario border in far western Quebec, there’s a new First Nations station coming to Kipawa, in the Kebaowek First Nation. CKFF (104.1) will run 6 kW/55 m, playing mostly English-language country, reports Canadian Radio News.