In this week’s issue… Lineup shuffles at WBZ, KDKA – WNYC head steps down – New morning shows in VT – Antenna swap in Toronto?

By SCOTT FYBUSH

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*It’s our last weekly NERW of 2018 – which means we’re headed (gulp) for this column’s 25th anniversary year in 2019.

Before we get there, of course, it’s NERW Year in Review time, so buckle in and get ready for daily installments in this space starting on Wednesday, Dec. 26 (The Year in Sales), and continuing through our usual Year in People and Formats segments, and then next week, our Top 10 Stories of the Year and Those We Lost, which will wrap up the Year in Review on New Year’s Day.

We’ll be back with a NERW update on Wednesday, January 2, which is when we usually bring you up to speed on the format and staff changes that tend to start rolling in right after Christmas. (And of course RadioInsight and Lance Venta will be there with breaking radio news, too.)

But at the end of this chaotic year, there’s a surprising amount of change going on even before Christmas, much of it coming from the news-talk front in several big NERW-land markets, including New York, Boston and Pittsburgh.

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*In western PENNSYLVANIA, the new year will bring a new lineup to Entercom’s KDKA (1020) as it approaches its 99th anniversary. (Hey, guess what we’ll be talking about a lot when 2020 rolls around?)

Starting January 3, KDKA will be doing news blocks from 6 AM until 8 PM, with a change of anchors as part of the revamp. Morning anchors Larry Richert and John Shumway will now be heard from 6-10 AM, an hour later on both ends from their current 5-9 AM shift. Marty Griffin, now heard from 9-noon, will move later in the day (more on that in a moment), replaced by Lynne Hayes-Freeland, who moves to KDKA radio from former sister station KDKA-TV (Channel 2). She’ll host the 10 AM to 2 PM block, followed from 2-6 PM by a new afternoon news block hosted by Wendy Bell (formerly of WTAE-TV) and Griffin. (The noon shift on KDKA, of course, was the old home of the late Mike Pintek, whose cancer forced him off the air earlier in the year and took his life in September.)

Robert Mangino, who’s been anchoring afternoon news, will take over news duties from 6-10 PM on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, as well as weekend afternoons; Rob Pratte will be heard from 8-11 PM on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Red Eye Radio will stay in the overnight hours.

Down the hall at country WDSY (107.9), former morning host Stoney Richards is returning. Starting January 2, he’ll be the lead host of the new “Y’d Awake” morning show on Y108, alongside Kristen Buccigrossi and producer Cowboy Curt. Richards left the station back in 2014 to pursue an acting career, but had been back in the now-Entercom fold recently, filling in at Y108 and KDKA. Richards’ new show replaces Bill “Broadway” Bert, who was with the station for just a year until exiting in October.

*If the new KDKA weekday news blocks remind you of one of its former Westinghouse/CBS Radio sister stations, well… us too. In MASSACHUSETTS, WBZ (1030 Boston) is no longer a sister to KDKA, but it too runs all-news until 8 PM these days – and under new owner iHeart, it’s changing its anchor lineup for the new year.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than a quarter of a century now since WBZ went all-news in the daytime, and even harder to believe that in all those years, the morning news block still retained some of the quirks of the pre-all-news era. In particular, WBZ’s morning anchors (most recently Josh Binswanger and Deb Lawler) worked 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off, with Binswanger at the top and bottom of the hour and Lawler at :15 and :45 after sports.

That’s changing to match the rest of the day, with one anchor at the top of the hour and the other at the bottom. In the morning, it will now be Jeff Brown working alongside Lawler, the last remaining anchor from the start of all-news. It’s been a long time since WBZ has had a permanent pair of midday anchors, but that’s changing, too, as Ben Parker gets named to the shift alongside Nichole Davis. Binswanger moves to afternoons, where he’ll work alongside Laurie Kirby. Behind the scenes, each shift will have its own “Core 4” staff – an editor, a writer and two anchors specifically responsible for those hours. Davis will lead the station’s social media team as WBZ focuses more on its digital presence. (Which brings us to all the new music and imaging that debuted last week, where it hasn’t escaped notice that it’s largely “WBZ Newsradio” without much mention of “1030.”)

*And in NEW YORK City, we have more details now on Cumulus’ WABC (770) lineup entering the new year. In addition to Ben Shapiro’s expansion to the full 3-6 PM slot, Brian Kilmeade’s Fox News Radio show will replace Westwood One’s Chris Plante from 10 AM to noon. As RadioInsight first reported, the new Shapiro afternoon timeslot pushes Michael Savage off the air entirely at WABC – and also at Cumulus sisters WLS Chicago, WMAL Washington and KABC Los Angeles, effective January 7. One more change: Rita Cosby, who’d been co-hosting middays with Curtis Sliwa, has exited the station, leaving Sliwa solo.

*One of the most prominent names in the history of public broadcasting in New York is retiring. Laura Walker took the helm of WNYC in 1996 as the station was transitioning from more than 70 years of municipal ownership to independence, and in the 22 years since then she was instrumental in building what’s now New York Public Radio from just one FM and one AM signal to a massive public media operation.

(photo: WNYC.org)

Under Walker’s leadership, New York Public Radio moved from WNYC’s old cramped quarters to a modern headquarters on Varick Street (we chronicled that move a decade ago on Tower Site of the Week); moved its classical music programming to a second FM signal, WQXR (105.9 Newark), saving WQXR’s legacy when the New York Times sold the station; took over half of the former NJN Radio network across the river in northern NEW JERSEY; opened the Greene Space performance venue on the ground floor of its building; grew its newsroom to become one of the biggest in the market; took over the Gothamist website – and perhaps most critically, became an early proponent of public radio’s move into podcasting. WNYC Studios is now one of the biggest podcast producers in the world, boasting an audience reach of almost 26 million listeners monthly.

Walker has also weathered some big storms in her time at NYPR, including the ousters of several prominent talk hosts (Leonard Lopate, John Hockenberry) over accusations of harassment in 2017.

In a letter to staffers last week, Walker said she and the station’s board have agreed “it’s time for me to move on,” sometime in 2019; after that, she’ll pursue a university position or perhaps start a new business.

*In Binghamton, Townsquare made a surprise branding change last Monday morning, turning “Wild 104” (WWYL 104.1 Chenango Bridge) into “Kiss 104.1, Binghamton’s Hit Music Station.”

Aside from the new name, the station stays pretty much the same – same top-40 music, the Kidd Kraddick Show in the morning and local jocks JJ Franiak in middays and Joshua B in afternoons.

As Lance notes over at RadioInsight, the branding change continues a rare three-way top-40 battle against iHeart’s “Now” (WBNW 105.7) and Steve Gilinsky’s locally-owned “Magic” (WLTB 101.7).

*Fans of the unique AAA format on Albany-market WEXT now have another signal they can listen to. Public broadcaster WMHT started WEXT back in 2007 on the class A signal it had recently purchased at 97.7 in Amsterdam, way out on the western edge of the market. It later added a WEXT simulcast on the HD2 of WMHT’s own full-market 89.1 signal – and last week, it finally reached Albany and Troy with an analog signal via W291BY (106.1), the powerful translator it bought from Empire Broadcasting for $275,000.

The translator had been silent for much of 2018 after Empire shut down its stations, including the “Jockey” AC format that it had briefly revived on 106.1 and its parent AM, WAIX (1160 Mechanicville), which was not included in the sale and remains dark.

*In Buffalo, Entercom has made the format flip we tipped you to way back at the beginning of September: the classic R&B format of WWWS (1400) now has an FM home on translator W297AB (107.3), which had been carrying sister station “Alternative Buffalo” WLKK (107.7).

Once WLKK got a better Buffalo translator on 104.7, the 107.3 translator had become redundant. With a signal upgrade from 55 to 73 watts and a move from 715 Delaware Avenue to a nearby hospital rooftop, the 107.3 signal now provides much better coverage of Buffalo for what’s being branded as “Classic R&B 107.3 FM.”

*And of course we’re pulling for veteran Sabres announcer Rick Jeanneret, who left Saturday’s game on a stretcher after taking ill during the third period. Listeners on WGR (550) and viewers on MSG Network heard Jeanneret slow down and then go silent until analyst Rob Ray and in-game host Brian Duff took over the broadcast. Jeanneret was taken to a Buffalo hospital, where he told the Buffalo News on Sunday that he was feeling “pretty good.” Jeanneret went home later Sunday, and says he expects to be back in the booth for next Saturday’s game against the Bruins.

*One more Pennsylvania story, right on the border of Ohio: Joe Vilkie’s VCI Radio Inc. is selling WLOA (1470 Farrell), plus a CP for a new translator on 102.3 in nearby Youngstown, Ohio, to a new group called “Over/Under LLC” led by Andrew Arnold and Clay Church, for $85,000. Vilkie keeps WMVL (101.7 Lineville) and WGRP (940 Greenville). Roger Rafson’s CMS Station Brokerage handled the sale (and by way of disclaimer, Fybush Media was responsible for the translator CP last year.)

*In VERMONT, Charlie Papillo and Ernie Farrar said goodbye to their WVMT (620 Burlington) morning show on Friday in a studio crammed with friends and VIPs. Will we hear either of them elsewhere on the air in the new year? Or is this Farrar’s retirement after more than 50 years on the Burlington airwaves?

Either way, we now know that the “Pete and Sarah” morning show will move down the hall to news-talk WVMT from top-40 sister WXXX (95 Triple X) in the new year – and we hear the syndicated Brooke and Jubal show will take over in mornings on Triple X. Are there more format changes coming as WVMT and WXXX move in with their new Vox AMFM sisters in the market? Stay tuned….

*One last bit of Boston news: at Beasley’s WBZ-FM (98.5 the Sports Hub), the “Toucher & Rich” morning show is staying in place for a few more years, as Fred Toucher and Rich Shertenlieb sign a new deal with the station.

*We note, a bit belatedly, the passing of Norm Alpert, onetime proprietor of the biggest FM signal in the northeast. Alpert was working as a media rep for Eastman Radio in 1971 when he moved over to ownership, buying what was then sleepy WMTW-FM (94.9) up on Mount Washington, NEW HAMPSHIRE from the Harron family.

While the big FM signal remained co-located with its former sister TV station, WMTW-TV (Channel 8), it changed calls to WWMT, WMTQ and then, in 1976, to the same WHOM callsign it still uses today. Alpert’s Alpine Broadcasting built WHOM into a substantial force in the Portland, MAINE market before he sold the station at the end of 1981. By then, Alpert was busy with a new project down in southwest Florida, where he put WAVV (101.1) on the air in Naples in 1982. The Alpert family still owns and runs WAVV as a big independent FM station, though now without Norm Alpert, who died Dec. 3 at 89.

*When ESPN began as a fledgling basic cable network in the wilds of CONNECTICUT in 1979, the first voice ever heard on its air was that of Lee Leonard, who died Dec. 16 at 89.

By the time he told ESPN’s first viewers that “what you’ll see in the next minutes, hours and days to follow may convince you you’ve gone to sports heaven,” Leonard was already well into a successful career as a talk and sports host. In 1964, he became the midday host at WNBC (660) in New York, part of its early talk-entertainment lineup. Leonard later worked in TV, hosting “The NFL on CBS” and several shows on NBC; after leaving ESPN in 1980, he spent several years hosting entertainment shows on CNN and was later seen on News 12 New Jersey.

*In CANADA‘s biggest market, “Indie 88” (CIND) has struggled with its signal ever since it signed on five years ago. Owner Rock 95 Broadcasting, which won a battle for the 88.1 spot on the Toronto dial after the former CKLN lost its license, has tried several times to get the CRTC and Industry Canada to approve power increases but hasn’t had much success.

Now it’s back with a new proposal designed to overcome one of the problems with its last proposal: the last time CIND tried to get more power, the CRTC said its proposal might have blocked another new Toronto signal on 106.5 from getting a spot on the roof at First Canadian Place, one of the two major Toronto FM transmitter sites.

This time, CIND and the new 106.5, CFPT, are applying jointly to swap positions on their tower atop First Canadian Place: CIND would go from 4 kW to 12 kW max DA, moving up from 281 to 298 meters AAT; CFPT would go from 2.6 to 2.95 kW max DA, dropping down from 298 to 280 meters AAT.

*In Montreal, Leslie Roberts signed off from the late morning (9-noon) weekday slot on CJAD (800) at the end of the week, but the Bell station has a replacement ready to go. It’s Elias Makos, who surprised the market a week earlier with the announcement he was leaving the Breakfast Television show on CityTV (CJNT).

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1 COMMENT

  1. KDKA is like A Bad Used car lot. They should go to one of the local College’s and Hire their Radio Staff.

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