In this week’s issue… WLNG’s revamped sound – New morning show in NYC – New “Jack” in PA – “Breeze” blows into Buffalo – CJRT turmoil creates competition – Remembering Durgin, Eiseman
By SCOTT FYBUSH
Welcome to 2019! This year, we’ll be marking the 25th anniversary of what started as “New England Radio Watcher” back in 1994 – and after our annual New Year’s hiatus, we have so much news to kick off the new year that we’re actually splitting our NERW report in half this week.
Yesterday, we brought you “New England RadioWatch,” with all the headlines from Connecticut to Maine. Today, it’s Part Two, bringing you up to speed on the news from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and eastern Canada. And if you value the service we provide here, there’s no better way to show it than to tell a friend or colleague to join you as a subscriber!
*The East End of Long Island isn’t like anywhere else in NEW YORK, or in the rest of the country, really. It’s a bunch of small towns that happen to be populated, in part, by some phenomenally rich people, especially in the summer. Over the years, there are plenty of stories of “experts” who’ve come into the area from outside and discovered, the hard way, that most of the rules of media that work pretty well anywhere else get torn apart pretty badly once the LIE gives way to Route 27.
As NERW (and Site of the Week) readers know well, WLNG (92.1 Sag Harbor) has been the perfect example of this truism for more than half a century now. If you turned on WLNG last month, it would have sounded pretty much the same way it did when the FM signal went on the air back in 1969 – a ridiculously wide variety of music from the 1950s to now, surrounded by lots and lots of jingles, lost dog reports, obituaries, wall-to-wall weekend remote broadcasts, marine weather, and on and on.
A nightmare for most consultants, perhaps, but on our last visit out there in the summer of 2017, there was simply no way to argue that it worked: the phone at the front desk was constantly ringing with listener input, the production studio was in use all afternoon cutting new spots for devoted local advertisers – and hey, what other radio station do you recall Billy Joel and Jimmy Fallon calling out by name on the air multiple times?
And so we start the new year watching as WLNG’s new owners, Sandra Foschi (Bark Out Loud Dogs Media) and her husband Bill Evans, begin putting their stamp on the station they just bought. The music mix got a little less diverse, the jingles and newscasts less frequent, Scott Shannon (whose history with Evans goes back to New York’s WPLJ) began showing up on liners and IDs, and the East End noticed.
Dan’s Papers, the fat weekly that’s sort of the print equivalent of WLNG in its only-on-the-East-End nature, sounded the alarm in the form of an editorial from founder Dan Rattiner calling for the sound of the station to be designated a “historic place.” (Did you know Rattiner was approached by WLNG founder Perry Duryea Jr. as a prospective early investor way back in 1961? We didn’t – but the East End is a small place, and after Rattiner said no, Duryea landed airline magnate Bob King instead, and it was King who kept WLNG’s sound frozen in time for decades until his death in 2011, which led to the station’s sale last year.)
Dom Theodore, the respected programmer who himself recently shifted into station ownership, weighed in too – and you can (and should) read his comments on WLNG’s changes on his blog.
On WLNG’s Facebook page, the posts have changed – instead of shots of East End locals at the station’s many remotes, it’s mostly reposts of Evans’ weather forecasts on New York’s WABC-TV (Channel 7), save for one attempt to post a defense of the station’s changes from retired afternoon jock Rusty Potz. (That all-caps post was eventually deleted.)
What now? Will WLNG’s changes indeed freshen up the station’s sound and attract younger listeners? Or will the changes turn off the loyal East Enders who like things the way they are and have rewarded the station with consistently strong listenership and revenue? Or some combination of both?
We’ll continue to be watching (and listening) closely as Foschi and Evans settle in at WLNG – and we’re hoping we can get them (and perhaps some of the critics of WLNG’s changes, too) to join us on our Top of the Tower Podcast as we start a new season of episodes in the next few weeks, too.
*When Cumulus was launching its national “NASH” brand a few years back, the very first (and for a while, only) home for its national morning show was New York-market WNSH (94.7 Newark, NEW JERSEY). What was then “America’s Morning Show” evolved into “Ty, Chuck and Kelly,” and has transitioned this year into “The Ty Bentli Show” – but without WNSH along for the ride. Instead, the New York-market “Nash” is using afternoon jock Jesse Addy in mornings this week, mostly just playing music while promoting “a new morning show, coming soon.”
*The new translator high atop 1 World Trade Center has a new tenant. The loop of all-New York City-themed songs that started on W284BW (104.7) and WPAT-FM (93.1)’s HD2 in September fell silent around Christmas, and the translator itself went off the air for a few days before returning early in January with Radio Vision Cristiana’s Spanish-language Christian programming, fed from WWRV (1330 New York).
A permanent move for translator owner Rahul Walia, or more of a placeholder until the translator can find a buyer? We’ll see.
*At the other end of the state, the end of Christmas also marked the end of “Mix” on Townsquare’s WMSX (96.1 Buffalo). After its usual month-plus of Christmas music, WMSX immediately flipped to a softer AC sound as “96.1 the Breeze,” hoping to make a stronger dent in Entercom’s dominant “Star 102.5,” WTSS. And after New Year’s, the new Breeze made a big addition to its lineup, hiring Joe Chille, the familiar longtime morning voice of 96.1 in its pre-Mix incarnation as WJYE. Chille returns to the Rand Building from Buddy Shula’s WECK (1230/100.5/102.9), where he’d been PD and afternoon host.
*Here in Rochester, a new lease tenant has taken over Genesee Media’s WRSB (1590 Brockport) and its big-signal 97.5 downtown translator, W248BH: what had been “Mi 97.5” is still Spanish, now as “Mega 97.5,” run by the same Freddy Colon who’s the afternoon host at WRSB’s sister station, “105.5 the Beat” (W288CS/WLGZ 102.7-HD2). Colon is programming “Mega” and hosting middays; the syndicated Enrique Santos is doing mornings on the new Spanish tropical format.
On TV, Hubbard-owned NBC affiliate WHEC (Channel 10) fired chief meteorologist Jeremy Kappell Monday, three days after he appeared to utter a racial slur during a live newscast. Intentional? Accidental? A verbal fumble that wasn’t a slur at all? It’s still not clear to us; in a video apology posted Monday night, Kappell says he was simply speaking too quickly when trying to say the name of “Dr. Martin Luther King.” In 2019, it didn’t matter – outrage flew fast and furious, with Rochester’s mayor out front, and after a year at WHEC, Kappell is out.
*Jim Eiseman’s career included stops at WHDH in Boston and WABC in New York, but he made perhaps his biggest splash in radio at WPXY (97.9/1280) in Rochester in the 1980s, where he was known on air as “The Iceman.” Eiseman followed his wife back to her hometown and worked in a local department store before landing shifts first on WPXY’s AM signal and then on the FM side, where he did nights for most of the decade. He stayed in Rochester after his radio career ended, selling hearing aids; he died Dec. 25, at age 61.
*Pamal is expanding its “Magic” soft AC/oldies format northward to Glens Falls, where it’s dropped CBS Sports Radio from WENU (1410 South Glens Falls) in favor of a simulcast of WROW (590 Albany). WENU recently added a translator in Glens Falls at 96.9, which will complement WROW’s own 100.5 translator in Albany; as for sports fans in Glens Falls, they can still hear Fox Sports Radio on Pamal sister station WMML (1230) and its translator at 97.9.
*In NEW JERSEY, WOLD-LP (107.9 Woodbridge) has added a new simulcast; in addition to its existing translator, W236CT (95.1 Edison), the oldies format is also now being heard across central Jersey on the HD3 of WPRB (103.3 Princeton).
Down the shore, Marianne Levy is out after more than 20 years at WOBM (1160)/WADB (1310), where she’d most recently been co-hosting the “Preferred Company” talk show. Levy is the widow of longtime WOBM personality Bob Levy, who died last year after almost half a century with the station. Also out at the Townsquare cluster there is Lisa Leonard, who’d been doing middays on WOBM-FM (92.7).
*The new year brought the temporary return of one of PENNSYLVANIA‘s oldest radio stations, as KQV (1410 Pittsburgh) was reactivated at the end of its most recent six-month silent period. KQV went dark, of course, at the very end of 2017 and is now in the hands of Bob Stevens, who’s running it as part of the noncommercial arm of his Broadcast Communications, Inc.
The only other noncommercial station Stevens owns is WKGO (88.1 Murrysville), and KQV’s return finds it simulcasting beautiful music with WKGO. It’s running off its legacy 5 kW facility in Pittsburgh’s North Hills for now, but when it eventually comes back for good, it won’t be from that site, instead diplexing with BCI’s WKFB (770 Jeannette).
*Down the road in Apollo, WAVL (910) dropped its talk format on Dec. 28 and stunted until the very end of the year, when it changed calls to WXJX and relaunched as “Jack FM,” putting most of its emphasis on its 98.7 translator that serves a broad swath east of Pittsburgh.
*In the State College market, Forever will swap the signals of two of its formats on Jan. 22. Classic rock WBUS, which has been on the Boalsburg-licensed class A 93.7 signal since it signed on in 1998, will move to the class B1 signal on 99.5 licensed to Centre Hall. That will give “the Bus” extended coverage down to Lewistown and Huntingdon, which will lose the hot AC “Majic” format that’s been on 99.5 as WMAJ; it will move to the smaller 93.7 signal that’s confined mainly to Centre County.
*In Erie, Inspiration Time launched WZTE (1530 Union City)’s new format on Jan. 2, ending its Constitution-reading stunting at 3:30 PM to become “Talk Erie,” feeding two Erie-area translators at 103.3 and 105.9. Most of the format comes from Salem, but the afternoon shift is live with Erie veteran Joel Natalie, who’s been working with WZTE sister station WCTL (106.3).
*Philadelphia’s WISX (106.1 the Breeze) is building an airstaff to go with its autumn format change to soft AC: it’s hired Valerie Knight (across town at WOGL from 2001-2016) for mornings, picked up WBEB (101.1) veteran Dan Blackman for afternoons and the syndicated Delilah at night.
*In Harrisburg, they’re mourning Bob Durgin, who was the afternoon host on WHP (580) from 1989 until his retirement in 2013. Durgin came to WHP from KTOK in Oklahoma City, where he spent 20 years as news director after starting his career in Texas back in 1964. Durgin, an Air Force veteran, died Dec. 24 at 75.
*In CANADA‘s biggest market, the new year begins with continued turmoil at CJRT (JAZZ FM 91.1), where several former staffers who’ve jumped ship are now starting a streaming service, Jazzcast.ca, that they say will include interviews and live performances as well as music. Among the former CJRT talents being heard on Jazzcast are Dani Elwell, Garvia Bailey and Heather Bambrick; one of the most recent departures, Bambrick left CJRT just before Christmas.
*Many of Stingray’s top-40 and hot AC stations across Canada are getting a common national evening show starting this week. Katie and Ed, who host mornings on CKMP (90.3 AMP Radio) in Calgary, are rolling out their night show on six stations, including CIHT (Hot 89.9) in Ottawa, CIGM (Hot 93.5) in Sudbury, CHRK (101.9 the Giant) in Sydney, NS and CKQK (Hot 105.5) on Prince Edward Island.
We don’t do Newfoundland stories very often here, but we’re a sucker for the historic “VO-” callsigns that have stuck around on the Rock since before Confederation brought the province into Canada in 1949. One of those few calls, VOAR, belongs to the Seventh-Day Adventists, who’ve run “Christian Family Radio” for decades, most recently at 1210 on the AM dial. Now VOAR has begun testing its new FM facility, which runs 100 kW on 96.7, and once it fully launches in the upcoming months, VOAR will leave the AM dial (and close down its current FM repeater at 95.9), leaving behind just two of those VO- calls on AM, commercial VOCM on 590 and religious VOWR on 800.