In this week’s issue… NASH, WMAS handoff is quiet, but what about WINS and WCBS? – Union wins big newsroom victory – Format flip in VT – Veteran weatherman retires – Remembering Moncton’s “Dude”
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – We’re on our way back north from Florida, headed back to a region that mostly weathered the heavy wind last weekend (the one tower that came down, as seen all over social media, was a communications tower atop Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine that carried cellular and two-way traffic; the mountain’s most famous radio tenant, WTOS 105.1, was on a nearby tower that survived intact, thankfully!)
And if we had ever entertained the thought of getting to NEW YORK for the March 1 handoff of WNSH (94.7 Newark) from Cumulus to Entercom, it’s a good thing we didn’t bother. The start of the LMA on Friday produced essentially no change at all at “NASH,” and it doesn’t appear that Entercom has any plans to make more than minor tweaks to the market’s only big country voice.
Even the Cumulus-specific “NASH” branding appears to be staying for now, as are morning host Kelly Ford and the rest of the current airstaff. Will anything change later this year when that LMA converts to an outright sale? Aside from the eventual studio move from Cumulus’ 2 Penn Plaza digs downtown to Entercom’s 345 Hudson Street cluster facility, it’s looking more like status quo than anything else. (The same is true up the road in Springfield, Mass., where WMAS 94.7 continues its AC format and sister station WHLL 1450 retains “NASH Icon” country as Entercom’s LMA gets underway.)
But back at Hudson Square, something else is changing in Entercom-land. As the Daily News first reported, Entercom is sparring with the writers’ union at its all-news stations, WCBS (880) and WINS (1010), where the company wants to at least start a negotiation over “cross-utilization” of some resources at both stations.
Fierce competitors under separate CBS and Group W ownership from the 1960s until Westinghouse bought CBS in 1995, WCBS and WINS remained at separate locations for another decade – and even after both stations arrived at Hudson Square, they’ve still been very separate operations, with newsrooms on separate floors of the building and staffers who don’t interact much and never, ever share content.
But with Entercom’s arrival as the new corporate owner, there’s new pressure to cut some costs – and in particular, to find a way to share some resources behind the scenes while still maintaining the two stations’ separate brands (and, of course, their two separate robust revenue streams.)
The Writers Guild of America, East says Entercom won’t budge on raising wages at WINS and WCBS, where no new contract has been signed since 2015, until the guild agrees to start a conversation about that “cross-utilization” proposal. But WGA officials tell the News that Entercom won’t provide any details about what sort of sharing it has in mind, or how it might affect overall employment. Union officials tell the paper they think Entercom wants to effectively merge the two newsrooms, even if they’re still serving separate anchor teams. Entercom says that’s not its intention – and in the meantime, local politicians are making hay out of the matter, sending a letter to the company opposing any newsroom consolidation.
Will WCBS and WINS survive indefinitely as separate operations? New York, certainly, is a different market from Chicago or Los Angeles, where the CBS/Westinghouse merger led to the closure of Group W’s all-news competitors, WMAQ and KFWB. But the realities of 2019 are different from 1995 – and we’d bet that at some point before long, Entercom will persuade the union to accept at least some behind-the-scenes sharing of resources.
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