In this week’s issue… IHeart rearranges Reading – Format flip at the Jersey Shore – Where’s NBC Boston this week? – Montreal morning show shuffle
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*It was one of the more curious little stories that barely made its way into the headlines last week – iHeart and EMF Broadcasting are swapping a dozen or so translator facilities around the country, everywhere from the Midwest to Texas and Oklahoma, to Reading, PENNSYLVANIA.
That’s where iHeart’s small cluster of signals includes hot AC WRFY (102.5) and Spanish tropical “Rumba” WRAW (1340), which in turn feeds translator W222BY (92.3), at least until noon today. W222BY is one of the seven iHeart-owned translators going to EMF in exchange for six EMF-owned translators (none here in NERW-land) that have been leased out to iHeart and are carrying urban formats in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Minneapolis, Lexington and Waco.
But while iHeart is losing ownership of W222BY, it doesn’t appear that it’s giving up the Rumba format on the translator. Instead, Rumba will continue to be fed to 92.3 via the HD2 of WRFY, while WRAW launches a new format at noon, returning to the news and talk it had been running a few years ago before “Rumba” launched as an AM-only format.
The new “NewsTalk 1340” WRAW format will include a simulcast of R.J. Harris’ morning show from WHP (580) down the road in Harrisburg, followed by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Buck Sexton. Limbaugh moves to WRAW from WEEU (830), which is picking up “PA Sports Midday” from the PA Sports Network to fill that midday slot.
Can WRAW get traction as an AM-only talk voice in an increasingly FM world? And as it transitions to new ownership, will the loss of Limbaugh damage WEEU’s ratings at all? We’ll be watching… and listening.
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But this time, the station that’s usually first in the nation to go all-Christmas has dropped its regular “Easy” soft AC format for something else – it’s now simulcasting its Equity Communications AM sister stations, WMID (1340 Atlantic City)/WCMC (1230 Wildwood) with “Classic Oldies,” complete with the same midday break for Rush Limbaugh.
*There will be plenty of Woodstock 50th anniversary commemorations coming up this week, but WXPN (88.5 Philadelphia) seems to have the most ambitious one planned out. Starting at 5:07 Thursday night, WXPN will broadcast the entire concert, 50 years to the minute after it happened. The ambitious broadcast draws heavily from the recently released Rhino box set that includes all available audio from the festival, including stage announcements and other miscellany. After a break early Friday morning, the broadcast will resume Friday afternoon and continue (just as the original concert did) pretty much nonstop through Jimi Hendrix’s concluding set Sunday morning.
*Our NEW YORK news starts with an obituary: Manuel “Paco” Navarro was well-established at Spanish-language WJIT (1480) in the late 1970s when disco became big, and he claimed credit for suggesting that WJIT’s sister station, WKTU (92.3), shift from AC to disco music. KTU, of course, rode the disco wave right to the top of the ratings, famously unseating WABC from the number 1 spot to become the first FM station ever to top the New York ratings – and much of its success was thanks to Navarro’s night show, which at one point had one in five New York listeners tuned in.
Navarro was an integral part of WKTU right up until its 1985 flip to K-Rock, WXRK, after which he spent a little time back at WJIT and then moved on to other businesses. In 1987, he was arrested on charges of heroin distribution, which put him behind bars for four years. (David Hinckley has a remembrance of that part of Navarro’s life, here.)
Navarro returned to radio later on at WADO (1280), but in recent years he’d been suffering from what Hinckley called “a miserable blitz of dementia, Alzheimer’s and pancreatic cancer.” He was 82 when he died on Thursday.
*Upstate, Steve Hausmann has become an institution at top-rated WBEE (92.5 Rochester), where he’s been part of the “BEE Morning Coffee Club” for the past 18 years, first doing news and later as a full-fledged co-host. After a 50-year career in radio and TV that started in his native Massachusetts (including a stint at WHDH/WZOU) and continued in Rochester on WHEC-TV, Steve will retire August 30. No replacement has been named yet – and we’re sure there will be some news from the Entercom cluster in the next few weeks about farewell events for him. (This is the second big 50th anniversary in that building; sister station WCMF just wrapped up its 50th anniversary as a rock station with a concert last week by Cheap Trick.)
It’s anniversary time, too, at WRIP (97.9 Windham), where Dennis Jackson’s fine little community station marked its 20th anniversary over the weekend with a party on Saturday. The whole town was invited to the station’s party, complete with cake – and from Dennis’ pictures, it looked like a lot of the town turned out, a tribute to WRIP’s close connection to its community.
*In MASSACHUSETTS, it’s hard to believe that it’s already been a decade since WBCN left 104.1, moving “Mix” WBMX from 98.5 up the dial and freeing up the 98.5 slot to become Boston’s first FM sports station, WBZ-FM.
With a format that was as much guy talk as hard sports, “The Sports Hub” changed the game, of course – forcing Entercom competitor WEEI to move from AM to FM and knocking WEEI down to second place in sports in most dayparts. To mark its 10th anniversary, WBZ-FM will do a special day of programming tomorrow, filling the day with remembrances of big moments in the last decade of Boston sports (the Patriots won some Super Bowls, didn’t they?) and guest voices.
What’s going on now with NBC Boston? Just as the market recovers from its big repack channel shuffle, keen eyes noticed a change late last week in the legal ID in the corner of the TV screen: WYCN-CD (15.1), the Nashua, NEW HAMPSHIRE-licensed low-power signal that NBC now places as a channel-share on the big WGBX-TV signal, has changed calls to WBTS, reinforcing its place as the primary (and soon, only) home of NBC Boston over the air.
For now, the ID also includes “WYCN-LD Providence,” which is the former WBTS-LD, at one time slated to be the primary NBC signal. It’s been using virtual 8.1 and RF 46 from the Newton/Needham tower farm, but it will soon be relocated to a site in Norton, serving viewers across the line in RHODE ISLAND. And since Providence already has an NBC affiliate in the form of Sinclair’s WJAR (Channel 10), we can reasonably assume (we think!) that WYCN-LD will become a Telemundo signal when it completes its move southward sometime soon.
*There was an abrupt morning change in one of CANADA‘s biggest markets last week: Steve Faguy was first to pick up on the disappearance of “Freeway” Frank Depalo and Natasha Gargiulo from Bell’s Virgin Radio 95.9 (CJFM) in Montreal. The morning duo were gone from the top-40 station after Wednesday’s show, posting a video on Thursday announcing they’d been fired.
For now, Virgin is running Lee Haberkorn and Kelly Alexander with “Virgin Radio Mornings,” but Faguy (among others) thinks that’s only temporary – and that CJFM will be the destination for “Cousin Vinny” Barrucco, apparently waiting out a noncompete after leaving crosstown CKBE (92.5 the Beat).
*In Francophone Quebec, Canadian Radio News reports a format change in the Quebec City market at RNC Media’s CHXX (100.9 Donnacona), where the classic hits “Pop 100.9” format is gone after two years, replaced by a AAA-modern rock mix called “Vibe 100.9.” CRN says the new format is running jockless until a host lineup is announced in September.
East of Hamilton, Durham Radio is applying for more power at its new CKLK (88.5 Grimsby). When the station goes on the air, Durham is requesting 1.53 kW average/5 kW max DA/124 m instead of the originally-permitted 4 kW/6 m, with a move to the Hydro One tower on the escarpment south of Grimsby. Durham says the change will allow it to better serve the Grimsby and Beamsville areas – and parts of Hamilton, too, where commuters from Grimsby tend to be headed in the morning.