In this week’s issue… Entercom cuts claim Buffalo veteran – New morning show in Boston – PA tower rebuilt – Maritimes survive Dorian’s blast
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*In more than 25 years of writing this column, we’ve gotten tired of sugar-coating some of the lousy things that happen in this business – so we’re not going to say that western NEW YORK‘s longest-running radio voice has “departed” or “exited” Entercom’s WTSS (102.5 Buffalo).
No, Roger Christian was fired from Star 102 on Thursday, an undignified end to a career that started at the station back in 1976, when it was running automated music and he came on board as music director. Christian had already been in Buffalo radio for a dozen years, going back to his early days as one of the teen DJs on WYSL-FM (103.3). After graduating from college in Indiana, Christian worked overnights on WYSL starting in 1970 and then worked on-air and as music director on WGRQ (96.9) from 1973 until joining WBEN-FM in 1976.
And then, once he landed at 102.5, Christian never left. He became the station’s live morning voice in the 1980s as “Rock 102” transitioned from TM Stereo Rock to local top-40, then stayed on board in mornings and eventually middays as the station became WMJQ, “Majic 102” and “Q102,” then “Star 102.”
Along the way, he became a community institution, staying at the top of the workday ratings and being honored last year with induction into the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
In a market where the local newspaper and TV stations still cover radio, all of that could have led to some nice press in a year or two, if Christian had been allowed to retire on his own schedule. Instead, though, Entercom and WTSS got all that publicity last week – for walking Christian out the door as his Thursday airshift was ending. (And Christian, to his credit, didn’t try to sugarcoat the reality of his ouster, either, making it very clear he didn’t leave voluntarily.)
Is there anything good we can say about this? Not really (and not just because we’re grumpy as we recover from a nasty stomach bug that delayed this week’s column.) Entercom has been quietly cutting back on live midday shifts, and so the workday hours on Star – on a station that promotes itself as a listen-at-work station – will likely be voicetracked, if they have any personality left at all.
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*Across town in Buffalo, Townsquare is looking for a new brand manager and midday host at urban WBLK (93.7), as Jay Hicks departs for the PD job at Entercom’s WPGC in Washington. Hicks came to WBLK two years ago from his native Detroit, where he’d been programming WGPR.
In New York City, WEPN (1050) lost its ESPN Deportes sports programming when that network shut down Sunday night; it’s becoming a full-time ESPN Radio network affiliate (alongside its mostly-local FM sister, WEPN-FM 98.7), but it’s also fulfilling some existing contractual commitments, so Spanish-language Mets broadcasts and some local programming in Spanish continue for now, while listeners are also hearing some WEPN-FM simulcasts on AM.
*In MASSACHUSETTS, Beasley’s WKLB (102.5 Waltham) has found a new morning co-host to replace Jackson Blue, who’s now in afternoons on the Boston-market country station. Jonathan Weir comes to WKLB from Entercom’s KMBZ in Kansas City, where he was doing an evening talk show; in Boston, he’ll be working alongside Ayla Brown, who survived as morning host after Blue’s move.
Out on Martha’s Vineyard, WYOB-LP (105.5 Oak Bluffs) has gone silent after the summer season, citing “site problems and staffing issues.”
*And Jim McCarthy was an insurance executive when he and a few buddies got together over some drinks to talk about sports after work in the late 1960s. Their chatter got the attention of a fellow restaurant patron, who encouraged them to take their act to his radio station, WUNR (1600) – and so they did, launching the Sunday “Sports Huddle,” which quickly became a Boston sports institution.
McCarthy and his friends, Eddie Andelman and Mark Witkin, moved the show around the dial over the years, to WBZ, WHDH and WEEI, remaining on the air for almost 30 years. McCarthy was 91 when he died Aug. 28 in Hingham.
*In CONNECTICUT, WDAQ (98.3 Danbury) is on the hunt for a new afternoon jock, with the departure of Linda G. (Guerrero). She’d been on the job there for just nine months, having previously worked across town at Townsquare; she’d also been PD/MD of 98Q’s HD3 sister station, “The Bull.”
*In PENNSYLVANIA, they’re mourning longtime WAEB (790/104.1 Allentown) PD/GM Jeff Frank, whose career started in the mid-60s when he was a student DJ at Parkland High School. Over 25 years at the stations, Frank worked his way up through the ran isks, serving as a program host and eventually managing the stations before moving on in 1991. After working in Scranton, Frank and a partner went into station ownership down south. He ended up in Maine after selling his stations, then returned to the Lehigh Valley, where he died Aug. 31 at 70.
Over in the Harrisburg area, WHYF (720 Shiremanstown) is on the move again. For the last nine years, the Catholic station has run from a longwire antenna near the Children’s Home west of Shiremanstown after losings its original site (then WWII) to development. Now the Children’s Home site is also facing development pressure, and so Holy Family Communications is applying to run 2 kW daytime from the same longwire antenna, relocated to a new site near Clear Spring, down US 15 southwest of Harrisburg.
(And we note this application calls for a license at the new site, not a new STA; will the FCC approve a longwire for licensed use? WHYF had held a CP for a new licensed site off I-81 in Enola, to be shared with a new signal on 850, but that CP quietly expired at the end of August.)
*There’s some good tower news up in the Northern Tier, where WHGL (100.3 Troy) is back up at full power after a snowplow caught the guy wires and took down its tower last November. (We talked to owner Mike Powers after it happened on our Top of the Tower Podcast.)
WHGL’s new tower went up in mid-August, and we caught its new full-power signal blasting across the state line into Corning and Watkins Glen over the weekend, restoring coverage that the station had lost while operating at reduced power through the winter, spring and summer.
*And in Philadelphia, Charlie Maxx moves up from weekends to nights at WXTU (92.5). She’d been working for ReelWorld’s prep+ affiliates relations team most recently, but her radio resume includes Beasley sister station WJBR in Wilmington, as well as stops at several other Philadelphia radio stations including the old Mix 95.7, 96.5 the Point, B101 and Alice 104.5.
*In Maritimes CANADA, Hurricane Dorian took its last shot at North America over the weekend, wiping out power to pretty much all of Nova Scotia before grazing Newfoundland and heading out to sea. Early reports from our ears up that way were that the big Halifax stations stayed on with generator power, while some smaller stations went dark, but once the power came back, there was little damage to any broadcast facilities. (Or, for that matter, to Nautel’s headquarters right in the path of the storm near Halifax.)
Outside Montreal, Arsenal Media changed course last week on CJLM (103.5), dropping French AC (“M103,5”) in favor of the company’s “O” network, playing French top-40 and rock as “O103,5.” Canadian Radio News reports CJLM is local from 6 AM to 6 PM weekdays, with networked programming at night and on the weekend.
Up north, CRN also reports that health issues for the owner have taken community station CFDY (104.7 Cochrane ON) and its “Polar Bear Radio” simulcast CHDY (88.5 Smooth Rock Falls) off the air for now. And out in the Maritimes, Stingray’s CHNI (88.9 Saint John NB) started September by rebranding from “Rock 88.9” to “Q88.9, The Rock of Saint John.”