In this week’s issue… What’s new from the Radio Show – iHeart moves NYC talent – North Country station sale – Remembering McNaughton, Zelnick
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*We’re back home from this year’s Radio Show in Dallas, and if we had to come up with a one-word description of what we noticed this time around, the word would be “realistic.”
No, not the old Radio Shack capital-R brand name from just down the road in Fort Worth (though we enjoyed seeing the “Tandy Corp. Studio” plaque when we visited public radio KERA, one of many Texas tours you’ll see soon on Site of the Week) – our takeaway from the events at the Hilton Anatole was a lower-case “r” realism about the state of the industry as we head into the 2020s.
Read on for some thoughts – and the rest of the week’s news…
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*If you saw one thing on social media from Dallas, it was probably the reaction to the presentation on Thursday from Edison Media Research, which pointed cameras at younger listeners while they suffered through an aircheck of 11-minute stopsets on terrestrial radio. For programmers who already had an instinctual sense that listeners were turning away during those long breaks, the video of their target audiences cringing provided some harder evidence of how real-world listeners are reacting to audio clutter, and why they’re heading to other platforms.
And those other platforms were there in abundance at a conference whose name is increasingly a misnomer. All you needed to see on the way in to the Anatole atrium was the big banner proclaiming ABC Radio’s new name – “ABC Audio” – for a reminder that the business is really about more than just linear broadcasting these days. The show floor, such as it was, bore that out, with a few hardware manufacturers surrounded by lots of content providers serving not only broadcast radio but also podcasting and streaming.
Technology? It was there, of course, including the car parked right outside the exhibit hall where Xperi offered a “live” demo of its MA3 all-digital AM HD Radio system. (“Live,” in this case, being an RF recording of demo station WWFD in Maryland being played through a modulator into the car’s stock radio.) Rohde and Schwarz took engineers down to the Cedar Hill tower farm to see its liquid-cooled transmitters in action at the KERA/KKXT site.
What else was on the floor? Wheatstone’s new X5 audio processor, now being installed around the country; Logitek’s new mixIT, a compact touchscreen-controlled AES67-compatible audio console for radio and video – and, well, more than we had the chance to get to amidst other appointments and commitments in our brief two days in Dallas. (For which, alas, we had to miss the return of the SBE 22 Expo, which came back from an absence of several years for a well-attended event in Syracuse on Thursday.)
*On the regulatory front, the show opened under the shadow of a Monday ruling from a federal circuit court panel that invalidated FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s revisions to the commission’s ownership rules. That prompted lots of discussion in the hallways and in panels, as station owners and brokers wonder what will happen next – and how pending deals, such as the radio-TV combination Lilly Broadcasting is assembling in the Erie market, might be affected. There were plenty of questions and, as yet, not many answers; it seems likely that the FCC will challenge the panel’s ruling, but it’s not clear yet whether that will be in the form of an en banc hearing in front of the entire Third Circuit or a long-shot appeal to the Supreme Court. (It’s a good bet the ownership rules will be a topic next weekend, too, when low-power broadcasters gather here in Rochester for the annual Grassroots Radio Conference.)
*The Radio Show comes with Marconi awards, of course, and plenty of NERW-land broadcasters came home with crystal obelisks in their luggage. Hofstra’s WRHU (88.7 Hempstead) brought back a Marconi for College Radio Station of the Year to its new studios on Long Island. In Boston, WBZ-FM (Sports Hub 98.5)’s Felger and Massarotti were Major Market Personalit(ies) of the Year, while the station itself was Sports Station of the Year. In Philadelphia, Beasley sister station WMGK (102.9) was Classic Hits Station of the Year.
The show moves on to Nashville next year, and of course we’ll be there once again – but first, it’s NAB New York and the 147th AES Convention coming up in a few weeks in New York City, and we hope to see many of you there!
*What else was happening while we were sweating it out in Texas? Up in NEW YORK‘s North Country, WIRY (1340 Plattsburgh) is changing hands, as car dealer William Santa prepares to sell to a new group that includes WIRY news director Dave Andrews. The rest of the new ownership group comes from outside broadcasting – Clinton County sheriff David Favro and county legislator Mark Henry, along with Joey Trombley of Kavanaugh Realty.
Andrews will become general manager once the deal is filed with the FCC and consummated; the Press-Republican in Plattsburgh also reports former morning man Bob Pooler is back with WIRY as morning host after retiring in 2017.
No price has been announced for the deal, which would end 26 years of Santa’s ownership; it’s also not clear what becomes of WIRY’s LMA for RadioActive LLC’s 100.7 signal in Plattsburgh West, which currently simulcasts the full-service AM as WIRY-FM.
*Way down I-87 in New York City, iHeart is shifting talent in the morning, moving Greg T around the corner from the Elvis Duran studios, where he’s been a part of the cast for 23 years on WHTZ (Z100) and syndication, over to WKTU (103.5). Starting October 9, he’ll be co-hosting “Carolina with Greg T in the Morning” on WKTU alongside Carolina Bermudez, a fellow Duran alum.
*It’s almost time for our full Hockey on the Radio report, but there’s some breaking news from the New York Islanders, who are returning to a full-power, full-time commercial signal as they sign on with ESPN’s WEPN (1050) in a two year deal.
The Isles, of course, have been in a sort of radio exile for their last few seasons, using Hofstra’s WRHU (did we mention they’re the College Station of the Year?) as their flagship while placing games on a makeshift set of platforms that have included part-time appearances on Entercom’s WFAN, Radio.com and, out east, JVC’s WRCN (103.9 Riverhead).
Under their new deal, the Islanders will also appear on WEPN-FM (98.7) when there’s no conflict with Rangers or Knicks games, and WRHU and WRCN will stay on the network as well, with Chris King continuing as play-by-play voice.
*Another stop along I-87: in the Hudson Valley, Rick Everett signs on as the new operations manager at Townsquare’s Hudson Valley cluster, including the PD role for WPDH (101.5)/WPDA (106.1). Everett was most recently ops manager in Scranton at the Shamrock cluster; in his new job, he replaces veteran Joe Limardi, who leaves after five years for new work that isn’t in radio.
*Syracuse’s Ed Levine was one of the opening presenters at the Radio Show, talking about the revenue he generates from Galaxy’s events business (another “realistic” part of where the industry is today, and a well-received one at that) – and no sooner was he back in central New York than he had another big announcement to make. Galaxy has been the flagship for Syracuse University sports since 2007, and it’s just signed another five year extension with rightsholder Learfield IMG that will keep Orange football, men’s and women’s basketball and men’s lacrosse on its stations, including WTKW (TK99) and ESPN Syracuse (WTLA/WSGO).
The deal, which now stretches into the 2024-25 season, will also include carriage of coaches’ shows hosted by football coach Dino Babers and basketball coach Jim Boeheim; Boeheim is now also a minority owner of Galaxy.
*In Albany, Don Crawford Jr.’s DJRA Broadcasting has finally handed off the keys to WDCD (96.7 Clifton Park), which has become WMHH under new owner Mars Hill, with a religious teaching format similar to what it had carried as WDCD. Mars Hill’s purchase doesn’t include WDCD’s property in Colonie (including the old WDCD 1540 transmitter site); that’s been sold to a different owner, we’re told, with the Mars Hill programming coming out of its Syracuse headquarters.
*In Utica, they’re mourning Bryson “Big B” Collins, who our friends at WUSP (1550/95.5) called the “heart” of the upstart urban station. Since WUSP relaunched last year as “Phoenix Radio,” Collins was doing a midday and early evening airshift and doing tech and studio work the rest of the day. He died unexpectedly on Tuesday, at just 54 years old.
And WUSP’s sister station WRCK (1480 Remsen) has been back on the air testing its 5000-watt signal, with a relaunch coming soon. It will be carrying a contemporary Christian format, operated under an LMA by Dan Falinski’s UPMUSIC TV and Radio.
(Disclaimer: Fybush Media has provided translator consulting services to both WUSP/Phoenix Radio and UPMUSIC.)
*In Buffalo, it appears Buddy Shula is adding a third translator to his WECK (1230 Cheektowaga); in addition to its 102.9 signal downtown and its 100.5 signal in the Northtowns, WECK is now listed as the primary on Edgewater’s W262CM (100.3), which serves the east side of Buffalo. That translator had been carrying gospel programming fed from WBBF (1120), and continued carrying that gospel feed for a while even when WBBF went silent and then began simulcasting classic hits WHTT-FM. Is a sale of the translator and a power increase on the way? We’d bet on it.
And back downstate, our mail when we got home included a copy of the latest volume from the prolific Bill O’Shaughnessy, who’s always busy writing even as he runs WVOX (1460)/WVIP (93.5) in New Rochelle.
If we’re counting right, “Radio Active” is O’Shaughnessy’s fifth book; like the others, it’s a mix of his essays, eclectic political opinions and editorials, interviews he’s done on WVOX, celebrity profiles, and lists of people he knows (present company included, for whatever reason.)
*If we’d found a way to master being in multiple places at once last week, we’d not only have been in Syracuse for the SBE22 Expo, but also in MASSACHUSETTS for this year’s induction ceremony for the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
This year’s class included some very big names, such as Dana Hersey, whose announcing career on radio and TV includes the iconic “Movie Loft” that ran for decades on WSBK (Channel 38). A posthumous award went to Robert Bennett, one of the principals in the upstart Boston Broadcasters, Inc., which upended Boston TV when it edged out the Herald-Traveler for control of channel 5 in 1972. Bennett was the founding president/GM of the new WCVB and oversaw BBI through its decade of ownership before selling the station a decade later. The MBHOF also honored Jonny Miller, the stalwart field reporter for WBZ (1030) sports and one of the true “good guys” in local media; Marjorie Arons-Barron, who was editorial director at WCVB in the glory years of TV editorials; Barry Burbank, long-running meteorologist at WBZ-TV; Andy Hiller, the sharp-edged political reporter who spent years at channel 7 as WNEV and WHDH-TV; Lisa Mullins, the local “All Things Considered” host on WBUR; and Bill Pepin, longtime general manager at Springfield’s WWLP. The ceremony Thursday at the Boston Marriott Quincy also presented the Pioneer Award to Richard Chase, who spent 40 years as a news photographer at WBZ-TV.
*Two obituaries from the Bay State: at WHDH-TV (Channel 7), they’re mourning Al McNaughton, who started as a photographer at what was then WNAC-TV way back in March 1964 and stayed with Channel 7 through all its incarnations for a remarkable 55 years, right up until he became ill earlier this year.
McNaughton was 81 when he died Sept. 22 at Beth Israel Hospital – and when any of us go, we should get the kind of remembrance his longtime Channel 7 colleague Garry Armstrong penned last week.
Bob Zelnick made his name in broadcasting on the national level, serving as executive editor of the Frost-Nixon interviews in 1977 and then spending 21 years as a correspondent for ABC News. But he wrote his last chapters in Boston after leaving ABC. In 1998, Zelnick joined the journalism department at Boston University, serving as chair there from 2002 until 2006. Zelnick was 79 when he died Monday of complications from Parkinson’s disease.
*Buyouts at CONNECTICUT Public Radio and TV last week included the departure of a veteran journalist at the Hartford-based broadcaster. John Dankosky has been with the former CPTV/WNPR for 25 years, most recently serving as executive editor of the New England News Collaborative and hosting the weekly magazine show “Next.” Dankosky will leave full-time work at the station on November 1, but says he hopes to remain involved in the collaborative somehow.
*A callsign change in MAINE: WOXO (1450 South Paris) has changed to WPNO; it’s not clear whether a format change is involved with the return to that legacy callsign, which was heard in nearby Auburn in the 1970s on the now-defunct AM 1530.
*A few quick notes from CANADA: in Toronto, Rogers’ Sportsnet 590 the FAN (CJCL) is reworking its lineup, replacing the defunct Prime Time Sports in afternoons with a simulcast of Tim Micallef and Sid Seixiero’s “Tim & Sid” show from Sportsnet TV, weeknights from 5-7 PM. Greg Brady is out of the new lineup, which puts Scott McArthur in mornings with Ashley Docking and Mike Zigomanis, then moves afternoon hosts Ben Ennis and JD Bunkis to late mornings and extends the midday “Hockey Central” to two hours.
In Kitchener, Corus’ CKBT (91.5 the Beat) replaces departed morning host Carlos Benevides with Scott Fox and Kat Callaghan, who had been doing mornings at CIDC (Z103.5) north of Toronto; Benevides is now working at Conestoga College.