In this week’s issue… Seven Mountains grows in Southern Tier – New year, new WFAN lineup – WBZ-TV’s next-door move – CTV veterans exit Ottawa
By SCOTT FYBUSH
(A programming note before we get started: our December has been disrupted, once again, by family health issues. Everything’s better now, but we’re a little behind schedule on NERW Year in Review, which will begin appearing in this space on Tuesday, Dec. 24, with installments continuing through the new year. There won’t be a new NERW on Monday, Dec. 30; we’ll update as needed here and on Facebook and Twitter as news breaks, and we’ll be back with the first regular NERW of 2020 on Monday, Jan. 6. Thanks again for all of your understanding and support, and we wish you the happiest of holidays while we take a much-needed break at this end!)
*Seven Mountains Media began 2019 by entering NEW YORK‘s Southern Tier with the purchase of Community Broadcasters’ stations in Elmira-Corning and Olean. It’s ending the year with a second deal that will cement its status as one of just two big radio players in the Elmira market.
For a total of $2 million, Seven Mountains is buying out the station group that’s been held under various names by George Hawras and Kevin Fitzgerald – and it will start 2020 with an LMA that’s likely to include a bunch of format changes to shake up this usually quiet market.
For $1.25 million, Seven Mountains gets Hawras’ Europa Communications group, led by his original signal in the market, classic rock WMTT (94.7 Tioga PA). This part of the deal also includes a big roster of translators that have been relaying “95 the Met”: W226AP (93.1 Hornell), W228DN (93.5 Elmira), W236AK (95.1 Corning), W239BK (95.7 Bath), W239BQ (95.7 Elmira), W250BI (97.9 Mansfield PA), W269BK (101.7 Horseheads), W284BX (104.7 Alfred) and W300BX (107.9 Wellsboro). Also included are two more translators: W236CP (95.1 Hornell, relaying WZHD 97.1 Canaseraga) and W277DW (103.3 Elmira, “Hot 103.3” relaying WPHD 96.1’s HD2).
For $600,000, Equinox Broadcasting sells classic hits WZHD (97.1 Canaseraga) to Seven Mountains, while a final $150,000 piece of the deal transfers classic hits “Cool” sister WPHD (96.1 Elmira) and its translators W300DH (107.9 Corning) and W226BA (93.1 Elmira) to Seven Mountains.
We know there will be at least some format changes immediately: the contract filed with the FCC says the 93.5 Elmira signal will switch to a new HD4 from WPHD, while 101.7 Horseheads will switch to HD3 from WPHD. WPHD’s HD3 is currently running alternative as “93.1 the Drive,” feeding the 93.1 translator.
The former Hawras/Fitzgerald cluster adds to a group of stations that Seven Mountains has changed rather less than we’d have expected back in January. There’s top-40 “Wink” WNKI (106.1 Corning), classic rock “Wingz” WNGZ (104.9 Montour Falls), country “Wolf” WPGI (100.9 Horseheads), talk WWLZ (820 Horseheads, plus a 101.3 translator) and classic country WRCE (1490 Watkins Glen).
If we’re counting right, the new Seven Mountains group may end up with 11 FM signals in Elmira – the full-power signals on 95.1 and 96.1 from Hawras, plus the existing full-power 100.9, 104.9 and 106.1 signals, plus HD- or AM-fed translators on 93.1, 93.5, 95.7, 101.3, 101.7 and 103.3. Will 2020 be the year the company rolls out its flagship “Bigfoot Country” format in the market? How will the format overlap between “the Met” and “Wingz” get resolved? And how many trips will we be making down I-390 in early 2020 to hear what’s new? Stay tuned…
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*In NEW YORK City, the Post reports Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno will take over afternoons at WFAN (660/101.9) starting Jan. 6, when the Entercom sports talker unveils its new lineup to replace the retired (again) Mike Francesa. Still unclear is who’ll replace Benigno and Roberts in middays.
Upstairs at sister station WCBS (880), Pat Farnack retired last Tuesday, ending a 47-year broadcast career that closed with midday anchoring at the all-news station. Farnack started her radio odyssey in Berwick, Pennsylvania, then went to KYW (1060), KYW-TV (Channel 3) and WWDB (96.5) in Philadelphia before moving to New York and WCBS in 2000.
Who’ll get her midday slot on 880? NERW hears it might go to Lynda Lopez, the New York radio and TV veteran who’s done several previous stints at 880 as well as anchoring at WCBS-TV, WNYW, WWOR and WPIX. (Not to mention her time as a morning host on sister station WNEW-FM in its brief “Blink” incarnation.)
*In CONNECTICUT, Jim Vicevich’s health issues have kept him off the air at WTIC (1080 Hartford) more often than he – or listeners – would have liked. Now his battle with lupus has forced the talk host to retire from his 9-noon slot on the Entercom news-talk station. Vicevich’s farewell show aired Thursday on WTIC; Will Marotti takes over in the new year in that late-morning slot.
*The oldest building to continuously house a broadcast studio in MASSACHUSETTS is getting a little closer to the wrecking ball. WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and WSBK (Channel 38)’s building at 1170 Soldiers Field Road was constructed in 1947-48 for WBZ radio and TV and has housed WBZ-TV almost since its 1948 sign-on. Especially after WBZ radio was sold and moved, the building had become far too large for what remains of the TV stations; master control functions are now outsourced to Atlanta, leaving only sales and executive offices and the newsroom and news studios in a facility that’s been renovated and reconfigured many times over the decades.
We’d known, as far back as when the radio station moved out in the summer of 2018, that there were plans in the works to sell the WBZ property to a developer – and now we know more about how those plans will play out. National Development filed preliminary paperwork last week for a new 62,000-square foot WBZ-TV studio building to be built at 1200 Soldiers Field Road, where it will replace the two-story office building that once housed WBOS (92.9)/WOAZ (99.5) back in the 1990s.
Once the new WBZ-TV building goes up, replacing the old WBOS building and part of the existing parking lot, the old building will be razed – and we’d expect the rest of the former WBZ site to be redeveloped into some sort of mixed-use retail/office/residential development like the ones National has been building elsewhere in the booming greater Boston real estate market.
End of an era? Yes, but hardly an unexpected end, since CBS is hardly the only broadcaster separating its broadcasting interests from the world of commercial real estate by becoming a rental tenant instead of a property owner. And while there was indeed so much history that’s happened within the walls of 1170 Soldiers Field Road, the building had been reconfigured and expanded so many times over the years that nothing at all remained of its early history inside.
*Among the many broadcasters whose careers took off at 1170 Soldiers Field Road was Rick Radzik, whose time in the 1990s at WBZ radio included a stint as producer of the Bruins radio network. That Bruins gig eventually moved him over to then-sister station WBZ-FM (98.5 the Sports Hub), where he rose to become assistant PD. Now he’s getting the big chair at WBZ-FM, where Beasley tapped him last week to become PD, succeeding Mike Thomas as he moves on to Chicago and Good Karma Brands. (NERW sends special congratulations to Rick, since we toiled together at WBZ back in the day…)
*A fun event we missed out on covering while dealing with those family health issues: on Dec. 11, longtime WBCN (104.1) morning man Charles Laquidara returned to Boston for his “First Farewell Tour” at the Wilbur Theatre. The “Evening of Mishegas” fundraiser event included an appearance by Red Sox legend Bill “Spaceman” Lee, as well as lots of stories from Laquidara’s “Big Mattress” days on WBCN and later on WZLX.
*Do huge fines deter pirate broadcasters? We’ll get a test now that the FCC has proposed more than $450,000 in fines against “Radio Teleboston” operator Gerlens Cesar, who was operating on 90.1 and 92.1. The Commission wrote up three separate notices against Cesar, and imposed its maximum fine against him when he failed to respond. It’s also written up a big fine against Acerome Jean Charles for “Radio Concorde” on 106.3. Will either pirate actually pay, or even stop broadcasting for good? History, so far, would suggest otherwise.
Except for three years at WPRI in Providence, Kriger, now 69, spent all of his 37-year TV career with WWLP. Don Shipman moved to Springfield in April after 15 years at WKTV (Channel 2) in Utica; he’ll take over the 5:30 and 6 PM anchor desk from Kriger, and had already been co-anchoring with him at 11.
*In MAINE, Brittany Rose is the new morning co-host at WJBQ (97.9 Portland), moving south down the turnpike from Townsquare sister station WEBB (98.5) in Augusta. She’ll also do an airshift down the hall at WCYY (94.3) in the Portland market.
Halfway between Augusta and Lewiston, translator W292FZ (106.3) has applied to move down the dial to 100.3, hoping to escape an interference issue with a co-channel Portland signal that’s plagued the translator since it signed on from the WCBB-TV tower site a few months ago. For now, 106.3 has been running oldies, fed from parent station WJYE (1280 Gardiner).
*One of the oldest radio stations in PENNSYLVANIA is back on the air. Whether or not you subscribe to the (somewhat questionable) historical trail that traces KQV (1410 Pittsburgh) back to amateur station 8ZAE in 1919, there’s no question KQV has been around since at least 1922. Except for a couple of brief reactivations to keep the license alive, KQV had been silent since Dec. 31, 2017, when former owner Calvary, Inc. shut down its all-news format. Its license was sold to Bob Stevens’ Broadcast Communications, but its transmitter site in the North Hills didn’t go along with the deal, and we’d been watching from afar for more than a year as Stevens worked to diplex KQV on the tower of his WEDO (810 McKeesport), southeast of Pittsburgh in White Oak.
Last week, the new KQV facility finally signed back on, running 5000 watts non-directional by day and just 75 watts at night. For now, at least, KQV is carrying a simulcast of beautiful music from sister station WKGO (88.1 Murrysville).
KQV, by the way, was one of several career stops over the years for veteran newsman Bob Kopler, who died Dec. 10. Kopler started in Johnstown but spent more than four decades on the air in Pittsburgh, working at WWSW, WTAE and KDKA-TV as well as 19 years at KDKA (1020), where he retired in 2007. Kopler was 81.
*In Philadelphia, Entercom is wrapping up the year by moving its stations from multiple locations across Bala Cynwyd and Center City into a new studio facility inside its new corporate headquarters on Market Street near 30th Street Station. And as it does, there are some changes coming to weekends on WPHT (1210), where Sid Mark is in his 63rd year of playing the “Sounds of Sinatra.”
Starting on Jan. 5, Mark’s Sunday show will cut back from four hours to two, with guest hosts taking the 9-11 AM hours while Mark continues to host 11 AM to 1 PM. But he’s not retiring, the 86-year-old host tells the Inquirer: “I will do it as long as I possibly can. As long as the station is willing to air it,” he said. Mark began the show in 1957 at WHAT (1340) and kept it going at WHAT-FM (96.5), where it held on as the lone music show long after the station went talk as WWDB-FM. It moved to WPHT in 2000, where it’s also been the lone music show on what’s otherwise a talk station.
*In NEW JERSEY, Equity Communications is applying to move two of its Atlantic City FMs, WZBZ (99.3) and WTTH (96.1), across US 30. The FMs have long operated from the 1950s-vintage tower of sister station WMID (1340), which was the original site of WFPG-TV (Channel 46) during that UHF pioneer’s short run.
Now they’re on the move over to the tower of sister WAYV (95.1), north of US 30. WZBZ would go from 3 kW/100 m at its current site to 3.7 kW/76 m at the WAYV site; WTTH from 3.3 kW/87 m to 3.58 kW/79 m.
As for WMID? It’s not yet clear whether it will remain at its old site (which had also been the studios for WMID and for 99.3 in its WGRF/Merv Griffin days), or whether the AM station will also be moving.
Anchor Michael O’Byrne, sportscaster Terry Marcotte and reporter Joanne Schnurr had a collective 100-plus years of work at CJOH; reporter Catherine Lathem had been there for 18 years, and editor Tony Zito and senior producer Mark Tomkins were also among the departures as CTV/Bell continued their cutbacks.
*In Montreal, the lengthy lawsuit over control of community station Radio Centre-Ville (CINQ 102.3) is finally over. Marc Faguy reports the dissident group that was arguing against existing station management ended up withdrawing its lawsuit once it went to trial; it’s not clear yet how the troubled station gets back to stability now that the lawsuit is over.
And after several changes of proposed transmitter site, Radio Humsafar has finally begun testing its new CIRF (1350 Brampton). The South Asian station is running 1000 watts from a site at 280 Rutherford Road S., in Brampton.