In this week’s issue… Boston AM to live again – WGBH looks westward – PD looks southward – NYC radio’s most famous receptionist – LI morning swap – Heat rising in Maine
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*We don’t take requests here at NERW, but we’re well aware of the stories that get big reader attention when we report on them. Legacy AM stations trying to stage a return to life? That’s always a big draw here, whether it’s KQV in Pittsburgh or WMEX in Boston – and this week it’s WMEX making some news.
We’ve been waiting to report most of those here until there was actually something to confirm – but now we can finally confirm that March 9 will be WMEX’s relaunch date as an oldies station, replacing its current temporary simulcast with Ed’s WATD-FM (95.9 Marshfield).
That March 9 date isn’t an accident: it’s the start of daylight saving time, which means WMEX’s 10 kW daytime signal from its new transmitter site in Quincy (diplexed with WBIX 1260) will be on the air for the full programming lineup unique to the station. The simulcast of WATD’s morning show will continue, but 1510 will break away at 9 AM on weekdays, carrying oldies until 6 PM. (On weekends, the oldies will run from 8 to midnight on Saturdays, 8 till 7 on Sundays.)
The new format will include some familiar voices, writes Perry: “We’ll have Larry Justice, Jimmy Jay, and Ron Dwyer behind the mics and punctuation with local news and local HS basketball and hockey games.”
A grand opening celebration will take place in May, when Perry says there will be a live broadcast from the deck of the USS Salem in Quincy. Somewhere along the way, too, WMEX’s FM translator at 101.1 will launch, though its Hingham-based signal won’t reach much past the South Shore.
Once WMEX’s relaunch is complete, Perry’s work won’t be done – there’s also WBMS (1460 Brockton), another AM station Perry recovered from near-death. It’s also back on the air with a WATD simulcast; it also has a 101.1 translator yet to hit the air – and there are plans in the works for separate programming there, too.
STILL HAVEN’T BOUGHT THE CALENDAR?
NOW IS YOUR CHANCE!
We’re one third into the year, so it’s time to put the Tower Site Calendar on sale.
Though the months are over the pictures remain, and they remain beautiful. Especially at half price.
This is the 20th year we have been publishing our calendar. In addition to the cover shot of WEJL, we have photos from New Jersey, Nebraska, Texas, and much more!
You can get the regular calendar, or you can order a storage bag for it if you keep them, or you can get it signed by Scott (and get a complimentary bag).
And when you’re purchasing your calendar, don’t forget to take a look at the other great products in our store.
*Moving over to central MASSACHUSETTS, WGBH has become the latest Boston media outlet to establish a Worcester bureau. The public broadcaster says it will open a new space in the former Telegram and Gazette building at 27 Federal Street in the spring, providing radio stories for WGBH (89.7) and digital content, including a studio for Facebook Live broadcasts. WGBH is looking to hire a reporter for the bureau, which will fill the space between its main office in Allston and the New England Public Media (WGBY/WFCR) radio and TV operation in Springfield that’s now an active part of the WGBH operation. WGBH says it will also provide internship opportunities there for Worcester-area college students.
In Springfield, Steve Doerr is the new VP/GM at Meredith’s “Western Mass News” operation, encompassing WGGB (ABC 40), WGGB-2 (Fox 6) and WSHM (CBS). Doerr’s regional experience includes a stint as GM of WLNE in Providence, VP and group manager for the former Smith Media group and senior VP of news and programming for the NBC owned stations group. Most recently, he’s been with Meredith as news director of WGCL/WPCH in Atlanta.
*Mike (Kerr) McCabe is moving up fast in the radio world. It wasn’t that long ago – the autumn of 2018 – that we had him on the Top of the Tower Podcast to talk about his move from what was then Backyard’s Elmira cluster to become PD of iHeart’s WERZ (Z107) on the NEW HAMPSHIRE seacoast.
Mike was also doing afternoons there and filling in down the road at big sister station Kiss 108 in Boston, and now he’s headed for major market status himself, having just been named PD of iHeart’s WZFT (Z104.3) in Baltimore. Mike starts there in a week; no replacement has been named yet in New Hampshire.
In Bangor, MaineInvests replaced the classic country format that had been on WCYR (1400) and its 102.9 translator. Last week, both signals began looping Drake’s “Hotline Bling” (get it? “Hot”?) and calling themselves “1-207-HOTLINEBLING,” leading up to this morning’s flip to a simulcast of WHTP.
*We have an update to last week’s story from coastal CONNECTICUT, where WGCH (1490 Greenwich) has now applied for an STA after losing access to its licensed tower site at the end of 2019. The STA application calls for a 120-watt “inverted L” longwire antenna as a temporary emergency operation while WGCH works on installing a more permanent TIS-style antenna and increasing its power, hopefully within six months. (In the meantime, as we noted last week, WGCH is also now simulcasting on Dennis Jackson’s 105.5 translator in nearby Stamford.)
Just up the coast, Connoisseur-operated WYBC-FM (94.3 New Haven) returns to syndication in the morning as it picks up the new Compass Media “DeDe in the Morning” with DeDe McGuire, shifting Juan Castillo from mornings to afternoon drive starting today. (McGuire’s show is also picking up Pittsburgh’s WAMO as a new affiliate.)
*Our NEW YORK news begins on Long Island, where Connoisseur has made a morning swap at WKJY (K-JOY 98.3). After two years on mornings there, Kara Reifert has been replaced by Jamie Morris. Since 2016, Morris had been co-hosting mornings at sister station WALK-FM (97.5) with Mark Daniels until Connoisseur canceled that show last years, flipping WALK to a simulcast with WEZN in Connecticut.
It’s not clear yet whether Reifert will stay with WKJY, where she’s been offered a position as a fill-in host; last week, she told Newsday the move had come as a surprise when she was called in after her Jan. 3 show.
(Meanwhile, former Connoisseur property WALK 1370 has new calls as it changes hands to Cantico Nuevo, which will rebrand it as WLID.)
*Out on the east end, Anthony Famiglietti has a new radio home after his departure last year from mornings at WEHM (92.9)/WEHN (96.9). He’s signed on with WLNG (92.1) to do nights, filling a hole left behind by the departure of Lisa Dabrowski. (And also at WLNG, we should note that weekend night host Scotty Hart parted ways with the station at the end of 2019.)
*And a salute goes to Anita Scipio, one of the unsung heroes of New York City radio. Her smiling face greeted visitors to the iHeart stations downtown (and before that, uptown at WYNY, WPLJ and WLTW) for three decades, the last 19 of those years with iHeart. Your editor can personally testify that she remembered even the most occasional of visitors, treating them as old friends even when (like your editor) a couple of years would often elapse between visits. Anita retired on Friday, sent off with good wishes from all the staffers there – as well as with a $10,000 check and trips to Paris and Nashville from morning man Elvis Duran, and with a surprise visit from Will Smith during her retirement celebration later in the day.
*Upstate, as Seven Mountains adds the former Equinox stations in Elmira into its cluster, it’s made the first of what we expect will be several format changes: alternative “Drive” is gone from W226BA (93.1 Elmira) and the HD3 of WPHD (96.1), replaced by a simulcast of Seven Mountains’ rock WNGZ (104.9 Montour Falls), giving “Wingz” a better signal into the core of Elmira.
*Christie Casciano is adding some new radio duties to her main job as late-night anchor for Nexstar’s WSYR-TV (Channel 9) in Syracuse: she’s now doing morning news updates starting at 7 AM on Galaxy’s WZUN (Sunny 102) during Rick Gary’s morning show.
Down the road in Utica, Galaxy also just announced an extension of its radio rights deal with the Utica Comets AHL hockey team. The new six-year deal includes game coverage on WKLL, K-Rock 94.9, plus a newly extended pre-game show.
*There’s a station sale in central PENNSYLVANIA, where Bob Lowe’s Twilight Broadcasting is growing again. This time, it’s a $95,000 deal to buy WPHB (1260 Philipsburg, plus a translator on 104.1) from Magnum Broadcasting, giving Lowe another link between his WEEU and WBYN to the east in Reading and his original holdings, WKQW AM/FM in Oil City to the west, plus the WXMT (106.3 Smethport) signal he’s acquiring from Jeff Andrulonis up along the New York line.
In Philadelphia, Matt Cord has changed stations at Beasley’s cluster, trading mornings at WBEN-FM (95.7) for middays at its classic rock sister, WMGK (102.9). Cord fills an important daypart that had belonged to Debbi Calton for years until her retirement in December; he’s a Philly veteran by now himself, having worked at WMMR, the old WPLY, WMMR again, and then WBEN-FM since 2017. (He’s also the arena announcer for the 76ers.)
*Jack Wheeler was a radio staple in Pittsburgh over a long career that included stops on KDKA (where he was the overnight radio host starting in 1969, as well as hosting shows on KDKA-TV), WEEP, WJAS and in later years on WWCS (540) and WKHB (620). Wheeler later worked in Florida, reports PBRTV.com, and that’s where he died January 6. Wheeler, who’d been suffering from Parkinson’s disease, was 93.
There’s a sad story from the Poconos, where Neversink’s WABT (96.7) lost its morning co-host on Tuesday when Elisa Caffese Lee (Elisa Chase) died at just 38. She’d been in the hospital and off the air since Christmas; last week, she posted this to the show’s Facebook page:
On December 25th I was admitted to the hospital with kidney failure due to a blood clot caused by what doctors perceive to be an auto-immune/blood disorder. I was not aware of any symptoms or conditions of this disorder until now! I spent 9 days in the hospital enduring multiple body scans, procedures, blood tests, organ monitoring, etc. It is the most terrified I have ever been in my life.
After working at her college radio station, WESS (90.3 East Stroudsburg), where she was news director, Chase started interning with Gary Smith at WSBG (93.5) in 2002, eventually becoming his “Gary in the Morning” news anchor, co-host and producer as the show migrated to WABT. Chase also taught broadcasting as an adjunct instructor at her alma mater, East Stroudsburg University.
*Could there be still more multicultural radio coming to the fringes of CANADA‘s biggest market? That’s what the CRTC is considering after receiving an application for a new station on 91.7 in Ajax/Pickering, east of Toronto. The applicant, a numbered corporation, proposed 880 watts average/2 kW max DA, prompting a call for comments on whether the CRTC should open a window for applications to fill what the CRTC says will be the last available FM channel in the market.
Bell continues to expand its HD coverage of its Pure Country network: the latest addition is CKKW (99.5 Kitchener-Waterloo), which has added Pure Country on HD2 to its classic hits format on HD1.
Over on the TV side of Bell, Ken Shaw returned to the air at Toronto’s CTV station, CFTO (Channel 9), for just a single night last Monday, anchoring the 6 PM newscast one last time so he can say he’s anchored in five different decades (starting in the 1980s) before he retires for good. Nathan Downer has been named as Shaw’s replacement on the 6 PM anchor desk at CTV Toronto.
And we’ve neglected to mention a format swap in southwest Ontario: out there by the Blue Water Bridge at the end of Highway 402, Blackburn’s CHOK (1070/103.9) in Sarnia swapped out its full-service AC format for country on Dec. 26, still with a full slate of service elements including local news and sports.
At the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, Bayshore Broadcasting has applied for a new transmitter to extend the coverage of its CFPS-FM (97.9 Port Elgin). The new signal on 91.9 would run 2 kW average/3.2 kW max DA/81 m from a site near Tobermory, Ontario.
And near the New Brunswick line in eastern Quebec, Steve Faguy reports CFVD (Horizon 95.5) in Dégelis is being sold to Arsenal Media for C$400,000. Sellers Gilles Caron and Guylain Jean will stay on as Arsenal employees.