In this week’s issue… iHeart: the aftermath – EMF adds in central MA – Leadership change at Entercom Buffalo – Retirements in Maine – Remembering WINS’ Chaseman, Philly’s Stevens, Montreal’s Lockwood
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*There’s a lot to say about what happened last week at iHeart’s radio clusters around the country and around NERW-land – and judging by the explosive traffic to this site last week, a lot of interest in what happened, too.
We’re still trying to make sense of a confusing, disruptive, exhausting and often depressing week spent updating our list of job cuts as best we were able. And yes, we’re late getting this week’s column up.
We’ll have a special edition of NERW sometime Tuesday with full analysis of the “why” of the latest iHeart moves, and what it means to the industry (and in the meantime, you can and should read Lance Venta’s “Hotline” column from Friday with his cogent analysis). So check back here tomorrow (or, better yet, sign up on the right side of this page for our free email alerts) for that.
In the meantime, though, here’s our brief summary of the “what” as it pertained to NERW-land – and then, of course, read on for everything else that happened in what was actually a fairly busy week in all the corners of the industry that aren’t iHeart:
We don’t know, even know, just how many jobs actually went away last week. Maybe you read that there were 1,000 jobs, or even 1,200. We did, too. At best, those numbers are educated guesses. At worst, they’re completely uneducated guesses meant to spread fear through the industry. We know what we’ve been able to verify, and right now, NERW and RadioInsight have a list of over 300 confirmed names nationwide, 57 of them in NERW-land. The real number is surely higher than that, especially as it grows to include positions in engineering and sales that get cut away from the spotlight.
We do know that the cuts tended to fall into a few specific categories. If you had a job as a program director for a music format in a market outside the top 50, your job probably went away. If you were on the air in one of those markets doing middays, afternoons or evenings, your job was probably in danger, too, as iHeart seeks to centralize a lot of those stations’ operations. (Its heritage AC station in Syracuse, WYYY, was a good example – it lost all of its programming and airstaff with the exception of half its morning show, piped in from Rochester.)
We’ll talk more tomorrow about what iHeart thinks it’s doing with those stations, and why it might or might not work.
If you’d been with the company (and its predecessors) for a long time, you were in danger – but that’s true at just about any company these days. (Ask Roger Christian in the non-iHeart market of Buffalo, ousted last year from Entercom’s WTSS after decades on the job.) Deb Lawler in the morning at WBZ in Boston? The morning team of Dan and Stephanie at WCOD on Cape Cod? They were some of the more veteran names in our sad headlines last week, and each of those names of course carries a human toll with it.
And we do know that the decisions about who was staying and who was going were dictated by corporate, often coming as unwelcome surprises to local managers who had to carry out the cuts and figure out what to do next. We hear the local management at WBZ, for instance, was scrambling to fill the overnight hours left empty by Bradley Jay’s ouster – and that they didn’t expect the listener and advertiser backlash that followed. (But then WBZ is a unique outlier in the iHeart ecosystem, with literally not a single counterpart anywhere in the 854 other iHeart stations that’s running the same kind of news and talk hybrid, much less live and local 24/7.)
There’s so much more to say about what happened last week, and what’s coming next. Join us back here in this space Tuesday for more of our analysis…but first, read on for all the rest of last week’s news.
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*The rest of our NEW YORK news starts with a big shakeup in Buffalo, where Entercom ousted VP/market manager Greg Ried and administrative manager Lynn Hooper, ending Ried’s long run at the helm of the cluster. Ried’s tenure there included the consolidation of several studio locations into one facility in Amherst, uniting news-talk WBEN (930) and AC WTSS (Star 102.5) with sports WGR (550) and WWKB (1520) and top-40 WKSE (Kiss 98.5). Ried oversaw WGR’s growth into the sports behemoth in the market, aided by the acquisition of former FM competitor WNSA (107.7), now WLKK “Alt Buffalo.”
Ried also came in for plenty of controversy, especially as WBEN’s talk format began skewing steadily rightward; he stood by talk host Tom Bauerle through a strange high-profile incident after police found him with a weapon in his back yard in 2014, for instance. More recently, the Entercom cluster had been in the FCC’s crosshairs about missing information in its public file regarding political ads, as well as a complaint about a candidate being overcharged for advertising.
Did that contribute to Ried’s ouster after 25 years? Entercom isn’t saying – and for now, general sales manager Tim Holly is running the cluster as interim GM.
*Seven Mountains continues to make incremental moves as it combines the former Community and Equinox clusters in Elmira and Corning: last week, it pulled the plug on the news-talk format at former Community stations WWLZ (820 Horseheads) and its 101.3 translator, replacing it with a simulcast of the classic rock from former Equinox station WMTT (95 the Met).
Is that a prelude to moving WMTT’s format off its longtime home on 94.7 in Tioga PA and rearranging the many translators that extended the Met’s reach on the New York side? We suspect more moves are in the works.
(Nobody was displaced by the WWLZ format change; the talk format was entirely automated and syndicated, a reminder that it’s not just iHeart that runs stations that way.)
*Radio People on the Move, non-iHeart edition: in Syracuse and Utica, Galaxy’s K-Rock stations (WKRL/WKRH and WKLL) swap their afternoon and night hosts, moving Jamie Hantke (“Big Smoothie”) to the 3-7 PM shift and Rainman to nights. Rainman will also be heard in the afternoons, but on a different radio home – sports sister stations WTLA/WSGO (ESPN Syracuse) and WTLB/WRNY (ESPN Utica-Rome), hosting the “Sportszilla Show” at 3 in Syracuse and at 5 in Utica.
In the Hudson Valley, there’s actually an addition to the iHeart ranks, as Annie Leamy takes over mornings at WRNQ (Q92) in Poughkeepsie. Leamy had been part of the Todd and Jayde morning show at WPLJ in New York until its sale to EMF last year; earlier, she’d worked at WRNQ’s sister station WPKF (96.1 Kiss FM) in mornings and middays, as well as across town at WSPK (K104). At Q92, Leamy replaces Joe Daily, who retired at the end of 2019.
*Joel Chaseman had a long, colorful career in broadcasting that started at Cornell University and then at WENY and WELM in Elmira after World War II, in which he served in the Navy. His Elmira work landed him an announcing job at WAAM-TV in Baltimore, which became WJZ after Westinghouse bought it – and that’s how he began moving up the managerial ranks inside what became Group W.
In 1963, Westinghouse moved Chaseman from a role overseeing the syndicated Steve Allen Show in Los Angeles to WINS (1010) in New York, first as assistant GM and then as GM – and it was in that post, two years later, that Chaseman led the team that flipped WINS to an all-news format.
Chaseman quickly moved up the ranks, overseeing all of Group W’s radio stations and eventually overseeing programming and production for Group W radio and TV in 1970.
In 1973, he was lured away to the Post-Newsweek station group, where he was at the helm during the Watergate-era fight to keep the valuable broadcast licenses that were under attack by the Nixon administration. Chaseman ran the Post-Newsweek stations for 17 years before retiring in 1990 to start an investment and consulting firm.
Chaseman died Jan. 11 in Maryland. He was 93.
*A familiar MAINE radio voice is getting ready to call it quits. Eva Matteson has been morning co-host at Saga’s WMGX (Coast 93.1) in Portland for 15 years, but she’s leaving at the end of February, citing health issues and a desire to travel more. Matteson came to WMGX as a fill-in host in 2004; she’s been paired with Blake Hayes since 2015, and he’ll stay on, with a search underway for a new co-host.
There’s an exit on TV, too, and also for health reasons: WGME (Channel 13) anchor Kim Block has been with the Portland CBS affiliate since 1981, but she’s been off the anchor desk for a year after suffering a fall that left her with a concussion.
While she says she’s made a partial recovery thanks to intensive rehab, she told viewers last week that she won’t be returning to her anchor role, though she says “the door is open” for some sort of eventual partial return to the station.
*EMF is adding another signal in MASSACHUSETTS to its ever-growing K-Love network. It’s still not the full-fledged Boston signal that remains a prominent gap in K-Love’s national reach, but WFNX (99.9 Athol) reaches a big swath of the Route 2 corridor in northern Worcester County and Franklin County.
Under owner Steve Silberberg, it’s been simulcasting AAA “River” WXRV (92.5 Andover), but that will change once the $250,000 sale from Silberberg’s County Broadcasting closes. The WFNX calls, which Silberberg grabbed after they were abandoned in Boston, aren’t excluded from the deal.
WFNX will be the third link in K-Love’s chain in the Bay State, along with WTKL (91.1 Dartmouth) on the South Coast and its lease of WUBG (1570 Methuen) and its 105.3 translator north of Boston; K-Love can also be heard in most areas south of Boston via WLVO (95.5 Providence) and in the Springfield area via WCCC (106.9 Hartford).
*NBC/Comcast has consolidated its studio and office operations in greater Boston, opening its new “NBCU Boston Media Center” in the Needham Crossing Business Park last week. The 160,000-square foot, $125 million facility brings together operations that had been housed at separate locations: “NBC10 Boston” (WBTS) launched out of the same cramped Newton facility that was built for New England Cable News, and which also housed the newsroom for Telemundo outlet WNEU (Channel 60), while NBC Sports Boston was up in Burlington.
The revolving door of the Boston Red Sox radio booth will be spinning a little slower in 2020. We don’t know who’ll be managing the team yet, but we do know who’ll be in the second radio seat alongside Joe Castiglione: Will Flemming, Sean McDonough and Lou Merloni will rotate in that chair, ending the “lots and lots of voices” experiment last season that included many other rotating second announcers as the team traveled, including Chris Berman, Josh Lewin and Mario Impemba.
*At Cumulus in RHODE ISLAND, new operations manager Mary Ellen Kachinske has made her first big hire: Doug MacGunnigle moves up from assistant PD to PD at WPRO (630)/WEAN (99.7) and WPRV (790). MacGunnigle takes over from Neil Larrimore, who left the stations last fall.
*We’d hinted at this (and Lance over at RadioInsight caught it first), but there’s indeed a new top-40 format in northern PENNSYLVANIA, where Van Michaels brought “Hot” back to Williamsport on Wednesday with the format flip of WLMY (107.9) from variety hits “My 107.9” to top-40. The new calls are WOTH, a throwback to when Michaels’ brother Vic had the “Hot” branding on WHTO (93.3) in the 1990s.
In Philadelphia, Jerry Stevens was a Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Famer, and a versatile one at that – after serving in the Air Force (and doing radio while stationed on Guam), he broke into the big time at top-40 WIBG (990) in 1960, spending seven years playing the hits before making a big shift and joining Metromedia’s underground FM rock station, WMMR (93.3), in 1968.
As program director of WMMR, Stevens shaped the sound of the iconic freeform FM signal and hired many of its familiar voices. He left briefly in 1976 to create a disco format for CBS-owned WCAU-FM (98.1), then returned to WMMR for a second, shorter run as PD. In 1985, Stevens returned to the air in Philadelphia at standards WPEN (950), first with an overnight shift and a Saturday show, then in 1992 with a morning show that lasted until 1998.
Stevens, born in Brooklyn as Jerome Salvato, was 85 when he died Jan. 10.
*And a hat tip to Eric O’Brien at PBRTV.com for catching the end of a broadcast era in the hills north of Pittsburgh, where we’d thought tower owner Vertical Bridge was going to leave one of the old KQV (1410) towers standing after dropping four others last summer.
But on Friday afternoon, Eric reports, the fifth KQV tower also came down, apparently in response to issues that Vertical Bridge was having with lighting the tower. Vertical Bridge is seeking approval from Ross Township officials to build a new, shorter, unlit tower at the old KQV site for rental use. (There’s no broadcasting going on up there now; the KQV license was reactivated late in 2019 as a diplex on a different site southeast of Pittsburgh.)
*On the NEW JERSEY shore, Townsquare lit up a new translator last week: W228EH moved from 93.5 to 104.1 as it moved south to the studio of parent station WOBM (1160 Lakewood Township) and tower of sister station WOBM-FM (92.7). Will the “Beach Radio” oldies format survive once Townsquare has translators for both WOBM(AM) in Ocean County and sister station WADB (1310) in Monmouth County?
There’s also a new Radio Cantico Nuevo translator on the air near Edison: W232CY moved from 94.3 in Parsippany south to Middlesex County and to 96.7, where it just hit the airwaves as a relay of WXMC (1310 Parsippany).
*In CANADA, CHHA (1610 Toronto) is seeking a power increase to better cover the metro area with its Spanish-language format. The current 6250-watt signal covers the downtown core nicely from its site at the edge of the Lake Ontario shore, but doesn’t do well out in the suburbs. Now CHHA wants to go to 10 kW, which will improve its suburban signal – and will likely make it an even more common skywave catch for listeners all over North America, where it’s one of only two full-power broadcast signals on the channel.
And do we put the obit for Ralph Lockwood in Canada, or in Pennsylvania? The versatile jock made a name for himself in both places, starting in his hometown of Hazleton, Pennsylvania at WAZL and WTHT in 1961, moving up the road to WBAX in Wilkes-Barre, then joining WSBA (910 York) in 1964 for mornings.
After leaving WSBA in 1967, Lockwood made stops in Akron, Ohio and West Palm Beach, Florida – but in 1968, he landed in Montreal at the old CFOX (1470), starting a love affair with the city and its radio listeners that lasted almost twenty years. In 1972, Lockwood moved over to the bigger top-40 station in town, CKGM (980), where his unusual catchphrases (“how’s your bird? how’s your oiseau?”) and relaxed demeanor (he liked to do the morning show shirtless) were a big change from the stiff old ways of radio in town.
His Montreal broadcast career included a stint over at CFCF (600) after leaving CKGM in 1981, as well as a TV show on sister station CFCF-TV (Channel 12) and some time in the broadcast booth for CFL football on CJAD (800). He returned to CKGM for one more run in mornings, from 1985-87, then returned to Pennsylvania for another long run (1988-1999) on WSBA, as well as some work at WQXA (1250), with a later run in public relations.
Lockwood was 80 when he died Jan. 12 in York.