In this week’s issue… NAB Show wrap-up – Two WEEI staffers leave abruptly – PD named at “Nash” – Corus gets “Fresh” in Hamilton – Clear Channel moves Binghamton formats
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*We’re back from our annual sojourn to Las Vegas and the NAB Show – check out our post-show wrapup here, free for all readers today, and read on to the end of this week’s column for a guest view of the scene in Sin City.
As usual, with much of the industry’s attention focused 3000 miles to the southwest, it was a fairly quiet week back home in NERW-land. Here’s what was going on back east while we were out west:
*What was keeping the MASSACHUSETTS radio landscape buzzing during NAB Show week? One big story, of course – a morale problem at Entercom’s WEEI that’s burst into the open in a big way with two prominent talent departures.
It started with Jon Rish, who’s been holding down what’s traditionally been a plum gig, hosting pre- and post-game Red Sox coverage on Entercom’s WEEI and filling in on play-by-play for the Sox at times, too. But as we told you in a mid-week update from Las Vegas, Rish wasn’t willing to stick around and take a reported 30% pay cut just to stick around at WEEI, and so he gave his notice just a few hours before the home opener.
Coupled with the reported threat from longtime Sox/WEEI sponsor Giant Glass to pull its very considerable ad dollars away from Entercom, the miasma of bad news brought the company’s head honcho, David Field, up to Boston on Friday for a town hall meeting with employees – though even that brought with it some negative coverage when unhappy staffers leaked word that Field was insisting that questions be submitted in advance.
And if Field hoped the Friday meeting would put a lid on the disgruntlement at Guest Street, he wasn’t counting on weekend host Pete Sheppard. Just after 6 Saturday night, Sheppard tweeted his followers that “Hey all, got something special for you at 6:15 on WEEI” – and then proceeded to quit on the air, reportedly telling listeners he couldn’t take it anymore at the station and pinning the blame on upper levels of Entercom management above local manager Jason Wolfe.
“You will hear me again shortly,” Sheppard told his Twitter followers a few hours later, saying he’s “off the sinking ship” and hinting that “there are more changes coming” at WEEI.
*The WFNX callsign that long resided on 101.7 in the Boston area appeared to be set for retirement in Florida, having been parked down south on an as-yet-unbuilt construction permit on 1120 in Coral Springs – but now those calls are on their way back to the Bay State: Steven Silberberg’s Northeast Broadcasting has acquired them to put on what’s most recently been known as WXRG (99.9 Athol). That little station out on the Mohawk Trail has been relaying Silberberg’s Boston-market flagship, WXRV (92.5 Andover), and at least for now it’s still relaying “The River.”
But put that together with our report last week that WXRV is pursuing its 2003 application for a 96.5 translator in Needham, and we’ve got to wonder whether something bigger might be afoot: could the laid-back AAA of “The River” evolve into a modern rock reincarnation of WFNX, either on the main 92.5 signal or perhaps on the translator if it’s ever granted? We’ll be watching closely.
On the noncommercial side of things, Marita Rivero is preparing to wind down a 30-year career at WGBH radio and TV, where she’ll step down in June as general manager. Friday’s announcement brought word that Rivero will remain on board as a consultant to the station, where her old job will be split in two: Liz Cheng moves up to become WGBH-TV general manager from her current post running the World channel, while Phil Redo gets a promotion from managing director to general manager for WGBH’s radio services.
*Over on the TV side, WCVB (Channel 5) is making some changes at “Chronicle”: morning meteorologist JC Monahan has been promoted to co-host of the evening magazine show alongside Anthony Everett. Monahan’s move to evenings leaves an opening in the morning that’s being filled with a hire from the competition: Cindy Fitzgibbon left the morning show at WFXT (Channel 25) last year and will be returning to TV on channel 5 when the moves take place in June.
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*The week’s big format change came from CANADA, and it came by surprise: at 9:53 Wednesday morning, Corus flipped CING (95.3 Hamilton) from classic hits “Vinyl 95.3” to hot AC “Fresh FM.”
Based on our listening much later that night as we headed home from the Buffalo airport, the new “Fresh” is a fairly hot brand of hot AC indeed, just a notch or two shy of an all-out CHR. Gone with the flip is any on-air attempt to target the much larger adjacent Toronto market – and gone as well are most of Vinyl’s airstaff, including afternoon jock Gord James, middayer John Novak, night guy Bob Saint and Michael Landsberg. The Vinyl morning team of Darrin Laidman and Colleen Rusholme stays in place with the flip.
*Elsewhere in Canada, the CRTC has approved Radio-Canada’s request to move CBGA-6 (1270 Murdochville QC) to FM; when it makes the change, the Premiere Chaine outlet will run 98 watts on 97.7.
*From NEW YORK, Friday afternoon brought word that a program director had been named at Cumulus’ new “Nash FM” (WNSH 94.7 Newark NJ) – but the net job count in the city’s radio industry remained unchanged. That’s because the new PD at WNSH is John Foxx – who’s already in-house at 2 Penn Plaza as PD of sister station WPLJ (95.5). Hard to imagine that a major format launch in the nation’s biggest market wouldn’t even merit its own PD? Welcome to cluster radio, circa 2013…and no, there’s still no morning show at Nash, either.
*Speaking of Cumulus, we told you two weeks ago about its plan to move a Rockland County translator, W232AL (94.3 Pomona), over to Westchester County as a new outlet for White Plains’ WFAS. In order for Cumulus to turn that 94.3 signal into a 250-watt Westchester outlet, though, two other 94.3 applications from the translator window back in 2003 had to go away, one in Elizabeth, N.J. and the other one right there in Westchester. And as of last Wednesday, we can report that the other Westchester application isn’t going away. It calls for 19 watts on 94.3 in Dobbs Ferry to relay Marc Sophos’ community broadcaster WDFH (90.3 Ossining), which took its callsign from Sophos’ alma mater, Dobbs Ferry High, but which barely reaches Dobbs Ferry from its present transmitter site to the east in Ossining.
And that means there’s a battle about to get underway for a tiny little slice of FM spectrum in the backyard of the nation’s biggest market – a situation which would probably greatly please FM inventor, and Westchester native, Major Edwin Howard Armstrong. (While it passed largely unnoticed, last Wednesday was also the 75th anniversary of the Major’s very first FM broadcasts from his brand-new tower at Alpine, N.J., on April 10, 1938.)
*A power struggle at a small community station along the Delaware River has ousted the station manager at WJFF (90.5 Jeffersonville). Winston Clark had been in the cross-hairs of many WJFF volunteers in recent years, complaining of a management style that kept them out of the loop. In a heated meeting earlier this year, many of them accused Clark of violating FCC and CPB rules by failing to properly hold meetings of the station’s community advisory board. Clark submitted his resignation to the WJFF board last week; no replacement has been named yet.
*In Binghamton, Clear Channel’s plans for its cluster’s format shuffle are becoming a little clearer. After some construction delays due to windy early-spring weather, translator W221AX (92.1) moved to its new home on 96.9 from the tower of sister stations WBNW-FM (105.7)/WBBI (107.5) last week.
But instead of signing on as a simulcast of sports sister WENE (1430), as the original application had requested, 96.9 has instead shifted its primary station to oldies WINR (680).
So what about the report a couple of weeks back that 96.9 would be picking up the classic hits format from “Big 107.5”? It’s doing that, too – sort of. There’s a temporary three-way simulcast of WINR’s “Real Oldies” on 680, 96.9 and 107.5 right now, and when the dust settles, that simulcast will shrink down to 680 and 96.9 while 107.5 takes on a new format. Stay tuned…
MONDAY MORNING UPDATE:It’s country for 107.5, going right up against Townsquare’s market leader, WHWK (98.1). The new “B107.5” revives a format last used on the frequency a little more than a decade ago, before it flipped to classic rock “Bear” and then to the oldies format; new calls are reportedly on the way.
*From the NERW Bookshelf: today’s publication day for Arcadia Publishing’s newest radio picture book, “New York City Radio” by Alec Cumming and Peter Kanze. You can order it through Amazon (and if you use this link to get there, a portion of your purchase will benefit NERW) – and we’ll have a full review in next week’s issue.
*A veteran RHODE ISLAND talk host has departed his most recent gig. Steve Kass, best known for long runs at WPRO (630 Providence) and WHJJ (920 Providence), signed on with WSAR (1480 Fall River MA) last fall to do the 3-6 PM show – but he quietly disappeared from that shift earlier this month, apparently amidst disagreements with station management. For now, no permanent replacement is in place at WSAR.
*In MAINE, our speculation from a few weeks back was confirmed last week: when Binnie Broadcasting returns classical “W-Bach” to the air in the Portland market today, it’s doing so not only on translator W245AA (96.9) but also on a new HD2 channel of the translator’s longtime parent signal, WTHT (99.9 Auburn). “W-Bach” disappeared from the Portland market last year when former owner Nassau sold the network’s local home, WBQW (104.7 Kennebunkport), to Mainestream Media (it’s now “Hot 104.7” WHTP.)
*There’s a transmitter move on tap in NEW JERSEY. Equity Broadcasting’s WAIV (102.3 Cape May) lost its lease at its licensed transmitter site in Rio Grande late last year, and since then it’s been operating at reduced power under special temporary authority from the tower of sister station WEZW (93.1 Wildwood Crest) a few miles to the east on the Atlantic coast. Now Equity is applying to make the move permanent, powering WAIV up from 2.7 kW to 6 kW at the Wildwood site. (The new 6 kW/187′ will be roughly equivalent in coverage to the former 3.2 kW/292′ licensed facility in Rio Grande.)
Up the coast a bit in Ocean County, Manahawkin’s WYRS (90.7) has filed for a license to cover for its new Stafford Township translator, W272CU (102.3).
The latest applications from the 2003 translator thaw includes several more WYRS translators: in Clayton, just south of Glassboro, WYRS wants to keep going with its application for 102.5. There are also WYRS relays proposed for 102.5 in Egg Harbor Township and for 97.3 in Toms River (moving from the original application for 107.9.) Another proposed WYRS relay on 96.9 in Trenton is now instead proposing simulcast WLNJ (91.7 Lakehurst) as a primary. Penn Jersey Educational Radio Corp. is moving ahead with two proposed translators, one on 92.3 in Harmony Township, along the Delaware River north of Easton, and one on 95.9 in Warren Township. And back in Manahawkin, Ted Schober is moving forward with a proposal for 95.9, relaying WEHA (88.7 Port Republic).
On the AM dial, WFAI (1510 Salem) mostly serves an audience across the water in Wilmington, Delaware – but they may not be hearing it quite so clearly this week. A utility crew digging for an underground cable damaged transmission lines at the four-tower site, and it’s now operating at reduced power, non-directionally, instead of its usual 2500-watt directional signal aimed at Delaware.
*In PENNSYLVANIA, today’s the day for schedule shifts at CBS Radio’s WPHT (1210 Philadelphia). We already knew that political consultant Dick Morris was taking over afternoon drive at the erstwhile “Big Talker” today, and now we know what happens to Rich Zeoli. He’d been co-hosting afternoons with Steve Martorano after Buzz Bissinger noisily departed last year, and now Zeoli gets the 7-10 PM shift that had been occupied by Morris’ new afternoon co-host, Gary R’Nel.
In the Lehigh Valley, late March brought a broadcast end to WXLV (90.3 Schnecksville), as Lehigh Carbon Community College closed on its $705,000 sale of the FM facility to religious broadcaster Four Rivers Community Broadcasting. As of April 4, that brings a new callsign to 90.3, which has become WLHI with its new “Word FM” format; the WXLV programming, meanwhile, lives on as a webcast at WXLV.org.
There’s plenty of Keystone State translator news, and much of it also comes from Four Rivers. It filed applications to pursue six of its 2003 proposals: 106.7 in Easton (moving from 106.7 and relaying WBYX 88.7 Stroudsburg); 104.9 in Harleysville, 99.3 in Temple and 97.1 in Doylestown (moved from Colmar), all relaying WBYO (88.9 Sellersville); 102.3 in Gettysburg, relaying WZXQ (88.3 Chambersburg); and 103.5 in Pottstown, now relaying silent WPAZ (1370) right there in town.
And one more callsign closes out our Pennsylvania report: out west of Philadelphia in West Grove, Chester County, the new 91.7 construction permit belonging to Hope Christian Church of Marlton (New Jersey) will be WZWG when it signs on in the next two months or so. (Granted back in 2010, the WZWG permit expires June 22.)
*Which brings us back around to the NAB Show, where we were far from the only NERW-land broadcaster on hand. Veteran broadcast consultant Clark Smidt was there, too, and he was kind enough to share some of his views from the floor:
*It’s 2013! Do you have your 2013 Tower Site Calendar yet? It can be on your wall in just a few days, if you order right now!
This is the 12th edition of our annual calendar, which features photos of broadcast towers taken by Scott Fybush on his travels.
The 12-month wall calendar boasts a full-color photo each month of a well-known broadcast transmitter site.
This year’s edition includes sites in Florida, Wisconsin, Kentucky, California, Iowa, Idaho, Las Vegas, Colorado, Boston, Cleveland, Albuquerque, upstate New York and western Massachusetts. We’ve also redesigned the calendar to make it more colorful (don’t worry; the pictures are still pristine) and make the spiral binding our standard binding — your calendar will hang even better on your wall now! And of course, we still have the convenient hole for hanging.
Order 20 or more for a 10% discount! And while you’re at the Fybush.com store, check out the new National Radio Club AM Log and the final stash of FM Atlas editions.
For more information and to order yours, click here!
From the NERW Archives
Yup, we’ve been doing this a long time now, and so we’re digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five, ten and – where available – fifteen years ago this week, or thereabouts.
Note that the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as “New England Radio Watch,” and didn’t go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997.
One Year Ago: April 16, 2012 –
*The week’s biggest story back east is just developing this morning in eastern PENNSYLVANIA: after more than four decades under Family Radio ownership, WKDN (106.9 Camden) is re-emerging under Merlin Media.
Early this morning, WKDN dropped Family programming and began running a loop of R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It,” a not-so-subtle nod to the botched prediction of apocalypse that eventually led Family to sell WKDN and other signals.
As we told you in our mid-week update, WKDN won’t follow the same “FM News” pattern that’s vexed Merlin at its other recent launches, WEMP (101.9 New York) and WIQI (101.1 Chicago). Instead, the new 106.9 will include talk, starting off later today with a nonstop loop of Sean Hannity’s show, which has been off the air in Philadelphia since WPHT dropped him in November 2010.
And as we also explored in that mid-week update, WPHT will soon stop carrying the Rush Limbaugh show. Will that be showing up on 106.9? A well-placed Marlin source tells NERW they’re in “no Rush to reveal anything else” about future program plans on the station, which requested new calls WWIQ in late March. (The “Net Gnomes” over at RadioInsight.com have picked up on domain registrations for “IQ106.com” and “IQ1069.com,” giving a pretty good idea of what the new station’s branding will be.)
The new 106.9 has been staffing up behind the scenes, too: John Arndt, formerly with Greater Media, is now chief engineer at the station, which is building new studios in the Penn Treaty Park Place building at 1341 N. Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia, also home to Telemundo affiliate WWSI (Channel 62), Mega’s WEMG (1310) and WURD (900).
Born Steven Frederick Oxman in Philadelphia in 1939, he began his broadcast odyssey with Armed Forces Radio in Japan, then came back to attend Temple University and work at WCAU (1210), where he’d spend much of his career.
In 1965, Fredericks came to Boston’s WMEX (1510) to fill the slot that had been occupied by Jerry Williams, who was off to Chicago and WBBM. For six years he made the late-night slot on WMEX his own, often making the Vietnam War his topic, but working sports into the mix on a regular basis, too. He jumped to WEEI (590) in 1971, went back to WMEX in 1975, returned briefly to WEEI not long afterward, and then returned to Philadelphia when CBS transferred him back to WCAU.
Back in Philadelphia, Fredericks once again focused on sports, hosting “Sports Line” until the end of WCAU’s talk days in 1990, when he moved to all-sports WIP (610). Except for a brief detour to New York’s WFAN, WIP would be Fredericks’ broadcast home until he retired in 2004.
Fredericks died of pancreatic cancer on April 7 at his home in Florida; he was just short of his 73rd birthday.
*The other big story in Boston this week, of course, was the failure of the master digital TV antenna in Needham that carried the signals of WBZ-TV (Channel 4/RF 30), WCVB (Channel 5/RF 20), WSBK (Channel 38/RF 39) and WGBX (Channel 44/RF 43).
Those signals all went dark just before 8:00 last Sunday night (April 8), exposing a weak link in the DTV transmission system: even more than a decade in, many stations don’t have a backup transmission chain that can keep them on the air if their main transmitter or antenna fails. At the Needham site (which CBS sold to Richland Towers a few years back), only WCVB had a backup antenna, allowing it to return to the air with a low-power signal less than an hour later.
But for WBZ, WSBK and WGBX, the outage lasted nearly two days – and it affected more than just the small percentage of viewers who get their TV signals directly over the air. In addition to that number (estimated at less than 20% of the audience), it turns out the over-the-air signal feeds some outlying cable systems without direct connections to the stations’ studios, and in some cases even satellite providers depended on that signal. (Dish Network customers lost the affected stations, and so did Canadian viewers who get Boston stations on satellite.)
Once tower crews got up to the master antenna 1300 feet in the air, they found the worst-case scenario: the problem was with the power divider that feeds the antenna, and that won’t be a quick or easy fix; in fact, it may yet require removing the entire antenna from the top of the tower.
In the meantime, of course, the stations wanted to get back on the air, and here’s how they did it: just below the master antenna that carried WBZ, WCVB, WSBK and WGBX’s digital signals is a second, identical antenna that’s normally used by WGBH (Channel 2/RF 19) and was formerly used by the analog signals for WGBX and (at least briefly) WSBK. WGBH agreed to allow WBZ, WCVB and WSBK to use that antenna, and on Tuesday those signals (along with WGBX) were rerouted to the lower master antenna, thus getting them back on the air at full power.
But because WGBH (on RF 19) and WCVB (on RF 20) occupy adjacent channels, they can’t be combined into a single antenna – and so WGBH became the odd station out, forced down to that low-power auxiliary antenna normally used by WCVB. WGBH is putting out enough signal to feed Dish Network, the Canadian satellite providers and antenna viewers close in to Boston, but outlying over-the-air viewers of Channel 2 will be without service for at least a little while longer, since the latest word is that it will be at least a week before there’s a repair plan in place for the failed antenna.
For CBS in particular, this latest failure may be another reminder of the value of auxiliary facilities. It was just a few weeks ago, after all, when a transformer fire in the Back Bay knocked out power to the Prudential Center for two days, an outage that would have taken two big CBS FM stations (WZLX and WBMX) off the air had not CBS Radio recently built a backup transmitter facility at the “candelabra tower” in Needham.
Will we begin to see more DTV stations back up their transmission systems? It’s not a cheap endeavor, especially when more than 80% of viewers will never be affected by an outage anyway – but even 20% of a market as large as Boston is a significant number of viewers to lose if there’s an extended outage.
*What’s up with the new 97.7 signal on Nantucket? Jeff Shapiro (of Vox Radio group fame) won that class A facility at auction last year, and he tells the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror that he plans to have the signal on the air sometime “before this summer” from studios at 19 Old South Road. He’ll be branding the station as “97.7 ACK, True. Island. Radio,” using the familiar “ACK” airport code for the island. But the WACK calls are already spoken for up here in upstate New York, at AM 1420 in Newark, and so the Nantucket station will bear the calls WAZK. Say it fast enough and you’ll never notice the difference, right?
*Still don’t believe there are young guys out there making names for themselves in radio? Consider Adam Rivers, who was still in high school started doing radio at the age of 17 as a weekend jock on WKSS (95.7) in Hartford, CONNECTICUT. That was 2005, and since then, Rivers has been wearing all kinds of radio hats, including nights and assistant PD at WILI-FM (98.3 Willimantic) and assistant PD/overnights at WMAS-FM (94.7 Enfield/Springfield).
Now it’s Adam’s turn to wear the proverbial “PD stripes”: he’s headed south to Clear Channel’s WKSI-FM (98.3 Stephens City/Winchester VA), where he started last week as program director and afternoon jock, and we wish him all the best on his new responsibilities (and a happy birthday, too – he turns 26 tomorrow!)
*Our upstate NEW YORK news starts in Binghamton, where Clear Channel’s WMRV (105.7 Endicott) is going through some big changes. WMRV has some deep roots as a top-40 station, but as “Star 105.7″ it’s been more of a hot AC for quite a few years now…at least until last Monday, when it went back to full-fledged CHR with New York-based Elvis Duran as its morning host.
WMRV is still “Star 105.7,” but it has a new roster of hosts by way of Clear Channel’s “Premium Choice” service. And it won’t stay all-Premium Choice for long: Clear Channel has posted an opening for “killer CHR mid-day air talent” for the station, so there will be at least one local airshift as Star goes up against Cumulus’ “Wild” WWYL (104.1) and locally-owned WLTB (Magic 101.7), which leans a little more toward hot AC than top-40, to the extent anyone can tell the difference these days.
Five Years Ago: April 14, 2008 –
*SOMEWHERE ON I-15, EASTERN CALIFORNIA – Yes, NERW’s on the road this week, headed to the NAB convention in Las Vegas. A few years ago, we’d have completed that sentence with, “…just like the rest of the broadcasting industry.” Today, of course, budget cutbacks and consolidation have made the NAB show a luxury that many station groups can’t (or won’t) afford, and we know of many regular NAB attendees who won’t be joining us in the desert over the next few days.
In the meantime, whether or not they’re actually making the trip to Vegas, radio and TV people across our region still observed the traditional pre-NAB news lull – we have no major station sales or format changes to tell you about in this week’s edition, which will be a somewhat abbreviated version of NERW. We’ll be back at full strength next week (and just wait until you see all the nifty tower pictures we’ve been shooting for Tower Site of the Week, all over southern California and even northern Mexico!)
On with the news –
NEW YORK‘s WNYC and Public Radio International are just a week away from launching their new morning show, “The Takeaway.” Hosted by John Hockenberry and Adaora Udoji, the new show will be heard on both of WNYC’s radio services – from 6-7 AM weekdays on WNYC-FM (93.9) and from 8-9 AM weekdays on WNYC (820), pre-empting portions of the current “Morning Edition” simulcast on the stations.
At ESPN Radio’s WEPN (1050 New York), the demise of the Stephen A. Smith radio show means a schedule shift to replace his two hours. From 1-2 PM, WEPN picks up an additional hour of the network’s Mike Tirico show, and Michael Kay’s afternoon show now starts at 2 instead of 3 PM.
A venerable New York radio brand has resurfaced on the FM HD2 dial. CBS Radio quietly shifted the HD2 signal of WWFS (Fresh 102.7) from a simulcast of all-news WINS (1010) to “WNEW, Where Rock Lives.” The main 102.7 signal was, of course, home to WNEW-FM for more than four decades; its new HD2 incarnation features a more current blend of active rock than the last few analog incarnations of WNEW did.
What’s happening with WCBS-FM (101.1) midday legend Bob Shannon? The message boards were abuzz over the weekend with reports that he signed off his Friday show saying that it was his last “for a while,” with no further elaboration. Pat St. John will be filling in on the shift for now; we’ll have updates on Shannon as they become available.
In Albany, a long-dormant AM signal is back on the air with a new city of license and coverage area. WUAM (900 Saratoga Springs) lost its transmitter site years ago, and spent a long time operating at reduced power or off the air completely. Now the station has been moved to Watervliet, diplexing with WAMC (1400) from its tower just off I-90, giving it a decent daytime signal over Albany for the first time. Owner Ernie Anastos is leasing the signal to Time Warner’s Capital News 9, which is using it to simulcast the news channel’s audio for in-car listening.
*Former MASSACHUSETTS governor Mitt Romney guest-hosted the Paul Harvey show on Thursday, the latest in a line of personalities helping out with the show in the absence of the ailing Harvey, who’s now 89. NERW hears that Romney hosted the show from the studios of former Harvey affiliate WBZ (1030 Boston); his guest-host stint wasn’t actually heard in Boston, where nobody’s carrying Harvey now that WTTT (1150) has flipped to Spanish-language religion.
The launch of “The Takeaway” means a schedule change in Boston morning radio as well: production partner WGBH-FM (89.7 Boston) will carry the show from 6-7 AM on weekdays beginning April 28; sister stations WCAI (90.1 Woods Hole) and its simulcasts (including the HD3 channel of WGBH itself) will start carrying the show from 7-8 AM on May 12.
*One radio anniversary in NEW JERSEY was marked with fanfare last week, while another passed quietly.
The big celebration surrounded the 60th anniversary of Seton Hall University’s WSOU (89.5 South Orange), which marked the occasion with a big alumni reunion on Friday, as well as guest DJ shifts today from station alumni, not to mention two concerts in Manhattan – and an appearance on Tower Site of the Week, too.
The quieter anniversary was a 70th: it was on April 10, 1938, that Major Edwin Armstrong began broadcasting over W2XMN from his tower in Alpine. Happy anniversary, Major!
In Trenton, this morning marks the launch (somewhat delayed from the originally-announced schedule) of Fox Sports on WBUD (1260).
*There’s another AM-to-FM switch in the works in CANADA: CTVglobemedia is applying to move CKKW (1090 Kitchener) over to the FM dial, trading the station’s big 10 kW AM signal (from a nine-tower site that’s expensive to maintain) over to a much more limited 2 kW signal on FM at 99.5.
Alert NERW readers may recall that 99.5 was used in Kitchener a few years ago, by startup station CIKZ, but incoming interference from superpower co-channel station WDCX (99.5 Buffalo) eventually forced CIKZ to shift up the dial to 106.7. Will CKKW be able to overcome the interference any more effectively?
Ten Years Ago: April 14, 2003 –
We’re back from Las Vegas – and there’s no question what the big story was back home in our absence: the relaunch of NEW YORK’s WNEW (102.7) following two months of stunting and several months of pointless meandering before that.
Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last week or so, you no doubt know by now that the new nickname is “Blink 102.7” and the format is a mixture of entertainment news, talk and a sort of hot AC-rhythmic CHR hybrid aimed at women ages 18-30, with actor Kiefer Sutherland handling imaging duties and Viacom properties MTV and VH1 contributing plenty of corporate synergy to the mix. And you’ve probably heard that former WPIX (Channel 11) morning personality Lynda Lopez is doing mornings with her boyfriend Chris Booker…and that the afternoon show will come from Hollywood…and that they’re holding an “open call” for a night show…and that they’re using AOL Instant Messenger (“blinkline”) to take requests.
So what else can we tell you? Just that we heard Blink for the first time during an early Saturday morning layover at JFK on the way back from the coast, and that absent the live talent (though we’re grateful at least for the disappearance of the infomercials that once marked WNEW’s weekend lineup) it sounded not much different from the stunting format that had been running since February. Oh – and that pink logo? We’re already hearing it called “Barbie Radio” on the message boards…
Just outside the city limits, there was big action in our absence at the former Big City quadcast, with three of the four “Rumba” 107.1 stations returning to the air with new formats (and, in one case, new calls!) Up in Westchester, WYNY (107.1 Briarcliff Manor) is being LMAd to Pamal, which flipped the calls to WXPK and launched the expected simulcast with top 40 WSPK (104.7 Poughkeepsie) last week. With new imaging as “K104-K107,” WXPK (and aren’t those calls awfully close to New York’s “K-Rock” WXRK?) has been enjoying an unusually good reach into the city with the temporary absence of WWZY (107.1 Long Branch NJ) from the airwaves. (More on Long Branch in a moment…) Out on Long Island’s East End, WWXY (107.1 Hampton Bays) returned to the air with a simulcast of Jarad’s modern AC WLIR (92.7 Garden City); Jarad will pay $2 million to buy WWXY from Nassau, which paid $43 million for all four “Rumba” stations from Big City just a few months ago.
From NEW JERSEY comes a new station sale and a station sale on hold, and both involve Millennium Communications. The company has slapped a temporary restraining order on Nassau for its proposed purchase from Mega of WEMG-FM (104.9 Egg Harbor City); Millennium says it violates a noncompete deal that Nassau signed when it sold its Jersey Shore cluster to Millennium last year. Meanwhile, Millennium is selling top 40 WBBO (98.5 Ocean Acres) to Press – and that’s not the only station Press is picking up at the Jersey Shore. It’s also lined up to be the buyer (from Nassau, no less) of WWZY (107.1 Long Branch), which is silent for the moment.
Expect Press to move 107.1 back to its original tower site in Long Branch, reversing the move Big City made a couple of years ago, which improved the 107.1 signal in Brooklyn and Queens at the expense of Monmouth County reception.
Meanwhile out in northwestern New Jersey, Nassau rolled out the new format on the one piece of the 107.1 quadcast it plans to keep: WWYY (107.1 Belvidere) signed back on as “Lite 107,” aiming into the Easton/Bethlehem PA area with a soft AC format.
You couldn’t pass a flat surface out at NAB in Las Vegas without seeing a piece of RHODE ISLAND: a flier advertising the upcoming bankruptcy auction of WALE (990 Greenville). Now that the planned sale of the station to Jerry Evans’ Moon Song Broadcasting has fallen through, this “50,000 watt” (by day, anyway, with a very directional signal that goes east to Providence and then over the ocean – and drops to 5,000 even more directional watts after dark) station is hitting the auction block on May 20 in Phoenix. Will it find a buyer? It certainly got plenty of attention; those signs were tacked up everywhere (including the men’s room) at the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Hilton nearby.
Fifteen Years Ago: April 16, 1998 –
One of the best-known callsigns in Rochester radio has been revived on FM. In the 60s and 70s, WBBF (950) ruled the Flower City dial with top-40 music, and now many of those same songs are being played on the “New 99BBF.”
On Monday afternoon, Entercom’s oldies station WKLX (98.9), a sister station to WBBF(AM), began calling itself “BBF” — and, more important, ditched the satellite-delivered oldies format that it’s been using in favor of live, local programming. The soon-to-be WBBF-FM is being programmed by Chris Whittingham (formerly with sister station “The River,” classic rock WQRV 93.3 Avon), who’s also doing middays. Former WKLX morning jock Mike Vickers moves to the 2-7 PM slot, and Ellis B. Feaster returns to Rochester from KBEE (98.7) in Salt Lake City to do mornings. Feaster handled AM drive duties on 98.9 in its WKLX incarnation before leaving for Salt Lake as well. NERW expects the WBBF revival to be just the first in a series of changes at the Entercom stations, which were purchased from Heritage (by way of Sinclair and News Corp.) just a month ago. Rumors are flying about a call change at WBBF(AM) to avoid confusion, although we’re told there may not be any truth to the speculation that the new calls will be WEZO, last heard on 93.3 — and before that on Rochester’s AM 990 (later WRMM, WCMF, and now WDCZ), and most memorably for 16 years on 101.3 FM (now WRMM). AM 950 is now local in morning drive, with operations manager Todd Blide spinning the standards. And morning drive at WQRV is being handled by fill-in jocks now that Whittingham is across the hall at BBF-FM. As for Entercom’s other Rochester outlet — well, you don’t fix what ain’t broke, so expect no changes at top-rated country station WBEE (92.5, and the original WBBF-FM back in the sixties).
NERW’s enjoying the “return” of a station we fondly remember from our younger days — and now we’re just waiting for some savvy radio operator in Buffalo to find a way to resurrect “KB”! (2008 update: Entercom did, five years later, but it didn’t stick…)
Across the border, Sunday is the big day for Toronto’s CBL (740) and CBLA (99.1), as the CBC officially moves its Radio One service from AM to FM. The event will be commemorated by an all-day open house at the CBC Broadcast Centre at 250 Front Street West, as well as by an hour-long broadcast at noon. As crushed as we are by the imminent loss of CBC service to upstate New York (the AM transmitter will be turned off for good sometime this fall), NERW can’t pass up a good open house, so we’ll be up there checking out the scene and rolling tape on the Big Moment.
On to MASSACHUSETTS, where we have more details on the changes to come at Costa/Eagle’s Merrimack Valley stations. An article in the Boston Sunday Globe’s North West Weekly section says the English-language programming and WCCM calls will move to Haverhill’s 1490 within a few months, possibly as an all-news outlet. Replacing WCCM on 800 in Lawrence will be Spanish-language programming now heard on WNNW (1110) in Salem, N.H. And 1110 will get the Spanish-language tropical music that’s currently on 1490 as WHAV. Costa tells Globe freelancer Christine MacDonald that he’s now scouting stations in Worcester and Springfield.
WBPS (890 Dedham) is getting a new owner, as John Douglas spins it to New England Continental Media…AKA Salem Media, the owner of WEZE (590) in Boston and dozens of other religious and conservative talk stations around the country. No word yet on format changes for the leased-time ethnic outlet. This is the second time in recent years that WEZE has had a sister station; Salem ran WPZE on WEZE’s old 1260 frequency for a year or so before spinning 1260 to Hibernia and Radio Disney.
Meantime, Marlboro’s WSRO (1470) is being sold by Great Radio to Alexander Langer, the owner of two other Metro West AMs, WRPT (650 Ashland) and WJLT (1060 Natick).