In this week’s issue: LeVeille gone (again) from WBZ overnights – McPhee returns to WRKO – Syndicated hosts off WWZN – Car Talk to end long run – WCBS-FM picks new PD – New TV station on air in New Jersey
by SCOTT FYBUSH
MONDAY UPDATE: There’s now a date for Rush Limbaugh’s move to his new Philadelphia home, Merlin Media’s WWIQ (106.9 Camden NJ). He’ll switch stations two weeks from today, on Monday, June 25 – and when he does, his old slot on CBS Radio’s WPHT (1210 Philadelphia) will be filled by a live clearance of WPHT’s star talk host, Michael Smerconish. Replacing Smerconish in afternoon drive on WPHT will be the duo of longtime Philly talk host Steve Martorano and sports writer Buzz Bissinger. Much more later this week on NERW…
*There’s no more turbulent scene right now than talk radio in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, where the last few days alone have seen the retirement of a veteran overnight host, the return of a midday host who’d decamped to TV news, the sudden disappearance of most of the syndicated shows at a third station and the impending retirement of two of the city’s public radio icons.
Overnights first: the abrupt surprise of the week was the announcement on Wednesday that after 13 years in the midnight-5 AM slot on WBZ (1030), the “Steve LeVeille Broadcast” would be coming to an end after just two more shows…er, “broadcasts.”
For fans of the overnight slot (and this column counts itself unabashedly among that number, your editor having been an occasional guest as recently as last September), the news came as a stunner: it’s been just three and a half years since CBS pulled the plug on local talk at WBZ and several of its sister stations, installing the St. Louis-based “Overnight America” in place of the local LeVeille. An impassioned outcry from listeners and advertisers reversed the decision after just a few weeks, and LeVeille returned, triumphant, as the last remaining local overnight talk host in New England (and possibly the entire northeast, give or take the sports guys at New York’s WFAN.)
This time around, WBZ says the decision to leave, and to leave immediately, was entirely LeVeille’s. At age 57, with a newly-purchased summer home in Maine, LeVeille says he’s ready to settle down there year-round. At least for now, WBZ management seems eager to dispel any idea that LeVeille’s departure will open the door to syndicated programming overnight. After Steve’s final signoff early Friday morning, WBZ says the weekday overnight shifts will be filled on a rotating basis by interim hosts (presumably including weekender Jordan Rich and frequent LeVeille fill-ins Morgan White, Jr. and Bradley Jay) while a search is underway for a permanent successor. (“Overnight America” appears not to be a possibility, at least not immediately – it’s now airing across town on Greater Media’s WTKK 96.9.)
It will be hard for WBZ to match the skill set that LeVeille brought to the job: after a heritage of overnight talkers who started out as DJs (most notably Larry Glick and Bob Raleigh), LeVeille came to talk from the world of radio news. He began his career in 1977 at the old all-news WEEI (590), then moved up to the network level, working as an editor at ABC News Radio in New York and Monitor Radio in Boston (with on-air stints along the way doing news at stations such as WESO in Southbridge, WFTQ in Worcester and WECQ and WCSS in upstate New York). LeVeille came to WBZ in 1994 as a fill-in talk host, an important assignment in those days when evening host David Brudnoy was ailing. He became the permanent overnight host in 1999, when Raleigh retired – and in that slot, he brought a light-hearted style (complete with frequent kazoo interludes) that could quickly shift to serious news when the need arose. For an “all-news” station that has only a token newsroom presence in the evening and overnight hours, there’s a value to having a news veteran in the overnight talk chair: LeVeille’s show provided the only live coverage of several breaking overnight events, including a 2006 chemical-plant explosion in Danvers and the capture of Whitey Bulger.
*Down the dial, we now know where Michele McPhee’s next radio stop will be: right back at Entercom talker WRKO (680 Boston), where she had a short run last year before moving over to WCVB-TV (Channel 5). McPhee, whose experience also includes a long run as a crime reporter at the Boston Herald and a talk stint at WTKK, starts today in the 11 AM-3 PM slot on WRKO, where she displaces two hours of Laura Ingraham’s syndicated show and the 1-3 PM show that had been hosted by Jen Brien.
McPhee’s return to WRKO fills in a few puzzle pieces at the station: she’ s being billed as the “regular fill-in” for Howie Carr’s afternoon show and for Todd Feinburg’s morning shift, and that presumably gives the station some flexibility as it tries to solve some programming challenges, including finding a new co-host for Feinburg after Tom Finneran’s departure – and a potential replacement for Carr if his long-held dream of departing WRKO becomes a reality when his contract is up this fall.
*Then there’s progressive talker WWZN (1510), where Jeff Santos has struggled to make “Revolution Boston” a player in the crowded talk landscape. That challenge got a little harder last week when most of the station’s syndicated lineup disappeared from the schedule, apparently at the behest of syndicator Dial Global. In place of Stephanie Miller (10 AM-noon) is Chicago-based Warren Ballentine; replacing Ed Schultz from noon-3 PM are “Democracy Now!” and Al Sharpton; and in Thom Hartmann’s former 6-9 PM slot, it’s another hour of Santos’ “Rebuilding America” and two hours of Norman Goldman.
Does Dial Global have other plans for Miller, Schultz and Hartmann in the Boston market? There’s at least some speculation that Clear Channel (which runs progressive talk on secondary signals in Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon and several other markets) might have its eye on returning that format to AM 1200 if the conservative talkers now heard there end up moving to 101.7 later this summer – but we’d emphasize that it’s purely speculation right now.
*And that brings us to the mythical “Car Talk Plaza,” just across the river in “our fair city” of Cambridge, where Tom and Ray Magliozzi were just a couple of loud-mouthed guys running a repair shop when they started answering questions about cars on Boston University’s WBUR (90.9) in its early years as a public radio outlet.
That was four decades ago, of course, and from their home base at WBUR (and the Harvard Square offices of their production company, “Dewey Cheatham and Howe”) the “Tappet Brothers” long ago became fixtures of the NPR weekend schedule from coast to coast.
Their long run on weekend mornings will come to an end this September, when “Click and Clack” cease production of original shows. “Best of” compilations will continue to be available to public radio stations for some time to come, and the Magliozzi brothers will continue their website and newspaper column as well.
*Radio People on the Move: It turns out there’s still not a program director, per se, at Cumulus’ WABC (770 New York). The latest staffing shuffle upstairs at 2 Penn Plaza finds John Foxx moving north from sister Cumulus station KLIF-FM (93.3) in the Dallas-Fort Worth market to become program director at WPLJ (95.5). That’s a title that’s been held by veteran ‘PLJ morning man Scott Shannon, who’ll continue to “work alongside” Foxx, whatever that turns out to mean.
So what about the vacant programming chair at WABC? It appears WPLJ operations manager Tony Mascaro will effectively take over that role (such as it is on a station that’s largely become a clearinghouse for syndicated fare) as he adds the title of operations manager for WABC. There’s more change at Cumulus, too: WPLJ midday jock Jeff Miles is apparently headed to another Cumulus cluster, with an official announcement due at the end of June. And back on the AM side, there’s word as we finish up the column on Sunday night that Cumulus will soon launch Geraldo Rivera into national syndication. The Fox News host has been one of WABC’s few local personalities, occupying the 10 AM-noon slot after Don Imus, but that will apparently become part of his 9 AM-noon national timeslot when that show launches in August.
*When Brian Thomas moved from the program director chair at New York’s WCBS-FM (101.1) to a management job at CBS Radio in Tampa, the rumor mill strongly suggested his replacement would come from somewhere in-house at 345 Hudson Street – and indeed it did. Last week, the job went to Jim Ryan, who keeps his existing position down the hall as PD of WWFS (Fresh 102.7). Ryan has some of the best adult-contemporary chops in the city: he was PD at WLTW (106.7 Lite FM) for more than a decade before joining CBS and Fresh.
Down the hall at 345 Hudson Street, there’s a change at night on top-40 WXRK (92.3 Now FM): “Chunky” is out, and looking for a new gig, and effective tonight, he’s been replaced in the 7-11 PM slot by Zann Fredlund, who’d been the sidekick down in Philadelphia on the Chio morning show at WRDW-FM (96.5). And there’s another Hudson Street change, too: reporter Terry Sheridan is moving from CBS Radio’s WCBS (880) just up the street to Merlin Media’s all-news upstart, WEMP (101.9), where he’ll become newsroom manager starting today.
With the passing of longtime WFUV (90.7) host Pete Fornatale, the Fordham University-based public radio station is keeping his “Mixed Bag” show alive. On Saturday, WFUV’s newly-named general manager, Chuck Singleton, announced that regular fill-in host Don McGee has been tapped as the new “Mixed Bag” host, keeping Fornatale’s free-form legacy alive on Saturday afternoons from 4-8 PM.
*On TV, it’s the final week for iconic WNBC (Channel 4) anchor Sue Simmons, who winds down her 35-year run with the station on Friday. Earlier this year, Simmons was removed from the 5 PM newscast, leaving her last assignment at 11 PM with longtime on-air partner Chuck Scarborough; no replacement has been named yet for that slot.
*Upstate, there’s a new local midday host at Clear Channel’s Binghamton top-40 station, WMRV (Star 105.7): Matt Gapske comes aboard after starting his career in Kansas City (with a stop in Portland, Oregon as well). Gapske will also serve as the station’s imaging director.
In Syracuse, CNYRadio picks up on a station change for top-40 jock “Marty the One Man Party.” He’d been a fixture at Clear Channel’s WWHT (Hot 107.9), but he left Plum Street a few months back to take a sales job at Cumulus – and now he’s on the air over there, doing weekends and fill-in on Hot’s big competitor, “93Q” (WNTQ 93.1).
A call change in Oswego: Craig Fox’s Cram Communications inherited the calls of WAMF (1300 Fulton) when it bought the station a few years back, but the company never liked those calls, and now they’re gone. The station long known as WOSC and later as WZZZ is now WOSW, reflecting its role as the “OSWego” County home of Cram’s Radio Disney network, simulcasting with WOLF (1490 Syracuse) and WWLF (1340 Auburn).
The Ithaca area has lost an independent radio producer, far too young. Paul Bartishevich began his broadcast career in the 1980s at WSYR (570 Syracuse) and the old Mutual network, but he made his name producing syndicated features – more than 22,000 of them over the lifespan of his Finger Lakes Productions International. Bartishevich died June 1, at just 53.
Where Are They Now? Our colleague over at Ohio Media Watch picks up the story of Sue Tyler, who was “Shannon Steele” in middays and afternoons on Buffalo’s WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls) until she departed “Kiss 98.5” to move with her husband to northeast Ohio. Now she’s back on the air there, once again as “Sue Tyler,” and right back on the station where she started her career in the early 1990s: doing afternoons on Akron-market WKDD (98.1).
And on TV, former WCBS-TV (Channel 2)/WNBC (Channel 4) anchor Jim Rosenfeld has found a new gig in Washington, where he’s now a weekend anchor at NBC’s WRC (Channel 4).
*Speaking of “channel 4,” over-the-air TV viewers in NEW JERSEY and eastern PENNSYLVANIA may have noticed a new signal on the air last week, at least if they’re using an antenna that can get low-band VHF signals.
Licensed to Atlantic City, brand-new WACP (Channel 4) began testing its signal from the Waterford Works tower farm in Camden County that’s also home to NJTV public station WNJS (Channel 23). That gives it at least a fringe signal over much of Philadelphia – and it will entitle the new station to must-carry rights on Philadelphia-market cable TV as well, once owner Western Pacific Broadcast LLC begins regular programming.
Western Pacific is a subsidiary of tower company Richland Towers, which won the channel 4 permit at auction a couple of years ago. As longtime NERW readers may recall, the creation of that allocation was the result of a more audacious attempt at putting new TV signals in the Philadelphia and New York markets: New Jersey-based Press Communications applied to move two small existing VHF signals from small towns out west (Jackson, Wyoming and Ely, Nevada) to New Jersey and Delaware under an obscure provision of the FCC rules that mandated at least one commercial VHF television assignment in each state. (That rule was put in place in the 1980s to shift New York-licensed channel 9 to Secaucus, New Jersey, but “channel 9” is now operating on UHF channel 38.)
The FCC eventually found an end-run around Press’ applications by instead creating two new VHF allocations: channel 4 at Atlantic City will serve Philadelphia, and a channel 5 in Seaford, Delaware will serve the Salisbury, Maryland market.
*While WACP makes its debut, another Garden State TV outlet is signing off: Friday marked the last local news broadcast at Trenton-based low-power station WZBN (Channel 25). For nearly 20 years, WZBN offered local TV news to a market that often found itself ignored by the bigger stations that sandwiched Trenton from Philadelphia and New York City.
WZBN’s recent sale to NRJ TV (a venture-capital group that’s widely believed to be investing in UHF TV spectrum for eventual sale to non-broadcast interests) meant the end of the newscast, putting anchor Mark Fontes and reporter Sibile Morency out of work.
*Over in the Pittsburgh market, there’s more music coming to Bob Stevens’ WKFB (770 Jeannette). The daytime-only AM, which runs 24 hours on a translator at 97.5 in the eastern Pittsburgh suburbs, has segued from a mix of leased-time programming and oldies to almost a full-time oldies format; as of today, we’re told it will be running music 22 hours a day.
*Radio People on the Move: Josh Gears moves from Clear Channel to Cumulus, trading his duties at Allentown’s WAEB-FM (104.1) and Philadelphia’s WISX (106.1) for full-time afternoon drive at WLEV (100.7), where he started last Monday.
*Veteran VERMONT station owner and auto-racing broadcaster Ken Squier is the namesake of a new NASCAR award. The “Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence” will be awarded for the first time during next February’s hall of fame ceremonies, recognizing broadcasters who’ve followed in the footsteps of Squier and Motor Racing Network’s Barney Hall. Squier, of course, is known not only for his ownership of WDEV (550 Waterbury) and several sister stations, but also for his long career as a sportscaster, including several decades as the TV voice of NASCAR during the circuit’s rise from a Southern specialty to a national obsession.
As it continues its transition to nonprofit status, WBTN (1370 Bennington) has a new general manager. Bennington native Spencer Sweet replaces John Lilakis, who’d served as executive director and as an on-air host. Sweet, whose background is in retail at the local H. Greenberg & Son department store, won’t be on the air very much, instead focusing on completing WBTN’s five-year shift from commercial operation to a nonprofit community voice.
*In CONNECTICUT, they’re mourning Merrill Finch, better known on air as “Bud Finch” during a very long career that started in the 1930s at WELI in New Haven and ended just a few years ago with a weekend big-band show at Quinnipiac University’s WQUN (1220 Hamden). In between, Finch served as WELI’s morning host from 1947 until 1972 (and hired his long-running replacement, the late Ron Rohmer), and continued working at the station in sales and as host of its “Point of View” segments until the 1990s. Finch was also an accomplished musician, playing with Glenn Miller and leading his own Bud Finch Band. He was 95 when he died last Monday.
*The biggest news from a quiet week in CANADA comes from Montreal, where Rogers’ impending purchase of ethnic/independent CJNT (Channel 62) comes with a change of imaging. After several years under Channel Zero’s ownership as “Metro 14” (reflecting its cable channel position), CJNT has rebranded as “CityTV,” extending Rogers’ network brand eastward from Ontario. The Montreal version of “CityTV” differs considerably from its sisters to the west; while the City outlets in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia are English-language independents, CJNT is burdened by a CRTC license condition that requires much of its programming to serve ethnic communities. As a result, Rogers is also using CJNT to carry shows from its “Omni TV” ethnic channels, primarily CFMT/CJMT in Toronto. It’s still not clear what sort of local programming might arrive on CJNT once Rogers completes its purchase of the signal.
*In Ottawa, Brian DePoe has departed Bell’s CJMJ (“Majic 100”), where he’d been program director.
And in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, founder Alex Walling is selling community station CJQC (99.3). The 50-watt signal, which has called itself “QCCR” (Queens County Community Radio) since the days before it received a license, is being transferred to a group of local investors led by Dan MacLaren and Dick Henneberry.
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: June 13, 2011 –
*Erie, PENNSYLVANIA was just in the radio headlines for the record-setting bid broadcaster Rick Rambaldo and his partners placed for a new class A signal on 92.7 – but even before they can get that facility on the air, another Erie-market FM is poised to put a much bigger signal over the city.
Long before Rambaldo was placing bids in the latest FCC auction, he was an upstart broadcaster who bought the old WHYP-FM (100.9) in North East, 20 miles east of Erie, and upgraded the station’s signal to reach Erie listeners as “Rocket 101,” WRKT.
Starting with the old class A WHYP-FM facility, Rambaldo powered the signal up to B1 status (4.2 kW/797′) from a tower in Ripley, just inside the New York state line, carefully placed to just clear a host of spacing issues including two powerful first-adjacent signals in Cleveland (WMMS 100.7) and Youngstown (WHOT-FM 101.1).
Rambaldo eventually sold WRKT, and now if its current owner, Connoisseur Media, has its way, the station may soon be moving much closer to Erie – and way up the FM dial as well. Connoisseur has applied to move WRKT from 100.9 to 104.9, relocating it from the Ripley tower to the Connoisseur-owned tower site in Hammett Township just east of Erie that’s home to sister station WRTS (103.7), whose antenna WRKT would share.
If the move is granted, the new “Rocket 104.9” would become a 4.5 kW/526′ class B1 facility, with somewhat less overall coverage than the present 100.9 facility, but with a much stronger signal over Erie itself, which would be blanketed with a 70 dBu city-grade signal from WRKT for the first time.
Connoisseur’s proposal, which requires Canadian approval, would lead to some other changes on the dial as well: it also includes a brand-new class A allocation on 100.9 in Westfield, New York, which would effectively bring that frequency back to the North East area where it started. (That channel would itself eventually go to an FCC auction.) And it would displace translator W285AI from 104.9 – which would, not coincidentally, be a blow to Connoisseur’s Erie rival, Citadel, which recently bought the translator to relay its sports station, WRIE (1260)…which just happens to compete with Connoisseur’s sports entry, WFNN (1330).
*The political fallout from NEW JERSEY governor Chris Christie’s plan to end the state’s operation of its NJN public TV and radio networks continues to grow.
Christie officially announced the plan last Monday, keeping the NJN TV licenses in state hands but handing off operation of the network to “Public Media NJ,” an alliance of New York-based WNET (Channel 13) and Steve Adubato Jr.’s Caucus Educational Corporation, which already produces New Jersey-based public affairs programming for WNET and several other broadcasters and cable networks. Under Christie’s plan, WNET and Caucus would pay nothing for the signals, and they’d get to keep the stations’ CPB grants (estimated at about $2 million) and the annual income from NJN tower rentals (another $2 million or so). In exchange, Christie says, the state will save the $11 million a year it spends on the service – WNET and Caucus will commit to an ambitious lineup of New Jersey-oriented programming, with 20 hours of New Jersey programming a week, including a nightly newscast that will replace the existing “NJN News” as well as debates and election coverage. In place of NJN’s staff of about 120 (60 or so of whom will get new state jobs, with the rest being laid off or retiring), WNET says it will hire a news staff of 15-20 people to provide New Jersey news alongside the station’s own existing staff.
Those plans aren’t sitting well with other New Jersey politicians, including Democratic senator Frank Lautenberg, who met with FCC chairman Julius Genachowski to express concerns about the deal. “It is difficult to see how the loss of such programming is in the public interest of new Jerseyans – especially considering the state’s lack of commercial broadcast television news access.”
It’s unlikely, however, that the FCC will have much cause to intervene. The agency maintains a strict “hands-off” policy when it comes to program content – and in the case of NJN’s TV stations, it won’t even have a license transfer to consider, since the state plans to keep the licenses. Where the deal could still run aground is at the state level, where lawmakers must sign off on the change within a 15-day review period that began with Christie’s announcement a week ago. During hearings on the proposal on Friday, union officials called the Adubato-WNET partnership an “inside deal,” saying the governor had ignored other bids for the station from in-state organizations including Montclair State College.
As for NJN Radio, there seemed to be little sentiment about keeping the network, which has never had full-state coverage. Christie does plan to sell those facilities outright, splitting them between Philadelphia’s WHYY and New York City’s WNYC.
WHYY will pay $926,000 (plus $612,000 in “non-cash payments”) for five stations serving the Jersey Shore and the state’s southern extremities: WNJM (89.9 Manahawkin), WNJN (89.7 Atlantic City), WNJZ (90.3 Cape May Court House), WNJB (89.3 Bridgeton) and WNJS (88.1 Berlin), and it appears the plan will be simply to use those stations to extend the reach of WHYY’s existing news and talk service, already heard on 90.9 across much of central and south Jersey.
As for WNYC, it plans at least some sort of New Jersey-focused programming on the four stations for which it will pay $1 million, plus $1.8 million in “non-cash payments”: WNJP (88.5 Sussex), WNJY (89.3 Netcong), WNJT (88.1 Trenton) and WNJO (90.3 Toms River), serving chunks of northwest and central New Jersey and a northern piece of the shore.
*There’s another new signal coming to CANADA‘s largest market, on a frequency the CBC didn’t want occupied. For almost a decade, Fitzroy Gordon has been battling the government broadcaster for the right to put a new station on the air targeting Toronto’s Caribbean communities. With the Toronto FM dial packed full, the only frequency Gordon could find was 98.7, where he believed he could squeeze in a low-power signal right alongside the CBC’s CBLA, which broadcasts Radio One programming on second-adjacent 99.1.
As far back as 2006, the CRTC granted Gordon a license for a Caribbean service in Toronto, but on the condition that he find a frequency other than 98.7, a task that proved impossible. So Gordon decided to try to prove that the second-adjacent channel would work. Last year, he received Industry Canada permission to test the 98.7 signal, and the results of that test persuaded Industry Canada and the CRTC that 98.7 can indeed be used in Toronto.
On Thursday, the CRTC granted Gordon’s Intercity Broadcasting Network a license for 98.7, which will run 446 watts average ERP (1000 watts maximum)/907’ from the top of First Canadian Place, the same site used by CBLA. The CRTC imposed conditions of license designed to make sure the station remains targeted at the Caribbean community, a touchy issue given the way other signals originally licensed to serve niche audiences have strayed from those promises. (Just last week, in fact, Aboriginal Voices Network dropped the “Aboriginal” from its on-air identity, with CKAV 106.5 becoming simply “Voices 106.5” and almost no aboriginal programming to be heard on the frequency, just automated music.)
The CRTC declined to impose a condition requested by the CBC that would have barred Gordon from selling the station, and it rejected a request from competing broadcaster Doug Kirk to delay issuing the license until a civil court resolves a lawsuit in which he seeks an ownership stake in Intercity.
As for Gordon, he says he’s already starting to scout out studio and office space and staffers, and he hopes to have at least an automated music feed up and running at 98.7 in time for the Caribana festival at the end of July.
*NEW HAMPSHIRE‘s independent TV station now has a new identity to go with its new owner. Not at all shy about identifying himself with his newly-acquired station, Bill Binnie has changed the calls of Derry-licensed WZMY (Channel 50) to WBIN-TV.
Binnie’s Carlisle One Media paid Diane Sutter’s ShootingStar Broadcasting $9.25 million for the station, which maintains its MyNetwork TV affiliation even as it drops its “MyTV” on-air identity. “Watch us for great comedy, great drama and watch us change before your eyes!” is the promise on the station’s new website. So far, the only new program that’s been announced is a Republican presidential debate to air on October 11 in conjunction with Bloomberg News, the Washington Post and Dartmouth College.
Five Years Ago: June 11, 2007 –
*It’s been nearly twenty years since General Electric sold off its NBC Radio division, dismantling what had once been arguably the most important radio station group in the country.
When Walt Disney hands off the keys to much of ABC Radio to Citadel today, it will mark the end – or at least a major transformation – of a station group that had an equally large impact on American radio.
Unlike the NBC sale in 1988, which marked the effective end of the NBC Radio Network as an independent entity and the demise of the WNBC call letters on NEW YORK radio, the sale of ABC Radio will bring with it almost no immediate changes as far as listeners are concerned.
In part, that’s a reflection of the independence ABC’s radio properties long maintained from their sister TV operation. WABC (770) and WPLJ (95.5) operate from studios at 2 Penn Plaza, many blocks from the ABC Radio newsroom at 125 West End Avenue, which is itself a long hike from the Columbus Circle headquarters of ABC television and WABC-TV.
(There are some ABC-TV facilities at 125 West End as well, so there will be some unraveling of ties there over the next few years. ABC Radio News will continue to be operated by ABC, which will license its programming to Citadel’s ABC Radio Networks for distribution.)
As best we can tell, there are no immediate programming or staffing changes in the offing at WABC or WPLJ, the only ABC Radio properties in the northeast, and indeed, the most obvious change for the now-Citadel staffers at those stations is that they’ve lost the Disney theme park “silver passes” they enjoyed as Disney employees.
*Elsewhere in New York, Cumulus has taken the next step toward moving WFAS-FM (103.9) closer to the lucrative New York City market. The station officially changed city of license last week to Bronxville from its longtime home of White Plains. For now, there’s no change in the station’s facilities – its transmitter remains at its longtime home in Greenburgh, where the station’s studios and sister station WFAS (1230 White Plains) are located as well – but we’d expect to see an application filed sooner or later to move 103.9 down to a transmitter site in southern Westchester or the Bronx.
WYSL (1040 Avon) marked its 20th anniversary back in January, but owner and founder Bob Savage (one of the “good guy” independent broadcasters we so admire in this column) sensibly waited until a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon in June to celebrate the milestone.
It’s rare indeed these days to see a standalone AM survive, thrive and even grow (WYSL’s gone from a 500-watt daytimer to a big 20 kW signal in its two decades), and here’s wishing Bob, and the other owners like him in the region, continued success.
*We’ll make CANADA our next stop, as we assess the fallout of the CRTC’s decision to approve CTVglobemedia’s acquisition of CHUM Ltd., albeit with one enormous condition. CTV knew it would have to divest some of CHUM’s nationwide portfolio of television stations, but it had hoped to keep CHUM’s big-market roster of Citytv outlets in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg and to spin the more marginal “A-Channel” stations CHUM owns in Ontario and British Columbia.
Combining the City stations with CTV’s existing national network was more than the CRTC was willing to countenance under its “one-to-a-market” TV ownership policy, though, and a divided CRTC ruled late last week that if the CTV purchase of CHUM is to go forward, it will have to be without the City stations. CTV can, if it wishes, keep the “A-Channel” stations, the rationale there being that even though A-Channel’s CKVR is seen in Toronto and its CIVI is seen in Vancouver, those are actually Barrie and Victoria stations, respectively – and under Canadian regulations, those stations really do provide news and public affairs for the areas where they’re licensed.
In the wake of the ruling, CTVglobemedia isn’t saying yet whether it will follow through with the C$1.4 billion acquisition of CHUM, or with the proposed C$137.5 million spinoff of the A-Channel stations to Rogers. Even without the City stations, the CHUM radio group of 34 stations and its 20 specialty cable services (plus A-Channel, if it were to stay with CTV) would combine with CTV’s existing TV, cable and print outlets to create an impressive media behemoth.
*The big news in MASSACHUSETTS will come today, when WGBH-FM (89.7 Boston) moves its announcers from their longtime home on Western Avenue in Allston to the new broadcast center overlooking the Mass Pike off Market Street. WGBH-TV/WGBX will make the move later this month, and by July, the old Western Avenue facility will be history. Over on the radio side, the playlists for today’s inaugural broadcasts were drawn from listener suggestions; the first track played from the new digs at 9 AM will be Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”
Pittsburgh’s Clarke Ingram made national headlines last week – but in the world of television, not radio. He was one of the driving forces behind the viewer campaign to rescue CBS drama “Jericho” from cancellation, and for once, the viewers won. After CBS executives were deluged with packages of peanuts (a reference to a line in the season finale), they announced they’ll bring the show back for a mid-season run next year, and possibly for a full season in 2008 – and that landed Clarke on the AP wire, on TV and all over the papers. (NERW wonders if it’s too late to enlist him to save “Studio 60”? Or, given his status as DuMont Network historian, maybe “Captain Video” instead?) 2012 update: The show lasted only one more season on the air…but it refuses to die, surviving as a graphic novel with persistent rumors that there might be a movie someday.
Ten Years Ago: June 10, 2002 –
There’s about to be one fewer local TV news operation in MAINE. Management announced Tuesday that it will pull the plug on local news at WB affiliate WPXT (Channel 51) and UPN affiliate WPME (Channel 35) in the Portland market. “Our Maine News,” which aired at 10 PM on both stations, will broadcast its last newscast this Friday. The Pegasus-owned duopoly dropped its Fox affiliation (on WPXT) last year, and has been struggling with the region’s poor economy since then. A 7 PM newscast launched last fall on WPXT was soon cancelled due to poor ratings, and the ratings for the 10 PM show have suffered as well. WPXT had been doing news for nearly a decade.
For years, we’ve pointed to WICC (600) in Bridgeport, CONNECTICUT as an example of full-service radio at its best – music, news and talk all combined to create a top-rated, locally-responsive AM radio station. As of this morning (Monday), that’s history. WICC eliminated its weekday music as part of a station overhaul that includes new sounders and the station’s first jingles in nearly a decade. John LaBarca stays in mornings with Tim Quinn, but now it’s purely a news/talk block, followed by an hour of talk with Quinn at 9 and two hours of the syndicated Neal Boortz show from 10 until noon, replacing the Terry Michaels midday show (Michaels has left the station, we’re told, but will do fill-in work at other Cumulus stations in the region) Chris Conley will still do an hour of news at noon, but now that’s followed by the syndicated Clark Howard show from 1 until 4. Fred Ebert remains on the schedule from 4-7 PM, followed by Yankees baseball or Laura Ingraham’s syndicated show. We’ll be sorry to see WICC turn into a more typical 21st century medium-market AM station; we still think there’s room for a full-service format in this day and age.
Up here in Rochester, “Big Dog Country” now has appropriate calls: the former WNNR (103.5 Sodus) became WUUF last week. (Freckles the NERW Wonder Dog says “Woof!” to that…)
Country competitor WBEE-FM (92.5 Rochester), and Entercom sister stations WBBF (950 Rochester/93.3 Fairport) and WBZA (98.9 Rochester), will soon be doing its thing from a new home. After decades at Midtown Plaza, most recently on the fifth and sixth floors of the B. Forman Building, Entercom is moving its cluster to the High Falls entertainment district. The new storefront studios at 192 Mill Street will be right behind the offices of public broadcaster WXXI. (And WBZA’s even got actual on-air personalities to fill its studio window, after more than a year of automation, with former WMAX-FM/WVOR jock Michael Gately handling middays and an afternoon jock on the way!)
On the TV side, LPTV W59BV in Rochester, which carries the TCT religious network, is running a crawl announcing its impending move to channel 42, clearing the way for the eventual WOKR-DT on channel 59. Perhaps W59BV will fix its transmitter when it moves; right now, the video level is set so high that the picture is mostly white!
Finally, some news from the home front: we’ll be keeping a closer eye on TV and FM developments in places like Buffalo, Syracuse, Watertown and Kingston, thanks to the new array of Channel Master antennas (an 1110 for VHF and a 4248 for UHF) now perched on the roof of NERW Central. A big huge NERW thank you (and happy birthday!) to Rick Lucas, the fellow local DX’er who did all the rooftop work to make TV and FM DX a reality hereabouts. (2012 note: ten years out and counting, and the antennas are still there and working like a charm!)
Fifteen Years Ago: June 12, 1997 –
The big news this week comes from the Granite State, where WNDS (Channel 50) in Derry has returned to independent programming after would-be station buyer Global Shopping Network reportedly missed a payment on the station. As we reported last week here in NERW, Global is having serious financial troubles, and it appears that WNDS’s owner, CTV of Derry, isn’t willing to sit by and wait for things to straighten out. “Star Trek” fans across eastern New England are already celebrating; WNDS was known for its Trek reruns, and they’re already back on Channel 50. What’s more, CTV has reportedly asked nearly all of WNDS’ dismissed staffers to come back to work, including weatherman Al Kaprelian, a cult favorite among WNDS viewers.
We have actual news from RHODE ISLAND this week, and plenty of it, beginning with word that Citadel is adding Phil Urso’s WDGE/WDGF combo to its Providence station group. WDGE is the modern rocker on 99.7, licensed to Wakefield-Peace Dale, while WDGF is the dance station on 100.3 licensed to Middletown. Citadel entered Rhode Island earlier this year with the purchase of Tele-Media, which owned WPRO AM/FM (630/92.3), WLKW (790), and WWLI (105.1) in Providence.
NERW Connecticut correspondent Bill Dillane went down to the R. J. Julia bookstore last weekend to witness a Don Imus book-signing; he says the I-man was greeted by at least 2500 fans at the Madison store.
Binghamton’s public radio station is increasing its reach. The WSKG Public Telecommunications Council has been granted a new station on 88.7 in Hornell. The 4500 watt station will transmit from just west of Canisteo, south of Hornell, and will likely displace W204AS, the Dansville translator for Webster’s WMHN (89.3) on 88.7. WSKG now has relays in Oneonta, Ithaca, Corning, and Binghamton.
The apps just keep on coming for religious radio in the Empire State. Calvary Chapel of the Westside has filed for the new 95.5 Albion allocation, against Jacor. If Jacor gets it, expect to see some tricky engineering work to move Jacor modern rocker WNVE (95.1 South Bristol) closer in to Rochester, as well as the possible disappearance of WNVE translator W238AB Rochester, which we heard as far out as Auburn, some 40 miles away. Family Life Radio has applied for a translator on 107.5 in Greece NY, actually broadcasting from the WKLX/WRMM/WDCZ tower on Rochester’s west side. The translator would relay WCIY (88.9 Canandaigua).