In this week’s issue: WGBH replaces jazz with news – CBS Sports Radio shakes things up – RCI Sackville signs off – “Le Weekend” launches in Quebec City
by SCOTT FYBUSH
*In the long history of Boston radio, there have been plenty of juicy rivalries: WBCN and WCOZ, WRKO and WMEX, WEEI and the Sports Hub…and increasingly, the public radio news/talk battle between WBUR-FM (90.9) and WGBH (89.7) appears to be poised to join those ranks.
In 2010, WGBH shifted its classical music programming to sister station WCRB (99.5 Lowell) in order to take its daytime hours to news and talk, and now 89.7 is following suit in the evening as well. Sometime later this summer, Eric Jackson’s long-running evening jazz show (formerly known as “Eric in the Evening”) will be cut back from four nights a week to three, shifting from 8 PM to midnight on Monday through Thursday to 9 PM to midnight on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and knocking another WGBH veteran, Friday night jazz host Steve Schwartz, off the schedule completely.
Beginning July 2, WGBH will also rearrange its daytime schedule, taking away live clearances of the “Takeaway” morning show (a co-production of WGBH and New York’s WNYC) at 6 and 9 AM and replacing them with two more hours of NPR’s “Morning Edition.” Diane Rehm’s Washington-based show will be cut back to a one-hour clearance from 10-11 AM, with an hour of “The Takeaway” running on delay at 11. “Tell Me More” replaces “Fresh Air” at 2 PM, eliminating a bit of duplication with WBUR (which carries the show at 1 PM), and the replay of “The World” (a WGBH/BBC co-production that airs live at 3 PM) will shift from 6-7 PM to 8-9 PM, replaced by an additional hour of “All Things Considered.”
The other big change will come in WGBH’s locally-produced talk block from noon-2 PM, now divided into separate shows hosted by Callie Crossley and EmilyRooney. Those hours will be joined together into a new news-and-talk block called “Boston Public Radio,” with Crossley as its principal host, and it will be replayed from 9-11 PM Monday-Thursday while WBUR is running the CBC’s “Q” and a delayed hour of Diane Rehm. (Is it too much to hope that the public radio rivals could at least coordinate their carriage of Rehm’s show so that WBUR picks up the second hour that WGBH is dropping?)
To nobody’s great surprise, the impending WGBH schedule change is prompting an outcry from jazz fans; both Jackson and Schwartz have devoted followings, and Boston has remained a fairly loyal market for jazz even as public stations in other markets have succumbed to the financial lure of a more lucrative news-talk lineup.
But those stations, for the most part, haven’t been the second entrant in the format; indeed, we’re hard-pressed to think of any other big market where two public radio news-talkers are squaring off so directly against each other with such similar market coverage and equally large budgets. (In San Francisco, scrappy little KALW 91.7 competes with behemoth KQED 88.5, but KALW focuses much more tightly on the city while KQED covers a huge swath of northern California, for instance.)
Is there room in Boston for two huge public radio players to both succeed with news, especially with commercial WBZ (1030) going after much of the same audience? WBUR’s not backing down – and for now, it appears WGBH isn’t, either.
As for jazz fans, if they haven’t already tapped into the wealth of jazz programming available around the clock via streaming and on-demand audio, there’s still the daily jazz block on Harvard-affiliated WHRB (95.3 Cambridge) and rimshot reception of Worcester-based WICN (90.5)…and WGBH’s weekend offerings, for as long as they survive.
*As John Garabedian gets ready to take over Nassau’s Cape Cod stations, there’s further evidence that he’s not planning to keep the “Frank” adult hits simulcast going on both WFQR (93.5 Harwich Port) and WFRQ (101.1 Mashpee) – but it looks like the 101.1 half of the simulcast, which has a pending application to move its transmitter to Hyannis to cover most of the mid-Cape, will be the signal that keeps “Frank.” Down at 93.5, WFQR has requested new calls “WHYA” (And, yes, we’re ever so slightly disappointed that Garabedian doesn’t have the opportunity to put the “WGTF” calls back on the 93.5 frequency, which he put on the air in the 1970s from Nantucket. The WGTF calls are now in use on a religious station down South, and in any event today’s 93.5 isn’t a direct descendant of the old WGTF, which moved to 96.3 and is now Qantum’s WEII.)
*Why was CBS Radio keeping an AM-FM sports simulcast going in eastern PENNSYLVANIA after launching WIP-FM (94.1 Philadelphia) last year? The answer, we now know, is that the company had other sports plans for WIP’s legacy home at 610 on the AM dial.
Beginning January 2, 2013, it will be the new full-time home of “CBS Sports Radio,” a new joint venture between CBS and Cumulus. The new network will include both a 24-hour service (which will also replace ESPN Radio on Cumulus’ WHGB 1400 in Harrisburg and Yahoo! Sports on Cumulus’ WSKO 1260 up in Syracuse, New York) and hourly updates; much of the programming on the 24-hour service will be produced by CBS Radio’s growing roster of major-market all-sports stations, including WIP-FM, WFAN (660 New York), WBZ-FM (98.5 Boston) and KDKA-FM (93.7 Pittsburgh), all of which will also be clearing the hourly updates and presumably using the 24-hour service during the off hours that they now fill with content from Yahoo! Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and other sources. (There’s already speculation about whether the CBS offering, as well as the new NBC Sports Radio from Dial Global, will end up killing off one or more of the weaker existing players in the sports network arena.)
The move is also likely to prompt renewed speculation about an FM move for WFAN: using the huge 660 signal to clear the CBS Sports Radio network programming would be a big vote of confidence as CBS and Cumulus seek to get more national clearance for the upstart network, and the combination of national on 660 and local on 92.3 just might give CBS and WFAN a potent one-two punch against ESPN Radio’s WEPN-FM (98.7), as well as two sports signals on which to clear play-by-play conflicts.
While we’re speculating: one can easily wonder where else Cumulus might end up clearing the CBS Sports Radio programming – it would seem to be a natural fit, for instance, for a secondary signal such as WPRV (790) in Providence, where WBZ-FM already has fringe listeners.
(And one more small note about CBS Radio’s announcement – the new sports service will also clear on the company’s little AM signal at 1660 in Charlotte, North Carolina, which wouldn’t be worthy of note in NERW, except that the 1660 facility there is where the legendary WBCN calls have been parked since leaving Boston in 2009.)
*Today is moving day for Rush Limbaugh in Philadelphia: he starts in the noon-3 PM slot at Merlin’s WWIQ (106.9 Camden NJ) after many years on CBS Radio’s WPHT (1210), and Rush isn’t the only new voice on “IQ 106.9”: the talk upstart is also adding Cumulus’ Mark Levin in evenings, beginning July 2.
*On the Philly TV dial, ABC’s WPVI-TV (Channel 6) has been missing for many over-the-air viewers since moving from its interim UHF slot (RF 64) back to low-band VHF when analog TV signed off in 2009. With just 7560 watts of digital power, the original WPVI-TV digital 6 facility quickly gave way to a bigger 30.2 kW signal – and now “6ABC” is trying again to reach more viewers with an application to crank its digital power all the way to 62.9 kW. Because of differences in the way DTV power is measured compared to the old analog signals (peak power instead of average power), that’s roughly the equivalent of 180 kW of analog power, more than twice the 74 kW WPVI ran in the analog days, but WPVI says it needs the extra power to overcome the disadvantages of low-band VHF, which turns out not to work well at all for digital TV.
(To be technical about it, it’s not really the transmission of l0w-band VHF that’s a problem in the digital universe; it’s the receiving antennas out there that often turn out to barely be designed for any VHF at all, never mind the six-meter wavelengths of low-band channels 2 through 6.)
In order to get its extra power, WPVI had to cut a deal with the other legacy channel 6 in the region, Schenectady’s WRGB, which has also cranked up its power all the way from 4640 watts to 30.2 kW and may yet go higher.
*There’s a stealth format shift in southern NEW JERSEY: WFNE (106.3 North Cape May) segued from oldies to classic hits when it changed calls to WJSE on June 11. For now, the station is still “Fun 106” – but given how closely the WJSE calls were associated with modern rock during their time at 102.7 on the dial (now top-40 WWAC), one wonders if the station is done evolving.
*In the NEW YORK City TV market, we now know who will be hosting the new morning show on CBS’ newly-acquired WLNY (Channel 55) – and this also answers the question of where Carolina Bermudez was headed when she left the Elvis Duran morning show over at WHTZ (Z100) earlier in the month. Bermudez will join John Elliott and Lisa Kerney from WLNY sister station WCBS-TV (Channel 2) for the 7-9 AM “Live from the Couch” show, which will debut in July.
Over at WNBC (Channel 4), it’s no surprise at all that Shiba Russell is the replacement for the venerable Sue Simmons at 11 PM; her move into the late-night anchor chair alongside Chuck Scarborough was almost preordained once Simmons’ departure was announced earlier this spring, though WNBC waited to make the move official until after Simmons’ last day on the air June 15. And even then, Simmons’ legacy lived on, inadvertently: last Tuesday, the 11 PM newscast opened up with a lower-third graphic identifying Russell as “Sue Simmons.”
On the radio, New York Public Radio’s WNYC (93.9/820) has a new vice president for news: Jim Schachter moves downtown effective July 9, leaving his post as associate managing editor of the New York Times to take a role overseeing not only WNYC’s local news operation but also its national programming and the New Jersey Public Radio signals WNYC now operates.
Around the block at WFAN (660), the nation’s original all-sports station is getting ready to mark the 25th anniversary of its 1987 debut. WFAN has a full day of anniversary programming scheduled for next Sunday, July 1, including hourlong shifts by guest hosts from throughout the station’s history. The station is also collecting a list of the 25 greatest sports moments during its history, and there’s a special anniversary broadcast planned for Mike Francesa’s afternoon show on Friday.
*Where are they now? Bob Buchmann headed west three years ago after a 20-year run as PD/morning man at Long Island’s WBAB (102.3 Babylon) and a decade programming Clear Channel’s WAXQ (104.3 New York), only to get blown out of his new gig programming Citadel classic rocker KLOS (95.5 Los Angeles) when it became Cumulus classic rocker KLOS. Now he’s landed back with Clear Channel, but still out west: Buchmann’s the new morning co-host (alongside Coe Lewis) at classic rock KGB (101.5) in San Diego. At KGB, Buchmann is followed by another New Yorker – Q104’s Marc Coppola tracks middays for San Diego from his Manhattan studio.
*Moving upstate, one of Rochester’s longest-running anchors is stepping down. Rich Funke went on the air in Batavia at WBTA (1490) back in 1968 and soon moved to Rochester’s WAXC (1460), the former sister station to WHEC-TV (Channel 10) . By 1974, Funke had segued from news on WAXC to sports on channel 10 – and then after decades at the helm of WHEC’s sports department, he moved back to the news desk to become the station’s lead anchor. Funke says “the time has come to step aside, move into the next phase of my life,” and we wish him the very best as he prepares to leave the anchor desk in December.
If Funke’s retirement came as something of a surprise, the departure of one of his longtime colleagues just down the Thruway came as nothing of the sort: rumors had long been swirling that John Murphy would be exiting his role as sports director of Buffalo’s WIVB (Channel 4). Murphy moved over to WIVB in 2008 after a long run across town at WKBW-TV (Channel 7), but he’s best known these days as the radio voice of the Buffalo Bills – and his departure from WIVB will allow him to take a full-time job with the football team. In his new role with the Bills, Murphy will continue to call the games, and he’ll have a daily airshift on Bills flagship WGR (550), where the “John Murphy Show” will debut July 26 in the 7-9 PM weeknight slot.
Murphy becomes one of two team broadcasters with daily shows on WGR: last week, the station launched a daily Sabres-focused show that’s broadcast daily from 10 AM-noon from the team’s store at the Whatever-Bank-Bought-HSBC-This-Week Arena downtown. The new show is hosted by Kevin Sylvester, who’d been the studio host for Sabres game broadcasts on WGR; Brian Duff will host the pre- and post-game shows for the Sabres on WGR this fall.
*On TV in the Queen City, Phil Arno’s WBBZ-TV (Channel 67) has launched its first local production from its new showcase studio in the Eastern Hills Mall: “Political Buzz,” which is running Thursday nights at 7.
The political talk show, hosted by former WIVB reporter Mylous Hairston, is being billed as the first of many broadcasts to be produced in the new studio, which is designed to create audience interaction and promote the upstart station, which is the former WNGS-TV and which now carries MeTV programming.
*Back here in the Rochester area, Bob Savage’s WYSL (1040 Avon and Rochester translator W221CL at 92.1) has promoted Joe Lasky to news director, with an increased on-air presence doing hourly newscasts throughout the day. WYSL has also named Kevin Meath (son of the legendary WHEC personality Eddie Meath) as its sales manager, and it’s switched from ABC to SRN for its hourly newscasts.
Our media-blogging colleague Peter Naughton is paring back his duties a little bit: busy with CNYRadio.com and his day job, Naughton has stepped back from his weekend on-air shifts at WLZW (98.7 Utica)…but we suspect he’s not done with radio for good. (Once it’s in the blood…)
A “Baseball on the Radio” update: after many years on Pamal’s WLNA (1420 Peekskill)/WBNR (1260 Beacon), the Hudson Valley Renegades are the latest New York-Penn League team to go webcast-only, with no over-the-air broadcast this season.
And we send our congratulations to all the award recipients from the New York State Broadcasters Association dinner held last week at the Sagamore resort in Bolton Landing. At this year’s NYSBA event, ABC “Nightline” host Bill Weir was named “Broadcaster of the Year,” while Rachael Ray took home “New Yorker of the Year.”
*There’s a new IT/engineering director at RHODE ISLAND Public Radio, and it’s hard for this column to be unbiased when it comes to our good friend Aaron Read; after all, your editor drove across the country with him last year as he moved from his job as general manager of WEOS (89.7) in Geneva, New York to become chief engineer at KCSB (91.9) in Santa Barbara, California. It turned out Aaron’s heart was still in New England, and after a much more leisurely drive back east, he’s now settling in at the Providence-based network that now encompasses three FMs (WELH 88.1 Providence, WCVY 91.5 Coventry and WRNI-FM 102.7 Narragansett Pier) and one AM (WRNI 1290 Providence).
*It’s hard to make a station profitable in the tough-luck towns of northern NEW HAMPSHIRE, but Barry Lunderville has made a go of it for quite a few years now with stations in places such as Berlin and Lancaster and Lisbon. In the old paper-mill town of Berlin, Lunderville’s WMOU (1230) and WKDR (1490) have been pretty much the only local games in town, which is why Lunderville fought back when Conway-based WVMJ (104.5) sprouted a translator in Berlin. What with the mass of Mount Washington sitting squarely between Berlin and Conway, Lunderville argued that the translator, W251BD (98.1), couldn’t possibly receive the input signal of WVMJ over the air. In a complaint to the FCC, Lunderville also claimed the translator was operating over-power, and that it was receiving impermissible financial support from WVMJ. (The translator is owned by paging company operator Stewart Shaw, who sells local advertising in Berlin on “Magic 98.1” via a page on his company’s website.)
Unfortunately for Lunderville, the FCC didn’t see things his way; last week, the commission rejected his petition for reconsideration, largely on procedural grounds, allowing the translator’s license to stand.
*In southwest CONNECTICUT, Al Warren is wrapping up a half-century in radio as he prepares to retire from WICC (600 Bridgeport), where he’s been the weekend morning host for many years. Warren started at WICC way back in 1965, and he’s been there almost ever since, with some brief stints along the way at WLAD (800 Danbury) and WMMM (1260 Westport, now WSHU).
*Radio CANADA International left the shortwave bands last night, signing off its transmitter site in Sackville, New Brunswick nearly 70 years after the first shortwave signals were broadcast from that location in the Tantramar Marsh.
The last English-language program to go out over the air on RCI was the weekly “Maple Leaf Mailbag” show, and for some reason RCI broadcast a repeat of last week’s program instead of the scheduled new episode.
The end of shortwave is effectively the end of RCI as Canadians and global listeners have known it: an 80% cut in the service’s budget (the result of an overall 10% cut in funding to the CBC, which operates RCI) means the end of most original RCI programming, though a skeleton service will continue to stream over the RCI website.
At its close, RCI was broadcasting in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian and Mandarin from Sackville and several relays worldwide; Sackville, in turn, was carrying relay broadcasts for a number of other global broadcasters. Those relays, too, are falling silent and may even be gone by the time you read this.
The end of RCI is just one of several blows to what’s left of international shortwave broadcasting at the moment. Later this week, Radio Netherlands Worldwide will end its service in English as well, a sad coda to what was once one of the largest international broadcasters.
RCI and its fellow international broadcasters would argue (not without some validity) that listeners around the world no longer need to depend on the vagaries of shortwave ionospheric propagation to tune in distant signals when the internet can easily bring them streaming audio at any time. That’s true, and indeed, your editor was listening to the end of RCI over the stream, but in the rush to the stream, it’s also true that RCI and other international broadcasters are giving up an audience of listeners in remote parts of the world where speedy net access remains impossible, not to mention the possibility of reaching audiences in political jurisdictions where internet-delivered radio can be cut off much more easily than shortwave radio can be jammed.
*For fans of news and talk radio in Quebec cities outside Montreal, the listening options have been few and far between in recent years. Three years ago, Corus closed down its commercial French talk network that served listeners in Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières and Gatineau/Ottawa after having moved those stations (the old CHLT 630, CHLN 550 and CJRC 1150) from AM to FM.
Since flipping away from news-talk and AM, those signals have struggled through a succession of callsigns, formats and owners; under Corus, they carried a French oldies format called “Souvenirs garantis,” and after being sold to Cogeco they flipped to French top 40 under the “CKOI” branding that originates at Cogeco’s CKOI (96.9 Montreal).
Now Cogeco says the stations (CKOY 107.7 in Sherbrooke, CKOB 106.9 in Trois-Rivières and CKOF 104.7 in Gatineau) will go back to news and talk beginning August 20.
They’ll continue to have local programming in morning and afternoon drive, with network programming in other dayparts fed from top-rated Montreal talker CHMP (98.5), and they’ll continue to carry sports, too: CKOF is the French-language flagship of the Ottawa Senators and CKOY and CKOB are on the Montreal Canadiens network based at CHMP.
*In Quebec City, CFEL (102.1 Montmagny) is continuing to use the CKOI branding for now, though it ended up not with Cogeco but with Leclerc Communication Inc. – but its sister station in the market has a brand-new format as of Wednesday. CJEC (91.9 Quebec City) dropped the Corus “Rhythme FM” format and had been stunting since mid-May, but it’s now rebranded as “WKND.”
WKN-what?!? No, the new format on 91.9 has nothing to do with Windsor, Connecticut, where the real WKND callsign has long resided. Instead, it’s a nickname for “le week-end,” going along with a mix of “adult pop, contemporary rock, indie-rock and pop-rock from 2000 to the present.” Calling its new format “active, positive and full of energy,” the new “Weekend Radio” is branding itself “the station without a Monday.” (It really is on the air on weekdays, too, with Martin Dalair in morning drive and PY Lord in afternoon drive.)
*Radio People on the Move: Toronto radio veterans Humble and Fred are back on terrestrial radio, but their new on-air home is over in Kingston, where they’re being heard on CIKR (K-Rock 105.7). The duo moved to podcasting a few years back, and in January they signed a deal with Rogers Radio to promote their podcast on many of its terrestrial stations. Is this the start of a new syndicated version of Humble and Fred that will spread to other Rogers outlets? Moving in the other direction, former K-Rock operations manager Doug Elliott is now PD and afternoon host in Oshawa at Durham Radio’s CKGE (94-9 the Rock), which is now marketing itself as “Rocking the GTA.”
In Toronto, Joey Brooks has departed afternoon drive on CHUM-FM (104.5) and is apparently headed back to Boston, though there’s no word yet on where he’s going once he gets there. Over at Evanov’s CIDC (Z103.5), former morning man Scott Fox has returned, a little over a year after he was ousted from the station (he’d been doing fill-in in the meantime at CKIS 92.5); meanwhile, Ashley Greco has departed Z103.5 for…CHUM-FM. And one more tidbit from Bell Media Radio: Milkman UnLimited reports Ian March has returned to Majic 100 (CJMJ) and 93.9 BOB FM (CKKL) in Ottawa as program coordinator after nine months programming Bell’s Kingston cluster.
In Halifax, Gary Tredwell is the new PD for CKHZ (103.5)/CKHY (105.1), moving to the Evanov stations from Newcap’s CIJK (89.3) in Kentville, where he was the founding PD.