The Year in Programming, People and Calls (January-June)
By SCOTT FYBUSH
It’s that time again: at long last, we’ve arrived at the end of a challenging year, both for the industry as a whole and for your editor personally. And that means we take a break from our weekly roundup of industry news for our 21st annual Year in Review edition. Year in Review installments will appear daily beginning today, all week long through our wrap-up on Friday, January 2, so check back every day for a new installment. We’ll resume our regular NorthEast Radio Watch report on Monday, January 5, 2015, and Tower Site of the Week is back Friday, January 9, 2015. (And in the meantime, our own Twitter and Facebook feeds and RadioInsight will be here with any breaking news!)
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One of our long-running traditions here on Year in Review is to go back, month by month, to look at all the people. formats and callsigns that made headlines during the year, and there are so many of them that we’ve broken them up into two daily installments.
Back to Part One: The Year in Sales
The year kicked off with some morning drama on New York’s AM airwaves, as Curtis Sliwa abruptly departed Salem’s WNYM (970), leaving voids in two dayparts as he and former partner Ron Kuby reunited at WABC (770) to fill the noontime void left by Rush Limbaugh’s move to WOR (710). After some uncertainty about its new morning direction, WNYM found a stroke of luck: comedian Joe Piscopo decided he wanted to try his hand at radio, and what started as a one-off guest stint alongside producer/interim host Frank Morano became a regular gig, though without much of a dent in the ratings. Way up the dial, WWRL (1600) dumped the remnants of its stab at progressive talk in favor of Spanish as “La Invasora.”
Elsewhere in talk-land, Tom Bauerle made big headlines in Buffalo with a bizarre politically-driven flip-out that grew from an on-air rant against Governor Andrew Cuomo into a confrontation with police early one morning in his backyard. WBEN (930) stood by the controversial host, who was soon back at work as though nothing had ever happened, leaving many (well, us, anyway) wondering what was show and what was real. In Providence, WPRO’s John DePetro also had his station’s support as he weathered a controversy over some of his more fiery on-air remarks. In Portland, veteran manager Cary Pahigian departed Saga’s cluster for what would end up being a new job running Hearst’s remaining radio operation, WBAL/WIYY in Baltimore.
In Toronto, Dean Blundell didn’t have his station’s support and was soon out the door after his own controversies at Corus’ CFNY (102.1 the Edge). Over in Chatham-Kent and Windsor, CKUE (95.1/100.7) flipped from “Rock 95.1/100.7” to “Lite FM.”
On TV, Sinclair started the year by retaking the reins at its Rochester Fox affiliate WUHF (Channel 31), ending a shared-services agreement with Nexstar’s WROC-TV and moving WUHF in with its own new SSA partner, ABC affiliate WHAM-TV (Channel 13).
In the Hudson Valley, Marshall Miles’ “Robin Hood Radio” (WHDD-FM 91.9) took over WGHQ (920 Kingston) when the station was facing potential closure, saving the local morning show that had been running as a nonprofit venture on 920. In Syracuse, Craig Fox added an oldies “Dinosaur” to his country “Wolf” and rhythmic “Movin” brands, at first on WNDR (103.9 Mexico) and later on a network of translators and WMBO (1340) over in Auburn. Catholic radio landed in Albany on WOPG (1460), formerly Radio Disney’s WDDY. Up in the north country, a difficult year for WYZY (106.3) and its sister stations began with a flip to a simulcast of news-talk WNBZ (1240 Saranac Lake) and ended later on with a tax sale of the studio and transmitter site.
With a growing roster of FM signals on Cape Cod and the Islands (more on that in a bit), WBUR sold off WBUR(AM) 1240 in West Yarmouth, which went Portuguese as WBAS.
Gone: WPVH (90.7 Plymouth NH), surrendered 12/17/13.
The drama rolled on in morning drive in New York, where Scott Shannon abruptly left Cumulus’ WPLJ (95.5), presaging the end of the “True Oldies Channel” format he was programming for the company as well. Downtown at Clear Channel, “Elliot in the Morning” flamed out at WOR (710) as Elliot Segal and company returned to their home base in Washington.
Down the road in Philadelphia, KYW (1060) relocated to a new newsroom shared with sister station KYW-TV (Channel 3), its second move in less than a decade. In Lancaster, a winter storm caved in the studio roof at WGAL (Channel 8), sending the station’s news team across the street to a local emergency operations center until the building was safe to re-enter. In Reading, Clear Channel flipped WRAW (1340) from oldies to “Rumba” Spanish AC.
The big news in eastern New England came from the TV side, where veterans Mike Dowling and Bianca de la Garza were among the talent exiting WCVB (Channel 5) in Boston, while investigative reporter Jim Taricani departed WJAR (Channel 10) in Providence. The first AM signal to take the air from within Boston city limits in many decades was WZBR (1410), which relocated to the Readville neighborhood from Brockton, albeit with a new city of license of Dedham.
In Ithaca, Saga added to its translator roster with the launch of sports “Buzzer” on W254BF (98.7).
New to the air: CFMS (105.9 Markham ON, as “105.9 the Region”) on Feb. 5, WXBJ-LP (94.9 Salisbury MA), the first LPFM in the region from the 2013 window, on Feb. 22.
Gone: WOLF (1490 Syracuse), at least temporarily; WOOL-LP (100.1 Bellows Falls VT), to be replaced by a full-power signal.
Scott Shannon landed in the obvious spot, taking over mornings as WCBS-FM (101.1) began sounding more and more like the 80s-heavy playlist he’d started with back at WPLJ. Former WOR morning man John Gambling announced his return to the airwaves in the midmorning slot at Salem’s ambitious WNYM. Another former New York morning man, Marty Martinez, late of WNEW-FM (102.7), departed his most recent gig down the Jersey shore at WRAT (95.9). Emmis’ WQHT (97.1) made its TV debut on the short-lived reality series “This is Hot 97,” though the actual reality of staffing upheaval at the hip-hop station ended up being more interesting than the VH1 show. In the world of Spanish radio, Univision’s WQBU (92.7) left “Mami” behind to pick up national “Univision America’ talk.
Out on Long Island, Steve Harper survived a controversy over a fake homophobic email that briefly took him off the air at WKJY (98.3), but he didn’t keep his PD gig. In the Hudson Valley, WLNA (1420 Peekskill)/WBNR (1260 Beacon) traded talk for “Real Country” and WGNY (1220 Newburgh) traded ESPN Sports for “Fox Oldies,” only to swap back later in the year. In Buffalo, veteran news director Jim Ranney left WBFO (88.7) for the world of politics, while in Ithaca the Cornell students at WVBR (93.5) cut the ribbon for their new “Olbermann-Corneliess Studios,” though chief funder Keith Olbermann had to participate only by phone, being laid up at home with a bad case of shingles.
At month’s end, a nasty winter storm took down the tower of WUPE-FM (100.1 North Adams MA), just days before it was also to become the home of new public station WNNI (98.9 Adams); the stations got temporary lower-power facilities up and running quickly while working on plans for a new permanent tower at the site.
Entercom’s yearlong talent shuffle in Boston included the departure of veteran sports talker Glenn Ordway from WEEI, off to try his hand at webcasting alongside former WEEI programmer Jason Wolfe, and of production guru Pete Gustin. Later in the month, Mike Salk ended his brief afternoon run by returning to his former gig in Seattle. In New Hampshire, Bill Binnie built up his radio staff by hiring veteran PD Scott Laudani and Great Eastern launched a new AAA “River” on translator W294AB (106.7) in the Upper Valley. Up the coast in Maine, Blueberry completed its set of midcoast-Bangor trimulcasts by flipping WQSS (102.5 Camden) from “Midcoast 102.5” to “Kiss,” simulcasting with WKSQ Ellsworth-Bangor and WQSK in Augusta. In Vermont, Thom Richards left his longtime post in afternoon drive at Hall’s WOKO (98.9), and in Connecticut, Al Terzi stepped down from the anchor chair at his latest stop, WTIC-TV (Channel 61).
In Pittsburgh, WGBN (1150 New Kensington) swapped calls with its new sister, WMNY (1360 McKeesport).
National branding was all the rage in Canada, where CKLT (92.9 Halifax) traded “Lite” for “Jack,” CKQB (106.9 Ottawa) dropped “Bear” rock again for top-40 “Jump!,” CKWS (104.3 Kingston) became “Hits 104.3,” CKDK (103.9 Woodstock-London) dropped “AC More” for “Country 104” and CFBK (105.5 Huntsville) shed “New 105.5” for “Moose” AC.
New to the air: WZNC-LP (99.9 Bethlehem PA), WBUB-LP (101.5 Portsmouth NH, as “The Bubble” on March 11); WOOL (91.5 Bellows Falls VT, replacing WOOL-LP on March 8).
Gone: WPLY 960 Mount Pocono PA, WWTA 88.5 Marion MA, WALE 990 Providence RI, all deleted from the FCC database; WNEK 105.1 Springfield MA, surrendered by Western New England College to go webcast only.
Back from the dead: WKAL (1450 Rome NY), resuming local programming with morning man Bob Cain on March 11 after many years as either a satellite-fed signal or dark.
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The corruption trial and eventual conviction of former Connecticut governor John Rowland ends his career in afternoon drive on Hartford’s WTIC (1080); in his sentencing hearing later in the year, a judge will cite the show in giving Rowland a stiffer-than-recommended prison term. Fill-in Pastor Will Marotti turns out to be a temporary replacement, leaving the shift himself before the year is out.
In Canada, the CBC announces massive cutbacks in staffing and programming after its government funding is slashed. In Wingham, Ontario, CIBU (94.5) rebranded from “Bull” to “Classic Rock 94.5.”
In New Jersey, NBC announces it will end its affiliation with Atlantic City’s WMGM (Channel 40) at year’s end, which in turn prompts WMGM to announce that its local news and other programming will also cease as the station enters the hands of a spectrum speculator.
In Boston, a coordinated FCC raid on prominent pirates includes the closure of “Touch 106.1,” whose brash owner Charles Clemons ran an unsuccessful bid for mayor. Surprisingly, the station didn’t come back on the air after the seizure; less surprisingly, Clemons has shown no sign of paying the outstanding fines against him.
In Vermont, John King exited the top spot at Vermont Public Television (newly rebranded Vermont PBS) after a turbulent tenure.
Call changes included WARL (1320 Attleboro MA) to WRNP; WNGF (89.9 Swanton VT) to WGLG, becoming part of the WGLY (91.5 Bolton) simulcast chain; WNAK (105.9 Indian Lake NY) to WXLE, joining the North Country Public Radio network as of May 7; a swap between WNYX (88.1 Montgomery NY) and WQCD (90.1 South Salem NY)
New: WOXM (89.1 Middlebury VT, replacing VPR’s lower-powered WOXM 90.1, which went dark under new calls WVSM); WBUH (89.1 Brewster MA, built out by Boston’s WBUR with just days to spare); WQKA-LP (92.9 Pulteney NY).
Gone: WUOW (88.5 Milford/Oneonta NY), inexplicably silenced by SUNY Oneonta despite waiting buyers just a year after going full-power; the longtime WHN/WEPN 1050 site in East Rutherford NJ, demolished for more construction on an ill-fated nearby mega-mall.
Rochester morning team Kimberly (Ray) and (Barry) Beck are ousted from Entercom’s WBZA (98.9) after controversial comments about the city’s insurance plan for transgender people; after weeks of headlines, protests and speculation, they go silent for the summer. Downstate, CBS takes another stab at dethroning Clear Channel’s big top-40 WHTZ (Z100) with a rebrand of “Now” WNOW-FM (92.3) to “Amp” at 3 PM May 22, with new calls WBMP to follow. On the AM side, Joan Hamburg exited WOR (710) for good after being demoted to a weekend slot when Clear Channel took over from Buckley in 2013.
In Massachusetts, Steve Silberberg’s little AM/FM pair way out in Orange-Athol draws outsize attention with a format-changing stunt that lands the AM signal, the former WCAT/WTUB (700), as oldies “WBZ 700” with new calls WWBZ. The station says it was simply trying to pay homage to the top-40 roots of that venerable callsign, but WBZ parent company CBS wasn’t amused; its cease-and-desist order turned the station into “Legends 700” and then eventually into WFAT. Sister FM WFNX (99.9) stunted with listener choice as “Vote 99.9” and eventually settled on adult hits.
On Martha’s Vineyard, WMVY roared back to life as an FM broadcaster at 4 PM May 21, just as soon as the ink was dry on its purchase of the former WMEX (88.7) from Dennis Jackson. A call shuffle turned 88.7 briefly into WMVI before the WMVY calls could be reclaimed from 104.3 in Hartford, Vermont, where they’d been parked since the original WMVY (92.7 Tisbury) became public radio WBUA in 2013. The WMEX calls landed on LPFM in Rochester, New Hampshire in what would be just one of their 2014 moves.
In Canada’s biggest market, CFRB (1010) and CKFM (Virgin 99.9) left their home of half a century at Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue West in Toronto, joining Bell sister station CHUM-FM (104.5) downtown on Richmond Street. In Haldimand-Norfolk, Ontario, CKJN (92.9) rebranded from “Moose” AC to “Country 92.9.”
On the Jersey shore, WOBM (1160)/WADB (1310) ditched oldies for news-talk, and downstate WYPA (89.5 Cherry Hill) ended its temporary simulcast with the new home of EMF’s K-Love in the Philadelphia market, WKVP (106.9 Camden), instead putting Air-1 on the smaller 89.5 signal.
New to the air: WYZX (88.3 East Falmouth MA), W243DC (96.5 Needham MA, relaying WXRV 92.5), WZXY-LP (101.7 Kane PA, restoring local radio there).
Ken Squier’s Radio Vermont group rarely appears in NERW headlines by virtue of its “steady as you go” approach that yields solid ratings and profits by changing almost nothing, ever. So it was big news when Squier announced he was pulling the plug on classical WCVT (101.7 Stowe) and classic rock “Fox” WEXP (101.5 Rutland) and replacing them at month’s end with a new AC/full-service simulcast as “101 the One,” picking up the musical direction that’s faded away as sister station WDEV has gone to more talk, news and sports.
In Boston, the ill-starred 1510 facility (WUFC at the moment) entered a new LMA, this time trading Yahoo! Sports Radio for a mix of libertarian talk, sports and leased time under Kevin “Dr. K” Walls; we’d hear more about it later in the year. Out on Nantucket, Jeff Shapiro announced plans to turn his WNCK (89.5) from a WCRB classical simulcast into a full-fledged local “Nantucket Public Radio,” adding to an already robust mix of public radio in the Cape and Islands.
In Albany, Empire Broadcasting started a shuffle of its AMs and translators, ending the Time Warner Cable News/YNN simulcast on WUAM (900 Watervliet), moving the “Moon” standards from WABY (1160 Mechanicville) to 900, rebranded as WABY, and relaunching 1160 and a 106.1 translator as AC “Mix 106.1,” WAIX. In Binghamton, Equinox also launched a new translator-based format, oldies “Solid Gold 104.5,” its fifth format in the market. And Clear Channel’s rolling cuts, while never approaching the “33% of all staff” that certain scaremongers predicted, did cost the jobs of veteran WHAM (1180 Rochester) morning man Chet Walker and the morning team at WRNX (100.9 Springfield), though they were at least able to move to other dayparts while mornings went syndicated there.
Gone: WPNI (1430 Amherst), surrendered by Pamal after an ill-fated sale to Brian Dodge never closes.
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> > > Continue to part three: More of The Year in Formats, People and Calls
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