The Year in Programming, People and Calls (July-December)
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!)
Back to Part Two: The Year in People, Formats and Calls
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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.
It’s Cumulus leading off the month’s news with its July 4 relaunch of the former WFAS-FM (103.9), relocating the signal from Westchester County to the Bronx after many decades. As part of the Cumulus New York cluster, 103.9 becomes “New York’s 103.9,” WNBM, playing rhythmic hits and oldies for the limited portions of the city that can hear its class A signal from atop the Montefiore Medical Center. Back in Westchester, WFAS (1230 White Plains) soldiers on with a skeleton staff as an AC/talk hybrid, joined at summer’s end by translator W232AL, relocated from Rockland to Westchester as a replacement “WFAS-FM.”
Along the Jersey shore, Press rebrands WWZY (107.1)/WBHX (99.7) as “Fun 107.1,” while downshore Equity pulls the plug on “Sunny” WSNQ (102.3 Cape May Court House), returning it to a simulcast of rhythmic WZBZ (99.3 Pleasantville/Atlantic City) under the WGBZ calls.
In Connecticut, July 7 is the day Connoisseur takes control of Buckley’s WDRC-FM (102.9 Hartford) – and the day most of its airstaff, including PD Grahame Winters, floyd Wright and Ron Sedaiile, are shown the door. July talent cuts also include Marti Casper, morning host at Stephens’ WFKL (93.3) in Rochester, though she’ll soon resurface up the dial at WLGZ (102.7 Webster).
In Pittsburgh, rumors begin swirling of a big FM format flip at Clear Channel – and up the dial at CBS Radio’s WDSY (107.9), veteran afternoon jock Stoney Richards announces his plans to depart September 10.
A surprise FCC thaw of some very old translator applications yields a New York-market construction permit for California’s Living Way, which gets 91.9 in “Weehawken NJ” to operate from Manhattan in potential conflict with WHCR (90.3)’s Harlem application to move to that same frequency.
Gone: CJFL 104.7 Iroquois Falls ON (July 2, after failing to win a power increase from the CRTC); CKCO-TV-2 Wiarton ON (deleted after losing its transmitter site in February); 23 North Street, the longtime home of Buffalo’s WEBR radio, after massive fire damage preceding a planned renovation.
The Clear Channel Pittsburgh rumors turn into very sudden reality on August 1, as the talk format at WPGB (104.7) gives way to country as “Big 104.7,” sending Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the former WPGB lineup over to WJAS (1320) and displacing the standards format there.
In Hartford, Marlin’s exit from the market is immediate: on August 1 at 5 PM, rocker WCCC-FM (106.9) flips to K-Love under an LMA ahead of an eventual sale of the FM and sister WCCC (1290) to EMF Broadcasting. Over at WDRC-FM, Kim Zachary, the last Buckley holdover, exits mornings as Connoisseur begins simulcasting Chaz and AJ from WPLR in New Haven.
In Boston, Baltazar’s morning run at Greater Media’s WBQT (Hot 96.9) turns out to be a brief one: after just over a year, he’s out and Pebbles picks up new co-hosts .Baltazar’s run in Boston pales by comparison to the 38-year WBZ-TV (Channel 4) career of anchor Jack Williams, who announces his retirement, and the 41 years of morning anchor Harry Donahue at KYW (1060) in Philadelphia, also at an end.
Out on the East End of Long Island, WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays) partners up with New Jersey’s WAWZ-FM (99.1) to go Christian hits as “Star 107.1.”
Rogers’ sale of its last FM news signals in the Maritimes brings format changes: “Rock 88.9” at CHNI in Saint John, NB and AC “91.9 the Bend” at CKNI in Moncton. Elsewhere in eastern Canada, the national brands march on: CHST (102.3 London) from “Bob” to “Jack,” CKRU (100.5 Peterborough) to “Hits 100.5”, CJSS (101.9 Cornwall) to “Boom” and CFLG (104.5 Cornwall) from “Variety” to “Fresh.”
New to the air: CFMO (102.9 Collingwood ON, relaying CFMZ 96.3 Toronto), Aug. 30
Western New York is in the spotlight with a series of format changes including a Townsquare shift of WJYE (96.1) to hotter AC as “Mix” WMSX and a triple flip in Rochester on September 11. Entercom made the big announcement that it was moving longtime WPXY (97.9) morning team Scott Spezzano and Sandy Waters down the hall to Kimberly and Beck’s former slot on “Buzz” WBZA (98.9). But that news was just getting headlines when Clear Channel stole the thunder with its own surprise announcement later that same morning – Kimberly and Beck’s return to the air on WQBW (95.1), renamed from “Brew” to “Radio 95.1” with new calls, WAIO, to follow. Clear Channel also flipped “Oldies” WODX (107.3) in suburban Rochester to “Bull” country as WNBL, and it hired WPXY’s Raphael “Raph” Opida away to do afternoons on competitor “Kiss” WKGS (106.7) in Rochester and at his new home base, WIOQ (Q102) in Philadelphia. (“Bull” also showed up on the New Hampshire seacoast, where “Kiss” WSKX 95.3 became WTBU with country.)
Downstate, Connoisseur’s acquisition of Clear Channel’s trust-consigned WALK-FM (97.5) and WALK (1370) on Long Island made 1370 a simulcast of standards WHLI (1100). In the Hudson Valley, Clear Channel’s WRNQ (92.1 Poughkeepsie) reclaimed its old “Q102” identity after spending time as “Lite.” And veteran WINS (1010) morning anchor Judy DeAngelis pulled her last early shift as she headed into retirement.
Radio Disney’s plan to shut down its remaining AMs met with objections from company lawyers, whose concerns about FCC reaction led Disney to instead keep the AMs alive with skeleton staffs and no local content until sales could be completed. (At year’s end, only WQEW 1560 in New York had found a buyer among the NERW-land Disney AMs still remaining with the company, which also include Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.)
In central Pennsylvania, Hall flipped rock WKZF (92.7 Starview) to sports as WLPA-FM.
In northern Vermont, WIFY (93.7 Addison) dropped “Cruisin’ Oldies” to join Steve Silberberg’s “Point” chain of AAA signals. And continuing north to Montreal, CKLX (91.9) rebranded from “Radio X” to “Radio 9.”
On TV, the month’s big news came from New Hampshire, where Bill Binnie’s WBIN (Channel 50) launched its new “New Hampshire 1” news from a glitzy HD production facility carefully retrofitted into an historic Concord schoolhouse.
Gone: WUTI (1150 Utica NY), WFWO (89.7 Medina NY), WDNR (89.5 Chester PA, surrendered by Widener University), WSHD (91.7 Eastport ME, replaced by a higher-powered LPFM license, WSHD-LP 93.3).
New to the air: CKEZ (97.9 Pictou NS), Sept. 15.
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The start of the fourth quarter always seems to bring some unhappy cutbacks in staffing, and that included CBS Radio’s morning show at Fresh (WWFS 102.7) in New York, where Jim Douglas was ousted from his half of the “Jim and Kim Show.”
At the CBC, there were plenty of budget cuts, but it wasn’t finances that ended the career of “Q” host Jian Ghomeshi; instead, his time at the Corporation ended amidst a flood of accusations of sexual misconduct that dominated Canadian headlines for several weeks.
Dick Morris’ dreams of becoming the next Rush/Glenn/Sean ended about as badly as most of his political prognostications; he exited WPHT (1210 Philadelphia) after a year’s run in afternoon drive that failed to lead to a national radio platform.
Cumulus’ “Nash” country formats continued their slow expansion, with WORC-FM (98.9) in Worcester dropping oldies for “Nash Icon” and WELJ (104.7) on Long Island’s East End dropping hot AC for a simulcast of “Nash” from WNSH (94.7) in the New York market.
In “Bob” news from northern New England, WSCS (90.9 New London NH) relaunched Oct. 9 as “Classical WSCS” in the hands of Bob Vinikoor, while Bob Bittner changed WFAU (1280 Gardiner ME) to WJYE, explaining that “FAU spells FAilUre, while JYE spells Joy.”
Public radio WFCR (88.5 Amherst) and its New England Public Radio sisters relocated from their longtime home at Hampshire Hall on the UMass campus to a new studio/office in downtown Springfield.
In the Lehigh Valley, WWYY (107.1 Belvidere NJ) flipped from active rock “Bone” to modern rock “Spin Radio,” and in Williamsport Clear Channel – er, “iHeart Media” – launched a new “Rock 94.9” format on an HD2 and translator W235BA.
“Pastor Will” Marotti left WTIC (1080 Hartford)’s talk lineup, Dave Symonds returned to the region to replace Mike Wheeler at the helm of the iHeart/Clear Channel cluster in Hartford, and veteran Binghamton engineer Geno Ricciardelli was honored as a Fellow of the Society of Broadcast Engineers.
The long soap opera that was “Howie and WRKO” finally turned a new page in Boston as Carr moved up the dial to WUFC (1510), under its new-old calls WMEX (more on that later this week in our Top Ten Stories of the Year!)
Classic hip-hop was the month’s hot format, and it landed in Philadelphia Nov. 6 at Radio One’s WPHI (107.9), now known as “Boom.”
Election day didn’t return former Providence mayor/ex-con Buddy Cianci to office, but it did bring him back to the airwaves at WPRO (630)/WEAN (99.7); it was kinder to veteran Rochester anchor Rich Funke, now in the state Senate.
In Ottawa, “Bob” signed off after years of variety hits at CKKL (93.9), replaced by “94 Country.”
In Scranton, WARM (590) returned from the dead once more, this time with some actual plans for facility reconstruction – and with a format change from oldies to CBS Sports Radio.
Budget cuts at Greater Media’s WROR (105.7) in Boston ousted morning humorist Tom Doyle; at iHeart in Rochester, Dave LeFrois exited as market manager. In Amsterdam, Bob Cudmore’s retirement from mornings at WVTL (1570) ended a long Capital Region radio career.
New: WECM (104.3), stunting with Christmas tunes from its new Burlington-market home of Keeseville NY; WOLD-LP (107.9 Woodbridge NJ), with oldies; CKMO (101.5 Orangeville ON), testing
Gone: WPUT (1510 Brewster NY), silent at least temporarily and maybe for good
The closing of the big CBS Radio-Beasley trade flipped Philadelphia’s WIP (610) to new calls of WTEL after 92 years, but it didn’t bring about the long-expected simulcast of KYW (1060) on FM.
In northern Maine, a drunk driver treated WFST (600 Caribou) like a drive-in, plowing through the station offices but leaving behind a license plate that led to a speedy arrest. Weather was to blame for a downed tower in southern Maine, temporarily silencing WMDR-FM (88.9 Oakland) later in the month.
Prominent names leaving the airwaves at year’s end included Syracuse investigative journalist Jim Kenyon, a four-decade veteran of WSTM (Channel 3) and, less voluntarily, WBSM (1420 New Bedford) morning institution Pete Braley.
In New York, WPLJ (95.5)’s “Todd Show” made changes in its lineup, with Cooper Lawrence and production guy Fitz exiting and a new news/sidekick, Jayde Donovan, incoming.
In Binghamton, iHeart flipped WINR (680) and its 96.9 translator from oldies to classic country as “US 96.9.”
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> > > Continue to Part Four: Our Top Ten Countdown of the year’s biggest stories
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