The Year in People, Formats and Calls (Part I)

By SCOTT FYBUSH

2015-yirtop

It’s time once again for our Year in Review, the 22nd time we’ve gathered up our headlines from the previous 12 months and tried to sum it all up for you. Year in Review installments will appear daily beginning today through our wrap-up on Thursday, December 31, so check back every day for a new installment. We’ll resume our regular NorthEast Radio Watch report on Monday, January 4, 2015, and Tower Site of the Week is back this Friday to ring in the New Year. (And in the meantime, our own Twitter and Facebook feeds and RadioInsight will be here with any breaking news!)

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We’ll count down the top ten biggest stories of the year starting in tomorrow’s installment, but first, as we do each year, we take a month-by-month run through the rest of the year’s headlines in people, formats and callsigns.

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JANUARY

wrve-wildcountryNew Year’s format changes included Utica’s WODZ (96.1) flipping from oldies to “Eagle” classic hits and Albany’s WZMR (104.9) flipping from “Peak” AAA to CBS Sports Radio as WINU. iHeart was also active in Albany, launching “99.9 Wild Country” on an HD2-fed translator, and in New Haven, launching “Rock 102” on another HD2-fed translator that was soon the subject of interference complaints.

Speaking of Connecticut, Connoisseur launched classic rock “Whale” on WDRC-FM (102.9 Hartford), removing the last remnants of the Buckley-area DRC-FM.

In New York City, Salem relaunched WMCA’s religious format as “The Mission” on January 19, two weeks after Townsquare replaced oldies with regional Mexican on WEOK (1390 Poughkeepsie) and, for a while at least, WALL (1340 Middletown). New York finally got a permanent WOR (710) morning show, too, with the launch of Len Berman and Todd Schnitt’s odd-couple pairing.

whgb-965Cumulus moved CBS Sports Radio to a new home on its new 96.5 translator in Harrisburg, freeing up WHGB (1400) and its 95.3 translator to become NASH Icon classic country. In Scranton, Bill Kelly was ousted as president emeritus at WVIA public broadcasting. And on the south coast of Massachusetts, Pete Braley was ousted at WBSM (1420 New Bedford) but landed over at WPLM-FM (99.1) within a few weeks.

FEBRUARY

Saga quietly segued WFEA (1370 Manchester NH) from standards to talk, later adding a new FM translator to the 5 kW AM signal. Across the state line in Maine, Bob Bittner took WJYE (1280 Gardiner) from his usual “Memories” AC/oldies mix to “Country Memories.”

wxlo-floodingIn Worcester, a burst pipe flooded out the studios of Cumulus’ three-station cluster, causing significant damage.

Family Stations returned to New York City’s airwaves with the Feb. 27 launch of WFME (1560) on the former Radio Disney WQEW signal.

In northeast Pennsylvania, GEOS put its GEM oldies format on WAZL (1490 Hazleton), at least for a few months. Over in Carlisle, WHYL (960) returned to the air with oldies under new ownership. In Martinsburg, WWBJ (1110) returned to its former calls, WJSM.

North of the border, Corus put “Fresh” hot AC in place at CKWS (104.3 Kingston) and CKRU (100.5 Peterborough).

New to the air: CHRF 980 Montreal (Feb. 2), CKMO 101.5 Orangeville (Feb. 17), CKYY 89.1 Welland (Feb. 21).

Gone: CIRA-5 (1350 Ottawa)

MARCH

Pittsburgh morning legend Jim Quinn returned to the airwaves, but not in his home market; instead, he started a new syndicated/streaming offering with Rochester-market WYSL (1040) as a flagship.

In New York, rock legends Vin Scelsa (WFUV) and Pat St. John (WCBS-FM) announced their plans to retire from their weekend airshifts in May and April, respectively. In Boston, Candy O’Terry didn’t make a fuss about her retirement from mornings at WMJX (106.7), instead leaving the station quietly after an impressively long run.

In Connecticut, former governor John Rowland was sentenced to 30 months behind bars, effectively ending his afternoon career on WTIC (1080) and paving the way for sports talk in that timeslot instead.

wqsh-rewindIn Albany, WQSH (105.7) made headlines for going all-Christmas for a week, followed by a segue to “Rewind” with 90s hits on March 12. To the east, Great Eastern flipped WKKN (101.9) in Keene and WTHK (100.7) in southern Vermont from “Kixx” country to “Peak” AAA on March 16; in Keene, Saga killed off “Kool” oldies, moving “Keene Classics” to its 103.1 translator and “River” to its 99.1 translator.

In southern New Jersey, WJKS (101.7) became news-talk WDEL-FM, continuing to serve audiences across the river in Delaware.

The classic hip-hop wave washed ashore in Erie, where Cumulus flipped HD/translator top-40 “i104.3” to “the Vibe.”

On TV, PMCM lost its bid to keep cross-country move WJLP on virtual channel 3 in New York; it was ordered to use virtual 33 instead, reducing its potential for good channel positioning on cable and satellite.

New: CHSV 106.7 Hudson-St. Lazare QC (March 9)

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APRIL

Pennsylvania was the keystone for radio action this month, including CBS Radio’s long-awaited rebranding on April 10 of “Wired” (WRDW-FM 96.5) to “Amp,” with new calls of WZMP following. In Scranton, Entercom pulled the plug on “Sports Hub” WHBS (102.3 Pittston) the same day, relaunching it as “Max 102” WMQX. In Lancaster, Hall’s WLPA (1490) flipped from sports to standards, adding an FM translator at 92.5 later in the year.

wggb-wshm-westernmassnewsOn TV, Meredith’s takeover at Springfield’s WGGB (Channel 40) and its Fox 6 subchannel meant a newsroom consolidation, with Meredith’s CBS affiliate WSHM (Channel 21) moving in at WGGB under a joint “Western Mass News” banner starting April 21.

At Boston’s WBZ (1030), veteran afternoon anchor Anthony Silva headed for a very happy retirement after four decades on the air.

In Canada, two big broadcasters were rocked by big personnel news: at the CBC, a devastating report exposed former “Q” host Jian Ghomeshi’s abuses and executives’ cover-ups; over at Bell, Kevin Crull was ousted as president of Bell Media after news broke of his attempts to tamper with news coverage at CTV.

New to the air: Ritmo Broadcasting’s Philadelphia “Super Q” (on a 97.1 translator and WPEN 97.5’s HD3) launched April 1, quickly changing its name to “Supra FM” to avoid conflicts with iHeart’s WIOQ.

MAY

chry-vibeThe month kicked off with a surprise format change in Toronto, where York University transitioned CHRY (105.5) from student/community programming to a more tightly formatted urban sound as “VIBE,” prompting protests that didn’t seem to go anywhere.

Pennsylvania once again had plenty of formats shifting – in Lancaster, iHeart’s WLPA (1390) traded talk for “Rumba” May 4; in Pittsburgh, Salem’s talk format launched on WPGP (Radio Disney’s former WDDZ 1250) on May 13, with former Jim Quinn sidekick Rose Somma Tennant doing a local morning show; back in Lancaster, Hall segued “Rose” WROZ 101.3 to “Fun” hot AC on May 14; in State College, WRSC (1390) went from sports back to news-talk, freeing up WRSC-FM (103.1) to go classic hits as “Happy 103.”

In New York, Johnny Donovan departed the production room at WABC (770) after a career there that started back in the Musicradio 77 days; downtown, the first test digital TV signals fired up in the overnight hours from the new 1 World Trade Center, though broadcasters are waiting for the spectrum auction and repack to play out before making any commitments to the new building. The always-troubled WBAI (99.5) was two months late vacating its borrowed studios at Harlem Community College, but finally began broadcasting from its new Brooklyn home at 388 Atlantic Avenue on May 1.

Albany’s WTRY (98.3) dropped “oldies” from its name to become just “98.3 TRY”; on Long Island, Connoisseur’s WBZO (103.1) dropped classic hits entirely to become “103.1 Max FM” with a bigger signal made possible by a directional notch at sister WDRC-FM in Connecticut, while WLIR (107.1) on the East End became religious “Hope Radio.”

wlng-potzMore veterans departed the airwaves – at Long Island’s WLNG (92.1), Rusty Potz handed his afternoon shift off to Brian Bannon, while the Jersey Shore’s Pinky Kravitz had medical problems that took him off the air after more than half a century at WOND (1400).

Pittsburgh TV viewers noticed a new set of calls on MyTV affiliate WPMY (Channel 22), which became WPNT(TV).

In Canada, Corus’ “Fresh” branding arrived at CHAY (93.1) in Barrie, Ontario May 15.

JUNE

whtz-jjlastdayDrive-time openings at the nation’s biggest top-40 station are rare indeed, but one appeared at iHeart’s Z100 (WHTZ 100.3) in New York when J.J. Kincaid moved to Denver to take over mornings at KBTP (Party 95.7). His move west cleared the way for night guy Mo’ Bounce to take over afternoons on Z100.

In Westchester County, Cumulus cleaned house at WFAS (1230), replacing most of what little local staff remained on Secor Road with its Westwood One syndicated talent. Over at Pamal, veteran weekend jock Ed Baer retired at month’s end.

Up north, Burlington got a classic hip-hop station with the June 15 launch of “Kiss” WJKS (104.3 Keeseville NY), the signal that was formerly known as WECM and formerly located in the Upper Valley before moving across the state.

After a long career with Clear Channel/iHeart on the New Hampshire Seacoast, Jeff Pierce moved across the state line to head up Saga’s Portland Radio Group.

In New Haven, iHeart’s “Rock 102” morphed to “100.9 the Beat” after the HD-fed translator was displaced to a new frequency.

wbz-williamsreunionIn Boston, veteran WBZ-TV (Channel 4) anchor Jack Williams retired after just under 40 years with the station, the last member of the station’s legendary anchor team that endured through the 1980s and 1990s.

The CRTC finally gave troubled Aboriginal Voices Radio the “death penalty,” revoking its remaining licenses and putting those frequencies up for new applications, but legal appeals kept Voices on the air in Toronto for a few months more.

In the Maritimes, the CBC/Radio-Canada moved into new, smaller quarters in Moncton, New Brunswick on June 19, following a similar move in Halifax a few months earlier.

Gone: Cumulus surrendered the license to WPUT (1510 Brewster NY); the calls moved over to Dennis Jackson’s WQCD (90.1 North Salem). In Massena, Dotty Wade turned off WYBG (1050), pending a sale that never materialized.

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< < < Back to Part I – The Year in Station Sales

> > > On Wednesday – The Year in Formats, People and Calls continues

CALENDARS — CALENDARS — CALENDARS

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