The Year in People and Formats (Part II)
By SCOTT FYBUSH
It’s time once again for our Year in Review, the 23rd 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 through our wrap-up on Friday, December 30, so check back every day for a new installment. We’ll resume our regular NorthEast Radio Watch report on Monday, January 2, 2017. (And in the meantime, our own Twitter and Facebook feeds and RadioInsight will be here with any breaking news!)
The third installment of our Year in Review (catch up on yesterday’s installment here) continues our annual roundup of people and formats on the move in the never-ending whirl that is radio and TV in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada.
Greater Media’s shift of Boston’s WBOS (92.9) to “Alt 92.9” was the first headline from the group in July, but of course far from the last – later in the month, “Alt” and the rest of Greater Media would be folded into Beasley in a $240 million deal.
On Long Island, Cox’s WBLI (106.1) replaced Dana DiDonato and Jayson Prim in mornings with the new “Cooper Lawrence Show,” starting July 11.
Over in Danbury, Connecticut, Berkshire Broadcasting’s WAXB (850 Ridgefield) shifted its classic hits FM simulcast from “B107” to “B94.5” with the launch of W233CF (94.5) on July 4; 107.3 relaunched the next day with country as “The Bull,” fed from an HD subchannel of WDAQ (98.3).
In Canada, Vista Radio split its Niagara simulcast on July 15, taking CFLZ (101.1 Fort Erie) from “2Day FM” to variety hits as “Juice FM,” leaving “2Day” on CJED (105.1 Niagara Falls). On the same frequency, CIQB (101.1 Barrie ON) flipped from “B101” to classic hits “Big 101” on July 29.
New: WZML-LP (92.9 Bryn Mawr PA), WPPM-LP (106.5 Philadelphia), CFBN (93.3 St. Catharines ON, testing with Welland Canal information)
With its last hopes of keeping its NBC affiliation dashed, Boston’s WHDH-TV (Channel 7) unveiled a new, news-heavy independent schedule for 2017, leaving the CW affiliation on sister station WLVI (Channel 56). Over at Entercom, John Dennis exited WEEI (93.7)’s sports talk lineup.
Speaking of sports talk, Josh Innes was out at WIP (94.1 Philadelphia), in part because of some heated comments he made about the competition, Greater Media’s WPEN-FM (97.5), after the news broke that the other guys were using a white producer as a fake black caller. (Innes landed at Houston’s KBME a few weeks later, a move that also took his partner “Silly Jilly” from Philly’s WZMP 96.5 to the Lone Star State.)
In western Maine, Dick Gleason made some big changes to his station lineup at the start of the month: the successful new “Z105.5” format that had already been running on WEZR (1240 Lewiston) and its 105.5 translator picked up a new simulcast on WOXO (92.7 Norway), which became “Maine’s Big Z 92.7 & 105.5” as it changed calls to WEZR-FM. WOXO’s country format remained on simulcast WTBM (100.7 Mexico, which took the WOXO-FM calls), and it also relocated to WKTQ (1450 South Paris, now WOXO), which added new translator W245CQ (96.9 South Paris) and became “96.9/100.7 the Ox.”
In Bangor, Blueberry Broadcasting kept WAEI (910) after attempting to sell it; it became WABK(AM), while WABK (104.3 Gardiner) became “WABK-FM” again on the FCC’s books. Across town, Pine Tree changed the calls of WNZS (1340 Veazie) to WBAN, keeping its news-talk format.
In Olean, N.Y., Community Broadcasters flipped WHDL (1450) to top-40 “Hot 107.1” with the addition of new translator W296DB.
In Ottawa, August 26 was switch day for CIDG (101.9 Ottawa) and CHIP (101.7 Fort-Coulonge QC), which traded frequencies for improved signals. The swap also spelled the end for the “Dawg” blues/rock format on CIDG, which went to mainstream rock as “Rebel 101.7.”
Montreal said farewell to CJAD (800) weekend legend Dave Fisher, who departed with a show in front of a live audience August 14.
Gone: CJVA (810 Caraquet NB, August 1, moved to FM); CKSL (1410 London ON, August 14, shut down by Bell)
One of the bigger format swaps of the year happened in Philadelphia Sept. 27, when Radio One again juggled its lineup to put gospel “Praise” WPPZ on the more city-focused 107.9 signal (licensed to Pennsauken NJ), moving classic hip-hop “Boom” WPHI from 107.9 to the more suburban 103.9 (Jenkintown-licensed) signal.
On the other end of the state, WAVL (910 Apollo) dropped “Mountain” classic rock to begin simulcasting “PA Talk” with new sister station WCNS (1480 Latrobe).
New York’s Gambling era ended with John R. Gambling’s retirement from the 11 AM to 1 PM shift at Salem’s WNYM (970), a position he’d taken after long runs at WOR, WABC, and then back at WOR, where his father and grandfather had worked since the 1920s.
In Vermont, Steve “Corm” Cormier departed the morning show at WCVT (101.7 Stowe)/WEXP (101.5 Brandon), handing the wakeup reins to former WWFY (“Froggy 100.9”) jock J.D. Greene. Down the road at WSNO (1450 Barre), Sept. 3 brought a new top-40 format as “105.7 the Beat,” with the addition of new translator W289CH.
Another format change in the Ottawa market saw CFTX (96.5 Gatineau QC) flip on Sept. 22 from “Capitale Rock” (at night, anyway; by day, it was simulcasting French sports CKLX 91.9 from Montreal) to “Pop 96.5,” with French hits from the 70s and 80s. South of Hamilton, CKJN (92.9 Haldimand-Norfolk) flipped from country to classic hits as CHTG, “92.9 the Grand,” under new Durham Radio ownership.
New: “Tony” variety hits over Utica’s W256AJ (99.1)/WKLL (94.9-HD2), 11 AM Sept. 8; WDKM (92.5 Poulteney VT, relaying WCKM 98.5 Lake George NY), Sept. 9; WYNE-LP (95.9 Wayne NJ).
The start of the NHL season brought a long-awaited new radio home for the New York Islanders; after several years on Hofstra University’s WRHU (88.7), the team finally returned to full-market radio coverage for at least part of the season on WFAN (660/101.9). WFAN became only a part-time home for the New Jersey Devils, who created a new streaming home for the rest of their games.
In Woonsocket, Rhode Island, an errant SUV crashed into WNRI (1380) late at night, slamming into GM Dick Bouchard’s office and doing some serious structural damage to the building. (But not, however, taking the station off the air.)
Veteran Elmira TV anchor Jeff Stone announced his retirement from WETM (Channel 18) after 35 years with the NBC affiliate and 40 years in the market.
In Boston, WBZ-TV (Channel 4), WCVB (Channel 5), WGBX (Channel 44) and WSBK (Channel 38) suffered their second catastrophic master antenna failure in four years on Oct. 22, forcing Patriots fans to find new ways to see the team’s game that weekend and disrupting the market’s TV signals until repairs were complete in early December.
On the New Hampshire seacoast, silent WMYF (1380 Portsmouth) changed calls to WMGE.
In Oshawa, Ontario, Oct. 27 brought a new identity to “Channel 12 Durham,” as Corus-owned CHEX-TV-2 (Channel 22) was rebranded as “Global Durham,” adding Global newscasts from Toronto to what had been a short-lived CTV affiliation.
New to the air: WHAV-LP (97.9 Haverhill MA), WCSQ-LP (105.9 Cobleskill NY)
A veteran Don Imus cast member said his farewells at WABC (770), as Warner Wolf wrapped up a decade at the station, apparently not entirely by his own choice. Mid-morning host Sid Rosenberg added sports duties with the I-Man.
Downtown at iHeart’s WKTU (103.5), the departure of night host Jagger (who took the PD role at WKCI and WKSS in Connecticut) brought twins “Lulu and Lala” back to New York from Florida to take the night slot.
Out at the tip of Long Island, the young new co-owners of WELJ (104.7 Montauk) pulled the plug on “Nash Icon” country (the filler format provided to former owner Joule by its trust partner, Cumulus) to go all-Christmas ahead of a year-end relaunch with standards/soft AC.
In Rockland County, local talk and AC vanished from WRCR (1700 Ramapo) less than a year after the station launched its new expanded-band signal. The talk went to a webcast while the X-band AM signal went Indian.
In Boston, Beasley terminated its time brokerage deals on WRCA (1330 Watertown) on Nov. 14, taking the station silent ahead of a 2017 relaunch with an FM translator simulcast. Up in Lowell, Gois Communications asked the FCC for permission to turn off the Lowell transmitter of WLLH (1400) after 82 years on the air, making its Lawrence synchronous transmitter the only WLLH signal.
At opposite ends of US 15 in Pennsylvania, WNBQ (92.3 Mansfield) changed calls to WOGA, while WNUZ (92.1 Greencastle) went from “My 92.1” to “92.1 Hits-FM.”
New to the air: WBTS-LP Boston (as “channel 8,” the future home of NBC Boston, Nov. 10); CJBU (107.3 Sydney NS, Nov. 18); WHMV-LP 97.5 Mohawk NY; WLGU 90.7 Lancaster NY; W251BU (Eastern Long Island’s new “Oldies 98.1,” fed by WRCN 103.9-HD2).
Gone: CKAV (106.5 Toronto), after multiple failed appeals by Aboriginal Voices Radio of the CRTC’s denial of its license renewal.
CBS Radio’s pre-IPO cutbacks dominated much of the month’s news; in Pittsburgh, that meant Shelley Duffy’s exit from KDKA (1020)’s afternoon news block; in New York, the exit of WCBS-FM production director Chris Angelo; in Philadelphia, Valerie Knight’s departure as morning co-host on WOGL-FM (98.1). In Boston, Diane Stern retired from the afternoon news chair on WBZ (1030) after a 36-year run with the station.
CBS Radio News operates separately from the CBS Radio stations, but it suffered big cuts, too, apparently following a tough renegotiation of its distribution deal with Cumulus-owned Westwood One. Anchors Bill Whitney and Harley Carnes and New York-based executive producer Charlie Kaye were among the veterans who took buyouts just before the holidays.
Beasley’s takeover of the former Greater Media stations meant the exits of a number of Greater Media veterans. In Boston, Wally Brine retired from WROR-FM (105.7) on Dec. 16 after more than three decades with the frequency as WVBF, WCLB, WKLB-FM and WROR. In Philadelphia and New Jersey, Greater Media director of engineering Milford “Smitty” Smith was out, while WMGQ (98.3 New Brunswick) morning man Chris McCoy exited at the start of November.
In Providence, John DePetro’s “temporary” leave from WPRO (630) turned into a full-fledged departure on Christmas Eve.
Western New York lost two news veterans – at WHEC (Channel 10) in Rochester, Janet Lomax anchored her last newscast Dec. 22 after 36 years with the station, while WBEN (930 Buffalo) morning newsman John Zach leaves the air there Dec. 30.
Go as far Down East as you can go in Maine and you get to Calais, where “Firedog” Tom McLaughlin has been the voice of news for three decades on WQDY (92.7 Calais) and WALZ (95.3 Machias). He stepped away after his Dec. 16 morning show. Back up the coast in Milbridge, Maine Public Broadcasting took over WRMO (93.7) as part of its renamed “Maine Public Classical” network.
In Vermont, WFAD (1490 Middlebury) returned to the air with a new translator, simulcasting “Mix” WIXM (102.3 Grand Isle). And in coastal New Hampshire, silent WMGE (1380 Portsmouth) changed calls again, to WPLA.
In north-central Pennsylvania, Magnum’s WQKK (106.9 Renovo) flipped from hot AC “Y106.9” to “Totally Awesome 80s, Q1069.”
In Toronto, CHFI (98.1) morning co-host Erin Davis signed off Dec. 15, moving west for family reasons.