The Year in People and Formats (Part I)
By SCOTT FYBUSH
It’s time once again for our Year in Review, the 24th 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 Monday, January 1, so check back every day for a new installment. We’ll resume our regular NorthEast Radio Watch report on Tuesday, January 2, 2018. (And in the meantime, our own Twitter and Facebook feeds and RadioInsight will be here with any breaking news!)
The second installment of our Year in Review (catch up on yesterday’s installment here) begins 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.
The New Year rang in with a new network O&O in Boston, where NBC launched its new “NBC Boston” with a live broadcast of the city’s big party, while longtime affiliate WHDH-TV (Channel 7) began its new life as a news-heavy independent station. A year later, the results were decidedly mixed: WHDH hung on to most of its news viewers while NBC struggled for ratings with its new newscasts.
Some end-of-2016 format changes made our headlines at the start of 2017: WKVT (92.7 Brattleboro VT) from classic hits to “Iconic Rock” classic rock and the post-Christmas launch of soft AC on WELJ (104.7 Montauk NY). Those were followed quickly by the first big surprise flip of 2017, CBS Radio’s conversion of Philadelphia’s “AMP” WZMP to “Today’s 96.5” WTDY-FM on Jan. 5, followed an hour later in Boston by Entercom’s launch of “The New 97.7” WKAF with R&B, replacing a simulcast of active rock WAAF.
In Connecticut, Connoisseur ended the trimulcast of New Haven-based “Chaz and AJ,” returning local morning shows to WFOX in Fairfield County and WDRC-FM in Hartford. (Later in the month in New Haven, former WPLR morning voice Brian Smith resurfaced in afternoons over at WQUN 1220.)
In Pennsylvania, Seven Mountains installed “Big Lewie” classic hits to replace news/talk on WIEZ (670 Lewistown, renamed WLUI with a new 92.9 translator). On the Jersey Shore, news/talk disappeared from WOBM (1160)/WADB (1310) in favor of oldies “Beach Radio.” In Vermont, oldies “Big Cat” disappeared from WCAT (1390 Burlington), moving across Lake Champlain to WPLB (1070 Plattsburgh) as “Mid-Century Radio.”
Dropped from Cumulus’ big WPRO, Rhode Island’s John DePetro signed on to do his talk show at smaller WADK (1540 Newport), a gig that wouldn’t last out the year. In Worcester, veteran talker Hank Stolz was replaced at WCRN (830) by a simulcast of WFXT’s morning TV news.
John Garabedian closed out the month by wrapping up his hosting career on “Open House Party,” remaining as the show’s owner and producer overseeing new host Kannon. Another veteran, CHUM-FM’s Ingrid Schumacher, was ousted from her morning co-host slot, the first of many Bell cuts in 2017.
New to the air: CFBN (93.3 St. Catharines ON), with traffic information, CJKS (93.5 Ohsweken ON).
Progressive talk faded away in Ithaca, with oldies taking its place at WNYY (1470). Saga made changes in New England, too, installing “Outlaw Country” on its 103.1 Concord translator (formerly “Hits”) and “Lazer” rock WLZX in place of progressive talk WHNP (1600 East Longmeadow), with a new translator at 105.1.
In Maine, Bill Binnie’s Feb. 20 shuffles dropped classical W-Bach from WBQX (106.9 Thomaston), replacing it with “Frank” classic hits, which freed up that format’s former home, WBYA (105.5 Islesboro) to become country “Wolf.”
Times-Shamrock shaved the “Fuzz” off its WFUZ (92.1) in Scranton, rebranding as “Alt 92.1.”
In Utica, WUTQ (100.7) dropped AC at the end of the month to go all-talk as “Talk! 100.7,” exclamation point and all.
In Canada, community station CKMS in Waterloo, Ontario moved to a bigger signal on 102.7 on Feb. 17, allowing CKRZ (also on 100.3) in Ohsweken to boost its power to better reach Hamilton and the Niagara peninsula.
Retired: Fran Schneidau, who spent 40 years as Connecticut bureau chief for WCBS (880).
Gone: WDJZ (1530 Bridgeport CT), deleted Feb. 2 after a year off the air.
New to the air: WFPR-LP (102.9 Franklin MA), at 10:29 AM Feb. 2.
Hall kicked off the month with a surprise New London format change March 1, with classic hits “K-Hits” replacing hot AC “Roxy” on WKNL (100.9). At Press Communications on the New Jersey shore two days later, WWZY (107.1 Long Branch) dropped hot AC “Fun 107” in favor of classic rock as “The Boss;” the flip also took Ocean County sister station WBHX (99.7 Tuckerton) from classic hits “The Island” to a “Boss” simulcast.
The parade of retiring TV veterans included longtime Syracuse anchor Carrie Lazarus at WSYR-TV and 37-year veteran anchor Anne Richter up the road at WWNY-TV in Watertown.
A March 8 storm that ripped through the region took down the tower of WGGO (1590 Salamanca) and knocked out power to dozens of other signals. In Albany, a different kind of storm blew veteran WGNA (107.7) morning man Sean McMaster across town from Townsquare to Albany Broadcasting’s WYJB (95.5), while Albany Broadcasting’s WFLY (92.3) lost its morning team of Brian Cody and Chrissy Cavotta to WGNA.
In New Hampshire, WBNC (1340 Conway) dropped tourism information for soft AC as “Easy 95.3,” branding with its FM translator frequency. And in Vermont, the month ended with a branding change at Sugar River’s WCVR (1320 Randolph) and its FM translator, where “Real Country” was replaced by “North Country 1320 and 100.1.” In the Merrimack Valley, W255DA, the recently-launched 98.9 translator for Costa-Eagle’s news-talk WCCM (1110 Salem, NEW HAMPSHIRE), flipped with its AM parent to classic hits as “Valley 98.9,” followed by a call swap that sent WCCM to 1570 and made 1110 WMVX.
Along the Ontario/Quebec line, RNC Media’s CHPR (102.1 Hawkesbury ON) and CJLA (104.9 Lachute QC) transitioned from French AC “Planete 104.9/102.1” to French classic hits as “POP 104.9/102.1.”
Steve Corbett was abruptly ousted from his talk slot at Entercom’s WILK stations in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton; down the road, Forever flipped country WHVR (1280 Hanover) to “Classic Hits 95.3” with the addition of a new translator.
Joe Mathieu stunned the Boston market with his abrupt exit from the morning slot on WBZ (1030), a move that made more sense a few weeks later when he announced his move down the street to become “Morning Edition” host on WGBH (89.7); after a few months with interim hosts, WBZ brought back one of its veterans, Josh Binswanger, to take the morning gig.
On the Pennsylvania/Ohio line, Cumulus started the month by flipping WWIZ (103.9 West Middlesex/Youngstown) from “Rock 104” to “Z104, The Valley’s Good Time Oldies.” Two weeks later, it was Forever’s turn to do some flipping: on April 12, it broke part of its longtime “Froggy” country simulcast surrounding Pittsburgh on Wednesday, sending WOGH (103.5 Burgettstown) to classic country as “Willie 103.5” with new calls WLYI. (That was followed in September by another Froggy-to-Willie shift just up the road, as WWGY 95.1 Grove City/Youngstown became “Willie” WYLE.)
In New Jersey, WJSE (106.3 North Cape May) flipped from alternative rock to classic hits as “106.3 the Shore.”
Back on the air: WKGE (850 Johnstown PA), at reduced power with “Radio TED” variety.
Job cuts at several big corporate broadcasters hit hard in NERW-land: at Cumulus’ WABC (770 New York), Ron Kuby was out, leaving Curtis Sliwa solo in middays. (WABC then hired Fox news commentator Eboni K. Williams as a co-host, but her tenure didn’t last out the year.) Anne Gress was out as PD at CBS Radio’s WOGL in Philadelphia, followed later in the month by afternoon jock “Cadillac Jack” Seville, and Tom Campbell’s exit as morning man at WWBB (101.5 Providence) was one of several iHeart cutbacks.
In southern Connecticut, WSTC (1400 Stamford) moved from standards to oldies and added more local air talent, but it wasn’t to last – VGR, which was leasing the station from Sacred Heart University, lost the lease a few months later, sending WSTC back to a simulcast of the leased-time ethnic and religious programming on sister WNLK (1350 Norwalk).
A Spanish-language radio war broke out in eastern Pennsylvania mid-month as Matt Bracilli’s “Mega 99.5” (WEST 1400 Easton/WHOL 1600 Allentown/W258BM 99.5 Easton) added a relay on WLEV (100.7 Allentown)’s HD2, which is being used to feed translator W225CF (92.9 Reading). The new “Mega 92.9/99.5” had competition in both markets from Radio Sharon Foundation, which launched “Latina 92.1” on W221CU (92.1 Allentown), fed by WLEV’s HD3, followed by W296CL (107.1 Reading). In Reading, the two translators competed with iHeart’s “Rumba” WRAW (1340)/W222BY (92.3).
Up in Williamsport, ESPN replaced standards at WWPA (1340) and its 101.3 translator; former ESPN outlet WLYC (1050) went to Fox Sports with a translator at 92.7, while its sister station WEJS (1600 Jersey Shore) went talk, using WLYC’s former 104.1 Williamsport translator.
On New York’s TV dial, WNJU (Channel 47/RF 36) lit up the first full-time TV transmissions from the new 1 World Trade Center, soon to be followed by at least four more TV signals at that state-of-the-art facility.
And the month ended with more Seven Mountains “Bigfoot” signals in northern Pennsylvania, as WOWQ (102.1 DuBois) became WIFT and picked up a simulcast to the west in the form of WKFT (101.3 Strattanville, ex-WZDD, dropping its simulcast of rock WZDB 95.9, which became “Clear Rock.”) Over in Wellsboro, WNBT-FM (104.5) also went “Bigfoot” with country, while former simulcast WOGA (92.3 Mansfield) became classic hits “WOGA in Tioga” June 2, simulcasting on WNDA (1490 Wellsboro, ex-WNBT) and two translators.
In Philadelphia, iHeart made a surprise flip June 29, killing off its low-rated “Mix 106” WISX in favor of classic hip-hop as “Real 106.1,” reinforcing a rhythmic wall of formats that also includes top-40 WIOQ (Q102), urban WUSL (Power 99) and adult R&B WDAS-FM (105.3). Morning man Chio remained with the new format, but syndicated hosts Ryan Seacrest and Mario Lopez were dropped.
In Boston, it was less of a surprise when WMEX (1510) went silent a day later, burdened by an unusually unfavorable lease deal at its tower site. The venerable signal stayed silent for the rest of the year before going up for auction Dec. 15.
In Rochester, iHeart rebranded “100.5 the Drive” WDVI as “Mix 100.5” on June 30, still running Elvis Duran in mornings and hot AC the rest of the day.
In Albany, Empire Broadcasting shuffled several of its AM and transmitter signals, keeping the Bloomberg-fed “Empire News Network” programming on WPTR (1240 Schenectady) while breaking WAIX (1160 Mechanicville) and its 106.1 translator away from the news-talk to go to a AAA format as “106.1 the X, Albany’s Independent Experience.”
June 12 marked the launch of a local programming expansion at CBC’s CBCL (93.5 London), which opened a new studio and newsroom in the downtown public library for its new local morning and afternoon shows.
Alumni of Boston’s WRKO (680) celebrated the 50th anniversary of its big flip to top 40 with a June 2 party, followed by an on-air reunion June 3. Across town, former WCVB (Channel 5) star J.C. Monahan joined Phil Lipof at the NBC Boston anchor desk, replacing Shannon Mulaire.
In central Pennsylvania, WHLM-FM (103.5 Berwick) took new calls WMMZ to distinguish it from its AM sister, which would soon get some unwanted headlines over the ties between its evening host’s (and owner’s son’s) ties to the alt-right movement.
In Canada, the CRTC granted new licenses for the former Aboriginal Voices Radio frequencies, including two to the APTN television network: its new First People’s Radio will get Toronto (CFPT 106.5, 984 watts average, 2.6 kW max DA) and Ottawa (CFPO 95.7, 9.1 kW).
And just ahead of the nation’s big 150th birthday party, CBC-TV said farewell to veteran “National” anchor Peter Mansbridge, who signed off June 30, leaving the newscast in the hands of interim hosts before it debuted a new four-anchor format in November.
New to the air: CFQR (600 Montreal), testing on the old CFCF/CIQC signal.
Gone: WUMD (89.3 North Dartmouth MA), signing off the FM dial as its frequency was sold to Rhode Island Public Radio, which quickly resurrected it as WXNI.
Spring is in the air? You wouldn’t know it from going outside, at least not here in NERWland.
OK, we’re back on Daylight Saving Time, the Vernal Equinox is approaching and March Madness is imminent. So yes, spring is coming.
And the 2018 Tower Site Calendar is available at a discount. If you haven’t bought yours yet, you can now get it for 25% off.