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NERW 11/19-11/26: It's Beginning to Sound A Lot Like Christmas
--------------------------NorthEast Radio Watch--------------------------
November 19 & 26, 2001
IN THIS ISSUE:
*Cumulus Buys Aurora
*It's Beginning to Sound A Lot Like Christmas
*Stern Off Toronto's Q107
-----------------------------by Scott Fybush-----------------------------
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Between the short holiday workweek and the rush to get
the 2002 Tower Site Calendar to the printer, we're combining these two
issues for our mailing list readers. Remember, you can always get the
very latest NERW news at www.fybush.com!]
*After two years of building an 18-station group in the suburban
areas north of New York City, Aurora Communications is cashing out.
Cumulus Broadcasting announced today (Nov. 19) that it will pay $230
million in cash, stock and debt assumption to add the Aurora stations
to its more than 200 outlets nationwide.
Here's what Cumulus gets for its money:
- Westchester County cluster WFAS (1230 White Plains), WFAS-FM (103.9
White Plains) and WFAF (106.3 Mount Kisco), doing standards on the AM
and AC on the simulcast FMs. (Aurora paid $20 million for these three
in April 1999).
- A Hudson Valley cluster that includes sports-talk WEOK (1390
Poughkeepsie) and WALL (1340 Middletown), modern rock WRRV (92.7
Middletown) and WRRB (96.9 Arlington), oldies WCZX (97.7 Hyde Park)
and WZAD (97.3 Wurtsboro), rock WPDH (101.5 Poughkeepsie) and WPDA
(106.1 Jeffersonville) and full-service WKNY (1490 Kingston), acquired
from the Dyson family's Crystal group in May for $53 million.
- A cluster in the Danbury, Connecticut market that includes rocker
WRKI (95.1 Brookfield), standards simulcast WINE (940 Brookfield) and
WPUT (1510 Brewster NY) and oldies WAXB (105.5 Putnam NY), acquired in
July 1999 for $11.5 million.
- AC WEBE (107.9 Westport) and full-service WICC (600 Bridgeport) in
southern Connecticut, acquired in April 1999 for $66 million.
If we've done our math right, that makes for a tidy $79.5 million
profit over two years or so, which is pretty good work for Aurora head
Frank Osborn. No word yet, of course, on what changes Cumulus might
have in store for these stations; until now, the only holdings Cumulus
has had in NERW-land were its stations in Bangor, Maine (and the
fringe of its Youngstown, Ohio cluster).
*The other big news out of NEW YORK this week was the continuing
management shakeout at Clear Channel. A reported two dozen staffers in
Clear Channel's New York City cluster lost their jobs this week,
including WHTZ (100.3) operations manager Kid Kelly, one of Z100's
most prominent voices.
Other shufflings at the cluster include the departures of WTJM (105.1)
assistant PD Andy West and sales manager Robin Sloan. Market Manager
Andy Rosen adds the GM title at WTJM to his duties, while Scott Elberg
shifts to the GM role at WHTZ and WKTU (103.5).
Across town, former WOR Radio Network head Rich Wood has found a new
position as senior VP at Talk America, which has just been sold to
erstwhile long-distance carrier IDT. Wood will work out of Talk
America's new headquarters at IDT's base in Newark, N.J.
And over at Mega's WNNY (1380 New York), the expensive
Spanish-language all-news format is giving way to talk outside
drivetime; the station is also adding infomercials on the weekends.
Up in Binghamton, we hear WMXW (103.3 Vestal) will join the parade of
stations around the country going all-Christmas music well in advance
of the holiday; look for "Mix" to begin spinning the Yule tunes
Wednesday (Nov. 21), returning to its usual AC diet after the
holidays. (Meantime, sister Clear Channeler WINR 680 has relaunched
its Website at http://www.680winr.com to reflect its standards
Up I-81 in Syracuse, Kathy Rowe takes over PD duties at WYYY (94.5),
now that Rich Lauber (who remains Y94's operations manager) is
handling that role down the hall at WBBS (104.7).
On the fringes of the Salt City, WBGJ (100.3 Sylvan Beach) is
transferred from Kevin O'Kane to Wolf Radio, which has been running
the new station since its sign-on earlier this year as a Radio Disney
simulcast with Syracuse's WOLF (1490).
Here in Rochester, oldies fans have a full-market FM signal
again. WBBF-FM (93.3) moved from its old stick south of the city in
Avon to its new Fairport-licensed facility (at the WBEE-FM tower in
Penfield) at 8 PM last Friday (Nov. 16), and even before the new
signal was at full power, it was already an improvement over the old.
We hope at least one or two people in town appreciate the irony here:
the tower on Five Mile Line Road was built for the original WBBF-FM
(101.3) in 1961 or thereabouts, and while that station evolved into
today's WBEE-FM 92.5, the tower is once again home to a "WBBF-FM"
[NERW wonders what will become of WBBF's AM 950 signal now that it's
completely overlapped by the FM; meanwhile, those within range of
either signal might want to tune in this Saturday (Nov. 24) from 7
till midnight to hear a certain radio-column editor taking
*Over in VERMONT, WBTN (1370 Bennington) is about to get its second
owner in as many years. Robert Howe, who bought the station from
Vermont Public Radio last year, will donate WBTN to Southern Vermont
College in Bennington.
WBTN has struggled since longtime owner Belva Keyworth sold it and
sister WBTN-FM (94.3) to VPR in 1999. The public broadcaster was under
political pressure to sell the AM side to maintain local commercial
service to Bennington, but Howe was never able to make a success of
the little station, which runs 1000 watts by day and just 87 watts at
The college says WBTN will stay commercial, with students heavily
involved in its operation. WBTN's two remaining employees will stay
with the station under college ownership, we hear.
Over at Rutland's "Fox" (WEXP 101.5 Brandon/WVAY 100.7 Wilmington),
Andy Waters moves up from nights to be PD/afternoon drive jock, while
"Sloppy" Joe Withrow comes on board as assistant PD and music
director. Fox GM Jay Gadon is still looking for a new night jock (and
filling in on the shift himself!)
*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Dennis Jackson checked in to let us know that WMEX
(106.5 Farmington) doubled its power and raised its antenna 40 feet
last week, giving the station a solid signal into Portsmouth and
Concord with its oldies programming.
Way up north in Pittsburg, the FCC allocated 97.1A, though without
setting a date for an auction of the channel.
*The story in MASSACHUSETTS this week was layoffs - but on the
noncommercial side. Wednesday saw nine pink slips at Boston's WBUR
(90.9), with three marketing staffers, three news and programming
staffers and the three-person staff of Rhode Island public affairs
show "One Union Station" all laid off. "One Union," which was produced
at WBUR satellite WRNI (1290 Providence) is on hiatus until January.
*Fans of adult standards in MAINE have one fewer choice. The WMTW
folks announced this week that they'll pull the plug on the format at
WLAM (1470 Lewiston) on November 26, switching the station to a
simulcast of Portland-based news-talker WMTW (870 Gorham/106.7 North
Windham). Only the Sunday morning "French Show" will remain from
WLAM's previous format.
WMTW is also changing hosts on its morning show; George Campbell will
leave at month's end, replaced by Portland Press Herald columnist Bill
*From CANADA, still more news of layoffs: the Corus group cut more
than 20 positions across southern Ontario this week. Among the
casualties were a dozen staffers at the Corus cluster in London,
including the sports staff at CFPL (980) and CFPL-FM (95.9) PD Derek
Aubrey. At "Energy" CING (95.3 Hamilton), midday host Wayne Williams
and overnighter Richard Cornell were cut, while job changes at the
Hamilton cluster that includes CHML and "Y108" CJXY included the
installation of Hal Blackadar as GM. Cuts also affected the Toronto
Corus stations, with five "Mojo 640" (CFYI) staffers gone, including
Iain Grant, Evelyn Macko and Debbie Dixon.
Out west, former CHUM GM Brad Phillips is back with the CHUM Group,
signing on as GM at newly-acquired CKVU (Channel 10) in Vancouver.
*And in PENNSYLVANIA, the revolving doors spun several veteran jocks
to new positions. Toby Knapp is leaving his APD/morning post at
WLAN-FM (96.9 Lancaster) to be APD/afternoons at WFLZ (93.3) down in
Tampa, Florida, while longtime Philadelphia jock Glenn Kalina is
looking for work after being ousted from mornings at WLCE (104.5
Longtime Pittsburgh morning host Jack Wheeler has found a new job down
in Florida, too: he's the new morning man at Orlando/Melbourne
The DuBois area will have a new FM signal, eventually: the
FCC allocated 95.9A to Sykesville this week, though no auction date
was set for the new facility. The addition of the Sykesville channel
pretty much fills out the shuffle that started a few years back when
the area's original 95.9, WMKX Brookville, moved to 105.5.
*That'll do it for this short pre-Thanksgiving issue; we'll be back
next Monday with what's likely to be an even shorter one!
In the meantime, the Tower Site Calendar 2002 is on its way to the
printer, and we're just as proud as can be of it. This four-color,
glossy, 8.5-x-11 inch calendar includes more than a dozen of our
favorite tower pictures (including that cover shot of WTAG), and we
still have a few left if you haven't yet ordered one.
Send your check or money order for $15 (postpaid to US addresses, NYS
residents add tax, US$20 postpaid to Canada) to Scott Fybush, 92
Bonnie Brae Ave, Rochester NY 14618-1802, and we'll make sure you get
one hot off the press in just a couple of weeks. You'll be the envy of
all your cubicle-mates, we promise!
A happy and safe Thanksgiving to all our US readers, and we'll see you
in a week.
*It's not exactly a "fad format," but there's no mistaking the wave of
format changes sweeping across NERW-land over the Thanksgiving
weekend: stations all over the country, in fact, are dropping AC and
oldies formats to go all-Christmas music for the next month.
It's largely a Clear Channel thing (and no wonder; it's easier to make
a flip like this when you own eight stations in the market!), with
that group's flips including WRNQ (92.1 Poughkeepsie), WALK (1370
Patchogue; the FM side stays AC), WTRY-FM (98.3 Troy), WMXW (103.3
Vestal), WYYY (94.5 Syracuse), WISY (102.3 Canandaigua) and WJJJ
But other groups are also getting into the holiday spirit: Barnstable,
with WLVG (96.1 Center Moriches) on Long Island's East End; Vox, with
the satellite standards on WENU in Glens Falls going all-Christmas;
Citadel, with WLEV (100.7 Allentown); and independents WHLM (930
Bloomsburg PA, using the Christmas music as a stunt to launch regular
programming early in 2002) and WLSH (1410 Lansford PA, which has done
this every year since it signed on!)
Still no all-Christmas outlets in New England, oddly enough; perhaps
we'll have some to report next week...
*We'll start the rest of this holiday-shortened week in the one part
of NERW territory where it wasn't a holiday: CANADA.
While those of us south of the border were gorging on turkey and
stuffing, Corus was busy getting rid of Howard Stern's last Canadian
outpost. As of this morning (Nov. 26), Stern will be off Toronto's
Q107 (CILQ 107.1), which was the first station in Canada to pick him
up back in September 1997.
Why drop Stern now? Q107 managers tell the Toronto Star ratings
weren't a consideration, that it was simply time to refocus the
station on the Toronto market. To that end, Q107 and its sister
station "Mojo 640" (CFYI) will move this week from their studios on
Yonge Street in North York downtown to the Hard Rock Cafe at Yonge and
Dundas. (If that happens to help Corus' cost-cutting efforts, too, we
wouldn't be surprised...)
Replacing Stern in mornings will be current Q107 afternoon jock (and
former FAN 590 morning guy) John Derringer. As for Stern-heads in
Toronto, they'll have to point their antennas south to Buffalo's WBUF
(92.9), which continues to carry Howard.
*Elsewhere in Ontario, Kingston's CIKR (105.7) has been granted a
power boost from 4200 watts to 24 kW, which should help its
cross-border penetration from the CKWS-TV tower on Wolfe Island. (We
heard CHRE St. Catharines instead of CIKR when we tuned in from
Pulaski, NY this summer!)
In Newmarket, the CRTC tells CKDX (88.5) that it can't get relief from
the requirement that 50.1% of the music played on its "Dancing Oldies"
format be "non-hits." CKDX asked for the waiver a few months ago,
arguing that a format based on disco hits of the seventies requires
the station to play - get this - disco hits of the seventies.
But the CRTC says CKDX is still free to play any music at all released
after 1980 (the "hit" rules don't apply there), and that 49.9% "hits"
The CRTC did approve the Emard family's application to transfer their
Tri-Co Broadcasting stations in Cornwall (CJUL 1220, CJSS 101.9 and
CFLG 104.5) to Corus.
And CTV/Bell Globemedia withdrew its application for channel 52 in
Toronto and relay stations in Hamilton and Kitchener. A hearing on the
remaining applications begins next week in Hamilton.
*In NEW YORK, there was one non-Christmas format change: WBPM (94.3
Kingston) dropped its rhythmic oldies format for 50s and 60s oldies
via satellite on Thanksgiving. There's been no sign yet of local
talent on the new "Cool 94.3."
Down in New York City, WNET (Channel 13) became the latest addition to
the Empire State Building mast on Thanskgiving Day, restoring
over-the-air service to millions of homes that had trouble receiving
its temporary signal from the Alpine, N.J. Armstrong tower since
The long-term status of New York's TV dial remains a pressing
question, with the New York Times reporting this week that several
sites, including the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, have been
ruled out as potential sites for a new master TV tower.
More management shuffling at Clear Channel's Big Apple cluster: Tom
Poleman adds oversight of programming for the entire group to his
duties as senior VP of programming and PD of WHTZ; meantime, WHTZ/WKTU
chief engineer Josh Hadden becomes director of engineering for the
Out on Long Island, John Olsen arrives at WBAB (102.3 Babylon) as the
new PD; he had been at WRLR in Birmingham, Alabama.
And while we're not going to be able to be there, we hope many of you
will make it to the Turning Stone Casino in Verona on Wednesday
(Nov. 28) for the Society of Broadcast Engineers Chapter 22 convention
on its rescheduled date. You can visit them at www.sbe22.org to learn
more about this information-packed day of events.
*In MASSACHUSETTS, Steve Peck is named market manager for Worcester's
WTAG (580) and WSRS (96.1); he had been operations manager at the
Clear Channel duo.
Over in Boston, the off-air employees (producers, writers and the
like) at WBZ (1030) voted 31-3 last week to be represented by
AFTRA. NERW knows all too well (since your editor was a writer there
from 1992-97) that the off-air employees on the radio side were among
the few non-union workers in the building, since on-air radio talent
and the entire TV news staff were union positions.
*Some very minor CONNECTICUT news: WKCI (101.3 Hamden) becomes
WKCI-FM, now that Clear Channel is placing the WKCI calls on the AM
dial on the former WINF in Waynesboro, Virginia.
*One PENNSYLVANIA item, in addition to the Christmas changes reported
above: Michael Smerconish is off the air at Philadelphia talker WPHT
(1210) after telling the Infinity station he won't renew his contract
when it expires at year's end.
Smerconish, a lawyer who writes a column for the Philadelphia Daily
News, says he had philosophical differences with WPHT management that
simply weren't going to be resolved. He's rumored to be talking with
Greater Media's WPEN (950) about doing a morning talk show there; no
word, meanwhile, on a permanent replacement for Smerconish in WPHT's
5-7 PM slot.
*And that's it for this short holiday week! We'll be back next Monday
with much more news; in the meantime, we're taking the Tower Site 2002
Calendar to the printers and hope to have it in the mail within the
next two weeks to all of you who've ordered one.
If you haven't, it's not too late; you'll get 14 full-color pictures
of sites like Worcester's WTAG, Mount Greylock, Boston's WAMG,
Philly's WPHT and many more, plus a calendar full of interesting
historical dates in Northeast radio and beyond, all professionally
printed on 8.5-by-11 inch glossy paper stock.
You can get one (or more!) by sending $15 (postpaid; check or money
order only) to Scott Fybush, 92 Bonnie Brae Ave., Rochester NY
14618. Canadian residents please send US$20; NYS residents please add
$1.20 sales tax.
We think you'll like this one!
-----------------------NorthEast Radio Watch------------------------
(c)2001 Scott Fybush
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