We're back! Thanks for your patience over the last few days as we've been tied up with some projects unrelated to the wild world of Northeast radio and television (if anyone's interested in a magazine article about a very interesting murder trial, e-mail your editor...) Before spending six days in a courtroom in Niagara Falls, we piloted the NERW-mobile into western Pennsylvania for a visit to the Frank Conrad garage demolition; you'll be able to read more about that trip in next week's issue.
For the moment, though, let's take a look at the headlines around the dial while we were away...
This week, though, the object of the game appears to be just the opposite, as radio, TV and newspapers all engaged in what looks like one big catfight.
It all started, apparently, with the Boston Globe's 1999 decision to ban its sports reporters from the Glenn Ordway show on WEEI (850 Boston). That ban didn't provoke much of a media frenzy, but last week, when the Globe extended the ban to WEEI's morning show, hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan decided to make an issue out of it.
Globe columnist Eileen McNamara fanned the flames when she then wrote a column (against editors' orders, it seems) about being banned. The Globe declined to publish the column, and McNamara then decided to go on the Dennis/Callahan show in violation of the ban.
That's not the end of the cross-media fireworks lighting the sky over Boston Harbor, though: WEEI itself has been playing the ban game, exiling Globe writers from its other shows (which were still acceptable to Globe editors, since the content actually focused on sports instead of the typical male-oriented morning show fodder.)
Oh yeah...WEEI has also barred the Herald's Jim Baker from its airwaves.
Meanwhile, across town on Soldiers Field Road, the once-friendly relationship between WBZ (1030) and sister station WBZ-TV (Channel 4) turned sour last week when radio talk host David Brudnoy invited WCVB (Channel 5) anchor-icon Natalie Jacobson to be a guest on his 25th anniversary show.
The Herald's Monica Collins reported Saturday that the guest stint, which put Channel 4 anchor Joe Shortsleeve in the odd position of having to do a radio cut-in promoting his 11 PM show right in the midst of his competitor's appearance, prompted a memo from 'BZ-TV general manager Ed Goldman that put the brakes on the long cooperation between the radio and TV sides at 1170 Soldiers Field Road.
Collins says the memo bans (there's that word again!) WBZ radio personalities from appearing on Channel 4, stops radio news crews from using the TV side's gear, and halts the shared promotions between the two stations.
(Not mentioned in the article is the biggest part of the WBZ TV-radio synergy, WBZ radio's use of audio clips from and gathered by TV reporters in the field. At least in the days when we worked there, the audio from TV was essential to supplement the output of all three -- count 'em -- radio reporters in the field.)
Of course, radio and TV have shared one big (now presumably not-so-happy) newsroom since 1996; we imagine there must be quite a chill in the air there these days.
Just to make matters a little stranger at WBZ-TV, there's word that veteran anchor Liz Walker may soon be leaving Channel 4 for good. Walker left the station's evening shows last year, shifting to the noon news to spend more time with her family. Now the Herald's Inside Track reports she's applied to Harvard Divinity School and will walk away from TV news if she's accepted.
By the way, lost in all the acrimony: a very happy anniversary to Dr. Brudnoy! His radio career included stops at the old WHDH and WRKO, if we recall correctly, before his arrival at WBZ in the eighties.
It wasn't nearly as tasteless as that "Mayor Menino is dead" stunt that got Opie and Anthony fired a few April Fools Days ago, but WFNX (101.7 Lynn) suspended morning team "Jaxon and the Pharmacist" for a day after a pre-April 1 stunt in which they claimed the foot-and-mouth disease scare was forcing a recall of meat.
Radio (and TV) people on the move: Lynn Hoffman is leaving her sidekick position on WBMX (98.5 Boston)'s John Lander morning show to pursue a career in TV and voice-over work. We hear the Lander crew is looking for a replacement. Over on the TV side, Jodi Applegate may finally have something to do at WFXT (Channel 25), which brought her to Boston from NBC a few months back. Published reports say the Fox O&O will use Applegate as the main anchor when it launches a 6:30 PM newscast in June. And our best wishes for a speedy recovery to talk legend Jerry Williams, who's at Mass General Hospital recovering from a heart attack he suffered last week. Williams' health problems ended his most recent on-air gig, at the now-defunct WMEX (1060 Natick) last year. (Actually, it turned out to be a stroke...read on)
It's "beisbol" time, and it'll be a good year for Spanish-speaking Red Sox fans: the team is moving its Spanish-language broadcasts from a limited schedule on the old Carter network (flagshipped by WROL 950 Boston) to a full 162-game schedule on "Caliente 1330" (WRCA Waltham). No word just yet on whether the Spanish broadcasts will be heard in places like Springfield or Providence this season. (Next week, we'll offer our traditional look at English-language baseball on the radio around NERW-land...)
The smooth jazz that was this year's format on WXPS (96.7 Willsboro NY) showed up on another spot on the dial Monday morning, replacing oldies on WLCQ (92.1 Port Henry NY). Once that temporary simulcast ends, 96.7 will reportedly become WXZO, "the Zone," simulcasting talk programming (including Imus in the Morning) from WEAV (960 Plattsburgh NY). 96.7 was talk once before, doing sports back before its smooth-jazz days -- and it was simulcasting WEAV back then, too!
We're also hearing about some tweaking going on down in the Middlebury area, as Steve Silberberg gets to work on WRRO (93.7 Addison). Gone, we're told, is much of the classic rock, replaced by AAA-ish fare such as Paula Cole and Elvis Costello. And if that sounds reminiscent of Silberberg's Boston-market "River" (WXRV 92.5 Haverhill MA), it should: we're also told the River folks are advising WRRO on programming.
We also hear WCFR-FM has been operating at exciter power for a bit, thanks apparently to power problems from all that ice and snow at winter's end.
And speaking of WWOD, Vox made its purchase of the station official this week, paying $1.075 million to get the signal from Alex McEwing's Family Radio group.
Just one lil' Granite State note away from the Upper Valley: WHOB (106.3 Nashua) has launched a new Web site.
(We're also told the soon-to-expire CP for WBEO 101.1 Machias will be allowed to quietly die, what with the economic downturn and all.)
In Bangor, Clear Channel appears to be moving in on still more of the market. The company already owns a cluster of seven FMs (hot ac WKSQ 94.5 Ellsworth, classic rock simulcast WNSX 97.7 Winter Harbor/WFZX 101.7 Searsport, country WLKE 99.1 Bar Harbor, oldies WGUY 102.1 Dexter, talk WVOM 103.9 Howland and country WBFB 104.7 Belfast). Now there's word that Clear Channel is LMA'ing the Gopher Hill group that includes Bangor's standards WABI (910) and AC WWBX (97.1) along with Camden's AC WQSS (102.5) and Islesboro's standards WAYD (105.5), which edge into Clear Channel's new holdings in Rockland, WRKD (1450) and WMCM (103.3).
Local media speculation up there suggests something would have to be spun off, and the rumor is that WGUY might be the sacrificial lamb...stay tuned.
One more little Bangor note: low-power W09CI changes calls to WBAN-LP.
Radio Disney's already heard in part of Providence over WHRC (1450 West Warwick), but it appears that signal is being spun off to ADD Media to become a relay of dollar-a-holler talker WARL (1320 Attleboro), which explains the apparently premature mention of the 1450 signal on WARL's site a couple of months ago.
Meanwhile, the format change on WICE (ex-WLKW, ex-WPNW, ex-WICE, ex-WGNG, ex-WPAW...did we forget any?) takes Yankees day games off the air in southern New England after years in which the Red Sox' chief rivals were about the only constant thing on 550 kHz. Night games, of course, come in just fine on New York's WABC (770), if you're the kind of baseball fan who believes a World Series can be bought -- oops, is our bias showing here? (WICE will keep Providence Bruins hockey on the air through what's left of the AHL season.)
With B107.5 playing new country sounds and WINR catering to the Hank Williams, Jr. fans, Clear Channel appears to be trying to steal every ratings point it can from the market's top-rated country outlet, Citadel's WHWK (98.1). This should be fun to watch (and when was the last time we said that about Binghamton radio?)
Up north, WNYF-LP (Channel 25) in Watertown is about to launch as the city's new Fox affiliate, though color bars are all that's being seen at the moment. When the signal does sign on for real, as a partnership between WWNY (Channel 7) and Smith Broadcasting, it will feature a WWNY-produced 10 PM newscast anchored by Theresa Fulcher.
Down Route 3 a bit, Ackerley's WWTI (Channel 50) is preparing to challenge WWNY's monopoly of weekend news. April 21 is the scheduled start date for WWTI's Saturday and Sunday shows at 6 and 11 PM. NERW hopes that by then, WWTI will have repaired its transmitter, which we hear is currently down, relegating WWTI to cable-only status.
(Also a victim of recent storm damage: WNYV 94.1 Whitehall NY, on the Vermont border north of Glens Falls. We're told work is underway at the station's mountaintop site to get back on the air, while simulcast WVNR 1340 Poulteney VT keeps the signal going for most listeners.)
Two more notes from up north: WYSI (96.1 Norwood) is back on the air for now, still running what appears to be an interim simulcast of Canton's WVLF (96.7). WRCD (101.5 Canton) has named Danny James its new PD, bringing him up from Jackson, Mississippi. Could this mean more live programming and less satellite at "Rock 101"?
Albany weathercaster Norm Sebastian, who died of cancer late last year, wanted donations in his memory to be made to Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Center, but a group of WNYT (Channel 13) staffers is taking things a bit further this month. "Norm's Team" will run the Boston Marathon April 16, with all the money they raise going to Dana-Farber. Before heading to Beantown, the runners will get their carbs at a pasta dinner April 8 at Albany's Armory Center. The event, being held from 5-8 PM, will also raise money in Sebastian's memory.
Down on Long Island, the FCC has given Polnet the go-ahead to purchase WLIM (1580 Patchogue) from Jack Ellsworth's Long Island Music, so look for the standards to give way to Polish any day now.
A petition to deny has been filed against WMNR (88.1 Monroe CT)'s new translator in Mount Kisco. Bruce Elving's "FMedia!" carried a letter this month from a listener in the area who says the new W205BM (88.9) is preventing him from hearing WFDU (89.1) over in Teaneck, N.J.
Down at the other end of the Garden State, the WUSS calls have returned to AM 1490 in Pleasanton, which has been serving Atlantic City as sports WGYM for the last few years. While WUSS reverts to its old gospel format, the ESPN sports and the WGYM calls move down the road to the former WONZ (1580) in Hammonton.
There's a new simulcast in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market, as WMGS (92.9 Scranton) extends its already substantial signal to the north by adding WEMR-FM (107.7 Tunkhannock). WEMR-FM had been simulcasting fellow Citadel station WBHT (97.1 Mountain Top), but the need for that simulcast went away, in large part, when 'BHT added WBHP (94.3 Carbondale) to its roster last year.
Down the road in Williamsport, there are now call letters to go with public radio WVIA's new construction permit on 89.7: WVYA Williamsport will accompany WVIA-FM Scranton on 89.9.
Between those two markets, little WRPA (103.9 Laporte) has been sold. Theodore Saul, Jr. hands over the station to Kevin Fitzgerald's Smith & Fitzgerald Partnership, which means WRPA becomes a sister to Binghamton's WCDW, Elmira's WPHD and still-unbuilt WMTG in South Waverly. WRPA was doing satellite rock a couple of years ago, but had reportedly gone silent in the last year or so.
A change of titles at Philadelphia's WUSL (98.9) and WJJZ (106.1): WJJZ operations manager Anne Gress takes on the same duties for WUSL, while WJJZ assistant program director/music director Michael Tozzi moves up to PD, accompanied by Glenn Cooper making the same move up at WUSL.
Across the state line in Ohio, some shuffling in the Youngstown market finds Clear Channel selling off two little AMs. WRTK (1540 Niles) has been simulcasting oldies WBBG (106.1 Niles), while religious WPAO (1470 Farrell PA) was still owned by GOCOM, with Clear Channel holding an option to purchase. For $300,000, both signals go to Dale Edwards' D&E Broadcasting.
Pink slips were the order of the day this week at two stations in Toronto and Hamilton: CFYI (Talk 640) in Toronto let a reported 11 people go, with morning drive becoming a simulcast of the Humble and Fred show from CFNY (102.1 The Edge). Over at CIWV (94.7 Hamilton), founding PD Jim Craig is out after just seven months, replaced by Steve Kassay and a move towards less talk, news and traffic in favor of more smooth jazz.
Kingston's CIKR (105.7) is now running full power as "K-Rock," and we hear it's being well-heard across the St. Lawrence in New York's North Country.
And up in Montreal, the Expos began their season with no English-language radio deal -- and they're unlikely to get one. Standard Broadcasting's CJAD (800) and CHUM Group's CKGM (990) both turned down Expos offers that reportedly called for the team to keep all the revenues while the station absorbed all the costs of the broadcast. Listeners who "parlent francais" can hear the Expos on CKAC 730.
That's it for another week; see you back here next Monday!