We're back from a long weekend in greater Boston, where it was great to see some of you at our NERW dinner last Friday, and to talk to others of you on WJIB's "Let's Talk About Radio" (stay tuned for part two of our special edition of LTAR next Sunday at 11 AM on AM 740) and on what turned out to be a marathon five-hour guest stint with Steve LeVeille on WBZ Sunday night. Here's what was happening in the world of radio in the meantime...
Vox Media returned the "Bob Country" name and format to the dial last Friday (Aug. 30), replacing "Star" soft AC on WSSH (95.3 White River Junction) and WZSH (107.1 Bellows Falls). The "Bob" nickname was last heard on WMXR (93.9 Woodstock) and WCFR-FM (93.5 Springfield, now WXKK) a couple of summers ago, before being pulled by Clear Channel to leave its "Kixx" (WXXK 100.5 Lebanon NH) as the only country outlet in the market.
Vox's version of "Bob" includes original Bob PD Heath Cole, who also keeps his PD duties at oldies WWOD (104.3 Hartford)/WCFR (96.3 Walpole NH), with a slate of live and local voices to come.
"The battle is on! Let the fun begin!" says Vox's Ken Barlow of the format war with Kixx.
Elsewhere in the Green Mountain State, "The Lake", WLKC (103.3 Waterbury), dropped its soft AC sounds over the weekend and began stunting with quiet nature sounds (mostly birds chirping, which has made for a relaxing afternoon putting this issue together!) and occasional IDs proclaiming the station to be "Pure Vermont Radio" and "environmentally sound."
And heading south, WEQX (102.7 Manchester) and PD Alexa Tobin have parted ways, with no successor named yet.
Long Island first: Tuesday (Sep. 3) marked the debut of WLIE (540 Islip), the new talker that replaces standards WLUX on the frequency. The lineup begins with David Weiss and Tracy Burgess doing a morning news block, followed by live, local talk with Ed Tyll, John Gomez and Mike Siegel. Other voices heard on the new station include Jim Bohannon, Mike Gallagher and Michael Medved (in late-night tape delay). Brokered programming continues in the evening on 540 for now.
Elsewhere on the island, Charlie Lombardo is out as PD of 80s pop WMJC (94.3 Smithtown), as rumors continue to swirl about a possible format change at the low-rated station.
In New York City, Scott Elberg has resigned as VP/GM of Clear Channel's WHTZ (100.3 Newark NJ), WAXQ (104.3) and WKTU (103.5 Lake Success). Market manager Andy Rosen is handling Elberg's duties for now.
Meanwhile up in Albany, we caught the first day of the new format on WHTR-FM (93.7 Scotia) and WHTR (1400 Albany), as owner Galaxy pulls the hot talk and replaces it with modern rock as "K-Rock." The Albany K-Rock isn't a straight simulcast of its sisters in Utica (WKLL 94.9 Frankfort) and Syracuse (WKRL 100.9 N. Syracuse/WKRH 106.5 Minetto), but the music mix sounded familiar.
Across town at Regent modern rocker WQBK (103.9 Rensselaer)/WQBJ (103.5 Cobleskill), there's a new PD on the way, just in time to fend off the challenge from K-Rock. He's Phil Conn, who arrives in Albany after just three weeks at KRXE in Lafayette, Louisiana.
And there's more format change action in the Hudson Valley: the "Oldies 97" moniker disappeared from WCZX (97.7 Hyde Park) and WZAD (97.3 Wurtsboro) over the weekend, along with the 50s oldies that had been part of the stations' format. In its place is an increased emphasis on 60s, 70s and 80s pop and a new nickname of "Mix 97," as well as a new Web site at www.mix97fm.com.
Syracuse's K-Rock lost its morning man last week with the departure of "Scorch" from the station; night guy J.J. Herr is doing mornings on WKRL and WKRH for now. Down the hall, "Sunny 102" (WZUN 102.1 Phoenix) segued from 80s and 90s AC back to the softer, 60s and 70s-heavy, AC format it launched with a few years back. Across town at Clear Channel's "Hot 107.9" (WWHT), Erin Bristol is inbound from WMT-FM (96.5) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to be the new PD, replacing the Pittsburgh-bound Jason Kidd. And after a summer of silence, Syracuse University's "Z89" (WJPZ 89.1) is back on the air stunting, with sign-on set for September 8.
One personnel move to report in Rochester while we were away: WPXY (97.9) night guy Diesel is moving across the street to do afternoons for Clear Channel CHR competitor "Kiss" (WKGS 106.7 Irondequoit). His move means two former 98PXY voices will now be heard on Kiss instead, since Diesel's shift will be followed by voicetracks from Chicago-based Java Joel - another former 'PXY night slammer. (It will be a few weeks before PXY PD Mike Danger can get to work on a replacement: he got married over Labor Day and is away on his honeymoon!)
Up in Watertown, we're told the Route 12 towers of the old WOTT (1410, now WNER) came down last week; the site on Gifford Street Road has been silent for more than a year since 1410 moved to the towers of co-owned WTNY (790) south of town.
Binghamton radio fans have a new site to check out: Jon Scaptura has his Binghamton Radio Archives up and running at www.scaptura.com/radio, and it's a must-visit for anyone with even a passing interest in this most interesting small radio market.
And in Buffalo, Mark Leitner is leaving WBEN (930) to become a teacher at Lockport High School. We hear the station is still looking for someone to fill his shoes in the newsroom.
The big shuffle in the Niagara Region began over the weekend with the disappearance of modern AC from CKEY-FM (101.1 Fort Erie), replaced by a computerized countdown voice which so unnerved some residents that they asked the Niagara Regional Police to check in and make sure nothing was wrong at the station.
It turned out to be a stunt leading to a new dance-CHR format at the former "River," newly reborn as "Wild 101.1." But the start of that new station was just one of several shifts in the works over in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Labor Day also brought the end of the AC/full service format on CJRN (710 Niagara Falls), replaced by modern AC as "The River 710."
That, however, is only a temporary format: on Friday morning at 6, "The River" will make its final move, back to FM on CFLZ (105.1 Niagara Falls). The travelers' information programming that had been heard on CFLZ, including interminable ads for Casino Niagara, will move to 710 that morning, with a promise of more live talk and tourist information to come.
It's a new challenge for Buffalo CHR WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls) and urban WBLK (93.7 Depew), both of which have had almost no competition in years; it's bad news for fans of "The River," who will have to try pretty hard to hear the 105.1 signal from the top of the Skylon Tower anywhere much beyond Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Canada.
Up in Toronto, the fallout continues from the demise of CHUM's "Team" sports format. We're told 44 people lost their jobs when the plug was pulled last week on the national network and its local outlets in Halifax, Kingston, Toronto, Kitchener/Waterloo and Winnipeg; among the casualties was the CHUM National News operation based in Toronto.
On the local level, CHUM (1050) itself is back to oldies, with Brian Henderson in mornings and voicetracks the rest of the day, just as it was before that format had its plug pulled in May 2001. Voicetracked oldies are back as well at CKKW (1090 Kitchener), we're told. Kingston's CKLC (1380) is back to the oldies/AC format it used before the launch of "The Team," while out in Halifax, CJCH (920) is back to news-talk, with the "Hotline" local talk show returning to 920 from CFDR (Kixx 780). The Team continues in Ottawa (CFGO 1200) and Montreal (CKGM 990).
Speaking of Montreal, the long-delayed deal to sell Telemedia's radio properties to Astral Media is finally set to proceed, now that Astral has agreed to spin off its Quebec AM holdings to a third party.
The C$12.75 million deal will see television broadcasters TVA and Radio Nord acquiring most of the news-talk "Radio-Media" network from Astral. Included in the deal are CJRC (1150 Gatineau), CKRS (590 Jonquière) and CKSM (1220 Shawinigan), which had been owned by Astral; CHLT (630 Sherbrooke), CHLN (550 Trois-Rivières) and CKTS (900 Sherbrooke), which had been owned by Telemedia; and CKAC (730 Montreal) and CHRC (800 Quebec), which were owned by the Radio-Média partnership between Astral and Tele-Media. TVA and Radio Nord will also acquire CFOM (102.9 Levis) from Astral.
What's left? Astral will still get the Rock-Détente FM network to go with its existing Enérgie FM network, giving it two FM voices in just about every major Quebec city; it also gets the Telemedia stations in the Maritimes.
One more Radio Nord item: the company has been granted 97.1 as the frequency for its new classical station in Ottawa/Hull. Radio Nord had originally applied for, but was denied, 97.9 MHz for the station.
Back in Ontario, the CBC is buying six TV stations from commercial competitor CTV, putting an end to decades of "twin-stick" operation in the northern part of the province. CKNC (Channel 9) in Sudbury, CFCL (Channel 6) in Timmins, CJIC (Channel 5) in Sault Ste. Marie and CHNB (Channel 4) in North Bay, along with CFCL repeaters in Kapuskasing and Kearns, had been operated as CBC outlets run jointly with CTV affiliates in each city ever since the days of the old "Mid Canada TV" ownership up there. In recent years, after CTV acquired Mid-Canada, the CBC side of the operation ran the network schedule and a few syndicated shows, but all the local programming was seen on the CTV side of the twin-sticks.
Now the CBC affiliates, along with former "twin-stick" CBC affiliates in Saskatchewan, will become CBC owned-and-operated stations, relaying (in the case of the Ontario stations, anyway) CBLT from Toronto to northern Ontario. NERW notes that the move leaves only Corus' CKWS in Kingston and CHEX in Peterborough as privately-owned CBC affiliates in eastern Canada. No word on how much the CBC is paying for the stations...
And speaking of CBC Television, Friday marks its 50th anniversary, not to mention the 50th anniversary of television in Canada. The network (and its French counterpart, Radio-Canada) have plenty of specials planned to mark the occasion, including a big one Sunday night September 8 (the anniversary of the debut of CBLT in Toronto); check out the whole schedule at cbc.ca/tv50th. (And check out Tower Site of the Week on Thursday for our look back at the CBC's old tower in Toronto, its current CN Tower site and Montreal's massive Mount Royal stick.)
A few more notes from around eastern Canada: Montreal's CJAD (800) has dropped Laura Schlessinger's show from its overnight exile slot, replacing it with more "best-of" hours of daytime repeats. We're sorry to report the death, at age 74, of Bill Roberts, who was CJAD's morning man in the 50s and 60s. Roberts died last weekend at his home in Alexandria, Ontario. And in Hamilton, Jay Farr joins "Big D" (Darrin Laidman) to make up the new morning team at "Y108" CJXY (107.9).
Up in Boston, Nik Carter makes the move from middays back to afternoon drive at WBCN (104.1), replacing Opie and Anthony and kicking off a search for a new middayer at the reinvigorated rock outlet. Across town at WFNX (101.7 Lynn), PD Cruze says he's the permanent morning guy at the modern rocker, amidst some noisy business in the trades from jocks "Dick and Justice," who quit their jobs at KCXX in San Bernardino on what they say was a promise of mornings at WFNX, only to find that their old station had already filled their gigs when the 'FNX deal failed to materialize.
And WGBH (89.7 Boston) is apparently staying put on its namesake Great Blue Hill in Milton; the station's application to move to the WBZ-TV tower in Needham was dismissed by the FCC this week.
And just across the state line in Maryland, Dame completes its cross-border format swap by flipping WQCM (96.7 Halfway MD) to urban CHR as "Wild 96.7," WDLD. The WQCM calls and rock format moved last month to the former country "I-94.3," WIHR (94.3 Greencastle PA), near Chambersburg.
And that's it for another week! Please note that the next two issues will appear on fybush.com Tuesday, September 10 and 17; we'll get back to regular Monday publication the following week, Sept. 23. The September 10 issue will feature a special report, "9/11 + 1," with some never-before-published details about how New York's broadcasters coped with the loss of the World Trade Center transmission facilities; don't miss it!