1995: The Year in Review
Quite a year it's been in New England radio, as our local broadcasters
have proven they're not immune to any of the trends sweeping the
industry...be it the rise of modern rock, the spread of duopoly (and
more), the decline of AM, and much much more. Let's start here in
Boston, with a quick dial scan of the stations that made news in
So that's Boston in a nutshell...meantime out in the hinterlands:
- 590 WBNW -- After getting off to a slow
start at its launch in September 1994, WBNW continued to reside at the
bottom of the ratings. The daytime money-talk schedule was shaken up
this fall, with the departure of afternoon host Jeannine Graf.
- 680 WRKO -- A good year for Boston's talk
giant, with the PM drive Howie Carr show demonstrating continued
ratings growth. 'RKO picked up the Celtics after the team decided it
didn't want to be associated with the anti-Celts talk hosts on 'RKO's
sister station, all-sports WEEI 850.
- 850 WEEI -- In its first full year on the
50-kW transmitter that used to be WHDH, WEEI posted mixed results.
Imus continues to be WEEI's saving grace, drawing impressive morning
ratings. An autumn shake-up of the talk lineup brought in the Fabulous
Sports Babe, and de-emphasized callers in favor of in-studio sports
banter. A decent season got the Sox off to a good start on their new
home at 850. And former Celtics voice and talk host Glenn Ordway took
over as program chief.
- 890 WBPS -- After months of transitioning
from Spanish-language religious WBIV 1060, this suburban outlet began
establishing itself as Boston's second all-sports outlet. Programming
is mostly Prime Sports (albeit with local AM drive), signal is weak in
much of the market, and ratings thus far have been nonexistent.
- 1030 WBZ -- The big news here came just a
few weeks ago, as WBZ parent Westinghouse bought CBS. 'BZ picked up
the CBS Radio affiliation in March, adding it to the existing AP and
ABC Info networks. The Bruins came to 'BZ this fall, albeit without a
very good record this year. Patriots games were replaced with NY
Giants after WBCN out-bid BZ for the Pats. On a happy note, talk show
host David Brudnoy returned to the airwaves January 5th after being
hospitalized for several months with what he revealed were symptoms of
AIDS. Veteran newsman Darrell Gould retired after almost 30 years at
WBZ. Finally, BZ took home a Marconi award for best major-market
radio station of 1995.
- 1060 WBIV -- Dead and gone...for now. The suburban AM that was
once John Garabedian's pride and joy (as WGTR) gave up its transmitter
and towers to the new 890 WBPS. The license was sold for a pittance
to one Alexander Langer of Florida. Rumor has it that Langer will put
the station back on as a daytimer... but so far nothing concrete (or
steel, for that matter) to show for it.
- 1090 WILD -- A tough year for Boston's
lone black-owned outlet, as WJMN 94.5 asserts itself as the dominant
urban station. Still, WILD has been hanging tough, stepping up its
promotions in a valiant attempt to compete.
- 1200 WKOX -- A complete change of format and focus marked 1995 for
Framingham's AM station. WKOX dumped its satellite country format and
became a Boston-based talker this fall, including a morning news block
and a midday program from Gene Burns (still based in San Francisco and
doing the show by ISDN). WKOX closed out the year by applying for a
power increase to 50 kW, and a daytime transmitter move to a site just
10 miles from downtown Boston. But the future is cloudy...rumors keep
swirling of a buy-out by Salem Communications (owners of WEZE 1260 in
- 1510 WNRB -- The end of the old WSSH call
letters here, as new owners Communicom turned on their religious
format, and changed the calls in February.
- 88.1 WMBR -- MIT's radio station turned on
its new transmitter, boosting power from 360 Watts to 720.
- 88.9 WERS -- Emerson College's station closed out the year amidst
controversy, as college officials banned all but a handful of rap
songs from the station. The administrators say it's out of concern
for violent language; some students call it censorship. WERS also
turned off overnights, because of administration worries about the
safety of student DJs in WERS' studio right on Beacon Street.
- 89.7 WGBH -- Boston's oldest public radio
station dropped its popular afternoon ``MusicAmerica'' show in the
fall to make room for an expanded news block, and in the face of
staunch opposition from listeners who liked the American popular
standards show, refused to reverse the decision. At year's end, it
still looks like a standoff...neither side is budging.
- 91.9 WUMB -- More news at this public broadcaster, too, as it
became the third local outlet for ``All Things Considered'', in an
attempt to maintain the needed listenership to qualify for CPB
funding. WUMB turned on its second satellite station, WFPB 91.9
Falmouth (Cape Cod) earlier this month.
- 92.5 WXRV -- The Haverhill-based station
turned off the ``Lite'' and WLYT calls
this fall, becoming AAA ``The River''.
- 92.9 WBOS -- Boston's first AAA station continued the DJ shuffle,
bringing in veteran Boston jock Ken Shelton as the latest morning
host. Ratings remain moribund.
- 93.7 WEGQ -- Boston's 70's station settled in, ditching the WCGY
calls that were associated with its former rock format. A new tower
for ``Eagle 93-7'' is under construction in Middleton, Mass., some 15
miles closer to Boston than its present Andover location. The search
for a morning host continues after the ouster of original morning guy
- 94.5 WJMN -- ``Jam'n 94.5'' came under the same corporate umbrella
as constant rival Kiss 108, only to find Evergreen buying said
umbrella (otherwise known as Pyramid Broadcasting). Jam'n's new
morning jock, Baltazar (late of Hot 97 in NYC), actually beat Kiss
veteran Matty Siegel...leading to an on-air war of words for a few
- 95.3 WHRB -- The Harvard student station moved from a low
transmitter site near campus to WERS's site atop Boston's One
Financial Center skyscraper, giving the station greatly improved
- 96.9 WBCS -- Greater Media is committed to country here. After
WKLB's sale (see below), WBCS renewed its million dollar pledge,
promising to stay country through January 1, 1997...or else they'll
pay a million dollars to the first caller to catch the format change.
But with WKLB still running country, both stations are splitting a
fairly small piece of pie.
- 98.5 WBMX -- Pretty much status quo at hot AC ``Mix 98.5'', except
for an illness that's sidelined morning guy Joe Martelle through the
start of next year. Barry Scott is taking his 70s-fest, ``The Lost
45's'', into syndication.
- 99.1 WPLM -- This South Shore old-timer finally bowed out of the
cutthroat AC race (against Boston's WBMX, WSSH, and WMJX; Providence's
WSNE and WWLI; and the Cape's WCIB and WCOD), and filled the
smooth-jazz niche in late June. That was the good news. The bad news
is they ditched their local jocks in the process, and turned on the SW
satellite. Ditto (as always) for their AM sister on 1390, nearly
impossible to hear up in Boston, or much of anywhere for that matter.
That's one simulcast that's unlikely to ever be broken.
- 99.5 WOAZ -- Another AC veteran bites the dust, with WSSH,
soft AC ``Wish 99.5'' changing to smooth jazz WOAZ ``Oasis'' at
year's end. The station remains hampered by its Lowell city
of license and its Andover transmitter site, making it difficult
to reach the entire Boston metro, especially downtown and the
- 100.7 WZLX -- Two big changes at the
classic rocker marked '95. Ken Shelton was ousted from mornings,
replaced by George Taylor Morris. And 'ZLX moved from its Hancock
Tower home of more than a decade, down the street to new studios in
the Prudential Tower.
- 101.7 WFNX -- Boston's oldest alternative rocker saw several jocks
leave...and saw some big competition move in, as WBCN shifted from AOR
to modern rock. 'FNX is trying to bolster its less-than-impressive
class A signal, with FCC approval for a new translator in Boston's
Back Bay, just the spot to reach all those college students -- and
Phoenix Media Group corporate HQ on Brookline Ave. to boot!
- 102.5 WCRB -- There might be a format change here...in 97 years.
What can you say about a station that's owned by a trust...which
legally commits it to remain classical until 2092?
- 103.3 WODS -- ``Oldies 103'' had a stable 1995...but there could
be changes in store for '96, as new owners Westinghouse take over at
the CBS-owned FM. Rumors are already swirling about a move from
rented space downtown to the WBZ facility in Brighton.
- 104.1 WBCN -- Probably the radio story of the year here,
as ``The Rock of Boston'' became an alternative rocker. At year's
end, it's still unclear how well Hub audiences have taken to aging DJs
like Charles Laquidara (age 54) playing modern rock. 'BCN picked up
the Patriots with a massive cash infusion from owner Infinity. And
Howard Stern kept grousing about being tape-delayed to 7pm on 'BCN...a
time slot that's been less than kind to the King of Some Media.
- 105.7 WKLB -- Another big story here...as Evergreen made plans to
make this its third Boston FM, as soon as the FCC rules are changed.
The local rumormongers all agree that the country format will likely
be dumped...and the hot rumor is hot talk, à la Evergreen's
WLUP in Chicago. WKLB started the year as WCLB...but did the
call-change thing after a ratings book that showed suspiciously high
numbers for WCRB, not to mention Brockton's WCAV, and
even some radio diary entries for TV station WCVB! In any
case, the changes at WKLB are on hold for now, as Evergreen waits for
permission to take over from Fairbanks Communications.
- 107.9 WXKS -- Pyramid Broadcasting, which took Kiss 108 from worst
to first back in 1979, cashed out this year... selling Kiss 108,
WXKS-AM, WJMN, and its stations elsewhere to Evergreen for a nice big
chunk of cash (into the 9 figures). Pyramid honcho Richie Balsbaugh
had a strong emotional attachment to the Kiss format and jocks...but
will Evergreen show the same restraint in the face of flat ratings at
Kiss? Meanwhile, sister station WJMN continues to soar, prompting
rumors that Evergreen might try to consolidate the CHR and urban
audiences at Jam'n...and take Kiss in another direction. Should be an
interesting year at Kiss headquarters, especially when WJMN moves from
its current rented Waltham digs up to the WXKS facility in scenic
And that's all I can think of. Not a bad year for a chronicler of
radio...here's to a happy, healthy, RF-laden '96!
- Modern rock caught on in a big way, with converts that included
new entry WDGE ``99.7 the Edge'' in Wakefield, R.I. (née WUAE), WHMP-FM ``Today's 99-3'' in Northampton,
Mass., WWBX 97.1 Bangor, Maine (last noted as country WYOU), and
WCYY/WCYI in the Portland market (formerly AAA)...not to mention WMRQ
104.1 Waterbury (Hartford), which actually began transitioning in late
- Duopoly was big, too...with a new triopoly (pending FCC approval)
in Hartford, among others.
- Gone but not forgotten: WHAV 1490 in Haverhill, Mass., jettisoned
its local news staff and its English-language oldies format, and was
sold to Spanish-language WNNW in Salem,
N.H. And just a few weeks ago, country WCAV in Brockton, Mass., fired all its DJs
and went to the bird. Country WHIM in
Providence vanished---again---from its 1110 spot, only to turn up on
the former WKRI 1450 West Warwick, after 1110 became Spanish WPMZ. WARE in Ware, Mass. kept its local news
staff but ditched oldies for a simulcast of new owner WQVR(FM) Southbridge (satellite country).
And most painfully, the very cool WEXP-FM 105.1 up in Burlington, Vt.
(actually Plattsburgh, N.Y.) proved to be too good for its own good.
In an over-built market, this very eclectic AAA-esque station couldn't
make it, and was sold into duopoly, only to resurface in the hands of
the radio Body Snatchers as satellite oldies WKOL. Thanks, but no thanks. At least
Southern Vermont got some cool AAA, as WBFL 107.1 Bellows Falls and WUVR 100.5 in Lebanon, N.H., teamed up as
- Back from the dead: Little WHAB(FM) at Acton-Boxboro High School in
Acton, Mass., reappeared at 89.1 FM. And WCMX in Leominster, Mass.,
could be back on AM 1000 within a few weeks. WKFD 1370 in Wickford,
R.I., could be back soon, too.
- New to the airwaves: WBNC-FM 104.5 in Conway, N.H., WKCD 107.7 in
Pawcatuck, Conn. (brand-new, running SW Smooth Jazz), just to name a
few. Out in Western Mass., AC WJDF 97.3 made its on-air debut in mid-
summer. New Hampshire Public Radio announced plans to start a second,
all-classical network, and has applied for licenses in Lancaster and
- A number of stations flipped or otherwise fiddled formats,
including 102.1 WZEA in Hampton, N.H., which became WSTG ``The
Stage'', playing an entertainer-oriented AC format.