Monday, November 24, 2008

Punked : WROR's Loren and Wally give Laquidara a birthday wakeup

This morning, WROR 105.7FM's morning team of Loren and Wally attempted to prank the retired Boston radio legend Charles Laquidara on his big 70th birthday. Here's WROR'sp press release :

105.7 WROR celebrated the birthday of long-time Boston radio personality, Charles Laquidara, with a taste of his own medicine!

Charles Laquidara’s son, Ari-Jon, and WROR’s Loren and Wally did a Big Mattress-style “wake-up” call to Charles at 4am Maui time. The fictitious plot: Ari told his Dad that he had been taken into custody for DUI and the arresting officer (played by WROR’s Tom Doyle) wasn’t a fan of Charles’ liberal politics.

The practical joke worked for a short time before Charles knew he was being hosed. He then joked that he was paying for Ari’s college and the cops should keep him in custody to save Charles some money.

Since WROR is playing all Christmas songs, Loren and Wally sent out Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka” to him as a birthday present.

The phone call will be available for a limited time as a WROR podcast at
www.wror.com

BRW Notebook :

Zone 2.0 : As mentioned here in the last update, WWZN AM/Zone 1510 is adding a couple of new progressive talk programs beginning next Monday(12/1). Jeff Santos and his Santos Media company have bought the 6am-9am block on the station. Morever, Santos has bought additional time on the schedule and will program the 12-3pm slot beginning in January.(He'll host and program Zone's all-day inaguration broadcast on January 20th). The rest of the Zone's schedule will fill out like this : "The Steve Sweeney and Friends" show(9a-10a), Sports Memo Show 10a-12p, The Young Guns with ChrisVillani(3p-5p), various sports shows 5p-6p, SF-based progressive talker Peter B. Collins who like Santos debuts on Monday will be on from 6pm-to 9pm and Sporting News Radio will close out the day 9p-12a. Boston University hockey and basketball will preempt the Peter B. Collins show.

Radio stuffings : Some Thanksgiving day specials around the dial include WFNX 101.7FM doing a Leftover Weekend with its playlist of tunes from the 70's, 80's and 90's starting Thursday at 6am and going to 8pm Sunday. WXRV/The River 92.5FM will have an "Un-plucked Thanksgiving" with all-acoustic playlist.

Pink Christmas? : Radio trade publication Radio Business Report(RBR) had an item in its Friday's update that one of the nation's biggest radio companies is planning a mother of all layoffs next month. RBR didn't give company's name but the list of usual suspects probably applies.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Zone will have plenty of Left in the air

It's been nearly two years since WKOX AM 1200/WXKS AM 1430 stopped carrying Air America Network and changed over to Latin music format Rumba. However, some progressive talk is about to make a re-entry via a new spot on the dial. Beginning Monday December 1, talkshow host Jeff Santos who briefly had a Sunday afternoon local show on WKOX/WXKS two years ago will launch a new morning talk program on WWZN AM 1510 from 6am to 9am. Recently, Santos hosted a daily one-hour afternoon show on the Zone prior to the election. At night, the Zone will also carry another new progressive talk show from 6pm to 9pm(Update : the new nighttime show will be hosted by San Francisco-based Peter B. Collins whose 3-hour show is currently aired on a seven station network in CA, MT, OR and WA).

As for sports, the station will still have a number of shows in the line-up. "Young Guns Radio" which currently occupies the 7am-9am slot on the Zone will move back to the afternoons. More details on new progressive talk programming and line-up changes at the Zone will be announced shortly.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bumpy road ahead for Westwood One and Metro Networks

The struggling parent company of the largest traffic gathering service in the country - Westwood One Inc. –
received really bad news earlier today. The New York Stock Exchange delisted Westwood One’s stock which closed its last business day of trading on Wall Street at 13 cents a share. It’s still unclear how today’s action will impact Westwood One’s subsidiary Metro Networks that provides traffic reports in metropolitan areas around the nation. The Metro’s local operations for the Greater Boston area are located at 7 Bullfinch Place in downtown Boston.

As reported here previously (BRW 9/15), Metro Networks made substantial cuts in its local personnel and operations(customizing one single report for market’s smaller stations) as part of nationwide restructuring. At the time, the company had announced that its new digital technology would allow it to consolidate resources from 60 operations centers into 13 regional hubs, improve service to small, medium and large markets, and alleviate demands on aerial reporting units. Now, it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen to Westwood One's Metro Networks operations here and elsewhere.

Locally, one of Metro’s biggest customers is WBZ AM 1030 which provides its “Traffic on the 3’s” during its all-news format block. Talker WRKO AM 680 uses Metro for news updates and traffic and sister station sports talker WEEI AM 850 also uses the service for its sports flash updates on weekends.

Metro Networks is the largest traffic gathering and reporting operation in the world.

Westwood One provides more than 150 news, sports, music, talk and entertainment programs, features and live events to numerous media partners. Westwood One distributes NFL games including the Super Bowl.



BRW Notebook :

River gets new GM :
Haverhill’s WXRV 92.5FM/The River appointed 21-year broadcast veteran Donald St. Sauveur as its new General Manager. His previous stops included Entercom Boston, CBS Radio Boston, American Radio Systems and Interep. Sauveur was one of a dozen staffers let go by Entercom due to budget cuts last month(BRW 10/16). He served as WRKO AM 680's national sales manager at the time of his exit.

Walk on! : WAAF 107.3FM morning personalities Lyndon Byers and Spaz are hitting the road tomorrow morning for the 16th annual
"Walk for Change" More than to raise the Greater Boston Food Bank, the Worcester County Food Bank and the New Hampshire Food Bank. LB and Spaz will finish the 3-day trek at WAAF's studios in Brighton on Friday. Meanwhile, Greg Hill will be in the studio taking listeners' requests and playing anything that goes(for a donation, of course).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Stations continue to cut jobs

Apparently the bleeding hasn’t stopped. Local media groups continue to cut jobs in a weak economy.

There were behind-the-scenes layoffs this week at CBS Radio Boston stations. Positions affected were in sales, administration, promotions, production and on-air. Although no official counts or names were released, some of those who were impacted by force reduction included : WBZ’s veteran weekend news anchor Bob McMahon, Bruins broadcast host and weekend sports anchor Allan Segel, producer Scott Cooper. At WODS 103.3FM/Oldies, morning news anchor June Knight has been replaced with news updates from WBZ AM 1030 and veteran DJ Mike Finnegan exited with weekend DJ Patrick Callahan taking over Finnegan's night shift. At classic rocker WZLX 100.7FM, overnight jock Al Cole and 13-year senior account executive Neal Perlstein were let go.

Even public broadcasting hasn’t been immune from the unsettling economic downturn as big corporate sponsors are tighetening up their underwriting budgets. Staffers at WGBH 89.7FM and sister TV stations WGBH TV2/44 began receiving pink slips late yesterday afternoon. As many as 9% of the 900 member work force have or will be let go before the end of the month according to sources. The layoffs will effect various departments including programming, local and national sponsorship sales and production.

BRW Notebook :

"Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech " : Much to the delight of those who have long complained about the existence of talk radio, it is entirely likely that the new Congress and new administration will bring back what has been referred to as the Fairness Doctrine. Some of Boston top conservative talk radio hosts will be taking on the politicians in the weeks to come
reports the Herald.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Zito tapped as co-host for Oldies' morning show

Boston morning drive radio listeners will have a new choice on their dial tomorrow morning. Well, the AM drive team on Oldies 103.3 may be new, but the voices will sound quite familiar to those who spun around Boston's FM band over the past 25 years.

Tomorrow at 6am, WODS 103.3FM will officailly launch its brand new morning show with
Karen Blake and Chris Zito, CBS Radio-owned station announced today. At the end of September, Blake took over the morning slot from the Boston radio icon Dale Dorman who semi-retired after a 40-year run on Boston radio(BRW 9/14). She was briefly paired with former Ch.4 sportscaster Bob Lobel who served as gues host for three weeks(BRW 9/19). Meanwhile, Dorman is still heard on Oldies every Satruday morning(9am-Noon).

As hinted earlier(BRW 9/25), WODS tapping veteran stand-up comic and radio host Chris Zito as the new morning co-host wasn't a huge surprise. Prior to WODS, Zito spent five years working on a popular morning drive show at Worcester 's WXLO 104.5FM. WODS' current PD Jay Beau Jones who was WXLO's PD up until this past February originally hired Zito to do mornings there. In the early 90's, Zito worked mornings with JR Edwards at WJMN/WZOU 94.5 where Blake hosted afternoon drive around the same time. Both of them then ended up at Greater Media's country station WCLB 105.7FM(now WROR) where Zito was exec-producing "Loren and Wally" in the AM and Blake handled PM drive from 1994 to 1996. After WCLB stint, Zito moved to Detroit for five years where he joined his former WZOU/WJMN morning man JR at Planet 96.3 In 2001, he returned to Boston and worked as a writer on Steve Sweeney’s morning show "Sweeney's Neighborhood" on WZLX from 2001 to 2003.

Zito's track record as a stand-up comedian is as long as his radio career. He'll continue doing his stand up routine at
Dick Doherty's Comedy Vault in Boston every Thursday night.


BRW Notebook :


Signature call still gets plenty of play :
Dan Davis' radio description of Doug Flutie's "Hail Mary" pass to Gerard Phelan against Miami Hurricanes at the Orange Bowl in November 1984 accompanies many video clips of that play and is still in big deamnd commercially reports the Herald. Davis called every game Flutie played at Boston College on radio, including "The Miracle in Miami" game on WRKO. Davis has been with ESPN Radio in Bristol, CT since leaving WRKO in 1992.

Going national : As tipped in this space last month(BRW 10/2), NYC-based talker and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa who landed the 10pm-1am slot on WTKK 96.9FM’s line-up on
October 1st had plans to go national and now he isl. Sliwa’s employer, Citadel Broadcasting, is launching his night show(9pm-1am) in syndication after a month-long test run in Boston. The new national show is expected to have 20 stations by December 1. Sliwa has already been added on Citadel’s KABC AM 790 in LA and next week WMAL AM 630 in Baltimore/Washington DC will pick up his new syndication effort. He’s expected to leave his current midday shift(10am-Noon) at his NYC flagship talker WABC AM 770 reports the Daily News. There are whispers out of the Big Apple that Imus’ right-hand man producer Bernie McGuirk will move into Sliwa’s old slot on WABC but that's unconfirmed.

The world is full of skeptics :....especially when it comes to HD Radio. Another less than than enthusiastic article on HD Radio, this time in
last week's Wall Street Journal. While there's nothing new in it, the fact that the same questions are still being raised about HD's viability suggests that terrestrial radio's answer to I-technology and satellite radio is far from turning a corner in gaining market acceptance. The article's title - Weak Signals: Can HD Radio Find Listeners? - says it all.

Change they'll try : This brings us to another topic on new technology - PPM (short for Portable People Meter) radio's new ratings measuring system, which begins in Boston on January 8th. Some 2,000 local radioheads who've been recruited by Arbitron over the past couple of months and representing the area's 3.8 million listeners will begin wearing beeperlike monitors(PPMs) to track what stations they are tuned to.

After the current fall ratings survey period for the Boston radio market ends on December 10th, Arbitron's new portable meters will completely replace the crude system radio stations have used since the days before Elvis had his first hit(~1965). For decades, paid listeners have kept diaries about what stations they tuned into throughout the day, and Arbitron has ranked the stations from those. But broadcasters and advertisers have long disputed the accuracy of the diary-driven ratings. Consider: Diaries are virtually impossible to keep if you are driving and flipping through channels every time you hear something you don't like. How would you recollect all the button punching at the end of a day, or week, when you sit down to fill out the diary? That won't be a problem with the new electronic meters, which will constantly track subsonic encoded signals from each station. A common complaint about the diary system was that many people voted for their favorite stations without listening to them as much as they claimed. And, stations will no longer have to constantly remind listeners what they are listening to as they often do right now so to make sure the call letters track with the diary keepers.

Not that the meter method is without some major flaws especially when it comes to tracking younger listeners who just won't wear them all the time for whatever reason. Also, how do you track office workers wearing headsets while listening an on-line station at work?

Will see. Arbitron will now provide monthly reports. The first two months under the new PPM system - January and February - won't count as Arbitron will use them to work any bugs or glitches until it goes live in March. And, stations won't be able to use the data for these two months to sell advertising time. March is when it all starts for real in Boston radioland. Here's Arbitron's
PPM schedule for the Boston radio market.

Roll over and beg : Sirius and XM program offerings become one tomorrow (11/12). The two satellite radio services are merging into one set of channels to be offered to all subscribers of both former rivals. Announcements have been airing on the satellite stations telling listeners where to tune for their favorites as of Nov. 12. Channels from the two sets which are duplications will see only one survive in the new combined offering. But there are many questions surrounding the financial future of the new merged satellite entity which
just announced...gulp..a $5 billion loss.[Ed. Note : With Sirius XM heavily bleeding cash these days, wouldn't it make sense to sell Howard Stern's morning show to terrestrial radio syndication ala Opie and Anthony deal with CBS? Could be a win-win for both sides. Sirius XM could make some extra cash on a side and terrestrial radio could bring back some listeners who never returned after Howard walked over to satellite radio.]

Drive-by whiner of the week : Patrick O'Keefe of Boston Sports Media Examiner has
apparently found a couple of things wrong with Felgie, Gino and Gil.[Ed. Note : Just goes to show you that a Boston sports fan with an opinion will forever be one unsatisfied customer. :-]

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ready or not, holiday hits arrive early this year

Harry Connick Jr. will sing you Let it Snow! Let It Snow! Let it Snow!. So will Andy Williams. Don't like Bing Crosby's rendition of Silver Bells? Stand by for a few minutes for versions by Stevie Wonder or Perry Como.

Both WODS-FM/Oldies 103.3 and WROR 105.7FM dumped their classic hits/classic oldies playlists around 6am this morning and will now play nothing but 50 solid days of Christmas music thru December 25th. WODS has been switching to All-Christmas-All-The-Time format since 2003. WROR jumped on the holiday music bandwagon last year.

Radio station executives hope Bostonians will tune in for a peaceful change from a terrible economy and a never-ending election season. They may be right.

While many stations around the country typically wait until Thanksgiving to go all-Christmas, WROR and WODS switch was not unusually early considering poor state of the advertising market and declining consumer confidence. The early jump on the all-Christmas playlist is undoubtedly driven to help out stations’ advertisers. The all-holiday tunes are meant to put listeners into a shopping and spending mood during one of the worst recessions in years.

And, for those listeners who don’t want to sit thru 15,000 song playlist of holiday cheer for the next six weeks, they can simply turn the dial.

WROR's release regarding its seasonal format switch is here.


BRW Notebook :

Class of 2008
: President-elect Barack Obama is not the only one having a big week. So are two Boston radio personalities who will be honored in Chicago this weekend. The late, great Jess Cain, who was Boston's premier morning drive radio voice on WHDH AM 850 for nearly 35 years will be inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago this Saturday night(11/8). Another Boston entry is WRKO AM 680's popular afternoon host Howie Carr who will invite his former producer Doug "VB" Goudie(now with Fox25 morning news) to be on his show today. WRKO AM 680 will air
Westwood One's live 1-hour special presentation at 10pm on Saturday from the black-tie event hosted by comedian/radio host Adam Carolla at the Chicago's Reneissance Hotel.

What will they talk about now? : For the past two years, Boston talk radio has been filled with the discussion of the elction. In fact, one can argue that both WRKO AM 680 and WTKK 96.9FM current line-ups are built around politics. It should be interesting to see if there'll be any post-election hangover for the right-leaning programming which is looking to find someone new to blame according to today's
Herald report.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Call ‘em polling stations : local radio plans to blanket airwaves with election coverage

Radio will be all over the Election Day on Tuesday.

WBZ AM 1030 will start extensive coverage at 5am on Election Tuesday. In addition, for the first time ever, the news/talk station will provide its election reports to the other four CBS Radio-owned Boston stations(WBMX 98.5FM, WBCN 104.1FM, WODS 103.3FM and WZLX 100.7FM) throughout the day. Morning anchor Ed Walsh will kick off the election night wall-to-wall coverage at the top and bottom of each hour starting at 8pm. Walsh will be joined by veteran political strategist Michael Goldman who will provide the election results analysis. Dan Rea will be at his customary "NightSide" host position and will provide analysis and discussion with Walsh and Goldman following each newscast. Rea will also be taking calls from listeners. Rod Fritz will take over the newsanchor duties from Walsh at around 11pm. WBZ will also tie in network reports from CBS Radio News and ABC Radio News with their correspondents on the campaign trail as well as their polling experts and analysts in New York. WBZ will have its reporters in New Hampshire covering the Obama and McCain headquarters as well in various Boston locations standing by for reactions of national and local results, plus live coverage of victory and concession speeches by the presidential candidates.

On the talk front,
WRKO AM 680 will kick the big day off with Tom Finneran who will have Gov. Deval Patrick as his guest. Syndicated talkers Laura Ingraham(10-Noon) and Rush Limbaugh(Noon to 3pm) will provide national perspective. Howie Carr who has a huge week ahead with his Radio Hall of Fame induction on Saturday(11/8) will bring it home with the local reaction. Starting at 7pm, WRKO will pick up Fox News Radio's special election coverage with up to the minute national race results including local inserts for Mass. elections and ballot questions. Rival talker WTKK 96.9FM’s election coverage will click into high gear with round-the-clock coverage from its local talk shows(Michael Graham(9am-Noon), Eagan and Braude(12-3pm), Jay Severin(3pm-7pm), Michelle Mcphee(7-10pm) and Curtis Sliwa(10pm-1am). WTKK's Ed Cherubino will be live in the newsroom supplemented by national news reports from CNN. WTKK's special election coverage will begin at 7pm and will continue until the winner is declared. The FM talker will also have live studio audience on hand.

WBUR 90.9FM will start its planned eight-hour coverage at 7pm relying on National Public Radio reports and call-in segments anchored by Robert Siegel and Michele Norris. At midnight Siegel and Norris will hand the baton over to Weekend Edition’s host Scott Simon and NPR’s congressional correspondent Debbie Elliot who ill anchor NPR’s national coverage until 3am. A number of minutes each hour will be turned over to local coverage by the WBUR news staff for in-depth coverage of state and local races.

Meanwhile, don't be surprised if you tune in to WGBH 89.7FM and don’t hear Eric Jackson’s jazz programming between 8pm and Midnight. Just like WBUR 90.9FM, WGBH will run NPR’s coverage and provide its own local inserts from WGBH news staffers. WGBH’s election coverage
will kick off at 7pm with a special election edition of PRI’s The World.

BRW Notebook :

Practicing for Election Night : Even sports talker WEEI AM 850 is in the election mix...kind of. Monday Night Football’s Redskins-Steelers game which will air on WEEI at 8:30pm(8:00pm pregame) apparently carries some historical significance thanks to the so-called Redskins Rule according to ESPN.com.story. [Ed. Note : Bottom line - If the Redskins win, McCain wins. If the Steelers win, Obama wins. Will see if the sreak holds this time around.] :

“The Redskins, in fact, are an accurate barometer for presidential elections. According to Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau, who coined the term "Redskins Rule" in 2000, the following bromide has held true for the past 17 presidential elections: If the Redskins win their last home game prior to Election Day, the party that won the popular vote in the previous election wins the White House; if the Redskins lose, the party that lost the popular vote in the previous election wins.”
Eearly holiday gifts? : CBS Radio's company-wide initiave will have all of its stations in major markets running an on-line holiday music channel on their respective websites this season. This is part of the multi-million dollar CBS-AOL online radio network partnership agreement signed earlier this year. The AOL-powered Boston Holiday Music channel can already be accessed via CBS-owned WODS 103.3FM and WBMX 98.5FM sites with WBZ AM 1030, WBCN 104.1FM and WZLX 100.7FM soon to follow. Over the air, WODS 103.3FM which has been pre-empting its oldies format with all-holiday tunes every November and December since 2003 is expected to switch to its all-Christmas format as early as this week.