Monday, November 30, 2009

WGBH debuts with a new format and schedule

WGBH officials know that when their FM station launches its new brand schedule with more focus on in-depth news and analysis tomorrow morning(12/1), some people in the region will not be happy. But in the statement released this morning WGBH president Jon Abbott is confident the new mix on 89.7FM will ultimately develop a better connection to the local community it serves.

With the acquisition of WCRB 99.5FM, as of tomorrow, WGBH 89.7 will be converted to all news and information from 5am to 8pm weekdays. The new weekend schedule will also ve devoted to news and public affairs programming. Jazz programming will be retained between 8pm and 5am weekdays.

One of the highlights of WGBH's new offerings will be a brand new two-hour local talk show planned for January launch. It will be hosted by creator and host of WGBH-TV's "Greater Boston" and "Beat The Bress" Emily Rooney(1st hour) and veteran journalist Callie Crossley(2nd hour).

WGBH's management also sees the new format as more of a complement to Boston University's WBUR 90.9FM which has had a very successful run as an NPR-affiliated news station.“We’re developing our schedule as a complement to the fine work done by WBUR and others, to give audiences greater access to stories with insight into the events of the day", commented by WGBH's general manager John Voci in the press release.

Here's WGBH's release on the new schedule which is still work in progress :

New schedule for 89.7 WGBH, Boston’s NPR Station debuts December 1
Veteran Journalists Emily Rooney, Callie Crossley to host talk shows

Local in-depth news, analysis and discussion will form the core of the new lineup on WGBH Radio as the Boston public media producer introduces a new schedule on Tuesday, December 1.

Alongside its international news production The World, and signature programs from National Public Radio, the new 89.7 WGBH, Boston’s NPR Station will focus on stories that provide context for the issues facing Boston and the New England region. And starting in January, the centerpiece of the new lineup will be two distinct hours of local, mid-day discussion with award-winning journalists Emily Rooney and Callie Crossley.

The changes are possible because of WGBH’s acquisition of All Classical 99.5, where it will shift its schedule of classical music, preserving a full-time classical service for Boston.

“We’re excited to have this opportunity to draw on WGBH’s considerable journalistic resources in both radio and television to provide a new definition of local public service broadcasting,” said WGBH president Jon Abbott. “Developing meaningful ways to keep our community connected to the issues that matter, and reflecting on what we value individually and collectively, is a core strength of public radio.”

The schedule, which will continue to evolve over time, will include local feature and enterprise reporting with a ‘focus team’ of reporters investigating the stories behind the headlines. First up will be a ten-part series on special education, and the issues involved for families and schools.

Another regular feature will be science segments drawn from the WGBH-produced PBS series Nova; and local perspective on national and international topics featured on The World and WGBH’s co-production The Takeaway.

The mid-day programs, still in development, will provide a lively forum Monday through Friday for discussing diverse topics of greatest interest and importance in the region. The first hour will be hosted by Emily Rooney, the award-winning host, executive editor and creator of WGBH’s Greater Boston and Beat the Press. The second hour will be hosted by Callie Crossley, a veteran journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker who is a regular panelist with WGBH TV’s Basic Black, and a commentator on Greater Boston’s popular Beat the Press program. They each will engage listeners with their distinct points of view and understanding of local issues.

“There are thousands of people around the Boston area eager to hear what someone else knows,” says Rooney. “That’s why a signature segment of the hour will be ‘What Are YOU Hearing,’ some fun and lively analysis within the program.”

“As a new voice to 89.7 I hope to bring a fresh perspective, and invite listeners into the kind of thoughtful, robust discussion that is the hallmark of public radio,” said Crossley. “I look forward to being part of this new chapter for WGBH, exploring the stories of Boston and New England.”

Other programs planned for the new schedule include a weekly presentation of Beat the Press each Saturday afternoon; additional weekday broadcasts of The Takeaway; presentation of the PBS staple The NewsHour Monday through Friday; Bob Edwards Weekend, featuring in-depth interviews with newsmakers by the former NPR host; The Diane Rehm Show, offering listeners thoughtful and lively conversations on an array of topics; Fresh Air with Terry Gross, a magazine of contemporary arts and issues; and Says You! the Boston-based fun and witty word game.The programs will be punctuated by brief musical interludes throughout the day, showcasing a spectrum of local musicians and creating a signature sound for the new lineup.

“Boston audiences have a great appetite for high quality journalism, trusted news reporting and thoughtful perspective on local issues,” said WGBH Radio General Manager John Voci. “We’re developing our schedule as a complement to the fine work done by WBUR and others, to give audiences greater access to stories with insight into the events of the day.”

About WGBH

WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster, producing such award-winning PBS series as Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Arthur, Curious George, and more than a dozen other prime-time, lifestyle, and children’s series. WGBH’s television channels include WGBH 2/HD and 44, and digital channels World and Create. Local TV productions that focus on the region’s diverse community include Greater Boston, Basic Black, and María Hinojosa: One-on-One. WGBH Radio serves listeners from Cape Cod to New Hampshire with WGBH 89.7, Boston’s NPR Station; WCRB 99.5 All Classical; WCAI for the Cape and Islands; WNCK on Nantucket; and the All-Classical WGBH HD channel. WGBH also produces the national radio news program The World. WGBH is a leading producer of online content and a pioneer in developing educational multimedia and new technologies that make media accessible for people with disabilities. Find more information at

Emily RooneyHost, Greater Boston and Beat The PressEmily

Rooney is the host, executive editor and creator of WGBH’s Greater Boston and Beat the Press. Since Greater Boston’s inception in 1997, Emily has brought her journalistic credentials and deep knowledge of media, politics, and culture to the program and has earned numerous awards, including the National Press Club's prestigious Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism, a series of New England Emmy Awards, and Associated Press recognition for Best News/Talk Show. She was recently inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame, which honors the Bay State’s legends of radio and television Before coming to WGBH, Emily was director of political coverage and special events at Fox Network in New York from 1994 to 1997. Prior to that, she was executive producer of ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. Emily also worked at WCVB-TV in Boston from 1979 to 1993, where she served as news director for three years and as assistant news director before that.

Callie CrossleyCommentator

Callie Crossley draws on her rich experience as an award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker to offer commentary on the media for WGBH’s Beat the Press, National Public Radio, and other outlets. Producer of the Academy Award-nominated hour of the acclaimed documentary series Eyes on the Prize, Callie has won nearly every top film and broadcast journalism prize, including a national Emmy, a Peabody, an Edward R. Murrow, and the Alfred I. Dupont-Columbia award (Gold Baton). A former producer for ABC's 20/20, she is currently Program Manager for the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard and a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, guest lecturing at colleges and universities about media, politics, and the intersection of race, gender and media. Callie also serves as a judge for several major journalism awards and is a wine enthusiast and commentator who writes the blog The Crushed Grape Report.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

'GBH makes a strong pledge to local classical music programming

Come December 1st, there will be some noticeable changes on Boston's lone 24/7 classical music outlet WCRB 99.5FM as the station joins WGBH's public broadcasting family. Pledge drives and underwriting announcements will replace commercials. WCRB will re-brand itself from "Boston's Classical Station" to "99.5 All Classical". Because of the fact that there won't be commercials means WCRB's presentation and sound will change somewhat allowing the station to play longer movements from symphonies. Many of WCRB's current on-air and off-air staffers at longtime Waltham's South Street location will not be following the station to its new studios at WGBH facilities at Brighton Landing. WCRB's morning voice for the past 12 years, Lauro Carlo , is one of the few who are moving to Brighton studios. WGBH's current classical music hosts Clay Fuller, Ray Brown, Brian McCreath and Suzanne Bona will come on-board at the re-launched WCRB.

The change follows a deal between Nassau Broadcasting and WGBH Educational Foundation, which was announced in late September(BRW 9/21).As part of the transaction, WGBH is purchasing the FCC broadcast license for 99.5FM, all related transmitting equipment and WCRB's call letters and Web site from Nassau for $14 million. FCC approved the deal last Friday(BRW 11/14).

WGBH has released WCRB's new schedule :

5:00am-9:00am Classical music with Laura Carlo - includes leading stories and weather from the WGBH newsroom

9:00am-2:00pm Classical music with Cathy Fuller -includes 1:00-2:00pm “In Performance” (daily spotlight on WGBH live recordings)

2:00pm-6:00pm Classical music with Ray Brown - includes leading stories and weather from the WGBH newsroom6:00pm-5:00am Classical music

Thursdays: 7:00-8:00pm performances from WGBH’s Fraser Performance Studio

7:00am-11:00am Classical music with Brian McCreath - includes ‘Kid’s Classical Hour’(9-10am)
11:00am-12:00pm From the Top (featuring the nation’s best young classical musicians)
12:00pm-7:00am Classical music
8pm The Boston Symphony Orchestra

7:00am-11:00am Classical music with Brian McCreath
11:00am-2:00pm Sunday Baroque with Suzanne Bona
2:00pm-5:00pm The BSO on Record, and Sunday Concerts, including Tanglewood
5:00pm-6:00pm From the Top
6:00pm-8:00pm Classical music
8:00pm-9:00pm The Bach Hour, produced and hosted by Brian McCreath
9:00pm-5:00am Classical music

BRW Notebook :

What's New in the Hub : Channel 5's nightly news magazine "Chronicle" profiled the new Sports Hub 98-5 as part of its "What's New?" program this week. You can watch the segment right here.

WTKK resets Saturday schedule : WTKK 96.9FM is pulling "The Money Show" with Rick Schaffer and Susan Kaplan out of its Saturday line-up(1-4pm) to make room for WPHT AM/Philly's "The Big Money Show" beginning Thanksgiving Day weekend. The Money Show will still be heard in its Sunday's 9am-Noon slot. WTKK's new Saturday line-up announced today looks like this :

Hire it Done with Adam Helfman 6-8am
The Big Money Show 8-10am,
Mel Robbins 10am-1pm
Joe and Huggy 1-4pm
The Phantom Gourmet 4-7pm
Jay Severin Rewind 7-10pm
John Batchelor 10-1am

Quinn exits 'UMB : After 22 years at WUMB 91.9FM and nearly 20 years as the station's Program Director, good guy Brian Quinn was laid off last Tuesday(11/10) due to budget cutbacks. Quinn told BRW : "I would like to stay in the biz, but now looking for anything, it's a new start right?" Brian's e-mail is

Wanting to be heard : In the wake of WGBH 89.7FM's decision to cancel weekend speciality music programming - "Folk on WGBH" and "Blues on WGBH" - a grassroots effort to reinstate these shows has begun. Folk and Blues shows have aired on WGBH for the past 31 years. You can read more about the effort to bring them back on the facebook page here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

FCC approves WCRB purchase as 'GBH sets a date for its format conversion

Since plating its antenna on the Great Blue Hills in Milton and going on the air on October 6, 1951, Boston's public broadcaster WGBH 89.7FM, has built its strong identity around news and music programming, much of it is jazz and classical. But come Tuesday, December 1, WGBH's format will undergo a major conversion to mostly-news, information and talk as the 58-year old public broadcasting's institution will shed its long-running image as the "NPR, Arts and Culture Station".

Yesterday, Federal Communications Commision officially green-lighted WGBH Educational Foundation's $14-million acquisition of WCRB 99.5FM from financially-troubled Nassau Broadcasting. The deal closing is expected later this month. As mentioned here previously, WGBH will shift all of its classical music offerings and programming from 89.7FM to WCRB 99.5FM beginning December 1st. WCRB 99.5FM will also become a non-commercial signal adopting public radio's revenue model based on listener donations and corporate underwriting(BRW 9/29). Also as expected when the WCRB deal was first announced eight weeks ago(BRW 9/21), WGBH will eliminate much of its music programming to make room for news and talk programming. Unfortunately for the fans of weekend blues and folk block programming such long-running music shows as “Folk on WGBH’’ and “Blues on WGBH" will be gone after Thanksgiving. As of now, the only music holdovers on WGBH 89.7FM's new schedule will be the weeknight "Jazz with Eric in Evening"(Mon-Thur) and "Jazz from Studio 4"(Fri), a weekend Celtic music show "Celtic Sojourn" and a nationally syndicated music/variety show "Prairie Home Companion".

Stay tuned to this space for the upcoming details on WGBH 89.7FM's new news/information line-up as soon as they're released.

Friday, November 13, 2009

WROR and WODS look for gold in Christmas season soundtracks

Beginning a little after noon, two Boston classic hits stations - WODS 103.3FM and WROR 105.7FM - are once again hoping to spin the soundtracks of the Christmas season - from classic carols to sappy-soft ballads - into ratings gold. Adopting a format that has proven popular nationally and locally, these two stations are playing all Christmas tunes, all the time.

Just a few years ago, it was all but taboo to go full-on holiday tunes before Thanksgiving Day weekend but stations here and around the country have been 'moving up' the holiday tune format earlier and earlier every year. The conventional wisdom among radio broadcasters was listeners would get sick of it and ratings would suffer. That wisdom looked more like wisdumb since WODS 103.3 begun converting to all-Christmas every November since 2003.

WODS 103.3FM has been switching to 100% Christmas songs for seven straight years. This is WROR's third straight year doing the seasonal format switch. Both stations have seen dividends from playing holiday tunes. Even though both classic hits stations will return to their regular playlists after midnight on Christmas Day, they've been seeing a sort of 'halo effect' in that some of these ratings are retained into the New Year. In addition when you have large number of retail businesses turned into holiday music formats, it amounts to a free marketing campaign for these stations, even though it is not reflected in the ratings.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Round 2 : SportsHub proves that it has arrived

WEEI-AM, a.k.a. Sports Radio 850, was the first all-sports station in Boston in 1991 and has dominated all pretenders since then, first on 890(WBPS), then on 1510(WNBR/WWZN) and most recently on 890(WAMG).

But, finally, WEEI is facing a serious challenge as WBZ 98.5FM, a.k.a. 98-5 The SportsHub, is closing the gap between the two all-sports stations. In the just-released October ratings book, Sports Hub experienced a ratings surge to bring it within striking distance of WEEI after just two months on the air.

Overall, WEEI registered a 5.3 rating (up from 5.2 in September) finishing in 5th place while WBZ-FM was in 14th with a 3.6 (up from a 2.5) among all listeners 6 years old and up Monday-Sunday, from 6 a.m. to midnight from September 17 to October 14. According to Arbitron's spokesperson, in its target demo category of men 25-54, WEEI-AM was once again ranked first but WBZ-FM has jumped to 3rd place. Despite still trailing in the overall numbers, WBZ-FM's management probably didn't count on such a quick growth in such a short period of time when the station launched in mid-August. According to Arbitron's overall numbers, WBZ-FM's audience grew from 488,000 in September to 780,000 in October.

The latest Arbitron numbers show Boston listeners, have noticed the SportsHub on the dial which maybe not so good news for a number of non-sports formats on FM.

While WEEI's "Dennis and Callahan" still ranked solid #1 among men 25-54, not-limitted-to-sports "Toucher and Rich" moved from 8th to 7th. But the afternoon drive may be the real story of WBZ-FM's October surge - "Felger and Massarrotti" jumped from 10th to 4th while WEEI's "Big Show" was in 2nd.

All of which begs the question: Could WEEI be feeling the heat? Maybe. Maybe not. No matter how you look at it or which side you're on, WEEI is still the top dog in this fight with an extremely-branded name in this town. Bottom line - WEEI is not going away.

But what WBZ-FM has proven so far, and what has been known all along, is this : there's more than enough of a sports radio market in Boston for both of WEEI and WBZ-FM to exist in and fight over. In many ways, both sports radio products are very different and obviously appeal to different segments of a large sports and non-sports radio base. While WBZ-FM hasn't really marketed itself very heavily thru TV, print or billboards, these latest ratings are showing that listeners are definitely aware of the new sports talk brand out there.

BRW Notebook :

Hey, what you said? : Of course, no matter how you look at this story in the Herald, it seems like Imus and WTKK relationship has seen its better days. Although middayer Michael Graham was calling into Imus the other morning, it was more of a courtesy check-in than anything else.

This and that : Familiar voice is back on WTKK 96.9FM's airwaves. Former CNBC business reporter Ron Insana is providing four daily business updates on FM Talker. Insana used to have a syndicated weekend show which used to air on WTKK on Saturdays....Jeff Santos' brainchild "Revolution Boston" has expanded again on WWZN AM 1510 this week. The station has added syndicated progressive talkers Mike Malloy(9-12a), Norman Goldman(Midnight-3am) and Leslie Marshall(3am-5am) to its roster. Since early May, in addition to Santos' morning drive show(7am-10am), the station has been running Stephanie Miller(10am-12pm), Ed Schultz(12-3pm) and Thom Hartmann(3p-6pm). Santos signed a one-year time lease with WWZN in late April to run progressive talk radio format in the Boston market.