Sunday, December 27, 2009

Boston Radio rewind 2009

2009 was a year of great change in Boston radio. The combination of declining advertising dollars and introduction of Arbitron’s Portable People Meters to measure the listening audience put in motion a couple of major moves that really shook up the Boston market.

First up, CBS Radio’s decision to ditch the 41-year heritage of WBCN 104.1FM’s rock format. Not only was this was the story of the year by miles and miles, it was without any question the mother of all Boston radio happenings over the past decade :

WBCN’s format and call letters faded way from the Boston dial in the early hours of August 12th as sister station WBMX/Mix shifted from 98.5FM to 104.1FM frequency and became Mix 104.1FM. A day later, a brand new FM all-sports station – 98.5FM the SportsHub/WBZ-FM – was officially launched becoming a legitimate competitor to the dominant WEEI AM 850(BRW 8/12).

There were more upheavals throughout the year that deserve a special mention here but nothing on the scale of WBCN's exit. Not even close. :

-Just two weeks after SportsHub 98-5 became Boston’s first FM sports talker, Entercom announced that after two and half years of airing most of Red Sox games on its news/talker WRKO AM 680, entire Sox schedule would now be heard exclusively on one signal - Boston’s dominant sports radio powerhouse WEEI AM 850.

-In May(BRW 5/14), Goldman Sachs took control of classical WCRB 99.5FM after its owner Nassau Broadcasting swapped its huge debt in exchange for equity in the station. With Goldman Sachs in the ownership role, it was pretty clear WCRB would be sold off in the near future. And so in late September, Nassau announced that it was selling WCRB to WGBH Foundation for $14 million.(BRW 9/21). The deal closed in late November and on December 1st WCRB 99.5FM re-launched as a non-commercial, public radio station run by WGBH. With WCRB in the fold, WGBH 89.7FM eliminated classical, folk and blues from its schedule as it shifted its focus toward more news, information and public affairs programming as it now directly competes against Boston University’s WBUR 90.9FM.

-After four years, ESPN Radio dropped its partnership with WAMG AM 890. ESPN 890 went dark on September 14th but would eventually return to air in early December featuring Latin music programming. WAMG’s owner Waller Sutton is still looking for someone to buy its AM signal.

-Early October raised some eyebrows as Greater Media’s talker WTKK 96.9FM(BRW 10/2) announced that it was cutting down its longtime syndicated personality Don Imus to just one live hour a day. Imus has been heard on the station since its launch in 1999. The FM talk station shifted midday “Eagan and Braude” into the morning drive.

Here is a month-by-month rundown of changes in front and behind the mic in Boston radio in 2009 :.

January : The year starts with the debut of "Karson and Kennedy" who introduced themselves to WBMX/Mix audience on Jan. 5th. Mix's new morning show replaces veteran John Lander whose contract wasn't renewed at the end of 2008. Lander was with Mix for nearly 13 years...
WBZ AM 1030’s longtime sports director/anchor Gil Santos retired in late January(1/30) after 38 years of service. He was replaced by Walt Perkins. Santos remains the voice of New England Patriots football….Greater Media’s WBOS 92.9FM’s program director Dana Marshall was let go due to budget cuts after a year on the job. She was replaced by Ken West who also holds down program director position at classic hits WROR 105.7FM. As part of the same layoff waye, WROR 105.7FM’s overnight personality and longtime Boston radio veteran Albert O and evening personality Julie Deveraux were let go. Deveraux would be re-hired to co-host WROR’s afternoon drive four months later…Some good news in January included WEEI's afternoon king Glenn Ordway getting a new 5-year deal...WTKK’s “Eagan and Braude” also got re-signed to a longterm deal....Veteran radio programmer Beau Raines returned to Boston to program and host morning drive at the River 92-5.

February : WODS 103.3FM and WBZ AM 1030’s general manager Ted Jordan retires after 34 years with CBS/Westinghouse radio groups. At WBZ, he was replaced by CBS Radio Boston market boss Mark Hannon who also oversees Mix 104.1 and Sports Hub 98.5. Barbara Jean Scannel added WODS 103.3 to her WZLX 100.7FM duties...Entercom Boston announced addition of 96.3FM as the new Cape Cod affiliate to WEEI Radio Network starting on April 1st.

March : One of the true Boston radio greats Larry Glick passed away at age of 87 in Florida. Glick retired from Boston radio in 1992…Syndicated radio columnist Paul Harvey dies at age of 90..Arbitron’s Portable People Meter system goes live in the Boston market…Imus broadcasts his 10th “Kiss Me, I’m Imus” show from Boston’s Wilbur Theater but his dustup with afternoon talker Jay Severin overshadows the entire station’s event

April : Opening day at Fenway Park wasn’t a very happy event for WAAF 107.3FM’s evening man Bob Hannah whose shift would now be handled without a DJ.…WBCN’s 31st and last “Rock 'N’ Roll Rumble” takes place….Perhaps a sign of things to come – WBCN’s morning crew from “Toucher and Rich” and station’s weekend personality Amy Brooks pull off one of the best April Fool’s stunts in recent memory as WBCN turns into Power 104 and format changes from Rock to Top 40…WTKK’s afternoon host Jay Severin is suspended for his swine flu remarks…Local veteran Top40 personality Deirdre Dagata is cut by Kiss 108. Her replacement is a voice-tracked show from Dallas. Dagata would join Mix 98-5 as a weekend/fill-in in May.

May : WROR 105.7FM launched a new afternoon drive show with station’s former evening personality Julie Deveraux and Tom Doyle from morning’s “Loren and Wally” show…WFNX 101.7FM cancels long-running “Jazz Brunch” with Jeff Turton…Kiss 108’s morning virtuoso Matt Siegel adds a Providence affiliate. He’s now heard on Coast 93.3 in the Ocean State….After being cut in late 2008, freelancer Tom Cuddy returns to afternoon sports anchoring at WBZ AM 1030…Progressive talk line-up dubbed ”Revolution Radio” debuts on WWZN AM 1510 as format's producer Jeff Santos inks a 1-year lease with the Quincy-based station.

June : Aside from Jay Severin returning to WTKK after a month-long suspension and the King of Pop departing, a pretty low-key month unless you consider Col. David Hunt being voted the President of Howie Carr Nation a big news story.

July : Shocker! On July 14th CBS Radio announces that after 41 years the Rock of Boston will be no more as of August 11. Also in the same announcement, SportsHub 98-5 would launch on August 13th and go head-to-head with WEEI AM 850.

August : Mix 98.5 moves into a brand new studio at the old TV38 building with its CBS Radio bretheren...George Taylor Morris former WZLX, WBOS and WCOZ personality/programmer passes away at age of 62…After a decade of feuding, WEEI and Boston Globe finally make peace as the newspaper’s sports writers will now be allowed to take part in station’s daily shows…August 8th, WBCN starts its own 4-day wake to remember its glorious 41-year run...A few minutes after midnight on August 12th WBCN 104.1FM fades away to the sounds of Pink Floyd’s “Shine Your Crazy Diamond". A couple hours later WBMX moves from 98.5FM into the vacant 104.1FM frequency…August 13th, 1pm, another bit of history takes place as 98-5 The SportsHub/WBZ-FM is officially launched with the debut of “Felger and Massorratti” and the first Patriots preseason game follows them…WEEI becomes a fulltime Red Sox flagship as WRKO becomes a fulltime talk station again.

September : Kiss 108’s morning man Matt Siegel wins his 2nd Marconi Award in the Major Market Personality of the Year…WXKS AM 1430 separates from the “Rumba 1200” simulcast with WKOX AM 1200 and becomes “Mia 1430”…September 7th, WTKK 96.9FM celebrates its 10th anniversary…September 21, WGBH announces that it is saving classical music format by buying WCRB 99.5FM from Nassau Broadcasting…September 14th, ESPN 890/WAMG AM goes silent..Boston Bruins broadcasting icon Fred Cusick passes away at age 90.

October : WTKK shakes up its line-up by cutting Don Imus down to one live hour on weekday morning(6am-7am). Eagan and Braude(7-10am) are now the station's new morning drive show. Also, WTKK lays off news director Ed Cherubino and assistant program director Eric Caldwell in a major in-house overhaul…Mike Tierney is named the VP of Broadcast Operations at WFNX 101.7FM…After only 9 months on the job, Beau Raines is out as River 92-5’s program director and morning host.

November : After a 4-year break, ESPN Radio returns to WEEI AM 850. As the result of the sports radio affiliation change at WEEI, Fox Sports Radio shifts over to SportsHub 98.5. No surprise : WODS 103.3FM and WROR 105.7FM both flip to all Christmas music formats on November 13th…FCC approves WCRB sale to WGBH…

December : WCRB 99.5FM and WGBH 89.7 FM launch their new line-ups…Veteran Top 40 personality Diana “Lady D” Steele exits her evening sift Mix 104.1FM after a 4-year run. Her contract wasn’t renewed…Former WBCN program director Oedipus hosts the 31st edition of his Christmas Eve show on a longtime bitter rival WFNX 101.7FM.


Laurence Glavin said...

"Glorious 41-year run"? Well, during the first 9-or-so years, WBCN was the flagship station of the Concert Network. The classical DJs then included Robert J. Lurtsema and Ron DellaChieasa, both of whom glided easily to WGBH-FM when it launched "Morning Pro Musica" in reaction to WBCN's format change (I forget what format WBCN adopted after 1968). WBCN might have won the classical wars if WCRB didn't also have an AM facility that people could tune to in cars before the widespread availabilty of in-car FM radios. This is NOT one of my anti-WCRB knocks because the station WAS a fairly good representation of how a classical station should be run. But at the time, WBCN had an in-town transmitter that could be heard through the immediate market with a cleaner signal and no SCA.

gladIleftmedia said...

I'm with Lawrence: To say "BCN had "a glorious 41 year run" is flat wrong. It's classical beginnings (Rock programming was brought in late at night early on, after the stuffed shirts went home)gave way to perhaps 20 years of glory as Boston's flagship rock radio station. But that all ended when the daytime Laquidara-"Captain Ken" Shelton-Mark Parenteau lineup broke up as the 80s rolled to a close. The station never really recovered, in part because of increased competition, skewed audience demos, and corporate fingers on the playlist. Sad to watch. 'BCN's humane euthanization was looooong overdue.