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January 1999 to December 1999December 27, 1999
Stevens Goes To NYC
Ken Stevens, who helped mold Infinity's WJFK (106.7 FM) into the successful "hot talker" that it is, jumps the shuttle to take on GM/VP duties at NYC Infinity station WNEW, which dropped its three decade-old rock format several months ago for "hot talk." Alan Leinwand fills Stevens' shoes at WJFK.
December 26, 1999
WNTW Goes Religious
Winchester VA's WNTW (610 AM) flipped to a contemporary Christian music format on 12/26 and is now known as "The Word." WNTW used to have a mainly right-wing talk format.
December 22, 1999
Orioles To Stay On TOP
WTOP (AM 1500/FM 107.7) is finalizing a contract to continue carrying the Baltimore Orioles for the next three years. The deal reportedly includes TOP airing mainly weekend games, not to disturb news and traffic coverage on weekdays. DC area radio listeners can always turn to Baltimore's WBAL (1090 AM) for games not carried on TOP.
December 20, 1999
Channel 14 Goes AIN
Arlington's Channel 14 WTMW has become an affiliate of the American Independent Network which provides syndicated programs (cartoons, sit-coms) to its member stations. 14 had carried the Panda Shopping Network since last spring when it flirted with carriage of the Military Channel before that went belly-up. WTMW also carries a healthy dose of infomercials.
December 19, 1999
WAMU's Hickman Dies
WAMU radio historian John Hickman, 55, died 12/10 at his home in Gaithersburg of a complications from stroke he suffered in 1990. For many years he hosted "Recollections" which showcased programs from radio's "golden age." The program later became "The Big Broadcast" which still airs on 88.5 FM every Sunday night. Mr. Hickman was a graduate of (WAMU owner) American University.
December 18, 1999
WTRI 1520 AM in Brunswick MD has been purchased by JMK Communications and will likely flip from its current "Alfa" Spanish language format to a Korean language format in early 2000. JMK recently purchased long-time country outlet WPWC 1480 AM in Dumfries VA. WTRI returned to the airwaves last summer (with improved signal coverage to the DC area) after being off the air for a year or so; it used to have an eclectic music format.
December 18, 1999
WMET To Use 1160
DCRTV has been told that the FCC has approved an application for higher daytime power for Gaithersburg MD business news/talker WMET (AM 1150). The station will be unique by operating on 1160 days with 19 kW (6 towers in a row), and back on 1150 at night with the present 500 W installation.
December 17, 1999
The University Of Maryland plans to shut down its carrier current WMUC-AM, 650, by the end of the current semester. That leaves the school with only the 10-watt WMUC-FM at 88.1.
December 17, 1999
WJZW's Webcast Gets Good Ratings
DC's smooth jazz WJZW (105.9 FM) is a top radio webcaster according to Arbitron. 105.9's Real Audio feed at www.smoothjazz1059.com is the number one ranked "average time spent tuning" webcast, so says Arbitron's just released October numbers.
December 17, 1999
Home Team Sports is exploring the possibility of adding a second local sports channel to your cable line-up to accommodate its lengthy list of Orioles, Capitals and Wizards games.
December 17, 1999
9 Picks Atkinson For Sports Slot
Channel 9 finally gets around to replacing sports anchor Ken Broo. Jess Atkinson, the former Terrapin and Redskin place kicker who became a sportscaster in 1990 for WRC Channel 4, will be joining WUSA in February. For the past few years, Atkinson has been doing sports at a Providence, Rhode Island TV station. 9 signed Atkinson to a three year contract and he'll be doing the station's weekday sportscasts at 5, 6 and 11 PM. Broo was canned in September.
December 16, 1999
Latino Groups Compain To FCC About Don & Mike Comment
Several Latino groups have filed a complaint at the Federal Communications Commisssion (FCC) against WJFK's Don & Mike in connection with an incident last summer in which the bad boy duo got thrown off the air in Albuquerque after making what some claimed was an anti-Hispanic joke. Last August, the afternoon team at 106.7 FM, whose show is syndicated nationwide, phoned the council of a small Texas town after they learned that the town would be holding meetings in Spanish; the two jested that if people didn't speak English then they should go back to Mexico. While WJFK officials have apologized for the remark, Don & Mike's show was soon dumped from the New Mexico station. But the controversy continues.
December 10, 1999
Bob Dalton Dies
Former Channel 9 reporter and anchor Bob Dalton (left) died at Suburban Hospital on 12/10; at 74 he had pneumonia and was under treatment for cancer. Dalton covered the business beat during the later part of his 44 year radio & TV career and was an anchor on WUSA's top-rated noon news before he left the station in 1995. According to the Washington Post, veteran Channel 9 anchor Gordon Peterson called Mr. Dalton "just a grand guy with a good word for everyone." Decades of extraordinary changes in television "never changed him. He was still the same guy." Mr. Dalton joined Channel 9 in 1951 and news and everything else, including making pitches for milk and beer and wearing a cowboy hat as host of a western series. At one time, he provided a series of daily business reports on the radio in addition to his television demands. In the early 1950s, he even served as a horror movie host for then WTOP-TV. Mr. Dalton was born in Washington, attended the old Central High School and, after serving in the Army Air Forces during World War II, embarked on a radio career that took him to Annapolis (WASL) and Richmond (WRNL). He returned to Washington in 1951 and got a job with WTOP-TV, Channel 9, which was then owned by The Washington Post Co. As his career progressed, Mr. Dalton found himself giving 20 business news reports a day on radio and had a slot on the evening TV news. Soon after, he said, the station manager was looking for a midday anchor. Mr. Dalton said, "How about giving me a chance?" And the boss, as the story went, said, "Why not?" Mr. Dalton, who lived in Bethesda, later anchored segments of the evening news and won honors from his colleagues in the industry.
December 8, 1999
4's News Gets Good Ratings
The latest TV ratings are here. WRC Channel 4's newscasts win at 5-7 AM, 4 PM, 5 PM, 6 PM and 11 PM. WJLA Channel 7's newscasts are down substantially from last year at 5, 6 and 11 PM. While Murdoch's WTTG Channel 5 10 PM blood & guts news is down 16 percent; its morning newscast is in 4th place. 5's rather hideous Fox prime time is down to 4th place while WUSA Channel 9's CBS programming is in first place.
December 1, 1999
WGRX Drops Country
Westminster/Baltimore country outlet, WGRX, 100.7 FM, (formerly known as Froggy Country) became WZBA, "The Bay" at 3 PM 12/1. The new format is adult rock. "Rock without the hard edge," is the station's new tag line. Eagles, Elton John, Styx, Eurythmics, Stones.
November 29, 1999
PGC Doninates Late Fall Ratings
Preliminary Arbitrend radio ratings August to October out 11/29 - DC: 1. WPGC-FM, 2. WKYS, 3. WHUR, 4. WJFK, 5. WRQX, 6. WMAL, 7. WASH, 8. WBIG and WMZQ (tie), 10. WTOP, 11. WWDC, 12. WGMS, 13. WJMO and WJZW (tie), 15. WWZZ, 16. WMMJ, 17. WARW, 18. WHFS, 19. WTEM, 20. WAVA and WYCB (tie), 22. WOL. Baltimore: 1. WERQ, 2. WPOC, 3. WBAL, 4. WWIN-FM, 5. WQSR, 6. WWMX, 7. WLIF, 8. WXYV, 9. WHFS, 10. WIYY, 11. WOCT, 12. WCAO, 13. WCBM, 14. WJFK-AM and WPGC-FM and WRQX (tie), 17. WRBS, 18. WHUR and WJMO (tie), 20. WKYS, 21. WWDC.
November 20, 1999
Mega Buys WMJS
Mega Broadcasting acquires an FMer in the DC area. It's WMJS, 92.7 in Prince Frederick MD, an easy listening outlet best heard south and east of DC. Mega is picking up the station for $5.25 million from MJS Communications. Mega already owns five Spanish language AMers in the DC area - WBZS (730), WKDL (1050), WZHF (1390), WKDV (1460) and WINX (1600). However, WMJS won't switch to Spanish until "sometime during the late second quarter of next year," says Mega President Alfredo Alonso. Makes you wonder if Mega doesn't have more area FM acquisitions up its sleeve. Possible formats include love songs or dance oriented.
November 20, 1999
WNVT To Add MuchMusic
Get ready for some big changes at WNVT, Channel 53, in Goldvein VA, come January 2000. While the public station will continue to carry educational programs during the days, it will start carrying Canada-based contemporary music network MuchMusic in the evenings. 53 will also add some computer and other tech programs to its schedule. WNVT is carried on cable in DC and Virginia and on some Maryland systems.
November 15, 1999
WPFW Accused Of Censorship
Washington CityPaper reports that Pacifica's WPFW (89.3 FM) has been censoring its programming to avoid mentions critical of its parent organization. CityPaper says that in mid-November WPFW muffled about one minute of "Counterspin," produced by the media watchdog group Fairness And Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), when it contained a reference to the recent firing of Dan Coughlin, Pacifica's news director. CityPaper adds that the station aired a short interlude of jazz music in place of the Couglin item. Last summer Pacifica was accused of editing out references critical of its radio network during a highly publicized dispute at its San Francisco station.
November 13, 1999
WETA-FM Pledges Down
WETA's (FM 90.9) October pledge drive netted $544K, down from last fall's $658K. This is the first beg-a-thon the station held since it canned some of its classical music for news & public affairs. WAMU (88.5 FM), which features mainly talk and public affairs and was worried about WETA's move in that direction, netted $1147K in its October fundraiser, up from last fall. Meanwhile, Baltimore's classical WBJC (91.5 FM) raised $100K in its fall pledge drive, up $30K from last year, with many new pledges from the DC area.
November 12, 1999
Post Aligns With NBC
The Washington Post Company forms a news gathering alliance with NBC, which owns DC's Channel 4 WRC. The Post owns Newsweek and a whole bunch of TV and cable properties (among other stuff); while NBC (which is owned by military contractor General Electric) owns CNBC and part of MSNBC, which is connected to corporate giant Microsoft (which in turn is connected to dozens of other companies).
November 10, 1999
Greaseman Does Cable
The Greaseman is planning a return - this time to television. The former WARW morning man, Doug Tracht, who was fired last February after making a racist joke, is set to play a character in a cable TV show called "Match-Maker-dot-com," named after the dating service. Tracht plays Doctor Chip Bandwith.
November 14, 1999
Columbia Union College's religious WGTS (91.9 FM) just finished its annual 3-day fundraiser with $419K, above the $400K goal (and we're told that's more than double the station raised when it had a classical format a few years ago). Meanwhile, the Takoma Park station is planning to move its transmitter (not to Arlington) sometime in early 2000 to provide an improved signal throughout the DC metro area. Also, GTS kicks off 36 hours of Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving.
November 12, 1999
WETA Pulls Plug On Forum
WETA Channel 26 and the Freedom Forum have pulled the plug on the planned Forum cable TV channel, a local public affairs network. Comcast (via Jones), which will soon own just about all the DC area's cable systems, has said that it could not carry the new channel full time on its systems. Forum was set to launch in February.
November 11, 1999
WOCT Launches Controversial Campaign
Baltimore classic rocker WOCT (104.3 FM) has launched a billboard campaign for its morning team of Bob & Tom that features a woman's breasts with the phrases "Politically Incorrect" and "What A Pair." Needless to say, the campaign has generated complaints from the Baltimore chapter of the National Organization For Women (NOW).
November 4, 1999
Infinity and former morning driver the Greaseman (aka Doug Tracht) have resolved a dispute surrounding his firing from classic rocker WARW (94.7 FM) last February. While details regarding the negotiations are confidential, word is leaking out that Tracht may not have had to cough up the $100,000 Infinity was seeking in claimed lost ad revenue resulting from his dismissal following the utterance of a racist joke. Meanwhile, the Greaseman accompanied a man to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge just south of DC on 11/4. One year ago the man had tied up traffic when he threatened to jump off the bridge. The return to the bridge was said to be a sign of redemption. Tracht and the man are members of the same Springfield VA church.
November 3, 1999
Count Gore Returns To 20
Count Gore De Vol (aka Dick Dyszel), will be returning to his old haunt, WDCA Channel 20, on December 31 to host a New Years' movie "Count Down" featuring two horror flicks. This is Gore's first return to WDCA since the station canned its horror movie host & kiddie show host (he was also Captain 20) in the mid-1980s.
November 2, 1999
Salem Buys WABS
Salem Broadcasting picks up Arlington religious AMer 780 WABS for $4.1 million. The religious broadcaster also owns Arlington's WAVA (105.1 FM) and Baltimore's WITH (1230 AM).
October 24, 1999
Sonny Taylor Dies
Sonny Taylor, a DJ on WMMJ (102.3 FM), died 10/22 at 59. Taylor worked at a number of New York area radio stations including WWRL, WRKS and WNJR since the mid-1960s before moving to Washington DC in the early 1990s. Taylor also worked ar radio stations in St. Louis, Chicago and Miami. "There's a fraternity in radio that you can't join just by being on the radio," Bob Law told the New York Daily News. Law succeeded Taylor as WWRL program director. "It's a fraternity of brothers bonded in a circle of trust and respect. Sonny was in that circle when he was at 'RL, along with jocks like Gerry Bledsoe, Hank Spann, Bobby Jay, Gary Byrd, Eddie O'Jay, Enoch Gregory."
October 17, 1999
AMFM Promotes Zier
AMFM has promoted WTEM/WWRC/WJMO general manager Bennett Zeir to become the firm's DC "cluster vice president." He'll now oversee all of AMFM's DC area properties including the above as well as WWDC, WASH, WBIG, WMZQ and WGAY.
September 30, 1999
WNST Goes Talk
Baltimore area sports talker WNST (1570 AM) bit the dust 9/30. It has become a religious talker owned by Catholic Family Radio Network. WNST's "Nasty" Nestor Aparicio moved his sports talk show to WCBM (680 AM) at 10 PM.
September 29, 1999
Chip Franklin Goes To WBAL
WMAL (630 AM) evening talker Chip Franklin joins Baltimore's WBAL (1090 AM) to replace Allan Prell in the 9 AM to noon slot. Prell moves to evenings on BAL in November.
September 19, 1999
Channel 9 has fired sportscaster Ken Broo and gave no reason for its decision, although ratings are the suspected motive. WUSA will rely on Frank Herzog and Ken Mease to fill Broo's shoes for the time being. The talk is that former Channel 5 sports reporter Bernie Smilovitz, now in Detroit, may join 9. Broo continues his radio work for WTEM and WHFS.
September 1, 1999
WJMO Soars In Ratings
DC likes its "Jammin' Oldies," according to the prelim summer Arbitrends out 8/31. JO WJMO takes 5th place. As usual, PGC, HUR and KYS are the top three. WBIG is 4th. MZQ is 6th, MAL is 7th, and a four-way tie for 8th: WGMS, WJFK, WASH and WRQX. MMJ and DC101 tie for 12th. Z104 is 14th, WJZW and WTOP tie for 15th. WARW and HFS tie for 17th. WAVA is 19th and WTEM is 20th. In Baltimore WERQ and WWIN take top honors followed by WPOC, WBAL, WQSR, WLIF, WWMX, WHFS, WXYV, WIYY and WOCT.
August 30, 1999
James B. "Jimmy" Gray, a record producer who was a DC DJ from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s, died 8/25 after a heart attack. He was 62. Mr. Gray played jazz music on WGTB, WHUR and WPFW.
August 30, 1999
The FCC 8/19 fined WJFK (106.7 FM) $4000 for airing a conversation between two sisters without their knowledge during a January 1998 edition of the Don & Mike Show. JFK owner Infinity claims that the women were aware their conversation was being broadcast. A Sacramento station carrying the program was also cited and fined.
August 30, 1999
WJFK's Don & Mike Bounced Off Albuquerque Airwaves
WJFK's (106.7 FM) Don & Mike, the nationally syndicated bad-boy talk duo, August 17 allegedly urged Spanish speaking people who don't speak English to get on their burros and go back to Mexico. That remark angered many listeners of a New Mexico station which carries their program. A resulting demonstration in downtown Albuquerque to protest what many called racist remarks has pushed the management of KHTL-AM (920), to pull the plug on the show effective August 28. That action came after "Don and Mike" (who are really Mike Sorce and Mike O'Meara) phoned the El Cezino, Texas city hall to ask why council meetings were being conducted in Spanish. The JFK duo told El Cezino officials they were angry because the city made Spanish its official language. Several advertisers reportedly called the Citadel-owned station to cancel their accounts because of the segment. The Albuquerque Journal quoted Citadel GM Gayle Shaw as saying that she decided to pull the show off KHTL solely because of Citadel's "commitment to the community," and not because of advertisers' complaints. Don and Mike allegedly told a woman who answered the phone at the El Cezino city hall that people who won't or can't speak English should "get on their burros and go back to Mexico." The Don and Mike Show originates from Infinity-owned WJFK-FM in Fairfax VA and is syndicated nationwide via Westwood One.
August 13, 1999
Tribune Buys Channel 50
The Tribune Company has agreed to purchase DC's WB network affiliate, WBDC, Channel 50. No prive was divulged. Tribune, which has operated WBDC according to a 1995 management agreement with owner Jasas Corp., also owns WPIX, Channel 11 in NYC and superstation WGN in Chicago (both WB stations), as well as five other WB affiliated TV stations.
August 10, 1999
Channel 26 Changes
WETA-TV Executive VP/CEO Linwood Lloyd announced his resignation and will be replaced by Joseph Widoff, 26's senior VP for technical support services. Lloyd, who is starting a consulting firm, has been responsible for a several WETA projects including Fanfare (a classical music cable channel) and the Forum Network (a local public affairs channel), both of which have yet to materialize.
August 9, 1999
Radio One Reports Profits
DC based Radio One, owner of WKYS, WERQ, WWIN FM/AM, WMMJ, WOL, WOLB and WYCB, reports second quarter revenue increases of 30 percent. Also, we hear that WMMJ has been hurt by the launch of "Jammin' Oldies" 99.5 and that "format adjustments" at Magic 102.3 are possible. Radio One also hopes to syndicate urban oldies 102.3's Les Brown show nationwide.
August 8, 1999
Baltimore sports talker WNST (1570 AM) has been sold to Catholic Family Radio (the group that almost bought DC's 730 and 1390 but was beat out by Mega) and will be going religious in October. "Nasty" Nestor Appericio will be moving his sports talk show to WCBM (680 AM).
August 8, 1999
Digital Radio Tests To Start
USA Digital Radio has selected WTOP (AM 1500), WETA (FM 90.9), WPOC (FM 93.1) and WJFK (FM 106.7) as test platforms for its new digital radio technology.
August 2, 1999
AMFM Reports Earnings
AMFM/Chancellor, the largest corporate owner of radio stations in the DC area (WASH, WJMO, WMZQ, WBIG, WWDC, WWRC, WTEM, WGAY), can definitely do one thing right - make money. Spring quarter revenues (released 8/2) were up 35 percent.
August 1, 1999
RCN Comes To Montgomery
RCN/Starpower begins cable TV, high-speed Internet and phone service in the DC area. Montgomery County approves franchise agreement with RCN.
July 30, 1999
Martin Agronsky, who hosted political talk show Agronsky & Company for many years on Channel 9, died 7/25 at 84.
July 29, 1999
Greaseman Case Faces Arbitrator
Infinity/CBS has claimed that former WARW (94.7 FM) morning man Doug "The Greaseman" Tracht's racist remark, which led to his firing last February, cost the company $100,000 when advertisers cancelled contracts with the classic rocker, so reports radio trade journal Radio & Records (R&R). The late July R&R article says that Infinity had filed its lawsuit in DC Superior Court back in May and that the case was transferred to a DC federal court in June. Infinity/CBS's suit reportedly claimed that Tracht's remarks "destroyed the essence of his employment contract ... [and] outraged WARW-FM's advertisers ... WARW received numerous threats of violence, and had to hire security personnel," according to R&R. However, the American Federation Of Television & Recording Artists (AFRTA), which represents TV and radio personalities including Tracht, asked the court to dismiss the Infinity/CBS suit on July 21, the R&R article indicates. AFTRA maintained that Tracht's contract specified that any disputes between himself and his employer be settled by arbitration. Infinity/CBS has reportedly dropped the suit against Tracht and a Washington DC-based arbitrator is scheduled to determine the fate of his contract, and the claim against it by his former employer, in late September. The radio trade journal also reports that lawyers for Infinity/CBS and Tracht had been previously holding negotiations regarding severance pay for the radio personality, who was dismissed after making a joke about the death of a black man in Texas who was dragged behind a pick-up truck. Tracht reportedly worked according to an $800,000 a year three-year contract of which he was in the second year. R&R reported that Tracht continued to receive payments from Infinity/CBS through May 1999.
July 20, 1999
Drudge Shows Up On WMAL
In its continuing effort to present all political points of view (as long as they're on the right), WMAL (AM 630) adds Internet gossip columnist Matt Drudge's talk show beginning July 11th at 10 PM.
July 15, 1999
Pre-Season Redskins Go To WRC
Channel 4 snagged Redskins pre-season games away from Channel 7. The two-year deal cost upwards of $2.5 million. WRC's George Michael and Sonny Jurgenson (who also handles play-by-play for WJFK radio) will do the coverage.
July 1, 1999
99.5 Becomes WJMO
Back in April, Chancellor/AMFM switched WGAY-FM (99.5) from its long-time easy listening format to “Jammin’ Oldies.” Yet the old call letters stayed in place. Chancellor even duplicated the calls on its nostalgia formatted AMer at 1260 (formerly WWDC-AM). However, as of July 1, Jammin’ Oldies 99.5 got its own call letters - WJMO. The calls are also in use at a Chancellor-owned AM station in the Cleveland area. FCC rules allow such sharing of call letters (witness KCBS-TV in Los Angeles and KCBS-AM in San Francisco).
July 1, 1999
VA Governor Gets Stuck In Traffic On Way To Radio Show
Virginia Governor James Gilmore got elected several years ago running on a platform of reducing the “car tax” (local auto property tax) in the Old Dominion. He has also rejected raising the gas tax to help reduce the gridlock on the highways, particularly in the Washington DC suburbs. So, many saw it as poetic justice June 30 when the governor, on his way to his monthly talk show on Washington's’ all news WTOP AM/FM (1500/107.7), got stuck in traffic on the Key Bridge and couldn’t make it to the station in time for his program. Never fear. Gilmore used his trusty car phone to conduct the first part of his radio show.
July 1, 1999
Changes At DC101
More changes are in store at rocker WWDC-FM (101.1), also known as DC101. Chancellor/AMFM purchased the station a year ago and has positioned it as a solid active rocker. And it appears to be a winning move. In the latest spring Arbitrend ratings, DC101 came in at a strong 6th place. At the same time, DC’s two other rockers, Infinity owned classic rocker WARW and progressive rocker WHFS took 18th and 17th places, respectively. D101 will get getting into the morning drive in a brash way when it unveils Elliot Segal, half of the morning team at Chancellor’s New York City station, WHTZ (Z100) on July 16. DC101, by many accounts, has been lacking in the morning drive department the past few years. The station had been the home of Howard Stern in the early 1980s, and also once featured the Greaseman (who moved to WARW and got fired) and Paul Harris (who moved to WARW and got fired; he’s now in St. Louis). DC101 also has a new general manager. He’s Mark O’Brien, who will continue similar duties at Chancellor adult contemporary WASH-FM (97.1).
June 9, 1999
Spring Radio Format Tweaks & Twitches
Summer has come early to Washington DC and Baltimore - with temperatures near 100 degrees in early June. The summer doldrums seem to have set in on the radio dial. He’s a quick round-up of what is happening; nothing earth shattering though. WGAY - 99.5 FM: The birth of “Jammin’ Oldies” continues at the once easy listening station which made the switch in April. Following a highly touted contest, officials at the Chancellor (soon to be AMFM Inc.) station have chosen a new slogan. Drum roll please. “Jammin’ 99.5.” Still no new calls for the station. WBIG - 100.3 FM: A few minor musical shifts for Chancellor’s other oldies station in town. It seems that the station has cut back on its more dance-able oldies (which are now being heard more on 99.5) and playing more tunes from the 1960s and 1950s. It will be interesting to see how the arrival of “Jammin’ Oldies” on 99.5 will affect the rock oldies ratings on 100.3. WMMJ -102.3 FM: In late 1998, this Radio One owned station sounded kind of like it might go to a “Jammin’ Oldies” sound, but with the changes at 99.5 in April, WMMJ is gravitating to a more urban adult sound. It will be interesting to see of 102.3 makes any dent in the always stellar ratings at Howard University’s WHUR, 96.3, which also has an urban adult format. WWDC - 101.1 FM: It appears from the first round of the spring Arbitrend ratings that active rocker (another Chancellor property) DC101 is making a significant move upward in its numbers. Meanwhile, the DC area’s two other rockers, alternative WHFS (99.1) and classic WARW (94.7), both Infinity prpoerties, still show little sign of upward mobility in the ratings. WJFK - 106.7 FM: There’s talk that Infinity will be soon unveiling a national “hot talk” format anchored by Howard Stern. And if Washington is on the list for the new format, it seems a likely guess that Infinity’s WJFK, already with its own “hot talk” line-up, would be a candidate for the new national network. Question still abound what would happen to JFK’s G. Gordon Liddy and PM drivers Don & Mike if they’re not included in the national network. In other JFK news, evening sports talkers, The Sports Junkies, are now being syndicated across the country by Westwood One. The firm says it has lined up 50 stations for the Junkies, who were cultivated from a local suburban DC cable TV public access show several years ago. WETA - 90.9 FM: Public radio operation WETA is cutting back on its classical music fare. In early June the station dumped its morning classical music show in favor of a relay of NPR’s “Morning Edition,” which is already being carried by cross-town WAMU (88.5 FM). The station had already scuttled its PM drive classical music in favor of talk and public affairs. While station officials deny it, there is talk that if the changes are successful, we could be seeing yet more talk on 90.9. While the DC area’s classical music lovers are not jumping for joy, the rumors of the waning format at WETA are music to the ears of the management of WGMS, 103.5 FM, DC’s Bonneville-owned commercial classical music station. WQSR - 105.7 FM: Up the Baltimore Washington Parkway in Charm City, there are rumors of changes at this Infinity owned oldies stations in the direction of a more urban oldies, or “Jammin” sound. Station announcements are now using the word “Jammin,” which could be raising some eyebrows at Chancellor management. By the way, Chancellor does not own any Baltimore stations, but the signal of DC’s “Jammin’ Oldies” 99.5 does make its was up Baltimore way. WAGE - 1200 AM: Suburban Virginia’s WAGE has dropped country music in favor of an all-talk format. WAGE is the only radio station in rapidly growing, formerly rural Loudoun County, which is home to Dulles Airport and America Online. WAGE will continue with its sports, local news and community oriented programming, which it had offered in between the previous country tunes.
May 27, 1999
Channel 4 News Leads May Ratings Sweeps
WRC, Channel 4, continued its news dominance in the May TV ratings sweeps. The NBC station ranked in first place with its 6 AM, 9 AM, 6 PM and 11 PM newscasts. Also, 4's prime time programming led in the DC market during the sweeps period. Channel 7, WJLA, also showed some big gains in its news ratings with the arrival of Maureen Bunyan. Her 11 PM newscast rose from 3rd place to a 2nd place tie with Channel 9, WUSA. Plus, 7 also posted surging ratings for its 5 PM newscast. 7's Oprah Winfrey showed strength taking first place at 4 PM, while WTTG/Channel 5's Judge Judy took first place at 5 PM. 4's Today Show dominated the 7-9 AM slot, while ABC's World News Tonight at 6:30 PM on 7 took the DC market crown for most watched network evening newscast. Channel 20, WDCA, saw its ratings jump with the arrival of Jerry Springer (from Channel 50) at noon and 11 PM. And Channel 5 got a big ratings boost from its Friends reruns at 11 PM.
May 10, 1999
WGAY Calls Moved To 1260
In mid-April, Chancellor Media switched WGAY-FM, 99.5, from easy listening to “Jammin’ Oldies.” While the WGAY calls are still in place at 99.5, there are plans to change them. However, the calls (which when they were first used in the 1940s gay did not refer to homosexuality), will stay alive in the DC area. Chancellor has moved them to its nostalgia music station, 1260 AM, which used to sport the WWDC calls. Those calls, by the way, still live at FM 101.1, otherwise known as rocker DC101.
May 5, 1999
Comcast To Acquire DC and Baltimore City Cable Systems
Comcast has signed a deal to acquire the District's and Baltimore City's cable systems from TCI/AT&T. The deal, part of AT&T's battle to take over MediaOne, will eventually give Comcast control of almost all cable systems in the immediate DC and Baltimore areas. Comcast will take over all the area Jones systems (Prince Georges, Alexandria, Reston, Prince William) any day now and will acquire the Montgomery and Arlington systems later this year. When the series of deals is finished, Comcast will own all the cable systems in the Washington area with the only major exception being the Fairfax County system which Media General is selling to Cox Communications. Comcast already owns all the major cable systems in the Baltimore area, including Howard and Baltimore counties, with the exception of the Baltimore City system -- which it will soon own. Comcast, based in Philadelphia, also owns the majority of cable systems in that metro area, too. The deal for Comcast to acquire TCI/ATT's systems in DC and Baltimore City is part of huge acquisition deal in which AT&T would gain control of MediaOne's systems. Originally, Comcast had proposed a merger between itself and MediaOne, but AT&T stepped in with a higher bid. Comcast and AT&T agreed to a settlement; AT&T would get MediaOne, while Comcast would get the TCI/AT&T systems in DC and Balimore City, among several plums in other parts of the country.
April 28, 1999
WUPP Drops Country
WUPP, FM 94.3, a Warrenton VA station which reaches the western and southern DC suburbs, dropped its country format on April 28 in favor of “modern hits.” It now sounds like a cross between alternative rocker WHFS 99.1 FM and hot adult contemporary WRQX 107.3 FM. 94.3 will now be known as WPLC, “The Pulse 94 dot 3.” WUPP was known as “up country,” with a up-tempo variety of the music. It has been located at 94.3 since last year when it switched frequencies with all-news WTOP-FM which took over WUPP’s previous 107.7 FM spot. The new WPLC (as well as the old WUPP) is one of the few remaining locally owned (non corporation owned) commercial stations in the Washington DC market; it is owned by Sid Abel.
April 23, 1999
Urban Formatted Stations Top DC & Baltimore Winter Radio Ratings
Four urban contemporary stations topped the winter 1998-1999 Arbitron (age 12-plus) radio ratings for the Washington DC market. Adult urban contemporary WHUR (96.3 FM), owned by Howard University and younger skewing Infinity-owned WPGC-FM (95.5) shared the top spot, each garnering a 6.2 share of the overall audience. Radio One-owned stations took the third and fourth-place spots. WKYS (93.9 FM), another urban station, came in third place with a 5.8 share. And adult urban/oldies formatted WMMJ (102.3 FM) came in fourth with a 4.4 share. Disney/ABC owned WRQX (107.3 FM), with its hot adult contemporary format, took fifth place with a 4.3 share. The best Cancellor (which owns a slew of DC area stations) could do was sixth place with a 4.2 share showing for oldies WBIG (100.3 FM). Up the parkway in Baltimore, Radio One's urban contemporary outlet WERQ (92.3 FM) took top honors with a 9.7 share, quite a bit ahead of the number two station, Jacor's country WPOC (93.1 FM) with a 6.2 share. Hearst-owned news/talker WBAL (1090 AM) came in third place with a 5.8 share, down quite a bit from an 8.4 share about a year ago.
April 23, 1999
Cox Buys Fairfax County's Cable System
Cox Communications has agreed to purchase the Media General Cable system serving Fairfax County. With 242,000 subscribers, it is the largest cable system in the DC area. The purchase price is $1.4 billion and it also includes Media General's cable system in Fredericksburg VA. Cox, the nation's six largest cable system owner, has a cluster of systems in Virginia's Tidewater and Roanoke areas where it serves a total of 450,000 cubscribers. The Media General deal is expected to be completed by the end of this year. According to the Washington Post, Robert W. Pendergast, Media General's vice president, said that with continuing consolidation of cable operations in the Washington area, chiefly by Comcast, "it's going to make it tougher for a smaller firm like Media General" to maintain a competitive edge in buying equipment and securingrogramming. Comcast, by the way, is the largest cable operator in the Washington area, with systems in Alexandria, Baltimore and Prince George's, Howard and Anne Arundel counties. It has options to buy cable systems in Montgomery and Arlington counties. Cox says it plans to carry out already-promised improvements for the Fairfax County system including high-speed Internet access and the addition of more channels to the 120-channel system.
April 15, 1999
WGAY Dies; "Jammin' Oldies" Arrives
Chancellor pulled the plug on easy listening WGAY (99.5 FM) at about 2 PM on April 13. The move ended more than three decades of relaxing music at the station. The new "Jammin' Oldies" format will feature an upbeat mix of urban oldies, including some old Motown tunes, some 70s disco, and some newer stuff by artists like Prince. Look for lots of Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder, too. After the switch was thrown, DC area radio listeners could hear a relay of Chancellor's New York City "Jammin' Oldies" station, WTJM, which was started in January. It replaced an adult contemporary formatted station. The DC version of "Jammin' Oldies" was born at 3 PM, April 15. The WGAY call letters, which have been in almost continuous use since the 1940s, will be retired. There had been rumors as far back as last December that Chancellor was planning to dump the light adult contemporary format at WGAY but then it appeared that the change would not happen. In fact, many WGAY fans were happy to see the latest Arbitrend winter ratings which showed WGAY at 6th place, its best numbers in memory. But Chancellor officials apparently were impressed by the results of recent test audiences which seemed to really like the new sound. The move will place the new 99.5 in direct competition with WMMJ (102.3 FM), Radio One's urban oldies station. WMMJ has also shown ratings strength in the past year, frequently placing among the top ten stations. Disaffected WGAY listeners have several options. They could go to Chancellor's other adult contemporary station, WASH (97.1 FM), which plays a bit more uptempo music than WGAY did. Or they could go to Chancellor's other more traditional rock oldies station, WBIG (100.3 FM), or even to ABC/Disney's "smooth jazz" WJZW (105.9 FM).
April 6, 1999
More Spanish Language Radio In The DC Area
The warm spring winds are not only causing the cherry blossoms to bloom in the Nation’s Capital. They're bringing a dramatic increase in the number of Spanish language AM stations. If you live in the Washington DC area and you turn on an AM radio in the near future you might think you’re in Mexico or Puerto Rico. Only days after the news arrived that Mega Broadcasting had purchased two DC area AM stations to add to the three it already owns, we now hear that the DC area will get yet another Spanish language AM station. The latest addition is WTRI (1520 AM) in Brunswick, Maryland, a small town about 30 miles northwest of the District. WTRI has been off the air for almost two years; it used to be a progressive rock station. But now word saffeurfaces that an organization calling itself Capital Broadcasting (no relation to the Capitol Broadcasting which used to own DC101), has purchased the station and will re-launch it as “Alfa 1520,” with a Spanish language music format in the near future. Al Hammond, president of Capital Broadcasting, has confirmed to DCRTV that his group now owns the station and plans to re-start it soon. We also hear that improvements are being made to the signal to boost its reception in the Washington DC area. Test broadcasts of Alfa 1520 have been heard in early March and the signal is fairly strong in the western suburbs. The news about a new Spanish WTRI arrives just as Mega Broadcasting announced that it was buying business news WBZS (730 AM) and talker WZHF (1390 AM), both in Alexandria, Virginia. Mega plans to convert WBZS to a Spanish adult contemporary format and WZHF to a Spanish dance music format. Mega already owns three other AM stations in the DC area - WKDL (1050), WKDV (1460) and WINX (1600). Later this spring, with the arrival of WTRI, there will be eight AM stations with Spanish language formats, and a total of 11 DC area AM stations with some sort of non-English language format. At the same time, however, the DC area does not have a single FM station with a predominant non-English format, although non-commercial WPFW (89.3 FM), a Pacifica station, does feature some Spanish language programming. And - the DC area does not have a single full power Spanish language TV station, although there are two low power stations, channel 30 WMDO (Univision) and channel 64 WZGS (Telemundo).
March 30, 1999
Mega Buys WBZS & WZHF
Mega Broadcasting, which already operates three Washington DC AM stations, has announced that it will buy two more. On May 1, business news WBZS (730 AM) in Alexandria VA and talk/ethnic formatted WZHF (1390 AM) in Arlington VA, will become Mega-owned stations and adopt Spanish language formats. Both stations have been owned by Douglas Broadcasting. The deal has been valued at $11 million. There had been speculation a Catholic religious organization had also been interested in purchasing the stations. WBZS will assume a Spanish adult contemporary format while WZHF will adopt a Spanish high-energy, Caribbean-oriented dance music format. With the acquisition of WBZS and WZHF, Mega will own five AMers in the Washington area. Several years ago Mega purchased WKDL (1050 AM) in Silver Spring MD and WKDV (1460 AM) in Manassas VA. And in late 1998, Mega added Rockville MD's WINX (1600 AM) to its line-up of stations. Mega announced that it also plans to change the format of WKDL from Spanish language adult contemporary music to Spanish language news/talk. No change is in store for the current Spanish adult contemporary format carried on WINX and WKDV. Mega owns 16 stations up and down the east coast with concentrations of stations in Philadelphia, Boston and New York. The loss of the business news format at WBZS will probably not have much of an impact in the DC radio market because there are already two other AMers with the same format -- WWRC (570 AM) and WMET (1150 AM). The loss of WZHF's talk/ethnic format may have more of an impact because the station carried the market's only gay oriented radio programming.
March 17, 1999
DC’s Radio One Makes Big Richmond VA Radio Purchase
Washington DC-based Radio One announced in mid-March that it has signed a letter of intent to purchase four Richmond VA radio stations. When the deal is finalized, the African American company will owns seven stations in Virginia’s capital city. Radio One plans to purchase WCDX-FM, WPLZ-FM, WJRV-FM and WGCV-AM for approximately $34 million from Sinclair Telecable and Commonwealth Broadcasting. Radio One recently purchased WDYL-FM, WKJS-FM and WSOJ-FM, all of which serve the Richmond metro area. Richmond is said to be the 19th largest African-American market. Headquartered in the Washington DC suburb of Lanham, Maryland, Radio One is the largest black-owned corporate owner of radio stations in the US. It currently owns the top stations in Baltimore and Washington and has made recent station purchases in Atla, Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland and Philadelphia. Urban contemporary formatted WCDX is tied for the top spot in Richmond’s radio ratings. WPLZ, another urban contemporary formatted station, and WKJS, with an adult urban format, are also top ten ranked stations in the market. WSOJ also has an urban contemporary format, WJRV has a country music format, while WGCV and WDYL have religious formats. In related news, Radio One plans to nationally syndicate Russ Parr, the morning personality on its top rated Washington DC station, urban contemporary formatted WKYS, to at least six stations. Details are to be announced by April 1. Right now, Parr is heard on Radio One-owned stations in Philadelphia and Detroit.
March 4, 1999
The Greaseman Apologizes, Apologizes and Apologizes
The Greaseman, also known as Doug Tracht, did a major apology tour throughout Washington DC on March 3. Tracht was fired last week for making a racist joke about the murder of a black man in Texas who was dragged behind a truck. The former morning personality of Washington’s classic rocker WARW (94.7) had teamed up with an old friend, former boxing promoter Rock Newman, who organized the events of the day which included a long list of apology speeches and interviews. Tracht kicked the day off with a press conference in the basement of a Washington church. "I have thought long and hard and virtually nonstop on how to begin to address and correct the senseless, hurtful, racist-sounding words that I spewed out of my mouth," he said. "Unfortunately, I've come to the conclusion that there are no words to fully capture the profound shame, humiliation and sorrow I feel." Tracht even volunteered to travel to Texas to apologize in person to the murdered man’s family. He added that he would "entertain suggestions of any form as to how I might repair the damage" his words have caused. While the press conference was for reporters only, a group of citizens, many of them African American, protested outside the church, carrying anti-Greaseman placards. Following the church press conference, Tracht traveled to WOL (1450) radio, the major African American talk station in the Capital City. There he was grilled by talk show host Joe Madison. Tracht delivered more sorrowful remarks until he was caught by one of Madison’s questions. Madison asked Tracht if he believed shock jock Howard Stern (on WJFK 106.7, which is owned by Infinity/CBS like Tracht’s former station is) should be fired for repeatedly airing the “n” word during a comedy bit last week. Tracht did not answer in the affirmative which seemed only to aggravate many in the WOL’s audience according to interviews with them afterwards. Following his WOL appearance, Tracht was off to do a series of live interviews on Washington area TV stations’ evening newscasts. Again, he apologized and apologized. But that was not all. At 11 PM (Eastern), Tracht appeared on a nationally televised Black Entertainment Television newscast/interview program. And he was scheduled to do more radio interviews the following day, including a face-to-face with former Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson on his new radio show on WTEM (980 AM). At one point, Tracht even offered to teach, for free, a broadcasting course at Howard University, DC’s premier black university. That suggestion received criticism from many. Meanwhile, a new controversy has erupted regarding the Greaseman affair. Many are wondering why WARW officials didn’t simply “dump” Tracht’s offensive joke before it went out on the air. The station did have a system in place involving a seven-second tape delay and a monitor who was answerable to station management. For whatever reason, the system did not work in the Greaseman’s case. Tracht stresses that he has not been offered any jobs since he was fired from WARW. There have been rumors to the contrary, though.
March 3, 1999
Early March News Briefs
WTEM Unveils New Schedule - Sports talker WTEM (980) has made a few schedule changes in hopes of bolstering its long sagging ratings. It has added a talk show by former Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson to its weekday lineup at 10:30 AM. The coach has been signed to do his show during the month of March during the crazed “March madness” college basketball craze; no word on whether Thompson’s show will continue beyond that. Chancellor’s WTEM has also added the syndicated talk of Jim Rome to its noon to 3 PM weekday timeslot. The station will also feature Rome’s new “Playground” program which is billed as a “fast paced… high energy hour” of talk and listener feedback. The WTEM changes are anchored by the AM drive of Don Imus and PM drive of Washington Post sports columnist Tony Kornheiser. It remains to been seen if the changes will bolster the ratings of a station which has been spending an awful lot of time in the ratings basement lately. DC101 Gets New Look, Tightens Sound - Another Chancellor station, WWDC (101.1), also known as DC101, has been fine tuning its playlist lately. The station has been gradually moving to a more “active rock” stance since it was acquired by Chancellor last summer. You’ll hear fewer classic and fewer alternative tracks. DC101 has also updated its logo and there are rumors there’ll be a big media advertising push soon. There are also a flurry of rumors that DC101 will unveil a new morning drive program soon. The talk centers about the station picking up the Mancow’s show from Chicago or possibly installing former Partridge Family member, and ex-WBIX (NYC) host Danny Bonaduce in the morning slot. In any case, at the moment Chancellor is keeping mum. Although, with the Greaseman recently jettisoned from WARW, it might make sense for DC101 to make a decision sooner rather than later - before all those male listeners get used to parking their ears somewhere other than DC101. Catholic Radio Coming To DC - There is increasing talk that Catholic Radio Network, which is setting up a nationwide network of stations, is coming to the DC area. RadioDigest hears that CRN is conducting negotiations to either buy substantial mounts of time on or purchase outright two stations owned by Douglas Broadcasting, WBZS (730) and WZHF (1390). Alexandria VA’s WBZS has a brokered business news/talk format but is facing stuff competition from Chancellors WWRC (570). Arlington’s WZHF currently has a format that includes some brokered ethnic programming, some personal achievement talk and, at night, some gay talk. CRN has announced that it has definitely coming to the DC area; but it still will not make a public announcement about which station(s) it is looking at. Mega Makes Some Changes - Mega Broadcasting, which purchased suburban Rockville MD’s WINX (1600) late last year now owns three AM stations in the DC area. The Spanish-langugaue broadcaster also owns WKDL (1050) in Silver Spring MD and WKDV (1460) in Manassas VA. When Mega started programming WINX (a former top forty outlet) last December it featured a Spanish “romantica” adult contemporary format apart from the Spanish contemporary music it was simulcasting on WKDL and WKDV. However, in February, Mega switched the Manassas station to simulcast the romantic format with WINX, leaving WKDL on its own. No word was given for the switch. Goodbye John Carmody - John Carmody was the Washington Post television columnist for 21 years. On many mornings, Washingtonians skipped right past all the political news in the front of the paper for Carmody’s Style section “TV Column” which was packed with news, commentary and, especially, his unique brand of humor. Carmody retired last year after his health was failing him. He died on February 28 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, MD. He was 74.
February 25, 1999
WARW's Greaseman Fired For Making Race-Related Joke
Washington DC classic rocker WARW (94.7) has fired morning personality Greaseman, whose real name is Doug Tracht, for making a tasteless joke about black singer Lauryn Hill. Originally, WARW announced that it had suspended Tracht for his remarks. But late in the day on February 25, WARW issued a statement saying that it was severing all ties to the controversial morning personality. Just after 7 AM on February 24, Tracht played a portion of a song by the Grammy Award winning artist and then, in a jab critical of her song, jested: "No wonder people drag them behind trucks." Tracht was referring to last year’s torture death in Texas of James Byrd Jr. who was dragged behind a pickup truck driven by white supremacist John William King. King was convicted of murder on February 23. WARW General Manager Sarah Taylor said she "deplored the comment and was appalled by it," according to the Washington Post. "There is no room for remarks like that at our station and I apologize to all the listeners who were quite rightly offended by it." No replacement has been named for him. The Post said it received a fax from Tracht in which he said: "I'm truly sorry for the pain and hurt I have caused with my unfeeling comment… I have no excuse for my remark, and regret it. If I could take it back I would. In the course of my show, split second judgment is made over ad-libs. This remark was a grave error in my judgment." This is not Tracht’s first race-related comment to land him in hot water. In 1986, while working at WWDC-FM (DC101), Tracht made a remark about the Martin Luther King holiday: "Kill four more and we can take a whole week off." The station was picketed and received bomb threats. Tracht made an on-air apology after returning from a “vacation”; he was allowed to continue with his morning duties.
February 19, 1999
Channel 50 Holds On To Orioles, Wizards & Caps Thru The End Of 2000
WBDC, Channnel 50, has signed an agreement with Home Team Sports (HTS) to continue carrying the broadcast television schedule of the Orioles (baseball), the Wizards (basketball) and the Capitals (hockey) through the end of 2000. The new deal allows the station to carry 65 Orioles games, 20 Wizards games and 18 Capitals games. All of the coverage will be produced by regional cable sports network HTS. There was some talk last year that some of the games might show up on UPN-owned Channel 20, WDCA, but HTS officials have apparently decided that they want the games to remain on WB Network affiliate WBDC.
February 11, 1999
Rumors Of Changes Plague WGAY & DC101
While impeachment talk continues to make its way throughout Capitol Hill, there are rumors of radio changes being carried on the warmer than normal mid-winter winds in the Washington DC market. The rumors seem to focus on Chancellor owned stations. The hottest rumor is that Chancellor will bring its “Jammin’ Oldies” format to Washington. The format recently arrived at Chancellor’s WBIX in New York City; it features a healthy dose of urban oldies including lots of classic Motown tunes. The likely candidate for the format is WGAY (99.5), an easy listening/adult contemporary station that has seen its ratings slump a bit as of late. However, Chancellor recently announced that it was adding a nostalgic/big band program on Saturday nights on the station, thereby throwing some doubt into the rumors that a format change is on the way. Sources continue to say that WGAY is the likely candidate for the change. However, they say that Chancellor may not call the format “Jammin’ Oldies.” Chancellor has a few problems if it decides to covert WGAY. The first is that Chancellor already has a successful rock oldies station in DC, WBIG (100.3), “Big Oldies,” which has been in the top ten in the past few ratings round-ups. Also, Radio One’s WMMJ (102.3) is already offering an urban oldies format - and getting its best ratings ever with the format. Chancellor faces more rumors with rocker DC101, WWDC (101.1), which it acquired from locally based Capitol Broadcasting last summer. There continues to be talk that a new morning or afternoon drive show may be in the works at the station which has re-focused itself as a more active-rock station now that it’s under the Chancellor umbrella. DC101 seems to be distancing itself a bit from the alternative rock tunes it was playing rather heavily in its pre-Chancellor days. Back in January, Danny Bonaduce paid a visit to DC doing a temporary afternoon stint at Chancellor’s sports radio station, WTEM (980). There was talk that the former “Partridge Family” kid, who had been jettisoned from NYC’s WBIX in December when it went “Jammin’ Oldies,” may be coming to a Chancellor station in DC. WTEM has been mentioned as his likely new home, as has DC101 as well as the potential new “Jammin’ Oldies” station. While there is little doubt that DC101 will stay with rock, there is plenty of talk that more personality changes are in the works at the station. Chancellor just recently bid farewell to Tony “Mad Dog” Colter. DC101 is the only rock station in the DC market to do well in the ratings of late, posting a slight overall gain in the fall 1998 numbers. The two other major rockers, alternative WHFS (99.1) and classic rock WARW (94.7), both Infinity/CBS properties, saw flat or slightly declining ratings in late 1998.
February 4, 1999
Channel 50 Plans To Dump Howard Stern
Channel 50, WBDC, says it plans to dump radio shock jock Howard Stern's TV show in August, when the station's contract with the show's distributor expires. "The Howard Stern Radio Show" currently airs on Channel 50 at midnight on Saturdays (Sunday mornings). The show used to air at 11 PM but it was moved to an hour later in late 1998 because of worries about the usually raunchy content. Sources say the station is having difficulty selling ads during the show and is losing money on the deal which includes rather stiff payments to CBS-owned Eyemark Productions, which syndicates the program. "We've opted not to pick it up," said station President and General Manager Michael Nurse told the Washington Post. "We are not pleased with the economic performance of the show." He added: "It's been a disappointment in terms of its programming quality and it's extremely difficult to sell -- a lot of advertisers don't want to be associated with the controversy."
February 2, 1999
Maureen Bunyan Joins Channel 7
Maureen Bunyan, the news anchor who left Channel 9, WUSA, in a 1995 contract dispute, will solo host the WJLA, Channel 7 11 PM news later this month. Bunyan left the airwaves on Dec. 11, 1995 when she resigned after 22 years at the station. Sources at the time said that she had been in negotiations with executives (who have since departed) who offered her a salary cut and the 5 PM newscast instead of the top-rated 6 PM and 11 PM news shows she had been anchoring. "Women are supposed to lose their value as they age," Bunyan told the Washington Post in early February. "This standard exists in many fields; it's not unique to television, it's just extremely visible in television. One of the things I'm very pleased about with regard to my joining Channel 7 is that when I left Nine I was a certain age; I'm three years older now and the people at Channel 7 did not look and say, 'Gosh, she's three years older and three years less valuable.' They said, 'She's three years older and wiser and of greater value.' I hope that message is observed and noted by women in our viewing audience." Paul Berry and Kathleen Matthews, who have been anchoring WJLA's 11 PM newscast will continue to anchor the station's 5 PM newscast.
January 26, 1999
WOL Great "Sunny Jim" Kelsey Dies
"Sunny Jim" Kelsey, a disc jockey at DC soul music station WOL (1450 AM) in the 1960s and 1970s, died on January 15, 1999 at age 65. He was said to be suffering from prostate cancer. Kelsey worked at WOL (now a talk station) from 1965 until the mid 1970s, when the station was tops in the ratings.
January 24, 1999
Channel 9's News Director Resigns
Mike Cavender, news director of WUSA, Channel 9, has resigned. It is thought that his decision is based on the station's sagging news ratings. For almost two decades, Channel 9 was the leading TV news operation in the DC market. But in the last few years, Channel 4, WRC, has taken the top news ratings crown.
January 22, 1999
Radio Day Reunion Highlights Missing Gems (And Formats) On DC's Airwaves
It happened again and again -- a radio veteran addressed the crowd at the Radio Day 1999 charity fund raising event January 21 at the Warner Theatre saying he'd love to be back on the air if only a station would have him. Bill Mayhugh said it. For years he was the overnight man at WMAL mixing his quiet banter between the quietly nostalgic tunes. WMAL now reruns Rush Limbaugh in his former time slot. But Mayhugh is still on the air - he does a weekend stint at a small Culpeper, Virginia radio station, a good 60 miles from Washington. But he'd love to be back on the air in the Nation's Capital "if someone would have me." Paul Anthony also said it at the Radio Day gathering. The veteran radio and TV announcer and DJ who is now best associated with pledge break work on local PBS station WETA, would love to get his FM jazz show back. The only problem is that there's almost no jazz on the FM band in the DC market, apart from the commercial "smooth jazz" of WJZW or the part-time jazz on Pacifica's WPFW. DC's only fulltime jazz station, WDCU, died in 1997. Or take another Radio Day featured speaker, Weasel (aka Jonathan Gilbert), one of the main voices at free-form, progressive rock (another missing DC format) WHFS way back when it was on 102.3 in the 1970s. WHFS has come a long way in the past two decades, moving to a new dial position (99.1) and becoming a commercial modern rocker owned by a large corporation (CBS/Infinity). But Weasel still hangs on to a weekend slot doing "retro New Wave" mainly from the early 1980s. Weasel used the gathering to announce that he's taking his talents and starting a progressive music station on the Internet. Dubbed "Zero 24-7 Web Radio," the station will feature an independent free-form "format" (the DJ plays what he or she wants). The start-up date is February 1 and the audio stream will be available at www.zero24-7.org. Many old-timers addressed the crowd including WWDC-AM's Eddie Gallaher, who is still on the air with his standards show on DC's only nostalgia station (albeit with a signal that doesn't make it to the highly populated western suburbs), Ed Walker, once half of the "Joy Boys" team (with Willard Scott), Frank Hardin, half of the legendary "Hardin & Weaver" team that dominated morning radio for decades, and Robert St. John, whose career goes back to the very early days of DC radio. Many funny and touching stories of the bygone days of DC broadcasting were provided by a long list of DC radio greats. Dennis Owens, still the morning voice on WGMS, told of the struggles to make commercial classical radio a success in the DC market. WARW's Greaseman joked about pushing the envelope in comedy radio. Donnie Simpson (WPGC) and Glenn Harris (now with NewsChannel 8) told of the battles (eventually highly successful) to desegregate radio in the National Capital. Cathy Hughes, owner of DC-based Radio One, the largest Afro-American corporate owner of radio stations in the world, was honored during the presentation and received a thunderous ovation. WMAL's Brooke Stevens and WRQX's Marilyn Thompson told of the effort to turn the DC's airwaves, once an all-male bastion, into a co-ed workplace. Stevens jested that when she started at WMAL she wanted to rename it "WMALE" because it featured no women on the air (it still doesn't feature too many). There was also talk about the death of the AM band in the DC area. Only one AM station, WMAL, ever makes it to the top ten most listened to stations anymore. WMAL morning personality Andy Parks jested that "the AM band still lives right here at 630." By the way, WMAL's PM drive host Chris Core used the occasion to announce that his station would start offering its signal via the Internet, joining a lengthening list of DC area stations which can now be heard around the world. Definitely the main trend for the future. And it appears that the Internet will be the only place, in the near future at least, that DC area radio listeners will be able to find a lengthening list of formats (jazz, big band, standards, progressive rock, folk, blues, opera, etc.) and talent not now available on the Capital's airwaves.
January 19, 1999
DC TV & Radio Hit By Ice Storm
An ice storm, bringing a coating of at least an inch of the slippery stuff, hit the Washington DC area January 14 and 15 knocking many TV and radio stations off the air. And even on January 16, many AM stations were still off the air. Hardest hit, TV wise, were two PBS stations, WETA (Channel 26) and WHUT (Channel 32), which were off the air all day January 15. WETA returned to the airwaves at about 6 PM after it located a diesel generator to power its Bethesda, Maryland transmitter. Channel 9, WUSA, seemed to be having power problems at its northwest Washington studio as afternoon newsbreaks were done with dim, emergency generator lighting. Howard University's Channel 32, which uses the same Bethesda transmitter site as Channel 26, was still off the air on January 16, but did return on the 17th. On radio side, many more stations were affected with WWTL (700 AM), WABS (780 AM), WCTN (950 AM), WKDL (1050 AM), WFAX (1220 AM), WWDC (1260 AM), WDCT (1310 AM), WACA (1540 AM) and WINX (1600 AM) off for part or most of the day on the 15th. On the FM band, the hardest hit was WPFW (89.3 FM). WJFK (106.7 FM) blinked off and on many times during the Howard Stern show in morning drive. As of January 16, WCTN, WKDL, WWDC-AM, WACA and WINX, all based in suburban Maryland's Montgomery County, were still off the air. On the 17th and 18th, WCTN, WKDL and WACA were still absent from the airwaves. On the 19th, WCTN and WACA were still missing from the radio band. At the height of the storm, power was knocked out to more than 400,000 customers throughout the DC area. The western and northern suburbs were the hardest hit.
January 8, 1999
Columbia MD Firm Inks Radio Owners In Bid For Digital Technology
USA Digital Radio, based in the Columbia MD, has announced that it has signed a number of major broadcasters as investment partners in its drive to create a digital radio broadcasting technology. The broadcasters who have jumped on USA Digital Radio’s bandwagon include: CBS, Chancellor Media, Clear Channel, Cox Radio, Cumulus, Emmis, Entercom, Gannett, Heftel, Jacor, Radio One and Sinclair. Together, the above companies have more than 1600 stations. USA Digital Radio uses a system called “In-band On-Channel (IBOC) technology.” The company operates an experimental digital radio station in Columbia on 93.5. Digital radio broadcasting, like digital TV broadcasting, will bring superior audio quality to AM and FM radio listeners. USA Digital Radio is also developing and marketing Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) which can transmit virtual-CD-quality audio signals to radio receivers. The company’s IBOC technology allows radio stations to use their current radio spectrum to transmit existing AM and FM analog simultaneously with new high-quality digital signals which eliminate multipath, noise, and reduce interference. In October 1998, USA Digital Radio filed a petition with the FCC to implement digital audio broadcasting in the using its IBOC technology. USA Digital Radio concentrate its efforts to roll-out its digital radio technology into the marketplace.
January 6, 1999
Channel 26 To Start Public Affairs Cable Network
WETA, Channel 26, has announced that it is teaming up with the Freedom Foundation to create a new public affairs cable TV network called the Forum Network. It is slated to start operations this spring. This is the second major cable operation that WETA has become involved in; late last year the PBS station announced it was starting Fanfare, a classic music TV network. WETA management says it plans to air a variety of talk shows on the Forum Network including the "News Hour With Jim Lehrer," "Washington Week In Review," "Frontline," as well as a veriety of talk and news programming that the station doesn't have time to air. Discussions are underway with area cable systems to carry the new channel. The Freedom Forum was created by Al Neuharth, the former head of Gannett which publishes USA Today and owns WUSA, Channel 9.
January 4, 1999
WINX's Big Don Resurfaces In Baltimore
"Big Don" O'Brien, who'd been the WINX (AM 1600) morning man until the station shifted from top forty to Spanish adult contemporary in mid-December, can now be heard on Baltimore oldies station, WQSR (FM 105.7). He's largely doing fill-in shifts on the station. There's also news that O'Brien is working on a TV program to be aired on Baltimore's Channel 2 (WMAR). It is tentatively called "The Guys Show" and has been said to be a cross between a cooking show and a home improvement show. O'Brien has long been a media star in the Baltimore and Washington markets on both radio and TV having worked at dozens of stations over the years.
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