WSEN, WFBL to Flip Formats

April 1, 2008 by

(UPDATE 4/2/08 - GM confirmation in Comments area)
Aircheck collectors be on alert!  Several sources indicate Buckley Broadcasting's Syracuse stations, WSEN (92.1 FM / 1050 AM) and WFBL (1390 AM), will be flipping formats this coming Monday.  The changes may not seem too dramatic at WSEN, but it's a pretty big change for WFBL, which will be abandoning its news/talk format.

We're told the station hasn't formally announced the changes yet, but Buckley GM Judy Kelly reportedly mentioned the news while addressing the Central New York Car Club Association earlier this month, and the CNYCCA included it in the online version of their meeting minutes.  Although our request for comment from PD Jim Tate went unanswered, we've since heard from other sources who concur.

WFBL Abandoning News/Talk

No thanks to Arbitron's embargo on Syracuse, we can't say for sure if ratings were a factor here... but WFBL is ending its news/talk format.  WFBL aimed to counter WSYR's lineup with personalities like Laura Ingraham, Bill O'Reilly, and Michael Savage's "Savage Nation."  Local news updates have been provided by WTVH-TV personalities.  So, for you aircheck collectors out there, your last chance to get weekday personalities and legal IDs would be this Friday, and then you've got the weekend for anything else.

Starting Monday, WFBL will be playing music from the 50s and 60s.  We're told Bob Brown will host morning drive, and broadcasting icon Ryan Seacrest's long lost cousin Ryan Seagate will handle the rest of the day.  (For those of you who clicked the link and are now groaning... sorry, we just couldn't resist the corny joke.)  No word yet on what kinds of specialty programming might be used on weekends.

WSEN Tweaks Playlist, Branding

With WFBL inheriting the 50s and 60s portion of the music library, WSEN will modernize its own playlist, concentrating on only the tail end of the 60s, all of the 70s, and the first half of the 80s.  And, in an apparent move to attract listeners who refuse to admit they're old enough to listen to an "Oldies" station, WSEN will begin branding itself as "Classic Hits."

We haven't heard any mention of air talent lineup changes -- but we also don't expect any since this seems to be more of a re-imaging, rather than a full-blown format change.

We're also not sure what the exact timing will be for the changes.  Midnight?  Morning drive?  Both at the same time, or staggered?  We'll find out come Monday.

Related Links:
- WFBL's Website
- WSEN's Website

16 comments on “WSEN, WFBL to Flip Formats”

  1. To the folks at CNY

    I know today is April 1, April Fools Day. Consequently, it is the day to play jokes on people. I sincerely hope you're not playing a joke on the radio community, and the public in general with news of WFBL's format flip. If you are, then, that is wrong and childish. There are people who would enjoy a 50's and 60's format, and getting their hopes up for nothing is wrong (especially since most of those listeners are Senior citizens.) If you're joking around,, it's okay, just admit it. If this a joke, however, and you can't own up to it, if it is found to be so, then, I will take you to task for giving false joy to the radio listening public.

    April Fools day can be fun, but please be careful what you're writing, and please be mindful of the listening public.

    Thank you

    --The Radio Kid

  2. Dear,

    I notice that you have posted another entry on your website, yet you have not responded to the comment that was writen to you (see my comment that appears before this one.) I want to know if you're joking around. I don't really like your secrecy with this whole WFBL thing. I posted that comment so we could hear from you as to whether you were or were not joking around on April Fools day. Let me say again that telling listeners hoping to hear a 50's and 60's format is wrong, because most of them are Senior citizens. As I said before, April Fools day can bbe fun, but be careful what you write. If WFBL doesn't flip to an oldies (50's and 60's) format on Monday,, I will take you to task for the writing false news, and dashing the hopes of listeners.

    It appears, however, that you choose not to respond to a kindly written comment, and instead prefer to quikly correct commenters who resort to high school namecalling and insults. Well, I usually don't prefer to do such a thing, but if that's the only thing you guys respond to, then...
    You guys are a bunch of stupid idiots.

    There. Now, I ask you kindly. Pplease tell us the truth about WFBL. Were you joking? If so, it's okay, just admit it. Noone's gonna criticize you for a good honest joke. And, if your telling the truth, then, I would definitly think that you would want to respond to such a comment so you could clarify things once and for all.

    Thank you for reading this,, and, PuuLleeze, now, tell us the truth about WFBL.

    Thank you.

    --The Radio Kid

  3. We figured we'd take the high road, sit back, and let you see for yourself on Monday... but since you insist on a response, here it is. The news is real. It's not a joke.

    We actually HAD an April Fool's joke in mind, but when we finally gathered enough information to "confirm" this format flip, we decided to forego the joke, since it might dilute the quality of this story. (And don't ask us what we had planned - we might save it for next year.)

    Even if this were a joke, we would have had a disclaimer to that effect near the end. We take this website very seriously -- we wouldn't risk our credibility by posting something fake without revealing the gag by the end of the article.

    The only "joke" in the entire article -- and admittedly it was awful -- was the reference to "Ryan Seagate," which links to the website of Seagate, a hard drive manufacturer. It was a roundabout way of saying, after morning drive, the rest of the day would be handled by automation.

    If you still don't believe us, tune in on Monday and hear it for yourself. Then, feel free to come back and post an apology for calling us a bunch of stupid idiots.

    -The Mgmt.

  4. Dear management,

    Thanks for responding. AftI appreciate you responding to this. Thanks for informing me that the news is real. After reading your response, I decided to do some follow up, and called Buckley Broadcasting. And, manager Judy Kelly confirms that, come Monday, at 6A.M., WFBL will change it's format. "Yes," Kelly told me, "WFBL is changing format. We're going from talk to 50's and 60's oldies." When I asked about the lineup, Kelly said, "Bob Brown will do mornings, the noon show will be live, but the rest of the day will be either voicetracked, or syndicated." Kelly told me that one of the syndicated shows will be "Little Walter," a staple in the format at other radio stations. Kelly also said that, come Monday morning, the WFBL website will change, but you will be able to access the new site through the same address. The station will not have live streaming online. As for WSEN, Kelly confirmed that the station will reimage as Classic Hits, and will play songs from 1968 to 1985. "Over all," Kelly told me, in closing, "with our 2 stations, we can play music from 1955 right through 1985."

    So,, now that I know for sure that the news is true: I'd like to apologize for calling you a bunch of stupid idiots., I'm sorry. I understand that you take the site very seriously. Please forgive me.


    --The Radio Kid

  5. I just received a phone call from a listener inquiring about the format change for WFBL. I have to say that the CNY Radio "Mgmt" has done an excellent job of reporting accurate, factual information. I don't know who tried to reach Jim Tate for comment, but please feel free to call the station and ask for me - I will be happy to provide any information you would like.

    We have worked hard on putting together some great music and programs that our listeners will enjoy! While I have a meeting to go to now, I will post more details for everyone shortly.

    Thank you for your continued support of both WSEN and WFBL.

    Judy Kelly

  6. Radio Kid - You're forgiven.

    Ms. Kelly - Thanks so much for your kind words and for taking the time to create an account and post a comment. We hope other radio station managers in the area will follow your lead, and feel free to e-mail us with any station news anytime at cnyradio (at) cnyradio (dot) com.

  7. Well,

    WFBL did indeed change formats this morning. I've been listening to it all day, and, from my listening post here in Oswego, NY, it doesn't sound bad, at least, not to this kid's ears. Bob Brown is fantastic. The midday shift was okay, in my opinion. The problem that I have is that the station promotes the "Top 12 at 12," the most requested songs at that time by listeners, but, I've been listening all day, and there has been no mention on the station at anytime about a way to get requests on the station. I have also heard contest anouncements today promoting contests where listeners must call the station, but no phone number was ever given out at any time today. You can tell that the afternoon shift with Gary Dunes is voicetracked. The talk breaks done by dunes appear to be very spiratic. Right now, at 5-15P.
    M., the station is playing Paul Anka's "Lonely Boy." I also like the fact that they've taken the reverb off of WSEN, and put it on WFBL. Overall, I think the station sounds pretty good for the Syracuse market, and I commend Buckley Broadcasting, and Judy Kelly, for pulling this one off. WFBL "Oldies 1390 (Solid Gold Radio)" is Awesome!

    Just some analysis from the Radio Kid.

    --The Radio Kid

  8. Good luck with the new format, but I will dearly miss having a talk alternative to The Jim Reith Show in the afternoon. When I want to listen to music, I generally listen to a tape or CD, and I have tons of alternatives in radio. The talk format was much more unique.

    It seems questionable to make a change, particularly in this case where it splits the traditional oldies format (which always used to cut off around 1973-4). It also seems questionable to bring back on-air staff to the same station that decided it would be more profitable to eliminate Bill Colley for a syndicated program; one can only wonder how long that will last.

  9. Not only do I miss having a talk alternative to Jim Reith, but I also really miss having an alternative to Joe Galuski in the morning - plus
    I also really liked Bob & Sheri. Would it be possible for someone else in the area to pick them up?



  10. Quote from Ed: "...I also liked Bob and Sherry. Is it possible for someone else to pick them up?"

    No. This is not going to happen. When I spoke to Judy Kelly at Buckley Broadcasting, she said that the only remanent of WFBL's old talk format will be podcasts of Bob and Sherry, which will be offered on the WFBL website. To me, that signals that Bukley still has the contract to the show, and probably won't give it up soon. Therefore, I don't think any other station can legally carry the show.

    --The Radio Kid

  11. When I saw TV commercials advertising the WFBL radio station on WTVH TV several months ago, I knew that 1390 talk radio was in serious trouble and had no vision. As I've written to station management numerous times in the past (often unanswered), I predicted the demise of 1390 Talk Radio radio station when they removed Bill Colley from the morning show and struggled to find anything to fill that spot.

    Unfortunately and without warning, it seems that prediction in coming true. The key to your 1390's success would have been to put a local conservative talk show head to head against Jim Reith in the afternoon. I am very disappointed that they did not try this strategy.

    Station manager Judy Kelly once wrote to me that they "tried with Bill Colley." With all due respect, I do not feel that they "tried with Bill Colley" at all. While he was a good radio host and I don't know the reason for his demise, his show was boring. It had no music, no special features, no sound effects, etc. It was just him talking. But he did make a lot of sense, and provided a local conservative show. And, to the best of my knowledge, they never ran him in the afternoon against Jim Reith. I think "conservatism" was the key to past success of 1390 radio, and for some reason they compromised proven success with a silly non-local morning show. Morning shows need to be local (unless you want to put on Howard Stern). As I've stated to Ms. Kelly in the past, one billboard on Route 690 (instead of TV commercials) would have raked in listeners to 1390 Talk Radio your station. I've had numerous friends locally who didn't even know we had Laura Ingraham or Bill O'Reilly in the local market, because they were never adequately advertised (other than on 1390's own radio station).

    I do not think they will succeed with the "Oldies" format. I'm sure someday the station will go back to talk radio. Unfortunately, I won't be a listener until then.

    Thanks for listening to my rant!!!

  12. I agree with you, MisterBlue. It seems that WFBL and WSEN do very little in terms of active outside promotion.

    Doing promotions with WTVH News is a waste of time. Anyone who knows anything in this town, knows WTVH is far behind the other two stations when it comes to news ratings. There are some timeslots where WTVH literally registers a big fat zero. Except for Wheel of Fortune, promotions involving WTVH get you nowhere. Likewise, WTVH probably thinks they're going to win some viewers by getting themselves on the radio. Nope. Cross-promotion between two stations doesn't get you anywhere when there's barely any audience on either side to begin with. The only benefit is that it's free. Billboards and bus wraps cost money.

    Still, if Buckley was serious about making WFBL a contender against WSYR, they should have put their money where their mouth was. I'm going to guess corporate just didn't put up the cash to pay for billboards, buses and other promotional materials that are usually more successful.

    And by successful, I don't mean cheap or freebie trade ads in the Eagle "newspapers." I don't read those cheap Pennysaver-type things. Does anyone else? They're always filled with crap. Whenever it lands in my mailbox, it goes right to the recycling bin. I don't even bother to take it out of the plastic wrapper designed to keep the precious Pennysaver from the rain or snow.

    WFBL also should have put a real news staff on the air. Definitely not cheap to hire a news staff... but it would have sounded so much better than piping in updates recorded by WTVH talent. Again, most people in this market equate WTVH with crap. If you're going to rely on someone else to provide your news, at least try for WSTM, WSYR (not an option before but could be now that it's no longer Clear Channel) or even News 10 Now. I could go on, but these thoughts are all too late anyway.

  13. I can't remember now the source but when Colley was removed there were some comments floating around that it was cheaper to run a syndicated show - and they moved Savage to the slot for a few months, so they really did save some money - I forget what ran at 6:00 but it was junk, repeats of Joy Browne or Health Talk or something.

    Colley was interesting, I enjoyed listening to him when I had the chance - and he'd even started to form a local conservative group. But I know some of the local establishment put pressure on the station to get him to lay off - he was too conservative for their tastes - and in my opinion that is more what had to do with his removal.

    I think the WTVH commercial spots were reciprocal since WFBL used WTVH people for their news - often with laughably out-dated results, I recall one day a child that had gone missing and was found, 3 or 4 hours after WSYR had reported the child found, WFBL still had the canned report from noon saying he was missing.

    Now before they went to WTVH for the news they used News 10 Now - and it was just as bad. You just can't rely on 2 or 3 canned news reports per day to have updated news. Would it be that expensive to pay some intern a cheap wage to come in and write and read a new newscast each hour? All they have to be able to do is speak reasonably well. Sometimes not even that.

    I guess it's a moot point now. But this change didn't surprise me too much, between losing Colley and losing Hannity it was just going to be a matter of time. It doesn't help that as I read elsewhere on this site there's no real ratings taken for this market. The only thing I don't understand is why in 2008 people would go to an AM radio music format - both WFBL and I noticed somewhere that WSCP-AM is still owned by Galaxy and simulcasting TK-99. The only time I'd need music on AM radio is if I owned a 1975 or older car that only had an AM radio and I hadn't spent the money to put a stereo in or have the original unit modified to recieve FM signals. There can't be a lot of ratings in that.

  14. @Pontiac59 - I know I already made this point on another thread, but just in case anyone only sees this one (and not the other one), there ARE ratings for Syracuse. Arbitron simply doesn't release the numbers to the general public anymore. The full ratings report is only released directly to subscribing radio stations and advertising agencies. The stations that subscribe to the ratings still know where they stand in terms of audience size. It's just "the rest of us" who are in the dark, aside from anonymous people posting vague, unconfirmed generalities about the ratings on message boards (since posting the actual numbers would be copyright infringement).

  15. Hi BobRoss and Poniac 69!

    I just wanted to reply that I couldn't agree more with your comments. We are definitely on the same page.

    As I work out in the public in the thick of the news, I too never understood how a news radio station could have such a hard time putting out the news. Local news is relatively easy to cover. Plus you can get good scoops on local crime by just listening to the police scanners and contacting the police agency's PR guy for the lowdown.

    WBFL has had horrible news since I started listening about y years ago, no matter which TV station they were relying upon.

    Well, the whole "switching formats" thing has been extremely frustrating for me. I just can't believe they think this strategy will be successful.

    Can someone start a new AM radio station out there with some cool Talk Shows please??? :)

  16. @MisterBlue - Local news is great for a radio station, but I think the main problem is the expense. If you're going to have a newsroom, it needs to be a GOOD one, or else you might as well not bother.

    Having a "good" newsroom requires at least one anchor staffing the newsroom 24 hours a day, plus reporters. At the bare minimum, that's three full-time anchors (each working 8-hour shifts). You also need 2-3 weekday reporters, and you also need to cover weekends. Anyone in radio knows it's more and more difficult to find reliable part-timers who are willing to work every single weekend (many have full-time jobs during the week), so that usually means hiring full-timers who work weekends plus 3 weekdays.

    Obviously, Buckley couldn't or wouldn't come up with the cash to hire the 5 or 6 additional bodies a real newsroom would have required. It's much cheaper to have canned updates shipped in from a TV station, in exchange for the promotional mentions. But as many here have noted, that really doesn't earn your station any "reputation," especially when said TV stations (WTVH and News 10 Now) are known as the laggers, rather than the leaders. In cases of breaking news, those TV stations are going to focus on their own product first, before bothering to send updates to the radio station (especially considering the talent voicing the updates probably received no additional pay, and therefore had no incentive to really care).

    Bottom line, if WFBL could have been successful as a news/talk station -- but they missed 2 big keys: outside promotion and staffing their own news department. Even now, the Oldies format probably won't go anywhere unless they kick off some kind of massive promotional campaign.


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