CENTRAL NEW YORK -- Although there were plenty of changes among personnel and programming in local radio during 2012, there weren't very many "format flips" this year, in the three markets covered by CNYRadio.com. But, nobody ever said you need to have a significant quantity of format flips to make it a memorable year. In this latest part of our "Year in Review" series, we recap the small -- but still very notable -- handful of format flips that took place over the past twelve months.
We didn't have to wait too long to observe our first format flip of the year. January 6, 2012 started like a normal weekday for 105.9 The Big Talker (WXTL), but when the syndicated Bob and Tom Show ended at 10:00am, the Cumulus Media station shot up flares when it started stunting with a non-stop rotation of classic TV theme songs. (Worth mentioning: The same "TV on the Radio" stunting was used in advance of "The Big Talker" format's debut in 2010.)
At 1:05pm, the new format was unveiled: 105.9 The Rebel. A press release promised "a new and different choice for rock, with different album cuts and true variety," citing inspiration from "hundreds of rock music fans ... tired of hearing the same 150 classic tracks over and over." The station launched with Hunter Scott as PD, on top of his existing duties as PD and morning host of co-owned active rocker 95X (WAQX). Aside from keeping the syndicated Bob and Tom Show on mornings, The Rebel was jockless to start. It wouldn't be long before Cumulus announced the addition of Dave Frisina -- who had recently been released from Galaxy's TK99/105 and 96.9 WOUR -- as afternoon drive host. A little further down the road, Syracuse New Times music editor Jessica Novak was added to host middays.
It's not often that you can predict a format flip with certainty several months ahead of time, but the FCC's mandatory public comment period for station sales gave observers plenty of time to put the pieces together. It was actually November 2011 when California-based EMF filed paperwork with the FCC, seeking permission to sell 100.7 WRCK Utica to the locally-owned Roser Communications Network. (Quick background: EMF had been running its syndicated "Air1" Christian music format on WRCK for a few years. EMF also owns 93.5 WOKR Remsen, which it had been leasing out to a third-party, but when that deal ended, EMF found itself carrying Air1 on two stations in the same market.)
Although the previous changes in Utica could be easily predicted months in advance, this round of changes was quite surprising. After the 100.7FM purchase was complete, Roser had its WUTQ-FM brand of news/talk/music running on a full-power FM station, two AM stations and an FM translator. If anyone thought having the same programming on four signals in the same market was a waste, they'd be relieved in July, when a non-stop loop on the two AM stations, and the 95.5FM translator started alerting WUTQ listeners that the format would be heard exclusively on 100.7FM, effective immediately.
Thanks to multiple CNYRadio.com readers who shared their insider knowledge of the goings-on, we learned that Roser would be selling the trio of signals to a new company called "Good Guys Broadcasting," founded by former WKTV executives Frank Abbadessa and Tom Coyne. The callsign for WUTQ[AM] would be changed to WUSP, and the station would be branded as "95.5 WUSP." Rather than stand idle while waiting for the FCC to approve the $350,000 sale, Good Guys leased the stations from Roser until they could take over completely.
The weekend after Labor Day spelled the end of the road for Radio Disney in Oswego County. Syracuse-based Cram Communications, which owns the 1300 AM (WOSW Fulton) signal decided to exchange Disney for classic country. Branded as "Real Country AM 1300," the station's positioning statement promises "country legends and NASCAR," with live coverage of races. Fans of Radio Disney can still get their fix by inching a bit higher up the AM dial to 1490 WOLF Syracuse.
For nearly a decade, the station's call sign was WAMF, and changed to WOSW in June. While call sign changes are usually a hint of a format change, the Radio Disney format stuck around and station management told CNYRadio.com that they simply liked the idea of the new call sign referring to the first three letters of OSWego County.