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Posts Tagged ‘Merlin Media’

Taking the ‘McKay Way’ to WPLJ, WABC

There are dozens of radio traffic reporters in the New York market. Many of them could be deemed “interchangable” with a cookie cutter sound. Only a select few in the last 20 years have been able to make a career, and be known to a large number of listeners. And then there’s Jeff McKay!

McKay is clearly the most engaging traffic reporter in the business. Therefore, his stock is constantly on the rise. After many years as a full-time gridlock guy on 1010 WINS, mainly nights and weekends, McKay landed as the morning traffic anchor with a managerial role at Merlin Media’s ill-conceived, FM News. But McKay has never been ill-conceived. His reports stay true every 10 minutes, never crossing into gimmicky. He straddles a line effortlessly from entertaining to informing like few in the traffic world have ever done.

Once the writing was on the wall at Merlin last year, and Merlin fired the majority of its staff, McKay began his quest for the next radio home.

“I was looking at a number of scenarios, in radio, television and outside of broadcasting, and had received several offers I liked,” McKay admits. “However, the possibilities with Radiate Media and Cumulus was the best position for me and my family.”

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WFAN to Begin FM Simulcast Friday

The deal is done! WFAN makes its debut as a FM simulcast of 660 AM Friday morning at 12:01.

Mike Francesa told listeners today that WFAN programming will duplicate on 101.9 FM, the frequency is currently owned by Merlin Media with its Alternative Rocker WRXP.

As we reported earlier this month, CBS Radio is acquiring the Merlin slot for $75 million. At the time, operations manager Mark Chernoff told FishbowlNY that the WFAN simulcast, which will use the call letters WFAN-FM, is until further notice. He said the next step for CBS Radio is to formally purchase the station.

CBS Radio Submits Application to FCC Looking to Avoid Any Station Sell Off

With CBS Radio acquiring Merlin Media’s WRXP for its WFAN-FM simulcast, now the question is what happens to its New York stations? Speculation almost immediately had CBS forced to sell off one of its seven radio stations (with the WRXP completed deal) and two TV channels.

But not so fast.

CBS has filed an application with the FCC. CBS first addressed the Local Ownership Rule, stating:

“…The common ownership of eight radio stations, no more than five in the same service, is permitted in the New York Metro. Therefore, CBS’s acquisition of a controlling interest in WRXP complies fully with the FCC’s local radio ownership rule.”

There is also the Radio-Television Cross-Ownership Rule, under which CBS may have found its loophole.

“…The noise-limited DTV contour of WLNY-TV, whose transmitter is located in a distant corner of the New York Metro – on Long Island, some 50+ miles from the center of New York City – does not entirely encompass New York City, the city of license for all seven radio stations. Additionally, the relevant contours for all seven radio stations do not entirely encompass Riverhead, New York, the city of license for WLNY-TV.”

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New Rock 101.9 May Hit the Road to New Jersey

The smoke has barely cleared from the drama surrounding Merlin Media yanking FM News off the air. But there is still plenty of news emanating from the offices on Hudson Street.

For starters, FishbowlNY has learned that Merlin, which last month erased the memory of FM News in favor of a resurrected Rock format and former call letters, may leave SoHo for new, less expensive digs.

“There are rumblings of a possible move to a lower-rent location,” a source admits to FishbowlNY. “Since they’ve greatly downsized the staff, they dont need an entire floor at 395 Hudson, and are trying to save every penny possible since millions were flushed down the toilet during the year wasted trying to build an audience for the now-defunct WEMP.”

The source adds that WRXP may head to New Jersey.

While the Internet hasn’t been awash with this information, two rumors have persisted in the blogosphere: Merlin is teasing listeners with the Rock music before flipping to the final format, and it will remain free of personalities.

The source attempts to squelch those thoughts.

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WRXP Officially Back at 101.9

The cycle is complete. WEMP is no more. The former FM News station, which returned to Alternative music earlier this month with New Rock 101.9, has also officially resurrected the familiar WRXP call letters.

Under Emmis’ ownership, WRXP had the reigns of Alternative from February 5, 2008, billed as The New York Rock Experience. The 101.9 dial position made way for Merlin Media and its “experimental” run as an FM newser on July 15, 2011 with a month-long Adult Contemporary stunting.

Insiders tell FishbowlNY that there is no doubt Merlin is committed to the Rock format this time. But before any mics are opened and additional talent hired, we’re told that sales are of the utmost importance at WRXP.

As we previously reported, along with WRXP back on 101.9, the station may eventually reunite listeners with former on-air personalities.

Merlin Media Looks to Regain its Prior Identity at 101.9

That didn’t take long.

As we continue with the dream, or nightmare theme, that was FM News 101.9/WEMP, there’s word that Merlin Media, not surprisingly, is ready sever ties with its call letters. FishbowlNY has learned that Merlin has re-registered for the WRXP calls.

Those call letters would bring the dial position full circle with Alternative Rock, except not under Emmis’ ownership this time. A source tell us the “Back to the Future” moment won’t end with the call letters, as the company s considering ”possibly bringing back some of the old staff.”

On Tuesday, Merlin ended its attempt at FM News after just 11 months and atrocious ratings, with New Rock 101.9 taking over the airwaves, minus any jocks.

Only a handful of WEMP staffers were kept on, for now as reporters for Merlin’s Philadelphia station. Among them are former WCBS 880 anchor Therese Crowley, one-time ABC Radio anchor Hilarie Barsky, Brett Larson, formerly with WINS and WNYW, and Bill Edwards, former WKJY/KJOY program director.

Whether this group is staying just to help with the sister station, provide news within the music programming once the mic is opened, or Merlin is laying the groundwork for another format is unclear.

Merlin Media Tries to Work Magic in Finding a New Programming VP at WEMP

The wheels of the Merlin Media’s experimental All-News FM format are still coming off. As we reported over the weekend, WEMP 101.9 VP of programming Liz Aiello was fired Thursday, after just eight months with the company–six with the station firing on all cyclinders.

Updating the story today, FishbowlNY has learned that Merlin has handed the reins to veteran broadcasting exec Al Gardner, recently hired by Randy Michaels to helm a Philadelphia version of WEMP.

Sources also tell FishbowlNY that Merlin is conducting a nationwide for Aiello’s successor.

The ratings for WEMP have been abysmal, .5 in the most recent book, down .1 from the previous month.

There has been upheaval at Merlin Media in recent weeks, if not since first taking the air from Emmis’ WRXP in August.

Walter Sabo was ousted from his position as company COO before year’s end.

Merlin Media Founder Randy Michaels Arrested on DUI

Randy Michaels, who is no stranger to controversy, has been arrested north of Cincinnati on driving under the influence charges. Various reports say, the man who helped launch Merlin Media in June, was pulled over in a muddy construction area near Interstate 75  early this morning.

The Middletown, Ohio police report says Michaels, whose real name is Benjamin Homel, smelled of alcohol and was unable to perform sobriety tests.

He is scheduled to appear in court next Friday.

Michaels was ousted as Tribune CEO last year amid complaints into his behavior began to circulate.

Startup news station WEMP is part of the Michaels’ Merlin Media portfolio.

Most Popular FishbowlNY Stories for the Week

Here’s a look at what FishbowlNY stories made the most buzz this week.

  1. Reporter Who Blew Whistle on News of the World Scandal Found Dead, July 18
  2. Whitney Houston, Others Grace the Covers in Seventeen’s Archives, July 18
  3. A Quick Look at Vogue‘s Annual “Age  Issue,” July 19
  4. As Merlin Media Moves Forward at 101.9, Emmis Takes WRXP to Web, July 19
  5. Len Berman Drops WOR, Replaced by WNBC’s Bruce Beck, July 18
  6. The Wall Street Journal‘s Editorial on Hacking Scandal is a Joke, July 18
  7. 101.9 Adds Jock Dave Packer, Gives Rumor to News/Music Hybrid Format, July 18
  8. War of Words with New York State Broadcasters Association and Family of William B. Williams, July 18

 
Keep up-to-date with the latest FishbowlNY news. Click here to sign-up for the FishbowlNY daily newsletter, bringing you our articles each afternoon directly to your inbox.

As Merlin Media Moves Forward at 101.9, Emmis Takes WRXP to Web

With the newest radio station in New York, as we’ve been reporting, Merlin Media has taken over the 101.9 frequency on the FM dial. And for now, in an apparent stunting, changed format to a mix of 1980s and 1990s Pop/Rock. The call letters haven’t been altered–yet.

While the focus has been on Merlin’s moves, Emmis made their own news.

The WRXP Alternative Rock format is not going away. Fans can hear the music online at the station’s website–1019rxp.com and via mobile devices, such as the IPhone and Droid.  

“We recognize that ‘RXP’s passionate fan base loves the station and we look forward to continue to deliver a quality product to these listeners,” Patrick Walsh, Emmis CFO/COO, said.  

Using the ’RXP brand online and through mobile applications, Emmis looks to strengthen its presence in the digital world, as well as preserve the WRXP identity.

The station has become a leading alternative rock brand in New York and nationwide since launching in 2008.

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