Over the past year, Syracuse radio brought us a new sports station, live Internet broadcasts, and extra holiday music. Here are CNYRadio.com’s picks for the top ten local stories relating to the Central New York radio market.
1. Syracuse radio responds to September 11th terrorist attacks
Clearly the biggest news event of the year and the radio stations in Syracuse did an outstanding job on the day of the terrorist attacks as well as the weeks that followed in keeping Central New York informed and raising money for the relief effort. Combined, radio listeners in the Syracuse market contributed nearly $700,000 to aid the victims and their families, with a good portion of the proceeds coming from radiothons sponsored by local stations of Clear Channel Communications and Citadel Communications.
2. WNSS switches from Comedy World to ESPN
In the market’s only major format change in 2001, WNSS 1260 AM switched to an all-sports format after the 24-hour Comedy World network went dark. With the switch, Syracuse now has two full-time sports stations. A note for Syracuse radio trivia buffs, WNSS was the first affiliate in the country to sign on with the nationally syndicated Comedy World service.
3. Musical chairs in the morning
This year saw a fair amount of shuffling of morning show talent, some of whom had been at their posts for years. Dave Smith was let go from morning duties at WFBL 1050 AM after nine years due to budget cuts. Chuck Klaus stepped away from the morning microphone at Classic FM after 19 years with the station. Bill Sheddan took over for Klaus in June. The biggest switch was Big Mike Fiss’s on-air resignation from his long-running Big Show at Y94FM to move across town to Sunny 102. Market veteran Bill Baker, who had been with WZUN for just over a year, was let go to make room for Fiss and sidekick Bruno Schirripa.
4. Ron Curtis dies
While he was known primarily for his 40 years of television work at channel 5, local broadcast legend Ron Curtis got his start in radio at WFBL AM at the age of 15. He also spent time at WHEN AM as host of The Record Room before moving on to television. Curtis died of cancer in November at the age of 74.
5. Galaxy buys WSCP AM/FM
In a time when most radio stations are being snatched up by a handfull of national media conglomerates including Clear Channel and Citadel, Ed Levine is slowly building his own local media empire. Levine’s Galaxy Communications owns 15 stations in Syracuse, Utica, and Albany including Pulaski’s WSCP AM/FM which the group purchased in the spring of 2001.
6. Web streaming put on hold
In recent years, most radio stations have enjoyed the added benefit of rebroadcasting their signals across the Internet thus allowing anyone in the world with a computer and an Internet connection to listen to local radio. Due to an ongoing legal battle concerning commercial talent and the fees they receive, such web streaming of almost all radio stations across the country and here in Central New York was put on hold in April.
7. Galaxy moves to Armory Square
Galaxy Communications spent the early part of the year building new studios and offices on Walton Street in Armory Square. Owner Ed Levine threw an invitation-only celebration in October which included entertainment by 70’s pop group Orleans and baseball’s Tug McGraw. Galaxy owns TK-99, K-Rock, and Sunny 102 among others.
8. Two stations switch to continuous holiday music
For the month of December this year, finding holiday music was not a problem. Both Y94FM and Lite 105.9 switched to ’round-the-clock Christmas songs. The temporary format changes mirror an industry trend across the country.
9. Clear Channel buys WIXT
In October, Clear Channel Communications, which owns seven radio stations in Syracuse, announced plans to acquire the Ackerley Group which includes local television station WIXT (channel 9). Due to FCC regulations, the purchase may force Clear Channel to sell one of its local radio stations if they decide to hang on to WIXT.
10. SyracuseBroadcast.com debuts live web-only radio
Internet radio has been slowly picking up steam over the past couple of years. Locally, SyracuseBroadcast.com is barely a blip on the radio landscape, but if Internet radio stations do take off in the near future, we can look back to 2001 as the year that SyracuseBroadcast.com was the first to offer a local live daily show exclusively on the Internet. You can listen to Brian Ocean from 9-5 weekdays on Channel 1 of SyracuseBroadcast.com.