WGR: Wikis

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WGR Sports Radio 550
WGR550-logo.svg
City of license Buffalo
Broadcast area Western New York
Branding "WGR Sports Radio 550"
Slogan Western New York's Sports Leader
Frequency 550 (kHz)
First air date May 22, 1922
Format Sports radio
Power 5 kW
Class B
Callsign meaning W George Rand
Affiliations ESPN Radio
Westwood One
Premiere Radio Networks
Sabres Hockey Network
Owner Entercom Communications
Webcast LiquidCompass
Website WGR550.com

WGR, or WGR Sports Radio 550, is an all sports radio station in Buffalo, New York that broadcasts on 550 AM. It is the flagship station of the Buffalo Sabres and the Buffalo Bandits, and is currently the only full-time sports talk station in the city of Buffalo. Its studios are located in Amherst, New York, and transmitter in suburban Hamburg, New York.

Contents

History

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Early years

The history of one of Buffalo’s earliest radio stations has its roots at sea. On April 1, 1921 the Governor, a passenger ship, sank to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean after collision with a freighter, the West Hartland.[1] The passenger ship’s assigned radio call letters were WGR. Due to maritime superstition, the call sign was never reissued to another ship and reverted back to a pool of available call signs for new radio stations.

That same year, the Federal Telephone & Telegraph Company (FTTC), headquartered in a sprawling manufacturing complex in North Buffalo, began marketing its first, completely assembled radio sets. To fill a radio void in the city, and to stimulate sales of their new "high-tech" products, the FTTC applied for (and received) a commercial radio license from the Department of Commerce. The station was named "WGR" after George Rand (founder of Remington Rand), a key investor in the FTTC. On May 22, 1922, WGR's broadcast operations commenced, beginning more than 85 years of continuous service to Western New York and Southern Ontario. Published reports say that the first programs on WGR were: a clergyman’s lecture; a concert from Victor’s Furniture Store showroom; and a presentation on the advantages of a college education by Dr. Julian Park, from the University at Buffalo.

WGR is the oldest radio station in Buffalo, NY that is still in operation. During its days as a full service radio station, its roster of personalities included "Buffalo Bob" Smith, later famous for TV's Howdy Doody children's show, and popular national TV and nightclub comedian Foster Brooks. For many years, WGR was owned by Taft Broadcasting. The station's longtime music format combining Adult Top 40 hits and rock oldies and featured some of Buffalo's top radio personalities, talk hosts and news reporters including Stan Roberts, Larry Anderson, Frank Benny, Tom Donahue, Randy Michaels, Jim Scott, Jerry Reo, Shane, Joe Galuski, Tom Langmyer, George Hamberger, Tom Shannon, Tom Bauerle, John Otto, Chuck Lakefield, Sandy Kozel, Don Dussias, Lauri Githens, Wayne Smith, Jane Tomczak and Craig Matthews. WGR gradually evolved to news/talk during the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1987, Taft sold the station to Rich Communications.

The 1990s: News Radio 55

For much of the 1990s, WGR was a successful news/talk station, competing head to head with WBEN-AM 930. From 1990 to 1994, WGR owned the radio broadcast rights to the Buffalo Bills, the Buffalo Sabres and the Buffalo Bisons. The Buffalo Bills four consecutive Super Bowl seasons were broadcast on WGR, whose Program Directors included Chuck Finney (1991-1993), Daryl Parks (1993-1995) and Jim Pastrick (1995-2000).

Through its news-talk era the WGR line-up featured a variety of programs such as Breakfast with Bauerle (Tom Bauerle), The Fabulous Sports Babe, Chuck Dickerson, Art Wander, Extension 55 with John Otto, Ron Dobson, John and Ken, Rick Emerson, Joey Reynolds, and several other local and national hosts. Syndicated talk radio host Leslie Marshall, controversial talk radio host J. R. Gach and future WFAN New York morning drive fixture Craig Carton worked at the station. Jesse Ventura was at one time a candidate to host a show on the station, but lost out to Dobson.[2] The station has been, since the network's inception, an affiliate of ESPN Radio, which it has carried on the weekends since 1992.

In 1995, Rich Communications sold WGRF 97 Rock to Mercury Radio headed by Charles W. Banta. Simultaneously, Rich Communications entered into a Local Marketing Agreement (LMA) with Keymarket Communications. The Federal Communications Commission approved the sale of WGR to Keymarket within twelve months of the LMA. Keymarket also owned WBEN, WMJQ, WWKB and WKSE. Keymarket merged with River City Broadcasting which was purchased by Sinclair Broadcast Group in 1997. Sinclair Broadcast Group sold its entire radio division to Entercom Communications in 1999. In February 2000, WGR changed formats from News-Talk to Sports-Talk.

Becoming an all sports station

In February 2000, WGR became an all-sports talk radio station. Bauerle, for a short time, was retained and paired with Chris "Bulldog" Parker, who joined from WBEN for the morning show. Chuck Dickerson maintained his afternoon drive show. Jim Rome, who was added to the WGR line-up in late summer 1998, was retained when WGR switched to all sports. Anne Burke, a frequent caller to the station's talk shows, joined Bob Gaughan to co-host middays. Mike Maniscalco and later Brad Riter hosted the evening shift.

From October 2000 to 2004, WGR competed with WNSA-FM, an FM station licensed to Wethersfield, NY in rural Wyoming county (with a 107.3 translator in Buffalo). The two stations battled for listeners and the rights to broadcast sporting events. Several teams' broadcasts bounced between the two stations, such as the Bandits, New York Yankees, and Buffalo Destroyers.

WGR landed a coup when it signed WNSA's top afternoon host, Mike Schopp, from WNSA-FM in 2002; the event came at about the same time as when Rigas and Adelphia Communications were beginning to collapse under massive financial scandal. WNSA never recovered and eventually WGR took the upper hand in the local sports radio battle. Schopp was at first teamed with the vitriolic Chuck Dickerson in afternoon drive. When Dickerson departed WGR, Schopp was teamed with Chris "Bulldog" Parker. Bauerle moved from WGR to sister station WBEN, Gaughan joined Kevin Sylvester (now a television personality for the Sabres) in morning drive (Burke had been released long before this) and Parker joined Schopp in the afternoon show, releasing Dickerson in the process. Riter was paired with sidekick Jeremy White in the evening and lastly The Tony Kornheiser Show (from ESPN) was added in Gaughan and Burke's old time slot. (Kornheiser would later be replaced by Colin Cowherd by ESPN.)

With the purchase of WNSA, WGR re-joined the New York Yankees radio network and for the first time since 1996, regained the radio rights to the Buffalo Sabres. Howard Simon, also from WNSA, joined in November 2004, with White moving from evenings to mornings to be Simon's sidekick.

In 2006, the Sabres and WGR renewed their broadcast agreement through 2012, and Yankees rights were dropped by 2007. In 2007, host Brad Riter was fired after failing to report for work, and he joined rival WECK in March 2008. A series of WGR staffers, as well as past and present Buffalo media personalities such as former WNSA and Empire host (and former KOHD-DT morning anchor) Jim Brinson and WIVB-TV sports director Dennis Williams, hosted the vacated slot. (WGR also tried to lure John Murphy, but because he was also at the time the radio host of the Bills, his contract prevented him from hosting the slot.) In January 2008, Williams was hired as the new evening host at WGR; WIVB declined to his contract shortly thereafter, and replaced him with Murphy. Williams left the station in early 2009 to enter the sales industry, the time slot is currently held by reruns.

WGR began a partial simulcast on Rochester sister station WROC in September 2008. Sabres games, Schopp and the Bulldog, and ESPN Radio will be carried on WROC.[3]

Broadcast signal

WGR's broadcast signal broadcasts at a power of 5,000 watts. During the day, the nondirectional signal, assisted by the Great Lakes, can stretch from Toledo, Ohio to Watertown, New York. At night, the signal is shifted to a directional north-to-south pattern aimed toward Toronto, Ontario.

In 2006, WGR resumed streaming its programming on the Internet after a four-year hiatus.

Criticisms

WGR has been occasionally criticized for their disproportionate coverage of National Hockey League (NHL) hockey, while dedicating an extremely small amount of time to Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA). This is despite the fact that the NHL is undeniably less popular on a national scale in the United States than both MLB and the NBA.[4][5] However, WGR is not a national station, and maintains that it is giving the local listeners what they want to hear, as the NHL garners some of its biggest local television ratings in the Buffalo market[6] and the Sabres consistently play to near-capacity crowds at their home arena. In contrast, MLB and the NBA do not have teams playing in the Buffalo market.

During the summer, because the station focuses almost exclusively on then out-of-season Bills and Sabres talk (sometimes some talk about UB football and basketball, which occurs at the same season), WGR hosts have a tendency to drift into general interest talk, some of which can seem very random for a sports talk station.

Hosts and programs

Contributors and regular guests

20/20 sports anchors and producers

  • Greg Bauch, Producer for Mike Schopp & The Bulldog
  • Dave Buchanan, Sabres Radio Network producer, weeknight producer/anchor
  • Joe Buscaglia, Weeknight producer/anchor, anchor on Sabres broadcasts
  • Dan Cave, Weeknight producer/anchor, anchor on Sabres broadcasts
  • Andrew Fillipponi, anchor for Mike Schopp & The Bulldog, Sportstalk Saturday/Sunday host
  • Dan Hager, Co-Producer of The Howard Simon Show
  • Lauren Koczaja, Weekend producer
  • Jon Koziol, Sabres Radio Network Producer
  • Nick Mendola, Co-Producer of The Howard Simon Show, Sportstalk Saturday/Sunday host
  • Pat Malacaro, Weekend producer
  • Michael Jafari, Weekend producer

Live sports coverage

References

  1. ^ Broadcast Station Calls With a Past, WILLIAM FENWICK, Radio Broadcast, July 1928, pg 150
  2. ^ http://www.buffalonews.com/entertainment/story/663738.html
  3. ^ Fybush, Scott. NorthEast Radio Watch. 18 August 2008.
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ [3]

External links


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