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BILLS, SABRES BOOST WBEN TO TOP OF LOCAL RADIO RATINGS

CATCHING UP on the local headlines:
WBEN-AM Is No. 1: With the help of the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, WBEN is the top-rated radio station in the fall Arbitron ratings. Now in bidding battles with WGR-AM, it will have to figure out a way to keep the teams.

WBEN had a 10.7 share of the audience 12 years and over. WGR-FM and WKSE-FM tied for second with a 9.1. Of course, advertisers look to the station's demographics rather than just the so-called 12-plus audience. The rest of the Top 10 includes:

4. WYRK-FM (8.8); 5. WJYE-FM (7.9); 6. WHTT-FM (6.1); 7. WBUF-FM (5.4); 8. WMJQ-FM (5.1); 9. WUFX-FM (4.9); 10. WBLK-FM (4.7).

WUFX was up from the 4.4 the station received this summer under its old call letters, WPHD.

"I feel good about it, but I was hoping for another half a share point," said WUFX General Manager Peter Coughlin.

He noted that WUFO-AM increased its audience by 33 percent to a 1.2 share and wondered if some WUFX listeners didn't write down the wrong call letters.

"There might be some confusion in the diaries," said Coughlin.

WBLK-FM slipped four spots to 10th place.

"I don't know what happened," said WBLK President Frank Lorenz. "Normally this is our best book."

Effective March 15, WBLK is replacing veteran morning man Freddie Patrick with Jim Snowden, an afternoon man in Houston.

Snowden also will be program director. Lorenz said the changes were planned before the recent ratings were released and added that Patrick will remain in another capacity.

Lorenz also is relinquishing his role as general manager to Howard Ebo, who presently is general sales manager. Lorenz, 40, said he plans to reduce his workload starting in July or August.

Despite a heavy promotional and ad campaign, WGR-AM finished in 11th place with a 3.5 share, down from the 4.0 it received in the summer.

"I told the staff before we put it on the air that the nature of news and talk formats on AM stations requires a commitment of several years," said WGR General Manager Charles Banta.

"We have a good product and we'll continue to grind away."

In the all-important morning battle, WBEN's Bill Lacy remains in first place with a 15.0 share, followed by 97 Rock's Larry Norton with a 9.1, WKSE's Rocky Allen with a 8.5, WYRK's Tom Campbell, Gail Huber and Dale Mussen with an 8.1 and WHTT's Danny Neaverth with a 6.8.

Neaverth's ratings are his highest since he moved over from WWKB.

The improved ratings come as WHTT's owner, Pyramid Broadcasting, confirms it is entering into preliminary discussions with prospective buyers. Neaverth also does well in the key 25-to-54 demographic, finishing second to WBEN.

WMJQ's Sandy Beach is tied for seventh in the morning with WBUF's Dave Mason with a 5.6 share. WGR-AM's new news format with George Hamberger has a 5.5 share.

WUFX's decision to oust WPHD's morning team of Taylor and Moore led to a slip in audience.

Chris Shirer, who lost her partner, Garth Hemp, to personal reasons after six weeks, finished out of the Top 10 with a 3.9 rating, down from the 4.3 Taylor and Moore had in the summer. Coughlin is expected to name Shirer's new partner shortly.

The morning drop comes with an asterisk. Morning audiences often switch allegiances when changes are made. By the way, Coughlin said Shirer is a relative of journalist and historian William L. Shirer.

Channel 4's New Weather Plan: Effective today, WIVB will give a weather report every hour on the hour from 7 a.m. to midnight. The report, delivered by the station's three meteorologists, will vary from five to 30 seconds.

"We want to improve our weather visibility," said News Director Tim Larson. "We're the only station in the area with three meteorologists."

The new format really isn't anything new. Radio has been doing it for years.

Adelphia Plans Expansion: Adelphia Cable is joining the cable expansion parade. Next month, it will begin a $25 million, five-year upgrade that will double the channel capacity from 36 to 72 channels. That doesn't mean, however, that Adelphia will carry 72 channels.

Tom Haywood, Adelphia-International's general manager for operations, said the upgrade is designed to improve picture quality, reduce outages and facilitate future expansion of channel capacity.

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