A 75-year era in Buffalo radio officially ended Friday when WGR AM 550 broadcast its last regularly scheduled news and information programming.
The station, recently purchased by Entercom Communications Corp. of Philadelphia, on Monday switches to an all-sports format. WBEN AM 930, also owned by Entercom, will now be the only full-time commercial news operation in town.
Until the changes, both WGR and WBEN were billed as news/talk/sports stations. WBEN is now a news/talk station.
Entercom also owns another historic station, WWKB-AM 1520 and will simulcast programming from its FM station, WKSE 98.5, on KB. WKSE is a teen-oriented contemporary hits station.
Also, look for WGR to make a serious bid for broadcasting rights to the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres games, when the broadcasting rights become available. Currently, both teams' games are on FM stations: the Bills on WGRF-FM 96.9, and the Sabres on WHTT FM 104.1
"We're going to look into that as they become available," said Greg Ried, vice president and general manager for Entercom's AM stations. "We definitely have a big interest in those teams."
A fight for sports teams may be brewing, but the battle between Buffalo's last competing commercial news stations is over.
"We had two stations doing a good job of covering news, but it didn't make sense to compete against ourselves," Ried said.
Ried announced the following changes on Friday:
Three of the six full-time members of the WGR news staff will go to WBEN. He would not identify those affected, but sources said the three are believed to be Melanie Pritchard, Barbara Burns and Jim Ranney. Ray Marks, longtime news director at WGR, resigned Friday.
Kevin Keenan will be news director at WBEN, which boosted its news staff to 10 full-time employees. Keenan will also stay on the air, contributing to the WBEN morning show hosted by Bill Lacy.
The popular Paul Harvey commentary show on WGR has been dropped and will not be picked up by either station. Also dropped by WGR is nationally syndicated talker and Buffalo native Joey Reynolds overnight talk show.
The late-night local WGR talk show, once hosted by the late John Otto, will also be dropped. It was a staple on local radio for nearly four decades. WBEN will broadcast a nationally syndicated show featuring Dr. Joy Brown in the 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. time slot once held by Otto. Art Bell will continue his syndicated overnight talk show at WBEN.
Clip Smith, midday talk show host at WGR, will move to a 6 p.m. time at WBEN. Current WBEN hosts Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Rush Limbaugh and local talker Sandy Beach will remain in their present time slots.
Controversial morning talk host Tom Bauerle will stay at WGR in the sports format. Chris "The Bulldog" Parker will move from WBEN to WGR. Ried would not confirm when they would be on the air.
Ried did say syndicated sports talk host Jim Rome would be on at noon, followed by Chuck "The Coach" Dickerson's show. Mike Maniscalco is expected to be host of a local nightly sports talk program.
WGR will use ESPN and other syndicated sports shows for overnight programming, Ried said.