'K-Rock' returns to N.Y.

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NEW YORK -- CBS Radio blew up its talk WFNY (92.3 Free FM)/New York format Thursday and brought back the WXRK call letters and the "K-Rock" moniker. The station has been branded "The Rock of New York."

The new format kicked off with Nirvana's "All Apologies." Featured artists on the playlist will include Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Guns N' Roses, Metallica and Led Zeppelin. In addition, "The Opie and Anthony Show" will continue in mornings from 6 a.m.- 9 a.m.

CBS Radio senior VP of programming and PD of alternative KROQ/Los Angeles Kevin Weatherly oversaw the station's flip, along with former KROQ GM Trip Reeb, who is also consulting. The search is now on for a new program director, as Free FM PD John Mainelli, who only joined the company last October, exits to continue with his consulting business.

Talk hosts exiting the station include Nick DiPaolo, Leslie "The RadioChick" Gold, and Ron and Fez. The new format will initially run jockless, but airshifts will be filled in the near future.

"Bringing K-ROCK back to New York is the right move for the millions of fans who embrace this type of music and lifestyle, as well as from a competitive standpoint, specifically in the New York radio marketplace," said longtime WFNY/K-Rock VP/GM Tom Chiusano. "There is an unsatisfied appetite for rock music which can't be ignored, and we excitedly welcome the opportunity to create a destination radio station which we know will build an immediate loyal following."

Chiusano added, "Moving forward, you can expect the station to cater to its diverse audience through the use of interactive digital applications, local and national events and collaborations with some of the top names in the music industry. This is a station that made history in the past, and will write it once again."

"Free FM in N.Y. has flipped formats to music," wrote former afternoon host Gold on her blog Thursday afternoon. "That's how it goes in radio, one day your [sic] employed, the next day you aren't. I was told the decision to flip was a result of low revenues, a series of many poor management decisions made over many months and a post-Imus environment that doesn't allow talk shows like the ones on Free FM to do what they need to do to get ratings ... that is talk about race, sex and other potentially offensive and provocative material. I'm not telling you this, this is what I was told."

The station began stunting immediately after Opie and Anthony's show Thursday morning with a long, cacophonous audio collage peppered with not-so-subtle hints of a 5 p.m. format flip.

The pre-format flip equivalent of the Beatles "Revolution 9," the collage featured a surreal assembly of sound clips from TV shows, turntables slowing to a halt, vintage New York commercials and references to defunct New York stations such as "Disco 92," even Gregorian chants and the hook from "Also Sprach Zarathustra." Repeated amidst the audio chaos were phrases that lent credence to the format change rumors, such as "Today at five" and "You're not allowed to talk anymore." The Web site also featured a countdown clock to the 5 p.m. flip.

In recent weeks, under new CEO Dan Mason, WCKG/Chicago, WHFS/Baltimore and KLLI/Dallas ditched the Free FM handle instituted nationally by Mason predecessor CEO Joel Hollander, while keeping their FM talk formats intact. But in San Francisco, former Free FM KIFR flipped to classic hits, brought back the heritage KFRC-FM call letters and pushed talkers Adam Carolla, Tom Leykis and Opie and Anthony to AM.

On Oct. 25, 2005, with Howard Stern's departure on the horizon, then Infinity Broadcasting announced that alternative WXRK (92.3 K-Rock) would flip to talk on January 3, 2006. Following Stern's final broadcast on Dec. 16, K-Rock changed monikers to "Free FM."

David Lee Roth took over mornings on the station on Jan. 3, 2006. Other talk shows fleshed out the new Free FM format. With ratings plummeting as a result of Stern's move to Sirius Satellite Radio, CBS replaced Roth with Opie and Anthony on April 26, 2006.

More recently, the station made headlines on May 12 when it fired midday hosts JV and Elvis of "The Dog House With JV & Elvis" over Asian-American slurs that were made in a phone bit aired on their show in April.

WXRK first flipped to an alternative rock format from classic rock on January 5, 1996.

Meanwhile, with the Cleveland K-Rock giving back the WXRK callers to its New York sister, Cleveland's new call letters will be WKRI. The call letter switch is officially scheduled to take about a week.

Additional reporting by Paul Heine, Keith Berman and Kevin Carter
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