WCBS New York returning to oldies format

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WCBS-FM (101.1) is going back to its past this Thursday at 1:10 p.m., CBS Radio confirmed Monday. The station, long a New York staple as an oldies station hosted by legendary personalities from the city's Top 40 days, will return to its original formula combining "the greatest hits of all time," with some of the greatest DJs of all time.

The playlist will be updated from WCBS' earlier days, concentrating on "the greatest hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s," from the Beatles, Motown and the Beach Boys to Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Elton John. The station has lined up New York personalities Dan Taylor for mornings, Bob Shannon for middays, and Bill Lee in afternoon drive.

Two years ago, WCBS dropped its heritage oldies format to become a Jack FM station (adult hits), a format without on-air personalities that attempts to mimic the shuffle feature on an iPod by playing a broad range of music from a variety of genres and decades. The format caught on in several other markets, but got a lukewarm reception in New York where ratings lingered between a low of 1.5 share and a high of 2.2 in the most recent quarterly ratings.

"It should have never switched," said Rich Russo, director of broadcast services for JL Media. "It was a legendary station. You don't have to experiment if something is right. This will be huge," Russo predicted.

The pending switch in the market to the Arbitron's portable people meter service in October should also help the station regain its former ratings success.

"We firmly believe that as the radio industry moves towards electronic audience measurement, the popularity of the classic hits format will experience a resurgence, not unlike what we're seeing at our radio station in Philadelphia, WOGL-FM," said Jennifer Donohue, vp and general manager of WCBS-FM.

The pending format flip will be the latest in a series of changes made since April, when Dan Mason took over as president and CEO of CBS Radio. In May, CBS Radio revived "K-Rock" and the WXRK-FM call letters in New York, ditching the "Free FM" talk format.
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