February 2, 2004
WSNJ-FM Signs Off
was bound to happen, but inevitability doesn't make today's sign-off
of WSNJ-FM (107.7 Bridgeton) any less bittersweet. One of NEW
JERSEY's oldest FM stations, WSNJ remained a bastion of old-time
radio in a voicetracked, consolidated world right up to the end,
super-serving Cumberland County and surrounding portions of South
Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware with everything from farm news
to a swap shop program to lots and lots of local news and information.
But (as we learned from an article in Sunday's New York
Times) if everything goes according to plan, sometime this
afternoon (Feb. 2), the heirs of Ed Bold will receive a $20 million
payment for the class B FM facility, at which point they'll pull
the plug on WSNJ-FM for good. WSNJ (1240) will stay on the air,
eventually changing hands to Millville mayor Jim Quinn, who'll
keep its format mostly intact and begin simulcasting it on his
WMVB (1440 Millville).
As for the FM license, as soon as it's off the air in Bridgeton,
it'll be transferred to Radio One, which will move it to 107.9,
downgrade it to class A and relocate it to the Philadelphia suburb
of Pennsauken, transmitting from the WKDN (106.9 Camden)/WTMR
(800 Camden) tower. How soon will that happen? We're hearing
everything from the end of this week (unlikely) to the end of
A brief commentary, if we may: There's a certain irony in
the timing of WSNJ-FM's finale, coming as it does just one day
after the 50th anniversary of the death of Major Edwin Howard
Armstrong, the inventor of FM radio. (You can read NERW's tribute
to the Major here.)
In many ways, WSNJ-FM was one of the last surviving examples
of Major Armstrong's original vision of what FM could be: with
its high power, initially on 98.9 and later on 107.7, it served
a much larger area than the WSNJ AM signal ever could hope to
cover, providing a truly local service to many rural residents
whose only other choices for radio reception - especially after
dark - were distant signals from big cities. And there's something
admirable in the way WSNJ-FM stayed the course all through the
fifties and early sixties, even as other early FM pioneers gave
up on the medium.
So it's hard to begrudge the Bold family - especially Ed Bold's
83-year-old widow - for taking advantage of the windfall the
FM signal represented. Nor can we find fault with Ed Seeger for
choreographing the move of WSNJ-FM to Pennsauken and the $15
million profit he'll receive for making the deal. No, the issue
at hand is the sequence of regulatory changes that allowed the
move to Pennsauken to become a possibility: specifically, the
elimination of the anti-trafficking rule that would once have
required a broker like Seeger to operate WSNJ-FM for three years
before spinning it off to Radio One and the elimination of the
main studio, community ascertainment and public service requirements
that would once have made it more difficult for a "Pennsauken"
station to market itself to all of Philadelphia without providing
any distinct local service to Pennsauken itself. (We've ranted
enough in the past about the inanity of the rules under which
Pennsauken could even have been considered sufficiently distinct
from the "Philadelphia Urbanized Area" to merit its
own FM allocation.)
It's hard to imagine that the removal of this unique local
service to the relatively underserved Cumberland County area,
in exchange for yet another generic service in the crowded Philadelphia
market, is really what anyone at the FCC means by "localism,"
and it's a shame that none of the proposals currently on the
table to improve "localism" in broadcasting would close
the "WSNJ loophole," and that's a shame.
weekend surprise in upstate NEW YORK: we didn't even know
that Ed Levine's Galaxy group had its Utica properties up for
sale until we received word on Saturday that they'd been sold
- and to the new Route 81 Radio group, no less. Lloyd Roach's
growing new company gets modern rock "K-Rock" WKLL
(94.9 Frankfort), classic rock WRCK (107.3 Utica, with one of
the best signals in the region) and standards WTLB (1310 Utica),
with no word yet about the price or about Route 81's plans for
the signals, which are currently programmed, at least in part,
from Galaxy's Syracuse facility. (Levine tells the Utica Observer-Dispatch
that the sale will help finance an expansion of the Galaxy group
in the larger Albany and Syracuse markets.)
Speaking of Galaxy, it has new calls for its Albany-market
classic country station: Scotia-licensed "Eagle 93.7,"
formerly WKRD, is now WEGB.
The Albany broadcast community was stunned last Monday by
word of a family tragedy for WAMC Northeast Public Radio chief
engineer James Scholefield: a fire at his Germantown home killed
Scholefield's 11-year-old daughter, his mother-in-law and her
13-year-old daughter. Scholefield escaped the fire along with
his wife and 13-year-old son, but all three suffered serious
burns. The station has established a fund to assist the Scholefield
family: you can send donations to ihe Scholefield Family Relief
Fund, care of HSBC Bank, 899 Western Avenue, Albany, NY 12203.
Our prayers go out to the Scholefields as they try to recover
from the fire, which destroyed their house as well.
More Albany news: Jeff Levack moves from mornings to nights
at WQBK-FM (103.9 Rensselaer)/WQBJ (103.5 Cobleskill), replacing
Mike "The Enforcer" Spain; part-timer "Flounder"
moves to mornings as the local host during the Howard Stern show.
On the LPFM front, the FCC is trying to clear out the backlog
of mutually-exclusive applications, posting a list of "MX"
groups in hopes that the applicants can negotiate time-sharing
agreements among themselves. Four Binghamton-area applicants
all applied for 95.7, with two of them earning the maximum number
of points (for promising local origination and having an established
local presence) to qualify for a time-sharing deal and a quick
issuance of a construction permit; two Albany-area applicants
on 94.1 (including one that misspelled "Niskayuna")
also had the maximum number of points and can try to negotiate
Way upstate, the WSLU public radio network wants more power
at its Plattsburgh-area station: WXLU (88.3 Peru) is applying
to move down the dial to 88.1, boosting power from its present
200 watts to 1000 watts.
Syracuse became the first upstate market with all four big
commercial networks represented on the DTV dial on Thursday,
when WTVH-DT (Channel 47) made its debut. (We have a feeling
that it was somewhat less than coincidental that the Granite-owned
CBS affiliate made it to air just a few days before the
Super Bowl!) The arrival of WTVH-DT seems to have meant the end
of Rochester's WROH-LP on channel 47, and we note as well that
WBXO-CA on channel 15 has been without its MTV2 feed for the
better part of a week, running what looks like a DirecTV "no
In New York City, Dr. Dre abruptly disappeared from the WWPR
(105.1) morning show last week after Clear Channel's "Power
105.1" declined to renew his contract; co-hosts Ed Lover
and Monie Love are carrying on in Dre's absence, just as Lover
once did at WQHT (97.1), amidst rumors that former Hot morning
team Star and Buc Wild may be headed to Power's airwaves.
Over at WNEW (Mix 102.7), Carol Ford signs on for middays,
moving over from Sirius (and before that, gigs at Z100, WRKS
and WTJM); the station also adds Judy DeAngelis from sister WINS
(1010) to do morning news updates.
And our best wishes go out to New York radio veteran Scott
Muni (currently of WAXQ) as he recovers from the stroke he suffered
*In PENNSYLVANIA, they're mourning
one of the first DJs ever to spin Bruce Springsteen's records
on the commercial dial. Ed Sciaky died Thursday (Jan. 29) while
visiting New York City. His career began at Temple University's
WRTI (90.1) in the sixties and included stops at WDAS-FM (105.3),
WMMR (93.3), WIOQ (102.1), WYSP (94.1) and most recently at WMGK
(102.9); it was while he was at WMMR in the early seventies that
he became one of the Boss' early radio supporters, and at the
time of his death he was hosting a weekend Springsteen show on
WMGK. Sciaky was 55.
More Philly news: Paul Barsky's officially off the air at
WLDW (96.5), though he remains at the station behind the scenes;
the station no longer known as "Wild" also adds "Kannon"
as its afternoon jock. Over at WDAS (1480), Joe "Butterball"
Tamburro adds PD duties; he's already PD of sister WDAS-FM (105.3).
Over in Pittsburgh, the latest list of FM translator applications
approved for processing includes no fewer than four from California's
Educational Media Foundation, which hopes to bring its "K-Love"
contemporary Christian satellite service to 99.3 in Pittsburgh,
94.1 in Clairton, 106.3 in Uniontown and 97.5 in Monroeville.
The plan, apparently, is to daisy-chain the K-Love signal from
primary WDKL (95.9 Grafton WV) through other translators at 103.3
in Mount Pleasant PA and 94.1 in Westover WV in order to reach
the Pittsburgh translators. (NERW notes that the Mount Pleasant
and Westover translator applications have yet to be approved
by the FCC; that there's no way the Westover signal would be
audible in Uniontown in any event - and that interested parties
have 15 days from the posting date of the latest batch of applications
to file petitions to deny.)
And we're hearing about still more new simulcasts in the Forever
cluster in Altoona: WHUN (1150 Huntingdon) drops its country
format and is now simulcasting talk from WFBG (1290 Altoona).
start our New England report this week up in MAINE, where
Hearst-Argyle is spending $37.5 million to add WMTW-TV (Channel
8) in Poland Spring to its portfolio of stations in the region
that already includes fellow ABC affiliates WCVB in Boston and
WMUR in Manchester NH, as well as NBC outlets WPTZ Plattsburgh
NY -Burlington VT and WNNE White River Junction VT.
The deal takes Harron Communications (aka "WMTW Broadcast
Group") completely out of broadcast ownership (it's selling
its five Portland-market radio stations to Nassau) and creates
a potent regional station group in northern New England; indeed,
rumors are already flying that Hearst-Argyle wants to add Bangor's
WVII to the cluster to complete the set of ABC affiliates, as
it were. In any event, Hearst-Argyle faces a challenge with WMTW:
while most of its stations are #1 or a strong #2 in their markets,
WMTW is the perpetual third-place news choice in Portland, with
established challengers in Gannett's WCSH (Channel 6) and Sinclair's
WGME (Channel 13).
An interesting irony here: the sale of the station was announced
on the same day (Tuesday 1/27) that former Tonight Show
host Jack Paar died. While Paar's obituaries focused on his stint
in the national spotlight with Tonight and other
network fare, he was also a former owner of WMTW-TV, having purchased
the station from Horace Hildreth and his associates in 1964 (Paar
did so as "Dolphin Enterprises" with his wife Miriam)
and having moved to Maine for a time to operate channel 8 and
host its Thursday night movies. Paar sold WMTW-TV (and WMTW-FM
94.9) to Paul Harron's Mid New York Broadcasting in 1967 for
$3.6 million, a profit of less than $600,000, ending his brief
career as a New England station owner. And Paar had another NERW-land
connection way back at the start of his career - a few years
in the early 40s as morning man on Buffalo's WBEN, where he apparently
clashed with management and decided to head west, leaving the
morning gig to Clint Buehlman, who'd keep it for more than three
decades. Jack Paar was 85.
One more Maine note: WCTB (93.5 Fairfield) has returned to
its old "River" nickname, ditching country (by way
of several months of stunting) for classic hits.
*The NEW HAMPSHIRE Fisher Cats have
added another outlet to their radio network, based at Concord's
WKXL/WTPL. WFEA (1370 Manchester) will carry the team's entire
142-game season, with a signal that'll come in loud and clear
at the team's home park in Manchester. (WFEA's crosstown AM competition,
meanwhile, still is leading off its home page with
a link to the "name the new baseball team" contest
that ended in mid-December...)
*In southwestern VERMONT, WEQX (102.7
Manchester) is looking for another new PD; Tim Bronson is leaving
the job after a little over a year.
big news in MASSACHUSETTS, of course, is the second Super
Bowl win for the New England Patriots, and we can just imagine
how thrilled the WBCN broadcast team of Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti
must have been to announce the nail-biter win. The big weekend
also provided an occasion for TV flagship WBZ-TV (Channel 4)
to unveil its new "CBS 4" identity; both channel 4
and UPN sister WSBK (Channel 38) did full one-hour newscasts
after the Patriots' big win.
It wasn't a good week for longtime WBCN (104.1) jock Mark
Parenteau; the XM Satellite Radio programmer pleaded guilty in
Washington to second-degree sexual abuse of a minor, a charge
that could bring a sentence of up to 10 years and a $100,000
fine (and will bring at least three years' house arrest) when
he's sentenced April 2.
We're hearing that "Radio Log," an unlicensed operation
on 540 from the Log School in Dorchester, is being heard as far
afield as Natick; the station has gotten some positive press
for its mission of introducing underprivileged teenage girls
to broadcasting, including an endorsement from Boston mayor Tom
Out west, Saga has a new PD at WLZX (99.3 Northampton) and
WAQY (102.1 Springfield); he's Neal Mirsky (formerly of KQRC
in Kansas City and WYSP in Philadelphia.)
*An LPTV change in CONNECTICUT: the
former W11BJ in Hartford, displaced by DTV, has been granted
a move to channel 28 as W28CT - and a relocation to Mount Tom
in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
*Up in CANADA, the CRTC was busy handing
out new licences last week: in Trenton, Ontario (now known as
Quinte West through the miracle of governmental consolidation),
CJTN gets to move from 1270 AM to 107.1 FM, where it'll run 3640
watts; in Pembroke, Standard's CKQB (106.9 Ottawa) gets an Ottawa
Valley relay on 99.7 with 45.2 kW; and in the Mauricie region
of Quebec, the Cooperative de solidarite radio communautaire
Nicolet-Yamaska/Becancour gets 34 kW on 90.5 to serve the Becancour/Nicolet
area with community programming.
One more Ottawa note: the new Kiss 105.3 (still using the
CKBY call letters, so far as we can tell) names Scott Thompson
(formerly of CHRE St. Catharines) and Samantha Stevens as its
And in Kitchener/Waterloo,
Global's new CKBT (91.5 the Beat) stopped stunting and launched
its urban format for real on Saturday; it's operating from a
new storefront studio at 235 King Street East and has a preliminary
Web presence at www.915thebeat.com.
*That's it for another week...except for our usual housekeeping
notes. First, a reminder that while we don't ask you for a password
to read NERW, this isn't a free product, either. Many of you
have already sent in subscription payments for 2004, and to all
of you we say "thank you." If you haven't, what are
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- makes it possible for us to keep NERW, now in its tenth year,
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If you haven't seen it yet, don't miss our roundup of all
the news that was fit to remember from last year... Click
here for our 2003 Year in Review package!
if you still haven't ordered one, we still have plenty
of 2004 Tower Site Calendars still available for your
Just as in past years, the calendar features a dozen spiffy
8.5-by-11 inch full-color images of tower sites from across the
nation - everything from Washington's WTEM to New York's WCBS/WFAN
(shown at left) to Los Angeles' KHJ to WCTM in Eaton, Ohio.
Other featured sites include Cedar Hill in Dallas, Lookout
Mountain above Denver, CKLW Windsor, WELI New Haven, WPTF Raleigh
NC, WBT Charlotte NC, WAJR Morgantown WV, WMT Cedar Rapids IA
and the mighty 12 towers of KFXR (the old KLIF 1190) in Dallas.
Unlike last year, this year's calendar features heavier paper
(no more curling!) and will be shipped shrink-wrapped on a cardboard
backing to make sure it arrives in pristine condition.
All orders received by January 31 have now been
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If you haven't ordered yet, what are you waiting for? It's
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tree, despite all those hints you dropped.
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2003 by Scott Fybush.