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February 9, 2004

Fires Hit Two NE Studios

*Radio stations in two Northeast states are cleaning up this week after suffering some damaging fires. In western MASSACHUSETTS, Saga's WAQY (102.1 Springfield) was the victim of an apparent arson at its East Longmeadow studios on Thursday morning, when station staffers say they saw a man set a fire outside one of the building's windows, then flee the scene. Damage from that fire was minimal - less than $25,000 - but the Springfield Union-News reports the station is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.

*One day earlier, in PENNSYLVANIA, an electrical fire struck the building on Domino Lane in Philadelphia's Roxborough section that's home to Clear Channel's WUSL (98.9) and WJJZ (106.1). Everyone inside the building escaped safely - even WJJZ PD Michael Tozzi, who had to be pulled from the building by his colleagues as the smoke got heavier - but the damage to the office portions of the building was pretty severe. (Check out the pictures here...)

Meanwhile, in non-fire-related Philly news, WPEN (950) is now testing in IBOC digital, though we hear the Greater Media standards station has yet to commit to adopting the new standard full-time.

Up in northeastern Pennsylvania, Tunkhannock's WEMR (1460) and WCWY (107.7) changed hands last week from Citadel to GEOS Communications, which flipped them to a simulcast of soft AC WCOZ (103.9 Laporte). WEMR, which had been simulcasting "Cat Country" WCWI (94.3 Carbondale), is expected to stay with the "Cozy" simulcast, but WCWY, which had been simulcasting AC WMGS (92.9 Scranton), will get a new format of its own in a few weeks.

Meanwhile in Altoona, WPRR (100.1) has added the Bob & Sheri morning show; its sister station WFBG (1290) is now being simulcast to the east on WHUN (1150 Huntingdon), replacing satellite standards.

*In NEW JERSEY, Dan Henrickson replaces Joan Gerberding as president of Nassau Communications; Gerberding is scaling back after 25 years with Nassau.

*Our NEW YORK report starts with a big sports shift in the Big Apple, as MSG Network moves its radio deal for the Knicks and the Rangers from Infinity's WFAN (660) to ABC's WEPN (1050), a major coup for the up-and-coming ESPN Radio outlet. WFAN won't be hurting for hockey next year, though - it picks up the New Jersey Devils action from WABC (770).

Upstate, Scott Petibone makes a big move - he's leaving his OM post at the Backyard Broadcasting cluster in Elmira/Corning (WNKI, WPGI/WGMF, WWLZ) to replace Abby Weber as PD of Galaxy's "K-Rock" in Syracuse (WKRL 100.9 North Syracuse/WKRH 105.9 Minetto and, until it's sold, WKLL 94.9 Frankfort in the Utica market.) Speaking of the Galaxy Utica cluster, we can now report $2.75 million as the sale price for the three stations (WKLL, WRCK and WTLB) and "Route 76 Radio" as the operating company under which Lloyd Roach's Route 81 group is buying the stations.

Up in Watertown, Matt Raisman departs as PD/afternoon jock at ratings monster WFRY (97.5); no replacement has been named yet.

Over in Batavia, the Buffalo News reports that the sale of WBTA (1490) will close this week, bringing some changes at the little community-oriented full-service station. New owner Dan Fischer won't assume the lease at 438 E. Main Street, where WBTA has been since the seventies; instead, he'll move the station to a more visible location in the former W.T. Grant store at the corner of Main and Center streets.

In Buffalo, we're told WUTV-DT (Channel 14) signed on over the weekend, bringing Fox DTV service to western New York and southern Ontario. And our best wishes go out to Van Miller, longtime voice of the Bills, who's hospitalized after surgery for diverticulitis.

*A new studio in NEW HAMPSHIRE is bringing WHOB (106.3 Nashua) and WNNH (99.1 Henniker) under the same roof; the soon-to-be-Nassau stations have relocated to 11 Kimball Road, #114, Hooksett NH 03106. (Nassau is paying $12 million, by the way, for WHOB, WNNH and WLKZ up in Wolfeboro.)

*Up in MAINE, Clear Channel has pulled the plug on the sports format at WNSX (97.7 Winter Harbor), returning to a simulcast of classic rock WFZX (101.7 Searsport) as "The Fox."

And we're told Gordon J. Lewis, one of the founders of WIDE (1400 Biddeford, now WVAE), died January 31. He was 83.

*CANADA's already a hotbed of stations named "Jack," "Bob," "Dave" and "Joe" - and now the original "Joe" (Corus' Edmonton outlet, recently upgraded from AM to FM) has a little brother in Kingston, Ontario. Corus abruptly pulled the plug on the longtime "Country 96" format at CFMK (96.3) on Friday, flipping the big signal to classic hits/hot AC as "96.3 Joe FM." CFMK's old website now points country listeners to the streaming audio of Corus country outlets in Hamilton, Calgary and elsewhere - but we suspect most country listeners in Kingston will flip over to cross-border WFGY (97.5 Watertown), at least for now.

But the end of one country station in Ontario was balanced, just hours later, by the start of another: Larche Communications' new "KICX Country" (CIKZ 99.5) launched Friday afternoon in Kitchener/Waterloo, bringing the format back to a market that hadn't had a local country station since 1991, when the old CKGL-FM (96.7) became AC CHYM-FM.

*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 you waiting for? Your contribution - of any amount - makes it possible for us to keep NERW, now in its tenth year, coming to you week after week after week...and if you sign up at the $60 level, you even get a free 2004 Tower Site Calendar. For all the details - and easy credit card/PayPal payment links - just click here.

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!

*And if you still haven't ordered one, we still have plenty of 2004 Tower Site Calendars still available for your enjoyment!

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 shipped, so if you've already ordered, you should be enjoying your calendar any day now. (And if you ordered before January 10 and haven't received your calendar yet, please let us know!)

If you haven't ordered yet, what are you waiting for? It's too late for Christmas gift-giving - but perhaps you still need a calendar for 2004...or maybe you didn't find one under the tree, despite all those hints you dropped.

So order now and help support NERW and Tower Site of the Week. Better yet, place your subscription for 2004 at the $60 level by using the handy buttons below, and you'll get your 2004 Tower Site Calendar absolutely FREE. What more could you want? (Local news on the weekends, maybe?)

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NorthEast Radio Watch is made possible by the generous contributions of our regular readers. If you enjoy NERW, please click here to learn how you can help make continued publication possible. NERW is copyright 2003 by Scott Fybush.