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February 16, 2004

Nassau Buys Again in NH

*As NERW first reported three weeks ago, the fast-growing Nassau Broadcasting cluster in northern New England is adding yet another group of stations in NEW HAMPSHIRE.

This time, it's the Vox cluster in Concord that's joining Nassau. No purchase price has been announced yet, but the deal will add classic hits WNHI (93.3 Belmont), country WOTX (102.3 Concord) and top 40 WJYY (105.5 Concord) to the stations Nassau is buying from Tele-Media (oldies WNNH 99.1 and, down in Nashua, WHOB 106.3.)

Vox also owns talk WTPL-FM (107.7 Hillsborough), which isn't part of the deal; it'll continue to be LMA'd to Embro Communications, which owns crosstown WKXL (1450 Concord) and will be pretty much the only local competition for Nassau in the Granite State capital.

(And is Vox done selling? All Access reports the company is near a deal to sell its Glens Falls, N.Y. cluster to Albany Broadcasting, and we hear several other Vox stations may also be on the sale block.)

Heading up I-89, the longstanding construction permit for WQTH (720 Hanover) is another step closer to getting on the air. We're accustomed to visiting transmitters here at NERW, but this past week marked the first time anyone brought a transmitter to us! That's WQTH owner Bob Vinikoor (right) with fellow New England broadcaster Dennis Jackson in the photo above, and that's the future WQTH transmitter in the truck behind them.

What were they doing here in Rochester? Simple - up until last week, that big ol' Gates MW50 transmitter was on the air as the primary transmitter for the legendary CKLW (800) in Windsor, Ontario - and Dennis and Bob were on their way back to New Hampshire after buying and dismantling the beast. That's a 50 kW dummy load in front of the transmitter, and those are the tubes carefully packed in the boxes on the right side of the truck.

And we hear there's been a format change in Keene, where WZBK (1220) has dropped the talk and sports it was doing (as "WKBK-2") to go to standards as "Unrock 1220."

*In VERMONT, the folks at Radio Free Brattleboro (107.9) are bracing for another FCC visit, perhaps as early as this week. The Brattleboro Reformer reports that the unlicensed station's attorney has received a letter from the U.S. Attorney's office in Burlington rejecting several proposals that might have allowed the station to stay on the air; meanwhile, Brattleboro voters will cast ballots March 2 on a question asking whether they "grant permission" for RFB to broadcast.

*One MAINE TV story this week: WLBZ (Channel 2) anchor Rick Tyler is leaving the Bangor NBC affiliate. The Gannett station offered to renew Tyler's contract if he'd move to a reporting position from the anchor desk; instead, he's joining his wife's PR firm full-time.

*Is Sinclair's "News Central" headed for western MASSACHUSETTS? There's a lot of talk about some cutbacks on the way in the newsroom at WGGB (Channel 40) in Springfield, the ABC outlet that's a distant number two (in a two-station market, more or less) to LIN's WWLP (Channel 22) - and we wouldn't be at all surprised to see much of WGGB's news content coming from Hunt Valley, Maryland in the not-too-distant future. (And is it more than just a coincidence that the station has recently rebranded from "News 40" to "ABC 40"?)

We can now report a purchase price for Saga's Pioneer Valley deal with Vox: Saga will pay $7 million for WRSI (93.9 Turners Falls), WPVQ (95.3 Greenfield), WRSY (101.5 Marlboro VT) and WRSI's two translators, W246AM (97.1 Amherst) and W287AK (105.3 South Hadley).

And we're happy to report that police in East Longmeadow made an arrest last week in the fire that was set outside the studios of Saga's WAQY (102.1 Springfield). Christopher D. Christian, 24, of Springfield pleaded not guilty to two counts of arson; he'll be back in court next week.

We reported it last November - and now the Taunton Gazette has taken notice of the possible shutdown of that southeastern Massachusetts community's only local radio station. WPEP (1570 Taunton) would go dark under a plan to boost the power of its former sister station, WNSH (1570 Beverly) - but it's not going down without a fight. We hear the station's current staffers are looking for other ways to keep WPEP alive...stay tuned.

Down in Fall River, Barry Richard is the new morning news anchor at WSAR (1480); Richard was doing talk over at WBSM (1420) in New Bedford until he was abruptly dismissed last fall.

*Regent Communications is bowing out of the ownership scene in PENNSYLVANIA. It struck a deal last week to trade its properties in Erie and Reading to Citadel in exchange for a Citadel cluster in Bloomington, Illinois. The swap puts Citadel in Erie for the first time, where it will own standards WRIE (1260 Erie), country WXTA (97.9 Edinboro), AC WXKC (99.9 Erie) and classic rock WQHZ (102.3 Erie); it also adds country WIOV-FM (105.1 Ephrata) and sports WIOV (1240 Reading) to Citadel's large cluster of stations in eastern and central Pennsylvania.

And Citadel wasted no time at all making changes to that cluster as it prepares to bring the country giant that is "I105" into its fold. On Friday, the lagging 80s pop format at WRKZ (102.3 Carlisle) disappeared, replaced by country as "Red."

That, in turn, means the imminent demise of another Citadel country property, "Cat Country" WCAT-FM (106.7 Hershey), where PD Sam McGuire departed last week. Cat afternooner Tag Martin is headed to "Red" for mornings, with Cat morning news guy Brad Flick heading for afternoons on Red.

So with country on 105.1 for Reading and Lancaster and 102.3 for Harrisburg and York, what will become of 106.7's big central Pennsylvania signal? Stay tuned...

Up in northeastern Pennsylvania, the new Route 81 Radio is making is first moves as it takes over several stations from Citadel: in Hazleton, WAZL (1490) has gone dark as it prepares to move into new studios and launch local programming sometime in March or April. Up the road in Carbondale, WCWI (94.3) has ditched its "Cat Country" simulcast (from WCTO 96.1 Easton) in favor of a simulcast of the standards programming on WNAK (730 Nanticoke), which has always done surprisingly well in the older Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market.

In Philadelphia, Sam Milkman is out as PD of Greater Media rocker WMMR (93.3); no replacement has been named yet. And Chuck Tisa has signed on for three years as PD of Beasley's WLDW (96.5); are the rumors that the former "Wild 96.5" will soon be "Wired" true?

*In NEW YORK, WPTR (1540 Albany) is apparently sticking with its "Legends" oldies format even as it goes all-automated; contrary to what the message boards are saying, we hear star jock "Boom Boom" Brannigan is still with the station, but in a behind-the-scenes role for now as the station looks towards a relaunch and tries to cut its costs. Across town, Galaxy has changed the calls again on its "Eagle" 93.7, flipping WEGB to the old Boston "Eagle" calls of WEGQ before we could get over there to add a legal ID to the collection.

Down in New York City, Chad Brown moves over from general sales manager of WCBS (880) to VP/GM of WCBS-FM (101.1) - and we're reminded that we've neglected to note the arrival of Annie Bergen as new morning host at classical WQXR (96.3).

In Syracuse, Tim Noble is the new APD/music director/night jock at Galaxy's "K-Rock" WKRL (100.9 North Syracuse)/WKRH (105.9 Minetto), moving over from the former "K-Rock" in Albany.

Here in Rochester, WGMC (90.1 Greece) has turned off its east-side translator (W286AE, 105.1 Fairport) now that it's on the air with increased power from its main transmitter. We hear the translator high atop Baker Hill in Perinton is on the market to the right buyer, too.

And speaking of translators, the Mars Hill network's W289AE in Ogdensburg has moved from 105.7 to 105.9, getting away from the CIKR (105.7 Kingston) signal that signed on a couple of years back.

Over in Buffalo, the Bills made the easy choice for a new play-by-play voice to replace 37-year veteran Van Miller, picking Miller's color colleague John Murphy to take over play-by-play duties next year. Murphy will keep his day job as sports director at WKBW-TV (Channel 7) - and speaking of WKBW, it's finally been granted special temporary authority to get its long-delayed DTV signal on the air on channel 38.

*Our first CANADA story this week is also something of a Buffalo story - CFLZ (105.1 Niagara Falls) is applying for a big power increase that will give it a real signal over the Buffalo market for the first time.

CFLZ began its life as a travelers' information station on 91.9, moving to 105.1 when CHOW (1470 Welland) moved to FM on 91.7 in the late nineties. In September 2002, the travelers' information programming moved over to sister station CJRN (710 Niagara Falls) as part of a shuffle that took 105.1 to modern AC as "the River," picking up much of the local news and public affairs role that CJRN used to have in the community. (The River had been on CKEY-FM 101.1 Fort Erie, which became rhythmic top 40 "Wild 101" aimed at, and partially programmed from, Buffalo.)

But the River on 105.1 has been hampered by a weak signal - 400 watts from the top of the Skylon Tower overlooking the Falls. Now it's hoping to give that signal a big boost, all the way to 7200 watts (into a directional antenna with a maximum lobe of 30 kW ERP; unlike the US, which licenses directional FMs based on maximum power, Canada uses average ERP, which makes direct comparisons a bit tricky.)

The application may face some tough questions when it goes before the CRTC April 19, though; for one thing, the CRTC wants some assurances that CFLZ will be programmed for the Canadian side of the border and not for Buffalo, where Citadel already handles sales and some programming for CKEY. Another problem that may crop up stems from the lag in adding new U.S. applications to Industry Canada's database - the CFLZ application doesn't take into account the pending application by WMJQ (105.5 Brockport) to move to 104.9, where it would be tightly spaced to a more powerful CFLZ.

The CRTC has some other issues on its hands as well; for one, the future of Astral Media's cluster of AM stations (and CFOM 102.9 Levis) in Quebec after a second proposed sale of the stations has fallen through. Astral's initial plan to sell the stations to the big Quebecor media group was tossed out because of market-concentration concerns, and last week the second proposed buyers pulled out of the C$12 million deal. Montreal media gossip suggests the breakdown of the sale came after a second popular CKAC (730) talk host left the station; Jean Lapierre departed last week to lead the Liberal Party's Quebec election campaign, leaving CKAC even weaker than it first looked when top-rated host Paul Arcand announced he would move over to Corus' FM talk outlet, CKOO (98.5).

And while its regulatory counterparts to the south worry about Janet Jackson's Super Bowl striptease, the CRTC - not to mention Parliament - has Conan O'Brien to deal with. While the Super Bowl broadcast generated almost no complaints in laid-back Canada, Conan's Canadian visit touched off controversy after he sent Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to Quebec City to - what else? - insult the Francophones.

So while U.S. politicians seized on a fleeting glimpse of Janet to make political hay, their colleagues up north are holding press conferences attacking the hand puppet for falling afoul of the rules that ban programming that's insulting to specific ethnic or language groups. (Ironically, the shows weren't even broadcast in Quebec; O'Brien's Late Night is seen in Canada on CHUM's "NewNet" stations, which don't reach Quebec - so anyone in Quebec who saw the shows saw them on the unregulated American feed from WPTZ in Plattsburgh...)

A few more Canadian tidbits: CHUM's Ottawa radio cluster is losing its VP/GM, as Mark Maheu heads east to Halifax to become VP/COO of NewCap's radio group.

In Peterborough, King's Kids Promotions Outreach Ministries applies for a 50-watt signal on 88.7, to program contemporary Christian music.

In Toronto, CJRT (Jazz 91.1) shuffles its jock lineup, welcoming CJEZ veteran Tish Iceton for mornings. She's now followed by Terry McElligott in middays and Larry Green in afternoons.

And on the DTV front, Global applies for a Toronto digital signal on channel 65. It would join several other Toronto DTVs recently approved by the CRTC: CITS-DT Hamilton on channel 35, instead of the channel 21 it requested; CTV's CFTO-DT on channel 40; Toronto One's CKXT-DT on channel 66 in Toronto and 15 in Hamilton; and the CBC's CBLT-DT 20 and CBLFT-DT 24.

*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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Don't want to order by credit card? You know the drill by now - make those checks payable to "Scott Fybush," be sure to include sales tax ($1.32 per calendar) for New York state calendar orders, and send them along to 92 Bonnie Brae Avenue, Rochester NY 14618. (Sorry - we can't take orders by phone.)

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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.