March 8, 2004
Change at "The Border"
*Country fans in Kingston, Ontario, CANADA
have been without a local source for their favorite music for
a few weeks, ever since Corus flipped CFMK (96.3 Kingston) from
"Country 96" to "Joe FM." That will change
this morning, though, when Clancy-Mance Communications drops
WBDR (102.7 Cape Vincent NY) from the three-station top-40 simulcast
("The Border") that also includes WBDI (106.7 Copenhagen/Watertown
NY) and WBDB (92.7 Ogdensburg NY).
In place of "The Border," 102.7 will become "Kix
102.7," playing country music programmed to the Canadian
side of the St. Lawrence River. Kix will compete for Kingston
ears with Regent's "Froggy," WFRG (97.5 Watertown),
which puts a huge signal over Kingston but hasn't had an active
sales force there for a while. Clancy-Mance, by contrast, has
been a player in the Kingston ad market with the Border, which
was splitting its ad load and running Canadian ads on 102.7 while
targeting U.S. listeners with separate ads on 106.7 and 92.7.
*Just two other quickies from north of the border: in London,
contemporary Christian CHJX (105.9) has been testing its new
signal. The 10-watt station will be known as "Grace FM"
and will cover the central part of the city from the same downtown
office tower as CHRW (94.9). And in Ottawa, another cross-border
competitor garnered some headlines this past week - Tim Martz'
WRCD (101.5 Canton NY) flew a plane over the city carrying a
banner reading "Go Leafs Go - CHEZ 106." The phones
at the rock competitor were reportedly ringing with angry Senators
fans; they take their hockey seriously up there, after all.
*The Mohawk Valley of upstate NEW YORK
gets a new standards station this morning, thanks to Lloyd Roach's
Route 81 group. After several days of simulcasting classic rocker
WRCK (107.3 Utica), WKLL (94.9 Frankfort) will launch today as
WTLB-FM, running in tandem with standards WTLB (1310 Utica).
Down the Thruway a bit, the former WBUG (1570 Amsterdam) turns
out to have flipped to talk - those new WVTL calls stand for
"Valley's Talk Leader."
In the Finger Lakes, we hear George Kimble's Radio Group closed
Friday on its purchase of WFLR (1570 Dundee) and WFLR-FM (95.9
Dundee); more on this one next week.
The New York Yankees are looking for a new radio home in western
New York; WNSA (107.7 Wethersfield) announced last week that
it wouldn't pick up the team's games this season - because there's
no guarantee the station will still be under its current management
in a few months. Word on the street is that the team's effort
to buy yet another championship will be heard on Entercom's WGR
(550) instead. (Thanks, but we'll be listening to our Sox on
The new left-leaning
"Air America" talk network landed a home in market
#1 this week. It'll be carried on Inner City Broadcasting's WLIB
(1190 New York), displacing the station's current talk programming
aimed at the city's black community. Air America's studios are
located on the same floor of the same building as WLIB, and it
appears that Inner City may lease or sell other stations it owns
(including, perhaps, WHAT 1340 in Philadelphia and KVTO 1400
Berkeley CA?) to Air America as the network finds its legs. (NERW
wonders: will Air America keep the "LIB"eral calls
on 1190, or will it realize that those calls carry a very different
heritage in New York from the image it's seeking?)
One more downstate note: WXPK (107.1 Briarcliff Manor) has
signed up Chris Herrmann, former PD at Boston's WBOS (92.9 Brookline
MA), to program its new AAA format.
And we're reminded that it was 50 years ago this past Saturday
(March 6, also your editor's birthday) that New Yorkers last
heard Major Edwin Howard Armstrong's pioneering FM station, W2XMN
(aka WFMN, aka KE2XCC). After Armstrong's suicide, the Major's
associates shut down the station, at 93.1 on the dial, on March
6, 1954; the frequency would return to use a few years later
as WPAT-FM. (Read on for another important moment in broadcasting
history from that same momentous week...)
*Speaking of WBOS, it jettisoned one of the longer-running
jocks in MASSACHUSETTS last week, sending David O'Leary
packing after more than a decade at the station. WBOS moves Amy
Brooks into morning drive, shifting Kristin Lessard from evenings
to middays and George Knight from morning co-host duties to evenings.
On the non-commercial end of things, Dick Pleasants will do
his last "Folk Heritage" show on WGBH (89.7 Boston)
next Saturday (March 13), ending a quarter-century run with the
show. Pleasants, 57, will continue as morning host at WUMB (91.9
Boston), but he says he wants more time with his family.
And speaking of WUMB - and of WBOS and its Greater Media siblings
WTKK (96.9 Boston) and WROR (105.7 Framingham) - they've all
added IBOC digital ("HD Radio") signals in the last
couple of weeks.
*One CONNECTICUT note: Hartford's
WKSS (95.7) is trying to fill a bit of the void left behind when
sister station WMRQ (104.1) flipped from modern rock to R&B
WPHH (Power 104) last year. It's now breaking from its usual
top 40 each weeknight from 10 PM until 2 AM to play modern rock
as "Channel 957."
*In VERMONT, Tim Bronson's sticking
around as PD of WEQX (102.7 Manchester) after all. Up in Burlington,
we've been remiss in failing to note that struggling UPN affiliate
WBVT-CA (Channel 39) and its relays around the state have been
sold to Equity Broadcasting, the Little Rock-based operator that
seems to have a knack for making small operations like this succeed
(in part by handling all master control functions out of Arkansas...)
*Even we'd long since forgotten about a pirate
station in Portland, MAINE that came and went back
in the late nineties - but it turns out that the saga of James
Ganley and the short-lived "I 97.3" is just now coming
to a close. Ganley, the former owner of WDME in Dover-Foxcroft,
ran the station with about a quarter of a watt from his Portland
apartment in early 1998 (NERW, 3/12/1998 and 3/19/1998), and
that was enough to draw an FCC visit, which led to a federal
lawsuit, which Ganley fought on the grounds that his broadcasts
didn't cross state lines and were thus outside FCC regulations.
The result - as others looking to make that same case might note
- was the losing end of the suit, and a $5,000 fine, which Ganley
And it appears WGAN (560 Portland) has dropped a tower from
its array. WGAN normally runs 5 kW day and night, using two towers
in each array with one tower shared for day and night use. But
we hear there are now just two towers, instead of three, at WGAN's
transmitter site, and the station has filed for special temporary
authority to operate accordingly. More details as we get 'em...
*A new station on the way to NEW JERSEY:
Maranatha Ministries was granted a CP for 88.1 in Cape May Court
House; it'll run 550 watts, vertical only, at 65 meters above
(And while it's not new - it's been on the air already for
several months - the "Bridge FM" network that includes
WRDR 89.7 Freehold Township NJ and the former "Jukebox Radio"
signals in Fort Lee NJ, Pomona NY and Monticello NY had its official
launch last week.)
jazz came to central PENNSYLVANIA last week, as Hall
Communications pulled the plug on the oldies at "Big 92.7"
WHBO (92.7 Starview PA) last Monday, replacing it with "Smooth
Jazz 92.7" under new calls WSJW.
And WHBO wasn't the only oldies station to disappear from
the dials around Harrisburg - over in Carlisle, Route 81 dropped
the 50s and 60s oldies it inherited from Citadel at WHYL (960),
replacing them with a locally-programmed standards format starting
Saturday morning (March 6). Route 81 also launched a morning
show at WNAK (730 Nanticoke) and WNAK-FM (94.3 Carbondale), putting
market veteran Terry McNulty back on the air.
call and format shuffling out in Johnstown: Forever moves the
news-talk format of WNTJ (1490) down the dial to replace classic
country at WLYE (850 Johnstown) and WVSC (990 Somerset), changing
WLYE's call to WNTJ and WVSC to WNTW. 1490 goes sports as WSPO,
a callsign previously heard on 850 (which most old-timers in
the market probably still think of as WJAC...)
In Philadelphia, they're mourning a man whose voice is familiar
to just about everyone who's ever turned on a radio there, whether
they realize it or not. Dick Covington joined the staff of KYW
(1060) in 1965, just as it was launching its all-news format,
and remained there as an anchor and business editor until 1986
(and then stayed around as a part-timer until 1997). And for
many years now, it's his voice that's heard on KYW's distinctive
top- and bottom-hour IDs ("From Independence Mall, this
Alas, Dick Covington died Wednesday (March 3) at age 77. His
IDs, we're told, will live on at 1060 on the dial. (You can hear
recent sample from your editor's own collection - along with
lots of other fine IDs from Philly and elsewhere - at the ever-growing
tophour.net site, a true
haven for the obsessive ID geek. And if you've got to hear it
with the magic "Westinghouse" ID, not to mention "AM
stereo," Garrett Wollman's Boston Radio Archives has one
of those right
*Finally this week, we turn to the wall of the NERW home office
on which hangs a large poster of Edward R. Murrow as we recall
that it was a half-century ago tomorrow - March 9, 1954 - that
Murrow and Fred Friendly presented their landmark "See It
Now" broadcast examining and exposing the methods of Senator
Joe McCarthy. A few thoughts, if we may, on this anniversary:
It's depressing, first of all, to realize how few of today's
younger journalists even remember Murrow. The man who was an
icon for an earlier generation of reporters today seems to merit
just a brief mention in the history lessons, and that's a shame,
for there's much that today's news media can still learn from
Network executives were just as craven and politically motivated
in 1954 as they are today. Even the "Tiffany network"
era of CBS leadership, William S. Paley and Frank Stanton, gave
Murrow and Friendly only weak support for their broadcast, declining
to give it any promotion and forcing Murrow to pay for newspaper
advertising out of his own pocket. (It must be noted that the
stakes were even higher for Paley and Stanton than they are for
today's Viacom leadership; while there's little danger today
of license revocation, there were serious threats in the fifties
of Congressional retaliation that could have stripped CBS of
its key television licenses had the political winds not shifted
"See It Now" looks incredibly primitive by today's
standards, of course - most of the McCarthy broadcast, in fact,
is nothing but talking-head footage (in black and white, of course)
of McCarthy giving speeches. The broadcast has no hidden cameras,
no dramatized re-enactments, no fancy graphics or indeed any
graphics at all, no incessant crawls or any of the other artifice
of today's TV news. And while it's not lacking a point of view
- there's no doubt about where Murrow and Friendly stood in opposition
to McCarthy and his tactics - it's "fair and balanced"
in a way that's rarely seen today on commercial television, using
McCarthy's own words and statements to effectively let the senator
demolish himself. (At the same time, the show was never less
than respectful to McCarthy or his office; name-calling was not
a part of the political discourse in which Murrow and Friendly
The sort of thoughtful, long-form journalism Murrow and Friendly
epitomized is far from dead today. It's in short supply at the
network level, to be sure (indeed, even Murrow found CBS an increasingly
inhospitable place to work after the McCarthy broadcast), but
it lives on at PBS, on cable TV (though not to any extent at
the cable news networks) and in the medium of documentary feature
film that came to fruition in the years after Murrow.
What those venues lack, though, is the national reach that
Ed Murrow enjoyed for a few shining years. On that night of March
9, 1954, even the most fortunate TV viewer in New York or Los
Angeles had at most seven choices - and most of the nation still
had just one or two channels to watch. So when Murrow and Friendly
ascended their broadcast pulpit, it's no exaggeration to say
that they had the eyes of most of the country.
That's something no broadcaster today can claim. Even the
most-watched network news program - typically CBS' 60 Minutes,
the most direct successor to the Murrow legacy - is lucky to
draw 10 percent of the available audience. The nightly evening
newscasts draw a small fraction of that, and cable news channels
consider themselves lucky to pull a 2 share.
If Ed Murrow were alive today, much of what he would see on
TV wouldn't surprise him. He'd be in no position to criticize
the relentless drone of celebrity "news" - after all,
his "Person to Person" show created the genre that
would later yield "Entertainment Tonight" and "Access
Hollywood" - though he might be taken aback by the way that
strain of journalism has crossed over into what was once considered
"serious" news. (Martha Stewart, anyone?) He'd be pleased,
no doubt, at the amount of thoughtful coverage of important issues
available on PBS and elsewhere.
But he'd be appalled, I suspect, at the splintering of the
national dialogue and at the ease with which supporters of a
partisan viewpoint can surround themselves with only the information
and opinion that supports what they already believe. Could an
Ed Murrow, in 2004, ever break through the din of all those websites,
talk shows and hundreds of cable channels to get the kind of
attention he drew in 1954?
And if he couldn't, then why can Janet Jackson?
*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
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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.
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2003 by Scott Fybush.