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March 29, 2004

WEEI Enters Rhode Island

*This week's top story comes from RHODE ISLAND, but it's really about MASSACHUSETTS, too, as one Boston broadcaster exits the Ocean State and another prepares to enter it.

Steve Mindich's Phoenix Media/Communications Group is selling WWRX (103.7 Westerly) to Entercom for a reported $14.5 million. Mindich bought the station in 2000 when Clear Channel had to spin it off; he flipped it to modern rock as "FNX," running it first as part of the "FNX Network" based at WFNX (101.7 Lynn MA) and later breaking off for mostly local programming. That local programming came to an end last Monday, with WWRX returning to a temporary WFNX simulcast in preparation for Entercom's May 1 takeover.

When Entercom gets the big signal (it covers Rhode Island and serves big chunks of eastern Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts), it'll flip 103.7 to a simulcast of sports WEEI (850 Boston), extending that station's programming to a market that can't hear it very well after dark - and bringing some pretty big competition to Citadel's WSKO (790 Providence)/WSKO-FM (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale, which broadcasts from the very same tower as WWRX!)

What the new WEEI-FM won't bring with it - at least not right away - is the 2004 World Champion (we can, and will, dream, especially with Opening Day just days away) Boston Red Sox, whose contract keeps them on WSKO sister station WPRO (630 Providence) through the end of the 2004 season. Entercom says it plans to move the Sox to 103.7 in 2005, the last year of its current contract with the team.

Speaking of Entercom in Boston, WAAF (107.3 Worcester) is losing afternoon guy Eddie Webb effective May 14; he'll be replaced by Paul Marshall, inbound from KRXQ (98.5) in Sacramento.

And they might as well rename the regional RTNDA Murrow Awards the "Ed Perry Awards," at least where the small-market category in the New England region is concerned; Ed's WATD (95.9 Marshfield) again swept the field this year, winning 8 of 11 categories and leaving a few crumbs for Vermont Public Radio and New Hampshire Public Radio to pick up. Not to be outdone, Boston's WBUR (90.9) won 8 of 10 large-market awards, with the others going to Hartford's WTIC and your editor's old shop, WBZ (1030 Boston). You can check out the whole list at RTNDA's site.

*Up in MAINE, Pegasus Broadcasting converted its LMA of WPME (Channel 35) in Lewiston to a full duopoly with WB affiliate WPXT (Channel 51) Portland. Pegasus paid KB Prime Media $3.8 million for the UPN affiliate, reports the Portland Press Herald.

And we're told WGAN (560 Portland) has replaced its third tower - and there's now a set of FM bays mounted there, presumably a backup for WMGX (93.1) and WYNZ (100.9) as they work to replace the tower they lost a few months ago.

*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Joe Collie's moving from WZID (95.7 Manchester) to mornings at WOTX (102.3 Concord); he'll be replaced in afternoons by Bob Bronson.

*We'll start our NEW YORK news downstate, where WBEA (101.7 Southold) relaunched last week with a younger-skewing top-40 format replacing its top-40/hot AC mix.

In New York City, WWPR (105.1 New York) fired weekend middayer Raqiyah Mays after she went on the air last Saturday and talked about her disapproval of black women dating white men. The predictable media frenzy ensued, and Mays was promptly hired by crosstown WQHT (97.1 New York), where she debuted yesterday.

The dispute between the Yankees' YES Network and Cablevision took another turn last week with a court order to the cable operator to move YES from a discretionary sports tier to Cablevision's expanded basic tier. That'll put the team in millions of additional households in the New York suburbs - while raising cable rates by 95 cents a month. Expect more court action in this case (with, we'd bet, no resolution before the Sox clinch the AL East and knock the Yankees out of pennant contention. Like we said, we can dream.)

Is it a clue to the future of WXPK (107.1 Briarcliff Manor)? A new site at shows this "Coming Soon" message and the tag line "We don't just play hits, we play careers," giving a bit of a preview to the AAA format expected to debut on that Westchester signal pretty soon. Stay tuned...

Up in the Mohawk Valley, an update on the sale of WXBH (1190 Cobleskill): talk host Doug Stephan and Ellen Ratner are the other partners in the purchase.

In Syracuse, Bud Money's departing WBBS (104.7 Fulton) and heading up I-81 to another country giant, WFRY (97.5 Watertown), where he'll be doing nights starting later this week.

In Binghamton, it's a format relaunch at WMRV (105.7 Endicott), where Clear Channel ducks out of the top 40 war with Citadel's "Wild" WWYL (104.1 Chenango Bridge). At midnight last night, WMRV flipped to hot AC, still as "Star 105-7," and now with the tagline, "The Southern Tier's Best Variety."

Here in Rochester, WXXI (1370) has found a temporary replacement for afternoon anchor/reporter Mark Giardina. Yes, that's yours truly there, back on the air (for a little while, anyway) for the first time in more than two years and reminding you that "local broadcast of All Things Considered is made possible by our listeners, and by..."

A few other tidbits from around town: a court has ordered WCMF (96.5 Rochester) morning man Brother Wease not to talk about former sidekick Cindy Pearce; the ruling comes as part of Pearce's breach-of-contract suit against the station. WCMF also has to provide tapes of Wease's show to Pearce's lawyers.

And over at WBEE (92.5), Nikki Landry comes on board (from WGH-FM in Newport News VA) as the new music director/midday jock.

*There's a new signal on the air in western PENNSYLVANIA. Clarke Ingram, scanning the dial from his base in NERW's Pittsburgh bureau, reports that WFJY (660 Wilkinsburg) signed on Friday afternoon, running talk programming from the National Radio Network and ID'ing with sister station WVFC (1530 McConnellsburg).

This is the new facility for the silent 1470 Portage, moving some 75 miles from the Johnstown area to the WURP (1550 Braddock) towers just east of Pittsburgh - and now that it's on the air, we suspect Alex Langer's next move will be to build out the CP that moves WVFC east to the Philadelphia market, on 1180 in King of Prussia from the WWDB (860) site.

Speaking of Philly, we hear that powerful "El Sol 95.3" pirate is facing some problems - not from the FCC, mind you, but from a jammer! Word around the local engineering community is that someone's broadcasting white noise on 95.3 and wiping out the El Sol signal in much of the area it used to serve. Meanwhile, the IBC Radio Network, which runs a mixture of business talk, international broadcast relays and "paranormal talk", is launching a network of Part 15 low-power AM signals around Philadelphia. They'll operate on 1610 kHz, we're told.

And in Scranton, Cadillac Jack (not the Jack FM guy, nor the Boston PD) exits his afternoon gig at WGGY (101.3); "Kelly Green" (Jayme Gordon) will move in from mornings to replace him at Froggy.

*NEW JERSEY 101.5 (WKXW-FM 101.5 Trenton/WKOE 106.3 Ocean City) abruptly parted ways with late-night talk host Michelle Jerson last week. The station says it's changing its target audience for that shift, replacing Jerson's "18-34 female-oriented relationships show" with something aimed at listeners 35-54; NERW suspects the sudden regulatory spotlight on broadcast content (and Jerson's show, while quite frank about sex, was hardly explicit) is really to blame here. In any case, no replacement has been named yet - and Jerson's looking for a new gig.

*In CANADA, Bayshore Broadcasting wants to convert CFPS (1490 Port Elgin) from a relay of its nearby CFOS (560 Owen Sound) to a standalone FM signal on 97.9, serving the amalgamated municipalities of Saugeen Shores and Kincardine.

Down in Brantford, religious CFWC (99.5) applies to move to 93.9, upgrading from 50 to 250 watts. The move was inevitable; CFWC was bumped from its unprotected spot at 99.5 by new sign-on CIKZ (KICX 99.5) in Kitchener-Waterloo.

In Hamilton, Larry Silver moves from midday talk host at Corus' CHML (900) to Rogers' CJAQ (92.5 Jack FM) in Toronto, where he'll do news.

*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 right) 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 March 5 have now been shipped, so if you've already ordered, you should be enjoying your calendar any day now. (And if you ordered before February 28 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?)

Order the 2004 Tower Site Calendar at $16 each (US and Canada only - e-mail us for overseas ordering information.)
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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.