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April 12, 2004

Nassau Shakeup in Maine

MONDAY UPDATE: CHUM Television is going national. Just after NERW initially went to press Monday morning, the company announced that it's buying Craig Television, giving it the "A-Channel" stations in Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg and CKX-TV in Brandon, Manitoba, as well as MTV Canada. Craig went into competition with CHUM in Toronto with last year's launch of "Toronto 1" (CKXT), which will have to be spun off because CHUM already owns flagship CITY-TV and Barrie's CKVR in the Toronto market. Much more next week!

*Now that Nassau Broadcasting is in control of the former WMTW Broadcast Group radio stations in southern MAINE, the company has set the dial spinning in a big way for Portland listeners.

No sooner did Nassau take over last Tuesday than it ditched the news-talk formats at WMTW (870 Gorham), WMTW-FM (106.7 North Windham) and WLAM (1470 Lewiston), as well as the hot AC "Kiss" at WMEK (99.9 Auburn). The former news-talk stations have been running a repeating heartbeat sound effect, interspersed with Howard Dean speeches (or so we hear), while WMEK has picked up the country format ("The Wolf") that used to be on WTHT (107.5 Lewiston). 107.5, in turn, has been broadcasting a repeating message sending listeners to 99.9 (and its Portland translator on 96.9.)

WMTW's seven-person radio news staff is out as a result of the changes, which a Nassau memo to advertisers says will end up with new - and separate - formats on each of the three former news-talk facilities. (From Nassau's memo: "One format is an 'old favorite.' One format will provide a nice counterbalance to a big name already in the market. One format will 'shock and awe.'"

And with "Wolf" now on 99.9, 107.5 will also get a new format - possibly as soon as tomorrow - that Nassau tells advertisers "has been specifically designed to compete with one or two of the
other “heavy hitters” in Southern Maine."

Stay tuned...

(Tuesday update: 107.5 relaunched Tuesday morning as classic hits "Frank FM," the same sort of 'we play everything' mix as the Jacks and Bobs and Joes and Daves up in Canada. Still waiting for the heartbeat to end on the former WMTW signals...)

*There's a new LPFM on the air in NEW HAMPSHIRE: WLLO-LP (102.9 Londonderry) began testing late last week from Londonderry High School, playing a variety of songs about radio. "Leo 103" was scheduled for an official launch Saturday (April 10).

Concord's WKXL (1450) is getting new owners, as Warren Bailey's Embro group sells to a partnership of former Republican senator Gordon Humphrey and George Stevens. The pair will pay a reported $830,000 for the station, and they'll keep Bailey on to run things for them, promising to add more local news coverage - and to keep talk host Deborah "Arnie" Arnesen, whose politics are about as far from Humphrey's as it's possible to get.

Saga will relaunch WOQL (98.7 Winchester) next Monday (April 19) with a live jock lineup, pulling the station off the bird for local shifts (from an expanded and renovated Keene studio facility shared with WKBK, WZBK, WKNE and WINQ) from Jay Stevens in morning drive, OM Mark Healey from 10-2 and Fast Bobby from 2-6 PM.

Up the river in Claremont, Vox's (soon to be Nassau's) WHDQ (106.1) parts ways with PD Doug Daniels; we hear Heath Cole has added Q106 to his PD duties at sister stations "Bob" (WSSH 95.3/WZSH 107.1) and "Oldies 104" (WXOD 104.3/WCFR 96.3)

*A former MASSACHUSETTS DJ who made the transition from top 40 to talk died last week. Mel Miller began his career at Gardner's WGAW (1340), but he made his name as one of the jocks playing the hits on the old WMEX (1510) in Boston. Miller later worked at WEEI, then became the first PD for the new talk format on WRKO (680) when it launched in 1981. Miller died Wednesday (April 7); he was 75.

WBMX (98.5 Boston) is getting a new afternoon drive host; Tom Mitchell (not to be confused with the ops manager of the same name at Citadel in Syracuse!) comes to "Mix" from sister Infinity "Mix" outlet KMXB in Las Vegas.

And Saga has closed on its $7 million purchase of WPVQ (95.3 Greenfield) and WRSI (93.9 Turners Falls)/WRSY (101.5 Marlboro VT).

*You want longevity in this business? Look to RHODE ISLAND - where Art Lake of WJAR (Channel 10) in Providence celebrated his sixtieth anniversary at the NBC-owned station last week, a heck of a feat for a station that's only 55 years old.

Lake joined WJAR on April 6, 1944, when it was a radio-only operation (on AM 920, today's WHJJ); he began working at WJAR-TV (then on channel 11) the day it signed on in 1949, and he's still there, doing the weather on the morning news every weekday and wishing kids a happy first birthday. Here's to many more!

Meanwhile, two WWRX (103.7 Westerly) staffers blown out in the station's impending sale to Entercom have found work: PD Kevin Mays up in VERMONT, as APD/music director at WBTZ (99.9 Plattsburgh NY/Burlington/Montreal), and MD/night jock Bryan Slater as overnight jock at the FNX Network mothership, WFNX (101.7 Lynn MA).

*Mega Communications is exiting CONNECTICUT, selling WLAT (910 New Britain) and WNEZ (1230 Manchester) to Stephen Brisker's Freedom Communications for $3 million and making the two stations sisters to WKND (1480 Windsor). Format changes are likely to follow the sale; stay tuned... (And we can put a price on the sale of WXCT in Southington: $1.4 million.)

Down in New Haven, WELI (960) is shuffling its schedule, moving afternoon host Paul Pacelli to the morning show and adding the syndicated Sean Hannity show in his place. Steve Kalb moves over from CRN Radio to handle afternoon news duties.

*NEW YORK lost one of its best-loved morning men last week, with the death on Thursday (April 8) of Gene Klavan, who woke up New Yorkers on WNEW (1130) from 1952 until 1977, most of that time with partner Dee Finch.

Klavan came to WNEW as the replacement for Gene Rayburn, who left to launch the TV career for which he's best remembered. Klavan's partnership with Finch lasted until 1968, and he remained at 1130 solo for another nine years before leaving for WOR, where he put in three more years before retiring in 1980.

Klavan had been suffering from cancer; he was 79.

Chris Booker ("JLo's sister's boyfriend!") is back on the air; the former WNEW "Blink" morning jock is now doing part-time and weekend work at Z100 (WHTZ 100.3).

Heading upstate just a bit, Pamal launched its AAA "107.1 the Peak" format at WXPK (107.1 Briarcliff Manor) a few hours behind schedule last Monday night. The station's operating from new studios in White Plains, and so far it's all been automated, we hear.

In the Elmira-Corning market, Route 81 Radio has a new GM for its new properties there: Paul Lyle, whose career has included stops at Long Island's WGSM, the Talk America network and Sacramento's KSTE, joins the cluster that includes WENY AM-FM, WCBA AM-FM, WCLI and WGMM.

Binghamton's WHWK (98.1) moved transmitter sites at the start of the month, relocating from its longtime spot on the WBNG-TV (Channel 12) tower (a former sister station, back in the WNBF AM-FM-TV days) to a new tower down the road on Ingraham Hill. WHWK goes from 10 kW at 290 meters to 6700 watts at 395 meters, with a directional notch to the south (we'll get to that in a minute), and Citadel sister station WAAL (99.1) takes over the old WHWK facility on the channel 12 tower, moving there from the Stainless (WICZ-TV) tower down the road.

Here in Rochester, Howard Stern is gone for good from Clear Channel's WNVE (95.1 Honeoye Falls) as part of Clear Channel's corporate decision to drop the Stern show in the six markets where it aired. (Pittsburgh's WXDX 105.9 also loses Stern for good, as do Clear Channel stations in Louisville, Orlando, Miami and San Diego.) Will Stern resurface on Infinity's floundering active rocker, WZNE (94.1 Brighton)? We'll be listening this morning (not to mention pointing the antenna atop NERW Central to Syracuse's WAQX to hear what Stern has to say about the whole thing now that he's back from vacation...)

In Buffalo, the end of the sports format on WNSA (107.7 Wethersfield) could be just weeks away now; the Buffalo News reports that the court hearing on Entercom's proposed purchase of the station out of the Adelphia bankruptcy will be held April 26. (We noticed Entercom advertising heavily at a Buffalo Sabres game we attended a couple of weeks ago, promoting "Sportstalk lives on AM 550...")

Speaking of Entercom, WTSS (102.5 Buffalo) shuffles its night shift, with part-timer Dave Edwards replacing the exiting JJ from 6-midnight.

*Clear Channel is bowing out of a western PENNSYLVANIA market. It's selling its three stations (in fact, the three stations) in New Castle to Kerby Confer and Donald Alt's Keymarket/Forever companies in a $2.85 million deal that will send AC "Star" WJST (92.1 Ellwood City) to Keymarket and its AM sisters, news-talk WKST (1200 New Castle) and standards WBZY (1280 New Castle) to Forever. The New Castle stations had been the southeasternmost fringe of Clear Channel's big Youngstown-based cluster, but the company's been selling off most of the Pennsylvania side of that group, including a recent spin of country WICT (95.1 Grove City) to Forever.

Salem's WNTP (990 Philadelphia) launched right on schedule last Monday morning with a conservative talk lineup that includes the network's new Bill Bennett morning show (which, amazingly, has yet to sign affiliates in Las Vegas or Atlantic City), Laura Ingraham, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Savage, Mike Gallagher and David Lawrence.

Across town, Steve Fredericks is retiring from sports talker WIP (610 Philadelphia) after a 12-year run at the Infinity station. If that name sounds familiar to our New England readers as well, it should: Fredericks spent 13 years at WMEX and WEEI in Boston before heading down to Philadelphia, where he worked at WIFI and WCAU as well as WIP.

In the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market, Citadel's WCWY (93.7 Dallas) is changing calls to WSJR, fueling speculation that it will finally drop the simulcast of modern rock "97-9X" WBSX (97.9 Hazleton) that it's carried for several years. WBSX actually began on 93.7, as you may recall, and the original idea back in May 2002 was simply to move the calls and format over to 97.9 and launch something new on 93.7 - but the 97.9 signal didn't cover the core of the market the way 93.7 does, so the simulcast stayed. But now that Citadel has moved WHWK up in Binghamton to a directional antenna (see above), 97.9 can make its move to the Penobscot Mountain antenna farm where most of the market's biggest signals are found - a move that's expected to happen within days - and 93.7 can flip at last. (WBSX gets a new morning man next week, too; Jim Bone comes to the X from KQRC in Kansas City on April 19.)

And Hazleton's WAZL (1490) is back on the air under Route 81 ownership, playing classic hits from the 70s and early 80s as part of a full-service operation that's restoring local radio to a town that's been without it for a while. Sister station WCDL (1440 Carbondale) is expected back on the air soon, too, reportedly with country music.

*A relatively quiet week in eastern CANADA - except in Ottawa sports radio. "Dandyman" Don Romani got himself suspended from CFGO (Team 1200) after getting a bit carried away in his attack on Tie Domi of the hated (in Ottawa, at least) Toronto Maple Leafs. The station pulled Romani off the air after a comment that implied that Domi abuses his wife; Romani has apologized but isn't back on CFGO just yet.

On a much more pleasant note, fans of Montreal radio history will want to check out Marc "Mais Oui" Denis' history site on the station where he once toiled, CKGM (980); you can find the "CKGM Super 70s Tribute Page" at, complete with airchecks, coverage maps and more.

And we're sorry to report the passing of Jack Winter, who was music director at the old CKFH (1430 Toronto) through much of the 70s. Winter was one of the founders of the "Monday Nighter" radio-history gatherings that continue on a monthly basis to this day in Toronto. He died last Wednesday (April 7) of complications from ALS ("Lou Gehrig's disease"); his funeral will take place Tuesday in Toronto.

*That's it for another week. We'll be back in abbreviated form next Monday, as we head to Las Vegas for the NAB convention - and we'll be back with a full column April 26. (After which we'll head off to Boston the first week in May, so get ready for a get-together, you New England readers...)

*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 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?)

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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.