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April 19, 2004

Live from Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS - Another April, another NAB, and here we are once again to see what the nation's broadcasters are up to. (Shivering, for one thing - we're accustomed to temperatures in the mid-80s out here come NAB time, but we had pouring rain in Los Angeles on Friday and unseasonably cool conditions here at the start of the show.)

We'll add some NAB observations here, time permitting, during the show - but we're not neglecting our committment to reporting what's happening back East:

*MAINE radio listeners are finding their way around the many changes in the radio dial wrought by Nassau last week, and now we can report a slew of call changes, too:

"The Bone," the simulcast of classic rock and Howard Stern on 104.7 and 106.7, is now WHXQ (104.7 Kennebunkport, ex-WQEZ) and WHXR (106.7 North Windham, ex-WMTW-FM).

"Frank" on 107.5 Lewiston is now WFNK, formerly WTHT. We assume the WTHT calls will replace WMEK on 99.9 Auburn, the new home of the "Wolf" country format formerly on 107.5, but that call change hasn't been filed.

WLAM (1470 Lewiston) keeps its calls, and WMTW (870 Gorham) becomes WLVP, which we're guessing stands for "Liberal Voice of Portland."

Up in Bangor, we're hearing about some strange moments for viewers of WLBZ (Channel 2) when Janet Jackson hosted Saturday Night Live a couple of weeks ago - it seems an overly-alert master control operator went to black during the opening sketch when Jackson, playing the role of Condoleezza Rice, ripped her blouse open. (Viewers on the rest of the NBC network saw a heavily pixilated "wardrobe malfunction," and the wire services report that Jackson was actually clothed anyway.

*NEW HAMPSHIRE sportscaster Charlie Sherman says he regrets quitting his job as sports director of WMUR (Channel 9) in Manchester. The Manchester Union Leader says Sherman quit after a heated newsroom meeting March 10, the day after Sherman criticized the University of New Hampshire for not letting his camera crew park near a university gym. Sherman tells the paper he's apologized to WMUR's general manager and he hopes to get a second chance at the station where he's worked for 13 years. GM Jeff Bartlett told the Union Leader that he has no plans to re-hire Sherman, though the position hasn't yet been filled.

*There's a news director opening in MASSACHUSETTS, where Peter Brown and WBZ-TV (Channel 4) have parted ways after 22 years together, the last 10 in the station's top news job. Brown is headed to Brigham and Women's Hospital for a senior PR job, with assistant news director Matt Ellis filling the post temporarily.

*It's "Know-Nothings on Parade" yet again in Charlotte, VERMONT, where a fight continues over the Pease Mountain transmitter tower of WIZN (106.7 Vergennes). Vermont's Environmental Board was scheduled to hear testimony last week about whether to revoke the land-use permit granted in 1999 (after the station had already been in place on the mountain for 12 years) over the NIMBYish howls of the neighbors. (We've been to Pease Mountain, and the site is nearly impossible to see from any distance.)

The neighbors' attorney (who, we'll editorialize, apparently never heard of the inverse-square rule) told the Associated Press that "it's clear that there is radiation in the community. The energy from the signal heats human tissue." (NERW wonders if he was talking on a hand-held cellphone at the time.)

In any case, the board will now revisit the decision to grant the land-use permit; in any case, WIZN holds a CP to move north and get away from those pesky, ignorant neighbors.

Meanwhile, Vermont now has an Air America affiliate - WTWK (1070 Plattsburgh NY), across the lake, is now carrying the liberal talk network during its daytime broadcast hours.

And at WTWK's sister station in St. Albans, WRSA (1420), our old pal Pete Ferrand (who's been doing mornings there since February, it turns out) made headlines last week after restoring the daily playing of the Star-Spangled Banner to the station's morning show. Seems Pete stopped playing the anthem at 6 AM when he took over ("it's bad radio," he tells the AP, and in principle we'd agree with him), but a tradition's a tradition, so the anthem's back and Pete's in the papers and everyone's happy, we guess.

*RHODE ISLAND listeners got an early introduction to their newest radio station last Friday, when Entercom launched WEEI-FM (103.7 Westerly) two weeks earlier than planned, changing calls (from WWRX) and flipping to the sports format simulcast with Boston's WEEI (850) - except during Red Sox games.

Meanwhile, Rhode Islanders are mourning the loss of one of their most popular sportscasters. Chris Clark was the voice of Providence College (as well as URI and Brown) basketball for decades, doing sports for WJAR-TV, WPRI-TV and WPRO radio. He died April 10 at age 79.

*One of the most promising open FM allocations in NEW YORK (and, arguably, anywhere in America) could end up being reserved for non-commercial use. The 92.1A allocation in Amherst will serve the Buffalo market quite well, and last week it showed up on a list of FM allocations that the FCC's been petitioned to reserve as educational.

What's up with that? It's the way the FCC is resolving the issue that's kept so many new FM allocations off the air for years - whether, and if, non-comm applicants can enter the auctions that will decide who'll get these new facilities. The FCC's solution was to allow broadcasters to petition to convert any of the open allocations to non-commercial - if they met two criteria.

First, there can't be an open frequency with comparable coverage in the reserved (88.1-91.9) band, which is a given in a crowded market such as Buffalo. Second - and here's the tricky part - the new signal would have to be the first or second non-commercial signal for at least 10% of the population covered in its 1 mV/m signal contour. How can that be the case in Buffalo, a city with three public radio stations, not to mention a college station and several religious FMs?

Simple: two of those public stations - WNED-FM 94.5 and WNED 970 - operate non-commercially but hold commercial licenses. That leaves WBFO 88.7, which blankets the area 92.1 will serve, and Family Radio's WFBF 89.9 and SUNY Buffalo's WBNY 91.3, which don't.

Commercial broadcasters now have the chance to show the FCC that there are already two noncomm services across all the area 92.1 would cover; we wonder if WNED or WBFO might end up applying for the channel if it does go noncomm, since the point system the FCC uses would all but guarantee them the construction permit in that case.

In Syracuse, Dave Coombs departs the morning show at WTKW (99.5 Bridgeport)/WTKV (105.5 Oswego); he's headed for morning drive at KFNZ in Salt Lake City.

There's a TV news director opening in New York City, as WWOR (Channel 9)/WNYW (Channel 5) ND Neil Goldstein departs "for personal reasons."

WOR (710 New York) has rearranged its schedule, shifting most of the day forward an hour (Joan Hamburg at 9 AM instead of 10, Arthur Schwartz at 11 instead of noon, Dr. Joy Browne at noon instead of 1, Bill O'Reilly at 3 instead of 2 and Bob Grant at 4 instead of 5) in order to carry Michael Savage live in his new 6-9 PM Eastern time slot.

Over at WPLJ (95.5), Scott Shannon and Todd Pettengill add a sixth morning to their schedule, with a Saturday 6-9 AM "best of" show.

Pat Parson, who anchored afternoon drive on WCBS (880 New York) from 1970 until 1990 and later founded and did morning drive at WQNJ (98.5 Ocean Acres NJ, now WBBO), died Thursday (April 16). Parson (real name: Pasquale Tominaro), who was a Seton Hall University graduate and a member of the WSOU (89.5) hall of fame, was 65; he had been suffering from cancer.

*There's a new FM station coming to NEW JERSEY - King's Temple Ministries has been granted a new signal on 90.3 in Plainfield, with 300 watts at 17 meters below average terrain. How did they squeeze that into the crowded North Jersey FM dial? They'll be sharing time with WVPH (90.3 Piscataway NJ).

*A call change in PENNSYLVANIA: WSSZ (107.1 Greensburg) picks up the WJJJ calls that were on 104.7 Pittsburgh until this past January. Could 107.1 finally be ready to split from the WAMO-FM (106.7 Beaver Falls) simulcast, now that WAMO-FM is on a tower in Wexford that reaches most of Pittsburgh?

*And that's it from Sin City! If you're reading this while out here for the convention, keep an eye out for me on the floor (and ask about the convention special on the 2004 Tower Site Calendar) - and we'll be back home in Rochester for next Monday's edition. See you then!

*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.

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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.