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April 26, 2004

WNSA Bidding War Escalates

*Entercom will still end up with western NEW YORK's FM sports station, but a last-minute bidding war means the price tag for WNSA (107.7 Wethersfield Township) will be $1.5 million higher than expected.

Late last week, Entercom's Buffalo rival Citadel put in a $9,350,000 bid for the signal, topping Entercom's initial $9 million offer to buy WNSA out of the Adelphia bankruptcy. That move (a reaction, perhaps, to speculation that Entercom plans to use 107.7 to go after Citadel's market-leading rocker WGRF?) touched off a telephone auction Friday that ended with a $10.5 million bid by Entercom.

A federal bankruptcy court could approve the station's transfer as early as today; the buzz within the market still suggests that Entercom will move WNSA's Sabres rights and perhaps a few of its sports talk hosts over to WGR (550 Buffalo) and take 107.7 to some sort of rock format. Stay tuned...

*Two of the state's smallest TV stations are getting a new owner. Equity Broadcasting, the Little Rock-based station group that's become a big owner of small stations, is buying WNGS (Channel 67) in Springville from Caroline Powley and WNYI (Channel 52) in Ithaca from Powley's husband Bill Smith.

Equity will pay $5 million for WNGS, which serves the Buffalo market on cable, though the deal's price will be reduced by $1 million if WNGS-DT's channel 46 application, which would serve the full Buffalo market from the WKBW-TV tower in Colden, isn't approved within three years. The deal for WNYI, which also includes KWWF (Channel 22) in Waterloo, Iowa, is also for $5 million, again with a $1 million discount if WNYI's application for a Syracuse-market upgrade isn't approved within three years.

These are Equity's second acquisitions in the region; the company recently bought the WBVT LPTV network up in Vermont as well. Equity specializes in programming stations at low cost by centralizing operations at its Little Rock master-control hub. It'll have little choice but to keep running both WNGS and WNYI as independent stations, since the WB, UPN and Pax affiliations it uses in other markets are already taken in both Buffalo and Syracuse.

Congratulations to Syracuse's WSYR (570), which was one of only 10 stations nationwide to win an NAB Crystal Radio Award last week in Las Vegas. (PD Jim Lerch's reaction as he took the stage: "Wow!") Other NERW-land nominees for the honor, which recognizes stations' committment to community service, included Clear Channel sister station WHAM in Rochester, WUPE in Pittsfield MA, WGHT Pompton Lakes NJ, WBAB Babylon NY, and Philadelphia's KYW and WUSL. (And congratulations as well to WDEL in Wilmington, Delaware, right on the edge of NERW-land, which also won a Crystal.)

WSYR's sister station WYYY (94.5) is moving John Tesh's syndicated show from overnights to evenings, knocking its Friday night 80s show off the schedule.

A Syracuse kiddie-TV icon has died: John Lawrence Scott, aka "Uncle Skip" of the old WHEN-TV (Channel 8, later channel 5 and now WTVH), died April 14 in Peterborough, N.H. After Scott left Syracuse TV in 1972, he moved to Peterborough to put WSCV (1050, now WSRO 650 Ashland MA) and WSLE (92.1, now WFEX) on the air; later, he served as director of PR for Yankee magazine. Scott was 73.

New York could have seven new FM signals once a November 3 auction wraps up. The FCC's "Auction 37" is finally moving forward, now that issues surrounding non-commercial bidders have been resolved. The Commission pulled many available FM frequencies (including that plum 92.1A Amherst/Buffalo facility) out of the auction and reserved them for noncommercial applicants, leaving 290 facilities in the auction pool. In New York, that includes 97.9A Dannemora (proposed starting bid $70,000), 97.5A Delhi ($50,000), 102.9A Narrowsburg ($50,000), 92.5A Old Forge ($2500), 107.1A Saranac Lake ($20,000), 96.5A Speculator ($2500) and 106.7A Windsor ($50,000).

TV people on the move: In Rochester, WHEC (Channel 10) has parted ways with veteran reporter Wendy Wright; Jennifer Johnson replaces her on the weekend anchor desk. WUHF (Channel 31) weekend anchor/reporter Dayna Roselli is off to Las Vegas, where she'll be reporting from a helicopter for KLAS (Channel 8). In Syracuse, Rick Gary has departed the Daybreak morning show on WIXT (Channel 9) to host a new 12:30 PM magazine show that will launch later this year; Dave Longley takes over morning duties on the renamed Morning News on NewsChannel 9.

*Citadel is entering western MASSACHUSETTS in a big way. It's paying $22 million to buy WMAS-FM (94.7 Springfield) and WMAS (1450 Springfield) from Lappin Communications, one of the last big local owners in the region. (Inside Radio reports that Citadel had competition: Pamal's Jim Morrell and veteran New England station owner Jeff Wilks both made offers to Bob Lappin as well.)

The WMAS purchase gives Citadel a western foothold to add to its holdings in Worcester (WORC-FM, WWFX, WXLO) and Providence/New Bedford (WPRO AM-FM, WSKO AM-FM, WKKB, WWLI, WWKX/WAKX, WBSM, WFHN); we'll have to wait and see whether any changes are in store for the FM's AC format or the AM's standards.

WDIS (1170 Norfolk) faces a $16,500 fine from the FCC to clear up a paperwork mess surrounding its 1998 license renewal - or lack thereof. WDIS never applied to renew the license that expired April 1, 1998, and it didn't answer the FCC's inquiries about it, either. The WDIS license was cancelled April 30, 1999, and only then did Al Grady's Discussion Radio file a petition for reconsideration and get the license reinstated, telling the Commission that it had been sending its paperwork to an outdated address.

John Fuller's Astro Broadcasting objected to the renewal (and why not - Astro owned WJJF Hope Valley, R.I., on the first-adjacent 1180 frequency, which stood to get a signal increase if 1170 went away), and after lengthy consideration the FCC dismissed Astro's objections but slapped WDIS with a hefty fine - $5,000 for unauthorized operation (staying on the air after its license was cancelled), $1,500 for late filing of its renewal and $10,000 for an unrelated public-file violation.

Jay Severin was off the air Friday on WTKK (96.9 Boston), replaced by a live run of Sean Hannity, as the Greater Media talker dealt with the fallout from a comment - "I've got an idea, let's kill all Muslims" - Severin made on Thursday's show. The station says Severin will be back on the air tonight. Meanwhile, Greater Media ups WTKK/WKLB (99.5 Lowell) station manager Alan Chartrand to VP/director of sales for its entire Boston cluster.

E.W. Scripps has bought WMFP (Channel 62) in Lawrence, along with WSAH (Channel 43) in Bridgeport, CONNECTICUT, from Summit America. The $185 million deal, which also includes TV stations in Ohio, North Carolina and California, completes Scripps' acquisition of the Shop at Home TV network. Scripps already owned 70% of the network; Summit had retained 30% of the network and the five TV stations when the initial deal went through in 2002. No changes are expected to the Shop at Home programming on either TV station.

One Massachusetts FM opportunity in that Auction 37 this fall: 94.3A Brewster, with an anticipated starting bid of $90,000.

New Englanders knew him as "Slim Pickens" or as "Jerry Howard" during a long career that included the overnight gig on WBZ-WBZA (1030) in the forties and fifties, WEEI and WHDH later on, then WJDA in Quincy, WATD in Marshfield in its early years, WPLM in Plymouth and finally Barry Lunderville's "Radio New England Magazine." Jerry Howorth, the man behind those voices, died April 9 in Punta Gorda, Florida. He was 84.

And on a happier note, NERW's heading back to New England for a few days early next month! Stay tuned for an announcement about a Friends of NERW dinner somewhere in Cambridge May 5 or 6...and if you'd like us to stop by your station for a visit on the way, drop me a line soon!

*Someone's got it in for WSYY in Millinocket, MAINE, or so reports in the Magic City News would have us believe. The on-line newspaper reports that someone vandalized the station's transmitter site - and went to a great deal of trouble to do so, traveling up a nearly inaccessible mountain road and damaging the exhaust fan in the transmitter. The station caught the damage before it caused the transmitter to overheat; speculation suggests the vandalism may be related to the dispute that threatens to force the station off its leased site.

*Auction 37 could bring three new FM signals to NEW HAMPSHIRE: 93.7A Groveton (starting bid $20,000), 97.3A Jefferson ($35,000) and 99.1A Whitefield ($35,000). Two VERMONT FM allocations are in the auction, too: 100.3A Barton ($35,000) and 105.9A Hardwick ($35,000).

*Trenton, NEW JERSEY and the 97.5 FM facility have been linked together for more than forty years, way back to the WTOA days - but now Nassau is asking the FCC to reallocate what's now WPST (the "T" even stands for Trenton) to Burlington, closer in to Philadelphia. Nassau's application doesn't call for any change in WPST's transmitter site - but since it's a grandfathered pre-1964 allocation, WPST should be able to make a physical move closer to Philly once its city-of-license change is granted, even though it's already significantly short-spaced to WOGL (98.1 Philadelphia) and several other stations.

"New Jersey 101.5" (WKXW-FM 101.5 Trenton/WKOE 106.3 Ocean City) has a new late-night talk host. "Tommy G," who replaces Michelle Jurson in the 11-3 slot, is Tom Gordon, former morning-show staffer at New York's Z100 and WQHT.

*Call it "Junior" - that's what Citadel says about its new format at WSJR (93.7 Dallas) in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, PENNSYLVANIA market. "JR 93.7" is doing country with voice talent that includes none other than Hank Williams, Junior. The station's now looking for an airstaff.

More bad news for station owner Doug Lane: he's now been charged with sexual abuse of a second boy, and prosecutors in Scranton say they have evidence tying him to seven other victims, though the statute of limitations has run out in those cases. Lane remains free on $100,000 bail - but prosecutors say they'll try to seize Lane's licenses for WWDL (104.9 Scranton), WICK (1400 Scranton) and WYCK (1340 Plains).

WZYY (106.9 Renovo) is being sold. Michael Stapleford's Magnum Broadcasting will pay Westview Communications $200,000 for the little station northwest of Williamsport.

In Pittsburgh, WCIX (660 Wilkinsburg) is on the air now with its regular programming, talk from Alex Langer's National Radio Network. KDKA (1020) has a new morning co-host, as KDKA-TV's John Shumway joins former Channel 2 colleague Larry Richert on the radio side. And we've neglected to mention the latest turn in the WQEX (Channel 16) saga: unable, thus far, to close a sale of the station, WQED will begin leasing it out to the America's Store home-shopping network on May 1.

One Auction 37 opportunity in Pennsylvania: 102.7A in Clarendon, with a proposed starting bid of $35,000.

*A few notes from CANADA: Chris Gordon is the new VP/GM of CHUM Group's Ottawa radio stations (Bob FM, Majic 100, CFRA and Team 1200). Up the Ottawa River Valley, Jon Pole and Andrew Dickson have been granted a new station in Renfrew; it'll run 1660 watts on 96.1.

In Hamilton, Jamie West (formerly of CHCH-TV) is the new midday talk host at Corus' CHML (900).

CHSR (97.9 Fredericton NB) gets a power increase: the university/community station goes from 50 watts at 28 meters to 250 watts at 48 meters.

And the CRTC has granted two new tourist-information stations in the Maritimes: the town of Truro, N.S. gets 107.1 with 1.8 watts, while Jack McGaw gets 96.1 in St. Stephen, N.B. with 50 watts; programming there will include information on the border crossing with Calais, Maine.

*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.

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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