May 17, 2004
Remembering Nick Berg
*Nick Berg's name and his tragic story have
been all over the national headlines this week - but for many
radio folks in PENNSYLVANIA, NEW YORK and NEW
JERSEY, the tower worker who was beheaded in Iraq is more
than just a name in the papers.
Before Berg headed over to Iraq earlier this year, he was
up in the air (and down on the ground) at tower sites all over
the region, operating as "Prometheus Tower Service"
at sites that included Ingraham Hill in Binghamton (where he
installed the new WHWK 98.1 antenna, apparently his last job
in the U.S.), WNGZ in Montour Falls, N.Y., the New Jersey Meadowlands
and WPLY in Philadelphia, where our friend Mark Humphrey recently
used Berg to install a new auxiliary antenna.
Nick impressed me as a very bright, resourceful and dedicated
individual who cared a great deal about improving our quality
of life by applying his skills and knowledge. Nick not only possessed
the necessary physical ability and stamina to do the job, but
had also studied engineering at Drexel, Penn, and Cornell, so
I felt very comfortable letting him handle our work. I knew that
he wanted to grow his own business, and I felt obligated to give
him that opportunity.
He had all sorts of ideas to bring technology to less-developed
parts of the world, including a concrete tower which could be
fabricated in remote parts of the world using locally-available
materials, thus avoiding the problems of shipping steel in the
absence of a good transportation network.
In fact, at last year's PAB Engineering Conference in Hershey,
he and his father (who served as business manager of the company)
displayed a prototype modular structure called "Bovl Blocks",
made of interlocking concrete blocks that could be cast on site,
then stacked to the desired height. He thought this product would
be particularly useful in the African interior, where cellular
networks are just beginning to be built out.
Why did he go to Iraq?
He was aware that some towers were damaged last year during
bombing missions, and many more had been looted... copper lines
removed, diagonal members taken out, etc. Few obstruction lighting
systems were functional -- he mentioned an 800 foot tower two
miles from an airport (used by our military) that was totally
dark. So he first went over in December to see if he could help
to assist in the reconstruction, restore Iraq's broadcast services,
and repair the serious structural damage that endangered the
lives of their citizens.
I received the following email message from Nick in early
Iraq- I am taking photos - where allowed. It's actually pretty
sad - I just got off one of two 320 meter monster towers in Abu
Gharib (also home to the main political prison) which use to
support most of Baghdad area's VHF and UHF. Both have been badly
looted, including 4000 feet or more of flexible 6-1/8" heliax,
two full 12X4 panel TV antennas, and even some structural members.
I was also in the North as I mentioned, but here there wasn't
as much damage. I'll definitely share some of these pix with
you and others next time I'm in the area - I'd love to put together
a little presentation for SBE or PAB in about six monthes after
I've been on every site and fixed some of them."
He returned to Philadelphia in late January to catch up
on some domestic business -- then in early February, tackled
an antenna replacement job at our aux site, which he had quoted
last summer. This proved to be more complicated than either of
us had first assumed (a three-bay DA with two vertical and four
horizontal parasites per bay) but he honored his original quote.
The work took place in sub-zero windchills... my feet were getting
plenty cold just standing out in the cornfield as we aligned
the azimuth, it must have been brutal up on the tower, but he
took it in stride.
After Nick completed assembly and we purged the system,
I ran the pressure up to 5 PSI and closed the valve on the nitrogen
tank. I came out at 430 AM the next morning to run some power
into the new antenna, and as the transmitter ramped up to full
output, I saw *zero* reflected. (I tapped the meter to make sure
it wasn't stuck!) We had a perfect installation, no split or
missing bullets, etc. And I haven't seen *any* pressure loss
since then (actually, the gage reads between 7 and 8 now, due
to the warmer weather.)
I knew that Nick was planning to return to Irag in March,
but hadn't heard any word from him over the past two months,
which had me concerned. Then I received the message from his
parents and my heart sunk. I was at lunch when the news broke
about his brutal murder, and I was devastated.
If you've been following all sides of this story, you may
have read that his parents did not receive much cooperation from
our Federal Government when trying to learn his whereabouts,
which is very disturbing. He had reportedly booked a March 30
flight back to New York, but missed it because he had been detained
by our military. The "spin" on the story is that they
told him to get out, but I'm not buying that.
Let's keep his family in our thoughts and prayers. Our
industry (and humanity) has lost a very fine person.
NERW echoes Mark's sentiments, and our prayers are with the
Berg family. We're keeping tabs on an industry effort to create
a scholarship in Nick Berg's memory, and we hope to have details
to provide by next week's issue.
*Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, Pegasus Communications is converting
its time-brokerage agreement with WSWB (Channel 38) in Scranton
to outright ownership, asking the FCC for permission to buy the
WB affiliate from KB Prime Media for just over $2 million. Some
history here: Pegasus used to own channel 38, when it was Fox
affiliate WOLF-TV. In 1998, Pegasus moved WOLF's Hazleton satellite
signal, WWLF (Channel 56) north to the Penobscot Mountain antenna
farm that's home to the rest of the market's big signals, moving
the WOLF-TV calls to channel 56 and selling channel 38 to KB
Prime Media, which then contracted out to Pegasus for operation
of what became WSWB.
Pegasus is also in the process of buying out its other TBA
with KB Prime, WPME (Channel 35) in Lewiston, Maine. It's asking
the FCC to approved the duopoly operation of WOLF-TV and WSWB
under the "failing station rule," since it contends
that WSWB would be unable to survive as a standalone operation
in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market.
The rest of the news from the Keystone State this week is
all about translators. Five new ones were granted: W282AP (104.3
Bloomsburg), to relay WKAB (103.5 Berwick); W281AG (104.1 Waynesburg)
and W286AL (105.1 Waynesburg), to relay WKJL (88.1 Clarksburg
WV) and WRIJ (106.9 Masontown PA) respectively; and W254AV (98.7
Kittanning) and W253AL (98.5 Butler), both to relay WPCL (93.7
Northern Cambria, formerly Spangler).
And there are more applications that were accepted for filing:
100.9 Folstown (to relay WKAB), 94.7 Punxsutawney and 107.7 Du
Bois (to relay WDSN 106.5 Reynoldsville-Du Bois), 101.7 Whites
Crossing (WYCY 105.3 Hawley), 103.7 Hamburg (WBYN 107.5 Boyertown),
106.1 New Cumberland (WXPH 88.1 Harrisburg), 102.9 Carbondale
(WXPN 88.5 Philadelphia), 103.1 Towanda and 103.5 Wyalusing (both
for WPGP 88.3 Tafton).
*There's a new FM station on the air in NEW
JERSEY: WJPG (88.1 Cape May Court House) signed on a few
days ago, simulcasting the contemporary Christian music of WJPH
A bit of a mystery in Piscataway: the FCC has apparently rescinded
the renewal grant for WVPH (90.3), the high school station there.
WVPH has filed a petition for reconsideration of the recission,
and we'll keep you posted.
And one translator application made the list this week: 105.5
Atlantic Highlands, to relay WHTG-FM (106.3 Eatontown).
*Some talent on the move in upstate NEW YORK this
week: at Clear Channel's WYYY (94.5 Syracuse), the husband-and-wife
morning team of Pete Michaels and Brenda Bisset are out after
three years, replaced by Rick Gary (of sister station WIXT-TV)
and Kathy Rowe, who moves to mornings from middays. Replacing
Rowe is Marne Mason, formerly of Galaxy's WTKW (99.5 Bridgeport)/WTKV
(105.5 Oswego); she'll also be Y94's assistant program director.
And replacing Mason alongside Glenn "Gomez" Addams
in mornings on TK99 will be Galaxy programming honcho Mimi Griswold.
Meanwhile down in Binghamton, Heather Black is out as morning
co-host on WHWK (98.1), with Glenn Pitcher flying solo for now.
In Rochester, our flies on the wall at the WRUR (88.5 Rochester)
staff meeting last week report there were a lot of unhappy student
and volunteer DJs, as you'd expect from anyone who now has to
tape their shows two weeks in advance. And with no University
of Rochester officials at the meeting to defend their policy
decision, we hear station manager Jared Lapin bore the brunt
of the criticism. (We also hear that he's the one who'll have
to sit there and review all those taped shows before they can
When WRUR's new schedule debuts June 1, we're told it will
feature more of a block arrangement of programming, with specialty
shows on the weekend, rock in the afternoon, oldies in the early
evening, metal later at night and most urban-oriented programming
after midnight, a time slot that didn't sit well with some of
the jocks at the meeting. WRUR has also ramped up its simulcast
of news-talk WXXI (1370), with much of WXXI's midday lineup being
heard on 88.5 as of early last week.
Thus far, there's been little or no public outcry about the
changes, but that may change next week when the alternative weekly
City runs an article about WRUR's new mega-delay.
(We're not holding our collective breath for the daily Democrat
and Chronicle to pay any more attention to WRUR than
it does to the rest of the radio scene locally.)
You can read the letter from the university to the students
by the way.
And on the translator front, "Radio Assist Ministries"
(which, we're told in an e-mail from KAWZ station manager Don
Mills, was founded by a former Calvary Satellite Network employee
who left the station three years ago and has nothing to do with
CSN/KAWZ) has been granted W295AM (106.9 Batavia), which will
relay WZXV (99.7 Palmyra), which belongs to the Calvary Chapel
of the Finger Lakes and carries some, but not all, CSN programming.
Down in Bath, Robert Pfuntner's Pembrook Pines has been granted
W261AG (100.1) to relay WVIN-FM (98.3 Bath). And Saranac Lake
Radio (WYZY 106.3) has applications posted for 101.1 Dannemora
and 105.9 Schuyler Falls.
news from eastern MASSACHUSETTS, and you read it first
here in NorthEast Radio Watch: this fall's schedule at WBZ-TV
(Channel 4) in Boston won't include news at 5 PM weekdays. Instead,
NERW has learned that "CBS4" plans to move Dr. Phil
from 3 PM to 5 PM (it can't air at 4 PM, against Oprah on WCVB
Channel 5), where it will replace the hour of news that's been
airing there for years. WBZ will then launch a 4 PM newscast
to challenge WHDH-TV (Channel 7), which now has the local news
audience to itself that early in the afternoon. (And we hear
WBZ-TV will have a new news director very soon, too, as Jacques
Natz returns to town from WTHR in Indianapolis to take over Peter
Brown's old job; Natz is well-remembered in Boston for his stint
at WHDH in the nineties.)
Out in western Massachusetts,
Vox closed on its $2.025 million purchase of the three Berkshire
Broadcasting stations last week, adding WNAW (1230 North Adams),
WMNB (100.1 North Adams) and WSBS (860 Great Barrington) to a
cluster that already includes WUHN (1110 Pittsfield), WBEC (1420
Pittsfield), WUPE (95.9 Pittsfield) and WBEC-FM (105.5 Pittsfield),
though the latter has a pending application to move out of the
market to Easthampton.
And we hear that the leased-time Spanish religion on WCAT
(700 Orange) has been replaced with a simulcast of talk WGAW
(1340 Gardner) - and that the 700 transmitter's been on the air
past sunset quite a bit...
HAMPSHIRE's independent TV station is changing hands, as
CTV of Derry applies to sell WNDS (Channel 50) to Diane Sutter's
ShootingStar. Sutter is a former Pittsburgh TV executive who
made an unsuccessful attempt to buy WQEX (Channel 16) from WQED
a couple of years ago; no word yet on what her plans for WNDS
Meanwhile, WNDS evening news co-anchor Cherilee Budrick left
the station last week.
A new translator for Radio Assist Ministries in the Granite
State: W294AP (106.7 Claremont) will supposedly pick up the yet-to-be-built
WKVJ (89.7 Dannemora NY) over the air, 90 miles or so across
the Green Mountains of Vermont (and with the 100,000 watts of
Boston's WGBH just off the back end of the receiving antenna,
*All the translator action in VERMONT
comes from Vermont Public Radio this week: VPR was granted W228BL
(93.5 South Bennington), W266AK (101.1 Rupert) and W295AL (106.9
Woodstock), and its applications for 98.9 Montgomery and 107.5
Sharon were approved for filing.
*In MAINE, Carter Broadcasting applies
to sell WLLB-LP (Channel 15) in Portland to the Word of God Fellowship.
*The FCC dismissed the application from WADK
(1540) in Newport, RHODE ISLAND to add 20 kW at night
to its 1 kW daytime signal.
And we've neglected to mention the blossoming of the DTV dial
in the Ocean State: within the last few weeks, WJAR-DT (Channel
51) and WLNE-DT (Channel 49) have signed on with NBC and ABC
HDTV programming from their shared site at the WJAR transmitter
in Rehoboth, Mass., right around the corner from WPRI-DT (Channel
13), Rhode Island's first DTV station. Next up will be WSBE-DT
(Channel 21), also from the WJAR site. (NERW notes that the debut
of WLNE-DT from the Rehoboth site means the end to the long signal
disadvantage that the New Bedford-licensed station has always
had vis-a-vis its Providence competition - but will that change
the station's perception among viewers as a perennial also-ran
in the market?)
*Chris Conley is leaving CONNECTICUT:
the WICC (600 Bridgeport) assignment editor is heading to WSAU
(550 Wausau WI) to do news out there.
*Some big changes are on the way to CANADA's
French-language public radio scene. Radio-Canada announced last
week that it's restructuring its program lineup this fall, adding
12 hours of cultural programming to its "premiere chaine"
service and completely reworking its "chaine culturelle"
network (the old Radio-Canada FM stereo network that's gradually
been expanding across the country and adding transmitters in
Quebec and New Brunswick.)
Currently a haven for highbrow classical and jazz programming,
the "chaine culturelle" will get a new (yet-to-be-announced)
name and a new program schedule this fall. The classical and
jazz will remain during the day, but late nights will be dedicated
to listeners aged 16-34, with a "new focus on musical diversity"
in the programming.
(NERW notes: now that pretty much all of the "premiere
chaine," save for transmitters in Toronto and Winnipeg,
has migrated to the FM dial, that network can take over some
of the musical programming that was once exclusively the province
of the old FM network. Could the CBC's English-language networks
be similarly restructured down the road?)
And the Toronto Maple Leafs may be out of the Stanley Cup
race this year, but the team has something to celebrate: it's
signed a seven-year deal to extend its association with Corus'
CFMJ (Mojo Radio 640). (And NERW notes that the Rochester Americans
are still very much alive in the AHL's Calder Cup playoffs...)
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.
If you haven't ordered yet, what are you waiting for? 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?)
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
Thanks for your support!
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
2004 by Scott Fybush.