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Our thanks to those of you who have checked in with support to help ensure the continued existence of NERW, in the wake of Mrs. NERW's job loss (and the consequent loss of our health-care benefits.)

We truly are grateful to those of you who are doing your part to make sure we can afford to keep NERW going as it approaches its tenth anniversary this fall - and we're still waiting to hear from the (literally) thousands of you who read this column every week without chipping in.

Even if it's less than our suggested donation amounts (see our Support page for more details), every little bit really, truly helps us in our mission to document radio and TV in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada from a distinctly independent point of view.

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July 19, 2004

CRTC Silences Quebec's CHOI-FM

*While the FCC and Congress pursue a strategy of regulating broadcast content through driving station owners into bankruptcy, broadcast regulators in CANADA pulled out the big gun last week, declining to renew the license of Genex's CHOI-FM (98.1 Quebec City) when it expires at the end of August.

As you may recall, the modern rock station had been operating on a short-term (two years instead of seven) renewal after initially running afoul with the CRTC over the usual Canadian issues of missing logger tapes and too much English-language musical content. More recently, as we've been reporting here in NERW, the CRTC put the station under tough scrutiny over the comments of its top-rated morning host, Jeff Fillion.

Fillion is a sort of Quebecois Howard Stern (though the Quebecois might prefer to think of Stern as an Anglo Fillion), taking on pretty much any target that pleases him in a take-no-prisoners fashion. Most notably, at least where the CRTC is concerned, he'd been feuding on the air with Robert Gillet, former morning host of rival CJMF (93.3 Quebec City), attacking Gillet for his role in a widely-publicized teen prostitution scandal that's been the talk of tout Quebec for a while now.

The Gillet incident prompted several dozen complaints to the CRTC - and while Fillion's fans (egged on by Fillion himself) responded with more than 9,000 interventions in support of the station, the CRTC doesn't go by public opinion on such matters. Indeed, its chairman said the agency felt it had "no other option" but to pull CHOI's license, forcing the station to go silent on August 31.

Genex owner Patrice Demers - who also owns CKNU (100.9) in the small town of Donnacona, west of Quebec City, says the move will leave 35 people jobless and cost him C$25 million (the estimated value of the station he bought in 1996 for C$2 million, when it was at the bottom of the ratings), and he's getting ready to go to court - and to Parliament - to fight the CRTC's move.

Meanwhile, the CRTC has already posted a call for applications for what it now considers a vacant 98.1 facility in Quebec City.

This promises to be one of the more interesting media battles North America has seen in a while; we'll be following it closely.

*Elsewhere in Canada, Milkman UnLimited reports that Kevin McGowan has resigned as morning drive host at CKKL (Bob 93.9) in Ottawa.

*Meanwhile in MASSACHUSETTS, we have a fascinating example of just how different broadcasting regulators really are across the US/Canadian border. While Canadian regulators barely blush at sexual content, they come down hard on anything that they find demeaning to an individual or an ethnic group. But even as the FCC works itself up over the slightest hint of sexual content that might be offensive to some community, somewhere, it's letting WTKK (96.9 Boston) off the hook for the comments made by Jay Severin back in April.

According to the complaints the FCC received, Severin told listeners, "I believe that Muslims in this country are a fifth column...You believe that we should befriend them. I think we should kill them."

The FCC declined to act on the complaints, saying that no court had ruled that Severin's comments posed a "clear and present danger" to public safety - and that they're thus covered under the First Amendment.

Across town at rival talker WRKO (680 Boston), a new voice is coming to the daytime schedule, as John DePetro moves north from his longtime perch at WHJJ (920 Providence) to replace Pat Whitley in the weekday 9-noon slot. Whitley will keep his weekend shows, including his long-running restaurant show, but he's edging towards retirement - so in comes one of Rhode Island's most popular talkers.

And both WTKK and WRKO will be spared some new competition, at least for now, thanks to the Newton Board of Aldermen and the rather politically active neighbors in the Oak Hill neighborhood. The aldermen unanimously denied the application of WUNR (1600 Brookline) to take down its two (painted and lit) 350-foot towers and replace them with five (unpainted, unlit) 199-foot towers - and, oh yes, to up its own power from 5 kW to 20 kW and add 50 kW of WKOX (1200 Framingham, moving to Newton) and 25 kW of WRCA (1330 Waltham, moving to Watertown) to the mix.

Wealthy neighbors being wealthy neighbors, the opposition to the plan was predictably both fierce and paranoid - and, so help us, the aldermen bought the argument that 95 kW of RF beaming forth from the proposed triplexed site would somehow damage the "mental health" of the neighborhood, notwithstanding a really well-done report by David Maxson's Broadcast Signal Lab that concluded, to nobody's great surprise, that the proposed facility would be well within RFR guidelines.

So - at least for now - WRCA will remain at its Waltham location with 5 kW and WKOX will stay in Framingham with 10 kW (thwarting Clear Channel's plans to make 1200 into a Boston-market talk outlet), while all parties concerned get ready to take the matter to court.

(And NERW wonders - what if WUNR had applied just to do the tower work, without adding the additional stations or upping power, and WKOX and WRCA had simply moved in later, once the towers were up and there wasn't much Newton could have done about it?)

Meanwhile, over at WEEI (850 Boston), Jason Wolfe gets promoted from PD to director of programming and operations.

And anyone who's ever worked at the 1570 in Beverly, whether it was WMLO or WBVD or WNSH at the time, is invited to a reunion that's being planned by Doug Mascott, a current WNSH'er. Contact him at if you qualify...

*A couple of RHODE ISLAND call changes escaped our attention in last week's issue: WADK-FM (99.3 Block Island) is now WJZS, in keeping with its jazzy "Swing FM" image - and WJJF (1180 Hope Valley) is now WCNX, since station namesake John J. Fuller no longer owns the place. (And yes, we're aware that WCNX is the old call for 1150 Middletown CT, now WMRD...)

Over at WSNE (93.3 Taunton MA), middayer Courtney Young is heading south - she's joining the airstaff at WBGG-FM (105.9 Fort Lauderdale/Miami).

*VERMONT Public Radio officially launches its new service on Tuesday morning. "VPR Classical" is on WNCH (88.1 Norwich), with plans to expand across the rest of the state in the years to come; most programming will come by satellite at first, though VPR music host Walter Parker will be heard mid-morning and VPR head honcho Mark Vogelzang will be heard on Sundays with "Sunday Bach."

*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Valerie Knight is moving on from her job as PD of WGIR-FM (101.1 Manchester), heading west to the Saga cluster in Springfield, Illinois to be operations manager. Jason Russell takes over as interim PD.

And Edgewater Broadcasting gets a CP for W233AY (94.5 Plymouth), which will supposedly relay WMSJ (89.3 Freeport ME) over the air, quite a feat of DXing indeed. (We're really eager to hear from readers about whether some of these dubious translators are actually on the air, and if they're relaying the stations they claim to be relaying; it's no great secret that many of these applications were filed in hopes that the FCC will allow translators in the commercial band to be fed by satellite, something it hasn't yet approved.)

*In CONNECTICUT, there's a new morning man on WWYZ (92.5 Waterbury), as Jim Bosh replaces the departing Dave Mester alongside Cory Myers. Bosh comes from WCEN (94.5 Hemlock/Saginaw MI); he's a veteran of the old "W4 Country" (WWWW 106.7 Detroit), KWJJ (99.5 Portland OR), WBEN-FM/WMJQ (102.5 Buffalo NY) and, yeah, WJDM (1530 Elizabeth NJ) too.

*In NEW JERSEY, WPST (97.5 Trenton) ops manager Dave McKay gets promoted to Nassau's corporate associate director of programming; he'll still be responsible for WPST's programming.

*A format change in NEW YORK's Capital District: Crawford Broadcasting pulled the plug on oldies at WPTR (96.7 Clifton Park) on Friday, replacing it with contemporary Christian "Pulse 96.7."

Down I-88 in that netherworld just outside Binghamton and Oneonta, BanJo Communications is selling its eight-station group to Double O Radio, whose owners include MTV founder Bob Pittman, Bob Sherman and Terry Bond. For $9.75 million, Double O gets AC powerhouse WKXZ (93.9 Norwich), "Big Kat Country" WBKT (95.3 Norwich)/WDLA-FM (92.1 Walton), standards WCHN (970 Norwich) and WDLA (1270 Walton), oldies WDHI (100.3 Delhi) and WIYN (94.7 Deposit) and classic hits WZOZ (103.1 Oneonta).

It's been a while since the FCC has red-flagged a station sale, but those inscrutable folks at the Portal saw something they didn't like in the proposed sale of Nassau's WXPK (107.1 Briarcliff Manor) to Pamal, and so it's been flagged for a market-concentration study.

Pamal owns a pretty big cluster to the north of WXPK, but its only other Westchester County outlets are WHUD (100.7) and WLNA (1420) in Peekskill, and WXPK itself overlaps much of the big, wild New York City media market and its many ownership voices, so we'd expect the sale to go through sooner or later.

In New York itself, WBBR (1130 New York) has signed up for a season of Islanders hockey, bringing play-by-play man John Wiedeman and color commentator Chris King back for another season - assuming, of course, that there is a season...

In Syracuse, Erin Bristol has departed as PD of WWDG (105.1 DeRuyter); no word on a replacement yet.

And the folks behind, the tribute site to one of America's great little top 40 voices (WOLF 1490 Syracuse, of course), are working on an August 7 reunion of the jocks who made that little 250-watt (directional!) teapot sing through the fifties, sixties and seventies. The event will include a three-hour on-air reunion on WOLF, now a Radio Disney affiliate, as well as a full-fledged get-together. (Get in touch with Bob Mitchell at the site if you're a "lost alum" of the Big 15!)

In the Southern Tier, WXXI is shuffling the programming on satellite outlet WJSL (90.3 Houghton) at the beginning of August. Instead of being a full-time simulcast of classical WXXI-FM (91.5 Rochester), WJSL will begin breaking away from 6-8 AM and 4-6 PM on weekdays to carry NPR news programming from WXXI (1370 Rochester). It'll also carry Weekend Edition from 8-10 AM Saturdays. (Why break the simulcast now? Because WJSL can now be fed over a subcarrier of WXXI-DT 16 instead of over-the-air from 91.5...)

And our friends at WYSL (1040 Avon), the all-news outlet just south of Rochester, are looking to ramp up their news operation (even as they're hoping to boost their power to 20 kW by day); they're eager to hear from talented news people (with some experience) at 585-346-3000 or (Tell 'em NERW sent you!)

*Our PENNSYLVANIA news this week is all about Pittsburgh: Eddie Crow and Jim Junker are the new midday (10-1) hosts on WEAE (1250 Pittsburgh), displacing Tim Benz to night duty on ESPN 1250.

Another former 'Burgh sports host, Thor Tolo of KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh), has resurfaced on the other side of the country: he's the new host of "Live from Seattle" on religious talker KGNW (820 Burien WA).

And just a few months after signing on, WCIX (660 Wilkinsburg) already has new calls: WPYT.

*Finally, we know it's now July - but perhaps a bargain price will convince you that you still need a 2004 calendar. After all, the 2004 Tower Site Calendar is more than just a bunch of boxes with dates in them - it's also a collection of some of the niftiest broadcast transmission facilities in North America.

Still on the way for later this year are WMT Cedar Rapids IA, WPTF Raleigh NC, WAJR Morgantown WV, the mighty 12-tower night site of 1190 in Dallas (KFXR, at least this week), Lookout Mountain in Denver (shown at left), CKLW in Windsor and WBT in Charlotte, not to mention lots of fun anniversary dates for stations large (Channel 9 in New York) and small (WFAR Farrell PA).

And as we get ready to put the 2005 edition of the calendar into production, we're offering a special deal to clear out our stock of 2004 calendars. For just $8 postpaid (New York orders add 66 cents sales tax for a total of $8.66), you can still own a 2004 Tower Site Calendar.

Maybe you need an extra for the office, or you've marked up your copy and you'd like a pristine one to stash away, or perhaps you've been meaning to get one as a gift for that special someone. Or perhaps you're just cheap (hey, this is radio, after all!) Doesn't matter; the point is, this is your best chance to get a 2004 Tower Site Calendar at a bargain price.

Order this week, and we'll even throw in a third calendar, free, if you order two. (That's $16 postpaid, $17.32 in New York State!)

We'll also throw in an extra calendar, free, for anyone who subscribes to NERW at the $60 level. Remember, your support is what keeps NERW coming to you week after week.

Now what more could you want? Perhaps a 2005 calendar, chock-full of pretty pictures of stations like WBBR, KXNT, WDEL and WDEV? Just hang tight for a few weeks - next year's edition will be available for ordering soon, and we'll be shipping by early September this year!

Order the 2004 Tower Site Calendar at our special clearance price of $8! (US and Canada only - e-mail us for overseas ordering information.)
...or subscribe to NERW at the $60 level and get a FREE 2004 Tower Site Calendar

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 ($0.66 per calendar) for New York state calendar orders only, 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 2004 by Scott Fybush.