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We're in week two of our Emergency Summer Fund Drive (for those of you just joining us, Mrs. NERW lost her job earlier this month and we enjoy eating and paying the mortgage too much to give it up completely as a result), and the response has been both overwhelming and underwhelming.

To those of you who've clicked that Paypal link or sent checks of any amount at all, we're truly grateful - and your kind words have helped, too.

We're hanging in there - but we still need all the rest of you to do your part as well to help keep independent media reporting and criticism alive and well as NERW approaches its tenth anniversary this fall.

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.

Why subject yourself to that nagging guilt? Contribute now, and make sure there'll still be a NERW. Thanks!

July 26, 2004

WWTI Pulls Plug on Newscasts

*Another upstate NEW YORK TV market is about to become a one-newscast operation. It's already happened to Utica, where Clear Channel cancelled the local news on WUTR (Channel 20) before selling the station completely. And now the beleaguered, ratings-challenged newscast on Clear Channel's WWTI (Channel 50) in Watertown is about to be cancelled for the second time in the station's short history.

Rumors have been flying for a while about the imminent end of WWTI's 6 and 11 PM newscasts, which have never even really challenged longtime market leader WWNY-TV (Channel 7) in the ratings; the station finally made it official this past week in a set of releases that tried to paint the move in the most positive terms possible.

To hear WWTI explain it, news won't be disappearing from channel 50's airwaves - it'll just be rearranged into 19 brief hourly and half-hourly news snippets (ending at 7:30 nightly) and local cut-ins on Good Morning America. The station will keep at least some of its news staff on duty, it says, even though after Friday, viewers will now see Entertainment Tonight at 6 and Frasier reruns at 11.

The move will, says WWTI, make the station "more competitive in a changing market place and changing industry."

In Albany, veteran morning man Bob Mason said farewell to the airwaves Friday, when he retired from his most recent gig on Galaxy's WRCZ (94.5 Ravena). Mason and partner Bill Sheehan made a name for themselves on WPYX (106.5) and later WQBK-FM (103.9) in the eighties; later on, the two were heard on the old WXCR (102.3) before leaving the airwaves for a while.

Mason returned as a solo act on WRCZ in 2001; he's now in his mid-fifties and apparently ready to hang up the headphones. The station will announce his replacement on Tuesday.

In New York, there are two new PDs at adjacent spots on the dial. To nobody's great surprise, Frankie Blue was officially named PD at Infinity's "Mix 102.7" WNEW, lending credit to the theory that the station's pretty well set on a rhythmic course. Down the dial, Blake Lawrence gets the PD chair at Emmis' smooth jazz WQCD (101.9), returning to broadcast radio after a stint with XM. (He was out west before that, at KKSF 103.7 in San Francisco, and he'd probably kill us for remembering his time at the old "Double 99" KDBK/KDBQ before that...)

Over on the AM dial, WABC (770) morning co-host Curtis Sliwa is now in hiding, after mobster John Gotti was indicted for attempting to murder the Guardian Angels founder back in 1992. It's not clear whether or when Sliwa will be rejoining Ron Kuby on WABC; he left the show midway through Friday's edition, with PD Phil Boyce filling in for the remainder of the broadcast.

Back upstate, WCBA-FM (98.7 Corning) has apparently dropped its simulcast of the AC music from sister WENY-FM (92.7 Elmira), which would explain why there was little mention of 98.7 on the simulcast when we last heard it a few months ago; we understand that WCBA-FM is now programming standards, simulcasting sister WCBA (1350 Corning).

And Cobleskill's WXBH (1190) has changed calls to WSDE; its website is promising new shows and more local news coming soon.

*Here at NERW Central, our radio has spent much of the weekend tuned to CANADA's newest FM signal.

Right across Lake Ontario from us, in the city once known as Trenton but now amalgamated into "Quinte West," CJTN (1270) signed on the new CJTN-FM (107.1) last Thursday, and it's been running a nonstop loop ever since of nothing but songs about radio. From the classic "Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)" all the way up to Nelly Furtado's (Cancon-friendly) "S**t on the Radio," CJTN-FM has been a fun listen - but we suspect the loop will give way to the real CJTN programming in a week or so, followed shortly by the sign-off of the AM signal. (Oh, and extra radio-geek bonus points to whoever at CJTN threw in a soundbite about the early days of FM radio from the Empire of the Air documentary - very cool!)

Up the road in Peterborough, Milkman UnLimited reports that the studios of CKRU (KRUZ 980)/CKWF (The Wolf 101.5) suffered some pretty nasty flooding last week, leaving the stations operating from temporary studios in a few station offices that escaped the worst of the damage.

With just over a month left in its license term, the fight over Quebec's CHOI (98.1) is far from over, at least not if the 50,000 people who turned out for a station rally on Thursday is any indication. The station dropped two hours of programming during the rally, broadcasting only the sound of a heartbeat.

The fight also isn't over between Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer Tie Domi and former CFGO (1200 The Team) talk host Don Romani; Domi filed a C$1.65 million lawsuit against Romani, the Ottawa station and its owner, CHUM, over Romani's remark (in the heat of the Leafs-Senators playoff battle this past spring) insinuating that Domi beat his wife. Romani was subsequently fired from CFGO.

*In MAINE, the statewide public broadcaster that's known corporately as the Maine Public Broadcasting Corporation and on air as "Maine PBS" and "Maine Public Radio" is going back to an earlier identity - it's becoming the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, or MPBN for short, the name it used before merging with the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin-owned WCBB-TV (Channel 10) some years back.

Steve Mindich will have to cough up $27,200 in penalties after a problematic FCC inspection of WPHX (1220) and WPHX-FM (92.1) in Sanford. The FCC originally proposed $17,000 in fines against each station after finding that there was nobody home at the "main studio" in Sanford and that the public file was being kept at the Portland Phoenix offices in Portland. The stations tried to get the fine knocked in half, saying it was redundant to fine each one separately, and while the FCC rejected that argument, it did reduce the fines to $13,600 for each station because of FNX's generally good record with the commission.

*In southern NEW HAMPSHIRE, WSNH (900 Nashua) is running promos that rather prominently mention the old Boston WMEX calls; we hear something's about to change there, and we'll keep you posted.

*The selloff of the Vox group continued this week in VERMONT, where Rutland-market classic rock simulcast WEXP (101.5 Brandon)/WVAY (100.7 Wilmington) is going to ever-growing New England operator Nassau Broadcasting for $2.5 million. The sale will put WEXP/WVAY back under the same roof as the 10 other Vermont and New Hampshire stations Vox sold to Nassau earlier this year (NERW, March 22), and it brings Nassau's station count in New England to 32 signals.

Over in the Upper Valley, Vermont Public Radio officially launched its new all-classical service on WNCH (88.1 Norwich) last Tuesday; here's wishing it success as VPR joins the ranks of the two-signal public radio crowd.

*It's all-convention, all the time in MASSACHUSETTS this week, and we're pretty sure that the last thing the local broadcasters needed was Friday's warning of potential terrorist threats to the live trucks surrounding the Fleet Center, not to mention the bills for all the additional security being put in place to protect them.

Amidst all that, a few tidbits of Bay State news: Dave Douglas, late of WAAF (107.3 Westborough), is the new PD at business-talk WBIX (1060 Natick), which continues to test its new night signal from the WAMG (890 Dedham) site in Ashland. And out west in Pittsfield, Sharon Steele returns to WBEC-FM (105.5), where she used to be PD and afternoon jock, to be "Big" Mike Patrick's morning co-host.

*In RHODE ISLAND, WCNX (1180 Hope Valley) is off the air "for a week or two" while its tower is being replaced.

*CONNECTICUT's "KC101" (WKCI 101.3 Hamden) is losing its PD; Danny Ocean is heading down to Memphis to be PD at the huge AC signal that is "FM 100," WMC-FM (99.7 Memphis).

*In southeastern PENNSYLVANIA, Hy Lit is a radio legend - and the plaintiff in a discrimination suit against Infinity's WOGL (98.1 Philadelphia). Lit says once he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, WOGL gradually reduced his pay from $140,000 a year to $35,000, then fired him completely and hired him back as a casual (i.e., no benefits) at $700 a week.

Lit, 71, who's still heard on WOGL on Sundays, is charging Infinity with discrimination on the basis of both age and disability; we'll keep you posted as this one works its way through the courts.

And we're very sorry to report the death on Friday (7/23) of Tom Ranker, VP/GM of Susquehanna's York stations, WSBA (910), WSOX (96.1 Red Lion) and WARM-FM (103.3). Ranker had been with Susquehanna since 1971; he was just 56 years old.

*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.)

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 is copyright 2004 by Scott Fybush.