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August 23, 2004

Rochester Loses Pete Dobrovitz

*It was a week of obituaries, and you'll forgive us, we hope, if we begin our report in NEW YORK and remember one of the editor's former bosses, Pete Dobrovitz, who died Tuesday (August 17) at 51.

Pete's long career in Rochester TV news began in 1975, when he graduated from Marquette University and went to work for WROC-TV (Channel 8). Over the next fifteen years, he hit the "grand slam" of local TV news, as he'd later put it, working as well for WOKR (Channel 13), where he launched the station's 5:30 newscast, and for WHEC-TV (Channel 10), where he served as the station's "Action Team" reporter.

Then, in 1990, he made the big move from broadcast to cable, joining what was then Greater Rochester Cablevision to create a 10 PM newscast for cable-only indie "WGRC-TV 5."

Pete then built his daily half-hour into something new called "R News," expanding it to six hours daily, then 12, then swallowing the rest of the station (by then "GRC 9") completely to become a 24-hour local cable news channel in July 1995, something utterly unprecedented in a market as small as Rochester. (Only New York's New York 1 was doing 24-hour local news sooner.)

And it's largely Pete's fault that you're now reading "NorthEast Radio Watch" and not "New England Radio Watch," for it was his job offer in late 1996 that moved me from Boston's WBZ to R News. Ironically, Pete was gone from R News just days after my arrival, the result of a disupte over editorial independence, a recurring problem in a newsroom owned by a cable company with no real experience in doing news.

But what he left behind was awfully impressive - the kind of TV newsroom that reporters and photographers dream of working at. Pete wasn't big on fancy sets or graphics, he loathed "personality" promos, but he placed a huge value on quality storytelling, giving his staff the time and resources they needed to cover their community deeply and honestly, wuthout ever needing to worry about ratings. (It says something, especially in a mid-seventies-size market, that four of the original photog staffers, several reporter/anchors and a number of producers and crew members who started with WGRC back in 1990 are still there almost 15 years later; others have moved on to bigger things everywhere from Schenectady to Louisville to Cleveland to Minneapolis to Denver to North Carolina's public TV network.)

Pete left broadcast news after R News - what do you do next after you've built your dream newsroom, after all? - and after taking a stab at consulting, landed a job as executive director of the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters office.

Alas, Pete's health was never good. He underwent kidney transplants in 1986 (which he covered on WHEC), again in the mid-nineties (which he covered on R News) and once again just a few years ago, and he had reportedly spent the last few months in the hospital.

It was typical Pete that he didn't want a funeral; instead, his friends will gather Tuesday night to remember him at a party.

*Another obituary this week comes from Buffalo, where Warren P. Smith, Jr., known to viewers and listeners as "Clip," was killed Saturday (8/21) in a car crash in Niagara County.

Smith began his broadcast career in the sixties at WUSJ (now WLVL) in Lockport, then went to Buffalo's WKBW-TV (Channel 7), where he did sports from 1971 until 1988. From there he returned to radio, working at WGR (550) for a decade and then at WBEN (930) until his job was eliminated in a cost-cutting move in 2002.

Smith was also active in politics, running for mayor of Lockport and serving on both the city council and the school board there.

Clip Smith was 63.

*Some non-obituary news from around the Empire State this week: WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays) will pay homage to its namesake, the old WLIR (92.7 Garden City), with a tribute on Labor Day weekend that will bring back the station's original jocks, music and promos.

In New York City, WNEW (Mix 102.7) moves Rick Stacy from afternoons into morning drive, with a co-host to be named later (but strongly rumored to be RuPaul). Efron Sifuentes will follow from 9 to 1, then Carol Ford from 1 to 4 and Paco Lopez from 4 to 8.

Translator news: Family Life Network has been granted new translators at 94.7 (W234AZ) in Brighton, 95.9 (W240BP) in Spencerport and 94.1 (W231BK) in Oswego, further crowding the already-jammed upstate FM dial.

Down in Avon, WYSL (1040)'s application for a power boost to 20 kW daytime has been dismissed, but we don't think we've seen the last of Bob Savage's attempts to raise power there.

On the TV dial, WHEC-TV (Channel 10) finally launched its new on-air look late last Sunday night. Over in Syracuse, WTVH (Channel 5) spent the weekend off the air, apparently suffering problems with its antenna up there in Sentinel Heights.

And speaking of TV, a license to cover was issued last week for WMHT-DT (Channel 34) in Schenectady.

*A veteran of the NEW HAMPSHIRE broadcast scene has died. Maury Parent was closely associated with both of Nashua's AM stations over the years, first at WOTW (900/106.3), then moving over to WSMN (1590) when WOTW went dark in the eighties, then returning to the revived AM 900 under its later incarnations as WMVU, WOTW and WSNH. (Most recently, he was hosting the morning show on WSMN.) Parent served as GM of both stations at one time or another, but was probably best known for his weekend show that served the area's large Francophone population. (It's heard on WSNH.) He was on his way to a remote Thursday when he suffered a heart attack and died behind the wheel; he was 72.

Up in Manchester, Charlie Sherman is the new host of the morning show on WGIR (610), which is simulcast on WTSL 1400 Lebanon, WGIP 1540 Exeter and WGIN 930 Rochester. Sherman, last seen as sports anchor on WMUR (Channel 9), replaces Mike Ball, whose last show was August 11.

*In MAINE, WGAN (560 Portland) has filled the morning slot left empty by the death of Mike McCardle. Mike Violette left WVOM (103.9 Howland) on Friday and will start at WGAN August 30.

*Some LPFM action in VERMONT: the FCC has accepted applications from Green Mountain Broadcasting (106.9 Wilmington), Peace and Justice Center (105.9 Burlington) and Christian Hill Educational Fellowship (106.7 Halifax); if no objections are received within 30 days, those stations will get construction permits.

*In MASSACHUSETTS, WBIX (1060 Natick) has won program test authority from the FCC, allowing it to begin using its new night facilities at reduced power.

Out west, the "Quinn and Cantara" morning show is history at WLZX (99.3 Northampton), with the Saga modern rocker dismissing the pair after last Tuesday's show. Quinn had been at the station (then WHMP-FM) since 1998; Cantara since 2000.

*In southern NEW JERSEY, WXXY (88.7 Port Republic) flipped from its distinctive all-80s format to ABC's satellite-delivered "Rejoice" black gospel programming last week. The station's website says it hopes to bring back the 80s pop as a streaming service soon.

*A PENNSYLVANIA radio station owner will go to trial on charges that he molested a young boy. A judge upheld all of the 19 counts against Doug Lane, owner of WWDL (104.9 Scranton)/WICK (1400 Scranton)/WYCK (1340 Plains), last week. Lane is free on bail while his case is being heard.

Over on the other end of the state, Corry Broadcasting's WEYZ (1530 North East) is changing hands. It's now WYNE, and it's simulcasting Mercyhurst College fine arts outlet WMCE (88.5 Erie) - though former sister station WWCB (1370 Corry) continues to ID "WEYZ North East" at the top of the hour, too!

Two new Pennsylvania FM allocations have been reserved for noncommercial use. 107.5A at Liberty and 93.3A at Susquehanna will show up in a future window for noncommercial applications.

On the LPFM front, the FCC clears an application from "M&M Community Development - Pittsburgh" for 103.9 in Springdale, and if no objections are received in 30 days, that application will be granted. (NERW notes: we'd thought most of M&M's many LPFM applications around the country had been withdrawn after questions arose about possible violations of the "one-to-an-owner" LPFM rule.)

Meanwhile over in translator land, the FCC grants Family Life Network four new ones: W284BG (104.7 Lewisburg), W272BO (102.3 Coudersport), W277BJ (103.3 Cogan Station) and W279BK (103.7 Carbondale).

*One of CANADA's newest TV stations is being sold off as part of CHUM's purchase of Craig Media. CHUM had to spin off CKXT (Channel 52), aka "Toronto 1," to avoid going over the ownership limits, and now it's agreed to sell the struggling station to two of Quebecor Media's subsidiaries. TVA, the French-language commercial network, will get 75% of the station, while Sun Media, which owns the Toronto Sun, will get the remainder. CHUM will get C$46 million, plus the 29.9% of the CityPulse 24 news channel that Sun now owns. No word yet on Quebecor's plans for the channel once the deal closes.

North of Toronto, the CRTC granted CKMB (107.5 Barrie) a change of frequency to 107.7. "Star 107" will stay at 17 kW average ERP, but it will get to move its antenna south by 22 km. CKDO (1350 Oshawa) had also applied for 107.7, for a low-power FM relay to cover the city, and the CRTC granted its application on the condition that it apply for a different frequency, likely 107.5.

Speaking of 107s, CJTN-FM (107.1 Quinte West) officially launched last week as "Lite 107," with pretty much the same AC format it had been using on AM 1270. The AM signal will go away in a few months.

Over on the AM dial, the programming shift away from "guy talk" at CFMJ (Mojo 640) in Toronto continues this week, with Ross Macleod being joined by former Toronto police union president Craig Bromell for a new 10-noon show called "The Beat."

And Aboriginal Voices Radio has been given an extension (until October 2) to find a frequency for its new Montreal station. AVR had applied for 100.1, but the CRTC awarded that channel to another applicant, telling AVR it could have a license if it could find another available frequency.

*Finally, we know it's now August - 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 - next year's edition will be available for ordering next week - and it will ship right after Labor Day!

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.