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August 30, 2004

CHOI Wins a Reprieve

*Its long-term survival is still in question, but CANADA's most controversial radio station is at least assured of staying on the air beyond the middle of this week. CHOI (98.1 Quebec City) was due to have its license pulled this Tuesday (August 31) after the CRTC denied its application for renewal - but late last week a Canadian court told station owner Genex Communications that CHOI could remain on the air for now, as it challenges the license revocation in court. A bow to public opinion after CHOI brought some 50 buses full of supporters to Parliament Hill?

In Toronto, the CRTC renewed the license of CHEV, the unusual mobile low-power AM station that used to travel around the city and broadcast from sporting events - but with a catch. CHEV won't be able to stay on 1610 when a new (and stationary) station signs on there in the next few months, so it will have to find - and apply for - a new frequency to continue operating. (NERW notes: we haven't heard much about CHEV operating lately, so it's possible that the station may not return at all.)

Former CHFI (98.1 Toronto) morning co-host Erin Davis is returning to the air for a while: she'll fill in for CJEZ (EZ Rock 97.3) morning host Christine Cardoso when she takes maternity leave. Davis will take over at CJEZ on Sept. 7 and hang around through February 1, 2005.

Some reshuffling underway at classic rock "Y108" (CJXY 107.9 Burlington): the morning team of Jason Farr and Darrin Laidman is out, reports Milkman UnLimited, with no replacement named yet. Down the Niagara Peninsula, "The River" (CFLZ 105.1 Niagara Falls) is losing its veteran morning host, as Tami Jeanneret leaves the business after Tuesday morning's show. (And what's up with its sister station, tourist information CJRN 710? We were listening while crossing the border on Sunday, and not only were the usual traffic reports missing - thus condemning us to an hour-long delay - but the events being promoted were more than a month old!)

*Across the border in upstate NEW YORK, a familiar midday voice is back on the air after nearly a year's absence. You'll recall that Bob Lonsberry made quite the media splash when he was ousted from the 11-2 slot on WHAM (1180 Rochester) last September after making comments that many interpreted as a racial slur on the city's mayor, who was then embroiled in a heated (and ultimately unsuccessful) race for Monroe County executive.

Whether it was a question of Lonsberry repenting, the political pressures easing - or simply ratings and revenue desperation (WHAM's numbers were off significantly over the last year, and its sales were reportedly suffering as well), the appropriate deals were done and Lonsberry was suddenly (and without any advance publicity) back in the saddle on Thursday, broadcasting from his home in Mount Morris, fielding call after call from listeners happy to have him back and apologizing, in a tone that seemed just short of completely sincere, for his remarks last year. (At the same time, we'd note, he was reminding just about every caller to tune into the rest of WHAM's lineup as well.)

An interesting note here for media conspiracy theorists: the news of Lonsberry's impending return was broken, in a solid, clean scoop, by WROC-TV (Channel 8)'s Rachel Barnhart. Why does that matter? Of WROC's major competitors, WOKR (Channel 13) is, like WHAM, owned by Clear Channel. WHEC-TV (Channel 10), they of the "Digging for Answers, Reporting them First" tagline, has Lonsberry's once-and-future producer as its 11 PM producer, and he was no doubt sworn to secrecy on the move. And readers of this column know by now our opinion of the local newspaper's coverage of radio - which was borne out in full by day-late, dollar-short, catch-up reporting sourced from TV, and attributed not to WROC but to WOKR, which just happens to be in a news-gathering partnership with the paper.

(Full disclosure here: your editor himself draws income from Clear Channel, albeit indirectly, through the M Street Corporation, which has no operational connection to Clear Channel Radio or Clear Channel Television.)

*The other big story came from the other end of the Empire State, where Arthur Schwartz left his longtime post as restaurant critic for WOR (710 New York), in what was apparently a dispute over how much influence advertisers would be permitted to have over the content of his daily restaurant talk show. Substitute hosts filled that 11-noon slot last week; its long-term future is unclear.

The FCC granted two more New York translators this week: W222AT (92.3 Hamilton) to the State University of New York (it'll relay public radio WRVO 89.9 Oswego), and W225AR (92.9 Webster), to Family Life Ministries.

On the TV dial: WKTV (Channel 2) in Utica has come to the end of its contract to produce a 10 PM newscast for Fox outlet WFXV (Channel 33); in any case, WFXV is now co-owned with WKTV archrival WUTR (Channel 20), though WUTR has no local news presence any more. The last 10 PM WKTV show on WFXV will be Tuesday; beginning Wednesday, the 10 PM news will instead air on cable-only WB affiliate "WBU," which is programmed by WKTV (and which doesn't reach the Rome side of the market.)

More engineering news: WLVL (1340 Lockport) won FCC permission this week to drop its unusual directional antenna configuration. Since the early seventies, WLVL has been one of the few class C (old class IV, or "graveyard") stations to run a directional antenna. The DA was originally needed to protect CKDK on 1340 in Woodstock, Ontario when WLVL went from 250 watts to a kilowatt in 1973 - but it's been many, many years since CKDK moved from 1340 to the FM dial (it's now "the Hawk" on 103.9), and now WLVL has convinced both the FCC and Canadian regulators that the DA is no longer needed, which means it can go non-directional both day and night.

*We'll jump next to VERMONT, where the FCC handed something of a defeat to an inventive plan to move WWOD (104.3 Hartford) from the Upper Valley market clear across the state to the Burlington market. WWOD's owner, Vox, applied a while back to change the city of license of sister station WSSH (95.3 White River Junction) to Hartford - and then to move WWOD's class A allocation all the way west to Keeseville, N.Y., across Lake Champlain from Vermont's biggest city.

It would have worked, too, if a rival applicant hadn't pointed out to the FCC that there was another potential channel that could be allocated to provide first local service to Keeseville without doing the WWOD shuffle - and so the FCC denied the WWOD move and instead allocated 94.1A to Keeseville, where it will now sit in the backlog of new allocations awaiting auction (or designation as noncommercial.)

The FCC also approved a whole slew of new translators for the Green Mountain State: W233BD (94.5 Burlington) to Vermont Public Radio, W247BC (97.3 White River Junction) to Clear Channel (it'll relay WZRT 97.1 Rutland), W251AX (98.1 St. Albans) to Radio Broadcasting Services Inc., and W295AU (106.9 Manchester) to VPR.

*Over in MAINE, WYNZ (100.9 Portland) had its application granted to make its current transmitter site, on one of the WGAN (560) towers on Lane Avenue, into its permanent licensed facility. WYNZ had been operating there under special temporary authority since its old tower in South Portland collapsed last year. (It runs 25 kW from 93 meters, almost identical to its old facility of 25 kW at 100 meters.)

*Just one little tidbit of MASSACHUSETTS news on this otherwise-quiet week: the University of Massachusetts was granted a CP for a North Adams translator. W266AW (101.1) will relay WFCR (88.5) from Amherst.

And we're hearing buzz of a format change in the works at WCRN (830 Worcester); the former standards "Swing 830" was running ABC's "True Oldies Channel" service over the weekend.

*In CONNECTICUT, WFSB-TV (Channel 3) will be moving out of the studio facility it's called home ever since its debut in 1957. Station owner Meredith is selling the building at 3 Constitution Plaza to the city of Hartford in exchange for a new site on the underdeveloped north side of I-84, along Main and Trumbull streets, where it will build a new studio that it plans to occupy in early 2007.

*Our biggest piece of PENNSYLVANIA-area news this week actually comes from beyond the state line - Wilmington, DELAWARE to be exact - where Clear Channel is paying some $4 million to buy WILM (1450 Wilmington) from E.B. Hawkins and his mother, Sally. WILM was one of the last independently-owned news-talk AMs in the country (it's survived by KQV in Pittsburgh), and it'll now be absorbed into the cluster that includes sports WWTX (1290 Wilmington), talk WDOV (1410 Dover), country WDSD (92.9 Smyrna) and classic hits WRDX (94.7 Dover).

Air America, fresh from big affiliation adds in Ann Arbor, San Diego and Denver, is getting some clearance in Philadelphia as well: Inner City Broadcasting, whose WLIB (1190 New York) is the network's flagship, will add AAR's Al Franken and Randi Rhodes to the schedule at WHAT (1340 Philadelphia), whose talk programming has heretofore catered to the city's black population. The new WHAT lineup: Mary Mason 6-9 AM (losing an hour), Thera Martin-Connolly 9-noon (from afternoon drive), Franken 12-3, Rhodes 3-7, Bev Smith 7-10 and Reggie Bryant 10 PM to 1 AM.

Over on the FM dial, WSNI (104.5 Philadelphia) applies to move its antenna just a bit - it wants to move from its longtime home on the WPHL-TV ("Banks") tower across Domino Lane to what's now its auxiliary site on the WPSG-TV ("Gross") tower. The move, which will find WSNI sharing an antenna with format competitor WMWX (95.7), will allow the station to put IBOC digital on the air.

New translators in the Keystone State: W232BK (94.3 DuBois), to Cary Simpson; W236BB (95.1 Tunkhannock), to Family Life Ministries; W273BE (102.5 Huntingdon), to Penn State University's WPSU (91.1 State College).

*Some housekeeping: we're busy as anything getting ready for the National Radio Club's annual convention, which we're hosting in western New York and southern Ontario beginning this Thursday. If you'll be in the Batavia - or Buffalo or Rochester or Toronto - area next weekend, you're invited! Drop us a line for more information about one of the nation's biggest gathering of radio hobbyists.

And between that and the upcoming Labor Day holiday, we'll probably be taking next week off from NERW. If there's major breaking news, we'll post an update here - and otherwise, we'll be back in the saddle on Monday, September 13... which point the 2005 Tower Site Calendar will be back from the printers and ready for early shipment! Stay tuned to this page just after Labor Day to find out more about this year's edition - and about our special deals for early purchasers.

*In the meantime, 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.)

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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.