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September 20, 2004


The future of public radio in RHODE ISLAND is in more than a little doubt this week, as listeners, donors and public officials digest the Friday morning announcement that Boston's WBUR has put its Ocean State outpost, WRNI (1290 Providence)/WXNI (1230 Westerly) up for sale.

Rhode Island lost its distinction as one of the last states with no public radio outlet when WBUR shelled out $1.975 million in 1998 to buy what was then Portuguese-language WRCP (1290); the next year, the $300,000 purchase of what was then WERI (1230 Westerly) expanded service to southern Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut.

WBUR had big plans for WRNI, building new studios at Providence's Union Station, upgrading the 1290 signal from 5 kW to 10 kW and, for a while, offering a daily two-hour newsmagazine, One Union Station, specifically for the Rhode Island audience.

Budget problems beginning in late 2001 slowly eroded some of those advances, though; One Union Station was cancelled and replaced with a weekly one-hour show that was itself cancelled a few weeks ago, and much of WRNI's news staff was either laid off or moved to the mothership in Boston.

WBUR head honcho Jane Christo was reportedly tight-lipped with donors at the Friday meeting in Providence; the Providence Phoenix reports that she wouldn't address questions about WBUR's own financial problems, and the extent to which they might be driving the sale of the Rhode Island stations, saying only that it's time for the community to step up and buy the station if it wants it to remain as a public radio outlet.

For the donors who led the fund-raising campaign to help WBUR buy the stations in the first place, and those who have given money to WRNI/WXNI in its six years on the air, that attitude was understandably insulting. Several have complained about having to, in effect, buy the station twice - and yet, if they don't, the stations will likely be sold to a commercial owner. (They're also unhappy about the timing of the announcement, asking for some extra time to put together a plan before the station is offered to commercial sellers; right now, the plan is to begin offering the station as early as today, through Media Services Group.)

This one's not over yet; stay tuned...

*Some lineup shakeups in MASSACHUSETTS last week, at Clear Channel's "Kiss 108," WXKS-FM (107.9 Medford): veteran midday jock Ed McMann is out (though he keeps voicetracking for other CC stations in the northeast), and so is afternoon guy Artie the One-Man Party, himself a fairly recent replacement for Dale Dorman. Dierdre Dagata moves over from sister WJMN-FM (94.5 Boston) to take middays, while Romeo moves up from nights to afternoons, which in turn brings Kory in from nights at WKCI (101.3 Hamden CT) to do Kiss' night shift.

Over on the AM dial, WRKO (680 Boston) gives New York-based talker Jay Diamond a longer weekend shift, moving him from Saturdays 10-midnight up to Saturdays 7-11 PM.

And on the TV dial, Telemundo outlet WTMU-LP (Channel 32) has moved to channel 67, which in turn will allow Pax to put WBPX-DT on the air on channel 32 sometime soon.

Last month, the FCC granted Juan Alberto Ayala of Texas a CP for a new translator, W249BU (97.7 Montvale), which will supposedly relay New Hampshire Public Radio's WEVO (89.1 Concord) via an off-air pickup to the Winchester-Woburn area. Now a petition for reconsideration has been filed against the grant - could it be that NHPR never consented to the relay of its signal? (And, for that matter, why would the pastor of the "Comunidad Cristiana" in Cedar Hill, Texas want to bring NPR to the suburbs north of Boston in the first place?)

Out west, former Boston-area engineer Dana Puopolo asks the FCC to allot a new class A (6 kW) signal on 98.9 in Adams; the FCC is taking comments on the proposal through Nov. 8.

*In MAINE, there's still no sign of a signal on WDEA (1370 Ellsworth), which hits the one-month mark on its protracted absence from the airwaves this week. The latest word from Cumulus to the local papers is that a new Harris transmitter is finally on order and will be delivered within a few days; it's still hard for us to believe that the company would leave standards and Sox fans in the dark for this long.

Up the road in Millinocket, WSYY (94.9) morning man and former station manager David Keys is headed to federal prison for 18 months for possession of child pornography. Keys, who's worked at WSYY for 30 years, was also a Little League baseball and basketball coach for the Millinocket schools.

Light of Life Ministries (WWWA 95.3 Winslow) received five translator CPs from the FCC this week: W233BE (94.5 Richmond Center), W252BT (98.3 Freeport), W255BI (98.9 Lincoln), W264BQ (100.7 Bangor) and W272BV (102.3 Yarmouth).

*One new translator CP in VERMONT: W273BH (102.5 Middlebury) was granted to WCLX (102.9 Westport NY); the new CP means WCLX will again be heard on the 102.5 dial position it occupied before moving up to 102.9 this year.

*One new translator CP in CONNECTICUT, too: WMNR (88.1 Monroe) will add W287AZ (105.3 Southport) to its lineup.

*Air America and other liberal talk programming came to the airwaves of western NEW YORK Friday, when Entercom's WROC (950 Rochester) dropped its talk lineup of Laura Ingraham, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity in favor of Air America's Unfiltered, Al Franken and Randi Rhodes, as well as the syndicated Ed Schultz and Lionel shows.

WROC's move takes it out of direct competition with the much more powerful WHAM (1180) and its talk lineup, including Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage. It also appears to have prompted a fair number of calls to WROC-TV (Channel 8), which felt compelled to run a story in its Friday night newscasts reminding viewers that it shares only call letters (and news simulcasts) with 950, but not ownership.

Across the street from WROC, the engineers at WXXI (1370/91.5 Rochester) had a busy week, moving the public radio stations out of the studios they've occupied for years (WXXI-FM had been in its studio space since its sign-on in late 1974, while the AM was in a converted suite of offices that had been in use since 1987) into brand-new rooms across the hall (with, for the first time, windows to the outside world!)

Down I-390 a bit, WYSL (1040 Avon)'s application to boost day power to 20 kW was reinstated at the FCC; some problems with the Commission's electronic filing system had caused several exhibits to the application to be mislabeled initially.

Lots of new translators this week for Calvary Church of the Finger Lakes' WZXV (99.7 Palmyra): it was granted CPs for W227BQ (93.3 Watkins Glen), W239BA (95.7 Lockport), W243BW (96.5 Akron), W248AT (97.5 Corfu), W279BO (103.7 Arcade), W283AU (104.5 Houghton), W285EB (104.9 Wayland) and W287AX (105.3 Medina), in an elaborate daisy-chain of signal reception and retransmission that would surely be blown apart by unusual tropospheric ducting like the conditions that prevailed across the region early last week. (It was nice to be able to hear the entire Ottawa FM dial from Rochester, we'll admit...)

Speaking of Watkins Glen, Backyard Broadcasting flips the calls of WGMF (1490) there to WTYX, apparently to warehouse those calls after they've been taken off a Backyard-owned FM station in Jackson, Mississippi.

A few more translators? Why not - the FCC also granted CPs this week to W294AW (106.7 Dansville, relaying WKPQ 105.3 Hornell), W281AN (104.1 Ellenville, to John Katonah to relay WLJP 88.1 Monroe), and W256BA (99.1 Salamanca, to Edgewater Broadcasting to relay WZXV 99.7 Palmyra in a hard-to-imagine-it's-possible off-air pickup.)

Over in Jamestown, WRFA-LP (107.9) applies for a license to cover; it's owned by the Arts Council for Chautauqua County.

Downstate, WNYU-FM-1 (89.1 New York) has filed for its license to cover; the 5-watt booster at the corner of Bleecker and Mercer Streets is meant to fill in the New York University station's signal over NYU's main campus in Greenwich Village. (Its main transmitter is way uptown, in the Bronx.)

And even though it never actually existed, legendary made-up station "WVWA" (900 Pound Ridge) was back in the headlines this past week when its call letters were assigned for the first time to an actual broadcast station. The new "real" WVWA-FM is the former WHEL-FM (105.1 Helen GA), now half of Clear Channel's "Viva" regional Mexican simulcast serving Atlanta. (The other half of the simulcast has some famous borrowed calls, too: what had been talker WMAX-FM 105.3 Bowdon GA is now WWVA-FM. And yes, those WMAX-FM calls saw use in the Empire State a few years ago, too.)

*In NEW JERSEY, WKMB (1070 Stirling) moved out of its longtime (and only) home at 1390 Valley Road on Friday afternoon, relocating to the old WERA (1590 Plainfield) studios at 120 West 7th Street in Plainfield. (NERW hopes WKMB's unique air chain, including the homebuilt "Rontimod" processor, gets donated to a worthy home...)

*Is a new "Pickle" on the way to western PENNSYLVANIA? It sure seems that way as Keymarket and Forever settle into the former Clear Channel cluster in New Castle. The hot AC "Star" format that was on WJST (92.1 Ellwood City) moved over to WBZY (1280 New Castle) as "Star 1280," and WJST is taking on new calls of WKPL, which sure sounds like the "Pickle" oldies that Frank Bell's using at WPKL (99.3 Uniontown) and WASP (1130 Brownsville).

Down the road in Pittsburgh, talker WPTT (1360 McKeesport) flipped its lineup last week, moving "Uncle Doug" Hoerth to 7-10 AM and Jerry Bowyer to 3-6 PM.

The syndicated Bob & Tom show is gone from WEEO-FM (103.7 McConnellsburg), replaced by the equally syndicated Steve & D.C. morning show.

Over in Philadelphia, Walt Cooper moves from afternoons at WFIL (560) to the PD chair at WHAT (1340); meanwhile, WIP (610) is stunting in a variety of ways to fill Howard Eskin's afternoon slot while the sports talker sits out a 30-day suspension as part of a libel settlement. This week is "Eagles Week" at WIP, with current and former members of the team talking football.

Lots of new translators this week in the Keystone State: the Scranton Times' WEZX (106.9 Scranton) gets a construction permit for W287AY (105.3 Mount Pocono), WITF (89.5 Hershey) gets W247BF (97.3 Kutztown), and Temple University's WRTI (90.1 Philadelphia) gets W229AW (93.7 Gettysburg), W236BF (95.1 Oxford), W263BH (100.5 Lancaster), W270BG (101.9 Cape May NJ), W271BA (102.1 Orrstown), W287AW (105.3 Biglerville), W296BM (107.1 Millersville) and W297AT (107.3 Marshalltown DE).

And another Dana Puopolo FM allocations request: he's asking the FCC to put a class A signal on 92.7 in Lawrence Park PA, near Erie. Because of the close spacing to CJBX (92.7 London ON), which puts a huge signal across the lake, this allocation would be limited to a mere 225 watts instead of the usual 6000 watts for a class A. Comments on this one are due Nov. 8 as well.

*A quiet week in CANADA: Toronto's Humber College was granted a 5-watt license for a student-run station on 96.9. And in Quebec City, the court decision that granted CHOI (98.1 Quebec City) a stay of execution also meant some changes for the CRTC's (potentially premature) call for applicants for new licenses to serve the provincial capital. The CRTC amended that call for applications last week to note that applicants must now specify a frequency other than 98.1, and to extend the deadline to October 29. The CRTC also opened calls for applications for new stations in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia and North Bay, Ontario.

*And now, the moment you've all been waiting for... (well, we've been waiting for it, anyway):

Tower Site Calendar 2005 is back from the printer and sitting in several big boxes in the garage waiting to be distributed to all of you!

Attendees at the recent National Radio Club convention got a sneak preview of it, and it's now on the racks at Universal Radio in Ohio. We'll also have copies available later this week at the Society of Broadcast Engineers' regional conference (the 32nd Annual SBE22 Broadcast & Technology Expo) at the Turning Stone Casino September 23.

This year's calendar begins with WSTW/WDEL in Wilmington, Delaware on the cover, ends with Sutro Tower in San Francisco on the inside back cover - and along the way makes stops at WNBF in Binghamton, CFNB in Fredericton, Poor Mountain in Roanoke, KXNT in Las Vegas, WBBR in New York, Gibraltar Peak above Santa Barbara, WDEV in Waterbury, Vermont, WRIB in Providence, WOOD in Grand Rapids, KFJZ in Fort Worth, KYPA in Los Angeles and the top of Chicago's Hancock Tower.

We're holding the price from last year, notwithstanding increases in printing costs and PayPal fees - just $16 postpaid ($17.32 including sales tax to New York addresses). And as always, it's free with your $60 or higher subscription to NorthEast Radio Watch/ You can use PayPal, below, or send your check or money order, payable to Scott Fybush, to 92 Bonnie Brae Avenue, Rochester NY 14618.

And here's an even better deal - We still have plenty of 2004 calendars left, so how about this? For just $20 postpaid ($21.65 in New York), we'll send you both the 2005 and 2004 editions. It's almost like getting an extra calendar free! (Or, if you just need the 2004 edition, that's still on clearance at $8 - and if you buy two 2004 calendars, your third is free!)

So why wait until the last minute? Why make us wait until the last minute? Why not let me park my car back in the garage where it belongs? Buy your calendars now, won't you?

Order the 2005 Tower Site Calendar for $16...
Order the 2005 and 2004 Tower Site Calendars together for just $20...
...or subscribe to NERW at the $60 level and get a FREE 2005 Tower Site Calendar
...and you can still order the 2004 Tower Site Calendar at our special clearance price of $8! (US and Canada only - e-mail us for overseas ordering information.)

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 (8.25%) 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.