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2004 In Review

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March 7, 2005

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Shakeup in State College

*The radio dial in central PENNSYLVANIA has been a confusing one these last few months, and for listeners in and around State College, it just got a little more turbulent.

The home of Penn State is also the place where Dame Broadcasting just sold its cluster of stations to "2510 Licenses, LLC," a company controlled by Burbach Broadcasting's Nick Galli. And no sooner did 2510 close on the cluster (news-talk simulcast WBLF 970 Bellefonte/WRSC 1390 State College, classic rock "Bus" WBUS 93.7 Boalsburg, rock "Quick Rock" WQWK 97.1 University Park and rhythmic top 40 "Hot" WJHT 107.9 Port Matilda) than it entered an LMA with the market's other big cluster owner, Forever Broadcasting, to operate several of the stations.

Forever will manage WRSC, WBUS and the 97.1 signal, which swaps calls and formats with Forever's oldies WOWY (98.7 Pleasant Gap), putting oldies on 97.1 and rock on 98.7. (The new WQWK on 98.7 arrives without some of its airstaff; the "Morning Wood" show that had been a fixture on 97.1 is history.)

And WJHT's calls and format move down the dial to Forever's WBHV (103.1 State College), which drops the "Beaver" moniker it's had for the last few years, along with the mix of hot AC and top 40 that it had been programming. 107.9 has requested new calls WCNU, and will reportedly be spun off, apparently becoming a religious outlet.

Forever also owns WMAJ (1450 State College) and WLTS (94.5 State College) in the market, and that makes a lot of signals under common control. Will the FCC - which has been looking at LMAs more closely of late - let this arrangement stand?

There are changes rumored to be on the way down the road in Johnstown and Altoona as well. In Johnstown, 2510 closed last week on its purchase of southern gospel WYSN (1330 Somerset), rock WQKK (92.1 Johnstown), top 40 WGLU (99.1 Ebensburg) and oldies WCCL (101.7 Central City) from Dame, and that's another market where Forever has a huge footprint. Are some LMAs in the works here as well? Stay tuned...

In Scranton, station owner Doug Lane (WWDL 104.9/WICK 1400-WYCK 1340) has won a brief reprieve after a judge declared a mistrial in Lane's child-molestation case. (At issue was testimony from several witnesses whose allegations fell under the statute of limitations, which the judge ruled might taint the jury.) Lane's hardly home free; the district attorney plans to retry him later this spring.

Down the road, Citadel flips the calls of WOGY (1300 West Hazleton) to WKZN. Are changes in the works at Citadel's WKZN-FM (105.3 Kenner LA) down in New Orleans?

Meanwhile in Philadelphia, fans (not to mention former staffers) of modern rock WPLY (100.3 Media) aren't ready to let Y100 die, even though the frequency's now playing R&B as "100.3 the Beat," WPHI. A rally Saturday on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum drew hundreds of fans to protest the format change, and the protest site at has been very active, with something like 50,000 signatures at last count. And with the new callsigns in place on the Radio One stations (WPHI-FM on 100.3, WPPZ replacing WPHI-FM on 103.9 Jenkintown), the WPLY calls are already spoken for - they've been reserved by Nassau Broadcasting, though it's not yet clear which of Nassau's stations will get the calls.

And speaking of Nassau, it appears to have won a strange little skirmish down along the Pennsylvania/Maryland border, where it flipped WARX (106.9 Hagerstown MD) from oldies to classic hits (as "106.9 the Eagle") last weekend, just a day before VerStandig flipped its WWMD (101.5 Waynesboro PA) to classic hits as, yup, "the Eagle" - complete with new calls WEEG. (WWMD's former "Magic 101.5" top 40 format migrated down the dial to replace hot AC "Star 92.1" at WSRT Mercersburg, which became "the Point" under new calls WPPT.)

It didn't take long for the "Eagle" references to disappear from WEEG, and it's now just "The New 101.5," we're told. (Wonder how long those calls will remain in place?)

*Two call changes in NEW JERSEY: down in Avalon, WWZK (94.3) takes new calls WILW, while WCNJ (89.3 Hazlet) completes its call change to WDDM, "Dhoom FM."

*It was a quiet week in NEW YORK City - well, except at WQHT (97.1), where gunfire erupted in the station's Hudson Street lobby while rapper 50 Cent was being interviewed upstairs. One man was injured in the shooting, for which no arrests had been made as we go to press.

Over at WWRL (1600 New York), controversial commentator-for-hire Armstrong Williams will join afternoon host Sam Greenfield beginning next week, converting the 3-6 PM show to a point-counterport sort of format.

Upstate, the Spanish Tropical "El Ritmo" format that had been on the Hudson Valley's WEOK (1390 Poughkeepsie) and WALL (1340 Middletown) for the last two and a half years came to an end Friday, replaced by Radio Disney on both frequencies.

In Syracuse, the "Gomez and Dave" morning show is reuniting on Galaxy's WTKW (99.5 Bridgeport)/WTKV (105.5 Oswego) after several years' absence. Dave Coombs left "TK99" a year ago and headed to Salt Lake City, where he was working at sports talker KFNZ (1320), but he returned last week to join Glenn "Gomez" Adams in morning drive. Coombs' return displaces Pete Michaels, who joined TK after leaving WYYY (94.5); Michaels' wife and former on-air partner, Brenda Bissett, stays with Galaxy Communications sister station WZUN (102.1 Phoenix).

Meantime, former WAQX (95.7 Manlius) midday guy/APD Ryno has resurfaced down in Florida, where he's handling afternoons and APD duties at WJBX (99.3 Fort Myers Beach).

Here in Rochester, former WGMC (90.1 Greece) station manager Jason Crane returns to the airwaves in a couple of weeks as the host of a weekend talk show on WROC (950 Rochester). Crane, who's active in the local Green Party, will be heard Saturdays from noon-3 beginning March 19, with a program designed to complement the station's lineup of syndicated progressive talk.

In Buffalo, speculation is already building over the future of Infinity's cluster of stations there in the wake of the company's conference call last week, in which corporate officials identified the Queen City as one of the markets where Infinity plans to spin off its radio operations. The company owns five stations in town - country monster WYRK (106.5), urban WBLK (93.7 Depew), AC WJYE (96.1), struggling talker WBUF (92.9) and standards WECK (1230 Cheektowaga) - which would be too much for any of the other broadcasters in town to take on as a whole, but might present some interesting opportunities for companies that aren't yet in the market at all. (And we'd note that Buffalo is the second-largest market, behind Kansas City, with no Clear Channel presence.)

On the TV front, Empire Sports Network finally faded out of existence Sunday night, as the last of its "Special Programming" (loops of repeats from years past) came to an end and the network was pulled from DirecTV, the last operator still carrying it. (Even parent company Adelphia had turned off the Empire signal on its systems earlier in the week.) It's a sad end to what was once a proud regional sports network, finally done in by the dual blows of Adelphia's bankruptcy and the lack of an NHL season, which removed its major franchise, the Buffalo Sabres, from the airwaves.

*The spinning wheel of formats has spun again in southeastern CONNECTICUT, where Citadel's WXLM (102.3 Stonington) dropped its "Mix" hot AC format after exactly two years and spent the weekend stunting. Morning man "Yo Sunny Joe" Allen is out - and what's next for this frequency, which has also been home to short-lived classic hits (WUXL) and rock (WAXK) formats in the last few years? Stay tuned...

In Hartford, Meredith is pulling out of its plans to move WFSB (Channel 3) from its longtime Constitution Plaza "Broadcast House" to another site within the city. Meredith now says it needs more than the 3.2 acres the city offered at "Site 12B," at the corner of Main and Trumbull streets. The company says it now plans to use the new WFSB digs as its corporate headquarters, which means the planned $20 million facility wouldn't have been big enough. WFSB is now looking at sites outside the city, and it plans to put the Broadcast House site on the market, instead of its original plan to sell it to the city in exchange for the 12B plot of land.

And Justin Case (not to be confused with Justin Case, or Justin Case, elsewhere in the region) is headed out of the PD chair at WWYZ (92.5 Waterbury). He's moving down to Birmingham to take the programming reins at WZZK-FM (104.7), WNCB (97.3 Gardendale) and WZZK (1320). (And this Justin Case, in "case" you're wondering, is the one whose career has included stops at WYRK in Buffalo, WPKX in Springfield and WDSY in Pittsburgh.)

*Fans of several MASSACHUSETTS radio stations will soon be able to tune in from a distance. Infinity announced last week that it will begin streaming within a couple of weeks on all of its news-talk stations, including KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh), KYW (1060 Philadelphia), WINS (1010 New York) and WBZ (1030 Boston). The move comes on the heels of WCBS (880 New York)'s successful venture into streaming over the last few months, and it marks a sharp change from Infinity's long-held "no streaming" policy.

Expect WBZ and the others to begin selling ads on the stream separate from their broadcast product - and of course, don't expect to hear sports play-by-play on the stream in the event the Bruins should begin playing again next year. (At WCBS, which has the Yankees, the station is now producing a stream-only all-news product that runs while the Yanks are playing on 880.)

Just as Infinity was announcing its change of heart, Entercom announced that it, too, will begin streaming in Boston, starting with sports WEEI (850), and with talker WRKO (680) to follow. Here again, the stream won't carry the World Champion Boston Red Sox, thanks to Major League Baseball's rules - but it'll be a fine way for the Sox Nation diaspora to stay in touch with the Olde Towne buzz nonetheless.

Speaking of WEEI and WRKO, Bob McCuin is leaving behind his general sales manager position to take on the same role at New York's Z100. And Paul Kelley's leaving his local sales manager post to become GM of WHOB (106.3) up in Nashua, N.H.

Who's behind the $9 million purchase of WAMG (890 Dedham) and WLLH (1400 Lowell) from Mega? The investment firm of Waller Sutton is financing the Route 81 Radio group that has operations stretching from Coatesville, Pennsylvania up to New York's southern tier, and it appears that Route 81 may end up running the Boston and Lowell stations, too. We're hearing some intriguing talk of a return to locally-focused English talk on the Lowell station...stay tuned.

Where are they now?: Longtime WBOS (92.9 Brookline) voice Stella Mars has moved out west, where she's now working as marketing manager for DMX Inflight.

To the west, Nichols College has signed on WNRC-LP (97.5 Dudley), and that means a far better signal for the students there than on their old facility, 14-watter WNRC (95.1 Dudley). But Nichols isn't shutting down the little class D FM now that it has the more powerful 100-watt LPFM; instead, it's changed calls to WXRB and handed it off to chief engineer (and all-around nice guy) Peter George to operate. Look for 95.1 to be reborn any day now with the same nifty mix of oldies that Pete's already playing on his streaming version of WXRB. (The calls, by the way, are an homage both to Pete's ham call of W1XRB and to the legendary XERB, home of the late Wolfman Jack. And if you're within range, listen closely to the sign-on announcement to hear the dulcet tones of your very own editor...)

Out on Nantucket, the FCC adds a second FM allocation, a class A (6 kW) facility on 97.7. Look for this one to go up for auction eventually...but probably not for another year, at the least.

And after a career that started in his hometown of Haverhill and included more than 35 years in morning drive in Dallas, Ron Chapman is retiring. Chapman's been in Texas since 1959, when he joined the legendary KLIF (1190) as half of the "Charlie and Harrigan Show"; after detouring into TV for a few years, he moved to mornings at KVIL-FM (103.7) in 1968, then to oldies KLUV (98.7) several years ago - and now, come June, he'll take his much-deserved retirement. (And Ron's not the only former NERW-lander at KLUV, where evenings are held down by Pittsburgh's own John Summers.)

*There's another FM allocation being proposed for VERMONT: former Boston engineer Dana Puopolo has asked the FCC to allocate 92.5 to Poulteney as a 6 kW class A facility. Poulteney already has AM outlet WVNR (1340), which simulcasts just over the state line on WNYV (94.1 Whitehall NY).

Look for Nassau to make some changes at its "Bob Country" combo of WSSH (95.3 White River Junction) and WZSH (107.1 Bellows Falls) - it's asked for new calls of WXLF and WZLF, respectively, which leads us to think that these two will soon be "Wolf," just like WNHW (93.3 Belmont) over in the Concord, NEW HAMPSHIRE market.

(And we notice that the call change frees up a legacy New England callsign, too; WSSH had a long run on what's now WKLB 99.5 Lowell MA before the calls moved up north...)

*One bit of news from MAINE: we hear that WJZP-LP (105.1 Portland) has signed on with smooth jazz, and we expect to be hearing from listeners who've become accustomed to tuning in the distant signal of WTOS (105.1 Skowhegan) in the area.

*Up in CANADA, the CTV network seems to be eager to wipe out any trace of localism at its local stations. In Toronto, CFTO (Channel 9) dropped its "CFTO News" branding from its local newscasts last week, changing them over to "CTV News," just like the national news. So far, the new branding hasn't spread to Kitchener's CKCO, Ottawa's CJOH, Montreal's CFCF and the Maritimes' ATV, but we wouldn't be surprised to see the changes there, too.

On the radio dial, Milkman UnLimited reports that the new 94.5 in Wingham is testing with its rock format. No word yet on a callsign for this sister station to country CKNX (920) and AC CKNX-FM (101.7).

NERW Classifieds

*We're pleased to announce the return of the NERW Classifieds after a long absence. If you're looking to reach thousands of broadcast professionals in the Northeastern U.S., eastern Canada and beyond (more than 70,000 hits every Monday alone!), there's no more economical way to do it. Rates start at just $5/week for a 50-word ad, and the fifth week is always free when you pay for four. Click here to learn more...and read on for this week's ads:

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*We're busy shipping out the Tower Site Calendar 2005 to radio fans from coast to coast and far beyond (would you believe New Zealand?)

Didn't find one under the tree this year? That's OK - we've still got plenty, and we're shipping them out daily.

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.

(You can see some previews of this year's calendar images at Tower Site of the Week - where the archive listing's newly updated!)

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. (Please note that the prices below are valid for U.S. and Canadian orders only; please e-mail for information about overseas shipping.)

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!)

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.)

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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 2005 by Scott Fybush.