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June 27, 2005
Feds Raid Radio Free Brattleboro
latest chapter in the ongoing saga of one of New England's longest-running
unlicensed stations unfolded early last Wednesday morning in
Brattleboro, VERMONT, when federal agents entered the
unoccupied Main Street studios of Radio Free Brattleboro (or,
as they prefer, "rfb") and seized much of the station's
equipment, silencing the station's signal at 107.9 and its web
The move came amidst what amounts to a turf war among federal
officials in the Green Mountain State. In Brattleboro, Judge
J. Garvan Murtha has been slowly working through a civil case
filed against the station by the FCC, and it appears that the
Commission grew tired of waiting for action there. The FCC filed
a motion for summary judgment in that case last month, but in
the meantime, the assistant U.S. attorney handling the case obtained
a warrant Tuesday from a federal magistrate in Burlington to
enter the station's offices.
Photos posted later that morning on the community website
showed the studio missing its control board and other equipment,
with scattered wiring and a lone microphone left behind.
The immediate reaction was, of course, outrage on the part
of the station's volunteers - but there's something deeply unfortunate
about the timing of the FCC raid, which leads us to a brief NERW
NERW has never endorsed the belief of some of RFB's leaders
that the FCC has waived its right to regulate stations of less
than 100 watts by refusing to license new 10-watt standalone
stations. The chaos already being caused in some areas by the
recent profusion of new licensed low-power translators (as witness
the six spots on our local dial now occupied by simulcasts of
one regional religious broadcaster) should be ample evidence
of the way in which an uncontrolled profusion of such small signals
could render the FM dial all but useless for everyone. (And make
no mistake about it - just as we've seen with licensed LPFM and
with the translator service, if 10-watt transmitters were allowed
to broadcast without federal regulation, there would quickly
be tens of thousands of them on the air relaying a handful of
national religious broadcasters, far outnumbering the community
stations that might also find a voice through such stations.)
At the same time, we can't help but be impressed with the
community spirit and energy that has gone into the sustained
operation of RFB over the last few years. The station was clearly
serving a group of listeners - and radio producers - for whom
there's no home on commercial radio.
It's not hard to imagine that Judge Murtha, based in Brattleboro
and well aware of the unusual circumstances surrounding RFB,
was deliberately moving slowly on the station's case, since there
is a happy ending for all sides visible in the distance.
RFB had said for some time that it planned to close down its
operations once Vermont EarthWorks signs on its licensed, legal
LPFM (WVEW-LP 107.7) in Brattleboro, and Murtha may well have
been hoping that the debut of WVEW and sign-off of RFB would
make the case before him moot.
If most of the volunteers at RFB are guilty of anything, it's
an enthusiasm for radio and for community broadcasting that got
ahead of the patience for following the legal route that might
have been preferable under other circumstances - and given the
state of the radio industry these days, it's hard for us to be
overly critical of anyone with that level of enthusiasm.
"Rfb does not operate in defiance of government but rather
from the belief of its members and listeners that community radio
is essential to good government and democratic process,"
was the comment from the station's attorney, James Maxwell.
If the station's volunteers are serious about that mission,
NERW hopes that the energy aroused by Wednesday's seizure will
be channeled towards the construction and speedy sign-on of WVEW,
a licensed service that will be free of the threat of government
shutdown that would inevitably loom over any attempt to again
restart RFB, and we wish them the best of luck towards that goal.
The LPFM service is far from perfect, and we're deeply concerned
that last year's ill-conceived translator window (now frozen
by an FCC forced to concede that it made some errors in the process)
may have further blocked the development of the 10-watt LPFMs
that, whatever their imperfections, would at least be better
than more satellite-fed translators. We're heartened, though,
by some of the exciting uses that we heard earlier this month
for the 100-watt LPFMs, and in fact, there's a new one just up
the river from Brattleboro.
would be in Bellows Falls, where the Great Falls Community Broadcasting
Company put WOOL-LP (100.1) on the air Saturday, providing a
community voice to a town whose only licensed full-power signal
is a simulcast from White River Junction. Check "Wool Radio"
out - they stream, too - at www.wool.fm.
*On the commercial side of the equation, the FCC's laying
the groundwork for another auction of new and unused FM allocations,
expected to begin this fall. In Vermont, there are two channels
being made available in "Auction 62": 106.9A Brighton
(in the Northeast Kingdom), with a projected starting bid of
$20,000, and 97.5A Bristol (southeast of Burlington), projected
to start at $90,000. We'll be keeping tabs on Auction 62 as it
progresses - and we'll run down the other NERW-land allocations
later in this week's column.
*A small NEW HAMPSHIRE AM station is changing
hands again, as Bill Sheehan's Balance View LLC files to sell
WSNH (900 Nashua) to Absolute Broadcasting LLC, headed by Tom
Monaghan, for $925,000. Absolute has been programming the "ESPN
900" sports format on WSNH since last year.
Speaking of Nashua, New Hampshire Public Radio hasn't given
up on putting a full-power signal there: it's been granted a
modification to its long-standing WEVS (88.3 Nashua) CP that
will move the signal a bit to the northeast, with 3.8 kW horizontal/5
kW vertical at 21 meters, from a Shively antenna atop a downtown
Some management changes at Nassau: Steve Garsh is promoted
to VP/regional manager for the company's New Hampshire stations,
while Rob Fulmer becomes market manager for Nassau's Lakes Region
Auction 62 allocations in the Granite State: 93.7A Groveton,
98.7A Stratford and 99.1A Whitefield, all with projected opening
bids of $20,000.
*As the construction permit for a Down East
MAINE FM station approaches expiration, owner Lyle Evans
is trying to salvage his WRMO (93.7 Milbridge) in at least a
reduced form. WRMO's construction permit was granted July 17,
2002, calling for a class B facility with 50 kW/64 meters. But
with the CP set to expire July 17, 2005, Evans is asking the
FCC to approve a much smaller WRMO, just to get the station on
the air. As a minimum class A facility, WRMO would sign on with
130 watts at 2 meters from the center of Milbridge, just to get
on the air before the deadline and to buy some time to build
out a more powerful facility.
The lone Auction 62 allocation in Maine is down the same way:
101.1B Machias, with an opening bid of $30,000.
*In MASSACHUSETTS, rumor became reality
as WRKO (680 Boston) announced a multi-year deal with the Boston
Celtics, who'll move over next season from WWZN (1510), their
flagship for the past four years. Meanwhile, WRKO and executive
producer Rich Carbery have parted ways after several years together;
no word yet on his next move.
We're now hearing "mid-July" as the projected launch
date for ESPN radio on WAMG (890 Dedham) and WLLH (1400 Lowell
& Lawrence); new owner J Sports closed on the $9 million
purchase from Mega last week, but Mega's Spanish programming
continues to run while the new ownership gets its programming
ready to roll.
Up in Haverhill, WXRV (92.5) general manager Bob Mendelsohn
has departed the station.
And we note that Meredith is advertising for a news director
for WSHM-LP (Channel 67, aka "CBS3") in Springfield,
so it looks as though that station will be getting a news department
*In RHODE ISLAND, the state attorney
general's office says it will continue its probe of Boston University's
management of WRNI (1290 Providence)/WXNI (1230 Westerly), even
though BU now says it won't attempt to sell the stations, whose
purchase and operation were partially funded by community donations.
And we neglected to note last week that Cranston mayor Steve
Laffey is back on the air with his Friday morning talk show on
WPRO (630), after the state election board agreed to lift its
injunction against his appearance there while the state Supreme
Court decides whether WPRO's airtime constitutes an improper
*Clear Channel's on the hook for a CONNECTICUT radio
contest that didn't live up to expectations. The FCC is fining
WKSS (95.7 Hartford) $4,000 for problems with its "I Do
Island" contest, which promised an "ultimate wedding
package" that was supposed to be worth $35,000 but was in
fact worth only about $20,000. (WKSS says it offered additional
prizes to the winner to help make up the difference.)
the Catskill Mountains of NEW YORK, a venerable pair of
community stations is changing hands, as the Blabey family sells
WVOS (1240 Liberty) and WVOS-FM (95.9 Liberty) to Scott Kaniewski's
Watermark Broadcasting for $1.7 million. The sale will put the
WVOS stations under the same roof as longtime competitor WSUL
(98.3 Monticello), which Watermark bought last year; the three
are the only commercial stations originating programming in Sullivan
Albany, "Sugarbear" (aka Ron Williams) is out as PD
and afternoon jock at WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville), where he created
the "96.3 Jamz" format for Albany Broadcasting, where
he'd worked since 1993. Some other changes in the executive ranks
at Albany Broadcasting: VP/GM Stacy Rogers steps down (though
she'll continue to consult for the company); she's being replaced
by regional sales manager Dan Austin.
Down the Hudson a bit, WCKL (560 Catskill) has again gone
In New York City, fans of the oldies at WCBS-FM (101.1) aren't
going quietly - about 150 of them turned up outside the station's
Times Square studios last Tuesday to call for a return to the
format. Meanwhile, aircheck gurus Steve West and Lance Venta
wasted no time launching 101cbsfm.com,
a new site chock-full of airchecks chronicling the station's
33-year history as an oldies outlet.
On the AM dial, the Mike and the Mad Dog show on WFAN (660
New York) will go long later this week. Once the Mets game ends
on Thursday, the duo will take the airwaves for a 24-hour broadcast
to raise money for charity (including auctioning off the chance
for listeners to do the 20/20 sports updates!)
On the TV front, Sunday's New York Times featured
the faces of several upstate reporters (including WHAM-TV's Mike
Doria and WROC-TV's Elizabeth Harness) as part of a feature about
"Newsbreakers," the Rochester-based group that amuses
itself by disrupting TV live shots. We're still not quite sure
exactly what the group is trying to prove, but we did learn that
its leader and your editor both worked as assignment editors
for the same Rochester TV newsroom, which only goes to prove,
we suppose, that there are a lot of different ways to express
disgruntlement. (We like ours better, even if it doesn't land
us a spread in the Sunday Times...)
In Buffalo, R.W. Smith arrives as the new PD for country giant
WYRK (106.5), following a very brief stint at KVOO/KXBL in Tulsa
and a much longer run at WIXY in Springfield, Illinois.
And on the Auction 62 front, there are plenty of signals up
for bid this fall in the Empire State: 97.1A Canaseraga, 105.9A
Little Valley, 107.1A Livingston Manor, 93.5A Wellsville and
106.7A Windsor all carry starting bids of $50,000, while 100.7A
Minerva's up for $7500, 102.9A Narrowsburg for $40,000, 94.1A
Old Forge for $2500 and 93.3A Saranac Lake for $20,000.
*In NEW JERSEY, it turns out that
WJRZ (1620 Toms River) still isn't quite dead. Even though Knox
Broadcasting's underlying construction permit for WJRZ on 1550
has long since expired and been deleted, the company persuaded
the FCC last week to reconsider its dismissal of the application
to move WJRZ to an expanded-band slot at 1620. Stay tuned...
Some corporate moves in the Garden State: at Press Communications,
Frank Calderaro moves over from the station manager post in Ocean
County to become the company's general manager, replacing John
Dziuba. And over at Nassau's Philadelphia/Trenton cluster (WPST/WTHK),
Josh Gertzog moves up from sales director to VP/market manager.
*A station sale leads off our PENNSYLVANIA coverage
this week, and it's once again in the State College market, where
Nick Galli's 2510 group sheds WBLF (970 Bellefonte). The station,
formerly a simulcast of talker WRSC (1390 State College) and
more recently simulcasting oldies WOWY (97.1 University Park),
goes to Magnum Broadcasting, which owns WPHB (1260 Phillipsburg)
and WUBZ (105.9 Phillipsburg).
(Speaking of State College, Penn State's public TV station,
WPSX-TV, is moving from its longtime home in the Wagner Building
to a new studio building at 100 Innovation Boulevard; the Clearfield-licensed
station just received a waiver from the FCC allowing it to continue
to maintain its main studio in State College at the new location.)
In Pittsburgh, Renda's WPTT (1360 McKeesport) shakes up its
lineup next month ("declaring its independence" just
after July 4, as the station puts it), and it looks like this:
Laura Ingraham will now run on one-day delay in the 7-9 AM slot,
followed by Lynn Cullen (moved to 9-noon), Thom Hartmann (noon-3),
Doug Hoerth (3-6), Clark Howard (6-10 PM) and Alan Colmes (10-midnight).
Former WPTT host Jerry Bowyer moves to WORD-FM (101.5) in July.
(The bigger change in Pittsburgh, though, is the retirement
of Myron Cope; the veteran Steelers color commentator announced
this past week that he won't return to the booth this fall.)
they're mourning Georgie Woods, "The Guy with the Goods,"
who made a name for himself as both a DJ and a civil-rights activist
over many years at WDAS and WHAT. Woods, who marched with Martin
Luther King Jr. in Selma, died last Saturday (June 18) in Florida
at age 78.
After an interlude at WMMR, Mike Missanelli is returning to
his longtime haunt at WIP (610 Philadelphia) July 5, joining
Anthony Gargano in the 10 AM-3 PM slot.
And we're delighted
to report that the oldest high school station in the country,
WHHS Havertown, is back on the air at its new home of 99.9. WHHS
was displaced from its spot at 107.9 by the debut of WRNB (107.9
Pennsauken) last year, but with the help of WRNB owner Radio
One (and alumnus Steve Hemphill, the engineer who built the WA2XMN
transmitter at the Armstrong Tower), it's won special temporary
authority from the FCC to get back on the air at 99.9 while it
waits for its application for a license at that frequency to
Auction 62 in the Keystone State will offer 98.5A Meyersdale
($90,000 opening bid), 101.3A Strattanville ($40,000) and 106.1A
Farmingdale Township ($15,000).
Oh - and just across the border in OHIO, we're pleased
to welcome Ohio Media
Watch to the web! This new site comes from a longtime friend
of this column (known to some radio-info.com readers as "Old
Akronite"), and picks up just west of where we leave off
each week - so if you're looking for the latest news from Youngstown
or Cleveland or that neck of the woods, go give OMW a visit,
*The big news out of CANADA came
from Ottawa, where the CRTC is granting four new licenses in
the National Capital Region. Newcap, which already has top 40
CIHT ("Hot 89.9"), gets 5.2 kW on 88.5 for a modern
rock station. Evanov (aka "CKMW") will put "The
Jewel" on the air with 700 watts at 98.5, playing a mix
of standards, easy listening and folk that's supposed to be similar
to the company's "Foxy" CKDX (88.5) in the Toronto
market. Radio Nord (which has CHOT-TV, CFGS-TV and CHLX-FM) gets
a French pop-rock/urban station, with transmitters at 96.5 (1750
watts) in Gatineau and 107.5 (250 watts) in Buckingham. And Jack
McGaw and Robert Stopells were granted a low-power tourist information
station, though they need to find a new frequency. (It's getting
to be a crowded dial up there...)
in Kitchener-Waterloo, country "Kicx" (CIKZ) has made
the move from 99.5 to 106.7, breaking free of interference from
Buffalo's WDCX, also on 99.5.
*Our special clearance pricing continues
for fans of the Tower Site Calendar 2005. We're well aware
that many of the calendar's fans buy it for the pictures, not
the actual calendar pages...but that doesn't change the fact
that by this time of the year, we're not exactly shipping 'em
out the door at a breakneck pace, and Mrs. NERW would very much
like a corner of her living room back.
So while she rediscovers the floor beneath those boxes of
calendars and we begin to line up the images for Tower Site Calendar
2006, you get the very first crack at our Calendar
Clearance Deal for 2005.
Here's how it works:
instead of our list price of $16 for this fabulous, full-color,
glossy calendar, you can now pick one up for just $8,
postpaid. ($8.64 to New York State addresses.) Better yet, if
you order two calendars at this special clearance price, we'll
throw in a third for free - $16 for THREE calendars, with nine
exciting months of 2005 yet to go. (That's $17.28 in NYS.)
Maybe you've already hung your original 2005 calendar on the
wall, and you're thinking it would be nice to have another copy
to stick away in pristine condition. Maybe you really want to
frame that spectacular September page right now - but you still
need a calendar later this year. Maybe you just want to help
Mrs. NERW clean out the living room and give happy NERW baby
Ariel more space to practice walking.
Whatever your motive, now's your big chance, because while
there are still 2005 calendars left, there may not be any in
a few weeks. (Remember, the 2002 and 2003 editions were total
sellouts, and I've had to turn away several of you who were hoping
to add these now-rare calendars to your collections.)
And we've got two more great deals for you, too. We still
have a few 2004 calendars left, and while they're getting rare,
Mrs. NERW wants them gone - so they're yours, in pristine condition,
for just $5 postpaid. (Buy two and the third is free!) Or order
the 2004 and 2005 calendars together for just $10, postpaid.
(What a deal!)
(New York orders pay $5.40 for the 2004 calendar, $10.80 for
the 2004 and 2005 together.)
And as always, the calendar's free with your $60 or higher
subscription to NorthEast Radio Watch/fybush.com. In fact, as
part of our Early Summer Subscription Drive, you can be among
the first to reserve your free 2006 Tower Site Calendar with
your $60 subscription - and we'll even send you a 2005 as well,
if you ask. Remember, we count on your subscription dollars to
keep NERW coming each and every Monday morning!
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
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.%) 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
2005 by Scott Fybush.