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September 5, 2005

Hall Buys Big in Burlington

*Before we get on with the week's news from NERW-land, we need to look south and say a few words about the situation in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. If you're a broadcaster, you're probably already airing PSAs and conducting fundraisers. We've heard lots of good stories about the work that broadcasters are doing, and we applaud them. If you're in the engineering side of the business and you can volunteer help - spare equipment, or even your own time and energy - to help rebuild the many damaged stations down there, please join in the efforts being made by the Society of Broadcast Engineers. And no matter who you are, please give generously to the American Red Cross or any other charity of your choice. They need your help. Thanks.

*It's been a busy week for Hall Communications - first, the Connecticut format changes we told you about in our last issue, and now a major station purchase in the Burlington, VERMONT market.

Hall was already a major player in town, with market-leading country giant WOKO (98.9 Burlington), standards WJOY (1230 Burlington) and oldies WKOL (105.1 Plattsburgh NY). Now, for $17 million, it's adding Burlington Broadcasters' two stations - classic rock WIZN (106.7 Vergennes) and modern rock WBTZ (99.9 Plattsburgh). (WBTZ is actually still owned by Plattsburgh Broadcasters, and Hall assumes Burlington's right to purchase the station, as well as an LMA until the sale closes.)

Hall says it won't change anything at WIZN and WBTZ, and we tend to take that statement more seriously when Hall's involved. The stations will stay at their current home on the south edge of downtown Burlington, too.

Meanwhile over at Steve Silberberg's stations, WXAL (93.7 Addison) takes its new calls WUSX this week. Those calls come over from 105.7 Campton NH, which changes calls to WLKC, which was the old call on Silberberg's 103.3 Waterbury VT. And the circle goes round...

*On the TV dial in NEW HAMPSHIRE, WZMY (Channel 50) in Derry has unveiled its new schedule. Gone is the station's 10 PM newscast, but news at 7:30 PM remains, under the name "My TV Now." And from 9-10 PM daily, "My TV" will offer "My TV Prime," a local talk show. The station says it's also considering bringing back Candlepin Bowling later in the fall.

*A station sale in MAINE: Franklin Broadcasting is selling WKTJ (99.3 Farmington) to Clearwater Communications for $450,000. Clearwater brokers WSKW/WCTB/WHQO in Skowhegan from Mountain Wireless.

*There's a station sale to report in MASSACHUSETTS, as well, where William J. Macek's Central Broadcasting Company is paying Liveair Communications $795,000 for WEIM (1280 Fitchburg). Macek's a familiar name in central Massachusetts; he used to own WINQ in Winchendon (and was a DJ on WLLH in Lowell years ago, too, as "Bill Maxwell.")

On the TV dial, Natalie Jacobson is staying put at WCVB (Channel 5), where she's been an iconic anchor for decades now. She just signed a new long-term deal with the station that will keep her behind the anchor desk at 6, but take her off the 5 PM newscast.

*The news in RHODE ISLAND is all about talk radio: at WPRO (630 Providence), Steve Kass announced he's leaving the Citadel station to become communications director for governor Donald Carceri. Meanwhile across town, Clear Channel progressive talker WHJJ (920 Providence) is looking for a full-time talk host. Is the station about to beef up its local talk lineup?

*Our NEW YORK news kicks off with a brand-new tower - three of them, in fact! The steel is beginning to rise at WOR (710)'s new site in New Jersey's Meadowlands. The tower raising will continue through the next couple of months, according to CE Kerry Richards, and we promise you'll see lots of pictures right here, beginning with this batch from a visit on Sunday:

What you're seeing here is the first completely new high-power AM site to be built in the New York area in almost 40 years. (WNEW, now WBBR, on 1130 and WOR's existing plant on 710 both date to the late sixties.) Right now, just a couple of segments of one tower are up, but all the pieces for the first of three 658-foot towers (made by Indiana's Central Tower) are in place at the site just north of WOR's existing plant in Lyndhurst, N.J.

The transmitter building's finished, too, and inside it two brand-new Harris 3DX50 transmitters, along with a phasor, ATUs and other goodies await installation.

The site itself sits perhaps half a mile north of the current WOR site, which is being taken for the construction of the huge Encap Golf project. The new WOR site sits on the edge of what will eventually be the golf course, on what will eventually be a major four-lane roadway running between Valley Brook Ave. (where the current WOR site is) and the Route 17 frontage road, just south of Route 3. (It can also be seen clearly from the west spur of the New Jersey Turnpike.)

The FCC issued a fine against a pirate radio operator in Rockland County. Jean L. Senatus is on the hook for $2500 for running without a license in Spring Valley. The FCC caught the station playing Haitian programming on 96.1 - and the lease for the office suite where the station was located was held by Senatus.

The lineup for the new morning show at WPDH (101.5 Poughkeepsie) has changed a bit from what we announced last week. LJ Lively is staying put at WBLI on Long Island; the "Reno and Frankenberry" show will pair WBLI's Reno with Steve Frankenberry.

Up on the New York/Vermont line, we've learned a little about the plans for WZEC (97.5 Hoosick Falls) once Troy's WHAZ takes over. The station, which is getting new calls WHAZ-FM, won't be a simulcast of the current four-station WHAZ network's religious programming. Instead, it'll run a homebrewed format called "Gospel Gold," playing classic religious music from the last four decades. They're hoping to get WHAZ-FM on the air by mid-September, if all goes well.

In Rochester, Sinclair's "News Central" departed WUHF (Channel 31) in a classy way Wednesday night, with a lengthy credit roll listing the 120 or so staffers who've passed through the doors at 360 East Avenue since the news operation began there in 1997. WUHF's remaining staffers (about half of the 50 or so people who worked there on August 31) moved into their new home at Nexstar's WROC-TV (Channel 8) on Thursday; the new WROC-produced 10 PM news on WUHF will debut around November 1.

(And a historical note: with WUHF now vacating the 360 East Avenue studios that it's called home since its 1980 sign-on, that leaves WHEC-TV 10 as the last remaining broadcaster along the East Avenue "media row" that was once home to WHAM, WHFM, WNYR, WEZO, WSAY and more.)

Where are they now?: Perhaps you remember Dave Mason from his days at Rochester's WSAY, back in the Gordon Brown era. Dave's now in San Diego, and last week he had the sad duty of signing off the "Kool" oldies format at Clear Channel-operated XHOCL (99.3) in that market, anchoring a daylong live broadcast to say goodbye to the format. But don't weep for Dave - he's just started a new job as morning host of news-talk KOGO (600) in San Diego. (We have some neat pictures Dave's sent us of WSAY back in the day; we'll do a "then and now" Site of the Week with them, eventually...)

*A call and format change in NEW JERSEY: WDDM (89.3 Hazlet) flips to WFJS after just a few months, with the station's leased-time Indian programming giving way to EWTN Catholic radio. (NERW notes that the WDDM calls were installed by former station manager Ed Beck, who died far too young last month.)

*A quiet week in PENNSYLVANIA - but we have a logo to show you, anyway: WPEN (950 Philadelphia) has the website up now for the sports format that will launch there in a month's time.

In Pittsburgh, former WPTT (1360 McKeesport) talk host Jerry Bowyer begins his new gig at WORD-FM (101.5), where he's hosting a 3-6 PM talk show on the Salem talk/religion station.

*In CANADA, regulators scored an important victory in their struggle to strip the license from controversial Quebec City station CHOI (98.1). A panel of three federal Court of Appeal judges last week upheld the CRTC's decision not to renew the license of the Genex Communications station, ruling that "freedom of expression, freedom of opinion and freedom of speech do not mean freedom of defamation, freedom of oppression and freedom of opprobrium."

Genex has 20 days to appeal the decision, and will no doubt do so.

The CRTC also approved a new transmitter in Yarmouth, N.S. for Radio-Canada's "Espace musique" service; it'll operate on 106.1 with 20.5 kW. The CRTC also granted CHMY (96.1 Renfrew ON) a new transmitter on 104.7 in Arnprior, with 50 watts.

*Tower Site Calendar 2006 is just back from the printer, and we've got to say, we're especially proud of the way this one turned out.

Once again, we bring you more than a dozen images from the fybush.com collection that have never seen print before, including that nifty nighttime view of New York's WMCA that graces the cover. You also get to see WSB, KTAR, Mount Wilson, CBV and many, many more, plus all those fun dates in radio and TV history, civil and religious holidays, a handy full-page 2007 calendar, and the always-popular hole for hanging.

And we do it all with no increase in price, for the fourth year running!

The calendars are shipping now, so there's no need to wait until the holidays to enjoy all that tall steel and all that broadcast history. Order now and beat the rush!

You can get one free with your 2006 subscription to NERW at the $60 level, or order the calendar (plus other goodies) at our brand new fybush.com Store! We think you'll like this one - and as always, we thank you 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 2005 by Scott Fybush.