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January 16, 2006

Maine Sports Legend Dies in House Fire

*One of MAINE's best-known sports voices was silenced early Friday morning in a fire that destroyed his Falmouth home. Frank Fixaris served as sports director of WGAN-TV/WGME (Channel 13) from 1967 until 1992, and had more recently been part of the "Morning Jab" team at WJAE (1440 Westbrook)/WJJB (900 Brunswick)/WJJB-FM (95.5 Topsham).

Investigators say the fire was touched off by a cigarette that had not been properly disposed of. Fixaris' wife was able to escape the fire, but Fixaris, 71, died in the blaze. The "WJAB" stations ran syndicated programming in place of the "Morning Jab" show on Friday, after learning of the news; at press time Sunday night, their website had been converted into a tribute to Fixaris.

*In MASSACHUSETTS, WAVM (91.7 Maynard) founder/advisor Joseph P. Magno appeared in court Friday for hearings on the charges that he raped an underage male student at Maynard High School. During the hearing, evidence emerged accusing Magno of molesting at least four other Maynard High students, some as long ago as 1980. Magno was taken to Emerson Hospital after the hearing, where he's being treated for ongoing medical problems.

Meanwhile, WAVM itself returned to the air late last week, as school officials assembled a team of parents and community volunteers to oversee the operation of the station. Until further notice, two adults will be present at all times when students are at the station. There's no word on how the Magno arrest has affected Maynard's consideration of the settlement offer from Living Proof in the ongoing fight for the station's survival; we'll keep following this story closely.

Some changes at the top at Greater Media's Boston cluster: after five years as VP/GM, Matt Mills is retiring from the stations, effective April 14. No replacement has been named yet. Down the hall, Buzz Knight adds "VP/programming development" to his already crowded slate of responsibilities as operations manager of WROR/WBOS in Boston and WMMR/WMGK in Philadelphia. His new post will put Knight in charge of Greater Media's HD Radio multicast programming in all the company's markets. And one more bit of Greater Media news: WBOS is adding the services of Charles Laquidara. The longtime WBCN/WZLX morning man will do a daily hourlong show, to air 9-10 AM, focusing on a particular year or artist in Boston rock history. He'll record it in advance from his home studio in Hawaii.

Over at Clear Channel, Matt Siegel celebrated 25 years as "Matty in the Morning" on WXKS-FM (107.9 Medford) last week, doing a roving 12-hour remote that moved from community to community .

Longtime WBZ (1030) fixture Paul Harvey has found a new home in Boston; NERW hears he's about to resurface on Salem's WTTT (1150 Boston), which may finally bring some attention to that most under-the-radar of talk outlets. Meanwhile, WBZ has also parted ways with Neil Chayette's long-running Sunday-evening legal show; he did his last broadcast in that slot on January 8, and he's now been replaced with the financial show "In the Money."

Where are they now? Former WEGQ (93.7 Lawrence, now WMKK) jock and WEEI (850) imaging director Scott Mackay's been hired as the morning man at Chicago's new oldies station, WZZN (94.7), reports the Sun-Times' Robert Feder.

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*It appears that Charles River Broadcasting's two RHODE ISLAND stations will stay within the Jones family. The Charles River board has reportedly agreed to sell classical WCRI (95.9 Block Island) and all-news WCNX (1180 Hope Valley) to Christopher S. Jones, the company's president and son of its founder, the late Rev. Theodore Jones. No word yet on a sale price for the pair of stations.

*The bidding process is underway for two VERMONT FM frequencies that are among several dozen being auctioned by the FCC as part of its Auction 62. As NERW went to press Sunday night, Fine Arts Broadcasting had the leading bid, at $1.255 million, for 97.5A in Bristol, while Vermont Public Radio had the leading bid, at $26,000, for 106.9A Brighton, in the Northeast Kingdom.

Other leading bidders around the region: in Whitefield, NEW HAMPSHIRE, Clark Smidt was leading the bidding for 99.1A, while Steve Silberberg's White Park group led the bidding for 98.7A Stratford, at $20,000, and Alexxon Corp. led for 93.7A Groveton, at $32,000.

In Maine, Louis Vitale's $43,000 bid was winning for 101.1B Machias.

*A coastal NEW JERSEY FM station is working towards a better signal over Atlantic City and southern Ocean County. Press Communications' WKOE (106.3 Ocean City) has filed its application for its new 106.5 Bass River Township facilities, which will be on the WWSI (Channel 62) tower in Tuckerton. The class A station will operate with 1.45 kW/682' from that site, if the application is granted.

Meanwhile, Press added another station to its sales portfolio, signing a JSA deal with Pillar of Fire to provide sales representation for contemporary Christian WAWZ (99.1 Zarephath).

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*Bob Grant signed off from his afternoon shift at NEW YORK's WOR (710) on Friday, but he's not gone from the city's radio dial quite yet. This afternoon, he'll make a guest appearance with WABC (770)'s Sean Hannity, the first time Grant's been heard on that station since he was fired a decade ago for making what were perceived as racial comments. Will this lead to a more permanent slot for Grant on his old radio home? Stay tuned...

Congratulations to veteran New York newsman Ted David; he's just been named senior anchor at CNBC Business Radio.

Binghamton's oldest and highest-rated TV station is changing hands. Granite Broadcasting, which owns WTVH (Channel 5) in Syracuse and WKBW (Channel 7) in Buffalo, will pay SJL Communications $45 million for WBNG (Channel 12), which also serves as the CBS affiliate for the neighboring Elmira/Corning market. NERW expects to see a fair amount of news sharing between WBNG and its sister CBS affiliate, WTVH, an hour up I-81; we'd be a little surprised to see Granite do much more tinkering than that to what's already a very successful and fairly lean news operation. (WBNG also operates cable-only WB affiliate "WBXI" in the Binghamton market.)

In Newburgh, WGNY (1220) has been fighting for eight years to build a new three-tower array on Rock Cut Road to replace the temporary low-power facility it's using at a local lumberyard. After a battle with town officials that ended up in court, the two sides reached a settlement under which the needed permits would be issued once the FAA had signed off on the 175-foot towers. That "no hazard" declaration came through last week, so WGNY will now be able to start construction at its new site and return to its licensed 5 kW day power.

There are new towers coming to the Buffalo area as well; WJJL (1440 Niagara Falls) received its construction permit last week for its move to West Seneca, where it's had its studios for several years now. The station, currently in bankruptcy protection, will erect a four-tower array where US 20 splits from Transit Road east of West Seneca. The 5 kW day signal will blanket most of the Buffalo market, and even the 190-watt night signal looks to be fairly potent into the city.

A familiar Rochester voice has resurfaced on the Buffalo airwaves: former WHAM/WROC newsman and talk host Allan Harris has been heard doing fill-in at Entercom's WBEN (930 Buffalo).

Rochester's WYSL (1040 Avon) is adding more talk to its mix: the station began carrying Laura Ingraham from 9-noon last week, and today it will add Bill O'Reilly from 12:30-2 PM. (What about the station's big power boost? It's still waiting for its new phasor to arrive, as well as some needed transmission-line work; expect the new 20 kW day signal on the air sometime this spring.)

A few PD chairs spinning: in Syracuse, Rick "RJ" Jordan departs Galaxy's WSCP-FM (101.7 Pulaski), while in Albany, Glen Stacey adds PD duties at "Buzz" WABT (104.5 Mechanicville) to his marketing duties at the Regent cluster there.

In the bidding in the FCC's FM Auction 62 as of Sunday night, Randy Michaels' Radioactive, LLC was leading the competition for 106.7A Windsor (near Binghamton), at $67,000, while DBM Communications had the leading bid for 93.5A Wellsville (also $67,000), Equinox Communications was leading for 97.1A Canaseraga ($55,000) and Watermark Communications was ahead for 107.1A Livingston Manor ($61,000). Shamrock Communications led for 102.9A Narrowsburg ($53,000), and White Park led for 93.3A Saranac Lake, at $40,000. Jonathan M. Becker led the bidding for 100.7A Minerva, at $9,100, while LiveAir Communications' $4,000 bid was winning for 94.1A Old Forge.

And we just received our copy of "Serving Their Communities," the New York State Broadcasters' Association's newly-published fiftieth-anniversary history. We'll have a full review of this comprehensive volume next week!

*Sinclair is pulling the plug on its only PENNSYLVANIA newscast. The company announced last week that it will discontinue its 10 PM "News Central" broadcast on Pittsburgh Fox affiliate WPGH (Channel 53), replacing it beginning January 30 with an hour-long newscast produced by crosstown NBC affiliate WPXI (Channel 11). The move leaves 35 WPGH news staffers without jobs, and no promises that they'll be hired by WPXI, which already has a substantial infrastructure in place for additional news. (It's been producing a 10 PM newscast for its PCNC cable news channel for many years.)

The move leaves only one "News Central" standing in the region, at Buffalo WB affiliate WNYO-TV (Channel 49); Sinclair axed its Rochester "News Central" operation last year when it entered into an LMA with Nexstar's WROC-TV to operate Fox affiliate WUHF (Channel 31) there, and it's always contracted out for news at Syracuse's WSYT (Channel 68).

Meanwhile in the Steel City, WRRK (96.9 Braddock) changed calls to WBZB last week, solving the not-much-of-a-mystery that surfaced late last year when Steel City Media sister station WLTJ (92.9 Pittsburgh) filed for, then withdrew its application for, that callsign. (It fits nicely with the "Bob" format on 96.9.)

A veteran Scranton news anchor has died. John Foster spent ten years behind the desk at WNEP (Channel 16) in the sixties and seventies, then worked as a reporter for the station before joining the Columbia-Montour Tourist Promotion Agency as its executive director in 1981. Foster, who died Sunday (Jan. 15), was 81.

Radio People on the Move: in Harrisburg, WCAT (106.7 Hershey) afternoon jock Don Brake is moving to mornings, joining Brad Flick there. In Philadelphia, "Wired" WRDW (96.5) is expected to announce a replacement today for its "Big Mama" morning show, which got the ax last week.

Auction 62 action in the Keystone State: 2510 Licenses, LLC was the leading bidder Sunday night for 98.5A Meyersdale, at $90,000, while First Media Radio's $97,000 was the leading bid for 101.3A Strattanville.

And with the death of his business partner David Kurtz, Jerry Lee is assuming sole ownership of WBEB (101.1 Philadelphia). He's paying Kurtz's estate $85.2 million ($63 million in cash, plus a promissory note) for Kurtz's half of parent company "WEAZ-FM Radio," which appears to put the value of the station somewhere well north of $160 million.

*A quiet week in CANADA - unless you're an Ottawa Senators fan, in which case you'll be pleased to know that the team has added an FM flagship. CKKL (Bob 93.9) began carrying Sens games last week, simulcasting with AM flagship CFGO (Team 1200).

And while we noted the format change at CHNO (103.9 Sudbury) to "Big Daddy" adult hits last week, we should also have noted the voice talent behind the station's imaging. That would be none other than Howard Hoffman, now a big shot at Los Angeles' KABC, but still best known to us as one of the original voices of "Nine!"

*Didn't find a Tower Site Calendar 2006 under the tree/menorah/Blaw-Knox diamond tower model of your choice over the holidays? Our supply is running low, but you've still got time to place your order - don't wait!

We've got to say, we're especially proud of the way this year's calendar turned out. Once again, we bring you more than a dozen images from the 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!

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 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 2006 by Scott Fybush.