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March 27, 2006

Cape Cod Gets A Different "Frank"

*BOSTON - We're back in the ancestral stomping grounds of NERW for a long weekend (for those of you who haven't been on board since the beginning, this column began way back in 1994 as "New England Radio Watch," back when our home base was in Waltham, Mass.) - and we're just in time for a format change.

Out at the edge of MASSACHUSETTS, on Cape Cod, radio changes very slowly. Nearly all the stations on the Cape (and there are a lot of them) are still running the same formats they had when we pulled up stakes almost a decade ago and decamped to upstate New York.

Even here, though, change comes eventually, and when Nassau scooped up the three stations (WDVT 93.5 Harwich Port/WTWV 101.1 Mashpee and WPXC 102.9 Hyannis) left over from last year's sale of Boch Broadcasting to Qantum, a format change certainly seemed likely, at least at the oldies pair of WDVT/WTWV.

That change indeed came around last Tuesday, when the oldies went away, replaced, as at so many Nassau stations these days, by "Frank FM."

But unlike the other "Frank" stations in Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, the new Cape Cod Frank is more than just a classic hits outlet with a catchy name and limited live talent. This pair of "Frank"s is much more of a variety hits format, similar to "Mike" and "Jack" elsewhere in the region.

New calls are on the way as well - WFQR for 93.5, WFRQ for 101.1.

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*As rumors continue to swirl about the fate of the Red Sox broadcast rights after this season, all the players on the Boston sports radio scene are trying to position themselves for whatever comes next - and in the case of "ESPN Radio Boston" (WAMG 890 Dedham/WLLH 1400 Lowell), that means a new program director. Founding PD Doug Tribou was shown the door last week (to the consternation of many staffers, we hear), replaced by former WGN (720 Chicago) PD Len Weiner. (As for any hard news about the Sox, WBOS, WEEI, and whatever else - not this week, but we do have our annual look at MLB broadcast rights across the region, later in this week's issue.)

More rumors are swirling out in western Massachusetts about the precise date when WBEC-FM (105.5 Pittsfield) will sign on from its new city of license in Easthampton, with its new sports format, simulcasting Boston's WEEI. We're now hearing that, as expected, the "Live" top 40 format will move from 105.5 to what's now WUPE (95.9 Pittsfield), while "Whoopie" oldies, now heard on 95.9 and on WMNB (100.1 North Adams), will remain on 100.1, and possibly on WUHN (1110 Pittsfield) as well. The fate of the WBEC-FM translator on 94.1 in Great Barrington is less clear at present.

There won't be a new AM signal on 1580 in the Framingham area. The application for a new signal in the Framingham neighborhood of Cordaville has been dismissed after the necessary paperwork wasn't filed.

(Also dismissed was Ridgefield Broadcasting's application for 1400 in Falls Village, CONNECTICUT, as well as PENNSYLVANIA applications for 1490 in State College, 1400 in Philadelphia and 1120 in Hughesville.)

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*The next step in CANADA's move away from AM radio is coming - an entire province with no AM signals. That would be Prince Edward Island, where the CRTC last week approved applications from Maritime Broadcasting System to move CFCY (630 Charlottetown) to 95.1 with 73 kW, and from Newcap to move CHTN (720 Charlottetown) to 100.3 with 33 kW. Newcap was also granted a second FM, but not on the 89.9 frequency it requested. It will have to propose an alternate frequency for the rock/classic rock station, to be known as "The Island."

With PEI's third AM station, CJRW (1240 Summerside), having moved to 102.1 a few years ago, these moves will put all of PEI's radio on FM, save for two very low power tourist information signals.

Also moving to FM is Hector Broadcasting's CKEC (1320 New Glasgow NS), which will go to 94.1 with 36.7 kW.

*In MAINE, there's some restructuring going on at Saga's Portland group, as WYNZ (100.9 Westbrook) APD/midday host Corey Garrison is out the door. PD Randi Kirshbaum, who also holds the PD title at mostly-jockless sister "Coast" WMGX (93.1 Portland), takes the midday shift at WYNZ, while WMGX APD Ethan Minton adds the same duties at WYNZ.

*For almost 82 years, NEW YORK's WNYC has made its home at the city's Municipal Building at 1 Centre Street. The station's transmitters moved long ago (the AM to Greenpoint, then to the WMCA site in Kearny, New Jersey; the FM to the Empire State Building, then World Trade Center, then back to Empire), and now the studios are following suit.

Within a few months, WNYC will vacate its 51,000-square foot space in the Municipal Building for more than 75,000 square feet at 160-170 Varick Street, including a ground-floor performance studio. The move will cut the last ties between the station and its former licensee, the city of New York.

(NERW notes: with the recent moves of WOR from 1440 Broadway and WWRL from Woodside, Queens, WNYC was the last New York station still at the same address it occupied in radio's earliest days. If we're not mistaken, the "heritage location" crown now goes to Family Stations' WFME 94.7, which has used its West Orange, N.J. transmitter site as its studios since the mid-sixties, with honorable mention to WFUV, still at its original 1947 studio site in Keating Hall on the Fordham campus in the Bronx, albeit in relocated space on the ground floor as of a few months ago. After that, at least among major stations, you'd have to look at WAXQ 104.3, still at the same space at 1180 Avenue of the Americas that it first occupied as WNCN in the early eighties - but they, too, will be moving soon as part of Clear Channel's consolidation project. History's not what it used to be...)

In Albany, WNYT (Channel 13) is looking for a new news director, as Paul Conti prepares to leave the station in August after a decade at the helm. He's headed to the College of Saint Rose, to begin a new teaching career.

Over in Liberty, WVOS (95.9/1240) flips from AC back to country after a daylong "Jack" stunt on Thursday, dismissing veteran jocks Dave Robinson and Bob Schaffer. Under new owner Watermark Broadcasting, the station is moving from its longtime home at the AM transmitter site in Liberty to the WSUL (98.3 Monticello) studios in Bridgeville.

And from the "no surprise whatsoever" file, Rochester's WBGT-CA (Channel 40) has signed with My Network TV to replace its current UPN affiliation this fall.

*Ready for some baseball? With the first pitch just days away, NERW offers our annual look at the radio and TV status of the region's major league teams, starting, as always, with the Boston Red Sox. On radio, the 2006 season is stable, as the team completes the final year of its contract with WEEI (850) wih only one major affiliate change. (That would be in Providence, where Citadel's WPRO 630 yields to Entercom's WEEI-FM 103.7 Westerly.) It's 2007 that's still up in the air, and the Sox could be well into the season before that's decided.

On TV, there's no local over-the-air coverage of the Sox this year, except for Fox's network games - the schedule's all on team-owned NESN this year.

The New York Yankees are stable, too, back on WCBS (880) and an extensive network of radio affiliates, as well as team-owned YES Network for TV, with about 20 games being placed on WWOR (Channel 9) and a network of local affiliates upstate. One major upstate affiliation change: with former Utica affiliate WRUN (1150) now a public radio relay, the Yanks replace the New York Mets on Clear Channel's "Sports Stars" network (WUTQ 1550 Utica, WRNY 1350 Rome, WADR 1480 Remsen, WIXT 1230 Little Falls).

The Mets have a new TV home this year, with team-owned Sportsnet New York replacing the MSG Network. (And just in time for Opening Day, SNY has signed a carriage deal with dominant regional operator Cablevision, sparing Mets fans the agonies that Yanks fans went through when YES Network launched without Cablevision carriage.) Some games will still appear on broadcast flagship WPIX (Channel 11), though this year's lineup of 25 games is significantly fewer than last year's. On radio, it's WFAN (660) and a small network again.

The Philadelphia Phillies remain on WPHT (1210) for radio, and on Comcast Sportsnet and WPSG (Channel 57) for TV, with occasional bumps to CN8 for early-season cable games and to KYW-TV (Channel 3) for the season opener next week.

The Pittsburgh Pirates and KDKA (1020) have one of the longest-running relationships in pro sports, and it continues this year. No broadcast TV for the Bucs, with all games on Fox Sports Pittsburgh.

And the Toronto Blue Jays remain on CJCL (590), a relationship that won't change as long as Rogers owns both the team and the sports station. TV coverage is split between TSN and Rogers SportsNet.

We'll get to the minors in a couple of weeks...and in the meantime, play ball!

From the NERW Archives

(Yup, we've been doing this a long time now, and so we're digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five and ten years ago this week, or thereabouts - the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as "New England Radio Watch," and didn't go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997. Thanks to for the idea - and thanks to you, our readers, for the support that's made all these years of NERW possible!)

March 28, 2005 -

  • The rumor mill in PENNSYLVANIA has been flying for a while now about changes at Greater Media's "Mix" WMWX (95.7 Philadelphia), and it'll probably be spinning even faster after last Monday's format change at the station found it flipping to the "we play anything" hot AC/classic hits mix that's known elsewhere as "Jack," "Bob," or a host of other names. To the strains of Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom," WMWX unveiled its new identity as "Ben FM" (as in Franklin, of course) - and it's no surprise that the new format is running jockless for now, with morning team Joe Mama and Kim Douglas, midday jock Charlie Maxx and afternoon jock Brian Murphy all out the door. Can "Ben" do what "Mix," "Jammin' Gold" and "Max" have all failed to do, making 95.7 a contender as a pop-music station after decades as classical WFLN-FM? (We can guess, in any case, what the calls won't be - WBEN is a heritage AM callsign in Buffalo, belonging to Greater Media's Philadelphia-based rivals at Entercom....) (Oops - turns out both parties agreed to share the calls, and 95.7 became WBEN-FM a few weeks later.)
  • In upstate NEW YORK, Rochester's WHEC-TV (Channel 10) is turning to the sports department for its next lead anchor. You'll recall that veteran anchor Gabe Dalmath departed the station last fall, and the assumption was that relative newcomer Brian Martin would become the station's new star. But we hear Martin's agents overreached when negotiating a contract extension - and so the station's bumped Martin back to reporter status and is moving lead sports anchor Rich Funke into the news anchor seat at 5, 6 and 11. Funke's been with WHEC since the late seventies (except for a brief stint in Miami), and he's got solid news credentials, having been news director at WAXC (1460, the former WHEC radio) in the early seventies and having anchored the 5 PM news with Donna Dedee in the mid-nineties. (WHEC also has a new morning anchor, as Pat McGonigle arrives from WXMI in Grand Rapids, Michigan to fill Dalmath's seat on the 5-7 AM show.)
  • Over in Syracuse, there's a new coat of paint on CBS affiliate WTVH (Channel 5), where Granite replaced the orangey "5 On Your Side" look with a blue-and-red "CBS 5" on Tuesday. Gone is evening anchor Matt Mulcahy, replaced by Frank Kracher, formerly of WLOS (Channel 13) in Asheville, N.C. Kracher also fills the news director role at WTVH.
  • In NEW JERSEY, former WCTC (1450 New Brunswick) morning host Jay Sorensen will be back on the air this week, taking over mornings at WJRZ (100.1 Manahawkin), the station he helped to sign on way back in 1976. Sorensen replaces Spyder, who moves to nights at WJRZ, where he replaces the departed Mark Matthews.
  • A federal judge in Hartford wants Tribune to reduce its media-ownership concentration in CONNECTICUT, where the company owns the Hartford Courant, Fox affiliate WTIC-TV (Channel 61), WB affiliate WTXX (Channel 20) in Waterbury and the weekly Independent newspapers.
  • The cross-ownership has been an issue since 2000, when Tribune acquired former Courant owner Times Mirror. At the time, Tribune was granted several six-month extensions to sell WTXX, but the last of those extensions expired in 2002. Since then, Tribune has continued to operate channel 20 while waiting for the FCC to rule on its request for a permanent waiver of the cross-ownership rules (and, ideally, for those rules to be changed in a way that would make its ownership of WTXX legal, something the FCC attempted last year but which was struck down by a federal appeals court.) In the meantime, though, real estate developer Neal Ellis (who just happens to be married to the publisher of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, a rival daily to the Courant) filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Hartford, asking for an order to make Tribune comply. More appeals seem likely, and Tribune says it's confident it will find a way to keep both stations.
  • In Boston, Radio One's WILD (1090) has filed an application to move from the tower on Corporation Way in Medford that's been its home ever since the station signed on (as WBMS) in the late forties. The tower was threatened a few years ago by the planned Telecom City development, but it won a reprieve for a few years after the telecom bust. Now the land around the tower is slated for residential development, and WILD wants to move a few hundred yards south to diplex on one of the two towers of WXKS (1430 Everett), next to the Wellington T station. WILD would go from 5000 watts day/1000 watts critical hours at its current site to 4800 watts day/1900 watts critical hours from the WXKS site, still non-directional.

March 26, 2001 -

  • Is public radio more responsive to the people it serves than commercial radio? Ask the people of MAINE and they'll probably say yes. After several months of listener protests, Maine Public Radio changed its mind this week about some of the controversial programming changes it made last fall. Of particular concern, at least in outlying regions of the state where the commercial "W-Bach" network doesn't reach, was MPB's decision to discontinue Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. The good news for opera fans in Calais, Houlton and Fort Kent: the Met is back for the rest of the season, along with other opera programming filling non-Met Saturday afternoons and a Monday evening "Opera League of Maine" broadcast. The bad news, at least for Boston's WBUR, is that the new Maine Public Radio schedule doesn't include the Chris Lydon-less version of "The Connection" still being offered to the public radio system. Instead, Maine listeners will get more music during the day, including a new daily hour of music in the afternoon. (Is the removal of "The Connection" a sign of future defections in the public radio family?)
  • Some big changes at Vox's Concord group will take effect at month's end. Saturday (3/31) will be Dick Osborne's 35th anniversary at WKXL (1450 Concord/107.7 Hillsborough), but it will also be his last day at the stations, as his post of station manager gets eliminated. Also out at WKXL and WOTX (102.3 Concord) is sales manager Hope Lindsay Matthews. Whoever's left at the stations will report to a different boss, since WKXL/WOTX general manager Jim Whedon is being reassigned to Vox's WZSH (101.5 Marlborough) and WWSH (95.3 White River Junction) to be GM there. Britt Johnson, already GM at Vox's WJYY/WNHI in Concord, will add WKXL and WOTX to his duties. Meanwhile, we hear Osborne is looking for new work, and we wish the best of luck to this Granite State radio veteran.
  • While those Vox stations are shedding personnel, Ernie Boch's cluster in MASSACHUSETTS added some key management this week. Rodney Rainey, who's been GM of Houston's KTJM, is moving to Cape Cod to become president of Boch Broadcasting. Dan Endom, general sales manager at Hartford's WTIC(AM), will be Boch's new VP for sales, while Dale Pierce comes up from Clear Channel in Austin to be Boch's VP for marketing and promotion and Troy Smith makes the move from Boston (where he was music and production director at WFNX) to be operations manager and PD at the group. Boch is also making some call and format changes at two of the stations, flipping oldies WYST (93.5 Harwich Port) to alternative as WDVT "The Vault" and classic rock WWKJ (101.1 Mashpee) to hot AC as WTWV "the Wave."
  • One of CONNECTICUT's finest little community AM stations is being sold. Michael Gerardi's Gerardi Broadcasting gets $2 million for WINY (1350 Putnam), the lone station in its small-town market in the northeast corner of the state. Gary Osbrey's Osbrey Broadcasting is the buyer. Osbrey is the longtime morning host at WINY.
  • Across the line in NEW YORK -- well, actually NEW JERSEY -- the Sporting News folks are installing new calls on their Big Apple affiliate. WJWR (620 Newark) will become WSNR for "Sporting News Radio," matching the new name for the former "One on One Sports."

New England Radio Watch, March 29, 1996 -

  • WFFF-TV 44 in Burlington VT has been granted permission to move its transmitter. The transmitter for the not-yet-on-air station was to have been in New York state. Now it will join the market's other UHFs, WVNY 22 and WETK 33, atop Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest point. (It never made the move, and eventually signed on from the New York side.)
  • The FCC's latest expanded-band plan does little for New England. The last plan had just one New England station moving, WNSW 1200 Brewer (Bangor), Maine. The new plan has just one New England station moving, WZNN 930 Rochester NH, to 1700. Just over the New England line, WTRY 980 Troy NY would still move, to 1640. Oddly, WESO 970 Southbridge MA placed very high on the FCC's list of stations qualified to move (they were 21st), yet the station did not receive an expanded-band allocation.
  • Now that Infinity has purchased WBOS 92.9 Brookline-Boston, the station is undergoing a subtle shift away from AAA. The new tagline is "Rock of the 80s and 90s," and a new series of TV ads contrast 'BOS with the stations that play "Hard Rock" (presumably a stab at WAAF) and "Old Rock" (apparently a stab at Infinity stablemate WZLX). We shall see whether this month's format can succeed at this notoriously underperforming station.

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*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 we have a few still available at special clearance prices!

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.