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April 17, 2006

WAVM, Living Proof Settle Dispute

*It's not quite a done deal, but the long fight over the fate of a MASSACHUSETTS high school station appears to be close to a happy ending.

On Thursday, officials at Maynard High School and Boston's WUMB (91.9) announced that they've reached a settlement with Living Proof, Inc., the California religious broadcaster that was granted a tentative preference for a new class A signal in Lunenburg on 91.7, the same frequency Maynard's WAVM has been using for its 10-watt class D signal since the early seventies. The Living Proof grant not only tossed out three other applications for 91.7 - WAVM's application for a power increase to class A status and applications for new facilities in Stow from WUMB and in Lexington from Calvary Satellite Network - but threatened WAVM's ability to continue to exist even with its current facilities.

As regular readers of this column know, WAVM fought back, enlisting the state's congressional delegation and garnering plenty of media attention about the possible loss of a program that's trained lots of aspiring broadcasters over the years while providing exemplary public service to a small city with no other local radio or TV.

A few months ago, Living Proof had offered a settlement that would have granted CPs for its own Lunenburg application and for CSN's Lexington application, as well as giving WAVM protected class A status with a very complex directional pattern. That deal never won full approval from all parties, but it apparently paved the way for the current settlement.

Under the deal, WAVM will get its protected class A status, increasing to 500 watts with a directional antenna that will protect Living Proof's new Lunenburg signal. That station, in turn, will use somewhat lower power than originally planned. WUMB, which had entered into a cooperative agreement with WAVM much earlier in the process, will share time with WAVM on the 500-watt Maynard signal, using the 91.7 facility there to simulcast WUMB's folk programming when students aren't on the air.

As for the "almost everyone" - there's still that fourth application for 91.7, from CSN International in Lexington. "We've not heard a peep from CSN," said WUMB general manager Pat Monteith when asked about that application (which, NERW notes, would seriously impinge on WUMB's fringe coverage in Boston's northwest suburbs), and the hope is that the FCC will find the current settlement to be in the public interest and quickly grant the Lunenburg and Maynard CPs while dismissing the Lexington application.

NERW in Las Vegas! If you're headed out to NAB 2006, don't miss your chance to see NERW editor Scott Fybush present some of his favorite tower site photos. As part of the Society of Broadcast Engineers' Ennes Workshop, your editor will be speaking on "Tower Sites I've Known (and Photographed), on Saturday, April 22 at 11:50 AM, in room S219 of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

On Tuesday, April 25 at 10:30 AM, your editor will also be moderating the "Improving Disaster Response" panel, in room N237.

Because the entire editorial staff of NERW (all one of me) will be on the road, expect an abbreviated NERW next Monday, April 24, with a full column returning the following Monday, May 1.

And be sure to stop and say hello somewhere out there on the convention floor! I'll have the Tower Site Calendar 2006 on sale (it's also available at the NAB store), and I always enjoy meeting NERW readers!

*The rest of the week's Bay State news is all out west, it would seem. In Pittsfield, WUHN (1110) has completed its call change to WUPE, which means that the former WUPE (95.9) is now legally WUPE-FM - but probably not for long, as the oldies that are now being simulcast on "Whoopie" 1110, 95.9 and WMNB (100.1 North Adams) are about to give way, on 95.9, to the top 40 "Live" format that's about to go away on WBEC-FM (105.5 Pittsfield).

The 105.5 frequency, in turn, has requested new calls of WVEI-FM to take effect when it completes its move from Pittsfield to Easthampton later this spring, becoming the Springfield-market relay of Boston's WEEI. (The WBEC-FM calls are then expected to move to 95.9, with 100.1 then becoming WUPE-FM.)

And speaking of Springfield, we note that LIN's new low-power outlet there, WXCW-CA (Channel 28), has requested new calls WFXQ-CA. Is NBC affiliate WWLP (Channel 22) about to get a Fox sister station?

Meanwhile, Meredith's CBS affiliate in Springfield, WSHM-LP (Channel 67), has applied to move to channel 49.

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*A well-publicized VERMONT unlicensed broadcaster was dealt a big defeat in federal court last week. After three years of legal battles between the FCC and Radio Free Brattleboro, culminating in a raid of the station by federal marshals last year, U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha ruled last week in the government's favor, granting the FCC summary judgment in the case and issuing a ruling barring anyone involved in RFB's operations from returning to the air without a license.

Such a license does exist in Brattleboro, and many former RFB volunteers are involved with licensed LPFM outlet WVEW-LP (107.7), which has yet to sign on. Its construction permit expires in September, and its debut was reportedly delayed by the seizure of the RFB equipment, some of which was to have been used to build the LPFM.

We're not big on "we told you so" - but we're still having a hard time understanding why, once the LPFM construction permit was issued, RFB didn't turn its energies away from a losing battle with the FCC and toward the prompt construction of the licensed LPFM signal, which might well have been on the air by now if not for that raid.

(But then, the last time this topic came up on a local Brattleboro message board, your editor was slammed as a "champion of corporate media" and run out of town, virtually, anyway - so perhaps principle triumphs over pragmatism in this case?)

*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, we hear Bob Greer has departed as general manager of Clear Channel's stations on the Seacoast.

*In MAINE, there's a new general manager at Sinclair's WGME-TV (Channel 13) in Portland, where Terry Cole arrives from sister stations WCHS-TV/WVAH in Charleston, West Virginia, replacing the departed Alan Cartwright.

*There's a new set of calls on the way to RHODE ISLAND: once the new owners take over at WRIB (1220 Providence), the station will change calls to WSTL.

*The big news from NEW YORK this week comes from Long Island, where Stu Henry's Long Island Multi-Media is selling WLIE (540 Islip) to Starboard Media Foundation for $14 million ($12.9 million for the license, $1.1 million for the station's real estate.)

For anyone who'd argue that AM radio is dying, that's certainly a lot of money - and a tribute to the work that Henry put into the station, which was doing religion as WLIX when Long Island Multi-Media bought it in 1995 for $1.1 million. After a few years as standards WLUX, Henry took the station to a talk format in 2002. He also presided over a huge improvement in the station's signal - from 250 watts day/211 watts night, non-directional, in its WLIX days to 2500 watts day/220 watts night now, with a CP to increase day power to 4300 watts.

For the last two and a half years, WLIE has been spending much of its day carrying programming from the Connecticut-based Business Talk Radio Network, and Inside Radio reports that BTRN's not happy about the impending loss of the signal, which will flip to Starboard's "Relevant Radio" Catholic programming when the deal closes.

In New York City, there are plenty of Radio People on the Move this week - at WCBS (880), Jeff Caplan is leaving his morning co-anchor gig after 15 years on the job, reportedly to focus on his wedding photography business. (WCBS will use rotating substitute hosts for now.) Over at WWPR (Power 105.1), Cherry Martinez moves from 6-10 PM to become the host of the "Power After Hours" 10 PM-2 AM shift, which had been running jockless. DJ Clue will take over the evening hours. Zach Martin, late of WAXQ and New Jersey's WNNJ-FM, is coming back to the big city as production director at WFAN (660). Martin had been serving as creative services director at WAWZ-FM (99.1 Zarephath NJ).

On the management side of things, Chuck Bottnick moves from chief operating officer at Westwood One to the VP/GM chair at WFAN. At Clear Channel, Rob Williams segues from senior VP/northeast to SVP/market manager for New York City and Long Island. Tom Schurr adds the other northeastern stations to his existing duties as SVP/southeast.

And on TV, Fox's WNYW (Channel 5) has a new graphic look, with a lot of flashy red and blue graphics that are intentionally quite similar to Fox News Channel, which is sharing some of its talent with Fox 5, as well.

Heading upstate, the Monroe Board of Education has picked new calls - WBKW - for its new signal on 88.3 in Beekman, which will bring the classical programming from WMNR (88.1 Monroe CT) to the Pawling-Patterson area.

Binghamton's "Wild 104" (WWYL 104.1 Chenango Bridge) has a new PD, as Jimmy Olsen moves down I-81 from Citadel sister station WNTQ (93.1 Syracuse) to replace KJ Bryant. 93Q's now looking for someone to replace Olsen in his multiple roles as APD/music director/midday jock.

In Albany, Siena College's WVCR (88.3 Loudonville) has moved from top 40 to more of a "variety hits" approach, though it retains its weekend specialty shows and - at least for now - its "88.3 the Saint" moniker.

And way, way upstate, WSNN (99.3) and WPDM (1470) in Potsdam have flipped from AC to country.

*One of NEW JERSEY's oldest FM stations will be spending the next few months in temporary quarters. Construction in the building at Seton Hall University that WSOU (89.5 South Orange) has called home since 1948 has forced the station into a two-room trailer for the moment, with studios in one half of the trailer and offices in the other. GM Mark Maben tells NERW that WSOU will be in the trailer off and on until construction is finished and the station's able to move back home at the end of the summer.

More Radio People on the Move: Gina Crash, late of Philly's WMMR and Washington's WHFS, joins the staff at Nassau's "Hawk" (WTHK 97.5 Burlington) as APD/music director/midday host. And Matt DeVoti, who went from on-air talent at WNEW (102.7 New York) in its rock era to the sales department under the station's subsequent formats, joins Greater Media's WDHA (105.5 Dover)/WMTR (1250 Morristown) as general sales manager.

*In PENNSYLVANIA, the big changes this week come from the Scranton area. On the air, Bold Gold Media pulled the plug on the oldies simulcast at WICK (1400 Scranton)/WYCK (1340 Plains) and the separate oldies format at WPSN (1590 Honesdale), replacing them with a sports simulcast as "The Game," with programming coming from Fox Sports Radio and Premiere's Jim Rome. "The Game" is also the flagship for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons baseball.

Meanwhile, the market's incumbent sports station, WEJL (630 Scranton), may soon be getting some company on its tower. Entercom's WBZU (910 Scranton), the former WGBI (and now a simulcast of news-talk WILK 980 Wilkes-Barre), is about to lose the lease on its transmitter site south of downtown Scranton. Last week, WBZU applied to the FCC to move to the WEJL tower on the roof of the Times-Tribune building in downtown Scranton. Currently 1 kW days/500 watts night, WBZU would go to 900 watts days, 440 watts nights from the more efficient WEJL tower.

(And a remarkable bit of irony: WEJL began its life as WQAN, and until the forties shared time with WGBI at 880 on the dial, using that same tower site that WBZU is about to lose. WQAN didn't move to 630 until the late forties, when it ended the sharetime with WGBI and built the tower atop the Times building that will soon be home to WBZU as well.)

In Pittsburgh, UPN affiliate WNPA (Channel 19) will get new calls when it becomes the market's CW affiliate. Actually, it's not even waiting for the new network to launch this fall - it'll become WPCW this month.

In Reading, Lisa Brenner moves up from the sales department to become station manager at Citadel's WIOV-FM (105.1 Ephrata)/WIOV (1240 Reading), replacing Mitch Carroll.

*Another AM station is about to go dark in CANADA. The CRTC has granted Maritime Broadcasting System's application to move CHNS (960 Halifax) to 89.9, where it will operate with 100 kW. The oldies format now heard on CHNS won't make the move to FM; instead, the new CHNS-FM will have an adult contemporary format.

The CRTC also granted another application for a new FM in Halifax. La cooperative Radio-Halifax-Metro ltee. will get to put a new French-language community station on the air there, but it was ordered to pick a new frequency, since its application for 89.7 conflicted with the grant to CHNS on 89.9. (The CRTC suggested 92.9 or 98.5 as alternate frequencies.)

In Moncton, New Brunswick, they're mourning one of the city's veteran newsmen. Dave Lockhart began his career at CFBC in Saint John in 1967, but for the last 33 years he's been with CKCW (first on 1220, more recently on 94.5) and CFQM (103.9), mainly doing afternoon news. Lockhart died last Tuesday (April 11), at 67.

In Toronto, the CRTC has approved another new FM station, but it still needs to find a space on the crowded dial there. A. Fitzroy Gordon's new station will serve Toronto's Caribbean and African communities - but the CRTC says it can't use its proposed facilities (508 watts at 98.7 MHz) because they'd be second-adjacent to the CBC's CBLA (99.1). Can the new station find an acceptable frequency? Stay tuned.

Over at Toronto Pearson Airport, we hear that CFYZ (1280), which did live programming for travelers arriving at and departing from the airport, is back on the air after several months of silence. Meanwhile, Sur Sagar Radio, which holds a permit from the CRTC to become Canada's first digital-only radio station, is asking the CRTC for a third extension of time to build the facility. Digital radio has yet to take off in Canada, where only a few of the largest cities have transmitters using the Eureka-147 system and where receiver penetration is all but nonexistent.

*And this week, we continue our look at baseball on the radio, with a scan around the dial on the AA Eastern League:

The Portland Sea Dogs continue to have one of the larger networks in minor-league ball, with flagship WBAE (1490 Portland) joined by affiliates WTME (780 Rumford), WPHX (1220 Sanford), WCNM (1240 Lewiston), WKTQ (1450 South Paris) and WMEX (106.5 Farmington NH).

The New Hampshire Fisher Cats have a new flagship this year, with WTPL (107.7 Hillsborough) carrying a partial schedule, as well as several TV games on CN8.

The former Norwich Navigators are now the Connecticut Defenders, but they're still on WICH (1310 Norwich). And their Nutmeg State rivals, the New Britain Rock Cats, are still on a big network that includes WDRC (1360 Hartford), WSNG (610 Torrington), WWCO (1240 Waterbury), WMMW (1470 Meriden) and a partial schedule on WELI (960 New Haven).

The Binghamton Mets are on WNBF (1290) this year, while the Trenton Thunder continue on WBUD (1260).

In Pennsylvania, fans can hear the Erie Seawolves on WFNN (1330) again this year. The Altoona Curve are on a new flagship, WHPA (93.5 Barnesboro), as well as affiliates WTRN (1340 Tyrone) and partial schedules on WDBA (107.3 Du Bois) and WBGG (970 Pittsburgh). The Harrisburg Senators move up the dial to WTKT (1460), and the Reading Phillies remain on WIOV (1240).

We'll get to the NY-Penn League when it starts play in June.

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!)

April 18, 2005 -

  • It was probably inevitable that eastern MASSACHUSETTS would see a station flip to the classic hits/hot AC hybrid that's making a name for itself around the country as "Jack," "Bob," "Simon," "Fickle," or what have you. But after Infinity's WBMX (98.5 Boston) and Greater Media's WBOS (92.9 Brookline) showed signs they might be leaning towards flipping, it was Entercom's WQSX (93.7 Lawrence) that beat them to the punch. On Thursday afternoon at 2, Entercom pulled the plug on the dance-top 40 "Star 93.7" format that had occupied the frequency since 1999, replacing it with "93-7 Mike FM," which follows closely in the "We Play Whatever" vein of all the other recent adoptees of the latest big radio fad. PD Jerry McKenna stays in place to program the station, but the morning team of Ralphie Marino and Karen Blake is out, as is middayer Mike McGowan, and "Mike" is running jockless for now. The station has requested new calls WMKK, but there's some speculation that those calls may not stay - they're awfully similar to other Boston calls such as WTKK and WMKI.
  • Meanwhile at WBOS, the morning team of Bill Abbate and Kristin Lessard is history, as the station goes for a "more music" approach and runs jockless during morning drive. We'd suggested last week that middayer Amy Brooks would be out too, but it turns out she's still there - sorry for any confusion.
  • In NEW JERSEY, it's the end of the line - again - for modern rock WDOX. The calls and format went away a few years ago on 93.1 in Wildwood Crest, where they began, and after being resurrected on the former WJNN (106.7 North Wildwood) in 2001, the new WDOX is flipping formats and calls. It's adding straight-ahead top 40 to its modern rock format and changing calls to WSJQ, we're told.
  • On the NEW YORK-VERMONT border, Vox is selling another of its rapidly shrinking stable of stations. WZEC (97.5 Hoosick Falls) is licensed to New York but serves Bennington, Vermont, and after beginning life as a religious station (WNGN) in 1991, it's heading back to religion as Vox sells it to Capitol Media for $1.1 million. Capitol runs the "Alive Radio Network" on WHAZ (1330 Troy), WBAR (94.7 Lake Luzerne) and WMYY-FM (97.3 Schoharie), and it's expected to put "Alive" on 97.5 as well, though NERW wonders if the real motivation behind buying 97.5 (which does soft AC right now as "Light Rock 97.5") is to realign the tightly-spaced 97.3/97.5 pair to better serve Albany. As always, stay tuned.
  • In CANADA, former CHOI (98.1 Quebec City) talk host Jeff Fillion has more trouble on his plate: a court has ordered him to pay TV weathercaster Sophie Chiasson C$340,000 for defaming her with comments on his show about her sex life and other issues.

April 16, 2001 -

  • One of MAINE's oldest radio stations is getting a new owner. After announcing an LMA earlier this month, Clear Channel bought Bangor's WABI (910) and WWBX (97.1) from Gopher Hill Communications this week for $3.75 million. The deal gives America's largest radio owner nine stations in the market; in addition to the standards AM and the hot AC FM outlets, Clear Channel already has AC WKSQ (94.5 Ellsworth), country WLKE (99.1 Bar Harbor), rock simulcast WFZX (101.7 Searsport) and WNSX (97.7 Winter Harbor), oldies WGUY (102.1 Dexter), talk WVOM (103.9 Howland) and country WBFB (104.7 Belfast).
  • With nothing happening in NEW HAMPSHIRE, it's down to MASSACHUSETTS next, where former WJMN (94.5 Boston) GM Matt Mills moves into the VP/GM office of Greater Media's Boston group, taking responsibility for talker WTKK (96.9), oldies WROR (105.7 Framingham), country WKLB (99.5 Lowell), AC WMJX (106.7) and AAA-ish WBOS (92.9 Brookline). Mills takes the job held most recently by Frank Kelly, who gets promoted to VP/Sales for the entire Greater Media group.
  • The "leftover" RHODE ISLAND Radio Disney outlet is getting a new owner. Hall Communications, which owns Providence-market country outlet WCTK (98.1 New Bedford MA) and New Bedford's WNBH (1340), is picking up WHRC (1450 West Warwick) from Disney, which no longer needs the station after adding WICE (550 Pawtucket) to the Mouse lineup. No word yet on Hall's plans for the station, which fits neatly between the New Bedford group and its southeastern Connecticut stations.

New England Radio Watch, April 16, 1996 -

  • Providence's WPRI-TV is changing hands, as mandated by the FCC. CBS bought the then-ABC affiliate on channel 12 from Narragansett Broadcasting last year, but was then acquired a few months later by Westinghouse, owner of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio in nearby Boston. The WBZ-TV and WPRI signals overlap over a broad area of southeastern Massachusetts, so CBS was given a 12 month waiver. WPRI became a CBS affiliate last fall, and is expected to remain so under new owner Clear Channel Communications. It's worth noting that Clear Channel's TV operations are mostly Fox stations, and the former CBS affiliate in the market, WLNE New Bedford MA, is owned by Freedom Communications, which recently signed long-term CBS affiliation agreements for several other stations. So, it's possible that WLNE could revert from ABC to CBS, WPRI could go from CBS to Fox, and existing Fox affiliate WNAC could end up with ABC...but that's just irresponsible speculation on this Radio Watcher's part. Clear Channel is paying $68 million for WPRI.
  • WTVU, channel 59 in New Haven, is reportedly about to change calls to WBNE (Warner Bros. New England, presumably). WTVU/WBNE has the distinction of being the longest- running construction permit in the US, having been granted in 1953 as WELI-TV, but not coming on air until just last year. Channel 59 is operated under an LMA by LIN's WTNH (Channel 8) New Haven. And it seems WLIE-FM 102.5 Southampton LI is now on-air, with standards and sports. I haven't been down there, but would guess WLIE can be heard in the New London CT area fairly easily.

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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.