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April 24, 2006

The Bell Tolls for Diamond Dave

*LAS VEGAS - It's a shorter column than usual this week, as your editor - and a fair number of Northeast radio folks as well - have decamped to the desert for this year's NAB convention.

Back home, though, the end arrived Friday for one of the most publicized morning shows in recent history. After less than five months on the air, CBS Radio pulled the plug on the floundering David Lee Roth show (heard in NERW-land on "Free FM" flagship WFNY-FM 92.3 New York, WBCN 104.1 Boston and WYSP 94.1 Philadelphia).

It'll be replaced with a sanitized three-hour simulcast of XM Radio's Opie and Anthony, the duo who brought down the company's last attempt at FM talk when they were in afternoons at WNEW (102.7 New York) a few years back. The show's final two hours will be heard only on XM.

From the sounds of Roth's show recently, the move was little short of a mercy killing, allowing Roth to escape the battles he's been fighting with CBS management and head out on tour, while giving the former Howard Stern affiliates a more proven commodity in mornings.

CBS recently shook up its management in Chicago, where ratings have been mediocre for both of its highly-touted format flips - oldies WJMK to "Jack" and talk WCKG to "Free FM." The Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Feder, not one to pull punches, savaged WCKG morning man Shane "Rover" French last week. Rover's show is also carried in Rochester, on CBS' WZNE (94.1 Brighton), and we'll be interested to see whether WZNE makes any moves to pick up Opie and Anthony when and if their show returns to terrestrial radio, especially since Gregg "Opie" Hughes got his break in radio as a protege of Rochester morning institution Brother Wease, who's right down the hall at CBS sister station WCMF (96.5). Stay tuned...

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Here at East RadioWatch, we've managed to hold off from imposing a password and mandatory subscription fee, but we depend on your support - and that of our advertisers - to keep it that way.

If you still haven't subscribed yet for 2006, do it right now at our Support page - and enjoy another exciting year of NERW, guilt- (and password-) free. And if you have become one of our many subscribers, thank you!

*Out on Long Island's east end, the AAA sounds of WEHM have returned - sort of - to their original home. Cherry Creek Radio's been doing some shuffling of its signals in the Hamptons, and it recently moved WHBE (96.7 East Hampton) to 96.9, from a new site about 12 miles west of its original location. With more signal over portions of Suffolk County that can't hear WEHM on the 92.9 Southampton facility (where the calls and format moved a few years ago, flipping 96.7 to WHBE with Bloomberg business news), Cherry Creek decided last Tuesday to pull the plug on the business news at 96.9, in favor of a simulcast with 92.9.

On the TV front, New York's WWOR (Channel 9) has begun branding as "My 9," in preparation for the fall launch of Fox's My Network Television. (And yes, we're well aware that the station's actually licensed in Secaucus, NEW JERSEY.)

Rival network The CW finally signed a Buffalo affiliate last week, inking a deal for carriage on LIN's WNLO (Channel 23), presently a UPN affiliate. (LIN's WCTX in the Hartford/New Haven market, which is losing its UPN affiliation, has yet to sign any new affiliation agreement; in that market, The CW automatically went to Tribune's WTXX, presently a WB affiliate.)

There's an anchor shuffle underway in Rochester, as veteran WHEC (Channel 10) anchor Janet Lomax moves off the 11 PM news, at her own request. Weekend anchor Jennifer Johnson takes over the 11, while Lomax adds the 5 PM newscast to her existing duties at 6. Those moves in turn take 5 PM co-anchor Robin DeWind off the anchor desk (she's also the health reporter), send morning anchor Nikki Rudd to weekends and move Lynette Adams to mornings. And no sooner were those moves announced than news director Adam Bradshaw landed a new gig in a much bigger market - he's headed here to Las Vegas to become ND at Fox affiliate KVVU (Channel 5).

In other upstate news, a reporter and photographer for Rochester's WROC-TV/WUHF-TV were attacked while covering a story last week. Photographer Kate Yerves and reporter Ty Chandler were trying to interview family members of two brothers suspected in an abduction case, when a woman lunged at them with a baseball bat. Yerves had to have several stitches in her head. The station filed a police report, but no charges have been filed so far.

And there's a tower down in Glens Falls. After several delays, the old tower of WWSC (1450) on Dix Avenue came down last Tuesday. It'll be replaced by a shopping plaza; the station's transmitter moved to a Valcom fiberglass whip antenna a few miles away last year.

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*A call change in CONNECTICUT: "The Fox" in Norwalk is now legally WFOX. Cox radio parked those very desirable calls at 95.9 in Norwalk last week, replacing WEFX. The WFOX calls had been on Cox's "River" 97.1 in the Atlanta market, which just became WSRV.

On TV, Mike St. Peter is the new news director at WVIT (Channel 30), replacing Sheila Trauernicht, who's now at KHOU in Houston.

*Some call shuffling is underway in MASSACHUSETTS as well, as Vox swaps calls on WMNB (100.1 North Adams) and WUPE-FM (95.9 Pittsfield). The WUPE-FM calls are now permanent on 100.1, but the WMNB calls on 95.9 won't be there long, as that facility is destined to become the new WBEC-FM as soon as Entercom moves the present WBEC-FM (on 105.5) to Easthampton, as WVEI-FM. (Entercom will operate "main" studios for WVEI-FM, at least initially, in facilities leased from Chicopee's WACE 730.)

Up in Salem, we hear that the local morning show at WESX (1230) has ended, with the station running satellite-delivered standards fulltime as it awaits the closing of its pending sale.

*In the Burlington, VERMONT market, Hall Communications is adding another station to its cluster. Hall already operates WBTZ (99.9 Plattsburgh NY) under an LMA with owner Plattsburgh Broadcasting that the company assumed when it bought Burlington Broadcasters' WIZN (106.7 Vergennes) last year. Now it's converting that LMA into outright ownership, to the tune of $2.5 million. No changes are expected at modern rock "Buzz" when the deal goes through.

*One PENNSYLVANIA note: The WPMY calls are already in place on Sinclair's channel 22 in Pittsburgh, ex-WCWB. Guess they don't want to give that other new network any more publicity than absolutely necessary...

*The news from CANADA this week is yet another proposed AM-to-FM move in the Maritimes. This time, it's CHER (950 Sydney NS), which is asking the CRTC to allow it to move to 98.3, where it would run 100 kW at 51 meters above average terrain.

*We'll wrap up this week's edition with some sad news, and some interesting news, from the world of Internet resources about broadcasting.

Long before there was a NERW - a decade earlier, in fact - a TV talent agent named Don Fitzpatrick created a column called Rumorville, telling news directors (via fax and the very earliest e-mail systems) about what was happening out there in TV newsrooms around the country. That evolved into a daily column called ShopTalk, and it became so successful that Don eventually got out of the talent business completely to focus on the column. So we were stunned, and saddened, to learn that Don died last weekend in Louisiana, at age 56.

We were also more than a little stunned at the sudden disappearance the other day of Radio-Info, the message-board site that had become a regular destination for chat about all things radio all around the country. The site had apparently been living on borrowed time over the last year or so, since the death of owner Doug Fleming. Fleming's parents, who own the site, locked out (virtually speaking) the volunteers who'd kept it running, and have now relaunched it, without most of the people or content that made it interesting. But in the meantime, most of the people from the old site have migrated to the new, which launched hastily on Sunday. It's still a long way from what the old site was, but we'll be giving it a spin when we get back to our home base later this week.

And that's it from Vegas - we'll see you next week from back home in NERW-land.

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 25, 2005 -

  • The RHODE ISLAND television reporter who spent four months under house arrest after refusing to give up the source of a controversial videotape was hailed as a journalistic hero last week in Las Vegas. WJAR (Channel 10)'s Jim Taricani was a last-minute addition to the roster of speakers at the Radio-Television News Directors Association and National Association of Broadcasters' conventions, and he used the opportunity to call for the adoption of a federal "shield law" to protect journalists' sources. Had such a law been in place, it would have kept Taricani from being convicted of contempt of court after he defied a Rhode Island judge's order to reveal the source of the tape that exposed a corruption ring in Providence's city government. Taricani was fined $85,000 and sentenced to six months in prison, which was reduced to four months of home confinement because of Taricani's health issues (he underwent a heart transplant a few years back.) RTNDA invited Taricani and WJAR news director Betty-Jo Cugini to Las Vegas as soon as he was released, and Taricani said he was delighted to accept. "It's great to be here - it's great to be anywhere outside home," he told the news managers as he spoke at their opening breakfast Monday. Taricani and Cugini said NBC management could not have been more supportive during the trial and the confinement that followed, including paying Taricani's fine and legal expenses. Taricani is expected to be back at work at WJAR this week.
  • Oldies have returned to Manchester, NEW HAMPSHIRE with a format flip at WKBR (1250 Manchester); it had been carrying talk and ESPN sports, but now it's "Oldies 1250," taking up the format abandoned a few months ago when WQLL (96.5 Bedford) went to classic rock as "the Mall," WMLL. Woody Woodland's morning show remains in place on WKBR.
  • A landmark tower in western PENNSYLVANIA is no more. Engineers at WPIC (790 Sharon) nicknamed the station's 550-foot Truscon tower "Old Shakey" as it entered its old age, and in recent years the station was unable even to get climbers to set foot on it to take care of painting and other maintenance. The end of the line for the 1947-vintage tower came last Wednesday (April 20) after one of its base insulators failed, forcing the Cumulus station to topple the tower. The 100,000 pounds of steel came down with one big "thud," bringing down various STL antennas and the old WYFM (102.9) top-mounted antenna with it. (WYFM moved a few years ago, and is now transmitting from the tower of sister station WHOT-FM in Youngstown, Ohio.) As for WPIC, it's running 400 watts from a temporary longwire antenna designed by retired engineer Jerry Starr, and it's looking for a site for a new tower to return to its usual 1000 watt daytime (50 watts at night) operation.

April 16, 2001 -

  • A call swap in PENNSYLVANIA is in the works, with the new CP in Cooperstown getting WHUG-FM, the longtime calls across the state line at 101.9 in Jamestown, New York. Jamestown gets the WMHU calls that were on the Cooperstown CP; we'll have to get down that way to hear whether a format swap is also taking place.
  • There's a low-priced station sale to lead off our NEW YORK report: Barnstable is transferring WFOG (1570 Riverhead) to Five Towns College for the lordly sum of $72,000. The station on Long Island's East End has been on and off the air for the last few years; we heard it in February simulcasting rock sister WRCN (103.9 Riverhead). Five Towns apparently plans to change the calls to WFTU, and we presume it will become a student-run station. That's good news for the students at Five Towns, but we've got to wonder: with the price that low, did the folks at Polnet make any attempt to add 1570 to their just-purchased WLIM 1580 down the road in Patchogue? The stations did simulcast years ago (as WPAC and WAPC), and the 1570 reaches a considerably larger Polish community than the 1580 signal (which cost Polnet $850,000!)
  • Going way upstate, we hear a Tuesday format change is planned at Utica's "Wow FM" (WOWB 105.5 Little Falls/WOWZ 97.9 Whitesboro), now that the stations are owned by Clear Channel. PD J.P. Marks stays with former owner Ken Roser, helping to run "Bug Country" (WBGK 99.7 Newport Village/WBUG-FM 101.1 Fort Plain/WBUG 1570 Amsterdam). As of late Monday night, WOWB and WOWZ were simulcasting Clear Channel's CHR "Kiss" (WSKS 102.5 Rome); we'll let you know if that turns out to be a permanent move.
  • Also in Utica, Nelson Suggs' Bethany Broadcasting is selling religious WVVC (100.7) to the Educational Media Foundation, which owns dozens of religious stations and translators around the country. The $1.25 million purchase of WVVC gives EMF its first foothold in New York.

New England Radio Watch, April 30, 1996 -

  • It's amazing what the FCC can hide when it fails to release full information about station applications. A few weeks ago, I wrote about now-dark WRPT 1050 Peterborough NH, which according to the Commission had applied to "change city of license and power." What we didn't know until know was just how much of a change. It seems WRPT's new owner, Alexander Langer, wants to move the station more than a hundred miles to the southeast, specifically to Foxboro, Mass. (M Street had this erroneously as "Foxboro NH") Langer's application calls for the new WRPT to move to 650 kHz, with 250 watts DA-D, diplexed from the Norfolk MA transmitter/studio site of WDIS 1170. This will be a somewhat tight directional, since Norfolk is just barely north of the 0.5 mv/m contour for WFAN 660 New York. And giving protection to WNNZ 640 Westfield MA and WPRO 630 Providence RI means WRPT's 250 watts will be pointed mostly northeast...which, how about this, just happens to be the direction of Boston! Clever fellow, this Alexander Langer. (He also owns the license for currently-dark WBIV 1060 Natick MA, which has applied for 50kw ND-D, something that can only be possible with WRPT off 1050.) As for the 650 frequency, there was a longstanding CP for WBSO Clinton MA on that frequency. It was to have been a 10kw DA-2 operation, with a decent signal into Boston and a tight null towards NYC. The CP was granted in 1984 and revoked about a year ago, making this possible.
  • It seems to me this is one of the more dramatic move-ins of late... comparable perhaps to the still-unconsummated move of WDMV 540 from Pocomoke City MD (on the Delmarva Peninsula) to Brinklow MD (between Washington and Baltimore), or the never-permitted move of WHMA-FM Anniston AL to the Atlanta area a decade or so ago. Admittedly, there's no station licensed to Foxboro MA (the home of the New England Patriots), but it's hard to claim to be the first service to a community when you're diplexed off an existing station's tower. In fact, Foxboro is within city-grade contours of most of the Providence RI stations as well as Boston. (2006 note - WRPT didn't move to Foxboro, but it did end up in Ashland, where it's now WSRO.)

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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.