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August 21, 2006

Air America Moves in Vermont


MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: Entercom kicked off the week with a bang - announcing deals to buy CBS Radio's stations in four markets, including Rochester, and to pick up Boston's WILD-FM (97.7 Brockton) from Radio One.

Entercom will use its $30 million purchase of WILD-FM to create a simulcast with its active rocker WAAF (107.3 Westborough), giving WAAF a real Boston signal for the first time in its history.

That simulcast starts this morning, under a time-brokerage agreement, pulling the plug on the urban format that's been running on WILD-FM. Radio One keeps WILD (1090 Boston), which has been carrying its talk network.

Meanwhile in Rochester, Entercom will have to divest two stations to stay under the ownership cap once it swallows CBS' modern rock WZNE (94.1 Brighton), classic rock WCMF (96.5 Rochester), top 40 WPXY (97.9 Rochester) and AC WRMM (101.3 Rochester). The company already has four stations in the market - country WBEE (92.5 Rochester), adult hits WFKL (93.3 Fairport), classic hits WBZA (98.9 Rochester) and progressive talk WROC (950 Rochester) - and it will have to shed two FMs to stay under the ownership caps. We'd expect the two class A signals at 93.3 and 94.1 to hit the block - but might there be some format shuffles before that happens?

Entercom's $262 million deal with CBS also includes stations in Memphis, Austin and Cincinnati - and notably does not include the CBS Radio cluster in Buffalo, which had been rumored as another potential Entercom target.

Much more on this story in next week's NERW!

*DENVER, Colorado - NERW's on the road again, making our annual pilgrimages to visit stations and collect new photos for Tower Site of the Week and the Tower Site Calendar, and so we may offer some abbreviated or delayed columns between now and the beginning of October.

This week, we're on Mountain Time and a mile high, as we check out the stations of Colorado and Wyoming, but that doesn't mean we don't still have updates from back home, where the air is thick enough to breathe.

And we'll start in VERMONT, where Air America Radio changes dial positions today. Steve Silberberg's WVAA (1390 Burlington) has been the network's affiliate for the last year or so - but when it applied for WCAT as its new calls a few weeks back, we suspected change was in the air. Now Air America is moving back to its previous home in the market, co-owned daytimer WTWK (1070 Plattsburgh NY), while WTWK's ESPN Radio sports format moves across the lake to full-time status on 1390.

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*From RHODE ISLAND comes word that Doug White, the veteran WJAR-TV (Channel 10) anchor, died on Tuesday (Aug. 15), at 61, succumbing to the cancer that took him off the air last year. White came to WJAR in 1978 from crosstown WPRI (Channel 12), and he had previously worked at WSMW (Channel 27) in Worcester and at WLBZ-TV (Channel 2) in Bangor, Maine.

White was honored with a half-hour special last week on WJAR, as well as a tribute on WPRI.

Across town, Freedom Communications says it's offering ABC affiliate WLNE-TV (Channel 6) for sale. WLNE has struggled to escape the ratings cellar in the Providence market for years, and without the ability to create a duopoly (as Freedom just did in Albany with WRGB and WCWN), the company had little room to expand in the Ocean State.

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*In MASSACHUSETTS, there's a price tag now on the trade that's sending WCRB's classical format and WKLB's 99.5 Lowell facility to Nassau, in exchange for Nassau's WTHK (97.5 Burlington NJ). Greater Media will pay Nassau $26 million in cash, in addition to trading the WCRB intellectual property and the WKLB facility to Nassau; the deal values the Boston end of the deal at $61 million.

Up on the North Shore, Keating Willcox's WNSH (1570 Beverly) applies to modify its construction permit for a daytime power increase to 50 kW. The latest plan calls for WNSH to be nondirectional, instead of the directional array called for in its existing construction permit - but the station's signal would overlap with WFTU (1570 Riverhead NY) out on Cape Cod. WNSH argues that the overlap would take place so far from both stations' local service areas that it should be permitted.

Charles Laquidara is leaving the Boston airwaves again. The longtime WBCN/WZLX morning man has been contributing to WBOS (92.9 Brookline) from his home in Hawaii for the last eight months; now he says he wants to "spend more time kayaking," and he'll end his WBOS "Back Spin" show August 28.

On the TV front, it was a bad night at Boston's WHDH-TV (Channel 7) on Thursday. The NBC affiliate had to abandon its 11 PM newscast a few minutes in, after its control-room switcher froze up. Unable to reboot the switcher, WHDH had no way to continue the newscast, and it simulcast MSNBC for the rest of the timeslot before returning to NBC and Jay Leno at 11:35.

Speaking of WHDH, it factored in a rumor that got some press in Boston last week. The Herald reported that station owner Ed Ansin is negotiating with Tribune to buy WB (soon to be CW) affiliate WLVI (Channel 56) to operate as a sister station. Ansin is said (by the Herald, anyway) to be worried that NBC might make a run at Channel 56, taking away the lucrative network deal from Channel 7. The station is denying the rumors, vigorously.

Out in Springfield, LIN's WXCW-CA (Channel 28) changes calls to WFXQ-CA, further confirming the reports that the signal will be a Fox affiliate when it signs on soon.

*In CONNECTICUT, Eric McDonald is the new PD at Cox's WCTZ (96.7 Stamford), moving (way) down from his previous gig at WMOO/WIKE in northern Vermont.

*Out on NEW YORK's Long Island, WLIM (1580 Patchogue) has been granted a critical-hours power increase from 5 kW to 10 kW, allowing the Spanish station to stay at full day power for two additional hours after sunrise and before sunset.

In Elmira, Carl Proper retired Thursday after four decades behind the anchor desk at WETM (Channel 18, formerly WSYE), ending his career at the station with a retrospective that occupied the entire 6 PM newscast.

Proper will stay involved at the station, as a "community ambassador."

*EMF Broadcasting's "K-Love" contemporary Christian format is entering southern NEW JERSEY. The California-based religious broadcaster is paying $2.5 million to Thomas Moffitt's Broadcast Learning Center to pick up WSJI (89.5 Cherry Hill), which serves the Jersey side of the Philadelphia market. Look for EMF to add additional translators and full-power signals to broaden K-Love's reach in the region.

*Across the river in PENNSYLVANIA, the week ended without a new format at WSNI (104.5 Philadelphia) - but NERW hears that the "Philly's 106.1" simulcast on the former "Sunny 104.5" could end as soon as today, to be replaced by a Spanish-language FM. Stay tuned...

In Erie, market veteran Rick Rambaldo is leaving the station group he put together beginning two decades ago. Rambaldo turned tiny little WHYP-FM (100.9 North East) into market-leading rocker WRKT ("Rocket 100"), then built a cluster that eventually became part of NextMedia and was recently sold to Connoisseur. Rambaldo stayed with Connoisseur as GM, to oversee the ownership transition, but now he's moving on. He says he wants to stay in Erie...and we expect we haven't heard the last from him.

And congratulations to Clarke Ingram, who can now add "operations manager" to his PD duties at WKHB (620 Irwin)/WKFB (770 Jeannette), in the Pittsburgh market.

Have you ordered your 2007 Tower Site Calendar yet? Read on for our special pre-publication offer...

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!)

August 22, 2005 -

  • Nexstar and Sinclair announced that they're entering into a joint services agreement under which Nexstar's WROC-TV (Channel 8) in Rochester, NEW YORK will handle most of the operations of Sinclair's WUHF (Channel 31). NERW has learned some of the key details of the arrangement, and it includes the shutdown of WUHF's quasi-local "News Central" 10 PM newscast. That program will go off the air September 1, with 26 of WUHF's employees (including news anchors Melanie Barnas and Ty Chandler) joining the staff of WROC and 26 more losing their jobs. Later this fall, WUHF will relaunch its 10 PM news as a half-hour broadcast produced by the WROC news staff.
  • In CANADA's largest market, the handful of viewers who ever noticed "Toronto 1" (CKXT Channel 52) in its first couple of years of operation will now have to get used to a new name. The independent channel changed hands from Craig to Quebecor earlier this year as part of CHUM's acquisition of Craig. That deal brought the Craig "A-Channel" name to the former CHUM "NewNet" stations across Ontario, and it forced the spinoff of Toronto 1, which now leads to the new identity there. Quebecor, of course, is the owner of the Toronto Sun, and the company hopes that the new "SUN-TV" name for the station will tap into the popularity of the downmarket tabloid paper, much as Quebecor's Journal de Montreal and Journal de Quebec cross-promote with the company's TVA network to great success in Francophone Canada. And it's no surprise at all that the rebranded SUN-TV will focus its programming on sports and entertainment; the station's ambitious news efforts were already mainly history by the time Quebecor took over.
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, it's a busy week at the Entercom cluster, where WRKO (680 Boston) program director Mike Elder is the latest executive to leave the talk station. This move doesn't appear to be related to the departure a week earlier of GM Tom Baker, whose job was eliminated in an apparent cost-saving measure; instead, it's a big opportunity for Elder, who heads to New York to become director of talk programming at fast-growing Fox News Radio. Even so, it makes for a big challenge for WRKO, which has been facing tough competition from Greater Media's WTKK (96.9 Boston).
  • It was a bad week for a legendary PENNSYLVANIA station. The studios of KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh), along with sister stations KDKA-TV (Channel 2) and WNPA (Channel 19), sit in a prominent spot at Gateway Center, at the "Golden Triangle" where the city's three rivers converge. It's a nice location, but it's also subject to flooding, as the station found out when a 36-inch water main burst just down the street on Wednesday. The TV stations were hit the hardest, as their graphics computers, news cameras and remote trucks were all located in the basement of the complex, where they were more or less ruined by the water. (So, for that matter, were many employees' personal vehicles.) If that wasn't bad enough, on Friday a small fire in an elevator forced the building to be evacuated mid-afternoon, sending KDKA-TV's news outside and leaving KDKA radio afternoon host Fred Honsberger alone in the building. (He was eventually persuaded to leave, too, and he continued his show by cellphone from outside for a while.) It's a good thing KDKA's owner, Infinity, has studio facilities elsewhere in town for its other stations; KDKA was able to set up temporary studios at the Infinity offices in Greentree while it dealt with the issues downtown.

August 20, 2001 -

  • It's been a quiet week here in NERW-land...except when it comes to Albany and the rest of NEW YORK's Hudson Valley. On Friday, Tele-Media announced it was exiting the Capital Region with a $7 million sale of its four-station cluster. The buyer? Rival Pamal Broadcasting (doing business in the market as Albany Broadcasting), which will keep only two of the Tele-Media stations, modern AC WCPT (100.9 Albany) and its "Point" sister up in the Glens Falls market, WKBE (100.3 Warrensburg). To stay under the ownership cap, Tele-Media will sell the other two stations, news WABY (1400 Albany) and soft AC WKLI (94.5 Ravena), to Ed Levine's Galaxy Broadcasting for $3.5 million.
  • Let's jump into analysis mode here: Pamal already has a solid cluster in the Albany market, led by AC WYJB (95.5 Albany), CHR WFLY (92.3 Troy) and talker WROW (590 Albany), but also including urban WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville) and smooth jazz WZMR (104.9 Altamont). Where does WCPT, wedged formatically between WYJB and WFLY, fit in? WCPT has been ratings-challenged for a while now, and while Pamal has taken on market-leading country station WGNA (107.7/1460 Albany) before, with the station that's now WAJZ, we'd have to imagine that another attack isn't impossible. What role WKBE will play in this, we can't quite fathom...
  • The real wild card in this deal is Albany radio veteran Levine, who served as PD of WPYX (106.5 Albany) in the eighties before building his own set of radio clusters in Syracuse and Utica. (Little-known trivia: Levine's WTKW in the Syracuse market was named in homage to the long-defunct WXKW 850 in Albany.)
  • # There's not much news from New England this week: in MAINE, Cumulus ditched adult standards from WFAU (1280 Gardiner) in favor of a simulcast of sports talk from WSKW (1160 Skowhegan), leaving central Maine without a standards station. In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Manchester Radio Partners' application for a new station on 750 in Manchester was dismissed. From MASSACHUSETTS comes word that Entercom's new Brighton studios for WRKO (680 Boston) were officially dedicated today in memory of the late talk host Andy Moes. RHODE ISLAND listeners and viewers are mourning Jack Burns. The former DJ, TV crime reporter (on WPRI-TV from the eighties until 1999) and Amtrak conductor died Saturday (Aug. 18) at age 71. CONNECTICUT saw some revolving doors this week, at least in the southeastern corner. After a couple of years as PD of WKCD (107.7 Pawcatuck), Frank "Franco" Carafano returned to his old job as morning man at WQGN (105.5 Groton), where he spent 14 years before leaving in June 1999; meantime, crosstown WAKX (102.3 Stonington) is looking for a new morning host, now that "Jake" (Bob Mitchell) has left the building. A quick bit of useless TV news: W69CL (Channel 69) in Hartford is changing calls to WHCT-LP, resurrecting the longtime calls of channel 18, before that station became Univision's WUVN last year.
  • VERMONT's Brian Dodge found himself behind bars this week after allegedly violating his probation. Dodge, who owns WWNH (1340 Madbury NH) and a string of translators, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in May to settle a domestic assault charge for allegedly attacking his wife. Under the terms of his probation, Dodge was barred from contacting his wife and was ordered to seek counseling. The Rutland Herald reported this week that Dodge never obtained that counseling, so he's in jail without bail until the matter can be settled.

New England Radio Watch, August 22, 1996

  • A well-known set of Boston call letters has quietly returned to town. WROR was 98.5 FM under RKO and later Atlantic Ventures from the late 1960s until 1991. Now Greater Media has laid claim to the calls, using them for now to replace the equally-historic WMEX calls on leased- time ethnic AM 1150. The expectation around town is that WROR(AM) on 1150 is just a temporary move to hold the calls until they can resurface in a few weeks on one of Greater Media's two country FMs, either WBCS on 96.9 or WKLB on 105.7. At least one of the best-known personalities from WROR's glory days as an oldies and later as an AC station is currently available. Joe Martelle was dropped as morning host earlier this year at the former WROR, now WBMX. His non-compete clause expires in December, and after that he's free to move over to what may become the new WROR-FM. No word yet on what calls 1150 will end up with (although it's a good bet that the WMEX calls will be snapped up somewhere else very quickly.)
  • Ironically, when ARS changed the original WROR to WBMX, they deliberately tried to get the calls out of town. ARS bought the WBMX calls from AM 640 in Zeeland, Michigan, and in turn sent the WROR calls out there to occupy 640. In the years that followed, though, Michigan's WROR(AM) became first WISZ, "Radio Aahs," and now WMFN, "The Fan," leaving the WROR calls open for a return to Boston.
  • More to come, no doubt, as Greater Media keeps dropping clues about where it's going with 96.9 and 105.7 in Boston. The latest rumors seem to add up to 96.9 staying country, although perhaps inheriting the WKLB calls from 105.7, and 105.7 becoming some sort of hot AC, possibly as WROR-FM, on or about September 5. Stay tuned...

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*It's here! Tower Site 2007 is now at the printer, and we'll begin shipping it out just after Labor Day.

This year's edition features what we think are the finest tower images yet - from the cover image of WCCO Minneapolis all the way to the back-cover centerfold of WBZ in Boston, and from KGO San Francisco to KOIL Omaha to Philadelphia's famed Roxborough tower farm, captured in a dramatic dusk shot with the lights all aglow.

This sixth annual edition once again contains plenty of historic dates from radio and television history in the Northeast and beyond, and as always, it comes to you shrink-wrapped and shipped first class mail for safe arrival.

Why place your order early this year? Two reasons - first, we're printing a more limited quantity of calendars this year than in past years, and we do expect the 2007 calendar to sell out before long. And second, if you order before September 1, you can order your 2007 calendar at the same $16 price that we've been offering ever since the 2003 edition. After that, because of increases in production and postage costs, we'll be forced to raise the price don't wait!

You can even get your 2007 calendar free with your new or renewal subscription to NERW at the $60 level.

Visit the Store and place your order today - and be among the first to get the Tower Site Calendar 2007, just as soon as it rolls off the presses in a few short weeks!

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.