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November 27, 2006

Christmas Songs Are Coming to Town


It's that time of year again...

...when we ask for your subscription support as we head towards a new year of NERW.

NorthEast Radio Watch is part of an ever-shrinking breed of radio industry websites open to anyone without a password or a mandatory payment.

Here at NERW, we still believe that it's not an especially efficient use of our time to be issuing passwords and renewal reminders. We'd rather be out there taking pictures of towers and twirling the dials to bring you actual news about radio and television across the northeast U.S. and eastern Canada, just as we've been doing, week in and week out, for over a dozen years now.

There's a catch, though, and here it is - even if there's no mandatory subscription fee, that doesn't mean that NERW comes to you each week free of charge. We ask you each year to do your part by making a voluntary contribution to help keep NERW coming. So far, the system has worked. Many of you support NERW each year, and for that, we're grateful.

But there are still many more of you who don't, and at some point, we're going to have some tough decisions to make about how to keep the bills paid and the NERW-mobile gassed up. We still consider, from time to time, whether it's time to put our fresh weekly content behind a password and a fee, just to make sure there's enough money in the bank to keep doing the column at all.

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TUESDAY UPDATE: Who'll replace Gary LaPierre on the morning news at WBZ (1030 Boston)? Former WOR (710 New York) morning anchor Ed Walsh, that's who. Walsh has been working nights at WCBS (880 New York) for the last few months, and he'll take over from the veteran LaPierre on January 1, 2007. More details in next week's NERW!...

*Every year at this time, your editor puts on one of his other hats - news editor of, the radio directory site - to help compile what we believe to be the most accurate list of stations flipping to an all-Christmas format during the run-up to December 25.

This year, there's an unusual flip amidst the normal batch of AC and oldies stations suddenly playing "Little Drummer Boy" over...and over...and over again. It's Clear Channel's WFKP (99.3 Ellenville), which last made headlines here in April 2005, when it flipped from top 40 "Kiss" (simulcasting with WPKF 96.1 Poughkeepsie) to soft AC "Lite" (semi-simulcasting with WRNQ 92.1 Poughkeepsie) by way of a couple of days as "Cupid 99.3."

Now WFKP is flipping again. Beginning December 25, it'll be simulcasting yet another of Clear Channel's Poughkeepsie-cluster FMs, market-leading country outlet WRWD-FM (107.3 Highland). But until then, it's playing a nonstop diet of country Christmas tunes. Once it flips, WFKP will help extend WRWD's reach into the Catskills to compete with Cumulus' "Wolf" country WKXP (94.3 Kingston)/WZAD (97.3 Wurtsboro); we'd note, too, that WRWD-FM is already simulcasting in Ellenville on WRWD (1370), though the AM signal doesn't reach down to Middletown as the FM does.

New York Jets fans won't have to adjust their dials for a while - the team's signed a new two-year deal to keep WEPN (1050 New York) as its flagship through the 2008 season. The games are also heard on WEPN's sister station, WABC (770), though the future of that simulcast may be in doubt when and if Disney completes the sale of WABC and the rest of the ABC Radio empire to Citadel. (The latest word is that closing on that deal isn't expected any time before July 2007.)

Speaking of WABC, a very happy first anniversary to Mark Simone's "Saturday Night Oldies," which marks that milestone with a special broadcast next Saturday (Dec. 2), from 6-10 PM.

Former WNEW (1130 New York) music director and program manager Robert Taylor died Wednesday (Nov. 22) in New Jersey. Taylor retired from WNEW in 1990, two years before the station went off the air.

Over on the shore of Lake Erie, John Bulmer's Chadwick Bay Broadcasting is selling WDOE (1410 Dunkirk) and WBKX (96.5 Fredonia) to Alan Bishop and George Kimble's Finger Lakes Radio, for $850,000.

Here in Rochester, the University of Rochester's WRUR-FM (88.5) is applying to move from its existing facility atop the Hyatt Hotel downtown to the Pinnacle Hill tower belonging to its LMA partner, public broadcaster WXXI. WRUR will remain at 3 kW, non-directional, increasing antenna height slightly, from 348' to 358'.

Around the state, a whole slew of stations jumped on the all-Christmas bandwagon this week. In addition to the country Christmas stunt on WFKP, sister stations WRNQ (92.1 Poughkeepsie) and WCTW (98.5 Catskill) flipped. So did WKJY (98.3 Hempstead) and WLVG (96.1 Center Moriches) on Long Island, WKLI (100.9) and WTRY (98.3 Rotterdam) in the Albany market, WKBE (100.3 Warrensburg) in Glens Falls, WYYY (94.5) in Syracuse, WLGZ (990) here in Rochester and WMXW (103.3 Vestal) in Binghamton.

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*Our big headlines from MASSACHUSETTS this week are mostly TV-related, starting with the FCC's approval of Tribune's sale of CW affiliate WLVI (Channel 56) to Sunbeam Television, which already owns Boston's NBC affiliate, WHDH-TV (Channel 7). Sunbeam has set a date - December 19 - for the launch of its own WHDH-produced 10 PM newscast on Channel 56, which means the current "Ten O'Clock News" will shut down sometime before that, putting a talented staff out of work just before Christmas. WHDH general manager Mike Carson tells the Herald that there may eventually be a morning newscast (again) on WLVI, but he won't be around to oversee it. He's retiring next July 1, handing the reins over to sales manager Randi Goldklank.

Meanwhile, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Boston's CBS station, WBZ-TV (Channel 4), is preparing to ditch its unpopular "CBS 4 Boston" branding early next year, returning to branding itself simply as..."WBZ." (We're at least mildly amused to see the newspaper coverage that makes it sound as though the station actually changed its call letters or something; here at NERW, where we believe the callsign is sacred, we've never called them anything but "WBZ-TV.")

Speaking of WBZ, the radio side of the operation proved the value of a full-time newsroom last week when a chemical plant exploded early Wednesday morning. While WBZ's overnight local newscasts are pre-recorded, its talk shows aren't, and so WBZ listeners had updates from callers (and, soon, from WBZ reporters who awoke and rushed to the scene) while a certain other newsroomless talk station was deep in "Coast to Coast AM." (And, its posted schedule on its website notwithstanding, said station didn't have "Boston this Morning With Rod Fritz" on the air at 6, either.)

Speaking of WRKO, it had still more headaches last week, when its phone system failed, leaving Howie Carr and other hosts to try to take callers with just a single working phone line. Ouch...

Up on the North Shore, the Thanksgiving tradition of the live radio broadcast of the Salem-Beverly football game was salvaged at the last minute. The game had been a staple on Salem's WESX (1230) ever since the station signed on in 1939, but under its new ownership, WESX no longer thinks of itself as a "Salem" station. Fortunately, two other North Shore broadcasters came to the rescue. Both WMWM (91.7 Salem) at Salem State College and WNSH (1570 Beverly) carried the call of the game from webcaster Moore Stuff Online, with WMWM picking up the end of the game by cellphone when bad weather brought the webcast to a premature end. (Final score: Beverly 28, Salem 7, by the way.)

More all-Christmas stations to add to the list this week: WODS (103.3 Boston), WSRS (96.1 Worcester) and WCOD (106.1 Hyannis) have all made the flip. WMJX (106.7 Boston) will stick with its usual AC fare through the holidays this year.

*The two-year investigation into the finances of Boston University's RHODE ISLAND public radio stations, WRNI (1290 Providence) and WXNI (1230 Westerly), has wrapped up with a clean bill of health from state Attorney General Patrick Lynch. The probe began when the stations' parent operation, WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston), announced in September 2004 that it was putting the Rhode Island signals on the market. Local donors who'd contributed much of the money to buy the signals from their previous commercial owners complained, and that triggered the investigation.

BU backed off its plan to sell WRNI/WXNI, and Lynch agreed to close the investigation after the university named a full-time general manager and created a local advisory board for the stations. That GM, Joe O'Connor, tells the Providence Journal-Bulletin that "this chapter in WRNI's history is closed," and that "every penny that is donated to WRNI is specifically allocated just for this station."

*A simmering rivalry in southwest CONNECTICUT took another turn last week, when John Fuller's Red Wolf group filed a new complaint against the license renewal of Citadel's stations, including WQGN (105.5 Groton), WXLM (102.3 Stonington) and WSUB (980 Groton). This time around, Fuller (who owns WBMW 106.5 Ledyard and WWRX 107.7 Pawcatuck in the New London market) says Citadel didn't disclose that the songs being played on the "Airbound" program it aired on many of its stations were being spun because record companies were paying for the spins. Red Wolf's complaint also seeks to block Citadel's purchase of the ABC Radio group.

Lots of all-Christmas on the radio in the Nutmeg State, too: WBMW, WEBE (107.9 Westport), WEZN-FM (99.9 Bridgeport), WDBY (105.5 Patterson NY/Danbury) and, for the first time, WRCH (100.5 New Britain/Hartford) all made the big flip last week.

*In MAINE, Bangor's WZON (620) has just signed a new five-year deal to continue carrying the Boston Red Sox in the market, which will give Stephen King's all-sports station an 18-year run with the team.

More all-Christmas stations: WHOM (94.9 Mt. Washington NH) and WYNZ (100.9 Westbrook) in the Portland market both made the flip, as did WEZQ (92.9 Bangor).

*There's even more Christmas music on the air in NEW HAMPSHIRE: WZID (95.7 Manchester) and WLNH (98.3 Laconia) both switched playlists last week.

*In our roundup last week of the properties Clear Channel is selling, we omitted the company's two PENNSYLVANIA television stations. Clear Channel Television owns CBS affiliate WHP-TV (Channel 21) in Harrisburg, and it operates CW affiliate WLYH (Channel 15) in Lebanon.

Adding to the all-Christmas parade: WFGO (94.7 Erie), WMVL (101.7 Linesville/Meadville) and WLLF (96.7 Mercer) all made the flip last week. For Erie, it's the first time the market's had an all-Christmas station. Across the state, WWYY (107.1 Belvidere NJ) and WLEV (100.7 Allentown) are both playing the holiday tunes, too. WMGS (92.9) in Scranton made the flip. And in central Pennsylvania, add WVLY-FM (100.9 Milton), WARM-FM (103.3 York) and WROZ (101.3 Lancaster) to the list, while we're at it...

*What's new in NEW JERSEY? A pair of brand-new LPFMs way down south, that's what. In Cape May, WCFA-LP (101.5) signed on last week from the Center for Community Arts, while further north, WMRH-LP (101.7 Linwood) is now on the air from Mainland Regional High School.

Oh, and some all-Christmas stations, too: WSUS (102.3 Franklin) flipped, as did the "Breeze" duo of WWZY (107.1 Long Branch) and WBHX (99.7 Tuckerton) on the shore.

*Up in CANADA, Thanksgiving's been over for weeks now, and the CRTC was open for business all last week, granting Corus its move off the AM dial across most of Quebec.

CJRC (1150 Gatineau-Ottawa) will go to 104.7 (11 kW DA/95 m); CHLT (630 Sherbrooke) will move to 102.1 (23 kW DA/91 m); CHLN (550 Trois-Rivieres) will move to 106.9 (100 kW DA/87 m) and CKRS (590 Saguenay) will move to 98.3 (100 kW DA/148 m).

With the closure last week of CKTS (900) in Sherbrooke, that city will have no AM station once the CHLT move is complete, while the CKRS move will silence the AM dial in the Saguenay region and the CHLN move will leave only relay station CKSM (1220 Shawinigan) on the air in the Mauricie region.

In Ontario, My Broadcasting was granted approval for a new signal in Avril Lavigne's hometown of Nappanee (west of Kingston, on the Lake Ontario shore). The new station will be on 88.7, with 11 kW DA/184.5 m, broadcasting from the tower of CTV's CJOH-TV-6 (Channel 6) in Deseronto.

And even in Canada, there's all-Christmas radio to report: CJEZ (97.3 Toronto), sister "EZ Rock" outlet CHRE (105.7 St. Catherines) and CKWR (98.5 Waterloo) all flipped in the last few days. Ho ho ho...

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!)

November 28, 2005 -

  • There was a time - and it wasn't that long ago - when the NEW JERSEY Meadowlands were an undesirable place for just about anything other than an AM radio transmitter facility. From the 1920s, when stations like WOR and WLWL first built sites there, to the present day, the swamps just across the Hudson River from New York City have been the preferred spot for AM broadcasters in the nation's largest market. With the construction of Giants Stadium in the 1970s, the Meadowlands began to become desirable for other uses, too, and in recent years, the area south of the stadium complex has become a hotbed of development. WOR, as you'll recall, is losing its current site in Lyndhurst to the massive EnCap golf course/housing development that's being planned for 800 acres in East Rutherford, North Arlington and Lyndhurst - and now two other AM stations in the neighborhood are crying foul about what they say will be detrimental effects to their signals from the EnCap project. WINS (1010) and WLIB (1190) tried to prevent the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission from granting its approval for Phase I of the project, arguing that planned 15-story apartment buildings would disrupt the stations' directional patterns, making their transmitter sites unusable. The matter will now go to the New Jersey Supreme Court, where WINS and WLIB hope to get an injunction to keep construction from starting on the housing portion of the project. It promises to be an interesting fight, and we'll be keeping tabs on it - stay tuned!
  • There's a station sale to report in PENNSYLVANIA: the Haddon family's Sunbury Broadcasting is paying $3 million to acquire WVLY-FM (100.9 Milton) and WMLP (1380 Milton) from Milton-Lewisburg Broadcasting. Sunbury's launching an LMA with the stations (which now do AC on the FM and talk on the AM) right away - and that apparently isn't sitting too well with the existing staff there, which has replaced the WVLY/WMLP home page with a message saying "We regret to inform our faithful listeners..." that the stations have been sold.
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, WAVM (91.7 Maynard) is fighting back against the FCC's tentative selection of Living Proof Inc.'s application to build a new station on 91.7 in Lunenburg. The move would prevent WAVM from upgrading to protected class A status, and would likely force the station off the air completely after 35 years. But the station, echoed by a letter to the FCC from the Maynard board of selectmen, argues that the FCC made a mistake - that WAVM's application to upgrade from class D to class A should have been treated as a minor change, which would not have opened it to competing applications. The station also argues that the FCC's process for choosing among competing applicants ignores the existing service provided by WAVM, which stands to be lost if the Living Proof application is granted.
  • A small RHODE ISLAND FM station has become the latest addition to EMF Broadcasting's "K-Love" network of contemporary Christian outlets. Chris DiPaolo is leasing WBLQ (88.1 Westerly) to EMF for three years; he's moved WBLQ's community programming to the former WCTD-LP (96.9 Ashaway), which drops its country format to become WBLQ-LP.

November 19, 2001 -

  • It's not exactly a "fad format," but there's no mistaking the wave of format changes sweeping across NERW-land over the Thanksgiving weekend: stations all over the country, in fact, are dropping AC and oldies formats to go all-Christmas music for the next month. It's largely a Clear Channel thing (and no wonder; it's easier to make a flip like this when you own eight stations in the market!), with that group's flips including WRNQ (92.1 Poughkeepsie), WALK (1370 Patchogue; the FM side stays AC), WTRY-FM (98.3 Troy), WMXW (103.3 Vestal), WYYY (94.5 Syracuse), WISY (102.3 Canandaigua) and WJJJ (104.7 Pittsburgh). But other groups are also getting into the holiday spirit: Barnstable, with WLVG (96.1 Center Moriches) on Long Island's East End; Vox, with the satellite standards on WENU in Glens Falls going all-Christmas; Citadel, with WLEV (100.7 Allentown); and independents WHLM (930 Bloomsburg PA, using the Christmas music as a stunt to launch regular programming early in 2002) and WLSH (1410 Lansford PA, which has done this every year since it signed on!)
  • We'll start the rest of this holiday-shortened week in the one part of NERW territory where it wasn't a holiday: CANADA. While those of us south of the border were gorging on turkey and stuffing, Corus was busy getting rid of Howard Stern's last Canadian outpost. As of this morning (Nov. 26), Stern will be off Toronto's Q107 (CILQ 107.1), which was the first station in Canada to pick him up back in September 1997. Why drop Stern now? Q107 managers tell the Toronto Star ratings weren't a consideration, that it was simply time to refocus the station on the Toronto market. To that end, Q107 and its sister station "Mojo 640" (CFYI) will move this week from their studios on Yonge Street in North York downtown to the Hard Rock Cafe at Yonge and Dundas. (If that happens to help Corus' cost-cutting efforts, too, we wouldn't be surprised...) Replacing Stern in mornings will be current Q107 afternoon jock (and former FAN 590 morning guy) John Derringer. As for Stern-heads in Toronto, they'll have to point their antennas south to Buffalo's WBUF (92.9), which continues to carry Howard.

New England Radio Watch, November 25-29, 1996

  • Boston's business-radio station is raising a lot more questions than it's answering with its public pronouncements this week. WBNW (590) has been the subject of repeated sale rumors over the last few weeks, and now station owner Back Bay Broadcasting has gone to the trouble and expense of hiring veteran Boston PR man George Regan to spread the word that "there will be no change of owner." In an article in Saturday's Boston Herald, Regan is quoted as saying, "as far as (Back Bay owner) Peter Ottmar is concerned, no one has an option on the station." The very next paragraph begins by noting that Salem Communications has an option on WBNW. It also answers a question we've been puzzling over here at NERW headquarters: it seems Salem picked up the option on WBNW in the process of selling KDBX(FM) Banks-Portland, Oregon to American Radio Systems this fall. This is the first solid confirmation we've seen of the long-held speculation that ARS had an option to buy WBNW ever since the station went on the air in September 1994.
  • Back to the denials: Regan tells the Herald that the departure of WBNW's general manager, Peter Crawford, this week was a "mutual parting of the ways," and he says October was WBNW's most successful month yet. We'll be keeping a very close ear on least as long as the station audio isn't drowned out by all those denials.
  • It's the radio saga that just won't end: Alexander Langer's attempts to return two dark New England AMs to the airwaves. Last year, Langer bought WBIV (1060) in Natick, Mass., which had been off the air since selling its transmitter site and equipment to Douglas Broadcasting for the new WBPS (890) Dedham-Boston. Shortly thereafter, he picked up WRPT (1050) in Peterborough, NH, which has been off the air for about four years. Ever since then, we've seen application after application for different ways to put the stations back on the air, including a dismissed application earlier this year to move WRPT down to Foxboro, MA (a move of over 100 miles!) with a change of frequency and power, to 650kHz. Now Langer's trying again. An article in Tuesday's Middlesex News alerted NERW to his latest application, this time to move WRPT to Ashland, MA as a 250 watt daytimer on 650. The transmitter site being proposed is that of WKOX (1200) in nearby Framingham.

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*It's here! As seen in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Omaha World-Herald and the Chicago Sun-Times, Tower Site Calendar 2007 is now shipping!

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.

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!

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.