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February 5, 2007

Cumulus Applies for NYC FM Move-In


*The FCC's continuing to deal with the flood of applications it's received under its new "one-step" rules for moving radio stations' cities of license - and that means a few more interesting applications in PENNSYLVANIA and NEW YORK for us to tell you about this week.

The biggest application in this week's batch comes from Cumulus, which filed to move WFAS-FM (103.9 White Plains) to Bronxville, New York. For now, WFAS-FM will stay put at its current transmitter site in Greenburgh, just off the Sprain Parkway, but NERW expects a subsequent application to move the station's transmitter within New York city limits.

As a pre-1964 grandfathered station, WFAS-FM doesn't have to protect its second-adjacent neighbors on the Empire State Building, WKTU (103.5 Lake Success) and WAXQ (104.3 New York), but it does have to stay at least 15 km from WPAT-FM (93.1 Paterson NJ), which is also on Empire. That means it's likely to end up somewhere in the Bronx, where it will probably end up joining another move-in, Cox's WCTZ (96.7 Stamford CT, moving to Port Chester NY).

Will Cumulus hang on to the station after the move, or will it become trade bait? Stay tuned...

Meanwhile, out at the other end of the state, Farm and Home Broadcasting is applying to get WFRM-FM (96.7 Coudersport PA) out of its economically-troubled hometown and into the larger Olean market. Coudersport was the home base of Adelphia Communications, and the economic boom there under the Rigas family has quickly gone bust, with the collapse of the company, the convictions of its founders and the impending closure of the Adelphia call center that provided much of the town's employment base.

While WFRM (600) will stay in Coudersport, the FM side wants to cross the state line to Portville, New York, running 460 watts at 155 meters from a communications tower on Savage Hollow Road in Olean.

And on the Ohio end of Pennsylvania, Cumulus is again trying to move WWIZ (103.9 Mercer) closer to the center of its Youngstown-based cluster. WWIZ's studios are already at the Cumulus compound in Youngstown, and now Cumulus is applying to change its city of license to West Middlesex, Pennsylvania, just south of Sharon.

WWIZ's transmitter wouldn't move, at least under the current application, but that's the least of Cumulus' problems. A statement attached to the application refers to the infamous "Note 4" of the FCC's new multiple-ownership rules. That's the clause that blocks stations from changing city of license if their owners are grandfathered above current ownership caps - and with eight stations in the Youngstown market, Cumulus is indeed grandfathered there.

In its statement, Cumulus says its WWIZ move wouldn't increase concentration of ownership in the market. And because of the way the rules changed - meaning that the WWIZ move wouldn't "implement an approved community of license change (i.e., a rule making)" - Cumulus believes it's exempt from the provisions of Note 4. If it's not, and if the FCC won't grant a waiver, Cumulus says it will simply drop the application so it doesn't have to divest anything in the market.

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*In other news from around NEW YORK, the new "Fresh FM" (WWFS 102.7 New York) has added its first air talent. Long Island native Mike Perry, formerly of WOLL in West Palm Beach, will take the 3-8 PM shift at Fresh.

On Long Island, WLIE (540 Islip) has flipped from business talk to Spanish religion under Otto Miller's Principal Broadcasting Network, which is LMA'ing it from Stu Henry's Long Island Multimedia in anticipation of a $14 million purchase.

Michael Celenza, who already owns Long Island translator W284AZ (104.7 Selden), is buying another translator. His new Apple Community Broadcasting will pay $10,000 for the construction permit for W286AN (101.5 Plainview); no word on what the signal will relay when it gets on the air.

Heading up the Hudson Valley, Pamal took over from Clear Channel on Thursday at WBPM (92.9 Saugerties) and WGHQ (920 Kingston). At WBPM, Clear Channel's oldies are out, and classic hits are in. No airstaff have been announced yet, except for a website mention of Jack Hammer in morning drive. Randy Turner's in the PD chair.

On the AM side, WGHQ keeps the leased-time "Kingston Community Radio" in mornings and Rush Limbaugh from noon-3 PM, but the rest of the programming flips from Clear Channel's news-talk to a simulcast of the standards format Pamal runs down the valley at WBNR (1260 Beacon) and WLNA (1420 Peekskill), including a partial simulcast of the "Good Morning Hudson Valley" morning show and ABC satellite standards the rest of the day.

While we're in the Valley, we note the passing of longtime WKNY (1490 Kingston) polka show host Bronislaw Hudela, who died Monday (Jan. 29) at 88. Hudela hosted "Polkatime Sunday" since 1948, and even anchored the news on the long-defunct WKNY-TV (Channel 66) when it signed on in the fifties.

There's a new live afternoon show at Syracuse's "Movin'" (WWLF-FM 100.3 Sylvan Lake/WOLF-FM 96.7 Oswego, plus a 96.5 Syracuse translator). "Yo Sunny Joe" Allen, formerly with WBMW (106.5 Ledyard CT), and at several New York City stations before that, is now being heard in PM drive in the Salt City.

In Elmira, WENY-TV (Channel 36) is losing its news director and lead anchor, as Jody Davis heads to Peoria and the ND chair at WMBD-TV (Channel 31).

*There's a new tower up in MASSACHUSETTS. Carter Broadcasting's WCRN (830 Worcester) put up a new fourth tower at its transmitter site on Thursday, and with the tower up and a new ground system in place, "True Talk 830" is almost ready to boost its night power from its present 5 kW to 50 kW - just in time for Red Sox opening day, as the station becomes the Sox affiliate for Worcester and much of the Metro West region, where new flagship WRKO (680) doesn't reach well after dark. Veteran consultant and station owner Clark Smidt is on board at WCRN helping the station take maximum advantage of its impending power increase, too.

Another Worcester station is keeping its engineers busy, too. Community station WCUW (91.3) was off the air for almost a week after losing the tube in its transmitter. WCUW's suffered money problems, and it took an emergency fundraiser to bring in enough money to obtain a replacement tube (as well as to pay the heating bill for the station's Main Street studios.) The station returned to the air on Thursday, but it's still asking for help from its listeners as it copes with other financial issues, including rising music-rights fees from ASCAP and BMI.

Those music-rights bills have put Bob Bittner's WJIB (740 Cambridge) in the headlines lately, too, as he copes with a change in the fee structure that will take his fees from a few hundred dollars a month to well into four figures.

That's usually not a big chunk of money for a commercial music station in a big market, but Bob's not your usual broadcast owner. He runs the station (and sister station WJTO 730 in Bath, Maine) all by himself, covering his expenses by leasing airtime on weekends (and, until recently, two hours of morning drive to Radio France International), without selling any spot advertising.

So when WJIB began showing in the ratings, prompting the increase in rights fees, what would have been cause for celebration anywhere else became a problem for Bob. He's now contemplating taking WJIB and WJTO to a listener-supported model, and he's talking about simulcasting both stations from his studio up in Maine.

Paul Perry is the new afternoon jock on WROR (105.7 Framingham). The former WWBB (101.5 Providence) and WODS (103.3 Boston) jock was last heard full-time in Chicago, at oldies WJMK (104.3) before it flipped to "Jack" in 2005.

On TV, Dawn Hasbrouck moves up from CONNECTICUT (WFSB in Hartford) to become weekend evening anchor at WBZ-TV (Channel 4), which appears (at least judging by its website as we go to press Sunday afternoon) to be rebranding from "CBS 4" to simply..."W-B-Z." (Anyone else remember the old Westinghouse three-box "W-B-Z" logo in the days before Group W?)

On Cape Cod, Qantum blew out a big chunk of its staff, including WCIB (101.9 Falmouth) morning man Larry Egan and middayer Shelley Stuart, as well as newsman Bill Lowell. WCIB's looking for a new morning host; it's using WRZE (96.3 Nantucket) night jock Jen Arra to do middays at WCIB.

*As we'd predicted last week, progressive talk is now a thing of the past in New Haven, CONNECTICUT, where Clear Channel flipped WAVZ (1300) to ESPN sports on Sunday afternoon at 4, just in time for that big football game.

Will there be an outcry over the disappearance of "The Voice" on 1300, as there's been over the end of progressive talk in Boston, Madison and other markets? Clear Channel kept this format change more low-key than previous flips, and so far we're not hearing about much in the way of protests.

Meanwhile, one channel down, WTMI (1290 West Hartford) has applied to change its calls back to WCCC(AM). Is a change from the classical format imminent there?

*In MAINE, Doug Rafferty is leaving the 6 PM anchor chair at Portland's WGME (Channel 13), settling in as a sort of community ambassador for the station. Gregg Lagerquist takes over the 6 PM newscast there.

*A call change in NEW JERSEY: with EMF Broadcasting's "K-Love" taking over at WSJI (89.5 Cherry Hill), the station's now WKVP, with the P standing for nearby Philadelphia.

And Michelle Jerson, formerly of "New Jersey 101.5" (WKXW 101.5 Trenton) and Sirius' "Howard 100 News," has a new gig - she takes over nights at Washington's "Free FM" (WJFK-FM 106.7 Manassas VA) tonight, alongside Michael Checkoway.

*In PENNSYLVANIA, we can clear up some callsign confusion in Erie: though it initially announced it was changing calls to WFGO, the oldies station on 1330 will remain WFNN for now. Why not pick up the calls of the former "Froggy" FM (now WXBB, "94.7 Bob FM") along with the format? NERW suspects the idea is to keep the WFNN calls out of the hands of crosstown WRIE (1260), which has picked up the sports format formerly heard on 1330.

In the York area, Cumulus is applying to move WGLD (1440 Red Lion) to a new city of license and a new transmitter site. WGLD (ex-WTHM, ex-WGCB) has been operating on and off from a longwire antenna at its Red Lion site ever since tower construction for sister station WSOX (96.1 Red Lion) disrupted its original facility. Now Citadel wants to change WGLD's city of license to Manchester Township, moving the station to the WSBA (910) site with 730 watts day, 53 watts night, non-directional.

Near Scranton, GEOS Communications had to make a speedy move of WGMF, Tunkhannock (107.7) after a dispute with the owner of the tower the station was using. In an FCC filing, WGMF says the spat over an electrical panel at the site led to the tower owner cutting off power to its transmitter. WGMF has found a new site on a pole a few hundred feet away on Brier Mountain, and it's now operating there under STA with 1.1 kW/725', while applying to license that site as its new main facility.

In Pittsburgh, they're mourning another former KDKA (1020) personality. Bob Tracey (real name: Bob Michel) worked the overnight and later the midday shift at KD from 1954 until 1968, later working at WJAS (1320) and Metro Networks. His other big passion was motorcycles, and after leaving the station, he opened a motorcycle dealership near Pittsburgh. Tracey died Jan. 26, at 83.

There's an obit from Philadelphia as well - former WXTU (92.5) PD Kevin O'Neal (real name: Raymond Frazier) died in Nashville last weekend. O'Neal had most recently been working at KCYE in Las Vegas. He was just 46, and had reportedly been suffering from health problems.

*A few tidbits from CANADA: in Halifax, "Crash" Carter and "Mars" McDonald are out as morning jocks at CHNS-FM (89.9 Hal FM), replaced by Joe Leary.

In Saint John, New Brunswick, the campus station at the University of New Brunswick Saint John wants to change frequency and boost power. CFMH (92.5) says it's suffering interference from the new CFRK (92.3) up in Fredericton, so it's asking to move to 107.3 and increase power to 250 watts/50.5 meters.

There's a new campus station coming to Pickering College in Newmarket, north of Toronto. The 5-watt signal on 102.7 will operate 28 hours a week with a wide-ranging music format.

In Arnprior, My Broadcasting's CHMY-FM-1 gets a frequency change and a power boost. It needed to vacate 104.7 to make room for the AM-to-FM move of Ottawa's CJRC (1150), and now it'll go to 107.7 with 1 kW.

Way up in Thunder Bay, CKPR (580) has been granted a move to FM. It'll operate with 100 kW on 91.5, joining sister station CJSD (94.3) on the FM dial and leaving the AM dial empty there. (The other commercial AM, CJLB 1230, moved to FM in the mid-nineties, and the CBC's CBQ 800 left AM in 1990.)

A Toronto traffic helicopter crashed during a maintenance run Friday afternoon. The leased chopper, which provided traffic reports for Corus' AM 640, Q107 and 102.1 the Edge, went down in Waterloo, injuring the pilot and a mechanic. Nobody from the stations was on board when the accident occurred.

And as Toronto's 1050 CHUM gets ready for its fiftieth anniversary May 27, it's launched a new anniversary web page and special programming, including a daily hour (11 AM-noon) of the 1973 "History of Rock and Roll" series.

*You know that cold that's been going around all week? It hit here at NERW Central, too, and so we trust you'll understand when we say that the promised Part II of our programming Rant didn't quite get done in time for this week's (ah-choo!) issue...and that it will be right here in this space next Monday. See you then...

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!)

February 6, 2006 -

  • So much for the oldies on Buffalo's WWKB (1520) - after a three-year run with the format (almost to the day, actually), they're gone, as of 3 PM Monday, replaced with liberal talk. And that means two liberal talkers in Buffalo, unless Entercom's pre-emptive strike on 1520 knocks WHLD's plans out before the new station can even get out of the gate.
  • There are certainly bigger stories making headlines in PENNSYLVANIA this week - especially for football fans anywhere west of Harrisburg or thereabouts - but for fans of old-time radio history, there's a pretty significant story developing in the small town of Grove City, halfway between Pittsburgh and Erie.
  • That's where one of the last vestiges of the early history of educational radio may now have breathed its last. WSAJ (1340) traced its history back to amateur station 8CO, which began operations in 1914. Sadly, WSAJ's long run on the AM dial now appears to be over. The station added an FM service on 91.1 in the eighties, and the AM facility's been somewhat neglected ever since. Its 1950-vintage transmitter was out of service for a while, and the old cage antenna was damaged a few years ago. And while the antenna was fixed and a new LPB transmitter installed, WSAJ's management apparently lost interest in their historic little treasure somewhere along the way. Last week, word began circulating that there wouldn't be a renewal application filed for WSAJ(AM), and it now appears that the FCC has cancelled WSAJ's license and deleted the AM callsign.
  • That's stirred concern among some NERW readers, who wonder whether it's possible to save this nifty little relic of another era of broadcasting. From what we've heard, there are engineers and FCC experts out there who are willing to take on the task of trying to get the license renewed and putting the AM 1340 signal back on the air - and there's apparently a closed-circuit student station on campus that would no doubt appreciate having the over-the-air signal, even with only 100 watts. (Students are heard for four hours nightly on WSAJ-FM, which runs satellite-delivered classical and jazz for the remainder of its broadcast day.) Does Grove City College know what it's on the verge of losing for good? And is it too late to do anything about it? (2007 update: Apparently the answers are no, and yes; WSAJ has now been deleted for good.)
  • Elsewhere in the Keystone State, WAMO (860 Millvale-Pittsburgh) announced that it will join Radio One's new urban talk network beginning February 27, adding Radio One's 10 AM-7 PM schedule to a lineup that already includes Tom Joyner's morning show and the local Bev Smith talk show in the evening. WAMO had been carrying on the "Majic" R&B oldies format that was simulcast with the former WJJJ (107.1 Greensburg), which relaunched last week as "Sam FM" WGSM under new owner Renda.
  • Near Binghamton, WEBO (1330 Owego) is getting a new owner, as Terry Coleman's Tioga Broadcasting sells the station to Radigan Broadcasting for $50,000. "Radigan Broadcasting" is Dave Radigan, formerly of Rochester's WBBF and more recently an assignment editor at WROC-TV (Channel 8). (There must have been something in the water at WBBF in the late nineties - Dave was working with Joe "Bobby Hatfield" Reilly, who got into ownership at WHLM in Pennsylvania not long afterward...)
  • It's the end of the line for more than half a century of community radio at two eastern MASSACHUSETTS AM stations. The Asher family, which put WJDA (1300 Quincy) on the air in 1947 (the calls stand for James D. Asher) and which has owned WESX (1230 Salem) for years, is selling the stations, for $4.5 million. The buyer is Principal Broadcasting Network, with financial support from Mercury Capital Partners, and when the deal closes, Principal principal Otto Miller (who ran New York's WNWK and WKDM for Multicultural Broadcasting) will reportedly flip the stations to a religious format similar to that at WDJZ (1530 Bridgeport CT).

February 4, 2002 -

  • A 48-year legacy of television broadcasting from the highest point in the Northeast is coming to an end within days, as WMTW-TV (Channel 8) shuts down its transmitter atop Mount Washington, NEW HAMPSHIRE in favor of a new tower west of Sebago Lake in Maine. While Portland-area viewers will notice little change in their WMTW-TV service, the move is causing some interesting side effects in the North Country. Cable systems in places like Berlin, Gorham and Lancaster all used WMTW-TV as their ABC affiliate, but they won't receive service from the new Sebago Lake site.
  • And that, in turn, ends up being very good news for Manchester ABC affiliate WMUR-TV (Channel 9), which has long operated two LPTVs in the North Country. W27BL in Berlin and WMUR-LP (Channel 29) in Littleton carried WMUR newscasts, but were barred from carrying WMUR's ABC programming because of WMTW-TV. With channel 8 gone from the area, both signals (which dropped Fox late last year and were running only the local newscasts) will begin carrying the full WMUR schedule to North Country broadcast and cable viewers this week.
  • That brings us to MASSACHUSETTS, home of the World Champion New England Patriots, and we're just sorry we don't still live in Boston as we write this Sunday night. Sure, we're happy for Messrs. Kraft, Belichick, Brady, et al...but we're especially pleased for the team's longtime radio announcers, former Pats coach Gino Cappelletti and veteran WBZ sports director Gil Santos. It's taken far too long for Gil and Gino to be able to announce a championship, and for a while there, we were afraid they'd both retire without getting the chance. (Alas, only those within range of the WBCN signal were able to hear Gil and Gino's call of the game; NFL rules restrict home-team coverage to flagship stations only, so the rest of New England had to listen to the Westwood One network coverage.)
  • The Pats' win will be one of the last big stories to be covered on Fox Sports New England's late-night "Regional Sports Report." Budget cuts at the regional network mean FSNE's 10 PM and weekend reports will be cancelled at the end of this week, leaving only the 6:30 PM show. Among the job cuts: anchors Eric Frede and John Holt.
  • The big news in NEW YORK came from Buffalo - and we don't mean the windy, windy weather last Friday. The winds of change continued to blow hard at the Entercom cluster in the Queen City earlier in the week, as Clip Smith was informed (upon arriving to work on Tuesday) that his 6-10 PM talk show on WBEN (930) had been cancelled and his services were no longer required. Smith, a former sports anchor at WKBW-TV, came to WBEN in early 2000 as part of the format changes that turned his former home of WGR into an all-sports station. Smith's time slot is being filled by an hour of news at 6, followed by the Laura Schlessinger show formerly heard from 9 AM until noon. Moving into that slot is Tom Bauerle, who finally leaves the WGR sports format in which he'd been an uncomfortable fit since being paired with Chris "Bulldog" Parker in 2000. There's already plenty of speculation in Buffalo media circles that Bauerle's being groomed for morning drive at WBEN - and that the Laura move is just a prelude to her disappearance from the Buffalo airwaves.

February 1, 1997-

  • Wanna buy a tower? The five-tower site in Ashland MA that's home to WBPS (890 Dedham-Boston) is up for sale, according to an ad in this week's Broadcasting & Cable. The ad claims the 40-acre site can be used for all kinds of communications, including beepers, cellphone, LPTV, and FM. The site is priced at $3.5 million. This could be interesting for WBPS, as word has it that they've had a hard time maintaining their directional pattern as it is. The site was built in 1980 for John Garabedian's WGTR (1060 Natick), which was upgrading from a 1000-watt non-directional daytimer. WGTR later became WBIV (with a few stops along the way), and then in 1994, the station's physical plant was sold to Douglas Broadcasting, which used them to put WBMA (later WBPS) on the air on 890, leaving 1060 dark.
  • An unusual partnership between a noncommercial FM and a commercial AM station is making headlines in Amherst MA. WFCR (88.5) is leasing eight hours a day from WTTT (1430 Amherst), to broadcast programming that's otherwise unavailable in the area. The "WFCR on WTTT" schedule runs weekdays from 10am till 6pm, and includes "The Connection" from Boston's WBUR, "Monitor Radio Midday Edition," "The Derek McGinty Show" from WAMU in Washington, "Talk of the Nation" from NPR, "The World" from WGBH in Boston, and "The Diane Rehm Show" from WAMU. WTTT broadcasts short underwriting announcements at the start and end of each hour, and the stations split the revenue. The public radio programming replaces Bloomberg business news on WTTT.
  • More from the pirate front: It seems Bloomfield CT's "Praise 105.3" was even claiming to have call letters for a time. "FMedia!" says the station went by "WPRZ," calls which belong to AM 1250 in Warrenton VA. The station was reportedly running 60 watts. Meantime, "Radio Free Allston" in the Boston area is looking far and wide for support. Its founder has been running notices in the newsletter of the National Writers Union local, asking for support for the station and promising that it will feature copious coverage of local arts. No sign of any actual broadcasting on 88.5 so far.
  • O Canada...where have you gone?: That's what CBC listeners in New England could be wondering in a few years. The CBC has applied to move its Montreal outlet, CBM, from 940 to 88.7 FM. CBM's 50 kilowatt signal blankets the region at night. Another Montreal-area AM, CKVL (850 Verdun) is one of the applicants for the vacant 95.1 FM slot. With CKVL gone, night power could be in the offing for WREF (850 Ridgefield CT), and Boston's 50kW WEEI could improve its pattern to the northwest considerably. Competing for 95.1 is the CBC's French-language CBF (690), which has one of the best AM signals in the northeast. CBF's disappearance from the airwaves would allow WADS (690) in Ansonia CT to stay on all night, and could allow a 690 somewhere in upstate New York as well. Another Montreal FM frequency could open up if CIME 99.5 Ste.-Adele is granted a move to 103.9. One broadcaster has already applied for 99.5 in Montreal.
  • And that closes the books on the final column to come to you from Waltham MA. NERW hits the road this weekend, and you can expect the next column to arrive from Rochester NY sometime next week. We'll see you then!

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*It's here! As seen in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Chicago Sun-Times, and soon on WCVB's "Chronicle," Tower Site Calendar 2007 is not only now shipping - it's close to a sellout! If you're waiting for the 2007 edition to go on clearance sale, don't keep waiting - the word from the shipping department is that fewer than 200 copies remain, and we expect to sell them all in the next month or two.

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 2007 by Scott Fybush.