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March 12, 2007

50,000 Watts of NPR on WNNZ 640


*It's usually not a big deal when a radio station owner LMA's its signal out to another broadcaster - but when the station is a 50 kilowatt AM, the owner is Clear Channel, and the other broadcaster is a public radio station, why, that's a lead story.

It's happening in western MASSACHUSETTS, where WFCR (88.5 Amherst) has been pioneering the whole public-radio-LMA concept for the last decade, leasing WPNI (1430 Amherst) from owner Pamal to run a separate slate of public radio news and talk programming for listeners in the Pioneer Valley who can hear the 5000-watt daytimer.

But with WFCR's reach extending far beyond Hampshire County these days, the broadcaster was looking for new ways to bring its second service to a wider audience. (It's extending its main service through new translators, too - W254AU on 98.7 in Great Barrington just came on the air, to be followed soon by new signals in Lee and Pittsfield.)

Clear Channel, meanwhile, has the big signal of WNNZ (640 Westfield), which has been doing Fox Sports Radio - but now has some big FM sports-talk competition in the Springfield market in the form of WVEI-FM (105.5 Easthampton). How to do something productive with the 640 signal without cannibalizing Clear Channel's news-talk market leader, WHYN (560 Springfield)?

The answer will debut April 2, when Clear Channel begins leasing WNNZ to WFCR, which will move the WPNI program lineup down the dial to 640. By day, the 50 kW signal will cover much of western Massachusetts and big chunks of Connecticut and even eastern New York. At night...well, at least WNNZ, unlike WPNI, has a night signal, though its one kilowatt barely even reaches Springfield.

Clear Channel will also sell some of the underwriting for the WFCR programming on WNNZ, apparently splitting the revenue with WFCR. The Springfield Republican reports that WFCR is building a studio at the WGBY-TV (Channel 57) building in downtown Springfield to improve its coverage of Hampden County, and that the Springfield Falcons AHL team will remain on 640 through the end of this season.

So what happens to WPNI on 1430? Pamal is selling WPNI's former sister station, WRNX (100.9 Amherst), to Clear Channel - in fact, WRNX's studios move into Clear Channel's Main Street studios this week - and the 1430 facility is apparently for sale.

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*In other big news from around the Bay State, Otto Miller's Principle Broadcasting Network is applying to move WESX (1230 Salem) from its longtime home on Naugus Head in Marblehead to a new city of license, Saugus, and a new transmitter site, the WLYN (1360 Lynn) tower just off Route 107, where the station would run 450 watts day and night.

The transmitter site in Marblehead, which was also WESX's studio site until the station changed hands last year, is a valuable piece of land - in fact, one of the items on the agenda at Marblehead's town meeting later this year will be a proposal to acquire the property to be used as a town recreation area.

So Miller, potentially, has quite a good deal put together here: sell the valuable WESX land in Marblehead to help offset the cost of buying the station last year, and move the 1230 signal closer to his new target market in and around Boston. While the move from Salem to Saugus is eased considerably by the new rules that took effect this year, making it a "minor change" in the FCC's eyes, the relocation still requires several waivers: one of prohibited overlap between WESX and WMKI (1260 Boston) over Nahant, one of prohibited overlap between WESX and WBUR (1240 Yarmouth) on Cape Cod, and one of the rule requiring full coverage of the city of license, since WESX's nighttime interference-free signal will only reach about half of Saugus.

WESX argues that the WMKI interference zone is "non-contiguous" with the rest of the WMKI coverage area; that overall interference with WBUR will actually be reduced by the move; and that there's precedent in larger cities such as Chicago and Washington for class C AM signals like WESX to not cover the entire city. (NERW notes: that's true, but those situations didn't involve a voluntary change to a new city of license, either.)

*Just one more Bay State move: WCRN (830 Worcester) is expanding the Peter Blute morning show to a full three hours, starting it at 6 AM instead of 7 beginning on Monday.

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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.

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*In CONNECTICUT, the FCC's cleaning up some old paperwork: it's finally gotten around to rejecting an application from little WSLX (91.9 New Canaan) to move to 102.3, citing a petition to deny the move that was filed way back in 1996 by co-channel WBAB (102.3 Babylon NY).

*In MAINE, community station WERU (89.9 Blue Hill) is applying to change its antenna, dropping power slightly (from 15 kW/899' to 11.5 kW/856') to go non-directional from its existing Blue Hill tower site. (And what make of antenna does a Maine hometown station use? Why, a Shively, of course...)

*In VERMONT, we send our best wishes to Ernie Farrar, morning man and 40-year veteran at WVMT (620 Burlington). He had knee surgery this week, taking him out of commission, but he's expected back on the air soon.

*Just across Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, NEW YORK, WTWK (1070) dropped progressive talk last Monday, flipping to a talk lineup aimed at women under the new moniker "Eve 1070." The new schedule, syndicated from Greenstone Media, includes the Radio Ritas in morning drive, Lisa Birnbach at 9, Rolonda at noon and Women Aloud at 3 PM. (We think - another banner on the station's new website shows Dr. Joy Browne in that slot.)

Down in Albany, Susan Arbetter is leaving WAMC (90.3) after 14 years to move into television at crosstown public broadcaster WMHT. Arbetter served as WAMC's news director and as host of its "Roundtable" talk show; at WMHT, she'll serve as host and producer of the weekly "New York Week in Review" public affairs show.

Radio People on the Move in New York City: Bill Buchner, erstwhile morning host at WLTW (106.7), has joined the staff at Emmis' WQCD (101.9). He's doing Saturday afternoons for now, but expect him to take a bigger role at the station as opportunities come up. Over at WEPN (1050), PD Mike Thompson is taking a bigger role at ESPN Radio, adding the duties of "new media program director" at the Bristol mothership to his WEPN job. Former WNEW (102.7, now WWFS) morning host Michelle Visage is moving south: she joins the morning team at CBS Radio's WEAT-FM (104.3) in West Palm Beach (a sister station to the current holder of the "WNEW" calls, for whatever that's worth.)

And we're sorry to report the death of Raymond Reynoso, "El Boy From Bonao," who'd been with WSKQ (97.9) since the station went on the air, most recently as its midday jock. Reynoso died Tuesday (March 6) at 47; he'd been off the air for the last few months battling cancer.

It's been 40 years since New York's channel 5, then Metromedia's WNEW-TV, pioneered a 10 PM newscast, and now the station (today Fox's WNYW) is celebrating the anniversary. It's running historical drop-ins throughout its newscasts, and there will be an anniversary special Friday night at 10:30.

Up in Orange County, WTBQ (1110 Warwick) incurs a $9600 fine from the FCC for non-functioning EAS equipment and missing information in its public file. Owner Frank Truatt did get the fine knocked down from the original $14,000 after demonstrating that he'd already started fixing the EAS gear before the FCC showed up to inspect the station.

In Syracuse, Skip Clark moves a few blocks north, trading nights on WBBS (104.7 Fulton) for middays and promotion work at the new "Movin'" (WWLF-FM 100.3 Sylvan Beach/WOLF-FM 96.7 Oswego).

And with the thaw in the North Country comes a format change: WBRV (900 Boonville) is splitting off from its simulcast with "Moose" country WBRV-FM (101.3 Boonville) and WLLG (99.3 Lowville), and flipping to oldies.

*"From somewhere near Independence Mall..."

That's the joke they're making at Philadelphia's KYW (1060) now that the station has completed its move from its home of 35 years at Fifth and Market (source of the well-known "From Independence Mall" stager that's become a Newsradio 1060 trademark) to the 10th floor of 400 Market Street, a block away.

KYW made its move during the 2 PM newscast on Friday, with sister station WYSP (94.1 Philadelphia) following right behind. KYW-TV (Channel 3) and WPSG (Channel 57) will abandon the Fifth and Market building later this month for their new digs over at 15th and Spring Garden.

*The other big news from southeastern PENNSYLVANIA came from Clear Channel: it's made peace with Arbitron, agreeing not only to encode its Philadelphia stations for Portable People Meter (PPM) ratings, but also to buy the PPM data, newly legitimized by the inclusion of all the market's major stations.

In Lancaster, Dennis Mitchell moves up from assistant PD to PD at WLAN-FM (96.9), allowing JT Bosch to focus all his energies on the other station he's programming, WHKF (99.3 Harrisburg).

Over in Pittsburgh, Mark Lindow has departed the PD chair at "Froggy" WOGI (98.3 Duquesne); now he'll be competing with another "Froggy" (WGGY Scranton) from his new PD gig at Citadel's WSJR (93.7 Dallas PA).

While we're in the Scranton market, we note that WEMR (1460 Tunkhannock) has gone silent for a few months. Owner Geos Communications tells the FCC that WEMR went silent on March 8 after its "current program feed (came) to an end." That, last we checked, was a simulcast of sister station "Cozy 104" (WCOZ 103.9 Laporte PA), and replacing it will be a news/talk format. WEMR says the winter's bad weather has delayed installation of a new satellite dish and automation to run the format, and it says it expects to be back on the air "in late June or early July."

*A few tidbits from CANADA: Evanov's new "Rainbow Radio" on 103.9 in Toronto has named an afternoon host: comedian Maggie Cassella will take that shift on the station, which now has calls, too (CIRR).

And a correction from last week: the new 1690 in Montreal is CJLO, not CJOL, and it'll be the Concordia University campus station.

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!)

March 13, 2006 -

  • It's been a pretty quiet year in MAINE's biggest radio market, but just in time for spring, things are heating up in Portland. On Thursday (March 9), Saga pulled the plug on adult contemporary WMGX (93.1 Portland), reimaging the station as "Coast 93.1" and adding more current tracks to become a hot AC. While Saga launched the station without jocks, most of WMGX's airstaff will return next week, including the morning show with Tim, Jaime and Eva. The "Coast" moniker was used before - briefly - in the market; when WWGT (97.9) became WCSO in 1991, it was "Coast" until WQSS up in Camden complained, at which point it became "Ocean 98," before returning to its old WJBQ calls a few years later.
  • Way down east in Milbridge, WRMO (93.7) has had a hard time getting on the air. Its construction permit was close to expiration last year, so owner Lyle Robert Evans applied for (and apparently built) a minimal 130-watt facility to get the station on the air. Now there's word that Evans, who also owned stations in Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, died last Monday (March 6) at his home in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Evans was 64.
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, Phil Redo is returning to Greater Media's Boston cluster to replace the retiring Matt Mills as station manager. Redo is currently vice president for station operations and strategy at New York's WNYC, but he served as PD of Greater Media's WMJX in the late eighties, and worked on-air at the old WROR (98.5) before that. Redo starts his new job in early April, just in time to oversee some big moves at the cluster - Greater's reportedly about to announce the details of its purchase of WCRB (102.5 Waltham), which will in turn force the sale of one of Greater's other FM signals, and no doubt result in some format shuffles as well.
  • The "107.5 Alive" Christian format on WBYN (107.5) in Boyertown, PENNSYLVANIA had been on borrowed time since last fall, when Nassau bought the station from Lancaster's WDAC (94.5) and began simulcasting its programming on the former WYNS (1160 Lehighton). On Wednesday (March 8), Nassau finally shifted the religion completely to what's now WBYN(AM), relaunching the FM signal (which covers the Lehigh Valley and the northern suburbs of Philadelphia) as "107.5 Frank FM," playing the same classic hits format that's already heard on Nassau's Franks in Maine and New Hampshire. (Nassau is also promoting its WCHR 1040 Flemington NJ, which runs a similar religious format, as a replacement for "107.5 Alive.")

March 18, 2002 -

  • NEW JERSEY's Millennium Radio Group spun the dials of its Atlantic City cluster late last week, setting the stage for the rebirth of a powerful FM signal that's been sitting dormant for years. WBSS (97.3 Millville) had been simulcasting the talk programming of WKXW-FM (101.5 Trenton) - until 3 PM last Friday (March 15), when the talk moved to Atlantic City's AM 1450, long known as WFPG(AM). The "World's Favorite Play-Ground" station changed calls to WKXW(AM) that morning, and began simulcasting "New Jersey 101.5" at 3, silencing an interim format that had consisted of a WFPG-FM (96.9) simulcast and a local morning talk show with Harry Hurley, who's now out of work.
  • On the FM side, WBSS picked up the modern AC format that had been running on co-owned WKOE (106.3 Ocean City), but without the "Shore" nickname. Instead, it's "Mix 97-3" on both 97.3 and 106.3, at least for now - which has to be a little confusing for area listeners of "Mix 92," WVLT (92.1 Vineland) and even "Mix 95-7," WMWX in Philadelphia. Out of work on the FM side: former WKOE morning guy Mark Hunter and midday jock Tina Owen.
  • But wait - there was even more excitement on the Jersey Shore last week. Thursday (3/14) at 1:15 PM saw the official sign-on of WCHR-FM (105.7 Manahawkin), but not with the rumored simulcast of Trenton's WNJO (94.5). Instead, 105.7 debuted with a simulcast of CHR WBBO (98.5 Ocean Acres), which covers roughly the same parts of Ocean County anyway. We expect that's an interim format until something new arrives on one of the two frequencies...
  • With that, we can cross the Hudson to NEW YORK and the week's other big story: after a few false leads ("V105," anyone?), Clear Channel pulled the plug on jammin'-oldies-turned-urban-AC WTJM (105.1 New York) Thursday morning at 6:05, unleashing a new hip-hop station on the Big Apple under the nickname "Power 105." The format change puts Emmis' WQHT (Hot 97.1) in the crossfires, especially with the addition of former WQHT morning team Dr. Dre and Ed Lover as Power's new morning crew. It's probably also bad news for Inner City Broadcasting's WBLS (107.5), which has been the biggest competition for Hot until now.

March 5, 1997-

  • In Central New York, the big headline has been Phil Markert's return to the airwaves, on simulcast WTLA (1200 North Syracuse), WTLB (1310 Utica), and WSGO (1440 Oswego). Markert was one of Syracuse's best-known personalities before being dismissed from WHEN (620) four years ago. In a candid talk with the Syracuse Herald-Journal, Markert talked about his battles with alcoholism and gambling addiction -- and about his recovery over the last few years.
  • Meantime, eight applicants (among them former New York and New England broadcaster Peter Hunn) have queued up in hopes of getting one of the area's last FM frequencies, 100.3 Sylvan Beach (about halfway between Syracuse and Utica).
  • The 75th anniversary celebration at Schenectady's WGY (810) has been marred by a nasty controversy over an ad published in the Albany Times-Union. The ad showed an African warrior, and read "Staying young requires an almost primal disregard for dignity and civility." The local Urban League accused WGY of racism, and staged a protest rally against the station and talk host Mark Williams. The Times-Union apologized for printing WGY's ad, and the station pulled a planned second appearance of the advertisement.
  • Back to New England: Little WVAY (100.7 Wilmington VT) has thrown in the towel on independent programming. The eight year old station began simulcasting classic rock WKVT-FM (92.7 Brattleboro) on Monday morning. WVAY was hampered by a signal that served almost no populated areas, even with the help of its 104.7 translator in Jamaica VT.
  • In Maine, WKZS (99.9 Auburn) is shifting its image a bit, dropping "Kiss" to become "Mix 96.9 and 99.9," putting more emphasis on its Portland translator. The music hasn't changed much, remaining a blend of current and 70s/80s AC. And Westbrook's WJAE (1440) is indeed playing on the calls' similarity to the heritage WJAB calls it used to have. WJAE is calling itself "Portland's Jab."
  • Out on Cape Cod, WUOK (1240 West Yarmouth) has been transferred to Boston University, and is now a full-time simulcast of WBUR (90.9 Boston).

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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.