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May 7, 2007

CC Selloff Gathers Steam in Maine


*Clear Channel Radio is getting closer to its goal of selling off 448 stations in its smaller markets - including all of its holdings in the state of MAINE, which are among the stations being sold to a new company called "Goodradio.TV," headed by former ion TV (ex-Pax) president Dean Goodman.

We know, as this week's NERW comes to you late Sunday night, that Goodradio will end up with about 180 of those 448 stations, and that Clear Channel has found buyers for another 182 stations, and we expect to find out for certain which of those stations go where before the week is out.

In the meantime, though, the news of Goodradio's Maine plans leaked early - and we now know that our original speculation that Clear Channel would exit Maine completely proved to be correct.

In the Bangor market, Goodradio gets news-talk WABI (910 Bangor), AC WKSQ (94.5 Ellsworth), top 40 WWBX (97.1 Bangor), country WLKE (99.1 Bar Harbor), rock WFZX (101.7 Searsport), oldies WGUY (102.1 Dexter), talk WVOM (103.9 Howland) and country WBFB (104.7 Belfast) - or at least as many of those as the FCC will allow under its current group-ownership caps. (If we're reading the current rules correctly, we think at least two of those FMs will have to be spun off.)

In Augusta/Waterville, the cluster includes sports WFAU (1280 Gardiner)/WIGY (97.5 Madison), soft AC WKCG (101.3 Augusta), oldies WABK (104.3 Gardiner) and rock WTOS (105.1 Skowhegan), as well as three stations serving the coastal area around Rockport - sports WRKD (1450 Rockland), classic hits WQSS (102.5 Camden) and country WMCM (103.3 Rockland).

The latter three stations will reportedly be moving their studios back to Rockland from Clear Channel's Augusta cluster studios once the new owners take over.

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*There's been no official announcement yet of the fate of Clear Channel's remaining stations in VERMONT, but whoever ends up with them will get some new formats at two of the signals.

In Randolph, WTSJ (1320) had been simulcasting WTSL (1400 Hanover NH), which Clear Channel has already sold - so now it's switching originating stations to CC's "Zone" simulcast from Burlington, already heard on WXZO (96.7 Willsboro NY) and WEAV (960 Plattsburgh NY). Much of the syndicated programming already heard on WTSJ was on "The Zone" anyway, so Randolph-area listeners to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity won't experience any disruption.

In the Burlington market, Clear Channel pulled the plug on "Kiss" top 40 at WVTK (92.1 Port Henry NY), replacing it with oldies from ABC's True Oldies Channel, the service programmed by Scott Shannon. No local jocks here, and we wouldn't expect to hear any until after the station and its Burlington sisters are sold, if even then.

On the college radio side of the dial, WWLR (91.5 Lyndonville) is operating without jocks for the moment, too, but for a different reason. Several Lyndon State students were suspended last week for an alcohol-related incident that the school is trying to avoid referring to as "hazing," and it appears that some of the student leaders of WWLR were among that group. The station has a new interim GM and interim PD, and students are expected to return to the air in the fall.

*Crossing the river to NEW HAMPSHIRE, Eric Scott has vanished from afternoon drive at WKBK (1290 Keene), with Howie Carr's syndicated show returning to that slot at the Saga talker.

A correction to last week's story about WKXL (1450 Concord): Gardner Hill, who left the station last week, did not work there under prior owner Warren Bailey; he'd left the station before that, and returned when current owner Gordon Humphrey took over in 2004.

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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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*There was a tower collapse in CONNECTICUT during the big storm there last month: the 188-foot tower of WYBC (1340 New Haven) succumbed to the storm's high winds late on the night of April 14, toppling into the swamp where it sits. (It took several days for the weather to calm down sufficiently for the tower's remains to even be found in the swamp, we're told.)

WYBC quickly returned to the air with a longwire antenna. The collapse was blamed on a guy-wire anchor that had corroded to "the thickness of a pencil," says engineer Clif Mills, and a replacement tower will soon be erected at the same site.

In Hartford, WCCC-FM (106.9) has turned on its HD2 subchannel, and it's relaying the classical "Beethoven Radio" service that's also heard on sister station WCCC (1290 West Hartford), which will now reach a much larger potential audience 24 hours a day on the big FM signal.

And in court, former WEZN (99.9 Bridgeport) overnight jock Frank Ward is suing station owner Cox Radio for age discrimination over his dismissal a few years back.

*It's been a long time coming, but MASSACHUSETTS finally has its own Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Massasoit Community College in Brockton is sponsoring the honor, and it inducted the first group of honorees Saturday night at one of its "RadioTV Classics Live" re-creations. And what a group it was - Bob and Ray (with Tom Goulding representing his late father), Jess Cain, Rex Trailer and Tom Bergeron.

Another group of inductees, including Don Kent, Joyce Kulhawik, Liz Walker, Frank Avruch and Fred B. Cole, will be honored at the spring "Media Gang" lunch next week. More on that in the next issue of NERW...

Is Christopher Lydon getting ready to leave public radio and his "Open Source" broadcast? That's the rumor the Globe offered last week, suggesting that Lydon might be heading to New York and Bloomberg Radio, taking the evening slot there that was recently home to former Boston broadcasters Michael Goldman and Tom Moroney. (UPDATE: Lydon and his producer at "Open Source" are strongly denying the report.)

*The big news from NEW YORK last week continued to be the fallout from the Don Imus affair, including Imus' reported $120 million lawsuit against his former employer, CBS Radio. At WFAN (660), this week's guest hosts in the former Imus slot include John and Pat McEnroe through Wednesday, then Geraldo Rivera later in the week, with no indication of any permanent replacement.

Over at sister station WFNY-FM (92.3 Free FM), midmorning hosts JV & Elvis are still suspended as well, with the "best-of" shows that aired last week giving way to guest hosts this week, including Cabbie and Larry Wachs.

WOR (710 New York) has hired former WABC talker Steve Malzberg as its new 9-11 PM host, taking the slot being vacated by Lionel's move to Air America Radio. Malzberg's show (in an extended three-hour version) will also be syndicated via the WOR Radio Network.

Heading upstate, Chris Brunner is retiring as news director of Time Warner's Capital News 9 in Albany. Brunner was the station's founding news director in 2002, coming to cable from more than two decades at WNYT (Channel 13). No replacement has been named so far.

Among the handful of Clear Channel Radio spinoffs that haven't found a buyer is the Utica/Rome cluster. The company says the stations in that 4 AM/5 FM cluster aren't among the 362 stations for which buyers will soon be announced, so we're still waiting to find out what the fate of those stations (and others in places like Yakima, Washington) will be.

Sorry to report the death of Tim Jentons, who was known as "Magic Man" during his stint as morning-show producer at Rochester's WPXY (97.9) in the nineties.

*The start of May brought a format swap at two Nassau stations on the PENNSYLVANIA/NEW JERSEY line. Classic hits WSBG (93.5 Stroudsburg PA) lost morning man Gary Smith to the Imus fallout a few weeks back, and on Thursday, the station vanished completely when Nassau moved soft AC "Lite" down the dial from its former home at WWYY (107.1 Belvidere NJ). The new "Lite 93.5" is running jockless for the moment, as is the new format on 107.1 - classic rock "107.1 the Bone," complete with the syndicated "Free Beer and Hot Wings" morning show.

Over in Newark, the independent Newark Bears baseball team has signed on with Seton Hall University's WSOU (89.5 South Orange) to broadcast games on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, as well as the post-season. The Bears were heard on WSOU from 1999-2002, and Jim Cerny will be doing play-by-play this year, his fifth with the team. (We'll have complete independent minor-league baseball information in next week's NERW!)

In State College, WPSU (91.5) has launched a new "WPSU2" service on its HD2 subchannel (and on the HD2 of sister station WPSX 90.1 Kane), bringing additional news/talk programming to the area by day, with jazz at night.

In Pittsburgh, KDKA (1020) has hired Kevin Miller as its new noon-3 talk host. Miller comes to KDKA from WWTN (99.7) in Nashville, but his career also included a stop at the old WMVU (900 Nashua NH), way back when.

Two call changes to report: in Pittsburgh, WURP (1550 Braddock) becomes WLFP under its new ownership, while WHUZ (94.3 Saegertown) becomes WUZZ, grabbing calls that Forever Broadcasting recently abandoned in Lima, Ohio.

Milt Grant's career was centered on Washington, where he was that city's version of Dick Clark on WTTG (Channel 5) in the sixties, and later the owner and GM of independent WDCA (Channel 20). But Grant had Northeast connections, too - his Grant Broadcasting System owned WGBS (Channel 57) in Philadelphia from 1984-1989, when it was sold out of bankruptcy, and he later owned WNYO-TV (Channel 49) in Buffalo, from 1996-2001. Grant died April 28, at 83.

*And in CANADA this week, we send our congratulations to CKOC (1150 Hamilton) and CFRA (580 Ottawa), which both celebrated anniversaries last week. CKOC turned 85 on May 1, with a commemorative oldies concert scheduled for May 19. And CFRA marked its 60th anniversary Thursday with a gala event at the Chateau Laurier hotel that included a recreation of a live 1947 radio show. (Catch the video, in glorious black and white, here.)

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!)

May 8, 2006 -

  • For the second week in a row, the big story out of MASSACHUSETTS is the tussle over the Red Sox radio rights for the 2007 season. But this week, there's no tussle - just the dotting of i's and crossing of t's on what appears to be a record-breaking deal that will keep the Sox with Entercom for ten more years and a reported $200 million in rights fees. As NERW goes to press late Sunday night, there's still no definitive confirmation from Entercom or from the team, and there's always the chance that anything could happen in this topsy-turvy saga. With Greater Media having exited the bidding war on Friday, though, the continuation of the team's relationship with Entercom became all but inevitable.
  • What's not inevitable, however, is another season of Sox baseball on flagship WEEI (850 Boston). Instead, Entercom reportedly plans to return the team's play-by-play to WRKO (680 Boston), the talk station that was the Sox flagship through much of the late eighties and early nineties (and in several earlier stints as well.) The idea, it would appear, is to use the strength of the Sox as a promotional tool to boost the fortunes of WRKO, which has struggled in recent years against Greater's WTKK (96.9 Boston), among other competitors. For day games, WRKO also offers a somewhat larger signal footprint than the more directional WEEI, especially to the south and out over Cape Cod. At night, however, WRKO suffers even more than WEEI from a restrictive directional pattern - and that means Entercom will almost certainly have to look at additional ways to make sure its pricey Sox coverage reaches the wealthy listener base west of Route 128.
  • The Sox deal was just one aspect of a pretty big radio week in the Bay State. In Worcester, WCRN (830) pulled the plug on its "True Oldies" format over the weekend, and today it officially relaunches as "True Talk AM 830," returning former WRKO morning host Peter Blute to the airwaves for a 7-9 AM show. The station's existing block of leased financial talk continues after Blute, and then its lineup will include Laura Ingraham (1-3 PM), Howie Carr (3-7 PM) and Michael Savage (7-10 PM). Jerry Doyle in overnights and Doug Stephan in early mornings round out the weekday schedule there.
  • And we conclude our Massachusetts report this week with some sad news: veteran helicopter traffic reporter Joe Green died last Wednesday (May 3) at 76. Green began his career at WHDH in 1963, but in 1968 he moved to WBZ, where "Joe Green in the BZ Copter" became a staple of the Hub commute for more than a quarter of a century. Green kept to himself (your editor, who worked at the station for five years, never met him), but he found his way into the headlines with several daring rescues, saving two boys stranded on a raft in Dorchester and rescuing a University of Lowell student from the Merrimack River. Green was also featured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo in 1975, landing his helicopter on a rooftop in what proved an unsuccessful attempt to rescue a woman from a burning building.

April 22, 2002 -

  • With the impending sale of Nassau's WTTM (1680 Trenton) to Multicultural, the ESPN sports programming heard on 1680 moves down the dial to WJHR (1040 Flemington). WJHR had been relaying the business-news programming of Nassau's WHWH (1350 Trenton), which picks up the Trenton Thunder games that had been heard on 1680. Expect 1680 to go ethnic when the sale closes; Multicultural has a pending, but on-hold, application to move the station south to Lindenwold in the Philadelphia market.
  • MASSACHUSETTS is getting a new radio station, but not a very powerful one. A settlement between Toccoa Falls College and Friends of Radio Maria will give Toccoa the CP for a new station on 91.1 in Winchendon. The station will run 155 watts at 63 meters above average terrain, from a site near the WINQ (97.7) tower just north of Winchendon. We expect all the programming to come from the college's Georgia headquarters (the "TFC Network," based at WRAF 90.9 in Toccoa Falls) - and as for listeners up there who try to tune in the local news and talk from WBUR (90.9) in Boston, well, they'll have to comfort themselves that the "public interest, convenience and necessity" are indeed being served...
  • In NEW HAMPSHIRE, WKVT has applied for a 250-watt booster in Keene. The proposed WKVT-FM-1 would operate from a directional antenna aimed southeast from a tower on Route 12 northwest of Keene. Saga notes in its application, "with an overabundance of caution," that it has a license for translator W272AX (102.3) in Keene, which relayed WZID from Manchester before being silenced due to interference concerns.
  • Another Pax TV outlet wants to move its analog service to its DTV allocation; in addition to the stations in Boston, Providence and Scranton, Pax's WPXB (Channel 60) wants to shift its analog signal to channel 34. The transmitter location (atop Mount Uncanoonuc in Goffstown) and the power (1410 kW visual from 293 meters) would remain unchanged, but the new WPXB-TV 34 would alter its directional pattern, sending a bit more signal south towards Boston.
  • WBPX carries ShopNBC home shopping, by the way; Pax service to New Hampshire comes from WPXG (Channel 21) up in Concord, relaying WBPX (Channel 68, applying for channel 32) in Boston.
  • Up north, WMTW (Channel 8) from Poland Springs, MAINE has applied for two new translators to help restore service to viewers who lost its signal when it left Mount Washington in favor of a new stick in Baldwin, Maine.
  • The ABC affiliate was granted CPs this week for W26CQ in Colebrook, N.H. and W27CP in White River Junction, Vermont.

May 8, 1997-

  • We begin this time in VERMONT, Brattleboro to be exact, where WKVT AM/FM (1490/92.7) and WVAY (100.7 Wilmington) have been sold to Richard Lightfoot, the owner of WKNE AM/FM (1290/103.7) across the Connecticut River in New Hampshire. Lightfoot says he's not planning any format changes at the stations, which are currently running talk on the AM and rock on the simulcast FMs. The seller of WKVT AM/FM is James Plante, who tells the Brattleboro Reformer that he'll probably leave the area once the transition to new ownership is complete. WVAY is being sold by Martin and Robin Rothschild, who LMA'd the station to Plante earlier this year. The deal closes a circle that began back in 1959, when WKNE's original owners built WKVT. Lightfoot is operating WKVT and WVAY under an LMA while he awaits FCC approval of the purchase. Once it's complete, WKVT, WKNE, and WVAY will operate under the name "Northland Radio." No word on purchase price; but NERW wonders if this isn't the "NH/VT AM/FM Combo" that was being advertised in the trades this week for around $750,000...
  • NERW research director Garrett Wollman was watching the auction on New Hampshire Public TV (WENH-TV 11 Durham, etc.) this week, and noticed that several of the Knight Quality (soon to be Capstar) radio stations donated advertising time as an auction item! Lucky bidders could snag 30 sixty-second spots on WXHT (95.3 York Center ME) for a suggested price of $1100. WBHG (101.5 Meredith) also donated spots to the auction.
  • One bit of RHODE ISLAND news: "Mancow" Muller, the Chicago-based syndicated morning host, has signed WDGE (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale) as his first East Coast affiliate. M Street says Block Island's WERI-FM (99.3) has flipped from hot AC to AAA; we'd love to hear tape from anyone down in that area who can hear the signal. The FCC has granted WBRU (95.5) an extension of time to move to 50kw and move its transmitter from the WHJY stick in East Providence to Neuticonkanut Hill in Johnston, as well as granting WPNW (550) an extension of time to raise power to 4600 watts day, 3400 watts night. (A side note: When we went to plot the coordinates of these two on the DeLorme CD-ROM mapping software we've been using here at NERW Central, we found "Wpjb-fm" and "Wgng-am" already shown on the maps...guess they date from the 1970s!)
  • From CONNECTICUT this week, the FCC has designated a hearing on the license of WHCT (Channel 18) in Hartford, to settle a very long-running dispute over this long-dark station's license. Back in 1983, Shurberg Broadcasting filed a competing application against WHCT's renewal, and rather than face a competitive hearing, WHCT's then-owner, Dr. Gene Scott's Faith Center, took advantage of the FCC's distress-sale minority-preference policy and sold WHCT to Astroline Broadcasting for $5 million. So far so good...except that Shurberg alleged that Astroline was not in fact minority-controlled. The dispute percolated its way upward through the court systems, and in the meantime Astroline went bankrupt and WHCT went off the air. Last year, Two if by Sea Broadcasting took control of WHCT from the bankruptcy trustee, and this past February WHCT returned to the air running programming from Lowell Paxson. Meanwhile, Shurberg filed a petition to deny WHCT's license renewal, and Astroline then filed a petition to deny against Shurberg's Channel 18 application. Now, the FCC has denied Astroline's petition to deny against Shurberg, and it will soon hold a hearing to determine the extent of minority control at Astroline. If the FCC finds that Astroline misrepresented the facts, we could see yet another change of control at poor old Channel 18...stay tuned.

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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 only about 25 copies remain, and we expect to sell them all in the next few weeks.

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.