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July 30, 2007

Lawrence's WCCM Moves Again

TOWER SITE CALENDAR 2008 - COMING SOON!!!

*A venerable set of MASSACHUSETTS call letters will move to yet another spot on the dial (just over the state line in NEW HAMPSHIRE, actually) on Wednesday. That's when Costa-Eagle will move the WCCM calls and talk format down the dial from its present home on Haverhill-licensed 1490 to the 1110 signal that's licensed to Salem, NH.

1110's current occupant, Spanish talk "Impacto" WCEC, will take over the 1490 signal - and listeners who've been following the "WCCM" identity around the dial will have to adjust their presents for the second time in five years.

It was back in August 2002 that Costa-Eagle dislodged WCCM from the most potent signal in its cluster, the Lawrence-licensed 800 facility that had operated as WCCM since 1947, in order to install Spanish tropical WNNW (previously at 1110) on the 800 signal. WCCM in turn replaced the equally venerable WHAV on 1490 - but that signal, while licensed for fulltime operation, was hard to hear in much of the Lawrence area even by day, and nearly impossible at night. That, in turn, made it vaguely pointless for WCCM to carry some of the Lawrence-oriented programming it had carried, not to mention Lowell Spinners baseball, which was heard on 1490 for several years as well.

The latest move will bring WCCM's signal back to more solid coverage of Lawrence and vicinity, but at a price - the 1110 signal signs off at sunset, with no night power at all, so there still won't be local sports on the "new" WCCM. As for WCEC on 1490, the Hispanic population in and around Haverhill continues to grow, so that half of the move promises to be successful - but we still vividly remember the days, not all that long ago, when Haverhill, Lawrence and Lowell each had multiple local English-language radio voices, too, and it's sad to think that the days of the old WHAV, WCCM and WLLH are long gone.

*In Worcester, Clear Channel has signed on a new translator for WJMN (94.5 Boston). W235AV (94.9 Tatnuck) runs 235 watts from the WSRS (96.1) tower in Paxton, reinforcing the "Jam'n" signal in Worcester County at the expense of the fringes of WHOM (94.9 Mount Washington NH).

WBIX (1060 Natick) is adding a new local talk show right after Labor Day. Chuck Morse will launch "Morse Code" from 2-4 PM weekdays, beginning Sept. 3.

HELP WANTED

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*Back in 1980, NEW YORK's WNBC-TV (Channel 4) blazed a new path for TV news when it debuted "Live at Five," one of the first local TV newscasts to air an hour earlier than the usual 6 PM slot. Now the station is getting out of the 5 PM news race, effective September 10. That's when it will pull the plug on the latest version of "Live at Five," moving anchors David Ushery and Linda Baquero to the 6 PM slot long held by Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons. That, in turn, frees up Scarborough to anchor a new 7 PM newscast, leading out of the Brian Williams national news at 6:30, while Simmons will cut back her schedule to 11 PM only. The 5 PM slot will be filled by "Extra," followed by the "News 4 You" feature-laden 5:30 newscast anchored by Perri Peltz. The station will also add hourly news updates from 11 AM until 5 PM on weekdays.

Clear Channel's Rochester cluster has been trying some very interesting non-traditional revenue tactics with one of the lesser signals in its arsenal, the class A on 107.3 (currently doing country as WCRR) that's licensed to South Bristol Township. It's stunted in recent years as "Huge Radio" (for a local car dealership), and now it's spending the rest of the summer as "Labatt Blue Country 107.3," having sold what amount to naming rights to the station. (Can "NERW Country 107.3" be far behind?)

The soap opera that is WKPQ (105.3 Hornell) added a few more chapters last week, and we're still trying to sort them all out. Here's what we do know so far: the big FM signal is back in the hands of longtime owner Bilbat Radio for the moment, as an LMA to Anthony Panetta appears to have fallen apart. The LMA, which started in April, was part of a larger deal that was to have resolved the long-running legal battles between Bilbat and regional group owner Pembrook Pines over WKPQ's ownership - but now we're hearing that the deal that would have given WKPQ to Pembrook Pines in exchange for WABH (1380 Bath) and $400,000 in cash may be dead. In the meantime, WKPQ is again simulcasting with Bilbat's WHHO (1320 Hornell), which kept the "old" WKPQ format going after the FM went into the LMA. Stay tuned...

While we're down around Pembrook Pines' home base in Elmira, we note that the market's one step closer to a new FM move-in. The FCC last week approved the reallotment of The Radio Group's WFLR-FM from 95.9A in Dundee to 95.5A in Odessa, rejecting Bible Broadcasting Network's proposal to allot 95.5A to Savona, in Steuben County. The Odessa signal would be an Elmira rimshot, and would supersede the construction permit WFLR-FM already holds to move to 95.5 at the Dundee site.

In Utica, we can put a sale price on at least part of the big transaction that involves Galaxy Communications, Clear Channel, Ken Roser and EMF Broadcasting - the sale of Galaxy's big-signal WRCK (107.3 Utica) to EMF will add $1.225 million to Galaxy's bank accounts.

We're still waiting to hear how much Galaxy's paying for Clear Channel's 5 FM/4 AM cluster in Utica, and how much Roser will pay to acquire the 2 FMs and 2 AMs that Galaxy will spin off from the deal.

In other Galaxy news, Scott Petibone has departed as morning jock/PD for the "K-Rock" stations in Syracuse and Utica (WKRL 100.9 North Syracuse/WKRH 105.9 Minetto and WKLL 94.9 Frankfort); music director Ty is handling PD duties on an interim basis there.

And one more Galaxy-related note: we're sorry to report the recent death of Frank Toce, the Syracuse engineer who put WTKW (99.5 Bridgeport) on the air in 1992, eventually selling the station to Galaxy while continuing to consult on engineering matters. Toce was a native of Torrington, Connecticut, where he started in the radio industry in high school as chief engineer of WTOR (1490, now WSNG 610). Toce went on to work for General Electric before founding Syracuse Scientific (now Lakeshore Technologies) in 1978, manufacturing closed-circuit TV systems for medical applications. Toce retired in 2001, and in recent years could be found tending to his collection of antique cars and an extensive gathering of vintage radio equipment (including transmitters) at his home on the shore of Oneida Lake. Toce was 72.

Where are they now? Trip Reeb, who went from the PD chair at WCMF in Rochester to a long and successful career programming the legendary KROQ in Los Angeles before becoming the victim of budget cuts out there last year, has landed in San Diego. He's the new president/CEO of Finest City Broadcasting, which operates several Mexican signals aimed at San Diego, including the well-known "91X" (XETRA-FM). And speaking of ex-Rochester folks in San Diego, we're sorry to report that Dave Mason, who started his career back at WSAY in Rochester, then moved on to stations such as WHTX and WTAE in Pittsburgh and WKRC in Cincinnati, is out of a job at KOGO (600 San Diego), where he was doing mornings. KOGO is bringing in Chip Franklin from Baltimore's WBAL, and Mason's now available and looking for a new gig.

BEAT THE PASSWORD RUSH! We've been holding out against the inevitable for many years now, but the time has come. After six years of giving away NorthEast Radio Watch for free, and six more years of asking for voluntary subscriptions from our loyal readers, we can no longer deny reality: if NERW is to continue on as the authoritative source of Northeast radio and TV news that it's become, the burden has to be shared across all our readers, not just those who pay for it voluntarily. So this fall, current issues of NERW and most of the NERW archives from 2003 onward will become password-protected for access by paid subscribers only.

(A few recent issues will remain accessible without a password, and we have no intention of excluding anyone who's truly unable to pay from reading the site. You'll be hearing more about those plans in the months to come.)

If you're already a NERW subscriber, nothing will change for you. Before the transition takes place, you'll receive a password and you'll continue to have full access to the site.

If you're not already a NERW subscriber, now's the time to do something about it. By becoming a charter subscriber now, you'll get the benefit of our current low subscription rates, and you'll have no worries about waiting for a password when the changeover happens this fall. And did we mention that you'll be first in line for the Tower Site Calendar 2008, free to our premium subscribers?

We've tried for many years to hold off this financial reality, but it's become hard to ignore. Not long ago, our pal Dave Hughes put part of his excellent DCRTV.com site behind a pay wall, and mandatory subscriptions are an established way of life at LARadio.com and reelradio.com, too, just to name a few. And even with a subscription model, we've just received word that the respected and venerable FMedia! newsletter has gone on what's likely a permanent hiatus.

We have every intention of keeping NERW going strong as we head for our 15th anniversary in 2009, and for many years thereafter, and we're deeply grateful to the many readers who've already come forward with their support in recent years, as well as to the advertisers who've learned how advertising on NERW can reach one of the best audiences in broadcasting at a very economical rate.

If you still haven't subscribed yet for 2007, do it right now at our Support page - and enjoy another exciting year of NERW, guilt-free. And if you have become one of our many subscribers, thank you!

*A veteran radio voice is going silent in MAINE, as Harry Nelson says he's retiring from afternoon drive and the PD chair at Saga's WPOR (101.9 Portland), as well as PD duties at sister WBAE (1490 Portland)/WVAE (1400 Biddeford). Nelson made his name in New England with a long mid-70s run at WRKO (680 Boston), and was later heard at WZOU in Boston, WAPP in New York, KFRC in San Francisco and many other stops before returning from his first retirement in Florida to take the WPOR job in 2005. No replacement's been named yet in Portland, and we wish Harry all the best as he heads out!

Up in Aroostook County, WREM (710 Monticello) has new calls and a new frequency: Allan Weiner's AM signal is now "WCXH," and we hear it's made the move up the dial to 780 kHz, where it will keep its 5 kW non-directional daytime signal and add 60 watts of night power.

Better yet - the website for sister shortwave station WBCQ includes this nifty picture of a 1932-vintage Western Electric 12A transmitter that's being restored for night use on 780. Weiner claims - and we have no reason whatsoever to doubt him - that the Western will be the oldest transmitter in regular service anywhere on the AM dial in the country. (We've got to get up there and visit the WBCQ/WCXH site, one of these days...)

*In VERMONT, Melissa Moran is making a big move from PM drive at WXXX (95.5 South Burlington) - she's the new middayer down in Tampa at Clear Channel's WFLZ (93.3).

*It's a sad week in southern RHODE ISLAND, where WADK (1540 Newport) is mourning the death on Friday of 35-year station veteran Bob Sullivan, who'd been battling cancer for just over a year. Sullivan, 57, had hosted WADK's "Open Forum" talk show for 25 years, and had served as the station's news director for 30 years. He'd been off the air since March, though he'd returned for occasional guest appearances, and when news came of his death on Friday afternoon, station manager Bobb Angel switched the station to classical music for the afternoon in Sullivan's memory. Funeral services will be held Tuesday morning at 9 at the Memorial Funeral Home at 375 Broadway in Newport.

*There's a new expanded-band AM station testing in CANADA. CHTO (1690 Toronto) began testing on Saturday. When it's up and running at full blast, the Canadian Hellenic Toronto Radio station will carry a multicultural slate of programming aimed primarily at the city's Greek community.

Toronto's Humber College signed CKHC (96.9) on as "Humber Radio" in 2005, with an all-Canadian playlist - and now the little 5-watt station is getting bigger. Last week, the CRTC granted Humber a new instructional/campus license for 60 watts on 96.9, which should bring the signal to a wider area around the Humber campus, in north Etobicoke on Toronto's west side.

The latest update on CityTV's slow move out of its longtime home at 299 Queen Street West in Toronto finds a sign coming down from the side of the building - but not the CityPulse news truck that's been bursting from the wall since the early 80s.

Instead, it's the CityTV sign that hung above the truck that's now history. A crane brought the letters of that sign down from the building last week, as CTV asserted its ownership of the building. CityTV will remain as a tenant for now, and there's still no word on when the truck will come down.

*Lots of Radio People were On The Move in PENNSYLVANIA last week, including a high-profile hire to be the new VP/GM for Radio One's Philadelphia cluster (WPHI/WPPZ/WRNB). Andy Rosen, former executive VP for Clear Channel's cluster up the road in New York City, takes that post, recently vacated by Chester Schofield.

John Cook is the new PD for both WPHT (1210) and WYSP (94.1), replacing Grace Blazer and Gil Edwards, respectively. The Philly native returns home from Texas, where he was programming stations in San Antonio and Dallas. Meanwhile, CBS Radio's looking for a new PD for sports WIP (610 Philadelphia), where Tom Lee exits after three years.

Down in Gettysburg, Coyote Collins and WGTY (107.7) have parted ways after just a few months. Collins came to the PD chair at WGTY from WFBE (95.1 Flint), and from Rochester's WBEE-FM (92.5) before that. MD/morning guy Scott Donato is serving as interim PD at WGTY.

Former WSOX (96.1 Red Lion) morning co-host Bob Rudy is back on the air; he's now the afternoon co-host (with Joe Black) on WYCR (98.5 York), reports the York Dispatch.

Meanwhile in Reading, RJ McKay is leaving his PD chair at WIOV-FM (105.1 Ephrata)/WIOV (1240 Reading) after just over a year at the station. (He also did afternoons on WIOV-FM.)

And there's a night opening over in Harrisburg, where Silly Jilly is leaving WHKF (99.3) to return home to Chicago and sister "Kiss" station WKSC (103.5), where she started out as an intern.

*Where are they now? Suzanne Ansilio, who's worked everywhere from Scranton to Los Angeles, and was last heard on WDHA (105.5 Dover, NEW JERSEY), is headed west again. She's half of the new "Eddie and Suzie" morning show on Beasley's KSTJ (102.7 Boulder City) in Las Vegas, as of a couple of weeks ago.

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 LARadio.com for the idea - and thanks to you, our readers, for the support that's made all these years of NERW possible!)

July 31, 2006 -

  • It is, at long last, official - Nassau and Greater Media made the announcement Monday afternoon that they've completed negotiations to send Greater's 99.5 Lowell signal (now country WKLB) to Nassau, in exchange for Nassau's Philadelphia move-in, WTHK (97.5 Burlington NJ). At the same time, Greater Media has completed its deal to acquire WCRB (102.5 Waltham) from Charles River Broadcasting, setting the stage for the long-anticipated format and call swap that will move WCRB's classical format down the dial to 99.5 and WKLB's country into the heart of the Boston market at 102.5. Nassau says it intends to keep the classical format and WCRB calls on 99.5, making it the "new flagship" of the company's chain of classical signals in northern New England.
  • In Philadelphia, 97.5 will get a new format (as yet undetermined) as it joins the Greater Media cluster of WPEN, WMMR, WBEN-FM and WMGK.
  • Two familiar names in Northeast broadcasting have returned to ownership, via a $5.5 million deal to buy seven northern NEW YORK stations. Jim Leven was one of the principals of the old Pilot group, whose stations in Syracuse and elsewhere ended up as part of the Citadel group a few years ago. Bruce Mittman was station manager at WAAF (107.3 Worcester) and several other stations around Massachusetts. As "Community Broadcasters LLC," they're the new owners of most of what was the Clancy-Mance group in Watertown and Ogdensburg.
  • Here's what they get in the deal: news-talk WATN (1240 Watertown), rock WOTT (100.7 Henderson/Watertown) top 40 "Border" WBDI (106.7 Copenhagen/Watertown) and WBDB (92.7 Ogdensburg), AC WTOJ (103.1 Carthage/Watertown), oldies WGIX (95.3 Gouverneur) and talk WSLB (1400 Ogdensburg). Noticeably missing in the deal is WBDR (102.7 Cape Vincent), which stays with Clancy-Mance. As country "Kix 102.7," WBDR functions as a Kingston, Ontario station, programmed and operated out of CIKR (K-Rock 105.7)'s Kingston studio.
  • There's a TV station sale in central PENNSYLVANIA, as the Television Station Group (formerly known as SJL Broadcasting) sells WTAJ-TV (Channel 10) in Altoona and WLYH (Channel 15) in Lebanon to Nexstar, for $58 million. WTAJ is a dominant CBS affiliate, while WLYH is a UPN (soon to be CW) affiliate that's operated under an LMA by Clear Channel's WHP-TV. Will Nexstar, whose operating philosophy calls for the creation of duopolies wherever possible, be looking to make additional acquisitions in those markets? (It already has a duopoly in Erie, at WJET/WFXP, and in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, at WBRE/WYOU, as well as nearby outlets in Rochester, Utica and Hagerstown.)

July 29, 2002 -

  • The long-rumored sale of WBEC (1420) and WBEC-FM (105.5) in Pittsfield, MASSACHUSETTS, from Tele-Media to Vox is finally becoming a reality - and it includes WZEC (97.5 Hoosick Falls NY) as well. The move puts Vox in a new market not far from its existing strongholds in southern Vermont, the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts and New York's Glens Falls market, and leaves Tele-Media with only WKBE (100.3 Warrensburg NY) remaining from its former Albany-centered cluster.
  • Elsewhere in Massachusetts, what started out as a quiet summer is heating up - literally and figuratively - with a new program director and a new morning show vacancy in Boston.
  • We'll start with the vacancy, created when WZLX (100.7 Boston) sent morning guy Tai (Thomas A. Irwin) packing last week. Tai and comedian Steve Sweeny had held down mornings at the Infinity classic rocker for two years, following Charles Laquidara's decamping to Hawaii in 2000. Sweeny remains on WZLX's morning shift, with a new co-host not expected for a few weeks, at least. (One reason for the delay: WZLX's new program director, Beau Raines, is just settling into the job, officially. Raines was picked for the post back in April [NERW 4/17], but contractual issues with his old employer, Greater Media's WROR, kept the move from becoming official until just last week. And speaking of Greater Media and Infinity, we have it on good authority that the possibility of Loren and Wally making the jump from Greater's WROR to Infinity's WODS was more than just a rumor - it came close to happening before Greater came through with the contract Loren and Wally wanted!)
  • Tai will likely surface elsewhere on the Boston radio scene; in addition to his best-known gig as "Morning Guy Tai" on WFNX, he spent some time doing talk at WRKO as well.
  • A long-disputed FM channel has been granted in MAINE. Robert Scott Hogg (former owner of WMDI in Bar Harbor) and Lyle Robert Evans both wanted 93.7A in Millbridge, way down East between Bangor and Calais, and now a settlement has put the CP in the hands of Evans.
  • Up here in Rochester, WBBF (950) continues to stunt as "Swifty 950," still playing a music-test tape of 70s and 80s pop and classic rock - but we now know at least one of the local personalities who'll be heard on the station when it relaunches as a news-talker. Allan Harris left WHAM (1180) last week, ending a long career at the Clear Channel news-talk outlet, where he'd been a traffic reporter, fill-in news guy and late-night/weekend talk host. We hear he'll show up on WBBF whenever the new format launches; in the meantime, the Michael Savage show has appeared in his old late-night slot on WHAM.

July 31, 1997-

  • NBC will soon be reunited with one of its oldest owned-and-operated TV stations. Paramount agreed today to trade WVIT (Channel 30) New Britain-Hartford to NBC in exchange for WLWC (Channel 28) New Bedford-Providence and WWHO (Channel 53) Chillicothe-Columbus OH, which are owned by Fant Broadcasting and LMA'd to NBC. The deal would bring channel 30 back into the NBC family after nearly four decades. NBC bought what was then WKNB-TV (along with WKNB 1410 AM) back in 1956, as part of a project to develop UHF owned-and-operated stations by the major networks (NBC also owned a station in Buffalo, while CBS owned UHFs in Hartford and Milwaukee). The TV calls were changed to WNBC-TV, and then to WHNB-TV in 1959 when NBC sold the station to Transcontinental Properties. In 1978, WHNB-TV was sold to Viacom (now Paramount), becoming WVIT.
  • NBC and Paramount would both need waivers to make this swap work, since WVIT's signal overlaps with NBC O&Os WNBC-TV (Channel 4) in New York and WJAR (Channel 10) Providence, while the WLWC signal overlaps with Paramount's WSBK (Channel 38). If the deal is consummated, WLWC and WWHO would switch affiliations from The WB to UPN.
  • An ownership change on the way in MASSACHUSETTS: Curt Gowdy is preparing to bow out of Bay State broadcasting after nearly 35 years of ownership (and years of on-air work before that). Gowdy has reportedly reached a deal to sell WCCM (800) in Lawrence to Costa-Eagle Broadcasting, the partnership that owns WNNW (1110) Salem NH and operates WHAV (1490) Haverhill. Costa-Eagle may switch WNNW's Spanish-language format to the WCCM signal, which covers the Hispanic market in Lawrence much better, while moving WCCM's English-language talk to the less-potent 1110 operation. Auto dealer Charles Daher is reportedly upset with Gowdy; he says he was close to signing a purchase agreement for WCCM when Costa-Eagle stepped in with a higher offer. Gowdy bought WCCM and then-WGHJ (93.7) back in 1963. The FM was later WCCM-FM and WCGY; Gowdy sold it to American Radio Systems several years ago. Long retired and living in Wyoming, Gowdy still owns several stations in the Laramie area.
  • A format change in New Hampshire: WOXF (96.5) Bedford-Manchester shed its year-old classic rock format Tuesday afternoon, changing from "the Fox" to oldies "Cool 96.5." WOXF was recently LMA'd by Saga Broadcasting, which appears to be targeting competing oldies station WNNH (99.1 Henniker) with the move. PD Keith Murray is out of a job; airstaff Dorien Jaye (mornings) and Peggy James stay with the station for now.

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*If you were waiting for Tower Site Calendar 2007 to go on clearance sale - sorry! As of June 1, the shipping department (which would be Mrs. Fybush, with an occasional assist from Ariel) informs us that the 2007 edition is now SOLD OUT.

Many thanks to all of you who've supported the calendar over the past six years, and stay tuned for details on the even better Tower Site Calendar 2008, for which ordering will begin later this summer. (You can be first on the list for the new edition, which will be back from the printer in early August, by subscribing or renewing at the $60 professional level!) And in the meantime, visit the Fybush.com Store for information on remaining back issues of the Tower Site Calendar.

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.