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August 27 & September 3, 2007

VPR Doubles Up in Burlington Market


*It's been literally years in the making, but VERMONT Public Radio is finally about to throw the switch on an expansion that will bring its second service, an all-classical network, to the state's largest market.

On Friday, August 31, VPR will take control of what's now WAVX (90.9 Schuyler Falls NY), replacing that station's Christian rock format with classical and changing the calls to WOXR.

"The calls signs don't have any particular importance, other than an homage to the great New York classical station, WQXR," says VPR president Mark Vogelzang. (He jokes that they could also stand for "Only eXcellent Radio.")

The station is expected to sign off as WAVX on Wednesday, when VPR closes on its purchase of the station from Christian Ministries, Inc. It will return Friday at - when else? - 9:09 in the morning.

When it does, it will help to fill out the VPR Classical network that signed on in 2004 at WNCH (88.1 Norwich), serving the Connecticut River Valley. The network grew in a small way with translators, then added a second full-power signal, WJAN (95.1 Sunderland, now WVTQ), earlier this year - but until now, it's been heard in Burlington and vicinity only via web streaming and the HD2 channel of VPR's main network.

The 90.9 signal that's being added to the network will reach some 175,000 new listeners, not only in greater Burlington but also across the lake in the Plattsburgh, NY area, where the transmitter is located. (It's a 2.7 kW/1073' class C2 signal, coming from the WPTZ-TV tower on Terry Mountain.)

As for the "Wave" programming, Christian Ministries will continue it - on HD.

It's using some of the proceeds of the WAVX sale to upgrade its flagship station, WGLY (91.5 Bolton), and will put the Wave on WGLY's HD2 signal.

(And full disclosure, since now it can be told - your editor has served, with no small amount of pride, as a consultant to VPR on this project.)


Think the arrival of the new phone book is an exciting time of year? (We do, actually, with apologies to Steve Martin, but that's not the point.)

Here's a really exciting spot on the calendar - in fact, it is the calendar. Yes, the 2008 Tower Site Calendar is back from the printer and ready for shipping all over the US and beyond.

This year's edition is a particularly fine one, if we do say so ourselves. From the cover photo of KAST in Astoria, Oregon to the back cover shot of the Blaw-Knox diamond tower at WBNS in Columbus, this year's calendar features 14 all-new full-color shots of famous broadcast sites far and wide. There's KROQ in Los Angeles, KFBK in Sacramento, WESX in Salem, WGAN in Portland, Black Mountain in Vegas, Mount Spokane in Spokane, and many (ok, several) more.

If you've been following our adventures, you know that the 2006 and 2007 editions of the calendar sold out. If you've been following postal rates and the cost of printing, you know they've both gone up.

Which is to say, there's every reason to order this year's calendar right away - especially because the price will go up after September 30.

Get your order in now, and you'll be able to have all this tower-calendar goodness on your wall for last year's price - just $17 with shipping and handling included.

Or better yet, beat our move to mandatory subscriptions (also coming this fall) and get a free calendar with your $60 subscription to NERW for 2008. (Remember, the proceeds from both the calendar and the subscriptions help keep NERW right here on the web, as we head into our fourteenth year of news and analysis.)

So click right here and you can be one of the first to have your very own Tower Site Calendar 2008! (And thank you!)

*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Chris Ialuna is leaving WLNH (98.3 Laconia) after eight years at the station. In addition to his on-air work at WLNH, Ialuna is also the PD and operations manager, but now he's moving on to a job with the Lakes Region Community Services Council.

*With no resolution just yet to the Dennis and Callahan soap opera at WEEI in MASSACHUSETTS, the week's big story in the Bay State is the impending power increase at Keating Willcox's WNSH (1570 Beverly).

He took the station silent over the weekend while moving ahead on plans to up the day power there to 30 kW, non-directional. When that power increase is complete, it will finally mean the end of co-channel WPEP (1570 Taunton) - and it will give WNSH a signal up and down the coast, though the rocky ground will still keep it from being heard well anywhere west of Boston.

(WNSH also has a new program schedule, replacing the defunct GreenStone Media lineup with, as Willcox puts it, "shows that have at least one woman, so we are still women's talk radio during the weekdays.)

There's another Bay State power increase in the works as well - WAMG (890 Dedham) has been granted its CP to nearly double night power, and it will crank things up from 3300 to 6000 watts any day (or rather, any night) now.

And a different sort of "power": in Haverhill, WXRV (92.5 the River) just flipped on a bank of solar panels at its studio facility. The panels are part of a "go green" committment by the station, which says most of its studio power needs can be met in-house now.

*Will one of the flashpoints in the coming battle over HD Radio on AM at night end up being upstate NEW YORK?

It's starting to look that way, thanks to Bob Savage, founder and owner of WYSL (1040 Avon). The famously independent broadcaster (and longtime friend of this column and its editor) has been stirring up a hornet's nest with his "call to action" for fellow small AM stations facing what he says will be ruinous interference from nighttime HD broadcasts on the AM dial.

In Savage's case, his 500-watt night signal, which does a surprisingly good job of reaching Rochester, 20 miles to the north, will likely be all but extinguished (possibly even within its own city of license, Savage says) on many nights by the digital sidebands from WBZ (1030 Boston).

Savage says he's received support for his campaign from several big guns in the industry, including WSM (650 Nashville) chief engineer Watt Hairston, and he's asking other stations in similar situations to his to contact Congress and the NAB to call for action to save their signals from interference.

"Any gain from implementation of HD-AM, no matter how slight, will come at the expense of massive trauma to small and medium market AM operators," says Savage. He says he stands to lose a significant amount of sports revenue - and potentially a good chunk of his retirement, too, having staked it on the success of WYSL - if the station can't be heard at night.

Could WYSL end up being one of the test cases for the interference disputes that are bound to arise come mid-September, when nighttime HD on AM is legalized? We'll be listening.

In Albany, Regent has not only returned to sports on WEEV (1300 Rensselaer) after the demise of the GreenStone Media talk network - it's also returned to the station's former calls of WTMM. Will the format change (which creates a simulcast with WTMM-FM 104.5 Mechanicville) be permanent?

And in Plattsburgh, WTWK (1070) keeps its "Eve 1070" identity despite losing GreenStone's programming. Its new lineup includes Stephanie Miller, Dr. Joy Browne and Sally Jessy Raphael.

You can have your ad here! Click here for information on the most economical way to reach tens of thousands of Northeast radio and TV people each week.

*Two new calls on two new religious outlets in PENNSYLVANIA: WMBZ (88.5 Halifax) changes to WLVU, as it joins EMF Broadcasting's "K-Love" network. Meanwhile, Family Life Network has acquired the former WDAH (91.5 Shenandoah PA), which becomes WCIM.

Things are slowly getting back to normal at WESS (90.3 East Stroudsburg), which went off the air after a water main break knocked out its program line to its transmitter site. The station's now running a loop of automated programming from the transmitter site, but it's hoping to have regular programming (including the BBC, which takes up much of its program day) back on the air later this week.

Up the road a bit, WCDL (1440 Carbondale) has flipped from standards to Spanish.

*The newest FM station in CANADA (for a few minutes, anyway) hit the airwaves in Peterborough, Ontario t noon on Tuesday. CKPT-FM (99.3) takes over where CKPT (1420) left off, freshening up the soft AC that was on the AM. The new "Energy 99.3" takes a hot AC approach, and it's running jockless until September 10. (The CTVglobemedia-owned station will continue simulcasting on AM for 90 days before 1420 goes silent for good.)

The next newest station in Canada will likely be My FM's new outlet in Nappanee. CKYM (88.7) is close to completing its testing, and when it signs on, Milkman UnLimited reports Rob Calabrese will be doing mornings, with Matt McIntyre in middays and Jamie Cybulski in afternoons.

A morning-show shuffle in Toronto: Ben and Kerry are out of the morning slot on CISS (92.5 Kiss FM), replaced by Jeff Chalmers, with PD Jeff Brown now doing afternoons.

Also in Toronto, CFXJ (93.5 Flow FM) is edging away from its original urban focus and closer to a straight-ahead top 40 sound, as the "New Flow 93.5."

There are similar changes underway in Kitchener-Waterloo at CKBT (91.5 the Beat), which just changed hands from CanWest Global to Corus. In addition to moving from urban to top 40, the Beat has been shuffling morning shows. Touch and Sandra are out, as of two weeks ago, and afternoon jock "Big Mike" Farwell, who took over mornings after that, has since moved over to new sister station CKGL (570 News) as managing editor and afternoon sportscaster, leaving his former co-host Mocha and former weekender Christin in the morning slot.

CKNR (94.1 Elliot Lake ON) has been granted a transmitter on 98.7 in... Elliot Lake. The new 50-watt signal will help fill in some reception problems right in town, since the main 94.1 signal is located a rather long distance away.

Out in Moncton, New Brunswick, religious CITA (105.9) has been granted a move to 105.1. The move will increase CITA's power from 50 watts to 880 watts - and it will clear the way for CBA (1070) to move to 106.1, very soon now.

*Finally, a programming note: between the slow news week that typically precedes Labor Day, and the fact that we're knee-deep in Big Trip 2007 (this issue comes to you from Bozeman, Montana), there will be no fresh issue of NERW next Labor Day Monday, Sept. 3. We'll post updates here if anything big breaks, and if it doesn't, we'll see you back here, fresh and rested, on Monday, Sept. 10.

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!)

August 28, 2006 -

  • It's hard to think of a recent week's news that's been as dominated by a single broadcast company as last week was by Pennsylvania-based Entercom.
  • In a pair of deals announced Monday morning, David Field's rapidly-growing broadcast group picked up four station clusters from CBS Radio for $262 million - and struck a $30 million deal to buy Boston's WILD-FM (97.7 Brockton) from Radio One.
  • Entercom wasted no time getting the WAAF signal on the new frequency - within a few hours of the announcement on Monday, WILD-FM's urban format was history, and by Tuesday WAAF was ID'ing with both frequencies. As Field noted in a conference call after the deals were announced, the addition of 97.7 to WAAF is extraordinarily cost-effective, requiring no new staff or expenses beyond the tower rent and power bill at WILD-FM's Great Blue Hill transmitter site.
  • The acquisition of 97.7 should also put an end to Entercom's long quest to get a listenable 107.3 signal into Boston itself, where the interactions among the FM signals on the Prudential Tower make it difficult for any signal from "outside" to penetrate the city effectively. For the last year or so, Entercom has been tweaking a new WAAF transmitter site at Stiles Hill in Boylston in an effort to improve its Boston coverage; while the move there from WAAF's original site on Mount Asnebumskit in Paxton has been criticized for reducing the station's renowned reach into western New England, we're hearing that there are no plans to rethink the move and return to Paxton. (The coverage lost as a result of the move from Paxton to Boylston was, after all, well outside the Boston market, where WAAF makes all its money.)
  • So WAAF now has a 97.7 signal that hits the city of Boston and the South Shore, along with the big 107.3 that covers west and north of Boston. It's good news for rock fans, but the listeners to WILD-FM's old format aren't celebrating. Radio One was the only black-owned broadcaster serving the Boston market, and in addition to pulling the plug on the urban "Wild 97.7" last week, the company also dumped the black-oriented talk programming it had been running on sister station WILD (1090 Boston), the city's heritage black-owned station.
  • A NEW YORK morning show is no more. Buckley's WOR (710 New York) abruptly pulled the plug on Ed Walsh after his Friday broadcast. Walsh, who replaced John A. Gambling in 2000 when WOR ended the "Rambling With Gambling" franchise after seven decades, is being replaced beginning this morning with WOR weekend host Joe Bartlett, who'll host mornings alongside Donna Hanover.
  • A Watertown broadcaster who rose to national prominence died last week. Tony Malara began his career at Syracuse University's WAER (88.3), then worked at Watertown's WWNY-TV (Channel 7), eventually becoming the station's general manager before moving up to network management at CBS. Malara served as CBS TV's head of affiliate relations, then as the network's president, before his retirement in 1995. Most recently, he had moved into television ownership - his Malara Broadcasting bought stations in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Duluth, Minnesota from Granite in 2004, entering into shared-services agreements under which Granite operates the stations as quasi-duopolies. Malara also served as president of the New York State Broadcasters' Association in 1978-79.
  • In eastern PENNSYLVANIA, there was little surprise when Clear Channel finally unveiled the new format on WSNI (104.5 Philadelphia) at noon on Wednesday, after more than a week of stunting. In place of the soft AC "Sunny" format that had been on WSNI, it's now Spanish tropical "Rumba 104.5," the city's first-ever full-market Spanish FM station. While the Philadelphia market's Hispanic population is much smaller than other big Northeast markets, Clear Channel says it's growing quickly, and worthy of its own signal.

September 4, 2002 -

  • A country music war is brewing in the Upper Valley region of VERMONT and NEW HAMPSHIRE, where the dial was spinning so fast last week that even some of the radio folks we know up there had a hard time keeping it all straight. Here's what we know:
  • Vox Media returned the "Bob Country" name and format to the dial last Friday (Aug. 30), replacing "Star" soft AC on WSSH (95.3 White River Junction) and WZSH (107.1 Bellows Falls). The "Bob" nickname was last heard on WMXR (93.9 Woodstock) and WCFR-FM (93.5 Springfield, now WXKK) a couple of summers ago, before being pulled by Clear Channel to leave its "Kixx" (WXXK 100.5 Lebanon NH) as the only country outlet in the market. Vox's version of "Bob" includes original Bob PD Heath Cole, who also keeps his PD duties at oldies WWOD (104.3 Hartford)/WCFR (96.3 Walpole NH), with a slate of live and local voices to come."The battle is on! Let the fun begin!" says Vox's Ken Barlow of the format war with Kixx.
  • Elsewhere in the Green Mountain State, "The Lake", WLKC (103.3 Waterbury), dropped its soft AC sounds over the weekend and began stunting with quiet nature sounds (mostly birds chirping, which has made for a relaxing afternoon putting this issue together!) and occasional IDs proclaiming the station to be "Pure Vermont Radio" and "environmentally sound."
  • Tuesday (Sep. 3) marked the debut of WLIE (540 Islip), the new talker that replaces standards WLUX on the frequency. The lineup begins with David Weiss and Tracy Burgess doing a morning news block, followed by live, local talk with Ed Tyll, John Gomez and Mike Siegel. Other voices heard on the new station include Jim Bohannon, Mike Gallagher and Michael Medved (in late-night tape delay). Brokered programming continues in the evening on 540 for now.
  • Meanwhile up in Albany, we caught the first day of the new format on WHTR-FM (93.7 Scotia) and WHTR (1400 Albany), as owner Galaxy pulls the hot talk and replaces it with modern rock as "K-Rock." The Albany K-Rock isn't a straight simulcast of its sisters in Utica (WKLL 94.9 Frankfort) and Syracuse (WKRL 100.9 N. Syracuse/WKRH 106.5 Minetto), but the music mix sounded familiar.
  • The big shuffle in the Niagara Region began over the weekend with the disappearance of modern AC from CKEY-FM (101.1 Fort Erie), replaced by a computerized countdown voice which so unnerved some residents that they asked the Niagara Regional Police to check in and make sure nothing was wrong at the station. It turned out to be a stunt leading to a new dance-CHR format at the former "River," newly reborn as "Wild 101.1." But the start of that new station was just one of several shifts in the works over in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Labor Day also brought the end of the AC/full service format on CJRN (710 Niagara Falls), replaced by modern AC as "The River 710." That, however, is only a temporary format: on Friday morning at 6, "The River" will make its final move, back to FM on CFLZ (105.1 Niagara Falls). The travelers' information programming that had been heard on CFLZ, including interminable ads for Casino Niagara, will move to 710 that morning, with a promise of more live talk and tourist information to come. It's a new challenge for Buffalo CHR WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls) and urban WBLK (93.7 Depew), both of which have had almost no competition in years; it's bad news for fans of "The River," who will have to try pretty hard to hear the 105.1 signal from the top of the Skylon Tower anywhere much beyond Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Canada.
  • Up in Toronto, the fallout continues from the demise of CHUM's "Team" sports format. We're told 44 people lost their jobs when the plug was pulled last week on the national network and its local outlets in Halifax, Kingston, Toronto, Kitchener/Waterloo and Winnipeg; among the casualties was the CHUM National News operation based in Toronto. On the local level, CHUM (1050) itself is back to oldies, with Brian Henderson in mornings and voicetracks the rest of the day, just as it was before that format had its plug pulled in May 2001. Voicetracked oldies are back as well at CKKW (1090 Kitchener), we're told. Kingston's CKLC (1380) is back to the oldies/AC format it used before the launch of "The Team," while out in Halifax, CJCH (920) is back to news-talk, with the "Hotline" local talk show returning to 920 from CFDR (Kixx 780). The Team continues in Ottawa (CFGO 1200) and Montreal (CKGM 990).

August 28, 1997-

  • Our top headlines come from the business section this week, where the investment firm of Hicks, Muse, Tate, and Furst made national news with its $2.1 billion acquisition of SFX Broadcasting. The deal give Hicks, Muse the largest station group by number of stations (314) and the third-largest by revenue. Here's what it creates in the Northeast: Hicks' Capstar group owns the old Knight Quality group (WGIR AM/FM Manchester NH; WHEB-FM, WXHT(FM), and WTMN in the Portsmouth NH market; WTAG-WSRS(FM) in Worcester MA; and WEZF(FM) in Burlington VT) and the old Commodore Media group (WINE, WSTC, WNLK, WPUT, and WFAS on the AM side and WRKI, WKHL, WEFX, WAXB, WZZN, and WFAS on the FM side in southwestern Connecticut and Westchester County NY). Hicks' Chancellor group has the big-market properties (WXKS AM-FM and WJMN in Boston, the amazing five FM combo in New York that now includes WAXQ, WHTZ, WKTU, WLTW, and WNSR (ex-WDBZ), and WALK AM-FM, WBAB-FM and WBLI on Long Island). And the SFX deal will bring into the fold still more properties in southern New England and vicinity. In Massachusetts, it's WHMP AM-FM and WPKX(FM) in and around Springfield. In Rhode Island, it's WHJJ, WHJY, and WSNE in the Providence market. In New York, it's WTRY AM-FM, WGNA AM-FM, and WPYX in Albany and WGBB(AM) and WHFM on Long Island. And in Connecticut, it's WHCN, WKSS, WMRQ, WWYZ, and WPLR on the FM side and WPOP(AM). Not to mention Hicks, Muse's acquisition of LIN Broadcasting's TV stations, which brings WTNH New Haven-Hartford and WIVB Buffalo into the fold.
  • NERW suspects Hicks, Muse may run into trouble keeping both WTNH and the enormous cluster of 8 FMs and 4 AMs in Connecticut, and even if that passes muster with the feds, there's still that persistent rumor that Hicks, Muse's next target is American Radio Systems -- which would bring three more Hartford FMs into the mix, while bolstering Hicks, Muse's presence in Boston and bringing it into the Rochester and Buffalo markets.
  • We'll begin the rest of the week's news with another buyout, this time in MASSACHUSETTS and for all of $8 million. WNRB (1510), the withered descendant of the once-mighty WMEX, is in for yet another new owner and format. Communicom and its religious programs will give way by the end of September to One-on-One Sports, the Chicago-based network that's buying small AM facilities in big markets nationwide (they debut Monday in New York City on WXLX (620) Jersey City NJ). This will be something like the tenth format for 1510 in the last decade; you'll be forgiven if you've lost track too. In any event, WNRB will have at least a bit of local sports. Boston University football will return to commercial radio this fall on WNRB, after several years on BU's noncomm WBUR-FM (90.9). Giant Sports is handling the business end of the deal.
  • The much-hyped format swap between Boston's 96.9 and Lowell's 99.5 happened right on schedule last Friday at noon, with the new "Country 99.5" making its debut with "Gone Country," while "Smooth Jazz 96.9" used "Smooth Operator" to mark its start. The legal calls remain WKLB-FM on 96.9 (they hide it in plain view by saying "If you're looking for WKLB-FM Boston, tune to 99.5") and WOAZ on 99.5 (where it's being buried very quietly while the WKLB-FM calls get transferred). And the WOAZ website at still bears a big "Oasis 99.5" logo. What will the new 96.9 call be? NERW's been hearing it will be WSJZ, but M Street is reporting this week that 96.9 has requested WOAZ -- even though the "Oasis" identity has dried up and blown away.
  • Another format change is reportedly on the way as well, down the AM dial at 1260. WPZE, the newest property of Hibernia Broadcasting, will reportedly take on Disney/ABC's "Radio Disney" kids format. Disney's been pushing the format hard around the country -- it just debuted on 50kW KTZN (710) Los Angeles and there are rumors it might even show up on WABC itself.
  • Beverly's little WNSH (1570) is being sold by FSAM Corp. to Willow Farm Inc. NERW wonders why Hicks, Muse didn't grab this one too while they were at it...

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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.