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October 15, 2007

Regent, Martz Sell North Country Clusters


*Regent Broadcasting is exiting one of its upstate NEW YORK markets, opening the door for an Oklahoma owner known for his religious stations to enter the region.

While Regent was a dominant player in the Watertown market, where its country WFRY (97.5) often pulls some of the highest shares of any station in any rated market in America, that market (Arbitron ranked #279) was also the smallest in Regent's portfolio, making the $6.25 million deal with David Stephens' KXOJ, Inc. an easy one for the Cincinnati-based group owner.

In addition to country giant "Froggy," KXOJ Inc. also gets classic hits WCIZ (93.3 Watertown), news-talk WTNY (790 Watertown) and sports WNER (1410 Watertown) - and we're left to wonder what exactly an Oklahoma operator plans to do with a cluster in northern New York.

Make that two clusters, actually: KXOJ is also buying a group of St. Lawrence Valley stations from Tim Martz for $5.25 million. Up there, KXOJ gets AC "Valley" WVLF (96.1 Norwood), top 40 "Yes" WYSX (96.7 Morristown), oldies WPAC (98.7 Ogdensburg), classic hits WRCD "Fox" (101.5 Canton, rimshotting Ottawa), country WNCQ (102.9 Canton) and oldies WMSA (1340 Massena).

What's next? We'd note that in addition to their religious stations, the Stephens family has some experience running secular formats in Oklahoma, particularly sports - and we'd also note that they've been known to buy stations and then sell them very quickly, too, so there may be more changes yet to come on these stations. We'll be listening...


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.

Even so, we still think this year's edition is a bargain - just $18 with shipping and handling included.

Or better yet, beat our move to mandatory subscriptions (also coming later 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!)

*A veteran Utica morning man is changing signals. Former WRCK (107.3 Utica) Bill Keeler has been leasing morning drive on Clear Channel's "Kiss" simulcast (WSKS 97.9 Whitesboro/WSKU 105.5 Little Falls) and selling his own airtime, but with Kiss about to change hands (it will go to Ken Roser as part of a big shuffle of Utica ownership), Keeler is taking his morning show elsewhere - specifically, to Mindy Barstein's WXUR (92.7 Herkimer), which has been without a morning show since the end of Don Imus' syndication last summer.

In Albany, Paul Vandenburgh has now officially departed WROW (590), and he's gone public with his plans to buy WTMM (1300 Rensselaer) from Regent. Vandenburgh tells Capital News 9, where he was doing his shows on Fridays, that he'll relaunch WTMM with a talk format similar to the one he ran there when the station was known as WQBK; he'll also bring Dan Lynch over from WROW for afternoons.

In Binghamton, Clear Channel's WMRV (105.7 Endicott) is making a change in mornings, too, as afternoon guy Joshua B takes over from veteran morning man Louie G, who's reportedly en route to a competing signal in town. (Perhaps we'll find out more at the Binghamton Radio Reunion, coming up this Saturday...)

In Hornell, the soap opera continues at WKPQ (105.3)/WHHO (1320), where Terry Gilles bought the stations' studio and transmitter equipment and property after foreclosing on them through his Gilles Leasing Services. The stations' licenses, however, can't be transferred that way, so they're still in the hands of Bill Berry's Bilbat group. Berry tells the local paper that he'll try to work out a deal to continue operating the stations through some sort of LMA with Gilles; he'd been leasing WKPQ to Anthony Panetta until the end of July, and there's still an unfulfilled deal to transfer WKPQ/WHHO to Robert Pfuntner's Pembrook Pines group, which has been trying to acquire the stations for several years now. Confused yet? Imagine being a radio listener in Hornell...

While we wait for the big news from New York City (that would be the official announcement of Don Imus' return to the airwaves, at WABC), we do note one hire at the New York Times' classical station, WQXR (96.3 New York), where Kathryn Herzog is the new afternoon news anchor, replacing the retired Steve Powers.

Some TV news from New York, too: next Monday (Oct. 22) will mark the on-air debut of the new NBC News main studio/newsroom complex on the third and fourth floors of 30 Rock. The new facility replaces both the old NBC Nightly News studio on the third floor and the MSNBC studio/newsroom over in Secaucus (where we never did manage to get a tour, sadly...)

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.

*In northeastern PENNSYLVANIA, it sounds as though another AM station is taking on a Spanish-language format. The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader reports that Route 81's WNAK (730 Nanticoke) will flip from standards to Spanish as early as today, joining sister station WCDL (1440 Carbondale), which flipped earlier this year.

Up the dial, Wilkins Communications has closed on its $400,000 purchase of WITK (1550 Pittston) from Bob Cordaro, who'd been leasing the station to Holy Family Communications, which had been simulcasting WQOR (750 Olyphant) there. WITK is still religious, but with different programming from WQOR's Catholic network feed.

In Reading, WRAW (1340) has dropped the "Hymn" contemporary Christian format that was a relic of its year or so with the WKAP calls; it's now back to the oldies format it was running before the flip.

On the west side of the state, PBRTV reports that Forever's WOXX (99.3 Franklin)/WXXO (104.5 Cambridge Springs/Meadville) have dumped their top 40 "Kiss" simulcast, in favor of a move to adult hits as "Majic." (There's speculation there as well about a format change coming for the "Froggy" country simulcast on WGYY 100.3 Meadville/WGYI 98.5 Oil City, with a reference to "Antz FM" on Forever's website.)

And we feel for the folks at WPXI (Channel 11) in Pittsburgh, who have been coping with a raft of technical glitches as they settle into their new studio home on the North Side, including a rough outing at noon last Wednesday, when the station's computer system crashed, sending the news anchors outside to read the news in the parking lot, with no tape or graphics. (It didn't help that all the top Cox executives were in town to cut the ribbon on the new showcase studio!)

*Radio People on the Move in NEW JERSEY: Philly veteran Glenn Kalina takes middays at Greater Media's WJRZ (100.1 Manahawkin), replacing Jeff Rafter, who's now serving both as operations manager at WJRZ and as PD at WMGQ (98.3 New Brunswick), where he replaced Tim Tefft. Tefft also was doing afternoons at WMGQ, a shift now held by John Lisk, who moves over from nights. That shift will now be filled by Jan Ochs, whose midday shift goes to Debbie Mazella, late of WJLK (94.3 Asbury Park).

Down in Atlantic City, they're mourning Ed Davis, longtime midday host at WFPG (1450, now WENJ). In more recent years, Davis was doing occasional features on WOND (1400) and WMGM-TV (Channel 40). He died Oct. 7, at 87.

*A silent MASSACHUSETTS station is back on the air. WNSH (1570 Beverly) isn't running with its new 30 kW daytime facility just yet - that's due to change on or about Thursday - but it's once again broadcasting, at least, with a female-oriented talk format and a new morning show, as it picks up the North Carolina-based Bob & Sheri syndicated talk show.

Another program director has exited WBOS (92.9 Boston). David Ginsburg lasted just under a year in the Greater Media station's PD chair, after six years as promotions director and music director. No replacement has been named, with corporate programming VP Buzz Knight and WBOS music director Dana Marshall handling the PD duties in the interim.

Out on Cape Cod, WKPE (103.9 South Yarmouth) ended its stunting Thursday and flipped to top 40, reverting to the "Cape 104" branding last heard on WKPE in its days on 104.7 from Orleans, between 1983 and 1992.

Out west, Steve Garsh is the new station manager for Entercom's WVEI (1440 Worcester) and WVEI-FM (105.5 Easthampton/Springfield), moving down from NEW HAMPSHIRE, where he was senior VP and regional manager for Nassau.

And over on the TV dial, Fox's WFXT (Channel 25) officially announced what had been long rumored: starting November 5, the station will add an 11 PM newscast, with Maria Stephanos and Mark Ockerbloom in the anchor chairs. Can it make a dent against the established 11 PM offerings from WBZ, WCVB and WHDH? We wouldn't bet against Fox 25, which came out of nowhere a decade ago to own the 10 PM audience.

*There's TV news from RHODE ISLAND as well, as Global Broadcasting closes on its purchase of WLNE (Channel 6) from Freedom. The new owners are bringing in their own management team, which means general manager Roland Adeszko and news director Edwin Hart are out, replaced by Stephen Doerr, who's handling both jobs for now. And with Hart's departure comes the retirement of veteran anchor Walter Cryan, who followed Hart over to channel 6 from WPRI (Channel 12) a few years back.

Cryan, 75, had a contract clause allowing him to leave the station if Hart were to leave as news director. The new owners say they intend to increase WLNE's news staff and make the station more competitive with WPRI and Media General's WJAR; we wish them luck - but we've heard that story before from previous Channel 6 owners, haven't we?

*The news from southern CONNECTICUT is all about staffing cuts - at Cumulus' WEBE (107.9 Westport), assistant news director Becky Soukup and two other news staffers lost their jobs, as did staffers in the promotion department and even at the reception desk. Down the road at Cox's clusters in Milford (WPLR/WEZN/WYBC-FM) and Norwalk (WFOX/WCTZ/WNLK/WSTC), the cuts were even more severe - morning man Chris Kellogg is gone at WCTZ, while at WSTC-WNLK, news director/PD Lisa Lacerra and morning anchor Tom Michaels are among those out of work.

*The big news from CANADA is yet another hefty pile of applications for new FM signals. This time around, the focus is on southwest Ontario, where the CRTC recently issued calls for applications for new signals in Owen Sound and Windsor, as well as over in Peterborough, in southeast Ontario.

In Owen Sound, 92.3 is the major open frequency, and the four applicants include Haliburton Broadcasting (rock), Blackburn Radio (classic hits), Larche Communications (rock) and Evanov (new easy listening). Also applying for an FM signal is CFOS (560), which can't move fully to FM because owner Bayshore Broadcasting already has two FM signals in the market (CKYC 93.7 and CIXK 106.5). Instead, CFOS wants to remain on AM, but add a "nested" FM on 96.1, with 5.45 kW/105 m.

In Windsor, 95.9 is the last available full-power channel, and the applicants are Neeti P. Ray (ethnic) and Blackburn (new country). The CBC is also applying for new FM signals, requesting "nested" FM relays for Radio One outlet CBE (1550), on 102.3 (3.3 kW DA/74 m) and for Radio-Canada's CBEF (540), on 105.5 (2.94 kW DA/74 m).

As for Peterborough, no fewer than 10 applicants want to set up shop on 96.7 in either Peterborough itself or neighboring Kawartha Lakes. One of them is Corus' CKRU (980), which would surrender its AM operation in favor of an oldies FM; the others include Evanov, Newcap, Larche, Cobourg's Pineridge Broadcasting and Kingston's K-Rock 1057 Inc..

The CRTC will hear those applications at a public hearing in London Dec. 10, where the docket will also include a proposal from Moses Znaimer to split CFMZ (103.1 Cobourg) away from parent station CFMZ-FM-1 (96.3 Toronto) for 24 hours a week. The local programming for the Cobourg area would include about 16 hours weekly of local advertising, as well as community calendar announcements, PSAs and cultural features. (NERW notes a bit of irony here: as the callsigns indicate, the Cobourg station, formerly CFMX, was the original signal in the pair, slowly losing its local identity as programming and sales offices migrated west to the much larger Toronto market.)

In the Maritimes, Jack McGaw wants to move tourist-information CIRH (97.9 Halifax) to 107.7, boosting its power from 10 watts to 1 kW DA/152 m. And in Sarnia, Ontario, CHOK (1070) is applying for new technical parameters for the "nested" FM signal it was granted in a recent CRTC ruling. The new proposal calls for 200 watts/59 meters on 103.9.

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!)

October 16, 2006 -

  • Fans of smooth jazz in southeast PENNSYLVANIA and southern NEW JERSEY are about to get their format back. Greater Media, which is acquiring WTHK (97.5 Burlington NJ) in a trade with Nassau, announced last week that it will flip the station from classic rock ("The Hawk") to smooth jazz on November 15, bringing back the format and the WJJZ calls that disappeared from the market when Clear Channel flipped the previous WJJZ (106.1 Philadelphia) to rhythmic AC "Philly's 106.1" as WISX in August.
  • The new WJJZ will launch from the longtime 97.5 transmitter site in Trenton, since Greater Media has not yet finished (or, as far as we know, even started) construction of the station's new transmitter facility at the Wyndmoor tower site just outside Philadelphia. Assuming nothing changes between now and November - it's always at least slightly risky, after all, to announce a format flip this far in advance - the flip to smooth jazz will broaden the demographic range of Greater's Philadelphia cluster, which currently leans heavily male and rock-oriented with sports WPEN (950), rock WMMR (93.3), adult hits WBEN-FM (95.7) and classic rock WMGK (102.9).
  • Some sad news out of eastern MASSACHUSETTS this week - WBZ (1030 Boston) nighttime talk host Paul Sullivan isn't out of the woods yet as he continues his fight against brain cancer. Sullivan underwent two operations in 2004, but recent tests turned up more signs of cancer, so he was back at Mass General last week for a third surgery. The good news? Word is he's already recuperating, and planning to be back on the air in time for election night next month.
  • Emerson College's WERS (88.9 Boston) is hearing the feedback from its recent schedule changes, which dropped the midday "Jazz Oasis" show, the "Gyroscope" world-music show and the late-night dance show "Revolutions." WERS moved the reggae show "Rockers" later into the evening (7-10 PM instead of 4-8 PM), filling the remainder of its daytime hours with a new AAA-ish format it calls "Music for the Independent Mind," which combines the former morning show, "Coffeehouse," with some of the world music and dance music that was heard in other parts of the day. The station says the move will make its sound more consistent, as well as solving the problem of finding hosts to play jazz in the middle of the day - but we're hearing from at least some listeners who aren't thrilled by the changes. (WERS' weekend schedule, by the way, remains largely unchanged.)
  • When is "late news" not necessarily late news? When it's taped several hours before airtime, as Bangor's WVII-TV (Channel 7) plans to do with its 11 PM newscast, and the 10 PM news it airs on sister station WFVX-LP (Channel 22). "Not a whole lot happens in Bangor, Maine late at night," says GM Mike Palmer to the Bangor Daily News - and while that's probably true, we've got to imagine that when something does happen at night in Bangor, viewers there will be tuning to crosstown WABI-TV and WLBZ rather than to WVII/WFVX. (Of course, the ratings suggest that most of them are doing that already, anyway.) WVII says it will continue to offer live sports on Friday nights, and Palmer took a slap at WLBZ as well, saying "it’s not like we’re putting on the news from Portland and masquerading ourselves as a Bangor TV station." (Much of WLBZ's news comes from sister station WCSH in Portland.)
  • The towers are finally up on Mount Mansfield, and the DTV signals are lighting up the airwaves in northern VERMONT. WCAX-DT (Channel 53) will be on the air within the next week or two from its new tower on Mansfield, to be followed in short order by WPTZ-DT (Channel 14), WVNY-DT (Channel 13) and WFFF-DT (Channel 43). Once analog TV goes away in 2009, the older towers on the mountain will come down, leaving only the new WCAX and WVNY towers standing.

October 8, 2002 -

  • Moving on up to MASSACHUSETTS, J.J. Wright didn't take long to find work after being let go from WROR (105.7 Framingham); after doing some fill-in at WODS (103.3 Boston), Wright was named the station's full-time afternoon jock last week, displacing Brian Murphy from that shift.
  • WRCA (1330 Waltham) submitted its application to move its day and night facilities from South Street in Waltham to the WUNR site in Oak Hill, Newton; the station would run 25 kW day from five towers and 17 kW night from four towers, if neighbors ever approve the reconstruction of the site to accomodate WUNR, WRCA and WKOX (1200 Framingham). It's not clear that the move would actually get WRCA much more coverage than it currently enjoys from the Waltham site, in any event.
  • Plenty of news from CANADA this week, starting with some big changes on the way at CKGE (Magic @ 94.9) and CKDO (1350), the Oshawa stations being sold by Corus to the owners of country CJKX (95.9) in nearby Ajax and smooth jazz CIWV (94.7) over in Hamilton. Nearly a dozen CKGE/CKDO staffers have been told their services won't be needed when the new owners take over, reports MilkMan Unlimited, leading to speculation that the 94.9 signal will end up simulcasting "The Wave" on adjacent 94.7 for better Toronto market coverage.
  • The CRTC will consider still more FM applications at a hearing this fall in St. John's, Newfoundland, including several in southern Ontario: United Christian Broadcasters wants a 45 kw signal on 102.3 in Belleville, with a contemporary Christian format. Barrie Christian station CJLF (100.3) wants a transmitter in Peterborough, with 500 watts on 89.3, while in nearby Lindsay, CKLY (91.9) wants to move from the old CKLY 910 site just south of town to a tower 13 km southeast (close to Peterborough itself), upping power from 14 kW to 29.3 kW in the process.
  • Finally, two obituaries: in Montreal, they're mourning Ted Blackman, the morning host at CKGM (Team 990), who died Wednesday (Oct. 2) of liver and kidney failure. Blackman had a three-decade history in Montreal print and radio circles, including stints as program director of the old CFCF, morning host at CJAD, and jobs at the Montreal Gazette and the defunct Star and Daily News. Blackman was 60.

October 16, 1997-

  • One of Boston's best-known morning men is searching for a new radio home this week. Ken Shelton's contract with Greater Media's WBOS (92.9 Brookline) expires at the end of this month and will not be renewed. Shelton has been at WBOS since 1995, when he was let go from Infinity classic rocker WZLX (100.7), where he had been for two years after a lengthy stint at WBCN (104.1). Shelton's brand of personality-driven morning radio was at odds with the "morning music station" image WBOS PD Jim Herron has been crafting at the station. There's no word yet on a successor for Shelton; WBOS is planning to use celebrities to fill in for several weeks. There's also no word on Shelton's future plans following his last show Friday morning.
  • Out in central Massachusetts, there's a new addition to the shrinking roster of live, local AM radio. Ed Skutnik has regained control of Greenfield's WGAM after selling it and sister FM WRSI (95.3), and he's now programming WGAM (1520) with a live format featuring lesser-known oldies from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Also up in Franklin County, Northfield's WNMH (91.5) is once again doing live student programming from Northfield-Mt. Hermon School weekdays after 2 PM. The "Radio One" CHR satellite service still fills the off hours.
  • On to MAINE, where one of New England's oldest family-owned broadcasters is calling it quits after seventy-two years. The Maine Broadcasting System traces its roots to Henry Rines, who founded WCSH radio as a promotional vehicle for his Congress Square Hotel in Portland back in 1925. In later years, the company would add WLBZ radio in Bangor, followed in the fifties by TV outlets in both cities. (The radio stations were later sold off and are now WZAN (970) Portland and WZON (620) Bangor).
  • This week, Rines' grandson, Frederic Thompson, told staffers at WCSH-TV (Channel 6) and WLBZ-TV (Channel 2) that he's selling the stations to Gannett, giving the media giant its first Maine holdings. Elswehere in the region, Gannett owns newspapers in Connecticut, Vermont, and upstate New York, along with WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) in Buffalo. The company is not related to Maine-based Guy Gannett, which owns TV and newspaper properties across southern Maine. The purchase price was not announced, and Thompson says no layoffs are planned. WCSH-TV has long been the top-rated news outlet in Portland, while WLBZ-TV is in second place behind WABI-TV (Channel 5) in Bangor.
  • Majac Broadcasting is making some big moves in one NEW YORK market. After selling its properties in the Flint, Michigan area, Majac is spending $6.7 million to become one of the major owners in the Binghamton market. For $6 million, Majac gets Enterprise Radio Partners' hot AC WMRV (105.7 Endicott), AC WMXW (103.3 Vestal), and sports WENE (1430 Endicott), and for another $675,000 Majac gets rocker WKGB (92.5 Susquehanna PA) from KG Broadcasting. The stations draw a total of more than a third of the Binghamton market's revenue.
  • Just outside the region, but worth mentioning: In Reading, Pennsylvania, WEEU wants to move off the crowded 850 channel to a new home on 830. If its application is approved, WEEU would move from its current site northwest of town (which is about to be redeveloped as a shopping center) to a new five-tower array far to the northwest, alongside I-78 near Shartlesville. Day power would be 5kW (up from one), with 6kW at night.
  • And Canada could soon get its first expanded-band operation. Radio Asia Canada has applied for 1670 kHz in Toronto. NERW wonders how the CRTC will view expanded-band applications at a time when Canada seems to be abandoning the AM dial as fast as it can.

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