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November 5, 2007

C&K Out, Imus In at WABC


*Is it still news when we've known it was coming for weeks? That's where things stand with the latest headlines from NEW YORK, where Citadel's WABC (770) sent morning co-host Ron Kuby packing after Thursday morning's "Curtis and Kuby" show, following that a few hours later with the long-awaited official announcement that Don Imus would be coming to WABC's morning drive on December 3.

Imus will take a pay cut from his old CBS Radio salary to return to the airwaves; reports have him earning about $5 million a year from the deal, which will also bring back his former WFAN newsman Charles McCord. (What of producer Bernie McGuirk? Nobody's saying, and there are rumors that McGuirk may be pursuing his own new show in the Boston market.)

The new show will be syndicated by ABC Radio Networks, and the big speculation now revolves around where Imus might land in some of the other markets where he used to be heard. Will WTKK in Boston, which has been trying without success to break Howie Carr's WRKO contract (and which lost another round in court last week), fall back on its former morning man? (Or will WRKO, which is struggling with the Tom Finneran morning disaster, cut its losses and go with the proven offering from New York?)

Other former Imus markets in the region include Philadelphia, Providence, the New Hampshire seacoast, Manchester, Burlington, Bangor and Portland, and we'll be watching to see if stations in those areas sign new deals to carry the revived Imus show.

Back in New York, Kuby was unhappy about his abrupt dismissal - and vocal about it, too, taking to the airwaves at rival stations to complain about the irony that he, a civil rights lawyer, was losing his job so that Imus could return from unemployment.

As for Kuby's co-host, Curtis Sliwa, Citadel says it intends to keep him on WABC, perhaps sharing the late-morning slot with John R. Gambling - but the rumor mill was aflutter last weekend with speculation that Sliwa might instead head downtown to Buckley's WOR (710), perhaps re-teaming with Kuby there in morning drive.

*In other news from the big city, CBS Radio's WXRK (92.3) announced that it's hired an afternoon jock from Britain. Ian Camfield comes over from London's XFM, where he was a frequent participant in trans-Atlantic broadcasts with the original incarnation of K-Rock.

At the other end of the state, Holy Family Communication's WHIC (1460 Rochester) dedicated its new transmitter site Tuesday morning, interrupting its usual Catholic programming for a special live broadcast from the site hosted by general manager (and Rochester radio veteran) Jack Palvino, and featuring a blessing from Rochester's Bishop Matthew Clark, who said he's never blessed a radio tower before.

Holy Family also saluted the town of Henrietta for its quick approval of the new site, a rare feat in this day of rampant NIMBY-ism, and one made easier by the site's location in an industrial area with few neighbors to complain.

The site's not quite finished yet - the new phasor had just been delivered last week, and the antenna tuning units and ground system weren't yet complete - but WHIC expects to be on the air from the new site before the end of autumn.

Just down the road in Livingston County, Bob Savage's WYSL (1040 Avon) filed its formal interference complaint with the FCC last week, alleging that the upper digital sideband of WBZ (1030 Boston)'s HD Radio operation is causing prohibited interference within the "interference-free" contours of WYSL in all three modes (daytime, critical hours and nighttime) of its operation. Savage and several other broadcasters have created a new website at to rally support for their campaign against nighttime use of HD Radio on the AM dial - can they prompt additional formal complaints like WYSL's, and will the FCC listen?

Regent Communications continued the selloff of some of its non-core stations last week, following the sale of its lone Albany AM (WTMM 1300 Rensselaer) with the sale of its lone AM in the Buffalo market. Dick Greene's Culver Communications will pay Regent $1.3 million for WECK (1230 Cheektowaga), which has been doing automated classic country as a flanker to Regent's big WYRK (106.5 Buffalo).

Culver already owns WLVL (1340 Lockport), and the WECK acquisition will help Greene expand his reach southward from Niagara County into Erie County. John Pierce & Co. brokered the deal for Regent, with Dick Kozacko representing Greene.

In Utica, the fallout from Clear Channel's exit continued last week, with Galaxy relaunching WTLB (1310 Utica), WRNY (1350 Rome) and WIXT (1230 Little Falls) as "The Game," carrying Sporting News Radio. Meanwhile, it flipped WUMX (102.5 Rome) from hot AC "Mix" to all-Christmas music, fueling rumors of a format change there after the holidays. (It's escaped nobody's attention that Galaxy runs an AC format just down the dial over in Syracuse on "Sunny" WZUN 102.1 Phoenix that might lend itself to a Utica simulcast, just as Galaxy already runs "K-Rock" signals in both markets.)

Up north, WBDB (92.7 Ogdensburg) filed for a call change to WQTK - and when you put that together with Air America's recent announcement of new affiliates that included WBDB, it's not hard to imagine that a format change to talk may be on the way at the top 40 station now known as "The Border." (Air America also listed new "Philadelphia" affiliates WVPO 840 Stroudsburg and WPLY 960 Mt. Pocono, which are actually in the Poconos 80 miles away, but no sign of a format change has been observed at those stations yet.)

Some TV notes we've been meaning to pass along: WCWF (Channel 40) signed on last month, licensed to Saranac Lake and transmitting from just south of Tupper Lake. It's simulcasting the Pax/i Network programming from WWBI-LP (Channel 27) in Plattsburgh for the moment, but it's seeking a bigger affiliation to serve the Burlington/Plattsburgh market. And congratulations to Plattsburgh's WCFE (Channel 57), which completed its tower reconstruction ahead of schedule and made it back on the air October 4, just five months after an ice storm brought the station's old tower down!


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!)

*October was a month of frequency upgrades in PENNSYLVANIA. On October 17, the venerable religious outlet WPEL (1250 Montrose) switched off that frequency after more than half a century, moving its 1000-watt daytime signal down the dial to 800 kHz, where that kilowatt will carry further. WPEL(AM) runs a southern gospel format, while its sister station WPEL-FM (96.5) serves both Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Binghamton with a religious teaching format.

In central Pennsylvania, WXPN (88.5 Philadelphia) spent last week celebrating its big facility upgrade, having traded the former WXPH (88.1 Harrisburg) for the 7 kW signal of WZXM (88.7 Middletown).

88.7 now has the WXPH calls, and as of Nov. 1, it's relaying WXPN's AAA format to a wider region that now includes York and Lancaster as well as Harrisburg. As for 88.1, it's now WZXM, carrying "Word FM" religious programming from new owners Four Rivers Community Broadcasting.

While we're in the York area, we say a sad farewell to the longtime transmitter building and former studio home of WSBA (910), which was demolished last week. The old Colonial-style building, which served as WSBA's studios from 1942 until 1975, stayed in the hands of former owner Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff after the stations were sold to Cumulus, which recently moved the AM transmitter into a new building closer to the towers. That will allow Susquehanna Real Estate, which bought the property two years ago, to develop the land closer to North Susquehanna Trail into an office park.

We also say farewell to Thiel College's WTGP (88.1 Greenville), which sent its license back to the FCC earlier this year, replacing the low-powered FM signal with a webcast-only station. And while we're out west, there's a call change at Forever's WXXO (104.5 Cambridge Springs), which has become WXMJ as part of its format change from "Kiss" to "Magic." (No change yet at sister station WOXX 99.3 Franklin...)

Over in the Johnstown market, Nick Galli's 2510 Licenses LLC is selling four stations to Forever Broadcasting: oldies WCCL (101.7 Central City), "K-Love" contemporary Christian WLKH (97.7 Somerset) and sports simulcast WBHV (1330 Somerset)/WPRR (1490 Johnstown) will fetch $3 million from Forever as they change hands.

*A long-silent RHODE ISLAND AM station returned to the airwaves last week, a month shy of the 12-month deadline to return to the air or lose its license. WALE (990 Greenville) came back with a Spanish-language music format, picking up more or less where it left off when it went silent in December 2006.

*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Bob Vinikoor's WCNL (1010 Newport) relaunched last week with a classic country format, broadcasting from new storefront studios on Main Street with a new morning show hosted by Steve Smith. The studio move back to Newport brings the station full circle: it was WCNL on 1010 from Newport studios back in the eighties, before a series of changes moved the station to 1020 (and back again), changed the calls to WNTK and moved its focus north to the New London-Lebanon-Hanover corridor.

Meanwhile, sister stations WNTK (99.7 New London)/WUVR (1490 Lebanon) made an abrupt change of morning hosts, replacing Konrad Kayne and Brian Tilton with former WNTK host Dorien Jaye and Judy Paris.

And we're passing along our best wishes to Pauline ("Polly") Robbins, former morning host at WWOD (104.3) in the Upper Valley, who's reportedly having a rough time in her fight against breast cancer - and just past her 30th birthday, at that. (Which brings us full circle to WCNL, whch will be hosting an all-day radiothon for breast cancer in Robbins' honor on Thursday.)

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*In MASSACHUSETTS, the rumors are getting louder about changes at struggling ESPN Radio outlets WAMG (890 Dedham)/WLLH (1400 Lowell-Lawrence). Will a prominent local host at "ESPN Boston" be changing media soon? We're hearing the answer is yes...perhaps as early as this week.

Also set for this week is the closing of the sale of WCAP (980 Lowell), where the new ownership (under the direction of Clark Smidt) has brought Bill Wayland on to handle sales. The new WCAP will also bring back the Lowell Spinners (the class A affiliate of the World Champion Boston Red Sox) to its airwaves after a year on WLLH. (WCAP also carries the Lowell Devils AHL hockey games, as well as UMass Lowell hockey.)

And there's now a third subchannel being heard on WGBH-FM (89.7 Boston)'s HD service: at least for now, 89.7-HD3 is carrying the largely news and talk schedule of sister stations WCAI/WNAN/WZAI from Cape Cod and the Islands, dramatically expanding the broadcast reach of that service.

*Eastern CANADA spent much of the weekend getting doused by the remnants of Hurricane Noel, leaving at least one station silent. CFDR (780 Dartmouth NS) was off the air all day Sunday, we're told.

In Ontario, there are some big changes happening at CTVglobemedia's CKLC (1380 Kingston) - not just the station's impending move to FM (at 98.9), but also the retirement of veteran morning man Jack Thompson. He did his last show on CKLC Friday morning, with a guest roster that Milkman UnLimited reports included the first voice heard on CKLC back in 1953, John Bermingham.

CKLC is now running jockless until it makes its move to FM, where it will be reborn with a "classic alternative" format.

Another AM-to-FM move is about to come to conclusion over in Cobourg, where CHUC (1450) is due to sign off for good at 5 PM on Wednesday, leaving CHUC-FM (107.9) as the survivor.

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!)

November 7, 2006 -

  • After serving a two-day suspension over the summer for using an anti-gay slur against a MASSACHUSETTS state official, WRKO (680 Boston) mid-morning talk host John DePetro was probably on thin ice at the Entercom station. On Thursday, another DePetro remark sent him crashing through that ice, ending his career at WRKO and getting his board operator, Jimmy Kiesling, fired as well.
  • This time, the comment concerned the Green Party candidate for governor, Grace Ross, who DePetro referred to as a "fat lesbian" while reviewing the previous night's televised debate. In a prepared statement, Entercom Boston executive VP Jason Wolfe said, "In the context of what (DePetro) said and the tone with which he said it, the comments were completely inappropriate, derogatory, and will not be tolerated," pretty much slamming the door on any possibility of DePetro returning to the air.
  • The talk host, who came to Boston from Providence's WHJJ (920) in 2004, says he plans to sue Entercom for wrongful dismissal, noting that his language didn't violate any FCC content guidelines. And there's plenty of speculation that WRKO was looking for any excuse to send DePetro packing, given his sagging ratings and complaints from advertisers. (What's more, the impending arrival of Red Sox broadcasts at WRKO are giving the station a powerful incentive to steer clear of the sort of controversy that's seemed to follow DePetro for years.) Evening talk host Todd Feinburg filled in on DePetro's former 9-noon shift on Friday and will do so again this week; no permanent replacement has been named.
  • Up in MAINE, Bangor's WVII-TV (Channel 7) is in the news again, just a few weeks after the perennial last-place station announced it will prerecord its late newscasts. (Wonder how that'll work on election night?) Last week, WVII made the New York Times after a staff member leaked an e-mail from general manager Michael Palmer that ordered the newsroom to stop reporting on global warming until "Bar Harbor is underwater," comparing the story to the Y2K scare from a few years ago and complaining that a story about the opening of Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" movie amounted to a commercial for the film. Palmer didn't respond to the Times' inquiries, and a NASA scientist who talked to the paper noted that "that the people of Maine will have at their disposal other sources of information," though he was perhaps unaware of just how dominant those "other sources" are in the Bangor market when compared to WVII and its Fox sister station, WFVX-LP (Channel 22).
  • The ongoing Clear Channel cutbacks hit in PENNSYLVANIA last week, as five people in the Philadelphia cluster lost their jobs. The Inquirer reports that WIOQ (102.1) APD/MD Marian Newsome-McAdam and her husband, Q102 imaging director Franklin McAdam, are out. So are WDAS-FM (105.3) overnight guy Jerry Wells, WUSL (98.9) public affairs host Tiffany Bacon and WUSL newscaster Heshimu Jaramogi. The cluster's WUBA (Rumba 104.5) has hired a new PD, Juan Arroyo, a midday jock, Issa Lopez, and an afternoon jock, Johnny Machete.
  • Our top stories in NEW YORK this week are all about market concentration: in Rochester, the Justice Department says it will allow Entercom's acquisition of the CBS Radio cluster here (as well as the CBS Radio stations in Cincinnati, Austin and Memphis) to move forward, provided Entercom spins off three of the seven FM signals it will end up with. Entercom tells the Justice Department that it plans to spin WRMM (101.3), WZNE (94.1 Brighton) and WFKL (93.3 Fairport), which would leave it with its existing WBEE-FM (92.5) and WBZA (98.9) as well as CBS' WCMF (96.5) and WPXY (97.9), but the agreement allows it to substitute alternate signals with Justice Department consent
  • In the Ithaca market, meanwhile, Saga Communications is paying Citadel $4 million for WIII (99.9 Cortland), one of the last commercial competitors to its four-station Ithaca cluster (news-talk WHCU 870, progressive talk WNYY 1470, AC WYXL 97.3 and country WQNY 103.7). Saga will sell WIII's sister station, news-talk WKRT (920 Cortland), to Bible Broadcasting Network (which, ironically, has been trying for quite a while now to sell its station in Rome, WYFY 1450.) Will the community activists in Ithaca who protested what they said was over-concentration when Saga bought its existing cluster protest the WIII deal as well? We'd bet on it.

November 11, 2002 -

  • The atmosphere can be a tricky thing sometimes, especially near the coast and especially during the summer. Just ask Boston's WCVB-DT (Channel 20) and the Camden County, N.J., public safety department, which have been sharing the 506-512 MHz chunk of the UHF spectrum for the last few years. It was never a problem when WCVB-DT was operating a few hours a day, but earlier this year, when the tower work on the Needham tower WCVB shares with WBZ-TV/DT and WGBH/WGBX was completed and WCVB-DT was able to go full-time at full power, officers down in South Jersey started to notice interference to their two-way radio system, which they tracked down to the new DTV signal more than 250 miles to the northeast.
  • Last week the dispute hit the media, with Ocean County (even closer to the coast than Camden County) joining in a complaint to the FCC about interference to their radio systems, which operate in the "T-Band," first allocated a couple of decades ago on what were then largely unused channels 14-20 in the UHF-TV spectrum. (How unused? So much so that several low UHF TV allocations, such as 14 in Worcester, 16 in Providence and 18 in New Brunswick, N.J., were deleted and reassigned for public safety use.)
  • DTV, of course, changed all that, with every scrap of the UHF TV spectrum being pressed into use during the lengthy transition from analog to digital. In Boston, it's not just 20; channel 19 is in use by WGBH-DT and channel 18 is allocated for WMFP-DT.
  • In other words, the spectrum that T-band users have had pretty much to themselves is about to get full, and it doesn't appear that the FCC did its homework when making the allocations there, or in other parts of the DTV spectrum. (Just ask WHRO-DT Norfolk VA and WBOC-TV Salisbury MD, which are battling over channel 16, or WOOD-TV Grand Rapids MI and WMVS-DT Milwaukee, which are fighting over channel 8.) The culprit appears to be the FCC's modeling mechanism, which does not fully account for the effects of unusual propagation, especially over water. (Notice a common thread in all these DTV disputes?)
  • Any DXer knows that there's nothing completely predictable about propagation at almost any frequency below 800 MHz (as we type this, we're watching an E-skip pileup on channel 3 that's bringing in stations from Memphis, Springfield MO, Harrisburg IL and Eufaula OK, perfectly normal behavior in mid-July but quite unusual in early November), and every reason to think that a 500 MHz signal with a megawatt of power from Boston will often ride the tropospheric ducts down to New Jersey in the summertime. But those are the sort of questions that should have been asked before a license was issued, not after millions of dollars were spent to put up a licensed signal on channel 20 in Boston.
  • How will this all get resolved now that the damage has been done? The good news is that there's no reason to expect WCVB-DT to remain on channel 20 forever; when the DTV transition is complete, the digital signal will likely replace WCVB's analog on channel 5. You can read more thoughts on digital transitioning down at the bottom of this week's column. In the meantime, we'll be following this closely to see how the FCC gets itself out of the hole it's dug. (2007 note: WCVB-DT will indeed stay on Channel 20 - we didn't know back in 2002 how bad low-band VHF would be for digital TV - and the T-band issue has never been fully resolved, as far as we're aware.)

October 30, 1997-

  • The last part of the legendary jock lineup at Boston's WBCN (104.1) will leave the airwaves after Friday's show. Mark Parenteau was fired from the CBS-owned modern rocker this week after two decades as BCN's afternoon-drive host. [Editor's note: he actually left Thursday.]
  • Parenteau, midday jock Ken Shelton, and morning guy Charles Laquidara were the cornerstones of the WBCN lineup through much of the seventies and eighties. Laquidara was moved to classic rocker WZLX (100.7) two years ago, while Shelton also spent two years at WZLX before being let go from the then-Infinity group in 1995. Replacing Parenteau in the 3-7 slot will be evening jock Nik Carter, a move presumably designed to cater to the younger audience WBCN has sought since shifting to modern rock a few years back.
  • Parenteau kept a promise to present an award at the Achievement in Radio (AIR) awards this week, joking about his dismissal as he went. AIR honorees included WBZ (1030) morning veteran Gary LaPierre, who received the lifetime achievement award; Loren (Owens) and Wally (Brine) of WROR-FM (105.7 Framingham) for best morning show; Nancy Quill of WMJX (106.7) for best midday show; and WBOS (92.9 Brookline)'s Julie Devereaux for best evening show.
  • Elsewhere in MASSACHUSETTS: The FCC has approved the transfer of WNRB (1510 Boston) from Communicom to One-on-One Sports; expect a format change there soon. Cape and Islands Public Radio's new 90.1 in Woods Hole has been granted the calls WHMV -- NERW thinks it's either a tribute to their favorite record store, or it stands for "Woods Hole and Martha's Vineyard." WPZE (1260 Boston) has reverted to a simulcast of WEZE (590) as it awaits the arrival of Radio Disney -- "any day now" is the word we're hearing on that format change.
  • On the pirate front: NERW hears from Mike Malone of the late "WDOA" (89.3 Worcester) that the FCC agents who shut the station down last week told him they were operating under orders from the highest levels of the FCC -- new chairman Bill Kennard flexing his muscle, perhaps? Speculation in the pirate community is that the FCC is using pirates' web pages to find them; could that be why the Rebel Music Radio page has disappeared, while the supposedly-silent Boston pirate at 105.3 was still being heard late last week by at least one NERW reader?
  • And meantime, Cambridge city council candidate Ian McKinnon turned to pirate radio for his campaign, running "Radio Free Cambridge" from a local art gallery during the weekend leading up to Election Day. A confusing (or should that be just plain confused?) article in the Cambridge TAB explained how the station began broadcasting Sunday night...then went on to say "no frequency has been chosen for the station." Perhaps operating a radio station with no frequency was what doomed McKinnon's election bid; he drew only 264 votes, falling far behind the nine incumbents, all of whom won re-election without benefit of pirate radio.

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