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March 17, 2008

Signal Shuffle in Rhode Island


*Sports radio fans in RHODE ISLAND have one fewer choice this week. Last Monday, Citadel abruptly pulled the plug on its "Score" sports simulcast at WSKO (790 Providence)/WSKO-FM (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale), ending just over a decade of sports on the AM frequency and nearly six years of the FM simulcast.

The Score format had been hit hard by competition in recent years from Entercom's WEEI-FM (103.7 Westerly), which came into the market four years ago with a simulcast of Boston's WEEI (850); its demise puts seven people out of work, including local Score talk hosts Andy Gresh, Scott Zolak and Scott Cordischi.

In the place of sports, Citadel has flipped 99.7 to a simulcast of its news-talk WPRO (630), while 790 spent last week running the ESPN Radio network feed before flipping this morning to Citadel's satellite "True Oldies Channel," with Don Imus continuing in morning drive. (The stations had split their morning feeds, with 99.7 carrying Opie & Anthony, now heard in Rhode Island only via Boston's WBCN.)

For now, 99.7 is using the WEAN calls that spent so many years on 790, while 790 is using the calls WPRV. We're not sure that will turn out to be permanent - will Citadel move the WPRO-FM calls from their longtime home on "92 Pro FM" at 92.3 over to the AM simulcast at 99.7, and could WEAN end up back on 790?

There's no word yet, either, on where - or if - the New York Yankees will be heard in Rhode Island this season; they'd been heard on WSKO in recent years, providing something of a lifeline to Yankees fans not only in Providence but well into Massachusetts. (Yes, they exist.)

*In another bit of Ocean State news, Chris DiPaola's Southern Rhode Island Public Broadcasting has reached a consent decree with the FCC that will settle accusations of improper underwriting announcements on WBLQ (88.1 Westerly, now WKIV). The FCC began investigating WBLQ in late 2004, but rather than proceed with a full Notice of Apparent Liability against the station, it agreed to settle the matter. DiPaola's group will pay $7,500 in a "voluntary donation" to the federal government, and the FCC will renew WKIV's license and allow its transfer to EMF Broadcasting (which has been operating the station since late 2005) to proceed.

*We've known for more than a year now that Cox Radio is moving its WCTZ (96.7) from Stamford, CONNECTICUT into NEW YORK - but it was only last week that we learned where the station hopes to move its transmitter now that it's changed city of license from Stamford to Port Chester, New York.

Unlike Cumulus, which is moving WFAS-FM (103.9) from Westchester County into the Bronx, it appears that Cox isn't directly targeting New York City with its move. Instead, WCTZ will become a new Long Island station, joining Cox's cluster that already includes WBLI (106.1 Patchogue), WBAB (102.3 Babylon) and WHFM (95.3 Southampton).

Cox's application calls for a new transmitter site on a cell tower in Roslyn, on Long Island's North Shore. With 4100 watts/361', the class A signal will cover most of Nassau County and Queens, with a decent signal over much of the Bronx and eastern Westchester as well.

What format does Cox have in mind for its new Long Island addition? We probably won't know for a while - it will take several months, at least, for the FCC to grant the transmitter move and for WCTZ to relocate from its present transmitter site in Stamford.

*One of upstate New York's biggest TV groups has a new owner. Late on Friday, Clear Channel quietly resolved its disagreement with Providence Capital Partners over the value of its 56 TV stations, allowing the sale to go forward at a revised price of $1.1 billion, $200 million less than the companies had originally agreed on last April. Providence will sell several of Clear Channel's West Coast stations, operating the rest of the group under the Newport Television name.

In our region, Newport picks up these stations: WHAM-TV (Channel 13 Rochester/ABC-CW), WSYR-TV (Channel 9 Syracuse/ABC), WWTI (Channel 50 Watertown/ABC), WIVT (Channel 34 Binghamton/ABC), WBGH-LP (Channel 20 Binghamton/NBC), WETM (Channel 18 Elmira/NBC), WXXA-TV (Channel 23 Albany/Fox), as well as WHP-TV (Channel 21 Harrisburg/CBS) and WLYH (Channel 15 Lebanon/CW) in central Pennsylvania.

The sale to Newport separates the Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Albany and Harrisburg stations from Clear Channel radio clusters in those markets, and that could lead to a bit of disruption for some of the joint operations there. (That said, Clear Channel never built up the promised synergies it hoped to achieve between radio and TV; there had been talk of building a common studio facility for radio and TV in Rochester, for instance.)

Will Newport lift the hiring freeze that we hear has been quietly in place at many Clear Channel TV operations in recent months? Stay tuned.

*Another one of the veteran jocks ousted in the rocky transition from CBS Radio to Entercom in Rochester last fall has landed a new gig - right down the hall from his old station. Pete Kennedy, whose 27-year career at WPXY (97.9 Rochester) ended when Entercom declined to hire him upon purchasing the station, has signed on with Entercom to be the new midday jock at classic hits "Buzz" WBZA (98.9 Rochester).

In fairness, the Buzz is probably a better fit for Kennedy these days than top-40 98PXY was - and it has an opening now that afternoon guy Brian Robinson has moved around the corner to the same shift classic rock WCMF (96.5 Rochester). Dem Jones will move from middays to afternoons at Buzz to make room for "The Mayor," who returns to the air on Wednesday.

WCMF, meanwhile, has lost the rights to Buffalo Bills football after seven seasons. The Bills are going back to their former home in Rochester, Clear Channel's WHAM (1180) - and NERW suspects that will mean new Clear Channel employee Brother Wease will end up doing the same Bills-related programming over there, including a Monday night talk show, that he had been doing at WCMF.

Is a Binghamton radio veteran about to return to the airwaves? We're hearing strong rumors that Louie G, who left Clear Channel's WMRV (105.7 Endicott) last summer, is on his way to Citadel's WWYL (104.1 Chenango Bridge.)

In Albany, WZMR (104.9 Altamont) morning co-host Cat Noel is celebrating - the episode of ABC's Wife Swap that aired March 3, in which she was one of the swappees, was the highest-rated installment in the show's history. (It also revealed that she has an "ON AIR" light outside her bathroom at home, a fact that deeply impressed the geek crew here at NERW...)

In New York, Tim Scheld gets a promotion at WCBS (880): he's now director of news and programming, after the budget cuts that claimed PD Crys Quimby's job.

Over at Clear Channel, WWPR (Power 105.1) has joined sister station WAXQ (Q104.3) in the cluster's new studios down at 32 Avenue of the Americas. One Q jock who'll be staying put there for a while is morning co-host Shelli Sonstein; she just signed a new multi-year contract with the station.


Still haven't ordered your 2008 Tower Site Calendar? You do realize that it's, don't you? We're already down to the last 80 or so calendars, and they're going fast. The 2006 and 2007 editions of the calendar sold out, and this one will do so as well, possibly as soon as this month.

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.

The calendar is just $18 with shipping and handling included - or better yet, beat our move to mandatory subscriptions later this year 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 sure to have your very own Tower Site Calendar 2008! (And thank you!)

The 2008 Tower Site Calendar is dedicated to the memory of Robert Eiselen (1934-2007), whose digital imaging skills made even a bunch of pictures of radio towers look almost like art. His contributions were essential to the calendar's evolution from 2003 to the current edition, and he will be missed dearly.

*It's been a quiet week in MASSACHUSETTS - except where the region's numerous pirate stations are concerned. The FCC's been issuing a flurry (relatively speaking) of violation notices and forfeiture orders, including a big one against a prominent pirate.

"Touch 106.1" was very visible in the Boston media last year, and it's paying for its visibility now. The FCC visited the station's Dorchester studios in January 2007, only to be denied entry for an inspection of the station. That may have been an expensive mistake for Charles Clemons, who was operating "Touch" - he also failed to respond to the FCC's Notice of Apparent Liability, and he's now on the hook for a $17,000 forfeiture. (That's $10,000 for unlicensed operation, and another $7,000 for refusing the inspection.)

In Brockton, FCC agents visited Patrick St. Martin on March 6, warning him to shut down his 1620 kHz signal immediately or face fines; a day earlier, Homer Alcindor of Brockton got the same warning for his pirate on 105.5.

Out in western Massachusetts, a low-power FM station is changing frequency. WLHZ-LP (licensed to Springfield, but operating from Westfield) has a CP to move from 104.9 to 107.9, getting it out of the way of another 104.9 LPFM in Holyoke.

There's a new news director at New England Cable News: Thomas Melville has been promoted to that role, replacing Charlie Kravetz, who's taking over from Phil Balboni as the network's president.

John Callaghan, who spent 21 years as sports anchor at the old WNAC-TV (Channel 7) in Boston, has died. Callaghan is credited with coming up with the "Cardiac Kids" nickname for the 1967 Red Sox. He came to WNAC on the radio side in the early 1950s, moving to the sister TV operation for a run that lasted into the 1970s, after which he spent some time in state government before retiring to Great Barrington, where he died March 5 at 81.

*In southeastern CONNECTICUT, WCTY (97.7 Norwich) promotes Dave Elder to PD. Elder will remain on afternoon drive at the country station; morning man Jimmy Lehn will add APD/music director duties.

*There's a new city of license for a big FM signal in southern MAINE: Saga's WCLZ (98.9) is no longer licensed to Brunswick - it's now officially a North Yarmouth station. The move didn't (and won't) relocate WCLZ's transmitter site, which is still in Brunswick behind its old studios - so what's up? By "moving" to North Yarmouth, WCLZ brings its main studio (in South Portland) within 25 miles of its city of license. (It's just a hair over 25 miles from Saga's South Portland studios to Brunswick.)

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*A student at NEW JERSEY's Montclair State College got little WMSC (90.3) some time in the headlines last week after the university began examining a video on MySpace that appeared to show some raunchy activity in the WMSC studios. The student, who goes by "Randy Rogers" on the air, has been pulled from the station's airwaves, where he and a non-student known as "Jay Jay Smooth" were hosting a Tuesday night show called "Kinky Olympics."

In an interview with Paterson's HeraldNews, "Rogers" says everything that happened in the video was consensual - and that the "lap dancer" in the video is his girlfriend, who was having a dispute with her mother, who reported the video to the school. "Rogers" says no FCC rules were violated; while the school investigates, he's moved his show over to a webcast.

*In PENNSYLVANIA, the operator of a long-running pirate station in Philadelphia now faces a $10,000 fine. Michael Stone Campbell, aka Monroe Campbell, aka Monroe Stone, ran "WSKR" on 97.7 for more than a decade, drawing an FCC visit last year. Stone/Campbell didn't respond directly to the $10,000 Notice of Apparent Liability the FCC sent him. He did, however, send a letter to Senator Arlen Specter, claiming that he'd sent the FCC a license application that had gotten lost. The FCC didn't buy the argument (which Specter's office sent along without comment), and the $10,000 NAL is now a $10,000 forfeiture order.

We're getting ever closer to the return of baseball on the airwaves, and there's a flagship change to report in Erie - the AA Eastern League SeaWolves will be back on WFNN (1330) this year, after spending last year on sister station WJET (1400). There's also a new affiliate for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the AAA team formerly known as the Ottawa Lynx that starts playing in Allentown this spring. WPAZ (1370 Pottstown) becomes the fifth station on the IronPigs network, carrying 15 games in the inaugural season.

(Our full NERW Baseball on the Radio report begins next week!)

*In CANADA, there's some bad news for a Saint John, New Brunswick station that's been hoping to make a format change.

CJEF (103.5 the Pirate) signed on in 2003 as CHHA, an all-comedy station, and by 2006 it was asking the CRTC for permission to drop its "specialty" license category (which forces the station to run at least 50% spoken-word programming) so it could flip to a hip-hop/modern rock hybrid. The CRTC denied that change in 2006, and did so again last week; several other broadcasters in the market filed oppositions in the case. "The Pirate" is still running the hip-hop/modern rock mix, but it's playing long blocks of comedy, too, to meet its conditions of license.

The CRTC has rescheduled its hearing on 11 applications for new stations in the Ottawa market. Originally planned for Dec. 3, the hearing was postponed, and has now been moved to May 13. At that hearing, the CRTC will also consider the sale of CHRC (800 Quebec); an application for a new station on 90.3 in Montmagny, Quebec (with a relay on 92.5 at St.-Fabien-de-Panet); an application to add a relay transmitter on 101.5 in Montmagny for CFEL-FM; an application to move CHGT (1270 Alma QC) to FM, on 97.7, with 50 kW/77.6; applications for new 50-watt community stations in Alliston, Ontario (94.7) and Beeton-Tottenham, Ontario (105.1); and an application from Evanov for a new signal on 104.9 in Shelburne, Ontario (65 kW DA/60 m).

And the CRTC has put out calls for applicants interested in new radio licenses in London and Guelph, Ontario. Applications are due May 12.

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!)

March 19, 2007 -

  • When one of your town's most famous citizens is Stephen King, you probably don't want to get him publicly riled up - especially if you're the University of MAINE, and it's King's radio stations that have been the flagship carriers for your sports coverage for many years. And in fairness, it's not the university itself that made the decision last week to move its sports rights from King's WZON (620 Bangor) over to Clear Channel's WVOM (103.9 Howland) and WGUY (102.1 Dexter) - that call came from Learfield Sports, to which the University sold its sports rights, under the name "Black Bear Sports." It's Black Bear that did the deal with Clear Channel, placing UMaine football and hockey on WVOM, men's and women's basketball and some baseball and softball games on WGUY, and creating a network that will carry the games to other parts of the state as well.
  • Promoting the move on WVOM's morning show Thursday, station officials said it would give the broadcasts a wider reach across Maine, as well as restoring former Maine sports play-by-play voice George Hale to a role in the broadcasts. (While semi-retired, Hale still does some work with WVOM, a sister station to his longtime broadcast home, WABI 910.)
  • King and his wife Tabitha have been frequent donors to the university, and he fired back on the station's website Thursday: "Tabby and I are very disappointed with the University's decision to move its sports broadcasting rights to Clear Channel, a company which is based far from the college it will be serving. We understand that monetary considerations were a prime consideration, but feel the Athletic Department in particular and the University in general may not understand that making money the prime consideration in any dealing is usually short-sighted. My wife and I feel that may prove to be the case here; we feel that what UM Athletics has gained for their programs may be offset by a loss in the area of community relations."
  • As with any good Stephen King yarn, there's another twist to the story: the Bangor stations are among the more than 400 nationwide that Clear Channel is trying to sell. Bids for the cluster were due a few weeks ago, and Clear Channel is expected to announce a buyer for the Bangor group any day now. Executives there say the sale won't affect the UMaine deal, whatever happens.
  • In other news from New England, there's yet another TV station sale to report in RHODE ISLAND (though technically, this one's a MASSACHUSETTS station), as Freedom Communications has reached a deal to sell ABC affiliate WLNE (Channel 6) to Global Broadcasting LLC for an as-yet-undisclosed price. Global is headed by Kevin O'Brien, who's spent time at the helm of the Cox and Meredith TV station groups, departing the latter in 2004 after what Broadcasting & Cable describes as a "stormy tenure" in which most of the company's stations changed general managers and news directors, not to mention an investigation of EEO violations. Will the arrival of O'Brien and partner Robinson Ewert be less tumultuous at WLNE, which is sitting firmly in third place in the Providence market under Freedom? If nothing else, Global enters at a time when the rest of the market's unsettled, too - Media General just recently took over WJAR (Channel 10) from NBC, while CBS is in the process of spinning off CW affiliate WLWC (Channel 28) to new owners, leaving only the LIN duopoly of WPRI (Channel 12) and WNAC (Channel 64) under stable ownership at the moment.
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, Bob Bittner is trying something new at his standalone AM station, WJIB (740 Cambridge). We've reported in recent months on Bob's struggle with music rights fees, which have skyrocketed now that WJIB has begun to make regular appearances to the left of the decimal point in the ratings. WJIB also lost the income it was receiving from leasing two morning weekday hours to Radio France International, and now Bob says he needs to raise $88,000 this year just to keep the lights on. The result: an announcement last week that WJIB will experiment with listener support. If Bob can raise the needed money by June 30, he'll keep his standards format on the air at WJIB with no commercials and only a few interruptions (mostly for the Sunday church services that help keep the station afloat.) If he doesn't get enough money by June 30, Bob says he'll return whatever donations have come in by then - and he'll have some tough decisions to make. He doesn't want to air commercials, so one possibility is that WJIB may go up for sale. Whaever happens, Bob says his other station, WJTO (730) in Bath, Maine, is safe, since it's not under the royalty-fee pressure that WJIB faces.
  • It's either the worst-kept secret in western PENNSYLVANIA radio or some really clever stunting, but we're betting that the impending format change at CBS Radio's WRKZ (93.7 Pittsburgh) is for real. If blog postings from former WDVE stalwart Scott Paulsen and former KDKA talk host John McIntire are to be believed, "K-Rock" will relaunch April 2 as "The Zone," with FM talk and a lineup that will include Paulsen in afternoon drive. WRKZ already airs Opie & Anthony's syndicated morning show, which will stay, and the rumor mill suggests some of CBS' "Free FM" offerings from elsewhere in the country will fill some of the less-prime slots in the "Zone" schedule.

March 17, 2003 -

  • Forty-four years after his NEW YORK radio career began, legendary morning man Harry Harrison will make his last broadcast on WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) this Wednesday morning, in what's being seen as another sign of big changes coming on the Big Apple's longtime oldies outlet. Harrison has been a New York fixture since his days as midday man on WMCA (570), where he was a "Good Guy" from 1959 until 1968. That year, Harrison replaced Herb Oscar Anderson in morning drive on WABC (770), where he would remain until 1979. In 1980, Harrison began 24 years in morning drive on WCBS-FM, where he'd eventually be joined by other WABC legends including Dan Ingram and Ron Lundy.
  • Longtime WCBS-FM listeners have already heard some changes in the last year or so: the disappearance of most of the pre-Beatles music from the playlist, the dismissal of morning sports guy Phil Pepe, and the recent departure of another WABC veteran, Dan Daniel, from middays -- so it's no wonder that the abruptness of Harrison's departure (he announced for the first time on Friday's show that this Wednesday's would be his last) is sparking plenty of discussion on the message boards and beyond.
  • Harrison says the decision to leave WCBS-FM right now is all his -- and he's not "retiring," leaving the door open to a return to the dials at some point. WCBS-FM hasn't named a replacement; Dan Taylor will be doing the shift on an interim basis after Harrison's final show, which he'll broadcast in front of a live audience at Manhattan's Museum of Television and Radio.
  • Only Harry Harrison is big enough to keep this next item from being our lead story this week: more than a year after it launched, the YES network has finally won carriage on the Cablevision systems serving Long Island, northern New Jersey, southern Connecticut, the Bronx, Westchester and Rockland. A deal reached between Cablevision and YES last week provides at least a little something to make both sides happy: Cablevision won't have to make YES available on its basic tier (thus increasing cable rates for all its subscribers), instead offering it a la carte for $1.95 or as part of a sports tier with MSG and Fox Sports NY for $4.95 a month; YES gets the same $2.12 per subscriber per month from Cablevision that it's been charging other cable operators. It's a mixed bag for Yankees fans: some of them had been getting MSG and Fox Sports without an extra fee (they'll now have to pay for that $4.95 package, though their basic cable rate will decrease somewhat), and anyone who wants YES will need a set-top box to descramble the channel.
  • A station sale in MASSACHUSETTS is all in the family: Marlin Broadcasting is selling WBOQ (104.9 Gloucester) to Westport Broadcasting for $5.8 million, but the sale really just shifts the station from Woody Tanger to his son Doug. WBOQ started out in the late eighties as classical "W-Bach," the successor to Simon Geller's legendary one-man WVCA operation, but in recent years it's become a swinging standards station.

March 19, 1998-

  • Once again, NEW HAMPSHIRE tops this week's news -- and again, it's because of job cuts in Granite State radio. Capstar continued to make staff cuts at Manchester's WGIR (610/101.1) this week, starting with the entire morning show on the FM side. Alan Baxter (known on air by last name only, Elle B., "Silent Steve" Gamelin, and "Jeff the Intern" were notified after Monday's show that they're out of work. Afternoon host Fil Robert Kaye is handling morning duties temporarily, but NERW hears that the long-term plan is to simulcast the Greg Kretschmer and Jeanmarie morning show from sister station WHEB (100.3) in Portsmouth. On the AM side at WGIR, sports director Rich Levine is the latest to be fired. Former news director Bill Rossi, meantime, has taken a job with Metro Networks in Boston.
  • It's not just Capstar, though; down the Everett Turnpike in Nashua, five staffers at WSMN (1590) are out of work, including longtime WSMN personalities John Halbert and Nick Diamond. New PD Ned Crecilius (of WADN Concord MA) is installing a local talk format at WSMN, with hosts including Woody Woodland, a former sportscaster and salesman at the late WOTW-FM (106.3). WSMN is playing adult contemporary music in middays and evenings for now.
  • Up north, we hear WQTH (720) in Hanover is going back to the drawing boards to build its four-tower array, after a local zoning board gave a thumbs-down to the 266-foot towers. Will Bob Vinikoor's new 50-kilowatter make its fall target date? We'll keep you posted... (Ten Years After: Bob's still fighting to get WQTH built...)
  • In CONNECTICUT, the unlicensed Nueva Radio Musical (104.5) in New Haven remains off the air for now, while trying to fix some problems that were causing interference to licensed WYBC (94.3) in the city's Hill neighborhood. The station's operators have gathered 2,000 signatures on a petition calling on the FCC to grant them a waiver to return to the air without a license and below the usual 100 watt minimum.
  • Up the road in Hamden, the town zoning board is considering an application by WKCI (101.3) to build a new 625-foot tower on Gaylord Mountain Road, just down the hill from WKCI's current site on the tower of WTNH (Channel 8). WTNH isn't renewing WKCI's lease for tower space -- so WKCI needs the new stick to stay on the air from its current site. Neighbors are expressing the usual concerns about a "tower farm" in their backyards...
  • The founder of what was once one of MASSACHUSETTS' largest radio/TV groups has died. Thomas O'Neill was working in the Boston office of his family's tire business in the late 1940s when he paid a visit to the Yankee Network, the radio broadcaster that General Tire had recently purchased. He's said to have returned from the visit and told his family that he was more interested in radio than tires -- a decision that led to the formation of General Teleradio in 1948. General Teleradio put WNAC-TV (Channel 7) on the air that June, and grew over the next decade to include stations in New York (WOR) and Los Angeles (KHJ) as well. In 1954, O'Neil bought RKO Radio Pictures from Howard Hughes and General became RKO General.
  • O'Neil remained chairman of RKO General until his retirement in 1985, as the company was forced to sell many of its licenses (including WRKO radio and WNAC-TV) following accusations of billing irregularities. O'Neil died Saturday of heart failure at his home in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was 82. In other Bay State news, WCCM (800) in Lawrence has been granted FCC approval of its sale from Curt Gowdy to Costa-Eagle -- but "with conditions," according to the FCC database. We'll let you know more as we learn it.

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