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May 12, 2008

NBC Enters NYC's News Channel Race


*When NBC Universal changed the name of its "Television Stations Division" to the "NBC Local Media Division" last fall, the company had more in mind than just a flashy new name. With last week's announcement that its NEW YORK flagship, WNBC (Channel 4), will be spawning a 24-hour local news channel this fall, NBC made it clear that it intends to expand its local presence beyond the old "owned and operated" TV stations that were once each network's cash cows.

The first sign of the reinvention of WNBC came earlier this spring, when the station rebranded its newscasts from "4HD" to "News 4 New York." In the next steps toward making WNBC a "local content center," NBC plans to rebrand its local website simply as "NBC New York," with the local news on the website and on Channel 4 soon to be joined by a 24-hour service known as "New York's Newschannel." (The "local content center" plans for WNBC's seventh-floor newsroom parallel the "content center" NBC built last year on the third floor of 30 Rock to consolidate NBC News and MSNBC operations.)

The new channel will be seen on a subchannel of WNBC-DT, presumably replacing what's now "4.4," a mixture of local news rebroadcasts and inexpensive syndicated fare. Eventually, it will also be visible on other platforms, including seatback TV screens in taxis and on the "NBC New York" website.

It will compete with two other 24-hour newschannels with longer histories in the market: Time Warner's city-oriented New York 1 and Cablevision's collection of regional News 12 services in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Westchester, the Hudson Valley, New Jersey and Connecticut - and it will compete with those channels without adding any additional staff to the existing WNBC news team.

Instead, NBC management says they'll be extensively retraining current WNBC employees to contribute to the new 24-hour service, which will also likely use the first "one-man band" videographer/reporters in the company. (New York 1 pioneered the concept in the city when it launched back in 1992.)

If "New York's Newschannel" proves successful, NBC hopes to roll the concept out in its other local markets, including Philadelphia's WCAU.

As NBC expands its local news presence, it's moving other divisions out of its iconic 30 Rockefeller Center headquarters. The company also announced last week that it's seeking office space elsewhere in Manhattan to move its non-news cable services (including USA Network and Bravo) and other back-office and business functions, leaving 30 Rock as the home to WNBC, NBC Sports, NBC News, MSNBC, "Late Night," and "Saturday Night Live."

*Not quite three years after it arrived in New York City, "Jack" has finally hit the road for good. CBS Radio kept the trademarked "Jack" nickname on the HD2 channel of WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) even after it pulled "Jack" from the main channel last summer. But the elements that made up a typical Jack slowly vanished from the multicast channel, with "Jack" voice Howard Cogan giving way to CBS-FM's Pat St. John a few months ago. And now the "Jack" name has disappeared as well, with the adult hits format now ID'ing simply as "101.1 HD2" for the moment. (We're hearing that CBS would have been happy to have kept the "Jack" name on the air, but that the format's syndicator, SparkNet, didn't want it relegated to an HD subchannel.)

On Long Island, Tim Clarke is the new music director at WBLI (106.1 Patchogue), replacing former MD/middayer Gabriel.

Out on the East End, WRIV (1390 Riverhead) is fully licensed once again after a glitch delayed its last license renewal. It seems the $150 filing fee wasn't submitted with WRIV's 2006 renewal application, and as a result, the FCC deleted WRIV's license last fall. The station stayed on the air under Special Temporary Authority, and now it's been granted a full renewal - as soon as it pays the $150, plus a 25% late-payment penalty.

And congratulations to Clear Channel New York director of engineering Josh Hadden, who's one of three regional winners of the company's Engineer of the Year awards. Hadden won for his work on the huge studio-consolidation project that's moved all five of the cluster's stations into a common studio facility in lower Manhattan. The last of the five, WLTW (106.7), made its move downtown over the weekend.

Two upstate notes, both from Geneva: public broadcaster WRVO (89.9 Oswego) has moved its new Geneva translator, W239BJ, from 95.7 to 106.3 after interference issues developed between the translator and Syracuse-market WAQX (95.7 Manlius). Just down the dial from the translator's new home, LPFM'er WSAC-LP (105.7 Geneva) is changing its calls on Friday to WHWS-LP. That reflects the translator's association with Hobart and William Smith Colleges, which operate the LPFM from the studios of their own station, WEOS (89.7 Geneva), on the college campus.

And in Buffalo, public station WBFO (88.7 Buffalo) has completed construction on its new 443-foot tower, adjacent to its old tower, some 100' lower. The old tower will start coming down soon, and we'll try to get over there for some pictures (and maybe some chicken wings, too...)


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 35 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.

*In the NEW JERSEY Meadowlands, the much-ballyhooed EnCap project has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and all work has ceased on the massive rebuilding that was supposed to have transformed hundreds of acres of swampy landfill in Rutherford and Lyndhurst into a massive golf course/housing development. What's the radio connection? It was at EnCap's behest that the Meadowlands Commission took the old tower site of WOR (710 New York), and it was EnCap's money that paid for WOR to build a brand-new site half a mile away.

What will become of the $1 billion project that now sits, half-finished, surrounding the new WOR site? Nobody's quite sure yet - and we hear EnCap still owes WOR a bit of money, too...

*It's a big anniversary for one of PENNSYLVANIA's pioneering FM rockers. Metromedia flipped the former WIP-FM (93.3) to WMMR in 1968, and the station - now part of Greater Media's Philadelphia cluster - is marking the anniversary with a series of events that included an on-air alumni reunion this past weekend and an "MMRchives" weekend next weekend. There's also a 40th anniversary concert next Sunday starring the Stone Temple Pilots, and a commemorative CD featuring performances from the station's long history.\

Another Philly radio alumna, Mimi Brown, is returning to the airwaves. A decade after leaving WDAS-FM (105.3), she's back, now holding down a Sunday 3-7 PM shift.

The last piece of the Johnstown format shuffle is complete: WPRR (1490) has taken back the WNTJ calls that spent several years on 850; we'd note that this marks the demise (at least for now) of the venerable WPRR calls, which had a long history on FM in nearby Altoona. (We'd note, too, that the WNTJ website still shows the station as "850," with no reference to the frequency change, more than a week after the fact. Anyone home?)

*In MASSACHUSETTS, a talent exodus from the Boston Globe is bringing a big name to public radio. After more than a dozen years at the paper, including a Pulitzer Prize for her work on the Globe investigation into the Catholic Church priest-abuse scandal, Sacha Pfeiffer is joining WBUR-FM (90.9), where she'll report on health and science issues. (The Globe lost another Pulitzer winner last week, as Charlie Savage left the paper's Washington bureau to join the parent New York Times. And yes, we can call him "Charlie" - he grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana with Mrs. NERW.)

It's "Orgy" time at WHRB (95.3 Cambridge), as the Harvard-affiliated station marks final exam time by replacing its regular schedule (except for a few weekend staples such as "Jazz Spectrum" and "Hillbilly at Harvard") with extended explorations of specific composers, performers or genres. This year's Orgy season started May 1 and runs through commencement day on June 5; this week's lineup includes three days devoted to the works of Olivier Messiaen and four to the performances of Mstislav Rostropovich, as well as extended sets by Fats Waller and "Sounds of the Contemporary Los Angeles Underground." All the details, and streaming audio, are at

And if the FCC was expecting Charles Clemons, operator of well-publicized pirate "Touch 106.1," to answer its $17,000 Notice of Apparent Liability for his unlicensed operation and for refusing a Commission inspection, well, they're still waiting. With no response from Clemons, that $17,000 has now been converted into a forfeiture order; at last report, "Touch" was still on the air. (The Commission also hit a Brooklyn pirate operator, Trevor Whitely, with a $10,000 forfeiture order for his illegal operation on 102.3.)

*There's a new signal on the air in northern VERMONT: Barry Lunderville has put WOTX (93.7 Lunenburg), running classic rock as "The Outlaw." WOTX's class A signal not only reaches the Northeast Kingdom, including St. Johnsbury; it also serves a chunk of northern NEW HAMPSHIRE (where its transmitter is located), including the Littleton area.

*Two MAINE talk hosts are off the air after a testy handoff between their weekend shows. Lou Castaldi's "Getting Fit with Lou" follows Kevin Crocker's "Talking Maine" on Saturdays at WLOB-FM (96.3 Gray)/WLOB (1310 Portland), and there's normally a handoff between the hosts for a few minutes. But something went wrong a week ago, as Crocker used an anti-Italian epithet against Castaldi. Crocker says Castaldi "barged into" the studio; Castaldi says he was encouraged by station management to talk politics with Crocker at the end of his show. Now both men are suspended indefinitely, and WLOB is running syndicated programming for the moment during those Saturday time slots.

The Blueberry Broadcasting group that's picking up the Clear Channel clusters in Augusta and Bangor is adding one more station: Blueberry is acquiring the CP for a new signal on 101.1 in Machias, way Down East, from Louis Vitali, one of the new company's principals.

*Yet another market in CANADA is about to lose its last AM. The CRTC has granted CKRU (980 Peterborough ON) permission to move to FM - but it denied the Corus oldies station (known on air as "980 KRUZ") the frequency it desired. CKRU hoped to move to 96.7, but nine other applicants also proposed using that frequency for new stations in Peterborough or nearby Kawartha Lakes (Lindsay) when the CRTC put out a call for applications.

The CRTC ended up granting one of those applications, determining that Pineridge Broadcasting, which owns CHUC-FM and CKSG-FM in Cobourg, is the best qualified to operate a new Peterborough station - and that because of the potential overlap in coverage into the Cobourg area, it should be granted the use of 96.7, with 13 kW average DA. That leaves Corus to find another frequency on the crowded southern Ontario FM dial for CKRU's FM move - and 90 days to do it.

Meanwhile, Peterborough's other remaining AM, CTVglobemedia's CKPT (1420), is no more: engineers pulled the plug on the AM transmitter there last Monday (May 5), seven months after CKPT-FM (99.3, soon to move to 99.7) signed on, and just shy of half a century after it originally signed on.

In its continued quest to move as much of its programming to FM as possible, CBC/Radio-Canada has won permission from the CRTC to put new FM transmitters on the air for CBC Radio One and Radio-Canada's premiere chaine service in Windsor, Ontario. With no frequencies available to fully replicate the coverage of CBE (1550) and CBEF (540), the plan is to keep the AM signals on the air, adding "nested" relay transmitters to repeat those signals on 102.3 (average ERP 690 watts) and 105.5 (average ERP 560 watts), respectively.

But those aren't the only new signals approved for Windsor. The CRTC also granted both applications it received for new commercial outlets in the border city. Both Blackburn Radio (which owns CKUE Chatham-Kent, which has a relay in Windsor on 100.7, as well as nearby CHYR 96.7 Leamington) and Neeti P. Roy (who holds a permit for a new ethnic signal in Mississauga) applied for new stations on 95.9. The CRTC ruled that Blackburn's proposed country station (with 3,550 watts average ERP) was more deserving of the 95.9 frequency, where it will be permitted to operate. Roy can put his ethnic station on the air if he can find another channel on which to operate.

The CRTC also granted a new signal in Owen Sound, Ontario, sifting through four applications for 92.3 (including proposals from Blackburn and from Evanov Broadcasting) and granting use of the frequency to Larche Communications, which operates stations to the east in Orillia and Midland, and holds a permit for a new signal in Sudbury. Larche will operate the 20 kW signal on 92.3 with a rock format.

In Alma, Quebec, CFGT (1270) is resubmitting its application to move to FM. CFGT withdrew its initial request to move to 97.7 with 50 kW earlier this year; it was to have been heard at a public hearing this month.

Moncton, New Brunswick will be home to a most unusual "special-event" radio station later this week. "Wed FM" will sign on at 100.9 Wednesday afternoon, and will leave the air for good Sunday afternoon, after the event for which it's being built: the wedding of Serge Cormier and Yanbing Zou. Cormier is a radio enthusiast who now works as a consultant in Toronto, and he's trying the 50-watt special-event station for his own wedding as a trial run to see if there's a business in setting up similar stations for other such events. Programming will include a top-40 countdown hosted by the bride and groom, lessons in French and Chinese, and of course a live broadcast of the wedding ceremony and reception next Saturday. There may even be a webcast, too, at the wedding website,

In Nova Scotia, the CRTC will consider two applications for new community stations. Tantramar Community Radio Society wants 107.9 (6.5 kW/123 m) in Amherst, while the Parrsboro Radio Society wants 50 watts on 99.1 in Parrsboro. The applications will be heard at a public hearing July 7 at CRTC headquarters in Gatineau, Quebec.

The Toronto Raptors need a new play-by-play voice; they're losing Chuck Swirsky to the Chicago Bulls, where he'll handle TV announcing duties next season for WGN-TV, WCIU-TV and Comcast SportsNet. Swirsky is also the 1-4 PM talk host on Toronto's CJCL (Fan 590), a job he's keeping for the moment.

And there's a new local TV newscast in Toronto: CITY-TV (Channel 57) has introduced a 5 PM news hour, making it the only Toronto station with local news straight through from 5 until 7.

*How about a bit more baseball? We're a little more than a week into the Atlantic League season, and here's a look at where that independent league can be heard on the air:

In New Jersey, the Newark Bears play on WSOU (89.5 South Orange) every Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Down at the other end of the state, the Camden Riversharks are heard on WGLS (89.7 Glassboro), and in between, the Somerset Patriots are heard on WCTC (1450 New Brunswick).

In Pennsylvania, the Lancaster Barnstormers play their full season on WLPA (1490 Lancaster); while the York Revolution are heard on WSBA (910 York).

Weekend games of the Long Island Ducks are heard on WNYG (1440 Babylon), and across Long Island Sound, the Bridgeport Bluefish play on WVOF (88.5 Fairfield).

We'll check out the Can-Am League (including the new team in Ottawa) next week...

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!)

May 14, 2007 -

  • The suspension is over for JV and Elvis at NEW YORK's WFNY-FM (92.3 Free FM). As of Friday afternoon, the mid-morning team who came to CBS Radio's Free FM from San Francisco last year are out of work - and the talk station now has another daypart to fill in addition to its late-night slot. Jeff Vandergrift and Dan Lay had been off the air for over two weeks, ever since a local Asian-American group began protesting a rebroadcast of an old segment (originally aired in San Francisco, then later aired at least once without incident on WFNY-FM) in which the show called a Chinese restaurant and mocked an employee's accent.
  • What was acceptable even a few months ago, however, is now problematic in the wake of the Don Imus debacle - and so after a week of "best-of" shows and a week of fill-ins Cabbie and Larry Wachs, JV and Elvis are gone and questions are swirling about whether there's a future for a deliberately edgy talk station in a world full of protests over any perceived slight. The next Free FM hosts in the crosshairs are morning men Opie and Anthony, who now have Al Sharpton calling for their dismissal from CBS Radio over a segment that never even aired on the terrestrial simulcast of their XM Satellite Radio show. The duo began their XM show Friday by apologizing for the bit, which involved a homeless man ranting about Queen Elizabeth II, and signed off with the same line they've used in the past before previous dismissals in Boston and New York.
  • So far, CBS appears to be standing by Opie and Anthony, but we've seen how quickly that support can fade as protests build - and if the O&A show were to disappear from the Free FM schedule, the station would be on even shakier revenue ground, raising serious questions about how long the format can survive.
  • Over at sister station WFAN (660 New York), the revenue hole created by Don Imus' firing hasn't been filled, either, and as Imus launches what's reported to be a $120 million wrongful-dismissal suit against CBS Radio, the station's still trying to fill the programming hole in morning drive, at the very least. NBC News correspondent David Gregory is the latest fill-in, and when he takes the morning drive reins today, he'll be the first post-Imus host to be heard on WFAN and seen on MSNBC, which will be producing the show in a reversal of the old Imus arrangement, in which WFAN owned the show and sold the content to MSNBC. Will Gregory be able to pull off the balance Imus struck for so many years before his downfall, mixing low-brow morning humor with top-name political interviews? As a regular Today fill-in host, Gregory has the morning-show experience, and as NBC's White House correspondent, he's as well-connected as it gets. We'll be watching (and listening) to see how the experiment works.
  • In VERMONT, it's all but official that the Clear Channel stations in Burlington and Randolph are being sold to Dean Goodman's GoodRadio.TV, LLC group. The Vermont Guardian reports that Goodradio is spending a total of $452 million to buy 36 markets from Clear Channel, including the Burlington cluster of AC WEZF (92.9), oldies WVTK (92.1 Port Henry NY), classic rock WCPV (101.3 Essex NY)/WCVR (102.1 Randolph) and talk WXZO (96.7 Willsboro NY)/WEAV (960 Plattsburgh NY)/WTSJ (1320 Randolph). Meanwhile, the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin reports that the Clear Channel radio cluster there has been sold as well, but that no buyer has been announced. Will that be GoodRadio, too?

May 12, 2003 -

  • How important is NEW YORK's "Blink" (WNEW 102.7) to Infinity right now? Enough to take the full attention of operations manager Steve Kingston, at the very least; he's giving up the programming reins at sister rock outlet WXRK (92.3) to concentrate completely on the launch of the top 40-80s-90s-pop-entertainment-talk-Jennifer Lopez hybrid (did we miss anything?) format up the dial. Robert Cross heads to New York from Infinity's KROQ (106.7 Pasadena) in Los Angeles to handle programming at K-Rock.
  • Over at Clear Channel, Frankie Blue is out as PD of dance-CHR WKTU (103.5 Lake Success), seven years after launching the format. Assistant music director Jeff Z. is handling interim PD duties, with help from cluster manager Tom Poleman.
  • The big news out of MASSACHUSETTS was the sale of WAMG (1150 Boston); Mega Communications, which paid $5 million for then-WNFT in 1998, will get $8.6 million from Salem for the station when the deal closes later this year. The sale of WAMG will trigger a few other changes around the dial: for Salem, it will likely mean a reshuffling of programming from WROL (950) and WEZE (590) as 1150 adopts a conservative secular talk format under new calls; for Mega, it means moving the Spanish tropical "Mega" format and WAMG calls down the dial to Dedham-licensed WBPS (890), which Mega has been leasing out to a talk programmer.
  • We can't figure out what Citadel is up to in northeast PENNSYLVANIA: we passed through Scranton on the way home from New York, and had a chance to listen to WCWI (94.3 Carbondale) and WEMR (1460 Tunkhannock) for a bit. Alert NERW readers will recall that WCWI and WEMR had been simulcasting "Cat Country 96," WCTO (96.1 Easton) from over in the Allentown market - but on this trip, we heard WCTO doing a triple legal ID with WCWI/WEMR...but the programming wasn't being simulcast on the Scranton-area signals. Instead, WCWI and WEMR were doing their own country format, but still using "Cat Country 96" liners. Huh?

May 14, 1998-

  • Boston's AM 1150, WNFT, has broken away from its simulcast with WAAF (107.3 Worcester). The ARS (soon to be CBS) station began running the satellite "Touch" R&B oldies format earlier this week, perhaps as a challenge to longtime urban daytimer WILD, just down the dial at 1090. The ARS/CBS sale is expected to close any day now, and NERW wonders whether WNFT will end up staying with the CBS stations (WBZ, WZLX, WODS, WBCN, WBZ-TV, plus ARS acquisition WBMX) or being sold off along with the stations the Justice Department ordered CBS to sell (WRKO, WEEI, WEGQ, WAAF).
  • More from MASSACHUSETTS: Cape Cod probably needs another FM allocation the way it needs more summertime traffic on US 6, but that hasn't stopped someone from asking the FCC to allocate 94.3A to Brewster, near the "elbow" of the Cape. If you're keeping track, that means that the Cape would have 13 commercial FMs (plus two AMs) for a total year-round population of just over 200,000. This allocation would have been impossible, of course, before Ernie Boch's WXTK in West Yarmouth moved from 94.9 to 95.1 last year. (And NERW notes also that the 102.3 CP in Truro, WCDJ, is *still* unbuilt...)
  • Two station sales to report: Joe Gallagher's Auritaur Communications (which owns WBEC AM/FM in Pittsfield, is buying WNGN in Hoosick Falls NY, and has an interest in WBET/WCAV in Brockton through KJI Broadcasting) is paying $1 million for WMVY (92.7 Tisbury), the Cape and Islands' really cool AAA station. Meantime, troubled business-talker WADN (1120 Concord) changes hands from Ned Crecilus' Assabet Communications to Susan Armstrong's Money Matters Radio, for a reported $450,000. Money Matters programs the morning business show on WADN.
  • Radio people on the move: Rochester's WHAM (1180) welcomes Randy Gorbman back as news director. It's Randy's second time on the job; he left a couple of years ago to become operations manager at WIBX (950) down the Thruway in Utica. WHAM has also replaced its evening rerun of "Dr." Laura Schlessinger with a new local talk show, hosted by former WPXY (97.9) morning co-host Joan Brandenburg. Her show airs weeknights from 8-10 PM. Speaking of PXY, part-timer/promotions assistant Cory Kincaid is moving down to the Elmira market, where he'll do nights on WNKI (106.1 Corning). Aaron Brillbeck is leaving the morning news slot on the North Country's "FSR" (WGIX 95.3 Gouverneur/WSLB 1400 Ogdensburg) to work at WSYR (570) in Syracuse.
  • In MAINE, there's a new station to report. Religious WWWA (95.3 Winslow) signed on April 10. It's running from the same Augusta studios as sister station WMDR (1340). Up in Presque Isle, WOZI (101.7) has applied to change frequency to 101.9 and move to the Mars Hill site south of town.

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