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December 15, 2008

Ice Storm Silences New England Radio

*It's been almost 18 years since a massive ice storm paralyzed us here in the Rochester area, leaving some areas without power for more than two weeks. And it's been just over a decade since an even more massive ice storm struck an area stretching from northern New York up through eastern Ontario and into much of Quebec, knocking power out to some areas for as long as a month.

By those standards, the ice storm that hit central MASSACHUSETTS, southern VERMONT and NEW HAMPSHIRE on Friday was relatively minor - but even "relatively" minor is still a big deal for people everywhere from Fitchburg to Lowell to Peterborough to White River Junction, for whom it could still be a while before things are back to normal.

The good news is that, at least as this column is being written on Sunday night, there are no reports of any downed towers in the region. What the massive power outages are demonstrating, however, is a surprisingly large number of stations apparently lacking working generators at either studio or transmitter sites.

Much of the Worcester market was knocked off the air in the storm's first hours, including both news-talk AMs, Clear Channel's WTAG (580) and Carter's WCRN (830). WCRN remained off through Saturday, but WTAG was soon back on the air with nonstop emergency information, and still going strong late Sunday.

There have been widespread power outages along much of the Route 2 corridor to the north, with numerous stations off the air everywhere from Athol to Fitchburg to Lowell and Lawrence.

Across the New Hampshire line, the worst of the outages have been on the state's western edge; there were numerous reports of stations off the air from Peterborough and Keene up through the Upper Valley, where most of the market's stations were still silent on Saturday afternoon. (Notable exceptions were Nassau's WHDQ 106.1 Claremont and Bob Vinikoor's cluster, where WNTK/WUVR in the New London/Hanover area, WCNL in Newport and WCFR in Springfield, Vermont were all on the air through most of the storm and its aftermath with local news and information.)

We're expecting to hear more from some of the areas hardest hit by the ice, such as western Massachusetts, as power begins to come back on in the next few days, and we'll update this week's column as needed, with a wrap-up in next week's issue as (we hope) things start getting back to normal.

*On with the rest of the week's news, starting with more big changes in Boston morning radio, where CBS Radio abruptly pulled the plug on WBMX (98.5 Boston) morning man John Lander after his Thursday show. In addition to Lander, who'd been at Mix since 1996, when he replaced Joe Martelle, sidekicks Kelly Malone, Alicia Love and weather guy Mike Ellis are all gone.

Who's next for morning drive at the hot AC station? Over at Boston Radio Watch, Mark reports that Karson Tager, late of WHBQ-FM (107.5) in Memphis, will be coming to Boston in January along with his former co-host Kennedy Elsey, who's still at the Memphis station for now - and he says the new "Karson and Kennedy" show will be aiming for a younger demographic than Lander attracted. (Unspoken in that is the assumption that they'll work cheaper, too...)

Over at Entercom, Tom Finneran has signed on for an extra year as morning host at WRKO (680 Boston), despite the lack of any audience growth for his struggling show; meanwhile, operations director Lee Kinberg has departed after just over two years at the Entercom stations.

And at Greater Media, where the management team has remained relatively stable until now amidst the recent economic turbulence, VP/market manager Phil Redo made an abrupt departure from the Boston cluster (WBOS, WTKK, WKLB, WROR, WMJX) last Monday afternoon. While Greater said the decision was mutual, we're hearing otherwise; Redo had been at the cluster for less than three years, and while he'd overseen some big strategic moves (most notably the move of WKLB from rimshot 99.5 to full-market 102.5 and the format change of WBOS from AAA to jockless modern rock), his work on Morrissey Boulevard was far from finished.

Lending further credence to the idea that the move wasn't long in the works is Redo's replacement: there isn't one, at least not right away, and so Greater's senior VP for radio, Rick Feinblatt, will be commuting from Philadelphia to Boston to oversee both clusters in the short term.

There's no word yet on what's next for Redo; his background offers him plenty of paths, including a return to public radio (he came to Boston from New York's WNYC, where he was a VP for station operations and strategy) or to commercial radio programming, where his resume includes a stint as PD at WMJX in the late 80s and air work at the old WROR before that.

*On the TV side of things, we note the start of local HD newscasts at WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and sister station WSBK (Channel 38) on Thursday, which we believe leaves only Fox's WFXT (Channel 25) as a major local-news player in Boston without HD.

But WFXT has bigger concerns at the moment: after many months fighting problems with its aging analog transmission system, we're hearing that WFXT's analog signal finally gave up the ghost for good last week, leaving only WFXT-DT (RF 31), which is not yet at full power. Interestingly, WFXT had just last month submitted an STA application to the FCC asking for reduced analog power (293 kW visual) through the end of the transition period, due to "recent, partial damage to the licensed antenna."

*Another Bay State analog TV station - albeit one that mainly serves RHODE ISLAND viewers - has gone dark. New Bedford-licensed WLWC (Channel 28), the CW affiliate for the Providence market, turned off its analog transmitter on December 9, leaving WLWC-DT 22 behind.

*MAINE Public Broadcasting Network is planning an early shutdown of its analog signals. WMEA-TV (Channel 26) in Biddeford, WCBB-TV (Channel 10) in Augusta, WMEB-TV (Channel 12) in Orono, WMED-TV (Channel 13) in Calais and WMEM-TV (Channel 10) in Presque Isle will sign off in analog early on the morning of January 11, allowing engineers time to convert several of those VHF transmitters for MPBN's post-transition channels. While WMEA-DT will keep its present channel 45, WMEB-DT will stay on its present channel 9 and WMED-DT will stay on its present channel 10, WCBB-DT and WMEM-DT will be moving to 10 from their present spots at channels 17 and 20, respectively.

(And that, sadly, is somewhat more information than you - or any average viewer - would learn from visiting MPBN's own rather sparse DTV information pages; the challenge of fully educating viewers about the challenges of the digital conversion, especially the tricky matter of antenna selection in mixed VHF-UHF markets, still isn't being fully met in too many areas, and we're down to the two-month mark now even in the areas that aren't experiencing early analog shutdowns.)

*In NEW YORK City, Joe Puglise is the new president/market manager for Clear Channel's cluster, arriving as Rob Williams' replacement from Phoenix - and before that, from Wilmington, Delaware.

Up in the Adirondacks, WRGR (102.3 Tupper Lake) has changed frequencies. Last Thursday (Dec. 11), it relocated to 102.1, which clears the way for WLFE (102.3 St. Albans VT) to move closer to Burlington with higher power. WRGR itself plans to file for an increase from class A to class C3 on its new frequency now that it's moved, the station says.

Syracuse's WLTI (105.9) is revamping its airstaff after letting longtime morning host Dave Allen go a few months back. Brian Phillips, who's been doing fill-in work at the Citadel cluster, is the new morning man at "Lite Rock 105.9," while "Jayne" joins as the station's Monday-Saturday 10 AM-4 PM voice. "Jayne" is voiced by Robin Marshall, late of WQCD in New York - and if the name sounds familiar, it may be because the voice, and the format, ran 24/7 for a while last year on CKJN (92.9) over in Norfolk-Haldimand, Ontario, before a sale changed the station to "Moose FM."

Over at public station WCNY-FM (91.3 Syracuse, and relays WUNY 89.5 Utica and WJNY 90.9 Watertown), a schedule change is moving the remaining jazz and standards programming from weekday evenings to Sunday afternoons. WCNY adds the syndicated "Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin" at 7 weeknights, followed by symphony broadcasts - and that means Leo Rayhill's
"Sounds of Jazz" becomes a weekly offering, at 5 PM on Sunday, where it follows "Footlight Parade" and "Classic Sinatra."

In Albany, the layoff axe swung hard and heavy at Hubbard's WNYT (Channel 13) last week, with at least a dozen people losing their jobs, including evening co-anchor Lydia Kulbida and movie critic Jay Bobbin - and more job cuts expected this week. (Will Hubbard follow suit at its other upstate property, Rochester's WHEC?)

And Steve Young was best known as a Seattle radio institution, programming KISW (99.9) and later working with the Jones and Dial Global radio networks - but the veteran programmer, who died last Monday (Dec. 8) while on a Caribbean cruise, also spent several stints at the helm of New York stations: in 1996, he programmed WNEW (102.7), then returned in 1999 to program WAXQ (104.3).


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*There's an FM facility upgrade underway in central MAINE: WFMX (107.9 Skowhegan) shifted transmitter sites last week from its longtime home on Bigelow Hill in Skowhegan to a new site in Fairfield, 10 miles to the southeast (and closer to its target audience in Augusta and Waterville.) From the new site, WFMX will boost power from its former 6 kW to 22 kW, as soon as new electric service is switched on there.

*More cutbacks in CONNECTICUT: WTIC (1080 Hartford) has cancelled the Saturday morning show that Hartford Courant columnist Stan Simpson was hosting; Simpson says he was told the cancellation was due to the "troubling business climate."

*There's a new religious translator on the air in RHODE ISLAND: W284BA (104.7 Cranston) is on the air, relaying EMF's "K-Love" WTKL (91.1) from Dartmouth, Mass.

On the TV side, the parade of layoffs continued apace last week: WPRI/WNAC lost several staffers, including a couple from the newsroom; WJAR also cut four employees. (And it's not just Providence where WPRI/WNAC owner LIN is cutting; Buffalo's WIVB lost several non-union staffers last week as well.)

*A veteran PENNSYLVANIA jock is back on the air: Greater Media has hired Glenn Kalina as the morning man on WNUW (97.5 Burlington NJ), making "Now 97.5" the latest stop in a career that's included WZZD, WCAU-FM, WIFI, WIOQ, WLCE and WMWX. Kalina starts at "Now" on January 5.

Meanwhile, Greater is splitting up the morning team at WBEN-FM (95.7 Philadelphia), keeping Marilyn Russell in mornings but moving Jason Lee to middays and Dave Cruise to afternoons, which have been running jockless since "Ben FM" launched a few years back.

In the Erie market, there's word that Bill Shannon has departed WYNE (1530 North East), where he put the station's oldies format on the air and did afternoons. Shannon's departure comes as WYNE's sister station, WMCE (88.5 Erie) at Mercyhurst College's main campus, sends early word that it's flipping from classical to all-jazz come February, becoming "Jazz FM."

Meanwhile at Connoisseur's Erie cluster, we're hearing that Bob "Bobby D" Domingo is out as PD at WTWF (93.9 the Wolf), while Sammy Stone is gone from afternoons at WRKT (100.9 North East). WRKT PD Ron Kline will add PD duties at WTWF, while Wolf promotions director Chuck Rambaldo picks up APD duties and the afternoon shift.

On the TV side, veteran Pittsburgh news director Bob Longo is leaving Hearst-Argyle's WTAE-TV (Channel 4) and heading south to sister station WESH (Channel 2) in the Orlando market. Longo came to WTAE back in 1999 from Rochester's WHEC.

And a Philadelphia radio institution has died. Jere Sullivan was most recently the director of traffic operations at, but he had a Philly radio career that stretched all the way back to the days of WFIL-FM (102.1), and its early-70s successor, WIOQ. Sullivan later worked at WCAU-FM (98.1, now WOGL), then left town for stints at WYNY in New York, KJQY in San Diego and a whole slew of Miami stations before returning to Philadelphia to work at WSNI/WPGR and then at the traffic service.

*In central NEW JERSEY, Jan Ochs is departing WMGQ (98.3 New Brunswick) to attend to family matters out of state. Ochs did her last night shift on WMGQ last Wednesday (Nov. 10). Meanwhile, Greater Media has a new chief engineer for several of its central Jersey stations: Dave Brown, who worked as an engineer for Standard Radio and Rogers in his native Canada, moves from Nassau's Lechard Marine Contracting division to Greater's WDHA/WMTR-WWTR.

Edited by NERW's own Scott Fybush - on sale now as an e-book or printed volume!

*In CANADA, it was a quiet week...except on TV, where the ongoing ownership transition of Citytv (CITY-TV 57 Toronto) just took another interesting twist. After CTVglobemedia bought the City properties as part of its big buyout of CHUM Ltd., it had to sell Citytv itself, which went to Rogers - but it kept both the "ChumCity Building" on Queen Street in Toronto and CP24 (Cable Pulse 24), the all-news channel that began life as "CityPulse 24," the full-time spinoff of Citytv's news operation. Indeed, until last week, Citytv newscasts were still being rebroadcast on CP24, even though the cable channel is owned by CTV and Citytv is owned by arch-competitor Rogers.

No more: on Wednesday, the CRTC approved Rogers' application to create a new 24-hour cable channel called "CITY News (Toronto)." Unlike CP24, which was licensed as a regional service to cover all of southern Ontario, the new Rogers service will be aimed specifically at greater Toronto. There's no word yet on when it will launch - or whether it will pick up what had long been one of the quirkier features of CP24, the deep-from-the-vaults rebroadcasts of vintage Citytv newscasts.

And for some reason, all the reader submissions for additional "NERW Bookshelf" candidates were Canadian: we were reminded that the recently deceased Ted Rogers had just completed his autobiography, Relentless: The True Story of the Man Behind Rogers Communications (HarperCollins Canada, to be published in the US in January.)

Out in Newfoundland, the provincially-owned Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland was their counterpart to the CBC in the years before Newfoundland's 1949 entry into Confederation, and the BCN's history has just been chronicled in the newly-published Voice of Newfoundland: A Social History of the Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland, 1939-1949, by Jeff A. Webb (University of Toronto Press, $29.95)

*And we'll close this week with our annual salute to the birthday of the man who made so much of today's radio possible. Major Edwin Howard Armstrong was born on December 18, 1890, 118 years ago Thursday, and without his inventions, among them the superheterodyne receiver and a little thing called "frequency modulation," none of us would be doing what we do now. One can only imagine what else Major Armstrong would have accomplished if he hadn't spent the last unhappy years of his life fighting over the patents for FM.

So join us in raising a birthday toast to one of radio's great inventors later this week, won't you?

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!)

December 18, 2007 -

  • The weekend's icy, windy storm in northeast PENNSYLVANIA destroyed one Scranton/Wilkes-Barre TV tower early Sunday morning and caused serious damage to several others. Just before 7:00 Sunday morning, the 823-foot tower of ABC affiliate WNEP-TV (Channel 16) atop Penobscot Mountain, east of Wilkes-Barre, collapsed under the weight of ice that had formed there overnight. As it fell, the tower's guy wires apparently hit the next tower over on the mountain, belonging to public broadcasters WVIA-TV (Channel 44), WVIA-DT (Channel 41) and WVIA-FM (89.9), toppling the upper portion of that tower and taking those TV/DT signals off the air. The WNEP tower fell on the station's transmitter building, damaging most of the equipment inside, including the station's two analog transmitters. (WNEP-DT is at a different tower location on Penobscot, and it was on the air through much of the storm, albeit at reduced power.)
  • Within a few hours after the collapse, engineers for WNEP and WVIA were making their way through the wreckage and the debris to figure out what could be salvaged and what was beyond hope. For WVIA, an analog TV signal was restored at midday Sunday from a shorter auxiliary tower next to the damaged main tower. WVIA-DT remained off the air, and WVIA-FM remained on the air from the remaining portion of the damaged tower.
  • WNEP, meanwhile, briefly replaced the rotating wheel of news repeats on its DTV subchannel (and on a stream on its website) with its regular analog-feed programming, providing a signal that area cable companies could pick up in place of the destroyed analog signal. By Sunday afternoon, WNEP programming had been restored to cable systems in much of the station's wide-ranging coverage area, while its "newschannel" feed was back on 16.2. Also silenced in the WNEP collapse was Wilkes College's WCLH (90.7 Wilkes-Barre), which had its antenna on the WNEP tower. WCLH is still programming via a webstream at until a temporary replacement site can be built.
  • There were more problems on the mountain in the meantime. Downed power lines and a tower heavily laden with ice took Nexstar's CBS affiliate, WYOU-TV (Channel 22)/WYOU-DT (Channel 13), off the air, with many area cable companies picking up Philadelphia's KYW-TV (Channel 3) or other CBS outlets in the region to keep CBS football (and the Survivor finale) coming to their subscribers. The tower of Fox affiliate WOLF-TV (Channel 56), which is also home to WNEP-DT's antenna, lost one guy wire to the storm but remained standing at last report. And Nexstar's NBC affiliate, WBRE-TV (Channel 28), which lost a tower to ice in 1989, had no reported problems at its new tower. (WBRE-DT, however, is located at the powerless WYOU tower, and remained off the air into Monday.)
  • In western PENNSYLVANIA, there's a changing of the guard on the morning news shift at KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh). Bob Kopler will retire Dec. 28, ending 19 years at KDKA, and he'll be replaced by Bill Rehkopf, who began his career in western Pennsylvania at stations in Clarion and Punxsutawney and later worked in Williamsport (WRAK/WKSB), Harrisburg (WHP) and Scranton (WARM). Rehkopf moves to Pittsburgh from Baltimore's WPOC (93.1), where he's been known on the air as "Aaron Rehkopf."
  • Our NEW YORK news starts downstate, with word of three more applications that were filed in that special window to create a new fulltime AM signal on 1700 for Rockland County. In addition to the application from Alexander Broadcasting's WRCR (1300 Spring Valley) that we told you about last week, the county's other existing broadcaster, Polnet, has applied for 1700 in Haverstraw to accompany its WRKL (910 New City). A former programmer of 1300, Zev Brenner's Talkline Communications, wants to put 1700 in Monsey, where it would presumably serve the community of Hasidic Jews there. And Gary Smithwick's S&B Communications applied for 1700 in Stony Point.
  • Here in Rochester, one of the city's top TV reporters is moving on. Dave McKinley came to WROC-TV (Channel 8) from WHAM (1180) in 1999, bringing with him an encyclopedic knowledge of local history that he soon put to good use in his weekly "News 8 Then" segments, digging through WROC's copious archives to pull out forgotten bits of film and video from days gone by. Dave's heading west at year's end, joining the reporting staff at WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) in Buffalo (where he went to college and began his radio career), and he'll be missed, dearly.
  • Yet another AM station in CANADA has made the move to FM. CKEC (1320 New Glasgow NS) flipped the switch on the new CKEC-FM (94.1) at 9:41 AM last Tuesday (Dec. 11). The new "East Coast 94.1" is playing hot AC, and the AM signal will go silent in three months, leaving nine AM stations in the province - and five of those are planning FM moves as well. One of them, CFAB (1450 Windsor), will have to try again to find a frequency and power level the CRTC can live with. Last week, the commission rejected CFAB's second attempt to go to FM, saying that the proposed 23.8 kW signal on 92.9 would far exceed the AM coverage area and create too much overlap with MBS Radio's other stations in Kentville.

December 15, 2003 -

  • The longest-running DJ on a single station in Rochester - and, we think, in all of NEW YORK - was shot to death Friday night in what appeared to be a robbery attempt. "Unkle Roger" McCall joined the staff of WCMF (96.5 Rochester) in 1974, and for most of the three decades that followed he served as the rock station's overnight jock and as the resident expert on local music, hosting the "Homegrown" show that spawned several CDs along the way. Police say McCall was collecting rent payments from tenants in a house he owned on Madison Street in Rochester when he was shot in the torso about 5:50 Friday evening.
  • As the news broke on Saturday, WCMF's jocks took to the air for a spontaneous remembrance of their colleague. It will continue throughout this week, when WCMF will open its phone lines each night at 10 for listeners to call in with memories of McCall. "He was one of the most beautiful people anybody has ever known," said WCMF morning host Alan "Brother Wease" Levin. "I am positive Unkle Roger didn't have one enemy in the world," he told WROC-TV (Channel 8). McCall, who was 59, is survived by his wife Denise and son Jason. At press time, no arrests had been made in the killing. (2008 update: Five years later, still no arrests, sadly.)
  • The northern half of Syracuse's "TK 99/TK 105" classic rock simulcast wants to move south. WTKV (105.5 Oswego) has already been granted a reallocation to Granby, in southern Oswego County, and now the Galaxy station has applied for new facilities just south of Fulton. If the move is approved, WTKV would move from its current 4kw/121m just south of Oswego to a new tower on Wilcox Road, just off NY 48, about 10 miles closer to Syracuse, where it would run 3.9kw/125m. (2008 update: The move never happened, scotched by an FCC policy edict - for which this was the test case - that prohibits stations from moving if they're grandfathered above current ownership limits, as WTKV is.)
  • Here in Rochester, contemporary Christian WDCZ (102.7 Webster) will take on a new identity January 1, when the station changes calls to WRCI. The old calls came from the now-defunct simulcast with Buffalo sister station WDCX; now "The Light" wants calls that better reflect its identity as a Rochester Christian station.
  • Our best wishes go out to former Buffalo jock Tony Magoo (WJJL, WPHD, WBYR), who's suffering from a form of cancer ("metastatic squamous cell carcinoma") that's had him undergoing intensive radiation and chemotherapy and losing his teeth. That's bad enough - but on top of all that, he was fired from his job as morning host at Citadel's WFBE (95.1 Flint MI) a couple of weeks ago. There'll be a benefit auction for Magoo next month; stay tuned for all the details. (2008 update: Magoo is still in remission, at last word.)
  • A busy broadcast week in MAINE - and before we get to the update on the WMGX/WYNZ tower collapse, we have the arrival of a brand new player on the New England ownership scene.
  • Nassau Broadcasting, until now confined to New Jersey and Pennsylvania (with a brief foray into upstate New York and Connecticut), is paying $18.3 million for the six stations of Mariner Broadcasting. Louis Vitali and Alexander and Woody Tanger had assembled a cluster that included four classical "W-Bach" stations (WBQQ 99.3 Kennebunk, WBQW 106.3 Scarborough-Portland, WBQX 106.9 Thomaston, WBQI 107.7 Bar Harbor), standards WBYA (105.5 Islesboro) and soft AC WQEZ (104.7 Kennebunkport). Will Nassau keep the classical format? Stay tuned...
  • On to the Portland tower collapse: as we told you in last Thursday's NERW Update, the 528-foot tower of WMGX (93.1 Portland) and WYNZ (100.9 Westbook) came crashing to the ground last Thursday afternoon, smashing several cars and trucks and narrowly missing a beer distributor's warehouse. (Though the tower was within a few hundred yards of I-295, the pull of its guy wires kept the wreckage confined to within a few hundred feet of the tower base and well away from the busy highway.)
  • WYNZ's oldies stayed on the air from an auxiliary site, but WMGX went silent when the tower went down. (Fortunately, the Arbitron book had just ended a day earlier!) WMGX quickly turned to Saga sister station WPOR (101.9 Portland), whose site on Blackstrap Hill north of town sprouted a new set of antenna bays on Friday, as WMGX set up shop there with a temporary facility that allowed it to be back on the air barely 24 hours after the tower collapse.
  • What brought down the tower, which was only 17 years old? They're still investigating - but weather didn't appear to be a factor; there wasn't any snow on the ground and winds were relatively light. The next step for the stations will be to rebuild, likely on the same site and probably quite soon if all goes well with the insurance company. (2008 update: A new tower was indeed built, close to the site of the old one.)
  • VERMONT's UPN affiliate appears to have met its demise: we'd heard that WBVT-LP (Channel 39) in Burlington and its relay stations were having financial problems, and now we're told that the stations are broadcasting an error message slate. The station's Web site has gone dark as well. (We'd also note that cable systems across the Green Mountain State carry Boston's WSBK, so UPN fans aren't completely out of luck.)
  • The newest talk station in PENNSYLVANIA is taking shape: sometime after the holidays, what's now WJJJ (104.7 Pittsburgh) will be reborn as "WPGB," and in addition to Jim Quinn's morning show, it'll carry Glenn Beck (9-noon), Neal Boortz (noon-3), Sean Hannity (3-6) and Michael Savage (8-11 PM). Clear Channel is reportedly seeking a local host for 6-8 PM, as well as overnight and weekend programming.
  • The Pittsburgh moves are resonating to the west in Wheeling, WEST VIRGINIA, where three more staffers have departed WWVA (1170) in the wake of the dismissal of morning man Jim Harrington last week. Talk host George Kellas and news director Tammy Beagle lost their jobs - and reporter Dave Demerest followed them out the door in protest. WWVA will simulcast WPGB's morning show, with local news inserts - and it sounds as though some of the rest of WWVA's day will now come from the Pittsburgh talk station as well. Meanwhile, Quinn himself will be replaced by the syndicated "Bob and Tom" show at his present home base of WRRK (96.9 Braddock), effective January 1.

December 18, 1998 -

  • Must be the first big snowfall of the season, because suddenly things are hopping up in VERMONT.
  • Most of this week's action in the Burlington market happened with the Capstar stations, and it started with a new home for two of them. Last Sunday (12/13), rocker WCPV (101.3 Essex NY) and sports-hot talk WXPS (96.7 Vergennes)/WEAV (960 Plattsburgh NY) moved in with AC WEZF (92.9 Burlington) at Fort Ethan Allen. The facility includes three air studios and three production studios.
  • Next shoe dropping: WXPS/WEAV's new studios came with a new format. On Monday, the talk (with the exception of Imus in the Morning) disappeared, replaced by "KIX" hot country. The new format is the first in-market challenge to the dominance of Hall's WOKO (98.9 Burlington), the longtime market leader. PD Brian Ashton, from WCPV, handles 2-7 PM duties, while Tim Buskey is on air from 10-2 and the syndicated Nashville Nights show is on in the evening.
  • And the third shoe (?) dropped with a transmitter move for WXPS that will give it better coverage of Burlington. From its old site in Westport NY, WXPS moves to Willsboro NY and Rattlesnake Mountain with 1500 watts at 740 feet AAT. In the process, WXPS' city of license changes to Willsboro NY from Vergennes VT.
  • There's still more news in the Burlington market: Vermont Public Radio is wrapping up the first week of a month-long experiment aimed at bringing VPR listeners a second public radio service. "VPR World Channel" will run from Dec. 14 until Jan. 14 on WWPV (88.7 Colchester), the St. Michael's College station that would otherwise have been dark during the school's holiday. Programming on "World Channel" includes BBC World Service, CBC's As It Happens, The World (from WGBH and PRI), The Connection (from WBUR), and other international programming from WRN. NERW wonders: How does the proposed VPR-New Hampshire Public Radio second service in the Upper Valley fit in with this experiment?
  • Nothing from the Granite State this week, but we'll stay in ski country and head to MAINE, where Cumulus Media added three more stations to its Bangor-area group late this week. The upstart group owner will pay $4 million to buy standards WDEA (1370 Ellsworth), soft AC WEZQ (92.9 Bangor), and oldies/Imus WWMJ (95.7 Ellsworth) from Dudman Communications. Cumulus already owns country gaint WQCB (106.5 Brewer) and CHR WBZN (107.3 Old Town) in the market, as well as five stations in Central Maine. NERW's sorry to see Dudman get sold -- group head Martha Dudman has been an industry leader through her work with the NAB and other trade organizations -- but at the same time, we've got to admit that Cumulus has done a decent job with its strategy of small-market clusters.
  • NEW YORK's big news begins with a $7.5 million station sale in Albany. Paul Bendat is cashing out on WABY (1400), WKLI (100.9), WABY-FM (94.5 Ravena), and WKBE (100.3 Warrensburg), which go to Tele-Media of Eastern New York. No word yet of any format or personnel changes at standards WABY AM-FM or the hot AC "K-100" simulcast.
  • Downstate, a heritage call sign is back on the air for the first time in a few years. WYNY, last heard with the demise of country music on 103.5 Lake Success-New York, is the new callsign for what was WWXY (107.1 Briarcliff Manor), the north suburban part of Big City Media's "Y-107" quadcast. (Oddly, Big City's press release calls the new WYNY-FM just "New York," and almost every single trade we've seen has swallowed it whole...) The other three parts of the 107.1 simulcast -- WWVY Hampton Bays, L.I.; WWYY Belvidere NJ; and WWZY Long Branch NJ -- keep their calls.
  • WNEW (102.7 New York) has hired Steve Mason as its new morning host. Mason comes from Jacor's "XTRA Sports" (XETRA Tijuana/KXTA Los Angeles) out West, and was also the last host of the "Late Late Radio Show" on CBS. By the way, we neglected to mention last week that Scott Muni's new Big Apple radio home is at classic rocker WAXQ (104.3).

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