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February 23, 2009

Analog Sunset? Not in Scranton!

*Once again this week - and, we hope, for the last time until June - we lead off the column with a region-wide roundup of the latest on the digital TV transition, at the end of yet another tumultous week for the TV industry and the regulators who oversee it.

In much of the region, of course, the long-publicized February 17 transition date passed without any incident. For the most part, stations in the biggest markets - New York City, Boston and Philadelphia among them - followed the lead of the network owned-and-operated station groups, agreeing to postpone the shutoff of their analog signals until the new drop-dead date of June 12.

In others - Providence, Scranton and Burlington, as well as Springfield, where most of the market had already transitioned - stations reached market-wide agreements to end digital service on the original date...or so they thought.

With just days to go, though, the government showed up, and it was most definitely "here to help." Even as NERW was compiling our lists last week of which stations were going and which were staying put, the FCC was combing its own lists to make sure that even in the markets where everyone was pulling the plug on analog, at least one of the big four network affiliates would keep an analog signal on the air as an "enhanced nightlight," carrying local newscasts along with DTV transition information and any emergency information that might need to be broadcast.

By the time last week's NERW hit the web on Sunday night, with 48 hours or so left to go before the big moment, that last-minute plan seemed to be working out, with "enhanced nightlight" stations lined up in Providence (WLNE and WNAC), Burlington (WCAX and WPTZ) and Springfield (WWLP, the lone remaining analog) and the FCC ready to give its blessings to everyone else in those areas to pull the plug.

But from the way things played out in Scranton, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Commission had outsourced management of the project to Michael Scott over at Dunder-Mifflin Paper - and that he'd passed the buck over to Dwight Schrute to handle the details.

As late as midday Tuesday, the FCC appeared to be prepared to allow every station except ion Media's WQPX (Channel 64) in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton DMA to switch off its analog signal, and one of those stations - Local TV LLC's ABC affiliate, WNEP (Channel 16) - wasted no time, pulling the plug at 12:30 PM at the conclusion of its noon newscast.

In the meantime, though, FCC representatives had arrived in the market, and they quickly figured out what we'd already reported on Sunday night: that while Fox affiliate WOLF-TV (Channel 56) was shown in the FCC's latest lists as retaining analog service until June, the station had actually ended its analog operations - with the Commission's blessings - back in January.

The FCC swung into action, contacting both WNEP and competitor Nexstar, which operates both NBC affiliate WBRE (Channel 28) and CBS affiliate WYOU (Channel 22). By early afternoon, both Local TV and Nexstar had offered to operate "enhanced nightlight" service, and by evening WNEP was back on the air in analog, while WBRE and WYOU (along with PBS outlet WVIA and My Network affiliate WQMY) had turned off their analog signals for good.

How long will WNEP stay up in analog? Based on the proposed new rules released by the FCC late on Friday, there will be no more analog shutoffs until April 16 at the earliest, and the Commission (under intense political pressure from Capitol Hill) is strongly, strongly encouraging stations to retain analog service until June 12 - and no earlier than 11:59:59 PM on that day, if one of the many regulatory proposals being offered by the FCC is retained.

As for the public-interest benefits of continuing analog service - and the nonstop barrage of PSAs, countdown clocks, crawls and long-form programming about the DTV conversion that stations will be required to keep running through June - early evidence suggests that the sky didn't fall in on the markets that did make the flip on schedule.

In the Burlington-Plattsburgh market, for instance, Vermont Public TV hosted a call-in center staffed by representatives of WCAX and WPTZ as well as VPT itself, and the word from VPT chief engineer Joe Tymecki is that while some 600 calls were logged on February 18, the day after the analog shutoff, by the next day "things slowed down considerably." And nationally, while the NAB helped the FCC staff up with some 6,000 extra people to answer the Commission's national hotline, it logged all of 25,000 calls - nationwide - on the day after the big shutoff.

What's next in the process? The FCC is giving stations until March 13 to make their final decision about whether to stay on in analog through June or to go off sooner, so maybe we'll be back with one more pre-deadline regional wrap-up before the big June 12 date after all.

In the meantime, on with the rest of the week's news...

*Our MASSACHUSETTS news this week begins on Cape Cod, where the Boston-based WEEI sports network almost landed a full-time affiliate back in 2007, when Nassau's WPXC (102.9 Hyannis) was poised to dump its rock format. But the Nassau/WEEI regional deal fell apart at the end of 2007, and since then Cape listeners (including the late "Butch from the Cape," one of WEEI's most legendary callers) have had to tune in to more distant signals - WEEI's main AM home on 850 from Boston, or WEEI-FM on 103.7 from Rhode Island - to hear New England sports talk.

That will change in April, when Qantum Communications flips WRZE (96.3 Dennis) from its longtime top-40 format (as "The Rose") to a full-time WEEI simulcast, under new calls WEII.

The move became possible last year, when WRZE relocated its transmitter from Nantucket to the Cape Cod mainland, downgrading from class B to class B1 (25 kW/297'), but improving its signal strength over most of the Cape's population.

And there's no issue with Red Sox rights: they've been in Qantum's hands on the Cape for many years anyway, on its news-talker WXTK (95.1 West Yarmouth).

*Down in Norfolk, Albert Grady's WDIS (1170) apparently came thisclose to losing its license entirely - but instead, his Discussion Radio, Inc. is getting off with a $1,200 forfeiture.

Back in 2004, the FCC proposed a $16,500 forfeiture for a host of violations that included failure to file for license renewal in 1998, unauthorized operation and and public-file issues - and at the time, the Commission found the problems so egregious that it considered it a "very close question" as to whether to renew the WDIS license at all.

Even after escaping license revocation, WDIS appealed to the FCC for a reduction in its fine, producing tax returns that showed that the station brought in less than $16,500 in gross revenues in tax years 2001 and 2003, and barely more than that in 2002. (NERW seems to recall that WDIS may have been off the air for much of that time, explaining the low revenue numbers; we reported it as being silent back in our July 1, 2002 issue.)

After reviewing the financial records, the FCC agreed to reduce the fine against WDIS to $1,200, payable within 30 days.

Back in November, when Costa-Eagle paid $65,000 to buy translator W275BH (102.9 Newton, NEW HAMPSHIRE), we suspected that a move southward across the state line would be in the offing - and sure enough, it was.

W275BH's moves are a great case study in how the translator game is played these days, and here's how they were carried out:

First, Costa-Eagle found a friendly station to agree to be the nominal primary for its translator, in the form of WXRV (92.5 Andover). Then it took advantage of a quirk in the FCC rules that allows translators to move to frequencies 10.6 or 10.8 MHz away from their current channels as "minor changes," applying to move W275BH to 92.1, where it was granted (still licensed to Newton, NH) as W221CH.

The next step was to move the new W221CH to a new location - in this case, one with at least minimal overlap to the initial Newton facility's contours, and one that would meet the relatively loose criteria for second-adjacent interference to WXRV. What site met those criteria? None other than the tower on Chandler Road in Andover that happens to be home to Costa-Eagle's own WNNW (800 Lawrence).

With that construction permit granted (on Feb. 2), tower crews were on scene last week installing two Nicom antennas on the WNNW tower (in the aperture long occupied by the old WCGY 93.7), and the new W221CH was even heard testing, briefly.

But wait a second - what, exactly, does Costa-Eagle have to gain by putting a translator on the air for WXRV, well within that station's local signal area?

Nothing of course, and that's the one shoe remaining to drop in this whole scenario: the other application Costa-Eagle filed on Feb. 2, for special temporary authority to relay WNNW (instead of licensed primary WXRV) over W221CH, thus overcoming AM 800's long handicap of minimal night service to much of the Merrimack Valley.

In Southbridge, WESO (970) won't be getting an FM translator after all. Back in 2007, the station asked the FCC for Special Temporary Authority to put a new FM signal on the air at 106.1 to give it better nighttime reach.

Last week, the FCC finally denied WESO's request. It says it's only issuing STAs for the use of existing FM translators (even ones that have been relocated, like W275BH/W221CH) to relay AM stations. (There's been no action thus far on the 2007 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would allow FM translators to relay AM signals without resorting to STA.)

Out west, we're just learning of a cut at Citadel's WMAS-FM (94.7 Springfield) that happened a couple of weeks ago: veteran middayer Dick McDonough is gone after 14 years on the shift. His departure comes just a few months after the station's big studio move - it and sister station WMAS (1450) recently relocated from their transmitter site next to the US 20 bridge over the Connecticut River to new digs at the Basketball Hall of Fame south of downtown Springfield.

Where are they now? Bob McMahon, the longtime WEEI/WBZ anchor who lost his job at the latter station in those big CBS budget cuts a few months ago, has landed at public station WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston), where he's anchoring newscasts on a freelance basis.

On the TV side, the long-gone WVJV-TV (Channel 66) hasn't been forgotten. Even though it's been 23 years since John Garabedian and Arnie Ginsberg sold their pioneering music-video station to become a home-shopping channel, the short-lived "V66" made a big impact on greater Boston (and not just on all the tollbooths where "V66" stickers could long be seen on the change baskets!)

And while it's been in the works for a while, we were pleased to see the makers of a new documentary, "Life on the V: The Story of V66" get some publicity in the Globe last week - and we can't wait to see the finished product, whenever it's done.

A belated obituary: it was just last week that news broke of the Jan. 12 death of former WCVB (Channel 5) "Chronicle" reporter Andria Hall. Hall came to WCVB in 1985 after beginning her career in Albany, then at "PM Magazine" at Hartford's WFSB. Hall left WCVB in 1993 to work for Fox in Los Angeles, then for NBC and CNN before launching a Christian media consulting firm in 2001. Hall succumbed to breast cancer in New Jersey; she was 51.

*A small CONNECTICUT broadcaster is about to have a much bigger footprint: John Fuller's Red Wolf Broadcasting struck a deal last week to buy WURH (104.1 Waterbury) from Clear Channel's Aloha Radio Trust spinoff.

Fuller was just 21 when he put his first radio station, WJJF (1180 Hope Valley RI), on the air, and he's since built a small cluster of stations in southeast Connecticut (WBMW 106.5 Ledyard and WWRX 107.7 Pawcatuck) and more recently in Vermont (WTNN 97.5 Bristol, in the Burlington market.)

"There has never been a better time to be a local broadcaster," says Fuller of the purchase, which puts him in competition with several big players - Clear Channel's remaining cluster in the market, CBS Radio, and two other local players, Buckley Radio and Marlin Broadcasting.

The sale price for WURH hasn't been released yet, but we're hearing something in the $7-8 million range, a price that would have been unthinkably low just a few years ago. (It's been a long time since a Hartford FM changed hands, but in the smaller Bridgeport market, WEBE 107.9 and sister station WICC 600 were sold for what now seems like an impossible $66 million a decade ago; even before the late-nineties runup in station values, two of WURH's now-sister stations, WWYZ and WKSS, sold for $25 million and $18 million, respectively.)

We'll be watching closely to see if this is a model for the sort of "neo-Mom-and-Pop" radio that we've long been predicting as a possible future for medium-market broadcasters; whatever happens, it will be interesting to see how a market the size of Hartford does with five players in the big-FM-signal ownership game.

One other Nutmeg State note - cable viewers in New Haven, Wallingford and Waterbury will soon be losing their second Fox outlet, now that the FCC has ruled that New York's WNYW (Channel 5) is no longer "significantly viewed" in those communities. That ruling came at the request of Tribune's Hartford-based Fox affiliate, WTIC-TV (Channel 61), which used the FCC's current standard - a survey of over-the-air viewing within each cable system's coverage area - to demonstrate that WNYW no longer has any viewership in those areas. NERW wonders: in a market like Connecticut where cable/satellite penetration is now significantly north of 90%, is a survey of the handful of remaining over-the-air viewers stull statistically valid - or a useful measure of whether or not viewers are deriving any value from the continued carriage of WNYW?


Did you miss it last month? Catch up on a whole year's worth of radio and TV happenings across the Great Northeast, plus a particularly spirited (if we do say so ourselves) Year-End Rant, all on one handy page that will help you remember a year many of us would probably just as soon forget.

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*As rumors fly about possible changes to CBS Radio's NEW YORK FM cluster, spurred on by Friday's flip in Los Angeles that transformed FM talker KLSX (97.1) into top-40 "AMP Radio," there's another big change at the helm of Citadel's New York City stations.

Tom Cuddy, who's spent 19 years at WPLJ (95.5), most recently as VP of programming, announced last Tuesday that he'll be leaving the company (where he was also VP/programming for Citadel's major-market FM music stations) at month's end. Cuddy's departure follows that of Mitch Dolan, who started with WPLJ and WABC when the stations were still owned by Cap Cities/ABC.

There's no replacement named yet for Cuddy, and no sign of any actual format changes - yet - across town at CBS. Make that "downtown at CBS," actually, since the sales staffs from WCBS-FM (101.1) and what's still, for now, WXRK (92.3) have taken up residence at CBS Radio's new home at 345 Hudson Street, moving way downtown from 40 W. 57th Street. The CBS-FM and K-Rock studios will move downtown very soon now, too, and WWFS (102.7), WINS (1010) and WFAN (660) will follow over the next few months, with WWFS and WINS moving from 888 Seventh Ave. and WFAN from that dank basement in Astoria, Queens that has been its home for over two decades now.

*Moving way upstate, it turns out that there's a radio connection to that awful plane crash Feb. 12 in the Buffalo suburb of Clarence Center.

Remember Karen Wielinski, who escaped the wreckage of her home after the plane slammed into it, killing her husband Doug? It turns out she used to be the receptionist and traffic director at WXRL (1300 Lancaster), and has still been working one day a week at the station helping out with traffic logs. We of course join the rest of western New York in sending her our sympathies, and our best wishes as she recovers from the injuries she suffered in the crash.

Also recovering from injuries are four players on the AHL's Albany River Rats - and team broadcaster John Hennessy - who were on the team bus when it crashed into a Mass Pike guard rail in Becket and rolled over early Thursday morning en route back to Albany from a game against the Lowell Devils. All five were hospitalized over the weekend at Berkshire Medical Center with injuries that were described as serious, but not life-threatening.

Utica's Bill Keeler is already a busy guy, what with the afternoon show he does on WXUR (92.7 Herkimer) and his weekly TV show, and now is reporting that he's launching another media venture, an online daily newspaper called the Utica Daily News. The site makes its official debut March 1, competing with the established Observer-Dispatch (owned by struggling GateHouse Media) as well as smaller daily papers in Rome, Oneida and Herkimer. Will there be enough ad revenue in the deeply struggling Mohawk Valley to sustain them all?

We've been trying to figure out what to say about a new radio study that just came out of the Rochester Institute of Technology, and we're still not quite sure. It's not that RIT's Michael Saffran doesn't know his stuff - he's an adjunct professor of communications there, as well as associate director for new media in the university's news office, and he's got a long resume in local radio as a news reporter and anchor. And it's not as though the topic of the study - the effects of ownership consolidation on listeners' relationships with local radio - isn't a worthy one that's in need of more serious scholarship. Nor can we disagree with some of Saffran's conclusions in the study, including a call for a re-examination of newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership and a reduction in the nationwide ownership cap.

It's just that after reading the study, we're troubled by some of the methodology Saffran used to get to his conclusions. In fairness, Saffran himself admits that the samples he chose to study - RIT alumni in six markets (Dallas, Buffalo, Rochester, Binghamton, Ithaca and Middlesex-Somerset-Union, NJ) and self-selected survey respondents from the message boards on - represented an atypical cross-section of radio listeners.

Even at that, though, we're troubled by the idea that any data at all coming from the message-board readership would be used at all in a serious academic study. We've got nothing against the boards (well, except for the unbelievably sloooooooow servers that radio-info doesn't want its users talking about anymore), but the readership there (and here, for that matter) is as far from normal as it's possible to get where radio listenership is concerned, and if there was any attempt made to separate board readers' responses from those of RIT alumni, we couldn't tease it out of the dense, 76-page report. (Come to think of it, that would make an interesting study right there - the huge gap in perception of radio between those in the industry and "civilians.")

Some of the questions asked of survey participants struck us as a bit odd, too - how much value is there in asking listeners for their "opinions" on how much local news and music is aired on local radio stations, and how relevant is that to the bigger issues of ownership consolidation and deregulation? For that matter, can a researcher whose official news-release photo shows him holding a "NO BIG MEDIA" coffee mug approach these questions dispassionately?

Saffran acknowledges that there's much more study yet to be conducted on issues of media consolidation and listener perception, and perhaps this study will be the impetus for larger-scale, more academically rigorous work in the future.

(And in the meantime, it's certainly giving them something to talk about over on the message boards...)


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*In MAINE, the effects of Cumulus' ongoing cutbacks are still being felt. In Bangor, Paul Dupuis has exited as morning co-host after many years at WQCB (106.5 Brewer), while we're hearig Mike Hale is out of mornings over at WWMJ (95.7 Ellsworth).

*In western PENNSYLVANIA, they're mourning Thomas Renkenberger, better known to WWSW (94.5 Pittsburgh) listeners as R.D. Summers. The veteran DJ emceed a dance last Saturday night at an Elks Club in suburban Pittsburgh, then died in his sleep early Sunday (Feb. 15). Summers was 60.

There's another AM-on-FM translator coming to the Keystone State: in Carlisle, WIOO (1000) is paying $10,000 for translator W250AP (97.9), currently one of two Carlisle translators belonging to Four Rivers Community Broadcasting's "Word FM" network, relaying WZXM (88.1 Harrisburg). WIOO also gets an option to buy Four Rivers' other Carlisle translator, W226AS (93.1), and relinquishes its option to buy yet another Four Rivers translator west of Carlisle, W270BU (101.9 Newville). WIOO apparently plans to move the W250AP transmitter to its own AM tower in Carlisle, and to boost the translator's power to at least 80 watts.

In Philadelphia, Alvin Clay is out at PD at WHAT (1340) and its sister webcast,

Dan Michaels is the new PD at WLTJ (92.9 Pittsburgh); he comes to "Q 92.9" and Steel City Media from Washington, where he was the PD at Clear Channel's WBIG (100.3). On the TV side, there's a new news director at WTAE (Channel 4), where Alex Bongiorno moves north from WSPA-TV (Channel 7) in Spartanburg, S.C. to replace Bob Longo, who's now in Orlando at WESH.

Happy anniversary to Fred Honsberger, who marks his 30th anniversary at KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh) with a special edition of his show Thursday, co-hosted by fellow KD vets John Cigna and Mike Pintek.

Over at WPXI (Channel 11), they're mourning Don Riggs, who spent the last 20 years of his career as an announcer and program host at the station, most memorably as a children's show host, where he also provided the voice for "Willie the Duck." Channel 11 was still WIIC when Riggs arrived there in 1970 from WQED; he'd also worked at KDKA-TV from 1960-1967, as well as at stations in Columbus and Indianapolis. Riggs died Saturday at age 81.

And we note the passing of John Kanzius, who came to Erie in 1966 to work as an engineer for WJET (1400) and WJET-TV (Channel 24), eventually becoming JET Broadcasting's vice president/general manager in 1980. Kanzius retired to Florida and turned his attention to cancer research after being diagnosed with leukemia in 2002, and in recent years he'd been working on using radio-frequency waves to kill cancer cells. Kanzius succumbed to pneumonia on Wednesday (Feb. 18); he was 64.

*In NEW JERSEY, the jock lineup is coming together on Press Communications' new "Hit 106" (WHTG-FM 106.3 Eatontown/WBBO 106.5 Bass River Township): it's "Pork Roll 'n' Eggs" in morning drive, hosted by comedian Tom DeVoy and former WJLK (94.3) jock Nina Siciliano, followed in middays by Dan Turi, who moves to Press from competitor Millennium, where he'd been on WJLK. Matt Knight is already holding down afternoons, and the station has brought back Scott Lowe, who did nights in its old "G-Rock Radio" incarnation, for the same shift on "Hit."

Another jock shift: Heather DeLuca moves from WAYV (95.1 Atlantic City) to WSJO (104.9 Egg Harbor City), still in middays.

A positioning shift: Press is now branding country WKMK (98.5 Ocean Acres) as "Ocean County's Country, Thunder 98.5," replacing "K 98.5."

In Trenton, the minor-league baseball Thunder have found a new radio outlet for their 2009 season. Now that former flagship WBUD (1260 Trenton) has flipped to Catholic WTJS, the Thunder have signed on with Rider University's WRRC (107.7 Lawrenceville) to carry their games this year.

And some good news from the Meadowlands: we hear the towers have begun to rise at the new site of WEPN (1050 New York), just south of Turnpike exit 16E in Secaucus. The new three-tower array will replace the 1940-vintage 1050 site adjacent to Giants Stadium, where construction of the new Xanadu shopping/entertainment center is forcing the radio station to move. We're hoping to get out that way soon for a tour and some pictures...stay tuned!

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

*With the CRTC preoccupied with its hearings into the possibility of regulating Internet content (didn't that horse leave the barn many years ago?), it was a relatively quiet week in the rest of CANADA.

There's good news from the Six Nations reservation south of Brantford: after being forced off the air at the end of January by mounting debt and aging equipment, CKRZ (100.3 Ohsweken) is back. Engineer Walt Juchniewicz took on the task of rebuilding and updating the station's facilities, reports the Brantford Expositor, and the signal returned to the airwaves with automation and occasional live news updates on Feb. 12. SONICS, the community group that runs CKRZ, says it will now work to reduce the station's $100,000 debt and get its operations back to normal.

There was one proposed station sale to report this week: My Broadcasting hopes to extend its reach into small-town Ontario all the way to the shores of Lake Huron with the purchase of CIYN (95.5 Kincardine), now in the hands of Halliburton Broadcasting, Brian Cooper and Daniel McCarthy. The sale is valued at C$1 million with CIYN's existing facility in Kincardine and a relay transmitter on 97.9 in Goderich, or C$1,150,000 if the CRTC also grants CIYN's application for another relay transmitter on 90.5 in Port Elgin.

In Woodstock, Ontario, CIHR (104.7) is applying to boost power, going from its present 6 kW DA to 20 kW DA and improving its reach into outlying areas of Oxford County.

Out in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, general manager Dave MacLean is retiring from CJFX (98.9) in May after 35 years with the station, reports Milkman UnLimited. The station is planning a special broadcast for May 29, MacLean's last day there.

And our condolences to Andy Barrie, host of "Metro Morning" on the CBC's CBLA (99.1 Toronto), on the death Wednesday of his wife, Dr. Mary Cone Barrie. He'd been off the air since November helping to care for his wife as she battled lung cancer.

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, ten and - where available - fifteen 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!)

February 25, 2008 -

  • It's all too common at the moment to hear about radio stations firing veteran air talents as they seek to cut costs. It's much more unusual to hear about one of those veteran jocks getting a new job - and all but unheard of to see that jock go right back to his old shift at his old station. But then there's nothing normal about the soap opera that's surrounded upstate NEW YORK's classic rocker, WCMF (96.5 Rochester), in the year and a half since Entercom announced plans to acquire it and several sister stations from CBS Radio.
  • No, Brother Wease isn't back on the air at WCMF (though we hear he's now working behind the scenes, doing sales across town at Clear Channel) - but the station is returning ousted midday host Dave Kane to its airwaves today, not quite three months after he did his "last show" under the old CBS ownership before the station changed hands to Entercom. Since Kane's departure from WCMF, he had been freelancing at WHAM-TV (Channel 13), contributing bits to the station's morning newscast. For much of that time, though, Kane had apparently been negotiating with Entercom about a return to WCMF, which has been lacking in personalities since the start of the contract dispute that pulled Wease off the air just before Christmas. (In addition to releasing Kane, Entercom also chose not to keep night jock Dino Kay or weekender/production director Marc Cronin, leaving WCMF with only the Wease-less morning crew and with afternoon jock Big Marc. With Kane's return to the station, he'll have a slightly different shift for his "Midday Mambo" (10 AM-3 PM, rather than his 11:15 AM-4 PM shift that followed Wease's extended morning show), and he'll have a new title, adding PD stripes. (And, we hope, restoring some stability to a station that's desperately needed some after the turmoil of the last few months.)
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, there's an unfortunate budget cut at Entercom's WRKO (680 Boston): the talk station axed veteran weekender Moe Lauzier, and the Herald says Lauzier learned of his dismissal from a producer 15 minutes in to what turned out to be his last show Saturday morning. Lauzier, 66, tells the paper he hopes to be working somewhere else (crosstown WTKK?) within a few weeks - and WRKO will reportedly fill Lauzier's slot with...infomercials. Lauzier would have celebrated his 25th anniversary at WRKO this June.
  • EMF Broadcasting just keeps buying stations for its "K-Love" network, and the latest acquisition is in MAINE, where EMF is buying WCYI (93.9 Lewiston) from the Last Bastion Station Trust, which is holding the signal in trust for Citadel. Since Citadel spun off WCYI (and former sister station WCLZ, now in Saga's hands) last June, the station has flipped from a modern-rock simulcast of WCYY (94.3 Biddeford, still with Citadel) to a simulcast of WCLZ's AAA format to a temporary all-blues format.

February 23, 2004 -

  • The sell-off of Vox's properties around the Northeast continued last week, as Bruce Danziger and Jeff Shapiro's group filed to sell most of its stations in Glens Falls, NEW YORK to Jim Morrell's Pamal group. Even as Vox has been selling off many of its stations in the region (the Pioneer Valley to Saga, Concord to Nassau), Pamal has been busy expanding, adding stations in Springfield and Westchester - and now, for $2.5 million, Vox's sports WMML (1230 Glens Falls), standards WENU (1410 South Glens Falls)/WENU-FM (101.7 Hudson Falls) and country WFFG (107.1 Corinth). Those are four of the six stations Vox bought when it created the cluster back in 2000 - WMML, WFFG (then WHTR) and WZZM (93.5 Corinth, now WEGQ 93.7 Scotia) from Starview Media and WENU (then WBZA), WENU-FM and WNYQ (105.7 Queensbury) from Bradmark. Vox sold off WZZM to Galaxy once it had moved it south to the Albany market, and a move to Albany is also in store for the one remaining station in Vox's Glens Falls arsenal. In fact, the application to move WNYQ south was also filed this week - it'll be licensed to Malta, in southern Saratoga County, and will run 4800 watts at 112 meters from the same tower just north of Schenectady that's already home to WDCD (96.7 Clifton Park), WKKF (102.3 Ballston Spa) and WABT (104.5 Mechanicville). (With a big cluster already in place in Albany, including the maximum of five FM signals and WROW 590, there's no way Pamal could add the relocated WNYQ to its stable, which explains its absence from the deal.)
  • Meanwhile up in Glens Falls, Pamal will add its four new purchases to its existing station in the region, modern AC WKBE (100.3 Warrensburg) - and the whole market will be down to just two players, Pamal and Entertronics (WWSC 1450 Glens Falls, WCQL 95.9 Queensbury and WCKM 98.5 Lake George).
  • Things were hopping in central PENNSYLVANIA last week, at least, as Harrisburg listeners said goodbye to "Cat Country" WCAT-FM (106.7 Hershey) - and, after several long days of a loop of "Pop Goes the Weasel", said hello to something called "Cool Pop" under the calls WCPP. What's a "Cool Pop"? Like "Jack" up in Canada - or the late "Blink" in New York, for that matter - it's hard to pin down to a traditional format label. We've heard it described as everything from hot AC to top 40/pop, and it sounds to us (based on the playlists we've seen) like a cross between the two, apparently with a healthy Blink-like dose of celebrity news and gossip to be mixed in. The only air talent on board so far are former Cat morning team Michelle Cruz and Dennis Mitchell ("Michelle and Mitchell"); at the helm of programming is Claudine DeLorenzo, who's been promoted from PD of sister stations WQXA-FM and WRKZ to director of programming for the entire Citadel/Harrisburg cluster.
  • In NEW HAMPSHIRE, a legal LPFM is about to hit the airwaves. February 29 is the target sign-on date for WCNH-LP (94.7 Concord), which will program classical music for the Granite State's capital city under the leadership of Harry Kozlowski, former PD at WJYY/WNHI across town. (Speaking of those stations, we can now put a price tag on Vox's sale to Nassau - it'll get $9 million for WJYY, WNHI and WOTX.)

February 19, 1999 -

  • It's been a confusing week for staffers and viewers of Boston's WCVB (Channel 5). Last Friday (Feb. 12), the station announced that longtime anchor/reporter Susan Wornick was out of her job, the result of an unresolved contract dispute. Station management didn't anticipate the result -- a series of articles in the local newspapers criticizing WCVB for letting Wornick go, a flood of phone calls, and pressure from upper management at Hearst-Argyle (according to the Herald) to get Wornick back on the air. The rest of the story? By midweek, Wornick had reached a contract settlement, as well as delivering herself of a news release saying the decision to leave -- and to return -- had been hers. NERW sees the times changing at channel 5, anyway; our trip to Western Massachusetts earlier this week (about which more later) gave us the chance to see WCVB on cable, and we were sorry to see the "mayhem and violence factor" in abundance on a station that once shunned such a focus for its newscasts. (Thanks, WHDH!)
  • In other MASSACHUSETTS news on this relatively quiet week, Southbridge's 100.1 returned to the airwaves with a new format, ending its stunting by becoming "Worcester's Classic Hits, 100.1 the Fox," with new WWFX call letters reportedly being requested to replace WQVR. It's Worcester's second classic rocker, aimed straight at WORC-FM (98.9 Webster, to be Spencer, "The Bus"). While we're in Worcester, we note that Greater Media is exiting the cable business there and in Springfield, selling its systems to Charter Communications.
  • One of CONNECTICUT's minor-league baseball teams will be on the radio in 1999, after all. The future of New Britain Rock Cats broadcasts was a bit uncertain after flagship WNTY (990 Southington) was sold to ADD Media, but here comes WPRX (1120 Bristol) to the rescue, agreeing to carry all 142 games this year. And while WPRX is a Spanish-language station most of the day, the play-by-play will be in English -- with broadcasters running English ads during the game and Spanish ads and promos before and after. Some games will also be heard on Hartford sat-caster WPOP (1410).
  • NEW YORK is about to get adult standards back in its biggest market. Arthur Liu's WNJR (1430 Newark) has hired Russ Knight as PD and morning drive, and will begin running the format from 6AM until 7PM on April 1 (gee, we hope this isn't an April Fools' joke!), with plans in the works to run 24 hours eventually. Liu also reportedly hopes to move the transmitter from its current site along the Garden State Parkway in Union to the site of co-owned WPAT (930 Paterson) a bit further north, and to change the calls eventually (the first time since the current New Jersey-based 1430 replaced WBYN Brooklyn back in 1947!). Liu also owns Korean WZRC (1480) and Spanish WKDM (1380) in New York...and as long as we're thinking of WKDM, we'll note that the 1660 in Elizabeth NJ, which shares the WKDM towers along Paterson Plank Road by day, has changed calls from WBAH to WWRU.
  • No "Hockey Night in Canada"? And on the night the new arena in Toronto opens for the first time? Unthinkable (well, it is if you're Canadian, trust us) -- yet that's just what's happening as a result of the strike by CBC engineers across the country (except in Quebec and Moncton, New Brunswick). The strike has disrupted most of the programming on the English network, forcing most of its TV stations off the air at 11PM, when the late local news would normally be airing. Other news broadcasts have been replaced with repeats of entertainment shows or stripped-down newscasts produced by management staff. There's no local or regional news on TV for the moment. On the radio side, the Toronto Star reports that CBL/CBLA (740/99.1)'s "Metro Morning" had a substitute host Thursday after Andy Barrie refused to cross the engineers' picket lines. Other CBC shows either offered repeat segments ("This Morning") or were cancelled ("Richardson's Roundup," "Ontario Today.") And the CBC Broadcast Centre in Toronto, normally accessible to the public, is off-limits for the moment; its atrium shops and studio windows are closed and even CBC staffers have to sign in at the door, according to the Star. The latest scheduled posted at the CBC Web site shows temporary national shows called "Canada Today" (noon-2PM) and "All in a Day" (4-6PM, and presumably a relay of the Montreal afternoon show on CBM) replacing the local/regional programs in those slots; we'll tune in Monday and check things out...

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