April 13, 2009
No TV at 1 World Trade Center
*When the new One World Trade Center rises
in a few years as NEW YORK's tallest building, it won't
have the city's TV stations broadcasting from its spire 1,776
feet above ground level. The Metropolitan Television Alliance
(MTVA), the group formed by the stations after the 9/11 attacks
destroyed their old sites atop the original 1WTC, is pulling
out of a deal to build a new master-antenna site at the top of
the new building.
president Saul Shapiro says technology and circumstances have
changed since 2001, making the new site (and its reported $10
million annual rent) unnecessary.
Some history here: when the original WTC towers began to rise
in the early 1970s, New York's TV stations had all settled in
at what was then the tallest building in town, the Empire State
Building. Originally the exclusive domain of NBC, Empire began
opening its doors to other broadcasters in the early fifties,
and within a few years it was home to pretty much all the TV
stations in the city. But construction of the taller Trade Center
buildings caused multipath and ghosting issues for viewers in
lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, essentially forcing most stations
to move to the new 1WTC mast.
Several FM stations (WKCR 89.9, WPAT-FM 93.1, WNYC-FM 93.9
and - for a time - WPIX 101.9) eventually joined the TV stations
downtown at the Trade Center, drawn there mainly by lower rents
than at Empire.
As we chronicled
back in 2002, the destruction of the Trade Center site sent
those broadcasters rushing back uptown to Empire, where much
had changed in the quarter-century since the TV stations had
moved out. The space those old analog TV antennas had occupied
on the Empire mast was by then filled with a new master FM antenna
and antennas for several newer UHF TV stations that had moved
in when the bigger stations moved out.
At the time, the idea of returning the rest of the TV stations
to Empire was seen as temporary. With promises being floated
of a quick start to construction of a new skyscraper at the old
Trade Center site, all the same multipath issues that plagued
the Empire TVs in the seventies were bound to resurface, and
with easy credit in plentiful supply, the cost of building a
new master TV antenna setup downtown (or even a massive new TV-specific
tower in New Jersey) seemed to be no obstacle.
Then everything changed. As the so-called "Freedom Tower"
kept getting delayed and delayed again, the TV stations began
to settle into more permanent homes at Empire or at another new
site a few blocks uptown, the Durst Organization's Four Times
Square. The economic slowdown turned the cost of a Trade Center
master site into a major obstacle. And perhaps most significantly,
broadcasters realized that in the DTV era, they no longer need
the additional 300 feet of height that the 1WTC tower will give
them, since DTV receivers have no issue with the kind of fixed
multipath reflections that caused intolerable ghosting on analog
signals after the original 1WTC was built.
So what happens now? There's still more work to be done at
Empire, where the end of analog TV in June will free up some
antenna space (particularly at the very top of the mast, now
home to analog channels 4 and 5, and near the bottom, home to
analog channel 2), setting in motion another reconfiguration
of that constantly-changing site. Four Times Square continues
to sign new clients for primary and backup use. Downtown at 1
WTC, developers say they'll still put up the spire that would
have supported the new TV antennas, but at least for now it will
be purely decorative.
*While we're eighty-plus floors above ground at Empire, the
changing of the locks on the transmitter-room door at WBAI (99.5)
is once again provoking the sort of controversy that seems to
swirl around the Pacifica station every few years.
The tension, as usual, comes between WBAI's New York programmers
and Pacifica's California-based national management, and this
time it appears to be largely financial. The national office
says WBAI is $800,000 behind on money it's owed, as well as being
several months behind on its transmitter and studio rent. The
national office also says WBAI's fundraising has been declining,
leading to a monthly deficit of at least $30,000 - which is why
the order apparently came down from Pacifica's national office
to change the locks in order to maintain control, if need be,
of WBAI's broadcast signal.
At the local level, the usual accusations of racism, race-baiting
and anti-Semitism that seem to be a constant thread in WBAI's
internal disputes have once again surfaced, and the usual factions
are once again battling it out on the airwaves and all over the
Can WBAI remain relevant in an era when it's no longer the
sole (or even the biggest) public forum for alternative political
and cultural viewpoints in New York? Stay tuned...
On the commercial dial, there's a new morning show in the
CBS Radio family in New York City - not at "92.3 Now,"
which is still jockless in mornings, but rather up the dial at
"Fresh" WWFS (102.7), where former WXRK jock Danni
joins Dave Packer on "Dave & Danni in the Morning,"
starting tomorrow. (On the third FM station in the cluster, WCBS-FM,
that's former WNBC jock Big Jay Sorenson sitting in as substitute
morning host all week.)
Meanwhile over at "Now," there's a new APD/MD in
the house - he's Rob Wagman, formerly PD at Clear Channel's WIBT
the TV side of things, we were remiss last week in not mentioning
the impending departure of Len Berman from WNBC (Channel 4),
where he's been sports director for more than two decades. As
NBC continues to reconfigure its local station operations to
pare costs and eliminate high-priced talent, the sports department
was an obvious place to cut, and so Berman will be gone later
this month or early in May. Berman says he plans to stay in TV
sports - somewhere.
Standards are out and talk is in at Pamal's AMs up and down
the Hudson Valley, as WGHQ (920 Kingston), WBNR (1260 Beacon)
and WLNA (1420 Peekskill) flip to the "Hudson Valley Talk
Radio Network." The local "Good Morning Hudson Valley"
show that had been heard on all three stations continues in morning
drive, followed by Laura Schlessinger, Dave Ramsey, and Fox Sports
Radio from 5 PM until 6 AM.
The FCC is still digging through piles of applications filed
back in 2007, when it opened a window for new noncommercial FM
stations - and last week, it released decisions in a dozen or
so "mutually-exclusive" groups of applications around
the country that weren't resolved by settlements among the applicants.
Without a settlement, the FCC tries to pick a winner based on
which applicant would provide the most new noncommercial service
to the greatest number of people. (The precise criteria are complicated,
and best left to the communications lawyers who specialize in
this sort of thing; indeed, the common thread among nearly all
the winning applicants is that they spent the money to hire the
top DC lawyers and consulting engineers in the business.)
So who won? Bard College is the tentative selectee for a new
noncommercial signal on 88.1 in Annandale-on-Hudson; its application
beat out one in Woodstock and three more across the state line
in Great Barrington and Housatonic, Mass.
Farther upstate, six applicants were contending for signals
in and around Albany, and a religious group called Pax et Bonum
won the tentative preference for 89.9 in Esperance, in the hills
southwest of the state capital.
*Up north, WCLX (102.9 Westport) has ended its simulcast on
WELX (107.1 Dannemora); the 107.1 signal has changed its calls
to WNMR, and we're not sure what it's programming now. Nor do
we have many details to offer - yet - on the programming being
heard on WIPS (1250 Ticonderoga), which came back on the air
last month, just in time to avoid having its license deleted
for being silent an entire year.
Also up that way, WLPW (105.5 Lake Placid) has again been
granted a construction permit to boost power from class A to
C3, running 25 kW/-174' from its current site on Averyville Road
near the village; at least two previous iterations of the same
CP have expired unbuilt.
And Randy Michaels has calls on his as-yet-unbuilt 100.7 in
the remote Adirondacks town of Minerva - it's WXMR, at least
In Albany, Sherman Baldwin and co-host John Garb are out after
just over six months as afternoon talk hosts at WROW (590), where
budget cuts are replacing their local show with syndicated talk.
grateful to CNYRadio.com
for keeping us updated on the transmitter fire that briefly silenced
WHCU (870 Ithaca) on Tuesday morning.
The fire broke out at WHCU's daytime transmitter site east
of Ithaca, which is shared with sister station WYXL (97.3), and
while the station is extremely fortunate to have two separate
transmitter sites for day and night operation, it was unable
to switch over to the night site (on Protts Hill, south of Ithaca)
immediately, because the studio-transmitter link to the night
site hops through the day site first. It took a couple of hours
to find an alternate audio path to the night site, allowing the
station to get back on the air with at least its directional
1000-watt night signal - and later in the afternoon, engineers
were able to get the 5 kW nondirectional daytime rig back on
Here in Rochester, we missed a stealth call change last month
at Clear Channel's "Country 107.3". The former WCRR
South Bristol is now WROO, a callsign Clear Channel last used
in the Jacksonville market. (Longtime NERW readers won't be even
slightly surprised to learn that the radio listings in the local
paper still call the station by the "WSNP" calls that
haven't been in use in almost two years...)
*One of the last jocks to be heard on WWDJ
(970 Hackensack, NEW JERSEY) before the station's flip
from top 40 to religion 35 years ago this month has died. Howard
Clark's career took him to KFRC and KYA in San Francisco, WKY
in Oklahoma City, WTIX in New Orleans and eventually to Shreveport,
Louisiana, where he settled down and continued working in local
radio until retiring in 2006. Clark died last Monday (April 6)
at age 70.
We also note the death of John "Roman" Domanski,
whose career took him to Florida, Michigan - and WKXW (101.5
Trenton), where he was PD in the early eighties, when the station
was still "Kix 101 1/2." Domanski died March 8 in Florida,
at age 55.
On the noncommercial radio front, the FCC had 11 applicants
competing for new signals along the Jersey Shore, and in the
end an application from the oddly-named FM Pregnancy Centers,
Inc. won out over one from the New Jersey Public Broadcasting
Authority. FM Pregnancy's new station would run 3.8 kW, vertical-only,
on 89.3 in Freehold - and we sure do hope they remember to put
a radome on that antenna, if you know what we mean...
big news from MASSACHUSETTS turned out to be no news at
all: both NBC and WHDH-TV (Channel 7) assumed radio silence last
week as, presumably, negotiations were going on behind the scenes
over whether or not channel 7 will carry Jay Leno's new 10 PM
show after all. Is WHDH caving in to NBC's pressure after finding
no other Peacock affiliates ready to follow its lead and pre-empt
or delay the Leno show in favor of local news at 10? Stay tuned...
Fitchburg's WEIM (1280) has a new set of calls and a new identity.
The station scrapped the only callsign it's ever had last Tuesday,
becoming "The Heart of New England's Pulse," with a
new format of "talk, sports and information," new calls
of WPKZ - and maybe a new FM relay on the way as well.
Owner Central Broadcasting Company has just applied to buy
translator W243CD (96.5 Gloucester) from Radio Assist Ministry
for $45,000 after an earlier sale of the license failed to close
over the winer, and there's a newly-filed application to move
the translator down the dial to 95.9. Will the next step be a
series of hops to move that translator west into the Fitchburg
last Monday's flip of "True Oldies 1450" to "1450
AM, ESPN the Hall" also came with a change of venerable
calls: the station that had been WMAS since its 1932 debut is
now WHLL, for its studio home in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Unlike its crosstown competitor, WEEI affiliate WVEI-FM (105.5
Easthampton), WHLL has a local show in afternoon drive. And while
WVEI carries the Red Sox, WHLL is now part of the Yankees network
(last heard in town on WNNZ 640, before it was LMA'd to public
A bit of irony: when WVEI was preparing for its debut a year
or so ago, one of the locations Entercom considered for a local
studio was the Basketball Hall, but we hear high rents sent the
FM station elsewhere.
Meanwhile at Entercom Boston, budget cuts have claimed the
job of WAAF (107.3 Westborough)/WKAF (97.7 Brockton) night jock
Bob Hannah; at least for now, his shift is being automated.
Out of a group of 13 mutually-exclusive noncomm applicants
stretching from southern New Hampshire down through southeastern
Massachusetts, the FCC winnowed the list down to two that proposed
service to Amesbury - one from UMass Boston, for 88.5, and one
from the Centro Familiar de Adoracion church in Chelsea, for
88.7. But the Commission flagged the CFA application for a serious
error: it overlooked four other noncommercial stations in the
region when it calculated the number of listeners who'd get first
or second new noncomm service. That gave the edge to the WUMB
folks, who get the tentative selection.
RHODE ISLAND, we jumped the gun a bit on our report last
week of a format change at Citadel's WPRV (790 Providence). The
flip from oldies to talk/business in fact happens today, and
here's how it plays out: Don Imus remains in place in morning
drive, followed by Citadel's Joe Scarborough at 10 AM, Bloomberg
business news at noon, Dave Ramsey at 2 PM, more Bloomberg at
5, then a local show, "The Making Money Show" at 5:30.
When evenings aren't occupied by Yankees baseball, "AM 790"
will be carrying Lou Dobbs' talk show at 7 PM, followed at 10
by Citadel's Curtis Sliwa.
Over at WJAR (Channel 10), there's still no replacement for
news director (and 22-year station veteran) Betty-Jo Cugini,
one of a dozen staffers to lose their jobs in the most recent
round of cuts at the Media General-owned NBC affiliate. The cuts
also included chief meteorologist Gary Ley and weekend anchor
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*CONNECTICUT's attorney general is
stepping in to examine Tribune's plan to merge the news operations
of its Hartford Courant and its two TV stations, WTIC-TV
(Channel 61) and WTXX (Channel 20). The company says its plans
to move the TV stations in with the Courant are both completely
legal and unavoidable, given present economic conditions - but
Blumenthal says the announcement raises "concerns about
public access to diverse and competing sources of information,"
as well as the specter of job losses.
One job has already been lost, since Tribune wasted no time
replacing Courant publisher Stephen Carver with WTIC/WTXX
general manager Richard Graziano, who will now oversee both the
newspaper and the TV stations. And given recent statements from
the FCC, which looks to be ready to toss newspaper-TV cross-ownership
restrictions out the door completely in a bid to prop up the
sagging newspaper industry, it looks as though the Courant-WTIC-WTXX
merger may be more a sign of things to come than anything else.
(A bit of NERW opinion here: at least in this particular case,
it's hard to see the harm in allowing the merger to go forward.
Neither the TV station nor the newspaper is anything close to
a monopoly in the region it serves; indeed, the Hartford-New
Haven area enjoys rather more TV and newspaper competition than
many markets the same size, and on the TV side in particular,
WTIC is far from the dominant player in the market. If the likely
alternative to a merger is the shutdown of either the newspaper
(unlikely) or the Fox affiliate's news operation (somewhat more
likely), it doesn't look as though Blumenthal has much chance
of stopping Tribune's plans here.)
*A silent NEW HAMPSHIRE FM station
can stay that way for a few more months. The FCC granted Bruce
Danziger's Capitol Broadcasting a six-month extension of the
special temporary authority allowing WWHK (102.3 Concord) to
remain off the air. The station is in the process of being sold
to Andrew Sumereau's Birch Broadcasting, and has to be back on
the air by September 4 (at least temporarily) or it will lose
*J.J. Jeffrey's Atlantic Coast Broadcasting has
shuffled its programming lineup again in southern MAINE, pulling
the WEEI feed off the 95.5 signal in Topsham most recently known
as WGEI. 95.5 is now WLOB-FM, simulcasting the talk format of
WLOB (1310 Portland) - which means it's essentially swapped formats
with the former WLOB-FM on 96.3 in Gray, which is now sports
WJJB-FM, the same call and format that used to be on the smaller
Topsham signal. Atlantic Coast is still carrying WEEI, via the
Saco-licensed 95.9 signal (ex-WRED-FM) that's now WTEI.
Two more notes: as of a few weeks ago, WLOB's morning newscast
is no longer being simulcast on Fox affiliate WPFO (Channel 23).
And yes, more than half a year after WLOB left the 96.3 signal,
that "96.3/1310" shown above is still the logo visitors
to the station's website are greeted with...
We've been remiss in not mentioning the layoffs that hit family-owned
WABI-TV (Channel 5) in Bangor earlier this month. In all, seven
jobs were cut at the CBS affiliate, most notably veteran anchor
Craig Colson, who came to WABI at age 18 in 1985 to work alongside
his father, anchor Don Colson. Also cut was coastal bureau reporter
Susan Farley, but WABI says her bureau in Ellsworth will remain
in place without any full-time staffing.
One more coastal Maine note: the sale of WFZX (101.7 Searsport)
and WGUY (102.1 Dexter) to EMF Broadcasting has closed; the sale
price was $550,000, with $175,000 in cash and the rest in a promissory
note. (NERW's starting to wonder: with all the debt that EMF
has amassed in the last few years buying dozens upon dozens of
stations and depending on incoming listener donations to pay
off all those promissory notes - what happens if economic conditions
cause those donations to slow down, especially now that EMF has
parted ways with its longtime morning hosts under somewhat controversial
Edited by NERW's own Scott Fybush - on sale now as
an e-book or printed volume!
*In PENNSYLVANIA, the talent shuffle
at Philadelphia's WXTU (92.5) continues, with Kris Stevens moving
from afternoons to mornings, replacing Scott Evans alongside
Andie Summers. "Razz on the Radio" moves from nights
to afternoons, leaving an opening in the night slot at the Beasley
A year after acquiring WDBA (107.3 Du Bois), Family Life Radio
has finally changed the station's calls: it's now WCOH.
From the noncommercial FM files, the FCC has picked Cumberland
Valley Christian Radio's application for 600 watts on 91.3 in
Carlisle over five other applicants proposing service to either
Carlisle or Newville.
And in State College, it's a new AM-FM simulcast in morning
drive: Kevin Nelson and Pat Boland's morning show on news-talker
WRSC (1390) is now being simulcast on sister FM outlet "Majic
99" (WMAJ-FM Centre Hall).
*In CANADA, the Canadian Press reported
last week that federal officials are contemplating a C$150 million
bailout package that would help private broadcasters keep small-market
local TV stations afloat. On Wednesday, prime minister Stephen
Harper said no decision had been made about the proposal, which
could keep stations such as Canwest's CHCH in Hamilton and CTV's
A-Channel operations in Wingham and Windsor on the air.
Finally this week, a programming note: we're on the road,
en route to the NAB Show in Las Vegas via Phoenix and Tucson.
If you're one of the broadcasters still making it to NAB this
year, we'd love to catch up with you there...and if you're not,
stay tuned to NERW next wek for an update from the show floor,
such as it is.
And on a personal level, thanks so much for the kind words
from so many of you about the loss of Freckles, the NERW Wonder
Dog. She's still very much missed here...but hearing from all
of you was a great comfort to us here at NERW Central.
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 LARadio.com for the
idea - and thanks to you, our readers, for the support
that's made all these years of NERW possible!)
April 14, 2008 -
- NEW YORK's WNYC and Public Radio International are just a
week away from launching their new morning show, "The Takeaway."
Hosted by John Hockenberry and Adaora Udoji, the new show will
be heard on both of WNYC's radio services - from 6-7 AM weekdays
on WNYC-FM (93.9) and from 8-9 AM weekdays on WNYC (820), pre-empting
portions of the current "Morning Edition" simulcast
on the stations.
- A venerable New York radio brand has resurfaced on the FM
HD2 dial. CBS Radio quietly shifted the HD2 signal of WWFS (Fresh
102.7) from a simulcast of all-news WINS (1010) to "WNEW,
Where Rock Lives." The main 102.7 signal was, of course,
home to WNEW-FM for more than four decades; its new HD2 incarnation
features a more current blend of active rock than the last few
analog incarnations of WNEW did.
- In Albany, a long-dormant AM signal is back on the air with
a new city of license and coverage area. WUAM (900 Saratoga Springs)
lost its transmitter site years ago, and spent a long time operating
at reduced power or off the air completely. Now the station has
been moved to Watervliet, diplexing with WAMC (1400) from its
tower just off I-90, giving it a decent daytime signal over Albany
for the first time. Owner Ernie Anastos is leasing the signal
to Time Warner's Capital News 9, which is using it to simulcast
the news channel's audio for in-car listening.
- There's another AM-to-FM switch in the works in CANADA: CTVglobemedia
is applying to move CKKW (1090 Kitchener) over to the FM dial,
trading the station's big 10 kW AM signal (from a nine-tower
site that's expensive to maintain) over to a much more limited
2 kW signal on FM at 99.5. Alert NERW readers may recall that
99.5 was used in Kitchener a few years ago, by startup station
CIKZ, but incoming interference from superpower co-channel station
WDCX (99.5 Buffalo) eventually forced CIKZ to shift up the dial
to 106.7. Will CKKW be able to overcome the interference any
April 12, 2004 -
- CHUM Television is going national. Just after NERW initially
went to press Monday morning, the company announced that it's
buying Craig Television, giving it the "A-Channel"
stations in Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg and CKX-TV in Brandon,
Manitoba, as well as MTV Canada. Craig went into competition
with CHUM in Toronto with last year's launch of "Toronto
1" (CKXT), which will have to be spun off because CHUM already
owns flagship CITY-TV and Barrie's CKVR in the Toronto market.
Much more next week!
- Now that Nassau Broadcasting is in control of the former
WMTW Broadcast Group radio stations in southern MAINE, the company
has set the dial spinning in a big way for Portland listeners.
No sooner did Nassau take over last Tuesday than it ditched the
news-talk formats at WMTW (870 Gorham), WMTW-FM (106.7 North
Windham) and WLAM (1470 Lewiston), as well as the hot AC "Kiss"
at WMEK (99.9 Auburn). The former news-talk stations have been
running a repeating heartbeat sound effect, interspersed with
Howard Dean speeches (or so we hear), while WMEK has picked up
the country format ("The Wolf") that used to be on
WTHT (107.5 Lewiston). 107.5, in turn, has been broadcasting
a repeating message sending listeners to 99.9 (and its Portland
translator on 96.9.)
- WMTW's seven-person radio news staff is out as a result of
the changes, which a Nassau memo to advertisers says will end
up with new - and separate - formats on each of the three former
news-talk facilities. (From Nassau's memo: "One format is
an 'old favorite.' One format will provide a nice counterbalance
to a big name already in the market. One format will 'shock and
- There's a new LPFM on the air in NEW HAMPSHIRE: WLLO-LP (102.9
Londonderry) began testing late last week from Londonderry High
School, playing a variety of songs about radio. "Leo 103"
was scheduled for an official launch Saturday (April 10).
- Concord's WKXL (1450) is getting new owners, as Warren Bailey's
Embro group sells to a partnership of former Republican senator
Gordon Humphrey and George Stevens. The pair will pay a reported
$830,000 for the station, and they'll keep Bailey on to run things
for them, promising to add more local news coverage - and to
keep talk host Deborah "Arnie" Arnesen, whose politics
are about as far from Humphrey's as it's possible to get.
- NEW YORK lost one of its best-loved morning men last week,
with the death on Thursday (April 8) of Gene Klavan, who woke
up New Yorkers on WNEW (1130) from 1952 until 1977, most of that
time with partner Dee Finch. Klavan came to WNEW as the replacement
for Gene Rayburn, who left to launch the TV career for which
he's best remembered. Klavan's partnership with Finch lasted
until 1968, and he remained at 1130 solo for another nine years
before leaving for WOR, where he put in three more years before
retiring in 1980. Klavan had been suffering from cancer; he was
April 9, 1999 -
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- We'll start again this week in MASSACHUSETTS, where a week
of suspense for listeners of WBOS (92.9 Brookline) ended Thursday
afternoon without much change in the station's AAA-ish AC format.
You'll recall that the DJs were given a "week off"
(not really -- they were still behind the board on Morrissey
Boulevard, just not opening the mic) on April Fool's Day; the
only big change in their absence was the addition of some more
mainstream classic rock, apparently in an attempt to fill the
gap just up the dial created by the end of the Eagle at 93.7.
- Speaking of WEGQ (which has yet to be formally granted the
rumored WQSX calls), we understand the airstaff there are also
still on the job, again without opening the mic, as they apply
for their jobs again at the new "Star 93.7." The rumor
mill suggests that former Kiss disco guy Vinnie Perruzzo could
end up doing afternoons on Star; we'll keep you posted.
- Obituaries: Tom Shovan, the VP of New York's CD Media, died
Friday morning (April 9) after suffering a fall at home earlier
in the week. Shovan began his radio career up in New Hampshire,
at Concord's WKXL, in 1954. In 1958, he came to Boston as one
of the several "Melvin X. Melvin"s on WMEX (1510).
Shovan was 59.
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2009 by Scott Fybush.