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June 22, 2009

VHF in the Spotlight

*Back in the age of analog TV, the conventional wisdom held that the low-band VHF spectrum - TV channels 2-6 - would become superfluous as soon as the digital transition was over. Electrical noise, propagation anomalies and the need for large, usually outdoor, receiving antennas would make those channels undesirable for digital TV, eventually freeing them up for other, non-TV, uses...or so the belief went.

As we enter the second full week of the digital TV era in the U.S., that conventional wisdom is being confirmed by some established stations, as problems crop up with VHF digital TV not only on the low band but on the high-band channels (7-13) as well. But it's also being significantly challenged by some newcomers, including one broadcaster who's found a loophole that may put new full-power DTV stations on the air in the New York and Philadelphia markets at a bargain price.

The problems, first: No sooner had stations such as Boston's WHDH-TV (Channel 7), Philadelphia's WHYY-TV (Channel 12) and New York's WABC-TV (Channel 7), WPIX-TV (Channel 11) and WNET (Channel 13) made the move from their pre-transition digital channels to digital operation on their old analog channels than the complaints started pouring in: viewers who'd had no trouble with DTV on the UHF dial were finding it difficult or impossible to get a lock on the relatively low-powered VHF signals.

While many were no doubt using the UHF-only compact antennas that dominated the marketplace of "digital antennas" in the first few years of the transition, problems were being reported even by technically-adept viewers using decent VHF antennas.

And as bad as things were for those high-band VHF stations, they were even worse for the largest station in the nation to elect a spot on the low VHF band, ABC's WPVI (Channel 6) in Philadelphia, where phone lines and message boards were flooded with complaints from viewers who could see everything in town except ABC.

For some of the affected stations, solutions - temporary ones, at least - were as close as the next room in the transmitter building. On Tuesday, WHDH received special temporary authority from the FCC to reactivate its interim channel 42 digital signal, and there's word that the station is now trying to resolve some spacing issues in order to make its permanent home on UHF. (That's still not an inexpensive solution; WHDH spent considerable money and manpower to install the VHF digital rig that could end up being turned off after just a few weeks on the air.)

For other stations, such quick fixes weren't an easy option. WPVI, WHYY, WNET and other VHF digitals in the region (Rochester's WHEC-TV and WHAM-TV, Lancaster's WGAL, Manchester's WMUR) were using digital channels in the upper UHF band that's now outside the broadcast spectrum. WPIX's former channel 33 digital allocation is now home to another station, WCBS-TV. And WABC-TV's former channel 45 has spacing issues that would make it less than desirable for permanent use.

Fortunately, the FCC was quick to issue additional STAs for power increases. WPVI, for instance, was able to crank its power from 7.5 kW to 30 kW by the weekend, resulting in at least a moderate increase in its receivability. In the long run, though, it appears the FCC may be right back where it was in, say, 1950: coming to terms with the reality that the state of the art in receiver and antenna design probably requires significantly more power than was originally thought necessary.

That, too, may be an expensive solution for some stations that had already built what were to be their "permanent" VHF digital facilities - though the good news is that most of the stations moving back to their VHF analog allocations have plenty of headroom in their antennas and transmission systems for more power, and often have extra transmitter power to spare, too, if they've converted recent analog transmitters to digital use.

*In the meantime, though, those "vacated" channels at the bottom of the TV dial may fill up faster than expected in some big markets.

We've already reported on the surge in demand from low-power TV stations for new berths on channel 6, where continued analog LPTV operation makes it possible to function as pseudo-FM stations on 87.7. In some cities, other newly-vacated low-VHF channels are being filled by LPTVs as well; for instance, WNYW's now-former channel 5 slot in New York already has a digital LP construction permit for a new occupant.

Full-power use of those vacated channels, though, was supposed to be far in the future, if it happened at all, since the FCC is apparently in no hurry at all to thaw the long-frozen allocations table to allow for new digital-only allotments. But when there's a huge prize to be had - signals over two of the nation's largest TV markets - there's no underestimating how far the creativity of a good communications lawyer can go toward finding an unusual way to shoehorn new stations onto the dial.

That's the long way around to explaining why NEW JERSEY's Press Communications quietly bought two tiny TV stations out west - NBC affiliate KJWY (Channel 2) in Jackson, Wyoming and independent KVNV (Channel 3) in Ely, Nevada - and why it's apparently poised to move those stations right into the heart of the Philadelphia and New York TV markets, respectively.

The loophole that makes those moves possible dates back a quarter of a century, to the mid-80s controversy over the lack of local TV presence in both New Jersey and Delaware. An amendment to the Communications Act of 1933 established a way for states with no commercial VHF stations - a list that included only New Jersey and Delaware - to gain such operations: it provided that any licensee that notified the FCC that it was willing to accept reallocation to a VHF-less state would immediately be granted a license for the moved operation, bypassing just about every other provision of the Act except for spacing requirements.

The provision was very narrowly targeted, aimed entirely at moving New York's WOR-TV (Channel 9) to Secaucus, N.J., a move owner RKO accepted in order to be allowed to sell the station instead of losing the license as part of the investigation into RKO's billing practices. But long after channel 9 made the move - and long after it was clear that the "move" didn't prevent channel 9, now WWOR, from continuing to be a "New York" station, transmitting from Manhattan and serving the entire metro area - the rule stayed on the books, apparently never to be used again.

With the DTV transition looming, though, the lawyers at Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth spotted an opportunity: since WWOR's digital signal is on channel 38, New Jersey would end up once again bereft of VHF stations. With the channel 2 stations in New York City and Baltimore vacating that spot, and channel 3 in Philadelphia and Hartford going empty as well, there was suddenly spectrum available for VHF allotments in both New Jersey and Delaware...and a law on the books that appeared to give that spectrum to any station willing to make the move, just for the asking.

And so Press notified the FCC last Monday that it was "willing to accept" reallocations that would move KJWY's channel 2 from Jackson to Wilmington, Delaware, and KVNV's channel 3 from Ely to Middletown Township, New Jersey - with strongly-worded language making it clear that it believes the Commisson is compelled by the language of Section 331(a) of the Communications Act to immediately grant those moves.

It should come as no surprise, of course, that the new "Delaware" and "New Jersey" stations would have their sights set on the bigger markets next door: Channel 2 would transmit with 10 kW/845' from the Roxborough tower farm in Philadelphia, while Channel 3 would have 10 kW/860' from the Four Times Square tower in Manhattan, making both signals full-market (within the limitations of low-band VHF) in their respective markets.

What's in it for the people of Delaware and New Jersey? Probably not all that much: in a Delaware newspaper interview, Press CEO Bob McAllan (the managing member of "PMCM, LLC," the licensee of KJWY and KVNV) wouldn't even go so far as to commit to local studios in either state, promising only that the stations' programming, once moved, "might be something you haven't seen before." Given the FCC's current lax requirements for local news - and the lack of a requirement for a main studio in the city of license, a rule that at least obliged WWOR to move its studio from Times Square to Secaucus back in the day - it appears, to us at least, that there's little to stop the new channel 3 and channel 2 from setting up shop right in Manhattan and Philadelphia, respectively, yielding new stations in those cities at an amazing bargain price: PMCM paid just $1.2 million for those two licenses in Nevada and Wyoming, and surely far less than that for the legal work to get the stations moved.

The big question, then, is whether the FCC will indeed grant the moves. We're not lawyers here - but our reading of Section 331(a) suggests that the Commission would have a hard time saying no. Unless Delaware and New Jersey get VHF allocations some other way - say, by WPVI or WABC or WPIX trading their VHF allotments to commercial broadcasters on UHF in Delaware or New Jersey, a prospect that seems unlikely - the FCC appears to be required to do just what PMCM says it must, though of course there's nothing saying they have to hurry up about it. And while the FCC is loath to set precedents like this, it appears to us that there's no precedent to be set: once the KJWY and KVNV moves are granted, there would be no states without VHF commercial stations (meaningless though that distinction is in the channel-mapped DTV world), and thus no further application of Section 331(a) - so perhaps the FCC will be inclined to simply get these two moves over with.

As always...stay tuned.

*One more note about DELAWARE TV: Wilmington-licensed WHYY-TV (Channel 12) announced last week that it's pulling the plug on the nightly "Delaware Tonight" newscast that it's long produced as a concession to its nominal city of license.

The station, which has been based in Philadelphia for decades, says it will retain a small news crew in Wilmington, but will sell its studio there and close its news bureau in the state capital, Dover.

*The rest of our PENNSYLVANIA news this week starts on a sad note: five years into his fight with prostate cancer, WPVI (Channel 6) sports director Gary Papa, a beloved figure on the Philadelphia airwaves, died Friday at age 54.

Papa was a native of Buffalo, where he grew up with his brother Greg, now the play-by-play man for the Oakland Raiders. He started his career at WSTV-TV (Channel 9, now WTOV) in Steubenville, Ohio, then returned to Buffalo to do sports at WGR-TV (Channel 2, now WGRZ) before joining the WPVI Action News team in 1981.

He had been sports director there since 1990, though he'd been on the air only sporadically in recent months as his illness worsened. One of his last public appearances came on April 13, when he appeared in a wheelchair for the memorial service for longtime Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas.

In addition to his brother and parents, Papa is survived by his wife, Kathleen, and two sons.

*At the other end of the Keystone State, public broadcaster WQLN TV/FM made some big staff cuts last week as it tries to cope with the apparent elimination of the $800,000 it received annually from the state.

Five staffers, including PD Gordon Stroufe and CE Ed Upton, lost their jobs, and the rest of the WQLN staff is taking pay cuts (10% for top management, 5% for others) and facing two-week unpaid furloughs. In addition, WQLN-FM (91.3) is dropping the syndicated "Marketplace" from its evening schedule.

*Jim Conlee is the new midday man at Steel City Media's WLTJ (92.9 Pittsburgh), joining "Q92.9" (are they ever going to change those calls?) after several years out of town in Houston and San Antonio, Texas.

Down the road at WZUM (1590 Carnegie), $800,000 is the sale price as the station prepares to change hands from Sovereign City Radio Services to Katrina Chase's Believe & Achieve Family Educational Center, which is already LMA'ing the station and running a black gospel format on it.

*One more piece of NEW JERSEY news - the simulcast of ESPN radio in south Jersey didn't last long: while WENJ-FM (97.3 Millville) carries the Worldwide Leader in Sports in English, WENJ (1450 Atlantic City) has flipped to its Spanish-language sister, ESPN Deportes.


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*Our NEW YORK news starts in Utica, where just a month after Eric Thomas arrived as the highly-publicized new morning man at Roser's "Kiss FM" (WSKS 97.9 Whitesboro/WSKU 105.5 Little Falls), he's parted ways with the station. In an unusually outspoken blog posting, Thomas called his move from Michigan "one of the biggest mistakes of my life," and he says the format-flip stunt that heralded his arrival was not his idea.

"Kenny the Promo Guy" is handling mornings on Kiss on a temporary basis while the station looks for a replacement, and while Thomas looks for new work.

Meanwhile, on a hill in the town of Floyd, north of Utica, there's a fight brewing between EMF Broadcasting's WOKR (93.5 Remsen) and a neighbor who claims that the station's new antenna location is putting so much RF over his nearby home that it's causing him and his family to break out in blisters and suffer other illnesses.

Steve Lloyd told the Utica Observer-Dispatch last week that he was forced to move from his house adjacent to the tower not long after WOKR signed on there in mid-April, and to back up his claims he showed the newspaper a report from an engineering firm claiming that the 3-kW signal operating from a 2-bay antenna 85 feet above the ground was making it unsafe to be in his house for more than 30 minutes a day.

But as the story drew national attention in the engineering community, some questions developed - especially after Utica's WKTV reported that the engineering company that allegedly prepared the report is denying having done so. (The newspaper had reported that Mid-State Communications prepared the report "at Lloyd's request"; Lloyd told WKTV "he was given the study.")

Town officials have asked Congressman Michael Arcuri to look into the matter, and EMF says it's also trying to determine the source of Lloyd's problems.

*New calls in the Hudson Valley: WGMY (88.1 Montgomery) is now WNYX. (Extra points if you recall that "WNYX" was also the fictional station, at 585 on the AM dial, in the 90s sitcom "NewsRadio"...)

WGMY-turned-WNYX is also being heard on the 106.3 translator in Poughkeepsie that used to be carrying WDST (100.1 Woodstock) - and while we're thinking of translators in the Hudson Valley, we should note that the True Oldies Channel programming from the HD2 channel of New York's WPLJ (95.5) is reportedly being heard on several signals up north, including 93.7 in Newburgh, 94.1 in Chester, 94.9 in Middletown and 95.7 in Poughkeepsie.

More new calls upstate: Pax et Bonum, Inc., which was just granted a CP for 89.9 in Esperance, west of Schenectady, takes the calls WOPG for the new station. And a new signal on 88.7 in Fleming, near Auburn, takes the calls WTMI, last seen on the AM dial in Hartford (and before that for decades on FM in Miami.)

*One of the true veterans of the upstate broadcast scene is about to retire. Jack Mindy, who grew up in a broadcasting family even before starting his own career while still in high school in 1957, went on to work at many of the biggest stations in the region: WSYR, WHEN and WFBL in Syracuse (where he also made a cameo appearance in the movie "Slap Shot"); WYSL, WBEN and WWKB in Buffalo and WHAM in Rochester.

More recently, Mindy has been the operations manager and afternoon jock at WGMC (90.1 Greece), the community jazz station in the Rochester market - but his July 6 show there will be his last, as he heads off for a well-deserved retirement.

WGMC has found a highly-qualified replacement for Mindy on the air: starting July 7, former WGMC station manager Eric Gruner returns to the air in that 3-7 PM slot.

Across town at public broadcaster WXXI, several veteran staffers are departing as part of a buyout, including news reporter Bud Lowell, a 30-year veteran at the station; WXXI-TV program director Bob Owens and executive director of broadcast production John Overlan; and operations supervisor Ed Wright.

In Ithaca, WHCU (870) is looking for a news anchor/reporter. Todd Messner, who's been with the station for about a year, is leaving in July to get married and move to New Jersey - and that means the Saga news/talker needs someone who can fill his duties there, including anchoring the station's 6 PM and Saturday morning newscasts and nighttime reporting.

*Some personnel moves way up north: Wayne Thompson, late of CJSS in Cornwall, Ontario, is crossing the St. Lawrence to take the morning chair at WVLF (96.1 Norwood), where he's now at the helm of the "Mix 96.1 More Music Morning Show."

And up the road in Potsdam, we're hearing that WSNN (99.3) and WPDM (1470) are trading their local hosts for satellite-delivered music.

*On TV, Watertown viewers will soon be seeing some Syracuse news: beginning tonight, ABC affiliate WWTI (Channel 50) will carry the 11 PM newscast from sister station WSYR-TV (Channel 9) in Syracuse. For now, that's the only WSYR newscast that will be seen in Watertown.

Downstate, Verizon is entering the content business with the launch - apparently sometime today - of its "FiOS 1" local news/weather/traffic channel in the New York City market. The new channel will compete with Cablevision's regional News 12 channels in the suburbs and with Time Warner's New York 1 in the city.


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Our business manager (aka Mrs. Fybush) reports that a limited quantity of 2009 calendars are still available - and as we get ready to send Tower Site Calendar 2010 to the printer, we're clearing out the remaining 2009 editions.

The supply is dwindling fast at our clearance price of just $9 each, postpaid - that's half-off the usual price of $18. So place that order now - and get ready for pre-orders of the 2010 edition, starting in July.

Order now at the Store!

*The MASSACHUSETTS-based New England Cable News is getting a new owner - or rather, it's losing one of its two co-owners, as Comcast buys out Hearst's half-interest in the regional network. NECN's founding news director, Charlie Kravetz, who'd been serving as the network's general manager and president, exited when the announcement was made Thursday, leaving Bill Bridgen in charge of both NECN and Comcast SportsNet New England. Some of NECN's business operations are being combined with CSN New England at CSN's Burlington facility, though NECN will remain at its Newton headquarters.

*Two obituaries make up our MAINE news this week, starting at WKTJ (99.3 Farmington), where PD/sales manager Steve Bull died suddenly on May 30 after suffering an inoperable brain aneurysm. Bull had been with the station 28 years, working in pretty much every imaginable capacity at the station, as well as writing a newspaper column and running a catering business. Bull was just 54.

And Don Zihlman, who worked as morning host on WLAM (1470 Lewiston) in the early 1980s, died June 12 after a fight with cancer. After leaving WLAM, Zihlman started a successful marketing company in the Portland area. He was 61.

*In CONNECTICUT, "nightlight" operation at WFSB-TV (Channel 3) didn't last long. While the FCC had WFSB listed as carrying the nightlight loop of DTV conversion information through June 26, the analog signal disappeared sometime late Sunday or early Monday, after just over two days of operation.

Over in Bolton, translator W248AB (97.5), which was relaying Willimantic's WILI-FM (98.3) to the eastern edge of the Hartford market, is being sold. John Fuller's Red Wolf Broadcasting is paying Mountaintop Enterprises $100,000 for the translator, which recently filed to increase power from 10 watts to 60 watts - and to begin relaying Red Wolf's WMRQ (104.1 Waterbury).

And we remember Michael Bernz (Cipriani), who had most recently been working weekends at WWLI (105.1) in Providence, RHODE ISLAND, but who was best known for his many years in morning drive in New London at WBMW (106.5 Ledyard) and WCTY (97.7 Norwich).

Bernz died Thursday (June 18) at 58; he's survived by his parents, his wife, Diane, along with two children and a grandson.

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

*CANADA's latest AM-to-FM move is now underway in Peterborough, Ontario, where CKRU (980) signed on CKRU-FM (100.5) last Monday. The new "Greatest Hits Kruz 100.5 FM" continues to simulcast on AM 980 for the next three months.

TJ Connors is the new morning man at CKRU's sister FM station, CKWF (101.5 the Wolf), moving there after a few months of mornings at CKLY (91.9 Bob FM) in nearby Lindsay/Kawartha Lakes.

*CKRU-FM won't be Canada's newest FM station for long: last week, the CRTC approved the CBC's application to move CBE (1550 Windsor) to FM, using a transmitter in Windsor on 97.5 (19 kW max DA/427') and another in Leamington on 91.9 (10.5 kW max DA/241').

And out in Nova Scotia, the second time around was the charm for the Tantramar Community Radio Society, which had been turned down on its first bid for a community station on 107.9. That time, Maritime Broadcasting System complained that the new signal would sap ad revenue from its existing CKDH (900) - but with CKDH having now been granted its own move to FM, the CRTC determined this time around that Tantramar's proposed station, with 6.5 kW/403', wouldn't harm MBS' revenues.

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. Note that 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!)

June 23, 2008 -

  • It was a bad week for Cumulus' WRKI (95.1 Brookfield CT), after a lightning hit on the station's tower knocked its main signal off the air last Saturday (June 14). Photos of the fire were the talk of the engineering community early last week, as the experts pored over the shots of flames erupting from the top of the tower and speculated on what happened. The answer, as it turns out, was a melting radome on the lower bay of the station's two-bay ERI rototiller antenna, and the result was a damaged antenna and a silent station. WRKI was back on the air at reduced power by Saturday night, and many listeners never even noticed the outage, since classic rock "I-95" reaches the southern half of its Fairfield County listenership by way of on-channel booster signals in Bridgeport and Norwalk. Unaffected by the lightning strike, those signals stayed on the air at full power - and we hear reception was actually a little better than usual in Stamford, where the boosters and the main signal usually interfere a bit with each other.
  • Also silenced, at least briefly, was sister station WPUT (1510 Putnam NY), which has its studio-transmitter link on the tower. It was back on the air early last week, and WRKI returned to full power at week's end with a new antenna and transmission line.
  • Alert readers may note that this is the second such burning FM radome in southwestern Connecticut in less than a year - last September, the antenna of WCTZ (96.7 Stamford) took a lightning hit and caught on fire as well.
  • Emmis has picked a PD for its New York rock outlet, WRXP (101.9). Leslie Fram comes north from Atlanta, where she's spent the last 17 years at Cumulus' WNNX (99.7 Atlanta), the last ten as PD before its "99X" modern rock format was moved off to an HD2 subchannel earlier this year. At WRXP, she replaces Blake Lawrence, the last remaining holdover from the station's previous existence as smooth jazz WQCD.
  • Are the star personalities at CBS Radio's top-billing sports station, WFAN (660 New York) on the way out the door - or just looking for some love at contract-renewal time? Sunday's Newsday carried an article speculating that Mike Francesa and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo may have done their last show together on WFAN. They've been taking alternating vacations, and they're next scheduled to be together on July 11. Their contract renewal comes at a challenging time for WFAN: not only is the station still recovering from the loss of Don Imus and his sizable ad revenue last year, but another WFAN cash cow - the New York Mets - are in the last year of their contract with WFAN, which has been their home ever since the station signed on in 1987. (On the other hand, given the general haplessness of the Mets this year, perhaps the team isn't in the best position for contract renewal either?)
  • A big PD vacancy in MASSACHUSETTS has been filled: Mike Thomas, who's already PD of WZLX (100.7 Boston), adds the same duties at sister station WBCN (104.1 Boston), where Dave Wellington exited a week ago. And while we have no doubt Thomas will do a fine job at WBCN, we can't help but think back to those days, a little over a decade ago, when what was then Infinity brought longtime competitors WBCN and WZLX under the same ownership. Mel Karmazin was running the group then, and he vowed that the stations would be kept strictly separate - different staffs, separate studios and all that. Progress marches on!

June 21, 2004 -

  • The move of WSNJ-FM (107.7 Bridgeton NJ) to 107.9 in Pennsauken, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, was supposed to have silenced one of PENNSYLVANIA's oldest noncommercial stations - but there's still life in high school station WHHS (107.9 Havertown) after all, it seems. With some help from well-known Florida-based engineering consultants DuTreil, Lundin and Rackley, WHHS applied last week to move down the dial to 99.9, lowering its power to 9.5 watts from 14 watts and lowering its antenna from 113 meters to 49 meters. The station tells the FCC that 99.9 is the last possible spot it can call home on the crowded Delaware Valley FM dial - and in its new home it would still need waivers from WJBR-FM (99.5 Wilmington DE) and WPLY (100.3 Media PA) for the tiny amounts of interference it would cause in a block or two around the school. Both stations have already given WHHS letters in support of those waivers (and we note that WPLY is owned by Radio One, which is buying WSNJ-FM once it's moved in to the Philadelphia market.) WHHS traces its history back to 1948; it lived most of its life on 89.3 before moving to 107.9 in the great displacement of the Class D non-comm stations a couple of decades ago (passing up, in the process, the chance to increase power to 100 watts and gain protection from encroachment by new stations.)
  • In other Keystone State news, Alex Langer's getting very close to the expiration date of his construction permit to move WVFC (1530 McConnellsburg) all the way east to King of Prussia, near Philadelphia, and down the dial to 1180. With the CP to diplex on the WWDB (860 Philadelphia) towers due to expire in August, Langer says he can't get the complicated filtering and phasing systems finished in time - so he's now asking the FCC to instead let him use a Valcom fiberglass whip antenna at a new site on Swedeland Road in Upper Merion Township, with just 510 watts instead of the 2300 watts he would have used at the WWDB site.
  • We'll start our NEW YORK report with yet another installment in the long, slow return to normalcy for New York City's TV stations in the wake of 9/11. Two and a half years after losing its licensed site at the World Trade Center, WNBC (Channel 4) has applied for a license to broadcast from the Empire State Building, where it's been operating under Special Temporary Authority since shortly after the attacks. WNBC's new permanent (as long as analog TV lasts, anyway) facility will be 30 kW visual ERP at 439 meters above average terrain.
  • WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) is searching for a new program director for the first time in 23 years, now that Joe McCoy is out of that job. McCoy, who guided CBS-FM through its high points as an oldies station in the eighties and early nineties and through its struggles of the last few years as it's tried to freshen up its sound, will stick around with Infinity as VP/special programming, at least for a while.

June 25, 1999 -

  • After 62 years of broadcasts from Hornby, Ontario, CBL (740) left the air on schedule at midnight last Saturday (June 19).
  • The CRTC has chosen the new occupants of the 690 and 940 frequencies in Montreal vacated earlier this year by the CBC's move to FM. The winner is the Metromedia group, which owns French-language CKVL (850 Verdun), English-language CIQC (600), and FMers CKOI and CFQR. The CRTC's decision this week allows CKVL and CIQC to move to 690 and 940, respectively, each with 50 kilowatts non-directional. Metromedia's plan calls for both stations to become news-talkers, with all-news programming from expanded newsrooms by day and talk at night. The losing applicants included Radio Nord, which wanted to start new French and English country stations on the two frequencies (or, failing that, English-only on one of the two) and, embarrassingly enough, the CBC itself, which hoped to use either 690 or 940 as the backbone of a new French-language all-news service province-wide.
  • As many questions as this decision answers, it leaves many more still open. Once CKVL and CIQC have made their moves, will anyone apply for their frequencies? We could easily imagine a station like CJMS (the new French-language country station on 1040 in nearby St. Constant) applying for higher power on a much better frequency. Will Radio Nord or the CBC reapply for 600 or 850? Will the new 690 and 940 use the old CBM/CBF transmitter site at Brossard, which has been sitting silent (but maintained) since CBM's sign-off a few weeks back? And without CKVL on 850, how many more listeners in areas west and north of Boston will have an easier time hearing WEEI, which frequently experiences interference from CKVL?
  • On we press, crossing the border into NEW YORK (with, we hope, a frendlier border guard than the one who, er, "welcomed" us back into the USA after the CBL sign-off). Our first stop? Buffalo, where the modern AC sounds of "Alice at 92.9" gave way to this year's fad format this week. Rumors of a format change to rhythmic oldies came true Wednesday (6/23) at noon, when Infinity's WLCE (92.9) became "B-92.9, Buffalo's Dancin' Oldies." If the moniker sounds familiar, it should -- "Dancin' Oldies" is the same name Infinity's using at WZMX (93.7 Hartford) to steer clear of AMFM's "Jammin' Oldies" trademark. Alice PD Jay Nachlis stays on, at least on an interim basis. No word yet on what the new station will do for airstaff; Alice had been using the Craig & Co. morning show from sister station WTIC-FM (96.5 Hartford) and local jocks, live and voice-tracked, in other dayparts.
  • The folks at B-92.9 say they're targeting the younger end of WHTT (104.1)'s listenership, since Oldies 104 is still heavy on the '50s and early '60s oldies that 92.9 won't touch. But NERW has to think that B-92.9 will also draw away some of the urban audience that now listens to Infinity sister station WBLK (93.7 Depew), which tries to be all things to all urban audiences with a mix of R&B classics all the way to hip-hop. We'd also be worried if we were daytimer WUFO (1080 Amherst), whose urban format is heavy on R&B oldies.
  • There's a new station in Syracuse: WRVD (90.3) signed on this week after years and years of thwarted attempts by Oswego-based public broadcaster WRVO (89.9) to put a Salt City transmitter on the air. While WRVD will fix the intermod problems between WAER (88.3) and WJPZ (89.1) that make WRVO inaudible near Syracuse University, it won't help matters any for Syracuse Community Radio, despite a power increase this week for their WXXE (90.5 Fenner) from 7 to 49 watts.

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