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July 20, 2009

Remembering Walter Cronkite, WBCN and WQXR

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*It was a week of big changes on the Northeast broadcast scene - the demise of a long-ailing Boston rocker, the death of the iconic Walter Cronkite, and an impending transition for New York City's venerable classical FM station.

We'll get to WBCN and Uncle Walter later in this week's column; first, the news from the New York Times, where the company's lone radio property, WQXR (96.3 New York) was but a blip on the bottom line compared to the company's mounting debt issues stemming from its acquisition of the Boston Globe and its decision to build a new headquarters tower at the height of the real estate market a few years back.

Even as a relatively minor piece of the Times Company empire, though, the signs were growing that WQXR had become expendable - first a rumor earlier this year that the signal was being sold to become an FM sports outlet, and then last Tuesday afternoon, the big news that WQXR was indeed being sold after 65 years under Times ownership.

Here's how it will play out: the Times will sell WQXR's 96.3 signal, a full class B from the Empire State Building, to Univision Radio for $33.5 million and the license of Univision's WCAA (105.9 Newark NJ). While Univision moves WCAA's "La Kalle" Spanish urban format down the dial to the bigger 96.3 signal, the Times will sell the 105.9 signal - along with WQXR's intellectual property - to public broadcaster WNYC, which will pay $11.5 million to operate 105.9 as a noncommercial classical station with the WQXR calls.

Note that price: for a full New York City class B FM, this deal puts the price tag at $45 million. Even allowing for some unusual circumstances here - the desire to protect the classical legacy of WQXR, in particular - this represents a huge drop-off in station values over just the last few years, as Univision ought to know, since its predecessor Heftel bought the 105.9 signal (then WNWK) for roughly ten times the $11.5 million that WNYC is paying for it. Even more dramatically, Univision gets that big 96.3 signal for less than the $60 million it paid a few years back for what's now WQBU (92.7 Garden City), a class A signal on the Long Island/Queens line.

As for the future of WQXR, reactions were mixed last week. To some, the sale by the Times will mark the end of WQXR as they've long known it - the station's familiar air personalities will lose their jobs with the sale, and while they'll have the chance to apply for work at the new WNYC-owned WQXR on 105.9, it seems likely that only a few will be hired. There's concern in the city's charitable circles that WNYC, with its own fundraising obligations to meet (it's launching a $15 million campaign to cover the purchase of WQXR and initial operating costs), won't be as supportive of New York's other arts organizations as the Times-owned WQXR was. (And of course as a commercial station, WQXR provided a venue to promote Broadway shows and other cultural events that won't be able to advertise as openly on the new 105.9.)

Then there's the signal issue: while 105.9 broadcasts from the same master antenna on the Empire State Building as 96.3, it runs just 610 watts ERP, compared to 6000 watts for the full class B signals. That's still a formidable signal - it reaches about 13 million listeners, compared to just over 16 million for the class B stations - but for listeners in much of Long Island and parts of Westchester and southern Connecticut, WQXR will still effectively vanish when it makes the move.

But for WQXR listeners elsewhere in the metropolitan area, the deal might be the best chance they'll have to retain a full-time classical voice on the FM dial. For WNYC, the move presents an opportunity - at a relative bargain price - to relieve the pressure on its main signal, WNYC-FM (93.9), to serve both the classical audience and the growing demand for more news and talk programming. With this deal, WNYC-FM will become a full-time news/talk voice, shifting its remaining classical programming up the dial to 105.9. And without the market pressures that have threatened even the few remaining classical signals that have moved to lesser commercial signals around the country (think of the slow demise of stations like WGMS in Washington, KXTR in Kansas City and perhaps even WCRB in Boston), there's little doubt that WNYC will continue to run the new WQXR 105.9 as a classical signal for many years to come.

*In other news from New York, ESPN Radio's WEPN (1050) has flipped the switch on its new transmitter site on the Secaucus/North Bergen line, easily visible to drivers exiting the Lincoln Tunnel and train passengers heading into the city from New Jersey. WEPN is promoting the new 50,000-watt signal as the closest AM to midtown Manhattan, with a signal free of the pattern distortions caused by the new Xanadu development right next to the station's old transmitter site adjacent to Giants Stadium.

There's a new morning show coming to Emmis' WRKS (Kiss 98.7): comedian and TV host D.L. Hughley takes on the 6-10 AM shift starting today, backed up by BET's Jacque Reid, comedian Steve Wilson and WRKS' Raqiyah Mays and Bob Slade. Hughley has at least a bit of radio experience - he's worked at LA's KJLH.

New York's versatile Ted David is branching out. The recently-retired CNBC anchor has been doing some fill-in work at WINS (1010), and last week he shot a cameo on the set of the soap opera "One Life to Live." Mark your calendars for September 8 at 2 PM, when the episode airs on ABC.

Speaking of WINS, one of the charter members of its all-news staff died last week. Brad Sherman started at the station a few months before its April 1965 flip from top-40 to news, and he stayed on as an anchor until his retirement in 1992. Sherman was suffering from both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and had broken a hip last month. He died last Sunday (July 12) at 83.

Mount St. Francis Hermitage now has calls to go with its Owego-licensed construction permit on 91.9. The new station will be WLJM - and with a 990-watt directional signal from a tower site in Athens, PA, it looks to have a better signal south of the state line than in Owego itself.

A correction from last week: the 95.7 translator in Middletown relays WSUL (98.3 Monticello); it's the 95.7 translator in Poughkeepsie, W239BL, that's relaying New York's WPLJ-HD2.

And while we're in the Hudson Valley, we note a power increase at WGNY (1220 Newburgh), which has boosted its day power from 5 kW to 10 kW, remaining at 180 watts after dark.

*On the TV side of things, Watertown's WPBS-TV (Channel 16) is the latest U.S. signal to face the potential loss of its Canadian audience. The small public TV station, which has long depended on support from Canadian viewers in the much larger Ottawa market, recently learned that Rogers Cable has notified customers that it plans to replace WPBS with Detroit's WTVS, delivered via satellite.

"If this change is made, a friendship we have forged for over 40 years could be lost," WPBS warns, noting that much of its local programming is designed for viewers in and around Ottawa, who make up 23% of its membership base and about $300,000 of the station's annual revenue. WPBS is asking its Canadian viewers to contact Rogers to protest the change, which is due to take effect August 18.

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*On any other week, the demise of one of the best-known and longest-running rock stations in the country would have easily been our lead story, and then some.

But while the impending end of Boston's WBCN (104.1) and its replacement by a new all-sports FM signal is still front-page news in eastern MASSACHUSETTS (as well as the subject of a NERW extra when the news broke last Tuesday), the WQXR announcement out of New York just a few hours later quickly dominated the national headlines.

The details of the WBCN transition have been rehashed at length over the last week - CBS Radio will move hot AC "Mix" WBMX from 98.5 to 104.1 in August, relaunching 98.5 as "The Sports Hub" under new calls WBZ-FM, with WBCN's Toucher and Rich in morning drive and a lineup anchored by Patriots football and Bruins hockey. The remainder of the current WBCN staff, including midday jock Adam-12 and afternoon jock Hardy, will be out, while the remains of the WBCN modern rock format will shift to 98.5's HD2. The simulcast of WBZ (1030)'s news-talk format moves from the HD3 of WODS (103.3) to the HD3 of the new WBZ-FM.

So what does it all mean?

In a Globe story the day after the announcement, our colleage Sean Ross of Edison Media and radio-info.com summed up the end of WBCN about as well as anyone has: "The ’BCN that most people are going to be sad about losing this afternoon, went away a while ago."

While the exact date of that demise is arguable - we'd peg it at April 1, 1996, the day Howard Stern replaced Charles Laquidara in morning drive, but there was that 1994 shift to modern rock, too, and the later move away from music towards talk - there's no question that the WBCN that will breathe its last next month is not the legendary station where Peter Wolf and Duane Ingalls Glasscock and Oedipus rocked out, where new acts were broken and where "News Dissector" Danny Schechter upended conventional notions of radio news coverage.

Instead, the WBCN of recent years has found itself ever more tightly wedged between musical competitors, including the harder rock of Entercom's WAAF (107.3 Westborough)/WKAF (97.7 Brockton), the more indie-focused rock of Steve Mindich's WFNX (101.7 Lynn) and the relatively unheralded success of Greater Media's jockless modern rock WBOS (92.9 Brookline), which has quietly edged past both WFNX and WBCN in the ratings. And while many erstwhile freeform rockers have found success in recent years by ignoring newer music and returning to their roots as classic rockers, WBCN's sister station WZLX (100.7) already occupies that niche on the Boston dial.

And with few cities as sports-crazy as Boston, it was almost inevitable that CBS would eventually challenge the dominance of Entercom's WEEI (850), which enjoys both a rabidly loyal audience and plenty of grumbling from sports fans who either can't stand its opinionated hosts and callers, or who can't hear its signal in areas west of Boston after dark. While WEEI has faced other sports competitors in the past, including ESPN affiliate WAMG (890 Dedham) and Sporting News Radio's WWZN (1510 Boston), those stations have lacked full-market signals and the sort of local presence that's essential to competing in Boston.

That won't be an issue for "The Sports Hub," which will launch with the immediate audience draws of Patriots football and Bruins hockey, as well as a massive cross-promotional machine that includes WBZ(AM), WBZ-TV, WSBK (Channel 38) and even the "CBS Scene" restaurant at Foxboro. Most of the new station's programming day is expected to be local, with names such as Gary Tanguay and Mike Felger widely rumored as midday and afternoon hosts - and by moving to the 98.5 signal, which transmits from the "FM 128" tower in Newton, the new WBZ-FM will neatly blanket the MetroWest area that's now a weak spot for WEEI.

(By moving to the Prudential Tower-based 104.1 signal, meanwhile, WBMX will pick up the in-city signal strength that will help it to even better reach the office-based listeners who make up the "Mix" target audience.)

So what happens over at WEEI? "We’ve dealt with competitive situations in the past and we’re fully prepared to do it again," says Entercom's Julie Kahn - and having the Red Sox, the Celtics, a lineup of familiar voices such as Dennis & Callahan and Glenn Ordway, plus a 15-year head start, certainly doesn't hurt. As for all the rumors about WEEI seeking an FM presence in Boston, for now, they're just rumors. With only three FM properties in the Boston market - the WAAF/WKAF simulcast, which stands to benefit from competitor WBCN's demise, and the highly profitable and inexpensively-run WMKK (93.7 Mike FM) - there's no obvious spot for a WEEI-FM...unless Entercom revives the never-consummated deal to acquire WCRB (99.5 Lowell) from Nassau.

Interesting times are ahead, for sure...stay tuned.

*Out west, Saga's launching another HD2-via-translator signal. Just as it's done in Keene, N.H. and Ithaca, N.Y., Saga is using a translator - in this case W232BW (94.3 Northampton) to carry programming that originates on the HD subchannel of another signal in the market, WLZX (99.3 Northampton). The format on the new signal is hot AC - and if you're wondering where W232BW came from, it's the former W287AK (105.3 South Hadley), which has been moved around the dial several times since its days as a relay of the old WPVQ (93.9 Turners Falls).

One more bit of western Massachusetts news: last week, we told you that Mercysong had picked WDMY as the calls of its new signal on 91.9 in Stockbridge - and now they've changed those calls to WHNM.

*This week's CONNECTICUT news starts with TV: on Thursday, NBC's WVIT (Channel 30) moved its newscasts out of the West Hartford studio they've occupied since the station's earliest days in 1953 and into a state-of-the-art facility right next door. With the move, "NBC Connecticut" becomes the Hartford-New Haven market's first station to produce local news in HD.

In New Haven, Connecticut Public TV is applying for a channel change at its WEDY. The station had a tiny analog signal on channel 65, meant largely to fill in some pockets around Yale University where CPTV's other signals are weak. With the move to digital, WEDY ended up on channel 6 with only 200 watts - but now it hopes to relocate to UHF with a full-power signal on channel 41.

On the radio side, Lance Tidwell starts today as the PD at Clear Channel's WWYZ (92.5 Waterbury). He comes to town from Southern Star Broadcasting, where he was chief operating officer; he's also been a PD in Seattle, Memphis and Boise. Tidwell fills the vacancy left by Pete Salant's departure earlier this year.

*There's TV news from MAINE, too - and a reminder that for all the absolute opinions you'll read declaring that UHF is always superior to VHF for digital TV, the experience in the real world varies greatly from market to market. In the sprawling Bangor market, where many viewers in outlying areas already have good rooftop VHF antennas and where there was never any significant UHF analog broadcasting, WABI-TV (Channel 5) is hoping to move its digital signal from UHF back to VHF. WABI is asking the FCC to reallocate it to channel 13, where its says it can be more competitive with the market's other VHF digital signals - and where its power bills will be significantly lower than on its present channel 19 facility.

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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.

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*As Clear Channel slowly sells off some of its non-core stations, there's a station sale in central PENNSYLVANIA to report. One Heart Ministries, Inc. has been leasing WKBO (1230 Harrisburg) from Clear Channel for several years, and now it's converting that LMA into a purchase. One Heart is paying $385,000, and Clear Channel will forgive up to $150,000 of the money it's owed under its current contract with One Heart.

Radio People on the Move: Veteran PD Al Brock is out at Citadel's WIOV-FM (105.1 Ephrata) after two years in the chair there. Brock's resume includes recent stops in Nashville and Myrtle Beach, as well as a long run in Binghamton. Meanwhile in York, Bobby D replaces Dave Russell as PD of Cumulus' WARM-FM (103.3); Bobby's also the PD of sister station WSOX-FM (96.1 Red Lion).

*Even though the FCC has now approved the routine use of FM translators by AM stations, it's denied an attempt by one NEW JERSEY AM station to add an FM signal. The application from WGHT (1500 Pompton Lakes) was certainly an unusual one: it asked the Commission to deny New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority's request to cancel a construction permit for a translator on 102.3 in Pompton Lakes, and to assign the CP from NJPBA to WGHT. While WGHT presented plenty of evidence testifying to the station's excellent community service and the lack of other local radio in the area, the application was a long shot, since there's no FCC precedent for restoring a CP to a licensee who doesn't want it anymore - and so the FCC denied WGHT's application, reminding the station that there will be a window, eventually, for new translator applications.

(NERW notes that the FCC's AM translator ruling limits the use of FM translators to those already licensed or holding CPs, so only a handful of AM stations that already owned translator licenses or have figured out how to buy and move existing translators will benefit, for now.)

Down the shore, Rick Brancadora has closed on his purchase of WILW (94.3 Avalon) from Coastal Communications. The station's calls will soon change to WIBG-FM, and Rick says he's hoping to build out its newly-granted CP to move north and boost power before the end of the summer, giving "Wibbage-FM" new reach into Atlantic City.

One call change this week: WGXM (88.7 Port Republic) is returning to its former calls, WXXY.

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

*Halifax will soon be the first major Canadian city to go FM-only. Listeners there started noticing tests last week on 92.9, the future FM home of the last remaining AM in metro Halifax, CFDR (780 Dartmouth). When Rogers signs on the new CFLT-FM on 92.9, it won't carry over the country "Kixx" format from the AM; instead, the new station will be doing AC as "Lite 92.9."

CFDR's former owner, Newcap, traded that Halifax station last year for a second signal (CIGM 790, soon to move to FM) in Sudbury, Ontario - and now Newcap is narrowing the rest of its northwestern Ontario footprint with a C$4.5 million sale of two signals in Thunder Bay, CKTG (The Giant 105.3) and CJUK (Magic 99.9). Those stations go to Acadia Broadcasting, which already owns stations in Kenora, Dryden and Fort Frances through its Northwoods Broadcasting subsidiary.

And in Windsor, Ontario, we've been remiss in not noting some serious cutbacks in Radio-Canada programming for Francophone listeners. Despite legal efforts from a listener group calling itself "SOS-CBEF," Radio-Canada eliminated the local morning shows at CBEF (540 Windsor), as well as some local programming at CBON in Sudbury and CJBC in Toronto in late June. In Windsor, the three hours of local morning news was replaced with just 20 minutes a day of local headlines for the 35,000 Francophones in the region, while the staff of CBEF was cut from eight people to two.

*Finally this week, we remember one of the legends of TV news. Here's what we posted on a NERW Update just after the news broke at week's end:

With the death of Walter Cronkite at 92 Friday evening, you'll be reading plenty of tributes in the hours and days to come. They'll recognize, properly, the instrumental role Cronkite played in establishing TV news as a legitimate medium of record. They'll note his passing just days before the 40th anniversary of one of his seminal on-air moments, as he became the face and voice of man's landing on the moon. They'll assess the many ways in which Cronkite's successors, at CBS and elsewhere, have and have not lived up to the legacy he left.

But what you probably won't hear is the story of how Walter Cronkite, at a time when he was at the height of his influence, did something to help inspire a six-year-old boy with big media dreams.

The year was 1978, the boy was your editor, and as kindergarten drew to a close that spring, I was informing (or at least entertaining) my classmates by doing "newscasts" in front of the blackboard in the classroom. With six-year-old innocence, and at least a passing familiarity with the media thanks to an aunt who worked at the local CBS affiliate, it seemed entirely appropriate to send one of the scripts from our little kindergarten newscast to the man whose newscasts we watched over the dinner table every night.

So off went the letter, explaining - in kindergarten printing, I'm sure - how much I admired Mr. Cronkite and how I hoped someday perhaps to take his place behind the anchor desk at CBS.

A week or two went by, and right around the last day of school I came home to find a fat gray envelope waiting for me, with the CBS logo in big black print on the left side.

It would have been easy, and entirely reasonable, for the most famous TV anchorman in the world to have a staffer send off a form letter, or perhaps even an autographed photo. But that's not what Walter Cronkite did.

Instead, the fat gray envelope contained this letter, on CBS stationery, evidently typed by the man himself:

Dear Scott:

That was a fascinating newscast you and Jess and Jeffrey did on June 10th, and I'm very pleased that you sent me a copy of your script.

I have a feeling that if you keep up at this pace and get a good education in school, then one day all three of you will be at the CBS network.

Sincerely yours,

Walter Cronkite

June 26, 1978

But that wasn't all. In his own handwriting below the typed letter was this: "P.S. I thought you might like to see one of our scripts. W.C." And stuffed into that fat gray envelope was a complete teleprompter roll from those days before electronic prompters, dozens of pages long, right up to "And that's the way it is" - the very script that had rolled in front of Uncle Walter on the night of Tuesday, June 27, 1978.

So know this about Walter Cronkite: the man who told the nation about JFK and Vietnam and the moon landings and Watergate was not too big or too self-impressed to take a few minutes to write back to a starry-eyed kindergartner.

It took nearly twenty years for that six-year-old would-be newscaster to finally thank Walter Cronkite in person, and by then there was an interesting irony: having continued on a path into the news business, inspired in no small part by that letter back in 1978, your editor ended up at WBZ in Boston.

By the time Cronkite showed up one night in the fall of 1996 to promote his new book, WBZ's owner, Westinghouse, had acquired CBS - and so that letter, long ago, that predicted that those kindergarten newscasters might someday "be at CBS" had come true, in a way.

Know this, too, about Walter Cronkite: even at the age of 80, he had already lost most of his hearing. So I'm not entirely sure that he understood - even as I showed him that letter he'd written me long ago - how much his small gesture back in 1978 meant to me.

So long, Uncle Walter...and thank you.

From the NERW Archives

(Yup, we've been doing this a long time now, and so we're digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five, 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 LARadio.com for the idea - and thanks to you, our readers, for the support that's made all these years of NERW possible!)

July 21, 2008 -

  • The lead financier behind Route 81, the radio group that made a big impact in central PENNSYLVANIA and upstate New York in recent years, has taken over operations of the company's stations after a foreclosure sale last week.
  • WallerSutton owned 50% of Route 81's clusters in Elmira (WENY AM-FM, WENI AM-FM, WCBA, WGMM), Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (WNAK, WCDL, WAZL, WLNP), Carlisle (WHYL) and Coatesville (WCOJ); now its subsidiary WS2K Acquisition has taken control of those stations in the wake of last Monday's foreclosure. The stations remain on the air under their current management, though we hear there were some problems with last week's paychecks clearing, leaving employees unpaid for several days; we're also hearing there are new owners on the way to WHYL and WAZL. More next week...
  • (There's a Massachusetts connection to WallerSutton as well; in addition to Route 81, its other radio investment is in J Sports LLC, owner of "ESPN Boston" WAMG 890/WLLH 1400.)
  • WCBS-FM (101.1 NEW YORK) news director morning newsman Al Meredith retired last week, ending a 44-year career that started in Long Island at WGBB, WGSM, WGLI and WBLI. Meredith had been with WCBS-FM for 28 years, remaining as public service director during the "Jack FM" interregnum that ended a year ago last week and returning to the morning airwaves when "CBS-FM" relaunched.
  • In Syracuse, the turbulent morning slot at WAQX (95.7 Manlius) is once again vacant. Citadel imported the syndicated "Opie and Anthony" show at many of its rock stations around the country two summers ago, but it left the Alabama-based "Beaner and Ken" in place on 95X until January 2007, when it installed O&A in the morning drive slot that Howard Stern had called home until 2004. (Back then, O&A had appeared on 95X for a short period immediately after Citadel pulled Stern off the air, in a day-delayed edited version of their satellite radio show.) Turns out Syracuse was no friendlier to O&A than it had been to Beaner and Ken; as of last Monday, the boys from New York are off the air in the Salt City. CNYRadio.com reports that PD Alexis shifted from middays to mornings for a few days to cover, and now Paulie Scibilia is handling mornings "for the foreseeable future."
  • In the Utica market, WOKR (93.5 Remsen) is applying for an upgrade; it hopes to move from its current 1150 watts/748' from Starr Hill, west of Remsen, to 3 kW/472' from a new tower in East Floyd, east of Rome and north of Utica. The new WOKR signal would be city-grade over Utica, which is now served by a translator, W231BI (94.1).

July 19, 2004 -

  • While the FCC and Congress pursue a strategy of regulating broadcast content through driving station owners into bankruptcy, broadcast regulators in CANADA pulled out the big gun last week, declining to renew the license of Genex's CHOI-FM (98.1 Quebec City) when it expires at the end of August.
  • As you may recall, the modern rock station had been operating on a short-term (two years instead of seven) renewal after initially running afoul with the CRTC over the usual Canadian issues of missing logger tapes and too much English-language musical content. More recently, as we've been reporting here in NERW, the CRTC put the station under tough scrutiny over the comments of its top-rated morning host, Jeff Fillion. Fillion is a sort of Quebecois Howard Stern (though the Quebecois might prefer to think of Stern as an Anglo Fillion), taking on pretty much any target that pleases him in a take-no-prisoners fashion. Most notably, at least where the CRTC is concerned, he'd been feuding on the air with Robert Gillet, former morning host of rival CJMF (93.3 Quebec City), attacking Gillet for his role in a widely-publicized teen prostitution scandal that's been the talk of tout Quebec for a while now.
  • The Gillet incident prompted several dozen complaints to the CRTC - and while Fillion's fans (egged on by Fillion himself) responded with more than 9,000 interventions in support of the station, the CRTC doesn't go by public opinion on such matters. Indeed, its chairman said the agency felt it had "no other option" but to pull CHOI's license, forcing the station to go silent on August 31. Genex owner Patrice Demers - who also owns CKNU (100.9) in the small town of Donnacona, west of Quebec City, says the move will leave 35 people jobless and cost him C$25 million (the estimated value of the station he bought in 1996 for C$2 million, when it was at the bottom of the ratings), and he's getting ready to go to court - and to Parliament - to fight the CRTC's move.
  • Meanwhile, the CRTC has already posted a call for applications for what it now considers a vacant 98.1 facility in Quebec City.
  • Meanwhile in MASSACHUSETTS, we have a fascinating example of just how different broadcasting regulators really are across the US/Canadian border. While Canadian regulators barely blush at sexual content, they come down hard on anything that they find demeaning to an individual or an ethnic group. But even as the FCC works itself up over the slightest hint of sexual content that might be offensive to some community, somewhere, it's letting WTKK (96.9 Boston) off the hook for the comments made by Jay Severin back in April. According to the complaints the FCC received, Severin told listeners, "I believe that Muslims in this country are a fifth column...You believe that we should befriend them. I think we should kill them."
  • The FCC declined to act on the complaints, saying that no court had ruled that Severin's comments posed a "clear and present danger" to public safety - and that they're thus covered under the First Amendment.
  • A couple of RHODE ISLAND call changes escaped our attention in last week's issue: WADK-FM (99.3 Block Island) is now WJZS, in keeping with its jazzy "Swing FM" image - and WJJF (1180 Hope Valley) is now WCNX, since station namesake John J. Fuller no longer owns the place. (And yes, we're aware that WCNX is the old call for 1150 Middletown CT, now WMRD...)
  • VERMONT Public Radio officially launches its new service on Tuesday morning. "VPR Classical" is on WNCH (88.1 Norwich), with plans to expand across the rest of the state in the years to come; most programming will come by satellite at first, though VPR music host Walter Parker will be heard mid-morning and VPR head honcho Mark Vogelzang will be heard on Sundays with "Sunday Bach."
  • In the Southern Tier, WXXI is shuffling the programming on satellite outlet WJSL (90.3 Houghton) at the beginning of August. Instead of being a full-time simulcast of classical WXXI-FM (91.5 Rochester), WJSL will begin breaking away from 6-8 AM and 4-6 PM on weekdays to carry NPR news programming from WXXI (1370 Rochester). It'll also carry Weekend Edition from 8-10 AM Saturdays. (Why break the simulcast now? Because WJSL can now be fed over a subcarrier of WXXI-DT 16 instead of over-the-air from 91.5...)

July 23, 1999 -

  • (NERW was on the road in northern Ontario a decade ago this week.)

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