October 12, 2009
WQXR, WCAA Make the Switch
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*More than 65 years of radio ownership by
the New York Times came to an end just after 8 o'clock
Thursday night, as WQXR-FM (96.3 New York) signed off from its
Union Square studios, handing its powerful class B signal to
Univision Radio's WCAA (105.9 Newark NJ) and its intellectual
property to public broadcaster WNYC, which also acquired the
class B1 105.9 facility from Univision. Seconds later, 105.9
came to life again as the new WQXR, now a noncommercial classical
station operating from WNYC's Varick Street studios, starting
a new era of classical radio in New York City.
Behind the scenes, there was plenty of drama in the final
days before the transition, on both the engineering and programming
programming side, it appears that WNYC's plans for its new acquisition
came together at the last minute - especially when it came to
the decisions on which of the "old" WQXR's airstaff
would be hired by WNYC for the "new" WQXR. It was only
in the last hour of Times operation of WQXR, as staffers
made their on-air farewells, that listeners learned that midday
host Annie Bergen would be heard on weekends on 105.9.
And even as the Times was saying farewell to WQXR with
an audio montage of station IDs going back to the earliest days
of W2XR experimental operation in the 1930s, Univision was readying
some big changes for its $33.5 million acquisition of the 96.3
spot on the dial. While initial reports had suggested that the
"La Kalle" format long heard on 105.9 would be making
a smooth transition down the dial to 96.3, it now appears that
Univision is instead launching a new station identity on its
Kalle" vanished from the airwaves around 5:00 on Thursday
afternoon, leaving the last three hours of WCAA operation on
105.9 to be filled by a repeating loop advising listeners that
"this number has changed" - and when the loop ended,
a few seconds after it was moved to 96.3, listeners heard several
dance tunes that were very much unlike "La Kalle."
Even after the usual Spanish-language musical fare returned,
it was running jockless, with repeated announcements to "mark
your calendar with an X for October 15." What's more, the
RDS display on 96.3 began showing "X 96" on Friday
morning, strengthening speculation that a new format was on the
way, along with new calls. On Thursday, Univision filed a request
for "WXNY-FM" for 96.3, meaning those "WCAA New
York" legal IDs now running will soon be collectors' items.
(Never fear - we'll have several in this week's update over at
On the HD Radio front, the new WQXR programming showed up
on the HD-2 subchannel of the more powerful WNYC-FM (93.9) signal,
replacing the more esoteric classical fare that's now being offered
as "Q2" on 105.9-HD2.
On the technical side, even the New Yorker noticed
the flurry of activity surrounding the signal swap; a "Talk
of the Town" item in the October 12 issue (available only
to subscribers on-line) visited WNYC engineering director Jim
Stagnitto as he worked on moving the 105.9 transmitter from Univision's
81st-floor room at the Empire State building to WNYC-FM's 79th-floor
new WQXR.org website also offered video
of Stagnitto turning on the 105.9 signal on Thursday night -
but that was just the conclusion of a longer, more complex transition
process that took several days of nearly nonstop work by Stagnitto
and WNYC chief technology officer Steve Shultis, as well as Univision's
Richard Ross and corporate engineer Mark Stennett, who came up
from Texas to assist in the move. While they were relocating
105.9's main transmitter downstairs to the WNYC room, and while
WNYC was preparing WQXR's new studios on Varick Street, WCAA
remained on the air in its final days on 105.9 from an auxiliary
transmitter a few blocks away at Four Times Square.
It was that Four Times Square transmitter that remained on
the air with the "move to 96.3" loop Thursday afternoon
- and by Friday, preparations were underway to move that auxiliary
transmitter out of Univision's room upstairs to WNYC-FM's own
auxiliary room at Four Times Square. Once that move is complete,
Univision will move the 96.3 auxiliary transmitter from West
Orange, N.J. to Four Times Square, adding 96.3 to the combiner
Meanwhile, Univision takes over the 81st-floor 96.3 transmitter
room from WQXR, leaving it largely intact for now, though the
new WXNY is expected to add an HD Radio signal in the near future.
(You can see that room, and the rest of the former WQXR 96.3
plant, over at Tower
Site of the Week.)
As expected, WQXR listeners in outlying areas - Long Island,
southern Connecticut, northern Westchester, central New Jersey
- soon began filling WQXR's message boards with complaints about
the 105.9 signal, which runs just 600 watts from the Empire master
antenna, against 6000 watts for 96.3 and the other class B signals.
(Beyond the raw signal-strength issues, there are also numerous
short-spaced signals - WBLI 106.1 on Long Island, WHCN 105.9
in Hartford, WISX 106.1 in Philadelphia and WCHR-FM 105.7 at
the Jersey shore - that cut into the new WQXR signal on the fringes.)
At least two of those areas will soon get a WQXR signal restored.
Once some reception issues at privately-owned translators W244AS
(96.7 Oakhurst NJ) and W279AJ (103.7 Highland NY) can be rectified,
those translators will switch from relaying 96.3 to the new 105.9.
WNYC/WQXR is also promising to pursue additional translators
and station acquisitions to extend the range of the classical
service. (NERW wonders whether Albany's WAMC has been approached
about its unbuilt WWES 88.9 in Mount Kisco, which would neatly
fill in a significant 105.9 signal gap in northern Westchester.)
And what becomes of the WQXR studios at 122 Fifth Avenue,
built two decades ago as some of the finest acoustical spaces
in the city? They're still in the hands of the Times,
and at least for now, they sit empty and (very) quiet, with their
future still uncertain. (Former WQXR chief engineer Rodney Belizaire
remains with the Times at least through the end of the
year, overseeing the disposition of the space and the equipment
within. Some of it - along with the WQXR record library and much
of the station's archives - is headed to WNYC; the fate of the
rest remains unclear.)
*WQXR wasn't the only New York station making a big move in
the last few days: Friday was the last day for CBS Radio's WFAN
(660) at its longtime studio home deep in the bowels of the Kaufman
Astoria studio complex in Astoria, Queens, several floors below
the "Sesame Street" studios.
move out of Kaufman Astoria came 22 years almost to the day after
the pioneering all-sports format signed on from that space, though
it was on 1050 AM back then.
(Indeed, the studios even predate WFAN on 1050, having been
built in 1986 for what was then WHN and sister FM station WAPP
103.5; having visited them several times in later years, we'll
profile them later this winter on Tower Site of the Week.)
Also gone with the move is the by-now-legendary phone number
for WFAN call-ins, as 718-937-6666 gives way to 877-337-6666
to reach the new Manhattan studios.
We hear the Astoria space will remain in CBS Radio's hands,
to be used as an emergency backup studio should the new space
in lower Manhattan that WFAN now shares with four other CBS stations
*Facebook? Twitter? MySpace? Meet "The
NA710N," the new social-networking offering from New
York's WOR (710). The Buckley talker unveiled the new site (pronounced
"Nation," we assume) last week, as both a place for
its listeners to gather and a way to disseminate news and conversation
from the station's own hosts.
"THE NA710N will continue to keep WOR on the front lines
as the Internet becomes a more significant distribution platform
for radio content," said the site's creator, WOR's Director
of Interactive Jared Lapin. (And of course we'd note that Lapin
started his broadcast career here in Rochester, as station manager
of the University of Rochester's WRUR-FM a few years back...)
WOR had one more announcement last week: it's adding former
WNBC (Channel 4) sports director Len Berman to its roster. Berman
will be delivering sports commentaries at 8:10 AM on Mondays
and Fridays on WOR's John Gambling morning show.
the TV side, public broadcaster WNET (Channel 13)/WLIW (Channel
21) wants to downsize from its current home at 450 W. 33rd Street.
The New York Observer reports that the stations are
looking for a new space of about 100,000 square feet, roughly
half the size of the facility they now occupy in the building
the paper aptly describes as an "eyesore" a couple
of blocks west of Penn Station. WNET has another ten years remaining
on its lease there, but after significant staffing reductions
in recent years, the public station no longer needs that much
space. (WNET is also backing out of plans to build a street-level
studio as part of the Lincoln Center redevelopment uptown.)
*Out on Long Island's East End, Long Island University has
picked a buyer for its public radio station - and to nobody's
great surprise, it's the local group called Peconic Public Broadcasting,
led by the current management of WLIU (88.3 Southampton) and
WCWP (88.1 Brookville).
Peconic's bid, said to be in the $2 million range, reportedly
beat out at least two other offers, which were apparently from
rival public broadcasting groups, not religious broadcasters,
as had originally been reported.
The next steps for
Peconic will be both challenging and speedy: the group has to
turn its celebrity endorsements from names such as Alec Baldwin
and Jann Wenner into hard financial committments from listeners
- and it has just a few months to get WLIU's studios off the
former Long Island University campus in Southampton (now part
of SUNY Stony Brook) and into new space in Wainscott.
*Heading north up the Hudson Valley, the FCC has finally announced
the next step in the slow process that will result in a full-time
AM signal for Rockland County on 1700 kHz. You'll recall that
congressional pressure was brought to bear on the FCC back in
2006 to open a rare window for applications for a new station
on 1700, with the ostensible purpose of providing better emergency
communications in the event of an accident at the Indian Point
nuclear plant across the river in northern Westchester County.
The application window was opened as a result of an application
by Alexander Broadcasting's WRCR (1300 Spring Valley) to move
to 1700 with a better full-time signal - but in order to comply
with current FCC policies, other broadcasters had to have a shot
at it too, and that means there will be an auction for the frequency.
Before the auction, though, the four applicants (Alexander,
Zev Brenner's Talkline Communications, S&B Broadcasting,
and Polnet, which owns WRKL 910 in New City) have until December
9 to try to put some sort of settlement together. If they don't,
then the 1700 facility will go up for auction in early 2010.
Clear Channel's New York-based Elvis Duran morning show has
several new upstate affiliates: in addition to being heard on
Rochester's WKGS (106.7 Irondequoit), Duran's show is now being
heard up the Hudson Valley at another "Kiss," WPKF
(96.1 Poughkeepsie), where he's followed by Ryan Seacrest in
middays. That move knocks morning host "Annie" and
afternoon host "DC" out of jobs, with Chris Marino
(late of "Kiss" competitor WSPK) replacing DC on afternoons
and as music director. Annie's former morning co-host CJ McIntyre
moves across the hall to country WRWD (107.3 Highland)/WRWC (99.3
Ellenville), where he's now co-hosting mornings.
Across the Catskills, we've been remiss in not noting the
changes at WVOS-FM (95.9 Liberty), where former afternoon jock
Chris Ingram has replaced John Moultrie in mornings.
Syracuse, James Johnson's new Leatherstocking group is making
changes at the cluster it's buying from Buckley: starting this
morning, the oldies that had been heard on WFBL (1390) have relocated
down the dial to the lesser signal of WSEN (1050 Baldwinsville),
which flipped to a WFBL simulcast from a simulcast of classic
hits WSEN-FM (92.1 Baldwinsville) a few weeks ago. CNYRadio.com
reports that the new format on 1390 will be talk, though the
only host announced thus far is the syndicated Laura Ingraham
show from 9-noon. Will the new talk format - or the WSEN(AM)
oldies - eventually replace the FM simulcast on Leatherstocking's
nearby WMCR (1600 Oneida)?
Over at Finger Lakes Radio Group, they're looking for a new
morning co-host to replace Sharon Thomas at WNYR-FM (98.5 Waterloo);
her morning show had transitioned from "Mike and Sharon"
to "Jim and Sharon" over the summer when Jim Schreck
took over as morning host/PD and Mike Smith moved to afternoons.
Meanwhile, the Finger Lakes stations are learning an expensive
lesson about telling the FCC the truth: after admitting on their
renewal applications that some issues and program lists from
prior to 2001 couldn't be found in their public files, three
of the stations - WSFW (1110 Seneca Falls), WAUB (1590 Auburn)
and WNYR-FM - each face $10,000 Notices of Apparent Liability
from the Commission. (NERW wonders how many stations out there
with similar minor public-file issues checked "no"
on their renewal applications anyway, and will never face scrutiny
from an understaffed FCC...)
*The New York State Broadcasters Association is preparing
to induct a half-dozen big names into its Hall of Fame at an
event November 12 at the Paley Center for Media in New York City.
This year's class of inductees includes CBS newsman Charles
Osgood and legendary New York morning man Harry Harrison as well
as four upstate broadcasters: Syracuse's Rick Gary, currently
host of WSYR-TV's "Bridge Street" and morning man on
WZUN/WUMX; Brother Wease of Rochester's WFXF; longtime WGY (810
Schenectady) morning man Don Weeks and, from Buffalo, former
WIVB-TV (Channel 4) reporter Marie Rice, who was just inducted
into the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame last month.
*Where are they now? Former WROC-TV (Channel 8) general manager
Marc Jaromin is still in Rochester - and now he's heading up
a new ownership group called Roundtable Broadcasting, which just
made an acquisition in Jackson, Mississippi. Jaromin will serve
as interim GM of the Jackson station, Fox affiliate WDBD (Channel
40), where he's overseeing an initial round of cost-cutting that
includes a temporary suspension of weekend newscasts and the
elimination of at least 10 jobs.
And Dan Lay, who was the "Elvis" half of the "JV
and Elvis" show that came east from San Francisco to New
York's erstwhile "Free FM" (WFNY-FM 92.3, now WXRK)
a few years back, is once again on the air out west, holding
down mornings at the new "Now 104.3" (KFRH) in Las
Vegas and the even newer "92.7 the Revolution" (KREV)
in San Francisco.
THE 2010 CALENDAR
The brand-new Tower Site Calendar 2010 is
now shipping, complete with more than a dozen full-color images
of sites from Deer Point in Boise to KYPA in Los Angeles to Mount
Mansfield in Vermont.
Just one of our individually-numbered,
hand-signed limited first edition remains in stock- and of course
your purchase of any version of the calendar helps support the
continued production of NERW and Tower Site of the Week.
And we still have a very small quantity
of earlier calendars available, too, if you missed some...
now at the fybush.com Store!
*Greater Media jumped on the FM sports bandwagon
in eastern PENNSYLVANIA Friday afternoon, with a surprise
format change that pulled the plug on AC "Now 97.5"
(WNUW Burlington NJ) before that format had even reached its
first anniversary on the air.
place, as of 5 o'clock Friday, is the Philadelphia market's first
all-sports FM signal, "97.5 the Fanatic," picking up
the programming that's been struggling to find an audience on
Greater Media's lone Philly AM signal, WPEN (950), which has
long been an also-ran against CBS Radio's sports behemoth, WIP
The new "Revolution" lineup includes ESPN's "Mike
and Mike" in morning drive, followed by a yet-to-be-named
local show from 10-noon (ESPN's Steven A. Smith and Dan Schwartzman
will be guest-hosting the shift this week), Harry Mayes and Vai
Sikahema from noon-2, the flagship Mike Missanelli show from
2-7, a series of specialty shows at night, and ESPN's programming
filling out the schedule.
For now, "the Fanatic" will be simulcasting on 950
and 97.5, but that's not expected to be permanent, and it's not
hard to imagine 950 becoming a full-time home for ESPN's national
*In Pittsburgh, the venerable WAMO calls are now up for grabs,
now that St. Joseph Mission has changed the calls of AM 860 (ex-WAMO
Millvale) to WAOB, matching the former WAMO-FM, now WAOB-FM.
Will Eddie Edwards pick up the WAMO calls for his new purchase,
WPYT (660 Wilkinsburg)?
*Over in NEW JERSEY, a religious station
in the Atlantic City market is changing hands, as Spreading the
Gospel, Inc. pays $375,000 to buy WEHA (88.7 Port Republic) from
Vin-Lor Broadcasting, which has been LMA'ing the signal to Spreading
the Gospel for the last few years.
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*With the baseball season now over
in MASSACHUSETTS (Papelbon?!?!?! Really?), dispirited
Sox fans will be following the rest of the playoffs from afar
- and if they're doing so by radio, they once again have an ESPN
Radio outlet in Boston.
As had been widely
expected, ESPN has once again linked up with Entercom's WEEI
(850 Boston), restoring an affiliation that the two sides broke
off back in 2005, when ESPN signed on with upstart WAMG (890
Dedham), which had a four-year run as "ESPN 890" with
only limited success.
Since "ESPN 890" went silent a month ago, ESPN's
programming has lacked an over-the-air outlet in Boston, and
most of its shows still won't be heard on WEEI, which will be
carrying only the Jason Smith all-night show (replacing the Fox
Sports programming now heard from 1-5 AM on weekdays) and some
weekend programming - as well as play-by-play coverage, including
the rest of the baseball post-season.
But the alliance sets the stage for further future cooperation
between the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" and New England's
sports giant, with WEEI personalities getting a national platform
and ESPN voices such as Peter Gammons and Adam Schefter becoming
regular guests on WEEI's local shows.
And of course there's that 50,000-watt gorilla over in the
corner: the never-ending talk of an FM home for WEEI's local
sports, which would free up the AM 850 signal for full-time ESPN
coverage. The Globe seems to think such a move is imminent
- "perhaps as soon as the end of the Red Sox' postseason
run," the paper reported late last week - but at this point,
having heard those rumors for many months now, we'll believe
it when it happens and not a moment sooner.
*Over at WFNX (101.7 Lynn), Mike Tierney is inbound as the
new VP/Broadcast Operations for the Phoenix Media/Communications
Group. Tierney comes with a long resume, including a recent PD
stint at New York's "K-Rock" (WXRK 92.3), as well as
management roles in the music industry and in radio and TV programming.
Across town at Greater Media, veteran newsman Ed Cherubino
is out the door at WTKK (96.9), where he'd been news director
and afternoon anchor. Cherubino's history with the 96.9 signal
extended back through its previous incarnation as smooth jazz
WSJZ. Boston Radio
Watch also reports that WTKK has parted ways with assistant
PD Eric Caldwell and promotions coordinator Corey Anderson.
Out in western Massachusetts, they're mourning one of the
region's most prominent broadcast owners. Donald A. Thurston
came to the Berkshires from Vermont in 1960 to manage WMNB (1230/100.1)
in North Adams for its then-owner, the North Adams Transcript.
In 1966, Thurston formed Berkshire Broadcasting and bought
the North Adams stations, followed two years later by WSBS (860)
in Great Barrington.
Thornton was also active in the NAB's leadership, serving
as the NAB's joint board chairman from 1977-1979 and coming within
a few votes of becoming NAB president in 1982. Thurston also
served two terms as chairman of BMI's board of directors. In
the years since the 2004 sale of the Berkshires stations to Vox
Media, Thurston had been suffering from Parkinson's disease.
He died last Monday (Oct. 5) at 79.
"He was one of the finest broadcasters you would want
to know," said Tom Jay, who worked for Thurston as morning
man on WSBS for more than 30 years.
*While ESPN Radio remained missing from the
Boston radio dial, the network is back on its former affiliates
in southern NEW HAMPSHIRE.
Broadcasting's WGAM (1250 Manchester) and WGHM (900 Nashua) lost
that affiliation back in 2006, but it's back as of last Friday,
just in time for ESPN's coverage of the baseball playoffs. "The
Game" is also adding Boston Bruins hockey to its lineup,
which should be welcome news in the Manchester area, where new
Bruins flagship WBZ-FM (98.5 Boston) is weaker than its predecessor,
Meanwhile on Absolute's other station, Nashua's WSMN (1590),
talk host Jennifer Horn is taking a leave of absence to take
another shot at winning a seat in the U.S. House. Horn left WSMN
for a year in 2008 to be the Republican candidate for the seat,
but lost to Democrat Paul Hodes. This time, she's likely to face
a GOP primary in the race for the second district seat, open
this year as Hodes runs for the U.S. Senate.
Moving north, there's a format shuffle in the works as part
of the station spin-off that's sending several Nassau stations
to Great Eastern. On November 4, WLKZ (104.9 Wolfeboro) will
drop its "Frank" classic hits format (a Nassau trademark)
and pick up the "Hawk" classic rock that's now on WWHQ
(101.5 Meredith), which will get a new format that's yet to be
announced. Expect a new format to replace Frank as well on the
third station in the Nassau-Great Eastern deal, WNNH (99.1 Henniker)
in the Concord market.
*In CONNECTICUT, Clear Channel's WWYZ
(92.5 Waterbury) is shuffling its airstaff, moving Wendy Steele
from afternoons to middays, replacing the voicetracked Kat Jackson,
and putting PD Lance Tidwell on the air in afternoon drive.
And we note the passing of Bob Ellsworth, who came to Hartford's
WTIC radio in 1956 and helped sign on WTIC-TV (Channel 3) a year
later, becoming the station's first 11 PM news anchor. Ellsworth
remained with WTIC for the next decade, and later worked at several
other Connecticut radio and TV outlets before starting his own
production business. In recent years, he'd been on the air at
noncommercial WJMJ (89.9 Hartford) while battling the esophageal
cancer that took his life Friday morning at the age of 83.
*VERMONT's WEQX (102.7 Manchester)
kicks off its 25th anniversary celebration today, counting down
"25 Years in 25 Days" each weekday on the way to November
14, the actual anniversary date. 'EQX will also be announcing
anniversary concerts and an anniversary CD as the date gets closer.
Up in Burlington, Craig Bailey is syndicating his "Floydian
Slip" show, an institution in the Champlain Valley for almost
15 years. The weekly Pink Floyd hour is heard locally on WIZN
(106.7) on Sunday nights at 8, and now it's available to other
stations with a six-week free preview at FloydianSlip.com.
Edited by NERW's own Scott Fybush - on sale now as
an e-book or printed volume!
*There's no radio market in eastern CANADA
that's seen as much change in the last decade or so as Halifax,
Nova Scotia, which has seen all three of its AMs move to FM with
new formats, accompanied by another half-dozen or so new FM signals
in recent years. Now Halifax is getting one more FM, a triple-A
station on 105.1 from HFX Broadcasting, the Nova Scotia subsidiary
of Toronto-based Evanov Broadcasting, which also owns "Z103"
(CKHZ 103.5) in Halifax. Evanov beat out two other applications
from Frank Torres and Acadia Broadcasting for the frequency.
As part of the Halifax hearing, the CRTC also denied an application
from the Parrsboro Radio Society to increase the power of its
community station, CICR (99.1 Parrsboro), from 50 to 500 watts.
The CRTC says Parrsboro's application sought to serve additional
communities that were not part of its originally-authorized contours,
putting it at odds with CRTC policy that requires unprotected
low-power stations seeking more power to demonstrate that they
can't adequately serve their existing coverage area at low power.
In Ottawa, Evanov's CJWL (88.5) is moving its antenna and
raising power. "The Jewel" will go from 485 watts/117.5
meters, non-directional, to 2.5 kW (1.1 kW average)/100.5 meters
from a new location on the Carlisle Building, a few blocks south
on Lyon Street from its present downtown Ottawa transmitter.
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!)
October 13, 2008 -
- It's been a few weeks since we've led off with big news from
NEW YORK - but this week, there's big news indeed from two of
the city's biggest stations. After 14 years at the helm of what's
arguably the most important talk radio station in the country,
Phil Boyce announced on Thursday that he's leaving the PD chair
at WABC (770) - and by the end of the day, he was out the door
at the 17th floor of 2 Penn Plaza.
- The official word from Citadel was that Boyce's departure
was entirely of his own doing, and while Boyce didn't immediately
announce where he's headed next, Sean Hannity - one of Boyce's
proteges at WABC - hinted that whatever Boyce is doing next,
he'd be involved in it somehow. (It bears noting that Hannity
just announced contract extensions with both of his employers,
Citadel and Fox News Channel.)
- Those looking for certainty in the world of New York radio
could find it last week at the Clear Channel cluster, though
it may not have been the kind of certainty that fans of local
radio would seek: once again, local content and local talent
is giving way to national syndication. This time, it's the relentless
march of Ryan Seacrest across the nation's airwaves. As his "On
Air" show has moved east from its Los Angeles home base,
it's displaced local midday and afternoon jocks all over the
country, and last week it was Shelley Wade's turn. The veteran
middayer at WHTZ (100.3 Newark) is still at Z100, at least for
now - but instead of her familiar 10 AM-3 PM shift, she's suddenly
on overnights, replaced by the inevitable Seacrest, who at least
made the right noises in the press release about how he's "always
wanted to play those Z100 jingles," never mind that it's
the automation in Manhattan that will be doing that, not Seacrest
- They still call it the "Regional News Network,"
but the "news" is mostly gone at WRNN-DT (Channel 48).
The Kingston-licensed station, seen on cable throughout most
of the New York City TV market, has cancelled the last of its
Hudson Valley-oriented news programming, leaving only "NewsCenter
NOW Long Island" at 4:30 PM weekdays, as well as two talk
shows later in the evening, surrounded by "Inside Edition,"
"Access Hollywood," "Law and Order" reruns
and lots and lots of paid programming.
- Budget cutbacks hit WDRC in Hartford, CONNECTICUT at week's
end: five full-time and four part-time positions were cut at
the stations, including WDRC-FM afternoon jock Doug Taylor and
WDRC(AM) mid-morning talker Mary Jones. Her slot will be filled
by the syndicated Glenn Beck show, while on the FM Larry Wells
moves from middays to afternoons, with Floyd Wright moving into
middays from overnights.
- A big PENNSYLVANIA FM signal was knocked off the air by vandals
early Thursday morning. The transmitter site of WILQ (105.1 Williamsport)
is in a fairly remote spot, high above the city on Skyline Drive
- but it wasn't remote enough to keep a big piece of logging
equipment called a skidder from slamming into the building around
4 AM Thursday. Backyard Broadcasting chief engineer Tom Atkins
says the vandals apparently hot-wired the skidder and went for
a joyride, which didn't last long. The ride ended when the skidder
slammed into a corner of WILQ's concrete-block transmitter building,
knocking the station off the air. The good news, if you can call
it that, is that the transmitter wasn't hit; the bad news, however,
is that the transmitter building was a total loss. WILQ quickly
got back on the air from an auxiliary site, and Atkins and his
crew salvaged what they could from the building. (We're writing
this, oddly enough, from the laptop in the passenger seat of
the NERW-mobile as we drive through Williamsport, and WILQ's
signal - at least over the weekend - is pretty good in the city,
though not as good as its usual booming full class B.)
October 11, 2004 -
- Whether you loved her or loathed her, there's no arguing
that Jane Christo was one of the most prominent station managers
not only in MASSACHUSETTS but in the entire broadcast community.
But after 25 years in the saddle at WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston), Christo
announced last week that she's stepping down, closing a career
that saw her transform WBUR from a better-than-average college
radio station in dumpy quarters to one of the nation's top public
radio stations, operating from state-of-the-art studios.
- WBUR staffers reportedly gave the teary-eyed Christo, 62,
a standing ovation after she announced that she'll resign this
Friday - but it's not clear how much of that was appreciation
for her work, and how much was relief at the departure of the
boss who oversaw not only the creation of Car Talk and Here and
Now but also controversies that included the departure of prominent
talk show host Christopher Lydon and even a spat over the proper
wording of underwriting announcements that led to the firing
of an overnight board operator. That level of personal involvement
with WBUR's product may well have spelled the end of Christo's
leadership there. The fight over her plans to sell Rhode Island
satellite stations WRNI (1290 Providence) and WXNI (1230 Westerly)
opened floodgates of criticism that led to an anonymous letter
from staffers accusing her of mismanaging station funds and,
last week, the start of an investigation by Boston University
and, reportedly, by Massachusetts' attorney general. The station
reportedly owes Boston University more than $12 million, and
ended 2003 $1.8 million in debt (though a BU spokesman told the
Boston Globe that the station's 2004 budget would be balanced),
undercutting WBUR's denials that the proposed sale of the Rhode
Island stations, expected to net several million dollars, was
financially motivated. In a statement, Christo said she believes
that the investigation will determine that "the allegations
of improper misconduct against me are baseless," but that
her departure will allow WBUR to return its focus to its news
and talk programming. An interim general manager for the station
is expected to be named this week. As always, stay tuned...
- Of course, we can't ignore the week's big news on the national
radio scene - the announcement by Howard Stern that he's leaving
NEW YORK's WXRK (92.3) and his national syndication slot to move
to Sirius Satellite Radio in 2006. (We can, however, forego the
"Siriusly" puns that every other trade mag out there
has been doing to death...)
- Stern's move was cannily timed to be the talk of the NAB
Radio Show out in San Diego, where we can confirm that just about
every conversation we had started not with "hello"
but with "what about Howard?"
- So, what about Howard? There's some validity, to be sure,
in the face most radio managers were putting on for public consumption
- that Stern will inevitably lose some influence and power by
going from his network of more than 40 stations and many tens
of millions of potential listeners to a service that costs real
money (think of it as $156 a year and you begin to understand
both the cost to listeners and the potential revenue magnet that
Stern brings to Sirius) and has just 600,000 subscribers right
now. But it's also worth noting a few other comments we heard
during the show - especially one from a prominent agent for several
"shock jocks" who said that nearly all his clients
have asked him to investigate satellite deals in addition to
terrestrial radio. And those radio managers and executives would
do well, too, to listen to syndicated talker Tom Leykis, who
responded to our question about Stern thusly: "Asking me
about Stern going to satellite would be like asking the Rolling
Stones, when they were still putting out cassettes, how the move
to CDs would affect them."
- Translation: for those who provide the content (and, though
they weren't saying so in an audience full of terrestrial broadcasters,
those who manufacture the equipment), Sirius and XM are just...more
radio. That's completely at odds, of course, with the official
stance that satellite radio is a mortal enemy to terrestrial
radio - but then, our editorial take, unpopular though it may
be with some station owners, is that when all the dust settles,
that's how listeners will see the satellite services, too. It's
really not a change from the argument we've been making in this
space for pretty much the entire decade this column has existed:
terrestrial radio can and will survive by doing the things only
terrestrial radio can do - which comes back to the mantra of
"local, local, local." No satellite-delivered service
will ever out-WINS WINS when it comes to giving New Yorkers the
headlines, traffic and sports they need. No satellite-delivered
service will ever connect to soccer moms in the Boston suburbs
as well as WMJX does. No satellite-delivered service will ever,
ever, ever sound like WLNG out on Long Island's East End (and
speaking of that, our best wishes go out to Paul Sidney, who's
been off the air battling kidney problems of late.)
- The wise words of my colleague Sean Ross are worth heeding
here: "There are 13,000 radio stations that already have
to deal with not having Howard Stern as their morning host."
(Read the rest of his cogent analysis at edisonresearch.com.)
It's a pretty good bet that stations like WBCN, WCCC, WXRK and
WYSP, which already have established identities in their markets
separate from Stern, will survive and even thrive in Stern's
absence; while their revenue streams will no doubt suffer from
Stern's absence, they'll also be free of the burden of paying
Stern's big fees. It will be more interesting, we suspect, to
see what becomes of stations like WHXR/WHXQ ("the Bone"),
WZNE and WRKZ, which have built their entire identities on being
"the Stern station" in their respective markets. And
if Stern continues to talk up satellite radio's virtues so extensively
every morning, it's a good bet that at least some of his present
affiliates will send his show packing even before the end of
2005. (More wise words from the NAB show floor: "This is
a very good time to be a morning-show talent agent.")
October 9, 1999 -
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- No question about where we start this first NERW from our
new, more spacious location -- the Clear Channel/AMFM merger
announced this week creates yet another "largest group in
radio" and points the way to a divestiture that will itself
be one of the largest group sales in broadcast history.
- We've watched over the last few years as Clear Channel entered
the Northeast, starting in New Haven, adding Radio Equity Partners'
Springfield and Providence operations, buying TV in Albany and
Providence, bursting into Albany and Utica with the purchase
of Dame Media, then Rochester with the purchase of Jacor and
Syracuse through a station swap with Cox. Meantime, AMFM slowly
assembled itself through various Hicks, Muse-controlled entities,
including Chancellor (which built groups in Boston through the
purchase of Evergreen and in New York City through a series of
acquisitions), Capstar (which first entered the region by buying
Commodore Media in the New York suburbs, then swallowed Knight
Quality Group, yielding stations from Burlington to Worcester,
followed by SFX's Providence, Springfield, Hartford, New Haven,
Long Island and Albany stations), and several TV groups. Now
the two are coming together in a $56 billion merger (which might
have been a big story in the business press if it hadn't been
overshadowed by the even bigger MCI WorldCom-Sprint conglomeration),
which will create an 830 station group and spin off nearly a
- As the last NERW went to press, the radio scene in Concord,
NEW HAMPSHIRE was being upended with the announcement that Bruce
Danziger's Vox Media would pay $3.6 million for RadioWorks' remaining
stations, WJYY (105.5), WRCI (107.7 Hillsboro), and WNHI (93.3
Belmont). RadioWorks sold WNHQ Peterborough to Steve Mindich
last month. Vox already owns WKXL (1450/102.3) in Concord, and
the word is that WKXL-FM and WNHI will share a (country?) music
format once the deal closes. The news-talk format of WKXL(AM)
will be simulcast on WRCI, replacing the classic rock-and-Imus
"I-station" simulcast that station now shares with
WNHI. WJYY's CHR won't be affected, at least for now. All the
stations will somehow squeeze into WKXL's Redington Road facility.
- A familiar voice is back on the morning airwaves in RHODE
ISLAND, as Carolyn Fox takes over wakeup duties on classic rock
WWRX (103.7 Westerly). The veteran of WHJY and WPRO displaces
Don Imus -- but don't weep for the I-Man; he ends up on sister
station WWBB (101.1), in turn displacing Daria Bruno and Rockin'
Joe Herbert, who are looking for a new gig elsewhere. Fox is
no stranger to her new bosses at WWRX, since she worked for PD
Bill Weston and GM Jim Corwin at WHJY not that long ago. (And
in the funhouse world of late '90s radio, it's no surprise to
note that WWRX/WWBB and WHJY are about to become sister stations
- Clear Channel is doing the format shuffle in Albany, as modern
rock migrates from "The Edge" (WQBK 103.9 Rensselaer/WQBJ
103.5 Cobleskill) down the dial to the former home of smooth
jazz, WHRL (103.1 Albany). That station flipped to "Channel
103.1, the new music alternative" just before midnight October
1, filling the void created a week earlier when the Edge stations
switched to active rock as "Rock Radio, 103.5/103.9 the
Edge." (NERW detects shades of the Rochester format change
in January that moved then-Jacor-owned WNVE from modern to active
rock). WQBJ/QBK PD Rod Ryan adds WHRL to his portfolio, with
Edge middayer Jason Keller moving over to mornings at WHRL.
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2009 by Scott Fybush.