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October 19, 2009

"X96" Launches in New York

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*Univision Radio relaunched its NEW YORK FM presence Thursday morning, adopting new call letters and a new slogan to go with its $33.5 million move from its former FM home, "La Kalle" WCAA (105.9 Newark), to the more powerful signal on 96.3 that was long home to WQXR.

As we told you last week, the WCAA calls made a temporary move down the dial to 96.3 on the night of October 8, when WQXR moved up to 105.9 under the ownership of public broadcaster WNYC. But the "La Kalle" slogan vanished in the move, and Univision's frequent on-air exhortations to "mark your calendar with an X on October 15 at 6 AM" made it clear that something different was coming to the 96.3 frequency.

And as NERW first reported last week, that "something different" includes the calls WXNY - and a new slogan, "X96.3, La Mezcla de New York." That translates roughly as "The Mix of New York," and it comes with a format that's not far different from the old "La Kalle" on 105.9. We're not experts on the nuances of Spanish-language radio, but it seems to be described best as some mixture of "Spanish Tropical" and "rhythmic AC," with some English-language dance tracks in there as part of the playlist, and with DJ banter that's largely, but not entirely, in Spanish.

So far, the new "X96.3" appears to be running jockless, except for the station's star personality, the Luis Jimenez morning show.

*Over on the AM dial, Mike and the Mad Dog were reunited on Friday, at least briefly, on both WFAN (where Mike Francesa has been holding down afternoons since the departure of Chris "Mad Dog" Russo last year) and on Sirius, where Russo now does a national show. Both hosts were doing their shows from Yankee Stadium before the start of the American League championship series, and after a friendly call from Francesa to wish Russo a happy 50th birthday earlier in the week, each host agreed to do an hour on the other's broadcast. Will the reunion, which found both men evidently free of the tension that marked their last year or so together on the FAN, lead to something more permanent?

There's a management change at WFAN's competition: Tim McCarthy, who's been serving as senior VP of ESPN Radio's WEPN (1050 New York) and sister station WEAE (1250 Pittsburgh), has been promoted to senior VP for the entire station group, putting him in charge of ESPN Radio's Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago outlets as well.

And way at the top of the dial, one of the signature voices of WWRL (1600 New York) died last Wednesday (Oct. 14). Hank Spann was known as "The Soul Server" during his many years on 'RL in the seventies and eighties. In later years, Spann crossed over to the record industry, working for Warner Brothers Records; recently, he'd been living in San Francisco.

Back on the FM dial, Joe Rosati is heading west from New York's WHTZ (Z100), to take on imaging duties for Clear Channel sister stations WKQI (95.5) and WDTW-FM (106.7) in Detroit. No word yet on a replacement for Rosati's 10 PM-2 AM airshift.

We can now attach a price tag to Peconic Public Broadcasting's winning bid for WLIU (88.3 Southampton): the deal is valued at $2.425 million, though the management group will pay Long Island University only $800,000 cash for WLIU. The rest of the deal includes Peconic's immediate assumption of operating costs for WLIU immediately, a three-year LMA of sister station WCWP (88.1 Brookville) that's valued at $1 million, and the costs of moving WLIU off the former LIU Southampton campus to new digs at the Wainscott Studios in Wainscott.

In Albany, the syndicated "Big Boy's Neighborhood" morning show is now being heard on Albany Broadcasting's WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville), displacing former morning co-host Charlie to middays on "Jamz 96.3."

Up north, St. Lawrence University's North Country Public Radio has been granted a construction permit for a full-power signal in Lake Placid, winning out over competing applications from Albany's WAMC and the Northeast Gospel Network. (As we reported back in December 2007, WAMC had agreed to drop its Lake Placid application in favor of NCPR.) The new 91.7 signal will replace NCPR's present translator in Lake Placid, W219AK, which will apply to move to a new frequency and relay WAMC.

And NCPR has signed on another new signal: WXLS (88.3 Tupper Lake) replaces a translator on 91.7 in that mountain community.

Thanks to CNYRadio.com, we can now offer a full schedule for Leatherstocking's new talk format on WFBL (1390 Syracuse). There's one local show, a noon talk hour hosted by Jon Alvarez, and the rest of the day comes off the bird: "First Light" at 5, "America in the Morning" at 6, Laura Ingraham at 9, Dennis Miller at 1 PM, Fred Thompson at 4 PM, Jason Lewis at 6 PM, and then Larry King, Jim Bohannon and Phil Hendrie later at night. Alvarez' local show will kick off on October 26, we're told. (And there's no sign yet of WFBL's promised new website at CNYTalkRadio.com, while the station's old site at WFBL.com now redirects to a Twitter account for the new format.)

Here in Rochester, we're mourning the loss of one of the original program hosts from the earliest days of WXXI-FM (91.5). Richard Gladwell was a part of the station almost from its start in late 1974, and his weekend choral music show, "With Heart and Voice," continues to be offered to public radio stations nationwide. Gladwell had been diagnosed with brain cancer in June, and he died peacefully with family at his side at his Rochester home on Thursday, just short of his 89th birthday.

Earlier in the week, WXXI launched a revamped website and unveiled a new logo and branding campaign for its radio, television and interactive services. And WXXI was one of several upstate New York public broadcasters to host NPR president Vivian Schiller as she toured member stations across the region; her tour also included stops at WNED and WBFO in Buffalo. (Usual disclaimer: your editor is a part-time WXXI employee.)

Speaking of Buffalo, it's one of two markets in New York that stands to get a new noncommercial signal as a result of an FCC application window. Over the last few years, 67 channels in the "non-reserved" (92.1-107.9 MHz) FM band have been set aside for noncommercial use, and until now those allocations have been sitting idle at the FCC. But in an attempt to clear out the agency's backlogs, the FCC will open an application window for one week in November for those facilities, including a class-A signal on 92.1 in Amherst and another A on 102.5 downstate in Rhinebeck, and we'd expect a bumper crop of applications for those two channels.

(There are only three other NERW-land channels included in the window: 93.3A Susquehanna, PA, just outside Binghamton; 107.5A Liberty, PA, south of Mansfield; and 104.3A West Tisbury, MA, on Martha's Vineyard.)

In the Southern Tier, look for the new 97.1 signal in Canaseraga to be on the air within a few weeks - but you'll have to be right in town to hear it. With Equinox Broadcasting's construction permit set to expire in mid-November, George Hawras and Kevin Fitzgerald have applied to modify the CP to specify minimum class A facilities - 100 watts at 92 feet - in order to beat the expiration date. They've also got a callsign for the new station: it'll be WZHD.

Over in Bath, Kurt Goff is inbound from KSOS in Las Vegas to be the new afternoon co-host on the Family Life Network.

And in the Elmira market, two college stations are once again fully licensed - or at least will be, once they pay $7,000 fines for failing to file proper renewal applications during the last cycle. Elmira College's WECW (107.7 Elmira) has been on the air pretty regularly in the ensuing years, while Corning Community College's WCEB (91.9 Corning) was operating only sporadically.

THE 2010 CALENDAR IS HERE!

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.

Our individually-numbered, hand-signed limited first edition is now sold out - but 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...

Order now at the fybush.com Store!

*In PENNSYLVANIA, Jules Riley is out of a job at Greater Media's Philadelphia cluster. Riley had been PD of both WNUW (97.5 Burlington NJ) and WBEN-FM (95.7 Philadelphia), but after WNUW's flip to sports, Greater Media sent her packing last week, citing "budget isues."

(Perhaps Greater is saving its money in hopes of taking a run at the radio rights for the Philadelphia Phillies? The Inquirer's Michael Klein reported late last week that while CBS Radio's WPHT just extended its contract through the 2010 season, Greater is interested in making a bid for the Phillies in 2011.)

Christmas music has arrived on the Philadelphia airwaves, at least for HD Radio owners, with all-Christmas channels now running on both WBEB's 101.1-2 and WOGL's 98.1-2 channels.

Callsigns in the news: the venerable Pittsburgh WAMO calls have landed up in the Scranton area, on the 91.3 in Carbondale that was WCIG and then briefly WFUZ. Meanwhile down in Bedford, WHJB (1600) has changed calls to WAYC, matching its FM sister on 100.9, now WAYC-FM.

In Latrobe, WQTW (1570) quietly changed formats to classic country a few months back, but it appears none of our usual sources in the area noticed at the time, so we mention it now in the interest of completeness, if nothing else.

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*In MASSACHUSETTS, the deal to transfer classical WCRB-FM (99.5 Lowell) from Nassau to the WGBH Educational Foundation is moving forward. The contract for the $14 million sale is now at the FCC awaiting approval, and we noted a couple of unusual items as we read through it: it obligates WGBH to buy $100,000 of advertising on WCRB or other Nassau stations during the period before closing - and it includes a clause we'd never seen in a sale contract before, obligating Nassau to transfer WCRB's Facebook and Twitter accounts to WGBH. (That clause, presumably, will soon become a standard feature of sale contracts.)

Itinerant translator W236BX (95.1 Gloucester) is getting closer to its eventual new home in Fitchburg: the latest construction permit for the station finds it heading back across the state line from Hollis, N.H. to a spot between Pepperell and Townsend - which means the next CP could be the one that finally puts W236BX in place as an FM translator for Fitchburg's WPKZ (1280). Has anyone in the area heard W236BX on the air during its hopscotch from Cape Ann to Worcester County?

*It's been a bad year for broadcast history in CONNECTICUT, where two venerable TV studio buildings have fallen to the wrecking ball in the space of just a few months. The latest demolition is in West Hartford, at the 1953-vintage studios of NBC's WVIT (Channel 30). The station is now settled in at its modern new home just behind the old studios off I-84 and New Britain Avenue, and last week its old digs were reduced to rubble. (Fortunately, we had a chance to visit last year, and we'll show you the old place in an upcoming installment of Tower Site of the Week.)

*One of the most enduring faces of TV news in VERMONT retired from the anchor desk last week. Marselis Parsons handed off his news director duties at WCAX-TV (Channel 3) to Anson Tebbetts in May, and on Thursday he signed off WCAX's 6 PM newscast for the last time, inviting viewers to watch his successor, Darren Perron.

Parsons started at Channel 3 as a reporter in 1967, and had been news director and evening anchor since 1984 - and we suspect both of those are, and will probably forever be, all-time longevity records in the region. In his retirement, Parsons will continue to file occasional stories from around Vermont for WCAX - and in the meantime, the station has put up a web page featuring all the video tributes it's been offering for the longtime face of its news department.

In Manchester, Jeff Morad moves from nights to mornings and production at WEQX (102.7), replacing former morning host Darwin.

And Goddard College has call letters for its new signal in Hardwick: the 1100-watt signal on 91.7 will be WGDH, joining Goddard's existing WGDR (91.1) in Plainfield.

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

*In an otherwise quiet week in CANADA, there's a frequency change coming in the Ottawa Valley: Astral's CKQB-1 (99.7 Pembroke) has been granted a move from 99.7 to 99.9, along with a downgrade from 45.2 kW to 7.5 kW. That gets the "Virgin Radio" relayer out of the way of Astral's newly-granted Ottawa signal on 99.7, when it's ready to take air.

In Peterborough, Andy McNabb is applying to relocate the FM station he recently purchased. The former CKKK (90.5) is now CJMB, and while it's still silent, McNabb wants to change the tower site it's authorized to use. The back story: CKKK was bumped from its former home on 99.5 when Corus' CKPT moved from 1420 to FM (initially on 99.3, now on 99.7) - and the tower site it intended to use on 90.5 turned out to be unavailable. If granted, CJMB's new facilities on 90.5 would be 206 watts/69 m, a big increase over the old CKKK's 50 watts/12.9 m.

And out in the Maritimes, Jack McGaw's tourist information station in Halifax is changing frequencies. CIRH was bumped from 97.9 by a new signal at 98.5, and is now operating on its new home at 107.7. The move came with a significant power increase, from 10 watts to 560 watts, though we're hearing that the new signal still can't cover all of the sprawling Halifax Regional Municipality.

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!)

October 20, 2008 -

  • Wall Street's lack of confidence in radio stocks hit home in eastern MASSACHUSETTS in a big way late last week, as Boston became one of the Entercom markets to weather big job cuts as the broadcaster's stock continued to fall. A year ago, ETM traded for more than $18 a share; it closed Friday at $1.40, matching other radio groups such as Citadel and Westwood One in their financial agonies. In addition to some company-wide austerity measures, including pay freezes and a halt on company contributions to employees' 401(k) plans, Entercom cut staff at its stations around the country.
  • In Boston, the most visible cut was in mid-mornings at troubled talker WRKO (680), where Reese Hopkins had joined the station last December as its lone African-American host, drawing some rare critical praise for the station amidst its struggles with high-priced morning man Tom Finneran and afternoon star Howie Carr, whose attempt to flee to competitor WTKK was thwarted amidst some contentious lawsuits a year ago. That didn't make Hopkins any less expendable, though - and now he's out the door, his local shift replaced by a live clearance for Laura Ingraham, whose syndicated offering had been heard in late nights on WTKK.
  • Also out at the Boston Entercom cluster: WRKO executive producer Andy Strecker and WAAF morning show producer Dave DiGando, along with at least nine others behind the scenes.
  • The Entercom cuts hit the Rochester cluster last week, too: cuts there included at least one on-air position: WCMF (96.5) night guy "Big Marc" Ferenchak, who'd been one of the handful of survivors when WCMF changed hands from CBS to Entercom a year ago. (Ironically, one of the jocks who lost his job in that shakeup is returning to the air - Dino Kaye, who's been doing sales for WHEC-TV since losing his WCMF gig, has been hired by Stephens Media to do afternoons at its WFKL 93.3. He'll be selling for Stephens when he's not on the air at "Fickle.")
  • Bruce Mittman's Community Broadcasting group is adding another signal to its Watertown-market cluster: it's paying LiveAir Communications $200,000 for the construction permit of WEFX (94.1 Calcium). The new station will join a cluster that already includes talker WATN (1240 Watertown), ESPN outlet WBDB (1400 Ogdensburg), talker WQTK (92.7 Ogdensburg), oldies WGIX (95.3 Gouverneur), AC WTOJ (103.1 Carthage) and top 40 "Border" WBDR (106.7 Copenhagen).
  • Christmas came early in Pittsburgh: WWSW (94.5) was in all-holiday mode over the weekend, but fear not: with more than a week yet to go before Halloween, the station isn't on the all-Christmas, all-the-time bandwagon just yet, returning to regular programming this morning. (In our other life as news editor of 100000watts.com, we note that the first all-Christmas station this year appears to be St. Louis' WMVN, which flipped October 10 as it awaits a format change early in 2009.)

October 18, 2004 -

  • Add RHODE ISLAND to the list of states with Air America Radio affiliates - and on one of the market's best signals, no less. If you were wondering (as we were) just how long it was going to take WHJJ (920 Providence) to replace the departed John DePetro in the midday slot, the answer came last week when WHJJ revamped its entire schedule. Don Imus stays in place in morning drive, and local host Arlene Violet in afternoons - but the formerly conservative talk station is now running Air America's "Morning Sedition" on tape delay from 10 till noon, followed by a live clearance for Air America's Al Franken. After Violet, WHJJ now has Air America's Randi Rhodes on delay from 6-8 PM, followed by Geoff Charles (doing double duty after his shift on WHJJ's sister station, rocker WHJY 94.1) from 8-10.
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, Boston University has named an interim general manager for WBUR following the departure of Jane Christo. Peter Fiedler, son of legendary Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fielder, comes from within - he's an assistant vice president at BU, responsible for sports broadcasting, media services and publications.
  • With no NHL hockey in CANADA (or in the U.S., for that matter), radio stations are scrambling to replace the programming that big-league hockey would have provided. Toronto's CFMJ (640) is carrying the Leafs anyway, broadcasting "classic" Leafs games on Saturday nights at 7.
  • And over in the Lindsay area, the CRTC denies Andy McNabb's application for a religious station on 96.7, which would have been licensed to Kawartha Lakes (the megacity that now includes Lindsay.)

October 15, 1999 -

  • Let's kick things off in MASSACHUSETTS, home of the 1999 World Champion Red Sox (well, we can dream, right?). Speaking of dreaming, the WMEX calls are apparently about to return to the Boston-area airwaves, at least based on the promos being heard on WJLT (1060 Natick). The 1060 signal holds an unbuilt CP to boost power to 40 kilowatts by day, 22 kilowatts at night, which could be a contender in the market -- if it can ever get built as a diplex on the WKOX sticks in Framingham.
  • Meanwhile, what of the "J-Light" Christian contemporary format and WJLT calls? We hear those will be migrating down the dial to Ashland's AM 650, now WRPT and also owned by Alex Langer (who leases 1060 to "J-Light" programmer Great Commission Broadcasting). This station also holds an unbuilt CP, which would boost power from 250 watts to 2000, transmitting from the WBPS (890) sticks in Ashland.
  • One more Langer note: His WSRO (1470 Marlborough), which has been running on low power from a temporary site since losing its three-tower area to a city land-taking, has modified its application for a new directional array. The new application calls for four towers, three by day with a 7kW signal aimed mostly northwest and three (two shared with the day array) at night, with a 5kW signal aimed east/southeast over Marlborough, Framingham, and Natick.
  • "And the dead air goes on!": That might as well be the slogan at Brockton's WCAV (97.7), now in its second week with a stereo pilot but no programming. Radio One's new urban format is still expected...any...day...now.
  • WBZ (1030) isn't getting out quite as well as it usually does during the day -- but there's a reason. Having cancelled plans to replace its two-tower array in Hull, the station is now busy repainting, repairing, and re-guying the existing sticks (vintage 1940) to last a few more decades. While the work continues (through December), WBZ is broadcasting from 8 AM until 4 PM daily from its 10kW non-directional backup site at the studio in Allston. Nights are still 50kw from Hull (but we wouldn't know, since we've had our dials glued to 1080 to listen to the Sox play-by-play with the properly-biased hometown broadcast team via WTIC!)
  • Down in RHODE ISLAND, Carolyn Fox is embroiled in a non-compete battle with her old employer. WPRO (630) is going to court to force Fox off her new gig at WWRX (103.7). The Citadel-owned talker has already won a restraining order that took Fox off WWRX's air effective Wednesday (10/13). Citadel says it fired Fox October 4 after she tried to persuade two other WPRO staffers to join her at WWRX. Her contract included a six-month noncompete clause. A hearing Monday will decide Fox's fate; we'll keep you posted.
  • Rochester's WPXY-FM (97.9) has named a new program director. Mike Danger succeeds (we won't say "fills the shoes of;" they're too big!) Clarke Ingram, who's now jammin' the oldies at Pittsburgh's WJJJ (104.7). We've heard 'PXY using the "PX-Y2K" nickname a few times lately...
  • Chatham,Ontario's commercial broadcaster has been busy as a beaver -- pardon, a Bea-Ver. Bea-Ver Communications put CKUE (94.3) on the air last week, just days after the CRTC granted its construction permit. "The Rock @ 94-3" is already being heard as far east as London; we'll be there next week to check it out. Bea-Ver has also won CRTC approval to boost night power on CFCO (630) to 6kW from 1kW.

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