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November 30, 2009

WGBH Readies Radio Switch

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*At midnight tonight, more than half a century of commercial classical music in Boston will come to an end, and a new era in eastern MASSACHUSETTS radio will get underway.

That's when public broadcaster WGBH takes over operation of WCRB (99.5 Lowell) from Nassau, moving classical programming off WGBH (89.7) - and we now have a sense of what the daytime programming on 89.7 will look like after the flip:

As expected, WGBH will make extra use of the programming it already helps to contribute to the public radio system: "The Takeaway," WGBH's joint production with New York's WNYC and the BBC, will add a 9-10 AM airing to its existing 6-7 AM slot on 89.7. The Washington-based "Diane Rehm Show" will follow from 10 AM until noon, getting its first live slot on Boston radio after many years of late-night airings on competitor WBUR-FM (90.9).

At noon, 89.7 will carry WNYC-based "Radio Lab," followed at 1 by "Arts and Ideas," an omnibus title for an assortment of documentaries and specials - but those shows are apparently just placeholders for a local talk show to debut in January, hosted by Emily Rooney and Callie Crosley. Rooney, of course, hosts the nightly "Greater Boston" talk show on WGBH-TV, and Crosley appears on the Friday "Beat the Press" installment of that show.

WGBH's afternoon programming will be shuffled starting Tuesday as well: "Fresh Air," already heard at 1 on WBUR, will be heard again at 2 on 89.7, followed by WGBH's own "The World" at 3 and "All Things Considered" from 4-6, both shows moving an hour earlier from their present slots on 89.7. That makes room for a 6 PM repeat of "The World," clearing the 7-8 PM hour (now occupied by that second run of "The World") for a radio simulcast of the "PBS NewsHour," followed at 8 by WGBH's jazz programming, which remains unchanged for now.

On Saturdays, the folk music that used to air from noon until 3 PM will be replaced by "This American Life" and "On the Media" (already heard on WBUR) and an hour of audio from the week's "Greater Boston" TV shows. The Saturday evening timeslot long occupied by blues music will be filled by "Says You," "Selected Shorts" and the syndicated Bob Parlocha jazz programming that already fills WGBH's overnight hours.

The new schedules launch Tuesday morning at 5; it appears 99.5 will be silent overnight as the programming is shifted from WCRB's longtime studios in Waltham to the WGBH studios in Brighton.

*It took fourteen steps and seven frequencies, but the long saga of one FM translator's trek westward from Cape Ann to the Fitchburg market may finally be over. W288CE (105.5) filed one last (we think) application last week that will land the translator right in the heart of Fitchburg. The latest application would move the translator down one notch on the dial, to 105.3, where it would run 250 watts, non-directional, from the WPKZ (1280) site on Alpine Road, just a mile west of downtown Fitchburg. The translator (still licensed to Gloucester, amusingly enough; there's no city-of-license coverage requirement for translators) is already listed as relaying WPKZ, and a sale from owner Radio Assist Ministry to WPKZ owner Central Broadcasting Company remains pending.

ONE MONTH LEFT UNTIL 2010!

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.

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*Perhaps the biggest NEW YORK news in this holiday-shortened week was the schedule change at talker WABC (770 New York), where 18-year station veteran Curtis Sliwa is out of the 9 PM-1 AM slot, replaced by weekend talker John Batchelor, whose new show will be offered in syndication as well.

Where's Curtis headed? It's not official yet, but all signs point to a new home up the dial on Salem talker WNYM (970 Hackensack NJ), where he'd provide some local content (and much-needed visibility) for the otherwise all-syndicated "970 the Apple."

There's another addition to the already impressive roster of fill-in jocks at WCBS-FM (101.1 New York): Mike "Don Geronimo" Sorce, better known for his long run in Washington as half of the now-defunct "Don and Mike Show," will be doing a few shifts in December on CBS-FM. Right now, he's scheduled for Dec. 12 from 7-midnight and Dec. 26 from 3-7 PM. "Back to the hits, see how it goes," was what Geronimo tweeted to his fans last week; he'd most recently been heard at several small stations in Delaware while waiting out his noncompete from CBS Radio.

Where are they now? "Romeo," aka Tim Herbster, is out as VP/programming for Goom Radio, the new interactive service that's launching from the same Jersey City studios Romeo called home during his days at Z100 (WHTZ 100.3). No word yet on what's next for Romeo.

Out on Long Island, JVC Broadcasting has switched programming on Nassau County translator W268AN (101.5 Plainview) - it's now carrying the "La Fiesta" Spanish tropical programming from JVC's WBON (98.5 Westhampton) instead of the "Party FM" dance/hip-hop mix from WPTY-FM (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke).

Speaking of "Party," there was a brief flurry of concern last week when news spread that its current New York city home, the LPTV-"FrankenFM" signal of WNYZ-LP (Channel 6), had applied for a channel change. It's true that Island Broadcasting, the licensee of the LPTV station, has applied for a digital companion facility for WNYZ on channel 22, but it appears that may actually prolong WNYZ's run as an analog LPTV on channel 6; this way, the analog can remain on 6 (and thus keep its analog audio carrier on 87.7, where most FM radios can hear it) until the FCC eventually sunsets analog LPTV completely.

*WBGO (88.3 Newark)'s attempt to move its transmitter site across the river from NEW JERSEY to Manhattan ran into some static at the FCC. Earlier this month, the Commission dismissed WBGO's application for a new transmitter site at 4 Times Square, citing technical violations of two rules, one that restricts how directional a directional FM antenna can be, and one regulating overlap with nearby stations. Last week, WBGO submitted a revised application for substantially the same facility, modified slightly to meet the current DA rules and to show a reduction in overlap with WCWP (88.1 Brookville).

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*There's now a slogan and website to go with the Spanish tropical sounds being heard on 97.5 in central CONNECTICUT. W248AB (97.5 Bolton) reaches much of the Hartford area from its high-altitude perch in the hills east of the city, and after several years simulcasting former owner WILI-FM (98.3 Willimantic), it was sold to John Fuller's Red Wolf Broadcasting over the summer.

Now that the FCC allows translators to relay HD2 subchannels of other FM stations, effectively becoming program sources in their own right, W248AB has become "La Bomba 97.5 FM," relaying programming that's also heard on the HD2 of Red Wolf's WMRQ (104.1 Waterbury), the company's big-signal venture into the Hartford market from its base in eastern Connecticut.

Don Imus is returning to Hartford's airwaves in an unexpected spot: starting this morning, he'll be heard from 6-10 AM on WCCC (1290 West Hartford), which runs the Beethoven.com classical format the rest of the day.

Meanwhile in northwest Connecticut, the FCC has signed off on Tri-State Public Communications' $235,000 purchase of WHDD (1020 Sharon) from Willpower Radio, converting a long-running LMA to outright ownership. WHDD will continue to simulcast Tri-State's WHDD-FM (91.9 Sharon), which is also being heard these days for much of the day on WBSL (91.7 Sheffield MA), north of the state line.

And last Tuesday brought the Hartford market its first all-Christmas station, as WRCH (100.5 New Britain) made the flip.

*In RHODE ISLAND, Dick Bouchard reminds us that this month marks the fifth anniversary of his family's return to ownership at WNRI (1380 Woonsocket), which was in the Bouchards' hands from 1983-1999 before being sold to Anastos Media, which sold the station back to Dick and his brother Roger in 2004. "Local talk remains our format," says Bouchard, who's looking for an FM translator to augment the station's night signal.

And as long as we're talking Woonsocket, we've been remiss in not mentioning the star turn that competitor WOON (1240) received in October's Radio magazine, which featured a comprehensive article about the station's move to a new studio in a small house, replacing its longtime storefront studios.

*One of VERMONT's best-known morning teams returned to the air last week. After some technical delays, the "Corm and the Coach" show made its debut Wednesday morning on the new WNMR (107.1 Dannemora NY), where it helms a lineup that's made up of syndicated talk the rest of the day.

*A veteran eastern PENNSYLVANIA TV personality has died. Al Alberts was a founding member of the Four Aces singing group before coming to WFIL-TV (Channel 6, later WPVI) in 1966 to host the "Al Alberts' Showcase" talent show, which continued to be seen on channel 6 as late as 2001, at least as an occasional special. Alberts died Friday (Nov. 27) in Florida, at age 82.

And we remember longtime WIP (610) overnight jock Nat Wright, as well. Wright started at WIP in 1961 working swing shifts as a jock and newsman, moving to overnights in 1967 as "Nat the All-Night Rat," a shift he held for 17 years. Wright died Thanksgiving day at 82.

In Scranton, a transmitter failure has had WBZU (910) off the air for several weeks; the northern link in the "WILK News-Talk Network" is expected to be back on the air soon, and most Scranton-area listeners can hear the signal on WILK-FM (103.1 Avoca) or WILK (980 Wilkes-Barre) in the meantime.

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

*In CANADA, it was a rough week at the CHUM Radio complex in downtown Ottawa. Milkman UnLimited reports the stations cut the jobs of 15 staffers in all - three fulltimers, including CFRA (580)/CFGO (Team 1200) PD Dave Mitchell and CFRA "Business @ Night" talk host Ron Corbett; two part-timers and ten contract employees. Al Smith, who's PD for CJMJ (Majic 100) and CKKL (93.9 Bob FM), adds operations manager duties for all four stations.

And while Thursday was just another work day for Canadians, who celebrated their Thanksgiving a month ago, it did still mark the big kickoff for all-Christmas music in Toronto, where CJEZ (EZ Rock 97.3) and CHFI (98.1) made the flip within an hour of each other Thursday afternoon. Over in Kingston, CFFX (Lite 104.3) beat them to the punch, making the flip last week.

The holiday tunes aren't the only change at EZ Rock: the station has pared back the size of its morning show, too, letting Rick Hodge and Kim Stockwood go and keeping Humble Howard and Colleen Rusholme. Hodge came on board at Astral just over a year ago, doing sports for CFRB (Newstalk 1010) and the CJEZ morning show, and he's apparently out from both jobs as Astral continues its cutbacks.

*And with that, we turn to a somewhat smaller NERW Bookshelf than last year's edition. Were there really fewer volumes about broadcasting (or by broadcasters) in our region this year than last? Or did we just miss some? If so, we'd be delighted to run a follow-up edition...drop us a line and let us know what else is out there on your reading list!

Johnny Olson: A Voice in Time by Randy West (Bear Manor Books, $25)

Randy West began his career in the suburbs of New York City, where he was one of the mad geniuses responsible for the legendary "Nine!" tape, and thus for the legend of "WVWA Pound Ridge," 35 years ago.

He soon escaped to the West Coast, where he's made quite a name for himself as a TV announcer - and it was in that phase of his life that he became close friends with another legendary TV voice, Johnny Olson, the longtime voice of "The Price is Right," a show where West worked as well.

After Olson's death, Randy became custodian of his papers and memorabilia, and he's used that treasure trove and memories of his years with Olson to create this biography of the master.

(He'll autograph it for you, too, if you "Come On Down" to his website at TVRandyWest.com...and tell him NERW sent you!)

Antenna Zoning by Fred Hopengarten (Focal Press, $129.95)

Based in the Boston suburb of Lincoln, attorney Fred Hopengarten has become the go-to guy for the stickiest issues of tower construction and local zoning regulations.

(Remember the big fight up in New Hampshire over tower construction for Bob Vinikoor's WQTH? That was Hopengarten battling state and local officials all the way up the legal chain, and winning.)

In this useful volume, Hopengarten shares his experience and knowledge. It also includes a CD full of sample legal forms and other documentation.

And by way of full disclosure: yes, that is one of your editor's photos on the front cover...

The Radio Station, Eighth Edition, by Michael C. Keith (Focal Press, $54.95)

A standard text for college radio courses (are there still college radio courses out there, or any jobs left for their graduates?), The Radio Station continues to evolve with the industry it describes.

In the new eighth edition, released this past July, Boston College professor Michael Keith has updated and revised the content to include additional sections on webcasting, interactive media and satellite radio.

Turn it Up! American Radio Tales, by Bob Shannon (austrianmonk publishing, $19.95)

Not that Bob Shannon - this one's the former TM Century executive now living in Seattle, not the New York City oldies jock. But this Bob Shannon has compiled some great stories from behind the scenes of top-40 radio in its heyday, presented in alphabetical order by jock.

Some of the greats from our region are included here - there's Murray "the K," Jackson Armstrong, Cousin Brucie and many more.

And Shannon has been posting weekly podcasts tied in with the book at his website, americanradiotales.com, too.

This Week in Radio-Tech podcast (thisweekinradiotech.com)

This isn't a book, but the mention of Bob Shannon's podcast reminded us that we've been meaning to give a plug to another new podcast that's well worth a listen.

"This Week in Radio-Tech" is an offshoot of the popular "TWIT" (This Week in Tech) podcast, and two of its co-hosts are NERW-land radio people: Tom Ray of WOR and Chris Tobin of CBS Radio. (The others are Kirk Harnack of Telos/Omnia/Axia and Wisconsin engineer/friend-of-NERW Chris Tarr.)

And one of these days, we'll finally take up Kirk's kind offer to come on the show as a guest, too...

 

Tower Site Calendar 2010, photos and text by Scott Fybush (Fybush Media, $18, free with professional NERW subscription)

The idea of a "Tower Site Coffee Table Book" is still in the planning stages, but while we plug away on that (and on the long-delayed New York City FM history), there's a new edition of the always-popular Tower Site Calendar available for your enjoyment, featuring sites from Boise to Secaucus and beyond.

It makes a great holiday gift for anyone interested in radio, an even better corporate gift (contact us for bulk discounts!), and best of all, your purchase helps to support the continued production of NERW and Tower Site of the Week in these economically parlous times...so if you're stocking up on some of these books for your favorite radio person (or yourself), why not head over to the Fybush.com Store and add a calendar or two?

The Radio Book, 2009-2010 Edition (Inside Radio, $89.95, order at theradiobook.com)

NRC AM Log, 30th Edition (National Radio Club, $25.95, order at nrcdxas.org)

It's certainly true that most of the information you'd ever want or need can be found on the web these days, but sometimes it's handy to have the entire radio spectrum neatly bound between two covers, too.

The Radio Book is the successor to the M Street Directory, drawing from the comprehensive M Street database that's obsessively tended by a team of researchers based up in Littleton, N.H. (That's also the source of the data for 100000watts.com, where your editor toils as news editor.)

The 900-plus pages in this year's edition contain copious details on technical facilities, ownership, personnel and even ratings for more than 14,000 AM and FM stations in the U.S. and parts of Canada.

If AM DX is your bag, the annual AM Log from the National Radio Club is an essential addition to the bookshelf each fall. With comprehensive listings of everything on the AM dial in the U.S. and Canada - even those remote low-power CBC relays up in the Yukon - the Log contains some bits of information, including operating hours, slogans and network affiliations, that are hard to find compiled in any other single source.

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!)

December 1, 2008 -

  • The schedule changes at NEW YORK's WABC (770) have once again ousted Big Apple talk icon Bob Grant from a regular spot on the schedule. Grant returned to WABC last year in the 8-10 PM weekday slot, but never found the same listener loyalty there that he'd had in many years of afternoon drive on WABC and later on WOR. Now the launch of fellow WABC host Curtis Sliwa into national syndication means bigger schedule shuffles up at Two Penn Plaza, as the tape-delayed Laura Ingraham show, displaced from the 10 PM-1 AM slot by the new Sliwa show, slides down to 8-10 PM. What happens to Sliwa's local slot, from 10-11:45 AM? For now, Sliwa continues to work that shift as well, but there's lots of buzz about MSNBC morning host Joe Scarborough moving into that position - and if that happens, can national syndication for Joe be far behind? As for Grant, who's nearing his 80th birthday, he'll still be heard on fill-in shifts on WABC for now.
  • Across town at Inner City's WBLS (107.5), budget cuts have forced two longtime station voices out. Vaughn Harper, who launched the station's signature "Quiet Storm" evening show way back in 1976, and overnight host Champaine are both out. Champaine had been at WBLS since 1983; Harper had returned to WBLS a few years ago after spending time at several other New York stations and suffering a stroke.
  • In Plattsburgh, WIRY (1340) is getting ready to move to its new studio home on Route 9 south of the city, now that its longtime home on Cornelia Street faces demolition and a new life as the site of a Walgreens drug store. In a feature story on Burlington's WCAX-TV last week, station officials say they'll include a museum in the basement of the new studio to house some of the vintage equipment that's been a hallmark of the old studios.
  • Another Plattsburgh AM station is losing its star talker, as Rush Limbaugh moves his Burlington-market affiliation across Lake Champlain from WEAV (960 Plattsburgh) to WVMT (620 Burlington, VERMONT). WEAV was the last remaining piece of the old "Zone" talk-radio simulcast with WXZO (96.7 Williston NY) that was broken up when new owners flipped the FM side to oldies.
  • Bill Drake spent most of his career out west, but the wizard of streamlined top-40 radio had a huge influence on the sound of the MASSACHUSETTS airwaves, where his corporate consulting work for RKO General made the early WRKO-FM (98.5 Boston) a mid-sixties cult favorite before the company pulled the trigger in 1967 and put Drake's top-40 format on WRKO (680), creating one of the Hub's legendary radio stations. Drake, who died Saturday in California at 71, was criticized almost as often as he was imitated - his creation, a format that emphasized tight segues and shotgun jingles over lengthy DJ patter, was viewed at the time (and is still seen by some) as removing personality from the airwaves. In some of its extreme forms - at WRKO-FM, and for a time at its New York sister station WOR-FM (98.7) - the Drake format was combined with total automation to create radio that anticipated today's increasingly jockless dial. But in other venues, including WRKO in its heyday, Drake's tight formatics allowed talented "Boss Jocks" to shine in a fast-paced environment of hit music, killer jingles, and must-listen specials such as Drake's masterpiece, "The History of Rock & Roll," setting a standard for music radio that remains unmatched forty years later.

November 29, 2004 -

  • While we in the U.S. were busy celebrating Thanksgiving last week, up in CANADA (where Thanksgiving was more than a month ago), the CRTC was busy approving a slew of new stations in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John, New Brunswick.
  • Halifax, in particular, has gone many years without any new stations, even as other Canadian markets of similar size have seen their dials explode with more formats and signals, so it was no surprise to see the CRTC authorize four new signals, which nearly doubles the commercial radio market there. Leading the pack is Rogers, which won CRTC blessing for a new network of FM news-talk outlets in the Maritimes. In Halifax, the network will operate on 95.7 with 22.1 kW; it will also have outlets in Moncton, N.B. (91.9 with 40.3 kW) and Saint John, N.B. (88.9 with 79 kW). Toronto's Evanov group (the folks who own CIAO, CKDX and CIDC there) gets a "youth contemporary" outlet (we'd call it urban CHR) with 78 kW on 103.5. Global applied for 103.5 as well, to do easy listening, and the CRTC says it will grant that application as well, but only if Global comes up with a different frequency to use. And International Harvesters for Christ Evangelical Association will have 5 kW on 93.9 for a religious outlet.
  • In addition to the Rogers outlet on 91.9, Moncton will also get a new French-language service, as Radio Beausejour adds a new signal with 30 kW on 90.7 to its existing CJSE (89.5 Shediac NB). Beausejour says the new signal will be "more contemporary" than CJSE, which will focus on French-language country music for older listeners.
  • Over in Saint John, Rogers' new 88.9 signal will be joined by a new French service as well, with La Brise de la Baie ltee. being granted 1.85 kW on 105.7.
  • And in Fredericton, Newcap was granted 76 kW on 92.3 for a classic rocker, while Ross Ingram gets 25 watts on 94.7 for a Christian music service. And Jack McGaw and Robert Stapells were granted travel information stations in Moncton and Fredericton, though the CRTC asked them to find alternate frequencies from the 90.7 and 93.1 that they had requested.
  • A veteran NEW YORK voice has left the Big Apple airwaves for now. "Dandy Dan" Daniel had been off the air at WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) for a few months, and now he says he won't be returning to his Saturday morning shift there.
  • As rumored, WQCD (101.9 New York) segued from smooth jazz last week to become "New York Chill, CD 101.9," with a mixture of electronica and Europop being added to the smooth jazz playlist there. It's running jockless for now, but expect the old CD101.9 airstaff to make a return soon.

November 26, 1999 -

  • It's been a slow, slow week in Northeast radio, what with the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and all, leaving two CONNECTICUT pirates with the week's top headlines.
  • On Tuesday, it was Radio Avivamiento's turn in federal court in Hartford, as the 97.1 Spanish pirate fought the FCC's attempt to get an injunction preventing further broadcasts. The Hartford Courant reports the station's lawyer, Patrick Edwards, "cheerfully" admitted the station was breaking the law when it went on the air two years ago. The station's owner, the Rev. Samuel A. Girona, tells the Courant he tried to buy a licensed station (WKND 1480 Windsor), but the purchase price of $750,000 was out of his range. The FCC's lawyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Soloway, told judge Alvin Thompson that the law is clear, and requires the unlicensed station to be shut down. Thompson did not issue a ruling at the hearing; a written decision will follow sometime soon. Meanwhile in Waterbury, the FCC has been granted authority to shut down "Waterbury Hispanic Communications," an 88.5 pirate operated by one Efrain Gonzales. NERW hears the station is indeed off the air pending further legal action.
  • On the TV side in the Nutmeg State, Tribune Broadcasting has applied to the FCC for permission to buy WTXX (Channel 20) in Waterbury outright, converting the UPN station from its present LMA with Tribune's Hartford Fox affiliate, WTIC-TV (Channel 61).
  • Over to RHODE ISLAND, where two well-known names are signing new radio deals. At WPRO (630), it's Springfield talk veteran Dan Yorke, who moves across state lines to take the 3-6 PM slot last held down by Carolyn Fox before her move to WWRX (103.7 Westerly). Yorke spent more than a decade at WHYN (560) and WNNZ (640 Westfield) in the Springfield market. Meanwhile, upstart talker WLKW (550 Pawtucket) has signed Mary Ann Sorrentino, more than a year after she was ousted from her late-morning slot on WPRO. Sorrentino will do noon-3 on WLKW, replacing the team of Tom DiLuglio and Jerry Zarrella.
  • The big story -- in fact, the only story of note -- in MASSACHUSETTS broadcasting this week is the new Red Sox TV contract. The three-year deal will put roughly 70 Sox games on Fox O&O WFXT (Channel 25), with the rest landing on (partly Sox-owned) New England Sports Network and the Fox network package. WFXT replaces last year's JCS syndication effort, which used WLVI (Channel 56) as its Boston outlet. The new deal runs for three seasons.
  • And with nothing else going on in northern New England, we slip back across the state lines into NEW YORK, where the FCC has granted Liberty Communications Family Broadcast Group's application for a new station in Watertown. The new 90.1 will run 1 kilowatt from 152 meters above average terrain, broadcasting from the tower of WWNY-TV (Channel 7) on Route 126 in the hills east of town. We're guessing religion for this one (albeit with a local licensee, based in nearby Dexter, New York).

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