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February 15, 2010

Fire on Penobscot Mountain

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*Two years after its Penobscot Mountain transmitter tower was sheared in half by the ice-laden collapse of a neighboring tower, Scranton, PENNSYLVANIA's public broadcaster WVIA is once again coping with a transmitter-site disaster.

The culprit this time was not ice but fire - an electrical blaze that broke out Friday afternoon while a WVIA engineer and several electricians were working in the building. One of the electricians reportedly noticed equipment sparking, and the entire building was quickly in flames. It took about three hours for fire crews to put out the blaze, hampered by the icy roads that lead up to the tower farm that provides most of the TV and much of the FM for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market.

WVIA president Bill Kelly says the transmission equipment for WVIA-DT (channel 44/RF 41) and WVIA-FM (89.9) is a total loss, estimated at well over a million dollars. Fortunately, there was only one minor injury from the fire and the WVIA tower (as well as the rest of the Penobscot tower farm) was undamaged.

It's always heartening to watch broadcasters cooperate when someone's off the air, and this was a fine example: less than a day after the fire, WVIA-TV programming was back on the northeast Pennsylvania DTV airwaves with some help from WNEP-DT, its next-door neighbor on Penobscot and the station whose falling tower clipped the WVIA tower in 2008. WNEP-DT moved from its transitional RF channel 49 to its permanent RF channel 50 last year, but its channel 49 transmitter was still available for use on Penobscot, and as of Sunday it was on the air with WVIA's full lineup of DTV programming.

(The temporary RF 49 operation is a great argument for the utility of the sometimes-controversial practice of "channel mapping" - with a simple rescan, the broadcasts from the old WNEP-DT transmitter will appear to viewers as "44.x," just like the destroyed transmitter on RF 41 did. How's that for a backup plan?)

WVIA-TV also remained available to most cable viewers throughout the heavily-cabled region, while WVIA-FM's streaming audio and its relay transmitter WVYA 89.7 in Williamsport stayed on the air. As it turned out, WVYA had a new transmitter on order, and it will be redirected to Penobscot to replace the destroyed 89.9 transmitter, with the hope that WVIA-FM service will be restored by the end of this week.

While it works to rebuild its own FM plant, some of WVIA's radio programming is being heard in Scranton through the generosity of Marywood University's WVMW (91.7), which stepped forward on Saturday to carry a selection of WVIA programs that includes "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered" and "Car Talk." (There's a long history of cooperation between Marywood and WVIA; the university provided the first studio space for a fledgling WVIA-TV in the late sixties.) WVMW's signal covers Scranton, but does not reach south to Wilkes-Barre - and to fill that gap, King's College has offered WVIA the use of its WRKC (88.5 Wilkes-Barre), which will also be relaying WVIA-FM programs beginning this morning. Oddly, WVIA's own website, which was updated several times over the weekend with information about the replacement DTV signal, made no mention of the WVMW and WRKC simulcasts as of Sunday evening.

*It's a big week in Pittsburgh radio, with two new stations launching in the space of less than 24 hours.

Sunday was Catholic radio's big day, as St. Joseph Mission put the former WAMO stations back on the air. WAOB-FM (106.7 Beaver Falls) and WPGR (1510 Monroeville) were on the air at 11 AM, leading up to an inaugural Mass at noon; WAOB (860 Millvale) was missing in action for the first day, and the announcements during the Mass mentioned only 106.7 and 1510.

As it turned out, the launch of the "Catholic Radio Network" was only temporary; the Mass broadcast was followed by a looped announcement alerting listeners that the next few weeks will bring more Sunday Mass broadcasts, with a "limited schedule" of regular broadcasting set to begin March 19.

Today it's KDKA-FM (93.7)'s turn, with a 6 AM launch for "93.7 the Fan," the city's third sports-talk station. CBS pulled the plug on the former "B94" WBZW on Saturday, spending the weekend stunting with a loop of music interspersed with jingles.

Last Monday brought a callsign change out in Westmoreland County: after applying for new calls last October, WGSM (107.1 Greensburg) officially flipped to WHJB on Feb. 8. Those calls have lots of history in Greensburg and vicinity, having been heard on what's now WKHB (620 Irwin) from 1934 until 1999. (The "new" WHJB actually began as a sister station to the old WHJB 620 back in the mid-sixties.)

There's no "Law of Talk Show Host Conservation" that we know of, but there might as well be one along the Ohio/Pennsylvania state line, where WKBN (570) in Youngstown, Ohio has found a fill-in host to cover morning drive now that Robert Mangino has headed down the Turnpike to Pittsburgh to take nights at KDKA (1020). And who would that WKBN fill-in be? None other than Mike Romigh, who was blown out of the night slot on KDKA during a round of budget-cutting four years ago. (Ohio Media Watch reports that Romigh has been working in political PR in recent years; he's apparently one of several candidates for the full-time morning gig at WKBN.)

And we note the passing of a long-ago music director and DJ at Pittsburgh's KQV (1410). Larry Aiken was at the station from 1959 until 1962, later returning home to southern Indiana to enter the concert-management business. He later owned Evansville's WGBF. Aiken died Saturday in Evansville, Indiana after a long illness. He was 69. (Jeff Roteman has an extensive archive about Aiken's KQV tenure at his KQV tribute site.)

 

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*The latest talk-radio battle in eastern MASSACHUSETTS began very quietly last week, as Clear Channel began running "Coast to Coast AM" in the overnight hours on WKOX (1200 Newton). WKOX continues to run Clear Channel's "Rumba" Spanish tropical format during the day for now, but April 1 still appears to be the target date for WKOX to swap calls with sister station WXKS (1430 Everett) and flip to full-time talk.

When it does, it will have Entercom's venerable WRKO (680 Boston) squarely in its sights - and it's all but certain that "Coast to Coast AM" won't be the only show to move from WRKO up the dial to 1200. Whether or not the registration of "RushRadio1200.com" was anything more than an attempt to get the message boards buzzing, there's little doubt that Clear Channel intends to bring the flagship talk show from its Premiere Radio Networks lineup into the WXKS 1200 fold sooner or later, to go along with a Premiere-dominated schedule that will include Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, who are currently without clearances in Boston.

What happens now at WRKO? In the short term, Entercom was plugging reruns of Howie Carr's afternoon show into the overnight slot abruptly vacated by the Coast to Coast move, but in the longer term, overnights will go to Doug McIntyre's new Citadel-syndicated "Red Eye Radio" out of KABC in Los Angeles.

As for the rest of WRKO's programming, there's plenty of buzz out there in the usual places about a visit later this week by Entercom's top brass for an all-staff meeting in Boston. For all the noise, it seems unlikely that Entercom will do anything really dramatic (an all-out format change, for instance) at WRKO, which still enjoys a considerable signal advantage over 1200, not to mention a quarter-century-plus head start in the format. And in a city that loves to talk local politics, Carr - and even morning host Tom Finneran, if his contract is renewed - remain formidable opponents against the new WXKS, which has yet to announce any local talent for its morning slot.

(Indeed, the real talk competition is likely to continue to be the rivalry between Entercom and Greater Media's nearly-all-local WTKK 96.9; while short-term revenue concerns mean there's almost zero chance that Entercom would take the risk of moving WRKO to one of its three FM facilities in the market, such a hypothetical move would create a WRKO-WTKK FM-FM rivalry that would probably all but doom WXKS on 1200 from day one.)

*It's been five years, almost to the day, since the former WBCN (104.1) abandoned its longtime Fenway home at 1265 Boylston Street to move to the CBS Radio cluster studios in the old Channel 38 building in Brighton, and now "1265," right there in the shadow of Fenway Park, is getting a new tenant. The Herald reports that Sox TV voice Jerry Remy is about to open the doors to "Jerry Remy's Sports Bar and Grill," and that the "RemDawg" has been allowed to dig deep into the Sox memorabilia vaults to decorate his new restaurant. Opening day is slated for mid-March.

Public radio listeners in central Massachusetts are getting a stronger signal this week from WICN (90.5 Worcester), which installed its new antenna up on Mount Asnebumskit Feb. 1 and filed last week for a license to cover for its new 1.1 kW/810' directional signal. That's considerably less power, but from a far higher and more favorable location, than WICN's old 8.1 kW/371' signal from the Stiles Hill WUNI-TV tower in Boylston.

*With RF channel 6 now vacant in Portland, MAINE Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN) is applying for a power boost at its WMEA (90.1 Portland). If granted, the increase would take WMEA from 24.5 kW to 50 kW, still at 1896' above average terrain from the WCSH-TV (channel 6/RF 44) tower on Winn Mountain in East Sebago; it would also mean the installation of a six-bay Shively directional antenna to replace WMEA's current non-directional antenna. The directional antenna would slightly reduce WMEA's current coverage to the southwest, but would increase WMEA's coverage to the north and east, bringing Lewiston fully within the station's 70 dBu contour and improving WMEA's mid-coast coverage as well.

Meanwhile, low-power station WJZP-LP (105.1 Portland) has been denied a move up the dial to 105.3. The move would have created third-adjacent interference to WBCI (105.9 Bath), and while Congress is moving to end third-adjacency protections between LPFMs and full-power stations, the rules haven't yet been changed.

*Maine's Light of Life Ministries has been granted a CP for yet another new signal, this one across the state line in Wakefield, NEW HAMPSHIRE. The class A signal on 88.3 will serve the Lakes Region from a tower in Ossipee.

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*Not many medium-sized markets still have a local talk rivalry between two stations, and right up until last week, the political hotbed of Albany, NEW YORK was all but unique in boasting three competitive talkers.

As we told you in an update to last week's NERW, that competition thinned out dramatically just after 10 o'clock last Monday morning when Albany Broadcasting abruptly pulled the plug on talk at WROW (590 Albany), surrendering the field to locally-owned WGDJ (1300 Rensselaer) and its lineup of former WROW personalities, as well as to Clear Channel's largely-syndicated lineup on the big signal of WGY (810 Schenectady).

What we didn't know yet last Monday was that the new WROW simulcast of standards/soft AC "Magic" WKLI (100.9 Albany) is more than just temporary - and that "Magic" is in fact moving permanently to the AM 590 signal as Albany Broadcasting prepares to launch an as-yet-undisclosed new format (possibly bearing the moniker "The Bridge"?) on 100.9.

"The Bridge" may also describe whatever it was that former WROW morning co-host Steve Van Zandt set afire in a blistering attack on Albany Broadcasting and its owner, auto dealer/entrepreneur Jim Morrell, that appeared in the Times Union's business blog at week's end.

In a world where sniping comments about station owners are usually the province of anonymous message-board postings, it was actually rather refreshing to see Van Zandt attach his name to criticism that we've heard often, albeit always off the record: that Albany Broadcasting didn't give WROW the resources it needed (even simple things like a microphone for an in-studio guest, mic flags for field reporters and newspaper subscriptions for the newsroom) to succeed.

Van Zandt's analysis of WROW's failure didn't seem to make an impression on a small group of protesters who gathered outside the station's Colonie studios Friday morning to charge Albany Broadcasting with political censorship for removing shows such as Glenn Beck and the "Steve and Jackie" morning show from the airwaves - and it didn't seem to make much difference when PD Chuck Benfer came out to tell the group it was all just business.

One more WROW note: one vestige of the old format survives, in the form of Albany River Rats hockey, which had been heard on AM 590 and is now being heard on both WROW and WKLI while they're simulcasting. It appears that the hockey will stay on the AM side once the simulcast splits again.

*In Watkins Glen, Backyard Broadcasting's WRCE (1490) is back on the air at low power, two months after the Dec. 14 collapse of the station's tower. While a replacement tower is being built, WRCE is operating with 100 watts into a Morad antenna that's designed for travelers information stations.

In translator news, WBRV (900 Boonville) is the latest addition to the AM-on-FM translator club, as owner Flack Broadcasting prepares to acquire North Country Public Radio translator W219CT, which was displaced from 91.7 to 105.9 when NCPR put full-power WXLB (91.7 Boonville) on the air. WBRV is building a new tower on Jackson Hill for the 105.9 signal, which will relay the AM station's oldies format and give the station a 24-hour presence on the FM dial alongside sister station WBRV-FM (101.3), which continues with "Moose Country."

On Long Island, Communication Ventures Ltd. is exercising a purchase option on W243BF (96.5 Shirley), which it's been leasing from Michael and Tammy Celenza since 2006. The translator carries religious WLIX-LP (94.7 Ridge), and Communication Ventures is paying $120,000, less what it's already paid under the lease.

On TV, Watertown anchor John Moore is leaving WWTI (Channel 50) after more than two decades at the ABC affiliate, which no longer does its own local newscasts. Moore was the last local news talent remaining at the station, remaining on after the newsroom shutdown last fall to provide North Country headlines while WWTI simulcasts news from sister station WSYR-TV in Syracuse. Now he's moving down Arsenal Street to the city's dominant TV station, CBS affiliate WWNY-TV (Channel 7), where he'll initially be a field reporter.

Down in Binghamton, WIVT (Channel 34), another Newport sister station to WSYR and WWTI, has lit up a second HD channel. Trip Ericson of RabbitEars.info reports that in addition to ABC's 720p HD on 34.1, WIVT-DT is now carrying an HD feed (in 720p rather than native 1080i) of NBC sister station WBGH-CA (Channel 20) on 34.2.

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*One of CANADA's top talk hosts is crossing the border and heading west. Bill Carroll, who's been with CFRB (1010 Toronto) since 1998, will start a new job in Los Angeles a week from today as midday host on KFI (640), where he replaces Bill Handel's syndicated show. (Handel had been doing both that show, from noon-2 PM PT, and KFI's top-rated morning show.)

Carroll will continue to contribute commentaries to CFRB's John Tory show; no replacement has been named yet for the 9 AM-noon slot Carroll had been filling since he was moved out of CFRB's morning show last fall.

Downtown at the CBC, Matt Galloway has been named as the new "Metro Morning" host on CBLA (99.1), where he'll take over from the retiring Andy Barrie on March 1. Galloway has been hosting Radio One's Toronto afternoon show, "Here and Now," since 2004, as well as serving as Barrie's fill-in on "Metro Morning."

The fast-growing My Broadcasting wants to add another signal near Kingston. My already operates CIYM (88.7 Napanee) to the southwest, and now it's applying for a new station on 99.9 in Gananoque, northeast of Kingston along the St. Lawrence. That new signal would run 4.47 kW/402' DA, with a format mixing country, oldies and AC.

Bayshore Broadcasting wants to consolidate its Owen Sound FM transmitter sites. It's applying to move CKYC (93.7) and CIXK (106.5) to a new tower, a move it says would save about $100,000 in annual rent to the CBC and TVOntario for space on their Owen Sound towers. Larche Broadcasting is also applying to move its new CJOS (92.3 Owen Sound) to the new Bayshore tower site south of Owen Sound, expanding CKYC's coverage to the north and east and shifting CIXK's coverage area to the southwest.

In the Toronto market, CINA (1650 Mississauga) is asking for more power. The Indian/Pakistani station is currently licensed for 1000 watts by day and 680 watts at night, but it tells the CRTC that a daytime power boost to 5000 watts would provide better coverage in the western and southwestern parts of its coverage area.

Out east, CKOE (107.3) in Moncton, New Brunswick also wants more power. The Christian station (which goes by "CKO Radio" on the air, borrowing the identity of Canada's long-defunct all-news network) wants to jump from its present 50 watts to 4.5 kW/367', becoming a protected class A facility.

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!)

February 16, 2009 -

  • Once upon a time - say, two weeks ago - it all seemed so simple: on one coordinated date, publicized several years in advance with wall-to-wall announcements, every full-power TV station in the U.S. would shut off its analog transmitter, allowing every full-power TV station in the U.S. to maximize its digital signal on its final allocation, and more or less forcing procrastinating viewers (of whom there are many out there!) to pay attention to the transition and take whatever steps they need to take to continue to watch TV. Then Congress showed up to help...and now that massively-publicized "February 17, 2009" analog-shutoff date has become one big "never mind" for viewers in most markets around the country, leaving them free to conclude that the new "absolutely final" date of June 12 will probably slip, too - and leaving thousands of stations on the hook for unbudgeted analog power bills and scheduled tower crews that won't be able to move antennas to maximize digital service as planned.
  • Even the markets that took Congress at its word about the new June 12 date being optional found out the hard way that the FCC, at the direction of Capitol Hill, wasn't looking kindly at any plans that would have left entire markets digital-only come Wednesday morning. In all, 491 stations nationwide notified the FCC that they intended to stick to the February 17 shutoff date, and the Commission flagged 123 of those stations for further scrutiny, at which point 43 of those stations decided to stay on after all, while 10 more were placed under further review. (Keep in mind that the FCC didn't finalize that list until late Friday night, just four days before the original Feb. 17 deadline, and that today is a federal holiday when Commission offices are supposed to be closed...)
  • The result was plenty of confusion, not only for viewers but even for those in the industry, who were having a hard time making sense of the welter of last-minute FCC releases and the often-contradictory announcements coming from stations themselves, where a "February 17" announcement was often likely to be followed by another with "June 12," and where individual stations' decisions were likely as not to be trumped by group-wide decisions to stay in analog (Hearst-Argyle, for instance) or to go digital-only (Sinclair), or to change at the last moment based on what everyone else in the market decided to do.
  • One of the most challenging tower-site construction projects in the country is finally nearing completion in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, where Beasley's WRCA (1330 Watertown) and Clear Channel's WKOX (1200 Newton) have filed for licenses to cover their new signals from the site in Newton's Oak Hill neighborhood that they share with Champion Broadcasting's WUNR (1600 Brookline). It's been more than eight years since the planning began to replace WUNR's old two-tower array with five shorter towers to be shared by the three stations, and almost three years since the stations overcame massive neighborhood NIMBY objections and began construction on the site. Now the work is substantially complete, and for the last few months WKOX and WRCA have been operating from the Oak Hill site with the same power levels (10 kW/1 kW and 5 kW, respectively) that they were using from their old sites in Framingham and Waltham. Within days, they're expected to power up to their new levels of 50 kW fulltime (WKOX) and 25 kW/17 kW (WRCA), and WUNR should soon follow suit with a power increase from 5 kW to 20 kW.
  • It's not directly connected to WKOX's move, as best we can tell, but the "Rumba" Spanish tropical format that had been simulcast on WKOX and Clear Channel sister station WXKS (1430 Everett) is being heard only on WKOX for the next few weeks, while 1430's being leased out for an unusual sort of infomercial. What the heck is the "Automatic Radio" being heard on 1430 at the moment? It's a continuous loop of the new album "Low Expectations" by the local band Ernie and the Automatics - and it's appearing non-stop on 1430 because "Ernie" is none other than car dealer Ernie Boch, Jr., who may well be the single most prolific buyer of radio ad time in New England. (He's got legitimate musical chops, too - he graduated from Berklee College of Music, and his band includes two original members of the band Boston.)
  • Buffalo has always been a good town for radio news, and even if the news staffs are smaller these days, they still had a chance to shine Thursday night when that commuter plane slammed into a house in Clarence Center. It's a credit to the professionals there - and in the neighboring Rochester market, too - that they rose to the occasion, and then some. Entercom's WBEN (930) is the only commercial radio newsroom of any significant size in the Buffalo market, and its staffers stayed on the air with local news and information all night long on Thursday and all day on Friday, blowing out the station's syndicated programs to continue taking calls from listeners. Buffalo's two public newsrooms - WBFO (88.7) and WNED (970) - offered overnight updates and all-day coverage as well.
  • On TV, NBC affiliate WGRZ (Channel 2) and CBS affiliate WIVB (Channel 4) were largely up to the challenge, more so than at ABC affiliate WKBW (Channel 7), where a series of recent budget cuts left the station so understaffed that, in the words of one staffer, "we simply don't have the people to compete." WGRZ took particular advantage of its Gannett corporate connections to use extra staff from Cleveland's WKYC - and from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. In this brave new world of media convergence, the Rochester newspaper and the Buffalo TV station shared not only text on their websites, but also video. (Yes, it's still odd to see a "DemocratandChronicle.com" mike flag amidst the sea of TV and radio mikes on the table at news conferences.)
  • There's a new chapter in the long-running soap opera that is Hornell radio: Bilbat Radio LLC has filed an application with the FCC to sell WKPQ (105.3) to Phoenix Radio Group (PRG LLC) for $600,000. If you've been following this saga for the last few years, you'll note that one of PRG's owners is Terry Gilles, who bought the real property of WKPQ and sister station WHHO (1320) in a foreclosure sale in 2007 - and that PRG has been operating WKPQ and WHHO under an LMA with Bilbat, which has continued to hold the licenses and will apparently continue to hold the WHHO license for the moment.
  • Up in the Watertown market, "Real Rock" has a new address. Last Monday, Community Broadcasters moved the format from WOTT (100.7 Henderson) to the newly-debuted WEFX (94.1 Calcium), which has a better signal over Watertown - and then swapped calls, putting WEFX on 100.7, where it launched at noon Wednesday with classic hits as "The Fox."

February 14, 2005 -

  • TRENTON, N.J. - It's a week of change in NEW JERSEY - and not just the big flip here in Trenton that's taking place this afternoon. That, of course, is the Nassau swap that's moving top 40 WPST (97.5 Trenton) to 94.5 and shifting classic hits "Hawk" WTHK (94.5 Trenton) to 97.5. It's a preface to a bigger move that's at least a year down the road, in which the 97.5 signal will move to Burlington, becoming a full-fledged Philadelphia market signal. We'll be listening and rolling tape, and we'll have more on this move next week.
  • But in the meantime, there's another format change happening out at the Jersey shore, this one the work of Press Communications. On Friday (Feb. 18), top 40 "B 98.5" WBBO (98.5 Ocean Acres) will shed its format and flip to a simulcast of modern rock "G 106.3" WHTG-FM (106.3 Eatontown), giving G full coverage of the Monmouth-Ocean market for the first time.
  • And there's yet another change on the way next month, when WCNJ (89.3 Hazlet) drops the calls it's had for almost two decades. WCNJ's currently leased out to an Indian programmer who's running the station as "Radio Dhoom," and that's what the new WDDM calls will stand for.
  • Across the river in PENNSYLVANIA, one of the region's oldest religious stations will soon change hands. Susquehanna, which already owns WSBA (910 York), WARM-FM (103.3 York) and WSOX (96.1 Red Lion), will reunite 96.1 with its former sister station when it pays Thomas Moffit Sr. $280,000 for WTHM (1440 Red Lion). WSOX and WTHM used to be known as WGCB AM-FM, and those of you who've taken broadcasting history courses might now be recognizing the stations as the instigators of the famous "Red Lion" case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the target of a personal attack during a WGCB broadcast was entitled to equal time to reply to the accusations. Things have quieted down considerably since then in Red Lion, where Moffit continues to operate WGCB-TV (Channel 49) and WINB shortwave. There's speculation that the purchase of WTHM is less about the AM signal (which is effectively a daytimer) and more about the tower that it shares with WSOX. We wouldn't be surprised if 1440 - which has been on and off the air sporadically the last few months - ends up as a simulcast of WSBA, at least for now.
  • There's another station sale in the Keystone State, too: H&P Communications is selling WSPI (99.7 Mount Carmel) to Clear Channel for $460,000. Mount Carmel sits in the mountains south of Wilkes-Barre and west of Pottsville, and WSPI's signal already reaches a good chunk of the I-80 corridor between Hazleton and the Williamsport area. It appears that WSPI will be operated out of Clear Channel's Williamsport cluster, which also includes news-talk WRAK (1400 Williamsport)/WRKK (1200 Hughesville), top 40 WKSB (102.7 Williamsport) and country simulcast WBYL (95.5 Salladasburg) and WBLJ (95.3 Shamokin). Shamokin, by the way, is just down the road from Mount Carmel.
  • There's a format change coming in NEW YORK's Catskills region, and it's being heralded with a Valentine's Day stunt. WFKP (99.3 Ellenville) dropped its simulcast of top 40 "Kiss" WPKF (96.1 Poughkeepsie) on Friday and spent the weekend playing love songs as "Cupid 99.3," complete with a hokey-sounding "Cupid" doing liners. NERW hears the station's headed to "Lite" territory when the stunting ends, presumably in tandem with "Lite 92.1" WRNQ Poughkeepsie.
  • Down the road in Westchester County, WFAF (106.3 Mount Kisco) did indeed, to nobody's surprise, drop the "Flix 106" stunt in favor of a simulcast of rocker WPDH (101.5 Poughkeepsie) on Monday.
  • Clear Channel's Albany-market cluster will soon have some spiffy new digs. The company is moving its stations out of two separate facilities in the Albany suburbs. By June, WGY (810 Schenectady), WOFX (980 Troy), WTRY (98.3 Rotterdam), WRVE (99.5 Schenectady), WKKF (102.3 Ballston Spa), WHRL (103.1 Albany) and WPYX (106.5 Albany) will be operating from a new 28,000-square foot space at the Riverhill Center complex on Troy-Schenectady Road in Latham.
  • Last week's format flip-flops in central NEW HAMPSHIRE have now been followed by call changes: what was WNHI (93.3 Belmont) is now WNHW, "the Wolf," while the former "Big" WBHG (101.5 Meredith) has become WWHQ, "the Hawk."

February 18, 2000 -

  • # Suppose Stephen King is scared yet? His MAINE hometown of Bangor will soon be home to two multi-station groups competing with his own WZON (620) and WKIT (100.3 Brewer). Cumulus came first, assembling a four FM, one AM group (WDEA, WEZQ, WWMJ, WQCB, WBZN) in 1997-98. Now a company called Communications Capital Managers is assembling a five FM group in two separate purchases.
  • CCM, which is headed by a former principal in 62nd Street Broadcasting, is buying talker WVOM (103.9 Howland) and adult AC WBYA (101.7 Searsport) from Jerry Evans' Moon Song Broadcasting, and combining them with three stations from Mark Osborne and Natalie Knox: hot AC WKSQ (94.5 Ellsworth), country WLKE (99.1 Bar Harbor), and country WBFB (104.7 Belfast). We hear the price on the Osborne/Knox stations was $8.2 million; no word yet on the Evans properties. The usual "no format changes are planned" applies here; we'll wait and see.
  • From way up north in Aroostook County comes word that the long-running simulcast between talkers WEGP (1390 Presque Isle) and WREM (710 Monticello) has ended, effective February 1. That's when Al Weiner broke WREM away with its own rock format, largely automated. Those with long memories will recall WREM was running a rock format, staffed mostly by volunteers, until the WEGP simulcast began in the mid-nineties. Down the road from the WREM tower, we're told a second transmitter is coming on line for Weiner's shortwave outlet, WBCQ.
  • A few more changes are on the way to the radio dial in central NEW HAMPSHIRE: After almost four years in the morning seat at WJYY (105.5 Concord), Kevin Hilley is packing for a move to the much bigger Albany market. Hilley's last show at WJYY is next Friday (2/25); the following Monday, he'll start on the morning shift at WCPT (100.9 the Point). Meanwhile, Vox has switched the calls of WRCI (107.7 Hillsboro) to WKXL-FM, completing the move that began when the former WKXL-FM (102.3 Concord) became WOTX, "Outlaw Country," last month.
  • Digital TV is coming to VERMONT, eventually. Vermont Public TV applied for a construction permit this week for WVTA-DT (Channel 24) in Windsor. WVTA-DT will join WVTA (Channel 41) atop Mount Ascutney once it's built. (We hope they'll have more viewers than Maine's public DTV attempt; a newspaper article this week claims there are exactly two DTV sets in private homes in Maine, one of which is out of range of the WCBB-DT Augusta signal).
  • Our best wishes go out to MASSACHUSETTS talk-show veteran Jerry Williams; after just a few days on the air at the new WMEX (1060 Natick), he's on indefinite leave as he undergoes treatment for an undisclosed illness. WMEX is filling Williams' noon-2 slot with the syndicated Gene Burns offering, followed by Burns' Boston-only show from 2-4 PM.
  • After forty years at 2077 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo's WBEN (930) and WMJQ (102.5) are moving out this weekend. They'll be the first of Sinclair's Buffalo stations to move into the new group HQ off Maple Road in suburban Amherst. The stations, then WBEN AM/FM, moved into the North Buffalo facility with what was then WBEN-TV (now WIVB, Channel 4) in 1960, taking over the space that had been built by NBC for erstwhile O&O WBUF-TV (Channel 17). WIVB remains at Elmwood Avenue.

New England Radio Watch, February 18, 1995

  • When last we left this sorry excuse for 25 kilowatts, WBMA-890 Dedham/Boston was still running leased-time Spanish-language programming....with a promise to flip to Prime Sports "sometime." Well, sometime is now, or at least Saturday afternoon 2/18.
    The local Spanish is gone, and in its place is satellite-delivered Prime Sports. You may recall that the management at WBMA had preferred to keep identifying their station by its former calls, WBIV, which were the legal calls when the station was on 1060
    in Natick (until October 1994). The legal ID on 890 (when they remembered to run one) was "WBMA Dedham WBIV Natick."
  • Early press reports about the switch to Prime Sports claimed the station would "change its call letters from WBIV to WBMA" (sic). Later reports (as in last week) mentioned neither set of calls and referred to the station under its new format as "WBPS."

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