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May 24, 2010

Two Station Sales in New York

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*Local noncommercial radio in NEW YORK's Hamptons region is about to take a big step forward. Hamptons Community Radio, which holds an as-yet-unbuilt construction permit for a new part-time signal in Montauk, WEER (90.7), isn't waiting to get that signal on the air - instead, it announced last week that it will begin leasing WPKM (88.7 Montauk) with plans to acquire that signal from its parent station, WPKN (89.5 Bridgeport).

Since it debuted five years ago this month, WPKM has been programmed from across Long Island Sound in Connecticut, and that's exactly the reason HCR was formed: in addition to the WPKN/WPKM relay, the noncommercial dial on Long Island's East End is dominated by Nutmeg State rebroadcasters (WNPR/Connecticut Public Radio on WRLI 91.3, WSHU on WSUF 89.9 and several high-power translators, WMNR on several other translators). Only WLIU (88.3), which is in the midst of a somewhat challenging transition to its new Peconic Public Broadcasting management, has had a local staff and focus.

That will change come Memorial Day weekend, when HCR puts its own programming on 88.7. The terms of the deal haven't been announced, but a statement from WPKN says the move will allow the station "to concentrate on WPKN's most immediate community and the geographic reach of our 89.5 signal out of Bridgeport that already covers large swaths of Suffolk County, Long Island, including the North Fork and the Hamptons."

It's also not yet clear what becomes of HCR's WEER construction permit on 90.7, which expires next year; under the share-time agreement with the other unbuilt CP on 90.7, Community Bible Church's WEGB Easthampton, HCR would have had only 63 hours a week on the channel. HCR also has two other applications sitting in the FCC's queue, one for 91.7 in Hampton Bays and the other for 89.1 in Westhampton.

MONDAY UPDATE: The nice folks at HCR checked in to report that they're planning to get the 90.7 signal built fairly quickly now, since the deal with 88.7 will allow them to co-locate the two stations using a combiner and shared antenna.

*At the other end of the state, Buffalo-market WNGS-TV is back on the air for the first time since the shutdown of its channel 67 analog signal last June. The station had all but defined "troubled" in its last few years on the air, passing from founders Bill Smith and Caroline Powley to Equity Media Holdings, which ran it as an affiliate of the Retro TV and ThisTV networks before succumbing to bankruptcy. After going dark, the license was sold to the Texas-based Daystar Television Network, and we'd thought that when WNGS finally activated its digital signal (the lone VHF digital in the market, on RF channel 7), it would be as the second religious TV station in Buffalo.

But while WNGS is currently on the air with Daystar's programming, that's only a very temporary measure: last week, Daystar announced that it's selling the station, for $2.75 million, to a new company headed by two Buffalo TV veterans. Philip Arno was part of the team that launched WUTV (Channel 29) in 1970 and also worked at WKBW radio/TV and WIVB (Channel 4); Don Angelo was part of the launch team at WNYB-TV (Channel 49, now WNYO-TV) in the late eighties and has most recently been working in sales at WGRZ-TV (Channel 2). If we're reading the FCC filings correctly, Arno and Angelo have formed two companies to run WNGS: ITV of Buffalo will hold the station license while Code 3 Broadcasting will hold the station's non-license assets. And in keeping with some of the deals Daystar has done in other markets, it will retain the rights (for 10 years after the sale closes) to broadcast its own religious programming over one of WNGS' digital subchannels.

Arno and Angelo aren't saying what they'll program on WNGS when they take over, and they have some big challenges to overcome first: WNGS has no studio, so they'll have to build one (reportedly in the Clarence area), and the channel 11 slot it used to occupy on Time Warner's Buffalo-area cable systems has been taken over by CW affiliate WNLO (Channel 23). Many of the obvious programming holes in the market have already been filled, too - WNLO has the CW affiliation and the Yankees broadcast rights that WNGS used to have, Sinclair's WNYO-TV has the My Network affiliation, and even the Retro TV programming WNGS used to air has a new home, on a subchannel of WGRZ-TV.

As for Daystar, it still has a western New York challenge to deal with as well: among the other licenses it bought from Equity last year was Ithaca-licensed WNYI-TV (Channel 52), which also went dark at the end of analog TV last June and thus has the clock ticking on its license as well.

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: WNYI's digital signal on channel 20 lit up sometime over the weekend with Daystar programming.

*In other news around the state, there's another veteran Albany radio guy on the beach. Ric Mitchell, who'd been PD and morning man at Albany Broadcasting's WYJB (B95.5), says he was sent packing after his show last Monday. Proving that radio really is a revolving door sometimes, Mitchell's replacement is the very same guy who preceded him in the job: Chuck Taylor. Morning co-host Laura Daniels stays in place.

Down the road a bit, Doug Stephan is bowing out of upstate radio ownership by selling WSDE (1190 Cobleskill) to the broadcasters who've been leasing the little daytimer for three years now. Edward and Alla Horak's Schoharie Broadcasting will pay Stephan's Viva Communications Group $132,800 for WSDE.

In Ithaca, there's a new night guy at top-40 WFIZ (95.5 Odessa), as Mikey V heads west from his fill-in/weekend gig at WFHN (107.1) in the New Bedford, Massachusetts market. Z95.5 PD Corey had been doing nights before being moved to mornings.

There's also a program schedule up now at the new website for WITH (90.1 Ithaca), the public radio station set to make its official debut in the next few weeks; at least initially, the programming will be largely AAA music, including a simulcast of the late-morning "Open Tunings" show from Rochester's WRUR (88.5). The schedule also includes "The Takeaway" in morning drive and two airings of "Democracy Now!," live at 8 AM and again at 7 PM. The new station is broadcasting in HD Radio, with the national Classical 24 signal on 90.1-2, and it's carrying WXXI's "Reachout Radio" reading service on an analog subcarrier.

(Usual disclaimer: your editor works for Rochester's WXXI, which is operating WITH in conjunction with the station's licensee, Hobart and William Smith Colleges.)

*Former Corning/Elmira radio owner Bob Eolin has died. Under the name "The Radio Works," Eolin bought Corning's WCBA (1350) and WCBA-FM (98.7) in 1990, then went on to add WGMM (97.7 Big Flats), WCLI (1450 Corning) and WENY (1230)/WENY-FM (92.7) in Elmira to his cluster before selling the stations in 2003.

Eolin hosted the WCBA morning show, first as "Breakfast with Jack and Bob" with business partner Jack Shane until Shane's death in 2002, then as "Dee and Bob" with his wife, Dee, until Route 81 Radio bought the cluster. (Ironically, it was just a couple of weeks ago that Route 81's successor, WS2K Radio, announced a sale of the stations.)

Eolin had started his own production company after selling the radio stations. He died last Monday (May 17) of brain cancer, at age 67.

*Two prominent obituaries top our PENNSYLVANIA news this week.

Bill Webber was better known as "Wee Willie Webber" (an ironic nod to his 6-foot-5 frame) during his long career in Philadelphia radio and TV. Webber came to Philadelphia in 1953 after the failure of WEEU-TV (Channel 33) in Reading, where he'd been an announcer. He worked briefly at WPEN (950) before becoming a star at WFIL (560) and WFIL-TV (Channel 6, now WPVI), where he hosted a morning children's show and served as a booth announcer. In 1963, Webber moved to NBC's WRCV (1060) and WRCV-TV (Channel 3), becoming the last music DJ on 1060 before the station went to an all-news format under Westinghouse as it returned to its former KYW calls.

Webber's next TV stop was the new WPHL-TV (Channel 17), where his "Wee Willie Webber Colorful Cartoon Club" was an afternoon kiddie-TV staple for a decade before moving up the dial to WKBS-TV (Channel 48) in 1975. Webber continued to do double duty in radio as well, spending 25 years in middays at WIP (610), then moving to WPEN (950) in 1989. After WPEN's flip to oldies in 2005, Webber was most recently heard on WHAT (1340) and New Jersey's WVLT (92.1). Webber was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame in 1999, and also served as that group's president and chairman. In 2006, the Pioneers named him their "Person of the Year."

Webber died early Sunday morning while awaiting heart surgery; he was 80.

One of the key players in WSBA (910)'s long dominance of the York radio market has died. Bob Shipley came to WSBA in 1953 after starting his career at WCBA (1350) in Corning, NY and WCHA (800 Chambersburg), and quickly rose through the ranks to become program director. Shipley was briefly transferred to a sister station, WHLO in Akron, Ohio, but returned to WSBA in the early 1960s and remained with the station until his retirement in 1987. In addition to his work as operations manager and as an on-air newscaster at WSBA, Shipley trained generations of broadcasters in central Pennsylvania. He died Tuesday (May 18) at York Hospital; he was 82.

*Where are they now? Former Pittsburgh programmer Chris Lash has a new gig in Ohio: he's programming noncomm classic rocker WMWX (88.9 Miamitown) in the Cincinnati suburbs.

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*Radio People on the Move in MASSACHUSETTS: Jacky Ankeles, who'd been part of the airstaff at WBOQ (104.9 Gloucester) for 22 years, ever since the former WVCA took on new ownership as "W-Bach," is out of her midday shift, and she says the choice wasn't hers. Without a chance to say goodbye to her listeners on the air, Ankeles did so in the pages of the Salem News, where she wrote that she "was informed that due to changes in the radio industry and in the direction of the station, my daily midday program was being cancelled — effective immediately."

Meanwhile, the "North Shore 104.9" website now lists just one weekday jock, morning man Charlie Curtis.

Out on the Cape, Suzanne Tonaire has landed a new job. The 20-year veteran of WPXC (102.9 Hyannis) is now part of the airstaff at WGTX (102.3 Truro), spinning the oldies at "Dunes 102.3."

Moving west, there's a new operations manager at Clear Channel's Springfield and Worcester clusters, as Don Gosselin arrives to fill Pat McKay's old duties. Gosselin has spent the last couple of years at Greater Media in Philadelphia, where he was PD of WBEN-FM (95.7) and WNUW (97.5).

And a "Where are they now?" entry: Ken Barlow, former chief meteorologist at WBZ-TV (Channel 4) in Boston, lands in Sacramento next month as chief meterologist at KXTV (Channel 10), that market's ABC affiliate.

*In MAINE, Bangor listeners are hearing ESPN national programming in place of a local afternoon show, at least temporarily. Jeff Solari left his "Afternoon Shootaround" show at Bangor's WZON (620/103.1) last week to become the director of business development for a local law firm.

Down the coast from Bangor, silent WLEK (101.1 Gouldsboro) changes calls to WTUX.

There are call letters for two new FM construction permits at opposite corners of the state: WTYP 90.5 York and WFHP 88.3 Madawaska. Both CPs are held by Catholic organizations.

*Former VERMONT Public Radio program director Jody Evans has a new job: after a detour to Texas to program KUT in Austin, followed by some freelance work back home in Vermont, Evans has landed at Western North Carolina Public Radio (WCQS in Asheville), where she was named executive director last week. Evans will start her new job early next month.

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*In CANADA, My Broadcasting is applying for another Ontario FM signal to add to its extensive regional network. The latest My application calls for 4370 watts DA/46.5m on 94.1 in St. Thomas, just south of London. The CRTC will consider that application at a July 19 hearing at its headquarters in Gatineau, Quebec.

Also on the CRTC's agenda is an application for a power boost for Toronto's Spanish-language station, CHHA (1610). The San Lorenzo Latin American Community Center says it's still suffering from the move it had to make a few years ago when neighborhood interference issues forced it to relocate CHHA's transmitter to a new site along Toronto's harbor, on the other side of downtown from its target audiences on the city's northwest side.

CHHA now operates with 10 kW days and 1 kW at night, but it's asking to be allowed to go to 6500 watts fulltime, adding a directional antenna to concentrate its signal to the north and west of the harbor tower site. CHHA won't add a second tower to create its directional array; instead, it's proposing to use a "hot" guy wire strung from its 150-foot Valcom whip antenna to serve as the second directional element. That sort of operation generally isn't allowed on the US side of the border, but the rules are different up north.

*US-based talk shows have always been a tough sell north of the border, but CFRB (1010 Toronto) is trying again: last week, it replaced an overnight "best-of" lineup with three hours of the Phil Hendrie show. Hendrie is now heard from 1-4 AM weeknights on "Newstalk 1010."

Over in Hamilton, CKOC (1150) is shuffling its schedule: Ted Yates moves from morning drive back to the 9 AM-noon slot, trading places with John Biggs, who takes over the morning show.

Up in Sudbury, Newcap's CHNO (103.9) took on a new identity Friday, trading adult hits "Big Daddy 103.9" for oldies as "Rewind 103.9." The move, ironically enough, takes CHNO back to the last format it had as an AM station before abandoning that big signal on 550.

And west of Sudbury in Espanola, Haliburton Broadcasting wants to add to its holdings by purchasing CJJM (99.3) from JOCO Communications, which put the classic hits station on the air two years ago. Haliburton will pay C$125,000 for the station, which will surely get a new nickname to replace its present "JOCO Radio" identity.

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!)

May 25, 2009 -

  • For the last decade, it's been a Memorial Day tradition for fans of classic NEW YORK radio: tuning in to WABC (770) or its webstream for a full day (give or take a Yankees game in the early years) of vintage Musicradio 77 airchecks, carefully reconstructed and introduced by legendary WABC production guru Johnny Donovan.
  • "WABC Rewound" began in 1999, following on a shorter "WABeatlesC" revival the previous year. But as New Yorkers mark the Memorial Day holiday today, they won't be greeted by the Beatles and the Stones on their AM dials. Instead, WABC's new management is sticking with the station's usual talk format, even though the holiday means Imus and Limbaugh and Hannity and the rest of the station's daily lineup will have the day off, replaced by third-string substitutes or canned "best-of" shows.
  • But while there won't be a "Rewound" on the AM airwaves for casual listeners, there's still a fat package of vintage audio available for die-hard Musicradio fans, thanks to collector (and former WHN/WQXR chief engineer) Herb Squire and "Rewound" producer Peter Kanze. These rarely-heard airchecks, largely from the early '70s, will get played at some point today on the HD3 subchannel of WABC's sister station, WPLJ (95.5) - but most people will hear them as downloads from WABC's own website, where at least one hour was apparently mislabeled as of Sunday night, or from Allan Sniffen's tribute site, which was offering faster downloads when we checked.
  • Is this curtains for "Rewound"? From all indications, yes - the airchecks that went into the 2009 edition were prepared (a time-consuming process indeed) when the producers still expected the package to air over 50,000 watts of AM. What's more, the pool of "new" vintage airchecks is reportedly drying up; what was fresh and long-unheard in 1999 has been ricocheting around file-sharing sites for a decade now.
  • For years now, listeners to "NEW JERSEY 101.5" have heard announcements promoting the talk station's simulcast serving south Jersey - but the latest home for the simulcast, WXKW (97.3 Millville), is apparently on the verge of a format change. Instead of "serving South Jersey on 97.3," the station's listeners have been hearing announcements promoting the station's webcast and its main Trenton-based signal, WKXW (101.5). What's in store for the big class B signal on 97.3? Stay tuned...
  • TUESDAY UPDATE: Tom Taylor of Radio-Info.com reports that the new format on 97.3 will be ESPN Radio, presently heard on WXKW's sister station WENJ (1450 Atlantic City).
  • At least one MASSACHUSETTS victim of budget-induced layoffs has his job back: Tom Cuddy quietly returned to the afternoon sports shift at CBS Radio's WBZ (1030 Boston) last week, five months after he became part of the big staffing cuts at the station just before the new year. WBZ's afternoon news anchors had been reading the sports in the interim.
  • In Erie, PENNSYLVANIA, the days are numbered for WSEE (Channel 35)'s separate operation. Now that the station's off-air technical employees have been laid off, the CBS affiliate will close its studio at 1220 Peach Street on June 1, with its remaining staffers moving in with sister station WICU (Channel 12) at its State Street facility.
  • Where are they now? Veteran central Pennsylvania broadcaster Chris Lash, who recently lost his wife Karen to cancer, is keeping busy by launching a new FM signal just outside Dayton, Ohio. Lash just put WYNS (89.3 Waynesville) on the air as "Hybrid FM," playing a mix of AC and country.

May 23, 2005 -

  • Just a few hours after NERW went to press last Monday, upstate NEW YORK got its first domestic taste of the real live licensed "Jack FM" that's been so much the rage around North America over the last couple of years, as Infinity dumped the talk format on WBUF (92.9 Buffalo) and flipped the station to "92.9 Jack FM." This is a slightly unusual Jack, since it keeps one element of the old talk format from WBUF, retaining Howard Stern in morning drive (at least until the end of the year, when Stern's show leaves terrestrial radio) before segueing into the "Playing What We Want" format that alert Buffalo listeners may already have sampled via nearby CJAQ (92.5 Toronto).
  • Out the door, however, are the late-morning Brother Wease show imported from Rochester's WCMF (96.5), as well as Don & Mike (who made a big deal about losing their Buffalo audience on Monday's show), Tom Leykis, Lovelines and all the other FM talk staples. In Wease's case, it was already a long shift (morning drive at WCMF, then the post-Stern hours on WBUF) even before the veteran Rochester talker began treatment for a rare form of nasal cancer, so losing the Buffalo shift might be a blessing in disguise; on the other hand, Wease was widely seen as the likely successor for Stern in the morning had WBUF not flipped. As with all new Jack startups, WBUF is running jockless for now.
  • Buffalo made radio headlines again on Friday, when former WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls) PD Dave Universal, ousted earlier in the year amidst a payola investigation, was named U.S. programming and sales consultant for CKEY (Wild 101.1), the Fort Erie, Ontario station that's been in the CRTC's crosshairs for allegedly having too much of its programming and sales handled across the border. CKEY has unwound its joint sales agreement with Citadel, and now it appears that Universal will take a less formal role (Citadel treated the station as almost a full member of its Buffalo cluster) in tweaking Wild to appeal to a Buffalo audience while not running afoul of Canadian regulators. (And NERW notes that there's probably nobody alive who has better insight into how to compete with WKSE for listeners...)
  • That new sort-of-FM-signal on 87.76, otherwise known as LPTV station WNYZ-LP (Channel 6), came to life late last week, playing "Hurban" music on the audio channel and showing the videos on the video channel; we understand the bulk of the promotion will be as "WNYZ-FM 87.7," though.
  • On the TV dial, WCBS-TV (Channel 2) fired Arthur Chi'en after the much-publicized incident last week in which the reporter responded angrily to a couple of hecklers who disrupted an early-morning live shot he was doing. While we won't try to defend the use of the F-word in front of what Chi'en should have known was still a live mike, there's also no excuse for the way in which these and other hecklers attempt to sabotage broadcasters in order to draw publicity for a certain pair of satellite talk hosts (who will therefore go unnamed here.)
  • Down the shore in NEW JERSEY, Press Communications is asking the FCC to allow it to move WKOE (106.3 Ocean City) to Bass River Township, in Burlington County north of Atlantic City. If granted, the move would shift WKOE from 106.3 to 106.5, though it would remain a class A signal. The new WKOE signal at 106.5, which would really be more of an Ocean County signal, would overlap sister "Breeze" soft AC station WBHX (99.7 Tuckerton), which would then free up one or the other of those signals to take on a new format.
  • In PENNSYLVANIA, Greater Media's WPEN (950 Philadelphia) is one step closer to a better night signal. Last week, the FCC granted its application to move its night transmitter from the current 5000-watt, three-tower facility in southwest Philadelphia to the five towers of WWDB (860 Philadelphia) on Germantown Pike in Montgomery County. The new 21 kW night signal could be on the air within a few months; since WWDB is strictly a daytimer and WPEN will use the facility only after dark, there will be no need to build complicated diplexing filters at the site. WPEN is still pursuing plans to build a six-tower, 50,000-watt daytime facility at another Montgomery County location.

May 26, 2000 -

  • Nobody said it was easy running a little thousand-watt AM station in the northern reaches of NEW HAMPSHIRE -- which may explain why WMOU (1230 Berlin) went silent this week. The Associated Press reports owners Gladys and Robert Powell were in negotiations to sell the station, but after the deal fell apart decided to shutter WMOU rather than try to keep it afloat.
  • The closing of WMOU leaves the region north of Mount Washington with no really local radio voice. Berlin's other AM, WBRL (1400), went dark almost a decade ago. On the FM side, the erstwhile WMOU-FM (103.7) is now WPKQ, running the country format from WOKQ down in Dover (and soon to be relicensed to North Conway, anyway), while the other commercial station in town, WXLQ (107.1 Gorham), was sold to New Hampshire Public Radio this year to become noncommercial WEVC.
  • The Powells say they'll still seek a buyer in the twelve months remaining before WMOU's license would be revoked. NERW's hoping for the best (and thinking we'd best get up to Berlin to see the tower, just in case).
  • It looks like there's a CHR war brewing in NEW YORK's Capital Region, as Albany Broadcasting's WFLY (92.3 Troy) gets its first real competition in a decade, since the old WGFM (99.5 Schenectady) packed it in and went oldies. This time the challenger is Clear Channel, which turned off the classic rock at WXCR (102.3 Ballston Spa) Thursday night and began stunting with a loop that included the sounds of a "FLY"-swatter (cute!) and a voice crying "Help me!" At 9 this morning (5/26), Albany bureau chief Gavin Burt reports the debut of "102.3 Kiss-FM," making Albany the latest market to get Clear Channel's prefab CHR format. If the experience of Rochester's Kiss (originally on 107.3 as WMAX-FM, now on 106.7 as WKGS) is any indication, folks along the Hudson should expect a few months of jockless music, followed by voicetracked jocks from markets like LA and Tampa. Local? Well, there might be a promotions van, some club remotes, and not much more...

New England Radio Watch, May 25, 1995

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