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July 19, 2010

WVIP's Movin' on Up

*For the first time since 1983, there's a new commercial FM station transmitting from within the NEW YORK City limits. After some on-and-off testing, Bill O'Shaughnessy's WVIP (93.5 New Rochelle) last Monday officially turned on its new transmitter atop the same Montefiore Medical Center residence in the Bronx that's been home to WFUV (90.7 New York) for the last few years - and will eventually become home to WFAS (103.9 Bronxville) as well.

From the new site (which replaces WVIP's longtime home atop a Yonkers apartment building), 93.5's 1750-watt/433' class A facility throws a 60 dBu signal over most of Manhattan, all of the Bronx, most of Queens, part of Brooklyn, a big chunk of New Jersey - and it still reaches most of its old home turf in Westchester and Fairfield counties, too.

But wait - there's more! The new WVIP signal is in HD, at the newly-authorized -14 dBc enhanced power level, and at least initially it has HD-2 and HD-3 subchannels carrying a simulcast of sister station WVOX (1460 New Rochelle) and a Music of Your Life satellite feed, though we hear that those will be replaced by leased-time programming (much like WVIP itself) in the weeks to come.

(What was the last commercial FM station to move into the city? That was "Z100," Newark-licensed WHTZ 100.3, which relocated from the hills west of Newark to the top-top-top-top-top of the Empire State Building 27 years ago this summer...)

*New callsign: mark down "WNAK-FM," that longtime northeast Pennsylvania AM callsign, for the new FM signal on 105.9 in Indian Lake, up in the Adirondacks. (There's absolutely a Pennsylvania connection here: this unbuilt construction permit belongs to Kevin Fitzgerald and Ben Smith, who own several stations in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, including the former WNAK 730, now WZMF.)

In Syracuse, Craig Fox's Renard Communications is buying W243AB (96.5 Westvale), the powerful downtown translator that's been relaying Fox's WMVN (100.3 Sylvan Beach), aka "Movin 96.5 and 100.3." Renard will pay $35,000 to Pathway Community Broadcasting for the translator.

*In Rochester, we're mourning Tom Noonan, whose long run in Rochester radio included stints at WVOR, WKLX, WBBF (in its later oldies FM incarnation) and most recently at WLGZ (102.7), where he'd recently moved from weekends to the weekday 7-midnight airshift. Noonan suffered a fatal heart attack after his Tuesday-night shift on "Legends 102.7," and the station mourned his passing in class, including an on-air tribute in his usual timeslot Wednesday night. Noonan was 63.

Another Rochester radio and TV veteran has died as well: George LiButti started out in Rochester radio at the old WRNY, but he spent most of his career with the station that began as WVET (1280) and later morphed into WROC. He eventually became general manager of WROC, WROC-FM (97.9, now WPXY) and WROC-TV (Channel 8), retiring in 1973 to begin a second career in real estate. LiButti was also one of the founders of the Rochester Press-Radio Club, which he served as president in 1960. He died July 11 in Rochester, at age 86.

And of course there are several prominent obituaries this week in the Bronx. While neither Bob Sheppard nor George Steinbrenner were ever radio/TV people, per se, they both made an impact on New York's media scene. Steinbrenner, of course, bought the Yankees from a media conglomerate that never seemed to really know what to do with the team, and his $10 million purchase of the team from CBS in 1973 turned into a multi-billion-dollar investment four decades later. That was in no small part due to the launch of the team-owned YES Network, which quickly became the most valuable regional sports network in the business and is today worth even more than the team itself. And while Yankees announcer Sheppard was never an on-air personality in his own right, he was nevertheless one of the most talented, classy personalities ever to sit in front of a microphone in New York - and here again, thanks to the YES Network, he ended up as a broadcaster after all, doing ID announcements for "the home of champions."

We close with one more Empire State obituary: newsman Roberto Cano was known on-air as Bob Ortiz during a career that included stops at WBAI, WPLJ and most notably at the original WKTU (92.3), where he was part of the late-seventies airstaff that took the disco station from nowhere to first place. Cano also worked at Boston's WBZ-TV in the seventies; he died June 28 and a memorial service is scheduled for July 24 at 11 AM at Grace Church at 10th and Broadway.


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*It was a quiet week for radio in PENNSYLVANIA's big cities, but there were a few station sales in smaller towns around the Keystone State. In Lock Haven, between Williamsport and State College, longtime station owner Lipez Communications is selling WBPZ (1230) and WSNU (92.1), for $700,000, but the stations are staying local: the buyer is Schlesinger Communications, owned by Jeffry and Mark Schlesinger of Lock Haven.

The sale ends one of the longest associations between a family and a radio station in the region: Harris Lipez was one of the founders of WBPZ (as "Lock Haven Broadcasting Corp.") in 1947, serving as the station's general manager for several decades and as the "Voice of Clinton County Sports" for even longer. His son, John Lipez, bought the stations in 1986, and has served as general manager and as host of the morning talk show on WBPZ for more than thirty years.

*Larry Schrecongost's widow is selling one of the stations he owned in western Pennsylvania. WTYM (1380 Kittanning) was the first station Schrecongost owned, and now it's changing hands from Vernal Enterprises to Family-Life Media-Com, owner of the Kittanning Paper, which plans to add more local talk and sports to WTYM's oldies format once it puts the station (which went silent after Schrecongost's death in June) back on the air. Becky Everson has been hired as WTYM's new general manager, overseeing a studio move from the transmitter site to downtown Kittanning, where Family-Life already operates a cable TV station, "Family-Life TV."

Pittsburgh's KDKA-FM (93.7 the Fan) has picked up one of its first sports franchises: it's landed a deal with the University of Pittsburgh to put Panthers football and men's basketball on the big FM signal, while Renda's WJAS (1320) will pick up coverage of Pitt women's basketball this fall. Bill Hillgrove remains behind the mike for both football and men's basketball broadcasts. Pitt sports had been heard on Clear Channel's WWSW (94.5) and WBGG (970) for the last few years; this is the first time the women's team will be on the radio.

In Harrisburg, they're mourning the news director at WNNK (104.1). John Beaston was just 32, but he was already an established presence on Wink 104's morning show, where he was part of a team that included co-hosts Denny Logan and Sue Campbell. Last Monday (July 12), Beaston didn't show up for work, and police soon found him dead in his apartment, where he'd apparently suffered a massive heart attack sometime Saturday. Beaston had been with WNNK since 2006; he'd been in radio since he was 15, when he started out at WIKZ in Chambersburg, later working at WSRT in Chambersburg, WIMX and WRBT in Harrisburg, WWMD in Hagerstown, WOCQ in Ocean City, Maryland and even weekends at WIOQ in Philadelphia.

And while it's more over the line in Ohio Media Watch territory, but we note as well the passing of Larry Miklas, who'd worked at WPIC (790 Sharon) and then as the voice of innumerable high school sports broadcasts on both sides of the Ohio/Pennsylvania line over the last 20 years or so. Miklas died last Sunday (July 11) at age 60; you can read more about him over at OMW.

*A veteran NEW JERSEY radio owner was back on the air over the weekend with a special looking back at the early years of his old station. It's been a long time since Herb Hobler owned WHWH (1350 Princeton), but erstwhile WHWH/WPST programmer Tom Taylor (in his Taylor on Radio-Info column) reports that the 87-year-old broadcaster bought 90 minutes of time on the station on Saturday, and again on Sunday, for a retrospective celebrating the first 25 years of what was once one of the finest community stations out there. WHWH is now in the hands of Multicultural Broadcasting, and it's been running a melange of leased-time ethnic programming recently (as well as engineer Neal Newman's "Radio TED" format when nobody's buying the time!)

There's a new callsign in South Jersey: mark down WDBA for Allied Communication Network Two's new CP on 91.5 in Cape May.

*It turns out that the sale of WGAJ (91.7 Deerfield) that we reported on last week was just a prelude to a bigger station transfer in western MASSACHUSETTS: the WFCR Foundation, the nonprofit group that raises funds and provides support for the University of Massachusetts' WFCR (88.5 Amherst), is not only buying the former Deerfield Academy station for $10,000 - it's also ponying up just over half a million dollars to purchase WNNZ (640 Westfield), the Clear Channel-owned AM signal that WFCR has been operating under an LMA since 2007.

The WFCR Foundation will pay a total of $525,000 for the WNNZ license, but Clear Channel will keep the three-tower transmitter site on Root Road north of Westfield, leasing it back to WFCR for at least the next ten years. From that site, the 640 signal blankets most of western Massachusetts with 50,000 watts by day, but at night it's much more limited, with just a kilowatt. WFCR's existing program lineup on WNNZ, which provides a news-talk alternative to the news/classical blend on WFCR's main FM signal, is expected to continue unchanged.

The sale will leave Clear Channel with one AM station (WHYN 560) and three FMs (WHYN-FM 93.1, WRNX 100.9 and WPKX 97.9) in the Springfield market, though there's also a pending application to relocate WPKX to the Hartford, CONNECTICUT market to the south.

(Just one big of Hartford news this week, by the way: WHCN (105.9) and WKSS (95.7) have landed a new creative/production director, as Danny Wright heads north from Atlanta, where he was creative services director for WSTR.)

*Back to Boston for a moment - we told you in a Monday-morning update to last week's column that Alex Langer was sellling WBIX (1060 Natick) to the Buffalo-based Catholic broadcasters at Holy Family Communications. This week, we can add some details to the story, including the callsign 1060 will take on once the sale closes and the programming flips from business talk to Catholic religion: it will become WQOM, which stands for "Queen of Martyrs."

The deal is structured as a combined sale/donation: Holy Family will pay Langer $1 million in cash, and he'll take the rest of the station's value (estimated at about $500,000) as a tax-deductible donation.

Holy Family says it's expecting to have the deal done, and WQOM on the air, by November 1.

Langer will still have one Boston-market station in his portfolio: WSRO (650 Ashland) runs Portuguese-language programming for the Brazilian community in the Framingham area; Langer also still owns stations in the Philadelphia (WFYL 1180) and Pittsburgh (WPYT 660) markets.

*Jack Craig never worked on TV or radio, but the Boston Globe columnist was one of the most influential players when it came to sports on the air in the Hub. From 1966 until his retirement in 1996, Craig essentially invented the job of "TV sports columnist," and he did it well. Craig died July 9 at age 81.

*A veteran NEW HAMPSHIRE radio personality has died. Frank Teas had worked at WABI in Bangor and WKNE in Keene before joining the inaugural airstaff at WSMN (1590 Nashua), where he was the PD and the first voice heard when the station went on the air in 1958. Over 44 years with the station, Teas did everything from the morning show (for a dozen years) to ad sales to sports announcing. Since his retirement in 2002, Teas had been splitting his time between New Hampshire and a winter home in Florida. He died in Nashua on July 10, at age 81.


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*In CANADA, the CRTC threw a roadblock in Quebecor's plans to transform its Toronto-based "SUN TV" (CKXT Channel 52) into a national cable news channel modeled on Fox News Channel. On Thursday, the CRTC said it's sticking to its plans not to license any new "Category 1" cable channels until October 2011. Quebecor says it's still aiming to launch "Sun News" in the next few months, even without the mandatory cable/satellite carriage it would earn with Category 1 status.

There's a new mid-morning host on the way to Toronto's FAN 590 (CJCL): Andrew Krystal, who's been doing talk on the Rogers news-talk stations in Halifax, Moncton and Saint John, is moving back home to Toronto to host the 9 AM-noon shift on the FAN, starting at the end of July. Krystal's departure coincides with a format modification at two of the Rogers stations in the Maritimes: CKNI (News 91.9) in Moncton and CHNI (News 88.9) in Saint John have won CRTC permission to air music instead of news and talk during the evening hours to help reduce the cost of operating the stations.

Speaking of the Maritimes, the beginning of the end is approaching for one of Nova Scotia's last remaining AM signals: the CBC started testing last week on the new FM signal for Radio One in Cape Breton. CBIT (97.1) will replace CBI (1140 Sydney), which will leave the AM dial 90 days after the FM signal completes its testing and signs on for good - and that will leave just CJCB (1270 Sydney) as the last AM standing on Cape Breton Island, and one of just five in all of Nova Scotia. (Two of those five have either approvals or pending applications to move to FM as well.)

When we said in last week's issue that the new FM tower in Owen Sound, Ontario would be on the air "soon," we didn't realize just how soon that would be - within hours after the column went up, Larche Communications flipped the switch to begin testing on CJOS (92.3). The new station will be known as "92.3 the Dock," with a classic hits format, and its official launch will take place at 8 AM July 26.

North of Toronto, CFAO (94.7 Alliston) has run into some pretty big obstacles. Less than a year after Frank Rogers put the 50-watt community station on the air, the New Tecumseth Free Press reports CFAO has been evicted from its studio space after failing to pay its rent. The website reports that the station is also behind on paying some of its employees and contractors, and that it's now off the air.

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 for the idea - and thanks to you, our readers, for the support that's made all these years of NERW possible!)

July 20, 2009 -

  • It was a week of big changes on the Northeast broadcast scene - the demise of a long-ailing Boston rocker, the death of the iconic Walter Cronkite, and an impending transition for New York City's venerable classical FM station.
  • We'll get to WBCN and Uncle Walter later in this week's column; first, the news from the New York Times, where the company's lone radio property, WQXR (96.3 New York) was but a blip on the bottom line compared to the company's mounting debt issues stemming from its acquisition of the Boston Globe and its decision to build a new headquarters tower at the height of the real estate market a few years back.
  • Even as a relatively minor piece of the Times Company empire, though, the signs were growing that WQXR had become expendable - first a rumor earlier this year that the signal was being sold to become an FM sports outlet, and then last Tuesday afternoon, the big news that WQXR was indeed being sold after 65 years under Times ownership.
  • Here's how it will play out: the Times will sell WQXR's 96.3 signal, a full class B from the Empire State Building, to Univision Radio for $33.5 million and the license of Univision's WCAA (105.9 Newark NJ). While Univision moves WCAA's "La Kalle" Spanish urban format down the dial to the bigger 96.3 signal, the Times will sell the 105.9 signal - along with WQXR's intellectual property - to public broadcaster WNYC, which will pay $11.5 million to operate 105.9 as a noncommercial classical station with the WQXR calls.
  • Note that price: for a full New York City class B FM, this deal puts the price tag at $45 million. Even allowing for some unusual circumstances here - the desire to protect the classical legacy of WQXR, in particular - this represents a huge drop-off in station values over just the last few years, as Univision ought to know, since its predecessor Heftel bought the 105.9 signal (then WNWK) for roughly ten times the $11.5 million that WNYC is paying for it. Even more dramatically, Univision gets that big 96.3 signal for less than the $60 million it paid a few years back for what's now WQBU (92.7 Garden City), a class A signal on the Long Island/Queens line.
  • As for the future of WQXR, reactions were mixed last week. To some, the sale by the Times will mark the end of WQXR as they've long known it - the station's familiar air personalities will lose their jobs with the sale, and while they'll have the chance to apply for work at the new WNYC-owned WQXR on 105.9, it seems likely that only a few will be hired. There's concern in the city's charitable circles that WNYC, with its own fundraising obligations to meet (it's launching a $15 million campaign to cover the purchase of WQXR and initial operating costs), won't be as supportive of New York's other arts organizations as the Times-owned WQXR was. (And of course as a commercial station, WQXR provided a venue to promote Broadway shows and other cultural events that won't be able to advertise as openly on the new 105.9.)
  • Then there's the signal issue: while 105.9 broadcasts from the same master antenna on the Empire State Building as 96.3, it runs just 610 watts ERP, compared to 6000 watts for the full class B signals. That's still a formidable signal - it reaches about 13 million listeners, compared to just over 16 million for the class B stations - but for listeners in much of Long Island and parts of Westchester and southern Connecticut, WQXR will still effectively vanish when it makes the move.
  • But for WQXR listeners elsewhere in the metropolitan area, the deal might be the best chance they'll have to retain a full-time classical voice on the FM dial. For WNYC, the move presents an opportunity - at a relative bargain price - to relieve the pressure on its main signal, WNYC-FM (93.9), to serve both the classical audience and the growing demand for more news and talk programming. With this deal, WNYC-FM will become a full-time news/talk voice, shifting its remaining classical programming up the dial to 105.9. And without the market pressures that have threatened even the few remaining classical signals that have moved to lesser commercial signals around the country (think of the slow demise of stations like WGMS in Washington, KXTR in Kansas City and perhaps even WCRB in Boston), there's little doubt that WNYC will continue to run the new WQXR 105.9 as a classical signal for many years to come.
  • In other news from New York, ESPN Radio's WEPN (1050) has flipped the switch on its new transmitter site on the Secaucus/North Bergen line, easily visible to drivers exiting the Lincoln Tunnel and train passengers heading into the city from New Jersey. WEPN is promoting the new 50,000-watt signal as the closest AM to midtown Manhattan, with a signal free of the pattern distortions caused by the new Xanadu development right next to the station's old transmitter site adjacent to Giants Stadium.
  • On any other week, the demise of one of the best-known and longest-running rock stations in the country would have easily been our lead story, and then some. But while the impending end of Boston's WBCN (104.1) and its replacement by a new all-sports FM signal is still front-page news in eastern MASSACHUSETTS (as well as the subject of a NERW extra when the news broke last Tuesday), the WQXR announcement out of New York just a few hours later quickly dominated the national headlines.
  • The details of the WBCN transition have been rehashed at length over the last week - CBS Radio will move hot AC "Mix" WBMX from 98.5 to 104.1 in August, relaunching 98.5 as "The Sports Hub" under new calls WBZ-FM, with WBCN's Toucher and Rich in morning drive and a lineup anchored by Patriots football and Bruins hockey. The remainder of the current WBCN staff, including midday jock Adam-12 and afternoon jock Hardy, will be out, while the remains of the WBCN modern rock format will shift to 98.5's HD2. The simulcast of WBZ (1030)'s news-talk format moves from the HD3 of WODS (103.3) to the HD3 of the new WBZ-FM.
  • So what does it all mean? In a Globe story the day after the announcement, our colleage Sean Ross of Edison Media and summed up the end of WBCN about as well as anyone has: "The ’BCN that most people are going to be sad about losing this afternoon, went away a while ago." While the exact date of that demise is arguable - we'd peg it at April 1, 1996, the day Howard Stern replaced Charles Laquidara in morning drive, but there was that 1994 shift to modern rock, too, and the later move away from music towards talk - there's no question that the WBCN that will breathe its last next month is not the legendary station where Peter Wolf and Duane Ingalls Glasscock and Oedipus rocked out, where new acts were broken and where "News Dissector" Danny Schechter upended conventional notions of radio news coverage.
  • And with few cities as sports-crazy as Boston, it was almost inevitable that CBS would eventually challenge the dominance of Entercom's WEEI (850), which enjoys both a rabidly loyal audience and plenty of grumbling from sports fans who either can't stand its opinionated hosts and callers, or who can't hear its signal in areas west of Boston after dark. While WEEI has faced other sports competitors in the past, including ESPN affiliate WAMG (890 Dedham) and Sporting News Radio's WWZN (1510 Boston), those stations have lacked full-market signals and the sort of local presence that's essential to competing in Boston.
  • Even though the FCC has now approved the routine use of FM translators by AM stations, it's denied an attempt by one NEW JERSEY AM station to add an FM signal. The application from WGHT (1500 Pompton Lakes) was certainly an unusual one: it asked the Commission to deny New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority's request to cancel a construction permit for a translator on 102.3 in Pompton Lakes, and to assign the CP from NJPBA to WGHT. While WGHT presented plenty of evidence testifying to the station's excellent community service and the lack of other local radio in the area, the application was a long shot, since there's no FCC precedent for restoring a CP to a licensee who doesn't want it anymore - and so the FCC denied WGHT's application, reminding the station that there will be a window, eventually, for new translator applications.

July 18, 2005 -

  • A few years ago, it looked as though eastern MASSACHUSETTS could become a major production center for public radio - not just the weekly entertainments of "Car Talk," but also a significant amount of daily news and talk programming. Over at WGBH, the joint partnership with the BBC that produced "The World" is approaching its tenth anniversary. But it was Boston University's WBUR-FM (90.9), under former GM Jane Christo, that harbored visions of serious national glory, launching Chris Lydon's "The Connection" into national distribution not long after its 1993 local debut, followed a few years later by "On Point" in the evenings (an outgrowth of WBUR's 9/11 coverage) and "Here and Now" in middays. We know, of course, what happened next: the heated departure of Lydon and the team that created "The Connection" (now ensconced at WGBH and producing "Open Source"), followed a few years later by the ouster of Christo herself. And last week, WBUR interim GM Peter Fiedler announced a series of cuts that promise to bring WBUR's production load more in line with its slimmed-down budget.
  • The most notable change is the cancellation, effective after the August 5 broadcast, of "The Connection." While Lydon's eventual replacement, former CBC host Dick Gordon, was doing a capable job with the program, it faced a crowded field of competitors for a finite number of daytime slots in a public radio universe where many stations are still trying to balance news and music on a single signal. (We find that, in the end, across NERW-land "The Connection" was being heard only on WNED(AM) in Buffalo, New York's North Country Public Radio and WPNI(AM) in Amherst, as well as on WBUR's own network.) On August 8, "On Point" will move from its 7-9 PM slot (an even tougher one in which to find affiliates; across NERW-land, it was heard only on WNED(AM), WNYC(AM) in New York and WQLN in Erie, as well as WBUR/WRNI itself) to the 10-noon slot held by "The Connection."
  • NEW YORK's Mohawk Valley will continue to hear classical music on 97.7, but the commercials will be going away soon on what's now WBKK (97.7 Amsterdam). Rotterdam-based public broadcaster WMHT (89.1 Schenectady) says it's paying owner GEM Associates $1.5 million for the class A signal that rimshots the Albany market. Beginning August 4, the classical service supplied by Boston's WCRB will be replaced on WBKK by a simulcast of WMHT's classical programming; WMHT says it has plans to create a separate classical service on 97.7, and while they're not coming right out and saying so, we suspect at least some of the classical music on WMHT's main FM service might yield to something else (news/talk?) once the new service takes root.

July 21, 2000 -

  • For almost a decade now, we've been following the progress of Gerald Turro as he attempts to find a way to use his Fort Lee, N.J. translator W276AQ (103.1) to serve its own city of license. Now, just as the FCC gets ready to issue the first LPFM licenses, the commission has returned a final ruling on the legality of Turro's current operation of the adult standards outlet known as "Jukebox Radio."
  • Some history, first: W276AQ, which serves northern Manhattan and Bergen County from atop the Mediterranean Towers apartments overlooking the Hudson, began as a translator of WPST (97.5 Trenton) in the mid-eighties. For a few years, it switched to WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue), and then WKXW (101.5 Trenton), until Turro found a way to do his own programming. Buying a tiny (8-watt) noncomm FM 40 miles away in Franklin Lakes, Turro changed its calls from WRRH to WJUX, and began programming it with oldies as "Jukebox Radio." Since the FCC allows noncommercial stations to own their own translators even in areas outside their protected contours, Turro was able to operate WJUX (88.7) and W276AQ from studios in Dumont, N.J., feeding the translator via a microwave station, WMG-499. The drawback to being noncommercial, of course, was that it was hard to make money on the station...and that's where things started to get interesting.
  • In 1994, a friend of Turro's, Wesley Weis, acquired the construction permit for WXTM (99.7) in Monticello, N.Y., about 100 miles away from Fort Lee. Once WXTM signed on that fall, it began running the "Jukebox Radio" format from Dumont under a time-brokerage agreement with Turro -- and W276AQ (along with another translator, W232AL on 94.3 in Pomona, N.Y.) became a WXTM translator. (WXTM changed its calls to WJUX in early 1995, after the Franklin Lakes station was shut down). Almost immediately, Universal Radio (licensee of rival Bergen County outlet WVNJ 1160 Oakland) complained to the FCC about the arrangement, claiming that Turro was in fact controlling the operations of the primary WJUX outlet (a violation of FCC rules), and that the Fort Lee translator was receiving programming directly from Dumont via WMG-499 instead of over the air from WJUX (or from W232AL in between).
  • At first, things looked pretty bad for Turro. An FCC inspection of WJUX's "main studio" (a rented production room in the studio building of WVOS AM-FM Liberty N.Y.) suggested that the only way to put the main studio on the air instead of the Dumont feed was to travel to the 99.7 transmitter 15 miles away and switch cables in a patch bay. The FCC inspector then visited Fort Lee with a half-watt transmitter, which he fired up on 94.3 (the W232AL frequency), 99.7 (the WJUX frequency), and 951 MHz (the WMG-499 input frequency) -- only to find that the only one that shut off the output audio on 103.1 was the 951 MHz test.
  • Case closed? Not hardly. Last August, following a hearing to determine whether Turro was obeying the translator rules and whether Weis' Monticello Mountaintop Broadcasting (MMBI) was a fit licensee for WJUX, Administrative Law Judge Arthur Steinberg ruled that everything was in fact being run by the books.
  • On Turro's end, Steinberg agreed with the unusual explanations offered for the results of the FCC experiments. Turro said WMG-499 did have an audio input to the transmitter, but that it was mainly used for telemetry to control the 103.1 transmitter. He claimed to have wired a "fail-safe" that would switch programming to the microwave audio feed if the telemetry feed was disrupted -- which, he argues, is exactly what happened when the FCC transmitter fired up at 951 MHz. Turro also claimed that he had found a "hot spot" on the roof at Fort Lee in which the WJUX signal could be clearly heard, despite first-adjacent WBAI (99.5 New York) just across the river. (NERW's own experiments this past spring proved, at least to our satisfaction, that it is possible to hear the WJUX signal fairly reliably at the W232AL site in Rockland County, and since we also heard W276AQ while parked at the base of the W232AL tower, we're willing to believe the reverse is true as well.)
  • As for Weis and MMBI, Steinberg found that the management presence at the WJUX "main studio" (two staffers who worked full-time for WVOS) was sufficient; that the public affairs broadcasts on WJUX (time-shifted repeats of WVOS' talk shows) met the public service requirements; and that Weis, not Turro, controlled the finances and operations of WJUX. (Turro paid a monthly fee of anywhere from $3600 to $8500 for the airtime of WJUX, which Steinberg found acceptable as a traditional time-brokerage deal). This week, the full Commission upheld Steinberg's findings, finally removing the last questions about whether the translator/primary relationship is legal. "We knew when we left the courtroom that we had won this thing," Turro tells NERW.
  • Upstate, Ed Levine's Galaxy group is adding another Syracuse outlet. Levine already has three formats running in Central New York: modern rock (WKRL North Syracuse, WKRH Minetto, WKLL Frankfort), standards (WTLA North Syracuse, WSGO Oswego, WTLB Utica), and classic rock (WTKW Bridgeport, WTKV Oswego, WRCK Utica), and now he's adding urban with the purchase of WRDS (102.1 Phoenix). Robert Short walks away with $3.75 million from the sale of his only station...and the rumors start flying about a format change at WRDS.
  • Two deals that won't happen: Citadel and Titus Broadcasting have dropped their plans to swap frequencies in Binghamton, where Titus was to have given up the 680 kHz home of its WINR in exchange for the lesser 1360 kHz facility of Citadel's WKOP. (The WKOP format would then have moved to Citadel's 1290 signal, displacing news-talk WNBF to 680.) The FCC has also dismissed the transfer of WKPQ (105.3) and WHHO (1320) in Hornell from Bilbat Radio to "Hornell Radio," which we believe to be the name Sabre Communications was using for its purchase of the two stations.
  • On to MAINE we go, where Communications Capital Managers is cashing out of the Bangor market after a very profitable stay of just a few months. CCM put together a group that includes hot AC WKSQ (94.5 Ellsworth), country WLKE (99.1 Bar Harbor), AAA WBYA (101.7 Searsport), oldies WGUY (102.1 Dexter), talk WVOM (103.9 Howland), and country WBFB (104.7 Belfast), for a total price (from three separate owners) of $10.2 million. This week, CCM announced it's selling the group to Clear Channel for an even $20 million. It's Lowry Mays' first venture into the Pine Tree State.
  • From RHODE ISLAND comes word that "The Buzz," Pawtucket's AM 550, won't be using the WBZU calls for which it applied last month. Instead, the station formerly known as WLKW has gone back to an old callsign: WICE. Those calls began at Providence's AM 1290 (later WRCP and now WRNI), but lived on 550 from 1985 until 1995, when it became WPNW and then WLKW. Nice to have them back in the Ocean State...and we wonder when or if the WLKW calls (which themselves have a long history on Providence's AM 990 and FM 101.5) will find their way back on the dial.

New England Radio Watch, July 19, 1995

  • The winning bidder for Pyramid Broadcasting was revealed today... and it's Evergreen. The $306 million dollar deal closes a chapter that began when Cecil Heftel and Richie Balsbaugh bought a decrepit AM-FM combo, WHIL Medford MA, and took the FM from worst to first as disco WXKS-FM, "Kiss 108." Kiss eventually went CHR, and
    Heftel cashed out, leaving Balsbaugh in control. Pyramid picked up rival WJMN-FM, "Jam'n 94.5," from Ardman a couple of years ago. The Pyramid portfolio also includes WNUA-FM Chicago, WHTT AM-FM/WSJZ Buffalo, WRFX AM-FM/WEDJ Charlotte, and WYXR/WJJZ Philadelphia. Now they join forces with Evergreen to give the Dallas-based company stations in each of the top 10 markets.. the first time that's ever been done. Evergreen is new to Boston, and to Charlotte, Buffalo, and Philly as well...but Chicago is another story. Evergreen already had WEJM AM/FM,
    WVAZ-FM, WLUP-FM, WRCX-FM, and WMVP-AM, under a waiver from
    their merger with Broadcasting Partners. Now they end up with *5* FMs and 2 will be interesting to see whether they sell or try for a waiver and wait for dereg. I'd bet Gannett is drooling for the chance to add either WEJM or WVAZ to its WGCI AM/FM combo...and I'm guessing Group W would like one of those FMs to add to its 3-station group in the Windy City. Viacom, Emmis, CapCities/ABC, and CBS are other single-FM operators who might want a duopoly.
  • The ramifications here in Boston? Fewer locally-owned stations, for starters. The deal leaves just a few stations locally-owned: WBNW-AM (Back Bay), WRKO/WEEI/WEGQ/WBMX (American Radio Systems), WJIB-AM (Bob Bittner), WROL-AM (Carter), WILD-AM (Nash), and suburban AMs WESX, WJDA, WADN, WRCA, and WNTN. It also leaves Evergreen with an interesting question: Do they keep running two FMs with similar formats? Kiss 108 trends towards the dance side of CHR, while Jam'n 94.5 looks towards the CHurban end of the format...but there's a lot of overlap. Might Evergreen try to consolidate that audience on one of the two stations, perhaps the fast-rising Jam'n, and flip the other to something else -- maybe modern rock or FM talk? And what of little WXKS-AM 1430? It's been satellite standards for more than a decade..and it has a decent 5kw ND day signal, but its 1kw night pattern is very directional away from Boston. Will Evergreen keep it as is? Or could it be duopoly fodder for Salem Media (WEZE-1260) or Communicom (WNRB-1510)? To be continued...
  • A couple of quick notes from a day trip up to Portland, Maine: The Portland market has become incredibly duopolized. The biggest group is Saga Communications' "Portland Radio" - news/talk WGAN 560, talk WZAN 970, classic rock WMGX 93.1, and oldies WYNZ 100.9 (licensed to Westbrook). They're all squeezed into the WGAN/WMGX facility near the airport and Maine Mall in South Portland. Also duopolized are WTHT 107.5 Lewiston (hot country), WKZS 99.9 Auburn (hot ac),
    and the simulcast standards WLAM 870 Gorham/WZOU 1470 Lewiston/WJTO 730 Bath, all under the "Great Downeast Wireless Talking Machine Company" banner. And WCYI 93.9 Lewiston/WCYY 94.3 Biddeford (simulcast AAA-CHR mix) and WBLM 102.9 are all owned by Fuller-Jeffrey. Major standalone FMs are WCSO 97.9 (ac, co-owned with satellite sports WLPZ 1440 Westbrook), and WPOR-FM 101.9 (country, // AM 1490), as well as WHOM 94.9 (soft ac), licensed to and transmitting from Mt. Washington NH. Not many studio locations left to visit...but
    a few interesting transmitter sites. WZAN 970 (the onetime WCSH, later YNZ-AM) transmits from Scarborough, on Elmwood Ave. near Rt. 1 and the access road to I-95/I-295. It's one of the few directional sites I've seen that uses "flagpole" style towers instead of the usual steel lattice towers. And at the base of the towers sits...
    the studios of non-co-owned WPKM-FM 106.3! I think this dates back to a long-ago 970/106.3 cross-ownership. In any case, 'PKM is live and local commercial classical, one of 3 commercial classical stations in southern Maine. The others are WBQQ 99.3 Kennebunk, "W-Bach," owned by the Tanger family (of WQRS Detroit, WTMI Miami, WFLN Philadelphia, and WBOQ Gloucester MA)...and WAVX 106.9 in Thomaston. WMGX-93.1 transmits from a guyed tower just off I-295
    north of downtown Portland. I didn't make it up to the big FM/TV sites north of Portland this time...but one of these days...
  • Not on the air: WLAM-FM 106.7 North Windham. This was to have been the second FM in the WKZS/WLAM/WZOU/WJTO group, but then they bought
    WTHT instead.
  • Huh?: WTMM-1380 in Portsmouth NH stopped simulcasting sister FM WCQL-95.3 York Center ME (oldies "Cool 95.3") more than a year ago, and picked up satellite sports from "The Team" instead. But driving back at midnight, trying to tape a WTMM ID, I ended up hearing the FM programming instead, complete with the FM legal. A few minutes later, the oldies abruptly faded back into sports. I suspect someone had punched up the wrong pot on the 1380 board...
  • No call change at WCLZ(AM) in Brunswick...despite an application to change to WKOL(AM) a few months back. The station is still WCLZ, and still simulcasting with (very good) AAA WCLZ-FM 98.9. And the WKOL calls, late of 97.7 FM in Amsterdam NY, have now reappeared at 105.1 in Plattsburgh NY. Wonder if the application was meant to hold the calls for the Plattsburgh station...

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