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October 25, 2010

Boom Boom Brannigan, RIP

MONDAY EVENING UPDATE: It was supposed to be a pretty simple job: replacing the channel 59 translator antenna for W59AU in Utica with a new antenna, allowing Syracuse public broadcaster WCNY to switch from analog to digital (on channel 22, as W22DO-D.)

But something went terribly wrong as a three-person crew from Alpha Antenna Services worked 300 or so feet in the air atop the tower WCNY leases from Utica's WKTV. The old channel 59 antenna buckled, sending all three tower workers falling. William Fox, 49, suffered the most serious injuries to his face, while Kelly Dougherty, 30, suffered foot injuries and a third worker was checked out and released.

Because the tower with the dangling antenna sits right next to WKTV's Smith Hill studios, Channel 2 was forced to evacuate its building, cancelling its noon newscast and replacing its usual NBC feed with programming from its DTV subchannel. (The actual WKTV transmissions, from a site in Middleville 20 miles to the east, were unaffected, but WKTV's master control couldn't function until workers there were cleared to return to the building.)

As of Monday night, it's not yet clear how long it will take for WCNY to resume the translator-upgrade project, or whether WCNY's other signal at the site, WUNY (89.5 Utica), was affected. (Those are the WUNY bays seen at lower right in the WKTV image above.)

*Every radio market with a big top-40 station in the sixties had its breakout star - and in Albany, NEW YORK, there was none bigger than "Boom Boom Brannigan," who spun the tunes on WPTR (1540) beginning in 1961 and stayed there well into the seventies, propelling WPTR into the heat of a top-40 battle with archrival WTRY.

Before his Albany stardom, Brannigan had been up and down the Thruway, working under his real name, Joseph Motto, at stations in Utica (WTLB) and Syracuse (WNDR) and as "Ronnie Victor" at Buffalo's WBNY.

After leaving WPTR in 1974, Brannigan also worked at WABY (1400) for a time, and he came back to WPTR in the early years of the 21st century when the station flipped to an oldies format in an attempt to recapture the old magic.

In the meantime, he'd become a station owner, putting WMVI (1170 Mechanicville) on the air in 1979, and later selling it, buying it back and selling it again.

Brannigan, whose real name was Joseph Motto, had been in poor health for the last few years; he died Tuesday in Albany, at age 82.

*While Brannigan was spinning the tunes at WPTR, Martin Beck was moving from the presidency of the Katz Radio rep firm into his own prominence as a station owner. Beck left Katz in 1968 to join forces with his brother-in-law George Ross under the "Beck-Ross Communications" banner, a name that would soon become prominent in the region.

Beck-Ross bought its first station in 1970, flipping the former WPAC-FM (106.1 Patchogue) into WBLI. It became the cornerstone of an ownership group that eventually grew to 28 stations, including WHCN in Hartford and WSNE in Providence, before selling out to Capstar (one of the antecedents of today's Clear Channel) in 1995. Three years later, Beck and his son-in-law Jim Champlin returned to ownership, investing in WSYB/WZRT in Rutland, Vermont.

Beck held many of the industry's top leadership posts, including serving as president of the New York State Broadcasters Association and chairman of the NAB Radio Board; he was named to the NYSBA's hall of fame in 2005 and won the NAB's National Radio Award in 1992.

Beck died Thursday (Oct. 21) at 93.

*Beck's successor at the helm of the NYSBA is retiring. Joe Reilly has been with the group for three decades, and he's giving the state association plenty of time to replace him; he won't leave NYSBA until mid-2011, and he'll still be around as a consultant even after that.

*Back out on Long Island, Barnstable has changed calls at WMJC (94.3 Smithtown): it's now WIGX, and that has plenty of people speculating about a format change from the hot AC now being played there. "Gen X Radio," perhaps? Stay tuned...

In northern Westchester County, Albany's WAMC has applied for a license to cover for its newest FM signal: WWES (88.9 Mount Kisco) becomes the southernmost link in the extensive WAMC "Northeast Public Radio" network.

Up the Hudson Valley, the FCC has now issued a construction permit for Hawkeye's new station on 98.9 in Rosendale. The new signal (a sister to WGNY/WGNY-FM in Newburgh) will run 1.35 kW/699' from a site on the west side of the Hudson, south of Kingston.

In Utica, we can now put a price tag on Digital Radio Broadcasting's sale of WUTI (1150) to Leatherstocking Radio: it's paying $150,000 for the station, which is now simulcasting Leatherstocking's "CNY Talk Radio" from WFBL (1390 Syracuse).

Here in Rochester, Entercom is losing its operations and programming director. John Thomas will depart WBEE-FM (92.5) and its sister stations next month to head west to a much bigger market: Denver, where he's the new PD at country giant KYGO-FM (98.5) and sister station KRWZ (950).

New York's "1050 ESPN" is shuffling its schedule again today, giving Ryan Ruocco and Robin Lundberg a second hour of airtime. They're already heard from 5-6 AM with the local "Leadoff Spot" ahead of "Mike & Mike in the Morning," and now they're on again from 10-11 AM after Mike & Mike.

And one update to our AHL Hockey on the Radio coverage from last week: the Albany Devils will be heard on WTMM (104.5 Mechanicville) just for road games; home games will be webcast-only.

More from the obituary file: Bob McNamara worked at each of the "big three" Albany TV stations in a sports career that lasted 45 years. McNamara started in print at the old Knickerbocker News before joining WTEN (Channel 10) in 1966; he soon moved to WRGB (Channel 6), then to WNYT (Channel 13) in 1981, where he stayed for 20 years. McNamara resigned from WNYT after the station suspended him over an outburst aimed at a bowling league official. He moved to Florida not long afterward, where he died last Sunday (Oct. 17) at 76.


The production process was a little more complex than usual for Tower Site Calendar 2011, but at long last we're shipping the tenth installment in what's become an annual radio tradition.

The new calendar is now back from the printer, complete with more than a dozen exciting new images including that nifty cover shot of Mount Beacon, N.Y.

And if you order now, you'll have the 2010 calendar in your hands long before the holiday rush!

But wait - there's more! We now have a small supply of the new FM Atlas, 21st edition, as well as a limited supply of Tower Site Calendar 2010 as well - plus the signed, limited-edition version of the 2011 calendar and much more in the store!

We've got special discounts for bulk orders, too - they make great gifts for your business colleagues or friends...

We are offering "calendar bouquets" of our old editions. It's a great way to buy a bunch of beautiful tower pinups at once! For just $16, you can get the 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009 calendars! (Special packaging available on request.)

Order now at the Store!

*It's been an interesting week for radio in southern NEW JERSEY, where police in the Atlantic City suburb of Linwood arrested the former general manager of the Atlantic Broadcasting cluster. Brett DeNafo was charged with second-degree theft and theft by deception after Atlantic accused him of stealing nearly $175,000 from the stations.

$76,149 of that came from personal purchases DeNafo allegedly made with a station credit card, while the remainder of the money ($98,805) was related to advertising that ran on the stations but for which Atlantic never received payment.

Atlantic fired DeNafo back in March, two years after he joined forces with JVC Broadcasting's John Caracciolo, engineer Mike Ferriola and several local air personalities to buy the radio cluster from Access.1 Communications.

DeNafo turned himself in to police in Linwood and was freed on $350,000 bail. His attorney Stephen Scheffler tells the Press of Atlantic City that the charges are "110% bogus."

*Some happier news from the other end of the state: the historic Armstrong tower in Alpine will once again come alive on the old FM "low" band next month, as Steve Hemphill fires up his experimental WA2XMN on 42.8 megacycles from his magnificent Phasitron transmitter. The broadcasts on Saturday, November 6 will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Major's first public demonstration of FM back in 1935...and we're told, tantalizingly, that there may be "other events" that day, too. (Stay tuned!)

*A silent station in southeastern PENNSYLVANIA will soon be back n the air. WPAZ (1370 Pottstown) went off the air last December when its founding owners, the Scott family, put it up for sale. Over the summer, the "WPAZ Preservation Association" came together with a bid to resurrect WPAZ as a community station, but the missing piece of the puzzle didn't appear until Four Rivers Community Broadcasting, operators of the religious "Word-FM" network, stepped in to finance the association's purchase of WPAZ from Great Scott Broadcasting. Under the deal, Four Rivers will acquire the WPAZ license for "between $45,000 and $60,000," Great Scott CEO Mitch Scott tells the Mercury of Pottstown - and it will then enter an LMA-to-purchase deal with the WPAZ Preservation Association, which will pay Four Rivers in installments.

WPAZ was briefly back on the air Tuesday with a loop announcing a Saturday return to live programming, but that was delayed after Great Scott decided the Preservation Association needed a separate LMA to begin operating the station while the license is transferred to Four Rivers.

*At the other end of the Keystone State, another 1370 facility has lost its license, at least temporarily. WHYP (1370 Corry) now appears on FCC records as "DWHYP" after the Commission determined it had no record of any license-renewal application for the station in the 2006 renewal cycle. As with most such "deleted" facilities, it's likely WHYP will end up paying a late-renewal fine and getting its license reinstated. Last week, it submitted a request to the FCC for special temporary authority (STA) to remain on the air, with a showing that the renewal application had been submitted back in 2006 but the associated filing fee had never been processed by the Commission.

And in Lancaster, they're mourning Wendall Woodbury, who was a reporter, anchor and even did the weather for a while at WGAL-TV (Channel 8) in a career that stretched from 1968 until 1992. Woodbury, who died Wednesday at age 68 from lymphoma, was best known for his "Wendall's World" feature segments." He'd been an independent video producer since leaving WGAL.


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*The trend of simulcasting morning sports radio shows on TV is spreading to MASSACHUSETTS, where WEEI (850)'s "Dennis and Callahan Show" will be seen on NESN starting Nov. 16. The 6-9 AM weekday simulcast will appear on both NESN's main New England network and "NESN National," the feed that goes outside the region without NESN's Sox play-by-play.

The move puts Dennis and Callahan in the same company with hosts such as WFAN's Mike Francesa (seen on the Yankees' YES Network in the afternoon) - and it provides a broad regional platform that nicely complements WEEI's attempts to expand its radio coverage beyond Boston.

*Boston's new Catholic radio station is making preparations to return to the airwaves full-time. The former WBIX (1060 Natick), now WQOM, has been silent since new owner Holy Family took over last month, in part because Holy Family didn't take over WBIX's leases on studio space or the daytime transmitter plant at the old WKOX facility in Framingham.

When WQOM does return, possibly as soon as next weekend, it plans to run fulltime from its current nighttime transmitter site, the five-tower array on Sewell Street in Ashland that was built for WQOM's predecessor on 1060, the old WGTR. That move will include a boost in daytime power, from 40 kW at Framingham to 50 kW from Ashland - but while that extra power may look impressive on paper, it will be concentrated into a tighter directional pattern that will lose some of the westward coverage WBIX enjoyed from the Framingham site. (It will also require new phasors and diplexers at the Ashland site 1060 will share with WAMG 890, and that's not a simple or inexpensive job.)

*More Radio People on the Move: former WBOQ (104.9 Gloucester) host Jacky Ankeles has found a new North Shore radio home. As of last week, Jacky's being heard on WNBP (1450 Newburyport) from 10 AM-3 PM weekdays. Out west, Rebecca Wylde comes to Saga's WLZX (99.3 Northampton) as music director; she'll also be doing middays on sister station WAQY (102.1 Springfield). Wylde had been at WMFS in Memphis, working alongside Rob Cressman, who's now PD for WAQY and WLZX.

*A CONNECTICUT AM station wants a new tower site and a new city of license. WSHU (1260 Westport) lost its original tower site a few years back, and has been using a wire dipole antenna hung from a SNET telephone tower nearby while it seeks a new permanent home. Now it thinks it's found one: the center tower of the WFIF (1500 Milford) directional array, about 15 miles east of its current site. From the new site, WSHU would continue to run 1000 watts by day, with 18 watts at night - and it would become "WSHU Stratford."

*A format change in MAINE: WZON (620 Bangor) is moving away from its all-sports legacy starting next Monday, when it will dump its ESPN Radio programming in favor of simulcasting the progressive talk from sister station WZON-FM (103.1 Dover-Foxcroft). The AM side of "The Zone" will retain local sports in the afternoon with Dale Duff and Clem LaBree, as well as local sports play-by-play.

*Across the state line in NEW HAMPSHIRE, there's a change of command at WBYY (98.7 Somersworth). Mark Edwards is out as operations manager, and Pete Falconi (co-owner of the aforementioned WNBP) is consulting "The Bay" as it seeks a replacement.

The New Hampshire Association of Broadcasters keeps the winner of its "Broadcaster of the Year" award a secret until it's announced at the annual "Appreciation Night" dinner - and some of Bob Vinikoor's out-of-state radio friends thought it might raise too much suspicion if they suddenly showed up around Concord on Thursday. But they were there in spirit, at least, when the owner of WNTK, WCNL and several other Granite State stations was surprised with the (well-deserved) honor.

*One of CANADA's most prominent college/community stations has a date with the CRTC this winter. Toronto's CKLN (88.1) hasn't been in the CRTC's good graces for a while now, and it was scheduled to have its license reviewed in a hearing back in May. But that date was pushed back due to ongoing litigation over the legitimacy of CKLN's board of directors. CKLN is now due to appear before the CRTC to make its case on December 8.

In London, Blackburn Radio's new CKLO (98.1) isn't on the air yet, and it's asking the CRTC for permission to change transmitter sites. CKLO was due to sign on from atop One London Place, the tallest building in town, but it's not sure it will be able to locate there without interfering with CHRW (94.7) and various communications tenants who already occupy the rooftop. Now it's asking to relocate to a new tower site near the Old Victoria Road/401 interchange, and with a power boost to 12.6 kW (average)/40 kW (max)/492' DA.

Radio People on the Move: after just a few months on the air, Steve Kennedy has resigned as music director and morning newsman at CJOT (99.7 EZ Rock) in Ottawa, reports Milkman UnLimited.

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.

October 26, 2009 -

  • He was best known for his TV comedy, but Soupy Sales made a big mark on the NEW YORK radio scene as well. Long before the first pie was thrown at his face on TV, Sales was doing radio in Huntington, W.V., where he went to college - and then TV in Cincinnati, Cleveland and then Detroit, where he launched "Lunchtime with Soupy" sister station WXYZ-TV in 1953. That brought Sales to Los Angeles, and then to New York, where he shot to TV stardom with a daily show on WNEW-TV (Channel 5) that parent company Metromedia syndicated nationwide during the 1960s.
  • It was at WNEW-TV that Sales did one of his most famous bits, the New Year's Day 1965 request to kids watching the show to send him the "little green bits of paper" from their parents' wallets. Channel 5 suspended him briefly, but the incident only boosted his reputation as a TV rebel. The Channel 5 incarnation of "The Soupy Sales Show" lasted only two years, but Sales returned to the New York airwaves two decades later as a key part of the final burst of creativity at WNBC (660), where he occupied the midday hours from 1985 until 1987, sandwiched between Don Imus in morning drive and Howard Stern in the afternoon.
  • On the air, Sales frequently sparred with his WNBC colleagues, though behind the scenes relations were reportedly more cordial. Sales' radio run came to an abrupt end amidst NBC budget cuts in 1987, as WNBC entered its final days; he left the air mid-shift on his last day on the station after an on-air attack at management and did not return the next year when WNBC left the air for good, though he later reconciled with then-PD Dale Parsons, according to his account on the New York Radio Message Board this week. (Stern also apologized to Sales many years later, calling the comedian one of his "childhood heroes.") Sales never returned to radio - or to a regular TV gig - after WNBC, though he continued to make occasional guest appearances in his later years. He died Wednesday night at a hospice in the Bronx, at age 83.
  • Eastern MASSACHUSETTS could get another 50,000-watt AM signal, if WBIX (1060 Natick) owner Alex Langer has his way. He's applying to move WBIX's daytime signal from its current site in Framingham (on the two-tower array formerly used by WKOX 1200, until that station moved to Newton earlier this year) to the five-tower array in Ashland that WBIX already uses at night. That Ashland array was built in the early eighties for the 1060 signal, back in its original incarnation as WGTR, but was repurposed in the mid-nineties for the new signal on 890 that's now silent WAMG Dedham. 1060 later returned to the Ashland towers for nighttime use only, diplexing with WAMG.
  • WBIX's proposed return to Ashland could reignite a battle that kept the old WGTR from ever becoming fully licensed at the Ashland site: back then, WBZ (1030) objected to potential interference to its signal from the third-adjacent WGTR signal, and a steady stream of objections from WBZ itself and from its Group W sister station, KYW (1060 Philadelphia) ensured that WGTR's then-25 kW daytime signal on 1060 remained at the Program Test Authority stage for a decade and a half. This time, WBIX is submitting a series of measurements that it says demonstrate that the FCC's "M-3" conductivity map overstates the ground conductivity between Ashland and WBZ's transmitter in Hull -and therefore that there will be no prohibited overlap between the 25 mV/m contours of WBZ and the relocated WBIX. Will CBS object to 1060's move this time? Stay tuned...
  • In other Boston radio news, it looks like Howie Carr and Entercom's WRKO (680) are stuck with each other for a while longer. Two years after engaging in a high-profile attempt to pry Carr loose from his WRKO contract, Greater Media's WTKK (96.9) is at least feigning a total lack of interest in making a second run at moving Howie to FM. Asked by the Boston Herald whether he's considering Carr at the end of his WRKO contract in 2012, Greater Media CEO Peter Smyth replied, "I think Howie Carr is a terrifically talented guy. I like him but I’m not (going to)." Will that attitude change come 2012? Again, stay tuned...
  • Veteran New England programmer Beau Raines is out as PD and morning host at Northeast Broadcasting's WXRV (92.5 Andover) after a little less than a year in that position; music director/APD Catie Wilber is now serving as acting PD while a permanent replacement is chosen.
  • There's a station move in the works in the Atlantic City, NEW JERSEY market, where Atlantic Broadcasting is applying to move modern rock WJSE (102.7) right into Atlantic City. Here's how the move would play out: WJSE would change city of license from Petersburg to Ocean City, and would move its transmitter site some 15 miles north to the Ocean Club Condominiums, right on the Boardwalk. (That's also the site of WTTH 93.1, though WJSE would apparently be on the other one of the two Ocean Club towers.)
  • WJSE's new 4.1 kW/399' directional facility would serve more of Atlantic County than its present signal, at the expense of most of the station's present coverage of Cape May County. To maintain the fiction of "first local service" to Petersburg, sister station WTKU (98.3) would change city of license from Ocean City to Petersburg, remaining at its present transmitter site.
  • In CANADA, there are some big changes coming to CBC's TV news broadcasts today. On the heels of September's expansion of early-evening local CBC newscasts to 90 minutes (5:30 to 7 PM), the CBC is now reinstituting late-night local news in most of its markets, in the form of a 10-minute news update at 10:55 PM inserted between a slightly shortened version of "The National" and "The Hour," which will now start at 11:05. Local anchors for the new 10:55 newscasts include Adrian Harewood in Ottawa (moving to TV from CBC Radio 1's "All in a Day" afternoon regional show, with Alan Neal taking over the radio show), Aaron Saltzman in Toronto, Susan Pedler in Windsor and Andrew Chang in Montreal.
  • The CBC changes also include a rebranding of the national all-news network formerly known as CBC Newsworld, which relaunches today as "CBC NN."
  • There's a new signal on the air between Chatham and Windsor. CKXS (99.1 Wallaceburg) signed on this past Tuesday (Oct. 20) at 9 AM, and its airstaff will make their official debut this morning, along with the station's adult contemporary format. The new station's talent roster includes GM Greg Hetherington and Gary Patterson (two of the five partners in the station under the "Five Amigos" banner), along with Jay Smith, Dana Treacy and Chris Prince. There's a website up at as well.

October 24, 2005 -

  • Back in the earliest days of this column, a decade or so ago, one of the popular parlor games in eastern MASSACHUSETTS was to speculate on when, and how, Boston's WILD (1090) would find a way to move its heritage callsign and urban format to an FM signal. It almost happened in the mid-90s, on what eventually became (and still remains) WXRV (92.5 Haverhill), and there were some pretty intense rumors that it was going to happen again in 1998, when the signal that's now WMKK (93.7 Lawrence) came on the market. In 2000, Radio One's purchase of WILD put the station under common ownership with an FM (WBOT 97.7 Brockton) for the first time, and again the rumors of "WILD-FM" swirled. Instead, WBOT remained "Hot 97-7," with a hip-hop format, while WILD's classic R&B format remained in place on the daytime AM signal - until last week, when Radio One finally moved the WILD identity to the FM signal.
  • The new "Wild 97.7," which will soon bear the WILD-FM calls, picks up the Tom Joyner morning show that had been heard on 1090 (replacing the syndicated Russ Parr show), and it'll pick up the rest of the AM's local programming as well. After 6 PM, WILD-FM will begin aiming at a younger demographic, as it edges from R&B oldies back to hip-hop for the evening hours. WILD(AM), meanwhile, flips to black gospel as "Praise 1090, Boston's Inspiration Station"; it's not clear whether new calls will be on the way there or not.
  • And it's worth noting that the new WILD-FM is poised to improve its Boston signal even beyond the considerable boost it received when it moved its transmitter to Great Blue Hill in Milton a few months ago. The move to Milton from Abington came with a directional notch to the northwest, protecting co-channel WOQL (97.7 Winchendon), but now Radio One and WOQL owner Saga have reached a deal to take WILD-FM nondirectional, while installing a directional antenna at WOQL. (Radio One will pay Saga $500,000, plus expenses, to take WOQL directional.) The applications for both stations were filed a few weeks ago at the FCC, and we'll be watching as they work their way through the process there.
  • In other news from western MASSACHUSETTS, Citadel's WMAS (1450 Springfield) has moved from talk to ABC's True Oldies format, displacing hosts such as Neal Boortz, Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz and Randi Rhodes.
  • And on the TV side of things, Meredith launched local news on WSHM-LP (Channel 67) October 13, from studios at Monarch Place in downtown Springfield. News director Doug Lezette is anchoring the 6 and 11 PM broadcasts on "CBS 3," along with Lindsay Liepman, Curtis Grevenitz doing weather and Scott Harris on sports. The newscast reaches viewers in Springfield and the Pioneer Valley over the LPTV signal and, mostly, over cable. (WSHM replaced Hartford's WFSB, a Meredith sister station, on Massachusetts cable systems a few years back; it's also available to Connecticut viewers on a subchannel of WFSB-DT.)
  • Up in NEW HAMPSHIRE, WSMN (1590 Nashua) returned to the air last week. It's simulcasting sister station WSNH (900)'s ESPN Radio programming, and it's apparently operating from a very low-power STA on the WSNH tower while it tries to find a replacement for the soon-to-be-demolished three-tower array on Hollis Street that it used for 45 years before going dark this past spring.
  • We'll begin our NEW YORK report way upstate, where WKYJ (88.7 Rouses Point) has signed on with EMF's "K-Love" contemporary Christian music. EMF is adding another upstate outlet as well. The company is paying Liberty Communications Family Broadcasting Network $300,000 for WWJS (90.1 Watertown), which will flip to "K-Love" any day now.
  • North of Albany, WHAZ-FM (97.5 Hoosick Falls) is back on the air, temporarily simulcasting WHAZ (1330 Troy) until a new "gospel gold" format is ready to debut.
  • A station sale in NEW JERSEY is taking Mega Communications completely out of the region, as it sheds its last remaining Northeast property, WEMG (1310 Camden), to the fast-growing Davidson group. Davidson, which also owns stations in Hartford and Providence, is paying $8.75 million for the Philadelphia-market AM.
  • PDs on the move: Chuck Tisa's out as PD of WRDW-FM (96.5 Philadelphia), with no replacement announced yet; meanwhile, across the state, Alex Tear arrives as the new PD of WKST-FM (96.1 Pittsburgh).
  • And we have a pair of call changes: public TV outlet WPSX (Channel 3) in Clearfield has officially changed to WPSU-TV, recognizing its ownership by Penn State University. The WPSX calls move to the former WPSB (90.1 Kane), which simulcasts with WPSU-FM (91.5 State College).

October 23, 2000 -

  • It's always fun to be caught completely by surprise by the sign-on of a new radio station, and that's just what happened to us as we piloted the NERW-mobile through the hills and valleys of central NEW YORK this weekend. Spinning the dial while crossing the Mohawk Valley, we noticed high school football on 99.7. The Utica WJIV translator? Nope...that's now on 99.1. How about an AM simulcast? Sure enough, also on 1230, WLFH Little Falls. A commercial break confirmed our suspicions: WBGK Newport Village is on the air. When it's not doing high school football, WBGK is part of what's now the four-station "Bug Country" simulcast, which also includes WBUG-FM (101.1 Fort Plain) and WBUG (1570 Amsterdam). With the WBGK signal, Bug Country now reaches from Utica (where 99.7 is listenable but not strong) all the way to the Schenectady area.
  • Elsewhere in the Empire State, Citadel's WNSS (1260) in Syracuse dumped its AP all-news format last week, becoming one of the first two broadcast affiliates of the Comedy World network, heretofore a Web-only service. (The other one? KEYF 1050 in the Spokane market...) NERW tuned in 1260 as we passed through the Salt City Saturday morning, and ended up leaving the dial there for about 40 minutes. All-comedy radio hasn't worked on a local level the last few times it's been tried, but you know what? This service sounds pretty good. Imagine a talk format with comedy bits sprinkled in where a typical morning show might play a song or two, and you're pretty close to the concept.
  • One more from Syracuse: We heard the city's new urban outlet on 106.9 using a new set of calls. The FCC database doesn't show it yet, but "WPHR Auburn-Syracuse" was what we caught on the former WHCD. (The WPHR calls have been on a new CP in the Ashtabula, Ohio area, near where the calls had their heritage run a decade ago on Cleveland's 107.9.)
  • Downstate, a reader checked in to let us know that Port Jervis' WDLC (1490), which we'd heard was dark, is on the air and simulcasting sister station WTSX (96.7), so update your logs accordingly.
  • Two notes from MASSACHUSETTS this week: With the Six Flags amusement park closed for the season, WPNT (1600 East Longmeadow) has changed format back to a simulcast -- but not sister FM WAQY (102.1 Springfield). Instead, Saga is using 1600 to relay its new purchase in the Pioneer Valley, WHMP (1400 Northampton). Can WHMP's programming, aimed at listeners in Hampshire County, make inroads against big talk competitors WHYN and WNNZ on their home turf in Hampden County?
  • In Boston, Mark Berryhill leaves his post as GM of upstart talker WMEX (1060 Natick) to return to his TV roots. He's headed to the West Coast and KRON (Channel 4) in San Francisco to help that station make the transition from an NBC affiliate to a Young Broadcasting-owned indie.
  • Crossing the line into MAINE, we note that WLLB (790 Rumford) isn't being sold to J.J. Jeffrey's Atlantic Coast Broadcasting after all. Instead, Richard Gleason's Mountain Valley Broadcasting will pay $50,000 for the little AM, which will join WTBM (100.7 Mexico), WOXO (92.7 Norway), WTME (1240 Lewiston) and WKTQ (1450 South Paris) in that cluster. Maine's NBC affiliates are joining forces with the Pine Tree State's Pax outlet. WCSH (Channel 6) in Portland, along with WLBZ (Channel 2) in Bangor, are part of a group agreement between owner Gannett and the upstart network. The deal means WMPX (Channel 23) in Waterville will operate from WCSH's Portland studios, rebroadcast WCSH's news on a time-shifted schedule, and sell air time jointly with WCSH. NERW expects that the deal will also cover Buffalo's WGRZ (Channel 2) and Pax outlet WPXJ (Channel 51) in Batavia, which means we'll be able to watch WGRZ's news at NERW Central.
  • Up in CANADA this week, it must have been quite a shock for listeners to the very soft rock that's been heard on CHAY (93.1) in Barrie, Ontario for a generation. New owner Corus flipped the station to its "Energy Radio" dance-CHR format this week, joining existing Energy stations in Toronto-Hamilton (CING 107.9) and London (CKDK 103.1).

New England Radio Watch, October 26, 1995

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