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 TEN YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

It was a full decade ago - November 9, 2000, to be precise - when your editor left the ranks of full-time media employees to devote himself to freelance writing, media consulting and the very column and website you're reading right now.

Here's what I said in NERW back then: I'm excited about my future, personally and professionally. How many people, after all, can say they're truly doing what they love? I've been fortunate to get to know so many of you, from Timmins to Stamford and from Bar Harbor to Dunkirk (to Honolulu!), and to share in the enthusiasm and passion so many still share for this wonderful medium of broadcasting. I'm hoping this next move in my life means I can keep sharing NERW with all of you for many years to come. Wish me luck, won't you?

Ten years later (and well into this column's sixteenth year of service to the broadcast community), I still consider myself very fortunate to be able to do what I love here in this space every week, and I'm primed for many more years of telling the stories of radio and TV here in the northeastern US and eastern Canada.

I'm excited about what's coming next for NERW and fybush.com. After a decade, it's long past time for an overhaul of this website, and that's coming this winter, with expanded archives, more timely updates and other features many of you have long been asking about.

But I can't do it without all of you, and that's even more true in today's shaky economy than it was when I set out on this journey a decade ago.

If you're a regular reader of the column who's not yet supporting it through a subscription, now's a great time to remedy that - and to get ready for all the exciting website features that will be exclusive to subscribers once our update is complete later this winter. Click here to visit the fybush.com store, where you can sign up at any of our convenient subscription levels and get your free 2011 calendar, too. (Or you can just buy a calendar, which also supports our mission here!)

If you have a product or service to offer to the broadcast community, advertising on fybush.com is a great, inexpensive way to reach radio and TV people when they're most receptive to your message. Contact Lisa Fybush at lisa at fybush dot com for all the details about how you can join Shively, Bohn Broadcast and the other advertisers who help keep the column coming.

And if you're looking for a consultant for a signal-expansion or acquisition project, you've come to the right place. Let's talk.

Thanks again for your support - and on to the next decade!

November 8, 2010

EMF Buys Into NYC Market

*Ask any radio station broker how the last few years have gone, and amidst the tales of declining station values and elusive financing, you'll hear one consistent bright spot: while many of the buyers who fueled the explosive run-up in station values in the late nineties and early aughts vanished from the scene when the economy turned soft, one station group has emerged as a major buyer of stations in big markets: California-based EMF Broadcasting.

The operator of the nationwide "K-Love" and "Air 1" networks, programming contemporary Christian and Christian rock music, has spent millions of dollars over the last decade expanding its reach from coast to coast, buying existing commercial and noncommercial FM stations, applying for new noncommercial FM signals and using new technologies such as FM translator networks and "Franken-FM" channel 6 LPTV signals to bring its programming to medium and large markets.

But amidst K-Love's expansion, one market has been conspicuously missing until now: New York City. On Friday, EMF took the first step toward changing that, announcing the purchase of Cox's WCTZ (96.7 Port Chester NY), a move that came amidst some even bigger transitions for Cox's cluster of stations along the CONNECTICUT coast.

Cox has spent the last five years working on migrating that 96.7 signal from its longtime home in Stamford to the edges of the nation's largest radio market, NEW YORK; as regular NERW readers know, it's one of three suburban FM signals that are all in the process of edging closer to the big city. Whitney Radio's WVIP (93.5 New Rochelle) signed on its new Bronx transmitter site earlier this year, and Cumulus has tested the new Bronx-based signal of its WFAS-FM (103.9 Bronxville) from the same location as WVIP.

While the O'Shaughnessy family has turned down repeated offers to buy its stations, there's been little doubt that the intent of both the WFAS-FM and WCTZ moves was to increase the stations' value so they could be sold. EMF had reportedly been in talks with both companies before striking a deal with Cox. There's no word yet on how much EMF is paying for WCTZ, but we do know that unlike most EMF deals, this one doesn't include an LMA prior to closing.

That may have something to do with WCTZ's as-yet-uncompleted move: while the station changed city of license from Stamford to Port Chester back in late 2007, the 96.7 transmitter site hasn't moved yet. Over the last few years, Cox has applied for several possible new 96.7 sites closer to Manhattan: one potential site was on Long Island's north shore, and the current construction permit for a 96.7 move would have the station operating from a diocesan radio tower in Yonkers. But it doesn't appear that EMF will be using that site, either: instead, they'll wait for the FCC to grant another Cox application to move 96.7 to the top of the Trump Plaza development in New Rochelle.

From there, WCTZ's 60 dBu contour will encompass all of Manhattan and the Bronx and most of Queens, Brooklyn, Nassau, lower Westchester, and parts of Bergen, Rockland and Fairfield counties - far from a full-market signal, but still reaching a substantial chunk of the market's population (and, interestingly, with almost no overlap with the other contemporary-Christian player in the region, central New Jersey's WAWZ-FM 99.1.)

The transfer to EMF is slated to take place sometime in the first quarter of 2011, and with it will come the end of the "Coast" AC format and the shift of 96.7 to noncommercial status, allowing EMF to get a main-studio waiver that will permit the station to be operated from the network's headquarters in Sacramento. (New calls will be coming, too; ironically, the "WKHL" calls that used to be on 96.7 are so ideal for a K-Love outlet that they've already been snatched up by EMF, which is using them on a station in West Lafayette, Indiana.)

*As it turns out, the sale of WCTZ was just one of two big pieces of news that rocked Cox's southern Connecticut cluster on Friday. A few hours before the sale was announced, managers gathered employees together to tell them that operations at Cox's studios in Norwalk were being sharply cut back in order to bring most of the company's stations in the region together at the Cox facility in Milford, 25 miles to the east.

NERW hears that the morning meeting began with the news that Robn Faller, who'd been promoted a year ago to VP/market manager for Cox Radio - Southern Connecticut, had left the company, with Kristin Okesson being promoted from VP/GM of the Stamford/Norwalk cluster to VP/market manager for southern Connecticut.

At first, employees were told that both WCTZ and WFOX-FM (95.9 Norwalk) would be moving their studios from Norwalk to Milford, with no jobs being lost along the way. It was only partway through the meeting, we're told, that regional VP Kim Guthrie received a note announcing that the WCTZ sale was official and that staffers would be cut as a result.

As of Sunday night, WCTZ is reported to be running jockless until the sale to EMF closes, putting several jocks out of work, though morning man Peter Bush has migrated down the dial to sister station WFOX-FM. Keith Dakin, who'd been programming WCTZ's AC "Coast" format and the classic rock "Fox" on WFOX-FM, stays on as rock PD of the newly-combined cluster, adding New Haven's WPLR (99.1 Hamden) to his portfolio; Chris Eagan, who programs Milford-based WEZN-FM (Star 99.9), will serve as operations manager for all four of the FMs that are being combined in Milford.

As for the two AMs based in Norwalk, the news-talk simulcast of WNLK (1350 Norwalk)/WSTC (1400 Stamford) will stay put at 444 Westport Avenue for now, but they'll relocate their main studio to a new location when the lease there runs out later next year.

*Back on the New York side of the state line, 96.7 wasn't the only suburban FM frequency making news late last week. As had been widely rumored, Friday afternoon at 5 brought a new format to Barnstable's WIGX (94.3 Smithtown, ex-WMJC).

Earlier in the week, WMJC parted ways with most of its airstaff, including morning man Phathead and middayer Malibu Sue, and the launch of 90s-pop "94-X, Long Island's Hit Music for Generation X," was jockless. Veteran programmer Joel Salkowitz is consulting the new format with PD Jon Daniels, who stays on board.

*Out at the tip of Long Island, Citadel flipped formats on WELJ (104.7 Montauk) sometime Tuesday - but not, as expected, to a straight simulcast of its New York City powerhouse WPLJ (95.5).

Instead, 104.7 (whose old WXLM calls and talk format have now migrated down the dial to the former WSUB 980 in Groton, CT) launched with a 10,000-song commercial-free marathon of hot AC music similar to the WPLJ playlist but, at least for now, without the New York personalities, thoug the new WELJ website does promote a simulcast of WPLJ morning men Scott Shannon and Todd Pettengill.

A veteran New York City radio news voice has left the airwaves: Cameron Swayze, son of pioneering NBC-TV anchor John Cameron Swayze, retired from his weekend slot on WCBS (880) last weekend - with, at his request, no fanfare or big farewell; Swayze says he hopes to come back to the radio dial someday.

Moving up the Hudson Valley, Sunrise Broadcasting has installed calls on its new 98.9 construction permit in Rosendale, and as expected, that station will be WGNY-FM now that the former WGNY-FM (103.1 Newburgh) is WJGK.

In Albany, Ally Reid is the new PD at WZMR (104.9 Altamont), moving up from assistant PD to fill the shoes of Kevin Callahan, who's now out in California. Reid keeps her midday airshift as well.

Veteran Albany air talent Joe Condon checked in to let us know he's getting ready to get back on the air after spending a month in the hospital. Condon says he suffered an aortic dissection, the same sort of blood-vessel tear that took the life of actor John Ritter a few years ago. "Unfortunately for John Ritter," Condon says, "he did not have the support of the Menands Police Department,
the Latham/Menands paramedics and Saint Peter's Hospital." With that support, Condon says he's planning to be back on the air at WYJB (95.5 Albany) on Thanksgiving morning, and he'll ease back into doing his TV show on WYPX (Channel 55) in early December.

"God's Country" is off the air in Utica, where the Christian classic-country network was leasing WOKR (93.5 Remsen) and a downtown Utica 94.1 translator from EMF. The network says it wasn't bringing in sufficient listener donations to cover the cost of the lease-to-own deal with EMF for more than a dozen stations around the country; for now, WOKR is simulcasting "Air 1" with much larger WRCK (107.3 Utica).

Here in Rochester, the wrecking ball has started swinging in earnest at Midtown Plaza, the downtown shopping/office complex that's been home over almost half a century to nearly all of the city's radio stations at one time or another.

The first part of the plaza to come down was the B. Forman building, which was home to WBBF (950), WMJQ/WBEE (92.5) and their sister stations from the eighties until 2002, up there on the fifth and sixth floors that were visible at left center in this photo taken a week ago...and are now rubble. (WBBF's earlier home, the Midtown Tower building at the right of the photo that was also home to WVOR, will remain standing, though it's in the process of being gutted right down to the structural steel; demolition of the Euclid Building, where WHAM and its Lincoln Group/Jacor/Clear Channel sisters spent two decades, has yet to begin.)

*Longtime readers of this column know that we've always been staunch supporters of good small-town radio and good small-town radio people, and our region lost one of the best on Tuesday night with the untimely death of Guy Patrick Garraghan, the founding general manager and morning voice of WRIP (97.9 Windham).

Having spent many years in morning drive on WCKL (560 Catskill), Garraghan was already a veteran Hudson Valley radio voice by the time he hooked up with station owner Dennis Jackson to put WRIP on the air in 1999. Together with Jackson and another area radio veteran, Jay Fink, Garraghan built WRIP into a model of community radio, making the station - and Garraghan - into the "Voice of the Mountaintop."

On Tuesday evening, Garraghan was on his way home from WRIP when he suffered a massive aneurysm. He was airlifted to Albany Medical Center for emergency surgery, but it was unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead a few hours later, two weeks shy of his 64th birthday.

On Wednesday, WRIP opened its doors and its airwaves to Garraghan's friends, family and listeners for a remembrance of his life, and when the day-long special programming ended that evening, WRIP signed off for the night in Guy's memory.

On Sunday, WRIP helped to organize (and broadcast) a memorial ceremony at the base lodge at Ski Windham, and there's a memorial to Garraghan on WRIP's website as well.

We'd hoped to make an appearance there ourselves, and though we were unable to make the trip, all of us here at NERW send our deepest condolences to Guy's wife, Carol, his three children, two brothers and the WRIP family.

Jackson tells NERW that more than a thousand people packed in for the memorial, and this from a town whose population is just 1600. It's a tribute to the bond a good local broadcaster can still have with his community.

TOWER SITE CALENDAR 2011 - IT'S HERE!

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 fybush.com 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 fybush.com Store!

*It was just four years ago when WBZ (1030 Boston) handed over its most prominent on-air position (and arguably the most important radio slot in all of MASSACHUSETTS) to a new voice, as Gary LaPierre retired after 42 years on the job. Nobody expected his successor, Ed Walsh, to equal that record by sticking around until the year 2058, of course, but it nevertheless came as a surprise when Walsh announced last week that he's retiring from WBZ effective November 30.

"Four years ago I returned home from New York to the city where I grew up and first worked," Walsh said in a statement released by the station. "I'm very proud of the success we've had in both awards recognition and building the audience for what was already the highest-rated morning radio program in New England. For a guy who loves news and grew up in Boston, being able to finish my career at WBZ is quite special."

No replacement for Walsh has been announced yet.

*While Walsh retires, a pair of retired veterans are returning to the airwaves. Sunday morning marked the debut of the new "Upton and Lobel" talk show, airing from 9-11 AM on Clear Channel's "Rush Radio" (WXKS 1200). The new show reunites former WBZ colleagues Upton Bell and Bob Lobel, bringing some very familiar names to a station that's still struggling to get its own share of name recognition in the crowded talk market.

Construction work continues out at WQOM (1060 Natick), as the Catholic station builds out the CP it was granted last week for 50 kW daytime from three of the five towers at the WAMG (890 Dedham) array in Ashland. Word is that WQOM has been using reduced power (reportedly 5 kW) since it returned to the air last week with Catholic programming.

And for the callsign-obsessed, FCC data-mining expert Garrett Wollman caught something we missed: the very quiet call change in July that turned WHDH-TV (Channel 7) into just plain "WHDH."

*A small MAINE radio station has gone silent - and whether WRMO (93.7 Millbridge) ever comes back on the air depends on whether the station can find a buyer. "Due to financial setbacks, I am no longer able to operate 93-7 WRMO and have been forced to take the station off the air," station manager Mike McSorley said in a statement on the station's website. WRMO's license is now held by the estate of the late Lyle Evans, who'd planned to upgrade the station far beyond its present minimal 130-watt facilities before his death in 2006.

*It was a bad election day for several NERW-land broadcasters seeking political office: in Connecticut, former WFSB/WVIT news anchor Janet Peckinpaugh lost her bid for Congress against Democratic incumbent Joe Courtney, while in VERMONT, former WDEV (550 Waterbury) talk host Paul Beaudry challenged incumbent Democrat Peter Welch for the state's at-large House seat, losing by a 2-to-1 margin. Beaudry says he's considering returning to talk radio after the loss.

*RHODE ISLAND's John DePetro is getting an airshift in Washington. The WPRO (630) host has signed on with Citadel sister station WMAL (also on 630) to do Saturdays, 4-7 PM, broadcasting to DC from WPRO's East Providence studios; credit WMAL PD Bill Hess, who worked with DePetro at WHJJ in Providence, with the hire.

Christmas music came to the Ocean State late last week, when Clear Channel flipped WSNE (93.3 Taunton) for the season; we'd expect Citadel's WWLI (105.1) to join the ho-ho-ho brigade before long, too.

*Last December, we reported that WRJI (91.5 East Greenwich) had fallen silent - and now licensee Educational Radio for the Public of a New Millennium has finally gotten around to notifying the FCC and asking for Special Temporary Authority (STA) to remain off the air. Trouble is, that notification is supposed to be filed within 30 days of the station's going silent. Worse yet, the Commission is mandated by law to delete the license of any station that remains silent for more than a year, and the application filed on November 4, 2010 (with the unenlightening explanation of "negligence by ISP provider to set up radio tower connection," whatever that means) acknowledged that WRJI went off the air on November 2, 2009, just over a year ago. Oops...

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*When Disney announced in late September that WEAE (1250 Pittsburgh) would drop ESPN Radio at year's end, the speculation began in earnest about where the "Worldwide Leader" would next park its programming in western PENNSYLVANIA - and if you, like us, predicted ESPN would end up at Clear Channel's WBGG (970 Pittsburgh), you guessed correctly.

Clear Channel confirmed last week that "Fox Sports 970" will transform into "ESPN 970" on New Year's Day, with midday hosts "Tunch & Wolf" and afternoon host Joe Bendel remaining part of the lineup. Mornng host Greg Linnelli will be part of the reworked 970 lineup as well, but not in morning drive, where ESPN insists stations clear its own Mike & Mike show.

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: It's taken more than a decade, but it appears that ion Media, the former Pax Broadcasting, is finally on the verge of acquiring a Pittsburgh outlet. It's WQEX (Channel 16), the secondary signal that public broadcaster WQED (Channel 13) has been trying to sell for years now. Back in 1999, WQED was on the verge of a deal that would have transferred channel 16 to religious broadcaster WPCB, which would then have moved its noncommercial programming to 16 and sold off its own channel 40 signal to Pax. But that deal fell through over concerns about whether religious broadcasting qualified as "educational" for the purposes of a noncommercial license, and by the time the FCC straightened out the confusion, the sale was dead. WQED later tried to sell WQEX to broadcast executive Diane Sutter, but that $20 million sale also failed to close. This time, WQEX (which has been broadcasting home shopping programming) will go for just $3 million, ending its half-century association with WQED.

One more Pittsburgh note: just as we're observing the demolition of Midtown Plaza here in Rochester with a twinge (or more) of sadness, the folks at Duquesne University's WDUQ (90.5) are watching their old home come down. Demolition is well underway now on the former Des Plaines Language Center building, where WDUQ spent the last 40 years.

*At the other end of the state, Star and Buc Wild are back on the morning airwaves in Philadelphia, this time at Radio One's WPHI (100.3 Media), where they fill a morning-drive vacancy. Later in the day, "100.3 the Beat" shifts Kendra G from nights to afternoons, with Mia Mendez and Caesar taking over the night shift.

*We neglected to mention a big change in Scranton radio in last week's issue: October 22 was the last day for the local jock lineup on Citadel's WSJR (93.7 Dallas), which replaced morning man/APD Moonshine and the rest of the local airstaff with Citadel's syndicated "Today's Best Country" format.

There's a new station coming to the State College market, at least if Cary Simpson's Allegheny Mountain Network still wants to follow through with the application it filed back in 2004 for 1000 watts days/270 watts at night on 1490. Six years later, the FCC has finally granted Simpson that construction permit, which will be licensed to the neighboring town of Lemont, PA.

The Commission was a little quicker when it came to dealing with an unsuccessful inspection at WGRP (940)/WEXC (107.1) in Greenville: last week, it proposed an $18,000 fine against former owner Beacon Broadcasting for a pile of violations that included public-file issues, an unauthorized studio-transmitter link for the FM and overpower nighttime operation for the AM signal. Since the inspection last year and the death of Beacon owner Harold Glunt, the stations have been sold to EMF Broadcasting, but it's Beacon and the Glunt family that are still on the hook for the fine.

*And one of the industry's most prominent voices fell silent last Monday. Charlie O'Donnell was remembered - and rightly so - for his quarter-century as the announcer on "Wheel of Fortune," but before he moved out west, O'Donnell had a long and impressive eastern career. O'Donnell's career started at WCHA (800 Chambersburg) in 1956, but he soon returned to his native Philadelphia, where he worked at WHAT (1340) and WIBG (990) before moving to WFIL (560) and WFIL-TV (Channel 6), where he worked alongside Dick Clark on "American Bandstand."

In New York, O'Donnell was best known for his time in the late sixties on WOR-FM (98.7); it was around that time, in late 1966, that O'Donnell recorded the newscast that formed part of the Simon & Garfunkel hit "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night."

By the late sixties, O'Donnell was firmly planted in Los Angeles, working as a DJ on KRLA (1110) and as an announcer on KCOP-TV (Channel 13); he began working on "Wheel of Fortune" in 1975 and rejoined the show in 1988 with current host Pat Sajak.

O'Donnell was 78.

*NEW JERSEY 101.5 - aka WKXW Trenton - has a new name for its studio building in Ewing Township. It's now the "Jim Gearhart Broadcast Center," dedicated last week in honor of the station's longtime morning host.

The Armstrong Tower in Alpine lit up on schedule over the weekend for a commemorative broadcast from WA2XMN, the experimental station on 42.8 megacycles that honors the memory of FM's inventor, Major Edwin Howard Armstrong. We didn't make it down for the broadcast this time, but we know it was being heard well up the Hudson Valley, at the very least.

And we note the passing of Tom Busch, who spent the last 35 years in Alaska, building and managing KNOM (780) in Nome, a station we were proud to feature some years back as a Tower Site of the Week. Before Busch moved north, he worked in NERW-land at WLDB (1490 Atlantic City, now WBSS) and at WRYT (950 Boston, now WROL). Busch died Nov. 1, at 63.

*Our CANADA news begins with still more silent AMs: out on Quebec's Gaspé peninsula,

CHNC (610 New Carlisle) and CHGM (1150 Gaspé) finally left the air last week after receiving multiple extensions of time to simulcast their FM replacements (on 107.1 and 99.3, respectively). The FM signals signed on in late December 2008, but complaints about poor reception kept the AM outlets on the air far beyond the usual 90-day simulcast period.

And we're just now learning about a completed AM-to-FM conversion last month in Alma, Quebec, where CFGT-FM (104.5) signed on October 13 as "Planète 104,5," followed three days later by the permanent sign-off of CFGT (1270).

*In Ontario, Instant Information Services has been granted a new 50-watt tourist-information station in Quinte West, with calls CIQW.

To the north, two existing FMs have applied for power increases: My Broadcasting wants to crank up CIMY (96.1 Pembroke) from 2.57 kW max DA/90.5 m to 31.6 kW max DA/90.5 m to rectify complaints of "weak or inconsistent reception of its signal," while CHLK (88.1 Perth) wants to power up from 1.35 kW max DA to 5.4 kw max DA.

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.

November 9, 2009 -

  • For the last few years, it seems as though the arrival of Christmas music on the northeast radio dial has been getting earlier and earlier - but not this year. Instead of the pre-Halloween flips we'd been tracking (and which hit at a couple of HD2 signals in Philadelphia and at WEZW on the Jersey shore, which is evidently in the proces of flipping formats), the first stations in the region to go all-Christmas this year waited until November 2. Those flips happened in Syracuse and Utica, NEW YORK, where Ed Levine's Galaxy clusters flipped at WZUN (102.1 Phoenix) and WUMX (102.5 Rome), which were also early adopters in 2008.
  • As we go to press Sunday, "Sunny 102" and "Mix 102" still stand alone in the Empire State - and while we'd expect more holiday tunes to start rolling later in November at usual suspects like WRMM in Rochester, WYYY in Syracuse and WKLI in Albany, we're hearing that New York's WCBS-FM, which flipped last year, may stick with its usual classic hits format this holiday season.
  • Fans of the adult album alternative sounds on New York City's WFUV (90.7) don't have to worry about that public radio station going all-Christmas - but unless they live on the west side of Manhattan, they may not be hearing WFUV at all during the day for the next couple of weeks. WFUV is in the midst of a big antenna-replacement project at its relatively new transmitter site in the Bronx, and the construction means the station's main transmitter is off the air weekdays from 8 AM until about 4 PM, leaving only the WFUV-1 booster atop Riverside Church (and the WFUV.org webstreams) on the air during the day. At night and on weekends, WFUV switches on its auxiliary antenna at the Bronx site, restoring most of its coverage. The project is scheduled to wrap up around the middle of next week, weather permitting.
  • In Ellenville, WELG (1370) has become WRWD, once again relaying the country music from WRWD-FM (107.3 Highland) in the Poughkeepsie market, now that sister Clear Channel FM station WRWC (99.3 Ellenville) has become WKIP-FM, carrying the same talk programming that had been heard on WELG.
  • There's a new AM signal coming to northern NEW HAMPSHIRE: Mount Washington Radio and Gramophone, which already owns WBNC (1050) and WVMJ (104.5) in Conway, has been granted a construction permit for a new signal on 1340. The new AM will run 620 watts day and night, non-directional, from the WBNC tower on Route 103 east of Conway.
  • Some interesting late-breaking news from VERMONT: Chip and Kathy Morgan, who run eclectic community outlet WMUD-LP (89.3 Moriah NY) from their farm in Bridport, are adding a second outlet with a bigger Champlain Valley signal: they're now programming WCLX (102.9 Westport NY) for owner Dennis Jackson, returning the station to the air two months after the end of its last managerial arrangement, with Diane Desmond and Russ Kinsley, took the frequency silent. "The soon-to-debut new format will be derived from their "Farm Fresh Radio" syndicated format offering," Jackson tells NERW. "It will be a hybrid that expands on our former "musicheads" format, including AAA cuts, deep album cuts, blues, and rockin' Americana cuts." Jackson notes that like WMUD-LP, the new signal's studio will be powered in part by wind from an on-site wind farm.
  • In MAINE, veteran station owner Dick Gleason has a new title: mayor of Auburn. Tuesday's election found Gleason winning 69% of the vote in his race against Ron Potvin. Gleason has been a station owner since 1975, when he bought what's now WOXO (92.7 Norway), which became the cornerstone of a five-station group that also includes WTBM (100.7 Mexico), WKTQ (1450 South Paris), WEZR (1240 Lewiston) and WTME (780 Rumford).

November 7, 2005 -

  • The first week of November brought plenty of news from PENNSYLVANIA - none of it bigger than the $1.2 billion sale of Susquehanna Radio to Cumulus Media Partners, a partnership of Cumulus Media and three investment firms. In our region, the sale affects only the Susquehanna group in York - talker WSBA (910 York), AC WARM-FM (103.3 York), oldies WSOX (96.1 Red Lion) and silent WGLD (1440 Red Lion) - but it also closes a long, proud history of a group (owned by Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff, perhaps better known for its dishware) that grew from a handful of central Pennsylvania stations to a nationwide cluster with major outlets in San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta and elsewhere. (We should note, too, that Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff is also selling its SusCom cable service, which serves some 225,000 subscribers in Pennsylvania, New York, Maine and Mississippi. Comcast, which already owned 30% of SusCom, is paying $775 million for the rest of the company.)
  • One more Susquehanna note before we continue: little WGLD was back on the air briefly last week, keeping its license from an impending expiration.
  • Across the state, adult hits came to Pittsburgh Tuesday when Steel City Media dumped the lagging classic rock format on WRRK (96.9 Braddock) in favor of "96.9 Bob FM." The station is running jockless for now - even in mornings, previously occupied by the syndicated Bob & Tom show.
  • It's technically a NEW JERSEY story, but the move of WTTM (1680 Princeton) to its new home in Lindenwold, which was being completed over the weekend, is really all about Philadelphia and its radio listeners. WTTM spent much of last week playing country music from its old tower site near Pennington, N.J. (lovingly automated by chief engineer Neal Newman) while getting the new Lindenwold facility ready to go on the air. NERW hears that Multicultural Broadcasting will begin running Spanish-language programming on WTTM once the move is finished.
  • And speaking of Pennington, some sad news to report: that's where Julian Breen lived, and we were as stunned as everyone else in the business at the news of Breen's death last week. Breen was the APD/MD at WABC during some of its most successful years, from 1968-1971. From there, he became PD at KYA in San Francisco before returning to the East Coast to become vice president of Greater Media. He's credited with creating the "Magic" format at WMGK (102.9 Philadelphia) and WMGQ (98.3 New Brunswick). More recently, Breen was one of the go-to guys for ratings analysis, through his Supertrends (later Breen Broadcast) consultancy. Julian Breen died Oct. 29 of pancreatic cancer; he was just 63.
  • Big changes at CONNECTICUT's WEZN (99.9 Bridgeport) - "Star 99.9" morning man John Harper was abruptly ousted from his wakeup slot last week, after more than a decade at the station. His replacement is former WVIT/WTIC-TV sportscaster Tony Terzi, son of Hartford TV veteran Al Terzi. Terzi joins newscaster Marit Price (who just joined Star in July) and traffic reporter Tommy Edison. Meanwhile, Star has officially hired former WQSX ("Star 93.7") jock Mike McGowan for afternoons; McGowan has a long history in Connecticut, albeit in the Hartford market, and he'd been doing the afternoon slot on WEZN on an interim basis.
  • Down the road in Greenwich, WGCH (1490) has acrimoniously parted ways with veteran morning newsman Jim Thompson. The station tried to move Thompson to middays, but he claimed his contract guaranteed him morning drive. So for more than a week, he continued to show up for mornings, reports the Greenwich Citizen-News, only to find someone else on the air in the timeslot. Now he's out of a job at WGCH after 28 years, though the station continues to employ his wife, Dima Joseph, as morning show producer.
  • A long-planned antenna move in MASSACHUSETTS is finally a reality. Entercom's WAAF (107.3 Westborough) has signed on its new transmitter and antenna at Stiles Hill in Boylston (on the tower of WUNI-TV 27). The new facility puts out 9.6 kW/1099', and it's expected to improve WAAF's signal towards Boston (it's about 10 miles closer than the original WAAF site on Mount Asnebumskit in Paxton), at the expense of some of the wide-area coverage the station's long enjoyed into eastern Connecticut and western Massachusetts.

November 6, 2000 -

  • For years now, one of the parlor games most often played by MASSACHUSETTS radio buffs has been "What will it take for Bernardine Nash to sell WILD?" This week, we have an answer -- and it's no great surprise. Ever since her husband's death a few years back, rumors have run rampant about Nash's plans for the urban AM "little daytimer that could." Would she negotiate a move to a full-time frequency, or to FM? Would she sell, and if so, to whom?
  • This spring, Nash began answering those questions when she LMA'd the station to Radio One, one of the country's fastest-growing urban groups (NERW, 5/19/2000). The move put WILD (1090) under the same roof as new competitor WBOT (97.7 Brockton). And now Nash has agreed to sell WILD outright to Radio One. The $5 million deal puts Nash in charge of the Radio One Boston group, and makes WILD the 51st station nationwide for the company.
  • The big news from NEW YORK this week was, of course, the waning days of the nation's most-watched Senate race. The big radio news, though, was taking place in the Hudson Valley, as the stations Clear Channel is spinning off to Concord Media take on their new formats. On the AM side, WHUC (1230 Hudson) broke from the talk format shared with Kingston's WGHQ (920) and Poughkeepsie's WKIP (1450) to go standards, though not with the same satellite service as sister station WCKL (560 Catskill). Could that mean changes on the way at WCKL? On the FM dial, WCTW (98.5 Catskill), aka "The Cat," returns to the Westwood One "Bright AC" satellite format it had been using until February, when the station went mostly live and local with hot AC. The other half of "the Cat," WCTJ (96.1 Poughkeepsie), keeps the hot AC, albeit with automation and voicetracks instead of live jocks. And WTHK (93.5 Hudson) dumps "Thunder Country" for Westwood One's oldies as "Cruisin' 93-5," with Bill Williams from WRNQ (92.1 Poughkeepsie) serving as PD and Ken Gonyea doing mornings. Again, "Thunder Country" lives, for now, on WTHN (99.3 Ellenville) to the south.
  • A Syracuse television icon will retire in a little less than a month. Ron Curtis started at WHEN radio (620) back when its sister TV station was still on channel 8. That was in 1959, and seven years later he became the anchor on WHEN-TV, today's WTVH (Channel 5). In recent years, Curtis has anchored WTVH's noon and 11 PM shows. His final appearance on channel 5 will be December 1.
  • From CANADA this week comes word that the CRTC has approved CIMF (94.9 Hull)'s application for a low-power relay in Hawkesbury, Ontario, halfway to Montreal -- but with a catch. While acknowledging that CIMF needs the relay to retain the listeners it will lose when adjacent-channel CBF (95.1 Montreal) cranks up to 100 kilowatts, the CRTC says the relay can't be on 107.7, the frequency CIMF wanted. It seems several community stations are hoping to use that channel in the area, and the CRTC says CIMF can find other frequencies that will work.
  • A few quick notes from outside the NERW listening area: We enjoyed listening to the 80th anniversary special last week on KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh), even though there's certainly plenty of historical evidence casting doubt on KD's claim that "radio began here." At the other end of the Keystone State, a moment of silence please for the loss of two Philly institutions: WWDB (96.5), a pioneer in the world of FM talk, expired quietly Monday morning (11/6), replaced later in the day by 80s hits as "The Point," with the WRPT calls that once lived in Peterborough and Ashland reportedly on the way. Across the river in South Jersey, WVLT (92.1 Vineland)'s abrupt cancellation of the "phillyradio.com Radio Radio Show" leaves WJIB's "Let's Talk About Radio" as the only radio-on-radio show we know of in the country.
  • Staying in Pennsylvania for a moment, just on the fringes of NERWland, we note two call changes just out from the FCC: WAQM (104.5 Cambridge Springs), just south of Erie, becomes WXXO (remember that call from Albany a few years back?), while WZRZ (98.7 Mill Hall) near Williamsport becomes WLTS-FM. No word yet on accompanying format changes.

New England Radio Watch, November 9, 1995

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