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January 10, 2011

CC Shuffles Mass., Connecticut Signals

Were you on vacation earlier this month? Away from the computer? Did you miss our giant 2010 Year in Review special? It's available all year, including the Rant, right here!

*Clear Channel is taking another stab at moving one of its western MASSACHUSETTS FM signals south to Hartford, CONNECTICUT - and the latest proposal to move WPKX (97.9) is part of a big batch of applications that could end up affecting at least four stations in the region.

Clear Channel had originally proposed relocating WPKX to downtown Hartford without changing its city of license from Enfield, right on the state line, but that application was withdrawn last year. The new application filed last week once again proposes to put WPKX atop the City Place I office tower in downtown Hartford, but now the station's city of license would change to Windsor Locks, closer to Hartford and more easily covered from the downtown transmitter site.

To maintain the legal fiction of "first local service" to Enfield, Clear Channel has struck a deal with Citadel to change the city of license of Citadel's WMAS-FM (94.7) from Springfield to Enfield; that's all that will change at WMAS, which will retain its present downtown Springfield transmitter site and studios at the Basketball Hall of Fame. (Citadel, in exchange, gets to use a Clear Channel-owned generator at the Sandia Crest master FM/TV site high above Albuquerque.)

The other two stations being shuffled are both on 100.9: Clear Channel's WRNX in Amherst and Hall's WKNL in New London. In order to move WRNX closer to Springfield (presumably to become the new home of the WPKX calls and "Kix" country format after 97.9 moves away, though Clear Channel's not saying as much), Clear Channel needed WKNL to agree to short-spacing.

Here's how that plays out: in exchange for agreeing to the short-spacing, Clear Channel will pay for a new directional antenna that will allow "Kool 101" to upgrade to 6 kW from its present 3 kW. Two other Connecticut stations, CBS Radio's WRCH (100.5) and Clear Channel's own WKCI (101.3), also had to sign off on the short-spacing in order for WRNX to move. Its new site will be on Mount Tom in Holyoke, not at the main tower farm there (the spacings don't quite work) but rather at the site to the north at the top of the ski area that's now home to WFXQ-CA (Channel 28). From there, WRNX will run 870 watts/859' into a directional antenna with significantly improved coverage of Springfield compared to its present 1350-watt/692' site on another ridge to the northeast.

*There's a new program director at WFNX (101.7 Lynn), but he's a familiar face: Paul Driscoll served as music director under former PD Mike Tierney, and now he takes over the PD chair, keeping his nighttime airshift for now.

*One more engineering story out of the Bay State: even as CBS Radio works to move WODS (103.3) from the "FM128" tower in Newton to the Prudential Center in Boston's Back Bay, it's not abandoning FM128, either. WODS is now operating on a temporary basis from the master antenna at FM128, which is shared by sister station WBZ-FM (98.5) and Clear Channel's WJMN (94.5) - and it's applying, along with its sister stations WBZ-FM, WZLX and WBMX, to build a permanent auxiliary site there to provide a backup should WODS, WZLX and WBMX be unable to use their main sites at the Pru.

And on the AM side, WBZ (1030) is boasting something it's never had: a toll-free call-in number. After decades of "254-5678" and then "617-254-1030," WBZ's talk hosts began promoting "888-WBZ-1030" last week. (It must be a CBS corporate thing; Philadelphia sister station WPHT has supplanted its collection of local numbers in Philadelphia, the suburbs and South Jersey with a single toll-free number as well.)

*On TV, Doug Lezette is moving on - of his own volition, he assures NERW - after just over five years as news director and lead anchor at Springfield's WSHM ("CBS3"), where he was on the team that launched the local newscasts there in 2005. Lezette, a veteran of upstate New York TV in Rochester and Albany, is heading to Providence to become assistant news director at WJAR (Channel 10).

*Back to Connecticut: Jason Page is out as afternoon host at Clear Channel sports-talkers WPOP (1410 Hartford) and WAVZ (1300 New Haven). He'd been hosting "The Back Page," heard from 3-7 PM weekdays, but his two-year contract expired on Thursday and he was out the door shortly afterward.

Over in Danbury, Dennis Jackson is selling translator W297BD (107.3) to Berkshire Broadcasting for $175,000 - and that appears to mean an AM-on-FM translator is in the offing for either Berkshire's WREF (850 Ridgefield) or WLAD (800 Danbury), more likely the former. The deal also includes rent-free space for Jackson to install up to two more translators on Berkshire's Danbury tower - and the title to a 2001 Chevy Astro van.

On TV, Geoff Fox is out as the top weatherman at WTNH (Channel 8), where he'd been since 1984. It's the latest in a series of talent cuts at WTNH, which didn't renew the contract of meteorologist Matt Scott at the end of 2010, either. Fox says WTNH has agreed to let him work until the end of his contract in February, and he says he's already getting interest from both inside and outside the market.


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*Glenn Beck may originate his midmorning radio show from NEW YORK City, but as of next Monday the show will be without an affiliate there. WOR (710) announced last week that it's replacing Beck with Mike Gallagher in the 10 AM-noon slot and extending John R. Gambling's morning show to 10 AM instead of ending it at 9.

Gallagher has a long history in the market, having been heard locally on WABC (770) before becoming a Salem syndicated talker. He's currently being heard in New York on delay, running in the 9 PM-midnight slot on Salem's WNYM (970), which hasn't yet announced its new nighttime lineup.

As for Beck, WOR PD Scott Lakefield minced no words about the reason he's losing his perch in the city where his show originates: "The reason is ratings," he told the Daily News. "Somewhat to our surprise, the show wasn't getting what we wanted." By our count, WOR is at least the third talker in NERW-land to pull Beck's show in the last few months - there's the high-profile programming shift underway at Philadelphia's WPHT (1210), of course, and the quieter replacement of Beck with Dennis Miller up in New Hampshire at WNTK (99.7), where ratings and revenues also didn't live up to expectations.

Beck has yet to land a new affiliate in any of those markets; in New York, the pickings are slim, since Salem's flagship talker Bill Bennett airs in Beck's late-morning slot at WNYM, while WABC has the last hour of Don Imus followed by local host Joe Crummey in that timeslot.

*Long Island's WBLI (106.1 Patchogue) relaunches its morning show today. Dana DiDonato remains in place from the station's old morning lineup, but co-hosts Drew Applebaum and Randy Spears are gone, replaced by a new sidekick named "Jeffrey," one name only.

*Up the Hudson Valley, we know more about the new morning show starting next week on WBPM (92.9 Saugerties): it's "Robinson and Shannon," and it's a transplant from Rochester. Brian Robinson left his afternoon slot at WCMF (96.5) on Friday to head east, where he'll join fellow Rochesterian Shannon Ealy in the morning slot on WBPM. No replacement has been announced yet at WCMF.

Another new Hudson Valley FM station is displacing at least three translators in the area. The grant of WGNY-FM (98.9 Rosendale) affects W256BI (99.1 Red Hook), which relays WKZE (98.1 Salisbury CT) and which now has a CP to move to 105.9; W255BY (98.9 Poughkeepsie), which relays WNYX (88.1 Montgomery) and is moving to 106.9 next week; and W256BD (99.1 Warwick), which relays WTBQ (1110) and which has an application to move to 93.5.

*Two public radio signals in western New York are getting signal upgrades: in Rochester, the FCC granted WRUR (88.5) an increase from 3 kW/348' to 15.1 kW/378' DA, and construction is already underway to install the new directional antenna for the upgrade, which will keep WRUR on the Pinnacle Hill tower of sister station WXXI. And in Geneva, Hobart and William Smith Colleges' WEOS (89.7) has been granted its CP to slide one notch down the dial to 89.5, slightly increasing power from 4 kW/312' to 6 kW/312' and dropping the directional pattern it now uses to protect co-channel WITR (89.7 Henrietta) in the Rochester area.

We'll have a closer look at all the changes on Pinnacle Hill on Friday's Tower Site of the Week here at

(Usual disclaimer: your editor is a part-time employee of WXXI, which operates WRUR for the University of Rochester and WEOS for Hobart and William Smith.)

*In Syracuse, the final pieces of the WSYR move to FM have now fallen into place. It took a few days for WSYR's new FM home on 106.9 to change the call letters it was using on the air; as late as Wednesday, it was still identifying as "WPHR-FM Solvay" even as its Clear Channel sister station in Florida had flipped from WSYR-FM (94.7 Gifford/Fort Pierce) to WPHR-FM. Now it's WSYR-FM in Syracuse, and we'll see in the months to come whether the simulcast on WSYR (570) is permanent or whether the AM signal will eventually flip to a new format.

As for the former "Power" urban format from 106.9, it's now on WHEN (620) and on WSYR-FM's HD2, where it trades places with the WSYR(AM) simulcast that used to be heard there. We happened across an interesting on-air moment on 620 over the weekend: the Saturday afternoon "Power Perspectives" local talk show spent some time talking about the station's shift from 106.9 to 620, and interspersed with the expected criticism of the move to AM were a surprising number of calls praising the AM station's considerable daytime reach across a much larger swath of central New York than its former FM home.

*Radio People on the Move: in Syracuse, Judy Kelly is departing the Leatherstocking Media Group (WSEN/WFBL) after more than 17 years there, most recently as general manager. SHe's Florida-bound, reports, to work at CBS Radio's WEAT (104.3) in West Palm Beach. In Ithaca, WHCU (870) evening news anchor Syl Kacapyr is heading into PR with a new job at the media relations office of Cornell University - and that means an opening for "an experienced newsperson with excellent writing and social networking skills" at WHCU. And that's not the only news opening along Route 96 this week: in Owego, Chris Schmidt leaves WEBO (1330) at week's end to take a new job with the nearby Union-Endicott School District, and that leaves a big hole for a new morning host who can also do news and sports. (And quickly, too, because Schmidt's departure leaves WEBO owner Dave Radigan doing all those jobs in the meantime!)

*Where are they now? Sherman Baldwin made a lot of headlines during his time in Albany and the nearby Berkshires, and now he's returning to the air in Florida. The talk host had been heard on WTMY (1280) in Sarasota after leaving upstate New York last summer; that show ended in December, but starting today Baldwin's "Talk Sarasota" has a new home at brokered WWPR (1490 Bradenton FL).

*Our TV news this week starts with a resolution to the festering dispute that's kept Utica NBC affiliate WKTV (Channel 2) off the Time Warner Cable system there. TWC and WKTV owner Smith Media agreed on new terms over the weekend, ending what had been a particularly nasty fight in which Time Warner began importing NBC affiliate WBRE from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to replace WKTV on cable. Neither side is talking about the terms of the deal, which also returns Smith's WVNY (ABC) and WFFF (Fox) in the Burlington, Vermont market to TWC systems there. (There's no word, meanwhile, on where TWC and Sinclair stand on their carriage dispute, which nearly blacked out Sinclair-owned Fox, MyNetwork and CBS stations in the region on New Year's Eve; a two-week extension of those negotiations expires on Friday.)

*After almost 60 years, North Pole, New York is losing its TV station. WPTZ-TV (Channel 5) has never been physically located in North Pole, and it's been a few years now since the Hearst-owned NBC station first asked the FCC to modify the table of allocations to delete WPTZ from North Pole and relicense the station to Plattsburgh, the much larger city up the road that's always been the station's home base.

The FCC is usually reluctant to delete a community's sole broadcast service, but even the bureaucrats at the Portals could hardly ignore the reality that "North Pole" was never much of a community to begin with, just a post office at the Santa's Workshop tourist attraction - which doesn't even use North Pole as its own mailing address.

Rival station WCAX (Channel 3) across the lake in Burlington, Vermont briefly raised an objection, saying WPTZ's allocation was meant to go to the "Tri-Lakes" (Lake Placid/Saranac Lake/Tupper Lake) area south of Plattsburgh, but it withdrew the objection in December, and last week the FCC finally laid the matter to rest, reallotting WPTZ's digital channel (14) to Plattsburgh and changing the station's city of license. WPTZ's transmitter, of course, has been nowhere near North Pole or Plattsburgh or the Tri-Lakes since the DTV transition - it's now up on Mount Mansfield in Vermont with most of the rest of the market's TV broadcasters.

(And since someone's bound to ask - no, I have no idea how channel 5, originally WIRI, ended up licensed to North Pole in the first place. The earliest listing I can find for the station, in the 1953-54 Telecasting Yearbook, shows a construction permit for WIRI in Bloomingdale, just outside Saranac Lake.)

*In Syracuse, WSYR-TV (Channel 9) is getting ready to launch its local HD newscasts. The Newport-owned ABC affiliate unveiled its new logo last week, and it says it will have the updated look on the air (including a new set) by February. (And no, despite what at least one local wag pointed out in e-mail, there's no direct connection between channel 9's new look and the longtime logo of Schenectady's WRGB, which used a "6" logo for many years that looked just like the new "9" in Syracuse, albeit flipped 180 degrees.

*Richard McCarthy had a very long career on radio and TV in the Hudson Valley, starting out on the air at WKNY and WGHQ in Kingston before his boss in Kingston, Bob Peebles, got hired to run Capital Cities' WROW radio in Albany. Peebles brought McCarthy (known on air as "Richard Hill") to Albany, working as a newscaster and then as a sportscaster on both WROW and sister station WTEN-TV. He stayed on the air at WROW until 1994, when he went to work for Ernie Anastos' WABY (1160), doing afternoon sports, a job he continued to hold well into his eighties. McCarthy died Tuesday (Jan. 4); he was 88.

Al Brumbach wasn't a well-known name in radio, but for listeners north of Albany he was a familiar weekend voice for a while, using the air name of Gene Ryan on WENU in Glens Falls and on WIPS in Ticonderoga - and displaying plenty of dedication for those airshifts, which involved a long drive north on I-87 from New York City, where he worked during the week as a Sanitation Department supervisor. In 1987, he moved to Vineland, New Jersey, where he worked as news director at WWBZ (1270) and did work for the local school department. He died last Monday (Jan. 3) in Vineland at age 63.

And we're sorry to report the passing of a veteran Rochester TV engineer. John Coon worked at WOKR (channel 13, now WHAM-TV) and then as chief engineer at WROC-TV (channel 8) for many years, with a return appearance on the night of June 12, 2009 to turn off the station's analog transmitter for the last time. Coon died Dec. 21 at age 73.

*The Voice of Russia is now being heard in metro New York, by way of a NEW JERSEY-based AM station. Multicultural Broadcasting's WNSW (1430 Newark) switched programming from Spanish religious Radio Cantico Nuevo to the English service of the Moscow-based government broadcaster right after the new year. Radio Cantico Nuevo, in turn, is now being heard on WNYH (740 Huntington NY).

There's a South Jersey format change, too: WENJ (1450 Atlantic City) has flipped from ESPN Deportes Spanish-language sports to English-language ESPN, simulcasting WENJ-FM (97.3 Millville).

And while the drama leading up to the Atlantic Broadcasting bankruptcy filing has largely subsided, some of the headaches continue: we're hearing that phone and water service at the Atlantic headquarters building in Linwood was shut off last week, much to the dismay of WMGM-TV (Channel 40), which occupies the building as a tenant, a legacy of the days when the TV station was co-owned with the radio stations under Howard Green. The TV station is reported to be actively seeking new office space to get away from the problems at its former sister stations.

*One bit of RHODE ISLAND news for the new year: while Pawtucket's AM 550 has yet to return to the air, it has new calls. With the former WDDZ calls having migrated west to Pittsburgh for Radio Disney's 1250 (ex-WEAE), the license for 550 now bears the calls WBZS. Will those be the calls once Salem takes over operations and returns 550 to the air - or could they be parked in Pawtucket en route to a Salem launch of the company's new pet format, business talk, somewhere else?

(The "Net Gnomes" over at picked up a few weeks ago on a Salem domain registration for "," which could point to Salem's WROL 950 in Boston.)

*In TV news, Susan Roberts is the new co-anchor at 5, 6 and 11 PM on Providence's WPRI (Channel 12). Roberts comes to WPRI from the CBS Newspath service, where she was a Washington-based correspondent; she fills the very big shoes left behind by Karen Adams' retirement at the end of December.

*One station sale in MAINE: the Knights of Columbus of Bath are transferring the construction permit for unbuilt WTBP (89.7) to the Presence Radio Network, which operates Catholic station WXTP (106.7 North Windham); the $1,000 sale is part of the Presence network's plan to expand its reach across more of the Pine Tree State.


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*It was a very quiet week in PENNSYLVANIA, especially at the site of WZUM (1590 Carnegie), where the station's transmitting equipment has now been removed, leaving only the three towers that will soon be taken down by Crafton Borough officials who rejected a proposal that would have reactivated the silent station; it will be deleted in March if it doesn't return to the air, and the removal of its transmitter makes a return to the air all but impossible.

Up I-79 south of Erie, there are new calls for Family Life's new station on 90.9 in Cambridge Springs: it will be "WCGF" when it signs on.

Former WXTU (92.5 Philadelphia) morning jock Kris Stevens has a new job in Charlotte, doing middays at Clear Channel's WKKT (96.9). Down the dial at CBS Radio's WPHT (1210), Gary R'Nel is the new evening host starting next week, when he slides into the 7-10 PM slot now home to Dom Giordano, who'll move to late mornings to replace Glenn Beck.

12 months, one page - all the year's news and events in one place!

*The news from CANADA this week starts with a format change in southwest Ontario: CJSP (92.7 Leamington) quietly ditched country on Tuesday (January 4) to become adult hits "92.7 Max FM."

Owner Blackburn Radio says that when it signed on CJWF (95.9 Windsor) with country, it found more overlap with CJSP than it had expected, and it's urging country fans in the Leamington area to tune to CJWF or to sister station CFCO (630) from Chatham instead.

In St. Catharines, there's a new morning team at CHTZ (97.7), where Chris Biggs and Jason Barr will launch their "Biggs & Barr" show next Monday. Biggs had worked at Toronto-market stations including CKFM (999 Virgin Radio), CHUM-FM and CIDC (Z103.5); Barr was at CFNY (102.1 the Edge) for almost two decades. Meanwhile, HTZ-FM veteran "Iron Mike" Bensson returns to the station for afternoons.

Up north, there's a new French-language station coming to Nipissing, Ontario, where Paul Lefebvre has been granted a signal on 97.1 with 77.6 kW/447' DA.

In Prince Edward County, on the north shore of Lake Ontario, the CRTC rejected an application for a new FM signal, agreeing with stations in nearby Belleville and Napanee that rather than serving an unserved area, the proposed AAA station on 89.5 would be a competitor to those existing signals in a market that can't sustain another commercial signal.

Across the border in Shawinigan, Quebec (north of Trois-Rivieres), community/campus station CFUT is applying to move from 91.1 to 88.1, boosting power from 250 watts/30' DA to 31.3 kW/499' DA and relocating the transmitter to Mont-Carmel. Another community station on the Gaspé peninsula, CJRG (94.5), is applying to add three more relay transmitters to improve its coverage: 98.5 in Grande-Vallée, 99.9 in Petite-Vallée and 98.9 in Cloridorme.

*And finally this week: happy anniversary to us! It was seventeen years ago this week - January 14, 1994, to be exact - when the first issue of "New England Radio Watcher" burst upon an unsuspecting Usenet. The name has changed, Usenet's all but gone, and the mode of distribution has shifted a few times...but we're still here, and ready to keep going for at least seventeen more, if there's still a broadcast industry to cover come 2028.

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.

One Year Ago: January 11, 2010 -

  • As public radio has evolved into a big business over the last quarter-century, many of the institutions that were early sponsors of public radio stations are finding that big-time broadcasting no longer fits their mission. The latest example comes from western PENNSYLVANIA, where Pittsburgh's Duquesne University announced last week that it's looking to sell WDUQ (90.5), the station it put on the air as a low-power student-run operation back in 1949. "The university is proud of the station's success," said a statement from the station last week, "and sees that it is big enough to exist outside the university's umbrella. While the university continues to look at all opportunities, it is currently working with a group comprised of the current management of DUQ, representatives of the foundation community, and the public broadcasting consulting group Public Radio Capital to explore the possibility of WDUQ becoming an independent public radio station."
  • Duquesne's involvement with WDUQ has been largely hands-off for the last few years; while the university continues to hold the station's license and to provide office space, most of WDUQ's funding now comes from individual members, underwriters and corporate/foundation grants, and Duquesne has had little involvement with the station's programming. One notable exception came in 2007, when the Catholic university's leadership forced WDUQ to return underwriting money from Planned Parenthood.
  • While there's no shortage of message-board speculation about potential purchasers for the big-signalled station, it seems clear that the intent is to keep WDUQ functioning substantially as it already does. Its mix of NPR news/talk programming and jazz routinely nets respectable ratings, higher than classical competitor WQED-FM (89.3) or AAA WYEP (91.3), and with Pittsburgh's long history of corporate funding for cultural institutions, it's highly likely that WDUQ can be successfully transitioned to some form of community nonprofit ownership with its current staff and management intact.
  • And there are two big Keystone State obituaries this week: first, we noted the passing of veteran Pittsburgh sportscaster and columnist Phil Musick, whose career included a long stint with the now-defunct Pittsburgh Press, as well as time as sports editor at the Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review. Musick was an early columnist for USA Today in the eighties. In addition to his print work, Musick spent 11 years as a talk host at WTAE (1250, now WEAE) before joining KDKA-TV (Channel 2) in 1998 as managing editor. He died Jan. 5 of congestive heart failure at age 71.
  • Then came another KDKA-TV obituary: Yvonne Zanos, the CBS station's consumer reporter, succumbed to ovarian cancer on Friday (Jan. 8), just two days after turning 60. Zanos was a reporter for the old "Evening Magazine" on KDKA-TV in the seventies, then left for Kansas City before returning to Pittsburgh in 1984 to report for crosstown WTAE-TV (Channel 4). Zanos went on the consumer beat there in 1987, then rejoined Channel 2 a decade later. For the last two years, Zanos had continued to work at KDKA while undergoing treatment for the cancer that was diagnosed in late 2007. She's survived by her husband, two daughters and five grandchildren.
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, the big news came from WFNX (101.7 Lynn), which pulled the plug on its "Sandbox" morning show after two and a half years, dropping hosts Charlie Padgett and "Special Ed" Oliveira. Co-host Dustin "Fletcher" Matthews stays on board at the modern rocker, hosting a new morning show with PD Keith Dakin and veteran FNX newsman Henry Santoro. Also helping out with the new show is production director and former afternoon jock "Big Jim" Murray, who's being replaced in drivetime by Adam Chapman, aka "Adam 12," who'd left WFNX a few years back to go to the now-defunct WBCN (104.1). Later in the evening, "Loveline" is gone, and Paul Driscoll's night shift now runs from 6 PM until midnight.
  • Adam 12 isn't the only former New England radio personality who came home last week: on the sports-talk front, Andy Gresh departed Sirius/XM's Mad Dog Sports channel and the SNY cable network in New York to take a new gig with CBS Radio's "Sports Hub" (WBZ-FM 98.5) in Boston. Gresh was already a familiar voice to Sports Hub listeners as the host of the Patriots Radio Network pre- and post-game shows, and he'll continue in that role, as well as hosting a regular weekend shift and serving as the regular fill-in for WBZ-FM's weekday talent.
  • Over at WGBH's main service on 89.7 in Boston, today's the debut day for two new local talk shows: Emily Rooney of "Greater Boston" will hold down the noon-1 PM hour, followed by Callie Crossley from 1-2 PM. Not everyone's happy with the new 89.7 lineup, of course, and WGBH general manager John Voci got an ear full last Tuesday as one of the panelists at a meeting organized by the Boston Musical Intelligencer website. Your editor, while invited to participate, was unable to do so because of family commitments and winter-weather travel issues - but several NERW readers were among the 400 or so in the crowd at Old South Church, where the big issues were apparently the signal deficiencies of WCRB (99.5 Lowell), now the only full-time source of classical music with WGBH's move to fulltime news/talk, and the perceived lower quality of the WGBH-produced classical programming now being heard on 99.5. A particular concern was the removal of the Friday afternoon Boston Symphony Orchestra broadcasts, which Voci says would cost an additional $20,000-$30,000 annually. Those hoping for easy solutions to these problems aren't likely to be satisfied: existing short-spacings and FCC allocation rules mean the 99.5 signal will be staying put at its existing Andover transmitter site for the foreseeable future (though the WCRB simulcast at 89.7-HD2 offers the promise of a cleaner classical signal for listeners south of Boston willing to invest in an HD Radio receiver), and WGBH officials seem unlikely to make significant changes in the programming now running on "All Classical WGBH" at 99.5.
  • There's a radio sale to report: Antonio Gois is converting his LMA of WLLH (1400 Lowell and Lawrence) and WAMG (890 Dedham) to a purchase, for a remarkably low price - he's paying just $1.8 million for the stations that WallerSutton-backed J Sports bought for $9 million five years ago.
  • It was a very quiet week in NEW YORK radio, though it will get busier this week: longtime WABC (770 New York) talker Curtis Sliwa starts his new morning show today at a much smaller competitor, Salem's WNYM (970 Hackensack NJ). Will Sliwa be a big enough name to make "970 the Apple" a factor on a Big Apple talk landscape that currently has just two major players, WABC and Buckley's WOR (710)? (Speaking of WNYM, its daytime power increase to 50,000 watts is coming at the expense of a co-channel station 200 miles away: Salem bought WAMD in Aberdeen, Maryland a few years back, and as of yesterday WAMD has been taken silent, eliminating one of the hurdles to WNYM's signal boost.)
  • While we're on the topic of signals, Fordham University's WFUV (90.7 New York) reports that it's completed the installation of its new antenna atop a Montefiore Medical Center apartment building in the Bronx. WFUV moved to Montefiore in 2006 from its never-completed tower on the Fordham campus, but the 10-bay Dielectric antenna that went up back then never quite lived up to expectations, and now it has been replaced by a six-bay Shively directional antenna at the same site.
  • There's a format change coming in the Hudson Valley (and neighboring Danbury, CONNECTICUT) later today, or so we're told - Cumulus' WDBY (105.5 Patterson) is promoting a 1:05 PM flip to country as "Kicks 105," replacing the AC "Y105" format that's been in place there since 2002.
  • MONDAY UPDATE: And that's exactly what happened, as WDBY segued out of its 1 PM "Y105" ID into five minutes of a countdown clock, followed by the launch of country music. Bill "Mr. Morning" Trotta, who was Y105's high-profile hire a year ago, when he moved from his longtime home on crosstown WDAQ (98.3 Danbury), remains in place in morning drive.

Five Years Ago: January 9, 2006 -

  • The tangled tale of MASSACHUSETTS high school station WAVM (91.7 Maynard) took another turn last Friday, when station adviser and founder Joseph P. Magno was arrested on charges of raping a former student. Magno, 65, will be arraigned today in Concord District Court on the charges, which also include indecent assault and battery on a child, allegedly a male student who was under 14 when the incidents began.
  • The news comes at a particularly challenging time for WAVM, whose fight for survival has been chronicled extensively here on NERW and elsewhere. Just before the holidays, Living Proof, Inc., the California religious broadcaster that won a "tentative preference" from the FCC to build a new facility in Lunenburg that will likely displace WAVM from its spot on the dial, offered a settlement proposal to WAVM and two other applicants that would, at least in theory, allow for two new stations on 91.7 as well as a WAVM upgrade to protected class A status.
  • In other news from the Bay State, the new year marked the end of WBZ (1030 Boston)'s contract to carry Paul Harvey's daily broadcasts, which have been a fixture there for years. The CBS Radio station chose not to renew its deal with ABC for Harvey (though it is apparently still using some ABC News Radio material), and so far there's been no replacement in the market. (NERW notes that the relationship between WBZ and Harvey extended to the use of morning anchor Gary LaPierre as a substitute host on the Harvey broadcasts on several occasions in the mid-nineties.)
  • A few other Radio People on the Move: Ben Parker moves from the WRKO newsroom to the PD chair at WEIM (1280 Fitchburg). At WZLX (100.7 Boston), Beau Raines' run as PD came to a close at the end of 2005. WUMB (91.9 Boston) is losing music director Sarah Wardrop to New York - she's headed for a new gig at WFUV (90.7) there. And a couple of "Where Are They Now?" items - veteran Boston jock "Hutch" has resurfaced as the sidekick to David Lee Roth's CBS Radio morning show (heard locally on WBCN), while former WODS morning man Paul Perry is looking for work now that his contract with Chicago's WJMK has ended. (Perry was doing mornings on WJMK's HD subchannel for the latter half of 2005, after the main channel flipped from oldies to "Jack.")
  • Out on Long Island, the end of 2005 was also the end of analog TV for Riverhead's WLNY (Channel 55). The independent station won FCC permission to shut off its analog signal earlier than scheduled, as part of a nationwide sale of the channel 55 bandwidth to Qualcomm for its new MediaFLO broadband service, and now WLNY is seen over the air only on WLNY-DT (Channel 57) and three LPTV signals; its main viewership, of course, is on cable and satellite.
  • So much for "ChannelCasting": The Morey Organization has stopped using that term on its three East End FMs, and things are pretty much back to the way they were at rocker "Bone" WBON (98.5 Westhampton), dance-top 40 "Party" WDRE (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke) and modern rock WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays), with highly reduced spotloads the only remnant of the failed "ChannelCasting" concept.
  • Heading up the Hudson Valley, Ed Levine's two Albany-market FMs relaunched for the new year, dropping classic country on WEGQ (93.7 Scotia) and reworking the rock format on WRCZ (94.5 Ravena) into a new simulcast called "The Bone." JR Gach remains in place on the new station, and new calls WOOB (93.7) and WBOE (94.3) are on the way.
  • The big story from PENNSYLVANIA as 2006 dawned was the shakeup at KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh), which abruptly axed three of its talk hosts - mid-morning host Mike Pintek, evening sports host Paul Alexander and night talker Mike Romigh. KDKA-TV reporter Marty Griffin replaces Pintek in the 9-noon slot, and former PCNC talk host John McIntire has been filling in on Romigh's former 9-midnight slot, though he hasn't been formally announced as Romigh's replacement. The shakeup also ousted reporter Kyle Anthony from the KDKA newsroom. It did, however, bring in a new face to Gateway Center: Pittsburgh native Marshall Adams will arrive later this month as KDKA's news director, the first time that post has been filled in a few years. Adams comes back to town from WBT in Charlotte, N.C..

10 Years Ago: January 8, 2001 -

  • The spinning radio dial this first week of 2001 must be especially confusing to Dar Williams. In her 1998 song "Are You Out There?," the Western Massachusetts singer-songwriter chronicled her youthful love of New York's WBAI and name-checked several DJs at her local AAA outlet, WRSI (95.3 Greenfield).
  • Down on Wall Street, things just keep getting more tense at Pacifica's Big Apple outlet. The station's Web site had been taken over by staffers loyal to recently-ousted PD Bernard White and producer Sheran Harper. This week, Pacifica national regained the site, replacing it (for the moment) with not much more than a link to the national Pacifica home page. The struggle at WBAI, an echo of the 1999 protests at Pacifica's KPFA in Berkeley, made national headlines this week, with "Democracy Now!" host Amy Goodman being quoted as signing off with "From the embattled studios of WBAI."
  • Meanwhile up in the hills of Franklin County, things are changing for Jimmy Olsen, Johnny Memphis, and the rest of the gang at WRSI. On February 1, their station will switch dial positions with another FM outlet recently purchased by Vox Media, WPVQ (93.9 Turners Falls). The idea behind the move, sources inside Vox tell NERW, is to put WPVQ's country music on a frequency that better reaches listeners on the north end of the Pioneer Valley. From its hilltop site in the town of Leyden, the 95.3 signal penetrates north into Vermont and New Hampshire more effectively than 93.9 does. WRSI, known for the last few years as "the River," has a strong constituency in the college towns of the southern Pioneer Valley -- areas the 93.9 signal reaches better, especially with the aid of translators W246AM (97.1 Amherst) and W287AK (105.3 South Hadley). We hear WPVQ will add more live jocks to the satellite service it's been using outside drive time, and we're told "the Bear" will be the new nickname at WPVQ when it makes that move.
  • As for Dar Williams...maybe it's time for an ode to Haverhill's WXRV, instead?
  • The WPVQ-WRSI swap isn't the only big news in western MASSACHUSETTS this week. Down in Springfield, Clear Channel pulled the talk programming off WNNZ (640 Westfield) New Year's Day, flipping the station to all-sports as "640 the Zone." So far, most of the programming is coming from Fox Sports Radio; talk fans are being directed to Clear Channel sister WHYN (560 Springfield).
  • The big news in Boston is Monday's launch of "Business Radio 1060," WBIX (1060 Natick). We listened to the last Gene Burns show on 1060 in its WMEX incarnation on Friday; station owner Alex Langer made a brief appearance at the very end to explain the changes and say farewell, at least for now, to Burns. Classy...
  • Meanwhile, some of the talk programming that had been on WMEX, and its predecessor, WRPT (650 Ashland), is again being heard at that 650 frequency, now WJLT. The "J-Light" Christian contemporary programming now runs only until noon on weekdays, followed by talkers such as G. Gordon Liddy, mostly simulcast with WSRO (1470 Marlborough).
  • Veteran WROR (105.7 Framingham) overnight jock Chuck Igo is looking for work; he got word just before the New Year that his shift will henceforth be handled by automation. We're hoping a talent as versatile as Igo won't be out of work long in Boston! (2011 update: Chuck's alive and well, not to mention versatile and talented - and holding down mornings at WYNZ in Portland, Maine.)
  • Just before the end of the year, we heard the first rumblings of a format change at Worcester's WCRN (830), and now it's official: the Carberry family has ditched the religious programming there, replacing it with big-band music as "Swing 830." The only break in the music comes from 9:05 until 11 AM, when WCRN continues to run Barry Armstrong's "Money Matters." WCRN is in the process of cranking its daytime power up to a full 50 kilowatts, directional straight into Boston. Kurt Carberry tells NERW the station is training a staff of DJs and adding liners and IDs. "The most important aspect of WCRN," he says, "is that this station is going to be fun" for him and for his father, veteran broadcaster Ken Carberry. Sounds like this one should also be a lot of fun for Eastern Massachusetts listeners...
  • We've been talking about it and talking about it and talking about it, and now CHWO (740 Toronto) is a reality. The standards station, nicknamed "Prime Time Radio," signed on at 7:40 AM Monday, with a brief announcement by station owner Michael Caine and a montage of the music to be heard on 740. Just before the sign-on, we were listening to CHWO's old frequency, 1250, to hear Caine talk about his history with the station (he put it on the air decades ago) and count down to a simulcast with 740. 1250 will become religious CJYE after a few weeks of the simulcast; we'd love to hear from anyone up Oakville way who might have a better tape of the 1250 half of the switch!

15 Years Ago: New England Radio Watch, January 10, 1996

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