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February 14, 2011

NJN Moves Closer to Spin-Off

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*NEW JERSEY state officials moved closer last week to a spinoff of their NJN radio and television assets. The statewide public radio network published a set of Requests for Proposals (RFPs) last week, a move mandated by the "Transfer Act" passed by state lawmakers in December.

The act doesn't provide for the sale of the NJN TV licenses, so there's an RFP seeking a broadcaster to take over operation of the TV network while leaving the licenses in the hands of the state. But for NJN's nine radio licenses and one unbuilt radio construction permit, there are two RFPs being circulated: one seeking an operator who'd continue to run NJN Radio while the state keeps the licenses, and another seeking interested buyers to acquire the radio licenses outright.

The state hired the consulting firm BIA/Kelsey to appraise the NJN facilities and to estimate values for the radio stations, ranging from $142,000 for WNJS (88.1 Berlin) to $1,275,000 for WNJT (88.1 Trenton). In all, BIA's Mark Fratrik pegs the total market value of the network's stations at just over $4.2 million.

Even the version of the RFP looking for an outright sale of the radio network seeks to do more than just cash out on the stations' stick values: it calls for a buyer (or a set of buyers) who's committed to maintaining "issue-responsive programming, news and public affairs programming and New Jersey-centric programming."

The state has set March 11 as the deadline for responses to the RFPs; it has hired Public Radio Capital to help manage any potential sale of the radio licenses.

*It's all about translators in western PENNSYLVANIA, at least for Pittsburgh-market owner Bob Stevens: he's already running an AM-on-FM translator for his WANB (1210 Waynesburg), and now he's putting WKHB (620 Irwin) and WKFB (770 Jeannette) on FM.

WKHB's new FM relay is W231BM (94.1 Clairton), which had been part of EMF's network of K-Love relays into Pittsburgh; it operates with 84 watts from the WYEP (91.3) tower near Squirrel Hill, covering a decent chunk of central Pittsburgh and giving WKHB some nighttime reach into the city. And another EMF translator, W248AR (97.5 Monroeville), is being relocated to the WKFB/WKHB tower, where it will become a 118-watt, 24-hour signal for daytimer WKFB.

*Down the road in Canonsburg, WWCS (540) is back on the air after losing its longtime leased-time occupant, Radio Disney. Disney kept the station on the air through the end of January with a repeating loop directing listeners up the dial to its new home, WDDZ (1250), and we're told it took Birach Broadcasting a little while to set up its own program feed to the 540 transmitter after losing the Disney-provided signal. What's making the needles move now is Spanish-language programming fed from another Birach property, WSDS (1480) in Ypsilanti, Michigan, but that's believed to be a temporary move until a new leased-time tenant can be found for 540.

*In the Scranton market, it's "any moment now" for community station WFTE (90.3 Mount Cobb). The station's antenna went up January 25 (you can see pictures on its website), and it filed for a license to cover on February 8, just three days before its construction permit was to have expired. WFTE will reach most of its Scranton audience on a translator, W289AU (105.7), from atop Bald Mountain.

*And the syndicator behind Laura Ingraham and Michael Savage can once again claim a "Philadelphia" clearance for those talkers, though relatively few listeners in the market are likely to actually be finding those shows on their new home.

Daytimer WFYL (1180 King of Prussia) has rebranded as "NewsTalk 1180," replacing some of its former leased-time lineup (including a morning show also heard on WNJC 1360 on the New Jersey side of the market) with talk, including a local morning show with Barry Papiernik. Ingraham is now heard from 9 until 11 on WFYL, while Savage airs on an 18-hour tape delay at noon. He'll also be heard live at 6 PM once sunset gets a little later - and once sunset hits 8 PM, Philadelphia listeners tuned to 1180 will be able to segue straight from Savage live on WFYL to Savage on tape delay on Rochester's WHAM, which is heard loud and clear in the area after sunset.


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*In upstate NEW YORK, Rochester's Bob Lonsberry has been one busy guy lately. The WHAM (1180) talk host put in extra hours on the air last Wednesday night and Thursday morning when the station blew out syndicated programming to talk about the sudden resignation of congressman Chris Lee - and Lonsberry is back on the air in Utah, too, where seven months after losing his gig at Clear Channel's KNRS, KLO (1430 Ogden) has picked Lonsberry up for a 5-7 AM (MT) show that comes from the WHAM studios in Rochester.

Utica's Bill Keeler is back on the air, too, in streaming form: the former WXUR (92.7 Herkimer) morning man bought a local ad during the Super Bowl to announce the launch of "," featuring four channels of streaming content. One channel is Keeler's morning show, another is "The Hard Drive," a rock format programmed by "Hard Rock Harry" Enea, another former WXUR jock, a third carries news content from Keeler's, and a fourth is "best-of" material from Keeler's archives.

Mike Marchinuke ("Big Mike Patrick") has been off the air since August, when he left the mornng show on WFFG in Glens Falls after being involved in two car accidents during the long commute north from Albany. But now he's found a new gig: he's signed on with Clear Channel's Albany radio newsroom, where he's doing news locally for WGY and also anchoring and reporting for the Albany-based hub that provides newscasts to Clear Channel stations in New England.

More "Where are they now": reports that former Syracuse Chiefs announcer Mike Couzens is the new play-by-play announcer and media-relations guy for the Dayton Dragons of the Midwest League; meanwhile, former WNTQ (93.1) night jock Mike Cauchon is the new PD of the online streaming service that plays nothing but local acts from the Pine Tree State.

On TV, Syracuse public broadcaster WCNY-TV (Channel 24) has reworked its local programming, pulling the plug on the daily "Central Issues" broadcast that had been airing nightly at 6:30. In its place, starting last Friday at 9:30, is a weekly version of "Central Issues," while the "Nightly Business Report" takes over the 6:30 timeslot. WCNY has also cancelled the weekly "WCNY Connected" feature show that had been hosted by WNTQ's morning team of Ted Long and Amy Robbins.


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*A low-profile MASSACHUSETTS TV station has new owners. WMFP (Channel 62) is licensed to Lawrence but operates from downtown Boston, and it didn't take too long for Multicultural Broadcasting to find a buyer for it and sister station KCNS (Channel 38) in San Francisco once it put the stations up for sale.

The buyer is "NRJ TV LLC," and it's a partnership among Titan Broadcast Management, which has been managing WMFP and KCNS as a trustee; broker/investor Larry Patrick and his wife Susan; and Ted Bartley, who's said to have been "involved in broadcasting for a long time," though little seems to be known about him or his company's plans for the station, which currently carries RTV programming and infomercials.

*WGBH has hired a new leader for its classical music service, WCRB (99.5 Lowell). Ben Roe comes back to Boston from Charlotte, N.C., where he's been general manager at WDAV (89.9 Davidson).

Roe earned a graduate degree in broadcast administration from Boston University in the 1980s, then worked at WBUR and WUMB before joining NPR, where he spent 20 years, including some time as the network's director of music and music initiatives. Roe starts at WGBH March 1.

*A new callsign and a (sort of) new owner for a RHODE ISLAND low-power FM: WRBZ-LP (96.7 Ashaway) is now WSUB-LP, taking the calls that used to be on AM 980 a few miles away in New London, Connecticut.

The station (which has been doing modern rock as "The Buzz" since December) is changing hands, for no cash consideration, from the "Washington County Chamber of Commerce" to the Buzz Alternative Radio Foundation; both entities in turn appear to point back to members of the DiPaola family - as in Chris DiPaola, who now operates commercial WBLQ (1230 Westerly).

On TV, WLNE (Channel 6) is getting closer to new ownership. The receiver for the bankrupt ABC affiliate, Matthew McGowan, tells Providence Business News that there are several qualified bidders for the station - but the best qualified among them is Citadel Communications, the Bronxville, N.Y.-based company that operates a group of small-market stations in places such as Sioux City and the Quad Cities. (That Citadel, controlled by Phil Lombardo, is no relation to the Citadel Broadcasting that owns the Providence radio cluster that includes WPRO and WWLI, though PBN originally conflated the two and had to issue a correction.)

McGowan has designated an offer from Citadel, believed to be about $4 million, as the "stalking-horse" bid that other contenders for the station will have to beat; among the other potential bidders is a group led by former Providence mayor Joseph Paolino Jr.

A hearing has been set for March 22, and it may turn into in an auction if there are competing bids at that point.

*Veteran New England jock Joe McMillan is once again being heard on morning drive - he's the new wakeup man on WCTB (93.5) in Fairfield, MAINE.

*Regulators in CANADA have turned down a proposal that would have converted CFWC (93.9) in Brantford, Ontario from a contemporary Christian station to a mainstream commercial music station. Listeners to the station protested after owner Anthony Schleifer applied for permission to sell the signal to group operator Durham Radio for $265,000. Durham said it would go through with the transaction only if the CRTC removed the condition of license requiring CFWC to operate as a specialty station playing Christian music. But the CRTC says if Durham wants to operate a full-fledged commercial station in Brantford, it should apply for one through the competitive process.

*Despite a license revocation from the CRTC that was to have taken effect Saturday, Toronto's CKLN (88.1) will - as expected - remain on the air a while longer. The station reports that a judge has granted a stay of the revocation order at least until the Federal Court of Appeal decides whether CKLN will be allowed to appeal the revocation. That's expected to take at least until April, and if leave is granted for an appeal, CKLN will be able to continue broadcasting while the appeal itself is heard.

*Radio People on the Move: Mike Tyler has parted ways with CHTZ (97.7 HTZ-FM) in St. Catharines, reports Milkman UnLimited. Tyler was PD and afternoon jock at the rock station. In Kingston, Joe O'Leary takes over as morning host on CKLC (98.9 The Drive), joining Jenn O. there. O'Leary had been doing afternoons on the former "Virgin Radio" (CKQB 106.9) in Ottawa.

Radio Branding on the Move: reports that Rogers has registered domain names for "102.3 Jack FM" - and that points to a new "Jack" identity for what's now "102.3 BOB FM," CHST, which Rogers is buying from CTV/CHUM.

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: February 15, 2010 -

  • Two years after its Penobscot Mountain transmitter tower was sheared in half by the ice-laden collapse of a neighboring tower, Scranton, PENNSYLVANIA's public broadcaster WVIA is once again coping with a transmitter-site disaster.
  • The culprit this time was not ice but fire - an electrical blaze that broke out Friday afternoon while a WVIA engineer and several electricians were working in the building. One of the electricians reportedly noticed equipment sparking, and the entire building was quickly in flames. It took about three hours for fire crews to put out the blaze, hampered by the icy roads that lead up to the tower farm that provides most of the TV and much of the FM for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market. WVIA president Bill Kelly says the transmission equipment for WVIA-DT (channel 44/RF 41) and WVIA-FM (89.9) is a total loss, estimated at well over a million dollars. Fortunately, there was only one minor injury from the fire and the WVIA tower (as well as the rest of the Penobscot tower farm) was undamaged.
  • It's always heartening to watch broadcasters cooperate when someone's off the air, and this was a fine example: less than a day after the fire, WVIA-TV programming was back on the northeast Pennsylvania DTV airwaves with some help from WNEP-DT, its next-door neighbor on Penobscot and the station whose falling tower clipped the WVIA tower in 2008. WNEP-DT moved from its transitional RF channel 49 to its permanent RF channel 50 last year, but its channel 49 transmitter was still available for use on Penobscot, and as of Sunday it was on the air with WVIA's full lineup of DTV programming. (The temporary RF 49 operation is a great argument for the utility of the sometimes-controversial practice of "channel mapping" - with a simple rescan, the broadcasts from the old WNEP-DT transmitter will appear to viewers as "44.x," just like the destroyed transmitter on RF 41 did. How's that for a backup plan?)
  • WVIA-TV also remained available to most cable viewers throughout the heavily-cabled region, while WVIA-FM's streaming audio and its relay transmitter WVYA 89.7 in Williamsport stayed on the air. As it turned out, WVYA had a new transmitter on order, and it will be redirected to Penobscot to replace the destroyed 89.9 transmitter, with the hope that WVIA-FM service will be restored by the end of this week.
  • While it works to rebuild its own FM plant, some of WVIA's radio programming is being heard in Scranton through the generosity of Marywood University's WVMW (91.7), which stepped forward on Saturday to carry a selection of WVIA programs that includes "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered" and "Car Talk." (There's a long history of cooperation between Marywood and WVIA; the university provided the first studio space for a fledgling WVIA-TV in the late sixties.) WVMW's signal covers Scranton, but does not reach south to Wilkes-Barre - and to fill that gap, King's College has offered WVIA the use of its WRKC (88.5 Wilkes-Barre), which will also be relaying WVIA-FM programs beginning this morning. Oddly, WVIA's own website, which was updated several times over the weekend with information about the replacement DTV signal, made no mention of the WVMW and WRKC simulcasts as of Sunday evening.
  • It's a big week in Pittsburgh radio, with two new stations launching in the space of less than 24 hours. Sunday was Catholic radio's big day, as St. Joseph Mission put the former WAMO stations back on the air. WAOB-FM (106.7 Beaver Falls) and WPGR (1510 Monroeville) were on the air at 11 AM, leading up to an inaugural Mass at noon; WAOB (860 Millvale) was missing in action for the first day, and the announcements during the Mass mentioned only 106.7 and 1510. As it turned out, the launch of the "Catholic Radio Network" was only temporary; the Mass broadcast was followed by a looped announcement alerting listeners that the next few weeks will bring more Sunday Mass broadcasts, with a "limited schedule" of regular broadcasting set to begin March 19.
  • Today it's KDKA-FM (93.7)'s turn, with a 6 AM launch for "93.7 the Fan," the city's third sports-talk station. CBS pulled the plug on the former "B94" WBZW on Saturday, spending the weekend stunting with a loop of music interspersed with jingles.
  • Last Monday brought a callsign change out in Westmoreland County: after applying for new calls last October, WGSM (107.1 Greensburg) officially flipped to WHJB on Feb. 8. Those calls have lots of history in Greensburg and vicinity, having been heard on what's now WKHB (620 Irwin) from 1934 until 1999. (The "new" WHJB actually began as a sister station to the old WHJB 620 back in the mid-sixties.)
  • The latest talk-radio battle in eastern MASSACHUSETTS began very quietly last week, as Clear Channel began running "Coast to Coast AM" in the overnight hours on WKOX (1200 Newton). WKOX continues to run Clear Channel's "Rumba" Spanish tropical format during the day for now, but April 1 still appears to be the target date for WKOX to swap calls with sister station WXKS (1430 Everett) and flip to full-time talk. When it does, it will have Entercom's venerable WRKO (680 Boston) squarely in its sights - and it's all but certain that "Coast to Coast AM" won't be the only show to move from WRKO up the dial to 1200. Whether or not the registration of "" was anything more than an attempt to get the message boards buzzing, there's little doubt that Clear Channel intends to bring the flagship talk show from its Premiere Radio Networks lineup into the WXKS 1200 fold sooner or later, to go along with a Premiere-dominated schedule that will include Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, who are currently without clearances in Boston.
  • What happens now at WRKO? In the short term, Entercom was plugging reruns of Howie Carr's afternoon show into the overnight slot abruptly vacated by the Coast to Coast move, but in the longer term, overnights will go to Doug McIntyre's new Citadel-syndicated "Red Eye Radio" out of KABC in Los Angeles. As for the rest of WRKO's programming, there's plenty of buzz out there in the usual places about a visit later this week by Entercom's top brass for an all-staff meeting in Boston. For all the noise, it seems unlikely that Entercom will do anything really dramatic (an all-out format change, for instance) at WRKO, which still enjoys a considerable signal advantage over 1200, not to mention a quarter-century-plus head start in the format. And in a city that loves to talk local politics, Carr - and even morning host Tom Finneran, if his contract is renewed - remain formidable opponents against the new WXKS, which has yet to announce any local talent for its morning slot.
  • It's been five years, almost to the day, since the former WBCN (104.1) abandoned its longtime Fenway home at 1265 Boylston Street to move to the CBS Radio cluster studios in the old Channel 38 building in Brighton, and now "1265," right there in the shadow of Fenway Park, is getting a new tenant. The Herald reports that Sox TV voice Jerry Remy is about to open the doors to "Jerry Remy's Sports Bar and Grill," and that the "RemDawg" has been allowed to dig deep into the Sox memorabilia vaults to decorate his new restaurant. Opening day is slated for mid-March.
  • Not many medium-sized markets still have a local talk rivalry between two stations, and right up until last week, the political hotbed of Albany, NEW YORK was all but unique in boasting three competitive talkers.
  • As we told you in an update to last week's NERW, that competition thinned out dramatically just after 10 o'clock last Monday morning when Albany Broadcasting abruptly pulled the plug on talk at WROW (590 Albany), surrendering the field to locally-owned WGDJ (1300 Rensselaer) and its lineup of former WROW personalities, as well as to Clear Channel's largely-syndicated lineup on the big signal of WGY (810 Schenectady). What we didn't know yet last Monday was that the new WROW simulcast of standards/soft AC "Magic" WKLI (100.9 Albany) is more than just temporary - and that "Magic" is in fact moving permanently to the AM 590 signal as Albany Broadcasting prepares to launch an as-yet-undisclosed new format (possibly bearing the moniker "The Bridge"?) on 100.9.
  • "The Bridge" may also describe whatever it was that former WROW morning co-host Steve Van Zandt set afire in a blistering attack on Albany Broadcasting and its owner, auto dealer/entrepreneur Jim Morrell, that appeared in the Times Union's business blog at week's end. In a world where sniping comments about station owners are usually the province of anonymous message-board postings, it was actually rather refreshing to see Van Zandt attach his name to criticism that we've heard often, albeit always off the record: that Albany Broadcasting didn't give WROW the resources it needed (even simple things like a microphone for an in-studio guest, mic flags for field reporters and newspaper subscriptions for the newsroom) to succeed. Van Zandt's analysis of WROW's failure didn't seem to make an impression on a small group of protesters who gathered outside the station's Colonie studios Friday morning to charge Albany Broadcasting with political censorship for removing shows such as Glenn Beck and the "Steve and Jackie" morning show from the airwaves - and it didn't seem to make much difference when PD Chuck Benfer came out to tell the group it was all just business.
  • One more WROW note: one vestige of the old format survives, in the form of Albany River Rats hockey, which had been heard on AM 590 and is now being heard on both WROW and WKLI while they're simulcasting. It appears that the hockey will stay on the AM side once the simulcast splits again.

Five Years Ago: February 13, 2006 -

  • It was just a few hours after last week's NERW went up on the site when the phone began ringing off the hook here at NERW Central. "Quick! Turn on 1520! KB's dropping oldies at 3," was the message - and with that, western NEW YORK was launched on that oddest of early 21st century radio battles: a liberal talk war. The impetus, of course, is today's "soft launch" of a mixture of Air America and local talk on WHLD (1270 Niagara Falls), under an LMA from Citadel. (The full program schedule at WHLD, including Ray Marks' local morning show, will apparently launch March 1.) And whether it's been in the works for months (as Entercom claims), or whether it was hurriedly whipped together in a matter of days, Entercom's reaction was to pull the plug on the struggling oldies format at WWKB (1520 Buffalo) with no more fanfare than an hour of "goodbye" tunes - and then head right into the launch of "Buffalo's Left Channel."
  • The lineup on the new 1520 begins with Jones' Bill Press show in morning drive, followed by Lockport native Stephanie Miller at 9. At noon, it's a local show (well, a show done by ISDN from California exclusively for 1520) with Leslie Marshall, who's familiar to Buffalo listeners from an earlier stint at WGR and fill-in duty at Entercom's big talker, WBEN (930). Ed Schultz is on at 3, followed by a Stephanie Miller repeat, WOR's Lionel at 10, and WOR's Joey Reynolds (a holdover from the oldies KB) overnight.
  • The move came as a blow, of course, for fans of KB's oldies format - but the outcry seemed to be far louder away from Buffalo, where 1520's blowtorch of a night signal reached Washington and Long Island and New England, than it was in Buffalo, where the station's ratings never quite seemed to justify even the modest effort being expended on local programming. The move leaves the morning team of Danny Neaverth and Tom Donahue out of work, and it puts an end to some of the greatest voice-tracking in history, courtesy of Jackson Armstrong. KB midday jock Sandy Beach remains with Entercom, of course, hosting the afternoon talk show on WBEN, and PD Hank Dole still has his day job as well, programming the company's WLKK (107.7 the Lake.) And of course the great wheel of speculation is busy spinning: will WHLD's big names, Ray Marks and Al Franken, outweigh the "inside baseball" labor talk and Democracy Radio programming that will fill much of the rest of its schedule? Will 1520's big draws, Miller and Marshall, draw audience away from WHLD during a weak part of its day - or will they pull listeners away from Entercom's cash cow, WBEN, instead? Will KB's disenfranchised oldies listeners go over to Citadel's WHTT (104.1) and its 70s-oriented, classic rock-leaning version of the format? Have Buffalo listeners heard the last of Neaverth and Shannon? (We'd bet against it.) Can WJJL, Buffalo's other AM oldies station, manage to get its new West Seneca transmitter site built, to put a more solid and competitive signal over the Queen City?
  • The last word, for now, has to go to Armstrong, who had this to say over at "Maybe our paths will cross again and we can continue to prove that good radio isn’t dead. It is just severely suppressed."
  • The week's other big story from NEW YORK was, of course, Disney's long-delayed announcement that it's selling most of its ABC Radio holdings to Citadel in a "reverse Morris trust" arrangement valued at $2.7 billion. Disney will keep the Radio Disney and ESPN Radio networks, as well as its O&O stations affiliated with those networks (in this region, Radio Disney's WMKI 1260 Boston, WDDZ 550 Pawtucket, WDZK 1550 Bloomfield CT, WDDY 1460 Albany NY and WWJZ 640 Mount Holly NJ, ESPN's WEPN 1050 New York and WEAE 1250 Pittsburgh, and the LMA with the New York Times for WQEW 1560 New York). It'll also keep the "ABC" name, though it will license it to Citadel for a year (and will license ABC News product to Citadel for ten years.)
  • Citadel will get the core ABC Radio stations, including WABC (770 New York) and WPLJ (95.5 New York), and the watchword for now is "stability." At least for now, it appears that little will change in terms of management, programming - or, yes, call letters - at the station group.
  • Meanwhile, state attorney general Eliot Spitzer's payola probe has now escalated to the FCC level, with potentially hundreds of stations implicated in an ongoing national investigation. The move came, apparently, as Spitzer was prepared to shift the focus of his investigation from record companies (he's already won big settlements from several) to the stations and broadcast groups that were allegedly taking money and gifts from the record companies and independent promoters. (By far the most interesting speculation we've heard about this story is that the record companies are encouraging the investigation, looking for a way to break the cycle that had them spending lots of money for airplay that their music probably would have gotten anyway.)
  • Out on Long Island's East End, WHBE (96.7 East Hampton) completed its move to 96.9 Friday night. While the station remains a class A signal, the frequency change allows it to drop its directional antenna, extending its westward reach towards Riverhead and beyond.
  • In the Albany market, Pamal finally pulled the plug on the yearlong simulcast of Glens Falls country station WFFG (107.1 Corinth) over WZMR (104.9 Altamont). The simulcast never seemed to draw much audience, which was no surprise, since the liners, promos and spot load remained solidly focused on Glens Falls and Lake George (and, indeed, barely even mentioned the Albany frequency.) WZMR spent the weekend stunting, with the new format due to arrive on Monday.
  • MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: WZMR relaunched early this morning with modern rock as "the Edge," reviving the slogan and format last heard on WQBK (103.9 Rensselaer)/WQBJ (103.5 Cobleskill) before those stations flipped to album rock as "Q103" in December upon the departure of Howard Stern.
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, WILD (1090 Boston) has hired a new morning talk host, returning Jimmy Myers to a regular shift for the first time in too many years. Myers, whose resume includes stints at WWZN, WEEI, WFXT, NECN and the old WBPS, handles the sign-on to 10 AM shift at the Radio One urban talk station (with sign-on finally getting back to 6 AM next month at the daytime-only facility.)
  • While Buffalo was losing its AM oldies station, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market was gaining two oldies signals last week. Citadel's WARM (590 Scranton) finally pulled the plug on its struggling news-talk format, flipping to ABC's "True Oldies." The station's still having audio and transmitter problems, we're hearing. Over in Tunkhannock, WBZR (107.7) dropped its "Buzzard" country format and also flipped to oldies, picking up the WGMF calls that used to be in Watkins Glen, New York. It's now "Gem 107.7."

10 Years Ago: February 12, 2001 -

  • How do you get out of a $6,000 FCC indecency fine? If you're Howard Stern's NEW YORK flagship, the answer seems to be "wait five years or so." Back in 1997, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability against Infinity's WXRK (92.3) for material Stern broadcast in October 1995, March 1996 and June 1996. Two Stern affiliates, WBZU in Richmond and WEZB in New Orleans, were also fined -- and paid. Infinity took a different tack, contesting the fine, and it looks like its patience paid off: last week, the FCC announced that "because a significant amount of time has elapsed since the broadcasts," the Commission won't continue pushing for the money. (We suspect Infinity's "voluntary contribution" a few years back didn't hurt matters with the FCC, either.) So what does it all mean? Look for more stations to play a similar waiting game with the Commission where fines are concerned; they have little to lose and, apparently, much to gain by doing so.
  • Our next stop this week is CANADA, where change just keeps coming to Ontario's radio dial. Friday night marked the debut of CFXJ (93.5 Toronto) as "Flow 93.5," the city's first commercial station aimed at the black community. With Michelle Price as program director and new studios on Yonge Street across from Eaton Centre, the station says it will have full programming ready to go on March 5.
  • We didn't believe it at first when we heard about the newest format in CONNECTICUT (though, given the source, we should have), but it's true: Buckley's four-station AM network is now going by "The Best of Everything." WDRC (1360 Hartford), WMMW (1470 Meriden), WWCO (1240 Waterbury) and WSNG (610 Torrington) aren't exactly segueing from Percy Faith to Iron Maiden, but they are adding newer artists to their adult-standards playlists.

15 Years Ago: New England Radio Watch, February 17, 1996

  • To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the demise of sports on WBPS (AM 890 Dedham-Boston) appear to have been greatly exaggerated. Station owner Douglas Broadcasting has pulled back from its plans to take the signal to leased-time ethnic or religious in the wake of the end of a full-time lease to Prime Sports Radio. For the last week or so, we've been treated to nonstop music (well, they break for PSA's once an hour), ranging from blues to disco to oldies. Now it appears that veteran Boston sports voice Jimmy Myers (ex-WEEI, ex-WBZ, ex-WFXT-TV, ex-WWOR New York, etc.) will take over morning drive on 890 starting March 4. The Boston Herald's Jim Baker (probably the most accurate radio writer in town) says local lawyer Mark Miliotis will pony up the $4,000 a week for the airtime. Meantime, Douglas has struck a separate deal to bring former umpire Dave Pallone to WBPS from noon till 3 daily. Anyone else wanting to lease time on WBPS has to track them down first -- the station's 617-242-0890 main number is disconnected, and the promised website never materialized. To be continued, no doubt.
  • Boston's broadcasters are moving north in droves. Network affiliates WBZ-TV, WCVB-TV, and WHDH-TV are all doing their news from Manchester until primary day next Tuesday. WCVB is leasing space from fellow ABC affiliate WMUR-TV; the others had to find their own offices. Boston University's WABU-TV (which is reportedly up for sale to the right buyer) has been originating town meetings from NH, along with media partners WBUR-FM and the Boston Globe. And now radio's up there as well; several of WRKO's talk shows are broadcasting from Manchester, and WBZ's morning newscasts will come from Manchester next Monday and Tuesday. And on Wednesday, Don Imus (heard locally on WEEI 850, and in NH on WNHI 93.3 Belmont/ WRCI 107.7 Hillsboro) will broadcast from Manchester. Those outside New England can see Imus's show, as well as WMUR's nightly newscasts, on C-SPAN.
  • Moving ever closer to CHR?: American Radio Systems' WBMX, "Mix 98.5," bills itself as a hot AC, but between the addition of John Lander (ex-Z100) in mornings last week, and the 80s CHR show they're running every Friday night, and the playlist that's edging out as far as Gin Blossoms and Alanis Morrissette, it's looking more and more as though ARS wants to use Mix as a blunt weapon against Evergreen's sagging CHR, Kiss-108 (WXKS 107.9).

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