Recent Issues:

May 2, 2011

April 25, 2011

April 18, 2011

April 11, 2011

2010 In Review

Movie Ticket Radio!

Your message here - contact fybush.com to reach thousands of NERW readers every week!

May 9, 2011

Rambaldo Lands Erie FM CP

Stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook feeds for breaking-news updates as they happen!

*The new FM signal coming to northwestern PENNSYLVANIA arrives with a steep price tag. After a bidding war that lasted 17 rounds, Rick Rambaldo's new First Channel Communications group edged out Jeff Warshaw's Connoisseur-linked "Mini-Me" with a whopping $2,068,000 winning bid for a new class A facility on 92.7 licensed to the Erie suburb of Lawrence Park.

That bid was more than double the next-highest winning bid in the FCC's FM Auction 91, and even though it won't actually require Rambaldo to shell out the full amount (a 35% "new entrant" credit will reduce his final bill to just over $1.3 million), it's still a lot to spend on a signal that won't even be a full class A, limited by a directional notch to a co-channel Canadian signal and site restrictions that may make it hard to achieve full market coverage.

But Erie radio people know better than to bet against Rick Rambaldo, who once took another marginal FM signal and built it into dominant rocker WRKT (100.9), which became the cornerstone of the cluster that now, ironically, is owned by Warshaw's Connoisseur group.

*It's taken longer than anticipated, but Duquesne University's WDUQ (90.5 Pittsburgh) is finally about to be sold to Essential Public Media. The $6,004,500 transaction (including construction permits for new signals on 88.5 Marion Center PA and 90.1 Everett) was filed late last week with the FCC, and Essential (a partnership between Pittsburgh's WYEP and Public Media Capital) moved closer to paying for the sale with the help of a $1.5 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The sale is expected to be completed sometime this summer.

Longtime western Pennsylvania broadcaster Melvin Goldberg has died. Goldberg's radio career started in the 1950s as a salesman and then as general manager of WKPA (1150 New Kensington, now WGBN). Goldberg moved into ownership in 1962, when he bought WHJB (620/107.1 Greensburg), stations he owned for 35 years. Goldberg was also an early cable TV operator in Greensburg, reports PBRTV.com. Goldberg died May 3, at age 87.

*On Steel City TV, our colleague Clarke Ingram reports he's now seeing channel 16, the longtime WQEX, identifying itself with new calls WINP; we'd expect the transfer from WQED to new owner Ion Media to follow pretty quickly.

*Moving east, WAZL (1490 Hazleton) is changing hands again. Panorama PA Inc. began LMA'ing the station to Glenn Summers and Roy Miller's WAZL Partners LLP at the beginning of April, and now they've filed to turn the LMA into a $115,000 sale.

*In Philadelphia, Chuck Damico gets to remove "interim" from his title, becoming PD of Greater Media's WBEN-FM (95.7). Damico is also assistant PD at sister station WMMR (93.3).

TOWER SITE CALENDAR 2011 - NOW DISCOUNTED!

Maybe you need an extra copy for the wall of your shop. Maybe you gave your first copy away as a gift. Maybe the year just got away from you and you forgot to order your Tower Site Calendar 2011.

Whatever the reason, do we have a deal for you!

We didn't quite sell out of this year's calendar...and so now that it's March, we're offering our remaining supply for just $12 postpaid. (That's a 33% discount from the original list price of $18!)

Tower Site Calendar 2011 features more than a dozen great images of radio and TV broadcast facilities all over the country (and even beyond - this year's edition takes us to Mexico!)

Thrill to a night shot of KFI's new tower! Check out the WAEB Allentown array just after it lost a tower - or enjoy the history at venerable sites like those of KID in Idaho Falls, WCAP in Lowell, KTKT in Tucson and Rochester's Pinnacle Hill.

But wait - there's more! We also have a small supply of the new FM Atlas, 21st edition back in stock, as well as a limited supply of Tower Site Calendar 2010 - plus signed calendars, back isues and much more in the fybush.com store!

Orders of 20 or more calendars get an even bigger discount. We'll even add a bow or a gift card upon request. But don't wait...supplies are limited, and the calendar will sell out soon!

Order now at the fybush.com Store!

*A western NEW YORK FM channel also ended up near the top of the bidding as the FCC's FM Auction 91 wound down late last week (only two small FM channels in Wyoming remain active as bidding enters round 41 this morning). After 17 rounds of bidding, the fight for 95.3A in Celoron, near Jamestown, goes to Cross Country Communications for $691,000 - and that means Cross Country's WKZA (106.9 Lakewood) will be getting a Jamestown-market sister station.

(The other FM channels available around the Empire State ended up with much lower pricetags as bidding concluded: CSI Media Research gets 94.9A Montauk for $198,000 after 21 rounds, while 17 rounds of bidding for 96.5A Speculator landed the channel in the hands of Joseph Tesiero for $23,000. Tesiero already owns WCSS in Amsterdam.)

*New York City's new translator, W292DV (106.3), has begun testing its 99-watt signal from the top of 4 Times Square, with reports of decent reception to the east and west, including fairly deep into New Jersey, but less-than-spectacular coverage up and down Manhattan to the north and south. What will be on the new signal when it makes its official debut, now postponed to May 18? Nobody's saying yet, and for now the translator's parent signal, the HD2 channel of Clear Channel's WLTW (106.7), continues in "format-of-the-day" mode.

(And what of the Big Apple's other new station? As of Sunday night, the new WKLV-FM 96.7 from New Rochelle had yet to sign on, with Cox continuing to operate 96.7 as WCTZ from Stamford, CONNECTICUT.)

*The veteran station manager at Fordham University's WFUV (90.7 New York) is stepping down at the end of June. When Ralph Jennings started at WFUV in 1985, the station was still programmed mostly by students, but when he hands over the reins to PD/interim GM Chuck Singleton on June 30, the station he'll leave behind will be a professionally-programmed public broadcaster with a much larger audience and donor base - not to mention shiny new studios and a new transmitter site that occupied much of Jennings' time and energy during the 1990s. Jennings will stay with Fordham as "director of internal and external relations" for WFUV after the transition.

*Out on Long Island, the FCC has revisited the proceeding in which it granted a tentative preference for a new 91.7 signal in Riverhead to Long Island ACORN. After that decision last July, Community Bible Church appealed the ruling, telling the FCC that Long Island ACORN shouldn't have received points as a local applicant because its headquarters in Hempstead, as well as the residences of its principal board members, are more than 25 miles from Riverhead. The FCC agreed, rescinding its tentative grant and instead sending the frequency to Community Bible Church.

Another appeal of an FCC decision has overturned the grant of a tentative preference for 88.5 in Brewster, Putnam County. The frequency was initially awarded to Mission Connecticut, Inc., but competing applicant WAMC appealed, saying MCI should not have been allowed to amend an application on which it initially failed to claim its points as a local applicant. The FCC agreed with WAMC, which now gets the 88.5 facility.

*In upstate TV news, the transmitter is down again at Syracuse's WTVH (Channel 5/RF 47). The CBS affiliate suffered a lengthy transmitter outage in September 2009 during which then-competitor WSTM (Channel 3) carried WTVH programming on a DTV subchannel. This time around, WTVH and WSTM are sister stations, so WTVH can again be found on DTV 3.3 for however long it takes to fix its main transmitter. Cable viewers aren't affected, but satellite providers have had to retune their receivers; as of Sunday night, WTVH was on Dish Network but not DirecTV.

*There was a different sort of radio auction taking place in NEW JERSEY on Thursday, when a bankruptcy court took competing bids for the assets of bankrupt Atlantic Broadcasting. When the auction was over, the $3 million stalking-horse bid from Boardwalk Radio, LLC (the group formed by Atlantic's creditors and the stations' current managers) turned out not to be the highest offer.

Instead, the Press of Atlantic City reports, the five Atlantic stations (WMGM 103.7, WWAC-FM 102.7, WTKU 98.3, WOND 1400, WBSS 1490) will go to a new group called Longport Media, which bid $4.2 million for the cluster and its accompanying real estate. Longport is headed by Atlantic City businessman George Miller and veteran radio manager Art Camiolo, whose experience in the region goes all the way back to the late 1970s, when he was GM at Philadelphia's WIOQ. Longport is expected to take control of the cluster by way of an LMA as early as next week; as for Boardwalk, it walks away with a six-figure check - $90,000 in breakup fees and $35,000 for its expenses in setting up the stalking-horse bid.

  • EQUIPMENT WANTED

FM GEAR NEEDED -- Seeking two-bay low-power FM antennas (Jampro, PSI, Dielectric or others) at 96.5. Also looking for 1 kW FM transmitter, tube type OK. We pay shipping. Contact Allen, dba Alleo, [email protected] or 770-300-9287 (8 AM-9 PM).

You can have your ad here, for just a few dollars a week! Click here for information on the most economical way to reach tens of thousands of Northeast radio and TV people each week.

*In MASSACHUSETTS, FM Auction 91 wound down with a $253,000 winning bid in round 18 for 98.9A in Adams, which goes to the WFCR Foundation to extend its public radio service, now heard in Berkshire County mainly by way of translators of flagship WFCR-FM (88.5 Amherst). After 17 rounds, Vertical Resources LLC secured 97.7A Nantucket for $65,000, while LiveAir Communications secured 98.7A East Harwich for $55,000.

In Worcester, WNEB (1230) returned to the air last weekend to broadcast the beatification of Pope John Paul II, and that of course means that the station is now running a Catholic format under new owner Emmanuel Communications. For now, WNEB's programming comes mainly from the national EWTN network, but new GM Nicholas Everett is promising local programming to come, too.

Congratulations to Donna Halper - make that "Doctor" Donna Halper, as the Boston radio historian, consultant and educator is due to receive her doctorate from the University of Massachusetts on Friday. What's more, her excellent new "Boston Radio 1920-2010" volume from Arcadia Publishing is going into a second printing!

*The one VERMONT construction permit on the Auction 91 list, 94.5A Albany, ended up in the hands of Bruce James' Vermont Broadcast Associates after 23 rounds of bidding. VBA's $108,000 winning bid will add the Albany signal to its dominant cluster of stations in the Northeast Kingdom and adjoining areas of Vermont and New Hampshire.

*NEW HAMPSHIRE Public Radio's newest signal is on the air, extending its web of primary signals to the northernmost tip of the Granite State. WEVF (90.3 Colebrook) supplants a NHPR translator up there, W290BK (105.9).

Back in the more populous part of the state, Clear Channel's WGIR (610 Manchester) is looking for a new morning man with the impending departure of veteran broadcaster Charlie Sherman, who's been named executive director of New Horizons of New Hampshire, Inc., an agency that provides services to the homeless. Sherman will start at New Horizons May 23.

*After six seasons as the radio voice of RHODE ISLAND's Pawtucket Red Sox, Dan Hoard is moving on - and not to a major-league baseball team, the usual next move after a successful radio career in AAA. Instead, Hoard's been named the new radio voice of the Cincinnati Bengals. It's a market where Hoard is already a familiar voice, since he's been calling University of Cincinnati sports and will continue to do so when Bengals games don't conflict.

*Two morning teams are out in CANADA's biggest market: at Astral's CHBM ("Boom 97.3"), Toronto radio veterans Humble and Colleen disappeared from the airwaves last week, replaced by former 97.3 morning man Stu Jeffries. Up the dial at Evanov's CIDC (Z103.5), no replacement has been named yet for Scott Fox and Ashley Greco, who were dropped from that shift last week as well.

*In Montreal, Daniel Tremblay is out as PD of Astral's CHOM (97.7), with VP/GM Martin Spalding serving as interim PD, reports Milkman UnLimited.

Over on the AM dial, the CRTC approved the sale of CJLV (1570 Laval) from Diffusion Laval inc. to Radio Humsafar, which is expected to install an Indian-targeted format on the station.

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: May 10, 2010 -

  • The future of public radio in western PENNSYLVANIA looks a little more secure this week, now that four Pittsburgh-area foundations have stepped forward with money to buy a 60-day option to purchase WDUQ (90.5 Pittsburgh) from Duquesne University. Grant Oliphant, president of the Pittsburgh Foundation, told the Post-Gazette last week that the funding will provide "breathing space" to allow other local groups to work with his foundation, the Heinz Endowments, the Richard King Mellon Foundation and a fourth anonymous donor to develop the "best possible offer" for the station, with a particular focus on public service journalism.
  • That mission would seem to fit with the work that's already been done by the new Pittsburgh Public Media group, the management-led consortium that's been bidding to buy the WDUQ license from the university. So far, PPM has been unable to agree on financial terms with Duquesne, whose leaders have been outspoken about their desire to maximize their income from selling the station, regardless of whether the current programming survives. Last week's move, then, would seem to be a good sign for those hoping to keep WDUQ's news, talk and jazz on the air. Few other cities have the same historic legacy of charitable giving as Pittsburgh (Carnegie, anyone?), and if big names like Heinz and Mellon can't work out a deal in the next two months to keep WDUQ going independent from Duquesne, there's probably nobody who can.
  • Meanwhile, there's a new FM signal on the air at long last to the south of Pittsburgh. Over the last few months, we've been chronicling the slow move of the old WANB-FM (103.1 Waynesburg). Bob Stevens changed his FM callsign to WKVE back in March 2009, then signed off the class A FM signal from Waynesburg in March 2010. In the two months since, he's been testing WKVE's new class B1 signal licensed to Mount Pleasant, firing it up from time to time with classic rock. That classic rock format (jockless, so far) turns out to be WKVE's permanent format, and as of 8 PM last Tuesday (May 4), "103 KVE" is on the air for good from its new transmitter site overlooking Uniontown, with a signal penetrating at least the southern part of Pittsburgh.
  • The fight for the public radio news-talk audience in eastern MASSACHUSETTS kicks up another notch this afternoon, when WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston) launches the daily version of its "Radio Boston" talk show. Meghna Chakrabarti is the new host of the show, which was a weekly hour on Fridays at 1 PM...at least until WGBH (89.7) turned up the heat with its flip to a news-talk format that includes two daily hours of local talk hosted by Emily Rooney and Callie Crossley. WBUR switched hosts and production teams for "Radio Boston," which moves from that Friday slot (allowing "Fresh Air" to be heard five days a week at 1 PM) to a daily 3-4 PM slot, taking the second hour of "Talk of the Nation" off the air in the Boston market and avoiding a head-to-head battle of local talkers against the noon-2 Rooney/Crossley lineup at WGBH. How will the move play with listeners? In the public radio world, the verdict is more complicated than just the latest ratings book; that said, WGBH has thus far failed to make much of a dent in WBUR's audience numbers, and it stands to reason that more local content can only help WBUR hold on to its significant head start in the public radio news-talk arena.
  • It was a quiet week in CANADA, at least for anyone not affected by the news about Canwest's pending sale of its TV assets (including the Global TV stations in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes) to Shaw, a C$2 billion deal that's likely to face some static from competing bidders and perhaps from regulators.
  • A much smaller operation was making headlines in Toronto late last week, as CIRR (103.9 Proud FM) sent most of its airstaff packing. Morning hosts Patrick Marano and Deb Pearce and afternoon host Shaun Proulx and Mark Wigmore are all gone from the station, which signed on three years ago with a mission to serve Toronto's gay and lesbian community. The cuts to Proud FM's airstaff came just after the station received CRTC permission to boost its power to cover more of Toronto - and that's prompting considerable speculation that Evanov Broadcasting, which owns CIRR in a partnership with several investors, intends to turn the station into a Toronto repeater of its cash cow up in the northern suburbs, top-40 CIDC (Z103.5). For now, Proud FM lists just "music" in its morning and afternoon drive slots, while its midday and evening personalities remain in place.

Five Years Ago: May 8, 2006 -

  • For the second week in a row, the big story out of MASSACHUSETTS is the tussle over the Red Sox radio rights for the 2007 season. But this week, there's no tussle - just the dotting of i's and crossing of t's on what appears to be a record-breaking deal that will keep the Sox with Entercom for ten more years and a reported $200 million in rights fees. As NERW goes to press late Sunday night, there's still no definitive confirmation from Entercom or from the team, and there's always the chance that anything could happen in this topsy-turvy saga. With Greater Media having exited the bidding war on Friday, though, the continuation of the team's relationship with Entercom became all but inevitable.
  • What's not inevitable, however, is another season of Sox baseball on flagship WEEI (850 Boston). Instead, Entercom reportedly plans to return the team's play-by-play to WRKO (680 Boston), the talk station that was the Sox flagship through much of the late eighties and early nineties (and in several earlier stints as well.)
  • The Sox deal was just one aspect of a pretty big radio week in the Bay State. In Worcester, WCRN (830) pulled the plug on its "True Oldies" format over the weekend, and today it officially relaunches as "True Talk AM 830," returning former WRKO morning host Peter Blute to the airwaves for a 7-9 AM show. The station's existing block of leased financial talk continues after Blute, and then its lineup will include Laura Ingraham (1-3 PM), Howie Carr (3-7 PM) and Michael Savage (7-10 PM). Jerry Doyle in overnights and Doug Stephan in early mornings round out the weekday schedule there.
  • And we conclude our Massachusetts report this week with some sad news: veteran helicopter traffic reporter Joe Green died last Wednesday (May 3) at 76. Green began his career at WHDH in 1963, but in 1968 he moved to WBZ, where "Joe Green in the BZ Copter" became a staple of the Hub commute for more than a quarter of a century. Green kept to himself (your editor, who worked at the station for five years, never met him), but he found his way into the headlines with several daring rescues, saving two boys stranded on a raft in Dorchester and rescuing a University of Lowell student from the Merrimack River. Green was also featured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo in 1975, landing his helicopter on a rooftop in what proved an unsuccessful attempt to rescue a woman from a burning building. Green retired in 1995, but the distinctive figure he cut in Boston traffic reporting (complete with cigar and a handheld mic, all while he was flying low over the city) won't soon be forgotten.
  • Two NEW JERSEY AM stations remain silent after a fire destroyed their transmitter site late Wednesday night. WOND (1400 Pleasantville), WTKU (1490 Pleasantville), WMGM (103.7 Atlantic City) and WMGM-CA (Channel 7 Atlantic City) all transmitted from what was originally the WOND transmitter/studio site next to the Atlantic City Expressway tollbooths, and all four stations were knocked off the air by the fire, which apparently started in the building's electrical system. It's a credit to the cooperation among South Jersey engineers that the FM signal was back on the air within a few hours, transmitting at reduced power from a backup facility for WPUR (107.3) atop the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City. There's still no word on when the two AMs, or the low-power TV signal, which relays WMGM-TV (Channel 40), can get back on the air. WOND's talk programming is still being heard over the Internet and sister station WGYM (1580 Hammonton), while WTKU was relaying the oldies of WTKU-FM (98.3 Ocean City).
  • One of PENNSYLVANIA's most prominent broadcast companies is no more. Susquehanna was officially merged into Cumulus Broadcasting last week, putting an end to decades of broadcast tradition from its base in York. Around the country, there's word of numerous Susquehanna veterans whose services aren't being retained by Cumulus. At the stations in York (WSBA 910, WARM-FM 103.3 and WSOX 96.1), VP/market manager Tina Heim retired last week, ending a long career with Susquehanna.

10 Years Ago: May 7, 2001 -

  • TORONTO -- It's been nineteen years since WABC dropped music for talk, more than a dozen since WNBC gave way to WFAN, and about as long since WLS spun its last tune. But old habits die hard north of the border, and that's why the 21st century was already well underway by the time 1050 CHUM finally turned its back on the music that built its reputation as one of North America's most important top-40 radio stations.
  • Monday, 8:30 AM: It's the last day, and CHUM has opened its doors to former jocks for a going-away party. More than a hundred people head out to the roof of the studios for a group picture. They're forced to wait for a few minutes as Roger Ashby finishes his morning shift on CHUM-FM and as station founder Allan Waters makes his way outside to take his rightful place at the center of the group.
  • 10:35 AM: Downstairs, there's just the width of a hallway separating CHUM past from Team future. On one side, CHUM veterans Duff Roman and Bob Laine have come downstairs from their executive suites for one final day behind the mike, serving as ringmasters for a five-hour "Final Show,"
  • 11:30 AM: Heading out to Yonge Street for some fresh air, we pass workers scraping the "1050 CHUM" logos from the doors and sticking the new "Team" logos in their place.
  • 1:15 PM: Back at CHUM, the final countdown is underway. While Laine and Roman continue their show inside, the back parking lot has been transformed into an outdoor barbecue. The mood, for the moment, is jovial; there's lots of beer, chicken and sausages, burgers and hot dogs. In a corner, speakers bring the last show to the audience, which includes a few CHUM fans looking on from the end of the driveway.
  • 2:35 PM: The chatter at the party dies down quickly as staffers realize the "Final Show" has entered its final moments. Jim Waters joins Roman and Laine in the studio to say goodbye on behalf of CHUM's founding family, and his employees gather in a large circle around the speakers to listen as Waters reads a letter from his sister, talking about their father's dedication to making CHUM a success in its early years. Allan Waters and his wife Marge are outside with the staff now, and both begin to cry as the letter is read. By the time he's almost done reading, Jim Waters is breaking down as well. From our perch in one of the building's back doors, we can see the crowd at the end of the driveway growing. On the balconies of the high-rise apartments around CHUM, a few curious faces begin to peer down on the activity as well.
  • 2:44 PM: The last song on CHUM has been the topic of debate on e-mail lists and among CHUM fans for weeks. "American Pie"? Edward Bear's "Last Song"? Duff Roman has hinted to the papers that "the last song will be the first song," and that narrows the choices pretty well. Now it's time...and sure enough, it's the song that launched CHUM's top-40 format back in the spring of 1957. As Elvis belts out "All Shook Up" (the number one song on the very first CHUM Chart, May 27, 1957), a few CHUM employees begin dancing in the middle of the circle.
  • 2:47 PM: The song ends, and the group goes silent as CHUM launches into a montage of audio from its history, beginning with Allan Waters' own recollections of purchasing the station. Nobody says a word as the sounds of their own careers and their predecessors' wash over them. Allan Waters dabs his eyes with his handkerchief, and he's not alone. The montage closes out with a "thank you" to Waters, who's surrounded by hugs from his family as 1050 CHUM ends its on-air life with the piano chord from the Beatles' "A Day in the Life." The applause from the CHUM family drowns out the sound of John Lennon joking, "On behalf of the band and myself, we'd like to say thank you and I hope we passed the audition." Then, silence again as a series of beeps announce the birth of the Team, not only on 1050 but on a chain of CHUM stations and affiliates from Halifax to Vancouver.
  • As CHUM was fading out, so, sadly, was another longtime Canadian broadcaster. Keith Dancy, owner of Niagara Falls stations CJRN (710) and CKEY-FM (101.1 Fort Erie, "the River") died Sunday night (May 6) at Niagara-on-the-Lake Hospital following a long illness.

15 Years Ago: New England Radio Watch, May 7, 1996

  • A whole lotta miscellany going on...including a few call letter changes. Down in Middletown CT, WCNX 1150 has become WMRD (it seems the WCTX calls for which they had applied were never used), and up in Somersworth NH, WRGW 98.7 (the AC "Rock Garden" that signed on a couple of years ago) has become WRDX. I haven't been on the road of late to confirm either change...stay tuned. Just over the New England line in the Albany NY area, WXXO 96.7 Clifton Park NY has, as I suspected, become WDCD-FM, and is co-owned with 1540 WDCD Albany (ex-WPTR). Programming goes from satellite oldies to religious. Up in northern New Hampshire, WVFM 105.7 Campton (along I-93 north of Plymouth, near the Waterville Valley ski area) has applied for a license to cover, and thus presumably is on or about to be on-air.
  • On the business side of things, WEZN 99.9 Bridgeport CT is getting new owners, as part of parent company NewCity's purchase by Cox. This is Cox's only New England entry, and as a full class B monster in the under-radioed (locally, anyway) Fairfield County area, should be worth a pretty penny to any of several companies expanding in the area.

You can sponsor this weekly feature! Click here for information!

NorthEast Radio Watch is made possible by the generous contributions of our regular readers. If you enjoy NERW, please click here to learn how you can help make continued publication possible. NERW is copyright 2011 by Scott Fybush.