May 9, 2011
Rambaldo Lands Erie FM CP
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*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
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
*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
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).
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*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.
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
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*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.
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,
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
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.
the NERW Archives
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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- 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.
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2011 by Scott Fybush.