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July 4, 2011

Nassau Exits New England

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*It's hard to believe that it was just seven years ago when Nassau Broadcasting was boasting about assembling a cluster with "more stations than any one owner has ever had in New England." But that's what we wrote in NERW back in March 2004, and for a while, the New Jersey-based broadcaster was flying high.

Then the boom went bust, and Nassau was right there in the headlines, too. After making headlines with the $60 million purchase of WCRB in 2007, a tightening credit market left the company unable to turn its LMA of WFKB (107.5 Boyertown PA) into a $22 million purchase in 2008. By 2009, Nassau was under the control of its largest creditors, led by Goldman Sachs, and it soon sold off WCRB for $14 million.

Now Nassau CEO Lou Mercatanti is taking back control of the company, but at a price: Inside Radio reports that the lenders, led by Goldman Sachs, want out of owning the company, and they're willing to sell it back to Mercatanti at a steep discount. Thursday's IR exclusive reports that Mercatanti's group will pay only about a fifth of Nassau's debt - $54 million out of $258 million that's owed - to buy back the stations.

But the Nassau that emerges will be a much smaller company, closer to the group that Mercatanti acquired from founder Herb Hobler in 1986 than the regional behemoth that it became since deregulation.

The transfer of control to Goldman Sachs already forced Nassau to put several stations in a divestiture trust, and now Inside Radio is reporting that by the end of 2012, the slimmed-down Nassau will exit New England entirely, selling the rest of its stations in MAINE, NEW HAMPSHIRE and VERMONT as well as some non-core AM signals in PENNSYLVANIA.

And in the process, we finally have some answers to some unresolved questions stretching back a few years - like, for instance, what ever happened to the Granite State station sales that Nassau announced back in 2009? The plan back then was to sell Nassau's own WWHQ (101.5 Meredith) and WNNH (99.1 Henniker) to Great Eastern Radio for $1.25 million, while WWHK (102.3 Concord), which Nassau was leasing from Capitol Broadcasting, was to have gone to Andrew Sumereau's Birch Broadcasting for $1 million. Neither of those sales closed, and those three stations have been largely silent ever since, returning only for brief periods to keep their licenses alive (and to keep us wondering what was going on with their transfers!)

Now we know: behind the scenes, Goldman Sachs was apparently blocking those transfers from taking place while it negotiated a restructuring of the Nassau operations. And now that the restructuring is moving forward, so are the sales: a notice of consummation of the WWHK sale was filed June 23, with the others to follow. (That includes one Maine station, WXTP 106.7 North Windham/Portland, which has been operating under an LMA to the "Promise" Catholic broadcasting group that will soon buy it outright.)

The Inside Radio report (disclaimer: your editor also works for IR as editor of its Radio Journal and 100000Watts.com sites) also says there's a sale in the works in the short term for two Vermont stations, WEXP (101.5 Rutland) and WTHK (100.7 Wilmington), which simulcast as classic rock "Fox."

With those stations gone, that leaves Nassau with 10 stations in Maine (eight FMs/two AMs), eight in New Hampshire (six FMs/two AMs), ten in Vermont (seven FMs/three AMs) and three FMs on Cape Cod to shed within the next year or so to carry out the downsizing plan that will return it to its core markets in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland and, Nassau hopes, leave the company debt-free by 2015. (Religious AMs WCHR 920 Trenton and WBYN 1160 Lehighton, PA are also on the divestiture list.)

Nassau will also sell off the real estate that came with its ill-fated WCRB purchase: the company still owns the vacant former WCRB studios in Waltham, on the edge of an office park near Route 128.

And just as we were here to chronicle Nassau's wild acquisitions ride a decade ago, we'll be here to chronicle its sell-offs, and the effects they have on major Nassau markets such as Concord/Lakes Region NH, Lebanon NH-Rutland VT and Portland, Maine.

*There's some good news for Nassau as it seeks to sell its Portland stations, at least: they'll suddenly be in a much larger Arbitron market. The ratings service has redefined the boundaries of several markets, including Portland, to add adjacent counties to the metro. In Portland's case, that means a sudden jump from market #168 to #89 this fall, thanks to the addition of Androscoggin, Oxford, Sagadahoc and part of York counties to what had previously been a one-county market, Cumberland. (And that, apparently, means the demise of the former Lewiston-Auburn market, too.)

*It was a quiet pre-holiday week elsewhere in New England, with just a few headlines out there in NERW-land: the CONNECTICUT Whale AHL hockey team (formerly the Hartford Wolf Pack) are moving to Marlin Broadcasting's WCCC-FM (106.9) this fall, where they've signed a one-year deal that will keep longtime team announcer Bob Crawford behind the mike. The team had been heard on the HD2 channel of WTIC-FM (96.5) last year.

In Worcester, WICN (90.5) has a new general manager: Gerry Weston moves home to central Massachusetts after a stint as GM of public stations WSCL/WSDL on the Delmarva peninsula.

In Vermont, WFTF (90.5 Rutland) is being sold: Rutland-based Christian Media Fellowship will get $80,000 for the station from Essex-based Christian Ministries, which will add WFTF to its extensive network of signals based at WGLY (91.5 Bolton).

And a yet-to-be-built northern New Hampshire FM construction permit is trading one set of heritage New England calls for another: WREF (89.7 Lisbon) has changed calls to WSSH.

*There's a new news director at RHODE ISLAND's struggling ABC affiliate: WLNE (Channel 6) in Providence brings Irene Mahoney-Paige down US 6 from Hartford, where she's been executive producer at WTIC-TV (Channel 61). Mahoney-Paige takes over from Dan Fabrizio, who departed WLNE during Citadel Communications' acquisition of the station.

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*The NEW YORK State Broadcasters Association said goodbye to its longtime leader in style Monday night. NYSBA's 49th annual executive conference once again took place at the Sagamore Hotel at Bolton Landing on Lake George, and the night brought out many of the state's most prominent broadcast leaders and an impressive dais of honorees, too.

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was the last of the big names to arrive, since he had a newscast to finish in Manhattan before being flown up to the Adirondacks on what he described, with his usual dry humor, as the "smallest charter plane I've ever flown" to accept his Broadcaster of the Year award.

"Inside Edition" host Deborah Norville spoke frankly of the challenges she's faced in her broadcast career as she accepted the Carol Reilly award, named for the late spouse of retiring NYSBA president Joseph Reilly.

It was Reilly himself who brought the house down with his musical performance as he was inducted into the NYSBA Hall of Fame, a fitting honor for the man who's shepherded one of the nation's largest state broadcasting groups for more than three decades. (It wasn't Reilly's only honor of the evening; earlier, he was presented with a proclamation from no less than Pope Benedict XVI himself.) Reilly had plenty of praise for his successor, former Associaton for Maximum Service TV head Dan Donovan, but at least for now it was hard for many in the room to imagine anyone other than the gregarious Reilly at the helm of NYSBA.

Reilly had some big names to keep him company among this year's Hall of Fame inductees, starting with veteran TV personality Regis Philbin, who shared tales of his early years in television with the packed banquet hall. From Syracuse, WSYR-TV (Channel 9)'s longtime anchor team of Rod Wood and Carrie Lazarus joined the Hall, as did Buckley Broadcasting/WOR owner Rick Buckley, recently-retired WHEC-TV (Channel 10) general manager Arnold Klinsky from Rochester and, posthumously, longtime New York City DJ William B. Williams.

Accepting the honor on Williams' behalf was 2005 inductee William O'Shaughnessy, who spoke movingly of his own early years in New York radio, when he was a regular member of Williams' lunch circle, and praised the hall for finally adding Williams to its ranks.

The evening concluded with the presentation of NYSBA's Broadcast Awards for Excellence (check out the full list here), but the conference continued on Tuesday with discussions of some of the big issues facing the Empire State's broadcasters. NAB president Gordon Smith was on hand, and his keynote address focused largely on the fight he's waging to preserve UHF spectrum for broadcast TV against an FCC leadership that he says is increasingly focused on broadband. (Expect some powerful PSAs to hit the airwaves later this year to help make the NAB's case.)

*We didn't catch it on the air as we headed home from Bolton Landing, but the Syracuse-based Mars Hill Network is about to launch its newest full-power signal. WMHU (91.1 Cold Brook) applied to the FCC on Thursday for its license to cover, and when it begins full-time operation it will rimshot the Utica/Herkimer area from a site near Middleville, not far from the WKTV (Channel 2) tower. And speaking of Utica, CNYRadio.com reports that Jules Thompson, former assistant PD/news anchor at Syracuse's WSYR, has been hired as news director of WIBX (950), freeing up current news director Jeff Monaski to become WIBX's program director, filling the vacancy left by Gene Conte's crosstown move to Galaxy's WTLB in May.

*There's nothing more definite this week about Merlin Media's format plans for WRXP (101.9 New York) when it takes over operation of the station from Emmis later this summer, but there's at least one more big name to add to the Merlin talent roster: veteran consultant Walt Sabo comes on board as Merlin's chief operating officer, adding more support to the theory that Merlin honcho Randy Michaels is planning some sort of spoken-word format for the station - or that he's playing the mother of all head games with the city's radio community, which wouldn't be at all out of character for him. (Meanwhile, WRXP unceremoniously cancelled the big concert it was planning for September, making it even more clear that the station's current rock format is on the way out sometime this summer.)

*The efforts of some NEW JERSEY lawmakers to stop the transfer of the state-owned NJN television network came close, but in the end Democrats in the state Senate fell one vote short in their attempt to overturn Governor Chris Christie's plan to put the network's four TV stations in the hands of New York-based WNET and the Caucus group run by Christie political ally Steve Adubato, Jr.

And that meant NJN's four decades of broadcasting from Trenton ended on schedule late Thursday night. On the NJN TV stations, the final edition of "NJN News" concluded with a shot of the empty Trenton newsroom, and at night's end the network's acting executive director delivered a short farewell message to viewers before the stations signed off. They returned to the air Friday morning with a new identity - "NJTV" - and with a new schedule and a much smaller staff. In place of "NJN News" is a new public-affairs show, "NJ Today," debuting with a stripped-down "summer edition" before making its official launch this fall. Gone is the NJN2 service that provided time-shifted runs of "NJN News" and other network programming; for now, NJTV is running just one statewide service. The four TV licenses in Montclair, New Brunswick, Trenton and Camden remain with the state, though the new NJTV group will collect rental income from the stations' tower sites.

For NJN's nine-station radio network, there was no legislative attempt to stop Christie's outright sale of the licenses. The new owners took control of the stations at midnight on Friday, splitting the former statewide network in half. New York City's WNYC took over the four northernmost signals (WNJP 88.5 Sussex, WNJY 89.3 Netcong, WNJT 88.1 Trenton and WNJO 90.3 Toms River), which maintain most of the former NJN Radio schedule, including the overnight simulcast of jazz from Newark's WBGO, under the new banner of "New Jersey Public Radio."

To the south, Philadelphia's WHYY (90.9) took over the five remaining signals - WNJM 89.9 Manahawkin, WNJN 89.7 Atlantic City, WNJZ 90.3 Cape May Court House, WNJB 89.3 Bridgeton and WNJS 88.1 Berlin - which became a straight simulcast of WHYY's 24-hour news and information service.

*Meanwhile on the commercial side of the Garden State FM dial, Ray Rossi is remaining with "New Jersey 101.5" (WKXW-FM Trenton) even after losing his afternoon "Jersey Guys" talk show to the returning talk team of Deminski and Doyle. Starting next Monday, Rossi will be heard in the 11 PM slot on "The Late Show with Jersey Guy Ray Rossi." (His former afternoon co-host, Casey Bartholomew, has departed the station.)

And 101.5 weekend "record handler" Don Tandler has gone 24/7 - he's teamed up with another Jersey jock, "Big Tom" Lawler, to launch a new streaming service called PopGold Radio, which made its official debut on Friday. It's kicking off with a countdown of the top 1000 hits of the 1960s, as chronicled on the WABC MusicRadio charts...and it's well worth a listen!

WVOX.COM

*A public broadcasting era came to an end in western PENNSYLVANIA on Thursday night, too: after 62 years, Duquesne University handed over operation of its WDUQ (90.5 Pittsburgh) to the new Essential Public Media consortium that includes principals of the Public Radio Capital brokerage/financing firm and Pittsburgh's public AAA station, WYEP (91.3).

The new "90.5" (which will be burying its use of the WDUQ calls until the sale to Essential closes later this year, bringing new calls with it) keeps some of the voices that were heard on the station's previous incarnation, but there was plenty of emotion on the air Thursday as the rest of WDUQ's staff said goodbye. Among the staffers not making the move to the new 90.5 operation were morning news anchor Alexandria Chaklos and the station's signature jazz voice, evening host Tony Mowod.

(You can hear the last minutes of the old WDUQ, and read some trenchant commentary from friend-of-NERW Jason Togyer, over at PBRTV.com...)

But no sooner did the jazz fade away on "Essential Public Radio" than it was reborn in a new form. "Jazz lives. Pittsburgh sure as hell was never going to let it die," said the blog posting on Friday announcing the August launch of a new 24-hour jazz service from PubMusic, a new programming service that will provide a variety of formats to public radio. The new service, which will include an online "Pittsburgh Jazz Channel," will feature some very familiar names from the WDUQ era: Tony Mowod, for starters, along with former WDUQ general manager Scott Hanley and former jocks Evelynn Hawkins, John Lasanich and Dave Becker.

And who's behind the new services? None other than former WDUQ chief engineer Chuck Leavens, who was also our congenial tour guide for the transmitter visit featured on this week's installment of Tower Site of the Week! The jazz service is just the first of several new offerings on the way from PubRadio, and we'll be watching closely as this new operation takes root.

*One obituary from the Keystone State: there's word that Joni Beck died Friday night in North Carolina, where she'd moved after a career that included sales and management jobs in and around Harrisburg at stations that included WHTF (92.7 Starview) and WQXA-FM (105.7 York), where she served as general manager.

*And on TV, the growing "Me TV" subchannel network has added WFMZ (Channel 69) in Allentown to its affiliate list. The arrival of "Me TV" on WFMZ's 69.3 subchannel pushes Retro TV to 69.4. (WFMZ carries weather on 69.2.)

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*Belated "Happy CANADA Day" wishes to our readers north of the border, where there was a big format change to mark the occasion last week. After just a year on the air, CJOT (99.7 Ottawa) dropped its "EZ Rock" format on Thursday in favor of classic hits as "Boom" - beg pardon, "boom," in their preferred lower-case styling.

That's the same move sister station CJEZ (97.3 Toronto, now CHBM) made in 2009, and in Ottawa Astral believes the move away from contemporary tunes to older music will give its station an edge against Bell Media's long-dominant AC station, CJMJ (Majic 100).

*In Windsor, the clock is now ticking on CBC Radio One outlet CBE (1550), which made its official switch to CBEW (97.5) on the FM dial on Friday. That means the 10 kW AM signal, which enjoys wider coverage across southwest Ontario, Michigan and Ohio than the new FM outlet, will go dark no later than September 30, leaving no primary CBC Radio One outlets on AM between Manitoba and Newfoundland.

And in London, Ontario, the long-delayed debut of CKLO (98.1) is finally at hand. The CRTC granted Blackburn Radio several extensions as it worked to resolve some interference issues with the new station, but testing of the 40 kW max DA (12.6 kW average)/150m signal finally got underway in mid-June. The official launch of the station (expected to carry a triple-A format as "98.1 Free FM") is set for tomorrow.

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: June 28/July 5, 2010 -

  • When a tornado hit the CONNECTICUT coastline Thursday afternoon, its path of destruction took it across both the studio and transmitter site of Cumulus' WICC (600 Bridgeport). The storm wreaked havoc on downtown Bridgeport, where WICC and sister station WEBE (107.9 Westport) share studio space in an office building on Lafayette Square. The winds picked up an air conditioner from the roof of the building, turning it on its side and ripping a hole in the roof right over the WICC newsroom. The building was quickly evacuated, leaving both stations running on makeshift automation all through Thursday night and into Friday morning - but for WICC, that was just the beginning of its technical challenges.
  • The WICC transmitter site at Pleasure Beach sits on an offshore island that used to be connected to the mainland by a short bridge - but since a fire damaged the bridge in the 1990s, the site has been reachable only by boat or by walking across the water at low tide, which proved to be a big problem when the power went out and the station's generator began to malfunction. WICC ended up being off the air from the time the storm hit until early Saturday morning, save for a brief period Thursday evening when it was on the air (with music-only automation) on the generator; the good news, at least, is that by Friday morning drivetime the studios were once again accessible, allowing WEBE's morning show to air on schedule and WICC to provide at least a webcast.
  • The NEW YORK State Broadcasters Association inducts some big names into its Hall of Fame tonight at its 48th annual executive conference in Bolton Landing. This year's class includes two living inductees: WHAM-TV's veteran anchor Don Alhart (44 years and counting at the same station!) and Jim Roselle of WJTN (1240) in Jamestown, who has even Alhart beat - he's been with WJTN for 57 years! From the roster of broadcasters we've lost, the NYSBA is inducting New York rock radio legend Scott Muni, Dan DeNicola of Albany's WRGB and New York's Percy Sutton, longtime owner of WLIB and WBLS - a worthy lineup, indeed.
  • VERMONT Public Radio is getting ready to bring its classical network service to the Randolph area and to the I-89 corridor through central Vermont. VPR closed on its purchase of WCVR-FM (102.1 Randolph) last week, and it will relaunch the station in early July under new calls WVXR, joining existing full-power VPR Classical signals in the Burlington, Upper Valley and Bennington/Manchester areas.

Five Years Ago: July 3, 2006 -

  • It's still not completely official - and won't be until sometime after the holiday, at the earliest - but it's now abundantly clear that the WCRB calls and the classical music format will survive in eastern MASSACHUSETTS after Greater Media buys the existing WCRB (102.5 Waltham) facility from Charles River Broadcasting. Nassau acknowledged last week that it's negotiating with Greater Media to acquire the "intellectual property" - calls, format and staff - of WCRB, as well as the license to what's now country WKLB (99.5 Lowell), which will end up with the WCRB calls and classical format when country moves to 102.5.
  • We don't yet know a price tag for either end of the deal - the 102.5 sale to Greater or the 99.5 sale to Nassau - but we can make some educated guesses. On the Greater Media side of the ledger, trading 99.5 for 102.5 moves WKLB's signal coverage over a more central part of the Boston market. While 99.5, like 102.5, is a full class B (50 kW/492' equivalent) signal, its transmitter location on Wood Hill in Andover is too far north to reach much of the south shore or even Boston proper, where the high signal levels from the FMs on the Pru (including Greater's other four signals) keep almost anything from out of town from penetrating. With an antenna on the "FM128" tower in Newton, 102.5 will give WKLB full Boston-market coverage for the first time since the calls and country format were on 105.7 almost a decade ago.
  • For Nassau, the new WCRB on 99.5 will mesh nicely with its existing network of four "W-Bach" classical signals that stretches all the way up from the New Hampshire seacoast to down east Maine. And since those "W-Bach" signals get their programming from WCRB's World Classical Network, the Nassau purchase of WCRB will also bring the programming source in-house. (Nassau is already making noises about rolling the classical format out in some of its other markets, in fact.)
  • It's almost a given that the move of WCRB to 99.5 will prompt complaints from loyal listeners in Boston, Brookline, the western suburbs and the south shore - all areas where the 99.5 signal is either weak or overwhelmed by stronger nearby FM transmitters. (There's a parallel to be found in Cleveland, where longtime classical voice WCLV sold its full-market class B signal on 95.5 five summers ago, trading down to a rimshot class A on 104.9 that was located on the other side of the market from most of the station's listener base.) But compared to the alternative - no WCRB at all, or one reduced to an HD-2 simulcast - it's not as bad as it could have been, and we're sure that will be the party line once the deals are complete.
  • Has any market in PENNSYLVANIA seen as much change in the last few years as State College? In the latest installment of the format merry-go-round in Happy Valley, Forever has pulled the plug on top 40 "Hot 103.1" WJHT, moving the "Quick Rock" format to 103.1 from its current home on WQWK (98.7 Pleasant Gap). The WQWK calls will move to 103.1 as well (their fourth home in State College, having started on 96.7 State College, which later became the 97.1 University Park facility that's now oldies WOWY) - and 98.7, under new calls, will simulcast "Froggy" country from WFGY (98.1 Altoona). (NERW notes that State College has had a "Froggy" in the past - the 94.5 that's now smooth jazz WSMO was once WFGI.)

10 Years Ago: July 11, 2001 -

  • PENNSYLVANIA is a good a place as any to start the news, with format changes in three major markets. Philadelphia's "Jammin' Gold" didn't live to see another summer on Greater Media's WEJM (95.7); that station took on the "Mix" moniker at the end of June, becoming an AC outlet under the programming leadership of Chris Ebbott (inbound from Los Angeles' KFI, where he was marketing director). Greater Media ditched the format at its Detroit outlet that same week, flipping "Groove" WGRV (105.1) to "Magic" WMGC-FM and launching a shot across the bow of Clear Channel's market-leading AC WNIC (100.3 Dearborn) with a talent raid that brings veteran WNIC morning host Jim Harper to the new "Magic."
  • To Harrisburg, next, as Clear Channel made the anticipated change from oldies to "Kiss" CHR on WWKL-FM (99.3) July 1, with new calls expected soon. Countering the move is WEGK (92.7 Starview), which dumped its classic rock format the same day to become "Big 92.7" with oldies as WHBO(FM).
  • Up in Erie, we just missed a call swap that restores a heritage call to its longtime home: Talker WLKK (1400) returned to its old call of WJET(AM), while the WLKK calls moved to the former WJET(FM) at 102.3, which remains modern AC as "the Point."
  • Plenty of news in NEW YORK, but we'll start with the one bit that hasn't actually happened yet: the rumor mill's been churning about a format change at Buffalo's WWKB (1520). For more than a decade, the Entercom-owned station has been running a series of little-noticed fringe formats, including satellite country, talk and business news. Last week, the message boards lit up with word that the erstwhile WKBW would be returning to its musical roots with a 70s-pop format. As we go to print with this issue, though, it's still business talk and leased-time religion on 1520...
  • Rochester's WXXI (1370) is going through some cutbacks. The public broadcaster marked its 17th anniversary last week by laying off veteran producers Bill Flynn and Carol Colella and cancelling its late-night blues show, one of the last remnants of the "news-and-jazz" format the station launched with back in 1984. Replacing the music in the overnight hours will be satellite-delivered World Radio Network programming, leaving host Jim McGrath also out of a job.
  • The big deal in CANADA was, literally, a big deal: the long-dormant Standard group flexed its muscles this week with an agreement to buy 62 radio stations in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia from Telemedia. The latter group already cashed out of its Quebec and Maritimes interests with a sale to Astral last month. The deal turns Standard into a 75-station group with outlets in almost every major community in Ontario, including a four-station cluster in Toronto that adds Telemedia's sports CJCL (The Fan 590) and AC CJEZ (EZ Rock 97.3) to Standard's news-talk CFRB (1010) and hot AC CKFM (Mix 99.9). No sale price has been announced.

15 Years Ago: New England Radio Watch, July 5, 1996

  • Boston-area radio listeners found quite a surprise on Independence Day when they tuned into talk-formatted WRKO (680). The American Radio Systems flagship gave the talk hosts a couple of days off...and in their stead is a revived version of "the Big 68," the top-40 legend that was WRKO from 1967 until 1980. The station did not try to bring back the legendary 'RKO jocks, instead using the current talk hosts (Pat Whitley & Marjorie Clapprood, Jerry Williams, Howie Carr, and the "Two Chicks," Leslie Gold and Laurie Kramer) to introduce what's being billed as the "Top 96 of 1968." A few of the old Drake jingles have been resurrected, notably that top-hour sounder that aired on *every* RKO/Drake station of the era, and the "20/20 News" sounder (ditto!) The same countdown is airing in a 4 or 5-hour repeat cycle until Saturday morning, when the talk returns. A correspondent to the Boston-Radio-Interest mailing list notes that the countdown WRKO is running (number 1 is "Hey Jude") does NOT match the actual end-of-1968 countdown WRKO issued...but instead corresponds to the national Billboard rankings. Ah well...
  • Elsewhere in New England...the 96.5 frequency is getting even more crowded. Last week, the newcomer was class-A WAEF Bedford-Manchester NH. Now it's been joined by W243AI Newport RI, the Ocean State's first FM translator. W243AI uses 55 watts on 96.5 from the Newport Hospital. NERW traveling correspondent Garrett Wollman reports the signal to be adequate into Fall River, some 15 miles north of Newport. W243AI rebroadcasts WCRB 102.5 Waltham MA, Boston's commercial classical outlet. It helps rectify a lack of classical music in Rhode Island... the only other full-time classical outlet is 95.9 WVBI Block Island, which runs the SW Classic FM service with a very weak signal.
  • Up in Vermont, the former WBFL 107.1 Bellows Falls-Brattleboro has been reborn under new ownership as WZSH, soft ac "Wish 107." The WZSH calls were last seen about six years ago, on what's now WNVE 95.1 South Bristol-Rochester NY, also as a soft ac station called "Wish." NERW wonders whether the CP for WSSH 101.5 Marlboro VT will turn out to be a simulcast. (The WSSH calls also spelled "Wish" for years in their former home on 99.5 Lowell-Boston, now WOAZ.) WBFL's former simulcast partner, WNBX 100.5 Lebanon NH, continues as AAA "River." And Garrett Wollman offers several additional Vermont tidbits: WWGT 96.7 Vergennes had resumed testing as of late last week, with a modern rock format that was not city-grade in downtown Burlington, and WNCS 104.7 Montpelier now calls itself "The Point," though it's made no change to its rock format.
  • One of New Hampshire's newer radio stations has changed format and calls again. 98.7 in Somersworth NH (near the Seacoast) began its life as a CP with the calls WTSN-FM (its sister AM is WTSN 1270). It took air two years ago as AC WRGW "The Rock Garden," then went through a series of changes a few months back, becoming WRDX and briefly running an adult-standards format as "Radio Deluxe" before returning to AC. Now M Street reports 98.7 has become WBYY, "The Bay." The WBYY calls were last spotted on a little all-sports AM station near Grand Rapids MI.

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