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August 22 & 29, 2011

WIP Makes its FM Move

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

*It's been one of the worst-kept secrets in PENNSYLVANIA radio for months now: rumor after rumor has pointed to the eventual end of rock on Philadelphia's WYSP (94.1) and its replacement with the sports talk now heard on CBS Radio sister station WIP (610).

Now it's much more than rumor: on September 6, the rock will end on 94.1 and WIP will take over the powerful FM frequency that's been rocking for decades, give or take a short interregnum as "Free FM" talk a few years back.

It's not hard to understand why CBS wants sports on FM in Philadelphia; the company has had success after success with FM sports outlets such as "Sports Hub" WBZ-FM in Boston and "Fan" signals such as KDKA-FM in Pittsburgh, WXYT-FM in Detroit and soon WKRK in Cleveland. And in Philadelphia, CBS-owned WIP already faces an FM challenger in the form of Greater Media's WPEN-FM (97.5 Burlington NJ), which has been mixing ESPN Radio national programming and local talk on a not-quite-full-market signal for more than a year now. (The CBS Radio shuffle actually ends up as a mixed blessing for Greater Media; while it gets a new FM sports competitor against WPEN-FM, Greater Media's heritage rocker WMMR 93.3 gets to declare victory in its very long rock battle against WYSP. In the way these things go, of course, WMMR is itself the original WIP-FM from way back when...)

*In addition to WIP's well-established stable of local talk personalities, CBS brings some additional potent artillery to the FM table: WYSP is the longtime home of the Philadelphia Eagles, who'll continue on the new WIP-FM - and WIP will bring Flyers hockey and 76ers basketball over from the AM dial as well. And then there's the Phillies, who now play on CBS talker WPHT (1210): while they'll surely play out the rest of this season on AM, there's bound to be discussion of moving baseball to FM next year as well.

WIP's new FM simulcast will come with some programming changes: as another persistent rumor had been indicating, Howard Eskin is being eased out of his afternoon shift. The new "94 WIP" lineup retains Angelo Cataldi in morning drive, followed at 10 by the "Mike and Ike Show" featuring former Eagle Ike Reese and new addition Michael Barkann, who adds radio to his TV duties on Comcast SportsNet (and who's fondly remembered in these parts from his long-ago work at Boston's WLVI). WIP's current midday show, with Anthony Gargano and Glen Macnow, moves to Eskin's former afternoon slot, followed by Rob Ellis in the evening (when there's not play-by-play) and then Big Daddy Graham at night.

And what of 610? That big 5000-watt signal at the bottom of the dial is rather more formidable than some of the other AMs that have been sacrificed for FM sports opportunities elsewhere in the CBS universe, and that means it's unlikely to remain in mostly-simulcast mode forever. That, in turn, has a lot of people wondering what becomes of another Philadelphia-market signal that's in play, Family Radio's WKDN (106.9 Camden). That class B, near-full-market facility recently changed from noncommercial to commercial status as Family planned to put it up for sale, with many in Philadelphia speculating at the time that CBS might be eyeing the FM channel for WIP.

We know WIP's not going to 106.9 now - so what is headed there? It's still possible that CBS could end up with the FM channel, perhaps in trade to Family Radio for 610, and given the success CBS has had with FM simulcasts of its AM news stations in San Francisco and now Chicago, an FM relay of KYW (1060) is not out of the question. It's also possible that CBS Radio's new rival, Randy Michaels' Merlin Media, could end up with 106.9, which would create a completely different competitive landscape if Merlin follows the path it's been treading in Chicago and New York, launching an FM all-newser to compete with KYW.

*Elsewhere in the Keystone State, there's a format change in State College: 2510 Licenses' WWSH (98.7 Pleasant Gap) has dropped soft AC "Wish" in favor of active rock "Eagle 98.7," with new calls WEMR ("We Mean Rock"), a callsign that used to be heard across the mountains in the Scranton market.

Another 2510-owned station in the region is silent for good: back in June, WBHV (1330 Somerset) went silent, telling the FCC that the "expenses of continued operation...including electrical power, technical maintenance, royalties and rent far outweigh the very little revenue it generates" and that a buyer was being sought. No buyer emerged, and last week 2510 asked the FCC to cancel the WBHV license.

*Joe Reilly is adding another AM signal to his Columbia Broadcasting Company cluster in Bloomsburg: for $17,500, he's picking up WFBS (1280 Berwick) from Bold Gold Media, which was using it as part of its "Game" sports quadcast based at WICK (1400 Scranton). WFBS will be Joe's second AM, alongside WHLM (930 Bloomsburg) and FM sister WHLM-FM (103.5 Berwick). In addition to the cash, Bold Gold gets a translator in return from Reilly: W265BM (100.9 Folstown), which will relay "The Game" on FM to Nanticoke and the south side of Wilkes-Barre.

While we're in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area, we note that the long-suffering engineers at public broadcaster WVIA suffered yet another blow last week: just as they're finally getting ready to get their own DTV transmitter (on RF channel 41) back on the air a year and a half after a fire raged through their Penobscot Mountain transmitter building, copper thieves struck. WVIA engineering director Joe Glynn says transmission line valued at $240,000 vanished from the WVIA tower, probably over the course of several nights. Since the fire in 2010 (and before that, a tower collapse in 2009), WVIA has benefited from the generosity of its commercial neighbors: it's been using the former facilities (on RF channel 49) of ABC affiliate WNEP-TV, whose tower is next door to WVIA's.

*In Pittsburgh, all-news KQV (1410) has brought back a nice historical connection: it's now affiliated with ABC Radio and is once again running ABC's hourly newscasts. Pittsburghers with long memories will recall that KQV was not only an ABC affiliate but an owned-and-operated ABC station from the 1950s until 1974. More recently, KQV had been carrying CBS newscasts, but that affiliation moved over to KDKA (1020) once KDKA became a CBS O&O.

(NERW trivia question: since NBC also owned a Pittsburgh radio station, WJAS, in the 1950s and 1960s, is the Steel City the smallest market to have had radio O&Os from all three major networks at some point in its history - and how long until Clarke Ingram chimes in to remind us that DuMont, too, had a TV O&O there?)

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A decade ago, it was just a goofy idea: "Hey, you should put some of those tower pictures into a calendar!"

But when Tower Site Calendar 2002 appeared, it was a hit - and ten years later, the fun still hasn't stopped.

And now it's that moment at least some of you have been waiting for: the grand unveiling of our latest edition, Tower Site Calendar 2012, seen for the very first time right here!

As befits a tenth-anniversary edition, this one's special: in addition to all the great tower photos and historic dates you've come to expect from our calendars, the new 2012 edition is our first-ever themed calendar, paying special homage to the many stations that began broadcasting during radio's first big boom year of 1922.

The 2012 edition brings something else that's new to the Tower Site Calendar: the option of a spiral-bound edition that will hang flatter on your wall.

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*Until CBS dropped its WIP bombshell, the week's big news from the spoken-word format front was coming from MASSACHUSETTS, where former WTKK (96.9) talker Jay Severin resurfaced across town at Clear Channel's WXKS (1200 Newton), where he's now doing local afternoon talk. It's the first stab at a local afternoon show on the struggling AM talker, which was running Sean Hannity in that timeslot with no appreciable ratings dent to show for the effort.

The addition of Severin in afternoon drive pushes Hannity to a 6-9 PM delayed airing on WXKS - and spurs speculation that Clear Channel might be looking at using Severin as a regional afternoon show on some of its other New England talk outlets.

WTKK made some programming changes of its own last week, too: it's moving Michael Graham from middays to the afternoon slot that used to be Severin's before Greater Media sent him packing in April. That sets up a three-way live afternoon talk battle in Boston, pitting Graham on WTKK and Severin on WXKS against WRKO's veteran Howie Carr.

Doug Meehan takes over from 10-noon on 96.9, followed by a live clearance for the syndicated Michael Smerconish, who'd been heard on delay in the early evenings. Michael Castner's "Daily Wrap" from the Wall Street Journal moves into the 7-9 PM slot.

*Our NEW YORK news begins with an obituary: Bob Sherman wore many hats in his long career in radio, television and interactive media, beginning with his first management job in 1975 at the helm of CBS-owned WCAU (1210 Philadelphia). Sherman quickly shot to the top of the industry, taking over in 1979 as executive VP of NBC's owned-and-operated radio stations, a role that found him installing Howard Stern on WNBC. After three years at NBC Radio, Sherman left radio for a while to run an ad agency, but came back with two groups in the 1990s, first WP Radio and then, in partnership with MTV co-founder Bob Pittman, the Roberts Radio group that became a major Hudson Valley player before selling out to Clear Channel in 2000.

After Roberts Radio, Sherman joined Pittman at AOL-Time Warner, but he (and Pittman) came back to radio 2003 with the Pilot Group investment firm, where Sherman served as chairman and CEO for one of its big investments, Double O Radio. Double O, of course, was just in last week's headlines for the impending sale of most of its stations (including its Oneonta-based cluster) to Townsquare Media - and no sooner did that sale become public than we learned of Sherman's last Sunday after a battle with liver cancer. Sherman was 69.

*The big news in TV news came from one of the state's smallest markets. We knew Nexstar was preparing to relaunch news at Utica's ABC affiliate, WUTR (Channel 20), and its sister Fox station WFXV (Channel 33) - but until last week, nobody in the market suspected that the new Nexstar news operation, due to launch September 12, will be the first high-definition local newscast in Utica.

Nexstar also announced some staffing plans for its new newsroom: Joe Parker will serve as news director and WUTR's 6 and 11 PM anchor, joined by former WKTV anchor Caroline Gable as co-anchor. Gable will also anchor WFXV's 10 PM newscast, while Jeff Matthews will be chief meteorologist. (CNYRadio.com has a complete list of reporters as well.)

Will the flash of HD help WUTR/WFXV in its latest attempt to overthrow the market's long-dominant NBC affiliate, WKTV? A little competition never hurts...

*And it's the end of the line for an AM station that's been silent more than it's been on the air the last few years. Bisiblue, LLC asked the FCC earlier this month to cancel the license and delete the callsign of WIPS (1250 Ticonderoga), and as of August 4 the daytimer appears in FCC records as "DWIPS."

*The beginning of September will bring a frequency swap at Blueberry Broadcasting's cluster in Bangor, MAINE, as country WBFB (104.7 Belfast) and sports WAEI-FM (97.1 Bangor) swap formats and calls. The move will bring "The Bear" and its country format to the somewhat bigger 97.1 signal, swapping WAEI-FM's sports to the lesser 104.7 facility. (Sports will also remain on WAEI 910 on the AM dial.)

Blueberry will continue the "Bear" simulcast on its two coastal signals, WLKE (99.1 Bar Harbor) and WMCM (103.3 Rockland), and the simulcast might make a little more sense once the overlap with 104.7's signal goes away.

*We know a little more about last week's NERW lead story out of RHODE ISLAND: while Rhode Island Public Radio has indeed filed with the FCC to make the changes that would shift its flagship Providence signal from WRNI (1290) to the Wheeler School's WELH (88.1), the last pieces of the deal are still coming together behind the scenes. The plan calls for RIPR to pay Wheeler $75,000 a year plus three percent of increased revenues from making the AM-to-FM swap; RIPR would then lease the 1290 signal to Latino Public Radio (which has been leasing half of the program day on WELH) "at cost." RIPR general manager Joseph O'Connor says he's hoping to pull all the pieces together in time to make the switch happen by October 1.

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*It's the end of the line for the True Oldies Channel in northwestern NEW JERSEY.

On Tuesday, Clear Channel's Aloha Station Trust completed its transfer of WTOC (1360 Newton) to the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council, which has been on the receiving end of Clear Channel's donations of signals that exceed its current ownership caps.

With WTOC gone from the Clear Channel cluster in the region, the signal fell silent at noon on Tuesday, with PD/chief engineer Tony DeNicola ("Tony Dee") delivering the last sign-off. MMTC is reportedly set to transfer the 1360 signal to New York's Radio Vision Cristiana, which will return it to the air later on as part of its simulcast network based at WWRV (1330 New York).

*The week's big news from CANADA came from Quebec, where Astral Media rebranded its "Rock Detente" network of stations on Thursday, relaunching them as "Rouge FM" with a new red color scheme and not much actual change to the French-language AC format that's been a fixture on the network since the "Rock Detente" branding launched on CITE-FM (107.3 Montreal) more than two decades ago.

The other stations affected by the change are CIMF (94.9 Gatineau), CITF (107.5 Quebec City), CITE-FM-1 (102.7 Sherbrooke), CHEY (94.7 Trois-Rivieres), CFIX (96.9 Saguenay), CFVM (99.9 Amqui), CJOI (102.9 Rimouski) and CHRD (105.3 Drummondville.)

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: August 23 & 30, 2010 -

  • An AM station going silent in CANADA has almost ceased to be a news item these days - but it's only in recent months that the drumbeat of AM-to-FM conversions has been joined by a steady drip of AM signals simply signing off for good.
  • Corus Radio led that new trend when it abruptly pulled the plug on Montreal's big-signal CINF (690) and CINW (940) a few months back. Last Wednesday, Corus even more abruptly turned off the 1000-watt AM signal of CJUL (1220) in Cornwall, Ontario, on the St. Lawrence River southwest of Montreal. Corus officials tried to put the best possible face on the shutdown, saying the market had outgrown the little AM signal and that its news and information programming would be shifted to expanded newscasts on its remaining FM sister stations, CJSS (101.9) and CFLG (104.5), but the shutdown nevertheless meant job cuts, including CJUL morning man John Bolton and news reporter Shannon Simpson. By Thursday morning, crews were already on hand tearing down the two AM 1220 towers, which were reportedly in seriously deteriorated condition. CJUL's shutdown marked the second time in just over a decade that Cornwall had lost a station on 1220: in 1999, the veteran station on that frequency, CJSS, moved to FM, clearing the way for then-owner Tri-Co to apply for a new 1220 signal using the old CJSS facilities, which signed on the following year as CJUL. (Cornwall had also once had a second AM station, French-language CFIX 1170, which left the air in 1983.)
  • And in another odd bit of irony, CJUL will be one of two Ontario stations on 1220 to go dark in August; at least as we go to press, CHSC (1220 St. Catharines) doesn't appear to be fighting the CRTC's decision not to renew its license when it expires August 31.
  • However dead AM radio may be in Cornwall, it's at least fondly remembered down the St. Lawrence Seaway in Kingston, where the last AM signals went dark a couple of years ago. One of those AM-to-FM moves was CFFX, which went from oldies on 960 to soft AC as "Lite Rock 104.3" - but with the CRTC's decision last year to allow oldies formats on FM, Corus is reviving an earlier AM 960 identity. As of 6 PM last Thursday (August 19), CFFX-FM became CKWS-FM, returning to the AM station's original calls, which stood for the Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper back then and which now cross-promote sister Corus station CKWS-TV (Channel 11). The resurrected CKWS is expected to announce a new on-air lineup today, and it will hold a free downtown oldies concert Sept. 3 to help promote the new format.
  • On the US side of the border, a venerable eastern PENNSYLVANIA AM station has quietly vanshed from the FCC database. WOYL (1340 Oil City) was Venango County's first radio station when it signed on in December 1946; it went silent 63 years later, in December 2009, due to a transmitter failure, and while the FCC granted Special Temporary Authority for WOYL to remain silent through June 2010, it was never renewed and WOYL now appears to be gone for good. (A bit of irony here: WOYL is the second half of a former share-time on the frequency to disappear; WSAJ at Grove City College, which operated only two days a week on the channel, left the AM dial a few years ago.)
  • Upstate NEW YORK radio listeners had a bit of a scare last week when WFXF (95.1 Honeoye Falls) morning man Brother Wease was hospitalized with heart problems. Fortunately (especially given Wease's recent brush with cancer), Wease spent only a few days in the hospital and is recuperating well - but his listeners had a surprise Wednesday morning when Clear Channel plugged WHAM (1180 Rochester) midday talker Bob Lonsberry into Wease's morning slot. Lonsberry, as conservative as Wease is liberal, frequently spars with Wease on-air, but this was his first time serving as Wease's fill-in.

Five Years Ago: August 21, 2006 -

  • Entercom kicked off the week with a bang - announcing deals to buy CBS Radio's stations in four markets, including Rochester, and to pick up Boston's WILD-FM (97.7 Brockton) from Radio One. Entercom will use its $30 million purchase of WILD-FM to create a simulcast with its active rocker WAAF (107.3 Westborough), giving WAAF a real Boston signal for the first time in its history. That simulcast starts this morning, under a time-brokerage agreement, pulling the plug on the urban format that's been running on WILD-FM. Radio One keeps WILD (1090 Boston), which has been carrying its talk network.
  • Meanwhile in Rochester, Entercom will have to divest two stations to stay under the ownership cap once it swallows CBS' modern rock WZNE (94.1 Brighton), classic rock WCMF (96.5 Rochester), top 40 WPXY (97.9 Rochester) and AC WRMM (101.3 Rochester). The company already has four stations in the market - country WBEE (92.5 Rochester), adult hits WFKL (93.3 Fairport), classic hits WBZA (98.9 Rochester) and progressive talk WROC (950 Rochester) - and it will have to shed two FMs to stay under the ownership caps. We'd expect the two class A signals at 93.3 and 94.1 to hit the block - but might there be some format shuffles before that happens? Entercom's $262 million deal with CBS also includes stations in Memphis, Austin and Cincinnati - and notably does not include the CBS Radio cluster in Buffalo, which had been rumored as another potential Entercom target.
  • In VERMONT, Air America Radio changes dial positions today. Steve Silberberg's WVAA (1390 Burlington) has been the network's affiliate for the last year or so - but when it applied for WCAT as its new calls a few weeks back, we suspected change was in the air. Now Air America is moving back to its previous home in the market, co-owned daytimer WTWK (1070 Plattsburgh NY), while WTWK's ESPN Radio sports format moves across the lake to full-time status on 1390.
  • From RHODE ISLAND comes word that Doug White, the veteran WJAR-TV (Channel 10) anchor, died on Tuesday (Aug. 15), at 61, succumbing to the cancer that took him off the air last year. White came to WJAR in 1978 from crosstown WPRI (Channel 12), and he had previously worked at WSMW (Channel 27) in Worcester and at WLBZ-TV (Channel 2) in Bangor, Maine. White was honored with a half-hour special last week on WJAR, as well as a tribute on WPRI.
  • Out on NEW YORK's Long Island, WLIM (1580 Patchogue) has been granted a critical-hours power increase from 5 kW to 10 kW, allowing the Spanish station to stay at full day power for two additional hours after sunrise and before sunset.
  • In Elmira, Carl Proper retired Thursday after four decades behind the anchor desk at WETM (Channel 18, formerly WSYE), ending his career at the station with a retrospective that occupied the entire 6 PM newscast. Proper will stay involved at the station, as a "community ambassador."
  • EMF Broadcasting's "K-Love" contemporary Christian format is entering southern NEW JERSEY. The California-based religious broadcaster is paying $2.5 million to Thomas Moffitt's Broadcast Learning Center to pick up WSJI (89.5 Cherry Hill), which serves the Jersey side of the Philadelphia market. Look for EMF to add additional translators and full-power signals to broaden K-Love's reach in the region.
  • Across the river in PENNSYLVANIA, the week ended without a new format at WSNI (104.5 Philadelphia) - but NERW hears that the "Philly's 106.1" simulcast on the former "Sunny 104.5" could end as soon as today, to be replaced by a Spanish-language FM. Stay tuned...

10 Years Ago: August 20, 2001 -

  • It's been a quiet week here in NERW-land...except when it comes to Albany and the rest of NEW YORK's Hudson Valley. On Friday, Tele-Media announced it was exiting the Capital Region with a $7 million sale of its four-station cluster. The buyer? Rival Pamal Broadcasting (doing business in the market as Albany Broadcasting), which will keep only two of the Tele-Media stations, modern AC WCPT (100.9 Albany) and its "Point" sister up in the Glens Falls market, WKBE (100.3 Warrensburg). To stay under the ownership cap, Tele-Media will sell the other two stations, news WABY (1400 Albany) and soft AC WKLI (94.5 Ravena), to Ed Levine's Galaxy Broadcasting for $3.5 million.
  • Let's jump into analysis mode here: Pamal already has a solid cluster in the Albany market, led by AC WYJB (95.5 Albany), CHR WFLY (92.3 Troy) and talker WROW (590 Albany), but also including urban WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville) and smooth jazz WZMR (104.9 Altamont). Where does WCPT, wedged formatically between WYJB and WFLY, fit in? WCPT has been ratings-challenged for a while now, and while Pamal has taken on market-leading country station WGNA (107.7/1460 Albany) before, with the station that's now WAJZ, we'd have to imagine that another attack isn't impossible. What role WKBE will play in this, we can't quite fathom...
  • The real wild card in this deal is Albany radio veteran Levine, who served as PD of WPYX (106.5 Albany) in the eighties before building his own set of radio clusters in Syracuse and Utica. (Little-known trivia: Levine's WTKW in the Syracuse market was named in homage to the long-defunct WXKW 850 in Albany.)
  • There's not much news from New England this week: in MAINE, Cumulus ditched adult standards from WFAU (1280 Gardiner) in favor of a simulcast of sports talk from WSKW (1160 Skowhegan), leaving central Maine without a standards station. In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Manchester Radio Partners' application for a new station on 750 in Manchester was dismissed. From MASSACHUSETTS comes word that Entercom's new Brighton studios for WRKO (680 Boston) were officially dedicated today in memory of the late talk host Andy Moes. RHODE ISLAND listeners and viewers are mourning Jack Burns. The former DJ, TV crime reporter (on WPRI-TV from the eighties until 1999) and Amtrak conductor died Saturday (Aug. 18) at age 71. CONNECTICUT saw some revolving doors this week, at least in the southeastern corner. After a couple of years as PD of WKCD (107.7 Pawcatuck), Frank "Franco" Carafano returned to his old job as morning man at WQGN (105.5 Groton), where he spent 14 years before leaving in June 1999; meantime, crosstown WAKX (102.3 Stonington) is looking for a new morning host, now that "Jake" (Bob Mitchell) has left the building. A quick bit of useless TV news: W69CL (Channel 69) in Hartford is changing calls to WHCT-LP, resurrecting the longtime calls of channel 18, before that station became Univision's WUVN last year.

15 Years Ago: New England Radio Watch, August 22, 1996

  • A well-known set of Boston call letters has quietly returned to town. WROR was 98.5 FM under RKO and later Atlantic Ventures from the late 1960s until 1991. Now Greater Media has laid claim to the calls, using them for now to replace the equally-historic WMEX calls on leased- time ethnic AM 1150. The expectation around town is that WROR(AM) on 1150 is just a temporary move to hold the calls until they can resurface in a few weeks on one of Greater Media's two country FMs, either WBCS on 96.9 or WKLB on 105.7. At least one of the best-known personalities from WROR's glory days as an oldies and later as an AC station is currently available. Joe Martelle was dropped as morning host earlier this year at the former WROR, now WBMX. His non-compete clause expires in December, and after that he's free to move over to what may become the new WROR-FM. No word yet on what calls 1150 will end up with (although it's a good bet that the WMEX calls will be snapped up somewhere else very quickly.)
  • Ironically, when ARS changed the original WROR to WBMX, they deliberately tried to get the calls out of town. ARS bought the WBMX calls from AM 640 in Zeeland, Michigan, and in turn sent the WROR calls out there to occupy 640. In the years that followed, though, Michigan's WROR(AM) became first WISZ, "Radio Aahs," and now WMFN, "The Fan," leaving the WROR calls open for a return to Boston.
  • More to come, no doubt, as Greater Media keeps dropping clues about where it's going with 96.9 and 105.7 in Boston. The latest rumors seem to add up to 96.9 staying country, although perhaps inheriting the WKLB calls from 105.7, and 105.7 becoming some sort of hot AC, possibly as WROR-FM, on or about September 5. Stay tuned...

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