In this week's issue... Region braces for Sandy's waters, winds - WKAJ nears re-licensing - Beth's back on Rochester morning drive - CRTC pulls another license
By SCOTT FYBUSH
FRIDAY UPDATE: The power and phone service are slowly being restored to parts of lower Manhattan after the devastation Sandy wreaked across the city's infrastructure, and that's good news for many of the broadcasters who call that area home. WOR returned to its 111 Broadway studios on Friday, and power came back on at its New Jersey transmitter site, too. The news was not so good for WMCA (570) and WNYC (820); their shared transmitter site in Kearny, N.J. had about 18 inches of water inside the building, and that means equipment damage that will take some time to replace. WNYC director of engineering Jim Stagnitto tells NERW 820 might be back on the air late this weekend if all goes well.
(New York had another big story overnight: at midnight, Suzyn Waldman launched CBS Radio's new WFAN-FM on 101.9, a nod to the day 25 years ago when hers was the first voice heard on WFAN in its original incarnation at 1050 on the dial.)
Many of the Connecticut and Long Island signals that were silenced by power outages made it back on the air Thursday, including WLUX (540 Islip), WICC (600 Bridgeport) and WGCH (1490 Greenwich). We've been remiss, too, in not noting the simulcast of News 12 Long Island that went on for several days nonstop on WHLI (1100 Hempstead), which stayed on the air past its usual daytime-only hours to help keep Long Island informed.
The scope of the devastation along the Jersey shore is still not fully accounted for, at least from a broadcast perspective, but we know of at least one signal that won't be back any time soon: Stagnitto tells us the transmitter of New Jersey Public Radio's WNJO (90.3 Toms River) is "somewhere out at sea" after the Seaside Park community where it was located was hit by the worst of the storm surge.
We'll have a comprehensive report from across the region in Monday's NERW. (Have you sent us details from your station's response to the storm yet?)
WEDNESDAY UPDATE:We have the first confirmed report of a tower down because of the storm. WRCR (1300 Spring Valley) lost the top of its center tower to Sandy's winds. The station reportedly remains on the air at reduced power.
Meanwhile, WINS (1010) is now back on the air at full power, ending its simulcast on WXRK (92.3), which is back to top-40 as "92.3 NOW."
We're still awaiting word on the fate of WINS' neighbor, WLIB (1190), which remains off the air, as do WMCA (570)/WNYC (820), which share an especially low-lying site in Kearny, where flooding was severe.
And there's non-Sandy news today as well: WRKO (680 Boston) has once again flipped its morning show, sending Michele McPhee and Todd Feinburg packing and installing fill-in host Jeff Kuhner in the slot. More in the next NERW...
TUESDAY NIGHT UPDATE:The day's big news came from WINS (1010), which returned to the air, apparently at reduced power, around 4:20 this afternoon. At least for now, WINS continues to be simulcast on CBS Radio sister station WXRK (92.3); the longer the simulcast lasts, the more speculation is swirling about whether CBS plans to return to the "NOW" top-40 format there, or whether a WINS simulcast just might become permanent. (NERW's take: not quite yet, but it's only a matter of time.)
We're still learning about the extent of the difficulties many stations are having with their lower Manhattan studios, what with the continued extensive power outages south of 31st Street. WOR, for instance, was not only without power at its 111 Broadway studios but also without phone lines, which explains why the station spent the day simulcasting WNBC (Channel 4) audio before returning to local programming from its Lyndhurst, N.J. transmitter site tonight.
With millions of people still without power from Connecticut down to Delaware, it may yet be a few days before we have all the details on what's become of coastal sites along Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. In battered south Jersey, WIBG (1020 Ocean City) is reportedly the only AM signal on the air, simulcasting with sister WIBG-FM (94.3 Avalon). In Connecticut, Paul Thurst's Engineering Radio blog provides details (and pictures) of the destruction at WICC (600) off the coast in Bridgeport: propane tanks went flying and the three-phase power lines to the site are down, so it may be a while yet before WICC is back on the air. (Also off the air in southern Connecticut is Clear Channel's WKCI 101.3 Hamden/New Haven, after simulcasting sister WELI 960 this morning; it's Cox's WPLR 99.1/WEZN-FM 99.9 that are apparently filling the void of nonstop information for area listeners.)
We'll be back with more updates in the morning; thanks to everyone across the region who's been keeping us informed about the happenings in their local markets!
TUESDAY MORNING UPDATE:The radio dial continues to be ravaged by Sandy's aftermath all along the coast from Delaware up to Connecticut, but nowhere more so than in the New Jersey Meadowlands, where most of the New York City AM dial is off the air. WOR (710) is an exception, with its recently-built three-tower site just up high enough to stay above the floodwaters. Chief engineer Tom Ray, who spent the night out in the Meadowlands, reports the water is ten feet deep at the WOR site, at least six feet above its usual level, filling the culverts that line the swampy site.
Just down the road, though, the sites that line nearby Polito Avenue and Valley Brook Road in Lyndhurst are reportedly inundated. (Ray reports "four feet of water" at the intersection of Polito and Route 17, a short distance from the towers.) The flood damage means CBS Radio's big all-news WINS (1010) remains off the air indefinitely, with its programming still shifted to WXRK (92.3) in place of that signal's usual top-40 music. Also off the air: WINS' neighbors WLIB (1190) and WSNR (620), as well as WMCA (570), WNYC (820), WPAT (930), WNYM (970), WADO (1280) and WWRV (1330) from the Meadowlands.
Across the swollen Hudson, the flooding in lower Manhattan has wreaked havoc with studio power. WOR lost its studio power Monday night and has been rebroadcasting audio from WNBC (Channel 4), while WABC-TV (Channel 7) audio continues to be simulcast on WEPN (1050) and WEPN-FM (98.7). CBS reported this morning that its Hudson Square studios were operating "by candlelight," and power has been disrupted at other studios uptown as well.
As you'll read below in our comment section, our readers are reporting that much of the FM dial is silent along the Jersey shore, where the devastation from Sandy may make rebuilding a lengthy process. Several big signals are turning to simulcasts to be heard; Atlantic City's WFPG-FM (96.9), for instance, is silent but sending its programming over to Townsquare sister WENJ-FM (97.3 Millville.)
Much of the Connecticut dial is also silent, including big-signal WICC (600 Bridgeport), whose site on Long Island Sound sits at a vulnerable spot and is likely underwater. WGCH (1490 Greenwich), WAXB (850 Ridgefield) and WSHU (1260 Westport) are also reported off the air. Across the Sound, WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue) is silent, with its programming running on WALK (1370) - and if you're wondering about WLNG (92.1 Sag Harbor), it survived the storm and was back on the air with local emergency information this morning from a soggy but functioning studio.
As for the rest of the region, it appears Sandy's direct hit on New York City may have spared New England and upstate New York the worst of the storm - at least for now. Rains were heavy everywhere from central Pennsylvania to New England, and as we learned from Hurricane Irene last year, huge damage can result when all that water starts working its way downstream through flooded rivers. We'll be keeping an eye on the aftermath - and we hope you'll keep sending us information on Sandy's aftermath in your markets.
TUESDAY OVERNIGHT UPDATE:It's quickly becoming clear that the worst of the storm is being felt along the New Jersey shore and up through New York City and Long Island Sound. In New York, power outages in lower Manhattan have affected the Clear Channel cluster and the CBS Radio studios, which are running on generator power. At CBS, WINS (1010) is off the air, with its programming running instead on WCBS-FM (101.1); as we write this just after 1 AM, WCBS (880) and WFAN (660) are still on the air from High Island in the Bronx, but also simulcasting on WWFS (102.7) and WXRK (92.3), respectively, in case rising waters take High Island off the air.
(Later in the 1 AM hour, WCBS-FM returned to 101.1, with WINS moving its programming to 92.3 in place of WFAN.)
Several other AM signals, including co-located WMCA (570) and WNYC (820), as well as WSNR (620), WLIB (1190) and WWRL (1600), have been reported silent, which suggests there are some major flooding issues in the New Jersey Meadowlands where all those signals emanate. Power outages in New Jersey and in the Catskills have also silenced WFMU (91.1 East Orange)/WMFU (90.1 Mount Hope NY). Along Long Island Sound, WICC (600 Bridgeport) is also reported silent.
And there's some interesting radio coming from stations that aren't normally live or local overnight: WABC (770) has local updates during its syndicated programming with none other than Russ "Famous Amos" DiBello hosting. Up in Vermont, where Sandy's fury has been muted (but where people are on edge because of all the damage Irene's flooding caused a year ago), WDEV (550 Waterbury) is running live all night long with a crew of four.
MONDAY NIGHT UPDATE:Broadcasters around the region are already suffering Sandy's effects, even before the worst of the storm hits. It's impossible to get a full picture of what's happening, given power and communications outages, but here's what we know as of about 8 PM on Monday:
Scattered power outages have taken at least some coastal stations off the air, including New Jersey's WMGM (103.7 Atlantic City) and WFMU (91.1 East Orange), New York's WDVY (106.3 Mount Kisco), Rhode Island's WEAN (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale) and WELH (88.1 Providence) and New Hampshire's WMLL (96.5 Bedford/Manchester). Several stations have had to evacuate studios in low-lying coastal areas: WALK (97.5/1370) has moved to its backup studio at the Suffolk County Emergency Management Center, and WLNG (92.1 Sag Harbor) is in the process of evacuating its studios as water there continues to rise.
All over the region - and there's no spot in the region being left untouched by this storm - there's extended local news coverage on TV and radio and plenty of AM/FM and radio/TV simulcasting going on. In New York City, where the storm may end up hitting hardest, all of the local TV news operations have gone wall-to-wall, offering live streaming as well as blowing out syndicated and network shows for the duration.
At the transmitter end, we know of several big stations where engineers are on the scene to ride out the storm and keep coverage going, and of course our thoughts are very much with everyone out there covering the storm and making sure that coverage gets out to viewers and listeners.
It's too soon just yet to know whether the raging winds and incessant rain will lead to any tower damage around the region, but we know of one casualty so far: the sign outside the WTNH (Channel 8) studios on Elm Street in downtown New Haven succumbed to the wind this evening.
We'll continue to provide updates here - and on Twitter and Facebook - as long as the power and internet hold out here at NERW Central, where the winds are blowing pretty fiercely right now.
* * *
*We've covered plenty of storms and their aftermaths in 18 years of writing this column - but never has there been a single storm that's threatened so much of the region at once as Hurricane Sandy.
As we write this column Sunday night, the storm's winds are blowing off the Jersey shore, where stations such as Atlantic City's WOND (1400) and "New Jersey 101.5" (WKXW Trenton) are already in 24/7 coverage. Over the next couple of days, the storm is expected to turn sharply inland, dumping massive amounts of rain and heavy winds over central Pennsylvania and central New York before turning eastward again over southern Ontario and heading back out toward New England and the Maritimes. Along the way, forecasters are predicting record storm surges along the Atlantic coast all the way up to southern New England as well as up Long Island Sound and the Hudson Valley.
With plenty of advance notice of the storm's ferocity and its predicted path, many stations spent the weekend getting ready, whether lining up radio simulcasts (in New York City, for instance, WABC-TV's Monday coverage will be simulcast on co-owned ESPN radio outlets WEPN 1050/WEPN-FM 98.7) or making sure transmitter sites are prepared (Boston's WBZ 1030, with its transmitter on the coast in Hull, will have an engineer on duty there beginning Monday morning).
Out on Long Island's East End, where waters were already beginning to rise on Sunday, WLNG-FM (92.1 Sag Harbor) ditched its music format Sunday afternoon for nonstop storm coverage, and out on Nantucket the new WAZK (97.7) was one of many stations gearing up to provide local storm information this morning as well.
We'll have an ear out for reports of stations off the air or damaged, and assuming our own power and net connections stay up (we're right in the path of the storm on Tuesday here in Rochester), we'll keep this page, as well as our Facebook and Twitter presences, updated as news comes in. Please use the comment section to let us know what's happening as Sandy hits your area!
*Even as the region braces for this year's Hurricane Sandy, an upstate NEW YORK construction permit that was delayed by last year's storms may be on the verge of emerging from deletion and signing on for the first time.
Yup, it's WKAJ (1120 St. Johnsville), the 10,000-watt signal that made big headlines when the December 2011 expiration of its CP came and went, only to be followed a month later by the erection of four towers and an application for a license. As NERW readers know by now, the FCC rejected the license application, leaving permittee Cranesville Block Company holding the bag for more than $300,000 in construction and equipment costs. Intervention by the area's U.S. House members didn't persuade the FCC to yield, but a letter over the summer from Senator Chuck Schumer appears to have done the trick.
As we reported in our October 8 issue, the FCC told Schumer that "Commission staff will complete its review of the [WKAJ] Application for Review and prepare a recommendation for the full Commission as expeditiously as possible." And indeed, the action proved expeditious: on October 15, presumably at the Media Bureau's direction, Cranesville submitted a revised application for a license to cover on the signal, and last week the FCC accepted that application for filing. The application includes copious documentation of Cranesville's claims that construction was already underway before the permit expired - and of its assertion that the aftereffects of Hurricane Irene in August and the sudden abandonment of the project by the tower contractor forced an unavoidable delay in construction. Cranesville says it had already bought the station's transmitter and other equipment in the fall of 2011, but it tells the FCC that "[b]ecause of flooded and mud-clogged roads, power outages, and rain-soaked conditions at its proposed site, CBC was unable to move the broadcast equipment which it had already purchased, to its transmission site, until late November 2011."
As for the tower contractor, Cranesville's filing includes copies of the contract with the Georgia-based company, which was hired December 2 (and paid more than $26,000 in advance) with a promise to finish the job by the December 15 CP deadline.
There's really only one big unanswered question in Cranesville's extensive filing: why, knowing that those factors would make completion by December 15, 2011 impossible, did Cranesville wait until early 2012 to reach out to the FCC in an attempt to win another extension of its CP? (And, of course, why construction didn't even begin until the fall of 2011 on a CP that had been granted in April 2008?)
Assuming the FCC is now prepared to grant WKAJ its license, the process should proceed pretty quickly from here: the application proposes a "method of moments" license that depends on computer modeling of the new array rather than requiring an old-fashioned field proof, and of course everything's now in place at the St. Johnsville tower site for a quick sign-on. Would an FCC license grant come tied to a fine for unauthorized construction after the CP had expired? We wouldn't be at all surprised. (As for programming, we also wouldn't be at all surprised if WKAJ signs on, at least initially, with a simulcast of sister station WCSS 1490 down the Mohawk Valley in Amsterdam. The station was reportedly planning to have a morning show with longtime Utica personality Hank Brown, but he's since signed on with WUSP 1550 in Utica instead.)
*Here in Rochester, schedules are changing at the city's two biggest AM operations. At Clear Channel's WHAM (1180), Rush Limbaugh had been running on delay for two decades, mostly as a 2-5 PM show and then for the last few months from 1-4 PM. As best we can tell, WHAM was the last station in the country still being allowed to carry Limbaugh on delay, and that came to an end last week. As of last Monday, Rush is now live on WHAM from 12-3 PM, part of a schedule shift that pushes Bob Lonsberry to a slightly earlier slot (8:30 AM-noon instead of 9 AM-1 PM) and returns Michael Savage to the schedule. (WHAM had dropped Savage's old TRN show last year, and crosstown WYSL had picked it up.)
On WHAM, Savage's new Cumulus show is being heard live from 9 PM-midnight, knocking out a delayed run of Glenn Beck, who's now absent from the market. The rest of WHAM's weekday schedule now includes two live hours of Sean Hannity (3-5 PM), the "WHAM 5 O'Clock News Hour" (5-6 PM), Bob Matthews (6-9 PM) and that stray third hour of Hannity delayed to midnight, leading into "Coast to Coast AM" at 1 AM.
WHAM's longtime morning co-host, meanwhile, is moving across town. Precisely a year after Clear Channel's big October 2011 cutbacks cost Beth Adams her 23-year gig at WHAM, she's signed on with public broadcaster WXXI, where she'll be the new local "Morning Edition" host beginning in late November. (Adams had most recently been doing PR for a local child-advocacy agency.) Adams' return to the airwaves sets in motion a schedule change at WXXI (1370)/WRUR-FM (88.5) as well: veteran "Morning Edition" local host Alex Crichton shifts to afternoons as local host of "All Things Considered," and local "ATC" host Helene Biandudi becomes a full-time reporter and will take over more responsibility for the local WXXI-TV public-affairs show, "Need to Know Rochester." (Usual disclaimer applies: your editor is a part-time host/reporter at WXXI.)
There's one fewer member of the "grandfathered 100-kilowatt club" in the northeast. Buffalo's WNED-FM (94.5) has long been licensed with 105 kW/708' from its grandfathered tower site in the hills south of the city, but that's about to change. A check of the coordinates of that tower site on Zimmerman Road showed they were off slightly - and reworking the height-above-average-terrain calculation for the new coordinates showed that the WNED-FM antenna is actually slightly higher than had been thought. Raising the WNED-FM antenna (on paper, anyway) to the corrected height of 723 feet above average terrain results in reducing WNED-FM's power to 96 kilowatts, and the station now holds a construction permit to make the adjustment. (Who's left in the 100-kilowatt club in what would otherwise be 50 kW class B territory? Buffalo's WTSS 102.5 and WDCX 99.5 both remain at 110 kW, while WYYY 94.5 in Syracuse and WFRG-FM 104.3 in Utica are licensed at exactly 100 kW each.)
In Albany, "Talk 1300" (WGDJ Rensselaer) has dropped local talk host Al Roney from the 3-6 PM weekday slot. Roney had moved from WGY (810) over to WGDJ in 2010. No replacement has been named yet at WGDJ, which lists only "Afternoon Programming" in that slot for now.
*Is the end of WRXP (101.9 New York) coming this week? Merlin, which is selling the station to CBS Radio for $75 million, filed last week to change calls to WFAN-FM, so the transition to a WFAN (660) sports simulcast is coming sometime soon.
*Why hasn't Clear Channel taken over yet at its new New York City AM property? Back in August, Clear Channel announced its $30 million acquisition of Buckley Radio's WOR (710), with the official FCC license-assignment filing taking place August 17. But it turns out approval of the transfer has been held up by an informal objection filed by rival broadcaster Connoisseur Media. Connoisseur's not in New York City proper, but its Long Island station cluster competes vigorously with WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue)/WALK (1370 Patchogue), the stations Clear Channel had to put in its Aloha Station Trust way back in 2007 when the company went private and lost the grandfathering that had allowed it to own WALK and its five-FM cluster in New York City.
Those long-running trust situations have flummoxed the FCC (and competing owners) in the past; in Los Angeles, independent broadcaster Saul Levine has been fighting CBS Radio over KFWB (980), which went into trust to keep CBS under the radio/TV crossownership cap that would otherwise limit it to six radio stations (five FM/one AM) and two TV stations in the market. Connoisseur would no doubt like to see Clear Channel unwind its interest in WALK entirely in order to be able to acquire WOR; Buckleyl, for its part, has filed a "request for expedited consideration" asking the FCC to swiftly approve the transaction to get the station into Clear Channel's hands
*Radio People on the Move in New York City: after a dozen years in morning drive at Fordham University's WFUV (90.7), Claudia Marshall left the station on Friday. "I have some exciting things in the works," Marshall announced in a blog post; for now, WFUV's Corny O'Connell has shifted from evenings to fill in for Marshall on morning drive, with fill-in hosts Eric Holland and Carmel Holt handling evenings.
Over at Emmis' WQHT (Hot 97.1), J. Medina moves up from part-time duties to full-time overnights as host of "Up All Night with J. Medina."
Where Are They Now? Former WBEE (92.5 Rochester) music director/jock Nikki Landry is on the move again: after stints in Sacramento, San Francisco and Washington, Landry was most recently at KVDU in New Orleans doing afternoons, but she's now heading north to Toledo's WWWM (Star 105.5) to be PD and afternoon jock. And Tom Langmyer, who started his career in his native Buffalo (at WGR) and in Syracuse (as program director of WSYR/WYYY), exited his most recent post as VP/general manager of WGN (720 Chicago) last week after eight years weathering the storm of Tribune's financial woes at the station. Might Langmyer, one of radio's true good guys, end up back in western New York?
*On TV, there's a new news director at Elmira's WETM (Channel 18), where Scott Levy has arrived after a stint at News 12 Bronx/Brooklyn. Levy replaces Scott Nichols, who's now down in eastern North Carolina at WCTI/WFXI-WYDO. Here in Rochester, Maria Leaf starts today on the assignment desk at WROC/WUHF; she's previously worked at KDKA in Pittsburgh and WSYR in Syracuse.
And there's word from Long Island of the death of Jerome Karpf, Jr., better known as "Jerry Carr" during his many years as the program director at WHLI (1100/98.3). Carr, who came to WHLI from newspapering and later went on to teach journalism and broadcasting at C.W. Post, was 93. (He was no relation to upstate's famous "Jerry Carr," longtime outdoor weatherman for WOKR and then founding general manager at WUHF.)
*As central PENNSYLVANIA braces for high winds and heavy rains from Sandy, it's otherwise been a relatively quiet week in the Keystone State.
In Philadelphia, CBS Radio has landed Villanova University's basketball and football rights. The Wildcats move to WIP (610) from their previous home on Greater Media's WPEN (950), which will flip from a "Fanatic" sports simulcast with WPEN-FM (97.5) to religion under new owner Family Stations sometime in early December. A letter from Family founder Harold Camping to New York listeners announcing the sale of WFME (94.7 Newark) revealed that the new calls on 950 will, as expected, be WKDN; Family parked that callsign on its State College station (88.3, formerly WXFR) after selling WKDN-FM (106.9 Camden NJ, now WWIQ) last year.
(As for WIP on 610, it's soon to depart its own sports simulcast with WIP-FM 94.1 in favor of the new CBS Sports Radio network.)
In the Danville area, Joe Reilly's Columbia Broadcasting is applying for a frequency change on a translator of WHLM (930 Bloomsburg). W290CG started out on 106.1 in Bloomsburg, but concerns over interference to co-channel WLZS in Beaver Springs sent the translator first to 105.9 and then, under special temporary authority, down to 105.5 with a move westward to Danville. WHLM has now asked the FCC to make that move to 105.5 permanent, using a site east of Danville.
Pittsburgh's WYEP (91.3) has named a new co-host for its "Morning Mix" on weekdays. Joey Spehar, who now hosts the "Friday Night Block Party" on WYEP, will join Cindy Howe in the mornings.
In Philadelphia, they're mourning Andy Hopkins, who was the midday guy for almost two decades at WPEN (950) when it was the "Station of the Stars." Hopkins moved into software development after leaving WPEN. He died while out playing golf in Delaware last week. He was 69.
*It's not looking a lot like Christmas in southern NEW JERSEY, but all-Christmas radio is back on the air in Wildwood. WEZW (93.1 Wildwood Crest) is traditionally one of the first stations in the country to make the flip to holiday music, and this year was no exception, as "Easy 93.1" made the move last week.
*There's an subtle ownership change in western MASSACHUSETTS, where Vox Communications is transferring its eleven stations (including six in the Berkshires) to a new company called Gamma Broadcasting LLC. The new Gamma group still has Bruce Danziger at its helm and Ken Barlow and Keith Thomas as partners, but they yield up some of their ownership interest in the company to Kevin LeRoux and Ira Rosenblatt, who get a 38% interest in the company in exchange for assuming a portion of its debts. In addition to its stations in North Adams (WUPE-FM/WNAW), Pittsfield (WBEC-FM/WBEC/WUPE) and Great Barrington (WSBS), Vox/Gamma also owns stations in central Virginia and the Florida Keys.
*In western CONNECTICUT, they're remembering "Commander Jim" Clarke, who was on the air for many years at WRKI (95.1 Brookfield). Clarke died October 17, at age 59. And we're getting belated word as well of the death of Donald Molinelli, who was known as "Don Moline" during his years as program director of the old WBIS (1440 Bristol, now WPRX 1120). Moline, who'd also worked at WKQW (1300 Spring Valley NY, now WRCR), succumbed to leukemia August 16, at age 68.
*Has anyone been working in southern MAINE radio longer than Mike Audet? The veteran WGAN (560 Portland) newsman began his career at Waterville's WTVL (1490) all the way back in 1954 and eventually worked in just about every Portland newsroom - WLOB, WCSH radio, WGAN, then three decades as morning newsman on WPOR before returning to WGAN as afternoon news anchor. Audet announced last week that he'll retire from WGAN at the end of 2012; no replacement has yet been named.
*From NEW HAMPSHIRE comes word of a studio move in the works for the Nassau stations that Bill Binnie is taking over soon in the Lakes Region. The Nassau cluster has been located at the Village West office park in Gilford, but the Laconia Daily Sun reports that Binnie is in negotiations to buy the former Laconia police station on Church Street from the city.
Up north, it appears a short-lived FM station is now dead. Silver Fish Broadcasting's WTTT (98.7 Stratford) was licensed in April 2011, then promptly went silent as it sought a move to a different site and as it tried to fight off a petition from a rival broadcaster alleging that WTTT's class A signal from a site along US 3 in Stratford did not provide full coverage of the community of license. WTTT never told the FCC it had returned to the air, and earlier this month the Commission notified Silver Fish that the WTTT license had expired as a matter of law in April 2012.
*There's a license deletion in CANADA as well, where a newly assertive CRTC has rescinded another Ontario station's authority to broadcast. This time it's religious station CHIM (102.3 Timmins), which was Canada's first non-commercial Christian station when it signed on in 1996. But when owner Roger de Brabant went to renew CHIM's license, the CRTC finally lost patience after several rounds of short-term renewals and mandatory orders. Citing missing logger tapes, delayed and incomplete annual reports and other issues, the CRTC said "the licensee has demonstrated that it is unaware of its obligations, and has shown a general inability or unwillingness to comply." What's more, the CRTC says it "is also concerned that the licensee does not respect the Commission’s authority or take its responsibilities as a licensee seriously." As a result, CHIM has been ordered off the air (not just in Timmins but on 10 relay transmitters across northern Ontario and Alberta) no later than November 30.
It's not just broadcasters in the U.S. who have had trouble with low-band VHF digital TV. In Paris, south of Kitchener, Global is asking the CRTC to allow it to move CIII-DT from RF channel 6 to RF channel 17. Global has operated on channel 6 from Paris since the network's 1972 debut, but the network says that after the move to digital (with 4 kW/311 m), "reception has been found to be poor." Channel 17 became available when the CBC shut down its Radio-Canada transmitter at Paris, CBLFT-8, which had operated in analog on channel 56 and had been assigned 17 as a digital channel. Global proposes to operate with 165 kW/272 m from the Paris tower on channel 17. (And if you're keeping score at home, this would be the second time Global has used an abandoned CBC channel, since the original channel 6 became possible at Paris when the CBC moved CBLT Toronto from channel 6 to channel 5 in the early 1970s.)
In Ottawa, the CRTC has rejected an application from Fiston Kalambay for a new 51-watt French-language Christian station on 92.7 after Industry Canada deemed the application not to be technically acceptable.
*Good news, everybody! The 2013 Tower Site Calendar is finally back from the printer this week, and on its way out to YOU!
This is the 12th edition of our annual calendar, which features photos of broadcast towers taken by Scott Fybush on his travels.
The 12-month wall calendar boasts a full-color photo each month of a well-known broadcast transmitter site.
This year’s edition includes sites in Florida, Wisconsin, Kentucky, California, Iowa, Idaho, Las Vegas, Colorado, Boston, Cleveland, Albuquerque, upstate New York and western Massachusetts. We've also redesigned the calendar to make it more colorful (don't worry; the pictures are still pristine) and make the spiral binding our standard binding -- your calendar will hang even better on your wall now! And of course, we still have the convenient hole for hanging.
Order 20 or more for a 10% discount! And while you're at the Fybush.com store, check out the new National Radio Club AM Log and the final stash of FM Atlas editions.
For more information and to order yours, click here!
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: October 31, 2011 -
*Some weeks, it just hurts to sit down and write this column. Over 17 years, we've chronicled a lot of ups and downs in the radio business all over the northeast, and in the last few years it seems like there have been more downs than ups many weeks.
But this past week - this past Wednesday, to be specific - set a new level of ugly, as dozens of talented, hard-working, dedicated radio people all over the region found out their jobs had been pulled out from under them, and by several different companies all at once.
Industry gossip leading up to Wednesday made it pretty clear that local Clear Channel Radio employees in small and medium markets would be the targets of some pretty extensive firings as part of the company's plan to centralize more of its operations. (We could reprint the press-release PR-speak about "improving local service" and whatnot, but really, why bother?)
It wasn't just Clear Channel Radio making cuts on Wednesday, though: Townsquare Media pulled the plug on local airstaff in one of its markets, Cumulus eviscerated one of its big markets out west, affecting several New York veterans along the way, and Clear Channel's traffic services, operated separately from the radio stations, went through their own Black Wednesday, leaving at least one local office reportedly unable to fully service its clients on Thursday.
So what shows up in place of all those local radio people? We'll spare you the "new paradigms" and "program-delivery efficiencies" and all that; the expectation on the ground is that most of those shifts will end up being filled, at least for now, by Clear Channel's "Premium Choice" satellite service, which might provide some cute anecdotes about whatever it is J-Lo is up to, but probably won't be very useful when there's a surprise late-October snowstorm bearing down on a small market...about which, more later in this week's column.
*At least two NEW YORK broadcasters have another year of job security: the Yankees have extended their broadcast deal with CBS Radio's WCBS (880) through the 2012 season, ensuring another year of overly-dramatized outfield fly ball calls from John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman in the booth - and another year of speculation about where the Yankees' radio rights will land for a longer-term deal starting in 2013.
*In Utica, Steve Doerr is the new general manager for Smith Media's WKTV (Channel 2) - and like his predecessor in the job, Vic Vetters, he'll also hold the same title up in VERMONT, where he's also overseeing Burlington-market WVNY (Channel 22)/WFFF (Channel 44). Doerr's arrival completes an inadvertent market-for-market swap with Providence, RHODE ISLAND: he'd been running WLNE (Channel 6) there until April, while Vetters left Smith in Utica and Burlington to become GM at WJAR (Channel 10) in Providence.
And we close the Empire State portion of the column this week with an obituary for Dan Burke, who was a key part of the Capital Cities Communications executive team for almost half a century. Burke came to Capital Cities' WTEN in Albany in 1961 and worked his way up the corporate ladder to become CEO in 1990. By then, Capital Cities had emerged into national prominence with its 1986 purchase of ABC, and Burke remained at the helm of the combined company until his retirement in 1994. Burke died Wednesday in Rye, New York, at age 86.
*A station sale in northwestern PENNSYLVANIA: Chris Lash's Whiplash Radio is taking over at WHYP (1370 Corry) under an LMA-to-purchase deal with Vilkie Communications.
Lash is a native of the region - and, reports PBRTV.com, he even worked at the station (formerly WWCB) while he was in high school.
Lash will take over operations in Corry on December 1. No purchase price has been announced.
Near State College, Magnum Broadcasting's WQKK (106.9 Renovo) has flipped formats: it's dropped its "Qwik Rock" simulcast with WQCK 105.9 in favor of soft AC as "Y106.9."
In the Philadelphia suburbs, the identity shift at the former WPAZ (1370 Pottstown) is complete: last Monday's reimaging as "The Buzz" came with new calls, WBZH, as well. While WBZH continues to struggle with an ailing transmitter - it was off the air for much of Friday and Saturday - its old calls have been parked up the road at a construction permit belonging to Four Rivers Community Broadcasting, which flipped WZMV (89.1 Mohrsville) to "WPAZ" last week.
*The big, and rather unexpected, story from New England as we write the column on Sunday night is the snowstorm that blustered its way up the coast over the weekend, taking down power and phone lines from the mid-Atlantic states up into the Canadian Maritimes.
Thankfully, there have been no reports so far of any downed towers - but plenty of signals were silenced as the storm made its way through the region, most notably in the Merrimack Valley, where we're hearing that every signal in Lowell was silent early Sunday morning. Much of CONNECTICUT was affected as well, with some areas taking on two feet of snow from the freak storm.
*A few new signals to report in MASSACHUSETTS: in Marshfield, WUMT (91.7), the new relay of Boston's WUMB-FM (91.9), has applied for its license to cover, while out west in "Baptist Village" (in reality, Hampden, east of Springfield), construction on the new religious outlet WJCI (89.5) wrapped up just before the snow started flying.
MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: At midnight, Clear Channel pulled the trigger on its big facility shift in the Springfield market, killing off WRNX (100.9 Amherst) and flipping the frequency to country as "Kix 100.9." For now, it's a simulcast of WPKX (97.9 Enfield CT) - but not for long, since the 97.9 facility is moving south to Windsor Locks, Connecticut, with a new transmitter site in downtown Hartford.
Five Years Ago: October 29, 2007 -
*The urban radio war in CONNECTICUT's biggest market is over, and CBS Radio's WZMX (93.7 Hartford) is the survivor. Thursday morning at 10, Clear Channel pulled the plug on the "Power 104" hip-hop format at WPHH (104.1 Waterbury), a little more than four years after it went up against "Hot 93.7."
While WZMX had an all-local lineup, WPHH used syndicated talent in morning and afternoon drive (Steve Harvey and Wendy Williams, respectively), and its ratings never quite measured up to its CBS competitor, even before the eventual arrival of the Portable People Meter in the market, with all the ratings headaches it's brought to urban formats in the markets where it's already launched.
So just as it did in Philadelphia, where Clear Channel killed off Spanish tropical "Rumba 104.5" in favor of modern rock "Radio 104" at WRFF (104.5), Clear Channel went to a modern rock format on the newly-renamed "FM 104one" in Hartford. And therein lies an irony: the "Radio 104" image that landed in Philly came right out of the old WMRQ in Hartford - an image valuable enough, apparently, that Clear Channel was keeping the old Radio 104 website alive in Hartford years after the format change to "Power," complete with an automated webstream. (That site quietly went away after the "FM 104one" launch last week, replaced by a page that forwards to the new WPHH site.)
*In other Nutmeg State news, Antonio Gois' Gois Communications is paying $2.65 million to buy Spanish tropical WLAT (910 New Britain) and Spanish news-talk WNEZ (1230 Manchester) from the bankrupt Freedom Communications. Gois is no stranger to the Connecticut River valley; he sold WSPR and WACM in Springfield to Davidson a couple of years ago, and he still owns WORC (1310) over in Worcester. He'll take over the Hartford-market stations via an LMA November 1.
*Crossing the border to NEW YORK, our week's news begins with a new morning show at WWRL (1600 New York), which axed its Armstrong Williams/Sam Greenfield morning entry on Thursday, replacing them with former WABC/WWOR host Richard Bey and erstwhile Air America talker Mark Riley. (WWRL is an Air America affiliate for most of the day, but it does its own thing in morning drive.)
Over at ESPN Radio's WEPN (1050 New York), another ESPN network shift is now being covered up locally, as Gordon Damer takes the 2-6 AM weeknight slot. (Which means, oddly, that there's now live, local talk all night on New York's two sports stations, while its mainstream talkers are both running nationally-syndicated fare, even if the Joey Reynolds show at least originates at WOR.)
The big ownership shuffle that clears Clear Channel out of the Utica/Rome market closed Thursday, and the new owners wasted no time rearranging much of that area's radio dial. Here's how it's all playing out so far:
Galaxy Communications bought the Clear Channel stations, and the big prize that it's keeping is classic rocker WOUR (96.9 Utica), which moved from Clear Channel's downtown Utica studios on Genesee Street to Galaxy's New Hartford studios. For the moment, we're hearing that the syndicated Bob & Tom show remains in morning drive, with Galaxy talent from Syracuse voicetracking the rest of the day.
Galaxy also gets hot AC WUMX (102.5 Rome), which is running automated outside of its syndicated drivetime shows, as well as sports talkers WRNY (1350 Rome) and WIXT (1230 Little Falls), which will end up as a sports simulcast with Galaxy's WTLB (1310 Utica), flipping from standards.
Galaxy immediately spun several other Clear Channel signals to Ken Roser, who's made no changes yet to top 40 "Kiss" WSKS (97.9 Whitesboro)/WSKU (105.5 Little Falls). Roser also gets the other two signals that had been part of the "Sports Stars" simulcast, and we're told WUTQ (1550 Utica) and WADR (1480 Remsen) will end up simulcasting Roser's "Bug Country" WBGK (99.7 Newport Village), at least for the moment. (Will Roser end up with Clear Channel's Mayro Building studios, or will Kiss and the AM signals move up Genesee Street to the Bug studios? We don't yet know.)
The third piece of the spinoff involves EMF Broadcasting, which is picking up one of Clear Channel's stations, classic hits WOKR (93.5 Remsen), and one station that had been in Galaxy's hands, big-signal classic rocker WRCK (107.3 Utica). We'd thought EMF would put its flagship "K-Love" contemporary Christian format on the 107.3 signal, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Instead, 107.3 flipped to EMF's Christian rock "Air 1," leaving K-Love on EMF's existing WKVU (100.7 Utica) and now on WOKR as well. (An EMF press release talked about closing a signal gap between EMF's existing signals in Syracuse and Albany, but the addition of WOKR to the K-Love network doesn't add much to WKVU's current reach in that department, whereas WRCK would fill a big gap between Syracuse rimshotter WSCP-FM and the Utica area.)
In Albany, we know more about the impending sale of Regent's WTMM (1300 Rensselaer) to a group headed by former WROW (590 Albany) morning host Paul Vandenburgh. The group is doing business as "Capital Broadcasting, Inc.," and until it closes on its $850,000 purchase of the AM signal, it plans to launch its talk format under an LMA with Regent from Regent's Schenectady studios. Other principals in Capital, which plans to rebrand the station as WCBI (did anyone tell Channel 4 in Columbus, Mississippi, which has been WCBI-TV for years?) include Robert McCormick, the CEO of Trustco Bank, as well as several local attorneys and stockbrokers who hosted weekend shows on WROW.
Now that Michael Doyle's been promoted from Rochester market manager to a regional vice president at Entercom, sales manager Susan Munn is moving up to take Doyle's old job in the Rochester cluster. (Doyle will continue to be based here as well.)
And an obituary just in to us here at NERW: we're very sorry to report the passing on Sunday of Craig Kingcaid, the veteran Rochester engineer who spent many years at WEZO/WNYR, and later as chief engineer at Clear Channel's local cluster.
Kingcaid had been battling cancer for several months, we're told.
*In western PENNSYLVANIA, the simulcast of WBXQ (94.3 Patton) and WBRX (94.7 Cresson) has come to an end after 16 years. While 94.3 keeps its classiic rock format and longtime "Q94" identity, 94.7 has flipped to AC as "Mix 94.7," using a Jones satellite service for now.
*In CANADA, we offer congratulations to Wayne Herrett's Seaside Broadcasting, which has won CRTC permission to increase the power at CFEP (Seaside 94.7) in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia from its current 50 watts to 1.4 kW. Herrett's been dreaming for a long time of having a full-signaled station, and this is definitely a case of one of the "good guys" winning.
In Toronto, Rogers has found a new home for CITY-TV (Channel 57) and its OMNI stations (CFMT/CJMT). They'll move to the "Olympic Torch Building" at 35 Dundas Street East, ending City's run on Queen Street West (where the "ChumCity Building" will continue to house MuchMusic and other cable channels that are now in CTV's hands) and moving the OMNI channels from their longtime home on Lake Shore Boulevard.
Ten Years Ago: October 28, 2002 -
It's been ten months since Christian contemporary station WWJS (90.1) in Watertown, NEW YORK went silent, the victim of a nasty spat between owner Charles Savidge and his father-in-law, Rev. Robert Bryant, who owns the Liberty Christian Center that was the station's home. And with the FCC's strict rule about deleting stations that remain dark for a full 12 months, the deadline was fast approaching for something to happen with this frequency up there. And while it looked a little iffy (and sparked a new battle between Savidge and Bryant), WWJS made it back to the airwaves last Wednesday (Oct. 23), according to NERW North Country bureau chief Michael Roach. Actually, WWJS would have been back a few days earlier -- but, Roach reports, Bryant hired workers to go to the WWJS transmitter site east of town on Champion Hill (also home to WWNY-TV and WTOJ 103.1) to remove, yes, the transmitter!
But the mess has caught the attention of Watertown's other broadcasters, and in stepped David Mance, owner of WTOJ (as well as WBDI/WBDR, WATN and WOTT), who's letting Savidge use one of his auxiliary transmitters for the moment. Expect another round (or three or six) of lawsuits, including one in which Bryant is apparently claiming that he owns the WWJS call letters! (NERW notes: there's no trademark on "WWJS," and nobody actually owns call letters, according to established case law.)
Elsewhere in the Empire State, Sunrise Broadcasting has moved another step forward in its attempt to get something back on the air at 1200 kHz in the Hudson Valley. You may recall that Sunrise's WGNY in Newburgh occupied that channel under special temporary authority for most of the 90s, in an attempt to win a permanent upgrade from its longtime spot at 1220 on the dial. But the upgrade of New York's WLIB on 1190 doomed a fulltime 1200 signal in Newburgh, and WGNY had to slide back to 1220 a few years back. But Sunrise didn't give up, and now its application for a new station on 1200 in Kingston, some 40 miles north of Newburgh, has been accepted for filing at the FCC. The new 1200 would run 2000 watts day from two towers and 400 watts night from five towers, which would require a rebuild of the existing WGHQ (920) site off Route 9W just south of Kingston.
Mega Communications has sold its lone central MASSACHUSETTS property: WARE (1250 Ware) goes to Marshall Sanft's "Siccess Signal Broadcasting" (hey, it's radio, spelling doesn't matter!) for a reported $250,000. If the name sounds familiar, it's because Sanft used to own WESO (970) in nearby Southbridge; his father owned WOKW (1410 Brockton, now WMSX) in days gone by.
And on the TV side, WWLP-DT (Channel 11) in Springfield took air this week, running 1.95 kW from the WWLP-TV (Channel 22) tower high atop Provin Mountain.
Fifteen Years Ago: October 30, 1997 -
It's an early Halloween for pirate broadcasters in New England, and they're not getting any treats from the FCC. On Tuesday afternoon, FCC agents visited Radio Free Allston (106.1) at its studios in an Allston art gallery, as well as Worcester pirate WDOA (89.3), ordering the stations off the air and threatening fines and jail time if broadcasts continued. RFA founder Steven Provizer was manning the board at the station when the agents arrived. He says they photographed RFA's equipment and transmitter readings but did not confiscate anything, and he's promising a renewed fight in court to make RFA legitimate. Provizer says the FCC told him it had received complaints from a licensed broadcaster (he says it's WROR (105.7) that made the complaint). Other area pirates aren't waiting for the FCC to come trick-or-treating; they've voluntarily suspended operations while waiting for things to quiet down. The web page for Rebel Music Radio in Boston (105.3) displays only color bars and the words "Sorry it had to happen...we're off the air." Also off the air is Radio Free Chelmsford, 88.3, according to its web site.
The battle between the pirates and the FCC is far from over; Provizer is already getting assistance from the ACLU in his case and he's promising to see things all the way through in court. We'll keep you posted...
In other news from MASSACHUSETTS this week: Keating Willcox's Willow Farm Broadcasting has closed on its purchase of WPEP (1570 Taunton); staying at the station are George and Donna Colajezzi and their local morning show. A follow-up to last week's mention of the sale of WBET (1460) and WCAV (97.7) in Brockton: new owner KJI Broadcasting has the same ownership as Pittsfield's WBEC (1420/105.5) out in the Berkshires.
One of CONNECTICUT's largest broadcast groups is for sale. At a staff meeting Tuesday morning, Capstar employees were told the company's Fairfield radio group is on the block. Capstar's Connecticut properties include news-talk trimulcast WSTC (1400 Stamford)/WNLK (1350 Norwalk)/WINE (940 Brookfield), oldies WKHL (96.7 Stamford), classic rock WEFX (95.9 Norwalk), and rocker WRKI (95.1 Brookfield). Rumor has Clear Channel eyeing the stations to add to its own 2AM-1FM group in nearby New Haven.
In NEW HAMPSHIRE, the simulcast between WJYY (105.5 Concord) and WNHQ (92.1 Peterborough) started last Friday, more than a week ahead of schedule. Up in Manchester, WKBR (1250) has flipped back to the One-on-One Sports format, supposedly for good this time. WKBR was apparently having trouble getting a clear satellite signal from One-on-One; they've built a new dish to fix that problem.
Could little WGOT (Channel 60) in Merrimack become Boston's latest network O&O? WGOT owner Lowell Paxson is talking about using his own group of UHF stations to create a seventh network. Labelling WGOT as the "Boston" affiliate would be a bit of a stretch; while the station has cable carriage through the northern half of the market and a translator (W54CN) in Needham, its over-the-air signal is weak to nonexistent in Boston proper. Paxson also controls WHRC (Channel 46) in Norwell, Mass. through an LMA; it too might become part of the network. Elsewhere in the region, Paxson stations include WTWS (Channel 26) New London CT, WPXN-TV (Channel 31) New York, WHAI-TV (Channel 43) Bridgeport, and the not-yet-built WAQF (Channel 51) Batavia-Buffalo.
Also making network noises is Barry Diller's Silver King group, which includes WHSH (Channel 66) Marlborough-Boston, WHSE (Channel 68) Newark-New York, and WHSI (Channel 67) Smithtown, L.I. With Diller's acquisition of the USA network this week, there's growing speculation that he'll use the Silver King stations as the core of a new broadcast network (in addition to his CityVision local programming plans).