In this week’s issue… “Now” it’s WNOW in New York – Binnie flips New Hampshire formats – WUMB gets its upgrade – Nexstar buys in Burlington – Jazz comes back to Pittsburgh? – HD local news arrives in Erie – 600 returns to Montreal
By SCOTT FYBUSH
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*It’s been just over a year since the public radio scene in western PENNSYLVANIA changed dramatically with Duquesne University’s sale of WDUQ (90.5 Pittsburgh) to a new group called Essential Public Radio. Renamed WESA, 90.5 shed most of the jazz programming that had long been a staple there – and most of the former WDUQ staff, too. Many of those staffers had been involved with a rival bid for the 90.5 license under the “Pittsburgh Public Media” banner, and after losing out on the broadcast license, they remained active with other ventures. Even without a station to call home, former DUQ staffers kept the jazz format going by way of an online stream (“Pittsburgh Jazz Channel“) while planning more new formats to offer under the “PubMusic” banner.
It turns out they were planning something else, too: not long after WDUQ became WESA, Pittsburgh Public Media began negotiating to find a new FM home. On Friday, PPM announced it’s entered an agreement to buy WVBC (88.1), the radio signal of Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia, some 35 miles west of Pittsburgh. PPM openly acknowledges that the 1100-watt signal “is a station that needs signal improvements” before it can be easily heard in most of the Pittsburgh area, and NERW notes that will be a challenge, what with Carnegie Mellon’s WRCT (88.3) right in Pittsburgh and He’s Alive, Inc.s’ religious WRWJ (88.1 Murrysville) out to the southeast of town.
“We must start somewhere,” PPM says, and it’s now launching a fundraising campaign to bring in $150,000 for the purchase of WVBC by February 1, 2013. Once it’s on the air with its new 88.1 rimshot signal, PPM says it will be ready to go with a studio: it turns out WESA sold all of the old WDUQ studio gear to PPM when it built new South Side studios with quasi-sister station WYEP (91.3) late last year.
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*Good news, everybody! A new shipment of the 2013 Tower Site Calendar is back from the printer, 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: November 14, 2011 -
So, where were you at 2 PM on Wednesday? The first-ever national test of the Emergency Alert System had broadcasters (and especially broadcast engineers) on alert themselves, waiting to see whether the system would actually work as federal officials attempted to deliver a test message from Washington to every broadcast station, cable operator and satellite provider in the nation.
To hear the mass-media reports after the fact, the test was a failure, and it’s not hard to see why listeners and viewers would have reached that conclusion: if they were in fact paying close attention just after 2, they’d have heard the usual EAS alert tones (the fabled “duck farts”), followed either by dead air in some areas or by muddy, doubled audio in others – and then a few more “duck farts” and right back to normal programming.
But behind the scenes, it’s increasingly clear that for the most part, broadcasters upheld their part of their “voluntary” partnership to help deliver emergency information: the test data and audio delivered from FEMA to the Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations around the region was successfully passed down the daisy chain to most of the local stations expecting to hear it. It’s just that the audio coming into the system was painfully bad – and the fault for that didn’t lie with the broadcasters but rather with FEMA itself, which reportedly fed it to the PEP stations via a garden-variety telephone conference bridge, only to have audio echo back into the bridge from one of the PEP locations.
So what’s to be learned from the test? Beyond the obvious – that there needs to be a better way to get audio to the PEP stations – the FCC and FEMA will be reviewing the mandatory reports from broadcasters to figure out if there were parts of the chain that didn’t deliver the message, however impaired it might have been. State-level emergency planners will also be reviewing the results to see if modifications are needed to the daisy-chain monitoring assignments used by EAS (though it should be noted that many states augment the daisy-chains with their own statewide satellite delivery systems that were not used for the national test). And there’s already talk about augmenting the PEP system with national-alert delivery over existing program paths such as network radio and TV satellite systems.
*In CONNECTICUT, former WNLK (1350 Norwalk)/WSTC (1400 Stamford) morning man John LaBarca didn’t take long to resurface after Cox sold those stations to public broadcaster WSHU: as of this morning, he’s doing the morning show at WDJZ (1530 Bridgeport), joining a colorful leased-time lineup that’s been heavy on religion.
LaBarca’s new show will air from 7-10 AM on WDJZ, give or take the station’s daytime-only schedule; it’s not yet clear what becomes of LaBarca’s weekend “Italian House Party,” which was originally set to continue on WNLK and WSTC.
*It’s sounding a lot like Christmas in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, where CBS Radio’s WODS (103.3) and Greater Media’s WROR-FM (105.7) both flipped to holiday tunes last week, as they’ve done for the last few years running.
Down the dial a bit, WFNX (101.7 Lynn) is cranking up its celebration of its 28th anniversary: it’s planning an extended “Flashback Weekend” that will start Wednesday, November 23 and wrap up Sunday, November 28, featuring many voices from the alternative rocker’s history.
*It’s rare to hear a new AM station on the air in CANADA, but there’s one in the greater Ottawa area this week: CIRA-5 (1350) began testing on Friday, running 1000 watts by day and 135 watts at night from a transmitter site on the Quebec side of the river. The new signal will eventually be the Gatineau/Ottawa relay of religious “Radio Ville Marie,” CIRA (91.3 Montreal), though for the moment it’s instead simulcasting “Radio Enfant” CJEU (1670), whose transmitter site it shares.
Five Years Ago: November 12, 2007 -
*It’s always nice to see radio stations join together to raise money for a good cause – but the impromptu collaboration of an entire NEW HAMPSHIRE radio market last week was truly something to behold.
We told you last week that Pauline Loyd (aka “Polly Robbins” of WWOD, WXLF, WNTK and several other Upper Valley stations) was struggling in her fight against breast cancer, and even as we were typing our news item, those stations were banding together for a one-day radiothon to raise money in Pauline’s name.
“Polly’s Think Pink Radiothon” took over the airwaves of pretty much the entire market – all the stations owned by Koor Communications, Nassau Broadcasting, Great Eastern and Dartnouth’s WFRD/WDCR – for a 13-hour simulcast last Thursday based at a phone bank at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth College.
It’s a small market, but by the time the phones stopped ringing and the simulcast ended Thursday night, the effort had raised over $37,000. Nice work, and a tribute to the good work broadcasters can do when they work together.
*Our NEW YORK news starts in Buffalo, where cutbacks at Entercom claimed the jobs of the entire airstaff at WLKK (107.7 Wethersfield) on Friday. PD Hank Dole remains in place, with automation running on the air while part-timers are brought in to replace the former “Lake Guides.” Also out, we’re told, is Brian B. Wilde, music director/APD at WKSE (Kiss 98.5).
Across town at Regent’s Rand Building headquarters, C.J. Lee and Al Wood are out of their jobs at WJYE (96.1 Buffalo) and WECK (93.7 Depew), respectively; Alexis Williams moves from the morning news shift on WBLK to take over middays at WJYE, where Cheryl Hagen joins the morning show. It’s not clear who, if anyone, will replace Wood on the late-night “Quiet Storm” shift at WBLK. (And WJYE, meanwhile, is counting down to this Friday, when it becomes the second all-Christmas station upstate…)
Down the Thruway in the Rochester market, Bob Savage has something to celebrate: he just got the word from the FCC late last week that it’s dismissed a rival application for a new AM signal on 1220. The other application proposed a low-power signal licensed to Greece, which already has a licensed service in the form of noncommercial WGMC (90.1). Savage’s proposal called for a new 2500-watt fulltime station licensed to Lakeville, Livingston County, which has no other licensed service. The new signal, for which Savage must now file a full application, will likely end up with something more than 2500 watts, especially by day; it will operate from the existing four-tower site of his WYSL (1040 Avon), just off the Lakeville exit of I-390.
*”Wake up with Whoopi” is losing big-market affiliates right and left – first Chicago’s WLIT dropped Whoopi Goldberg’s New York-based show, and now in eastern PENNSYLVANIA, Philadelphia’s WISX (My 106.1) has pulled Goldberg off its schedule, effective last Friday morning. She’s being replaced by former WISX afternoon jock Logan.
Over in the Lancaster market, Dennis Mitchell has departed Clear Channel’s WLAN-FM (96.9) for Hall’s WROZ (101.3), apparently to take the morning shift there. Jeff Hurley, APD/afternoon jock at WLAN, takes Mitchell’s PD post, but he’s looking for someone else to fill the morning slot Mitchell formerly occupied.
Out on the Ohio line, WLLF (96.7 Mercer) is being spun off by Cumulus Media to a new shell company called Stratus Media LLC. It’s part of a 19-station group (along with Youngstown clustermate WSOM 600 in Salem, Ohio) that’s being placed in the Stratus trust to avoid market-cap issues as Cumulus works through a privatization bid.
While we’re out that way, the other half of the “Majic” Meadville/Franklin simulcast has new calls, as WOXX (99.3 Franklin) becomes WHMJ. And a new CP in Sykesville (outside Du Bois) now has calls: the new 95.9 there will be WZDB.
*There were lots of rumors in MASSACHUSETTS about Howie Carr returning to the airwaves at Entercom’s WRKO (680 Boston), but the week ended as it began, with substitute hosts filling the afternoon shift there, as well as the morning shift at Greater Media’s WTKK (96.9 Boston) that’s looking less and less likely to become Carr’s new home.
*One of CONNECTICUT‘s oldest TV stations broke ground last week for its new studios. NBC’s WVIT (Channel 30) has been in the same facility in West Hartford since it signed on in 1953 as WKNB-TV; sometime in 2009, that building will be demolished and the station will move across the parking lot to the new facility where construction started on Monday.
*It was a quiet week in eastern CANADA- one station left the air for good (CHUC 1450 in Cobourg, Ontario, which gave way to its FM sister on schedule at 5 PM Wednesday), while one station was new to the airwaves.
Religious broadcaster UCB Canada, which already operates CKJJ (102.3 Belleville), put its new signal, CKGW (89.3 Chatham-Kent), on the air Nov. 3 at 11 AM.
The new signal had been testing on and off since April, while UCB tried to raise the money it needed to get the station on the air for real.
Ten Years Ago: November 11, 2002 -
In MASSACHUSETTS, Arthur Liu is adding to his Multicultural Broadcasting holdings with a $1.8 million purchase of WSRO (1470 Marlborough) from Alexander Langer. WSRO isn’t much of a signal at the moment, operating under a long-running Special Temporary Authority since the city of Marlborough took its old transmitter site, but Liu isn’t buying WSRO for its current signal. The purchase price includes $150,000 to build out WSRO’s construction permit to change city of license to Watertown and transmitter site to the Lexington facility of WAMG (1150), which you can see on the October page of the 2002 Tower Site Calendar. When it’s moved and the purchase has closed, WSRO will join WLYN (1360 Lynn) in Liu’s Boston cluster.
We’ve been remiss in mentioning the latest addition to the schedule at Sporting News Radio’s WWZN (1510 Boston); Mike Adams has joined the station to do mornings, which means that 1510 is now running local all day long before joining Sporting News in the evenings (when there’s not a Celtics game, anyway.)
It could just as easily fall under the Bay State heading — but the “new” station serving Fall River and New Bedford is still licensed to RHODE ISLAND, as WKKB (100.3 Middletown). The Citadel rocker, formerly Providence-based 80s outlet WZRI (“Z100″) made its debut last Friday (Nov. 1), with a schedule that includes Patriots football and voicetracking (initally overnight and now middays) from “Brian the Pharmacist,” late of the FNX network.
NERW hears a few of the top brass at Clear Channel’s MAINE clusters received their walking papers last week; in Augusta, GM Tim Gatz and GSM Brian Strack were dismissed, as was Bangor GM Keryn Smith. We hear Clear Channel regional exec Jim Herron will be running things up there for now…
On to NEW YORK, then: there will be a new addition to the skyline soon that should help the city’s beleaguered TV broadcasters restore a better signal to over-the-air viewers even in the event of problems at their primary Empire State Building site. Four Times Square, the “Condé Nast Building” on Broadway between 41st and 42nd streets, is already home to auxiliary FM transmitters for New York’s Clear Channel and Spanish Broadcasting System clusters, as well as public radio WNYC-FM (93.9). Now the building’s owner, The Durst Organization, plans to add another 200 or so feet to the mast atop 4 Times Square to provide auxiliary transmitter space for New York’s TV stations. (By the way, Durst has hired one of the city’s top broadcast engineers to supervise its own broadcast-leasing operations: John Lyons, the former chief engineer for Clear Channel’s WAXQ in New York, now calls Four Times Square home, which is only fitting, considering he had a huge hand in designing the broadcast facility there!)
Fifteen Years Ago: November 14, 1997 -
The last major locally-owned radio station in Hartford is being sold — but WCCC AM/FM (1290/106.9) won’t become yet another outlet of the big group broadcasters. Sy Dressner’s Greater Hartford Communications Corp. has owned WCCC for 28 years, and now Dressner says it’s time to bring in some younger owners with fresh ideas. Dressner turned down several offers from the big groups and turned to Marlin Broadcasting, the family group that owns classical WBOQ (104.9 Gloucester MA) and WTMI (93.1 Miami FL). It’s not Marlin’s first time in the Hartford market; the company owned WKSS (95.7) from 1980 until 1983.
What’s in store for the rock and roll format at WCCC? Marlin says it’s committed to keeping WCCC-FM rocking, and it’s locked into a three-year contract with Howard Stern in morning drive. On the AM side, the West Hartford-licensed daytimer on 1290 could end up with a new format when Marlin takes over in early 1998. No purchase price has been announced.
An historic VERMONT callsign is coming back to the airwaves. WDOT, last heard on 1390 Burlington (now WKDR) and 96.1 Warren (now WDEV-FM) a few years ago, has been picked as the new call for 1070 in Plattsburgh NY, the station currently known as WZBZ (and, ironically enough, the former WKDR before those calls moved to 1390). The FCC erroneously listed this one as an FM call change in its November 10th public notice…
And speaking of calls, 100.3 in Middletown, RHODE ISLAND is becoming WHKK to match its new “Hawk” classic rock format. Still no sign of new calls for sports-talk WLKW (790 Providence), or the new “WLKW,” still legally WPNW (550 Pawtucket).
From NEW YORK this week, a new format and soon, new owners for Glens Falls’ WYLR (95.9). The station remains embroiled in a license dispute, with Normandy Broadcasting appealing a 1992 FCC decision that awarded the WYLR license to competing applicant Lawrence Bradt. In the meantime, the financially-troubled Normandy had been LMA’ing WYLR out as a country station. That LMA has ended, and now former Normandy executive David Covey and his Entertronics company have taken over operations of WYLR. Covey has been stunting with an AOR format on the station, but local insiders say it’s likely WYLR will end up competing with the “K100″ hot AC simulcast of WKBE (100.3 Warrensburg) and WKLI (100.9 Albany). Covey plans to buy WYLR and sister station WWSC (1450) as soon as the license issue is settled. Entertronics already owns oldies WCKM (98.5 Lake George).
As expected, the 107.1 trimulcast surrounding New York City has applied to boost power. Here’s how the Odyssey Broadcasting “Y107″ stations plan to grow: WWXY in Briarcliff Manor would jump from 890 watts to 1.9 kW, WWVY in Hampton Bays, L.I. would double from 3 to 6 kW, and down in New Jersey, WWZY Long Branch would get a boost from 2.3 to 4.7 kW, helping to fill in some of the dead zones between the various Y107 transmitters.