In this week”s issue… Remembering Jeff Kaye – “Happi” launches in Erie – Binnie, Shapiro shuffle Nassau signals – LMA in northern PA – Univision flips NYC Spanish FM – Geoff Fox gone at WTIC-TV – WCSH/WLBZ news director out
By SCOTT FYBUSH
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*You”ve probably never heard of a guy named “Martin Krimski.” But under his broadcasting alter ego, “Jefferson Kaye,” he was one of the most prominent voices in top 40 radio in the 1960s and 1970s in Boston and Buffalo, then an important part of the full-service landscape in Buffalo, and eventually one of the nation”s top voice-over talents from his base in New Jersey.
On Friday, he died in Binghamton, where he had been living in recent years to be closer to his family as he battled cancer.
After serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, Kaye began his radio career in Providence in the late 1950s, where Krimski became “Jeff Krimm,” then “JK the DJ” on WHIM (1110) and WRIB (1220). By 1961, his rich pipes had caught the attention of Boston”s WBZ (1030), which brought him on board as part of the Westinghouse station”s transition from the middle-of-the-road “Live Five” to a more aggressive top-40 format. Kaye quickly made a mark for himself on WBZ, moving up from overnights to weekday afternoons. And he distinguished himself as well as the host of Sunday night”s “Hootenanny,” the show that brought folk music to a large and passionate audience around New England and helped to make performers like Joan Baez into household names.
In 1966, Kaye moved from Boston to Buffalo”s WKBW (1520), where he”d achieve his greatest radio fame. Starting out as the night jock riding KB”s big 50 kilowatt directional signal all across the northeast, Kaye soon moved into the program director chair, where he played a huge role in shaping the tight sound of “one of America”s two great radio stations” during its heyday. Kaye was the driving force behind WKBW”s celebrated “War of the Worlds” recreation in 1968, as well as a second version in 1971.
Kaye could be gruff – broadcaster Bob Savage still treasures Kaye”s 1969 memo announcing his hiring as a weekend jock at KB and warning fellow staffers, “If you see him in the halls, don”t bother speaking to him or developing any close ties….he may not last.” But he was meticulous about every element of the station”s on-air sound, and he kept WKBW at or near the top of the ratings throughout his tenure.
In May 1974, Kaye moved to WBEN (930) to become the afternoon host and then only the third morning man in that station”s history, replacing the legendary Clint Buehlman after his four-decade run. It was through Kaye”s work on Buffalo Bills broadcasts on WBEN that he came to the attention of NFL Films, where he eventually succeeded yet another legendary broadcast talent, “Voice of God” John Facenda. Kaye moved from Buffalo to New Jersey, building a voiceover career that also included several decades as the on-air voice of Philadelphia”s WPVI-TV (Channel 6).
Kaye retired from NFL Films in 1990 as his health began to decline. In 2002, Kaye was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame, and he made other appearances from time to time as well, including a cameo in a 1998 Buffalo “War of the Worlds” recreation on WGRF and WEDG. In 1993, your editor was privileged to bring him back to WBZ”s airwaves as a guest on a special history edition of David Brudnoy”s talk show. That audio has been out of circulation for nearly two decades now, but I”m pleased to be able to offer it to NERW subscribers – just go pay a visit to our new Audio Archives page to hear the hour when we brought Jeff and Carl deSuze back together for what would be their last time on WBZ”s airwaves.
Jeff Kaye would have turned 76 next month. Funeral services will be held this morning in Binghamton, and donations in his memory can be made to the , Southern NY Region, 13 Beech Street, Johnson City, NY 13790.
*The week”s other big story comes from northwestern PENNSYLVANIA, where something rare happened last week: the launch of a brand-new signal in a sizable market as a competitive stand-alone commercial station.
It”s happening, of course, in Erie, where Rick Rambaldo made a name for himself in the late 1980s when he bought a sleepy rimshot FM station and built it into “Rocket 101,” WRKT (100.9 North East), then grew that single station into one of the biggest clusters in the market before selling to what”s now Connoisseur Media.
As of Friday at noon, Rambaldo and his partner, auto dealer Dave Hallman, Jr., are actively competing against Connoisseur and Townsquare with their new Erie Radio Company LLC. That”s the new name for what started out as “First Channel Communications,” which paid just over $1.3 million at an FCC auction last year for a new class A signal on 92.7 licensed to Lawrence Park, just east of Erie.
If you”ve been following those spectrum auctions, you know that most of the signals being auctioned are pretty iffy, squeezed into the last remaining open corners of the dial in remote areas. This one”s a bit of an exception, made possible by changes in the FM protection rules between the U.S. and Canada that once protected the signal of London, Ontario”s CJBX (92.7) on Lake Erie”s south shore. CJBX no longer receives protection from interference within the U.S., but it still puts a potent signal into much of the area around Erie, and that means the new Lawrence Park 92.7 will itself likely suffer interference outside the immediate Erie area, especially in the hills to the south and especially in the summertime.
Still, a new signal is a new signal, and Erie Radio is making the most of it. Over the last few weeks, Rambaldo”s been building a brand-new transmitter site atop a luxury apartment building on the lakefront just west of downtown, and from all indications he”s doing it right. There”s a new 73-foot tower in place atop the South Shore Towers, with an ERI directional antenna and a Nautel HD transmitter…and not only is there an Omnia processor, but Omnia head honcho Frank Foti himself appears to have made the drive over from Cleveland to be there in person for the station”s launch.
So what”s Erie Radio doing with its new signal? We already knew the new calls – WEHP – and now we know those calls stand for “Happi,” Rambaldo”s tag for a new top-40 format that puts the new 92.7 in direct competition with his old NextMedia/Connoisseur station, WRTS (Star 103.7) and with Townsquare”s “i104.3,” a more recent entry heard on WXKC (99.9)”s HD2 and a centrally-located translator. But while i104.3 is totally automated and Star has been depending on out-of-market talent such as Ryan Seacrest, “Happi” will be going local once its studio is ready in a few weeks.
Here”s what we know so far about the airstaff: former WRTS morning host Shari McBride will be Happi”s operations manager and morning co-host, alongside newcomer “Beeber,” who”s inbound from North Carolina. “Girl” will do middays, “Brody” will be the afternoon host, and evenings will give local YouTube star Katie Santry her first radio gig. (She”s already been doing videos for the station, including one showing the tower being hoisted to the rooftop by crane.)
There”s no website or streaming audio feed just yet; those will presumably be coming along with Happi”s new downtown studio, which will be at 1229 State Street, just four blocks south of the storefront studios Rambaldo built for NextMedia in the old Boston Store.
*Up in the picturesque hills of north-central Pennsylvania, Dennis Heindl”s WDDH (97.5 St. Marys) has two new sister stations. Heindl has entered into an LMA-to-buy with Cary Simpson”s WKBI-FM (93.9 St. Marys) and WKBI (1400 St. Marys), which have moved in with WDDH. Heindl”s Laurel Media will pay Simpson”s Elk-Cameron Broadcasting $766,047 for the AM and FM pair, along with the AM station”s FM translator, W233BS (94.5); until the sale closes, Laurel will pay Simpson $2,441 a month plus operating expenses under the LMA.
*It was a valiant attempt to bring local radio back to the suburbs of Philadelphia, but “the Buzz” has faded out at WBZH (1370 Pottstown). That”s the former WPAZ, which longtime owner Great Scott Broadcasting took silent in 2009. Unwilling to see the local station die, a group of broadcasters worked out an arrangement under which religious broadcaster Four Rivers Community Broadcasting bought the station and its property from Great Scott and then leased it to the “WPAZ Preservation Association,” which put it back on the air in late 2010 as “1370 the Buzz,” changing calls last year to WBZH. But the new format apparently wasn”t accompanied by significant ad sales, leaving the WBZH group reportedly some $35,000 in debt to Four Rivers, which abruptly pulled the plug on the signal last Tuesday. It”s not clear whether Four Rivers will keep 1370 silent, or whether the station will return with a new format and operator.
*Smooth jazz has returned to Philadelphia: the old WJJZ format is back in place on the HD2 of that station”s successor, WISX (106.1), while the simulcast of R&B oldies WDAS (1480) has moved from 106.1-HD2 to the HD2 of WDAS-FM (105.3), which had been carrying a “Quiet Storm” format of R&B love songs.
Just up the dial, Merlin”s WWIQ (106.9 Camden NJ) has swapped network affiliations, trading ABC News at the top of the hour for Fox News Radio.
*In other news from NEW YORK and NEW JERSEY, the reconstruction continues at the stations whose transmitters were damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Some of the last AM signals that were still silent after the storm returned last week: on Long Island, WGBB (1240 Freeport) is back in business with a new transmitter, and the power”s finally back at WKMB (1070 Stirling) in central New Jersey as well.
In the Meadowlands, we”re learning more about the damage at WLIB (1190 New York), where water got inside the station”s low-lying transmitter building and destroyed both its day and nighttime transmission systems. WLIB is back on the air, running 1000 watts full-time on the night pattern under special temporary authority while it works to fix first the day phasor and then to install a new transmitter to power it back to its full 10 kW by day and 30 kW at night.
And WNYC, which is working to rebuild its damaged AM 820 site in Kearny, N.J., is about to lose its director of engineering: Jim Stagnitto, who moved downtown from Clear Channel”s WWPR (105.1) to New York Public Radio five years ago, is leaving WNYC to take a new engineering position with CBS Radio. CBS has been aggressively hiring engineering talent in the New York market, and its roster now includes a “who”s who” of former chief engineers from other stations, including Paul Sanchez (ex-WBLS/WLIB), Henry Behring (ex-Clear Channel), Jim McGivern (ex-Emmis) and Joe Maguire (who used to run the broadcast operations at the Empire State Building). No replacement has been named yet at WNYC.
*Univision Radio flipped formats last week at WQBU (92.7 Garden City), replacing “Que Buena” and its regional Mexican format with a tropical format aimed at the market”s much larger Dominican audience. It”s now “Mami 92.7,” with a musical mix that”s heavy on bachata.
*As it tries to keep pace with much bigger clusters run by much deeper-pocketed broadcasters (Clear Channel and Townsquare), Equinox Broadcasting keeps adding to its Binghamton portfolio with more translators fed by HD Radio subchannels of flagship WRRQ (106.7). There”s already very soft AC (“Sunny 107.1″) and modern rock (“104.5 the Drive”), and now there”s classic rock, too, on the new “93X” (W225BC 92.9 Endicott). It had been relaying oldies “Cool 100.5″ (Equinox”s WCDW) by way of WRRQ”s HD2.
Southern Tier broadcaster Robert Pfuntner is regaining control of three of his Pembrook Pines stations after losing them to a court-ordered bankruptcy receiver. WABH (1380) and WVIN (98.3) in Bath and WQRW (93.5 Wellsville) have returned to Pfuntner”s hands after he paid off his debt to Citizens and Northern Bank, which had hired receiver Richard Foreman to find a buyer for the signals.
Clear Channel”s continued rollout of the “Comedy 24/7″ network has landed an affiliate in the Borscht Belt. WJIP (1370 Ellenville) flipped a few weeks back from a simulcast of talker WKIP (1450 Poughkeepsie), bringing the comedy network to the Catskills territory where so much of modern stand-up had its roots in the mid-20th century.
*Christmas Music on the March: Among the signals that made the seasonal flip to holiday tunes in the last few days are New York”s WLTW (106.7), Long Island”s WKJY (98.3), Albany”s WYJB (95.5) and WTRY (98.3) and Syracuse”s WYYY (94.5). And CNYRadio.com reports that there”s an all-jazz Christmas format coming to central New York on Wednesday, too: WCNY-FM (91.3) and its Utica and Watertown simulcasts will flip to holiday jazz on their HD3 subchannels, replacing the usual straight-ahead jazz format heard there.
*We note the passing of veteran consulting engineer Jules Cohen, who was involved with so many issues before the FCC in his many decades in the business. Among Cohen”s bigger projects was the engineering work surrounding the move of New York City”s TV stations from the Empire State Building to the World Trade Center in the 1970s. Cohen died Tuesday (Nov. 15) in Washington; he was 95.
*A MASSACHUSETTS sports talker is going national. Damon Amendolara has made a name for himself in the evening hours on CBS Radio”s WBZ-FM (98.5 Boston), and now he”s taking his show from the “Sports Hub” to the new CBS Sports Radio network that will launch in January. Amendolara will do the overnight show on the national network, and it appears his new national show will be heard on WBZ-FM, replacing Fox Sports Radio”s JT The Brick. No word yet on who”ll replace Amendolara on the local evening show, a shift that”s increasingly important to the Sports Hub in the absence of the Bruins games that should be filling many of the station”s evening hours this time of year.
And we belatedly note the passing on November 5 of Generosa Aiello of Peabody. While she was never a broadcaster in her own right, she was a fixture on Steve LeVeille”s WBZ (1030) overnight talk show (and those of his precedessors, too), where her “Friday, Friday” call was a sign to New England”s night owls that the weekend was about to begin. Aiello was a retired receptionist at the John Hancock insurance company. She was 100 years old.
*It”s been delayed repeatedly, but it now appears that the bankruptcy sale of most of Nassau Broadcasting”s stations in NEW HAMPSHIRE, MAINE and VERMONT will finally close next week. By way of background, here”s how we explained the deal when it first surfaced back in May:
Binnie’s Carlisle Capital had its $12.5 million bid accepted for 30 licenses, 17 of which will stay with Binnie under his new banner, the “WBIN Media Company.” Binnie already owns full-power WBIN-TV (Channel 50) in Derry and several low-power TV licenses around the state, and those Granite State TV properties will be joined by WNHW (93.3 Belmont), WNNH (99.1 Henniker) and WJYY (105.5 Concord) in the Concord market; WEMJ (1490 Laconia) and WLNH (98.3 Laconia) in the Lakes Region; WFNQ (106.3 Nashua) serving the Manchester/Nashua area and the “Wolf” country duo of WXLF (95.3 Hartford)/WZLF (107.1 Bellows Falls) in the Connecticut River Valley.
Binnie will also enter southern Maine, keeping all nine of the remaining Nassau signals there: country “Wolf” WTHT (99.9 Auburn)/WBQQ (99.3 Kennebunk), classic rock “Frank” WFNK (107.5 Lewiston)/WBYA (105.5 Thomaston), active rock “Bone” WHXR (106.3 Scarborough), classical “W-Bach” WBQX (106.9 Thomaston)/WBQI (107.7 Bar Harbor) and oldies WLVP (870 Gorham)/WLAM (1470 Lewiston).
As for Shapiro, even after selling the huge Vox group in New Hampshire and Vermont (much of it to Nassau), he’s remained a player in the region through his Great Eastern Radio, which owns talker WTPL (107.7 Hillsborough) in the Concord market, sports WEEY (93.5 Swanzey)/rock WKKN (101.9 Westminster) in Keene and an Upper Valley cluster that includes talker WTSL (1400 Hanover), AC WGXL (92.3 Hanover), classic rock WMXR (93.9 Woodstock) and country WXXK (100.5 Lebanon).
Through another one of his groups, Vertical Capital Partners, Shapiro will pick up 13 more stations in and around his existing holdings: WIKE (1490 Newport)/WMOO (92.1 Derby Line) up in northern Vermont, WSNO (1450 Barre)/WORK (107.1 Barre)/WWFY (100.9 Berlin) in Barre/Montpelier, WTSV (1230 Claremont)/WHDQ (106.1 Claremont) and WWOD (104.3 Hartford)/WFYX (96.3 Walpole) to go with his existing Upper Valley holdings, and WEXP (101.5 Brandon)/WTHK (100.7 Wilmington) serving Rutland and southern Vermont. In central New Hampshire, Shapiro will add WWHQ (101.5 Meredith)/WLKZ (104.9 Wolfeboro) in the Lakes Region.
Now that the deal is close to closing, we know a little more about how some of the formats and facilities involved will be shuffled.
On Binnie”s side, there”s a new studio on the way. Last week, Binnie won an auction to buy a century-old school building in Concord that he plans to renovate into a studio for WBIN-TV and his Concord-area radio holdings. The 16,000-square foot Walker School building was the subject of a heated bidding war between Binnie and the building”s next-door neighbor, Concord Group Insurance, which ended with a $900,000 bid from Binnie. When it”s renovated (to the extent Binnie can renovate it, since the building is protected by a historic designation), the building will serve as Binnie”s media group headquarters as well as housing a newsroom for WBIN-TV and studios for WJYY, WNNH and WNHW. Binnie will keep WBIN-TV”s existing facility in Derry, which will continue to house master control and technical facilities for the station as well as the sales staff.
On Shapiro”s side, Great Eastern is telling advertisers in the Upper Valley that it expects to be in control of the former Nassau stations by December 1, and that will bring some signal and format changes. The big addition for Great Eastern will be the monster signal of rocker WHDQ, which will eventually move from its current Claremont studio into Great Eastern”s West Lebanon offices. WTSV will drop its current sports format when it rejoins its long-ago sister station, WTSL; instead, WTSV will begin simulcasting WTSL”s news-talk “Pulse” format. And then there”s WWOD, which Shapiro won”t be keeping – and which won”t be staying on the air as “Oldies 104.3″ when the sale is complete.
In order to stay under the ownership caps, Shapiro is spinning 104.3 (and WEXP in Rutland) to William and Gail Goddard”s Electromagnetic Company, which won”t be operating 104.3 from its present Upper Valley facility and will instead take it silent there and begin building out a long-planned move to Keeseville, New York, in the Plattsburgh-Burlington market. And that, in turn, will lead to a format change for Great Eastern: on Monday, when WWOD goes dark, Great Eastern will flip WMXR (93.9 Woodstock) from classic rock “Maxx” to classic hits as “KOOL 93.9 and 96.3,” picking up a simulcast down the valley on WFYX, which had been simulcasting WWOD.
(As noted earlier in this space, Shapiro has also spun WMOO/WIKE up in northern Vermont, to Bruce James” Vermont Broadcast Associates; that leaves only one more signal that”s expected to be spun, WTHK in Wilmington, which has been simulcasting WEXP but is not being sold along with that Rutland-market station.)
*VERMONT Public Radio has completed its expansion into the state”s southeast corner. After many years of serving Brattleboro with fringe reception from WVPR (89.5 Windsor) atop Mount Ascutney and later via translator, VPR is now reaching the area with both its networks. As we told you a few weeks ago, WVBA (88.9 Brattleboro) is now on the air providing VPR”s main network to the region. Later this week, VPR will complete the move of translator W233AR from 94.5 to 94.3, boosting power to 190 watts from the present 10 watts. Once it”s on its new channel, the translator will switch from VPR”s main network to VPR Classical, giving the Brattleboro area its first full-time classical service.
*In MAINE, Pat LaMarche has parted ways with Stephen King”s WZON-FM (103.1 Dover-Foxcroft), where she”d been co-hosting morning drive since mid-2011. LaMarche came to “The Pulse” in the Bangor market after a career that mixed politics and media; she”d been a talk host in Portland at WGAN (560) and a Green Party candidate for vice president in 2004 and for governor of Maine in 2006. Co-host Don Cookson will handle “The Pulse Morning Show” solo for now.
Meanwhile in Bangor, they”re mourning a longtime TV music host. Charlie Tenan began hosting “Frankenstein”s Country Jamboree” on Bangor ABC affiliate WEMT (Channel 7) in 1963 and stayed with the station and the show for more than two decades. By the time he signed off in 1984, the station had become WVII and the show had become “Dick Stacey”s Country Jamboree.” Tenan died November 8, at age 81.
*In Portland, news director Maureen O”Brien has departed WCSH (Channel 6), as well as Bangor sister station WLBZ (Channel 2), and the Gannett-owned NBC affiliates aren”t saying much about why she”s out. O”Brien”s departure comes amidst the controversial decision to put weatherman Joe Cupo on the air to publicly deny that his name was associated with the state”s scandal du jour, the bust of an alleged prostitution ring being run out of a fitness club in Kennebunk.
*They”re not saying much in CONNECTICUT, either, about Geoff Fox”s abrupt exit from WTIC-TV (Channel 61). “Fox CT” made a big deal of the meteorologist”s arrival back in 2011, when the Tribune-owned station picked him up after New Haven”s WTNH (Channel 8) declined to renew his contract, ending a long run there. Fox had been on the air on WTIC-TV”s 11 PM newscast, but on Friday he was suddenly fired, with Tribune issuing only a terse statement saying the dismissal was due to “inappropriate conduct” that had been brought to management”s attention late Thursday.
Speaking of Tribune, it”s finally getting some action from the FCC on its long battle to relax the cross-ownership rules that affect its ownership of broadcast and print properties in several markets, including Hartford. In Chicago, the FCC granted Tribune a permanent waiver of the rules last week that will allow it to continue to own both the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV/WGN radio. Tribune has been operating under a series of waiver extensions to keep owning newspapers and TV stations in Los Angeles, south Florida, New York (where it owns WPIX-TV and the Spanish-language “Hoy”) and Connecticut, where it owns WTIC-TV, WCCT-TV, the Courant and the weekly Advocate newspapers.
The Hartford engineering community is mourning one of its own this week. Charlie Brown”s engineering career included stops at WPOP/WIOF in the 1970s and work with the Hnat Hinds audio processing firm, followed by a long run with WTIC radio from the late 1970s until the late 1990s. Brown moved over to Clear Channel”s cluster in the late 1990s, and had been second-in-c0mmand in the engineering department there for more than a decade.
*In CANADA, Bell isn”t giving up on its plan to buy Astral Media. Even after the CRTC resoundingly rejected its initial C$3.4 billion deal last month on competitive grounds, the two companies have remained in talks to try to find a way to restructure it in a way that will pass regulatory muster.
Among the biggest issues with the initial Bell-Astral plan was Bell”s list of intended radio spinoffs. In Toronto, for instance, Bell would have kept its own CHUM-FM (104.5) and CHUM (TSN Radio 1050) as well as Astral”s CKFM (Virgin 99.9) and CFRB (Newstalk 1010), spinning off the two lowest-rated stations in the deal, Bell”s CFXJ (Flow 93.5) and Astral”s CHBM (Boom 97.3). Under a revised plan, Bell would apparently auction more of Astral”s English-language radio and TV assets, but would still be able to acquire Astral”s significant French-language radio and TV holdings in Quebec, a market where Bell has been less competitive. It”s still not clear how Bell would navigate the Montreal English-language radio market, where it had asked the CRTC to allow it to keep all of Astral”s two-FM/one-AM cluster by flipping its own CKGM (TSN Radio 690) from English to French. That proposal met with massive Anglophone opposition, and is unlikely to be revived.
*Radio-Canada continues to boost its local presence in rural Quebec, this time with a signal increase in Saint-Georges-de-Beauce, south of Quebec City. CBV-7 (96.7) is the local relay of CBV (106.3 Quebec City), and it”s been granted a boost from 84 watts/-6.5 m to 2.5 kW (640 watts average DA)/164 m.
Out where New Brunswick meets the ocean, the last remaining bit of the Radio Canada International shortwave facility in Sackville has been granted the briefest of reprieves. While the CBC works to finish construction of its new Northern Quebec FM relay network, the CRTC has administratively extended the license for Sackville shortwave (under the never-used-on-air callsign CKCX) from November 1 to December 1 to allow the CBC Northern Quebec shortwave signal at 9625 kHz to stay on the air.
*There”s a new signal on the air in Ontario”s “Cottage Country.” CIIG (102.3 Kilworthy) is now on the air with travelers” information in the Muskoka region, serving the Highway 11 corridor around Gravenhurst and Bracebridge.
*Finally, there”s a group of US broadcasters hoping to change a 60-year pattern of cross-border relations. The “U.S. Television Coalition” announced last week that it”s challenging the long-standing system under which Canadian cable and satellite systems import U.S. broadcast stations without paying anything to the broadcasters. The group says the new distant-signal retransmission guidelines Canada adopted last year should apply not only to distant Canadian signals but also to distant U.S. signals, or else the U.S. broadcasters “are being denied an equitable and nondiscriminatory right of remuneration.”
So far, the group appears to consist of only three broadcasters operating five stations: LIN”s WIVB (CBS) and WNLO (CW) from Buffalo, which have wide carriage in southern Ontario and via satellite; Post-Newsweek”s WDIV (NBC) from Detroit, which is the default NBC affiliate for much of eastern Canada; and Hubbard”s KSTP (NBC) Minneapolis, which is seen on cable in parts of the Canadian midwest, as well as WHEC (NBC) from Rochester, which as best we can tell no longer has any carriage at all north of the border. It”s not at all clear that the group will get much support from other U.S. broadcasters with Canadian audiences, especially those that take advantage of Canadian carriage to sell ad time across the border. And if it does end up being only a small group of stations seeking retransmission revenue, Canadian cable systems can easily switch to other U.S. affiliates of those same networks, especially since so much U.S. prime-time programming ends up being blocked out anyway on Canadian cable and satellite by being “sim-subbed” with Canadian broadcasts of the same shows. (Which begins to raise the question: in today”s 500-channel environment, how many Canadians would miss the U.S. networks if they disappeared from cable?)
*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 21, 2011 -
The CRTC has picked winners in the battle for open AM channels in Montreal, and a big player has lost out. Cogeco, which originally hoped to reactivate the silent 690 and 940 frequencies for French- and English-language traffic channels subsidized by the provincial government, didn’t get either; instead, 690 goes to Bell Media, which will move English-language sports CKGM (“TSN Radio”) there from 990. 940 goes to the Tietolman-Tetrault partnership, which will launch a French-language news-talk station there – and 990 won’t go dark, instead going to Evanov for a French-language station aimed at Montreal’s gay community. Much more later this week on NERW…—
Our big story as we start this holiday-shortened week comes, for once, from somewhere outside our usual NERW territory – but the developments at CBS Radio’s cluster in Washington, DC have plenty of relevance to NEW YORK and PENNSYLVANIA as well.
In January, CBS will flip one of its Washington-market FM signals, WLZL (99.1), from Spanish hits “El Zol” to all-news, with a heavy helping of influence from its New York City stations. The Acela-corridor connection starts in the program director’s office, already occupied by Robert Sanchez, who came to Washington after working as assistant news director at WCBS (880) in New York, as well as earlier at WINS (1010). Down the hall in the general sales manager’s office, there’s another WINS veteran: Danny Bortnick has been working as local sales manager at CBS Radio’s WXRK/WWFS in New York, and if that last name sounds familiar, there’s a reason: his father is Chuck Bortnick, who’s the regional VP for Cumulus Radio in the Hudson Valley and Connecticut.
But the Big Apple connections don’t end with the staff: there’s also the matter of the new all-newser’s callsign – yes, it will flip to the legendary WNEW calls that were a staple in New York radio from 1934 until 2007, when CBS parked the calls in Florida for future use. (As our colleague Dave Hughes down at DCRTV.com notes, it’s only fair play – the WFAN calls that have become synonymous with sports radio at CBS in New York had an earlier run in Washington on AM, FM and TV. And we’d note that the station that became WTOP in Washington started out in the 1920s as WTRC in…Brooklyn!)
CBS has already started the callsign move, putting the WNEW calls on its 1580 AM talk signal in the Washington market, long known as WPGC and more recently being used to park a heritage DC call, WHFS.
The launch of the new “WNEW” in Washington will put CBS in an unfamiliar position as the all-news underdog against an established competitor, and therein lies more irony: WTOP-FM (103.5), now owned by Hubbard, has been a stalwart CBS Radio affiliate for many decades and is the descendant of a former CBS owned-and-operated station, the old WTOP (1500), which went from CBS to the Washington Post in 1954. It was the Post that launched the all-news format on WTOP in 1968, though it was only under later owners (Outlet and then, most prominently, Bonneville) that the station found its way to the top of the ratings and revenue.
In recent years, WTOP has become the highest-revenue station in the nation (reportedly some $60 million last year), so it’s not hard to see why CBS covets a piece of that ad revenue – but until now it’s been loath to disrupt a solid affiliate relationship with WTOP, and it’s been lacking a full portfolio of available FM signals to use in Washington as well. Even the class B 99.1 signal won’t quite be full-market: it rimshots Washington from the east, missing out on much of the suburban commute from Virginia that’s at the core of WTOP’s listenership.
And here’s where the next NERW-land connection comes in: CBS is bolstering its signal roster in Washington with the $8.5 million purchase of Family Radio’s WFSI (107.9 Annapolis MD), which will become the new home of the “El Zol” Spanish-language format under an LMA starting December 1. WFSI was one of two stations Family put up for sale earlier in 2011 to help cover the costs of the extensive outreach campaign the California-based religious network was running to promote founder Harold Camping’s prediction that the world was going to end in October. The other station being sold is Philadelphia-market WKDN (106.9 Camden NJ), and despite reports that it, too, was headed to CBS Radio ownership, so far there’s been no announcement about WKDN’s future.
*Elsewhere in NEW YORK, Equinox Broadcasting keeps growing in Binghamton, thanks to some very innovative use of translators and HD Radio subchannels: they’r now running HD2, HD3 and HD4 channels on WRRQ (106.7 Port Dickinson). 106.7-HD2 is a simulcast of Equinox’s oldies station, WCDW (100.5 Susquehanna PA), 106.7-HD3 launched over the summer as soft AC “Sunny 107.1,” simulcasting on analog translator W296BS from Ingraham Hill – and as of last week, there’s now a 106.7-HD4, AAA “The Drive,” with a simulcast on analog translator W283AG (104.5).
Operations manager Steve Shimes tells NERW he believes it’s the first cluster anywhere to run music-formatted HD/translator combos all the way up to HD4; we know of at least one other group in the region (Jeff Andrulonis’ Colonial in Olean) that’s using HD2/3/4 to feed translators, but mostly with talk and sports formats.
*Radio People on the Move: after a dozen years in the PD chair at WMAS-FM (94.7 Springfield), Rob Anthony exits the Citadel-turned-Cumulus station later this week, moving over to Clear Channel as a regional programming manager overseeing Springfield, Worcester, Manchester and Portsmouth. Those markets were missing from Clear Channel’s big announcement of regional programming oversight last month.
Where are they now? Steve Murphy, an original staffer at WFCC (107.5 Chatham) and more recently PD of the late, lamented WFMR in Milwaukee, is heading for California in the new year to become music director at KDB (93.7 Santa Barbara), one of the last remaining commercial classical stations in the nation. Murphy will continue to voicetrack for the World Classical Network based at WFCC, where he’s still heard in morning drive.
*Things are getting funny in CANADA: RadioInsight.com reports Astral’s CKSL (1410) in London, Ontario has registered the domains “1410Funny.com” and “Funny1410.ca” for an upcoming format flip to full-time comedy. Astral has been running programming from the 24/7 Comedy network during overnight hours at CFRB (1010 Toronto).
*On TV, there’s one fewer over-the-air signal serving Toronto, Hamilton, London and Ottawa: Quebecor has surrendered its license for CKXT, the former “Toronto One” that operated on channel 52 in Toronto beginning in 2003.Original owner Craig Media struggled to find ratings and revenue for the station in the crowded Golden Horseshoe marketplace and eventually sold it to Quebecor, which rebranded it as “Sun TV” and continued to struggle with the station. Earlier this year, the company shut down what was left of “Sun TV” and turned its attention to a new all-news channel, Sun News, which was simulcast on CKXT starting in April. The CRTC questioned the rationale for the simulcast, and Quebecor agreed to surrender the broadcast license, shutting down the over-the-air transmitters at the end of the day on October 31.
Meanwhile, a surviving Toronto DTV station wants a better RF channel: CJMT (“Omni.2″) has asked the CRTC for permission to move from RF channel 51 to 40, where it says it can put out a better signal from the CN Tower.
Five Years Ago: November 19, 2007 -
*One of the best-loved voices in PENNSYLVANIA radio history has been silenced.Hy Lit died Saturday, almost two weeks after undergoing what was supposed to have been routine knee surgery for an injury he suffered when he fell Nov. 4, followed by what his son Sam tells the Philadelphia Inquirer was a series of “bizarre complications.”
Lit was one of Philadelphia”s first rock-and-roll DJs, starting his career at age 20 in 1955 at WHAT (1340), where he quickly made a name for himself before moving first to NBC-owned WRCV (1060) and then, by late 1957, to top-40 giant WIBG (990), where his achievements included introducing the city to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles – and an amazing 73 rating for his evening show, likely an all-time ratings record for any DJ. Lit quickly became a TV star as well, hosting a dance show on WKBS-TV (Channel 48) that was syndicated to other Kaiser TV stations around the country.
In 1968, Lit made a brief shift to the world of “underground” FM radio, helping to launch a rock format on WDAS-FM (105.3) before returning to WIBG in 1969. Later in the seventies, Lit would work at WIFI (92.5), then at WPGR (1540) and WSNI (104.5) in the eighties.
The next phase of Lit”s long career in Philly radio began in 1989, when he joined CBS” WOGL-FM (98.1) and became the first voice heard on WOGL (1210) the next year. Lit remained with WOGL-FM until 2005, when he retired from the station as part of a settlement of an age-discrimination lawsuit against CBS.
Even after a half-century on the air, though, Lit remained active in the business, launching a streaming radio station at HyLitRadio.com that”s still active under Sam Lit”s leadership.
Lit was an early inductee into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia”s Hall of Fame, among many honors. He was 73.
*Few PDs are as closely identified with a cluster as Jim Rising was with Entercom”s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton station group – he was there for the sign-on of WKRZ (98.5 Wilkes-Barre) three decades ago, and he rose (no pun intended) to become OM of that station, as well as market leader WGGY, news-talk WILK and AAA WDMT (102.3 Pittston), where he also served as PD. Rising resigned from the cluster last Monday, and we wish him the best in his future endeavors (and not only because his page of links at the WDMT website included one to this page, in which he wrote “Scott has a great grip on this business and is usually right.” Thanks, Jim…)
*The week”s other big pair of stories came out of the talk radio arena in MASSACHUSETTS, where the Howie Carr/WRKO/WTKK saga came to an end (for now, anyway) with the announcement on Thursday that Carr was ending his fight to break out of his contract with Entercom”s WRKO and would be back on the air there the following afternoon.
And indeed, when 3 o”clock rolled around on Friday afternoon, there was Howie, more or less back in his usual form, albeit sounding somewhat constrained by management as to how much he could say about his absence from the airwaves.
As it turned out, the final piece of the puzzle snapped into place rather neatly: with Carr blocked from jumping over to its morning-drive slot, Greater Media”s WTKK (96.9) went right back to that slot”s previous occupant, announcing on Friday that it had signed up as the first affiliate of Don Imus” new morning show, syndicated out of Citadel”s WABC (770 New York). While WABC had initially said that syndication of Imus wouldn”t begin until a month or so after his Dec. 3 relaunch in New York, WTKK says it will be on board promptly at 6 AM that day.
So what have we learned from the last few months? It appears that even if Carr didn”t get what he really wanted – WTKK”s big FM signal, free from Red Sox preemptions and from having to share a signal with Tom Finneran”s stillborn morning show – he still won something in the end, that being a bump in his salary. WRKO gets to breath a partial sigh of relief, having managed to hold on to its star personality even as many of its other dayparts are sagging. (Did we mention the morning show yet?) Over at WTKK, we”ve got to think that all those weeks of Carr-lawsuit headlines at least yielded some decent publicity, and there”s sure to be a pretty healthy curiosity bump yet to come when Imus comes back to its airwaves. (Or perhaps it”ll be Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick doing mornings; over the weekend, his picture showed up in place of Imus” all over the WTKK website, for some strange reason…)
In the long run, though, it”s hard (at least from where we sit) to get very excited about the state of Boston talk radio, post-Carr squabble. A morning battle between Carr on WTKK and Finneran on WRKO would have sparked some excitement, and might have inspired Carr to a fresher approach, while Carr”s departure from WRKO would have forced that station to rethink its afternoon lineup, which might have brought some new talent to the city”s talk scene. (Or it might have meant a permanent afternoon berth for Todd Feinburg, given the way things were going.)
Will Carr last until the 2012 end of his new WRKO contract? Will he manage to hang on to his New England affiliate base? Stay tuned…
Over on the TV side of things, the Springfield market is finally getting its own Fox affiliate, but not the way we”d thought it was going to happen. LIN”s WWLP-TV (Channel 22) added sister station WFXQ-CA (Channel 28) last year, and both the call letters and insider buzz strongly hinted that the low-power signal (presently a simulcast of WWLP”s NBC programming) would eventually become the market”s Fox outlet.
But then Gormally Broadcasting bought ABC affiliate WGGB (Channel 40) from Sinclair and entered into talks for a Fox affiliation – and late last week, owner John Gormally announced that he”ll be launching “Fox 55″ on a subchannel of WGGB-DT (yes, Channel 55) by the end of the year.
The new Fox outlet will replace Hartford”s WTIC-TV (Channel 61) on cable systems in Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties, and it will have the Springfield market”s first 10 PM newscast, produced by the WGGB news staff. (That staff shrunk by a few people last week; Gormally says the station was slightly overstaffed when he took over, which seems an odd claim for a former Sinclair outlet, and he”s not saying exactly how many pink slips he handed out in the last few days.)
*Is there anything in radio more depressing than pre-holiday budget cuts? Probably not – especially the one last week that cost a veteran NEW YORK air talent his longtime job. Al Bernstein was not just part of the inaugural WLTW (106.7) airstaff back in 1984; he”d spent several years at the station”s predecessor, WKHK, and a decade before that had started his career on 106.7″s original occupant, WRVR. Along the way, Bernstein also spent time at WQIV (104.3), WBLS (107.5), WYNY (97.1) and WNEW-FM (102.7) – and then, of course, 23 years as the late-morning host on Lite.
Now he”s out, 33 years almost to the day since his WQIV debut, following fellow WLTW veterans Bill Buchner, Stephen Roy and J.J. Kennedy, and leaving Valerie Smaldone as the sole survivor among WLTW”s charter airstaff. Who”ll snap up Bernstein”s versatile talents?
*There”s a rare cross-border format move taking place across the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, as the “Kix” country format migrates from US-licensed WBDR (102.7 Cape Vincent) to one of the newest FM signals over in CANADA. John Wright, who owns “K-Rock” CIKR (105.7 Kingston), has been programming WBDR from his Kingston studios under a local marketing agreement with owner Clancy-Mance Communications, which hung on to WBDR even as it sold the rest of its Watertown/Ogdensburg cluster.Now Wright has a second signal on the Canadian side of the border, the new CKXC (93.5 Kingston) – and that new 93.5 signal is now “93.5 Kix FM,” simulcasting the country format with 102.7.
It”s not yet clear whether 102.7 will end up changing formats (could this explain why it briefly applied for, but then never used, the calls WXKK a year ago?), or whether we”ll see a return to the split simulcast that WBDR was using a few years back when it and WBDI (106.7 Copenhagen) were simulcasting top 40 as “The Border,” with one signal carrying spots aimed at Canadian listeners and the other carrying a U.S. spot load. Perhaps the Canadian flag in the 93.5 logo is a clue – or maybe we”re reading way too much into this!
Ten Years Ago: November 20, 2002 -
The sale of the CBS affiliate in Erie, PENNSYLVANIA has some citizens worried that their city will soon be served by only two TV news operations — and it appears their concerns aren”t far off the mark. WSEE-TV (Channel 35) recently changed hands, becoming the first property of Initial Broadcasting of Pennsylvania, a company controlled by Kevin Lilly, whose father, George, controls SJL Communications, which owns Erie”s NBC affiliate, WICU (Channel 12). And later this week, Initial will lay off 18 of WSEE”s 66 staffers, including weekend sports guy Red Hughes and weekend weathercaster Tina Zboch. (Weekend news anchor Kara Calabrese is leaving of her own volition.) Also leaving is 28-year WSEE veteran Carol Pella, who tells the Erie Times-News that she was offered a management position but turned it down.
WSEE wants to enter into a joint operating agreement with WICU, which will handle some of the station”s back-office and master-control duties. Under the JOA, the stations” news operations would remain separate, with about 25 to 30 employees remaining at WSEE to handle those duties. WSEE is also applying to replace its current STL tower at its Peach Street studios with a taller tower which would also carry microwave links to the WICU studio building.
On the other side of the Keystone State, the ever-impatient Citadel cluster in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has struck again, this time cancelling all local talk at WARM (590 Scranton), which just returned from oldies to news-talk this past April. WARM”s local morning show employed host Rob Neyhard, newscaster Paula Deignan and reporter Bobby Day; producer Sam Liguori was also out the door when the show was cancelled last Friday. WARM remains with the talk format, albeit all off the satellite; we note as well that the 590warm.com domain, which is still linked even from Citadel”s corporate Web site, apparently expired and was registered by someone with no connection with the station. It”s a sad story for a station that once owned the market….
We”ll start our NEW YORK news down in the big city, where your intrepid editor spent most of last week (which is why there was no issue last Monday) visiting transmitter sites and working on an upcoming history of New York City FM radio. What”s in the headlines down there? We”ll start with a new transmitter site for public radio WNYC-FM (93.9), which will be on the air from the Empire State Building any day now (if it hasn”t happened already), now that the work has been done to inject its signal into the combiner that feeds the ERI master antenna high on the Empire mast. WNYC had been using the Four Times Square tower as an interim site after losing its transmission facilities at the World Trade Center; additional work yet to come at Empire will add WPAT-FM (93.1) to the ERI master, as well as building a second combiner that can be used to keep the ERI antenna on the air while work is done on the main combiner.
What”s next for poor bedraggled talker WNEW (102.7), which did at least get a bit of publicity when it added a simulcast of David Letterman”s TV show last week? Owner Infinity brought Eric Logan in from Chicago, where he was operations manager of country WUSN (99.5), to be VP/programming for its New York stations, which immediately prompted a new round of speculation that 102.7 will be playing country soon.
On the AM dial, there”s a new morning show on WWRL (1600 New York), with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (author of Kosher Sex and advisor to Michael Jackson — we couldn”t make this stuff up if we tried) and former Village Voice writer Peter Noel. Yes, we airchecked it; we”ll aircheck anything, you know….
We heard digital AM radio for the first time, thanks to Tom Ray at WOR (710); while the circumstances weren”t the best (a little speaker in a noisy control room), we can say that it does sound pretty good on the one existing receiver in New York City (WOR expects to get more in the next few months), and that the sideband hash, while certainly present, wasn”t quite as odious as we”d expected (we could still hear WADS on 690 from Connecticut while driving in Rockland County, 60 or so miles away, and a trip down to Trenton found WPHE on 690 from Phoenixville, PA quite audible without WOR interference.)
Over in Syracuse, WTVH (Channel 5) has a new logo, and a redesigned Web site to match. The honor of “first digital TV signal in Syracuse,” meanwhile, goes to Fox affiliate WSYT (Channel 68), which signed on with its DTV signal as we were passing through on Wednesday, Nov. 6. WSYT is using just 4 kW from its tower in Otisco for now; it hopes to move the channel 19 DTV signal to the new WSTM tower at Sentinel Heights eventually (though we hear that tower”s completion has been delayed by a problem with the ice bridge, which apparently didn”t go in straight….)
Fifteen Years Ago: November 21, 1997 -
The last daytime-only music station in the Boston market could soon be operating 24 hours a day. WILD (1090) is expected to make an announcement next Tuesday that it”s reached a deal with noncomm WUMB (91.9) at UMass/Boston to share programming. The nature of the deal remains a closely guarded secret, but it”s rumored to involve the possible purchase of full-time signal WNFT (1150) from CBS, which must shed several of the stations it”s buying from American Radio Systems (a group that includes WNFT).
NERW speculates a deal like this: The UMass system gets WNFT as a tax-exempt donation from CBS/ARS. UMass allows WILD to program WNFT with WILD”s urban format, in exchange for a portion of the advertising revenues from 1150. WILD owner Nash Communications then either leases out time on the 1090 daytimer, or sells it for stick value. UMass gets a new revenue source for WUMB, in addition to the public relations value of getting WILD its long-desired night signal. WILD is also making noises about taking its programming to FM; something the locally-owned urban station has long wanted to do, but been unable to afford. (2007 note: The rumored deal never happened, and WILD remains a daytimer on 1090.)
In other news around MASSACHUSETTS: Oldies listeners in Boston won”t have “Austin of Boston” to wake up with any more. The veteran WODS (103.3) jock has reportedly rejected a move to the night shift, and will leave the CBS-owned station when his contract is up.
WBZ (1030) morning anchor Gary LaPierre reached out to a national audience last week, guest hosting Paul Harvey News and Comment on ABC. It”s been more than a year since LaPierre”s last guest shot on the Harvey show.
In MAINE, Harpswell religious station WMSJ is just a few days away from changing frequencies. “Joy 91.9″ will become “Joy 89.3″ on December 1, changing city of license to Freeport in the process. The 91.9 Harpswell facility is up for sale; WMSJ expects to put a better signal into Portland on its new channel.
We know more about Allan Weiner”s shortwave application, first mentioned in NERW several weeks ago. Weiner wants to put his station on Britton Road in Monticello, a stone”s throw from the Canadian border — and also the site of WREM (710), a station he owned back when it was WOZW. It will be interesting to see how the FCC handles Weiner, given his long history of unlicensed operation (including one pirate that actually used the WOZW transmitter site).
WMMM (1260) in Westport, CONNECTICUT will soon be back on the air. The station was donated to Sacred Heart University in September, and has been dark ever since. WMMM was conducting engineering tests on Tuesday, and is expected to be back for good shortly.
Hartford jock Michael Picozzi is coming back to the airwaves after losing his job at WHCN (105.9); he”ll join soon-to-be-Marlin-owned WCCC FM-AM (106.9 Hartford/1290 West Hartford) for a 3-7 PM shift as the “Picozzi and Slave Boy” show.