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In this week's issue: Canadian broadcasters seek new signals - PEI's K-Rock flips to top 40 - Dan and Kim out at Springfield's Mix 93.1 - Randall out at Pittsburgh's Star - New experimental AM in Massachusetts

by SCOTT FYBUSH

(Editor's Note: Thanks for your patience with another somewhat abbreviated issue of NERW; Lisa - aka "Mrs. NERW" - is back in the hospital once again, recuperating from more surgery. She thanks many of you for your kind wishes during her recovery - and we send our thanks as well for all the kind wishes on the occasion of NERW's 18th birthday over the weekend. It was on January 14, 1994 that the first "New England Radio Watcher" burst upon an unsuspecting Usenet, and we're proud to still be here almost two decades later, chronicling our industry's ups and downs. On with year #19...)

*We start this week in CANADA, because it's up there that broadcasters are lining up for an oh-so-rare shot at a new FM signal in the country's largest market. The 88.1 frequency in Toronto was vacated last year when student/community station CKLN lost its license after years of battling with the CRTC, and now the agency's application window has closed for broadcasters hoping to replace CKLN on the dial. In all, 27 applications came in before the window closed earlier this month, and the list includes just about every existing commercial player already in the Toronto market, not to mention several from the outlying markets.

The CBC wants a shot at the frequency, presumably to relocate Radio-Canada's CJBC (860) from the AM dial. So does Astral, which is already maxed out on station ownership in Toronto (but is an FM relay of CFRB 1010 in the offing?), and so do multicultural broadcaster CHIN, which already owns CHIN-FM (100.7) and CHIN (1540, which already has a low-power FM relay) and Moses Znaimer's MZ group, presumably to replace or supplement "Zoomer Radio" CFZM (740).

We already knew that Ryerson University, once-burned by its testy relationship with the late CKLN, was applying for a replacement signal on 88.1, and we knew that Evanov Communications (dba "Dufferin Communications") wanted to move "PROUD FM" (CIRR) from 103.9 to a higher-powered signal on 88.1 -  but we now know as well that French-language community station CHOQ (105.1) and Fitzroy Gordon's Intercity Broadcasting Network, which just put CKFG (98.7) on the air, are also in the hunt for better signals at 88.1. From around the region, there are applications from Doug Kirk's Durham Radio (seeking a smooth jazz replacement for its CIWV 94.7, recently flipped to country), Barrie's Rock 95 Broadcasting and Trust Communications Ministries (CJLF "Life 100 FM"), and Midland-based Larche Communications. From beyond the GTA, there are also applications from Newcap, from Montreal's Tietolman-Tetreault-Pancholy group, which was recently granted a new Montreal AM signal, and from Frank Torres, who owns Ottawa blues-rocker CIDG ("101.9 the Dawg.") And those are just the English- and French-language applicants: there are also more than a half-dozen applications that appear to be for foreign-language facilities.

How does this all play out?

That's tough to say. It's easy to imagine the CRTC supporting an application like Evanov's, which rewards an existing station serving a niche audience and at the same time opens another frequency (103.9) for an even more niche player like the Ryerson application or one of the Christian broadcasters. It's less easy to imagine the CRTC approving a move of one of Toronto's big AM signals, whether it be 740 or 860 or 1540, to FM. However, as we've seen in Montreal, the CRTC now appears to be encouraging applicants to fill vacated AM facilities quickly, and there's no shortage of ethnic AM stations with limited signals that might covet a signal like 740 or 860...or, perhaps, 1050.

No, you didn't miss anything in that list of applicants: Bell's CHUM (1050) wasn't one of the players seeking an FM move, and it can't, since Bell is already maxed out on Toronto FM signals. And while we don't normally report rumors here in NERW, there's a well-placed one making the rounds this week. In a blog post on Friday, Fred Patterson (you know him as half of the old "Humble and Fred" morning show heard on CFNY and CFMJ) says Bell has approached Corus about buying out CFMJ (640), killing the talk format that now resides there and replacing it with the "TSN Radio" sports format that now airs on the weaker 1050 signal. Patterson says the move is related to the Bell/Rogers purchase of Maple Leafs Sports Entertainment (MLSE), which was already likely to pull Leafs hockey off CFMJ and over to either Rogers' CJCL (Sportsnet Radio 590) or...yup, TSN Radio. (Patterson also says that without Leafs hockey and without a buyout from Bell, Corus has considered flipping 640 to an all-traffic format like that on its CHMJ 730 in Vancouver.)

*Whether or not Bell is that serious about upgrading its AM platform in Toronto, we know with certainty that the company wants to improve one of its AM signals in Ottawa, where it's applying to upgrade the night signal of CFRA (580) from 10 kW to 30 kW.

CFRA currently drops power from 50 kW at sunset, but Bell notes that the Canadian stations it was protecting on 580 - CKPR Thunder Bay, CJFX Antigonish NS and CHLC Baie-Comeau QC - have all moved to FM, clearing the way for more CFRA power over Canadian soil after dark.

"If this application is approved," Bell tells the CRTC,  "CFRA will be able to improve service to its listeners in the Ottawa and Seaway Valleys; these regions are often a source of complaints of signal loss particularly during the winter months when the pattern change can occur as early as 4:15 p.m., with the station not returning to full power until approximately 7:45 a.m. the following day.  This impacts our listenership during the morning and afternoon drive shows.  In addition, the increased signal strength in Ottawa's downtown core will also help overcome interference from a variety of electrical sources including fluorescent lights, motors and industrial/scientific/medical equipment."

*In London, Ontario, Rogers wants a signal improvement, too: it tells the CRTC that the present facilities at CHST (102.3 BOB FM) - 12 kW max ERP/126.8 m - aren't sufficient for covering the market, especially compared to newer licensee CHLO (98.1 Free FM). So Rogers is applying to boost CHST to 100 kW max ERP from a new directional panel antenna at the same center of radiation on the CFPL-TV (Channel 10) tower.

*Two Quebec stations are asking the CRTC for format modifications. In Montreal, Radio Nord wants to reduce its jazz and blues programming on CKLX ("Planète Jazz 91.9"), replacing at least 50% of the station's programming with spoken word.

The move is a reaction to the consolidations in Montreal and around the province in recent years that have killed off several other French talk formats, leaving only Cogeco's CHMP (98.5) as a full-time talker there. Cogeco itself wants to put more talk on the air in Quebec City, meanwhile; it's asking the CRTC to allow it to run talk at least 75% of the time on CJMF (93.3), relegating classic rock to the late-night and overnight hours there.

And on Prince Edward Island, Newcap flipped formats at CKQK (105.5 Charlottetown) on Friday, killing off "K-Rock" at 1:05 PM and replacing it with top-40 as "Hot 105.5." Newcap is keeping the existing air talent on the station.

*One Canadian obituary this week: Larry Solway made a name for himself in the 1960s as a high-octane talk host on CHUM (1050) in Toronto, only to find himself off the air in 1970 amidst a controversy over  a series of sexually-tinged talk shows. Solway later became a frequent guest on CBC programs and briefly hosted another talk show on Brampton's CHIC (790, now CIAO 530). In later years, he ventured into politics, unsuccessfully. Solway died January 9 in Toronto; he was 83.

*A veteran western MASSACHUSETTS morning team is out: Dan Williams spent 32 years at WHYN-FM (93.1), while co-host Kim Zachary had been there for 16 years - and after 15 years together in morning drive, they're now gone from the Clear Channel Radio - er, "Clear Channel Media and Entertainment" - hot AC station. No word yet on who'll replace them in mornings at "Mix 93.1."

In Brockton, the sale of WXBR (1460) appears to be imminent. The Brockton Enterprise reports there's a meeting scheduled for today between officials of current owner Business Talk Radio Network and the prospective buyer. (We're hearing that it may be a Haitian broadcaster.) WXBR has been listed with broker Harold Bausemer at $325,000, a significant drop from the $1 million BTRN paid for the former WBET in 2006.

Horizon Christian Fellowship has a new station on the air northwest of Boston: WTYN (91.7 Lunenburg) will serve an area north of Route 2 and east of Fitchburg, extending the reach of a growing Horizon/CSN network that already includes WFGL (960 Fitchburg) and WJWT (91.7 Gardner).

Alex Langer's WSRO (650 Ashland) has been granted a power increase. The Portuguese-language station is the last signal left on what was once the WKOX (1200) transmitter site on Mount Wayte Avenue in Framingham, and now that WKOX (now WXKS Newton) and WBIX (1060 Natick, now WQOM) have decamped for other sites, WSRO is able to increase from 250 watts daytime, 9 watts night, non-directional, to 1500 watts days, 62 watts night, using both towers.

The WX1CFA cross-field antenna

In Webster, WGFP (940) has been tower-less for a while now, and though there's nothing on file with the FCC to indicate that the station has ever had special temporary authority, we've heard that it's been experimenting with low-profile antennas and is currently running from a longwire antenna - but there's also apparently now an experimental license on file ("WX1CFA") for tests of the controversial (and as yet very much unproven) "Cross Field Antenna" at the WGFP site on 1630 kHz.

*On TV, Boston is the latest battleground in the never-ending battle between broadcasters and cable/satellite providers over carriage fees. Last week's action came in Syracuse, where Newport's WSYR-TV (Channel 9) briefly vanished from Verizon FiOS before both sides came to terms - but that was just a minor-league game compared to the fight between Sunbeam Television and DirecTV, whose customers lost NBC affiliate WHDH-TV (Channel 7) and its sister station WLVI (Channel 56) on Sunday, just hours before the NBC Golden Globes broadcast. NBC has this year's Super Bowl in just a few weeks, and as long as the Patriots remain alive, Sunbeam seems poised to have some major leverage to bring to bear in the dispute. (Then there's the cable fight between MSG Networks and Time Warner Cable, which remains stubbornly unresolved after two weeks, leaving NERW Central without Sabres telecasts, among other inconveniences...)

*RHODE ISLAND Public Radio is officially abandoning its attempt to put a directional antenna in place at WRNI-FM (102.7 Narragansett Pier). The directional antenna installed over the summer allowed WRNI-FM to bump its power from 1.95 kW to 6 kW in its maximum lobe, but that lobe went mostly over water to the east and south of the 102.7 site, and the one area that might have experienced better coverage with the directional signal, Newport, will soon get a RI NPR signal of its own on 88.1. After experiencing problems with the directional antenna, WRNI-FM tells the FCC it's going back to its previous nondirectional facility.

*A new callsign in MAINE: WPHX (1220 Sanford) will become WWSF when it returns to the air under new owner Aruba Capital Holdings.

*Radio People on the Move in NEW YORK: Andrew Boris is off the air at WRRV (92.7 Middletown)/WRRB (96.9 Arlington/Poughkeepsie) after more than 15 years in morning drive. He remains PD at WRRV, and he adds PD duties at Cumulus sister station WPDH (101.5 Poughkeepsie)/WPDA (106.1 Jeffersonville), replacing Gary Cee, who exits due to budget cuts. No replacement has been named yet for Boris' "Music All Morning" airshift.

In Albany, Ally Reid is now the PD for Pamal's WFLY (92.3 Troy), adding those duties to her existing PD/afternoon role at sister station WZMR (104.9 the Cat).

In Ithaca, Susan Johnston will retire in March from Saga's Cayuga Radio Group after more than a quarter-century with the stations (WHCU, WNYY, WYXL, WQNY, WIII). No replacement has been named so far.

In Niagara County, Lockport Community Television has filed for a license to cover for WLNF (90.5 Rapids), which will be a new community radio signal there.

Up on the shores of Lake Champlain, WXMR (100.7 Plattsburgh West) is changing hands: Jose Ortiz y Pino is buying 80% of licensee Westport Media Partners from Jeff Loper for - no typo here! - 20 dollars.

*In western PENNSYLVANIA, JR Randall is gone from CBS Radio's WBZZ (Star 100.7) in Pittsburgh in what both sides are calling a "mutual decision." Randall had been with CBS Radio for 14 years, and his departure turns the "JR, Bubba and Shelly" morning show into just "Bubba and Shelly" for now.

In Altoona, talker Steve Clark is returning to WFBG (1290) in two weeks. Clark worked at WFBG from 2005-2009, when he was let go due to budget cuts, and he had been partnered with Charlie Weston at crosstown WRTA (1240) for ten years before that. Weston is still at WFBG in morning drive, and Clark's new show will air after Weston, from 9-11 AM weekdays, displacing Glenn Beck.

Is there a format change on the way in Harrisburg? Cumulus is promoting that "something new" is coming to WMHX (106.7 Hershey) on Friday afternoon at 1:06, and there's plenty of speculation that the 90s hits "Channel 106.7" format will soon be history now that Cumulus has taken over from Citadel. (Online buzz suggests the station could return to the country format it used as WRKZ until a decade ago, possibly as a sister station to "I105" WIOV-FM down the road in Lancaster.)

Radio People on the Move at Clear Channel: in the Allentown market, Eric Chase has departed the PD chair at WAEB-FM (104.1 Allentown) to move to Detroit sports talker WDFN (1130). No replacement has been named yet. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, there's a new morning man on revived R&B oldies outlet WDAS (1480): Bobby Holiday, late of Radio One's WPHI and more recently in Flint, Michigan at WDZZ (92.7), returns to Philadelphia for the new station.

Up above Mount Carmel, Salt and Light Media Ministries has new calls for its construction permit on 91.9 in Kulpmont: the former WBYK is now on the FCC's records as WZRG. When it signs on (the CP expires in December), it will be the latest relay of Lewisburg's WGRC (91.3).

*And we close with an obituary for Herb Clarke, who came to Philadelphia TV in 1958 after beginning his broadcast career in Virginia. Clarke did weather at WCAU-TV (Channel 10) for almost 40 years, retiring from the station in 1997, though he remained on the air doing gardening reports for KYW (1060) for eight more years. Clarke died January 8, at age 84.

 

From the NERW Archives

 

Yup, we've been doing this a long time now, and so we're digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five, ten and - where available - fifteen years ago this week, or thereabouts.

Note that the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as "New England Radio Watch," and didn't go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997.

One Year Ago: January 17, 2011 -

For many decades now, the pecking order of public radio in western PENNSYLVANIA was pretty clear: the classical music on WQED (89.3) and the news and jazz on WDUQ (90.5) split the lion's share of noncommercial listening - and fundraising - in the Pittsburgh market, while relative newcomer WYEP (91.3) was a niche player, with a loose AAA format attracting a small but loyal group of somewhat younger listeners.So it may have come as something of a surprise when the long saga of Duquesne University's attempts to sell WDUQ ended abruptly on Friday afternoon with the announcement that the station had a buyer: a new group called "Essential Public Media," a joint venture between Colorado-based Public Radio Capital (working through a new nonprofit offshoot, Public Media Company) and WYEP.

Public Radio Capital has been an increasingly important player in the public radio landscape in recent years, financing station deals as large as the sale of Boston's WCRB to public broadcaster WGBH. Its involvement in Pittsburgh began last year when a group of local philanthropic organizations hooked up with Pittsburgh Public Media, a new nonprofit created by WDUQ's current management, to take out an option (with PRC serving as consultant) to buy the station from Duquesne.

That option ended up expiring without being exercised, and for the last few months nobody was saying much at all about WDUQ's future, even as the station was busy moving out of its longtime home and into new quarters elsewhere on the Duquesne campus - a location where its stay will be brief, as it turns out. Once WDUQ's sale to Essential Public Media closes, the station will get new call letters and a new studio home at WYEP's relatively new facility on Pittsburgh's South Side, and Essential will be under no obligation to retain the station's current staff.

And that raises an interesting point about the sale: at least according to what Duquesne officials said at their Friday afternoon news conference, Essential's $6 million offer for WDUQ was one of two that was considered, with the other offer - for a lower amount - coming from Pittsburgh Public Media, the group organized by WDUQ's present management. The $6 million sale price (brokered by Roger Rafson of CMS Station Brokerage for Duquesne) is considerably lower than the university's original asking price in the $10-12 million range - but that was widely viewed as an overly ambitious goal, particularly in the wake of the $8.7 million sale of commercial station WAMO-FM and its two AM sisters a year earlier. (As another benchmark, Clear Channel just last week sold a class B commercial FM station in the larger San Jose, California market, KUFX, to Entercom for $9 million.)

Essential says it will seek to build on WDUQ's local journalism, while WYEP general manager Lee Ferraro says they'll be "working with the community of jazz lovers in Pittsburgh as well." The deal includes educational opportunities for Duquesne students to intern and even get jobs at the new 90.5; Duquesne, meanwhile, says it will use the revenue from the station's sale to fund several new educational programs that fit more closely with the university's core mission than the radio station did.

*There's a familiar set of call letters returning to Pittsburgh. The WBZZ calls went with "B-94" on what's now KDKA-FM (93.7) for almost a quarter of a century before being dumped in 2004 when the station went to rock as WRKZ. By the time CBS resurrected "B" in in 2007, the WBZZ calls were in use elsewhere, and of course "B" went away again last year in favor of sports. But when the WBZZ calls became available again last week after their former home in Albany flipped (it's now 90s-pop "Crush," WQSH), CBS grabbed them, and now they're on the station formerly known as WZPT (100.7 New Kensington). No other changes are planned for hot AC "Star 100.7," CBS says.

Meanwhile, there's a familiar voice disappearing from the Pittsburgh airwaves - well, some of them, anyway, as Terry Lee discontinues his Sunday-night oldies show on WJAS (1320). The veteran Steel City jock is still being heard on Saturdays on WLSW (103.9 Scottdale), at least in the southern half of the market.

*While public radio people in Pittsburgh work to build a new 90.5, the commercial radio community in Scranton is mourning one of the key players in building one of that city's most famous stations of an earlier era. Alan Kornish came to WARM (590) in the early 1960s to do sales, but by the end of the decade he'd taken over as general manager, helping to mold WARM into one of the most dominant top-40 voices anywhere in the country. Kornish died at his home in Exeter on Thursday (Jan. 6); he was 74.

For talk radio listeners in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, the week ended with two hosts gone from their usual spots - and one familiar voice back on the air at a new location.

The familiar voice belongs to Michele McPhee, the newspaper columnist-turned-talk host who'd been doing nights at Greater Media's WTKK (96.9) until "creative differences" pushed her out of that slot in November. Now she's on the air at Entercom's WRKO (680), where she starts today in the 1-3 PM slot that had been home to Charley Manning, who took over middays last spring when Clear Channel moved Rush Limbaugh over to its own WXKS (1200). Manning failed to catch ratings fire (though Limbaugh's numbers on WXKS have also been far from stellar); will McPhee's more distinctive on-air personality give WRKO some much-needed traction?

Meanwhile in morning drive, Don Imus is now off the air in Boston. He'd already been cut back to just a sliver of morning drive - 5-7 AM - as his Boston affiliate, WTKK, expanded the profile of its local morning show with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, and as of last Thursday he's off completely, with "The Jim & Margery Show" now starting at 6, following an extra hour of Phil Hendrie.

Will Imus find a new Boston radio home? The options aren't promising: rival talkers WRKO and WXKS both appear fairly committed to their own local entries in the morning horse race, as does Imus' original morning home in town, sports-talk WEEI. And even if WEEI's competition, "Sports Hub" WBZ-FM (98.5), were interested, there's a little matter of some very bad blood between Imus and CBS Radio that would have to be overcome.

So for Imus fans in Boston, it's either distant reception of Providence's WPRV or New York's WABC, or Fox Business Channel on TV, at least for now.

Back in the fall of 2009, we reported on the newest radio signal to be licensed in NEW YORK City, translator W296BT (107.1), speculating (here and here) about what might become of the little signal serving lower Manhattan and pieces of downtown Brooklyn and southern Queens.

After a year in which not much happened with the little signal (including any actual on-air appearance on 107.1, where it's still an unbuilt construction permit), W296BT is once again on the move. The translator has chosen a new primary signal to relay - Clear Channel's WLTW (106.7) - and it's applied to move from Brooklyn to 4 Times Square, the prominent broadcast facility that towers over midtown Manhattan.

And that's not all: the application calls for the translator to move to 106.5, cheek-by-jowl with WLTW on the crowded New York dial. What gives? Educated speculation suggests that the translator, if its CP is granted for the move, would operate on 106.5 only very briefly, just long enough to be licensed on that channel - and then to apply for a move to another frequency where its signal wouldn't be buried under the HD Radio sidebands of WLTW. From 106.5, the translator (owned by Michael and Tammy Celenza and Young and Eun Kwon under the "Apple 107.1 Inc." banner) would be eligible to make a minor change to 106.3 or 95.9, both reasonably open channels on which a 250-watt signal from 4 Times Square would cover much of Manhattan and at least small parts of the outer boroughs. What happens then? That's anyone's guess, though the obvious next step would be for someone to use the translator as a relay of an HD Radio subchannel from an existing New York FM station.

*Out on Long Island, there's a format change coming in Suffolk County: as JVC Broadcasting takes over WKJI (96.1 Center Moriches) from Barnstable, it's ending (as expected) the "K-JOY" AC simulcast with Barnstable's WKJY (98.3 Hempstead). In its place comes country, as 96.1 prepares to relaunch tomorrow as WJVC, "My Country 96.1."

Five Years Ago: January 14, 2007 -

With a full complement of station staff, local media, area engineers, itinerant tower photographers and TV news helicopters on hand, the second try at the demolition of the WOR (710) towers in Lyndhurst, NEW JERSEY came off without a hitch Thursday morning.Tripods already lined the driveway of WOR's new tower site a half-mile away in East Rutherford when we pulled up to add ours to the crowd an hour or so before the scheduled 11:01 demolition. Just like the first attempt last September, the weather was flawless (if a bit chillier) - clear blue skies and a dynamite view across the river to the Manhattan skyline. But unlike that try, which was halted by local police after the proper permits hadn't been obtained, this one went right on schedule.

In fact, as WOR began its live remote broadcast of the event, the top of the first of the towers (tower 3, the closest to the old transmitter building) had already quietly begun to pitch over before many in the crowd even noticed that the demolition was underway. As the tower crews cut the top level of guys to towers 2 and 3 simultaneously, it took a little over 20 seconds for the two big pieces of steel to fold in on themselves and hit the ground. Tower 3 was first to fall, crumpling about a third of the way up, then landing the bottom of the tower in a sort of arch that would later fall (and which we'd later climb through to survey the wreckage), followed quickly by the twisting demise of tower 2, the southernmost in the array.

After a few minutes' delay as the tower crew emerged from hiding and moved its saws to tower 1, the easternmost in the array, the cameras again began clicking as the final tower began tipping, bent in half, implanted its top section in the ground to form an inverted "U," then disappeared from sight to cheers from the crowd and enormous sighs of relief from WOR chief engineer Tom Ray and the station's management.

Despite fears that the sight of the towers' collapse might cause panic among drivers on the adjacent New Jersey Turnpike, subsequent viewings of the aerial footage (in HD, no less, on WNBC Channel 4) showed that the Jersey drivers didn't even slow down when the towers began falling.

Within half an hour of the demolition, the old WOR site was already full of curious engineers, including several who'd been there when WOR built the Lyndhurst towers in 1967, picking their way through the wreckage (less twisted than we'd expected) to salvage bits of shattered base insulators as souvenirs and examining the cleaned-out shell of the transmitter building that carried the voices of Jean Shepherd, several generations of John Gamblings, and so many other legendary WOR talents for so many decades.

Perhaps our favorite moment from the day: the TV reports later on in the afternoon, including the one in which the earnest correspondent's standup concludes by saying "WOR tells us they'll build new digital towers at a site about half a mile from the old one," never quite noticing that those, er, "digital" towers are right next to her already, and that the backdrop of her standup is the new transmitter building. Sigh...

*Speaking of NEW YORK radio history (as Jean Shepherd might have said, segueing into a WOR station ID), the WNEW call letters packed up and flew south last week, after 73 years on the air in New York. The former WNEW (102.7) is now WWFS, for "Fresh FM," and the WNEW calls now live on the CBS Radio signal at 106.3 in Jupiter, Florida (near West Palm Beach) that was WJBW-FM. There's no attempt there to trade on the legacy of the WNEW calls - just a parking maneuver to make sure nobody else in New York tries to use them.

Univision split its New York FM simulcast Friday, keeping "La Kalle" and its reggaeton/hurban format on WCAA (105.9 Newark NJ) and flipping WZAA (92.7 Garden City) to regional Mexican as "Que Buena," with Los Angeles-based morning host Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo.

*There's a tower down in PENNSYLVANIA, too - or there will be in a few days. Now that Entercom has completed the move of WBZU (910 Scranton) to the rooftop tower of WEJL (630) in downtown Scranton, it's pulling down the old Lehigh tower on Davis Street that was home to WGBI for so many years. (Thanks to Entercom Scranton CE Lamar Smith for a nice tour of both the new and old sites, which we'll be featuring on Tower Site of the Week one day soon.)

So much for oldies on FM in Erie: Connoisseur flipped WFGO (94.7) from "Froggy" to adult hits "Bob FM" last week, sending the "Froggy" oldies down to WFNN (1330), where they replace sports talk. Some of WFNN's sports play-by-play moves to WJET (1400), which remains mostly talk. Look for the calls on the FM to change to WXBB, while the WFGO calls move to 1330.

Ten Years Ago: January 14, 2002 -

Quick - what's the most powerful AM station in MAINE? The answer to that seemingly simple question has changed in just the last few weeks, thanks to a big facility upgrade at a little station in Rumford, up north of Portland. The 1000-watt daytimer on 790 (later adding 21 watts at night) spent most of its quiet life as WRUM, changing calls a few years ago to WLLB when it was purchased by J.J. Jeffrey. Late last year, Jeffrey sold WLLB to Richard Gleason's Mountain Valley Broadcasting, which moved some calls around, giving Rumford the WTME calls from 1240 in Lewiston, which became WCNM. But Jeffrey did something else while he owned 790: he filed an application to move the station down the dial to 780 and boost power to 10 kilowatts daytime, still non-directional. And that's just what WTME did on Christmas Eve, surprising DXers, and half of Portland, with a signal that's now tied for the most powerful in the Pine Tree State, at least by day. (Only Skowhegan's WSKW and Gorham's WMTW were already using 10 kW daytime, and WMTW is directional.) WTME still drops down to flea-power (18 watts) at night, which is problematic this time of year, when the sun's down before 5 PM, but during the day, it's now being heard as far away as Boston (and by DXers as far as Ontario!) with religion and talk programming, simulcast with WCNM (1240 Lewiston) and WKTQ (1450 South Paris).

Over in NEW HAMPSHIRE, we can tell you what the call change at WBNC-FM in Conway accomplished: the station now known as WVMJ (104.5) is running an AC format as "Magic," and we hear it's being simulcast on the former WBNC (1050), now WXMT.

Down in southern NEW JERSEY, we finally know who's paying $20 million for Bridgeton's WSNJ (1240/107.7). "New Jersey Radio Partners, LLC" is a new name in the market, but its partners are familiar names in the radio world: Ed Seeger and Andrew Guest head up American Media Services of Charleston, S.C., the brokerage that's made its name with innovative FM move-ins. And indeed, the contract to buy the station includes a provision for a move of the FM allocation, presumably to get it closer to Philadelphia and Wilmington (and to clear the way for a power increase at Atlantic City's WPUR 107.3 as well, perhaps...)

And up on the North Shore, WUMB has been testing its new signal. WNEF (91.7 Newburyport) will have its inaugural broadcast at 3 PM, Sunday, January 13, with special guests Cheryl Hoenemeyer, Cormac McCarthy and Taylor and Jake Armerding. The transmitter is located at the Adelphia Cable tower in Amesbury; it'll bring WUMB's folk signal to an area north of Cape Ann that's never heard the station before, while protecting co-channel WMWM (91.7 Salem) to the south. The calls, by the way, stand for "We're New England Folk."

Fifteen Years Ago: January 8, 1997 -

Things are finally starting to shake out over at Boston's talk signal, WRKO (680). After two days of dancing around the subject (presumably accompanied by frantic backstage negotiations), veteran talker Jerry Williams has agreed to stay with WRKO doing a weekend shift, 1 to 4 pm Saturdays and Sundays, starting this Saturday, January 11. Williams endeared himself to NERW forever by spending much of Wednesday's and Thursday's shows lambasting Boston Globe radio critic Susan Bickelhaupt for the Globe's sketchy coverage of the situation. Bickelhaupt and Williams have locked swords before, and with very little to lose, Williams let loose on the air, criticizing Bickelhaupt for failing to call him for information, and knocking her for the bland way in which the Globe's one-paragraph story was written. Also heard on Thursday's show were many of Williams' former producers, going back to his start at WRKO back in 1981. Still very much up in the air is the future of WRKO's morning slot. The feud between co-host Marjorie Clapprood and the station appears to be very real, and it's now been more than a week since Clapprood walked off. Saturday morning host Mo Lauzier filled in on Thursday, relieving Jeff Katz, who's getting ready to start in the 10 pm - 2 am slot next week. Katz was uneven at best during his morning debut, spending the first segment of Wednesday's show in a pointless discussion with other station staffers about who lost the keys to the station van, and later fielding some pretty nasty calls from the listeners. Meantime, Clapprood is reportedly deep in discussions with her lawyers about what to do next, and her co-host Pat Whitley is simply off the air in the meantime.

Notes from all over: The lone AM station in Saratoga Springs NY has returned to local programming, after several years of simulcasting oldies WCKM-FM (98.5 Lake George NY). WKAJ (900) is back to its original calls (from WBGG and then WCKM), and has been heard with big band programming. In New Milford CT, Sound of Life Inc. has applied for a translator on 88.5 for its WFGB (89.7 Kingston NY). The FCC has granted the sale of talker WSNV (103.9 Howland-Bangor ME) from Bay Communications to Moon Song Communications. It's also approved a change to noncommercial status for WUOK (1240 West Yarmouth MA), as that station is transferred from Boch Broadcasting to the Trustees of Boston University.

Yo-Ho, Yo-Ho, We're on the Pirate Bandwagon: Yet another unlicensed broadcaster is getting ready to set up shop in the Boston area. An article in the Allston-Brighton Tab newspaper this week quotes former WGBH producer Stephen Provizer as saying he'll start "Radio Free Allston" next month, running 20 watts on 88.5 from his home on Reedsdale Road in Boston's Allston neighborhood. Provizer says he'll operate five hours a day, seven days a week, serving a five-mile radius and airing commercials from neighborhood businesses.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Hey, Scott. I don’t know if you’ve heard yet, but according to WMTW-TV in Portland, WVAE/WBAE will be airing Yankees games this season.

    Great column as always, best of luck to your wife on a speedy recovery.

    Jason, Lewiston, ME

  2. OK, if a CANADIAN AM station can make changes to its DA pattern because AM frequencies in other CANADIAN cities have abandoned a frequency (580), why must AM stations in the USA have to pretend these frequencies are in use YEARS after they have been abandoned? To cite an example, WWZN-AM 1510 in Boston really squeezes its signal due north because there once was a station in Sherbrooke, PQ a generation ago!

  3. It’s the cross border issue. It’s easier for the FCC or the CRTC to make changes to allocations that affect frequencies within their own borders than it is for them to make changes that affect a frequency that technically is still allocated for a community in another country. Although, if this does go through, they would have to officially abandon the allocations for 580 in those communities, which could allow stations like WTAG in Worcester or WTCM in Traverse City to boost their power in that direction.

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