*Welcome to our new home! There aren't many websites that have lasted more than a decade without a redesign, and with this week's NERW we retire the old version of fybush.com, designed and built by your editor (in PageMill 3.0!) way back in 2000 and slightly modified in early 2001. Our new WordPress-based look comes to you with the assistance of Dustin McShane and MindSwell Media, and over the next few days we'll have the new site fully up and running.
If you've already signed on as a subscriber, we're grateful for your support. As of Monday morning, we haven't fully implemented our new subscriber access, so for the moment everyone can read this issue of NERW without needing to sign in or set up a user account - but within the next day or two, our charter subscribers will be getting e-mails with their new usernames and passwords for full searchable access to the site, including 17 years of NERW archives and a decade of Tower Site of the Week. Subscribers will also be able to comment on articles here, and soon we'll be rolling out additional features including e-mail delivery of the column.
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And if you're a business targeting radio and TV stations in the region, there's no better value than fybush.com advertising to reach decision makers. Group owners, independent local owners, programmers and engineers all depend on NorthEast Radio Watch every week, and you can be right here in front of them for a very affordable rate. Contact business manager Lisa Fybush ([email protected]) for all the details...
Enough about what's happening behind the scenes: on with this week's column:
*We start in western MASSACHUSETTS, where the end came quietly Saturday afternoon for a venerable radio landmark.
Longtime NERW readers knew that the original WBZ towers atop the old Westinghouse plant on Page Boulevard in East Springfield were doomed to demolition as part of the site's redevelopment for retail use. But until the very end of last week, we didn't know exactly when the towers would be coming down.
As it turned out, the old towers - the very pieces of steel that supported the antenna from which WBZ first broadcast 90 years ago this fall - enjoyed one last moment on the air just hours before crews pulled them down. Engineer Kurt Jackson, who was contracted to remove the towers, arranged for a special-event license from the FCC to operate an amateur radio station from a longwire antenna at the site on Saturday, and for just a few hours station "W1Z" operated on shortwave from a temporary operating station inside the WBZ "mobile newsroom" parked next to the gutted shell of the Westinghouse building.
Once W1Z had signed off, the rest happened quickly: crews climbed the building, cut the towers at their bases, and quickly pulled them down.
While some pieces were salvaged as souvenirs, it's still an unfortunate end to a very important piece of technology history. The WBZ site in East Springfield was, as best we can tell, a unique survivor of the earliest era of AM tower sites, having long outlived other rooftop longwires of its era. (For instance, the towers used for the original KDKA installation in East Pittsburgh have been gone for decades, and the building itself met the wrecking ball just after the turn of the century; other early AM sites such as the Westinghouse plant and WOR/Bamberger plant in Newark are also long gone.)
With WBZ's first home now gone as well, only a handful of 1920s AM sites survive, none in anything close to their original form. The 1924 transmitter building for WCCO in Minneapolis still stands, used for storage a few hundred yards from the newer 1930s-era building and tower now used by the station. In Mason, Ohio, the 1927 transmitter building for WLW remains (and will be featured later this week on Tower Site of the Week), as does an even earlier structure next door that was an early transmitter building for sister station WSAI.
But most of the towers from that era succumbed quickly to technological progress: when modern vertical AM antennas replaced the longwires beginning in the early 1930s, the old antennas weren't kept around, for the most part. WBZ's Springfield site survived as long as it did because of two accidents of historical inertia: first, the move of WBZ's main studio and transmitter to the Boston area in 1931 left the Springfield facility (renamed "WBZA") behind as something of an afterthought, with Westinghouse investing as little as possible in updating the Springfield site over the ensuing 31 years. And after WBZA signed off from Springfield for good in 1962, Westinghouse never bothered to spend the money to remove the old towers, which then remained in place as the old Westinghouse facility moldered after the company moved out.
We're grateful to our tower-hunting colleague Mike Fitzpatrick of NECRAT.us for sharing his pictures this week. There are more - and video, too! - over at his site, which is itself going through a redesign soon.
*The week's other big news from the Bay State also came from the Springfield area, where our new NERW midweek update (another bonus for subscribers!) has already reported the big format change: AAA WRNX (100.9 Amherst) went away for good moments after midnight last Monday (Oct. 31), replaced by country "Kix 100.9." That's the next step, of course, in the long migration of another Clear Channel station, WPKX (97.9 Enfield CT) from the Springfield cluster to the Hartford cluster.
For now, the old "Kix" on 97.9 remains on the air from its Springfield-market site at the WWLP-TV facility on Provin Mountain, pending some technical changes at other adjacent-channel facilities in the region - but it will move, sooner or later, to a new site in CONNECTICUT, atop an office tower in downtown Hartford with a new city of license of Windsor Locks. (The 100.9 signal will move, too, to a new tower on Mount Tom, though for now it's still at its old site on the east side of the Connecticut River.)
We still don't know what Clear Channel has in mind for a new format for the relocated 97.9. Early rumors had focused on talk, but the buzz about a new "Rush Radio" has quieted tremendously in recent months, perhaps in part because of the struggling performance of another new Clear Channel talker, Boston's WXKS (1200 Newton). And if Clear Channel does intend to challenge Hartford's established news-talker, it's suddenly up against a more imposing competitor: CBS Radio's WTIC (1080 Hartford) is basking in some positive attention this week after devoting much of its airtime the last few days to helping the Nutmeg State recover from the massive power outages caused by last weekend's early winter storm.
As we write this on Sunday night, much of Connecticut is just getting power restored after a week without service. The storm silenced many smaller stations around the state, and some bigger ones, too: downed trees along the access road to the West Peak FM tower site in Meriden kept engineers from accessing the stations there, and Buckley's WDRC-FM (102.9) was especially hard-hit when its generator failed and nobody could get to the site to fix it.
*The week's other big Connecticut story comes from the Fairfield County shoreline, where Cox Radio is exiting the AM business with the sale of WNLK (1350 Norwalk) and WSTC (1400 Stamford) to Sacred Heart University's public broadcaster, WSHU. The sale price hasn't yet been disclosed, but it's believed to be significantly less than Cox paid to acquire the AM signals (along with their sister FMs, one of which - WFOX-FM 95.9 - remains in the Cox fold, while another - now WKLV 96.7 - has also been sold off.)
The Cox AMs had been orphaned earlier this year when WFOX-FM moved its studios to Cox's cluster in Milford, leaving only a skeleton crew operating the two AMs from the facility at 444 Westport Avenue that had once been home to four stations. Cox says ten employees have lost their jobs as a result of the sale of the stations, which ends local shows that include John LaBarca's morning program and Lisa Wexler's afternoon talk show.
As for WSHU, in addition to its primary news-and-music format on WSHU-FM (91.1 Fairfield), the public broadcaster now dominates the upper end of the AM dial in the region: in addition to WNLK and WSTC, which it began operating under an LMA Sunday night, it owns WSHU (1260 Westport) and operates WYBC (1340 New Haven). For now, at least, it appears that WNLK and WSTC will mostly simulcast the NPR news-talk programming already heard on WSHU(AM), though they'll break away on Sundays from 10 AM-2 PM to continue carrying La Barca's "Italian House Party," a long-running fixture of Fairfield County radio.
*And WSHU isn't the only Connecticut public broadcaster extending its reach: Hartford-based WNPR Connecticut Public Radio has signed a deal to place its programming on WAIC (91.9 Springfield MA), replacing student programming at the American International College station, which had most recently been running an adult hits format as "91.9 the Buzz."
*In RHODE ISLAND, fears of job cuts at the Citadel-turned-Cumulus cluster came true on Friday: it's still not clear exactly how many staffers are out, but we know that the cuts included WPRO (630) "digital reporter" Bob Plain (recently in the headlines when he was arrested while covering a local Occupy protest) and producer Tony Cornetta. (We're told executive producer Dee DeQuattro is still with the station, despite reports to the contrary elsewhere.)
Across the hall at "Lite Rock" WWLI (105.1), evening jock Art Spencer is gone after 18 years on that shift and 25 years with the company.
*A station sale in MAINE: at the end of I-95, Fred Grant's Northern Maine Media is buying WHOU (100.1 Houlton) from County Communications, which bought the station out of bankruptcy in 1996 for $31,500. No purchase price has been announced yet for the deal, which will be preceded by an LMA. (Grant will also take over County's LMA of WBCQ-FM 94.7 in Monticello.) Grant says he's already hired Ryan Hill as a part-time evening jock and plans to hire a morning jock as well.
*More Citadel/Cumulus news: in NEW YORK, WABC (770) program director Laurie Cantillo exited last week after less than three years on the job. While Cantillo was a well-liked figure at Two Penn Plaza, her tenure was marked from the beginning with questions about the purpose of the job, given the WABC program lineup that's now almost entirely made up of syndicated shows. But Cantillo at least made a valiant effort to localize the schedule as much as possible, launching the local late-morning Joe Crummey show last year as well as several weekend offerings. The most recent round of Cumulus cutbacks stripped WABC of several local staffers, and it's not entirely surprising to find Cantillo moving on, evidently of her own accord. (The rumor mill is already suggesting that Cantillo's next stop might be at struggling all-newser WEMP.)
On Long Island, it was Barnstable Broadcasting's turn to make cuts last week: gone from WKJY (98.3 Hempstead) are morning co-host, Peri Appollo, who joined Steve Harper last year, and midday/afternoon veteran Bill Edwards, who was also the PD at "K-JOY," a post Harper will now fill.
Moving upstate, Don Crawford Jr.'s DJRA group will pull the plug on the "Legends" oldies format Friday at Albany-market WPTR (96.7 Clifton Park). Crawford, whose father still owns sister station WDCD (1540 Albany), tells listeners that he faced "very weighty financial demands" from the company's lenders, and that's why the station will flip formats later this week, apparently back to the contemporary Christian format it had been running before "Legends" launched in February.
Unlike its Rochester sister station WLGZ (102.7), which has used a stable of live and local jocks to achieve decent ratings, the Albany "Legends" depended on voicetracks from those Rochester jocks (and others), and a limited class A signal kept it from making much of a dent in the Albany ratings. Crawford says WLGZ's Mark Shuttlesworth will continue to voicetrack a web-only version of the Albany "Legends" after the on-air signal flips on Friday.
*On TV, there's a new owner coming to the Albany market: as we reported in our Wednesday update, Freedom Communications is exiting the TV business, selling its eight-station group to Sinclair for $385 million. The deal includes two stations in NERW-land, both in the Albany market: CBS affiliate WRGB (Channel 6) and CW affiliate WCWN (Channel 45). The new stations fit nicely with an existing Sinclair footprint in the region that includes stations in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Portland, Maine.
Sinclair takes over right away under an LMA, and hopes to close on the sale in early 2012.
(Freedom had also owned WLNE in the Providence market, but sold it several years ago.)
*A versatile Syracuse radio talent is moving up I-81 (and US 11), just in time for winter: Kevin Keefe spent most of the past decade at WAQX (95.7 Manlius), with a detour into media buying at Stern Advertising - but CNYRadio.com reports that as of today, he's the new general manager of Community Broadcasters' cluster up in Ogdensburg, where he'll oversee country WLFK (95.3), talker WQTK (92.7) and sports WSLB (1400).
There's Christmas music on the air in Central New York: Galaxy's WZUN (102.1 Phoenix) and WUMX (102.5 Rome) are usually near the front of the line to flip to holiday tunes around Halloween, and they've done it again this year.
*News from the translator front: in the Buffalo suburbs, Dick Greene's WECK (1230 Cheektowaga) has added an FM translator, leasing W275BB (102.9 Lancaster) from Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes. The translator is moving to the WECK tower on Genesee Street, and it's now bringing WECK's "Breeze" soft adult contemporary programming to FM listeners, especially those on the north and east side of Buffalo. South of Rochester, WCJW (1140 Warsaw) has added a fourth FM translator to its growing network: "CJ Country" is now being heard on W281BB (104.3 Avon), extending its FM reach to much of northern Livingston County and parts of southern Monroe County.
Cross Country Communications' new WLKW-FM (95.3 Celoron) is now on the air in Jamestown: it's running a classic hits/classic rock format as "95.3 the Lake."
On the noncommercial dial, Ithaca Community Radio has put WRFI (91.9 Watkins Glen) on the air, just beating the expiration of its construction permit. So far, we're hearing the new station is broadcasting a loop of test programming; it's not yet simulcasting on ICR's Ithaca translator, W201CB (88.1), which continues to relay the HD-2 channel of WSQG (90.9 Ithaca).
*If you're in the Southern Tier Tuesday night, we'd love to have you join us at the Society of Broadcast Engineers Chapter 1 meeting. NERW editor Scott Fybush will be the guest speaker, talking about "50 Years of FM Stereo," a follow-up to that all-star panel discussion last month at the AES Convention in New York City. More details, of course, are at the SBE1 website.
*And of course we can't move on from New York without noting the death on Friday of Andy Rooney. While the Albany native and Colgate University graduate never worked in local broadcasting (he moved from local newspapers to World War II reporting right into network radio and then TV), his long network service qualifies him for NERW mention - as do his offspring: daughter Emily, of course, was news director at WCVB-TV and now hosts "Greater Boston" on WGBH radio and television, while son Brian started his local TV career at Rochester's WOKR (now WHAM-TV) and then worked at WPRI in Providence before moving on to WBBM-TV in Chicago and then ABC News. Rooney was 92; his death followed complications from what was reported to have been a "minor" surgical procedure, just a few weeks after his final commentary aired on "60 Minutes."
*Our PENNSYLVANIA news begins, sadly, with more job cuts: at Citadel-turned-Cumulus WCTO (96.1 Easton), George King is out after two years as PD and midday host; on the very same frequency, WSOX-FM (96.1 Red Lion) middayer Larry K. Scott is out as well after a three-decade run in the Susquehanna Valley. Also gone is WQXA-FM (105.7 York) middayer Moe Rock.
Over at Clear Channel, Jeff Hurley is now the operations manager for both the Lancaster and Reading markets; he remains PD and morning man at WLAN-FM (96.9 Lancaster) and adds oversight of WLAN (1390 Lancaster), WRAW (1340 Reading) and WRFY (102.5 Reading).
*Obituaries from Pittsburgh: Perry Marshall was all over the Steel City dial in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, spinning the top-40 tunes at WEEP (1080) and KQV (1410) and hosting talk shows at WJAS (1320) and then for many years at KDKA (1020). Marshall died Saturday at age 86, survived by family members including his daughter Robin Marshall, a notable radio personality in her own right in New York City and more recently in Charlotte, N.C., where she recently exited CBS Radio's WKQC (104.7).
And KQV's Frank Gottlieb notes that the October 24 death of Hal Brown passed with too little recognition. Brown was program director at WAMO (860/105.9) in the 1960s and 1970s, on the air in the late afternoons as the lead-in to Porky Chedwick. He also worked as personnel director at WTAE-TV (Channel 4) before retiring to Florida. Brown was 78.
*One more note before we head across the border: as broadcasters know all too well by now (or at least should know!), Wednesday is the first-ever national test of the Emergency Alert System. We're eager to hear from NERW readers about how the test goes at your stations...please drop us a line and let us know if it's a success for you! (We're happy to preserve your anonymity...)
*There could be some new radio stations coming to CANADA's Maritimes after a January 18 CRTC hearing in Miramichi, New Brunswick.
On the agenda for the hearing are proposals for several new signals in the province: in Miramichi, Newcap wants to put a country station on the air at 95.9 (11 kW DA/25 kW max/85.8 m); the Miramichi Fellowship Center wants to replace its "LIFE Radio" relay at 101.1 (rebroadcasting CJFY 107.7 Blackville) with a new station at 96.5 (820 watts/35 m), turning the Blackville signal into a relay of Miramichi; and Maritime Broadcasting System wants a country station on 102.5 with 36 kW/103 m).
Newcap also wants a new station in Fredericton: it's asking for 50 kW/150 m on 93.1 for a top-4o format.
In New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Hector Broadcasting wants to add a sister station to its CKEC (94.1). The new signal on 97.9 would run classic rock/classic hits, with 46.7 kW DA/100 kW max/246 m.
And in the Wasauksing First Nation near Parry Sound, Ontario, the Wasauksing Communications Group is applying for 60 watts on 91.3 - a facility it's already using for an unlicensed signal known as "Rez 91 FM."
The CRTC approved another First Nations signal this week, granting Walpole Island First Nation Radio a license for 50 watts/31 m at 98.3, not far from Chatham, Ontario.
*Radio People on the Move: Paul and Carol Mott, longtime fixtures on the Toronto radio landscape until losing their slot at CFRB, are back on the air doing weekend shows at CKTB (610 St. Catharines), where "The Motts Weekend" is heard Saturday evenings at 5 and Sunday mornings at 10.
And in London, Derek Botten is back with Blackburn Radio (where he once worked at CFPL, CFPL-FM, CKDK and Wingham's CKNX) as the new morning host at "Free FM" CKLO (98.1).
*And that's it for our first week at our new home! Let us know what you think...and stay tuned in the days to come for many more new features here (and the return of some old favorites, including "This Week in NERW History...")