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: December 4, 2010 -
Its long term future remains unclear, but NEW JERSEYofficials now say the state-owned NJN TV and radio networks may stay on the air past the end of the year, when Governor Chris Christie had planned to pull state subsidy in a move that would likely have meant the end of 41 years of NJN broadcasts.
Christie tells Newark’s Star-Ledger that he’s working with lawmakers to extend state funding into 2011, buying some time for continued negotiations with other public broadcasters who might take over NJN’s operations.
But while Christie still hopes to save the state the $11 million or so it spends each year on subsidies for NJN, his plan doesn’t appear to include selling the NJN broadcast licenses. Instead, Christie tells the paper he’d like to retain the licenses under new management, possibly that of existing public broadcasters in adjoining areas such as New York’s WNET and WNYC and Philadelphia’s WHYY.
NJN employees could know more about their future later this week after the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority meets in Trenton and after a state Senate committee considers a bill that would create a bi-partisan committee to oversee a new management deal for the network. NJN acting executive director Janice Selinger tells the Star-Ledger that it would take about $2.5 million in additional state funding to keep NJN on the air through the end of its fiscal year June 30, and she says Christie administration officials have indicated to her that they’d be willing to make that money available if there’s a plan in place for NJN’s future.
*The launch of a new airstaff on NEW YORK‘s WWPR (Power 105.1) will begin next Monday with a new morning show on the Clear Channel urban station. As had been rumored, former Philly jock “Charlamagne That God” will host the show, along with current Power afternoon jock DJ Envy and Sirius’ Angela Yee.
*Here in Rochester, it was a busy weekend at the Pinnacle Hill tower farm that’s home to most of the city’s TV and FM signals. NERW was there in the cold and snow early Sunday morning as a crew from Fred Nudd’s construction company (including the nonagenarian Nudd himself) used a 300-foot crane to begin dismantling the top of the tower that’s been home to WXXI-TV (Channel 21) and WUHF (Channel 31) since 1980. After three decades with the distinctive candelabra at the center of the Pinnacle Hill complex, the WXXI tower is “topless,” at least for now; later this week, crews will remove the horizontal crossbar from the top of the tower. And sometime next year, if all goes well, the tower will be topped off by a new antenna for WXXI-TV’s channel 16 signal, now broadcast from a side-mounted antenna.
Across town, Jann Nyffeler is the new morning host on WGMC (90.1 Greece) starting today, moving longtime morning host Joelle Van Buren to middays. Nyffeler has been a volunteer host on “Jazz 90.1,” and she’ll keep her day job doing PR for the George Eastman House.
Five Years Ago: December 6, 2006 -
It’s been rumored for years, anticipated for months, and scheduled for a few weeks now – but you’ll forgive us if we think the move of one of the most venerable FM stations in MASSACHUSETTS is still pretty big news.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for a while now, you know what this is all about: Charles River Broadcasting exiting the Boston market after almost 60 years of owning first WCRB(AM), now WRCA, and then WCRB-FM on 102.5; Greater Media upgrading its country WKLB by purchasing the 102.5 signal; and Nassau entering the market and preserving the WCRB classical format by acquiring WKLB’s former home on the Lowell-licensed 99.5 signal.
The swap took place at noon last Friday (Dec. 1), with Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo” as the last piece played on WCRB at 102.5, while WKLB finished off its run at 99.5 with the “Star-Spangled Banner.” WCRB apparently finished first, with a short interval of dead air on 102.5 while the anthem finished on 99.5 – and as the anthem faded out, the signals were switched, both stations ID’d on their new frequencies, and it was on to the “Hallelujah Chorus” for WCRB on 99.5 and “Life is a Highway” for WKLB on 102.5.
There’s new management in place at WCRB under the new ownership: Nassau’s New England director of sales, Paul Kelley, is now general manager, while Mark Edwards becomes Nassau’s director of programming for New Hampshire and Boston, adding the role of PD at WCRB to his duties.
WCRB’s also doing extensive television advertising to promote the move, using Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Keith Lockhart as a spokesman. (In the ads, Lockhart picks up a Bose Wave radio – is it more than coincidence that Bose print advertising has long displayed “102.5″ on every radio shown? – and literally moves it a few notches to the left…)
For WKLB, the move to the more centrally-located 102.5 signal promises a better signal on the South Shore and in many areas west and south of Boston, as well as in parts of the city that aren’t overwhelmed by the powerful FM signals on the Prudential Tower. For WCRB, it’s a mixed blessing – we’ve already heard from listeners on the southern fringe of the 102.5 signal in Rhode Island and northeastern Connecticut who can’t hear the 99.5 signal, but on the other hand, the station’s now audible in much more of New Hampshire than ever before. (And, perhaps most saliently in an era when classical radio is fading fast, it’s still there, period – and Nassau’s already promising a celebration of WCRB’s 60th anniversary in 2008.)
Sadly, one of the people most closely associated with WCRB for much of its run at 102.5 didn’t live quite long enough to see the station move. Richard L. Kaye, longtime station manager and host of WCRB’s eclectic Saturday night program, died Wednesday (Nov. 29). Kaye came to WCRB in its AM-only days, before the 1954 debut of the FM signal, and oversaw many of the technological developments at the station in the ensuing decades, from the early AM/FM stereo broadcasts through to the quadrophonic experiments of the 1970s. Kaye also engineered the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s broadcasts on WCRB, as well as many of their recordings, and he held the second-largest stake in Charles River Broadcasting, behind the family of founder Ted Jones.
*VERMONT Public Radio has signed on its newest signal. WJAN (95.1 Sunderland), formerly one of Pamal’s “Cat Country” outlets, returned to the air last week from Mount Equinox, carrying VPR’s main program service to an area stretching from Brattleboro up through Manchester and Poultney, as well as a big chunk of New York State north of Albany. Cat Country remains on the air in Rutland, at WJEN (94.5); expect new calls on the Sunderland signal soon.
*Speaking of Albany, NEW YORK‘s capital has a new (or at least moved-in) FM station. Many months after its Glens Falls-area predecessor, WNYQ (105.7 Queensbury), went silent back in May, WBZZ (105.7 Malta) signed on last Wednesday from the Bald Mountain transmitter site of WNYT (Channel 13), simulcasting hot AC “Buzz” WABT (104.5 Mechanicville). Expect a new format sometime soon for the 104.5 half of what’s now being called “Buzz Radio.”
Freedom Communications, which owns WRGB (Channel 6) in Schenectady, will take over operation of WCWN (Channel 45) on Tuesday, as it completes its acquisition of the station from Tribune. WCWN’s master control, now at sister station WLVI (Channel 56) in Boston, will move to WRGB’s Balltown Road studio. And the 7-8 AM hour of WRGB’s morning newscast, now seen on My Network TV outlet WNYA (Channel 51), will move to WCWN later in the month. We’ll be not at all surprised to see WRGB launch a 10 PM newscast on WCWN at some point, too. (And what becomes of WNYA, which is owned by Venture Technologies Group and has been operated out of the WRGB facility under a joint sales agreement? We don’t know yet.)
*A northeast PENNSYLVANIA AM station is changing hands, as Kevin Fennessy exits broadcast ownership after six years. His WFBS (1280 Berwick) has been silent for a few months, and now it’s been sold to Bold Gold Media, which also owns WWRR (104.9 Scranton), WICK (1400 Scranton), WYCK (1340 Plains) and four other stations in the region. Ray Rosenblum brokered the deal, under which Bold Gold will pay Fennessy $10,000 and assume the station’s debts.
On Penobscot Mountain overlooking Wilkes-Barre, an F2-level tornado apparently touched down Friday afternoon, knocking out power to the TV and radio broadcasters who use the tower farm up there. WNEP (Channel 16) remained on the air with its analog signal, but WNEP-DT and both the analog and digital signals of WYOU-TV, WBRE, WVIA-TV and WOLF-TV were off the air all night Friday and well into Saturday. (We’re still awaiting word on the status of the FM stations up on the mountain, including big guns WMGS and WGGY.)
*There’s soon to be another silent AM station in CANADA - but this one’s not moving to FM. CHHA (1610 Toronto) was supposed to go silent last Thursday night (Nov. 30), after Industry Canada asked its owner, San Lorenzo Latin American Community Center, to cease transmissions from its present site near Dufferin and Lawrence northwest of downtown Toronto “due to interference problems from their transmissions.” Documents filed with the application suggest that CHHA’s neighbors in the residential area were complaining about interference from the station’s signal, but weren’t willing to let the station’s engineers in to remedy the problems.
CHHA is applying to move to a new site at 275 Unwin Avenue in the Port of Toronto (near the terminal for the ill-fated Fast Ferry to Rochester), from which it will put a stronger signal over downtown but will reach fewer people overall, at least initially, though the station says it will apply for a power increase once it gets the new signal up and running.
(As of late Saturday, DXers in the area were reporting that CHHA had not yet signed off from the old site.)
Ten Years Ago: December 3, 2001 -
NEW HAMPSHIRE’s highest court will hear the case of a broadcaster’s long-running attempt to put a new AM station on the air. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed this week to accept Bob Vinikoor’s appeal of a lower court ruling that upheld the city of Hanover’s decision not to allow Vinikoor to build three towers for WQTH (720 Hanover). The city’s zoning laws limit towers to 45 feet in areas where they’re permitted at all, and city lawyers point to the controversial Cross-Field Antenna (tested in Egypt, but not approved by the FCC or conclusively even demonstrated to work) to show that the rule doesn’t prohibit new AM towers completely. Vinikoor, who owns WNTK (1020 Newport/99.7 New London) and WNBX (1480 Springfield VT), says that’s just what the rule does, and he’s asking the court to rule that the city can’t keep him from building his station.
Up in MAINE, Rob Gardiner announced this week that he’ll leave his post as president of Maine Public Broadcasting sometime next year. Gardiner has led the statewide network since 1988, weathering controversies that included the format shift on Maine Public Radio from classical to news/talk-intensive. In a memo to employees obtained by NERW, Gardiner says his plans after leaving MPBC in a year or so include “a long vacation,…time with my family, and enjoy[ing] some months with few schedule demands or responsibilities that would keep me awake in the middle of the night.”
A change of command in CONNECTICUT: Kirk Varner has been named news director at WTNH (Channel 8) in New Haven. The Nutmeg State news veteran (WFSB and ESPN, among others) has spent the last few years with Time Warner as head of the company’s local all-news operations (which would make him your editor’s ex-boss’s-boss’s-boss’s-boss, if you follow the chain of command up that far!) Varner starts the new gig at WTNH on January 7.
We’ll jump over to NEW JERSEY next, as Nassau and Multicultural Broadcasting flip their holdings along the Delaware River. Here’s how it works: Nassau picks up WVPO (840 Stroudsburg PA) and WSBG (93.5 Stroudsburg PA), which the company used to own before selling them to Multicultural, along with WJHR (1040 Flemington NJ), which Multicultural bought a couple of years ago. Multicultural gets sports WTTM (1680 Princeton NJ) and business-talk WHWH (1350 Princeton NJ), one of Nassau’s original stations. But before any format-change rumors get started: Nassau’s been operating the Multicultural stations under an LMA all along, and will continue to LMA WHWH, so very little will change for listeners.
Fifteen Years Ago: November 29 – December 9, 1996 -
Winning an “A.I.R.” award wasn’t enough to save Boston newsman Dave Faneuf’s job. Just two days after he was named best newscaster, Faneuf was let go from CBS’s oldies station, WODS (103.3). “Oldies 103″ management tells the Boston Herald that afternoon news on a music station no longer makes economic sense in Boston. Morning news guy Gordon Hill appears to be safe for now.
The dark AM/FM combo up in Lincoln, Maine has been sold. WTOX (1450) and WHMX (105.7) had been in bankruptcy; they’re being transferred to the Bangor Baptist Church, which owns WHCF (88.5). No word on exactly what WHCF plans with its new outlets, both of which serve territory that’s already well within the reach of WHCF’s 100kw transmitter.
A familiar voice has returned to the Boston airwaves on WROR (105.7 Framingham-Boston). Joe Martelle, the longtime morning host at the original WROR (98.5, now WBMX) began his new afternoon shift at the new ‘ROR last week, after his non-compete agreement with WBMX came to an end. It’s been more than a year since Martelle’s been heard in Boston; he was sidelined by illness, then ousted from his morning spot at WBMX in favor of John Lander.
The holiday spirit is in full swing on the New Hampshire seacoast, as WSTG (102.1 Hampton NH) returns to an all-holiday music format for the second year in a row. “The Stage” used holiday music for all of last December as a transition from its old “Seacoast 102″ AC format to the current mix of AC and standards. This year’s run of holiday music started December 1 and will last through Christmas.
Sold!: Clear Channel Communications has closed on its purchase of Radio Equity Partners, creating a new radio-TV combo in the Providence market, as WWBB (101.5 Providence, oldies “B101″) and WWRX (103.7 Westerly, classic rock “WRX”) join CBS affiliate WPRI-TV 12 under the Clear Channel umbrella. The deal also gives Clear Channel WHYN and WHYN-FM in Springfield MA. WHYN is a news-talker on 560, and WHYN-FM is hot AC on 93.1. Congratulations to WHYN PD Gary James and the staff, by the way, for what NERW hears was a phenomenally successful reunion sock hop last month!
Also closed is the deal that transfers news/sports WNEZ (910 New Britain-Hartford CT) from American Radio Systems to Mega Spanish Broadcasters. Look for a format change at WNEZ any day now; we’ll keep you posted.