In this week’s issue… Cumulus readies 94.7 launch in NYC – Lightning, fire destroy NY FM site – Wolf out after two weeks on WDST – OTA Broadcasting buys NH LPTV from Binnie – TTP files Montreal 850 application – WKAJ will not die, still
By SCOTT FYBUSH
EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to all of you who’ve expressed concern about “Mrs. NERW.” Lisa’s still in the hospital here in Rochester, but she’s on track to a full recovery. It will be a week or two yet before she’s able to handle subscription or advertising inquiries, which should go straight to your editor in the meantime; as always, we greatly appreciate your patience as we work to get things back to normal around here!
MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: Cumulus’ “Wheel of Formats” ended right on schedule, with a New York -focused audio montage including Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” – and moments ago, that launched into the city’s first full-signal country format in more than a decade and a half.
“The World’s Biggest Country Station, New York’s new Nash FM” is, as expected, the market #1 outpost for what Cumulus expects to make into a national lifestyle brand. (“Country for Life” is the tagline on the fairly skimpy site that went live just as the station was launching.)
There’s no sign – yet, at least – of live air talent or even much of a New York-based staff to the station, which we’re expecting to be programmed on more of a national level, likely with a lot of input from Cumulus in Nashville and Dallas. And in a way, that shows how it was only Cumulus that had the ability to pull off a successful country station in New York City in 2013. The company’s existing New York cluster of WABC (770) and especially WPLJ (95.5) already has a sales force that’s heavily focused on the suburbs, which is where 94.7 will draw the bulk of its audience, too. And Cumulus’ strong national sales focus should also help overcome a lot of the perceived “New York agency bias” that has kept country off the dial in New York City since WYNY (103.5) flipped to WKTU 17 years ago this month.
Much more on Nash FM in the days and weeks to come…
MONDAY’S ORIGINAL COLUMN: *If you’re reading this as it’s being published early Monday morning, you’ve still got a few hours of suspense ahead of you before we find out what the newest commercial FM format in the NEW YORK City market will be. At 9:47 AM, Cumulus will end its weekend of “wheel of format” stunting on WRXP (94.7 Newark NJ).
What comes next? Over at RadioInsight.com, Lance Venta picked up late last week on some changes at several of the “Nash FM” domains registered by Cumulus in late 2012. Those domains spent the weekend parked on a staging server, and along with Cumulus’ recent registration of numerous “Nash” trademarks, they reinforce the conventional wisdom that says Cumulus is getting ready to launch a country format into a market that hasn’t had a full-signal country FM since the old WYNY (103.5) flipped back in 1996.
We’ll have updates right away…just as soon as the flip is official.
Meanwhile, the former owner of 94.7 is back on the air up in northern Westchester County. Family Stations picked up WDVY (106.3 Mount Kisco) from Cumulus as part of the sale of 94.7, and last week WDVY completed its flip from country (simulcasting with WDBY 105.5 Patterson/Danbury, which stays with Cumulus) to Family, taking the WFME calls that used to be on 94.7.
*Upstate, Cranesville Block Company just might be the luckiest broadcaster in the region. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a four-tower 10,000-watt directional array for its new WKAJ (1120 St. Johnsville), Cranesville was on the verge of losing its entire investment when the FCC refused to grant the station a license to cover its construction permit.
That, as NERW readers know, was in large part Cranesville’s own fault, since it didn’t complete that construction before the December 2011 expiration date on the CP, and didn’t contact the FCC for an extension until after the towers finally went up in early 2012.
The FCC acknowledges that it’s “deeply concerned about [Cranesville]’s disregard of the Commission’s requirements for seeking additional time, its failure to provide complete information initially, and its unauthorized construction after permit expiration,” and it admonishes Cranesville for all that – but it also recognizes (no doubt aided by the intervention of U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer) that there were some pretty serious factors keeping WKAJ from being built on time.
As we reported back in October, Cranesville made the case to the FCC that the aftereffects of two big storms that hit the region made it impossible for construction crews to get to St. Johnsville for several months, and even if they had been able to access the site, Cranesville itself was unable to pay much attention to WKAJ because it was focused on its own core business of supplying concrete and concrete blocks to assist in all the other road and building repairs in the region.
Taking pains to emphasize that this ruling isn’t intended to set any precedent for other permittees, the FCC has now extended the WKAJ construction permit to the end of 2012 and reinstated the station’s callsign, leaving just one more step (the actual license to cover) yet to take place before the long-delayed signal can finally hit the air in the Mohawk Valley.
In other similar cases, the FCC has imposed some hefty fines after the fact on broadcasters who’ve engaged in unauthorized construction after CP expiration, but the Commission’s careful use of the term “admonish” suggests that Cranesville won’t even face any monetary penalties.
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*It’s 2013! Do you have your 2013 Tower Site Calendar yet? It can be on your wall in just a few days, if you order right now!
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!
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 23, 2012 -
*The first major format change of 2012 – and the first big sign of the Cumulus-Citadel consolidation in the region – comes to us from central PENNSYLVANIA, where Cumulus has restored the heritage format on WMHX (106.7), the Hershey-licensed signal most recently playing 90s pop as “Channel 106.7″ under Citadel ownership.
That frequency’s heritage in the Harrisburg market is country, beginning in the early 1980s when then-WPDC-FM in Elizabethtown changed calls to WRKZ, “Z107.” With a big signal blanketing not only Harrisburg but the other big regional markets of York and Lancaster, Z was a potent force in the area for almost two decades.
The Z incarnation of 106.7 lasted until 2002, when Citadel began shuffling formats, turning 106.7 into “Cat Country” WCAT-FM. That lasted just two years, with the 2004 flip to “Coolpop” WCPP sending country back to Carlisle-licensed 102.3, now WCAT-FM “Red 102.” But Cumulus didn’t get the 102.3 facility as part of its Citadel purchase; it’s now in trust pending a buyer, leaving Cumulus to get into the country game by returning “Z” to 106.7, which it did on Friday at 1:06 PM.
The new “Z Country 106.7,” soon to bear new calls WZCY-FM, comes into a market that’s more competitive for country than it was in the days of the old WRKZ.
Clear Channel’s WRBT (“Bob 94.9 FM”) knocked the old WRKZ out of the top country spot in town a decade ago, and continues to hold a dominant position in the market against the less-than-full-market “Cat” signal. Bringing country back to the full-market 106.7 spot on the dial promises to change that dynamic in Harrisburg – and it will have an impact as well in York, where Gettysburg’s WGTY (107.7) owns the country market.
The 106.7 signal reaches into Lancaster as well, but Cumulus’ country focus there is on another signal it inherited from Citadel, WIOV-FM (105.1 Ephrata).
There’s no word yet on staffing for the new 106.7, and no indication of imminent changes at the rest of the reshuffled Cumulus Harrisburg cluster, which also includes rhythmic top 40 “Hot” WWKL (93.5), hot AC WNNK (104.1), modern rock WQXA-FM (105.7) and ESPN outlet WHBG (1400).
Meanwhile, one of the stations spun off into trust from the Citadel-Cumulus deal has named a morning man: rocker WTPA (92.1 Palmyra) has named Chris Tyler as its new morning man. Tyler had been over at Clear Channel until the budget cuts last summer ousted him as operations manager, PD and morning man at WRVV (97.3 the River).
*A NEW JERSEY story we missed in the year-end chaos: Coastal Broadcasting’s WFNE (106.7 North Cape May) moved down the dial to 106.3 at 2 PM on December 28, boosting its power from 3 kW to 6 kW and moving to a new transmitter site near Wildwood that somewhat better centers its signal over land. The move was made possible by the shift of what’s now WTHJ from 106.3 in Ocean City to 106.5 in Bass River Township.
*Our NEW YORK news starts on the HD Radio dial in New York City, where Emmis pulled the plug on the “Hot 97 Throwbacks” classic hip-hop format that had been running on WQHT (97.1)’s HD2 channel for just over five years. It’s been replaced by “myRXP,” the streaming service that’s keeping alive the rock format that Emmis had programmed on former sister station WRXP (101.9, now Merlin all-news WEMP).
*Our New England report starts in RHODE ISLAND, where Salem didn’t stay long in the Providence market. After just a year operating WBZS (550 Pawtucket), Salem is selling the station to Wisconsin-based Catholic broadcaster Starboard Media Foundation, which will flip the signal to its “Relevant Radio” Catholic programming.
The flip comes with a healthy profit for Salem: it paid $550,000 to buy the station (formerly WDDZ) from Disney, and it’s selling the station for $750,000.
*In CONNECTICUT, they’re mourning “Dr. Mel,” WTNH (Channel 8) chief meteorologist Mel Goldstein, who died Wednesday (Jan. 18) at 66 after a long battle with multiple myeloma. Goldstein came to WTNH in 1986 after a career at Western Connecticut State University, where he ran a weather network that supplied more than a dozen area stations with forecasts. As chief meteorologist, “Dr. Mel” became a WTNH fixture for a quarter-century before his illness forced him to retire last August.
Five Years Ago: January 21, 2008 -
*It’s been a while since Bob Grant was making headlines in NEW YORK – but the WABC (770) night talker was back in the news last week after Radio & Records cancelled its plans to give him a Lifetime Achievement Award at its upcoming convention.
The about-face apparently followed a barrage of e-mails to the magazine and its parent company from Scott Pellegrino, a former producer for rival talk host Jay Diamond, and it revived the controversies that got Grant ousted from WABC back in 1996. This time, though, most of Grant’s fellow talk hosts closed rank around him, with Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and others using their shows to speak out in Grant’s defense, with some of them vowing to boycott the R&R award ceremony.
At week’s end, one of R&R‘s rivals, Talkers magazine, seized the opportunity to announce that it would give Grant an award of its own in conjunction with WABC, to be presented at its own convention in June.
*After 23 years at the helm of WXRK (92.3 New York), VP/general manager Tom Chiusano is stepping down. Chiusano was there when Infinity flipped the station from WKTU to “K-Rock” in 1985, riding both the successful Howard Stern years and the turbulent “Free FM” period that followed. Chiusano says he’ll stay with WXRK as a consultant through mid-year; no replacement has been named yet.
Disney’s WEPN (1050 New York) continues to expand the reach of its ESPN programming beyond its own directional signal. In addition to the impending simulcast on WCHR (1040 Flemington NJ), WEPN announced last week that beginning today, it will be heard on The Morey Organization’s WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays), bringing its sports programming to the east end of Long Island. WLIR has been temporarily simulcasting sister station “Party 105″ (WDRE 105.3 Calverton-Roanoke) since dropping the last incarnation of the modern rock for which WLIR was known at its old Nassau County home, now WQBU (92.7 Garden City).
Over in the Albany market, the FCC has pulled the plug on the WCKL (560 Catskill) license after several years of silence, interrupted by brief returns to the air to keep the license alive. Here at NERW, we last heard WCKL on the air last June – did someone forget to let the FCC know about its latest “keep-alive” broadcast?
*While MASSACHUSETTS waits to see whether the Patriots can make it 19-0, there’s a change of voices coming in another Boston sports broadcast booth. After several years heading the Red Sox PR office, and one year as a part-time color commentator in the Sox radio booth, Glenn Geffner is heading south to join the Florida Marlins radio team. Geffner (who was also a broadcaster for the Rochester Red Wings a few seasons back) had been handling color for games when Dave O’Brien was working for ESPN; O’Brien’s committment to ESPN has ended, and he’ll now join Joe Castiglione for the full 2008 season.
There’s a new station on the air near Warren, in northwestern Pennsylvania. WNAE-FM (102.7 Clarendon) has signed on with a simulcast of “Kinzua Country” WKNB (104.3 Clarendon); expect a new permanent format there soon.
We’ve been remiss, incidentally, in noting the death of the founder of WKNB and its sister stations WNAE (1310 Warren) and WRRN (92.3 Warren). LeRoy Schneck died January 3 after a short hospitalization following a fall. Schneck began his broadcast career in 1941 in Du Bois and put WNAE on the air in 1946. He ran Kinzua Broadcasting until the stations were sold in 2005 to present owner Frank Iorio. Even then, he made occasional on-air appearances on the stations he founded, where he was perhaps best known as host of the “Just Stuff” talk show. Schneck had been named “Man of the Century” by the Warren County Chamber of Commerce, among other honors. He was 88.
*On the MAINE-NEW HAMPSHIRE line, Clear Channel indeed flipped the format on WUBB (95.3 York Center ME) to top-40 “Kiss” last Monday, and for the moment it’s a complete simulcast (except for spots) of Boston’s WXKS-FM (107.9 Medford), including the “Matty in the Morning” show.
*CANADA‘s biggest market is one radio station smaller this week. CFBN (1280 Toronto) turned its license in to the CRTC, after the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, which owned the station, discontinued its operation.
1280 was originally CFYZ, programmed with live reports about airport traffic and travel-related features, but changed calls and format last April, switching to business news and information. The business programming continues online, at least for now, or so CFBN’s website claims; we weren’t able to connect to the CFBN stream on Sunday night.
Ten Years Ago: January 20, 2003 -
Buffalo’s WWKB (1520) will ditch its business talk format next Monday morning (Jan. 27) to become “a thing of the past,” with legendary ‘KB morning man Danny Neaverth at the helm. Stay tuned for much more in next week’s issue…
Alex Langer is selling his original MASSACHUSETTS radio station, but it won’t lead to much change for listeners. WBIX (1060 Natick) is being transferred to Perspectives Broadcasting, controlled by Brad and Bonnie Bleidt, the same folks who have been programming a business-news format on the station under an LMA with Langer. The deal values the station at $10 million; it’s a nice payoff for Langer, who bought then-silent WBIV for just $50,000 back in 1995 and put it back on the air from the WKOX (1200) site in Framingham. Today, WBIX runs 40 kilowatts by day and 22 kW during critical hours with a format that includes news updates from the Boston Business Journal. Langer, who also recently sold his 1470 signal in Marlborough (ex-WSRO, now WAZN), keeps WSRO (650 Ashland); he’ll also take a seat on the board of Perspectives.
Meanwhile out in Winchendon, WINQ (97.7) is getting a new owner as well, as Saga makes the station its latest acquisition in a region that stretches from Springfield north through the Pioneer Valley and into southern Vermont and New Hampshire. Saga pays Joseph Gallagher’s Aritaur group $400,000 for the station, which programs hot AC for the area west of Fitchburg; we expect it will end up combined somehow with Saga’s Keene operations (WKBK, WZBK, WOQL, WKNE-FM).
The rumors are flying hot and heavy in VERMONT about a format flip at WCVR (102.1 Randolph), and we hear they’re true: the station will soon drop its country format for a simulcast of the classic rock on “Champ” WCPV (101.3 Essex) from the Burlington market.
While the rumors keep swirling around NEW YORK’s WNEW (102.7), with the tabloids picking up on message-board chatter about a flip to AAA that didn’t happen last week, there is one bit of actual news from the Empire State this week: Binghamton public broadcaster WSKG was granted a construction permit to move off the Ingraham Hill tower it’s long shared with WICZ (Channel 40). WSKG-FM (89.3), WSKG-TV (Channel 46) and WSKG-DT (Channel 42) will be the tenants on a new 288-meter tower being built nearby. (WSKG-FM is operating under an STA at a temporary site for the moment, having been kicked off the WICZ tower last November.)
It was delayed more than two weeks, but the format change at WKMB (1070) in Stirling, NEW JERSEY finally took place over the weekend. Country came to an end on WKMB with sign-off on Saturday (Jan. 18); black gospel, as “Harvest Radio,” took over Sunday morning, with the same WKMB airstaff, at least for now.
Fifteen Years Ago: January 19 & 22, 1998 -
On both sides of the border, the cleanup continues from the Ice Storm of ’98. Power has been restored to all but a few small corners of Ontario, New York, and northern New England, while it may be another week or more before the “Dark Triangle” south of Monreal finally gets its power back. For broadcasters across the region, it’s also been a slow return to normal. NERW visited some of the communities in Ontario and New York hit by the ice storm, and here’s what we found:
ONTARIO: In much of the province, the only way you’d know there was a storm was to look at the news. Headlines on radio, TV, and in the newspaper continue to track the cleanup. Even CPAC, the Canadian equivalent of C-SPAN, got into the act, offering an unedited video view of the newsroom of CFRA (580 Ottawa) as its reporters, anchors, and editors covered the storm’s aftermath.
As we drove east on Highway 401, the scope of the damage became more apparent. Many of the trees in the Kingston area are missing limbs, and there are still crews along many roads repairing power lines. On the air, the most obvious sign of storm damage is on the FM dial, where both CFMK (96.3) and CFLY (98.3) are operating with extremely low power, barely enough to reach the city limits. CFMK’s tower on Wolfe Island, shared with CKWS (Channel 11), was toppled by the ice, while CFLY’s transmitter building in Harrowsmith was hit by ice falling from that tower. CFLY and AM sister station CKLC (1380) are running a daily program every afternoon at 1 with a roundup of storm news, including community-by-community updates from local officials and the power companies. CFMK’s sister station, CFFX (960), has returned to its usual oldies format. The sign outside its studio on Counter Street tells the story — “Riders on the Storm.”
NERW rode the ferry to Wolfe Island to see the CKWS site firsthand. Late on a Sunday afternoon, the property was swarming with workers. The twisted wreckage of the old 840-foot tower has been stacked in several neat piles, and tower segments for a replacement are on hand. CKWS is on the air with a very low power signal, not strong enough to make it to the cable headend serving Trenton, some 60 miles to the west. Wolfe Island remains without power, and it was a sobering site to see the darkness cover the island at sunset as we rode back to the mainland on the ferry.
Further up the St. Lawrence River, generators continue to power the main Ottawa transmitter sites, both the Camp Fortune site where most of the big FM and TVs are located and the Rogers site where several newer TV stations are located.
On the NEW YORK side of the river, several Watertown stations remain off the air or at low power. Right now, all three Watertown AMs are either simulcasting their FMs or being simulcast on them. Here’s how the lineup looks:
WTNY (790) lost a tower to the storm and is operating non-directional from one of its remaining towers in the meantime. Its programming, mixing storm updates and adult contemporary music, is being simulcast on WCIZ (93.5), which is operating with a flea-powered temporary transmitter that covers only the city of Watertown. WATN (1240) and WTOJ (103.1) are simulcasting as well, with daytime programming that’s still dominated by storm information. Sister station WWLF (106.7 Copenhagen) has returned to its usual CHR format as “The Border.” The other half of the Border’s usual simulcast, WBDR (102.7 Cape Vincent), remains silent due to serious power problems in that area. Cape Vincent’s other station, WMHI (94.7), is also dark. WUZZ (1410) also lost a tower and is operating non-directional for now, simulcasting country sister station WFRY (97.5). NERW wonders why the storm information heard on WATN/WTOJ wasn’t put on WFRY’s big signal, the only class B FM in Watertown…
Up in QUEBEC, the CBC sprung a surprise this weekend while returning CBM (940) to the air. In the process, they’ve also jumped the gun on the startup of CBC Radio One’s new FM signal into Montreal. CBM (88.5) signed on today, a few months ahead of schedule. There’s scheduled to be a six-month transition period, after which CBM will leave 940. CJAD remains on 1410 for now, although even that interim frequency has been experiencing occasional power failures. NERW wonders whether CJAD might try to persuade the CRTC to let it move straight from 1410 to 940, eliminating the need to rebuild the destroyed CJAD facilities on 800? Just a hunch…
CBC Radio Two programs returned to CBM-FM (93.5) today as well, after an eleven-day absence as CBM-FM was used for storm coverage.
La Société Radio-Canada (that’s the CBC to Anglophones) has sprung another FM surprise. The 95.1 Montreal facility that will soon be the home of SRC’s AM service (now heard on CBF 690) took to the airwaves early, signing on as “Radio-Services Monteregie,” a French-language service aimed at the inhabitants of the devastated “Dark Triangle” south of Montreal, where power has yet to be restored to thousands of homes.