In this week’s issue… Nash FM expands – “Wolf” heads back to Albany – Upper Valley’s “Kixx” adds third FM frequency – PA college station returns to the air – TV anniversary in Maine – Anchors shift at WBZ, WNYW
By SCOTT FYBUSH
EDITOR’S NOTE: “Mrs. NERW” is back in action! Lisa’s back home after nearly three weeks in the hospital here in Rochester, so if you still have any unanswered questions about subscriptions or calendar orders, please let us know and we’ll make sure you get a speedy response; as always, we greatly appreciate your patience as we work to get things back to normal around here!
*After a whirlwind first few weeks of 2013, January is finally closing out on a more typical quiet note – even in NEW YORK, where the market continues to be abuzz about last Monday’s launch of the much-anticipated “Nash FM” from Cumulus. For all of the research and planning that went into the debut of the number-one market’s first big country signal in almost 17 years, there were some odd bits missing at 9:47 AM when WRXP (94.7 Newark NJ) spun out of its “wheel of formats” for the final time.
Perhaps most notably, the new country station launched with essentially no local staff in New York, which led to the odd spectacle of a TV reporter interviewing Cumulus’ New York market manager Kim Bryant in a studio that was otherwise empty and running on automation (a situation that found WNYW-TV entertainment reporter Jill Nicolini herself pretending to take over the air chair in what had been a production room at the WABC/WPLJ 2 Penn Plaza studios!) That will change relatively quickly; now that the “Nash” cat is out of the bag, Cumulus is advertising for air talent and a PD who “live the country lifestyle” and can relate to a New York audience.
Then there’s the matter of those call letters: after drawing the desired “will it be rock?” response by parking the WRXP calls on the former WFME, Cumulus applied on Tuesday to swap in the “WNSH” callsign that it had quietly acquired from a small Boston-market AM signal (now WMVX 1570 Beverly) late in 2012. For now, Cumulus has asked to move “WRXP” to the Minnesota FM station where the WNSH calls were parked – but rock fans hoping the WRXP calls might still lead to a modern rock station in the New York market may not be out of luck. Over at RadioInsight.com, Lance Venta picked up last week on a slew of domain registrations linking “WRXP” to “103.9,” which would seem to indicate that Cumulus is at least thinking about a format flip for WFAS-FM (103.9 Bronxville). That class A signal has been in limbo for a few years now, transmitting from its longtime home in Westchester County while holding a construction permit (and a fully-constructed new facility that’s been tested but not put into licensed use) atop the same Montefiore Hospital apartment tower in the Bronx that’s also home to WFUV (90.7) and WVIP (93.5).
When Cumulus initially applied to move 103.9 into the Bronx, the betting line was that WFAS-FM was being prepped for sale to a broadcaster with more interest in operating in a major market, but that was back before Cumulus swallowed Citadel and itself became a New York City operator. Now the company has a choice ahead of it: does it stick with the existing WFAS-FM facility and AC format, which appears to have been solidly profitable in a suburban context, or does it continue to build up its cluster at the core of the New York market, adding a “103.9 WRXP” to WABC, WPLJ and now WNSH? A WRXP on 103.9 would be an interesting test of a New York class A strategy, reaching decently into lower Westchester, the Bronx, much of Manhattan and Queens and bits of Brooklyn, north Jersey and Nassau County but lacking a signal anywhere further south, east or west within the New York market. Perhaps the closest analog we can pick out would be the old WLIR on 92.7, which carved out its own modern rock niche for several decades on a similarly-limited signal at the edge of New York’s population core.
Back to “Nash FM”: there were a few more teething glitches in the station’s first days, including a social-media misfire that allowed others to grab the obvious Twitter handles (which meant that the Nash FM website was, briefly, pointing viewers to one of several spoof accounts) and left WNSH, for now, with the ungainly “@NashFM947NY.”)
As for the longer-term plans for “Nash FM,” Cumulus is being deliberately coy about its national intentions for the brand. There’s a “Nash” magazine coming later this year, and probably some sort of “Nash”-branded TV show, but it’s still not clear how determined Cumulus is to implement the “Nash FM” branding at its existing country stations. Would established brands like WOKQ on the New Hampshire seacoast or “Cat Country” in eastern Pennsylvania give way to local “Nash FM” outlets in those Cumulus markets? Perhaps – but it’s more likely, at least in the short term, that we’ll see some “Nash” content alongside those established brands.
Please log in (at the bottom of the page) to view the rest of this column. If you're not yet a member, click here to join; your membership gives you full access to current NERW and Tower Site of the Week columns and more than a decade of searchable archives, and it costs as little as a quarter per day. Why are we now subscriber-based? Click here to read more about the reasons behind our decision.
*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 30, 2012 -
*It was just over a year ago when we learned that Clear Channel planned to move WPKX (97.9) from its Springfield cluster across the border to become part of its Hartford, CONNECTICUT group of stations – and as of last Friday morning at 6, the station’s move is complete.
WPKX made its technical move a little earlier in the week, turning off its Enfield-licensed transmitter at Provin Mountain in Massachusetts and beginning tests of its new Windsor Locks-licensed class A facility atop the One City Place skyscraper in downtown Hartford, using Clear Channel’s satellite country service to provide temporary programming.
But nobody seriously believed 97.9 would remain country after its move, since the Clear Channel Hartford cluster already includes dominant country station WWYZ (92.5 Waterbury); instead, the long-running speculation that WPKX would do sports proved to be reality. Just up the road from ESPN’s worldwide headquarters in Bristol, WPKX is now “97.9 ESPN,” duplicating the format Clear Channel already offered in the market on WPOP (1410 Hartford), albeit with an FM signal that reaches more of the market at night than the directional AM signal covers. (That includes ESPN’s own Bristol headquarters complex, where the “Worldwide Leader” had been operating an experimentally-licensed FM signal, WX4ESPN on 98.1, carrying ESPN Radio programming; that signal is now silent.)
For now, 97.9 is a fulltime ESPN Radio satellite feed, but Clear Channel plans to add a local afternoon show soon; it’s not clear whether the AM simulcast will remain, or whether there will be a new format on the way for 1410. (As of Friday afternoon, no callsign changes had been requested for 97.9 or 1410 – or for WRNX 100.9 Amherst, the Springfield-market Clear Channel signal that inherited the “Kix” country format formerly heard on 97.9.)
*The future of the newest AM station in upstate NEW YORK is up in the air after the FCC cancelled its construction permit. Cranesville Block Company’s WKAJ (1120 St. Johnsville) had until December 15, 2011 to complete construction and file for a license to cover, but that date came and went with no sign of anything on 1120 save for some publicity surrounding a morning show to be hosted by longtime Utica personality Hank Brown.
Last week, the FCC deleted the WKAJ calls, sending the 10,000-watt daytime/400-watt night facility into limbo, but don’t count the station out yet: it appears Cranesville actually built the WKAJ facility and had begun the lengthy process of proofing it when the construction permit ran out, and we hear the station’s Washington lawyers are working with the FCC to get WKAJ reinstated so the station can sign on legally.
The old WMML/WBZA tower, behind the studios
Meanwhile in Glens Falls, there’s a big change coming to an AM tower. Later today, workers will begin dismantling the tower on Everts Avenue in Queensbury that’s been home to WMML (1230, ex-WBZA) for forty years and to sister station WENU (1410 South Glens Falls) for the last decade or so, when that signal moved north from its old site alongside I-87 south of town.
The Adirondack Broadcasting stations will be off the air temporarily while a replacement tower is erected, which could take up to two weeks, depending on the weather. In addition to carrying the two AM stations’ signals, the new tower will also host Verizon Wireless antennas.
*In PENNSYLVANIA‘s Lehigh Valley, it didn’t take long to fill the PD vacancy at Clear Channel top-40 WAEB-FM (104.1 Allentown): Jeff Hurley starts today in that post, moving over from sister station WLAN-FM (96.9 Lancaster) after six years there, most recently as PD/OM. Replacing Hurley at WLAN-FM is Holly Love, who’ s been promotions director at Clear Channel Harrisburg and middays at WRBT (94.9) there; earlier, she’d been APD, music director and morning co-host at WLAN. And there are more changes happening at WLAN-FM: morning co-host Liz Bell was gone from the station at week’s end, leaving the station without a morning show for now.
And here’s an item that should raise some fresh questions about just how close streaming is coming to supplanting broadcast radio as the most important platform for talent: the longtime Toronto morning team of Humble and Fred has signed a deal with Rogers Radio – but not to air on any of Rogers’ terrestrial stations. Instead, Rogers is promoting HumbleandFredRadio.com on 19 of its radio station websites all over Canada. “It’s like having another Rogers radio station that lives solely in the digital space,” said Rogers Radio programming VP Julie Adam in the release announcing the deal.
Five Years Ago: January 28, 2008 -
*Now that NEW YORK‘s “Lite 106.7″ has cut its ties to most of the airstaff who helped lead it to the top of the city’s ratings and revenue charts over the last two decades, the station is also losing the program director who oversaw many of those successes.
After 11 years at the helm of WLTW, Jim Ryan announced last week that he’ll step down at the beginning of May to form his own consulting firm focusing on adult contemporary stations. And just as WLTW looked to Philadelphia’s WBEB (101.1) to find Ryan back in 1997, the station is once again calling on a veteran of Jerry Lee’s Philly AC giant as Ryan’s replacement.
Chris Conley replaced Ryan at B101, but recently left the station to become vice president for AC programming at McVay Media. He’ll leave that firm on May 1 to become WLTW’s next PD, where he’ll face some interesting challenges. Clear Channel budget cuts over the last year have left WLTW without most of its signature personalities, and the financial pressures of the company’s impending privatization look to leave Conley without much in the way of resources to rebuild.
*Way back in December 2006, NERW was the very first to report that Clear Channel had begun shopping its Long Island properties, WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue) and WALK (1370 East Patchogue), to prospective buyers.
More than a year later, those stations are finally about to leave the Clear Channel fold, even though they’ve yet to find a buyer. On Thursday, the FCC released its decision approving the as-yet-unfinalized deal that will take Clear Channel private under the ownership of the Thomas H. Lee and Bain Capital private equity funds. To keep the new privatized Clear Channel under the FCC’s current multiple-ownership limits, stations in several markets will be transferred to the “Aloha Station Trust” – and that includes the Long Island stations, which are nested into the New York market, where CC already owns the maximum five FM signals.
So WALK and WALK-FM will become Aloha holdings, with an FCC mandate to try as hard as possible to find a buyer for the stations within six months.
*There’s been another subtle format change in the lower Hudson Valley: after a couple of weeks of stunting (if you can call nonstop adult contemporary music “stunting”), Cumulus’ WFAF (106.3 Mount Kisco) has returned to a near-simulcast of AC WFAS-FM (103.9 Bronxville). WFAF was a WFAS-FM simulcast from 2001 until 2005, when it flipped to a simulcast of Poughkeepsie’s WPDH (101.5).
With WFAS-FM now holding a pending application to move its transmitter south into the Bronx, will Cumulus attempt to use 106.3 (whose signal doesn’t get much south of the Cross-Westchester Expressway) as a replacement for 103.9?
Stick a figurative fork in WCKL (560 Catskill); after several years in which the station has been silent except for a brief return to the air each June, the FCC has cancelled WCKL’s license. (NERW wonders if WCKL’s licensee, Black United Fund of New York, didn’t let the FCC know that the station made its annual return from the dead last June.)
*Where was MASSACHUSETTS programming veteran Jay Beau Jones headed when he left the PD chair at WORC-FM and WWFX in Worcester last week? Down the Pike to Boston, as it turns – he’s been named PD of CBS Radio’s WBMX (98.5 Boston) and WODS (103.3 Boston). At “Mix,” Jones displaces Jerry McKenna, while at “Oldies” he replaces another PD, Pete Falconi, who also made the Worcester-to-Boston move a few years back. Jones has also programmed in Hartford (at the old WMRQ) and Chicago (at Clear Channel’s “Kiss” WKSC).
Ten Years Ago: January 27, 2003 -
Just in to NERW Central Thursday afternoon is word that one of New England’s longest running morning teams is no more. Smith and Barber, of Cox’s WPLR (99.1 New Haven), are calling it quits after more than 18 years at the rock station. Bruce Barber had been looking at getting out of radio for several months, we’re told, and WPLR management decided not to keep going with just Brian Smith. Inbound to ‘PLR are “Chaz and AJ” from WRCN (103.9 Riverhead) on Long Island; they’ll work with the rest of the Smith and Barber morning team when they start on WPLR in mid-February. Much more in next Monday’s NERW….
To the strains of Don McLean’s American Pie, a legend returned to the airwaves of western NEW YORK this morning at 6. As first confirmed right here at NERW last week, Entercom pulled the plug on the ratings-challenged business talk format that had been occupying the 50,000 watts of Buffalo’s WWKB (1520), returning the erstwhile WKBW to the music that made it great — the hits (don’t call them “oldies” these days) of 1958 through 1973. And what a way to do it — complete with ads in the Buffalo News, a spiffy new Web site at www.kb1520.com, plenty of cross-promotion on Entercom sister stations WGR (550) and WBEN (930), including 90 minutes’ worth of Friday’s Sandy Beach (himself a ‘KB alumnus) talk show on ‘BEN, and a lineup of talent that Buffalo radio history buffs have long fantasized of reuniting at the top of the dial.
Anchoring the revitalized ‘KB, as long rumored, is Danny Neaverth, a morning fixture on the original ‘KB from 1963 until its 1988 demise — and joining him on the 6-10 AM shift is Tom Donahue with “Pulse… Beat… NEWS”. On afternoons is Hank Nevins, who followed Neaverth out the door at Citadel’s oldies WHTT (104.1) last year, and holding down the 6-10 PM shift by voicetrack from his home base at WMQX (93.1 Winston-Salem NC) is none other than “Your LeeeeeeeeeeeeDER,” the legendary Jackson Armstrong. Completing the initial lineup is Joey Reynolds’ overnight talk show — and Reynolds, who worked at ‘KB in 1964-1965, will do his show live from Buffalo tonight.
Just when we thought ‘KB’s return would be the week’s big story out of New York, though, the message boards began crackling early Monday morning with news that Infinity’s WNEW (102.7 New York) was finally waking from its slumber and heading for a new format. WNEW’s hot talk format has been on the endangered list, of course, since last summer’s suspension of the station’s flagship talk hosts, Gregg “Opie” Hughes and Anthony Cumia. With the duo off the roster, WNEW has been limping along with syndicated talk, a deliberately weakened morning show (so as not to challenge Infinity sister WXRK and Howard Stern), Ron and Fez in the evening and plenty of infomercials. Monday morning at 1:00, though, that mess of a non-format was abruptly replaced by Jennifer Lopez’ “Jenny from the Block” and an announcement (on the air and on the station’s Web site) that a new station was on the way to 102.7. That, in turn, is sparking a new round of rumors in the nation’s biggest market — will WNEW go to a female-leaning AAA-ish AC format, as message-board guru Allan Sniffen declared he’d been tipped last week? Will it fill the gaping hole in the country format? Or will Infinity shift 102.7 in some completely different direction?
New York was one of the few states where nobody could see the Super Bowl in digital form; amazingly, not one of the Empire State’s ABC affiliates has its DTV signal on the air yet! Only a few viewers in the Albany area had a chance to see ABC’s DTV presentation from San Diego, thanks to the signal of WCDC-DT (Channel 36) from Adams, Massachusetts, which beat its parent station (WTEN Albany) to the digital airwaves — and which was picked up on Albany’s cable system for game day.
Fifteen Years Ago: January 26 & 29, 1998 -
Montreal’s CJAD is sliding around the dial again. The station’s attempt to return to the 800 kHz frequency with a single tower proved unsuccessful, since non-directional operation on the crowded 800 frequency meant extremely low power. The temporary use of CFMB’s old 1410 kHz facility was also less than successful, since the 1410 directional pattern misses most of CJAD’s Anglophone audience to the west of Montreal. Enter CKGM, the CHUM Group talk station on 990 kHz. After reportedly failing to interrupt its diet of US talk shows (Dean Edell, “Dr.” Laura Schlessinger, etc.) for ice storm coverage, CKGM has now agreed to lease out its signal to CJAD until CJAD’s own facility is rebuilt, which could take several more months. CHUM Group officials are making no promises that the low-rated talk format will return to CKGM once the CJAD lease is over; the CKGM facility has been troubled by low ratings and frequent format changes ever since dropping its CHR format, changing calls to CKIS, and moving off 980 kHz in the late 1980s.
Sinclair Broadcasting is finally free to sell four Rochester, NEW YORK stations that it hasn’t even bought yet. WBBF (950), WBEE-FM (92.5), WQRV (93.3 Avon), and WKLX (98.9) are among the Heritage Media stations Sinclair is buying — and they’re part of the group that both Entercom and Jacor wanted to buy. Both companies sued to get the Rochester stations, along with a 2 FM – 1 AM combo in Portland, Oregon. Jacor dropped its lawsuit earlier in the month, and Entercom dropped its suit this week after reaching a deal to pay $126.5 million for the seven stations. NERW wonders how long Entercom will hang on to the Rochester outlets. Portland is already an Entercom market, with 2 FMs and an AM there, but you’d have to go to Florida or Missouri to find the closest Entercom stations to Rochester. NERW suspects the Rochester group may get spun yet again in the near future…stay tuned.
Meantime, Sinclair may not be gone long from Rochester TV. The group is reportedly eyeing Sullivan Broadcasting, which owns Rochester Fox affiliate WUHF (Channel 31) and Buffalo Fox station WUTV (Channel 29). Sinclair is already buying Syracuse’s Fox outlet, WSYT (Channel 68), and it’s a major radio group owner in Buffalo. By the way, WUTV is finally giving up its secondary UPN affiliation. The weblet moves to little WNGS (Channel 67) Springville, which is not yet seen by most Buffalo-area cable homes.
On the TV side of things, WHEC (Channel 10) reporter Kendis Gibson is off to bigger things; he’s headed for a reporter job at Fox O&O WTXF (Channel 29) in Philadelphia — just three years after starting his very first paying TV job at WHEC.
The big news from MAINE: Portland-market classical station WPKM (106.3 Scarborough) is becoming the latest link in the “W-Bach” chain. New owner Mariner Broadcasting will rename the station WBQW; it’ll simulcast WBQQ (99.3 Kennebunk).
Across the border: CKLY (910) in Lindsay, Ontario is the latest Canadian AM to get permission to move to FM. CKLY will simulcast for three months or so on 91.9 with 20 kilowatts before moving to FM for good sometime this summer. Up in New Brunswick, CHSJ (700) in Saint John has started broadcasting on 94.1 MHz; the AM signal, which is well-heard in coastal New England, will go silent come spring.