In this week’s issue… CRTC denies new Southern Ontario AM – FM talk simulcast nearing its end? – WMVY successor hits fundraising goal – Western MA pubcaster adds signal – PA TV stations add HD newscasts
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*For decades now, broadcasters in the U.S. have played the move-in game: get licensed to a community somewhere near a big city, put a signal on the air and begin soliciting advertising from that larger market. (Just ask that station that’s getting all the attention in the New York City market right now – you know, WNSH 94.7 from “Newark, New Jersey”!)
But in CANADA, things work a little differently: if you’re licensed to Newark (so to speak), you’d better not be programming to New York. Or, to put it more concretely: if you’re licensed to St. Catharines, Ontario, you’d better not be programming to Toronto.
That, in a nutshell, is why the CRTC denied the latest attempt to revive AM 1220 in St. Catharines, the frequency vacated last year when the agency ordered that channel’s longtime occupant, CHSC, to leave the air. This time, the proposal came from Subanasiri Vaithilingam, who operates CJVF (105.9 Scarborough), a low-wattage ethnic station that really does serve part of the Toronto market. Vaithilingam’s proposal for 1220 in St. Catharines called for most of the station’s programming to be in English, but with 15 hours a week of “third-language programming in Filipino, Tamil, Russian, Portuguese, and South Asian languages” as well.
That raised a red flag at several competing Toronto-area ethnic stations, which asked the CRTC to look more deeply into whether Vaithilingam intended that third-language programming to be aimed across Lake Ontario at Toronto. The CRTC says it’s “unclear about the applicant’s programming commitments,” and even with a proposed license condition mandating that the “majority” of the new station’s programming be “of direct, particular and specific relevance to residents of St. Catharines and the Niagara Region,” the CRTC says “the potential for the station to target programming to listeners outside St. Catharines and the Niagara Region remains.”
Worse yet, the CRTC says that even if the revived 1220 were to be solely focused on St. Catharines and Niagara, there’s no evidence that the region needs (or even wants) another local station…and thus it appears that the frequency won’t be getting reactivated any time soon (if at all) now that CHSC is defunct. (NERW wonders whether the old nine-tower CHSC array will be coming down soon, since it won’t be getting reused by Vaithilingam’s new station.)
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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: February 6, 2012 -
*Less than a year after New Jersey governor Chris Christie handed over operation of the state’s public TV and radio network to out-of-state broadcasters, RHODE ISLAND‘s PBS outlet is facing the prospect of losing its state funding.
WSBE’s studios, 2009
A budget proposal last week from governor Lincoln Chafee would reduce state support of Rhode Island PBS (WSBE-TV 36) from just under a million dollars in fiscal 2011-2012 to $425,000 in 2012-2013 and then to zero in subsequent years.
Beyond the end of state funding, Chafee apparently isn’t envisioning a complete shutdown of the “RI PBS” service. Like the old NJN networks, the WSBE license is held by a state agency, the Rhode Island Public Telecommunications Authority – but unlike NJN, “RI PBS” has long looked beyond state funding as its major source of support, depending on a combination of membership and underwriting ($1.2 million in last year’s budget) and Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants ($700,000 last year) to make up about 60% of its $3 million total annual budget. Chafee says the station should be looking to those sources, especially fundraising, to make up for the state budget cut, but station officials say underwriting support was sharply down last year, making that prospect doubtful.
“RI PBS” has always been a barebones operation compared to its New England neighbors, with limited broadcast hours and a relatively small staff. A Chafee spokesman specifically pointed to one of those neighboring stations, Boston public broadcaster WGBH, citing its wide availability on cable TV in Rhode Island as a reason why state support of the local station is no longer a necessity.
WSBE has faced funding cuts before; former station head Susan Farmer made a personal appeal to then-Gov. Bruce Sundlun to reverse a 1991 plan to eliminate state support, and the station’s current leaders tell WPRI-TV they plan to appeal to lawmakers to deny Chafee his budget cut.
Translator news from the Merrimack Valley: W275BH (102.9), the Lawrence translator for Costa-Eagle’s WNNW (800 Lawrence), is not only now operating in HD, with special temporary authority from the FCC to operate its digital signal at 10% of the translator’s analog power (25 watts for the digital signal), it even has an HD2 subchannel!
*Blueberry Broadcasting is once again shuffling formats in Bangor, MAINE. Just months after moving Fox Sports WAEI-FM from the big Bangor-licensed 97.1 signal down the coast to the Brewer-licensed 104.7 and sending country “Bear” WBFB to 97.1, we’re hearing there’s another flip on 104.7, which has become classic hits “B 104.7.” That leaves Fox Sports in Bangor as an AM-only format, on WAEI (910).
The new “B 104.7″ is announcing new calls of WBAK, which suggests that it’s being set up as a near-clone of Blueberry’s successful WABK (104.3 Gardiner) in the Augusta-Waterville market.
*In northeast PENNSYLVANIA, former station owner Doug Lane could be eligible for parole in as little as three years after striking a deal with prosecutors to end his appeals of his 2005 conviction for child sexual assault. Lane lost his station licenses, including WWDL (104.9 Scranton, now WWRR) and WICK (1400 Scranton), after being convicted; he was sentenced to at least 14 years in prison but had that sentence reduced to a minimum of eight years after reaching the deal.
Up in Erie, the FM translator for Cumulus’ all-sports WRIE (1260) has a new frequency: W285AI is being displaced from 104.9 by the impending move of WRKT (100.9 North East) to that frequency, and now the translator has applied for a license to cover its move to 104.3, where it’s running 173 watts from the tower behind the WICU-TV/WSEE-TV studios on State Street, just south of downtown. Meanwhile, PBRTV.com’s Tom Lavery reports Cumulus has turned on the digital signal at WXKC (99.9 Erie), making “Classy 100″ the first HD station in town, running only the HD-1 main channel.
Five Years Ago: February 4, 2008 -
A surprise format change in New York – at 4 PM Tuesday, Emmis pulled the plug on smooth jazz WQCD (101.9), relegating “CD101.9″ to the station’s HD2 channel (which wasn’t even on the air at launch time) and replacing it with a classic rock-leaning AAA format (they’re calling it “adult rock”), as “101.9 RXP, The NY Rock Experience.” New calls are WRXP, and there’s at least the start of a new staff – Brian Schrock is shown as music director and afternoon host on the station’s new website, while Blake Lawrence remains on board as PD.
*It’s been a popular parlor game in eastern MASSACHUSETTS radio circles for more than a decade now – when will Greater Media flip formats on its perennially ratings-challenged AAA station, WBOS (92.9 Brookline) – and to what?
If you had “February 1, 2008, at 5 PM” in the pool, and “classic alternative” as the new format, congratulations – you’ve just won something. If, on the other hand, you had “WBOS disc jockey” after your name, the news isn’t so good. The newly-renamed “Radio 92.9″ has parted with its entire airstaff, with no plans to replace them any time soon.
Off the air completely are afternoon jock John Laurenti (late of WHJY in Providence), night guy Dominick Lewis and overnight voice Paul Jarvis, as well as the station’s weekenders, including Holly Harris and her Sunday night blues show. Morning host George Knight is gone from that shift, but his Sunday morning show remains in place. And middayer Dana Marshall is off the air, but she drops “interim” from her PD title and continues programming the new station.
So what’s this “classic alternative” business all about? Our best guess here at NERW is that it’s a play to siphon off some of the older listenership to Boston’s other “alternative” rockers, WBCN (104.1) and WFNX (101.7) – but after years of rumors about more dramatic format changes at 92.9, in particular some very credible reports that the station was on the verge of going sports a few months back, there’s reason to believe that Greater Media didn’t have any long-term plans of sticking with the long-running triple-A format, which had been running in one form or another on WBOS since its 1989 flip from country.
*Even before WBOS made its surprise Friday flip, we were planning to lead this week’s column with a Boston format change: last Monday morning (Jan. 28), regular listeners to the conservative talk on Salem’s WTTT (1150 Boston), what few there were, awoke to a shock – instead of the lineup that included Bill Bennett, Sean Hannity, Dennis Prager and Hugh Hewitt, WTTT’s 5000-watt signal was running Spanish-language religion as “Radio Luz.”
In just over four years since launching its talk format in November 2003, WTTT never achieved significant visibility or ratings in the crowded Boston talk arena, despite several stabs at local talk and the addition of WBZ castoff Paul Harvey. “Radio Luz” enters a fairly crowded field, too, with Spanish-language religious programming already airing in the market on WESX (1230 Salem)/WJDA (1300 Quincy), but the leased-time programming will at least provide some steady revenue to bolster Salem’s bigger signals in town, religious WEZE (590 Boston) and WROL (950 Boston).
*Speaking of out-of-state religious broadcasters, California’s EMF Broadcasting is getting its first toehold in NEW HAMPSHIRE, with a $1 million purchase of WMEX (106.5 Farmington) from veteran New England broadcaster Dennis Jackson.
Jackson tells NERW that the station wasn’t even for sale when the unsolicited offer came in, and he says the station’s oldies format and its staff (including VP/general manager/morning man Gary James) will stay in place until the deal, brokered by Doug Ferber of Star Media Group, closes. The historic WMEX calls will stay with Jackson, for use on another station eventually.
(It’s hard – impossible, really – to begrudge a good broadcaster like Jackson the opportunity to cash out after building a station like WMEX from scratch over many years, but it’s also hard not to think something’s being lost, probably for good, when WMEX’s local morning show and community connections give way to EMF’s “K-Love” format, which will be piped to the Granite State entirely from EMF’s Sacramento studios, with zero local content.)
* It was a big week for program directors in NEW YORK City, with no fewer than four PD chairs changing hands.
Perhaps the biggest of the announcements was at Clear Channel’s WWPR (Power 105.1), where Clear Channel Boston operations manager Cadillac Jack was named the station’s new PD, replacing Helen Little. She heads across Sixth Avenue to fill the midday shift on WLTW (Lite 106.7) left vacant by Valerie Smaldone’s departure – and as Clear Channel continues to shave budgets in any way possible, Cadillac will keep his OM position in Boston, commuting back and forth between the markets.
Downtown at Emmis, WQHT (Hot 97.1) PD Ebro Darden increases his workload as well, taking the PD reins at sister station WRKS (Kiss 98.7) formerly held by Toya Beasley.
Over at the competition – Inner City Broadcasting’s WBLS (107.5), PD Vinny Brown is out after more than a decade with the station, with no replacement yet named.
After numerous delays, New York’s newest radio station is getting closer to its debut. “Pulse 87.7,” which is actually the audio signal of low-power TV station WNYZ-LP (Channel 6), is now promising a debut within the next week or so, and it’s named a PD. Consultant Joel Salkowitz, who’s programmed WQHT (Hot 97.1) and WTJM (Jammin’ 105.1), will head up the programming at the signal. There’s been no announcement of any jocks beyond morning team Star and Buc Wild.
Back at Clear Channel, move-in day is approaching at the new cluster studios at 32 Avenue of the Americas, just south of Canal Street, that will eventually house all five of the group’s New York City stations.
First to make the move to Lower Manhattan will be WAXQ (Q104.3), which has been camped out at the WWPR studios since the lease ran out on its own Midtown studios a couple of months ago. Q has already been doing some overnight broadcasting from the new studios, and the official move will take place this week if all goes well, with the other four stations (WLTW, WWPR, WHTZ and WKTU) to follow over the next few months.
*Moving upstate, Frank Truatt’s WTBQ (1110 Warwick) has finally found a way to overcome one of its biggest obstacles – a 500-watt, daytime-only signal that leaves the station off the air during drivetime for much of the winter. Bud Williamson’s Digital Radio Broadcasting, which owns translator W256BD (99.1 Warwick), has been granted Special Temporary Authority to put WTBQ’s programming on the 10-watt 99.1 signal, 24 hours a day.
(As we’ve reported previously here in NERW, the FCC is close to approving a rulemaking that will allow AM stations to use FM translators on a routine basis; in the meantime, it’s approving many of these STA arrangements, and we hear at least two of them are pending in western New York as well.)
There’s a format change coming a week from today in Rochester, as Crawford Broadcasting prepares to migrate the standards/oldies “Legends” format from WLGZ (990 Rochester) to sister station WRCI (102.7 Webster), which currently broadcasts contemporary Christian as “the Light.” That’s a very crowded niche right now, with competition that includes regional broadcasters Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes, Family Life Ministries of Bath and Mars Hill Network from Syracuse, as well as EMF’s national “K-Love” network.
Once the new “Legends 102.7″ launches next Monday morning, we’re told 990 will remain as a partial simulcast of the FM signal, breaking away for leased-time programming that already includes the market’s only Spanish-language broadcasts, now heard weekend evenings on the AM side.
Over in the Altoona/Johnstown TV market, there’s a new branding and graphics package in place at Nexstar’s WTAJ (Channel 10), as the station’s longtime red-and-white “10″ logo gives way to a yellow-and-blue “WTAJ” with no mention of the channel number. (Or at least that’s what we could glean from WTAJ’s website, which follows the inexplicable Nexstar practice of burying any actual information about the TV station it’s allegedly promoting as deeply as possible – and which kept crashing our browser while we were looking.)
Ten Years Ago: February 3, 2003 -
CONNECTICUT’s longest-running morning team hung up their headphones last week after nearly two decades on the air — and not completely willingly. It’s been no secret for the last year or so that Bruce Barber was looking to leave the “Smith & Barber” morning show on WPLR (99.1 New Haven), but it still came as a surprise to listeners when the show was nowhere to be found last Friday morning.
Station officials say Barber had mentioned several times that he was getting bored with the show; they considered keeping co-host Brian Smith as a solo act, but decided instead to buy out the rest of the duo’s contracts. The decision came as a surprise to Smith, who tells Connecticut media outlets he wasn’t expecting the show to end when it did. The show’s sidekicks, Megan Doll and Billy Winn, will stay on board when WPLR’s new morning show launches later this month. Chaz and AJ come to the Cox rocker from Barnstable’s WRCN (103.9 Riverhead) on Long Island; Chaz is a former night jock at WPLR.
MASSACHUSETTS is home to one of the two stations in America whose call letters are the same as its city of license (WACO in Waco, Texas being the other) — and listeners to WARE (1250) in Ware have something new to enjoy this week. New owner Success Signal Broadcasting (helmed by Marshall Sanft, former owner of WESO in Southbridge) launched an oldies format on WARE Saturday, featuring veteran central Massachusetts jock Fred King in morning drive, a daily “Polka Hour” from 11 to noon (and all morning on Sunday), and an interesting lineup of local talk shows on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Dennis Jackson (of WQQQ/WMEX/WRIP fame) has a hand in this one too; he and programmer Jay “Biggie” Fink are behind the deep, deep oldies format on the 5000-watter, which blankets the territory between Springfield and Worcester. (2013 note: WARE’s oldies format is still going strong, as is another project Dennis had a hand in launching that same week a decade ago, Phil Drumheller’s oldies WIZZ 1520 in Greenfield. Here’s to many more!)
Down to NEW JERSEY we’ll go, next, to find another change of simulcast at Millennium’s cluster in the Atlantic City market. WKXW (101.5 Trenton)’s talk programming moved last year from WBSS (97.3 Millville, now hot AC “Mix” WIXM) to WKXW (1450 Atlantic City, the former WFPG) — and at the same time, the hot AC moved from “Shore” WKOE (106.3 Ocean City) to WIXM. WKOE became CHR “Hot 106.3,” but it didn’t last; as of Saturday, “Hot” is gone and WKOE now carries the simulcast from “New Jersey 101.5.” What of WKXW(AM), then? It’s now doing ESPN radio, still with Harry Hurley’s local morning show.
From PENNSYLVANIA comes word that oldies station WPAM (1450 Pottsville) went dark on Friday. The station had been under a five-year LMA to crosstown WPPA (1360) and WAVT (101.9), but when that expired, there was nobody around to run 1450. We hear it’ll be back under new management, eventually.
Philadelphia’s WURD (900) is being sold as part of the gradual spinoff of Mega Communications’ non-core properties; the kilowatt daytimer (now with 42 watts at night) goes to Levan Communications, which we hear is associated with the former owners of crosstown WHAT (1340). Expect the black-oriented talk that’s been running on a leased-time basis to continue under WURD’s new ownership.
Fifteen Years Ago: February 5, 1998 -
Sinclair Broadcasting is leaving the Burlington-Plattsburgh TV market, just a few months after arriving. You’ll recall that Sinclair is buying the broadcast properties of Heritage Media from Rupert Murdoch. Yesterday, Sinclair said it will sell WPTZ (Channel 5) Plattsburgh-Burlington and WNNE (Channel 31) White River Junction, along with the LMA to WFFF (Channel 44) Burlington, to Sunrise Television for $72 million. Sunrise is the “small-market” television arm of media giant Hicks, Muse, Tate, and Furst. Elsewhere in the region, it owns WKTV (Channel 2) in Utica and WROC (Channel 8) in Rochester. Through its LIN Television arm, Hicks, Muse also owns WTNH (Channel 8) New Haven and WIVB (Channel 4) in Buffalo.
The broadcast scene in VERMONT was a busy one this week even before the WPTZ deal was announced. Up-and-coming rocker WCPV (101.3 Essex NY) is bringing back the “Corm and the Coach” morning show that was dropped last fall by rival WIZN (106.7 Vergennes). The show will replace Don Imus in morning drive on “Champ 101,” with the I-man reportedly moving down the dial to WXPS (96.7 Vergennes). Over at WIZN, station manager Mike Bussiere is reportedly taking over the morning airwaves of “The Wizard.”
In MASSACHUSETTS, Keating Willcox has applied for new facilities for his WNSH (1570) Beverly. The station has been cranking out 125 watts, non-directional, from a rooftop antenna in Hamilton. Now, it wants 500 watts from a four-tower array on the Endicott College campus in Beverly, with different patterns day and night.
A quiet week in NEW YORK…just another TV sale to Lowell Paxson, that’s all. As part of an eight-station buying spree, Paxson’s getting WAUP (Channel 56) in Syracuse for his PaxNet. The unbuilt CP had belonged to Syracuse Minority Television.
In Albany, Mason and Sheehan are back to being FM-only; the simulcast of their WXCR (102.3 Ballston Spa) morning show on WTMM (1300 Rensselaer) has been replaced by One-on-One Sports.
Monica Lewinsky in NERW? Sure enough…there’s a connection. It seems the mother of the World’s Most Famous Intern is marrying the owner of Straus Media Group, which owns WCKL/WCTW Catskill, WHUC/WTHK Hudson, WELV/WTHN Ellenville, and WKIP/WRNQ/WTND Poughkeepsie. And you thought NERW wouldn’t touch that story…