In this week's issue... WFAS to shift to Westchester translator? - WBUR's "Here and Now" gets NPR nod - "Old School" coming to Philadelphia - RI Hall of Fame class named - Local sports cut at WSKO - Baseball on the Radio 2013: AAA and AA Edition
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Still don't believe that FM translators have become very big business indeed? This week's column brings news of more than a dozen new translator signals poised to hit the airwaves all over the region - as well as two full-power stations preparing to move their existing formats to translators to make other uses of their main signals.
The first of those is in NEW YORK's Westchester County, where Cumulus has quietly struck a deal to take over translator W232AL (94.3 Pomona). Until now, that little translator across the Tappan Zee in Rockland County was best known - if it was known at all - as the middle link in the chain that once brought "Jukebox Radio" from its nominal primary home up in the Catskills down to translator W276AQ (103.1 Fort Lee, N.J.) overlooking upper Manhattan. "Jukebox," of course, ended up being silenced after the FCC started to dig deeply into the relationship between translator owner Gerry Turro and the ownership of primary station WJUX (99.7 Monticello), and the entire network ended up in the hands of a religious group, Bridgelight, which has been running the stations noncommercially.
But last week, Bridgelight applied for a big change that will take W232AL out of its own network and put it in Cumulus' hands. The translator is asking the FCC for permission to move to the WFAS tower in Greenburgh, where it would run 250 watts from a directional antenna - and where it would use WFAS (1230 White Plains) as its primary. (The move hinges on FCC dismissal of two other 94.3 applications in Westchester and New Jersey that have been tied up in the freeze of the 2003 translator filing window, but Cumulus expects those applications to end up being dismissed.)
Nobody's saying what happens after that, but it's not hard to speculate: with a new Westchester-based FM outlet that will put a usable signal over most of the central part of the county, will Cumulus then feel more free to move the existing AC format from WFAS-FM (103.9 Bronxville) to 1230 and 94.3, thus allowing the 103.9 signal to finally complete its long-planned move inside New York City limits, where a transmitting facility already exists and has been tested atop the Montefiore Hospital tower in the Bronx?
Over at RadioInsight.com, Lance Venta has been tracking down Cumulus' move to park the "WRXP" callsign on one of its Minnesota FM signals, and he speculates (with a lot of weight behind that speculation) that the end game would indeed be a modern rocker on 103.9 from the Bronx site, using the "WRXP" identity last heard on 101.9.
And as long as we're speculating, NERW wonders whether this translator move signals another possible play for Cumulus as it tries to strengthen its competitive position in the number-one market:
In order to move the 94.3 signal eastward into Westchester County from its present three-watt Rockland facility (amusingly misspelled "Rocklin County" in the FCC filing), Cumulus has to show interference protection to four other signals: co-channel WYBC-FM in New Haven and WWSK on Long Island, WNYC-FM (93.9) in New York and Cumulus' own WNSH (94.7 Newark NJ). That requires a pretty significant directional notch to the southeast to minimize the translator's signal toward Long Island Sound, and especially toward WWSK.
Full-power stations like WWSK, of course, can exert significant pressure to prevent receiving interference from translators, a lesson Michael Celenza's "Apple 107.1" group learned all too well when it tried to move a translator signal into Manhattan on 106.3. Knowing that, why might Cumulus still push forward with an expensive and risky move of 94.3 into Westchester? Here's what we're speculating (with a very big caveat that this is only informed speculation) -
WWSK plays an important role not only in this proposed Westchester move but also in another part of Cumulus' New York strategy: it's essentially the only major obstacle to any attempt Cumulus might make to move its new WNSH (94.7) signal from New Jersey into Manhattan, either from the Empire State Building or Four Times Square. If WWSK could be moved somewhere out of the way of a WNSH move, it would also allow the 94.3 translator in Westchester to let out its proposed directional notch and better serve the coastal part of Westchester County. And so we have to wonder: does Cumulus have a deal in the works with WWSK owner Connoisseur? We'll be watching closely.
*The other full-power-to-translator move in the Empire State is a little clearer: Clear Channel's WBBI (107.5 Endwell) is already alerting listeners that its oldies format is getting ready to change frequencies to 96.9. What's 96.9 in the Binghamton market? Nothing so far - but as alert NERW readers learned a few months ago, that's the frequency where translator W221AX (92.1 Endicott) is heading. with a new 99-watt signal from the tower used by WBBI and sister station WBNW-FM (105.7) in Endicott.
The new 96.9 signal, which could be on the air as soon as this week, is licensed to relay WENE (1430 Endicott), and so if it's becoming "Big 96.9" with oldies, it looks as though there may be a flip away from sports for 1430 on the way as well. (And, yes, it would sure be nice from a nostalgic standpoint to hear classic top-40 music back on the WENE signal that made that music famous back in the day...)
It didn't take long for another venerable Binghamton callsign to migrate westward down I-86 (and then north a bit on 390): just a couple of weeks after Clear Channel rebranded WMRV (105.7 Endicott) as WBNW-FM, "Now 105.7," the WMRV calls have landed in Dansville, where Brian McGlynn's Genesee Media is now using them at 93.9 on the dial at the former WDNY-FM, "My 93.9."
*East of Binghamton on Route 17, there's a frequency change coming to Shamrock's WBZX (107.1 Hancock). The relay of "Rock 107" (WEZX 106.9 Scranton) is applying to move down the dial to 104.5 from its existing transmitter site on Bass Mountain, where it would increase power from 2.1 kW to 6 kW - and where the frequency change would make its off-air pickup of WEZX much cleaner, too.
*In Syracuse, Citadel was staking out a pretty ambitious local sports-talk niche when it began programming WSKO (1260) as a mostly local sports outlet a few years back - but under Citadel's successor, Cumulus, most of that local sports talk has vanished from the dial. The latest bit of local programming to disappear is Mike Lindsley's 3-6 PM shift, which replaced Brent Axe in afternoons just a couple of weeks ago. WSKO plugged Jim Rome into Lindsley's former midday shift, and now it will use CBS Sports Radio's Doug Gottlieb to replace Lindsley in afternoons. That leaves only the "Bud and the Manchild" show, from 10-noon, as daily local programming on "The Score." (WSKO is also dropping Chiefs baseball this year; more on that below in our Baseball on the Radio special report.)
As for Lindsley, he's headed down the Thruway to handle the 1-4 PM shift and Yankees pre-game coverage on Townsquare's WTMM (104.5 Mechanicville) in the Albany market, where he starts work today.
Where are they now? Former WSYR (and briefly, WCNY) talk host Jim Reith has landed in the public sector. CNYRadio.com reports he's started a new $52,000-a-year job as spokesman for Onondaga County's "Save the Rain" campaign, which aims to prevent storm water from entering the county's sewer system.
*We were pretty sure DJRA Broadcasting wasn't going to let its 50,000-watt AM license in Albany evaporate - and sure enough, WDCD (1540) was back on the air last Monday, just a few days before the one-year mark on its silent period would have hit, triggering an automatic license cancellation. WDCD's temporary return to the air finds the station simulcasting the religious programming that moved to sister WDCD-FM (96.7 Clifton Park) after the AM shut down last year; DJRA says it's still looking for an economically viable format (or a buyer) to return the AM to the air permanently.
Back to the translator front, where there was plenty of action in the Capital District as the March filing window for "singleton" translators from the 2003 "Great Translator Invasion" drew to a close. The window appears to be yielding at least three new translators in and around Albany, with an existing translator also filing for a significant upgrade.
The new ones, first: EMF Broadcasting is moving forward with a 10-watter on 99.9 from the Bald Mountain site above Troy, where it plans to relay "Air 1" WYAI (93.7 Scotia). Galaxy Broadcasting had applied for a Colonie-licensed 100.5 signal back when it still owned stations in the Albany market (including the 93.7 that's now WYAI), and it's still forging ahead with its application for the frequency, which for now shows Townsquare's WGNA (107.7 Albany) as its primary.
At 92.9, Albany public broadcaster WAMC (90.3) has an application for a Scotia-licensed translator signal that will help fill in some gaps in its coverage around Schenectady - and just up the dial, WAMC is also applying to relocate one of its biggest and oldest translators. W226AC (93.1 Rensselaer) now runs 80 watts from a site in the hills east of Rensselaer, where it fills in some in-town gaps in the main WAMC signal coming from Mount Greylock in Massachusetts, but now it's applying to go to 250 watts from Bald Mountain, with even better coverage of Troy and Albany.
*Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes has two "singleton" translators it's pursuing in the Ithaca area: it had applied for 96.7 in both Ithaca itself and nearby Danby, and it's shifting the Danby application to 107.3 in an attempt to get both facilities granted.
Down the road in Watkins Glen, Binghamton-based WSKG is applying to relocate its translator. W215AB (90.9) wants to shift to 90.5, where it will be out of the way of co-channel, co-owned WSQG (90.9 Ithaca); the move will also help clear the way for a small power increase at another WSKG-owned translator, W214AT (90.7 Corning), which will go from 3 to 8 watts.
*What's up with WKAJ (1120 St. Johnsville)? The 10,000-watt Mohawk Valley AM signal that got into big FCC trouble for continuing construction after its CP ran out back in 2011 once again has a valid construction permit - and now it's asking the FCC for a minor modification to account for the four towers having been built at slightly different locations than specified in the original CP. Cranesville Block Company is still pushing ahead with the licensing process, and expects to have the station on the air later this spring.
On TV, Sinclair is moving its 10 PM newscast in Buffalo. The WGRZ (Channel 2)-produced newscast has been airing on MyNetworkTV affiliate WNYO (Channel 49) since 2006, but next Monday it will move to sister Fox affiliate WUTV (Channel 29) and expand to seven days a week. The move will mark the first time that WUTV has had a daily newscast, ending its long distinction as by far the largest Fox affiliate without news at 10. WUTV will also rebroadcast the 6 AM hour of WGRZ's "News 2 Daybreak" from 7-8 AM on weekdays.
In Syracuse, WTVH (Channel 5) continues to struggle with a balky transmitter. The station's signal from Onondaga Heights has been off the air repeatedly in the last few years, and it failed again last Sunday, once again leaving WTVH off the air for several days until replacement parts could arrive. (Luckily for viewers in the Syracuse area, the transmitter failure came between March Madness installments for the hometown Orangemen, and in any event a standard-definition feed of WTVH programming was once again quickly rushed onto the 3.3 subchannel of sister station WSTM.) Will WTVH get a technical boost when Sinclair takes over from Barrington as the operator of the Granite-owned station?
*The public radio war in eastern MASSACHUSETTS is now being waged on a new front, thanks to NPR's surprise Friday morning announcement that it's pulling the plug on its DC-based "Talk of the Nation" after 21 years on the air. NPR officials said the move came in response to member stations’ demands for more magazine-style midday offerings like “Here and Now,” the noontime offering from Boston’s WBUR-FM (90.9) – but we hear that even many staffers at WBUR itself were surprised by the news that “Here and Now” is shifting its distribution to NPR in July after several years of syndication by PRI, the rival programming service now based across town at WGBH-FM (89.7). NPR will assist in staffing a revamped “Here and Now,” which will add a new co-host (Jeremy Hobson from “Marketplace Morning Report”) alongside Boston-based Robin Young and Meghna Chakrabarti.
“Here and Now” will continue to be produced live at noon five days a week, adding a second hour at 1, and NPR will also offer a rollover in the 2-4 PM timeslot “Talk of the Nation” had occupied. Meanwhile, “Science Friday,” the New York City-based show that occupied the “Talk” timeslot on Fridays, will continue to be produced as well. We’ll be watching to see how the region’s public broadcasters shuffle their schedules to accommodate the changing programming offerings out there…
There’s public radio news at the other end of the state, too, where it came right down to the wire as the construction permit for WNNU (89.5 Great Barrington) neared expiration at the end of March. Chuck Dube and his engineering team from parent station WFCR-FM (88.5 Amherst) did a masterful job of down-to-the-wire construction to get the new signal on the air at 8:00 Friday night, and it’s now bringing the news-talk format from WNNZ (640 Westfield) to the southern Berkshires from a site just across the state line in Hillsdale, N.Y.
Great Barrington’s WSBS (860) has a stronger FM voice now: translator W231AK (94.1) has completed its move to the AM tower on Route 7, which comes with a power increase to 250 watts from its former 35 watt facility atop the local hospital.
Radio People on the Move: T.J. Taormina now has a morning co-host at Boston's WODS (103.3 AMP Radio). She's Loren Raye, who comes to "The TJ Show" from the Elvis Duran morning show at New York's Z100, where she'd been working with T.J. until his move to Boston earlier this year.
And is this the week that WHYA (101.1 Hyannis) launches its new “Y101” top-40 format? There’s now a Facebook page up for the station, and we’re hearing the lineup will include Elvis Duran’s New York-based morning show, along with PD Steve McVie holding down afternoons and Jackson Blue at night.
*The RHODE ISLAND Radio Hall of Fame has announced its 2013 class of inductees. The list includes Mike "Doctor Metal" Gonsalves, the longtime WHJY (94.1 Providence) night jock who was among the victims in the Station nightclub fire a decade ago, as well as WPRO (630) talk host and former Providence mayor Buddy Cianci.
This year's class also includes John "Coach" Colletto, a longtime fixture on WPRO's Salty Brine morning show, former WICE (1290) host Bill Corsair, WPAW (550)/WBRU (95.5) jazz host Fred Grady and WADK (1540 Newport) talk host Bob Sullivan.
The induction ceremony will also include two other awards this year: the Shepard Award, for industry leadership, goes to longtime WPRO traffic director Barbara Smith, who retired last year, while "Broadcaster of the Year" goes to WCTK (Cat Country 98.1.)
The induction banquet will be held May 9 at Twin River in Lincoln, and tickets are on sale at www.rirhof.org.
*Mid-coast MAINE is getting a Boston Red Sox radio outlet this year: just in time for opening day against the Yankees today, Binnie Media’s WBYA (105.5 Islesboro) has signed a two-year deal to bring the team’s broadcasts back to the region.
Just down the coast, the translator thaw is yielding a new signal at 106.1 in Ellsworth for Bangor Baptist Church’s WHCF (88.5).
*The translator thaw is good news for VERMONT Public Radio, which had three signals on the “singleton” list. 99.5 in Montpelier will relay VPR’s classical service from the HD2 of WVPS (107.9 Burlington), while an existing Montpelier translator on 94.1 (W23aBK) will continue to relay the main VPR service from WVPS' analog signal. 99.7 in Waitsfield will also relay WVPS, while 96.3 in Rupert will pick up VPR Classical from WVNK (91.1 Manchester.)
*Under normal circumstances, the FCC won't even consider changing a station's city of license to a larger nearby community that already has a greater number of stations. But in central PENNSYLVANIA, the circumstances surrounding what's now WFGE (101.1 Tyrone) are anything but "normal." Since the station signed on from its present transmitter site north of State College in the 1960s (as WGMR), it's been more of a regional service than a local one to its nominal city of license; in fact, under present-day FCC rules, "Froggy 101" couldn't even legally be licensed to Tyrone, since it doesn't quite reach that far south with its 70 dBu city-grade signal. Back in 1971, the FCC acknowledged as much when it gave then-WGMR permission to identify as "Tyrone-State College."
The Commission no longer regulates dual-city legal IDs, but WFGE's owner, Forever Broadcasting, isn't taking any chances. It's now asked the FCC to allow it to fully change WFGE's city of license from Tyrone to State College. There's no change planned to the station's technical facilities - just an acknowledgement that it's really a State College station (and a slight backhanded slap at little Tyrone itself, which continues to be home to WFGE’s long-ago sister station WTRN on 1340, noting that the community of just over 5,000 people "does not meet the population threshold to be considered a ‘community of substantial size’." (It's worth noting, too, that the move would shift WFGE from the Altoona Arbitron market to an unrated market, theoretically allowing Forever to eventually add another signal in Altoona if it could do so without triggering other market-concentration concerns.)
*On the edge of the Altoona market, a small AM signal has breathed its last. WRDD (1580 Ebensburg) returned its license to the FCC last week. The station had most recently belonged to Vernal Enterprises, but fell silent after the 2010 death of Vernal principal Larry Schrecongost.
In Pittsburgh, Laura Varner Norman is out as general manager of Martz Broadcasting’s WAMO (660/100.1) after two years; the New Pittsburgh Courier reports Gary Gunter is inbound from Radio One in Baltimore to replace her.
And in Philadelphia, it appears a format change at Radio One's WRNB (100.3 Media) is no April Fool's joke: at 5 this afternoon, the station is expected to announce a flip from straight-ahead R&B to "Old School 100.3," following on the heels of similar Radio One outlets in Dallas, Charlotte and St. Louis.
*The translator thaw has unfrozen three “singleton” applications in Pennsylvania: in Meadville, a Clear Channel translator application was to have relayed WREO from Ashtabula, Ohio, but Clear Channel has long since sold that station, so for now the application calls for EMF’s WCVJ (90.9 Jefferson OH) as the primary. In Uniontown, one of EMF’s own applications made the list: it will operate on 106.3, relaying WPKV (98.3 Carnegie). And in Moosic, Susan Clinton’s application for 105.5 made the list, relaying WCOZ (90.5 Laceyville).
In Jonestown, Mary Medicus has modified her 104.5 translator application to instead specify 104.7, relaying Family Life’s WLKA (88.3 Tafton).
*Hope Christian Church of Marlton was the big winner in NEW JERSEY’s translator thaw: it now has pending applications for 97.7 in Marmora, 100.3 in Cape May and 104.1 in Absecon, all relaying its WVBV (90.5 Medford Lakes).
In Rio Grande, Ted Schober’s application for 104.5 is moving forward, relaying WSCL (89.5 Salisbury MD), and there’s a pending application now in the “singleton” pile for a WGLS (89.7 Glassboro) relay on 100.3 in Pleasantville, where it will serve Atlantic City.
And what's a Garden State station doing carrying the Angels radio network, all the way from Anaheim? WSNJ (1240 Bridgeton)/WMVB (1440 Millville) has picked up the Halos this season because of their star player, Mike Trout, who's a native of Millville. As best we can tell, it's the first time the Angels have had an East Coast affiliate on their network.
*A format flip in Atlantic CANADA: CJFX (98.9 Antigonish NS) dropped the hot AC piece of its classic hits format, adding more oldies from the 1960s through the 1980s. It’s no longer “XFM,” but instead is now known as “98.9 the Nish,” reports Dan Sys’ Canadian Radio News.
While we’re out Nova Scotia way, we note an application from D&K Communications for a new station in Windsor. The 45-watt/6-meter station would program a country and pop format on 99.3 using call letters CKWI, if it wins CRTC approval at a May 25 hearing in Gatineau, Quebec.
*Onward to some Baseball on the Radio, then? Our look at this season's radio coverage continues this week with the top rung of the minor leagues, the AAA International League, and we start as always with our hometown Rochester Red Wings. They lost their FM simulcast midway through last season, when Clear Channel flipped WHTK-FM (107.3 South Bristol) to oldies WODX, but the Wings stay in place on the remaining AM side of the former sports simulcast, WHTK (1280); day games continue to shift to WYSL (1040 Avon) to avoid cutting into WHTK's Fox Sports lineup.
The Buffalo Bisons remain in place on WWKB (1520), while the Syracuse Chiefs, in newly-renamed NBT Bank Stadium), have left the broadcast airwaves entirely. Unable to reach a deal with last year's flagship, WSKO (1260), and unhappy about WSKO's move away from local talk, the Chiefs are going webcast-only for 2013. (Peter Naughton has an incisive look at the reasoning behind the move over at CNYRadio.com that's well worth the read.) All three "Thruway Series" teams enjoy extensive TV coverage on Time Warner Cable Sports as well.
The Pawtucket Red Sox enter 2013 with a new voice in the booth, having lost play-by-play guy Aaron Goldsmith to the Seattle Mariners after just one season in the Ocean State. Bob Socci moves up the coast after seven years with the Norfolk Tides to become lead play-by-play voice, paired with Jeff Levering, who's inbound from the Springfield (Missouri) Cardinals to replace Steve Hyder. The PawSox remain with WHJJ (920 Providence) as their network flagship, and a dozen additional signals as far afield as southern New Hampshire and Vermont will carry a partial lineup.
After their bizarre 2012 season without a home stadium, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees are back home at a renovated PNC Field. They have a new name - the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders - and a renewed five-year radio deal with Bold Gold Media Group. The deal keeps the team in place on Bold Gold's "Game" sports network, which now includes a Wilkes-Barre FM translator (100.7) in addition to WICK (1400 Scranton)/WYCK (1340 Plains)/WCDL (1440 Carbondale). There's a new announcer as well, with John Sadak moving up from the Carolina League to replace Mike Vanderwoude in the booth. And there's a new TV deal, with 20 games to be carried live on MyNetwork outlet WQMY (Channel 53).
Things are much more status quo over at the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, where WEEX (1230 Easton)/WTKZ (1320 Allentown) return as radio flagships (with WNPV 1440 Lansdale as an affiliate) and Matt Provence and Jon Schaeffer return to the booth. The 'Pigs also enjoy unusually extensive TV coverage, with the entire 72-game home lineup televised on a cable network provided by Service Electric Cable, Blue Ridge Cable and Hazleton's WYLN. Saturday home games will also be seen over-the-air on Allentown's WFMZ-TV (Channel 69).
*It's not just the AAA level that begins play later this week: Thursday is also opening day for the AA Eastern League, and here's how those radio rights line up:
The Portland SeaDogs continue on WPEI (95.9 Saco)/WPPI (95.5 Topsham), with additional coverage up north on WEZR (1240 Lewiston), WTME (780 Rumford) and WKTQ (1450 South Paris).
The New Hampshire Fisher Cats are (we think) back on WGIR (610 Manchester) and WQSO (96.7 Rochester).
The New Britain Rock Cats continue on WPOP (1410 Hartford), with additional coverage on WLIS (1420 Old Saybrook) and WMRD (1150 Middletown).
The Binghamton Mets appeared to be on the verge of leaving town last year, but they've renewed their agreement with the parent team down in the big city and will remain in place through 2015 - and they return to WNBF (1290 Binghamton), with Kevin Heiman in the booth for a second season.
The Harrisburg Senators return to WTKT (1460 Harrisburg) for another season, with Marshall Keiner (formerly of the Battle Creek Bombers) joining Terry Byrom in the booth this summer.
Down the road, the Reading Phillies have become the Fighting Phils, but they remain in place on WRAW (1340) for a second season.
The Altoona Curve just re-upped for a fifth season on WVAM (1430), with Nathan Bowen joining veteran Mike Passanisi in the booth this year. WCCL (101.7) in the Johnstown market joins the Curve network, which also includes partial coverage on WTRN (1340 Tyrone), WCPA (900 Clearfield) and WBGG (970 Pittsburgh).
And of course there's that one lone single-A South Atlantic League outpost in NERW-land: on the Jersey shore, the Lakewood BlueClaws have added Dan Acheson (formerly with the Portland Sea Dogs) to the broadcast booth alongside Greg Giombarrese; they'll be heard once again on WOBM (1160 Lakewood)/WADB (1310 Asbury Park).
We'll continue 0ur Baseball on the Radio coverage with the independent leagues, and then wrap it up in June when the short-season single-A New York-Penn League kicks off.
*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!