In this week"s issue...WBIN cancels local news - New signal for New York"s WQXR - WEEI shifts overnights - NERW Bookshelf: "New York City Radio"
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Conventional wisdom says we"re living right now in a time of transformative media change, as established news sources come under siege from newer, more nimble ventures.
In the world of local TV news, though, "new" doesn"t automatically mean "success" - especially in markets where a single player might have a six-decade head start on a newcomer. Markets such as, say, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which is where we start this week"s column with the news that Bill Binnie"s WBIN (Channel 50) has pulled the plug, for now, on the 10 PM local newscast that launched back in the fall of 2011.
In its year and a half on the air, that newscast suffered from two big drawbacks: first, it was never truly "local," emanating from the centralized newsroom at INN (Independent News Network) in Davenport, Iowa, where an Iowa-based anchor introduced stories from three reporters based in New Hampshire; second, it attempted to compete not only against the very established Manchester-based WMUR (Channel 9), which offers its own 10 PM show on its 9.2 MeTV subchannel, but also against the big newsrooms to the south in Boston. (And even here, the advantage went very much to WMUR, which can draw on the considerable resources of Hearst sister station WCVB in Boston.)
The Binnie group promised early on that the Iowa-based production would be only temporary while it worked to build a full-fledged news operation in New Hampshire, and as recently as February Binnie told the Concord Monitor that he was planning to "double his reporting staff" and expand the evening newscast to an hour. But we"re hearing that concerns with the quality of the Iowa-based production led WBIN to pull out of the deal with INN, abruptly replacing the 10 PM newscast with the syndicated "OMG! Insider."
Will news come back to WBIN? The station has retained one of the three local reporters on its staff, and weatherman Al Kaprielian is still on staff as well, doing hourly weather updates from afternoon into prime time (the former INN-produced newscast used an Iowa-based forecaster instead) - but the most that Binnie VP Periklis Karoutas would tell the Monitor is that Binnie "is doing news and will continue to do so.”
As for some of the bigger plans Binnie"s been talking about for his fast-growing radio/TV group, including a statewide live morning news show, their failure to materialize just yet might well be taken as another sign that even for an owner with the considerable resources of a business magnate like Bill Binnie, getting into broadcasting in a big way is still harder than it looks.
*Binnie"s operation wasn"t the only local news start-up to run into tough times in recent weeks - there"s a shuttered newsroom in upstate NEW YORK, too.
With 80,000 people in Cattaraugus County and the nearest full-fledged TV market more than an hour away in Buffalo, the Olean area has long tempted broadcasters looking to establish a small TV news beachhead. There had been several attempts at low-budget local news in the past on the city"s LPTV stations before broadcaster Jeff Andrulonis bought the stations (now consolidated into one license, WVTT-CA on channel 25) in 2011 and combined it with his Colonial radio group.
Colonial had ambitious plans, too: Andrulonis put a news-talk radio outlet on the air, WVTT (96.7 Portville) and began simulcasting its local morning show on the LPTV station - and then added evening newscasts on TV, simulcast on radio. Ambitious though it was, Colonial also operated on a tight budget, with Andrulonis himself (a former TV reporter in Elmira and Harrisburg) anchoring the evening shows.
Even with its lean operations, though, the news from Olean turns out to be "no news": as of a couple of weeks ago, the local newscasts are gone, the local news staff has been let go, and the morning radio timeslot that had been home to "Twin Tiers Morning" is now instead carrying the Quinn & Rose "War Room" show from Pittsburgh.
(Which is a shame for residents of Olean and adjoining areas of Pennsylvania; with the WVTT newscasts gone, there"s once again no real TV coverage of local happenings, unless it"s a story so big that the Buffalo stations bother to send a crew traveling to the Twin Tiers.)
*Downstate, another attempt at local media is also fading away. Marc Sophos has been doing radio in one form or another since he was ten years old. As a freshman at Dobbs Ferry High School in 1973, Sophos persuaded the school board to allocate money for a station to be known as "WDFH," but it took two more decades and then some before he could finally go on the air at 90.3 in Ossining with a community station under the WDFH calls.
And now, Sophos" Westchester Council for Public Broadcasting has struck a deal to sell WDFH to New York Public Radio (NYPR), parent of New York"s WNYC (820/93.9) and WQXR (105.9 Newark NJ). The $400,000 sale, filed with the FCC last week, is contingent on NYPR"s successful filing of an application that would increase 90.3"s power from the present 53 watts/476" to 250 watts, directional, from the existing transmitter site near Chappaqua.
In a blog post that was subsequently removed (though only, it seems, because it was posted prematurely), NYPR announced that the 90.3 signal would become a Westchester relay for classical WQXR, using new calls WQXW, and just such an application was filed with the FCC"s callsign desk on May 2.
Assuming the deal is consummated, the new WQXW will help fill in some gaps in the coverage of WQXR in an affluent part of northern Westchester that"s had trouble hearing the classical signal since it moved from the former New York Times-owned class B 96.3 signal to the lower-powered 105.9. Will WNYC continue to look for other ways to strengthen the reach of WQXR in additional areas where its signal is impaired, including the parts of Long Island where 105.9 is blocked out by adjacent-channel WBLI on 106.1.
*It was a big week up in the air above lower Manhattan, where construction at the new 1 World Trade Center finally topped out with the raising of the mast that takes the building to the symbolic height of 1,776 feet above ground level.
The big question in the New York broadcast world - who"ll lease space on the new tower? - is one that we still can"t answer. We know the Durst Organization, which is handling the leasing of the new vertical real estate, has been making closed-door presentations to the city"s TV and FM stations, trying to sell them on the benefits of being on the tallest tower in town. We know, too, that a move to 1WTC would be problematic for most of the FM stations on Empire, which would become significantly short-spaced if they were to move south. And we also know that a handful of former Trade Center FMs, most notably WPAT-FM (93.1 Paterson), have spacing challenges at Empire that would be resolved by a return to the World Trade Center.
As for the TV stations that have now been at the Empire State Building for more than a decade, nobody much disputes that they"d enjoy better signals from the Trade Center than from the shorter, more crowded stick at Empire, with much more access to backup power in an emergency, too. The question that broadcasters have to answer, though, is how much a better signal will be worth in the long run: space on the new stick is likely to be very expensive, in an era when am ever-smaller number of viewers are even watching over the air.
We"ll be following closely as the next chapter in World Trade Center broadcast history is written, and we"ll keep you posted as we learn who"ll be making the move downtown and what the antenna configuration might look like.
*Breaking late on Sunday night as we put this week"s column to bed is the Politico report that claims Rush Limbaugh (or at least Limbaugh"s syndicator, Clear Channel-owned Premiere) is considering pulling Limbaugh"s show from Cumulus-owned talk stations when the current contract is up at year"s end. In NERW-land, such a move would affect only three stations - WXLM (980) in Groton, Connecticut, WSBA (910) in York, Pennsylvania and, of course, the big one: Limbaugh"s nominal flagship, WABC (770) in New York. (The stakes are bigger elsewhere: Cumulus also holds the Limbaugh affiliation in major markets including Washington, Chicago and Dallas.)
We"ve been reporting for well over a year now that relations between Cumulus and Limbaugh are frosty at best, and that a split was likely at contract"s end; the latest move appears to us to be not much more than another negotiating step in that process, a way to save face on Premiere"s side and to make it appear that any decision to remove Limbaugh from the Cumulus stations is as much Premiere"s decision as Cumulus". On the Cumulus side, corporate leadership is blaming Limbaugh"s recent controversies for sharply declining ad sales; on the Premiere side, Clear Channel appears to be blaming Cumulus" badmouthing of Limbaugh for itself contributing to the sales slump.
And in most of the NERW markets that would be affected, it"s unlikely Limbaugh would be gone from the dial for long; it"s widely believed that Clear Channel bought WOR (710) in no small part to ensure a New York clearance for its star talker should he leave WABC. Listeners in York could easily hear the show via Clear Channel"s WHP (580 Harrisburg)...if this very public negotiation process doesn"t end with the two sides coming to terms on a new deal, which is entirely possible, too.
The next chapter in the Cumulus-Premiere squabble is expected to come Tuesday, when Cumulus holds its earnings call.
*A long-silent AM station in central New York is getting closer to a full-fledged return to the airwaves. WKAL (1450 Rome) has been testing its signal with programming from the Virginia-based "1920s Radio Network" while it builds out a studio for the first time in many years. (From 1999 until 2011, 1450 was operated remotely as a noncommercial Bible Broadcasting Network affiliate, WYFY; since then, it"s been silent under Special Temporary Authority, with the most recent STA having been due for expiration tomorrow.)
In Woodstock, there"s a new music director/promotions director at WDST (100.1). Katie DeMartile starts work at the station May 28, moving west from WXRV (92.5 Andover) in the Boston market, which is where she got her start in radio, serving as PD at at Emerson College"s WERS (88.9).
Down the road at WSUL (98.3 Monticello), a local podcast has made the transition to terrestrial morning radio. What"s now the "Kris and Berman Show" on WSUL began last year as the "Al, Rock and Kris Show" online; in its WSUL incarnation, it"s hosted by former Howard Stern intern Alan Berman and comedian Kris Hasburn, and it replaces the syndicated Kidd Kraddick show.
In Albany, Angela Rosetti has been promoted to operations manager at talker WGDJ (1300 Rensselaer); "Talk 1300" has also hired Kate Finnigan as sales manager.
Where are they now? Former WGY (810) talker Joe Pagliarulo also worked on sister Clear Channel talkers WSYR in Syracuse and WHAM in Rochester a few years back before moving to Texas and a full-time gig at WOAI (1200) in Clear Channel"s hometown of San Antonio. "Joe Pags" had also been doing morning drive on yet another Clear Channel talk station, KPRC (950 Houston) - but he lost that slot last week as KPRC shifted market veterans Walton and Johnson into that airshift.
And here"s a big "where is she now?": Anne Keefe was one of the icons of Rochester TV news during two decades at WHAM-TV/WROC-TV (Channel 8), and then she became an even more dominant presence during a long radio run in St. Louis at KMOX (1120). Now in her late eighties, Keefe returned home to Rochester a couple of years ago - and on Thursday at noon, she"ll be your editor"s guest on "1370 Connection" at WXXI (1370), streaming at wxxi.org. Join us, won"t you, for what should be a great hour of conversation about Keefe"s long career and her views on the media today?(Your editor has been filling in as host and producer of the daily two-hour show for the last few weeks while regular host Bob Smith is off, dealing with some health issues.)
Two longtime Syracuse jocks are back behind the microphone at a new streaming service. hit the web over the weekend, featuring alternating hour-long tracked shifts hosted by Ron Bee and Dave Laird. Between them, the duo worked at most of the city"s big top-40 outlets back in the day, Bee at WOLF (1490) and Laird at WNDR (1260), WFBL (1390) and WNTQ (93Q). Bee later went on to a long run as morning man at WBBS (B104.7), but he"s been out of commission since a car accident a few years ago that left him unable to speak for a while. The new stream is programmed with assistance from another Syracuse radio veteran, Rick "RJ" Jordan, whose day job is down the road as PD of WCJW in Warsaw.
Here"s the full list of winners in the recent Buffalo Broadcasters Association "BEMA" (Buffalo Excellence in Media Awards): WGRF (97 Rock) was "Radio Station of the Year," while Jud Heussler of WKSE (Kiss 98.5) was "Radio Personality of the Year." NBC affiliate WGRZ (Channel 2) was "TV Station of the Year," while Diana Fairbanks of WIVB/WNLO was "TV Personality of the Year." Her colleague Ed Drantch was named "Backpack Journalist of the Year," and three other WIVB"ers also took home awards:reporter Brittni Smallwood won the "Rising Star Award," Lenny Kostelny was named "Sales Executive of the Year" and chief photographer Mike Mombrea Jr. was named "Behind the Scenes Maverick." Phil Arno won "Trailblazer of the Year" for his work building WBBZ-TV into a rising independent outlet, while Rob Lucas of WTSS (Star 102.5) won the "Best Use of Social Media" award. And as we told you last week, WBFO (88.7) assistant news director Eileen Buckley took home the "Pinnacle Award" at the ceremonies April 26.
*Three obituaries this week relate to New York radio: there"s word that Jim McGahan died Saturday in Florida; in the 1980s and early 1990s, McGahan did nights and weekends on WLNG (1600/92.1) in Sag Harbor. There"s also very late work of the death of another jock associated with WLNG: Glenn Sauter hosted "The Hits of Yester-Year" on WLNG and in syndication, and he died Sunday morning, we"re told.
Out in California, Jerry Graham died Monday (April 29), a day before he would have turned 79. Graham was on the air at New York"s WNEW (1130) as a newsman and manager in the 1970s before transferring to Metromedia sister station KSAN (94.9) in San Francisco as general manager. In later years, he was known as the host of "Bay Area Backroads" on San Francisco"s KRON-TV (Channel 4). A native of Binghamton, where he was born Gerald Granowsky, he was also a station owner in western Massachusetts. Alongside partners Bernie Ruttenberg and David Gordon, Graham put WGRG (1110, now WUPE) on the air in Pittsfield in 1971, later adding WGRG-FM (95.9, now WBEC-FM) before selling the stations in 1977.
*We"ll continue with the week"s news in a moment, but first let"s pay a visit to the NERW Bookshelf, where we"ve been remiss in not offering a full review of the latest radio offering from the prolific folks at Arcadia Publishing.
New York City Radio by Alec Cumming and Peter Kanze is part of Arcadia"s "Images of America" series, which means a reader knows what to expect even before opening the sepia-toned cover: 128 pages heavy on photos (usually two to a page) and light on text. In this case, the text benefits immensely from Kanze"s long immersion in New York radio history - he is, after all, one of the co-authors of The Airwaves of New York, which delivered the sort of minutely detailed history of every AM station in the city"s history that an Arcadia photo book can"t possibly deliver.
What such a book can do, though - and what this one does quite well - is to provide a broad illustrated overview of a long span of history. New York City Radio starts in just the right spot, the radio shack where Lee DeForest made the city"s first voice transmissions more than a century ago, and proceeds nicely through the medium"s early years and its explosive growth, with New York right at the center of the radio network universe. There"s a nice chapter on radio during World War II, and in that same era Major Armstrong gets his due as FM"s inventor - and as a New York broadcaster, too.
Chapters on the 1960s and 1970s feature the expected photos of the top-40 giants, WABC, WMCA and WINS, but Cumming and Kanze also pay attention to smaller broadcasters, including ethnic and specialty outlets like WHOM, WWRL and even little WHBI over in Newark.
If there"s a weakness to the broad sweep of the book, it comes in the final chapters, where there"s simply no room in the Arcadia format to do full justice to the incredible explosion of new signals and formats that have marked the last several decades of New York radio, but that"s at best a minor quibble.
This volume is far from the really comprehensive history New York radio deserves (an omission your editor is still hoping to rectify someday with the completion of Airwaves, volume II, focusing on the city"s FM signals), but it"s a fun excursion through a century of broadcast history in the nation"s biggest market, and it would make a fantastic introduction to anyone who"s less familiar with New York radio history than the typical NERW reader.
(Want a copy of your own? Order through our Amazon.com link and a portion of your purchase price will benefit fybush.com, too!)
*A central PENNSYLVANIA TV station is on the block. ABC affiliate WHTM (Channel 27) has been in the hands of Allbritton Communications since 1996, but with last week"s announcement that Allbritton is selling its seven-station TV group to focus on its more profitable Politico.com, "ABC27" becomes the latest Harrisburg station in line for a new owner. The move comes just a few months after WHTM"s neighbor across the street, CBS affiliate WHP-TV (Channel 21), changed hands from Newport Television to Sinclair - and it comes amidst longstanding rumors that Tribune may be looking to sell its station group, including York-based Fox affiliate WPMT (Channel 43).
Who might be in the market for Allbritton"s stations, which include Washington ABC affiliate WJLA (Channel 7) along with ABC outlets in other small-to-medium markets such as Lynchburg-Roanoke and Birmingham? Sinclair has been the biggest buyer in recent months, but it"s already in several Allbritton markets and wouldn"t be able to keep both WHP-TV and WHTM.
Nexstar has been another prominent buyer, and WHTM would fit neatly amidst neighboring Nexstar outlets in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Altoona and Hagerstown - but there"s a complicating factor: Nexstar actually already owns in Harrisburg, where its CW affiliate WLYH (Channel 15) is operated under an LMA by Sinclair at WHP-TV. ABC/Disney itself might be interested in big-market WJLA, but would be unlikely to want smaller stations such as WHTM. Hearst has close ties to ABC - but it, too, is already an owner in the market, with NBC affiliate WGAL (Channel 8).
*In Erie, Connoisseur"s WFNN (1330) spent a big chunk of April off the air after a transmitter failure. It"s back on now, but still operating at only half its licensed 5000 watts while it awaits a new transmitter. (WFNN"s local sports play-by-play moved to sister station WJET 1400 while 1330 was off the air.)
*Here"s a nifty little translator deal from the north central part of the Keystone State: Family Life Ministries is acquiring translator W228CH (93.5 Towanda) from GEOS Communications, and it"s not paying a dime for the signal, which currently relays GEOS" WZKN (96.9 Ridgebury). How"s that? Because Family Life is paying for the translator by agreeing to change the city of license of its WCIH (90.3) from Elmira, New York. The sale agreement doesn"t say where WCIH will "move" to - but it"s not hard to guess that the 90.3 signal will end up being relicensed to Ridgebury, clearing the way for 96.9 (now the only "local" service to Ridgebury) to move somewhere closer to Elmira.
*Robert Russo"s radio work over four decades included stints in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey - but it began in Philadelphia, where Russo started in the mail room at WIP (610) and worked his way up to become the producer for Eagles play-by-play. In 1970, Russo moved to New York as music director at WHN (1050), where he also produced Mets, Nets and Islanders broadcasts. After a stint in the record business, Russo came back to WIP in 1980 to produce Eagles and Flyers games and to serve as news director. Russo also worked as promotions director for WSNI (104.5, now WRFF) and for WRDR (104.9 Egg Harbor Township NJ, now WSJO). Most recently, Russo had been working in sales for Comcast. He died April 26, at age 75.
*Our MASSACHUSETTS news begins, as it so often does, at Entercom"s WEEI-FM (93.7 Lawrence), where there are several voices in new slots this week. On the overnight hours, tonight marks the return of JT the Brick to the WEEI schedule, as the station begins picking up JT"s 1-6 AM show from Fox Sports Radio. That network became available to WEEI after archrival WBZ-FM (98.5 the Sports Hub) dropped it in January in favor of the in-house alternative, the new CBS Sports Radio. WEEI-FM had been carrying ESPN Radio"s overnight SportsCenter, which continues to be heard on sister ESPN outlet WEEI (850).
WEEI has also filled the shoes of Jon Rish, who walked away from several roles at the station rather than take a pay cut. John Ryder, who"s been handling updates and filling in as host on the "Planet Mikey" show, replaces Rish as pre- and post-game host on Red Sox broadcasts, while Celtics announcer Sean Grande and "Mut and Merloni" midday co-host Lou Merloni will take over from Rish as the designated Red Sox radio fill-ins when regular Sox announcer Dave O"Brien is off doing his national broadcast gigs. (Merloni, of course, is himself a former Sox player.)
*Earlier in the column, we mentioned Katie DeMartile"s career arc from Emerson College"s WERS to Northeast Broadcasting"s WXRV (92.5 Andover) and onward to WDST in Woodstock, New York - and now WXRV has promoted another recent WERS alumna to serve as its promotions director. Lindsay Burrill has been working in sales and promotions at WXRV and at Greater Media Boston; she started her new job last Monday.
Congratulations to WMWM (91.7 Salem) blues host Bob Nelson, who"s marking the 25th year of his "Juke Joint" show at the community station. When he"s not busy posting to radio message boards, Bob is celebrating the anniversary with a month of special shows in his Sunday noon-3 timeslot.
An even longer association with a college station is out at the other end of the state, where Paul Willey has been with WJJW (91.1 North Adams) since even before the station signed on in 1973 at what was then North Adams State College. The school is now the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and its newspaper, the MCLA Beacon, that Willey is retiring as WJJW"s chief engineer this spring after 42 years. Willey, 83, has been a fixture on the western Massachusetts engineering scene for even longer than he"s been with WJJW: he started in the business in the 1930s, and he spent almost half a century working for North Adams" WMNB/WNAW.
*In MAINE, Saga is shifting formats at WYNZ (100.9 South Portland). Gone is classic hits "Big Hits Y100.9," and in its place as of last Monday is a wider variety of music as adult hits "Rewind 100.9." For now, the new version of 100.9 is running jockless, but all indications are that an airstaff, including veteran morning man Chuck Igo, will be back on the air soon.
Alan Severy died in Ellsworth on April 26, but he"s best known for his radio work in New Hampshire, where he helped to found WUNH (91.3 Durham) during his student days at the University of New Hampshire. After serving in the Navy, Severy built WASR (1420 Wolfeboro) in 1970 and operated the station, along with his wife Sharon, until selling it in 2004. Severy"s local radio accomplishments in the Lakes Region included being named as the AP"s "Broadcaster of the Year." Severy was just 68.
*There"s a PD change in VERMONT, where Amber Miller leaves WEQX (102.7 Manchester) on June 7. She"s headed back home to Detroit, where her husband has a new job. Assistant PD/music director Jeff Morad moves up to the PD chair at "EQX; no replacement has been named yet for Miller"s afternoon airshift.
Where are they now? Kwame "KD" Dankwa is on his way back to New England after a stint doing nights at Clear Channel"s KWNW (101.9 Radio Now) in Memphis. Dankwa went to Memphis last fall from Rutland"s WZRT (97.1), and he"s coming back to be closer to a sick relative. Where"s he headed now? That will be announced this week, and we"ll keep you posted.
*In RHODE ISLAND, it took a few extra days - but "Mixx 99.3" is now on the air in South County. We"d reported last week that the new owners of the former WJZS (99.3 Block Island) were flipping "Variety 99.3" to locally-programmed top 40 as WMNP, and that flip finally came to pass on Friday afternoon.
*In CONNECTICUT, there"s a PD opening at Clear Channel country outlet WWYZ (92.5 Waterbury), now that Lance Tidwell is on his way west to take over as operations manager at Clear Channel"s Tucson cluster (and PD of newly-launched KYWD) starting next week. Mike Wheeler, the operations manager at CC"s Hartford cluster, is programming WWYZ until a replacement for Tidwell is in place.
Dan Sys" Canadian Radio News reports on some new callsigns, too: in Clarence-Rockland QC, Evanov"s new 92.5 will be CHRC (the calls that long lived on AM 800 in Quebec City), while the new 105.9 in Markham ON will be CFMS.
In Brockville, Milkman UnLimited reports Taylor Renkema is the new morning co-host at CFJR-FM (104.9), joining Bruce Wylie ("Mr. Brockville") on the wakeup show. Down the hall at CJPT (103.7 BOB-FM), Jenn Ferguson starts today as morning co-host with Jamieson Bridal, moving over from the news director chair at the Bell Media cluster.
*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: May 7, 2012 -
*If there was a poster child for all the woes that were visited on small-market radio by the combination of ownership-cap deregulation and speculative investment, it was probably Nassau Broadcasting. Over the course of just a few years, Nassau exploded from a small NEW JERSEY-based operator with a handful of heritage stations in the Princeton/Trenton area into the largest station owner (at least by number of signals) in New England, entering markets as small as White River Junction and as large as Boston.
Then, of course, it all came crashing down: after holding off creditors by selling some assets (most notably Boston-market WCRB 99.5), Nassau CEO Lou Mercatanti was finally unable to avoid the pressure of nearly a quarter-billion dollars in debt. Last October, Nassau filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and last Thursday the winning bids in the company’s liquidation auction were opened.
Unsurprisingly, it turns out that the remaining Nassau assets in the 2012 marketplace aren’t nearly enough to make a significant dent in what Nassau owed its creditors, led by Goldman Sachs – and indeed, bids for some of the stations weren’t even high enough to exceed the bidding credits Goldman itself applied in the auction to secure its interests.
At least until a judge considers objections to the auction results (expected to happen later today), here’s how this all appears to be shaking out:
*The gem of Nassau’s remaining holdings was probably its Trenton FM signal, heritage top-40 WPST (94.5), a class B facility that would have paired nicely with Townsquare’s other Trenton B, “New Jersey 101.5″ WKXW. Townsquare reportedly offered $16 million for WPST, but that wasn’t enough for Goldman Sachs, which bid $22 million as a “credit bid” and is hanging on to WPST for now, along with sister AM signals WCHR (920 Trenton) and WNJE (1040 Flemington), for which Goldman entered a $700,000 credit bid.
Goldman also used a credit bid of $14 million to keep classic rock WODE (99.9 Easton) and its sister AM signals (WEEX 1230/WTKZ 1320) in the fold, fending off an $11 million bid from Cumulus, which hoped to augment the two-station Lehigh Valley cluster (WCTO 96.1/WLEV 100.7) it recently picked up from Citadel. Also staying in Goldman’s fold for now are the Nassau stations in the Poconos – WSBG (93.5), WWYY (107.1), WVPO (840) and WPLY (960).
(NERW notes that it’s not in Goldman’s long-term interest to continue operating radio stations, so it’s reasonable to assume that negotiations will soon be underway, if they’re not already, to see if Townsquare and Cumulus are interested in edging up from what were presumably low-ball bids for those stations.)
*On Cape Cod, veteran Massachusetts broadcaster John Garabedian is getting back into the game with a $2.7 million bid for rocker “Pixy” WPXC (102.9 Hyannis) and the “Frank” adult hits pair of WFRQ (101.1 Mashpee)/WFQR (93.5 Harwich Port). The move returns Garabedian to one of his early broadcast haunts – back in the late 1970s, he put WGTF (93.5 Nantucket) on the air, the ancestor of what’s now WEII (96.3 Dennis).
*The rest of Nassau’s New England clusters are spread across Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, and nearly all of those stations appear to be headed to a new ownership group that includes one of the principals of the old Vox group. Back in 2004, when station values were hitting record highs, Vox pulled in more than $31 million in three separate sales that formed the core of Nassau’s holdings in Vermont and New Hampshire – so it was remarkable that the winning bid unsealed Thursday was just $12.5 million for most of those stations, plus the bulk of Nassau’s Maine signals.
That winning bidder is a partnership between former Vox principal Jeff Shapiro and Bill Binnie, the New Hampshire politician-turned-broadcaster who’s been building a TV network in New Hampshire based at WBIN-TV (Channel 50) in Derry. Assuming the deal doesn’t get slowed down by any objections in court today, Shapiro and Binnie will end up with Vermont radio clusters in Montpelier-Barre (WSNO 1450/WWFY 100.9/WORK 107.1), the Upper Valley (WHDQ 106.1/WFYX 96.3/WWOD 104.3/WXLF 95.3/WZLF 107.1/WTSV 123o), Rutland (WEXP 101.5/WTHK 100.7) and way up north in Newport (WIKE 1490/WMOO 92.1). In New Hampshire, Binnie and Shapiro get Nashua’s WFNQ (106.3), Concord’s WNHW (93.3)/WJYY (105.5) and three Lakes Region signals (WEMJ 1490/WLNH 98.3/WLKZ 104.9). But the real prize may be in Maine, where that $12.5 million appears to also include two big Portland signals (WTHT 99.9/WFNK 107.5), plus relays of those stations’ “Wolf” country and “Frank” classic rock formats (WBQQ 99.3 Kennebunk, WBYA 105.5 Islesboro), plus “Bone” rock WHXR (106.3) in Portland, plus two AMs (WLVP 870 Gorham/WLAM 1470 Lewiston), plus the northern two-thirds of the classical “W-Bach” network (WBQI 107.7 Bar Harbor/WBQX 106.9 Thomaston).
The southern link in the “W-Bach” chain, WBQW (104.7 Kennebunkport), is headed to a new company called “Mainstream Media” with a $150,000 bid, while there’s a $250,000 bid to convert Catholic WXTP (106.7 North Windham) from an LMA to ownership by The Presence Radio Network.
*After many months without many big radio deals to report, last week actually brought two of them: even before the fate of Nassau’s stations began to emerge, another group owner with a big presence in MAINE announced its plans to exit most of the Pine Tree State.
When Cumulus swallowed Citadel, it seemed to create an almost perfect storm of Maine radio: Citadel’s big Portland signals (WHOM, WCYY, WJBQ, WBLM) combined with the smaller Citadel clusters in Augusta and Presque Isle and with the Cumulus cluster in Bangor to put the merged Cumulus pretty much everywhere in Maine where there’s anyone listening to the radio.
But the massive reach of the new Cumulus (including some very big-market clusters in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas) is apparently making some of the merged companies’ smallest markets redundant – which is why Cumulus struck a deal last week to send more than 55 of its smaller stations in 13 markets to Townsquare Media in exchange for two Illinois clusters and $116 million in cash.
While Portland stays with Cumulus, Townsquare is making its first move into New England with the rest of the Cumulus/Citadel Maine holdings. In Augusta, that’s top-40 WMME (92.3), country WEBB (98.5) and oldies WJZN (1400)/WTVL (1490). In Bangor, it’s soft AC WEZQ (92.9), classic hits WWMJ (95.7), country WQCB (106.5), top-40 WBZN (107.3) and standards WDEA (1370 Ellsworth). Up north in Presque Isle, it’s adult hits WQHR (96.1), country WBPW (96.9) and rock WOZI (101.9).
And Maine isn’t the only state in NERW-land where Cumulus is dealing away a non-core market. In Massachusetts, Citadel’s two New Bedford stations (top-40 “Fun” WFHN 107.1 Fairhaven and news-talk WBSM 1420) always functioned at a remove from the company’s much bigger cluster in nearby Providence. The Providence stations stay with Citadel, but the New Bedford pair go to Townsquare for the company’s first Bay State toehold.
And in upstate New York, Citadel’s not keeping the Binghamton cluster it inherited from Citadel – so you can add talk WNBF (1290), sports WYOS (1360), market-dominant country WHWK (98.1), classic rock WAAL (99.1) and top-40 WWYL (104.1) to the Townsquare fold as well.
For Townsquare, the deal makes a tremendous amount of sense: smaller markets like Binghamton and Bangor are exactly what the company specializes in. New Bedford and the Maine markets bring Townsquare into a new territory (its closest cluster to New England until now has been Albany), but they do so in a way that creates some critical mass from the beginning. In both Bangor and Augusta, Townsquare’s chief competition will be the smaller Blueberry clusters, though Stephen King is also a player in Bangor. In Binghamton, the soon-to-be-Townsquare stations will lose some operational efficiencies that have come from sharing services with former Citadel clusters in nearby Syracuse and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – but they’ll gain connections with Townsquare clusters in Utica and Albany.
*Here in Rochester, it’s been a busy week for the Clear Channel cluster, which kicked off a round of format shuffling last Monday at noon with the launch of a younger-leaning classic rock format called “The Brew” on what had been its older-skewing classic rocker, “95.1 The Fox” (WFXF Honeoye Falls).
“The Brew” may be new to Rochester, but it’s not new to Clear Channel – the format started in 2004 in Milwaukee on Clear Channel’s 97.3 signal, which had been doing adult contemporary as “Light 97″ WLTQ. The Milwaukee station changed calls to WQBW, shot to the top of the ratings, and spawned other Clear Channel “Brew” entries in markets such as Omaha, Oklahoma City, Columbus and Seattle. Ironically, Milwaukee’s original “Brew” didn’t survive tough competition with three other rockers, flipping to top-40 as WRNW, “Radio Now” in 2010 – and freeing up the WQBW calls to eventually land on the Rochester-market Brew in place of the old WFXF calls. Here in Rochester, the younger target of “the Brew” appears to be squarely aimed at Entercom’s WBZA (98.9 the Buzz), which has seen considerable ratings success aiming its rock format at younger male listeners.
For now at least, Rochester’s “Brew” remains a split-personality station just like the “Fox” was: until 10:30 in the morning, it’s the home base for Brother Wease and his crew; after that, the signal is mostly automated, boasting “ten commercial-free hours a day” and promising to eventually add some personalities. (About that 10:30 end time for Wease: it was 11:00 in the “Fox” days, and the flip to “Brew” also appears to mean the end, at least for now, of the Saturday show that was heavy on Wease’s favorite “longhair” classic rock.)
Our colleague Lance Venta over at RadioInsight.com was the first to pick up on the “951thebrew.com” domain registration, and he noted early on that it coincided with several other Clear Channel domain registrations, including “RushRochester.com,” “HitsRochester.com” and “OldiesRochester.com.” Over the weekend, it became clear where the last of those is headed: on Saturday morning, Clear Channel pulled the plug on the FM side of its sports simulcast, WHTK (1280 Rochester)/WHTK-FM (107.3 South Bristol), with a short loop on the FM directing listeners to “WHTK Sports 1280″ to keep hearing Fox Sports, Jim Rome, Red Wings baseball and the local John DiTullio talk show.
Having lasted two and a half years, the WHTK-FM simulcast was actually one of the more stable formats in the relatively brief, turbulent history of the 107.3 signal, which has boasted nine callsigns and at least eleven formats since Clear Channel’s predecessor, Jacor, bought the station in 1998. As a sports companion to 1280, it seemed to us that the rimshot 107.3 signal had finally found a decent reason for being: after being moved to the southeastern edge of the market in 2001 to allow for a big upgrade to the bigger 95.1 facility, 107.3′s 650-watt/994′ class A signal from Bristol Mountain became one of the weakest in the market – but its coverage of Ontario County and the affluent southeastern Rochester suburbs nicely complemented the 1280 signal, which goes directional at night with a deep null to the southeast toward co-channel WADO in New York.
So what’s next for 107.3? In the decade before it went sports, its jaunt around the “wheel of formats” (which was itself a stunt format used on the signal at one point!) seemed to serve two purposes – at times, it launched new formats that eventually migrated to better Clear Channel signals in town (both top-40 “Kiss,” now on WKGS 106.7, and the “Fox” format and WFXF calls that moved to 95.1 started on 107.3); at other times, it was used as a flanker to shave some ratings away from stations in competing clusters.
The “Country 107″ format that ran from 2007-2009 targeted Entercom’s WBEE-FM (92.5), and it appears the next competitor in 107.3′s sights is DJRA Broadcasting’s oldies WLGZ-FM (Legends 102.7), which has drawn surprisingly high ratings in recent years despite its own fairly small class A directional signal.
After running a loop all weekend pointing sports listeners to 1280, 107.3 is relaunching today as “Oldies 107.3,” with a requested new callsign of WODX, proclaiming itself “Rochester’s ONLY oldies station,” up against WLGZ’s “Biggest hits in the history of the world.”
*Karen Blake is getting a new co-host in morning drive on CBS Radio’s WODS (103.3 Boston), two years after going solo with the departure of Chris Zito. The new “Breakfast Club with John and Karen” will pair Blake with another Boston-market veteran, John Laurenti, who’d worked for WODS’ sister station WZLX (100.7) before going noncommercial three years ago as music director at WUMB-FM (91.9 Boston).
*Now that its “Hannity 106.9″ stunt has run its course, Merlin Media’s new WWIQ (106.9 Camden NJ) has begun rolling out its regular program schedule. Veteran Philadelphia news anchor (and frequent magnet for controversy) Larry Mendte has signed on as the morning man for what we can now confirm will be a talker called “IQ 106.9,” as we’d suspected.
Mendte’s 5-9 AM co-anchor (again, as widely suspected) will be WWIQ PD Al Gardner, and the follow-up from 9-noon will be Glenn Beck, whose show has lacked a full-market Philadelphia clearance for the last few years. Hannity will continue to be heard from 3-6 PM – and that, of course, leaves a conspicuous noontime gap that’s still widely believed to be the future Philadelphia broadcast home of Rush Limbaugh, soon to exit the WPHT (1210) lineup after many years on the CBS Radio talker.
*The big story from CANADA this week is a TV station sale in Montreal, where Rogers is buying CJNT (Channel 62/RF 49) from Channel Zero.
Montreal’s smallest (mostly) English-language TV station has been through a few turbulent years, going from WIC (as an ethnic broadcasters) to Canwest (as part of the “CH” independent network) and then nearly shutting down when Canwest pulled the plug on its “E!” network stations in 2009. Canwest ended up selling CJNT, along with sister stations CHCH in Hamilton, to Channel Zero for just $12 and the assumption of the stations’ debt. A third “CH”/E! station, CHEK in Victoria, went to a local ownership group out there.
In the three years since the sale to Channel Zero, CJNT has rebranded as “Metro 14″ (its cable channel number), mixing independent fare with the ethnic programming it’s still required to carry as part of its conditions of license.
Rogers’ takeover of CJNT (for an amount jokingly said to be “more than double” the $12 Channel Zero paid) will make the station the easternmost link in the “CityTV” brand that Rogers has expanded since acquiring the original City stations in a spinoff from Bell’s purchase of CHUM Limited. (Confused yet? That’s the whole story of Canadian broadcast conglomeration in recent years…)
The new “CityTV Montreal” will end up including some content from another Rogers brand as well, using some of the “OMNI.TV” multicultural programming originating at CFMT/CJMT in Toronto. At least for now, CJNT still has to air 14 hours of local ethnic programming, a requirement Montreal media critic Steve Faguy with reruns of programming produced back in the Canwest days. (Faguy also notes that even before the sale goes to the CRTC for approval, Channel Zero plans to affiliate CJNT with the CityTV network beginning in June.)
A Quebec presence for CityTV, coupled with Rogers’ rebranding of the former Saskatchewan educational TV network as City, will leave only Atlantic Canada out of the City network, and Rogers officials say they’re working on that gap as well, with hope for a resolution in the next year or two.
Five Years Ago: May 5, 2008 -
**More than two years after CBS Radio put its Rochester cluster up for sale, the last of the stations in the group have finally found new owners. On Thursday, Entercom, which bought the CBS cluster but had to spin three signals to stay under the ownership cap, announced that it"s reached a deal with Oklahoma"s Stephens Media Group to buy AC "Warm" WRMM (101.3 Rochester), adult hits "Fickle" WFKL (93.3 Fairport) and modern rock "Zone" WZNE (94.1 Brighton). Purchase price is a reported $13.25 million, which NERW notes is about half of the number we heard being floated for the stations when they first went up for sale, a sign of the seismic downward shift in station sale prices in recent months.
At the direction of the FCC and the Justice Department last November, Entercom put those three stations (WRMM and WZNE from the original CBS cluster and WFKL from Entercom"s own cluster) into a "hold-separate" arrangement known as the Rochester Radio Group. Under the terms of the FCC/Justice deal, the stations were to go into a trust if no buyer was found after six months, and the trust documents were filed April 17. (It"s not immediately clear whether the stations will still be transferred to trustee David Pearlman and then to Stephens, or if the FCC will allow Entercom to sell them directly to Stephens.)
While the lawyers do their thing, Stephens wasted no time taking over operation of the stations under a JSA. Cluster manager Mike Ninnie stays in place as Stephens" market manager, and all three stations" formats remain in place for now, too. Citing budget considerations, Stephens let at least three employees go, though - WRMM morning co-host Dee Alexander, Fickle newsman Bob Kirk and at least one behind-the-scenes staffer.
Entercom"s Mike Doyle tells the Democrat and Chronicle that Alexander remains an Entercom employee, albeit without a station for now; Kirk is on the beach and looking for new work.
The changes at WRMM leave veteran morning man Tony Infantino without his longtime partner (the "Tony and Dee" show came together on the former WVOR in 1988, and the 1994 WRMM talent raid that brought the pair over to Warm 101 is widely viewed as having brought about WVOR"s downfall.)
On the air by himself Friday morning, Infantino acknowledged that it had been a difficult few days at the Rochester Radio Group studios (where we hear morale has been low in recent months as the status of the stations has remained uncertain), and he noted that Alexander"s dismissal is only the latest in a series of talent shakeups in Rochester radio in recent months.
Rochester becomes Stephens" biggest market, and the most expensive piece thus far of the Oklahoma company"s move into upstate New York. Last fall, Stephens bought Regent"s Watertown stations and Tim Martz"s cluster up in the North Country, and thus far there have been few changes at those stations. Back home in Oklahoma, Stephens is best known for its network of contemporary Christian stations around Tulsa, based at KXOJ-FM (100.9 Sapulpa OK); it also owns several sports-talk stations in the Tulsa market.
Can a modern rocker like WZNE - one with a provocative morning jock, Cleveland"s Rover, no less - be a good fit with the rest of Stephens" growing radio empire? Will the group"s cost-cutting efforts include a move from the former CBS studios at the HSBC Plaza office tower, where much of the space now sits empty and the lease is up in a few months? (And could that space be a natural fit for Clear Channel"s cluster, whose current Midtown Plaza home is soon to be demolished? NERW notes that the HSBC space includes the former WCMF Brother Wease studio, now vacant but with furniture intact, and we"re sure Wease would relish the opportunity to move back into his old space when he returns to the air on Clear Channel"s WFXF later this year...)
And perhaps the biggest question - can a small operator like Stephens compete with the bigger clusters and much deeper pockets of Entercom and Clear Channel? At least from where we sit, cutting popular local personalities like Alexander and Kirk just to make budget doesn"t look like a good sign, but we"ll be watching with great interest to see what Stephens" plans are for its new stations.
*The big news from New York City was the official announcement that John R. Gambling will indeed be returning to the station he and his family called home from 1925 until 2000. The new "John Gambling Show" debuts this morning on WOR (710), where it will be heard from 5:30-9 AM on weekdays. Joe Bartlett stays on to do a 5-5:30 morning news block, then serve as Gambling"s co-host and news anchor for the rest of the show. Bartlett"s former co-host, Donna Hanover, remains with the station as arts critic and fill-in host, and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who"d been appearing weekly with Gambling over at WABC until Citadel let Gambling go, will make a regular Friday-morning appearance on the new WOR show.
Another veteran of both WOR and WABC is celebrating a rare anniversary next week. Bob Grant will mark his 60th anniversary in radio May 14. His long career took him from the Chicago suburbs to Los Angeles, then to New York in 1970, where he spent seven years as a pioneering talker on WMCA. After several years at WOR, then at WWDB in Philadelphia, Grant returned to New York in 1984 for a 12-year stint in afternoon drive at WABC, then went to WOR after a high-profile firing from WABC in 1996. He"s been back at WABC since last year, in the 8-10 PM shift.
Speaking of veterans, Ted David became the youngest newscaster ever heard on WABC back in 1967, when the then-18-year-old ABC page talked his way into a job with PD Rick Sklar while many of the regular staffers were out on strike. David went on to college radio on Long Island (WCWP), full-time work at several stations including WPIX-FM, then eight years with ABC Radio News before becoming part of the inaugural anchor team at the new CNBC cable network in 1989. Now David is about to retire from CNBC, where he"s spent the last few years as senior anchor of CNBC Business Radio. He says he"s not getting out of the business entirely; he"ll continue to do some anchoring on News 12 Long Island, and he"s been talking "with several NY and national radio and TV outlets" about work.
Clear Channel"s new cluster studio for all of its New York City FMs is about to get its final tenant. We"re hearing that May 9 is the scheduled move-in date for WLTW (106.7), the last of the five FMs to move from its old studios (at 1133 Avenue of the Americas, in this case) to the new digs at 32 Avenue of the Americas. And how often is a radio station facility featured in the New York Times? The new Clear Channel studios were the star of Sunday"s "Square Feet" column in the paper.
*There"s a station sale at the top of our PENNSYLVANIA news, too: Cary Simpson"s Allegheny Mountain Network is selling its biggest signal, WGMR (101.1 Tyrone), to Forever Broadcasting, already the dominant player in the region.
Forever will pay $2.5 million over ten years for the station in a deal that includes a noncompete for that ten-year period, as well as translators W267AC (101.3 Altoona) and W264BB (100.7 Lewistown).
And that"s not the only sale in Happy Valley this week - in order to stay under the ownership cap of six stations in the State College market, Forever is selling a station, too, as Nick Galli"s 2510 Licenses pays $1.2 million for "Froggy" country WSGY (98.7 Pleasant Gap), which has been simulcasting Forever"s WFGY (98.1 Altoona).
That will leave Forever with WGMR, classic rock WBUS (93.7 Boalsburg), rock WQWK (103.1 State College), adult hits WMAJ-FM (99.5 Centre Hall), news/talk WRSC (1390 State College) and sports WMAJ (1450 State College). The only commercial competition in town will be 2510"s three stations - WOWY (97.1 University Park), WBHV (94.5 State College) and WSGY - and the three-station Magnum cluster of WBLF (970 Bellefonte), WPHB (1260 Philipsburg) and WJOW (105.9 Philipsburg).
What will Forever do with WGMR, which has shifted formats over the years through several variants of rock, and is now top 40 "G101"? Rumors of a format change are rampant, and it"s hard not to note that if Forever decides to hang on to the "Froggy" format from WSGY, the big class B WGMR signal would create a seamless web of big "Froggy" signals across west central Pennsylvania, including WFGY in Altoona and WFGI (95.5) in Johnstown.
We should note as well that Forever"s move of the WNTJ news-talk format and calls to WPRR (1490 Johnstown) involves an LMA; the FCC has yet to approve the sale of WPRR back to Forever from 2510, with several other Johnstown-area broadcasters objecting to the deal. There are new calls for WNTJ"s former home at 850 on the dial - it"s now WKGE - and we"d expect to see a filing to change WPRR"s calls to WNTJ on 1490 any moment now.
All week long last week, the 850 signal was broadcasting a repeating loop directing WNTJ listeners up the dial; over the weekend, it flipped to a simulcast of talker WWGE (1400 Loretto), which is apparently leasing time from 850"s new owner, Birach, to expand the signal of its "Edge" talk programming into the Johnstown market.
(Here"s an only-in-NERW historical note - the 850/1400 simulcast brings both stations" histories full-circle, in a sense: the 1400 frequency became available for use in Loretto in the early sixties after WJAC in Johnstown moved from its original home on 1400 to the 850 facility that"s now WKGE.)
*Another long-delayed station sale suddenly became a reality late last week, as Clear Channel exited MAINE with an $11 million sale of its Bangor and Augusta/Waterville clusters to Blueberry Broadcasting, a new company whose principals are Louis Vitali, late of Mariner Broadcasting (which owned Maine"s "W-Bach" stations and still owns WCCC in Hartford) and Bruce Biette, a former Maine broadcaster who"s been involved with Convergent Broadcasting down south.
We"d been hearing rumors about this deal for several months, as it apparently became stalled in the drama surrounding Clear Channel"s attempts to go private and to sell many of its smaller clusters. At one point, the Maine stations were included in the list of signals being transferred to GoodRadio.TV, a sale that was never consummated.
Now the signals are going into Blueberry"s hands - 17 of them, in all. In Bangor, the company gets talker WABI (910 Bangor), AC WKSQ (94.5 Ellsworth), top 40 WWBX (97.1 Bangor), country WLKE (99.1 Bar Harbor), modern rock WFZX (101.7 Searsport), oldies WGUY (102.1 Dexter), talk WVOM (103.9 Howland) and country WBFB (104.7 Brewer), but due to ownership caps, it will have to spin off two of those signals, WFZX and WGUY.
In Augusta and vicinity, the Blueberry cluster will include the sports trimulcast of WFAU (1280 Gardiner), WRKD (1450 Rockland) and WIGY (97.5 Madison), as well as talk WCME (96.7 Boothbay Harbor), AC WKCG (101.3 Augusta), classic hits WQSS (102.5 Camden), country WMCM (103.3 Rockland), oldies WABK-FM (104.3 Gardiner) and big-signalled rocker WTOS (105.1 Skowhegan).
In both markets, Blueberry enters with dominant market positions; in Bangor, the primary competitors are Cumulus (with a 4 FM/1 AM cluster) and Stephen King"s Zone Corp. (with 2 FMs and 1 AM); in central Maine, it"s Citadel"s 2 AM/2 FM cluster and Mountain Wireless, with 1 AM and 2 FMs, that are the big competitors.
*In CANADA, there"s a new signal on the air in Hawkesbury, Ontario. Evanov launched CKHK (107.7 the Jewel) last week with an easy listening/soft AC format similar to its Jewel stations in Toronto (CKDX 88.5) and Ottawa (CJWL 98.5).
Ten Years Ago: May 5, 2003 -
*It"s not as though the state capital of NEW YORK doesn"t have enough FM signals - between the 80-90 drop-ins of recent years and a slew of move-ins from the surrounding countryside, the Albany market now encompasses some 21 commercial FMs. But if a proposal now before the FCC is accepted, there will soon be a 22nd: the station that"s now WNYQ (105.7 Queensbury), an hour north of Albany in the Glens Falls market.
Vox Radio is asking the FCC to change WNYQ"s allocation from 105.7B1 in Queensbury (where WNYQ now runs 1570 watts at 1273 feet above average terrain) to 105.7A in Malta, a town of about 2000 people along I-87 near the Saratoga-Schenectady county line, well within the Albany radio market. Since the move would leave Queensbury without "first local service" (never mind that it can easily pick up nearly a dozen local Glens Falls stations, not to mention most of Albany), Vox would then change the allocation of WCQL (95.9 Glens Falls) to Queensbury - and just for good measure, create a new "first" service on 105.9A at Indian Lake, where routes 28 and 30 meet high in the Adirondacks between North Creek and Blue Mountain Lake.
This isn"t the first such move in the Glens Falls area; in fact, it was just a couple of years ago that WHTR moved from 93.5 Corinth to 93.7 Scotia (just outside Schenectady), sending WFFG (107.1) from Hudson Falls to Corinth to compensate. And it wasn"t all that long ago, for that matter, that Saratoga Springs" 102.3 moved south to Ballston Spa to become the Albany-market station that"s now "Kiss" WKKF. And the allocations beat goes on...
The former "Jukebox Radio" translators, W232AL (94.3 Pomona NY) and W276AQ (103.1 Fort Lee NJ) are getting a new life: owner Gerry Turro has filed to sell them to "Bridgelight Corp.", the company that bought WPDQ (89.7 Freehold Township NJ) last year and turned it into a religious station. W232AL has been silent since the Jukebox feed from WJUX (99.7 Monticello) ended; W276AQ has been relaying WKHL (96.7 Stamford CT), except when the atmosphere has offered up other signals instead...and as we post this from our downstate "alternate" base Sunday night, both translators are on the air with WKHL"s audio. (And we checked WJUX on the way down; it"s still running infomercials mixed with occasional bits of oldies - and still ID"ing and promoting itself as though it"s being heard in New Jersey...)
A format change in western PENNSYLVANIA started off the month of May - so far west, in fact, that it"s really the Youngstown, Ohio market. We never really understood why WLLF (96.7 Mercer) was running smooth jazz to begin with, but now we can stop wondering - Cumulus pulled that format last Thursday and replaced it with oldies as "Oldies 96.7." The oldies, in turn, came off sister station WWIZ (103.9 Mercer), which stunted with construction noises before flipping to rock as "Rock 104."
And the big news from CANADA is the retirement of the legendary Moses Znaimer from his post as president of CHUM Television. Znaimer was one of the founders of CITY-TV (originally channel 79, now channel 57) in Toronto in 1972, breaking the staid mold of most TV to create a multicultural, interactive, high-energy TV station that really seemed to be, as its slogan claimed, "Everywhere." (Any time you see a TV anchor or host moving around a working newsroom instead of sitting behind a desk, that"s Znaimer you should be thanking.) Znaimer will remain in charge of a group of educational TV channels partially owned by CHUM, and he"ll continue working on his "MZTV" television museum...and it"s safe to say we haven"t heard the last of him any time yet. (2008 update - Znaimer"s now in radio, running classical CFMZ-FM and standards CHWO in Toronto.)
Fifteen Years Ago: May 7, 1998 -
The FCC has shut down a CONNECTICUT pirate station for a third time. Agents visited La Nueva Radio Musical"s latest location, on Saltonstall Avenue in New Haven, on Wednesday afternoon to pull the plug on the unlicensed 104.5 MHz operation. The station"s operators tell the New Haven Register they hope to be back on in a few days, and they say they"re disappointed that Congresswoman Rosa De Lauro hasn"t been more responsive to the petition they presented to her office at a rally last month.
Two Hartford-area pirates remain on the air undisturbed, meanwhile. Praise 105.3 continues its gospel programming, which NERW first heard on the air back in 1996, and a Spanish-language station on 97.1 is still being widely heard as well.
The New Britain Rock Cats have added Hartford"s WPOP (1410) to their broadcast network. Down the coast in the New London area, 1510 remains off the air, while its sister FM station in East Lyme has technically changed calls from WNLC-FM to WNLC(FM). And Groton"s WSUB (980) and WQGN (105.5) have moved studios; they"re now in new digs at 7 Governor Winthrop Blvd. in New London.
From the call-letter desk: Entercom"s WBBF (950) in Rochester has applied to ditch the calls it"s held since 1953 and become WEZO, another heritage set of Rochester calls. The WBBF calls will move to what"s now WKLX (98.9), which is already going by "99-BBF" on the air. The new 96.1 in Norwood has been assigned the sequential calls WAZV. A handful of new LPTV calls: W34BT Watertown, which is supposed to sign on soon, becomes WBQZ-LP. Craig Fox"s "The Box" LPTVs in Rochester and Syracuse switch from W15AL and W35AQ to WBXO-LP and WOBX-LP, respectively. W56CV in Niles becomes WTVU-LP. And we hear the soon-to-be PaxNet station in Syracuse will be WSPX, instead of WAUP, when it hits the airwaves.
The Sound of Life folks have turned on their latest station in the Hudson Valley. WHVP (91.1) in Hudson took to the airwaves this week. Meantime, the North Country may have lost an AM station. We hear the "FSR Network" is no longer IDing WIGS (1230 Gouverneur) along with WGIX (95.3 Gouverneur) and WSLB (1400 Ogdensburg).