In this week's issue... New York studios move - Remembering Gene Burns - Noncomm chain close to sale? - Bomb threat scrubs CT newscasts
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*For more than a decade, the migration pattern for radio studios in NEW YORK City has gone almost uniformly in just one direction: southward from midtown Manhattan to lower Manhattan. Emmis, CBS Radio, Clear Channel and WNYC have all spent millions in recent years to build out new studio facilities down below Canal Street.
But as of Thursday, one major New York radio station has reversed that trend, moving into new studios on the Upper West Side. ESPN Radio's WEPN-FM (98.7) and WEPN (1050), along with their sister Web operation, ESPNNewYork.com, are now operating from the sixth floor of 125 West End Avenue, the facility that was the longtime home of the ABC Radio Networks.
ABC Radio, of course, largely ceased to exist after Disney sold its radio operations to Citadel, which eventually merged into Cumulus, and while Citadel had retained half of the sixth floor for its own network operations, that space became available when Cumulus completed folding the remaining pieces of the old ABC Radio Networks into its own network facilities. (The other half of the sixth floor is home to ABC Radio News, where Disney/ABC employees still work under contract to Cumulus.)
WEPN, meanwhile, kept its local operations commingled with former sister stations WABC (770) and WPLJ (95.5) even after Disney sold off WABC/WPLJ to Citadel, retaining its ESPN Radio and Radio Disney local stations. (The New York Disney outlet, WQEW 1560, now maintains local offices and a nominal studio in the ABC television complex at 147 Columbus Avenue.)
The WABC/WPLJ digs at 2 Penn Plaza became extra-crowded when Cumulus added WNSH (94.7 Newark) to its cluster earlier this year, and now everyone can breathe a little easier with some extra space at both ends. For WEPN, the new studios include a large bullpen area and multiple on-air and production rooms - and a more spacious base from which ESPN Radio can originate programming in New York as well as from its mothership in Bristol, Connecticut. (Where we hear, incidentally, that last week's ESPN-wide round of layoffs apparently largely spared the radio side of the operation.)
*The week's other big story came from San Francisco on Saturday - but the death of Gene Burns resonated powerfully on this side of the country too. A native of Hornell, New York, Burns quickly moved from hometown station WWHG (1320/105.3, later WHHO/WKPQ) to WSBA (910) in York, Pennsylvania - and then into a nationally-renowned career as a talk host in Baltimore (WCBM), Orlando (WKIS), San Francisco (KGO), and within the region in Boston and Philadelphia.
Burns' Boston legacy started around 1970, when he moved from WCBM to WEEI (590), and while he lasted only a year at the CBS-owned news-talker before moving to Orlando and a role in station management, Burns came back to the region in 1981 for a brief run at WCAU (1210, now WPHT) in Philadelphia and then, beginning in 1985, a major role at WRKO (680) in Boston.
In the days before Rush Limbaugh owned the midday talk audience nationally, Burns boasted massive noontime ratings for his erudite brand of talk radio. ("We have transited the meridian and entered the afternoon incarnation of the broadcast day" was his trademark phrase at the top of his broadcast, part of a legendary WRKO lineup that also included the dean of Boston talk, Jerry Williams. In addition to his daily midday show, Burns was passionate about food, hosting a weekend show called "Dining Around" that continued long after he departed WRKO, and Boston, in 1992. (Burns would return to the Boston airwaves, briefly and from across the country, on the short-lived talk incarnation of WMEX at 1060 on the dial in 2000.)
After WRKO, Burns moved to New York and WOR (710), where he hosted both locally and on the WOR Radio Network; two years later, he was off to San Francisco for another round of radio success at KGO (810), where he worked as part of one of the nation's legendary talk lineups until new owner Cumulus began dismantling the top-rated talker in 2011.
Burns had planned to follow several other former KGO colleagues to a rival talker, Clear Channel's KKSF (910), but ongoing health issues intervened. He suffered a stroke in 2012 that robbed him of much of his ability to speak, and had apparently suffered another stroke last week. Burns was 72.
*Back in NEW YORK, Cumulus has a slightly clearer path to a big Westchester County translator move. Its bid to move W232AL (94.3) from Rockland County across the Hudson as a new relay for WFAS (1230 White Plains) faced two mutually-exclusive competing applications, but the most serious of those has now been dismissed by the FCC. That was Hudson Valley Community Radio's application for a new 94.3 in Dobbs Ferry, which would have simulcast WDFH (90.3 Ossining). But the Dobbs Ferry application failed the FCC's "preclusion" test, meant to determine if new low-power FMs would still be possible were the translator to be granted - and so the application was one of ten to be dismissed last week. WDFH, of course, is itself in the process of being sold to New York's WNYC, which will turn it into WQXW, a relay of classical WQXR (105.9 Newark NJ), so it's not clear what would have become of the translator anyway had it been granted.
A translator sale in Orange County: Frank Truatt is buying W228CG (93.5 Warwick), which has been relaying Truatt's WTBQ (1110 Warwick) for almost five years now, first at 99.1 and more recently on its current frequency. Truatt is paying $150,000 to Bud Williamson's Digital Radio Broadcasting for the translator, which has a pending application to relocate northeastward to a new site more centrally located over Orange County.
There's a sad coda to Hamptons Community Radio's attempt to build a small chain of noncommercial signals serving Long Island's East End: after securing construction permits for three stations and going on the air with one (WEER 88.7 Montauk, formerly WPKM), the group was unable to maintain funding to keep it on the air and to build the other two. WEER went silent in October 2011 and has remained silent under a series of Special Temporary Authority grants, a second CP (share-timer WEEG 90.7 East Hampton) was never built and expired - and now the third link in the chain is being sold. The construction permit for WEEW (89.1 Westhampton) expires August 24, and now it's being donated to an entity called Eastern Tower Corp., headed by James Pierce. No cash is changing hands as part of the deal.
*California-based Family Stations made some big headlines last year with its sale of the former WFME (94.7 Newark NJ) to Cumulus, and it was back in the news earlier this month as several Bay Area newspapers dug deep into its finances and discovered that the fallout from founder Harold Camping's blown prediction of the end of the world drained Family's coffers and dried up its stream of donations. After cashing in on its most valuable assets - not only WFME but also commercial-band FMs in Philadelphia and Washington - it now appears Family is moving quickly to sell off at least some of its remaining broadcast signals.
In NERW-land, Family just spent $8.5 million to put Philadelphia-market WKDN back on the air on the AM dial, purchasing the former WPEN (950) from Greater Media. Family also has noncommercial FMs in Erie, Johnstown, State College and Bedford in Pennsylvania. In New York, Family's chain includes noncommercial FMs on Long Island and upstate in Mount Kisco (WFME 106.3, which came from Cumulus as part of the 94.7 deal), Kingston, Webster/Rochester and Buffalo. In Connecticut, Family has long held daytimer WCTF (1170 Vernon), east of Hartford.
Now NERW is hearing that at least a few of those signals are close to being transferred to new owners as Family quietly shops its portfolio around. Can the struggling religious broadcaster stabilize itself after hemorrhaging tens of millions of dollars on everything from billboards to bus ads to skywriters during its end-of-the-world obsession? And can it do so while spinning off the very signals it's long used to solicit the donations that keep it alive?
One clue may come from Family's sale pattern: after long refusing to sell any of its signals to other religious broadcasters, the company recently sold its St. Petersburg, Florida outlet to another Christian network - and we're hearing another very large national religious broadcaster is in the hunt for some of the New York signals Family is now on the verge of selling.
And as for Family's stated goal of returning to the New York City market on an AM signal to replace the old WFME? All signs now suggest that as a seller, rather than a buyer, Family won't be putting a WFME(AM) on the air any time soon, if ever.
*Upstate, Rochester's WHAM (1180) has hired a new news director, just over a month after the departure of longtime news director Randy Gorbman. Todd Hallidy comes to Rochester from Philadelphia, where he's been handling broadcast duties at the local AP bureau. Hallidy's radio career also includes stops at WDEL in Wilmington, Delaware and at WOGL in Philadelphia.
The Rochester Media Association has named its sophomore class of "Impact Award" winners. Intended to honor local media people "with a distinguished career in local media who also have made substantial contributions to the community," this year's round of awards will go to WXXI (1370) morning host Beth Adams, recently retired WHEC (Channel 10) anchor Rich Funke and longtime Democrat and Chronicle movie critic Jack Garner. The awards will be handed out at the RMA's annual banquet June 15.
There's an FM translator coming for a suburban Rochester AM signal. WRSB (1310 Canandaigua) is on its way from Marilyn Wolfe to Brian McGlynn's Genesee Media, and it's now listed as the primary station for translator W286AE (105.1 Fairport). That translator's been relaying Family Life Ministries' WCIY (88.9 Canandaigua) with just two watts, but owner Russ Kimble is applying to boost it to 250 watts from the Baker Hill tower farm on the Monroe-Ontario county line.
Up north, new owner Tim Martz wasted no time changing the programming on WSNN (99.3) and WPDM (1470) in Potsdam after closing on his purchase of the stations Thursday. The pair of signals had long been simulcasting, most recently with country as "99 Hits," but they've now split: on the FM side, it's "B99.3, the 80s Hit Music Channel," while on the AM side it's CBS Sports Radio. Martz paid St. Lawrence Radio $225,000 for the two stations.
*A northeast PENNSYLVANIA AM station is headed for sale again, after two previous sales went unconsummated. Last fall, we reported that Panorama PA, Inc. was selling WAZL (1490 Hazleton) to KMCS Broadcasting, controlled by Ken "Doc" Medek of Philadelphia's WXTU (92.5) - but while Medek ended up LMA'ing the signal, the sale was never completed. Now Panorama is instead selling WAZL to regional station owner GEOS Communications, which will pay $30,000 to add the station to a group that also includes nearby WZMF (730 Nanticoke) and WGMF (1460 Tunkhannock).
Just down I-81 from Hazleton, an unbuilt noncommercial FM construction permit is also changing hands. WXPA (90.5 Kulpmont) was granted to the Danville-based Apostolic Faith Network, but with a little over five months remaining on the CP, the 375-watt signal is being transferred to the Beaver Springs Faith Baptist Church, which will add it to its existing WFBM (90.5 Beaver Springs) and WFBV (90.1 Selinsgrove) to the west. The church is asking for an 18-month extension on the CP based on a prior FCC policy, but NERW believes the Commission no longer grants those extensions, so WXPA may only have until November 8 to complete construction. The church is paying $10,500 for the CP.
Pittsburgh ABC affiliate WTAE (Channel 4) has a new leader. Charles Wolfertz has been at the Hearst Television station for a year now as general sales manager; he rises to the role of president/general manager after Michael Hayes was promoted to a corporate role as senior VP and television group head at Hearst's New York headquarters.
A Pittsburgh-based chain of low-power TV signals is heading for the land of the spectrum speculators. OTA Broadcasting has already picked up WLWC (Channel 28) in the Providence market and WYCN-LP (Channel 13) in Nashua, N.H., and now it's paying $7.25 million for the 11 low-power licenses that make up the "Bruno-Goodworth Network" in western Pennsylvania and adjacent corners of West Virginia and Ohio. The stations currently simulcast as independent "WBGN," with WBGN-CA (Channel 59/RF 16) in Pittsburgh as the flagship. The purchase price could be increased by more than a million dollars once the FCC determines exactly how its spectrum repacking and incentive auctions will affect WBGN and its sister stations; like the other stations purchased by OTA, it's pretty clear that the WBGN licenses will be surrendered once that process is over, in exchange for the cash that OTA hopes to reap from selling its chunk of the UHF spectrum.
There's no reward from the FCC for surrendering an AM license, but that's what happened at WKZV (1110 Washington PA). We told you last week that it appeared the station had signed off for good, and just a few days later, it indeed returned its license to the Commission for cancellation.
*A Williamsport radio veteran will sign off on Friday. In 43 years on the air, first at WWPA (1340) and then for the last quarter-century at WRAK (1400), Ken Sawyer has done pretty much everything there is to do on the air in town, including calling Little League games (which is a big deal in the league's birthplace), hosting morning drive and serving as operations manager for the Clear Channel cluster. Now that he's 65 and going on 66, Sawyer says it's time to scale back - and so after Friday morning's show, he's retiring from WRAK. Sawyer won't step away from the mike completely; he says he'll continue to call the Little League World Series even after he leaves WRAK.
*In NEW JERSEY, Andrew Rosen is the new market manager at Connoisseur's Trenton-based stations, WPST (94.5) and WCHR (920). Rosen has been an executive with Clear Channel's New York cluster and Radio One in Philadelphia, and was most recently working for Target Spot. The transition from Nassau to Connoisseur in Trenton also ousted the group's longtime senior VP of engineering, Tony Gervasi, who wasn't brought along when Connoisseur took over.
*Aside from the mourning for Gene Burns, it was a quiet week in MASSACHUSETTS, at least on the radio side. On TV, though, the week brought a new subchannel to the airwaves. Fox-owned WFXT (Channel 25) in Boston had never used any subchannels until last week, when it put channel 25.2 on the air with the new "Movies!" service, a partnership of Fox Television Stations and Chicago's Weigel Broadcasting, proprietor of popular subchannel nets "MeTV" and "ThisTV." "Movies!" is also on the air in New York City, where it has appeared on the 5.2 channel of WNYW, and in Philadelphia on the 29.2 channel of WTXF.
Another bit of TV news from Boston: it's the latest market to go online (literally) for Barry Diller's Aereo service, the controversial attempt to extend "individual" DTV receivers and DVRs over the internet to subscribers' TVs and mobile devices. Aereo's initial Boston-market lineup includes most of Boston's over-the-air DTV services (but not the New Hampshire or Worcester-based signals in the market) as well as Bloomberg TV.
*In VERMONT, there's an opening for a new program director at WZRT (97.1 Rutland), but apparently not for long. Amber Huyghe (who's on air as "Amber Stone") has only been PD since late last year, and now she's dropping back to music director/midday host. But don't rush those tapes and resumes in to the Pamal top-40 station - word is that the PD job will go right back to its former occupant, Kwame "KD" Dankwa, who's back in New England after a run with Clear Channel's KWNW in Memphis.
*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, AJ Dukette has been promoted from PD of WJYY (105.5 Concord) to operations manager for Binnie Media's Concord and Upper Valley stations.
*In CONNECTICUT, there were some nervous moments Friday at the Rocky Hill studios of WFSB (Channel 3), where the CBS affiliate had to scrub its 5:00 and 5:30 PM newscasts after a bomb threat forced the building to be evacuated. Police allowed crews back into the station just before the 6 PM newscast after a search turned up no actual bomb; an investigation into the threat is still underway.
*One of CANADA's fastest-growing small broadcasters is adding another signal. My Broadcasting has already taken over operation of CJMB (90.5 Peterborough) while it awaits CRTC approval of its planned purchase of the station. Under current owner McNabb Broadcasting, CJMB had been licensed as a specialty religious service, but My hopes its "temporary management agreement" will lead to a full purchase of the signal as the 15th outlet of its "MyFM" adult contemporary format.
In Sarnia, Blackburn has quietly replaced the country format on CHOK (1070, with an FM relay at 103.9) with a classic hits-hot AC hybrid. CHOK had been playing country since the end of 2007, when it flipped from its previous oldies format.
In Toronto, yet-to-debut CIND (Indie 88.1) has made a big-name hire: Alan Cross has been doing radio in Toronto since 1986, most notably as the host for many years of "The Ongoing History of New Music" and "Secret History of Rock" on CFNY (102.1 the Edge); he joins the new Indie as "in-house music counseller," with a promise of an as-yet-unspecified on-air role yet to come.
In Montreal, Steve Faguy reports that Canadian Hellenic Cable Radio's CKDG (105.1) and CKIN (106.3) are asking the CRTC for modifications to their licenses that will allow the small signals to broadcast more programming in English and French, respectively. While they're licensed as multi-ethnic services, the stations have depended on their drive-time programming (especially the "Mike FM" programming on 105.1) to provide revenue that subsidizes their ethnic broadcasts, and they tell the CRTC that a reduction from 88 to 75 hours weekly of third-language programs will allow them to be on a healthier financial footing.
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 28, 2012 -
*It took a few extra weeks, but the Nassau Broadcasting signals in VERMONT, NEW HAMPSHIRE and MAINE are now officially headed to new owners. While we’d reported that the initial bankruptcy auction of the Nassau stations had sent those licenses to a partnership of New Hampshire businessman-turned-politician Bill Binnie and veteran station owner Jeff Shapiro, Nassau’s lead creditor, Goldman Sachs, held up the sale temporarily.
Now it’s happening – and now we know the details of how the stations will be divided. On Tuesday, Binnie’s Carlisle Capital had its $12.5 million bid accepted for 30 licenses, 17 of which will stay with Binnie under his new banner, the “WBIN Media Company.” Binnie already owns full-power WBIN-TV (Channel 50) in Derry and several low-power TV licenses around the state, and those Granite State TV properties will be joined by WNHW (93.3 Belmont), WNNH (99.1 Henniker) and WJYY (105.5 Concord) in the Concord market; WEMJ (1490 Laconia) and WLNH (98.3 Laconia) in the Lakes Region; WFNQ (106.3 Nashua) serving the Manchester/Nashua area and the “Wolf” country duo of WXLF (95.3 Hartford)/WZLF (107.1 Bellows Falls) in the Connecticut River Valley.
Binnie will also enter southern Maine, keeping all nine of the remaining Nassau signals there: country “Wolf” WTHT (99.9 Auburn)/WBQQ (99.3 Kennebunk), classic rock “Frank” WFNK (107.5 Lewiston)/WBYA (105.5 Thomaston), active rock “Bone” WHXR (106.3 Scarborough), classical “W-Bach” WBQX (106.9 Thomaston)/WBQI (107.7 Bar Harbor) and oldies WLVP (870 Gorham)/WLAM (1470 Lewiston).
As for Shapiro, even after selling the huge Vox group in New Hampshire and Vermont (much of it to Nassau), he’s remained a player in the region through his Great Eastern Radio, which owns talker WTPL (107.7 Hillsborough) in the Concord market, sports WEEY (93.5 Swanzey)/rock WKKN (101.9 Westminster) in Keene and an Upper Valley cluster that includes talker WTSL (1400 Hanover), AC WGXL (92.3 Hanover), classic rock WMXR (93.9 Woodstock) and country WXXK (100.5 Lebanon).
Through another one of his groups, Vertical Capital Partners, Shapiro will pick up 13 more stations in and around his existing holdings: WIKE (1490 Newport)/WMOO (92.1 Derby Line) up in northern Vermont, WSNO (1450 Barre)/WORK (107.1 Barre)/WWFY (100.9 Berlin) in Barre/Montpelier, WTSV (1230 Claremont)/WHDQ (106.1 Claremont) and WWOD (104.3 Hartford)/WFYX (96.3 Walpole) to go with his existing Upper Valley holdings, and WEXP (101.5 Brandon)/WTHK (100.7 Wilmington) serving Rutland and southern Vermont. In central New Hampshire, Shapiro will add WWHQ (101.5 Meredith)/WLKZ (104.9 Wolfeboro) in the Lakes Region.
It’s way too soon to speculate on what happens next with any of those stations, especially because any format changes will likely have to wait until after the deals have closed – first, Binnie’s purchase from Nassau and then the spinoffs to Shapiro for an as-yet-undisclosed amount. Whatever that final price, we can say this: it will end up being a very good deal indeed for both Binnie and Shapiro. (As we noted a couple of weeks ago, Nassau paid Vox more than $31 million back in 2004 to build the core of its northern New England holdings.)
*Shapiro’s one busy broadcaster this week: in addition to his role in the Nassau deal, he flipped the switch Thursday afternoon (May 24) on his new Nantucket, MASSACHUSETTS signal. WAZK (97.7) is licensed to Shapiro’s Vertical Resources LLC, and it signed on at 5 PM with Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane,” kicking off a AAA format as “97.7 ACK-FM.”
*In the long history of black radio in NEW YORK, there was probably no single figure as important as Hal Jackson, whose seven-decade career included everything from sportscasting to music hosting to talk to pageant host and organizer to children’s TV host to station ownership, all while blazing new trails for minority broadcasters.
Jackson broke into radio in Washington, D.C. in the late 1930s as the announcer for the Washington Grays of the Negro League, and he was already a star when he moved to New York in 1954 to become part of the first integrated air staff in the city at WMCA (570). After a stint at WABC (770), Jackson landed at the city’s biggest black-oriented signal, WLIB (1190), where he’d end up spending most of the rest of his career, though a brush with the 1960 payola scandal forced him off the air and over to a programming job at WWRL (1600). In 1971, Jackson was one of the founding partners in Inner City Broadcasting, which bought WLIB and made it the city’s first black-owned station, joined in 1974 by sister station WBLS (107.5), where Jackson served as program director and vice president while also launching the Talented Teens International competition.
Beginning in 1982, WBLS also provided a home for Jackson’s long-running “Sunday Classics” R&B oldies show, which continued until just a few weeks ago, when Jackson’s health began to decline.
Jackson died Wednesday (May 23); he was believed to have been 96 years old.
*Another Philadelphia morning host is out of a job: after just over two years in mornings at Clear Channel's WIOQ (102.1 Philadelphia), Chris Booker was abruptly let go on Thursday. That leaves Q102 with no wakeup show, but perhaps not for long - the rumor making the rounds is that the next Q102 morning-drive entry will be the Elvis Duran "Morning Zoo" from sister station WHTZ (Z100) up in New York City.Booker, of course, has New York history, too: he did mornings on the "Blink" incarnation of WNEW (102.7) and evenings on WXRK/WFNY-FM (92.3). Will he be headed back to 92.3 in its current "K-Rock" incarnation? An unsourced addition to Booker's Wikipedia entry on Monday claimed he's signed a new contract there...
*New York's Educational Broadcasting Corp., the parent of WNET (Channel 13) and WLIW (Channel 21), won't be acquiring a Florida public broadcaster after all. EBC announced last week that it's reached a joint agreement with Barry University, licensee of WXEL (90.7) and WXEL-TV (Channel 42) in West Palm Beach, to withdraw its deal to buy the stations. The two sides cited delays in FCC approval of the transaction. It's not clear now whether some of the other suitors for the station, including rival south Florida PBS outlet WPBT in Miami, will again attempt to purchase WXEL.
(There's a Rochester connection here, too: WXEL's general manager is Jerry Carr, who spent much of his career in the Flower City at WOKR and later as the founding GM of WUHF-TV.)
We're sorry to have to pass along three obituaries this week: veteran New York City newsman Keeve Berman, whose career included two years as news director at WOR-FM (98.7) and ten years with ABC Radio News, with a later stint at WMCA (570), died May 8 in a Florida nursing home. Berman's career began in Pittsburgh, first at WEDO (810 McKeesport) and later at KQV and WTAE. He retired to Florida five years ago, where he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Berman was 71.
In Buffalo, former WUWU (107.7 Wethersfield Township) owner Ron Chmiel died May 14 at his Amherst home. Chmiel was best known locally for the dental practice he ran for 37 years, but his interests always extended outside dentistry as well. In addition to his ownership of WUWU in the early eighties, he was a co-owner of a local music production company. Chmiel was 72.
*On the NEW HAMPSHIRE/VERMONT border, Great Eastern is swapping formats at several of its Upper Valley signals. The "Pulse" talk format that had been airing on WMXR (93.9 Woodstock VT) has moved to WTSL (1400 Lebanon NH), consolidating the separate talk lineups that had been on both signals. The new "Pulse" on WTSL will also have an FM simulcast, as translator W232AP (94.3 White River Junction) has been granted Special Temporary Authority to simulcast AM 1400.
The move frees up WMXR to flip to classic hits as "MAXX 93.9," also carrying Red Sox and Patriots games.
In Bennington, Vermont, WBTN (1370) has a new owner on the way. "Shires Media Partnership," a community group formed to preserve the station's local programming, will pay Southern Vermont College $100,000 for the station. The new nonprofit group includes representation from the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce and the local cable access channel, and students from the college will continue to have access to the station as well, its leaders say.
*The big news out of CANADA this week comes from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, where two new FM signals are now on the air.
Newcap's CHRK (101.9 Sydney) began testing a few weeks ago, and the official launch, as "The Giant" (with a "hits" format heavy on 80s and 90s pop), will come Tuesday morning (May 27) at 8:00.
Also testing is CKCH (103.5 Sydney), which is running TV theme songs for now, again with no nickname or format announced yet.
Ten Years Ago: May 27, 2003 -
The era of "dollar-a-holler" talk programming on RHODE ISLAND's WALE (990 Greenville) came to a close at seven o'clock Wednesday morning, when North American Broadcasting handed over the keys to Cumbre Communications, which won WALE's bankruptcy auction in Phoenix on Tuesday for a whopping $2.35 million. For the price, Cumbre gets a station that's seen much better days. Though it claims "50,000 watts" of power, its signal never matched up to the boastful coverage maps handed to prospective talk hosts (see the example above). While the maps claimed coverage of Boston and beyond, WALE's daytime signal heads east into Providence and out over the fishes - and you don't even want to ask about the night signal, assuming anyone bothered to make the switch on time. (Station personnel were reportedly told, should an FCC inspector show up, to offer to get a manager - and then head for the back door and keep walking!) Add to that the talk programming that arrived over bad voice-grade phone lines (usually sold under deceptive pretenses to starstruck folks with no radio experience who were told "we want to make you a talk host"), and it's likely that nobody much noticed, or mourned, when NABC's programming ended on WALE last week.
In MASSACHUSETTS, Pat Whitley is back to a full-time weekday gig on WRKO (680 Boston), taking over the 9-noon slot that Doreen Vigue and Darlene McCarthy have been holding down as the "Daytime Divas."
In Randolph, VERMONT, WWWT (1320) flipped format last week, switching from satellite oldies to a simulcast of news-talk WSYB (1380). The move comes just a few months after sister station WCVR (102.1) dropped country to begin simulcasting Burlington rocker WCPV (101.3 Essex NY).
In Rochester, Kevin LeGrett has parted ways with Infinity Broadcasting, where he was GM of the four-station cluster that includes WPXY, WZNE, WCMF and WRMM. He's headed to Citadel, where he'll become a regional vice president based in Buffalo and overseeing Buffalo, Syracuse, Ithaca and Binghamton.
And we leave the Empire State with this mystery: Granite Broadcasting's WKBW-TV (Channel 7) in Buffalo won't let the revived "KB Radio" (WWKB 1520) share its call letters - but it'll gladly let Jim Carrey plaster his new movie Bruce Almighty with WKBW references and logos? Discuss...
Another AM station in CANADA is entering its final weeks. CFJR (830 Brockville) signed on the transmitter of CFJR-FM (104.9) last week, simulcasting its AC format as "104-9 'JRFM and 830 CFJR." Testing of the new transmitter is scheduled to last several months; the AM station should go silent at the end of the summer, we hear.
Fifteen Years Ago: May 30, 1998 -
Say goodbye to the number-two public TV station in Buffalo. The Western New York Public Broadcasting Council voted last week to sell WNEQ (Channel 23) in order to pay for the digital conversion of flagship public broadcaster WNED-TV (Channel 17). WNEQ signed on in 1987, with the stated intention of offering viewers in Western New York and Southern Ontario a more diverse diet of public television. In the ensuing years, however, WNED made the decision (in NERW's opinion, a misguided one) to leave its antiquated-but-functional studios for a huge (and hugely expensive) brand-new broadcast palace in downtown Buffalo. The costs of that project made it difficult for WNED to program Channel 23, and (at least according to published reports) contributed to the decision to sell WNEQ. WNED will need to do some fancy footwork at the FCC to sell WNEQ as a commercial station. Channel 23 is allocated noncommercial to Buffalo, but Channel 17 is allocated as a commercial license, a relic of its days as pioneering NBC O&O WBUF-TV in the 1950s. WNED hopes the FCC will agree to reallocate channel 17 as noncomm and channel 23 as commercial. We'll keep you posted...
In other news from NEW YORK, there's a new station on the air in Eastern Long Island. Jarad Broadcasting's WXXP (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke) went on at noon on Wednesday, as dance-CHR "Party 105." Jeff Levine, PD of sister stations WLIR (92.7 Garden City)-WDRE (98.5 Westhampton), handles PD duties for WXXP as well.
The former WNWK (105.9 Newark NJ) is now New York's latest Spanish-language station. Heftel Broadcasting flipped the switch to "Caliente 105.9, tu pulso Latino" this week. No word yet on how New York's WQHT -- "Hot 97" -- feels about another station using the Spanish translation of its name.
Confirming what we'd suspected, WIGS (1230) in Gouverneur is indeed dead and gone, reducing the "FSR Network" to WGIX (95.3 Gouverneur) and WSLB (1400 Ogdensburg). Now we're told WSLB is only being mentioned in top-hour legal IDs, with "95.3" the sole identification at other times. Further up route 11 in Chateauguay, WYUL (94.7) has reportedly turned on its permanent oldies format.
Morning show movement: Buffalo's "Alice," WLCE (92.9), is now getting its morning show from sister ARS station WTIC-FM (96.5) in Hartford. The "Craig and Company" show started this week on WLCE, after a weekend of heavy promotion. Krista Bettino moves down the Thruway from WHTT (104.1 Buffalo), where she was Danny Neaverth's morning sidekick, to WPXY (97.9 Rochester), where she'll do the same with Scott Spezzano. WPXY also adds Music Director duties for night guy Mike Danger.
It's a game of PD musical chairs in MASSACHUSETTS. Rick Shockley, program director of CBS oldies outlet WODS (103.3 Boston), has left the building for the warmer climates of Phoenix and oldies KOOL (94.5). Next door at Greater Media's smooth-jazz WSJZ (96.9), Bill George has departed as well, for the even more hospitable climes of Honolulu and a PD gig at KUCD (101.9) and KKLV (98.5). And out at WJMN (94.5 Boston), assistant PD/music director Cat Collins is headed for Denver and KQKS (104.3). Chris Tyler joins WJMN for overnights from WERZ (107.1) Exeter NH.
Up in MAINE, there's a new CHR on the air. Pilot's WCRQ (102.9 Dennysville) went up this week. Becky Nichols joins "CRQ 102-9" as PD and morning host from WQRB Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Tom Mitchell, PD of Pilot's WNTQ (93.1 Syracuse), is consulting WCRQ. NERW looks forward to hearing this one next month as we drive through the Calais area.
- Say goodbye to the number-two public TV station in Buffalo. The Western New York Public Broadcasting Council voted last week to sell WNEQ (Channel 23) in order to pay for the digital conversion of flagship public broadcaster WNED-TV (Channel 17). WNEQ signed on in 1987, with the stated intention of offering viewers in Western New York and Southern Ontario a more diverse diet of public television. In the ensuing years, however, WNED made the decision (in NERW's opinion, a misguided one) to leave its antiquated-but-functional studios for a huge (and hugely expensive) brand-new broadcast palace in downtown Buffalo. The costs of that project made it difficult for WNED to program Channel 23, and (at least according to published reports) contributed to the decision to sell WNEQ. WNED will need to do some fancy footwork at the FCC to sell WNEQ as a commercial station. Channel 23 is allocated noncommercial to Buffalo, but Channel 17 is allocated as a commercial license, a relic of its days as pioneering NBC O&O WBUF-TV in the 1950s. WNED hopes the FCC will agree to reallocate channel 17 as noncomm and channel 23 as commercial. We'll keep you posted...
- In other news from NEW YORK, there's a new station on the air in Eastern Long Island. Jarad Broadcasting's WXXP (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke) went on at noon on Wednesday, as dance-CHR "Party 105." Jeff Levine, PD of sister stations WLIR (92.7 Garden City)-WDRE (98.5 Westhampton), handles PD duties for WXXP as well.
- The former WNWK (105.9 Newark NJ) is now New York's latest Spanish-language station. Heftel Broadcasting flipped the switch to "Caliente 105.9, tu pulso Latino" this week. No word yet on how New York's WQHT -- "Hot 97" -- feels about another station using the Spanish translation of its name.
- Confirming what we'd suspected, WIGS (1230) in Gouverneur is indeed dead and gone, reducing the "FSR Network" to WGIX (95.3 Gouverneur) and WSLB (1400 Ogdensburg). Now we're told WSLB is only being mentioned in top-hour legal IDs, with "95.3" the sole identification at other times. Further up route 11 in Chateauguay, WYUL (94.7) has reportedly turned on its permanent oldies format.
- Morning show movement: Buffalo's "Alice," WLCE (92.9), is now getting its morning show from sister ARS station WTIC-FM (96.5) in Hartford. The "Craig and Company" show started this week on WLCE, after a weekend of heavy promotion. Krista Bettino moves down the Thruway from WHTT (104.1 Buffalo), where she was Danny Neaverth's morning sidekick, to WPXY (97.9 Rochester), where she'll do the same with Scott Spezzano. WPXY also adds Music Director duties for night guy Mike Danger.
- It's a game of PD musical chairs in MASSACHUSETTS. Rick Shockley, program director of CBS oldies outlet WODS (103.3 Boston), has left the building for the warmer climates of Phoenix and oldies KOOL (94.5). Next door at Greater Media's smooth-jazz WSJZ (96.9), Bill George has departed as well, for the even more hospitable climes of Honolulu and a PD gig at KUCD (101.9) and KKLV (98.5). And out at WJMN (94.5 Boston), assistant PD/music director Cat Collins is headed for Denver and KQKS (104.3). Chris Tyler joins WJMN for overnights from WERZ (107.1) Exeter NH.
- Up in MAINE, there's a new CHR on the air. Pilot's WCRQ (102.9 Dennysville) went up this week. Becky Nichols joins "CRQ 102-9" as PD and morning host from WQRB Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Tom Mitchell, PD of Pilot's WNTQ (93.1 Syracuse), is consulting WCRQ. NERW looks forward to hearing this one next month as we drive through the Calais area.