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In this week's issue... AMs shuffle in the Mohawk Valley - Au revoir, "Radio-Canada" - An AM return for smooth jazz in Philly? - Young/Media General merge - Spanish AM on the Jersey Shore - A plaque for Major Armstrong - PLUS: A report from New York's media conferences

By SCOTT FYBUSH

The WKAJ site, June 2012
The WKAJ site, June 2012

*It's a good thing this isn't a betting column, because if it were, we'd have bet a lot of money on the premise that WKAJ (1120) in St. Johnsville, NEW YORK would never actually make it on the air - and as of late last week, we'd have lost that bet.

As NERW readers know, the WKAJ saga has been one of the strangest stories on the AM dial in recent memory. Like so many complex AM directional systems these days, there were delays aplenty on the way to operation. WKAJ was originally granted to Michael Celenza back in April 2008, as a 1500-watt day/250-watt night signal licensed to Little Falls with a construction permit expiring in April 2011. In early 2010, Celenza sold the CP to Cranesville Block Company (which already owned WCSS 1490 over in Amsterdam), and Cranesville subsequently moved the CP down Route 5 to St. Johnsville and won a power increase to 10 kW days/400 watts nights.

Zoning and weather delays got the permit's expiration date "tolled" to December 15, 2011 - and that's where things got really weird. Massive storms and flooding struck the Mohawk Valley in September 2011, severe enough to impede construction access to the site along Route 5 and more than severe enough for the FCC to once again toll the construction deadline...if anyone had asked. But nobody did, and we'd all but written off any chance of WKAJ ever seeing the light of a glowing final RF stage when news started to emerge of ongoing construction at the site. In the weeks after the CP expired, early 2012 brought news of towers finally being erected at the site and programming leases being drawn up with longtime Utica morning man Hank Brown.

What could have been a simple tolling process at the FCC before the CP expired instead turned into a year-long political adventure: the FCC deleted the WKAJ construction permit, Cranesville petitioned for reconsideration, the FCC rejected the petition, the area's congressional representatives intervened, the FCC politely rebuffed the intervention - and then, last fall, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer stepped in, which got the FCC's attention. In January, the FCC admonished Cranesville for its failure to comply with the rules, but it then extended WKAJ's construction permit retroactively to the end of December, allowing the station's facilities to be completed and its directional array proofed.

And as of Friday, WKAJ's signal was being heard on the air for the first time, testing with AC music and (at least briefly) with a WCSS simulcast. While its 10,000 watts by day make WKAJ the most powerful AM between Schenectady and Rochester, the protections it has to provide to co- and adjacent-channel signals in Buffalo, Seneca Falls, New York City and elsewhere require a sharply directional signal that goes mostly north and south into the Adirondacks and Catskills instead of east and west down the population and transportation corridors of the Mohawk Valley.

Now that it's there (or at least close to being "there"), what will WKAJ program? According to a bare-bones website Cranesville recently put up for its three stations, "New York's Biggest AM Music Station" will carry the same classic hits format as WCSS, along with ABC news and local news with Rick Morrison.

*WKAJ's arrival doesn't actually boost the total AM signal count in the Mohawk Valley, at least for now. For that, blame vandals in the Utica area who have once again gone after Leatherstocking Media's WUTI (1150 Utica). The station has been silent since the end of May, when most of the transmission line out to the station's five-tower array fell prey to looters. Leatherstocking GM Don Wagner told CNYRadio.com on May 30 that the station would probably remain silent for "at least three weeks" while repairs were made, and that means at least another week of silence for the Utica link in the three-station "CNY Talk Radio" chain that also includes WMCR (1600 Oneida) and WFBL (1390 Syracuse).

wddy*When Disney began selling off its smaller Radio Disney outlets a few years back, many (including this column) wondered whether Albany's WDDY (1460) would be among them. The 5000-watt full-time station wasn't part of the round of sales that included Disney outlets in the Hartford and Providence markets, but it's one of seven Radio Disney signals now on the block. Disney paid $2 million for the former WGNA(AM) when it bought the station from Regent (now Townsquare) back in 2001, but it's unlikely to get anywhere near that much in today's marketplace, especially when it's not even the only AM signal on the market. (The other would be DJRA Broadcasting's WDCD 1540, which spent much of the past year silent before being reactivated this spring to keep the license alive.)

Who'd buy 1460? It's unlikely to go to any of the big clusters in the market, including Clear Channel, Pamal's Albany Broadcasting or Regent's successor, Townsquare; more likely, if the pattern of other recent Disney stations sales holds, is that 1460 will end up in the hands of a religious or ethnic broadcaster. It's possible, too, that one of the market's newer players could be in acquisition mode. That would be Joe Reilly's Empire Broadcasting, which owns WJKE (101.3 Stillwater) up in Saratoga County, as well as AM'ers WABY (1160 Mechanicville), WUAM (900 Watervliet) and WPTR (1240 Schenectady).

Whether or not Empire is interested in 1460, it's making some big changes down the dial at 1240: WPTR just flipped its format from the Real Oldies that Empire inherited (under former calls WVKZ) to CBS Sports Radio. The move makes WPTR the third all-sports signal in the Albany area, trailing two bigger-signalled offerings: Clear Channel's Fox Sports WOFX (980 Troy) and Townsquare's ESPN Radio outlet WTMM (104.5 Mechanicville). Is it just coincidence that the big hole in the 1240 signal - the Albany/Troy area, especially after dark - an area that would be neatly filled by a simulcast on 1460? Stay tuned...

*Two Albany TV stations are (sort of) changing hands. thanks to a merger between two TV station groups. The combination of Media General and Young Broadcasting will create a 30-market group that will be better positioned to compete against some of the faster-growing consolidators such as Sinclair and Nexstar that have been aggressively buying up stations all over the country. In Albany, the deal gives the new Media General control of Young's ABC affiliate WTEN (Channel 10, plus satellite WCDC 19 in Adams, Mass.) and Fox affiliate WXXA (Channel 23, owned by Shield Media and operated by WTEN). Media General's only other holding in the northeast is Providence, RHODE ISLAND NBC affiliate WJAR (Channel 10), where little immediate change is expected as a result of the merger.

*Across the state line in southern VERMONT, there are some staffing changes this week at WEQX (102.7 Manchester): with former PD/afternoon jock Amber Miller now departed and Jeff Morad succeeding her in the PD chair, Jason Keller takes over today as afternoon jock and production diretcor. Duncan Virr moves from middays to nights, and fill-in jock Kim Neaton takes over in middays.

armstrong-plaque*Back in the Empire State, next week will bring an important commemoration of one of radio's greatest inventors. It's been 75 years this year since Major Edwin Howard Armstrong began regular FM transmissions from his tower in Alpine, New Jersey, a site he picked in part because he could see it from the window of his home laboratory on Warburton Avenue in Yonkers.

The Armstrong home, an important site in early radio history, was demolished in 1983 despite having been named a National Historic Landmark, and for three decades there's been no tangible reminder of the Major's presence in Yonkers - but that finally changes on June 17, when Yonkers city officials will join Armstrong relatives for the dedication of a plaque at Hudson-Fulton Park honoring the Armstrong legacy. It's the result of more than a year of hard work by Steve Klose, a New Jersey man who started a fundraising campaign after learning there was no plaque for Armstrong. Klose raised more than $4,400 to have the plaque designed and installed, and he too will be on hand for the celebration next Monday.

As with many of the recent Armstrong celebrations, this one will also include a broadcast on WA2XMN, the Armstrong memorial low-band FM station that broadcasts sporadically at 42.8 megacycles from the Alpine tower; there's an effort underway to also have the broadcast carried on a "regular-band" FM signal so it can be heard by more listeners.

*We have four obituaries from New York City to report, and three of them involve volunteer hosts at Pacifica outlet WBAI (99.5). Ibrahim Gonzalez was best known as a musician and a Bronx community activist, but he was also a familiar face on community access TV in the Bronx and on WBAI, where he hosted "In the Moment" and "Radio Libre!" and helped produce the morning "Wake Up Call" show. Gonzalez died in his sleep June 3, at age 57.

That was also the day that WBAI "Pursuit of Happiness" co-hosts Lynne Rosen and John Littig were found dead in their Brooklyn apartment in what was apparently a double suicide, a rather ironic end to a motivational talk show hosted by a therapist (Rosen) and a motivational speaker (Littig). Rosen was 46, Littig was 48.

Over at WNBC (Channel 4), they're mourning John Noel, who'd been the station's Brooklyn beat reporter for 15 years after stops in Detroit and St. Louis. Noel had been battling brain cancer, and had last appeared on the air three months ago even as he was undergoing treatment. The Brooklyn native and Air Force veteran was 62.

For the first time in its history, the City University of New York's CUNY TV is available over the air to New York-area viewers. In addition to its longtime spot on cable channel 75, CUNY TV is now being seen on the 25.3 subchannel of the city's WNYE-TV, extending its reach to more of the metropolitan area, at least for those viewers using antennas. The announcement of the merger of CUNY TV and NYC Media's technical operations includes another bit of news: CUNY will launch its own over-the-air radio station later this year over an HD subchannel of WNYE-FM (91.5).

*There's a new general manager at WTBQ (1110 Warwick), as owner Frank Truatt hands off that responsibility to Souzie Miller. She's been with the station for six years now as general sales manager; Truatt keeps his morning show duties.

Out on Long Island, JVC Broadcasting is beginning to move staffers around as it takes control of the stations it's acquiring in Gainesville and Ocala, Florida. Phathead, who's been programming and hosting mornings at WJVC (96.1 Center Moriches), is keeping those roles as he adds the title of VP/country programming and begins to oversee WTRS/WYGC down in Florida.

Here in Rochester, it appears the regional Family Life Network has found a way to upgrade the feed to at least one of its local translators. W234AZ (94.7 Brighton), up at the Pinnacle Hill tower farm, sometimes struggles to get a clean input signal from parent station WCIY (88.9 Canandaigua) - but that will change when the translator shifts its input feed to an HD subchannel of Entercom's WBZA (98.9 Rochester).

In Buffalo, Craig Fox's Renard Communications is selling a low-power TV signal. WBXZ-LP used to be on channel 56, but has been operating on channel 17 under special temporary authority since those upper UHF channels were removed from TV service. Steven Ritchie of Lockport is paying $25,000 for the station, which has been carrying HSN shopping.

Up in the North Country, there's a new morning man on WVLF (96.1 Norwood), where former middayer Wayne Thompson takes over the shift at the Stephens Media station serving the Seaway Valley (including Cornwall and other neighboring parts of eastern Ontario). Thompson will also be doing afternoons on sister station WPAC (98.7 Ogdensburg), presumably through the magic of voicetracking.

radiocanada-ici*This week's top story by far from CANADA was the impending disappearance of the word "Canada" from the French versions of the state broadcaster. After more than 75 years known on the air as "Radio-Canada," the CBC's French-language radio and TV services will rebrand over the summer under the new name "Ici." That's short, of course, for the "Ici Radio-Canada" ("Here is Radio-Canada"), and while it makes for more concise branding for the services that will be known on TV as ICI Télé and on radio as ICI Première and ICI Musique, it has also been touching off something of a controversy in Anglophone Canada.

The reason, of course, is the sense that if there's one word French-speaking Quebeckers want to hear less than "Radio," it's "Canada" - and that the name change further reinforces the widely-held belief that French Canadians are happy to take federal funding for services such as, er, "Ici" but less happy to actually identify with "Canada." And that, coupled with complaints about the cost of the rebranding, prompted CBC officials to do some hasty backtracking at week's end, reassuring English-language reporters that, in the words of vice president Bill Chambers, "our intention was not, ever, to change the name of the company.”

But despite Chambers' reassurance that Radio-Canada will still be Radio-Canada, it appears for now that French-language viewers and listeners will have to pay close attention to hear the name "Radio-Canada" amidst all the "ICI" branding that will apparently be the main on-air identity of the French-language networks when the moves are completed later this year.

*One reason the Radio-Canada/ICI rebranding has caused so much static is that it comes amidst other budget cutbacks at the crown corporation, including a continued erosion of what was once universal broadcast service across the sprawling sweep of Canada. CBC/Radio-Canada over-the-air TV service ended in many smaller (and even medium-sized) communities with the digital transition, and even radio service is being affected in some areas where the CBC has apparently determined it can get away with reducing broadcast power and thus saving on hydro bills.

Up north in Wawa, Ontario, for instance, the CBC is requesting a power cut at CBLJ (88.3), the local Radio One signal that relays Sudbury-based CBCS (99.9). Currently operating with 48 kW/115 m, CBLJ is asking the CRTC for permission to cut back its power to 4800 watts/136 m from its existing transmitter site. The area that would lose CBC service is mostly unpopulated - but it will leave a big chunk of the Trans-Canada Highway without any radio service. And for whatever English-speakers might be listening out on the tip of Quebec's Gaspe peninsula, the CBC wants to reduce power at Radio One outlet CBVG (88.5 Gaspe). Presently running 2.16 kW average/4.2 kW max DA, CBVG would drop down to 1.73 kW average/2.61 max DA, still at 409 m.

Just down the road, there's also a request for a power increase at CHGM (99.3 Gaspe). The relay of New Carlisle-based CHNC moved from AM 1150 to FM a few years back, and it hasn't quite managed to replicate the old AM coverage, so it's asking to jump from its present 257 watts average/458 watts max DA/73 m to 2.7 kW/76 m, non-directional.

The small Attraction Media group in central Quebec is making news this week - both in Sainte Marie, where it's set June 20 for a frequency change at CHEQ (101.3, moving to 101.5) and in Plessisville, where it's acquiring CKYQ (95.7) from Societe Radio Media. The sale also includes CKYQ's Victoriaville relay, CKYQ-1 (103.5), and it will give Attraction five stations in Quebec when the deal closes.

*Welcome home, Adam Rivers! The CONNECTICUT native spent some time down south programming Clear Channel's WKSI (98.3) in Winchester, Virginia, but he starts a new gig today back in the Nutmeg State, where he's now assistant PD and afternoon jock at sister station WKCI (101.3 Hamden). Before his Virginia excursion, Rivers had previously worked at WKSS (95.7) in Hartford, WILI-FM (98.3) in Willimantic and just across the state line at Springfield's WMAS-FM (94.7).

Across the New Haven market, Megan Doll is out after 20 years with WPLR (99.1), where she's been replaced as morning news and traffic reporter by Pam Ciaburri. (WPLR's Chaz and AJ morning show is also heard on Connoisseur sister station WFOX 95.9 in Norwalk.)

Dan Kain (WFSB photo)
Dan Kain (WFSB photo)

*On TV, WFSB (Channel 3) said goodbye last week to veteran reporter Dan Kain, who's retiring after almost 26 years with the station and 47 years in the business. Kain came to WFSB in 1987 after a career that included stints as PD/news director at public TV WGBY (Channel 57) in Springfield, a talk host at WCVB (Channel 5) in Boston, an adjunct professor of communications at Boston University and even some time anchoring "Playboy News" from Los Angeles. At WFSB, he's been known for his "Kain's World" feature pieces, many of which were excerpted in the station's extensive video tribute Friday night.

*In Bridgeport and Danbury, they're mourning Bob Lasprogato, whose career in radio began in 1960 at WLAD (800 Danbury) and included stints over the years at WICC (600 Bridgeport, where he was "Jim Jordan") and WJAZ (96.7 Stamford). Later on, Lasprogato was VP/programming (as well as a part-owner) at WREF (850 Ridgefield, now WAXB), where he was a top-rated midday personality in the Danbury market as well. In recent years, Lasprogato was hosting a jazz show on community station WPKN (89.5 Bridgeport) and playing drums in a traveling jazz band. He died last Monday (June 3) at age 71.

*They'll be talking radio next week in MASSACHUSETTS, where Haverhill-based internet station WHAV.net will be presenting a special screening of the new documentary "Corporate FM: The Killing of Local Commercial Radio." The film has been touring the country, and when it comes to Chunky's Cinema Pub in Haverhill on June 19, it will be accompanied by a panel discussion that will include the film's director, Kevin McKinney, as well as local media experts Donna Halper and Dan Kennedy, William J. Macek, the owner of WPKZ, Fitchburg, and former WHAV news director Marc Lemay.

*A NEW JERSEY format change, just in time for the summer season on the shore: WIBG (1020 Ocean City) quietly dropped most of its talk format in May and has been stunting on the way to a new Spanish-language format. WIBG's new sound is the National Latino Broadcasting syndicated "En Vivo" Spanish adult hits service; WIBG-FM (94.3 Avalon) continues with oldies in English.

And while we're down the Shore, it appears that there's an FM translator coming for a recently-relaunched Atlantic City AM. WPGG (1450) is doing English-language talk as "WPG Radio," and it's the new primary station requested for Ted Schober's translator W262CF (100.3 Pleasantville). That new translator just received a construction permit in April, and had been specified at the time as a relay of WGLS (89.7 Glassboro). Schober's current proposal calls for a 250-watt signal (a big jump from the 27 watts of the current CP) from a site just west of Atlantic City.

wxgnOn the noncommercial side of the dial, religious WXGN (90.5 Egg Harbor Township) wants to change its city of license. Joy Broadcasting says under current FCC rules, it wouldn't be able to license "90.5 the X" to Egg Harbor Township thanks to two nearby co-channel signals, and so it's asking to be relicensed as the first local service to Somers Point, just southwest of Atlantic City. This is the second time WXGN has tried to make the move down to Somers Point; a previous application back in 2010 for similar technical facilities to those now being proposed (350 watts/105' DA from a transmitter site in the heart of Ocean City) was rejected due to lack of city-grade coverage of Egg Harbor Township.

*There are certain radio brands in eastern PENNSYLVANIA that just don't want to die. The WIFI callsign made famous on Philadelphia's 92.5 (now WXTU) lives on at 1360 on the AM dial across the Delaware in south Jersey. As you just read above, the even more venerable WIBG calls live on at the shore. And to those examples, it appears we can now add "WJJZ" and smooth jazz. That callsign and format came together at 106.1 on the dial in 1993 and remained in use until 2006, and after Clear Channel ditched that incarnation of WJJZ, Greater Media picked up the calls three months later and revived smooth jazz at 97.5 on the dial for two more years. And today, it appears "WJJZ" and "smooth jazz" will once again be linked on the Philadelphia airwaves: RadioInsight.com reports that at noon, Clear Channel will flip WDAS (1480) from black gospel to smooth jazz. No request had been filed for a formal callsign change as of Sunday night, so it appears the new outlet (once again programmed by Michael Tozzi, who programmed the 106.1 and 97.5 incarnations) will simply be "JJZ," promoting its 1480 AM signal and the wider-reaching 106.1-HD2 (on what's now WISX), as well as a webcast at WJJZ.com.

(Those with very long memories may also note that long before the WJJZ calls meant "smooth jazz," they were associated with an earlier incarnation of the 1460 signal in south Jersey that now bears the WIFI calls...)

*Up in the Twin Tiers, Colonial Media + Entertainment has completed its relocation of WBYB (103.9) from Kane to a new city of license of Eldred, with a new transmitter site between Smethport and Port Allegany. The move comes with a realignment of some of Colonial's translators and HD Radio subchannel feeds: 103.9 becomes "Bob" country, continuing the format formerly known as "Big Bob Country." Bob is still being heard in Colonial's home base of Olean, N.Y. via translator W256BQ (99.1) and WVTT (96.7 Portville)'s HD4, but it gives up its former Smethport-area translator coverage on W237CS (95.3), which flips to a simulcast of news-talk WVTT by way of WXMT (106.3 Smethport)'s HD3.

*In Harrisburg, Jeff Hurley's now doing afternoons at WRBT (Bob 94.9), adding those duties to his main gig as regional PD/operations manager for Clear Channel. (His predecessor, JT Bosch, was also tracking afternoons for Bob before moving down to KASE/KVET in Austin earlier this year.) Middays at "Bob" are now being tracked by Troy Lee, whose main duties are up in Williamsport at WBYL (95.5).

X the Owl's tree at WQED, 2001
X the Owl's tree at WQED, 2001

And in Pittsburgh, there's an empty space in the WQED public media studios on Fifth Avenue now that the staff of The Fred Rogers Company has moved out. Local media reports indicate that the Rogers folks were unable to come to terms with their longtime landlord on a lease renewal, ending a half-century of close ties between Rogers and his heirs and the Pittsburgh public broadcaster that made him famous.

The move involved more than just offices - it also meant the removal of the remaining pieces of the "Land of Make-Believe" set from the WQED studios, where King Friday's castle and X the Owl's tree were popular stops for tour groups visiting the "Fred Rogers Studio" and the station's offices.

*West of Philadelphia, the clock is ticking fast on the construction permit for WZWG (91.7 West Grove), which has to be built and on the air by June 22 in order for Hope Christian Church of Marlton to keep the license.

That's why the church has applied to downgrade the CP from the proposed 315 watts/522' to a more easily buildable 160 watts (vertical-only)/108', using the same proposed transmitter site at Lincoln University and serving only a small piece of Chester County instead of its more ambitious original plan.

*Finally this week, a special bonus for NERW subscribers: friend-of-NERW Clark Smidt spent much of last week at a trio of industry conferences in New York City, and he was kind enough to share some of his notes from the RAB, Talkers and Kagan seminars with our readers:

*NEW YORK CITY is always action-packed, but broadcasters got an extra slice of cheesecake Wednesday and Thursday, with three excellent events in
Manhattan.

Radio Advertising Bureau held its Mercury Awards Wednesday, showcasing an outstanding collaboration among ad agencies, creatives and radio spot value. Many attendees suggest the awards highlight the belief that the production department holds the key to our future success. RAB CEO Erica Farber and her staff did a magnificent job. The surroundings were relaxed and great for talking to folks from all sides of the business.  The spotlight was on the depth and strength of the radio creative that tells the story. Listeners love a great story that stands out, along with effective use of music.

Farber takes the mike to interview RAB finalists (photo: Clark Smidt)
Farber takes the mike to interview RAB finalists (photo: Clark Smidt)

Erica (with NERW roots as GM of WROR, Boston and WXLO, New York) was also front & center at each of the events .  When asked if radio was
growing, Erica beamed and said "Just look at this crowd."  NERW luminaries included Jerry Lee (B-100), Frank Osborne (Qantum), Felix Perez (Univision), CCU-E front line NYC folks Deb Landsberg and Mike Stewart who handles production.  "The value of campaign and spot radio is solid", they both agreed. Congratulations to Barton Graf 9000 LLC for a captivating Best of Show "A Long Day of Childhood" and "Do Not Call" Little Caesars.  Also, to Melissa Schoenke and Brittany Rogowski, in from Minneapolis to accept recognition for their TARGET retail strategy of hitting their target customers with radio. (Click here for the complete list of 2013 Radio Mercury Awards Finalists.)

*TALKERS NYC made Thursday special. Once again, Michael Harrison (NERW connects in Springfield, Boston, New York) produced a superb daylong show at a comfortable venue, with outstanding content, guests and intense panels, but without dead air. Michael's experience, passion and in-your-face industry insights attract everybody who is anybody in talk radio.  His own delivery is "broadcast varsity," and when Michael talks, the audience is captivated.  Michael Harrison's support of Free Speech is a national asset. Talk Stars including Glen Beck, Jim Bohannon, Sean Hannity, Lionel, Tom Leykis, Doug Stephan and industry strategists led by Mark Charnoff, Holland Cook, Jerry Crowly, Tom Cuddy, Steve Goldstein, Ron Hartenbaum, Mike Elder, Mike McVay, Norm Pattiz and Walter Sabo, set the stage for a remarkable day.  Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan delivered his successful update on smart phones turning on the radio chip, with more
companies to follow.

It was extremely refreshing to hear more than a couple experts lead the charge for advertisers and agencies to update target demos from 25-54 to 35-69! That change is a long time coming, since baby boomers have both money and an intimate connection to radio.  They know radio as a culture icon with personality, service, stories, all the great sports and different music formats. The 60's were hot years for music, and they are hot years now for folks who grew up in that
decade.

The audience was encouraged to be different on the air and tell the story with personality. Present a real delivery and know how to use our medium. Erica Farber pointed out that we're all sales people, selling radio all the time. Many echoed the mantra of "sell your content, establish your brand. New ideas attract and develop pure play listeners. Use the new technology to add transmitter value without getting side tracked.  Make money with the sponsors, not the stream."

Given all the talk about where we'll be heard in the near future, on what, will we be on the dashboard…….faugggetttabboutit!  We go to movies in basically the same manner as our grandparents.  And, while we now have modern theaters, outstanding visuals, superior sound and comfortable seating, the rule remains: "Great movies are bang up box office hits…..and clunkers close quickly."

*Invest in the content, the creativity, the personality, the service.

*Stay ahead of and harness the new technology.  Seek out effective audience measurement to make money through our transmitter culture.  And, if you can't name all your call letters, you might have too many to pay proper attention.

Michael pointed out we must be _uplifting_ in this brave new radio world. "Find out what the audience wants and deliver something that demands to be heard."   Combine the use of information, news, things folks need to know and the fact that radio is everywhere, wireless and free.  We have much to offer and the combination still makes us the world's greatest communication channel.  Entercom Programming VP Jason Wolfe hit a walk-off home run with his excellent, closing comments about radio coverage during the recent, and horrible, Boston Marathon bombings.

The 30th Annual KAGAN TV & RADIO FINANCE SEMINAR ran concurrently with Talkers, down and over a few blocks at the classic New York style Union
League Club. While not as energetic as Talkers, the information was positive and cautiously optimistic. What's the reality of the deal? What keeps you up at night? We're finding there's a better climate and rate, but sellers are still pricing high and turnarounds can be risky. As caution continues, some bankers are considering a specialized due diligence to both protect and encourage deals. By taking a hands-on look beyond the numbers, non-tangible review of operating strategy, competition, facilities, history and available personnel offers insurance for success and safeguard from failure.

Regardless of past performance, stations need to be protected or rescued from nonperforming asset lists. NERW area chiefs in attendance included Alta Boston's Brian McNeil, Connoisseur's Jeff Warshaw (now in LI, CT and NJ/PA) and CBS New York Market Manager Scott Herman.

*HALL OF FAMERS CONTINUE TO PLAY*
The trip was complete having conversations with some of the great men who set the stage for success in our business. Knowing that Bob "Doc" Fuller, Joey Reynolds, Dick Robinson and Dick Summer are keeping the flames burning adds credence to the sustained strength and validity of radio.

*OBSERVATIONS*.   Radio is powerful.  LOCAL connects with the audience and advertiser$.  Compelling content is priority one.  If the program is weak, nobody cares.  It the show is super, they will find it, distribute it and connect to it on anything from toasters to transistors, smart phones to personal satellites.  Take the best from the past and adjust with the future.  The format changes and musical chairs continue.  But, the music never stops.

*RADIO is the instant, everywhere service.*  Everybody Gets It.  It's a matter of doing it.

Clark Smidt worked his first day on commercial radio at WBIS, Bristol, CT. 500w D. July 13, 1966.  He continues to add success through teamwork, effective messaging, program content strategic connections and sales. Opinions expressed here are his own.

*2013 isn’t even half over yet, which means there’s more than six months’ worth of gorgeous photos waiting to adorn your wall! (The pictures from past months haven’t faded, either.)

We want to make sure as many people as possible enjoy these, so we’re now offering Tower Site Calendar 2013 at half price for the rest of the year!

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: June 11, 2012 -

There’s now a date for Rush Limbaugh’s move to his new Philadelphia home, Merlin Media’s WWIQ (106.9 Camden NJ). He’ll switch stations two weeks from today, on Monday, June 25 – and when he does, his old slot on CBS Radio’s WPHT (1210 Philadelphia) will be filled by a live clearance of WPHT’s star talk host, Michael Smerconish. Replacing Smerconish in afternoon drive on WPHT will be the duo of longtime Philly talk host Steve Martorano and sports writer Buzz Bissinger. Much more later this week on NERW…

*There’s no more turbulent scene right now than talk radio in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, where the last few days alone have seen the retirement of a veteran overnight host, the return of a midday host who’d decamped to TV news, the sudden disappearance of most of the syndicated shows at a third station and the impending retirement of two of the city’s public radio icons.

Overnights first: the abrupt surprise of the week was the announcement on Wednesday that after 13 years in the midnight-5 AM slot on WBZ (1030), the “Steve LeVeille Broadcast” would be coming to an end after just two more shows…er, “broadcasts.”

LeVeille in the WBZ studio, 2011

For fans of the overnight slot (and this column counts itself unabashedly among that number, your editor having been an occasional guest as recently as last September), the news came as a stunner: it’s been just three and a half years since CBS pulled the plug on local talk at WBZ and several of its sister stations, installing the St. Louis-based “Overnight America” in place of the local LeVeille. An impassioned outcry from listeners and advertisers reversed the decision after just a few weeks, and LeVeille returned, triumphant, as the last remaining local overnight talk host in New England (and possibly the entire northeast, give or take the sports guys at New York’s WFAN.)

This time around, WBZ says the decision to leave, and to leave immediately, was entirely LeVeille’s. At age 57, with a newly-purchased summer home in Maine, LeVeille says he’s ready to settle down there year-round. At least for now, WBZ management seems eager to dispel any idea that LeVeille’s departure will open the door to syndicated programming overnight. After Steve’s final signoff early Friday morning, WBZ says the weekday overnight shifts will be filled on a rotating basis by interim hosts (presumably including weekender Jordan Rich and frequent LeVeille fill-ins Morgan White, Jr. and Bradley Jay) while a search is underway for a permanent successor. (“Overnight America” appears not to be a possibility, at least not immediately – it’s now airing across town on Greater Media’s WTKK 96.9.)

It will be hard for WBZ to match the skill set that LeVeille brought to the job: after a heritage of overnight talkers who started out as DJs (most notably Larry Glick and Bob Raleigh), LeVeille came to talk from the world of radio news. He began his career in 1977 at the old all-news WEEI (590), then moved up to the network level, working as an editor at ABC News Radio in New York and Monitor Radio in Boston (with on-air stints along the way doing news at stations such as WESO in Southbridge, WFTQ in Worcester and WECQ and WCSS in upstate New York). LeVeille came to WBZ in 1994 as a fill-in talk host, an important assignment in those days when evening host David Brudnoy was ailing. He became the permanent overnight host in 1999, when Raleigh retired – and in that slot, he brought a light-hearted style (complete with frequent kazoo interludes) that could quickly shift to serious news when the need arose. For an “all-news” station that has only a token newsroom presence in the evening and overnight hours, there’s a value to having a news veteran in the overnight talk chair: LeVeille’s show provided the only live coverage of several breaking overnight events, including a 2006 chemical-plant explosion in Danvers and the capture of Whitey Bulger.

*On TV, it’s the final week for iconic WNBC (Channel 4) anchor Sue Simmons, who winds down her 35-year run with the station on Friday. Earlier this year, Simmons was removed from the 5 PM newscast, leaving her last assignment at 11 PM with longtime on-air partner Chuck Scarborough; no replacement has been named yet for that slot.

*Speaking of “channel 4,” over-the-air TV viewers in NEW JERSEY and eastern PENNSYLVANIA may have noticed a new signal on the air last week, at least if they’re using an antenna that can get low-band VHF signals.

Licensed to Atlantic City, brand-new WACP (Channel 4) began testing its signal from the Waterford Works tower farm in Camden County that’s also home to NJTV public station WNJS (Channel 23). That gives it at least a fringe signal over much of Philadelphia – and it will entitle the new station to must-carry rights on Philadelphia-market cable TV as well, once owner Western Pacific Broadcast LLC begins regular programming.

Western Pacific is a subsidiary of tower company Richland Towers, which won the channel 4 permit at auction a couple of years ago. As longtime NERW readers may recall, the creation of that allocation was the result of a more audacious attempt at putting new TV signals in the Philadelphia and New York markets: New Jersey-based Press Communications applied to move two small existing VHF signals from small towns out west (Jackson, Wyoming and Ely, Nevada) to New Jersey and Delaware under an obscure provision of the FCC rules that mandated at least one commercial VHF television assignment in each state. (That rule was put in place in the 1980s to shift New York-licensed channel 9 to Secaucus, New Jersey, but “channel 9″ is now operating on UHF channel 38.)

The FCC eventually found an end-run around Press’ applications by instead creating two new VHF allocations: channel 4 at Atlantic City will serve Philadelphia, and a channel 5 in Seaford, Delaware will serve the Salisbury, Maryland market.

*While WACP makes its debut, another Garden State TV outlet is signing off: Friday marked the last local news broadcast at Trenton-based low-power station WZBN (Channel 25). For nearly 20 years, WZBN offered local TV news to a market that often found itself ignored by the bigger stations that sandwiched Trenton from Philadelphia and New York City.

WZBN’s recent sale to NRJ TV (a venture-capital group that’s widely believed to be investing in UHF TV spectrum for eventual sale to non-broadcast interests) meant the end of the newscast, putting anchor Mark Fontes and reporter Sibile Morency out of work.

*The biggest news from a quiet week in CANADA comes from Montreal, where Rogers’ impending purchase of ethnic/independent CJNT (Channel 62) comes with a change of imaging. After several years under Channel Zero’s ownership as “Metro 14″ (reflecting its cable channel position), CJNT has rebranded as “CityTV,” extending Rogers’ network brand eastward from Ontario. The Montreal version of “CityTV” differs considerably from its sisters to the west; while the City outlets in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia are English-language independents, CJNT is burdened by a CRTC license condition that requires much of its programming to serve ethnic communities. As a result, Rogers is also using CJNT to carry shows from its “Omni TV” ethnic channels, primarily CFMT/CJMT in Toronto. It’s still not clear what sort of local programming might arrive on CJNT once Rogers completes its purchase of the signal.
Five Years Ago: June 9, 2008 -

*CANADA's second-largest market is about to lose its second-largest English-language commercial news-talk station.

Corus' CINW (940 Montreal) has failed to make a dent in the ratings pretty much from its first day on the air back in 1999, when the former CIQC (600) relocated up the dial to the frequency formerly occupied by the CBC's CBM. The station launched as an all-news outlet, "940 News," in parallel to French-language CINF (690), but while the vibrant Francophone market supported an all-news entrant, Montreal's declining Anglo population remained locked to Standard's CJAD (800) and to the CBC.

Even after the all-news format gave way to a mix of news and talk as "940 Montreal," ratings and revenues failed to improve, and late on Friday Corus Quebec VP Mario Cecchini took to the airwaves to announce that, effective June 14, CINW will flip to oldies as "AM 940 - Montreal's Greatest Hits."

The move will put 18 people out of work at Corus.

In Peterborough, the last of the old CKPT (1420) towers came down last Monday, nearly 50 years after the four-tower array was built on Crowley Line just south of the city. The AM signal went dark for good on May 5, and two of the four towers came down a week early because of structural deterioration, reports the Peterborough Examiner.

Meanwhile, the station's FM replacement, CKPT-FM, moved up the dial from 99.3 to 99.7 last Monday, hoping to alleviate interference to the CBC's CBCP (98.7 Peterborough.)

On the TV side, CTVglobemedia is once again rebranding the "A-Channel" stations it acquired as part of its purchase of CHUM Ltd. Starting this fall, those stations (including CHRO -TV Pembroke/Ottawa, CKVR-TV Barrie, CFPL-TV London and CKNX-TV Wingham) will be known simply as "A." (Yes, they'll be competing against Global's "E!" stations, including CHCH-TV Hamilton; and, yes, we got a chuckle from the message-board wag who noted that, being Canadian and all, the stations should have rebranded as "Eh" Channel...)

*A veteran MASSACHUSETTS TV reporter is the latest departure from what's become a fast-spinning revolving door at CBS' WBZ-TV (Channel 4) in Boston.

Joe Bergantino, who's been the head of the station's "I-Team" investigative unit for most of his 22-year tenure there (in two stretches, one in the early eighties and again since 1991), took a buyout and departed at the end of May, two months after his I-Team producer was cut as part of the massive nationwide staffing reductions at CBS' owned-and-operated TV stations. Among Bergantino's accomplishments during his time at WBZ was breaking the first of the stories in the priest abuse scandal that tarnished the Boston archdiocese. It's not clear whether WBZ-TV will continue the I-Team with another reporter at the helm, nor does Bergantino have any immediate plans, though we're sure we haven't seen the last of him. (He's married to Candy Altman, vice president of news for Hearst-Argyle, which just happens to own WCVB, where his skills would make a nice fit.)

The end of May also brought farewells for two other WBZ veterans, arts reporter Joyce Kulhawik and anchor Scott Wahle, whose last assignment was on the 9 PM newscast WBZ produces for sister station WSBK (Channel 38).

Ten Years Ago: June 10, 2003 -

By itself, the news that WQDY (1230) in Calais, MAINE signed off for good and returned its license to the FCC at the end of May would be an interesting but not terribly unusual event. After all, the past two decades have seen a long parade of Maine AM stations move from graveyard channels to the radio graveyard. Fort Kent, Madawaska, Presque Isle, Houlton, Machias, Brewer, Belfast, Lincoln, Dover-Foxcroft, Auburn - the list goes on.

What makes this particular AM shutdown interesting, though, is the reason why it had to happen, what it says about the ownership-limit rules that were just tweaked by the FCC a week ago - and the fact that it puts one owner in control of pretty much every daily advertising opportunity in Washington County.

There's a back story here, of course, and it goes like this: back in March, Citadel, owner of WCRQ (102.9 Dennysville), applied to the FCC to sell the station to William McVicar (for $185,000, which has to be a record low for a full class C FM facility!) McVicar already owned WQDY, WQDY-FM (92.7 Calais) and a half-interest in WALZ (95.3 Machias), the other three commercial stations in Washington County. (There are two noncomms as well: Maine Public Radio's WMED 89.7 in Calais and high school station WSHD 91.7 in Eastport.) Under the FCC's interim market concentration rules, an owner in a small market like Calais was allowed to have an attributable interest in no more than half the stations in the market. In the transfer application for WCRQ, Citadel and McVicar told the Commission that there were six stations in the Calais market: WCRQ, WQDY, WQDY-FM and WALZ, as well as CHTD (98.1 St. Stephen NB) just across the water from Calais and CHSJ (700 Saint John NB), whose signal reaches down the Straits of Fundy from 100 or so miles away. By agreeing to put WQDY(AM) up for sale, McVicar claimed, his new cluster of WCRQ, WQDY-FM and WALZ would make up only three of six stations in the market.

There were just two problems with this scenario. First, no buyer turned up for WQDY(AM), which was no great surprise; would you want to compete with what promises to be such a dominant FM cluster, armed with only a pipsqueak AM signal? Second, as alert NERW readers may recall, is that CHSJ in Saint John hasn't been on the air at AM 700 for more than five years. The CHSJ calls and country format live on - but at 94.1 FM, on a signal that can just be heard in Calais and can't possibly count against any conceivable market definition there. (The duopoly map submitted with the application even acknowledged, with respect to CHSJ(AM), "FCC unsure of operational status." Too bad they don't read NERW - or at least admit that they do!)

So instead of McVicar's threesome making up half of a six-station market, they make up three of a four-station market - and that's being generous and including CHTD, which is aimed almost exclusively at the Canadian side of the border. And unlike the much-cited case of Minot, North Dakota, where Clear Channel took advantage of loopholes in the ownership rules to end up with six commercial radio stations (albeit with a daily newspaper, several TV stations, two commercially-licensed religious stations and a public radio outlet as competition), advertisers in Calais have no daily newspaper or local TV stations to use as leverage should the rates get too high at WQDY/WALZ/WCRQ.

Now, the saving grace here is that McVicar's not a bad owner. In fact, he's a very good owner. WQDY has long been one of the best small-town operations in NERW-land, with excellent coverage of local events and support of local causes. WCRQ, by contrast, was voicetracked from Citadel in Syracuse, and will no doubt become a much more local station under its new ownership. And if you go back less than a decade, there was no WCRQ (or CHTD), so the only option for Calais advertisers was...WQDY. (What's more, the new FCC market-definition rules will include noncommercial signals, so McVicar's stations really will become three of six, against CHTD, WMED and WSHD.)

What does it all prove? To quote one of the most experienced industry sages we know, "Radio is full of so many different sizes and types of stations and markets that it is impossible to come up with a truly fair and consistent set of rules to govern it."

As first hinted here on NERW a few months ago, there's an allocations shift in the works for upstate NEW YORK, and it involves WMJQ (105.5 Brockport). Right now, George Kimble's station is operating at low power with a directional antenna from one tower of WASB (1590 Brockport), whose religious and Spanish programming has been simulcast on the FM for a few years now. A CP to move to a taller tower a few miles north in the town of Hamlin has been stalled by local opposition. Now WMJQ has a new plan: an application to move down the dial to 104.9 and to move its transmitter site eastward, toward Rochester. From the new site in Ogden, alongside route 531, 104.9 would use 4900 watts at 111 meters above average terrain, which should put a much more respectable signal over the city than 105.5 currently does.

In Syracuse, WSTM (Channel 3/DTV 54) is becoming a duopoly, sort of: owner Raycom is buying WAWA-LP (Channel 14), the market's UPN affiliate. Expect WAWA to finally get Time Warner cable carriage as a result, replacing Boston's WSBK.

"Kiss" today goodbye in CANADA: Rogers made an abrupt format flip on CISS (92.5 Toronto) at 4 PM last Wednesday, ditching the dance top 40 of "Kiss 92.5" and replacing it with the latest hot format north of the border, the mixture of classic hits and current hot AC tunes known as "Jack FM." Already on the air at Rogers stations in Vancouver and Calgary, "Jack" has an interesting history that begins south of the border - Long Island, to be exact, where the format was conceived as a Webcast by New York air talents Bob "Cadillac Jack Garrett" Perry and Russ "Famous Amos!" DiBello. The format they created at www.jack.fm (where you can still hear it as a nice-sounding Webcast) was, shall we say, "borrowed" up north - but it's all legitimate now, and the Jack gang are looking to market their format to U.S. broadcasters as well.

Fifteen Years Ago: June 11, 1998 -

Just minutes after NERW went to press last week, CBS finally completed its $2.6 billion takeover of American Radio Systems, adding ARS' clusters in Buffalo (WLCE, WBLK, WJYE, WYRK, WECK), Rochester (WZNE, WCMF, WPXY, WRMM), Hartford (WTIC AM-FM, WZMX, WRCH) and Boston's WBMX (98.5) to its existing Northeast presence in Boston (WBZ, WZLX, WODS, WBCN, WBZ-TV) and New York City (WCBS AM-FM, WINS, WNEW, WXRK, WFAN). To satisfy FCC ownership limits, Boston's WNFT is in a trust awaiting sale; CBS is still required under a separate agreement with the Justice Department to sell WRKO, WEEI, WAAF, and WEGQ within six months. Despite persistent rumors of a Jacor Boston buy, there's no oficial announcement of a buyer so far. NERW notes that ARS' Rochester stations had the new "CBS" IDs on the air as early as 6:00 last Thursday night.

WBPS (890 Dedham) won't be Salem Media's newest property after all. Salem subsidiary New England Continental Media asked the FCC this week to dismiss its proposed purchase of the station.

News from the noncomms: WBIM (91.5 Bridgewater) and WSHL (91.3 Easton) will both stay on the air 24 hours a day again this summer, relaying the Talking Information Center's reading service for the blind. And WRPS (88.3) at Rockland High School is also going 24 hours, running an automated hot AC format when no students are around. WRPS is also now in stereo for the first time.

Mike Adams is leaving One-on-One Sports' WNRB (1510), ending his partnership with Jack Farrell. The former New England Cable News sports host is heading to WEEI (850).
Former WAAF (107.3 Worcester) afternoon jocks Opie & Anthony have found a new home, two months after they were fired for their April Fools' Day claim that the mayor of Boston was dead. Their new home, according to published reports? CBS's WNEW (102.7) in New York, where they'll do afternoon drive.

Less than a year after fire destroyed his radio station, WVIP (Mount Kisco) founder Martin Stone has died. Stone was hospitalized after watching AM 1310 burn to the ground last fall. He was 83 years old. The WVIP license remains active, but there's no sign that the station will return to the air.

Buffalo sports legend Van Miller did his last regular sportscast for WIVB (Channel 4) Friday night. Miller was with Channel 4 for an amazing 43 years; he stays on as the voice of the Buffalo Bills.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. The ticket price for that showing of “Corporate FM, etc” and the subsequent discussion is $85. Ithink I’ll pass.

  2. Actually, WDAS-AM 1480 in Philly had been running an R&B oldies format with Bobby Holiday in the morning and, prior to his passing, Butterball in the afternoon. That is the format smooth jazz is replacing on 1480. Also, 1480 has been simulcast on the HD2 of WDAS-FM 105.3 during that time period. Haven’t heard if they’ll run the 1480 signal over WISX-FM 106.1 HD2 or leave it at 105.3 HD2. 106.1 HD2’s where smooth jazz had been heard for a long time after it’s demise on 106.1’s main channel – even after GM picked up smooth jazz on 97.5. I would love it if they’d run 1480 over 106.1 HD2 and leave the R&B oldies on 105.3 HD2 as that was a preset of mine and I will surely miss it…

  3. Going back to your “Ten Years Ago June 10,2003” segment…As of a few weeks back, on my last visit to Calais, the WQDY AM tower was still standing, nearly 10 years after sign-off; located just around the corner from the WQDY/WCRQ studios on Main Street/US Route 1.

Comments are closed.