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In this week"s issue... WBAI on its last legs? - Translator threatened with silencing - Mike Addams retires from WMJX - Sinclair buys Dielectric - New signals in Canada

By SCOTT FYBUSH

wbai*For decades, one of the big "what-ifs" in NEW YORK radio was the future of two scarce full-market FM signals owned by noncommercial broadcasters serving extremely niche audiences. One of those two signals, the former Family Stations-owned WFME (94.7 Newark NJ), is out of the "what-if" game now, sold off to Cumulus and operating very, very commercially as "Nash FM" WNSH, complete with a new morning show that launched on Thursday.

But the other one, Pacifica"s WBAI (99.5 New York), is more than ably filling the "what-if" vacuum as it heads into yet another round of its ongoing financial crises. There"s plenty of misinformation floating around, and plenty of unanswered questions, but we"ll try to summarize what"s known so far - and what we don"t yet know about the future of this last stand-alone commercial channel on the dial.

  • Unpaid bills: We"ve known for several years now that WBAI"s finances were severely damaged by the decision to rent studio space on Wall Street in lower Manhattan at a reported cost of $300,000 annually. After struggling to keep paying the rent there, WBAI reached a settlement with its landlord last fall to exit the space while making lower payments (reportedly $2,000 per month) to settle up its debt. Just as Hurricane Sandy was making the space inaccessible and powerless anyway, WBAI left Wall Street for temporary studios shared with WHCR (90.3) in Harlem and temporary office space at World Financial Center. WBAI has now secured new studio space on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn for what"s reported to be about $4,500 a month, a much more sustainable sum - but it lacks the cash to build out that space and make the move. And then there"s the transmitter rent at the Empire State Building, due monthly to the tune of some $50,000. Each month for the last few months, making that payment has been a minor WBAI soap opera, tied to...
  • Struggling fund drives: Back in March, WBAI launched a $500,000 fundraising campaign to buy some much-needed time at Empire, where the rent had been in arrears earlier this year. Amidst the station"s growing disarray, though, that campaign appears to have stalled out short of the $400,000 mark. Meanwhile, that"s just one of several fundraising campaigns underway at WBAI: the station"s main May fundraising drive didn"t even get halfway to its $850,000 goal, forcing the drive to be extended and regular programming to be preempted. And WBAI"s fundraisers themselves are raising eyebrows, including at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting about the station"s failure to respond to queries about the length of the drives and some of the merchandise (including questionable medical products) being offered as premiums.
  • Payroll: For what"s left of WBAI"s already diminished staff, there"s no guarantee that paychecks will come this month, or that they"ll continue to come in the future. WBAI managers issued layoff notices to the entire staff last week, to take effect in mid-July, but that"s partially a legal requirement to avoid issues with the station"s union; it"s not at all clear who, if anyone, will actually be laid off come next month. In the absence of any official statements from WBAI management or the local station board, a Pacifica national board member, Tracy Rosenberg, outlined the current situation in a posting on the RadioSurvivor blog over the weekend. saying it"s still possible for WBAI to stabilize itself on a slimmed-down basis once it gets resettled in Brooklyn.

So what happens now with this struggling station? As long as it can keep coming up with that monthly transmitter rent, it appears WBAI will stay on the air in some form (though we"re not sure we put much stock in some of the suggestions that it might dispense with a local staffed studio entirely, instead feeding independently-produced programs to Pacifica headquarters in Berkeley to be sent directly back to the transmitter.)

As has been constant in WBAI"s long, colorful history, there"s no shortage of conflicting personalities with diverging agendas and axes to grind, and we"d caution against reading too much into some of the WBAI-related forums predicting the imminent death of the station. At the same time, there does appear to be a bit more of a death spiral to WBAI"s current crises than in the past, and rather less support in the offing from the national Pacifica organization, which holds the license and is itself strapped for funding as it tries to help another Pacifica outlet, Washington"s WPFW (89.3), find its own new home.

It"s Pacifica national that would ultimately decide whether to cash in on the value of the New York FM frequency to help the rest of its outlets survive - and that value is significant indeed, somewhere between the $40 million Cumulus paid for the former WFME (which transmits from New Jersey) and the $75 million CBS paid for what"s now WFAN-FM (101.9) from Empire.

Who"d be buying? Clear Channel is already at the market cap, and CBS would have to spin off an AM and overcome some market-concentration issues to add a fourth FM. Among the remaining commercial operators in town, that leaves Emmis (which has been doing more selling than buying lately) and Cumulus in English (as well as YMF Broadcasting, which itself appears to be in selling mode) and Spanish Broadcasting System and Univision Radio in Spanish. On the noncommercial side, there"s WNYC, which has two commercial-band FMs in town and has been seeking ways to improve the signal of its classical WQXR, now on a class B1 signal at 105.9. With any other broadcaster, it would be a slam-dunk move to swap the big 99.5 signal for the somewhat smaller 105.9 and a cash infusion that could keep WBAI alive for years to come...but this is, after all, WBAI. Stay tuned...

*Speaking of station sales, New York low-power signal WKOB-LD (Channel 42) is part of a $46.5 million deal that sends 52 low-power signals owned by Mako Communications and related companies to a wireless provider called Landover 5 LLC. In NERW-land, the deal also includes WZPA-LD (Channel 33) and WNAI-LP (Channel 41) in the Philadelphia market. The deal will likely result in WKOB and its sister stations exiting the broadcast business and freeing up their spectrum for wireless data services.

Dignitaries unveil the Armstrong plaque (photo: Scott Fybush/NERW)
Dignitaries unveil the Armstrong plaque (photo: Scott Fybush/NERW)

*It was Armstrong time in Yonkers on Monday, as admirers of the FM inventor (present company included) joined city officials and historians for the dedication of a long-overdue plaque honoring the great man.

Under a blazing sun, and broadcast live from across the river on WA2XMN, the Armstrong memorial station at 42.8 megacycles on your vintage FM dial, Yonkers mayor Mike Spano joined city councilors and Armstrong relatives to tell the Major"s story. Several family members spoke of the Major"s days living just across Warburton Avenue from the site at Hudson-Fulton Park where the plaque now sits, made possible by donations of more than $4,000. The money was raised by Steve Klose, a New Jersey man who knew of Armstrong first as a fellow motorcycle enthusiast, only later learning of his important place in the radio pantheon.

(More in a Radio World story from Tuesday...)

*In the Finger Lakes, the sparring between Saga Communications and the Finger Lakes Radio Group has been an ongoing story in this space: the Geneva-based Radio Group has fought fiercely against Saga"s use of multiple translators fed by HD subchannels to build its Ithaca cluster into a two-AM/seven-FM (soon to be eight-FM) operation, and Saga has fought back, trying to prevent the Radio Group from competing directly against it in Ithaca with WFIZ (95.5 Odessa).

WFIZ is the license formerly known as WFLR-FM, having moved a few years back from its longtime home at 95.9 in Dundee, 30 miles or so to the west - and that move was made possible in part by an FM translator that moved into Dundee to replace WFLR-FM"s service to Yates and Schuyler counties. But that translator, W245BL (96.9), ended up in Saga"s sights - and last week, the FCC rescinded its grant of a construction permit to move it from Branchport to Dundee. Why? Because Saga had made the case that the Radio Group (doing business in Dundee as Lake Country Broadcasting) had erred in claiming that the move of 96.9 to the WFLR (1570) tower wouldn"t cause any interference to Saga"s second-adjacent WYXL (97.3 Ithaca).

What happens now? It appears the 96.9 signal is still on the air for the moment, and we expect WFLR to file an amended application for the move pretty quickly - but in the meantime, it appears Saga has won this round.

*Back to Family Stations, mentioned earlier for its sell-off of WFME last year: we told you exclusively in our May 27 issue that the California-based chain of religious stations was about to get smaller, and now the deal with that "very large national religious broadcaster" has become reality. On Wednesday, Family filed to sell three of its signals, including Rochester rimshot WFRW (88.1 Webster), to EMF Broadcasting for $655,000.

familyradio2-smThe WFRW calls will stay with Family, as will the callsign of KIFR (88.3 Alice TX); the third signal in the deal is northern California"s KXBC (89.1 Garberville). In an unusual move for EMF, this is an all-cash deal. The WFRW sale will make the 88.1 signal a link in the "K-Love" contemporary Christian chain, filling a gap between WKDL (104.9 Brockport) to the west of Rochester and WGKV (101.7 Pulaski) to the north of Syracuse.

Bath-based Family Life Ministries (no relation to Family Stations) continues to shuffle its Rochester-area translators. In addition to an application earlier this month to boost Pinnacle Hill translator W234AZ (94.7) from 10 watts to 250 watts, Family Life has now applied to upgrade its west-side translator. W239BF (95.7) would relocate about 10 miles east to the WBEE (92.5) tower in Penfield, jumping its power up to the maximum of 250 watts and changing its input source to an HD subchannel of Entercom"s WBEE. NERW hears the 95.7 signal will end up in Entercom"s hands as part of a deal that will allow Family Life to use an HD subchannel of Entercom"s WBZA (98.9) to feed W234AZ and other translators.

*In Oswego, they"re mourning John Krauss, a longtime fixture at public radio WRVO (89.9). Krauss was the first voice heard on the station when it signed on as a 10-watter back in 1969, and he worked his way up through the ranks as morning host and news director before becoming general manager in the nineties. Krauss oversaw a huge regional expansion and a major studio move for the station before retiring in 2010. Krauss was just 64 when he died last Monday; funeral services were held on Saturday.

Down the road in Syracuse, Harvey Kojan is the new brand manager at Galaxy"s WTKW (99.5 Bridgeport)/WTKV (105.5 Oswego). Kojan is a former Radio and Records editor and has worked at WGRQ (97 Rock) in Buffalo and at Albany"s WQBK-FM (103.9) and WPYX (106.5) as well as at stations in Norfolk, Virginia and Baltimore.

North of Albany, Capital Media has taken WHAZ-FM (97.5 Hoosick Falls) silent while it works on a site move. WHAZ-FM tells the FCC that "in an otherwise amicable renegotiation of our transmitter site lease," things broke down and the station was told to immediately vacate its location on Mount Anthony in Bennington, VERMONT. The 97.5 signal will relocate to its former home in Grafton, New York, first via STA and then with a licensed move later on.

Up in the Adirondacks, the Smith and Fitzgerald Partnership (that would be Ben and Kevin, from northeast Pennsylvania) is coming up hard against the July 2 expiration of the CP for WNAK-FM (105.9 Indian Lake), which explains why they"ve filed to downgrade the CP from class C3 (8 kW/-96") to class A (590 watts/-202").

wvtt25In the Southern Tier, we"d reported a couple of months ago on the demise of local news at WVTT-CA (Channel 25) in Olean - and now the class A TV station has been sold. Colonial Media had been operating the news operation on WVTT-CA, which was tied in with its own WVTT (96.7 Portville), but it didn"t own the station. The owner was Charles Bordonaro"s Choice Tower Rental, which is selling WVTT-CA and sister station W20AB (Channel 20) to Bill and Paige Christian"s Malachi Media. They"re paying $125,000 for the station, which will join Christian"s existing TV and radio interests including Fox affiliate WYDC in Corning and MyNetwork affiliate WBGT-CA in Rochester.

It"s the end of the line for WUOW (88.5 Milford). After taking the station silent in May, owner SUNY Oneonta apparently decided not to try to sell that license, or its associated translator W217BY (91.3 Oneonta); instead, the stations have now returned their licenses to the FCC for cancellation, despite interest from several neighboring public broadcasters in purchasing those licenses.

Along the Delaware River, there"s a new noncommercial station reportedly on the air. WUUA (89.5 Glen Spey) just beat the June 16 expiration of its construction permit when its owner, the B. Stephen Demchuk Foundation, filed for a license to cover. (Had we known, we"d have checked the channel on our way downstate last week; there"s nothing we can find about any programming plans for the station.)

*In southeast PENNSYLVANIA, Hall Communications is getting ready to flip providers at WLPA (1490 Lancaster), which will drop Fox Sports on August 1 in favor of ESPN Radio. WLPA has been a Fox Sports outlet since 2005, when it dropped Sporting News Radio.

In Bloomsburg, Joe Reilly"s Columbia Broadcasting is seeking a power increase for its FM translator relaying WHLM (930). W282AP (104.3) presently runs 175 watts, but Joe"s applying to crank that up to a full 250 watts from the WHLM tower just south of I-80.

Mike Addams (photo: WMJX)
Mike Addams (photo: WMJX)

*In MASSACHUSETTS, Mike Addams has been waking up the Boston market for almost twenty years, but this week will be his last in the morning chair at Greater Media"s WMJX (106.7 Boston). The AC station announced last week that Addams will retire after Friday"s show. Addams" retirement wraps up a long career that"s included stints at WRKO (680), WHDH (850), the old WROR (98.5), WZOU (94.5) and WODS (103.3). There"s no word yet on who"ll replace Addams on "Magic."

Speaking of WRKO, it"s losing a midday voice: Boston radio veteran June Knight, who"s been co-hosting "The Financial Exchange" with Barry Armstrong, is headed south to take over middays at CBS country outlet WQYK-FM (99.5) in the Tampa market - where she"ll work just down the hall from another Boston vet, former WODS (103.3) middayer Paula Street, who"s now heard on classic hits WRBQ-FM (104.7 Tampa).

*One of MAINE"s big antenna makers has been saved from closing. The 57 employees at Raymond-based Dielectric were just days away from joblessness when Sinclair Broadcast Group stepped in with $5 million to buy the company from parent firm SPX Corp.

“The cost of Dielectric is insignificant. It’s a rounding error," said Sinclair CEO David Smith in a, explaining that most of Sinclair"s TV stations use Dielectric antennas, including a station in Richmond, Virginia that suffered a lightning hit just as Dielectric was shutting down.

“This was an insurance policy for us," Smith said. "I now know if I get hit under any circumstance, I own all the intellectual property involved in creating any replacement parts for anything I own.”

This is Sinclair"s second big venture into the equipment business: in 2009, it shut down manufacturing at transmitter maker Acrodyne, though Sinclair continues to run an Acrodyne support operation for the large installed base of transmitters at Sinclair stations.

*In Augusta, Blueberry Broadcasting is taking WFAU (1280 Gardiner) silent on July 1, at least temporarily. The sports station has been stuck in nighttime directional mode since last October, and Blueberry tells the FCC the estimates it"s received to fix the switching system and return the station to normal operation have been "prohibitive" and that "alternative measures are being explored."

Meanwhile, Blueberry signed a deal last week to move University of Maine hockey and football to two of its biggest signals, WVOM-FM 103.9 Howland/WVQM 101.3 Augusta, as well as WVOM 1450 in Rockland. The games had aired on Blueberry"s WAEI 97.1 in Bangor and WKSQ 94.5 in Ellsworth last year. Learfield, which holds rights to Black Bear sports, also placed UMaine basketball and baseball on Dan Priestly"s WGUY 1230 and its FM translator at 94.1 in the Bangor market.

cihi-up*Another AM signal is coming to CANADA"s largest Francophone market. The CRTC has granted the Tietolman-Tetreault-Pancholy application for a new French-language sports station to operate at 850 on the dial, the frequency pioneered by Paul Tietolman"s father Jack in the old CKVL days. The new 850 will operate from a site on Ile-Perrot, west of Montreal, running 50 kW by day and 22 kW at night. The new 850 will join two more as-yet-unbuilt TTP stations, an English-language news-talker at 600 and a French-language news-talker at 940 on the dial.

It"s the end of a long morning run at Radio-Canada (or is that "Ici"?)"s Montreal outlet, CBF (95.1), where René Homier-Roy signed off last week after 15 years as host of the local morning show, C"est bien meilleur le matin. Marie-France Bazzo succeeds Homier-Roy as host.

In New Brunswick, Newcap debuts its new CIHI (93.1 Fredericton) this morning, launching at 7 AM with adult contemporary as "Up! 93.1," a sister to top-40 "Hot 92.3" (CFRK).

*In NERW-land at least, summer weather is taking its time getting here. At least we can all comfort ourselves by looking at the sunny pictures in the summer months of our 2013 calendar -- and the sunny months from spring, too.

Aren"t you glad you have your calendar to look at? What? You haven"t ordered it yet? What are you waiting for? Even if June isn"t bustin" out all over outside, it is in our Tower Site Calendar 2013, now on sale at half price! The 12-month wall calendar boasts a full-color photo each month of a well-known broadcast transmitter site. This edition includes sites in Florida, Wisconsin, Kentucky, California, Iowa, Idaho, Las Vegas, Colorado, Boston, Cleveland, Albuquerque, upstate New York and western Massachusetts.

We"ve redesigned the calendar to add more color (don"t worry; the pictures are still pristine) and made the spiral binding standard -- it hangs even better on your wall now!

Of course, we still have the convenient hole for hanging. When you order the calendar, be sure to check out our other merchandise, including a scale model of the KSAN-AM radio tower.

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

*In the long history of Boston radio, there have been plenty of juicy rivalries: WBCN and WCOZ, WRKO and WMEX, WEEI and the Sports Hub…and increasingly, the public radio news/talk battle between WBUR-FM (90.9) and WGBH (89.7) appears to be poised to join those ranks.

In 2010, WGBH shifted its classical music programming to sister station WCRB (99.5 Lowell) in order to take its daytime hours to news and talk, and now 89.7 is following suit in the evening as well. Sometime later this summer, Eric Jackson’s long-running evening jazz show (formerly known as “Eric in the Evening”) will be cut back from four nights a week to three, shifting from 8 PM to midnight on Monday through Thursday to  9 PM to midnight on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and knocking another WGBH veteran, Friday night jazz host Steve Schwartz, off the schedule completely.

Beginning July 2, WGBH will also rearrange its daytime schedule, taking away live clearances of the “Takeaway” morning show (a co-production of WGBH and New York’s WNYC) at 6 and 9 AM and replacing them with two more hours of NPR’s “Morning Edition.” Diane Rehm’s Washington-based show will be cut back to a one-hour clearance from 10-11 AM, with an hour of “The Takeaway” running on delay at 11. “Tell Me More” replaces “Fresh Air” at 2 PM, eliminating a bit of duplication with WBUR (which carries the show at 1 PM), and the replay of “The World” (a WGBH/BBC co-production that airs live at 3 PM) will shift from 6-7 PM to 8-9 PM, replaced by an additional hour of “All Things Considered.”

The other big change will come in WGBH’s locally-produced talk block from noon-2 PM, now divided into separate shows hosted by Callie Crossley and EmilyRooney. Those hours will be joined together into a new news-and-talk block called “Boston Public Radio,” with Crossley as its principal host, and it will be replayed from 9-11 PM Monday-Thursday while WBUR is running the CBC’s “Q” and a delayed hour of Diane Rehm. (Is it too much to hope that the public radio rivals could at least coordinate their carriage of Rehm’s show so that WBUR picks up the second hour that WGBH is dropping?)

To nobody’s great surprise, the impending WGBH schedule change is prompting an outcry from jazz fans; both Jackson and Schwartz have devoted followings, and Boston has remained a fairly loyal market for jazz even as public stations in other markets have succumbed to the financial lure of a more lucrative news-talk lineup.

But those stations, for the most part, haven’t been the second entrant in the format; indeed, we’re hard-pressed to think of any other big market where two public radio news-talkers are squaring off so directly against each other with such similar market coverage and equally large budgets. (In San Francisco, scrappy little KALW 91.7 competes with behemoth KQED 88.5, but KALW focuses much more tightly on the city while KQED covers a huge swath of northern California, for instance.)

Is there room in Boston for two huge public radio players to both succeed with news, especially with commercial WBZ (1030) going after much of the same audience? WBUR’s not backing down – and for now, it appears WGBH isn’t, either.

As for jazz fans, if they haven’t already tapped into the wealth of jazz programming available around the clock via streaming and on-demand audio, there’s still the daily jazz block on Harvard-affiliated WHRB (95.3 Cambridge) and rimshot reception of Worcester-based WICN (90.5)…and WGBH’s weekend offerings, for as long as they survive.

*As John Garabedian gets ready to take over Nassau’s Cape Cod stations, there’s further evidence that he’s not planning to keep the “Frank” adult hits simulcast going on both WFQR (93.5 Harwich Port) and WFRQ (101.1 Mashpee) – but it looks like the 101.1 half of the simulcast, which has a pending application to move its transmitter to Hyannis to cover most of the mid-Cape, will be the signal that keeps “Frank.” Down at 93.5, WFQR has requested new calls “WHYA” (And, yes, we’re ever so slightly disappointed that Garabedian doesn’t have the opportunity to put the “WGTF” calls back on the 93.5 frequency, which he put on the air in the 1970s from Nantucket. The WGTF calls are now in use on a religious station down South, and in any event today’s 93.5 isn’t a direct descendant of the old WGTF, which moved to 96.3 and is now Qantum’s WEII.)

*Why was CBS Radio keeping an AM-FM sports simulcast going in eastern PENNSYLVANIA after launching WIP-FM (94.1 Philadelphia) last year? The answer, we now know, is that the company had other sports plans for WIP’s legacy home at 610 on the AM dial.

Beginning January 2, 2013, it will be the new full-time home of “CBS Sports Radio,” a new joint venture between CBS and Cumulus. The new network will include both a 24-hour service (which will also replace ESPN Radio on Cumulus’ WHGB 1400 in Harrisburg and Yahoo! Sports on Cumulus’ WSKO 1260 up in Syracuse, New York) and hourly updates; much of the programming on the 24-hour service will be produced by CBS Radio’s growing roster of major-market all-sports stations, including WIP-FM, WFAN (660 New York), WBZ-FM (98.5 Boston) and KDKA-FM (93.7 Pittsburgh), all of which will also be clearing the hourly updates and presumably using the 24-hour service during the off hours that they now fill with content from Yahoo! Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and other sources. (There’s already speculation about whether the CBS offering, as well as the new NBC Sports Radio from Dial Global, will end up killing off one or more of the weaker existing players in the sports network arena.)

The move is also likely to prompt renewed speculation about an FM move for WFAN: using the huge 660 signal to clear the CBS Sports Radio network programming would be a big vote of confidence as CBS and Cumulus seek to get more national clearance for the upstart network, and the combination of national on 660 and local on 92.3 just might give CBS and WFAN a potent one-two punch against ESPN Radio’s WEPN-FM (98.7), as well as two sports signals on which to clear play-by-play conflicts.

While we’re speculating: one can easily wonder where else Cumulus might end up clearing the CBS Sports Radio programming – it would seem to be a natural fit, for instance, for a secondary signal such as WPRV (790) in Providence, where WBZ-FM already has fringe listeners.

(And one more small note about CBS Radio’s announcement – the new sports service will also clear on the company’s little AM signal at 1660 in Charlotte, North Carolina, which wouldn’t be worthy of note in NERW, except that the 1660 facility there is where the legendary WBCN calls have been parked since leaving Boston in 2009.)

*Today is moving day for Rush Limbaugh in Philadelphia: he starts in the noon-3 PM slot at Merlin’s WWIQ (106.9 Camden NJ) after many years on CBS Radio’s WPHT (1210), and Rush isn’t the only new voice on “IQ 106.9″: the talk upstart is also adding Cumulus’ Mark Levin in evenings, beginning July 2.

*On the Philly TV dial, ABC’s WPVI-TV (Channel 6) has been missing for many over-the-air viewers since moving from its interim UHF slot (RF 64) back to low-band VHF when analog TV signed off in 2009. With just 7560 watts of digital power, the original WPVI-TV digital 6 facility quickly gave way to a bigger 30.2 kW signal – and now “6ABC” is trying again to reach more viewers with an application to crank its digital power all the way to 62.9 kW. Because of differences in the way DTV power is measured compared to the old analog signals (peak power instead of average power), that’s roughly the equivalent of 180 kW of analog power, more than twice the 74 kW WPVI ran in the analog days, but WPVI says it needs the extra power to overcome the disadvantages of low-band VHF, which turns out not to work well at all for digital TV.

(To be technical about it, it’s not really the transmission of l0w-band VHF that’s a problem in the digital universe; it’s the receiving antennas out there that often turn out to barely be designed for any VHF at all, never mind the six-meter wavelengths of low-band channels 2 through 6.)

In order to get its extra power, WPVI had to cut a deal with the other legacy channel 6 in the region, Schenectady’s WRGB, which has also cranked up its power all the way from 4640 watts to 30.2 kW and may yet go higher.

Five Years Ago: June 23, 2008

*It was a bad week for Cumulus" WRKI (95.1 Brookfield CT), after a lightning hit on the station"s tower knocked its main signal off the air last Saturday (June 14).Photos of the fire were the talk of the engineering community early last week, as the experts pored over the shots of flames erupting from the top of the tower and speculated on what happened. The answer, as it turns out, was a melting radome on the lower bay of the station"s two-bay ERI rototiller antenna, and the result was a damaged antenna and a silent station.

WRKI was back on the air at reduced power by Saturday night, and many listeners never even noticed the outage, since classic rock "I-95" reaches the southern half of its Fairfield County listenership by way of on-channel booster signals in Bridgeport and Norwalk. Unaffected by the lightning strike, those signals stayed on the air at full power - and we hear reception was actually a little better than usual in Stamford, where the boosters and the main signal usually interfere a bit with each other.

Also silenced, at least briefly, was sister station WPUT (1510 Putnam NY), which has its studio-transmitter link on the tower. It was back on the air early last week, and WRKI returned to full power at week"s end with a new antenna and transmission line.

Alert readers may note that this is the second such burning FM radome in southwestern Connecticut in less than a year - last September, the antenna of WCTZ (96.7 Stamford) took a lightning hit and caught on fire as well.

*Emmis has picked a PD for its New York rock outlet, WRXP (101.9). Leslie Fram comes north from Atlanta, where she"s spent the last 17 years at Cumulus" WNNX (99.7 Atlanta), the last ten as PD before its "99X" modern rock format was moved off to an HD2 subchannel earlier this year. At WRXP, she replaces Blake Lawrence, the last remaining holdover from the station"s previous existence as smooth jazz WQCD.

Are the star personalities at CBS Radio"s top-billing sports station, WFAN (660 New York) on the way out the door - or just looking for some love at contract-renewal time? Sunday"s Newsday carried an article speculating that Mike Francesa and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo may have done their last show together on WFAN. They"ve been taking alternating vacations, and they"re next scheduled to be together on July 11. Their contract renewal comes at a challenging time for WFAN: not only is the station still recovering from the loss of Don Imus and his sizable ad revenue last year, but another WFAN cash cow - the New York Mets - are in the last year of their contract with WFAN, which has been their home ever since the station signed on in 1987. (On the other hand, given the general haplessness of the Mets this year, perhaps the team isn"t in the best position for contract renewal either?)

The Sacramento-based religious broadcaster EMF is expanding yet again. Apparently not content with two networks that now boast nearly coast-to-coast reach, EMF last week flipped several of its "K-Love" and "Air 1" outlets in areas with overlapping signals to a new Christian country/southern gospel service it"s calling "God"s Country."

One of the new network"s first affiliates is in central New York, where EMF"s purchase of several stations from Galaxy last year gave it duplicating Utica coverage for "K-Love." While the flagship network remains in place on WKVU (100.7 Utica), former simulcast WOKR (93.5 Remsen) is now one of about half a dozen "God"s Country" outlets. At least when we heard it over the weekend, the new network was running automated, unlike the live talent on K-Love.

Is this just a test market for EMF, or could the ambitious broadcaster, whose recent purchases have suggested almost limitless financial resources, be thinking about another round of station acquisitions to bring "God"s Country" to more listeners?

(2013 update: "God"s Country" turned out to be a non-EMF service leasing some excess EMF signals, and it was gone within a few years.)

*A big PD vacancy in MASSACHUSETTS has been filled: Mike Thomas, who"s already PD of WZLX (100.7 Boston), adds the same duties at sister station WBCN (104.1 Boston), where Dave Wellington exited a week ago. And while we have no doubt Thomas will do a fine job at WBCN, we can"t help but think back to those days, a little over a decade ago, when what was then Infinity brought longtime competitors WBCN and WZLX under the same ownership. Mel Karmazin was running the group then, and he vowed that the stations would be kept strictly separate - different staffs, separate studios and all that. Progress marches on!Across town at WHDH-TV (Channel 7), it"s the end of the line for general manager Randi Goldklank. She was suspended after that bizarre incident in April at Logan International Airport in which she was accused of drunkenly threatening several police officers; now she"s entered a plea deal to charges stemming from that incident, and has resigned from WHDH. Former Channel 7 VP/GM Mike Carson continues to fill that post on an interim basis.

*A PENNSYLVANIA newsman has resigned after accidentally carrying a loaded weapon into a courthouse. KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh) reporter Rob Milford was suspended after the incident last Monday, when he says he forgot that the gun was in his briefcase when he went through security at the Allegheny County Courthouse. But Milford also lacked a license to carry a concealed weapon, and by week"s end he and KDKA had "come to a mutual agreement" on his departure.

Across town at KQV (1410 Pittsburgh), they"re mourning anchor Steve Lohle, who suffered a fatal heart attack at his Beaver County home Friday morning. Lohle"s radio roots were in Massachusetts, where he started his career in the late sixties at WQRC (99.9 Barnstable), then moved to Springfield"s WMAS (1450)/WHVY (94.7). He came to KQV in 1974 and had been there ever since. Lohle was just 58.

*Yet another AM station in CANADA is applying to vacate the band. CKDH (900 Amherst) is one of only a half-dozen or so AM signals remaining in Nova Scotia, and now it, too, wants to make the move to FM. It"s applying to go to 101.7, reports the Halifax Chronicle-Herald; we"ll have technical details for you once the CRTC releases them.

We can now clarify some of the callsign confusion surrounding Moses Znaimer"s classical signals in Toronto and Cobourg, Ontario: after initially applying to flip CFMX-FM (103.1 Cobourg) and CFMX-FM-1 (96.3 Toronto) to CFMZ and CFMZ-FM-1, respectively, then rescinding those new calls, they"ve settled on CFMZ for the Toronto signal and CFMX for Cobourg, reflecting the increasing split in programming between the two signals.

On the TV side, CKXT (Sun TV) has been granted permission to shift its Ottawa DTV signal from channel 62 to channel 20, sharing an antenna with TVOntario.

Ten Years Ago: June 23, 2003

Nobody ever said working in radio was a stable career path - but last week was a particularly treacherous one for radio people all over NERW-land.

We"ll start in NEW YORK, where WCBS-FM (101.1) broke even more dramatically from its long run as "WABC, Continued" - by parting ways with Dan Ingram. The WABC veteran had spent the last 12 years doing weekends on WCBS-FM - but when CBS-FM PD Joe McCoy came to him and asked him to give up the Saturday half of his shift to Dan Daniel, Ingram said no, and CBS-FM said "sayonara."

But if Ingram"s crying in his "Tri-Fi Drums," he"ll have plenty of company this week. Out on Long Island, talker WLIE (540 Islip) had some cost-cutting to do as well, axing Lynn Samuels from its weekend schedule - and, says Samuels on her Web site - cutting morning news anchor Tracy Burgess and midday talk host John Gomez from its schedule as well.

But wait - there"s more. Over at Barnstable Broadcasting"s Long Island cluster, operations manager Bill George was shown the door amidst a staff shuffle that moved Bill Edwards (longtime PD of WALK) from afternoons on WLVG (96.1 Center Moriches) to PD/afternoons on "K-JOY" WKJY (98.3 Hempstead), replacing Scott Miller - who heads out to WLVG for afternoons.

Still more? If you"re a fan of shock talk radio, there is: WABC (770) pulled Michael Savage"s Talk Radio Network show off its evening schedule, apparently as part of a dispute between Savage and ABC that began when ABC"s KSFO (560 San Francisco) declined to meet Savage"s contract renewal demands. Weekend guy Mark Levin is filling in on WABC"s evening shift.

Up here in Rochester, we hear morning team Karlson & McKenzie cleaned out their desks at Infinity"s WZNE (94.1 Brighton) on Friday; all mention of them has been purged from "The Zone""s Web site, and you won"t find any mention of WZNE on K&M"s site, either. Could this have something to do with the noises the boys were making in the trades about syndicating their show? Stay tuned... (and yes, Boston readers - same Karlson & McKenzie who were on WEGQ for a little while in the nineties.)

Speaking of Rochester, WWWG (1460) has applied for new call letters when it flips to Catholic religious programming in a week or so. "WHIC" will be the new calls, and we"ve got to wonder whether that isn"t a backhanded homage to the station"s first 47 years on the air as WHEC...

Big doings in CANADA: Rogers is moving the "Mad Dog and Billie" morning show, last heard on CISS (92.5 Toronto) when it was still "Kiss," up the dial to CHFI (98.1), which gets a slightly harder musical edge as well.

And yes, that means more personnel changes: CHFI"s morning team of Bob Magee and Erin Davis splits up, with Magee (who did the CHFI show solo last week) moving over to CISS under its new "Jack" identity and Davis being shown the door. On her Weblog, Davis says she"s taking some time off and visiting family in British Columbia while figuring out what to do next.

Fifteen Years Ago: June 23, 1998 -

(No issue; NERW was on the road to Atlantic Canada)

5 COMMENTS

    • It is now – but back in the day when he worked there, it was WGRQ. They lost those calls when they (stupidly) flipped the station to soft rock as WRLT in the late 1980s, and by the time they reclaimed their “97Rock” heritage a few years later, the WGRQ calls had been snapped up down there in Virginia.

  1. Once in a while, I check out Bostopn’s WRKO-AM 680 NOT to listen to its own talk shows or the syndicated ones, but to check out the commercials they run. After the Rush Limbaugh dustup a year ago, there were stories to the effect that major national advertisers were shying away from issues-oriented talk station regardless of the nature of that talk. Now a year later, WRKO seems to be bereft of the big-box retailers, insurance comanies and car makers listed as being the most frequent advertisers on radio at places like allaccess.com. Instead, WRKO seems to feature a lot of investment firms claiming to be able to beat the market, and a variety of non-prescription nostrums for a variety of conditions. The link to the CPB in your story focused on such items as “premiums” offered to contributors. Since there’s no such thing as the “radio beat” at Boston newspapers any more, there’s nobody to look into this.

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