In this week's issue... CRTC okays Bell-Astral merger - Galaxy restructures, spins one FM - Bruce Bradley, RIP - WBZ picks overnight host - NJ FM changes channels
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*What North American nation has the most consolidated mass media? There's now a very good case to be made for CANADA, where regulators on Thursday approved Bell's second attempt to swallow Astral Media, creating a media mammoth that includes the nation's largest satellite TV provider, the nation's largest English-language commercial TV network, one of the biggest radio groups in the nation, as well as a large roster of cable networks. (And, oh yeah, a phone company, too.)
As you'll recall, the CRTC turned down Bell's first attempt at the C$3.4 billion deal last fall, citing concerns about too much concentration, especially where pay TV is concerned. The revised version of the deal requires Bell to spin off several additional cable networks to bring it down to about 22 percent of the French TV market (still a huge increase from Bell's present status) and about 35 percent of the English TV market.
On the broadcast side, little has changed in the second version of the deal: Bell will still spin off ten radio stations, including CHBM (97.3 Boom FM) and CFXJ (93.5 Flow FM) in Toronto and CJOT (99.7 Boom FM) and CKQB (106.9 the Bear) in Ottawa. But the merged entity will still bring together a solid Toronto cluster with Astral's clusters in surrounding southern Ontario markets including Hamilton and St. Catharines, and it will bring Bell into the Maritime provinces in a bigger way.
Perhaps most significantly, the CRTC decided to allow Bell to keep CKGM (690 Montreal) alongside the three English-language stations (CJAD 800, CJFM 95.9 and CHOM 97.7) and two French-language stations (CKMF 94.3 and CITE 107.3) it's acquiring from Astral. Canadian market caps would have limited Bell to only three stations in a market the size of the Montreal Anglophone market, but Bell persuaded the CRTC that owning a fourth station would allow it to keep CKGM's specialty sports talk format alive. As a consequence, Bell must retain the current "TSN Radio 690" format on CKGM for the next seven years. (The only other independently-owned English commercial station in Montreal for now is Cogeco's CKBE 92.5, though it's expected to be joined by a new talk station on 600 owned by the TTP group later this year.)
The deal is expected to close by next Friday, and an auction is already underway for the radio stations and pay TV networks that must be spun off. It's widely expected that rival broadcast/cable player Cogeco will be a leading bidder, and of course we'll keep you posted as it develops.
*In MASSACHUSETTS - not to mention the proverbial "38 states and half of Canada" that can hear WBZ (1030 Boston) at night - it's been just over a year since Steve LeVeille departed the weekday overnight shift, leaving a slot that's been filled by a rotating cast of part-timers including former WRKO (680) host Jen Brien and WBZ'ers Bradley Jay and Morgan White Jr.
The slot once filled by Larry Glick, Dave Maynard, Bob Raleigh and LeVeille is officially vacant no more: as of last Thursday morning, it's now Jen Brien's full-time home from midnight until 5 AM. While Brien's being widely billed as the first woman to hold down a full-time talk shift in WBZ's history, that's not quite true: veteran Boston broadcaster Janet Jeghelian filled the overnight shift at one point as well, though she's much better remembered for her years at WRKO.
Brien's selection as the full-time host brought LeVeille back to the WBZ airwaves for the first time in a year, making a ten-minute appearance by phone to pass the crown, figuratively speaking, to his successor. (LeVeille insisted, however, that he and Brien are simply keeping the "Larry Glick Show" alive.) Don't expect him back as a fill-in, though: he tells NERW that his new life in Maine has him "happy as a clam, fried, steamed or otherwise," and that he's keeping himself very busy writing and enjoying the beach.
Brien joins a most exclusive club: by our count, there are only a handful of local, all-night talk shows still on the air anywhere in the country. Remarkably, there are none anywhere else in New England; even more remarkably, unless you count the sports talkers at WFAN and WEPN, there are none in New York City, either.
As for the other rotating hosts, Jay will continue to be heard on weekends on WBZ as well as on CBS Radio sister station WZLX (100.7), while White will make occasional appearances and do fill-in shifts for Brien.
(And a bit of useless trivia we never knew about trivia expert White: his son is a broadcaster, too: Evan White works right here in Rochester as a reporter and fill-in anchor at WHAM-TV 13, and somehow we've missed the family connection all this time.)
*Long before LeVeille or Brien or even Larry Glick made a home behind the microphone at WBZ, there was Bruce Bradley, one of the legends of the station's top-40 era in the 1960s and 1970s. Bradley's career at WBZ actually began before the music began rocking; his arrival on the evening shift in 1960 was one of the catalysts for the station's shift to top-40, where Bradley became a key part of "The Greatest Air Show on Earth" alongside legends such as Maynard, Dick Summer, Jay Dunn and Ron Landry. (Summer would later describe Bradley as "the most talented guy I ever worked with.")
Bradley, who died June 22 in Missouri, came to WBZ from WROW (590) in Albany, and he went on to stints at WCAU (1210) in Philadelphia and then at WHN (1050), WNEW (1130) and most famously WYNY (97.1) in New York, as well as a return to WBZ, before heading west and becoming a star talker at KMOX (1120) in St. Louis in the mid-1980s. After leaving KMOX, Bradley did shorter stints at WIBV (1260) and KTRS (550) in the St. Louis market and then retired to Las Vegas before returning to St. Louis in recent years.
*We now know what Alex Langer has in mind for his relocated WMSX (1410): assuming the FCC grants the station's proposed move from Brockton to a new city of license of Dedham (and a new Readville transmitter site that will be the only AM facility within Boston city limits), WMSX will join Langer's WSRO (650 Ashland) in programming to the region's Portuguese-speaking communities. For WSRO, of course, that means super-serving the very fast-growing Brazilian population in and around Framingham; WMSX will serve a more spread-out community that includes plenty of Azoreans and Cape Verdeans. The station plans to hire a Boston-based staff of three to augment the programming coming from WSRO's Framingham studio.
*On Cape Cod, Kim Lucas moves from promotions director to content director at Cape Cod Broadcasting's WQRC (99.9), WKPE (103.9), WOCN (104.7) and WFCC (107.5). Lucas will be responsible for digital content at the cluster, which also operates CapeCod.com and the World Classical Network.
*TV People on the Move: Eric Fisher is moving from the Weather Channel in Atlanta to Boston's WBZ-TV (Channel 4), where he'll take over as chief meteorologist in August, appearing on the 5, 6 and 11 PM newscasts on channel 4 and the 10 PM newscast on WSBK (Channel 38). Fisher's roots are in New England, where he started his career at Springfield's WGGB (Channel 40) and then did weekends at Boston's WFXT (Channel 25). Fisher's return to Boston displaces Todd Gutner, who moves to mornings, in turn sending veteran meteorologist Barry Burbank to weekend mornings.
*In RHODE ISLAND, Rhonda Lapham's been promoted to market manager at Clear Channel Providence, moving up from general sales manager. Lapham will be the first local market manager for the cluster in about two years, taking over from Mary Menna, who continues to oversee the Boston cluster.
*It's been two months since Saga flipped its southern MAINE classic hits station, WYNZ (100.9 South Portland), from "Big Hits Y100" to "Rewind" - and two months since the station's airstaff was heard from. That changes this morning, when longtime host Chuck Igo returns to the airwaves. Welcome back, Chuck!
*A familiar western PENNSYLVANIA callsign is coming back to the airwaves. The WZUM calls went away in May when the long-silent AM 1590 in the Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie finally had its license cancelled, but on Wednesday the former WLFP (1550 Reserve Township) picked up the WZUM callsign. The station's new owner, AM Guys LLC, has had the 1550 frequency silent for a few days while it rebuilds the studio. What will it be programming when it returns to the air? Stay tuned...
As the former Pennsylvania College of Technology station changes hands to the Williamsport Lycoming Broadcast Foundation, it's applying to move from the college to a tower on the roof of the Market Street building that houses the foundation - and quasi-sister station WLYC (1050), whose translator W281AR (104.1) is also on the roof. WPTC's move will come with only a slight change in facilities, from its present 490 watts/-310' to 500 watts/-310'.
In the Hanover area, there's word that Four Rivers Community Broadcasting is now on the air with its "Word FM" programming on new WZXY (90.7 Spring Grove).
*Radio People on the Move in Philadelphia: Radio One's WRNB (100.3 Media) picks up Lady B as its new afternoon host. Down the hall at WPPZ (103.9 Jenkintown), Kyle Glover has been named music director.
The Philadelphia market's newest TV station is getting closer to reality. The former KJWY (Channel 2) from Jackson, Wyoming quietly changed calls to KJWP in March, ahead of its unusual cross-country move to a new city of license of Wilmington, Delaware. In a Wilmington News Journal article on Friday, owner Bob McAllan says the new station will provide local news for Delaware - but he also says the station will go for must-carry on cable around the Philadelphia market, which certainly feeds the suspicion that the new KJWP (if it's allowed to keep the "K" call when it moves) will follow the lead of other Delaware-licensed TV signals and focuses on serving Philadelphia instead. So far, PMCM LLC (an affiliate of McAllan's Press Communications) hasn't changed calls on its other cross-country move, KVNV (Channel 3), which is moving to New York City - er, Middletown Township, New Jersey.
Down the coast, there are some staffing changes at Coastal Broadcasting's Cape May stations: WCZT (98.7 Villas) PD Mark Hunter moves over to the music director chair at "The Coast," while Jim Maschio takes over as PD, keeping his existing PD gig down the hall at WJSE (106.3 North Cape May).
*One of the biggest independent broadcasters in upstate NEW YORK is restructuring its ownership and spinning off one signal. Galaxy Communications is led by Ed Levine, but its financing has come from the venture capitalists at Alta Communications. The deal filed last week at the FCC creates a new "Galaxy Communications LLC" (aka "Galaxy II"), still led by Levine but with about $10 million in debt now being held by Atalaya Special Opportunities Fund.
Because that constitutes a transfer of control, it ends the grandfathering that has allowed Galaxy to control eight stations (WTLA 1200 North Syracuse/WSGO 1440 Oswego, WKRL 100.9 North Syracuse/WKRH 106.5 Minetto, WTKW 99.5 Bridgeport/WTKV 105.5 Oswego, WZUN 102.1 Phoenix and WSCP 1070 Sandy Creek) in a market where current FCC ownership caps would allow it to own only seven stations. (In Utica, Galaxy's current holdings - sports trimulcast WIXT 1230 Little Falls/WTLB 1310 Utica/WRNY 1350 Rome, WKLL 94.9 Frankfort, WOUR 96.9 Utica and WUMX 102.5 Rome - are at the ownership cap.)
To remain under the caps, Galaxy will sell WZUN to a new group, "WZUN Communications LLC," for $1 million. That deal is being financed by none other than Atalaya, and the buyer is headed by Wayne Mack, who's based in Massachusetts and holds two TV licenses in Iowa and Wyoming. Will WZUN remain within the Walton Street studios in Syracuse? There's nothing in the transfer about any sort of shared-services agreement, but we wouldn't be surprised.
And there's another interesting wrinkle to this transaction: it may well free up Galaxy to complete a long-thwarted move of WTKV closer to Syracuse. Galaxy figured out long ago that it's possible, under the FCC's allocation rules, to change the city of license on 105.5 from Oswego to Granby, on the southern edge of Oswego County. Such a move would typically be followed by a site change that would then make 105.5 more of a Syracuse signal - but it was thwarted by an obscure provision in the FCC rules, "Note 4" of 73.3555. That little twist in the rules prohibits stations that are grandfathered above current ownership caps from changing communities of license, and that meant the dismissal of WTKV's 2004 application to move to Granby.
In 2006, the FCC denied Galaxy's application for a waiver of "Note 4," dismissing the Granby application. Galaxy appealed the dismissal, leading to a stalemate that's lingered at the Commission ever since. To help speed this deal through, Galaxy dropped that appeal last week - but we don't see any reason why a new Granby application might not be filed as soon as the sale of WZUN closes. Stay tuned...
*Here in Rochester, we now know a little more about Entercom's plans for W239BF (95.7), the translator it's acquiring from Family Life Ministries and moving to the transmitter site of WBEE-FM (92.5) on the east side of town. While the translator will officially relay WBEE's HD2, the HD2 will in turn be relaying ESPN Radio from WROC (950 Rochester), the little AM signal that struggles to reach the eastern and western edges of the county. Will that also lead to more local content on "ESPN Rochester" as it ups the ante in its competition against Clear Channel's WHTK (1280), which gave up its own FM relay last year?
*A follow-up to last week's story about the sale of Olean's WVTT-CA (Channel 25): even before taking over, incoming owner Bill Christian is already working on an upgrade. He's filed to move the station from analog channel 25 to a digital companion channel on RF 34.
Up in the Adirondacks, Smith & Fitzgerald wasted no time building out its lower-powered modified CP for WNAK-FM (105.9 Long Lake), which went on the air and filed for a license to cover last week.
In eastern Long Island, W219BA (91.7 Ridge) had been off the air since being displaced by new full-power station WEGQ (91.7 Quogue), but it's now back on a new channel. The translator of CONNECTICUT's WSHU-FM (91.1 Fairfield) has a CP to operate with 70 watts at 106.5 on the dial, and until it can get that new directional facility built, it's running under STA as a non-directional 8-watt signal.
*It's one crazy summer in NERW-land -- mid 60s one day, upper 80s the next; rain or threat of rain, clouds that look ominous and thunder and lightning that don't lead to anything. Wouldn't it be great if we could control the weather?
Until we learn how to do that, we can imagine whatever weather we want by turning to our favorite pages of the 2013 Tower Site Calendar.
What? You haven't ordered it yet? What are you waiting for?
This year's Tower Site Calendar is 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: July 2, 2012
*What was that we were saying just last week about the lack of high-profile rivalries in Boston radio? As of noon on Thursday. there’s a top-40 war underway on the airwaves of eastern MASSACHUSETTS, pitting two of the nation’s biggest broadcasters against each other at the expense of one of the city’s longest-running formats.
To listen to the final hours of WODS (103.3) as the clock ticked down to noon, you’d hardly have known that the station that CBS Radio launched as “Oldies 103″ back in 1987 had long since transitioned from 1950s and 1960s oldies to a ’70s/’80s-intensive classic hits format.
To its credit, CBS gave WODS’ staff the opportunity to say goodbye in the hours after the news broke on Wednesday afternoon that 103.3 would be flipping to top 40 as “AMP Radio.”
“I’m not closing the book, I’m just turning the page,” morning host Karen Blake told listeners during her final morning show on Thursday, thanking station management for their support, including the recent hiring of co-host John Laurenti.
In the station’s waning moments later Thursday morning, the WODS jocks who packed the studio – midday veteran Paula Street, “Elvis Only” host Jay Gordon and “Lost 45s” creator Barry Scott – took the station back to its roots, closing out with the same song that launched WODS back in 1987, the Beach Boys’ “Fun Fun Fun.” (Automation then took over for the last half-hour before the noon launch of the station’s new format, top-40 “AMP Radio,” and so technically the last song on the old WODS was actually “Last Dance” by Boston’s own Donna Summer.)
*In 1987, the biggest competition to WODS came from stations called WROR and WMJX, and that was still true (with some big twists along the way) a quarter-century later. The original WROR, the 98.5 station that had originated oldies on the Boston FM dial, had long since segued from AC to hot AC (as “Mix,” WBMX) and had become a CBS sister station to WODS, moving up the dial to 104.1. But the WROR callsign returned to the market on Greater Media’s 105.7, which made its own segue from oldies to a hit-heavy classic rock format occupying a tight demographic niche right between female-friendly WODS and another CBS sister station, male-leaning classic rocker WZLX (100.7). And the battle for older female listeners had become a tight one, too, with WODS complementing WBMX and both competing against the city’s established AC outlet, Greater Media’s WMJX (106.7), which has itself grown hotter in its music programming over the years.
Shifting 103.3 from older-skewing WODS to the much younger-skewing “AMP” is good news for Greater Media, which stands to pick up new listeners to both WROR and WMJX, but it probably didn’t come as very welcome news up at Clear Channel’s Medford-based cluster. Since 1994, when Pyramid Broadcasting bought WJMN (94.5) to bring it under common ownership with WXKS-FM (107.9), that cluster (which has passed from Pyramid to Capstar to Chancellor to AMFM to Clear Channel over the years) has effectively controlled top-40 listening in the Boston market, using urban-leaning “Jam’n 94.5″ to reach the youngest end of that demographic and allowing “Kiss 108″ to skew just a little bit older.
Being essentially the only game in town has also allowed Clear Channel to run its stations with relatively little live local content: middays on both Kiss and Jam’n are tracked from out of town, for instance, and the overnight shift on Kiss also comes from Los Angeles. After one glaring misstep in its opening montage (sorry, CBS, but nobody in Boston calls the place “Beantown”), the new “AMP” will be looking to use localism to define itself as it takes on the entrenched Clear Channel competition. In other markets where it’s launched new top-40 stations (New York’s “92.3 NOW” WXRK, for instance), CBS has tended toward more use of live, in-market talent, and it appears that will be the case in Boston, too; while AMP launches with a commercial-free jockless run through July 4, Boston market VP/programming Mike Thomas is already staffing up the new station. (Remember our mention last week that Joey Brooks was leaving CHUM-FM in Toronto to head home to Boston? It appears Brooks will be one of the first personalities on AMP.)
*No question about it, it’s sad to see such a long-running format as WODS disappear (among Boston’s commercial FMs, only WMJX and – ironically – Kiss 108 have been around longer.) But it’s also exciting to see a top-40 war in a city that hasn’t really had one in two decades – especially as we wait to see how Clear Channel responds to competition that’s hitting it at a challenging time. We still don’t know what Clear Channel has planned for its new acquisition on 101.7, the soon-to-be-former WFNX; could the end of WODS prompt a shift in plans to oldies on that signal, or could Clear Channel take 101.7 to straight-ahead hip-hop to try to solidify its dominance of that segment of the market?
For now, that’s all purely speculative, and we likely won’t know what’s coming to 101.7 until the Phoenix hands off the FM signal July 22 and moves “WFNX” to a webcast…a webcast, as it turns out, that will have some stiff competition of its own. That was the week’s other big Boston surprise, as the Boston Globe announced that it had hired several prominent former WFNX staffers to launch its own alternative-rock webcast via its boston.com platform. The Globe says the new webcast (going, for the moment, as “Radio BDC,” as in “Boston-Dot-Com”) will feature former WFNX jocks Henry Santoro, Julie Kramer and Adam 12, former WFNX program director Paul Driscoll, and operations and promotions director Mike Snow. No launch date has been set, but we’d be surprised indeed if it’s not ready to go right at the same time WFNX says farewell to FM.
(And two more quick notes about WODS before we move on: first, the WODS calls appear to be staying in place for now, just as “WXRK” did when New York’s 92.3 flipped from K-Rock to “NOW”. And second, as with so many big-market format shifts of late, CBS is keeping the WODS classic hits going via an HD-2 subchannel. That means the “Cove” soft AC format that had been on 103.3-HD2 is gone; it faded away unceremoniously at the end of the night last Wednesday.)
*We’re still gathering damage reports from the big storm that ripped its way across PENNSYLVANIA, NEW JERSEY and points west and south on Friday. While the worst of the damage was along a line that started in Indiana and then moved eastward into Virginia and Maryland, the storms knocked out power to much of the Jersey shore. Several Atlantic City-market stations were off the air over the weekend, including WMGM (103.7), but there’s no word (at least so far) of any more serious tower damage.
*The storms spared Wilkes-Barre, but over at Entercom top-40 WKRZ (98.5), there’s a storm of a different kind: morning co-host Sue Barre is departing the “Rocky & Sue Show” of her own volition to focus on her real-estate career, ending a 22-year run at the station. Sidekick Lissa takes over effective today as Rocky Rhodes’ co-host – but there’s also a vacancy in middays, where Kelly K’s job has been eliminated. (She was also WKRZ’s music director and assistant PD, and it doesn’t appear those jobs will be filled right away, either.)
And in Philadelphia, Zack Seward joins the news staff at WHYY (90.9) as an “innovation reporter,” a beat he helped develop as one of the inaugural members of the “Innovation Trail” reporting team in upstate New York, where he just wrapped up two years based at Rochester’s WXXI (1370). (Usual disclaimer applies: your editor is also a part-time member of the WXXI news staff, and will miss Zack greatly as he moves on to bigger things!)
*There’s a TV shakeup in NEW YORK City: after seven years as the co-anchor of WNYW (Fox 5)’s flagship 10 PM newscast, veteran anchor Ernie Anastos is being replaced on the late shift. Greg Kelly moves from “Good Day New York,” where he’s been anchoring from 7-10 AM, to take over for Anastos at 10 PM (alongside Dari Alexander) and for Harry Martin at 6 PM. Anastos will continue to co-anchor at 5 PM with Alexander, and Dave Price becomes the new 7-10 AM “Good Day New York” co-anchor.
*In an industry full of colorful inventors and entrepreneurs, Leonard Kahn made everyone else look black and white. Widely regarded as one of the most brilliant minds in broadcast engineering, Kahn made a name for himself in the 1970s and 1980s with the development of the Kahn-Hazeltine AM stereo system – and for the pitched legal battle that ensued between Kahn and rival system developers, earning Kahn a reputation as a tenacious defender (sometimes to his own defeat) of his ideas, patents and engineering principles.
From his Long Island laboratory, Kahn went on to develop the “Powerside” AM loudness-enhancement system, which was widely adopted in the 1980s, and the “CAM-D” digital AM broadcast system, the full details of which were never disclosed publicly. After the death in 2005 of his beloved wife Ruth, Kahn ended up living in a nursing home in Florida, where he died June 3 at age 86.
Five Years Ago: June 30 & July 7, 2008
*The last time PENNSYLVANIA DJ Bruce Bond found himself in court, it was 2002. Bond, an institution at Cumulus' WNNK (104.1 Harrisburg), had been cut loose from that station during a late-2001 format change, and when he returned to the airwaves the following spring on then-WRKZ (102.3 Carlisle), Bond was promptly sued by Cumulus for breaching his noncompete agreement.
Bond's new job on WRKZ ended in January 2004, and in the years since then he'd faded into obscurity - until last Thursday, anyway. That's when Bond was indicted in New York City, charged with 65 counts of forgery, attempted grand larceny and identity theft.
Prosecutors say Bond was part of a scheme in which he sent bogus corporate checks to people who had responded to "work-at-home" ads on Craigslist. The scheme apparently started early in 2007, and involved conspirators in Nigeria and Europe who received most of the money after the fraud victims cashed the phony checks. (Once the checks had been cashed and the money sent abroad, the victims found out the checks were bad, leaving them on the hook to their banks.)
Those overseas accomplices allegedly paid Bond $1,500 a week for his role, which prosecutors say involved printing the checks in his Manhattan apartment and mailing them. When Bond was arrested in May, investigators said they found check paper and printers in the apartment.
Bond's lawyers say he was just "a cog" in a much larger operation, but he's in deep legal trouble nonetheless. At his arraignment on Friday, Bond pleaded not guilty and was ordered held on $250,000 bond. He'll be back in court July 23.
In Shamokin, it's the end of the line for WISL (1480): after several years of silence, the station's license has finally been deleted from FCC records.
*There's a morning show change on the way in NEW YORK next month, as Emmis' WQHT (97.1 New York) parts ways with morning host Tarsha Jones, aka "Miss Jones."
Jones is scheduled to remain on the air this week to say goodbye to her New York listeners, but beginning July 21 her morning timeslot will be filled with two shows. From 5-7 AM, Hot 97 listeners will hear a local morning show hosted by WQHT swing jocks Cipha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg - and then, from 7-10 AM, they'll hear the Big Boy morning show from Emmis sister station KPWR (105.9) in Los Angeles.
Miss Jones will remain on the air on her Philadelphia affiliate, Radio One's WPHI (100.3 Media PA), moving production of her show to WPHI's studios in the Philadelphia suburb of Mequon beginning July 7. Speaking of WPHI, it's named a new assistant PD/music director, Johnnie Glover.
*There's a format change coming to northwest NEW JERSEY on Tuesday: Clear Channel will flip WNNJ (1360 Sussex) to ABC's True Oldies Channel, under new calls WTOC. (Those calls have long been in use in Savannah, Georgia on WTOC-TV, and were once on radio there, too, on what's now WTKS 1290 and WQBT 94.1.) WNNJ had been running ABC's "Timeless Classics" standards service since dropping locally-programmed oldies last August.
*Like everyone else in MASSACHUSETTS this time of year, our attention this week is focused out on the Cape and Islands. Thats's where WRZE (96.3) has hopped the ferry from its longtime Nantucket home to the mainland. The Qantum-owned station lost the lease on its Nantucket tower site, and it's temporarily downgrading from class B to class A with a new city of license of Dennis, running 6 kW from the tower of sister station WCOD (106.1 Hyannis) until a new tower can be built for both stations, at which point "The Rose" will go back up to class B1 status with 25 kW.
*In VERMONT, there's some stunting going on at Northeast Broadcasting's WUSX (93.7 Addison), which has dropped its "US 93-7" country format and is playing nothing but Phish songs for the moment. Whatever's happening at WUSX, it will happen Tuesday at noon - and given that Northeast's "Point" network, which blankets much of Vermont over WNCS (104.7 Montpelier) and its simulcast stations, has always been heavy on Phish...could 93.7 end up as the latest addition to the "Point" simulcasts?
Tuesday is Canada Day, and it's also the official launch day for Corus' new "Greatest Hits" format on CINW (940 Montreal). We're hearing that the new morning man on "AM 940" will be none other than Montreal radio veteran Marc "Mais Oui" Denis, who's already in the Corus Montreal family as a weekender on CFQR (Q92.5).
There's a new signal on the air on Cape Breton Island: CKCH (103.5 Sydney NS) signed on last week as "The Eagle," playing country and competing with MBS Radio's CJCB (1270 Sydney), the city's last remaining commercial AM outlet.
Ten Years Ago: June 30, 2003
*It's been quite a few years in the making, but NEW YORK's newest radio station finally made it to the air last week. WWHL (92.9 Southampton) signed on June 26, with a signal that blankets the East End of Long Island and is already getting good reports across Long Island Sound from the coasts of Connecticut and Rhode Island. The format should sound very familiar to many of those listeners: AAA Entertainment is simulcasting the AAA format of WEHM (96.7 East Hampton) on 92.9, and will soon move WEHM's calls down there as well. 96.7, in turn, will soon switch to Bloomberg's business news network under new calls.
*In New York City, the big buzz this week concerned the new hire at "Blink," WNEW (102.7): Lizzie Grubman, the publicist-turned-hit-and-run-driver-slash-celebrity-of-the-second, will be providing gossip reports from the Hamptons beginning next weekend. Down on the AM dial, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has followed former morning co-host Peter Noel out the door of WWRL (1600), ending what had been one of the more interesting (or at least unpredictable) morning shows in recent memory. And WLXE (1380) is dropping the regional Mexican programming that Mega had been running there; as Arthur Liu's Multicultural takes over, so does the usual leased-time ethnic fare that Liu ran on 1380 (as WKDM) the last time he owned the station.
*In NEW JERSEY, the FCC gave Ed Seeger's group the go-ahead to move WSNJ-FM (107.7 Bridgeton) into the Philadelphia market under the guise of providing "first local service" to Pennsauken. WSNJ's allocations move, which will transform its class B signal on 107.7 into a class A on 107.9, spells trouble for two high school stations. WWPH (107.9 Princeton Junction NJ) and WHHS (107.9 Havertown PA) aren't expected to be able to find new spots on the dial, and as unprotected class D stations, that means they'll likely have to go dark once WSNJ moves. In WHHS' case, that means the end of fifty years of student broadcasting, something the FCC noted in its rulemaking reallocating the Bridgeton facility - but rules are rules and WSNJ takes priority in the Commission's eyes. Ever wonder how much one one of these move-ins is worth? Consider this: Seeger and his group paid Ed Bold and his family $20 million for WSNJ AM/FM, and we've heard from a couple of sources in Philly is that the asking price for the FM once it's moved will be in the $50 million range.
*In VERMONT, the FCC paid a call on Tuesday to "Radio Free Brattleboro," the unlicensed community station that had been operating very openly in town for nearly five years, initially on 88.1 and more recently on 88.9 (to avoid interfering with the new 88.1 Norwich signal that Vermont Public Radio will soon be signing on) with a few watts that covered the town quite well. One of the station's DJs gave the Brattleboro Reformer a video of the visit, in which an FCC field agent ordered the jock on duty to turn off the mixing board and transmitter and threatened penalties if broadcasts were resumed. The shutdown was apparently prompted by two interference complaints, one from WFCR (88.5 Amherst MA) and the other from a local resident; it doesn't appear that any of the station's equipment was seized, though the station's Web site has been down ever since.
*RHODE ISLAND now has DTV on the air, becoming the very last of the 50 states to get an operating digital outlet when WPRI-DT (Channel 13) came on the air last week, with WNAC-DT (Channel 54) soon to follow. (A technicality here: WPRI's transmitter is in Rehoboth, Mass., so a nitpicker could argue that there's still no DTV in Rhode Island itself - but then, neither of the operating DTVs licensed to Delaware operate from within its state limits, either.)
Fifteen Years Ago: June 30, 1998
*Rumors are flying at Boston's WBZ-TV (Channel 4), after a visit last week from Joel Cheatwood, the news impresario who turned things around at WHDH-TV (Channel 7) a few years back before leaving for a controversial tenure at WMAQ-TV (Channel 5) in Chicago. 'BZ honcho Ed Goldman tells the newspapers that he was just picking Cheatwood's brain while Cheatwood was in town taking his son to an orthodontist's appointment...but nobody's failed to notice that Cheatwood is currently an NBC consultant, while WBZ is a CBS O&O. Could Cheatwood be returning to Boston to try to boost 'BZ's plummeting ratings? We'll see...
*We mourn the passing of John Burgomaster, better known as John Masters, the voice of WRKO news for 28 years until his retirement in 1994. Masters' booming voice defined RKO's "20/20 News" during its top-40 years, and he remained with the station for most of its years in the talk format as well. Burgomaster succumbed to cancer last week.
*NEW HAMPSHIRE is about to get a new nightly newscast. Derry's WNDS (Channel 50) has hired longtime WMUR news director Jack Heath to put together a nightly half-hour to debut in September. WNDS is one of several New Hampshire stations that used to have a daily newscast, along with WNHT (now WNBU, Channel 21) in Concord and WGOT (now WPXB, Channel 60) in Merrimack.
*Congratulations to Lisa Garvey, who's leaving Manchester rocker WGIR-FM (101.1) for a big move up in market size -- all the way to number one, with a night shift at WNEW-FM (102.7) in New York. NERW hears longtime 'GIR personality Fil Robert Kaye has left the airwaves as well, to become a salesman for the Capstar station.
*In MAINE, it seems NERW missed a call-letter change by just days. We visited the area on Friday the 19th -- and on Monday the 22nd, Scarborough-based WPKM (106.3) finally became WBQW, simulcasting classical WBQQ (99.3) from Kennebunk as "W-Bach." Oh well, now we have an excuse to go back...
*A call letter change in upstate NEW YORK became official while we were away; Rochester's AM 950 is now WEZO, and 98.9 FM has changed from WKLX to pick up the WBBF calls from the AM side. The WBBF calls had been on the AM side since 1953; AM 950 is now the fourth area home for the WEZO calls, whose heritage use was on 101.3 FM (now WRMM) from 1971 until 1987. The calls also appeared on AM 990, now WDCZ, for a few years in the late eighties, and then on Avon's 93.3 FM, now WQRV, for a few years after that.
*Another PBS station is going commercial. Schenectady's WMHQ (Channel 45) is being sold to Sinclair Broadcasting, which will turn it into either a UPN or WB affiliate. WMHQ was the second service for public TV WMHT (Channel 17), which says it needs the money for digital TV development. Albany-area viewers with long memories will recall that channel 45 began as a commercial independent, WUSV-TV, before being bought by WMHT and operated first as WMHX-TV and then as WMHQ. Meantime, Buffalo's WNED is awaiting word on whether the FCC will let it sell noncomm-licensed WNEQ (Channel 23), or whether it will end up keeping WNEQ and selling what's now its primary outlet, commercial-licensed WNED-TV (Channel 17). WNED says it has "at least six" interested buyers for whichever station is put up for sale.
*In the Buffalo area, the powerful tourist information station in Niagara Falls, Ontario is relocating. CFLZ had been on 91.9 but will be displaced by the new 92.1 allocation in Amherst and by the pending move of CHOW Welland from 1470 to 91.7. Its new home? 105.1 MHz.