In this week”s issue… Cumulus/Townsquare deal reshapes NY, New England markets – Remembering a giant of independent radio – Morning shakeup at WHJJ – Formats swirling in eastern Canada – NERW”s cartoon feature is back!
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*It was the out-of-left-field radio deal of the year: we”d known that the ever-growing Cumulus Media behemoth was coveting one of its main syndication rivals, Dial Global, but until late last week, it wasn”t clear how the debt-laden Cumulus planned to pay the $260 million price tag for Dial Global. Now we do – it”s generating the cash through a pair of deals that will send 68 of Cumulus” stations to one of its smaller competitors, Townsquare Media.
In NERW-land, the effects of the deal will be felt in MAINE, NEW HAMPSHIRE, CONNECTICUT and upstate NEW YORK. In the Portland, Portsmouth and Danbury markets, the existing Cumulus clusters will go straight to Townsquare as part of an overall 53-station, 12-market deal in which Townsquare pays $238 million to Cumulus. (And was the rumor mill ever spinning heavily on this one; before the details of the deal were announced Friday afternoon, other markets mentioned as potential pieces of the Cumulus-to-Townsquare deal included Westchester and Syracuse, which would have formed a natural hub for Townsquare”s smaller upstate operations in Binghamton, Utica and Albany.)
And as with any of these big deals lately, there”s another piece: out west, the investment group behind Townsquare also has a big piece of Peak Broadcasting, which is sending its 11 stations in Boise and Fresno to Townsquare so that Townsquare can then swap them to Cumulus in exchange for 15 more Cumulus stations in Dubuque and – more to the point here – New York”s Hudson Valley.
Let”s take it market by market:
- Portland: Cumulus” exit from Maine”s biggest city also marks its exit from the Pine Tree State and all of northern New England. It”s been just over a year since Cumulus shed the smaller Maine markets (Augusta/Waterville and Presque Isle) that it acquired when it swallowed Citadel, along with the Bangor cluster it already owned. And just like this deal, that deal also had Townsquare as the partner as part of a larger package that traded more than 55 of Cumulus” smaller stations in 13 markets to Townsquare in exchange for two Illinois clusters and $116 million in cash. (Seeing a pattern here?) Last week”s deal reunites Portland with its former Citadel sister stations, putting modern rock WCYY (94.3 Biddeford), AC WHOM (94.9 Mount Washington NH), top-40 WJBQ (97.9 Portland) and classic rock WBLM (102.9 Portland) in the Townsquare fold.
- Portsmouth/Dover/Rochester: Like Portland, this seacoast cluster was extremely well-managed before Cumulus came in and has survived the Cumulus era without quite the level of staffing and budget cutbacks seen elsewhere in the company. Country WOKQ (97.5 Dover)/WPKQ (103.7 North Conway) dominates the market, accompanied by rocker “Shark” WSHK (105.3 Kittery ME)/WSAK (102.1 Hampton).
- Danbury: Townsquare inherits a Cumulus cluster that had been with the company since 2001, when it burst into the northeast by acquiring the former Aurora Communications stations in a $230 million, 18-station deal. (NERW, Nov. 19, 2001) Of that sum, Aurora had paid $65 million just a few years earlier to acquire the Danbury and nearby Poughkeepsie clusters. What Townsquare gets in Danbury is one big, successful FM signal – classic rocker WRKI (95.1 Brookfield) – along with a rimshot FM sister, country “Kicks” WDBY (105.5 Patterson NY) and a pair of small AMs, CBS Sports Radio outlets WINE (940 Brookfield) and WPUT (1510 Brewster NY).
- Poughkeepsie/Hudson Valley: Another relic of the Aurora deal, most of this cluster consists of the former Crystal group, for which Aurora paid $53 million just a few months before spinning them to Cumulus in late 2001. The framework of the cluster has remained largely unchanged in more than a decade since – classic rock WPDH (101.5 Poughkeepsie)/WPDA (106.1 Jeffersonville), modern rock WRRV (92.7 Middletown)/WRRB (96.9 Poughkeepsie), AC “Mix” WCZX (97.7 Hyde Park), oldies WALL (1340 Middletown)/WEOK (1390 Poughkeepsie) and two later additions, country “Wolf” WKXP (94.3 Kingston)/WZAD (97.3 Wurtsboro) and AC WKNY (1490 Kingston).
So what does it all mean? First, it reinforces what we”ve been suspecting for a while: there”s only so big even the biggest of station groups can realistically get. We”ve watched before as groups that included both major-market stations and tiny stations found there was less synergy and cost savings than they”d expected. CBS Radio shed even most of its medium-market clusters in places such as Buffalo and Rochester in order to focus on dominating the very biggest markets, and Clear Channel shrunk its portfolio by unloading many of its smaller markets in areas such as northern Maine, Vermont and Utica where it lacked regional dominance. For Cumulus, there”s long been an operational gap between the big-market stations it acquired from Citadel and the smaller markets that were the bread and butter of “old Cumulus.” This deal with Townsquare is the second one it”s done with Cumulus; the first gave Townsquare not only its entry into Maine but also a bigger footprint in central New York with the acquisition of the former Citadel stations in Binghamton. (One iteration of the Townsquare/Cumulus rumors had Townsquare picking up the ex-Citadel stations in Syracuse, which would have been a useful addition to Townsquare”s existing holdings in Binghamton, Utica, Oneonta and to the west in Buffalo.)
Second, the finished version of the deal also excluded another set of stations that had been grist for the rumor mill: Cumulus is keeping WFAS (1230 White Plains) and WFAS-FM (103.9 Bronxville), a cluster that had long been paired with the Danbury stations that are going to Townsquare. It”s still not at all clear what the long-range plan is for WFAS, especially for its FM side, where a new transmitter site within New York City limits was built and tested several years ago but never licensed. The Westchester stations still operate at a remove from Cumulus” WABC, WNSH and WPLJ in New York City itself – but if they”re staying with Cumulus as part of its holdings within the New York market limits, it casts still further doubt on the largely-discredited reports a few weeks ago of a possible Cumulus purchase of CBS Radio.
But third, the deal does show that when the bottom line is at stake, all of the big radio groups pretty much have to do some dealing with each other these days. The combined Cumulus/Dial Global syndication operation will not only reportedly take the old “Westwood One” name that used to be closely tied to CBS, it will also (at least for now) distribute network newscasts branded as ABC (from Cumulus), NBC (Dial Global) and CBS (Dial Global), all from a new operations center that Cumulus recently completed in Briarcliff Manor, Westchester County. Cumulus and CBS, of course, were already partners in CBS Sports Radio – and Cumulus and Clear Channel team up for the iHeartRadio streaming service and for the SweetJack daily deal site.
*All of which is to say that the big “C” companies these days operate in a completely separate world from the remaining independent stations out there, which is why the week’s other top story – the sudden death of one of the last of those independent operators – is an especially sad one.
Brooks Brown may have been from Texas originally, but he became an essential part of southern VERMONT in his three decades at the helm of WEQX (102.7 Manchester), the station he put on the air in 1984 as one of the last built-from-scratch class B FMs in the northeast. From its transmitter site high atop Mount Equinox and its studios in an old house in Manchester, WEQX never wavered from Brown’s original commitment to provide an independently-owned source of alternative rock for a region that stretched across southern Vermont down toward Albany.
Along the way, WEQX became a training ground and jumping-off point for several generations of New England broadcasters; today there are former WEQX jocks and programmers working in the industry all across the country, from New England as far afield as Nevada.
Like any independent broadcaster in possession of a big signal, Brown was aggressively courted over the years by bigger companies looking to pay big dollars for WEQX, and he took pride in recounting the often profane ways in which those offers were summarily dismissed.
Sadly, Brown didn’t make it to the 30th anniversary of his station; we’re told he suffered a stroke in his sleep on Thursday night from which he didn’t recover, and he died later on Friday. He was just 66.
With Brown’s death having come so suddenly, it’s far too soon to even begin to speculate about the future of his big signal…and so we won”t, for now, while we send our deepest condolences to WEQX”s current and former staffers.
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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: September 3, 2012
*When the University of Buffalo sold WBFO (88.7 Buffalo) to its erstwhile public broadcasting rival, WNED, questions began swirling almost from the start about the fate of WNED’s AM signal. AM 970, the former WEBR, was the first commercial station in many decades to be sold to a public broadcaster when WNED bought it and its sister FM station (now classical WNED-FM 94.5) in 1976, but the AM station’s signal deficiencies had made it hard for WNED’s news-talk AM format to compete with WBFO’s big FM signal – and once WBFO came into the WNED orbit and began simulcasting with AM 970, it was pretty clear that the AM station would be on the block just as soon as WNED could find a buyer.
Last week, that buyer emerged, and it turns out to be another established Buffalo broadcaster. Crawford Broadcasting, the Denver-based owner of religious WDCX-FM (99.5), will pay WNED $850,000 for the AM signal, returning it to commercial operation after 36 years. The AM station’s 5000-watt signal is probably a better fit for WDCX than for any mass-market commercial operator: from a five-tower directional array in Hamburg, south of Buffalo, it shoots most of its signal in a tight pattern due north over Buffalo and Niagara Falls and over the lake into Canada. Like WNED, WDCX has long depended on listeners across the border, and it’s faced increasing problems with getting its FM signal heard in Canada as the CRTC keeps crowding the dial there. The AM signal won’t be a complete solution (especially with new CKNT 960 due to sign on in Mississauga sometime soon), but it should give WDCX another way to be heard in at least some of the Toronto area, which is about the only explanation we can find for Crawford’s reported plan to simulcast the superpower 100 kW FM signal’s programming on AM 970.
(A few more notes here: first, the WDCX calls will apparently remain in use on AM on Rochester’s 990, which means Buffalo’s 970 will take other new calls. Second, while Crawford has been a big booster of HD Radio on AM, it’s highly unlikely 970 will add HD. That’s because of point number three – its five-tower array in Hamburg would already be a complicated place to add AM HD even if it didn’t also have another AM signal, Citadel’s WHLD 1270, diplexed on all five towers. And finally, the same Canadian FM crowding issues that have made things difficult for WDCX-FM have made WBFO’s FM signal all but impossible to hear in the greater Toronto area, which in turn means Canadian listeners who’ve depended on AM 970 for an NPR fix will have to turn to streaming audio or, if they’re at home, to the WBFO audio feed on Rogers Cable.)
*At the other end of the state, JVC Media’s WRCN (103.9 Riverhead) went into the Labor Day weekend with a new format. It’s traded classic rock for “everything that rocks,” with a new mainstream rock format that starts with currents and goes back to the mid-1980s.
Another retirement from the engineering ranks at CBS Radio in New York: Dick James went back many years with what’s now WFAN (660) – in fact, he was the guy who gave us our tour of the transmitter site a few years back. James retired last week as WFAN’s chief engineer, and a station memo about the occasion became fun on-air fodder for the morning team of Boomer & Carton.
Meanwhile at Hudson Square, CBS extended the “where will the Yankees eventually end up?” guessing game for another season by signing another one-year extension of its deal to keep the team on WCBS (880), complete with John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman back in the announcers’ booth for the team’s 12th season on 880. Will the Bombers eventually reach a longer-term deal with either CBS or archrival ESPN Radio (WEPN-FM 98.7)? It’s bound to happen eventually, but a lot will now depend on what sort of deal the Mets reach for next season and whether they stay in place for the long term on WFAN or move to WEPN.
This will be a big week for WEPN: on Thursday afternoon at 2, it will leave its longtime home at 1050 on the AM dial and go FM-only on 98.7; 1050 will become the new New York home for the ESPN Deportes Radio Spanish-language sports network.
*The largest affiliate of the new NBC Sports Radio network when it launches tomorrow will be in MASSACHUSETTS: as widely rumored, WWZN (1510 Boston) will be one of the network’s charter outlets, and one of only eight nationwide to carry the full 7 PM-5 AM weekday lineup. WWZN won’t carry all three shows in pattern, though; instead, it will delay the overnight Dan Schwartzman show into morning drive, running 6-10 AM ahead of a local sports show from 10 AM-noon. Jeff Santos, who’d been programming most of WWZN’s airtime with progressive talk until the summer, will continue to be heard for now from 3-7 PM, but that slot will also go to sports before the end of the year.
Other NBC Sports Radio affiliates in the region will include CONNECTICUT‘s WPOP (1410 Hartford), which will switch from Fox Sports Radio to NBC in the evening hours; WEAV (960 Plattsburgh), which will carry the evening lineup for the Burlington, VERMONT market; WPSE (1450 Erie), WPDC (1600 Elizabethtown) and WOYK (1350 York) in Pennsylvania carrying some of the talk lineup; and several signals carrying only the new network’s hourly updates, including WBBR (1130 New York), WENT (1340) in Gloversville and WJTN (1240)/WKSN (1340) in Jamestown.
*Few radio people have ever been more closely associated with a single station for as long as Dave MacNeill was with WCRB. MacNeill was stricken with polio right after his 1949 graduation from Waltham High School, and after spending a year recuperating and listening to WCRB (then on AM 1330) in the hospital, he went down to the station and was hired. With the exception of a brief detour to the west coast to launch a classical format on KCBH (98.7, now KYSR) in Beverly Hills, MacNeill stayed put at WCRB, eventually becoming a fixture as the station’s Boston Pops announcer. MacNeill also served for a time as WCRB station manager and ended up owning a small piece of licensee Charles River Broadcasting. Even after Charles River sold WCRB’s 102.5 facility and the intellectual property shifted to Nassau and to Lowell-licensed 99.5, MacNeill continued to be heard on the classical station. He died Tuesday (August 28) in Framingham, at age 80.
Five Years Ago: September 1, 2008
*There”s a translator swap in southern MAINE: W277AM (103.3 Biddeford) is going to Bible Broadcasting Network (which will use it to relay WYFP 91.9 Harpswell), in exchange for two translators in Mississippi and Indiana.
There”s TV news from Maine, too: because of “significant equipment problems associated with its analog equipment” (it can”t get parts for its aging Comark transmitter, and a deteriorating klystron tube is forcing the station to chug along at 70% of licensed power), Portland CW affiliate WPXT (Channel 51) has been granted FCC permission to shut down its analog transmitter on Sept. 18. Its sister station, My Network TV affiliate WPME (Channel 35), received FCC permission to turn its analog signal off on August 21, allowing the station to complete its DTV antenna work before the Maine winters hit. Both stations are seen by most viewers on cable and satellite, anyway, and WPXT-DT (Channel 43) and WPME-DT (Channel 28) are both on the air.
*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Nassau is complying with the FCC”s order to immediately end its JSA with Vox”s WWHK (102.3 Concord), leaving Vox without the “Hawk” classic rock simulcast that WWHK has been using for the last few years. For now, we understand that 102.3 continues to carry a rock format, but entirely automated, with only a legal ID playing each hour.
What”s next for 102.3? NERW readers may recall that WWHK – and erstwhile Lakes Region simulcast partner WWHQ (101.5 Meredith) – were on Nassau”s list of stations to join the WEEI network before that deal fell apart last winter. With Nassau now out of the picture, could Vox put 102.3 back into play as a WEEI outlet?
In the meantime, WEEI is adding another station in the Granite State. Great Eastern Radio (whose ownership interlocks with Vox) announced last week that it”s getting ready to put silent WTSM (93.5 Springfield VT) back on the air from a new city of license – Swanzey, New Hampshire – and with new calls, WEEY-FM, bringing the WEEI network into the Keene market.
Entercom”s press release noted that the new additions will put WEEI in 12 of the 17 Arbitron-rated markets in New England, with the most conspicuous absences being Hartford, Burlington/Plattsburgh and the Upper Valley area. Ironically, that last market is where Great Eastern had been parking the WEEY calls; it applied for (but never implemented) a call change at talker WTSL (1400 Hanover) a few months back. Could WEEI still find a home in the Upper Valley? Stay tuned…
*The RHODE ISLAND ratings scandal took another interesting turn late last week, as news emerged that the six questionable diaries in the Providence spring Arbitron book were filled out by Kristen DePetro of East Greenwich, wife of WPRO (630)/WEAN (99.7) morning talker John DePetro.
Going into the weekend, DePetro and his bosses at Citadel closed ranks, with DePetro saying that he was unaware of the fraudulent diaries, which reportedly listed hundreds of hours of WPRO listening by nonexistent listeners in the prime 25-34 demographic. WPRO management issued a statement saying they were “profoundly disappointed” in Mrs. DePetro.
Will the story end there? It”s standard procedure, after all, for Arbitron to ask potential diary recipients whether they, or anyone in their household, are employed in the media – and standard for most broadcast companies” employee handbooks to include stern warnings about ratings tampering. (Indeed, it”s a firing offense at most of the companies we”re familiar with, often driven home by big posters in cafeterias and employee lounges reminding workers of the dangers of ratings interference.)
In the meantime, the Providence TV stations, the newspapers and WPRO”s competition kept the story very much alive, with Jim Corwin, VP/GM of Clear Channel talker WHJJ (a former DePetro employer) issuing the requisite “We are shocked and disappointed at today’s news that fraudulent ratings diaries have come from the home of an on-air personality at WPRO” statement.
*There”s a new permanent midday host at NEW YORK“s WPLJ (95.5): Jeff Miles takes the spot formerly occupied by Race Taylor, who”s now doing afternoons. Miles comes to New York from Citadel”s Dallas operations, where he”s been morning show producer at KSCS (96.3 Fort Worth) and host of ABC Radio”s “Cruz in the 80s.”In the Hudson Valley, unbuilt WJGK (1200 Highland) is being transferred, but it”s all within the family: Joergen Klebe”s Sunrise Broadcasting sells the construction permit to Hawkeye Communications, controlled by Klebe”s wife Irmingard, for $10. The WJGK construction permit was due to expire Sept. 29, but the transfer to Hawkeye should allow for an 18-month extension under new FCC rules that allow small businesses additional time to build newly-acquired CPs.
In Albany, a bit of history came down recently: we”re told WAMC has finally taken the big “WABY” letters down from the tower of its AM 1400 signal, which once bore those storied calls. Today, that tower on Braintree Street, right next to I-90, carries not only WAMC (1400) but also WUAM (900 Watervliet).
Over at Albany Broadcasting, Nik Rivers is out as PD at WZMR (104.9 Altamont); his departure from “The Edge” means morning guy Darwin adds music director duties, Mike the Enforcer shifts from nights to afternoon drive and becomes assistant PD, and Boomer moves from weekends to nights.
In Syracuse, public broadcaster WCNY is trying some innovative programming on its digital multiplex channels on both radio and TV. On WCNY-DT (Channel 25), they”ve transformed their 24-3 subchannel from a delayed rebroadcast of the main PBS service to “Cinema 24,” a 24-hour service full of classic movies. And on WCNY-FM (91.3), they”re playing 50s and 60s oldies on their HD2 subchannel, complete with voicetracks from veteran central New York morning man Bill Baker (“Awake with Bake”), as well as Jack Mindy, Captain John Smith and Pete (McElvaine) McKay. Every night at 11, “WCNY-HD2″ is resurrecting an old WOLF (1490) feature, too, presenting “The Sandman Serenade” with Joe McDonough. We”re looking forward to checking out WCNY”s digital display if we can make it over to the New York State Fair later this week…
And there”s good news and bad news from our friends over at WCJW (1140 Warsaw). The good? A power increase to 250 watts on FM translator W279BO (103.7 Warsaw) is giving “CJ Country” greater reach on FM. We heard it clearly Saturday night while watching a Muckdogs baseball game in Batavia, as CJ was carrying a night NASCAR race that it never would have been able to carry in its entirety as a daytime-only AM facility.
The bad news actually came from WBTA”s Muckdogs broadcast, as the announcer noted the death on Saturday evening of WCJW news director and mid-morning personality Jenny Snow, who collapsed while doing volunteer work for the Perry Fire Department. Morning man Steve Weber will be serving as acting news director, while owner Lloyd Lane will handle mornings until a replacement for Snow can be hired.
*The AM-to-FM drumbeat continues up in CANADA, where the latest batch of CRTC applications finds CJOY (1460 Guelph ON), CIGM (790 Sudbury ON) and CFDR (780 Dartmouth/Halifax NS) all applying for FM moves.
Corus” CJOY application – for 95.7, with 30 kW DA/176″ – is part of a package of more than a dozen applications to be considered by the CRTC at a hearing October 20 in Cambridge, Ontario. There are also three applications for new signals on 101.5 in Guelph – Blackburn Radio wants a classic rock/new rock station, Durham Radio proposes a “new distinctive rock” format and Frank Torres wants an all-blues station.
Down the road in London, the CRTC will consider nine applications for new stations: on 98.1, Torres wants a blues station; Evanov proposes a “youth contemporary” format; Rogers proposes a hit radio station with “an on-demand, on air and on-line local radio experience;” CTV proposes a “modern hit” format; Durham Radio proposes a “pop/oldies” format and Blackburn proposes a AA format. Blackburn also submitted an alternate proposal to use 91.1, where United Christian Broadcasters proposes a religious station. Sound of Faith Broadcasting proposes a religious signal on 99.9, and in nearby St. Thomas, My Broadcasting proposes a “gold-based AC” format on 94.1.
Up in Sudbury, CIGM”s move to FM – made possible by the swap that sends CIGM to Newcap and CFDR in Nova Scotia to Rogers – would find the 50,000-watt AM 790 facility moving to 93.5, with 100 kW/667″. At CFDR, which had previously been granted a move to 88.9 with 21 kW, the new application from Rogers would instead move the 50,000-watt AM 780 signal to 92.9, with 100 kW/643″ DA.
Ten Years Ago: September 1, 2003
*A station sale in southern NEW JERSEY: it”s been a given that the stations left behind when Howard Green died last year would be sold, and now we can tell you who”s buying them. For $22 million, Access.1 Communications (the old Unity Broadcasting) gets NBC affiliate WMGM-TV (Channel 40) in Wildwood, classic rock WMGM (103.7 Atlantic City), oldies WTKU (98.3 Ocean City), sports simulcast WOND (1400 Pleasantville) and WGYM (1580 Hammonton), and R&B oldies WUSS (1490 Pleasantville). About half the sales price will end up with the Salvation Army, chief beneficiary of Green”s estate.
*Labor Day weekend brought new calls and a new format to WEMG (104.9) in Egg Harbor City: after a four-month stunt as country and a day of nonstop heartbeats, it relaunched Friday as WOJZ, “Smooth Jazz 104.9.”
*Up in VERMONT, Radio Free Brattleboro isn”t staying silent – and they want to make sure everyone knows about it. Forced off the air earlier this summer by FCC inspectors, the community station put out the word last week that it would sign back on Friday afternoon at 5 on a new frequency, 107.9, and that”s just what they did, with a burst of media attention that landed them in every trade publication and even the Boston Globe. The RFB folks are making the case that, having been shut down for lack of “authority to broadcast,” they”ve now obtained that authority – not through FCC channels but through a petition that they say has been signed by 2,000 people (in a town of barely twice that population) and through support from the local government and even the local paper. They also say – apparently with a straight face – that they have no idea whether or not the FCC will notice that they”re back on, or care.
*Over the last few years, Clear Channel Radio has built a reputation as a non-stop purchaser of stations – but America”s biggest radio company sometimes sells stations, too, and that”s just what it did last week in western PENNSYLVANIA.
*In the Johnstown market, Clear Channel owned just two stations: country WMTZ (96.5) and news-talk WNTJ (1490), which wasn”t a tiny position (WMTZ is regularly the #1 station in the market), but was also far from the big clusters the company likes to build. Over in Grove City, on the eastern fringes of the Youngstown market, Clear Channel had the opposite problem – a cluster that was too big to fit within the FCC”s new guidelines for station ownership. For almost four years now, Clear Channel has been trying to buy country WICT (95.1 Grove City), standards WNIO (1390 Niles OH), top 40 “Kiss” WAKZ (95.9 Sharpsville) and oldies WBBG (106.1 Niles OH) from Gocom, which also owns Youngstown”s WKBN-TV (Channel 27) and the Fox LPTVs there – but the deal”s been held up because of market-concentration problems.
*Now there”s a solution to both problems, in the form of the growing Forever group. It”s paying $9.13 million for WMTZ/WNTJ and $2.28 million for WICT, getting Clear Channel out of Johnstown and clearing the way for Clear Channel to close on its purchase of the remaining Gocom stations, which it had been operating under LMAs anwyay. What Forever gets for its money is a dominant position in Johnstown, where it adds WMTZ/WNTJ to AC “Key” WKYE (95.5 Johnstown, the market”s #2 station), country oldies WLYE (850 Johnstown) and classic hits “Wuzz” (WUZY 97.7 Somerset/WUZI 105.7 Portage). Will WMTZ join forces with Forever”s “Froggy” WFGY (98.1) in nearby Altoona? Ribbit…
*In NEW YORK, the top story was a new TV station for Albany. WNYA (Channel 51), licensed to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, signed on for real on Monday (9/1) after a weekend-long loop of UPN highlights. (There”s a joke in there somewhere that we”ll refrain from making…) WNYA is being operated as “Capital District UPN” by CBS affiliate WRGB (Channel 6) – and the deal includes tower space for WNYA”s new simulcast. WNYA-CA (Channel 15) also signed on over the weekend, operating from WRGB”s tower in the Helderbergs; it”s the former WVBX-CA (Channel 39). (Cable viewers get WNYA on Time Warner”s channel 4, where it replaces the old cable-only “UPN4″ that was a joint Time Warner/Clear Channel venture…)
*Karlson and McKenzie, the morning team that got its start at the old WEGQ (93.7) in Boston and then spent several years at WZNE (94.1) in Rochester, landed a new gig: it turns out the weekend stunting on WPDH (101.5 Poughkeepsie) was a leadup to K&McK”s arrival in the Hudson Valley, where they replace Coop & Mikey, recently dismissed by Cumulus there.
Fifteen Years Ago: September 4, 1998
*In what has to be the biggest one-day set of radio transactions ever, Capstar is merging with Chancellor, while CBS is spinning off its radio operations under the old Infinity Broadcasting name. We”ll start with the Capstar-Chancellor deal, which has been rumored ever since Hicks, Muse began building two of the nation”s biggest broadcast groups.
*Chancellor was the big-market operator, with Boston”s WJMN and WXKS-AM/FM and New York”s WHTZ, WKTU, WAXQ, WBIX, and WLTW – along with WALK AM/FM on Long Island. Capstar was the smaller-market broadcaster, with WZNN, WTMN, WMYF, WXHT, WSRI, WHEB and WERZ on the New Hampshire seacoast; WGIR AM-FM in Manchester; WEAV, WEZF, WXPS, and WCPV in Burlington-Plattsburgh; WTAG and WSRS in Worcester; WHJJ, WSNE, and WHJY in Providence; WHMP AM-FM in Northampton; WPKX serving Springfield; WPOP, WWYZ, WKSS, WMRQ, and WHCN in Hartford; WPLR (and an LMA on WYBC) in New Haven; and WTRY AM-FM, WGNA AM-FM, WXLE and WPYX in Albany. The $4.1 billion deal makes the combined Capstar/Chancellor the largest radio operator in America, with 463 stations in more than a hundred markets — not even counting Hicks, Muse”s substantial TV holdings.
*Meantime, more than two years after CBS bought Infinity Broadcasting, the Infinity name is coming back. CBS is spinning off its radio assets, along with some billboards, into a new company bearing the Infinity name. Mel Karmazin stays in charge of the new Infinity, along with his post as President of CBS Corp., which will continue to own 80% of the new radio company. In our region, that puts the Infinity name on Boston”s WBZ, WNFT (still being held in a trust), WBMX, WZLX, WODS, and WBCN; Hartford”s WTIC AM-FM, WZMX, WRCH; New York”s WFAN, WCBS, WINS, WXRK, WCBS-FM, and WNEW; Rochester”s WZNE, WCMF, WPXY, and WRMM; and Buffalo”s WECK, WLCE, WBLK, WJYE, and WYRK.
*It”s a far cry from the original Infinity — WZLX, WBCN, WFAN, and WXRK, plus the since-sold WBOS and WOAZ in Boston and WZRC New York.
*Northern VERMONT won”t be able to listen to Howard Stern out of Canada any more; Montreal”s CHOM (97.7) has dropped him despite respectable ratings. CHOM”s owner, the CHUM Group, was under heavy pressure from the CRTC to take Stern off the air, especially after planning to add Stern”s TV show to its CITY-TV (Channel 57) in Toronto. Stern”s lone Canadian outlet now is CILQ (107.1; “Q107″) in Toronto, and NERW wonders if it too will dump Stern to curry the CRTC”s favo(u)r, since Q107 owner WIC is trying to sell its radio properties to Shaw. In any event, Stern can still be heard on WIZN (106.7) in Vergennes.
*Imagine MASSACHUSETTS without Joe Martelle — or Joe Martelle outside Massachusetts. After 17 years, it”s about to happen. The veteran of two incarnations of WROR has taken a job doing mornings at Houston oldies outlet KLDE (94.5).
*Howard Stern is adding another Bay State outlet, Cape Cod”s WPXC (102.9 Hyannis). So what about R.J. Makkay, recently hired to be “Pixy 103″”s morning guy? He”s going to sister station WCIB (101.9 Falmouth) instead, replacing Doug Frye and Mina Greene. He”ll also serve as PD for WCIB.
*We”ll start our NEW YORK news with a rare TV call change: Watertown PBS affiliate WNPE-TV (Channel 16) is changing its identity. The station is paying $5,000 to WPBS (1050) in Conyers, Georgia for the right to become WPBS-TV, calls the station began using on September 1. WNPE”s other transmitter, on Channel 18 in Norwood, remains WNPI, with a one-line ID at the bottom of the screen identifying it as such.
*Two other call changes: AM 1190 in Cobleskill moves from WLAL to WXBH, and William H. Walker”s new 102.1 in Jeffersonville is assigned WWHW.