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In this week's issue... Albany's Cat Country moves - New AM signal prepares for Boston debut - Overnight jock out in Rochester - PA morning host retires

By SCOTT FYBUSH

*There's a country radio war brewing in NEW YORK's Capital District, and Bob Ausfeld is to blame.

Ausfeld led what's now the Townsquare cluster there for many years, helping big-signal WGNA (107.7 Albany) to stay reliably at or near the top of the ratings. Last year, Ausfeld retired from Townsquare and then reappeared just a few months later as the new market manager at Pamal's Albany Broadcasting cluster - and on Thursday, he made a swap there that he says he'd been wanting to do for a while, moving "Cat Country" from WZMR (104.9 Altamont) down the dial to WKLI (100.9 Albany).

wkli-catOn paper, the move takes "Cat" simply from one class A facility to another, but in the rather more complex real world of the FM dial there, the country station is getting a much stronger voice. While its existing 104.9 signal emanates from way up in the Helderbergs, home to most of Albany's big class B FMs, WZMR runs just 530 watts up there with a directional antenna that helps to wedge the 104.9 in against other existing signals that limited it when it moved eastward from Johnstown in 1999.

WKLI, by contrast, is one of the best class As in the market, with 6 kW/328' from a site centrally located between Albany and Schenectady (and just up the hill from Townsquare's Kings Road studios), and putting "Cat Country" there sets up a battle with WGNA that Ausfeld says he's been looking forward to entering.

"It is probably the best engineered frequency in the market," Ausfeld tells the Albany Business Review.

Cat Country's move to 100.9 wipes out "Rock 100.9," the active rock station that's been on that signal for two years - and it wipes out the entire staff there, including veteran morning man Bob "Wolf" Wohlfeld, his partner John Tobin, middayer Suzanne, PD/afternoon jock Tim Noble and night guy Mike the Enforcer.

What happens next on 104.9? For now, it's simulcasting with 100.9, but Pamal promises a new format there soon. Will it stunt with Christmas music in the meantime? Stay tuned...

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*There's a sports shift in the Southern Tier: ESPN Radio has quietly vanished from WABH (1380 Bath) and apparently from WELM (1410 Elmira) as well, and as of today those sister stations (in the process of changing hands from Robert Pfuntner's Pembrook Pines to Titan Radio LLC) will be carrying NBC Sports Radio programming instead. WABH has reportedly been simulcasting oldies WEHH (1600 Elmira Heights-Horseheads) in the interim.

In Binghamton, Clear Channel has rebranded its sports station. WENE (1430 Endicott) has been "The Team" for quite a while now, but as of the start of this month it's simply "Fox Sports AM 1430." The station's programming lineup, which was already all national Fox Sports Radio programming, remains unchanged.

Dave Beck
Dave Beck

The last live overnight talent at any of the big clusters in Rochester is no more: we're sorry to report that Entercom recently parted ways with "Big Daddy" Dave Beck, who'd been pulling third shift on country WBEE (92.5) since 1989. Beck also hosted WBEE's Saturday night request show and a Sunday morning country oldies show; so far, there are no replacements for any of those roles, and it appears overnights on WBEE will now join the rest of the market with automation, sadly.

In Watertown, WTNY (790) has jumped into the video game: the talk station is now streaming "Watertown's Morning News" weekdays from 6-9 AM at 790wtny.com. (That news may be especially welcome to Dish Network customers, who lost access to the market's only local TV newscasts last week when negotiations broke down and CBS affiliate WWNY and its Fox sister WNYF disappeared from the Dish lineup across the North Country.)

*In MASSACHUSETTS, there's a new AM signal about to hit the air within Boston city limits.

As the government was shutting down, station owner Alex Langer must have been breathing a sigh of relief, because his WMSX (1410 Brockton) was granted a construction permit to change city of license to Dedham in the final hours before the FCC's staff was furloughed. And with that eleventh-hour grant in hand, Langer wasted no time beginning construction on WMSX's new site in Readville, where there's now a Valcom fiberglass whip antenna in place - and where NERW readers are the very first to get to to see it!

WMSX's new antenna (courtesy Alex Langer)
WMSX's new antenna (courtesy Alex Langer)

"We’re literally a 'green station'," Langer says of the paint job on the stealth antenna, which will run with 610 watts by day, 30 watts at night once it gets on the air, a job Langer tells NERW should take another month or two. WMSX lost its old site in Brockton last year and has been operating on and off (mostly off, lately) from a temporary longwire while awaiting permission to move.

Jackson Blue's been part of the lineup at Clear Channel's WXKS-FM (107.9 Medford) since 2005, when he moved up to nights on Kiss 108 from Cape Cod's then-WRZE (96.3). Blue continued to track shufts for Kiss even after Clear Channel moved him to Dallas' KHKS (Kiss 106.1) in 2008 and then to Baltimore's WZFT (Z104.3) for mornings in 2010. In 2012, Blue came back to Boston after WZFT began simulcasting a morning show out of Washington. Last week, Kiss let him go - "It's been an amazing 8 years," Blue told his Facebook fans - and so far, there's no replacement in the 6-10 PM slot. Blue is still being heard on the Cape, where he's part of the tracked lineup at WHYA (Y101).

On TV, Liz Brunner is leaving Boston's WCVB (Channel 5) after almost exactly 20 years at the ABC affiliate, anchoring first mornings and more recently the 6 PM newscast. After her last newscast October 17, Brunner is heading out to start her own company, Brunner Communications, which she describes as "a full-service media training, coaching, and consulting firm."
Oedipus is back on the air. The longtime WBCN (104.1) programmer has signed on with the Globe's RadioBDC.com to produce a weekly show called "The Oedipus Project," airing Saturday mornings at 10.

Congratulations to another one of Boston radio's best-loved programmers. Don Kelley, best known for more than two decades at the helm of WMJX (106.7 Boston), has been named as the new president of the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He replaces Art Singer, who's been running the Hall since its inception.

*There's a new oldies host in CONNECTICUT, but Joe McCoy is as experienced as it gets. After eight years of retirement following two decades programming WCBS-FM (101.1 New York), McCoy is back on the air as the new host of "Joe McCoy's Jukebox Saturday Night" at WICC (600 Bridgeport). McCoy started out in radio in the 1970s at WWCO (1240) up the road in Waterbury before moving on to New York's WXLO (99X), WNBC and then CBS-FM.

*In PENNSYLVANIA, there's a new voice coming to Philadelphia's "Old School 100.3." Sam Sylk, the veteran Chicago DJ who moved to Cleveland earlier this year to work at Radio One's WZAK (93.1), is expanding his show to additional Radio One markets, and that includes WRNB (100.3 Media), where he's now being heard weekdays from 10 AM-2 PM.

Adams (photo: WEEU)
Adams (photo: WEEU)

Al Burke is out as PD at Clear Channel's Reading stations, WRFY (102.5) and WRAW (1340), with no replacement named yet; down the street at WEEU (830), meanwhile, Charlie Adams said his farewell on Wednesday (his 66th birthday) after 27 years of wakeup duty at the locally-owned full-service station and 35 years there overall. (The Reading Eagle, which owns the station and where Adams still writes a regular column, reports that's 7,098 morning shows.)

A correction from last week's CANADA report: if the price of "C$5 million" we quoted for the sale of struggling 50-watt CJRP (103.5 Saint John NB) sounded high to you - well, it did to us, too. But that's what the CRTC initially reported...and then itself corrected. The actual (and much more reasonable) price tag attached to the proposed transfer from Pritchard Broadcasting to James Houssen is a much more reasonable C$5,000.

East of Ottawa, Evanov has begun testing the signal of CHRC (92.5) in Clarence-Rockland, Ontario. The newest link in the "Jewel" chain extends the soft AC format eastward from Ottawa's CJWL (98.5). The official launch date for the new "Jewel 92.5" is set for tomorrow.

In Montreal, media guru Steve Faguy reports that ethnic/adult hits station CKDG (105.1 Mike FM) has parted ways with afternoon host Paul Zakaib, aka "Tasso Patskakis." CKDG hired Tasso two years ago, pairing him with Patrick Charles in an attempt to gain some visibility for the small station's English-language drivetime programming, and in turn to drive ad sales that could help sustain the rest of the station's ethnic schedule. Charles left CKDG a year ago, and now Tasso's co-host and news anchor James Foster has taken over afternoons solo.

2014calendarWe trekked across the continent seeking the prettiest towers...we searched through our databases for the most notable dates...we thought, talked and sweated over design, and thought, talked and sweated some more over printing...but we'd do it all over again (and will, next year!) to produce your favorite 12-month wall calendar.

Yes, the 2014 Tower Site Calendar has gone to press, and you can be the first to reserve your very own. We expect to have them in our hands at the end of the month, and we'll send them right to you, spiral bound, shrink wrapped and best of all, with a convenient hole for hanging!

This year's pinups include the iconic towers of Catalina Island, a combiner system in St. Louis, the twin towers of KNRS in Salt Lake City, a historic rooftop site in Jamestown, New York and many more!

If you want a tower calendar on your wall NOW, you can pick up the current edition for just $5 with your 2014 order this week!

Click here to order your 2014 calendar!

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: October 15, 2012

*What a difference a year makes! A year ago, CBS Radio was fending off what looked like it might have been a serious challenge to the massive revenue stream that flowed from its pair of NEW YORK all-news stations. WCBS (880) and WINS (1010), as well as Chicago’s WBBM (780). CBS Radio’s adversary back then was Merlin Media, the new group backed by deep-pocketed Chicago investors and headed by the colorful former head of Clear Channel and Tribune, Randy Michaels.

In Chicago, the threat from Merlin’s all-news FM station seemed sharp enough that CBS ditched “Fresh FM” on WCFS (105.9) in favor of an all-news simulcast of WBBM. In New York, CBS had no FM to spare, so it rolled the dice on leaving WCBS and WINS in place on AM, where their dominance was bolstered by several other strong AMs, including another CBS entry, all-sports WFAN (660).

As it turned out, of course, CBS won that bet in New York. Merlin’s “FM News 101.9″ went down as a legendary failure, WCBS and WINS survived unscathed – and it was WFAN that ended up facing a stronger FM challenge when ESPN Radio’s WEPN (1050) bought WRKS (98.7) from Emmis to launch WEPN-FM. That, in turn, is why it’s WFAN, not WCBS or WINS, that’s getting an FM simulcast now that CBS has found a way to add a fourth FM station to its holdings in the market: none other than its erstwhile rival, Merlin’s 101.9, which shifted to a stopgap modern-rock format and returned to its previous WRXP calls after “FM News” imploded over the summer.

Within the next month, WRXP will become WFAN-FM and begin simulcasting 660 under an LMA that will lead to a $75 million sale to CBS. And that has left the New York broadcast community with a lot of questions and speculation:

    • What about the market cap? When CBS bought WLNY-TV last year, the conventional wisdom said the company’s plate was full: adding WLNY-TV to WCBS-TV and CBS Radio’s three AM/three FM cluster put the company at the maximum eight stations. So how is CBS putting a ninth signal under its roof? We’d thought the answer rested with the upcoming FCC spectrum incentive auction and the possibility of CBS putting WLNY’s channel 47 spectrum into the auction, but the company actually has an even more ambitious plan, which brings us to a…
    • MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: It turns out CBS intends to keep both TV stations and all seven radio stations, because it believes WLNY doesn’t count against the cross-ownership rules. Those rules were drafted in the days of analog TV, and they look at a TV station’s “Grade A” signal contour. If that contour completely encompasses a radio station’s city of license, that creates a “market” for cross-ownership purposes. The “Grade A” contour went away with the switch to digital, and CBS says the FCC has been turning instead to the “noise-limited DTV signal” as a temporary replacement metric. And what do you know? WLNY’s “noise-limited” contour includes only a fraction of New York City, encompassing much of Queens and a sliver of the Bronx. So CBS claims that under the cross-ownership rules, 101.9 can fit snugly into a “New York City” market defined by the seven radio signals and WCBS-TV, an acceptable cluster under the cap. And on the flip side of the rule, not one of those seven radio signals, even the big boomers on 660 and 880, puts enough signal over all of WLNY’s city of license, way out in Riverhead, to trigger any cross-ownership issues out there. In practice, of course, what really matters to CBS (if not to the FCC) isn’t WLNY’s little-viewed over-the-air signal, but rather the guaranteed spot on cable and satellite systems all over the tri-state area that the OTA license provides…and that’s affected by a completely different set of rules that have nothing to do with radio cross-ownership. So unless there’s a challenge to CBS’ carefully-constructed cross-ownership case, it appears the company is on its way to building the biggest radio-TV cluster in America.
    • But wait – couldn’t CBS have moved WINS to 660 and then sold 1010 or something? It could have, yes, but if you’re sitting on three of the biggest AM revenue producers in the entire country, the rule is simple: “don’t fix what isn’t broken.” In a few years, the inexorable march to FM will probably force WCBS and WINS to go there. Right now, though, there’s immense value to keeping those stations right where they are. The same is true of CBS Radio’s existing stable of FMs: after a few very rough years, the trio of “Now” CHR WXRK (92.3), classic hits WCBS-FM (101.1) and AC “Fresh” WWFS (102.7) is performing well, and the company won’t do anything to disrupt that. (Otherwise, there would probably have been a WFAN-FM on 92.3 or 102.7 by now.)
    • So WFAN goes to 101.9 and the other chess pieces stay put. What about 660? For now, CBS executives are dodging that question, publicly proclaiming that 660 will be a straight simulcast with 101.9. That makes perfect sense in the short term: with tens of millions of dollars in revenue at stake from the WFAN cash cow, the transition to FM has to be gradual, especially with ESPN aggressively trying to draw sports listeners over to WEPN-FM. (And it has to be a total simulcast in order for Arbitron to report AM and FM together on a single line, which is psychologically important in the battle against WEPN.) But you don’t spend $75 million just to spread WFAN’s existing audience over two signals, and even if the move to FM brings in more and younger listeners, it will take a long time to recoup $75 million that way. With CBS poised to launch its new CBS Sports Radio Network in 2013, it’s reasonable to think the network programming will eventually be cleared on 660. But there’s something bigger at stake, too:
    • Where do the Yankees and the Mets go? For the 2013 season, both teams appear to be set, the Yankees with another one-year extension of their deal with WCBS and the Mets with their longtime home on WFAN. If the simulcast is still going by Opening Day, the Mets will appear on both 101.9 and 660; if the simulcast is over by then, the Mets will be certainly be on 101.9, and might even still be on 660, if the team sees a value in the AM station’s broader coverage. (For CBS itself, the broad reach of the 50 kilowatt AM signal is less important; while 101.9 doesn’t travel as far, it’s as good as any other New York City FM and enjoys similar nearly-full coverage of the New York radio market.) It’s 2014 that could potentially be much more interesting: will the Yankees want to be heard on FM, and will that pit WFAN-FM against WEPN-FM for the lucrative contract? This is where the 101.9/660 split, if it happens, could get interesting – Yankees on WFAN-FM and Mets on “FAN CBS Sports 660?” Yankees on 101.9/660 and Mets on 98.7? As for Yankees and Mets fans beyond the reach of New York FM signals, it will be up to the teams to find local affiliates in the Hudson Valley, central New Jersey, southern Connecticut and other areas that will likely lose easy access to the games from out-of-market New York AM signals.
    • Football? Basketball? Hockey, if it ever comes back? The Giants will join most of the NFL on the FM band when their games, already on 660, show up on 101.9, and the Jets are the star franchise right now for WEPN-FM. The Knicks and Nets are also settled in, with the Knicks on 98.7 and the new Brooklyn Nets adding 101.9 to their existing carriage on 660. If and when the NHL starts playing again, the Devils will call 101.9 home, while the Rangers play on 98.7. Could the expansion of sports radio in New York once again give the Islanders a full-market radio home, too?
    • What happens to the other sellers looking for New York City buyers? Merlin’s exit from the market continues a trend of consolidation that’s been rather intense this year. Buckley’s sale of WOR (710) to Clear Channel took one major standalone player out of the market – and probably eliminated any possibility of Clear Channel as a buyer in the near future, too, since it’s already at the five-FM cap and has no imaginable use for more than one AM to clear its Premiere talk programming. Inner City’s financial woes put WBLS (107.5) and WLIB (1190) in the hands of the new YMF group, which in turn partnered with Emmis in something just short of an LMA. Emmis itself has already parted with 101.9 and 98.7, and its own financial troubles mean its remaining owned-and-operated New York station, WQHT (97.1), is probably available to a buyer at the right price. So is Family Stations’ WFME (94.7 Newark), which was converted to commercial status last year but never officially put up for sale. In a market that’s now massively dominated by two of the big “C” companies – CBS and Clear Channel – who’s left as a potential buyer? There’s that other “C” company, Cumulus, which suddenly looks less formidable in New York with just two core signals (WABC 770/WPLJ 95.5) and a Hudson Valley suburban cluster, but it’s already stretched financially to pay for its acquisition of Citadel. Could public broadcaster WNYC make a surprise play for a stronger signal for classical WQXR? Is there room for more Spanish-language FM in the market, with both Univision Radio and SBS well under the ownership cap? Will EMF Broadcasting’s taste of the market (via class A move-in WKLV-FM 96.7) lead to bigger signals for K-Love or an entry for Air 1? This much, at least, is clear: if New York City once offered big opportunities to well-heeled standalone broadcasters like Buckley and the New York Times, it’s become a much higher-stakes game where the only viable English-language commercial players are either big clusters like CBS and Clear Channel or multimedia entities like ESPN.
    • And what about rock on the radio? The “New Rock” format that replaced FM News on 101.9 wasn’t meant to be much more than filler, programmed from Merlin’s stations in Chicago while its investors looked for a buyer for the New York signal. But it actually outrated not only FM News but also the previous Emmis incarnation of WRXP, and its disappearance leaves fans of current rock wondering if their format will ever make it back to the New York dial. The prospects don’t look good: as more FM frequencies fill up with spoken-word programming, the pressure grows on the remaining music stations to be as mass-appeal as possible, and so it could be a long time before another major commercial signal flirts with current rock. (In the meantime, of course, there are noncommercial offerings such as WFUV’s “Alternate Side,” heard on a WFUV HD Radio subchannel and for several hours daily on WNYE 91.5, and the full program day on WSOU 89.5 on the Jersey side.)

*As the new 1 World Trade Center rises into the lower Manhattan skyline, it’s still not clear how many FM and TV broadcasters will be attracted to the master antenna facility that’s being built on the 1776-foot spire of the tower – and it’s also not clear when that spire will be finished. The New York Post reported Friday that a dispute between the Port Authority of New York-New Jersey and a Canadian steel company is holding up delivery of the steel for the mast, and time is running short. If ADF Steel doesn’t get the metal moving, the winter closure of the St. Lawrence Seaway may prevent it from being delivered until the spring of 2013, putting the spire project behind schedule. The Post reports the Port Authority has sued ADF, claiming the steel company is holding up the 1WTC delivery while awaiting payment from the Port Authority for an unrelated project.

How might a delay affect broadcasters? Probably not much: more than a decade after the 9/11 attacks destroyed the TV and FM facilities on the old 1WTC, nearly all of the broadcasters who used the Twin Towers are fully relicensed at other sites, mainly the Empire State Building but also 4 Times Square (which is, like 1WTC, managed by the Durst Organization for broadcast leasing) and several sites in New Jersey. With the predominance of cable and satellite for TV viewing, it’s not clear that broadcasters are feeling much pressure to upgrade the DTV signals that now come from Empire; indeed, plans to reconfigure the mast there for better DTV transmission have been stalled out as well. Even the FM stations that can’t be fully relicensed at Empire for spacing reasons seem to have settled in under Special Temporary Authority at slightly reduced power.

But there’s a huge symbolic value, of course, to returning broadcasting to the World Trade Center, where six TV engineers died in the attack eleven years ago, and for that reason alone we hope the dispute gets resolved quickly and the steel keeps rising atop the tower.

*Two CBS Radio obituaries this week: James McQuade had a long career in management at the company, starting in the 1960s as a sales executive and program director at WCBS (880) and the CBS Radio Network. In 1969, McQuade was named general manager of CBS’ owned-and-operated FM stations, including WCBS-FM (101.1 New York), WEEI-FM (103.3 Boston) and WCAU-FM (98.1). McQuade oversaw the stations’ conversions from automated operation to live and local formats, starting off with the “Young Sound” rock formats heard on many of the stations and then presiding over the risky (but ultimately very successful) shift to oldies at WCBS-FM. McQuade moved back to the AM side in 1980, serving as VP/GM of WCBS (880) until his retirement in 1986. He died October 4th in New Jersey.

And Wayne K. Brown worked his way up from the security desk to become WCBS’ general sales manager, a post he held until 1990, when he left CBS to continue his sales career in the south. Brown worked for Radio One for many years, becoming VP/general manager of its clusters in Charlotte and Atlanta. Brown died of liver cancer last Saturday (October 6); he was just 55.

*In the hall of fame of great radio nicknames, Russ Knight had one of the best. Born Russell Lee Moore, Knight wasn’t satisfied with just an air name, and so “Russ Knight” became “The Weird Beard” in the early years of top-40 AM radio. Most of Knight’s act played out on the airwaves far from NERW-land – he made a real name for himself at KLIF in Dallas and KILT in Houston in the early 1960s and later worked in Detroit and Cleveland – but he spent some time in our region, too, coming to New York’s WNEW (1130) in 1979 to serve as program director. Knight ended up living in Connecticut, and that’s where he died on Friday, at the age of 80.

*It’s been almost 75 years since a radio station in Atlantic City, NEW JERSEY has called itself “WPG,” but that’s about to change. The original WPG was a municipally-owned station broadcasting from studios at the famed Steel Pier, with a signal heard throughout much of the northeast. In 1938, the city sold off WPG to one of its channel-sharing partners at 1100 on the dial, WBIL in New York (an ancestor of today’s WADO 1280), and the callsign faded into the mists of history.

But during his morning show today on WENJ (1450 Atlantic City), veteran talk host Harry Hurley will announce the return of “WPG” to the Atlantic City airwaves. While it can’t actually retrieve the long-defunct three-letter call (it stood for “World’s Playground”), Townsquare-owned WENJ is changing its calls to WPPG as it segues from ESPN sports to an all-talk format anchored by Hurley from 6-10 AM. He’ll be followed by Glenn Beck (10-1), a yet-to-be-announced local show from 1-3 PM, Sean Hannity at 3, Mark Levin at 6, John Batchelor at 9 and Red Eye Radio at 1 AM.

(The memory of those old WPG calls survived elsewhere on the dial, too: what’s now WENJ signed on in 1940 as WFPG, and its sister station at 96.9 on the dial is still WFPG-FM.)

*Another AM station in CANADA is heading to the great “plates off” button in the sky, but unlike most of the station exiting the senuor band, CJRN (710 Niagara Falls) isn’t leaving voluntarily. Last week, the CRTC notified CJRN that its license will not be renewed, ordering the station off the air no later than November 30.

Why the “death penalty” for this venerable AM station, which traces its history back to 1946 and the old CHVC (1600)? Some history is in order: under longtime owner Keith Dancy, CJRN was a full-service signal into the 1990s, when it launched a low-power tourist information signal on 91.9 called CFLZ. A shuffling of the Niagara FM dial moved CFLZ to 105.1 with much higher power, and by 2002 the growth of FM and decline of AM made it tempting for the Dancy family to turn the FM signal into a full commercial operation. To make that happen, the Dancys asked the CRTC to shift the tourist information license to 710, and for a decade now the CJRN license has been constrained by license conditions that require it to carry only pre-recorded tourist information.

But under new owner Andrew Ferri, whose Northguard Capital (via its subsidiary Radio 710 AM Inc.) has controlled the station since 2005, those terms haven’t always been followed. The CRTC began inquiring into CJRN’s programming in 2009, putting the station’s license under several short-term administrative renewals while it requested program logs and logger recordings, and it didn’t like what it found. Some logger recordings were missing (Radio 710 AM blamed that on a split in duties between its employees and those former sister stations CFLZ-FM and CJED-FM, which shared the studio with CJRN even after being sold to Halliburton). Other tapes showed that in addition to tourist information, CJRN had been carrying religious programming aimed at the Muslim community during Ramadan, Punjabi-language live shows aimed at Toronto, and live sports updates. (At one point, CJRN was apparently leasing airtime for Canisius College sports play-by-play, aimed over the border at neighboring Buffalo.)

Despite protests from CJRN, the CRTC is taking a very strict view of its rules for tourist-information stations, ruling that the broadcast of national and international news items constituted “programming [that]was not solely directed to visitors to Niagara Falls and cannot be defined as tourist information.”

CJRN has the opportunity to appeal the ruling. It’s not clear yet if it will do so; the 710 facility appeared to be off the air when we checked late last week.

Five Years Ago: October 13, 2008

*It's been a few weeks since we've led off with big news from NEW YORK - but this week, there's big news indeed from two of the city's biggest stations.After 14 years at the helm of what's arguably the most important talk radio station in the country, Phil Boyce announced on Thursday that he's leaving the PD chair at WABC (770) - and by the end of the day, he was out the door at the 17th floor of 2 Penn Plaza.

The official word from Citadel was that Boyce's departure was entirely of his own doing, and while Boyce didn't immediately announce where he's headed next, Sean Hannity - one of Boyce's proteges at WABC - hinted that whatever Boyce is doing next, he'd be involved in it somehow. (It bears noting that Hannity just announced contract extensions with both of his employers, Citadel and Fox News Channel.)

Whatever the official announcements may have said, speculation was rampant heading into the weekend: why was Boyce's departure so abrupt, and might it have had something to do with Citadel's truly dreadful financial picture, as the company's stock remained mired below the $1 level, raising the spectre of de-listing from the New York Stock Exchange?

Another question about the timing of the announcement - if it was indeed entirely voluntary on Boyce's part, why was no succession plan immediately in place for the station that's been Boyce's baby for over a decade? (And speaking of pet projects - with Boyce out the door, what becomes of the annual "Rewound" nostalgia festival on Memorial Day, and the popular "Saturday Night Oldies" that Boyce implemented at WABC a couple of years back?)

*Those looking for certainty in the world of New York radio could find it last week at the Clear Channel cluster, though it may not have been the kind of certainty that fans of local radio would seek: once again, local content and local talent is giving way to national syndication.

This time, it's the relentless march of Ryan Seacrest across the nation's airwaves. As his "On Air" show has moved east from its Los Angeles home base, it's displaced local midday and afternoon jocks all over the country, and last week it was Shelley Wade's turn. The veteran middayer at WHTZ (100.3 Newark) is still at Z100, at least for now - but instead of her familiar 10 AM-3 PM shift, she's suddenly on overnights, replaced by the inevitable Seacrest, who at least made the right noises in the press release about how he's "always wanted to play those Z100 jingles," never mind that it's the automation in Manhattan that will be doing that, not Seacrest in Hollywood.

This is actually the second time Wade has been bumped by Seacrest - when he arrived at Boston's Kiss 108 earlier this year, it marked the end of Wade's voicetracking for the Boston station from New York. (We think there's some kind of irony there, but it's probably too depressing to contemplate.)

And there's a bit of news from CBS Radio, too - it's finally turned on the HD Radio multicast channels on WXRK (92.3 New York). On 92.3-HD2, it's the "K-Rock 2" modern rock format that has been running as a webcast for the last few years, and on 92.3-HD3, it's a simulcast of sports WFAN (660).

*In New York, WINS (1010) is mourning one of the anchors who helped launch its all-news format back in 1965. Lew Fisher was with the station for 36 years, starting back in WINS' music era in the fifties. He was 90 when he died on Sunday.

*And here in Rochester, we remember one of the city's veteran broadcast engineers. Stan Manson came to WOKR (Channel 13) forty years ago, and remained at the station (now WHAM-TV) for his entire career, most recently as engineering manager. Manson, who was in his early sixties, died Tuesday (Oct. 7).

*A veteran NEW HAMPSHIRE sportscaster is changing stations. After more than three decades with the station that's now WKBK (1290 Keene), Bob Lund has joined Great Eastern's new WEEY (93.5 Swanzey). For now, he's doing local sports inserts during WEEY's programming from Boston's WEEI network.

There's a call change just to the north - WPLY (96.3 Walpole) becomes WFYX; will a change from its current simulcast of oldies WWOD (104.3 Hartford VT) be next?

*Budget cutbacks hit WDRC in Hartford, CONNECTICUT at week's end: five full-time and four part-time positions were cut at the stations, including WDRC-FM afternoon jock Doug Taylor and WDRC(AM) mid-morning talker Mary Jones. Her slot will be filled by the syndicated Glenn Beck show, while on the FM Larry Wells moves from middays to afternoons, with Floyd Wright moving into middays from overnights.

*A big PENNSYLVANIA FM signal was knocked off the air by vandals early Thursday morning. The transmitter site of WILQ (105.1 Williamsport) is in a fairly remote spot, high above the city on Skyline Drive - but it wasn't remote enough to keep a big piece of logging equipment called a skidder from slamming into the building around 4 AM Thursday. Backyard Broadcasting chief engineer Tom Atkins says the vandals apparently hot-wired the skidder and went for a joyride, which didn't last long.

The ride ended when the skidder slammed into a corner of WILQ's concrete-block transmitter building, knocking the station off the air. The good news, if you can call it that, is that the transmitter wasn't hit; the bad news, however, is that the transmitter building was a total loss. WILQ quickly got back on the air from an auxiliary site, and Atkins and his crew salvaged what they could from the building. (We're writing this, oddly enough, from the laptop in the passenger seat of the NERW-mobile as we drive through Williamsport, and WILQ's signal - at least over the weekend - is pretty good in the city, though not as good as its usual booming full class B.)

The damage was still being assessed of press time; initial estimates were in the low six figures, and the vandals still hadn't been caught as of Sunday night.

In TV news, Erie public station WQLN-TV has turned off its analog signal for good. WQLN's analog and digital signals both went off the air when the station's tower suffered a lightning strike a few weeks back, and the original plan was to restore the analog Channel 54 signal at low power for the few months remaining before the February sunset. The station has now changed its mind; while it's restored WQLN-DT (Channel 50) to the air on a temporary auxiliary antenna, it now says the analog signal won't be returning. Cable customers in London, Ontario, who've been without WQLN service for a few weeks, should have the station's signal back soon as well. (They've been getting Buffalo's WNED in its place.)

Ten Years Ago: October 13, 2003

*It must be an exciting week for the folks at Boston's sports talker, WEEI (850) - after all, they're the flagship station for baseball's next World Champions. (This week's NERW is being written Sunday night in lieu of the rained-out Game 4 of the ALCS; we reserve the right to dream and to dream big, and you Yankees fans can keep it to yourselves.)

*But in the midst of all that excitement, WEEI will be without its popular morning team for a while longer, thanks to the continued fallout from an offhand remark John Dennis and Gerry Callahan made a couple of weeks ago as they discussed a newspaper photo of a gorilla that had escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo.

*As we reported last week, WEEI initially suspended Dennis for two days for remarking that the gorilla was a "METCO (urban-suburban exchange student) gorilla waiting for a bus to Lexington." That wasn't enough for the coalition of city officials, religious leaders and other civic groups protesting the comments, though, and after a meeting with METCO officials last Tuesday, WEEI suspended Callahan as well, extending the suspensions for both hosts for two weeks. (2008 note: OK, it didn't happen in 2003 - damn you, Aaron #@!%^ Boone! - but a year later, well, that was a different story. And what are the Yankees doing this October?)

*In Springfield, MASSACHUSETTS, TV viewers are about to get something that more closely resembles a local CBS affiliate. For decades, CBS service to Springfield and the Pioneer Valley has come from CONNECTICUT's WFSB (Channel 3) - but now WFSB is getting ready to launch a separate service to the Massachusetts side of its market. It'll still be "CBS3" on cable, but WFSB owner Meredith has bought W67DF (Channel 67) in Springfield from Trinity Broadcasting, and it will soon move to channel 45 and increase its power from Mount Tom, selling local ads and increasing WFSB's presence in Springfield. (WFSB has experimented over the years with local ad sales and even local news inserts on Springfield cable, but this will be its first stab at a Springfield broadcast signal.)

*Arthur Liu is adding two more New York-market signals to his portfolio - though they're both actually across the river in NEW JERSEY. Liu's Multicultural Broadcasting is spending $150 million to acquire Radio Unica's 15-station group, which includes WWRU (1660 Jersey City) and WJDM (1530 Elizabeth). WWRU already shares the tower site of Liu's WKDM (1380 New York) on Paterson Plank Road in East Rutherford; we expect it will drop Unica's Spanish news-talk programming in favor of the same leased time fare that already runs on Liu's WPAT (930 Paterson), WKDM, WNSW (1430 Newark) and WZRC (1480 New York).

*Meanwhile on the radio dial, the all-Christmas stunting on WKXP (94.3 Kingston) ended at 9:43 last Monday morning, as Cumulus relaunched the former oldies station (ex-WBPM) as "Kicks 94.3," playing country and competing with Clear Channel's WRWD (107.3 Highland). Former WBPM morning guy Nick Robbins moves over to sister station WKNY (1490 Kingston), while middayer Laura Smith and afternooner Chris Lucas are out. Replacing them are Buzz Stephens (from former country outlet WUSX in Huntsville, Alabama) in mornings and Beth Christy (from WKXP sister station WCZX) as PD/afternoon drive.

*The big story from CANADA was the death Tuesday (Oct. 7) of media mogul Israel "Izzy" Asper. Asper was a Manitoba banker in the early seventies when he acquired the physical assets of a tiny TV station on the North Dakota/Manitoba border and won a license from the CRTC to put it on the air in Winnipeg. KCND (Channel 12) in Pembina, N.D. thus went dark, with its tower and transmitter being trucked across the border to reappear as CKND (Channel 9), the cornerstone of what would become a media empire.

Asper went on to acquire an interest in the new Global network in Ontario, then bought Global outright and eventually built it into Canada's third national network. Meanwhile, his CanWest Global was buying newspapers - from the Montreal Gazette to the Vancouver Sun and Province to the startup of the National Post - not to mention TV interests in Australia and New Zealand and, recently, several radio stations in Canada. Asper was 71 when he died; though he was still CanWest Global's chairman, he'd ceded most of his power to his children last year.

Fifteen Years Ago: October 16, 1998

*With most of the big names in radio a continent away at the NAB Radio Show in Seattle, it's been a quiet week back here in the Northeast, with all of one format change to tell you about. It's in upstate NEW YORK, at the unusual two-AM combo created last year in Canandaigua. Alert NERW readers will recall that WCGR, the 250-watt daytimer at 1550 kHz, finally built its CP for a kilowatt full-time on 1310 -- but then asked the FCC for permission to "recharacterize" the frequency change as a new station application, thus allowing WCGR to keep both 1310 (with a great signal toward Rochester but a bit of a null towards the city of license) and 1550 (with a good signal in Canandaigua and not much else).

*After a bit of confusion at the FCC, things settled down with the WCGR calls moving to 1310, 1550 picking up the WLKA calls that once graced a sister FM, and both simulcasting a (mostly-automated) 70s-heavy soft AC format. Until this week, that is...when hitting the "1310" preset in the NERW-mobile produced not the usual Neil Diamond, but conservative Christian talk and USA news instead.

Here's what's happened: WCGR has LMA'd the 1310 facility to David Wolfe's WASB (1590) in Brockport, in Rochester's western suburbs. Under the new calls of WRSB, 1310 is simulcasting WASB 20 1/2 hours a day, with WCGR programming still being heard from 5 till 8:35 AM on weekdays (albeit without veteran upstate broadcaster Jack Mindy, who's left the station). It makes for an interesting combination, since 1310 can be heard from Canandaigua up to the east side of Rochester, while 1590 can be heard from roughly one end of its own property to just short of the other end -- and that's on the days when the transmitter is actually working. Here at NERW Central, no more than 12 miles from WASB, the signal simply does not exist, except on very good days with a communications-grade receiver, a good antenna, and a high tolerance for co-channel stations in Auburn and Salamanca.

As for 1550, it's reclaimed the WCGR calls and continues the AC format, but with a signal that's hard to hear outside northwest Ontario County. We're told Wolfe has an option to buy 1310 eventually; we'll keep an eye on this one.

*Moving along to MAINE, the Saga stations in Portland have a new boss. He's Cary Pahigian, who programmed WBZ in the 1980s and most recently ran Ernie Boch's stations on Cape Cod. Now he becomes: vice president of Saga/New England, market manager of Portland Radio, and GM of WGAN, WZAN, WMGX, and WYNZ (which is to say, all of Portland Radio except WPOR AM-FM). Pahigian replaces the retiring Bob Gold.

3 COMMENTS

  1. A couple notes from this week’s column…

    A quick clarification – in Albany the station that just changed frequencies is actually marketed as “The Cat” not “Cat Country.” Pamal does own a country station that markets as “Cat Country” nearby, but that’s up in the Rutland VT market (WJEN 105.3 FM)

    Other than that, as if I needed yet another reminder of how smart the decision was that I made back in 2001 to get out of radio full time, I just got two. Former WBEE colleague “Big Daddy” Dave Beck and fellow Plattsburgh State alum Jackson Blue both got the axe, to be replaced by… automation! Is it just me, or is this whole corporate “cost-cutting” and “downsizing” thing going on in radio today starting to reach absolutely ridiculous proportions?

  2. Whatever they put on WZMR I’m sure will be ‘more of the same’. Personally, I think they had more of an image about 10 years ago with the jazz format that appeared to have moderate success. Arguably that would be about the only format they could go that doesn’t already have an area presence. Suggestions such as this though are always shot down immediately…particularly since it WAS already done, albeit a decade ago.

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