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In this week's issue... MVY to make terrestrial return - Christmas tunes spread - Gambling exits WOR, again - Saga grows again - Philly's newest TV takes air - Shakeup cuts jobs at Rogers in Ottawa, Halifax - AM move in NYC

By SCOTT FYBUSH

*A bit of housekeeping before we jump into the week's news: your editor spent most of last week on the road, collecting pictures and stories at broadcast facilities in and around Washington and Philadelphia for future Tower Site of the Week installments, as well as putting on the "reporter" hat to file some stories from the U.S. Supreme Court (give a listen here, if you'd like). And in the midst of all that travel, we're well aware that the servers that power this site weren't exactly holding up their end of the bargain, making it hard to access last week's column and impossible to post a Site of the Week for Friday.

After another brief delay for the Veterans Day holiday on Monday, we're back here for you now on a brand-new server, and with copious thanks to Lance Venta at our content partner, RadioInsight.com, we're cautiously hopeful that the behind-the-scenes chaos is over and your NERW-reading experience will be a stable one from here on out.

PD Barbara Dacey signs off WMVY on 92.7, Feb. 10, 2013
PD Barbara Dacey signs off WMVY on 92.7, Feb. 10, 2013

*We're not the only ones who found a return to stability in the last few days. Consider, if you will, those fine local broadcasters off the coast of MASSACHUSETTS at what used to be WMVY (92.7) on Martha's Vineyard. It's been nearly a year since WMVY licensee Aritaur Broadcasting made the announcement that it was selling the FM license to Boston University's WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston), and nine months since the stormy night when "MVYRadio" left the FM dial for a new existence as a streaming service.

As the MVYRadio folks made their successful fundraising effort to buy the station's studios and intellectual property, they promised they'd try to find a way back to the FM dial to continue to serve listeners on the island and nearby parts of Cape Cod. MVYRadio did stay on the air in Newport, RHODE ISLAND, where translator W243AI (96.5) switched to a feed provided via the HD2 channel of Rhode Island Public Radio's WRNI-FM (102.7 Narragansett Pier). And now it's making plans for a triumphant return to FM right there on the Vineyard, thanks to a deal between the Friends of WMVY and Vineyard Public Radio, which is selling WMEX (88.7 Edgartown) for $450,000.

"Vineyard Public Radio" is the nonprofit arm of Dennis Jackson, the well-known New England broadcaster who makes his summer home on the Vineyard. Jackson has been operating WMEX only sporadically since it was licensed in December 2012, and while he tells NERW he never intended to sell the station (and would have run a standards format on it), he asks, "who knew there would be such an outcry when the 92.7 was sold?"

The purchase of 88.7, aided by a $1.5 million capital campaign now underway, will allow the WMVY folks to put most of the pieces back together: they're already planning to apply to move the 88.7 transmitter to the old WMVY tower behind the MVYRadio.com studios in Tisbury. The WMVY calls are currently parked on 104.3 in Hartford, VERMONT, and will presumably be acquired to replace "WMEX," which stays with Jackson as part of the deal. The MVYRadio.com folks say they're hoping to have everything in place by April to get back on the air at 88.7.

*A big obituary on the Bay State mainland: George Capalbo was the engineer behind several of the most popular broadcasters in Massachusetts in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1961, he was working for WAAB (1440 Worcester) when he was put in charge of building its new FM sister station, WAAF (107.3), up at the old Armstrong FM site on Mount Asnebumskit in Paxton. From there, Capalbo moved to the Yankee Network/RKO stations in Boston, becoming the chief engineer who built "ARKO, the Friendly Robot," the automation behind top-40 pioneer WRKO-FM (98.5), and then overseeing the engineering behind the transition from full-service WNAC (680) to top-40 WRKO(AM) in 1967. Capalbo also oversaw the move of those stations, and sister WNAC-TV (Channel 7), from the old Brookline Avenue Yankee plant to state-of-the-art new studios at Government Center before being promoted to national VP of engineering for RKO Radio in 1973. (That Government Center facility is still home to channel 7, now WHDH-TV.) Capalbo was later inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame; he died on Friday in Worcester at age 86.

From Chicago comes word of the death of Carla Leonardo, who had a long career in the Windy City playing rock and roll at WLUP (97.9), WKQX (101.1) and most recently at "The Drive," WDRV (97.1). Long before that, though, she was a Boston DJ, heard on WCOZ (94.5) in the early 1980s. Leonardo was suffering from myeloid leukemia when she died on Saturday at age 63.

There's a new general manager coming to Comcast-owned New England Cable News: Mike St. Peter heads up I-84 from CONNECTICUT, where he's been with NBC's WVIT (Channel 30) for seven years, most recently as news director.

Down the road from WVIT, Connoisseur has promoted Drew Carrano to marketing director for WPLR (99.1 New Haven) and WYBC-FM (94.3 New Haven), taking the post long held by his former boss, Sam Tilery, who's still very much missed there after his recent death.

It's been almost three years since New York's Don Imus has had an on-air home anywhere in the greater Boston market, and southern NEW HAMPSHIRE is a long way indeed from his former homes at WEEI and then WTKK (96.9). But the I-Man is back, now being heard in the Merrimack Valley in morning drive on Costa-Eagle's WCCM (1110 Salem NH).

*Sinclair is on the move again in MAINE, where last week it quietly acquired the non-broadcast assets of Portland-market Fox affiliate WPFO (Channel 23) from Max Media. Sinclair paid $13.6 million for the rights to program and sell the Waterville-licensed station. It's already been providing a 10 PM newscast to WPFO for the last six years.

*Our Christmas station list (read it here, in partnership with our friends at RadioInsight.com!) added two Ocean State signals last week, as both Clear Channel's WWBB (101.5 Providence) and Cumulus AC rival WWLI (105.1 Providence) made their usual flips. There's also now double the Christmas music in Rochester, where Clear Channel's ho-ho-ho-ing at both WVOR (102.3 Canandaigua) and WODX (107.3 South Bristol), and in Williamsport, where Santa arrived at Clear Channel's WKSB (102.7) and at competitor WLMY (107.9). Clear Channel made flips last week, too, at WSKX (95.3 York Center ME) on the seacoast, WTRY (98.3 Rotterdam) in the Albany market, WRNQ (92.1 Poughkeepsie), and in Reading, Pennsylvania at WRAW (1340).

John R. Gambling (photo: WOR)
John R. Gambling (photo: WOR)

*Long before even Don Imus was being heard on NEW YORK radio, mornings in the biggest market in America were the domain of a family named Gambling. John B. Gambling signed on at WOR (710) way back in 1925, handed off his "Rambling with Gambling" show to son John A. Gambling in 1959, and the torch passed to grandson John R. Gambling in 1991. And now, at age 63, John R. Gambling says he's ready to retire from his second stint in mornings at WOR. (The "88-year legacy" of Gamblings on WOR's morning show was, of course, interrupted once before when WOR parted ways with John R. in 2000, only to bring him back in 2008 after several years across town at WABC.)

Gambling says the decision to step down, effective December 20th, was entirely his own - but it comes amidst some big, big changes at 710 on the dial. The sleepy AM outlet is now in the hands of Clear Channel, which just completed a studio move from 111 Broadway to its cluster studio on Sixth Avenue just south of Canal Street. Last week brought the official announcement that WOR is the new home of the Mets for 2014, part of one of those multi-platform deals that will find the NL team getting plenty of promotion on other Clear Channel FM outlets in town and on the iHeartRadio digital platform. WOR's midday slot will become the home of Rush Limbaugh in just under two months. And now, as Gambling heads south to Florida for the winter, the speculation can begin about who'll be the new morning voice on the new WOR. Stay tuned...

(As for Gambling himself, could another return to WABC be in the offing? The Cumulus talker will have an opening in middays once Limbaugh moves to WOR, after all.)

WZRC 1480 - and soon, WWRV 1330?
WZRC 1480 - and soon, WWRV 1330?

*Way up the AM dial, Radio Vision Cristiana's WWRV (1330 New York) wants to move again. The descendant of the old share-time WEVD and WBBR/WPOW/WNYM last broadcast from a New York State location almost a quarter of a century ago, when it moved from the old WBBR/WPOW site on Staten Island to diplex with WWDJ (970, now WNYM) in Hackensack, New Jersey. Along the way, it boosted its daytime power from 5000 watts to 10,000 watts. And now the Spanish-language religious station wants to move again, this time northward to Ridgefield Park, just off the New Jersey Turnpike's northernmost reach.

From there, WWRV would boost its power to 10,000 watts fulltime, diplexing on all four towers of Multicultural Broadcasting's WZRC (1480 New York). The move would push a little more of WWRV's signal into the southern parts of Brooklyn and Queens, adding more than 700,000 additional potential listeners within the station's 5 mV/m contour.

*Upstate, the expansion of Saga Communication's holdings in Ithaca have been an ongoing story in this column over the years. We've watched as Saga's cluster has grown from a single AM/FM combo (WHCU 870/WYXL 97.3) to add on another Ithaca combo (now WNYY 1470/WQNY 103.7), as well as WIII (99.9) in nearby Cortland - and then six more FM translator signals, two of them relaying the AMs, two relaying WQNY and WIII, and two originating programming, including top-40 "Hits 103.3" (W277BS), which launched as a competitor to one of the few full-power signals in town not owned by Saga.

And now that signal, top-40 WFIZ (95.5 Odessa), is itself on its way to the Saga cluster along with three more translators. WFIZ is the old WFLR-FM, which moved in from 95.9 in Dundee a few years back, and after several years of spirited fighting between "Z95.5" owner ROI Broadcasting and Saga, the bankruptcy of ROI principal George Kimble is bringing an end to the competition. The trustee handling the bankruptcy of ROI has accepted a $715,000 offer from Saga for WFIZ and translators W235BR (94.9 Ithaca, relaying WFIZ), W242AB (96.3 Ithaca, relaying WLLW 99.3 Seneca Falls) and W299BI (107.7 Ithaca, "Classic Hits 107.7," relaying WFIZ's HD2).

The deal (which must still be approved by both the FCC and the bankruptcy court, which can still consider competing offers) will put every fully commercial FM signal in Ithaca under Saga's ownership, but it appears to fully comply with FCC ownership rules, and here's why: because Ithaca isn't an Arbitron-rated market, the FCC looks at contour overlap. In the area defined by WFIZ's overlap with Saga's existing five full-power signals, Saga identifies a whopping 64 total signals, including big FMs from Syracuse, Binghamton and Elmira. Even though none of those stations competes for ad dollars within Tompkins County, they count as far as the FCC is concerned, allowing Saga to own all six full-power signals - and all those translators as well, none of which counts against the ownership totals. (That's not even including the reality that most of those out-of-market signals don't actually make it to the population centers in and around Ithaca, down in the terrain bowl at the end of Cayuga Lake, or that some of those "64 overlapping signals" are themselves overlapped by Saga's own translators.)

Assuming the sale goes through, it will leave only a handful of competitors to Saga: WPIE (1160 Trumansburg), plus an FM translator, doing ESPN sports, as well as WVBR (93.5 Ithaca), the commercial rocker operated by Cornell students, plus several noncommercial outlets.

insght-xmaslist*In Buffalo, late-night local talk didn't last long at Entercom's WBEN (930), where David Bellavia's 10 PM-1 AM show is history after just two weeks on the air. Bellavia's full-time employer apparently balked at the second gig, pulling the longtime political activist off not only the 10 PM shift but also his fill-in duties for WBEN's other local hosts. Michael Caputo is now filling in for Sandy Beach, and the 10 PM slot is being filled by "best-of" segments from Beach and Tom Bauerle.

Down the road in Colden, the 1000-foot tower of WIVB (Channel 4) has been a frequent target for would-be "BASE jumpers," one of whom was killed a few years back when a jump went back. Thankfully, nobody was killed early last Tuesday morning when two men broke into the site and began trying to climb the tower while wearing parachutes. Security alarms tripped at the heavily-secured site, and police got to the scene before the two had made it more than halfway up. They were brought back down and charged with criminal trespassing and conspiracy. (Editor's note: climbing towers is stupid, and most of the tall ones now have plenty of cameras to catch trespassers. Don't do it.)

Mike Bensson was known as "Iron Mike" during many years on the air at WBYR (107.7 Wethersfield Township), WUFX (103.3 Buffalo) and WJJL (1440 Niagara Falls) before crossing the border to St. Catharines and 15 years at CHTZ (97.7 HTZ). Bensson died November 7, at age 60, after a long fight with cancer. As Bensson was dying, friends on the U.S. side of the border organized a benefit to help cover his medical expenses; that benefit will go on as scheduled on November 24 at Casa di Pizza on Buffalo's Elmwood Avenue.

Here in Rochester, Tom Decker was the star anchor and news director at then-NBC affiliate WROC-TV (Channel 8) from the early 1960s until he departed the market in 1975, and before he owned the anchor desk, he was a prominent sports voice, announcing Red Wings baseball games on the radio from 1954 until 1961. The Buffalo native started his career at WGR/WKBW there, and also worked in Worcester at WNEB (1230) before coming to Rochester to replace Jack Buck in the Wings' radio booth. (Decker was tipped to the job opening by his brother Jack, already a prominent newsman at WHEC.) After leaving Rochester, Decker had a second (third?) career as spokesman for the Chicago-based National Safety Council. Decker eventually retired to Florida, where he died on Tuesday in Ormond Beach, at age 90.

Warner (photo: WELV-LP)
Dennis Warner (photo: WELV-LP)

Also from the obituaries: Dennis Warner was an LPFM pioneer, putting WELV-LP (107.9 Ellenville) on the air in 2006 as a local voice for the small Catskill town whose existing "local" stations had been moved out of town by Clear Channel. The low-power version of WELV was based at Ellenville High School and used students on the air alongside Warner's super-local morning show. Warner, a former Ellenville teacher and self-described "old-school hippie," died earlier this month at age 70.

*Could Syracuse Chiefs baseball be returning to the terrestrial dial? The AAA team went rather prominently web-only for the 2013 season, but the Post-Standard reports that the Nationals affiliate is considering returning to the airwaves next year. Where could the team go? The likeliest options would be either a return to former flagship WSKO (1260), or a move to Galaxy's growing sports cluster at WTLA (1200)/WSGO (1440 Oswego) and their FM translators at 97.7 and 100.1.

In Albany, Tanch is changing stations: the PD at Townsquare's "Hot 99.1" (W256BU/WQSH 105.7-HD2) departed last week to return to his previous employer, Albany Broadcasting. His new role there hasn't been announced yet, but it's widely expected that it has something to do with currently-stunting WZMR 104.9, which would appear to be headed in an urban direction.

*NEW JERSEY's lone network-affiliated English-language TV station has been sold to a frequency speculator. Access.1 bought WMGM-TV (Channel 40) in Wildwood from the late Howard Green in 2003, paying $22 million for the NBC affiliate and six sister radio stations. It unloaded most of the radio stations in 2008, and now it's selling WMGM-TV as well. Locus Point Networks has agreed to pay $6 million for WMGM-TV, but the new owner won't actually operate the station; instead, it will lease the station back to Access.1 to continue operating, presumably until WMGM's channel 36 RF space can be put into the FCC's impending spectrum auction, where Locus Point is hoping to be a major player. (It's also acquiring a Philadelphia low-power signal, WPHA-CD channel 38.)

Access.1 continues to own WONZ (1580 Hammonton), as well as New York's WWRL (1600) and several stations in Texas.

*Seton Hall University is moving its basketball rights to a new signal this year: after several years of Pirates basketball on New York's WABC (770) and then last season on Greater Media's WMTR (1250 Morristown), the team returns to a New York-market signal this year, on Salem's WNYM (970 Hackensack), with four games being pushed to Salem's WMCA (570).

Out in Washington, N.J., Clear Channel is modifying its application for a new translator to relay WZZO (95.1 Bethlehem PA): instead of operating on 98.3, the translator is now proposing to use 98.7. Will New York's co-channel WEPN-FM object?

KJWP's new antenna, just below the candelabra
KJWP's new panel antenna, just below the candelabra

*Few viewers in eastern PENNSYLVANIA, even those with over-the-air broadcast antennas, likely noticed the arrival of the Philadelphia market's newest full-power TV signal on Monday - but a few alert viewers caught the first signal test of KJWP (Channel 2), licensed to Wilmington, Delaware and transmitting from the Roxborough tower farm. The massive panel antenna for the new low-band VHF signal went up last week on the ATC candelabra tower, just below the FM master antenna there, and we noticed the used Harris Platinum transmitter being installed when we visited late last week.

KJWP, of course, is the new incarnation of what used to be KJWY in Jackson, Wyoming, and NERW readers are familiar with its long and unusual route across the country, a move made possible by an obscure corner of the FCC rules intended to keep WWOR-TV (Channel 9) in New Jersey. When WWOR moved to a UHF RF channel during the digital translation, Press Broadcasting's Bob McAllan noted that both New Jersey and Delaware were left with no commercial signals on VHF - and so he formed PMCM, LLC and acquired KJWY and a station in Nevada and asked the FCC to move them to "Delaware" and "New Jersey," respectively. The FCC tried to thwart the moves by assigning other new VHF channels in both states (leading to the recent arrival of Atlantic City-licensed WACP, channel 4), but a court appeal went in PMCM's favor, thus bringing KJWP to the air in Philadelphia, soon to be followed by KVNV, channel 3, moving from Ely, Nevada to "Middletown Township, N.J.," which will look an awful lot like New York City's 4 Times Square.

What will the new KJWP program? Nobody's saying just yet, but we'd expect a pretty hefty diet of infomercials, at least at first, once the signal signs on for good.

*Our travels also brought us within range of a brand-new signal near the Susquehanna River: the Beaver Springs Faith Baptist Church put WFBA (90.5 Kulpmont) on the air early last week as the third link in its chain of southern gospel signals in the region. At least when we tuned in Friday night, WFBA was running a separate program stream from the first two signals, simulcasters WFBV (90.5 Beaver Springs) and WFBM (90.1 Selinsgrove) to the west.

Continuing west, Invisible Allies Ministries has slightly modified its application to change WRXV (89.1 State College) from vertical-only to circular polarization. WRXV now runs 4.4 kW vertical/1099' DA from a site near Tyrone; the FCC tossed its initial application to go to 730 watts/1089', non-directional, from a new site west of Bellefonte, but it's been amended to reduce power slightly to 700 watts to avoid overlap with WQSU (89.9 Selinsgrove).

Back in Philadelphia, Bethany Kent is departing her job as promotions director at Beasley's WRDW-FM (96.5) to take on the same role up at WQHT (97.1) in New York.

And in Erie, they've cleaned up a big mess at Gannon University's WERG (90.5), where a drunken Gannon graduate student dressed as "Luigi" (of Mario Bros. fame) smashed in the storefront studio window early Friday morning. Alarms summoned station staff to the scene, where they found broken glass and blood; the station remained on automation through morning drive on Friday while the mess was cleaned up and the window was fixed. The university isn't releasing the student's name, but it did share it with Erie police, who were looking into a similar attack around the corner at the Boston Store studio windows of Connoisseur's stations.

*Harrisburg TV viewers with long memories might remember Jim English, who was the weatherman at WHP-TV (Channel 21) many decades ago, in addition to hosting post-game shows for the Hershey Bears hockey team. English went on to a long career in Baltimore, where he worked at WBAL-TV (Channel 11), WJZ (Channel 13) and Maryland Public TV, as well as serving as general manager of Towson University's WTMD (89.7). English died last Sunday (Nov. 3), at age 79.

ciww*The big broadcast news out of eastern CANADA last week came from Rogers, which was making some big cuts at its all-news operations in Ottawa and Halifax. In Ottawa, CIWW (1310 News) cut out its all-news blocks outside of morning and afternoon drive time; it will instead be rebroadcasting Rogers' CJCL (Sportsnet 590 the FAN) from Toronto the rest of the day. In Halifax, CJNI (News 95.7) is flipping to a similar news/sports hybrid. All told, 19 jobs were lost at the two stations, part of an overall 94 layoffs across the company.

And of course the big non-broadcast news north of the border came from Toronto city hall and vicinity, where mayor Rob Ford was in the international spotlight after acknowledging that he'd smoked crack during a drunken binge. There's a broadcast connection here, too: Bell's CFRB (Newstalk 1010) wasted no time cutting ties to the mayor and his brother, city councilor Doug Ford, announcing they'd reached a "mutual agreement" to discontinue the Sunday afternoon show, "The City," that the brothers had been hosting.

*Say goodbye to another one of those 40-watt low-power relay transmitters (LPRTs) that were once an essential part of the CBC's outreach to rural Canada. For decades, CBAO (990) has operated from the railyard in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, a stone's throw from the Maine border, but last week the CRTC granted permission to the CBC to replace the longwire AM signal with a 233-watt FM relay on 88.1, carrying the signal of CBD (91.3 Saint John).

One more note: if you've flipped your 2013 Tower Site Calendar to the November page, please note that the human beings who produce the calendar (which would be your editor and Mrs. Editor) made a little goof: Thanksgiving is, as always, on the fourth Thursday - which would make it November 28 this year, not, as the calendar indicates, November 21. Want a corrected PDF you can print out? It's yours for the asking - just drop a line to lisa at fybush dot com.

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 THIS WEEK, (we hope -- we'll keep you posted) 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!

Click here to order your 2014 calendar! Shipping will begin in November.

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: November 12, 2012

*It’s been just over a year since the public radio scene in western PENNSYLVANIA changed dramatically with Duquesne University’s sale of WDUQ (90.5 Pittsburgh) to a new group called Essential Public Radio. Renamed WESA, 90.5 shed most of the jazz programming that had long been a staple there – and most of the former WDUQ staff, too. Many of those staffers had been involved with a rival bid for the 90.5 license under the “Pittsburgh Public Media” banner, and after losing out on the broadcast license, they remained active with other ventures. Even without a station to call home, former DUQ staffers kept the jazz format going by way of an online stream (“Pittsburgh Jazz Channel“) while planning more new formats to offer under the “PubMusic” banner.

It turns out they were planning something else, too: not long after WDUQ became WESA, Pittsburgh Public Media began negotiating to find a new FM home. On Friday, PPM announced it’s entered an agreement to buy WVBC (88.1), the radio signal of Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia, some 35 miles west of Pittsburgh. PPM openly acknowledges that the 1100-watt signal “is a station that needs signal improvements” before it can be easily heard in most of the Pittsburgh area, and NERW notes that will be a challenge, what with Carnegie Mellon’s WRCT (88.3) right in Pittsburgh and He’s Alive, Inc.s’ religious WRWJ (88.1 Murrysville) out to the southeast of town.

“We must start somewhere,” PPM says, and it’s now launching a fundraising campaign to bring in $150,000 for the purchase of WVBC by February 1, 2013. Once it’s on the air with its new 88.1 rimshot signal, PPM says it will be ready to go with a studio: it turns out WESA sold all of the old WDUQ studio gear to PPM when it built new South Side studios with quasi-sister station WYEP (91.3) late last year.

WICU's previous set, 2009

*Two hours up I-79, Erie finally became a high-definition local TV news market last Monday, when Lilly Broadcasting debuted a new set and graphics on NBC affiliate WICU (Channel 12) and its CBS sister, WSEE (Channel 35).

The move puts WICU/WSEE a step ahead of its local news competition, Nexstar’s WJET-TV (Channel 24)/WFXP (Channel 66), and it means every TV market in the Keystone State now has at least one station doing HD local news. (The other holdout had been Johnstown-Altoona, where NBC affiliate WJAC-TV went HD earlier this year.)

*Congratulations to Drew Pinkney, who’s moving on to a new job. We first knew Drew when he was an engineer here in Rochester at Entercom’s local cluster. He moved on from there to Bud Williamson’s Digital Radio Engineering, where he’s been part of the crack team of contract engineers traveling the region building and maintaining broadcast facilities. And now he’s moving on to Cumulus in York, where he replaces Sam Michaels as chief engineer of WSBA (910), WGLD (1440 Manchester Township), WSOX (96.1 Red Lion) and WARM-FM (103.3), following Sam’s big move up to Cumulus’ Dallas/Fort Worth stations.

More Radio People on the Move: Derrick Corbett, aka “DC,” is the new PD of Clear Channel’s urban trio in Philadelphia, WUSL (98.9), WDAS-FM (105.3) and WDAS (1480). Corbett comes to Philadelphia from New Orleans, where he’s been PD of the Clear Channel urban trio there, WQUE/WYLD-FM/WYLD. In Pittsburgh, Ryan Maguire is the new PD at CBS Radio’s KDKA-FM (93.7 the Fan), arriving later this month from Kansas City’s KCSP (610). And in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market, Dale Mikolaczyk is out at Entercom, where he’d been doing traffic reporting (as “Rusty Fender”) for two decades and hosting a weekend oldies show on the WILK news-talk stations.

*When Infinity Broadcasting flipped NEW YORK‘s WKTU (92.3) to “K-Rock” back in 1985, could anyone have imagined that the WXRK calls would end up becoming among the city’s most enduring? Over 27 years, 92.3 saw the rise and eventual departure of Howard Stern, the ill-fated 2006 flip to talk as “Free FM” that briefly turned the station into WFNY-FM and the return of “K-Rock” and the WXRK calls in 2007. Even the flip to top-40 as “Now” in 2009 didn’t displace the WXRK callsign – at least, not right away. Why did it take until November 8, 2012 for CBS to finally change the callsign on 92.3 for good? We don’t know – but since the station is now WNOW-FM (a callsign that had been in North Carolina on what’s now WOSG 105.3 Gaffney/Charlotte and before that on what’s now WQXA-FM 105.7 in York, PA), it’s a good bet the “Now” format is sticking around for a while.

And unlike 2006, when CBS parked the WXRK callsign in Cleveland (or 2007, when CBS parked the even more legendary “WNEW” in Florida), the WXRK calls are free for the taking now by anyone who might want them (or at least they were free as of Friday night.)

WMCA, after Sandy (photo: Stu Engelke)

*There’s a little bit of good news on the New York AM dial: the last of the big NEW JERSEY-based AM signals silenced by Sandy’s high waters have returned to the air. Nautel provided emergency shipments of 1000-watt AM transmitters last week to allow WMCA (570) and WLIB (1190) to put low-power signals back on while they work to rebuild transmission systems heavily damaged by the flooding.

We’re also learning more about the damage to another nearby station in Sandy’s path. WMCA’s sister station, WNYM (970 Hackensack), has asked the FCC for special temporary authority to operate fulltime with its 5 kW nighttime signal while it tries to repair storm damage to its 50 kW daytime transmitter.

Out on Long Island, WGBB (1240 Babylon) still remains silent; its transmitter building was flooded and its transmission equipment was reportedly damaged beyond repair.

*A big promotion for a “Big” guy: Jay Fink, better known to his friends as “Biggie,” has been a part of Dennis Jackson’s WRIP (97.9 Windham) up in the Catskills since the station launched back in 1999. He joined the station full-time in 2002, and became its general manager and morning man in 2010 when Guy Patrick Garraghan died. Now Jay’s been upped to president of the station, and we send our “big” congratulations his way!

*It’s been a while since we’ve had LPTV news to tell you about here in the Rochester area, but this week there’s a whole bunch. Start with WGCE-CA (Channel 6), the tiny little station just west of Rochester in Greece that’s long been owned by Edu-Cable (which also used to provide “Cable 12 West” to Greece and surrounding communities.) Now Edu-Cable’s Brian Caterino is selling the 29-watt signal to another local low-power broadcaster. The $46,000 sale to Corning-based Milachi Media will put the station in the hands of William and Paige Christian, who between them own Rochester MyNetwork affiliate WBGT-CA (Channel 40) and the Vision Communications/Sound Communications radio/TV cluster in the Southern Tier. WGCE apparently won’t be staying on channel 6 much longer, either; the sale contract specifies that the channel 6 transmitter be returned to Caterino once the station moves to its new UHF home on channel 25.

As for WBGT, it’s been a long while since we’ve seen any over-the-air signal from “My18,” which gets its viewership and its branding from its position on Time Warner Cable. But that changed last week when WBGT’s digital signal finally made it to the air. It’s on RF channel 46, and at least at the moment is carrying just one standard-definition stream and no PSIP data, so it’s appearing as “46″ instead of “40″ on the TVs here at NERW Central.

But wait, there’s more – across town, WAWW-LP, which we haven’t seen on analog 38 for many, many months, has filed for a license to cover on its displacement application to move to analog 20. (We’re not seeing anything on analog 20 here, either, almost within sight of the Pinnacle Hill towers, and we can’t even recall what WAWW last programmed when it was on the air.)

*A sad end to a downstate broadcast career: The last time we wrote about John Katonah in this space was back in 2010, when the veteran broadcaster was in legal trouble after being charged with DWI, criminal trespassing and violating a restraining order. Katonah’s WNYX (88.1 Montgomery) and its two translators fell silent not long afterward, and last week Katonah’s wife Mary filed to have the licenses transferred to her, telling the FCC that John Katonah died on April 25, 2012. Katonah was 50 years old.

*While the AM band in CANADA continues to empty out in most areas, it’s still roaring back in Montreal. Last week, the CRTC approved the application from Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy Media (TTP) for a new English-language news-talk station at 600 on the dial. That’s the former home of the city’s pioneering station CFCF, which later became CIQC before moving to 940 as CINW and then going silent.

The new TTP entry will take over right where CIQC left off back in 2002, operating with a similar 10 kW day/5 kW night signal from CIQC’s former transmitter site in Kahnawahke, south of Montreal. It will share that site with TTP’s new French-language news-talk entry at 940 on the dial, and Montreal media guru Steve Faguy says both stations will be on the air sometime in the spring of 2013.

TTP’s new entries will bring commercial competition to two of Montreal’s biggest existing stations: Astral Media’s CJAD (800) has been the only commercial English news-talk station in town since Corus shut down CINW a few years back, and Cogeco’s CHMP (98.5) shot to the top of the Montreal French-language ratings with its talk format. Can TTP’s local focus and the experience of its personnel (principal Paul Tietolman is the son of CKVL founder Jack Tietolman, and programmers for the new signals will include Steve Kowch, who used to program CJAD) overcome the big chains’ deep pockets? We’ll be listening.

Five Years Ago: November 10, 2008

*On Friday afternoon, your editor happily strolled down the street in shirtsleeves to grab some lunch, enjoying the sunny, sixty-something weather and wondering if it had been premature to put away the shorts for the season.But you wouldn’t know that it still feels almost like summer out there if you turn on the radio anywhere from upstate NEW YORK to - well, almost anywhere in NERW-land, actually, as stations all over the place seem to equate “first week of November” with “Christmas,” at least where their playlists are concerned.

Utica’s WUMX (102.5 Rome) was the first in the Empire State to make the flip last week, transforming “Mix 102.5” into “Christ-mix” for the duration. Also along for the sleigh ride is Galaxy sister station WZUN (102.1 Phoenix), playing holiday tunes for the Syracuse market.

Across town, Clear Channel’s WYYY (94.5 Syracuse) is still playing its usual AC tunes on the air, but its webstream is “100% Christmas music,” an odd twist on the increasingly common practice of adding an all-Santa stream that’s separate from a station’s regular on-air/on-line programming.

*Elsewhere in the state, budget cutbacks at Citadel claimed two jobs at the Buffalo cluster last week: morning co-host Gail Ann Huber is out at “Mix” WHTT (104.1), and night guy Slick Tom is gone at “97 Rock,” WGRF (96.9). Will Citadel’s other upstate cluster, in Syracuse, see cuts as well?

*Here in Rochester, Clear Channel is revving up the publicity machine for next week’s return of Brother Wease on “Fox” WFXF (95.1 Honeoye Falls) - but we’re sure it was just a coincidence that the press release about Wease’s return was issued just a day before the local paper deigned to finally print a story confirming the November 17 launch date for the revived Wease morning show (and all the staffing information you read about here back in our October 27 issue...)

One more Wease note: his morning-show debut will be preceded by the return of his popular Saturday music show, which starts at 10 AM November 15.

*Could Albany be getting a new AM signal? Charles Hecht and Alfredo Alonso are applying to move unbuilt WVVT (670) from Essex Junction, in the Burlington, VERMONT market, south to East Greenbush, New York.

The relocated WVVT would run 15 kW by day, 11 kW critical hours and 260 watts at night from four of the six towers of WGDJ (1300 Rensselaer), shooting north into Albany with what would be a fairly substantial daytime signal.

If the new WVVT is to take air from Albany, it will have to do so fairly quickly: the station’s construction permit expires in August 2009, though the construction deadline could be extended if it’s sold to a small-business owner before that.

*In TV news, Buffalo’s WKBW (Channel 7) is using its 50th anniversary this year to bring back a name and a music package that were synonymous with the station’s glory years.

“7 News” recently gave way to “Eyewitness News” on the station’s newscasts, and the nondescript theme music of recent years is gone, replaced by the throbbing pulse of the “Move Closer to Your World” theme that was a Channel 7 staple all through the seventies, eighties and nineties. Will the combination of “new” music and a shakeup in viewing habits from market leader WIVB (Channel 4)’s recently resolved carriage dispute with Time Warner Cable bring viewers back to Channel 7, which slipped precipitously from first place to third earlier in the decade? Stay tuned....

*The CONNECTICUT FM station that’s moving across the border into New York State is changing its proposed transmitter site.WCTZ (96.7 Stamford) holds a construction permit to change city of license to Port Chester, N.Y., with a new transmitter location in Roslyn, on the North Shore of Long Island - but now it’s filed a revised application that would instead move the transmitter to Westchester County.

The new application calls for 3.3 kW/446' from the Archdiocese of New York's instructional TV tower on Seminary Avenue in Yonkers - a site that just happens to provide predicted 60 dBu coverage of most of Westchester and Rockland counties, Bergen County, N.J. - and, oh yeah, all of the Bronx and most of Manhattan and Queens, not to mention a chunk of northern Nassau County.

To make the move possible, another station on 96.7 has to move: Jim Morley’s WTSX (96.7 Port Jervis), which had already agreed to install a directional antenna to make WCTZ’s move to Long Island happen, has now filed a contingent application that would move the station to Lehman Township, PENNSYLVANIA, in the sparsely populated mountains near the Delaware Water Gap. From there, the relocated WTSX would put a fringe signal into Stroudsburg, as well as over parts of Sussex and Warren counties in New Jersey.

What will Cox do with WCTZ once it’s moved? That’s anyone’s guess - though we did catch the hint, over in Tom Taylor's daily column at radio-info.com, that Bloomberg Radio might be seeking an FM facility to go along with its WBBR (1130)...

*A venerable CONNECTICUT AM signal was the subject of a controversial FCC ruling last week.

Since 1941, CBS Radio’s WTIC (1080 Hartford) has operated with an unusual privilege: rather than switching from its daytime non-directional operation to its nighttime two-tower array at Hartford sunset, it makes the flip an hour or so later, when the sun sets at the other big station on 1080, co-owned KRLD (1080 Dallas).

But in Michigan, a proposed upgrade to Detroit-market WCAR (1090) required a move to adjacent-channel WOAP (1080 Owosso) - and in the process of relocating that station from the Flint market to the Lansing market (with a new city of license - “neighborhood of license,” really - of Waverly, Michigan), WOAP asked the FCC to clarify WTIC’s protection status during the time between sunset in Hartford and Dallas.

In a decision released last week, the FCC’s Media Bureau sided with the Michigan station, noting - incorrectly, as it happens - that two other stations on 1080 already impinge on the extra coverage WTIC enjoys during its extended hours of daytime-mode operation. (It's true that WKJK in Louisville, Kentucky is a full-time signal, but the Commission’s decision inaccurately identifies Pittsburgh daytimer WWNL as a full-time station; indeed, WWNL reduces power from 50 kW to 25 kW during critical hours to protect WTIC.)

The FCC also rejected WTIC’s claims that its status as a “Primary Entry Point” to the EAS system merited continued protection of the extra hours of operation. And it said CBS had failed to prove its case that Waverly doesn’t qualify as a community of license for the relocated, 50 kW WOAP.

So what does it all mean? Assuming the ruling stands - and we suspect CBS has plenty of grounds to appeal - WTIC’s skywave signal will receive a little extra interference from the new WOAP in the brief time (as little as half an hour at some points during the year) between sunset in Hartford and sunset in Michigan, when WOAP will drop to a directional 4500-watt signal.

That, by itself, is no big deal - but does it set a precedent that could affect the few other stations with similar extended daytime operation? We know of at least two - Disney’s WQEW (1560 New York), which remains on day pattern until sunset at Bakersfield, California’s KNZR (1560), and Clear Channel’s WCKY (1530 Cincinnati), which stays on day pattern until sunset at co-owned KFBK in Sacramento.

*A sad obituary from NEW JERSEY: Kevin Hodge, who’d worked the overnight shift at New York's WAXQ (104.3) as well as morning drive on WOBM-FM (92.7 Lakewood) and swing shifts on “The Breeze” (WWZY 107.1/WBHX 99.7), died Wednesday morning when a wave swept him off the jetty in the Shark River Inlet where he was fishing. Several onlookers pulled Hodge to the water’s edge, reports the Asbury Park Press, but it was too late, and Hodge was pronounced dead a few hours later. Hodge was just 47.

*The head of the NEW HAMPSHIRE Association of Broadcasters has died. Al Sprague was a force to be reckoned with on the Granite State media scene, as an advertising executive (for 19 years, he owned his own firm, bGG Advertising), a public relations specialist and, dearest to his heart, as an actor. Sprague died last Monday (Nov. 3) at Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass.; he was 62.

*There’s a new FM-on-AM translator coming to the New Hampshire-MASSACHUSETTS state line: Costa-Eagle is paying Airport Investors a whopping $65,000 for the construction permit to W275BH (102.9 Newton NH). We’d expect the translator to move south at some point, to relay one of Costa-Eagle’s three AM signals in the area - Spanish-language WNNW (800 Lawrence) and WCEC (1490 Haverhill), or English-language WCCM (1110 Salem).

Congratulations are in order to two Bay State radio icons: WRKO’s Howie Carr and the late Jess Cain of WHDH were both inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in ceremonies Saturday night in Chicago.

The two Boston broadcasters joined a roster of 2008 inductees that included the late Bob Collins of Chicago’s WGN, “Coast to Coast” host Art Bell, LA’s Charlie Tuna and Dick Whittinghill and Mickey Luckoff, legendary manager of San Francisco’s KGO. The event also included the induction of “Focus on the Family,” a choice that prompted controversy and protests from those opposed to the show's political and cultural stances. (As a result, it’s likely that next year’s awards will use some method other than on-line voting to choose inductees.)

*In VERMONT, Louie Manno’s return to radio after several years as a deli owner has come to at least a temporary halt: with the sudden flip to all-Christmas at WLFE (102.3 St. Albans) on Wednesday morning, Manno is out as that station’s morning man. Will WLFE return to country when the holidays are over? It sounds like a change may be coming up north...

Over at Ken Squier’s Radio Vermont cluster, Dana Jewell has retired after a decade as morning co-host at WDEV (550 Waterbury)/WDEV-FM (96.1 Warren). He’s been replaced by Jon Noyes, who’s done sports play-by-play for the stations. And with the departure of Rich Haskell from the news director’s chair at WDEV (he’s now part of the morning show at Burlington’s “Champ” WCPV), former WCAX-TV sports anchor Brad Wright takes that post, reports the weekly Seven Days.

*Some TV news from MAINE: WCSH (Channel 6)’s contract to produce a 10 PM newscast for CW affiliate WPXT (Channel 51) has ended. The 10 PM show continues - but now it’s being seen on the digital subchannels of WCSH-DT and its Bangor sister station, WLBZ-DT, instead.

*In central PENNSYLVANIA, Citadel’s cutbacks last week included two high-profile talents in the Harrisburg market: Brad Flick, who's been in the market 17 years, is out as morning co-host and newsman at WCAT-FM (102.3 Carlisle). Also out is “Red 102.3” PD Will Robinson, who’d been there four years. Morning host Rich Creeger was upped from assistant PD to PD, and part-timer Alex Harvey is doing afternoons there for now.

Ryan Seacrest’s “On Air” is coming to Pittsburgh: the LA-based show started last week in the 1-4 PM slot on Clear Channel’s “Kiss” WKST-FM (96.1). Meanwhile, holiday tunes have arrived in the Steel City, too, courtesy of Renda’s WSHH (99.7), which made the flip over the weekend.

And in Philadelphia, they’re mourning Austin Culmer, who died Oct. 30 at age 82. Culmer’s day job was at the U.S. Postal Service, where he served as a public information officer, but at night he was the city’s first African-American talk host, working at stations that included WHAT, WWDB and most notably WCAU, where he held down the all-night shift for several years beginning in 1984.

In TV news, some big changes are coming to Comcast’s regional “CN8” channel, which has been programming talk, sports and some news since 1996 to an area that started out just as Philadelphia and south Jersey, but has since spread south to Washington and north to Boston and even southern Maine.

Early next year, Comcast will drop the network from its New England systems, where it’s always been something of a second fiddle to New England Cable News, in which Comcast is a minority partner. (Indeed, CN8 vanished entirely from Comcast’s analog tier a while back, and had been seen somewhere up on a triple-digit spot in the digital lineup.)

The “CN8” name, a misnomer on many systems, will also go away, replaced by “The Comcast Network” and a stripped-down staff and programming lineup. Comcast says “a majority” of the channel’s 300 employees will lose their jobs in the transition.

*One obituary from CANADA: Norm Marshall died last Wednesday (Nov. 5), closing a career that began in the thirties, when he was a child singer on CKTB in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Marshall moved to CHML in Hamilton in 1940, quickly becoming an on-air fixture there as sports director and voice of the Tiger-Cats football team. While he left Hamilton for work in Buffalo, Montreal and Detroit, Marshall returned in the mid-sixties to become sports director and, for twenty years, news anchor at CHCH-TV (Channel 11), where he became a Hamilton institution until his retirement in 1987.

Marshall also taught at Mohawk College for more than a decade, and worked in public relations as founder of Norm Marshall and Associates. Marshall was 89; he would have turned 90 in just a few days.

Ten Years Ago: November 10, 2003

*In NEW YORK, WLTW (106.7 New York) announced last week that it will go to all-Christmas music the Monday after Thanksgiving. That’s a move the Clear Channel “Lite” station hasn’t made in years past - but then, this year it has competition from Infinity’s new “Blink” WNEW (102.7), which was almost certain to try the stunt itself (and still might!)

*Right in the heart of NERW-land, Rochester’s WBBF (93.3 Fairport) also made an early jump. The Entercom oldies station already dropped morning jock Tom George last week; now middayer/PD Dave Radigan is out as well, heading down the hall to the big gun in the cluster, country station WBEE-FM (92.5 Rochester), to do nights.

*The owner of two Northeast TV stations has died. Bob Smith founded the Smith Broadcasting Group in the eighties, on the heels of a career that already included a stint as an FCC lawyer and in the Carter White House. His holdings in the region at one time included Rochester’s WROC-TV and Elmira’s WETM; at the time of his death October 28, Smith Broadcasting owned WKTV (Channel 2) in Utica, WFFF (Channel 44) in Burlington VT and several stations in Santa Barbara and Alaska. Smith was just 59; he had been suffering from neuroendocrine cancer.

*Just in at press time from MASSACHUSETTS is word that Vox’s radio empire in Berkshire County is growing again. The owner of WBEC (1420) and WBEC-FM (105.5) in Pittsfield is getting ready to close next month on its purchase of crosstown WUHN (1110) and WUPE (95.9) - and now it’s moving north and south on Route 7 with the purchase of Berkshire Broadcasting’s WSBS (860) in Great Barrington and WMNB (100.1)/WNAW (1230) in North Adams, leaving only WBRK AM-FM in Pittsfield as radio competition.

*It sounded like Christmas over the weekend in PENNSYLVANIA, too. WSNI (104.5 Philadelphia) was one of the first stations to go all-Christmas last year, and this year it started even earlier, running a full weekend of holiday tunes before going back to “Sunny” soft AC this morning. (It’ll start the Jingle Belling in earnest right after Thanksgiving...)

*Former Erie station owner Dr. Jerome Koeppel died November 7. Koeppel and partner Don Kelly founded K&K Broadcasting in the eighties and purchased WXKC (99.9) and WRIE (1260) in Erie, as well as WZVU (107.1) in Long Branch, N.J. Koeppel practiced medicine in Baltimore until his retirement two years ago; he was an assistant professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Fifteen Years Ago: November 13, 1998

*It’s been silent for more than a year, and now AM 1510 in New London, CONNECTICUT is history. The station known for most of its history as WNLC sent its satellite standards format over to the FM side (WNLC-FM 98.7, formerly WXZR, East Lyme) last year and shut down, supposedly to repair serious problems with the eight-tower array in Waterford. WNLC(AM) changed calls to WWJY earlier this year, and in April, notified the FCC it was surrendering its nighttime authority and removing five of the eight towers, leaving it as a 10 kilowatt, 3-tower daytimer...if it ever returned to the air. Now it appears to be gone, which leaves some potential for a certain other station on 1510, WNRB Boston. The presence of WNLC in New London always forced WNRB to have a huge null to the southwest. With WNLC’s departure (and the disappearance of CKRS Sherbrooke QC some years back as well), WNRB just might be able to become a much more potent night signal than its current highly-directional 50 kilowatts can manage.

*Some big changes are on the way to the 1060 frequency in MetroWest. Last week, we reported the FCC had granted Alexander Langer a power boost to 40 kilowatts daytime for the station now known as WJLT. Now we hear that when 1060 powers up, it won’t be with WJLT’s calls or leased-time religious format. They’ll move up the dial, we’re told, to “another Langer station that will become a daytimer from a new location”...which sounds an awful lot like WSRO (1470 Marlborough). As for 1060, get ready for local talk (hmm...could that include Upton Bell, who just started a talk show on two Langer stations) and the resurrection of an historic Boston callsign. NERW thinks WGTR would be awfully appropriate...

*The top story from NEW YORK is still developing at press time. We hear WNEW (102.7 New York) has fired Scott Muni and Dave Herman. Both are longtime station veterans and Muni, in particular, has been associated with WNEW for decades. More on this next week...

*Moving along to the Albany area, Capstar (er, Chancellor) is starting to make changes at its newest acquisition, WXLE (104.5 Mechanicville). Gone is the “Zone” moniker the station used for the last year or so -- the station’s now “Magic 104.5,” leading us to wonder if its AAA-leaning modern AC format is heading towards a more mainstream brand of AC.

*Tuesday is moving day for Rochester’s WCMF (96.5), the first of Infinity’s Flower City stations to move from the current cramped space in Henrietta to spiffy new digs on the 17th floor of the Marine Midland Plaza downtown. Next to go will be WZNE (94.1 Brighton) and WPXY-FM (97.9, heading for its sixth studio space in 20 years). WRMM-FM (101.3), which was the first station into 3136 S. Winton Road a decade ago (as WEZO), will be the last to move as well. The stations’ new address: 1 Marine Midland Plaza, Rochester NY 14604. New phone: 716-262-2720.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I’m getting a message that I have to allow cookies before I can log on. I switched to Chrome and the message came up again but allowed me to log on without allowing cookies, or so it seems.

  2. I just tried it again & it worked.
    An I.E. glitch.

    Question:
    How many years has it been since a “K” call made it’s way that far east of the Mississippi?

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