In this week's issue... Rock to talk on Long Island - Preparing for the LPFM flood - More woes for would-be NYC translator - Management changes at WGBH/WCRB - Mark Gaudet, RIP
By SCOTT FYBUSH
A couple of big Monday-morning breaking stories out of western PA: at Pittsburgh's WPGB 104.7 (and several affiliates around the region), a contract dispute has pulled the long-running Quinn and Rose morning show off the air. And in Altoona, longtime WFGY 98.1 morning man Steve Kelso ("Frogman") has died at 56. More to follow...
*Few formats in the history of radio have been as durable as the album rock that swept the FM dial in the 1970s. Iconic stations like Philadelphia's WMMR, Pittsburgh's WDVE, Rochester's WCMF and Providence's WHJY long outlasted most of the other hot formats and slogans of the era. And while most of those stations have long since abandoned any pretense to being freeform or underground, they've at least retained some recognizable pieces of their early DNA.
Until Friday, those stations had company at the easternmost tip of Long Island at WRCN (103.9 Riverhead). Way back in the spring of 1976, WRCN flipped from AC to rock from its concrete bunker of a studio behind a drive-in theater, and through changes in studio location and ownership and swings from album rock to classic rock, it just kept going...right up to the moment when it abruptly flipped to "Christmas 103.9."
Sometime shortly after the first of the year, owner JVC Broadcasting says that stunt format will give way to news-talk. The new "LI News Radio" will include Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, as well as local hosts broadcasting from new studios under construction at MacArthur Airport in Islip.
Aside from Red Wolf Broadcasting's WJJF (94.9 Montauk), which transmits from Long Island but is aimed across the Sound at listeners in southeast Connecticut, the new "LI News Radio" is the first full-on stab at the talk format on the island since WLIE (540 Islip) tried a mostly local talk format for a few years beginning in 2002. That effort was hampered by WLIE's lack of a viable nighttime signal and its challenging spot right at the bottom of the AM dial, not to mention its relative proximity to the big talk voices out of New York City.
When John Caracciolo and his JVC Broadcasting crew launch "LI News Radio" next year, they'll face the opposite challenge. While the area 103.9 reaches best in eastern Suffolk County is largely beyond the over-the-air reach of New York City's radio signals, WRCN's 1.4 kW/485' class A signal doesn't cover all that much ground itself. In fact, it may even take a bit of work to hear it at the new "LI News Radio" studios in Islip, outside WRCN's 60 dBu protected contour; by the time LIE commuters make it to the Suffolk-Nassau county line, 103.9's signal will have long since ceased to be usable.
Under previous owner Barnstable Broadcasting, WRCN once tried to extend its rock format westward to the county line by simulcasting on WMJC (94.3 Smithtown). Those two small signals still ended up with coverage gaps between them, and in any event the Smithtown station (now rocker WWSK) now belongs to competitor Connoisseur. It's unlikely that two of the three big players in western Long Island - Connoisseur and Cox - would be selling. And while the third player, WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue), is at least nominally for sale as part of the Clear Channel Aloha spin-off trust, its big signal (the best FM by far on the island) is probably beyond JVC's financial reach for now. As for AMs, none of the options that might be available for purchase or lease has enough signal, especially at night, to be worth much consideration.
And that leaves "LI News Radio" to make a go of things as a relatively small operation. JVC has made its eastern-Suffolk stronghold work for other formats, including the Spanish AC of "La Fiesta" WBON (98.5 Westhampton), country on WJVC (96.1 Center Moriches) and dance on WPTY (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke). Can it build WRCN into a solid small-market news-talker that can thrive just by serving eastern Suffolk County? We'll be watching closely...
*Before we continue with the week's news, a quick programming note: for a whole host of reasons, it's been a more challenging year than usual when it comes to making all the behind-the-scenes pieces come together to ensure that you have a NERW to read every Monday and a Tower Site Calendar on your wall every autumn. But after nearly 20 years of NERW and a dozen years of Tower Site Calendars, we're not about to give up - and so we're pleased to say that after some unexpected delays, the 2014 Tower Site Calendar finally comes back from the printer today!
If you've already placed your order, you're good to go: we've got all hands on deck (not just the "Mom and Pop" of this mom-and-pop enterprise but also the kids!) ready to rush calendars to the post office as soon as they're in our hands, and you should have yours in your hands before Thanksgiving if all goes well.
If you haven't ordered yet, what are you waiting for? We've got plenty of calendars for you at the Fybush.com Store, not to mention past issues, the NRC AM Radio Log, a few remaining copies of the soon-to-be-unattainable FM Atlas, and more.
And don't forget that your Professional Level subscription to fybush.com includes a free 2014 calendar - and provides us with the resources that we need to keep chronicling this industry. You can sign up right here - and if you're an existing subscriber, watch your e-mail for your renewal notice, or check with Lisa if there's any question about your status. Thanks again for your support!
*The week's other big story - aside from the calendar - is the impending flood of new FM signals that will make WRCN look huge by comparison. The FCC had planned to close its window for new low-power FM applications back in October, but the government shutdown pushed the deadline back to Thursday afternoon, at which point the crush of thousands of applicants trying to file at once crashed the FCC's Consolidated Database System (CDBS). The FCC extended the deadline once more, giving applicants until Friday afternoon at 3 to file.
Within the next few days, we'll see that flood of applications begin to appear for public view, and our behind-the-scenes data crunchers are already poised to pull all of the important information from those applications together to be made available in a special edition of NERW coming to subscribers sometime this week. How many of those applications are there? The consensus seems to be a number in the mid- to upper-four figure range. That's many more would-be broadcasters than there are channels available, and almost certainly more than any reasonable listener base could possibly support.
With channels in populated areas likely to be in high demand, savvy applicants kept their strategies close to the vest until the application window closed, but we're starting to get word about some of the interesting local proposals now in the hopper at the Commission.
In Haverhill, Massachusetts, for instance, Tim Coco's WHAV.net has applied to bring the venerable "WHAV" brand back to the broadcast dial after several years of successful webcasting. The new WHAV-LP, if it's granted, will operate at 98.1 on the dial. And in Binghamton, New York, there's an application from the Bundy Museum to put an LPFM signal on the air to complement the collection of vintage broadcast technology on display there, with lots of vintage audio from all the good folks in the Binghamton Broadcasting Hall of Fame that's housed at the Bundy. We'll spotlight more interesting applications as they emerge...along with, of course, the inevitable deluge of applications for signals that will be tied to national satellite networks, most of them religious.
*That push-pull between "desire for new signals" and "available spectrum space" has been playing out especially sharply in NEW YORK City, of course, and the long strange tale of "Apple 107.1 FM" and its would-be translator took another bizarre turn last week, when the FCC issued a $3,000 Notice of Apparent Liability against Apple. The FCC's order lays out the two-year migration of Apple's translator (now W292DV on 106.3) from Brooklyn to Union City, New Jersey to Manhattan to Sunnyside, Queens to Long Island City. As NERW readers know, each of those moves produced almost immediate pushback from New Jersey's WKMK (106.3 Eatontown), where owner Press Broadcasting has fought fiercely to protect its fringe signal in Staten Island and Brooklyn from any co-channel incursion.
The latest ruling concerns W292DV's attempt to operate from the Royal Kent apartment building in Sunnyside in April 2012, at a point when Celenza was trying to cooperate with Press to do some on-off testing to determine whether it was indeed the translator signal preventing Staten Island listeners from hearing WKMK. Along the way, Celenza told Press that he only had access to the Royal Kent facility after 9 AM each day to turn the translator on and off - and that produced a complaint from Press to the FCC that Celenza lacked the required ability to control the translator's operation at all times. It's because the FCC ordered Celenza to "immediately" reduce power or turn the translator off on the evening of April 18, 2012, but the signal wasn't turned off until the morning of April 19, that the Commission has slapped Celenza with the $3,000 NAL.
But Press, despite a flurry of petitions against Celenza's subsequent attempted moves, doesn't get everything it wanted here either: while the FCC dismissed Celenza's attempt to move W292DV out to "Glen Oaks" (the WQBU 92.7 site atop North Shore Towers on the Queens/Nassau line), it rejected Press' attempt to get the W292DV license cancelled on the grounds of lack of candor or of having failed to operate for 12 consecutive months. So for now, the translator lives on, with the FCC granting STA to operate at low power from Long Island City.
*While Celenza fights for his tiny slice of the radio landscape in New York, the FCC's been busy granting new translator CPs in other spots around the region. The very spot where Celenza hoped to move W292DV - the Four Times Square tower in mid-Manhattan - will soon be the home of another newly-granted CP. W236CH (95.1 Fort Greene) will run 10 watts, highly directional, relaying owner Bridgelight LLC's WJUX (99.7 Monticello).
Just before the LPFM window closed, the Commission issued another pile of new CPs last week, including several that had been applied for long ago by predecessors of today's Clear Channel. Clear Channel persevered with those applications, and now it holds a CP in Southampton for a 250-watt signal on 94.1 (W231CM) that's on the books as a relay of WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue), as well as for a 90-watter on 96.5 in Kingston (W243DB) that will relay "Kiss" WPKF (96.1 Poughkeepsie).
Clear Channel also won CPs in south Jersey for W235BY (94.9 Vineland, relaying WDSD 94.7 Dover DE) and for a new relay of WWSW-FM (94.5 Pittsburgh), in the form of 56-watt W235BX (94.9 Colliers WV).
*In the Buffalo market, the Mary V. Harris Foundation has once again lost a round in its fight for a new Williamsville-licensed 90.7 signal. The FCC favored a competing application for 90.7 in Lancaster from Amherst-based Holy Family Communications, and last week the Commission tossed out another challenge to the Holy Family grant. Harris argued that its application, which would have provided new noncommercial service to 9.67% of the population it would have served, was "nearly" qualified for the 10% threshold that would have given it the edge over Holy Family. The FCC says it's heard that argument three times before, and has now rejected it for a fourth time, allowing Holy Family to move ahead with its 90.7 CP. (Will the Catholic broadcaster keep both that signal and its bigger WLOF Elma on 101.7, which would cover most of the same area?)
*The Syracuse Chiefs are indeed returning to broadcast radio next spring. The AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals made a big deal last year about going webcast-only and saving the $25,000 it was paying for broadcast coverage on Cumulus sports outlet WSKO (1260). But it turns out radio still mattered, as Chiefs GM Jason Smorol memorably explained to the Post-Standard: "The fans wanted us to be on the radio. The radio wanted us to be on the radio. I don't think it's that hard. Everyone wanted us to be on the radio. We're on the radio."
And so Jason Benetti and Kevin Brown will be back on the AM airwaves with Chiefs baseball next year, returning to WSKO in what Smorol describes as a "different" business model that won't cost as much as it did during the last WSKO deal, in 2011 and 2012. (It's worth noting that bit about "the radio wanted us to be on the radio" - WSKO has lost a lot of its play-by-play coverage to Galaxy's WTLA/WSGO over the last few seasons, so there was clearly an incentive on the Cumulus side to restore a prominent local team to the lineup at "the Score," too.)
Speaking of Galaxy, we credit the revived CNYRadio.com for noticing this one: the "ESPN Radio" FM translator that serves Syracuse, W249BC (97.7 Mattydale), has quietly switched primary signals - instead of relaying WTLA (1200 North Syracuse), it's now carrying the HD2 of sister station WZUN (102.1 Phoenix), allowing for the AM and FM signals to split off when there's conflicting programming to be carried. (So, for instance, CNYRadio notes that the World Series aired on 102.1-HD2 and 97.7, while NFL football was being carried on 1200 and a separate ESPN feed at 102.1-HD3. There's not yet any ability to do a similar split in Oswego, where ESPN is heard on WSGO 1440 and W261AC at 100.1.)
*What's next for Albany Broadcasting's WZMR (104.9 Altamont), which has been simulcasting "Cat Country" since sending the format to a new home on WKLI (100.9)? The "net gnomes" over at our partner site, RadioInsight, have sniffed out a domain registration for "1049thepeak.com," which would make the station a sister to AAA WXPK (107.1 Briarcliff Manor) down the Hudson Valley in northern Westchester County.
*The cost-cutting continues at California-based Family Stations. After spending millions of dollars promoting the end of the world last year (it didn't happen), Family's been selling off assets to pay off the advertising bills, including its big FM signals in New York and Philadelphia and what appears to be a lease deal under which MHz Networks is programming its New York-market TV station, now WNYJ-TV (Channel 66).
Last week, Family filed an application to do away with local public files at four of its remaining FM stations, WFRH (91.7 Kingston), WFBF (89.9 Buffalo), WUFR (91.1 Bedford PA) and WKDN-FM (88.3 State College PA). If it's granted, those stations would change (on paper, at least) from being nominal "satellites" of Family's WFSI (860 Baltimore MD) to being "satellites" of Family flagship KEAR (610 San Francisco), though it wouldn't change their actual programming. Anyone in search of those stations' public files would have to look on the internet instead of at a local library where they're now maintained.
Does this mean more sales of even Family's smaller stations, as has already happened with Rochester-market WFRW (88.1 Webster, now K-Love's WKEL)? Probably not immediately, but it's hard not to believe that Family's own end-times aren't far away as both its management and listener/donor base continue to age.
*When Ron Ruth died Saturday at age 75, he was remembered throughout the industry for his nearly two decades at the Radio Advertising Bureau - but before he arrived at the RAB, Ruth had a colorful career that included several sales-manager stops in NERW-land, working for Gordon McLendon at Buffalo's WYSL (1400) and then a few years later at WOR-FM (98.7) in New York.
*The trickle of new translator CPs from the FCC last week included several in NEW JERSEY and PENNSYLVANIA: in the Garden State, Delaware-based Priority Radio gets W279CN (103.7 Cherry Hill), relaying WXHL (89.1 Christiana DE), and W283BY (104.5 Toms River), relaying WVBH (88.3 Beach Haven West). How well will that 103.7, with 9 watts in a tight beam aimed north from Voorhees, coexist with Radio One's full-power class A WPPZ (103.9 Jenkintown), just across the river in Philadelphia?
Over in Pennsylvania, Scranton's WVIA (89.9) gets a new signal in Reading: 99-watt W296CY will operate on 107.1 there.
An eastern Pennsylvania LPFM is also seeking a frequency change. WQDD-LP (107.9 Girardville) wants to move to 93.5, with licensee Golden Age Communications telling the FCC it's suffering interference from co-channel translators in Reading and Hazleton. (Golden Age also tells the Commission that changing frequency would come with a site change, allowing it to move from a leased location where it's having trouble with the maintenance of its transmitter shack; that's not an argument we've ever seen used before on a displacement application.)
*There's new leadership coming to classical radio in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, where WGBH is rearranging the management at "Classical New England" (WCRB 99.5 Lowell and its relay stations around the region). Ben Roe, who's been managing director of WCRB, has been promoted to a new role as "managing producer of music and performance," focusing on new projects that will air on WGBH-TV and its digital platforms. Replacing Roe on the radio side is Anthony Rudel, who takes on the new title of station manager for WCRB. Rudel started at New York's WQXR (96.3) as a 19-year-old announcer and eventually became the Times-owned station's vice president of programming before it was sold.
Down the street at WBZ (1030), longtime fill-in talk host Morgan White, Jr. finally has a show to call his own. The trivia expert and frequent overnight voice (since the departure of Steve LeVeille and the brief run with Jen Brien) is now the host of "The Morgan Show," which replaces the syndicated Kim Komando on Saturday nights from 10-midnight.
*Steve Silberberg's Northeast Broadcasting has finally been granted the suburban Boston translator for which it applied more than a decade ago. W243DC (96.5 Needham) will be a 10-watt relay of WXRV (92.5 the River) up in Andover, transmitting from the candelabra tower above the Sheraton Needham.
Out in Pittsfield, Berkshire Broadcasting has been granted W277CJ (103.3), a 50-watt relay of WUPE-FM (100.1 North Adams) that will augment the existing WUPE (1110) daytime-only signal there.
In Springfield, the Pentecostal Church Refuge of Salvation has had a hard time finding a happy home for its WLHZ-LP. The low-power station signed on in 2008 at 104.9, but lasted only a few months on that channel due to interference to and from Connecticut's WIHS (104.9 Middletown). The Spanish-language Christian station's next home was at 107.9, but the station says it's been suffering co- and adjacent-channel interference there, too, "severely limiting the coverage of WLHZ-LP." So now "La Hora Zero" is asking the FCC to allow it to slide down the dial to 98.7.
The Christmas music tracking is in full effect at our content partner, RadioInsight.com, and the list now includes Springfield's WHYN-FM (93.1) and Worcester's WSRS (96.1), part of the big roster of Clear Channel outlets that have made early Santa flips.
Around the region, the list also now includes WYJB (95.5) in Albany, WLZW (98.7) in Utica and WFAS-FM (103.9) in Westchester County, among the dozen stations that have New York at the top of the list this year. AC competitors WROZ (101.3 Lancaster) and WARM-FM (103.3 York) are both in the race in central Pennsylvania, as is WXKC (Classy 99.9) up in Erie.
In VERMONT, Burlington's WEZF (Star 92.9) makes the flip on Friday; so does WRMM (Warm 101.3) in Rochester, while in New Jersey, WMGQ (98.3 New Brunswick) holds off until November 29.
*In RHODE ISLAND, they're mourning Mark Gaudet, the engineer who was known as "Mountain Man" in his days at WHJJ (920) and WHJY (94.1). Gaudet was on his motorcycle driving through Scituate last Monday afternoon when he was hit by an SUV and pushed into a guardrail. Gaudet was 56.
*We owe some deep apologies to the fine broadcasters of MAINE: when we were running down the awards handed out by state broadcast associations in other parts of New England a few weeks back, we neglected to include the awards presented by the Maine Association of Broadcasters on October 18th - and then amidst our own travels (and travails with the back end of this website), the list still failed to make it into the next few issues. Mea culpa! The full (and extensive) list of news and creative awards can be found here - and we owe a particular apology to this year's inductees to the Maine Broadcasting Hall of Fame, Dick Hyatt and Joe Martelle, for failing to get them into the NERW spotlight sooner. (Apologies, as well, to Karen Hill, this year's Broadcasting Achievement Award winner.)
Dick's Maine broadcasting career started in 1983, when he moved from New York to Augusta as the new owner of WRDO (1400, now WJZN) and WRDO-FM (92.3, now WMME). In recent years, the veteran engineer has been mostly retired, but he's been working with the Promise Radio Network to build its chain of Catholic signals across the state. Martelle's Maine career started way back in 1962 at WFAU (1340) in Augusta, and later included long stints at WCSH in Portland, as well as in Florida and of course in Boston at WROR (98.5). Hill is a senior account executive at WBLM (102.9) in Portland.
(And at least we're not the only ones acknowledging the honor just now: the Kennebec Journal in Augusta gave Dick a nice profile in this weekend's paper.)
*It's not just US low-power stations that face the reality of possible displacement by full-power signals. That happens in CANADA, too, and it's playing out in real-world fashion in the suburbs of Toronto, where CJVF (105.9 Scarborough) has been serving the Sri Lankan Tamil-speaking community since 2011. But little "Vanakkam FM" has been threatened since the CRTC approved a higher-powered station on 105.9, CFMS in adjacent Markham, last year.
Now Bhupinder Bola's multiethnic CFMS is planning to begin on-air testing as early as today, and its 1600-watt signal can't coexist with CJVF's unprotected 45 watts on 105.9. Owner Subanasiri Vaithilingam knew this was coming, of course, and he applied last year to relocate CJVF down the dial to 102.7, boosting power along the way from 45 watts/63 m to 1200 watts max/476 watts average DA/77 m. That application is still making its way through the CRTC, where it's part of a competitive process. But in the meantime, CJVF doesn't want to be knocked off the air, and so it's applying for the Canadian equivalent of special temporary authority, running just 6.5 watts on 102.7 while it waits for its higher-powered application to be granted.
Under Canada's split system of broadcast regulation, Industry Canada (which handles technical matters) can't approve a station's operation on a frequency other than the one the CRTC has authorized, so Vaithilingam has turned to the CRTC to seek help in staying on the air. Unlike the FCC, which can grant special temporary authority at a moment's notice, the CRTC has put the CJVF application for 102.7 up for comments, which are open until December 16, which makes it appear likely that "Vanakkam FM" will be silent for at least a few weeks once CFMS signs on this week.
*On the Niagara Peninsula, CHTZ (97.7 St. Catharines) is seeking a new program director with the impending departure of Bruce Gilbert. He's trading the "White House of Rock" for the ivory tower, becoming a broadcast instructor at Niagara College beginning January 6th.
And Christmas music came to Toronto over the weekend at CHFI (98.1), the first flip north of the border this year.
One last 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. And please note: regardless of the date, turkeys cannot fly.
We 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 (really!) 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!
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 19, 2012
*You’ve probably never heard of a guy named “Martin Krimski.”
But under his broadcasting alter ego, “Jefferson Kaye,” he was one of the most prominent voices in top 40 radio in the 1960s and 1970s in Boston and Buffalo, then an important part of the full-service landscape in Buffalo, and eventually one of the nation’s top voice-over talents from his base in NEW JERSEY.
On Friday, he died in Binghamton, where he had been living in recent years to be closer to his family as he battled cancer.
After serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, Kaye began his radio career in Providence in the late 1950s, where Krimski became “Jeff Krimm,” then “JK the DJ” on WHIM (1110) and WRIB (1220). By 1961, his rich pipes had caught the attention of Boston’s WBZ (1030), which brought him on board as part of the Westinghouse station’s transition from the middle-of-the-road “Live Five” to a more aggressive top-40 format. Kaye quickly made a mark for himself on WBZ, moving up from overnights to weekday afternoons. And he distinguished himself as well as the host of Sunday night’s “Hootenanny,” the show that brought folk music to a large and passionate audience around New England and helped to make performers like Joan Baez into household names.
In 1966, Kaye moved from Boston to Buffalo’s WKBW (1520), where he’d achieve his greatest radio fame. Starting out as the night jock riding KB’s big 50-kilowatt directional signal all across the northeast, Kaye soon moved into the program director chair, where he played a huge role in shaping the tight sound of “one of America”s two great radio stations” during its heyday. Kaye was the driving force behind WKBW’s celebrated “War of the Worlds” recreation in 1968, as well as a second version in 1971.
Kaye could be gruff – broadcaster Bob Savage still treasures Kaye’s 1969 memo announcing his hiring as a weekend jock at KB and warning fellow staffers, “If you see him in the halls, don’t bother speaking to him or developing any close ties….he may not last.” But he was meticulous about every element of the station’s on-air sound, and he kept WKBW at or near the top of the ratings throughout his tenure.
In May 1974, Kaye moved to WBEN (930) to become the afternoon host and then only the third morning man in that station’s history, replacing the legendary Clint Buehlman after his four-decade run.
It was through Kaye’s work on Buffalo Bills broadcasts on WBEN that he came to the attention of NFL Films, where he eventually succeeded yet another legendary broadcast talent, “Voice of God” John Facenda. Kaye moved from Buffalo to New Jersey, building a voiceover career that also included several decades as the on-air voice of Philadelphia”s WPVI-TV (Channel 6).
Kaye retired from NFL Films in 1990 as his health began to decline. In 2002, Kaye was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame, and he made other appearances from time to time as well, including a cameo in a 1998 Buffalo “War of the Worlds” recreation on WGRF and WEDG.
In 1993, your editor was privileged to bring him back to WBZ’s airwaves as a guest on a special history edition of David Brudnoy’s talk show. That audio has been out of circulation for nearly two decades now, but I’m pleased to be able to offer it to NERW subscribers – just go pay a visit to our new Audio Archives page to hear the hour when we brought Jeff and Carl deSuze back together for what would be their last time on WBZ’s airwaves.
Jeff Kaye would have turned 76 next month. Funeral services will be held this morning in Binghamton.
*The week’s other big story comes from northwestern PENNSYLVANIA, where something rare happened last week: the launch of a brand-new signal in a sizable market as a competitive stand-alone commercial station.
It’s happening, of course, in Erie, where Rick Rambaldo made a name for himself in the late 1980s when he bought a sleepy rimshot FM station and built it into “Rocket 101,” WRKT (100.9 North East), then grew that single station into one of the biggest clusters in the market before selling to what’s now Connoisseur Media.
As of Friday at noon, Rambaldo and his partner, auto dealer Dave Hallman, Jr., are actively competing against Connoisseur and Townsquare with their new Erie Radio Company LLC. That’s the new name for what started out as “First Channel Communications,” which paid just over $1.3 million at an FCC auction last year for a new class A signal on 92.7 licensed to Lawrence Park, just east of Erie.
Still, a new signal is a new signal, and Erie Radio is making the most of it. Over the last few weeks, Rambaldo’s been building a brand-new transmitter site atop a luxury apartment building on the lakefront just west of downtown, and from all indications he’s doing it right. There’s a new 73-foot tower in place atop the South Shore Towers, with an ERI directional antenna and a Nautel HD transmitter…and not only is there an Omnia processor, but Omnia head honcho Frank Foti himself appears to have made the drive over from Cleveland to be there in person for the station’s launch.
So what’s Erie Radio doing with its new signal? We already knew the new calls – WEHP – and now we know those calls stand for “Happi,” Rambaldo’s tag for a new top-40 format that puts the new 92.7 in direct competition with his old NextMedia/Connoisseur station, WRTS (Star 103.7) and with Townsquare’s “i104.3,” a more recent entry heard on WXKC (99.9)’s HD2 and a centrally located translator. But while i104.3 is totally automated and Star has been depending on out-of-market talent such as Ryan Seacrest, “Happi” will be going local once its studio is ready in a few weeks.
Here’s what we know so far about the airstaff: former WRTS morning host Shari McBride will be Happi’s operations manager and morning co-host, alongside newcomer “Beeber,” who’s inbound from North Carolina. “Girl” will do middays, “Brody” will be the afternoon host and evenings will give local YouTube star Katie Santry her first radio gig. (She’s already been doing videos for the station, including one showing the tower being hoisted to the rooftop by crane.)
There’s no website or streaming audio feed just yet; those will presumably be coming along with Happi’s new downtown studio, which will be at 1229 State Street, just four blocks south of the storefront studios Rambaldo built for NextMedia in the old Boston Store.
*It was a valiant attempt to bring local radio back to the suburbs of Philadelphia, but “the Buzz” has faded out at WBZH (1370 Pottstown). That’s the former WPAZ, which longtime owner Great Scott Broadcasting took silent in 2009. Unwilling to see the local station die, a group of broadcasters worked out an arrangement under which religious broadcaster Four Rivers Community Broadcasting bought the station and its property from Great Scott and then leased it to the “WPAZ Preservation Association,” which put it back on the air in late 2010 as “1370 the Buzz,” changing calls last year to WBZH. But the new format apparently wasn’t accompanied by significant ad sales, leaving the WBZH group reportedly some $35,000 in debt to Four Rivers, which abruptly pulled the plug on the signal last Tuesday. It’s not clear whether Four Rivers will keep 1370 silent, or whether the station will return with a new format and operator.
*In other news from NEW YORK and NEW JERSEY, the reconstruction continues at the stations whose transmitters were damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Some of the last AM signals that were still silent after the storm returned last week: on Long Island, WGBB (1240 Freeport) is back in business with a new transmitter, and the power’s finally back at WKMB (1070 Stirling) in central New Jersey as well.
In the Meadowlands, we’re learning more about the damage at WLIB (1190 New York), where water got inside the station’s low-lying transmitter building and destroyed both its day and nighttime transmission systems. WLIB is back on the air, running 1000 watts full-time on the night pattern under special temporary authority while it works to fix first the day phasor and then to install a new transmitter to power it back to its full 10 kW by day and 30 kW at night.
And WNYC, which is working to rebuild its damaged AM 820 site in Kearny, N.J., is about to lose its director of engineering: Jim Stagnitto, who moved downtown from Clear Channel’s WWPR (105.1) to New York Public Radio five years ago, is leaving WNYC to take a new engineering position with CBS Radio. CBS has been aggressively hiring engineering talent in the New York market, and its roster now includes a “who’s who” of former chief engineers from other stations, including Paul Sanchez (ex-WBLS/WLIB), Henry Behring (ex-Clear Channel), Jim McGivern (ex-Emmis) and Joe Maguire (who used to run the broadcast operations at the Empire State Building). No replacement has been named yet at WNYC.
Five Years Ago: November 17, 2008
*To the strains of Billy Joel’s “It's Still Rock & Roll to Me” and a new tune, “The Wease is Back,” one of western NEW YORK’s best-known radio talents returned to the airwaves Saturday night, testing the waters of a new studio ahead of the real launch this morning.
That would be Rochester’s Brother Wease, of course, whose contract dispute with his former station, Entercom's WCMF (96.5), made headlines both here and in the mainstream media a year ago. Wease ended up departing WCMF after a quarter of a century, leaving his former sidekicks behind to start their own morning show - and as of today, after waiting out a non-compete in his WCMF contract, he’s over at Clear Channel’s rival classic rocker, WFXF (95.1 Honeoye Falls).
There was nothing low-visibility about WFXF this morning, however - from a bottom-of-the-front page “Welcome back, Wease” ad in the Democrat and Chronicle (paid for by sponsor Salvatore’s Pizza, which is advertising a “$9.51 Welcome back, Wease” special) to rolling billboards on the streets of downtown Rochester to the TV crews that jammed into the packed studio at Midtown Plaza, it was hard to miss Wease’s return.
That’s Clear Channel traffic manager Lisa Becker at right in the photo above - a longtime Wease fan from his WCMF days, she had the honor of introducing Wease as he signed back on the air. Later in the morning, Rochester mayor Bob Duffy was scheduled to drop by, and no doubt one of the topics will be the fate of the building where Clear Channel's studios are currently located.
The radio stations are the last tenants left in the otherwise-vacant mall, which is now owned by the city. While construction work is underway a few blocks away at the new studios at the HSBC Building, where the old CBS Radio studios are being gutted, Wease and company aren’t expected to be in their new digs (on the 16th floor, one level down from Wease’s old WCMF studios) until February at the earliest.
In the meantime, the Wease crew is using the old WHAM (1180) studio, sharing close quarters around the console instead of the usual lounge setting that they’ll enjoy at the new digs.
As for the man himself? Wease was clearly happy to be back behind a mic, and he’ll be happier still, we think, when the introductory festivities are over - after just a few minutes this morning, Wease was already complaining about the nonstop flood of “welcome back, we missed you” phone calls he was taking.
And was that Wease’s former WCMF colleague, midday jock Dave Kane, we saw hanging out just outside the studio? (Tuesday update: Kane checked in with NERW to say that while there are indeed a few guys around town who look like him, he’s never been up at the Clear Channel studios, Monday morning included.)
*While Clear Channel tests the value of a high-profile commitment local programming with Wease, other big broadcasters continue to cut back.
In New York City, CBS Radio cut at least four more jobs last week, including Jeff Mazzei, the WCBS-FM (101.1) assistant program director who’d more or less single-handedly kept the oldies format alive on the station’s HD2 signal between the 2005 flip to “Jack FM” and the 2007 return to oldies on the main channel. Mazzei, a 23-year veteran of CBS-FM (and of WNBC/WYNY before that), had been voicetracking overnights and the Sunday night countdown show. Also out at CBS in New York are a receptionist at WXRK, a sales assistant at WFAN and at least one veteran engineer.
Meanwhile in Buffalo, longtime WJYE (96.1) afternoon jock Bob “the Godfather” Galli exited last week.
Where are they now? Former WABC program director Phil Boyce has disclosed where he’s going next: he’s joining Talk Radio Network, where he’ll serve as president of programming, overseeing a talent roster that includes Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham and Mancow - but not his WABC protege Sean Hannity, with whom Boyce was widely rumored to be planning to work after departing the Citadel-owned talker. And Vinny Brown, who made his name programming New York City stations including WRKS and WBLS/WLIB, has hired on with Stevie Wonder's station in the LA market. He’ll be serving as executive VP at KJLH (102.3 Compton).
There’s a new noncommercial FM signal coming to eastern Niagara County and the fringes of the Buffalo market, as Lockport Community Television has been granted a construction permit for a 90.5 signal licensed to Rapids, New York. The 250-watt/74' directional facility will use a site about halfway between Amherst and Lockport, where it will be tightly wedged in between the CBC’s Crystal Beach, Ontario relay on the same frequency and the as-yet-unbuilt new Holy Family Communications signal on 90.7 in Lancaster.
Speaking of 90.7, the frequency will be the home of a new noncommercial FM signal in Napeague, on Long Island’s East End - and that new 6.25 kW/315' DA signal has calls: KCBE. Yes, “KCBE” - and no, we don’t know whether that was an FCC glitch or a deliberate request by the Community Bible Church, the licensee of the new signal.
One more belated TV note before we move on: when we finally had a chance, long after Election Night, to settle back with our DVR and check out what some of the network coverage had looked like (we were, of course, busy working on local coverage ourselves that long night), we noticed something interesting on Rochester’s WHEC - no HD signal from NBC until halfway through Barack Obama’s victory speech, awfully late into the night, even at times when there wasn’t local SD content being superimposed on the network feed. Were other local affiliates in SD all night, too? Drop us a line and let us know...
And speaking of NBC, the network lost one of its most distinctive voices last week. Howard Reig came to the network in 1952 from General Electric’s WGY/WGFM/WRGB in Schenectady, where he had already been a staff announcer for a decade, much of that time as WGY morning host. At NBC, Reig worked for more than half a century in almost every imaginable capacity, anchoring newscasts, announcing sports events, doing local announcing for WNBC-TV, and for almost a quarter of a century, from 1983-2007, introducing the NBC Nightly News. Reig’s retirement from full-time duty in 2005 marked the end of the staff announcer era at NBC. He died last Monday at his home in Florida; he was 87.
*A Providence, RHODE ISLAND FM station is back to full power after losing its antenna to lightning damage.
Thanks to Mike Fitzpatrick of NECRAT.com for this picture (“Exclusive to NERW!,” he notes) showing the new three-bay directional ERI at WSNE (93.3 Taunton MA), which replaces the old auxiliary antenna for WJAR (Channel 10) at that station’s tower site in Rehoboth, Massachusetts.
Ten Years Ago: November 17, 2003
*Two eastern Long Island radio stations have some explaining to do to the FCC. It seems inspectors were checking out the Manorville tower that's home to WDRE (98.5 Westhampton) and WXXP (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke) about a month ago, and something didn’t quite add up when it came to the antenna heights for the two stations. Jarad’s classic rock “Bone” WDRE is supposed to have its antenna 40 meters above the ground, but it was radiating from 114 meters up; sister dance station “Party 105.3” is supposed to be at 90 meters but was spotted at 132 meters. The stations have until Tuesday to explain what happened and try to avoid an FCC fine over the matter.
*The Christmas music battle came early to New York City. As of Thursday (Nov. 13) at noon, the AC version of “Blink” is gone from WNEW (102.7 New York), replaced by “The New 102.7” and nonstop holiday music. It’s Infinity’s shot across the bow of Clear Channel’s dominant AC, WLTW (106.7), which already announced that it would go all-Christmas right after Thanksgiving - but the absence of the “Blink” name from 102.7’s holiday imaging is already prompting more than the usual message-board chatter about what’s next for the battered remnant of a radio station that is WNEW.
*And we’re sorry to report the passing of one of the better-known sports radio callers in New York. Mets fan Doris Bauer was known as “Doris from Rego Park” during her frequent cough-ridden calls to WFAN; she died Monday (Nov. 10) of complications from breast and lung cancer at age 58.
*The big buzz upstate is about the future of sports WNSA (107.7 Wethersfield), the lone radio property of the very bankrupt Adelphia. Bids are due any day now in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the station, whose huge signal covers the region between Rochester and Buffalo but lacks all-important downtown penetration in either city; NERW hears the two potential buyers sniffing around the facility are Entercom and Citadel, both of which have significant clusters in Buffalo. Entercom, of course, would dearly love to silence the chief competitor to its sports outlet, WGR (550 Buffalo), not to mention inherit Sabres’ broadcast rights for WGR; Citadel would love to have a fourth U.S.-based transmitter in the event the CRTC shuts down its LMA of “Wild 101” CKEY (101.1 Fort Erie ON).
*Meanwhile in North Jersey, it’s finally the end of the road for the stations that made up Jukebox Radio. As of late last week, W276AQ (103.1 Fort Lee) and its sister translator over in Rockland County, W232AL (94.3 Pomona NY), along with their former parent station up in the Catskills, WJUX (99.7 Monticello), are relaying the religious programming from new owner Bridgelight’s WRDR (89.7 Freehold Township). W276AQ had been relaying oldies WKHL from Stamford, Connecticut; W232AL had been silent since the summer; WJUX had been carrying on with the same automated mixture of music, infomercials and old ads for businesses 100 miles away in Bergen County.
*It’s not as though MASSACHUSETTS rocker WAAF (107.3) has had much to do with Worcester for a long time now; its studios decamped from the Cocaine Realty Building downtown about a decade ago, moving first to an office park in Westborough and then to Entercom’s new complex in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston - and it holds a CP to move its transmitter east from Mount Asnebumskit in Paxton to Stiles Hill in Boylston. But now WAAF can take the whispered “Worcester” out of its legal ID completely, with the FCC’s approval of its petition to change city of license to Westborough. NERW suspects that WAAF, once freed of the requirement to put a city-grade signal over “Wormtown,” will eventually seek to edge its transmitter even closer to Boston. Though WAAF is already constrained by short-spacings to WERZ (107.1 Exeter NH) and WFHN (107.1 Fairhaven MA), it’s also a pre-1964 allocation, which could give it some interesting leeway when it comes to squeezing between third-adjacents WMJX (106.7 Boston) and WXKS-FM (107.9 Medford).
*Do people in Philadelphia like Christmas music? That’s what the rival AC stations in the City of Brotherly Love must be hoping. Jerry Lee’s WBEB (101.1) has stayed away from the all-holiday format in past years, but last Wednesday (Nov. 12) it made a stealth flip at 3 PM, trying to beat Clear Channel’s WSNI (104.5) to the punch. It worked, for about four hours - and then WSNI, which had already done an all-Christmas weekend, plugged in the holiday tunes and made its own flip.
Fifteen Years Ago: November 13, 1998
*The big news this week comes from CONNECTICUT’s capital, where moving vans are poised to take away the city’s oldest radio station -- and to bring in an NFL team.
This being NERW, we’ll start with the radio station. After 73 years, Hartford’s WTIC will have its main studio somewhere other than the Insurance City beginning next year. WTIC signed on back in 1925 from the Travelers Insurance building on Grove Street, and remained there until 1961, when it moved to Broadcast House on Constitution Plaza along with WTIC-TV 3. When the stations were sold separately in 1974, WTIC-TV became WFSB and stayed on Constitution Plaza, and WTIC AM-FM moved to the Gold Building at Pearl and Main Streets. Its lease there expires next year, and so AM 1080 and FM 96.5 are heading off to the ’burbs -- to the 10 Executive Drive, Farmington home of sister stations WZMX and WRCH.
As for the football team, New England viewers and listeners would had to have been hiding in a Faraday cage all week to miss the fuss over the Patriots’ planned move from Foxboro to Hartford in 2001. On the broadcasting side of things, CBS looks like the big loser in this deal, since Boston was one of the very largest markets in its AFC deal, and the folks at CBS-owned WBZ-TV and WBCN were hoping for big things from their Pats contracts. Now it’s not even clear whether WBZ will have Pats telecasts for games that don’t sell out in Hartford; the Boston Globe quotes NFL sources as saying that Boston will be in the blackout zone. The big winner, clearly, is Hartford’s WFSB, which becomes the Pats’ home-town station in three years. Will CBS’ WTIC and WZMX step up to the plate (now there’s a mixed metaphor!) and make the radio bid, too? We'll be watching...
*As for the TV and radio coverage, it sounds like WEEI broke this one on radio Wednesday, with all the stations in both markets jumping on board by the evening newscasts. When Pats owner Bob Kraft held his Hartford news conference Thursday morning, WBZ-TV and WHDH cut into their impeachment-hearings coverage (as did all three Connecticut affiliates and Providence’s WPRI and WJAR), while WCVB and WLNE stayed with Kenneth Starr. (2008 note: How the Patriots’ fate changed in just a few short years...)
*As MASSACHUSETTS reacts to the impending loss of the Pats, we note the re-emergence of former American Radio Systems honcho Steve Dodge. His new project, American Tower Corp., made some headlines this week with two big acquisitions: the $336 million purchase of OmniAmerica and the $185 million buy of Telecom Towers. Like ATC, both companies are big players in the little-noted but big-money world of tower leasing.
*Up in VERMONT, it’s a well-deserved retirement for a fixture of Central Vermont morning radio. Bob Bannon started at Montpelier’s WSKI (1240) in December 1947, and began doing morning drive there in 1955. He stayed there until 1997, when he moved his show down I-89 to Barre and WSNO (1450), from which he did his last show on November 6. Bannon is 83 years old. What a career!