In this week's issue... One PA vet retires, another lands a new gig - Yankees move in Syracuse - NJ college FM for sale - Rhode Island AM sold - Want your 2014 Tower Site Calendar by Christmas?
By SCOTT FYBUSH
MONDAY MORNING UPDATE:Clear Channel unveiled its 2014 programming lineup for New York's WOR (710) this morning, and it's got a big surprise in the lead-off slot.
The talk station with a reputation under previous ownership of appealing to an especially old audience is aiming for a much younger crowd by importing Elliot Segal and his "Elliot in the Morning" show from Clear Channel sister station WWDC (101.1) in Washington DC, where he anchors a lineup that's otherwise filled with rock and roll. Segal, a former morning co-host on New York's Z100 ("Elvis and Elliot," with Elvis Duran in the 1990s), will move his home base from DC101 to WOR's Manhattan studio, but will continue to broadcast back to Washington and to his Richmond affiliate, WRXL (102.1).
Following Elliot in the Morning at 10 will be current mid-morning host Mark Simone, then Rush Limbaugh at noon, Sean Hannity at 3, Andy Dean at 6 and Dave Ramsey at 9. With the retirement of current WOR morning host John Gambling next week, that leaves only one prominent veteran from the Buckley era to be accounted for, and we now know that Joan Hamburg will be shuffled from weekdays to a weekend role on the new Clear Channel WOR next year.
More on the New York schedule shuffles in next week's NERW...
*While we're bringing you these weekly editions of NERW in the waning weeks of 2013, we're starting to prepare our big Year in Review special, which will start appearing here in just two weeks (we've still got some prime advertising spots available at surprisingly affordable rates, by the way - check with Lisa for all the details!)
And as we work our way through the top stories of 2013, one keeps coming back: the way in which the very last open holes on the FM dial in the region are quickly being filled up with a combination of new translators and the impending grants of hundreds and perhaps even thousands of new low-power FM stations.
That process isn't a smooth one, though - and arguably, it shouldn't be. This week, we lead off with a pair of examples of what happens when the demand for new translators on the dial slams up against a real world in which bigger FM stations have long enjoyed listenership that extends beyond the relatively small areas in which the FCC protects them from interference.
No full-power broadcaster has been more aggressive in fighting against incursion to its signals than Greater Media, and this week's examples come from Greater's Philadelphia cluster. Does rocker WMMR (93.3 Philadelphia) really have over-the-air listeners 54 miles to the northwest in Denver, near Lancaster? That's the case that Greater Media made to the FCC when it got a translator application for Denver dismissed.
But Airport Investors, which had requested the dismissal after WMMR made its interference complaint, is back with a modification of its application: it's now asking the FCC to allow it to slide the application from 93.3 down to 92.9, with a backhanded slap at WMMR along the way. Stating that it "no longer feel(s) the opposing engineering is correct," Airport says the listener statements submitted by Greater were form letters - and it says that its own engineering analysis shows that "the WMMR off the air signal levels within Denver are far too low to
be heard without extraordinary means," thanks to a ridge that separates Denver from the incoming WMMR signal. Airport also claims that Denver is within the 34 dBu interfering contour of another 93.3 signal, WBZD Muncy, though NERW observes that the Muncy signal is even more attenuated in the real world by some very significant terrain separating the Williamsport area from Lancaster County.
While the FCC considers the Denver appeal, another would-be translator operator is also at odds with Greater in the opposite direction.
It's almost 75 miles from Greater sports station WPEN-FM (97.5 Burlington NJ) to the Newport section of Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan. It's there - atop the 101 Hudson Street skyscraper that once housed the studios of WHTZ (100.3) - that veteran engineer and translator applicant Ted Schober wants to locate a new 110-watt translator on 97.5, listed for now as a relay of New York's WFUV (90.7). But here, too, Greater objected. It produced an objection from a Manhattan resident who says he's a WPEN-FM listener. Schober says he's preparing a petition to prove that it's impossible for WPEN-FM to have a listener in the canyons of lower Manhattan - but in the meantime, he's modified his application to specify a directional antenna that will make the translator's 60 dBu signal fall just short of the location of what he calls the "alleged listener."
All of this scuffling at the edges of existing signals is just an opening act, we suspect: for every translator application still alive from that window back in 2003, there are a dozen LPFM applications making their way through the Commission right now, and then another batch of filings yet to come when the FCC opens up a special window for AM stations to apply for more translators, perhaps as early as mid-2014. We'll be following along closely, and we promise that NERW subscribers won't miss a bit of the action.
*Meanwhile, there was a big change in the world of radio message boards this week, and we're proud to be a part of it.
The discussion boards at RadioDiscussions.com had provoked plenty of controversy in recent years, not just because of what was posted on them but because of what was happening behind the scenes. After being founded by a trio of devout radio fans and becoming Radio-Info.com, the boards went through a big split in 2006 when the heirs of one of those founders, Doug Fleming, turned the site over to new management and evicted the other two founders, Lance Venta and Tanim Hussain. Lance went on to found a new site, RadioInsight.com., which has taken on a life of its own in recent years as a source of hot tips on impending format changes.
As longtime readers of this page know, we signed on fairly early as a content partner with RadioInsight, and more recently Lance has taken over much of the under-the-hood work of redesigning and hosting this site, as well as our sister site Tophour.com.
Radio-Info, meanwhile, went through its own turmoil. The Fleming family sold most of the site to Massachusetts-based Talkers Magazine last year, though news editor Tom Taylor didn't go along for the ride, instead launching his own outstanding Tom Taylor NOW newsletter. And the message boards stayed with the Flemings under the new name RadioDiscussions.com. Earlier this year, the boards were sold to Streamline Publishing, which put them through a monumentally unpopular redesign. And then, without warning, the boards shut down last week, discarding many years of archived discussions and friendships along the way.
But for those who'd still like to keep talking radio, the old times are new again. Earlier this year, RadioInsight relaunched its message boards, now known as the RadioInsight Community. And when RadioDiscussions abruptly disappeared, the Community was ready to pick up the slack.
We've had a few teething pains this week with all the former RadioDiscussions traffic coming our way, but things are running smoothly as we write this Sunday night. We're hoping you'll come join us for some friendly discussion of what's happening in radio and TV these days - and if you've got a suggestion for improvement, we're all ears!
*There were lots of Radio People on the Move all over eastern PENNSYLVANIA in December's first week, including one veteran's retirement and another's return to a full-time programming gig.
The veteran is Charley Lake, who'll step down next month as program director of Greater Media classic rocker WMGK (102.9 Philadelphia), seven years after arriving in Philly from Phoenix, where he programmed CBS classic hits KOOL-FM (94.5). Lake's career has also included stops at WJMK in Chicago, WRNO in New Orleans and WLVQ in Columbus. No replacement has been named.
Up the Blue Route in Scranton, Jim Rising is back in the saddle. The veteran programmer ran WEZX (106.9 Scranton) in the 1990s, between multiple stints at WKRZ (98.5) and its now-Entercom sister stations. Now he's back on the top floor at 149 Penn Avenue, replacing Scott Laudani as PD of "Rock 107," where he's also handling afternoons. Tommy Ferguson, formerly with WOWY (97.1) in State College, arrives at Shamrock to program WFUZ (92.1) and the "NEPA ESPN" sports cluster of WEJL (630 Scranton)/WEJL-FM (100.1 Forest City) and WBAX (1240 Wilkes-Barre).
And there are new programmers in the house at Clear Channel's Allentown and Reading clusters. At WZZO (95.1 Allentown), Steven Mills starts today as PD, moving from his previous post as corporate PD at Pembrook Pines Media Group in Elmira, N.Y. Mills replaces Craig Stevens in the PD chair at WZZO; Stevens is moving to Reading to take over from the now-retired Al Burke at the helm of WRFY (102.5)/WRAW (1340).
*Across the Delaware River, a NEW JERSEY college station may be on the way out. Camden County Community College's WDBK (91.5 Blackwood) has been broadcasting from one of the college's campuses since 1979, with a 100-watt signal that reaches only a relatively rural part of the county 15 miles or so south of Philadelphia.
Now it appears the college's board is the latest to see its FCC license as a better source of revenue than of education for its students. The college has listed the license for sale at a starting bid of $290,000 on a surplus-disposal site, where the callsign is mangled as "WBDK" and the station is incorrectly identified as a "l0w-power FM." (Actual LPFM licenses can't be sold, only transferred to another nonprofit; WDBK, while not very powerful, is classified as a "full-power" class A noncommercial signal.)
The auction is slated to run through February 4, 2014, and includes only the station's license and none of its equipment. What's more, the terms of the sale specify that the transmitter site has to be moved from the Blackwood campus. That could be a challenge, too, since WDBK is tightly squeezed in on a noncommercial dial that includes first-adjacent WKDU (91.7) at Drexel University in Philadelphia, effectively preventing the Blackwood signal from being moved any closer to the big city.
*Heading south, Ken Pustizzi has completed his $400,000 purchase of WSNJ (1240 Bridgeton) and its sister cable outlet, "QBC" channel 2, from Jim Quinn. Operating as "Quinn Communications and Marketing LLC," Pustizzi has been operating WSNJ under an LMA from Quinn since October. Pustizzi recently retired from the family business, Trico Lift, which rents out aerial lift equipment. He says he's hoping to expand WSNJ's streaming presence. As for Quinn, he still owns WMVB (1440 Millville), which had been simulcasting WSNJ but is now LMA'd out to a programmer doing Spanish-language radio as "La Brava."
To the north, there's a change at Press Broadcasting's WWZY (107.1 Long Branch)/WBHX (99.7 Tuckerton), where Dan Turi is out as PD after seven years with the stations. It appears Lisa Anderson, who'd been doing middays, is gone as well from the stations.
*We note the passing of Peter Bardach, a New York adman who entered radio ownership back in 1971 with the purchase of WLVP (102.3 Franklin) in 1971. Bardach's Sussex County Stereo changed the station to its present calls, WSUS, and eventually sold it to his business partner, Jay Edwards. Bardach later put a station on the air in Panama City, Florida and volunteered in his retirement at public station WKGC down there. He died Nov. 29 in Florida, at age 84.
Back in October, Albany Broadcasting shifted "Cat Country" from WZMR (104.9 Altamont) down the dial to the better class A signal of WKLI (100.9 Albany), killing off the rock format there. Since then, the two FMs have been simulcasting, but RadioInsight has picked up on a prototype website for "104.9 the Peak," which would be a AAA sister to parent company Pamal Broadcasting's WXPK (107.1 Briarcliff Manor) to the south in Westchester County.
It's still not clear when Albany/Pamal will pull the trigger on the flip; if we had to guess, we'd suspect it will happen sometime between Christmas and the first week of January.
In Syracuse, Cumulus' WSKO (1260) is going local again in afternoon drive. Starting today, former "Score" host Mike Lindsley is back in town as the host of "The Mike Lindsley Show: In the Cell with M.L.," weekdays from 3-6 PM. Lindsley left WSKO back in March for what turned out to be a short stint at Townsquare's WTMM (104.5) in Albany, where his local show ended abruptly after an August interview with what turned out to be a phony New York Yankees player. Back at WSKO, Lindley displaces CBS Sports Radio's Doug Gottlieb - and CNYRadio.com's Peter Naughton notes that the return of more local talk at WSKO appears to be tied to the return of Syracuse Chiefs baseball to The Score in the spring.
While the Chiefs come back to terrestrial radio in Syracuse, the Yankees are moving to a new radio home: they've signed a deal to put their network broadcasts on Galaxy's WTKW (99.5 Bridgeport)/WTKV (105.5 Oswego), adding to an extensive sports lineup in the Galaxy fold this season that includes Syracuse University football and basketball on "TK 99 & TK 105" and Mets baseball on sister station WTLA/WSGO. The Yankees had been on Clear Channel's WSYR (570), with some day games bumped to WHEN (620).
In Syracuse TV news, ABC affiliate WSYR-TV (Channel 9) is adding Bounce TV on its 9.3 subchannel as part of a deal that also renews the African-American-themed channel on other Nexstar outlets, including WROC-TV (Channel 8) here in Rochester.
Dave Radigan's Radigan Broadcasting Group has filed to purchase another FM translator. As we've reported here on NERW, Radigan's WEBO (1330 Owego) will add FM coverage of the northern part of Tioga County via W267BQ (101.3 Richford), for which Radigan is paying Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes $7500.
*It's been nearly 20 years since J.R. Reitz left Utica's WRCK (107.3) to move to southeastern MASSACHUSETTS as morning man on top-40 WFHN (107.1 Fairhaven). At "Fun 107," Reitz has outlast multiple owners and co-hosts to become a morning institution. Love, however, is something else: Reitz's girlfriend is in Phoenix, and now he's following her out west, leaving behind a big vacancy at WFHN that's yet to be filled.
In Springfield, market veteran Dan Williams is fighting cancer. The longtime WHYN/WHYN-FM jock, who's currently doing weekends on WAQY (102.1), posted this note on his website last week: "Two years ago they found a blockage in my ureter, the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder. The tumor had already killed off the kidney and the doctor suggested we keep an eye on the growth in my ureter. Two years later and I’m in the hospital with blood clots in my calf and the tumor has grown considerably." Williams says he's hoping to be well enough by next June to take part in Katelynn's Ride, the annual 100-mile cancer research fundraiser that he and his wife, Kim Zachary, started while at WHYN.
*We're deep into renewal filing season for FCC licensees all over New England, and for the most part that's a pretty ho-hum event. But for the hundreds of translators around the region, the renewal filing is also an opportunity to update the Commission's records about which parent station a translator is relaying. And so we note that Clear Channel's Worcester-market W235AV (94.9 Tatnuck) has switched back - at least on paper - from relaying Boston's WJMN (94.5) to rebroadcasting local news-talker WTAG (580 Worcester). It's not clear why the translator switched its official primary from WTAG to WJMN in the first place; as far as we know, 94.9 has actually been relaying WTAG all along for more than five years now.
*In RHODE ISLAND, the Judson Group has sold the former WCRI (1180 Hope Valley) back to its original owner. The 1800-watt daytimer was originally WJJF, which stood for John J. Fuller, and it's always operated from a tower on property Fuller owns in the town of Hopkinton. Fuller sold the station to Charles River Broadcasting back in 2002 for more than half a million dollars, but he's buying it back for just $12,500. Last Saturday, 1180 dropped the simulcast it had been running of Judson's classical WCRI-FM (95.9 Block Island), and it's now reportedly playing oldies as "Kool 1180" under new calls WSKP.
*Cumulus has shuffled its morning lineup at WWLI (105.1 Providence), removing David Jones from the "Lite" wakeup show after eight years on the air. Stephen Donovan makes the drive down Route 146 from Cumulus in Worcester to join Heather Gersten on WWLI, and for now that leaves Jen Carter solo at Donovan's old station, WXLO (104.5).
*In CANADA, it's no great surprise that the CRTC rubber-stamped the application from Evanov (dba Dufferin Communications) to slide its new CHRF (Radio Fierte) down the dial from 990 to 980 before it goes on the air. The move, made possible by the shift of Quebec City's CBV from 980 AM to 106.3 FM, will allow the new CHRF to run only two towers instead of six for a less-restrictive directional pattern, albeit with 10,000 watts at night instead of the 50,000 watts used by its predecessor on 990, CKGM.
It's also no surprise that the CRTC rejected RNC Media's application to close down the last remnants of CHXX (100.9)'s local presence in its city of license, Donnacona. RNC programs CHXX as "Radio X2," a sister to its Quebec City-based CHOI (98.1 Radio X), and it told the CRTC that "X2" has become effectively a Quebec City station that loses listeners when it switches to the Donnacona studio as it's mandated to do for 14 hours a week. But the CRTC says CHXX is the only station running local programming for the Donnacona/Portneuf area, and it's holding "X2" to its license requirement.
*Montreal's newest TV station is set to launch Wednesday. Sam Norouzi's CFHD-DT (Channel 47) tested briefly over the summer and returned to the air with test programming last week. When it signs on for real, it will be the multilingual ethnic replacement for CJNT (Channel 62), the former ethnic station that's now in Rogers' hands as an English-language CityTV outlet. Rogers agreed to provide just over a million dollars toward a new ethnic signal, while former CJNT owner Channel Zero provided a hefty loan and master control operations for the new station.
Norouzi's new station will be branded as "ICI" (International Channel/Canal International), though he's still in the midst of a legal fight with Radio-Canada, which has been trying to rebrand its French-language services as "Ici." He'll start out carrying lots of Rogers' OMNI programming, last seen in Montreal on CJNT, but the new ICI is promising to do a lot of field-based local production as it gets up and running.
*In southern Ontario, copper thieves were to blame for pulling half of the "2Day FM" simulcast off the air. They struck sometime late Wednesday or early Thursday at the Fort Erie transmitter site of CFLZ (101.1), where they apparently cut through a main power line and somehow escaped being killed. "2Day" stayed on the air on its other signal, CJED (105.1 Niagara Falls), while the outage at the Fort Erie site was fixed.
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!
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From the NERW Archives
Yup, we’ve been doing this a long time now, and so we’re digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five, ten and - where available - fifteen years ago this week, or thereabouts.
Note that the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as "New England Radio Watch,” and didn’t go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997.
One Year Ago: December 10, 2012
*The average TV viewer in upstate NEW YORK might not have noticed much, but behind the scenes, last week brought some dramatic changes to the dial involving two big group owners.
Nexstar was already an established presence in the region, owning and operating clusters in Rochester and Utica as well as just across the state line in Scranton and Erie, Pennsylvania. When Nexstar closed its purchase of most of Newport Television’s stations, it instantly became a much larger player. Nexstar’s Newport deal adds most of the cluster that was first assembled more than a decade ago by Ackerley, later passing to Clear Channel and then Newport. In Syracuse, Nexstar now owns top-rated ABC affiliate WSYR-TV (Channel 9), which serves as a hub for Watertown ABC outlet WWTI (Channel 50), Elmira NBC station WETM (Channel 18), Binghamton’s ABC affiliate WIVT (Channel 34) and NBC affiliate WBGH-LP (Channel 20). Nexstar’s Utica ABC affiliate, WUTR (Channel 20), was part of the old Ackerley group, too, and now rejoins its old sister station.
Under Ackerley, the group established a master control hub in Syracuse. The Nexstar acquisition will add a new level of hubbing: accounting and traffic for all of Nexstar’s stations in the region are being handled from a new hub at WROC-TV (Channel 8) in Rochester. Our colleague Peter Naughton at CNYRadio.com reports that consolidation meant as many as 20 jobs were lost at WSYR-TV’s East Syracuse facility, including the loss of several part-time photojournalists as well as production and business managers.
The Nexstar/Newport deal also brings two more former Clear Channel Television stations in the region under Newport’s management: CBS affiliate WHP-TV (Channel 21) in Harrisburg, PENNSYLVANIA and its JSA partner, CW affiliate WLYH (Channel 15) in Lebanon. Nexstar’s arrival in the Harrisburg market means the departure of Holly Steuart, who’d been GM at those stations under Newport; Steuart had also worked at WROC-TV in Rochester before moving to Harrisburg.
Nexstar still has another deal yet to close: it’s also acquiring Fox affiliate WFFF (Channel 44) and WVNY (Channel 22) in Burlington, Vermont, adding to what’s now a large regional footprint.
*While we knew Nexstar’s closing on the Newport stations was just a matter of time, the week’s other big deal came as a surprise – even, apparently, to Nexstar itself. This piece of the puzzle involves the last station remaining in the Newport family, ABC affiliate WHAM-TV (Channel 13) in Rochester. Because Nexstar already owned WROC in Rochester and operated Sinclair-owned Fox affiliate WUHF (Channel 31) under a joint sales agreement (JSA), it appeared that WHAM-TV would have to go to a different buyer. What nobody at Nexstar appears to have expected was that the “different buyer” would be its own JSA partner in Rochester, Sinclair, which paid $54 million on Monday and immediately took over the “non-license assets” of WHAM-TV.
Confused yet? No more so than the business pages that obligingly reported Sinclair’s official statement that it had no plans to alter its WUHF arrangement with WROC, leaving the station Sinclair actually owns, WUHF, being operated by a competitor to WHAM-TV, the station Sinclair will operate but not own. Even in the tangled web that is modern television group ownership, that’s a bizarre situation indeed, and NERW can confirm it won’t last very long.
Here’s what’s really about to happen in Rochester TV:
Nexstar’s JSA with WUHF began in September 2005, when Sinclair moved WUHF out of the East Avenue studios it had occupied for a quarter-century, shutting down its own local newsroom and relocating WUHF to WROC’s historic Humboldt Street studios. The original JSA was a seven-year deal, and as its expiration approached earlier this year, the two companies renewed the arrangement through the end of 2013.
But NERW has learned there’s a clause in that deal that allows either company to exit the JSA with advance notice – and so sometime in mid-2013, Sinclair will pull WUHF out of WROC’s Humboldt Street facility and move it over to WHAM-TV’s Henrietta studios. WUHF’s Fox affiliation and its syndicated programming (purchased by Sinclair) won’t change, but viewers will notice one immediate difference: instead of a 10 PM newscast produced by the WROC newsroom under contract to WUHF, Sinclair’s own WHAM-TV newsroom will be producing the Fox newscast. (WHAM already does a 10 PM show, which now airs on its CW subchannel.)
In the meantime, WROC and Nexstar will spend the first half of 2013 in the uncomfortable position of providing services to a soon-to-be-competitor, not just in the newsroom but also in master control. Under Ackerley, Clear Channel and Newport, WHAM-TV’s master control was hubbed in Syracuse at WSYR-TV; until a new master control can be built for Sinclair’s new Rochester operation, WHAM’s master control remains in Syracuse being operated under contract by Nexstar.
Over at WHAM, Sinclair’s arrival doesn’t appear to mean any major staffing changes, and may even mean more investment in the newsroom now that it will be serving a second station. And what becomes of the actual WHAM-TV license, which Sinclair can’t own as long as it has WUHF? An application was filed with the FCC on Friday to transfer the license to Deerfield Media, the arms-length Sinclair sister company that functions as a shell company in many Sinclair markets. Deerfield will pay $6 million for the license, and will grant Sinclair a five-year option to purchase the WHAM license.
For Sinclair, then, the week’s deals result in an upgrade from the junior partner in a JSA with a competitor, to becoming the operator of two stations, including top-rated WHAM-TV. For Nexstar, it means the loss of what appears to have been a nice stream of JSA revenue from WUHF; even so, WROC’s strong CBS affiliation and a resurgent local news operation should continue to keep the station in decent shape. (NERW wonders: once WUHF has left the building, will Nexstar seek to partner with the other remaining standalone in town, Hubbard-owned NBC affiliate WHEC? And in retrospect, if Nexstar had known it would end up as a standalone player in Rochester anyway, might it have made more sense for Nexstar to acquire WHAM as part of the Newport purchase, instead selling WROC to Sinclair?)
*And we remember Don Decker, whose long career in upstate broadcasting started at WCSS (1490 Amsterdam) in the 1950s, then took him to WSNY in Schenectady and WTRY in Troy before he landed at WGY (810) and WRGB (Channel 6) in Schenectady, where he rose to become news director in 1968. Decker later worked as news director at WAMC (90.3) and then at WTEN (Channel 10) before retiring in 1998. Decker launched the careers of many of Albany’s best-known TV newspeople, not to mention the market’s first hour-long evening newscast during WRGB’s dominant years in the 1970s. Decker died Monday at 79 following a fight with cancer.
*If Decker could be considered a contender for the title of “Dean of Albany News,” there was no argument about who was true “Dean of CONNECTICUT Sports.” That was Arnold Dean, who joined the staff of WTIC (1080 Hartford) in 1965 after starting his career at WKRT (920) in his native Cortland, New York, where he was born Arnold D’Angelo. Dean wore many hats in his early years at WTIC, indulging his passion for jazz as the host of several music shows. By 1976, he’d settled into a very comfortable role as the station’s evening sports talk host. Dean’s tenure at WTIC was exceeded by only one other announcer – and nobody’s ever likely to top the legendary Bob Steele’s amazing six-decade run at the station. Like Steele, Dean gradually tapered back his work on WTIC without ever completely leaving the station. Dean was on the air just two weeks before his death on Saturday; he was 82.
*One of eastern PENNSYLVANIA’s most interesting college stations is being sold. Lehigh Carbon Community College has agreed to sell WXLV (90.3 Schnecksville) to Four Rivers Community Broadcasting for $705,000, and that means WXLV’s eclectic programming will soon give way to a relay of Four Rivers’ “Word FM,” already heard in parts of the Lehigh Valley on flagship WBYO (88.9 Sellersville). (Much more on this over at Radio Survivor, which has been tracking WXLV’s travails for several years now…)
Five Years Ago: December 8, 2008
The last time the Opie and Anthony Show was pulled from the airwaves of eastern MASSACHUSETTS, back in 1998, it was big headline news: the then-WAAF (107.3) morning team had staged an April Fool's Day prank in which they claimed Boston mayor Tom Menino had been killed in a car crash. The duo kept making headlines after that - they moved on to a high-profile morning slot at New York's WNEW (102.7), then lost that job (including a syndication deal that landed them back in Boston on WBCN) in 2002 after the infamous "Sex for Sam" incident. Two years later, though, O&A were back on the air in both New York (at WXRK 92.3) and Boston (at WBCN) with a partial simulcast of their XM Radio morning show - and there the matter rested, at least until last week.
The new lineup at WBCN moves Toucher & Rich from afternoons into morning drive and Hardy from evenings to afternoons. Music director Dan O'Brien gets an airshift out of the deal, too, taking over the 7-midnight slot, presumably with the assistance of voicetracking.\
On the TV front, ShopNBC affiliate WWDP has temporarily silenced its digital signal as it prepares for transition day in February. It took a helicopter last Tuesday to remove WWDP-DT's channel 52 antenna from its tower in West Bridgewater, replacing it with a new antenna for the Norwell-licensed station's new channel 10 digital signal. But there's a catch: because channel 10 remains in use by WJAR's analog signal in Providence, WWDP-DT won't be able to start using its new channel until February 18. So it's off the air digitally, though it remains on the air in analog (on channel 46) from a nearby tower site until transition day.
On the HD Radio front, we've long maintained that public radio is about the only remaining source of programming innovation, and Fordham's WFUV (90.7 New York) is helping to make that case. "The Alternate Side" is WFUV's latest additional programming stream, running on WFUV's HD3 channel and on the web at thealternateside.org. The new channel is devoted to emerging local artists in the New York market, and much of its funding is coming from the settlement money former governor Eliot Spitzer extracted from the recording and radio industries during his payola investigations. (For non-HD-equipped listeners, The Alternate Side also airs on WFUV's main signal for a few hours at 10 PM on Fridays...)
Sad news from Clear Channel's cluster in northwest New Jersey: operations manager and WSUS (102.3 Franklin) afternoon jock Vince Thomas lost his long battle with a rare form of cancer early last Tuesday morning (December 3). Thomas, whose real name was Vincent Toscano, was still in his teens when he started at WNNJ (1360 Newton) in 1990. He'd been a fixture at WSUS for more than a decade, though he'd been off the air for nearly two years as his illness worsened. He was just 37.
Astral Media is expanding its "Virgin Radio" brand. Following its successful August launch of "Virgin" on CKFM (99.9 Toronto, formerly "Mix 99.9"), Astral announced last week that it will reimage three more of its stations as "Virgin" next month. In Montreal, CJFM (Mix 95.9) will become a Toronto-style "Virgin," adding more energy to its existing hot AC sound - but in Ottawa, "Virgin" will be a rocker, replacing the "Bear" branding at CKQB (106.9). The third Virgin will be out west, at what's now hot AC "95 Crave" CKZZ in Vancouver.
Back in Ontario, CTVglobemedia's CKRU (980 Peterborough) had applied for a move to FM on 96.7 - and while the CRTC granted that application back in May, it denied the use of 96.7, which went to another applicant. So CKRU returned with a proposal for a different frequency, 100.5, which the CRTC granted last week. Once the new FM facility is built, probably sometime next year, "980 KRUZ" will have 90 days to simulcast before silencing the AM for good - and Peterborough will lose its last AM signal.
Ten Years Ago: December 8, 2003
The 528-foot tower of WMGX (93.1 Portland ME) and WYNZ (100.9 Westbrook ME), a landmark for drivers entering Portland on I-295, collapsed Thursday afternoon about 1:30, apparently because a guy wire snapped. WYNZ was able to return to the air from an auxiliary site, but WMGX is off the air at press time. Nobody was hurt in the collapse, but WCSH (Channel 6) reports several cars were damaged in the parking lot next to the tower.
Downstate, the news is all about Radio People on the Move: Pat St. John, the veteran jock who's called stations such as CKLW, WRIF, WNEW-FM and WPLJ home, now has a new address on the New York dial. After doing weekends and fill-ins on Infinity's WCBS-FM (101.1) for the last few years, Pat kicked off his new gig as Saturday morning host on Clear Channel classic rocker WAXQ (104.3) this past weekend. Meanwhile, Q104's sister station WLTW (106.7) signed midday host Valerie Smaldone to another long-term contract last week. She's been part of Lite 106.7 since the station flipped from country to AC more than twenty years ago - quite a record of longevity in the turbulent New York radio world! On the engineering side, Glynn Walden has joined Infinity as VP/Engineering. Walden worked for two of Infinity's predecessors, CBS and Westinghouse, in the same position before joining Ibiquity Digital Radio, where his job was eliminated a few months ago. And out on Long Island, veteran DJ Scott Miller lands at WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue) to do middays, replacing the departed Rick Martini. Miller was last heard on WKJY (98.3 Hempstead).
Just short of the decade mark at WJYY (105.5 Concord) in NEW HAMPSHIRE's capital city, Harry Kozlowski has resigned his job as PD there (and at Vox sister station WNHI as well.) He's staying in the market and focusing his efforts on running new LPFM WCNH-LP (94.7 Concord), which hopes to be on the air with a 24/7 classical music format sometime in January. No replacement has been named yet at WJYY/WNHI - and NERW wishes Harry all the best in his efforts to show what LPFM was really meant to do.
The upcoming New Hampshire presidential primary was enough to keep northern New England from seeing NBC's Saturday Night Live this past weekend. WHDH-TV (Channel 7) in Boston, WCSH (Channel 6) in Portland, WLBZ (Channel 2) in Bangor, WNNE (Channel 31) in Hartford, VERMONT and WPTZ (Channel 5) in Plattsburgh, N.Y. all pre-empted the show with Rev. Al Sharpton hosting, out of concerns that it might trigger equal-time claims from his Democratic opponents. The show did air on WWLP (Channel 22) in Springfield, WJAR (Channel 10) in Providence and WVIT (Channel 30) New Britain-Hartford; the others carried a "best of" Steve Martin rerun, which we hear was quite a bit funnier than the Sharpton show anyway.
Fifteen Years Ago: December 11, 1998
Despite protests from angry listeners, including a street rally Wednesday (Dec. 9) that found several hundred of them dancing on West 43rd Street, New York's WQEW (1560) is going forward with plans to switch to Radio Disney at midnight December 27. WQEW's owner, the New York Times Co., will reportedly receive $40 million from Disney to lease the station for the next five years. So far, no other station has come forward to pick up the format used by WNEW until 1992 and WQEW ever since. Wanna know what WQEW mainstays like Jonathan Schwartz think of the deal? We would too -- but the Times has put a gag order on its employees while the format change goes through.
Meantime in the Big Apple, Chancellor Media dropped "Big 105" from WBIX (105.1) Friday night, Dec. 4. The new format is "Jammin' Oldies," similar to what the company has been doing with great success in Chicago, LA, and other markets. New calls are sure to follow. And Chancellor has hired former WNEW (102.7) jock and New York radio legend Scott Muni. Early next year, he'll start doing a one-hour show weekdays at noon, playing music and offering commentary and interviews. The show will give midday jock Maria Milito a one-hour lunch break during her shift. Yes, that was Muni who surfaced on WFAN (660) for a guest slot talking sports last week...
Elsewhere in NEW YORK, it's been a busy couple of weeks for Jacor's "second tier" of stations in the Rochester market. On Thanksgiving eve, they looked like this: WYSY (106.7 Irondequoit) and WISY (102.3 Canandaigua) simulcast very soft AC as "Sunny 106." WMAX-FM (107.3, still licensed Honeoye Falls but already ID'ing with its new South Bristol city of license) was rhythmic CHR as "Jam'n 107."
Then things began shifting. First WYSY dropped the "Sunny" format and began simulcasting "Jam'n" on the evening of Nov. 25 -- while WISY kept going as though nothing had changed. For a week, in fact, WISY continued to ID as "Sunny 106" and act as though it still had a sister station in Rochester. The only thing missing was a legal ID. Finally, the voicetracks caught up with reality, and WISY now IDs properly as "Sunny 102" -- but the soft AC and Delilah can't reach most Rochester listeners anymore.
Next up, "Jam'n." Monday afternoon (Dec. 7), it began announcing "The End of Jam'n." And with all the excitement of a roll of toilet paper being changed, the ID that hit a few minutes after 5 PM was the first to call the station "Kiss 107." And aside from adding a few more non-rhythmic hits (Shawn Mullins, anyone?), nothing else has changed at WYSY/WMAX-FM. The station still has no jocks, for starters. Why the new name? Gee, we noticed Jacor's new Cincinnati CHR is called "Kiss 107" while we were there last week...
One more Rochester-area note: WASB-FM (105.5 Brockport) was heard testing for a few hours on Friday, November 27, with a loop of country music -- but has not been heard since. When it comes on for real, it will have a hard time in eastern Monroe County, where Oswego's co-channel WTKV puts in a very respectable signal on 105.5.
Lots of news in New England, and we'll start with CONNECTICUT, where WTNH (Channel 8) in New Haven became the Nutmeg State's first DTV outlet with the debut of WTNH-DT (Channel 10) last Friday (Dec. 4) at 9 AM. WTNH-DT will simulcast Channel 8's local news while awaiting the availability of more HDTV programming and equipment.
Home shopping "en espanol" is on its way to southern Connecticut, with the sale of Paxson's WBPT (Channel 43) in Bridgeport to a company called "Cuchifritos Communications." They're paying $22 million for the signal so they can use it as the first outlet for "Compar de su Casa," which means (drumroll, please) "Shop at Home." Paxson says it will sell all its non-PaxTV outlets, which presumably means WHCT (Channel 18) in Hartford is available as well.
Next up, RHODE ISLAND, where the South County is losing a local radio voice, but gaining NPR service, with Boston University's purchase of WERI (1230 Westerly) from Bear Broadcasting. When the $300,000 deal is complete early next year, WERI will become WXNI, a 24-hour relay of WRNI (1290 Providence), which is itself a relay of WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston) with some Rhode Island news inserts in drive time. WBUR is promising more RI programming, including a local talk show, in 2000. Meantime, WERI's Mark Urso says the local programming from AM 1230, including a popular weekend sports-talk show, will migrate to WERI-FM (99.3 Block Island).
A not-very-historic MASSACHUSETTS callsign is back on the airwaves. The WBNW calls, which graced AM 590 from 1994 until 1997, resurfaced Dec. 1 on the former WADN (1120 Concord), where they go with the business-talk format that replaced the late, lamented "Walden Radio."
Jerry Villacres is the new general manager of Mega's Boston-area Spanish stations. WBPS (890 Dedham) and WNFT (1150 Boston) took their new names and formats Dec. 1, becoming contemporary "Estrella 890" and CHurban "Mega 1150," respectively. Villacres was president and GM of the now-defunct CBS Americas network.
Down the Cape, WKPE (1170 Orleans) returned to the air this month under new calls, becoming WFPB and relaying WUMB (91.9 Boston). WFPB(FM) in Falmouth, also 91.9, becomes WFPB-FM. (And yes, that makes sense to the FCC, anyway...)