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: February 4, 2013
*For decades now, broadcasters in the U.S. have played the move-in game: get licensed to a community somewhere near a big city, put a signal on the air and begin soliciting advertising from that larger market. (Just ask that station that’s getting all the attention in the New York City market right now – you know, WNSH 94.7 from “Newark, New Jersey”!)
But in CANADA, things work a little differently: if you’re licensed to Newark (so to speak), you’d better not be programming to New York. Or, to put it more concretely: if you’re licensed to St. Catharines, Ontario, you’d better not be programming to Toronto.
That, in a nutshell, is why the CRTC denied the latest attempt to revive AM 1220 in St. Catharines, the frequency vacated last year when the agency ordered that channel’s longtime occupant, CHSC, to leave the air. This time, the proposal came from Subanasiri Vaithilingam, who operates CJVF (105.9 Scarborough), a low-wattage ethnic station that really does serve part of the Toronto market. Vaithilingam’s proposal for 1220 in St. Catharines called for most of the station’s programming to be in English, but with 15 hours a week of “third-language programming in Filipino, Tamil, Russian, Portuguese, and South Asian languages” as well.
That raised a red flag at several competing Toronto-area ethnic stations, which asked the CRTC to look more deeply into whether Vaithilingam intended that third-language programming to be aimed across Lake Ontario at Toronto. The CRTC says it’s “unclear about the applicant’s programming commitments,” and even with a proposed license condition mandating that the “majority” of the new station’s programming be “of direct, particular and specific relevance to residents of St. Catharines and the Niagara Region,” the CRTC says “the potential for the station to target programming to listeners outside St. Catharines and the Niagara Region remains.”
Worse yet, the CRTC says that even if the revived 1220 were to be solely focused on St. Catharines and Niagara, there’s no evidence that the region needs (or even wants) another local station…and thus it appears that the frequency won’t be getting reactivated any time soon (if at all) now that CHSC is defunct. (NERW wonders whether the old nine-tower CHSC array will be coming down soon, since it won’t be getting reused by Vaithilingam’s new station.)
*Radio People on the Move: After 20 years with New York’s WQXR, going back to its days as the Times-owned commercial station, Midge Woolsey is moving on. The midday host did her last shift at WQXR’s current home on 105.9 on Thursday, saying she’s moving on “to devote more time to her family and to explore new and exciting opportunities in New York.” Around the corner at CBS Radio, there’s a replacement for the departed Rob Wagman at CBS’ WNOW-FM (92.3 NOW FM), where Nadine Santos is the new assistant PD/music director. Santos had been working at Music Choice, and before that was APD/MD at Clear Channel’s WWPR.
*We can’t leave New York, of course, without writing about Ed Koch. After his death early Friday at age 88, the veteran politician was being best remembered for his years as the city’s mayor – but this being NERW, we pay particular attention to his years as a radio host. During his three terms as mayor from 1978 until 1989, Koch was frequently behind the mic on WCBS (880) for “Ask the Mayor” call-in shows, and after he left office he embarked on a new and very successful career as a talk host on WABC (770). Koch also did a few years on the “bench” of “The People’s Court,” and most recently he’d been heard on a weekly call-in hour at WBBR (1130), the station owned by his successor Michael Bloomberg.
*Off the coast of MASSACHUSETTS, the nonprofit “Friends of MVYradio” has scored a big victory along the way to its goal of keeping the AAA format of WMVY (92.7 Tisbury) alive after Aritaur Communications completes its sale of the broadcast license to Boston’s WBUR-FM (90.9). The “Friends” group, led by longtime WMVY programmer Barbara Dacey, set an ambitious fundraising goal of $600,000 in just two months to acquire WMVY’s studio facility on Martha’s Vineyard and relaunch the station as a web-only operation. As of January 25, the Friends announced they’d made their goal and will be able to keep ‘MVY alive on the web at least through the end of 2013. “We are already starting to look ahead,” says the group’s announcement, with plans to secure grants and underwriting support in hopes of also finding a new FM home once 92.7 switches to a WBUR simulcast under new calls WBUA. (The exact date for that switch hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s expected to happen within the next few weeks.)
*Boston’s WBZ (1030) has lost another traffic legend. After the retirement of Joe Green (who died in 2006), the reports “from the BZ Copter” came from Joe Morgan, who took on that role in 1997 and stayed in the skies over Boston until his own retirement in 2011. Morgan came to WBZ with a long news career already behind him, beginning at the old WCOP (1150) in 1968 and continuing as news director at WRKO (680) and WHDH (850). Morgan had been ill for some time; he died Wednesday (Jan. 30) at age 67.
*In central PENNSYLVANIA, Nexstar Communications’ rollout of high-definition local news around the region has added another smaller market: Altoona’s WTAJ (Channel 10) is putting the finishing touches on its conversion to HD, complete with a new set and new graphics. GM Phil Dubrow says the switchover has cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars”; it puts WTAJ on par with Cox’s WJAC (Channel 6), which has been producing its own news (as well as newscasts for Fox affiliate WWCP and ABC affiliate WATM) in HD for several years.
*And we note the passing of Ralph Collier, who started in broadcasting with the Army in World War II, spent some time here in Rochester at WHAM/WHAM-TV in the early 1950s, and then established himself in Philadelphia as one of the city’s top interviewers. Collier moved from WCAU to WFLN (900/95.7) in the mid-1960s and remained with the classical station until 1988, hosting a daily interview show. Collier later moved on to WRTI (90.1) and WBUX (1570 Doylestown) before retiring in 2011. Collier also served for 15 years as the president of the Campbell Soup Tureen Museum. He died Tuesday (Jan. 29) at age 91.
Five Years Ago: February 2, 2009
You remember Bill Murray's movie "Groundhog Day," don't you - how each morning his alarm clock keeps going off to Sunny and Cher singing "I've Got You, Babe" as the local puker morning jocks once again remind him that he's about to live the same day of his life all over again?
We've had that scene in mind these last few months each time we sit down to write another week's installment of NERW, with what seems to be the same headline week after week about job cuts after job cuts after job cuts.
We'll have a few of those to report later in this week's issue - but for once, we have some good news to offer as well: thanks to a flood of listener outcry, ousted WBZ (1030 Boston) overnight talk host Steve Leveille is getting his job back, and on Groundhog Day of all days.
What happened? Credit a combination of history and an unusually passionate listener base. The history, of course, is WBZ's long tradition of local talk - and of frigid response to any attempt to replace local talkers with syndicated product. A prior generation of station management learned that lesson two decades ago, when the late David Brudnoy was briefly pulled off the air and replaced by Tom Snyder's national show in the evening hours. This time, it was the painfully generic "Overnight America" with St. Louis-based Jon Grayson that failed to make the cut with WBZ's loyal overnight audience, which flooded PD Peter Casey with what we're told was a pile of angry letters more than a foot high.
That was apparently all the ammunition Casey and the local management team needed to persuade the CBS Radio bosses in New York to bring Leveille back, a move that came as a surprise to everyone, Leveille very much included, as the news broke Tuesday afternoon.
"I never expected to get a call like that...it's not how the business works," Leveille told the WBZ newsroom as he prepared for his return, which is scheduled for tonight.
WBZ is also bringing back another laid-off personality, but Lovell Dyett won't get his longtime Saturday night shift back. Instead, the veteran talk host will be heard for just half an hour in what's probably the station's lowest-profile slot, from 4:30 to 5 on Sunday morning, and he's not happy about it. Will the public outcry over the dismissal of WBZ's lone black talker eventually get him restored to his old timeslot? That doesn't seem likely - indeed, Casey's statement that "we still need a new way to create new revenue for the Saturday night programming hours" suggests that the infomercials that have already begun to infect WBZ's weekend programming are likely to increase over the next few months - and there's already speculation that Jordan Rich's weekend overnight slot could be targeted for changes.
Even as WBZ was welcoming back Leveille - and based on our short visit to our old stomping grounds during our New England swing last week, the move was a big morale boost for the station's surviving staffers - it was saying goodbye to the dean of its airstaff.
Gil Santos didn't want the pomp and publicity that surrounded the retirement of his old morning colleague, Gary LaPierre, two years ago. So when he delivered his final sportscast for WBZ at 9:45 on Friday morning, it was a much smaller and more low-key event. Santos' family - his wife Roberta and his children and grandchildren - gathered around him and applauded as he read the last sports headlines, followed by recorded tributes from co-workers past and present and a touching poem from the inimitable Carl Stevens.
Santos will still be heard on CBS sister station WBCN (104.1) as the voice of the Patriots, and for the first week after his retirement from WBZ, his morning sports slot will be filled by Bob Lobel, who's become something of a pinch-hitter for CBS (including a few weeks on morning drive at oldies station WODS) since departing his own high-profile gig as WBZ-TV sports director last year.
So, about that Groundhog Day business - the rest of our MASSACHUSETTS news brings us back to job-loss territory.
This time around, it was Greater Media's turn, and the company cited the usual "current economic environment" as it cut 11 jobs from the Boston cluster, three of them from programming and the rest from sales.
The programming cuts included WBOS (92.9 Brookline) PD Dana Marshall, who'd come to the station two years ago from WXRV (92.5). She'll be replaced by Ken West, who adds WBOS programming duties to his existing job as PD of WROR (105.7 Framingham), a job that suddenly becomes a little less demanding as that station goes "music-intensive" from 7 PM until 5:30 AM.
"Music-intensive," of course, is the polite way of saying, "we just cut two decently-paid on-air positions" - in this case, Julie Devereaux, who was doing 7-midnight, and Albert O, who was on overnights.
From the engineering department: Greater Media's WKLB (102.5 Waltham) is operating from a new transmitter site. After many years at the "FM 128" tower on Chestnut Street in Newton, 102.5 has returned to its former home at the WBZ-TV tower on Cedar Street in Needham, running 12 kW/905'. Right now, the Needham site is licensed as an auxiliary, but expect that to change soon.
It would be nice to say that's it for the job-cut news this week, but there were big headlines from VERMONT, too, where Vox made some big cutbacks at WCPV (101.3 Essex NY). No euphemisms here - "sh*tcanned" was the subject line of the e-mail veteran Burlington-market DJ/programmer Steve "Corm" Cormier sent us announcing that he was suddenly out the door at Fort Ethan Allen after 11 years at the station and a total of 23 years in radio.
Cormier had moved from mornings to middays last year with the end of his long-running "Corm and the Coach" show, and he was also wearing multiple hats as PD of "Champ 101.3" and operations manager for Vox's Burlington cluster. Production director and weekend jock Doug Grant is now filling the midday slot on WCPV, while afternoons - where Carolyn Lloyd had been heard for the last two years before also being ousted last Monday - are now being filled by Mike Wilhide.
"We are watching our expenses," said Vox principal Ken Barlow to the Burlington Free Press, blaming the cutbacks on a "soft market."
It was a quiet week in PENNSYLVANIA - especially out west, where you'd almost think people around Pittsburgh had something other than radio on their minds...something, say, black and gold and now in possession of a record sixth championship?
There was some broadcast news related to the big game: PBRTV.com reports that over-the-air DTV viewers in the Erie market - hard-core Steelers territory - had the chance to see the game in HD, even though NBC affiliate WICU (Channel 12) hasn't been operating HD on its own ultra-low-power WICU-DT signal on channel 52. WICU has also been putting NBC programming on the higher-powered signal of sister station WSEE-DT - and for the big game, WSEE used most of its bandwidth to carry its NBC subchannel (35.3) in HD, relegating CBS on 35.1 to SD for the night.
This should be the last year for that particular problem; even if Congress still finds a way this week to postpone the official end of analog TV, WICU plans to silence its analog channel 12 transmitter on Feb. 17, replacing it with full-power digital WICU-TV on 12. (ABC affiliate WJET-TV would also flash-cut to digital that day, leaving only WSEE, with CBS, and WFXP, with Fox, operating in analog.)
Ten Years Ago: February 2, 2004
It was bound to happen, but inevitability doesn't make today's sign-off of WSNJ-FM (107.7 Bridgeton) any less bittersweet. One of NEW JERSEY's oldest FM stations, WSNJ remained a bastion of old-time radio in a voicetracked, consolidated world right up to the end, super-serving Cumberland County and surrounding portions of South Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware with everything from farm news to a swap shop program to lots and lots of local news and information. But (as we learned from an article in Sunday's New York Times) if everything goes according to plan, sometime this afternoon (Feb. 2), the heirs of Ed Bold will receive a $20 million payment for the class B FM facility, at which point they'll pull the plug on WSNJ-FM for good. WSNJ (1240) will stay on the air, eventually changing hands to Millville mayor Jim Quinn, who'll keep its format mostly intact and begin simulcasting it on his WMVB (1440 Millville).
As for the FM license, as soon as it's off the air in Bridgeton, it'll be transferred to Radio One, which will move it to 107.9, downgrade it to class A and relocate it to the Philadelphia suburb of Pennsauken, transmitting from the WKDN (106.9 Camden)/WTMR (800 Camden) tower. How soon will that happen? We're hearing everything from the end of this week (unlikely) to the end of the year.
A brief commentary, if we may: There's a certain irony in the timing of WSNJ-FM's finale, coming as it does just one day after the 50th anniversary of the death of Major Edwin Howard Armstrong, the inventor of FM radio. (You can read NERW's tribute to the Major here.) In many ways, WSNJ-FM was one of the last surviving examples of Major Armstrong's original vision of what FM could be: with its high power, initially on 98.9 and later on 107.7, it served a much larger area than the WSNJ AM signal ever could hope to cover, providing a truly local service to many rural residents whose only other choices for radio reception - especially after dark - were distant signals from big cities. And there's something admirable in the way WSNJ-FM stayed the course all through the fifties and early sixties, even as other early FM pioneers gave up on the medium. So it's hard to begrudge the Bold family - especially Ed Bold's 83-year-old widow - for taking advantage of the windfall the FM signal represented. Nor can we find fault with Ed Seeger for choreographing the move of WSNJ-FM to Pennsauken and the $15 million profit he'll receive for making the deal. No, the issue at hand is the sequence of regulatory changes that allowed the move to Pennsauken to become a possibility: specifically, the elimination of the anti-trafficking rule that would once have required a broker like Seeger to operate WSNJ-FM for three years before spinning it off to Radio One and the elimination of the main studio, community ascertainment and public service requirements that would once have made it more difficult for a "Pennsauken" station to market itself to all of Philadelphia without providing any distinct local service to Pennsauken itself. (We've ranted enough in the past about the inanity of the rules under which Pennsauken could even have been considered sufficiently distinct from the "Philadelphia Urbanized Area" to merit its own FM allocation.)
It's hard to imagine that the removal of this unique local service to the relatively underserved Cumberland County area, in exchange for yet another generic service in the crowded Philadelphia market, is really what anyone at the FCC means by "localism," and it's a shame that none of the proposals currently on the table to improve "localism" in broadcasting would close the "WSNJ loophole," and that's a shame.
We'll start our New England report this week up in MAINE, where Hearst-Argyle is spending $37.5 million to add WMTW-TV (Channel 8) in Poland Spring to its portfolio of stations in the region that already includes fellow ABC affiliates WCVB in Boston and WMUR in Manchester NH, as well as NBC outlets WPTZ Plattsburgh NY -Burlington VT and WNNE White River Junction VT.
Up in CANADA, the CRTC was busy handing out new licences last week: in Trenton, Ontario (now known as Quinte West through the miracle of governmental consolidation), CJTN gets to move from 1270 AM to 107.1 FM, where it'll run 3640 watts; in Pembroke, Standard's CKQB (106.9 Ottawa) gets an Ottawa Valley relay on 99.7 with 45.2 kW; and in the Mauricie region of Quebec, the Cooperative de solidarite radio communautaire Nicolet-Yamaska/Becancour gets 34 kW on 90.5 to serve the Becancour/Nicolet area with community programming.
Fifteen Years Ago: January 29, 1999
So much for a third public radio voice in Buffalo, NEW YORK. The Western New York Public Broadcasting Association announced this week that it will cease programming WNED (970) in mid-February, switching the station to a simulcast of SUNY Buffalo's WBFO (88.7).
WNYPBA has owned 970 since 1976, when it bought the former WEBR (and its sister FM station on 94.5, now WNED-FM) and turned WEBR into an all-news operation. For a while, WEBR was one of the finest public radio newsrooms in the country. A few years ago, though, WEBR dropped the all-news format, changed calls to WNED(AM), and switched to a more traditional public radio news/information format. WNED had fallen on tough times in the last few years, a victim of WNYPBA budget problems brought on in part by the decision, under previous management, to invest much of the association's resources into the construction of a huge new studio/office building in downtown Buffalo. (NERW notes that the debt from that building was also cited as a reason when WNYPBA put WNEQ-TV, Channel 23, up for sale last year).
WNED(AM) employed five full-time staffers and six part-timers. WNYPBA officials say they'll try to find other jobs within the company for them. Meantime, Buffalo listeners will lose the daily "Live @ Noon" talk show, weekend All Things Considered, overnight BBC broadcasts, "The Connection," and "Marketplace," among other 970-only programming. As for 970's long-term future, WNYPBA president Don Boswell tells the Buffalo News he'll consider an LMA for the station, but doesn't plan to sell the station, in hopes that it will be valuable if IBOC digital radio becomes a reality (NERW notes that the DA-1 signal on 970 has a very tight pattern that does well in downtown Buffalo and up towards Niagara Falls but is unlistenable in even Buffalo's nearby eastern and southeastern suburbs).
NERW's sorry to see WNYPBA give up any pretense of offering a public-affairs radio service to Buffalo (WNED-FM on 94.5 is 24-hour classical music), and we're hopeful WBFO will be able to work out a deal to provide some separate programming to 970 and, perhaps, even expand its jazz service on 88.7. (2014 update - In the end, WNED's separate AM service was saved, and continued for many years as a distinct program offering from WBFO. SUNY's sale of WBFO to WNED in 2012 eventually merged the two news-talk stations, and later in 2012 WNYPBA finally sold the 970 signal to Crawford, which now operates it as WDCZ.)
Peter Arpin's ADD Media is buying again in MASSACHUSETTS. ADD already owns WRCA (1330 Waltham) and WJYT (1320 Attleboro). It's been programming WLYN (1360 Lynn), and now it's making it official by buying the station from Paul Feinstein's Puritan Broadcasting for $1.06 million.