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: March 4, 2013
*It’s turning out to be an interesting year in the world of medium- and small-market TV, isn’t it? While the companies at the top of the local-station ownership market have been reluctant to do much spending on big-market properties, a handful of players are aggressively testing the limits when it comes to the creation of multiple-station local clusters and regional groups in markets below #50 or thereabouts.
Late last year, we watched as Nexstar and Sinclair divvied up most of the former Newport Television (ex-Clear Channel/Ackerley) stations across upstate NEW YORK and beyond – and since then, Sinclair, especially, has been at the forefront when it comes to station acquisition. Last week, Sinclair grew again, picking up several smaller-market stations being shed by Cox Media Group for $99 million and then, for $320 million, buying outright the entire Barrington Broadcasting group.
The market that will feel the biggest impact from those Sinclair moves is Syracuse, which has suffered more TV ownership turmoil than just about anywhere else that we can think of in recent years. The dominant station in town is ABC affiliate WSYR-TV (Channel 9), which is just settling in under the first months of its new Nexstar ownership – and even before Nexstar picked up channel 9 in the Newport deal, it was widely known that the competing “CNY Central” cluster was also up for sale. That cluster, which lags significantly behind WSYR-TV in the ratings, includes Barrington-owned NBC affiliate WSTM (Channel 3), its low-power CW sister station WSTQ-LP (Channel 14) and Granite’s CBS affiliate WTVH (Channel 5), which is operated under an LMA by WSTM.
When Barrington went up for sale, the rumor mill immediately pegged both Nexstar and Sinclair as likely buyers, and had Nexstar been the winning buyer, the FCC would have required something to be spun off in Syracuse. That will be the case under Sinclair as well, since Sinclair has its own Syracuse cluster just two doors down from CNY Central. That cluster includes Sinclair’s own Fox affiliate, WSYT (Channel 68), and MyNetwork affiliate WNYS-TV (Channel 43), which is licensed to RKM Media but has long been operated by Sinclair/WSYT.
When Sinclair closes on the Barrington purchase, it will take over operation of “CNY Central,” owning WSTM/WSTQ outright and operating WTVH under a continuation of the Barrington deal with Granite. So what becomes of WSYT/WNYS?
Sinclair’s announcement of the Barrington deal included a mention that two companies, Cunningham Broadcasting and the new minority-controlled Howard Stirk Company (fronted by conservative commentator Armstrong Williams), will be acquiring the license assets of four stations as part of the transaction – and that Sinclair will sell WSYT and assign its management deal for WNYS.
What we’re quietly hearing from behind the scenes, unsurprisingly, is that Sinclair doesn’t really intend to let go of WSYT/WNYS – and that while the Fox/My combo will stay put at its 1000 James Street location, separate from CNY Central in the venerable channel 3 facility at 1030 James, Sinclair is likely to seek a “sale” of WSYT to the closely-connected Cunningham group. If that happens, it would give Sinclair some degree of control over three of the big four affiliations in town (NBC outright on WSTM, CBS via the Granite LMA on WTVH and Fox via the arms-length Cunningham on WSYT), plus CW and My to boot. That’s a lot of consolidation in a town that’s already seen more than its share of media changes lately, including the end of daily publication at the city’s major newspaper, the Newhouse-owned Post-Standard.
*As for the Sinclair/Cox deal, it involves four markets: Reno (Fox affiliate KRXI and LMA partner KAME), El Paso (Fox affiliate KFOX) – and two NBC affiliates bracketing Pittsburgh and western PENNSYLVANIA: WJAC-TV (Channel 6) in Johnstown and WTOV (Channel 9) in Steubenville, Ohio. Back in 2000, when Cox acquired WTOV and WJAC from Sunrise Television, officials boasted that the three-station combination with Cox’s WPXI (Channel 11) in Pittsburgh would “be able to take better advantage of the strategic opportunities that are arising as broadcasting enters the digital age.”
But Cox’s strategy changed in recent years: instead of trying to spread out as much as possible geographically, the company’s focus has shifted to building dominant clusters across multiple media (TV, radio and even legacy newspapers) in a smaller number of markets such as Atlanta, Dayton, Jacksonville and Tulsa. Cox acquired Newport’s TV stations in those last two markets and quickly moved to sell non-core clusters such as its Connecticut radio stations (headed to Connoisseur Media) and now WJAC and WTOV, which Sinclair will operate under its new “Chesapeake Media” division, established last week to manage the increasing number of small-market stations under Sinclair’s growing umbrella.
When Sinclair/Chesapeake takes over at WJAC and WTOV, those stations will get a new Pittsburgh partner, Sinclair Fox affiliate WPGH (Channel 53) and its Cunningham My Network sister, WPMY (Channel 22). What becomes of the newsgathering that WJAC and WTOV share, in part, with WPXI? That’s an interesting situation, too: Sinclair already has its own news partnership with WPXI, where Cox produces a 10 PM newscast that’s aired on Sinclair’s WPGH ever since WPGH shuttered its own newsroom in 2006.
So what’s really going on here? The way we see it, it’s part of a brand new world of local TV in which “ownership” tells only part of the story. Long gone are the days when a “TV station” had to be a single entity in which one owner controlled every aspect of a station’s operation locally, from the newsroom and ad sales all the way through master control to the transmitter and tower. It’s possible (and not uncommon) now for the station’s “owner” to hold nothing more than the license, with everything from news production to master control to sales and transmitter operations managed under contract by other companies that in some cases might once have been considered “the competition.” (Speaking of which, WJAC under Cox has been supplying news to “competing” Fox/ABC affiliates WWCP/WATM in Johnstown-Altoona, and that arrangement is expected to continue under Sinclair.)
*The week’s other TV deal comes from Albany, where the market’s MyNetworkTV affiliate is getting a new duopoly partner. Venture Technologies’ WNYA (Channel 51), licensed to nearby Pittsfield, Mass., was once operated under an LMA by CBS affiliate WRGB (Channel 6). That arrangement dissolved when WRGB made an outright purchase of the market’s bigger CW outlet, WCWN (Channel 45), leaving Venture to operate WNYA as a stand-alone using the old Rotterdam studios of public broadcaster WMHT, which had moved on to plusher quarters in Rensselaer.
*Here in the Rochester market, two AM stations that have been for sale for quite a while now have finally found a buyer. WASB (1590 Brockport) and WRSB (1310 Canandaigua) bookend the core of the Rochester market from the far west and east sides, respectively – and now they’re heading from the hands of Marilyn Wolfe, widow of late station owner Dr. David Wolfe, to Brian McGlynn’s Genesee Media. Genesee already owns WDNY-FM (93.9)/WDNY (1400) in Dansville, an hour south of Rochester, and McGlynn says the two new AMs will allow him to “further develop parts of the Rochester market.”
*A veteran MASSACHUSETTS morning show is reuniting after a long absence. It was way back in 2001 when Clear Channel split up the Baltazar and Pebbles morning show at WJMN (94.5), with Baltazar eventually moving out west to KZZO in Sacramento. But after Pebbles was let go by WJMN last year and eventually followed former WJMN programmer Cadillac Jack over to Greater Media’s rhythmic startup WTKK (Hot 96.9), it became clear that Cadillac was doing everything he could to put the band back together, as it were. NERW was the first trade publication to note that CBS Radio had posted an opening for Baltazar’s Sacramento job – and last week Greater confirmed what we’d all been speculating: effective today, Baltazar will be back in Boston on a reunited “Baltazar and Pebbles” show at WTKK. The afternoon slot that Pebbles had been temporarily filling will go to Melissa, the former WJMN morning producer who’d been handling middays.
Over at Clear Channel, March brought an abrupt end to the “Matty’s Comedy 1200″ format at WXKS (1200 Newton). The satellite-fed yuks showed up on 1200 and on WXKS-FM (107.9)’s HD2 last August, after Clear Channel pulled the plug on its attempt to make the station a major conservative talk player. While the comedy lives on at 107.9-HD2, AM 1200 has now flipped again to a full-time feed of Bloomberg Radio’s business format. Bloomberg has bounced around the Boston dial in its two decades on the air: from 1994-1996, it was heard more or less full-time on WBNW (590), Peter Ottmar’s replacement for the old WEEI frequency, and after 590′s sale to Salem (it’s now religious WEZE), Bloomberg eventually ended up with part-time clearance on a series of rimshots. Most recently, Bloomberg has been heard on Barry Armstrong’s WBNW (1120 Concord)/WPLM (1390 Plymouth), where it’s been cleared for a few hours of morning drive and overnights. It appears those clearances will go away in the next few weeks, and there’s no word yet on what replaces Bloomberg over at Armstrong’s “Money Matters Radio.”
Meanwhile, the new “Bloomberg 1200″ is also being simulcast on Clear Channel’s WJMN (94.5-HD2) for a little extra reach. In addition to the national Bloomberg feed, the Boston incarnation includes traffic and weather headlines four times an hour from Clear Channel’s Metro Networks, and may eventually include more local content as well.
*There’s more new radio coming to eastern CANADA. In Clarence-Rockland, Ontario, just east of Ottawa, the CRTC has granted a new signal to Evanov Broadcasting. The new 92.5 there, running 300 watts, will be the latest link in Evanov’s soft AC “Jewel” chain, joining CJWL (98.5 Ottawa) to the west and CKHK (107.7 Hawkesbury) and the new CHSV (106.7 Hudson-St.-Lazare QC) to the east. North of Toronto, Dan Sys’ Canadian Radio News reports the grant of a new 50-watt tourist information station on 98.5 in Barrie. Owned by Douglas Edwards, who has several existing tourist signals nearby, the new 98.5 will carry the CKEY calls that had a long legacy in Toronto and then in Niagara Falls/Fort Erie.
Five Years Ago: March 2, 2009
In a decade and a half of doing this column, we've shied away from repeating rumors and spreading gossip. But sometimes the drumbeat is so loud, and so clear, that it's hard to ignore - and that's the case, this week, with CBS Radio's NEW YORK cluster. Even as salespeople for WXRK (92.3 New York) settle in as the first tenants of the cluster's new home downtown at 345 Hudson Street, well-placed sources tell NERW that managers are looking for a new request line number that ends with the letters "H-I-T-S." That, needless to say, doesn't fit the rock format of "K-Rock" or the AC format of its eventual neighbor at Hudson Street, "Fresh" WWFS (102.7). But it does track with the big flip out in Los Angeles last week that transformed FM talker KLSX (97.1) into top-40 "AMP Radio."
Despite rumors that have suggested "AMP" clones showing up everywhere from Boston to San Francisco, we're hearing that the eventual flip in New York - whether at WWFS or WXRK - won't carry the "AMP" branding, which will apparently remain unique to L.A. So which signal will end up flipping in New York, and when? That remains a well-guarded secret for now, though with the contract for morning men Opie & Anthony just a couple of months from expiration, it certainly would seem that WXRK is more obviously poised for a flip than WWFS, which has been surprisingly successful with its "Fresh" format after many years of instability and repeated format flips as WNEW.
We now know the outcome of this morning's big meeting in Syracuse - and it ends up being the opposite of what we'd surmised - Barrington Broadcasting's NBC affiliate, WSTM (Channel 3), is taking over operations of Granite's CBS affiliate, WTVH (Channel 5), under a shared-services agreement. There was no noon newscast on WTVH, and it appears much of that station's staff may be out as operations of the CBS station move two doors down to WSTM's studios. We'll have much more on this developing story in next week's NERW.
The news out of MAINE is all about call changes: WKCG (101.3 Augusta) has become WVQM, to match its news-talk simulcast with WVOM (103.9 Howland) in the Bangor market. Meanwhile, Bangor's WABI (910) sheds the calls it's had for more than eight decades - it's now WAEI, matching its WEEI-simulcast FM sister, WAEI-FM (97.1 Bangor). The WABI calls live on over at WABI-TV (Channel 5).
Ten Years Ago: March 1, 2004
There's a format change on the way in PENNSYLVANIA in a few weeks. On April 5, Salem will flip WZZD (990 Philadelphia) from the format of religious teaching and music that it's had for 23 years to conservative talk. 990 will get new calls, WNTP, and a program lineup that will include the syndicated offerings from Laura Ingraham, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Michael Savage. Salem has been rolling out its conservative talk in many of its markets, including last year's launch of WTTT (1150) in Boston; in addition to the April 5 launches in Philadelphia and Dallas (KSKY 660 Balch Springs TX), Salem is also introducing a national morning show hosted by William Bennett and veteran talk PD Tom Tradup. "Bill Bennett's Morning in America" will also be heard on WTTT, replacing the current Jimi Carter morning show there; NERW suspects it's just a matter of time before Salem clears that show and the rest of its network on one of its New York outlets (WMCA 570 or WWDJ 970) as well.
Another call change in Philadelphia: WLDW (96.5) has become WRDW-FM, reflecting its new "Wired" identity; those calls have a long heritage down in Augusta, Georgia, where owner Beasley has WRDW (1630) - and where there's also WRDW-TV, no longer co-owned with the radio station.
There's a fight brewing in Chambersburg over the land where the four towers of WCBG (1590) now sit. City officials began building a water tower right next door to the site, apparently without realizing that the RF field from the station would interact with the new structure. Now the city says it will condemn the land on which the towers will sit, offering Verstandig Broadcasting a paltry $30,000 for relocating to a city-owned landfill site. The station, understandably, doesn't want to move; we'll keep you posted on how this one plays out.
Up in the Scranton area, WKJN (1440 Carbondale) applies to change its calls back to WCDL; new owner Route 81 Radio is planning to build new studios in the Carbondale city hall building to get the station back on the air soon. (Sister station WCWI 94.3 has changed calls to WNAK-FM and is now simulcasting standards WNAK 730; another Citadel spin-off, WCWY 107.7 Tunkhannock, is changing calls to WBZR under its new owner, Geos Communications.)
Howard Stern fans in Pittsburgh are making do without the shock jock for now; WXDX (105.9) there was one of the six Clear Channel stations that abruptly pulled the Stern show from their airwaves on Thursday. "The X" played music Thursday and Friday mornings, and it's not clear yet whether the Stern show will be back there (or on Clear Channel's WNVE 95.1 in the Rochester market, which also went Stern-less) any time soon.
A format flip in NEW YORK's Capital District leads things off this week; as we'd hinted last week, Crawford Broadcasting will move the oldies "Legends" WPTR (1540 Albany) over to the FM dial today, swapping calls and format with religious WDCD (96.7 Clifton Park). While the religious programming gets the big 50,000 watt AM signal, we're hearing that some tweaks to "Legends" are on the way at its new FM home, where it will compete with Clear Channel oldies WTRY (98.3 Rotterdam) and its emphasis on the 60s and 70s, as well as Pamal's WKLI (100.9 Albany) and its standards format.
Heading down the Hudson, NERW was first to report (in a Friday extra last week) that Pamal will soon flip WXPK (107.1 Briarcliff Manor) from its current top 40 simulcast of Poughkeepsie's WSPK to adult album alternative - and now we can fill in some of the details. Peter Mutino, late of WGCH (1490 Greenwich CT), will be the station's general manager, and it'll be based at Pamal's studio facility in Beacon. Latest word is that the new 107.1 will debut on April 1; the message boards have already noted that the signal's original calls of WRNW are available (and, as one wag noted, early WRNW jock Howard Stern just might be, too.)
Call changes are relatively rare in CANADA, but we have three of them this week, all related. Rogers flipped CISS (92.5 Toronto) to "Jack FM" almost a year ago, and now it's finally changed the calls there to CJAQ. The CISS calls replace CKBY on 105.3 in Ottawa, which became top 40 "Kiss" earlier this year - and the CKBY calls follow the country format south to "Y101" in Smiths Falls, the 101.1 outlet formerly known as CIOX.
Fifteen Years Ago: February 26, 1999
In MAINE, Bonnie Grant is leaving her post as general manager of WPOR (101.9/1490 Portland) after years with the station. Saga told staffers this week that it plans to move WPOR out of its current home on Baxter Blvd. and into the building at 420 Western Ave. in South Portland that now houses Saga's other Portland outlets, WGAN, WZAN, WMGX, and WYNZ. As part of the process, Saga market manager Cary Pahigian adds GM responsibilities for WPOR -- which left Grant with the choice of the sales manager job she held before becoming GM, or a departure for other work.
Meantime, the rest of the Saga stations are getting a new news and programming coordinator. Doug Tribeau joins the group to replace departed news director Leslie Doppler and WGAN/WZAN PD Dave Winsor (who's still at Western Avenue, but now focused on the WGAN morning show). Tribeau was with Eagle Broadcasting's four-station group (WHCU, WTKO, WYXL, WQNY) in Ithaca, New York.
We begin the MASSACHUSETTS news this week with more departures, most prominently those of the "Two Chicks Dishing." Leslie Gold and Lori Kramer held down nights at WRKO (680) for the last few years, but the partnership that began at WMMM in Westport CT and moved on to WRKO for weekends couldn't survive the weeknight pressure, it seems. Their contracts expired Friday (2/26), and WRKO PD Kevin Straley decided not to renew, so now it's back to New York City for Kramer and back to the job hunt for Gold. What's next for 7-10 PM on The Talk Station? Among the names we've heard mentioned are political pundit Michael Goldman and Lowell's Paul Sullivan, who is himself another departure this week. Sullivan's final show on WLLH (1400 Lowell-Lawrence) was Friday morning, as the station heads for Mega Broadcasting ownership and a switch to all-Spanish. Big changes on the way for Merrimack Valley radio? Sure sounds that way, from some of the rumors floating up and down 495...
NEW YORK, too, has its comings and goings this week, with Long Island at center stage. As Carl Liu (son of NYC leased-time guru Arthur) gets ready to buy WLVG (96.1 Center Moriches), the AC station is losing its PD and morning host. PD Stefan Rybak left this week, and morning guy Marty Mitchell is leaving as well (though he keeps his weekend gig on quad-cast country Y107 surrounding New York). Liu's deal is worth between $3 million and $3.5 million and includes an LMA of up to 3 years with current owner Gary Starr, according to the M Street folks.
Over at WBLI (106.1 Patchogue), Cox stays within the corporate family by bringing in its PD from sister CHR WWHT (107.9 Syracuse). Less than a year after making "Hot 107.9" his first PD gig, J.J. Rice heads down the Thruway and out the L.I.E. to make his mark on the Nassau/Suffolk market. We're proud to say we "knew him when" (as APD/MD at Rochester's WPXY), and we wish him all the best on the Island.
Buffalo's WNED (970) appears to have been saved from extinction for the moment, but not without creating some friction on the local noncomm scene. The Western New York Public Broadcasting Authority had said WNED's news and talk format was losing money, and had planned to shut down programming, instead simulcasting the NPR news, talk, and jazz from SUNY Buffalo's WBFO (88.7). After the news broke, listeners and the community called on WNED to reconsider, and the station responded by launching a nine-day pledge drive last weekend to raise $150,000 needed to run the AM. WNED raised $70,000 of that in the first two days alone, along with $100,000 in cash and advertising space from the Buffalo News. If the fund drive succeeds, WNED will hire a consultant to examine the AM's future, including the possibility of replacing "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered," already heard on WBFO, with local news (which 970 used to run in its WEBR days).
Across the border, the CHR on 92.5 in Toronto is now on its second name in as many weeks. It seems Rogers Broadcasting didn't check to see what nicknames were already in use in the market when it replaced country CISS with CHR "Power" -- and the result was a lawsuit from CKDX (88.5 Newmarket), which has been "Power 88" for two years now. Gone is "Power," in is "Kiss" (or is that "Ciss"?), and if there's confusion with cross-market WKSE ("Kiss 98.5") Niagara Falls-Buffalo, NERW suspects the U.S. Embassy will decline to intervene.