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In this week's issue... Remembering Dave Herman, for good or bad - FM move in Connecticut - NYC morning show cancelled - Emily Rooney scales back - Challenge halts NY station sale - Tower down in Mass.?

By SCOTT FYBUSH

(Another brief note before we launch into the column: Lisa is back in Rochester, but she still remains hospitalized, a month and counting. Current orders from the Fybush.com Store as of May 31 ship today, but future orders may remain delayed for some time to come. Thanks, once again, for your patience as we try to get through our latest ordeal.)

*If Dave Herman had died a year ago, our obituary here on NERW would have been unequivocal: we'd have mourned the loss of a NEW YORK radio legend, one of the pioneering voices of freeform FM radio. If Dave Herman had died a year or two from now, we'd have been able to say unequivocally either that he'd been convicted of soliciting a young girl, or that he'd been acquitted of those federal charges.

WNEW-herman
Herman (spotlighted) on a 1985 WNEW calendar

But Herman's death on Wednesday, in a New Jersey hospital where he was taken from the jail where he was awaiting a July trial date, leaves his legacy in a sort of eternal limbo. The 78-year-old DJ had been aggressively fighting the charges, claiming (through his lawyers) that he'd been set up by an undercover agent posing as a 36-year-old mother. After flirting online with the fictional mother for more than a year, Herman was arrested at a Virgin Islands airport last October, with federal agents saying he'd been attempting to get the "mother" to bring her fictional seven-year-old daughter to St. Croix.

Ugly stuff, of course, and even the most passionate fans of Herman's long radio career couldn't help but have their memories of his FM days tarnished by the tabloid headlines. Herman's lawyers say the stress of fighting those charges contributed to the aneurysm that took his life.

So we're left with that dark cloud of unanswered questions floating over what had been one of the brightest careers in FM rock radio. Herman's progressive FM career started at Metromedia’s WMMR (93.3 Philadelphia), where he created the “Marconi Experiment” freeform radio in the late 1960s. He soon moved to New York, initially for a short stint at WABC-FM (95.5) before settling in at Metromedia’s WNEW-FM (102.7) by 1972, becoming a morning institution for almost two decades. As WNEW began its long, slow fade, Herman departed for WXRK (92.3) in 1991, returning to WNEW for another brief stint from 1997-1999. After WNEW's final break from rock and roll, Herman programmed eYada.com, an early experiment with online talk radio that was many years before its time. In retirement, he'd been splitting his time between a home in Airmont, Rockland County and the Virgin Islands, where he was arrested last October.

*Upstate in the Southern Tier, Robert Pfuntner's Pembrook Pines stations in Elmira, Olean and Salamanca are once again on the market after the collapse of another attempt to sell the signals out of bankruptcy. In April, we reported on the back-and-forth between Bill Christian's Great Radio LLC, which was set to buy the stations for $950,000, and competing cluster Community Broadcasters, which filed a petition against the sale with the help of Randy Reid, the former WETM (Channel 18) manager whose Titan Radio was at one point LMA'ing the Pembrook Pines stations before its own deal to buy them fell through.

Last week, Christian withdrew his plan to buy the Pembrook Pines stations with the cooperation of bankruptcy trustee Richard Foreman, who tells the FCC that it appeared likely that the opposition from Titan and Community would have delayed the sale substantially. Over the last few weeks, Titan and Community had been building their case that a sale of Pfuntner's two AMs and two FMs in Elmira would have created impermissible cross-ownership with the other cluster in town, the Sound Communications cluster of two AMs and four FMs. While Bill Christian maintained that the Sound stations, under the management of his wife Paige, were run completely independently of his own WYDC(TV), Titan and Community submitted evidence that Paige Christian's Sound stations were in fact run in close coordination with Bill Christian's Vision stations. That included sworn affidavits from several former Sound and Vision salespeople, who say Bill Christian was quietly running the Sound stations from an office on Market Street in Corning halfway between the WYDC and Sound studios.

So what happens now with the Pembrook Pines stations? They're back on the market, and Foreman tells the bankruptcy court that he's once again seeking bids (at a court-ordered price equal to or greater than the $950,000 Christian was ready to pay) for the cluster. In Elmira, that's sports WELM (1410), standards WEHH (1600 Elmira Heights-Horseheads), top-40 "94 Rock" WLVY (94.3) and country WOKN (99.5 Southport), plus AC WMXO (101.5 Olean), rock WQRS (98.3 Salamanca) and WEHH simulcasters WGGO (1590 Salamanca) and WOEN (1360 Olean). At least for now, Christian's Great Radio will continue to operate the Pembrook Pines stations under an LMA, but a court order allows Foreman to terminate that LMA and enter into a new one if he deems it necessary.

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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: June 3, 2013

*Seven years after an upstate NEW YORK state college entered the public radio business, it has abruptly shut down its station, leaving behind plenty of questions about a newly open space on the dial. wuowSUNY Oneonta put WUOW-LP (104.7) on the air in 2007 to help provide emergency communications in town in the wake of devastating flooding in the region, and just last year it returned the LPFM license and signed on a new full-power outlet, WUOW (88.5 Milford), along with an Oneonta translator, W217BY (91.3), for which it paid $12,500. Even though that move had already been planned and paid for, it appears that the Oneonta campus had by then already decided to pull the plug on its venture into public radio. From an initial staff of three (plus a part-timer), WUOW was down to just one staffer – and on Thursday, that staffer, SUNY Oneonta communications lecturer Gary Wickham, had the sad duty of signing the station off. With a mixture of AAA music and some local talk, WUOW had competed against relays of two larger public stations, Binghamton”s WSKG (via WSQC 91.7 Oneonta) and Albany”s WAMC (via two translators in the area). Will either of them (or someone else) end up with the WUOW licenses? For now, SUNY isn”t saying whether it still plans to sell the licenses, though it had offered them for sale back in 2011. (In the meantime, WSKG is finding other ways to expand in Otsego County: it”s paying Bud Williamson $20,000 for translator W290CI on 105.9 in Cooperstown.) *We still think of Bruce Mittman primarily as a Massachusetts broadcaster, but he”s becoming a bigger name in upstate New York radio. Last week, Mittman”s Community Broadcasters (which he owns along with Jim Leven) filed a $3.6 million deal to buy Backyard Broadcasting”s stations in the Elmira/Corning and Olean markets. In Elmira, Community picks up a cluster of three FMs and two AMs: top-40 “Wink 106″ WNKI (106.1 Corning), the only class B signal in the core of the market, along with country “Big Pig” WPGI (100.9 Horseheads) and classic rock “Wingz” WNGZ (104.9 Montour Falls), plus talker WWLZ (820 Horseheads) and WRCE (1490 Watkins Glen), which relays WNGZ when it”s not carrying auto racing on the weekends. In Olean, Community picks up market-leading country giant WPIG (95.7) and oldies WHDL (1450).Read more at: http://www.fybush.com/nerw-5132013-oneonta-loses-a-radio-voice/

*CANADA‘s public broadcaster has long had a challenging relationship with commercials. What we now know as the CBC grew out of openly commercial predecessors, the old Canadian National Railways network and the subsequent CRBC – and even after becoming a government service in the 1930s, CBC continued to carry commercial programming on its French and English radio services right up until 1974, when those networks finally went fully non-commercial. CBC Television and its French-language counterpart, Radio-Canada, have continued to carry commercials ever since. And now CBC’s Radio 2 network and Radio Canada’s Espace Musique service will once again be carrying their own commercial load, thanks to a decision in last week’s CRTC renewal of the CBC’s licenses.

cbcr2To say the proposal has been controversial would be an understatement: while CBC makes the case that federal budget cutbacks have forced the networks’ hand, Canada’s commercial stations don’t want the extra competition and listener groups are worried (not without reason) that limited commercial interruptions on Radio 2 and Espace Musique will eventually lead to commercials, probably in even larger doses, on the flagship Radio 1 and Premiere Chaine networks, which remain commercial free for the moment.

The CRTC is playing its decision as an experiment: it’s giving the CBC three years to see how a limited advertising load on Radio 2 and Espace Musique will work, with some tight restrictions. Each network will be allowed to run no more than four minutes of national advertising each hour, with no more than two minutes of spots at a time; no local ads will be allowed – and in 2016, the CRTC will revisit the issue to see how it’s worked and decide whether the CBC can continue running ads.

*Along the US 6 corridor in north central Pennsylvania, it’s the end of an era in the small town of Kane, which is now without a local commercial radio station for the first time in almost 60 years. WADP (960) signed on in Kane in 1954, back when the borough’s population topped 6,000, and while the AM station (later WKZA and WQLE) left the air two decades ago, it was succeeded by an FM competitor on 103.9 known at first in the 1980s as WRXZ and then WIFI, and later on as WLMI. Former Boston broadcaster Chuck Crouse owned the station through much of the 1990s, selling it in 2006 to Olean-based Colonial Radio Group – and after going through several formats and calls over several years, Kane’s 103.9, now known as WBYB, went silent for the last time last week, with a Colonial memo citing “the continuing dismal economic conditions” in the Kane area, which now has barely half the population it did in the 1950s.

Unlike the old AM 960 facility, which simply went dark, the 103.9 license will stay alive at a new home. It’s moving to a new city of license of Eldred, with a new 1.2 kW/737′ class A signal on the same tower east of Smethport that’s home to Colonial’s WXMT (106.3 Smethport) and competitor WHKS (94.9 Port Allegany). It appears that once the 103.9 Eldred signal signs on in a few weeks, it will be carrying Colonial’s “Big Bob Country,” which had been on 103.9 in Kane before it began simulcasting news-talk WVTT (96.7) from Olean and which has lived on through HD-subchannel-fed translators.

(Ironically, that 96.7 signal, now licensed to Portville, N.Y., was another Colonial move-in from a smaller Pennsylvania town, having moved from Coudersport a few years back.)

*Conventional wisdom says we”re living right now in a time of transformative media change, as established news sources come under siege from newer, more nimble ventures. wbin-smIn the world of local TV news, though, “new” doesn”t automatically mean “success” – especially in markets where a single player might have a six-decade head start on a newcomer. Markets such as, say, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which is where we start this week”s column with the news that Bill Binnie”s WBIN (Channel 50) has pulled the plug, for now, on the 10 PM local newscast that launched back in the fall of 2011.Read more at: http://www.fybush.com/nerw-20130506/

*Conventional wisdom says we”re living right now in a time of transformative media change, as established news sources come under siege from newer, more nimble ventures. wbin-smIn the world of local TV news, though, “new” doesn”t automatically mean “success” – especially in markets where a single player might have a six-decade head start on a newcomer. Markets such as, say, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which is where we start this week”s column with the news that Bill Binnie”s WBIN (Channel 50) has pulled the plug, for now, on the 10 PM local newscast that launched back in the fall of 2011. In its year and a half on the air, that newscast suffered from two big drawbacks: first, it was never truly “local,” emanating from the centralized newsroom at INN (Independent News Network) in Davenport, Iowa, where an Iowa-based anchor introduced stories from three reporters based in New Hampshire; second, it attempted to compete not only against the very established Manchester-based WMUR (Channel 9), which offers its own 10 PM show on its 9.2 MeTV subchannel, but also against the big newsrooms to the south in Boston. (And even here, the advantage went very much to WMUR, which can draw on the considerable resources of Hearst sister station WCVB in Boston.) The Binnie group promised early on that the Iowa-based production would be only temporary while it worked to build a full-fledged news operation in New Hampshire, and as recently as February Binnie told the Concord Monitor that he was planning to “double his reporting staff” and expand the evening newscast to an hour. But we”re hearing that concerns with the quality of the Iowa-based production led WBIN to pull out of the deal with INN, abruptly replacing the 10 PM newscast with the syndicated “OMG! Insider.” WBIN WBIN”s inaugural newscast, 2011 Will news come back to WBIN? The station has retained one of the three local reporters on its staff, and weatherman Al Kaprielian is still on staff as well, doing hourly weather updates from afternoon into prime time (the former INN-produced newscast used an Iowa-based forecaster instead) – but the most that Binnie VP Periklis Karoutas would tell the Monitor is that Binnie “is doing news and will continue to do so.” As for some of the bigger plans Binnie”s been talking about for his fast-growing radio/TV group, including a statewide live morning news show, their failure to materialize just yet might well be taken as another sign that even for an owner with the considerable resources of a business magnate like Bill Binnie, getting into broadcasting in a big way is still harder than it looks.Read more at: http://www.fybush.com/nerw-20130506/

*Conventional wisdom says we”re living right now in a time of transformative media change, as established news sources come under siege from newer, more nimble ventures. wbin-smIn the world of local TV news, though, “new” doesn”t automatically mean “success” – especially in markets where a single player might have a six-decade head start on a newcomer. Markets such as, say, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which is where we start this week”s column with the news that Bill Binnie”s WBIN (Channel 50) has pulled the plug, for now, on the 10 PM local newscast that launched back in the fall of 2011.Read more at: http://www.fybush.com/nerw-20130506/

Five Years Ago: June 1, 2009

Three weeks after WTKK (96.9 Boston) pulled him off the airwaves of eastern MASSACHUSETTS, talker Jay Severin will be back on the air tomorrow, following what Greater Media says were ongoing discussions about the direction his show will take. "We have had conversations with Jay Severin over the past several weeks about his hurtful, inappropriate remarks," said a Greater Media statement released Saturday. "He understands that we will not accept this type of commentary on our airwaves in the future...We want to emphasize that WTKK still strongly supports an open and spirited debate about the many issues our community and our country currently face. There will no doubt be times when people disagree with what Jay says. Our goal is to maintain a level of discourse that is compelling and thought-provoking, yet civil and respectful. While we will not always succeed in walking this line, we will continually strive to do so." Severin disappeared from WTKK's afternoon slot following comments he made about Mexicans in the wake of the swine flu epidemic; it wasn't his first suspension in a long career of controversy, and it's a pretty safe bet it won't be his last.

In NEW HAMPSHIRE and MAINE, several new construction permits have been saved from deletion, thanks to the FCC rule that allows small business owners to get an 18-month extension if they buy a CP prior to the three-year construction deadline.

In Maine, Daniel Priestly's Waterfront Communications has transferred CPs on 1230 in Newport and 1240 in Ellsworth to Gary Fogg's Wireless Fidelity of North America, Inc. for $22,000 each, while in Stratford, N.H., Jackman Holding Company has sold WTTT (98.7) to Virginia-based Silver Fish Broadcasting, controlled by Carlton and Aubrey Fitch and Peyton Young, for $100,000. (WTTT has a still-pending application from 2007 to change community of license to Bretton Woods - and to put its transmitter atop Mount Washington.)

In northwestern PENNSYLVANIA, the consolidation of sister stations WICU-TV (Channel 12) and WSEE-TV (Channel 35) in Erie entered its final stage late last week, when several WSEE staffers offered on-air goodbyes as the CBS affiliate prepared to vacate its longtime downtown studio building and reconfigure its news schedule. While WSEE and WICU had been sharing services behind the scenes for several years, including a common master control and sales department (at WICU's State Street studios) and a common creative-services department (at the WSEE building), their news staffs had remained separate and competitive...until Thursday, when WSEE's airstaff signed off from 1220 Peach Street.

Several familiar WSEE faces - most notably morning/noon anchor Raychel Vendetti- won't be making the move to State Street, where separate WSEE-branded newscasts will continue to air in some timeslots beginning today. (The details of the new schedule were still being firmed up over the weekend, we hear.)

Ten Years Ago: May 31, 2004

Three weeks after WTKK (96.9 Boston) pulled him off the airwaves of eastern MASSACHUSETTS, talker Jay Severin will be back on the air tomorrow, following what Greater Media says were ongoing discussions about the direction his show will take. "We have had conversations with Jay Severin over the past several weeks about his hurtful, inappropriate remarks," said a Greater Media statement released Saturday. "He understands that we will not accept this type of commentary on our airwaves in the future...We want to emphasize that WTKK still strongly supports an open and spirited debate about the many issues our community and our country currently face. There will no doubt be times when people disagree with what Jay says. Our goal is to maintain a level of discourse that is compelling and thought-provoking, yet civil and respectful. While we will not always succeed in walking this line, we will continually strive to do so." Severin disappeared from WTKK's afternoon slot following comments he made about Mexicans in the wake of the swine flu epidemic; it wasn't his first suspension in a long career of controversy, and it's a pretty safe bet it won't be his last.

In NEW HAMPSHIRE and MAINE, several new construction permits have been saved from deletion, thanks to the FCC rule that allows small business owners to get an 18-month extension if they buy a CP prior to the three-year construction deadline.

In Maine, Daniel Priestly's Waterfront Communications has transferred CPs on 1230 in Newport and 1240 in Ellsworth to Gary Fogg's Wireless Fidelity of North America, Inc. for $22,000 each, while in Stratford, N.H., Jackman Holding Company has sold WTTT (98.7) to Virginia-based Silver Fish Broadcasting, controlled by Carlton and Aubrey Fitch and Peyton Young, for $100,000. (WTTT has a still-pending application from 2007 to change community of license to Bretton Woods - and to put its transmitter atop Mount Washington.)

In northwestern PENNSYLVANIA, the consolidation of sister stations WICU-TV (Channel 12) and WSEE-TV (Channel 35) in Erie entered its final stage late last week, when several WSEE staffers offered on-air goodbyes as the CBS affiliate prepared to vacate its longtime downtown studio building and reconfigure its news schedule. While WSEE and WICU had been sharing services behind the scenes for several years, including a common master control and sales department (at WICU's State Street studios) and a common creative-services department (at the WSEE building), their news staffs had remained separate and competitive...until Thursday, when WSEE's airstaff signed off from 1220 Peach Street.

Several familiar WSEE faces - most notably morning/noon anchor Raychel Vendetti- won't be making the move to State Street, where separate WSEE-branded newscasts will continue to air in some timeslots beginning today. (The details of the new schedule were still being firmed up over the weekend, we hear.)

Fifteen Years Ago: May 28, 1999

One of the nation's fastest-growing minority-owned broadcasters is entering MASSACHUSETTS. From its base in Washington, D.C., Radio One has been branching out into markets such as Detroit and Cleveland. This week, it agreed to pay KJI Broadcasting $10 million for WCAV (97.7) in Brockton. While it's pretty much a given that WCAV's country format will switch to something with an urban focus once the sale goes through, it's not immediately clear what hope Radio One has of using WCAV to reach Boston's urban community. While the Class A station has a CP to move from the south end of Brockton to the north side, it's still tightly bound by WOKQ (97.5 Dover NH) up the coast and co-channels WINQ Winchendon MA and WCTY Norwich CT, so a massive power upgrade to reach Boston seems unlikely.

Radio One, which just recently went public, probably won't stop buying in the Bay State just yet -- and NERW has to wonder if this is the owner the Nash estate would feel comfortable selling WILD to? If not, the little urban daytimer could face its biggest threat yet. This will be an interesting one to follow.

Up the coast we go to MAINE, where Cumulus puts a new spin on the problem of over-concentration of group ownership. It seems the company's plan to buy what was left of Mountain Wireless' Skowhegan operation (WSKW 1160 and WHQO 107.9) would have put it over the revenue share the FCC and Justice Department want to see. But rather than spin WHQO off to a commercial operator who might provide competition to Cumulus (and Pilot, which controls the other half of the market, more or less), WHQO will be spun off to Maine Public Radio, which won't have to pay a penny. All sides say the deal will bring public radio to a new audience in Central Maine -- but the NERW-mobile wasn't too far from Skowhegan a year ago when we were able to tune in all six of the existing MPR stations. At once. Meantime, fans of WSKW's sports format will still be able to hear it on FM as well once WHQO is spun off; it's already being relayed on Cumulus' WIGY (97.5 Madison). (2009 update: the transfer never took place.)

A new radio station is on the air in VERMONT. John Bulmer's WRRO (93.7 Addison) has been heard with classic rock as "the Arrow." Meantime, the 100.9 in Middlebury, which used to run the same format and slogan, has changed calls from WGTK to WWFY, which were the calls on the 93.7 CP until a few weeks ago. WWFY's new format is contemporary hits as ``Y-100''.

There's a TV affiliation swap in Burlington, as Fox affiliate WFFF (Channel 44) adds a secondary WB affiliation, with WB shows running at 10 PM after Fox is over for the night. Former WB outlet WBVT-LP (Channel 39) moves to UPN, while ex-UPN outlet WWBI-LP (Channel 27) in Plattsburgh goes independent. Could WFFF be making backup plans if the simmering battle between Fox and its affiliates over compensation erupts into full-fledged rebellion?

Topping the NEW YORK news this week is the sale of WMHQ (Channel 45) in Schenectady -- again. Tribune will pay $18.5 million for the Capital District's secondary PBS station, converting it into a WB affiliate. You'll recall that Sinclair offered $23 million for the station last year, withdrawing the offer after running into its own financial difficulties. WMHT will use the money from the WMHQ sale to build its new studios and offices for the remaining services it operates (WMHT-TV and FM), while WMHQ will likely end up being operated mostly from Tribune's WPIX New York (much as Paramount is doing with its UPN stations in New Bedford/Providence and Pittsburgh).

One note from CANADA this week: While in Buffalo today, we hit "scan" on the NERW-mobile radio and found it coming to a stop on 91.7 -- the new FM home of CHOW (1470) from Welland, Ontario. The 25 kW signal is quite good in Buffalo and environs, but it's not using the familiar "See-How" IDs from the AM side. Instead, it's "Spirit Radio," albeit still with country music and Broadcast News on the hour. The AM signal is still on the air for a few months with a simulcast, but we expect the towers on Regional Road 58 to go away by winter. As a result of the new FM signal, Niagara Falls tourist radio CFLZ has finally left its original 91.9 spot for 105.1, where it's sounding pretty cheesy with almost-nonstop promotion for Casino Niagara and very poor audio. The signal from the Skylon tower is still very good, though -- strong enough to stop the scan as we climbed the hills south of Buffalo heading for Springville.