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In this week's issue... "Icon" lands in Mass. - "Nash" adds East End - Alt-rock lands in eastern PA - Philly talk schedule shifts - Radio People on the Move in Maine, NH - Calendars and books now on sale!

Jump to: ME - NH - VT - MA - RI - CT - NY - NJ - PA - Canada

worcfm-nashiconWhen Cumulus began launching its "Nash" branding for its country stations more than a year ago, the broadcaster made it clear that it intended to make the brand a national one. But that rollout has taken longer than many expected - and the company's actions last week show that it's still very much a work in progress.

On Friday morning at 10, Cumulus pulled the plug on its classic hits format at WORC-FM (98.9 Webster) in the Worcester, Massachusetts market, transitioning the station to its "Nash Icon" country brand. That's not the current hit country of the main "Nash" (as heard, for instance, on New York-market flagship WNSH-FM) but rather a sort of "classic country hits" heavily focused on the 1990s and early 2000s, and it's an interesting match to the other two stations in the Worcester Cumulus cluster, dominant AC WXLO (104.5 Fitchburg) and classic rock "Pike" WWFX (100.1 Southbridge).

As the only station playing country in the Worcester market, "Icon" goes up against plenty of listening that now goes to signals from outside Worcester, predominantly to Greater Media's Boston-market country behemoth, WKLB-FM (102.5). Can Cumulus repatriate some of that audience? It's at least trying to stay local; with no national talent yet on board for "Icon," WORC-FM retains its existing airstaff of Adam Webster in the morning, Dave O'Gara in middays and Mark Veau in the afternoon.

But Worcester wasn't the only Nash move Cumulus made on Friday: out on the East End of Long Island, WELJ (104.7 Montauk) appears to be quietly ditching the hot AC format it's been running for the last few years in favor of a simulcast of New York's "Nash FM," WNSH (94.7 Newark). While it's licensed on Long Island, WELJ has long operated as part of the Cumulus cluster across the Sound in New London/Groton, Connecticut. WELJ jock Jody is apparently moving to Cumulus' top-40 WQGN (105.5 Groton), and the WELJ Facebook page is directing listeners over to Q105.

weljIs 104.7 really going to compete for listeners with the established country outlets on the Connecticut side, Hall's WCTY (97.7 Norwich) and John Fuller's "US Country" (WBMW 106.5-HD2 and a translator on 99.5)? Or is this a Cumulus move to bring WELJ back into the New York market to augment the poor Long Island reach of WNSH, and perhaps to remove it from the divestiture trust where it's been sitting for several years now?

*While we're following Cumulus' Nash moves, it's probably not too early to note another big Cumulus shift that's coming in less than two months' time. The wheels are turning pretty rapidly now toward the end of the distribution deal under which Cumulus Media Networks (now merged into Westwood One) distributes ABC Radio News. When that deal ends on New Year's Eve, ABC will keep producing its radio newscasts, but they'll be distributed by Colorado-based Skyview - and Cumulus/Westwood One will instead distribute a new product called "Westwood One News" alongside its existing CBS Radio News brand. (Westwood One is also discontinuing the NBC News Radio product it's been distributing under license from NBC; many of the behind-the-scenes resources in Washington that have been producing the latest version of NBC on the radio will go into the new Westwood One News instead.)

ww1-newsLast week brought some new chapters to the story: we learned, for instance, that Westwood One has struck a deal to affiliate several big CBS Radio all-news outlets with the new Westwood One service, including WBZ in Boston, WINS in New York and KYW in Philadelphia. That doesn't automatically mean listeners will hear full Westwood One newscasts there - as longtime ABC affiliates, WINS and KYW never carried hourly newscasts, and WBZ stopped carrying them around the turn of the century when it switched to CBS Radio's hourly newscasts during the overnight hours. The Westwood One hourlies will be heard in New York on WABC (770); like the rest of the former ABC owned-and-operated stations now in Cumulus hands (by way of Citadel), WABC will end its lifelong affiliation with ABC at the end of the year.

But if Cumulus' news changes are bad news for ABC, which now faces a big challenge replacing all the clearances it's losing due to the end of its Cumulus distribution, they're also bad news for the Associated Press. NERW learned last week that Cumulus is ending its AP contracts around the country at the remaining news-talk stations that still use the AP wire and/or AP audio services. Even given the relatively reduced state of the AP wire these days (the New York state wire, which we use at the "day job" from time to time, is but a shell of what it once was), this is likely to be a blow both to the AP itself and to the remaining Cumulus local newsrooms that had been using the service.

We'll be watching closely over the next few weeks as Westwood One and the new ABC/Skyview fight for the remaining ABC affiliates that haven't yet made a choice.

*The time change, the end of baseball season, a foot of snow in coastal Maine (which knocked out power to a lot of stations Sunday but didn't seem to do any more lasting damage), the arrival of holiday cups at Starbucks - it's all a good sign that the end of the year is approaching. And the end of the year means the arrival of a new Tower Site Calendar, which is why we take a pause from the news to draw your attention to the Fybush.com Store, where Lisa's been busy filling the virtual shelves with some goodies you're sure to enjoy this holiday season.

fybush-kingThe calendar, of course, is the star of the show, and the upcoming 2015 edition will enliven any wall. We'll begin previewing some of the highlights in a series of Tower Site of the Week Extras, starting this Wednesday here at fybush.com. It's about to come back from the printer, and we'll be shipping yours to you by mid-November if you get your order in now. (Don't forget to check out our special signed, numbered limited edition!)

But don't stop at the calendar when you're checking out the store this year - we've got a great selection of Arcadia Publishing's photographic history books from all over the region, including Dr. Donna Halper's "Boston Radio," Peter Kanze and Alec Cumming's "New York City Radio" and a small number of copies of the recently released "Ithaca Radio" personally signed by co-author Peter King Steinhaus during his recent visit to Rochester. (That's Peter and yours truly at the book-signing event - and yes, that's an actual 2015 calendar in the flesh!)

We've also got the National Radio Club's always timely AM Radio Log, back issues of the calendar you might have missed, and we'll soon be offering enlarged prints of popular calendar images, too! And the best part? All your purchases at the Fybush.com Store go right toward helping us keep doing what we do here at NorthEast Radio Watch and Tower Site of the Week (and toward recovering from what's been a difficult year behind the scenes!)

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WHAT'S ON THE 2017 TOWER SITE CALENDAR COVER?
That's for YOU to decide.

We have so many beautiful photos set for the 2017 Tower Site Calendar. Several of them would make great covers. So this year, we want your input!

Check out the three following pictures, then cast your vote in the box below them. After that, send your name and preferred email to Lisa to receive your coupon for $1 off anything in our store and be entered in our drawing for a free 2017 calendar -- which is now on sale.

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COVER CHOICE TWO
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You don't have to stop reading here! Each week's NorthEast Radio Watch is packed full of exclusive, in-depth reporting and analysis from across the nine states and five provinces we've been serving since 1994. You won't find anything like it on any free site - and you can read the rest of this week's column for just $2.99 by clicking on the "Purchase Only" link below. 

Or click here to subscribe and enjoy full access to current NERW and Tower Site of the Week columns and two decades of searchable archives -- for as little as 25 cents per day.

If you are already a member, please login to view the rest of this column. (If the site does not recognize your username, don't panic! Either your subscription has expired and we need to reactivate your account, or your username and email do not match our payment records and we need to link them. Please email Lisa,  or call her at 585-442-5411, for instructions.)

Why are we now subscriber-based? Click here to read more about the reasons behind our decision.

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, fifteen and - where available - twenty years ago this week, or thereabouts.

Note that the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as "New England Radio Watch,” and didn’t go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997.

One Year Ago: November 4, 2013

*This column wouldn’t be “this column” if we didn’t avail ourselves of the opportunity, every now and again, to celebrate the success of a certain New England-based baseball team. But the third World Series win in a decade for the Red Sox is more than just the occasion for some mild gloating on our part (say, how did those Yankees do this year?) – it’s also a very big deal for the broadcasters who were lucky enough to get to ride the bandwagon (duck boat parade?) along with the Sox.

The newest banner at Fenway (photo: Shawn O'Domski)

Take, for example, Boston’s Fox O&O, WFXT (Channel 25), which posted some truly gaudy ratings numbers as the series wrapped up. How gaudy? The last half-hour of Game 6 in Boston found WFXT pulling a 59.5 rating and an amazing 84 share; for the full game, WFXT drew a 54.5/75. (Remarkably, those weren’t quite records: WFXT did slightly better for the decisive Game 4 back in 2007!)

On radio, this column has been a frequent skeptic of Entercom’s decision, in the wake of the 2004 Series win, to bet big on a ten-year contract believed to be worth $200 million. But that risky move suddenly looks a lot better in the wake of this year’s winning season than it did after the debacles of 2011 and 2012, doesn’t it? Entercom still has two more seasons remaining on that deal, and the success of the 2013 Sox will no doubt push ad rates higher on the network for 2014.

*With Halloween in the rear-view mirror and Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, it is, of course, time for radio stations to get busy playing Christmas tunes. We’ve already told you about the stunt underway at WNDR (103.9 Mexico) in the Syracuse market, which is running “Holly FM” in between formats, and about the usual way-early flip in south Jersey at WEZW (93.1 Wildwood Crest). Now several stations in western NEW YORK have joined them. On Friday afternoon, Clear Channel’s WODX (107.3 South Bristol) was the first in the Rochester market, followed on Saturday morning by two Buffalo AC stations, Townsquare’s WJYE (96.1) and Entercom’s WTSS (102.5).

*With Halloween in the rear-view mirror and Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, it is, of course, time for radio stations to get busy playing Christmas tunes. We’ve already told you about the stunt underway at WNDR (103.9 Mexico) in the Syracuse market, which is running “Holly FM” in between formats, and about the usual way-early flip in south Jersey at WEZW (93.1 Wildwood Crest). Now several stations in western NEW YORK have joined them. On Friday afternoon, Clear Channel’s WODX (107.3 South Bristol) was the first in the Rochester market, followed on Saturday morning by two Buffalo AC stations, Townsquare’s WJYE (96.1) and Entercom’s WTSS (102.5).

*There’s a new talk station launching in central NEW JERSEY, thanks to Connoisseur Communications. Its acquisition of the last pieces of Nassau Broadcasting included the religious simulcast of WCHR (920 Trenton) and WNJE (1040 Flemington), but Connoisseur had something bigger in mind for 920: it’s keeping the Christian programming on 1040, and moving the WCHR calls back there, while flipping 920 to talk as “The Voice” with new calls WNJE.

The new “Voice” lineup includes Glenn Beck, just displaced from the greater Philadelphia market with the flip of WWIQ (106.9 Camden), as well as Dave Ramsey, Andy Dean and NBC Radio News.

*WWIQ’s flip turns out to be our top PENNSYLVANIA story this week: with EMF taking over at 106.9 today, the K-Love format and the WKVP calls move up the dial to the much bigger 106.9 signal from their previous home at 89.5 in Cherry Hill, NJ. EMF has requested new calls WYPA for 89.5, which means it will be carrying the sister Air 1 service pretty soon, once the K-Love listeners have been moved over to 106.9.

Five Years Ago: November 2, 2009

It was a roller-coaster of a week for fans of dance music in NEW YORK City - but as of this morning, the saga of "Pulse 87" appears to have something of a happy ending.

"Pulse," of course, is (or rather "was") the high-profile not-quite-FM-broadcast-station that launched in January 2008 on the audio carrier of low-power TV station WNYZ-LP (Channel 6), broadcasting at 87.75 MHz from the top of the Citicorp Center building in Queens. Despite the odd dial position, a signal that was sometimes sketchy outside the five boroughs and a near-complete lack of the usual billboards, bus cards and other promotions that launch a new radio station, Pulse 87 built a rabidly loyal following and a respectable (if niche) audience in nearly two years on the air. What Pulse couldn't do, evidently, was to dig its owner, Mega Media, out of a financial hole that the company was apparently in even before launching Pulse. Much of the station's initial airstaff, including the flagship morning team of Star and Buc Wild, disappeared early on, and in recent weeks there was a nonstop drumbeat of rumors suggesting that Mega was falling behind on payments to its creditors - including WNYZ's licensee, Island Broadcasting, which was leasing the 87.7 facility to Mega for "Pulse." Early last week, the Pulse programming disappeared from 87.7 for nearly two days, sparking a flurry of message-board rumors about the imminent end of the format. And while that outage was apparently just a failure of the Verizon fiber circuit from Pulse's Brooklyn studios to the Queens transmitter, it did indeed presage the end of Pulse, which came abruptly on Friday. At 12:15 PM, Mega CEO Alex Shvarts took to the airwaves to announce that the station would shut down at 5 PM, thanking everyone who'd been involved in the project since its launch.

At 5, Pulse said its farewells, leaving the air to the sounds of the Beatles' "Back in the USSR." Was it a tip-off to a return of the Russian pop format that had been heard on WNYZ before the launch of Pulse? Or perhaps a nod to Shvarts' own Russian heritage? The first theory was quickly dispelled when listeners to 87.7 heard dance music continue on the frequency after a few minutes of silence, albeit at a lower volume and with just an hourly ID. (Meanwhile, Pulse itself kept putting out music and liners on one of its streaming feeds well into Friday night.) As Pulse fans gathered for a farewell party Saturday night, their mourning was turning into celebration as word spread that Long Island's JVC Broadcasting had signed a deal to take over the lease of WNYZ, using the frequency starting Monday morning as a New York City relay of its "Party 105." While "Party" isn't a pure dance station, mixing hip-hop in with the rhythmic tracks, it comes to 87.7 with well-known leadership behind it, including JVC vice president/Party morning man Vic Latino, a popular figure in New York's rhythmic music community. "We are very excited to be broadcasting to the number one market in the world," said JVC CEO John Carraciolo.

The simulcast comes amidst several other changes for "Party 105": earlier in the week, it changed calls from WDRE to WPTY-FM - and after a simulcast period, it will disappear from one of the Long Island translators that was carrying its signal west. W268AN (101.5 Plainview) will instead flip to a simulcast of JVC's other Long Island signal, Spanish tropical "Fiesta" WBON (98.5 Westhampton), which is already heard on another translator at 96.9 in Manorville. The new "Pulse 87.7" simulcast is expected to launch this morning at 6 with "Vic Latino's Neighborhood."

In the Hudson Valley, is that another format change on the way to Clear Channel's oft-flipped 99.3 in Ellenville? After just under three years as country WRWC, simulcasting WRWD (107.3 Highland) into the Catskills, it appears that the next step for 99.3 will be a simulcast of news-talk WKIP (1450 Poughkeepsie), at least judging by the newstalk993.com website that showed up last week. (As we go to press Sunday night, 99.3 is still relaying WRWD.)

There's a format flip coming to NEW HAMPSHIRE's Lakes Region on Wednesday, when classic rock "Hawk" is set to move from WWHQ (101.5 Meredith) to WLKZ (104.9 Wolfeboro). There's no word yet on what's in store for 104.9 as Nassau shuffles its lineup in preparation for shedding several of its Lakes Region and Concord signals.

Ten Years Ago: November 1, 2004

It was quite a week in MASSACHUSETTS, wasn't it? As the whole world knows by now, the Red Sox blew all that "curse" stuff right out of the water with their sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals and their first Series win in 86 years - and that was more than enough excuse for us to point the ol' NERW-mobile eastward late last week to check out the scene in Boston for ourselves (and to show official NERW baby Ariel the biggest parade she'll probably ever see in her lifetime!)

We knew even before leaving home that we'd hear a lot of special Sox material on the airwaves; the special IDs were running on WBZ (1030 Boston) within an hour or two of the win, for instance. But it was still nice to cross the state line (where those "Home of the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots" signs need some company now) and hear a Sox celebration song playing on WSBS (860 Great Barrington). And we rolled quite a bit of tape on the Boston morning shows on Friday, all of which seemed to have their own song parodies, montages of game audio, and so on.

The TV dial was just as much fun, with nightly Sox specials on WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and sister station WSBK (Channel 38), and lots of coverage on the other news stations as well.

And what of the broadcast coverage of the largest parade in Boston history on Saturday morning? The city's TV stations were all over it, in a most cooperative manner, pooling feeds from key camera locations along the route - including live shots (apparently sent back over some sort of streaming wireless connection) from several of the duck boats carrying Sox players and officials. All the usual suspects were in on the coverage - WBZ-TV (simulcast on WSBK for the benefit of outlying viewers in the New England hinterlands and beyond), WCVB (Channel 5), WHDH-TV (Channel 7, with the added bonus of having its studio right along the parade route at Government Center), WFXT (Channel 25), New England Cable News, NESN and Fox Sports New England. About the only disappointment was the rainy, foggy weather that kept helicopters grounded - but there were still aerial shots from a few good high rooftops along the way. By the time we made it away from the parade route and over to a TV set, WB affiliate WLVI (Channel 56) was out of parade coverage (if it carried the parade at all) and into...ABC sports? Yup - the college football game scheduled for WCVB ended up over at channel 56 when it was bumped by parade coverage, probably the first time ABC had been seen on channel 56 since its long, long, long-ago days as WTAO-TV in the fifties. (One more coverage note: Fox's WFXT tried to get permission from Major League Baseball to rerun the historic Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday afternoon, but was turned down.)

Radio was out in force as well, with WEEI (850), WZLX (100.7) and WBCN (104.1) all distributing signs along the parade route. WBZ brought weekday anchor Gary LaPierre in ("I'm Gary LaPierre...and yes, I'm working on Saturday") to anchor its coverage, and we heard coverage from the parade route interspersed with the call-ins on WEEI, too.

There was other news in the Bay State, too, though not much: up in Gloucester, the FCC approved two translator applications, granting W243CD (96.5) to Radio Assist Ministry and W279BQ (103.7) to Edgewater Broadcasting. Both companies are headed by Clark Parrish and based in Twin Falls, Idaho, also home to Calvary Satellite Radio, and they both filed for thousands of translators in the last filing window, apparently with the intent of selling the construction permits to other religious broadcasters. W243CD's application proposed to relay WMSJ (89.3 Freeport ME) over the air, while W279BQ proposes the even more incredible feat of an over-the-air pickup of WYFP (91.9 Harpswell ME); we'd expect those to change at some point, especially if the FCC approves (as groups like Radio Assist, Edgewater and Calvary devoutly hope it will) a plan to allow translators in the commercial part of the FM band to be fed by satellite. (Five years later: W243CD is the same facility that has migrated down the dial to become W236BX, en route to Fitchburg.)

Some changes in the overnight sound of NEW YORK radio: Steve Malzberg has departed the late-night hours of WABC (770 New York) after 23 years at the station. As of this morning (Nov. 1), he's the new morning man on WWRL (1600 New York), working alongside Karen Hunter and trading the huge signal of WABC for more civilized hours on the more limited reach of WWRL. Over at WABC, program director Phil Boyce plugs in the syndicated "Coast to Coast AM" with George Noory, at least for now.

The listeners spoke, and now the southern tip of NEW JERSEY has its standards station back. After just a couple of days of simulcasting an oldies format with WMID (1340 Atlantic City), WCMC (1230 Wildwood) returned to adult standards last Tuesday (Oct. 26), in no small part because of the outspoken listeners who staged a rally outside the station's Wildwood studios.

WPST (97.5 Trenton) is on the move, at least in one sense. Nassau Broadcasting's flagship FM station won FCC permission last week to move its class B allocation to Burlington, which puts it in the Philadelphia market now. The move doesn't include a change of transmitter site - yet - but as a grandfathered pre-1964 allocation that's surrounded by other grandfathered pre-1964 allocations, it should be possible for WPST to put a city-grade signal over its new city of license from a transmitter site right in the heart of Philadelphia if it so chooses. (There's no protection of third-adjacent signals between pre-1964 allocations like WPST and Philly's WOGL on 98.1, you see...)

Fifteen Years Ago: October 30, 1999

The last full week of October brought two big pieces of radio news in the Northeast, both thanks to the folks out in Las Vegas at Citadel. The group wasn't even in the region three years ago, but thanks to its April 1997 purchase of Tele-Media (yielding Providence), the November 1998 buy of Wicks (and its big Binghamton cluster, about which more in a moment), and the $63 million springtime buyout of Fuller-Jeffrey in Maine and New Hampshire, the company has become a medium-sized regional player.

Now it's poised to become a major group in our region, with Thursday's announcement of the $190 million sale of Broadcasting Partners Holdings to Citadel. Eight of the 11 markets in which Broadcasting Partners operated are in the region, using three different group names.

We return to NEW YORK for the other Citadel headline of the week, a deal that will shuffle one of the most stable radio lineups in the region. Forty years ago, Binghamton's AM dial consisted of four stations: WINR at 680, WNBF at 1290, WKOP at 1360, and WENE at 1430 in Endicott. Today, it still does (even though 1360 and 1430 briefly dropped their heritage calls in the 1980s -- who remembers WRSG, WBNK, and WMRV-AM?). In a few weeks, it won't.

Grab your scorecards, because it plays out like this: Citadel, which is already at its ownership limits with the 2 AM/3 FM group it bought from Wicks, is buying the 680 frequency -- but not the WINR calls or nostalgia format -- from Titus Broadcasting. WNBF's news and talk format will move down the dial from 1290 to 680, with a simulcast lasting several months. Since Citadel then has to spin something, Titus ends up with the 1360 frequency (generally considered the worst AM facility in the market), which is where WINR's calls and format will end up. And once the 1290/680 simulcast is over, 1290 will pick up the WKOP calls and *that* nostalgia format, now heard on 1360.

Why do it? With just 500 watts, the WKOP night signal is a tough catch in growing areas like Vestal and Endicott, while the same 500 watts on the better 680 frequency (and with a more useful DA pattern) do much more at night. The recent daytime power boost at WINR (from a very directional kilowatt to a looser 5kw pattern) has helped immensely as well. What's harder to fathom is moving the established WNBF programming from that 1290 signal, which is quite respectable day and night, down to the at best marginally-better 680. Confused yet? Now imagine being a Binghamton radio listener! NERW will be making the drive to Binghamton to hear it all go down; more details are certain to follow. (Ten years later: The swap ended up being cancelled, and WINR and WNBF stayed put on their familiar frequencies.)

Tele-Media is making all the news in NEW HAMPSHIRE, adding not only WKNE (1290/103.7) Keene, as we told you last week, but also picking up WHOB (106.3 Nashua) from Mario DeCarlo, who put the station back on the air in 1987 after WOTW-FM lost its license for the frequency. DeCarlo says at age 77, it was time to sell, but he says the hot AC format is likely to remain in place. Tele-Media entered New Hampshire a few weeks ago by purchasing WNNH (99.1 Henniker), which received FCC approval this week for its tower move from Pat's Peak to Gould Hill in Contoocook.

Over to VERMONT we go, and another Tele-Media acquisition: the company also gets WKNE's sister stations in Brattleboro, WKVT AM-FM (1490/92.7), from Richard Lightfoot. Meantime up in Saint Albans, WWSR (1420) is on its new tower just east of the old one (as of October 15), and now John Kimel is getting ready to take down the 1941-vintage 210-foot self-supporting tower behind the WWSR studios. Anyone in need of a tower is invited to call John at WWSR for more information. (Hmmmmm...wouldn't THAT look nice in the backyard of the new NERW Central?)

Up in CANADA this week, the CRTC weighed in on the new FM allocation in London, Ontario, awarding it to Toronto's CHUM Group, which until now has had no radio presence in the market (it owns CFPL-TV and has a nearby relay of Toronto's CITY-TV). Losing out in the fight for 102.3 were Affinity Broadcasting, CKSL (1410) in London, and CKOT (1510) in nearby Tillsonburg, which thus gets to remain Canada's last daytimer. Still to come from the CRTC are rulings on new FM channels in Hamilton, Belleville, and Kingston. (And for those who think living in a fantasy world is just an FCC thing, check out the CRTC decisions on the last remaining FMs in Victoria, British Columbia, where the CBC appears to be seriously trying to add not one but two French-language services to a market that has essentially no Francophone population. Incroyable!)

1 COMMENT

  1. The flip of WORC-FM to country means both stations licensed to Webster, MA — 98.9 and its former sister station, WGFP-AM 940 — are broadcasting country music. Will one of them end up moving away from the format or tweaking their existing format?

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