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In this week's issue... Philly deal heads for the closing line - Two new FMs on Long Island? - NJ FM seeks upgrade - WARM files for downgrade

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*One of the bigger recent radio deals in PENNSYLVANIA is expected to close today, adding two more FM signals to CBS Radio's Philadelphia group while sending a third AM to Beasley Broadcasting.

cbs_radio_650The swap of CBS' WIP (610) for Beasley's WXTU (92.5) and WRDW-FM (96.5) is just part of a bigger deal that also finds CBS getting Beasley's WQAM (560), WPOW-FM (96.5) and WKIS (99.9) in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale and Beasley getting CBS Radio's clusters in Tampa and Charlotte.

Much as we'd love to be "Miami Radio Watch" right now, our focus is on the Philadelphia piece of this deal, and here's how it looks like things will shake out once the paperwork is all signed this week:

Beasley's purchase of the 610 facility doesn't include the WIP callsign or the current CBS Sports Radio format, which has basically just been filler anyway ever since CBS moved the WIP local sports format over to WIP-FM (94.1) a few years back. Instead, 610 will change calls to WTEL, restoring a callsign that was used for seven decades on what's now Beasley's WWDB (860 Philadelphia). Is more leased time in store for a cluster that's already leasing out its other two AMs? WWDB offers a motley lineup of ethnic talk and infomercials, but it does appear to be sold out in its limited daytime-only schedule, so we'd suspect some of those clients will be offered additional hours on the new WTEL 610. Will some religion move down the dial from Beasley's WTMR (800 Camden NJ), too?

Over on the CBS side, it appears that early rumors about a format flip at WRDW-FM are unfounded. We already knew that CBS wasn't going to touch top-rated country station WXTU (92.5), but speculation was running high that the "Wired" rhythmic top-40 format on 96.5 was headed for the exit, to be replaced by a simulcast of all-news KYW (1060). But despite KYW's signal problems in parts of the Philly metro and the handicap these days of being on AM in general, all indications now are that KYW will remain AM-only after the Beasley deal closes, showing that CBS still believes it can generate significant ratings and revenue on the AM dial in Philadelphia just as it does with New York's WCBS and WINS, Boston's WBZ and Los Angeles' KNX.

That, in turn, means some form of top-40 stays in place on 96.5. Our sister site RadioInsight has discovered that CBS has already built a new "Wired 96.5" web presence on its own servers, so the name comes along from Beasley as well. Will the new year bring a reboot of top-40 across three big CBS signals that are struggling with the format right now? We'd expect at least some synergy among Wired in Philly, "AMP 92.3" (WBMP) in New York and "AMP 103.3" (WODS) in Boston - and we still wouldn't rule out a name change to "AMP" in Philadelphia as well.

We're also looking closely to see where everyone lands, physically. While CBS will take over the lease on Beasley's studio space in suburban Bala Cynwyd, it will sublet the AM studios back to Beasley. It's not clear yet whether Wired and WXTU will stay put there, move to the recently-vacated Bala space that had been home to CBS' WOGL (98.1) and WPHT (1210), or whether the new FMs will head for Center City to share space in the new WOGL/WPHT digs at 400 Market Street in former KYW space.

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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, 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: December 2, 2013

One of the tasks we never enjoy here at NERW is writing obituaries for talented broadcast folks, and that’s doubly true when those broadcasters die young.

wxpk-corleyThat’s just what happened last Monday in the suburbs of NEW YORK, where Caroline Corley wrapped up her morning shift at Pamal’s “Peak” WXPK (107.1 Briarcliff Manor), went home, suffered shortness of breath and was pronounced dead after being taken to a nearby hospital.

Corley was just 52, and her death touched off a week of on-air mourning at the Peak, as well as plenty of off-air mourning among her many friends and colleagues from WXPK and her previous radio stops. Those included being fired from  “every (yes, EVERY) rock station in Denver,” according to her WXPK bio, and then Long Island’s WLIR and New York City’s WCBS-FM and WYNY.

*Rick Gillette came to CBS Radio’s WNOW-FM (92.3 New York) two years ago with a big task in front of him, trying to push the upstart top-40 outlet ahead of Clear Channel’s long-established Z100. That big task will now be in the hands of a new programmer after Gillette and “NOW” parted ways last week, putting CBS top-40 VP Michael Martin in charge of the station for the moment. No word yet on the next stop for Gillette, who was last with CBS in Phoenix before arriving in New York.

*A format update from VERMONT: the Upper Valley signal on 104.3 that used to be WWOD (“Oldies 104.3″) is back on the air as WMVY, running movie themes as “Theater 104.3.”

Bill and Gail Goddard’s Electromagnetic Company acquired the 104.3 license (but not the calls or format, which moved to Jeff Shapiro’s Vertical Capital Partners and the former WMXR on 93.9) as part of the breakup of the former Nassau group in the region. Electromagnetic is still trying to complete the signal’s move to Keeseville, N.Y., where it would serve Hartford. In the meantime, though, this past weekend would have marked a year of silence for 104.3 if it hadn’t gone back on the air. It’s not clear how long “Theater” will stay on the air this time around.

And while it’s much more of a national story than a regional one, we certainly can’t wrap up our Canadian coverage without mentioning the mammoth NHL rights deal that will send Canada’s national hockey TV rights to Rogers (in English) and TVA (in French). How big is hockey on TV in Canada? The 12-year deal is valued at C$5.2 billion, and it pulls the NHL away from the existing lead rights holder, Bell Media’s TSN (in English) and RDS (in French).

What of “Hockey Night in Canada” on CBC? That long tradition will continue through at least 2018, in an odd arrangement where Rogers will produce the games and collect all the revenue from them, benefiting from the wider reach of CBC’s local stations. (Some NHL games will also find their way to Rogers’ CityTV stations, too.)

Five Years Ago: November 30, 2009

At midnight tonight, more than half a century of commercial classical music in Boston will come to an end, and a new era in eastern MASSACHUSETTS radio will get underway. That's when public broadcaster WGBH takes over operation of WCRB (99.5 Lowell) from Nassau, moving classical programming off WGBH (89.7) - and we now have a sense of what the daytime programming on 89.7 will look like after the flip:

As expected, WGBH will make extra use of the programming it already helps to contribute to the public radio system: "The Takeaway," WGBH's joint production with New York's WNYC and the BBC, will add a 9-10 AM airing to its existing 6-7 AM slot on 89.7. The Washington-based "Diane Rehm Show" will follow from 10 AM until noon, getting its first live slot on Boston radio after many years of late-night airings on competitor WBUR-FM (90.9). At noon, 89.7 will carry WNYC-based "Radio Lab," followed at 1 by "Arts and Ideas," an omnibus title for an assortment of documentaries and specials - but those shows are apparently just placeholders for a local talk show to debut in January, hosted by Emily Rooney and Callie Crosley. Rooney, of course, hosts the nightly "Greater Boston" talk show on WGBH-TV, and Crosley appears on the Friday "Beat the Press" installment of that show. WGBH's afternoon programming will be shuffled starting Tuesday as well: "Fresh Air," already heard at 1 on WBUR, will be heard again at 2 on 89.7, followed by WGBH's own "The World" at 3 and "All Things Considered" from 4-6, both shows moving an hour earlier from their present slots on 89.7. That makes room for a 6 PM repeat of "The World," clearing the 7-8 PM hour (now occupied by that second run of "The World") for a radio simulcast of the "PBS NewsHour," followed at 8 by WGBH's jazz programming, which remains unchanged for now.

On Saturdays, the folk music that used to air from noon until 3 PM will be replaced by "This American Life" and "On the Media" (already heard on WBUR) and an hour of audio from the week's "Greater Boston" TV shows. The Saturday evening timeslot long occupied by blues music will be filled by "Says You," "Selected Shorts" and the syndicated Bob Parlocha jazz programming that already fills WGBH's overnight hours. The new schedules launch Tuesday morning at 5; it appears 99.5 will be silent overnight as the programming is shifted from WCRB's longtime studios in Waltham to the WGBH studios in Brighton.

It took fourteen steps and seven frequencies, but the long saga of one FM translator's trek westward from Cape Ann to the Fitchburg market may finally be over. W288CE (105.5) filed one last (we think) application last week that will land the translator right in the heart of Fitchburg. The latest application would move the translator down one notch on the dial, to 105.3, where it would run 250 watts, non-directional, from the WPKZ (1280) site on Alpine Road, just a mile west of downtown Fitchburg. The translator (still licensed to Gloucester, amusingly enough; there's no city-of-license coverage requirement for translators) is already listed as relaying WPKZ, and a sale from owner Radio Assist Ministry to WPKZ owner Central Broadcasting Company remains pending.

Perhaps the biggest NEW YORK news in this holiday-shortened week was the schedule change at talker WABC (770 New York), where 18-year station veteran Curtis Sliwa is out of the 9 PM-1 AM slot, replaced by weekend talker John Batchelor, whose new show will be offered in syndication as well. Where's Curtis headed? It's not official yet, but all signs point to a new home up the dial on Salem talker WNYM (970 Hackensack NJ), where he'd provide some local content (and much-needed visibility) for the otherwise all-syndicated "970 the Apple."

There's now a slogan and website to go with the Spanish tropical sounds being heard on 97.5 in central CONNECTICUT. W248AB (97.5 Bolton) reaches much of the Hartford area from its high-altitude perch in the hills east of the city, and after several years simulcasting former owner WILI-FM (98.3 Willimantic), it was sold to John Fuller's Red Wolf Broadcasting over the summer. Now that the FCC allows translators to relay HD2 subchannels of other FM stations, effectively becoming program sources in their own right, W248AB has become "La Bomba 97.5 FM," relaying programming that's also heard on the HD2 of Red Wolf's WMRQ (104.1 Waterbury), the company's big-signal venture into the Hartford market from its base in eastern Connecticut.

One of VERMONT's best-known morning teams returned to the air last week. After some technical delays, the "Corm and the Coach" show made its debut Wednesday morning on the new WNMR (107.1 Dannemora NY), where it helms a lineup that's made up of syndicated talk the rest of the day.

Ten Years Ago: November 29, 2004

While we in the U.S. were busy celebrating Thanksgiving last week, up in CANADA (where Thanksgiving was more than a month ago), the CRTC was busy approving a slew of new stations in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John, New Brunswick.

Halifax, in particular, has gone many years without any new stations, even as other Canadian markets of similar size have seen their dials explode with more formats and signals, so it was no surprise to see the CRTC authorize four new signals, which nearly doubles the commercial radio market there. Leading the pack is Rogers, which won CRTC blessing for a new network of FM news-talk outlets in the Maritimes. In Halifax, the network will operate on 95.7 with 22.1 kW; it will also have outlets in Moncton, N.B. (91.9 with 40.3 kW) and Saint John, N.B. (88.9 with 79 kW). Toronto's Evanov group (the folks who own CIAO, CKDX and CIDC there) gets a "youth contemporary" outlet (we'd call it urban CHR) with 78 kW on 103.5. Global applied for 103.5 as well, to do easy listening, and the CRTC says it will grant that application as well, but only if Global comes up with a different frequency to use. And International Harvesters for Christ Evangelical Association will have 5 kW on 93.9 for a religious outlet.

In addition to the Rogers outlet on 91.9, Moncton will also get a new French-language service, as Radio Beausejour adds a new signal with 30 kW on 90.7 to its existing CJSE (89.5 Shediac NB). Beausejour says the new signal will be "more contemporary" than CJSE, which will focus on French-language country music for older listeners.

Over in Saint John, Rogers' new 88.9 signal will be joined by a new French service as well, with La Brise de la Baie ltee. being granted 1.85 kW on 105.7.

And in Fredericton, Newcap was granted 76 kW on 92.3 for a classic rocker, while Ross Ingram gets 25 watts on 94.7 for a Christian music service. And Jack McGaw and Robert Stapells were granted travel information stations in Moncton and Fredericton, though the CRTC asked them to find alternate frequencies from the 90.7 and 93.1 that they had requested.

A veteran NEW YORK voice has left the Big Apple airwaves for now. "Dandy Dan" Daniel had been off the air at WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) for a few months, and now he says he won't be returning to his Saturday morning shift there.

As rumored, WQCD (101.9 New York) segued from smooth jazz last week to become "New York Chill, CD 101.9," with a mixture of electronica and Europop being added to the smooth jazz playlist there. It's running jockless for now, but expect the old CD101.9 airstaff to make a return soon.

Fifteen Years Ago: November 26, 1999

It's been a slow, slow week in Northeast radio, what with the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and all, leaving two CONNECTICUT pirates with the week's top headlines.

On Tuesday, it was Radio Avivamiento's turn in federal court in Hartford, as the 97.1 Spanish pirate fought the FCC's attempt to get an injunction preventing further broadcasts. The Hartford Courant reports the station's lawyer, Patrick Edwards, "cheerfully" admitted the station was breaking the law when it went on the air two years ago. The station's owner, the Rev. Samuel A. Girona, tells the Courant he tried to buy a licensed station (WKND 1480 Windsor), but the purchase price of $750,000 was out of his range. The FCC's lawyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Soloway, told judge Alvin Thompson that the law is clear, and requires the unlicensed station to be shut down. Thompson did not issue a ruling at the hearing; a written decision will follow sometime soon. Meanwhile in Waterbury, the FCC has been granted authority to shut down "Waterbury Hispanic Communications," an 88.5 pirate operated by one Efrain Gonzales. NERW hears the station is indeed off the air pending further legal action.

On the TV side in the Nutmeg State, Tribune Broadcasting has applied to the FCC for permission to buy WTXX (Channel 20) in Waterbury outright, converting the UPN station from its present LMA with Tribune's Hartford Fox affiliate, WTIC-TV (Channel 61).

Over to RHODE ISLAND, where two well-known names are signing new radio deals. At WPRO (630), it's Springfield talk veteran Dan Yorke, who moves across state lines to take the 3-6 PM slot last held down by Carolyn Fox before her move to WWRX (103.7 Westerly). Yorke spent more than a decade at WHYN (560) and WNNZ (640 Westfield) in the Springfield market. Meanwhile, upstart talker WLKW (550 Pawtucket) has signed Mary Ann Sorrentino, more than a year after she was ousted from her late-morning slot on WPRO. Sorrentino will do noon-3 on WLKW, replacing the team of Tom DiLuglio and Jerry Zarrella.

The big story -- in fact, the only story of note -- in MASSACHUSETTS broadcasting this week is the new Red Sox TV contract. The three-year deal will put roughly 70 Sox games on Fox O&O WFXT (Channel 25), with the rest landing on (partly Sox-owned) New England Sports Network and the Fox network package. WFXT replaces last year's JCS syndication effort, which used WLVI (Channel 56) as its Boston outlet. The new deal runs for three seasons.

And with nothing else going on in northern New England, we slip back across the state lines into NEW YORK, where the FCC has granted Liberty Communications Family Broadcast Group's application for a new station in Watertown. The new 90.1 will run 1 kilowatt from 152 meters above average terrain, broadcasting from the tower of WWNY-TV (Channel 7) on Route 126 in the hills east of town. We're guessing religion for this one (albeit with a local licensee, based in nearby Dexter, New York).