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: January 20, 2014
*How fast does the FCC move? When it's not in a mood for quick action, the Commission can be as slow as it gets, as witnessed by the FM translator applicants who waited more than a decade after the FCC's 2003 window to finally get their signals granted (including a few we'll discuss later in this week's column.)
By contrast, the low-power FM window that opened last October has been moving with lightning speed. Before 2013 was over, the FCC had sorted the thousands of new LPFM applications into separate groups of easily grantable singletons, singletons requiring closer examination for issues like second-adjacent channel waivers, and groups of mutually-exclusive applicants that can begin negotiating settlements or technical changes. It's been dismissing flawed applications (like, for instance, the 88.1s in Fall River that were filed by individuals instead of groups, on a channel that doesn't fit technically). And as of last Thursday, it's begun issuing the first construction permits, less than two months after the window closed.
As of this Monday morning, nine lucky LPFM applicants around NERW-land are the first to hold shiny new construction permits out of this window, and it should come as no surprise that they're largely in rural areas where channels were still available without requiring interference waivers.
We're still waiting for an announcement from Salem about its plans for a permanent replacement for Curtis Sliwa following the host's abrupt departure two weeks ago from WNYM (970 Hackensack NJ) for a new gig back at WABC (770 New York). While we wait, though, there's some entertaining stuff happening in morning drive on "970 the Answer": veteran producer Frank Morano slid into the host chair to keep the seat warm after Sliwa bolted, and somewhere along the way he found out that comedian Joe Piscopo was listening. Piscopo offered to come in and guest host alongside Morano, and he's been hanging out at WNYM's new Broadway studio ever since. Are Piscopo and Morano the long-term "answer" for WNYM? So far, the station's website still lists only "Morning Drive" and "Afternoon Drive" in Sliwa's former 6-9 AM and 5-7 PM slots. WNYM has plugged a health infomercial into the midday space formerly occupied by Dennis Miller.
Five Years Ago: January 18, 2010
When Clear Channel began working to upgrade its AM signals in eastern MASSACHUSETTS more than a decade ago, rumors ran rampant all over the mailing lists and message boards about a possible flip of WKOX (1200) to talk.
It was a long time coming, but it appears those rumors will soon be reality. Last year, WKOX completed its upgrade, changing city of license from Framingham to Newton and powering up to 50,000 watts fulltime from the rebuilt transmitter site in Newton's Oak Hill neighborhood that originally belonged to WUNR (1600 Brookline). And last week, Clear Channel announced that it will soon swap calls between WKOX and sister station WXKS (1430 Everett), ditching the "Rumba" Spanish tropical format now on 1200 in favor of a talk lineup drawn heavily from Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks.
A few of the key pieces of that lineup - most notably Glenn Beck's late-morning show and Sean Hannity's afternoon-drive show - are already available for immediate clearance in Boston, and Clear Channel has made no secret of its intention to eventually fill the slot between them with its top-name talent, Rush Limbaugh, who's long been heard on Entercom's WRKO (680 Boston). Limbaugh's contract with WRKO reportedly runs through late 2012, and at least for now Clear Channel says it intends to be "as respectful as possible with some of the current contractual obligations with WRKO." But the company hasn't hesitated to shift Rush to its own stations in other markets, most recently in North Carolina with the launches of "Rush Radio" talkers in Raleigh-Durham and Winston-Salem/Greensboro earlier this month.
The speculation is already flying hot and heavy over what a third talk station might do to the competitive balance between WRKO and its fierce rival, Greater Media's WTKK (96.9 Boston). Even with 50 kilowatts, the signal of the new WXKS 1200 won't have the full-market coverage that WTKK enjoys, and will arguably enjoy even less useful nighttime coverage outside Route 128 than the already signal-impaired WRKO. What's more, the "Rush Radio"/Premiere model relies heavily on out-of-market syndicated talent - and Boston is not a market that's ever taken to national talk in the way it responds to local talkers. Would Clear Channel make the investment in local talk that WRKO and WTKK have made? It's already hired a general sales manager for the new station with local talk experience - Alan Chartrand, who's worked at both Entercom and Greater Media as a top sales executive - and more staffing announcements are expected soon.
In western PENNSYLVANIA, Clear Channel already launched a talker a few years back - WPGB (104.7), which grabbed Rush and the Pirates baseball rights away from CBS Radio's long-established KDKA (1020). Now it's CBS' turn to aim for a piece of the FM spoken-word market. The rumors began on the message boards late last week, and quickly spread to the Post-Gazette, which confirmed on Friday that CBS is planning to launch an all-sports FM station, most likely on "B94" WBZW (93.7 Pittsburgh), which has struggled in the top-40 war with Clear Channel's WKST-FM (96.1 Pittsburgh). Is it just coincidence that CBS moved B94 morning co-host BuckHead to Detroit last week to do afternoons on its new "Amp 98.7" (WVMV), leaving the morning show as just "Bubba and Melanie"? Unlike Boston, where CBS launched "Sports Hub 98.5" WBZ-FM last year with two franchises that were already in its local lineup - the Patriots from WBCN and the Bruins from WBZ(AM) - the big sports franchises in Pittsburgh are all locked up (for now) with the two existing AM sports players in town. Clear Channel has all three pro teams: the Pirates on WPGB, the Steelers on WDVE (102.5) and the Penguins on WXDX (105.9), with Fox Sports outlet WBGG (970) also carrying the latter two teams. University of Pittsburgh sports also air on Clear Channel's WWSW (94.5) and WBGG. The other existing sports talker, ESPN-owned WEAE (1250), offers Penn State sports.
Does that leave room for sports on a future "KDKA-FM"? There's plenty of local sports-talk talent available at the moment, including longtime WPGB/WEAE host Ellis Cannon, who was ousted from his 6-9 PM slot on WPGB last week due to budget cuts. Michael Savage's show, which had been heard on delay, moves to a live 6-9 PM clearance on WPGB, followed by a delayed hour of Glenn Beck.
The Boston-based WEEI network has lost its northernmost affiliates, up in Bangor, MAINE, where Blueberry Broadcasting has flipped WAEI-FM (97.1) and WAEI (910) to the Fox Sports national feed. Blueberry's Bruce Biette tells the Bangor Daily News that WEEI breached its contractual agreement with the Bangor station, but he's not saying what the details of the issue were; WEEI's Jason Wolfe says Blueberry "chose to end its contract with us," and we suspect the whole thing will end up in court before long. WEEI is still heard in southern Maine via WPEI (95.9 Saco/Portland.)
Ten Years Ago: January 18, 2005
Radio listeners in NEW JERSEY's capital city are about to get a big shakeup on their FM dial. On February 14, Nassau will move WPST's calls and top 40 format from the 97.5 spot where it's been heard for nearly three decades to the 94.5 facility that's been classic rock "Hawk" WTHK. The Hawk, in turn, will move to 97.5 - but for how long? NERW notes that Nassau recently won FCC approval to move the 97.5 allocation from Trenton to Burlington, from which the facility will effectively become a Philadelphia-market signal.
The 94.5 half of the move is pretty obvious in that context: WPST is a dominant presence in the Trenton market (and a huge cash cow for Nassau), so moving it to a comparable facility (both 97.5 and 94.5 are class B signals) that will remain focused on Trenton will keep 'PST going for listeners there. But we strongly suspect that many more changes are in the works for 97.5, especially in light of the fact that Nassau has no other properties in the core Philadelphia market, and that it's a company that prefers to compete in suburban and small-city markets. (Not to mention that the cash infusion from an eventual sale of an upgraded Philadelphia-market 97.5 signal would more than pay for all the buying Nassau's been doing in New England and more recently in Maryland.)
The fight over payola allegations in upstate NEW YORK took some noisy new turns this past week, as former WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls) PD Dave Universal took to the trades to defend his actions while programming Buffalo's "Kiss." Universal told All Access that "Entercom and my GM knew that I occasionally went with record reps to various sporting events to build relationships. Never once was I told not to do this," adding, "With all that's going on in the state of New York, it was easier for them to get rid of me, than defend how I did business for them." Unfortunately for Universal, the publicity about the whole affair - coupled with the Armstrong Williams scandal in Washington - got the attention of FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, who at week's end persuaded chairman Michael Powell to launch an Enforcement Bureau investigation into the case.
Meanwhile on the TV dial, the long-awaited call change at Rochester's channel 13 finally happened last Monday morning, with WOKR signing off for the last time at 1:42 in the morning (using original WOKR announcer Jerry Carr to make the final announcement) and WHAM-TV debuting minutes before the 5 AM newscast. (NERW was most amused by morning anchor Doug Emblidge, one of the wittier guys in the business, starting the first newscast by appearing to be taking notes on all the technical details - studio-transmitter link callsigns and the like - that were mentioned in the sign-on.) "13 WHAM News" brings with it a new graphics package and music; we're still waiting to see much of the promised closer promotional relationship with WHAM (1180), where we understand several anchors were still slipping up and referring to "News Source 13" instead of "13 WHAM News" for much of last week. (All in good time, we're sure...)
A veteran MASSACHUSETTS newscaster is saying farewell to the daily grind. After just under a quarter-century at WBZ-TV (Channel 4), Liz Walker announced Friday that she's giving up her anchor chair on the station's noon newscast to focus instead on her family and on her studies at Harvard Divinity School. (Walker left WBZ's evening newscasts in 2000 to begin her studies at Harvard.) Walker won't vanish from the CBS4 airwaves completely, though: she'll soon start a new Sunday morning public-affairs program called "Sunday with Liz Walker," to be seen each week at 11.
Fifteen Years Ago: January 21, 2000
[no issue - NERW was traveling]
Twenty Years Ago: January 19, 1995
[no issue - NERW was traveling]