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In this week's issue... MA cluster recovers from flood - iHeart's Boston endgame - What's next for NYC's 1560 - Cephas Bowles, RIP - The real story on a Canadian "power increase"

By SCOTT FYBUSH

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

*With the nonstop pounding of snow that's been driving MASSACHUSETTS and the rest of New England insane for the last few weeks, it would have been easy to bet that we'd be leading this week's issue with a story about a studio roof collapsing under several feet of snow, or perhaps ice bringing down a tower somewhere in the region.

wxlo-floodingInstead, it's liquid water leading the column this week, and lots of it, and on Thursday morning all that water was rather unfortunately pouring through the downtown Worcester home of Cumulus' WXLO (104.5 Worcester), WORC-FM (98.9 Webster) and WWFX (100.1 Southbridge).

It appears cold weather was to blame for freezing a six-inch sprinkler pipe that ran through an unheated part of the building. When the pipe burst, station employees said they thought at first that the roof had given way. The bang was actually the pipe bursting, and the noise that followed was an entire stairwell filling with water as it poured down through the seven-story structure. Staffers fled the building as water rose ankle-deep in station offices and studios, and all three stations soon went silent after the power to the building was cut.

The stations were back on the air with automation and generator power by Thursday afternoon, but corporate engineers were soon in the air to assess the damage and figure out a recovery plan. The WXLO main air studio (above) appears to have taken the worst hit, completely soaked by water coming down through the ceiling from upper floors; while it's likely a total loss, the other studios and offices (and the all-important technical core) mainly had water on the floor and some damage to the walls.

We've been writing an awful lot about emergency preparedness lately in this space, and the Cumulus mishap in Worcester is a good reminder of another question any broadcaster needs to be able to answer: if we lose access to our studios, how quickly can we be back on the air - and from where?

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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.

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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: February 24, 2014

*How fast can a low-power FM station hit the air after getting its construction permit granted? In MASSACHUSETTS, the answer appears to be "wicked fast," at least if the station in question is WXBJ-LP (94.9 Salisbury). "Good Neighbor Station, Inc." filed its application on November 12, 2013, had the application accepted for filing on November 25, was granted its CP on February 3, and on Saturday afternoon at 3 the new station hit the airwaves along the New Hampshire border.

WXBJWXBJ isn't quite the first station to hit the air from the 2013 LPFM window - that honor appears to belong to a station in Utah - but it's certainly the first in NERW-land to begin broadcasting. Its filing with the FCC says the new station will focus on issues affecting local senior citizens, and so far there's only a makeshift website providing a live stream of the new station.

*While WXBJ-LP jumped from application to on-air license in just a few months, a full-power CP on Cape Cod is being sold with just a few weeks left before its permit expires. Home Improvement Ministries applied for 89.1 in Brewster in the 2007 window for non-commercial FM applicants and was granted its permit on April 14, 2011. If the station doesn't get on the air by April 14, 2014, its permit will expire - and that's why Home Improvement just sold the permit to Boston University's WBUR (90.9 Boston) for just $7500.

WBUR has a project ahead of it: instead of the planned 23 kW/285' signal (which would actually have been on the Outer Cape, on a new tower near the Eastham-Wellfleet line), it will soon be applying for a more minimal facility to get the signal on the air ahead of the deadline. If it can get its new station built, the new 89.1 will join WBUR's existing relays on the Cape, WBUA (92.7 Tisbury) from Martha's Vineyard, serving the lower Cape, and WCCT (90.3 Harwich), the Cape Cod Tech station that carries most of WBUR's schedule to the mid-Cape.

*It appears NEW YORK's WOR (710) is headed for a second week of fill-in morning hosts after the abrupt end to its "Elliot in the Morning" simulcast with Washington's WWDC-FM (101.1).

wor-newcclogoIn a NERW Extra last week (remember, NERW's updated more often than just Mondays - follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional NERW content!), we explored some of the back story behind the move and filled in some of the gaps in the gossip - yes, Elliot Segal was meant to be a permanent part of WOR, not just a "palate-cleanser" to wipe out the old morning audience - and analyzed the pros and cons of adding recently-deposed WPLJ morning man Scott Shannon to the WOR lineup.

Five Years Ago: February 22, 2010

When we put this column together over the weekend, we noted (as you'll read below) that there were "rumors" circulating about a new FM talker in Syracuse - and now they're rumors no more, as Citadel confirms that it will flip low-rated AC station WLTI (105.9 Syracuse) from "Lite Rock 105.9" to "The Big Talker" next week. The new talk station will feature Indianapolis-based Bob & Tom in morning drive and local talker Gary Nolan in afternoons. (Nolan returns to Syracuse after working in Columbia, Missouri for the last few years.) The rest of 105.9's program day will be an eclectic mix of syndicated talkers: Stephanie Miller from the left, Michael Smerconish and Dave Ramsey from somewhere in the center and Mark Levin on the right.

Next week will bring a new FM talk station to northeastern PENNSYLVANIA, as Bold Gold prepares to relaunch its recently-purchased WLNP (94.3 Carbondale) as "94.3 the Talker," with a syndicated lineup that includes Don Imus at 6 AM, Glenn Beck at 9, Laura Ingraham at noon, Sean Hannity at 3 and Mark Levin at 6. Will that national slate of hosts get much traction against the largely local lineup over at Entercom's established WILK network of stations, which goes national for Rush at noon and Michael Savage at 7 PM, but is live and local in morning drive, late mornings and afternoons?

We know a little more this week about the lineup on Boston's new Clear Channel talker, WXKS (1200 Newton), when it launches April 1. In addition to "Coast to Coast AM," which is already airing on 1200 (now WKOX) and the Premiere-syndicated Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity shows that aren't currently cleared in Boston, 1200 will also carry the Jason Lewis show (from Clear Channel's KTLK-FM in Minneapolis) from 6-9 PM, reports the Herald's Jessica Heslam. She reports that PD Bill George is promising a local morning show, with talent as yet unannounced - and as for that noon-3 PM slot, it's still widely expected that it will eventually belong to Rush Limbaugh when his contract rights can be pried free from longtime Boston affiliate WRKO (680).

As Bill Carroll heads south across the border from CANADA to the U.S. to start his new midday gig at KFI in Los Angeles, CFRB (1010 Toronto) has picked a U.S. talker with Canadian roots to take over Carroll's 9 AM-noon slot. Jerry Agar, who began his broadcast career in Dauphin, Manitoba, is best known for his recent work in Chicago at WLS and lately at WGN, where he has a weekend shift. He was also heard on WABC for a short stint in 2006-07, doing an evening show for the New York station from Chicago.

Ten Years Ago: February 21, 2005

Until now, broadcasting in Port Elgin, Ontario has meant CFPS (1490), the 1000-watt simulcast of Bayshore Broadcasting's oldies CFOS (560) over in Owen Sound, 20 miles or so to the east. Now the CRTC has approved Bayshore's application to take CFPS dark, replacing it with a new adult contemporary station on 97.9, with 3800 watts of power and 126 hours a week of local programming for a community that's had almost none until now.

But wait, there's more: the CRTC also approved a rival application from Brian Cooper and Daniel McCarthy, for a new adult classic hits station with transmitters in Kincardine, Goderich and Port Elgin. The Kincardine signal will be at 95.5 with 5660 watts, while Goderich will operate on 99.7 with 1670 watts. And while Cooper and McCarthy had applied for 97.9 in Port Elgin as well, they'll have to find a new frequency (though the CRTC approved the application in principle.)

In NEW JERSEY, Friday night indeed brought the end of "B-98.5," WBBO (98.5 Ocean Acres), as Press Communications replaced the hot AC there with modern rock "G Rock Radio," in a new simulcast with WHTG-FM (106.3 Eatontown). Matt Knight moves over from the old WBBO airstaff to do nights on the new "G."

The FCC grants the addition of 98.9A in Adams, MASSACHUSETTS to the table of allocations - but it'll be years before the frequency goes up for auction and anything gets built there. The FCC also allots 98.7A to East Harwich, denying competing proposals from John Garabedian to allot 98.7B1 to Nantucket and Monomoy Media for 98.7A at South Chatham. Garabedian tried to argue that East Harwich and South Chatham aren't "communities" for allotment purposes - and while the FCC bought the argument for South Chatham, it found that East Harwich is listed in the census and worthy of an FM allocation - and so the channel goes to East Harwich. (Again, it'll be years before anything actually gets built there.)

Ed Perry's not only the owner of WATD (95.9 Marshfield) - he's also trying to be the defender of journalists' right to cover stories in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Perry was arrested for disorderly conduct, trespassing and resisting arrest back in 2002 for attempting to interview a security guard at the Hanover Mall, and even though the charges were later dropped, he's suing the mall's former owner and its security company for violating his civil rights. Perry says the mall owners and the security company have tried to settle with him, but he's spent more than $20,000 in legal fees in an attempt to prove a point - that reporters should be able to cover stories (a report of a carjacking, in this case) without fear of arrest.

The move of WOQL (97.7 Winchendon) to a new tower site across the state line in NEW HAMPSHIRE has cleared the way for channelmate WBOT (97.7 Brockton) to apply for an audacious Boston move-in. The Radio One R&B outlet moved once, a few years ago, from the tower of former sister station WBET (1460 Brockton) to a tower in Abington - but now it's got enough spacing from WOQL to propose a move to Great Blue Hill in Milton, where the WGBH (89.7 Boston) tower overlooks Boston to the north. WBOT would run 2 kilowatts from 173 meters above average terrain from the Great Blue Hill site (it currently uses 2.7 kW/150 meters from Abington), with a directional antenna putting a null toward Winchendon - but with much better line-of-sight coverage to greater Boston.

And it turns out that WBOT's proposal isn't even the only audacious Boston move-in on the FCC's docket, as WFNX (101.7 Lynn) applies to move right into the heart of Boston. Some background here: the former WLYN-FM began on the side of the WLYN (1360) tower in Lynn proper, but for the last couple of decades or so, 101.7 has broadcast from the site above Malden Hospital that was once home to WNAC-TV (Channel 7). That produced a decent signal in the suburbs, but with just 1650 watts at 449', the 101.7 signal has never done a good job of penetrating the RF haze in the middle of Boston, a problem WFNX tried to rectify a few years ago with the addition of translator W267AI (101.3) on the Hancock tower in the Back Bay. But now WFNX is trying something bigger: it's applying for a new directional signal with 1690 watts at 627', high atop One Financial Center, the downtown skyscraper that's also home to WHRB (95.3 Cambridge) and WERS (88.9 Boston). WFNX's directional antenna (mounted a few feet above WHRB) would put a pretty deep null towards WCIB (101.9 Falmouth) and WWBB (101.5 Providence), and it would barely cover the city of license (still Lynn!) with the requisite 70 dBu signal.

Fifteen Years Ago: February 25, 2000

Two central MASSACHUSETTS radio stations are changing hands, in a set of deals that promise to change the radio dial along Route 2 in a big way. A year and a half after buying WCAT (700 Orange) and WCAT-FM (99.9 Athol), Jeff Shapiro is selling the stations to Citadel for $875,000, a $25,000 profit from his August 1998 purchase price. While the stations sat at the southern arc of Shapiro's broadcast group in Vermont and New Hampshire (most of which was sold to Vox last year), they're at the northern end of Citadel's growing Worcester market, which includes WXLO (104.5 Fitchburg), WORC-FM (98.9 Webster), and WWFX (100.1 Southbridge). WWFX is the interesting piece here; another former Shapiro station, it's limited from moving its transmitter site northward (and closer to Worcester) by -- WCAT-FM! Do we see site moves (or at least a simulcast) on the horizon? As for the AM daytimer: it's never been much of a player in the market since moving to 700 from 1390 in the 1980s, and now runs mostly Talk America product.

Just to the east in Winchendon, WINQ (97.7) is also getting new owners, as Central Broadcasting sells the station to Joe Gallagher's Aritaur Broadcasting. Aritaur sold its Pittsfield group (WBEC AM-FM, WZEC) to Tele-Media last July, and ironically, Gallagher's KJI group sold the other 97.7 in Massachusetts, WCAV Brockton (now WBOT), to Radio One last June. There's no word yet on Aritaur's plans for WINQ, or on the purchase price.

News from NEW YORK: One of the state's oldest FM stations is getting a new owner. Religious WJIV (101.9 Cherry Valley) passes from Floyd Dykeman to Jon Yinger's Midwest Broadcasting for $1.3 million. WJIV was one of the old Rural Radio Network/QXR Network/Ivy Network/CBN stations, with a huge coverage over Albany, Utica, and into western New England. It'll stay religious under Midwest, which also owns religious outlets in Fort Wayne and several Michigan communities, including Detroit's WLQV (1500, the former twelve-tower directional).

From Green to White: A few weeks after unloading his WENY-TV (Channel 36) in Elmira, Howard Green is selling his Elmira radio stations as well. White Broadcasting LLC is the new owner for talker WENY (1230) and AC WENY-FM (92.7); no word yet on price or any format plans.

Twenty Years Ago: February 25, 1995

[no issue]

6 COMMENTS

  1. Regarding WBWL and overload downtown.. how about a booster? — could the self-interference area be engineered into neighborhoods not friendly to the format?

  2. Yeah, that’s a lot easier in places like Salt Lake City where there are massive unpopulated areas. I have only the very slightest of experience with boosters (on WKKV 100.7 Milwaukee, which seemed to work fine, but both geography & demographics were definitely on their side!)

    • Those Western boosters benefit massively from terrain shielding. The typical MO out there is to put up a horizontal-only facility as the “main” site at a location that’s completely terrain-shielded from the target market (for the “Salt Lake” stations, that’s a site called Humpy Peak out by the Wyoming state line on the far side of the Wasatch range), then put up a booster or series of boosters that “fill in” the theoretical 60 dBu contour over the target market. Easier to do that when you’re starting with a 100 kW class C that can have a 20 kW booster; for a signal like WBWL, you’d be a little over 2 kW max for your booster, which still won’t do a lot to overcome all those Prudential Bs.

  3. I was under the impression that WBWL’s primary purpose is not to *beat* WKLB in acquiring a country audience, but instead to provide enough competition that WKLB cannot, itself, beat KISS108 as top station in the market. I’m sure that “top station” moniker is worth a pretty penny in ad rates.

  4. BTW, there’s been some really nifty advances in on-channel boosters that’ve grown out of SFN work in wireless/cellphone networks. Harris (now GatesAir) in particular has MaxxCasting; I looked at an early version a few years ago for WELH and it was impressive but the cost was too great for the potential audience served (and thus potential revenue realized).

    I think it’s possible WBWL could employ a synchronized FM booster but the question is, why would they bother? While not terribly expensive to a company of IHM’s size, it’s hardly free. Both the booster RX/TX gear and, more importantly, the tower rent on the booster site. That’s a lot of hassle and cost to get audience they probably don’t need to get…even if you overlook the whole “WBWL just exists to knock WKLB down a notch” theory. And clearly we have seen that IHM takes a coldly rational approach to their audiences. They reeeeeally don’t maximize for the sake of maximizing; the money has to be there.

    And yes, even with the cool gear, there is always going to be SOME self-interference. And the pop density around greater Boston is so high that inevitably you’d hurt reception for quite a few people. The devil would be in the details, but my gut says that the ROI wouldn’t be there.

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