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In this week's issue... FM changes coming in Toronto - Scelsa departs NYC radio, Imus to leave TV - Cutbacks at a big CT signal - Hall of Fame time in RI

By SCOTT FYBUSH

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

chry*Back in 2011, one of our big stories from CANADA's largest market was the demise of CKLN (88.1), the Ryerson University-associated station that ended up losing its license after years of internal leadership conflicts and failure to comply with the CRTC's rules. Now one of Toronto's smaller college stations is going through a surprise format change, and many who found CHRY (105.5) after CKLN's demise are wondering if the CRTC will let the York University station continue with the transition it's making.

Since its arrival on the FM dial in 1986, CHRY has been a consistently inconsistent voice of Toronto's (and the university's) cultural mixing pot. Programmed by volunteers from both the campus and the surrounding community, CHRY's schedule had a little bit of everything, with an emphasis on service to the sizable Caribbean population of north Toronto.

And then came Friday morning: in the space of just a few hours, news began spreading among CHRY's dozens of volunteer programmers that they weren't going to be around much longer. Then came unofficial word that CHRY was about to flip to a more professional-sounding format, followed quickly by an official announcement that the station would soon relaunch as "VIBE105."

chry-vibeTo quote from the station's new website - "unnecessary quotation marks" theirs - "VIBE105 is an ‘urban alternative’ station. We are ‘your main source’ for the best music and connected voices across your city."

What's "urban alternative"? To quote from the new Vibe management again: "VIBE105 delivers an exciting mix of metropolitan influenced sounds and eclectic voices. Our diverse content offers the best selection of Electronic, Remix, Reggae, Soca, Hip Hop and R&B. VIBE105 also provides an intelligent range of talk programming connecting our audience with timely, critical insight on current affairs both on a regional and global scale. Our programming strength and next-level connection rests with our lead ambassadors who deliver a variety of specialty programs and are identified leaders throughout their respective communities."

Will those specialty programs, whatever they are, fulfill the terms of CHRY's campus/community license? And just how did CHRY's licensee, CHRY Community Radio Inc., come to the decision to bring in professional programmers, led by new broadcast operations manager Randy Reid?

"What we are doing with the license entrusted to us has not been done before in this market, we are making professionalism a requirement and we are putting to rest mediocre perceptions and expectations of the license class," said CHRY CEO Danae Peart in the official announcement of the flip.

"Mediocre" didn't sit well with CHRY's now-former volunteer programmers; they're speaking out on social media, and it seems likely there will be challenges to the funding that CHRY has received from York University student funds. We'll be following this one closely, of course...

*Back when the CBC served southern Ontario with 50,000 watts of AM signal on 740, it complained that electrical noise in Toronto's downtown core kept then-CBL from being heard clearly. That prompted Radio One's 1999 move to FM - and now the station that succeeded CBL on the 740 signal is also getting an FM voice in downtown Toronto.

Moses Znaimer's CFZM (740) has asked the CRTC several times for some downtown FM relief; last Monday, the agency granted its latest request, which calls for a 27.3 watt average/100 watt max DA/280 m signal on 96.7 from the top of First Canadian Place. That's right next door to co-owned CFMZ (96.3), and Znaimer's MZ Media successfully made the case that since the use of 96.7 required an interference waiver from CFMZ, no applicant other than sister station CFZM would ever be granted use of that frequency.

"Zoomer Radio" will keep its 50,000-watt AM signal, which will continue to serve a huge market outside downtown, but the new FM booster will provide some added coverage into areas where the Toronto streetcars and other sources of electrical noise really do a number on that AM coverage.

The CRTC has been inconsistent at best with its policy for approving these "nested repeaters," and the CFZM decision adds a new layer of inconsistency: as commissioner Raj Shoan noted in a dissent, the ruling adds a new condition, declaring that CFZM's new low-power FM relay will count as Znaimer's second FM station in the Toronto market and preventing any possibility of acquiring a second full-power FM there. In smaller markets such as Oshawa and Chatham-Kent, other broadcasters have been allowed to have two full-power FMs and a nested FM relay for a full-power AM. Shoan points out that the regulations set out a pretty clear distinction between an "FM station" and a "transmitter," and he says the CRTC should have granted the 96.7 signal without making it count against the ownership cap.

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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: May 5, 2014

*There’s a new program director on the way to NEW YORK‘s number-two top-40 station – and perhaps some bigger changes, too. Rick Thomas is on his way eastbound from CBS Radio in Los Angeles to take over as program director of WNOW-FM (92.3), filling the chair that’s been empty since Rick Gillette exited for Cumulus in Washington back in December.

Thomas had been programming two older-skewing stations in Los Angeles, AC KTWV (94.7) and classic hits “K-Earth” KRTH (101.1), but he comes armed with a top-40 background from stints in Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco. His arrival at WNOW fuels the ongoing speculation that the station is considering a rebranding to CBS Radio’s national “AMP” brand.

Uptown at Cumulus, another CBS PD named “Thomas” is taking the helm of what’s definitely a national brand. Brian Thomas exits CBS (where he’d most recently been based in Tampa, programming country WQYK-FM and classic hits WRBQ-FM) to come back to New York to program “Nash” country WNSH (94.7 Newark) and serve as Cumulus corporate PD. Brian Thomas’ New York experience includes a stint as PD of WCBS-FM (101.1), where he supervised the return of classic hits to replace “Jack” back in 2007.

wbin-antennapick*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, it took a huge helicopter to pluck the old analog channel 50 antenna from WBIN-TV’s tower in Hudson. The 30-year-old Bogner antenna had been retired back in 2008 when then-WZMY went digital-only.

Removing the old analog antenna, all 3600 pounds and 47 feet of it, leaves WBIN-DT (RF 35) and WYCN-LP (Channel 13) on the tower.

(Thanks to Rick Zach of Binnie Media for the photo at left!)

*A day after WBIN’s Thursday tower pick, Steve Silberberg completed his takeover of WWHK (102.3 Concord), replacing the temporary loop of “Live from the River Music Hall” excerpts with the station’s first real format in years. It’s now “102.3 the River,” a partial simulcast of AAA WXRV (92.5 Andover) with local ads and news for central New Hampshire inserted into the “River” feed. Will that same Concord feed take over for the straight WXRV simulcast that’s been heard to the north on WLKC (105.7 Campton)?

Five Years Ago: May 3, 2010

Since being spun off from the Shaw media empire in 1999, Corus Entertainment has become one of the biggest broadcasters in CANADA. But despite heavy investments in Quebec, Corus was never quite able to make its operations in the second-largest province pay off - and last week the company announced that it's exiting Quebec, selling 11 stations to Cogeco Incorporated and putting a twelfth up for sale.

Cogeco will pay Corus C$80 million for its four-station Montreal cluster (sports-talk CKAC 730, English-language AC CFQR 92.5, rocker CKOI 96.9 and talker CHMP 98.5) along with nearby CIME (103.9 St. Jerome), as well as Quebec City's CFEL (102.1 Montmagny) and CFOM (102.9), Sherbrooke's CKOY (104.5) and CHLT (107.7), CJRC (104.7) in Gatineau-Ottawa and CHLN (106.9) in Trois-Rivieres.

Cogeco already owns five signals across the province: the "Rythme FM" network of CFGL (105.7 Montreal), CJEC (91.9 Quebec City), CFGE (93.7 Sherbrooke) and CJEB (100.1 Trois-Rivieres), along with CJFM (93.3 Quebec City). Its purchase of the Corus stations will put Cogeco over the two-FM-per-language ownership limits in Quebec City, Montreal and Sherbrooke, which means another round of station sales is likely. Meanwhile, Corus is still seeking a buyer for CKRS (98.3 Saguenay) - and licking its financial wounds after its Quebec adventure, which involved nearly C$300 million in station purchases from the old Metromedia and Power Broadcasting groups back in 2000. (Some of those stations were outside Quebec and have remained with Corus; two of the big signals that came from Metromedia, Montreal's Info690 CINF and 940 CINW, were simply pulled off the air earlier this year when Corus declared them unprofitable. It's still not clear whether those licenses have been officially revoked, or whether they might yet be sold as part of Corus' exit from the province.)

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: Corus' exit from Quebec radio turns out not even to be the big media deal of the week north of the border. On Monday morning, Shaw Communications, the media giant from which Corus was spun off back in 1999, announced that it's paying C$2 billion to buy the over-the-air and specialty cable holdings of Canwest Global Communications, including the Global television network. Much more next week...

Is Joe Scarborough history on NEW YORK radio? The MSNBC "Morning Joe" host was off the air last week at WABC (770) and his other Citadel syndication outlets, but there were plenty of conflicting stories about his radio future. The official story from Citadel and Scarborough himself is that the show, which aired in the 10 AM-noon slot between Don Imus and Rush Limbaugh, is on a temporary hiatus while it's being "retooled" as a three-hour show. But behind the scenes, there are plenty of questions about that story - not least the question of what three-hour slot Scarborough and co-host Mika Brzezinski could possibly occupy on a schedule that's pretty well locked down with syndicated offerings straight through to early evening. (And there's no way that Scarborough and Brzezinski could do an evening or late-night show while still hitting the MSNBC TV airwaves every morning at 6...)

Ten Years Ago: May 2, 2005

There's been plenty of speculation - present space included - that the big move of WBEC-FM (105.5) in western MASSACHUSETTS would lead to the sale of some of the last remaining assets of Bruce Danziger and Jeff Shapiro's Vox Media. That will indeed be the case, as Vox files to sell WBEC-FM to Jim Morrell's Pamal Broadcasting, which will take over operation of the station when it completes its move from Pittsfield to Easthampton, where it will serve Northampton, Amherst and Springfield.

Pamal already owns adult rock WRNX (100.9 Amherst) in the market, as well as WPNI (1430 Amherst), which is leased to public radio WFCR. It'll pay $7 million to add WBEC-FM to the group - and if we're reading the sales contract right, Pamal gets the WBEC-FM calls and the intellectual property that includes the "Live 105" nickname and top 40 format, which we'd expected to stay with Vox in the Berkshires on a different frequency. (Which it may yet do; there's little question that the remaining Vox stations in Pittsfield, Great Barrington and North Adams will be sold as well, as Shapiro and Danziger dissolve what's left of the company.)

That leaves one more station remaining in Vox: WNYQ-FM (105.7), which is moving from Queensbury, in the Glens Falls market, to Malta, in the Albany market, as part of the WBEC-FM move. Pamal has been LMA'ing WNYQ from Vox since last year, and the WBEC-FM filing reveals that Pamal has an option to buy WNYQ as well, though there will be market-concentration issues in Albany, where the company already has five FM stations and two AMs.

In MAINE, it's the end of the line for Mark Persky and WBLM (102.9 Portland) after 28 years together. The veteran morning man has been off the air at WBLM since February, when he disappeared from the "Captain and Mark" morning show, which still features PD "Captain" Herb Ivey along with former midday jock Celeste. Last week, the station announced it had parted ways with Persky; there's already plenty of noisy speculation that he's headed for Nassau's "Frank" WFNK (107.5 Lewiston), which has been eating away at WBLM's ratings. (NERW irony alert: When Persky joined WBLM way back, it was still operating on that very 107.5 signal...)

It's the end of an era in NEW YORK radio history: At 1:00 Saturday afternoon (April 30), WOR (710 New York) began broadcasting from its new home at 111 Broadway, closing the book on almost eight decades of radio from 1440 Broadway. Bob Gibson did the last newscast from 1440 at noon Saturday, followed at 1 PM by the first newscast from 111 with Dara Welles - and the word is that engineers Tom Ray and Kerry Richards had very little sleep over the weekend as they got everything in place at the new digs.

Fifteen Years Ago: May 6, 2000

This week's column might better be called "Clear Channel Watch" for all the news Lowry Mays and company have generated in the region over the past few days -- not least of which is word of an impending purchase making waves in the Hudson Valley radio scene. It hasn't been officially announced by either company yet, but we're hearing that $24 million is the price Clear Channel will pay to add Straus Media Group's ten stations in the region. Included in the deal are:

* Standards WCKL (560) Catskill and news-talk WHUC (1230) Hudson
* News-talk WKIP (1450) Poughkeepsie
* News-talk WELV (1370) Ellenville
* "Thunder Country" WTHK (93.5) Hudson and WTHN (99.3) Ellenville
* Hot AC "Cat" WCTW (98.5) Catskill and WCTJ (96.1) Poughkeepsie
* Soft AC "Q92" WRNQ (92.1) Poughkeepsie
* Adult rock WRKW (92.9) Saugerties

The Straus stations fill in a gap between CC's existing clusters in Albany (including WPYX 106.5, which has a translator in the northern Hudson Valley), Utica, Binghamton, New York City, and Connecticut. If this deal comes to fruition, it will be the first time one of the big national groups has set foot in the Hudson Valley, and certainly the possibility of moving many of the stations' operations to the existing CC clusters nearby can't be ruled out. We'll keep watching this one for developments...

One that Clear Channel has confirmed: The company will pay $5 million to Cram Communications for that company's Syracuse-market WVOA (105.1 DeRuyter). WVOA currently programs religion, simulcast on WVOQ (103.9 Mexico) in Oswego County to the north, as well as on translators W243AB (96.5 Westvale) and W237AY (95.3 DeWitt) in the Syracuse area. Those stations, along with WVOA's sister AM station, WSIV (1540 East Syracuse) don't go to Clear Channel, which leads us to think that the WVOA format will continue on WVOQ and the translators.

In MAINE, J.J. Jeffrey's Atlantic Coast Broadcasting is adding to its station group with the purchase of Carter Broadcasting's three Maine stations. Jeffrey gets to add Portland's WLOB (1310) and Rumford's WLOB-FM (96.3) and WLLB (790) to his existing group, which includes sports "WJAB" WJAE (1440 Westbrook) and WJJB (900 Brunswick), CHR WRED (95.9 Saco), and adult AC WCLZ (95.5 Topsham). NERW knows Jeffrey must appreciate the irony of longtime competitors "WJAB" and WLOB finally uniting under one roof; those with shorter memories will at least recall that the Carter stations were to have been part of the failed sale to Catholic Family Radio last year. Expect a format change from religion when the deal closes...

The FCC's approval of the CBS/Viacom merger this week creates the first TV duopoly in Boston, as CBS's WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and Viacom's WSBK (Channel 38) join forces. Boston isn't one of the markets where the FCC is ordering divestitures; the cross-ownership cap now allows 2 TVs and up to 6 radios in the largest markets, and CBS's 1 AM and 4 FMs stay under the cap. Viacom is adding one more Massachusetts station, too: WLWC (Channel 28) in New Bedford is being transferred from LMA partner "C-28 FCC License Subsidiary Inc." to Viacom. (WLWC doesn't count against duopoly, of course, because it's a Providence-market station).

Twenty Years Ago: May 4, 1995

1550 WNTN in Newton (10kw-D) has added a new block of programming to its leased-time format. The "Asian American Broadcasting Network" is heard from 4:30 till 7:30 pm, and rebroadcast the following day from noon till 3. It's the first broadcasting venture of businesswoman Sarinna Chiang, and the first Chinese-language program on commercial radio in Boston.

WBZ's veteran morning news anchor, Gary LaPierre, will be in New York Friday morning (May 5), to sub for Paul Harvey on Harvey's morning and midday news and comment broadcasts. This will be a chance for the nation's largest radio audiences to hear what we've all known for years -- Gary's one of the best there is. We're all thrilled for Gary, and he's pretty excited himself.