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 12, 2014
*There are few markets where ownership is as concentrated as in Ithaca, NEW YORK. As NERW readers know, Saga has used the FCC's rules on market definitions and HD-fed translators to build a cluster of stations that now includes two AMs, f0ur full-power FMs and nine translators, competing against commercial competition that consists only of one AM/translator combo (Todd Mallinson's WPIE 1160/107.1) and Cornell-student-run WVBR (93.5).
Back in 2004, a group of local citizens banded together as "FLAIM," Finger Lakes Alliance for Independent Media, to challenge Saga's purchase of four stations (WHCU 870, WNYY 1470, WYXL 97.3 and WQNY 107.3) from Eagle II Broadcasting, which had itself overcome a 1996 challenge to its combination of WHCU/WYXL and WNYY (then WTKO)/WQNY. It took four years (and the addition of a fifth full-power signal, Cortland-licensed WIII 99.9 from Citadel) for the FCC to issue a split decision in Saga's favor, ruling that even though the combination gave Saga well north of 60% of Tompkins County radio revenue, it was legal under the FCC rules then in effect.
Since then, of course, Saga has added all of those translators (which don't count against market caps), as well as acquiring WFIZ (95.5 Odessa) from ROI Broadcasting last year as a sixth full-power station in the market. As we noted when the deal went through, it was made possible by a shift in the way the Ithaca market is defined: once Saga stopped buying the Ithaca ratings from Arbitron, Arbitron (now Nielsen Audio) stopped rating the market - and once that happened, the WFIZ purchase was consummated under a different set of market definitions that look at contour overlap instead of a ratings market.
Saga made the case that at least on paper, those Ithaca signals overlap with more than 50 other stations from Syracuse, Elmira, Binghamton and elsewhere, and the FCC approved that sale, which included two translators as well as WFIZ itself. (Ironically, ROI itself had once objected to Saga's market concentration in Ithaca.)
The latest FLAIM petition, against the license renewals of all of Saga's full-power signals, calls on the Commission to pay closer attention to the specific and unusual nature of the terrain around Ithaca, which puts the city down in a terrain hole that prevents most of those Syracuse/Binghamton/Elmira signals from being even barely audible in town. FLAIM also cites the case of Jeremy Alderson, a journalist and anti-fracking advocate who tried to buy airtime on Saga's stations to get his message across. The petition says Alderson's attempt to place a paid show on the Saga stations was denied, leaving him with no option other than buying time on stations in Horseheads and Binghamton that don't put a significant signal into Ithaca.
The petition (which, we should note, draws heavily on NERW's own reporting over the years) calls on the FCC to either convene a hearing on whether the grant of Saga's renewals would be in the public interest, or to grant a short-term renewal while it assesses the "competitive nature of the Ithaca market." Will the FCC respond? We'll be watching.
*Two long-ago New York City radio people were back in the news again last week: Lee Masters came from WLRS in Louisville to be part of the jock lineup at Bob Pittman's "All New WNBC" in the fall of 1977, and he did first afternoons and then mornings there before departing later in 1978. Masters went on to work with Pittman at MTV and VH1, and eventually started using his real name, Jarl Mohn, as an executive with Liberty Digital and E! and then at the helm of Southern California Public Radio. Last week, Mohn was tapped as the new CEO of NPR, the first ex-New York DJ to hold that post.
Long before Masters/Mohn had his brief moment of radio stardom in New York, Ben Hoberman was general manager of WABC (770), presiding over the station in the years just before the station burst into prominence as "MusicRadio 77." In 1960, Hoberman was reassigned to Los Angeles as general manager of KABC (790), and it's there that he is widely credited as one of the creators of the modern talk radio format. It took a few years to catch on, but with hosts such as Joe Pyne, Michael Jackson, Ray Briem and Bill Ballance, KABC's "Talkradio" became as potent a force in its market as "Musicradio" was back east. Hoberman came back to New York in 1979 as president of the entire ABC Radio group, and he retired in 1986 when Capital Cities bought the company. Hoberman died May 3 in California, at age 91.
*One of CANADA's oldest radio studios has been vacated. CFRB (1010) moved in at 2 St. Clair Street West, on the corner of Yonge Street, back in the 1960s - and as of Saturday, it and sister station CKFM (Virgin 99.9) have relocated to the Bell Media complex in the former CityTV building at 299 Queen Street West, now home to CHUM-FM (104.5) and CHUM (TSN Radio 1050), as well as to CFXJ (Flow 93.5).
Flow, along with CFRB/CKFM's former Astral sister station CHBM (Boom 97.3), are now in the hands of Newcap, and we've heard (but not yet confirmed) that Flow will join Boom at the St. Clair and Yonge facility eventually. (Sadly, we never got to tour the St. Clair studios for our Site of the Week feature...)
Five Years Ago: May 10, 2010
There's a new FM signal on the air at long last to the south of Pittsburgh. Over the last few months, we've been chronicling the slow move of the old WANB-FM (103.1 Waynesburg). Bob Stevens changed his FM callsign to WKVE back in March 2009, then signed off the class A FM signal from Waynesburg in March 2010. In the two months since, he's been testing WKVE's new class B1 signal licensed to Mount Pleasant, firing it up from time to time with classic rock. That classic rock format (jockless, so far) turns out to be WKVE's permanent format, and as of 8 PM last Tuesday (May 4), "103 KVE" is on the air for good from its new transmitter site overlooking Uniontown, with a signal penetrating at least the southern part of Pittsburgh.
The fight for the public radio news-talk audience in eastern MASSACHUSETTS kicks up another notch this afternoon, when WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston) launches the daily version of its "Radio Boston" talk show. Meghna Chakrabarti is the new host of the show, which was a weekly hour on Fridays at 1 PM...at least until WGBH (89.7) turned up the heat with its flip to a news-talk format that includes two daily hours of local talk hosted by Emily Rooney and Callie Crossley. WBUR switched hosts and production teams for "Radio Boston," which moves from that Friday slot (allowing "Fresh Air" to be heard five days a week at 1 PM) to a daily 3-4 PM slot, taking the second hour of "Talk of the Nation" off the air in the Boston market and avoiding a head-to-head battle of local talkers against the noon-2 Rooney/Crossley lineup at WGBH. How will the move play with listeners? In the public radio world, the verdict is more complicated than just the latest ratings book; that said, WGBH has thus far failed to make much of a dent in WBUR's audience numbers, and it stands to reason that more local content can only help WBUR hold on to its significant head start in the public radio news-talk arena.
Ten Years Ago: May 9, 2005
After 46 years of family ownership, two CONNECTICUT stations are changing hands. For the last five years, Nutmeg Broadcasting's WILI (1400 Willimantic) and WILI-FM (98.3 Willimantic) have been controlled by the Herbert C. Rice Trust, a 30-year trust that expires at the end of 2005.
Last week, GM Michael Rice announced that the Rice family and the trust will sell Nutmeg Broadcasting to Hall Communications, which owns nearby WICH (1310 Norwich), WCTY (97.7 Norwich), WNLC (98.7 East Lyme) and WKNL (100.9 New London). Details of the transaction have not yet been disclosed (it had yet to be filed with the FCC at press time Sunday night), but Hall says all staffers will stay with WILI, with the exception of Michael Rice, who'll retire. Norwich market manager Andy Russell will add responsibility for WILI, but the stations will remain at their current Willimantic studio location, which Hall will purchase from the Rice family. No changes are anticipated to WILI's AC/talk format or WILI-FM's top 40 format.
MASSACHUSETTS is getting another 50,000 watt AM station, of sorts. Keating Willcox's Willow Farm won FCC permission last week to crank WNSH (1570 Beverly) up from 500 watts to 50 kilowatts by day, with a directional pattern that will serve the North Shore, much of coastal NEW HAMPSHIRE and Maine, and the tip of Cape Cod - but without much signal down towards Boston and the South Shore. At night, WNSH will remain an 85 watt, nondirectional signal serving the area near its transmitter at Endicott College and not much else. There's a tradeoff - the power increase at WNSH means the demise of another little local AM station, as WPEP (1570 Taunton) will surrender its license and go dark. Though it's only 1000 watts by day and 227 watts at night, WPEP has more than 55 years of history serving Taunton as effectively its only local station. (WSNE 93.3 is licensed to Taunton as well, but it's operated out of Clear Channel's Providence cluster and serves mainly a RHODE ISLAND audience.)
We don't spend much time writing about the tower business itself, but we can't ignore the biggest merger in the history of tower ownership, as Boston-based American Tower agrees to pay $3.1 billion to acquire competitor Spectrasite. The deal adds Spectrasite's 7800 towers in the U.S. to an ATC portfolio that includes 12,400 towers in the U.S. and 2400 more abroad - and it keeps American Tower's headquarters in Boston.
There's apparently a new station coming to the bottom of the FM dial in New York City, but it's not really an FM station: we're hearing that when low-power TV station WNYZ-LP moves from channel 49 to channel 6, it'll use its audio carrier (at, of course, 87.75 MHz) as a radio station, broadcasting with a highly directional pattern from Long Island City that will primarily serve the Bronx and parts of Brooklyn and Queens.
Fifteen Years Ago: May 13, 2000
Our NEW YORK news begins with confirmation of Clear Channel's purchase of Eric Straus' Hudson Valley radio group. You heard about it first last week right here in NERW; now we can tell you that the deal will take effect with an LMA of all 10 stations beginning Monday (5/15). NERW expects some format changes and plenty of staffing consolidation with CC's other upstate groups. We'll keep you posted.
Just outside the region: Don Imus won't find many fans in Scranton, after throwing a tantrum when the hotel where he was staying the night before a remote (gasp!) failed to put a phone call through to his room. Imus packed up at 3 AM and drove back to New York to do the show. A few hours later, local affiliate WARM (590 Scranton) pulled the plug on the I-Man for good, replacing his show with a local news block.
And from CANADA this week: Belleville, Ontario will get a new radio station later this year. Anthony Zwig, owner of CJOJ (95.5 Belleville) was granted a new country outlet on 100.1 as well. Zwig says he needs the second station to compete against Quinte Broadcasting's market-leading combination of CJBQ (800) and CIGL (97.1). With 40 kilowatts, we expect to hear the new station here in Rochester when it launches. The CRTC also approved the CBC's new 10 kilowatt transmitter at Campbellton NB, a relay of Radio-Canada chaîne culturelle outlet CBAL Moncton to operate on 88.9 MHz.
Twenty Years Ago: May 11, 1995