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In this week’s issue… Where will the Peacock land in Boston? - Maine AMs change owners, formats - CBS cuts hit in PA - Oedipus home for the holidays

By SCOTT FYBUSH

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

*If you're in the sprawling Boston TV market a year or so from now and you're looking for Jimmy Fallon, Sunday Night Football, the Today Show or anything else on NBC, where will you tune? Twenty years after the Peacock moved to Sunbeam's WHDH-TV (Channel 7), the always-tense relationship between the network and its eastern MASSACHUSETTS affiliate is hanging by a thread as the current contract ticks down to its expiration at the end of 2016.

whdh-nbcEven before NBC was sold to Comcast, it was no secret that the network had been looking for alternatives to WHDH in the market - and that those alternatives could include the launch of what would amount to an all-new station in the market. NBC owns WNEU (Channel 60) up in New Hampshire, which currently carries Telemundo programming  and reaches nearly all of the market on cable and satellite. The sale to Comcast brought more resources into the fold in the form of Comcast-owned New England Cable News and Comcast Sports Network New England.

To that, this week's news adds another potential piece of talent that a new "NBC Boston" could tap: Pete Bouchard resigned as WHDH chief meteorologist, fueling rumors that he could be following the NBC affiliation to a new home alongside anchor Maria Stephanos, who's been silent about her future after being ousted from Fox affiliate WFXT (Channel 25).

With the caveat that it's all in the realm of rumor right now, let's try to break down some of the many moving parts that play into the decision-making at both Sunbeam and NBC/Comcast:

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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 22, 2014

The last links to the pioneering days of television in the Northeast are rapidly leaving us, and as we prepare to close the books on the last regular NorthEast Radio Watch column for 2014, there’s news that we’ve lost a very big one.

wwlp-putnam-smWilliam Lowell Putnam III was the descendant of some very important New England families – his great-uncle Percival Lowell was a prominent astronomer whose Lowell Observatory was an important part of Putnam’s life – but he made his name in broadcasting in the earliest days of UHF television.

Fresh from service in World War II, a young Putnam lent his initials and his energy to the founding of Springfield’s first TV station (and New England’s first UHF outlet), which took his initials when it signed on in 1953 as WWLP-TV on channel 61.

Over the decades that followed, Putnam moved WWLP to its present channel 22, added (and then shut down) several relay stations, WRLP (Channel 32) in Greenfield and WWOR (Channel 14) in Worcester, and eventually took his Springfield Television group to new markets outside the region, most notably Dayton, Ohio and Salt Lake City.

And along the way, too, Putnam married his assistant, Katherine (Kitty) Flynn Broman, who ended up helping to run the company and lent her own initials to its Dayton station, WKEF (also on channel 22).

Downtown at iHeart, there's a change of command at the programming helm of Z100 (WHTZ 100.3 Newark). Sharon Dastur, who's been PD there since 2006 (and spent a decade in other roles at the station before that), has been named iHeart's "Senior VP of Program Integration," where she will "create cutting-edge programs that leverage the company’s assets for brands and partners and will assist with the program execution with artist, managers and labels." What does that mean? Think the "iHeart Radio Music Festival," "Jingle Ball" and other big events, where Dastur will be working to create even more links between radio and music labels.

Z100's first PD opening in eight years is being filled within the company, but from outside the market: Mark Medina, who's been programming iHeart top-40 stations WIHT (99.5 Washington) and WZFT (104.3 Baltimore), moves up to take the Z100 job.

At the southern end of NEW JERSEY, WJKS (101.7 Canton) and WFAI (1510 Salem) are joining a cluster in the Delaware market that they serve. AllAccess reports Delmarva Broadcasting, which already owns WSTW (93.7) and WDEL (1150) in Wilmington, is paying QC Communications $3.25 million for the stations, which have been running urban AC on the FM ("Kiss 101.7") and religion on the AM ("Faith 1510"). The stations have been operating from Wilmington studios for quite a while now, with only transmitters on the New Jersey side.

*There's a new signal on the air in southern Ontario, CANADA. CKYY (89.1 Welland) began testing last week ahead of an early 2015 launch as "Country 89." The new signal is a sister to RB Communications' CIXL (91.7 Welland), and its country format picks up where CIXL's AM predecessor, CHOW (1470), left off more than a decade ago.

Five Years Ago: December 18, 2010

NEW JERSEY's Atlantic Broadcasting is expected to file for bankruptcy early this week, turning the page on a troubled chapter in the history of the Atlantic City station cluster that began in the summer of 2008 when several local radio people got together to buy the three FMs (WTKU 98.3, WJSE 102.7 - now WWAC, WMGM 103.7) and two AMs (WOND 1400 and WTAA 1490, now WBSS) that had belonged to Access.1 Communications, and to Howard Green before that.

Despite some savvy programming and technical moves, shifting the 102.7 signal into the heart of the Atlantic City market and flipping it from modern rock to top 40, the cluster sailed into stormy weather. The stalled economy that made the $9.5 million purchase price look untenably high, and it was soon exacerbated by a series of legal problems, including the arrest of former PD and Atlantic partner Brett Denafo on charges that he stole nearly $175,000 from the stations through fraudulent use of a station credit card and the sale of airtime for which Atlantic never received payment.

With some $6 million still owed to Sun Bank, the local bank that financed the purchase back in 2008, we're hearing things have gotten ugly at Atlantic's headquarters in suburban Linwood: the stations were reportedly running largely automated last week, and we're told Atlantic failed to make payroll on Wednesday and that few employees were seen at the building for the rest of the week.

Clear Channel's end-of-the-year cutbacks included one veteran NEW YORK air personality: "Goumba Johnny" Sialiano is gone from WKTU (103.5 Lake Success), telling FishbowlNY's Jerry Barmash that he was offered a new contract at a "tremendous cut" in pay.

"I know what I'm worth," Sialiano said. "The station made a business decision, and so did I."

Sialiano started with WKTU 15 years ago as a sidekick to Sean "Hollywood" Hamilton, and the duo stuck it out at the station through several shift changes, moving from afternoons to mornings and then back to afternoons, where Hamilton is now solo while Goumba Johnny looks for a new gig.

Back in the days when WEEI was an all-news station, the Patriots were the laughingstock of the NFL and the Bruins and Celtics were the top teams in town, Eddie Andelman all but defined sports talk in eastern MASSACHUSETTS.

Next Sunday, Andelman's forty-year run on Boston sports radio will come to an end when he hosts his last "Sports Huddle" show on WTKK (96.9 Boston), a broadcast he says will be the last of his long career.

Andelman started the "Huddle" on WBZ in 1970 and moved it to then-all-news WEEI (590) in 1971, but the show was best known for its long run at WHDH (850), where it started in the mid-seventies and ran until 1991. During the WHDH years, Andelman began his signature "Hot Dog Safari" fundraiser event and became one of the market's best-known personalities - and one of the first to be plucked away to help launch the all-sports format at WEEI (which swallowed up WHDH's old 850 spot on the dial in 1994, bringing Andelman full-circle.)

There's a station sale in western PENNSYLVANIA - but we don't believe well-known border broadcaster Tim Martz is paying $290,000 for WPYT (660 Wilkinsburg) just because he wants an AM daytimer that covers most of the Pittsburgh market. Martz' plans for the station include an FM translator as well: he has a pending application to move W261AX (100.1) from Oakdale, west of Pittsburgh, to the KDKA-TV tower in the city's North Hills, where it would run 99 watts.

Ten Years Ago: December 19, 2005

The future of one of eastern MASSACHUSETTS' most powerful FM signal is a little clearer this week - but Greater Media's announcement that it's entered into exclusive negotiations to buy WCRB (102.5 Waltham) from Charles River Broadcasting raises just as many questions as it's likely to answer.

The answers, first: Charles River's decision to sit down at the table with Greater Media closes the book (most likely) on several months of talks with potential buyers that included Clear Channel, Entercom, Infinity, Marlin and, reportedly, the Boston Red Sox. Neither Clear Channel nor Infinity has said anything publicly about what their intentions for 102.5 would have been. Marlin's Woody Tanger says he would have kept WCRB's classical format, but his bid, in the $60 million range, fell far short of Charles River's target. Entercom's Julie Kahn told Boston media outlets that she would have moved the rock format of WAAF (107.3 Worcester) to 102.5 and kept classical alive on 107.3. The Sox would no doubt have created a sports station on the frequency, in what would have been a major challenge to Entercom's market-dominating WEEI.

So what will Greater Media do with the full-market 102.5 signal, if it's able to complete a deal with Charles River (likely for an amount somewhere north of $90 million)? The company's already at the FCC-imposed limit of five FM signals in the Boston market. Four of those are full-market signals, transmitting from the Prudential Tower (WBOS 92.9, WTKK 96.9, WROR 105.7 and WMJX 106.7). The fifth - and the one Greater Media would no doubt spin off if it acquires WCRB - is country WKLB (99.5 Lowell), which transmits from Andover, with an excellent signal over Boston's northern suburbs, the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire, but without the reach into Boston or the western and southern suburbs that Greater Media would like to have.

And yes, Howard Stern's departure from terrestrial radio is our top story from NEW YORK this week. Love him or hate him - and we'll admit to a little of both - it's hard to argue that his two decades at WXRK (92.3 New York) didn't change the conception of what a radio morning show could be. The turnout on West 56th Street on a drizzly Friday morning - tens of thousands of Stern fans waiting for several hours to see Howard and his crew say their farewells (and to repeat, over and over again, that his show was "the last of a dying breed") - was itself something of a testament to the bond Stern and his radio family forged with their listeners over the years, and it's prompted much head-scratching over the question of where those listeners will go now. Will they rush out to buy Sirius receivers and subscriptions? Will they give David Lee Roth a chance? Will they leave radio entirely?

In the meantime, Stern's now-former station in New York, WXRK (92.3), says it will roll out its new WFNY-FM calls on January 1, followed quickly by the new daytime schedule that now officially includes JV and Elvis (aka the Doghouse) in middays. The station will continue to play rock on the weekends, with an airstaff that includes Julie Slater (the only remaining WXRK jock) and veterans Harris Allan and Dan Neer.

In Albany, the Stern fallout turns out to include a format change, as Regent's WQBK (103.9 Rensselaer)/WQBJ (103.5 Cobleskill) flip from modern rock "The Edge" to active rock "Q103," adding more classic rock (and the Michigan-based "Free Beer and Hot Wings" morning show) to the schedule.

The other big story from New York this week was Bob Grant's announcement that he'll be leaving WOR (710) in January. Grant came to WOR in 1996 after his comments about former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown got him ousted from his longtime home at WABC; and he's never had the same visibility in his 4-6 PM slot on WOR that he did in earlier years. WOR's moving away from political talk when Grant leaves; he'll be replaced by chef Rocco diSpirito in that prime drivetime slot.

Fifteen Years Ago: December 18, 2000

A new era is about to dawn in Toronto radio -- on one of the city's most venerable frequencies. NERW was scanning the dial on Friday afternoon and caught one of the first tests of CHWO (740), the new 50,000 watt voice of "Prime Time Radio." The new station will operate from the Hornby transmitter site that was home to the original Toronto 740, the CBC's flagship CBL, from the 1930s until the station moved to FM last year. But while CHWO is paying the CBC for the use of the Hornby site, it could soon be writing those checks to someone else. The CBC issued a "Request for Information" last week to begin exploring the possibility of selling its huge network of transmitter sites across Canada to a private operator, which would then lease transmission services back to the CBC. For tower-management companies, the deal would provide access to a huge amount of vertical real estate in both rural and urban Canada, while for the CBC, the deal would provide plenty of cash for the conversion to digital radio and TV -- and a guarantee that CBC services will retain priority use of the sites.

Meanwhile on 740, we're now told January 8 is the target date to move the adult standards from little CHWO (1250 Oakville) to the big 740 signal, and we expect to be hearing more tests on the 50 kW clear channel over the next three weeks or so. (A note about those call letters: CHWO had requested CFPT as the new 740 calls. But at press time, NERW learned that the CRTC had rejected that request, so CHWO will instead move its existing calls to 740 from 1250. That, in turn, means 1250 will become CJYE, "Joy 1250," when it goes all-religion in January.)

Out in Western NEW YORK, John Bulmer is re-entering the world of radio ownership. Bulmer sold his WWFY (100.9 Berlin VT) to Vox this fall, but he structured the deal in a way that leaves him in the game: he ends up with $775,000 in cash, plus Dunkirk's WDOE (1410) and Fredonia's WBKX (96.5). WDOE runs oldies (mostly off the satellite), while WBKX is country as "the Bull."

Confused? Just drive an hour south to Scranton, where the FM dial went topsy-turvy this week. First, Citadel ditched the country "Cat" simulcast on WCTD (93.7 Dallas) and WCTP (94.3 Carbondale), flipping WCTD to an automated countdown and WCTP to a bizarre mix of personal ads as "Love Radio." But if Citadel was thinking of picking up the 80s format on one or both, it was late to the punch, as Entercom flipped its soft AC simulcast of WSHG (102.3 Pittston) and WWFH (103.1 Freeland) to 80s as "The Buzz" midweek. WCTD resurfaced Friday as "New Rock 93-7 X," with WBSX calls said to be on the way, while WCTP is now simulcasting Citadel's CHR WBHT (97.1 Mountaintop) into the northern reaches of the Scranton market. (We believe WEMR-FM on 107.7 in Tunkhannock also continues the WBHT simulcast.)

From RHODE ISLAND comes word that Clear Channel is selling WPRI-TV (Channel 12) to Hicks, Muse-funded Sunrise Television. Sunrise owns WNAC (Channel 64), which has been operated by WPRI for the last few years under an LMA. Does that mean a duopoly in Providence? Not without a waiver, since there are fewer than the "magic" eight separate TV voices in the Providence market. Clear Channel keeps its radio cluster in Rhode Island: WHJJ (920 Providence), WSNE (93.3 Taunton), WHJY (94.1 Providence), and WWBB (101.5 Providence).

Twenty Years Ago: December 22, 1995

[no issue]