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In this week’s issue… Time running out for WBAI - New FM formats in Plattsburgh/Burlington - Wolf howls again in Albany - Baseball on the Radio

By SCOTT FYBUSH

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

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wbai*The long, sad saga of NEW YORK's WBAI (99.5) has come to plenty of boiling points before, and somehow the Pacifica station has kept on going time and again.

The perpetually-troubled WBAI has survived the loss of its rented studio space, investigations from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, multiple changes of management and every manner of financial instability known to nonprofit radio. Now, though, it appears a combination of problems all at once might finally force Pacifica to do what it's long resisted - liquidating the assets of WBAI, including its commercial class B license.

The pressure this time comes from multiple directions: there's WBAI's ongoing difficulty in making timely rent payments to the Empire State Building for its transmitter space; there's WBAI's even more ongoing difficulty in making payroll and health insurance payments and its mandatory "central service fees" to Pacifica national; and now there's a pending lawsuit from Gary Null, the veteran WBAI program host who says the station defrauded members by providing inferior substitutes for the videos and diet supplements he hawked as pledge premiums.

Former WBAI GM Chris Albertson, who's been tracking the troubles at the station, monitors the doings of Pacifica's national finance committee, and he reports that last week's meeting included a presentation from Pacifica's new national CFO Sam Agarwal that made some tough recommendations for WBAI and for Washington's WPFW (89.3).

Within 60 days, Agarwal said, he'll be presenting a recommendation for sale, liquidation or a lease of WBAI, which is once again a month behind in insurance payments and two months in arrears to Pacifica national; in Washington, the local management at least gets a 60-day window to come up with its own plan for recovery.

Albertson also reports that a deadline to reach a settlement deal in the Null lawsuit came and went a week ago with no action by the national board, which means that suit appears to be headed to court and to whatever the consequences of a Pacifica loss might be. (Had Pacifica been willing to settle and create a compliance plan, Null was apparently prepared to forgo any penalties or damages.)

Back in New York, meanwhile, there's a meeting reportedly scheduled this week between WBAI management and the Empire State Building over the rent arrears there. While WBAI holds a construction permit to relocate to the nearby Four Times Square FM facility, that doesn't come cheap either, and there's been no sign yet that WBAI is in any position to build out at a new location.

Will this really mean the end of WBAI after 56 years under Pacifica? And who might be in the market as a buyer? Read on...

CALENDAR IS OFF THE PRESS AND READY TO SHIP!

We have the Tower Site Calendar in our hands, but we don't want to hold on to it. We want it to go to you.

So go to our store, click on the "Broadcasting Calendars" tab, make your selection and add it to your cart. Click on the "View Cart" button, and you are ready to check out.

And don't forget our hand-numbered autographed calendar. These are a limited edition, as we only have 40 of them.

2017-calendar-coverWhile you're in our store, check out the other calendar we're offering as well this year - John Schneider's "Radio Historian's Calendar." Each year is themed, and this year's theme features buildings that once housed radio.

Take a look at our great collection of radio- and TV-related books, too! There's a gift there for everyone.

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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. 

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Click Here To Register And Purchase This Column!!

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.

If you are already a member, please login to view the rest of this column. (If the site does not recognize your username, don't panic! Either your subscription has expired and we need to reactivate your account, or your username and email do not match our payment records and we need to link them. Please email Lisa,  or call her at 585-442-5411, for instructions.)

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Click Here To Register And Purchase This Column!!

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.

If you are already a member, please login to view the rest of this column. (If the site does not recognize your username, don't panic! Either your subscription has expired and we need to reactivate your account, or your username and email do not match our payment records and we need to link them. Please email Lisa,  or call her at 585-442-5411, for instructions.)

Why are we now subscriber-based? Click here to read more about the reasons behind our decision.

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: March 23, 2015

*It's hard to remember another week in recent NERW history in which we've had the sad task of writing as many obituaries as we did this week, and we lead with the loss of Danny Schechter, who died Thursday of pancreatic cancer at age 72.

schechterFor Bostonians of a certain age, Schechter's name is inevitably followed by "...the News Dissector," the title he invented for himself at WBCN (104.1), where he presided over one of radio's most unusual news operations during a tenure that began in 1970. Instead of dry newscasts, Schechter crafted a new kind of radio news for freeform FM radio, mixing music, commentary and a very healthy dose of anti-authoritarianism into the segments he weaved through Charles Laquidara's morning show.

In the 1980s, Schechter went mainstream(-ish), returning to his native New York City to work as a producer for CNN and ABC, where he contributed segments to "20/20" in its early years. Along the way, he championed the cause of Nelson Mandela in the years leading up to his release from prison, working closely with other activists such as Steve Van Zandt to keep Mandela in the American eye. In the 1990s, Schechter found himself at the edge of public television. His company Globalvision produced top-notch shows such as "South Africa Now" and "Rights and Wrongs" that nonetheless struggled to get national carriage as the public TV system shied from controversial topics.

*It was a sad week at NEW YORK City's WABC-TV (Channel 7), where reporter Lisa Colagrossi died suddenly on Friday after suffering a brain aneurysm right after a live shot on the station's noon newscast. Colagrossi was rushed to a hospital, but not in time to save her. She'd been at WABC-TV since 2001, and before that had worked at WCPX (now WKMG) in Orlando and at WKYC in her native Cleveland. Colagrossi was just 49; she's survived by a husband and two sons, ages 11 and 14.

In Syracuse, they're mourning longtime morning man Ron Bee, whose career started on the "Rick and Ron" morning show with Rick Gary at WOLF (1490) and went on to include stints at WSEN (92.1/1050), WRRB (107.9, now WWHT) and a long run alongside Becky Palmer on the WBBS (B104.7) morning show. Bee retired from Clear Channel in 2007 after a car crash that led to the loss of his voice. More recently, he'd been in Seattle battling leukemia, which he attributed to Agent Orange exposure from his service in Vietnam. A stem-cell transplant last fall didn't take, and Bee died Wednesday.

Five Years Ago: March 21, 2011

*There's a new twist in the saga of RHODE ISLAND"s beleaguered ABC affiliate: ABC now says it may not want to keep WLNE (Channel 6) as an affiliate at all. Competitor WPRI (Channel 12) reports that ABC filed paperwork with the court handling WLNE's bankruptcy sale earlier this month, making clear that the station's affiliation will only be renewed when it expires on March 31 if ABC approves of the station's new ownership. (Also at stake are WLNE"s "ABC6" branding and "abc6.com" website.)

The news - along with WLNE's budget-driven decision to replace its 7 PM newscast with an infomercial one night last week - prompted the usual spasm of over-the-top message-board speculation about where an ABC affiliation might go and even whether ABC itself might be coveting the "ABC6" branding for its own WPVI ("6ABC") in Philadelphia. In reality, though, it"s unlikely to amount to much: the existing major-network players in Providence, LIN"s WPRI (CBS) and WNAC (Fox) and Media General"s WJAR (NBC) aren't going to ditch their existing affiliations for ABC, and as weak an affiliate as WLNE has been, it still brings more to the table for ABC than any smaller player (CW affiliate WLWC, for instance) could likely provide.

*Meanwhile on the AM dial, Salem finally returned Pawtucket's WBZS (550, ex-WDDZ) to the air last week. The station's new business-talk format debuted last Monday night (March 14); there's no sign yet of a website for the station, and it's not yet listed on Salem"s corporate website.

*The former Radio Disney outlet in CONNECTICUT returned to the air as well: what was WDZK (1550 Bloomfield) is now WSDK, the latest link in Blount Communications' chain of religious AM stations that stretches from WBCI (105.9 Bath, Maine) through Worcester (WVNE 760 Leicester) and Providence (WARV 1590 Warwick) to New Haven (WFIF 1500 Milford).

Ten Years Ago: March 20, 2006

Few TV anchors have ever had the impact on a market that Bill Beutel did over more than three decades in NEW YORK at WABC-TV (Channel 7). The Cleveland native came to the third-rated station in 1962 after a stint with CBS radio, working for both the local news and for ABC's network news operation. In 1968, Beutel went to London as ABC's bureau chief there. Two years later, he returned to New York and WABC-TV to launch a new experiment called "Eyewitness News," and in the years that followed, Beutel and co-anchor Roger Grimsby set a new standard for hard-hitting, fast-paced local TV news. Beutel and Grimsby remained together on the anchor desk (and atop the ratings) for 16 years, with Beutel taking on another assignment in 1975, serving as anchor of "AM America," the ABC network morning offering that would evolve (without Beutel) into "Good Morning America" the following year. Beutel left the anchor desk at WABC in 2001, though he remained with the station as a reporter until his retirement in 2003. Beutel died Saturday at his home in Pinehurst, N.C. He was 75.

There's a format change of sorts on the NEW JERSEY shore, where WJSE (102.7 Petersburg) moves from modern rock "Digital 102.7" to a more mainstream approach as "102.7 the Ace." Early listening suggests that there's still plenty of modern rock mixed into the "Ace" format.

Fifteen Years Ago: March 19, 2001

The slow, steady parade to oblivion for the rhythmic oldies format claimed another victim Friday afternoon (3/16). CONNECTICUT was the scene this time, and Infinity's "dancin' oldies" WZMX (93.7 Hartford) the station in question. As 5 PM rolled around, "Z93-7" launched into Donna Summer's "Last Dance" and part of a promo before announcing "Now...Hartford has become HOTford" and relaunching as "Hot 93.7," the city's first true urban FM.

We enjoyed the chance to hear something different on 1080 kHz late Saturday night, thanks to a jointly-scheduled equipment test that took both WTIC and KRLD in Dallas off the air at the same time. Here at NERW Central in Rochester, WTIC's signoff at 1:35 AM was followed by two dueling Spanish-language stations, which we believe to have been WVCG (Coral Gables FL) and a Cuban. Just after 2:00, KRLD returned to the air; WTIC returned to the air at 2:30.

Nothing doing this week in VERMONT, so we'll jump across Lake Champlain to the North Country of NEW YORK and the debut of a brand-new FM station. WYSI (96.1 Norwood) made it on the air Friday (March 16), but not with the format we'd suspected from its calls. Instead of relaying co-owned "Yes FM" (WYSX 98.7 Ogdensburg/WYUL 94.7 Chateaugay), WYSI is simulcasting the softer AC sounds of another Tim Martz station, WVLF (96.7 Canton). (Thanks to North County correspondent Michael Roach for keeping an ear on 96.1 for us all these months!)

Heading south to NEW JERSEY, Citadel's bowing out of the Atlantic City market with a $19.4 million sale that puts Charlie Banta back in the radio picture. Banta cashed out of his Mercury group with a sale to Citadel back in 1999. Now he's the lead partner in the Millennium Radio Group, which is picking up three stations and LMA rights to a fourth from Citadel. The stations are AC WFPG-FM (96.9 Atlantic City), country WPUR (107.3 Atlantic City), Comedy World affiliate WFPG (1450 Atlantic City) and the LMA on modern AC WKOE (106.3 Ocean City), which had been Citadel's only Garden State properties.

Twenty Years Ago: March 20, 1996

A clarification about the status of folk station WADN 1120 Concord MA: A pair of trailers are in place at the transmitter site off Rt. 62 in South Acton, but they are NOT yet being used as studios and offices. WADN is planning to move out of its current studios in Concord's Damonmill Square complex, but has not done so yet.

A reshuffling of the schedule at WABU-TV 68 in Boston means that Charles Adler's "Adler On Line" talk show is now radio-only on WRKO 680 from 7 to 10pm weeknights. The 8-9pm hour had previously been simulcast on TV 68. Now Adler is on TV from 4-5pm daily.

More consolidation down in southwest Connecticut, as Commodore Broadcasting buys WSTC 1400-WKHL 96.7 Stamford. Commodore already owns WNLK 1350-WEFX 95.9 Norwalk, WRKI 95.1-WINE 940 Brookfield, and several stations in nearby Westchester County, NY.

More information on the demise of WDIS 1170 Norfolk, MA. Reports in the local weekly indicate the station had its power cut off after failing to pay an electric bill in the neighborhood of $2,000. Owner Albert Grady is reportedly working on getting it back on.

4 COMMENTS

  1. My sources tell me that baseball’s opening day is two weeks away, not one. And is YES really producing Mets broadcasts?

  2. The obvious sensible thing for WBAI would be to make a deal with WNYC to swap 99.5 for 105.9, which would leave the local volunteers with a station on which to play radio and put WQXR back on a full-market signal. So I assume there’s no chance of that happening — particularly if it looks like the Null lawsuit might swallow most of the proceeds for Pacifica. (WNYC would presumably have no desire to build out 99.5’s move to 4TS.)

  3. Perhaps WBAI could stay on the air by selling their signal with a deal that they get to be on an HD-2.

Comments are closed.