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In this week’s issue… Antennas picked for World Trade Center - Fire rips through Boston studio - WZUN absorbs WSEN format, talent - Remembering Roselle, Garagiola

By SCOTT FYBUSH

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

*Now that it's signed its first few tenants, NEW YORK's 1 World Trade Center has ordered TV antennas to be mounted on the distinctive spire that rises 1776 feet above lower Manhattan.

1wtc-2014The order goes to RFS, which conducted testing last year in conjunction with the Metropolitan Television Alliance and the Durst Organization, which manages the site. Last week, RFS announced that it will install a circularly-polarized VHF antenna (model 662-16D), as well as a PEP40E UHF antenna that will allow for variable polarization. That means that the UHF stations that end up at 1WTC will have a choice of operating either with the usual horizontal polarization or with a combination of horizontal and vertical, which many experts consider preferable for mobile and indoor reception.

The multi-million dollar question, of course, remains just who'll be using those antennas. On VHF, we know so far that public broadcaster WNET (Channel 13) have signed deals to use the new 1WTC site. So has NBC, which is currently operating on UHF with WNBC (Channel 4/RF 28) and WNJU (Channel 47/RF 36), and CBS, which operates on UHF with WCBS-TV (Channel 2/RF 33).

Those RF channels are likely to change, of course, once the FCC works its way through the upcoming spectrum auction and repack - and the final configuration atop 1WTC will also depend on who else joins CBS, NBC and PBS up there. ABC (WABC-TV 7) and Tribune (WPIX 11) would be on the VHF antenna if they move; Fox (WNYW 5/RF 44 and WWOR 9/RF 38), ion (WPXN 31) and Univision (WXTV 41/RF 40 and WFUT 68/RF 30) would presumably go on UHF...assuming they don't either auction some of those signals off or agree to move any of them down to VHF.

wnyetvAnd there's another wrinkle in that whole auction question now: New York City revealed last week that contrary to expectations, it won't put the spectrum of its noncommercial station, WNYE (Channel 25/RF 24) in the auction. WNYE is already a Durst tenant uptown at 4 Times Square; now that it's committed to staying on over-the-air TV, will "NYC TV" join the crowd downtown at the World Trade Center too?

More to the point - will the city turn out to have made the right choice in passing up an auction windfall that the FCC initially estimated at more than $700 million? The Commission acknowledged all along that those were rough estimates, and that the actual numbers will go significantly lower depending on how the "forward" part of the auction goes. That phase of the auction, in which potential buyers bid on what they'll spend for former TV spectrum, is underway now - and it looks as though there are fewer bidders than expected, which means stations like WNYE that opted out may indeed have picked correctly.

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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: March 30, 2015

*The end of the first quarter of 2015 is also the end of the line - for now, at least - for several veteran broadcasters in both New York City and Boston.

wfuv-scelsaIn New York, it was a one-two punch of retirements to close out the last full week of March: on Saturday, Vin Scelsa announced he's wrapping up his time at both WFUV (90.7) and SiriusXM at the start of May, and then on Sunday Pat St. John told WCBS-FM (101.1) listeners he's leaving town after two more weekends on the air.

Scelsa and St. John both have long runs on the New York FM dial. Scelsa emerged from the early years of WFMU (91.1), spent some time at WLIR (92.7) and WBAI (99.5) and then became music director of WABC-FM (95.5) just in time for its 1971 transition to WPLJ. With deep roots in freeform radio, Scelsa soon traded the tighter playlist of WPLJ for the looser confines of WNEW-FM (102.7), and that's where he became a legendary figure at night. Scelsa left WNEW-FM when it tightened its playlist in 1982, joined the inaugural airstaff at WXRK (92.3) with the launch of "K-Rock" in 1985, returned to WNEW-FM for a few years in 1996, and finally took his "Idiot's Delight" show uptown to noncommercial WFUV in 2001. At WFUV, Scelsa has enjoyed the sort of freedom he's long sought in radio - his show regularly includes live in-studio performances, readings, monologues and a wide range of music with no fixed playlist.

After 15 years of Saturday nights at WFUV, Scelsa, now 67, will do his final show on May 2, two days after he wraps up his run at SiriusXM, where "Idiot's Delight" has aired several days a week on "The Loft" channel. WFUV will send Scelsa off with a concert, "Vin Scelsa's Fare Thee Well Concert," on June 8.

*Pat St. John, meanwhile, came out of Detroit (CKLW, WKNR and WRIF) before transferring within ABC to land at WPLJ in 1973. He became a fixture there in afternoons, surviving the big 1983 shift from rock to top-40 before leaving in 1987 to spend more than a decade at WNEW-FM. In his time at 102.7, St. John did afternoons, middays and even mornings for a few years, as well as some time in the PD chair. When WNEW-FM went talk in 1998, St. John went to CD Radio, the ancestor of Sirius Satellite Radio, and he's remained part of the SiriusXM lineup all along. Since 2007, he's been part of the weekend lineup at WCBS-FM (101.1), but on Sunday he surprised listeners with the news that he'll be leaving that 3-8 PM shift after his April 12 show so he can move to San Diego to be closer to family there. St. John will continue his voiceover career, and he'll still be heard on SiriusXM after the move, too.

*It's really a Delaware story, but the addition of an FM simulcast for Delmarva Broadcasting news-talker WDEL (1150 Wilmington) affects part of southern NEW JERSEY, too, since the new WDEL-FM at 101.7 is the former WJKS, licensed to Canton, N.J. Delmarva closes on its $3.2 million purchase of 101.7 from QC Communications this week, and once it does, it's shelving the urban "Kiss" format and replacing it with WDEL's programming effective April 2nd. The 101.7 signal is something of a rimshot across the water into Wilmington, but Delmarva expects it will be a more useful signal expansion than the power increase it's never built out for WDEL on AM.

*In CANADA's capital city, CIDG (101.9) has long struggled with a weak signal for its "Dawg FM" blues-rock format, but that could change soon. The Ottawa Sun reports CIDG has reached a deal with CHIP (101.7) in Fort-Coulonge, Quebec, to the northwest along the Ottawa River, to swap frequencies. By moving to 101.7, CIDG could jump from 5500 watts to 19 kW (max DA), while providing technical support to CHIP. Dawg would pick up additional coverage south and west of Ottawa where it's now hampered by the need to protect co-channel CJSS in Cornwall.

Five Years Ago: January , 2011

*It's a pretty good bet that the employees of RHODE ISLAND's ABC affiliate are sleeping a little easier this week, now that they know that their station, WLNE (Channel 6), will continue to be an ABC affiliate – and that its new owner intends to invest some money into the long-suffering operation.It was almost a foregone conclusion that Bronxville, N.Y.-based Citadel Communications (which may as well have a “not the Citadel that owns the radio stations” tag permanently appended to its name) would end up with WLNE at the court-ordered bankruptcy sale last week, especially after the ABC network warned the court that it wouldn't necessarily extend its affiliation agreement with WLNE if the court picked a buyer not to ABC's liking. As the owner of three ABC affiliates already (WOI-TV in Des Moines, KCAU in Sioux City, Iowa and KLKN in Lincoln, Nebraska), Citadel was clearly an acceptable bidder, and that appeared to sway the court to prefer Citadel's $4 million bid over several others that were as much as $200,000 higher.

Former WLNE owner Kevin O'Brien was vocal about his displeasure with the bankruptcy sale, telling TVNewsCheck.com the sale was “the most outrageous, flawed asset auction in the history of television,” in part because of ABC”s involvement, which he says “chilled the entire process,” resulting in a sale price that was $10 million less than the $14 million his Global Broadcasting paid Freedom Broadcasting for the station in 2007.

Citadel CEO Phil Lombardo, meanwhile, tells Broadcasting & Cable that he”s planning to invest in beefing up WLNE's third-place news operation once he takes over under an LMA beginning May 1, including launching the Providence market's first high-definition local newscasts. Lombardo says he'll visit WLNE this week to assess the facility, talk to staffers and work out new lease agreements for the station's downtown Providence studio space and its transmitter site on the tower of competitor WJAR (Channel 10).

*When Costa-Eagle Communications bought WNSH (1570 Beverly) from Keating Willcox earlier this year, we”d initially thought the intent was to simulcast Spanish tropical “Power 800” WNNW (800 Lawrence) – but instead the North Shore signal has split off with a separate format. It”s now Spanish pop “Viva 1570,” with its own airstaff that includes Carmen Aguirre in morning drive and “Miguel, Miguel” in afternoons.

After several weeks of testing, the new Catholic radio station in New Bedford officially launched Friday. “Radio CorMariae,” WPMW (88.5 Bayview), is operated by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, based at Our Lady's Chapel in downtown New Bedford.

Ten Years Ago: March 27, 2006

BOSTON - We're back in the ancestral stomping grounds of NERW for a long weekend (for those of you who haven't been on board since the beginning, this column began way back in 1994 as "New England Radio Watch," back when our home base was in Waltham, Mass.) - and we're just in time for a format change.

Out at the edge of MASSACHUSETTS, on Cape Cod, radio changes very slowly. Nearly all the stations on the Cape (and there are a lot of them) are still running the same formats they had when we pulled up stakes almost a decade ago and decamped to upstate New York. Even here, though, change comes eventually, and when Nassau scooped up the three stations (WDVT 93.5 Harwich Port/WTWV 101.1 Mashpee and WPXC 102.9 Hyannis) left over from last year's sale of Boch Broadcasting to Qantum, a format change certainly seemed likely, at least at the oldies pair of WDVT/WTWV. That change indeed came around last Tuesday, when the oldies went away, replaced, as at so many Nassau stations these days, by "Frank FM." But unlike the other "Frank" stations in Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, the new Cape Cod Frank is more than just a classic hits outlet with a catchy name and limited live talent. This pair of "Frank"s is much more of a variety hits format, similar to "Mike" and "Jack" elsewhere in the region. New calls are on the way as well - WFQR for 93.5, WFRQ for 101.1.

As rumors continue to swirl about the fate of the Red Sox broadcast rights after this season, all the players on the Boston sports radio scene are trying to position themselves for whatever comes next - and in the case of "ESPN Radio Boston" (WAMG 890 Dedham/WLLH 1400 Lowell), that means a new program director. Founding PD Doug Tribou was shown the door last week (to the consternation of many staffers, we hear), replaced by former WGN (720 Chicago) PD Len Weiner.

The next step in CANADA's move away from AM radio is coming - an entire province with no AM signals. That would be Prince Edward Island, where the CRTC last week approved applications from Maritime Broadcasting System to move CFCY (630 Charlottetown) to 95.1 with 73 kW, and from Newcap to move CHTN (720 Charlottetown) to 100.3 with 33 kW. Newcap was also granted a second FM, but not on the 89.9 frequency it requested. It will have to propose an alternate frequency for the rock/classic rock station, to be known as "The Island." With PEI's third AM station, CJRW (1240 Summerside), having moved to 102.1 a few years ago, these moves will put all of PEI's radio on FM, save for two very low power tourist information signals.

For almost 82 years, NEW YORK's WNYC has made its home at the city's Municipal Building at 1 Centre Street. The station's transmitters moved long ago (the AM to Greenpoint, then to the WMCA site in Kearny, New Jersey; the FM to the Empire State Building, then World Trade Center, then back to Empire), and now the studios are following suit. Within a few months, WNYC will vacate its 51,000-square foot space in the Municipal Building for more than 75,000 square feet at 160-170 Varick Street, including a ground-floor performance studio. The move will cut the last ties between the station and its former licensee, the city of New York.

Fifteen Years Ago: March 26, 2001

Is public radio more responsive to the people it serves than commercial radio? Ask the people of MAINE and they'll probably say yes. After several months of listener protests, Maine Public Radio changed its mind this week about some of the controversial programming changes it made last fall. Of particular concern, at least in outlying regions of the state where the commercial "W-Bach" network doesn't reach, was MPB's decision to discontinue Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. The good news for opera fans in Calais, Houlton and Fort Kent: the Met is back for the rest of the season, along with other opera programming filling non-Met Saturday afternoons and a Monday evening "Opera League of Maine" broadcast. The bad news, at least for Boston's WBUR, is that the new Maine Public Radio schedule doesn't include the Chris Lydon-less version of "The Connection" still being offered to the public radio system. Instead, Maine listeners will get more music during the day, including a new daily hour of music in the afternoon. (Is the removal of "The Connection" a sign of future defections in the public radio family?)

Some big changes at Vox's Concord group will take effect at month's end. Saturday (3/31) will be Dick Osborne's 35th anniversary at WKXL (1450 Concord/107.7 Hillsborough), but it will also be his last day at the stations, as his post of station manager gets eliminated. Also out at WKXL and WOTX (102.3 Concord) is sales manager Hope Lindsay Matthews. Whoever's left at the stations will report to a different boss, since WKXL/WOTX general manager Jim Whedon is being reassigned to Vox's WZSH (101.5 Marlborough) and WWSH (95.3 White River Junction) to be GM there. Britt Johnson, already GM at Vox's WJYY/WNHI in Concord, will add WKXL and WOTX to his duties. Meanwhile, we hear Osborne is looking for new work, and we wish the best of luck to this Granite State radio veteran.

While those Vox stations are shedding personnel, Ernie Boch's cluster in MASSACHUSETTS added some key management this week. Rodney Rainey, who's been GM of Houston's KTJM, is moving to Cape Cod to become president of Boch Broadcasting. Dan Endom, general sales manager at Hartford's WTIC(AM), will be Boch's new VP for sales, while Dale Pierce comes up from Clear Channel in Austin to be Boch's VP for marketing and promotion and Troy Smith makes the move from Boston (where he was music and production director at WFNX) to be operations manager and PD at the group. Boch is also making some call and format changes at two of the stations, flipping oldies WYST (93.5 Harwich Port) to alternative as WDVT "The Vault" and classic rock WWKJ (101.1 Mashpee) to hot AC as WTWV "the Wave."

One of CONNECTICUT's finest little community AM stations is being sold. Michael Gerardi's Gerardi Broadcasting gets $2 million for WINY (1350 Putnam), the lone station in its small-town market in the northeast corner of the state. Gary Osbrey's Osbrey Broadcasting is the buyer. Osbrey is the longtime morning host at WINY.

Across the line in NEW YORK -- well, actually NEW JERSEY -- the Sporting News folks are installing new calls on their Big Apple affiliate. WJWR (620 Newark) will become WSNR for "Sporting News Radio," matching the new name for the former "One on One Sports."

Twenty Years Ago: March 29, 1996

WFFF-TV 44 in Burlington VT has been granted permission to move its transmitter. The transmitter for the not-yet-on-air station was to have been in New York state. Now it will join the market's other UHFs, WVNY 22 and WETK 33, atop Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest point. (2011 update: WFFF never made the move during the analog era, and eventually signed on from the New York side. With the coming of DTV, WFFF finally migrated to Mansfield more than a decade later.)

The FCC's latest expanded-band plan does little for New England. The last plan had just one New England station moving, WNSW 1200 Brewer (Bangor), Maine. The new plan has just one New England station moving, WZNN 930 Rochester NH, to 1700. Just over the New England line, WTRY 980 Troy NY would still move, to 1640. Oddly, WESO 970 Southbridge MA placed very high on the FCC's list of stations qualified to move (they were 21st), yet the station did not receive an expanded-band allocation. (2011 update: Neither WZNN nor WTRY ever built on their expanded-band allocations.)

Now that Infinity has purchased WBOS 92.9 Brookline-Boston, the station is undergoing a subtle shift away from AAA. The new tagline is "Rock of the 80s and 90s," and a new series of TV ads contrast 'BOS with the stations that play "Hard Rock" (presumably a stab at WAAF) and "Old Rock" (apparently a stab at Infinity stablemate WZLX).

1 COMMENT

  1. “And in Bridgeport, WDJZ (1530) has fallen silent after losing access to its leased tower site.” And THAT’S why you don’t sell your towers.

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