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: April 20, 2015
*Anyone who came home from this year's NAB Show with any sense of certainty about any of the big issues on the table must have been at a different set of sessions from the ones we attended. It was a very busy (and incredibly windy) week in the desert, and aside from a nasty head cold, here's what we brought back as the big items from Las Vegas:
Voltair: Massachusetts-based 25-Seven Systems is now part of the larger Telos Alliance, and its new box was the talk of the show on the radio side in a way we haven't seen in years. If you work in a PPM market, you already know what's going on here: after years of concern that Arbitron (now Nielsen)'s proprietary encoding system wasn't able to work as well with some formats and voices as others, 25-Seven's Dr. Barry Blesser began researching the subject.
The result was the Voltair, a "watermark monitoring and enhancement" device that's designed to process station audio to provide the PPM encoding with more to work with (in Blesser's words, a bigger "blanket" under which the PPM encoding can hide what are supposed to be inaudible tones). The boxes have been out there being tested for several months now, with more than 300 already in the field, and the ball is now in Nielsen's court to figure out what to do about it. (We'll be writing much more about this topic in the weeks to come, we're sure.)
AM improvement: There was a healthy FCC presence at this year's NAB Show, but the commissioners weren't always saying what broadcasters wanted to hear. That was especially true when it came to AM improvement, that contentious issue that's now been percolating at the Portals for more than a year with no clear results from last year's flood of comments. While nearly all of the commenters (present company included) supported the idea of a filing window specifically to allow AM-only operators to file for new FM translators, that doesn't appear to be in the cards; instead, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler stirred up ire with a Monday blog post in which he said he wouldn't approve an AM-specific window, hinting that the eventual plan for filling remaining gaps in the FM spectrum will focus on additional diversity in ownership and content.
What will AM'ers get when the FCC does move forward on whatever remains of an AM improvement plan? Few hints have emerged so far, though Wheeler says action is coming soon.
Five Years Ago: April 18, 2011
*The week's biggest story by far came out of CANADA, where CKLN (88.1 Toronto) was abruptly silenced after a federal appeals court ruled that the station could not move forward with its appeal of the CRTC's January decision to revoke its license.
CKLN had hoped to remain on the air while pursuing the case in court, arguing that its new leadership was cleaning up a messy dispute that led to the community station being locked out of its Ryerson University studios for seven months. Without that appeal, the CRTC's revocation order took immediate effect, and CKLN was gone from the 88.1 spot on the dial at 6:45 PM on Friday. It continues to broadcast online, and station officials say they'll consider reapplying for the 88.1 signal as they try to move forward.
"Sun TV" is no more in Toronto. Quebecor pulled the plug on the struggling independent overnight, and a countdown clock is now running toward a 5 PM launch of a broadcast/cable simulcast with Quebecor's new Sun News Network, which was originally planned as cable-only but has been having difficulty winning carriage.
*One of NEW YORK's longest-running radio newsmen is retiring. Charles McCord is best known, of course, for his many decades alongside Don Imus on WNBC/WFAN (660) and more recently on WABC (770) - but he was already a veteran anchor with Washington, D.C. experience before joining WNBC in the early 1970s prior to Imus' arrival there. McCord, 68, will retire after the May 6 show, and so far no replacement has been named. (Imus, in usual sarcastic mode, declared that he'll retire in 2017, "and hand off the show to Conan O'Brien.")
Joe Reilly leaves behind some very big shoes as he departs the New York State Broadcasters Association after 31 years at its helm - but NYSBA has found a well-qualified replacement. He's David Donovan, who worked at the FCC from 1983-1989 and has since had a distinguished career leading industry trade associations including the Association of Local Television Stations and, since 2001, serving as president of the Association for Maximum Service Television.
Ten Years Ago: April 17, 2006
It's not quite a done deal, but the long fight over the fate of a MASSACHUSETTS high school station appears to be close to a happy ending. On Thursday, officials at Maynard High School and Boston's WUMB (91.9) announced that they've reached a settlement with Living Proof, Inc., the California religious broadcaster that was granted a tentative preference for a new class A signal in Lunenburg on 91.7, the same frequency Maynard's WAVM has been using for its 10-watt class D signal since the early seventies. The Living Proof grant not only tossed out three other applications for 91.7 - WAVM's application for a power increase to class A status and applications for new facilities in Stow from WUMB and in Lexington from Calvary Satellite Network - but threatened WAVM's ability to continue to exist even with its current facilities.
As regular readers of this column know, WAVM fought back, enlisting the state's congressional delegation and garnering plenty of media attention about the possible loss of a program that's trained lots of aspiring broadcasters over the years while providing exemplary public service to a small city with no other local radio or TV. A few months ago, Living Proof had offered a settlement that would have granted CPs for its own Lunenburg application and for CSN's Lexington application, as well as giving WAVM protected class A status with a very complex directional pattern. That deal never won full approval from all parties, but it apparently paved the way for the current settlement.
Under the deal, WAVM will get its protected class A status, increasing to 500 watts with a directional antenna that will protect Living Proof's new Lunenburg signal. That station, in turn, will use somewhat lower power than originally planned. WUMB, which had entered into a cooperative agreement with WAVM much earlier in the process, will share time with WAVM on the 500-watt Maynard signal, using the 91.7 facility there to simulcast WUMB's folk programming when students aren't on the air.
In PENNSYLVANIA, the big changes this week come from the Scranton area. On the air, Bold Gold Media pulled the plug on the oldies simulcast at WICK (1400 Scranton)/WYCK (1340 Plains) and the separate oldies format at WPSN (1590 Honesdale), replacing them with a sports simulcast as "The Game," with programming coming from Fox Sports Radio and Premiere's Jim Rome. "The Game" is also the flagship for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons baseball.
Fifteen Years Ago: April 18, 2001
One of MAINE's oldest radio stations is getting a new owner. After announcing an LMA earlier this month, Clear Channel bought Bangor's WABI (910) and WWBX (97.1) from Gopher Hill Communications this week for $3.75 million. The deal gives America's largest radio owner nine stations in the market; in addition to the standards AM and the hot AC FM outlets, Clear Channel already has AC WKSQ (94.5 Ellsworth), country WLKE (99.1 Bar Harbor), rock simulcast WFZX (101.7 Searsport) and WNSX (97.7 Winter Harbor), oldies WGUY (102.1 Dexter), talk WVOM (103.9 Howland) and country WBFB (104.7 Belfast).
The "leftover" RHODE ISLAND Radio Disney outlet is getting a new owner. Hall Communications, which owns Providence-market country outlet WCTK (98.1 New Bedford MA) and New Bedford's WNBH (1340), is picking up WHRC (1450 West Warwick) from Disney, which no longer needs the station after adding WICE (550 Pawtucket) to the Mouse lineup. No word yet on Hall's plans for the station, which fits neatly between the New Bedford group and its southeastern Connecticut stations.
Twenty Years Ago: April 16, 1996
Providence's WPRI-TV is changing hands, as mandated by the FCC. CBS bought the then-ABC affiliate on channel 12 from Narragansett Broadcasting last year, but was then acquired a few months later by Westinghouse, owner of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio in nearby Boston. The WBZ-TV and WPRI signals overlap over a broad area of southeastern Massachusetts, so CBS was given a 12 month waiver. WPRI became a CBS affiliate last fall, and is expected to remain so under new owner Clear Channel Communications. It's worth noting that Clear Channel's TV operations are mostly Fox stations, and the former CBS affiliate in the market, WLNE New Bedford MA, is owned by Freedom Communications, which recently signed long-term CBS affiliation agreements for several other stations. So, it's possible that WLNE could revert from ABC to CBS, WPRI could go from CBS to Fox, and existing Fox affiliate WNAC could end up with ABC...but that's just irresponsible speculation on this Radio Watcher's part. Clear Channel is paying $68 million for WPRI.
WTVU, channel 59 in New Haven, is reportedly about to change calls to WBNE (Warner Bros. New England, presumably). WTVU/WBNE has the distinction of being the longest- running construction permit in the US, having been granted in 1953 as WELI-TV, but not coming on air until just last year. Channel 59 is operated under an LMA by LIN's WTNH (Channel 8) New Haven.