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Also in this week’s issue for subscribers… iHeart cuts in Syracuse, Binghamton - AM translator in Atlantic City - RI's Demay gets a promotion - An end to "trash radio"?

By SCOTT FYBUSH

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

*Local radio in small communities isn't easy these days. For all of the FCC's efforts to "revitalize" AM and reduce the paperwork burden on small operators, the vast majority of small-market stations out there are leading tenuous existences, fighting to keep aging equipment and tower sites alive and to keep audiences engaged against all the digital alternatives fighting for their attention.

In MASSACHUSETTS, Ed Perry is one of the exceptions, keeping profitable and successful at his WATD-FM (95.9 Marshfield) for going on 40 years now. Down the road in Brockton, he's moving closer to a relaunch at his new addition, the old WBET (1460), more recently known as WXBR. Perry recently filed to change the calls at his new purchase to WATD(AM), one of several steps toward getting it back on the airwaves.

This is the second time the WATD calls have graced a Brockton AM; Perry had those calls on the former WOKW (1410), now Dedham-licensed WZBR, back in the early 1990s. With 1460's one-year silent period running out and the old transmitter site gone, Perry has a plan to get the station back on the air: he's applied for special temporary authority to use 1000 watts, daytime-only, into a longwire mounted on two 30-foot wooden poles behind the Temple Baptist Church in West Bridgewater. Perry tells the FCC an application for a new permanent 1460 facility will follow soon.

wfnx*Meanwhile out west, after two years trying to bring local programming back to its signals in Athol/Orange, Northeast Broadcasting plans to pull the plug on its current formats at WFNX (99.9 Athol) and WFAT (700 Orange) at the end of May unless it can turn around a dearth of advertiser support.

A message posted on both stations' websites says that while there's been positive listener reaction to the variety hits on WFNX and the oldies on WFAT, advertisers in the "Greater Quabbin" region they serve haven't been willing to support them with local ads - and so come June, they'll turn back into simulcasts of Northeast's WXRV (92.5 the River) from greater Boston.

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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: May 11, 2015

*When twxbr-azurehe history of radio in Brockton, MASSACHUSETTS is finally written someday (paging Dr. Halper?), only one man will be credited as having owned both AM stations in town at some point or another. That's Ed Perry, who's best known as the owner for almost four decades of legendary South Shore community voice WATD-FM (95.9 Marshfield) - but for a few years in the mid-1980s, he expanded his radio empire inland to Brockton, buying the former WOKW/WAMK on 1410 and running it as WATD(AM).

Perry eventually sold the Brockton AM to his manager there - it later became WMSX and is now WZBR, licensed to Dedham and transmitting from Hyde Park - but now he's coming back to the City of Champions with a $165,000 deal to buy Brockton's remaining AM voice from Jhonson Napoleon's Azure Media. That's the 5000-watt day/1000-watt night signal on 1460 that spent many decades as WBET, itself an important community voice for Brockton and vicinity. For the last few years, it's been known as WXBR, and under Napoleon it turned its focus to the Haitian community in the region last year.

Lou Dumont went straight into radio after graduating from Haverhill High School in 1942, working first at WHEB (750 Portsmouth NH), then at WCOP (1150) in Boston, WBEC (1420 Pittsfield), WKNB (840 New Britain CT), WIDE (1400 Biddeford ME) and WMUR-TV (Channel 9)/WGIR (610) in Manchester when the TV station went on the air in 1954. Dumont returned to Boston in the early 1960s to work in the WBZ-TV (Channel 4) newsroom, then at WHDH-TV (Channel 5) and WNAC-TV (Channel 7) as a writer, producer and assignment editor. Dumont returned to New Hampshire in 1970 to work in cable and closed-circuit TV; more recently, he'd been on the air at WFCC (107.5) on Cape Cod and doing a standards show on WKNE and later WKBK (1290) in Keene, New Hampshire. Dumont died May 7 in Hyannis, at age 90.

Five Years Ago: May 9, 2011

*The new FM signal coming to northwestern PENNSYLVANIA arrives with a steep price tag. After a bidding war that lasted 17 rounds, Rick Rambaldo's new First Channel Communications group edged out Jeff Warshaw's Connoisseur-linked "Mini-Me" with a whopping $2,068,000 winning bid for a new class A facility on 92.7 licensed to the Erie suburb of Lawrence Park.

That bid was more than double the next-highest winning bid in the FCC's FM Auction 91, and even though it won't actually require Rambaldo to shell out the full amount (a 35% "new entrant" credit will reduce his final bill to just over $1.3 million), it's still a lot to spend on a signal that won't even be a full class A, limited by a directional notch to a co-channel Canadian signal and site restrictions that may make it hard to achieve full market coverage. But Erie radio people know better than to bet against Rick Rambaldo, who once took another marginal FM signal and built it into dominant rocker WRKT (100.9), which became the cornerstone of the cluster that now, ironically, is owned by Warshaw's Connoisseur group.

*It's taken longer than anticipated, but Duquesne University's WDUQ (90.5 Pittsburgh) is finally about to be sold to Essential Public Media. The $6,004,500 transaction (including construction permits for new signals on 88.5 Marion Center PA and 90.1 Everett) was filed late last week with the FCC, and Essential (a partnership between Pittsburgh's WYEP and Public Media Capital) moved closer to paying for the sale with the help of a $1.5 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The sale is expected to be completed sometime this summer.

*A western NEW YORK FM channel also ended up near the top of the bidding as the FCC's FM Auction 91 wound down late last week (only two small FM channels in Wyoming remain active as bidding enters round 41 this morning). After 17 rounds of bidding, the fight for 95.3A in Celoron, near Jamestown, goes to Cross Country Communications for $691,000 - and that means Cross Country's WKZA (106.9 Lakewood) will be getting a Jamestown-market sister station.

*There was a different sort of radio auction taking place in NEW JERSEY on Thursday, when a bankruptcy court took competing bids for the assets of bankrupt Atlantic Broadcasting. When the auction was over, the $3 million stalking-horse bid from Boardwalk Radio, LLC (the group formed by Atlantic's creditors and the stations' current managers) turned out not to be the highest offer.

Instead, the Press of Atlantic City reports, the five Atlantic stations (WMGM 103.7, WWAC-FM 102.7, WTKU 98.3, WOND 1400, WBSS 1490) will go to a new group called Longport Media, which bid $4.2 million for the cluster and its accompanying real estate. Longport is headed by Atlantic City businessman George Miller and veteran radio manager Art Camiolo, whose experience in the region goes all the way back to the late 1970s, when he was GM at Philadelphia's WIOQ. Longport is expected to take control of the cluster by way of an LMA as early as next week; as for Boardwalk, it walks away with a six-figure check - $90,000 in breakup fees and $35,000 for its expenses in setting up the stalking-horse bid.
Ten Years Ago: May 8, 2006

For the second week in a row, the big story out of MASSACHUSETTS is the tussle over the Red Sox radio rights for the 2007 season. But this week, there's no tussle - just the dotting of i's and crossing of t's on what appears to be a record-breaking deal that will keep the Sox with Entercom for ten more years and a reported $200 million in rights fees. As NERW goes to press late Sunday night, there's still no definitive confirmation from Entercom or from the team, and there's always the chance that anything could happen in this topsy-turvy saga. With Greater Media having exited the bidding war on Friday, though, the continuation of the team's relationship with Entercom became all but inevitable.

What's not inevitable, however, is another season of Sox baseball on flagship WEEI (850 Boston). Instead, Entercom reportedly plans to return the team's play-by-play to WRKO (680 Boston), the talk station that was the Sox flagship through much of the late eighties and early nineties (and in several earlier stints as well.)

The Sox deal was just one aspect of a pretty big radio week in the Bay State. In Worcester, WCRN (830) pulled the plug on its "True Oldies" format over the weekend, and today it officially relaunches as "True Talk AM 830," returning former WRKO morning host Peter Blute to the airwaves for a 7-9 AM show. The station's existing block of leased financial talk continues after Blute, and then its lineup will include Laura Ingraham (1-3 PM), Howie Carr (3-7 PM) and Michael Savage (7-10 PM). Jerry Doyle in overnights and Doug Stephan in early mornings round out the weekday schedule there.

And we conclude our Massachusetts report this week with some sad news: veteran helicopter traffic reporter Joe Green died last Wednesday (May 3) at 76. Green began his career at WHDH in 1963, but in 1968 he moved to WBZ, where "Joe Green in the BZ Copter" became a staple of the Hub commute for more than a quarter of a century. Green kept to himself (your editor, who worked at the station for five years, never met him), but he found his way into the headlines with several daring rescues, saving two boys stranded on a raft in Dorchester and rescuing a University of Lowell student from the Merrimack River. Green was also featured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo in 1975, landing his helicopter on a rooftop in what proved an unsuccessful attempt to rescue a woman from a burning building. Green retired in 1995, but the distinctive figure he cut in Boston traffic reporting (complete with cigar and a handheld mic, all while he was flying low over the city) won't soon be forgotten.

Two NEW JERSEY AM stations remain silent after a fire destroyed their transmitter site late Wednesday night. WOND (1400 Pleasantville), WTKU (1490 Pleasantville), WMGM (103.7 Atlantic City) and WMGM-CA (Channel 7 Atlantic City) all transmitted from what was originally the WOND transmitter/studio site next to the Atlantic City Expressway tollbooths, and all four stations were knocked off the air by the fire, which apparently started in the building's electrical system. It's a credit to the cooperation among South Jersey engineers that the FM signal was back on the air within a few hours, transmitting at reduced power from a backup facility for WPUR (107.3) atop the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City. There's still no word on when the two AMs, or the low-power TV signal, which relays WMGM-TV (Channel 40), can get back on the air. WOND's talk programming is still being heard over the Internet and sister station WGYM (1580 Hammonton), while WTKU was relaying the oldies of WTKU-FM (98.3 Ocean City).

One of PENNSYLVANIA's most prominent broadcast companies is no more. Susquehanna was officially merged into Cumulus Broadcasting last week, putting an end to decades of broadcast tradition from its base in York. Around the country, there's word of numerous Susquehanna veterans whose services aren't being retained by Cumulus. At the stations in York (WSBA 910, WARM-FM 103.3 and WSOX 96.1), VP/market manager Tina Heim retired last week, ending a long career with Susquehanna.

Fifteen Years Ago: May 7, 2001

TORONTO -- It's been nineteen years since WABC dropped music for talk, more than a dozen since WNBC gave way to WFAN, and about as long since WLS spun its last tune. But old habits die hard north of the border, and that's why the 21st century was already well underway by the time 1050 CHUM finally turned its back on the music that built its reputation as one of North America's most important top-40 radio stations.

Monday, 8:30 AM: It's the last day, and CHUM has opened its doors to former jocks for a going-away party. More than a hundred people head out to the roof of the studios for a group picture. They're forced to wait for a few minutes as Roger Ashby finishes his morning shift on CHUM-FM and as station founder Allan Waters makes his way outside to take his rightful place at the center of the group.

10:35 AM: Downstairs, there's just the width of a hallway separating CHUM past from Team future. On one side, CHUM veterans Duff Roman and Bob Laine have come downstairs from their executive suites for one final day behind the mike, serving as ringmasters for a five-hour "Final Show,"

11:30 AM: Heading out to Yonge Street for some fresh air, we pass workers scraping the "1050 CHUM" logos from the doors and sticking the new "Team" logos in their place.

1:15 PM: Back at CHUM, the final countdown is underway. While Laine and Roman continue their show inside, the back parking lot has been transformed into an outdoor barbecue. The mood, for the moment, is jovial; there's lots of beer, chicken and sausages, burgers and hot dogs. In a corner, speakers bring the last show to the audience, which includes a few CHUM fans looking on from the end of the driveway.

2:35 PM: The chatter at the party dies down quickly as staffers realize the "Final Show" has entered its final moments. Jim Waters joins Roman and Laine in the studio to say goodbye on behalf of CHUM's founding family, and his employees gather in a large circle around the speakers to listen as Waters reads a letter from his sister, talking about their father's dedication to making CHUM a success in its early years. Allan Waters and his wife Marge are outside with the staff now, and both begin to cry as the letter is read. By the time he's almost done reading, Jim Waters is breaking down as well. From our perch in one of the building's back doors, we can see the crowd at the end of the driveway growing. On the balconies of the high-rise apartments around CHUM, a few curious faces begin to peer down on the activity as well.

2:44 PM: The last song on CHUM has been the topic of debate on e-mail lists and among CHUM fans for weeks. "American Pie"? Edward Bear's "Last Song"? Duff Roman has hinted to the papers that "the last song will be the first song," and that narrows the choices pretty well. Now it's time...and sure enough, it's the song that launched CHUM's top-40 format back in the spring of 1957. As Elvis belts out "All Shook Up" (the number one song on the very first CHUM Chart, May 27, 1957), a few CHUM employees begin dancing in the middle of the circle.

2:47 PM: The song ends, and the group goes silent as CHUM launches into a montage of audio from its history, beginning with Allan Waters' own recollections of purchasing the station. Nobody says a word as the sounds of their own careers and their predecessors' wash over them. Allan Waters dabs his eyes with his handkerchief, and he's not alone. The montage closes out with a "thank you" to Waters, who's surrounded by hugs from his family as 1050 CHUM ends its on-air life with the piano chord from the Beatles' "A Day in the Life." The applause from the CHUM family drowns out the sound of John Lennon joking, "On behalf of the band and myself, we'd like to say thank you and I hope we passed the audition." Then, silence again as a series of beeps announce the birth of the Team, not only on 1050 but on a chain of CHUM stations and affiliates from Halifax to Vancouver.

As CHUM was fading out, so, sadly, was another longtime Canadian broadcaster. Keith Dancy, owner of Niagara Falls stations CJRN (710) and CKEY-FM (101.1 Fort Erie, "the River") died Sunday night (May 6) at Niagara-on-the-Lake Hospital following a long illness.

Twenty Years Ago: May 7, 1996

A whole lotta miscellany going on...including a few call letter changes. Down in Middletown CT, WCNX 1150 has become WMRD (it seems the WCTX calls for which they had applied were never used), and up in Somersworth NH, WRGW 98.7 (the AC "Rock Garden" that signed on a couple of years ago) has become WRDX. I haven't been on the road of late to confirm either change...stay tuned. Just over the New England line in the Albany NY area, WXXO 96.7 Clifton Park NY has, as I suspected, become WDCD-FM, and is co-owned with 1540 WDCD Albany (ex-WPTR). Programming goes from satellite oldies to religious. Up in northern New Hampshire, WVFM 105.7 Campton (along I-93 north of Plymouth, near the Waterville Valley ski area) has applied for a license to cover, and thus presumably is on or about to be on-air.

On the business side of things, WEZN 99.9 Bridgeport CT is getting new owners, as part of parent company NewCity's purchase by Cox. This is Cox's only New England entry, and as a full class B monster in the under-radioed (locally, anyway) Fairfield County area, should be worth a pretty penny to any of several companies expanding in the area.

2 COMMENTS

  1. .. I believe the translator in Marmora on 97.7 also applied for a “license to cover” last week & is also airing WPGG 1450 ..

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