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In this week’s issue… 7 Mountains, Forever expand with First buys – Innes back to Houston – Hockey on the Radio: Isles get new homes – EMF buys in Pittsburgh

By SCOTT FYBUSH

Jump to: MENHVTMARICTNYNJ PACanada

*As we get closer to the end of baseball season, it’s time to start thinking about Hockey on the Radio – and this NHL season, at long last, finds one of the biggest-market teams in the league back on commercial radio at long last.

islandersIt was six years ago when the New York Islanders lost their deal with Long Island’s then-WMJC (94.3) and WHLI (1100), leaving them scrambling for a radio home and landing on Hofstra University’s WRHU (88.7), the college signal that came in well at the team’s old home in Uniondale but didn’t reach into New York City well.

The Islanders/WRHU relationship ended up being an enduring one: with a combination of students and professionals, the Hofstra station did an exemplary job of producing an NHL-quality broadcast even as the team moved from the Nassau Coliseum into Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The team added affiliates, too: WRCN (103.9 Riverhead) now carries Islanders hockey for eastern Suffolk County, and last year city-owned WNYE (91.5) picked up Isles’ broadcasts for New York City listeners.

As the team continues to try to build more of a following in the city, it’s placing 30 of its games in the 2016-2017 season on CBS Radio’s WFAN (660/101.9), which will now carry both Islanders and New Jersey Devils games. The Isles’ games will continue to be produced at (and carried on) WRHU, and they’ll be heard on WRCN, too. The remaining 52 Islanders games that don’t fit into the WFAN schedule will go to Salem’s WNYM (970 Hackensack), which is fast becoming the default overflow location for New York sports.

The Devils, meanwhile, get 59 games on WFAN and 23 at a yet-to-be-announced overflow location, all of which begs the question: at what point does CBS Radio begin considering splitting WFAN’s AM/FM simulcast so it can keep more of this overlapping play-by-play in house?

wfan1019The problem, of course, is the Nielsen rule on “single-line reporting” that requires stations to stay in simulcast mode 24/7 in order to be listed as simulcasts in the ratings (which, in turn, helps keep the WFAN AM/FM combination well ahead of rival WEPN-FM). CBS has taken the hit on single-line reporting in the past by splitting its Chicago all-news simulcast to put the Cubs on WBBM (780) while keeping news on WCFS (105.9) – but the Cubs were likely much more lucrative for CBS than the Islanders or Devils would be. (And even at that, CBS resumed a full AM-FM simulcast this year by moving the Cubs to all-sports WSCR 670 and shedding the White Sox.)

So for now, the simulcast remains on 660 and 101.9, even if it means the hockey teams (or Nets basketball) get pushed off to an overflow home.

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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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.

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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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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: October 12, 2015

*This week’s NERW begins with a mystery: who’s taking over NEW JERSEY’s WNTI (91.9 Hackettstown) and why did the station jettison its longtime volunteer staffers and programming so abruptly? For some 30 years now, Centenary College has taken something of a hands-off approach to the 5500 watt/509’ class B1 license it holds in the hills of northwestern New Jersey. That’s allowed WNTI to develop a freeform AAA-ish sound that’s been a refreshing difference from the corporate commercial fare that dominates the rest of the dial in the region it serves, which stretches from New York City’s westernmost suburbs over to the Poconos. It was all good – until about a week ago, when WNTI programmers suddenly found themselves locked out of the studios with only automated music replacing their shows. The college has been nearly silent about the move, saying only that it intends to bring back some vestiges of the old format on a new webstream that hasn’t yet launched.

*Nobody will ever really replace Johnny Donovan at New York’s WABC (770) – how could anyone really replicate his 43-year career that spanned the top-40 years and the station’s entire run with talk? But his retirement back in May meant WABC needed to hire a new staff announcer/production director, and the gig goes to Christopher Libertini, who’s been a prolific VO talent for many high-profile clients including ESPN, Howard Stern and the New York Lottery.

*In CANADA, the CBC has finally straightened out its signal issues on Cape Breton Island. An initial plan to completely replace Sydney’s CBI (1140) with an FM signal at 97.1 was scrapped after signal tests found that the FM wouldn’t sufficiently replicate the AM’s coverage. Instead, the corporation has been granted approval for a nested FM repeater at 92.1, which will serve Sydney with a 6.5 kW average/10.7 kW max DA/123 m signal that will augment the AM station, which stays on the air.

Five Years Ago: October 10, 2011

The stations owned by NEW JERSEY‘s Nassau Broadcasting Partners have lived to broadcast for at least another week while the company awaits a judge’s decision about how its bankruptcy will be handled.

As we’d been reporting, Nassau’s lenders, led by Goldman Sachs, were in court Thursday in Delaware asking Judge Kevin Gross to order the company into immediate Chapter 7 bankruptcy and liquidation – but Nassau management, led by Lou Mercatanti, had a different idea: it asked Judge Gross to convert the involuntary Chapter 7 petition into Chapter 11, which would allow Nassau to keep operating its stations.

Nassau says its stations have positive cash flow right now, and argued that continued operation during an orderly restructuring will allow the stations to keep producing revenue while the lenders look for buyers. (Radio Business Report says Mercatanti even submitted a letter Goldman Sachs had sent in August, asking Nassau to make a voluntary Chapter 11 filing before September 4.)

As of Sunday night, there’s been no ruling from Judge Gross, so Nassau operations continue as usual (for some value of “usual,” given the company’s financial woes) while the company and its lenders await the judge’s decision about what the next step will be.

*RHODE ISLAND‘s public radio dial completed its transition over the weekend, as WRNI (1290 Providence) consummated its deal with the Wheeler School and the local Latino Public Radio group to swap programming.

As first reported here in NERW, the deal plays out like this: Rhode Island Public Radio is paying Wheeler $75,000 a year plus three percent of increased revenues to shift its NPR lineup from 1290 on the AM dial to Wheeler’s recently-upgraded WELH (88.1 Providence). LPR, in turn, goes from leasing 12 hours a day on WELH to 24 hours a day on 1290, giving it the platform it needs to qualify for Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding and continued growth.

There’s another piece to the puzzle that emerged late last week, just ahead of the Saturday morning frequency swap: to avoid confusion, Rhode Island Public Radio has dropped the on-air use of the “WRNI” branding; instead, it’s now “RI NPR,” with a new logo that doubles as a stylized coverage map of its three FM signals: WELH in Providence and the northern parts of the state, WCVY (91.5 Coventry) in west-central Rhode Island and WRNI-FM (102.7 Narragansett Pier) in South County and Newport.

*Eastern CONNECTICUT‘s Red Wolf Broadcasting is adding another signal to its portfolio: owner John J. Fuller is the principal in “CSI Media Research,” the winning bidder on that new class A FM signal on 94.9 just across Long Island Sound in Montauk, New York – and Fuller has now given that new 94.9 signal the “WJJF” calls he originally used on his first station (now WCRI 1180 in Hope Valley, R.I.)

*Despite the plea we wrote about in last week’s NERW, there was no last-minute savior for Long Island community station WEER (88.7 Montauk), and so the signal has gone silent for now. It’s not clear what will become of that facility, which Barbara Barri’s Hamptons Community Radio had acquired – but not finished paying off – from community station WPKN in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It’s also still not clear what will become of the two unbuilt CPs HCR held, the part-time WEEG (90.7 East Hampton) and WEEW (89.1 Westhampton).

Ten Years Ago: October 9, 2006

The lines between the Philadelphia, PENNSYLVANIA radio market and adjacent Wilmington, Delaware are already blurred – and now they’re about to get even more smudged, as Beasley Broadcasting prepares to pay $42 million to acquire WJBR (99.5 Wilmington) from NextMedia. The AC station transmits from just a few yards south of the state line (atop the tiny little rise of land that is Delaware’s highest point), and it already puts a substantial signal over much of the Philadelphia market. But until now, it (along with Wilmington’s other big FM signal, Delmarva Broadcasting’s WSTW 93.7) has remained resolutely focused on Wilmington-area listeners.

But as it joins a Beasley cluster that also includes country WXTU (92.5 Philadelphia), “Wired” WRDW (96.5 Philadelphia) and business talker WWDB (860 Philadelphia), it seems likely that WJBR will begin to market itself more toward its large neighbor to the northeast. (An actual transmitter move is somewhat less likely, though far from impossible; while WJBR’s short-spacings to third-adjacent WUSL on 98.9 in Philadelphia and to second-adjacent WODE on 99.9 in Easton are grandfathered, there are newer drop-in signals on the Jersey Shore that would need to be protected.)

And one more Philadelphia note – suburban WCHE (1520 West Chester) has flipped to modern rock, promoting itself as “Where the Static Is.” It’s working on a power increase, from 250 to 1000 watts.

In CONNECTICUT, WTIC (1080 Hartford) is reshaping its afternoon programming, sending Bruce Stevens packing after 13 years in the timeslot, the last 10 alongside Colin McEnroe, who’s now doing afternoons solo at the CBS Radio news-talker. Stevens tells the Hartford Courant that the station didn’t renew his contract when it was up; that he found out on the way back from his daughter’s wedding in Maine – and that he hopes to stay in the business full-time. (He’s still heard on the weekends on Greater Media talker WTKK 96.9 in Boston.)

The year-long tribute to Reginald Fessenden’s pioneering 1906 broadcasts from Brant Rock in Marshfield continued on Saturday, when South Shore radio and history buffs gathered at the Winslow House in Marshfield for a daylong symposium on early radio history. Your editor was honored to be a participant in the gathering, showing off some of the photos I’ve taken over the years in historic radio facilities around the country. Nick Mills of Boston University presented an overview of the early years of radio, and Donna Halper of Emerson College (and a longtime Friend of NERW) spoke on Eunice Randall’s early radio career, the story of 1XE/WGI in Medford Hillside, and the question of whether Fessenden’s 1906 broadcasts really included the Christmas Eve event that’s gone down in history as the legendary “first broadcast ever.”

In CANADA, CanWest (the parent company of Global TV) is exiting the radio business, selling its two stations in Winnipeg and Kitchener/Waterloo to Corus Entertainment for C$15 million. In Kitchener/Waterloo, CanWest’s CKBT (91.5 the Beat) will join Corus’ adult hits CJDV (107.5 Dave FM).
Fifteen Years Ago: October 8, 2001

FLASH! Clear Channel instantly became a major TV group owner in NERW-land Monday when it announced its purchase of the Ackerley Group. From a broadcast perspective, the $800 million stock-swap deal gives Clear Channel control of most of upstate New York’s ABC affiliates, including WIXT (Channel 9) in Syracuse, WOKR (Channel 13) in Rochester, WIVT (Channel 34) in Binghamton, WUTR (Channel 20) in Utica and WWTI (Channel 50) in Watertown. Clear Channel also gets two NBC affiliates, WETM (Channel 18) in Elmira and WBGH-CA (Channel 20) in Binghamton. Clear Channel already owned Fox affiliate WXXA (Channel 23) in Albany (as well as cable-only “UPN 4”).

The move creates massive radio-TV combinations in several markets. In Rochester, WOKR becomes a sister station to Clear Channel’s 2 AM/5 FM group (including WHAM and WVOR). In Syracuse, WIXT joins Clear Channel’s 2 AM/5 FM group that includes WSYR, WHEN, WYYY and WBBS. In Utica, WUTR will join a 4 AM/5 FM cluster – assuming the WIXT/WUTR overlap can be maintained under cross-ownership and duopoly rules. (And indeed, there’s word that Clear Channel will have to divest something in both Syracuse and Bakersfield if this deal goes through.) In Binghamton, WIVT and WBGH-CA join a 2 AM/4 FM cluster that includes WINR, WENE and WMRV. The Watertown and Elmira stations represent Clear Channel’s entry into those markets.

The real strength to this deal, though, comes outside the scope of NERW: Ackerley’s outdoor advertising business gives Clear Channel a much larger presence in that sector in the Boston market, while its Seattle radio holdings bring Clear Channel Radio into that market for the first time.

Radio listeners in CANADA’s capital city are about to get four new FM stations on their dial. The CRTC completed its review of a dozen or so applications for new FMs in Ottawa/Hull by approving a carefully chosen batch of new outlets designed to reach the broadest possible range of listeners (while, perhaps not coincidentally, having little to no effect on the existing station clusters in the region). Here’s what Ottawa listeners will get within 12 months: On 89.9, the Newcap group gets 27kW for “The Planet,” an English-language station billed as offering a mix of “dance, Europop, urban and Latin” music. On 95.7, Gary Farmer’s Aboriginal Voices Radio will get an Ottawa facility to go with its yet-to-be-built Toronto “Jump 106.5” license. (The CBC objected to this one, citing potential interference to its CBCO 95.5 in Cornwall; Farmer promised to sign on with 6 kW instead of the proposed 8 kW and to lower power further if needed.) Radio 1540, the owner of Toronto’s CHIN and CHIN-FM, will put a similar multilingual outlet on the air at 97.9, with 800 watts. And Radio Nord, owner of CHOT (Channel 40) and CFGS (Channel 49) in Hull, will get to put a French-language classical station on the air – but it will have to find a different frequency from the proposed 97.9.

Back on this side of the border, let’s start things off in upstate NEW YORK, where Ed Levine’s Galaxy group is adding to its Albany holdings even before it closes on the purchase of WABY (1400 Albany) and WKLI (94.5 Ravena). Galaxy is paying $2.4 million to buy WHTR (93.5 Corinth) from Vox – but the goal isn’t to keep serving Glens Falls with oldies. WHTR holds a construction permit to move south into the Albany market by moving to 93.7 in Scotia, which sounds to us like a perfect simulcast partner for the 94.5 Ravena signal, south of Albany.

Twenty Years Ago: October 9, 1996

Greater Boston’s hard rock radio station has found a new home for its first television venture. WAAF (107.3 Worcester) had planned to debut “WAAF Real Rock” last Saturday night (10/5) on Boston University’s independent TV station, WABU-TV (68). Then WABU pulled the plug with less than a week to go, saying the raunchy ‘AAF telecast didn’t fit with WABU’s quality image (alert readers will want to note that WABU is Boston’s outlet for “Baywatch;” draw your own conclusions). That didn’t faze the folks at soon-to-be ARS-owned WAAF; they’ve found a new home on Univision affiliate WUNI (27) in Worcester, where they’re scheduled to debut this Saturday (10/12) at midnight.

Speaking of WABU, they’re bidding farewell to late-night talk host Charles Adler (“call me Chuck”), as he departs his nightly 10pm call-in spot to return home to Canada in search of greener pastures. Adler’s zenith in Boston came a couple of years ago, when he was holding down 7-10pm on WRKO (680), with the middle hour simulcast on WABU. But then WABU got the Red Sox contract, bumping Adler to weird hours like 4pm and 11pm; and then WRKO bumped Chuck to weekends so it could plug in “Two Chicks Dishing” in evenings. WABU is bolstering its sports image by introducing a nightly sports talkfest in the 10pm time slot; it will be a post-game show on nights when WABU has the ‘Sox or other sports.

Coming soon to northern New Hampshire, eastern Maine, and a decent chunk of Quebec: More country music. NERW has learned that when WZPK (103.7 Berlin NH) returns to the airwaves from high atop Mount Washington, it will be simulcasting country WOKQ (97.5 Dover NH), one of the flagship properties of new owner Fuller-Jeffrey Broadcasting. The change will take WZPK out of the hot-AC format war with new stablemate WCSO “The Ocean” (97.9) in Portland, Maine, and it will bring WOKQ’s top-rated country format to an even more enormous audience. WOKQ’s primary transmitter on 97.5 covers an area from just north of Boston well up the seacoast into Maine, and a WOKQ translator on 97.9 in Manchester NH covers the densely-populated Manchester-Nashua area well. No word on a call change yet, but NERW wouldn’t be at all surprised.