In this week"s issue: Jack Williams cuts back at WBZ-TV - Baseball on the Radio 2012 (the Major Leagues) - FM Auction 93 includes VT, PA signals - New FMs sign on in Maine - Tietolman eyes Montreal"s CJAD
by SCOTT FYBUSH
MONDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Barnstable Broadcasting is exiting Long Island with the sale of WHLI (1100 Hempstead), WIGX (94.3 Smithtown), WKJY (98.3 Hempstead) and WBZO (103.1 Bay Shore) to Connoisseur Media. NERW hears the deal was announced at an employee meeting this afternoon. RadioInsight reports the price on the deal is $23 million; we"ll have more in a mid-week update here and on Twitter and Facebook as it develops.
*In eastern MASSACHUSETTS, Jack Williams has been a fixture behind the news desk on WBZ-TV (Channel 4) for as long as many of his viewers have been alive. That"s about to change, though: last week, the CBS owned-and-operated station announced that Williams, 68, is beginning to reduce his workload at the station after 37 years there.
Jonathan Elias takes over the 11 alongside Lisa Hughes starting tonight.
*On the radio, there"s a new morning show team at Worcester"s WSRS (96.1), where Heidi West has joined Greg Byrne, filling the co-host slot last occupied by Jackie Brush. West had been at WBMW (106.5) in New London, CONNECTICUT, and has also worked at WWLI (105.1) in Providence and at Worcester"s WORC-FM (98.9), as well as at WMAS-FM in Springfield and part-time at Boston"s WMJX (106.7).
Mel Robbins has departed her weekend slot on Greater Media talker WTKK (96.9 Boston); she"s been doing afternoons at Cox"s WDBO (580/96.5) in Orlando, Florida, and now she"s headed down there full-time.
We"ve been remiss in not noting the new tower that"s finally up in the swamps of Quincy, returning WJDA (1300) to full power after the stati0n lost its tower to Hurricane Irene last August.
The station was briefly silent before returning from a longwire antenna at the site, and we"re told it"s now back to its usual kilowatt of power from a Valcom fiberglass whip antenna at its licensed location, though there"s nothing on file with the FCC about an antenna change.
*About that high-powered pirate that was shut down by FCC agents earlier this month? "Hot 97 Boston" tells the Jamaica Star that it was making a "move from Terrestrial Digital Radio back to a Digital Internet Radio platform," claiming that it was the station"s "tremendous success that led to us lending our amazing brand locally for simulcast on terrestrial radio." Almost two weeks after the raid, there"s been no sign of a signal on the station"s former 87.7 MHz frequency, and no shortage of listeners on its Facebook page asking what happened.
*RHODE ISLAND Public Radio spent the weekend reconfiguring its signal for the southern part of the state. WRNI-FM (102.7 Narragansett Pier) switched to a directional antenna last year, boosting its power from 1950 watts to 6 kW, with most of that extra power pointed southeast toward Newport.
RIPR now has a construction permit for a separate Newport signal on 88.1, and it"s avoiding the complications of a directional antenna by returning to non-directional operation, once again with 1950 watts/226".
*There"s another FCC FM auction getting underway this week, but don"t expect many big-ticket bids in NERW-land. Unlike the last auction, where a new FM channel in the Erie, Pennsylvania market drew seven-figure competing bids, the upcoming Auction 93 features only three facilities in the region, two of them in VERMONT.
In Poultney, west of Rutland along the Vermont/New York line, the bidding starts at $25,000 for a new class A signal on 92.5; way up in the Northeast Kingdom, bidding for a new class C3 facility on 94.1 in Canaan will start at $5,000. (This is the second stab at a 94.1C3 up there in Canaan - back in 1989, the FCC granted a construction permit for what became WXMX, but the station was never built and had disappeared from the Commission"s records by 1999.)
While we"re up in the Kingdom, we note that Vermont Broadcast Associates is asking the FCC to relocate a class A signal it picked up (for $108.000) in the last round of FM auctions. VBA says because of the rough terrain in the area, it would take a 765-foot tower at the allocation coordinates for the 94.5A signal to actually provide reliable service to its community of license, Albany. Even if that were economically feasible, it wouldn"t be permitted under Vermont"s stringent Act 250 environmental law, and VBA says it has an alternative: it can put a 69-foot tower on a nearby hilltop in the town of Irasburg and relicense the signal there. (An Irasburg-licensed 94.5 would also just happen to provide usable service up the I-91 corridor toward Newport.)
*There"s a stunt underway in the Burlington market. WNMR (107.1 Dannemora NY) is "Wireless 107.1" at the moment, and we hear longtime Burlington talent Louie Manno is behind a new format soon to launch at the "deliberately mysterious, delightfully indefinable" signal that was last doing sports. (For the moment, we"re enjoying the "wall of ambiguous sound" that Manno"s programming, though!)
*From NEW HAMPSHIRE comes somewhat belated word of the death of veteran engineer and broadcast historian Norm Gagnon. Even at a young age, he was fascinated with radio, and a family story tells of the time that a nine-year-old Norm persuaded his parents to buy an early FM receiver.
Gagnon joined Manchester"s WGIR in 1957, left in 1968 to spend some time at Boston"s WEEI, then returned to WGIR as chief engineer in 1970. In 1979, Gagnon went back to Boston to work at WRKO/WROR, then at WHDH/WCOZ and eventually WMJX, where he was the project engineer for the master FM antenna system atop the Prudential Tower.
After retiring from his final job with the MediaTouch automation system in the 1990s, Gagnon went on to share some of his broadcast memories, especially of the early days of FM radio, at the excellent GGN Information Systems website. At least for now, that site remains on the web as a living tribute to Gagnon, who died March 8 at age 73.
*There are two new FM signals on the air in Down East MAINE.
WRMO (93.7 Milbridge) went silent after the death of owner Lyle Evans back in 2010. Evans" estate sold the station to Chuck Begin"s Pine Tree Broadcasting last year, and now WRMO is back from a new 22.5 kW/669" class B facility on Martins Ridge, near Franklin, engineered by Washington, DC"s Chris Roth.
It"s now programming gold-based AC as "93.7 the Wave," reaching Ellsworth and Bar Harbor with a city-grade signal and providing a fringe signal as far away as Bangor.
There"s also a new signal on the air from the Augusta-based Light of Life religious folks: WRNM (91.7 Ellsworth) applied for a license to cover its construction permit last week.
(Light of Life had a busy engineering week: it also filed applications to boost power at two of its newer FM signals, bumping WRPB 89.3 Benedicta from 145 watts to 2 kW and WWLN 90.5 Lincoln from 65 watts to 2400 watts, with a directional antenna.)
*A few years ago, we paid a call on New York"s WBLS (107.5) and WLIB (1190) at their studio home 41 floors above midtown Manhattan, and it"s a good thing we did, because those Inner City Broadcasting stations may not be calling 3 Park Avenue home much longer. As YMF Media (the new entity created by Inner City"s biggest creditors) prepares to take over the stations, it"s asking a bankruptcy court judge to free up $3 million in financing. Inside Radio reports that at least some of that money would be used as a deposit on less expensive space for new WBLS/WLIB studios elsewhere.
(And here"s a good a reminder that your NERW subscription includes more than just access to this weekly column - clicking on the "Members" tab above will bring you to our Member Archive page that includes a dozen years" worth of Tower Site of the Week installments!)
*Cumulus says it now has more than 140 affiliates signed up for the Mike Huckabee midday talk show slated to start next month, and while the syndicator isn"t naming those affiliates (or confirming the widespread rumors that its own big talkers, including New York City"s WABC 770, will be on board for the show), we"ve learned of at least two NERW-land stations that will be carrying Huckabee.
In the Rochester market, WYSL (1040 Avon) will carry Huckabee live from noon-2 PM, displacing Neal Boortz from that slot. While Huckabee"s live slot will put him right up against Rush Limbaugh in most markets, Rochester is an exception: because Rush affiliate WHAM (1180) delays the Limbaugh show to 1 PM, Huckabee"s first hour will run against local talker Bob Lonsberry. (There"s some history here: WYSL was one of Limbaugh"s earliest affiliates, but lost the show to the big WHAM signal after just a few years.)
The other confirmed Huckabee affiliate is WBEC (1420) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, which made headlines earlier this month by becoming one of two stations to drop Limbaugh"s show during the initial furor over his Sandra Fluke comments.
*Completing the call-letter shuffle in Utica: now that Roser Communications Group has turned the former WRCK (100.7) into WUTQ-FM, it"s hanging on to the heritage WRCK calls. Those calls spent several decades on 107.3 before EMF Broadcasting bought the former rock station; EMF later shuffled calls itself, sending "WRCK" to the lesser 100.7 signal it just sold to Roser.
Now "WRCK" is going north to Remsen, replacing the WADR calls that have been on Roser"s AM 1480 signal up there for half a century. For now, at least, WADR - er, WRCK - remains part of a four-signal "WUTQ"-branded talk simulcast with WUTQ-FM, WUTQ (1550 Utica) and translator W238CA (95.5).
*On the TV side of things in Utica, Caroline Gable has exited the anchor chair at ABC affiliate WUTR (Channel 20) and Fox affiliate WFXV (Channel 33), six months after becoming part of the stations" initial anchor team when they restarted local news last September. CNYTVNews.com reports the Nexstar stations are now looking for a replacement.
*NEW JERSEY"s WOND (1400 Pleasantville) hit its 60th anniversary in 2010, but the station"s celebration of its history continues into 2012. On Friday, longtime afternoon host Pinky Kravitz will devote his 4-6 PM talk show to a trip back into history: he"s held on to a reel-to-reel tape of a series of interviews he did in 1964 with Atlantic City high school students, and this week he"ll bring three of those students back on the air to listen to the tape and talk about how their lives and views have changed in nearly half a century since it was recorded.
At the other end of the Parkway (Exit 160 or thereabouts, if you"re counting), Fairleigh Dickinson University"s WFDU (89.1 Teaneck) marked its 40th anniversary last year, and now it"s following up with the launch of a completely reworked website at www.wfdu.fm. WFDU"s new online home includes 24-hour streaming, which is a big deal for a station that shares its FM channel with New York University"s WNYU and can only broadcast over the air from 1 AM until 3:45 PM on weekdays. (It"s on the air 24 hours a day on weekends.) The streaming service repeats WFDU"s daytime programming after the FM signal has been handed over to NYU.
And while we wait to see who the buyer will be for Family Stations" WFME (94.7 Newark), the now-commercially-licensed signal has been granted a construction permit to make its move to a new tower permanent. Since last fall, WFME has been experimenting with reduced power (23.5 kW instead of 37.2 kW) from a higher antenna height (679" instead of 571") on the taller self-supporting tower just 100 feet from the longtime WFME studio/transmitter site on First Mountain in West Orange. That taller tower already holds auxiliary antennas for New York"s WXNY (96.3), WQHT (97.1) and WEMP (101.9), and it was the home of the old WVNJ-FM (100.3 Newark) for many years until that station"s 1983 move across the Hudson to the "top-top-top-top-top" of the Empire State Building as WHTZ.
*In PENNSYLVANIA"s Poconos, Bud Williamson unveiled a new format and nickname at his newly-purchased WTSX (96.7 Lehman Township) on Friday. The new "Pocono 96.7," which relocated from Port Jervis, New York to clear the way for K-Love"s WKLV-FM (96.7 Port Chester) New York City move-in, is playing the "Greatest Hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s" with a jock lineup that includes John Perry in mornings, John Harper in the afternoons and two former Clear Channel voices, middayer Lou Brown and night guy Rick Knight (Reg Osterhoudt).
Where are they now? Former Philadelphia jocks John Hanson and Charlie Maxx are teaming up as the new morning show just across the state line at WJBR (99.5 Wilmington, Delaware). Hanson was part of the airstaff at the now-defunct WYSP (94.1 Philadelphia, now WIP-FM), and had worked for WJBR parent company Beasley at the old WPTP (96.5 Philadelphia, now WRDW-FM). Maxx also worked at WPTP, but her most recent gig in Philadelphia was at Jerry Lee"s WBEB (101.1).
At the other end of the state, Tim Martz"s Radio Power, Inc. has been granted a construction permit to move translator W261AX (100.1 Pittsburgh) to the other side of the Steel City. The translator, which relays the R&B programming of WAMO (660 Wilkinsburg), started out in the North Hills at the KDKA-TV (Channel 2) tower site, but that site has some shadowing to the areas where much of Pittsburgh"s African-American population is concentrated. Its new site, on a tower adjacent to the WDDZ (1250)/WKST-FM (96.1) site south of the Monongahela River, will give the 99-watt translator signal a better view into Homestead and other areas where WAMO"s target audience lives.
There aren"t many radio people who get to put in 46 years in the business and still leave on their own terms, but Pittsburgh"s Frank Gottlieb is one of them. Frank started out as the overnight guy on the original WAMO-FM (105.9, now WXDX) back in 1966, and after a tour in Vietnam he came back to his hometown to work at KDKA-TV, WTAE-TV and, after a detour to Columbus, Ohio"s WLWC/WCMH and QUBE Cable, he"s been a fixture for many years now at KQV (1410). He"ll still be seen around the station from time to time doing part-time work even after he officially retires from his full-time duties there at the end of this week, and we wish him all the best as he heads on to his next chapter.
*There"s one Keystone State signal on the Auction 93 docket for the FCC: 105.1A in Sheffield, between Warren and Kane near the New York border, will start at $15,000. (And just across the Ohio line, the Commission will try again to auction 96.1A in Ashtabula, Ohio, this time at $20,000 for a starting bid.)
*In an otherwise quiet week in CANADA, the big news is a "what might be" in Montreal, where the pending Bell acquisition of Astral Media will leave the combined companies at least one station over the English-language ownership limit.
Who"ll be the odd station out? Montreal media blogger Steve Faguy the dominant Anglo radio news voice in town, Astral"s CJAD (800) - and that the most likely buyer is the Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy (TTP) group that recently won CRTC permission to put a new French-language news-talk station on 940. The TTP group had asked the CRTC for an English-language signal as well, but their proposal to use 690 kHz was trumped by Bell"s plan to move sports station CKGM down the dial from 990.
Faguy says TTP had already backed down from its initial "690 or nothing" stance and was negotiating for the use of the Astral-owned former CIQC (600) transmitter plant in Kahnawahke, just south of Montreal, in hopes of reactivating the long-silent 600 frequency for an English news-talk signal. (That Kahnawahke site had later been used by CINW and CINF on 940 and 690, and TTP apparently wanted to reuse it for its new 940 as well.)
But with CJAD suddenly in play, Faguy says TTP"s strategy may be shifting: instaed of competing with CJAD for the relatively small Anglo audience in Montreal, Paul Tietolman and his partners say they"re ready to buy that station - or whatever else Bell wants to spin off.
(Which leads NERW to wonder: since TTP is also one of the 22 applicants for the open 88.1 frequency in Toronto, could we see Tietolman and his partners making an offer for Astral"s big Toronto news-talker, CFRB 1010, too?)
On TV, Hamilton"s CHCH (Channel 11) has been granted a move from VHF channel 11 to UHF channel 15 for its digital signal. The independent station had plenty of reception issues when Canada"s digital conversion last summer shifted it from its transitional UHF channel, 18, to the channel 11 spot where it had operated in analog for almost 60 years - but then it caught a break when Quebecor folded its "Sun TV" over-the-air CKXT operation, freeing up the channel 15 allocation that had already been operating at CHCH"s transmitter site atop the Niagara Escarpment in Stoney Creek. The move will boost CHCH"s power from 6 kW (max DA) on 11 to 132 kW (max DA) on 15; it may also pose some interference issues along the Niagara Peninsula with Buffalo"s WBNF-CA, also operating on RF 15.
*And with Opening Day just around the corner, let"s take our annual look at Baseball on the Radio, starting as always with the major leagues - and starting, as always, with the Probably-Not-Gonna-Be-Champions-This-Year-Barring-Some-Freaky-Miracle Boston Red Sox.
In addition to a morale-shattering September collapse, the Sox ended their 2011 season with a new FM flagship as Entercom added WEEI-FM (93.7 Lawrence) to WEEI (850 Boston). As we noted at the time, the FM signal isn"t a perfect full-market outlet, being just far enough north to have some trouble overcoming the "RF haze" around the Prudential Tower and Newton/Needham master FM sites, but it"s a big improvement for many listeners who"d struggled with WEEI"s night signal. (The 850 signal is still there, too, covering many of the areas where 93.7 has issues.)
At the western end of that new FM signal, the Sox have dropped WPKZ (1280 Fitchburg, plus 105.3 translator) from the network this year. The rest of the network appears largely intact, including WTIC (1080 Hartford), the 50,000-watt AM lifeline for Sox fans west and south of New England. The Sox have also shuffled some affiliates at the far western edge of their coverage area, losing Syracuse"s ESPN Radio outlets (more on that in a moment) and adding WOFX (980 Troy) in the Albany market.
Joe Castiglione and Dave O"Brien continue as the Sox radio team, with Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy handling the TV broadcasts on NESN (once again, there"s no over-the-air Sox TV save for a handful of Fox national broadcasts.) Uri Berenguer continues with the Spanish-language call on WWZN (1510).
The New York Yankees are in a one-year extension of their contract with WCBS (880 New York), keeping John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman in the booth for another season and prolonging the never-ending speculation about a longer-term deal with CBS that might move the team down the dial to WFAN (660).
The Yanks" extensive radio network adds Fitchburg"s WPKZ as a central Massachusetts voice, remaining otherwise largely unchanged.
On TV, it"s still Michael Kay and Bob Lorenz on the Yankees-owned YES network, which will produce 21 games for WWOR (Channel 9) and a network of upstate stations; Spanish-language Yankees coverage remains on WADO (1280).
The New York Mets turn 50 this year, marking the occasion with a new radio announcing team and some new network affiliates. Wayne Hagin is gone after four seasons alongside Howie Rose on WFAN (660), and replacing him is Josh Lewin, who got his start right here in Rochester announcing the Rochester Red Wings" AAA games before moving on to Fox network baseball coverage, Texas Rangers TV play-by-play, and the San Diego Chargers radio booth. (Lewin will still be calling Chargers games in the fall, but there"s no reason to expect any conflicts in the October schedule...)
After many years with only a token network presence outside the big WFAN flagship signal, the Mets will be heard in more outlying markets this season. In Syracuse, Galaxy"s WTLA (1200)/WSGO (1440 Oswego) and their FM translators switch from the Red Sox to the Mets, and in Glens Falls the team will be heard on WMML (1230), though that signal won"t replace former Albany affiliate WOFX (980), now a Red Sox signal.
On TV, it"s still Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez on SNY, which will produce 25 weekend games for WPIX (Channel 11) and a network of upstate stations. In Spanish, it"s Juan Alicea on WQBU (92.7 Garden City).
Like the Red Sox, the Philadelphia Phillies have a shiny new FM flagship this season. WIP-FM (94.1) takes over from WPHT (1210) at the top of the Phils" extensive radio roster - but "The Big Talker" will continue to carry the Phillies on the AM dial as well. That means splitting the WIP simulcast during Phillies games; WIP (610) will stick with sports talk or pick up conflicting games when the 76ers or Flyers are also on.
(It"s less clear what happens in the fall if the Phillies and Eagles are playing at the same time; the Eagles have had 94.1 as their flagship for many years and would likely be heard there and on 610 while the Phillies are on 1210.)
There"s at least one affiliation change along the big Phillies network: it appears WLPA (1490 Lancaster) will be back with the Phillies after breaking away from the network in 2006 to carry the local Lancaster Barnstormers.
It"s Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen back in the Phillies radio booth, next door to Tom McCarthy and the Comcast TV crew. 45 of their games will air on WPHL (Channel 17) and a small network of broadcast outlets in eastern Pennsylvania; the rest will be split between Comcast Sports Network and The Comcast Network (TCN, formerly CN8).
The Phils get a new Spanish-language flagship this year, too: with former outlet WUBA (1480) having moved back to English-language classic R&B as WDAS(AM), it appears the Phillies go to WEMG (1310 Camden).
The Pittsburgh Pirates also move to a new flagship for 2012, kicking off a "multi-year" deal to put the team-produced broadcasts on CBS Radio"s KDKA-FM (93.7 the Fan) after failing to reach a renewal deal with Clear Channel"s WPGB (104.7), which had been the Bucs flagship for five seasons.
Greg Brown, Steve Blass and John Wehner remain in the radio booth, and as best we can tell the Pirates" network remains largely unchanged this year, with affiliates as far away as Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland.
There"s no change in the Pirates" TV lineup, which remains cable-only on the Root Sports network, and no Spanish-language coverage.
And it"s status quo this year for the Toronto Blue Jays, which is to be expected given the interlocking Rogers ownership of the team and its media outlets. Jerry Howarth, Mike Wilner and Alan Ashby will be heard on CJCL (Sportsnet 590 the Fan) in Toronto and an 18-station network stretching from coast to coast. The Jays" TV games remain on Rogers Sportsnet, of course.
We"ll look at the top of the minor leagues next week...and in the meantime, play ball!
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 and - where available - fifteen 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 28, 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).
Can Lombardo fix a station that"s been mired at the bottom of the Providence ratings for decades? The veteran broadcaster says he sees "a lot of upside potential" in the station and the market. And at the very least, he says under his ownership, WLNE"s newscasts won"t be preempted, as they were a few weeks ago, for a bra infomercial. It"s a start...
*CONNECTICUT"s WDRC talk network (WDRC 1360 Hartford, WMMW 1470 Meriden, WWCO 1240 Waterbury, WSNG 610 Torrington) is the latest prominent outlet to drop Glenn Beck"s syndicated talk show. Starting April 4, the 9-noon timeslot now filled by Beck (who draws a passionate listener base but whose show is reportedly difficult to sell to top-tier advertisers wary of the controversies he engenders) will instead be filled by Mary Jones. She"d lost her weekday WDRC gig a while back, and had been doing weekends - and she"ll share the 9-10 AM hour with WDRC morning man Brad Davis (as "Leatherneck and Lace"), followed by two solo hours.
*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.
*A western PENNSYLVANIA public radio veteran is moving on. Scott Hanley served 16 years as general manager of Pittsburgh"s WDUQ (90.5), but with the station"s impending sale by Duquesne University to a consortium of crosstown WYEP (91.3) and Essential Public Media, it was all but inevitable that Hanley wouldn"t be staying, especially since he had been at the helm of Pittsburgh Public Media, a rival would-be WDUQ purchaser.
Hanley will leave WDUQ April 1 to take a new role as interim Chief Communications Officer at Pittsburgh"s Jewish Healthcare Foundation.
Five Years Ago: March 26, 2007 -
*RHODE ISLAND will soon have its first locally-owned public radio station. "Rhode Island Public Radio" is buying two Rhode Island radio stations - existing public radio outlet WRNI (1290 Providence) and WAKX (102.7 Narragansett Pier).WRNI has been providing NPR news and talk to northern Rhode Island since 1998, when Boston"s WBUR bought the station. It"s been an up-and-down ride ever since, as WBUR has weathered management shakeups, a Rhode Island state investigation into the use of money donated by Rhode Island listeners, and an aborted plan by former WBUR general manager Jane Christo to sell WRNI and its sister station, WXNI (1230 Westerly).
Now Boston University has agreed to keep WRNI in public radio hands, selling it for $2 million (paid over a ten-year period) to the Rhode Island Public Radio group, formerly known as the Foundation for Ocean State Public Radio. WBUR will continue to provide engineering and programming assistance to WRNI for the next five years, and it will sell WXNI separately, since RIPR"s other purchase announced this past week will make the Westerly AM signal redundant. (Money from the WXNI sale will go towards reducing the sale price of WRNI.)
That other purchase is WAKX, for which RIPR will pay Davidson Media $2.65 million, funded by a loan from the Rhode Island Foundation.
That signal will give RIPR coverage of much of South County and Newport for the first time. (It"s currently LMA"d out with a smooth jazz format, which will continue to be heard on Davidson"s WALE 990 Greenville, at least when that station"s on the air - it"s been off again for a few days, we"re told.)
Joseph O"Connor, general manager of WRNI, will stay on the job when the station changes ownership.
*Just in from NEW JERSEY as we go to press Sunday night: WHWH (1350 Princeton) is reportedly back from the dead. Though the Multicultural Radio Broadcasting-owned station went silent just short of a year ago, in favor of its expanded-band sister WTTM (1680 Lindenwold), Multicultural was one of several broadcasters that asked the FCC to reconsider its "five-year rule" forcing expanded-band broadcasters to surrender one of their two licenses. It argued - successfully, it would appear - that the FCC"s stated aim of cleaning up the AM band wasn"t being met by the five-year rule. There"s no word yet on whether WHWH will return to its last format, business talk programmed by former owner Nassau under an LMA.*NEW YORK"s WNYC will partner with Boston"s WGBH, the New York Times, BBC World Service and Public Radio International to launch a new morning show next year. The show will be one of two new rivals to NPR"s "Morning Edition," joining a new NPR-produced "alternative" morning offering. WNYC will continue to carry Morning Edition on WNYC-FM (93.9), while the new show will air on WNYC (820). (Will Boston"s WGBH, which currently runs Morning Edition at the same time as rival WBUR, carry the new show on its main signal? Stay tuned...)
On Long Island, it"s the end of the line (terrestrially speaking, anyway) for Scotty Hart"s modern rock "Radio X" network, anchored at WLIX-LP (94.7 Ridge), with translators W235BB (94.9 Hauppage) and W238BA (104.5 Selden). Next Sunday (Easter Sunday, as it happens), the stations will flip to a religious format, and they"ll soon add two more translators, W268AN (101.5 Plainview) and W243BF (96.5 Shirley). Radio X will live on, for a while anyway, on its webcast at radiox.fm.
And there"s a new signal on the air in the Adirondacks: WSLP (93.3 Saranac Lake) has been testing its transmitter, with regular programming set to launch soon. No word yet on what the station"s format might be.
*The residual effects of Citadel"s deal to acquire ABC Radio from Disney will be felt in the Portland, MAINEmarket. As part of the FCC"s approval of the transaction, Citadel will lose its grandfathered market-cap status there - and that means it will have to spin off two stations.
WCYI (93.9 Lewiston) and WCLZ (98.9 Brunswick) will be among 11 Citadel stations being placed in the "Last Bastion Station Trust" while the company seeks a buyer. WCYI is half of the modern rock simulcast with WCYY (94.3 Biddeford), while WCLZ programs an adult album alternative format.
*It didn"t take long for a new VERMONT FM station to hit the airwaves. WTNN (97.5 Bristol) began testing its signal late last week. We"re told it"s stunting at the moment as "Quick FM," playing music-testing hooks (where have we heard that before?) and ID"ing as "Bristol-Rutland"; no word yet on what the permanent format at that standalone station will be. (Licensee Fine Arts Broadcasting is owned by Connecticut broadcaster John Fuller, who was in the headlines last week for the opposition his Red Wolf Broadcasting filed against the ABC-Citadel deal.)
Vermont Public Radio won"t be buying WWPV (88.7 Colchester) from St. Michael"s College after all; after students and alumni objected to the proposed purchase, college administrators reconsidered, and now plan to keep the station. WWPV"s partnership with VPR, which programs its "World Channel" service on the college signal when students aren"t around, will continue - and VPR says it still intends to find a home in the Burlington market for its new all-classical service.
*We know more this week about the new FM talk entry in western PENNSYLVANIA. When CBS Radio relaunches WRKZ (93.7 Pittsburgh) on April 2, it"ll have new calls, WTZN, and (as rumored in last week"s issue) a new identity, "The Zone." Opie and Anthony remain on board for morning drive, followed by Dennis Miller"s new syndicated show at 10 AM, John McIntire (formerly of KDKA) at 1 PM and Scott Paulsen (late of WDVE) at 4 PM. The new "Zone" is being billed as a talk station designed specifically for men, whatever that might mean.
Over on the AM dial, BusinessTalkRadio.Net is buying WURP (1550 Braddock) from Inner City Broadcasting. BTRN will replace WURP"s "Edge" talk format with its own network talk programming and some local talk.
*Another AM station in CANADA is on its way to the FM band. The CRTC has granted CHUM"s CKPT (1420 Peterborough) permission to move to FM, where it will operate on 99.3 with 5.7 kW. The move will displace CKKK (99.5 Peterborough); that religious station is applying to move to 90.5, where it will go from its current 50 watts to 230 watts/26.4 meters. Rival operators Pineridge Broadcasting and Corus had objected to the CKPT move, with Pineridge claiming that CHUM would end up with three FMs in the market, counting CKLY (91.9 Lindsay). The CRTC says Lindsay"s a separate market, and it says if Corus chooses to apply to move the last remaining AM in Peterborough, CKRU (980), to FM, it will consider that application on its own merits.
Ten Years Ago: March 25, 2002 -
CONNECTICUT is getting a new AM station on an old frequency. It"s been almost exactly ten years since WQQW (1590 Waterbury) went silent; soon, though, listeners in that area will have a new 1590 facility, licensed to nearby Oakville. The just-granted station, owned by Puerto Rico-based "Fair Communications Community," will run 500 watts day, 220 watts at night from a two-tower array just west of Route 8 on Frost Bridge Road, a few miles north of Waterbury. The pattern will aim vaguely northwest by day; at night, it will be a figure-eight aimed north and south, a far cry from the huge signal WQQW used to pump out before being bought by New York"s WWRL and taken silent. (The CP expired, unbuilt.)
MASSACHUSETTS is also getting a new station, as New Bedford Christian Radio finally wins its long-sought construction permit for 88.1 in New Bedford. The 300 watt, vertical-only signal will come from 41 meters above average terrain from a site near the WJFD (97.3) tower just east of Sconticut Neck Road in Fairhaven.
Fifteen Years Ago: March 28, 1997 -
Local music and talk are making a bit of a comeback in the Boston suburbs. WSRO (1470) in Marlborough is now being run by Lindsy Parker, ex-PD at the Talk America Radio Network and at WSAR (1480) Fall River. Parker and owner Doug Rowe say they"re committed to live, local talk. Further down I-495 in Norfolk MA, WDIS (1170) has dropped its Talk America programming, and is playing adult contemporary music with live, local DJs.
The FCC is out with its latest list of proposed expanded-band allocations, and once again the Northeast gets the very short end of the stick. Only two stations up this way receive spots in the expanded band under the new plan. WTRY (980) Troy NY would move to 1640, and WZNN (930) Rochester NH would move to 1700. Like earlier FCC lists, the latest proposal raises more questions than it answers. Among the stations listed is WJRZ (1550) Toms River NJ - whose construction permit expired without ever being built! If the Commission"s goal is to reduce interference, NERW thinks WJRZ(AM) has done its part for the cause without ever receiving an expanded-band slot. The FCC might also want to check the call letters on the list; many are quite outdated by now!
New England"s religious broadcasters are engaging in some territorial squabbling when it comes to new translators. Christian Ministries, Inc. is fighting a petition to deny that was filed against its proposed translator on 96.3 in Quechee VT, which would have relayed WCMD (89.9) Barre VT. CMI is also applying for 91.7 in Woodstock VT, just down the road. Meantime, the folks at WPVQ (93.9) Turners Falls MA are fighting a petition to deny filed by Harvest Broadcasting Association against their proposed translator in South Hadley MA.