In this week's issue: 22 broadcasters queue up for 88.1 in Toronto - More new FM in Cottage Country - WNED completes WBFO purchase - Yanks land Worcester County outlet - WLAD/WDAQ set to move
by SCOTT FYBUSH
*Who wants one of the last big-market FM signals to become available in CANADA? Just about everyone, at least judging by the list the CRTC released last week in preparation for a May 7 hearing at which it will decide who inherits the 88.1 frequency that became open in Toronto when community station CKLN lost its license last year.
In all, 22 broadcasters submitted proposals to use 88.1, and they fall broadly into three categories:
Existing stations seeking a better signal: The 88.1 signal's not a great one to begin with - just a few hundred watts from the First Canadian Place tower in downtown Toronto - but it's still better than some of the even more minimal signals that have been crammed on to the Toronto dial in recent years. Evanov's gay-oriented CIRR (103.9 PROUD FM), French community station CHOQ (105.1) and Fitzroy Gordon's new urban station, CKFG (98.7) are all asking to go to 88.1 as an upgrade. Two big AM signals, Radio-Canada's CJBC (860) and MZ Media's CFZM (740), are asking to use 88.1 as a nested relay to overcome AM signal problems in downtown Toronto. (Yes, both stations run huge 50 kW non-directional signals on AM from a site out at Hornby, northwest of Toronto, but they argue that electrical interference from streetcar lines and other sources wipes out those signals downtown. That's the same argument the CBC made back in 1999, when it moved Radio One from 740 to 99.1.)
New commercial signals from big players - and small. Several of the very biggest players in Canadian radio, including Corus and Bell Media, already have the maximum number of stations allowed in Toronto. But even with those giants out of the picture, there are plenty of other commercial groups that would love a new voice in the nation's biggest market. Newcap wants to use 88.1 for a "modern adult music" format, Montreal's Tietolman-Tetrault-Pancholy group wants to do talk, Larche Communications seeks a "rock-based Adult Album Alternative" format, Durham Radio (which owns suburban station CJKX in Ajax) wants "new easy listening music," and Barrie's Rock 95 Broadcasting wants "Indie music." Frank Torres, owner of Ottawa's "DAWG FM" (CIDG 101.9), wants a commercial signal that will play at least 20% jazz and blues, while Michael Wekerle proposes a commercial triple-A format.
New community/ethnic stations. Since CKLN was a community/campus station, one might suspect the CRTC will want to keep the frequency dedicated to that use. (Unlike in the US, there are no channels in Canada permanently set aside for noncommercial or community use.)
With that in mind, ten broadcasters have applied for new signals with specialty formats. Barrie-based Trust Communications Ministries and Toronto-based Family FM Inc. propose religious stations, Stanislaus Anthony wants an "emerging genres music format," Tosan Lee wants a "world-beat" station, and there are plenty of proposals for new multi-ethnic stations, including one that would add an additional signal to CHIN's existing AM 1540 (with an FM relay at 91.9) and CHIN-FM 100.7.
And there's the expected application from Ryerson University's Radio Ryerson Ltd., which proposes returning 88.1 to Ryerson, where CKLN started.
So who wins? We'll get a better sense of the CRTC's thinking at the May 7 hearing - but if we were in a betting mood, we'd speculate that the agency won't look favorably on the CFMZ and CJBC applications, since they won't add a new voice to the Toronto dial. The applications from CIRR, CKFG and CHOQ would open up those stations' existing facilities for new users, but those signals are so small as to be of at best limited value to anyone else. (There would be a certain irony, one supposes, in the CRTC's approving CKFG for a move to 88.1 and then giving 98.7 to CJBC for a nested relay after all the objections the CBC made to the use of 98.7 in Toronto in the first place...)
If the CRTC thinks there's room for another commercial operator in the market, it will be looking for an operator with the resources to fully commit to a battle against the big Corus, Astral and Bell clusters, and we'd think that might mean an edge to either Newcap's deep pockets or Durham's ability to cluster with its Ajax and Hamilton signals.
We'll be following the hearing once it starts, so stay tuned...
*That hearing, by the way, will include several other applications for new signals in and around Toronto, including proposals for two new AMs on frequencies that were vacated long ago.
In Brampton, just north of Toronto, Sarabjeet S. Arora wants to start a new community ethnic station on 1190, where Mississauga's ethnic CJMR used to operate before moving to 1320. Like the old CJMR, this new signal would be a daytimer, running just 500 watts.
Over in Markham, Geethavaani/Toronto Tamil Radio wants a new AM signal to go along with the FM subcarrier operation it's been running for years. The new AM would be a split-frequency facility, with 1000 watts on 1480 during the day and 500 watts on 1490 at night - and it would be the first split-frequency AM in Canada since the days of CHYR 710/730 in Leamington. (1480 was the former home of Newmarket's CKAN, now CKDX 88.5; back then, it was directional day and night.)
On the FM dial, there are three applications for suburban/exurban Toronto signals. My Broadcasting wants two new signals for its "My-FM" programming: 101.5 in Orangeville, with 338 watts (625 watts max DA)/55.1 m, and 92.1 in Alliston, with 1,986 watts (3.75 kW max DA)/30.5 m. In Markham, Bhupinder Bola wants a new signal on 105.9, mixing AAA/AC English music with ethnic programming and running 618 watts (1.6 kW max DA)/21.1 m.
*Further north, the CRTC has approved two new signals at the southern end of Georgian Bay. In Shelburne, Bayshore Broadcasting gets 12.5 kW (50 kW max DA)/82 m on 104.9 for a new country station, the eighth in Bayshore's growing cluster of signals in the area. Three other broadcasters also sought the frequency, and while the CRTC denied applications from Evanov Communications and Frank Torres, it granted MZ Media's bid for a new signal at Collingwood. MZ hopes to use the new facility (with calls CFMO) as a partial relay of classical CFMZ (96.3) from Toronto aimed at the wealthy retirees in the region. But before it can put the new signal on the air, it will have to find a different frequency, and it has 90 days to submit a new proposal.
*Out in Windsor, Neeti P. Ray got caught in that "find yourself a new frequency" dilemma when the CRTC granted him a new multilingual signal back in 2008. Ray had applied for 95.9, but that frequency went to Blackburn Radio for what's now country station CJWF, leaving Ray without an open channel. That situation finally shifted last year when the CBC abandoned plans to build a "nested" FM relay on 102.3 for CBE (1550), instead moving CBE entirely from AM to FM as CBEW (97.5). That opened up 102.3 for Ray's long-delayed station, CJNR, which has finally been granted that frequency, where it will run 1.9 kW (5 kW max DA)/55.5 m.
*South of Ottawa, CKVV (97.5 Kemptville) has been testing its signal for a few weeks now, but it made its official launch last Monday morning (Feb. 27). It's playing AC music as "Star FM," with Drew Hosick and Diana Fisher kicking things off as hosts of the "Big Breakfast Morning Show."
*And we say "au revoir" to CFYX (93.3) in Rimouski, Quebec and its relay CFYX-3 (103.1 Riviere-du-Loup), which left the airwaves at 5:30 PM on Leap Day. Owner Groupe Radio Simard says the station, which had been on the air since 2007, wasn't profitable - and Dan Sys over at Canadian Radio News notes that Simard had been turned down last December when it asked the CRTC for permission to sell ads in the nearby community of Baie-Comeau.
*There's now just one public radio operation in western NEW YORK. The merger of WBFO (88.7 Buffalo) into its erstwhile rival, WNED (970 Buffalo), went off right on schedule Thursday afternoon at 4 with a recorded announcement that aired on both stations as they entered their new simulcast from WNED's studios in downtown Buffalo.
(Just in case the switchover didn't work properly, WBFO's Mark Scott was on hand at the former WBFO studios to run "All Things Considered" from there, we're told!)
Now that the full schedule for the merged operation is out, it's clear that WNED is absorbing more of WBFO's DNA than many observers had expected. The first local voice heard on the merged signal was former WBFO host Mark Wozniak, who'll be hosting "All Things Considered" on WBFO/WNED, and while he opened his first newscast as "Mark Wozniak, WNED News," most of the branding for the rest of the show was "WBFO," the AM section of the website now redirects to WBFO.org, and the daytime programming on 88.7 and 970 is a mix of the old 88.7 and 970 schedules: "On Point" and "Here and Now" from WNED, "Tell Me More" and "Talk of the Nation" from WBFO.
Aside from Wozniak and former WBFO news director Eileen Buckley, most of the news staffers now heard on WBFO come from the WNED side, including news director Jim Ranney and "Morning Edition" host Jay Moran.
(And for all the to-do in the Buffalo News and elsewhere about the "20 shows" lost from the stations' merged schedules, many of those programs were either low-audience weekend shows or TV simulcasts such as "NewsHour," though others were higher-profile daily shows such as "The World.")
While public radio news junkies adjust to a shuffled schedule, perhaps the biggest change from WNED's $4 million purchase of WBFO is, as we've noted, on the weekends: the blues shows that were a signature part of WBFO on Saturday and Sunday afternoons have shifted to Saturday and Sunday nights, and we'll be watching to see how blues fans respond to the new lineup there.
(So will News columnist Jeff Simon, who offered some incisive reflections on WBFO's jazz legacy in an outstanding column that ran Friday.)
*Longtime NERW readers know we've been fascinated over the years, in a sort of a can't-avert-your-eyes-from-a-car-crash way, with the bizarre filings that seem to keep appearing in the FCC database for WJJL (1440 Niagara Falls). Back in 2006, WJJL's real licensee, M.J. Phillips Inc. (M. John Phillips), had to spend some legal time making sure the FCC correctly processed its own renewal application for the station instead of the phony app that was submitted by one "Joann Nicola Lutz Distefano Phillips," who tried to convince the Commission that she was married to WJJL's owner and had somehow come into control of the station.
Then "Joann" filed again in December 2011, attempting (in two separate filings) to transfer control of WJJL - and this time, the station fired back more aggressively. In addition to WJJL's own transfer filing, belatedly taking the station out of "debtor-in-possession" status, Phillips' lawyer sent the FCC a lengthy letter demanding the dismissal of all five filings made so far by "Joann" under her various names.
The letter is well worth reading in its entirety, but here's the gist: there really is a "Joann Nicola Lutz Distefano" who hosted a weekly show on WJJL in late 1997 and was fired fairly quickly - and since 2004, Phillips has been fighting all kinds of aggravation from her. It's not just the FCC filings or the message-board postings that first brought her to our attention; it's also included interference with WJJL's advertisers, and according to the FCC letter, it has now escalated into a criminal complaint against Distefano, who apparently now lives in a mental health shelter in Brooklyn.
"It is time for this vindictive conduct to end," says WJJL's attorney James R. Cooke, and the FCC apparently agreed; it quickly dismissed the outstanding transfer applications, ending at least this chapter of a truly bizarre radio tale.
*Galaxy Broadcasting is getting an FM sports signal in Utica to match its "ESPN Radio" translators in Syracuse. Galaxy filed with the FCC last week to buy translator W256AJ (99.1) from Jon Yinger's Christian Broadcasting System, which had been using the translator to relay WJIV (101.9 Cherry Valley). Yinger gets $40,000, and Galaxy gets an FM home for the programming heard on WTLB (1310 Utica). The 50-watt translator currently operates from the top of the old Hotel Utica, which was the original home of WUFM (107.3), ancestor of today's WKVU; CNYRadio.com reports Galaxy is planning to move the translator up to Smith Hill to improve its signal.
(CNYRadio also checks in with word that WRCK 100.7 in Utica is now running a loop directing "Air 1" listeners to sister station WOKR 93.5, ahead of the impending sale of 100.7 to Roser Communications.)
*Radio People on the Move in Albany: In our midweek update, we told you about Clear Channel's WPYX (106.5) parting ways with longtime morning man Bob Wohlfeld and his "Wake up with the Wolf" morning show - but Wolf wasn't the only voice gone from an Albany station last week. Over at Albany Broadcasting's "Jamz 96.3" (WAJZ Voorheesville), Tanch has left his gig as program director and midday host. While Jamz looks for a replacement, the rumor mill has Tanch headed down the road to the rival Townsquare cluster and "Crush" WQSH (105.7).
*In Hornell, Lee Richey is the new morning co-host at country WKPQ (105.3); he was formerly at WCJW in Warsaw.
*The new country simulcast north of New York City comes with a new set of call letters, too: Cumulus flipped WFAF (106.3 Mount Kisco) to WDVY on Thursday when it began simulcasting "Kicks Country" WDBY (105.5 Patterson).
*It's not just the Cumulus cluster in Danbury, CONNECTICUT (where WDBY is based) that's going through some changes. Over at Berkshire Broadcasting, WLAD (800), WAXB (850 Ridgefield) and WDAQ (98.3) are preparing for a long-awaited move to new studios and offices.
For half a century now, WLAD and its sister stations have made their home at 198 Main Street, the old Hotel Green. But what was a prestigious address when WLAD moved in back in 1962 has become a challenging location now: the ex-Hotel Green is now Ives Manor, a senior housing center.
That's caused some interesting issues for the stations, which have had to cope with HUD construction requirements when they've made renovations. What's more, the stations have had to deal with a strange layout that puts their offices on the first floor and their studios up on the fourth floor.
No more: as of July, the Berkshire stations will move to new digs at 98 Mill Plain Road, out on the west side of town near the New York state line. (And yes, GM Irv Goldstein is pleased indeed that "98Q" will still be at an address that starts with "98.")
We'll try to make it out to western Connecticut before the stations move so we can get the full tour from longtime chief engineer Tom Osenkowsky to share with you over at Tower Site of the Week...
*The New York Yankees are getting a new radio voice in northern Worcester County, MASSACHUSETTS, but it's not because the folks at WPKZ (1280 Fitchburg, and its 105.3 translator) wanted to end their longtime association with the Boston Red Sox. The station drew some big headlines in the radio world when it announced the switch this week - a Yankees affiliate in deepest central Massachusetts? - and it eventually took a segment of WPKZ's morning show to explain that the decision to drop the Sox from WPKZ came from Entercom's Red Sox radio network, which apparently believes the coverage from WEEI-FM (93.7 Lawrence) and Worcester's WCRN (830) will suffice in the Fitchburg area.
WPKZ's move raised some questions about territorial exclusivity for baseball on the radio, and the answer appears to be that teams are protected only within their home county and immediately adjacent counties - so while there can't be a Yankees affiliate in Boston proper, Worcester County is sufficiently distant for a station to join the Yankees network. (And we'd note that longtime Yanks affiliate WPRV 790 in Providence is actually closer to Fenway than WPKZ is.)
We'll examine the rest of the Major League Baseball on the Radio landscape in our March 24 issue...
*In MAINE, Jim Bleikamp appears to have cleared the last of the hurdles keeping WCME (900 Brunswick) from returning to the airwaves after several years of mostly-silence. Jim's spent the last few years (when he's not busy at his day job anchoring Wall Street Journal radio reports) navigating the shoals of local zoning boards to get approval for a new site for the station, which lost its old home when it was split from former FM partner WCLZ (98.9). After several false starts, Jim and his engineering consultant Mark Humphrey found a site just west of Brunswick on Old Portland Road (US 1) that satisfied the local officials - and as of Leap Day, he's in possession of a construction permit from the FCC to build WCME at that location, about two miles southwest of the old AM/FM site.
From its new home, WCME will run 700 watts day (against 1000 watts from its old licensed location), dropping to 26 watts at night.
*Along the PENNSYLVANIA/NEW JERSEY border, there's a new format at WTSX (96.7 Lehman Township PA). That's the signal that was moved out of Port Jervis and down to the Delaware Water Gap to make room for the new WKLV-FM in the New York market, and after many years simulcasting "Fox" AC WJGK (103.1 Newburgh NY), it's now going its own way with classic hits. (RadioInsight notes that WJGK has picked up a new relay in the meantime - it's being heard on W247AW on 97.3 in Poughkeepsie, by way of the relay on sister station WGNY-FM 98.9's HD3 subchannel.)
As we noted in the midweek update, Clear Channel Philadelphia has found a successor to John Rohm, who was promoted from market manager to a regional VP (in the southeast region) back in January. The new head of the Philadelphia cluster is Dennis Lamme, whose long career with the company has included stints in Albany and most recently as market manager in Pittsburgh. (Lamme also continues his national role as "team captain" for Clear Channel's Total Traffic service.)
Over at CBS Radio, WIP (610) is splitting from its sports-talk simulcast with WIP-FM (94.1) at night to add the new “Nick and Artie Show.” Airing weeknights from 10 PM-1 AM, the show is hosted by comedian Nick DiPaolo and former Howard Stern sidekick Artie Lange. Will this be the start of a more separate identity for the big 610 signal? It will have plenty of non-simulcast airtime this year during Phillies games, which will air on WIP-FM and WPHT (1210) but not on WIP(AM).
And we'll close with some good wishes for Susan Koeppen, the KDKA-TV (Channel 2) anchor (and former WHEC-TV Rochester talent) who's been coping with some pretty serious heart problems since collapsing while out running in November. She's since returned to work, but she'll be out again for a while as she undergoes surgery this week to repair a faulty heart valve.