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In this week's issue: Dick Clark's legacy in Utica, Syracuse and Philadelphia - Boston TV stations face bigger antenna issues - Philly's Brian Carter dead at 56 - New Jersey's WDDM won't say die - FM Auction 93 wraps up

by SCOTT FYBUSH

(We're still on the road after last week's NAB Show in Las Vegas, and it was a very slow news week back home, so it's a somewhat abbreviated NERW; we'll be back to "full strength," as our San Diego colleague Chris Carmichael likes to say, with next week's edition from back at our home base in Rochester.)

*There's some big tower work on the way in eastern MASSACHUSETTS.

It is indeed the worst possible scenario for the Boston TV stations that shared an antenna atop the old WBZ-TV tower in Needham: the upper master antenna that failed April 8 will have to be removed from its perch more than 1300 feet above Cedar Street in order for the damage to the power divider to be fully repaired. That's a big project, and it means continued headaches for the stations that were using the antenna.

As we reported last week, WBZ-TV (Channel 4/RF 30), WCVB (Channel 5/RF 20), WSBK (Channel 38/RF 39) and WGBX (Channel 44/RF 43) have been temporarily relocated to the lower master antenna, which is still functioning - and which had been the home of WGBH-TV (Channel 2/RF 19). Because WGBH and WCVB can't share the same antenna, WGBH has moved to WCVB's lower-power standby antenna further down the tower, and now it appears the station will be stuck there for a while.

"We understand how frustrating it is to be without the WGBH service, but we are doing everything possible to see that repairs are made as quickly as possible, with consideration for the safety of the work crews," says a statement from WGBH.

The station says it could take a month to get all the work done, which is bad news for Channel 2 viewers in outlying areas who depend on over-the-air reception of the signal (or whose cable systems pick up WGBH over the air.)

And given how complex antenna work can be at the top of a tall tower, and how unpredictable New England weather has been this spring, even that estimate could prove to be conservative. We'll be following along as the stations and tower owner Richland Towers work through the project.

*Out west, there's a new morning show at WBEC-FM (95.9 Pittsfield), where Glen Turner starts tomorrow. He's worked at Boston's WMKK (93.7) and at WERZ (107.1) in Portsmouth, N.H.

*All of America mourned Wednesday as news spread of the death of Dick Clark - but long before "the world's oldest teenager" was a national TV and radio fixture, he was doing local TV and radio in upstate NEW YORK. For Clark, "it all started at a little 5,000-watt radio station in Utica," where Clark was well-connected indeed. His uncle owned WRUN (1150) and WRUN-FM (104.3), and his father, Dick Clark Sr., was managing the stations when Clark made his on-air debut as a college student in the late 1940s.

Clark at WKTV in the early 1950s

Clark went across town to get his first full-time gig after graduating from Syracuse University in 1951, becoming "Dick Clay" on WKTV (then on channel 13), hosting an afternoon country music show called "Cactus Dick and the Santa Fe Riders" - and it wasn't long before Clark's talent bought him a ticket south to PENNSYLVANIA and a new job at Philadelphia's WFIL-TV (Channel 6), where the rest was history.

(Our colleague Peter Naughton has much more on Clark's central New York roots over at CNYRadio.com...)

*Radio People on the Move: Tommy Lee Walker is back at Clear Channel's WRWD-FM (107.3 Highland/Poughkeepsie), where he's returned to morning drive after a three-year absence. Walker replaces CJ McIntyre and Dianne Zanin, who recently left the station.

In Ithaca, Lee Rayburn is the new morning host at Saga's WHCU (870), moving way east from the KNWZ news-talk trimulcast in the Palm Springs, California market.

As we noted in one of our NAB Show updates during the week, the historic WKAL calls have returned to AM 1450 in Rome after a long absence (the station has been WFRG, WODZ, WYFY and WRUY, among others, since the WKAL calls went away in the late 1980s). The station itself is still absent from the dial while new owner Tune In Radio builds a studio and picks a new format. Up the road, WKUY-LP (106.1 Newport) has changed calls to WGLU-LP.

*In Philadelphia, Merlin Media's WWIQ (106.9 Camden NJ) enters its second week stunting as "Hannity 106.9"; while it's widely expected that the station will be going all-talk soon, Merlin remains in "no Rush" to reveal its eventual lineup.

Congratulations to WWIQ's competition, CBS Radio's KYW (1060 Philadelphia), the only NERW-land station to return from Las Vegas with the NAB's Crystal Radio Award for exemplary community service.

Philadelphia broadcasters are mourning Brian Carter, who was half of "Carter and Sanborn in the Morning" on WUSL (98.9) from 1987-1999 and later on WDAS-FM (105.3). Carter, who later worked at New York's WBLS (107.5) and at XM satellite radio, died Sunday morning of a massive heart attack. He was just 56 years old.

In Pottsville, WPAM (1450) is silent; the FCC hit the Curran Communications station with a $10,000 fine in February for failing to maintain its public file, and now "1450 the Phoenix" tells the Commission it will be off the air for a while as it repairs problems with its transmission system.

Also silent is Keymarket's WFGI (940 Charleroi), which is also reporting transmitter problems.

Bud Williamson's nametag on the NAB Show floor this year read "Neversink Broadcasting" for the first time - and his new broadcasting company is changing the calls on one of its stations. The former WTSX (96.7 Lehman Township) is still "Pocono 96.7," but it's requested new calls WABT.

*There's a new night host on "NEW JERSEY 101.5": Steve Trevelise moves up from part-time hosting to the full-time 7-11 PM shift Mondays through Thursdays on WKXW (101.5 Trenton).

And there's a callsign change over in Monmouth County: WDDM (89.3 Hazlet) went silent last year when a new full-power station, WFJS-FM (89.3 Freehold), took over its frequency, but the little class D signal won't die. It has new calls now, WPDI, to go along with the construction permit the FCC granted in February for a displacement move to 104.7 on the dial.

*CONNECTICUT radio owner John Fuller was another NERW-land visitor to the NAB Show (we spotted him on the floor along with one of his top executives, Red Wolf Broadcasting VP Brian Ram) - and he's adding to the signal reach of his new WJJF (94.9). The news-talker is licensed to Montauk, New York, and Red Wolf is now buying a translator there. It's paying Community Bible Church $10,000 for W230BH (93.9).

*And bidding is all done for a handful of new FM facilities that were part of the FCC's Auction 93. Two were in VERMONT: Barry Lunderville's White Mountains Broadcasting LLC gets 94.1C3 in Canaan with a $9,400 bid after four rounds, while Northway Broadcasting (the cluster based across the state line in Glens Falls, New York) gets 92.5A Poulteney with just one round of bidding for $26,000. In Sheffield, Pennsylvania, one round of bidding landed Radio Partners LLC (aka Kinzua Broadcasting) a new 105.1A signal for $18,000 to go along with its existing WRRN/WNAE/WKNB cluster based in Warren.

Much more next week as NERW returns to its regular schedule...

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 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: April 25, 2011 -

For the last few months, we've been closely following the peregrinations of a new FM translator as it's migrated around NEW YORK City and vicinity, and now it appears to have found its permanent home.The translator owned by Michael and Tammy Celenza (as "Apple 107.1, Inc") started out as W296BT (107.1) in Brooklyn, then slid across the East and Hudson rivers to become W293BU (106.5) in Union City, New Jersey, operating only long enough from that location to get a license to cover - and to file for its ultimate move, back across the Hudson to the top of Four Times Square and down one notch on the dial to 106.3.

Now the FCC has granted that move, and speculation is running rampant on the future of this new 99-watt signal from midtown Manhattan. Will the new W292DV continue to relay the country format from the HD2 channel of Clear Channel's WLTW (106.7), or will it become the home of a new format sourced from a different HD subchannel or AM outlet?

(Those HD-sourced translators are becoming big business: in Detroit, veteran border broadcaster Tim Martz just launched two of them, programming rock and smooth jazz formats "originating" on the leased HD2/HD3 channels of the local urban signal, WGPR 107.5.)

And as long as the speculation is floating around out there, it's worth noting that another new Big Apple FM signal is moving closer to the airwaves: after months of preparation, it appears that EMF Broadcasting is getting pretty near to launching the relocated 96.7 signal it's acquiring from Cox.

In its current incarnation as WCTZ, "96.7 the Coast" is telling listeners to adjust their dials to another Cox station in CONNECTICUT, WFOX (95.9 Norwalk), and we're told an antenna is now in place atop the Trump tower in New Rochelle for the new 96.7 "K-Love" signal, for which the WKLV-FM calls were requested back in January.

The new 96.7 signal, whenever it finally signs on, will blanket southern Westchester, the Bronx, much of Queens and Fairfield and at least the northern half of Manhattan - and surely we're not the only ones noticing that it would mesh nicely with the reach that the 99-watt 106.3 sigal from Times Square will have. That directional signal will go mainly east-west, serving much of Manhattan and portions of Brooklyn, Queens and north Jersey.

*In NEW JERSEY, there's a new ownership structure taking shape at Atlantic Broadcasting: on April 8, the bankruptcy court handling the Atlantic case approved a transfer of ownership to a new entity called "Boardwalk Radio, LLC." The new owner is controlled by the Northwood Ventures/Northwood Capital Partners group and Henry T. Wilson, who'd held 89.5% of Atlantic after the bankruptcy and who now end up with a total of 99% of the equity in Boardwalk. (Much of the remaining 1% goes to Atlantic CEO John Caracciolo, while the sale wipes out the remaining equity interests held by former Atlantic founders Mike Ferriola and Brett DeNafo.)

The deal is valued at $3 million - but it's not quite final yet. The FCC filings for the transfer to Boardwalk note that it's still dependent upon the outcome of a bankruptcy auction for the Atlantic assets. The court has designated the Boardwalk proposal as the "stalking-horse bid" in that auction, setting the baseline that competing bids, if any, would have to exceed. Those competing bids are due Thursday, and would be followed by an auction on May 4 if there's competition for the stations and real estate.

*A deleted RHODE ISLAND noncommercial FM station remains very much deleted, says the FCC, which has tossed out an attempt by Educational Radio for the Public of the New Millennium to get the Commission to reconsider its cancellation of the station's license. In March, station president Carlos Vasquez filed a packet of materials with the FCC to support his contention that "we feel as though there is (sic) people working against our favor in order to gain access to our freqency," and arguing that sabotage from Verizon and others prevented WRJI (91.5 East Greenwich) from broadcasting for more than a year, from November 2, 2009 until November 25, 2010.

But the FCC says it can't do anything to help WRJI: it notes that the prolonged outage exceeded the one-year statutory limit after which Congress mandates that a silent station's license should be deleted, and that the petition for reconsideration arrived long after the deadline for such filings to be made. And the FCC says WRJI's application to relicense from East Greenwich to Providence won't work, either, since it would create impermissible overlap with Providence College's WDOM (91.3) and several pending station applications. So the Commission has reaffirmed its deletion of the WRJI license, adding a reminder that any operation of the station is "unauthorized and must cease IMMEDIATELY" (their caps, not ours!) Will 91.5, which we've been told is indeed operating from its Providence studio location, in fact go silent - or will it join the substantial ranks of unlicensed signals in eastern New England?

Five Years Ago: April 23, 2007 -

*It was a rough weather week all over the region, but no broadcast facility was hit worse than the 445-foot tower of WCFE-TV (Channel 57)/WCFE-DT (Channel 38) in NEW YORK's Adirondacks, on Lyon Mountain about 10 miles west of WCFE's city of license, Plattsburgh.The tower, built in 1976, collapsed shortly after 7 on Wednesday morning (April 18), taking WCFE (known on-air as "Mountain Lake PBS") off the air just as the station was about to launch into its Art Auction, its biggest fundraiser of the year.

Early reports suggest that a combination of heavy icing and high winds brought the tower crashing down, damaging the transmitter building at the base of the tower as well.

WCFE had recently spent about $1.5 million to reinforce the tower and to build out its DTV signal, and the station says insurance won't cover the full amount of the rebuilding effort, particularly because of the remote Lyon Mountain location, more than 3600' above sea level and unreachable by car or truck.

(We'd never been up there ourselves, so we're grateful to fellow tower hunter Rick Lucas, who hiked up there a few years ago, for sharing his "before" pictures.)

To make matters worse, unlike many TV stations that are now connected by fiber or microwave to most of the cable and satellite companies in their viewing area, WCFE depended on its on-air signal to reach the bulk of its viewership across Lake Champlain in northern Vermont and across the border in Quebec.

At press time Sunday night, WCFE was being seen only on the Charter Cable system in Plattsburgh, which gets a direct feed from the station's studio; it's working on ways to restore the feed to the other systems while it works on rebuilding. And NERW wonders - with just 22 months remaining for analog television, will WCFE even bother to rebuild the Channel 57 signal that will go dark for good in February 2009, or will this be the cue for Mountain Lake to go DTV-only on 38?

The storm did some damage elsewhere in the region, too - WGHT (1500 Pompton Lakes) in northern NEW JERSEY was silenced for a while when its low-lying transmitter/studio site was flooded, and WLIB (1190 New York) was at low power because of flooding that topped the base insulator at one of the towers of its Meadowlands transmitter site. We hear there was flood damage as well at the shared site of WWDJ (970 Hackensack) and WWRV (1330 New York), and power outages all up and down the Eastern Seaboard left many stations running on generator power at the height of the storm.

*In other NEW YORK news, Don Imus vanished quickly from the headlines last week as the tragic news from Virginia Tech took over the nation's attention, but behind the scenes, things kept percolating at his former home base of WFAN (660 New York). Imus' producer Bernard McGuirk, who instigated the series of remarks that doomed the show, has now also lost his job with WFAN, but newsman Charles McCord, who was with 660 (then WNBC) before Imus ever arrived, has also outlasted his former boss; he's still being heard as part of the morning version of "Mike and the Mad Dog."

The duo are being heard on at least some of the former Imus stations, but not all of them - WXUR (92.7 Herkimer), for instance, is taking ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" for now, but says if Imus ever returns to the air, it'll gladly put him back on the air in the Mohawk Valley. And we neglected to mention WHEN (620 Syracuse) as part of the network - it's now taking Fox Sports Radio in morning drive.

There's a new owner coming for Clear Channel's TV group, which includes WHAM-TV (13, ABC) and its CW subchannel in Rochester; WSYR-TV (9, ABC) in Syracuse; WIVT (34, ABC)/WBGH-LP (20, NBC) in Binghamton; WETM (18, NBC) in Elmira; WXXA (23, Fox) in Albany; WWTI (50, ABC) in Watertown and WHP-TV (21, CBS)/WLYH (15, CW) in Harrisburg. Providence Equity Partners will pay $1.2 billion for those and the rest of the 56-station group.

*In MASSACHUSETTS, WBCN (104.1) is making headlines with its decision not to carry the "best-of" shows that Opie and Anthony are feeding their affiliates during their two-week vacation. Instead, WBCN will move afternoon team Toucher and Rich to mornings, and coupled with O&A's recent cancellation in Dallas, that's got the rumor mill working overtime about the duo's future in national syndication.

*In CANADA, AM radio in Kingston, Ontario will be a thing of the past if Corus' CFFX (960) and CHUM Ltd.'s CKLC (1380) get their way. CFFX is applying to move its oldies format to 104.3, with 8 kW DA/248 m, while CKLC is again applying to move to 98.9, with 15 kW DA/132 m.

They're not the only applicants for new FM signals in Kingston: CIKR (105.7) wants a second FM to add to its existing "K-Rock" outlet, and it's applying for a 6.5 kW DA/113 m signal on 93.5 to broadcast a "new country" format.

The CRTC will consider the applications at a June 18 public hearing at its Gatineau, Quebec headquarters.

In Toronto, "Proud FM" (CIRR 103.9) had its official launch last Monday (April 16), billing itself as the world's first commercial over-the-air station devoted to gay, lesbian and bisexual listeners. (There was at least one earlier attempt we know of, on two small AM signals in the Seattle market a few years back.)

Ten Years Ago: April 22, 2002 -

It's been a quiet week stateside, but a busy one for at least one media company in CANADA. Telemedia won permission from the CRTC late last week to spin off most of its radio holdings around the country, which is good news for NewCap, Standard Broadcasting, and Astral Media. While NewCap gets the Telemedia stations out west, Standard gets nearly 30 stations from Telemedia in Ontario, including Toronto's CJEZ (EZ Rock 97.3), which will be paired with Standard's existing CFRB (1010) and CKFM (Mix 99.9). Standard also gets three in Hamilton - country CHAM (820), oldies CKOC (1150) and AC CKLH (K-Lite 102.9) - and three in St. Catharines - full-service CKTB (610), rock CHTZ (97.7, once owned by Standard) and CHRE (EZ Rock 105.7). The company also keeps Telemedia's London foursome - country CJBX (92.7), talk CJBK (1290), AC CKSL (1410) and CIQM (EZ Rock 97.5).

Standard is spinning off much of the remainder of the Telemedia group in Ontario to Rogers, which picks up CJCL (Fan 590), the Prime Time Sports network and the Standard stations in Orillia (CICX), North Bay (CKAT/CKFX/CHUR), Sault Ste. Marie (CHAS/CJQM/CIRS), Sudbury (CIGM/CJRQ/CJMX) and Timmins (CKGB/CJOQ). Meanwhile in Quebec and the Maritimes, Astral Media gets the former Telemedia properties, including some of the biggest stations in Montreal and Quebec City. The catch? The company will be required to boost the amount of local news on the stations, as well as selling CFOM (102.9 Levis) in the Quebec City market.

Moving down to NEW YORK, the uneasy relationship between veteran jock Pete Fornatale and Fordham University's WFUV (90.7 New York) frayed last week, as the public radio station announced a "temporary leave" for Fornatale as host of the Saturday-evening "Mixed Bag" show. Fornatale, best known for his many years at the old WNEW-FM, had sparred with WFUV management several times in recent months over political comments made during his show. WFUV will run "best of" programs for now; the station says it still hopes to get Fornatale back on the air soon.

Sorry to report the passing of a newsman who woke up millions of New Yorkers for more than two decades; Jim Donnelly died Saturday (4/20) of complications from Parkinson's disease. Donnelly joined WCBS (880) in 1972, after a career that included KYW in Philadelphia and WNEW(AM) in New York; for most of the time from then until his retirement in 1992, he handled morning co-anchor duties on "Newsradio 88." Donnelly was 69.

Fifteen Years Ago: April 17, 1997 -

Crankin' out FIFTY THOUSAND WATTS OF POWER!!!: That could be the slogan of Koor Broadcasting's new station in Hanover NH, if Bob Vinikoor gets his way. We've finally seen the FCC filing for the 720 kHz application, and wouldn't you know, it's for 50 kilowatts by day, 500 watts by night, separate patterns, using 3 towers by day and 4 by night. The transmitter site would be in Lebanon, just north of the town center and east of route 120. It goes without saying that the new 720, if approved, would be by far the strongest AM signal in the Granite State. This should be interesting...stay tuned.

Some big shakeups on the radio dial here in Upstate New York, and most of them are at Heritage Media's Rochester properties. Oldies WKLX (98.9) dumped most of its airstaff last weekend, and is now all satellite outside of morning drive, where market veteran Mike Vickers is now working. Down the hall at classic rock WQRV (93.3 Avon, "The River,") Chris Wittingham has replaced Coyote Collins as morning jock. Collins returns to his duties at country WBEE-FM (92.5). Still no word on a possible buyer for the Heritage radio/TV properties, which also include WPTZ-TV (Channel 5) in Plattsburgh.

New call letters are in place at ARS's modern AC "The Zone" (94.1 Brighton-Rochester). WZNE replaced WAQB last Friday. Over in Buffalo, meanwhile, "Alice at 92.9" is still hiding the old WSJZ calls at the top of each hour.

There'll be a new AM signal on the air at night in the Rochester area soon. We've now seen it with our own eyes; Bob Savage has built three additional towers at the Avon NY transmitter site of his WYSL, as he gets ready to move the station from a 500-watt daytimer on 1030 to a fulltime facility on 1040, with 2500 watts by day and 500 at night. We'll see whether he beats another new AM to the air; Canandaigua's WCGR has built a new three-tower facility for its 1310 kHz construction permit, replacing the daytimer on 1550 kHz.

Speaking of new stations, there's word from way up North that WYUL (94.7 Chateauguay) is about to hit the airwaves. Owner Tim Martz is no stranger to the Canadian border -- he runs WQHR and WBPW in Presque Isle ME. His 50kW directional signal from Lyon Mountain, the WPTZ-TV (Channel 5) transmitter site near Plattsburgh, will head straight for Montreal, and the "YUL" in the calls is also the airport code for Montreal. Word has it that Martz is hiring bilingual DJs for the new station.

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. Speaking of tower work in the Boston mahket, the FCC Actions today show that WLVI-TV DTV-41/virtual 56, received a license to cover for their CP. A glance at the FCC data for WLVI-TV show it’s a directional antenna seemingly AWAY from Boston, with a single 1.0 due west. I live north of Boston and can’t get a usable signal from the station with my digital-to-analog box and indoor powered antenna. Pre-April 8th, I got consistently reliable signals from WMFP-TV 18/62; WGBH-TV 19/2; WCVB-TV 20/5; WBZ-TV, 30/4; WBPX 32/68; WGBX-TV 43/44; and WHDH-TV 42/7. WFXT-TV 31/25 and WSBK 39/38 were in-and-out.

  2. radio-locator shows the w230bh site to be the same as WJJF…what’s the benefit of a 93.9 translator there?

  3. Laurence, WLVI has not changed their pattern or antenna. They just increased their power from 550kW to 690kW. Everything else is the same.

  4. I get that, but why does WLVI utilize a directional antenna at all, and unless the FCC info on its design is mistaken, the strongest signal is sent away from Boston. Channe 31/25 also uses a directional antenna, but that’s understandable since there a channel 31 near Hartford. There doesn’t appear to be a strong channel 41 in the vicinity, just a relatively low-power station in Waterville, ME.

    • Here’s what I think is happening: using the DA avoids wasting too much RF over the bay, instead pushing it out to the north, west and south where there’s population at a greater distance from Needham. You only have to go 15 miles or so east from Needham to hit water, after all.

      Yes, it probably means a weaker WLVI signal in Provincetown, but is anyone watching OTA TV out there anyway?

  5. This could go on forever, but as I see it, the orientation WLVI (and WFXT) use doesn’t so much “waste” signal over the ocean, but helps people using indoor antennas in the city of Boston and the immediate vicinity north and south lock on to occasionally troublesome DTV signals on UHF. Mike Fitzpatrick Tweets that WUTF, 27/66 is going whole hog, increasing antenna height and top-mounting an antenna aimed at Boston. Of course its antenna is west of route 128 so less of its signal would go over water. But in the end. cable, satellite and any other alternative delivery systems reach 98 per cent of the viewers in Greater Boston.

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