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In this week"s issue...Backyard Broadcasting sells - Oneonta noncomm silenced - Morning show for Nash? - Auction yields new Erie FM

By SCOTT FYBUSH

*Seven years after an upstate NEW YORK state college entered the public radio business, it has abruptly shut down its station, leaving behind plenty of questions about a newly open space on the dial.

wuowSUNY Oneonta put WUOW-LP (104.7) on the air in 2007 to help provide emergency communications in town in the wake of devastating flooding in the region, and just last year it returned the LPFM license and signed on a new full-power outlet, WUOW (88.5 Milford), along with an Oneonta translator, W217BY (91.3), for which it paid $12,500.

Even though that move had already been planned and paid for, it appears that the Oneonta campus had by then already decided to pull the plug on its venture into public radio. From an initial staff of three (plus a part-timer), WUOW was down to just one staffer - and on Thursday, that staffer, SUNY Oneonta communications lecturer Gary Wickham, had the sad duty of signing the station off.

With a mixture of AAA music and some local talk, WUOW had competed against relays of two larger public stations, Binghamton"s WSKG (via WSQC 91.7 Oneonta) and Albany"s WAMC (via two translators in the area). Will either of them (or someone else) end up with the WUOW licenses? For now, SUNY isn"t saying whether it still plans to sell the licenses, though it had offered them for sale back in 2011.

(In the meantime, WSKG is finding other ways to expand in Otsego County: it"s paying Bud Williamson $20,000 for translator W290CI on 105.9 in Cooperstown.)

*We still think of Bruce Mittman primarily as a Massachusetts broadcaster, but he"s becoming a bigger name in upstate New York radio. Last week, Mittman"s Community Broadcasters (which he owns along with Jim Leven) filed a $3.6 million deal to buy Backyard Broadcasting"s stations in the Elmira/Corning and Olean markets. In Elmira, Community picks up a cluster of three FMs and two AMs: top-40 "Wink 106" WNKI (106.1 Corning), the only class B signal in the core of the market, along with country "Big Pig" WPGI (100.9 Horseheads) and classic rock "Wingz" WNGZ (104.9 Montour Falls), plus talker WWLZ (820 Horseheads) and WRCE (1490 Watkins Glen), which relays WNGZ when it"s not carrying auto racing on the weekends. In Olean, Community picks up market-leading country giant WPIG (95.7) and oldies WHDL (1450).

The Elmira/Corning and Olean stations join Community"s existing cluster up in Watertown - and combined with another Backyard deal to sell off its holdings in Indiana, they leave the company with only one remaining cluster. There"s every reason to believe those stations, down the road from Corning in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, will also find new owners soon, closing out just over a decade of Backyard investment in the region. (The company started out in 2002, back at the top of the market, by paying $42 million for Sabre Communications, which included the Elmira/Corning, Olean and Williamsport clusters.)

Mittman, incidentally, has been in the news in Boston for a different media interest: the former WAAF general manager is widely rumored to be a suitor for the Globe, which is being spun off by the New York Times.

The spire rises
The spire rises (photo: John Lyons)

*New York City"s newest FM/TV transmitter site is now at its full 1776-foot height - but Thursday"s topping-off of the new 1 World Trade Center comes with a tremendous amount of uncertainty, since not even the site"s manager, the Durst Organization, can say who"ll end up becoming tenants on the new mast or even what channels they might be operating on.

Durst"s vice president for broadcasting, John Lyons, acknowledged in a presentation at the NAB Show last month that he"s been meeting with all of the city"s broadcasters, but so far there have been no public commitments to lease space, in part because TV stations remain uncertain about how their channel assignments might be affected by the FCC"s plan to repack the UHF spectrum. With the rest of the 1WTC infrastructure not set for completion until at least 2014, it seems likely that it will be a while before we find out how this will all shake out.

There"s also no official confirmation yet of the other big news story from the city: while it"s widely rumored that Blair Garner is headed to morning drive at Cumulus" WNSH (94.7 Newark NJ), "Nash FM" hasn"t made its own announcement about the hire. If the rumors are true, Garner will host the morning show from his home base in Nashville, where he"ll also continue to host the popular syndicated "After MidNite" all-night show. And if it"s true, it will mark Garner"s return (virtually, at least) to his old home base in the city, where he used to host afternoons at Cumulus sister station WPLJ (95.5). (Back then, circa 1991, WPLJ was still owned by ABC, and Garner was known on the air as "Skye Walker.")

As turbulent as the sports radio landscape in New York City has been, the market"s biggest teams seem rather loath to actually change stations. Witness, for instance, the New York Football Giants, who just signed what"s being described as a new "multi-year" deal with CBS Radio"s WFAN (660/101.9). The Giants have been on WFAN since 1997, and all indications are that this deal will take the team to the twenty-year mark with the station; it"s less clear whether Giants games would continue to air on both AM and FM when, as widely expected, the local WFAN talk goes FM-only and CBS Sports Radio lands on the AM 660 signal.

Both of New York"s battling FM sports talkers picked up a new team last week, thanks to the Islanders" surge deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Isles have had a tough time with radio in recent years, ending up on Hofstra University"s noncommercial WRHU (88.7) for the last few seasons, but the final two games of their postseason made it back on the New York City airwaves, with Game 5 airing on ESPN Radio"s WEPN-FM (98.7) on Thursday and Game 6 airing Saturday night on WFAN after the Mets" day game. (And that, of course, was all she wrote; the Penguins" win in game 6 ended the Islanders" season.)

Will the Isles make a full-time return to the New York airwaves next year after six seasons in exile? It"s only a matter of time, especially with the team moving to Brooklyn in 2014 or 2015.

One more WFAN-related move: engineer Jeff Smith is headed back to Clear Channel"s New York cluster after spending the last couple of years at CBS Radio. Smith"s new duties at Clear Channel will include the studio move of WOR (710) from 111 Broadway into the Clear Channel cluster facility at 32 Avenue of the Americas.

wdcd-fm*Upstate, we"re hearing that the return to the air of WDCD (1540 Albany) is more than just a temporary license-saving move. Licensee DJRA Broadcasting had taken the big 50,000-watt signal silent in March 2012 and kept it off the air for just short of a year after moving its Christian AC format over to sister station WDCD-FM (96.7 Rotterdam); while it returned to the air in late March 2013 as a simulcast of the FM, the word is that later this summer, 1540 will flip to a conservative talk format as it relaunches.

In Niagara County, Lockport Community Television is seeking a new frequency for its WLNF (90.5 Rapids). Since signing on last year, WLNF has suffered from more co-channel interference than it expected to get from the CBC"s CBLA-1 (90.5 Crystal Beach), and so it"s asking the FCC to shift from 90.5 to 90.9, with a power increase from 250 watts to 1.8 kW, still at 92 feet above average terrain and still with a directional antenna.

Way at the other end of the Buffalo metro, WCJW (1140 Warsaw) has expanded its translator reach yet again. Engineer (and part-owner) Mark Humphrey has been as aggressive as any AM operator in the country when it comes to FM translators, and the latest move involves W283AU (104.5), which relocates from Houghton up to Eagle, in southern Wyoming County, where it fills a signal gap to the south and west of WCJW"s Warsaw and Nunda translators. The new signal is the fifth FM relay for WCJW, which no longer even lists "1140" among the frequencies in its logo.

That Syracuse streaming-only 80s station we told you about last week? It lasted only a few days before shutting down, apparently due to some combination of technical and personal issues. CNYRadio.com has on the story, but nobody"s saying much about what happened.

More Syracuse news: Gary Michaels is out as both midday host and interim PD at Galaxy"s WTKW (99.5 Bridgeport)/WTKV (105.5 Oswego), with night host Alexis moving to middays. For now, Alexis and semi-retired Galaxy executive Mimi Griswold will handle PD duties, but they"re looking for a permanent replacement.

In Ithaca, Saga has also been an aggressive proponent of translators, and it fired up its fourth last week. W249CD (97.7) relays progressive talk WNYY (1470), and it"s doing so from a very crowded little shelter at the base of one of WNYY"s towers on South Hill. That site is also home to Saga"s other three translators: W240CB (95.9) relays talker WHCU (870), W254BF (98.7) does AAA as "the Vine" and W277BS (103.3) is top-40 "Hits", with the latter two both fed from HD channels of WYXL (97.3). There"s also a pending application for a fifth translator at the site, on 96.7.

connoisseur-logo-lg*Our PENNSYLVANIA news begins this week with a new signal in Erie, where Connoisseur Media is adding a seventh station to its existing four-FM/two-AM cluster thanks to a winning bid in the FCC"s just-concluded FM Auction 94. Connoisseur"s $167.000 bid in the fifteenth round of the auction topped a $152,000 bid from The ERIE Radio Company, the Rick Rambaldo/Dave Hallman group that used a winning bid in a previous FCC auction to put WEHP (92.7 Lawrence Park) on the air as top-40 "Happi."

Like that 92.7 signal, the new class A facility on 95.9 will be somewhat impaired by co-channel interference from across Lake Erie. In this case, it"s superpower CFPL-FM from London, Ontario that"s the limiting factor, with a near-city-grade signal in much of the Erie area when propagation over the lake is strong. The new 95.9, like 92.7, will have to use a directional antenna to limit its signal to the north, which will make it interesting to see where Connoisseur puts its new signal now that the obvious spot, the rooftop of a high-rise apartment building on the lakeshore just west of downtown Erie, has already been claimed by WEHP.

We"ll be watching, too, to see what format Connoisseur chooses for its fifth FM in town, which will join top-40 "Star" WRTS (103.7), classic rock "Rocket" WRKT (100.9 North East), adult hits "Bob" WXBB (94.7), country "Wolf" WTWF (93.9 Fairview), talk WJET (1400) and sports WFNN (1330) in the storefront studios in the old Boston Store downtown.

*Two Pittsburgh-market AM stations are changing owners for remarkably low prices. All-news KQV (1410) will apparently be keeping its format when the heirs of the late minority owner Robert Dickey Sr. buy majority control of the station from Richard Mellon Scaife. Back in 1982, Scaife and the elder Dickey paid just under $2 million to buy KQV from Taft, with Scaife taking 70% of licensee Calvary Inc. and Dickey taking 20%. After Dickey"s death in late 2011, his children Robert Dickey Jr. and Cheryl Scott inherited his shares, and their company, 22 Min LLC (named, we presume, for the "give us 22 minutes, we"ll give you the world" all-news slogan), is paying $200,000 for Scaife"s interest in KQV, which appears to value the entire station at under $300,000.

Down the road in Pittsburgh"s eastern suburbs, the bankrupt Business Talk Radio Network has sold WLFP (1550 Reserve Township) to a new group called AM Guys LLC, owned by Ed DeHart and Stephen Zelenko. They"re paying just $14,515 for the 1000-watt daytimer, a steep discount from the $225,000 BTRN spent to buy then-WURP from Inner City Broadcasting six years ago.

*Think that"s not a dramatic enough example of the way station values have shifted in recent years? Consider, then, that a 490-watt college station in the much smaller Williamsport market is changing hands for $125,000. That"s WPTC (88.1), and it will survive as a campus/community voice after nearly being closed down when its owner, Pennsylvania College of Technology, dropped the Mass Media/Communications program that had staffed WPTC with student managers and air talent. Instead of shutting down WPTC, the newly-formed Williamsport Lycoming Broadcast Foundation will take over the license. The foundation"s president, Todd Bartley, is also the general manager of the local ESPN affiliate, WLYC (1050), and the foundation"s address is WLYC"s address, too.

wzdb-wzdd*There"s a new signal on the air down I-80 in the Clarion area, where First Media Radio has signed on WZDD (101.3 Strattanville). The new class A facility extends the reach of First"s rock format at WZDB (95.9 Sykesville) westward from DuBois and vicinity - and it"s another sign of how far the value of many stations has fallen to note that First paid a whopping $460,000 for the Strattanville CP at an FCC auction back in 2006.

In the Lehigh Valley, Connoisseur has taken over from Nassau at the cluster that includes classic rock WODE (99.9 the Hawk), where morning co-host Samantha Layne and several co-workers weren"t kept on under the new management. That leaves Rick Michaels solo on the morning show, where news anchor "Big John" Andrews, a decades-long veteran at the station, is also out. Gone as well is afternoon co-host Matt Markus from sister stations WEEX (1230)/WTKZ (1320), as well as at least one member of the sales staff.

Back in Pittsburgh, Kelly Langenohl is the new afternoon co-host at CBS Radio"s "Star 100.7" (WBZZ), where she"s paired with Flick on what"s now the "Flick and Kelly Show."

*There"s once again a full airstaff in place at NEW JERSEY"s WJRZ (100.1 Manahawkin), where Matt Knight is handling mornings, T.J. Bryan is doing middays, PD Glenn Kalina is on the air in the afternoon and Barbara Farragher"s doing nights.

Down the shore, there"s a new general manager at WMGM-TV (Channel 40) in Atlantic City, where J. Roger Powe III moves up from general sales manager to take over from Ron Smith, who"d been with the NBC affiliate since 2003.

*There"s also a new general manager at the station known as "NBC CONNECTICUT." Ric Harris has been with WVIT (Channel 30) in New Britain since March as vice president of sales; before that, he ran Scripps-Howard"s WEWS in Cleveland, oversaw digital media for NBC"s owned-and-operated stations (including WVIT), and most recently had been working at Accenture. Harris fills the void left behind when NBC moved David Doebler to its Chicago station, WMAQ, earlier this year.

*The RHODE ISLAND Radio Hall of Fame inducted its class of 2013 on Thursday, including Mike “Doctor Metal” Gonsalves, the longtime WHJY (94.1 Providence) night jock who was among the victims in the Station nightclub fire a decade ago, as well as WPRO (630) talk host and former Providence mayor Buddy Cianci. This year’s class also included John “Coach” Colletto, a longtime fixture on WPRO’s Salty Brine morning show, former WICE (1290) host Bill Corsair, WPAW (550)/WBRU (95.5) jazz host Fred Grady and WADK (1540 Newport) talk host Bob Sullivan. The induction ceremony also included two other awards this year: the Shepard Award, for industry leadership, goes to longtime WPRO traffic director Barbara Smith, who retired last year, while “Broadcaster of the Year” went to WCTK (Cat Country 98.1.)

wmfp-plum*Is a network affiliation change coming to an obscure corner of the MASSACHUSETTS TV dial? WMFP (Channel 62) has been carrying the Plum TV network (aimed at wealthy vacationers) since last October, but alert viewers have been catching a show called "Countdown to Cozi" on WMFP in the last few days. Cozi is the rerun-heavy channel that the NBC owned and operated stations launched earlier this year, and since there"s no NBC O&O in Boston, it hasn"t been on the air yet in the market. Could it be replacing Plum on WMFP"s 62.1 channel (and on Comcast channel 20)? Or is it destined for 62.2, where it would replace Retro TV?

A very little bit of the old WMVY (92.7 Tisbury, now WBUA) is returning to the Martha"s Vineyard airwaves. Beginning May 26, the "MVY Music Hour" will air on the last Sunday of each month from 9-10 PM on WCAI, the Cape and Islands public radio station heard over three transmitters, including the main 90.1 signal that transmits from the former WMVY tower on the Vineyard, right behind the studio building that"s still used by WMVY"s online successor, MVYRadio.com. PD Barbara Dacey will host the "MVY Music Hour," which will feature local musicians.

*There"s a new morning show on the air in southern NEW HAMPSHIRE. Bill Binnie"s WFNQ (106.3 Nashua) spent last week promoting that "mornings won"t be the same" beginning today - and that turned out, as widely speculated, to mean that the Tracy and Paul morning show from Binnie"s "Wolf" country stations in the Upper Valley was heading into syndication on "Frank FM." They replace Nick Scarpinelli"s "More Music Morning Show" on WFNQ, which retains its classic rock format the rest of the day.

*What"s behind a subtle call change in MAINE? Blueberry Broadcasting quietly changed WVOM (103.9 Howland) to WVOM-FM at the start of May. That extra "-FM" suffix may not mean anything at all, but it could also mean someone else wants to use "WVOM" on AM elsewhere, or even, just maybe, that Blueberry itself might have a WVOM(AM) in the works. Stay tuned...

*The VERMONT Association of Broadcasters holds its annual convention Thursday at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier. The all-day session includes sales and engineering sessions, as well as two programming sessions led by Jacobs Media, which will be releasing its "Techsurvey 9," examining the new media habits of ten core audience groups.

choq*In CANADA"s largest market, French-speaking listeners are a tiny minority. But CHOQ (105.1), the community station serving local Francophones, says its tiny signal isn"t good enough to fully serve those listeners, and so it"s asking the CRTC to allow it to move its transmitter to the First Canadian Place skyscraper downtown. CHOQ ran some signal tests recently from an alternate site and asked listeners to weigh in, and it tells the CRTC that there"s a clear need for better reception of CHOQ in many parts of Toronto. The move to First Canadian would take CHOQ from its present 1 kW max/570 watts average/103 m DA to 1.5 kW max/188 watts average/276 m DA, concentrating more of the signal in a tighter pattern over the city.

Up in Wingham, the CRTC has rejected an application from Blackburn Radio"s CKNX (920) to add a nested FM repeater at 104.3. The CRTC says the 3 kW/69 m repeater would have effectively bypassed the agency"s ownership caps by giving Blackburn what would have amounted to a third FM in a market where it already owns CIBU (94.5 the Bull) and CKNX-FM (101.7 the One), and it notes that CKNX"s AM signal is profitable, highly rated and "appears to be operating as designed." (Many broadcasters on the 920 frequency on the US side of the border would take exception; it"s widely believed that CKNX has long used its daytime pattern at night, sending much more power toward the border than authorized.)

The Wingham application had support from CKNX"s competition, Bayshore Broadcasting, which has long hoped to make a similar move with its CFOS (560) in nearby Owen Sound, though the CRTC has denied those attempts as well.

*In Quebec, the CRTC also denied a big power increase and frequency change proposed by community station CFUT (91.1 Shawinigan). CFUT hoped to move to 92.9 and boost its power to 3.7 kW/124 m. The move would have given the station much greater coverage into nearby Trois-Rivieres, and the CRTC says CFUT didn"t make an economic case for that increase in its reach.

Down the road in the Quebec City market, Dan Sys" Canadian Radio News reports RNC Media is asking the CRTC for permission to shut down its local studio for CHXX (100.9) in Donnacona, moving the entire "Radio X2" operation into its Quebec City studio.

*It"s 2013! Do you have your 2013 Tower Site Calendar yet? It can be on your wall in just a few days, if you order right now!

This is the 12th edition of our annual calendar, which features photos of broadcast towers taken by Scott Fybush on his travels.

The 12-month wall calendar boasts a full-color photo each month of a well-known broadcast transmitter site.

This year’s edition includes sites in Florida, Wisconsin, Kentucky, California, Iowa, Idaho, Las Vegas, Colorado, Boston, Cleveland, Albuquerque, upstate New York and western Massachusetts. We"ve also redesigned the calendar to make it more colorful (don"t worry; the pictures are still pristine) and make the spiral binding our standard binding -- your calendar will hang even better on your wall now! And of course, we still have the convenient hole for hanging.

Order 20 or more for a 10% discount! And while you"re at the Fybush.com store, check out the new National Radio Club AM Log and the final stash of FM Atlas editions.

For more information and to order yours, click here!

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: May 14, 2012 -

*Over-the-air TV viewers in eastern MASSACHUSETTS are one big step closer to once again having reliable reception of the signals transmitted from the Richland Tower master TV site in Needham.

On Monday, tower crews pulled off the high-stakes, high-altitude task of removing the upper master UHF antenna that failed back in April. That antenna, which appears to have suffered a massive failure of its power divider, is now back at the Dielectric factory in Maine being rebuilt, and that means up to another month of temporary operation at the Needham site.

Here’s how it all plays out: since a week or so after the burnout, the four stations that used the upper master antenna (CBS’ WBZ-TV Channel 4/RF 30 and WSBK Channel 38/RF 39, public television WGBX Channel 44/RF 43 and Hearst’s WCVB Channel 5/RF 20) have moved their operations down to the identical lower master normally used by WGBH Channel 2/RF 19. WGBH, in turn, has been operating from the much lower auxiliary antenna belonging to WCVB – at least when there aren’t workers on the tower, in which case all the stations shift to other, lower-powered auxiliary antennas recently mounted on the tower, or briefly sign off while climbers are passing through their antenna apertures.

The project is expensive and potentially very dangerous to the climbers (it’s been only a few months since a climber died on the nearby “FM-128″ tower while doing similar work high up on that tower), and it’s giving Boston’s TV stations a renewed realization of how many viewers in the digital age still depend on antennas to receive their signals.

With any luck, the upper antenna will be rebuilt and returned to the Needham site by early June…and it’s a good bet that larger TV broadcasters will be thinking a little harder about the need for better backup facilities for their DTV transmissions.

*And of course we join in the mourning for Carl Beane, the Red Sox PA announcer who died in a car crash after suffering a heart attack Wednesday afternoon. Carl is being remembered fondly (most touchingly, perhaps, in this ESPN obituary by Gordon Edes) for his passion for the Sox and for the colorful figure he cut at Fenway. But we remember him, too, for his many years in and around New England radio.

When he died, Carl was on his way home from a morning substitute shift at WARE (1250 Ware), where he’d started his career in the 1970s. He’d also worked over the years at WESO (970)/WQVR (100.1) in Southbridge and at WXLS (98.3, now WILI-FM) in Willimantic, Connecticut – and for the last couple of decades, he’d made a name for himself as a solidly dependable sports stringer, providing reports from Boston sports venues to a list of stations that included Boston’s WBZ (1030, where he was a frequent guest on the Steve LeVeille Broadcast) and New York’s WFAN (660).

Carl was just 59.

*What’s happening with the Nassau Broadcasting properties in NEW HAMPSHIRE, VERMONT and Maine? Amidst rumors that Nassau’s biggest creditor, Goldman Sachs, wasn’t happy with the bargain price ($12.5 million) at which Jeff Shapiro and Bill Binnie had scored two dozen Nassau signals in this month’s bankruptcy auction, we checked in with Shapiro – and he tells us “it’s a bit early to be too specific, but everything is on track” for those signals to end up in the hands of his partnership with politician-turned-broadcaster Binnie.

*It was a bad week for CONNECTICUT Public Television. Just weeks after launching its “CPTV Sports” service as a broadcast subchannel on its DTV transmitters around the state, the network lost out on its bid to continue carrying University of Connecticut women’s basketball.

Over 18 years of carrying the Huskies, CPTV had carved out a distinctive niche for itself as one of the rare public broadcasters with a major sports presence, and it didn’t hurt to have the UConn women’s team shooting to national championship after national championship along the way. That eventually attracted the interest of bigger commercial players, which is why UConn ended up signing a four-year deal to place the games on SNY, the New York-based home of the Mets.

The move will give UConn better visibility outside Connecticut, especially in the big New York City market, but it’s a blow to CPTV, which has depended on revenue from underwriting for UConn games to finance much of its growth.

*Remember WKAJ (1120 St. Johnsbury), the upstate NEW YORK AM construction permit that went forward with construction of a brand-new four-tower directional 10 kW facility even after its CP had officially expired last fall? Permittee Cranesville Block Company isn’t giving up on the signal even after the FCC refused to issue a license to cover earlier this year, deleting the call letters and cancelling the CP.

Last week, the FCC issued a public notice that Cranesville had filed a petition in late April for a waiver of the FCC’s usual rules that dictate a strict “build it by the deadline, or it goes away” policy for new CPs. So far, the Commission hasn’t acted on the petition, nor has it released the details of Cranesville’s appeal…we’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

*Radio People on the Move: in New York City, Brian Thomas is moving on from a huge success in the PD chair at WCBS-FM (101.1), where he revived the oldies – er, “classic hits” – format after the “Jack FM” interregnum. Thomas will keep his title of VP/Classic Hits Programming (and will keep working with CBS-FM and sister station WODS in Boston) as he moves south to Tampa to become VP/programming for CBS Radio’s six-station cluster there. (The cluster includes classic hits WRBQ-FM 104.7, which Thomas programmed back in the days when it was owned by Clear Channel.) No replacement has been named in New York.

Five Years Ago: May 12, 2008 -

*When NBC Universal changed the name of its "Television Stations Division" to the "NBC Local Media Division" last fall, the company had more in mind than just a flashy new name. With last week"s announcement that its NEW YORK flagship, WNBC (Channel 4), will be spawning a 24-hour local news channel this fall, NBC made it clear that it intends to expand its local presence beyond the old "owned and operated" TV stations that were once each network"s cash cows.The first sign of the reinvention of WNBC came earlier this spring, when the station rebranded its newscasts from "4HD" to "News 4 New York." In the next steps toward making WNBC a "local content center," NBC plans to rebrand its local website simply as "NBC New York," with the local news on the website and on Channel 4 soon to be joined by a 24-hour service known as "New York"s Newschannel." (The "local content center" plans for WNBC"s seventh-floor newsroom parallel the "content center" NBC built last year on the third floor of 30 Rock to consolidate NBC News and MSNBC operations.)

The new channel will be seen on a subchannel of WNBC-DT, presumably replacing what"s now "4.4," a mixture of local news rebroadcasts and inexpensive syndicated fare. Eventually, it will also be visible on other platforms, including seatback TV screens in taxis and on the "NBC New York" website.

It will compete with two other 24-hour newschannels with longer histories in the market: Time Warner"s city-oriented New York 1 and Cablevision"s collection of regional News 12 services in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Westchester, the Hudson Valley, New Jersey and Connecticut - and it will compete with those channels without adding any additional staff to the existing WNBC news team.

Instead, NBC management says they"ll be extensively retraining current WNBC employees to contribute to the new 24-hour service, which will also likely use the first "one-man band" videographer/reporters in the company. (New York 1 pioneered the concept in the city when it launched back in 1992.)

*Not quite three years after it arrived in New York City, "Jack" has finally hit the road for good. CBS Radio kept the trademarked "Jack" nickname on the HD2 channel of WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) even after it pulled "Jack" from the main channel last summer. But the elements that made up a typical Jack slowly vanished from the multicast channel, with "Jack" voice Howard Cogan giving way to CBS-FM"s Pat St. John a few months ago. And now the "Jack" name has disappeared as well, with the adult hits format now ID"ing simply as "101.1 HD2" for the moment. (We"re hearing that CBS would have been happy to have kept the "Jack" name on the air, but that the format"s syndicator, SparkNet, didn"t want it relegated to an HD subchannel.)

*In the NEW JERSEY Meadowlands, the much-ballyhooed EnCap project has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and all work has ceased on the massive rebuilding that was supposed to have transformed hundreds of acres of swampy landfill in Rutherford and Lyndhurst into a massive golf course/housing development. What"s the radio connection? It was at EnCap"s behest that the Meadowlands Commission took the old tower site of WOR (710 New York), and it was EnCap"s money that paid for WOR to build a brand-new site half a mile away.

What will become of the $1 billion project that now sits, half-finished, surrounding the new WOR site? Nobody"s quite sure yet - and we hear EnCap still owes WOR a bit of money, too..

It"s a big anniversary for one of PENNSYLVANIA"s pioneering FM rockers. Metromedia flipped the former WIP-FM (93.3) to WMMR in 1968, and the station - now part of Greater Media"s Philadelphia cluster - is marking the anniversary with a series of events that included an on-air alumni reunion this past weekend and an "MMRchives" weekend next weekend. There"s also a 40th anniversary concert next Sunday starring the Stone Temple Pilots, and a commemorative CD featuring performances from the station"s long history.

*Yet another market in CANADA is about to lose its last AM. The CRTC has granted CKRU (980 Peterborough ON) permission to move to FM - but it denied the Corus oldies station (known on air as "980 KRUZ") the frequency it desired. CKRU hoped to move to 96.7, but nine other applicants also proposed using that frequency for new stations in Peterborough or nearby Kawartha Lakes (Lindsay) when the CRTC put out a call for applications.

The CRTC ended up granting one of those applications, determining that Pineridge Broadcasting, which owns CHUC-FM and CKSG-FM in Cobourg, is the best qualified to operate a new Peterborough station - and that because of the potential overlap in coverage into the Cobourg area, it should be granted the use of 96.7, with 13 kW average DA. That leaves Corus to find another frequency on the crowded southern Ontario FM dial for CKRU"s FM move - and 90 days to do it.

Meanwhile, Peterborough"s other remaining AM, CTVglobemedia"s CKPT (1420), is no more: engineers pulled the plug on the AM transmitter there last Monday (May 5), seven months after CKPT-FM (99.3, soon to move to 99.7) signed on, and just shy of half a century after it originally signed on.

Ten Years Ago: May 12, 2003 -

How important is NEW YORK"s "Blink" (WNEW 102.7) to Infinity right now? Enough to take the full attention of operations manager Steve Kingston, at the very least; he"s giving up the programming reins at sister rock outlet WXRK (92.3) to concentrate completely on the launch of the top 40-80s-90s-pop-entertainment-talk-Jennifer Lopez hybrid (did we miss anything?) format up the dial. Robert Cross heads to New York from Infinity"s KROQ (106.7 Pasadena) in Los Angeles to handle programming at K-Rock.

Over at Clear Channel, Frankie Blue is out as PD of dance-CHR WKTU (103.5 Lake Success), seven years after launching the format. Assistant music director Jeff Z. is handling interim PD duties, with help from cluster manager Tom Poleman.

The big news out of MASSACHUSETTS was the sale of WAMG (1150 Boston); Mega Communications, which paid $5 million for then-WNFT in 1998, will get $8.6 million from Salem for the station when the deal closes later this year. The sale of WAMG will trigger a few other changes around the dial: for Salem, it will likely mean a reshuffling of programming from WROL (950) and WEZE (590) as 1150 adopts a conservative secular talk format under new calls; for Mega, it means moving the Spanish tropical "Mega" format and WAMG calls down the dial to Dedham-licensed WBPS (890), which Mega has been leasing out to a talk programmer.

We can"t figure out what Citadel is up to in northeast PENNSYLVANIA: we passed through Scranton on the way home from New York, and had a chance to listen to WCWI (94.3 Carbondale) and WEMR (1460 Tunkhannock) for a bit. Alert NERW readers will recall that WCWI and WEMR had been simulcasting "Cat Country 96," WCTO (96.1 Easton) from over in the Allentown market - but on this trip, we heard WCTO doing a triple legal ID with WCWI/WEMR...but the programming wasn"t being simulcast on the Scranton-area signals. Instead, WCWI and WEMR were doing their own country format, but still using "Cat Country 96" liners. Huh?

Fifteen Years Ago: May 14, 1998 -

Boston"s AM 1150, WNFT, has broken away from its simulcast with WAAF (107.3 Worcester). The ARS (soon to be CBS) station began running the satellite "Touch" R&B oldies format earlier this week, perhaps as a challenge to longtime urban daytimer WILD, just down the dial at 1090. The ARS/CBS sale is expected to close any day now, and NERW wonders whether WNFT will end up staying with the CBS stations (WBZ, WZLX, WODS, WBCN, WBZ-TV, plus ARS acquisition WBMX) or being sold off along with the stations the Justice Department ordered CBS to sell (WRKO, WEEI, WEGQ, WAAF).

More from MASSACHUSETTS: Cape Cod probably needs another FM allocation the way it needs more summertime traffic on US 6, but that hasn"t stopped someone from asking the FCC to allocate 94.3A to Brewster, near the "elbow" of the Cape. If you"re keeping track, that means that the Cape would have 13 commercial FMs (plus two AMs) for a total year-round population of just over 200,000. This allocation would have been impossible, of course, before Ernie Boch"s WXTK in West Yarmouth moved from 94.9 to 95.1 last year. (And NERW notes also that the 102.3 CP in Truro, WCDJ, is *still* unbuilt...)

Two station sales to report: Joe Gallagher"s Auritaur Communications (which owns WBEC AM/FM in Pittsfield, is buying WNGN in Hoosick Falls NY, and has an interest in WBET/WCAV in Brockton through KJI Broadcasting) is paying $1 million for WMVY (92.7 Tisbury), the Cape and Islands" really cool AAA station. Meantime, troubled business-talker WADN (1120 Concord) changes hands from Ned Crecilus" Assabet Communications to Susan Armstrong"s Money Matters Radio, for a reported $450,000. Money Matters programs the morning business show on WADN.

Radio people on the move: Rochester"s WHAM (1180) welcomes Randy Gorbman back as news director. It"s Randy"s second time on the job; he left a couple of years ago to become operations manager at WIBX (950) down the Thruway in Utica. WHAM has also replaced its evening rerun of "Dr." Laura Schlessinger with a new local talk show, hosted by former WPXY (97.9) morning co-host Joan Brandenburg. Her show airs weeknights from 8-10 PM. Speaking of PXY, part-timer/promotions assistant Cory Kincaid is moving down to the Elmira market, where he"ll do nights on WNKI (106.1 Corning). Aaron Brillbeck is leaving the morning news slot on the North Country"s "FSR" (WGIX 95.3 Gouverneur/WSLB 1400 Ogdensburg) to work at WSYR (570) in Syracuse.

In MAINE, there"s a new station to report. Religious WWWA (95.3 Winslow) signed on April 10. It"s running from the same Augusta studios as sister station WMDR (1340). Up in Presque Isle, WOZI (101.7) has applied to change frequency to 101.9 and move to the Mars Hill site south of town.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Ron Smith was actually with WMGM-TV for 23 years starting out as sales manager. Had the pleasure of working with him for close to a decade. Great guy.

  2. Hate to see heritage call letters going back to 1952 disappear, bet the long time residents of the area will not appreciate this, they are
    a crusty bunch who do like change

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