In this week’s issue: WKAJ, still deleted – Reilly buys Anastos’ Albany stations – Shapiro re-spins Nassau/Binnie spinoffs – Limbaugh loses VT affiliate, prepares for Philly FM move – Langer buys in Brockton – Baseball on the Radio: New York-Penn League
by SCOTT FYBUSH
*Drive through the Mohawk Valley of upstate NEW YORK on scenic Route 5 and you’ll spot something odd as you pass through the pretty little village of St. Johnsville, an hour or so west of Albany: tucked in next to an abandoned industrial building just off the highway, there’s a four-tower AM directional array for a station that doesn’t exist – and apparently never will.
This was supposed to have been WKAJ, a 10,000-watt day/400-watt night signal on 1120, and in recent months licensee Cranesville Block Company has waged a battle to get the station on the air, enlisting the assistance of local elected officials and even the area’s U.S. congressmen, Paul Tonko and Richard Hanna, who took part in a conference call with FCC officials last month to plead for the station’s continued existence.
Unfortunately for Cranesville, and for WKAJ, there’s a big obstacle to their quest: as NERW readers know, WKAJ’s construction permit expired (after two extensions) last December 15 – and at that point, as best anyone can tell, that plot of land next to the old warehouse in St. Johnsville was still an empty piece of land. From all accounts, the towers and transmitter building went up in January 2012, at a cost of $336,000.
Does the FCC look kindly on stations that commence construction after the expiration of their permits? As any competent communications attorney (or even your humble editor/consultant) could tell you: no, it does not, and never has. That’s a lesson Cranesville has been learning the hard way after exchanging its local law firm for a Washington lawyer, but no matter how well-connected the counsel, there are some precedents the FCC simply doesn’t want to alter.
Please log in (at the bottom of the page) to view the rest of this column. If you're not yet a member, click here to join; your membership gives you full access to current NERW and Tower Site of the Week columns and more than a decade of searchable archives, and it costs as little as a quarter per day. Why are we now subscriber-based? Click here to read more about the reasons behind our decision.
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: June 20, 2011 -
*Some radio markets are easy to define: it’s not hard to come up with a coherent set of borders for “Boston” or “Philadelphia” or “Syracuse.”But the swath of NEW YORK that stretches from just north of New York City to just south of Albany has proved a bit more difficult for Arbitron to delineate, and now the ratings agency is taking a new stab at creating market lines there. Starting this fall, it will replace the current “Newburgh-Middletown” market, which covers only Orange County, with a new “Hudson Valley” market encompassing Orange, Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties.
The new market is much larger than the old one – with 1,471,000 people 12+, it’s expected to rank at or about #38 on Arbitron’s list, a hundred markets or so larger than the present Newburgh-Middletown – but it will also be something of an ungainly amalgam of two areas that receive different combinations of signals. The new part of the market, Westchester, Rockland and Putnam, is already included in the New York City market, though most city-based FM signals struggle to be heard in the northernmost reaches of Westchester and Rockland and in most of Putnam County. The Orange County-based signals that were at the core of the old Newburgh-Middletown market can’t be heard at all in most of Westchester or Rockland – and that’s before we even get to the simulcasts that exist between several Orange County signals and stations in the neighboring Poughkeepsie market, which consists only of Dutchess County, never mind that most of the Poughkeepsie transmitter sites are across the river in unrated Ulster County.
Confused yet? Arbitron is hoping media buyers and station groups aren’t – and it’s evidently hoping to bring Cumulus back into its fold, since the company owns several signals that should rank well in this new top-50 market. (Pamal also stands to do well, especially since its powerful WHUD 100.7 in Peekskill is one of the few signals that’s actually audible in most corners of Arbitron’s “Hudson Valley.”)
Unlike most top-50 markets, Arbitron has no plans to bring its PPM metering technology to the new market; instead, it will be surveyed by diary twice a year.
*In western PENNSYLVANIA, staffers at Duquesne University’s WDUQ (90.5 Pittsburgh) have received their official termination notices as the university prepares for the July 1 transfer of the public station to the new Essential Public Media partnership between WYEP (91.3) and Public Radio Capital.
Of more than 20 employees now working at WDUQ, only two will remain on board with Duquesne during the transition period, when the station will be managed by Essential under an LMA that will run until the sale closes.
It’s still not clear how many of them might end up working for the new incarnation of 90.5; Essential has posted a page of job listings but has not yet begun hiring a staff to operate the station less than two weeks from now.
*On TV, ion Media has begun programming on its new Pittsburgh acquisition, WINP (Channel 16, formerly WQEX). Prior contractual committments mean that ShopNBC remains in place on WINP’s 16.1 channel (and thus on cable), pushing the main ion service to 16.2, Qubo to 16.3 and ion Life to 16.4. Meanwhile, Cox’s WPXI has shifted its 11.2 subchannel from Retro TV to the Chicago-based MeTV network.
*A station sale, of sorts, in MAINE: Gary Fogg’s Wireless Fidelity of North America transfers unbuilt WGUY (1230) to Innovative Advertising Consultants (majority-owned by Dan Priestley’s Waterfront Communications) for $44,000. WGUY has a pending application to shift its construction permit from Ellsworth to the Bangor suburb of Veazie, where Priestley owns WNZS (1340) and WWNZ (1400).
*It was a quiet week in CANADA (at least in the area we cover, far from Vancouver), but it could get busier on the radio dial in two Maritimes cities. Newcap has filed applications for new FM facilities in Fredericton and Miramichi, New Brunswick – and that triggers a CRTC call for competing applications, which can be filed through September 12. A search of Industry Canada records shows a vacant class B allocation on 93.1 in Fredericton (and one on 107.9 in nearby Oromocto); Miramichi has no vacant allocations of its own, but there are vacant channels in nearby Bathurst and Allardville.
Five Years Ago: June 18, 2007 -
*No sooner did Grace Blazer move from WPHT (1210 Philadelphia) to MASSACHUSETTS to take the PD chair at WTKK (96.9 Boston) than the wheels began to spin at the Greater Media FM talker, in a way that will give Blazer plenty of challenges as she starts her Boston tenure.It’s not as though there weren’t already challenges at “FM Talk 96.9,” beginning with the morning slot that’s been officially vacant since the cancellation of the Don Imus show earlier this spring. As of late last week, though, the top contender to replace Imus on WTKK’s morning shift says not only doesn’t he want the job – but he’s leaving the station entirely.
That contender, of course, would be Mike Barnicle, the venerable Boston newspaper columnist and local media icon who’s been a star personality on WTKK since its debut. Most recently, Barnicle had been doing the 9-10 AM weekday show, and had added the 6-9 AM Imus shift most days since Imus’ ouster.
Now Barnicle says he’s busy enough with his work on MSNBC and in print, especially with the 2008 elections looming, that he can’t keep doing even his daily hour at WTKK, much less the entire morning shift – and that means some big decisions for Blazer and her bosses. While Barnicle says he’ll keep doing the morning show on a fill-in basis for the moment, WTKK is already trying other talent. Tomorrow morning, middayer Michael Graham will fill in, and we wouldn’t be surprised to hear other WTKK personalities, such as early-afternoon hosts Marjorie Eagan and Jim Braude and maybe even PM drive talker Jay Severin, trying out for the shift.
If there’s any bright side to WTKK’s current morning troubles, it’s that they come at a time when rival talker WRKO (680 Boston) is in equally dire straits during the daypart, as its Tom Finneran morning show struggles to find a rhythm and ratings.
Is it any wonder we’re hearing growing rumblings – not just from Boston, but from his former home market as well – that an Imus return to the airwaves this fall might be a possibility?
*Another major PENNSYLVANIA TV station is moving, and apparently not a moment too soon. Last Thursday, ABC’s WPVI (Channel 6) held groundbreaking ceremonies for a new studio facility to be built next door to its 1964-vintage landmark building on City Line Avenue in Philadelphia. The new 110,000-square foot building will go up on land purchased from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. When it opens in 2009, the old building will be used for parking and for expansion space.But no sooner had WPVI broadcast the groundbreaking event for the new building than a storm front moving through knocked the station completely off the air – and while it soon returned, the station faced an even bigger crisis on Friday, when a construction crew opened a hole in a 6-inch water main, sending a stream of water flooding into the first floor of the old building and forcing the entire staff to evacuate to a field next door, where the station’s early-evening “Action News” broadcasts were assembled under a tent.
The water was shut off after about three hours, but the station’s still cleaning up. (And after another flood a couple of weeks ago at Hartford’s WFSB, and the recent fire at New York’s WABC, we understand the folks in Baltimore are looking north and getting a little nervous about what might be coming next…)
Greater Media has completed its move of WJJZ (97.5 Burlington) into the Philadelphia market. Over the weekend, the station turned off its longtime transmitter site in downtown Trenton, signing on a new facility at the Wyndmoor tower it now shares with Clear Channel’s WISX (106.1 Philadelphia). We’re already hearing reports of a much stronger signal over most of the Philly market – and we’re wondering if the next transmitter move will involve WMMR (93.3) and WRNB (107.9), whose Center City site atop the One Liberty tower is now shadowed by the taller Comcast Center skyscraper that just topped off practically next door.
*Speaking of NEW YORK, there’s a change of plans for one Long Island AM station that’s been looking to move. Multicultural Broadcasting’s WNYG (1440 Babylon) had a pending application to move to Elizabeth, New Jersey and to operate on 1530, effectively replacing Multicultural’s WJDM (1530 Elizabeth), which was to have gone silent as part of the FCC’s “five-year rule” now that expanded-band sister WWRU (1660 Jersey City) is on the air.
But a change in FCC policy now allows WJDM to stay on the air, and in the meantime Multicultural needs WNYG off its current facilities so it can keep a more lucrative signal, WNSW (1430 Newark NJ) on the air. WNSW faces the impending end to its transmitter-site lease in Union, N.J., and so it has only until the end of July to build out its construction permit for operation from the Clifton, N.J. facilities of sister station WPAT (930 Paterson) – and that CP can only be built out if WNYG moves.
So the latest application calls for WNYG to stay on 1440, but to move out east, to a new city of license of Medford. It would diplex from the two towers of WLIM (1580 Patchogue), running 1000 watts by day and 190 watts at night, a significant increase from its present 38-watt night authorization.
Multicultural is asking for expedited processing of this application; stay tuned to see whether the FCC grants it all in time for these moves to be pulled off.
*VERMONT Public Radio took a big step toward its plans for a two-network future last week when it announced it’s buying WAVX (90.9 Schuyler Falls NY) from Essex-based Christian Ministries, Inc. The $1.1 million purchase will give VPR a signal for its new VPR Classical service that will serve the state’s largest city, Burlington, as well as the Plattsburgh, N.Y. area across Lake Champlain. (WAVX is a 2.7 kW/1074′ DA C2 signal broadcasting from just west of Peru, N.Y.)
VPR started the classical service a couple of years ago on WNCH (88.1 Norwich), and recently added WJAN (95.1 Sunderland) to the network. It’s also making VPR Classical available as a subchannel on the HD Radio signals of its main-channel stations. We’d expect those stations to eventually transition from a mixture of news and classical to all-news and talk as the classical network increases its distribution across the state.
Christian Ministries will keep its network of “The Light” religious stations across Vermont, based at WGLY (91.5 Bolton); we wouldn’t be surprised to see the “Wave” Christian top 40 format that’s been on WAVX resurface on an HD2 signal over that network eventually, too.
*It didn’t take long for the TV ownership picture in CANADA to shift yet again after the CRTC denied CTVglobemedia’s application to buy the CityTV group of stations (including Toronto’s CITY-TV 57) as part of its acquisition of CHUM Ltd.
Rogers, which already had a deal with CTVglobemedia to buy the A-Channel stations (including CKVR Barrie and CFPL-TV London) that were to have been spun off from the CHUM purchase, quickly reworked its deal – and now CTVglobemedia will keep the A-Channel stations and Rogers will end up with the CityTV signals.
For Rogers in Toronto, CITY will pair up with the “Omni” multicultural TV stations the company already owns (“Omni.1″ CFMT 47 and “Omni.2″ CJMT 44, along with relays in London and Ottawa, where CITY also has relay transmitters), as well as with the Rogers radio cluster that includes CFTR (680 News), CJCL (Fan 590), CJAQ (92.5 Jack FM) and CHFI (98.1).
Perhaps the most visible change will come at street level, where CTV will keep the “ChumCity Building” at 299 Queen Street West, the high-profile home to CityTV (which will move its operations elsewhere within three years) and to the CHUM cable networks (most prominently MuchMusic) that CTV is retaining.
The deal, which also includes the CityTV stations in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, is worth C$375 million.
Ten Years Ago: June 17, 2002 -
Despite a slew of rumors floating around western MASSACHUSETTS, one of Pittsfield’s oldest stations isn’t changing hands – at least not yet. Last week, rival station WUPE (95.9) reported that Tele-Media had sold WBEC (1420) and WBEC-FM (105.5) to Vox, the fast-growing group that already has big holdings up in Glens Falls, Vermont and New Hampshire. But a Vox official tells NERW there’s no deal to buy WBEC in place.
If Tele-Media is selling WBEC, it would be a further exit from a region that it began leaving last year, when it sold its Albany holdings to Pamal and Ed Levine’s Galaxy group. That move left the Pennsylvania-based company with the Pittsfield stations, WZEC (97.5 Hoosick Falls NY) serving Bennington, Vermont, and WKBE (100.3 Warrensburg NY) up in the Glens Falls market, where Vox is already a strong player.
We’ll shoot up to MAINE for our next big story this week: after a couple of years doing mornings at Citadel’s WCLZ (98.9 Brunswick), Lori Voornas is moving down the hall to a format that might fit her high-energy style better than the laid-back AAA that’s played on “98.9 the Point.” Voornas, who made a high-profile move from Saga’s WMGX to join WCLZ (then WTPN) in 1999, is joining Meredith Manning and Jeff Parsons on the morning show at CHR WJBQ (97.9 Portland), leaving Pete Dubuc alone on wakeup duty at WCLZ for now.
Down in CONNECTICUT, a translator may soon leave the air. We hear Southington-licensed W220CE (91.9), which transmits from West Peak in Meriden, will likely be turned off by its owner (the Monroe Board of Education’s WMNR 88.1 network), which hasn’t had the listenership it expected when it leased space up on the hilltop last year. Another WMNR translator, W220CH (91.9) in West Hartford, has finally made the flip from relaying nearby WWUH (91.3) to WMNR itself, we’re told.
NEW YORK has a new radio owner, thanks to the $3.5 billion purchase of Hispanic Broadcasting by Univision. The deal means that WCAA (105.9 Newark) and WADO (1280 New York) join forces with Univision’s WXTV (Channel 41) and WFUT (Channel 68) to create a high-powered marketing machine for the Big Apple’s Spanish-speaking audience (and that’s nothing, compared to the combos created in markets like Miami, L.A., and the big Hispanic Texas cities…)
The big news out of NEW JERSEY may actually be big news in Philadelphia, at least if you’re not the FCC. When WSNJ-FM (107.7 Bridgeton) was sold last year, speculation immediately began building about where the big signal could be moved. WSNJ filed an application to move its city of license to tiny Elmer, N.J., which made very little sense to us – but now it’s all clear.
By “moving” from Bridgeton to Elmer, WSNJ positioned its next move to look even better to the FCC. The station now wants to relocate from Elmer to Pennsauken and change channels to 107.9, downgrading from a full class B facility to a class A. From the FCC’s point of view, it’s a move from tiny little Elmer to much larger (35,000 instead of 1,571) Pennsauken, neither of which have their own “local” broadcast facility – and thus looks better than a move straight to Pennsauken from larger Bridgeton (which keeps WSNJ’s AM sister on 1240 to pacify the FCC.) But from the point of view of WSNJ’s new owners, the station will now throw a city-grade signal over 1.5 million more listeners, since (even though Pennsauken is, as WSNJ goes to great lengths to demonstrate, an independent community) the new site would be just across the river from Philadelphia. The move does eliminate short-spacings between WSNJ and WPUR (107.3 Atlantic City), WBYN (107.5 Boyertown), WGTY (107.7 Gettysburg) and WFSI (107.9 Annapolis); it would also force high school station WHHS (107.9 Havertown) and translators W300AD (107.9 Philadelphia, relaying WWFM Trenton) and W300AA (107.9 Levittown, relaying WRDV Warminster) to find new spots on the dial.
Fifteen Years Ago: June 19, 1997 -
Brian Dodge is no stranger to FCC controversy, and now he’s in for much more. The New Hampshire religious broadcaster is already the subject of a complaint from the New Hampshire attorney general’s office of charities, and now he’s also the target of a lengthy complaint just filed with the FCC by Carter Broadcasting, with the assistance of several other New England broadcasters. The complaint was just filed yesterday, and NERW’s copy has yet to arrive, but stay tuned for a special edition of NERW over the weekend with all the details; and, we hope, a response from Brian Dodge. (2012 update: 15 years later, the FCC has still never acted on the complaint, the full text of which can be read here.)
In MAINE, hit radio has returned to the Bangor market after a half-year absence. WBZN (107.3 Old Town) flipped from 70s rock to CHR Wednesday morning, under the consultancy of Clarke Ingram of WPXY in Rochester. The new “Z107″ is being run under an LMA by the folks at country WQCB (106.5 Brewer), but will stay in its existing studios in Old Town. The last attempt at hit radio in Bangor came from WWFX (104.7 Belfast), which underwent a species transformation from “the Fox” to “the Bear,” WBFB, last fall.
One of NEW HAMPSHIRE’s oldest radio stations is getting a new owner. WKBR (1250) in Manchester is being sold to Northeast Broadcasting, the company that owns AAA WXRV (92.5) and Spanish WHAV (1490; leased to Costa Communications) in Haverhill MA, along with AAA WNCS (104.7 Montpelier VT) and satellite stations WRJT (103.1 Royalton VT) and WSHX (95.7 Danville VT). No word on how much Northeast (operating under the Devon Broadcasting corporate name) is paying for the 5 kW fulltimer, which is now owned by ethnic broadcaster George Ketrelakis, who bought the station from Bob Bittner a few years ago.