NERW 6/25/2012: More News, Less Jazz at WGBH

In this week’s issue: WGBH replaces jazz with news – CBS Sports Radio shakes things up – RCI Sackville signs off – “Le Weekend” launches in Quebec City

by SCOTT FYBUSH

*In the long history of Boston radio, there have been plenty of juicy rivalries: WBCN and WCOZ, WRKO and WMEX, WEEI and the Sports Hub…and increasingly, the public radio news/talk battle between WBUR-FM (90.9) and WGBH (89.7) appears to be poised to join those ranks.

In 2010, WGBH shifted its classical music programming to sister station WCRB (99.5 Lowell) in order to take its daytime hours to news and talk, and now 89.7 is following suit in the evening as well. Sometime later this summer, Eric Jackson’s long-running evening jazz show (formerly known as “Eric in the Evening”) will be cut back from four nights a week to three, shifting from 8 PM to midnight on Monday through Thursday to  9 PM to midnight on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and knocking another WGBH veteran, Friday night jazz host Steve Schwartz, off the schedule completely.

Beginning July 2, WGBH will also rearrange its daytime schedule, taking away live clearances of the “Takeaway” morning show (a co-production of WGBH and New York’s WNYC) at 6 and 9 AM and replacing them with two more hours of NPR’s “Morning Edition.” Diane Rehm’s Washington-based show will be cut back to a one-hour clearance from 10-11 AM, with an hour of “The Takeaway” running on delay at 11. “Tell Me More” replaces “Fresh Air” at 2 PM, eliminating a bit of duplication with WBUR (which carries the show at 1 PM), and the replay of “The World” (a WGBH/BBC co-production that airs live at 3 PM) will shift from 6-7 PM to 8-9 PM, replaced by an additional hour of “All Things Considered.”

The other big change will come in WGBH’s locally-produced talk block from noon-2 PM, now divided into separate shows hosted by Callie Crossley and EmilyRooney. Those hours will be joined together into a new news-and-talk block called “Boston Public Radio,” with Crossley as its principal host, and it will be replayed from 9-11 PM Monday-Thursday while WBUR is running the CBC’s “Q” and a delayed hour of Diane Rehm. (Is it too much to hope that the public radio rivals could at least coordinate their carriage of Rehm’s show so that WBUR picks up the second hour that WGBH is dropping?)

To nobody’s great surprise, the impending WGBH schedule change is prompting an outcry from jazz fans; both Jackson and Schwartz have devoted followings, and Boston has remained a fairly loyal market for jazz even as public stations in other markets have succumbed to the financial lure of a more lucrative news-talk lineup.

But those stations, for the most part, haven’t been the second entrant in the format; indeed, we’re hard-pressed to think of any other big market where two public radio news-talkers are squaring off so directly against each other with such similar market coverage and equally large budgets. (In San Francisco, scrappy little KALW 91.7 competes with behemoth KQED 88.5, but KALW focuses much more tightly on the city while KQED covers a huge swath of northern California, for instance.)

Is there room in Boston for two huge public radio players to both succeed with news, especially with commercial WBZ (1030) going after much of the same audience? WBUR’s not backing down – and for now, it appears WGBH isn’t, either.

As for jazz fans, if they haven’t already tapped into the wealth of jazz programming available around the clock via streaming and on-demand audio, there’s still the daily jazz block on Harvard-affiliated WHRB (95.3 Cambridge) and rimshot reception of Worcester-based WICN (90.5)…and WGBH’s weekend offerings, for as long as they survive.

*As John Garabedian gets ready to take over Nassau’s Cape Cod stations, there’s further evidence that he’s not planning to keep the “Frank” adult hits simulcast going on both WFQR (93.5 Harwich Port) and WFRQ (101.1 Mashpee) – but it looks like the 101.1 half of the simulcast, which has a pending application to move its transmitter to Hyannis to cover most of the mid-Cape, will be the signal that keeps “Frank.” Down at 93.5, WFQR has requested new calls “WHYA” (And, yes, we’re ever so slightly disappointed that Garabedian doesn’t have the opportunity to put the “WGTF” calls back on the 93.5 frequency, which he put on the air in the 1970s from Nantucket. The WGTF calls are now in use on a religious station down South, and in any event today’s 93.5 isn’t a direct descendant of the old WGTF, which moved to 96.3 and is now Qantum’s WEII.)

*Why was CBS Radio keeping an AM-FM sports simulcast going in eastern PENNSYLVANIA after launching WIP-FM (94.1 Philadelphia) last year? The answer, we now know, is that the company had other sports plans for WIP’s legacy home at 610 on the AM dial.

Beginning January 2, 2013, it will be the new full-time home of “CBS Sports Radio,” a new joint venture between CBS and Cumulus. The new network will include both a 24-hour service (which will also replace ESPN Radio on Cumulus’ WHGB 1400 in Harrisburg and Yahoo! Sports on Cumulus’ WSKO 1260 up in Syracuse, New York) and hourly updates; much of the programming on the 24-hour service will be produced by CBS Radio’s growing roster of major-market all-sports stations, including WIP-FM, WFAN (660 New York), WBZ-FM (98.5 Boston) and KDKA-FM (93.7 Pittsburgh), all of which will also be clearing the hourly updates and presumably using the 24-hour service during the off hours that they now fill with content from Yahoo! Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and other sources. (There’s already speculation about whether the CBS offering, as well as the new NBC Sports Radio from Dial Global, will end up killing off one or more of the weaker existing players in the sports network arena.)

The move is also likely to prompt renewed speculation about an FM move for WFAN: using the huge 660 signal to clear the CBS Sports Radio network programming would be a big vote of confidence as CBS and Cumulus seek to get more national clearance for the upstart network, and the combination of national on 660 and local on 92.3 just might give CBS and WFAN a potent one-two punch against ESPN Radio’s WEPN-FM (98.7), as well as two sports signals on which to clear play-by-play conflicts.

While we’re speculating: one can easily wonder where else Cumulus might end up clearing the CBS Sports Radio programming – it would seem to be a natural fit, for instance, for a secondary signal such as WPRV (790) in Providence, where WBZ-FM already has fringe listeners.

(And one more small note about CBS Radio’s announcement – the new sports service will also clear on the company’s little AM signal at 1660 in Charlotte, North Carolina, which wouldn’t be worthy of note in NERW, except that the 1660 facility there is where the legendary WBCN calls have been parked since leaving Boston in 2009.)

*Today is moving day for Rush Limbaugh in Philadelphia: he starts in the noon-3 PM slot at Merlin’s WWIQ (106.9 Camden NJ) after many years on CBS Radio’s WPHT (1210), and Rush isn’t the only new voice on “IQ 106.9″: the talk upstart is also adding Cumulus’ Mark Levin in evenings, beginning July 2.

*On the Philly TV dial, ABC’s WPVI-TV (Channel 6) has been missing for many over-the-air viewers since moving from its interim UHF slot (RF 64) back to low-band VHF when analog TV signed off in 2009. With just 7560 watts of digital power, the original WPVI-TV digital 6 facility quickly gave way to a bigger 30.2 kW signal – and now “6ABC” is trying again to reach more viewers with an application to crank its digital power all the way to 62.9 kW. Because of differences in the way DTV power is measured compared to the old analog signals (peak power instead of average power), that’s roughly the equivalent of 180 kW of analog power, more than twice the 74 kW WPVI ran in the analog days, but WPVI says it needs the extra power to overcome the disadvantages of low-band VHF, which turns out not to work well at all for digital TV.

(To be technical about it, it’s not really the transmission of l0w-band VHF that’s a problem in the digital universe; it’s the receiving antennas out there that often turn out to barely be designed for any VHF at all, never mind the six-meter wavelengths of low-band channels 2 through 6.)

In order to get its extra power, WPVI had to cut a deal with the other legacy channel 6 in the region, Schenectady’s WRGB, which has also cranked up its power all the way from 4640 watts to 30.2 kW and may yet go higher.

*There’s a stealth format shift in southern NEW JERSEY: WFNE (106.3 North Cape May) segued from oldies to classic hits when it changed calls to WJSE on June 11. For now, the station is still “Fun 106″ – but given how closely the WJSE calls were associated with modern rock during their time at 102.7 on the dial (now top-40 WWAC), one wonders if the station is done evolving.

*In the NEW YORK City TV market, we now know who will be hosting the new morning show on CBS’ newly-acquired WLNY (Channel 55) – and this also answers the question of where Carolina Bermudez was headed when she left the Elvis Duran morning show over at WHTZ (Z100) earlier in the month. Bermudez will join John Elliott and Lisa Kerney from WLNY sister station WCBS-TV (Channel 2) for the 7-9 AM “Live from the Couch” show, which will debut in July.

Over at WNBC (Channel 4), it’s no surprise at all that Shiba Russell is the replacement for the venerable Sue Simmons at 11 PM; her move into the late-night anchor chair alongside Chuck Scarborough was almost preordained once Simmons’ departure was announced earlier this spring, though WNBC waited to make the move official until after Simmons’ last day on the air June 15. And even then, Simmons’ legacy lived on, inadvertently: last Tuesday, the 11 PM newscast opened up with a lower-third graphic identifying Russell as “Sue Simmons.”

On the radio, New York Public Radio’s WNYC (93.9/820) has a new vice president for news: Jim Schachter moves downtown effective July 9, leaving his post as associate managing editor of the New York Times to take a role overseeing not only WNYC’s local news operation but also its national programming and the New Jersey Public Radio signals WNYC now operates.

Around the block at WFAN (660), the nation’s original all-sports station is getting ready to mark the 25th anniversary of its 1987 debut. WFAN has a full day of anniversary programming scheduled for next Sunday, July 1, including hourlong shifts by guest hosts from throughout the station’s history. The station is also collecting a list of the 25 greatest sports moments during its history, and there’s a special anniversary broadcast planned for Mike Francesa’s afternoon show on Friday.

*Where are they now? Bob Buchmann headed west three years ago after a 20-year run as PD/morning man at Long Island’s WBAB (102.3 Babylon) and a decade programming Clear Channel’s WAXQ (104.3 New York), only to get blown out of his new gig programming Citadel classic rocker KLOS (95.5 Los Angeles) when it became Cumulus classic rocker KLOS. Now he’s landed back with Clear Channel, but still out west: Buchmann’s the new morning co-host (alongside Coe Lewis) at classic rock KGB (101.5) in San Diego. At KGB, Buchmann is followed by another New Yorker – Q104’s Marc Coppola tracks middays for San Diego from his Manhattan studio.

*Moving upstate, one of Rochester’s longest-running anchors is stepping down. Rich Funke went on the air in Batavia at WBTA (1490) back in 1968 and soon moved to Rochester’s WAXC (1460), the former sister station to WHEC-TV (Channel 10) . By 1974, Funke had segued from news on WAXC to sports on channel 10 – and then after decades at the helm of WHEC’s sports department, he moved back to the news desk to become the station’s lead anchor. Funke says “the time has come to step aside, move into the next phase of my life,” and we wish him the very best as he prepares to leave the anchor desk in December.

If Funke’s retirement came as something of a surprise, the departure of one of his longtime colleagues just down the Thruway came as nothing of the sort: rumors had long been swirling that John Murphy would be exiting his role as sports director of Buffalo’s WIVB (Channel 4). Murphy moved over to WIVB in 2008 after a long run across town at WKBW-TV (Channel 7), but he’s best known these days as the radio voice of the Buffalo Bills – and his departure from WIVB will allow him to take a full-time job with the football team. In his new role with the Bills, Murphy will continue to call the games, and he’ll have a daily airshift on Bills flagship WGR (550), where the “John Murphy Show” will debut July 26 in the 7-9 PM weeknight slot.

Murphy becomes one of two team broadcasters with daily shows on WGR: last week, the station launched a daily Sabres-focused show that’s broadcast daily from 10 AM-noon from the team’s store at the Whatever-Bank-Bought-HSBC-This-Week Arena downtown. The new show is hosted by Kevin Sylvester, who’d been the studio host for Sabres game broadcasts on WGR; Brian Duff will host the pre- and post-game shows for the Sabres on WGR this fall.

*On TV in the Queen City, Phil Arno’s WBBZ-TV (Channel 67) has launched its first local production from its new showcase studio in the Eastern Hills Mall: “Political Buzz,” which is running Thursday nights at 7.

The political talk show, hosted by former WIVB reporter Mylous Hairston, is being billed as the first of many broadcasts to be produced in the new studio, which is designed to create audience interaction and promote the upstart station, which is the former WNGS-TV and which now carries MeTV programming.

*Back here in the Rochester area, Bob Savage’s WYSL (1040 Avon and Rochester translator W221CL at 92.1) has promoted Joe Lasky to news director, with an increased on-air presence doing hourly newscasts throughout the day. WYSL has also named Kevin Meath (son of the legendary WHEC personality Eddie Meath) as its sales manager, and it’s switched from ABC to SRN for its hourly newscasts.

Our media-blogging colleague Peter Naughton is paring back his duties a little bit: busy with CNYRadio.com and his day job, Naughton has stepped back from his weekend on-air shifts at WLZW (98.7 Utica)…but we suspect he’s not done with radio for good. (Once it’s in the blood…)

A “Baseball on the Radio” update: after many years on Pamal’s WLNA (1420 Peekskill)/WBNR (1260 Beacon), the Hudson Valley Renegades are the latest New York-Penn League team to go webcast-only, with no over-the-air broadcast this season.

And we send our congratulations to all the award recipients from the New York State Broadcasters Association dinner held last week at the Sagamore resort in Bolton Landing. At this year’s NYSBA event, ABC “Nightline” host Bill Weir was named “Broadcaster of the Year,” while Rachael Ray took home “New Yorker of the Year.”

*There’s a new IT/engineering director at RHODE ISLAND Public Radio, and it’s hard for this column to be unbiased when it comes to our good friend Aaron Read; after all, your editor drove across the country with him last year as he moved from his job as general manager of WEOS (89.7) in Geneva, New York to become chief engineer at KCSB (91.9) in Santa Barbara, California. It turned out Aaron’s heart was still in New England, and after a much more leisurely drive back east, he’s now settling in at the Providence-based network that now encompasses three FMs (WELH 88.1 Providence, WCVY 91.5 Coventry and WRNI-FM 102.7 Narragansett Pier) and one AM (WRNI 1290 Providence).

*It’s hard to make a station profitable in the tough-luck towns of northern NEW HAMPSHIRE, but Barry Lunderville has made a go of it for quite a few years now with stations in places such as Berlin and Lancaster and Lisbon. In the old paper-mill town of Berlin, Lunderville’s WMOU (1230) and WKDR (1490) have been pretty much the only local games in town, which is why Lunderville fought back when Conway-based WVMJ (104.5) sprouted a translator in Berlin. What with the mass of Mount Washington sitting squarely between Berlin and Conway, Lunderville argued that the translator, W251BD (98.1), couldn’t possibly receive the input signal of WVMJ over the air. In a complaint to the FCC, Lunderville also claimed the translator was operating over-power, and that it was receiving impermissible financial support from WVMJ. (The translator is owned by paging company operator Stewart Shaw, who sells local advertising in Berlin on “Magic 98.1″ via a page on his company’s website.)

Unfortunately for Lunderville, the FCC didn’t see things his way; last week, the commission rejected his petition for reconsideration, largely on procedural grounds, allowing the translator’s license to stand.

*In southwest CONNECTICUT, Al Warren is wrapping up a half-century in radio as he prepares to retire from WICC (600 Bridgeport), where he’s been the weekend morning host for many years. Warren started at WICC way back in 1965, and he’s been there almost ever since, with some brief stints along the way at WLAD (800 Danbury) and WMMM (1260 Westport, now WSHU).

Part of RCI's Sackville antenna array, June 1998

*Radio CANADA International left the shortwave bands last night, signing off its transmitter site in Sackville, New Brunswick nearly 70 years after the first shortwave signals were broadcast from that location in the Tantramar Marsh.

The last English-language program to go out over the air on RCI was the weekly “Maple Leaf Mailbag” show, and for some reason RCI broadcast a repeat of last week’s program instead of the scheduled new episode.

The end of shortwave is effectively the end of RCI as Canadians and global listeners have known it: an 80% cut in the service’s budget (the result of an overall 10% cut in funding to the CBC, which operates RCI) means the end of most original RCI programming, though a skeleton service will continue to stream over the RCI website.

At its close, RCI was broadcasting in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian and Mandarin from Sackville and several relays worldwide; Sackville, in turn, was carrying relay broadcasts for a number of other global broadcasters. Those relays, too, are falling silent and may even be gone by the time you read this.

The end of RCI is just one of several blows to what’s left of international shortwave broadcasting at the moment. Later this week, Radio Netherlands Worldwide will end its service in English as well, a sad coda to what was once one of the largest international broadcasters.

RCI and its fellow international broadcasters would argue (not without some validity) that listeners around the world no longer need to depend on the vagaries of shortwave ionospheric propagation to tune in distant signals when the internet can easily bring them streaming audio at any time. That’s true, and indeed, your editor was listening to the end of RCI over the stream, but in the rush to the stream, it’s also true that RCI and other international broadcasters are giving up an audience of listeners in remote parts of the world where speedy net access remains impossible, not to mention the possibility of reaching audiences in political jurisdictions where internet-delivered radio can be cut off much more easily than shortwave radio can be jammed.

*For fans of news and talk radio in Quebec cities outside Montreal, the listening options have been few and far between in recent years. Three years ago, Corus closed down its commercial French talk network that served listeners in Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières and Gatineau/Ottawa after having moved those stations (the old CHLT 630, CHLN 550 and CJRC 1150) from AM to FM.

Since flipping away from news-talk and AM, those signals have struggled through a succession of callsigns, formats and owners; under Corus, they carried a French oldies format called “Souvenirs garantis,” and after being sold to Cogeco they flipped to French top 40 under the “CKOI” branding that originates at Cogeco’s CKOI (96.9 Montreal).

Now Cogeco says the stations (CKOY 107.7 in Sherbrooke, CKOB 106.9 in Trois-Rivières and CKOF 104.7 in Gatineau) will go back to news and talk beginning August 20.

They’ll continue to have local programming in morning and afternoon drive, with network programming in other dayparts fed from top-rated Montreal talker CHMP (98.5), and they’ll continue to carry sports, too: CKOF is the French-language flagship of the Ottawa Senators and CKOY and CKOB are on the Montreal Canadiens network based at CHMP.

*In Quebec City, CFEL (102.1 Montmagny) is continuing to use the CKOI branding for now, though it ended up not with Cogeco but with Leclerc Communication Inc. – but its sister station in the market has a brand-new format as of Wednesday. CJEC (91.9 Quebec City) dropped the Corus “Rhythme FM” format and had been stunting since mid-May, but it’s now rebranded as “WKND.”

WKN-what?!? No, the new format on 91.9 has nothing to do with Windsor, Connecticut, where the real WKND callsign has long resided. Instead, it’s a nickname for “le week-end,” going along with a mix of “adult pop, contemporary rock, indie-rock and pop-rock from 2000 to the present.” Calling its new format “active, positive and full of energy,” the new “Weekend Radio” is branding itself “the station without a Monday.” (It really is on the air on weekdays, too, with Martin Dalair in morning drive and PY Lord in afternoon drive.)

*Radio People on the Move: Toronto radio veterans Humble and Fred are back on terrestrial radio, but their new on-air home is over in Kingston, where they’re being heard on CIKR (K-Rock 105.7). The duo moved to podcasting a few years back, and in January they signed a deal with Rogers Radio to promote their podcast on many of its terrestrial stations. Is this the start of a new syndicated version of Humble and Fred that will spread to other Rogers outlets? Moving in the other direction, former K-Rock operations manager Doug Elliott is now PD and afternoon host in Oshawa at Durham Radio’s CKGE (94-9 the Rock), which is now marketing itself as “Rocking the GTA.”

In Toronto, Joey Brooks has departed afternoon drive on CHUM-FM (104.5) and is apparently headed back to Boston, though there’s no word yet on where he’s going once he gets there. Over at Evanov’s CIDC (Z103.5), former morning man Scott Fox has returned, a little over a year after he was ousted from the station (he’d been doing fill-in in the meantime at CKIS 92.5); meanwhile, Ashley Greco has departed Z103.5 for…CHUM-FM. And one more tidbit from Bell Media Radio: Milkman UnLimited reports Ian March has returned to Majic 100 (CJMJ) and 93.9 BOB FM (CKKL) in Ottawa as program coordinator after nine months programming Bell’s Kingston cluster.

In Halifax, Gary Tredwell is the new PD for CKHZ (103.5)/CKHY (105.1), moving to the Evanov stations from Newcap’s CIJK (89.3) in Kentville, where he was the founding PD.

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: June 27, 2011 -

*Want to make every message-board server in NEW YORK melt down from a deluge of speculative posts? It’s easy, really – just spread the word that former Jacor/Clear Channel/Tribune honcho Randy Michaels is coming back into radio in a big way, partnering with an investment firm to take over three of Emmis Communications’ biggest stations, including the struggling WRXP (101.9 New York).That’s just what happened last week, of course, and it’s a tribute to the IT staffs of the various radio discussion sites that they haven’t crashed under the crush of rumor and wishful thinking that’s surrounded the first few days of the new Merlin Media LLC, Michaels’ partnership with the GTCR private equity firm and Emmis itself, which will continue to hold a minority stake in WRXP and its Chicago sister stations, WLUP (97.9) and WKQX (101.1).

Merlin’s not yet saying what it plans to do with the stations, but the speculation (based on domain-name registrations and one of the company’s first big hires, former WINS general manager Greg Janoff, now Merlin’s executive VP of revenue) is that the rock format in New York is on the way out, to be replaced by some sort of spoken-word format that would provide an FM challenger to CBS Radio’s lucrative AM trio of WCBS/WINS/WFAN and Citadel talker WABC. Unless, of course, the rumored new calls, “WYNY,” are actually pointing toward a revival of country music in a market where that format has been absent for years.

Or, perhaps, everything we’re seeing so far (including a promo that’s been making the rounds for an all-news format on what’s now WKQX in Chicago) is just a smokescreen, and the canny Michaels and his new Merlin crew are simply doing what Michaels has always done best: getting people talking about him and his stations – and in the process, getting people to pay attention to radio, which the industry desperately needs right now.

So what is in store for WRXP and its sister stations? “We have almost ruled out polka,” Michaels tells NERW – but we’ll have to stay tuned, of course, to find out what’s really in the works.

*While we wait to find out what Michaels is up to, we know a little more this week about the fate of the last open FM channel in the radio market where Michaels’ career took off. Way back in 1996, Dick Greene’s Culver Communications petitioned the FCC to allocate a class A signal on 92.1 in Lockport. In 1999, the FCC shifted the allocation to the Buffalo suburb of Amherst, and in 2004 it was reserved for noncommercial use. And seven years later, the channel finally has a “tentative selectee” to build and operate it – or rather, a trio of tentative selectees, thanks to current FCC policy that eliminates comparative hearings in favor of a complex and arcane points system that now often results in ties.

And those ties – like the one that the FCC determined now exists among the applications of Medaille College, Calvary Chapel of the Niagara Frontier and the Lockport Seventh-Day Adventist Church – are now resolved by an FCC dictum that the tied selectees should share time on their frequency.

But there’s a reason they’re called “tentative” selectees: just as broadcasters and their consultants and lawyers have learned how to navigate the points system to yield so many ties, they’ve also learned that a more detailed examination of the documentation submitted with those applications can often bring about a Commission re-examination of its points decisions, overturning those tentative selections. It’s likely that there will be challenges to this three-way share-time, which would result in one of the largest markets served by alternating operators. (And it’s not the only share-time decision the FCC handed out this week – we’ll have others later in the column, too.)

If the decision isn’t challenged or overturned, and if none of the groups drop out, as has happened elsewhere, Buffalo listeners will end up with a decidedly split personality on 92.1: college radio from Medaille for part of the day, preceded and followed by religion from Calvary Chapel (likely to end up, at least partially, as a repeater of the national CSN network) and the Seventh-Day Adventists (likely to end up, at least partially, as a repeater of the national Three Angels network). It’s not even clear that all three stations will share a common transmitter and antenna: while Medaille and Calvary proposed use of a site at the WBFO (88.7) tower near the University of Buffalo north campus, the Lockport group applied to use the Time Warner Cable tower on LaSalle Avenue in Buffalo.

The three-way share in Buffalo won’t even be the most complex arrangement on the Empire State dial: for that, we turn to the Hudson Valley, where the FCC points system resulted in a four-way tie among religious broadcasters Birds of a Feather Media, Calvary Chapel of the Hudson Valley, Christian Media Associates and Somos la Llave del Futuro, all of whom will have to share a class A facility on 102.5.

No share-time was needed to resolve a third disputed channel: the gears of the FCC’s points system ground out a single tentative selectee for 93.3A in Susquehanna, PA, just over the line from Binghamton: the Broome County Urban League gets that one for a much-needed voice for the black community in Binghamton, which has been lacking a radio outlet since WUCI (91.5) folded many years back.

*There was big news out of the NEW JERSEY legislature, too, as lawmakers in the state assembly voted, 45-30, to reject Governor Chris Christie’s plan to hand over management of the NJN public television system, along with about $2 million in income from federal subsidies and tower rental, to New York’s WNET and political broadcaster Steve Adubato Jr.

“Giving NJN to New York makes no sense,” assemblyman Patrick Diegnan told the Star-Ledger before the vote.

The 15-day period during which lawmakers can stop the deal ends on Tuesday, and the state Senate could vote today to join the Assembly in quashing the deal. It’s not clear exactly what would happen to NJN if the deal isn’t consummated: the state employees now operating NJN from its Trenton headquarters have already been notified that their jobs will end on Thursday, and state treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff told lawmakers that those layoffs will go ahead as planned, essentially causing NJN to “cease to exist.”

But that doesn’t mean the network would actually go off the air: the state has committed to meeting the minimum FCC requirements to keep the licenses alive, and some of the Democratic lawmakers behind the vote to defeat the Christie plan say there’s actually money in the state budget that could be used to keep NJN operating – at least on television. (The sale of NJN’s nine radio stations to New York’s WNYC and Philadelphia’s WHYY is moving through the legislature without opposition, and it’s expected to be complete next week.)

*Boston, of course, is big on its own local personalities and stories, and there have been few stories as long-lasting as the hunt for fugitive South Boston mob boss “Whitey” Bulger, which came to an end at just about the worst possible time for any news operation. The news of Bulger’s capture in California broke a few minutes after midnight on Thursday, after the early editions of the morning newspapers were already put to bed and the TV newscasts had signed off.

But while the Globe and Herald hurriedly remade their front pages, at least one local media outlet was live and local. If the powers that be at WBZ (1030) still had any doubts about the wisdom of returning Steve LeVeille to his overnight talk slot after the brief “Overnight America” experiment in 2008-2009, the broadcast more than proved its value early Thursday morning as LeVeille provided ongoing updates of the breaking news from the west coast, aided immeasurably by Dan Rea, the 8 PM-midnight WBZ radio host who was a WBZ-TV reporter during the Bulger era. By about 2:30, morning news anchor Joe Mathieu was in place as well, replacing the pre-recorded (and pre-Bulger-news) local news updates that ran at 1 AM and 2 AM.

And of course the capture of Bulger was big news for another Boston AM station as well: WRKO (680) afternoon talker Howie Carr literally wrote the book on the story (“The Brothers Bulger,” published in 2006), and in addition to his own shows on Thursday and Friday, Carr was ubiquitous on national TV in the days following the arrest.

Five Years Ago: June 25, 2007 -

*Add another to the list of job openings for talk hosts in MASSACHUSETTS – and this one’s an especially sad one.As he continues to recuperate from his fourth brain surgery in less than three years, WBZ (1030 Boston) evening talk host Paul Sullivan announced last week that he’s giving up the shift, which he inherited after the death of David Brudnoy in 2004.

In a letter to his listeners and colleagues, Sullivan wrote, “The toll my surgeries and treatments have taken on me makes it unlikely that I will ever have the energy to return to a four-hour daily talk radio program.”

He’ll return to WBZ this Thursday night for a final “farewell” show, and he says he’ll continue to be a presence on the station as much as he’s able, whether through commentaries, website postings or occasional guest-hosting stints when he’s feeling up to it.

We wish Sullivan all the best as he focuses on his fight against brain cancer, of course – and we wonder who WBZ will turn to as it tries, once again, to fill its 8 PM to midnight shift. For the moment, weekender Jordan Rich and WBZ-TV reporter Dan Rea have been covering his shift, but there’s nothing to suggest Rea wants the shift full-time, and we’d suspect the station wants someone with deeper political roots than Rich.

The search comes at a challenging time for Boston talk radio: Greater Media’s WTKK (96.9) is trying to fill both the morning shift vacated by Don Imus and the late-morning hour being vacated by Mike Barnicle, while Entercom’s WRKO (680) is struggling, badly, with its attempt to turn disgraced politician Tom Finneran into a morning host. (Its latest attempt this week will pair Finneran with midmorning host Todd Feinburg.)

We’ll be in Boston for Sullivan’s last show Thursday night, and we sincerely hope (and believe) we haven’t heard the last of him.

*In MAINE, the movement of Citadel’s WCYI (93.9 Lewiston) and WCLZ (98.9 Brunswick) into a trust pending sale meant a change of simulcasts last week: WCYI is now rebroadcasting the AAA sounds of WCLZ, instead of the modern rock of WCYY (94.3 Biddeford), which remained with Citadel. One exception to the simulcast: WCYI is carrying the Opie & Anthony morning show, while WCLZ isn’t.

*The big news from PENNSYLVANIA is all about signal upgrades, starting with Greater Media’s WJJZ (97.5 Burlington NJ), which flipped the switch last week on its new class B signal from the Wyndmoor tower just north of Philadelphia. It’s now a 26 kW/682′ signal with a directional notch to the northwest protecting WRVV (97.3 Harrisburg), and early reports suggest a much better signal in center city Philadelphia than 97.5 enjoyed from its old site in Trenton.

(There’s one small group of WJJZ listeners who aren’t enjoying the new signal: we heard from a few smooth jazz fans way up in Hazleton, who put in rooftop antennas just to hear the station, only to have a new translator, W248AK, sign on right in town and right on 97.5 last week.)

Ten Years Ago: June 24, 2002 -

We didn’t even know it was for sale, but WALE (990 Greenville) in the Providence, RHODE ISLAND market is changing hands, for a reported $1.2 million. It’s not often that we say “good riddance” to a broadcast owner, but we’ll step on the editorial soapbox and note that we’re probably not the only ones glad to see the last of Francis Battaglia’s North American Broadcasting in New England.

For years now, we’ve been seeing fraudulent coverage maps that claim the 50,000 watt daytime signal reaches Boston and Worcester, when in fact it shoots just a narrow beam over Providence and out to the ocean – and we’ve been hearing stories from non-radio folks who have been offered a chance to “host” their own radio shows on WALE. More often than not, those shows turn out to be leased-time broadcasts fed in on bad phone lines to no listeners – and do you think those folks will ever consider radio as a serious advertising medium after being burned that way?

Arthur Liu’s Multicultural Broadcasting is entering MASSACHUSETTS, paying $1.78 million for brokered ethnic WLYN (1360 Lynn), which has got to be some sort of record for a 700-watt former daytimer. The sale takes Peter Arpin’s ADD Media group out of the Boston market, an exit that began last year with the sale of WRCA (1330 Waltham) to Beasley.

After some bouts with dead air over the weekend, CNet Radio is back on the airwaves of WBPS (890 Dedham), but not for very long. The leased-time programming disappears at month’s end, and we hear Mega will begin leasing 890 to an outfit called “Air Time Media,” which will program a talk lineup that includes a localized version of the syndicated Doug Stephan wakeup show as well as Neil Boortz, Rusty Humphries and Michael Savage. (NERW says: Is there any niche at all for syndicated talk – syndicated right-wing talk, at that – in a market that’s never warmed up to most national talkers?)

Down in NEW JERSEY, Scott and Casey are gone again from talker WKXW-FM (101.5 Trenton)/WKXW (1450 Atlantic City). “New Jersey 101.5″ had pulled the duo off the air earlier in the spring; now they’re headed to afternoons at Infinity’s WKRK (97.1 Detroit), where they’ll rejoin their NJ 101.5 predecessors, Deminski and Doyle. Replacing them in Jersey is former WFAN sportscaster Craig Carton, who’d filled in on the shift during their suspension.

In PENNSYLVANIA, Bruce Bond has returned to the airwaves of Harrisburg – or at least nearby Carlisle, where the former WNNK (104.1) afternoon talk-jock resurfaced this week doing mornings on 80s “Z102.3″ WRKZ. The Citadel station also hired Bond’s WNNK sidekick “Stretch” to join him in mornings…and no sooner had the duo launched Monday than a lawsuit arrived from WNNK owner Cumulus accusing Bond of breaching his noncompete agreement and stealing WNNK’s trade secrets. More on this to come, we’re certain.

Fifteen Years Ago: June 26, 1997 -

Broadcasters around the Northeast are reacting to last week’s FCC complaint against Brian Dodge with a mixture of surprise, anger, and resignation. NERW spoke this week with Paul Lotters, the general manager of WHAZ (1330) Troy NY, the station that’s currently being used as the primary for Dodge’s “Love Radio” translators in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. The complaint filed by Carter Broadcasting claims Dodge has illegally taken financial support from WHAZ for the translators, as well as illegally taking control of those translators in the first place.
While Lotters hasn’t seen the actual complaint yet, he tells NERW he had no idea there were any problems with the operation. “I’m very perturbed. I’m very concerned about the whole situation, naturally,” Lotters said.

Lotters says WHAZ’s sole purpose is to bring religious programming to its listeners in the Albany area, as well as in the adjacent areas served by relays WMYY (97.3 Schoharie) and WBAR (94.7 Lake Luzerne), and while he was happy to have Dodge’s translators expanding that audience, he doesn’t want to do anything to get in the way of WHAZ’s main mission. And he tells NERW that WHAZ won’t continue its relationship with Dodge if he finds Dodge has broken FCC rules. “If there’s anything we shouldn’t have done, the connection [with Dodge] will be disconnected,” Lotters told NERW in a telephone interview Wednesday morning. Brian Dodge has not returned NERW’s phone calls; we’ll bring you his response as soon as he does. (2007 update: he never did.)

We’ll begin the rest of this week’s news in NEW YORK, where four of Buffalo’s biggest radio stations have a new owner. Charlie Banta’s Mercury Broadcasting gets $62 million for oldies WHTT-AM/FM (1120/104.1), modern rock WEDG (103.3), and classic rock WGRF (96.9), and Banta stays on board under new owner Buffalo Broadcasting Partners II. The company also has broadcasting interests just down the Thruway in Syracuse, where it’s the owner of Pilot Communications, which has rocker WAQX (95.7 Manlius), CHR WNTQ (93.1), AC WLTI (105.9), and news WNSS (1260) in its stable.
We have an answer to last issue’s questions about the dual-frequency operation of WCGR in Canandaigua NY, thanks to Tom Taylor and our friends at the M Street Journal. It seems WCGR owner George Kimble went back to the FCC after putting the new full-time 1310 kHz WCGR signal on the air, to see if there was any way of keeping the old daytime-only 1550 facility to fill in some holes to the east in the 1310 directional pattern. The FCC obliged by “recharacterizing” WCGR’s application to change frequency, as an application for a new station on 1310, thus allowing Kimble to keep both the “new station” on 1310 and the original station on 1550.

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Comments

  1. RJ Kanary says

    I feel compelled to respond to the story of WPVI-DT 6 and the woes of its channel assignment.

    Were that actually the case, those same antennas should have provided the same poor performance with the NTSC signal.Obviously, that’s not so. What changed ? RF is still RF.How the RF is modulated, now THAT is where the problem truly is.This is yet another example of how fragile the 8VSB scheme is compared to its predecessor.

    That’s my view from the bleachers,with no technical background whatsoever.

    RJ

    • says

      The outdoor antennas that delivered good pictures on low-V analog generally work pretty well on low-V digital, too.

      The problem is with the indoor antennas being explicitly marketed as “DTV” antennas. Most of them, to put it charitably, are crap. In the early years of DTV, many of those antennas were UHF-only with no provision for VHF reception at all, and if they worked adequately with high-power high-band VHF, they still didn’t work at all with the longer wavelengths of low-band V. Anyone trying to cut the cable cord and go OTA-only by buying one of those antennas would have been out of luck on WPVI (and possibly also on WHYY, which went back to 12.)

      Even now, it’s hard to find an indoor antenna on the market that provides any sort of useful service on low-band VHF. These antennas wouldn’t have worked any better on analog 3 and 6, mind you – but at least the handful of indoor antennas on the market in the waning days of analog included rabbit-ears that could be extended all the way out for low-V if the user knew what needed to be done. I know of only one commonly-available “DTV” indoor antenna with similar capability, and that’s the Terk HDTVi that I travel with. It works passably well in most of the places I travel that are VHF-heavy – it was able to see WBBM-DT in Chicago when it was on RF 3, and it does well in Las Vegas with KSNV-DT on 2 and a whole bunch of high-V signals (7, 9, 11, 12), but it’s still no match for a even a minimal outdoor antenna.

      • says

        I actually get great reception of WPVI all the way in the Poconos with a pair of rabbit ears from the dollar store hooked up to an amp in my attic, it’s the only Philly station I get. I would probably get WHYY too if it wasn’t surrounded by WBRE on 11 and WYOU on 13.

  2. tgfabthunderbird says

    The exact same thing, re: WGBH happens today at WITF, where I am part-time. The classical midday programming has been moved to the webstream in place of most of the aforementioned shows.

    Without saying too much, there’s one operative word: Support.

  3. tvguy073 says

    A short comment regarding Radio Canada International. It was bound to happen. But here’s my 2 cents worth. RCI’s demise has come due to the expense of keeping alive dozens of domestic Radio-Canada stations that have few listeners. How/s that? CBC is mandated to provide over-the-air TV, FM and AM french language services across the country, in communities which have no significant French speaking population. CJBC 860 Khz Toronto draws under 22,000 listeners, but costs of operating its legacy AM transmitter exceed $250,000 per year.
    Multiply that times 20 or 30 in cities across English-speaking Canada and you get the picture. The cost/viewership of CBC French over the air TV is equally dismal, particularly when upwards of 90+ of the population receives it on satellite or Cable – as a mandatory signal. RCI probably had 100x more audience, worldwide. But costs had to be cut, and cutting CBC French services that have no audience outside of Quebec is a political sacred cow, that no political party wants to tamper with. My view anyway.

  4. Neggy says

    I am laughing at the WLYN purchase price 10 years ago, 1.78 million plus what he paid not too long after that for 1470 and the costs of moving the license to the new C.O.L (Watertown). and transmitter move to the 1150 site in Lexington. No wonder MRBI is in financial ruin, having to sell off TV stations and their corporate HQ in NYC,

  5. laurenceglavin says

    One move by WGBH-FM that I find hard to understand is the deletion of the second hour of the Diane Rehm show in the morning only to be be replaced by a rerun. If I’m near a radio at that hour (and now that the Stephanie Miller show is no longer on radio in Boston; I have Currenyt TV and can watch it on TV, but I’m not always in the room with my cable-connected TV) I find myself choosing between WBUR and WGBH at that time. Since I live north of Boston, I can still receive Diane Reham at 11:00 am from NHPR, but that’s not a solution for Boston-area listeners.

  6. chrishall says

    Before the switch to digital I had an excellent over the air signal
    from WMUR-TV 9 and WENH-TV 11 using a Winegard U/V fringe
    antenna with a rotor, now I have nothing at all. I can practically
    see Mt. Uncanoonac from my deck. No problem getting everything
    from Boston with an inside pair of rabbit ears at more than twice the distance. During its few disasterous months on channel 7 WHDH
    was absent from the dial on the roof antenna, when they returned
    channel 42 no problems on indoor rabbit ears. VHF IS A REAL PROBLEM.FOR HDTV. Without cable I would have neither WMUR-TV
    or WENH-TV, can’t blame this one on the antenna Scott. odd I have no problem with WNEU on rabbit ears form the same site as WMUR

  7. laurenceglavin says

    I live just over the Mass.NH border on the Boston side, and WMUR-TV and WENH-TV come in fine through a powered indoor antenna and a digital-to-analog box atop my trusty CRT TV set. On the other hand, before the April 8th incident,, the digital version of channels 2, 5 and 44 required pinpoint accuracy relative to the incoming signal. Channel 4/30 seemed to be the strongest DTV signal coming in without dropout in several antenna positions. If I decide to watch the 6:30 pm ABC News, I do so via channel 9. I also get the three channel 11 signals without problems.

  8. says

    Who is this Kevin Naughton guy who took over my site? I must have missed the memo revealing that I now have a secret evil twin :-)

    On a serious note, thanks for the mention!