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: August 15, 2011 -
*The low end of the FM dial in RHODE ISLAND has been going through a big transition this summer: first came Bryant University’s deal with Boston’s WGBH to put classical programming on the upgraded signal of WJMF (88.7 Smithfield), then the recent news that the Wheeler School had abruptly terminated its longtime lease of the evening hours on WELH (88.1 Providence) to Brown Student Radio. That move, we were told, was meant to clear the way for a new full-time tenant on WELH, which itself recently upgraded its signal – and now we know how all those pieces come together.
In a filing last week with the FCC, Rhode Island Public Radio revealed that it will soon become the new full-time occupant of Wheeler’s WELH, whch will become the new flagship signal for RIPR. The new RIPR will consist (at least initially) of three FM signals: WELH itself, covering Providence, Pawtucket and vicinity with its new 4 kW/135′ DA signal from a site in Seekonk, Mass.; RIPR’s existing southern Rhode Island FM voice, WRNI-FM (102.7 Narragansett Pier); and to fill some of the gap between those two signals, WCVY (91.5 Coventry), where RIPR recently struck a deal to fill most of the airtime when high school students aren’t operating the station. WCVY is also on the upgrade path: it’s just filed an application to boost its power from 200 watts, non-directional, to 6 kW DA, with most of that power going west and southwest over rural central Rhode Island.
So what becomes of RIPR’s existing flagship signal, WRNI (1290 Providence)? According to RIPR’s application, the 10 kW AM signal is going Spanish, providing a full-time home for the Cranston-based Latino Public Radio programming that’s been heard during the day on WELH. (The FCC filing last week requested a new main-studio waiver for the WRNI-FM signal in Narragansett Pier; it had been operating as a satellite of WRNI 1290, but will now instead be carrying programming from WELH, which remains licensed to the Wheeler School.)
The net effect of all the summertime changes is probably a positive for most public radio fans in the Ocean State: after decades of tuning to out-of-state signals from Boston and Connecticut and then 13 years of tuning to WRNI on an AM signal, listeners in much of Rhode Island will soon have FM signals carrying both WRNI’s news-talk and WGBH’s classical service (which used to be audible in Providence until WGBH split its formats in 2009, moving classical from the big WGBH-FM 89.7 signal to WCRB 99.5 north of Boston).
And it’s great news for Rhode Island’s Hispanic community, which will get a new fulltime outlet on 1290 with a signal potent enough to reach most of the state’s Spanish-speaking listeners. When that AM signal leaves the main WRNI service, it may temporarily leave some RIPR listeners without a clear FM choice, but RIPR is working to resolve that issue: it has a 100-watt FM construction permit in Newport, and we’d expect to see translators going in to fill other signal holes (especially in the Woonsocket area) in the months to come.
For fans of college radio, the news is even less positive: Bryant’s student-produced WJMF programming, off the air for the summer, will return to the airwaves this fall on WJMF’s HD2 channel and on streaming audio, while Brown Student Radio is online-only after being ousted from WELH.
*It’s almost anticlimactic after all the buildup it’s been getting for the last few months, but “FM News 101.9″ is finally a reality in NEW YORK, where Merlin Media’s WEMP (101.9) launched its new format on Friday morning after a four-hour test run in the midst of the “FM New” hot AC format that’s been running on an interim basis.
At least one of the on-air personalities from “FM New” makes the transition to “FM News”: Jerry Barmash at FishbowlNY.com reports that Paul Cavalconte, who’s survived previous format changes on 101.9 from smooth jazz WQCD to rock WRXP, stays on the frequency once again as an anchor at “FM News.”
Like its sister station in Chicago (WWWN 101.1) that launched two weeks earlier, the initial reviews for “FM News 101.9″ have been decidedly mixed: there were frequent moments of on-air technical blunders and anchors sounding unprepared – or so we hear. As with its Chicago sister, there’s no streaming (or, indeed, any significant online presence at all) for WEMP, leaving those outside the market to wonder just what Merlin honcho Randy Michaels and programmer Walt Sabo are up to.
*Two radio groups are changing hands upstate, most notably along the I-88 corridor between Binghamton and Albany where Double O Radio assembled a cluster that eventually included most of the commercial signals in and around Oneonta. Now those 11 stations, as well as 15 others in Texas and Missouri, are going to Townsquare Media in an $11 million deal.
Townsquare, of course, is the former Regent Communications, and the Oneonta-area signals become part of a group that includes clusters in Albany and Utica, as well as down the Thruway in Buffalo.
In Oneonta, the cluster includes classic hits WZOZ (103.1), hot AC WSRK (103.9) and classic country WDOS (730); in Norwich, it’s big-signalled AC WKXZ (93.9), country WBKT (95.3) and standards WCHN (970); in Walton, standards WDLA (1270) and country WDLA-FM (92.1); in Delhi, adult hits WTBD (97.5) and oldies WDHI (100.3), which simulcasts on WIYN (94.7 Deposit).
The second transaction is in western New York, where Mark and Julie Miller’s Miller Media is selling Dansville’s WDNY (1400) and WDNY-FM (93.9) to Brian Patrick McGlynn’s Genesee Media Corporation. McGlynn doesn’t own any other stations, but he launched a company called Orpanc, which built the online DreamRadio service. Broker Dick Kozacko handled the $350,000 sale.
*Listeners on the north shore of MASSACHUSETTS will soon get a clearer signal from the radio station affiliated with Harvard University. WHRB (95.3 Cambridge) has long suffered from short-spacing with other area signals, including Brown-affiliated WBRU (95.5) down in Providence and co-channel WSKX (95.3) up the coast in York Center, MAINE.
Back in 1990, after the FCC revised spacing standards for class A stations such as WHRB, owner Harvard Radio Broadcasting reached an agreement with the Maine station (then WCQL-FM) that allowed both stations to increase power with the use of directional antennas. At WHRB’s end, that allowed the station to move its antenna from Harvard Square to a much higher perch atop downtown Boston’s One Financial Center – but at the expense of a directional notch that made the station hard to hear on the North Shore. In Maine, WCQL relocated to Mount Agamenticus in 1993, also using a directional antenna.
Under a proposal approved last week by the FCC, WHRB and WSKX (now owned by Clear Channel) will drop their 1990 interference agreement, instead using the FCC’s own short-spacing rules to govern their relationship. Here’s how it will play out: in Boston, WHRB will replace its directional antenna with a non-directional antenna atop One Financial Center, dropping its ERP slightly from 1700 to 1450 watts but bringing an additional 79,000 North Shore listeners into its 60 dBu contour. In Maine, WSKX will slightly boost its power and modify its directional pattern to bring several communities to the west, including Rochester and Durham, NEW HAMPSHIRE, within its 60 dBu contour.
*There’s a double format change along the Susquehanna River in central PENNSYLVANIA. Max Media rearranged its Selinsgrove cluster last Monday (Aug. 8), pulling WLGL (92.3 Riverside) out of what had been the three-station “B98.3″ country simulcast with WWBE (98.3 Mifflinburg) and WYGL-FM (100.5 Elizabethville).
After spending a weekend stunting as classic rock “Drive,” 92.3 relaunched Monday morning at 10 with ESPN sports as WVSL-FM, “The Valley’s Sports Leader.” The ESPN programming comes over from WYGL (1240 Selinsgrove), which changes calls to WVSL as it simulcasts with the new WVSL-FM.
Five Years Ago: August 13, 2007 -
*Is there any other commercial station in MASSACHUSETTS that’s been in the same hands as long as WCAP (980 Lowell)?The station signed on June 10, 1951, owned by Maurice Cohen and his two brothers, and while the brothers have since passed on, the station has remained under Cohen’s control for all this time.
That’s about to change, as Cohen announced this morning on WCAP’s morning show. He’s selling the station to a group of local investors led by Chelmsford real-estate agency owner Sam Poulten, local developer Brian McMahon and Andover radio consultant Clark Smidt, under the “Merrimack Valley Radio, LLC” banner.
“It’s been almost a two-year courtship,” Smidt told NERW, describing his long negotiations with Cohen for the purchase of the station.
Smidt says he’s known Cohen since the early seventies, but it was only in recent years that he began exploring a purchase of WCAP.
“A good friend gave me the idea that rather than looking for stations in northern New England, this makes sense because it’s right next door to me,” Smidt said.
*It’s been in the works for a while, but now the demise of another Bay State AM station has become reality. WPEP (1570 Taunton) disappeared from the airwaves last week, clearing the way for former sister station WNSH (1570 Beverly) to make a big jump in power.
The latest version of the WNSH upgrade, for which a construction permit was granted in June, calls for 30 kW days, non-directional, from the present transmitter site on the Endicott College campus. WNSH’s present 85-watt night signal will be unaffected.
The elimination of WPEP will allow WNSH to drop the three-tower daytime directional pattern that must now null co-channel WPEP to the southwest (and even then, limits WNSH to 500 watts); it also removes a source of local programming for the Taunton area, which gets most of its “local” programming from Providence and Boston stations these days.
*In NEW YORK, we’re still waiting for the official confirmation of the new morning team on WFAN (660) – but it sounds like it’s pretty much a done deal that former football star Boomer Esiason and WKXW (101.5 Trenton NJ) afternoon host Craig Carton will be the permanent replacement for Don Imus on the radio side. We don’t expect Esiason and Carton to be simulcast on MSNBC – that slot will likely stay with Joe Scarborough, who’s been filling in on an interim basis – but we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see YES Network end up carrying the show, just as it does the Mike and the Mad Dog afternoon show.
The newest directional array in New York state is now in place. WHIC (1460 Rochester) finished building the three short towers at its new site in Henrietta last week, and it won’t be long now, we expect, before Holy Family Communications gets the new site on the air.
The Catholic station is presently running at low power (4500 watts days, 750 watts night, ND) from the site of WROC (950 Rochester) after losing its longtime site in Brighton a year ago.
There’s tower news from just west of Binghamton, too, where Dave Radigan’s WEBO (1330 Owego) signed on from its new site last week.
WEBO not only built a new 190-foot tower, it moved its old transmitter building from its temporary site a mile or so away last Monday, which was a nice little way of generating publicity that included local TV coverage.
(We were especially amused by the Binghamton TV reporter’s standup that referred to “this giant tower behind me” – but hey, they got the calls and frequency right, and that’s all that matters.)
*One of the MAINE FMs being spun off by Citadel has found a buyer. WCLZ (98.9 Brunswick) will join Saga’s Portland cluster, which was already near the market cap with four AMs (WGAN, WZAN, WBAE/WVAE) and three FMs (WMGX, WYNZ and WPOR). No sale price has been announced yet – and there’s still no buyer for the other Citadel spinoff, WCYI (93.9 Lewiston).
Ten Years Ago: August 19, 2002 -
The steady decline of standards formats – and the growth of all-sports radio – is about to claim another convert in central PENNSYLVANIA. NERW has learned that Clear Channel is readying a format flip that will shift WLAN (1390 Lancaster) from standards to sports as “The Ticket.” If the format and the nickname already sound familiar to listeners in the region, it’s no surprise: Clear Channel flipped WWKL (1460 Harrisburg) from oldies to standards two years ago as “The Ticket,” WTKT, with a programming lineup (heavy on Fox Sports offerings) very similar to what will be heard on WLAN after the flip takes place in the next few weeks. The new “Ticket” won’t have a couple of key sports franchises: the Phillies air in Lancaster on Hall’s all-sports WLPA (1490), while NASCAR is over on the FM dial at WIOV-FM (105.1 Ephrata).
Next stop, NEW YORK, where noncomm WFUV (90.7), still embattled in a fight over its unfinished tower in the Bronx, has won one fight to improve its signal in the Big Apple. The FCC rejected protests from second-adjacent WFMU (91.1 East Orange NJ) and granted WFUV permission to put on-channel booster WFUV-FM2 on the air from the old WRVR (106.7, now WLTW) tower atop the Riverside Church in upper Manhattan. The 600 watt booster will be very directional, aimed south into Manhattan while avoiding the Bronx and upstate areas that already receive a decent WFUV signal.
Still more good news for ‘FUV fans: after several months of repeats, Pete Fornatale has settled his dispute with the station and returned to his Saturday “Mixed Bag” show. Fornatale’s beef with WFUV stemmed from some comments he made over the winter that station management felt were too political; in the meantime, he had been doing some work with WBJB (90.5 Lincroft NJ) down in Monmouth County.
NEW HAMPSHIRE’s public radio network has a new voice, as of 5 PM last Wednesday. That’s when WEVJ (99.5 Jackson) signed on as the latest addition to the statewide web, bringing a stronger NHPR signal to the Mount Washington Valley, where NHPR has been heard only weakly via WEVC (107.1 Gorham) on the other side of the mountain. WEVJ’s running 4700 watts from 141 feet above average terrain, at a site just north of North Conway. (WEVJ’s debut ends a long struggle to get this frequency on the air; an earlier CP expired a few years back, and it ended up in NHPR’s hands as the settlement to a contested application process.)
Fifteen Years Ago: August 14, 1997 -
This was a big week in MAINE radio, and that’s where we’ll start this edition of NERW, with the news that Tim Martz’s Martz Media is adding yet another station along the US-Canadian border to its portfolio. Presque Isle’s WOZI (101.7) is the new addition to the Martz family, joining “Hot Country 97″ WBPW (96.9) and hot AC “Q96.1″ WQHR in the Martz stable in Aroostook County. Rumors are already flying about a possible change to WOZI’s country format.
Northern Maine will be a busy place this weekend, as 50,000 fans are expected to fill the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone for “The Great Went,” a weekend-long concert event organized by the band Phish. You won’t hear many Phish songs on AC “Channel X” (WCXU 97.7 Caribou and WCXX 102.3 Madawaska), but the station is nonetheless going all-out with remotes and live simulcasts of the concert. What’s more, newspaper stories about the “Great Went” have been claiming that Phish has obtained an FCC license to use 88.9 for on-site broadcasts during the event. License or not, it sounds like that will be the frequency to listen to (and, we hope, aircheck) if any NERW readers are headed up that way.
In MASSACHUSETTS, we’re trying to sort out the FCC’s latest pronouncement on little WNSH (1570 Beverly). It seems a CP to go to 500 watts DA-1 from three towers off Summit Street in Peabody has been cancelled (we didn’t even realize it was there in the first place!) What’s interesting is that WNSH is listed in the FCC database as running 500 watts DA-2 from *two* towers on Clinton Street in Danvers (near the Liberty Tree Mall). This was, of course, the original two-tower WMLO site…but one of the towers has been gone for years, and the other is unfenced and appeared to have damage to the doghouse at the base when last NERW was up that way. The old WMLO studio building was heavily damaged by fire a few years ago and is quite vacant. We’ve heard rumors of an STA for 125 watts nondirectional, but there’s nothing to that effect in the online FCC database that we can find.
The big news in CONNECTICUT is Hicks, Muse’s $1.4 billion acquisition of LIN Television. The purchase gives the investment firm ownership of WTNH (Channel 8) New Haven, as well as WIVB (Channel 4) Buffalo and six other TV stations around the country. Hicks, Muse says it plans no changes at LIN or any of its stations.