In this week’s issue: Montreal TVs seek language swap – Decision time for Toronto’s 88.1 – “Eagle” lands in Watertown – Santella retires from WBFO – Football on the Radio
*Even as voters in Quebec were giving their nod to the separatist party that wants to pull the province free of English-speaking CANADA, complete with a platform calling for control of broadcasting in Quebec to shift from the CRTC to the provincial level. one Montreal TV broadcaster is asking the CRTC for permission to switch from multilingual television to full-time English-language programming.
When Rogers announced back in May that it planned to buy CJNT (Channel 62, aka “Metro 14″) from Channel Zero, the big national broadcaster was clear about its intent to make CJNT the Quebec home for its CityTV service, which currently has a not-quite-national reach stretching from Vancouver to Ontario but no further east. Even before the sale went through, Rogers struck an affiliation deal with Channel Zero to begin branding CJNT as “CityTV” and to carry some of City’s programming – but it was stymied by the longstanding restriction on the CJNT license designating it as a multicultural station, with 75% of its prime-time programming required to be in languages other than English or French. Rogers is supplying some of that programming, too, from its Toronto-based “OMNI” multicultural network.
At a hearing on November 7, the CRTC will consider Rogers’ request to approve its C$10.3 million purchase of CJNT and to relicense the station as an English-language CityTV outlet. At the same time, the CRTC will also hear a related application from a new group called “ici” (International Channel/Canal International) for a new TV station in Montreal that would be fully multicultural, providing shows in 15 languages aimed at 18 ethnic groups. The new signal would operate on channel 47, with 5.5 kW max DA (2,7 kW average)/196 meters, and it would share a common master control and a news staff with CJNT, though its sales staff would operate autonomously. Rogers says it will provide 10% of the value of the CJNT purchase to ici over five years to help launch the new station, and it tells the CRTC it will make its OMNI programming available to ici, “should ici decide to acquire it.”
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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: September 12, 2011 -
*From the moment sports talk began spreading to FM a few years back, the rumor mill in MASSACHUSETTS has been churning: when will Entercom migrate WEEI, one of the nation’s most consistently successful sports outlets, from 850 on the Boston AM dial to a new home somewhere on FM?
It didn’t happen five years ago, when Entercom added another FM signal (now WKAF 97.7) to its Boston cluster. It didn’t happen two summers ago, when CBS upped the Boston sports ante by launching its own FM sports entry, “Sports Hub” WBZ-FM (98.5). It didn’t happen later that fall, when the collapse of “ESPN Boston” WAMG (890) made the ESPN Radio affiliation available, nor did it happen a year later, when another rumor made the rounds about Entercom buying WFNX (101.7) as part of a deal that would have shifted WEEI to FM.
But at 6:00 this morning, it’s happening. As we learned Wednesday evening (and officially on Thursday morning) Entercom is pulling the plug on adult hits “Mike” (WMKK 93.7 Lawrence) today and flipping that FM signal to sports as WEEI-FM. At least for now, WEEI will simulcast on 93.7 and its existing AM 850 spot; around the region, Entercom will shuffle callsigns to make the WEEI-FM move possible, turning the current WEEI-FM (103.7 Westerly RI) into WVEI-FM and the current WVEI-FM (105.5 Easthampton/Springfield) into WWEI.
*Boston’s oldest radio station has a big birthday coming up. September 19 marks the 90th anniversary of WBZ’s first broadcast in 1921 (it came from the Big E in Springfield, where the station was then located), and the anniversary isn’t going unnoticed. Tune in to the Steve LeVeille Broadcast early next Monday morning (September 19, or late night Sunday the 18th, if you prefer) as your editor joins Steve to talk radio history and the future of the medium – and call in to say hello, too! The Broadcast begins at midnight and I’ll be on with Steve for at least the first hour or two.
*The week’s other massive story, of course, was the monumental flooding that devastated parts of central PENNSYLVANIA and NEW YORK‘s Southern Tier. For radio and TV stations in the region, the flooding provided an opportunity to demonstrate, in a dramatic way, the importance of broadcasting in keeping the public safe and informed, even as the floodwaters threatened broadcast facilities all along the Susquehanna River and its tributaries.
Several stations in low-lying areas were forced out of their studios as the waters rose: in Owego, west of Binghamton along the banks of the Susquehanna, the storefront studio of WEBO (1330) was inundated – but owner Dave Radigan and his staff quickly regrouped, turning a borrowed RV parked at the transmitter site just south of the river into a makeshift studio running on generator power and providing about the only source of constant information about road closures and power and water outages for hard-hit Tioga County.
South of the state line, some of the worst damage from the flooding was in downtown Wilkes-Barre, where Nexstar’s WBRE-TV (Channel 28) was forced to evacuate its studios on Thursday. In good cooperative fashion, Fox affiliate WOLF-TV (Channel 56) offered the use of its studios, and within hours WBRE was back on the air with nonstop flood coverage from the WOLF facility, bumping the NBC coverage of the start of the NFL season over to My Network outlet WQMY (Channel 53).
Outlying parts of the market depended on radio for local information, and stations such as WHLM in Bloomsburg and WKOK in Sunbury rose to the occasion with wall-to-wall coverage, as did stations in the Harrisburg market to the south, where most studios and transmitter sites are more safely elevated out of harm’s way.
Perhaps the most unexpected consequence of the flooding was the outage it caused in the fiber connectiom between Newport Television’s Syracuse master control hub and its Elmira NBC affiliate, WETM (Channel 18). That fiber feed was the only way WETM could get NBC programming, or to send its newscasts to Binghamton sister station WIVT (Channel 34), which simulcasts WETM in the morning and at noon, and Newport engineers scrambled to get a temporary replacement in place, eventually using an internet connection to feed standard-definition video from the hub to Elmira.
*Another big piece of news from the Keystone State came from the Cumulus cluster in York, where WARM-FM (103.3) abruptly dropped its long-running adult contemporary format on Wednesday, flipping to hot AC as “Wink 103.”
That’s a nickname and format already heard in the region on another Cumulus station, WNNK-FM (104.1 Harrisburg). The new “Wink 103″ follows closely in the mold of “Wink 104,” simulcasting its morning show and the syndicated Billy Bush at night and closely paralleling the Harrisburg playlist the rest of the day, albeit with York/Lancaster-focused jocks and news.
Why duplicate “Wink” so close to Harrisburg? While the two signals have plenty of overlapping coverage, and while York and Harrisburg are part of a common television market, the two cities make up separate radio markets, and Cumulus seems to believe it can appeal to a new audience with a York-Lancaster “Wink” that might not be listening to its Harrisburg sister.
Cumulus’ Harrisburg cluster was in the news for something else last week, too: the Justice Department filed suit to stop Cumulus from acquiring Citadel, but quickly reached a settlement allowing the deal to move forward. Under the agreement, which keeps the companies under the 40% radio revenue cap the antitrust division sought to enforce, Cumulus will still sell the two signals it had planned to spin off, the class A facilities of WWKL 92.1 Palmyra and WCAT-FM 102.3 Carlisle. But to satisfy the antitrust enforcers, Cumulus also agreed to unload the intellectual property of its classic rock WTPA, now on Mechanicsburg-licensed 93.5. So WTPA will move to 92.1 to be spun off fairly quickly along with 102.3, leaving Cumulus with the rhythmic top 40 “Hot” format (now on 92.1) on the 93.5 signal it’s keeping.
*Radio One completed its format swap in Philadelphia last week: with adult R&B WRNB now installed on the cluster’s biggest signal, the Media-licensed class B facility at 100.3, the former home of WRNB has picked up the hip-hop format that used to be on 100.3. WPHI-FM is now at 107.9, the Pennsauken, N.J.-licensed class A signal that transmits from the One Liberty skyscraper in Center City Philadelphia, and as of Friday it’s now “Hot 107.9,” with Sarah O’Conner as PD and the syndicated Ricky Smiley show in morning drive.
*In Pittsburgh, Essential Public Media has picked “WESA” as the new callsign to replace WDUQ on 90.5 once the transfer of the station’s license from Duquesne University is complete. The WESA calls have some history just south of Pittsburgh in Charleroi, where they lived on 940 (now WFGI) and 98.3 (now WPKV).
*In addition to its big FM move in Boston, WEEI made another expansion to its radio network last week in MAINE, where Atlantic Coast Radio’s WLOB-FM (95.5 Topsham) returned to the WEEI network after spending the last few years simulcasting talker WLOB (1310 Portland). Atlantic Coast was already carrying the WEEI network to the south of Portland on WPEI (95.9 Saco); 95.5 changes calls to WPPI as it rejoins the network after just over two years. (95.5 used the calls WGEI in its last turn as a WEEI affiliate in 2008-2009.)
*Over on the AM dial, our Labor Day update already brought you the news of Cogeco’s decision not to wait for the CRTC to decide whether it can relaunch the old CINF (690) as a French-language all-traffic station.
With the powerful lure of $1.5 million a year in provincial transportation ministry funding dangling in front of it, Cogeco pulled the plug on French-language sports CKAC (730) last Tuesday, replacing it with traffic as “Radio Circulation” and moving some of CKAC’s sports hosts to talker CHMP (98.5), now the only commercial mainstream spoken-word signal broadcasting in French in Montreal.
With Cogeco’s application for 690 now withdrawn, the CRTC is moving forward on a planned October 17 hearing to decide who will get the 50,000-watt clear-channel signal. The remaining applicants are Toronto-based Evanov, which wants to use the channel for a French-language version of its “Pride Radio” gay-and-lesbian programming; the Tietolman-Tetreault partnership, which wants to do French news and talk (the Tietolman family founded the old CKVL 850, once a dominant bilingual voice in Montreal); and Bell, which wants to move English-language sports talk “Team 990″ CKGM down the dial to 690 to better reach its target audience on Montreal’s West Island.
The CRTC will also consider applications for 940 (the former CINW) at the October hearing: those include Tietolman and Tetrault, for English-language news-talk, and Cogeco, which is pushing hard to make 940 an English-language traffic station (and thus to reap an additional $1.5 million a year in provincial subsidies.)
Five Years Ago: September 10, 2007 -
**Some sad news from MASSACHUSETTS just as we go to press early this Monday morning: Paul Sullivan, the former WBZ (1030) evening talk host, lost his battle with brain cancer Sunday night.
Sullivan’s fight took a turn for the worse last week, when WBZ released a statement from his family saying that Sullivan was taken off medical treatment and was receiving hospice care at Saints Memorial Medical Center in Lowell.
“Paul is surrounded by his family and friends and would like everyone to know how important all the thoughts and prayers have been to him,” said the statement.
That was Thursday, and now comes the word that Sullivan died with his beloved family by his side on Sunday evening, just ten weeks after he said farewell to his listeners in an emotional final show from the WBZ studios June 28.
Sullivan, 50, was a true Bay State original, a newspaper guy who came late to the radio medium, adding WLLH (1400 Lowell) to his career at the Lowell Sun in the late eighties. Sullivan began filling in for the late David Brudnoy on WBZ in the late nineties, and took over the evening shift after Brudnoy’s death in 2004, replacing Brudnoy’s nightly academic seminars with an earthier (and distinctively Merrimack Valley-accented) approach to talk radio.
It wasn’t long afterward that Sullivan’s brain cancer was diagnosed, and once again the WBZ family is mourning a good friend and talented broadcaster, lost far too young.
We here at NERW send our sympathies to Sullivan’s family and his colleagues. We’ll update this week’s column with any information about memorial services and special WBZ programming as it becomes available. (As we write this early Monday morning, Dan Pierce is on the air filling in for Steve LeVeille, and he’s talking about other topics.)
*As the soap opera that is the rest of Boston talk radio rolls on, Entercom Boston has averted one crisis, even as it’s knee-deep in legal action over another.
First, the success: over the weekend, Entercom’s WEEI sports network came to terms with morning talkers John Dennis and Gerry Callahan, clearing the way for them to return to the air from a month-long lockout as early as this morning, and with a five-year contract that will keep them in place at WEEI for a while to come.
We’ll defer to David Scott’s Scott’s Shots column over at Boston Sports Media Watch for all the details on the negotiations, which he says went all the way up to Entercom CEO David Field and lasted well into the weekend. But we’ll also note that Dennis and Callahan ended up in a much weaker negotiating position when their “Plan B” – a possible Nassau-run sports network hubbed at WCRB – suddenly turned into a Nassau/Entercom joint venture to put WEEI content on many Nassau stations in New England. We’d also note that WEEI was struggling to find adequate replacements for its morning team, just at a point where the station is heading into a critical programming season, what with the Patriots season underway and the Red Sox deep in the last weeks of a tight race to the playoffs.
But even if Field (and local honchos Julie Kahn and Jason Wolfe) can now relax a bit about their lineup on WEEI, the picture remains cloudy just down the hall at WRKO (680 Boston), where there’s just over a week remaining until the end of Howie Carr’s contract and plenty of legal action afoot to figure out where the Herald columnist and syndicated afternoon talker will land.
The rumor mill on Carr’s attempt to jump to rival talker WTKK (96.9 Boston) went eerily quiet just before Labor Day, right after a couple of columns (carefully planted, perhaps, by WRKO’s master PR practitioner, George Regan?) noted that Carr stood to make as much as $7 million from WTKK. And since then…radio silence, as it were, except on Carr’s own show, where he’s not discussing the contract issue at all.
So will Carr show up on WTKK’s morning drive in a few weeks? Stay tuned…
*Elsewhere on the FM dial, WXKS-FM (107.9 Medford) said farewell to its longtime home at 99 Revere Beach Parkway. Boston Radio Watch reports that “Kiss 108″ signed on from its new digs across the street at 10 Cabot Road, shared with sister station WJMN (94.5 Boston), on Monday, August 27. WXKS (1430 Everett) will move its studios over to the new facility soon as well – but not with PD and morning man Raffy Contigo, who’s moved on to Houston’s KLOL (101.1). Afternoon jock Jose Miguel Espinal takes the PD chair at “Mega 1200/1430,” reports BRW.
*We knew the newly-freed Buddy Cianci was returning to the RHODE ISLAND airwaves on Citadel’s WPRO (630 Providence) – but we didn’t know, until now, how many changes Cianci’s return would bring to the schedule, not only at WPRO but across town at Clear Channel’s WHJJ (920 Providence).
Clear Channel, which syndicates Rush Limbaugh through its Premiere Radio Networks division, is bringing the Rush show in-house in Providence, moving him from WPRO to the noon-3 slot on WHJJ, effective next Monday. It’s still not clear whether Limbaugh’s move to WHJJ means the end of the local Helen Glover show, which has been occupying that slot as WHJJ’s only local entry – but it is clear that some big shuffles are in the works on the WPRO lineup.
Mornings on WPRO will be the province of John DePetro, who’ll yield his mid-morning slot to Cianci and former morning man Ron St. Pierre. They’ll be on the air from 10 AM until 2 PM, followed by an expanded Dan Yorke show from 2-6.
Can the local Cianci/St. Pierre show outdraw the syndicated Rush in the famously self-absorbed Providence market? We’d take that bet…
*It was a busy couple of weeks in PENNSYLVANIA, and especially in Philadelphia, where a closely-watched experiment to see if modern rock could work with HD Radio on a flea-powered AM signal has ended in – well, c’mon, what did you really expect it to do in eight months?
Tom Kelly’s Marconi Radio will continue its “Skin Radio” format online, but the terrestrial signal of WHAT (1340 Philadelphia) flipped on Aug. 31 to “Martini Lounge Radio,” a standards format. (We hear the digital signal’s been turned off there, too.)
*Just over the state line in NEW YORK, the FCC is opening the promised special application window for a new signal on 1700 in Rockland County.
The window will run from Oct. 1-5, and it opens at the behest of WRCR (1300 Spring Valley), which has been struggling for years with a night signal that doesn’t cover most of the fast-growing parts of the county. WRCR lobbied successfully on the public-safety angle, arguing that Rockland County residents in the evacuation zone of the Indian Point nuclear plant lacked a local source for emergency information.
Any applicant for the new 1700 facility must show that it will cover (with a 2 mV/m day signal and an interference-free night signal) at least 50% of the Indian Point evacuation district in Rockland County – but that still offers enough leeway to create a persuasive rimshot day signal into New York City, 30 miles or so to the south.
Who will apply in addition to WRCR? And what will happen when the competing applications go to auction? We’ll be watching. (Five years later, there’s been no action taken at all, in keeping with what appears to be an informal FCC policy of ignoring the expanded AM band in hopes that it will soon go away.)
Ten Years Ago: September 10, 2002 -
In MASSACHUSETTS, Costa-Eagle made the swaps on its Merrimack Valley AMs last weekend. The English-language talk that had been on WCCM (800 Lawrence) moved to the former WHAV (1490 Haverhill), with WHAV changing calls to WCCM. (What happens to listeners in Lowell who tuned into WCCM for Spinners baseball and other programming? They can’t hear 1490 there — in fact, it doesn’t even serve Lawrence well — and it’s likely the Spinners will change stations next year.)
A big change in the Boston TV market, even if the station in question is across the line in New Hampshire: NBC is buying WPXB (Channel 60) in Merrimack, N.H. from Lowell Paxson for a reported $26 million. The station, which now carries ShopNBC, will switch to NBC-owned Telemundo eventually, joining WTMU-LP (Channel 32) in Boston with the network feed. (Paxson’s son Devon owns WWDP, channel 46 in Norwell, which had been carrying Telemundo until switching to home shopping earlier this year.)
A surprise station sale in CONNECTICUT, as John Fuller adds WKCD (107.7 Pawcatuck) to his WBMW (106.5 Ledyard) and WJJF (1180 Hope Valley RI) in the Groton-New London area; no word on how much Fuller is paying to buy the CHR station from AAA Entertainment.
Just across from Buffalo, there’s some noise being stirred up in CANADA over the new format at CKEY-FM (101.1 Fort Erie). “Wild 101,” programmed in Buffalo at Citadel, made its debut last Friday afternoon — and quickly drew complaints about its playing of unedited rap songs. The CRTC (and presumably the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council) are investigating; meantime, Wild is reaping a publicity bonanza in Buffalo.
We were in Niagara Falls last Friday morning to hear travelers information CFLZ (105.1) move its programming down the dial to CJRN (710), while CFLZ became the new home of the modern AC “River” format that had been on 101.1. As “105.1 the River,” CFLZ is running stereo for the first time, albeit with a signal that doesn’t really go south into Buffalo; the travelers information on 710 now reaches most of western New York and southern Ontario, meanwhile!
Fifteen Years Ago: September 11, 1997 -
This week’s news begins in NEW YORK, where a small Hudson Valley radio station burned to the ground early Wednesday morning. The fire at WVIP (1310) in Mount Kisco began sometime before 1:30 in the morning, but was not reported immediately because nobody was at the daytime-only station. It took firefighters more than three hours to put out the flames, and by then WVIP’s famous round studio building was a total loss. WVIP’s 82 year old founder, Martin Stone, was taken to a local hospital for observation for high blood pressure after watching the station burn down.
Amazingly, WVIP was back on the air later Wednesday morning, operating from makeshift studios in the nearby transmitter building. It’s a tribute to the local broadcasting community that engineers and managers from other local stations have been pitching in almost nonstop since the fire to help get WVIP back on the its feet with a temporary studio and automation system. We’ll keep you posted over the next few weeks as WVIP recovers. Next month marks the 40th anniversary of this pioneering suburban station.
Up to NEW HAMPSHIRE, where Manchester listeners have a new station to add to their dials. WLMW (90.7) made its debut this week after years as a construction permit. The station is calling itself “Manchester’s new family radio station,” and it’s programming Donald Wildmon’s Mississippi-based American Family Radio network. Even though it’s just 15 watts, WLMW broadcasts from high up on Mt. Uncanoonuc in Goffstown, the same site as Manchester’s other FMs, and it’s been heard almost as far south as Nashua.
There’s yet another new format at little WVAY (100.7) in Wilmington, VERMONT. Another proposed sale of the station has fallen through, and so WVAY has dropped its simulcast of WSSH (101.5 Marlboro) and is back to doing its own programming, with jocks Debra Lee, Todd Phillips, and Joel Garofalo back behind the mike as of last Wednesday. WVAY is also reportedly back on its old 99.7 translator in Marlboro, W259AB. This was one of the translators that allegedly was under the control of Brian Dodge.
And just hours after we wrote that Philadelphia’s WFLN (95.7) was still classical, Greater Media proved us wrong. Last Friday at 6 pm, 48 years of classics came to a close, replaced by Sheryl Crow and the modern AC sounds of WXXM, “the Max.” The end of classical on WFLN was probably inevitable; the station had changed hands several times in the last year, each time for a bit more money, increasing the debt load on each successive owner. NERW is very sorry to see WFLN go; your editors visited the station back in 1994, and found the people who worked there to be among the friendliest and most professional radio folks anywhere. WFLN was a cultural institution in Philadelphia, and while Temple University’s WRTI (90.1) and its relays are stepping to the plate by adding classical music, that will in turn dilute WRTI’s legacy as the jazz station in Philadelphia.