In this week’s issue: “Shark” sighting on Long Island – Quebec City’s last AM says goodbye – Barrie broadcaster lands Toronto’s 88.1 – W-Bach breaks up – Langer sells Philly’s WFYL
*There are few markets tougher than NEW YORK‘s Long Island to make a successful run as a mainstream class A commercial FM station. The geography’s all wrong, for one thing – you just can’t cover very much of an island that’s long and narrow with a 6 kW (or less) signal that goes out in a circle with barely a 20-mile usable radius, and that’s not even taking account of the massive short-spacing and summertime tropo ducting that can rip a signal to shreds much closer to the tower. And then there’s the little matter of the nation’s largest and most aggressive radio market just to the west, not only spraying strong signals over western Long Island but actively targeting Nassau and Suffolk counties, which are, after all, embedded in the larger New York City market.
Of all the class A signals in the orbit of New York City (leaving out, for the moment, the East End signals that make up an embedded market of their own), the Smithtown-licensed 94.3, sandwiched between co-channel signals in southern CONNECTICUT and the NEW JERSEY shore, has had the roughest time in recent years.
Under Barnstable Broadcasting, 94.3 ricocheted from beautiful music WCTO to adult contemporary as WMJC, then to country, back to hot AC, and then two years ago to 90s hits as WIGX, “94X.” Earlier this year, WIGX was part of Barnstable’s $23 million exit from broadcasting – and last week, new owner Connoisseur Media made its first move with its new Long Island cluster, flipping “94X” to active rock as “94.3 the Shark, Everything that Rocks.”
The new format launched Friday at noon, bringing with it new calls – WWSK – and thus far a jockless lineup of rock that’s heavy on the 1990s and 2000s. “The Shark” faces off against Cox’s venerable rocker WBAB (102.3), one of the few Island class A signals that’s found success over the long run, as well as Merlin’s revived WRXP (101.9) out of New York City, and we’ll be watching closely as it tries to find its groove. (We’re hearing 94X PD Jon Daniels will stay with Connoisseur doing social networking and websites, but the rest of the station’s airstaff is out, including morning man Ralphie Marino.)
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This is the 12th edition of our annual calendar, which features photos of broadcast towers taken by Scott Fybush on his travels.
The 12-month wall calendar boasts a full-color photo each month of a well-known broadcast transmitter site.
This year’s edition includes sites in Florida, Wisconsin, Kentucky, California, Iowa, Idaho, Las Vegas, Colorado, Boston, Cleveland, Albuquerque, upstate New York and western Massachusetts. We’ve also redesigned the calendar to make it more colorful (don’t worry; the pictures are still pristine) and make the spiral binding our standard binding — your calendar will hang even better on your wall now! And of course, we still have the convenient hole for hanging.
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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 19, 2011 -
*For many years now, one of the more challenging bits about being an editor of a radio industry trade publication has been trying to keep the holdings of the various “C companies” all straight. With Clear Channel, CBS Radio, Citadel and Cumulus all very active players across the region, it was always just a little bit too easy to inadvertently label a Cumulus cluster as “Citadel” or vice versa.
We won’t be worrying about that anymore: as of late last week, the FCC has signed off on the Cumulus acquisition of Citadel Broadcasting – and within hours, the Atlanta-based Cumulus had taken over at the former Citadel stations, complete with new IDs on the air and new e-mail addresses for the staff.
Across most of the region, the merger came with little overlap: Citadel’s clusters in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Allentown, Erie, Buffalo, Syracuse, Binghamton, New London, Providence, Portland, Augusta and Presque Isle had no in-market competition from Cumulus stations, and the Cumulus signals in the New York City suburbs and nearby Connecticut mesh nicely with the former Citadel stations in the city itself, WABC and WPLJ. (Because of the reach of WABC and WPLJ and the sprawling size of the New York metro, Cumulus will have to spin off one former Citadel station at the fringes: WELJ 104.7 is licensed to Montauk, NY, and even though it serves New London, Connecticut, it would have pushed Cumulus over the New York City market limits.)
And then there’s Harrisburg, PENNSYLVANIA, where Cumulus and Citadel were active competitors. In last week’s issue of NERW, we laid out the changes that were coming, including the spinoff of Citadel’s WCAT-FM (102.3 Carlisle) and the Justice Depatrment-mandated format swap that’s sending away the classic rock format of WTPA with the Palmyra-licensed 92.1 signal that was doing rhythmic top-40 as WWKL, “Hot 92.”
What we didn’t realize last week was just how fast those changes would take place.
On Friday morning at 6, WTPA moved down the dial to 92.1, while “Hot 92″ moved up the dial (and a little closer to the core of the Harrisburg market) to WTPA’s old spot at 93.5 on the dial.
At least for now, that’s the extent of the changes: both WTPA and WWKL keep their existing airstaffs, and for the moment they’re both in their existing north Harrisburg studios, which will become the home base of the combined Cumulus cluster in the next few months as WQXA-FM (105.7) and WMHX (106.7) move over from their present home in Camp Hill.
*It’s birthday time for the oldest surviving radio station in MASSACHUSETTS: WBZ (1030 Boston) turns 90 on Monday, and there’s no shortage of celebrations, both on and off the air. Steve LeVeille’s overnight talk show is devoting two nights to radio history: on Monday night (Tuesday morning) at midnight, beloved Boston radio historian Donna Halper (PhD!) will be Steve’s guest – and if you’re reading this week’s column early enough, tune in Sunday night/Monday morning at midnight to hear yours truly on the air with Steve.
On Monday night at 8, a special hour of “Nightside with Dan Rea” will be devoted to WBZ’s history as well, with a guest list that includes current morning man Joe Mathieu and his longtime predecessor, Gary LaPierre.
Gary is part of the very exclusive club of “WBZ Hall of Fame” honorees, and that club will add another member on Monday afternoon. (The station’s not saying who will get the nod this time, but we’ll be on hand when the latest plaque outside the building is unveiled.)
MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: Today’s induction will honor longtime ‘BZ morning man Carl deSuze, and it’s hard to imagine a more appropriate choice. Full coverage in the next NERW…
*For many years now, observant radio folks have puzzled over CONNECTICUTPublic Radio’s penchant for identifying its network as “WNPR” when those calls were assigned not to its flagship station, WPKT (90.5 Meriden-Hartford) but to its Norwich-based signal on 89.1.
Puzzle no more – as of last Thursday, they’ve swapped those calls, putting WNPR on 90.5 and WPKT on 89.1. (And now we won’t grit our teeth quite so much when hearing an NPR network newscaster identify a report as coming from so-and-so at “member station WNPR in Hartford.”)
*RHODE ISLAND‘s NBC affiliate has a new general manager, and he’s a familiar face to upstate New York TV viewers. Vic Vetters comes to Media General’s WJAR (Channel 10) in Providence from Smith Broadcasting, where he’s been serving as general manager of WFFF/WVNY in Burlington, VERMONT and WKTV in Utica – and it’s from WKTV that Vetters is best known, having spent much of his career there as lead news anchor and news director before rising into upper management. At WJAR, Vetters replaces Lisa Churchville, who retired in June after a career at Channel 10 that dates back to the Outlet Broadcasting days.
*It’s reunion and awards season all across upstate New York – and the fun kicked off here in Rochester Saturday night with the first-ever Rochester Radio Reunion, which drew more than 150 veterans of the Flower City radio and TV dials.
WHAM-TV (Channel 13) anchor Don Alhart emceed the event, which was organized by veteran broadcasters Larry White, Dan Guilfoyle, Pat Grover, Orest Hrywnak and John Gubiotti. Rochester radio alumni from at least ten states came in for the event, including former WSAY/WBBF jock Dave Mason (in from San Diego), WKLX PD Cary Pall (in from Cincinnati), Rich “Albert” Petschke (now in Washington State) and many more.
The Rochester event was just the beginning of a busy week of broadcast history: on Thursday night, Buffalo’s broadcasters will gather at the WNED-TV studios for the annual Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame induction ceremony, with a list of inductees this year that includes Dick Biondi, “Shane Brother Shane” Gibson and Jacquie Walker. And then on Saturday, Southern Tier broadcasters will get together for Ray Ross’ biennial Binghamton Broadcasters Reunion. (We’ll be in Binghamton for that one, too!)
Five Years Ago: September 17, 2007 -
*The radio dial in eastern PENNSYLVANIA was spinning like crazy last week – and nowhere more so than at CBS Radio’s WYSP (94.1 Philadelphia), where most of the remaining remnants of the failed “Free FM” talk experiment were wiped away on Thursday afternoon, replaced with a return to the rock format that has long defined the station.The move back to rock came abruptly, with the first rumors reaching print on Tuesday morning, followed quickly by talk of “being fired” by late-morning host Paul Barsky, who’s actually apparently still at the station in an off-air capacity.
Wednesday brought the final shows for afternoon talkers Matt and Huggy and night talkers Scotty and Alex, and Thursday found Opie & Anthony broadcasting from the WYSP studios (an already-planned appearance, promoting a local live show over the weekend) and dropping big hints about a 5 PM announcement. Best-of shows filled the remainder of the day until 5, when O&A and PM driver Kidd Chris kicked off the new format with Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.”
The revived rock format will continue to include the New York-based Opie & Anthony morning show, as well as Kidd Chris in afternoons (though without two of his producer/sidekicks, Brad Maybe and Monkeyboy, who are also out of work), with a new jock lineup to be announced soon.
The move gives Philadelphia no fewer than four rock stations – WYSP, Greater Media’s WMMR (93.3), Clear Channel’s modern-leaning WRFF (104.5) and Greater Media’s classic rock WMGK (102.9) – which may be explainable, at least in part, by the switch to the Arbitron people-meter and the renewed ability to measure young male listenership.
Will any of the rock players blink? Stay tuned…
*We’ll start our NEW YORK news, such as it is, on Long Island, where the sale of three Morey Organization stations has apparently fallen through. Michael Metter’s Connecticut-based BusinessTalkRadio.net was to have paid $5 million for WBZB (98.5 Bridgehampton), WDRE (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke) and WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays), but the deal didn’t close.
Now WBZB is dropping BTRN programming and has reverted to its previous calls, WBON. Will the active rock “Bone” format return as well? And will BTRN find a new Long Island outlet? Stay tuned…
It should come as no surprise that when nighttime operation of AM HD Radio became legal at midnight Friday morning, New York’s WOR (710) was first in line to flip its exciter on – and it should come as no surprise, either, that the mailing lists were abuzz within minutes with reports that ranged from “no big deal” to “IBOCalypse Now!”
Within a day or two, WOR had been joined by WABC (770), WFAN (660), WCBS (880), as well as Hartford’s WTIC (1080), Schenectady’s WGY (810), Philadelphia’s WPHT (1210) and Boston’s WBZ (1030), WMKI (1260) and WXKS (1430 Everett) in running digital after dark.
Will stations like WYSL (1040 Avon) in the Rochester area experience the interference they’ve been fearing? Will HD supporters like WOR find that they’re getting the coverage they’re hoping for? Will cheaper, more sensitive radios ever appear on the market? We’ll be following the saga as it develops.
In Binghamton, commercial radio opponent William Huston has lost his bid to deny license renewals to Clear Channel’s six-station cluster. The FCC last week dismissed the petition Huston filed last year against the stations, in part because it was filed two days late, and in part because it says any question about whether that level of ownership is excessive should be handled within the Commission’s ongoing inquiry into ownership consolidation, not in individual license-renewal proceedings.
In Elmira, Brian Thompson has left the morning show at WPGI (100.9 Horseheads), where he was also program director. No replacement has been named yet.
And in Geneva, Aaron Read is the new general manager of Hobart and William Smith’s WEOS (89.7). He comes from Boston, where he was a contract engineer for several stations and an audio engineer for the public radio show “The Infinite Mind,” and he replaces Mike Black, who’s now with WXXI in Rochester.
*There’s a fight brewing in CANADA‘s largest market between the CBC and a small broadcaster hoping to serve the city’s Caribbean communities. The Caribbean and African Radio Network (CARN) won a license from the CRTC last year, but it was denied the use of its desired frequency, 98.7. With no other space open on the Toronto FM dial, CARN is trying to put public pressure on regulators to reconsider that decision. That’s where the CBC comes in, since it’s the network’s Radio One transmitter, CBLA (99.1 Toronto), that’s concerned about interference from second-adjacent 98.7. The CBC says it has sound engineering studies to prove that it can’t coexist with a low-power 98.7 signal, but CARN says its plans to co-locate with the CBLA transmitter, atop the First Canadian Place tower in downtown Toronto, would alleviate that interference.
Ten Years Ago: September 17, 2002 -
There’s a new TV station on the air in CANADA – albeit with some familiar faces and programming. Rogers launched “OMNI.2″ on Monday morning (Sept. 16) at 6, broadcasting to Toronto on channel 44 with 179 kW visual. Industry Canada (which regulates the technical aspects of Canadian broadcasting) doesn’t have a callsign listed for the station as of Tuesday; it’s shown as operating from a site north and west of downtown Toronto, not the CN Tower where the rest of the city’s TV stations are located.
“OMNI.2″ is a sister station to Rogers’ established CFMT (Channel 47), which will eventually be rebranded OMNI.1, keeping the European, Latino and Caribbean portions of its multiethnic programming, as well as its English-language lineup, including David Letterman. That leaves OMNI.2 to pick up the African and Asian-language programming that had been seen on CFMT, including an English-language newscast at 8 PM, followed by “OMNI News” in Cantonese. The new service had cable carriage from the start (which is only fitting, since it’s co-owned with Rogers Cable), as far afield as London and Barrie. In most areas around Toronto, OMNI.2 is seen on Rogers channel 14, displacing Buffalo’s WKBW-TV to channel 18. That, in turn, sends PBS outlet WNED-TV (which IDs as “Buffalo/Toronto”) way up the cable dial from 18 to 61.
We’ll start the US side of things in MASSACHUSETTS, where the big changes are taking place at Greater Media’s WROR-FM (105.7 Framingham). The station is moving from 60s and 70s oldies towards classic rock, and it’s doing so in a big way: beginning this Friday and continuing all weekend, WROR will turn over its airwaves to a “Who’s Who” of Boston rock radio history. Among the jocks to be heard on the reunion weekend: Peter Wolf (who made his name on WBCN before the J. Geils Band ever hit the charts), Charles Laquidara, Ken Shelton, George Taylor Morris, Maxanne Sartori, Harvey Wharfield, Jeff Gonzer, Annalisa, J.J. Jackson and Tom “Tai” Irwin. And when WROR returns to its usual lineup the next Monday, several familiar voices will be missing, including middayer Stella Mars and night guy J.J. Wright. J.J.’s already landed elsewhere; he’s been heard this week doing fill-ins at WODS (103.3).
A familiar voice has returned to RHODE ISLAND’s airwaves, for a few months at least: Providence mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, fresh from his conviction on corruption charges, began a stint co-hosting the mid-morning shift on WPRO (630 Providence) with Steve Kass on Monday. Cianci is due to report to federal prison in early December to begin serving a 64-month sentence, so don’t expect this to be as long a run as Hizzoner’s early-90s stint on talk competitor WHJJ (920)…
Fifteen Years Ago: September 18/19, 1997 -
American Radio Systems has a new owner, and it’s not the long-rumored Jacor. Late Friday afternoon, CBS announced that it’s paying $2.6 billion for ARS. Here’s how the deal will shake out in the Northeast:
The rest of the roster: In the Portsmouth N.H. market, ARS brings standards WZNN (930 Rochester) and WMYF (1540 Exeter), modern AC WSRI (96.7 Rochester), and CHR WERZ (107.1 Exeter). In Hartford, ARS has newstalk WTIC (1080), hot AC WTIC-FM (96.5), classic rock WZMX (93.7), and AC WRCH (100.5 New Britain). In New York City, CBS has sports WFAN (660), all-news WCBS (880) and WINS (1010), modern rock WXRK (92.3), oldies WCBS-FM (101.1), and classic rock WNEW-FM (102.7). In Rochester, ARS contributes modern AC WZNE (94.1 Brighton), rock WCMF (96.5), CHR WPXY (97.9), and AC WRMM (101.3). And in Buffalo, ARS has standards WECK (1230 Cheektowaga), modern AC WLCE (92.9), urban WBLK (93.7), AC WJYE (96.1), and country WYRK (106.5).
It’s a sad week for local radio listeners along Long Island Sound, with two of the area’s AM stations shutting down within days of each other. We’ll begin on the NEW YORK side of the line, where the story of WVIP (1310) in Mount Kisco came to a close Saturday night. As we reported last week, WVIP’s historic round studio burned to the ground, prompting an outpouring of assistance from area engineers and from the Westchester community. As soon as WVIP was back on the air from a temporary studio, listeners and advertisers began showing up at the trailer with food, supplies, and entertainment, while WVIP’s air staff cranked out local programming through an old Radio Shack mixer.
It all came to an end on Saturday, though, with a phone call from the hospital bed of owner Martin Stone. Unwilling to keep losing money on the station, Stone ordered WVIP off the air at the end of the broadcast day, and after a farewell speech by phone from the hospital, WVIP broadcast a tape of its first broadcast, 40 years ago next month, and signed off, apparently for good. The WVIP license has not been returned to the FCC, and it’s possible someone may buy the license and put 1310 back on the air, but it won’t be Martin Stone. NERW salutes the WVIP staffers and volunteers who tried to keep the station alive; we hope someone finds a way to pull it off in the end.
Also silent is the 1260 frequency in nearby Westport, CONNECTICUT. After years of struggling as a stand-alone AM, owner Mark Graham announced late last week that he’s donating WMMM’s license and transmitter to Sacred Heart University. WMMM’s final broadcast came Monday morning, complete with a phone call from Chile from weekend DJ Jose Feliciano (of “Light My Fire” fame). After an emotional farewell from Graham, WMMM played “My Way” and left the airwaves. Sacred Heart will return 1260 to the airwaves around Thanksgiving, programmed by its existing WSHU (91.1 Fairfield)/WSUF (89.9 Noyock, N.Y.) public radio operation, and likely with news-talk programming similar to WSUF.
Say goodbye to “Talk 94.9″ on the Cape…and hello to “Talk 95.1.” West Yarmouth’s WXTK fired up this morning on its new frequency of 95.1, getting out from the shadow of Mount Washington’s giant WHOM, and giving the latter an incredible signal all the way down into Boston once again. Further down the Cape, the construction permit for Truro’s WCDJ (102.3) has been extended yet again; there’s still no sign that Karl Nurse’s station will actually be built any time soon.