In this week’s issue: Syracuse’s Jackie Robinson retires – WNED sells its AM – CKGM tests new 690 signal – Remembering Dave MacNeill, John Battison – Long Island format flips
LABOR DAY FREE PREVIEW!
It’s been almost a year since we launched the new fybush.com, and we’ve been delighted with the response to our new user-supported subscription model. Other online trade publications have struggled to survive over the past year, and frankly, it hasn’t been easy for us, either – but we’re still here and still committed to bringing you a comprehensive look at what’s happening in TV and radio in the northeastern US and eastern Canada, every Monday morning.
If you’re a subscriber, thank you for your support.
If you’re not yet a subscriber, we’re pleased to offer you a free preview of this week’s column. You can subscribe to NERW for full access to the column every week (plus complete NERW and Tower Site of the Week archives and other members-only goodies) for as little as $15 a year, and your support makes more of a difference than you can possibly imagine.
*When the University of Buffalo sold WBFO (88.7 Buffalo) to its erstwhile public broadcasting rival, WNED, questions began swirling almost from the start about the fate of WNED’s AM signal. AM 970, the former WEBR, was the first commercial station in many decades to be sold to a public broadcaster when WNED bought it and its sister FM station (now classical WNED-FM 94.5) in 1976, but the AM station’s signal deficiencies had made it hard for WNED’s news-talk AM format to compete with WBFO’s big FM signal – and once WBFO came into the WNED orbit and began simulcasting with AM 970, it was pretty clear that the AM station would be on the block just as soon as WNED could find a buyer.
Last week, that buyer emerged, and it turns out to be another established Buffalo broadcaster. Crawford Broadcasting, the Denver-based owner of religious WDCX-FM (99.5), will pay WNED $850,000 for the AM signal, returning it to commercial operation after 36 years. The AM station’s 5000-watt signal is probably a better fit for WDCX than for any mass-market commercial operator: from a five-tower directional array in Hamburg, south of Buffalo, it shoots most of its signal in a tight pattern due north over Buffalo and Niagara Falls and over the lake into Canada. Like WNED, WDCX has long depended on listeners across the border, and it’s faced increasing problems with getting its FM signal heard in Canada as the CRTC keeps crowding the dial there. The AM signal won’t be a complete solution (especially with new CKNT 960 due to sign on in Mississauga sometime soon), but it should give WDCX another way to be heard in at least some of the Toronto area, which is about the only explanation we can find for Crawford’s reported plan to simulcast the superpower 100 kW FM signal’s programming on AM 970.
(A few more notes here: first, the WDCX calls will apparently remain in use on AM on Rochester’s 990, which means Buffalo’s 970 will take other new calls. Second, while Crawford has been a big booster of HD Radio on AM, it’s highly unlikely 970 will add HD. That’s because of point number three – its five-tower array in Hamburg would already be a complicated place to add AM HD even if it didn’t also have another AM signal, Citadel’s WHLD 1270, diplexed on all five towers. And finally, the same Canadian FM crowding issues that have made things difficult for WDCX-FM have made WBFO’s FM signal all but impossible to hear in the greater Toronto area, which in turn means Canadian listeners who’ve depended on AM 970 for an NPR fix will have to turn to streaming audio or, if they’re at home, to the WBFO audio feed on Rogers Cable.)
*At the other end of the state, JVC Media’s WRCN (103.9 Riverhead) went into the Labor Day weekend with a new format. It’s traded classic rock for “everything that rocks,” with a new mainstream rock format that starts with currents and goes back to the mid-1980s.
Another retirement from the engineering ranks at CBS Radio in New York: Dick James went back many years with what’s now WFAN (660) – in fact, he was the guy who gave us our tour of the transmitter site a few years back. James retired last week as WFAN’s chief engineer, and a station memo about the occasion became fun on-air fodder for the morning team of Boomer & Carton.
Meanwhile at Hudson Square, CBS extended the “where will the Yankees eventually end up?” guessing game for another season by signing another one-year extension of its deal to keep the team on WCBS (880), complete with John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman back in the announcers’ booth for the team’s 12th season on 880. Will the Bombers eventually reach a longer-term deal with either CBS or archrival ESPN Radio (WEPN-FM 98.7)? It’s bound to happen eventually, but a lot will now depend on what sort of deal the Mets reach for next season and whether they stay in place for the long term on WFAN or move to WEPN.
This will be a big week for WEPN: on Thursday afternoon at 2, it will leave its longtime home at 1050 on the AM dial and go FM-only on 98.7; 1050 will become the new New York home for the ESPN Deportes Radio Spanish-language sports network.
Radio People on the Move: Gloria Broussard is leaving SBS Radio’s WPAT-FM (93.1) in New York and relocating to Orlando, where she’ll do mornings on WHKQ (KQ103), beginning tomorrow. And at Emmis’ WQHT (97.1), they’re mourning Chris Nadler, who was Hot 97’s Lifestyle Engagement Director when he died unexpectedly on August 24 at age 53.
*In Binghamton, Townsquare Media has received special temporary authority to run WYOS (1360) at 1000 watts day, 100 watts night, non-directional while it replaces one of the three towers in the directional array. The tower was downed a few weeks back by an errant tractor, and Townsquare says it’s working to get the stick back up and return WYOS to its usual 5000 watts day, 500 watts night.
WYOS, incidentally, is the former WKOP, and that array was where the legendary Charlie Hallinan worked. Charlie founded the first chapter of the Society of Broadcast Engineers back in the early 1960s – and he did so after reading an article by John Battison proposing the need for the new organization. Battison, who went on to become the SBE’s founding president, died August 28 at his home in Ohio, just a few weeks shy of his 97th birthday. Born in England, where he watched mechanical TV as a child, Battison moved to the U.S. after the war, achieving notice when he built out ABC’s local TV and FM stations (including WJZ-TV 7 and WJZ-FM 95.5, now WABC-TV and WPLJ, atop New York’s Hotel Pierre in 1948). Battison went on to build stations in Saudi Arabia and in Canada, where he was the general manager of CHCT-TV in Calgary in the 1950s; he was also a longtime contributor to Broadcast Engineering magazine and its spinoff, Radio magazine, where he was still an active contributor earlier this year. Battison was honored in 1998 as NAB’s Engineer of the Year, and the SBE named its Lifetime Engineering Award in his honor as well.
Another obituary, this one a delayed one: we’re just now learning of the August 11 death of Alex Lamutis, the authoritative news voice on Rochester’s top-40 giant WBBF (950) through much of the 1960s and 1970s. Lamutis also had worked at WBBF’s sister station in Geneva, WGVA (1240). Lamutis was 92.
*On the TV front, the big news this week comes from Syracuse, where Peter Naughton over at CNYRadio.com broke the news that a Syracuse TV institution is leaving the airwaves. After 34 years at the anchor desk on WSTM-TV (Channel 3), Jackie Robinson was strangely absent from the station’s State Fair coverage this week, and if you don’t think that’s a big deal, you’ve never worked in Syracuse TV.
The official word came out over the weekend: Tuesday’s newscasts will be Robinson’s last at Channel 3, where she became the market’s first black anchor not long after joining the station’s staff as a reporter in 1978. Naughton reports morning anchor Megan Coleman appears to be in line to take over from Robinson on the station’s evening newscasts, and he says WSTM isn’t saying much about reports that Robinson’s departure is less than voluntary.
On to subchannel news: when August slipped away Friday night, so did The Cool TV’s carriage on Sinclair’s stations around the region. The music-video network had aired in Buffalo (WNYO 49.2), Rochester (WUHF 31.2), Syracuse (WNYS 43.2), and Portland, Maine (WGME 13.2); its remaining carriage in the region is on LIN stations in Providence, Hartford/New Haven and Springfield, which are among fewer than two dozen remaining affiliates nationwide. (Closed circuit to Sinclair: Maybe now we can have Antenna TV instead? Please?)
And speaking of Antenna TV – its parent company, Tribune, remains jammed up in a carriage dispute with Cablevision, the dominant provider in much of suburban New York City. That dispute, now entering its third week, has removed WPIX (Channel 11) and its Antenna TV subchannel from those systems, and it’s pulled WCCT (Channel 20) from some Cablevision systems in Connecticut and Philadelphia’s WPHL (Channel 17) from some New Jersey systems. Tribune has also pulled its WGN America cable channel from Cablevision, or perhaps vice-versa, depending who you ask. And while the Cablevision system in Fairfield County, Connecticut kept carrying Tribune-owned Fox affiliate WTIC-TV (Channel 61) from Hartford as the dispute began, “FOX CT” was also pulled last week, though Fox-owned WNYW (Channel 5) remains available to Cablevision customers. And WPIX’s disappearance from Cablevision in southwest Connecticut has also cost it its carriage on Cox’s systems closer to Hartford, which were getting their backhaul of the WPIX signal via Cablevision.
*In NEW JERSEY, modern rock WJSE returned to the airwaves south of Atlantic City last week. Those calls and that format last graced the 102.7 spot on the dial (now top-40 WWAC) from 1994-2006, and as of Friday they’ve replaced “Fun 106.3″ classic hits on the former WFNE (106.3 North Cape May).
*Bill Rehkopf is coming home to western PENNSYLVANIA once again. The newsman has been bouncing back and forth between the DC-Baltimore corridor for a while now, from Baltimore’s WPOC (93.1) to Pittsburgh’s KDKA (1020), then to CBS Radio sister station WNEW (99.1) in Washington as the all-news signal’s morning man when it launched last year. Now Rehkopf is making the trip back to Pittsburgh once again to take over afternoon anchor duties at KDKA.
Around the corner in Green Tree, Clear Channel is seeking a new program director at talker WPGB (104.7) and sports WBGG (970) after the departure of Jay Bohannon. One more change at WBGG: David Todd moves up from fill-in duties to host a new local talk show, heard from 2-4 PM weekdays on 970 in place of ESPN Radio’s Scott Van Pelt.
Up I-79 in Cambridge Springs, Family Life Network has applied for a license to cover for its newest outlet, WCGF (89.9). The 7.3 kW/328′ DA facility will serve an area around Edinboro, picking up to the west where FLN’s other Erie-area signal, WCGM (102.7 Wattsville), fades away.
*On Philadelphia TV, Tribune’s WPHL (Channel 17) is changing newscast partners. Since shutting down its own news operation in late 2005, WPHL’s 10 PM newscast has been produced by NBC’s WCAU (Channel 10), but that will change this fall when Tribune enters into a new deal to have ABC’s WPVI-TV (Channel 6) produce “Action News at 10″ for channel 17. WCAU hasn’t yet said whether it will continue production of the 10 PM newscast for its own “Nonstop Philly” 17.2 subchannel, which already has its own 7 PM newscast.
*The largest affiliate of the new NBC Sports Radio network when it launches tomorrow will be in MASSACHUSETTS: as widely rumored, WWZN (1510 Boston) will be one of the network’s charter outlets, and one of only eight nationwide to carry the full 7 PM-5 AM weekday lineup. WWZN won’t carry all three shows in pattern, though; instead, it will delay the overnight Dan Schwartzman show into morning drive, running 6-10 AM ahead of a local sports show from 10 AM-noon. Jeff Santos, who’d been programming most of WWZN’s airtime with progressive talk until the summer, will continue to be heard for now from 3-7 PM, but that slot will also go to sports before the end of the year.
Other NBC Sports Radio affiliates in the region will include CONNECTICUT‘s WPOP (1410 Hartford), which will switch from Fox Sports Radio to NBC in the evening hours; WEAV (960 Plattsburgh), which will carry the evening lineup for the Burlington, VERMONT market; WPSE (1450 Erie), WPDC (1600 Elizabethtown) and WOYK (1350 York) in Pennsylvania carrying some of the talk lineup; and several signals carrying only the new network’s hourly updates, including WBBR (1130 New York), WENT (1340) in Gloversville and WJTN (1240)/WKSN (1340) in Jamestown.
*Few radio people have ever been more closely associated with a single station for as long as Dave MacNeill was with WCRB. MacNeill was stricken with polio right after his 1949 graduation from Waltham High School, and after spending a year recuperating and listening to WCRB (then on AM 1330) in the hospital, he went down to the station and was hired. With the exception of a brief detour to the west coast to launch a classical format on KCBH (98.7, now KYSR) in Beverly Hills, MacNeill stayed put at WCRB, eventually becoming a fixture as the station’s Boston Pops announcer. MacNeill also served for a time as WCRB station manager and ended up owning a small piece of licensee Charles River Broadcasting. Even after Charles River sold WCRB’s 102.5 facility and the intellectual property shifted to Nassau and to Lowell-licensed 99.5, MacNeill continued to be heard on the classical station. He died Tuesday (August 28) in Framingham, at age 80.
*Once again this week, the big news from CANADA comes from Montreal’s AM dial, where a signal is once again back on the air at 690 as Bell begins testing its new facility for “TSN Radio” CKGM. The timing here is, admittedly, a little weird – if Bell had its way, it wouldn’t be migrating its English-language sports audience down the dial from CKGM’s present home at 990 on the dial just to turn around and flip 690 to French-language sports as “RDS Radio.” But Bell doesn’t have a choice, either: the move from 990 to 690 had already been approved before Bell announced its proposed purchase of Astral’s Quebec radio properties, putting Bell over the English-language ownership limits and leading to the application to shift 690 to French. That application will undergo CRTC scrutiny later this month, and the outcry from Montreal’s Anglo community promises to make it a contentious process.
So why is Bell moving ahead at all on moving CKGM down the dial right now? First, because the same process that granted CKGM its frequency change also yielded a new license for 990, and Evanov is eager to start getting the new “Radio Fierte” on the air at 990. And second, we suspect, because Bell wants to put some muscle behind its threat to the CRTC that if it doesn’t get the language change granted or a waiver to keep a fifth English-language signal, it will simply surrender CKGM’s license. That’s something of an empty threat if CKGM is still on 990, which will be silenced no matter what; it gets some teeth if Bell can show that it’s just spent the money to reactivate 690. (And third: if there does end up being an NHL season this fall, and if CKGM is still broadcasting in English at that point, Bell surely wants the lucrative Canadiens play-by-play firmly ensconced at its new home at 690 by the time the first puck drops.)
Here’s how the logistics play out: after running a test loop of older “TSN 990″ programming on 690 over the weekend, CKGM will begin simulcasting on both 990 and 690 Tuesday morning. The simulcast is set to last for 90 days, but that’s of course highly subject to change: if the CRTC approves the switch to French, we’d expect 990 to sign off as soon as the language changes. (And in the meantime, the 990 signal was experiencing technical glitches that had it off the air for much of the weekend.)
The 50,000-watt 690 signal is, as best we can tell, the same facility Cogeco used for the former CINF, a directional signal emanating from the old CFCF/CIQC 600 array in Kahnawahke, south of Montreal. After two years of silence, that facility is getting crowded again: the Tietolman-Tetreault-Pancholy group has struck a deal to use the former CINW (940) transmitter there for its new French-language news-talk station, which was originally proposing to diplex on the CJMS (1040) tower site a few miles to the southeast in Saint-Constant. (And the 1040 site, in turn, is the same one CKGM used back when it was on 980, before moving southwest to its present seven-tower 990 site near Mercier, Quebec.)
Not enough turmoil on the Montreal dial yet? Add a big studio move to the mix, then: on Friday, Astral moved CJAD (800), CJFM (Virgin Radio 95.9) and CHOM (97.7) from 1411 Fort Street in Montreal’s West End to the Astral headquarters at 1717 Rene-Levesque Est. The stations’ new home is far from the Anglo part of the city – but it puts them squarely in the middle of Montreal’s unofficial “media district,” nestled between Maison Radio-Canada and CTV/TSN. For CJAD and CJFM, it’s the first studio move in just over three decades; they came to Fort Street in 1981.
*You can be one of the first readers to own the 2013 Tower Site Calendar, and you have just one more week to take advantage of our pre-publication discount, which ends September 10th.
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.
Order 20 or more for a 10% discount! And while you’re at the Fybush.com store, check out the new National Radio Club AM Log and the final stash of FM Atlas editions.
For more information and to order yours, click here!
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 29 & September 4, 2011 –
*This was supposed to have been an “off” week for NERW as we regained our bearings after several weeks away in the midwest and as we keep plugging away on the new fybush.com, coming this fall to an internet near you…but events intervened, and so here’s the latest (as of Sunday night) on the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and some other big stories breaking in the region:
*The storm, of course, dominated the news in most of NERW-land for much of the week leading up to its weekend arrival, and for all of the usual hand-wringing about “was the coverage overboard?” and “why are those reporters standing outside in the storm?” that accompanies any storm coverage these days, broadcast media along most of the storm’s path rose to the occasion and, from what we could see, did a generally fine job keeping people informed as Irene made its way north after making landfall Saturday in North Carolina.
With more than a day to go before the slow-moving storm was due to hit New Jersey, New York and New England, there were hours upon hours of airtime to fill with the usual speculation that blankets the airwaves – but there was also time for radio and TV to prepare, and that they did. In an era when many radio newsrooms have been slashed to ribbons, the word of the weekend was “simulcast” – not just TV on radio but also AM news on FM – and there was plenty of it to go around. In New York City, ESPN flagship WEPN (1050) picked up the audio feed of Disney-owned sister station WABC-TV (Channel 7), while CBS Radio put WINS (1010)’s audio on sister station WWFS (102.7) at the height of the storm Sunday morning and Buckley’s WOR (710) carried audio from WNBC (Channel 4). On the Jersey shore, Millennium’s – er, Townsquare’s – “New Jersey 101.5″ (WKXW Trenton) put its audio back on a former simulcast outlet, WENJ-FM (97.3 Millville) to better reach the coast. In Philadelphia, WURD (900) carried audio from ABC’s WPVI (Channel 6) at the height of the storm. In Connecticut, Clear Channel’s WELI (960 New Haven) simulcast on sister station WKCI (101.3) for a few hours on Sunday, while other radio clusters turned to TV stations to provide storm coverage.
Much of the industry’s attention, unsurprisingly, was focused on all-news radio in New York City, where the storm provided the first really big test for Merlin’s new WEMP (FM News 101.9) as it takes on CBS Radio’s entrenched pairing of WCBS (880) and WINS (1010). In typical Randy Michaels fashion, WEMP jumped into the fray with some aggressive promos suggesting that “AM doesn’t work during storms” – but it backed up the promotions with a reasonably solid (if still sometimes inconsistent) effort over the weekend that was at least competitive with the quality work WCBS and WINS delivered. (WEMP’s programming had another outlet for part of the weekend, as WFTL in West Palm Beach simulcast “FM News” for displaced New Yorkers in South Florida; WCBS, for its part, was able to remain all-news all day on Sunday as its usual Yankees games were displaced to sister station WFAN, where the storm postponed the Mets games.)
When the storm itself finally hit, of course, it was somewhat weaker than many of the early predictions – but that still spelled trouble for plenty of NERW-land stations.
While most of the damage (as best we can tell on Sunday evening) was limited to power outages, at least one station was not as lucky. Along the Massachusetts coast, WJDA (1300 Quincy) appears to have lost its tower to some combination of Irene’s winds and flooding. Floods are common at WJDA’s tower site along Rock Island Cove, long ago washing out the road that once led to the transmitter building. As of Sunday afternoon, WJDA was silent, and at least one NERW reader reported not being able to see the tower where it once stood.
(You can get a peek at the now-former WJDA tower at this Tower Site of the Week installment.)
Other signals silenced at least temporarily by Irene included three New York AM stations in the New Jersey Meadowlands: co-located WMCA (570) and WNYC (820) in Kearny and WWRV (1330) in Hackensack. Elsewhere in New Jersey, coastal stations silenced included WOND (1400), WMGM (103.7) and WAYV (95.1), with the latter two, both big class B signals, still silent Sunday evening; inland, WDVR (89.7 Delaware Township), WNTI (91.9 Hackettstown) and WHCY (106.3 Blairstown) were silent at points on Sunday as well.
While it didn’t get much national attention amidst the focus on New York City, the Hudson Valley took a big hit, with numerous stations in the Poughkeepsie, Kingston and Albany stations off the air at least temporarily due to power loss and high winds.
In New England, Boston-area AMs WNTN (1550 Newton) and WXBR (1460 Brockton) were reported silent during the storm; in Hartford, WRTC (89.3) was silent not because of transmitter damage or power loss but because Trinity College closed down all activities for the weekend. On TV, Hartford CBS affiliate WFSB (Channel 3) lost power at its Rocky Hill studios on Sunday and was apparently struggling to get its generator running, resulting in a stripped-down newscast emanating from the newsroom instead of the studio.
*The rest of the week’s headlines, starting with PENNSYLVANIA:
It’s not just CBS Radio’s impending launch of WIP-FM (94.1) that’s rearranging the Philadelphia FM dial. Radio One is doing its part, too: on Thursday (Sept. 1), it will move the WRNB calls and urban AC format from their current home on 107.9 to what’s now WPHI (100.3), replacing the urban “100.3 the Beat” format that’s been on that frequency. The end of “The Beat” comes as no huge surprise, since the morning team of Star & Buc Wild were let go recently and PD “Boogie D” just announced his departure for Radio One’s St. Louis cluster.
The class A facility on 107.9 is licensed to Pennsauken, New Jersey and transmits from the One Liberty skyscraper in downtown Philadelphia; 100.3 is a much larger directional class B facility licensed to Media, Pennsylvania and transmitting from the Roxborough tower farm. It’s not clear what will show up on 107.9 once WRNB makes its move down the dial.
*In Harrisburg, Cumulus is pulling the plug on “Touch,” the satellite-delivered urban AC format that’s lived on several of its signals over the years. Originally on WTCY (1400), “Touch” was displaced a few years back to translator W237DE (95.3) and the HD2 channel of WNNK (104.1) – but starting Thursday, the translator will become an FM home to ESPN Radio, the same programming that displaced “Touch” from 1400, now WHGB. (For HD Radio listeners, WHGB’s programming will move from WNNK’s HD3 channel to HD2.)
Five Years Ago: August 27 & September 3, 2007 –
*Will one of the flashpoints in the coming battle over HD Radio on AM at night end up being upstate NEW YORK?It’s starting to look that way, thanks to Bob Savage, founder and owner of WYSL (1040 Avon). The famously independent broadcaster (and longtime friend of this column and its editor) has been stirring up a hornet’s nest with his “call to action” for fellow small AM stations facing what he says will be ruinous interference from nighttime HD broadcasts on the AM dial.
In Savage’s case, his 500-watt night signal, which does a surprisingly good job of reaching Rochester, 20 miles to the north, will likely be all but extinguished (possibly even within its own city of license, Savage says) on many nights by the digital sidebands from WBZ (1030 Boston).
Savage says he’s received support for his campaign from several big guns in the industry, including WSM (650 Nashville) chief engineer Watt Hairston, and he’s asking other stations in similar situations to his to contact Congress and the NAB to call for action to save their signals from interference.
“Any gain from implementation of HD-AM, no matter how slight, will come at the expense of massive trauma to small and medium market AM operators,” says Savage. He says he stands to lose a significant amount of sports revenue – and potentially a good chunk of his retirement, too, having staked it on the success of WYSL – if the station can’t be heard at night.
Could WYSL end up being one of the test cases for the interference disputes that are bound to arise come mid-September, when nighttime HD on AM is legalized? We’ll be listening.
In Albany, Regent has not only returned to sports on WEEV (1300 Rensselaer) after the demise of the GreenStone Media talk network – it’s also returned to the station’s former calls of WTMM. Will the format change (which creates a simulcast with WTMM-FM 104.5 Mechanicville) be permanent?
And in Plattsburgh, WTWK (1070) keeps its “Eve 1070″ identity despite losing GreenStone’s programming. Its new lineup includes Stephanie Miller, Dr. Joy Browne and Sally Jessy Raphael.
Ten Years Ago: August 26 & September 4, 2002 –
The big shuffle in the Niagara Region began over the weekend with the disappearance of modern AC from CKEY-FM (101.1 Fort Erie), replaced by a computerized countdown voice which so unnerved some residents that they asked the Niagara Regional Police to check in and make sure nothing was wrong at the station. It turned out to be a stunt leading to a new dance-CHR format at the former “River,” newly reborn as “Wild 101.1.” But the start of that new station was just one of several shifts in the works over in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Labor Day also brought the end of the AC/full service format on CJRN (710 Niagara Falls), replaced by modern AC as “The River 710.” That, however, is only a temporary format: on Friday morning at 6, “The River” will make its final move, back to FM on CFLZ (105.1 Niagara Falls). The travelers’ information programming that had been heard on CFLZ, including interminable ads for Casino Niagara, will move to 710 that morning, with a promise of more live talk and tourist information to come. It’s a new challenge for Buffalo CHR WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls) and urban WBLK (93.7 Depew), both of which have had almost no competition in years; it’s bad news for fans of “The River,” who will have to try pretty hard to hear the 105.1 signal from the top of the Skylon Tower anywhere much beyond Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Canada.
Up in Toronto, the fallout continues from the demise of CHUM’s “Team” sports format. We’re told 44 people lost their jobs when the plug was pulled last week on the national network and its local outlets in Halifax, Kingston, Toronto, Kitchener/Waterloo and Winnipeg; among the casualties was the CHUM National News operation based in Toronto. On the local level, CHUM (1050) itself is back to oldies, with Brian Henderson in mornings and voicetracks the rest of the day, just as it was before that format had its plug pulled in May 2001. Voicetracked oldies are back as well at CKKW (1090 Kitchener), we’re told. Kingston’s CKLC (1380) is back to the oldies/AC format it used before the launch of “The Team,” while out in Halifax, CJCH (920) is back to news-talk, with the “Hotline” local talk show returning to 920 from CFDR (Kixx 780). The Team continues in Ottawa (CFGO 1200) and Montreal (CKGM 990).
Fifteen Years Ago: September 4, 1997 –
We’re back from four days, four nights, and 1100-plus miles of radio fun in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York’s Southern Tier…and what do we find when we return but a whole bunch of radio miscellany from across the region? Let’s dig in…
The big news story of the week, bar none, was the death of Princess Diana, and Boston’s radio and TV stations are responding in earnest to the challenge of covering a story an ocean away. WHDH-TV (Channel 7) had roving reporter Dan Hausle on a plane to London as soon as the news broke, and WCVB (Channel 5) dispatched Jack Harper not long after. WBZ-TV (Channel 4) was seriously handicapped by its CBS affiliation; when the news came in that Diana was dead, BZ’s weekend news crew had already left the station, and the network failed to pick up the slack for nearly two hours. (BZ was far from alone with this problem; NERW was watching CBS’ KYW-TV in Philadelphia with CNN coverage, while other CBS stations like WGME in Portland and WROC-TV in Rochester were left hanging with syndicated fare while the rest of the world had already flipped away. BZ is trying to pick up the slack, sending TV reporter Alica Becerra and radio anchor Gary LaPierre to London for the funeral. The only other radio outlet with long-form Diana coverage was public broadcaster WBUR-FM (90.9), which went to the BBC World Service and stayed there all night.There’s another shakeup taking place on the TV side at WBZ: anchor Jack Williams is being pulled off the 11pm newscast and relegated solely to 5 and 6pm duty. Sean Mooney gets to add the 11 to his current duties as 5:30 anchor. 11pm co-anchor Liz Walker stays where she is for now, but expect more changes if BZ’s sagging ratings don’t pick up.
Radio in MASSACHUSETTS? Yep, there’s some of that in the bag too this week…starting with a station sale in Taunton, where WPEP (1570) is being sold by Silver City Broadcasting to Willow Farm Broadcasting. Does that name sound familiar? They’re the same group that bought the 1570 in Beverly, WNSH, last week. Could this be the prelude to a 1570 move-in in Boston? We’ll keep an eye on it…Get out those scorecards, folks…Greater Media’s beginning to file call-letter changes for its 96.9 and 99.5 stations. The 96.9 Boston outlet that _was_ legally WKLB-FM will now be WSJZ. Still to come is the other half of the call swap, wherein the current WOAZ at 99.5 will legally become WKLB-FM Lowell.
Sports radio WEEI (850) has some programming changes in the works. The Fabulous Sports Babe is reportedly on her way out of the 10pm-noon slot, with Mike Adams (formerly of New England Cable News) on the way to replace her.
Out west, Winchendon’s WINQ (97.7) has dropped its “97-7 Q FM” moniker to become “All Hit 97.7.” No big changes in the station’s format, which was already more or less CHR.
One bit of NEW HAMPSHIRE news, with a familiar name. Nashua’s WMVU (900) is being sold by Nashua Community Broadcasting to Willow Pond Broadcasting — yes, the WNSH/WPEP folks. A lot of people have talked about uniting many of the suburban stations around Boston into a network; NERW suspects the Willow Pond folks are really doing it.
Two sales in MAINE: Harpswell’s WMSJ (91.9) is being sold by Downeast Christian Communications to the Bible Broadcasting Network, based in South Carolina. And Harvey Communications is selling Skowhegan’s WHQO (107.9) to Mountain Wireless, which has been running the station for several months anyway as a simulcast of its sports-talker WSKW (1160).
And so we move on to NEW YORK, where we’ll start at New York City’s WCBS-FM (101.1), where veteran midday DJ Ron Lundy will hang up his headphones after the September 18 show. Lundy’s “Hello, Love” was first heard on the old WABC (770) back in 1965, and after WABC went to music in 1982, Lundy joined CBS-FM two years later. Dan Daniels (himself a veteran of the now-defunct WHN and WYNY, among others) will take over Lundy’s midday slot.
“The Border” is playing it on both sides in the Watertown area. The new CHR outlet started out this summer on 102.7 Cape Vincent (ex-WKGG, now WBDR). Now it’s added WWLF (106.7 Copenhagen) to the simulcast, but with a twist. Ads on 102.7 are targeted to the Canadian audience in Kingston, Ontario, while the spots on 106.7 are aimed at the US side of “The Border.”