In this week’s issue… Buffalo’s WWKB drops talk for sports – Sheppard changes stations in Boston – New Jersey AM sold – Translator apps include NYC, Philly signals – Ontario community FMs seek signal boost – Tower Site Calendar 2014 goes on sale!
By SCOTT FYBUSH
AM 1520 in Buffalo, NEW YORK once proudly boasted that it was “one of America’s two great radio stations,” back in the days when it was top-40 WKBW and its lineup of stellar talent burned a big hole in the ionosphere over a huge chunk of the East every night. Today, as WWKB, it’s a pale shadow of its former self – but it still made headlines last week when the Entercom-owned 50,000-watter flipped formats from progressive talk to ESPN sports.
Message boards lit up, as they so often do, with earnest pronouncements about what the development meant or didn’t mean for the survival of the struggling progressive-talk format; from where we sit 70 miles away at NERW Central, the answer, we think, is “nothing much at all.”
The explanation lies in the strange role WWKB now plays in the Entercom cluster in Buffalo, where it’s little more than a flanker to the two big AMs in the group, news-talk WBEN (930) and sports WGR (550). By holding on to 1520, the only other viable full-market AM signal in Buffalo, Entercom has long prevented competitors from encroaching on its valuable spoken-word turf. For years, that’s meant keeping talk competition away from WBEN, but with that job accomplished, Entercom now wants to throw an additional punch against Cumulus’ WHLD (1270 Niagara Falls), which has been challenging WGR’s dominance with its own sports format driven mainly by CBS Sports Radio. By adding a full-time ESPN Radio outlet to the ESPN product that already fills non-local slots on WGR, Entercom provides some protection to its big gun in town.
While there won’t be any local weekday talk on “ESPN 1520,” WWKB will continue to carry Buffalo Bisons minor-league baseball, as it’s been doing for years; it will also simulcast Sabres games with WGR, giving the Sabres a nice clear-channel AM voice for their night games.
(And one more note for those who would point to WWKB’s flip as a sign of progressive talk’s failure: on the opposite end of the political spectrum, reports indicate Talk Radio Network was heading out of business over the weekend, which will leave affiliates of conservative TRN talk shows such as Jerry Doyle and Andrea Tantaros in the lurch, not to mention the schedule gaps many stations will face with the demise of TRN’s America’s Radio News Network. We’ll be watching to see how those holes get filled if stations have to scramble for replacement programming; TRN, for its part, was denying those reports on Sunday.)
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We trekked across the continent seeking the prettiest towers…we searched through our databases for the most notable dates…we thought, talked and sweated over design, and thought, talked and sweated some more over printing…but we’d do it all over again (and will, next year!) to produce your favorite 12-month wall calendar.
Yes, the 2014 Tower Site Calendar has gone to press, and you can be the first to reserve your very own. We expect to have them in our hands at the end of the month, and we’ll send them right to you, spiral bound, shrink wrapped and best of all, with a convenient hole for hanging!
This year’s pinups include the iconic towers of Catalina Island, a combiner system in St. Louis, the twin towers of KNRS in Salt Lake City, a historic rooftop site in Jamestown, New York and many more!
If you want a tower calendar on your wall NOW, you can pick up the current edition for just $5 with your 2014 order this week!
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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: September 10, 2012
*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.”
*Before the CRTC can get to the Rogers/CJNT application, it will sit down beginning today to wrestle with another contentious issue involving Quebec broadcasting and language. Bell’s acquisition of Astral, Quebec’s dominant radio group, was already a big deal even before Bell proposed converting its existing Montreal station, CKGM (newly moved from 990 to 690), from English to French in order to remain below the ownership cap once it adds the Astral stations.
Set against the backdrop of Quebec’s latest political turmoil and the sense of many Anglophones in Quebec that they’re being marginalized, the planned transition from English “TSN Radio” to French “Radio RDS” drew so much public input that the CRTC put an unprecedented special link on the front page of its website to direct listeners to information about intervening in the hearing.
If Quebec’s winning political party had its way, of course, the CRTC wouldn’t be holding that hearing: the Parti Quebecois platform included a proposal to bring control of radio and television under the Quebec government instead of the federal government. It’s unlikely the proposal will go anywhere now that the PQ failed to win a majority in Quebec’s National Assembly (it will instead lead a minority government), but we haven’t heard the last of the idea, either.
As for CKGM, “TSN Radio 690″ made its debut Tuesday morning, which brings us to a correction: the 50-kilowatt signal comes from the former CKGM 990 site at Mercier, which explains why 990 was on and off the air in the days leading up to 690′s debut; the former CINF 690 site at Kahnawahke will be used by the new Tietolman-Tetreault-Pancholy stations at 600 and 940, but not by CKGM on 690. (The Mercier site, meanwhile, will remain active on 990 – first with a CKGM simulcast for up to 90 days, and then by Evanov’s new “Radio Fierte” when it launches in 2013.)
*The other major English-language commercial station in Montreal was also in the news last week. Cogeco’s CKBE (92.5 the Beat) applied to boost its power from 44 kW to 100 kW after RF radiation limitations at the Mont-Royal community transmitter site were loosened, but its application came at the same time as Evanov (filing as Dufferin Communications) asked the CRTC for a 300-watt community station on 92.5 in Clarence-Rockland, Ontario, east of Ottawa at the fringe of the Montreal signal. The CRTC says the two applications are mutually exclusive, and has now designated both of them for hearings.
In the Quebec City market, it’s the end of the line for CIMI (103.7 Charlesbourg); the community station has been silent since 2008 amidst financial and management struggles, and while it came to the CRTC with a plan to get back on the air, the agency says it’s ” deeply dissatisfied with the licensee’s future plans” and unsatisfied with CIMI’s past record of non-compliance. As a result, it’s denying CIMI’s application for a license renewal.
*And just when it appeared the CRTC was about as busy as it could get, this week will also bring a decision on the hotly contested battle for a new 88.1 in Toronto, replacing the defunct CKLN. Back in March, we reported on the 22 applicants seeking that last powerful spot on the Toronto FM dial, and by next week’s issue, we’ll know who gets the nod. (We’ll have updates, of course, on our Twitter and Facebook feeds.)
That’s Border International Broadcasting’s WLYK (102.7 Cape Vincent), which transmits from U.S. soil but aims its programming and sales across the river at Kingston, Ontario. As of Friday night, “The Lake” has segued from oldies to AC as “102.7 Light Hits, the Lake.”
A former Watertown-market sister station of WLYK has also flipped, and more dramatically: as of Tuesday, WEFX (100.7 Henderson) has ditched classic rock (“100.7 the Fox”) in favor of country as “100.7 the Eagle.” It’s one of two country signals in Community Broadcasters’ portfolio; the other is “Wolf” WLFK (95.3 Gouverneur), up north of Watertown.
*When Jim Santella retires from the Buffalo airwaves after his December 1 blues show on WBFO (88.7), it will be the end of a magnificent era in Buffalo FM history that began in 1969 at the pioneering freeform station in town, WYSL-FM (103.3). After walking off the air in 1972 in a conflict over the station’s playlist, Santella went on to work at WWOL (1120/104.1) before returning to 103.3, by then WPHD, then moving on to WGRQ (97 Rock), WZIR (98.5) and WUWU (107.7) before shifting from rock to blues and joining WBFO in 1997.
Santella was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2005, and he was at the center of efforts to keep blues on the WBFO schedule when the station was sold to rival public broadcaster WNED last year. WBFO says the Saturday blues show, which moved from afternoons to evenings when WNED took over, will continue with a new host after Santella departs – and Santella says his next steps will include writing his autobiography.
TV People on the Move in Syracuse: on the heels of Jackie Robinson’s emotional 90-minute farewell from WSTM (Channel 3) Tuesday night came word that reporter Keith Kobland was much more quietly departing from WSYR-TV (Channel 9), where he’d spent the last three years on the heels of two decades reporting for WTVH (Channel 5). Kobland’s new job is as a media manager at Syracuse University.
Radio People on the Move: after more than a decade doing media relations at his grad-school alma mater, the Rochester Institute of Technology, Mike Saffran has moved down to SUNY Geneseo, his undergraduate alma mater. Saffran, who worked in Rochester radio at WKLX ,WBBF-FM and WRMM, is Geneseo’s new lecturer in communication and faculty director of WGSU (89.3 Geneseo).
Radio Towers on the Move: Clear Channel’s top-40 WKGS (106.7 Irondequoit) has a slightly new nickname – “Kiss 106.7″ instead of “106.7 Kiss FM” – and a new transmitter site. The class A signal has completed its relocation from the Seneca Towers apartment building on the north side of the city to the centrally-located Pinnacle Hill tower farm, boosting power a bit from 3.5 kW/266′ to 4.4 kW DA/328”. The move, which was made possible when Clear Channel moved what’s now WSYR-FM (106.9) closer to Syracuse two years ago, puts Kiss on the very same tower as its archrival, Entercom’s WPXY-FM (97.9).
*A quick bit of Football on the Radio: two of the region’s NFL teams have new flagships this year, both in the Empire State – the Bills got off to a 0-and-whatever start on their new Entercom home, WGR (550), replacing Townsquare’s WGRF (97 Rock), while the Jets remain with New York City’s ESPN outlet but migrate from AM to the new WEPN-FM (98.7). Jets football remains on WEPN (1050), too, albeit en espanol after Friday’s launch of ESPN Deportes on the AM signal. (The 1050/98.7 simulcast ended at midnight on Wednesday into Thursday, followed by 38 hours of a repeating loop directing English-speaking listeners up the dial to 98.7 and promoting Friday’s Deportes launch at 2 PM.) In Philadelphia, the Eagles are in Spanish this year on WTTM (1680 Lindenwold NJ), and everyone else stays right where they were last season – the Patriots on WBZ-FM (Sports Hub 98.5) with Scott Zolak replacing Gino Cappelletti as color analyst; the Giants on WFAN (660); the Eagles on WIP (94.1/610) and the Steelers on WDVE (102.5)/WBGG (970). (And check out our partner site, RadioInsight, for the full national list of flagships…)
*In MASSACHUSETTS, Jack Nash has died. Born John Naszcyniek Jr., Nash was a jock on stations such as WMLO (1570 Beverly), and had more recently been doing sales for WCAP (980 Lowell). He died last Wednesday at his home in Lowell, at age 59.
Five Years Ago: September 8, 2008
*It’s been a rough year so far for the smooth jazz format, with prominent defections in large markets such as New York and Washington, DC. Last Friday, the trend came to eastern PENNSYLVANIA, as Greater Media pulled the plug on smooth jazz at WJJZ (97.5 Burlington NJ).This was the second incarnation of the format in the Philadelphia market – back in August 2006, Clear Channel changed formats at the original smooth jazz WJJZ (106.1 Philadelphia, now WISX), and in November, Greater Media picked up the format and the calls on 97.5, which was in the process of moving into the market from its longtime home in Trenton, N.J.
As the format faded out at 6 PM Friday (Sept. 5), it was replaced by a weekend of stunting that promised something “new” and “now” for the Philadelphia market.
“Now” arrived at 9 o’clock Monday morning, when WJJZ exited its stunt with the now-ubiqitous “Don’t Stop Believing,” then launched into a brief, selective recap of the history of Philadelphia radio before announcing a “new” approach to adult contemporary radio under the moniker “Now 97.5,” with a new website at nowismusic.com.
PD Michael Tozzi (who came to 97.5 from the original WJJZ 106.1) is out, as are the rest of the WJJZ airstaff.
The first song out of the gate was Pink’s “Who Knew,” and the new station’s target appears to be Jerry Lee’s market-leading WBEB (101.1). (It’s probably no coincidence that one of the bits of Philly radio history 97.5 chose to emphasize was 101.1′s long run as an easy-listening station.)
While WBEB made a pre-emptive grab at the rights to the “Fresh” AC format that’s done well up at New York’s WWFS (102.7), it’s “Now” that sounds more like “Fresh” than does B101. Can Greater Media chip away at some of Lee’s revenue and ratings success with a signal that’s not quite full-market? Stay tuned…
*In Albany, NEW YORK, Jeff Lyons has returned to WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville) to co-host the morning show with Big Ray and serve as music director. Lyons left Albany Broadcasting in 2005 to work at Cumulus’ cluster down in Tallahassee, Florida.
Over at Regent’s Albany cluster, Glen Stacey has exited the PD/afternoon drive chair at WBZZ (105.7 Malta) in a move being blamed on budget cuts. Jake Thomas, who does afternoons at sister WGNA (107.7 Albany), will take on Stacey’s duties.
In Syracuse, Ty is departing Galaxy Communications, where she was acting PD at the “K-Rock” simulcast (WKRL 100.9 North Syracuse/WKRH 106.5 Minetto/WKLL 94.9 Frankfort). The upstate native is heading to Baltimore, where she’ll start a week from today as APD/music director and middays at Clear Channel’s WCHH (104.3).
It looks as though Dave Radigan’s WEBO (1330 Owego) will be the next member of the “FM translators for AM stations” club – he’s paying $5,000 to buy W300BV (107.9 Waverly) from Daniel Peltz. In another translator sale, Bud Williamson’s Digital Radio Broadcasting is paying Clear Channel $4,000 for W255BX (98.9 Hudson), which currently relays WCTW (98.5 Catskill).
We spent much of the weekend watching the vintage race cars circle the track at Watkins Glen, and checking out some changes on the region’s radio dial, too.
Just up the road in Dundee, WFLR (1570) has indeed dropped the Geneva-based “Finger Lakes News Network” simulcast. It’s now carrying the country format from sister station WFLR-FM (95.9 Dundee), and promoting WFLR’s upcoming “move to 96.9.”
As we’ve noted previously, this is actually all about WFLR-FM’s construction permit to move to 95.5 in Odessa, which will make it an Ithaca-market station; the country format for Dundee and Penn Yan will live on at 1570 and its new FM translator, W245BL (96.9 Dundee). For now, there’s a three-way simulcast on 1570, 95.9 and 96.9.
Watkins Glen’s own station, WRCE (1490), made for interesting listening over the weekend. While it’s nominally a simulcast of Backyard Broadcasting’s country “Pig” WPGI (100.9 Horseheads), we heard at least three other program streams on the AM signal – a talk simulcast from Backyard’s WWLZ (820 Horseheads), an IndyCar race from California and many hours of simulcasts of the track announcements from the Glen.
There’s another signal coming to Watkins Glen, too – Ithaca Community Broadcasting has been granted a construction permit for 91.9 there, with 1.3 kW DA/108′.
*As Vox Radio Group settles in at the former Clear Channel stations in VERMONT, it’s making some format tweaks. Gone is ABC’s “True Oldies Channel” from WVTK (92.1 Port Henry NY), replaced by an AC format aimed at Addison County, the area around Middlebury that’s lost most of its own signals to Burlington rimshot status.
WVTK is even airing local news for Addison County – sort of. It’s carrying newscasts produced by Kansas-based “Virtual News Center.” (We’re interested in hearing what the newscasts sound like and what listeners in the area think.)
On the other side of the state, it was a very wet weekend, especially in the Connecticut River Valley, where WCFR (1480 Springfield) was taking on water in its studio building. We hear station manager Ray Kimball and owner Bob Vinikoor were manning no fewer than four ShopVacs and a pump to keep the place dry – Kimball actually stayed all night Friday to keep the station on the air with emergency information. (Remember when all radio was like that?)
*Across the river in NEW HAMPSHIRE, Vinikoor got some bad news from the FCC about his construction permit for WQTH (720 Claremont). The WQTH CP officially expired unbuilt on June 13, 2007, but Vinikoor appealed, arguing that he lost valuable time while the Commission considered his application to move WQTH from its original city of license, Hanover, down to Claremont, and that New Hampshire’s bad winter weather should allow him more time to construct a complex AM array. The FCC rejected the appeal, saying Vinikoor made a business decision to relocate WQTH while the construction permit clock ran down – and that the evidence suggested that Vinikoor didn’t “diligently” pursue construction of the station.
Over in Concord, WWHK (102.3) has been on and off the air for the last couple of weeks, spending some time with an automated classical format. We’re hearing that caused some consternation for Concord’s existing classical station, low-power WCNH-LP (94.7).
(We’ve neglected to note some good news for WCNH: licensee Highland Community Broadcasting has been designated a “singleton” applicant for a full-power signal on 91.5 in Bow, NH, which will allow the station to move from its interference-plagued low-power 94.7 to a somewhat more potent 100-watt facility.)
*In MAINE, the Labor Day holiday brought some big changes in the Bangor radio landscape.
Blueberry Broadcasting’s WABI (910 Bangor) and WWBX (97.1 Bangor) dropped their talk and top-40 formats, respectively, in favor of the Boston-based WEEI sports network. Mark down new calls “WAEI” for the 97.1 facility.
And the two signals Blueberry couldn’t keep when it bought Clear Channel’s Bangor cluster are now simulcasting. WFZX (101.7 Searsport) has dropped its modern rock format and flipped to oldies in parallel to WGUY (102.1 Dexter).
*In NEW JERSEY, the Labor Day weekend brought lots of vacationers to the shore – and two format changes, too. WILW (94.3 Avalon) picked up the Don Imus morning show, which is being dropped as WTAA (1490 Pleasantville) moves away from progressive talk and flips to a Spanish-language format.
*CANADA‘s capital city is getting two new FM stations. The CRTC considered ten applications for new stations on 99.7, 101.7 and 101.9 and awarded new stations to Astral Media and Frank Torres.
Astral owns CKQB (106.9 the Bear) in Ottawa, and will now add a 45 kW signal on 99.7 with a “comfort radio” soft AC format. Torres, meanwhile, will get 1.3 kW on 101.9 for a blues-formatted station to be known as “101.9 Dawg FM.” That grant came over the objections of one CRTC commissioner: Michel Mathieu complained that Ottawa’s existing talk-formatted stations, CTV’s CFRA (580) and the CBC’s CBO (91.5), enjoy a disproportionate share of the audience; Michel argued that the CRTC should have granted a license to Corus for a news-talk station instead.
Ten Years Ago: September 8, 2003
*WVNY (Channel 22) in Burlington, VERMONT announced this afternoon that it will close its news operation after Friday’s 11 PM show, leaving 25 people out of work and cutting Burlington back to two local newscasts. It’s the third time in channel 22′s 30-year history that it’s cancelled news to save money. (NERW notes: the latest generation of WVNY news was by far the most professional, with a staff that included ABC News veteran Barrie Dunsmore; we’re sorry to see that it couldn’t make inroads against the established operations at CBS affiliate WCAX and NBC affiliate WPTZ.)
*It’s been a busy week at the biggest oldies station in MASSACHUSETTS. First, WODS (103.3 Boston) parted ways with morning man Paul Perry after not quite five years – and then the Infinity-owned station began running spots that sound for all the world like political ads. Rather than promoting “Howard Dean for America,” though, these ads tout “Dale Dorman for Oldies 103,” complete with the rushed announcement at the end, “Paid for by Dale Dorman for Oldies 103, Dale Dorman, treasurer.”
*Of course, any “campaigning” here is moot, and the message is clear – the dean of Boston DJs (23 years at “Kiss 108″ WXKS-FM, and a long run at WRKO before that) is joining the crew at Oldies 103 to do mornings. (The official announcement came Tuesday afternoon after an “on-air audition”; Dorman will start on WODS September 18.) The move reunites Dorman with former Kiss colleague J.J. Wright, who’s doing afternoons at WODS; as for Perry, we wonder if he’ll head back to Providence, where he was doing mornings at WWBB (B101) before getting the call up to Boston in the fall of 1998…
Fifteen Years Ago: September 11, 1998
*We’ll start with MAINE and Guy Gannett for a second week – and this time it’s broadcast-related, as the company sells its television stations to Sinclair for $310 million in cash.
*In the region, Sinclair gets CBS affiliate WGME-TV (Channel 13) Portland, ABC affiliate WGGB (Channel 40) Springfield MA, and ABC affiliate WOKR (Channel 13) Rochester — but because Sinclair already owns a TV station in Rochester, Fox affiliate WUHF-TV (Channel 31), it’s turning around and selling WOKR, and not to Sinclair’s partner company Glencairn Broadcasting, either. Instead, WOKR will be spun off to the Ackerley Broadcast Group of Seattle, which is building quite a cluster of ABC affiliates in upstate New York, including Syracuse’s WIXT (Channel 9), Binghamton’s WIVT (Channel 34), and an LMA with Utica’s WUTR (Channel 20).
*Published reports in Portland say WGME’s staff is nervous about the sale, since Sinclair’s David Smith has a reputation for cost-cutting. At WOKR, the reaction is more that of relief, since Ackerley’s reputation in the region is a good one, and the alliance will give WOKR access to WIXT’s satellite truck and other toys.
*Elsewhere in Maine, we heard the debut Tuesday night of Al Weiner’s new WBCQ (7415 kHz) up in Monticello. Their web presence advertises air time for as little as $50 an hour, and the new station will be home to ex-pirates Radio Newyork International, among others. Should be a fun listen…
*Digital TV in the Pine Tree State: WPXT (Channel 51) and WPME (Channel 35) have applied for DTV construction permits, on channels 4 and 28, respectively.
*In NEW YORK, the long-testing WYUL (94.7 Chateaugay) may finally be coming to life for real. It’s been heard testing with hits and liners saying “Cornwall, get ready to say Yes” — with the logical conclusion being that a simulcast of co-owned satellite CHR WYSX (98.7 Ogdensburg) is in the works. WYSX targets the cross-border Brockville market; WYUL now seems to be aiming a bit closer within Canada, at Cornwall instead of more distant Montreal.
*While we’re up north, we’ll note that Ottawa’s CJBZ (1200) dumped the hits for sports on Tuesday, becoming “OSR 1200,” with new calls possibly on the way. We’ll also ‘fess up to getting our Canadian mega-groups mixed up. It’s Rogers, not Shaw, that’s buying CHEZ, CFMO, and CJET in Ottawa and Smiths Falls.
*Rochester public radio WXXI (1370) has a new news director. He’s Flower City native Peter Iglinski, formerly with WSKG (89.3) Binghamton.