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For the eleventh time, we're sitting down at year's end to summarize another twelve months in the life of broadcasting in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada, and what can we say about 2005? It was a year of waiting - for Howard to leave, for HD receivers to arrive, for ABC to announce a buyer, for WTHK to move, for WKOX to move, for the next shoe to drop in the payola investigation. It was a good year for Jack and his pals Ben, Bob and Mike, but not so much for fans of oldies, modern rock or classical. It was a year to remember the inventor of FM, and to wonder how soon his invention would be supplanted by any one of a number of newer technologies vying for listeners' ears. Let's roll that Top 10 list, shall we?

1. Howard

Yeah, yeah, we know - is there anything more that we could possibly say about the most prolonged farewell in the history of American broadcasting?

Only this: that, for better or for worse, the drawn-out drama of Stern's relocation to Sirius Satellite Radio was a publicity bonanza for radio, whether the industry appreciated it or not. Even the most radio-phobic media outlets felt compelled to write something about Stern, and the result was more coverage of radio than the industry's experienced in quite a while. Once again, say what you will about the self-proclaimed King of All Media, he had the country talking about - and thinking about - radio, and it was inevitable that he'd once again be our top story of the year.

(Now can we talk about something else in 2006?)

2. Up In The Sky

Once Stern signs on at Sirius, we're cautiously hopeful that the buzz around Howard himself will die down. As we'll explore later on in our Year-End Rant, though, the buzz around satellite radio in general is still building, and even before Stern's arrival, 2005 marked something of a watershed in that respect, as both services grew from curiosities into serious competitors, with programming and marketing strategies that posed a challenge to "terrestrial" radio - itself a term that was all but unknown before 2005.

3. Hello, "Jack." Goodbye, Oldies.

As 2005 began, "Jack FM" was a "somewhere else" concept for most radio people in the northeast. Sure, it had started as a webcast on Long Island, but it was on the air only on a few Canadian signals and a handful of U.S. stations outside the region.

That began to change in the spring, as "Jack" clones popped up in Rochester ("Fickle") and Boston ("Mike"). Then came Philadelphia ("Ben") and Burlington ("MP103"). And then, on the evening of June 8, to the strains of Sinatra's "Summer Wind," Infinity pulled the plug on more than three decades of oldies at New York's WCBS-FM (101.1), rolling the dice on "Jack" itself in the nation's biggest market and touching off a wave of outrage among some of the country's most passionate radio fans. (Later in the year, "Jack" would also appear in Buffalo, while "Bob" would show up in Pittsburgh.)

New York's new "Jack" was not an immediate success, but that didn't make the pill any easier to swallow for fans of the oldies, who suddenly had nowhere to turn in New York to hear much of anything that predated the late sixties. Their pain was shared in other markets, too, as oldies vanished from the airwaves in Rochester and Hartford and as other stations shunned the "O-word" and refocused on hits from the seventies and later.

Will oldies become an AM niche format, relegated to Saturday nights on WABC and weak suburban signals? Will "Jack" settle in to become a permanent part of the New York City landscape? Those are sure to be top stories as we head into 2006.

4. As easy as ABC?

The biggest sale of the year, bar none, was the one that didn't happen. For much of the year, Disney kept the trade papers hopping with speculation about which lucky suitor would walk away with its ABC Radio division, including big signals such as WABC, WPLJ and WLS. Would it be Cumulus? Entercom? Emmis?

The answer, of course (at least as of 4 PM on December 31), turned out to be "none of the above," as Disney failed to come to terms with any of those groups, leaving ABC Radio still on the market - and the rumor mill still churning - at year's end.

5. WCRB hits the market

The biggest sale of the year that actually came to pass (or at least came close to passing) was, by contrast, a complete surprise to just about everyone. After all, everyone knew - or thought they knew - that when WCRB owner Ted Jones died a decade ago, he locked the Boston classical station into a 99-year trust that guaranteed that the station would still be playing Mozart and Bach as the 21st century was drawing to a close.

Turns out the trust wasn't quite so ironclad, leaving the door open for Charles River Broadcasting to put itself up for sale in November. The company quickly selected Greater Media as its preferred buyer for WCRB's big class B signal, setting the table for a deal (expected to be in the neighborhood of $100 million) to be completed early in 2006. It's almost certain to mean the end of WCRB's classical format - and to put Greater Media's WKLB (99.5 Lowell) on the market, triggering a new round of sales and format speculation.

6. Whatever happened to modern rock?

It wasn't just classical (or oldies) that was threatened as 2005 drew to a close. Fans of modern rock were having a harder time finding their music on the air, too, as a combination of a lack of exciting new music and several external factors (there's Howard again) pushed the format off the air in several big markets. New York's WXRK reimaged as an active rocker in the spring, sending the modern rock off to a webstream. The demise of the Stern show, an anchor for many modern rock stations, knocked a few more signals off the format, with Albany's WQBK/WQBJ going to classic rock and Philly's WYSP ditching most of what was left of its music to become a talker. It had already been a bad year in Philly, with the demise of Radio One's Y100 (WPLY), whose fans staged a big rally to protest its loss. It apparently wasn't big enough, though, as no other station stepped up to the plate to try to pick up that audience.

7. HD Radio - if not now, when?

So how to serve all those oldies and modern rock and classical and country fans who feel deserted by traditional radio? The December announcement of an alliance among many of the big broadcast groups provided one possible answer, as they promised to join forces to provide some of those niche formats on HD Radio subchannels of their FM signals - and, perhaps more critically, to put some real promotional muscle behind the digital radio system, which ended the year lagging far behind satellite radio in receiver availability and audience awareness.

On the other side of the equation, broadcasters worked diligently to break the chicken-and-egg dilemma by getting HD signals on the air across the region, so once those receivers get out there, there'll at least be something for them to listen to.

(Much more on this in the Year-End Rant, at the end of our Year in Review...)

8. Payola

Yes, it was 2005, not 1959, but payola was nevertheless in the news for much of the year, largely thanks to New York attorney general (and 2006 gubernatorial front-runner) Eliot Spitzer, who conducted heavily-publicized investigations that led to settlements with Sony Music and Warner Music and the dismissals of several prominent program directors.

Were laws broken? Undoubtedly - but the argument could also be made that it's been many years since the top-40 industry lived or died on the artistic quality of the music, and that the promotional practices of the music industry, while certainly embarrassing to many of the parties involved, were hardly a threat to the Republic. Or maybe we're just disappointed that we didn't get the big-screen TVs and the junkets to Miami...

9. High School FMs

Often forgotten among the bigger signals that dominate the dial, several high school FM stations made headlines in the region during 2005. In Havertown, near Philadelphia, WHHS (107.9) was threatened with extinction after 55 years on the air when Radio One's new WRNB showed up on the same frequency, but thanks to local engineers who cared about the station's history, it was able to apply for and win a waiver that allowed it to move to 99.9 and stay alive.

In Coventry, R.I., WCVY (91.5) faced competition at license renewal time from a religious broadcaster that wanted to share its airtime. Unlike other similar situations in the midwest, where stations have gone full-time and fended off the competing applicants, Coventry decided to settle rather than fight, so 91.5 will be shared between Coventry High and the new religious broadcaster beginning next year.

And in Maynard, Mass., WAVM (91.7) made national headlines with its fight to win an upgrade from class D to class A, in the face of competing applications from several out-of-town religious broadcasters. WAVM was dealt a blow in the fall when the FCC granted "tentative preference" to Living Proof's application for a new 91.7 in Lunenburg, but with political pressure building in favor of the little community station that's been broadcasting for 35 years now, Living Proof offered a settlement at year's end that could allow for multiple class A signals on 91.7, albeit at the expense of a complex (and possibly impossible) directional antenna for WAVM and significant new interference to Boston's WUMB. We'll be hearing more about this story in 2006, too.

10. Honoring the Major

One of radio's greatest inventors finally got the recognition he deserved in 2005, as history buffs and contemporary engineers joined forces to properly honor Major Edwin Howard Armstrong, 70 years after his first FM broadcasts.

The highlight of the year's activities came on June 11, when hundreds of Armstrong fans spent the afternoon at the Major's historic tower site on the New Jersey Palisades - and thousands more tuned in on WFDU (89.1) and experimental station WA2XMN, on the Major's original 42.8 frequency - for a live panel discussion and commemorative programming.

Later in the year, WA2XMN was granted a five-year experimental license, and a second panel discussion at the Audio Engineering Society convention (with your editor as moderator) provided more insight into the legacy of the man who gave the world frequency modulation.

The Year in Sales

JANUARY: Access.1 added to its Jersey Shore cluster with the $5 million purchase of WJSE (102.7 Petersburg NJ) from Parinello Enterprises. In Connecticut, the WKZE AM-FM combo changed hands from Scott Johnson to Will Stanley, who'd move the stations' studios across the state line to New York's Hudson Valley at year's end. On a smaller scale, Robert Pfuntner's Pembrook Pines group made its first of two purchases in 2005, the $950,000 purchase of Olean combo WOEN/WMXO from Vox. Clarion County Broadcasting picked up WKQW AM-FM in Oil City, PA from Stephen Olszowka, for $540,000. Public broadcaster WAMC added to its network with the $275,000 purchase of WRUN (1150 Utica NY) from Regent.

And in Canada, Astral and Corus finally pulled off a long-stalled (and oft-reworked) C$11 million deal that transferred the Radiomedia chain of AM stations (including Montreal's CKAC and Quebec's CHRC) from Astral to Corus, while Corus transferred several FMs in smaller Quebec communities to Astral.

FEBRUARY: The month kicked off with one of the bigger deals in the region for 2005, as Qantum added Ernie Boch's WXTK (95.1 West Yarmouth) and WCOD (106.1 Hyannis) to its existing Cape Cod cluster for $21.3 million (putting three smaller stations, WPXC and WTWV/WDVT, in trust for eventual sale.)

On Long Island's East End, Cherry Creek entered the market by buying AAA's four FMs for $12 million. Davidson entered western Massachusetts with the $6.8 million purchase of Antonio Gois' WACM and WSPR in Springfield.

A few smaller transactions: Clear Channel bought WSPI (99.7 Mount Carmel PA) from H&P Communications for $460,000, while Susquehanna bought WTHM (1440 Red Lion PA) from the Moffit family for $280,000.

And Mega Communications closed out the month with the announcement of the $9 million sale of WAMG/WLLH in the Boston market to the investment firm Waller Sutton.

MARCH: Just two big deals, both in Pennsylvania: Bold Gold Media Group entered the scene with its $4 million purchase of WDNH/WYCY/WPSN/WDNB in the Honesdale, Pennsylvania market from De Wit, while a swap between Nick Galli's 2510 group and Forever found Forever paying $4 million for WGLU/WQKK in Johnstown and $2.65 million for WRSC/WBUS in State College, while 2510 paid $2.5 million for WSPO/WUZI/WUZY in Johnstown.

APRIL: Vox exited Bennington, Vermont with the sale of WZEC (97.5 Hoosick Falls NY) to Capitol Media (WHAZ). Two tiny religious stations were sold - WLOG (89.1 Markleysburg PA) from Lighthouse Christian Academy to Edgewater Broadcasting, for $10,000, and WKMY (91.1 Winchendon MA) from Friends of Radio Maria to EMF, for $15,000. In Canada, Blackburn bought out the Chatham trio of CFCO/CKUE/CKSY from Bea-Ver Communications.

MAY: Vox continued its exit from the scene with the $7 million sale of WBEC-FM (105.5 Pittsfield, with a pending move to Easthampton) to Pamal. On Long Island, silent WGSM changed hands from Atmor Properties to Win Radio Properties, for $2.2 million. The Rice family exited radio in eastern Connecticut, selling WILI AM-FM to Hall for $1.8 million. Two small Pennsylvania AMs changed hands - WLYC (1050 Williamsport) from James McKowne to Sentry Communications, for $75,000, and WKMC (1370 Roaring Spring) from Cary Simpson's Allegany Mountain Network to Handsome Brothers, Inc. for $80,000. Another Pennsylvania broadcaster exited the scene, as Al Dame sold his Chambersburg-Hagerstown cluster of five stations to Dan Savadove's Main Line Broadcasting, for $22.5 million.

JUNE: The Vox exodus continued into June, as the company LMA'd WNYQ (105.7 Queensbury NY) to Pamal, which sent Albany's WZMR and its own Glens Falls stations into a trust. (A subsequent $5.75 million sale of WNYQ to Pamal was held up at the FCC at year's end.)

In the Catskills, the Blabey family sold WVOS AM-FM in Liberty to Watermark Broadcasting, for $1.7 million. In Maine, Clear Channel sold WNSX (97.7 Winter Harbor) to Mark Osborne's Stony Creek, for $800,000, while Fisher & Doak sold WKTJ (99.3 Farmington) to Clearwater Communications, for $450,000. Tom Monaghan's Absolute Broadcasting bought WSNH (900 Nashua NH) from Balance View for $925,000. Nick Galli's 2510 sold WBLF (970 Bellefonte PA) to Magnum Broadcasting, for $150,000. On the Ohio/Pennsylvania line, steel magnate Harold Glunt took over WEXC/WGRP in Greenville, PA and WANR in Warren, OH from Michael Arch for $5,000 and the assumption of debt.

On TV, C-22 License Subsidiary sold WVNY (Channel 22) in Burlington, Vermont to Lambert Broadcasting for $10.5 million, which put the station into a joint operation with Fox affiliate WFFF.

JULY: Schenectady public broadcaster WMHT added a second FM in the market, buying commercial WBKK (97.7 Amsterdam) from GEM Associates for $1.5 million. In northern Pennsylvania, Iorio Broadcasting paid Kinzua Broadcasting $1.25 million for WRRN/WKNB/WNAE in Warren. Absolute Broadcasting created a Nashua duopoly with the $250,000 purchase of dark WSMN (1590). And Redeemer Broadcasting paid a dollar for Christian Ministry Associates' WFSO (88.3 Olivebridge NY).

AUGUST: Qantum spun its "extra" Cape Cod stations - WPXC and WDVT/WTWV - to Nassau for a cool $10 million. In Pennsylvania, Cantroair Communications paid $350,000 for WTTC AM-FM in Towanda, while Eric Swidler paid Allegany Mountain Network $65,000 for WEEO (1480 Shippensburg).

SEPTEMBER: The big news was in Burlington, where Hall nearly doubled its market presence with the $17 million purchase of WBTZ/WIZN from Burlington Broadcasters, while WWBI-LP across the lake in Plattsburgh went from SMC Communications to Daystar (Word of God Religious Fellowship) for $1.2 million. Double O added to its Oneonta presence with the $3.8 million purchase of WDOS/WSRK from Ultimate Communications. William Macek's Central Broadcasting paid $795,000 for WEIM in Fitchburg, and New Jersey noncomm WFJS (ex-WDDM, ex-WCNJ) changed hands from WVRM, Inc. to Domestic Church Media Foundation for $500,000.

OCTOBER: One of the biggest deals of the year found Nassau exiting the Lehigh Valley and Poconos with the $62.8 million sale of its clusters there to Access.1 Communications. Down the road in Philadelphia, Mega departed the region with the $8.75 million sale of WEMG (1310 Camden NJ) to Davidson. Carter Broadcasting exited Providence by selling WRIB (1220) to Faith Christian Center, for $1.9 million. In Pittsburgh, Starboard turned its LMA of WZUM (1590) into ownership, buying the station from Michael Horvath for $435,000. EMF added WWJS (90.1 Watertown NY) to the K-Love family for $300,000. And Peter George paid Nichols College $1,000 for little WXRB (95.1 Dudley MA).

NOVEMBER: The very biggest deal of the year to affect NERW-land was the end of the Susquehanna group, as parent company Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff agreed to sell its radio holdings (including stations in York, PA) to Cumulus, for $1.2 billion.

Up the road in Milton, Milton-Lewisburg Broadcasting sold WMLP/WVLY-FM to Sunbury Broadcasting for $3 million. In the Rochester market, EMF bought WMJQ (104.9 Brockport) from George Kimble for $4 million, while CSN unloaded WJCA (102.1 Albion) to Jimmy Swaggart's Family Worship Center for $950,000. And in the Southern Tier, Bob Pfuntner's Pembrook Pines group added Catt Communications' WQRT/WGGO Salamanca to its Olean cluster (WOEN/WMXO and WZKZ) for $1.25 million.

DECEMBER: The FCC approved the sale of Doug Lane's WWRR/WICK/WYCK in Scranton to Bold Gold, for $1.9 million. And Verstandig donated silent WHGT (1590 Chambersburg) to Emmanuel Baptist Temple of Hagerstown, Maryland.

The Year in Programming, People and Calls

JANUARY: The new year marked the return of several dark stations, with WCDL (1440 Carbondale PA) returning under Route 81 ownership from new downtown studios with classic country, and WAPJ (89.9 Torrington CT) also moving to new studios. In Glens Falls, the WENU AM-FM combo segued from standards to soft AC, while WLYC (1050 Williamsport PA) went from standards to ESPN.

The first bombshell moves of the new year came in the month's second week, when Citadel pulled Howard Stern from its stations (including WAQX in Syracuse and WQXA in York), saying the show had become too much of an ad for Stern's move to satellite, still a year away at that point.

Some high-profile personalities lost their jobs - Dave Universal at Entercom in Buffalo as the winds of a payola investigation began to swirl, and Frankie Blue at WNEW after an apparently inebriated post-holiday party on-air appearance. Miss Jones and her WQHT crew didn't lose their jobs, but they were pulled off the air for a while after an ill-conceived tsunami parody song. In Boston, Liz Walker left the anchor desk at WBZ-TV very much of her own accord, continuing to do a Sunday public-affairs show for the station.

In other TV news, Rochester's WOKR (Channel 13) finally changed calls to WHAM-TV on January 10, with the WOKR calls replacing WUCL on 93.5 in Remsen.

On the radio dial, WOQL (98.7 Winchester NH) and WINQ (97.7 Winchendon MA) swapped calls and formats, as 97.7 moved closer to Keene (opening the way for another 97.7 to make a big move later in the year.) Across the river, WKVT (1490 Brattleboro) picked up progressive talk, and down on the South Coast, UMass Dartmouth picked up the "WUMD" calls for its new 89.3 signal.

In Pennsylvania,WRRK (96.9 Braddock) emerged from stunting as the "new 97RRK," which didn't sound all that different from the old 'RRK. The first of many shuffles in Johnstown saw WKYE's AC move from 95.5 to 96.5, with WMTZ's country moving to 95.5 as "Froggy," WFGI-FM. In Chambersburg, silent WCBG (1590) became WHGT, swapping calls with 1380 in Waynesboro. Up in Renovo, WZYY (106.9) moved from hot AC to rock as "the Surge."

And in Canada, the venerable CHOW calls disappeared from "Spirit 91.7" in Welland, which became adult hits "Giant FM" under new extra-large calls CIXL.

FEBRUARY: Nassau kicked off the month by shuffling formats in Concord and the Lakes Region, moving country from WOTX (102.3) to the former WNHI (93.3 Belmont) as WNHW ("The Wolf") and putting classic rock on 102.3 (now WWHK) and 101.5 (changing from WBHG to WWHQ) as "the Hawk." Over in Maine, WHQO (107.9 Skowhegan) went from talk to "Mix" AC for a day, then to sports.

Valentine's Day weekend brought some changes in the Hudson Valley, where Clear Channel's WFKP (99.3 Ellenville) dropped "Kiss," stunted as "Cupid" and emerged as another "Lite FM." Down the river in northern Westchester County, WFAF (106.3 Mount Kisco) stunted as "Flix 106" before beginning a simulcast of Poughkeepsie's WPDH. Newburgh's WGNY-FM (103.1) began simulcasting with WTSX (96.7 Port Jervis) as "the Fox," while WGNY (1220) began simulcasting its oldies on WDLC (1490 Port Jervis). Down on the Jersey Shore, WBBO (98.5 Ocean Acres) flipped to a simulcast of modern rock WHTG-FM (106.3 Eatontown) a few days later. In Carlisle, PA, WHYL (960) flipped from standards to talk, which wouldn't last the year.

But the big fireworks on Valentine's Day came in Trenton, where top 40 WPST abandoned its longtime home on 97.5 to trade dial positions with WTHK (94.5 the Hawk), assuring WPST a continued spot on the Trenton dial once the 97.5 facility makes its move to Philadelphia.

That, in turn, was overshadowed a week or so later when Radio One abruptly pulled the plug on modern rock WPLY (100.3 Media), moving urban WPHI from 103.9 to the stronger 100.3 signal and launching a black gospel format under the WPPZ calls on 103.9.

In Rochester, morning institution Brother Wease announced he had a rare sinus cancer, which sent him to New York City for treatment (though he remained on the air through the ordeal, broadcasting from his apartment in the city, and at year's end was recovering well.) Rochester remembered another morning man, WBEE's Bill Coffey, at a memorial service, while in Boston, thousands packed the Majestic Theater to remember WBZ's David Brudnoy.

In Portland, veteran WBLM (102.9) morning man Mark Persky disappeared from the airwaves, though his departure from the station wouldn't become official until April. He'd return to the air on competitor WFNK, but not for very long.

And in Nashua, WSMN (1590) signed off from its three-tower array for the last time at 6 PM on February 1, though rumors of its demise would prove to be greatly exaggerated.

MARCH: Even with a scorecard, the format changes in State College, Johnstown and Altoona were tough to follow. In Happy Valley, rocker WQWK (97.1) and oldies WOWY (98.7) traded places, while WJHT (Hot 107.9) moved down the dial to displace WBHV (103.1), leaving 107.9 stunting under the WCNU calls for a while before becoming a "K-Love" outlet as WKVB.

Johnstown's WGLU, Altoona's WPRR and Mount Union's WXMJ all became "Hot" as well, with new calls WYOT, WWOT and WXOT respectively. Two of those former calls got parked on AMs - WBHV on the former WYSN in Somerset, WPRR on the former WSPO 1490 in Johnstown.

At the other end of the state, a skirmish between Nassau and Verstandig created two "Eagle" stations, briefly. Nassau won, as WARX (106.9 Hagerstown MD) kept the Eagle name and new WWEG calls, while Verstandig's WWMD (101.5 Waynesboro PA) had to drop its new WEEG calls, becoming WFYN, "Classic Rock 101.5." WWMD's former hot AC format migrated down the dial to the former WSRT (92.1), which became WPPT, "The Point."

Philadelphia got adult hits on March 21, when Greater Media pulled the plug on "Mix" WMWX, replacing it with "Ben FM," soon to have the calls WBEN-FM.

Nassau's "Wolf" spread in New England, as the Upper Valley's WSSH/WZSH became WXLF/WZLF. Manchester's WQLL (96.5) flipped to classic rock as WMLL, "the Mill," while Nashua's WHOB flipped to classic hits "Frank" as WFNQ.

Call changes all over: WOGY (1300 West Hazelton PA) parked the WKZN calls from New Orleans, WWZK (94.3 Wildwood NJ) became WILW, WCNJ (89.3 Hazlet NJ) became "Dhoom FM" WDDM, WILT (960 Mount Pocono PA) parked the WPLY calls from Philly, and WTKO (1470 Ithaca) applied for new calls WNYY, which would come into use a few months later for a new progressive talk format.

In Dudley, MA, Nichols College moved little class D WNRC (95.1) to WNRC-LP (97.5), freeing up 95.1 to become oldies WXRB.

In central Pennsylvania, WSPI (99.7 Mount Carmel) became WVRZ, simulcasting top 40 WVRT from Williamsport. Lancaster's WLAN (1390) dropped sports for standards.

Veteran Buffalo jock Tommy Shannon hung up his headphones, leaving his afternoon shift on WHTT (104.1) at month's end.

And in Quebec, controversial morning man Jeff Fillion left CHOI (98.1), quieting - for the moment - the controversy surrounding that station and its license renewal.

New to the air: CIBU (94.5 Wingham ON), WJZP-LP (105.1 Portland ME, wreaking havoc for some distant listeners to WTOS from Skowhegan.

APRIL: Adult hits continued to spread across the region, arriving in Rochester on April 7, when oldies WBBF (93.3) became "Fickle" WFKL, and then in Boston (again from Entercom) on April 14, when rhythmic WQSX (93.7) became "Mike" WMKK.

New York's "K-Rock" walked away from modern rock, becoming "Great Rock. Period." (That should, perhaps, have been a comma, considering that K-Rock would barely last out the year.)

In other format spins, WBYA (105.5 Islesboro ME) dropped standards to join the "Frank" classic hits family, WXLM (102.3 Stonington CT) began simulcasting the news-talk of WSUB (980 Groton), WDOX (106.7 North Cape May NJ) dropped modern rock for top 40 as WSJQ (the second time the WDOX calls and format had disappeared down there), and WKBR (1250 Manchester NH) ditched sports for oldies.

In other oldies news, former WCBS-FM jock "Super Max" Kinkel resurfaced doing mornings on WNNJ (1360 Newton NJ), while Don Tandler, "The Record Handler," was abruptly dropped from New Jersey 101.5, only to resurface later on the "Breeze" trio of stations along the shore.

WJAR reporter Jim Taricani was freed from prison, becoming a journalistic hero for his refusal to disclose the source of a videotape that brought down several Providence officials.

In Sharon, Pennsylvania, "Old Shakey" came tumbling down on April 20, as a crew pulled down the WPIC (790) tower before it could collapse of its own accord.

New to the air: WBCR-LP (97.7 Great Barrington MA). Gone for good: CJTN (1270 Trenton ON), moved to FM.

MAY: Preston and Steve returned to the Philadelphia airwaves May 16 on their new home, WMMR (93.3), after a judge freed them from their noncompete deal with Radio One.

In New York, Lee "Crazy Cabbie" Mroszak went to prison for a year; the former Howard Stern sidekick and WXRK overnight jock made the mistake of bragging on the air about not paying his taxes. WCBS-TV fired reporter Arthur Chi'en after he let some expletives slip during a live shot while being harassed by fans of a certain pair of shock talkers. At month's end, the reggaeton craze spread to the Big Apple dial, as WCAA/WZAA dropped its "Latino Mix" to become "La Kalle." And WOR departed its home of many decades at 1440 Broadway to move into new digs down in the Wall Street area.

In New England, WMGX (93.1 Portland) completed its new tower, replacing the one that collapsed in 2004. Down in Taunton, WPEP (1570) agreed to go dark to allow WNSH (1570 Beverly) to increase its day power, though the moves hadn't been completed at year's end.

Adult hits came to Buffalo on May 16, as WBUF (92.9) ditched its rock format to become the region's first "Jack." The WBBF calls returned to the airwaves on the former WMNY (1120) in Buffalo, creating no end of heartache for Rochester radio purists. WCLI (1450 Corning) changed calls to WENI, while Binghamton's WYOS (1360) picked up Air America. On TV, Time Warner chopped 22 jobs at News 10 Now in Syracuse, moving many of the news channel's operations to Albany.

In Pennsylvania, WEEO-FM (103.7 McConnellsburg) dropped modern rock and became top 40 "Hot 103.7." "K-Love" replaced classic hits "Wuzz" on WUZI/WUZY in Johnstown, which changed calls to WLKJ/WLKH. Johnstown's "Rock" WQKK (92.1) became "Rocky" WRKW, paralleling new sister station WRKY-FM in Altoona. Scranton's WVMW moved from 91.5 to 91.7, clearing the way for new WCIG (91.3 Carbondale) to debut in October. WGBI (910 Scranton) gave up its classic calls so the WBZU calls could be parked there after a stint in Wisconsin.

And two towers came down - WCBG (1380 Waynesburg PA) when one of its guy wires was hit by a truck, and WHLI (1100 Hempstead NY), where an aging tower was replaced with a brand-new self-supporter.

New to the air: WPKM (88.7 Montauk NY), relaying WPKN from Bridgeport; CFPS-FM (97.9 Port Elgin ON), replacing CFPS 1490; WXOJ-LP (103.3 Northampton MA); WKMY (91.1 Winchendon MA), with "K-Love," on May 16. Gone, for now: travelers' information CFYZ (1480 Toronto).

JUNE: The June 3 flip of WCBS-FM to "Jack" pushed most of the month's other news into the background, but there were still a few other items of note.

Adult hits also came to Burlington (on the former WLKC "Alice" 103.3, now "MP103" WWMP and with a temporary simulcast on WXAL 93.7 Addison, soon to become country WUSX), and to Montreal, on low-power "Mike" CKDG (105.1).

Down in Brattleboro, an FCC raid on the "radio free brattleboro" studios put that unlicensed station out of business, apparently for good, and delayed the start of legal LPFM WVEW-LP (107.9), which was to have used much of rfb's equipment.

Paul LaCamera retired from WCVB (Channel 5) in Boston after many years at the helm, but he wouldn't stay retired long, returning to the industry in the fall to lead WBUR (90.9) back to financial stability.

Speaking of TV, WIXT (Channel 9) in Syracuse ditched those calls, becoming WSYR-TV. The WIXT calls were parked in Little Falls, on the sports station formerly known as WLFH.

In Pennsylvania, WITK (1550 Pittston) exited its simulcast of WICK and began simulcasting Catholic WQOR (750 Olyphant). WHHS in Havertown returned to the air on its new frequency, 99.9, thanks to some help from other broadcasters in the Philly market who wouldn't let the little class D high school station die. "Cool Pop" fizzed out in Harrisburg, as the pop-top 40 format on WCPP (106.7 Hershey) gave way to a more sedate AC "Mix" on June 30, with new WMHX calls quickly following.

In Canada, the CRTC granted three new stations in Ottawa, none of which made it on by year's end. CIKZ (106.7 Kitchener-Waterloo) was granted its long-desired move to 99.5, in hopes of avoiding some of the interference that plagued its original channel.

Admirers of Major Edwin Howard Armstrong saluted the inventor's memory by swarming his Alpine, N.J. transmitter site for a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of FM, complete with the first transmissions on the Major's old 42.8 frequency in many decades.

New to the air: WGBH's WZAI (94.3 Brewster), on June 7, and WOOL-LP (100.1 Bellows Falls VT), on June 25.

JULY: Some of the month's biggest news was technical, as WPEN (950 Philadelphia) fired up its new 21 kW night transmitter at the WWDB (860) site in East Norriton, and WBOT (97.7 Brockton) became a Boston contender with the debut of its new signal from Blue Hill in Milton. In Erie, WERG moved from 89.9 to 90.5 and powered up, while in Huntsville, Ontario, the CBC was granted a frequency change for its CBL-FM-1 Radio Two transmitter, moving from 104.7 to 106.9.

In Corning, AC WCBA-FM (98.7) swapped calls and formats with oldies WGMM (97.7 Big Flats). Later in the year, the 97.7 calls would change again, to WENI-FM, and WCBA (1350) would drop its oldies simulcast with WGMM and go sports. On Long Island, silent WGSM (740) changed calls to WNYH, remaining silent. The end of AP's All News Radio meant WDNB (102.1 Jeffersonville NY) flipped to "Thunder Country," while WYSL (1040 Avon) picked up more CNN content. Utica's WRUN (1150) began simulcasting the WAMC public radio service under its new ownership.

The much-rumored ESPN sports format finally arrived at Boston-market WAMG/WLLH July 24, complete with a local afternoon show.

WSUB (980 Groton CT) flipped from news-talk (now on WXLM 102.3) to Spanish AC "Magia 980," while WGMR (101.1 Tyrone PA) dropped modern rock for top 40 "G101" and WLOA (1470 Farrell PA) joined the "Wexy 107" oldies simulcast that, oddly, didn't actually include WEXC (107.1 Greenville), where the format had originated.

Steve Sweeney lost his morning gig on Boston's WZLX, and PD Pete Salant found a new gig, programming Connecticut's country WWYZ.

On the news side of the fence, WBUR axed its "Connection" talk show to save money, with host Dick Gordon decamping to North Carolina's WUNC to start a new show there. WBZ-TV opened a news bureau in Worcester.

AUGUST: The music industry dominated the month's headlines, as New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer reached a $10 million settlement with Sony Music, releasing paperwork that exposed several program directors' tangled relationships with indie promoters and record companies.

In Boston, former WBIX owner Brad Bleidt entered a guilty plea to charges that he defrauded his investment clients; he'd end up being sentenced to more than 11 years behind bars for his crimes.

WBZ radio reporter Flo Jonic departed the station amidst headlines that claimed the station had withheld one of her reports at the government's request, to cover up security flaws at several federal offices in Boston. Her colleague Jay McQuaide left for the world of PR, and the boss who hired them both, former WBZ PD Brian Whittemore, returned to the market to run the show at WRKO.

In Pittsfield, Alex Seseske retired after decades on the air at WUPE and WMNB. In Portland, Mark Persky was out again after just a month at "Frank" WFNK.

Longtime Scranton radio owner Doug Lane was convicted of sexually abusing minors and possessing child pornography. Lane, 61, was sentenced in October to serve at least 14 and possibly up to 30 years in prison. In December, the FCC approved an agreement under which Lane's stations - the former WWDL (104.9) and the AM pair of WICK (1400)/WYCK (1340) - will be sold (as noted above in "Sales"), with a portion of the sale price going to victims' rights groups, and the remainder being put in escrow pending an appeal of the conviction. If the conviction stands, the money goes to Lackawanna County.

In Pittsburgh, a flood damaged the studios of KDKA radio and television, disrupting several KDKA-TV newscasts.

Most staffers at the CBC were locked out mid-month, leaving the national radio and TV services without much of their original programming for almost two months until both sides came to terms on a new contract, just in time for the season premiere of "Hockey Night in Canada." Elsewhere in Canada, "Toronto 1" gave way to "SUN TV" under the new ownership at Toronto's CKXT-TV; CKLY (91.9 Lindsay ON) became adult hits "Bob," and CJLX in Belleville moved from 92.3 to 91.3 and boosted power.

Rochester's WUHF-TV (Channel 31) entered into a joint services agreement with Nexstar's WROC-TV (Channel 8) that resulted in the end of "News Central" on WUHF and the startup, in November, of a WROC-produced 10 PM newscast on the Fox affiliate.

New London's WNLC (98.7) dropped standards for classic hits; WINE/WPUT in Danbury, Connecticut dropped standards for ESPN sports; WCBG (1380 Waynesboro PA) returned to the air with a top 40 simulcast (of WPPT 92.1) instead of sports; WMJQ (105.5 Brockport NY) moved to 104.9; WANB (1580 Waynesburg PA) changed calls to WXXP; and WQXA (1250 York PA) changed calls to WYYC.

New to the air: CFRK (92.3 Fred FM) in Fredericton, N.B.; New Hampshire Public Radio's WEVS (88.3 Nashua), on Aug. 9; WLIX-LP (94.7 Ridge NY), on August 15.

SEPTEMBER: Boston's (or should that be Sag Harbor's?) Jay Severin disappeared from the afternoon slot on WTKK (96.9), first amidst a controversy surrounding a "Pulitzer Prize" he never received, then amidst contract negotiations that found him starting a new national show with Westwood One. (He'd remain off WTKK for the rest of the year, with rumors swirling of a move to WBZ, but his new show will instead return to WTKK in evenings in 2006, with former DC talker Michael Graham filling the afternoon slot.)

"FM Channelcasting"? That was the Morey Organization's response to satellite radio, replacing its three East End signals (WBON/WDRE/WLIR) with nonstop jockless music, including something called "Neo Breeze." It didn't last - by December, the stations were back to hard rock ("The Bone"), dance ("Party 105") and modern rock ("WLIR"), albeit still with a minimal commercial load.

New steel was the story in New York, as WFUV ended its long battle with its neighbors at the Botanical Garden by erecting a new tower on an apartment building a mile away, while WOR began building its new tower site in the Jersey Meadowlands.

Scranton's WWDL stunted as "Chet FM," with the engineer playing the tunes, before emerging as adult hits-ish "River," WWRR. Kingston's WKXP segued from "Kix" to "Wolf," still with country. WDDM (89.3 Hazlet NJ) took new calls WFJS and flipped to Catholic programming. In New Hampshire, WMEX (106.5 Farmington) segued from oldies to AC as "X106.5," while WVFM (105.7 Campton) parked the WUSX calls, then sent those to 93.7 in Addison VT (for its new "US 93.7" country format) and picked up the WLKC calls that were shed from 103.3 Waterbury VT.

Montreal's CINW (940) flipped from all-news to news-talk as "The New 940AM Montreal."

WTHK (97.5 Burlington NJ, late of Trenton) applied to move to a new transmitter site right in Philadelphia, sharing a tower with WJJZ (106.1) at the historic Wyndmoor tower on the city's northern edge.

On TV, Philly's WB affiliate, Tribune's WPHL (Channel 17), announced it would close its newsroom Dec. 10, contracting with NBC's WCAU to produce the station's newscasts. Meanwhile in Boston, Diane Sutter transformed WNDS (Channel 50) in Derry, N.H. into "My TV," WZMY, with a new lineup that included local talk shows and, of course, Al Kaprielian's weather.

OCTOBER: The month began with a new sports format in Philadelphia, where oldies vanished from WPEN (950) to give the city its second all-sports talker.

In Boston, sports talker WEEI (850) shed night host Ted Sarandis, while sister station WRKO (680) morning co-host Peter Blute exited amidst changes that turned the morning show more towards all-news.

Flooding silenced several coastal stations for a weekend, including WMJC (94.3 Smithtown NY) and WDDZ (550 Pawtucket RI).

Radio One finally put its "WILD" brand on FM, changing WBOT (97.7 Brockton) to WILD-FM and installing a black gospel format on WILD (1090 Boston), to be replaced by the company's new urban talk format in 2006. (The AM station also moved transmitter sites, relocating to the nearby WXKS 1430 facility in Medford.)

The ongoing payola investigations cost another PD his job, as Michael Saunders quietly exited New York's WWPR.

Also exiting were New Hampshire Public Radio GM Mark Handley, to sail the world, and veteran WSBS (860 Great Barrington) morning man Nick Diller, to tend his grill. New Hampshire talk host Arnie Arnesen was ousted from WNTK/WUVR, and by year's end would lose her remaining station, WTPL in Concord, as well.

In the Maritimes, Rogers launched three all-news signals on Oct. 11: CJNI Halifax (News 95.7), CHNI Saint John (News 88.9) and CKNI Moncton (News 91.9).

Christmas came early to the Jersey Shore, as WTTH/WDTH dropped their urban AC "Touch" format and began spinning holiday tunes on Oct. 13.

Howard Stern closed out the month by announcing that his replacements would be David Lee Roth in the east, Rover in the midwest and Adam Carolla out west. The first post-Stern format change was at Philadelphia's WYSP, which took on the new "Free FM" branding right after the show Oct. 28, dropping most of its music programming, except late at night and on weekends.

More format and call changes up and down the dial: WNSX (97.7 Winter Harbor ME) to "Smooth Rock" under its new local ownership; WCFR (96.3 Walpole NH) to WPLY-FM, returning the WCFR calls to what had been WNBX (1480 Springfield VT) in November; WTWK (1070 Plattsburgh NY) from Air America to ESPN sports, sending Air America across the lake to WVAA (1390 Burlington VT); WMAS (1450 Springfield MA) from talk to oldies; WXCT (990 Southington CT) from Spanish to talk; WADB (1310 Asbury Park NJ) from standards to country; WYNS (1160 Lehighton PA) from sports to religion, picking up the WBYN calls and format as Nassau prepared to acquire WBYN-FM (107.5 Boyertown PA); WTTC-FM (95.3 Towanda PA) from country to classic hits "The Bridge"; WTTC (1550 Towanda) from country to ESPN sports "The Zone"; WWTR (1170 Bridgewater NJ) from its WMTR oldies simulcast to EBC Indian programming (moving off WTTM 1680 Princeton); WHAZ-FM (97.5 Hoosick Falls NY) back on the air, simulcasting WHAZ 1330 Troy before relaunching as "Gospel Gold" in December; WBLF (970 Bellefonte PA) replacing months of stunting with news-talk for State College; and WPNT (1340 Connellsville PA) to WYJK.

On TV, WSHM-LP (Channel 67) in Springfield launched its local news (under the "CBS 3" brand) October 13, with former Rochester/Albany newsman Doug Lezette as news director and main anchor. State College public broadcaster WPSX (Channel 3) changed calls to WPSU-TV, with the WPSX calls replacing WPSB on 90.1 in Kane PA.

New to the air: WKYJ (88.7 Rouses Point NY, on 10/1); religious WVBV (90.5 Medford Lakes NJ, on 10/27); WCIG (91.3 Carbondale PA, on 10/30). Returning: WNYH (740 Huntington), with a repeating loop of gospel music, and WSMN (1590 Nashua), from a low-powered temporary transmitter at the WSNH (900) site. In Maine, new WMDR-FM (88.9 Oakland) launched Oct. 24 as "Zap FM," picking up some of the religious programming from WMDR (1340 Augusta), which itself relaunched with southern gospel. Gone for good: never-built WJGK (1200 Kingston), replaced by a new 1200 CP in Highland, near Poughkeepsie, also with the WJGK calls.

NOVEMBER: Everything gets to Pittsburgh, eventually (except reggaeton, perhaps) - and adult hits finally arrived November 1, as WRRK (96.9 Braddock) relaunched as "Bob FM."

Hartford's WDRC-FM (102.9) flirted with variety hits imaging, too, but settled down with classic hits replacing its oldies.

Transmitter sites were all over the news, too: in Newton, city officials finally approved the long-delayed project to rebuild the WUNR (1600) site to take on two new tenants, WKOX (1200) and WRCA (1330); out west, Entercom tried moving WAAF (107.3 Westborough) from Paxton to Stiles Hill in Boylston, only to run into multipath problems that sent the station running back to its old site, at least for a while. In New Jersey, WTTM (1680) moved from Princeton to Lindenwold, testing its new site near Camden with "T.E.D.," the "Total Entertainment Device" programmed by engineer Neal Newman, while Press won FCC permission to move WKOE (106.3 Ocean City) to 106.5 in Bass River Township, closer to Atlantic City.

Veteran Maine jock Bud Sawyer was ousted from WLAM (1470 Lewiston), which flipped from standards to ESPN sports.

In New Hampshire's Lakes Region, WEMJ (1490 Laconia) debuted a new "Visitors Information Radio" format. Rhode Island's WBLQ (88.1 Block Island) became "K-Love" WKIV, with the WBLQ calls moving to the former WCTD-LP (96.9 Ashaway).

In Canada, the CRTC denied TV Niagara's application for a new TV station to serve the Niagara Region, and in Kitchener-Waterloo, CKWR (98.5) dropped its "Your FM" slogan, went all-Christmas, then emerged at year's end as simply "CKWR."

New to the air: classic hits "Eagle" WWCF (88.7 McConnellsville PA), on 11/28; Humber College's CKHL (96.9 Toronto), on 11/29.

DECEMBER: WABC returned "Musicradio 77" to the airwaves, at least for four hours each Saturday night, delighting oldies fans in New York and beyond. Oldies fans in Philadelphia weren't quite so lucky, as veteran jock Hy Lit settled his age-discrimination suit against Infinity (renamed CBS Radio mid-month) by agreeing to leave the station; he's now running a webcast instead.

Providence morning man Gary DeGraide left WWLI (105.1 Providence) at month's end. And of course the most publicized departure in radio history took place Dec. 16, when Howard Stern signed off terrestrial radio with a street rally outside the WXRK studios, proclaiming himself and his listeners "the last of a dying breed" and marching to his new studios at Sirius Satellite Radio.

The Stern fallout was immediate in Albany, where WQBK/WQBJ dropped its "Edge" modern rock format to go classic rock as "Q103"; in New York itself, WXRK remained on autopilot until the launch of "Free FM" WFNY-FM on January 1.

Across town, WOR might have been better off on autopilot - instead, it announced the departure of Bob Grant from the afternoon slot and his replacement by chef Rocco DiSpirito, only to have DiSpirito promptly leave the station as well. What next? That'll be a story for 2006.

WKZE (1020 Sharon CT) dropped its AAA FM simulcast to pick up progressive talk; WFAD (1490 Middlebury VT) flipped to ESPN sports; WHGT (1590 Chambersburg PA) came back from a year of silence with religion; CKMB (107.5 Barrie ON) segued from "Star" to "Kool FM" - and in Pittsburgh, WLTJ (92.9) touched off no end of message-board speculation by applying for new calls WBZB, then withdrawing the request.

And at year's end, the axe fell at KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh), where veteran talkers Mike Pintek, Mike Romigh and Paul Alexander were abruptly shown the door. What will the station sound like in 2006?

With that, we get ready to close the book on our twelfth year at the keyboard and head for number thirteen. We hope you've enjoyed the ride with us - and if you haven't yet shown your support for our efforts, we hope you'll take a moment and make your subscription contribution for 2006. (Just follow that link above, and remember that all contributions at or above the $60 level get a free 2006 Tower Site Calendar!)

NERW's Year-End Rant

So it's that time again, as we don the official NERW Prognostication Cap (it's sort of a faded blue, with a big red "B" on it, and a little "World Series '04" insignia on the side) and do some deep thinking about the changes and challenges that face the medium we all love.

These are interesting and uncertain times for radio. "Nobody knows anything," as the screenwriter William Goldman famously said about Hollywood, and the same is true about the radio industry as it confronts perhaps the biggest transitions to be hurled its way since the advent of television half a century ago forced the business to reinvent itself.

Back then, of course, radio not only survived but thrived. It did so, we'd submit, because it figured out what it was that only radio could provide. Back then, that was music - lots of it, usually before it could be heard anywhere else. It was super-local information, in small towns and medium-sized cities where television news didn't exist or was, at best, a once-nightly affair. It was the sort of intimate, one-on-one communication (even if the "one" was really just one of millions of listeners) that no mass medium before or since has really been able to duplicate.

It was a great run while it lasted. And while it's far from over, few would argue that many of the functions for which radio once held pride of place have been supplanted by new technologies. The days of waiting through a long list of data for a particular school closing or stock quote or livestock price - or even today's number one song - are long gone, and in a few years most of those radio staples will be as dead as the radio soap opera or live big band performance is today.

While that phase of radio's existence is drawing to a close, though, radio itself is far from dead. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it was the "United Radio Broadcasters" simulcast, including the powerful voice of New Orleans' WWL radio, that brought critically important information - and companionship - to the victims of that storm scattered far and wide around the country. Talk radio of all flavors was a vital part of the political debate in a most politicized year. Small-town stations like WLNG on Long Island's East End, WHLM in Bloomsburg, PA, WKTJ in Farmington, Maine and WDEV in Vermont tied their communities together just as they've always done. (And, we'd hasten to note, just as they'll continue to do; it's stations like these that have the least to fear from the changes we'll discuss below.)

Big all-newsers like WCBS and KYW and WBZ brought the headlines, the scores and the traffic to commuters with an efficiency (one relatively inexpensive transmitter to millions of inexpensive receivers) that no WiMax or cellphone technology is likely to match for many years to come. Sirius and XM brought niche formats and programming to country fans in Manhattan, Tigers fans in Rochester (don't laugh - we know one!), dance-music aficionados in northern Maine and, soon, Howard Stern true believers everywhere.

What's that, you say? Yes, we did just mention satellite radio in the same breath as "terrestrial radio," and that's the point of our little Rant this year: Radio is Radio, no matter how it's delivered.

This is, of course, heresy in some circles. There are broadcasters (and broadcasting associations) who are firmly convinced that there's some magic combination of attack promos, head-in-the-sand willful ignorance and HD Radio will somehow make the satellite broadcasters go away.

That won't happen, and it won't happen specifically because the satellite broadcasters have figured out (and rather quickly, at that) just what it is that they can do better than any other medium. Not everyone (and probably not even 25 percent of everyone) feels the need to have access to every NHL game, or to the myriad of music formats on the birds, or to hear a 24-hour updated loop of information about the daily whereabouts and activities of Howard Stern. Aggregate each of those niche audiences, though, make receivers widely available at inexpensive prices, and promote the heck out of it, and suddenly those $12.95 monthly checks start adding up pretty quickly.

The listeners sending in those $12.95 payments each month aren't doing it because there's any particular magic to "satellite" radio. They're not doing it for the sound quality, at least if our road tests of both systems recently are any indication. They're doing it because they like radio - and because the particular sort of radio they want happens to be most efficiently made available over a national satellite system rather than over a local transmitter. (And it bears noting that no small number of talented radio people are now toiling for XM or Sirius instead of Clear Channel or CBS or Cumulus, simply because their talents are, for the moment, best utilized there. Would anyone argue that what Cousin Brucie or Phlash Phelps or Jonathan Schwartz are doing is any less radio because it's not being heard over a terrestrial transmitter?)

It's entirely understandable that some broadcasters find this change alarming. We genuinely feel for people like the staffer at a daytime-only AM religious outlet who's upset because many of the national programs his station carries are also heard on the satellite providers, who can offer 24-hour programming when his station has to sign off at sunset. Technological advances have never been kind to the daytimers, and to the extent that they've thrived, it's been by carving out ever more local niches while programming of broader interest moves to signals for which it's better suited. In the sixties and seventies, it was broad-appeal music programming migrating to FM; now it's just about anything that's not truly local moving to the national platforms the satellite providers offer. Even so, we're seeing some truly remarkable prices being paid for rather limited AM signals, an indication that there are still radio people who believe they can put even those signals to a good use. (And indeed, there are plenty of niches still left to be filled by those humble stations, especially as multilingual radio continues to grow in places large and small.)

Into this fray comes "HD Radio," and we can't let the Rant go by without a few words on this heated topic. We still have deep reservations (as do, at least privately, most of the engineers we know) about whether the AM system can be implemented widely and after dark without causing intolerable levels of interference to existing reception, and we're unconvinced, as yet, that the improved audio quality it offers, impressive though it is, will be worth the expense and the tradeoffs to more than a handful of broadcasters.

We're more optimistic about the FM system, and whatever we think of it, it's finally gaining critical mass on the transmission end. By the end of 2006, it's safe to say that listeners in most medium and large markets will have access to numerous HD FM signals. We're cautiously heartened by the recent alliance among many of the larger broadcast groups to coordinate program offerings on their HD subchannels, and even more so by their promise to finally put some muscle into promoting the medium and into making receivers, so far painfully elusive, available in larger quantities and at lower prices.

Those delays in making HD receivers available, and the lack of a truly persuasive hook to get consumers to put the available receivers at the top of a long list of new gadgets vying for their dollars, has the potential to be the nail in the new medium's coffin. (Again, there's the essential question - what is it, exactly, that HD Radio can provide better than any other medium that's already out there? So far, only the prospect of multicasting seems to be a plausible answer.)

Need it have ended up this way, though? There's a fantasy that we've been kicking around for a few months now, and it goes something like this - what if, back when both satellite radio and HD Radio were still in the development phase, the parties involved hadn't been quite so suspicious of each other?

What if those millions of satellite receivers now riding around in auto dashboards and home cradles had all emerged from the factory with HD Radio capability built into them? What if some of that local HD Radio bandwidth could have been used to send out data to insert local news, traffic and ads - provided by local broadcasters, in some sort of revenue-sharing agreement - into otherwise national programming on the satellites? What sort of cross-promotion might have resulted from the ability to insert a "tune to 1030 now for more local news" message into the satellite talk programming?

How much satellite bandwidth could be put to better use if there were no need for the painfully-compressed "local into national" traffic and weather channels on the birds? What if some of the few AM stations that still truly take advantage of that band's broad nighttime coverage - the WWLs and WBZs and WGNs - were able to use the satellites to bring their programming to a national audience, all day long, with no skywave fading or propagation vagaries? What sort of competitive advantage might one or the other of the competing satellite services have enjoyed, had it been able to partner with sufficiently forward-looking "traditional" broadcasters to promote the ability of both media to do what each does best?

What if those new local HD subchannels - now with millions of receivers in the field ready to receive them - were simply part of a larger "advanced radio" dial, living side-by-side with the national channels from the satellite and the local analog AM and FM broadcasts, offering listeners not just 50 or 100 choices on the dial but potentially 200 or more, some national, some local, all delivered over a single receiver?

And what if all the promotional firepower that's being expended to sell listeners on satellite radio or terrestrial HD radio were instead used simply to promote "radio," in the face of the many other entertainment options competing for consumers' limited time and money?

Again, our thesis: Radio is Radio, no matter how it's delivered.

Listeners know it. Programmers know it. The television industry figured it out years ago, and today viewers flip back and forth between local stations and national networks on a single cable or satellite lineup without a second thought, as witness the lack of public outcry over the impending move of "Monday Night Football" from ABC to ESPN.

Transitions like these are never painless. Many stations never really recovered from the onslaught of TV in the fifties, and many of those AM stations that survived TV and thrived in radio's second golden age of the fifties and sixties were themselves swept away by the blossoming of FM in the seventies and eighties. The stations today that offer a nonstop diet of syndicated programming or automated music will face ever-tougher competition from satellite radio, portable music players and, perhaps, the eventual availability of widespread wireless data services.

Those stations may not make it in the long run. But we firmly believe that Radio itself will, on both a local and a national level, and we're looking forward to another year of writing about it all.

What do you think? We welcome your comments by e-mail at "rant" at, and we'll print them beginning next week. (Be sure to let us know if you don't want us to use your name!)

And as we do every year, we close out our Year in Review by remembering the many great radio and TV people our region lost in 2005.

In Memoriam

  • NORM RESHA, 59, Boston's "Calling All Sports" founder and host (1/7)
  • WILLARD BISHOP, 78, founded CKEN/CKWM Kentville, N.S. (1/15)
  • DAN HOLTBY, 67, VP/sales at CHUM Ottawa (1/16)
  • MORT FEGA, 83, New York jazz DJ (1/21)

  • GEORGE "DOC" ABRAHAM, 89, Rochester garden show host (1/28)
  • JOSEPH SHULER, 60, former WKNY Kingston GM (2/1)
  • ROBERT McCABE, 84, former Syracuse DJ (2/1)
  • JIM McCANN Sr., New Hampshire station owner (2/4)
  • BOB McADOREY, 69, Toronto DJ and Global TV anchor (2/5)
  • WALLY PARKER, ABC announcer and former New York DJ (2/15)
  • Dr. GENE SCOTT, 75, former WHCT Hartford owner and TV preacher (2/21)
  • ANTHONY DiMARCO, 46, Watertown LPTV owner (2/23)
  • MARK "THE SHARK" DRUCKER, 48, KYW entertainment reporter (2/23)
  • JIM GASH, former WNEW newsman (3/3)
  • BILL KNUPP, 72, former WICU anchor (3/13)
  • BILL GREEN, 91, former WHDH studio musician (3/14)
  • "UNCLE" GUS BERNIER, 85, New Hampshire kiddie TV host (3/19)
  • TED BROWN, former WNEW and WNBC jock (3/22)
  • QUENTIN MIGLIORI, 56, Boston DJ (3/26)
  • ROBERT W. NEILSON, former WNAK Nanticoke GM (March)
  • "DOCTOR" DON ROSE, 70, former WFIL, San Francisco jock (3/30)
  • STUART T. "RED" MARTIN Jr., 91, WCAX-TV founder (4/2)
  • TOM STAR, 56, Talk America founder (4/22)
  • JOHN F. WHITE, former WQED, NET president (4/29)
  • JIM O'BRIEN, 62, former Syracuse DJ (4/30)
  • ROBERT REDMOND, 76, CHSC, CJEZ founder (5/7)
  • NATE TOWNSEND, 30, former WPAC/WSLB newsman (5/16)
  • KATY ABRAHAM, 90, Rochester garden show host (5/24)
  • J.P. VILLAMAN, 46, Red Sox Spanish broadcaster (5/30)
  • GEORGIE WOODS, 78, former WDAS/WHAT jock (6/18)
  • WILLIE TWYMAN, 45, former New Jersey 101.5 overnight host (6/25)
  • JEFF "BIX" BIXBY, 61, Pennsylvania engineer (6/25)
  • NORM PRESCOTT, 78, former WORL/WHDH/WBZ jock (7/2)
  • ANDY WIERNASZ, 79, WHMP polka host (7/20)
  • JOE O'BRIEN, 90, longtime WMCA/WNBC/WHUD jock (7/24)
  • ANDY (RAGE) RAJCOK, former Connecticut jock (7/28)
  • ALAN FREDERICKS, 70, "Night Train" host (7/31)
  • HAL RAYMOND, 70, former WSBA/WOYK morning man (8/9)
  • ED BECK, 33, New Jersey DJ/station manager/voice talent (8/24)
  • SHARON (STEELE) BROPHY-FORST, 38, WBEC-FM morning co-host (9/15)
  • RON ROHMER, 74, longtime New Haven morning man (9/25)
  • NELSON GOLDBERG, 76, former Pittsburgh station owner (WKPA/WYDD) (9/25)
  • VANCE McBRYDE, 80, former WICU weatherman (10/6)
  • CHARLES (CLAVERIE) ROCKET, 56, Providence reporter turned comedian (10/7)
  • TOM CHEEK, 65, legendary Blue Jays broadcaster (10/9)
  • JACK WHITE, 63, veteran Providence reporter (10/12)
  • DICK GALIETTE, 72, WTNH sportscaster, Yale football play-by-play man (10/21)
  • JIMMY MIADES, WHDH-TV director (10/21)
  • ERICH "E.C. LA ROCK" COSTON, 47, WDAS-FM jock (10/23)
  • GLENN "BUMPER" MORGAN (FREDERIC MERRIN), 57, Pittsburgh jock (10/26)
  • RICK "BWANA JOHNNY" JOHNSON, 56, former WWDJ, West Coast DJ (10/28)
  • JULIAN BREEN, 63, WABC/Greater Media programmer, consultant (10/29)
  • BRIAN MURPHY, former CKBY/CHEZ jock/programmer (10/31)
  • DON GORDON, 74, former WMEX/WEEI newsman (11/12)
  • DONNA ROSE, 49, New Jersey news anchor (11/15)
  • BRIJENDRA "BRIJ" LAL, 81, New York radio news producer (11/20)
  • EDWARD "EDDY JO" JOSEPH, 88, former WHLD manager (11/23)
  • DAVE KURTZ, 73, WBEB founder and co-owner (11/24)
  • DANA JONES, 88, former Pittsfield DJ (11/25)
  • ALLAN WATERS, 84, CHUM founder and former chairman (12/3)
  • RON DRAKE, 85, longtime WHP morning man (12/4)
  • WALLY SCHWARTZ, former WABC GM (12/15)
  • DEAN LEBO, 66, co-owner of WWII Shiremanstown, PA (12/29)

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