November 15, 2004
WBIX: House of Cards?
*It was supposed to have been a week of celebration
for WBIX (1060 Natick), as the eastern MASSACHUSETTS business-talk
station celebrated its new 24-hour status with a gala party at
the Boston Harbor Hotel.
That was Wednesday night. By Sunday morning, the station's
future was in doubt, with owner Brad Bleidt under federal investigation
for having allegedly stolen money from clients of his financial-management
firm to cover the tens of millions of dollars being spent to
build WBIX's night signal and to keep the upstart station afloat.
The revelations came in a tape Bleidt sent to the Securities
and Exchange Commission before he apparently tried to kill himself,
just hours after the party on Wednesday. The Boston Herald reports
that the transcript of the tape quotes Bleidt as saying, "The
money's gone. I stole it. I used (it) to buy a radio station,
believe it or not, um, which is stupid,'' and "I'm literally
a psychopath, I must be. I'm a monster. An absolute monster.''
Bleidt is reportedly hospitalized as he recovers from the
suicide attempt, and his personal assets, as well as the assets
of his company, Allocation Plus Asset Management, have been frozen
by court order while the SEC pursues its investigation.
The revelations come at a time of transition for WBIX. As
best we can piece it together, Bleidt (and his wife, Bonnie,
who's also WBIX's morning host) still hasn't closed on the sale
of his interest in the station. Purchaser Chris Egan (son of
Richard Egan, founder of EMC Corp.) has been operating the station
for the last few months, and it will be interesting to see whether
his outright purchase of the station can still go through. Adding
to the complications, we understand that Bleidt still owed the
station's previous owner (in its WMEX incarnation), Alex Langer,
for most of the $13.5 million purchase price. Can WBIX survive?
We'll be watching this one closely - and of course, following
the story of Brad Bleidt carefully. Stay tuned...
*In other Bay State news, you can cross a station off your
FM log. The FCC has cancelled the license of WPAA (91.7 Andover)
after learning that the Phillips Academy station had been off
the air for more than 12 consecutive months. (That's apparently
due in no small part to some pretty extensive campus construction
that tore down the building that once held WPAA's antenna.)
At last accounting, the FCC's auction of new FM channels still
had the 94.3 class A allocation at Brewster near the top of the
list. "GBH Telecommunications," which is apparently
a partnership of Boston's WGBH and the money folks at Public
Radio Capital, is holding steady with a $3.927 million bid for
the vacant channel at press time. We're likely to know by next
week's issue who the winning bidder will be.
Out west, WFCR (88.5 Amherst) turned on its IBOC digital signal
Wednesday, with donors Joseph and Dorothy Gavin of Amherst flipping
the switch on the new transmitter.
All the way out west, WBCR-LP (97.7 Great Barrington) is temporarily
off the air while WAMC (90.3 Albany) pays to put some extra filtering
on WBCR's antenna system. Seems WAMC head honcho Alan Chartock
was getting interference from WBCR when he tried to listen to
his 90.3 signal at home in Great Barrington - and even though
WAMC owns WAMQ (105.1) right in Great Barrington, Chartock tells
the Berkshire Eagle that "not all listeners are aware"
of the local relay signal...
On the TV front, Saving
Private Ryan was pre-empted for Boston and much of the
rest of New England on Veterans Day, thanks to concerns about
FCC fines for the copious use of, er, adult language in the early
minutes of the movie. Hearst-Argyle's WCVB (Channel 5) in Boston,
WMUR (Channel 9) in Manchester, NEW HAMPSHIRE and
WMTW (Channel 8) in Poland Spring, MAINE pre-empted
the movie, as did Young's WTEN (Channel 10) in Albany and its
satellite station WCDC (Channel 19) in Adams, Mass.
*Speaking of the Pine Tree State, we hear that station manager
Jason Roberts and business manager Melody Price are out now that
new owners have taken over the Mountain Wireless cluster in mid-Maine
(WSKW 1160 Skowhegan, WCTB 93.5 Fairfield, WHQO 107.9 Skowhegan).
Don't be surprised to hear some format changes up that way, too,
news from the NEW YORK state capital: the all-Christmas
music bandwagon has gotten rolling, and it started at WZMR (104.9
Altamont). "Love 104.9" put its usual blend of smooth
jazz and classic soul on hold last week in favor of holiday tunes,
though it promises the old format will be back on December 26.
Downstate, there's a new PD at Emmis' WQHT (97.1 New York).
John Dimick is inbound to "Hot 97" from the Jefferson-Pilot
cluster in San Diego, where he was director of programming and
operations. Longtime Hot PD Tracy Cloherty will stick around
in a consulting role.
It's a two-channel future for WOR (710 New York): the crack
engineering team of Tom Ray and Kerry Richards flipped the switch
last Monday to take the station's IBOC digital signal into stereo
for the first time. The move comes with a complete overhaul of
the studio facilities and the station's on-air imaging into stereo;
WOR even needed to replace its old time-tone generator as part
of the changes, which Tom says are designed to get everyone thinking
in stereo as WOR prepares to move to its new Wall Street home
Say goodbye to the "Westchester" market: Arbitron
has stopped issuing a separate book for that radio market, though
all its statistics remain available through breakouts from the
larger "New York" market.
A veteran Rochester voice is expanding his reach to the west.
WCMF (96.5 Rochester) morning man Brother Wease will soon be
heard on Infinity sister station WBUF (92.9 Buffalo), doing a
10:30 AM to 1 PM shift that will be partly original for Buffalo
and partly a "best-of" the Rochester morning show.
This isn't Wease's first attempt to expand his show beyond its
home base - he was heard on weekends on New York's WNEW (102.7)
during its talk era - but this one may turn out to be longer-lasting,
especially when you consider that WBUF will be losing its current
morning host, Howard Stern, in just a year's time, if not sooner.
Best wishes to WGMC (90.1 Greece) station manager Jason Crane,
who signs off his afternoon shift for the last time this Friday.
Rob Linton has been named as Jason's replacement; he comes over
from crosstown commercial news-talker WHAM (1180).
And a correction from last week's NERW: WFLR-FM (95.9 Dundee)
has not yet been granted a move to 95.5; that's still a pending
application, and we hear it's being held up by Canadian concurrence
*The final shoes have dropped in that southern
NEW JERSEY format shuffle, as Press Communications began
programming its "Breeze" soft AC format on WKOE (106.3
Ocean City) midweek last week, with the simulcast of Millennium's
"New Jersey 101.5" (WKXW-FM 101.5 Trenton) moving to
WIXM (97.3 Millville). The new "Breeze" at 106.3 completes
a Jersey Shore-blanketing trimulcast with WWZY (107.1 Long Branch)
and WBHX (99.7 Beach Haven), and there's already a rumor swirling
that Press will swap formats between WWZY and modern rock "G106-3"
WHTG-FM (106.3 Eatontown) to put Breeze on both of the 106.3
signals it now controls.
*The all-holiday format is sweeping PENNSYLVANIA's
largest city, with both Clear Channel's WSNI (104.5 Philadelphia)
and Jerry Lee's WBEB (101.1 Philadelphia) having taken the plunge.
(Both made the switch pretty early last year, too.)
Meanwhile at the top of the dial, Radio One has begun testing
the signal of its new 107.9. We hear that the tests are still
using the old WSNJ-FM calls (creating the rare legal ID of "WSNJ-FM
Pennsauken," and yes, we already have it on tape for the
collection) and not the new WPPZ calls.
There's a new Arbitron market in central Pennsylvania, as
the company unveils the new "Sunbury-Selinsgrove-Lewisburg"
market, number 211. Could this have something to do with Roger
Haddon, president/CEO of Sunbury Broadcasting (WKOK/WQKX/WEGH)
being named to Arbitron's Advisory Council? (Haddon joins other
new NERW-land members on the council, including Galaxy's Ed Levine,
Cumulus' John Dickey and Michael Kazala of New Jersey's WJRZ.)
Over in Pittsburgh, Sheridan's launching a new format on its
new simulcast of WAMO (860 Millvale) and WJJJ (107.1 Greensburg),
as they segue to "adult urban" under the new name of
A talk-radio shakeup today (Monday): Rush Limbaugh moves from
KDKA (1020) to WPGB (104.7), Bill O'Reilly moves from WPTT (1360
McKeesport) to KDKA (giving Fred Honsberger the extra hour from
2-3 vacated by Limbaugh), and Neal Boortz moves from WPGB to
the 1-3 PM slot on WPTT. All clear?
And up there north of Johnstown, WRDD (1580 Ebensburg) and
WNCC (950 Barnesboro) flip from oldies to Business Talk Radio.
*In CANADA, the CRTC puts out calls
for applications for new radio stations in Woodstock, Ontario
and for TV stations in the Niagara region. The radio applications
are due January 7, with TV due a month later.
Toronto's newest radio station, Spanish religious CHSL (1610),
will make its official debut next Sunday (Nov. 21), with a celebration
party that will start at 12:30 PM at the station's home, the
San Lorenzo parish church at 2981 Dufferin St. (one block south
of Lawrence). The events will include a Mass at 12:30, the blessing
of the tower and studio at 2:30 PM, and a 3 PM press conference.
And CKDO (1350 Oshawa ON) has had its application to put an
FM relay on 107.7 reinstated after Industry Canada ruled that
the 107.7 frequency couldn't be used in Barrie without interfering
with aviation communications. CKMB (107.5 Barrie) had hoped to
move to 107.7 and increase power, but now that move is off, while
CKDO's proposal is back on the CRTC's agenda.
*You're less than two months away from 2005
- so why haven't you ordered your Tower Site Calendar 2005
It's now for sale, among other outlets, at the NAB Store -
yup, that was the 2005 edition on the counter in San Diego -
as well as being on the racks at Universal Radio in Ohio.
And we're pretty sure the cover of the Tower Site Calendar
2006 has now been photographed - but we won't spoil the surprise
just yet, will we?
This year's calendar begins with WSTW/WDEL in Wilmington,
Delaware on the cover, ends with Sutro Tower in San Francisco
on the inside back cover - and along the way makes stops at WNBF
in Binghamton, CFNB in Fredericton, Poor Mountain in Roanoke,
KXNT in Las Vegas, WBBR in New York, Gibraltar Peak above Santa
Barbara, WDEV in Waterbury, Vermont, WRIB in Providence, WOOD
in Grand Rapids, KFJZ in Fort Worth, KYPA in Los Angeles and
the top of Chicago's Hancock Tower.
We're holding the price from last year, notwithstanding increases
in printing costs and PayPal fees - just $16 postpaid ($17.32
including sales tax to New York addresses). And as always, it's
free with your $60 or higher subscription to NorthEast Radio
Watch/fybush.com. You can use PayPal, below, or send your check
or money order, payable to Scott Fybush, to 92 Bonnie Brae Avenue,
Rochester NY 14618.
And here's an even better deal - We still have
plenty of 2004 calendars left, so how about this? For just $20
postpaid ($21.65 in New York), we'll send you both the 2005 and
2004 editions. It's almost like getting an extra calendar free!
(Or, if you just need the 2004 edition, that's still on clearance
at $8 - and if you buy two 2004 calendars, your third is free!)
So why wait until the last minute? Why make us wait until
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where it belongs? Buy your calendars now, won't you?
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2004 by Scott Fybush.