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February 7, 2005

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Qantum Buys the Cape; Cherry Creek Buys the East End; WSMN Goes Dark

*If the key to market dominance comes from owning all of the biggest signals in that market, then Qantum Communications is about to dominate the eastern tip of MASSACHUSETTS. Frank Osborn's cluster already includes Cape Cod's top-40 WRZE (96.3 Nantucket), classic hits WCIB (101.9 Falmouth) and rocker WPXC (102.9 Hyannis) - and now Osborn has struck a $21.3 million deal to acquire the Cape cluster that belonged to the late Ernie Boch, Sr.

The sale closes down Boch Broadcasting after a very successful decade or so, and it will give Qantum four of the Cape's seven full class B FM signals, adding Boch's news-talk WXTK (95.1 West Yarmouth) and AC WCOD (106.1 Hyannis) to WRZE and WCIB. To stay clear of the FCC's market-concentration rules, Boch's oldies simulcast of WTWV (101.1 Mashpee) and WDVT (93.5 Harwich Port) will be put in a trust along with WPXC, pending eventual sale. (All three are lower-powered class A signals.)

It's been a heck of a good year for Boston's sports media, and it must be especially sweet to be Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti. The WBZ sportscaster and the Patriots great just got to call their third Super Bowl win in four years on WBCN (104.1) - and did we mention that the Sox won the series? (Just checking...or maybe we're just excited that Sox broadcaster Joe Castiglione will be in Rochester tonight to introduce the Sox season highlights film.) In any event, congratulations to Gil, Gino and the whole team - and would it be overly snarky to suggest that this is one Monday morning when BZ's Gary LaPierre doesn't have to hide his north Florida whereabouts?

While we're thinking of WBZ, the station has set Sunday, February 27 as the date for a memorial tribute to the late talk host David Brudnoy. It'll start at 2 PM at the Emerson Majestic Theater, and advance tickets are required. (You can sign up for them here.) And yes, we'll be there.

Before we leave 'BZ, congratulations to one of our former colleagues deep in the trenches at 1170 Soldiers Field Road: producer Chris Palermo's been promoted to production director at sister station WODS (103.3 Boston). Way to go!

*Down in Fall River, Portuguese-language WHTB (1400) has added an FM simulcast. It's leasing WAKX (102.7) in Narragansett Pier, RHODE ISLAND from new owner Davidson Media Group, giving the area its first FM competitor to veteran Portuguese broadcaster WJFD (97.3 New Bedford).

Meanwhile, Davidson's other acquisition, WKKB (100.3 Middletown RI) indeed made the flip to Spanish just after we went to press a week ago. It's now doing Spanish tropical as "Latina 100.3."

*Is it the end of the line for one of NEW HAMPSHIRE's oldest radio stations? After 47 years at 502 West Hollis Street in Nashua, WSMN (1590) signed off Tuesday evening (Feb. 1) at 6:00. As had been rumored for some time, WSMN lost the lease on the land that was home to its studio building and three-tower directional array, and it's not easy to find space - or zoning permission - for a new directional array these days.

In recent years, WSMN had been leased out, running business news as "The Tiger 1590." With that frequency silent, WSNH (900 Nashua) running a steady diet of ESPN sports and WHOB (106.3 Nashua) operating from new studios in Hooksett, there's not really a local station in Nashua anymore.

On a happier note - or at least one that doesn't involve any stations going dark - Nassau did some restructuring of its new holdings in Concord and the Lakes Region last Friday (Feb. 4) at noon, moving country from "Outlaw Country" WOTX (102.3 Concord) to what had been classic rock WNHI (93.3 Belmont), which becomes "93.3 the Wolf" and keeps Don Imus as a holdover from the old WNHI. The classic rock, in turn, moves to 102.3 as "The Hawk," which will share the format and the nickname with the former "Big 101.5," WBHG (101.5 Meredith).

The Hawk isn't a simulcast, exactly, targeting separate local content to Concord on 102.3 and the Lakes Region on 101.5. We'd suspect new calls will show up all around as things settle down...and we note that Nassau's promising no imminent changes on the rest of its stations in the region. (We'd also note that both "Hawk" classic rock and "Wolf" country are becoming regional brands for Nassau, which has several Hawks in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and has been doing "Wolf" over in Maine on WTHT in the Portland market.)

*Two CONNECTICUT college stations that have been fighting controversial proposals to add NPR simulcasts were in the headlines again last week. At the University of New Haven's WNHU (88.7 West Haven), university officials have apparently backed off a plan to simulcast "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" from Connecticut Public Radio's WPKT (90.5 Meriden). The New Haven Register reports the university's president met with more than 100 students last week, resulting in an announcement that "the time is not right" for a simulcast. WNHU will apparently continue to depend heavily on community volunteers for its programming, with an advisory board being created to help guide the station's future. (The move also means the university won't develop a news internship program with the public broadcaster, as had been planned.)

Meanwhile up the road in Middletown, Wesleyan University's WESU (88.1) has been running automated music programming while students and university officials wrangle over the station's future. Wesleyan president Doug Bennet, a former president of NPR, has been trying to work out a deal to simulcast NPR programming from WSHU (91.1 Fairfield) during morning and afternoon drive as a way of providing some funding for WESU.

(In an open letter on WESU's website, student station manager Jesse Summer is admirably honest about the reality facing the station: "The reality of the situation is that we are unable to run our own radio station. We’ve been plagued by equipment and furniture theft and have no official membership
list or screening process. Our Board members don’t come to board meetings or do their weekly board hours. Our DJs don’t come to the monthly all-DJ meetings, do their mandatory service hours at the station, or even show up to do their shows. Our training program is in shambles, DJs have no knowledge of the FCC rules and regulations they break on a daily basis, and the station has absolutely no system for maintaining the proper documentation that federal regulations require. There is no respect for authority, our Constitution has been rendered totally ineffective, and the Board has essentially no degree of managerial control due to a despicable lack of resources, oversight, and administrative support.")

The Wesleyan Argus reports that a plan to put live student programming back on WESU by mid-February is now in the works, and that it will likely include the WSHU simulcasts under an 18-month contract. The WSHU agreement would bring in $45,000 in annual revenue to WESU, which would be used to hire a general manager for the station; it would also bring additional NPR talk programming, including "Talk of the Nation" and the "Diane Rehm Show," to listeners in the Hartford area who can't presently hear those shows.

And there's been plenty of national attention to the mistaken EAS activation on Tuesday in which state officials accidentally ordered all of Connecticut to be evacuated. NERW wonders what's more disturbing - that an inadvertent activation like this can occur so easily, or that EAS gets so little attention from the public that a broadcast order to flee the state caused no panic whatsoever?

*In NEW YORK, WQHT (97.1) is bringing back its "Miss Jones" morning show on Wednesday, minus producer Rick Del Gado and cast member Todd Lynn, as it attempts to address the controversy over the "We Are the World" parody that the show aired a few weeks after the Asian tsunami. Del Gado and Lynn lost their jobs for their role in creating the song, while the remainder of the show's cast - save for "Miss Info," who does the news - ended up with two-week unpaid suspensions, with their salaries being donated to tsunami relief. Station owner Emmis Communications will also make a $1 million donation to the relief fund.

("Miss Info," who's of Asian descent, refused to take part in the song, an act which subjected her to repeated on-air attacks from Jones and other cast members. She's now making noise in the New York papers about suing WQHT for the whole thing.)

From the looks of it, the move won't be enough to pull Hot 97 out of the fire it's been drawing from Asian community groups, who continue to put pressure on advertisers to pull their spots from the station. Will the show be back for long? (There's no sign of it on the WQHT website, which is never a good sign.) Stay tuned...

It's a very long way from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the East End of Long Island, but Cherry Creek Radio is making that jump. The small group operator based in the Denver suburbs is paying $12 million to pick up AAA Entertainment's four-station cluster out east, which includes AAA (the format, that is) WEHM (92.9 Southampton), Bloomberg business news WHBE (96.7 East Hampton), rhythmic top 40 WBEA (101.7 Southold) and soft AC WBAZ (102.5 Bridgehampton).

This is Cherry Creek's first outing east of the Mississippi; its other 32 stations are all out west, from the Tri-Cities of Washington to the California desert to rural Colorado. And the deal takes Rhode Island-based AAA completely out of the broadcast business in the northeast, leaving it with clusters of stations in Illinois.

Up in northern Westchester County, Cumulus' WFAF (106.3 Mount Kisco) pulled out of the simulcast of AC WFAS-FM (103.9 White Plains) that it's been doing for just over four years now. Over the weekend, the station was stunting as "Flix 106," with movie soundtrack clips and even a website ( that proclaims WFAF to be an "Eecyrag Media" station. ("Eeycrag" spelled backwards yields "Gary Cee," who just happens to be the program director at Cumulus classic rocker WPDH up in Poughkeepsie. Will that be WFAF's next simulcast parent?)

The long-rumored call change of WIXT (Channel 9) in Syracuse will become reality in April, when the ABC affiliate drops the calls it's had since 1976 and becomes WSYR-TV. That's in keeping with the Clear Channel synergy strategy that recently flipped Rochester's WOKR (Channel 13) to WHAM-TV - but it's raising the hackles of Raycom's WSTM (Channel 3), which was the original WSYR-TV. (It changed calls in 1980, when WSYR radio and TV were spun off to separate owners.)

WSTM officials say they still get diary mentions as "WSYR-TV," and they're concerned that channel 9's call change will cause confusion in the market. (That wasn't a problem in Rochester, where the WHAM-TV calls hadn't been used since 1956, when they were on a channel that's not even in use in the market any longer.) NERW notes that channel 9's original calls, WNYS-TV, have been in use for a decade now on channel 43 with no apparent ill effect; we'd also note that the WIXT calls just may have more of a news image in the market these days than the WSYR calls - so perhaps the answer is to change AM 570's calls to WIXT? (Just a thought...)

Our very best wishes go out to WCMF (96.5 Rochester) morning institution Brother Wease, who told his listeners last week that he's suffering from a rare form of sinus cancer. Wease, who does a marathon daily shift that starts on WCMF and ends on WBUF (92.9 Buffalo), will be out of commission for at least a few weeks while he undergoes radiation treatment and chemotherapy - and the whole city will be pulling for him, we're sure.

And our condolences on the death January 21 of Mort Fega, who's still fondly remembered in New York City for his days playing jazz on WVOX (1460 New Rochelle) and later, on the overnight shift on WEVD (1330). Fega retired to Florida in 1986, but remained active in the jazz community (and on radio, where he hosted a jazz show on WXEL 90.7 in West Palm Beach). Mort Fega was 83. (If you're a fan of Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, as I am, check out Fagen's tribute to Fega, which also sheds some light on Fagen's radio song, "The Nightfly.")

We're also sorry to report the death, on Feb. 1, of Joseph Shuler, former general manager of WKNY (1490 Kingston). Shuler was 60.

*In PENNSYLVANIA, the long-running rumor of a Philadelphia morning show move appears to be true: All Access reports that Y100 (WPLY 100.3 Media) will lose Preston Elliot and Steve Morrison to Greater Media's crosstown WMMR (93.3 Philadelphia) in a few months. The move will no doubt spark message-board chatter about a format change at the Radio One modern rocker, but we've heard those rumors often enough before. As always...stay tuned.

WPEN (950 Philadelphia) is adding T.J. Lubinsky to its jock lineup. The 32-year-old New Jersey native has made a name for himself producing reunions (both live and for public TV) of classic doo-wop groups, and he started spinning 50s and 60s tunes and taking requests on Saturday nights from 8-11 last weekend.

Over in Johnstown, the Forever Broadcasting format swap went down just as predicted last Monday, with AC WKYE (95.5) becoming "Froggy" WFGI-FM, while the WKYE calls and AC "Key" format replaced country "Mountain" on the former WMTZ (96.5).

When California University of Pennsylvania got an FM license way back in 1972, students wanted to call their new facility "WCAL," but those calls were taken - and so the station on 91.9 in California, south of Pittsburgh, became WVCS ("Voice of Cal State.") But someone there was paying attention, because when those WCAL calls disappeared a few weeks ago from their longtime (and we mean longtime - since 1921!) home in Northfield, Minnesota, WVCS filed to make the change, and WCAL it now is.

*NEW JERSEY 101.5 (WKXW Trenton) is trying to mend the rift between afternoon talk host Craig Carton and governor Richard Codey. It's not quite an apology for what Carton said about Codey's wife's postpartum depression, but the station did post a statement Friday that said, "Craig Carton announced yesterday that he has a better understanding toward people that suffer from mental health illnesses and postpartum depression. Carton decided to be proactive toward such an important subject that opened up so much discussion and vowed to do more research into this topic."

Carton will head up a station initiative to create more public awareness for mental health - and the station no doubt hopes the move will head off potential issues with advertisers uncomfortable about the controversy.

*Up in CANADA, the CRTC is sending a strong message that it's not happy with broadcasters using local sales agreements to get around market-concentration limits. It renewed the licenses of five stations in Halifax - CHUM's CJCH (920) and CIOO (100.1), Newcap's CFDR (780) and CFRQ (104.3) and Sun Media's CKUL (96.5) - but only on the condition that they unwind the agreement by May 31, which gives the Newcap stations and CKUL (which is operated by Newcap) just four months to find a new studio facility and move out of the space they've been occupying at the CHUM facility. (The CRTC also set a May 31 deadline to terminate the LSA between Maritime Broadcasting System's CFCY/CHLQ and Newcap's CHTN in Charlottetown, P.E.I. and the LSA between Rogers' CIGM/CJMX/CJRQ and Newcap's CHNO in Sudbury, Ontario.)

The CRTC also weighed in on the controversy surrounding "Wild 101," CKEY-FM (101.1 Fort Erie ON), giving the station a short-term license renewal. CKEY's Canadian licensee, CJRN 710 Inc., has been in the CRTC's cross-hairs over allegations that the station is really being programmed and sold from Citadel's cluster across the river in Buffalo, an accusation repeated in an intervention by former CJRN employee Robert Vernon. CJRN contends that control of the programming has always remained on the Canadian side, and that the proportion of CKEY's sales coming from the U.S. will decrease over time. (An intervention was also filed by one "Nicholas Schimmelpenninck," aka "Nicholas Picholas" of Wild's U.S. competitor, WKSE.)

The CRTC was less satisfied with CKEY's service to its local community. Over 41 hours of the station's programming that the Commission analyzed, it found that "other than the promotion of two local events, there was no spoken word material of direct and particular relevance to the community served, such as local news, weather, sports, and the promotion of local events and activities," and it was unhappy with CKEY's contention that it was not a "regular" station and therefore shouldn't have to broadcast hourly news. So CKEY's been renewed through August 2006, but with the CRTC keeping a close eye to make sure it broadcasts the required three hours of news each week.

In Montreal, there's a new morning team at "Team 990" (CKGM), with Denis Casavant, formerly of French-language TV sports network RDS, joining Tony Marinaro beginning today from 6-9 AM.

And a follow-up to the launch last week of CIXL (91.7 Giant FM) in Welland: our pal Milkman at Milkman UnLimited noticed some funky spelling errors in, well, "giant" type on the station's newly-launched website at "Feetwood Mac," anyone? (The goofs were fixed rather quickly...)

NERW Classifieds

*We're pleased to announce the return of the NERW Classifieds after a long absence. If you're looking to reach thousands of broadcast professionals in the Northeastern U.S., eastern Canada and beyond (more than 70,000 hits every Monday alone!), there's no more economical way to do it. Rates start at just $5/week for a 50-word ad, and the fifth week is always free when you pay for four. Click here to learn more...and read on for this week's ads:

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*We're busy shipping out the Tower Site Calendar 2005 to radio fans from coast to coast and far beyond (would you believe New Zealand?)

Didn't find one under the tree this year? That's OK - we've still got plenty, and we're shipping them out daily.

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.

(You can see some previews of this year's calendar images at Tower Site of the Week - where the archive listing's newly updated!)

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/ You can use PayPal, below, or send your check or money order, payable to Scott Fybush, to 92 Bonnie Brae Avenue, Rochester NY 14618. (Please note that the prices below are valid for U.S. and Canadian orders only; please e-mail for information about overseas shipping.)

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!)

Order the 2005 Tower Site Calendar for $16...
Order the 2005 and 2004 Tower Site Calendars together for just $20...
...or subscribe to NERW at the $60 level and get a FREE 2005 Tower Site Calendar
...and you can still order the 2004 Tower Site Calendar at our special clearance price of $8! (US and Canada only - e-mail us for overseas ordering information.)

Don't want to order by credit card? You know the drill by now - make those checks payable to "Scott Fybush," be sure to include sales tax (8.25%) for New York state calendar orders only, and send them along to 92 Bonnie Brae Avenue, Rochester NY 14618. (Sorry - we can't take orders by phone.)

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NorthEast Radio Watch is made possible by the generous contributions of our regular readers. If you enjoy NERW, please click here to learn how you can help make continued publication possible. NERW is copyright 2005 by Scott Fybush.