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2004 In Review

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February 14, 2005

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Flip Time in New Jersey

*TRENTON, N.J. - It's a week of change in NEW JERSEY - and not just the big flip here in Trenton that's taking place this afternoon.

That, of course, is the Nassau swap that's moving top 40 WPST (97.5 Trenton) to 94.5 and shifting classic hits "Hawk" WTHK (94.5 Trenton) to 97.5. It's a preface to a bigger move that's at least a year down the road, in which the 97.5 signal will move to Burlington, becoming a full-fledged Philadelphia market signal.

We'll be listening and rolling tape, and we'll have more on this move next week.

But in the meantime, there's another format change happening out at the Jersey shore, this one the work of Press Communications. On Friday (Feb. 18), top 40 "B 98.5" WBBO (98.5 Ocean Acres) will shed its format and flip to a simulcast of modern rock "G 106.3" WHTG-FM (106.3 Eatontown), giving G full coverage of the Monmouth-Ocean market for the first time.

And there's yet another change on the way next month, when WCNJ (89.3 Hazlet) drops the calls it's had for almost two decades. WCNJ's currently leased out to an Indian programmer who's running the station as "Radio Dhoom," and that's what the new WDDM calls will stand for.

*Across the river in PENNSYLVANIA, one of the region's oldest religious stations will soon change hands. Susquehanna, which already owns WSBA (910 York), WARM-FM (103.3 York) and WSOX (96.1 Red Lion), will reunite 96.1 with its former sister station when it pays Thomas Moffit Sr. $280,000 for WTHM (1440 Red Lion).

WSOX and WTHM used to be known as WGCB AM-FM, and those of you who've taken broadcasting history courses might now be recognizing the stations as the instigators of the famous "Red Lion" case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the target of a personal attack during a WGCB broadcast was entitled to equal time to reply to the accusations.

Things have quieted down considerably since then in Red Lion, where Moffit continues to operate WGCB-TV (Channel 49) and WINB shortwave. There's speculation that the purchase of WTHM is less about the AM signal (which is effectively a daytimer) and more about the tower that it shares with WSOX. We wouldn't be surprised if 1440 - which has been on and off the air sporadically the last few months - ends up as a simulcast of WSBA, at least for now.

There's another station sale in the Keystone State, too: H&P Communications is selling WSPI (99.7 Mount Carmel) to Clear Channel for $460,000. Mount Carmel sits in the mountains south of Wilkes-Barre and west of Pottsville, and WSPI's signal already reaches a good chunk of the I-80 corridor between Hazleton and the Williamsport area. It appears that WSPI will be operated out of Clear Channel's Williamsport cluster, which also includes news-talk WRAK (1400 Williamsport)/WRKK (1200 Hughesville), top 40 WKSB (102.7 Williamsport) and country simulcast WBYL (95.5 Salladasburg) and WBLJ (95.3 Shamokin). Shamokin, by the way, is just down the road from Mount Carmel.

And in Pittsburgh, it's "Polka Marathon" time. WKHB (620 Irwin)'s Frank Powaski's been playing the polkas for 35 years, and from 8 PM Friday until 7 the next morning, he'll be doing it non-stop.

*There's a format change coming in NEW YORK's Catskills region, and it's being heralded with a Valentine's Day stunt. WFKP (99.3 Ellenville) dropped its simulcast of top 40 "Kiss" WPKF (96.1 Poughkeepsie) on Friday and spent the weekend playing love songs as "Cupid 99.3," complete with a hokey-sounding "Cupid" doing liners. NERW hears the station's headed to "Lite" territory when the stunting ends, presumably in tandem with "Lite 92.1" WRNQ Poughkeepsie.

Down the road in Westchester County, WFAF (106.3 Mount Kisco) did indeed, to nobody's surprise, drop the "Flix 106" stunt in favor of a simulcast of rocker WPDH (101.5 Poughkeepsie) on Monday.

Clear Channel's Albany-market cluster will soon have some spiffy new digs. The company is moving its stations out of two separate facilities in the Albany suburbs. By June, WGY (810 Schenectady), WOFX (980 Troy), WTRY (98.3 Rotterdam), WRVE (99.5 Schenectady), WKKF (102.3 Ballston Spa), WHRL (103.1 Albany) and WPYX (106.5 Albany) will be operating from a new 28,000-square foot space at the Riverhill Center complex on Troy-Schenectady Road in Latham.

WGY, WRVE and WHRL have been in studio space on Washington Avenue Extension (near Crossgates Mall) for a little over a decade now; WOFX, WTRY, WKKF and WPYX have been in the old WTRY 980 building on WTRY Road in Latham, near the new studios.

In New York City, the WNYE stations (WNYE-TV 25 and WNYE-FM 91.5) are changing hands, sort of; they're moving from the city's school board to the "NYC TV" organization that's part of city government. "NYC TV" operates several public-access cable channels, and its programming is already part of WNYE's prime-time schedule. (No word yet on what changes might be afoot on the radio side.)

We're sorry to report the death of Robert McCabe, who worked at Syracuse's WOLF (1490) back in the day, then served many years as morning show engineer at WSYR (570). McCabe lived in LeRoy, near Rochester; he died Feb. 1 at age 84.

*A correction in RHODE ISLAND: WAKX (102.7 Narragansett Pier) is not, in fact, simulcasting the Portuguese-language programming of WHTB (1400 Fall River). It seems that one of the program producers who'd been leasing time on WHTB moved to WAKX, which is still in the midst of putting a program lineup together.

And the Rhode Island state Senate paid tribute to the late Salty Brine last week, a well-deserved gesture for the biggest broadcast legend the state will probably ever know.

*WAKX's new owner, Davidson Media Group, is making big inroads in MASSACHUSETTS. It's paying $6.8 million to acquire Spanish-language WSPR (1270 Springfield) and WACM (1490 West Springfield) from Antonio Gois. Davidson now has operations in Hartford (WXCT 990 Southington), Providence (WALE 990 Greenville and WKKB 100.3 Middletown) and Springfield, and it's hard not to wonder if Boston might be next.

(Gois continues to own WORC 1310 in Worcester.)

In Boston, Dale Arnold's suddenly flying solo on WEEI (850) after former "Dale and Neumy" co-host Bob Neumeier failed to come to terms with the station on a contract renewal. Could Neumeier be headed back to local TV, where he was a sports anchor on WBZ (Channel 4) before joining WEEI? (He still does some freelance network TV work...)

The "Progressive Talk" duo of WXKS (1430 Everett)/WKOX (1200 Framingham) will add another voice soon; Clear Channel plans to roll out its Cincinnati-based Jerry Springer talk show to the Boston market in the next few months.

Down in Middleborough Center, WVBF (1530) has completed its power increase and tower rebuild; owner Steve Callahan checks in to let us know it's now putting out a full 2200 watts.

Out west, WRRS-LP (104.3 Pittsfield) signed on last Saturday (Feb. 5) at 3 PM. It's running reading for the blind from the Talking Information Center and from the Dalton-based Berkshire Talking Chronicle.

And Nichols College's WNRC (95.1 Dudley) applies to change calls to WXRB; the WNRC calls are believed to be heading for Nichols' new LPFM at 97.5.

*Last week's format flip-flops in central NEW HAMPSHIRE have now been followed by call changes: what was WNHI (93.3 Belmont) is now WNHW, "the Wolf," while the former "Big" WBHG (101.5 Meredith) has become WWHQ, "the Hawk."

Across town at WKXL (1450 Concord), Tony Schinella's been named news director, part of a busy workload for him that includes anchoring the station's daily entertainment talk show from 2-3 PM. (Congratulations, Tony!)

And we're sorry to report the death on Feb. 4 of Jim McCann, Sr., who had a long career in New Hampshire radio that included sales jobs at WFEA and WKBR before he entered ownership, first with a stake in WEMJ (1490 Laconia) and later with WKBR and WZID in Manchester, WTSN in Dover and WIDE/WSTG Biddeford, Maine. McCann had been retired for the last decade or so; he was 78 years old.

*Some format flips up in MAINE last week had folks scratching their heads (or perhaps just spinning their dials): WHQO (107.9 Skowhegan) dropped its talk format in favor of AC as "Mix 107.9," sending the talk programming over to the AM dial on sister station WSKW (1160 Skowhegan). But that didn't last long at all - after just one day of talk, WSKW went back to its former sports format.

Drivers heading into Portland on I-295 have been getting an eyeful lately of a big construction project: Saga Communications is rebuilding the WMGX (93.1) tower that came crashing down a little more than a year ago.

The tower's now more than halfway to its finished height of xxx feet, and check out the size of that guy-wire anchor mounted securely on some very deep pilings!

(Thanks to Saga engineer Andrew Armstrong for sharing his pictures with us!)

Another Saga station is losing a program director: Rick "R.J." Jordan is leaving WPOR (101.9 Portland) after three years in the PD chair to return to central New York, where he'll become PD of Galaxy's classic country WSCP (1070 Sandy Creek) and WSCP-FM (101.7 Pulaski), which have been targeting the Syracuse market and even showing up in the ratings with the help of a Salt City translator.

Jordan knows the market: before moving to Portland, he was PD of WBBS (104.7 Fulton), the market-leading country station in Syracuse.

Before we leave New England behind, we note that last week was the deadline for TV stations to make their initial choices about which channel they'll keep when the time comes - someday - to turn off analog transmissions and go digital-only.

Over at the NECRAT site, there's a handy list of the choices that stations have made so far. A few interesting notes: several stations had no choice this time around, with either an analog or a digital allocation that was "out of core," beyond the channels 2-51 spectrum that will be left after the conversion. Despite evidence that suggests that low-band VHF (channels 2-6) will be susceptible to interference, one low-band VHF station will survive after the transition, when Bangor's WLBZ-DT moves from 25 down to the station's analog channel, 2. And despite evidence that high-band VHF (7-13) may be the ideal band for DTV, Providence's WJAR opted to keep its channel 51 digital allocation instead of moving back to its analog channel 10. (This may have to do with the decision that WTNH over in New Haven made, to stick with 10 instead of its analog channel, 8.) Several duopoly groups did some horse-trading within their ranks; in the Boston market, Univision's WUNI (Channel 27) goes to 29, but Telefutura's WUTF (Channel 66) abandons its channel 23 DTV allocation to go to WUNI's abandoned 27. In Providence, WPRI (Channel 12) goes to 13, while LIN sister station WNAC (Channel 64) takes over channel 12. (WNAC was one of several stations with "dual out-of-core" allocations for digital and analog; others, like Springfield's WGBY, will wait for the second round of the process to make their picks, now that they know what channels will be vacated by stations that picked in the first round.)

*And from CANADA comes word of the death of Bob McAdorey, who first came to prominence in the sixties as midday jock on legendary top-40 station CHUM (1050 Toronto).

McAdorey's career also included stops at the old CHFI (680, later CFTR) and CFGM (1320 Richmond Hill, now CFMJ 640) before he transitioned to TV, becoming midday news anchor at Global television in 1980.

He was popular enough to fend off an attempt by Global to move him out of the noontime slot, and he remained on that newscast until his retirement in 2000.

McAdorey died Saturday, Feb. 5 in St. Catharines, Ontario. He was 69.

(And thanks to Dale Patterson's excellent Rock Radio Scrapbook for the picture.)

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.)

Thanks for your support!

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.