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August 1, 2005

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2004 In Review

9/11 Plus One: The World Trade Center Broadcasters Recover

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August 8 & 15, 2005

WBZ's Jonic Out in Security Story Flap

*Update From The Road: Hello from Minneapolis, Minnesota, where we're in the midst of a summer survey of the radio facilities of the upper Midwest. (There are some neat ones - and you'll see them, sooner or later, as Tower Sites of the Week.)

In the meantime, here's a quick scan of what's happening back home in NERW-land:

In MASSACHUSETTS, WRKO (680 Boston) GM Tom Baker is out of a job as Entercom eliminates his position; cluster manager Julie Kahn assumes his responsibilities. (WRKO also had a guest appearance by ousted WBZ reporter Flo Jonic last week; she filled in on the station's morning show.) Over in Worcester, the WSRS (96.1) morning team of Austin Davis and Kerry Mathieson is out as well, with Jackie Brush and WTAG's Greg Byrne filling in.

In NEW HAMPSHIRE, WEVS (88.3 Nashua) signed on Tuesday (Aug. 9) just before 11 AM, improving New Hampshire Public Radio's service to the southern end of the state. The station's transmitter sits atop St. Joseph's Hospital, with 5 kilowatts of power aimed mostly north-northwest. Over in Keene, Jay Stevens is back on the air at WKNE (103.7), replacing Adam Weinreich in mid-mornings. Stevens was on WOQL (then at 98.7) until 2004, when he went to work at Disney World as a sound engineer.

And the new management at WNDS (Channel 50, soon to be WZMY) in Derry made some waves last week by cancelling the station's venerable "Candlepin Bowling" show.

From PENNSYLVANIA comes word of the sale of WEEO (1480 Shippensburg), as Cary Simpson's Allegheny Mountain Network transfers the station to Eric Swidler, son of WIOO (1000 Carlisle) owner Harold Swidler. Ray Rosenblum was the broker, and the sale price was $65,000.

Outside Philadelphia, we're delighted to report that the FCC has granted WHHS (107.9 Havertown) a construction permit to move to 99.9. The station needed waivers from WJBR (99.5 Wilmington DE) and WPHI (100.3 Media) to make the move, which allows it to stay on the air after the class D high school station (the oldest in the nation) was displaced from 107.9 by the sign-on of WPHI sister station WRNB (107.9 Pennsauken NJ). WHHS still has to be back on the air by December 18 to avoid losing its license for being silent more than a year, but in the capable hands of engineer Mark Humphrey and several other friends of high school radio in the area, that shouldn't be an issue.

In York, they're mourning Hal Raymond, veteran morning man at WSBA (910) and WOYK (1350). Raymond, who suffered from ALS ("Lou Gehrig's disease"), died Tuesday (8/9) at age 75.

In NEW JERSEY, it's a new morning show at WDHA (105.5 Dover), as Matt Murphy teams up with "Fuzzball" (late of WRAT 95.9) to replace Rob Moorehead.

And in CANADA, the big news is the lockout of about 5,000 CBC employees that's getting underway just as we go to press Sunday night. Expect dramatically curtailed CBC services - a single national morning show, for instance - until this latest labor issue is resolved.

That's it from the Twin Cities. We'll be back in the saddle from NERW Central sometime next Monday (Aug. 22) with our usual full report - and the first peek at the 2006 Tower Site Calendar that's now at the printer! See you then...

*Tuesday Update: We couldn't let this one wait until our return to a regular schedule - after just three weeks on the air, veteran MAINE morning man Mark Persky is already gone from Nassau's "Frank" (WFNK 107.5 Lewiston). No details yet on the hasty exit...stay tuned!

*After a dozen years at Boston's WBZ (1030), morning reporter Flo Jonic is out of work this week, sparking a controversy over potential government intrusion into the newsgathering process along the way.

As both of Boston's big papers have reported, Jonic was fired by WBZ management after sending an e-mail to other newsroom staffers criticizing what she said was a decision to shelve a story she had done on lax security at the FBI offices in downtown Boston. That's about as much as all sides agree on, though. Jonic says she was fired for opposing the decision to keep the story off the air (which she says was prompted by a phone call to management from the FBI). WBZ managers say Jonic was fired for insubordination, for sending the e-mail to the entire newsroom. They contend that the story was being readied for promotion during the fall ratings period.

(Your editor, it must be noted, worked at WBZ from 1992-97, knows most of the parties involved in the dispute, and has a great deal of respect for Jonic's skills as a reporter. We won't try to speculate about whether or not management was justified in treating her the way it did - one of the tradeoffs of a plum job like that is, after all, the need to play ball with the bosses in order to keep one's job, and Jonic had a reputation for standing up to management that had landed her in hot water in the past. That said, if the station really did acquiesce to government pressure to hold the story, that's even more disturbing, not to mention out of keeping with a proud tradition of newsroom independence at WBZ.)

We'll be watching closely to see what happens next - and it bears noting that, at least at NERW's Sunday-night press time, Jonic's photo and bio were still up on the WBZ website. Has the last chapter of this story not yet been written?

Meanwhile up in Lowell, Gary Francis adds another duty to his growing list of jobs at WCAP (980 Lowell), as he becomes the station's news director and morning news anchor.

*Diane Sutter's making big plans for her new TV station, WNDS (Channel 50) in Derry, NEW HAMPSHIRE. After 22 years as "The WiNDS of New England," the independent station serving the Boston market will change calls to WZMY when Sutter's Shooting Star relaunches its operations this fall.

Those calls stand for "MyTV," and the Nashua Telegraph reports that Sutter's plans include a nightly talk show called "My TV Prime" and a rebranded newscast, "My TV Now." (And yes, never fear, the station's signature personality, weatherman Al Kaprielian, will still be a part of the broadcasts.)

NERW's take: While we wish Shooting Star all the best with its project, we've seen too many attempts to create "super-local" independent TV stations fall by the wayside in recent years to get too hopeful about WZMY's chances for success. (Remember WHUB-TV? WABU?) Trouble is, today's TV viewer has so many choices available for everything from regional news and talk (NECN and Comcast's CN8), to sports (NESN and Fox Sports New England) to entertainment (most of the rest of the cable dial) to create the kind of audience size that once made indies like WSBK and WLVI successful propositions. And it doesn't help that WNDS/WZMY is hardly the most prominent TV operation in the region, with an over-the-air signal that doesn't even reach much of the market. Even the original model for such stations, Canada's Citytv, has found that the model it created 33 years ago in Toronto isn't exporting to the rest of Canada as well as it had hoped. Can MyTV overcome the odds? We'll be watching.

*VERMONT Public Radio has added another signal in the Upper Valley: it's acquired W280CT (103.9 Hanover NH) from Christian Ministries, and it's using the signal to relay its "VPR Classical" service from WNCH (88.1 Norwich VT).

*On the border between Vermont and NEW YORK, WZEC (97.5 Hoosick Falls NY) has gone silent, as ownership passes from Pamal to the religious broadcasters at WHAZ (1330 Troy). The station's Bennington studio is closed, and it's applied for new calls WHAZ-FM as it prepares to return to the air as the newest link in a network that also includes WMNV (104.1 Rupert VT), WBAR (94.7 Lake Luzerne NY) and WMYY (97.3 Schoharie NY).

Just the other side of the state line, the FCC has dismissed Pamal's application to buy WNYQ (105.7 Queensbury, soon to be Malta) from Vox, citing market-concentration issues; while that's causing the usual twittering on the message boards, we suspect it's a paperwork issue (perhaps having to do with delays in Pamal's spinoff of several other Albany-market FMs) that will be cleared up soon enough.

On the western side of the Albany market, WMHT (89.1 Schenectady) has taken control of WBKK (97.7 Amsterdam), where commercial classical programming was replaced with a simulcast of WMHT's programming on Thursday (Aug. 4); 97.7 is expected to take the all-classical mantle, and we'd expect more news and talk on 89.1 as the transition continues.

On the TV front, Pax's WPXJ (Channel 51) in Batavia has surrendered its channel allotment (channel 53) for digital service; WPXJ will instead "flash-cut" from analog to digital on channel 51 when the time comes.

Speaking of Buffalo, Jimmy Steele is out as PD of troubled WKSE (98.5 Buffalo) after a short run there; we hear things aren't too happy at "Kiss" these days, after all the unwelcome publicity the station garnered in the most recent payola investigations. Just across the border, former Kiss jock "Ellen K" takes over middays at CKEY (101.1 Fort Erie ON), while afternoon team Rob and Tami move from CFLZ (105.1 the River) across the hall to mornings on CKEY.

Downstate, we note the passing of Alan Fredericks, who hosted the "Night Train" R&B show on several stations around New York City in the fifties, including WADO, WHOM and WGBB and was later a guest host on WCBS-FM (101.1). Fredericks, who died Sunday, July 31, was 70.

And a format change that spans the New York - CONNECTICUT border: WINE (940 Brookfield CT) and WPUT (1510 Brewster NY) have both dropped their standards format in favor of ESPN sports.

*NEW JERSEY's newest FM station will be around for a while, after all. The FCC has granted a full five-year experimental license to WA2XMN, the experimental station on 42.8 MHz at the Armstrong Tower in Alpine. Steve Hemphill, the Philadelphia engineer who came up with the idea to revive the old FM band and who built the WA2XMN Phasitron transmitter, says the plan now is to try to recreate Armstrong's networking experiments from Alpine to various New England mountaintops, beginning with Mt. Asnebumskit in Paxton, Mass.

*A station sale leads our PENNSYLVANIA news this week: WATS Broadcasting is selling WTTC (1550) and WTTC-FM (95.3) in Towanda to Cantroair Communications, which owns WHGL-FM (100.3 Canton) and WTZN (1310 Troy). Purchase price is $350,000; WATS keeps its other pair of stations, WAVR (102.1 Waverly PA) and WATS (960 Sayre).

Two silent stations at opposite ends of the state are back on the air: WCBG (1380 Waynesboro) has built a new tower to replace the one that was dropped a few months back when a guy wire was clipped, and it's now simulcasting WPPT (92.1 Mercersburg); meanwhile, WGRP (940 Greenville) is back on the air, simulcasting WLOA (1470 Farrell PA) and its "Wexy 107" oldies format (which, of course, is not actually being broadcast on WEXC 107.1 Greenville itself; that station's doing Christian rock as "Freq 107.")

New calls: WCPP (106.7 Hershey) is now WMHX, reflecting its "Mix 106.7" slogan, while WQXA (1250 York) takes new calls WYYC, now that it's no longer co-owned with WQXA-FM.

And there's a new noncommercial FM station coming to Shenandoah: the FCC has granted "tentative selection" to American Family Association's application for a new signal there on 91.5.

*In CANADA, the CRTC grants the application of CJMD (1240 Chibougamou QC) to move to FM, where it will run 19.8 kW on 93.5. The move to FM will also silence CJMD relay transmitter CFED (1340 Chapais QC), since the FM signal will also reach Chapais.

In the Ottawa Valley, CHMY (96.1 Renfrew) is getting a sister station. My Broadcasting has been granted an FM signal in Pembroke, where it will operate on 104.9 with 1620 watts and a directional antenna. The new station will have an AC format, and will repeat about 20% of CHMY's programming.

In Haldimand County, Ontario, two applicants are competing for a new FM signal. Bel-Roc Communications wants 92.9, with 13 kW/109 m and a directional antenna, while CHCD (98.9 Simcoe) wants a relay transmitter at 93.1, with 6 kW/84 m and a directional antenna.

And in Toronto, CJKX (95.9 Ajax) wants to place a fill-in transmitter right in the heart of downtown. The CJKX on-channel booster would operate with 220 watts, directional, at 312.4 meters, giving the east suburban signal a stronger reach into the city itself (and, presumably, challenging Hamilton's CING 95.3 for country listenership.)

*Tower Site Calendar 2006 is now in the hands of our printer, and we'll begin taking orders in just a few weeks, with the first calendars shipping just after Labor Day...and that brings us to a scheduling note. We'll be doing some traveling over the next few weeks, so barring breaking news, there will be no new NERW on August 15. But never fear - we'll be back August 23 (note the Tuesday publication date), and in the meantime, we'll be collecting lots of pictures for Tower Site Calendar 2007 (and beyond) and stories for Tower Site of the Week. See you later this month!

In the meantime, our Tower Site Calendar 2005 clearance continues, and here's how it works: instead of our list price of $16 for this fabulous, full-color, glossy calendar, you can now pick one up for just $8, postpaid. ($8.64 to New York State addresses.) Better yet, if you order two calendars at this special clearance price, we'll throw in a third for free - $16 for THREE calendars, with nine exciting months of 2005 yet to go. (That's $17.28 in NYS.)

Maybe you've already hung your original 2005 calendar on the wall, and you're thinking it would be nice to have another copy to stick away in pristine condition. Maybe you really want to frame that spectacular September page right now - but you still need a calendar later this year. Maybe you just want to help Mrs. NERW clean out the living room and give happy NERW baby Ariel more space to practice walking.

Whatever your motive, now's your big chance, because while there are still 2005 calendars left, there may not be any in a few weeks. (Remember, the 2002 and 2003 editions were total sellouts, and I've had to turn away several of you who were hoping to add these now-rare calendars to your collections.)

And we've got two more great deals for you, too. We still have a few 2004 calendars left, and while they're getting rare, Mrs. NERW wants them gone - so they're yours, in pristine condition, for just $5 postpaid. (Buy two and the third is free!) Or order the 2004 and 2005 calendars together for just $10, postpaid. (What a deal!)

(New York orders pay $5.40 for the 2004 calendar, $10.80 for the 2004 and 2005 together.)

And as always, the calendar's free with your $60 or higher subscription to NorthEast Radio Watch/ In fact, as part of our Early Summer Subscription Drive, you can be among the first to reserve your free 2006 Tower Site Calendar with your $60 subscription - and we'll even send you a 2005 as well, if you ask. Remember, we count on your subscription dollars to keep NERW coming each and every Monday morning!

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.)

Order the 2005 Tower Site Calendar on CLEARANCE for $8...
Order the 2005 and 2004 Tower Site Calendars together for just $10...
...or subscribe to NERW at the $60 level and get two FREE 2005 Tower Site Calendars
...and you can still order the 2004 Tower Site Calendar at our special DEEP clearance price of $5! (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.%) 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.