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August 22, 2005

So Long, Toronto 1

MONDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Just after NERW went to press this morning, Nexstar and Sinclair announced that they're entering into a joint services agreement under which Nexstar's WROC-TV (Channel 8) in Rochester will handle most of the operations of Sinclair's WUHF (Channel 31).

NERW has learned some of the key details of the arrangement, and it includes the shutdown of WUHF's quasi-local "News Central" 10 PM newscast. That program will go off the air September 1, with 26 of WUHF's employees (including news anchors Melanie Barnas and Ty Chandler) joining the staff of WROC and 26 more losing their jobs. Later this fall, WUHF will relaunch its 10 PM news as a half-hour broadcast produced by the WROC news staff.

More next week...

*SOMEWHERE IN TERMINAL C, CHICAGO O'HARE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - Yup, United Airlines again. This time, unspecified "air traffic delays" that are making for a very long layover as we attempt to get home to NERW-land from our marathon travels around Minnesota and Wisconsin, where we saw a whole bunch of neat sites that we'll share with you in Tower Site of the Week in the months to come. (Assuming, that is, that we ever get home - and that we don't melt from the heat in a terminal where the airline apparently can't afford to turn on the air conditioning. On the bright side, we could have been flying Northwest...)

But enough about our airline woes - on with the week's news:

*In CANADA's largest market, the handful of viewers who ever noticed "Toronto 1" (CKXT Channel 52) in its first couple of years of operation will now have to get used to a new name. The independent channel changed hands from Craig to Quebecor earlier this year as part of CHUM's acquisition of Craig. That deal brought the Craig "A-Channel" name to the former CHUM "NewNet" stations across Ontario, and it forced the spinoff of Toronto 1, which now leads to the new identity there.

Quebecor, of course, is the owner of the Toronto Sun, and the company hopes that the new "SUN-TV" name for the station will tap into the popularity of the downmarket tabloid paper, much as Quebecor's Journal de Montreal and Journal de Quebec cross-promote with the company's TVA network to great success in Francophone Canada.

And it's no surprise at all that the rebranded SUN-TV will focus its programming on sports and entertainment; the station's ambitious news efforts were already minly history by the time Quebecor took over.

(Hard-core Canadian media geeks will note that this move means each of Toronto's major dailies will have or have had a broadcast tie - the Toronto Star with its Toronto Star TV cable network, the National Post with the co-owned Global network, and the Globe and Mail with co-owned CTV and the ROBtv business network.)

*Meanwhile, over at the CBC, the lockout is now in its second week, leaving listeners and viewers with a stripped-down program schedule across almost all of the network's services. The only exceptions are in Quebec and Moncton, N.B., where a different union represents Radio-Canada and CBC employees, so local CBC programming and national Radio-Canada programming remains unaffected there.

On the commercial radio side, London's "Energy 103" (CFHK 103.1 St. Thomas) has evolved into "Fresh FM," dropping much of the dance music it once played and becoming a more straightforward top 40. The morning team of Big D, Mindy and Gord moves over from sister station "FM96" (CFPL-FM 95.9 London).

And in Ottawa, Kneale Mann has signed on as the first PD at the new "Live 88.5," due to sign on later this week. Mann comes to the Evanov Media outlet from the PD post at Corus in Kitchener/Cambridge.

*Our mystery of the week comes to us from VERMONT, where our attention was recently drawn to, which appears at first glance to be a new website for the station currently known as WXAL (93.7 Addison).

There's been a lot going on at 93.7 in the last couple of months - first, the station ditched its "Alice" modern AC format in June and flipped to adult hits as "MP103," simulcasting with what's now known as WWMP (103.3 Waterbury) and using the 103.3 identity exclusively. Then, a couple of weeks ago, WXAL relocated its transmitter from the Middlebury site it inherited from the old 100.9 there, moving across Lake Champlain to Westport, New York and a stronger signal with even more overlap with 103.3.

So it's no great surprise to hear talk of a break from the simulcast on 103.3, and not much surprise to see that the website in question claims the station will be doing classic country as "US93.7," with new calls WUSX. Those calls, alert readers just might note, are the ones that WXAL owner Steven Silberberg recently requested at his WVFM (105.7 Campton NH).

All the pieces are in place, then - but at press time Sunday night, the word from the Burlington area is that 93.7 is still simulcasting "MP103." As always...stay tuned.

*In MASSACHUSETTS, it's a busy week at the Entercom cluster, where WRKO (680 Boston) program director Mike Elder is the latest executive to leave the talk station. This move doesn't appear to be related to the departure a week earlier of GM Tom Baker, whose job was eliminated in an apparent cost-saving measure; instead, it's a big opportunity for Elder, who heads to New York to become director of talk programming at fast-growing Fox News Radio. Even so, it makes for a big challenge for WRKO, which has been facing tough competition from Greater Media's WTKK (96.9 Boston).

Meanwhile, down the hall at WAAF (107.3 Westborough), the active rock station is finally gearing up for a long-planned signal upgrade. NERW hears that work will begin this week to install a new antenna for the station at the Boylston site of WUNI (Channel 27), a few miles closer to Boston than WAAF's longtime home at Mount Asnebumskit in Paxton.

(And speaking of WAAF, former PD Keith Hastings was a busy guy when we bumped into him last week in Milwaukee - just days after returning home from his 'AAF gig, he blew up the modern rock format at WLZR 102.9 there, replacing it with a broader rock format as "The Hog." Yes, those were two big boxes of pig noses in his office - and yes, that was former WFCC Chatham PD Steve Murphy, now comfortably situated as PD/morning man at Saga sister station WFMR, giving us a tour...)

Over at Clear Channel, the market was inadvertently set abuzz at 3 o'clock Friday afternoon, when WKOX (1200 Framingham) abruptly cut from progressive talk to Portuguese religion. After several hours of intense message-board speculation about format changes, the talk returned to 1200; apparently, something was switched wrong in the Framingham facility that houses both WKOX and WSRO (650 Ashland), whose programming was accidentally being heard on 1200.

Now that ESPN programming is in place on WAMG (890 Dedham)/WLLH (1400 Lowell and Lawrence), it will be joined by some local sports talk soon. A host for the 4-8 PM show will reportedly be announced next week; the station will also be adding a Pats pregame show on Monday nights, hosted by ex-Patriot Andre Tippett.

Down on Cape Cod, Kevin Matthews (late of WERZ in NEW HAMPSHIRE, where he was doing mornings and APD/MD duties) joins WCOD (106.1 Hyannis) as PD and morning host; he replaces Cheryl Park there.

Out west, we're hearing rumors that changes are about to be announced at the Vox stations in Berkshire County. Will it be the long-awaited move of the WBEC-FM (105.5 Pittsfield) "Live" top 40 format to another of the cluster's signals, as the 105.5 facility is moved east to the Pioneer Valley? More next week.

And our best wishes go out to WBCN legend Charles Laquidara, who was injured last week when his motorcycle was hit by a car near his home in Hawaii. He suffered several broken bones, but is expected to recover fully.

*A format change in CONNECTICUT: WATR (1320 Waterbury) ditches the "Music of Your Life" satellite format and flips to "Good Time Oldies." Local programming remains in place in mornings and middays.

*A format change in RHODE ISLAND, too, where WCTD-LP (96.9 Ashaway) flipped last Monday from "Dance Hits" to "Real Country 96.9."

*It was a fairly quiet week in NEW YORK, though there are some new gigs to report. On the TV side, Arthur Chi'en, the former WCBS-TV (Channel 2) reporter who was fired in May after swearing at hecklers on camera, starts today as a reporter at WPIX (Channel 11). On radio, two former WCBS-FM jocks have new jobs, too: Mike Fitzgerald is being heard on weekends at WLTW (106.7 New York), while Randy Davis moves to sister Infinity station WNEW (102.7), where he's being heard Sunday mornings and every other Saturday afternoon.

Binghamton's big radio reunion is set for September 24, and the organizers are still looking for many "lost" Bingo radio and TV personalities; check in at to see if you can help them out.

And out on Long Island, WLIX-LP (94.7 Ridge) launched last Monday; we're told they're playing modern rock.

*It was a bad week for a legendary PENNSYLVANIA station. The studios of KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh), along with sister stations KDKA-TV (Channel 2) and WNPA (Channel 19), sit in a prominent spot at Gateway Center, at the "Golden Triangle" where the city's three rivers converge. It's a nice location, but it's also subject to flooding, as the station found out when a 36-inch water main burst just down the street on Wednesday. The TV stations were hit the hardest, as their graphics computers, news cameras and remote trucks were all located in the basement of the complex, where they were more or less ruined by the water. (So, for that matter, were many employees' personal vehicles.)

If that wasn't bad enough, on Friday a small fire in an elevator forced the building to be evacuated mid-afternoon, sending KDKA-TV's news outside and leaving KDKA radio afternoon host Fred Honsberger alone in the building. (He was eventually persuaded to leave, too, and he continued his show by cellphone from outside for a while.)

It's a good thing KDKA's owner, Infinity, has studio facilities elsewhere in town for its other stations; KDKA was able to set up temporary studios at the Infinity offices in Greentree while it dealt with the issues downtown.

Up the road in Greenville, Ohio Media Watch has been following the saga of WGRP (940) very closely (even while traveling with your editor last week), and here's the latest - the station is once again silent, and we're hearing there may be some lawsuits flying over the use of some of former WGRP programmer Vilkie Communications' facilities.

In Philadelphia, WYSP (94.1) has some lineup changes, as it brings Kidd Chris in from KSRX in San Antonio to handle the 5-8 PM shift, effective August 29. For now, that moves Tommy Connell to 10-2, Couzin Ed from 2-5 and Matt & Huggy from 8-11 - but the rumor is that Kidd Chris is in line for the morning spot now held by Howard Stern, whenever he departs terrestrial radio this fall.

*It's even more distant from NERW-land than Wisconsin and Minnesota, but we'll close out this week's issue with a return to Nome, Alaska, a market we profiled in Tower Site of the Week a couple of years ago. Our man in Nome, former Rhode Islander Les Brown, who consults Nome's KNOM on engineering, checked in to report that the "other" station in town, KICY (850), suffered a devastating fire at its transmitter site last Wednesday. The station had just installed a new Harris DX50 transmitter in a new building, and that was undamaged - but the old transmitter building, which was destroyed, housed the phasor and ATU, and now they're working to get the parts they need to get the station back on the air. (And thanks, again, to Les for the pictures.)

*Tower Site Calendar 2006 is now in the hands of our printer, and we'll begin taking orders in just a few days!

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.)

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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.